Fighting Like Cats and Dogs

Chapter 4

They end up sitting around a circle, evenly divided in half: three on one side, three on the other.

Lyn wrestles with the red string bracelet on her hand. Some moments the vampire venom makes her muscles burn more than usual, and it's one of those days (the long, tedious shifting earlier hasn't helped either). She draws a metal bottle out of Martin's backpack, sipping the water and tasting the bitterness of ground up bear tooth in it.

It settles her slightly, and she takes another gulp and peers into the bottle, relieved when she notices that there's still enough to last her. It's late in the afternoon, almost late enough for it to be considered evening, and they still need to stay somewhere. She looks up.

Jake is watching her. Staring, actually, at the faint scar on her throat and the material strung around her wrist. He doesn't seem to be listening to Sam, talking about how they're ranked and how they fight to advance levels (when one wolf surrenders, power is transferred). He probably knows what his Beta's talking about, anyway.

The Alpha wolf sits directly across from Lyn, his skin dark and his mouth soft. He doesn't talk much, but when he does, it makes everyone quiet. Lyn wishes that she could do the same, but she doesn't think that she can filter her words well enough to do so.

She gazes back at him, at his eyes. From a distance they could be considered black, but she's cougar enough that she can see they're dark brown. He doesn't look away, and his lips curl into a small smile that she's hesitant to return, but does.

His heart stutters before it begins to beat faster.

The Alpha must not know that she can hear it, because he offers no effort to control his pulse. Lyn wants to know if he's afraid of her. He's done well, actually, for an Alpha. Although he's older than her, compared to Arth or even Nathan, he's quite young. She can only imagine what would happen if her father found out there was a foreign pack that they didn't know about.

Jake has remained calm and sturdy, hasn't thrown a tantrum. There's no doubt that he's unsure, but he's handled it perfectly. Arth was right in doing this; the wolf pack has very obviously been in good shape over the last couple of years.

Lyn offers Martin a Fruit Rollup, the good kind with the ones that don't stick to the paper. He takes it absentmindedly as he continues to take notes on the wolf political system. Snorting when she realizes that the falcon is making a flow chart, she scoots over and hands Theo an energy bar that he chews with earnest on.

She hears the rumbling of Seth's stomach and gives him one as well, reaching over the coyote. The Third-Ranked murmurs a thanks. When Lyn finally hears a pause in Sam's story of yet another vampire attack, she interrupts him. "It's getting dark," she says. "We need to leave."

"Will you be back tomorrow?" Jake asks, eyes locked on her, and it's so intense that she forgets to breathe for a second, a reaction that she dismisses as another side effect of the venom.

Theo answers for her. "Yes."

"There aren't any hotels around La Push," the Alpha replies, and then, although she knows that he's addressing everyone, she feels strangely like he's talking to her alone. "You can hang out at my house. My dad and one of my sisters are home, but that's it."

"Okay."

His sister, Rachel, ends up being very nice. At first she glances over at them and ogles Theo for a bit, before asking, loud and brash and not at all Jake, "Are you guys from the pack? Because I don't feel like sharing my room." Her younger brother pulls her aside, whispering words that Lyn ignores out of etiquette. When they return she's considerably more polite, especially to Lyn, for reasons that she doesn't understand.

Billy Black, confined to a wheelchair, is there, along with two wolves that Jake introduces as Jared and Quil. Quil is Jake's age, funny and more than a dash perverted; Jared is basically Quil plus one year of age. They both smile at her whenever Jake says something, and vice versa. Eyebrows are wiggled often.

A woman named Kim, Jared's girlfriend who somehow loves him, is there too, cooking with Rachel as everyone else plays Monopoly. Martin throw several angsty looks towards the kitchen before throwing his arms up when Quil says he doesn't want to buy Boardwalk, and striding into the other room. Theo snickers.

Rachel makes a few vague comments when the falcon steals the checkered apron from her, but quickly shuts up when Martin takes a carrot and somehow chops it up in a few seconds, his chubby hands a blur.

When Quil questions her friend's line of talent, Lyn defends him quickly. "Hey, he was always cooking with Macy," she points out, and Theo's quick to add, "Yeah, Mom's always emailing him recipes."

"Yeah," Lyn says, and thinks about why she somehow can't even succesfully toast bread.

Theo must smell the jealousy, because he smiles at her. "Hey, you two were like, the only girls. Didn't she teach you how to knit?"

"You knit?" Jake suddenly asks.

"It was a long time ago," she squeaks as he begins to laugh. Her face feels red. "And I sucked. I kept jabbing my fingers with the needles."

"You couldn't draw, either," Theo helpfully brings up.

"I know."

"Or play violin."

"I know, Theo."

"Your calligraphy was atrocious."

"The brush was weird!"

"Your Vietnamese is so bad, someone thought you were speaking Mandarin."

"I'm not even Vietnamese, I don't have to learn it."

"Calculus was a disaster."

"Nobody uses that stuff anyway."

"You pulled up more flowers than weeds, too."

"They all looked the same."

"Singing was terrible. Miss Minowski quit teaching you."

"She gives up too easily."

"You almost nailed your thumb to the wall."

"Who can see where they're hitting the hammer? It's impossible." Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a quick flash of Jake's teeth as he chuckles.

Theo starts laughing too, cheeks flushed and shaggy black hair hanging in his eyes. "When are you going to run out of excuses? You sucked at everything when we were kids."

"Probably," Lyn says, her lips curling into a smug smile, knowing that she has one thing under her sleeve. "But I was still able to shift before you, not to mention that I'm a billion times faster and stronger. And I'm Beta when you're Fifth."

The coyote suddenly scowls. "Aw, come on, that's not fair."

"If it helps you sleep at night," she replies, earning her another glower. "Hey, if you're not happy about it, you can challenge me to another arm wrestling contest."

Hilariously, Theo doesn't open his mouth, causing another round of ribbing from Jared and Quil. Billy sits back watching everyone like he's older than he actually is, and Jake is smiling.

After a really good vegetable casserole that a certain falcon made, they're all sitting around a green gameboard. Rachel proclaims that she's taking her father's place and Billy only sighs irritably as she blows his money away on Connecticut Avenue.

Kim manages Jared and makes him buy Reading Railroad by withholding kisses "until further notice". The wolf cracks pretty early on.

"Always buy the railroads. Honestly, it's like some people have no sense of marketing," Rachel complains as she slides a quick side-eye at Jared and passes up Park Place because she spent all of her money on States Avenue.

Martin rolls his eyes as he shuffles through Lyn's deeds. "Is it possible to die from irony?" The panther cracks a smile as she tosses the die, getting doubles. "Ooh, good." Martin nearly squeals when his partner lands on Mediterranean Avenue. "Quick, collect the two hundred dollars before Rachel eats all the money."

"Hey!"

Jake loses first, mostly because he invested everything on hotels for Virginia, States, and St. Charles. He makes a little indignant noise every time Quil's racecar zooms by his estates loudly, and his final moment comes when he lands on Theo's collection of houses on Marvin Gardens. And that's it for the Alpha.

The coyote cackles loudly when he collects the rent and Rachel joins as Jake declares himself bankrupt.

Unfortunately, Lyn is next, but only because she keeps landing on the Go To Jail space. Martin opts to sigh loudly every time she puts one of her deeds up for mortgage.

"God, you're such a jailbird," Jared jokes, recieving a jab from Kim. "Ouch."

Lyn scowls and finally gives up, ignoring Martin's embrassed wails. "I'm out of money."

"Me too," Jake says, "Wanna go to the kitchen to get some cake?"

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