After a long moment where she’s trying to put her thoughts together, she says, “That’s exactly what I meant — I couldn’t even make clear to /you/ what I was really trying to say. I said it wrong, I didn’t put the words around it right, because the only words I can use are the simple ones. Even if I’m in a situation where ‘absquatulate’ is the word I need, the /right/ word, with the right shading and implication and precise meaning — I have to use ‘ran away’ because nobody knows the other word, and half of what I’m trying to express is lost in that.” She balls up her fists and stares at them in the growing dusk.

“Almost nobody thinks like I do,” she adds softly. “I think maybe I’m not human. Nobody else seems to — to /care/, to be able to see through someone else’s eyes, to understand and listen and feel but not let that feeling control what they choose — /inform/ it, yes.” She trails off, convinced she’s not making herself clear, certain she’s just making herself sound ever more arrogant when what she wants is to be humble, to understand and be understanding. Clarity /matters/.

Stiles is uncharacteristically still for a few moments, eyes on the road. “So, what, you think because I misunderstood you that I’m stupid?” His voice is quiet, but there’s an edge to it, sharp as if it’s been honed for the purpose of cutting.

He lets that hang in the air briefly before he continues on, head shaking. “Everybody thinks differently than everyone else, that’s the thing about us being individuals. That doesn’t make you not human, it makes you human. Some people don’t step out of their own skin. Some do. That’s just kind of a thing about humans. We sort of throw ideas at each other best we can and hope at least part of what we wanted to say gets through.”

“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.

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