"She's a dog."
Rahne froze, one foot poised to step into the kitchen. Whoever was in there was talking about her. They had to be, since she was the only one around who could turn into a wolf.
Or maybe they're jus' using American slang for 'ugly lass'?
"Not all the time."
And now she could recognize the voices. The first one was Bobby, and it was Jamie who'd just spoken.
"But still–" and that was St. John, "–she spends almost more time as a wolf than as a girl."
"If she didn't have to go to school, it wouldn't even be 'almost'," Bobby interjected.
"So?" Jamie said, and she could just imagine the expression Jamie would have on his face: half 'So what?' half 'And your point is?'. "She enjoys being in her other form. If I could turn into an animal, I'd probably spend a lot of time in that form, too."
"But that's just it, Jamie," St. John said. "I'm not sure she thinks her wolf form is another form. The way she acts…sometimes I think she thinks she is a wolf, and her human body is her 'other form'."
"What?!" she gasped, and could not take hiding any longer. Striding confidently into the kitchen and glaring at the assembled boys, she took quite a bit of satisfaction in how surprised – and slightly afraid – both Bobby and St. John looked. Jamie, she noticed, looked cool as a cucumber.
She bared her teeth, growling at the two gossipers. "What 'n the hell d'ye think ye two were doin'?" she demanded. "Makin' baseless assumptions about me as if I were a common house pet ta let ye walk all over me."
Pyro, having apparently bolstered his confidence by flicking his ever-present lighter on, said, "T'weren't nothin', Sheila. Just havin' a friendly convo, is all."
"Ye call insinuatin' that ye think I'm an animal friendly?" she yelled.
"Uh…no?" Bobby offered hesitantly, as if he didn't really accept his own words as true.
The fire went out of her then. Those two would never understand – how she reveled in her other form as they reveled each in their own, yet opposite elements. "Jus' get out, the both of ye," she said tiredly. "Afore I go an' tell Mr. Logan 'bout what ye two be talkin' about."
They both nodded jerkily, and hurried out of the room, leaving only her and Jamie.
Rahne sank down onto a stool across from Jamie, worn out from her outburst. However short it may have been, her display of temper had taken a lot out of her. Placing her head in her hands, she sighed. It shouldn't surprise her any that the boys at the Institute thought her daft for enjoying being a wolf – her own mother had sometimes worried about her spending so much time in her lupine form.
The feel of Jamie's hand on her arm brought her out of her musings. "I'm sorry for what they said," he offered. "They can be jerks sometimes."
"Aye, that they can, Jamie-lad," she agreed softly, giving him a warm, albeit wan, smile. "Thank ye for tryin' to defend me honor, though."
Blushing, Jamie shrugged. "Anyone else would have done the same thing," he dismissed.
She shook her head. "No, they wouldn't've," she refuted. "Most of the others feel the same as those two; they just keep quiet about it better."
"There's nothing wrong with you, you know," Jamie said earnestly. "There's nothing wrong with being who you are, and enjoying it."
Her smile this time was a little more heartfelt. Most of the students might have thought Jamie a child – at not quite fourteen he was the youngest, her following a close second at just fifteen – but the lad was much smarter than more people gave him credit for. He could be very insightful, especially when it came to people's feelings.
"I know, but thank ye for reminding me. It gets a bit hard sometimes, to remember that not everyone will understand ye," she said quietly.
Jamie snorted slightly. "Yeah, I know what you mean. That conversation so did not turn out like I planned…" he trailed off, a mortified, 'Deer caught in the headlights' look on his face.
Rahne's ears perked up, one of the few lupine traits she possessed in her human form other than her keen senses, and she asked, "How did those two end up saying those things?"
Jamie squirmed on his seat. "I…I, well, I asked their advice about something…and they sort of decided to give me different advice."
Rhane's brow furrowed. "What kinda advice would ye ask those two jokers fer?"
He blushed and stammered. "Well, uh…this wasn't really the way I was gonna go about it, but…" He took a deep breath and plunged in, his words coming out of his mouth so fast that she almost didn't catch them. "I asked Bobby and St. John for tips on how to ask you out on a date, but they kept trying to convince me that I shouldn't ask you."
His face is as red as a tomato, Rahne noted absently, as she struggled to come to terms with what Jamie had said. Her best friend wanted to ask her out on a date? "And…what did you decide?" she asked faintly.
He looked puzzled, and still slightly uncomfortable. "Decide?"
"Ye said they tried to convince ye not to ask me – so, did they? Convince ye, that is." She waited with bated breath for the answer, knowing that one would undermine all Jamie's hard work in making her feel better, and the other…the other would keep her on Cloud 9 for days.
His cheeks pinkened, but he managed to squeak out, "N-no, they didn't. I was…I was wondering if you'd like to go see a movie on Friday. Garfield just came out, and I know you love the comic strip."
Mentally letting out a sigh of relief – and chiding herself for ever thinking that Jamie would have let a few stupid words change his mind – Rahne said, "I'd love ta go with ya ta the movies, Jamie, thankee for asking me."
Looking extremely relieved, Jamie said, "That's great! Uh…I think they have a showing at seven…would you like to get something to eat first?"
"That'd be nice. Our afternoon training session with Mr. Logan is over at five; we could leave at five-thirty, bike inta town, and go from there?" she offered.
They sat there for a moment, just smiling stupidly at each other before Rahne caught sight of the clock. "Ach. Speaking of training sessions…"
"Ours starts is less than ten minutes," Jamie finished for her.
"Yeah," she softly, but made no move to leave.
"Do you think this will change things?" Jamie suddenly blurted out. "Us…dating, I mean."
She considered his words for a moment before shaking her head. Hopping off her stool, she reached out and grabbed his hand. "Some things may change, Jamie-lad," she said solemnly. Then her face broke out in a wide smile. "But, fortunately, some things will always be the same."
"Like Mr. Logan's training sessions?" Jamie grinned sardonically.
"And our friendship."
They grinned at each other for a moment before running off to the Danger Room, hands still clasped.
As young as they were, puppy love may have been all that it was. But, in the end, their friendship would pull them through anything. It was, after all, what puppy love stemmed from.