Dalex in Wonderland

Cordova's Wonderland 
#1
 Dante had avoided things like roller coasters for years - kind of funny considering he would willingly fight super strong undead people and whatnot. But that was beside the point. As of pretty recently, he had been feeling... different. Stronger. More in tune with his beast, in spite of knowing it pretty well after all this time. So when he saw an advertisement for early summer specials at "Cordova's Wonderland," it was easy to indulge the childlike urge that told him he wanted to go and he could handle it.

 Surprising Alex with this was probably not exactly the smartest idea. Maybe she hated theme parks; he doubted it, but maybe that was for sheer hope that she would enjoy this more than watching loud cars drive in circles. Maybe it would be worth the potential of a long drive filled with snarky remarks and complaints.

 Eventually the towering ferris wheel nestled among coasters would come into view, not yet illuminated with thousands of blinking lights as the sun still hung in the western sky. Dante, intent on keeping a lid on it as long as possible, would steal a glance at his passenger as they rolled into the parking lot.

@Alexandra Davidson
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#2


 Flashback a year, never in her wildest imagination would she still be in Mountainside. Now fast forward that six months, she wouldn't be in Cedar Creek - she wouldn't be on a hideaway wolf Visa and living (more or less peacefully) with anyone. Press forward again, just a couple months - tell Alexandra Davidson that the douche bag from the brewery was letting her stay under his roof. They were going on a surprise day trip. She liked him.

Life was stupid.

 That didn't stop her from slouching in her seat, giving up on her once merciless jabs about his preferred mode of transportation. Now a days she respected the ample leg room, spent her time threatening to reach out and mess with the radio without actually committing to it. She moved as if to jab her finger into his ear during red lights and standstill traffic. She whined, not really minding the ride out and away from Cedar Creek, theorized that this was all a loosely disguised attempt to take her out and murder her, simple as that.

 By the time they had arrived., she had shut her eyes and stopped bitching for the most part, arms crossed over her chest and body lax. The turn into the parking lot was enough to have her opening one eye and then both, sitting up at once and laughing. Reached out to shove him and wiggled back in her seat a bit. "No shit?" She could count on one hands the number of times that she had been to anything that could even loosely be described as an amusement park - none of them were in the past five years.

 "Holy shit I didn't even know this was - this is legit, right?" She squinted, glanced at the little bits of colored track that rose above and through the treeline. Maybe a little excited - just a bit.
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#3
 He caught sight of her coming to, gaze alternating between the path ahead of him and the woman at his side as she took in their destination. She definitely didn't seem underwhelmed, if her laughing and arm shoving was any indicator. He looked away from her to focus on finding a parking spot, a small grin hidden in his beard.

 "Yeah, I guess so," he chuffed, rolling the truck to a stop, sitting the air conditioning for a minute longer as he looked at Alex again. Beyond her, "CORDOVA'S WONDERLAND" was arched in big, enthusiastic letters over the park entrance; a healthy line was forming, an the occasional chorus of coaster shrieks pierced the air. "Had a website and everything. Supposed to have some of the biggest rides in the state. Come on - whoever throws up first is a rotten egg." The big man smirked to himself and killed the engine, waiting for Alex to step out before he locked the doors and moved to escort her to the ticket counter.
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#4
 She chose not to think about what going to an amusement park with your - she chose not to think about implications. Instead she got out, listened to the clunk of the doors locking and shuffled towards the entrance. Once he fell in beside her she picked up her pace a bit, rocked on the balls of her feet and craned her neck to try to get a good glimpse of the park just a few yards off.

 "Wait, do you really puke on rides?" A little leery now as she glanced back over at him - neglected how it took her a couple of seconds to catch up. "Because if I see you puke then I'm going to puke and - oh god it would get all .." She motioned vaguely toward his face, mimicked heaving and shook off a mock shiver. "Gross."
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#5
 Dante was of a simple mindset for now. Just a dude taking his hot friend with benefits to the amusement park to test new limits.

 "Yep. Super sensitive stomach," he remarked with as much seriousness as he could muster with her amusing display of being grossed out, staring ahead as they walked up to the line. It was moving fast, luckily enough. He put an arm around her as they came to a stop. "I'm still a hottie with my weak tummy, right?" The words were strange coming out of his mouth, even with the intentional pitch of silliness.
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#6
 Maybe it was a side effect of living together for the past however many weeks, a sense of openness that was new. A little less serious, a little less pride where one another was concerned - whatever it was, it was nice. Even as she snorted at the question and reached over, rubbed at the center of his back as if she was consoling a long-term friend. "You're still a hottie, sure."

 "Make sure to put that shit on your dating profile - weak tummy, strong man." A familiar fake version of his voice, a little deeper, a lot more gruff. As they made it to the front she pulled herself away, went for her wallet and tried to nudge him aside as she mumbled a good morning at the window to the older woman behind the glass. "See if we can get a discount, bring you in at children's prices since you can't handle the big boy rides."
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#7
 Hearing it from her, despite his intent for joking and her condescending tone, was nice. He smirked at her, absently enjoying the warmth of her hand at his back, even for how short lived it was. It was his turn to snort at her as she mocked him - but his idea of a "dating profile" was pretty damn vague. He got the idea, but further thought on the matter was whisked away as he realized Alex was trying to pay.

 The big strong man did not intend to let that slide. This had been his idea, a surprise for her - like hell he was going to let her pay. Let him be a gentleman sometimes, you damn sand mutt.

 Dante batted her wallet-wielding hand away with a fresh confidence that he could take her. It came with the territory of feeling stronger - hopefully it wasn't all in his head. He wedged himself methodically between the little woman and the ticket window as he withdrew his own wallet. "Two adult day passes," he requested gruffly. Emphasis on "adult."
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#8
 His bulldozing by was rewarded with a scoff. A fleeting moment of agitation as she glared at the space between his shoulder blades. She supposed she could have fought him, made demands and left the woman at the other side of the ticket window uncertain and uncomfortable. Instead she let him go, set her hands on his hips and watched curiously from over his shoulder.

 "You're still a man baby." A little jab to make herself feel like she didn't lose as much as concede. At any rate she'd snatch for her ticket on the way through admissions, sidestep unnecessarily through the turn style. "Oh shit do you smell that!? That's funnel cake!" Gasping, she swatted at him again and jabbed a finger towards the left and just up ahead. ""We should get your face painted.""
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#9
 Tickets in hand - soon, only one ticket - Dante would turn away to follow the coyote through the turnstile and deposit his admission slip. He rolled his eyes visibly at her jab but said nothing to rebut her, too amused by her sudden exclamation. Funnel cake was pretty great, even for a guy who wasn't really into sweets.

 "Do you know how hard it is to get face paint out of a beard?" he snorted at her, hooking his arm through hers and tugging her. "You, though. I think you need a big ass butterfly rainbow on your face. It'll look great once you start to sweat on the rides." Look out for Prince Charming, y'all.
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#10
 "I don't sweat." Which, as a living creature happened to constitute as a bold faced lie, but that was neither here nor there. Instead she kept her arm hooked with his, tried to keep him sandwiched to her side as she reached up and brushed her fingers against his cheek. "We can ask them for just a dick, right there. It'll be perfect." All the same she kept on trekking past that particular tent, squinted at a series of overpriced and (in her opinion) underwhelming caricatures. Hard pass, thanks though.

 More than just a little turned around, completely in the dark about the layout of the park, for the time being she settled in to the back seat and allowed him to lead her around. "So what's your favorite sort of ride? Where are we going first? And honestly, do you puke? Like - all jokes aside ..." She tugged on his arm a bit, didn't exert the effort to pretend this wasn't an intriguing twist in her day. There was nothing really like this back in Washington, definitely not in Alabama in any real sense.
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#11
 "Oh, okay," he said mockingly. He'd seen her sweat, nice try, Alex. He glanced down at her as she brushed his stubbly cheek and snorted at her phallic suggestion. "Perfect. We'll match." This with a short snicker at her expense.

 He walked with little sense of where they were headed, throwing a dart at a figurative map and heading in the general direction of one of the larger rides. Her words distracted him from the shrill screaming of riders as the coaster dropped off the first crest, giving him a pinch of excitement.

 "No, I don't puke," he said firstly, nudging her in the ribs lightly as he cleared that misconception. "I like the big crazy roller coasters. The taller and loopier, the better. So I say we'll start there." He lifted a burly hand to point at the coaster that towered high above in their line of sight. "Think you can handle it?"
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#12
 "Handle it." She rolled her eyes, knocked the side of her head against the curve of his shoulder. "I don't like shit where your feet just hang out. I've seen too many Final Destination movies." A little bit of a niche discomfort, perhaps, but she shelfed her pride and tried to be ... open, or whatever. It was then that it seemed to strike her, an idea that made her inhale a deep breath and drop her voice to a whisper. "What if you lost your shit on one of those things?"

 Left a woman, pulled back in to hop out as a giant coyote - surely that would be well received.
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#13
 He smirked under the shield of his beard at her incredulity, scoffed at her foot fear. So what if her feet got cut off? "Oh, they'll grow back," he teased - it was true, anyway. But her next statement gave him pause. His gait slowed some as he gazed up at the twirling coaster. That was... a logical thought, unfortunately. If anyone accused him of being afraid, he would deny it - but fear could save your life. Fear of shifting was a particularly useful fear to have.

 "Well. Fuck," he grumbled. That was how long it had been since he'd been on one - his last rollercoaster ride hadn't involved the slightest hint of turning into a bigger, hairier beast than he already was. "Uh. Okay. Maybe we'll stick to the lame shit. Ferris wheel and funnel cake. Rigged as fuck carnival games." He punctuated his offer with a dramatic sigh.
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#14
 People said bullshit all the time, spewed it without even really realizing what they were doing. About the Were virus, sometimes they said you got used to it - that eventually you came to terms. It had felt like more manure for the longest time - but it turned out that ... there was some validity to it after all. Her hands found their way to her hips all the same, staring up at the coaster and listening to his fallback plan.

 Maybe. But she believed in herself these days, trusted in him. Reaching out, she hesitated for a second before committing and grabbing a hold of his hand - tried tugging him towards the coaster. "Look, I already stopped you from shitting your pants once - what's one more time between friends?" And maybe it was reckless and stupid, maybe he would dig in his heels and be a grump but - she wanted this. To at least try to push her luck, to see how far this still freshly minted confidence could coast her.

 "We don't have to but ... one can't hurt, right? Especially if we sit next to one another ..." She winced, realized a millisecond too late how lame that might have sounded, but said nothing of it all the same.
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#15
 Dante was altogether ready to follow through with Plan B - the Gravatron, Tilt-A-Whirl, bumper cars. Turkey legs and funnel cakes and - a lithe, warm hand enveloping his palm. The man blinked down at her as she tugged at him, looking her in the eye as she tried to reassure him. Her words warmed him, even for as very Alex as they were - perhaps her personal flare of vocabulary was what made it so charming. He looked down at their linked hands, pictured himself all but clinging to her much smaller frame as they huddled into some god forsaken roller coaster seat. The wolf inside didn't seem so perturbed by the mental image, at least.

 He stroked the back of her hand with his thumb, hesitant still as he considered his choices for a moment longer. He recalled the night she had all but held him on the dirty bar bathroom floor and kept him from exploding into teeth and fur. That counted for something. "Alright," he conceded finally. "If you keep your shit together I'll keep my shit together." Dante stepped then to move towards the coaster with her, not releasing her hand, silently enjoying the contact. "I didn't bring any diapers anyway, so..."
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#16
 "I told you we should have packed your satchel." It was easy, instantaneous as she forced herself to keep on and commit - to not be the Debbie Downer between them when he seemed happy to go with the flow. The second thing that snagged her attention was the stupid and simple fact that her palm was still against his - stupid in the sense that many other parts had touched over the course of the past few months. But this felt weirdly exclusive and she had to focus on not making it into a big deal in her own head.

 You held the hand of the senior citizen you helped across the street too, that didn't mean you wanted anything from them in the grand scheme of things. Chill out. Instead she walked up the ramp and went as far in to the zigzagging line as she could. Listened to the bastard cousin of elevator music that played from the speakers mounted in the corners of the overhang as she jumped up to sit on a metal railing and wait for the line to dwindle down.

 "So I've been thinking -" She tried to not pause for too long, didn't want to open herself up to too many IQ related jabs. "I can probably get out of your hair by the end of the month or so? Haven't really seen much on the news ..."
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#17
 Dante focused on the task at hand, rather than the fingers linked against his. He was pretty sure he could keep the beast in check - at least, he wasn't nervous thinking about it, and there didn't seem to be any sort of wayward reaction from within as he imagined himself going up and down and around in the little metal car. He was alert enough to chuckle at her satchel remark, in any case, but was otherwise silent as they made their way to the line. She leapt up onto the railing, leaving his empty hand to retreat into its pocket as he glanced around the crowd.

 Alex was speaking, distracting him from the clusters of giggling youngsters and adults alike. He stared at her for a moment, considering her words. He had honestly grown pretty used to her presence, even with as often as she was out of the apartment - he had come to associate her lingering scent with the normalcy of his abode, had taken some comfort that he would attribute to the beast from her warm body in his bed on a regular basis.

 He stood in silence for a moment, thinking probably too hard when the answer should have been very simple. He wouldn't admit it even to himself, but he didn't want her to go. And yet, she was a potentially wanted person hiding out in wolf territory, and he wasn't sure if Alina would be happy with her extended presence. Asking her about it promised to open some uncomfortable can of worms.

 In the end, he merely shrugged. "A'ight. No rush." Aloof. Light. No big deal. This wasn't a relationship. She wasn't in his hair. Whatever.
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#18
A'ight.

 She tilted her head back a bit and narrowed her eyes, thought about the complete and total laziness of removing two full letters from the word. A word, not to mention, in response to the news that she was leaving him. As in, no pizza's on her dime, no burned breakfast sandwiches, no late night cuddling that she would immediately recoil from and claim was purely accidental and in her sleep.

A'ight.

 "Well, don't sound too bent out of shape about it." A little defensive, a little prickly based on the slight raise of her tone as she slid herself down the line when people started to mill forward as another car loaded up for the ride. She focused on the back of the middle aged man in front of them, skimmed over the list of cities for some big band's nation wide tour. Anything really to propagate the illusion that she didn't actually give a rats ass about his whole opinion or - a'ight.
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#19
 Dante watched her, at first only because they were kind of having a conversation - and then more closely because she was kind of giving him the stink eye. He stood in uncertain silence until she retorted. It was every bit of the typical snark and sarcasm he had come to expect of her, but it held something different. Heavier. There was something in her tone that was distinctly... unhappy.

 His brow furrowed as he stared at her profile, putting the pieces together. She had mentioned moving out - he had accepted it simply - she was now upset. He was a man of limited emotional intelligence, but...

 "Then stay." He grabbed her arm, tugging slightly in an attempt to make her look at him.
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#20
 A little bit of her that had some sense of her age gently tugged on her conscience, reminded her that this was childish. That, in the grand scheme of things, for a guy she had screwed a handful of times - he'd done a lot. Offered to roll up his sleeves and help when shit it the fan, let her crash, shared his space, it was more than enough. The touch to her arm shifted her attention, the slight and fleeting look of confusion as she stared at him and tried to make sense of - oh.

 Her eyes narrowed a bit, suspicious as she slid down from her perch and back on to her own two feet. "Don't be a dick." A general instruction that seemed to come up a lot. "Seriously?"
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#21
 Dante studied her face, the glint in her eyes that suggested maybe she was thinking hard about this. She slid down to her feet, and he continued to watch her expression, huffing with some humor at her command. "Aw. You really like me." The wolf lifted a large hand and pinched her cheek. "Yeah. Stay."
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#22
 The second time he said it, it stuck as far as she was concerned - went from being an asshole jab at her expense to a genuine suggestion. And while she wanted to slap his hand away and scowl, she smiled instead. Laughed a little and glanced down at her sneakers so that she had a few seconds to recompose herself. Looking back up and nodded as she instead came to stand alongside him, bumped her hip harder than necessary against his.

 "Fine. Then I'm staying." As if it were a contractual obligation now, final answer. "'Course I'll still pay you and - whatever." It was a slippery slope, the urge to diminish the fact that this felt important. "Really you should pay me for putting up with your crabby ass." All the same she slid her hand into his, kept her arm pressed to his as if it diminished the intent of the contact and tugged him along, taking the last bend in the line and doing quick mouth to see that they were probably the next car.

"Write it off as charity on my taxes ..."
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#23
 Her reaction surprised him. It didn’t take a genius to figure it out, but Dante tentatively thought his response had pleased her. She didn’t want to leave, despite being perfectly capable of doing so. It was... it would have been easier for him to process if she had socked him in the gut instead of giggling and taking his hand. Her snark was better, offset the threat of confusion and an actual headache. He was content to stand there just that way, holding her palm in his as she prattled on, a smirk hidden beneath his beard as he stared ahead. "Yeah, you do that," he grunted.

 It wasn’t long before the line had dwindled down and they were being ushered into the cart. Dante could not deny the pinch of excitement in his gut as he wedged his giant self into the seat. They were a row behind the very front - optimal positioning for a show should shit hit the fan. No. Not today, Satan - please. "I might puke," he warned her lowly, but not without a crooked grin.
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#24
 Once the metal gates swung open, unlocked with the press of a button from one pimply teenager in a snap back, they were pushed forward and filing into the seats. She settled easy - ample leg room as far as she was concerned, focused for a while on pressing the bar as tight against her lap as she could. Breathing was optional for however long they went in loops and down steep drops, falling out or the feeling alone was a sure fire way to spark a shift that she didn't want and didn't need.

 There was a nervous sort of excitement and the adrenaline associated with it - building in her gut and blooming as she bounced her feet and moved her hands out of the way as the attendant checked bar after bar. She squirmed a bit, checked herself all the same and glanced to her left when the car jolted slightly, the breaks lifted and the steady clunk as they started to slowly ascend to the first of many drops. "That's not fuckin' funny - no you won't." All the same she swatted him in the arm, a leery stare as she noted the slight upward turn of his lips and tried to take comfort in that.

 "If you do, swallow it." Nervous as she realized there was no going back now, the faintest hint of fear as her arm hooked with his and she gave in a bit - squinted in the afternoon sun and pressed the side of her face to his arm. "Keep calm, calm, we're -" Timing off perhaps, she laughed - a nervous outburst of excitement as they started to slow and level out.
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#25
 The sensations of the bar being secured and the brakes lifting from the wheels were equally nostalgic and anxiety-inducing. What was that presidential quote? The only thing you have to fear is fear itself? Right. You’ve looked death in the face. This is cake compared to vampires. That, and catching the faint whiff of Alex’s fear, the uptick in her pulse, engaged some manly need to be absolutely calm as fuck. This would be fun, god damn it.

 "I’ll try to keep it out of your hair," he offered lightly, chuckling at her laughter as thy began the agonizing ascent. "God. This is the worst part." The uphill climb, the anticipation that built with the wait. It was the worst. Before they even made it to the precipice, his stomach was a tight knot against his heart, and he was taking a deep breath. Maybe that would keep all his organs glued together.
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#26
 She would argue that the worst part was when the big drop started, that moment where they tipped forward enough that your ass lifted out of a seat and for one terrifying drawn out second you realized your life was in the hands of one twenty-two year old and a metal bar that had done this same job countless times. But yeah, sure, the slow ascent to hell was probably a close second - neck and neck, really.

 Curling her fingers, she pressed against his arm and brushed her thumb there, some grounding bit of contact as she felt a different strain of the same unease radiating off of him. They were adults, they weren't spring chickens to this Were shit, they had - "Shit, fuck." She closed her eyes tight as they lurched forward, held her breath until they started to drop and gave in, screamed with the rest about halfway down.

 There was a slight ache that radiated out from her shoulders - the tiniest little inkling of trouble. Like a strange feeling in the back of your throat before a cold, a world in which losing her shit wasn't entirely impossible. Enough that her molars ached from how hard she clenched her teeth, the sheer heels in the dirt strength with which she refused the luxury of letting lose.

 After the first hill it was less trouble, a slow ease on the breaks as she squinted at the force of the wind as they took curve after curve. Cautiously glanced over to make sure that he was managing and maintaining that same hold on his arm.
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#27
 He flexed his arm against the grip of her fingers, stronger than she looked, as he himself grasped the bar with enough force that he feared he might dent the damn thing. There was the last drip of suspense as they crested the top of the track, and then - he screamed. Rest assured it was a very manly scream, thank you, but the sound bellowed out of him along with the chorus of shrieks and shrill laughter from the rest of the breathless passengers on the descent.

 The wolf didn't know what to do with that - its human body did not often let loose such a sound, and yet it was receiving signals of 'stay calm motherfucker.' His joints hurt with the metaphysical pressure of the beast straining against his conscious, certain that it needed to come out and take care of this situation, and get them off of this damn ride, but as the cart slowed onto another ascending slope, Dante was afforded the capacity to slam it back.

 When she looked at him, she would find a man with a tense jaw, enough that the muscles near his temple were visibly tense, his eyes stern, hair wild as it whipped free of the elastic band that had previously held it back. Still, he could practically feel her eyes, and so he tried to relax, and as he cast her a small grin, he became conscious of the fact that, hey, this was fun. "Look ma, no vomit!" he called to her over the wind, laughing at himself despite the dangerous line he had just toed.

 Suffice to say he wouldn't be exactly upset when the ride was over.
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#28
 Still coming down from the peak of her own near loss of control, perhaps she was hypersensitive. A ready made excuse that was easy to swallow for why she had some sort of horrified paranoia that she was going to look over and be strapped in next to some half man, half wolf monstrosity. Instead it was the usual brand of caveman, a little on edge but ultimately no worse for wear. All the same is still seemed worthwhile to try to comfort him. Not glass in the hand, sticky bathroom floor close call - but enough that she grimaced even as a group of high school girls giggled behind her.

 His laughter did it's fair share to migrate that - loosening up a bit more and letting go of his arm. She moved for his wrist, tried to raise his arm in the air with her own. A howl at the last couple of drops, smaller in comparison and enjoyable in that if she could manage back there ... maybe she wouldn't shift over a messy burrito anymore. "Fu-"ck yeah! Well, maybe not that free - catching herself in time as they started to slow.
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#29
 Their hands raised in the air in victory was both gratifying and cheesy as fuck. Look at us! We didn't turn into giant man-eating dogs! :D It was the little things, really. He stuck with it all the same, pulling his wrist free only to loop his arm around her shoulders and shake her with some residual adrenaline-fueled excitement, and an ounce of the affection that had come with them holding hands.

 The car was abuzz with giddy and weary chatter as it slowly rolled back to the loading deck. Dante forced the tangled hair out of his face, pulling it free from his beard and mouth and giving a soft sigh. "Not bad. I can't believe you tried to talk me out of that." He grinned at her. "I'm not big dick number two back in the Creek for no reason."
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#30
 Impulse had her glancing over her shoulder at the pissing contest, making sure everyone was too wrapped up in reliving their experiences of seconds prior. Content then, she turned herself back around, exhaled as they slowed to a complete stop and the bars lifted all at once. Maybe hers had been digging into her legs - maybe she could have left it a single click looser. Oh well.

 Few weeks ago, maybe she would have insulted him for stealing her credit - but she was still coasting on adrenaline and happiness so she let it slide and settled on just shoving him once they'd filed out and were walking back down the ramp and on to solid ground. "It's a good thing you were here to make sure I didn't pussy out ... asshole." But this opened up a new line of conversation, a wolf shaped elephant in the room that she danced around at all times.

 Even if she'd been crashing there, she did not talk about Cedar Creek. Didn't go to the brewery, didn't sit in anymore text messages to Alina fucking Sinclair. Sort of like an opposum playing dead, she set herself to being as uninvasive as possible. "How's that going?" Keeping it vague as she stepped to the side and reached out to grab his elbow. " Wait, I wanna see how stupid you look in this picture."
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#31
 He was almost instinctively prepared for the shove that would come as they trickled out of the car and onto the platform. He snickered knowingly at her retort, but would merely roll his eyes at her rather than challenge her further. He knew where the credit was due, but he would let it go unspoken, as they tended to do.

 "Fine--" he began, but fell short as she tugged him aside to take a look at a screen where a few others had gathered. One square held the two of them, and naturally Dante zoomed right in to his own face - teeth visibly clenched through the forest of facial hair, ponytail coming loose, and... red eyes that were so murky he could only hope anybody else wouldn't notice. Or at least write it off as contact lenses. Yeah, he could be a edge lord. "I don't look as dumb as you," he muttered, even before his gaze shifted over to find her in the picture.
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#32
 Fine was a perfectly acceptable answer to a question that really wasn't any of her goddamn business in the first place. Happy to let it go, she squinted at the screens and visibly grimaced as she looked at him first. The whole hair situation was hilarious, and were it not for the slight change in his eyes she would have happily slapped down a twenty and bought a commemorative key chain. As it stood, it seemed like the responsible thing to do was to let it die - even if it was the sort of thing that was easily dismissed as a trick of the light or a fluke with the camera.

 Besides ... they screened these, right? She recalled a certain ride photo back in Seattle, a certain still-mostly-human woman and her thumb through the zipper of her pants. The scowl from the photography stand as they refused to show her slide on the monitors. Alright - they screened these things, it made her feel better to leave it at that.

 Her own capture wasn't much better, hair half in her face and face scrunched up in something that even she couldn't claim was joy. Well ... "Whatever, you're still dating up." Which was better than calling him outright ugly so - you know. She turned, started back to the path that led to the heart of the amusement park. "I know you're probably going to drag me for it, but I think I'm done with roller coasters for the day." Not wanting to poke that particular bear more than she already had.
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#33
 Dante was pretty sure she always looked better than him, no matter the circumstance - even in a windblown image of them cresting the peak of one of the largest coasters in Colorado. So yeah, sure, he was "dating up," but he was more distracted by that... was this. Were they dating? Was that something you talked about? Was it just like - an assumption two people made after they had enough sex? Was that why they were holding hands?

 "Party pooper," he mumbled distractedly, reaching down to grab her hand again despite the questions cropping up left and right in his poor little brain. Whatever. He could give himself a headache over it later. "Come on. Let's get some funnel cake for the baby."
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#34
 Baby? She recoiled a bit, held on to his hand but leaned back to look at him as if he were a relative stranger. Oh - she was the baby, right. Hyper aware of the hand in her own, oblivious as to the implication of what she had said. Trying not to think too much about the contact, about how it looked and how it didn't feel like a complete chore. About the fact that, yeah, she felt dumb as shit for thinking so much about getting her hand held, but ...

 Absently she brushed her thumb along the side of his hand, made a point to avoid looking down - because it didn't count if no one acknowledged it. "With extra whipped cream and a disgusting amount of chocolate syrup - if we're doing this, we're doing it."
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#35
 "Ew, no," he was quick to respond, pulling a face of disgust. "You get your own and make it whatever abomination you like." He snickered at her, leading her along through the throngs of people, easily following his nose to the concession area and finding them a spot in line at the funnel cake stand. "What else do you want to do? Softer rides? Carnival games?" He nudged her gently with the arm that was connected to hers at the hand, still not thinking about it. Pointedly. Making plans was good min control.
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#36
 "Oh, excuse me." She laughed, pressed her free hand to her chest as if his distaste was offensive somehow. "Are you too good for it or something? What - are you just going to eat fried dough, no powdered sugar." Like those people who ate sweet and sour chicken without the sauce - also known as chicken nuggets.

 It was then she thought about the logistics of someone who looked like him eating a funnel cake - a visual that made her choke on another outburst of laughter. The last thing she wanted to do was discourage it, so she waited instead and knocked the back of his hand against her leg as they inched up to the counter.

 "I can go for some softer rides, and I don't mind whoopin' your ass at the one with the water guns and the balloons - ya know?" She glanced up, squinted in the sun and already made a quick grab for her wallet once it was their turn.
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#37
 Her retort earned first a grin, then a snort and a roll of his eyes. Of course he was going to get powdered sugar. Alex, please. He would just string her along on that one, though, muttering a sardonic "duh" in response. In reality, he was already enjoying the powdery sweetness in his mind, and prepared for the task of endlessly brushing it out of his beard. Sigh.

 "You're buying me a giant stuffed animal, then," he informed her lowly as she whipped out her wallet. She could pay for this, he decided silently, before letting the older lady on the other side of the window that he wanted a funnel cake - with sugar, thank you. He watched her profile as she went through the motions that followed, absently sort of... staring at her. As if he hadn't really seen her before. Her thick brows and the mouth made to frame a sneer and a silver tongue. His hand twitched emptily as he looked away from her, made to step off so that the next person in line could order and they could loiter in waiting.
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#38
 For the sake of the seemingly pleasant old woman working on the other side of the counter, she did her best poker face and went through the motions. Cash in exchange for two stupidly overpriced funnel cakes, a mountain of toppings on hers that somehow was worth nearly three dollars more. Okay, Satan.

 All the same she felt it, that sort of bizarre prickle at the back of her neck when someone was staring. Waiting until they were stepped to the side for the next customer, she kept her eyes forward - watched as the batter was swirled into the oil. "First of all, I'm not buying you shit - I'm going to win you something ... something fitting." She hold her arms out, stretched as far as she could. "A giant ass puppy, maybe."

 She grabbed a wad of napkins, and then a few more for good measure. "Secondly, why are you staring at me - don't be rude." Going hard on the enunciation even as she smiled and took the first double stacked paper plate, held it out to him as they finished drizzling chocolate syrup over her own cake.
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#39
 Dante really had no interest in a stuffed animal, but that was the cliche romantic theme park idea, right? He put his hands up in mock defense as she informed him she would be winning him something, not buying it. Whatever. Fair enough. He chuffed at her offer. A giant puppy. Cute.

 He side eyed her as she accused him of staring, taking the sweetly perfumed cake from her without looking down at it. "Because you’re pretty," he muttered, tone nearly matter of fact. As if he was talking about the grass being green or that roller coaster being tall. Isn’t that what people did when something was pretty? Stare at it. Somewhat belatedly, he realized what he’d said, and of course had to like. Take some weight out of it. "Don’t let it go to your head," he added as her cake was passed through the window, turning away to seek out an empty table under a parasol.
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#40
Oh.

 In reality, she wasn't quiet so broken and self-depreciating, it wasn't like she thought of herself as dirt or ... she guessed she was pretty. But it felt arrogant, and she'd half expected something more along the lines of: 'Have you ever noticed that one of your eyes sits higher than the other?' or, perhaps, 'Just taking in how the sun shine off your mustache.' Variants of the usual hateful shit they spewed at one another, met with more insult and a scowl before they came back for more on loop.

But never pretty, not outright.

 She swung leg around and then the other, settled on the bench to his right and used her fingers to dig in - pinching off a bit of dough and shrugging. "You're - you know ... handsome or whatever, fuck off." She covered her mouth with her hand, paranoid about chocolate sauce lingering at the corners of her lips. The sentiment had never not been true, but it still felt like giving away a plot twist. "You really should try this ..." And maybe it mitigated the progress made where maturity was concerned, but she ripped off another chunk and swiped it with extra whipped cream before trying to shove it in his face.
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#41
 She handled it with about as much grace as she handled anything - about as well as he had delivered it, he guessed. It seemed her response was more of a knee-jerk statement, something to shift the spotlight or, as she put it, whatever. She was shoving a morsel of sugar-smothered dough in his mouth before he could clap back, anyway, and he grunted as he took it, scraping her fingers with his teeth and a gleam of amusement in his eye.

 "Jesus," he muttered around the cake stuffed between his cheek and molars. "That is rich." Was it possible for Weres to have sugar highs? He could already see Alex bouncing off the proverbial walls. He grabbed a napkin and wiped fruitlessly at the inevitable dollop of whipped cream on his beard. "Handsome, huh?" Back to that conversation as soon as he swallowed, grinning a little at her. "I always thought I was kind of a butterface. You just want me for my body." An accusatory raise of his eyebrows was shot at her before he ate a chunk of his own funnel cake.
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#42
 She clenched her teeth, laughed as he made a threat of biting her properly and tugged her hand away - licking the mess before she went back to her own greasy plate of dough. "Don't be a little bitch about it, be stronger than the funnel cake." Phrasing it like a challenge as she bumped the side of his foot with hers beneath the cover of the table.

 She took off another section, ended up shoveling a piece far too big into her mouth without much in the way of grace. "Don't pish 'or 'ompliments." The words distorted as she turned her face from him but spoke with a mouthful of food. Clearing her throat at last, she gruffly wiped her hands off on a napkin and reached out to try to pinch his cheek. "Don't be so hard on yourself, you grow on people. Like a fungus, or one of those ugly cats that has their own Instagram."
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#43
 Dante smirked a little beneath his beard as she turned her face away from him to say something that was utterly distorted by the blatantly too-large piece of food in her mouth. Instead of asking for clarification, he just sort of made an affirmative noise around his next bite, haphazardly enjoying the sweet treat that he would indubitably make quick work of.

 He wrinkled the side of his face against her assaulting fingers, scoffing at her... compliment. Fungus. Cute. He tugged away from the pinch and made a face at her. "The fuck is instagram?" he asked, punctuating the question with another large bite of cake that dusted his beard with sugar.
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#44
 "God." She laughed, wiped her fingers off on a napkin and considered what was left of her cake - all pieces towards the center that meant an extra bit of mess. "You really did crawl out of a cave system somewhere." She leaned over, knocked her knee against his and watched him as she ripped off another piece but didn't commit just yet.

 "People post pictures of themselves, their coffee, dinner, flowers, pets ... significant others, uh - gym selfies." The usual fair. "And then they feel validated, I guess." A whole train she missed out on out of paranoia about having her face spread about more than necessary. "The point is your face is nice - shut up." She flicked powdered sugar in his general direction, scowled as she went back to the fried matter at hand.
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#45
 Dante grunted at her almost humorlessly with a roll of his eyes. A general disdain for technology did indeed equate to sort of living under a rock in today's age of electronic saturation. His knee flexed against hers, but he listened with minor interest all the same as she explained this... virtual photo diary, by the sounds of it. Another short grunt. Not really his idea of fun, but whatever.

 He did laugh at her compliment, preening a little despite the layer of insult that it came wrapped up in. His face scrunched as she assaulted him with powdered sugar, but he didn't retaliate immediately. Instead, he picked at his own paper plate delicacy a little more, waiting for an opportunity to push her elbow just right so that she smeared whipped cream on her face with the next bite. It was sure to earn backlash, but it was worth every bit of it.

 By the time they had finished their sugar-loaded confections, Dante was ready to do his best to kick her ass at some carnival games.

 In the end, he got his prize.

-fade-
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