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A Mutual Friend

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The night after she'd been bitten she told her mom that she was going to bed early. Her mom only asked if Erica had taken her medication and it was easy enough to lie and say she had. Erica had lied about that plenty in her life. There was some proverb about the cure being worse than the disease, she wasn't sure of the exact saying, and the medication definitely fell under that category. It hadn't occurred to her to wonder if the werewolf 'cure' was the same, but from the power she felt thrumming through her body, she couldn't imagine that it was. She felt strong. She felt like she could run for miles or climb a mountain - or at least the stupid rock wall. She felt free.

It was simple enough to lock her bedroom door and go straight to her window. Climbing out onto the roof was easy, though she hadn't done it before in case she'd seized while she was out there and fell to her death - she'd thought about it more than once but had never done more than rest her hands on the windowsill. The grass looked far away, and the roof was steeper than it looked from the window, but she reminded herself that even as a human she would heal from a fall of a dozen feet or so. She crouched down at the edge and considered sliding down feet first. Finally she just made the short jump and landed easily, her hands coming down to the grass to steady herself automatically, and she spent five minutes lying on the grass giggling to herself because it hadn't even hurt. It had felt good.

When her breathing slowed she attuned her senses to the night around her, the skittering of bugs, sleeping birds tucked in trees, cars rushing down the main road three blocks over, and two heartbeats. For a moment Erica thought it was her parents sitting inside the house, but then she realized that the sound was coming from the opposite direction and was stronger. Pack, some instinct she couldn't name informed her, and she ran on two legs until she hit the tree line and then dropped to all fours and ran outright towards the heartbeats. She only vaguely knew where she was in town when she emerged from the trees and she wandered until she could scent the pack as well as hear them.

Derek's scent was familiar, it had been the first thing she'd honed in on when her scenes had started to rearrange themselves. She had focused on the lingering scent he'd left behind on the hospital gown, desperate to not smell the combination of all too well known scents of the hospital. She never wanted to smell the hospital again; it made her sick to her stomach, and angry, and out of control.

The second scent, the one from the other pack heartbeat, felt familiar but at the same time not. A mutual friend, Derek had said, and Erica had wondered about that a little bit after Derek had gone. Erica didn't have anyone she would call a friend. There wasn't anyone who had been friendly to her that she hadn't at some point overheard laughing at her or making quiet comments. She didn't bother trying to make friends and instead she'd watched and imagined and dreamed of walking among them without ever even noticing the broken souls left at the edges of the school's social circles.

Following the scent trail was easy and Erica took that as an invitation, whether it was or not, and she walked down the steps into the abandoned train depot with her head held high; it somehow felt like coming home. Immediately she honed in on the subway car that had light shining from the windows and she met the eyes of the boy sitting in the doorway. He was the source of the second scent, the half-familiar one, and she instantly knew why. Isaac was one of the people she watched, one of those lost souls who walked the same orbit she did without their paths ever crossing, and she realized that Isaac had been watching her in return and that he must have asked Derek to give her the bite.

Isaac was watching her and even though his expression was carefully guarded she could smell a rush of worry from him as he waited for her to react. His guarded expressions had been what had drawn Erica's attention to him to begin with - no one had that good of a poker face without it being a necessity. Over time she'd started to see the occasional crack in his facade of control, slivers of fear and anger slipping out before he locked it down again, and she matched them with the hints of bruises when his shirt sleeves pushed up a little and his hunched shoulders and his wild eyes. Everyone in the school knew what was wrong with Erica, most of them had seen it firsthand at some time or another in the past seven years, but Erica thought that she might be the only one who knew what was wrong with Isaac. Then she'd heard that Isaac's dad was dead and everyone said that Isaac had killed him. From what Erica had seen of Isaac she doubted that very much, but if it was true she thought it was a good thing that Isaac had killed him before Isaac wound up in one of those graves he dug.

She didn't smile as she stepped forward, sadness and anger were conflicting in her chest and she knew Isaac would be able to sense it and she didn't want to send mixed signals at the moment. Not when this meeting was so important. She knelt down when she reached his side and kept her eyes locked with his. "Thank you," she said, hoping that he understood that she meant it both for asking Derek to bite her and for noticing her. Everyone saw Erica, but no one really noticed her.

Isaac nodded and his shield fell away, his eyes dropping as the corners of his mouth twitched ever so slightly upward. "I didn't do anything."

"Mmm," Erica said, because if Isaac couldn't push back just yet, she wasn't going to force him. She moved so that she was sitting side by side with him, their shoulders brushing in the narrow space of the doorway. It took Isaac more than a few minutes before he relaxed into her presence and she could hear their heartbeats fall in sync, both matching Derek's. She leaned back far enough to catch a glimpse of Derek, who was sitting next to the light with a book open in his hands. "So, what are we doing for fun tonight?"

Derek looked up, his gaze both curious and half-approving. "What did you have in mind?"

Erica turned back to where Isaac was watching her with hope written openly across his features. "I have a few ideas," she said with a broad smile.