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Generated: Jul 17, 2021 5:07 AM
Post last updated: May 20, 2021 1:35 PM
To war, to war, my harp is due
The alpha of Beacon Hills seeks revenge
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There's blood on her hands, in her hair, on her face, under her fingernails, and it won't go away. There's blood on the floor, staining it. They just had it polished last week.

There was blood on his face, in his mouth-

She closes her eyes and tries to stop thinking.

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Matt hasn’t actually moved in. He’s not letting that stop him.

He spends most of his days and nights here. He goes to school when Juliet goes to school, but otherwise he’s with her. He’s with her unless she’s in the kind of mood where she doesn’t want him there, and he hasn’t seen many of those. They might not exist.

He runs his hands through her hair, singing off-key.

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She opens her eyes and stares at him.

"Has Stefan called yet?"

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“Not yet. He’s like clockwork. Do you want to talk to him when he does?”

He asks the question every time. Matt’s been doing that with a lot of questions lately.

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"No. He had a lead?"

She doesn't remember what lead, there's been so many. They'll blended together in her head now.

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“He’s looking. He’ll call until he finds him.”

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She nods and moves closer to him.

"Is it time to leave?"

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“Soon. Do you want to do anything? Change?”

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"Wearing the same clothes three days in a row will probably bring even more pity than usual. Not my thing."

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“Should I leave you to it?”

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"Really nothing you haven't seen before. But I think I can figure it out myself."

She kisses him and then stands.

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Matt waits for her by the door.

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Juliet quickly changes into whatever clothes she sees first and puts her hair up. She can't be bothered doing anything else. What does it really even matter?

She walks up to him and takes his hand.

"Ready for another day of mind-numbing compulsory education?"

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“‘Ready’ is a strong word. Let’s go.”

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Their ride is waiting for them outside.

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"Morning." She gets into the car and searches for something to say. Anything.

She comes up with nothing, and she looks back over to the house.

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"Do you guys need me to make a supply run?"

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"I think we're good. Got a bunch of stuff yesterday."

She puts a smile on her face.

"Thank you."

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"It's the least I could do."

The car ride is quiet.

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Matt holds her hand.

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She appreciates this. It's easier when he's touching her, she can breath and its easy to ignore the echos of blood staining her hands.

Juliet leans against him.

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He's happy to help.

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The announcements are read, as usual. Nothing about dead parents comes up.

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Erica waves at Juliet during homeroom. She's not sure if she should say anything. Her questions can wait.

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Juliet waves weakly back and then gets out her book. It's definitely not a school book and has no title or other signifiers to say exactly what it is. She'd taken it from a shelf in his room after she'd broken apart everything that was able to be broken and then some.

This book, in particular, was about Wendigos. So far it hadn't told her anything she hadn't already known, but maybe she would get lucky and find something. She needed to be prepared.

She doesn't pay attention to her classes.

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Classes don't pay attention to her.

Matt hovers as close to her as he can without skipping all of his classes.

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"You might get detention if you keep missing classes."

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"I can handle detention. It's just high school."

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She nods and looks down at the Math.

"You got a head for numbers?"

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"I'm more of a visual guy. I can take a look."

He takes a look, and explains it to her.

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Juliet catches on quickly and gets it done.

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Jackson stops by her desk when class is over.

"Hey, I heard what happened. I'm sorry."

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"Thanks. Muderous cousins, regret taking an interest yet?"

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"I don't. Not even a little. I hope they find him."

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"Unlikely, but it's a nice thought."

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"I hope he dies alone and unhappy. If you need any notes that you missed, I'm sure Matt is trying, but Lydia's are better. So are mine."

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"I'm not too worried, but sure, thanks. Much more useful than all those flowers I've been getting. Make my nose itch."

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"I'll tell Lydia not to send any more."

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"If that's everything, we should get going."

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She takes Matts hand.

"I'd appreciate it. Talk to you later, Whittemore."

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School continues.

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Juliet attends her classes. Look how functional she is!

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"Since none of you can handle a simple homework assignment, I thought I would give you work that your little minds can handle."

He hands out a worksheet to everyone.

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...Juliet takes the worksheet and tries to ignore the blood.

She takes one look at the work- cartoon animals and demeaning questions- and takes out her book again.

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The rest of the day is much the same. Matt goes to his own classes half the time, but otherwise stays close.

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The thought of going back to the Boarding House so soon makes her tense.

"Do you have lacrosse practice?"

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"I can skip it, if you want."

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"You should go. Life doesn't revolve around me, despite all evidence."

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"Will you be there to cheer me on?"

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"Always."

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Practice!

Matt and Jackson perform admirably.

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Their ride takes them home.

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Home, right.

"I should probably call Lexi and see how the preparations are going..."

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"I can set everything up if she hasn't. I know the funeral director."

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She nods.

"I feel so fucking passive, incapable of doing anything. Everything is so... I can't stop thinking about the blood and-" she shuts her eyes, "I don't want to be here. I want to be out there looking for him. He was going to kill you and I didn't do anything."

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"We can go. It'll take me a day to set something up if we want the flimsiest of covers, but we can go. I just think we should stay for the funeral."

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"Does it matter? He's dead, I let him die. I don't deserve to go to his funeral."

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"He would have wanted one. I think I should go pay my respects."

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She nods and hugs him. "I go where you go."

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“If you don’t want to stay here, we can go to my house.”

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"I don't want to be here. But. Will you be okay with me being around your parents?"

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“They’re useless. They won’t bother you.”

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"Okay.  I love you," she pauses and tries to word, "I loved my dad too. But- I don't regret the choice I made. I need you to know that. I'll always choose you."

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“I love you too.”

He kisses her, his heart pounding faster.

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She kisses him back, holding him tight. She never wants to let him go, wants to stay in this moment forever.

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They can stay in that moment for a good, long while.

In fact, Matt seems like he wants to take that moment upstairs.

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They can go upstairs, everything else can wait. They're the only two people that matter.

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Matt goes looking for a bed, without letting go of Juliet. It makes it a bit harder to look.

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...Juliet pulls him into Damons room, through mess of broken furniture and burned clothes and onto the bed.

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Matt cooperates, thoroughly.

Can the bed handle two?

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The mattress is pretty well ripped up, but that in no way will stop them from using it.

She starts pulling at his shirt. "These have to go."

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They do.

Matt seems less interested in talking now.

He kisses her, hastily undressing without spending a moment with his hands off her.

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Juliet does the same, pulls him on top of her and wraps her legs around his waist.

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They enjoy themselves. They’re both still alive, after all.

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Afterwards, she lies close to him and looks up at him.

"Why have you never asked me to change you? Into a wolf."

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“Are you sure I could still be your anchor if I was? I don’t want to lose that.”

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"I don't think that can change. Even now, after what he did... it's still you. Becoming a werewolf won't change how I feel about you."

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"Maybe. Are you sure I'm ready?"

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"Yes. But you have to be sure. We can't have uncertainties."

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"How did you learn to control it? Between you and me, I think you're a stronger person than I am."

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"I've been this way since I was five years old. It was hard. But. I'll be there with you. You've helped me so much."

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"After the funeral. I don't want to miss that. After the funeral we leave this town, and you turn me."

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She pulls him down to her and kisses him.

"Yes. We'll be powerful and we'll find him and make him pay for what he did."

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Matt decides it's a good thing they didn't put on their clothes yet.

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Convenient, that.

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Eventually, Matt decides to get clean, and once they're both dressed, he points out: "If we go to my place, I'll have to call my parents. How do you feel about just renting a hotel room?"

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"I have some cash on me, but the bank has put most of my accounts on hold during the investigation."

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"If I withdraw too much at once, they'll freeze mine. I can ask Coach for a loan, withdraw as much as won't be suspicious, and Bentley might be willing to lend me some if I explain..."

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"We have a safe... I don't know the combination though. But there's sure to be a lot of money in there."

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"We have a few options. We can tap all of them. I don't plan to come back."

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She heads down to the library and heads straight to the hidden safe in the wall.

"It's probably something stupid. Like- his birthday, or mine."

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Matt doesn't say anything. This seems private. He just holds her hand.

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She tries a couple of combinations, getting more and more frustrated with each try.

"This is stupid. This is my house, if I want this, I should have it."

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...she lets go of his hand and rips the safe out of the wall.

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"That's one way to do it."

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She cracks it open some more and reveals it contents.

"Ah. That has to be... a lot. Couple thousand at the very least," she pauses and picks up a delicate necklace, "this looks expensive."

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"Do you think he would come back for that? Jewelry kept in a safe is either very expensive or sentimental."

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Juliet turns it over in her hands. "It looks kind of familiar... like I've seen it before, but-"

She stands and runs up the stairs.

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Matt follows her.

"Juliet? What is it?"

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She goes into Stefan's room and heads straight towards a shelf. On it, apart from the books, is an old photograph.

Pictured is a beautiful woman, the photograph has aged a lot, but very clearly they can see that she wears a necklace around her neck. Identical to the one Juliet holds in her hands.

Juliet laughs. "This is perfect. He'll definitely be wanting this back."

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"Something we can use."

He puts an arm around her shoulder, kissing her neck.

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She turns to him and kisses him, excited.

"If we can distract him with this, we'll have a chance. We can hurt him the way he hurt us."

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"I can't wait."

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She smiles at him and kisses him again.

Then: "I don't want to leave my car. I'll get my license soon and I don't want to have to come back to get it."

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"I'll ask Coach to handle it."

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"I'm gonna go pack, did you wanna call Bentley back? I don't know any of the hotels in town."

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"Sure. I'll takes care of all of that, you just focus on Damon."

He makes a call.

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Juliet goes into her room and packs a bag... two bags. There's no way she's leaving her camera behind, despite everything.

She fills another up with all the money from the safe too.

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And when she comes back downstairs, Matt will let her know that "Bentley is on his way here. You won't have to see this place ever again."

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"...burning to the ground would probably cause too much attention, probably."

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"It might. I think we'll have to settle for leaving."

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Juliet hears their ride pull up outside.

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She nods and looks down at the place where her dad died.

"It's cursed. This is where he killed my mother too."

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"We're going to destroy him."

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She nods, believing it. "Bentley is outside. Let's get out of here."

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They go.

"Thanks for the ride, Bentley. We really appreciate it."

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"No problem. I'm glad I could help."

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"Being a teenage orphan really isn't all it's cracked up to be. All those YA novels lied to me. How is everyone getting around? Buses seen nonexistent, at the very least."

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"If you're trying to get out of town, you have plenty of options. For people who want to get around Beacon Hills, God invented cars."

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"I have a car. But no licence."

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"For the sake of innocent pedestrians, Uncle Sam invented licenses. Sorry."

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"We can survive for a few days."

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"Why, what's in a few days?"

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"Funeral. Then I'm going to go stay with my cousin. The non murderous one."

Well. The one that didn't kill her parents, anyway.

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"Got it. Is everything handled, or do you need help with that?"

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"We might need a lift to the airport?"

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"Happy to help."

And their ride drops them off at the only motel near town.

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Juliet grabs her bags and looks around. "Kinda creepy."

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"It is," says the proprietor, and the following monologue about the motel's history looks to be just as dull and faded with age as the wallpaper.

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Juliet interrupts. "Very interesting. Just the one room, please."

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There's some tittering about that, but then they have the key!

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Matt and Juliet go to their room, which is surprisingly clean for something so old and old-fashioned.

"This place is kind of creepy. In an understated way. I wish I'd brought my camera."

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She takes out her own camera and hands it to him. "Never come unprepared."

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He takes a few pictures of their room, and then his girlfriend in the room. He takes a few of Juliet before he pauses, looking at her.

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"Not so photogenic after all?"

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"I had a thought. I'm not sure if I should say it out loud."

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"But now you've got me all curious."

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"I've always wanted to watch the moment it happens, from the outside. From a distance. Do you think you could- you don't have to, I don't want to make you uncomfortable."

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She bites her lip. "It wouldn't make me uncomfortable. I've only ever changed in the cell or in the Preserve before... But. I think I could do it here. And keep in control. Especially with you here."

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"I'll be here the whole time."

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Juliet nods and looks around.

"This should be enough space, I'm not that big."

She gathers up her bags and puts them into the attached bathroom and then undresses and puts them there too. She takes a deep breath, shuts the bathroom door and turns to him.

"Ready?"

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She doesn't wait for an answer, the pull to change and shed her human form too enticing. It's been so long.

It's quick and the relief of the transformation is the best thing she's felt for months. It's nearly overwhelming. The sights and smells of the hotel room strange and unfamiliar. The scent of blood and disinfectant coating most of the room.

The urge to run and hunt is there, ever present. The room is too small. Just like the cell. She tries to focus on something else.

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She can focus on the beating of his heart, faster than she remembers. He's terrified. He's exhilarated. He reaches one hand out to touch her.

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She listens to his heart and tries to stay still. Nobody has ever touched her when she's like this before.

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He strokes her fur, murmuring her name quietly.

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She moves closer to him and lies down near on top of him. Everything seems... good. She hasn't ever felt this relaxed. The sound of his voice and the beating of his heart calms her.

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He smiles as he feels her muscles shift.

"You're as beautiful in this form as you are in the other. I wonder if your beauty would shine through no matter how you looked."

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She looks up at him and then pushes him slightly towards the bed.

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To the bed he goes. He doesn't stop touching her until he has to, and then only for a moment.

He takes off his shirt, and his pants, lying down in the bed. He scritches her behind the ear.

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She sidles close to him on the bed and rests her head on his chest, closing her eyes.

The urge to bite him, make him like her- her pack, something she's never had before- is at the forefront of her mind... it would be so easy.

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He kisses her on the forehead, and buries his face in the warmth of her fur.

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He's too close, but she can't make herself pull away...

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She forces herself to change back, attempting to push her wolf away.

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"It's okay. You don't have to change back. This is perfect."

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Nope. She pushes him back hard and kisses him, hands gripping his shoulders with her superior strength.

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He kisses her back. Not that it would stop her.

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She climbs on top of him, still holding him down, and moves down to his throat and kisses him there.

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He's not one to reject kisses.

He is thoroughly kissed.

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She wants him. He's hers. He belongs to her.

Her nails sharpen and her teeth grow longer. The wolf at the forefront of her mind.

"Matt..." she manages.

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"I love you, Juliet."

He kisses her.

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Of course he does.

So she pulls back and bites him.

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He screams. He screams like he's dying, like he's dying again, like he's finally dying, like maybe this is real-

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She shuts him up with more kisses and starts crying.

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"Love you," he mumbles, and then he doesn't say anything more.

He strokes her hair, and bleeds.

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She sobs and holds him tight.

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His breathing hitches, and stops.

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She starts shaking him, tries to take away his pain. Anything.

No no nonononono. She starts screaming and sobbing, shouting his name.

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Nothing.

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This can't be happening. This isn't happening.

Her wolf rises to the surface again.

Juliet tries again, trying to take this back. She pulls and pulls, trying to find something.

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He coughs, spitting up water.

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"Matt. Oh god- you were. You weren't breathing. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I love you, please don't leave me. I'm sorry, sorry." She starts sobbing again.

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“No, ‘m fine,” he mumbles, but he seems out of it.

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"You died. I killed you."

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“Mmm.”

He tries to kiss her.

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She lets him kiss her but continues to cry.

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“It’s okay. I’m still here.”

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"You can't- everyone I love dies. I killed you, this is all my fault. I've ruined your life."

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“It wasn’t that long, Juliet. I barely noticed.”

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She kisses him again and then moves her hand to his throat, to the blood there, putting pressure on it.

"We need to go to a hospital."

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His heartbeat seems entirely normal.

"I think I'm okay. Just a minor blip."

He stifles a yawn.

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She stares at him, then stares at the blood and pulls back her hand.

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He fails to stifle the next yawn, and she can see that the bleeding has stopped. The sheets are still stained with his blood, but his injury seems to have healed.

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She moves off him and stares at the blood on her hands.

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No one interrupts her. Matt has drifted off to sleep, exhausted from the blood loss, no matter how quickly he healed.

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Juliet curls up around herself and just watches him. She can't control her shaking, the blood was everywhere. She'd killed him. She killed her father. She killed her mother.

The blood on her hands, on her mouth, dries and starts to itch.

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Eventually, he wakes up.

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She moves herself from her position on the other side of the bed and goes to him.

"Matt?"

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"Hey. What do you think happened? I'm guessing that's not normal for werewolves?"

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She clings to him and half buries her face in his chest.

"I don't know. Maybe- it was going to kill you and you were strong enough and came back."

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"I feel fine. I don't even remember...dying."

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"I lost control. I just- couldn't stop. I wanted you, wanted us to be the same, a pack."

She pauses.

"Do you want me to leave?"

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"I'm not mad, Juliet. I'm glad."

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"I was reckless and selfish and we had a plan. I should have been able to restrain myself."

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"I came out of it alright. We should go out. Do something fun."

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"We have school later... and theres the Halloween party. I don't know what we could do now."

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"Who needs school? I think we have better things to do now."

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She hugs him close.

"I don't care about school. I care about you." She pauses. "Let's go eat first."

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They go eat. Matt proceeds to be totally fine to all appearances: he smells subtly off to Juliet, but he looks fine and feels fine. He’s fine, really!

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She is not reassured and clings to him the whole time. But she manages to keep it together. Just.

"I'm gonna call Lexi. I've been ignoring her calls all night."

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“Sure.”

He snuggles up to her.

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Snuggles help and she takes a moment to bury her face in his shoulder, taking a deep breath and preparing herself.

Then she calls Lexi.

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"Juliet, thank you for calling me back. Where are you?"

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"We're staying at a motel out of town. We- I'm with Matt."

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"Of course you are. Would you like me to come pick you up? I've rented a house in town."

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"Ah- no? Not really, I can't. I don't really want to be around- people."

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"Are you coming to the funeral?"

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"Yes, we'll be there. When is it?"

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"Tomorrow. I've put together an outfit for you, I noticed you didn't take much with you with you left the house. Do you need money?"

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"We can talk about it then. What time?"

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"Eleven o'clock. You can meet me the church beforehand, I'll help you get ready."

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"Sure. I'm a doll, fragile and useless. Dress me up as you will."

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"I'll see you then, Juliet. Be safe."

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Juliet hangs up and sighs.

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"I'll be there. We can just ignore everyone else. Just you and me and our cameras against the world."

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She nods. "We're a pack now." She leans against him and takes his hand. "Do you feel different? Can you feel it?"

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"I feel closer to you than I ever have."

He kisses her, and this feels the same.

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It does feel the same and she kisses him back.

"I just thought- I can feel you. Physically, but I thought there would be more."

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"Maybe you need to do something? Or I do. Try reaching out to me with your mind?"

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She closes her eyes and does something. Tries to reach out-

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-she senses something. It's hers. Her pack.

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...she tries to feel it out, bring it closer.

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He will come. He is hers. She has called her pack. She is the alpha.

Juliet feels a surge of energy.

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"Are you, uh, doing it? I'm not sure what it's supposed to feel like."

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"I can feel it. But-"

...does it feel like Matt?

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She doesn't know Matt's presence through this sense- but it's not him. She can feel and smell and see him, and he's not the one she's calling.

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-she cuts off the connection.

"Let's go back to the motel. Now."

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They go back to the motel.

Matt tries to distract her, but the mood is ruined. Some other time, maybe.

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They both go to bed. Juliet doesn't sleep at all and just waits for morning to come.

When it does she takes her time getting ready, she really doesn't have anything appropriate for a grieving daughter to wear to her fathers funeral. So she gives up and just puts on some jeans and a t-shirt. She doesn't care.

"Do you need to go home first?"

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"No."

He fires off a text and takes her hand. Time to face the world.

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Their ride arrives on time, uncharacteristically silent.

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Weird. Well... maybe not. It's probably awkward for everyone. She wonders if this is going to be a trend. They hardly even know her.

She holds Matt's hand and thinks about Damon.

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Their ride drops them off.

"Try not to cry too much. Save your tears for when you really need them."

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And Matt and Juliet attend a funeral.

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Mr. Lahey directs the mourners to their places.

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His son stands with the other pallbearers. He stares at the newcomers.

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Juliet spots Isaac first and is confused and then they come up to the older man...

There are so many people there, she doesn't think her dad knew that many people.

She lets herself be lead to her place.

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They stand off to the side when the priest begins. Isaac keeps looking at her when he's not staring fixedly ahead.

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Juliet stares back for a moment and then disregards him.

She looks around to the rest of the crowd, hoping Stefan would be here.

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Matt hugs her.

The funeral progresses.

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Juliet tries to zone out and focus solely on Matt. She doesn't want to be here.

...Isaacs staring distracts her from this task, so she stares at him in return.

"Why is he here?"

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"Isaac? His dad runs the graveyard."

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...she looks for the man that greeted them and directed them to their positions.

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He's glaring at Isaac from just behind him.

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Juliet stares at him, uncomprehending.

He's just... here. Among people. At her fathers funeral. How dare he be here. How dare he exist. He can't be among people. He's near Matt.

She grips Matts hand tighter and feels her temper rise. She tries to breathe and closes her eyes.

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Matt squeezes her hand.

The funeral proceeds.

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Her anger does not fade and the breathing does nothing.

Everything is so much. She wants to make it stop. She wants to kill him.

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"Juliet? What's wrong?"

He puts an arm around her waist, following her gaze. He stiffens.

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She takes another deep breath and turns into him, blocking his view.

"Killing him in front of everybody would be a bad idea."

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"Yeah. Too many witnesses."

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...she looks around at the gathered witnesses. Who exactly is there?

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There are a few people she doesn't recognize.

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There are some people that she does recognize.

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There's only one person crying, although she's trying to be subtle about it.

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"I don't care about these people."

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"Juliet, maybe we should talk about this after the funeral, like we agreed. I want this to be about your father."

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She closes her eyes, nods and leans into him, still not thinking quite straight.

Her father is dead. Damon should be dead. She can't do anything about Damon now... but Lahey was right there.

She can't kill everyone at this funeral. They don't deserve it. She needs to control herself.

She thinks of Matt and breathes him in.

Focus.

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There is much talk about a life well-lived, and a burial.

Matt holds Juliet's hand and leans into her for support.

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Her dad would of hated this.

She continues to focus on Matt.

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He can do quiet hand-holding until they've lowered the casket.

People mill about awkwardly, making small talk.

A few people try to talk to Juliet, but Matt subtly discourages them.

"Ready to go?"

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Lexi ignores the discouragement.

"I grabbed your things from the motel and checked you out. Would you like a lift home, Matt?"

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"That would be nice. Juliet? You'll be okay with her?"

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Juliet nods. She doesn't want to leave him, but it might be better. Can't fuck anything up if he's not around.

She looks back over to Isaac and his father.

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They're sticking around, presumably to clean up afterward.

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Lexi takes Juliets other hand and leads her, and Matt, over to the car.

"Well be leaving town on Monday."

They wait for them both to buckle up and then starts driving.

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He buckles up.

"If that's what Juliet thinks is best."

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"I'm not leaving without Matt."

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"I understand that you've been through a lot together, but time apart will be good for the both of you. Give you time to heal. Plus Matt is a minor, I'm sure his parents would have opinions about this."

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"You really don't know my parents."

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"We can discuss this more tomorrow. For now, rest and a night apart."

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Juliet leans into Matt for the rest of the car ride, no energy to argue right now.

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That's comforting.

Hopefully it helps her too, but he's not thinking about that. He's making plans.

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They arrive at the Daehlers.

"We'll see you tomorrow. Please don't call until then."

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"I'm sorry I'll miss you at the party."

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"Take your camera and it'll be like I'm right there."

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"Guess so. Should I tell Josh you're not coming, or do you want to?"

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"I'm sure he can guess. But I'll tell him myself." Though when she shows up at the party it won't be necessary.

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"Tell me she can at least call."

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"She can call, this isn't a punishment despite that it may feel that way."

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"Good night, Juliet."

Matt goes home.

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Lexi takes Juliet to their rental.

"Are you hungry?"

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"No. I just want to get out of these clothes."

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"I have a suitcase of your things in the second bedroom. When was the last time you ate?"

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"Ate last night. I'm going to have a shower. Point me."

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"I'm going to make you pancakes and then we can watch a movie together. Distraction is key right now."

They leads her to the bathroom.

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"You do that. Nothing like my dad's favorite meal to distract me from the fact that I let him die."

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Lexi sighs. "I can make something else. Shout if you need me, okay?"

They hugs her.

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Juliet is hugged and then she shuts the door and locks it.

She turns on the shower, goes towards the window and then listens.

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Lexi stays outside the door for a moment, hesitates, but then heads back into the kitchen and starts on food.

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And Juliet sneaks out the window.

....she has no idea where she should go. Going to Matt seems like the obvious option. But Lexi would find her immediately.

So she starts running in no particular direction. She still has several hours before the Halloween Party.

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She catches a familiar scent.

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...she quickly latches on and starts following it.

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It leads to a house. She can recognize the scent now: Jackson.

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Across the street, though, is another scent. Not as familiar, but she knows instantly: it's him.

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Juliet stands outside Jackson's house and stares across the street. 

She could turn around and go to Jackson and wait for the party and see Matt and figure out her life.

Or... she could go to him. Talk to him. Get him to turn himself in. Make him pay.

 

 

She goes and knocks on the Laheys door.

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Mr. Lahey's son answers.

"Yeah, what is it?"

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Inconvenient.

"I was going to ask you the same question, actually."

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"What's this about?"

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His father walks up behind him, placing a hand on his shoulder. He grips tightly.

"Hello. I have to apologize for my son."

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"You don't seem to be very good at apologies. So you should probably skip it. Can I come in?"

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"Are you selling something? I can save us both the time."

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His son offers no response to what either of them are saying, and hugs the wall.

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She eyes Isaac and senses his nervousness. His fear.

"I would really appreciate it if you invited me in. You don't want this conversation happening on your doorstep. Trust me."

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"If you have business with either me or my son, you'll tell me what it is, young lady."

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"If you don't let me in now, I will rip out your throat in front of the whole neighborhood."

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"-downstairs!"

He tries to slam the door.

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Isaac makes for the basement.

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She pushes the door open easily and grabs the older Lahey's arm, twisting it.

"Isaac. I'm not going to hurt you," she calls to him. "You're my friend. Stay and we'll make this right."

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Isaac pauses at the doorway. His heartbeat is fast. He smells of fear. Easy prey.

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His father, even closer, older, and weaker...he's afraid of her, too.

"Get- get away from us. Leave us be. Our Father...our Father...hallowed be..."

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"Do you know what sort of damage you've caused? Matt walks around every day with the trauma you inflicted on him. Like an open wound. You think he's weak. You made him think he was weak. What does your god think about that?"

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"I- you can't just come in here...who are you?"

His heart thuds. He's an easier target. She could tear into him easily.

"I don't understand what you want from us!"

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"...he didn't mean to."

He's nervous, guilty, afraid. He's trying to persuade her, cajole her, like she's not a vicious predator.

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She looks over as Isaac and stares at him. His fear. He is afraid of her, but...

"This whole house stinks of your fear Isaac. Do you really believe that?"

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"He didn't mean to hurt Matt! Please just- go. You're not- please..."

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"I'm sorry for- hurting Matt. I didn't intend for things to go so far."

His heartrate is relaxing now. As though the danger has passed. He still smells of fear.

"I should have done more for him."

He's lying.

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"I can taste the lies on your tongue, hear it in the beating of your treacherous heart. Isaac, you can't keep defending him. You think I don't know what he does to you? How weak he makes you feel? I can make you strong."

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"Please, have mercy. I can do better. I'll do whatever you want."

That, he means.

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He sees the flowers. He could throw the vase- but he doesn't know if that saves his dad, or just makes him a target.

"Don't- for my sake, I can't- Matt- don't hurt him for me."

 

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"How can you love him. After everything he's done. Everyone he's hurt. He's put you through hell and you still love him."

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"He's my dad."

Anger, coloring the fear. He catches himself before he does something as stupid as moving towards her.

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"Whatever you want, just stay away from us. I swear, I'll do whatever I can to make it right for Matt."

He's calmer, now. Starting to feel safe. She could still make a meal of him. Complacent prey is the easiest. Rend him limb from limb.

He's telling the truth. 

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"That doesn't mean anything. Shouldn't. I stood there and let my dad die. Chose Matt to live over him. Damon killed my dad and I still love him. We can't let that stand in the way. Damon needs to die and so does your dad."

She doesn't know if she makes sense but - it's the truth and Isaac needs to hear it.

She was weak. She let Damon kill her dad when she should have done something. Seen it coming, broken through her rose-tinted glasses. She hero-worshiped Damon, thought he could do no wrong. Even when he had always been a terrible person. Hurt so many people. He killed her mom. Tore through her dad's throat while she watched.

She can't just stand by and watch this man hurt the people she loves. Every moment he's free is a moment of pain. For Matt, for Isaac. She can't let them hurt as she hurts. She can do something about this.

"Let me help you."

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He wavers. He's not- he's afraid, but he's afraid of a lot of things. He's been afraid his whole life.

"Please."

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"Give me your arm. It'll hurt, but it'll make you stronger. Together we can be strong. Nobody will ever hurt us again."

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"Don't- don't hurt him."

He steps forward.

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"Isaac, what does she mean? What are you going to do to him?"

His scent has shifted now. The notes of fear mingle with something else, something which the werewolf in her can't recognize. His heart beats faster than it should. She can sense his weakness, his failing body. He is weak, no matter how much he tries to act strong.

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She twists his arm to shut him up. He doesn't get to speak. Not now.

"All I want is for him to never hurt you again. Never hurt Matt. He deserves to die, deserves all the pain for what he put you both through."

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"Would Matt want it?"

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Unlike his son, he has no qualms about wielding a vase as a weapon. He throws it at her and runs for Isaac.

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The vase hits her in a shower of water and broken pottery. She snarls and gets between him and Isaac. She's faster than him. She'll always be faster than him, he's weak and old and she's so much stronger than him. He's nothing.

"Don't touch him."

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"Isaac, run!"

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He really only has the one piece of leverage. Trembling, afraid, and soaked in his own urine, he extends his arm.

"Ar-arm first. Him later."

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She grabs the man again and pushes him into the wall hard enough for the plaster to crack.

"Move again and I'll break your fucking legs."

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She turns back to Isaac and takes a hold of his wrist. He's weak and pathetic and she's going to make him strong.

"Nobody is ever going to hurt you again. I promise."

Before he can properly register her words her teeth are in his arm and ripping into his skin, marking him. Changing him.

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He screams, obviously, but then he stops. So he changes. The process won't be immediate, but it will be quick. He'll only need some time to recover, and to adjust.

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The other Lahey's heart seems to be having similar issues, but unlike his son's heartbeat, which has come to a slow, steady pace, his heartbeat is getting more and more frenetic. He isn't moving much.

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She turns to him then and stares at him. His heartbeat calling to her like a siren's song. She wants to rip into him, she already has the sweet taste of blood on her tongue, adding his would be so good.

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-but as soon as she thinks the thought, she finds that there is no need. The heartbeat was too much. In old, sick, weak prey, sometimes that's all it takes. This is just meat now. The eyes fade. The corpse slackens.

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Isaac groans. He needs time to adjust to the change, but his body will already be healing of any recent injuries. He'll be up soon enough.

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Fuck.

She bends down, picks him up and heads towards the back door. Waking up to his dad dead on the ground is not the best way to start his life as a werewolf.

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She can drag him out of the back door. It's when they hit the grass that he starts struggling.

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She looks around to make sure they're out of sight from any curious neighbors.

"Isaac, stop. I'm not going to hurt you."

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"You bit my arm! It- doesn't even hurt, this is insane."

He tries to stand up and finds this much easier than expected. He rises smoothly to his feet.

"What. The. Hell."

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"I'm sorry. I won't hurt you again. It was just the only way I knew I could help you. Make you like me. You should be fully healed soon."

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"Fine. I'm- I'm going to check on my dad. Just come back when things have cooled off."

He walks back to the door.

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"Isaac. Stop. You can't -"

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"It's my house. You said I could, I can protect myself now."

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"He's dead. His heart just - couldn't take it."

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"...get off my property. I want- dad!"

He opens the door.

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"I'm sorry, I didn't -" that's a lie, she wanted him dead. Wanted to make him pay for all the things he did to them.

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He goes inside.

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She's left alone on the grass. The sun is still out. The curtains across the street suddenly draw closed.

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She can't stay here. But she can't just leave him. They both need to leave.

She stays where she is.

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She can hear crying inside. The sound of a body being dragged, head thudding against the wooden floor. Something falling- not fragile, and so unbroken. Pleas for him to wake up, please. Glass shattering. Crying.

About ten minutes pass.

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She curls up next to the door, shaking, feeling his pain. She's fucked everything up, can't help him. She ruins everything she touches.

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He comes back outside. He's wearing a leather jacket that doesn't fit quite right, although she can already see that his body will change to fit it. Werewolves are stronger than humans.

"Let's go. I can't stay here."

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Juliet nods and - doesn't actually know where to go.

"Matt's?"

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"Yeah. Lead the way."

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Juliet leads the way in silence. She doesn't know what to say. When they arrive she tucks them away from view around the side of the house and messages Matt on her phone.

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Hey. You okay?

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"Everything's louder," he whispers, twitching whenever a bird or a squirrel engages in ordinary animal behavior.

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"No. Your senses are just better. Hearing is just the beginning."

I fucked up. Come outside, I have Isaac with me.
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He opens the window.

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"Just like the old days."

He looks to her for approval before he starts climbing.

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- right, okay.

She waits for him to get inside before following him.

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-where he's waiting for her. He wraps her in an embrace, ignoring Isaac entirely.

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She clings to him, burying her face into his shirt.

"He's dead. I - this keeps happening."

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"Shhh. It's going to be okay. Don't worry, Juliet. We'll get through this."

They might sound like platitudes, but she can feel his confidence in them. They're unshakeable.

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"Can I stay here tonight?"

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"Sure. Whatever you need."

He kisses her on the forehead.

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"I changed him. Wanted to make him strong."

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"I'm going to sleep. I can take the closet."

He opens it, not waiting for permission, clearing some space.

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"I should- take care of him. What are you going to do, Juliet?"

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"You're not sleeping in the closet," she directs at Isaac, then shakes her head and looks up at Matt. "I need to... one of his neighbours saw us. I caught them looking through the window. I should go to the police station, tell them - tell them there was an argument and he had a heart attack."

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Nod.

"We could come with you. It's still a little early to sleep," he says as much to Isaac as to her. "I don't think you need to be alone right now, no matter what Lexi says."

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"I think you should stay here. With Isaac. Tell him everything. I'll come straight back. I don't care about what Lexi wants. I'm not going anywhere with her."

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"Okay. Just take care of yourself. Don't do anything I wouldn't do."

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She kisses him once and hugs him again.

"Take care of Isaac. He's pack now. All we have is each other."

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"I do not swear, Juliet, not by the inconstant moon. If I swear by anything, I swear by thy gracious self, god of my idolatry."

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Juliet blushes and reaches up to touch his face. "I'll be back."

One more kiss and she tears herself away and out the window.

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Juliet takes her time walking to the police station. It's not like the man is going to get any deader. She ignores the calls from Lexi and tries to get her head together.

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The police station is quieting down for the day, but there are still officers there. Someone asks her for her name and tells her to wait, please.

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She guesses she will do that then and be on her best behavior.

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An officer eventually comes to speak with her.

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She introduces herself again and tells them about the... accident? How her friend's dad had a heart-attack while they were having an argument and she's not sure what to do now and she thought she should tell them about it because. Well, he's dead.

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The officer is very kind and offers some nice words and promises that they'll go check it out. There's no sign that they see this as anything other than what it was: a death by natural causes.

She's free to go.

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She goes. A little buzzed that it was so easy.

Before she heads back to Matt's she goes shopping and picks up a bunch of essentials for Isaac. Toothpaste and all the stuff that he will need and so he doesn't have to go back to that house.

She makes good time.

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They're waiting for her when she gets back.

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...Isaac opens the window to let her in.

"Hey. Sorry about...this."

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Juliet climbs through the window and goes straight to Matt, curling around him.

"What's happened? What's going on."

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He tries to say something, but he just starts crying.

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"We talked. About stuff."

His voice sounds scratchy too, but his tears are dry.

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Right. Yes.

She holds Matt tight and - offers her arms to Isaac. They're pack now, right? They should comfort each other. She's never been in a pack before, doesn't really know what to do, but this feels correct.

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He doesn't really feel like hugging right now.

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Matt would like a hug quite badly.

He murmurs into her hair- snippets of Romeo and Juliet, mostly, with "love you" interspersed throughout.

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He can have all the hugs and they can stay like this for as long as he needs.

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"I hate this stupid town. I just wish it was the two of us, and nothing else."

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"None taken," he mutters.

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"We're leaving. We don't need to be here. There's nothing for any of us here. Isaac too. He's pack now. I'm not leaving him alone."

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"What does that mean, anyway, pack?"

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"I already explained-"

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"Yeah, werewolf, got it, sure. What does pack mean to you?"

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She pauses and looks up at him. Completely at a loss for words.

"It's. I don't know what other packs are like. I've always been alone. Isolated. Trapped in a cell, but... we're family. We protect each other, shield each other from pain. Love each other. I'll do anything for you. For you both. Kill anyone that tries to hurt you. I'm yours. I'll be anything you need."

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"Oh, is that all? Sounds alright."

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"We should plan. We need to skip town before the cops ask the wrong questions, or before Lexi finds something she can use to trap you here."

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"Dad has - had a cabin that he inherited from his mom, I don't think Stefan or -" Damon, "they don't know about it. He always told me to go there if anything happened." He never mentioned that he would be gone, but she should have guessed.

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They plan. He can get them some money to start out. Cash from the family's safe, and a credit card that they won't cancel as long as he sends postcards. He's planned this before; his parents want him to be happy, even though they can't make it happen, and if they part on good terms, they can stretch that trust until it breaks.

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"I should stay here. I can't collect on the money from the will unless I look innocent. Running off now would just make me look guilty. Got any ideas for that? I don't think your parents will put me up if you're gone."

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"I can stay long enough to sell it, if I have to. I want us to establish a safehouse soon, we need to get Lexi off our trail."

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She doesn't want to be separated from either of them. Can't be.

"We all need to go somewhere for the full moon. Somewhere big enough that we can run and not hurt anyone."

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"Right. I can sell my parents on a vacation with just the three of us to the cabin, I'm due for a guilt gift. Full moon- we've still got a few days. In the meantime, Isaac, we go to school like nothing's changed. Juliet, do you think you can go to school? It might help throw Lexi off our scent."

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"Okay. I can do it."

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He's so lucky to have her.

They manage to keep their hands to themselves (it's not a tiny room, but it is just one room), and the next day, high school.

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School.

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Most everyone gives her a wide berth. Not Erica.

"I'm so sorry, Juliet. Do you need anything?"

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"I don't... think so. Are you okay? I'm sorry I didn't call."

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"It's okay. I don't need anyone to check up on me. I just wanted to make sure- you seemed like you were going through something, and now your dad...I'd be a shitty friend if I didn't ask."

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- She hugs Erica in a tight embrace.

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Hugs that the other person needs and are not expressions of pity for her condition are actually satisfying, she's surprised to find out.

"Hey, at least you don't have curfew."

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Juliet's laugh breaks through her misery. God, she doesn't know the last time she laughed. Everything has just been so awful and just - it feels good to laugh again.

"I guess there's that."

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Erica can't do much, but she can guard Juliet from concerned strangers whenever Matt isn't there to do it.

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Isaac keeps to himself.

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Lydia does try to express her condolences during lunch.

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Lydia can do as she pleases, with a caveat that she does not mention the whole 'her dad was a child abuser' thing that she was pushing before.

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She doesn't bring it up, no. She leaves when she's said the right words.

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"What a bitch. Like she even knew you."

Erica has decided to take over making sure Juliet eats, as well. She buys her lunch and prompts her when she looks like she's not going to finish it.

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Juliet is a little bemused but eats all the food.

"I think she just likes to feel important," she shrugs. "She doesn't matter, anyway."

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"Yeah. How are things going with Matt?"

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"What do you mean?"

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"I don't know, he just seems...protective, that's all."

And she's not going to say anything else, but her heartrate has picked up.

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"I... guess. Yeah." She doesn't really know how to talk about this. "Everything has - it's been a lot. He was there when my dad died. I had to. Choose. Between them."

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"Oh. Sounds like a lot to cope with."

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"Right." She considers her. Everything that's happened. Erica has been her friend. Helped her and kept her secrets. And... what has Juliet ever done for her? "I turned him. I can do that now."

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"Right. You turned him. Into- what- you are?"

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"Werewolf. Is what I am."

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She doesn't look shocked, or scared. Her heart is racing because- in the stories, this is where she makes a deal with the devil, right. A cure, in exchange for eternal service. There are lots of stories. If her pastor were here, he'd have a conniption.

"Is it nice, being a werewolf?"

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"You're powerful. Stronger and faster and you can heal from almost anything. I don't know if... I guess it's nice, I've never known any other way of being. I was born like this."

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She can't just ask something like this. It's so big, and Juliet just lost her father. There could be consequences- she can hear her mother crying, worried about the state of her immortal soul but-

"I know it's not right to ask this of you, but do you think it could- cure me?"

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"I... I don't see why it wouldn't. It's not a cure for everything. You've seen how much I've struggled with it. And it comes with a host of - werewolves aren't the only things out there. But... if you want it. You've been such a good friend to me. I want to help you."

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"Yes. I want to. I'm willing. I'll do whatever you want, just- try to fix me."

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"Now? We can go someplace."

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"I have parents but I can say it flared up. Where do you have in mind?"

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Juliet pauses and thinks. She never wants to go back to the boarding house and Matt's house is... it's his parent's space, she's already spent too much time there.

"Damon's apartment is closest and it's not like he's going to show his face around here anytime soon."

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Nod. She takes Juliet's hand and follows.

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She squeezes the other girl's hand - warmfuzzysomethings - and goes to find Matt and Isaac. They're a pack, this should be done together. Probably?

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Matt comes along without much need for explanation.

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Isaac looks like he might need some.

"What is this about?"

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"We're going to help Erica. She wants it, she asked. Please come? I know - I fucked up with you. But Erica doesn't have anything to do with that. We can help her. Together."

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"Not like I have anything better to do."

Hands in his pockets, he follows.

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There is a token attempt made to stop them, but with these particular students, no one wants to force the issue.

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Juliet takes them all to her uncle's apartment. It's not actually that far from the school. She - checks that nobody is actually home and then lets them all inside.

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Erica trembles. She's excited. Her heartrate tells the truth, although she's not hiding the joyful anticipation on her face, either.

"Thank you."

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Isaac bears witness.

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Matt stays close to his Juliet.

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Juliet doesn't bother telling her it'll hurt, she already knows Erica has known pain. "Anything you need. Everything."

Her teeth rip into Erica the same place they did Isaac. At least this time nobody will die.

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-he can't rely bear witness with his eyes closed, but he can't seem to open them, either. He hugs himself and waits.

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She screams, but that's what the gag is for. She starts convulsing.

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Juliet Does Not Panic! She stays close to Erica and - doesn't touch her, but she's there.

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"I'll get something soft. We need to keep her from hurting herself. Just hold her."

He's looks for blankets, pillows, anything within easy reach, and returns, making something of a fort for Erica.

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She doesn't think it'll help but she lets him do it anyway.

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And eventually, it stops. Erica sits up, immediately looking to Juliet.

"I can- I can feel you. I can smell you."

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"You'll get used to that. Sounds, too. There are some things you can't un-hear."

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Matt rolls his eyes, helping Erica up.

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Juliet hugs her, overcome with happiness and love, and - she helped.

"I can't wait to show you everything. You can do some much more now. Be so much more. Anything you want to be."

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"Thank you so much. I'll make it up to you, I promise."

Hugs!!!

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(He finds a corner of the room to lurk in.)

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"We're pack now, Erica. You don't owe me anything."

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"Sure," she says agreeably. "Pack. I can work with that. What about these jokers?"

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"Also pack. Isaac's a werewolf, too, freshly turned. I'm- just Juliet's."

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She blinks at him, confused, though nods agreeably.

"What - I mean, yes, you're mine. But you're still a werewolf too."

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"I don't think I am. My senses seem pretty much the same. I'm not healing any faster, I checked."

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"That. Doesn't seem right? I bit you. Something happened."

It was weird. Nothing like what happened with Isaac and Erica though...

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"Why wouldn't you be a werewolf? Is there something else that can happen when you bite someone?"

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"You should probably mention side-effects in the pamphlet."

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"I don't... know. Nobody ever told me anything. I just know that if an alpha werewolf bites someone they change. The alpha has to be strong. Which is what - that's what Damon was doing. Making me strong."

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"Okay. We'll- figure it out. What do we need to before the cabin? Should I look into getting chains, or do you think you can take them from your house without rousing suspicion?"

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"It's my house, the only person that might object is Lexi and I'm stronger than her now."

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"What's Lexi's deal? Is she not a werewolf?"

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"I'll loop you in. Let's let the lovebirds talk."

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She looks to Juliet for permission.

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She squeezes her hand. "I don't mind."

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Well. Erica stays.

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Isaac falls behind the rest of the group sullenly.

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"The good thing about having a tragic middle," he muses, "is that we might just get a happy ending."

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She smiles at him softly and addresses Erica.

"Lexi is a wendigo. They're kinda like vampires except... cannibals. Both my uncles are wendigos too. Though Damon was - the bad kind. He eats living humans."

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"...oh."

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"Fuck Damon, and fuck Lexi. We don't need family anymore."

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"Hear hear! Fair Juliet, are we running to our next location, or taking the car?"

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"We'll take the car. If you really want to run we have free reign of the woods surrounding the boarding house."

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"I just want to test my supposed lycanthropy. Maybe I'm special. Maybe there's something unique about true love's bite."

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That's pretty much how the whole drive goes. Isaac tries to seem invested in their relationship. It's probably what pack is supposed to do. Mostly he seems bored.

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Isaac can do what he wants. They arrive at the boarding house in short order. Juliet - hesitates and then turns to them.

"I just want to. Warn you. In advance. About what you're going to see here. And promise you that I will never do this to you."

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Nod. That doesn't seem to comfort him much.

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"I trust you."

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This time, he takes Juliet's hand. Erica can't be this for her.

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"The dungeon is. A dungeon. I've been locked there every full moon my whole life. Once when I was seven I broke out. Killed someone. Ever since then my family used wolfsbane to keep me weak enough that I can't do that again. I don't think I need it anymore, having a pack feels.. different. Especially after Damon -" she cuts herself off and continues. "But it's not pretty. You don't have to come with me if you don't want to."

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"I'm sticking with you, whatever that means."

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She looks over to Isaac. She knows he doesn't want to be here.

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He doesn't want to be with them. That much, he's made clear.

He seems somewhat transfixed with this place, though.

"Let's see it."

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She holds tight to Matt's hand and nods. Then leads them into the Salvatore Boarding House and below.

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It's dark and damp and the walls are coated with the feeling of fear and pain, as well as an undercurrent of - something truly awful. If they breathe in too deeply they will feel sick to their stomach and their head will spin.

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It's different. He outgrew the fridge, and then his dad had to make do with closets. This is something else still. He can't really ignore the smell- heightened senses that he doesn't know how to control, to use. It's less like having a superpower and more like he died in that house. This feels like Hell. He wonders if he should feel guiltier about not believing; that's probably why he's here, right? He hadn't done anything to deserve it, he thought, so it would have to be the lack of faith. Or maybe Hell is other people. That would fit.

He keeps an eye out for the cages- he needs something familiar.

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Her head is spinning and spinning but she can't taste copper in her mouth. She's still standing. Her body is made of sterner stuff now. She just wants to thank Juliet- she's going through the worst pain Erica can imagine, she lived through this- and she still made her pack. That's worth holding her breath for a little longer.

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Meanwhile, Matt is talking. Nothing of substance, nothing that can't be missed, if Juliet doesn't want to hear it, but enough to keep her mind off more unpleasant things.

"-every year, where we go out and spend hours just picking out ornaments. They kept doing it, long after I stopped having any fun with it. They always saw it as a chance for us to unite, right, over a shared tradition. Things like that, but for us, whatever we want them to be. That's what pack can mean. We'll have to learn things- I'm completely useless around the house, but someone is going to have to get handy if we want to stay in a cabin-"

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Juliet opens up a very solid and reinforced door, inside is covered in scratches and deep indentations. This room is the source of all her - everything. It's also familiar and she feels a sick sense of safety. She hates it. Hates everything.

She heads over to the wall and starts unhooking the thick chains hanging there.

"There's some more in that box there," she points to the corner.

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Matt walks towards the other chains-

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-but finds that he's struggling to lift much. He's working with a human amount of strength.

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"Here, stud, why don't you let me take those."

She does. Easily. It feels good to be powerful.

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She looks down at the chains and knows they won't hold her on their own.

"Matt, can you - just in case I need it - can you gather some wolfsbane. There's some stored down the hall. Be careful, don't breath it in."

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"On it."

On the way, he tries- baring fangs, unsheathing claws- how do you shot web, indeed. He returns with wolfsbane and not much else to show for his efforts.

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Everyone else carries as many chains as they can.

"Anything else, boss?"

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"No. Let's get out of here."

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They go. Matt and Isaac go back to his house-

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"Just a few more days and I'm yours, truly and completely."

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-while Erica remains at her side.

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"Soon," she replies to Matt, then she and Erica leave. "I'll take you home?"

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"Thank you. For everything."

She watches Juliet out of the corner of her eye. Watches her movements. She starts to mimic her.

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"Of course. If there's anything good that's come out of this, it's you. Helping you."

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"How have you been able to do it for so long by yourself?"

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"I had my dad? He helped. Even if it was messed up with everything. He tried and he loved me and - that mattered."

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"What about now that it's just the four of us?"

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"We're going to do it better. Find somewhere no one can find us. Learn from each other. My dad was always so afraid of someone finding out about me. Being an alpha, my mom passed it to me when I was just a baby. It's unprecedented. So I never had a pack."

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"So if you're starting early, you have a head start. Sounds good to me."

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"We'll both be stronger together too. A lone alpha is better with a pack, and the pack gets to share some of that power too."

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"I already feel stronger."

She clenches and unclenches her fists.

"What about Lexi and Stefan? Do we have to worry about them?"

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"I don't want to hurt them, they haven't done anything wrong - I just... I think Lexi will leave if I tell her to. I'm not sure about Stefan. He has a habit of disappearing when things get too hard, so he might stay away. For now."

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Nod nod.

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They can arrive at Erica's house then. It's pretty easy to tell which it is without Erica leading her there herself.

"Call me if you need anything. Even if it's a small thing. Don't hesitate."

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"I will. Thank you, Juliet."

Hug?

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So much hug. "See you tomorrow. Be careful."

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They're expected in school the next day. It's weird. Isaac goes and it's weird.

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That's kind of going around. He spends most of the day keeping closer to Juliet than one might expect of burgeoning young love. He's feeling clingy.

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She pulls him aside at lunch, just the two of them. "You okay?"

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"Fine. It has a lot more memories than anyone needs, Beacon Hills. I'll be glad to watch it go in the rearview mirror."

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"You don't have to be 'fine', Matt. I'm not fine. I don't want you to put on - this front for me."

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"-I'm not putting on a front. It's- I'm worried for you, Juliet. My life has gotten better and yours has gotten worse. It's the cruelest thing I can imagine, but I'm- happy and sad, and mad, and scared. I can hold onto a lot of emotion. That rounds out to 'fine', if you ask me. I just want to get out of here, so that we can live without anyone else trying to make us feel differently."

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She hugs him tight, burying her face in his shirt. "So much has happened, a lot of it has been my fault. I've been stupid and selfish and ignorant. But you're right. Maybe if we get out of this town, away from the people that make it worse... maybe it'll be worth something."

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Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die, Take him and cut him out in little stars- love is always selfish, Juliet, because it means that we're asking to be more important than anything else. You're only as selfish as I am. We're leaving, and we're going to be fine. It doesn't feel that way- but someday, the monsters that hurt you will be dead, even if they're harder to kill than mine."

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She doesn't know what to say to that - it's so... something. Exactly what she needs to hear. Concerning and heartful and so very him.

"I love you."

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He knows exactly what to say to that.

Earnestly, reverently: "I love you too."

The rest of the day doesn't matter. It's an exercise in futility to pretend to care about this. He's already moved on from this life. He knows how it goes in stories. He'd always imagined he'd be Hamlet or Romeo, but he understands now that he's Persephone. It's much too late for him, now. He died in Juliet's arms, and if everything else hadn't been enough to cement his feelings for her, that was. He can't go back.

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Juliet spends the rest of her trying to hold on to this feeling of being loved and the knowledge that everything will be okay. It'll be hard, but she believes in that.

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Isaac has some conversations with the sheriff. They agree that avoiding the foster care system would be nice, that dads suck sometimes, and that, as long as he keeps attending school, it's no concern of anyone else where he's sleeping at night. He sleeps at Matt's house, resolutely ignoring the tense shouting matches that happen in the kitchen. Matt's parents are perfectly nice to him.

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Matt's parents have a lot of thoughts about what he's asking them to do and could he please give them some kind of explanation- and he's very tired of pretending that he can stand to be in a room with them. He lets them have it. He tells them exactly what he thinks of their interventions for his mental health, of all the therapists and medications that didn't help. He tells them what happened to him, in excruciating detail- and that shuts them up. It feels good, and it feels awful, and he's pretty sure he's not going to be able to talk to them or look them in the eye ever again- which makes the next few days after that miserable.

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Erica doesn't explain anything to her parents. She's chipper. They're confused, but too grateful to ask questions. She goes shopping with her mom. They buy lipstick, skirts, jackets...she comes into school the rest of that week with a spring in her step and several new outfits to show off. There's a lot more red and leather in her wardrobe now.

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Lexi confronts Juliet before school the next day. It does not go well. They yell, they fight, and Juliet has to use her newfound power to end the fight. Lexi leaves within the hour, calling Stefan and explaining everything and cursing him and his entire family. Juliet moves properly into Damon's apartment, though not before trashing it and making it her own. She's considering burning it down on the way out, but probably that would catch too much attention.

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Matt and Isaac will be be waiting for her when it comes time to escape.

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Well. No time like the present, especially with the full moon approaching.

She heads back to the boarding house one afternoon and drives back out with her dad's truck. Hopefully, it will be enough for the four of them, though they can always buy more things when they're out and free. She drives it to Matt's house while his parents are at work and messages the other three to meet her there when they're ready.

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When they're ready, they arrive. Matt is at her side instantly.

"Hello, sweet Juliet. Missed you."

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"I'm ready to party. Are we picking up any booze?"

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Juliet takes Matt's hand and - moves on to Erica, shaking her head. "Maybe after the full moon? We could make a celebration out of it."

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"I can howl at the moon with the best of them.

She glances back at the car.

"Is he always like that? Quiet as a mouse on the ride over."

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"He's been through a lot lately. He just needs time."

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'Through a lot' is belittling it. She calms her breathing and packs the last of the things in the truck.

"Think that's it."

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"'There is no world within Beacon Hills but purgatory, torture, hell itself.' We'll be out of here soon, all of us."

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"Beacon Hills didn't do this, Matt. Damon did this. Isaac's dad did this. I did this. Leaving is the right thing to do. We're too easy targets here. This place might be where everything happened, but it's not the cause. The cause is still out there. It's not going to just go away because we leave town. We need to get stronger still. Grow as a pack. This is just the first step."

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-nod.

"You're right. I'm sorry."

Into the truck they go.

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Erica can vamp with the best of them. She offers the hottest gossip on BHHS: who's hooking up with who (Jackson Whittemore and Lydia Martin have apparently sealed the deal), who's not coming back (Natalie Paulson is going to a Catholic school- lucky for the other girls), and who's going to get fired (Mr. Harris, she opines, because it's only a matter of time before he fondles the wrong student).

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Juliet has no idea who half those people are, but it's helpful listening to her talk about nothing of consequence. Distracts her. She needs the distraction.

The cabin is up north, across state lines. It'll take them the majority of the day.

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It's about an hour in that Isaac announces: "I'm bored. Who wants to play the license plate game?"

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Matt, who until now has kept fairly quiet, pipes up.

"I'm game. Juliet?"

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"Leave the girl alone, she's driving. If she wants to play, she'll play."

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"I have no idea what the license plate game is. I was very sheltered, remember?"

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"Your dad sounds like he sucked, no offense. Basically, you want to find license plates from different states. We can call out states and try to be the first to find one from there. So I could say 'Idaho', and we'd all have to waste the next hour looking for Idaho plates in Southern California. You score points just for finding one, as long as someone can corroborate your story. People can get points if they find the plate and can find another plate with the same state. If you find a plate and you get the state wrong, you go into fugitive mode. Every time someone points out a plate, you have to read off the whole thing before it passes, pretty much until you do that and someone else checks your work."

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Juliet ignores the jibe about her dad. He's wrong, so completely wrong, but her rebuttal isn't worth it. He's dead and she killed his dad, so.

"Got it," she looks up at the car in front of them and, "Nevada, then. Hopefully, that's not too difficult."

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Erica's the first to spot another 'Nevada', and looks inordinately pleased with herself.

"I call one out now, right?"

She flutters her eyelashes at Isaac.

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"I'm not the fun police."

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Sigh.

"Maryland, land of crabs and- more crabs."

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So the game continues for a while. Everyone scores a few points. Eventually, there's a lull when Erica manages to scandalize Isaac into complete silence with a suggestive use of the word 'panhandle'.

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"Hey. I'm sorry if I said something wrong, earlier. I know the ground feels shaky right now, but we're going to figure this out."

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- she lets out a small sigh and shakes her head, though keeps her eyes on the road. Would she look at him if she could?

"No, you didn't. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have snapped. I think I just got overwhelmed with. Everything." She drums her fingers on the steering wheel. "I have all this nervous energy and what I really want to do is run. The full moon is so close I can feel it coming. Feel like I'm going to vibrate out of my skin."

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"Could you? That would be something to see."

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"-if you want to run, Juliet, I wouldn't dream of stopping you. I can keep Isaac and Erica company."

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Juliet smiles at him. He's everything that she should want. (Should want? Wants.) She pushes that to the side and shakes her head.

"The sooner we get up to the cabin, the safer it is. And I think it'll be different. Running with a pack. Better."

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"So which of us carries Prince Charming?"

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Juliet laughs and reaches out a hand for Matt, the other still on the wheel.

"Prince Charming can get some cardio in. He'll be able to keep up in no time."

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"You think so? I haven't noticed anything obvious yet. Looks like those two are naturals."

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"I can show you. It doesn't have to be hard."

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He doesn't seem much comforted by Erica's remark, but Juliet's hand seems to help.

"Running through the woods it is. My life has gotten weird."

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"Tell me about it."

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"We have a few hours yet. But the cabin has miles of forest around. Plus, it's the off seasons so most of the houses in the area will be empty. No chance of running into anyone."

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A few hours it is. Matt will happily fill the air talking about what they can do next. They'll hit the road, since there are places he wants her to see- they could backpack across Europe! They'll want to return to the cottage between trips- he's not sure how they'll acquire a cottage, but using her family's cabin long-term sounds like a recipe for disaster. They can collect souvenirs and decorate with them.

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Matt's plans seem to forget Erica half the time, a fact of which she doesn't hesitate to remind him of.

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They always do seem to include Isaac and Juliet.

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Yes, well. Any and all plans Juliet suggests involve all four of them. Very pointedly. The are a pack.

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Sure, sure. Once he's reminded that Erica exists, he can be nice enough about it.

After the cabin, they can have a cottage. They'll need to build it somewhere remote, with lots of woods. Matt will probably want to learn to hunt, but he also thinks it'll be good for their photography habit. They could start a business, taking pictures no human could ever take.

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Probably they should keep a low profile for a bit or at least until they find Damon. Which they should probably talk about at some point. Not now. Now is for pack.

And their cabin. Which they are coming up to right now, actually....

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"What's your favorite part of the transformation?"

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Oh. That's such a question.

"Ah. I guess. It's... the loss of control. It's terrifying and it could also be seen as the worst part of it. But, it's so freeing. You're connected to everything. You can do anything. Nobody to stop you."

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"Yoy can feel it, though? You're out of control, but it's you, not just- your body. You're there, in it, the whole time?"

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"It's you. Just more. You're bigger, take up more space. Nobody can ignore you."

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"I can't wait."

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Cool. He can get out of the car with all the raging psychos and get into the cabin with them, what fun.

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As they disembark, Matt's gaze fixes on the lake in the distance. He nearly runs into Juliet several times as they walk to the cabin.

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She takes his hand so he doesn't fall over or something. Her other hand is carrying their food supplies.

"You okay?" she asks him as they walk.

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Distantly: "Yeah. Just. Feeling...something. Wanting to- do something...not sure...what. Not...a panic attack. Something...new."

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"... wolf new type of new?"

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"Maybe, yes. Just...just...something...about the water..." he trails off.

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"Hey, fearless leader, care to let us inside your serial killer cabin?"

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Juliet squeezes Matt's hand and resolves to bring it up again later when they're alone. She throws Isaac a look and gets out the keys.

"Not a serial killer." She steps past him and unlocks the door. "Make yourselves at home. There's enough rooms for all of us. Might be a bit dusty though."

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Isaac knows what to do. He goes and looks for tools to clean with- duster, mop, air freshener...

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Erica rushes to scope out the rooms so she can call dibs on the best one.

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Now that they're inside, Matt shakes his head a bit and smiles at Juliet.

"Well, this isn't really how I pictured my year going, but I'd say it's an improvement."

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Smile! Taking his hand again and pulling him out and round the side of the house to turn on the power.

"It's a surprise, yeah."

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Once again, she seems to lose his attention when the lake is again within sight, but he can be distracted into helping her get the power back on.

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...Juliet takes a look at the lake too. "Do you want to go to get closer?"

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"...I don't...know. It feels like something. First thing in a while."

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Juliet casts a glance back to the cabin, to Isaac and Erica. They can probably handle themselves for a while.

She pulls him towards the water. "Come on, before it gets dark."

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They go. As it gets closer, he looks even more distant.

"Do you think- do you feel me? Do you feel me like I feel the water? Are we pack?"

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- does she?

"I..." she closes her eyes and tries to find him. Reach out. Feel him.

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Nothing. Just her, Isaac, and Erica.

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"It's like coming home," he says softly.

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This is concerning. Juliet is very concerned.

"Tell me more. Everything you're feeling. Something is different here."

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Matt frowns, turning to look at her, though his eyes are a bit unfocused.

"It's- I need to be in the water, Juliet. I haven't gone in so long."

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"You're kind of freaking me out right now, Matt..."

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"...I'm sorry."

He's not, though. He's thinking about the lake.

"We don't have to do this now. We can talk about it after the full moon."

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"No. Not everything is about the full moon or- this is the first time you've felt anything. It's important. You're important. We can do this together."

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Okay. So they do it.

Matt holds Juliet's hand, and dreams of water filling his lungs. He approaches the lake's edge with his savior, the girl who killed his abuser and then killed him, only to bring him back to life- he steps into the shallow water, where the muddy ground shifts and slides as soon as he steps on it, but he's still holding on.

"Love you," he says, and for the first time in a while, Matt means it the way he first felt it when he met her.

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Aaaaaa? "I love you too." And she means it, she does. But the feeling is so different to what she felt before. So distant and she feels numb and like she-

She's holding on so tight and she has no idea whats going on now and - her breathing comes in hard and short. She wants her dad. She wants Erica. Where is she?

"Tell me whats happening."

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"The water wants me to go in," he murmurs.

"I think I'm changing into something better, Juliet. I'd been waiting, wondering why, if you brought me back, why nothing had happened. It's like a cocoon."

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"Cocoon for what?" The words are low and hard to voice.

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"I'm not sure. I hope he's happier."

Is he crying, or is that just water from the lake?

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Matt lets go of her hand.

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She can't breath. She can't watch this.

She gets out of the water.

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Matt keeps going, walking deeper and deeper into the lake, until he's not really walking anywhere, just floating.

He never learned to swim.

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Juliet runs back to the cabin. Back to her pack.

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Isaac is dusting the cabin. If he gets it just neat enough, maybe his mom and dad and brother will come back to life, and he won't be a werewolf anymore, he'll just be an ordinary teenager.

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Erica, meanwhile, has claimed her room and looks curiously at the wolf as she enters the cabin.

"Everything alright, sweet stuff? Where's Matt?"

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- Juliet shakes her wolfy head and presses up against Erica and her warm and the feeling of pack.

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...okay.

Human contact. Werewolf contact? She can offer hugs, and pets, and whatever else will help with...whatever problem this is. Erica has kind of always wished she had a friend like Juliet, so she can take not knowing exactly what's upsetting her. Maybe she should...get ice cream and put on a movie? That's what you do when your gal pal has a fight with her idiot boyfriend, right?

Pets and scritches for now, though.

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...Isaac finishes up his dusting.

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Juliet would very much like the both of them. Even if Isaac hates her, even if he would rather it were her that were dead. Pack means something. It has to. This is everything she's ever wanted. Right? This is what she wanted. This is what Damon wanted her to have. It has to mean something.

She's not alone. They aren't.

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He doesn't like that feeling, exactly, the itching in the back of his head, but she can't make him do anything unless she makes him.

When he's finished cleaning, Isaac makes to go outside.

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"Seriously, Lahey? Get your ass over here."

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"My ass is heading out the door. Someone needs to check on him, and you're busy."

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- no. Isaac needs to stay. Her howl is loud and echoes off the walls of the cabin.

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Erica feels it. She wants to run, she wants to play, she wants to join Juliet- but she can't. She'll have to wait for the full moon.

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Isaac, standing near the door, jerks his head to look at Juliet and Erica. He approaches, kneeling down at Juliet's side.

He reaches out, tentatively, to pet her coat.

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Juliet nuzzles both her betas. Hers. She's going to protect them and love with and show them everything she knows. Protect them with her everything.

She doesn't think of Matt and his body that floats in the lake. Because it didn't happen. He's not there. He's alive and away and they'll all see him soon.