It's Derek's first summer at Camp Remus without Laura.
He'd hoped that having Cora still here would make it a little less lonely, but that notion had been quickly disavowed when they'd stepped on the bus and Cora had abandoned him for a group of girls with colorful embroidery thread taped to their knees, busily braiding. His cousin Malia, of course, more independent at eight than Derek is even now, had gotten on a completely different bus. Which left Derek to spend the bus ride to camp in the worst row on the bus—the one at the very front, right behind the bus driver—with only the collective works of The Ramones for company.
He doesn't mind, exactly. It's rare that he ever gets time alone at home, and he's never allowed to listen to The Ramones, (or anything else with "adolescent content") since there are too many young werewolf ears in the house. And he knows that he has Erica and Isaac waiting for him at camp. But still, he was a bit miffed to be abandoned by his little sister for the cooler kids.
What does she know anyway? Eleven year olds are idiots.
Camp Remus is exactly as it has been for the last seven summers. He remembers sitting on the bus next to Laura, six years old, seeing the painted wooden sign for the first time and joining in with the cheering even though not ten minutes earlier he'd been crying for his Alpha.
There's the same high-netted volleyball court, the same snack shop with the faded Slurpee sign, the giant pothole on the right side of the road that sends everyone on the bus bouncing a foot in the air, and of course, as they come into view of the mess hall, the same sparkling lake that the camp edges right up against. In the far distance, on the other side of the lake, Derek can see Camp Romulus's mess hall, and all the human kids that are pouring out of yellow busses around it.
The human side of the lake has always looked kind of lame, to Derek. All they've got is a little beach, ringed off with blue and white buoy lines. The wolf side of the lake, on the other hand, has got a slide, and a rope swing, and one of those giant bouncing pillows.
Derek is so glad he doesn't have to go to Camp Romulus.
He's sorting through the pile of duffel bags, eyes peeled for the bright blue duct tape he'd marked his own with, when Cora comes up behind him and punches him in the shoulder.
"Mine's right there," she says, pointing at the black duffel marked with tie-dye duct tape.
"That's nice," Derek replies, and tosses a yellow duffel to the side.
Cora huffs. "Get it for me, dummy."
"Nope," Derek says.
"I'll tell mom you're being a poophead."
"I'll tell mom you're being a brat."
"I'll tell mom you're being pubescent."
Derek rolls his eyes. "You don't even know what that means."
"It means you get hairy armpits and have lots of temper tantrums," Cora says smugly. "And on full moons you hump trees a lot."
Derek flushes. "Shut up, boobless."
Cora squawks and folds an arm over her chest, and uses the other to punch Derek again.
Derek smirks. He's about to comment on how much duffle space Cora used up packing all of her brand new training bras, when a scent passes under his nose and he immediately jerks forward, inhaling.
It smells like pack, and home, and Derek, and wolf, and oranges with dried cloves and kind of muted but—but it's—
God, it's his.
He realizes dimly that his wolf has slid out from under the surface, vision gone hazy red as his ears lock down on the rush of the wind. It's the moment right before Laura signals to spring on their prey, right down to the saliva dripping from his fangs, but instead of the trees there's busses and instead of dinner it's—
"Hey dodo-brain! Hey!" Cora's shouting, but Derek pays her no mind.
The scent is coming from the east, on the other side of the duffel bag pile, two boys clambering off of a school bus. One of them has a mop of curly dark hair and a bright red backpack, and for a moment Derek's heart stops as he thinks that’s him but then his eyes slide to the skinny pale kid next to him, with buzzed brown hair and eyes too big for his face and long fingers worrying a piece of twine around his neck, and Derek knows.
He doesn't know why his mate hasn't smelled him yet—maybe too busy talking, his mouth is going a mile a minute at his friend—but Derek doesn't care.
He vaults over the duffel bag mountain in two bounds, springs into the triple frontflip he's spent all winter perfecting in the backyard that now, for some reason, comes as easy as breathing, and lands steady on two feet in front of his mate.
"Holy shit," Mate squeaks, stumbling backward into his friend.
"Hi," Derek says breathlessly.
Mate's friend growls at him, shoving Mate behind him, and Derek tries to dodge around him, but then Mate's friend is shifting himself and Derek is confused.
"Mate," Derek explains thickly, through fangs, trying to capture his mate's eyes and wondering why he's not responding. "Mine."
In response, Mate's friend growls louder, fur sprouting down the sides of his face. His eyes flash red.
An alpha. An alpha is holding his mate hostage.
Derek roars and lunges, charging the alpha and circumventing his defense at the last second with a move that is signature to his family but now, to this unknown threat, works perfectly as a feint. He flips into the air inches away from the enemy alpha, dodging his claws, and then catches the alpha's back on his way down, leaving long painful slices. The moment he's back on the ground he lunges for his mate.
"Scott!" his mate yelps, and Derek only gets one arm out before there are claws plunging into the back of his neck and his vision whites out from pain. He hears himself roar, distantly, and then he's flying through the air.
He hits the ground hard, a distant reverberating through his limbs that leaves him disconnected, uncoordinated, and he's in the process of forcing himself back up when a pair of huge arms grab him round the middle and hoist him up into the air.
He draws in a breath, about to unleash a howl for his mate, for his pack, when there's a rumble in his ear that makes his lungs deflate and his muscles go limp.
He knows that growl.
When Derek's vision seeps in again, dark spots fading into flashes of color and light, the camp around him has gone still.
Alpha Boyd is still holding him, and there's a counselor Derek doesn't recognize holding the dickwad alpha back, and off to the side Derek notes that Amelia Ito is holding Cora back. No one's looking at any of them, though. They're all looking at Derek's mate, who's still standing up against the bus.
They're looking at his pale arm, and the blood that's trickling down his bicep as the wound doesn't heal. They're looking at the sachet on a broken twine necklace that his mate is holding in one trembling hand.
Derek inhales, and the scent in the air has changed.
It smells of magic.
It smells of human.
"It was my fault!" Stiles says immediately, after Alpha Boyd has dragged them him, Scott, and the psycho beta werewolf into his office. "All me. Scott had nothing to do with it. We met on the bus, he's never seen me before in his life. Definitely blame me, not him."
"You're registered as a McCall Beta," Alpha Boyd says flatly.
"I—I spelled him!" Stiles tries. "I magicked him with my evil witchy with powers so he—"
"It was my fault," Scott interrupts, and Stiles kicks him, hard, and then kicks him again for sounding so goddamn mature. "I should never have endangered a human in my pack so that—"
"Don't listen to him," Stiles says loudly.
"Don't listen to him," Scott insists.
Alpha Boyd listens to neither of them and walks out of the office, and closes the door behind him.
Stiles and Scott deflate in unison.
Stiles elbows Scott, and Scott elbows him right back.
In the corner, the psycho beta stares at the wall.
So, Stiles' dad is going to kill him.
Like, really kill him.
And he stopped distributing 50% of the blame to Scott years ago—and to be fair, this time it was entirely Stiles' idea to try to sneak his scrawny human butt into Camp Remus, Scott was just an enthusiastic bystander—but god, the car ride home after they've kicked him out of summer camp is going to be awful. His dad is going to pull out his Raising Your Troubled Child as a Single Parent books again.
Stiles had been convinced that the plan was foolproof though, and the fact that it failed less than two minutes after arriving at camp has still not convinced him that it was a bad plan, necessarily. How could he possibly have accounted for getting freaking attacked as soon as he stepped off the bus?
Stiles makes a mental note to use this as a defense against his father's oncoming lecture. Thus far his case is built upon:
- He was making a stand against an intrinsically unfair system, showing both conviction of belief and a strong moral compass.
- He was developing critical thinking skills, including applied long-term planning and integration of magical, theatrical, and intellectual arts.
- He and Scott are basically brothers, and you didn't really expect us to spend the summer apart after a decade of spending them together, did you Dad?
At least now he can mope around the house by himself, instead of being stuck friendless on the other side of the lake for six weeks. Eventually his dad will feel bad enough for him that he'll relent on the video game ban.
"It'll be okay," Scott says with certainty.
"At least we tried," Stiles agrees, knowing better than to directly challenge Scott when he's feeling True Alpha-ish.
Scott pats Stiles' knee. "If they kick you out, they'll have to kick me out too."
"Scott, the nobility is appreciated, but of the two of us, you actually do need to go to stupid werewolf camp," Stiles says, rolling his eyes. "You have to find a better anchor, and learn how to hunt bunnies, and—"
Stiles can't bring himself to say 'network with other packs' because what he actually hears when he says that is 'make friends with people more like you'.
"We can work on that at home," Scott says firmly. "Just like we have been all year."
Stiles doesn't argue. Instead, he starts plotting ways to make sure that Alpha Boyd keeps Scott at Camp Remus. Surely Alpha Boyd will see the importance of keeping the world's first True Alpha in a century at werewolf summer camp. Stiles will just have to point out the political strategy of keeping positive relations with Scott while he's still building alliances.
"What's your name?"
Stiles looks up to see Psycho Beta awkwardly shifting his chair, arms folded over his chest.
"Yeah, I don't think so," Stiles snaps, glaring at him. "Crazy werewolves who ruin my summer with my best friend don't get to know my name."
Psycho Beta turns red. "'m not crazy," he mutters, angrily. "I just—"
"Attack humans at random?" Scott cuts in accusingly.
Scott gives him a narrow look, and squeezes Stiles' knee possessively.
"He's my mate," Psycho Beta says.
"What?" says Scott.
"What," says Stiles.
Unfortunately, that's when the door swings open and Alpha Boyd comes back into the office, carrying a white plastic case with a red cross on it. A human first aid kid. Werewolf first aid kits—stocked with common variants of wolfsbane, lighters, and a handful of werewolf-specific drugs—have an orange cross on the side.
Alpha Boyd pulls his chair out from behind his desk and settles in front of Stiles. He flips the snaps on the first aid kit.
Stiles glances at Scott, who's glaring at Psycho Beta, who's glaring at Stiles.
When Stiles looks forward again, Alpha Boyd has procured alcohol wipes, Neosporin, a square of gauze, and a roll of medical tape.
"Oh, no," Stiles says weakly, "you don't have to do that. Really. I'm fine."
Psycho Beta growls, possibly the start of a word, but Scott immediately growls back, shifting himself in front of Stiles, and Stiles is pretty sure there's going to be a second showdown over his (apparently rather desirable) ass, when Alpha Boyd rumbles them into silence.
Psycho Beta bares his teeth at Scott.
Scott turns to shield Stiles even more.
"We'll begin the meeting once Director Argent arrives from Camp Romulus," Alpha Boyd tells them, as he pushes Stiles' sleeve up. "She should be here in a few minutes. It'll give me time to pull all of your files and get your parents' phone numbers."
Psycho Beta and Scott both immediate drop their posturing to stare at Alpha Boyd in betrayal. Stiles, who had already been pretty certain of his imminent demise-by-father, just slumps back in his chair and sighs.
Lydia Martin has been sent to summer camp.
Lydia Martin has been sent to summer camp.
Things had gotten off to a bad start this morning, when her father had dropped her and her baggage off in the school parking lot, kissed her forehead, and drove off just before some gangly camp counselor had come over to loudly inform her that she could only take one suitcase with her, and no exceptions would be made under any circumstances. So she'd had to suffer the humiliation of repacking her two suitcases down to one, in front of everyone. And then, as she'd waited for her father to find someone to send to pick up her extra suitcase, they'd had to delay the bus because of her.
She hadn't even stepped foot in this stupid camp, and she'd already developed a reputation as an incompetent ditz.
And she'd had to leave her hair dryer behind.
Things had looked up a little bit when, about halfway through the drive to camp, a tall, gorgeous girl swung down into the seat beside her and introduced herself as Allison. Within five minutes they had started compiling a list of the nail polishes they'd both brought for the summer. Allison was a camp native, but had a great fashion sense and had also been smart enough not to judge Lydia at first glance, so when Allison suggested that they share a bunk, Lydia had been only too happy to agree.
So, she had a friend. She had a bunkmate. She had access to seven extra shades of nail polish, and probably some of Allison's wardrobe as well. Things were looking up for Lydia's six weeks in summer camp hell.
"Mar-tin," Lydia repeats. "M-A-R, T-I-N.”
"Nope," says the camp counselor, snapping her bubble gum as she flips through the two sheets of paper on her clipboard. "Not on here."
Two girls come out of the cabin, giggling, letting the rickety wooden door bang shut behind them. They stare at Lydia curiously as they pass.
Lydia shifts, holding her head high. Allison's steady presence beside her, and her own rather tenacious force of will, are basically the only things keeping her from crying right now.
"Listen," she says, drawing herself up. "I was on the list this morning, when my father signed me in, which means that this is obviously some sort of clerical error. Why don't you go back to the main office and see what's going on, and I'll go in and set my baggage down?"
"That sounds like a good idea," Allison chimes in loyally.
The counselor's mouth twists to the side, but she looks like she's about to agree when someone interrupts.
It's a camp counselor. A hot camp counselor, who comes jogging out of the trees like an arboreal Adonis. Lydia has no plans to be the cliché eighth grader who falls in love with her slightly older camp counselor, but... wow. Well-muscled, lightly tanned, biceps that bulge against the sleeves of the Camp Romulus polo shirt—he even made the mandatory forward-facing baseball cap look good.
"Hey," he says, coming to a stop in front of them. "Have you had a Lydia Martin show up at your cabin?"
Kate nods, and jerks her thumb at Lydia. "Right here. She was on the main sign-in sheet, and she's thirteen, but I don't have her on my list of Falcons. She yours?"
Out of the corner of her eye, Lydia notices that Allison has gone stiff.
"Ah, yeah, she's one of mine," Hot Counselor says, smiling, and turns to face Lydia, holding out a hand. "Hey, I'm Jordan. Sorry about the mix up—you're actually a Crow, not a Falcon. Normally I grab you guys off the busses, when you get in, but things have been a little crazy here for the last hour, and I guess your bus got in late?"
"I—" Lydia shakes Jordan's hand almost automatically. "I'm sorry. Why aren't I in the Falcon cabin?"
Jordan's smile doesn't fade a watt. "Supernaturals! They throw all of us together in one cabin, instead of sorting us by age. It's a great time, and we gets all sorts of interesting people. This year we've got a kitsune. Those only come around every half a millennium or so!"
Lydia thinks back to her summer camp paperwork, and the list of checkboxes asking for "Supernatural Attributes", and the little black X her mother had made on the line for "Banshee".
Kate and Allison trade a look that Lydia can’t read and she hates it.
"We can't... request to—" Lydia starts to ask, but Jordan's already shaking his head.
So, she notes, is Allison.
Kate snaps her bubblegum. “Sorry, sweetcheeks. Humans only. Spooks like you go with Jordan.”
Ice pools in the pit of her stomach.
Taking in a deep breath, Lydia lifts her chin. "I'd like to speak to Director Argent, please."
Jordan's face goes sympathetic, and Lydia wants to tell him to shut up before he even delivers his excuse.
"Sorry," Jordan says, shaking his head. "She's actually over at Camp Remus right now, dealing with a situation, and I think she'll want to get to the welcome ceremony as soon as she gets back. But maybe you can talk to her after dinner?"
"Fine," Lydia says shortly, and pulls the handle on her suitcase up. The wheels don't exactly work on the gravel pathways, but it's not like she can lift it. "Which way?"
"Lydia," Allison says.
"This way. It’s a bit of a walk," Jordan says, indicating the forest behind him, and Lydia sets off without another word.
“What is she?” Lydia hears Kate ask, in a tone that suggests the right answer is garbage that learned to walk.
The burn of being wrong itches under Lydia’s collar, pickles at her throat and the corners of her eyes, and she hates, hates, hates summer camp.
Jordan catches up in a few seconds.
"Hey," he says kindly. "I know it can be kind of rough, starting out here, and—"
"I'm fine," Lydia interrupts briskly. She yanks her stupid suitcase over a tree root.
Jordan pauses for a moment. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," Lydia says, staring fixedly at the trail ahead of them.
"Okay," Jordan agrees, and suddenly the drudging weight of Lydia's suitcase disappears from her hand. When she looks over in surprise, Jordan's hefted it easily up on one shoulder. He smiles warmly at her.
"Supernatural perks," Jordan says, and winks at her.
Lydia folds her arms over her stomach, and walks a little faster, determined to get to the cabin showers before she starts crying.
("Hello. This is Alpha Vernon Boyd, calling from Camp Remus about—"
"Derek?" Talia asks, confused. "You're calling about Derek? Is he okay? What happened?"
"Oh, boy." Melissa blows out a breath. "All right. Is he hurt?"
"He's been there for two hours, what could he possibly have—" John pauses. "Hang on, Camp Remus? Like the werewolf camp?")
It's not uncommon to find your mate at Camp Remus. It's the regional werewolf summer camp for all of Northern California, with the occasional Oregonian thrown in, and with that many young werewolves being tossed together, there's almost always one couple that wind up discovering each other within the first twenty-four hours. It's just that every time Derek's seen it happen, the two end up sort of... throwing themselves at each other and doing a lot of sniffing before the counselors get to them.
It's just that every time Derek's seen it happen, it's been between two werewolves.
Not a werewolf and an idiotic emissary in training who thought he could magic his way into a camp full of werewolves.
Because of course Derek would be the one to get the human mate with the death wish.
Probably for the best, really. Even as Derek wants to tear his own hair out from the sheer stupidity, he can't also help but think of it as brave, and loyal, and probably, though he knows nothing about magic, clever.
Idiots attract idiots, apparently.
The other thing about mates at Camp Remus, is that newly discovered pairs become camp celebrities for the first few days. Everyone wants to know what it felt like, if their scents had changed, how far apart their packs are and if there's any bad blood between their families that will make more exciting rumors. The year that Callie Reyes mated with Adam Dunbar, their parents had ended up pulling all the Reyes and Dunbar children out of camp, and details of the ensuing pack war had been hot gossip for the rest of the summer.
When Derek walks into the mess hall after Alpha Boyd releases him, though, everyone goes quiet.
Derek scans the crowd for Erica and Isaac, and finds them tucked away in a corner with Cora, which both surprises and pleases him. He'd thought that she'd be sitting with her group of friends.
One of the counselors clears her throat, and after a second silverware starts clattering and quiet whispers start up.
No one stops staring.
Derek swallows and stiffly walks across the cafeteria, face set like stone.
The further he gets, the louder the chatter gets, but Derek blocks them out. He knows it'll pass. Werewolves mating with humans isn't exactly unheard of—it's probably the combination of Stiles being human, Stiles being a magic-wielding dumbass, and Derek and the already-hot-gossip McCall Alpha getting into a fight in front of everyone.
When he passes Malia where she's sitting with all the other eight-year-olds, she waves at him happily and announces, "That's my cousin!"
Derek cringes and speeds up.
When he slides onto the bench next to Cora, their shoulders knock together and rub just a little longer than normal.
"Hey, Romeo," Erica says, shoving a platter of corndogs his way. "We thought maybe they were gonna kick you out."
"We hoped," Cora grumbles.
Derek elbows her, and she elbows him back.
"Nobody got kicked out," Derek mumbles, and loads three corndogs onto his plate. Isaac shoves the ketchup at him before Derek can even hold out a hand.
It's quiet as Derek squirts a huge lake of ketchup onto his plate, caps the bottle, and then reaches for the bowl of fruit salad that Erica is pushing at him. Cora's pouring him a cup of bug juice.
"Did they call Mom and Dad?" Cora asks.
Derek nods. "They called all of our parents."
Isaac cringes, but Derek shakes his head.
"It wasn't bad." I’m so happy for you, Derek, had been Mom's exact words. Like Derek had actually accomplished anything this afternoon other than clawing up his mate. "But you know they have to call home when there's a mating. I'm not in trouble."
"What about—" Erica starts, and then stops.
Isaac shares a glance with her.
"Your mate, dumbbutt," Cora says, practically bouncing in her seat. "Tell us about your mate."
All three of them turn to look at him, and Derek immediately takes a huge bite of corndog. None of them are impressed, but it still buys him a little time.
"He's..." Derek eventually begins, but then finds himself casting around for the word that encapsulates all the feelings that come with finding your mate and then being separated from him only an hour later. He can't find it. Possibly, it doesn't even exist.
"He's human," Derek finally says, a bit blankly.
There are humans in the Hale Pack, but none in his immediate family. He thinks he has a few cousins, on his dad's side, and he's pretty sure at least one of his grandparents was human. He's set to start at high school next the fall—the traditional age for werewolves to integrate into the public school system—and of course he's grown up in a human-dominated world, watching human films and reading human books, and his parents have always taught him how to modulate strength and raise his voice and turn the lights on even when he himself can see, for humans whose eyes don't work on a supernatural level.
But mostly, Derek can't get the image of Stiles' arm out of his mind, sliced open and bleeding freely ages after he'd been hurt. The extensive contents of the human first aid kit. The way his heart beat so fast and strong inside such fragile bones.
"Well, duh," Cora sighs, rolling her eyes. "Everyone smelled that he was human two seconds after his magic pendant thing broke. But what's his name? Is he in the McCall pack? How old is he?"
"Why was he trying to sneak in?" Erica asks.
"What'd they do to him?" Isaac presses, leaning in.
Derek pokes at a piece of strawberry with his fork. "His name's Stiles. He's the emissary in training for the McCall kid."
They all exchange glances.
Everyone knows about the McCall kid.
"And what'd they do to him?" Erica demands, hushed. "For trying to sneak in?"
"Just sent him back over to Camp Romulus," Derek says, spearing and unspearing the strawberry until the fork splits it completely in half.
"Crap," Isaac says sympathetically. "I mean, I guess he's lucky they didn't kick him out completely. I hear their camp director's a jerk."
"You should sneak over to see him," Cora says slyly.
"Ohh, yeah!" Erica agrees, perking up.
"Are you freaking crazy?" Isaac hisses. "They'd call your Alpha in a minute if they found you crossing over to the human side."
Derek shrugs again, and eats the strawberry halves.
"Mom'd kill you," Cora says, a little too enthusiastically.
Oh, yeah. She would.
And Laura would have a field day.
"I'm not gonna sneak over to the human camp," Derek mutters. "I'll just—I'll figure something out."
He's got a plan coming together in his head.
He'll have to go see Alpha Boyd tomorrow morning. That’ll be… fun.
"Hey, at least you didn't start a pack war," Erica points out.
"Probably," Isaac adds. "McCall does look pretty pissed."
He nods helpfully behind Derek, and Derek looks over his shoulder to see the McCall kid sitting alone at the table behind them, glaring daggers at Derek.
It's gonna be a long six weeks.
Officially, Stiles is spending his summer without Scott.
He thinks he should be grateful that he didn't get kicked out of summer camp completely after using magic to fake werewolf-hood to sneak into Camp Remus, but... but it's a summer without Scott. His best friend. His brother. His Alpha.
He's not entirely sure he wanted to stay anyway, if it meant a summer without Scott.
Stiles has missed dinner, by the time Director Argent pulls the golf cart up to the mess hall of Camp Romulus, and everyone is filing over to the flagpole for the Welcome Ceremony. He spots Jordan and Danny right away, and skulks his way over to the group of black bandanas. On his way, he sees at least a dozen familiar faces, including Adrian, his least favorite camp counselor, and Director Argent's daughter Allison. Scott has had a crush on her for years.
Jordan gives Stiles a friendly but confused smile, as Stiles slips into the circle.
In the center of the circle, Director Argent and Finstock are unfolding the camp flag.
"Welcome to Camp Romulus, everyone," Director Argent announces, bringing the circle to a hush. "Let's see. Do I have my... Cardinals?"
A group of six-year-olds in bright red bandanas raise their hands and after some counselor encouragement, cheer a little.
Seven-year-olds in orange bandanas, this time.
Stiles would normally be rolling his eyes with Scott, across the circle. Since Stiles was a spark, and Scott was a normal human, Scott had ascended through the various colorful bird groups of Camp Romulus, while Stiles had been stuck as a Crow every summer. They normally bore the annual Welcome Ceremony with great prejudice.
Stiles wonders if they have some similar sorting system at Camp Remus. Rumor has it that the kids sleep as wolves, in caves, and they have to hunt for all their meals, but in his short time there Stiles had seen both cabins and a mess hall.
Is Scott going to be stuck in some weird segregated cabin that they reserve for bitten werewolves only?
Or is Scott going to be in a bunk with other werewolves his age, making friends instantly as he tends to do, and forget all about Plan B?
Stiles will totally make him pay, if he does. He will use his witchy druid powers and make it happen, because Scott might be some big shot True Alpha now, but Stiles knows about Scott's phobia of snakes. He's not above magically rehoming one or two into Scott's sleeping bag.
And there will definitely be no contraband chocolate passed along.
"Hey, Juliet," Jordan says after the ceremony is over, ruffling Stiles' hair. "I heard Romeo is on the other side of the lake this summer."
“Yeah,” Stiles mutters.
Jordan’s talking about Scott, of course, not Stiles’ surly new werewolf mate, but the irony still resonates.
"I'm surprised the two of you didn't just stay home for the summer, considering you couldn't even spend the night apart last summer," Jordan continues, oblivious. He opens the door to the mess hall and ushers Stiles inside.
“Yeah, well, Scott had to go learn to be a good werewolf,” Stiles says, as they troop down the darkened hall toward the serving counters. “So here I am. Alone.”
"Aww. My little star crossed lovers," Jordan says fondly.
"Shut up," Stiles grumbles.
Jordan grabs the plate of leftovers off the counter and hands it to Stiles. "Here. I'm going to get everyone back to the cabin. Be back there in fifteen for the cabin meeting."
Stiles nods, accepting the plate. "Dessert?" he asks.
"Brownies," Jordan answers.
Well, that's something, at least.
Whatever points Jordan had gained with Lydia earlier that day, they go up in smoke when he announces that there's a mandatory cabin meeting after they troop all the way back from the Welcome Ceremony. For some reason, their cabin seems to be much, much further out than all the others.
"I'll try to keep it short," he promises, amidst groans from the older kids.
Lydia casts a longing look at her bunk (she has an entire one to herself, and it had turned out that sacrificing her hair dryer for her spare sheets had been a strategically sound choice, when the bathrooms had revealed no outlets, and the spare sheets had handily repurposed themselves into makeshift privacy curtains for her bed), before she settles down on the floor with the other six.
...seven, she reminds herself as the latecomer folds himself down on the floor, cross-legged.
He's about her age, maybe younger, and while it's clear that he's a camp veteran from the way he easily bumps knees with the kid he's sat next to, it's also clear that he's unhappy to be here.
When they start going around the circle and lasting their name, age, hometown, and "the most interesting thing about yourself beside your superpowers", Lydia tunes in when it's his turn to speak.
"Hey," he says, waving. "I'm Stiles. Thirteen. Beacon Hills. And this is my seventh year here at camp."
"And?" Jordan prompts, after a beat.
"And what?" Stiles asks.
"Your fun fact!" Jordan says, grinning.
Stiles' face doesn't crack into a matching one. "That was my fun fact."
"Stiles!" Jordan laughs, rolling his eyes. "Come on. Give us something else."
Stiles exhales, considers for a moment, and then grudgingly adds, "I won the science fair this year."
Lydia's eyes narrow. She considers him further, as the dark-haired boy next to Stiles introduces himself as Danny.
Jordan had stressed to her that they aren't required to reveal what supernatural affliction had landed them in the outcast cabin, and no one's come right out and made any claims yet, but... She's already figured out that the girls she's rooming with are a witch, a kitsune, and someone with fae in their family tree, just from their belongings and overheard conversations. The boys are still largely a mystery though—and since Stiles was so late arriving, he's even more of an unknown.
But potentially valuable nevertheless.
Jordan loses further points when he explains that their "Frogger Meal" is Wednesday breakfast, which means instead of turning up at 7:30 a.m. for breakfast, they have to show up at 7:00 a.m. to set the tables, and then stay afterwards to clean up.
Lydia can't believe she got sent to summer camp and somehow she still has chores.
She eats breakfast alone.
Allison is sitting further down the table, surrounded by other girls their age, and while Lydia hasn’t spared them a glance since spotting them, it’s impossible to tune out their excited chatter.
Frankly, she doesn’t know what there is to be excited about. The food here is clearly bulk freezer products microwaved half an hour before serving, and it tastes like the cardboard boxes that it’s probably being stored in. She already has bug bites that itch like crazy, and bug spray makes her skin feel tacky in a way that foreshadows a break-out. One of the girls in her cabin had kept her up last night with her snoring. And her hair is frizzy because it’s air-drying, and she’s braided it back so it won’t be as obvious, but that’s going to create hideous waves in her hair as soon as it’s dry.
No one likes a frizzy redhead.
She’s scraping up a spoonful of rubbery scrambled egg when there’s the thump of a butt on the bench, right across from her.
It’s the kid who showed up late to the ceremonies last night. Stiles.
She eyes him, and then goes back to her eggs.
The seats around them gradually fill up with other happily chatting campers, swapping food and comparing schedules, until she and Stiles are an island of silence in the din of the mess hall.
After breakfast, Allison catches her arm as Lydia leaves the mess hall. “Hey, listen—”
Lydia jerks her arm free.
“Listen,” Allison says again, holding her hands up in surrender. “I’m sorry about yesterday. It’s—it’s just camp rules, putting all the spoo—supernatural kids together. It’s always been that way.”
“It’s stupid,” Lydia says bluntly.
“Well—“ Allison starts, then bites her lip. “I mean, they’re just trying to keep everyone safe. And trust me, our camp counselor this year, Kate? She’s kind of… not the biggest fan of the supernatural. You’re better off with Jordan.”
"Well, thank you for looking out for me,” Lydia says acidly, and flips her frizzy braid over her mosquito-bitten shoulder before marching off with as much dignity as she can muster.
(She trips over a tree root on her way back to the cabin.)
Step one of Derek’s plan had gone great:
"I need to change my electives," Derek announced to Alpha Boyd, after breakfast.
Alpha Boyd raised an eyebrow. "The deadline for adjustments was two weeks before arrival."
Be like Laura, Derek told himself. Just pretend to be Laura.
"Exceptions can be made," he replied, strong and steady.
Ten minutes later, Derek exited the Alpha’s office on slightly shaky legs, but with a revised schedule of electives in his back pocket. Triumph sang in his veins. He felt like he’d come back from a hunt dragging a buck behind him, like his Alpha had howled and his own reply had been loudest. He felt—like an alpha.
No wonder Laura was such a smug asshole all the time.
Step two is going… less great:
“You’re not even supposed to be in this class,” McCall hisses.
“I’m signed up for it, just like everyone else,” Derek says.
McCall snorts. “I know you switched into it this morning. You just want to be my partner because you want Stiles. Well I’ve got news for you, bucko—Stiles is in my pack, and you can’t have him, and you can find someone else to partner with.”
Derek bares his teeth.
McCall’s eyes flash.
“Boys, your first aid kit,” Deaton interrupts mildly, setting a white box down between them.
“We’re not partners!” McCall protests.
Deaton glances around. “It looks like everyone else is paired up, so it seems you are.” He gives McCall a pleasant smile, and moves on to the next pair.
McCall snarls in frustration, and his claws dig into the wooden bench.
This, Derek thinks, is Stiles’ alpha? Some immature little brat who can’t even control his own wolf, is supposed to be in charge of protecting Derek’s mate?
Derek can’t wait to bring Stiles home to meet his pack, and show Stiles what a real alpha is like so he can abandon this hotheaded loser forever.
Lights out can hardly come fast enough for Stiles.
He fakes sleep long enough for Kira to stop reading comics under her covers and Sophia to start snoring, then he just stares at the ceiling, drumming restlessly on his knees. It had been a long day of camp without Scott, made worse by the fact that his extremely late registration had landed him all the worst electives. He’d spent an hour learning macramé today.
Finally, his watch ticks over to 10:45, and Stiles slides out of his bed as quietly as possible. He’s doing fairly well until someone whispers his name and Stiles jumps out of his freaking skin.
Danny’s eyeroll is somehow visible even in the darkness.
Stiles waves his hands. “What?”
“Raincoat,” Danny tells him.
“Thank you,” Stiles mouths, and tiptoes back to find his raincoat.
After this long, Stiles has learned that it’s better to just listen when Danny tells you things. If you ask for details, he’ll make you regret it. (It had only taken three cases of poison ivy, an iPod left in the rain, and a broken finger in dodgeball for Stiles to learn that lesson.)
Once outside, he snaps his fingers and watches a familiar ball of light expand into existence in the palm of his hand. He tosses it forward and then directs it with a pointed finger until it’s hovering ahead of him, ready to light the way.
“Dude,” Scott says, “I could hear you coming from a mile away in that jacket. Literally.”
“Danny said to bring it,” Stiles replies, shrugging.
Scott’s face falls. “Oh, man.”
“Yeah. Here, eat your brownie before it rains, I guess.”
“Yes! You’re the best, Stiles,” Scott says, making grabby hands even before Stiles has it out of his pocket. Sheesh. It’s only been two days. Scott has really got to kick this chocolate addiction, if he’s going to make it the rest of the summer.
Stiles hands over the brownie, and Scott starts demolishing it. In the interim, Stiles sends his ball of light on a quick scan of the old wooden bench for spiders and snakes and lurking cryptids. The old amphitheater is located a short hike away from Camp Remus, and a much longer hike away from Camp Romulus, but it’s unused in the wake of televisions and probably also termites, which makes it perfect for a midnight rendezvous between camps.
“So what’s it like over there?” Stiles asks, after Scott has eaten the entire brownie in two bites.
“Mm. Bring me a Coke next time, too. I guess that theobro-stuff is in caffeinated sodas, so it’s not allowed either.”
“I got you, man,” Stiles confirms.
Scott beams. “You’re the best.”
“Yeah, yeah. Come on, what’s the rest of camp like? Do you get your own special True Alpha cabin?”
Scott elbows him lightly. “No, I’m with the other thirteen-year-olds, doofus. It’s all right, I guess. Some stuff is sorta the same, like swimming and ziplining and stuff, but a lot of the electives are like, kinda serious. I saw the MMA class on the field and it was like that scene in Mulan where they all get scary good at fighting. And we have tests in Species Integration.”
“I told you that one would be lame,” Stiles says, smug.
“Shut up. Just wait until we get to emissary week, dude, then I’m gonna learn all your secrets.”
Stiles elbows him, and Scott elbows him right back, and Stiles grunts. He elbows back harder, and then remembers—
“Hey, Allison asked about you! I told her you were over at werewolf camp and she got all sad.”
“Really?” Scott gasps.
“Yeah, dude. This was definitely the summer she was finally gonna kiss you,” Stiles tells him.
Scott deflates. “I’m never gonna get a girlfriend.”
“There’s no hotties at Camp Remus?”
“Not like Allison.”
Stiles pats him on the shoulder consolingly. “Come on. She wasn’t that great.”
“Yes she was.”
“She’s taller than you. And her nose is weird.”
Scott sighs gustily. “You just don’t understand, Stiles. You’ve never been in love.”
“Oh, dude,” Stiles says, grabbing Scott’s shoulders and shaking him. “Tell me about my hot werewolf mate. Tell me all about him.”
Scott wrinkles his nose. “Ugh.”
“What’s his naaaaaaame?”
“His name is Derek and he’s a jerk.”
“He attacked you!”
Stiles waves a hand. “Only a little bit. You attacked me way more when you first got bit. Clearly I am just an excellent werewolf scratching post, next argument please.”
“How about, he ruined our whole summer?” Scott huffs.
“Well, not on purpose,” Stiles says, even though he’s still a bit sore about it, too.
Scott stares at him in betrayal. “What the heck, Stiles, you were totally on my side the other day!”
“Yeah, because I thought he just freaking attacked you in a fit of random werewolf rage! But remember, he just did that crazy flip thing and landed in front of me, and he said it—he said “mate”, and then you tried to protect me, and that’s when he attacked. And he thought I was a werewolf and would smell it, too.” The scene has replayed in Stiles’ mind often.
“I don’t like him,” Scott says stubbornly.
“Come on, dude,” Stiles pleads. “He’s my mate. I could get kissed this summer!”
Scott glares some more, before he growls and says, “Fine. His name’s Derek Hale. He’s going into eighth grade like us, and he somehow has friends, even though he’s a jerkface, and he doesn’t know, like, anything about humans.”
“Derek Hale, like, the Hale pack? Dude! That’s awesome, they live like an hour north of us! What else?” Stiles asks eagerly.
“That’s it? That’s all you know about my one true love?”
“His bedsheets are blue?”
Stiles tips his head back and groans.
The sky answers with a raindrop.
Incensed, Stiles flails his hands up at the heavens. “Really? It’s been like five minutes!”
Thunder cracks in the distance. Raindrops fall faster.
“Find out more about Derek!” Stiles ends up yelling, as they run in opposite directions back to their camps. It’s not the first time they’ve been rained out of a meetup, but at least before their cabins had been ten minutes away, instead of a freaking mile.
It’s day three of summer camp.
Hair in a damp, frizzing, braid, nail polish chipped, a streak of drying pine sap on her leg, Lydia is dutifully banging plastic cups down at place settings.
She cannot believe her parents thought that summer camp would be more fun than watching them divorce.
At the next table over, Stiles doesn’t look terribly happy either, but behind him is Jordan, who’s whistling some godawful campfire song as he sets his own table. Lydia is fairy certain sure he’s not pretty enough to make up for this.
"Hop to, Team Crow!” Jordan calls. “We’ve only got ten minutes left, pick up the pace! We’re not gonna be the first cabin to serve a late meal this summer, not on my watch.”
“Maybe if we didn’t have half as many people as every other cabin,” Lydia grumbles.
“You shoulda been here last summer,” Stiles replies, startling Lydia so badly she almost drops the forks. “There were only five of us.”
This year, Lydia, Kira, Julia and Sophia are all new. Honestly, it’s less of a wonder that two people left, than that three of them stayed.
“You’ve really been coming here for seven years?” she asks.
“Yup,” Stiles confirms. “Haven’t you seen my bandanas?”
Lydia shrugs, although she has. Stiles has seven black bandanas tied to the end of his bunk, one brand new and one so old it’s gone almost navy, and the rest somewhere in between. Danny has four. Allison, she vaguely remembers, had had a full rainbow tied to her duffle, though Lydia hadn’t understood the significance at the time.
“How come you—” she starts to ask, when a loud crash cuts her off.
Julia looks around guilty, as cups roll across the floor. “Oops,” she says in a tiny voice.
“That’s okay, pick ‘em up, let’s hustle!” Jordan calls, and bends over to grab the one headed his way.
"Oh! I got it!” Sophia says, and lifts her hands. Seconds later, all the cups fly up off the floor and straight into the ceiling, wedging themselves firmly into the plaster.
Silence reigns for a moment.
“Oops?” says Sophia.
Jordan stares at the cups in the ceiling, mouth open, and then at Sophia, who wrings her hands together.
“I can bring them back d—” she starts, hesitantly.
“Uh, no,” Jordan says hastily. “No, they’re fine where they are. Thanks, Sophia. Just go get more from the kitchen, please.”
“Oh, Argent’s gonna love this,” Stiles mutters.
“The director?” Lydia asks.
“Oh yeah. Not our biggest fan. She’d ship us over to Camp Remus if she could.”
“The werewolf camp?”
“The freak camp,” Stiles says drily.
“Well, why doesn’t she?” Lydia asks.
Stiles shrugs. “It’s werewolf-only over there. We’re the redheaded stepchildren, and Camp Romulus got stuck with us in the divorce.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, blanching. “Crap. Uh. I mean, redheads are great. I have no problem with redheads. I mean, in this metaphor, I am also a redhead, which is awesome. It’s just everyone else that hates redheads—like how sperm banks actually turn them away because no one wants to use their—”
“Less talk, more table setting,” Jordan interrupts, shoving a stack of napkins at Stiles. “Two minutes!”
Lydia glances at her finished table.
Jordan tips his head at Julia, who’s just putting out her cups, and raises his eyebrows.
Lydia goes to help.
“Come on! We gotta hurry!” Julia urges, and Lydia grabs a fistful of silverware.
The breakfast bell rings, just Kira slots the last milk jug into place.
“Yes!” Jordan cries, fist pumping. “Nice job! Circle up, circle up, hands in. Come on. Team Crow on three, guys. One. Two. Three—”
“Ugh,” says Lydia.
“I’m so happy you found your mate, Derek,” Isaac says dreamily.
“Really,” Isaac says, “I think it’s the best thing that’s happened all year.”
“I’m trying to concentrate,” Derek grumbles, scrawling EPI-PEN in the blank next to ANAPHYLACTIC SHOCK.
“Right. On your homework. Because you switched out of Parkour and into Species Integration and now you have to do homework during lunch on summer vacation,” Isaac says, with great relish.
“I will shove this pencil through your eye,” Derek growls. The next question, HOW OFTEN DO HUMANS REQUIRE A TETANUS BOOSTER VACCINE?, he circles (B) EVERY 10 YEARS.
“I think it’s cute,” Erica offers wickedly.
“Eugh. No offense, Derek, but I really hope my mate isn’t human,” Isaac says, and Derek only catches his wrinkled nose because he glances up to scowl. “That way we’ll see each other, and we’ll both know right away, and then we can have lots and lots of sex.”
Erica smacks him. “Ew! We’re thirteen, you freak.”
“No, this is like, later! Like in high school or something,” Isaac says, blushing just a bit. “God, Erica.”
“What if you met your mate tomorrow?” Erica presses.
“How would I meet my mate tomorrow? We’re at camp, there’s no one new coming.”
“But what if?”
“Well—then we’d kiss and stuff. I don’t know.”
“Ooooooo, kisses,” Erica teases.
“Shut up, Erica, we all know you’ve never been kissed before, either,” Isaac snaps.
Erica and Isaac both go suddenly silent, and Derek raises his head from his homework to see a shadow falling over the table.
McCall sits down across from him. He’s got a look on his face like he’s sucked several lemons, the last of which was poisoned.
Derek drops his pencil and sits up straight, glaring right back.
“Can we help you?” Erica asks, raising an eyebrow.
McCall’s scowl deepens. “Stiles,” he bites out, “would like to know more about you.”
Derek’s eyebrows shoot up of their own accord. “Stiles?”
“Your mate,” McCall elaborates. “…Supposedly.”
“I know who he is, McCall,” Derek snaps. “How do you know what he wants?”
“He’s my best friend, and my emissary. In case you forgot. I know everything about him,” McCall says smugly.
Derek breathes out through his nose. “Whatever Stiles wants to know, I’ll tell him. Not you.”
“Awesome. Glad to hear it. Now he can’t say I didn’t try,” McCall says smugly, and abruptly stands to leave. “Good luck getting in contact with him, by the way. Stiles isn’t even his real name. See you later, Derek.”
He stalks off, and Erica flips him off as he goes.
“What a weirdo,” Isaac says.
“He’s right,” Derek says, much to his own consternation. “I… I don’t even know Stiles’ last name. How am I gonna find him?”
Erica waves a hand. “Calm down, he’ll have a Facebook or something. You can look him up when you get home.”
"And, like, the camp knows who he is,” Isaac adds. “They’d give you his name. Or they’d give it to your mom. You know she’s like the Alpha of the whole west coast, they have to listen to her.”
Derek rolls his eyes. “She is not.”
“Do your homework, Derek,” Erica says sweetly. “Gotta study up to impress Sti-iles.”
Derek flips her off.
“I’m really sorry,” Kira says, hugging herself. In the light of the Coleman lantern, she looks to be on the verge of tears. “Really, really sorry.”
“Hey, it’s okay,” Jordan says easily. “Accidents happen.”
“Yeah, Director Argent’s gonna love this,” Stiles mutters.
They’re standing around outside the cabin, in the dark, while they wait for… someone to arrive to do… something. Stiles isn’t sure what needs to be done. Sure, all the lights in their ancient cabin had died suddenly with an electric pop, but he’s not sure why that means they can’t be inside. They even know what caused it.
“I didn’t mean to, I don’t even know what happened,” Kira says desperately, as Jordan talks quietly into his phone.
“This is the last summer I let spooks in my camp,” Stiles mimics in the deepest growl he can manage.
Kira starts to cry.
“Stiles,” Jordan says, exasperated. “She says that every year, you know she doesn’t mean it.”
“Oh, she means it,” Stiles says darkly.
Jordan ignores him and goes back to talking on the phone.
Lydia, the cranky redhead who gave her bunk curtains, edges closer to him.
“This place sucks,” she says.
Stiles shrugs. “Eh. You get used to it.”
“Yeah, after seven years, maybe.” She casts him a skeptical look. “Do your parents keep making you come here?”
“Nah,” Stiles says. “My best friend Scott and I have been going together since we were six, but he got bitten by a werewolf last winter, so now he’s on the other side of the lake, and I’m… here. And it sucks balls.”
“Why’d you even come?” Lydia asks.
“I wasn’t going to,” Stiles admits. “I cooked up this great little amulet that made me smell like a werewolf and stuff, registered for Camp Remus with Scott, got off the bus last Monday and, uh, someone broke my amulet. On accident, I mean. But, that was kinda it for me. There was a lot of yelling, and then I got sent over here to be with the humans.”
Lydia wrinkles her nose.
Stiles sighs. “It’s really not that bad. I mean, sure, the director isn’t our biggest fan, but almost all the counselors are cool, except Kate and Adrian.”
“Yes, we’re just forced to stay in the outcast cabin for everyone else’s ‘safety’,” Lydia says scathingly.
“It’s always been this way.” Stiles shrugs helplessly.
“Hey, guys,” Jordan says, waving a hand to get everyone’s attention. “We can go back inside. It looks like it is just our cabin, so we’ll have to use flashlights for the rest of tonight, and hopefully they’ll get it fixed tomorrow.”
“My flashlight doesn’t work,” Julia says tremulously.
“You don’t need one,” Sophia scoffs, and produces a fireball in her hand.
“Sophia, no flames by the wooden cabin, please,” Jordan says hastily.
“It doesn’t burn anything!” Sophia protests. “See?”
She tosses it at Julia, who screams and leaps out of the way. The fireball lands on the wooden porch and rolls a bit before coming to a stop, burning merrily.
Jordan bends down and scoops it up, presses his palms together and extinguishes it.
Sophia lets out a noise of protest.
“Hellhound,” Jordan reminds her. “Julia, I’ve got spare batteries you can have. Come on, inside.”
As they file back inside, Stiles snaps a ball of light into existence.
“Stiles,” Jordan sighs.
“It’s not fire!”
“Do you think I’ve forgotten last summer, when we all went blind for twenty minutes after you dropped one of those things?”
Stiles makes a face, but snaps his fingers again, and the ball of light winks out.
Lydia is eating breakfast with Stiles.
Stiles is actually using breakfast to write a letter—like an actual, honest to god letter. Lydia was going to try to talk to him about Finstock, and if he’s at all sympathetic to how nuts it is to be running a camp like this, but instead Stiles has been scrawling out line after line like he’s being paid by the word, and Lydia is sitting here like an idiot. Again.
She’s mashing the last of her eggs into the ketchup puddle, when someone else sits down with them.
“Hi,” Allison says, expression steeled like she can out-stubborn any awkwardness about to happen.
"Hi,” Lydia says. She casts a glance at the group of girls Allison usually sits with, and finds them watching. Lydia very carefully does not allow herself to react.
“I don’t know if you remember,” Allison continues, “but you told me you’d brought Deborah Lippman in Chantilly Lace, and… I have a need.”
Lydia purses her lips. After a long moment of consideration, she replies, “Only if I can borrow that Doir Vernis red you said you had.”
Allison smiles. “Totally.”
Two tables over, there’s a scream as a cup falls from the ceiling and lands right in a boy’s cereal bowl, splashing everyone in the vicinity with milk and cornflakes.
“You wrote him a love letter?”
Stiles flushes. “It’s not a love letter.”
“’My Dearest, Darlingest—”
“That’s not what it says,” Stiles hisses, making a grab for it, but Scott jumps up on the amphitheater bench and holds out easily out of reach.
"Yeah, whatever dude. And you know, it’s like, super romantic of you to write him a love letter on… the back of a flyer for skit night, really Stiles—”
“It was the first one I saw,” Stiles huffs.
“—but seriously, he’s such a douchebag—”
“Scott,” Stiles says, sending his ball of light up to Scott’s eye-level, making him rear back from the brilliant shine. “Come on, dude. Don’t make me blind you. Did you talk to him like I asked?”
Scott snorts. “Yeah. Told me to get lost.”
That stops Stiles.
“Oh,” Stiles says. His hands, still raised to grab for his letter, drop. The ball of light falls with them. “Oh, well—”
He should have known that writing a letter was stupid.
"Freaking—eurgh. I mean, he didn’t really tell me to get lost,” Scott admits. He jumps down to the ground, remorseful. “I just said you wanted to know stuff about him, and he said that… that he didn’t wanna tell me, just you.”
“Oh,” Stiles says, considerably happier. He beams. “Well!”
Scott makes a face. “You like, really want him?”
“I wanna get to know him,” Stiles corrects. “Dude, he’s my mate.”
“Ugh,” says Scott.
“Also make out with him,” Stiles adds, just to see Scott grimace.
“I hate you a lot,” Scott groans, and stuffs the letter into his jacket pocket. He plops down on the bench, and Stiles immediately follows suit, sending his ball of light to float just off the ground between them. “Can we change the subject now?”
“Tell me about werewolf camp,” Stiles says immediately.
“We talked about werewolf camp last time,” Scott protests.
“Yeah, dude, and you’re still there. Are you, like, learning all the werewolf secrets? Making friends with all the other werewolves? Howling at the moon, hunting bunnies, itching your fleas—”
“No, Stiles. It’s a camp, not a—a zoo,” Scott huffs.
Stiles waits, and when nothing more is forthcoming, he flips his palms expectantly. “Dude!”
“It’s just another summer camp! Same food, same bug juice, same campfires. This one just has werewolves and, like, this one girl who turns into a coyote instead. And a lizard guy.”
Stiles blinks. “Lizard guy?”
Scott shrugs. “I dunno, man.”
“How come lizard guys get to go to werewolf camp but they put a kitsune over in the human camp?” Stiles complains.
“Well, he does have claws,” Scott says reasonably. Then, as an afterthought, “And venom.”
“Kira fried the electricity in our cabin,” Stiles volunteers.
“Dude, no way,” Scott says. “Director Argent must have been pissed.”
“Oh totally. Another chapter in Memoirs of a Spook Camp Director, for sure.”
"What a jerk,” Scott says, and glares Argent-ward, which happens to be just over Stiles’ shoulder. “It isn’t fair, how she treats you guys, you know.”
Stiles can feel the True Alpha Impassioned Speech of Justice about to take off like it’s a Boeing 747 roaring down the runway.
“So, Alpha Boyd is cool, then?” he asks hastily. “And—and the other kids? They’re cool?”
Scott frowns, derailed. “Yeah, they’re okay.”
“Anyone as cool as me?” Stiles asks.
“Dude, never,” Scott says.
Stiles grins. “Damn straight.”
But Scott’s frowning. “Stiles.”
Stiles braces himself.
“Dude,” Scott says. “You know that, like, you’re my bro?”
“No, like. Stiles, you’re my brother. My best friend. That’s never, ever gonna change.”
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yeah, I know.”
“There is no one at Camp Remus as awesome as you,” Scott says fiercely.
“I never thought there would be!”
“Good,” Scott says firmly.
“Good! Geeze, Scott.”
Scott crosses his arms.
Stiles glares. “Do you want your chocolate or not?”
All the friends that McCall has made at Camp Remus are under the age of eight. Probably because he has to take Sensory Awareness and Anchoring Mindfulness with them, as his control is about as volatile as a kindergartener’s. But he’s become inexplicably beloved by the lot of them, and is mostly seen walking around camp with a small army of children in tow.
Which is why it’s surprising to see Scott in his own cabin during rec time, without his junior entourage.
Even weirder, he’s approaching Derek’s bunk.
Derek closes his book, leaving a finger between the pages to mark his spot, and rolls to face him. From his top bunk, Scott is perfectly eye-level.
He raises his eyebrows.
“Here,” Scott mutters, and tosses a folded piece of paper onto Derek’s bed.
Derek picks it up. As he holds it closer to examine, a pleasant scent wafts his way. It smells like… like—
He looks up.
“You’d better write back,” Scott says darkly. “With something nice.”
Lydia is examining her blood-red nails as she comes back into her cabin. Not only had she and Allison scrounged up bowls of hot water in the mess hall to soak their fingers in first, but she’d also finally filed her nails into something resembling order, and she has two gorgeous coats of Dior Vernis in Grenate on her nails. She’s not even mad about the pine sap on her arms from this morning’s hike, because Allison had informed her that you could use toothpaste—of all things—to get rid of it.
Allison is a saint.
Lydia stops at her bunk to grab her shower caddy and pull out the toothpaste, which is long enough of a pause to realize that the only other person in the cabin is Stiles.
"Yo,” Stiles says, from the floor. He’s cross-legged and holding out a hand like he’s puppeteering a marionette, but instead of a doll there’s a miniature black dust storm writhing, sinuous beneath his palm.
Lydia raises her eyebrows.
“Mountain ash,” Stiles explains, and flicks his hand. The little dust storm abruptly flattens into a ring around him, still and silent.
“Neat,” says Lydia, who saw Julia practicing the same thing yesterday with much less success. It’s a good thing that girl doesn’t have asthma.
“I had to get good at it, after Scott got bitten last winter,” Stiles says, summoning the ring of ash back into the palm of his hand. “He got bit by a rogue alpha, you know, and his first full moon was a nightmare.”
“But he’s an alpha now, right?” Lydia asks. True Alpha, she doesn’t say. “And you’re his emissary?”
Stiles grins. “He’d be lost without me.”
Lydia has enough tact not to comment on the fact that Scott is without him, and is instead about to ask where everyone else is when the door to the bathroom opens and Kira appears in tears.
Stiles is on his feet immediately.
“L-L-Lydia,” Kira chokes out, hands twisted together. “Can you h-help me?”
Lydia exchanges a look with Stiles.
“What’s wrong?” Lydia asks cautiously.
Kira sniffles, and her eyes dart to Stiles. When she speaks, her voice has gone so tremulously high it’s almost a whisper. “I can’t say.”
Lydia, as a rule, is not a fan of people crying, or of children, and especially when those two things converge.
“Do you want Jordan?” she tries.
Jordan is great with crying kids.
Kira shakes her head frantically. “No! No, no, please just help me, please.”
Lydia suppresses a sigh, and goes.
There’s still no working electricity in the cabin, but there are enough windows in the bathroom that it’s almost the same as overhead lighting. Until you get into the shower stalls, or the toilet stalls, and have to close yourself in. Then it gets a bit dark.
Which is why it takes Lydia a moment to realize what she’s seeing in the toilet bowl of the first bathroom stall is blood.
“It’s in my underwear,” Kira whispers, and bursts into fresh tears.
Why does their counselor have to be a guy? If Kira were in the cabin with the rest of the ten-year-olds, she’d have a girl counselor to go to. Lydia bets there’s training for this. All Lydia has is two years of rather paltry public school health classes, the book her mom had shoved under her door one day, and her own rocky relationship with her menstrual cycle.
Great. Summer camp is just great.
“It’s, uh—it’s okay,” Lydia says, a paragon of confidence. “This is normal. This is just, um, part of becoming a woman. See, once a month, women—”
“I know what a period is!” Kira squeaks, face bright red.
Oh thank god.
“I just don’t have any—any stuff, and there’s blood and…” Kira hiccups, and waves a hand between her legs. “It’s everywhere.”
Well, it could be worse, Lydia thinks. The kid could have wanted actual emotional comfort, and not just pads and some help cleaning up blood. As a girl, Lydia is basically an expert in blood removal.
“Okay,” she says, crossing her arms. “This is what we’re going to do. You’re going to get in the shower, I’m going to get you a towel and new clothes, and I’ll get you some of the stuff I brought—”
“I don’t wanna use a tampon,” Kira sobs. “I don’t wanna—put it up there, ‘c-cause it’ll get stuck and I’ll get toxic syndrome and die.”
Lydia holds in a sigh. “You go to public school, don’t you?”
Kira stares up at her, blinking. “W-what?”
Kira sniffles. “I want my mom.”
"You can call her later,” Lydia promises. “You get in the shower. I’ll get you a pad, not a tampon—that just goes in your underwear, not in your body. And then we’ll see if we can get your clothes clean. Good plan?”
“Good plan,” Kira says in a small voice.
“Good,” Lydia says.
Stiles is waiting for her, when she comes out of the bathroom.
“What’s wrong? Is she okay? Should I get Jordan?” he demands.
“She’s fine. Definitely don’t get Jordan,” Lydia says.
“Why not?” Stiles asks.
Lydia yanks her suitcase out from under the bed and lifts the lid, seizes her bag of pads, and holds it up for Stiles to see.
“Oh, gross,” Stiles exclaims, recoiling, and Lydia’s temper flares hot and fast.
“Gross?” she demands, whirling on him. “She’s in there crying for her mom right now, and you think it’s gross?” She’s advancing and Stiles is backing up with an expression of gratifying terror. “I am sorry that the sight of packaged, unused menstrual pads is offensive to you, god forbid you ever think about the fact that once a month women are forced to bleed for days so—”
“Okay, okay, I’m sorry!” Stiles yelps, face bright red. “Jeeze, Lydia.”
“I know you have a chocolate stash,” Lydia says, pinning him in place with a look. “When Kira and I get back out, you’d better have it waiting for her.”
“But that’s for…” Stiles starts, weakly, but he quickly capitulates. “Yeah, okay. Fine.”
Twenty minutes later, Kira sits quietly between them on her bed, breaking off pieces of a Hersey bar and alternating between feeding herself and offering them out. Her underwear and shorts are soaking in a sudsy sink, and Lydia has shown her the magic of pads with wings.
“Thank you, guys,” she says, for probably the twelfth time.
“No problem,” Stiles says easily, and shifts. Paper crinkles, and he frowns, digs a hand under Kira’s sheets, and comes up with a comic book. "Oh, no, I am so sorry, dude. I sat on Last Days of Ms. Marvel—oh my god, this is the issue where she teams up with Captain Marvel! Did you finish it?”
“Not yet,” Kira says.
“Oh, no,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “Just wait. The ending is crazy.”
Derek has not stayed awake pining.
He very pointedly has not been pining. He’s been thinking about the upcoming skit night, and what he’s going to tell his family when he calls home Thursday night, and about how he’s going to help Isaac practice for Parkour during rec time tomorrow, and about all the video games he’s going to play when he’s finally back home, and—
Maybe a little bit about his mate, and his letter.
Derek had written multiple drafts of his reply, wanting it to be perfect but also not look like he was trying too hard (especially since Derek has a feeling Stiles had done his letter in one go, word vomiting everything that came to mind and then when he’d run out of room on the page, just signed his name at the bottom). Then this morning at breakfast, McCall had come up to him and said, with a pointed look, “I’m going tonight. If you have anything for me.”
So Derek forced himself to write… something, folded it up, and passed it to McCall before lights out.
After lights out, he’d laid in bed, wired, waiting. Eventually he’d been gratified to hear McCall creep out of bed and sneak out the door—Derek’s letter finally en route to Stiles.
Derek wonders how many times McCall has seen Stiles. He’d had no idea they were meeting up until the first letter—which, at a werewolf camp, Derek grudgingly admits is quite an achievement. McCall might have no control over his wolf, and might have terrible awareness, but he’s apparently quite stealthy when he puts his mind to it.
The irony of that thought does not escape him when, an hour later, the door to the cabin opens and McCall is escorted inside by Alpha Boyd. A distinctly unhappy Alpha Boyd.
“We’ll discuss this tomorrow,” Alpha Boyd rumbles, as McCall darts to his bed.
“Yes sir,” McCall whispers.
Alpha Boyd nods, and then leaves, shutting the door quietly behind himself.
Derek’s heart pounds.
In the darkness, McCall’s eyes meet his, and for a frozen moment their gazes are locked.
McCall had been caught. Not just out of bed, but sneaking over to the human side of the lake. It’s virtually unheard of. What are they going to do to him? Is he going to be sent home?
There is a quiet exhale from McCall, and then he gets out of bed and trudges over to Derek’s side of the cabin.
“Here,” McCall says, holding out a folded piece of paper.
Derek’s heart sinks.
Stiles hadn’t gotten his letter.
Then he realizes that the paper is orange, not yellow, like the one he’d written on this morning. This is a different letter. Stiles has written him another letter.
“Thank you,” Derek says hurriedly, taking it. With great effort, he does not hold it closer and sniff it to see if it still smells like Stiles.
At least, not until McCall turns his back to walk to his own bunk.
It smells perfect.
When Allison waves Lydia over to her table at lunch, Lydia actually hesitates for a fraction of a second. She glances at her usual table, where Stiles is already seated, and then remembers herself and heads toward Allison.
The table goes a little quiet as Lydia approaches, but room is made for her to sit.
“Guys, this is Lydia,” Allison says, which spurs a round of introductions. When those are over, there’s a long beat of silence.
“So like, what are you?” Shereen asks, eventually.
Allison winces, and hesitantly opens her mouth, but Lydia beats her to it.
“I’m a banshee,” she says evenly.
Like it isn’t the first time she’s ever said it to someone besides her own reflection in the mirror, and the darkened ceiling of her bedroom. No one back home knows. None of the other Crows had even asked.
Shereen looks like she doesn’t know exactly what a banshee is.
“Oh,” she says, after a moment. “Uh. Okay.”
“Whatever,” Larissa says, grabbing the syrup. “What’s going on with your cabin? You guys just, like, don’t have electricity anymore?”
“Yeah, like, oh my god, what happened?” Maxie demands, leaning in.
“It was accidentally overloaded and the resistors—” Lydia catches herself. “Something about resistors, I don’t know. The whole thing’s like, broken, but not broken-broken. Jordan said we should have electricity again by next week.”
“That’s heinous,” Shereen declares.
“How’d it overload?” Larissa asks. “We did it last year with hairdryers in the bathroom, but like, all that happened was the outlet stopped working for a bit.”
“You have outlets in the bathroom?” Lydia asks, before she can think about it.
“Do you guys not?” Maxie asks, wrinkling her nose.
It occurs to her that all the other girls at the table have smooth, shiny hair.
She remembers her hairdryer, left in her other suitcase. How pleased she was that there were no outlets in the bathrooms here anyway. Her hair today, frizzy, contained in a high bun on top of her head right now.
When Lydia shakes her head, the expressions around the table make the back of her throat burn hotter.
“Heinous,” Shereen says solemnly.
“Wow,” says Maxie. “I knew they gave you guys the old, shitty cabin out in the woods, but I didn’t know it was that bad. No wonder your electricity went out, right? It’s probably from like the 60’s.”
“Isn’t that, like, illegal? They have to make all the buildings run normal stuff on electricity,” Larissa says, and eyes Lydia. “To break a whole cabin, it’d have to be something, like… abnormal.”
Something abnormal like Kira.
Now all eyes are on her.
Lydia thinks about her stupid hair, and the black bandana she has too wear to campfire every Friday night, and how much it sucks to have to shower by only the light of an electric lantern on the floor. She thinks about that horrible black X her mother had made on the line next to “Banshee”.
But then she remembers how Kira had hugged her when she’d come out of the shower, after the period incident. She remembers Stiles teaching Julia how to conjure a ball of light, and Sophia trying to juggle fireballs, and Jordan corralling them all out of bed on Wednesday mornings to get to the mess hall early for their Frogger meal.
She thinks about how Danny hangs out with the other twelve-year-olds, and spends as little time with the other Crows as possible.
“No,” Lydia says slowly, shaking her head. “I think Maxie’s right. Just old wiring.”
Everyone noticeably deflates.
Larissa eyes her skeptically.
Lydia stares back.
"So Lydia’s the one who brought this amazing shade of pink from Deborah Lippmann,” Allison cuts in deliberately, holding out her hands. “Remember, Larissa, you were asking me about it yesterday?”
“Mm,” says Larissa, glancing at Allison’s nails. “Must have been different lighting. It looks more nude, now. Not my thing”
They’re making soap, today, in Stiles’ arts and craft elective. It’s not as cool as last week’s glass blowing, and it’s not as cool as pottery is going to be next week, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. Better than macramé. And hey, soap is… practical.
It’s mindless enough that as he pours his blue soap base into his silicon molds, he’s able to spend more time thinking about the letter that’s tucked into his pillowcase (because it’s safe there, not because he’s a girl) back in his cabin. He hasn’t read it since this morning, but that’s irrelevant because by this point he basically has it memorized.
Derek Hale is the same age as him (which he’d known), is in the Hale pack about an hour north of Stiles (which he’d also known), and is the middle child of Alpha Talia Hale (Stiles hadn’t known that, way to go Scott, you could have mentioned that Derek was directly related to the Alpha of the whole west coast). Derek is the middle child, he likes gym and English, and he wants to be an architect when he grows up but he hates math and his mom says you need to know a lot of math to design buildings.
Derek’s letter had been a lot better than Stiles’. Stiles hadn’t thought to include very much about himself, like Derek had—he’d just rambled about their first meeting and asked a lot of questions. Derek had even thought to include his phone number at the end of the letter.
“Hey, you didn’t grab any of the oils,” Allison says, interrupting his thoughts. Of all the kids in their year, she’s the only one who still talks to him without Scott to stubbornly make sure Stiles is included.
Stiles would suspect she only still talks to him because of Scott, but he knows Allison is just genuinely nice like that.
“I didn’t want any,” Stiles tells her.
“You sure? They weren’t all flowery and girly. There’s lemon, and sandalwood, and aloe in there.”
“That’s okay,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “Thanks, though.”
After all, werewolf noses are sensitive.
At dinner, Lydia ignores Allison’s wave and sits with Stiles again. The entire camp somehow mysteriously found out that she’s a banshee, and she has no desire to sit with that particular gaggle of girls at the moment. Moreover, she has business with Stiles.
“I have had it with this place,” she hisses.
Stiles winces. “Yeah, I saw you down by the science building. You finally met Adrian, huh?”
Lydia wishes she could wipe the entire hour from her mind.
“He wouldn’t even let me participate, in case I ‘lost control around volatile equipment’. Like I’ve never been in a chemistry class before?”
“Good old Adrian,” Stiles agrees. He starts loading his plate with spaghetti and meatballs.
“I can’t believe you just accept this,” Lydia says furiously. “You just—sit back and live with the status quo. We have the worst cabin in the camp, half a mile away from everyone else, which doesn’t even have electricity at the moment, we have to wear black bandanas so everyone knows we’re ‘dangerous’, counselors are allowed to single us out, no one cares if we get called ‘spooks’—Stiles, this is blatant discrimination!”
Stiles finishes loading his plate and passes her the bowl. “I’ve just been coming for Scott.”
“Well, he’s not here this year, is he?” Lydia snaps. She passes the bowl onward, too livid to even think about eating.
“He’s only on the other side of the lake.” Stiles takes two pieces of garlic bread.
“Stiles, we have to do something.”
Stiles shakes his head. “It’s our last year here, anyway. What’s it matter?”
“It matters for Kira,” Lydia says. “It matters for Julia, and Sophia.”
Stiles throws up his hands. “Look, if they’re smart, they won’t come back. Most of them don’t. The only kids who stay are me, because I had Scott, and kids like Danny, whose parents just dump him here so he’s out of their hair for six weeks. The whole camp has been like this for longer than I’ve been coming here, and it’s run by someone who doesn’t make any effort to stop it. What can we do to change it?”
“We can do something,” Lydia insists.
Stiles shoves his garlic bread into the watery puddle of tomato sauce, and lets it soak.
“Talk to someone outside of camp, tell them what it’s like,” Lydia suggests. “Your dad’s a sheriff, isn’t he?”
Stiles looks at her like she’s crazy. “Not of summer camp.”
“Yeah, but this is wrong!”
“Wrong, but not illegal.”
Lydia could strangle him.
“Well, who runs the other camp? Camp Remus?” she asks. “We’ve got to be, I don’t know, partners? I mean, look at the names!”
“That’s Alpha Boyd,” Stiles tells her, taking a bite of his soggy garlic bread.
She sits up. “That’s right, you met him! When you were over there on the first day. What’s he like?”
“Pretty grumpy,” Stiles says. “But, you know. Coulda been the circumstances. Scott says he’s all right, though.“
“Well, maybe we—”
Lydia freezes. She stares at Stiles, who is staring back at her with the shiftiest face in Shiftyville.
“How… do you know what Scott says about him?”
"Emissary powers?” Stiles tries.
Stiles’ face falls, and he bites his lip. “You can’t tell anyone, okay?”
“You’re meeting up,” Lydia realizes. “When… at night? Is that why you’re so grumpy in the mornings sometimes?”
“Maybe,” Stiles hedges.
“Do you think… it would be like this? If we went over there instead?” Lydia asks slowly.
Stiles opens his mouth like he’s about to immediately dismiss it, but then he visibly thinks it over, and his shoulders slump. “I have no idea. Really. I mean, everything there is kinda designed with weres in mind. Everyone has claws and super-strength, and the electives are all like, fighting and anger management. Pretty sure someone would eat Julia within the first day. Scott says there’s a lizard guy with venom.”
“A lizard guy?” Lydia repeats.
“Well—hang on, so it’s not just werewolves over there?” she asks, frowning.
“Mostly werewolves,” Stiles says. “There’s the lizard guy, and apparently there’s a were-coyote too. Maybe others. I don’t know.”
Lydia stares. “So—so coyotes and lizards get to go to Camp Remus, and the rest of us are stuck over here? What decides that?”
"I’m pretty sure they all still have super-strength,” Stiles says. “So, like, probably it’s based on whether or not we would accidentally get killed in kickball.”
“Jordan has super-strength,” Lydia says flatly.
Stiles blinks. “Oh crap. You’re right.”
“So why is Jordan over here with us?”
“Claws?” Stiles suggests.
“Sophia has claws.”
Stiles has completely abandoned his food at this point. Someone is nudging Lydia with the bowl of spaghetti again, because her plate is still empty, but she waves them off.
“She’s part-fae, of course she has claws.”
“Well, that’s… exactly what Sophia needs,” Stiles says faintly. “Claws.”
Yes, Lydia has just been waiting to hear the “Oops” associated with those.
“Pretty sure she’d still get accidentally killed in kickball, though,” Stiles adds.
Lydia waves a hand. “The point is that this is—is arbitrary, an arbitrary line on a spectrum. We can make a case!”
Lydia’s mouth opens, but there is literally no one that comes to mind and she has to take in a breath instead to quell the sheer fury of the injustice. Argent won’t listen, counselors like Jordan have no power, Alpha Boyd is inaccessible, and—
The bowl of spaghetti nudges her arm once more.
“I will scream until your ears fall off,” she hisses, whirling on him.
The boy sets the bowl down like it’s on fire.
“Yeah, I dunno why everyone’s afraid of us,” Stiles drawls.
“Shut up,” Lydia snaps.
Just before lights out (which, these days, means “flashlights off”), Danny comes up to Stiles in the bathroom and says, “Scott won’t be there tonight.”
Stiles spits out toothpaste foam. “What?”
Danny shrugs. “He won’t be there.”
“Why not?” Stiles asks.
“Is he okay?”
“Stilinski, I don’t know.”
“Very helpful,” Stiles says sourly.
Danny gives him look of intense displeasure, and stalks off.
Stiles goes anyway, because he can’t not.
He had visions of this, in the weeks before they came to camp. Sneaking out at night and hiking into the dark, cold woods, risking severe consequences if caught, and all for what? To meet up with your friend for an hour and eat a Kit Kat? Especially now that you’re finally in a camp with other werewolves who you can wrestle with you for real and who understand your full moon rage issues, and who don’t buy you a dog bowl and collar for your birthday.
But now that it’s happening, Stiles is surprised by how dumb that idea seems. Scott is his best friend—his brother, and that’s never going to change.
No, if Scott doesn’t show, then it’s either because he’s hurt, or he’s in trouble, and both of those options are completely unacceptable. Therefore, Scott will be there. Danny was just wrong, for once in his life.
So Stiles sits down on the backmost bench in the amphitheater, and pulls out a Coke, a Three Musketeers, a folded letter, and a blue bar of soap shaped like a crescent moon.
“You look like warm death,” Lydia says.
Stiles grimly sporks a sausage link. “Is that better or worse than cold death?”
“You snuck out to meet up with Scott last night,” she surmises.
“Half right,” Stiles grunts. He raises his eyes to her. “So. Wanna make a deal?”
"What’s the deal?”
“I’ll help you meet with Alpha Boyd to talk about… discrimination and stuff, if you take me with you so I can check on Scott.”
Lydia frowns. “Because he didn’t meet you last night? He probably just fell asleep.”
"Not Scott,” Stiles says immediately. “No way. If Scott didn’t meet me last night, it’s because he got hurt, or he’s gotten in trouble, or he got sent home. So, if we figure out a way to get you to talk to Alpha Boyd, then I’m coming with to check on my brother. Deal?”
Stiles holds out a hand.
The next day, Stiles groans in despair as he crumples up another flyer covered in notes, and grabs an unused one.
“This looks a lot more fun when it’s a montage in Ocean’s Eleven,” he complains.
Lydia grabs the piece of paper from him. “Is this a map of the camp?
“Yeah. There wasn’t anything else left on the bulletin board to steal for scrap paper.”
“Hm,” she says, staring down at it. “So what’s this?”
Stiles looks, and her finger has landed on the old amphitheater that lies between Camp Remus and Camp Romulus. The map declares it SPN EMERG SHELTER.
“You’ve got this,” Stiles tells Kira, later that night. “You’ve totally got this.”
“How do you know?” Kira asks. In the light of one of Stiles’ floating magic balls, her expression is doubtful.
“Remember, Lydia went on that really long explanation about electricity and breakers and stuff, and how I was nodding a lot like it all made sense?”
“Yeah, I was totally pretending. No clue what she was talking about. But I believe in her, because I know she’s a freaking genius, just like I believe that my best friend Scotty would never ever abandon me for some dumb werewolf kids, and I believe that you have read way too many comic books not to be a bit of a superhero yourself.”
Kira screws up her face and nods. “Okay.”
Stiles gives her a thumbs up.
With visible concentration, sparks start zapping between Kira’s fingers, and a quiet humming starts to sound. She flexes her hand, making the sparks jump and crackle quietly, and then she carefully sticks her small hand through the chain link fence surrounding the generators.
Stiles quickly pinches his ball of light down so that it’s barely the size of an ant, and then sends it zipping out over the water with the flick of his wrist. He directs it across the lake, having to squint a little to see its flickering light as it gets further and further away. From where they’re standing, he can see the lighted windows on both sides of the lake, and in the darkness it’s almost impossible to tell one camp from the other.
“Whenever you’re ready,” Stiles says.
Kira doesn’t reply, but a moment later there’s a sharp intake of breath, and then an anticlimactic zzzzzzzpp.
A second later, all the lights go out, on both sides of the lake.
Stiles drops his hand, and the ball of light hits the surface of the water with an eruption of brilliant white light that makes it look like daylight for a second, and leaves him blinking away black spots.
And then, someone screams.
Not just any scream.
The scream of a banshee.
Director Argent may have a point about them, Stiles is forced to admit.
Lydia doesn’t have to fake the daze that comes over her when the scream finally lets go of her, because once she’d tapped into that well it was like the anguish of the earth rose up into her and her mouth was no longer her own. It ripped through her, sent her head snapping back, and every barrier that her own soundwaves crashed against reverberated within her very bones.
She’s not screaming any more but her ears ring like the aftermath of a concert, and her body trembles like she’s been dancing at one for a week. She blinks hard, and sees people running across the field.
Jordan is there first. Distantly, Lydia thinks that’s kind of amazing, considering that he had the furthest to run by about half a mile.
“Lydia? Lydia, what happened? Are you okay?” His eyes glow golden in the dark, like waving sparklers. “Lydia!”
“I don’t know,” Lydia says, and it comes out as a hoarse whisper. Her throat feels like it’s bleeding.
“What are you doing out here?”
“I don’t know,” Lydia says again. The world goes sideways for a moment, and then Jordan’s hands are on her shoulders pulling her upright. Lydia swallows and forces herself steady.
“What happened?” someone else demands as they come running up, flashlight in hand. Another counselor is hot on their heels.
“Jordan, is this the banshee?”
“Call Victoria,” Jordan says, hands still solid on Lydia’s shoulders.
“Jesus. Did she do this? The lights going out, that flash over the lake?”
“No,” Jordan says shortly. “Call Victoria.”
“Something bad,” Lydia whispers, the plan coming back to her as the world stops wobbling. “Something bad is coming.”
“Okay,” Jordan tells her. “Okay, let’s go back to camp, and we’ll figure it out. You’re not hurt, right?”
Lydia shakes her head.
“Don’t banshees only scream when someone’s gonna die?” one of the counselors murmurs.
In the distance, the headlights of a golf cart appear.
Lydia starts with a stumbling step forward, but the next one is steadier, and the one after that is almost normal. Jordan keeps one hand on her shoulder as they walk. When she glances up, his eyes are no longer glowing with gold.
“—need a headcount first and then you get in contact with Deaton, and—hold on, I’ve got the banshee here, I’ll call you back when I know more,” Director Argent is saying as she drives up. As she slows down the golf cart, she tosses the phone on the passenger seat, picks something else up, and then comes to a complete stop in front of Lydia. “What happened?”
She’s holding a knife in her left hand. On the seat next to her is a duffel bag with two rifles poking out, and it’s bulging at the sides.
Lydia cannot believe she got sent to a summer camp with an arsenal.
"Nothing happened,” Jordan says, stepping forward. “She’s okay. She just said that she feels something bad coming—the scream was probably just a warning.”
“’Something bad’,” Director Argent repeats, dubious.
“She’s not psychic, she doesn’t know specifics,” Jordan says defensively.
Director Argent looks intently at Lydia. “You don’t know why you screamed?”
She shakes her head.
“You just… felt like it, and wandered out here to do it?”
“Helpful,” she mutters, and after a squint into the darkness around them, sets down her knife. “All of you get back to your cabins. We’re doing a headcount of the children. As soon as they’re all accounted for, take them to the mess hall. Chris is going to get in contact with Deaton, but assuming it’s safe, the next step is to get them all to the amphitheater and activate the protections while we look into this further. Jordan?”
Jordan moves forward when Director Argent motions, leaning into the golf cart so that Director Argent can murmur something quietly to him.
Whatever she says, it makes Jordan’s whole body go stiff.
“That won’t be necessary,” he says, just loud enough for Lydia to hear.
“I wasn’t asking,” Director Argent replies.
Jordan is quiet for a long moment, and then nods his head. “Yes, ma’am.”
She waits until they’re on their way back to their cabin to ask, “What did she want?”
“Nothing,” Jordan says shortly.
“That knife was made of gold, wasn’t it?” Lydia asks, remembering its glint in the dim light.
“No,” Jordan says, lying again.
Stiles and Kira skulk into the cabin about two minutes before Jordan and Lydia come in.
“Hey, guys,” Jordan says, calm as ever. He shines his flashlight around the dark cabin, checking that they’re each present. “Director Argent wants everyone to go to the mess hall, all right? Get your shoes on, and grab a jacket, too. It’s a little chilly out tonight.”
Sophia raises her hand. “I can just make a—”
“No fireballs,” Jordan says immediately.
Stiles manages to fall in line with Lydia as they walk over to the mess hall, Kira bouncing along at his side.
“How’d it go?” he asks.
“Fine,” Lydia rasps.
“Eeesh. You sound like you gargled gravel.”
Lydia gives him a look.
“I did it exactly how you said,” Kira pipes up. “With the resistors and stuff.”
Lydia smiles at her briefly.
Stiles pulls out a Three Musketeers bar, tears it open, and splits it carefully into three.
“Wow. Do you always have chocolate on you?” Kira asks, taking her third eagerly.
“Pretty much,” Stiles says agreeably.
Lydia takes her piece, too, and all three of them eat in silence.
In the mess hall, there are three large battery-powered lanterns that have been placed up at the front table, which is just enough light that it feels almost like they’re at Friday night campfire instead of in the middle of a (supposed) crisis. At the front of the hall, Director Argent is on her phone, and her husband is moving around the hall with a clipboard, talking to counselors. Finstock can be heard outside, yelling impassioned threats at anyone who might be straggling.
Jordan directs them to a table, and they all sit and wait for the rest of the campers to arrive.
Stiles glances up at the ceiling and notes with perverse amusement the holes where Sophia’s cups had been lodged. They’d remained unnoticed until one had fallen in some kid’s cereal bowl, and then Jordan had been made to get on a ladder and remove them all. Now all that remains of the incident are ten holes of varying sizes, and probably another entry in Director Argent’s list of Why Spooks are the Worst.
Danny nudges him, pulling Stiles from his reminiscing.
“Wassup?” Stiles asks.
Danny makes a face, but holds out a hand.
Confused, Stiles holds out an open palm below it. His confusion is not alleviated when a travel-size bottle of mouthwash is dropped into it.
“You’re welcome,” Danny says.
“Thanks?” Stiles says, though he’s pretty sure he should be offended.
“I just don’t want anyone to die tonight,” Danny sighs.
Now Stiles is definitely offended. “What the crap? My breath cannot be that bad.”
“Just use it, Stilinski,” Danny snaps.
Stiles scowls, but tucks it into the pocket of his jacket. He’ll use it on the walk to the amphitheater.
When everyone is assembled, it’s announced that they will be moving to the old amphitheater as a precaution, just until they know for sure that it’s safe.
As Director Argent says this, her husband hefts a duffle bag over his shoulder, and Lydia leans over to whisper, “That’s full of weapons.”
“Seriously?” Stiles hisses.
Lydia nods. “She had a gold dagger ready when she found me.”
Jordan looks at him sharply.
“Holy crap,” Stiles says instead.
They’re partnered up and lined up and trooped out, down a trail that probably no one but Stiles has hiked this summer. Walking it alone, it always seems to take forever, but with a hundred and fifty chattering kids and their accompanying flashlights, it seems like almost no time at all before they’re cresting the final hill that opens to the old amphitheater. Stiles and the rest of his cabin are at the very back of the line, but it takes mere seconds for the whispered message to pass back:
“The werewolf kids are here.”
This is probably the most exciting thing to happen at Camp Remus since the Reyes/Dunbar pack war four years ago.
Laura is going to be so jealous.
For some inexplicable reason, they have to go to an old amphitheater for protection, instead of the mess hall—which is where everyone had gathered two years ago, when they’d had a freak hail storm. Someone had said something about wards, but Derek isn’t sure why they couldn’t have just warded the mess hall. It makes way more sense.
However, he stops worrying about this when someone else tells him that they’re going to be sharing the old amphitheater’s protections with Camp Romulus.
“Ew. Why?” says Erica.
Isaac, unfortunately, thinks it through.
“Hey Derek,” he says slyly. “Maybe you’ll see your mate.”
“Oh, that’s right!”
“Shut up,” Derek mutters.
“Derek and Sti-iles, sittin’ in a tree, F-U-C-K-I-N—”
Derek grabs a daddy longlegs from between the wooden slats of the bench and throws it at her, and Erica shrieks.
“Ew, ew, ew, ew, ew!” she shrills, clawing at her clothing. “Is it off? Is it off?”
“I don’t see it,” Isaac says, squinting.
Erica shakes out her arms, shuddering. “I’m gonna freaking kill you.”
“You know those are, like, the most poisonous spiders in the world? But their fangs are too weak to bite you,” Isaac says.
“That’s a myth, dummy.”
“Who told you that? Your brother?”
“Who told you it was a myth? Your sister?”
“I read it in a book, because I actually like to educate myself, unlike—”
“SPIDER!” Isaac yells, pointing, and Erica screams and jumps off the bench.
Derek is friends with idiots.
Amelia growls at them in warning, and Erica whines that it’s Isaac and Derek’s fault, and then Amelia growls louder and she subsides, sitting back down with a huff. She crosses her arms and glares at Isaac, who merely points at Derek and says, “He’s the one who started throwing spiders,” like the loyal and true friend that he is.
Luckily for Derek, this is when the humans arrive.
They’re not exactly a quiet bunch, as they clamber up the hill. Derek vaguely remembers what Stiles’ voice sounds like and he strains to pick him out of the crowd, but all he hears are strangers. Without meaning to, Derek’s eyes go to Scott McCall, who’s sitting one row down from him but is looking back, toward the sound of voices. Their gazes meet for a split second, and Derek thinks of the small stash of notes back in his cabin, securely zipped away in the money compartment of his duffle bag.
The human kids file into the amphitheater, down the center aisle in a steady procession. They’re being led by a middle-aged white man with a gun strapped to his back, and clothing that suggests it’s not the only weapon he has on his person.
“Holy crap,” Isaac whispers, as the man passes.
“They have guns?” Erica breathes.
The breeze picks up, carrying the faint scent of something that makes Derek’s teeth itch and his skin crawl. He shudders, turning his head, and when he inhales again it’s gone. Around him, the other kids are coughing and making noises of disgust.
The man leads the human kids down to the front row where they start filling in the left half of the theater that’s been saved for them. He steps up onto the stage, where he proceeds to watch them file in.
From the far right, Deaton starts to make his way down to the stage as well.
Derek watches the line of kids coming in, who are in turn staring back at all of them. In the eight years Derek has been coming here, the two camps have never, ever mingled.
Laura is going to be so, so jealous.
It seems like the youngest kids are at the front of the line, and get progressively older, so Derek’s attention drifts down to the stage where Deaton is approaching the man with the gun. They exchange brief words, and then the man with the gun points up to the top of the amphitheater, and everyone looks to see a woman standing there, directing kids down the center aisle.
Derek only recognizes her because he’d seen her load Stiles into a golf cart and drive away. She had not looked extremely pleasant then, and honestly, the gun she’s wielding now doesn’t do a whole lot to improve Derek’s opinion of her.
“That’s their camp director,” Derek tells Isaac and Erica, and incidentally everyone around them as well. He hears this information quickly disseminate down the rows. “Director Argent.”
“Whoa,” Isaac says.
“I thought human summer camp was lame, not terrifying,” Erica whispers. “What do you think their electives are? Latrine-cleaning and gruel-making?”
“They look normal,” Derek says, because the human kids are giggling and chattering and staring at them with about as much interest as the Camp Remus kids are staring at them. They don’t look at all afraid or grim or generally like they’ve spent the summer in a junior militia camp instead of swimming in the lake and hiking.
“Look, they’re color-coded,” Isaac says.
He’s half right. Some, but not all, of the kids are wearing colored bandanas—the youngest in red, then orange, then yellow…
“Maybe they’re allowed to have a color war,” Erica says jealously.
Color wars have been outlawed at Camp Remus since Derek’s Uncle Peter dyed the entire water supply purple and in the process destroyed several key elements of the camp’s plumbing system, and also dyed most of the campers lilac.
“They have too many flashlights,” Erica complains, wincing as one flashes across their faces.
“They’re human, you know they can’t see in the dark,” Derek reminds her.
“They can see some things,” Erica protests. “They did manage to not extinct themselves off a cliff before we invented electricity, you know.”
“’Extinct themselves’?” Isaac repeats.
Erica punches him.
“We have six times more rods in our eyes,” Derek tells them. “That’s why we can see so good in the dark, but humans can’t.”
“Oh, that’s right, I forgot I was sitting next to the guy who wasted his summer in Species Integration,” Erica drawls.
Derek flips her off.
Down on the stage, Deaton and the other man aren’t looking very happy with each other. Derek strains to listen in, but there’s too much chatter and he can’t focus. He shifts his attention to the line of human kids still pouring in, and finds that there are now some purple bandanas in the crowd, who look only a year or two younger than Derek.
He turns his head and glances back, sees a few gray bandanas and a brown one beyond that, and the sound of even more kids behind them.
Impatience runs hot under his skin, but he turns around focuses on the stage again, where Deaton and the man are continuing to argue, until a flash of red eyes sparks on his peripheral vision.
McCall has sat up straight and is staring at the back of the amphitheater, even as the red fades from his eyes.
Derek turns, too, but can’t hear or see Stiles. A dozen kids Derek’s age pass through with the occasional brown bandanas, and then there’s a brief gap, followed by a brunette girl no more than six, a curly blonde no more than seven, and then—
Stiles spots Scott immediately, because Scott is the only werewolf not staring at the incoming kids. No, instead, he’s staring at Allison.
What a doof.
Still, he looks healthy, unhurt, and not shackled or personally supervised, so Stiles finds himself both relieved and annoyed. Whatever the reason Scott hadn’t shown up for their last meeting, at least he was okay, and pining after Allison Argent like usual.
“Keep moving,” Director Argent says from behind him, and Stiles stumbles forward only a single step before he picks out another familiar face in the crowd of werewolves staring at them.
Derek Hale is waaaay hotter than Stiles remembers him being.
He’s staring at Stiles with a vaguely panicked expression, and Stiles belatedly realizes that his face seems to be doing the exact same thing.
With effort, Stiles takes in a breath and opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. For lack of anything better to do, he waves.
Derek blinks several times, and then waves back, a dorky grin on his face.
The curly blond boy next to him says something with a smirk, and Derek’s face flattens and his hand goes from waving to punching without ever breaking eye contact.
Stiles’ mate is gorgeous and cool.
“Keep moving!” Director Argent barks.
“Come on,” Lydia hisses, dragging Stiles down the steps, which is good because he forgot there even were steps, and would have fallen down all of them if she wasn’t there to yank him upright.
This is… not exactly going according to plan.
Lydia guesses it was a little dumb that they’d created the illusion of a supernatural crisis, without expecting such a serious reaction from the adults involved. If anyone ever figures out that the three of them deliberately caused this, the consequences would be… bad. Expulsion bad, probably.
How was she supposed to know that the Argents address threats with live munitions?
All she’d wanted was to get both camps to this “supernatural emergency shelter” so that she could meet Alpha Boyd and see if he would be of any help with the ridiculous discrimination over at Camp Romulus. When she’d envisioned this brilliant plan, there were kids milling about everywhere, and the adults in charge circulating amongst them, giving Lydia easy access to Camp Remus’ highest authority. Instead, they’re being marched into assigned rows by their gun-toting director, on their own half of the amphitheater, with the adults circling the edges.
Or arguing on the stage.
“Who’s that?” she asks Stiles, pointing at the man talking with Director’s Argent’s husband. ‘Talking’ is a generously tame description.
“Dunno,” Stiles says, shrugging.
With the last of them seated, Director Argent starts making her way down to the stage. To the right, a tall figure also starts his way down as well.
“That’s Alpha Boyd,” Stiles tells her, and Lydia now watches with interest.
He looks calm, and isn’t carrying any weapons at all, which is something she’s recently decided is a nice quality to have in camp directors. He looks a few years younger than the Argents, but not too young, old enough to have gained respect. Hopefully young enough that he’s still willing to rock the boat, though.
She just needs to find a way to speak to him.
She watches restlessly as the adults talk quietly on stage for a few minutes—Lydia has the impression that Alpha Boyd is particularly unhappy about the guns—until finally some consensus is reached. Director Argent moves forward, raising her hands.
A hush falls.
“Thank you,” she says, and in the semicircle her voice carries without effort. “And welcome to the oldest standing structure in Camp Remus or Romulus—the amphitheater. It was imbued with strong magical protections when the camp first opened, and remains the safest location in the area. In a few minutes, Emissary Deaton is going to activate the wards to strengthen that protection, and he’ll stay with you while the rest of us leave to make sure that both camps are completely safe to return to. While we’re gone, we ask that you all stay seated and keep the chatter to a reasonable level. Questions may be directed to your cabin counselors. Thank you.”
Alpha Boyd is leaving?
“They have an emissary?” Stiles demands.
Apparently they do. As the Argents and Alpha Boyd leave the stage, the man who was arguing with Chris Argent earlier is bending down at the front and center of the stage, to the dirt right before it. A familiar ball of light emerges beneath his palm, hovering above the ground, but when he pushes his hand down to meet the earth, instead of the ball shattering it moves into the earth and then spreads out into a spiderweb of light, veins lighting up the ground beneath them.
“Coooool,” Stiles breathes.
Deaton completely ignores the murmurs of the entire crowd watching him, and instead turns his head to watch the other adults leave the boundaries of the amphitheater. Then he murmurs something, and the spiderweb of light pulses out from his hand again, but this time it’s blue, and the light stays.
“This is the coolest thing ever,” Stiles declares.
The whole theater is lit by the dim blue streaks in the ground, casting everything in long shadows. Slowly, people start to flick their flashlights off.
“That’s who we’re going to talk to,” Lydia announces, eyes fixed on Deaton as he rises from the ground and brushes his palms off.
“We?” Stiles asks.
Derek normally thinks magic is pretty cool, but he’d barely paid attention to the light show, or even the announcement that had preceded it. He’s too busy watching Stiles.
Stiles is in hushed conversation with a redheaded girl at his side, and Derek’s can’t decide if he’s offended that Stiles isn’t staring back, or if it’s nice that he has this opportunity to observe without bias. Also, it’s kinda weird, but just watching Stiles makes something warm and solid settle in Derek’s chest, and it feels so nice that he could stare forever just to keep having it.
Isaac pokes him. “Derek. You’re creeping.”
“I’ll punch you again.”
"Dude, take it from the guy who has had actual hands-on experience with humans, not just a class. Humans do not appreciate being stared at.”
“I have human… cousins,” Derek says weakly.
“You used to think that humans who broke a bone had to have their limbs amputated,” Isaac says.
“I was eight!” And that story about the trapped rock climber had been on the news, it wasn’t a totally wild assumption.
Isaac says something else, but just then Stiles glances over and meets Derek’s gaze, and Derek feels his heart skip a beat.
“Jordan. Jordan.” Lydia waves, and finally catches Jordan’s attention. She beckons him over.
Stiles is still making goo goo eyes at his ‘brother’—honestly, he could have just said that he and Scott were boyfriends—so Lydia hits him.
“Ow!” Stiles protests.
“What’s up?” Jordan asks, hands in his pockets.
“We need to talk to Deaton,” Lydia says.
“It’s an emissary thing,” Lydia says, and hooks a confident thumb at Stiles.
“Uh, yeah,” Stiles agrees convincingly. “Emissary thing.”
Jordan eyes them. “What emissary thing?”
“A private emissary thing,” Lydia declares.
“Okay, well, I don’t think now is exactly the best time,” Jordan hedges. “How about you guys talk to him… another time?”
"Yes, all those times we have access to the Camp Remus staff,” Lydia says drily.
“How come they have an emissary, anyway?” Stiles butts in.
Jordan sighs. “I don’t know. Guys, what do you even want to talk to him about?”
Lydia lifts her chin. “Important things.”
Jordan looks at her, and then at Stiles, and then back at Lydia again. His gaze is intent, in a way that makes her feel older, like they’re equals, like Lydia is strong, and her heart pounds hard against her ribcage with it.
“All right,” Jordan says eventually. He doesn’t sound indulgent, or resigned. He sounds, impossibly, like he understands. “All right, I’ll go get him.”
“All right,” Lydia says, nodding.
Jordan laughs a little, shaking his head, and turns to head down the steps.
“What’s the emissary thing?” Kira asks, when he’s gone. “I thought we were gonna talk about discrimination.”
“We are,” Lydia says. She glances at Stiles, only to find him watching his boyfriend again.
She hits him.
“You can soulgaze with Scott later. Focus.”
Stiles stares at her in horror. “Scott? That’s not Scott!”
“Well, whoever it is.”
“That’s Derek. Scott’s the doof in the row ahead of him, with the uneven jawline. The one staring unattractively at Allison.”
“I don’t care, Stiles. Look, he’s coming!”
Now that Stiles has had time to think about it, he’s heard of Deaton. If this is, in fact, the Alan Deaton. He’s infamous on the west coast for not aligning with a particular werewolf pack, instead choosing to remain impartial and live mainly as a veterinarian in a small Sacramento suburb. Apparently he spends his summers running a werewolf summer camp, too.
He knows that this is Lydia’s show, and he fully intends to let her run it, but he can’t help the surge of kinship that rises in him when Deaton approaches them, and it has him on his feet before he knows what he’s doing.
“I’m Stiles. Stilinski,” Stiles says, holding out a hand.
Deaton smiles and reaches out, and when their hands touch there’s a spark.
Deaton’s hand freezes and his smile fades, and suddenly the handshake is strong and serious. Their eyes lock for a long moment, above their glowing palms.
“Good to meet you, Stiles Stilinski,” he says, and withdrawals his hand. The light fades away. “I’m Dr. Alan Deaton.”
“I know,” Stiles says immediately, and then wants to kick himself. “I mean, uh, nice to meet you too. Uh. This is Lydia Martin.”
Lydia has also risen to her feet. When she shakes hands with Deaton, their palms don’t glow, but it’s no less grave.
“We wanted to talk to you,” Lydia says, as their hands fall away.
“I’m all ears,” Deaton says pleasantly, motioning for them to follow as he leads them a few steps away from the crowd.
Lydia takes in a breath. “Dr. Deaton. How much do you know about the Camp Romulus policies on supernatural campers?”
“Not… much, I’m afraid,” Deaton says slowly. “Our two camps operate independently of each other, these days, except for a few meetings every year—and tonight, of course. Years and years ago, the two camps were very much like the brothers they’re named for, and Camp Romulus was based much closer to this amphitheater than it is today. But there was a split, in the 80’s; they rebuilt Camp Romulus further away, and we haven’t had much contact since.”
Stiles hadn’t known any of that.
“Well,” Lydia says, and gestures at the last bench in the amphitheater, the five of them, a small huddle behind the rows and rows jam-packed with human campers, “this is us. We’re put in our own cabin, far away from everyone else, for—and I quote—'everyone else’s safety’—and our cabin is much older and more dilapidated than the others. It hasn’t had electricity for the last two weeks. We aren’t allowed to participate in certain camp activities because we’re too dangerous, and counselors freely use slurs such as ‘spooks’ without repercussion, which has created an environment in which we are effectively outcasts.”
Holy crap. Lydia is good.
Deaton stares down at her thoughtfully.
“The retention rate of supernatural children at Camp Romulus is abysmal,” Lydia continues, and wow, she’s really been practicing for this. “The only ones who return are those who have no choice. All the others leave with no friends their own age, lowered self-esteem, and a resentment for their own natural gifts. This is—” Lydia draws herself up, crossing her arms over her chest. “—antithetical to summer camp.”
If Stiles didn’t already have a hunky werewolf mate, he thinks he might have fallen in love right then and there.
“I would agree with you, Ms. Martin,” Deaton says mildly, after a beat. “How fortuitous that you were able to meet me tonight to speak about it.”
“Very,” Lydia agrees.
There’s a brief staring contest between them. Stiles tries not to fidget.
“Unfortunately, I have no authority in your camp,” Deaton continues eventually.
“You have authority at Camp Remus, though. I know for a fact that you have a werecoyote and a—” Lydia falters for the briefest of seconds. “—lizard, and yet on our side we have a kitsune and a hellhound. You’ve drawn an arbitrary line on a spectrum.”
“The coyote and the kanima were both allowed in under very special circumstances,” Deaton says.
“Is discrimination not a very special circumstance for you, then?” Lydia asks, eyebrows raised.
Deaton studies her, having no immediate answer for that.
Lydia holds his gaze.
Finally, Deaton smiles just a little. “You present a good argument, Ms. Martin. I will speak with your camp director about the situation. Ms. Marin Morrell is a good friend of mine and also a highly skilled practitioner, who I think would be more than willing to join Camp Romulus for the rest of the summer as auxiliary staffing, and encourage some tolerance.”
“Really?” Lydia says.
“Really,” Deaton confirms, smile widening.
“Oh my god,” she breathes, and then visibly catches herself. “I mean—thank you. Dr. Deaton.”
They actually did it. Lydia did it.
The moment Dr. Deaton leaves them alone, Lydia loses all composure and grabs Stiles, pulling him into a fast hug.
“I did it!” she squeals, a quiet as she can make herself. She lets go of Stiles and grabs his hands instead, so happy she can hardly stand it. “I did it, I did it, I did it!”
“You were awesome,” Stiles says sincerely, grinning widely.
“I really was,” Lydia agrees, breathless. “Oh my god. Oh my god, I can’t believe it worked.”
“You’re a genius.”
“Just wait until I’m allowed to do the full science elective. Suck it, Adrian Harris,” Lydia says viciously.
Stiles laughs and pulls her back toward the benches.
“What happened?” Kira asks anxiously.
“Success,” Lydia tells her.
“What’s that mean?”
“We’re going to get a witch on staff,” Stiles says excitedly. “And, hey, we finally learned why our cabin is such a shitbox!”
Lydia frowns. “We did?”
"You didn’t catch that?” Stiles asks, and Lydia’s still too high on her own success to be irritated she missed something. “Dude. Our cabin is like, from the original Camp Romulus! That’s why it’s so far away from all the others, and why it’s like thirty years older.”
“Our cabin is actually from 1964,” Lydia says, horrified.
“Yep,” Stiles says.
“No wonder the graffiti on my bunk is Beatles lyrics. I just thought it was—”
She cuts herself off because the kid Stiles was pointing at earlier—Scott—has somehow traded seats all the way down to the center aisle and is frantically trying to get Stiles’ attention. Lydia leans back to give Stiles a clear view, but instead Stiles is rising from his seat and hissing, “Crap. Cover for me,” before darting across the aisle to join the werewolf kids.
“With what?” Lydia asks no one in particular, annoyed at having been so abruptly deserted.
“Scotty!” Stiles says, sidling onto the bench next to him. There’s not a whole lot of room, but he wriggles in as best he can.
“Stiles,” Scott says, looking frantic.
Stiles chooses to believe that the source of this is their long and terrible separation, and wraps his arms around his best bud accordingly. “Dude, I missed you! Where the hell have you been?”
“Uh, well.” When Stiles pulls back, Scott looks guilty. “I sorta got caught? But that’s not—”
“Crap, dude! Did you get in trouble?”
“A little. They just caught me coming back, so I told Alpha Boyd that I was just out, like, sleepwalking. They don’t know I was meeting you. But—”
“So where were you Monday night?”
Scott’s face screws up. “Well, ‘cause I told them I was sleepwalking, I’m sort of sleeping in Alpha Boyd’s cabin? They think it’s because I’m having issues with my anchor.”
Stiles stares. “Seriously?”
“I’m really sorry, dude.”
“Oh my god. Why didn’t you just tell them that you were out being a troublemaker like a normal teenager?”
“I’m sorry! But Stiles, listen—”
“Stiles! I’m having a crisis here!”
Stiles pauses long enough to take a good look at Scott.
“I thought you were just really excited to see me,” Stiles says, affronted that this is apparently not the case.
Scott rolls his eyes. Rolls his eyes. “Not now, Stiles. Crisis!”
Stiles waves a hand. “Everyone’s in a crisis! That’s why we’re here!”
“Dude. No. Listen. I… I think Allison might be my mate,” Scott whispers.
Scott nods, the panic now back in force. “I can, like, smell her. And hear her heartbeat. And it’s—I just want to go rub my face in her stomach a lot, and that’s weird! And she’s really hot, I can’t be weird! Stiles, what do I do?”
“Well, definitely not what Derek did,” Stiles says.
“I don’t know! Go… talk to her. Like a normal person. Don’t rub your face in her stomach,” Stiles advises. “Oh! And I guess her grandfather died a few months ago? So don’t mention that.”
“Okay,” Scott says, nods. “Okay. I’ll just… be myself.”
“Yes. Perfect,” Stiles declares, and tugs Scott forward. “Now go.”
“Dude, if she’s your mate, she has to like you. And you’re a True Alpha! You can do no wrong. You’re perfect. Go.”
He shoves Scott forward, and Scott trips into the aisle, True Alpha or not. He quickly scrambles upright though, and hesitantly approaches the bench containing the Falcons.
Stiles rolls his eyes. The dim blue lighting of the amphitheater means it’s not totally obvious that they’re switching sides, but it’s not perfect cover. Scott needs to get his rear in gear before he gets caught—again—and finds himself in even more trouble. And unable to talk to Allison, his mate.
Stiles doesn’t even know why he’s even remotely surprised to hear that Scott and Allison are fated to be. A lingering belief that the universe doesn’t have a cruel sense of humor, he supposes.
“He’s awful at tracking, you know,” a voice says behind him. “And for an alpha, he has terrible awareness. And he snores.”
It’s Stiles’ own mate, visibly smug even with the blue glow casting long shadows over his face.
“Dude, I snore. Like a chainsaw,” Stiles says, offended.
The smug look vanishes. Derek’s eyes are wide, and his mouth opens, but no words come out.
Stiles grins. “Kidding.”
The kid next to Derek, with the curls, bursts out laughing.
“Shut up,” Derek says, and punches him.
“You punch him a lot,” Stiles observes.
“Derek isn’t very good with words,” the other kid says.
“Hi, Stiles,” a blonde girl from the next seat down says sweetly, leaning in. “I’m Erica. This is Isaac. It’s nice to meet you.”
Stiles waves. “Uh. Hi.”
“Derek’s very good at tracking, you know,” Erica says slyly. “And he has excellent awareness.”
“He’s the best at parkour,” Isaac adds.
“The very best,” Erica agrees. “But he didn’t take it this year. He switched into Species Integration so he could learn more about—”
Derek scrambles down one row and takes Scott’s empty seat next to Stiles. “Ignore them.”
“Species Integration?” Stiles says, wrinkling his nose. “Isn’t that, like, super boring? Why would you take that?”
Behind him, Erica and Isaac are snickering.
“It’s not that boring,” Derek insists. “I—learned a lot of important stuff.”
“If you say so,” Stiles says dubiously.
“You never said what electives you’re taking,” Derek says, in an obvious bid to change the subject.
“Ugh. Lame ones,” Stiles says, waving a hand. “Arts and crafts and shit. I kind of had to sign up really, really last minute, remember?”
“Oh. Right,” Derek says.
Stiles shrugs. After a beat, he says, “So, it’s uh. Nice to meet you again?”
“Yeah,” Derek agrees.
“There’s less claws this time,” Stiles observes. “That’s nice.”
Derek cringes. “Sorry about that.”
Stiles waves this away. “No big. I’m all healed. Oh, hey! This is like, kinda weird, since we’re actually talking face to face for a change, but I guess you can read it later or something.” He fishes his old note out of his pocket, folded messily, because it was supposed to go to Scott to Derek and Stiles had been too focused on content to worry about presentation.
Derek takes it, looking surprised and pleased.
“It’s like a week old. Sorry. I should have written you a new one, I guess,” Stiles says.
“How were you supposed to know we’d get to see each other tonight?” Derek asks, looking at Stiles like he’s crazy.
Probably best to let Derek keep thinking that.
“I don’t know if Scott and I will be able to meet up again,” Stiles tells him, before he’s tempted to share his ingenious plan just to show off. “So… I don’t know if there will be any more.”
“I gave you my phone number,” Derek reminds him. “If you—I mean.”
“I knew there was something I forgot to put in there,” Stiles groans, staring at his note forlornly. “Do you have a pen?”
Derek shakes his head. “You can just call me. It’s okay.”
“No—no, here, I don’t need one. Probably.” Stiles glances around furtively, checks that there are no counselors watching, and then snaps a ball of light into existence.
Derek jerks back, startled.
“Sorry, sorry,” Stiles says, and quickly shrinks it down so that it’s less bright. When it’s no more than a firefly in the palm of his left hand, he looks up at Derek. “Roll up your sleeve?”
Derek obliges, and holds out a hand.
Behind him, Isaac and Erica are both leaning in to watch. Stiles has the idea that there are quite a few other curious gazes on him as well, but he ignores them. Instead he focuses on spread, on focus and intent.
This is supposed to be for writing sigils for spells, but hey. You could argue this isn’t wildly different.
“This won’t hurt,” Stiles promises.
Stiles dips his finger carefully into the ball of light—careful, oh so careful not to shatter it and blind everybody—and when he pulls back there’s a smear of light on the tip of his index finger. He moves to Derek’s arm, and carefully paints a 5. Derek’s skin is warm beneath his finger, werewolf warm, and Stiles swallows before he paints a 3, a 0, and all the rest of the numbers that glow faintly in the night. He lingers on the last digit a little longer than necessary, adding a crossbar to the 7 that he never uses otherwise just to touch Derek’s skin one last time, and then makes himself pull back.
He looks up and finds Derek staring at him.
“Thanks,” Derek says hoarsely.
“Yeah,” Stiles says. “It, uh. It should last for a few hours. Sorry it’s all glowy.”
“It’s okay,” Derek says. “It’s… really cool, actually. You’re really cool.”
Stiles feels his cheeks heat. “Yeah, well. It’s not parkour or anything.”
Derek ducks his head. “Parkour isn’t that hard. It just momentum, that’s all. You could learn it.”
Stiles laughs. “No way, dude.”
“I could teach you,” Derek offers.
“Oh,” Stiles says, startled. “Uh. That’d be cool. I’d like that.”
Derek grins. “Okay. Cool.”
Then Derek’s raising his hand, numbers blurring into streaks, and he gently cups the side of Stiles’ face.
Stiles’ heart pounds. His mouth feels tingly with leftover Listerine.
“Hey,” Derek says. “Can I…”
“Yeah,” Stiles says.
And that’s how Stiles gets his first kiss.
“That guy has the werewolf allergy to chocolate,” Danny tells her, as they watch Stiles and his werewolf boyfriend lock lips.
“Theobromine. And it’s a metabolism failure, not an allergy,” Lydia corrects.
“Whatever. That Three Musketeers bar you guys had earlier was totally gonna kill him, and Stilinski just thinks I was insulting his breath.”
"You could have explained,” Lydia suggests.
“Then they wouldn’t have kissed at all,” Danny says.
“You’re a romantic,” Lydia says, genuinely astonished.
“If they didn’t kiss, then they don’t fall in love and get married and eventually raise the next President of the United States, who leads us through World War III,” Danny says.
Lydia turns her head to stare.
Danny grins, full of shit.
THREE WEEKS LATER
“I dunno why we have to clean the cabin if no one’s ever gonna use it again,” Sophia grouses, dragging the broom across the floor toward the bathroom.
“She’s got a point,” Stiles says.
“They’ll find something to do with it,” Jordan replies patiently.
“They haven’t told you the plan?” Stiles asks. “That promotion didn’t come with an upgraded security clearance?”
Jordan rolls his eyes. “It wasn’t a promotion, and they don’t have security clearances for summer camp.”
Adrian apparently didn’t renew his contract for next year, and Jordan will be taking his place as a counselor for the twelve-year-olds. It’s convenient, since Jordan’s job will no longer exist next summer, because there will be no Crow cabin at all.
Camp Romulus is integrating.
Lydia, of course, won’t be there to see it. They don’t take campers after eighth grade, and Lydia plans to spend next summer shamelessly milking her parents’ divorce for multiple international luxury vacations. In Milan, you don’t have to do chores.
She hefts another mattress onto its side and sprays it liberally with disinfectant.
From the bathroom, Sophia begins a loud rendition of I Know A Song That Gets On Everybody’s Nerves. Stiles quickly joins in, followed by Jordan, and then Julia and Kira, and then by sheer peer pressure, Danny as well.
In Milan, this song is probably illegal.
Lydia’s on her second to last mattress when there’s a loud crash from the bathroom and the singing stops.
After a beat, there’s a chagrined “Oops.”
Jordan sighs and heads inside. “Sophia? You okay?”
Stiles immediately stops sweeping, the slacker.
“Kira, you forgot some,” Lydia says, pointing at the stash of comics she’d just unveiled under her current mattress.
"Sorry!” Kira says, darting forward to grab them.
“Dang, Kira, did you bring anything but comics?” Stiles asks.
Lydia whacks him with the bottle of disinfectant. “Don’t be mean.”
“Mean? I’m admiring! That’s dedication, right there.”
“I’m with Sophia. Cleaning the cabin is dumb, if no one’s even going to use it next year.”
“Sweep,” Lydia orders.
Stiles rolls his eyes, but grabs the broom.
“Trade you for recycling duty,” Danny offers. He pats the blue bag of recyclables that have been collecting in the cabin for the last six weeks, the majority of which have been from the last three weeks because Camp Romulus had instituted a camp-wide Species Integration course. They had homework, at summer camp.
Lydia cannot believe that she got sent to summer camp, campaigned for equal rights, and somehow wound up with homework.
“I don’t think this is what Ms. Morrell meant when she told you to practice,” Jordan is saying as he comes out of the bathroom, Sophia on his heels. “And, come on, Soph. Haven’t you ever seen The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, where Mickey Mouse enchants a broom? It doesn’t end well.”
“That was a mop,” Sophia says.
“You can practice on this broom,” Stiles offers.
“No enchanting of any brooms,” Jordan says firmly. Then, after a beat, “Or mops.”
Danny hefts the bag of recycling. “Hey, Sophia, help me take this out to the mess hall?”
Sophia wrinkles her nose. “I guess.”
She follows him out the door. Stiles goes back to his sweeping with a longsuffering sigh, like he wouldn’t have been done already if he’d stop whining and just do it already. He’s been stuck sending letters to Camp Remus through the actual postal system, for lack of anything better, and today, on their last day, he’s got zero focus except for the bus ride home at the end of it.
Director Argent, unfortunately, had not been pleased to find out that her daughter was apparently mated to a teenaged alpha werewolf, and remained firm that there would be no contact sanctioned between the camps. While Lydia is relieved not to be living an 80’s teen movie cliché with an end-of-summer camp dance, she also thinks it’s stupid that Stiles has to pay for stamps and envelopes to mail letters back and forth to the other side of the lake. The postal service must think they’re nuts.
Through the window, Lydia gets a glimpse of Sophia levitating the blue trash bag, and Danny following behind her.
She’s finished with the mattresses now, all of them bare, sanitized, and propped on their sides. The cabin looks weird like this, clean and quiet. With Danny and Sophia dumping the recyclables, and Kira and Julia having disappeared after dragging their bags out to the front porch, it’s just her, Stiles and Jordan left.
Jordan’s holding the dustpan for Stiles, who’s doing a truly abominable job of sweeping the debris into it.
Lydia rolls her eyes, and heads outside.
She sits on her suitcase, because six weeks of summer camp have not endeared her to sitting on bird poopy, bug-infested, sap-splattered planks of wood. Kira is trying to show Julia how to do a cartwheel, off on the side of the cabin. She watches them for a moment, until the front door bangs open and Stiles steps out.
“Done!” he says happily.
“Congratulations,” Lydia says.
“Man, I am so excited to go home,” Stiles says, plopping down on top of his own duffle. “Camp is all right, but I miss video games and having my own room and, you know, cell phones.”
“Got someone to call?” Lydia asks slyly.
Stiles beams. “Yeah. My boyfriend.”
“Hope you packed your love letters.”
“They’re not love letters! Jesus Christ.”
They’re totally love letters.
“You’re probably super excited to go home, huh?” Stiles asks, fiddling with the handle of his duffle.
“Hair dryers,” Lydia says emphatically.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Girls.”
She kicks him lightly. “Just wait until you go home and see all my Instagram pictures. I’m hot in real life, you know.”
“You realize you’re going to get tagged in all the camp photos they put up?” Stiles asks.
Oh, Lydia is aware.
“I’m going to untag myself before anyone can get a look at me in a black bandana. I look like a gothic Dixie Chick.”
Stiles cackles. “At least you’re not the only one. And—hey! Look at you!”
He’s pointing at the handle of her suitcase, where her black bandana has been tied.
Stiles holds up his own duffle’s strap, where his eight black bandanas are tied in a row. He’s grinning hugely.
“Yes, well,” Lydia mutters. She’d almost tossed it in the trash, then almost tossed it in her suitcase, but at the last minute she’d thought what the hell. It’ll help her luggage stand out in the unloading of the bus back home, at least.
“They won’t have these next year,” Stiles says, examining his own bandanas. “It’s weird. Julia said that she wants to come back next year, especially now that there’s a witch on staff, and she’ll be with all the other seven-year-olds. She’ll have orange and black. Danny’ll be back, he’ll get brown. Kira’d get navy, and… Sophia’d get yellow.”
It is weird to think of them all in separate cabins, in different colors.
“Scott didn’t get one this year, right?” Lydia asks. “They don’t do them over at Camp Remus?”
Stiles shakes his head. “Nah. Kinda sucks. He was one away from the full rainbow.”
“You could buy him one,” Lydia suggests.
“It’s not the same,” Stiles says, shaking his head.
Lydia glances down at her own bandana, which has lost its clean pressed lines and is fraying at the corners. There’s a streak of nail polish in it from her manicure session with Allison last Saturday.
No, one from the store wouldn’t be the same.
“Hey,” Stiles says, and Lydia looks up. “I just wanted to say… it’s really awesome that Julia and Danny get to be with all the other kids, next year. Because of you. Being a Crow has always kinda sucked, but I guess I had Scott and that made it okay. But most people don’t have a Scott, and if this summer’s taught me anything, it’s how crappy it is not to have a Scott.”
“Yeah,” Lydia says, thinking back to the beginning of camp, sitting alone at breakfast. “It’s pretty crappy.”
“But, hey,” Stiles says, bringing her focus back to him. “You made a pretty good replacement.”
Lydia sighs. “I suppose this summer wasn’t completely awful.”
“We did take out an entire electrical grid and fake a supernatural attack,” Stiles says.
“You did what?” Jordan demands, from where he’s… standing right in the front door of the cabin.
“Um,” says Stiles.
“That whole night was you two?”
Three, technically, but Jordan doesn’t need to know about Kira.
“It was for a good cause?” Lydia tries.
“It cost $2,000 to fix that generator,” Jordan says, stunned.
“Well, now we have anti-discrimination policies, supernatural representation, and a fully integrated camp?” Lydia offers.
Jordan sighs, and raises a hand to his face.
Lydia’s going to miss those biceps.
“I figured it was something you guys said to Alan Deaton that night, but—Jesus, I didn’t think you’d actually orchestrated…” He lets out a snort of laughter, hand falling away. “You two are way too clever for your own good.”
“Thank you,” Lydia says.
“Also,” Stiles says, bright in the wake of getting off punishment-free, “I was totally sneaking out to meet up with Scott at night time, like usual. You totally missed it.”
Jordan throws his hands up. “This is why they cap it at eighth grade. My god.”
“You’re gonna miss us next year.”
“I am going to have a lot less stress next year, is what,” Jordan says, pointing. “And don’t think you’re off the hook for plotting a fake supernatural crisis. You are both going to sing along with us, all the way to the mess hall, whatever song Sophia wants to sing.”
Jordan crosses his arms. “Mm-hm.”
Lydia has changed her mind. She’s not going to miss summer camp at all.
(They sing, all the way to the mess hall.)
The bug juice here at summer camp, they say it’s mighty fine
But they forgot the sugar, it tastes like turpentine.
The first aid here at summer camp, they say it’s mighty fine
But if you cut your finger, you’re left with only nine.
The cabins here at summer camp, they say they’re mighty fine
But whoever said that, has never slept in mine.
I don’t want no more of camping life!
Gee, Mom, I wanna go
Back where the toilets flow
Gee Mom, I wanna go home!