Instead, they chatter about Marcy Tashine, a girl they'd all gone to school with in New Mexico. Apparently she got kicked out of community college after she was caught in a compromising position with a professor, of all people.
It's weird, talking about someone who'd been the main source of torture when Lyn was eleven and in middle school. She remembers how every day Marcy would stride up to her locker and point out every rip and tear in her clothing. The coyote pack wasn't rich.
She feels bad for Marcy in a little part hidden away deep in her soul, but most of her is throwing a party. Eat your heart out, Marcy.
The topic suddenly interests her, and they begin to talk about the teachers they'd had, the horrific experiences they went through. Their laughter is loud and they're all smiling. She feels normal for once, like a regular teenager and not a shapeshifter. As they round the corner to the villiage, Lyn notices that there are a handful of people roaming around.
They walk into a small grocery, not really paying attention to the two or three muscled Native men behind the counter, and she keeps talking. The air conditioner hits her nose and Lyn doesn't smell any scent of wolf, so the coast is clear. Maybe all the men here are just super fit. Or they're part of some gang.
They begin browsing the aisles, glancing at the evenly spaced milk and cheeses. "...I swear, I was just standing there, with the presentation on the screen that said 'by Lyn, Lyn, and Lyn only because the rest of my stupid group members didn't do any work' and the old crow was just screaming her lungs out because it was disrespectful," Sarcasm coats her tongue. "And she accidentally said a different word besides 'freaking' and didn't come back the next day."
The boys begin to laugh, and it feels good. "Man, I hated that teacher," Martin says. "She was always screaming at us in the hallways."
"I know, right?" Theo chuckles, and picks out a box of energy bars. Lyn immediately hits it out of his hand.
"No more energy bars!"
The coyote looks glum. "Why not?"
"Well," Martin says in that tone of voice that lets them both know that he's more than just slightly upset, "Maybe it's because we've eaten nothing but energy bars for the past two days! Nothing! Else!"
"And whose fault was that?"
Lyn sighs. "Here, how about you buy a small box of energy bars, and we," she tugs on Martin's arm, "will go get something to eat."
"You can eat energy bars."
Martin glares at him. "No we can't. I'm sick of them. I want fruit rollups, gushers, gummy bears, the whole deal. Not those stupid energy bars. Plus, I can fit them in my bag way easier than a cardboard box."
"Stop being such a baby-"
Lyn interferes before anything can go more wrong. The men up front can probably hear them right now. "Theo, we want something else to eat. You can still get energy bars, if you like. And Martin, there's nothing wrong with being a baby."
"You cry all the time," Theo offers, and Lyn kicks him in the shin. "Ow!"
"Excuse me," A guy says, and she turns to see one of the men standing in front of her, a white button up and khakis on. It looks way too small and really uncomfortable. His nametag says that his name is Seth. And he's tall, even taller than Theo. She wants to think that he's a wolf, but she doesn't smell wolf on him. It's weird. "I work here, and, uh, I heard that you want candy and I can show you where it is."
Theo snorts. "They want candy. I want real food. Do you have any bigger boxes of energy bars?"
"No! Don't listen to him!" Martin shouts, and Lyn grimaces as Seth shoots her a sympathetic look. She reaches up and grabs Martin's ear in one hand, Theo's in the other. "Mmph," Theo goes.
They're no match for her fingers, and when they struggle, she digs her nails in and they whimper. "Where'd you say the candy is?" she asks very politely to Seth, who looks like he's divided between laughing and running away screaming.
"Uh. Follow me," he says.
She does, and so do Theo and Martin. When they pass the front counter, the two other men in matching white shirts and khakis both snort in unison, recognizing loss. Lyn takes pity.
When she lets them go, they breathe out heavily and shrink back to rub their ears, but they're silent. Seth regards her with the upmost respect and then shows her to the gummy worms and Twizzlers. She nods her thanks.
"Say," Seth says. "Are those your brothers?"
This time it's her that's snorting. "Nope." And she looks nothing like them. She's a brunette, Martin's a blonde, and Theo's Asian. Vietnamese, to be specific. His mom's a second generation immigrant. "Are you visually challenged?"
His face turns red. "No, I was just wondering if you guys were adopted or something. Forget it."
"Actually, yeah, sort of," she says. She points to Theo. "Theo's mom took me and Martin in a long time ago."
"Oh, I'm sorry."
"What?" Talking to this guy is like playing soccer with a football.
Maybe he realizes it too, because Seth's face darkens a shade. Another one. "I mean, usually when you're adopted your parents are, like...well, forget it. Never mind." He clears his throat as Martin steps forward and grabs a few packs of Laffy Taffy. "So you three are new in town, huh?"
"Nice subject change. Very smooth," Theo says before dumping his box of energy bars into the basket that Seth offers them. The poor guy nearly faints into the floor from embarrassment, and Lyn gives Theo a kick. "Seriously though. How old are you? Twenty? Twenty-one?"
Seth shakes his head. "Eighteen." Then he nods to the two men behind the counter, both who are desperately looking like they're trying not to laugh, probably from the previous conversation. "Aubrey, on the left, he's twenty. So's Jake."
"Okay," Lyn says. She meets Jake's eyes, and it takes her by surprise for a quick second. They're darker than she expected. His mouth drops open, though, and he shoots up, wobbling like he can't stand correctly.
Seth clears his throat, smiling, and Aubrey starts grinning.
Martin takes the basket, full to the brim with candy and a box of energy bars, and sets it onto the counter. Jake begins checking them out, still standing up, which Lyn thinks is kind of weird. Then he plops down, disjointed, and without breaking rhythm, keeps checking out items. There's an unfamiliar look on his face. Aubrey is laughing.
Then she catches sight of Aubrey's nametag, only to realize that his name is actually Embry. Also weird. And familiar. She points to it, nodding at Theo.
"Yeah. My mom named me-"
Theo nods. "I know. Without Stalling Anymore was the name of it." Mrs. Vo-Jaline loves soap operas, and growing up in the house with her, they were guaranteed to pick up a little bit of that kind of thing.
"You know?" Embry looks like he's fallen in love. "I mean, I haven't watched it, and I didn't know the name of it, but I know."
Martin smirks. "You haven't watched it?" She knows what he's thinking. Embry was the character of the show who was always the clumsiest and most likely to get into unlikely events. And he was stupid. Theo snickers.
Lyn shrugs. "Nothing-"
"Paper or plastic?" Jake interrupts her hurridly, holding up one of each. He's sweating. "I mean, sorry, go on. The total's nineteen twenty-four." She stares at him before taking the plastic bag and shoving her food into it. Martin tosses a twenty onto the counter, but Jake shakes his head and pushes it back. "It's fine. It's on me."
Lyn sighs. "No thanks," she says, and doesn't make any move to pick it up. From next to her, Theo shifts uncomfortably. The three of them turn to leave, Lyn already lost in her mind. How are they ever going to find the wolf pack with idiots like these on the reservation taking up all their time?
"You're new, right?" Jake blurts, and when she shrugs, he adds, "We can show you guys around." Lyn looks back and opens her mouth to decline, but Martin gives her a calculating look, his eyes flickering to something on her left. She follows his gaze to a little wolf bobble head with the words "La Push" perched on the counter, suddenly understanding. Theo licks his lips, staring at the emblem. A hidden message passes between the three.
She nods slowly, then takes a gamble. A very risky gamble. "What can you tell me..." she pauses. "About wolves?"
Her eyes silently observe their reactions. They don't miss a thing. Like how Seth swallows. Or Embry's eyes dart to the left and then to the ceiling. Or, moreover, how Jake pales a bit, his copper skin lightening. And then she's sure that the three of them know something. They're definitely not wolves, but they know something.
"Wolves?" Embry sounds like he's being strangled.
Martin suddenly lights up, drawing something out of his bag that Lyn knows immediately what it is. He holds up the badge. "Animal Control, sir. It's Agent Martin Carlton."
Ever since he joined the high school afterschool animal studies club, an inside joke, and been promoted to a Junior Animal Agent, it's been nonstop jokes. But the badge he got in the mail looks legitimate, and it enough to make the three Native men nervous enough that she hear their hearts beat faster. She can also smell the faint whiff of sweat, and if her nose can figure that out, Theo's is definitely swarmed right now.
Jake's heart is pounding. "Animal...Control? The three of you?"
"Mhm," Lyn says, proud that she can keep a straight face for this long. "On the research branch. But if you can, y'know, show us around, that would be great."
They look like they want to say no, but Lyn can't even bring herself to care when Jake nods.