Under My Skin (Wildlings)

Under My Skin (Wildlings) by Charles de Lint Read Free Book Online

Book: Under My Skin (Wildlings) by Charles de Lint Read Free Book Online
Authors: Charles de Lint
Tags: Fantasy
my skin.
    "I didn't know you were into surf," I say.
    "Not so much. I like to feel the bass thumping in my chest with homeboys throwing down their rhymes."
    "So why ...?"
    "I just wanted to tell you I've got your back. I expect you plan to play it cool. Keep a low profile. And that's good. That's smart. But the shit goes down. I'll do what I can."
    This makes even less sense than making small talk about music.
    "You—I mean …"
    He grins, but it doesn't feel very comforting.
    "Look, I know how you're letting it ride. Mountain lion? Never happened. But you can't play a playa. You understand what I'm saying?"
    "Not really."
    "I'm saying I know what you are. Once you settle into your skin and get used to your new world, you'll see. You won't be able to not tell who's got an animal under his skin. It's the smell mostly, but there's also a little something that goes ping in here." He taps a big finger against his temple.
    I give a slow nod. "So, you're a—" Wildling, too , I'm about to finish, but he cuts me off.
    "One more kid doing his time in this shit-ass school. Just like you."
    I nod again. He doesn't want to talk about it.
    "Can I ask you a question?" I say.
    "Shoot."
    "Why?"
    "Why what?"
    "Why do you have my back?"
    "This thing we have," he says. "Nobody knows what it is yet, you follow me?"
    I nod.
    "The solo profile plays just fine, so long as there aren't any problems. But I think there's going to come times when we need something that the people in our lives can't give us. They don't know what it's like—not the way we do. Say the Feds come down on you or me, what are we going to do? Call in our gang? Your friends—are they going to be able to do anything?" He shakes his head. "So if we don't have a Wildling gang, we at least need some alliances, right?"
    "I guess ..."
    "It's all new to you," he says. "I get it. Don't worry. We're not going to have meetings or hang or anything. But you need a helping hand, you got it. That's all I'm saying."
    "And if you need ..."
    I let the sentence trail off because what's he ever going to need my help for? But he nods.
    "Works both ways, bro. If you want it."
    I'm about to ask, do I really have a choice here? Except, while he's hard to read and I totally don't see what I could ever do for him, I get that it is my choice. If I want to, I can just walk away. But this really is a new world I'm in and who knows what lies ahead. Having a guy like Chaingang in my corner could make all the difference and it's not like he's asking me to push dope for him.
    "I—thanks," I say.
    The hint of a smile touches the corner of his mouth.
    "Don't worry so much," he says. "Keep your head down and you'll be fine. I changed a week before that kid who turned into the hawk on the video and nobody's the wiser."
    "I won't tell anyone."
    "Oh, I know you won't."
    The words are mild. His eyes are the same. But I realize we've just made a pact that I'd better never screw up.
    "So if Wildlings can sense each other," I say, "what stops them from outing each other?"
    "Nothing except for the blowback—knowing they'll be outed, too. But I hear the Feds are looking to get themselves some tame Wildlings and then we'll all be in trouble."
    I find myself wanting to ask him what kind of animal he can change into, but he's already made it clear this conversation's not going there. But that's not the only thing I'm curious about.
    "Can I ask you something else?" I say.
    "Go for it."
    "Why'd you come back to school?"
    He chuckles. "To get my paper, just like everybody else."
    "But you don't attend classes."
    "Don't need to. I had a lot of free time in juvie. Some I spent seeing to business, but I got studying done, too. People think I'm on a fast track to nowhere and maybe I am, when you look at the big picture. But you know what? I'm still going to ace my finals and, at the end of the year, I'll be walking onstage with the rest of them. They're going to see that a brother can stay on top of their game as well as his

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