Tommy didn't quite understand how he'd managed to overlook Merton for so long. Almost everything about the other boy was a demand for attention: from his weird spiky hair (like a hedgehog, Mrs. Dawkins had tutted when first introduced to Merton), to his clothing, to his over-exaggerated gestures and facial expressions. Not to mention, Tommy added with a quickly smothered grin, Merton's tendency for melodramatic, pretentious babbling.
Case in point: "With my admittedly superior intellect," Merton paused, all false modesty, "and your supernatural, werewolf abilities, we could bring the world to its knees!" Merton tilted his head, lips pursed. "Well, Pleasantville, at the very least--which is close enough for our present purposes."
Merton's eyes went unfocused, his expression dreamy as he envisioned some scenario Tommy was absolutely certain he was best off not asking about. Tommy quickened his pace. Merton gave an indignant squawk and hurried after Tommy. He latched onto Tommy's forearm, and certain of the other boy's attention, launched into the extended version of his Grand Scheme.
"After years of torment, I'd finally be able to exact my terrible vengeance on T'n'T! I've spent many long hours in contemplation of said vengeance, and have several schemes in mind. The crossbow is a serviceable weapon, but I've always had a fondness for decapitation--there's a sword on eBay that I've had my eye on for a while, and I think it would serve our purposes--"
"Merton," Tommy said firmly, "I'm not helping you decapitate my teammates."
Merton snickered uneasily. "Kidding, Tommy, kidding."
"Or anyone else, for that matter," Tommy concluded.
Merton crossed his arms before his chest, his eyes sliding away from Tommy as he pouted. The silence lasted until they crossed the street, bringing Merton's house into sight. "Fine; no swift and horrible vengeance of the fatal variety. How about a little grr, rrrow instead?" Merton asked hopefully, setting his face in a snarl and raising his fists before him. He punched out at the air before him: "oooh, Travis takes a paw to the gut!"
Tommy couldn't help but snort in amusement. "I'm not beating anyone up for you, either."
"I bet you would if Stacey asked," Merton sniffed. "What good is it having my very own werewolf if you don't get wolfy to defend my person in bloody battle?"
"First of all, Stacey is a totally different situation," Tommy said, ignoring Merton's sigh and eye roll. "Secondly, you've really got to cut back on those teen slasher movies. And thirdly, well, thirdly, we're friends and I'm not going to let anyone hurt you, okay?" For all that Tommy sometimes felt like slapping Merton across the back of the head in annoyance, any threat to him was enough to sent the wolf spilling to the surface of Tommy's skin.
"Really?" Merton said, looking at Tommy from under lowered lashes.
"Really," Tommy said.
Merton beamed. "Well, then." They paused at the end of Merton's driveway. He stuffed his hands into his jeans and raised his eyes to the darkening sky. He looked small and pale and Tommy felt--Tommy felt--
"But I think I'll look into buying that sword, just in case," Merton said in all seriousness, eyes shinning as he turned his gaze upon Tommy.
The tension building in Tommy's chest eased. He rolled his eyes. "Merton," Tommy growled.
Merton flashed a crooked smile. "We make a good team, Tommy."
"Yeah," Tommy agreed, "we do." He slung his arm over Merton's shoulders and pulled him up the drive.
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