So I've been "working" on this a while. A good old-fashioned fix fic, built on... you can guess. A few days ago, I realized I wasn't far from a contiguous, if not coherent, half-story. (I say "half"; going over my outline, it'll have to be in three parts to have any semblance of pacing.) Since I've been going at it on and off for the past two years, I thought actually posting something might motivate me to finish the rest. If you must respond, be savage. Please.
She ran out of the dressing room, a shopping bag in one arm. Shoes! I need new shoes, she thought.
Somewhere, she heard Kade's voice, apologizing to Layla (surprise) "for whatever." She turned. When she saw him, somehow, she found something endearing in his remorse, something endearingly vulnerable. Something... captivating. Something... hot? "K-Kade?"
"Oh, hey - it's the short-haired beauty!" he said as he turned to her.
"Uh... so you're here with Layla?"
"Welll... I think we might've broken up again. Apparently I need to learn to kiss better." A smile came to his lips, as the ramifications of his "apparent" breakup with Layla seemed to sink in. "Sayyy..."
She wanted to. She didn't know why, but she wanted to. But she didn't want to want to. She wasn't ready, that much she knew. I'm gay! she tried to blurt out. A week or two ago, she'd have thought it true. But she couldn't. The best she could do was: "I don't kiss boys!"
Kade came closer. "Ever tried?"
At that he paused. She could tell he wasn't going to ask directly, but she could also tell he didn't want to feel he was forcing her. He wanted to give her an opportunity to back out. Part of her wanted to take it, and part of her didn't; as those two parts of her fought, she felt his finger on her chin.
A particular ginger human clasped her arms for dear life at the top of the chest of a wolfgirl ostensibly in her care, running as fast as preternatural lycan legs could carry the two of them. Brooke took up the rear, hissing at pursuers she was certain were long gone. Another hundred meters and they could regroup.
When Brooke was safely out of sight, Ace stopped, Twigitt still holding on. Only when Twigitt saw Brooke walk back, human, haggard, barely covered by her torn shirt, did she know it was probably safe to let go. Ace must have had the same thought, becoming human again, already ill-fitting boys' clothes torn in the worst places by lycan stature sitting loosely on the body of a teenage girl.
Twigitt looked over the two panting teens, harrowed and practically naked in the wilderness.
"Well - that was fun!" she "exclaimed" in the antithesis of a stage whisper, exuberant timbre hiding a low objective volume. Her companions glared at her.
"And don't worry, Ace. I'll have you back, just like last time."
"You had nothing to do wi-!" screamed Brooke, until the echo made her remember their situation. "You had nothing to do with that. Either of them."
"Well, I helped us better understand what did happen."
"...let's just go," came Ace's voice.
"He's..." Brooke trailed off before continuing, "he's right. We're still not safe here, even in human form. We need to find somewhere to get... er... changed."
Ace nodded. "Right. Let's go."
Twigitt moved closer to Ace. "I want you to know, I am confident. Think of what happened last time as proof-of-concept, even if I wasn't directly involved."
Ace gave a nervous laugh. "Professor, your track record..." The smile the laugh had birthed became one aggressive in its overt dishonesty. "Please don't."
Once that was said, Brooke saw the malice fade from Ace's smile, and it became to her eyes sorrowful. Brooke put an arm around her friend.
"Hey, don't worry. It's 'not your first tango,' right? Not a huge deal."
Ace's expression did not change except for a brief downward glance that caused Brooke to realize that raising her arm had exposed her loins. She quickly withdrew it, and Ace looked into her eyes, the sad smile becoming a more neutral expression, which somehow to Brooke looked happier. "It's still not safe, Brooke. We better get somewhere that is."
Twigitt, it turned out, had been suspiciously prepared for this eventuality - at least, the eventuality of the three of them needing a safehouse. The safehouse was a street or two from the edge of the woods, the loft of an apothecary's in a row of quaint little shops. It was just far enough that their pursuers, had they tracked them this far, would be lost in the chaotic residues of daytime foot traffic, and just crowded enough to make the search impractical, but neither to such an extent that this far that this late the three couldn't make a sprint for the door in relative safety and ignominy.
As for the other eventuality that had come to light that night, however, while the safehouse was stocked with spare clothes, there were only girls' clothes in Brooke's size and boys' in what had been Ace's. It was fortunate that Twigitt, presumably in an effort to pretend that this safehouse had been prepared for general emergencies and not that particular night going haywire, had stocked multiples of each (and no others). Twigitt played innocent as she got them out.
"I don't have anything in your size, Ace - I hope you understand."
"...rather well," Ace said.
"Great!" said Twigitt.
Brooke quietly went off to dress in the bathroom, leaving Ace the bedroom. She spent a good five minutes in the bathroom fully dressed, waiting to hear a stirring that told her Ace had gone back to the main room before leaving. Brooke reentered the main room quick on Ace's heels to find Twigitt waiting for them.
"All right, girls - I've got a car about a block from here."
"Of course you do," said Brooke.
"I'll bring it around," Twigitt continued, ignoring her. "Two seconds."
Mr. Wolfhart looked out his window as Twigitt drove up and saw a girl - his daughter - exit the car in ill-fitting clothing. He tilted his head in puzzlement, at the same time, smiling at the fact he had his little Acina back. He watched his daughter walk down the path, shaking slightly, and went to the door to greet her.
Professor Twigitt, seeing a wolf open the door, rolled down the passenger window to wave. Ace's father waved back, hiding slightly behind the door. It was indeed irrational, inasmuch as given all the times moon madness had led him to throw caution to the wind, anyone who might give a damn must have already known. Still, he didn't step out all the way.
"Good night, Mr. Wolfhart!"
"Good night, Professor!" the wolf bellowed.
Mr. Wolfhart saw his little girl continue down the path, shaking slightly less, but shaking still.
"Come in, come in," he bellowed; "come on, the neighbors," he said in a stage whisper.
Ace at that stepped a bit faster, entering the Wolfharts' home, and the elder Wolfhart closed the door. Wolfhart turned to his daughter with a smile.
"So... I see you changed your mind."
"It... wasn't exactly my decision..."
"...Twigitt's friends... I don't know... they aimed something at Brooke and me, and the next thing I know, we were running through the woods, she was all snakey, and I was..."
Ace gave a brief look straight down.
"Will you stay this way?" asked Mr. Wolfhart.
"I... I don't know. Twigitt says she'll work on it, but honestly, I... well... I just don't know."
"Hey... you don't have to know," said Mr. Wolfhart with a smile that made Ace wince slightly. He pulled his Acina into an embrace.
The next morning, a Friday, Brooke woke up to her alarm. Instinctively, she checked her phone: a text from her girlfriend - "Are you awake?" - long after she'd fallen asleep. Apologies would be forthcoming.
As she stepped into the shower, her thoughts suddenly turned to Ace, waking up in a body so alien. She thought of the first time she'd slept at someone else's house, and immediately put it out of her head as an absurdly petty comparison. But Ace... he must be...
Shock it must have remained, it couldn't have been to Ace what it had been that first night, she told herself. That first night... she shivered.
As she showered, her thoughts involuntarily turned back to Layla's slumber party, her body and Ace's... well, current body... in full view of one another, and her thoughts again turned to that awkward first night those months ago. Some time sooner, his body would have been new to him as to her. For her to see... even that body in the mirror, let alone if she had been... eurgh. She shuddered, nicking her leg.
But he must be doing all right. Every morning... "tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow..." for however many weeks it was... and now... but he must be doing all right. He had indeed done this "tango" before, and that time it had seemed fairly likely it would be for life. This time, they knew better.
At school that morning, Kade stood in the hall, a particular fairy standing against him, making circles on his chest. "You'll meet me tonight, won't you?"
"No annoying jiniri who might have gotten in our way?"
Kade smirked. "I couldn't say. Would such a being have a name?"
Cessily have his chest a light punch, a badly-hidden smirk belying her feigned indignation.
"You've already made plans with her, haven't you?"
"No, but everything I know of you two tells me that she's right behind me."
"Bite your tongue!" said Cessily, even as Kade turned his head to see Laura, her head brightly aflame.
"If you don't want to bite your tongue, how about I lick your teeth?" asked Laura, no hint of kindness in her expression, a torch made of her hand. She pressed her hand to his face, causing him to recoil with a high whimper. Lighting her other hand, she turned to Cessily. "Just makes you melt, doesn't he?" she asked, running her torch-hands up and down in the air surrounding her friend's body.
"Cool it," said Cessily, grabbing one of Laura's hands in both her own, covering it in a frost that quickly killed the flame. The frost ran up her arm, over her head, putting out the flame there as well, and down her other arm, her legs, her entire body. When the frost radiating from Laura's hand had actually begun to cause her to shiver, Cessily let it go.
Kade watched all this in an amorous amusement. There had been a time when Laura cooking Cessily would have been enough to prompt his intervention, but he'd long since learned better than to get involved in their shenanigans. Harrowing enough to be involved with them, without getting involved between them. Once Laura had rubbed her hands a bit, both girls turned to him with daggers in their eyes.
The question in their eyes, the one Kade had heard so many times over the past few months, didn't need to be asked, so they didn't ask it. They simply stared at him, daring him to take note as he stubbornly pretended they were still fighting. When it had become obvious to all that it was now indeed obvious to all that it had long been obvious to all the tension in the silence, Kade narrowed his eyes in a wordless acknowledgment of the unspoken ultimatum. It was another twenty seconds or so before the girls broke the silence in unison.
Kade found his answer - and the escape he'd been looking for - in a familiar short-haired beauty in the distance. "Just a moment, girls."
"Uh... hi, Kade," said Ace, hoping Kade would remember what he'd found out the hard way the last time they'd flirted like this.
"So... learned to kiss boys?"
"N-not really..." Somehow, Ace was beet red.
"Ready to give it another try?" Kade asked, lightly brushing Ace's cheek.
Ace opened up as if to say "no," but nothing came out. Rather, after a pause came the question, "you remember what happened the last time you hit on me, right?"
Kade chuckled. "I certainly do. But you don't think that'll happen again, will it?"
"...it might!" said Ace, in a not-at-all verisimilar tone that only caused Kade to laugh a bit more.
"Are you expecting it?"
"...no." Ace took a deep breath, heart a thousand beats per minute. "You do realize who I am, right?"
"Of course I do, Ace."
"And... and that doesn't bother you?"
"Why would it? You're a girl now, aren't you?"
"And for the foreseeable future?"
Ace paused again. "...foreseeable, yeah."
"Then I don't mind. (Not like that doodyhead Ash.) I know you. I like you, both of you. And you - you're beautiful."
This time, it was Ace who drew Kade into a kiss, if only to beat him to it. It was Ace who broke the kiss, as well.
"Well, well," said Kade. "I'll see you tonight."
"S-sure," said Ace. "Where?"
"That swimsuit from the mall - do you still have it?"
Ace smirked. "I thought cats hated water."
"Call it an acquired taste."
Ace fidgeted with a sleeve. "Where?"
"The lake? Let's say four-thirty"
Kade laughed. "Sure, why not? High of seventeen tomorrow, and it'll be six or so before it really starts to cool; I've been down in much colder weather."
Ace smiled and shrugged. "I might as well."
With that, Kade headed for some faraway room he probably had to be in, pointedly ignoring the rage smoldering and sublimating in his wake, a wake whose foam couldn't help but find Ace's shores. Cessily marched up first.
"So," said the fairy.
"So Kade would rather have a boy than either of us."
"I'm not... really... a boy, anymore..."
"Oh, don't give me that."
Laura tapped her on the shoulder. "Come on... he's not worth it. He'll be back soon enough. And even if he isn't... we're both better than he is."
Cessily looked into Ace's eyes. "You're right."
The two of them went off together, Laura giving Ace a dirty look just in case her intent had been misconstrued.
Ace must have forgotten that Twigitt had been planning to spend that afternoon poking and prodding both Ace and, as a control, Brooke, to see what had happened and how perhaps to reverse it. The alternative, that Ace might have genuinely thought Twigitt would have been satisfied within an hour, was too absurd to contemplate. Nonetheless, when the clock struck four, Brooke heard her fellow test subject's voice.
"Will this take much longer? I sort of have a date."
I can't have heard that right, thought Brooke. "Yes. Yes, it will," she said, beating Twigitt to the punch.
"It will," said Twigitt. "If you don't think you can stay..."
"Never mind that - a date?"
Ace nodded, avoiding Brooke's gaze. "Kade."
"Yeah. Kade," Ace replied to Brooke's exclamation.
"Why Kade?" asked Brooke.
"What's wrong with Kade?" asked Ace in response.
"He's Kade!" said Brooke. "You lectured me on Kade, remember?" She waited for some reaction from Ace, and getting none, continued. "Look - you know what he wants."
"No 'maybe' about it! Ask Laura. Ask Cessily. Ask the football team."
"Layla knew - knows - how to play with fire without getting burnt. Trust me. She doesn't count."
"Laura can't play with fire?" Ace asked with a grin.
"You know what I mean. You know what you're getting into."
They stood in silence for a moment before Ace spoke, if only to cut off Twigitt. "M-maybe that's what I want?"
"Which 'you'?" asked Brooke without missing a beat.
"Me me," Ace replied as quickly.
"The 'you' that's suddenly obsessed with shopping and fashion?"
"If... if that's the me I am."
Brooke put a hand on Ace's shoulder, and they exchanged a cold, but intense stare.
"Fine," Brooke said, "make this mistake. But don't wreck Professor Twigitt's tests to make it."
"Actually... kids?" said Twigitt, "it's not a big deal, really. You can both come in for a few hours tomorrow, right?"
"I actually had plans with my girlfriend pretty much all day tomorrow... and Sunday," Brooke lied, hoping to twist the screws on Ace. She'd maybe had some vague intention to meet up with her, but she felt obligated to call attention to the stupidity and thoughtlessness Ace was proudly holding up on display.
"Okay, that's fine," said Twigitt, "from what I've seen so far, Wolfhart is more or less stable, so we can all start fresh on Monday. Enjoy your weekend!"
Brooke watched through narrowed eyes as Ace walked out ahead of her. Once certain they were no longer within earshot of one another, Brooke sighed, to no obvious reaction from the professor. Well, she thought, I guess now I should actually make plans...
An hour or so later, Kade treaded water, waiting for his date on the beach to join him. The halting creep Ace employed to this end was so delectably cute, Kade's urge to shout "just dash in - it'll be over faster" found itself swiftly and deeply buried. The beautiful hesitancy had to end eventually, however, and it did so when the water level reached hip deep, its swift climb up Ace's swimsuit prompting a shriek and a mad dash for the shore.
Kade swam after his date, who now displayed a captivating shiver of adorable agony. Once he got close, Ace grabbed onto him for warmth, only to jump back with a yelp.
"You're colder than I am!"
"It's only skin deep," said Kade, reaching for Ace's hand, which was offered. He took it in both his own, warming them to a point of equilibrium. Seeing a smile, Kade gave Ace a kiss, which he could see was not unwelcome. He put his arms around Ace, who embraced him in return.
"Let's sit down," said Kade.
They sat down.
"So..." said Ace, "...why me?"