Wyborn Lovat does not believe in coincidences. The teenager knew this day would arrive soon, however, it almost seems out of the blue. One moment he's merely mumbling to himself as he's fixing his bike in the garage, and the next it's a blur of Coraline clambering on top of him – "Practically Friday, practically Friiiday!" She's been chattering about them (her other friends – he needed to get used to this idea really) relentlessly all week. Because, to be simply frank, he never believed that they would ever set foot in Ashland. They're excuses for never visiting the town were quite impressive.

"Y'okay?"

They wait at the bus station and she is holding his hand, tracing circles in his palm with her thumb. The young boy struggles to focus on breathing (Miss Spink often said that calmed her nerves before going on the stage) but evidently fails.

"Did you ever wonder what it would be like to live in a bus station?" He clears his throat. "You could live on the vending machine food for maybe a few days but it'd probably ruin your digestive system. Then, like, the only thing you'd be able to do is drink the tainted water from the fountain before you lose all sanity. "

It's a moment before Coraline cackles and gives him a swift peck on the cheek. "You're lucky you're cute."

Yet, just as quickly, she releases his hand when her friends tumble out of the charter bus – "Loper! You cannot believe how shitty the ride was here. Man, the things we do for you!" – and only speaks to him a little while after the fact. Nine minutes and twenty-three seconds later to be precise.

"And who's this kid?" Parker gestures towards Wybie

Mavis laughs and nudges the blue-haired girl. "Got a boyfriend, huh, Cori?"

"Stop talking crazy. This is Wybie. He's just a friend."

The designation almost causes him to cringe – Just A. Friend – but perhaps that is all he is. Because while Wybie and Coraline are older, having shared a few secret kisses, sweaty palms, and lingering hugs, nothing else has quite changed. If things had changed, then maybe he would have spoken up instead of staring at his scuffed boots. If things had changed, he would have said something about Parker's arm wrapped around Jonesy. And, if things had truly, profoundly, and undeniably changed, then he would be wearing a different title.

He runs his fingers through his hair and stares past Parker's shoulder. "Uh, hey. What's up?"

And, thankfully, this is enough for him to get by during the rest of the day as they soon forget about him, shrouded in their own world of nostalgia and witticisms. He drives the childhood friends back to the Pink Palace Apartments, Grandma's decrepit Oldsmobile wheezing all the way, and endures another hour with them before promptly heading home to hide for the following weekend.

Cat simply shake its head in displeasure as Wybie fiddles with his bike and several odd tools. He's successfully avoided Coraline and her ghosts of friendships past for two and a half days.

"What?" Wybie twirls a wrench between his fingers. "If you're going to hang out with me, the least you can do is, like, actually help."

He's able to finish his homework, give Grandma her medicine, and curl on the lumpy sofa to watch a documentary on extinct insects before the doorbell rings. Twelve steps and two cleared throats later, he finds himself on the porch, hands stuffed into his pockets, with a talkative Coraline.

"Anyway you had to be there – Mr. Bobinsky was so funny. I mean, I wish you were there. I haven't seen you at all and Mavis's been asking about you. Not like in a weird way or something but whatever." She finally pauses and her brown eyes look at him expectantly. "You should come with us tonight. There're a couple of some really cool bands that'll be playing."

Wybie shakes his head. A peculiar feeling is blossoming in his chest and he isn't quite sure what to do. "Nah, I don't – I mean, I'm pretty tired."

"Wyborn."

"What? I am. I have a life, too, you know. I do a lot of stuff."

"Never said you didn't."

"Well…" he needs to do something with his hands so he rubs the back of his neck. "Great."

"Perfect."

"Fantastic?"

"Splendid."

And Wybie can't help but chuckle as he crosses his arms and leans against the door frame just as Coraline leans towards him. Her fingers fiddle with the hem of his worn shirt and she is rather close enough that he can count her eyelashes if he really wanted to (he wants to).

However, the young girl jumps back when her friends shout her name - "Where are you! - alarmingly near.

"Later?" Coraline runs down the steps and glances back at him once more.

He tilts his head. "…Later."


A/N: Whew, yeah, I suck at updating. But, we're almost done!