“No!” she bursts out, starting to interrupt, but he goes on, and she knows she’s still saying it wrong. Incipient tears make her nose burn and her throat hurt, but she swallows them down, takes what he says.

He’s right, after all. She’s not special.

All she ever wanted was an excuse to be different. So she closes her hands in her lap tighter, until her nails burn painfully in her skin and she knows there will be marks. Very carefully, hating the higher pitch of her voice, she says, “It’s not you. I didn’t say it right. I never say it right. I — you’re not — it’s not you.”

Then she falls silent, locking up all the other words that want to spill out.

There’s a little bit of a startle that goes through Stiles’ shoulders when Summer shouts, but he doesn’t address it. He glances to her, mouth pressed into a line.

Then he shrugs, not dismissive so much as an attempt to convey that he doesn’t know what else to tell her, and refocuses on the road. They drive the rest of the way to the preserve in silence, at least until Stiles pulls the Jeep offroad and starts muttering to it, come on, Roscoe, you can handle this, don’t be a pansy, let’s go, it’s just a little forest terrain, dude.

Summer just waits, one hand lightly on the door handle in case she needs to grab for something to hang on to. After a few minutes of his quiet enouragements, she offers, diffidently, “We could walk from here, couldn’t we? I don’t want you to rip out the bottom of your car.”

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