One more quick vote guys, I'm planning on keeping this story T so do you want me to skip racy fluff all together instead of doing those super annoying fade-outs or keep Derek and Chloe's relationship on the edge of being sexual but not quite there yet? It's set about a year after What Binds Them so they might have already crossed that line but knowing Chlerek they also would have no trouble finding other creative ways to stay at 3rd base without the home-run. Any other suggestions are welcome. The reason I'm keeping it T is because the focus of this story is mostly on Simon, not Chlerek, but the votes were resoundingly Derek, Chloe and Jeremy's POV's so this could get pretty interesting.
"Hey I really like saying 'NO' to you, could you ask again?" Chloe put her hands on her hips and batted her eyelashes sarcastically at some guy who grinned at her like she'd just said 'OMG I totally want to go to the dance with you!'
Her fine arts school had a party the night before graduation, a big send-off and apparently who you went with was a mark of social status. The fact that Chloe had changed so much in so little time was not lost on the social elite.
She dressed the same as ever, some hundreds of dollars pair of jeans, sneakers and a yellow shirt that said "bite me," a gift from Simon of course. But whatever remnants of her stutter had fallen away completely in public and her self-confidence had sky-rocketed—that can happen when you know you can send all the corpses in a five mile radius after the cheerleading squad while your boyfriend single-handedly takes out the football team.
She hadn't seen me yet, I was back home early (breaking the majority of the speed limits) and wanted to surprise her. If I stayed across the parking lot then she wouldn't feel me unless she was concentrating. I leaned back against the hood of the car Jeremy leant me and waited, watching the show.
"Come on Saunders, it'd be fun. Jack and Gwen are gonna get Gwen's sister to buy a handle of vodka, you can get the limo and I'll book the hotel."
I told my feet to stay rooted to the spot, to be cement blocks and let her handle this. I also had to swallow a reflexive growl as this presumptuous jerk put his hand on the wall above Chloe's head and leaned closer than I liked. Of course, right now anywhere in the state was closer than I wanted this guy to Chloe.
"That sounds great, I'll just get tanked, ride around in a car that I paid for and go to a hotel room with three people I don't know." If sarcasm was art, Chloe was Picasso.
"Don't worry about that, it doesn't have to be the four of us, it can just be the two of us." He moved closer and my control bent to the breaking point, this guy needed to be taught a lesson.
"I. HAVE. A. BOYFRIEND." Chloe enunciated slowly and carefully, to make sure he understood the words.
He just smirked. "Riiight, the guy who doesn't go here."
I let go of the careful leash I'd kept on my power and it whipped out to Chloe, washing over her like a wave. She spun to see me and I smiled. She smiled back, knowing I'd heard the conversation.
"You see that guy standing over there? Tall, dark and handsome, looks like he could snap you in half and throw the pieces into Canada?" She steered her pest around and pointed me out.
I waved and his eyes widened.
"That's Derek. I'm in love with him. So get over yourself and back off." She skipped down the steps and ran across the parking lot, leaving him gaping.
At the last minute she jumped, trusting me to catch her as she wrapped her arms around my neck and kissed me. I forgot about the douche, I forgot where we were, I forgot about breathing; this happened when we'd been apart for a while.
"You're home early." She grinned and I set her on her feet, keeping my hands around her waist.
"Looks like I got here right on time." I smiled back and brushed her hair out of her face. "Want me to go snap him in half and throw the pieces into Canada?"
"Nah, I think snapping his ego in half is more than sufficient." She laced her fingers with mine. "I was just coming out to grab a few things from my car, want to come retrieve Simon with me?"
As we talked we'd walked over to her shiny Suzuki SX4—a belated sixteenth birthday/thank-god-you're-alive present from her dad. It was a model that we'd compromised on, the safety ratings were good enough for me and the four-wheel drive was a must for driving out to Stonehaven, and it had enough room to fit all of Chloe's film equipment AND lights and audio gear. She got her back-up gear bag with extra tapes, firewires, and other techie things.
"He's almost done with the final draft of his senior showpiece, it's really pretty amazing." Chloe said, leading me into the school.
Simon had transferred into Chloe's art school since they were in the same year. We could have all been together but Chloe insisted that I do my best academically, rather than the bare minimum just so I could stay around her. I crammed and graduated early and now I only had a few days of classes a week at the community college, two of which I was the TA for, Physics of Light and calculus. I'd already taken AP calc in high school but there weren't any math courses I hadn't taken at the college and I didn't want to get rusty so I helped out with the classes twice a week, explaining mathematical theories to kids who only used math to figure out sale prices. Fun.
We walked into a well-lit room full of easels and light boards, only a few of which were occupied by haggard-looking seniors.
"Hey." Simon said in greeting when we got within his line of vision. "You're here early."
"Actually he's right on time, I don't think I'll be having any more trouble from Dan Justi." She grinned and her fingers tightened around mine.
"Ah, pulled the old 'tall, dark and intimidating' routine did we?" Simon managed a tired smile. "Man I would have liked to see his face."
"Fairly epic. Show Derek what you've been working on." She tugged me closer the light board and I put my arm around her, feeling her fit perfectly against my body.
Simon had continued working on the graphic journal when he started at Chloe's school. They combined projects, her screenplay from Film and Theater Screenwriting and his 2D art class. After they'd completed the rough draft Simon colored the first few pages of the story and was now heavily shading the rest with black ink. He planned on using the comic for his senior showcase and since representatives from almost every art school he'd applied to would be there, he'd been a little stressed.
He altered us enough so it wasn't completely obvious who we were and had had to present both the graphic novel and the finalized screenplay to the Interracial Counsel. They had edited and vetoed but kept it mostly intact, deciding that the exposure risk was about as high as any other comic book about kids with superpowers, and there were quite a few of those. Paige Winterbourne, the only representative of the counsel that could really throw her weight around, had somehow gotten a Cabal CEO to review and OK the edited script so it was as kosher as was possible.
There were twelve 15" X 30" pages and Simon had finished all but one, and that one only needed the last fine-tipped ink detailing. But with the deadline in less than twenty four hours he was still running on high-stress. Chloe's senior project was on her powerbook so she could take it home without any trouble and edit there. But Simon was working exclusively at school for fear of something spilling onto his pages or them getting rained on, etc.
The comic covered our first week in Lyle house up to when we decide to run away. He had our characters meet, Linus—a young wizard with a love for movies and wanted to be a director, Lauren—the first character you meet and a math and science genius who could see ghosts and raise the dead (Paige made Simon replace the word "necromancer" with "spirit conduit"), and Ezekiel—an aspiring artist who was bitten by a werewolf as a child.
On the first page "Lauren" goes to visit her friend in a "home for troubled youth" and while there incurs the wrath of Tiffany, a girl with serious anger issues and antisocial personality disorder. On the fifth page Tiffany lures her into the basement where she hits her with a brick and drags her under the house, binding and gagging her. Lauren wakes up with a zombie crawling on her. Simon used a whole page to ink the grisly image, the grotesque decomposing corpse pulling itself up Lauren's leg and her eyes wild with terror as she writhed to get away from it. Naturally the werewolf hears her as he sketches in the library and goes down to rescue her.
Simon's teacher had originally dismissed the idea for the comic as being too unbelievable and he'd only grudgingly agreed to a rough sketch after reading Chloe's screenplay. Now he raved about Simon's originality and "gritty but elegant" artistic style.
I leaned down and studied the panel. In it Lauren was communicating with the spirits of people murdered at the house, her dark eyes fixed intensely on something the reader couldn't see and Ezekiel stood by as back-up, his light hair mussed from being dragged out of bed for the séance. Other than swapping everyone's hair and eye color Simon kept our basic bone-structure and body types the same and if you were really looking you could see Chloe's necklace peeking out from under 'Lauren's' shirt.
"Beautifully done as always Simon." Chloe ruffled his hair, making the overgrown spikes stick out in unorthodox directions. "Almost ready to go?"
Simon sighed and stretched, cracking his joints. "Please get me out of here stat. I'm going crazy from all the ink fumes."
As far as I knew, ink didn't really have fumes but I couldn't argue since to my nose everything had a scent.
"We'll swing by a pita stand or something on our way home. Come on." She gently guided Simon out of his chair and handed him off to me where he overdramatically swayed.
"Must… finish…" He reached faintly back and we steered him out of the room.
"You've got all day tomorrow to finish that last panel and frame all the others, you'll be fine." Chloe stopped at her locker and grabbed her backpack and laptop case. "I'm the one who has to render and compress the whole video tonight."
"Oh that reminds me, Jeremy and Elena are both planning on coming." I told Chloe, keeping my hands on Simon's shoulders and propelling him out the school doors. "Jeremy says he's looking forward to see both of your pieces." I directed this at Simon.
"No pressure. Just the alpha of the North American werewolf pack." Simon muttered under his breath.
"And the Alpha Select." Chloe piped up cheerfully.
Chloe's senior project was a kind of documentary collage (her words, not mine) about her family, all of us. This included Simon, Kit, Tori, the whole Pack, Jaime Vegas, and her dad. She spent the last six months filming, since a lot of the footage was at Stonehaven both Jeremy and Elena had reviewed the footage with Chloe, editing out any clips of superhuman strength or blatantly werewolfy things. Likewise she'd made sure Jaime got a chance to review the footage of herself. I'd been at several of the film shoots but Chloe had kept me from seeing any of the edited work.
"How about you and Simon go get us some take-out and I'll get my equipment home?" Chloe hated leaving any of her film equipment in the car and I nodded understandingly. "Great, pick me up something warm and soup-like. Ooh and a dark bubbly caffeinated drink."
I opened the passenger side door of my borrowed car and plunked Simon inside.
"Woah. Nice wheels." He said when I got into the driver's seat.
"It's one of Clay's older cars." I said by way of explanation.
Clay liked fast cars, he argued that the traffic laws were set up by humans for humans and since he was not a human he shouldn't have to follow them. Unfortunately the law didn't agree with him, but he had a point. Werewolves have faster reflexes and therefore can safely drive faster than humans. So Clay had a lot of nice, fast cars around.
This month he was letting me borrow the 2003 maserati coupe and I definitely had a crush on it. The engine purred as we pulled out and Simon smiled at a group of girls whose eyes were fixed on the car.
It was good to see Simon smile, he hadn't really flirted with girls since meeting Savannah the year before. She had been the epitome of a 'bad girl' stereotype, her mother was a dark witch, her father was the son of a Cabal CEO and a sorcerer, she had a motorcycle and had a strong, dominant personality. She'd flirted a little with Simon, took his cell number and never called or even told Paige to say hi when she saw us.
That combined with the unexpected rejection from Chloe had put him on girl-hiatus. He hadn't dated in over a year and half—and two weeks had been the longest he'd gone single since he was twelve. When either Chloe or I asked him about it he'd blamed being behind in school from all the time he'd missed academically and how that and his senior project left him no free time for dating. Considering that I'd seen him juggle two girls—best friends who decided sharing him was better than neither or only one of them having him—take a small-town basketball team to the finals, and keep a 3.4 GPA, this was a bullshit excuse.
I suspected it had a lot to do with my relationship with Chloe. I didn't think Simon was still romantically interested in Chloe but it seemed hard for him to spend time with a girl who only saw him as a social trophy when Chloe and I had both killed for each other.
"How are the twins?" Simon asked, breaking me out of my thoughts.
"Fine, Clay's been teaching them basic stalking techniques. He tells them to follow Elena around the house and she in turn has been teaching them basic fighting skills by telling them to go kick Clay in the shins."
Simon laughed. "Sounds pretty entertaining. How was the meeting?"
He meant the Interracial Counsel meeting. Elena had been making me tag along with her or Jeremy, whoever was representing the werewolves that month. On my free days and every other weekend I'd been driving to Stonehaven and learning about werewolf history from Elena, Pack law and social structure from Jeremy and fighting from Clay. I'd gone from having no werewolf teachers to having three but spent the most time with Jeremy.
"Boring, the other supernaturals still don't know how to react to The Pack and so mostly ignore us which is a disastrous approach with Elena. She's talking with Paige about setting up a hotline for supernatural youth though and that's going to be really successful if it works." I paused, dismissing everything else at the meeting as unimportant. "How were things at home?" I asked. Leaving Chloe behind was definitely the hardest part about commuting to Stonehaven, luckily the drive was only an hour and a half long (the way I drove).
"Same old, Chloe was all mopey but has been so focused on her senior project that she doesn't really have time to pine. Dad's been super busy so we barely see him."
Chloe had been living with us whenever her father left town on business, so about 90% of the time. Since her dad insisted on paying rent and Paige had wanted a safe place for supernatural counsel representatives or displaced supernatural youth to stay in New York we'd ended up in a house nicer and more permanent than anything me, Simon or dad had ever lived in.
Our first real home.