Jo was an hour and three beers in and had barely made a dent in her math homework. study guide. thing. Granted, half of that time had been spent moping at the dining table, but hey, she still deserved an A for effort.

She eventually threw in the towel and texted Alex to bully her into helping because underground crime lords had to be good at math and statistics and stuff, right? Definitely.

And she was still moping when Alex knocked on her door. "Come in!" she called, unwilling to budge from where she lay with her chin propped up on crossed arms, half laying across the table,


 The king hath said to cometh in, so the lady cameth in, keys still hanging from her index finger as she nudged the door shut behind her with the toe of her boot. She tried to compose herself into something akin to a slight annoyance, but in reality she welcomed the bat signal that Jo had sent up - it got her out of the house, made her feel needed. Well ... wanted, at least, she had a sneaking suspicion that if push came to shove Jo could tackle her homework just fine.

 "I take it Ben was busy?" Smirking despite herself at the downtrodden posture of her friend, she went immediately towards the kitchen instead of settling at the table, crouched to look through the shelves and grab herself a beer. "First off ..." She raised a finger, a simple gesture to ask for a second as she used one of her miscellaneous keys to pop the cap off of her bottle. "What sort of math are we doing anyway?"

 She didn't consider herself a genius, didn't divulge the part where she didn't have a diploma or her GED - instead she moved to settle in beside Jo, pulled her chair in close. "Were you not paying attention in class or somethin'?"

Ben? Jo took that as a joke, given Alex's smirk, albeit one she totally missed. Was he good at math? Did he like beer? Ah well. She smiled weakly in response, but Alex was moving on anyway to rifle through her kitchen for a beer.

"Money and percentages and stuff." She sat up when Alex joined her—a little, at least, propping up her chin with a hand instead of pillowed on her folded arms.

"I was," Jo complained, feigning offense at the question. Or at least she'd tried to pay attention, to some degree of effectiveness. "I even took notes. I don't get why business 101 for dummies even has grades." She also didn't get why she'd ever thought this was a good idea! Shelling out actual money on a course at the community college that didn't even count for college credit (not that she aspired to a degree anyway), all to learn about money.

She also didn't get why she cared about grades for an ultimately inconsequential class, other than as a point of pride. Jo the coyote king was not about to bomb a beginner's class.

She stretched across the table with her free hand to drag her third beer closer to her, then sat up entirely to cradle it between both hands. "Also, hi. How are you?" she asked belatedly, only realizing in hindsight that maybe it'd been a little presumptuous to demand Alex's assistance. Or plead for her assistance, at any rate.

 Body language was a thing, and while generally speaking she put all her confidence in King Jo - this particular version of her wasn't rallying the charge per say. "Ah yes, the good ole' business language, money and percentages and stuff." She grinned all the same, sipped at her beer and made not of the small graveyard of beer bottles around her friend.

 "Well? Pass it all over and I'll let you know how far you need to doggy paddle to get out of shit creek." Offered her hand out flush on the table and snorting at the delayed and out of order question. "I'm already - in a pretty good mood all things considered, here to prove my limitless value yet again."

Jo moved her beer aside to pull the abandoned package of papers in front of her, but paused with her hand flat on top to level Alex a stern look. Or as stern as she could manage, which was not very. "This isn't coyote shit, this is friend shit, so you can't go telling everyone about how their boss is terrible at math."

Then she yielded, angling the papers toward Alex and removing her hand in favor of grabbing her beer again. She took one long sip to cover her mild discomfort.

The first sheet featured a short algebra equation (preceded by an ultimately irrelevant word problem):

73% * x = $89.21
(Expected Solution: $122.21)

And beneath, Jo's cramped handwriting.

            x = $21.89 / 73%

            * 0.73



 "Well, all shit is coyote shit when you're basically Bruce Wayne by day and Dingo-man by night." Deadpan as she dropped her smile and tried to shoot Jo back a close representation of her business face. "I won't tell anyone, because then everyone will know I'm the dumb ass that encouraged this." Cracking a smile as she slid the packet over and shifted to get comfortable in her chair.

 Hunched over, she bounced her foot under the table, one hand coming up to cradle the side of her head and rub at her scalp. "You fucked this." Well, yes, that was the whole reason for the phone call, unusually serious as she sipped at her beer and then slid the stack back across with a bit more flourish after a couple of minutes longer than she was proud of, "You switched $89.21 with $21.89, ding dong ... how much have you had to drink?"

Jo rolled her eyes at the DIngo-man comment, but she didn't refute it, even though she privately thought Superman would be the better comparison. None of the coyotes had grappling hooks after all.

She took a moment to drain the last of her beer, then slid it away to join the other two empties. "Three beers," she answered with a sheepish grin. "But I'd had zero when I gave up on that problem. It's the last page that gets a little dicey."

She propped her chin on her knuckles as she peered back down at the packet, nose scrunching a little while she processed, and then her brow scrunching too. "No, it says $21.89," she disagreed, but then uncertainty joined her scrunchy expression. "Oh." She grabbed her pencil where it'd rolled up against the beer bottles and scribbled out her earlier work, replacing it with:

$89.21, ding dong

"Okay, what about..." She took a moment to flip to the next page, then scooted it back over to Alex. The problem in question clearly delineated by a large question mark.

(Spoiler: she'd mixed up $12.00 and $21.00)

 Pleased with the tone set by the first question, one of competence, she slid the packet back over and squinted as she read over the problem once, twice. Okay - there was a pattern here. She cleared her throat, sipped her beer and decided that they had the sort of friendship in which the straight and narrow approach felt like the safest bet.

 "For once in my life Jo, I'm really not trying to be a cock - are you dyslexic? Flip the two and the one ..." Serious as she turned the stack around and pushed it back across the table.

Despite Alex's assurance that she wasn't trying to be a cock, Jo immediately assumed she was just giving her shit. "No?"

Still, she grudgingly crossed out her previous answer and quickly worked through the problem once more, swapping the numbers as indicated. And came up with the wrong answer again -- except no, there it was. Refocusing on the blocked off "expected solution" and seeing the number differently than before.

Alright. "Alright." She stood abruptly to grab another pair of beers from the fridge, worked off their caps, and then flopped back into her chair and handed one to Alex, even if she hadn't finished her first.

 "Dude ..." She laughed a little, less amused and more surprised as she drummed her hands on the thighs of her pants and tilted her head to shoot Jo a knowing look. As if there was a secret to be kept, something she had been let in on, don't kid a kidder. "I think you're dyslexic ... unless you're lying about how many beers you've had, in which case - rude, I thought we were past judgement." Well, she hoped they were past judgement was more like it - at least after all the things she had taken upon herself to divulge.

 When Jo returned, drinks in hand, she downed the remainder of her first beer before getting up from the table and pulling her chair round to settle in side by side. "Anything else screwing with you? ... You know I won't say anything one way or the other, right?"

With Alex seated beside her, Jo leaned into the other coyote, a light, anchoring touch of shoulders to satisfy both her and her beast's needy asses. "Nah, I know." She'd heard enough of Alex's damage to safely assume she wasn't about to judge or go blabbing Jo's.

She took a breath to speak but then stopped, brow wrinkled as she put her thoughts in order. "I can't be dyslexic. I'm a grown ass adult." Punctuated with a swallow of beer that she somehow managed to make defiant. Just a grown ass adult drinking beer... while she did math homework. What the fuck ever, okay.

 She stilled herself for the gentle bump of shoulders, and while she had not sought it out - she smirked all the same from it. "Um ..." She tapped her nails on the glass of her beer, enjoyed the way the sound sharpened with ever sip that she took. "I don't think dyslexia gives two fucking tiddlywinks if you're eight or thirty-eight." Not a doctor, but from her understanding it wasn't something you grew out of - right? Which unleashed a whole new can of worms as she wondered what Jo had been like back in high school or even before then, if they would have gotten along for that matter.

 "Did you do well in school? Don't bullshit a bullshit artist." She supposed it was supposed to be said as a warning or a threat, she thought of it more as a gentle reminder. It was only then that her mind snagged on another bump in the road and she pursed her lips, turning her body to knock her knees against the side of Jo's chair. "Wait - if you were dyslexic, theoretically, wouldn't that shit been patched up when you were chewed on?"

Jo huffed a short laugh. "Well, I graduated. I got a lot of pity Ds to get me out the door, but..." She shrugged, biting the corner of her lip as she focused very hard on her beer bottle for a moment. Forcibly willing herself to not feel weird about this conversation. She only mostly succeeded.

"And it's not like—a fuckin' disease, right? I think coyote rabies only fixes colds and broken bones." Right? Not that Jo had witnessed enough first shifts to know one way or the other.

 She noticed from the corner of her eye the little tell's in Jo's expression, how she bit her lip and seemed to be entranced with a beer bottle. Right, pity D's. "Oh - well I mean, I don't know." A bit defensive as she raised both her hands, palms out to show that she had not meant any harm with the inquiry. "You're probably right, dyslexia isn't a big deal, plenty of people got it."

  She floundered for footing, something to keep her friend from feeling too down or weird about this revelation of a possibility. "At least you graduated, technically I don't even have a GED - so ..." She elbowed her again, wiggled her brows and tried to tug the packet over and back in front of her. "Do you mind if I look over the rest of it, just to be on the safe side?"

Jo cracked a smile. "And look at you now, an underground crime lord. Who needs a diploma, huh?" Nothing weird here. Just beer and good-natured ribbing.

She reached to rest a hand familiarly at Alex's back, partially an assurance that everything was a-okay. With her other hand, she set her beer down (but only briefly) to fully slide the packet Alex's way. "I can't say no to that. Thanks, man." Then returned to steadily draining her drink as she tried not to peer over the woman's shoulder.

 "Functioning members of society, probably." She laughed anyway, seemingly unfazed by the idea one way or the other as she stretched her legs out beneath the table and grabbed the pencil off the side. Taking her time coming through everything and coming up with one more set of numbers that needed to be flipped before she turned back to the cover page a few minutes later and held the packet back out to Jo.

 "Anytime, seriously." A rare moment without sarcasm despite any number of beers, a genuine interest in being ... a good friend, she guessed.

"Well don't get sappy on me," she chided with a small smile. She might be queen of sappy, but she suspected that wasn't quite Alex's speed.

She took the packet from Alex and flipped through its pages, noting the one mismatch she'd marked. Jo held her hand out to the other coyote, wiggling her fingers until she was given the pencil, and then bent over the paper to rework the problem in small, cramped scribbles along the margin. "Aw hell," she muttered. And—yep, there it was.

Shit, this was so dumb. Was she supposed to introspect about this? What was she supposed to feel other than confused and mildly distressed?

Drunk, she decided, polishing off her fourth beer.

"Well, we've learned something valuable," she declared brightly. "I should definitely not be in charge of accounting."

 "For what it's worth there are worse things then bein' shit at keeping your numbers in order." She ran her hand through her hair, hesitated as she considered their options. Reluctant to overstep by volunteering to either look things over or command the job all together, she ran her tongue over her teeth. "Any of the merry Band nerdy?"

 Quick to correct, she motioned bath and forth to the space between them and shrugged her shoulders. "I can do it, but I don't want to ... you know, overdo it. No one likes that ass clown that has to have their mitts in everything."

Jo bit the inside of her lip as she considered, index finger pushing at the wrinkled label of her beer. Kai and Lia definitely weren't the nerdy sort. She didn't know jack about Ben. Alex could do it—but where was the line between mindfully delegating tasks and giving up too much power? There was only so far she could get as a battering ram, just around for brute force.

"I've got it," she amended, gesturing dismissively with one hand. She stood and moved toward the kitchen, continuing over her shoulder as she snagged another pair of drinks from the fridge. "I mean, it's basically all computerized anyway. You'll just have to double-check me occasionally, huh?"

She bumped against Alex as she flopped back into her seat, knocking shoulders with a grin. She slid one of the beers onto the table. Reminding herself that this was one hundred percent not weird, so she shouldn't make it weird, right?

 Jo had a point, almost everything was streamlined and computerized these days ... except you had to enter the damn numbers for the computer to do the work in the first place. And while she wasn't the sort to shy away from tough love, it didn't feel warranted here so she settled on quiet instead.

 "Jo ..." She chose her words carefully, mumbled a thank you and nursed her beer as she nudged her - well, probably her only friend, really, in Mountainside. "I can look it over - I can type it all in. I don't care, you just gotta delegate it to me ... I told you, I got your back."

Her smile faded as Alex unexpectedly continued on the topic. She was skeptical. And unused to relying on other people because hey, they all ended up dead anyway, or if they didn't, they probably instigated the conflict in the first place.

But she liked Alex. Alex had helped her kickstart this whole shindig, which had to count for something. And she'd aired all her dirty laundry—the torture, the trafficking—without Jo even prying. Which had to count for a little more, right? And the whole damn business stood on her seed money anyway.

"Yeah. I know," she agreed, trying very hard not to deflate. She scratched at the label of her beer, picked at the edge until it curled, then tried for a wry smile. "How about you do all the hard work and I obnoxiously look over your shoulder and pester you so I feel useful?"

 Okay - so .... she breathed in deep, mentally prepared herself for the possibility of this blowing up in her face before she went ahead with activating tough love mode. "Is this the part where we sit around jerking one another about how great the other one is?" Her posture was lax all the same, slouched as she rested the bottom of her beer against her stomach and watched Jo's hands. She did that too - when she felt uncomfortable.

 "There's a lot of shit I can't do. I can't write you a paper that will get you more than a C ... probably. I can't whistle. I can't deescalate a fight, I can't be the bigger person - most the time. Two of those are like, totally big dick qualities, so ..." She nudged her again, shrugged at last. "So your brain flips numbers and you don't have a cool stack of thousands sitting around - if someone is going to shit on you for it, they're going to get chewed out by me first."

Jo smiled faintly, a little unsettled by Alex's speech but not entirely sure why. "It's all good, man. I wasn't fishing for like—approval or anything. I'm just being a shit."

She tapped her index finger against the bottle in quick, short movements. Very ready to let the whole thing drop, but an unformed thought itched at the back of her head.

"You know that first girlfriend you have—or boyfriend, whatever—that first person you date and you're young and stupid and it just fuckin' implodes? And then it's like, five years later and something totally inoffensive comes up and you suddenly realize you still have damage from that dumb thing?" Wait, that was a normal person thing, right? Right. Definitely. Just substitute "girlfriend" for miscellaneous bullshit.

Jo paused, biting the inside of her lip, then shrugged slightly and chased the rest of that thought out of her head. "I don't know where I was going with that. But whatever, everything's good, man. I don't need a pep talk for my shit." She bumped a knee against Alex's leg before taking a long pull from her beer.

 If comforting someone was the equivalent to open heart surgery, she felt like she was going in with mittens and a handful of zip ties to try to make everything work. At some point you had to stop prodding your fuck-up's, or you were just going to make an even bigger mess of things ... that was a hard pill to swallow, but she tried to do it all the same. Forced a smile and pushed back the impulse to insist that she hadn't meant that she was, that she had the best of intentions.

Not that, you know, that was necessarily a built in excuse for coming at anyone with mittens and zip ties or ... the comparison jumbled in her head and she dropped it quickly.

 "Uh ... I don't really date. I mean, not like - seriously." She pursed her lips, picked at the knee of her jeans and wrinkled her nose when the fabric ripped a little more. "I wasn't trying to give you a pep talk, I was just trying to ... I don't know ... be a bro, I guess?" A shot in the dark as she tried to hit the chord between overbearing and inconsiderate. "If you wanna talk I'm here, that's all I'm sayin'"

Jo huffed a short laugh, more breath than anything. "It was mostly a figure of speech," she amended. "I don't really date either." For the most part, but one damage at a time.

She had always been the bro, or the mom friend, and the change of position left her floundering. She found she wasn't particularly fond of this end of the stick. "But I'm not drunk enough for that," Jo added. She bumped her knee against Alex again, left it there unless the woman shifted away. "I appreciate it, though. You're a solid bro."

 Okay, cool - because if they were getting into like, relationship trouble she was probably going to have to excuse herself to the bathroom and splash water or something. Taken a proverbial knee and planned her next move. Quiet, she considered the bump to the knee and stared at their legs, remembered hazy and disjointed glimpses of the full moon during which she had first met Jo. Funny, how shit took turns you never saw coming.

 "... You too." Stated like a clinical assessment, a simple matter of fact. She knocked her leg back and yawned, finished off her beer and set it down with a content sigh. "Alright then, that's enough of that shit - I'm going to cry, then you'll cry, it'll be a mess." Teasing as she helped to steer them back into calmer, comfortable waters.

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