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“I’m going to need everybody to pair up for this next experiment. Everyone, grab a partner.”

The class erupted into giggles and whispers, friends bee-lining for each other, class politics coming to the front as groups publicly declare their first choice of friend. Stiles sat still. He didn’t bother twisting in his seat to look for Scott, knowing what he would see.

Scott smiling soppily at Allison, or maybe teaming up with Lydia to outscore everyone else in the class. Bombshell beauty Erica leaning close into his personal space, Boyd with a stoic smile at her side, Isaac looking up through his curls beseechingly. Maybe he’d even partner with Jackson, the last bits of animosity dissolving as Jackson slapped his back like he did with his teammates as they came off the field.

As everyone settled down with their partners, the seat next to Stiles remained empty. Stiles felt someone kick the back of his chair.

“Alone again Stilinski? Did your boyfriend dump you?” said Clark, one of Jackson’s old crew. His partner, Ashley, sniggered.

Stiles pulled on a vicious grin and threw back, “Why? Hoping I’m single? Because I’m flattered, but I’m afraid I’m not into bestiality, monkey-brain.”

Clark snarled and Stiles hastily ducked the eraser he chucked at his head. As he turned away from Clark, his grin dropped. As much as he hated to admit it, Clark had touched a nerve.

Growing up, Stiles and Scott had always made fun of the Popular Kid table. It was him and Scott against the world, screw what the rest of the school thought. But apparently that had only been true while the idea of them being popular was a pipe-dream. Now, Scott had the girls fawning over him and the boys’ respect. The only piece that didn’t fit was…

“The fact is, I’m embarrassed to be seen with you!”

Stiles’ pen ripped through the paper where he was pressing it in so hard, shaking him out of the memory. Mr Thompson wandered over and perched on the edge of Stiles’ desk in a clearly practiced attempt to look casual. Mr Thompson wasn’t the worst teacher, but he was determined to seem ‘approachable’ and ‘down with the kids’ in a way that ensured he never would be.

"Hey buddo, I see you don’t have a partner yet, so I guess that makes us a team! Ready to rock some equations?"

The table behind him exploded with poorly concealed giggles. Clark started humming something under his breath that sounded suspiciously like, “Lonely… I am so lonely”.

Stiles weakly gave Mr Thompson a thumbs up.

After an agonizing hour, the bell finally rang and the classroom emptied out. Stiles kept his gaze fixed on the worksheet in front of him, ignoring the clip round the ear Clark gave him as he walked by. His efforts were nearly broken as he heard the familiar timbre of Scott’s voice and instinctively went to seek it out. He pulled his attention back to the work just in time. Scott may have broken him, but he’d be damned if he ever let the bastard he used to call his best friend know that.

The sound of Scott’s footsteps stopped. In his periphery, it almost looked like Scott was hesitating by the door. Just as Stiles’ curiosity started to win out over his stubbornness, the shape in the doorway moved on. It probably wasn’t Scott anyway - it wasn’t like Stiles was the one blessed with super hearing.

Stiles had taken to working through his lunch breaks recently. Better than facing the cafeteria and being rejected from any table he tried to sit with. Growing up the ‘weird kid’ with ADHD, Stiles had already had his life supply of public humiliation, thank you very much.

Maybe if he played them off against each other? Sat with the goth kids and told them that the Popular Table didn’t like him very much? They didn’t like him much either, after what he did to Saff Miller in 7th Grade (Stiles still maintained that he couldn’t have possibly known the moth would do that) but maybe their hatred of the Popular Kids would overwhelm that…?

Stiles was so deep in his thoughts, he didn’t notice Mr Thompson approaching him until Stiles felt a hand land on his shoulder. Adrenaline coursed through him at the unexpected touch and suddenly he was back in that basement, feeling Gerard’s hand smack into him. Head ringing. Lip splitting when his ring caught it. The desperate realization that no-one was coming. No-one had even noticed he was gone.

Stiles threw himself away from the hand. His legs got wrapped around the chair and he flailed his way to the floor. 

“Oh my, I’m terribly sorry. Are you okay?” Mr Thompson asked.

He forced himself to breathe steadily. As long as he looked to be breathing normally, he could fake his way through an oncoming panic attack.

“Didn’t see you coming,” he said.

Mr Thompson offered his hand to pull Stiles off the floor. Stiles shuffled back and pushed himself up on his own.

“I wanted to talk to you about class today. I can’t help but notice that you’ve been awfully quiet lately.”

A million mile per hour mouth, Scott had once called it affectionately. But it hadn’t been so affectionate, had it?

"For once in your life, could you just. Shut. Up!"

“Ah well, you know, I’m just really engaging in your lessons. Learning from the master, Mr T!”

As Stiles had predicted, Mr Thompson lit up at Stiles giving him a nickname. Preening slightly, he said, “Well I certainly appreciate that Stiles. But you know, I like it when you contribute to the class. You have really good insights... when you’re on topic. I just want you to know that you can always talk to me. I know it seems “uncool” to talk to your teacher, but if there’s anything going on at home then I want to hear about it.”

“Right,” said Stiles, “I’ll definitely take you up on that offer, you know, if anything happens. But I’m fine, really.”

Hastily, Stiles scraped the contents of his desk into his bag and swung it over his shoulder. As he headed for the door, the teacher called out to him.

“I know you and Scott were always close. You always looked out for him.”

Yeah, he had. But now Fido didn’t need looking after anymore. When Scott grew fangs, he outgrew Stiles.

“I don’t see you two spending time together anymore. That’s natural, sometimes friends grow apart. Maybe it’s time to find some new friends. Or use the time to get to know yourself a little better. Find a new hobby.”

Stiles let the door swing closed behind him.

As Stiles was heading home that night, the fuel gauge on his Jeep dropped into the red. He turned off at the next left and pulled into the gas station. As he stepped out, something on the back of his neck prickled. They were well into fall and the sun was setting earlier everyday. Long shadows enveloped the pumps. For a moment, Stiles’ feet felt welded to the floor. The last time he felt that prickle…

Light catching on Gerard’s ring. The sting of his split lip. Electricity crackling. Smell of burning flesh. Helpless. Pathetic.

"We can’t afford a liability like you in a fight."

Stiles locked his knee, stumbling forward. He couldn’t keep letting Gerard win like this. He refused to give into the need to search for the danger, reaching for the gas pump nozzle instead. As he lifted it out of its slot, he felt a low, rumbling snarl thrum through his chest.

It’s just in your head, he reminded himself. That’s the sound of the pumps.

He shoved the nozzle into the Jeep’s filler cap more roughly than was strictly speaking necessary. The price on the station’s monitor ticked up slowly. Had it always taken this long? The digits glowed a dull red - the same color as an Alpha’s eyes, his brain reminded him unhelpfully.

The snarl echoed through the nearly empty filling station once again. Louder this time, with a distinct snap at the end. Some deep, animalistic prey instinct in Stiles recognized the sound, leaving him with no doubt. This was definitely not just in his head.

He spun on his heel. Across from him, a horrible, misshapen humanoid. Arms that dangled too long, with bony elbow joints that bent backwards. Shoulders that slanted to accommodate the bubbling growth on the side of its neck. Sickly grey skin. Burning yellow dots centered in black eyes.

Stiles was frozen to the spot.

The thing took one labored step forward, and suddenly Stiles’ fight response kicked back in. He flailed backwards and threw himself behind the pump.

Moving with surprising speed for such a broken looking creature, the thing scuttled towards him, sticking its long fingers through the gaps between the pumps. Stiles recoiled, but couldn’t get too far before the gas nozzle - still in his hand - ran out of lead.

The gas nozzle!

Stiles judged the distance between him and his beloved Jeep. Ten feet, maybe. He sucked in a deep breath, then went for it.

Out from behind the pump. The thing ripped its freaky arms back through the gap again. Stiles raised the nozzle. Pressed the trigger. Gasoline splashed onto the cement below. Stiles shoved the nozzle forward, stepping into range of those arms. Managed to hit the thing’s eyes. It screamed, a high-pitched inhuman wail.

Stiles took advantage of its distraction to sprint the rest of the way to his Jeep. He fumbled with the door handle, wrenched open the door and threw himself into the driver’s seat. As he started the ignition, he felt something slimy and cold wrap itself around his ankle. He looked down to find fingers encasing his leg, the thing’s head following. It unhinged its jaw, revealing layers of razor sharp teeth.

Stiles reached for the door and slammed it shut around the thing’s head. Over and over again, panic fueling his muscles, he slammed the door into the side of its face, until eventually its grasp relented. Pulling his leg free, he kicked the creature from his car. Putting the Jeep in gear, he shoved the gas to the floor and fled the station.

The thing’s screeches followed him, but even its unearthly speed couldn’t keep up. Stiles watched it disappear from the rear mirror but his heart was still pounding out of his chest. As he reached his home, rushed inside and deadlocked the door, his limbs started to shake with excess adrenaline.

A hiccuping gasp erupted from him, and suddenly he was laughing. Unstoppable, insane giggling that took him to the floor. 

“A liability in a fight, eh Derek? You should have seen me wield a petrol pump! I sure showed you.”

The giggling slowly subsided. For no apparent reason, the talk he had with Mr Thompson earlier that day sprang to mind.

“You always looked out for him,” he’d said.

Maybe Stiles still could. That thing was still out there. Maybe Scott would have been better in an outright fight, but he’d always been rubbish at the follow-up. If Stiles could work out what it was, what it wanted, and how to get rid of it… he’d show Derek what a ‘liability’ Stiles Stilinski was.

And maybe Scott will take you back, whispered some treacherous part of his mind.

Mr Thompson had suggested he find a new hobby. This wasn’t what he imagined Mr T had in mind, but it could work.

Stiles Stilinski: Monster Hunter.

Chapter Text

Stiles stepped back from his repurposed crime board. In the center, he’d pinned a list of just four items:

  • Grey skin
  • Backwards elbows
  • Bulbous growth on neck
  • Yellow and black eyes

Stretching out from each item, he’d connected lines to as many creatures as he could think of for those descriptors. Bodaks were gaunt and grey, some doppelganger myths said they had long limbs, grey skin and yellow eyes in their natural form… A rakshasa was the closest he’d found to the backwards elbows, with mirrored wrists. Zombies for the neck growth? Stiles sighed and pushed his hand across his scalp, inadvertently drawing on his cheek with the highlighter uncapped in his hand.

“Do I want to know what’s going on?” said his dad, appearing in the doorway.

“Honestly,” said Stiles. “No. I don’t think you do.”

Stiles’ dad nodded, and then paused. They both struggled for something to say. The Sheriff’s eyes slid away every time he tried to make eye contact.

After the butchering of Beacon Hills PD (thanks Jackson, you scaly jerk), the Sheriff had been put back on the job. Unfortunately for Stiles, it was too little too late. Seeing his son battered and bruised - supposedly over a lacrosse scuffle - had diminished the anger, but not healed their connection. Stiles could see it in his eyes: the Sheriff was at a loss of what to do with his delinquent son.

I did this for you Scott, he thought, grief ripping through him. I made my dad hate me for your sake, and then you chucked me away anyway.

Stiles felt the threat of tears burning behind his eyes and pretended to bury himself back in his paperwork.

“Right then,” said the Sheriff, “I’m on the night shift tonight. I’ve got a microwavable burger for you downstairs. Don’t get into any trouble while I’m gone.”

“Be careful, okay?” said Stiles, squeezing his dad in a tight hug. “Even more than normal. You don’t know what might be out there tonight.”

Stiles’ dad pushed him back, hands on Stiles’ shoulders so that he could look him dead in the eye.

“Do you have something you want to tell me, son?”

“I just have a gut feeling, that’s all. Maybe even a spleen feeling, and we all know my spleen is never wrong. Ask Mrs Waverly - my spleen predicted her cat’s death a whole two weeks before.”

“If someone has threatened you or me, or made you feel in any way unsafe, I need you to tell me.”

“Daaaad. Trust the spleen!”

“Well, if your spleen remembers anything else that might help, you call me immediately, okay?”

“Will do! Now go, be safe, and don’t you dare stop for a fatty breakfast at Uncle Joe’s Diner.”

“Will your spleen rat on me for that too?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. That’s obviously a pancreas job.”

The next morning, Stiles had a lot of highlighter pen marks on him and his room, but not a lot more progress on the case. He also had a painful crick in the back from falling asleep at his detective-ing desk.

Blearily, he checked his watch. 30 minutes left before school. Grumbling, he made his way downstairs to brew a strong pot of coffee.

“Hey kiddo.”

“Jesus!” Stiles yelped, spinning round to see his dad lurking in the corner of the kitchen. Seriously, was creepy lurking contagious? If so, Stiles needed to quarantine Derek as he was clearly patient zero.

“Still working on your project?” asked his dad.

“What makes you think that?”

The Sheriff leaned forward and plucked a piece of paper reading ‘Grimlock???’ from behind Stiles’ ear.

“Walk me through it,” the Sheriff said.

“Through what?”

“Your project. When I get stuck on a case, I try to explain it to someone new and that often unblocks me.”

Stiles considered his answer as he dumped three sugars into his coffee. He couldn’t involve his dad any more than absolutely necessary, but... he missed him a lot. This seemed like relatively neutral ground.

“Say theoretically I was trying to identify a specific monster-”

“A perfectly normal pastime for a 16 year old.”

“-but there’s thousands of myths and bits of folklore. And I have no idea where to start or which ones are…” Stiles caught himself before he could say ‘real’, “...important.”

“When I’m working on a case that draws upon a specific set of knowledge, I don’t try to swallow the entirety of Wikipedia. I ask other people that have already done the Wikipedia-ing. Talk to the experts in that field.”

The experts here would have to be the Argents, but even if Chris seemed to have temporarily rejected the dark side of the Force, there was no way Stiles would trust him. Not to mention, talking to them would mean going back into the house where…

Electricity. Burning. Blood. Yeah, no.

“And what if the experts already hate me?”

The Sheriff facepalmed, but Stiles spotted the corners of his mouth turn up in spite of himself.

His dad said, “Then I would go to their rivals. Sometimes when the rivalry is strong enough, that can work in your favor.”

Well, it wouldn’t be hard to find an enemy of the Argents, that was for sure. Burning down houses tended not to endear people to you. They’d been hunting all over the country. It’d be hard to find a corner of the map they hadn’t pissed off.

Shooting to his feet, Stiles said, “Wait, I think I’ve got an idea! Thanks dad, you’re awesome!”

He dumped the rest of his coffee into the sink. He charged round the house with the grace of a rampaging bull, gathering supplies for a trip.

“You’re welcome. But don’t forget you have a full day of school to focus on before you can follow up on that lead.”

Stiles’ excitement drained out of him in one moment.

His dad fixed him with a firm look. “I don’t want to hear any of your teachers say you weren’t in class today, or Mr Pancreas might find out that I spent the whole morning in Uncle Joe’s.”

Stiles gasped. “You wouldn’t.”

“Are you willing to risk it?”

“You sadistic mastermind,” Stiles said admiringly.

“It’s a Stilinski special.”

Stiles made it two whole periods before skipping out on a class. Honestly, his father should appreciate his restraint.

After sneaking into the Reception (humming the Mission Impossible tune the whole way), he pulled out the key to the back room where the school records were held. Stiles had got the key cloned years ago - you never knew when you were going to need to subtly alter a file. He pulled out the draw marked ‘A’ and began leafing through the files. Abbott, Ackles, Anderson… Argent.

He flipped past her test scores and teachers’ comments. There it was: the record of every school Allison had ever attended. He snapped a photo on his cell and turned to leave. As he cracked open the door, he hesitated, then turned back and pulled open the files under ‘J’. Pulling out one file belonging to a certain Clark Johnson, he carefully turned all his passing grades into failing ones. Fucker.

Vindictive revenge completed, he sequestered himself in the boys’ toilets down the hall. It was a simple matter to cross-reference Allison’s academic history with unusual incidents in local newspapers across the US. Before long, Stiles had a pretty good picture of the Argents’ movements over the last 10 years. It wasn’t a very flattering picture.

It was depressingly common to find incidences where an entire family was found dead, or never found at all, shortly after the Argents moved to town. Some of the articles were preceded by months of ‘animal attacks’, but a heartbreaking amount seemed to have coexisted peacefully until the hunters tracked them down.

Finally, Stiles hit the jackpot. In June 2008, three members of the Velazquez family were shot dead in Ferndale, California. Their killers were never found. In August 2008, Allison Argent left Ferndale High and moved across the country to Indiana.

The article covering the unsolved murders said that they left behind a grieving wife and mother: Mariana Velazquez. A woman who would be in the know, and with a definite reason to side against the Argents. A quick Google-fu revealed she was still alive and even where she worked (people needed to get better at turning on their Facebook privacy settings).

Best of all? Ferndale was only 2 hours from Beacon Hills. He could make it there and back in a day.

Chapter Text

Stiles took a giant bite out of the burrito he’d bought from the vendor down the street. Sauce dripped down onto Roscoe’s steering wheel, and he hastily wiped it down with the hem of his shirt. If his experiences with the supernatural had taught him one thing, it was that stake-outs weren’t as exciting as they seemed on TV. At least when he had done these in the past, he had been able to pass the time playing games or chatting shit with Scott, but now…

I’m tired of your hyperactive, clingy, needy bullshit!

That was a dangerous line of thought. In the hours that he had been here, he had been trying to distract himself from going down that road by any means necessary - extra research, listening to an audiobook, catching up on homework. Unfortunately, cooped up in his Jeep, his ADHD had been worse than ever. After the seventh time he had to restart his audiobook because he realized he hadn’t been listening, he admitted defeat.

Shortly after tracking down Mariana, he had driven out to Ferndale, parking opposite the law firm where she worked. His plan had been to wait until everyone headed home at 5. He just hadn’t factored in how boooring the wait was.

Stiles stuffed the remainder of the burrito into his mouth. He opened the door to the Jeep and jumped out. Maybe if he took a quick walk down the street, he could burn off some of his nervous energy? That was what his mum used to do with him when she noticed his rocking and fidgeting become more obvious than usual.

He looped round the burrito stall and was just getting back to Roscoe when he saw a woman step out of the building across the street. She looked to be in her late-sixties, with shoulder-length grey hair. Any notion of weakness that came with old age, however, would be quickly disabused with one look at her steely gaze or purposeful stride. Stiles shivered at the thought of facing her across a courtroom.

He quickly ducked behind his Jeep, peeking through the window as she walked past. Keeping a good distance behind her, he began to trail her home. There were a couple of close calls, but he managed to dive out of sight just in time. Finally, she took a right into a small alleyway off the main road. He resisted the urge to jog up and make sure he didn’t lose her, wandering down with exaggerated casualness instead.

He turned into the alley. Suddenly, he felt his body fly through the air, colliding with the rough brickwork behind him. Two burning red eyes shone through the shadows. Pinpricks of pain across his throat indicated that the hand pinning him to the wall already had claws out.

“What is it with you people and pinning me against walls?” Stiles choked out. “Do I look like it’s my kink or something?”

“Who are you?” growled Mariana.

“Please don’t kill me, I’m just your friendly neighborhood Stiles-man.”

The claws bit deeper into his skin. The blood dripping down his neck sent chills through Stiles. If he died here, no-one would even realize he was gone for a few days. He was completely on his own. No friends, no pack, no backup.

“Seriously,” Stiles babbled, “I mean you no harm, I was just looking for some help and I saw you in a newspaper and I thought you were a werewolf, which, hey, looks like I was right about that, and I thought you might like to help me because it would piss off the Argents and-”

“The Argents?” Mariana leaned in close, her hot breath fanning over Stiles. “What connection do you have to the Argents?”

Stiles took a shallow breath.

“I’m from Beacon Hills. My best friend is a werewolf. The Argents tried to kill him. I need your help.”

Not exactly the full story, but all the individual elements were true. Well, except the best friend thing, maybe. But Scott could still be Stiles’ best friend without the reverse being true.

Your hyperactive, clingy, needy bullshit!

Mariana’s hand didn’t relinquish its hold, but the nails retracted.

“I don’t mess with Argents,” she said.

“You don’t need to. I just need some information about a monster. Creature! I’m not saying that all supernatural creatures are monsters, obviously. That would be super racist. And I’m not racist! Did I mention that my best friend is a werewolf?”

Stiles managed to stop himself from talking, sadly a couple of sentences too late. The werewolf held his gaze for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, the pressure on his neck let up.

“Come with me,” she said.

Stiles balanced himself on the cold metal stool, breathing in the smell of roasted coffee beans. The shop was fairly quiet, with the gentle bubble of conversations being buoyed along by some sort of Arcade Fire soundalike on the radio. The coffee shop was bathed in warm ambient lighting from exposed filament bulbs hanging from the ceiling.

“Seriously? I mean, it’s better than the alleyway where - and I don’t mean to be gross here but I have to be real with you - I’m pretty sure someone peed recently, but I didn’t really take you for the type of person that visited ‘The Bean Box’.”

“Oh, and why is that?”

Stiles stumbled for an answer that didn’t involve the words, ‘Because you’re old’. After a couple of seconds of stammering, he noticed the barest hint of a smile at the edge of her mouth. He pointed at her accusingly.

“You’re setting me up for disaster, whatever I say, aren’t you!”

“You stalked me. Very obviously, I might add. I think a little awkwardness is fair play.”

Mutely, Stiles nodded.

“Now, why don’t you tell me exactly what you are doing here… and you should hope that I like what I hear.”

So Stiles outlined everything he had worked through on the case so far, making sure to play up the war between the Pack and the Argents along the way. He grabbed a paper towel from the table and sketched the creature from his memories.

She took the sketch and studied it for a few moments. She slid it back across the table to him.

“Do you know what can cause yellow eyes?” she asked.

“Lycanthropy, possession, a glamour?” he rattled off.

“Sure. Also: jaundice.”

Stiles stared at her. “This wasn’t just a sick human.”

“No, but it might be a sick supernatural,” she said. “Maybe the reason you can’t see all these features in one species is that it’s an atypical example of that species.”

Stiles’ mind exploded with possibilities. Monsters he’d rejected out of hand, creatures that had seemed to so nearly fit the profile, all back on the board. He wanted to be back with his crime board and red string right now.

“Hold on,” said Stiles, “if that’s true… that doesn’t narrow the field at all. It makes it wider. What do I do now?”

“I would suggest you hand over to the experts. You’re, what, fourteen?”


“Sixteen. You should be in school, not hunting monsters. Just ask for some help at the next Assembly, and stop stalking rival Alphas in their territories.”

“What Assembly?”

She gave him a sharp look. “Where did you say you came from again?”

“Beacon Hills.”

She massaged her brow. “Beacon Hills. That used to be Hale land, correct?”

Stiles didn’t know where she was going with this, so he held her gaze and tried not to give anything away.

Mariana continued, “As in, the Hales that died in the house fire? Meaning you and your friend are packless.”

Packless didn’t sound good. Packless sounded weak and defenseless. Mrs Velazquez had been helpful so far but she was still an Alpha. A successful one at that, to have reached her age. Stiles had kept much of the details about Scott, Derek and the rest of the Pack to himself. Perhaps he was being paranoid, but those details weren’t his to share anyway. However, he had to make things clear now – Stiles couldn’t have her thinking the Hale land was up for grabs.

“Scott is not packless.”

She looked at him consideringly. “I suppose not. However, it looks like a lot of our knowledge and traditions, which are typically passed down from Alpha to Alpha, have been lost. The Assembly is the meeting of all the Alphas in California territories.”

“And they’ll help me?”

“If you come to the next Assembly and reclaim the title of the Hale Pack.”

She took a sip from her cup. “I’ll even vouch for your claim,” she added. “ As a one time favour. One. Time. But don’t come into my territory without permission first ever again.”

“I thought you said the Assemblies were for Alphas?”

“They are. But you wouldn’t be the first human Alpha we’ve seen. Being the Alpha is more than these,” she said, letting her brown eyes bleed red, “it’s simply being the leader of the pack.”

“I’m not a human Alpha.”

She smiled. Fangs glinted in the light. “You alone came out here and stood toe-to-toe with me in order to protect your pack. Most people would be terrified.”

“I was,” Stiles said, putting his hand to the scabs ringing his neck.

“Sure. And then you followed me to a coffee shop and ordered a latte with me. Trust me: you’re an Alpha.”

Chapter Text

By the time Stiles pulled into his driveway, his head was buzzing with ideas. He’d spent so long bumbling around in the dark, relying on Wikipedia and badly written Twilight fanfiction for his werewolf information. To suddenly meet someone like Mariana was like a starving man being thrown a feast.

He should turn over the information to Derek. Derek was the Alpha, Derek was the one who should go to the California Assembly. But Stiles couldn’t help thinking about what Derek had said before throwing him out of the Pack meeting.

“You think that makes you in any way valuable? Anyone can sit at a computer and google stuff. We don’t need you.”

If he was going to prove to them that he was useful, he needed to give them something better than information. Something like the creature’s head on a stick.

Stiles slipped his keys into the lock and gave the door the special jiggle that helped it open first time. He chucked his schoolbag into the porch and headed straight for the kitchen.

“Hey dad!” he said, as he passed the dining room.

“Hi Stiles, how was school?”

“Good, good,” Stiles said, rooting around in the back of the cupboard for the Tangfastics he hid there.

“And how was Economics? I heard there’s a test coming up.”

“Oh yeah, the lesson was fascinating.”

The Sheriff stood behind him. Stiles craned his neck up to see his dad towering above him, arms crossed.

“That’s interesting,” the Sheriff said, “given that Finstock says you never showed.”

The bottom of Stiles’ stomach dropped out. Abandoning the Tangfastic pursuit, he scrambled up to his feet.

“That’s entrapment, you can’t do that, I’m totally going to sue you for entrapment of your own son!”

“You lied to me.”

“Technically, I never lied.”

His dad raised one eyebrow.

“I didn’t! I said the lesson was fascinating - and there’s nothing to say that it wasn’t. I just wasn’t there for the fascinating lesson.”

“Care to tell me where you were during this “fascinating” Economics lesson?”

Stiles bit his lip. The Sheriff sighed and sunk into a chair. He rubbed his eyes.

“Why couldn’t you just stay in school?” his dad muttered quietly.


“A young man was murdered today. ME places time of death at around 4pm. Same time as I find out you weren’t in school this afternoon.”

Beacon Hills wasn’t that big a town - the murder had to be linked to the creature he was hunting. 

“Awesome! Well, not awesome, obviously, terrible in fact. Grieving family, life cut short, etc.,” said Stiles. He bounced on the balls of his feet. “Any chance you brought the crime scene photos home with you?”

The Sheriff threw his fist out sideways, slamming into the door frame. “Dammit Stiles! This is serious!”

“I know, I’m being serious too. Did you bring home any photos?”

The Sheriff advanced on Stiles, fury still contorting his face. Stiles instinctively stepped back. His dad’s hands reached for Stiles, and for a moment Stiles thought he might actually hit him. The Sheriff held him tightly by the shoulders.

“Just… tell me what you’ve got mixed up in,” the Sheriff begged. His voice was hoarse. His eyes were red round the edges and the bags under his eyes aged him. “Is it drugs? I can deal with drugs, but you have to let me in. Whatever the problem is, I promise I can make it go away.”

“You can’t make this go away Dad.”

“I’m the fucking Sheriff. If I can’t even look after my own son, then what’s the point?”

Stiles stared mutely. He’d never seen his father swear before. The kitchen was silent but for the sound of his dad breathing heavily.

The Sheriff stretched out the hand he had punched the doorway with and grimaced quietly. Stiles opened the freezer and pulled out a bag of frozen peas. He wrapped it in a dishcloth and silently offered it to his dad.

The Sheriff took the peas and pressed them to the swelling. He cradled the hand to his chest.

“Tell me where you were today Stiles.”

“Why? It’s not like I had anything to do with the murder.” The Sheriff said nothing, and Stiles felt sick to his stomach. “That’s what you think, isn’t it? You think I killed him.”

“I don’t think you killed him.”

“Fine, then you think I helped someone else kill him. How could you even think that? You know me!”

“Do I? Sometimes I look at you, and I don’t recognize you anymore. It’s been months, and you still haven’t explained locking Jackson up, or leaving Lydia to bleed out at the Prom, or the dozens of times I’ve been at a crime scene and, surprise surprise, you’ve been there.”

Stiles snarled and shrugged his coat back on.

“Fine,” he said, “If that’s how little you think of me. I’m going out. Don’t wait up, I’ll be busy murdering people all night.”

“Stiles, don’t you dare walk out that door. Stiles!”

Stiles’ dramatic exit was marred somewhat as he nearly tripped on the washing basket. He kicked it out of the way, sending it flying down the hall.

His dad yelled after him, “You are going to be in so much trouble when you get back. You’ll be grounded so long your grandchildren will be working off your sentence.”

After that got no response, he continued, “Grounded means no phone, no laptop, no Scott.”

That was the thing that finally got Stiles to pause. No Scott. As if Scott had been by the house once since summer break. Stiles turned slowly on his heel.

“If you can’t see what’s wrong with that sentence, then maybe you’re right. You don’t know me anymore.”

Stiles needed to get drunk. Fast. His dad didn’t trust him, his best friend hated him, he’d nearly died twice over the past two days, and fucking Gerard wouldn’t leave his head. What was the matter with him? Gerard was a doddering old man, and it had only been a few punches. It shouldn’t have shaken him this much. He just... felt so powerless. Vulnerable. Weak. Gerard had sought to teach Scott a lesson, but Stiles had learnt it instead.

You can’t protect yourself. And when you needed Scott most, he chose not to protect you either.

So yeah, Stiles needed to get drunk. Which was a problem when you were underage, and also the Sheriff’s only son. Luckily, Stiles knew just the girl. He scrolled down to B in his phone contacts and sent a quick text to Black Pepper.

Stiles | Sent 09:28 PM
Major SOS. Need some drinks stat! Can you get me into the Jungle tonight?

Pepper | Sent 09:31 PM
oh bambi u poor thing :(
i’d love to help but u know its gonna cost ya

Stiles | Sent 09:31 PM
I know. And I’m willing to make you an offer: full face of makeup. No costumes.

Pepper | Sent 09:32 PM
but i have the perfect one in mind T-T
you’ll love it i promise

Stiles | Sent 09:33 PM
You drive a hard bargain
Fine. But no heels!

The night they chased Jackson to the nightclub, one of the drag queens, Pepper, had given Stiles her number. She had complimented him on his strong cheekbones and big eyes and told him to contact her if he ever wanted to experiment with drag. He’d kept the number in his back pocket until the night of Lydia’s party.

Since then, he’d stayed in contact. Nothing serious, just sharing the odd meme. Pepper was fun and light and nothing to do with teenage drama or things that went boo in the night. And if occasionally it was nice to flirt with defying heteronormative ideals - well, everyone knows that high school is a breeding group for toxic masculinity. It was a breath of fresh air to make jokes and not have to worry who would hear.

(Pepper had taught him the phrase ‘toxic masculinity’. She’d regretted it when he texted her a 5,000 word rant about it the following week.)  

Stiles’ phone bleeped in his hand.

Pepper | Sent 09:58 PM
come round the back way

The music pounded loudly, the bass physically thumping through Stiles’ body. Bright strobe lights highlighted the intertwining mess of bodies on the dance floor. Stiles struggled his way through the crowd towards the bar. The room was filled with the stale stink of sweat and cigarette smoke. Stiles leant on the wooden countertop, quickly retracting his arm as he felt the sticky surface. He flagged down the bartender and ordered the drink he thought would get him hammered quickest - a Kamikaze shot.

He dug into his wallet and pulled out ten bucks. He stretched out his arm to hand over the money. A cool hand wrapped around his.

“Keep your money,” rumbled a deep voice next to his ear. His accent was… Irish? Stiles shivered as he felt the stranger’s breath fan over his face. “This one’s on me.”

Stiles turned to see a tall man with a sharp face, tousled black hair and glinting green eyes. He had emerald glitter along his cheekbones and running in patterns down his arms. The corner of his mouth was quirked in a half-smile. The young man leaned against the bar, exuding confidence in his casual sprawl.

Holy shit. He was hitting on Stiles. A whole club of scorching hot guys and he picked Stiles ? Stiles should save him some time and tell him he was straight. It was the right thing to do.

“Thanks. What’s your name?” Stiles asked, trying desperately to look relaxed.

What was he doing? He was leading the poor man on! It just felt so nice to be the center of someone’s attention - it had been a while since he’d had anyone want to spend time with him. It felt good to be wanted.

“My name’s Morgan.” He pushed the Kamikaze shot into Stiles’ hand. “What’s yours?”

“Stiles. Stiles Stilinski. But everyone just calls me Stiles. Except for my coach, he calls me Biles, long story,” Stiles said.

“You don’t look like you’re having much fun tonight.”

Stiles rolled the shot glass between his fingers, trying not to spill any. “Is it that obvious?”

“You ignored everyone in the club and headed straight for the bar, alone. I’d say so. Wanna talk about it?”

The way he looked at Stiles, it felt like he actually wanted to hear about Stiles’ day. Morgan pulled one leg up onto the bar stool with him and leaned into Stiles’ space conspiratorially.

“I had a massive fight with my dad,” said Stiles, “and normally I’d go hang out with my best friend to cool down, but he’s kind of not talking to me right now.”


“I don’t know,” Stiles said miserably. “I’m not sure what I did, except be me, you know.”

Morgan put his hand over Stiles’, stopping him rolling the shot. “For what it’s worth, Stiles Stilinski, you seem pretty cool to me.”

“You don’t even know me,” Stiles said, chuckling.

“Maybe I’d like to,” he said, so seriously that Stiles was lost for words. “Now, I have the perfect cure for your rough day - come dance with me.”

Morgan sashayed into the crowd. Stiles wrestled with himself for a moment, then downed his shot and chased after him. He squeezed between two couples and back onto the dance floor. Morgan’s face lit up as he saw that Stiles had followed him.

The music was pounding some club remix of the hottest pop songs. Stiles flung himself into the beat, jumping and swinging his arms wildly. Morgan grinned at him and grabbed his wrist just before he hit someone’s eye. Then, he moved both hands to rest on the back of Stiles’ neck. Stiles shivered at the cool touch. Morgan pulled him in so they swayed in unison. His green eyes were fixed on Stiles like he was the only thing in the world that mattered.

Stiles could feel the thrum of the music connecting him through to the mass of people all moving together. The heat of the crowd contrasting with the two hands gently resting against his neck. His mind, which had been simmering with rage and grief for months, finally going quiet. The fight with his father felt years away. All that was left was this moment, in this club, in Morgan’s arms.

Morgan licked his lips and Stiles’ eyes were drawn to the motion. Unconsciously, he leaned in closer. Morgan’s shallow breath fluttered across Stiles’ skin. He smelled almost sickly sweet. Stiles let his eyes shut and moved to close the gap between them.