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Little Monster

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It was barely autumn, but it had started to get uncomfortably cold at night and the metal bleachers at the lacrosse field were even colder. Despite the temperature, I was bound and determined to watch practice. It was one of the last practices of preseason and Scott's last day as assistant coach. I was sitting on the bleachers by myself, my brother's lacrosse hoodie pulled tight around my body as an extra layer of protection from the cold. Liam, however, was not in sight. The rest of the team had already started running drills, but my brother was not with them.

A text from Mason confirmed that he was still moping in the locker room. I told him to get Liam out there quickly because from where I was seated, it looked like Finstock was already on the brink of an aneurysm.

I cringed when I saw my friend Nolan get slammed for the second time already by Diaz but clapped supportively. "It's okay, Nolan! You've got this!"

He offered me a small wave when he got up and I smiled at him.

Coach Finstock yelled at him a second later. "Holloway! Grab a new stick and get in goal!"

Nolan hated playing goalie, it was something he'd admitted to me junior year while we were talking in our history class.

He took his spot in goal and the team started playing again. Liam was still not out there and Diaz was taking over the field. He was better than he'd been the year before and I was actually impressed.

I heard Finstock make a comment about making Diaz captain if Liam didn't show up soon so I quickly texted Mason to tell him.

Diaz was making his way down the field with the ball, rapidly approaching the net where Nolan stood nervously. He took the shot and a second before the ball could make it into the net, Liam appeared out of nowhere. He did an admittedly impressive flip before catching the ball and taking off towards the opposite end of the field.

I hopped up and clapped excitedly. "Way to go, Li!"

Things were looking good until Diaz started coming towards Liam, diving low and flipping him over his back. Liam landed hard on the ground and I cringed. When he didn't get up right away Scott blew his whistle and ran towards him.

I knew something must have been wrong, so I abandoned my seat and ran onto the field, weaving between the players who were standing there looking at Liam. I knelt next to him and Scott to see that Liam's eyes were glowing gold and he was growling lowly.

"Li, are you okay? You're not hurt, are you?" I asked, putting one hand on top of the heavy pads on his shoulders.

He shook his head, but I could still hear growls rumbling through his chest.

"Hey, look at me." I said, grabbing the face mask of his helmet and forcing him to face me. "You need to calm down. Take a deep breath."

He followed my instructions and I watched his eyes flicker back to their normal shade of blue, the same color or my own eyes.

Scott stood up suddenly, pulling the two of us to our feet as well.

I noticed everyone staring at something and I looked over to see a wolf standing on the field, barely fifteen feet away from all of us. There was still-wet blood on the side of its neck and it growled, baring its teeth.

Liam immediately pushed me behind him and I found myself nervously gripping the back of his jersey.

"Everyone back." Scott said cautiously.

Most of the team followed his instructions and took a few slow steps backwards. But Nolan was standing still, seeming unable to move. His eyes were trained intensely on the wolf.

"Nolan…" Scott said but he still didn't respond.

I walked towards him, brushing off Liam's hand when he tried to stop me. My fingertips brushed the skin of Nolan's forearm. "Hey, Nolan, it's okay. Just back up a little bit, okay? Just come towards me."

His feet moved hesitantly, and he almost stumbled back towards me.

I held onto his arm, my fingers gently stroking the skin there to keep him calm.

Scott took a small step forward and I knew what he was doing. No one could see it but he flashed his eyes; a second later the wolf turned around and walked back into the woods.

I moved towards my twin brother. "Liam, what's going on? Was that a wolf? Or a wolf?"

He shook his head. "I don't know."

"We need to go find out." Scott said, looking at Liam before turning his attention to me. "You need to stay here."

I folded my arms across my chest. "Absolutely not. The two of you aren't running off into the dark woods after a potentially murderous werewolf by yourselves."

"Lauren, please. Just stay here and make sure everyone leaves just in case it comes back." Scott pleaded.

I sighed but gave in. "Fine. Text me and let me know what you find out. And please, please be careful."

"We always are." Liam said before following Scott off the field and into the woods where the wolf had disappeared just seconds before.

Due to the appearance of a wild and potentially dangerous animal, Finstock had called practice to an end early and the boys were all making their way back towards the school and into the locker room.

I grabbed my bag from where I'd left it on the bleachers and followed them into the warm building and leaned against the wall across from the locker room door and waited to make sure everyone left.

Within 20 minutes, most of the guys were gone. Even Finstock had already left for the night but by my count, there was still one person lingering inside the locker room.

I waited 10 more minutes before deciding to investigate. I pushed the door open a few inches and made sure to announce my presence. "Hello?"

There was no response, but I knew someone still had to be in there.

"Hello?" I tried again, walking into the room and shutting the door behind me.

No one spoke but I heard a quiet sniffle come from the opposite side of the room. I walked around a few sets of lockers and saw Nolan sitting against the wall near the showers. He was already changed back into his normal clothes, but he was sitting on the floor with knees pulled close to his chest and his head in his hands.

"Nolan?" I asked, and his head snapped up. There were tear tracks on his cheeks.

"Lauren?"

I dropped my bag and rushed over, kneeling beside him. "Hey, what's going on? Why are you upset?"

He shook his head and wiped a hand over his face. "Nothing. I'm fine."

I sighed. "It's okay, you can tell me."

He just shook his head again.

I reached out to rest my hand on his shoulder. "Was it the wolf? I know you were in the library last year when… Everything happened."

"Lauren, really, you don't have to worry about me." He said.

"Of course I do."

"Why?" He asked almost coldly.

My eyebrows furrowed for a second before relaxing. "Because you're my friend."

His expression softened. "Sorry. I'm just a little freaked out."

I nodded. "It's okay. I understand."

He wiped his hand across his face again, the remaining tears disappearing.

"I know what might make you feel better." I said.

His blue eyes met mine. "Yeah?"

I nodded. "Let's go to that diner downtown and get something to eat. Carbs will help take the edge off, I promise."

He smiled widely. "That sounds great."

I returned the smile and stood up, offering him a hand and helping pull him to his feet. "I swear, they've got the best hot chocolate in Beacon Hills. Come on, I'll drive."

Nolan grabbed his bag from the floor and followed me out of the locker room and towards the parking lot.

"You seem really calm." He noted. "Considering what just happened."

I looked up at him, a small smile on my lips. "Yeah, there's not a lot that scares me anymore."

"Not even a wolf?" He asked.

I wanted to laugh but I didn't. "I mean, it's scary, I guess. But no one got hurt so there's no reason to freak out, right?"

We had made it to my car, which seemed to look more and more beat up every single time I saw it. Nolan had stopped a few feet back, looking conflicted.

"What's wrong?" I asked, taking a step towards him.

He shook his head and smiled. "Nothing. I'm sure you're right. It's just an isolated incident, no big deal."

I could tell the smile was fake by the way his upper lip had twitched but I pretended to go along with it. "See, everything's fine."

We got into the car and I jammed the key into the ignition and turned it. The engine sputtered but didn't turn over. I groaned before letting go, running a hand through my hair which was a mess from being outside in the wind. "Just give her a minute. She has a hard time sometimes… Most of the time."

Nolan chuckled quietly.

"God, it's like the Jeep all over again." I muttered, not thinking he would hear me.

"Did you have a Jeep before?" He asked.

I shook my head and laughed a little. "No, not me. Stiles did, though. It didn't even run on gas, I don't think. It ran on hopes and dreams. Not to mention that it's held together by several rolls of industrial strength duct tape."

He smiled as I turned the key again. This time, the engine turned over and roared to life.

"So, you excited for senior year?" I asked, putting the car in drive and pulling out of the parking lot.

"More nervous than excited." He admitted. "But I guess I'm excited to just be done with high school."

"Tell me about it. I just want to get the hell out of Beacon Hills, get all of my undergrad work done, and take the MCAT." I said.

I noticed a small look of surprise on his face. "MCAT? You want to go to med school?"

I nodded. "Yeah, I want to be a surgeon like my dad. I know it's going to take a while but that's fine. I love learning, I just can't deal with all of the drama here."

There was a lot more to it than I could admit to Nolan, but I certainly wasn't lying to him. However, telling him that "drama" meant supernatural creatures trying to kill me and my friends was not an option.

"I don't blame you for wanting to leave." He said, fiddling with a loose string on his sleeve. "Beacon Hills is kind of crazy."

I knew that the beast showing up at the lacrosse game the year before was still bothering him, and with good reason. Nolan, like a lot of other students, had taken shelter in the library when the beast appeared. Physically, he was unharmed; but I knew there had been some psychological damage done. He'd always been anxious, I noticed it the moment I met him, but things had only seemed to get worse after the incident.

My fingers gripped the steering wheel tightly as I felt the almost overwhelming desire to tell him everything, to give him answers as to what the hell had actually happened to him. But I knew how dangerous it could be if he knew about everything. I knew what kind of target that could paint on his back and I didn't want that. I didn't want him to feel even half as scared as I did all the time.

"Lauren?"

I blinked once and looked over at him. "Sorry, what?"

"The light is green." He said.

I looked back to the traffic light in front of me, no longer glowing red. I nodded and pressed my foot to the gas. "Sorry, I was just thinking about something."

"About what?" He asked.

"Just school stuff." The lie rolled off my tongue with ease. I didn't even think, my mouth just moved of its own accord. "My schedule for this year is pretty packed. Between AP classes and extracurriculars, I'm not going to have a lot of free time."

"Are you still going to be coming to games and practices?" His tone was hopeful. "It's kind of nice having you there. At least I know I've got one person cheering for me."

I smiled. "Yeah, of course. I haven't missed one yet, have I?"

"I know that I don't always play and I'm probably not even going to make first line but it's just… It's nice knowing that you're there."

I looked away from the road to glance over at him. "Come on, you can totally make first line this year."

He arched an eyebrow at me. "Really? I got my ass handed to me tonight."

"So you need a little work. Listen, you're too nice. That's your biggest problem. Being nice is great until you're out on the field. Just take whatever anger you have and put it to good use. I know you have the skills because I've seen you run drills. It's not until the scrimmage when you get messed up."

"I don't have that much anger." He said.

I rolled my eyes jokingly. "You've got to be kidding me. You're a teenage boy, Nolan. Aren't all teenage boy supposed to be seething with rage?"

"No, I don't think that's healthy."

I laughed. "As a person who is often seething with rage, I feel attacked."

"You?" He questioned. "Seething with rage? What are you even talking about? I know you complain a lot but I've never seen you get angry about anything."

"Because you're not an asshole and you've never given me anything to be that angry about. But believe me, deep down, I am full of hellfire."

"Is it because you're short? It's usually the short girls who are the angriest." He teased.

I smacked his arm. "Oh my god, never mind. You are an asshole. And I will have you know that I am 5'3 and I know for a fact that I am four inches taller than Lainey Harris."

"Lainey Harris is 13 years old. She's only a sophomore because she skipped like three grades. So, is that all you've got? Being taller than a 13 year old? You're 17." Nolan laughed.

I pulled into the parking lot of the diner and found a spot between two minivans. "Are we going to go drink hot chocolate or are you going to further make fun of my stature?"

He laughed as we got out of the car.

I followed him inside. There weren't many people so we took an empty booth by the front window.

A waitress appeared to greet us and ask what we wanted to drink.

"Two hot chocolates." I said immediately.

She disappeared a moment later and Nolan smiled at me from across the table. "Thanks for this, by the way."

"It's no problem. You seemed pretty shaken up and I figure this is the least I could do."

He nodded. "Yeah, that was kind of intense earlier."

"Especially after what happened before." I blurted out.

His eyes widened, and I realized I'd made a mistake.

"Shit, I'm sorry. That was really not cool for me to bring that up. I already brought it up earlier and now this." I ran a hand through my hair. "Really, I'm sorry."

He shook his head. "No, don't apologize. It's okay, really. I just… I'm surprised. Most people don't bring it up because they're worried that I'm going to break down or something. It's actually nice for someone to not treat me like I'm weak."

"You're not weak at all, Nolan. Not by a long shot. I mean, obviously it's something worth being upset over but you seem to be doing okay, all things considered."

"I just don't know how you do it." He said, picking up a sugar packet from the basket at the end of the table and fiddling with it.

"Do what?"

The corner of his mouth turned up in the hint of a smirk. "Everything. All of this. You were there that night. You saw that thing too. You… You looked it in the face and you didn't run away like everyone else did. You stared right at it. And you walk around every single day like it's fine, like nothing ever even happened. It's like you don't even realize you could've died."

His words hit me hard and I leaned against the back of my seat, folding my hands in my lap. I wasn't sure what I was supposed to say.

"And you know just as well as I do that it wasn't just a wolf. It wasn't just some animal attack." He said, resting his elbows on the edge of the table and leaning in my direction.

My eyes went wide and I was happy he wasn't looking at me in that moment. He knew it wasn't an animal and he was suspicious, maybe even of me. And that was a problem.

"I don't know what I saw that night, Nolan. It had to be some animal… Some crazy, mutated bear or something. It wasn't human. What else could it be?" I said.

Nolan looked back at me, his blue eyes scanning my face.

I could tell there was something on his mind, something he desperately wanted to say.

But he didn't.

The waitress strolled back up to our table, setting down two mugs of hot chocolate before wandering off again.

I picked mine up, curling my fingers around the warm mug. I could see steam wafting from the top so I knew it was too hot to drink but the heat made my hands feel better.

"Are you sure it was just an animal?" He asked.

I looked up from my mug to meet his eyes. I wanted to tell him the truth, he deserved to know. But I just nodded my head. "Yeah, Nolan. I promise. What I saw was an animal."

He leaned back, his own hands wrapping around his mug. "I'm sure you're right."

I don't think he noticed the way his voice trembled when he said that. He didn't believe me, at least not entirely. And he didn't know that I knew that.

I took a sip of my hot chocolate, ignoring the way it burned my mouth. "It's okay to be scared, Nolan. Just don't let it control your life."

He nodded, his blue eyes focused on his drink, as if he were expecting a mug full of chocolate to answer all of his questions.

"What is it?" I asked and his head snapped up, almost surprised by my question.

"N-Nothing. Tomorrow's the first day of senior year. I guess I'm just nervous."

He was lying. And he still didn't know that I knew it.

"That's not the only thing you're anxious about. Tell me."

He shook his head and reached into his pocket, pulling out $10 and dropping it on the table. "Really, I'm fine. I just… I need to get home."

"Okay, I'll give you a ride." I said, standing up at the same time he did.

He shook his head. "Don't worry about it. I'll uh… I'll see you tomorrow."

Nolan all but ran out the door and flopped back down in my seat. I reached for my hot chocolate but realized my appetite had vanished.

I walked outside, pulling my jacket tighter around me and looking for Nolan. He was getting into the car with Gabe, another guy from the lacrosse team, one of the only people I ever saw Nolan spend time with, and someone I'd talked to a few times at parties.

When I got into my car, I realized Nolan had left his bag. I grabbed my phone and sent him a text about it before driving home.

When I got inside, the house was quiet. Mom was already in bed and dad had another late shift at the hospital. I walked upstairs to see if Liam was in his room but there was no sign of him.

I knew he was with Scott so I tried not to worry. But after what happened with Nolan, I was feeling a bit shaken. Something was off, not just with him but in general.

Ignoring the feeling, I changed into pajamas before crawling into bed.

Liam never woke me up so I didn't know when he'd finally gotten home but when I walked downstairs, he was sitting at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal.

"So what happened last night?" I asked, opening the fridge to look for food.

"We found bodies." He said casually.

"Human?" I asked.

"Wolves."

I nodded. "Werewolves or just wolves?"

"Not sure yet." He stood up to put his bowl in the sink and I closed the fridge.

"You ready for today? Did you pick your classes?" I asked, leaning against the counter.

He nodded. "Did you?"

"I picked mine weeks ago. You're the one who saves everything for the last minute."

"Have you heard anything about the new guidance counselor?" He asked.

I shook my head. "Not much. I know there have been some kids meeting with her throughout the summer."

"About what?"

I folded my arms across my chest. "The Beast. They were all in the library when it happened. I found out because of Nolan. I guess he sees her like once a week."

"I didn't know he was even there." Liam admitted.

I nodded. "It really scared him, Li. And I'm worried; Not just about Nolan, about everything. What if people are suspicious? I'm pretty sure everyone there is smart enough to know it wasn't an animal."

"Just calm down. We've been dealing with this long enough, we know how to handle it." He said.

I took a deep breath. "You're right. We have other bullshit to deal with today. So I'm going to go get dressed and we're going to senior registration and we're going to be normal high school students for once."

Liam offered me a smile. "That's the spirit, sort of."

I rolled my eyes and gave him a light shove. "Very funny. Get dressed, I want to leave in twenty."

My phone chimed as I made my way back to my bedroom and I checked it, expecting to see that Nolan had finally texted me back but it was just my dad, wishing me good luck for the first day of senior year.

I placed my phone on my desk while I got dressed and was just pulling my sweater over my head when there was a knock on my door.

"Come in!"

The door opened and Liam stepped inside, leaning against the wall. "Ready?"

I nodded. "I think so."

He tossed me my adidas backpack that was laying on the floor by the door and I slung it over my shoulder before following him downstairs.

I drove that morning and since Nolan's bag was still in my car, I'd had to field a bunch of questions about it from Liam.

"Listen, we went to get food. It's not like I went on a date with him. He's my friend, Liam." I said, glancing away from the road to shoot him a look.

"Why didn't you tell me?" He asked.

I rolled my eyes. "I wasn't aware that I had to tell you everything I do, Li. Last time I checked, you're my brother, not my dad."

"I still need to know where you are. What if something happens to you? How can I find you if I don't know where you went?" He asked.

My hands gripped the steering wheel tightly. "Okay, I get it. I understand. But what you have to understand is that I am capable of taking care of myself. You can't just baby me all the time."

"I know that. I know you can take care of yourself. But what you have to understand is that there are things out there that you can't protect yourself from. What am I supposed to do if something happens to you? What's the pack supposed to do?"

"You say that like I'm some crucial member of the pack. I'm hardly a True Alpha. I'm not even a werewolf. I can't predict death, I'm not strong, I don't… I don't even have a bat!" I almost laughed.

I pulled into the school parking lot, found an empty space, and put the car in park.

"Lauren, stop. Just because you can't…"

I cut him off. "Can we do this later? Please?"

Liam groaned and thumped his head against the back of the seat. "Fine."

I turned the car off and grabbed my backpack and Nolan's bag before getting out of the car.

"I'm sorry, Li. I'm just stressing out right now so if we could handle this later that would be great. I just want to meet with the guidance counselor and get it over with." I said, running a hand through my hair.

He nodded. "Yeah, I'm sorry too. I just worry about you a lot."

"I know." I said, staring at the ground as we made our way towards the building. "I know you're just looking out for me."

When we got inside, most of the seniors were already lined up in front of the guidance counselor's office.

"I'm not just going to stand around so I'm going to find Nolan to give his bag back and I'll meet up with you after, okay?" I said.

Liam gave me a wave as I took off the down the hallway.

Nolan was standing in front of his locker, typing a text on his phone.

"Good to see it still works." I said.

"What?" He asked.

"Your phone. It's good to see it still works. Thanks for texting me back."

I dropped his bag at his feet before turning on my heel and walking back in the direction I'd come from.

When I found Liam again, Mason and Corey had joined him in line and they were all talking about what classes they'd selected on the registration sheets.

"What's wrong?" Liam asked as soon as I walked up.

"Nothing. Why?"

"You smell terrible." He said.

I glared at him. "Excuse me?"

He shrugged. "Chemosignals. You smell like you're pissed off. And it's not a good smell."

I rolled my eyes. "I'm fine. Mostly just annoyed. Don't worry about it."

I leaned against a random locker as we waited for the line to move forward.

It took what felt like hours but the line slowly dwindled down. Liam, Corey, and Mason too their turns before I did.

It wasn't until they'd all gone until when I realized Nolan had gotten into line right behind me.

"Hey, Ren?" He asked timidly.

I turned to face him. "Yeah?"

"I'm sorry I didn't text you. And I'm sorry I ditched you last night. It's just… I've been really anxious lately and I've been acting like a jerk because of it."

I stretched onto my toes and wrapped my arms around his neck. "It's okay, Nolan. I can't stay mad at you, anyway."

His arms wrapped around my waist and gave me a light squeeze. "I'm still sorry."

I pulled away but smiled up at him. "I know. But you're my friend. So, I guess, if you're feeling like this and you need to take it out on someone, you can take it out on me. I can handle it."

The door opened and I heard a voice call out for the next person to come in.

"That's me." I said. "See you later, okay?"

I walked into the office, closed the door behind me, and took a seat.

"Lauren Dunbar?"

I nodded. "Yes."

"It's nice to meet you. I'm Miss Monroe and I'll be your new guidance counselor." She smiled at me.

I smiled back. "Nice to meet you."

I reached into my backpack to pull out my registration sheet.

"So, Miss Dunbar, what are your plans after graduation? What colleges are you looking at?" She asked as I laid my paper on her desk.

"Harvard Med, Johns Hopkins, and Stanford Med are my top three picks. Beyond that, Duke, UCSF, and Yale." I explained.

"Aiming high, I see."

"Not too high though, right?" I asked.

She laughed lightly. "With your grades, I doubt anything would be too high. I do have one concern though."

I shifted in my chair, feeling my heart rate pick up. "What would that be?"

"Your attendance." She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her desk. "Your record shows that you missed 49 days last year."

I looked down at my lap. "I know my attendance has been bad the past couple of years but I plan on doing a lot better this year."

"Do you mind if I ask the reason your attendance record got so bad so quickly?" She asked.

I almost laughed. "I was really stressed and it caused me to get sick a lot. I, uh, I did therapy for a while though and now it's not as bad."

Miss Monroe nodded once. "I'm happy to hear that. Now, about your test scores; I see that you've already taken the ACT."

"Yeah, I did it in the spring." I said.

"Is there a reason you decided to take the ACT instead of the SAT?" She asked.

"I planned on taking both, actually. I figured it would just provide another score for schools to take a look at whenever I apply." I explained.

She smiled. "And have you started any SAT prep yet?"

"I took a practice exam over the summer. I got a 2290. I've already checked each school's SAT, ACT, and GPA requirements online. My scores are high enough for all six of the schools I'm considering. Not to mention, I have all of my extracurriculars."

She picked up my registration sheet and looked over the classes I'd selected. "AP bio, AP anatomy, AP chem, trig, English, Latin, and gym. Perfect choices, Miss Dunbar. What branch of medicine are looking to go into?"

"Surgery and emergency medicine." I explained. "I was thinking maybe working in a trauma unit or something."

Monroe laid my paper back down on the desk. "Well, it appears you've got everything planned out. You barely seem to need my help."

I laughed. "I don't usually need much help with anything anymore. I've had to deal with a lot these past couple of years."

"Like what?"

I shook my head. "Nothing I'm big on talking about. It's just a lot of drama."

"I know what it's like living here in Beacon Hills. We've all been through a lot, things that aren't easily explained." She said.

I realized then that the tone of her voice, the pitch, hadn't changed once in the entire time I'd been in her office. And that was unusual. But the meaning behind her words had my head spinning. She knew things. "What do you mean?"

"You were in the library last year, weren't you? You saw it, the animal attack."

I nodded. "Yeah. I saw the animal."

"What do you think it was?"

I shrugged. "I don't know. It was dark. I thought it was a bear or something."

"Are you sure about that?" She asked.

I noticed her eyes narrow slightly and I squared my shoulders. "It's not my job to know what kind of animal it was. It was just my job to get out of there, and that's what I did."

Monroe's smile barely looked fake. "I don't mean to make you feel uncomfortable, Miss Dunbar. Thank you for coming in. You can take your registration sheet to the front office to turn in and they'll have your schedule made soon."

I stood up and grabbed the paper from her desk before walking out.

Nolan stepped inside and shut the door as I made my way down the hall to where Liam, Corey, and Mason were all standing.

"I don't trust her." I said immediately.

Liam's eyebrows raised. "You just met her?"

"Yeah, I know. And she was already asking me about what happened in the library last year. She knows it wasn't an animal attack so she starts asking me what I think it was. I can't tell if she's smart or a complete idiot. Either way, I don't like her. Didn't she ask you guys anything weird?"

Liam shook his head. "No, not really."

"Yeah, actually. She was talking about how things have happened that don't come with easy explanation and that anything we talk about in her office is confidential. I really don't think she was just talking about my schedule." Mason said.

"She made you kind of uncomfortable, didn't she? Not enough that you immediately want to run in the other direction but just enough that you don't want to be in a closed room with her?" I asked.

Mason laughed but nodded. "Yeah, a lot like that. She definitely knows more than she should."

The sounds of footsteps drawing closer to where we were standing brought the conversation to a close. I turned to see Gabe walking towards us, his eyes focused on me.

"Hey, can I talk to you for a second?" He asked. "Privately."

Liam shot me a look but I just shook my head before turning back to Gabe. "Yeah, of course."

I followed Gabe to the opposite end of the hallway where he leaned against the wall. "What did you and Nolan talk about last night before I picked him up?"

"I'm fine, how are you?" I snapped. "And why are mine and Nolan's conversations any of your business?"

"He was upset after he left you at the diner. I want to make sure that's not going to happen again. He's not just your friend, he's mine too."

I rolled my eyes and folded my arms across my chest. "I was talking about the library. I didn't mean to upset him. If anything, I was trying to help."

"By upsetting him?"

"I tried telling him that he doesn't have to let fear control his life. I was trying to tell him that it was just some freak animal attack and he doesn't have to be terrified that's it going to happen again. He was upset to begin with, okay? After what happened at lacrosse practice, he was really freaked out. I told him we should go get some hot chocolate to help him relax. I thought talking about it might make him feel a little bit better." I explained.

Gabe rolled his eyes and looked away before his eyes flickered back to mine. "Well, clearly you fucked up."

"Yeah, clearly I did. But at least I fucking tried, Gabe. At least my idea of helping him cope is something healthy. You just try dragging him along to parties that he's uncomfortable going to. That's not the kind of person he is. He's not as social as you and I are. Shit, just take him to a movie or something; a comedy, he hates horror films."

He shook his head, glaring down at me. "Do you think you're special just because you know that about him?"

I shrugged. "Not really. But I suppose you think you're special, running around like you have some monopoly over being his friend."

"You should watch your attitude." He warned.

I laughed and began to walk away before I called over my shoulder to him.

"Threaten me again and I'll beat you to death with your own lacrosse stick."

Chapter Text

“Miss Dunbar.” A voice called out from behind me as I made my way down the hall.

I stopped and spun around, seeing Monroe staring at me from right outside her office. I walked back towards her. “Hello, Miss Monroe.”

“I was wondering if you’d like to come into my office tomorrow to talk. You mentioned during registration that you’ve been dealing with a lot of stress and I thought you might benefit from talking about it a bit.” She said.

“Oh.” I said, hands wrapping around the straps of my backpack. “Um, I really appreciate the thought, but I have a lot going on right now. Maybe I could come in next week sometime or maybe the week after. I think I just need to get adjusted and focus on my schoolwork before anything else.”

She handed me a sheet of paper to set up an appointment time. “Just take one. Whenever you feel ready to come in, just let me know. And remember, I have an open door policy. If you ever start feeling overwhelmed, feel free to stop by.”

I forced a smile onto my face as I took the paper from her outstretched hand. “Thank you. I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”

I folded the paper and slipped it into my backpack as I continued in the direction I was originally headed, towards the lacrosse field. As I got closer to the field, I saw someone standing there that I was thrilled to see.

“Brett!” I screeched, dropping my backpack on the grass and running towards him.

“Lauren!” He smiled widely before scooping me up into a tight hug, leaving my feet dangling off the ground.

My arms were latched around his neck. “I missed you!”

“Missed you too, half-stack.” He said, lowering me to my feet but keeping one of his arms around my waist. “How have you been?”

I sighed heavily but forced myself to smile. “Uh, well, you know how things can be. It’s not great but I guess I’m managing. What about you?”

“Things haven’t been too bad. It always makes me feel better seeing you.” He smiled down at me, lightly bumping his hip into me.

I laughed. “Yeah, I guess seeing you is pretty alright too.”

Before he could respond, Liam spoke from a few feet away. “Brett.”

I noticed his eyes focus on the spot where Brett’s hand rested against my side. “Liam, chill.”

He made a face but didn’t prod. “You ready to start?”

Brett nodded, his hand falling from my waist. “Yeah, looks like you guys could use all the help you can get.”

Liam rolled his eyes before turning his attention to me. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

I nodded, and Brett walked back towards the field.

“Have you talked to Monroe today?” My brother asked.

“Yeah, just before I came out here, actually.” I said. “She offered for me to come in and talk, gave me a scheduling slip. She was kind of pushy, to be honest.”

“She did the same thing to me. Are you going to go?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know. I mean, I doubt it. What am I going to tell her? I’m under constant levels of stress because of the seemingly endless number of things trying to kill us?”

“Could always talk about daddy issues.” He said, only half joking.

I sighed. “Liam, just because it’s true doesn’t mean you should say it.”

He smirked before changing the subject. “You should go sit down. We’re going to start in a minute and I know how much you hate missing any of the action.”

“Okay. Good luck, have fun, and remember your mantra. Just look at me if anything’s wrong, okay?” I said, grabbing my backpack from where I dropped it and heading towards the bleachers.

I sat down in the front and dropped my bag to the ground next to my feet, my eyes already focused on the field.

The first few drills the boys ran were simple, mostly focused on passing and blocking. After a while, the freshmen took a seat while Corey took his spot in the goal, Liam got ready to play defense, and Brett was on offense.

I hoped that things wouldn’t get too intense but knowing Brett and Liam, there was no avoiding it.

As they showed the younger boys different plays, I found myself calling out different plays, and even shouting advice to the newbies. Without even realizing it, I had stood up and walked towards the edge of the field, watching the action with my arms folded across my chest.

“Brett!” I shouted, leading to the tall boy walking over to me. “Show them a split dodge.”

He nodded, ran back to his spot on the field, and they ran the play. Brett all but flew past Liam to score.

“You’ve got to be quicker on your feet, Li!” I called out.

He shot me a look but I ignored him.

Instead, I turned my attention to the boys sitting on the bench. “A split dodge isn’t exactly easy to see coming, but that’s the whole point. If you’re on defense, blocking it really just comes down to being quick on your feet. You’ve got to learn how to watch their hands and their feet at the same time because you have to know if they’re going to pass or fake you out.”

I watched as Brett slammed into Liam on his way to the goal, sending Liam to the ground. I cringed and took a seat on the bench. It wasn’t hard to tell that Liam was getting worked up and it was making me nervous.

A minute later, Liam ducked down and all but threw Brett over his shoulder before scooping up the ball and heading towards the goal. He made the shot and the ball tore through the net.

Brett jogged up to him a minute later, playfully bumping into him. To everyone else, it looked harmless, like he was congratulating Liam on a good shot. I could tell it was something else, especially when Liam left the field and headed to the locker rooms.

Instead of following, I decided to give him time to calm down. I took a deep breath and stood back up. “Alright, guys, why don’t you head out onto the field and try running some of these drills?”

The freshmen all hopped up and jogged onto the field.

I walked along the sideline and watched them, but my mind was elsewhere. I was worried about my brother. It seemed like he was having a harder and harder time trying to control his anger and I didn’t want it to become a problem again. My eyes flickered over to where Brett was still helping run drills and tugged at the sleeves of my sweater. When I looked back to the freshmen, I noticed that the group was one short. My head swiveled around toward the bench, wondering if someone had stopped to get a drink but no one was there. Assuming someone was just sick, I turned back to the field.

After watching the guys run drills for a while, I checked my watch to see that it was getting late and there was a history test coming up that Liam, Corey, Mason, and I were going to study for together.

I jogged over to where Mason was sitting on the bleachers. “Hey, if we’re going to study for that test we should probably go soon. I’ll let Corey know and then we can grab Liam from the locker room.”

I called out to the boys who were practicing that they were free to continue running drills if they wanted but if not, they could head home. Then I walked over to Corey to tell him the same thing I had told Mason.

When Corey walked over to grab his water bottle from the bench, Brett walked up to me.

“You ever considered being a lacrosse coach?” He asked.

I laughed. “You know, now that you mention it, I’m sure the life of a high school lacrosse coach is far more fulfilling than that of a surgeon.”

“Yeah, alright. But you were really good with those guys. They listen to you.” He said.

I shrugged. “They’re ambitious. I’m pretty sure they’re willing to listen to anyone who can help. Not to mention that I’m the captain’s sister.”

“I’m sure the fact that you’re cute doesn’t hurt.”

“I was thinking the exact same thing but I didn’t really want to brag or anything. I mean, honestly, I think I am the cutest person here.” I smirked.

“I’m wounded. But, I can’t say I disagree.”

I laughed and smiled up at him. “I have missed you, you know? You should come around more. I’m sure mom and dad wouldn’t mind having you and Lori over for dinner sometime.”

Brett grinned. “Sounds great. Just talk to your parents about when might be a good time and let me know. Lori and I would love to be there.”

“Perfect,” I said, glancing at my watch again. “I’m supposed to study with the guys and I’m sure you probably need to head home but I’ll see you soon, right?”

He nodded. “Of course.”

I smiled and reached up to hug him again.

He bent down closer to my height to squeeze his arms around my waist.

I pecked his cheek before pulling away and following Mason and Corey who were heading towards the building. I called out a goodbye to Brett before grabbing my bag and running to catch up with the guys.

When we got inside, most of the team had already disappeared and Liam was sitting on one of the benches and tying his shoes.

“Hey, guys.” He greeted. “What are you doing here?”

“Just looking for you. History test tomorrow? We need to study.” Mason said.

“Yeah, right. That’s probably a good idea since I have no idea what it’s on.” Liam responded with a laugh.

Corey shot me a weird look when we realized that Liam’s locker door was mysteriously missing but neither of us said anything about it. “It’s on Mussolini and the role of fear-baiting in the rise of fascism. We can study together.”

“Yeah, can we take the test together?” Liam asked.

I rolled my eyes jokingly before spotting something on the floor. It looked like blood but I wondered why Liam hadn’t been able to smell it. “Um, guys?”

They all turned to look at the spot my eyes were fixated on.

I walked over, following the trail of blood to the showers. On the way there, I found discarded shoulder pads on the floor and the concentration of blood continued to grow.

What we saw on the floor of the showers caused a shriek to tear from my lips before I stumbled a few steps backward, slamming into Liam. One of his hands landed on my shoulder before he moved around me to get a closer look at the skinless body on the ground.

I turned around, not able to look at it any longer. My heart was racing in my chest and I couldn’t get my hands to stop shaking.

Corey was the closest person to me and I stepped towards him.

He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and pulled me into his chest. I closed my eyes and tried to convince myself that what I had seen wasn’t real. But I knew it was.

I scolded myself, knowing that if I wanted to be a surgeon, that I would have to be used to seeing the human body in multiple disturbing ways. But I’d never stumbled upon a body with no skin, no face.

I took a deep breath and pulled away from Corey.

“How are we supposed to tell who it is? There’s no face. There’s not even a mouth or eyes. It’s like it isn’t even a person. What the fuck is going on?” I said. “This isn’t possible. This doesn’t happen, it can’t happen.”

Liam turned around to face us. “We can figure out who this is. We know it’s a lacrosse player. Was there anyone who wasn’t at drills?”

“Yeah, I noticed that there was one person missing. I just thought someone had gotten sick or something.” I paused and pulled my phone from my pocket. “I’m sending out a group text to all the lacrosse players I have numbers for.”

“What are you going to do? Ask who isn’t the dead body?” Liam asked.

“Obviously not. I just figured I’d make something up.” I said.

“Like what?” Corey asked.

I looked around for an idea, trying not to look at the body on the floor. I noticed the discarded shoulder pads near my feet. “I’ll just ask if anyone left their shoulder pads out and tell them that I stuck them in coach’s office for them to get tomorrow.”

I moved to sit down on a bench as my thumbs typed out the text before selected all of the lacrosse players names and hitting send.

Within a minute, responses were coming in.

I noticed that Liam was on his phone too, probably doing the same thing I was.

By the time ten minutes had passed, we’d received responses from almost everyone. Except for one person.

“Aaron’s the only one we haven’t heard from.” Liam pointed out.

I closed my eyes, thinking back to all of the guys I’d seen running drills. And Aaron had never made it out onto the field. “He wasn’t out there earlier. Did you guys talk to him before?”

Mason nodded. “Yeah, he was in here. We talked to him.”

My eyes focused on the body without meaning to. “What if it’s him?”

“We can’t jump to that conclusion yet.” Mason said. “We can all split up and look. I’ll check the library.”

“And I’ll go look in the gym.” Corey offered.

“I’ll look in the east wing.” I said.

“I’ll check the second floor.” Liam said. “Everyone meet by the stairs in ten?”

We nodded before leaving the locker room.

We all took off in different directions. I was at a dead sprint headed towards the east wing where most of the science classes were held.

“Aaron?” I called out, slowing to a jog. “Aaron? Hello? Anyone here?”

There was no response and all of the classrooms were empty.

I took off in the direction I’d come from and checked the adjoining hallway, coming up empty again. When I realized that it had been almost ten minutes, I ran back towards the stairs.

We all made it there at the same time. No one had seen Aaron. Mason suggested checking the parking lot to see if his car was there and we all took off together.

Just as we passed one classroom, we saw Aaron sitting inside at one of the desks so we all walked in.

“Aaron?” Liam said.

A second passed before he turned around, a smile on his face. “Hey, guys.”

“Thank god you’re okay.” Mason breathed. “Where have you been?”

“I forgot we have a history test tomorrow.” He said, gesturing towards the open text book on the desk.

“We’ve been trying to call you.” Corey said.

Aaron reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone, pressing the home button several times. The screen remained black. “Huh. Must’ve died.”

I ran a hand through my hair and walked back out into the hall. Corey and Mason followed but Liam remained in the classroom.

“Do you guys think he seems a little off? Or is that just me?” I asked.

Corey nodded. “Yeah, maybe a little bit.”

I sighed and pulled my phone out again.

“What are you doing now?” Liam asked when he stepped out into the hall.

“Someone has to call in the body.” I explained. “I was just going to call Stilinski on his cell. If I call the station directly to report it, they’ll question me. Maybe all of us.”

Liam gave me a nod and I found Stilinski’s contact info as I walked back toward the locker room to get my backpack from where I’d left it.

“Hello?”

“Hey, Sheriff. Um, I have some news you’re not gonna want to hear.” I said.

“Are you okay? Who’s hurt?” He asked immediately.

I took a deep breathe before answering. “No one’s hurt. Well, that’s kind of complicated, actually. But we found a body at the high school, in the locker room.”

Stilinski sighed. “Wonderful. Do you know who it is?”

“That part is even more complicated. There’s… There’s no skin on the body. No eyes, no mouth, no face. It’s stripped down to the muscle. We thought it was someone from the lacrosse team but all the boys are accounted for, we’ve talked to all of them.”

“Who is ‘we?’” He asked.

“Liam, Mason, Corey, and myself.” I said. “Liam was in the locker room when we went to look for him because we need to study for a test tomorrow. I noticed a trail of blood on the floor and we followed it. The body was in the showers.”

“Didn’t Liam smell it?”

I shrugged before I remembered he couldn’t see me. “I guess not. And I feel like there’s a damn good reason why but I haven’t figured it out yet.”

“Okay, I’ll gather up a couple units, put a call in to the coroner, and head down there. You kids should probably get out of there before anyone else to shows up.” He said and I could hear the faint jingle of keys.

“Okay, we’ll be gone. Thanks, Stilinski.”

“Thanks for the call. Be careful, alright?”

I smiled. “You, too, Sheriff.”

We hung up and I stuffed my phone back into my pocket before sprinting into the locker room, grabbing my bag from the floor, and sprinting back out. I didn’t want to be near that body any longer than necessary.

“You guys ready?” I asked when I found them again.

They all nodded once.

“Are you riding with me?” I turned to my brother.

“Yeah. Corey will ride with Mason. I guess we’ll just study at home instead of the library.” He said.

“Sounds good. Stilinski said it was probably best if we’re not here when the cops show up. He also pointed out a pretty good question.”

“What?”

“Why didn’t you smell the blood?” I asked.

Liam’s eyes widened for a fraction of a second. “I didn’t even think about that. I was pretty worked up when I came in. I guess I just didn’t realize it.”

I nodded. “Makes sense. Let’s just get out of here, okay? Knowing that body’s in there is creeping me out.”

20 minutes later we were all back at the house, in Liam’s room. Corey was sitting at the desk, Liam and Mason were sprawled on the floor between the end of the bed and the tv stand, and I was sitting on the bed, propped up against the headboard. There were drinks and several bags of chips distributed throughout the room.

“So, who was Mussolini exactly?” Liam asked.

“He was an Italian politician and journalist. He became Prime Minister in 1922, ruled constitutionally until 1925 when he turned Italy from a democracy to a dictatorship. He was the founder of Italian Fascism and lead the national fascist party. In 1912 he was actually part of the socialist party in Italy but was kicked out because he was an advocate for military intervention in WWI, when Italy was a neutral country. About ten years later he lead the March on Rome alongside the Blackshirts, a voluntary militia that used violence as a means to oppress socialism in the nation. The king himself selected Mussolini as Prime Minister which was stupid but allowed the fascist party to gain control without armed conflict.” I explained, highlighting things in my notes while I spoke.

“So he was kind of a Nazi?” He asked.

I shrugged. “Not in so many words, but kind of. Germany invaded Poland in 1939 which lead to France and the UK declaring war and effectively starting WWII. By June of 1940, it seemed pretty obvious that France was going to fall, Italy entered the war on Germany’s side. Mussolini knew that Italy’s army was way too small to stand much of a chance against Britain’s army. However, he thought that they could essentially steal territories from France when their army fell. Then he planned a major offensive in North Africa where Italian troops outnumbered British ones.”

“Wait, slow down. What does this have to do with fearbaiting?”

“That kind of ties in with the Blackshirts and the March on Rome. They used violence to stifle socialists which scared people into following them. The king elected him as Prime Minister to stop any unnecessary violence which lead to rise of fascism in the nation.” Mason explained.

“And then they helped the Nazis in WWII.” Corey interjected.

“Yeah, pretty much.” I said.

Liam nodded, still looking vaguely confused. “I need a fucking break.”

I laughed as he laid face down on the floor and fell silent.

“Honestly, I could use a break too.” Mason said.

I pushed my books from my lap and shifting so that I was curled up on top of Liam’s pillows. “Sounds like a good plan.”

A minute later, my phone chimed and I found a text from Stilinski. “Hey, Stilinski just texted me. ‘Body was sent to the morgue for an autopsy, coroner has no idea what’s going on. PD is trying to keep this quiet for now.’”

“Will they be able to find out who it is when they do the autopsy?” Corey asked.

I shrugged and dropped my phone back onto the bed. “Definitely not by looking at it. But they can take a sample of DNA and run it through the database. Even then, there’s no guarantee that they’ll find any definitive results.”

“Why not?” Liam asked.

“If there’s no sample of their DNA in the database, they won’t be able to find them.” Mason said before looking to me. “But can’t they find someone else with similar DNA? Like, a parent or a sibling?”

I nodded. “If they’re in the system. That could help narrow it down. We just have to wait and see what they find out when they do the autopsy.”

“Does this mean we can go to the library now? There’s a study group.” Corey said.

“I guess so. But honestly, I already put on my comfy clothes.” I said, gesturing to the oversized blue sweatshirt and grey Adidas leggings I had on. “I don’t leave the house again after I put on the comfy clothes.”

“It’s true. She really doesn’t.” Liam said. “And my brain is fried so I’m going to pass on the study group.”

“Yeah, same.” Mason said. “If you want to go, you can.”

Corey seemed pretty set on the idea of going so he packed up his stuff, we said goodbye, and he left.

I watched from my spot on the bed as Liam turned on his Xbox and him and Mason started playing a game.

Another text popped up on my phone and I opened it.

Nolan: Hey, are you busy?

Me: Taking a break from studying. I have a history test tomorrow.

Nolan: I was hoping you could help me study for bio. I have a test and I have no idea what I’m doing.

I smiled before typing a response.

Me: Sorry, Holloway. I totally would but I’m kind of exhausted. There’s a study group at the library tonight, maybe someone there could help you.

Before getting a response from him, I’d already fallen asleep.

I’m not sure how long it was before I felt a pair of hands on my shoulders, vigorously shaking me back to consciousness.

“What’s goin’ on?” I mumbled.

“Lauren, you gotta get up. Scott just texted me.” Liam said.

I pushed myself up, resting on my elbows. “What happened?”

“Lori found Brett’s lacrosse stick, it was broken and covered in blood. Brett’s blood.”

“Is he okay?” I asked.

“Ren, he’s missing.”

Chapter Text

Within minutes of finding out that Brett was missing, I already had shoes on, my keys in hand, and was ready to do whatever necessary to find him.

“So what’s the plan?” I asked Liam.

“I’m going with Scott, Lori, and Malia to look in the woods. But I don’t think you guys should come. It’s too dangerous.” He said.

“Fine. I’m calling Lydia for help.” I said, grabbing my phone and dialing her number.

When she picked up, I didn’t both exchanging pleasantries. “Brett’s missing. We need your help. Can you meet us at the high school in ten minutes?”

“Yeah, I’ll be right there.” She said.

We hung up a second later.

“Okay, Mason. We’re going to find Corey, tell him what’s going on, Lydia’s going to meet us. Maybe she can help figure something out. And Liam, obviously you’re going with Scott.” I said.

We all walked out of the house.

As Liam closed the front door behind him, I turned to hug him tightly. “Be careful tonight, please. I don’t want anything happening to you.”

He nodded and hugged me back. “I’m always careful. Let me know if you come up with any ideas, okay?”

I nodded back. “Of course. I love you.”

“Love you too.” He said as Mason and I got into my car.

I pulled out of the driveway and headed towards the high school, my speed at least five miles over the limit at all times.

Lydia’s car was already in the lot when we pulled up.

“Find Corey.” I told Mason. “We’ll meet up with you in a minute.”

I walked up to Lydia and she reached out, giving my hand a gentle squeeze. “Lauren, take a deep breath.”

“What? Why?” I asked.

She narrowed her eyes slightly. “Because you’re freaking out and you need to calm down. If you get upset or angry, that’s not going to help.”

I followed her instructions and took a few deep breaths, feeling my heart rate slow down. “Okay, better.”

“Let’s go find the boys, then we’re going to try to initiate a premonition.” She said.

“Do you think it will work?” I asked as she pulled me towards the school, still holding on my hand.

She shrugged. “I don’t know. But we have to try something.”

We found Mason and Corey a minute later and Lydia guided us towards one of the science labs. We took a seat at one of the lab tables and watched as Lydia set up one of the Bunsen burners and lit it.

She stared into the blue flame, a pen in her hand a blank paper in front of her.

Mason and Corey were talking beside me but I wasn’t really hearing the words that they were saying. My mind was reeling, running through various scenarios or ideas of where Brett could be.

I heard Lydia tell them to stop talking and snapped back into the present.

Corey reached out towards the set of Newton balls sitting on the desk and lifted one, letting it clank back together with the rest of them. Mason stopped them from making anymore noise and I gently smacked Corey’s hand away. “Stop that.”

I looked back to Lydia, seeing her eyes narrow and suddenly she was scribbling things on the paper.

She filled almost the entire paper before snapping out of it.

However, nothing on the paper really made much sense.

“Does anyone speak Chinese?” Corey asked.

“My phone does!” Mason said, pulling his phone out and a snapping a picture of the writing.

“What’s that Roman numeral?” I asked Lydia.

“68.” She responded.

A second later, Mason spoke up. “68, that’s what the Chinese says too.”

“E, R.” Lydia muttered.

“ER what? Emergency room?” I asked.

“Erbium. The atomic number for Erbium is 68.” She said, turning to look at the large Period Table posted on the wall.

I leaned forward on the table. “Does this whole thing just say 68? 68 what?”

“I have no idea.”

“Okay. So what do we try next?” Mason asked.

“I’m going back to where my last premonition was. And I’m going alone.”

Mason and Corey looked down.

“Okay, great. You can do that. We’ll go the library, see if we find anything there.” I said.

Lydia went off on her own while Mason and Corey followed me to the library.

“What do you think we’re going to find in the library?” Mason asked.

I shook my head. “I’m not sure. It’s just a hunch.”

“A hunch?” He questioned.

I spun around quickly, feeling my heart beat faster. “Yes, Mason, a hunch. I don’t know. All I know is we have to figure out what it means, and we have to find Brett. I’m not stopping until we find him.”

His eyes went wide at the anger in my voice.

“Sorry.” I mumbled. “I’m sorry. I’m just scared.”

We walked into the library and found an empty table. There were still a lot of students studying so that’s what we pretended to do as we talked quietly amongst ourselves.

“What’s significant about the number 68? What does it mean? Is there something from history? Mythology? Anything?” I whispered.

Mason shook his head. “No, nothing that I know of.”

My forehead met the tabletop with a soft thump. “What are we going to do?”

I lifted my head as Mason rattled off ideas. “68 miles, 68 degrees? Route 68?”

“Lydia will call us when she has something.” Corey said.

“But how long is that going to be?” I asked.

A small pile of books landed on the table next to me and I looked over, seeing Nolan standing beside me.

“Hey, Nolan.” I said. “Are you still studying for biology?”

“Trying, yeah. I thought you weren’t coming.” He took a seat.

I shook my head. “I wasn’t planning on it. What are you working on?”

“Um, trying to understand how organism evolve and change.” His eyes flicked from me, over to Mason and then to Corey. “Like, how a fish can turn into an alligator.”

“Uh, alligators aren’t fish, they’re reptiles.” Mason said.

I watched as Nolan’s pen scribbled across the page of his notebook, writing down what Mason told him.

“That hatch from fertilized eggs.” He continued.

“And isn’t the test on DNA versus RNA?” Corey asked.

Nolan’s head snapped up and I noticed how wide his eyes were. “Do you think DNA changes?”

“You mean like mutations? Damaged DNA?” I asked. “Yeah, it can. If cells are damaged and the body doesn’t destroy them, they replicate and produce more damaged cells which causes cancer.”

“So organism can change, organisms change.” Nolan said with an almost nervous chuckle. “They can change right in front of your eyes.”

“I don’t think this is on the test.” Corey said.

“Yeah, I wonder if organisms can change, and then change back. Like, they can be two things at once.”

My eyebrows furrowed and I turned to Mason. “Some fish can, right?”

“Parrotfish are protogynous hermaphrodites, both male and female. Hawkfish change and change back. As well as earthworms, of course…”

Corey cut him off. “That’s definitely not on the test, or any high school test.”

“I wonder if any of us have changed.” Nolan spoke.

I felt my heart hammering in my chest. This was not good.

“And if we did,” he continued, “would there be any way to tell?”

“Like a DNA test?” I asked. “For what?”

“I was thinking a different type of test.”

Before anyone could respond or react, Nolan reached out, driving the tip of his pen through the back of Corey’s hand.

Blood spurted out, drops of crimson landing on the table as he pulled his hand to his chest.

“Nolan, what the fuck are you doing?” I shrieked.

We all stood and Nolan grabbed for Corey’s hand, pulling it towards him to see that the wound had already healed.

“Look, look at him. Look!” He shouted.

I could see everyone in the library staring towards us.

Corey pulled his hand away again and Nolan turned to walk out, leaving everyone to continue staring.

“I’ll be back.” I said before chasing after Nolan.

I caught up to him the hallway. “Nolan! Wait!”

He stopped and spun around to face me, the bloody pen still in his hand.

“What the fuck was that?” I asked. “Why did you do that to Corey?”

He shook his head. “You know why. You all know! But you won’t tell me!”

I sighed. “I don’t know, Nolan. Tell me.”

He shook his head again, taking off down the hallway.

I continued following him and I watched as he turned a corner, nearly bumping into Lydia.

“Sorry.” Lydia muttered.

His backpack slid from his shoulder, revealing the back of his lacrosse hoodie.

She turned to face him and we both realized that his number was 68.

“Hey, 68!” She called out. “Hey. Hey!”

She grabbed his wrist and spun him around. “Do you know anything about Brett?”

“Who?” He asked.

She grabbed his other wrist. “Brett Talbot. Lacrosse player. What happened to him?”

“I don’t know any Brett.” He paused, examining her face. “You’re one of them, aren’t you?”

“One of who?” She asked.

I finally spoke up. “Just let him go Lydia. He doesn’t know anything. And he’s being a grade A asshole tonight.”

He pulled away and took off running down the hall.

She turned back to me, looking for answers.

I explained how he’d attacked Corey in the library.

“It wasn’t to hurt him.” She said.

I nodded. “I know. He’s trying to expose him. He’s been acting suspicious for a while. I thought he was just scared but I guess not. He’s starting to act out now.”

“Is he the one you’re friends with?”

“Yeah. Well, I thought I was. But stabbing Corey was really not cool so I’m not so sure if I’d call him my friend right now.” I shook my head. “Whatever, let’s just go find Corey and Mason again.”

We were heading towards the library when my phone rang.

Melissa’s name flashed across the screen and I hit the answer button before lifting it to my ear. “Hello?”

“Hey, Lauren, there’s something you should probably know about that body you found.” She said.

We were just approaching Mason and Corey so I put the phone on speaker and we all gathered around to listen.

“Okay, what’s up?”

She took a deep breath. “We ran a DNA test. And – And there’s nothing there.”

“You didn’t find anyone to match?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t find any DNA. There’s no DNA, no cell structure, nothing. There’s literally nothing there.”

My jaw dropped. “Um, that’s not…Melissa, that isn’t possible.”

“I know.” She said. “And that’s not the only thing that’s weird about it.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“It terrified me. I’ve worked in that hospital and have been going into the morgue to collect samples for years. And I’ve never felt that kind of fear because of a body before.”

I chewed on the corner of my lip, wondering if I should tell her what I felt. “Yeah, I know what you mean. While we were in the locker room with it earlier, I was freaking out and I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe we should ask Argent.”

“Already did. I had to call him to help get the sample. He was terrified of it too.”

My eyes widened. “I didn’t think he was afraid of anything.”

“There’s definitely not much that scares him. But this, whatever it is, did.”

“Okay, um, well, thanks for letting me know. If we have any ideas, we’ll let you know. Call me if you find anything else out.” I sighed.

“Will do.” She said. “Bye, Lauren.”

“Bye.” I said, hanging up.

No one spoke for a minute, everyone seemed unsure of how to react.

“That explains why Liam didn’t smell it.” I said quietly.

“What?” Corey asked.

“Liam couldn’t smell the blood, the body. If there’s no DNA or anything, there would be nothing to smell. It’s almost like it doesn’t even exist.”

Mason shook his head, looking at the ground. “How can this even be happening?”

“It can’t. This can’t be described scientifically. This is something supernatural, it has to be.” I explained in a hushed tone. “And Brett’s still missing. And Nolan attacked Corey. This is too much for us to deal with all at once.”

Without even thinking, I slid down the wall to sit on the floor. I pulled my legs close to my chest and rested my forehead on my knees. My mind was still reeling, my brain desperately searching for any minuscule idea of where Brett could be.

“Lauren?” Lydia said softly, kneeling in front of me.

I lifted my head to look at her. “Yeah?”

She looked surprised to see tears spilling down my cheeks. “Sweetie, why don’t you go home for tonight? You can wait for Liam to get back.”

I shook my head. “I can’t. I have to help figure out where Brett is. I can’t just go home and relax. I can’t just sit there. I have to do something.”

She took both of my hands in hers. “Lauren, please. If you think of anything, you can call us. But right now, it seems like we’re at a dead end. Being here isn’t helping anything.”

“Fine. But there’s something I have to do first.” My eyes flickered up to Corey and Mason then back to Lydia. “Can one of you take Mason home? I have to take care of something.”

Lydia nodded. “Of course.”

“Wait, where are you going?” Mason asked as Lydia helped me to my feet.

“I’m going to figure out what the fuck is wrong with Nolan.” I said, pulling my keys from my pocket. “I’ll text you guys when I get home or if I hear from Liam.”

I took off down the hall before saying goodbye. When I made it to the parking lot and got into my car, there were still tears dripping from my face. I wiped them away with the sleeve of my hoodie as I started the car and peeled out of the lot.

I’d only been to Nolan’s house once before when he needed a ride home from school one day but I remembered where it was. And within a few minutes, I was parking next to the curb.

My feet carried me up to the porch and I rang the doorbell, folding my arms across my chest as I waited for someone to answer.

The door opened a blonde woman smiled at me. “Hi, can I help you?”

“Hi, Mrs Holloway. My name’s Lauren. Could I speak with Nolan, please? I know it’s kind of late and I’m sorry but it’s important.” I rushed.

She nodded. “Yes, of course. Would you like to come in?”

I shook my head. “No, thank you. I’ll just wait here.”

She called out to her son and he came to the door a moment later, his eyes widening when he saw me standing there. He stepped out onto the porch, closing the door behind him. “What are you doing here?”

I scoffed. “You really have to ask? Nolan, what the fuck is going on with you?”

He didn’t speak. His mouth opened but nothing came out.

“Honestly, I should slap you for what you did to Corey.”

“You’re asking what’s going on with me but what about him?” Nolan said, voice shaking. “I’ve seen…”

I peered up at him. “What? You’ve seen what?”

He shook his head angrily. “You know what. You know why I did that. You know everything but you’re trying to pretend like you don’t.”

My hands curled into fists and I stepped closer to him, getting in his face. “If you think you know so much, then why don’t you say it? Tell me what I know.”

His blue eyes refused to meet mine and he took a step away from me. “I don’t have to say it.”

My phone began ringing in my pocket and I groaned. But when I saw Liam’s face on the screen, I stepped away from Nolan and answered it. “Hey, what’s going on?”

“Where are you?”

I could hear the sadness in his voice immediately. “I’m taking care of something. Tell me what’s going on? Are you okay?”

“Brett’s dead. Lori, too.”

I barely processed what had been said before fresh tears began pouring from my eyes. “No. No, that can’t be.”

“They killed them. Hunters killed them.”

I forced myself to square my shoulders and try to stop crying. “I’ll be home soon.”

“Hurry.” He said quietly before the line went dead.

I shoved my phone back into my pocket before facing Nolan.

“Are you okay?” He asked, seeing tears in my eyes.

I shook my head. “No. No, Nolan, I’m not. Because I just found out that two of my friends are dead. I really do not have the time or patience to deal with your bullshit too. And you want to know something? You need to stop projecting your fears onto other people because you aren’t the only one who’s scared of things around here.”

Tears sprung up in his eyes and I watched as he blinked them away.

“Oh, I’m sorry? Did I upset you?” I rolled my eyes. “Get over it. I’m not going to walk on eggshells around you just because of something scared you last year. You said it yourself, I was there too. I saw the same thing you did. And I don’t run around stabbing people just because I’m scared of something.”

His shoulders slumped but he still managed to keep eye contact with me.

“I know you have your problems and I’m sorry about that. Truly, I am. But we’re all going through shit, Nolan. Every single person. So just do what the rest of us do and suffer in silence instead of taking your shit out on people who have done nothing to you.” I said, my tone softer than before, but still laced with a certain harshness.

“I’m sorry.” He whispered.

“Sorry doesn’t help anything.” I said, walking back to my car.

Nolan watched as I took off down the road, tires squealing.

I’d upset him. I was harsh. But I was hurt.

Brett was dead. Lori was dead. Not just dead, murdered. Someone had killed them, a new hunter.

My hands gripped the steering wheel so tightly that my knuckles were white and my fingers aching. I was so distracted that I nearly drove past my own house but I slammed onto the brakes before turning into the driveway.

I cut the engine and sprinted into the house. Liam wasn’t in the living room or the kitchen so I ran up to his room, shoving the door open to see him crying in his bed.

When I sat down next to him, I was already crying again.

He was laying on his stomach, his face buried in a pillow as his body shook with sobs.

My hand landed on his back, rubbing the spot between his shoulder blades. “Li?”

He lifted his head to look at me. “We couldn’t save them, Ren. We tried. It – It was so close. We had them out of there and then…”

I nodded, shushing him gently when I heard him struggle to catch his breath between sobs. “I know, I know. Just breathe, Liam.”

“I can’t.” He groaned, rolling onto his back. “I can’t breathe.”

“Yes, you can.” I said, using all of my strength to pull him into a sitting position. I used one of my hands to grab his face, forcing him to look at me. “Liam, you can do anything. We’ve made it through so much already. We will make it through this too.”

“How?” He asked. “I shifted in front of people. A lot of people.”

“Okay. That’s not great news but we can deal with it.” I said.

He rolled his eyes. “They think I’m a monster. What if someone comes after me next?”

“I will ruin anyone who tries.” I assured him.

My brother sighed and wiped tears from his face. “Lauren, you can’t just…”

I cut him off. “You know damn well that I can. “

“And if someone has a gun pointed at you?” He challenged.

I laughed for a second. “Liam, I’m not afraid of getting shot. I’m not afraid of dying.”

He opened his mouth to speak but I held up one finger to stop him.

“No. I’m not scared of death. I’m scared of what could happen to you if I do nothing. I’m scared of you suffering the same fate as Brett. If keeping you alive means a bullet in my chest, then I welcome it.”

Chapter Text

“Liam, I swear to god, if you don’t get out of bed in five seconds, I’m going to fight you. I know that I’ll lose but I will fight you with these hands.”
He groaned in response and pulled his pillow over his head.
“Don’t make me call Scott.” I threatened.
Again, he ignored me and wrapped his duvet tighter around his body.
I threw my arms up in the air. “Alright, fine! Have it your way.”
I dialed Scott’s number while I was walking downstairs. He picked up just as I was pouring cereal into a bowl. “Hey, Scott, I need your help.”
“What’s up?” He asked.
I sighed. “I’ve been trying to get Liam out of the bed for the past thirty minutes but he’s refusing to get up. For the first fifteen minutes he at least yelled back at me while I was yelling at him to get up but now he’s just refusing to even speak to me. Which, by the way, is really annoying, because if I’m going to yell at someone, I at least expect them to yell back.”
He laughed quietly. “Yeah, I’ll be right over. Maybe he’ll listen to me.”
I smiled. “Thanks, Scott.”
A few minutes later, just as I was finishing my bowl of cereal, there was a knock at the front door. I placed my bowl in the sink before going to unlock the door.
“Good morning.” I smiled, letting Scott into the house.
He smiled back. “How are you feeling?”
I nodded to myself, not surprised that he would be concerned. “I’m okay. For the most part, anyway.”
“You sure?” His eyebrows quirked up. “I know you were close with Brett too.”
“Yeah, I’m sure. I mean, it really sucks but there’s nothing I can do. I can’t bring him or Lori back. And truthfully, I think that I want to find the people responsible for this rather than sit around and cry about it all day.” I said, ignoring the tears that began to well in my eyes. “It sucks though. It really sucks, Scott.”
The alpha pulled me into his chest, his arms wrapping tightly around my shoulders. “I’m sorry, Ren.”
I squeezed my arms around him. “Yeah, me too.”
I felt him press a soft kiss to the top of my head before he pulled away.
Scott moved towards the stairs to go talk to my brother while I lingered in the kitchen. Since it was bound to be a rough day, I figured that there was at least one thing I could do to make it better for Liam.
So while Scott was upstairs trying to get him out of bed, I got started on breakfast. There weren’t many things that I was very good at cooking but I could do an omelet. Once I had the first omelet in the pan, I sliced and few bagels and toasted them. I was just sliding the second omelet out of the skillet and onto a plate when the boys came downstairs.
“I smell food.” Liam said.
“How astute of you.” I teased, setting both plates on the breakfast bar. “Scott, there’s some for you too.”
“You didn’t have to make me breakfast.” He smiled.
I shrugged. “I know. But I wanted to. Apple juice or orange juice?”
“Orange.” They both said.
I pulled two glasses from the cabinet before filling them with juice and setting them in front of the boys who were already shoveling the food in.
“Aren’t you going to have an omelet?” Scott asked around a mouthful of bagel.
“She doesn’t eat eggs.” Liam responded before I had the chance. “She never did, even when we were little.”
I smiled. “He’s right. Besides, I have to finish getting ready. I can’t leave without putting on my face.”
“You were complaining that we were going to be late if I didn’t get up and you haven’t even started your makeup?” Liam asked.
“Don’t attack me, Liam.” I called as I made my way back to my room.
I could hear Scott laughing when I closed the door to my bedroom and sat down to put on my makeup. Looking in the mirror, I let out a heavy sigh. There were dark circles around my eyes and I looked exhausted.
It didn’t help that I hadn’t slept in my own bed the night before. But seeing the state that Liam was in, I’d dragged my massive beanbag chair into his room along with my fluffiest blanket and curled up next to his bed to sleep. Despite my best efforts, I didn’t get much sleep. Even after Liam had finally passed out, I was wide awake.
I was worried about what Liam had said. If there were hunters back in Beacon Hills, he was in danger. The entire pack was in danger. As was any other supernatural creature in the city. For what seemed like the first time, being human put me at an advantage. I realized then that my role in the pack was important as ever. For once, there was a more even playing field. If we were up against hunters, I would be able to fight without having to worry about the same level of danger. I could fight another human and not have to worry about having my throat ripped out.
The makeup laying in front of me didn’t seem so important anymore, so I stood up without applying anything except a bit of chapstick. I pulled a pair of heeled boots from my closet and slid them on before picking up my backpack from where it had been dropped next to my desk.
When I came back downstairs, Scott had already left and Liam was putting his plate in the sink. “You’re still not ready?”
“I am, actually.” I said, pulling my bag up onto my shoulder.
“No makeup?” He asked.
I shook my head. “No, not today. It seems kind of silly to worry about that right now.”
“Is that why you’re dressed differently too?”
I looked down at the outfit I was wearing. “What’s wrong with how I’m dressed?”
“Nothing. It’s just different. Usually you dress all cute and now you just look like you’re ready to kick someone’s ass.” He joked.
“I’m always ready to kick someone’s ass.” I pointed out.
He nodded. “Well, congrats, now you look the part.”
I rolled my eyes. “Come on, let’s go.”
As we were climbing into his truck a few minutes later, I asked him about what Scott said that had convinced him to get out of bed.
“He told me to be Clark Kent.”
I smiled. “Of course he did.”
“I’m still nervous.” He admitted.
I looked over at him, frowning slightly. “I know, so am I. But it’s going to be okay. We just have to get through today without incident.”
“Then what?” He asked.
“Do it again tomorrow.”
He sighed, his shoulders slumping and one of his hands falling from the steering wheel.
“Hey, just remember your mantra.” I reminded him as I toyed with the zipper on my leather jacket. “Just… Don’t think about what people are going to say or think. Even if there are people who know about what happened last night, just ignore them. You aren’t a monster. And neither were Brett and Lori. Get through this – through today – for them.”
He nodded, turning into the parking lot. “Yeah. Yeah, okay.”
I smiled. “And if anyone fucks with you I’ll just punch them directly in the mouth.”
“Please don’t.”
I smirked and slid out of the truck. “I make no promises.”
We walked towards the building together. I kept an eye out for anyone who might be shooting Liam weird looks but everyone seemed to be minding their own business. Even when we stepped into the building, things seemed pretty normal.
“Okay. Not bad so far.” Mason said as he approached us. “This might be easier than we thought.”
“Maybe.” Liam and I muttered at the same time.
Mason looked me up and down. “I didn’t know you owned clothes like that.”
“We’ve already been over it. It’s because she’s ready to kick ass.” Liam said.
We turned down the next hallway and suddenly everyone stopped talking and turned to look at us, more importantly, at Liam.
“And that’s why.” I whispered.
Liam stopped, falling a step behind Mason and me.
Without hesitating, I grabbed his elbow and pulled him alongside us, holding my head high and shooting glares at the people who stared.
We stopped once we got to our lockers and while I was entering my combination, I could tell that Liam was listening to the whispers coming from people. I turned my attention away from the locker and towards my brother.
“Just block it out.” Mason said.
“They know.” Liam responded.
I shook my head. “They don’t know shit. It’s all rumors.”
“They know everything. Two sophomores on the lacrosse team were there last night.” Corey alerted us.
“Corey, I love you dearly but why did you have to say that?” I whined.
“It was late, it was pitch black out, and there was fog on the road.” Mason said.
He was wrong, unfortunately. It was a clear night and the street lights made things easier to see. And Corey felt the need to point that out.
“I have to get out of here.” Liam whispered.
“No.” I folded my arms across my chest. “I’m putting my foot down. You are not leaving.”
“She’s right, Liam. If you leave, these rumors never stop. You gotta just convince them that you’re a regular kid.”
“I’m not a regular kid.”
“Look, remember what Scott said? Be Clark Kent.”
“Clark Kent turns into a guy with a red and blue outfit and a cape. I turn into a monster with claws and fangs.”
“Do you want a cape?” I asked.
Mason shot me a look that told me I was not being helpful.
“Then just get through the day without shifting.” Corey said.
“People are saying that Brett and Lori died in a car accident. We know the truth. They didn’t just die.”
I nodded at Mason’s words. “That’s what I said. We know what happened, we know about the hunters. So we have to make it through all of this for them.”
Two girls walked past our group, staying as far away as possible and shooting dirty looks at Liam and Corey.
“Do you have a fucking problem?” I snapped, stepping towards them.
They paused to glare at me but neither of them had the guts to say anything.
“If looks could kill…” I began, smirking. “I would still be perfectly fine because neither of you are even close to being intimidating. So, unless you’re gonna step up your game or say something, then I suggest walking away.”
I turned back to the boys, expecting the girls to walk away.
“Sorry to hear about your friends.” One of them said and I froze, feeling my heart pounding in my chest.
“Yeah, it’s a real shame about that car accident.” The other spoke.
I spun around and lunged at them but before I could swing, Liam hooked his arms around my waist and pulled me back.
The girls laughed as they started walking away down the hall, my brother still keeping me from going at them.
My chest was heaving and my hands were curled into such tight fists that my fingernails were digging harshly into the skin of my palms.
Corey stepped in front of me, breaking my eye contact with the girls. “I know you can’t shift but you need to get through the day without attacking anyone.”
I huffed, pushing Liam away from me. “I will tell you the same thing I told Liam: ‘I make no promises.’”
I adjusted the hem of my shirt which had been pulled up slightly when I was trying to get away from Liam so that I could fight.
“Why don’t we just go to class?” Mason asked.
We all nodded and took off down the hallway towards our classes.
A few hours later, we all met up in the hallway again, falling into stride next to each other.
“Overheard Nolan talking to Gabe.” Corey said.
“You’re spying on them?” I asked.
He looked over at me. “Since he stabbed me? Yeah.”
I nodded. “Fair enough. Continue.”
“Nolan’s gonna try to get you to shift.” He told Liam. “He needs proof and he wants everyone to see it.”
“So what’s he gonna do?” Liam asked.
“I – I don’t know. That’s all I heard.” Corey explained.
My hands balled up into fists again. “I swear to god, if he stabs you with a pen… I don’t care if he was my friend, I will hit him.”
“Could you stop obsessing about what people are saying?” Mason asked my brother when we stopped at the end of the hallway.
Liam’s eyes were focused on the opposite end of the hall. “Nolan’s coming.”
We looked around for a place that he could duck into and hide but didn’t see anything right away. Liam noticed that we were standing right outside the guidance office so he pulled the door open and ducked inside, pulling down the small curtain blocking the window on the door.
Mason, Corey, and I were left standing in the hallway awkwardly when Nolan and Gabe appeared. I was tempted to go over and say something to them but clearly, Mason could tell what my plan was so he grabbed my wrist to stop me.
“Don’t.” He said quietly. “Don’t start anything, that could make it worse.”
I sighed but nodded in agreement, knowing that he was right.
After a few moments, Gabe and Nolan left. Which was good, considering that Liam came out of the room a minute later.
“We need to talk. Now.” He said.
I nodded towards an empty classroom. “In there.”
We walked into the room and I shut the door behind us.
“Alright, what’s going on?” Mason asked.
“She’s the hunter.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Monroe.”
I narrowed my eyes at my brother. “You’re sure?”
He nodded once.
I opened my mouth but no words came out.
“How do you know?” Corey asked.
“She has scratches on her neck. She told me they were from a branch in the woods but I could tell they were claw marks. And she had books in her office, stuff about the supernatural. And just… The way she was acting. It’s obvious. She’s the new hunter.” He explained.
I ran my hand through my hair. Mason was in the middle of saying something when an involuntary gasp escaped my mouth.
All three boys turned to look at me questioningly.
“Of fucking course. Of. Fucking. Course. It all makes sense. I can’t believe I didn’t think of this before!” I let out a laugh that was close to sounding hysterical.
They all looked at me like I’d finally lost my mind.
“Nolan’s been meeting with Monroe for months now. He was in the library last year, clearly Monroe must’ve seen the Beast too. They both had experiences. It scared the shit out of them. Monroe figured it out and she helped Nolan figure it out. He’s on her side, and now Gabe too. And I can only imagine how many other people.” I explained.
I watched as the realization set in on all of their faces.
“So what do we do?” Corey asked.
“First, we tell Scott. Second, we make it through today. Third, we kill her.” I said.
Liam was typing a text when he spoke. “I agree with everything up until the murder.”
I frowned. “She wants to kill you. She killed Brett and Lori. Why should she get to live?”
No one answered me.
I growled lowly. “Fine. Whatever. No one talk to me. I’m going to talk to Monroe myself.”
They tried to stop me as I left the classroom but I ignored them, walking straight towards Monroe’s office.
“Miss Dunbar, can I help you?” She asked when I pushed the door open.
I let it swing shut behind me and glared at her. “No. I don’t need anything from you. But you should know one thing.”
“And what might that be?” Her tone was challenging.
I placed my palms on her desk and leaned forward. “I know the truth. I know about you. And you’re not going to get away with a god damn thing if I have anything to do with it.”
“Are you threatening a staff member?”
I laughed humorlessly. “No, Tamora. I’m warning you. No matter what you’ve seen – or what you think you’ve seen – I promise you, I can be just as terrifying.”
She glared at me from her seat. “Are you finished?”
“I’ve barely started.” I glanced at the scratches on her neck that Liam mentioned. “Good to see he did some damage.”
I stood up straight and turned to walk out of the office, I could feel her eyes burning into my back the whole way.
My conversation with Monroe had cut into class time and I was late for biology. I rushed through the empty hallways towards the classroom. When I walked in, the room felt tense. And I noticed my brother sitting alone.
“Sorry I’m late, Mrs Finch.” I said when she looked at me. “Won’t happen again, I promise.”
She nodded. “That’s okay. Liam needs a partner anyway.”
I took the seat next to him and leaned over to whisper “What’s going on?”
“I’ll explain later.” He said back. “But we have to figure out how I’m getting out of here. Corey said the entire lacrosse team are going to be blocking the exits so that Gabe and Nolan can try to get me to shift.”
I sighed. “Wonderful.”
We didn’t talk about it much more as we worked on that day’s lab, but we were both distracted the entire time.
“I have an idea.” I told him when I took my seat after handing in our finished lab reports.
Corey and Mason were already finished so we turned to talk to them.
“Alright, listen. Corey, you can make Liam invisible too, right?” I asked.
He nodded. “Yeah, of course.”
“Okay, so that’s what we’ll do. The three of you all go into the bathroom, Corey you do your magic, you all come back out, only 1/3 of you visible. Then Mason and I will walk down the hall ahead of you guys so that no one runs into an invisible person, and we can get right past the lacrosse team.”
“It’s a good plan. It could work.” Mason said. “I don’t have anything better.”
I tapped the top of the desk lightly. “Alright, great.”
A few minutes later, the bell rang and we all stood up.
I followed the boys down the hallway to the bathroom and leaned up against the wall outside. A minute later, Mason came back out. I fell into step beside him, Corey and my brother trailing behind us.
There were boys blocking all of the exits we came across so we kept searching for new ways out.
We ended up almost surrounded in the middle of a hallway when Mason and I noticed Gabe coming towards us.
“Okay, turn around. Turn around, let’s go.” I said quietly.
The boys began following us when suddenly Nolan came around the corner.
“Oh. Hey, Nolan.” Mason said.
I glanced behind me and saw Gabe standing barely half a foot behind Liam. The plan didn’t work.
Suddenly a cloud of white surrounded us and I watched in horror as Corey and Liam became visible again, both covered in whatever white powder Nolan had thrown.
Gabe’s hands landed on my brother’s shoulders and he threw him to the ground.
I lunged at Gabe and managed to shove him hard before two sets of hands and grabbed me and were pulling me back. I looked to see two boys from the lacrosse team holding tightly to my arms.
“Let go of me.” I snarled.
One boy’s grip tightened, his fingers digging harshly into my bicep.
Gabe and Nolan were going after Liam so I mustered up all of the strength I had and pulled hard, my right arm slipping away from one of the boys. I shoved the other one away from me, sending him stumbling into the wall.
I rushed towards the classroom that Gabe had just throwing my brother into. Just as I passed through the doorway and was about to jump on Gabe, more hands latched onto me. These two boys were a lot bigger than the last ones and no matter how hard I pushed and pulled, their grip didn’t falter.
I could only watch as the fight continued.
“Get up. Get up!” Nolan yelled at Liam, who was groaning on the floor.
As he tried to stand, Gabe kicked him back down and I felt my body growing warm.
My heart was racing in my chest and all I wanted was to beat the shit out of him.
“What are you trying to hide, Liam?” Gabe asked, pulling Liam up and slamming him against the wall. “Your eyes? Huh? Open your eyes.”
Liam opened his eyes a second later and I felt the smallest hint of relief when they were their normal shade of blue.
Gabe stepped back but Nolan walked closer.
I watched helplessly as he pulled his arm back before punching Liam directly in the face.
“You asshole!” I shouted, pulling hard and trying to wrestle my arms away from my boys holding me. A particularly hard jerk almost freed one of my arms but I wasn’t quick enough.
Nolan’s eyes flickered over to me, shocked by my words.
Liam wiped blood from his nose and I could hear Mason shouting from behind me, but two more boys stopped him from helping.
“Are you just going to let us do this to you?” Nolan asked Liam.
A second later, Gabe threw his first punch.
Liam leaned to the side, groaning in pain.
Nolan grabbed his head aggressively. “You know you can take us. All you have to do is change.”
I could tell that Liam was only getting more and more worked up. When I spoke, my voice was barely a whisper, but I knew my brother would hear me. “What three things cannot long be hidden?”
“The sun…” Liam said quietly.
“What?” Nolan asked, seeming more confused and curious than angry.
“The sun, the moon, the truth.” His voice was shaking and his eyebrows were furrowed.
Nolan got in his face. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“Who cares?” Gabe said, pushing Nolan out of the way and delivering a punch that sent Liam to the ground.
Mason and I were both fighting against the guys holding us back as Gabe and Nolan continued their attack on my brother.
“You’re fighting it.” Nolan said when my brother grunted loudly. “But you can’t hold back forever.”
Mrs Finch came into the room and I looked over at her with hopeful eyes. “Mrs Finch, you have to do something.”
“Sometimes it’s… It’s best to let them work things out on their own.” She said before exiting the room swiftly.
I shrieked in disbelief. “Are you kidding me?”
Gabe grabbed Liam’s hair, holding his head and place and kneeing him hard in the face.
I looked at the ground, taking note of what shoes I was wearing. The thick high heels of my boot seemed like the best weapon I had at the moment. So without a second thought, I lifted my right foot and slammed the heel down on the foot of the blond guy next to me.
“Fuck!” He shouted, lifting his foot in pain and squeezing my arm harshly.
Before I could try again, they pushed me to my knees and held me down.
Liam rolled onto his back, spitting a fountain of blood from his mouth.
That’s when I started crying. All I wanted was to help my brother but there was nothing I could do, I was too weak.
Gabe’s hand fisted in the front of my brother’s shirt and he was about to punch him again when I heard someone shout.
“What the hell is going on?”
I looked over, seeing Coach Finstock pushing his way through the crowd of students.
He pulled Gabe away from Liam. “Back off! Hey! Get to the principal’s office! Now!”
He pushed Gabe and Nolan towards the door and stumbled out into the hallway.
When Finstock saw me, he yelled at the boys holding me down. “Get your hands off of her!”
They let me go and I felt a much gentler pair of hands help me to my feet. I thanked Mason quietly before moving to kneel next to my brother.
“What the hell is this?” Coach asked as I took my brother’s hand. “Get out! All of you! I can’t stand to look at your faces!”
The other students filed out into the hall, leaving only Mason, Corey, Finstock, and myself.
We all helped Liam to his feet, my brother leaning heavily against my shoulder.
“It’s okay, I’ve got you.” I said, barely struggling to hold him up.
“I can’t believe you did that.” Mason said.
“Clark Kent, right?”
I smiled. “Yeah. Clark Kent.”
Mason and I hugged him before walking him into the hallway.
I could hear shouting coming from the principal’s office and I couldn’t help but smile.
We leaned Liam up against a set of lockers and let him catch his breath.
“Can you get him home?” I asked Mason.
“Why? What are you doing?” He questioned.
I licked my lips. “I’m going to threaten the lives of two boys.”
“Ren, don’t.” Liam pleaded.
I looked at him sternly. “I told you what I was going to do. I told you that if anyone came after you, I would ruin them. And that’s what I’m doing.”
“What if it makes things worse?” Mason asked.
I pointed at the blood all over Liam’s face. “How much worse can this get? Mason, listen, you know me. I’m not letting them get away with this. They won’t get away with doing it to him, or to Corey, to you, anyone. I’m not letting this bullshit go on.”
There was tense, silent moment.
“Please.” I said, quietly. “Please let me deal with this right now.”
Liam looked over at me, his eyes scanning my face. “You’ll be okay?”
“Yeah, of course. I can handle myself.”
He offered a small smile. “Call if you need help.”
I nodded. “Will do. Go home and rest, okay?”
Mason helped Liam down the hall and out of sight while I leaned against the lockers and waited for Gabe and Nolan to come back out.
I could hear intermittent yelling continue for another fifteen minutes before the two boys stepped into the hallway.
“Hey!” I called out and they turned to face me. I pushed myself off the lockers and stalked towards them.
“What do you want?” Gabe asked.
“Snapping your fucking neck seems like a pretty fun idea.”
He rolled his eyes. “Seriously.”
I almost laughed. “Did I sound like I was joking?”
“Your brother got what he deserved.”
I got in Gabe’s face as best I could despite the fact that he towered over me. “Oh, really? Well then, dumbass, why don’t you explain to me what the fuck he did to you?”
“He’s a werewolf.” Nolan’s voice trembled when he spoke.
I turned to face him. “Look who finally had the balls to say it out loud.”
“You’re not even going to deny it?” Gabe inquired.
I laughed. “Would you even believe me if I did? Everyone seems pretty deadset on believing what they’ve heard about last night. Why should I waste my breath trying to convince you of something you’ll never believe?”
“They’re monsters.”
I shook my head. “No, Gabe, they’re not. My brother has never killed anyone, Scott has never killed anyone. But last night, two people died. My friends. Teenagers. Because someone like you decided that they don’t deserve to be alive. You’re the monsters.”
Nolan tried to speak but I cut him off.
“Don’t. Don’t you dare fucking interrupt me, Holloway. My brother didn’t lay a hand on either of you but you teamed up and attacked him. You beat the shit out of him and he didn’t take one swing at either of you but you just kept going. So please explain to me how you are better than him?”
Neither of them said anything in response.
“I’m serious.” I said. “Explain it to me. Because I genuinely do not fucking understand.”
“Do you understand what they can do? What Liam can do?” Gabe challenged.
I nodded. “Yes, do you?”
He rolled his eyes at me again. “He could kill someone.”
“As could I.” I pointed out. “But do you know what else he could do? What he has done?”
Gabe seemed to be growing annoyed with me but Nolan was looking at me curiously, waiting for me to continue.
I shook my head. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter. It’s not like either of you are going to change your minds. And no matter what I tell you, you’re going to go running to Monroe to tell her everything because it’s pretty obvious that you’re working for her. So why don’t you pass along a message for me?”
“What’s that?” Gabe asked.
I smiled before punching him as hard as I could in the abdomen.
He doubled over in pain, groaning and holding his side.
When I spoke, my voice dripped with honey. “Tell her that if she’s looking for a monster, I’ll show her one.”