Who Can Tell Anymore How You’re Supposed to be You

Cedar Creek 

 Hindsight being a crisp ass bitch, maybe she was supposed to call or text or something before she showed up at someone's apartment. Even when it was a drive-by, she had always sent at least a courtesy text, even if it was just a gif. But this was different, because a part of her was low-key terrified that if she had given any heads up that she was stopping by, she would be told not to. Not because he had work, not because there was a vampire peace protest in the foyer of his complex, but because she was now, officially, a paste eater of the Were-world.

 The idea of being branded and booted from her seat at the proverbial table felt understandable, what with the importance placed on discretion. And while yeah, maybe Jo had been halfway out, she had been happy in her little corner of the closet and now she was right on the posters alongside that one asshole tiger.

 So fuck calling, fuck texting, fuck waiting for everything to settle - she was just going to commit. And if he was a dick about it then so be it, but at least it would be ripped off nice and easy like a band-aid that had attached to a wound, As in, not fucking easy - not nice. Ow.

 At any rate she had brought whiskey which hopefully wound endear her enough to get her in the door, crumbling the brown paper bag and tossing it on the floor of the passenger side before she made sure she had her keys and her phone and headed out. Keeping a firm hold on the neck of the bottle, she bumped it against the outside of her thigh with each stride forward. And maybe it was paranoia, but she kept her head down all the same on the walk up and curved her shoulders in - nothing to see here.

 Halfway on autopilot, she didn't entertain taking any time to reassess - committed to knocking on the door and stepped back, held up the bottle as if maybe it would distract from her colossal sort-of blunder. Never mind the woman now forcibly not behind the curtain, look - liquor.


 His sleep schedule was royally fucked, as usual. Sleep came and went in soft brushes as he laid on the couch, never really seizing him fully enough to keep him from opening his eyes every fifteen minutes or so. It was during one of these regretful episodes of waking that the television caught his attention - "...woman corraling what appears to be a massive jaguar..." - and he grunted into a full waking state. Oversized wild animals in the city were always something to pay close attention to these days.

 Dante sat upright, scraping his hair back from his face as he squinted at the television. The cellphone footage was replayed as the anchor continued speaking, but once he caught sight of the little blonde woman in the background, her voice turned into nonsensical babble. There was some slender woman who looked like she couldn't even bench a bar without weight plates on it, grappling with a massive cat, and there was Alex. Just standing there. Too close to be considered a simple onlooker, as far as he was concerned.

 His heart leapt somewhat, punching his stomach in a painful surge of... of... he didn't know what. Protectiveness? Possessiveness? As if Alex were one of his packmates. That's what that felt like. Whatever was on the television now was hardly of any consequence. The mountain of a man sought out his phone, somewhere between the couch cushions, so ingrained in his mission that he didn't smell or feel or even hear the approaching footsteps. Then, she knocked. He paused, wary of who it could be for a moment - phone in hand, he rose slowly, pausing to stretch his back before he moved towards the door.

 Her scent hit him just a few feet away; he didn't know if it was relieving or more worrisome. Still, he pulled the door open, reaching to grab her without hesitation and practically dragging her inside. Paranoia rocked him - as an escaped convict and a Were, that kind of attention was the worst thing he could hope for. The door was closed and locked in a heartbeat, eyes gleaming maroon as he held her by the shoulder, looking her over in search of any visible injuries. He released a breath, letting her go as his eye caught the bottle in her grasp. "Jesus. What happened?"

 "What?" It wasn't the most graceful of introductions, but she was sort of thrown by the fact that she had been an outside coyote and now she was an inside one. Entirely prepared for an episode of parking somewhere and enjoying the bottle herself should she be reminded that wrangling a jaguar in broad daylight was pretty much on par with shitting your pants at the high school reunion where horror was concerned. Her eyes follow his and she shook it again, reached out to pat his hand on her shoulder and stepped further in to the apartment.

 "I went to the store." Well aware that probably wasn't the intent of the question, but she needed a minute before anyone tackled anything else. "They didn't even ID me this time, which - I guess keeping that shit on lock right now is super smart." Keeping her head down, she pulled her sleeve over her palm - old habits, like opening a cap was hard when you were ... this.

 It was then she hesitated, glanced towards the kitchen and back to him before she pressed her lips to the rim and took a sip. Who wanted to waste glasses? Exactly. Right ... so ... she glanced to the television and sighed, shrugged out of her jacket and tossed it over the back of the couch. "I changed plates already - car, I mean." Which felt like dabbing Neosporin on an amputation, but at this point she'd take what she could get.

 She moved further in, away from the door, and Dante followed, breathing in deeply in an animalistic urge to see if anything about her scent could tell him a better story than "she went to the store." He scowled at her as she went on, his expression dark as he tried to be patient and let her say what he wanted to hear. Sure, they didn't ID her - that was actually a good thing, yeah, but not his biggest concern. The lid came off the bottle, and she went through the motions of drinking straight out of it and getting out of her jacket. He practically vibrated with the urge to yell; instead, he reached out and grabbed the handle from her grasp so that he could have a drink, too.

 It was a long drink, but without and great show of noisy gulping or gasping as he took it away from his lips again. "Answer the question, Alex," he rumbled impatiently. For all his prickliness, he still reached out to touch her again, a surprisingly gentle move to guide her to the couch that was still warm from his slumber. He sat down, eyes brown again as he leveled her with his gaze.

 "I don't know what made her do it. But some stupid fucking bitch shifted and ran out onto the street." Like literally ran outside - away from a small number of people and into the general population. She rubbed at her face, leaned back against the couch and stared at the far wall. There was some impulse to snap at him for the firmness of his tone, but in a way she liked it after her day - it helped in a way, to organize and clear her thoughts. "And then her fuckface friend came over and was all - 'Here kitty, kitty, kitty - get in the car'" Which would have been a funny detail if it had ruined almost anyone else's life.

 "That's Jo in the video?" She lulled her head to the side, made a grab for the bottle. "That's my fucking ... King." Which felt like an oldworld way to say things then and there. "She banned the fuckers I guess, but ... After the fact I told her she should have let her go. This is - this is worse, now I'm in this." Which was a dull sort of realization, drab as she considered how out of order and scattered her explanation had been.

"I'm sorry." Okay, that at least she knew she had to clarify. "For coming here and involving you or - I'm sorry."

 Oh, right. The text messages. Dante almost felt a squeeze of guilt, but there was a primal survival law burned into him that did a really great job of blotting that emotion out. His presence probably would have only made things worse, not to mention putting his face on television. He was utterly glad that Alex had inadvertently saved him from such a fate. She went on, explaining that the jaguar-wrestling woman was her King - another female King, he noted idly. He yielded to her grabbing hand, letting her take the bottle back. It seemed like a good time to finish it. And maybe another unopened bottle in his kitchen.

 He relaxed, marginally, somehow eased by knowing he was in on the true story, straight from the coyote's mouth. The jaguars were lucky that banning was all they would suffer. Alex was... well, she was unlucky to have been involved.

 "Don't be," he said, the words quiet, the softness of his tone perhaps imperfect thanks to his typical gruffness. A tattooed hand lifted to pet her hair, smoothing it away from her face, coming to rest gently at the back of her neck. It would fucking suck if someone had followed her here, if he somehow got tangled up in this mess, but now wasn't the time to burden her with that. At the very least, he had no desire to entertain an overgrown coyote in his tiny apartment. "At least you didn't shift. There's no evidence that you're anything but human. You didn't even touch the cat."

 "At least I didn't shift." It was something she had told herself time and time again - a tiny bit of comfort. Could be worse, you could have stress shifted - the Were version of a classic silver lining. But then he mentioned not touching the cat and she thought about the maybe blood on her sleeve. Thought about how his hand at her neck felt nice and how it would be easy to just nod along and move on. She'd done it before, countless times to countless people - not a lie, an omission of the truth.

 But if she got caught in this one there would be no more whiskey commiserating. No more hands on the back of the neck or burrito text messages or - "I touched the cat." Startled as she rushed over the words, she took another swig and offered out the rest to him. "Maybe there's no footage of it, but when I first got there I panicked and I went to help and I touched her side but -" But what? She'd touched the fucking cat, she had the cat-pariah cooties.

 "What would you have done? If this was like, you and Alina or whatever ..." Who the hell would just leave a bro hanging?

 She repeated his words of attempted affirmation. He wondered if they worked. Judging by the way she suddenly blurted that she had, in fact, touched the cat, he didn't think they did. Dante frowned, sighing slightly as he took the bottle from her extended hand. She had touched the cat on the side. He waved his free hand at her slightly as he drank, a silent way of brushing off her concern - it probably came off dickish, but he didn't really mean for it to be.

 "Shit, I don't know," he muttered, considering the bottle in his grasp. What would he have done? "If it was me, let it go, I guess. Not worth the mess. Or do whatever Alina told me to do." A shrug of his shoulders. He trusted his own King well enough to be that obedient - but he had a feeling that she would be the type of woman to leave a chunk of silver in the cat's head and be done with it if she was forced to deal with it.

 "Look... I know you're capable of taking care of yourself, you have your band and whatever, but... if someone comes for you, you can come to me." Another shrug, as if it wasn't that big of a deal. So much for not getting himself involved, right? The words had just sort of fallen out of his mouth before he could filter them, and he realized that he would have no problem sticking to it. Dante wasn't above killing a cop if he had to, much like he wasn't above letting a wild Were run loose rather than jumping into the shit show. He just had his... priorities.

 Do whatever Alina told me to do. That one hit home, because she had stuck to her own variation of that and now she had a mostly finished bottle of whiskey and a heart-to-heart with the most unlikely of suspects. She bounced her feet against the floor, chewed on her lip and resisted the impulse to offload all of it. She could vent about her concerns where her living agreement with Levka was concerned, her worries about her business, about police involvement, hell - even her friendship with Jo felt weird in the immediate aftermath. But it felt like a lot of that couldn't be fixed, not by him - not by anyone, really.

 The start of a disclaimer had her retreating from her thoughts, looking at him properly and relaxing ever so slightly. Zero intentions of doing that if she could avoid it, but the offer was appreciated all the same - the idea that he was willing to roll up his sleeves and dig into a mess that wasn't his. And maybe she was feeling particularly vulnerable and lame considering all that was happening, but whatever the case she twisted - leaned in and bumped her head against his.

"I hope it doesn't come to that but ... thank you."

 Dante could tell Alex was shaken by this whole thing. There was a palpable degree of vulnerability in her lack of sharp-witted sarcasm, all her hard layers peeled back to reveal a scared young woman. He was still as she bumped her head against his own, his own prickly demeanor whittled down in favor of comforting her, now that he felt he had all the information he could get. He hoped it wouldn't come to that, either.

 A tattooed hand lifted to caress her face, his thumb stroking her cheek for a moment before skirting down a lock of hair. He pulled away after a moment of that, lifting the bottle to his mouth for another long drink and then handing it back to Alex. "I have plenty of liquor here if you'd like to get blackout drunk or something."

 It was amusing - but not in a haha way - to realize that a stupid thumb brushed against her cheek felt weird and serious in comparison to literally everything else. Definitely not laughter funny, just ... peculiar. A weird sort of twist in her chest that she accredited to a lot of alcohol and a little food. Probably the jaguar wrestling too. Actually - maybe the news, maybe a lot of different things that she didn't have the mental dexterity to pull apart piece by piece then and there.

 Thankfully he did't give her the option to spend too long in a weird internalized struggle before starting back down the path of something familiar and easy. She cleared her throat, inhaled deep and rebuilt before she took the bottle from him and got back into character. " I just went through a very traumatic time in my life, douche bag." She mumbled against the mouth of the bottle after shaking it and assessing what was left. "Don't try to take advantage of me." Except he wasn't but that was secondary because if she tilted her head all the way back she was pretty sure she could - there we go, all gone.

 "Do you know how stupid easy it used to be for me to get drunk?" She raised a hand, snapped her fingers and set the bottle down - stared at it. "I think I lied ... I think I'm here to drink more than I should and just - shit, wait, am I keeping you from anything?"

 Ah, there she was. Dante grunted a sound of amusement as she took the bottle, called him a name, and shot an empty accusation at him. "Foiled again," he rumbled somewhat wearily, watching as she emptied the bottle to the last drop. Then more typical Alex talking. He cracked a grin. What Were didn't appreciate that particular grievance? (Probably all the relatively functioning Weres who didn't drink alcohol, Dante). They didn't count.

 He was sort of smug as she admitted that she did, in fact, want to get plastered. The man stood, shaking his head somewhat as she asked such a considerate question. "Nah," he assured her, making quick work of the trip to his liquor cabinet and back. "Got the day off." He followed the trend of forgoing glasses, opting instead to just bring two more bottles of whiskey - two different kinds, one full and the other only about three quarters of the way. He would hand her the less full one, since she was smaller than him and would probably be drinking another bottle after this anyway.

 Reclining against the couch, he kicked his feet up on the raggedy old coffee table and ripped the seal off his bottle so that he could take a long drink out of it.

 Grace came in all forms, and while she is as pretty sure that Dante's possible future as a ballerina died on the day he was born - at least he knew when to back up. The commonsense to see when it was time to bring out the tried and trusted approach of just ... this. She sat up until he came back, grumbled a thank you and huffed at the slight scrape of metal on glass as she unscrewed the lid. First there was a reserved sip, testing the waters and apparently finding them favorable enough as she took a gulp.

 "I see you've given me the smaller bottle." For this she sat up straighter, pulled her legs up and sat criss cross, sideways so she was facing him and not the television. "I'm not saying you're wrong for that, I'm just saying I didn't see your big ass tackling any alien wildlife in broad daylight." Except that was a visual if she had ever imagined one, and so she swatted his arm with the back of her hand. "Dante versus Were-Otter, round one ... I'd pay for it."

 Unsurprisingly, she criticized him for his choice of bottle for her. He made a face at her as his latest drink burned a hole in his gut, though it lacked any real malice. He was unmoving as she slapped his arm, prepared to fix her with a retort before she broke out a surprise. His brow furrowed, eyes widening some as he asked, "Were... Otters. That's a thing?" His nose wrinkled slightly in curious distaste. No way. "Why the fuck?"

 "Dude, otters are a thing." And for that small cosmic joke, she shared a laugh, leaned back and was reminded of her drink. "I don't know how or whatever, but - animals are weird. Everything's weird ... like why do wolves eat their own shit?" The timing of her next swig was intentional, blocking herself from grinning like a fool. She wasn't even sure about the validity of the sentiment, but sometimes dogs did that - right?

 "If you've ever woken up with a peculiar taste in you're mouth, we don't have to talk about it but I'm going to have to ask you to stop kissing me."

 She warranted a roll of his eyes with her little otter joke, and again after she confirmed that there was such a strain of lycanthropy and mentioned wolves eating their own shit. He could mention that coyotes were probably equally as guilty, the carrion feeders that they were. Or he could torment her, and maybe it would serve as a good way to peel her attentions away from her personal hell.

 "Just had a fresh batch, as a matter of fact," he informed her, and in the same movement he lunged at her to place the most obnoxious and least sexy kiss ever right on her mouth.

 Let the record show, she was pretty sure he didn't eat his own shit. Like, a solid seventy-five percent at least on the sure scale. Still, when he lurched forward it stroked against some predatory element that made her tense, growling against his lips as she tried to recoil. Human came second, just a hairline apart as she laughed at last and tilted her head back to break away and escape the worst of it. "Suddenly it all makes sense." She'd leave that one vague enough for him to fill in with the insult of his choice.

 At any rate she reached out, tried to tug him closer and move for the bottle that she had wedged between the cushions to avoid spilling everywhere. "Can I say something hella lame and you can't dog me for it?"

 Dante could distinctly recall the first time he'd kissed her - she had kissed him, rather. It had elicited a very instinctual sort of excitement then. It still did now, too, but it was less fragile. He could play with it, take it less seriously than he did when it was something that happened strictly during sex. And she wouldn't beat him for it, he didn't think, even as she growled at him. He persisted all the same, his mouth half twisted into a grin, clutching the neck of his bottle in a haphazard attempt to keep it upright and not spill it. "Ah, that's why you like me so much," he chuckled. She put her hand on him, pulled him closer, and of course he obliged. He lowered the bottle in his hand to the floor for safety's sake, so that he could loom over her, his knees puncturing the cushion in front of her, hands moving to the couch arm behind her. "No promises," he teased with a grin. "Tell me."

 There had been a time, not that long ago, where having his big cranky ass looming over her would have brought forth some sort of intrinsic reaction to plan. To figure out where to punch or kick or - how to squirm away should the need arise. Now she felt it all the same, but it was different - a reflex and not a compulsion. Prepare. Or don't, it seemed secondary as she reached up, moved to pinch his cheeks like a particularly affectionate grandmother.

 "Sans the band, I think you're like ..." She considered the other people she talked to consistently - Garrett and not much else. Thought about what she had started out planning to say and immediately sucked that shit back up. Same general spot, different vein - ever so slightly safer. "The only person I really talk to or whatever. So - I guess, thanks for eating shit but not sucking."

 The facial muscles beneath her pinching fingers tensed up, forcing his eyes into a squint. He listened to her begin, bit his tongue against the impatient urge to say something in her thoughtful silence. Her remark ended up being more flippant than he had expected, and he narrowed his eyes at her for it. He suspected there was a gen to be found amongst all that coal dust.

 "That's not "hella lame." You're going to have to do better than that," he pressured, lowering his body to rest his weight against her, likely uncomfortably. "Spit it out."

 "Jesus, fuck." Her voice was strained, a grunt of a complaint as he flopped down on top of her. Managing to wheeze out the slightest bit of laughter, she dropped her hands to his sides and swatted him there - a wordless and universal tap out to try to convince him to roll off or get up.

 Except now he was rooting around for more and she was pretty sure this constituted as some sort of trouble. And the more attention was put on it the more stupid she felt for saying anything in the first place. So instead she lifted her head, coughed a bit as she leaned up to make sure she was heard. "Learn to read between the lines, shit lord - I'm saying I like spending time with you. Not even like - just ... thanks. Whatever, get the fuck off."

 There was definitely amusement to be gained from squishing her with his weight, pointedly ignoring her hands slapping him. He grinned at her tight exclamations, brows raising as she offered another half-assed explanation. He laughed, a deep, rumbling sound, and lifted a hand to pinch her cheek as she had done to him. "Aw. You really like me." Unconvinced that she had given him the whole truth, but satisfied nonetheless, he pushed up and off of her, grabbing his bottle on the way back to his seat. Maybe it was her stubborn unwillingness to say it that made him trust it. In the end, it was just as simple to tell himself that it didn't matter whether she liked him or not. But... it kind of did.

 He took a long drink from the handle in his grasp and leaned back against the opposite couch arm, legs taking up much of the cushion between them. "You're not terrible either."

 As soon as he was up she curled forward and was sitting, pulled herself back so that she was against the opposite arm and her legs were half up - took up what space she could and entertained another sip. The calm and collected remark made her lift a foot, nudge him a bit harder than was probably polite with her boot against the side of his thigh.

 "Shut up, don't downplay it for cool points - you're not cool." And then with another sip she set the bottle down carefully on the floor, tried to push at his legs with her own and make use of as much space as possible, "You like me. You accosted me - I was but an innocent bystander in all of this."

 Dante scoffed openly at Alex as she spoke, lifting his feet to strike back at her with some force, but not enough to hurt. "Are you really accusing me of downplaying it for cool points?" His tone was incredulous, sneering at her. "Please. Pot and kettle or whatever." He pushed his feet into her leg, taking another drink.

 He pushed back and she impulsively gritted her teeth and tried to tug her leg out from beneath his, launched herself to jab just the tips of her fingers into his stomach. "Okay whatever - but you're worse." Some slightly desperate attempt to play down her own hang-up's in favor of his. "I'm pretty sure if you had your hand held you would need to immediately punch like, at least two kittens in the face and crack a cold one."

 Her fingers scored his gut and he let out a grunt of surprise, crunching forward as if to let his abdomen salve itself in the wake of her attack. He glared at her as she said he was worse, but burst into genuine laughter at her follow up, eyes screwing closed at the mental image of himself punching kittens and smashing open a beer to make up for girl cooties. "God, you're like, six years old," he chided, throwing his legs over hers and pressing with some force to hold them down. "Shut up and drink your bottle, baby."

 "God, you're like six years old." She made her voice low, a bastardization of his own tone as she leaned to the side to pick up the bottle in question. And while she wanted to be difficult for the sake of it, she took a drink and watched him, laughed against the mouth of the bottle as he pinnd her legs to the cushions.

 "Kiss my ass - you're like ... five and eight months." And once it was out of her mouth and into the atmosphere, even she had to have a bit of a cringe about it. Still, she watched him - took a moment before settling it back down and reached out, grabbing just below his knees but making no effort to shove him off or do much of anything else. Not exactly shit faced, not exactly sober as she froze there for a minute and then laughed, raised her shoulders as high as she could and dipped her head in a overly dramatic shrug. "Wait - what was I ...? No - you're the baby. Yeah. Fuck you."

 Her imitation of him was laughable, purposefully so, perhaps. He snorted at her, pulled a face, and nodded arrogantly as she drank from the bottle. Her comeback earned a scoff, eyes rolling around in their sockets as he took another swig. His eyes darted to her hands at his knees, some mix of curious and daring - what wa she going to do, rip his kneecaps off? Another chuckle. "Fuck you, I'm like. At least five years older than you, little shit. And I'm about to out drink you." He dig a heel into one of her legs with the intent to find some space between tickling and hurting.

 "Dick." It was a hiss, a sharp insult that turned to laughter as he pressed his foot into her leg and walked the gray area between recoiling out of pain and from the impulse to wiggle off of the couch. Instead she slid her hands inwards, moved to press her nails against the backs of his knee's - to poke and prod there and try to illicit some sort of a reaction one way or the other.

 "No bullshit, what're you like - thirty-two?" There was a squeak at the end of the question that might have conveyed some sort of doubt. "I bet you're like, twenty-six and it's just all .." She motioned vaguely at her face, her head. "Like if we Nair'd you, you'd be a fresh ass baby." Which was a string of words she hadn't anticipated using more or less ever, but such was life.

 A pissing contest of pain! Her nails in the tender flesh behind his knee was not really painful - it was, but not exactly unpleasant. He jumped slightly all the same, then smirked at her, laughed at her words.

 "I'm rugged as fuck under this beard. Chiseled jaw line and everything. And I'm thirty six. Which makes you like, thirty." He said it with an admirable degree of confidence, but realized belatedly that maybe she was even younger than that. Damn, Dante, robbing the cradle.

 "Holy shit," It was sharp, almost a squeal as she dropped her hands from his legs and recoiled enough to look properly in the eye, to assess for any telltale sign of bullshit. "You're not that old." She said it like it was dirty word, laughed again and inched over, pulled herself up onto her knees and tried to cup his face in her hands.

 "I'm twenty-eight, asshole." Briefly she had entertained the idea of aiming lower, but she wasn't sure how far was too far and where it would get weird. Whatever - couldn't get the genie back in the bottle, can't un-screw the coyote. She snorted then, settled back to sit square on his legs. "That means you were eight when I was born. That means that you like - what, played 8-track tapes in the family car?"

 Was that a bad "holy shit"? Dante blinked at her, grin faltering somewhat as she recoiled. He was that old, thanks for reminding him. She laughed all the same and rocked forward to hold his face, and he found the gesture reassuring enough to smirk at her again. "Oh," he snorted, as if surprised. He maneuvered around her to lift his bottle to his mouth again, taking a long drink before setting it on the floor. Both hands free, he dragged her closer by the legs, shifting her weight so that she wasn't straining his knees.

 "Yeah," he scoffed at her, hands resting on her thighs. "My mom had the biggest perm in town and I got a brand new Atari 7800 for Christmas when I was five. God... I graduated when you were hitting puberty. Gross." He snickered, squeezing her legs. The liquor was making him more relaxed, enhancing his sense of humor as a buzz crept up on him.

 For the time being she inched up a bit when he tugged on her legs, settled in his lap and dropped her hands to hold onto his shoulders once he set the bottle back down. "Double gross." Nodding along as if she was obliging a piece of particularly somber news. "Let me guess, you can roller skate really well and you had corduroy panrs." A little too far gone to manage deadpan, she snickered at the visual that came to mind.

 And maybe it was weakness, and perhaps it was flawed, but she leaned in - dipped her head under his and pressed her forehead to the side of his neck. "I bet you had a bitchin' bowl cut."

 He matched her chuckling as she wove an image of a younger him in courdoroys and roller skates. Not quite - he'd been a khakis and sneakers kind of kid - but her idea amused him all the same. He fell silent as she tucked her face into his neck, tensing up for a beat, only to soften up again with another laugh as she piped up again.

 "Nailed it," he muttered, a hand idly rubbing its way up her back. In this moment, even with whiskey in his veins, he was forced to look the way he felt in the eye. It was... good. Even his beast was silent with contentment. How strange that he should find himself smacking into this with a woman who had once scammed him into buying her pizza.

 "And you, denim vests and walkmans and a bunch of awful, bright colors that should never be combined on a piece of fabric?" He grinned to himself as he tried to focus instead on slandering her childhood with equal fervor. "I bet you were a Brittany Spears girl. Lisa Frank. Fuckin' nerd."

 "I did have a Walkman you uncultured swine." She tilted her head back the slightest bit, nipped gently at his throat. "I did have a wind breaker - it wasn't easy to find Lisa Frank at a fucking thrift store." But, you know, if she had had the opportunity ... she was pretty sure she would have picked the little acid trip leopards.

 Still, she bit down a little harder once she shifted her position by a hair. Reaching low to squeeze his sides and tugging away to look him square in the eye. "Um, actually - Spice Girls and The Backstreet Boys." Like it was obvious, as if something was genuinely wrong with him for not jumping there immediately. " Jesus, come on, have some faith in me."

 His smirk grew a few centimeters at her Walkman remark, but his eyes fell closed as she nipped him. It was hard to picture Alex Marie in her neon pink/sea foam green/Barney purple windbreaker while she sat on his lap and made a chew toy out of him. Trying to felt weird.

 She bit him again, harder, let her hands trail down him, and he made a low noise. As he opened his eyes and found her all but glaring at him, he was having a really hard time giving a shit about Spice Girls. Her tone elicited a short laugh from him all the same, but his hand was moving from her back to her face. His fingers brushed over her lips, down her throat, pushing her hair over her shoulder. "You know you can't get away with biting me like that," he warned her in a dark voice.

 While it could have been innocent enough, the words themselves - the grit behind them, the stupid and yet fixed feeling of his hand at her throat and the heat that radiated there. But whatever it was she could point at definitively and blame, it still felt like a challenge even if it wasn't a violent one. And on any given day those were hard to slink away from, but less than stone cold sober and more than just aggravated about the events of the past twenty-four hours, she rose to greet it like an old friend.

 "You know you don't get to say shit about what I can or can't ..." Get away with - right? That was what she had been saying, but by then it felt secondary as she leaned into his touch before rocking forward and biting down a bit harder at his lip. Content, more than just a couple drops of smug as she tilted her head up a margin to tug before giving up her hold.

 It might have been a challenge, or it might not have been - that was beside the point. Alex took it up all the same and sent a shock through him with devilish teeth. Her words served as something similar in their own right, and the man grabbed onto it fiercely.

 A quiet sound came from his wounded mouth, some guttural cross between a laugh and a growl as his hand tangled into her hair and tugged her back against him again. It was not exactly violent, but hardly gentle; a signature grasp that betrayed his excitement, and served as another challenge he counted on her to bite against as he closed his mouth against hers.

 Worming her arms between his chest and hers, she braced her forearms against him and curled her hands into fists - caved a bit at the familiar tug of his hand in her hair. Small concessions, little things that added up - the slight way the tension cut from her shoulders and posture, the heavy exhale as she was pulled back to his lips and the faintest tinge of liquor.

 She tilted her head back, tried to at least and focused on the slight discomfort at her scalp even as she bunched his shirt in her fists and tried to pull him along with her. The slightest chuckle choked against him as she tried to break away just enough to bite down again, curving a hand around his throat and squeezing gently as she pushed him backwards.

 There was something about the sharpness of whiskey that added to the allure of how she tasted, a familiar but no less enticing aspect of kissing her. There was no time to mourn her pulling away as she bit him again, inhaling reflexively as she pressed against his throat. It was enough that he could have fought her off, but he yielded all the same, reclining against the couch and releasing his grip on her hair to better shift his weight beneath her.

 The beast writhed within, well acquainted with these not-so-subtle cues, threatening to turn his eyes a different color. Dante regarded it with a mental huff, squeezing his hands against the curve of Alex's hipbones as he squeezed his mind against the wolf. He uttered a low growl, a sound of both approval and frustration as he anticipated her next move.

 Half of pretty much everything was knowing how to read a room - and she knew what she should have done then, a small and viable list of options. She was supposed to pin him, maybe yank at his shirt or bite down harder or mimic that signature way he tended to tangle his fingers in her hair at the back of her head. Instead she pulled away the slightest bit, a proverbial backwards glance as she teetered between the inherent and purely human desire to be an asshole, the stupid foot on the gas drive of beast, and the weakening effect of a substantial amount of liquor.

 Might as well marry what she could - curling her fingers in to press down as she made an intentional show of squirming in his lap. She drifted upwards a bit, tried to firmly coax him to tilt his head back and hunch over to mark along the crook of his neck. "You know what I'm thinking?" Soft, whispered between a random pattern of bites and kisses.

 He didn't know how he felt about her fingers pressing into his throat, torn between two extremes, but he made a noise of approval as she wriggled in his lap, exciting him further. He complied with her less than gentle nudging, sighing quietly at the sensation of her mouth on him.

 His hands moved up her back again, pushing her shirt as they moved, caressing the muscles under her skin. What was she thinking? He could only hope she was thinking of putting that mouth to better use, but refrained from saying as much. Instead he humored her with a husky, "What."

 With her free hand she curled her fingers underneath his shirt - brushed her knuckles along his side and tilted to glance up at him. Patience, wait for it. She coached herself as trailed back down and hooked her fingers in the belt loops of his pants - pulled herself closer as she tugged. Her thumb ran over a splotch of red, admiring her handiwork there with a slight hum of approval.

 "I think the whole throwback visual it really screwing with my boner." And that wasn't exactly true but that wasn't the point as she rolled back onto the other side of the couch without too much ceremony and moved to scoop her bottle back up from it's temporary home. Muttered against the lip to avoid the slight impulse to look anything besides nonchalant about the old and trusty habit of recklessly pushing at proverbial buttons. "You gunna finish that?"

 Oh, yes. There was the girl who had stolen his pizza for money. Her touching and teasing came to an abrupt end as she spoke, his head lifting some to frown at her as she rolled off of him. What was she doing? Trying to prove a point? That she didn't just hang around for sex, that she could get away with whatever she pleased? Dante sighed, dropping his head back against the couch. He shouldn't be surprised - he couldn't really say he was, either. Shithead. Then again - maybe the whole jaguar thing was the actual boner kill here. His ego reasoned that she was the one who started this - maybe she was still just being a tease?

 The wolf logically doubted it. He grunted, sitting upright as she asked if he was going to finish his bottle. To which he responded, as he picked it up off the floor, "Oh, fuck you." Then promptly lifted it to his mouth and drank from it as if its contents were water and not whiskey.

 In all actuality, as comical as the idea of the asshole across from her in khaki's and a calculator watch was, she was pretty sure that wasn't what was messing with her. The ole standstill points were still there - he was still funny, still attractive, she was still - lonely sounded pathetic so she would say isolated ... but not out-loud, because that was extra sad. But then again she had just made state wide news in a major way and - maybe now was just a good time to focus on the blackout drunk component of this little shindig.

 "Yeah, yeah - fuck me." It was sing-song, smug as she pulled her legs back up and tangled them with his. There was comfort in the company all the same, pleasure in the presence. "But not you." And it was then that she clicked her tongue to the rook of her mouth and winked, went in for another deep gulp of whiskey.

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