I walk out of the room and can't help to what, or more specifically whom my thoughts turn too. The night is cool, the air crisp, and there's a light wind that blows against my face.
I probably should tell someone where I'm going, but then that would defeat the purpose of sneaking out. The woods aren't that far away though, and I know I can handle myself in them. Lately I've gotten quieter — or that's what Simon and Chloe say — and as I cross over the edge of the dimly parking lot into the shadowed forest I can't help but notice how not a twig breaks under my feet. The wolf knows how to be quiet even when I forget.
Sniffing the air, I smile, turning as I catch her scent.
When Chloe first got to Lyle House I didn't think much about her. Simon did, Simon liked her. Simon was the reason that I started paying attention to her. It didn't take long for me to figure out what her powers were and yeah, I still feel a little guilty sometimes for pushing her towards them when she clearly wasn't ready, but none of us were. Sometimes I still feel we're not, but at least we're not alone anymore. And Dad's back.
Back to Chloe though, because in a way she kinda started all this; our catalyst.
She took me by surprise.
I can admit that now.
First by how powerful she was, then by how smart she was, and most of all by how determined she was.
Not to mention how quickly she got into the situations she did—still does.
I couldn't understand how such a small girl could get into so much trouble. It was like she went looking for it, except she didn't. She just wanted to go home. We all did, but she also genuinely wanted to help — something not all of us did — and that was what drove her to do everything she did. She just wanted to help, to understand what was happening to her and everyone in Lyle House, including me. All she had wanted was to get home and now she can't, maybe not ever.
The worst thing was that it felt like it was all my fault. Intellectually I knew it wasn't, but sometimes you can't help the way you feel. She got into and created as much trouble as she got us out of, but ever since that moment in the cellar I felt responsible for her. She would hate that I was even thinking this, but I did. Kind of like the way I felt about Simon, the urge to protect and watch out over them a thick feeling that wrapped around my chest, but so different at the same time.
It wasn't like I didn't know Chloe couldn't take care of herself — she was a walking zombie movie (her words, not mine) when she wanted to be and the zombies were under her control — but it was just there, that feeling, sticking to my bones. At first I didn't want to examine it that much. I was happy letting it be just a sense of protection like with Simon and Dad and then she was there, by Andrew's computer in my lap, and I had wanted to sniff her.
I had never wanted to sniff Simon and Dad before.
Now, being a werewolf, I have a pretty good sense of smell, and I know when people look at me, wrinkling their noses because of how I smell like I don't know, but trust me when I say I know. It's about ten times, maybe twenty times worse for me. BO is no teenager's friend, but for a teen werewolf? It's more than your enemy, it's your nemesis. It's gotten better lately, thankfully, since the Change happened. Still an enhanced sense of smell? Not one of my favourite wolf traits, handy, but annoying. And yet I had wanted to get close and smell her. Really smell her, bury my nose behind my ear, and memorise the way her scent lived there with the barest hints of shampoo and sweat that lingered in the small crevice.
I had wanted to duck my head, way down to her neck and just inhale.
I didn't even know how to react to that thought never having one like it before.
But that's when I stared suspecting the depths of why I felt so protective of her. (If anyone is wondering, I know now exactly what that little patch of skin smells like now. I don't think she'd mind me sharing it, but I don't want to share it. Chloe says the wolf is more than a little possessive. I'm not saying she's wrong, but I'm not saying she's right.)
Of course, this was after The Date, back when I mentally moving past thinking she liked Simon. For the longest time I was happy that she did. And that Simon liked her. Or I thought I did. After all, I couldn't blame her for liking Simon. If I was girl, or was into guys, I'd pick Simon with his friendly smile and much less dangerous powers than the scary, tall, weird kid with acne. Thankfully, something else that's also been getting better since I started Changing.
But that was after it all had started shifting on me. So slowly I almost didn't notice it. Or let myself notice it.
I think snuck up on me, even though I remember when she turned from being Chloe The Girl To Help Me Get Simon Out of Lyle House to Chloe The Girl Who Was Too Brave And I Wanted To Be Around. It was a strange change, let me tell you, and I wasn't ready for it.
Sometimes I still don't think I am. It's a good thing that my wolf likes her, but I'm starting to believe he liked her before I even did.
I just remember it was such a relief when I found her waiting for me—us in the warehouse that it caught me off guard. Of course I ended up wanting to give her shit for letting me sneak up on her. Don't even ask me where that impulse came from aside from this overwhelming desire to make sure she was safe that hit me at the most inconvenient times. I hadn't even let Simon know I smelled her first, I had to make sure it was really her. By myself. I really should have figured it out then.
She was so small — still is — and my half started Changes were coming faster and harder — more dangerous — and yet she was the only person I wanted around for them. I didn't even want Simon knowing about them. Actually the mere idea of having Simon watching me Change is still uncomfortable, but not Chloe.
On the bus, when I could feel the Change coming I had to wake her. Simon was closer to me, but I pushed past him to Chloe. When she followed off the bus I had felt so much tension release from inside me. I wouldn't be alone, she'd be with me. That was enough.
Those days now seem like a blur of running and annoyance that I'm still so sure how we survived them. I didn't understand why I kept getting so annoyed with her. Now I do— most of the time, anyway. It's like I can't help it. The problem isn't that I can't or don't understand her impulses to help, but how she rushes headlong into things without thinking things though, not worrying about her safety and it turns my stomach into a ball of knots and tension. Something that isn't that great for a werewolf who doesn't have great control over his Changes yet. Dad explained about the instinct to protect the people close to you a long time ago. I always had it with Simon, but the way it flares for Chloe is almost too much sometimes.
Like when she went into that alley with Tori I was ready to tear those other girls apart, Tori included. She just didn't think, just like Simon didn't always think before everything happened. She pulled Chloe into her mess and Chloe just let her, because Chloe doesn't like leaving people behind. Anyone. It's annoying as it is admirable.
The worst thing is I find it more admirable than annoying.
But those days on the road are when I think we started reaching a point of understanding. I like to feel we did. She was listening to me at any rate, as much as she ever does, but I think that's when I really started to listen to her too. Maybe I didn't know why it was that I cared about her opinion on what I did or how I did it, but I cared.
Usually she's too nice, she complicates simple plans because she has to try to make everything right even when I know it's impossible and then… Then she proves me wrong. It should annoy me— actually it does, but it also makes me happy.
It makes me happy to see her smile over something.
Like I said that should have been a pretty big clue, right?
Simon does say stubbornness runs in our family.
But Chloe made—makes me nervous. Not in a scared way—no, she makes me nervous because I care about how she's feeling and what's she's thinking and before her there was only really Simon and Dad and I knew how they felt about me— how they cared. And like I knew Chloe cared, but she cares about everyone and at first I thought I was okay with being just another person she cared about, and I am. Don't get me wrong, I like that she cares about people. But, and I know it's selfish, I wanted her to care about me just a little bit more.
When we finally met up with Andrew was when everything seemed to come to a head for us. Our first days alone in Andrew's cottage when it was just the four of us were almost a reprieve. It was a reprieve that didn't last long. Soon it a whole new set of problems, but running was only taking us so far and everyone felt too hot on our trail. Still, for a while we had a roof over our heads and there was someone else, someone older, someone who could do more than just run. It was nice, not having to be the one Simon or Chloe looked at for a plan even for a little while. Tori, of course, didn't look at me as anything but a nuisance. I didn't mind. I pretty much looked at her the same way.
I still worried though. Andrew was nice, he was trying to help us, but I didn't trust him. Not really. He wasn't Dad. And it Dad was who I wanted to talk to about what was happening—thank God we found him.
Still for a while we had something like an ordinary routine. We felt safe enough to go back to doing normal things. Like dating.
The night Simon and Chloe went on their date I had told myself the whole time they were out I was worried because of Simon. That I didn't want him to get hurt, that they really shouldn't have been doing stuff like going out on dates while we were being hunted, but I still had to know how it went, especially after I saw Simon and he brushed me off. When I saw her I jumped down her throat about hurting Simon's feelings. Then she told me what Simon thought about us and I have to say as I werewolf I can take a hit, I can take more than one hit and stay standing, but that almost levelled me.
She couldn't like me. She couldn't. She liked Simon. Simon was the better choice. Simon, who was safe, who wouldn't hurt her, who was nice and funny and liked her back. Because he did and I didn't—I couldn't. Simon liked her.
We argued, of course, sometimes it seemed that was almost all we did those days. I drove her outside and then followed her out. I don't know why I wasn't going to apologise I just didn't want her to be alone out there. Then my luck kicked in and the Change started. She noticed. I could see that she did, but neither of us really wanted to be in the same place and I told her to go.
I didn't want her to stay with me out of pity, but…
Barely an hour passed before I pushed down my pride and went to look for her.
I hated that I needed her for the Change, but I did, worse yet I wanted her there. Her presence calmed me down, grounded me I guess. We fought then, too, but she came. I knew she would have. It's selfish to admit, but I counted on it—that she wouldn't leave me alone. Something changed — pun not intended at all — after that time; my first full Change, my first kill. Chloe says that I was protecting her, that I was protecting both of us, and that's true enough, but still I remember the moment of shock when I felt Liam's body collapse into a dead weight under my hands. I never wanted to feel like that again, even as the wolf in me growled in success of beating its opponent.
That had only been one change, another had been learning someone wanted me dead — the feeling that comes with that; the idea that you're not valuable enough to keep alive. That you're something to be gotten rid off. — but the one I'm talking about is… I still can't fully describe. It had been on the way back and I told Chloe about my idea of leaving. She argued with me against it, but that wasn't it. Not the argument, I mean. That wasn't the change. I'm still not sure what was, but something in Chloe's face was what convinced me not to leave. I didn't tell her that of course, and I didn't even know why that look she gave me mattered so much, but she seemed… Lost, I guess, is the best word for it, at the idea and I didn't ever want to see that look in her face again.
I told her I wasn't going anywhere and I didn't even know I'd meant it until the words were out, but I didn't. I wasn't going anywhere.
At least not without her and Simon next to me.
I feel I've done pretty good on that.
I'm going to keep doing good on that, no matter what happens next, because I know now what I didn't let myself admit then.
I care about Chloe, and not just like friends or people that have gone through shit together even though both are true. I care about her in the way that makes me want to hold her in my arms and kiss her. The way that makes me want to sneak away from a motel room where my dad and brother are sleeping into a forest (while we're still on the run) and kiss her even more.
Thankfully, she seems pretty okay that, and with sneaking out of motel rooms too. Knowing her perchance for trouble I probably shouldn't be encouraging her, but at least if anything or anyone decides to sneak up on us we're together and I'd never let anything happen to her. And I know she'd do the same for me.
"Derek?" I hear her whisper in the shadows, like she's trying to be quiet. Like I haven't already heard her shifting against the tree she's leaning against.
I round on the tree and smile down at her. She looks cute in her thick powder blue winter coat that's a little too thick for day but okay now. It's getting colder every day since we're heading back up north. Dad thinks it's time to introduce me to the Pack. I'm not sure how I feel about that, but Dad seems to think it's a good idea. Not wanting to think on it too much now, I push the thought away and focus on Chloe. Her hair is loose and almost to her shoulders again. She cut short it a couple months back when that ugly dark dye I had bought her started growing out, her blonde hair peeking awkwardly at the roots. Tori had intervened quickly and now Chloe has a more uniform head of dark blonde hair with purple streaks. I have to admit I don't know who was more surprised me or Simon that day finding both of them giggling, Chloe's hair wrapped in a towel, feet in each other's laps as they painted their nails the same sparkly blue—money's less tight than it was when we had been on the run, but we still didn't indulge often.
"Are you cold?"
"Nope, totally fine." She shook her head, her arms going around my waist, tucking her hand under my jacket. Her palms felt cool against my shirt.
I rolled my eyes, "You're a bad liar."
"No, I'm not." (Yes, she is.) She grinned and got on to her tiptoes. It helped, but not much. Her mouth was still a few inches away from mind and for a second there was a part of me that wanted to tell her off for not putting gloves on, for walking so far into the wood, however her hips pressed into mine and hey, I'm a hormonal teenage boy with strong werewolf instincts.
Pulling her close, I lifted her up the last few inches. Her ankles wrapped around my calves. I boosted her higher and felt her arms moving to tighten around her neck. Her knees slid over my thighs and settled around my hips.
Against her lips, I smiled, nipping her lips. "You should have worn gloves."
Her small burst of laughter caught between our lips, her cool palms brushed against the nape of my neck. I shivered. I don't do that a lot — werewolf — but I do it around her.
It's not so bad.
Our lives, they're not so bad.