“Somehow,” Jack laughed nervously, “I thought I’d have more trouble over you finding out I didn’t–”
“Pee standing up?” Meredith finished, with a short laugh of her own.
Jack wanted to smile, then, but Meredith’s eyes hadn’t warmed up.
“You know what? We’re living in a world full of weird. I can get behind people of all colors, races, religions, genders, non-genders. Real-world bizarro-talk just doesn’t bother me,” she said easily enough. You wanna dress and act like a guy, fine, whatever. It’s this whole other part where you’re fucking crazy that I have a problem with,” she said.
Jack finally managed to identify the expression on her face.
“Craz–” he began, his eyes huge, his whole body tensing.
“Yes, crazy!” Meredith said, half scornfully. “You think you’re a fucking wolf! I walk in on you and your brother in bed, which was bad enough, thank you, and you try to explain all that away by telling me you’re a wolf? Seriously?”
“Merry,” Jack said, reaching out for her, shaking his head. “It’s — William was just trying to make sure I didn’t hurt anyone. It’s not always easy when I… when I change. He was keeping everyone safe. We weren’t — nothing goes on between us, Jesus.”
“Nothing!? You were naked in bed together!” Meredith yelped.
“I ruin clothes if I change in them, and I guess Will just sleeps naked, for fuck’s sake!” Jack shouted, getting frustrated. “This isn’t about my brother! I’m not crazy, Merry–”
“Stop calling me Merry, freak,” Meredith snapped, her expression still hateful as she crossed her arms over her chest, glaring at Jack.
“I’m not a freak,” Jack said, stunned, the automatic reply falling out of his lips the way William taught him. You shouldn’t have to, William said, but you’ll need to defend yourself. It deflected the words, but it could never really deflect the sting.
“Yeah? You come to my school and pretend to be a boy–”
“It’s not pretending!” Jack said, feeling weak and sick, having to shout the words he hated to say, over and over again, to anyone who found out, and never understood.
“Then,” Meredith snarled, not listening at all, “I catch you in bed with your brother.”
“I’m telling you, that was just–” Jack cried, feeling his face flush in shame and indignation.
“Then you tell me you’re a werewolf!” Meredith shouted, steamrolling past Jack’s objections. “That pretty much sounds like ‘freak’ to me!” she snapped, shaking, her lips drawn into a thin, tight line.
Jack couldn’t get the words out for a moment, feeling them caught in his throat, half hiccuped. He winced, shaking his head as he repeated, somewhat more quietly, “I’m not a freak. Just let me explain.”
“Fuck, you know what? Just bite me,” she said, her pretty mouth twisted up all ugly to frost the sarcastic comment with as much hate as possible. “I’ll understand then, right? But I don’t have a brother to sleep with — guess it just wouldn’t work out,” she snarled, and then turned on her heel, and stalked away.
Jack stood there, fists curled up in the pocket of his jeans, skinny shoulders shaking, blue eyes huge and wet with unshed tears. There was a sinking, crawling, pulsing feeling in his chest, almost like the change, but instead of an explosion of fire, an implosion into ice, where the burning died, hollowed out.
Was this love? Jack wondered. Is this what all the great poets wrote about? “No fucking wonder they all went nuts or offed themselves,” he said out loud, trying to wipe the tears off his face, before William arrived to take him home.