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Learning Curve (Yourself Around Me)

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There's Never Gonna Be a Moment of Truth for You

The bike hums under her, between her thighs. It hums, like his grandmother did the day she sat in his kitchen waiting for him and watched her fill ice trays. A song she doesn't know, but she knows.

Her palm presses against his stomach, under the leather of his jacket, white cotton worn and washed thin and soft under her fingers. The heel of her hand presses a little too hard as they take the turn, and he laughs when she does and it makes her hum. Her fingers curl into his jacket and the zipper bites into her skin.

All You Need is the Thing You've Forgotten

Veronica wakes up gasping sometimes, sweat gathering on the back of her neck, curled around herself and panting, gasping, and lonely.

She's become redundant. She's turned into a girl, into the girl she was before, when she'd have nightmares about walking out naked, when she had nightmares about being left instead of leaving.

Sometimes she sleeps through the night, and that she's mostly stopped looking for shadows that shouldn't be on the wall is of little comfort. She shivers, curled into a ball under her blankets, the smell of cheap soap and salt hanging on her pillowcase. She's become redundant.

I Know That You're In There

He wraps his fingers around her wrist in a dark corner of a semi-empty hallway and nearly gives her a heart attack except not really because it's Wednesday and he always gets itchy on Wednesdays. She's not so far regressed that she's forgotten how to read him.

Not so far that she's forgotten how to read anyone, and that's why she hates Wallace's new girlfriend and that's why she's stopped trying to catch him in the middle of doing something illegal with his gang.

"Veronica," he says, and she bites down on a thousand different things she wants to say.

While the World is Watching

Duncan stops her with his fingers on the small of her back. He smiles and takes her tray and they sit at the table they usually share with Wallace. "Was there," he asks, trying and failing to be discreet at nodding toward the cluster of Biker Gang mocking a freshman, "a problem?"

"No," she says, "Not at all." And she doesn't say: I think he's trying to keep me safe from what you're turning me back into. I think maybe he's trying to save me from me.

"Veronica, it isn't safe to—"

She bites a fry in half viciously.

The Effort is a Waste of Time

Weevil shifts his weight and looks around the dark parking lot suspiciously. She's thinking maybe this is just a little too cliché for her. His fingers drum on the hood of her car and she's standing eighteen inches away and he keeps looking at her like she's from another planet.

"You want me to what?" he asks, and looks so confused that she has to laugh a little. Just until her sides hurt and she feels better than she has in months.

She pushes her cold coffee to him and shakes her head. "Nothing. Just wanted to see your face."

The Things You Couldn't Change

She tilts her head, just a little, and it's only because he looks like that when she does it. It's only because he called her on it once and she can be sweet sometimes, like she was before (before, when Lilly still put on her make-up in the girl's bathroom in the mornings) and it was easier.

Weevil shakes his head, and half smiles and shuts the door behind her. "You got a death wish coming out here?" he asks instead of saying something as mundane as 'hello'. "Little 0-9er girls ain't safe in these parts, you know."

She does.

(Though You've Tried)

They drive up in a roar of engines and teenage-boy-anger and tires on pavement. Weevil bumps her shoulder with his. "See what I mean?" he asks, laughing over the noise, as horrified as he ever is while she leans back against the chain-link fence and does her best impression of casual.

She doesn't know at all, because her fingers curl into the fence and there's a place where the links are cut that pinches and if anything has ever been obvious to her it's that she's not in danger here.

Weevil shakes his head and they leave without a word.

The Fat Lady Sung

"I'm not," she tells him; in a whisper like she's got a secret when really she's just trying not to hit him. "I never was."

"Hear your daddy is running for Sheriff again," he says instead of replying. "Couple months and you'll be back where you started."

"You got a thing for 0-9er girls I should know about?" The crowd heading to lunch passes them by with room to spare and plenty of whispers. It shouldn't be this way, but it is. Weevil shakes his head and she says, "You keep forgetting there's nothing for me there." And it's true.