There’s someone in Gen’s woods. Not another wolf, were- or otherwise, no one she’ll have to challenge or chase off. Human.
These woods are not standard hiking terrain. It’s a little woebegone, scenery-wise: all scrub and stubby, scrawny pines, the slow recovery of a region that was clear-cut years ago. The deer love it, so Gen finds hunters here sometimes – but generally during hunting season, not in the middle of colorless, drizzly February afternoons.
Gen takes in another deep whiff. Male. Relatively clean – this is someone who’s been acquainted with shampoo within the last two days. In this dampness, she can’t smell much more. In particular, she can’t smell whether he has the scent of oil on him that might be clinging to a gun, nor any acrid scent of powder.
She could slink away like the wild creature she presently resembles, but the bloody tang of her last hunt is still fresh in her mouth, so it’s not like she has any special plans for her afternoon; it’s either follow the interloper or curl up under some bush and sleep. And, to be honest, she’s a little bit bored: she’s been a wolf for three days now and is more than ready for human things again, like hot chocolate and pillows and showers. None of which she gets to have until at least dawn tomorrow, when she turns two-legged again.
In the meantime: interloper.
Gen takes off at a trot. When he changes direction, it’s habit to shift her path to stay firmly downwind, much good it does her when her prey – not prey, her object of interest - is human. He’s only a half a mile or so away, and it takes her fifteen minutes to get within a human’s auditory range of him.
He’s not behaving like a hiker. For one, Gen’s not convinced he’s going anywhere in particular. Except for that apparently random change in direction, he’s been moving in a big wide circle that doesn’t follow even a game trail. For another, he’s really loud. He’s not snapping twigs; he’s crashing through whole bushes, by the sound of it.
He’s lost. He’s some dumbass would-be outdoorsman, seriously dumbass if he’s out in this weather, and he’s stumbling around because he hasn’t got the first clue how to get home. Fantastic.
Because if he breaks his stupid ankle or something, who’s going to have to drag him out? That would be Gen.
Ten minutes later, she’s crept almost within view. Not that she can’t hear every move he makes, but some habits carry over; she wants to see what she’s been following.
He’s a big guy, young, a college student she’d guess, with a backpack to prove it and not much else. He might have a handgun secreted away somewhere, but definitely no bigger firearms. Fortunately for him, this area is not exactly predator-dense, which is why Gen likes it. As far as she knows, the closest thing that might be inclined to take a swing at this guy, if pressed, is a black bear sleeping the winter away almost ten miles from here.
Still. Bear. You don’t come wandering around out here without worrying about a possible bear.
Gen huffs, and suddenly the guy’s head swivels her way as quickly as any wild thing’s. His breath sucks down his throat, and his eyes are huge, and gently the delicious scent of fear teases at her nose.
At least, wolf-Gen thinks it’s delicious.
“Oh, God, don’t hurt me,” the guy says. “I won’t hurt you, I swear. I don’t have anything but this camera, see?” He lifts it into view. It’s a pretty swanky camera, with one of those big long lens attachments. “And I probably wouldn’t taste good, more grease than anything Katie says, it’s a perk of manning the grill. You don’t want to eat me, I promise.”
It’d serve him right if he got eaten by a bear.
“Nice wolfy?” he ventures.
Gen huffs again.
That does it. He’s off, scrambling backwards and out of the clearing as noisy as a deer and leaving a much wider trail. Gen could be deaf and scent-blind and still follow him by the broken branches alone.
He flat-out runs the first half-mile, and Gen thinks about that potential broken ankle again and is a little bit contrite. Maybe he thinks about it, too, because he slows down after that. She tracks him by ear, careful to stay silent herself. He’s freaked enough already.
This is, at the very least, a lot more interesting than taking a nap under a bush.
He’s heading towards the highway now – by sheer chance, Gen suspects. There’s nothing but a creek and a few miles’ scramble between him and tarmac. He’ll be fine there, vulnerable only to the whims and predations of the kinds of people who pick up hitch-hikers.
And then she hears a cry and a splash. A huge, bruising, belly-flop kind of splash. “Oh, God,” he says.
There are times when Gen mightily regrets a wolf’s inability to roll its eyes.
She sits just out of sight and listens as the guy hauls himself out of the water. It’s a whole litany of grunts and whimpers and curses. At first Gen figures something’s happened to his camera, but he only has to take two steps away from the stream for her to hear that he’s limping.
He doesn’t go far, though. He climbs slowly up the bank. He slumps down onto a fallen log hard enough for Gen to hear the thump, and he says forlornly, “God damn it.”
Congratulations, Gen. The guy you accidentally freaked out of his skull is now your problem.
She waits a few minutes, just to be sure, but the guy doesn’t get up again. She hears a few electronic beeps and another muttered curse. “At least Ian Malcolm had a sat phone. I told Collins I’d need a sat phone. ‘Exaggerating’ my ass.”
He’s limping, he’s lost, he’s soaking wet, and it’s forty degrees and dropping fast. Maybe he deserves to freeze to death, but that doesn’t mean Gen can let him.
She circles around him to the edge of the stream so that he’ll be able to see her coming, and then she walks towards him along the bank. She can tell when he spots her by the sharp intake of his breath. He doesn’t move, though. She takes another step forward.
“Great,” he says. “Just great. Now are you going to eat me?”
If Gen ever gets a chance to talk to him face-to-face, boy howdy the lectures she’ll give him. About how most wild animals would rather run from you than eat you, first of all, except for how you running away means you’re acting like prey. About wearing decent gear if you’re going hiking, hiking boots instead of tennish shoes, a real coat in February instead of the flannel overshirt this joker is wearing. About the virtues of pepper spray.
Except Gen won’t ever be giving him those lectures, because she’s going to get him to the highway and then hope he forgets he ever met a weirdly helpful wolf in the woods.
She’s not quite sure how to make that happen, though. How to get the guy who’s been running away from you to follow you?
A few yards down the creek, the banks drop to a nice fording place. Gen looks to make sure she still has the guy’s attention, and then she trots a few steps in that direction. She looks back.
He’s still sitting there, brow now scrunched in puzzlement.
Gen yips and takes a couple more steps away from him.
Dumb as a rock, this one.
What if she were a rescue dog? Not a wolf at all? What would she do? She gives an experimental little whine. It’s not a sound she’s used to making, and it comes out a little garbled.
“You cannot seriously want me to go with you.”
As another experiment, Gen wags her tail.
“Are you, like, a pet wolf?”
Gen just barely keeps from growling. She’d rather he didn’t realize just how much she understands of what he says, and also, scaring him has caused her enough trouble already. Instead she yips again and points her nose determinedly downstream.
Gingerly, the guy gets to his feet. He takes one step forward, and he crumples onto the ground. “Damn it,” he says, high and keening. Gen turns around to look at him, and smells tears. Cautiously she approaches. When he looks up and sees her, he freezes, his eyes glistening. When she doesn’t get any closer, he says, “Look, wolf, I don’t know what you’re trying to do, but I’m not going anywhere on this ankle.”
Gen steps forward one careful step at a time, eyes always on the guy. When she’s about two feet away, he stops breathing. Out of the corner of her eye, she keeps half her attention on him and puts the other half on the ankle that his big hands aren’t quite touching. The swelling’s obvious in the gap between his shoe and his pant leg. She’s not sure how a broken ankle looks different from a sprained one, but either way this doesn’t look good.
Gen huffs, sits down, and eyes the guy in front of her, who sometime in the last twenty minutes has moved from being a deserving idiot to someone she feels genuinely sorry for. Probably it’s the tears gathered at the corners of his eyes – she’s always been a sucker for those.
Or maybe it’s the way he’s decided, through necessity or idiocy, that anthropomorphizing and then trusting a wild animal is a reasonable thing to do. It’s more than she’d expect of most people, even if they knew she wasn’t just another wolf. Especially then.
None of that mushiness solves the problem at hand, though.
The guy sneezes again, and that decides her. She gets to her feet – he stiffens, but he doesn’t try to move – and she trots out of the clearing. From behind her, she hears, “Uh, goodbye!” And a few moments later, “Good job, Padalecki, now you scared the wolf away.”
Gen’s been to this creek fairly often the last couple of years, for water, and once or twice she’s holed up in a sort of cave that she thinks is just a little way upstream. It takes her a while to find it – the brush at the entrance has grown up higher, and nothing’s lived in it recently, it looks like, so she couldn’t get there by smell. It is, very fortunately for Padalecki the gimp, only fifty yards or so from him. Getting him even that far is going to be a real trick.
She goes back to where he’s still sitting on the ground, alternately prodding his ankle and hissing in pain. His teeth chatter as he looks up. “You came back,” he says, and sort of smiles around the chattering. Gen’s heart is not warmed. It’s not like he cares about anything other than being injured and alone in the woods without even a predator for company.
Slow and deliberate, she approaches him again. He flinches when she noses at his sleeve, but maybe it’s a measure of his fear that he doesn’t protest when she slants open her mouth. She takes the sleeve firmly in her teeth and tugs.
“I told you, I can’t go anywhere.”
Gen huffs and tugs again.
“I can’t, okay?”
Gen permits the very beginning of a growl to bubble up in the back of her throat.
He starts at the sound. His eyes are huge. “God, I’m hallucinating. I’m so cold I’m hallucinating a rescue wolf.”
Gen growls again.
“Okay, okay.” He moves to get up again, and Gen lets go of his shirt. His ascent is a lot shakier this time, though, and he’s not even fully upright before he tries to put weight on his injured foot. It buckles under him. He falls over and lands on his hands. “God damn it.”
Gen barks. It makes her feel dumb, like some tame dog. At least as a wolf she has a little dignity. Wolves only bark as a threat, or so she gathers; all she has to go by is nature documentaries and the occasional instinct, like her gut-deep certainty that a running rabbit meant chase.
He doesn’t seem to notice the indignity, though. “Look, wolf...”
As he is apparently beyond doubting that she’s trying to help him, she’s beyond pretending she’s just your ordinary wild animal. She barks at him, and she whines, and she takes his shirt in her teeth, and after a minute or so of that he pulls his backpack onto his shoulders again, and he begins to follow her along the creek bank at a crawl, a few agonizing inches at a time.
It is a long, weary forty-five minutes before they fetch up at the cave. Gen trots through the brush and back out again to show him the way, and apparently he doesn’t even have the energy to be surprised. He pushes into the cave, and he collapses backward onto his backpack and takes deep, heaving breaths. “It’s drier,” he says between gasps. “I’ll give you that.”
Which brings Gen to the next phase of her plan, if it’s worth calling a plan. She pads over to Padalecki and settles next to him. After he has a minute or so to recover, she takes a loose, wet corner of the flannel shirt, and she tugs on it.
Gen tries another one of those little whines – she gathers that wolves mostly use them to talk to others in their pack, which explains why she’s never had any use for them – and tugs again. When the guy doesn’t move, she grips the material a little tighter and yanks sharply. The flannel gives a satisfying rip.
“What the hell? What are you doing to my clothes?”
Gen grips another piece of flannel in her teeth and yanks again. It doesn’t rip this time, but she’s definitely got the guy’s attention now.
“What, you want the tasty morsel without the cotton wrapper?” She can tell he doesn’t believe it, even as he asks. Maybe he’s just too miserable to question it, because he sits up a little – she can barely see his motion in what faint afternoon sunlight manages to shine into the cave – and starts to strip.
There is, it occurs to her, a decently good-looking guy her age about to strip in front of her. Not that she can really appreciate the view, since she can barely see him by the smidgen of winter sunlight that’s shining in through the brush, and anyway her wolfish libido is kind of non-existent – except possibly for other wolves, which is another reason to stay very, very far away from any – but still. It’s been a couple of years since she’s had a guy get naked for her. If he didn’t hiss in pain every time he moved anything even sort of connected to his left leg, she might have been able to enjoy it.
Eventually he’s sitting in his briefs on top of his sodden jeans. His teeth are chattering again. “Okay, so now I freeze to death, right?”
He’d better not. Gen gets up from the mouth of the cave – although it the cave itself is so shallow that ‘mouth’ is a bit grandiose, as descriptions go – and walks up to him, and then she shoves him sideways with one heave of her shoulders, and she pushes right up against him.
Gen wriggles a bit, getting as much of herself into contact with him as possible. It’s like if she were cuddling with a guy she liked, rather than saving this dumbass from nature and himself.
“Not to sound ungrateful or anything, because I would never have found this cave without you, but you kind of smell like dog.”
There’s just no dignifying that with a response.
Gen stays alert for attempted movement on his part, because she has not gone through all this just to have him die of hypothermia now, but he doesn’t try. After a couple of minutes, he says, “You’re actually pretty warm.”
Gen huffs, but she lets herself relax a little bit.
“You’re keeping me warm.”
No kidding, Einstein.
“You’re like my guardian wolf. Except for scaring the crap out of me in the first place. Obviously. Although I guess angels were pretty scary sometimes, right? Like in the Old Testament and stuff?”
Maybe, if she scares the crap out of him this time, he’ll shut up. Gen growls menacingly.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry. Not an angel. I got it.”
Gen huffs out a sigh.
For a while the guy grumbles about how hard the ground is underneath him and how much his ankle hurts. It eventually occurs to him that he should prop it up, so he gets his backpack into place underneath it.
They’re as comfortable as they’re going to get in a cramped little cave in the dark. Gen’s lying more on him than not, and he’s talking. Still. Apparently a photography class is the reason he’s out here in the first place. “It’s supposed to be a nature assignment, but I didn’t want just, like, pretty nature, and I figure this old clear-cut out here had a lot of symbolic resonance.”
Gen shifts slightly; she keeps fidgeting, maybe with the unconscious hope that if she sits on him right, he will shut up.
“Okay, fine, Collins figured it did. I don’t know why I even listen to him. I mean, he’s getting an A, but I think that’s because half his photos are nude shots. Whereas I am a crap photographer, it turns out, because all I really want to do is take pictures of kids at the fair getting their faces painted, or cotton candy in their hair, or whatever. Happy pictures, you know? But apparently that’s too ‘basic.’”
Something is touching the back of Gen’s neck. There are fingers on the back of Gen’s neck. Her growl is sharp and instinctive. Jared jerks away beneath her and the fingers go away. “Sorry, sorry! No petting the wolf. Not a pet wolf. Or a tame lion. Either of those things.”
She settles back in with a whuff.
And then he’s off again. “I mean, what the hell, wolf? Basic? What’s my other option, acidic? Acid photographs. That’s what my class portfolio needs. Although I guess maybe photos need acid to be developed. I kind of skimmed that chapter.”
There are the fingers again. She growls. They leave.
But somewhere along the way, while she’s learning about the guy’s older sister (studying law) and his roommate (weakness for redheads) and Collins (would-be iconoclast in the making), his fingers end up buried in the scruff of her neck again, and she gives up trying to growl them away. They scritch back and forth in her fur, and once she’s past the weird, it feels nice. Not mind-blowing, not like she needs to bark for sheer joy, but still: someone is touching Gen, the wolf that is Gen, and it’s nice.
He’s nice. He talks way the hell too much, and he’s a freaking idiot, and if a bear ate him it’d be no more than he deserved, but. Gen likes the way he talks about his siblings, all fond irritation.
Even he can’t talk forever, though. Gen jostles him a little, to make sure he isn’t dying, and he snuffles awake. She lays her head on top of chest and promises herself that she’ll wake before dawn.
She almost doesn’t make it. It’s pain that pricks her awake, the first warning aches of bones about to shift. She allows herself one moment to make sure Padalecki’s still breathing, and then she’s out of the cave and off through the underbrush at a dead run.
It’s two miles to her truck. Three quarters of the way there, she has to lie down on dirt and fallen pine needles and let the shift take her over: an ice-cold pressure as deep as her marrow, stretching and compressing and shaping her into something that never feels quite natural at first. Funnily enough.
She picks her way over the last half-mile to the truck on bare feet. It isn’t the first time. Her old beater Chevy is right where she left it, twenty yards off the logging road and hidden behind some pretty dense brush.. She gets the key out from under the rock where she always leaves it, she opens up the back of the camper, and she crawls in and gets herself dressed.
She doesn’t dare stick around long: he’s still back there, nearly nude on hard ground that’s sucking the heat out of him even as she stands there. She stuffs her first-aid kit, part of her usual human-again emergency rations, and a fleece blanket into her backpack and starts the hike back to where she left him. Along the way, she worries how she’s going to explain stumbling into exactly the cave where he’s sleeping.
Padalecki makes it easy on her: as she gets in sight of the cave, he crawls out of it. He blinks towards the slate gray sky.
“Hey there,” she croaks. It always takes her voice a little while to warm up, after the change. “You lose something?”
Now he blinks at her. “What?”
“Your clothes,” she says as she gets closer.
He stares down at his briefs. “They’re...” He gestures vaguely back towards the cave. “There was a wolf.”
“Uh huh. You okay, buddy?” She gets up close to where he’s sitting on the ground. “You know that’s a sign of hypothermia – mental confusion. So’s taking your clothes off, actually. You all right?”
“There was a wolf,” he repeats. “It made me take them off.”
“Whoa,” she says, hands in the air. “Man bites dog, not really my department.”
“Let’s see if we can get some clothes on you.” She gives him the fleece blanket to tie around his waist like a towel. No shoes, because her truck’s not exactly stocked for outfitting stray giants. Her coat is massively oversized, which means it just barely fits across his shoulders. Yikes, he’s tall. She didn’t notice so much as a wolf, but now, even sitting down, it’s clear that he’s still on a whole different scale than she is.
“What about you?” he asks as he shrugs into the coat.
She shrugs. “I’ll be fine. I run hot.” Some wolf things carry over.
“My ankle,” he says.
She kneels down to take a look it. “Broken?” she asks, because it’s not like she actually knows anything about this.
“Just really badly sprained. I think.”
“We might still be able to walk you out, then. Unless you want a helicopter.”
He squints at her like he can’t tell whether she’s serious. “I think maybe with someone to lean on, I could make it.”
“Closest is probably an old logging road. If we can get you to that, I can go get my truck.”
“Okay.” He pushes himself farther upright.
Gen catches his flailing arm as he tries to stand up on just his good foot, and she slides under his arm. “Good?”
He nods through a grimace of pain, and they’re off.
It’s slow, painful, barefoot shuffle to the road. Padalecki’s hand presses what feel like permanent marks in Gen’s shoulder. They pause frequently, pretty much every time they find a suitable stump for him to sit on.
“I’m Jared, by the way,” he says during one of these rests.
She opens her mouth tell him Genevieve, formality for distance, but Genevieve is a much more distinctive name than she’d usually like it to be. “Gen,” she says.
“Cool.” He tries grinning at her, but he’s in more pain the farther they go. It’s a pretty weak attempt. “So what brings you out here?”
She shrugs awkwardly. “Needed some fresh air.” This is why she doesn’t talk to people. It’s because she’s really, really bad at lying. Now Jared’s eyes are shut in pain, though, and he’s not paying attention anymore. She supposes she ought to count that as a win.
As they’re getting up, he picks something out of his mouth and squints at a little. “Oh, hey,” he says, smiling a little more freely. “Wolf hair. I told you.”
Gen shrugs. Plausible deniability is all she’s after here, really. “Probably somebody’s dog.”
“It looked like a wolf,” he says stubbornly as he lets her arrange herself under his arm and get him to his feet. As they steady him on his one good leg, he says suddenly, “Gen?”
“Yeah.” There’s a long enough pause that she cranes her neck to get a look at his face. It’s totally blank. She can’t even see any pain in it. “What?”
“Not that I’m ungrateful,” Jared says slowly, “but you kind of smell like dog.”
Her heart freezes in her chest. She can’t muster up the brain cells to talk about her two non-existent setters. She can’t do anything.
“Gen?” He asks like she can explain away this forming suspicion, like she can set his world aright again.
Well, she can’t, and it is by God not her job to. She swings around to face him head-on. “You want to make something of it?”
He blinks and shakes his head. “No. No!”
“Good,” she says. She gives him another long moment of stink-eye, and then she shrugs back under his shoulder, and they keep going.
By the time they get to the logging road, Jared’s in tears of pain and well beyond worrying about anyone’s questionable humanity. Somehow or other Gen shoves him into the cab of her truck and heads back towards town. He’s starting to look feverish, which she figures is at least half a delayed reaction to the exposure.
When they get near town, she reminds him to try his cell again. He calls the roommate – Jensen – but after thirty seconds or so listening to his disjointed, pain-induced ramblings, Gen takes the phone from him and tells Jensen that she’s taking Jared to the emergency clinic.
She pulls into the parking lot and wrestles Jared inside. She’s just settling him into a hard plastic seat when a guy comes busting in the door. “Jared!”
“Hey, man,” Jared mumbles.
Gen gives the guy a nod, and he returns it, but his attention is clearly on Jared. Excellent. Gen leans in towards Jared. “You’re an idiot,” she says. “You go hiking without decent gear again, you deserve what happens to you.”
Jensnen gives her a startled frown, but she doesn’t care. She’s done here. She stalks out, and she promises herself that she will never have to deal with any of this again.
The next month, Gen stays out just a little too long sniffing at a rabbit lair and has to two-foot it back to her truck.
When she get’s there, a car’s sitting next to it. There’s guy in it. It’s Jared.
She’d maybe cut and run, but he’s already spotted her; naked girl is hard to miss against the gray-brown woods behind. Hastily he averts his eyes.
She’s still shaking off the lingering twinges of the change, and now she’s shaking with something else, too. Terror or rage; it’s always hard to tell at this stage which the unstable panic will transmute into. If there’s anything else she’s feeling, she shunts it aside. She can’t afford other feelings. She can’t even really afford the terror.
So once she pulls on a sweatshirt and a pair of jeans, she marches over to the little old coupe and she raps sharply on the driver’s window.
He opens his eyes and grins at her. She didn’t see him do that before; he was too busy running or spraining his angle or freezing to death. The force of it is sort of overwhelming, only marginally softened by the dimples.
He pushes the door open and steps out of the car, his mouth already opening, but she cuts him off. “What the hell are you doing here?”
The grin dimmed just a little. “I found you! You didn’t leave me any contact information or even, God, a last name. Do you know how many random Jennifers I called out of the Grange County phone book?”
Gen follows a wolfish instinct and steps into his space. “What do you want.”
He seems to hear the snarl behind the words. He takes a step back, hands up now, defensive. “I just wanted to talk to you. And tell you my ankle turned out okay. And ask you to dinner.” The grin peeks out hopefully again.
“And if I don’t?” She closes the distance between them. “What are you going to do?”
He blinks. “Um, be sad?”
She wants to hit him, either for playing her or for being just so stupid. “What are are you going to tell people about me if I don’t do what you want?”
“What? No!” Jared looks honestly taken aback. “Nothing! I wouldn’t... I’m not going to do anything, or tell anyone, or anything. Honest.”
“Really. And yet you’re stalking me.” She flicks a glance towards his car.
“I didn’t know how else to find you.” He eyes her thoughtfully and shrugs. “I had a hunch.”
She should have gone somewhere else this month. At the very least, she should have parked the stupid truck somewhere else.
“Look, I don’t mean to bother you—”
He soldiers on. “It’s just, I’m pretty sure you saved my life a few weeks ago, and I wanted to say thank you. And also ask you to dinner, or hey, breakfast! I’ve been sitting out here since five this morning, and I’m starving. Aren’t you starving?”
She glowers at him.
He ducks his head. “Um. Anyway, you’re hot.” He flicks a glance upward to see how she takes this. She keeps glowering. “And you’re the kind of person who’d rescue some idiot who got lost in the woods even if it. Um.” He gives her another one of those careful looks. “If it was really personally inconvenient. And that sounds like someone I’d like to know.”
She doesn’t know what to say. She stares at him until he flushes and drops his eyes again.
“Anyway, if nothing else, thank you. And, here, just a minute.” He turns back to his car and rummages around inside for a minute. He comes back out with a pen and a used envelope. He scribbles on the envelope and hands it to her. “That’s me, Jared Padalecki. And that’s my number, if you ever want to get in touch. I’m going to go eat a stack of pancakes at Traci’s Diner – do you know where that is?”
Mute, Gen nods her head.
“Yeah. So I’m going to go there, and if you stop in, I’ll buy you breakfast. Or not. And I won’t bother you anymore, okay? I promise.” He stops and looks at her, and clearly he’s going to keep doing it until she says something.
“Okay,” Gen manages to say.
“So I’m going to go away now. Uh, bye.” He gives her a little finger wave, and he gets in his car and drives away.
She stands there for a few moments with the dirty envelope in her hands. Then she goes back to the truck and finishes dressing, this time with niceties like underwear and socks, and after a few more moments’ thought she drags her hairbrush through her tangled hair and puts it up in a ponytail.
Traci’s is bright-lit and smells like heaven, if heaven were composed of maple syrup and bacon. It’s not hard to find Jared; his head sticks up almost above the booth. He’s sipping on a cup of coffee. As Gen approaches, he looks up, and his eyes light.
“So,” Gen says sliding into the booth. She’s not angry, and she’s only half-scared. She’s not quite sure what the other half is that she’s feeling. “So, what happens now?”
“Uh, well.” Jared looks at his hands. “Pancakes?”