Authors note: Uggggggh, I hated writing this. It was damn hard to write, as obvious probably by how long it took me to write - and I am not convinced that it isn't complete shite. I hope you aren't all disappointed with me for taking so long to update, writers block is horrible, especially when exasperated by completely hating what you are writing. But I'm looking forward to the next chapter so hopefully things will be better from their on out.
Lila, perhaps unsurprisingly, wasn't a huge fan of silence at the best of times. At times like this however, she found it almost excruciatingly painful. She and Marcus were walking silently home, along the dark country road that lead back into town. Predictably, he'd wanted to drive and Lila had been forced to wrestle the keys off of him, as was part of their party ritual. But tonight she'd sensed that his heart wasn't in it. They hadn't said goodbye to anyone, Lila had just followed behind Marcus as he'd gathered their bags and they'd set off into the night.
Marcus in silence wasn't a good sign. Like any typical boy when upset he tended to withdraw into his shell and ignore the problem at hand. Right now Lila got the distinct sense that Marcus viewed her as the problem. She weathered the silence for another five minutes until the light of the town began to glow in the distance and then she decided enough was enough. If they made it to her house, Lila knew Marcus would drop her off and then… God knows. Probably go after Eden to avenge her defiled honor. That was the last thing she needed to deal with.
Grabbing his arm, Lila dug in her heels and pulled him to a stop. It was easier than it should have been, so Lila took that as a sign that somewhere inside him he must have wanted to talk as well. Or maybe not, she conceded when he turned to face her with a glare.
She dropped her hand from his forearm and wrapped her hands around her waist, only then realizing she was still wearing the peacoat Eden had given her. Though it seemed a little past the point at this stage, she still shrugged it off of her shoulders and onto the ground. It hit the dirt with a soft thud, a tiny cloud of dust rising around it and Lila watched as Marcus's eyes darted down to watch it crumple with a tiny sneer of satisfaction.
"I just thought you might want to… talk about what happened back there." His eyes snapped back to her, face going blank as he did so.
"Jesus Lila, what did happen back there?" If he'd sounded angry, Lila could have dealt with that. Anger was hot, sharp and quickly finished with in this town. But the raw hurt in his voice was much harder to deal with.
"I don't know," she began, not really knowing how she was going to finish the sentence. As it happened that was moot because he cut her off long before she had a chance to complete it.
"You don't know? How can you not know? First of all you go off to pee, even though I know how you feel about peeing in public, and then you just disappear for like fifteen minutes! So I think to myself, 'hey Marcus be a good pseudo boyfriend and go look for her, she's drunk and maybe she's hurt herself!' And I find you fucking humping the biggest cocksman in the business, the guy who let's not forget, you have spent the past twenty-fucking-four hours ensuring me you think is the scum of the earth!"
Ah, there was the anger. Lila thrust her hands into her hair, groaning loudly in frustration as she stared off towards the town, unable to face looking at Marcus and his increasingly puce, enraged face. Now that he'd let out the bottled anger, he couldn't seem to stop the stream of vitriol pouring from his lips. He began to pace in a circle, like a caged animal testing the boundaries of its bars, muttering about 'fucking girls' and 'council members taking what wasn't theirs.'
"Marcus stop!" Lila finally shouted, unable to take it anymore. "I didn't mean to uhm, kiss –"
"Yeah okay, hump. I didn't mean to… hump him, as you say. I literally just went out there to pee," it was only a small lie in the grand scheme of things to stick to that story, "and he showed up and we were talking and then... it just happened. It's like he mesmerized me with his werewolf mind tricks or something!"
Marcus snorted, rolling his eyes as if that was the most ridiculous thing he'd ever heard.
"Werewolf mind tricks? Lila that's not a thing. You know what I hate most about that guy? That he's not even, I mean he's not even a nice guy! He just swans around being French and an asshole and wearing those tight jeans things and girls drop their panties at his feet. No one ever drops their panties at my feet. I'm cool! Right? I'm a great guy Lila! And I'm hot you know? I mean, I have options."
It was the worst possible timing for Lila to get the giggles, and for what might be the first time in her life she actually clamped a hand over her mouth to try and push the laughter back into her mouth, but it was too no avail. Hearing Marcus rant about the lack of panties being dropped at his feet was too funny to keep a straight face about. Although judging from the daggers he threw at her while she succumbed to a fully blown fit of laughter, he didn't agree.
When the giggles finally subsided she held her hands up in front of her in the 'peace, cease fire' sign, still trying to catch her breath.
"I," a pause to suck some much needed air into her lungs before she continued, "I know Marcus. You're a babe, a total catch. Is that what this is about? You're jealous of all the play Eden gets?"
He grunted in response, folding his arms stubbornly across his chest.
"Seriously? That is not a trait to be jealous of. Meaningless sex with beautiful women is not quite the lifetime achievement How I Met Your Mother paints it out to be. You're a way better guy than that."
"Maybe I don't want to be a better guy than that Lila! I'm an eighteen year old boy! All I think about is sex. I mean seriously, I am furious with you and I still can't stop thinking about the way your tits were jiggling in your top while you were laughing at me! Meaningless sex with beautiful women sounds pretty good to me right now!"
Lila had never had Marcus talk like that before and was shocked, instinctively pulling her shirt a little higher up on her chest to cover more cleavage.
"Marcus that's gross."
"What? That I was staring at your tits?" You love it Lila." When she would have protested he cut her off, throwing his hand into a fist and pointing at her accusingly. "Don't try to deny it; you love the attention I give you. You know how much I want you and you just love it. You keep me just close enough that I think, oh I might have a chance with her, and then if I step beyond your invisible boundary you push me away."
Lila wished his words weren't true, but she knew they were, at least a little. It cast her in the worst possible light, a cock tease who taunted her best friend with the idea of a relationship because it felt good to be loved and wanted. Was she doing it purposefully? To be honest… a little bit. It wasn't malicious, or wasn't meant to be, and she felt horrible that she'd been hurting Marcus. But everybody wanted to feel good about themselves and Marcus lavishing all that attention made her feel so wanted and loved. Lila honestly hadn't meant to hurt him, she'd thought they were both just venting their pent up sexual frustration on each other, but now that she reflected back on it the signs that Marcus's feelings ran a little deeper than just flirtation were all there.
"I'm so sorry Marcus, I just thought that we both liked flirting with each other. I thought it was just… fun."
Marcus turned and came to a halt, finally ceasing his frenetic pacing, his face completely shutting down. As fast and as furiously as his anger had come it was suddenly gone. His face had reverted back to its natural state, a lax and easy smile and calm eyes. He thrust his hands into his pockets and shrugged, shaking his head softly as he did so.
"I do like flirting with you. Let's just drop it okay? I really don't want to talk about this anymore, I'm too drunk and I'm just going to say more stupid things if we keep talking about it. It's fine."
Lila could tell that things weren't fine, instead of dealing with what was bothering Marcus had retreated into his shell as usual. He had this idea in his head that while it was alright for other people to have emotions and feelings, it wasn't okay for him to be the same. It was as if he was scared of people seeing him as human, like he wanted people to believe he was so strong and perfect that the everyday problems other people faced didn't affect him. Although Lila loved so many aspects of Marcus's personality, including how strong he was and his incredible ability to be there for her, the fact that he was so emotionally distant constantly bothered her. Not so much because it affected her, more because she worried about what bottling everything real that he felt was doing to him. It had to be hard to shoulder the burdens of life all by yourself, Lila imagined it must get overwhelming sometimes.
"Marcus, we can talk about this, it's okay if you're angry."
"No it's fine, I was overreacting."
Much like many girls Lila knew, when Marcus said things were 'fine', things were definitely not fine.
"Come on; it's getting late, let's get home."
He smiled, jerking his head in the direction of town and stooping to pick up the coat that Eden had dropped. He paused to brush some of the dirt off of it, but it was really a lost cause until the poor thing got to a laundry. Lila frowned, biting down on her bottom lip nervously. She didn't want to leave this issue of her inexplicable attraction to Eden hanging between them like a shroud, but equally if he didn't want to talk about it, Lila wasn't exactly sure how she could force him.
"Are you… sure?"
"I'm sure darling. So what do you think about Gina and Sam?"
She sighed, pulling the coat from Marcus's hands and sliding her arms back into it. She was still cold, and if Marcus wouldn't admit it bothered him to see her wearing it, then damnit she was going to be warm. They turned in one fluid motion and fell into step beside each other as they walked the short distance back into town. Lila really hated when Marcus did this, she would never understand how he could apparently just put his feelings on hold and be alright, purely through the power of telling himself he was.
As for herself, she tended to dwell. Fights like this would niggle at her for days afterwards as she would dissect each and every word that they'd both said, analyzing why each statement had been made and all the possible connotations of every insult. She already knew that what she'd take away from this fight was a constant uncomfortable feeling that Marcus was looking at her breasts and an aching worry that he might have thought she was a whore.
Under the soft glow of the street lights, Lila snuck a glance at Marcus to check how he was doing. He seemed alright, a slight smile painted on his face and apparently happy to ignore their fight in favor of placing bets on how long until Sam made his move, but Lila had always known that just because he seemed fine didn't mean that he wasn't hurting on the inside. Or did it? Lila couldn't remember the last time she'd felt so emotionally closed off from Marcus and it wasn't a good feeling. She'd always worked hard to be a good friend, but maybe she'd been fooling herself all these years and in the end she was just as bad as her sister and mother. They always said that the apple didn't fall far from the tree, maybe she was just a selfish, cock-teasing, rotten apple. The thought was enough put her into a cold sweat.
Shifting infinitesimally closer to him, Lila slipped her hand into his and was reassured when he didn't shrug her off but instead gave her a slight squeeze and held fast to her, his calloused fingers enveloping her own.
"Marcus you know I love you."
When she cut him off half way through his proclamation that it would be months or possibly years before Sam would admit he had feelings for her, Marcus shrugged, Adam's apple bobbing as he swallowed nervously. When he turned his head away to stare at the houses as they walked past, Lila wasn't offended. She knew that he found confrontation difficult and best dealt with it by pretending he couldn't see the person he was with.
"Not in the way that I feel about you though, right?"
She winced, taking a deep breath as she contemplated her reply.
"I've never… tried."
It was Marcus's turn to wince now. He nodded his head, mulling over this information slowly.
"I could try though?" Lila suggested, seriously wanting to make things right with Marcus in any way possible. She didn't know that she didn't love him; maybe if she really forced herself to try they could make things work. Marcus had been the one constant presence in her life that had always loved her for who she was. Didn't she owe him at least trying? Even as she thought it, a voice in her head moaned that it was a horrible idea.
"Lila, darling, you shouldn't have to try to want to be with me me. That's not how it works."
"How do you know though? Life isn't chick flicks or a Harlequin romance Marcus, in real life love is something you have to work at." She steeled herself, pulling herself up straight as she made her mind up. "You're the most important thing in my life, if you want me to try I will." She meant it too. Lila could almost feel Marcus slipping away from her and knew that this was one of the moments that could make or break them. She couldn't stand the idea of losing him and if being in a relationship was what he wanted, then for him she could try.
He shook his head, slipping his hand out from hers.
"Lila, do you realize that you winced when you said that? I was watching and you actually physically winced. I'm not trying to force you to be with me; I love you too much as a friend for that. But fuck Lila, you deserve better than that asshole."
The fact that he was being so patient and sweet with her was most probably supposed to make her feel better, but instead she was vaguely horrified to find tears pricking at the backs of her eyelids. She sniffed them back, refusing to let them escape. She wasn't that girl, and she didn't use tears as a magical tool to emotionally manipulate men.
She nodded, biting down hard on her bottom lip. She was deathly afraid that if she opened her mouth it would act as a gateway and the tears would spill out like a dam. It would be so much easier if she felt something more for Marcus, if there was any way to make herself fall in love with him, she would. He seemed to understand and didn't push her for a response, sighing gently and draping his arm over her shoulders. He pulled her down the street until they reached her house, their footsteps the only sound echoing through the streets. The walk gave her time to collect herself, and by the time they reached the front porch she was no longer struggling to hold back tears.
In unspoken synchronicity they turned and sat on the porch step, Marcus thrusting his hands into his pockets and Lila curling her arms around her knees. She leant against him, dropping her tired head onto his shoulder. It had been a long, confusing few days and Lila wanted nothing more than to forget about them. She wished she'd never agreed to lock up the video store, never ran into Desrosier and certainly never done whatever it was to bring herself to his attention.
After a few seconds, she reached into her bag and rummaged around until she found a cigarette. She normally wouldn't smoke so close to the house, but there was nothing like a stressful conversation about having awkward and unwanted feelings to bring out a desperate need to chain smoke. It was probably a placebo effect, but even by the second puff she was feeling more relaxed.
"I'm not… I mean I'm not going to be with him. I know he's a cun- look I don't like him. My inner feminist is enraged at how much I enjoy his macho bullshit. And I really don't like how good I think he smells or how I can't stop this obsessive voice in my head saying 'google him! Ask people about him! His eyes are so pretty!' And I hate how much it's hurting you."
Marcus nodded, screwing up his face only slightly at her admission. The nodding seemed mechanical, not something he was doing consciously, and definitely not a sign he agreed with what she was saying. Eventually he swore, quietly but still loud enough that she could hear it. A second later he repeated it, louder this time and with more purpose. Pulling his hands roughly out of his pockets he pushed them into his hair, bending over until his forehead rested on his knees.
Lila's eyes widened as she watched him, wondering what she could have said to get him so agitated. She'd just been trying to explain to him exactly how much she didn't want to be in this situation, in her head at least it hadn't sounded particularly inflammatory. Then again, considering his confession as they'd walked home, hearing about her feelings for another man – no matter how unwilling – probably wasn't that welcome. Had she been protesting too much? She mentally replayed all the time she'd spent in the past few days telling people that she didn't like Desrosier. Now that she thought back on it… she wondered who she'd really been trying to convince.
He was still muttering to himself, rocking ever so slightly back and forth and tapping his forehead against his knees like he was beating himself against a wall. Lila decided the best course of action was to just let him be, taking another drag off her cigarette and gently placing her free hand on his back, rubbing back and forth. Finally he stopped, slowly turning his head to face her.
"You," he began slowly; as if each word pained him, "think he smells good?"
That was what had him so upset? Lila knew this wasn't the time to slap him upside the head and tell him off for being an idiot, but Marcus was really making it difficult to resist the urge.
"Umm yeah, is that really something to get this worked up about?" Flicking the ash off of the end of her cigarette, Lila settled for raising a solitary eyebrow at him.
"What does he smell like Lila?"
Lila thought back, trying to capture in words that lingering, vaguely spicy smell that she'd already come to associate with Desrosier.
"Like ginger and Christmas."
Marcus sighed, pulling himself back up to a normal sitting position. Hands still thrust through his hair, he leaned back and sighed.
"I was really hoping you'd say aftershave."
"Aftershave smells terrible Marcus. We've talked about this."
"You're fucked Lila. And I just mean that in so many ways."
"What're you talking about? Lots of people smell good, it doesn't mean anything."
Lila stood, walking out to the curb and tossing the glowing embers of her cigarette into the gutter. By the time she made it back to her place on the stoop Marcus was looking a lot calmer. He'd even managed a smile. Once she sat down, he idly picked up her hand, playing the digits between his fingers, taking each one and examining it in turn. Finally he lifted it to his face and gently sniffed at her.
"You smell like lavender and chocolate brownies, did you know that?" He asked, flicking his eyes up from the palm of her hand to her face. Lila nodded, remembering Desrosier saying something of that effect while he'd been trying to seduce her in the bathroom. "I could maybe tell you what every person I know smells like; it's just part of being a wolf, our nose is one of the ways we make sense of the world." He lowered their intertwined hands to his lap, keeping a loose hold on her like she might run at any moment. She looked at him questioningly, waiting for the point when what he was talking about would make sense.
"Knowing what people smell like isn't part of being human: scent isn't as important to your kind so you just don't notice."
"Yeah… where are you going with this Marcus?"
"Lila, come on. You know what he smells like!"
"It's not my fault he smells amazing!"
Marcus laughed, and Lila felt herself growing irrationally pissed off at him and almost wishing he'd just go back to sulking. But he apparently wasn't ready to explain himself just yet, still enjoying lording his secret over her.
"You know, the good thing about being wolf is that the fact that you don't feel the same way about me doesn't hurt that much. I want you: yes. And I've devoted some serious thought to what we could do together, but it's not that bad knowing it's not going to happen. You know why?"
Lila shook his head, frowning as she wondered how this linked to the conversation about how Desrosier smelled. Frustrated, she blindly reached for another cigarette and lit it, lifting the tiny stick of catharsis to her face and letting the Zen wash over her.
"We're not mates." Marcus nimbly pulled the cigarette from her fingers and took a drag, making a little face as he exhaled the smoke. Lila looked at him, surprised that he'd even try to smoke. She'd never met a wolf who smoked; they had such delicate senses that the smell and taste of all the noxious chemicals within was far too strong for them. "It always seems to calm you down when you have bad news; I just thought I'd try. But that's fucking horrible Lila." Lila made a sound of annoyance and snatched it back from him, muttering something that sounded suspiciously akin to 'fuck you' under her breath.
"Wolves can usually recognize their mates when they meet them. Not like humans. Humans – well you guys don't think you have mates, which is why you all ignore the signs and end up with the wrong person so much of the time. But there're always signs. Male wolves for example, will become intensely fixated on their mates when they first scent them – that's when the pheromone attractant is at its strongest."
He paused to shrug as if this was just everyday information she should have just known. Perhaps if the wolves in Grey Falls didn't go to such lengths to keep the human residents out of wolf business, it would be. But no, whilst they might have known far more about the secret world of werewolves than the average human (ie nothing), the wolves kept them in the dark as much as possible. Lila had often compared their secrecy around wolf mating rituals as similar to scientologists and their entire world.
"It can make the males behave, well, kind of like assholes. It's hard enough having a voice inside your head, let alone one that threatens to take over your body and start ripping people to shreds for even thinking about touching their female. And it's worse with a human-wolf mating because even though the human is feeling the same things… you don't automatically recognize them for what they are so you just keep going on with your lives as normal. Remember how Eden threatened to cull me if I made a move on you?"
The bottom of Lila's stomach dropped out from underneath her as it all suddenly became horribly clear where Marcus was going with this. Her cigarette dropped unnoticed from between her fingers onto the sidewalk and she felt the blood drain out of her face.
"No. Whatever you're about to say, I want you to just shut that –"
"I think you're his mate Lila."