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Merston High

Chapter Text

The batteries in Howleen's flashlight were dying, she could tell; the light was sputtering every now and then, and the glow itself was a lot weaker than it was earlier in the week. She hoped it would at least last until she got back to her bunk.

The walk back from the bathroom was a dark one, and it seemed to drag on forever, too. Usually, Howleen tried making sure she wouldn't have to leave her room in the middle of the night when all the lights were out, but sometimes it couldn't be helped.

On the rare occasions it did happen, it gave her time to think without shrill bells and drill sargent voices ringing in her sensitive ears. It gave her time to think about why she was sent to Arrowhead Boot Camp in the first place.

So what if she was mad? She had every right to be. She was fed up with having to hide who she really was, and she was gonna express that. If her mom and dad didn't get that, then fine. Who needs them.

It was already hard enough being a teenager trying to live in her older sister's shadow and trying to find out her own sense of identity. How could she form a sense of identity if she had to hide her werewolf side? She loved her fur! She loved how invigorated she felt every full moon! But none of these things were things that she could be proud of. Not in public, anyway.

The flashlight finally died, and Howleen stopped in her tracks. There was only a very faint light from the moon outside the windows, and she suddenly felt calm. The dark was like a comforting blanket to her.

If she was going to be proud of her monster blood, now was the best time, when nobody else was around to tell her how to feel. The crescent moon was a long way from being full, but the sight of it at all made her wanna wag her tail (which also wouldn't come until a full moon).

She stood there for a moment, procrastinating returning to her bunk as long as she could, when she saw something glimmer in the corner of her eye.

When she turned towards it, she saw a faint trail of purple-ish smoke weaving through the hall. Her heart seized up.

As if in a dream, the smoke half-materialized into a humanoid torso in front of another dorm's door, and the new shadow girl clutched her hands to her chest as she stared at the doorknob.

Howleen had to keep herself from screaming; not from fear, but from joy. Another monster! One she had never met before! What on Earth was she doing here?

She tried keeping her breathing steady. She hissed, "Hey!" to get the girl's attention.

The girl didn't seem to hear. Howleen made her voice a bit louder and repeated herself. "Hey!"

That did the trick. She heard, and turned to face Howleen, but her eyes were as big as plates. Howleen waved, grinning, but the girl's lip trembled in fear, she immediately de-materialized, and the smoke trail began darting away.

Howleen nearly smacked herself. Of course the other monster would run; a werewolf would look like any normie right now. She forgot sometimes that she didn't always have wolf ears to intimidate normies with.

She had to stop her. As she fast-walked after the trail, she called in the same volume as before, "Hey! It's okay, come back! I'm safe, I'm one of you!"

The smoke disappeared, and Howleen was alone. No eerie purple smoke was visible now; just the ugly white tiled floors that reminded her too much of her old high school.

She gritted her teeth and tried to hold back tears of disappointment. It was understandable; she would have been a bit freaked out at a friendly normie, too. It was way too suspicious.

Just then, a disembodied voice that was barely loud enough to be heard spoke next to her ear and made her jump. It was monotone. "One of me?"

Howleen didn't move. Was this her? Was she still here? She decided to give the situation the benefit of the doubt, since the voice sounded nothing like any of the other people at this school. "Yeah. One of you. Like, I'm a monster too."

The voice was silent for a minute, and then responded. "How can I trust you?"

Howleen's heart pounded. It wasn't near the full moon, so she couldn't show any of her wolfy traits. She remembered that she hadn't shaved the upper half of her legs in a while since it was a hassle if she wasn't wearing shorts, and it was the middle of winter.

Pulling her loose pants leg up to quickly reveal the coat she had accumulated, and putting it back down again just as fast, she whispered, "Werewolf. If you need more proof, stick around about another month."

The smoke reappeared in front of Howleen, and it completely materialized into a girl. Both of them smiled; Howleen's was more of a huge, wolfy grin, and the girl's was smaller and close-lipped.

The stranger finally attached her face to her voice. "What are you doing here? Seems like kind of a bad place for someone like you, if you're the only monster here."

"The better question is, what are you doing here? I've never met you before, not here and not in Salem, either."

"Eating dinner. Nightmares are really high in nutrients."

"Woah. That's hardcore." Howleen felt like jumping around and pumping her fist in the air. She couldn't believe she was meeting another monster this far away from home! "I've never seen a monster like you before."

"I'm a shadow monster. Some people like to call my dad the Boogieman, but... we prefer shadow monster." The small smile grew bigger, and she got sheepish.

"And I thought Salem had all the monsters there could possibly be!"

"What's Salem?"

"My hometown. It's got a really big monster population; I think everyone just kinda flocks there. They say it's safer that way, but if you ask me, it's just a disaster waiting to happen."

"I just travel around the country with my dad. We eat dreams and travel in the shadows, so surviving isn't really hard."

"Hey, what's your name? Mine's Leena." She frowned. "Well, it's really Howleen, but Leena is my normie-passable name."

"Twyla. It's nice to meet you, Howleen."

Howleen's heart swelled. It was the first time someone had called her by her true name in ages.

Twyla's hands clasped behind her back and she looked at the ground, her face blushing purple. "I bet my dad's looking for me. I better go."

"Wait! Are you gonna come back?"

"I'll try, but my dad doesn't like staying in one place very long." She looked up and made eye contact, which made Howleen's heart skip.

Howleen hugged her flashlight to her chest. "Please try. It's so lonely and boring here."

The wind whooshed outside, and Twyla's eyes turned to the window. "That's my dad."

She dematerialized again, and before Howleen could blink, Twyla whispered, "I'll try. You're the first monster I've ever seen, too."

And just like that, the dark was just the standard kind of dark, instead of the kind with deep purple smoke.

Howleen found herself frozen staring at the moon with an odd feeling in her chest again, but for a different reason now.

Chapter Text

Deuce checked that his blinds were shut, his curtains were drawn, his door was locked, his and Cleo’s phones were under a pillow, and his laptop was closed. Cleo sat on his bed and inspected her nails while he ran through the list of precautions; it was a necessary thing if they wanted to really relax, but it still got on her nerves.

The bed jostled, and she felt her boyfriend arms snake (hah) around her waist. His hair, free from its knitted prison, began nestling in her own hair. She shut her eyes and reached a hand back to caress the side of his head. “Did you miss me, darlings?”

A low hiss came from Deuce’s throat. “God, I can’t stand normies sometimes.”

“Did they mess with the hat or the shades this time?”

“The hat. Like, people don’t just take other people’s hats without asking, right? That’s a thing that only happens to me.”

“I’m sorry, Deuce.” She leaned her back into his chest and he pulled her into his lap. She said, “Maybe we can start a rumor that you had a freak razor accident and you’re sensitive about your bald condition.”

He kissed her shoulder. “Har har.”

Cleo disentangled herself from him and turned herself around, settling into a new position. She could see his face now, and he smiled at her like she was his entire world. She thought about how much she always missed him when he went to Greece for the summer.

She stroked his cheek, and his hair hissed again, but in an affectionate way this time. The sound melted her heart all the way in its jar back at the de Nile mansion. “We’re going on a movie date again soon. We haven’t been since you got back.”

“Which movie?”

“Hmm… I’m not sure. I’ll let you pick.” She idly pecked his lips. “No action movies, though.”

At that moment, Cleo’s phone beeped from under the pillow. She looked away from her boyfriend’s (assumed) lovestruck eyes and glared at the source of the noise. It was her father; that was his preset text alert.

Deuce recognized the noise, too. “Uh oh.”

“What could he possibly want?” Her shoulders slumped and she rolled her eyes. “It’s only 3:45! I’m not due back until seven tonight, at least.”

“You think we should look? Could be important.”

“I’m not in the mood for important things other than you right now.”

Deuce leaned back so he was laying down, and Cleo laid down from where she was sitting on his lap, her head resting on his chest. She closed her eyes and got the urge to fall asleep in that spot while he reached for her phone.

He checked her lockscreen, and read the preview for the unread text. “Babe, you may wanna look at this.”

Cleo groaned into his shirt. “Deucee-e-ey….”

“It says something about a meeting, but I can’t understand the rest. Your dad has a way with emojis.”

“Oh my Ra, fine.”

He handed her the phone and she unlocked it, squinting her eyes at the bright screen. “He says there’s a meeting at the usual time, and it’s mandatory. There’s going to be a new addition to our secret club.”

“Really? It’s been a little while.” Deuce returned his arms to their previous position around Cleo. “Y’know, now that I think about it, I bet it’s that new girl.”

“Who else could it be? Her last name is Stein. The old people like to act like they’re cryptic, but they aren’t. And another thing! If us young ones are so bad at keeping secrets and we can’t be trusted, the cat would be out of the bag by now, so I don’t know why we can’t just outright know who it is beforehand. It’s not like we won’t find out soon anyway.”

Cleo felt Deuce’s muscles shift as he shrugged. She continued, “But yes, it’s most definitely the new girl. She wears too much January clothing in September for her to not be a monster. Unless she just gets cold easily.”

“Well, we have the rest of the evening to kill before we have to leave. Wanna play a video game or something?”

“Not right now… I could use a nap if we’re gonna be up at four in the morning, let’s do that.”

Chapter Text

Frankie bolted for the door, ramming into the door frame with her shoulder on the way out. She yelped in pain but didn't bother looking back, her face trying to retreat into her shoulders as she hunched over.

Cleo noticed Frankie left her glorified makeup bag she called a purse next to her desk, and rolled her eyes. Oh, boy. She snatched it up and began formulating what to do in her head.

Holt stood up. "Firecracker!"

As he left his desk and headed for the door, Cleo stepped in front of him, Frankie's purse gripped tightly in her fingers due to her quick reaction. She said, "Sorry, this is a girl problem."

He looked over Cleo's shoulder. "Let me check on her, at least."

"Not yet. What will she think when you barge in on her unannounced? Bad move, screechy."

"Oh, like you're her best friend."

Cleo narrowed her eyes. "I'm just taking her purse to her. It has girl things in it that help solve girl problems, which you aren't involved in."

"I know what you're talking about, your highness, because I'm not twelve years old, and--"

Cleo turned on her heel and left the room, making a beeline for the bathroom. She ordered over her shoulder, "Ten minutes!"


 

The bathroom was silent, save for the sound of the air conditioning and the panicked whimpering of a teenage girl.

Cleo checked for eavesdroppers by glancing through the gaps between bathroom door and divider, and once she was certain nobody else was in there, she said, "Frankie, coast is clear."

"What is it, Cleo?"

"I've got your makeup, you ditz."

Frankie gasped and flung her stall's door open, startling herself at the racket. "You do?!"

Cleo rolled her eyes. "Duh. Why else would I have followed you?"

Frankie's fake skin was smudged badly on her arm, and had gotten worse when she tried concealing it with her opposite hand. Her sleeve also had creamy peach tone makeup stains. Cleo sighed. "My word, you've got a lot to learn about existing under pressure. It's a delicate skill."

"I'm s-sorry. I just..." Frankie's face fell into her hands, which smudged the makeup more and revealed even more green. "I just got so nervous. I've never met a boy that was so cute before. Well... not in person, anyway. And it goes so badly every time I'm around him."

"You've only been alive a few months. The others can teach you how to handle romance." Cleo smirked. "Cause my advice is mostly about how to gracefully fend boys off and how to make the sentence 'I have a boyfriend in Greece' sound like the truth."

Frankie chuckled through her tears, and Cleo frowned with a business-like seriousness. "That's for another time, though. This is an emergency, and we have less than ten minutes to fix it."

"Ten minutes?"

"I had to keep Holt at bay."

Frankie melted. "He was gonna come after me?"

"That's a bad thing right now, Frankie."

"Right, right." Frankie giggled. "Lemme see my makeup, I think I can manage it by then."

Cleo handed the purse over, and Frankie set the bag on the mirror above the sink. She pulled her makeup out and began re-applying it.

Cleo put her hand on her hip. "Could it get done faster if I was doing it, too? I'm good at blending."

"Uh, sure? I think there's an extra in the same pocket."

Cleo approached the mirror and began doing the same action Frankie was, except she was covering her arm. She was surprised at how easy it was; where on Earth did the Steins get this stuff? This was theater-grade.

After a few minutes, Frankie's eyes drooped. She could make it the rest of the day without a recharge, but all the emotional ups and downs had zapped her energy faster than normal.

She looked at her false, beige reflection, and contemplated. "Hey, Cleo?"

"Mm, yes?"

"Why are you doing this?"

"Helping you?" Cleo made eye contact with Frankie in the mirror before swishing the makeup sponge in the skin paint again.

"Yeah." Frankie tilted her head. "I thought you didn't like me."

"I don't." She dabbed Frankie's arm. "If one of us gets found out, we all do. Do you really think I'm going to put Deuce's life in jeopardy? Or Julia's? Or, Ra forbid, mine?"

"Good point."

Cleo's voice softened a little, but it still had an annoyed edge. "You've just got to trust me. It's a two-way street; I have to trust you, too. We all have to trust each other with our lives, or else we're as good as dead. Doesn't mean I have to like you."

Frankie smiled. The ice queen was finally melting; towards her, at least.

She wondered if Cleo trusted any normies, and took note of the fact that none of the monsters were dating people that weren't also monsters. She wondered if there was a reason for that.

She also wondered exactly how Holt's face had looked as she ran out of the classroom.