Disclaimer: 'Teen Wolf' isn't mine. Shocking, right? But it's true. If there are any similarities in content or dialogue, it has probably originated with the show.

Note: This story was inspired by the miraculous work of BrittWitt16 in her story 'The Wild Side'. I'm sure most everybody who ends up here has already read her story because it's genius, but if you have not yet then I tell you this. STOP READING THIS! Go read hers first. For reals because it's so incredibly awesome that I can't handle it and that sort of awesomeness should be shared as far and wide as possible. If I had never read that story, Charlie Oswin wouldn't exist today. But then, you know, come back and read this one please. Pretty please.

VERY IMPORTANT NOTICE (SERIOUSLY READ THIS BEFORE YOU START): This story is currently in editing. It's going through all sorts of changes. I'm even adding a new OC character in the mix. I'm changing it chronologically, chapter by chapter. I'm shifting things around, adding plot points, developing new storylines. This means that there might be some sort of disjoint between early chapters and later ones. I'm not taking it all down, but you guys have to be warned. If there's a weird jump or something, that's because of changes being made to the story. Okay.

Okay, here we go. Onto the story.

Chapter One – It Has Been 0 Days Since Our Last Shenanigans

This day was going on record as one of the worst days of her life. She was making a judgment call. It might seem to be a premature assessment given that her feet had yet to touch the carpet, sequestered as they were in tangles of her bed sheets, but Charlie Oswin had never been one for dancing around the subject or going back and forth on an issue. Nope, she was calling it. This day was going to suck. Because today was the first day of school.

Charlie had never liked the first day of school, ever since she was a kid. Sure the first ever time had been exciting way back in preschool, but that had been because she got a brightly colored backpack out of the deal along with a superhero-themed pencil case that was, quite frankly, kickass. But gradually the whole process seemed to lose its appeal. Usually it was because it meant starting everything over again—beginning new classes, getting used to new teachers, being forced to make shiny new friends. And then there was the inevitable moment where she would confuse the layout of the new school with the old one, turn left instead of right and end up in the boys locker room. Or worse, the teacher's lounge. She didn't even want to begin to understand what went on in that room. Probably some satanic cult rituals. Maybe a Scrabble game. Either way, she was decidedly uninterested. But the fact remained that with the beginning of each new year, it was like taking an eraser to a chalk board or shaking and Etch-a-Sketch. It was obliterated, like it might as well have not even happened in the process. The entire process was exhausting—hazard of having a parent in the Coast Guard. Life was always in flux.

There had always been one constant, though. One thing that stayed the same no matter what city she was in or what school she was about to start. Her dad. Every morning on that first day of she would wake up to the smell of banana pancakes, wander from her room to the kitchen and find her dad dancing around to 'The Rolling Stones' in the most embarrassing way imaginable in that novelty apron of his with the words 'I Fish Therefore I Drink' emblazoned across the front. She would tell him he was an idiot and then he would grab one of her arms and pull her into some weird swing dance step that didn't fit at all with the rhythm of the music. It was a ritual that never failed to make her roll her eyes and that she would never admit out loud that she loved. And that's what made today the second worst day of her life. Because as she fell asleep the previous night, she knew that she wouldn't be smelling banana pancakes when she woke up in the morning.

A small part of Charlie had hoped that she could pull a Rip van Winkle and just sleep through the rest of high school. It was a lovely dream, and the fact that her bed felt like a cloud was giving her a hug did not increase her desire to move in the slightest. She wouldn't have to start her sophomore year, she wouldn't have to begin the entire process all over again—she could just float away on a breeze like a dandelion seed and embrace oblivion. But that little fantasy bubble she had built up for herself was quite rudely destroyed when the jarring strains of 'Girl's Just Wanna Have Fun' came blaring out of her phone.

Groaning to herself, Charlie managed to extricate one of her arms from the twisted mess of covers and felt around in the dark until the tips of her fingers found the bedside table. They probed around, accidentally knocking the well-worn Jack Aubrey novel onto the floor, before finding their way around her cell phone. Not bothering to look at the name flashing across the screen, she hit random buttons until one of them happened to be the 'mute' key. Smiling slightly as the music was cut short, she grabbed hold of her deep purple comforter and yanked it over her head, fully prepared to shut out the rest of the universe. The universe, though, didn't seem to be on board with that plan. Or at least one specific part of the universe that happened to have red hair and no concept 'personal time'. It took less than a minute for the phone to start ringing again.

"You've got to be freaking kidding me."

Charlie flipped over and screamed into her pillow before finally throwing off the covers and sitting up in bed. She grabbed the phone and looked at the little clock in the upper right-hand corner. It read 6:34 a.m. Un-freaking-believable. Grumbling to herself, Charlie angrily punched the 'send' button and held the phone up to her ear. Before she could get a single word out, a voice chirped through the receiver that was way too energetic for that early in the morning.

"Charlotte Felicia Oswin," the overly enthusiastic and slightly accusatory voice shouted, "it's time to get your adorable, lazy ass out of bed!"

"That's not my middle name," Charlie muttered into the phone, wiping the sleep out of her eyes and yawning widely.

"Yeah, I really don't care," the voice replied abruptly. "And it doesn't change the fact that we've got a lot of work to do before we head out this morning."

Charlie let out a deflated sigh and collapsed back on the bed, pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration. "Lydia, what's my one rule?"

"Don't mess with your Converse or you'll stage a bonfire and use my Jimmy Choo's as kindling," the voice drawled out. Charlie could practically hear the eye-roll from over the airwaves.

"Okay," Charlie continued, nodding slightly. "What's my other one rule?"

Lydia let out an overly theatrical harrumph from the other side of the phone, leaving Charlie with the mental image of her making her 'patronizing' face while dutifully inspecting her fingernails. "Lydia," Charlie prompted, raising her eyebrows expectantly.

"Okay, fine," Lydia bit out reluctantly. "The other 'one rule' is not to wake you up before 7:00 a.m. or you'll sneak into my room and shave my head in the middle of the night."

"Exactly," Charlie replied with a perfunctory nod. "You're risking your glorious, silky, strawberry blonde locks by talking to me right now. You're not Natalie Portman and not everybody can pull off bald. For all we know you've got a globular, misshapen skull trying to contain that giant brain of yours. You would probably look like an adult-sized fetus. Or like an accident at one of those children's doll factories. You know, the dolls they have to throw out early to avoid any early-onset childhood trauma?"

"You flatter me," Lydia deadpanned, both with more exasperation and less inherent fear than Charlie would have liked.

"No," Charlie drawled out, like she was instructing a small child. "I'm threatening you. You're a smart one, Lydia. You can figure it out."

"You know, they say that violence is never the answer," Lydia sighed loudly.

"Yeah?" Charlie muttered. "The person who said that was probably bullied as a kid. I'm pretty sure the violence worked pretty well for the bullies. They got free lunches for their entire school career."

"Well today's the exception to your thinly veiled anger management issues," she shot back, steely determination coloring her tone. "It's the first day of school, and you've got to make a good first impression. The first day sets the tone for the whole year, and I, for one, would rather keep my position on the top of the social pyramid, thank you very much."

"That's all fine and good," Charlie mumbled into the receiver, "but I'm tired and I could give exactly half of two shits about first impressions."

"Well that attitude's fine if you want to be one of those weird, arty kids who smoke weed behind the bleachers during their lunch period," Lydia said through a musical scoff, "but believe it or not, Charlie, this day isn't just about you. Seeing as I've been so magnanimous as to take you under my wing, you are now a reflection upon me."

"You might want to be careful using the big words like 'magnanimous'," Charlie drawled out dryly. "Otherwise one of these days somebody might actually figure out how decidedly 'un-stupid' you are. Though, my two cents here, you might want to stop inhaling so much hairspray if you want to stay that way."

There was a short pause during which Charlie imagined herself on the receiving end of a 'melt-your-face-off' death glare. "I'll be over in a half hour with scones and coffee," she replied bluntly, not allowing for any argument. "Make sure you're out of bed by the time I get there." Charlie opened her mouth to argue, but before she could get a word out she was confronted with an unceremonious clicking noise as Lydia hung up on her. Well that settled that. She should have known better than to even attempt arguing with Lydia. Once that girl set her mind to something, all obstacles to the desired result were systematically and efficiently destroyed.

Swearing under her breath, Charlie threw back the covers and flopped out of bed, nearly face-planting on the floor as one of her feet got caught in the sheets, and flipped on the lights. She looked around her room for all of the tools necessary to prepare for her first day. If she had been in Lydia's room, she would have been confronted with an aggressive neatness—a closet organized by clothing type, style, and color, a beautiful jewelry box overflowing with the newest designs, and a freaking assembly line of hair care products and makeup placed in a neat row on her vanity. It was so definitively feminine, and so definitively Lydia.

Her room, though, that was a different story. She wasn't sure what her room said about her yet. She had moved from San Diego into her Aunt Melody's house just over a month ago, she had found the perfect color, she had put up all her posters—The Who, The Black Keys, the original Tron movie, and the random Casablanca movie poster— she had hung her old curtains with the twisted, elaborate vine design on them. She had even unpacked her mom's old 1967 Gibson J-45 guitar—the only tangible evidence her mother had ever actually existed other than that pile of stamp-covered birthday cards in the old cigar box under her bed. The guitar was lovingly situated on its stand in the far corner of the room next to the trunk filled with sheet music and her ever-growing collection of picks. All of the elements were there, but the room still didn't feel like it belonged to her. Maybe it was that one last box that remained unopened. The one with all of her dad's things. She hadn't brought herself to unpack that yet.

Moving to that white IKEA desk she had assembled a few days ago, she flipped open her laptop and booted up. She rummaged around in the drawer until she found those Bose speakers her dad had given her—one of the few indulgences that came from before her move to Beacon Hills—and connected them to the laptop, cranking up the volume so high she could practically feel the vibrations through floor. Quite the feat for such tiny technology. But she needed the music loud. Anything to wake her up before Hurricane Lydia made her landing. 'The Dead Weather' always had a way of dragging her into consciousness whether or not she wanted it to. She shook her head, slapping herself on the cheeks to bring herself closer to something resembling awareness. It did not work. Definitively, it did not in any way work.

Yawning for what felt like the twentieth time in the space of five minutes, Charlie wandered over to her closet and wrenched out the first things she could find—an artfully ripped-up T-shirt with 'The Clash' proudly spelled across the front, a pair of simple black shorts, a black leather jacket, and her green Converse. Lydia was probably going to throw a fit, but that would have happened under pretty much any circumstances. After chucking her clothes on her bed, she made a beeline to the bathroom and hopped in the shower.

A few minutes of frantic scrubbing later, Charlie turned off the water, pulled the curtain aside, and wrapped one of those magnificently fluffy, white towels around her. Moving to the mirror, she wiped away the layer of condensation the steam had left on the surface and stared at her reflection. The face staring back was long and thin with a straight nose, thin lips and pale skin, covered with a light splattering of freckles, framed by a tangle of long, dark brown hair left stringy by the water still clinging to it. That wasn't what Charlie was focusing on, though. What she focused on was the eyes. They were big and green, framed with thin, but dark lashes, and they had a sort of hollow look to them. Empty. They used to have small lines at the corners from smiling, but those had smoothed out over the past few months. She hadn't been smiling all that much lately. But then again she hadn't cried since it happened either, however screwed up as that might seem. No, all in all the girl looking back at her in that mirror didn't look happy or sad. She looked resigned. She looked broken.

Clearing her throat awkwardly, Charlie took a step back from the mirror and began vigorously drying her hair with the towel. The mirror was a liar. She was fine. Really, she was. There was a small nagging voice in the corner of her mind reminding her of the fact that her dad used to say fine was a four-letter word, but that was irrelevant. Because she was fine. And she wasn't broken, she was mending. And you know what they say about broken bones—when they heal they're stronger than they were in the first place. Charlie moved towards the bathroom closet and wrapped herself in a plushy robe, padding down the stairs towards the kitchen.

"Good morning!" a cheerful voice greeted her as she entered the kitchen. "Coffee?"

Aunt Mel stood at the kitchen island, a wide smile plastered over her face and holding up a steaming pot of coffee. Of course she wanted coffee. Her body was calling out for caffeine. Her aunt might be a shit cook, but she had a glorious coffee maker. That shiny copper espresso machine was probably her best friend in Beacon Hills. "Is that even a question?" she mumbled, sidling up next to Mel.

Charlie perched herself on one of the stools on the opposite side of the island while Aunt Mel grabbed a mug and filled it with the steaming hot liquid. Letting out a sigh, Charlie reached eagerly across the counter, snatching it and clutching to her desperately like she was Gollum getting his hands on the ring of power again.

Note to self: she had to get the Lord of the Rings references out of her system before Lydia showed up. That would make for an awkward conversation.

Charlie held the mug up to her face and breathed in deeply, savoring the smell, and took a comically large gulp. This was immediately followed by an excess of coughing and spluttering as it scalded the roof of her mouth. Mel, pinching her lips together in her best attempt to keep from laughing, silently grabbed a paper towel and mopped up the splash zone.

"I can't believe you drink the stuff black," Mel said, wrinkling her nose slightly. "It's so bitter."

Charlie shrugged and took another sip, burnt tongue be damned. "Dad always said it gave you strength of character. He said it was based on the same principle as going to the gym—do something uncomfortable and acclimatize yourself to it, and you win. I never knew what the hell it was I was winning and honestly I thought it was a bit idiotic, but I did it anyway. He liked sounding wise and humoring him was easier than watching him pout."

Mel let out a light, musical laugh and shook her head, sending her well-coiffed blonde hair flying about. "And what your father didn't tell you was that every morning before work he would stop by Starbucks and get a mocha frappuccino before work. Whipped cream included."

"Oh, I knew," Charlie said, a small smirk covering her face. "He would always forget the cups in the car and I would clean them out. They would always have the name 'Charlotte' written on the side. He used to pretend that he was buying them for me—men and their egos. I never told him I knew, though. He probably would have died of embarrassment."

Aunt Melody winced slightly and turned back to making her breakfast smoothie, bringing Charlie to immediately regret the turn of phrase. In some ways, this whole thing was harder on her than it was on Charlie herself. Not only had she lost her big brother, who had essentially raised her, but she had also gotten stuck with his socially maladjusted, possibly crazy offspring. For someone on the younger side of thirty and who had only just opened her own high-end boutique and launched her first clothing line the year before, that was a lot to deal with. Still, she managed it with style, sincere kindness, and effortless grace. Half the time Charlie thought the woman was a reincarnation of one of those glamorous 1940s actresses like Greta Garbo or Ingrid Bergman. Charlie had missed out on that little genetic gem. She was more prone to bitter sarcasm and general misanthopy.

"Do you want some of the smoothie?" Mel called out over her shoulder. "All the articles I've read say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. If you want to be able to focus in your morning classes, you should eat something healthy."

"The 'Frosted Mini-Wheats' commercial is not a scientific article," Charlie replied drolly, taking another inelegant gulp of her coffee.

Mel sighed and turned around to look at Charlie with a chastising expression on her face. "Look," she said, brandishing a stirring spoon, "I know that sarcasm is one of your basic personality traits—you share that much with your dad—but I'd appreciate it if you waited till at least 10:00 a.m. to get started."

"Sorry," Charlie said, holding her hands up in submission. "Sarcasm-free zone. No sarcasm here."

"I know you were a straight A student in San Diego," Mel said, fixing Charlie with a serious stare. "I just want to make sure that nothing slips while you're adjusting to your new living situation. This is a big transition for you, and I just want to make sure that your grades don't suffer as a result."

"I have no intention of letting my grades suffer," Charlie said in an equally serious tone. "I'm academically paranoid, remember?"

Mel pressed her lips together in a thin line and gave a single, approving nod. "Good. So do you want any of the smoothie or not?"

Charlie shook her head, sending her still-wet hair flying and making it stick to the side of her face. "No thanks. Lydia's bringing scones and the satchel of medieval torture devices she calls her makeup kit to make me presentable for the day."

"Oh, that's great," Mel replied brightly. "You know, I'm so glad that you have such a good friend living just across the street. I think she'll really be able to help you adjust."

"I have done this before, you know," Charlie mumbled into her mug. "I've switched schools like seven times in the past six years. Hell, I've moved two times in the past six months."

"Yes, but this is the last time you're going to be starting a new school before you head off to college," Mel continued in a reasoning tone. "I think it's fantastic that you have Lydia to show you around and introduce you to new people. I think it's going to be really good for you."

Charlie bit her lip and nodded, staring absently into the mug of coffee still clutched in her hands and watching the steam dance in front of her face. She knew that Mel was ecstatic about her finding a friend in Lydia, and she was also pretty sure that was because it meant that Mel and Charlie might have more in common than either of them originally thought. The two of them were so different, Charlie being able to bond with someone who was interested in fashion, keeping up with the current styles, and that kind of thing might mean something for the parent-child relationship they were being forced into. Not that her and Lydia's relationship could be described as your typical friendship. In fact, it was anything but. The two of them hardly ever agreed on anything and they bickered all the time, but they entertained each other. It had been that way since their first encounter.

Thinking back to that first meeting with Lydia, Charlie had no choice but to both smile and roll her eyes. It had been a little over a week after Charlie arrived in Beacon Hills. She had mostly kept to herself, moving in her stuff, reading that list of classics the English teacher at her last high school had given her, plucking out some compositions on her guitar—all the basic hobbies that could be performed on your own. Really the only times she had gone out were to look for room furnishings or on her evening runs. Charlie had never been the most social of people—moving around as much as she did, she had come to view most relationships as temporary—but that wasn't why she was isolating herself. She wanted to avoid 'the conversation'. It would start out with the usual 'hello' and 'how are you' and then it would move into the typical 'so why did you move to Beacon Hills', and what was her response so that supposed to be? Would she just smile toothily and say 'well it turns out my dad had this massive aneurism he didn't bother telling me about, it exploded like an over-filled water balloon, and now I live with my aunt #sadface'? That was a real conversation-starter, because the best relationships were always forged on pity.

Anyways, apparently it wasn't up to her to initiate the conversation because one day there had been a knock at the door and she opened it to find a perfectly manicured red-head standing there with a wide, slightly calculating smile. A smile which faltered slightly when she had looked Charlie up and down, finding her in worn, faded jeans, and a T-shirt that simply read 'People Like Grapes', with no makeup other than those two dramatic smudges of eyeliner, ragged fingernails, hair pulled back in a messy bun, and smudges of paint from her new room on her face.

"Oh!" she had chirped with surprise and maybe a little bit of disappointment. "Are you Charlotte Oswin? Melody's niece?"

"Yes," Charlie had replied hesitantly, narrowing her eyes at the girl. "I go by Charlie, though."

"Oh!" she chirped in a high-pitched, uncertain, and more than slightly judgmental tone. That almost genuine smile on Lydia's face became tight and tense, and she cocked her head to the side in a way that almost made her look like a robot. A very fashionable robot.

"Great," Lydia continued. "Well, I'm Lydia Martin. I live across the street, and I'm in your aunt's shop all the time. I just wanted to welcome you to Beacon Hills." She extended a hand which Charlie took reluctantly, giving it a firm shake. Then Lydia had just stood there, staring at her appraisingly and giving Charlie the distinct impression that she was an amoeba under a light microscope.

"Is there something I can help you with?" she remembered asking defensively, folding her arms across her chest and leaning against the doorframe.

"It's nothing," Lydia said, waving her hand dismissively. "It's just—knowing your aunt I expected you to be a bit different."

Charlie let out a loud scoff and raised her eyebrows. "Different how?"

"Well..." Lydia drawled out, "to be honest I was expecting something a little less 'alternative'. A little less Virginia Woolf on the proverbial bookshelf if you will. Your aunt's pretty glamorous. Great shoes. You...you kind of look like you should be protesting something somewhere. You know, with a sign that doesn't quite rhyme, but is kind of clever gets your 'message' across."

"Really?" Charlie demanded. "And what issue exactly would I be protesting?"

"Based on that outfit?" Lydia replied, narrowing her eyes at the ensemble. "Probably something women's rights related. Or maybe the environment. I mean honestly it doesn't really matter all that much as long as there's a pithy chant involved and an overabundance of flannel."

"Okay," Charlie then replied sarcastically, nodding to herself passive aggressively. "So I look like a protester and you look like the female cast of 'Mean Girls' had a freaky four-way and produced a weird, hybrid baby. What the hell does that matter?"

Normally Charlie would have expected the person on the receiving end of her angry, sarcastic outbursts to get all offended and storm off in a huff. That's how things usually went. Not this time around, though. This time around, Lydia had stared at her evenly for a few moments before her face split into a wide smile. "You know what," she had said, pointing a finger at Charlie, "I kind of like you. We're going to be friends." And then without another word she had spun on her heel and marched back across the street to the palatial estate that she called her house.

"I'm pretty sure I get a say when determining the status of our relationship!" Charlie had shouted after her.

She was met with a gleeful and mischievous laugh. "It's adorable that you think that."

And that had been that. Afterwards, Lydia had made it her mission to turn Charlie into the most socially acceptable version of herself possible, or at least as close as she was willing to get to socially acceptable. Apparently it was alright to look like you didn't care about your appearance as long as it was carefully orchestrated and you paid a crapload of money to look that way. Then there were the introductions. Charlie had kind of felt like a puppet, being steered around and presented to half the lacrosse team like she was on auction. Lydia did kind of give off that auctioneer vibe, talking so fast Charlie's brain had to buffer and play mental catch-up whenever she paused for half a second. And the lacrosse players? Most of them just stood there with dopy smiles. At least the fact they couldn't construct a coherent sentence meant that she didn't have to talk to them. Except for Greenburg. That guy wouldn't shut the hell up. He talked more than the comic relief sidekick in horror movies who aways bit it fifteen minutes before the credits.

Ultimately, the next couple of weeks had ended up being her and Lydia doing excessive amounts of shopping with occasional cameos made by Lydia's boyfriend Jackson and her co-third-wheel Danny—Jackson's best friend. As for how she felt about those two...she wasn't quite sure. Danny was all kinds of awesome—clever, funny, sincere, and generally nice unless you pissed him off. Which was why she couldn't fully wrap her mind around his friendship with Jackson. Jackson—he was a dick. There was no getting around that fact. The only question was whether or not he had enough redeeming characteristics to compensate. Every once and while when he was talking with Lydia or Danny, she could see something human trying to claw its way out, but the next instant he seemed to shove it away again. Long story short, Charlie was still on the fence about that one, and she was fairly certain he felt the same way about her. The two of them had one thing in common—they didn't take crap from anybody, least of all each other. It made for some entertaining, albeit contentious interactions.

If Charlie was being honest, she was glad she had met Lydia—not that that was something she would ever admit out loud. At first she had thought Lydia was that typical shallow, entitled, pretty, rich girl stock character that seemed to exist in every city she had lived in over the past few years. In many ways that assessment was true. That Lydia was both pretty and rich was completely indisputable. That she was entitled was a product of those first two characteristics. The sticking point was in the assessment of her shallowness. Because in many ways she was shallow—her preoccupation with clothing and social status was evidence enough of that. But if you were paying the slightest bit of attention, it would become quickly apparent that Lydia was also possibly the most insanely intelligent person Charlie had ever come across in her entire life. Not that Lydia wanted people to notice that—and most didn't because they didn't bother looking for it. Which, in Charlie's opinion, was a shame.

All of the sudden, a sound knocked Charlie out of her reverie. The muffled strains of 'The Dead Weather' that managed to find their way down the stairs were suddenly intermingled with the characteristic bleeping noise of FaceTime. Shit. She should have expected that. Downing the rest of her coffee and slamming her mug down on the counter, Charlie ran back up the stairs, leaving her aunt calling after her. Her bare feet slapped loudly against the hardwood floors as she darted into her room, finally collapsing in front of the computer. Sure enough, she saw that face in the corner of her screen—wide, mischievous smile, dark brown skin, dark, close-cropped hair, and eyes that tried to look cynical but failed miserably in repressing their child-like glee. Well, that and the blatant and almost aggressive use of finger guns, because apparently he was already the awkward, chummy dad at the neighborhood barbecue.

Muting the music, Charlie scooted to the edge of the seat and clicked on the 'answer call' function. "Hey, Donald."

The face that filled the screen was pixelated and shaky and the lighting was shoddy at best, but familiar all the same. And for some reason it was in front of a backdrop of old, dingy grey tile. That face leaned in, occupying even more of the screen, and squinted at her. "Awwww, Oswin," he drawled out, that almost insufferably confident tone coloring his voice. "You didn't have to go and make yourself all pretty just for me. Nice robe. They'll love it. You'll be a school wide sensation. Great first impression."

"Why are you calling now?" she demanded, sparing him the obligatory eye roll and pulling that navy blue robe closer in around her.

The boy let out an audible and almost offended scoff. "Come on, Charlie," he exclaimed. "Did you really expect me to bail on tradition just because we were cast across the country by the cruel winds of fate? It's the first day of school, right? We Bratz gotta stick together."

Immediately, Charlie let her head fall, hitting the surface of the desk with a heavy clunk. "I wish you would stop calling us that."

"Why?" he demanded with an exaggerated shrug. "That's what we are. You Coast Guard. Me Air Force. We are the Bratz. Hell, I think they should make us some of those dolls."

"Nope," Charlie snapped, shaking her head with her forehead still resting against the compressed particleboard. "No. Do not reference those dolls. Those dolls terrify me—you know that. Their eyes stare into my soul like they want to consume it."

"Say it, Charlie," he said, his voice adopting a sing-song cadence.

"No."

"You know you want to say it."

"I really don't."

"You know I'm just going to keep bothering you until you do," Donald replied, that sly smirk eating its way into his voice. "Seriously. I might even start chanting."

Charlie yanked her head from the desk and narrowed her eyes at him. He just tilted his head to the side and raised his eyebrows expectantly. Man, this guy was a total ham. It made her wonder how, of all the cities she'd lived in and all the people she'd met, Donald Price was the one that managed to stick with her for any length of time. The two of them hadn't even been in the same state since they were twelve years old back when her dad was stationed in Galveston. They weren't particularly close, but they stayed in touch while all the other ones fell by the wayside. Well, she did know the reason. Solidarity. Military brat to military brat, they got stuck in the same shitty situations year after year. Eventually that shitty situation became a shitty joke. And the two of them? Welp, they...they became the Bratz. She wasn't sure she could really call it a friendship. It was more along the lines of intermittent mutual harassment. But hey, it worked. Why question it?

"Fine," she grumbled, scratching at her forehead with her middle finger and subtly flipping him the bird. "We're the brats."

"No, no, no," he chided, wagging an overly judgmental finger at her. "You gotta say it with the 'z'—I can hear the 'z'."

Charlie let out a bitter harrumph and collapsed back in her chair with so much force it rolled away from the desk a little bit. "We're the Bratzzzzz," Charlie mumbled under her breath, drawing out the last sound until is sounded like a swarm of wasps had invaded her room.

"Now that's better," Donald replied in a tone usually reserved for when he was patting someone on the head in the most patronizing way possible. "And members of the Bratz, if you will remember correctly, are supposed to call each other on the first day of school. Though I seem to recall you being conspicuously absent last week when I started my first day."

Sighing loudly, Charlie reached up and twisted her hair like to was rope, ringing out the excess water and letting it drip onto the blue-grey carpet. "Dude, we had that tradition when we were in the same time zone," she shot back. "You're in Providence freaking Rhodes Island and I'm in Cali. If I wanted to call you before you got to classes I'd have to get up at freaking four o'clock in the morning."

"You clearly lack commitment," Donald deadpanned. "I made it work."

"Yeah—how exactly did you manage that?" Charlie demanded, shifting in her seat and angling the laptop towards her for a better image. "It's what, 10:00 a.m. for you? Shouldn't you be in math class or something? Where are you?"

"Algebra II if you wanna get all specific about it," he replied, waving his fingers at the camera like he was taunting a cat. "But I, unlike you, prioritize my time. Right now I'm—"

His words were abruptly cut off by a dramatic flushing sound, which was then immediately succeeded by the widest of his grins yet. Yup. Donald and immature toilet humor were very close friends. The best of friends. In fact, if he ever got one of those Japanese talking toilets, Charlie highly doubted he would ever leave the bathroom at all. He would have pizza delivered to the window and watch TV on his phone until he died there. "Well, I suppose that answers your question," he said cheerfully. "Let me show you around my office." His face quickly disappeared from the screen, replaced by a swirl of grey tiling that almost made her seasick. "This is the handicapped stall on the second floor of my prestigious high school. As you can see it's quite roomy. And here—" he focused on what looked like a series of numbers, but was too blurry and pixelated to make out "—here is the number of a lovely lady named Amy. I'm just gonna—"

"Donald," Charlie growled in warning.

"Relax, Oswin," he drawled out. "I was gonna say I'm going to scratch it out. I am, above all things, a gentleman."

"Okay, I wouldn't take it that far."

"Oh, ye of little faith!" he protested loudly. A hand holding a black sharpie began to color over the number, squeaking faintly against the dull metal of the stall. "Anyways, the tour continues," he barreled on. "It's really quite clean in here. I mean it's impressive. And if you look over here, you will find a lovely depiction of male genitalia. Oh, look! There's a smily face at the en—"

"You know shit like this is why we don't talk more often," Charlie said through a resigned sigh.

"And you have no appreciation for art," he quipped back. The camera swung back around. As soon as he was facing her, he leaned in, peering curiously at the screen. "I've got to say, you look disturbingly conscious right now. I've never seen you do anything but zombie-walk before nine in the morning."

"A friend woke me up earlier," she replied through a conspicuous yawn. "She wanted us to get ready for school together."

"A friend?" he demanded, his nose wrinkling up into an expression of complete confusion. The level of disbelief coloring the tone would have been offensive if it hadn't been so accurate. He let out a cough and scratched at his nose before continuing. "Now pardon me if I'm wrong, but you don't really do friends. You do...how do you put it...temporary acquaintances of convenience? Hell, you keep saying that I'm not your friend."

"That's because you aren't my friend," Charlie replied, bobbing her head along with her words. "You're my drunk uncle. We make awkward small talk, you say some inappropriate crap, and we feel so uncomfortable we have to hang up the phone."

"I can see that—I can see that," he said, nodding in casual agreement. Then he cleared his throat theatrically, making his voice sound all stately and official, lapsing into that oddly formal tone adult relatives always seem to use when you haven't seen them in a while. "Well, as your drunk uncle...how's your love life going?"

"That's a question with the shortest answer ever," a third voice declared, intruding on their conversation. "It's a two word answer actually. It's not." Charlie's head snapped around to find a redhead standing in her doorway clad in a royal blue top tucked into a plaid miniskirt, thigh-high socks, and a pair of high-heeled ankle boots, purse situated in the crook of her elbow and bulging paper bag clutched in her hand. Charlie let her head sag on her shoulders, mentally preparing herself for the drama that would ensue. Because with Lydia there was always drama, whether it came in the form of a strong breeze or a freaking tornado.

Extending out a hand, Lydia dropped the paper bag on Charlie's well-worn dresser as she breezed into the room. She cocked her head to the side, again adopting that same robotic look she had used when she first met Charlie—analyzing all the variables and adding them up to an opinion. She approached the desk, her lips quirked up in a coy smile. "Well, hello," she said, her voice coming out as oddly seductive. "Who are you?"

The expression on Donald's face changed almost immediately, shifting from goofy, immature idiot to 'most interesting man in the world from the Dos Equis commercial' face. "Me?" he said, pointing to himself. "I'm a handsome, wealthy bachelor who's ready to take you on a tour of the world in my yacht."

"Oh," Lydia chirped back in a disturbingly flirtatious tone. "Is that so?"

Charlie's eyes immediately fell shut, mentally face palming. Lydia and Donald on their own were a handful to deal with. Put them in the same room and they would probably cause a swath of destruction rivaling that of Bonnie and Clyde. Charlie absolutely refused to be responsible for that amount of carnage. "Lydia, this is Donald," she announced, waving at the screen. "Donald, this is Lydia. And this is the last time the two of you will ever be in contact because the idea of you comparing notes scares the hell out of me. Bye, Donald!"

With no further warning, Charlie grabbed the top of her laptop and slammed it just, abruptly cutting off the offended protest of 'heeeeyyyyyyyyy'. Blowing out a breath of relief, she looked up at Lydia whose eyebrows still possessed an arch worthy of early Roman architecture. "He was cute," the redhead declared in a tone that was almost accusatory and definitely a bit suggestive. "Who was that?"

"That was just Donald," Charlie replied, with an absent shrug. "He's my drunk uncle."

Lydia planted a single hand on her hip and looked at Charlie blankly for a few moments before waving her hand dismissively. "Okay, I'm not even going to ask you to clarify on that for time management purposes." She casually brushed her hair over her shoulder and looked Charlie up and down, her eyes lingering on the damp hair and unmade face. "Yeah," she sighed out in a patronizing tone, patting Charlie on the cheek. "We've got some work to do."

Doing an about-face, Lydia sashayed towards the bed and stared down at the rumpled pile of clothes Charlie had tossed there. She pursed her lips in thought and glanced between Charlie and the clothes a few times, a look of intense concentration on her face. It was an expression one could typically find in either war movies or football movies, when the commander/coach is sizing up their soldiers/players. Only this time, in Charlie's opinion, the pronouncement would be far more ruthless. "Okay," she said with a special sort of determination. "Okay, I can work with this."

"We're not brokering a Palestinian-Israeli peace treaty, Lydia," Charlie said, rubbing absently at her forehead. "We're choosing clothes. Let's calm down."

"The clothes make the man, Charlie," Lydia chided. "Naked people have little or no influence on society."

"Oh, come on," Charlie whined loudly. "Don't go quoting Mark Twain at me. It's way too early for that."

Lydia threw one of her hands in the air, cutting her off. "Silence! Let the master do her work."

Lydia moved around the room, rummaging through the drawers and yanking out different articles of clothing, holding them up and judging their appropriateness. Charlie sat at her desk chair and nibbled on one of the scones, watching the entire process. Or at least as much of it as she could catch as she continued to spine the swivel chair in circles. What she did see was kind of like a wildlife documentary where the mother lion goes around foraging for food for her helpless infant. Charlie wasn't exactly comfortable being the baby lion in this scenario, but there weren't many other ways to describe the situation.

"Alright," Lydia said finally, laying everything out on the bed. "Come and take a look at this."

Sighing heavily, Charlie stopped spinning in her chair and hauled herself to her feet, stumbling slightly as the dizziness sent her off-kilter. She shook her head to reorient herself, inciting a condescending sigh from Lydia, and meandered over to the bed to survey the outcome. Lydia had kept the Clash T-shirt and leather jacket, but paired it with a waist-high black leather skirt, grey tights, and a pair of black ankle boots. "There," she said, waving her hand over the ensemble like she was blessing it with a magic wand or sprinkling holy water on it or something. "You get to have your pseudo rocker chick, 'I don't really give a crap' vibe, and I don't have to be embarrassed by you."

"That might be the nicest thing you've ever said to me," she mumbled, shoving the rest of the scone in her mouth and chewing in a way that didn't fit the technical definition of 'polite'.

"You're welcome!" She spun on her heel to face Charlie. "Now what were you planning on doing for makeup?"

Charlie groaned and rocked back on her heels. "Shit, Lydia, I don't know. Mascara?"

Lydia gaped at her, her mouth opening and closing like a dying fish. "Mascara?" she demanded, raising her eyebrows in disbelief. "Did you actually just say 'mascara'? As in 'just mascara'? Have you learned nothing from the time we've spent together?"

Charlie blew out a long breath and shrugged her shoulders. "What? I was raised by a single dad."

"By a single dad! Not by wolves!"

Charlie rolled her eyes and bit down hard on the inside of her cheek. "Look, I can play pool, fix up my car, and I kick ass at Ultimate Frisbee. I didn't really get any makeup tutorials, and honestly the last time you came at me with an eyelash curler I thought you were trying to extract my eyeballs to sell them on the black market."

Pinching the bridge of her nose in frustration, Lydia let out a sigh that sounded like a parent dealing with a child on a sugar rush. "You are unbelievable." She cleared her throat and turned to face Charlie, clearly slipping into 'teacher mode'. "Okay, Charlie, I'm only going to explain this to you once. I'm going to teach you how to be a girl."

"Great!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands together with feigned eagerness. "Be my Yoda."

"Okay, one," she said, holding out a finger. "No more Star Wars references. Take Yoda, Harrison Ford, and that big furry thing that yells all the time and lock them in a closet at the back of your mind."

"I'm going to ignore that one, but keep going."

"Alright, two," Lydia continued, ignoring her interjection. "School is like a battlefield. Makeup is our war paint. When we put it on, it hides our flaws and displays our assets. It makes us strong. It makes us fearless. It makes us a force to be reckoned with."

"I really think you might be overstating that," Charlie deadpanned.

Scowling slightly, Lydia planted her hands on her hips and gave Charlie a withering look. "Which one of us knows what she's talking about? Oh, right, it's me. So you're going to go put those clothes and I'm going to show you how to do this one last time. Okay?"

Muttering under her breath, Charlie grabbed the clothes off the bed and moved towards the bathroom to change. "Fine," she called over her shoulder, "but if you come after me with that eyelash curler again, I'll have you know that I have five years training in Krav Maga and I will not hesitate to end you."

"You're cute when you know I'm right but are in denial about it!" Lydia called after her, the smug smile finding its way into her voice.

What happened next was about twenty minutes of being poked and prodded, of having an assortment of brushes and combs yanked through her hair, and a variety of powders sprayed on her face. The entire experience left Charlie with one definitive conclusion: this would not be happening every day. From that day forward, Lydia would not be allowed in her house between the hours of 4 a.m. and 9 a.m. But when Lydia pulled her to her feet and stationed her in front of the mirror, Charlie couldn't help but smile a little.

Lydia was right. The makeup had transformed her face slightly—it made her look a little softer and a little harsher at the same time. If she had had any doubts or insecurities, they would be hidden behind those light layers of powder. She let out a low whistle and turned slightly in the mirror, shoving her hands deep in the pockets of the jacket. "I look—"

"Hot," Lydia supplied, draping a proud arm over her shoulder. "You look hot."

"Yeah well don't go getting any ideas," Charlie said, nudging Lydia in the side and sliding out from under her arm. "My Converse and T-shirts aren't going anywhere. Tomorrow the phone's going on silent and I'll be embarrassing the shit out of you. On purpose. Actively. I will wear overalls and chew on a piece of straw."

"Oh, Charlie," Lydia sighed, cinching her arm around Charlie's shoulders until it almost hurt. "My dear, sweet Charlie. If you do that, I will be forced to kill you."

"And how exactly will you do that?"

A smile as sweet as cyanide pulled at Lydia's lips. She stepped forwards, between the mirror and Charlie, and yanked her leather jacket straight with more force than was probably necessary. Her eyes stared up at Charlie all innocence, but that smile still screamed murder with enough authenticity to give Charlie pause. "Don't you know, Charlie," she chirped way too happily. "You're never supposed to reveal your secrets."

Clapping one hand on Charlie's shoulder, Lydia stepped to the side and made a beeline for the scones leaving Charlie standing alone in front of the mirror. This mirror was telling a bit of a different story than the bathroom mirror did earlier this morning. She didn't look resigned or broken—she looked hard. She looked prepared. This was good. Today Charlie wasn't the girl whose dad had just died. She wasn't obsessively thinking about the smell of banana pancakes and the sound of 'The Rolling Stones'. Today was her last first day at a new school, and she was going to kick its ass. Hard.

CHAPTER 1 SOUNDTRACK

Waking up, not wanting to get out of bed, and talking with Lydia on the phone.

-~-~-~-~-~7:30 am - Slothrust

Charlie gets ready on her own, goes down to the kitchen to talk with Aunt Melody.

-~-~-~-~-~Paradise - Wild Yaks

The first encounter with Lydia.

-~-~-~-~-~Repetition - The Willowz

Lydia goes through Charlie's things to find her an outfit, does her makeup, etc.

-~-~-~-~-~Over & Over - Hot Chip

Charlie looks in the mirror and prepares for the first day of school.

-~-~-~-~-~Whats on My Grave - Mt. Royal

References: I decided to do a full reference count for the chapter for funzies and because I was curious how many I make. Apparently I make a lot of them...It will include 'director commentary' and entertaining anecdotes. I've decided to do this for each chapter.

1) Rip Van Winkle, my homie, my spirit animal. Aka a dude who really knows how to get his nap on.

2) Jack Aubrey is a character from a series of Patrick O'Brian novels about life at sea in the English navy. I decided to add it in, because in my head Charlie's dad read the series and now she's reading it to be close to him.

3) Golumn and the one ring! That's 'Lord of the Rings', obviously...

4) The frosted miniwheats commercial with those talking CGI bits of cereal. That ad creeps me out, man. Like, you give the thing a face and a voice and then they expect kids to eat it? What's up with that? Plus they sit in that bowl of milk like it's a hot tub, when they're essentially basting themselves before someone eats them. Weird marketing choices, guys. You can make a mascot for your product without the implication that you're going to eat it. I mean, we don't eat the Pillsbury Dough-boy.

5) The 'People Like Grapes' T-shirt is a reference to one Gavin Free of Rooster Teeth. That boy is a daft genius and I love him to death.

6) Mean Girls, because I'm still heartbroken that 'Fetch' never happened.

7) 'The clothes make the man, naked people have little or no influence on society' is a Mark Twain quote! Because of course Lydia has an index of Mark Twain in her mind.

8) 'Be my Yoda' is a reference to Stiles Stilinski. Wait, no. Star Wars. Definitely Star Wars.

9) Bonnie and Clyde.

10) 'Dos Equis commercial face'! Not quite the 'Blue Steel', but close competition.

11) Bratz dolls. These things freak me the hell out. They look like Voldemort had a three-way with Barbie and her inflatable cousin.