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[personal profile] metisket

“Fun fact!” Laura carols, bounding into Derek’s room and onto his bed, arranging herself cross-legged in the middle with a grin. “Stiles is terrified of Uncle Peter.”

Derek spins his desk chair to face her. “Of Peter? Why?”

“Oh, of course he told me the whole story. Because Stiles is so forthcoming with information. Haha! Ha. No. Actually, I wasn’t there for the show, but Mom says he apologized and claimed he was reacting to the wrong person. I don’t understand him. He knows we can hear lying.”

Derek is pretty sure that’s the point. “Exactly. We know he’s lying, so it doesn’t count as lying. It’s his way of telling you to mind your own business without actually telling you to mind your own business.”

“Gosh,” Laura drawls, amused. “Someone’s paying attention.”

Derek glares.

“Nana Thea loves him, though,” Laura continues, unmoved. “She wants to adopt him and bite him and keep him for our own, which, I think you’ll find, is what I said right from the start.”

“Because you and Nana are the same person.”

“We are not! We disagree sometimes!”

“Over what? Milk or dark chocolate?”

“Among other things!”

“What did he say about the wards, anyway?”

Laura looks down and picks at a loose thread on Derek’s comforter. “I guess…it sounds like he lost friends—his old pack maybe?—to fire.”

Derek sucks air in through his teeth, imagining that despite himself, sickened with the imagining of it.

“I know,” Laura agrees quietly. “Peter says he acts like he’s been through a war.”

“But…he’s the sheriff’s son. They must have lived here for years, right?”

“You’d think so.” Laura scowls in confusion. “I can find out. Are his parents divorced? Maybe he was living with his mother.”

“Maybe.” Laura works at the County Clerk’s office, and the number of things she can find out about people is terrifying. Also largely illegal, but that doesn’t seem to bother her when she’s curious.

“Peter says Stiles is worried about the omegas, too. Apparently we’re the most stable supernatural power in the area, so he wants us to stick around. He’s preparing for something.”

“For what?”

“Mom says he doesn’t seem sure. She’s worried.”

“She was worried before.”

“Yeah, well, now she’s really worried. Oh! And she’s giving Stiles chores.”

Derek has to grin at that, despite the general grimness of the conversation. “Chores?”

“Yeah. She’s making him get rid of the pixies.”

“Oh, that’s not even fair.”

“Yeah, that’s pretty much what Stiles said.”

Derek snorts and shakes his head, thinking over the mess of confusion their lives have become this year. “Are they giving Stiles the pixies because the pixies have something to do with the omegas?”

“I’d think so,” Laura says thoughtfully. “Seems a waste of him, otherwise. Maybe they want independent confirmation that they’re related?”

Derek sighs and rubs a hand over his face. “What the hell is going on, Laura?”

“Well, baby brother, we have no clue. That’s kind of the problem.”

* * *

Stiles really, really hates pixies. He has just cause, too—he’s run the gamut of bad pixie experiences. In fact, in the last month of his life-before-here, he probably spent more mental energy hating pixies than he did worrying about Peter, Gerard, the alphas, and even the end of the world as he knew it. Mostly because death by pixie would make such a stupid obituary.

The kicker is that pixies are really easy to kill individually. But hey, so are cockroaches, and they’re still around. This Beacon Hills also having a pixie infestation is maybe the most unfair thing that’s happened to Stiles so far.

But whatever, he still needs to look into it. Eventually. Tonight, his biggest worries are his high school social problems and how to get himself home. (If he could manage to get home before he had to deal with the pixie thing? That would be fantastic, and he wouldn’t feel remotely guilty. Yes, he’s a terrible person; no, he doesn’t care.)

So, okay. High school drama. From the look of the unhappy emails, other!Stiles was being blackmailed. Over porn. Stiles is increasingly unimpressed with other!Stiles.

He can see how it happened, though. Oh yes he can, he can see it bigger than life. Sometimes he falls into a line of research, see, and then he has to know. At least fifty percent of the time, once he knows, he’s sorry he ever asked, but that never slows him down. That’s why he knows about Spanish Inquisition torture techniques, the gory details of Ebola (with visual aids), and the complete history of male circumcision. He’s positive this fiasco fits into that category.

Other!Stiles probably stumbled across something that referenced, who knew, bondage techniques, maybe, and then felt insanely compelled to learn everything about it. Picking through the remaining emails, it looks like he was determined to own a specific 1974 Japanese illustrated magazine that never made it online—not on any English-speaking websites anyway—and was the first of its kind or something. And Jordan is, unfortunately, the only person Stiles knows who would have access to that kind of thing in hard copy. Since there’s no sign of the magazine in any of the usual hiding places, it must’ve freaked other!Stiles out so much that he destroyed it, probably with fire. (And what he’s gathered here is that no version of himself ever learns.)

The emails are missing for the next part, but going by the later ones, Jordan must’ve said he could prove that the sheriff’s son had been in possession of this shady shit, or maybe he threatened to plant more, which would be exactly why it was unwise to get on Jordan’s radar in the first place. So, blackmail. Not for money, seemingly, but just as leverage to make other!Stiles run embarrassing and/or borderline illegal errands and go through with a lot of outrageously stupid hazing-type shit in front of all of Jordan’s creepy friends, which at least explains the asking-Veronica-to-prom debacle. Honestly, the lack of creativity is disappointing. Stiles is disappointed.

And saddest of all, in response to the blackmailing, other!Stiles appears to have freaked the hell out, cut off most of his contact with Scott to minimize collateral damage, and then folded like a house of cards. Wow.

Great! So it’s not that other!Stiles wasn’t lying to Dad, it’s just that he was doing a better job. Though, being fair, blackmail: much easier to hide than full-on supernatural warfare. Stiles did the best he could.

He’d like to judge his universe twin harshly for this, but sadly, he does get how it happened. And blackmail was clearly the worst thing going in other!Stiles’s life at the time. He lacked perspective.

Well, unfortunately for them, these blackmailing assholes are dealing with a new, more damaged Stiles now, and they have no idea what they’ve let themselves in for. They’re lucky they haven’t tried anything on him personally yet, and also that Stiles doesn’t have the time to get very invested in this. If he had time, he knows he’d take it way too far, just to burn off excess energy.

But in view of the time crunch, he limits himself to going shopping, buying a lot of steak, magically inducing said steaks to stay warm and bleed constantly for the next week, wrapping them all in plastic, and mailing them to everyone involved with a pleasant little note on the subject of why they should leave him alone. In blood. Oh yeah. He may cackle a little while he’s doing it.

Aaaand problem solved. This trick wouldn’t work on someone like his Peter, but these are high school losers, not legitimate psychopaths. They’ll almost definitely be weirded out enough by this to stop. And if they’re not? Stiles wouldn’t mind escalating. If that’s how they want to play it.

So that’s the easy problem down. Now on to the life and death problems, always more complicated, never as fun to solve.

He pulls out a few books he snaked from the Hales when they weren’t paying attention and proceeds to beat his head against them for the next five hours. By then he has learned nothing about anything that would cause omegas to go crazy, nothing about universe jumping, and nothing about compatible bodies at all, let alone universe jumping with one.

Also nothing about pixie-eradication, but that, at least, is no surprise, because Stiles is pretty sure pixies are the most resilient species on earth.

It’s always nice when he puts in insane amounts of effort for what turns out to be a total waste of time.

On the upside, he finds when he gets back to school that the bloody steaks seem to have fixed his Jordan problem like…well. Like magic.

“Dude,” Scott says as they walk toward the locker room for lacrosse practice and Brandon-with-rage-issues bolts into a classroom to avoid them. “Did you see that? That’s like the third person today who’s taken one look at you and run the other way.”

“So it is, Scott. So it is.”

“It’s like they’re terrified of you!”

“And they should be. I am a lot crazier than your regularly scheduled Stiles.”

“What did you do to them?”

“Nothing too bad, don’t worry. No high school students were harmed in the making of this life lesson! C’mon, we’re gonna be late for practice.”

“Stiles—”

“Scott.”

Stiles, what did you do?

“I figured out why your Stiles was avoiding you. And then I retaliated. Problem solved.”

“O…kay, that tells me absolutely nothing.”

“Seriously, don’t worry about it. I can tell when I’ve gone too far, and I haven’t. It’s cool.”

Scott, the traitor, seems dubious about that. “How do you know when you’ve gone too far?”

Stiles gives that serious consideration; it’s a fair question. “I guess…I figure, if this would make Scott cry, it’s going too far.”

“…Because if it would make me cry, it would be wrong.”

Well. Technically, no. Because if it would make Scott cry, it would make Scott cry, and that is to be avoided. End of story. But saying things like that out loud is incriminating. “Sure.”

“You’re lying.”

“More often than not, yeah.”

“Stiles. Am I, like, your entire moral compass or something?”

“No!”

“Really?”

“…Dad helps?”

Scott shakes his head incredulously. He needs to not get worked up about this, though, because people with overly flexible morality are definitely drawn to him. Stiles, Isaac, Derek. Allison. Oh God, so much Allison. It’s not impossible that they were all using Scott as a moral compass. And the fact that he doesn’t understand the need for that is part of what makes him a good person.

Fortunately the conversation is interrupted at this point by their arrival in the locker room with all kinds of people who might want to participate in said conversation, which, Stiles has learned the hard way, never ends well.

Stiles has learned that, but apparently Scott hasn’t, because the silence only lasts until Stiles starts to pull his shirt off.

“Where the hell did you get that?!” Scott hisses loudly, and Stiles jerks his shirt back down in a panic before anybody looks over and starts asking incredibly awkward questions. God, he hadn’t realized how spoiled he was—his Scott had his own not-open-for-discussion tattoos, and would never have done this to Stiles.

“Deaton,” Stiles sighs.

Dr. Deaton gave you that?” Knowing that doesn’t seem to be making Scott feel any better.

“Yeah.”

Why?

“It’s, you know, magical.”

“It’s creepy, dude. It’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever seen. Ever. Including the maggot thing.”

“It is not as creepy as the maggot thing.”

“…Yeah, okay, nothing is as creepy as the maggot thing. But it’s close!”

The tattoo starts between Stiles’s shoulder blades and goes halfway down his spine; it’s a stylized image of a person blindfolded, gagged, and bound with ropes—one rope for each family line the tattooed person is bound to, the frayed ends of the ropes corresponding to the individuals. This Deaton chose a person tied to an old tree, Norse mythology style. Stiles’s Deaton had gone with the Christian cross. But technically one story contributed to the other, right? Maybe if Stiles jumps universes again, he’ll end up with a Deaton who likes Prometheus and a tattoo of a guy tied to a rock. Get some actual variety up in here.

“What is it for?” Scott wants to know. Or, no, he doesn’t want to know—he just feels like he has to ask.

“Nothing, just—you know, keeping an eye on my favorite people.”

“…Am I one of your favorite people?”

Yes, Scott.”

“So that means you’re keeping an eye on me? With the creepy tattoo? You’re keeping a creepy tattoo on me? Wait—”

“Stop. Stop before you hurt yourself. And, I guess…kind of? Not a literal eye. It’s more just…I have a feel for how you’re doing.” And he’s also bound, which means he’s helpless against everyone he’s bound to, unable to fight back physically or magically even if they decide to kill him. Not that he’s planning on advertising that.

He can still fight back verbally, though, and since that’s the only way he’d ever fight against these people anyway, he’s good with it.

Scott, because he’s Scott, just shakes his head like he’s trying to shake this whole conversation out of it, and starts deliberately pulling out his gear and putting it on. This is all too bizarre to deal with right now, so he’s dropping it. “You’re still coming over after practice, right?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, feeling kind of dopey with fondness for his goof of a best friend. “Definitely. Got a couple things to do first, but I should be over around five?”

“Cool.”

The way Scott can reduce nightmarishly disturbing information down to a minor personal inconvenience is possibly Stiles’s favorite thing about him.

* * *

Derek is once again lurking in the high school parking lot, not feeling a lot better about himself than the last time. At least Stiles has practice today, so the only kids coming out of the school and staring at him are the athletes. Smaller number of stares, but on the other hand, longer stares, because there’s less going on to distract them. On second thought, no, this still sucks.

It was Laura’s idea again. Of course it was. Derek should make a list of all the ways in which Laura’s existence ruins his life. It would be a long list. So very long.

Stiles appears eventually, the same dark-haired kid as last time walking next to him. He waves the kid off and strolls happily over to Derek, smiling. A group of kids with lacrosse sticks stare at them, whispering. Stiles spins to watch them for a second, then turns back, shaking his head. “They think you’re cool,” he whispers, aware that Derek can hear him.

“That’s why they’re staring at me?” Derek demands, incredulous.

“I know, right?” Stiles agrees. “Your cool guy reputation is a mystery to me, also. Surprisingly hilarious, though.”

Derek laughs, because it’s always been hilarious to him, but it’s rare for other people to see the humor in it. It’s like—these people have clearly never seen him with his mom. Or his sisters, for that matter.

Stiles beams at him, disproportionately pleased. “Right? You’ve got the look, I guess—although you could use more stubble—”

“Laura doesn’t approve of stubble.”

“Proving my point, which is: you don’t walk the walk, man. You don’t even try. How do you swing this alleged coolness? Is it just the pretty face? It’s totally the face, isn’t it.”

Derek shrugs. It may, in fact, be the face.

“Oh my god, were you popular in high school?” Stiles presses, highly entertained, maybe a little horrified.

“I guess.”

“So…where are your high school friends now?”

“Around, I don’t know. They went to college, but I just started working. I see some of them around town, but I lost touch with most of them. They didn’t know anything about me, anyway.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, nodding wisely. “You were the lonely popular kid.”

Like that’s even a thing. “What.”

“The lonely popular kid! Everybody liked you because of the face and your freaky werewolf skills, but nobody knew you were a werewolf. Nobody knew the real you. You were a living after school special.” He smiles faintly and mutters, “You always are.” It’s not clear if he still remembers that Derek can hear him.

“It’s not like I was actually lonely,” Derek insists, indignant. “I didn’t need them. I have my pack. Why would I need anybody else?”

Stiles is staring at him like that’s the saddest thing he’s ever heard. What the fuck? “What?

Stiles twitches and shakes himself out of the mood. “Nothing! Nothing, just, uh. Nothing. Um, why are you here, by the way? Not that I’m not glad to see you, because I am, plus you’re improving my cool factor just by standing next to me, oh the delicious irony, but…yeah. Why?”

“Laura,” Derek sighs.

Stiles raises his eyebrows expectantly. “…And is there a follow-up to that, or is that all you’ve got? Because Laura has her reasons, even if they’re reasons of which reason knows nothing.”

That’s a quote from something. Derek knows because he’s heard Peter say it. It just…really seems like Stiles and Peter should get along. Weird that they don’t. “She wants me to talk you into coming with us the next time we catch an omega.” It’s the stupidest thing Derek’s ever heard.

So of course Stiles shrugs and says, “Yeah, sure.”

Yeah, sure?” Derek repeats incredulously.

“Um, yes? Did I say it wrong? Is this like the witchy etiquette thing I didn’t know about?”

“You’re human! Do you know how dangerous this is going to be for a human?!”

“Yeahhh, I thought you were supposed to be talking me into it, not out of it.”

“No, Laura wants to talk you into it. I only agreed to mention it to you because I was sure you’d say no. But why would I even think that? It’s not like you’ve ever shown an ounce of common sense.” Stiles doesn’t reply to that because he’s too busy intently tracking a brown-haired kid with a camera across the parking lot. “Stiles. Stiles.”

The kid glances their way and Stiles’s eyes narrow. “Hey, Derek…what are your thoughts on determinism and free will?”

What?

“Never mind. Sorry. You were saying?”

“You can’t come with us to catch this omega.”

“Then…why did you invite me? You only invited me because you thought I’d say no? That’s hurtful, Derek! A guy could get a complex. I’m telling Laura on you.”

Derek growls in frustration, wishing Stiles were a wolf so Derek could slam his head into the side of his car a few times without worrying about the consequences.

This is all Laura’s fault.

* * *

Danny likes to think of himself as fairly observant. His sister says he’s freakishly observant, blowing right past unsettling and landing firmly in the realm of the totally creepy, but that’s just because he can always tell when she’s had sex, and whatever she chooses to believe, it doesn’t take a genius.

Anyway, yeah, he has good basic observation skills. And what he’s observing right now is that Stiles Stilinski has had, like, an honest to God personality switch. Which wouldn’t be that big of a deal, except that it’s a scary personality switch, and it’s starting to affect Danny’s life.

He was walking down the hall behind Lydia and Jackson maybe a month ago, and they passed Scott and Stiles going the other way. Stiles looked up and said, “Hey, Lydia.” No big deal, though he seemed more absentminded and less desperately hopeful about it than usual. No, that wasn’t the weird part.

The weird part was when he continued, in the same breath and with only a little less familiarity, “Danny, Jackson.”

And then he just kept walking. Like it was nothing. Like there’d never been an outrageous blowup with Jackson in fifth grade that ended with blood pouring from Jackson’s nose, Stiles with two black eyes, Danny vowing never to speak to Stiles again, and Scott vowing never to speak to Jackson again.

Of course it’s stupid. It was fifth grade. Jackson had just been told he was adopted, Stiles’s mom had just died, and no thinking teacher should’ve allowed them on the same playground because it was bound to end in tears and blood. So yeah, at this late date, it makes no sense, but it’s habit. Habit enough that, if Stiles had suddenly decided to be over it, he would’ve made some kind of gesture to let them know. Also, Jackson would’ve had to do something at least symbolically nice for Scott. Danny knows Stiles pretty well, after all these years.

This, like he’s suddenly forgotten they aren’t on speaking terms? This isn’t normal. Even Scott looked like he was about to freak out right there in the hallway, but Stiles? Stiles didn’t notice anything was wrong. He was out of earshot before Jackson pulled himself together enough to demand to know what the hell that was about.

And that was just the beginning.

Stiles had pretty obviously gotten himself involved in something stupid with Jordan, Veronica, and company last year. He was completely under their thumbs; Danny almost felt bad. The public humiliation was just gratuitous.

This year, Jordan is jumping at small noises and Lydia reports that Veronica is locking herself in the bathroom for daily hysterical crying jags, and Stiles seems…weirdly detached from school. He spent all of junior year looking stressed and out of his depth. Now he looks, God, bored, annoyed, distantly amused.

Stiles Stilinski suddenly looks like someone it is not wise to mess with. Not that it was ever wise to mess with him, because he always did fight back like a berserker, and strength doesn’t count for much against the willingness to do absolutely anything to win. It’s more than that now, though. Now it’s like…he might wait, if you made him mad. He might wait until you were alone, kill you, and make it look like an accident. And then he’d forget you ever existed.

Danny starts reading the Beacon Hills crime blotter with religious attention. Other than the animal attacks, though, nothing seems too weird.

Unless those are more, say, “animal attacks.”

Stiles has also started hanging around with the Hales. Not the twins, which would make sense—same class and all—but the older Hales. Laura and Derek. Who are adults. And scary adults, too—not that the twins aren’t scary. The Hales in general are scary. Like they know something you don’t. Like they’re afraid of nothing. Like the whole world is their personal in-joke.

Theirs and Stiles’s, apparently.

In less frightening but more upsetting news, if the ridiculously gorgeous Derek Hale pins Stiles to his car one more time, Danny is going to pop an artery in whatever part of the brain it is that controls lust. It’s just unfair. Today, for example, Stiles is leaning back against his car with Derek practically between his legs, and there’s not a flail or an awkward laugh in sight. Like he thinks that’s where Derek belongs. Among other distressing things, that kind of confidence looks appallingly good on Stiles, and Danny isn’t used to thinking anything looks good on Stiles.

(Okay, that may be a lie, but the point is, it used to be a convincing lie, and now Danny can’t even pretend to believe it.)

And the way Stiles smirks at Danny like he can read his mind from across the parking lot? That’s not okay, either. The bastard used to fake being straight; he shouldn’t be allowed to pull someone like Derek Hale.

* * *

“So…” Scott says slowly, trying to kill Stiles onscreen while pondering all the new information that’s been thrown at him today. “Your werewolf friend asked you to hunt crazy omega werewolves with him, but he doesn’t actually want you to go, he’s just totally whipped by his sister?”

“So whipped,” Stiles breathes gleefully. “So unbelievably whipped. It is the most hilarious thing since Jackson slipped on mud and face-planted into a cactus that time.”

“Was he whipped in your, uh, world?”

“No, his sister was dead.”

“…Oh.”

“Like, everyone was dead. There was just, there was a lot of death. He only had one living relative in the end, and that guy was shady as fuck.”

“How many living relatives does he have now?”

“Um, eleven? Is that right? I think that’s right.”

“Whoa. That’s a lot of dead people.”

“Yeah, this crazy hunter lady locked them in the basement and burned the house down. Oh! She’s Allison’s aunt.”

Scott drops the controls, which leads to Stiles’s instant and shameless victory. Who drops the controls? Only the weak.

My Allison?” Scott demands, horrified.

“Yep,” Stiles confirms, throwing his arms up for victory jazz hands before turning to Scott and pretending to take shit seriously. “I did mention her whole family was made of crazy hunters, didn’t I?”

“You said crazy, but I didn’t think you meant setting people on fire crazy!”

“We’ve talked about how you need to listen when I talk.”

“It seemed safe to assume I wouldn’t, I don’t know, date somebody from a family of freaking serial killers!”

“Scott, as Finstock has so often told us, assuming makes an ass out of you and both of us.”

“Never quote Finstock again.”

“Fair.”

“Thank you.”

“Anyway, she was technically a mass murderer, not a serial killer. With serial killers, there’s a cooling off period, plus she—”

“Stiles!”

“Yep, shutting up.”

Cue Scott’s refusal to talk about anything but games and the horrors of pre-calc for the rest of the night. Stiles isn’t bothered. Scott often needs a few hours to process.

Which is why it isn’t surprising when he begins the next morning by accosting Stiles in the parking lot and saying, “Did Allison know about her aunt?”

Oh, Scott. Hasn’t even met Allison yet, and already so predictable. “No. No, she did not, and she was pretty messed up about it once she did know. Timeline is like: she started dating you, she found out werewolves were real and her family hunted them, she found out you were a werewolf, her aunt tried to kill you, a werewolf ripped her aunt’s throat out, you saved her life, she started having sex with you, a werewolf bit her mom who then killed herself over it…you know what? Looking back on it, that whole homicidal fugue state thing she did is no surprise at all.”

“Homicidal fugue state?” Scott repeats weakly.

“It’s cool,” Stiles reassures him. “She never tried to kill you. Well, not seriously.”

“Not seri—” Scott breaks off and waves a hand around, relegating those freaky thoughts to a later date. “Whatever. The omega thing. Are you seriously going?”

“Sure.”

“Why sure?

“I want to see them, Scott. Something’s really wrong with them, but I can’t tell what it is until I see one myself. It could be related to…some other things, and it’s my job to find out. My duty, if you will.”

“I…won’t, actually. Your duty? How is it your duty?

“Someone I like asked for help. You know how I get.”

Scott heaves an exasperated sigh, but he doesn’t argue because he does know how Stiles gets. He knows in detail. “How can I help?”

Scott is kind of the best. “With the supernatural stuff? You can’t. But I am dragging you into doing a whole bunch of human stuff for me. Don’t worry, buddy, you will be used.”

“Awesome,” Scott mutters, side-eyeing Stiles.

“You know who I really could use right now for the supernatural stuff, though?”

“Who?”

“Vernon Boyd and Erica Reyes.”

“Boyd? Erica? The—why? She has seizures, Stiles. It would be a very bad idea to drag her into this. You could get her killed! And anyway, why?

“Because she doesn’t look it, but she’s secretly badass. She never gives up, she’s, like, suicidally brave, and she’s got the world’s craziest pain tolerance.”

“Just so you know? High pain tolerance isn’t something most people look for in friends.”

“I realize that. Hey, but she’s also awesome at investigating stuff? And she scares me, but we could work around that.”

“But—”

“That is the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me,” Erica says softly from where she’s standing directly behind them, holy shit. She really shouldn’t be allowed to pull crap like that without her wolfy superpowers. Stiles may jump and flail slightly. Restrained jumping and flailing. “Despite the part where I scare you—which, what, really? I didn’t even think you knew my name, Stiles.”

“Ah,” Stiles says cleverly, because he is the clever one. “Turns out I do?”

“You think I’m brave?” she asks, looking…God, so confused, and also like she suspects this is an awful joke at her expense.

“You are brave,” Stiles informs her. What? She is. Brave and scary and maybe a little power crazed under the influence of werewolfiness, but hey, no one’s perfect.

She takes a step closer and stares. It’s kind of painful to look at her, because Stiles knows what she looks like when she has, what, hope? Some expectation that things will get better, anyway. But this Erica…she’s given up. She’s getting by, but she doesn’t see anything better on the horizon. She figures her life is over, and she’s only seventeen.

Of course, Stiles also knows what she looks like when her life is actually over by seventeen.

“You want my help?” she asks hesitantly. “Doing what?”

“No, look—it’s crazy dangerous, the thing I want help with. Like, insanely dangerous. People getting locked up in basements and tortured dangerous, to pick a non-random example. And yeah, your help would be awesome, but I don’t want…I don’t want to drag you down with me, alright? I don’t want to be responsible for that.”

“Oh, but you’re fine dragging me down with you?” Scott demands indignantly.

“Hey, don’t even with me. You made me tell you, dude. You dragged yourself. Besides, it’s not like I’m making you do the dirty work.”

“I want to know,” Erica says stubbornly.

Why?” Stiles asks, despairing a little. “Why would you—you don’t owe me anything. Who am I to you? I’ve never done a thing for you. And you don’t have to prove yourself to me, because I already know how badass you can be. You’ve got nothing to gain here, and so much sanity and personal safety to lose. So much. I am not messing around. This ends in tears and blood and people running screaming into the night. And I don’t mean that metaphorically.”

“I want to know,” she repeats.

“Oh my God, you’re not listening to me at all.” He turns to Scott. “I forgot, downside: she’s a lousy listener.”

“I didn’t say I’d help,” she snaps impatiently. “I just said I want to know so I can make an educated decision. Is that all right with you? Am I allowed to make my own choices based on facts?”

Stiles smiles at her despite himself, despite how secretly sad her determination is. This goes a long way toward explaining how she got herself into the whole werewolf mess the first time around—she’s thinking, anything’s better than this. It’s a dangerous attitude to have. Also inaccurate. Just because you can’t imagine anything worse? Does not mean it can’t get any worse.

“The part I told Scott,” Stiles sighs, giving up, “was my secret to tell. The part I’d want to tell you, that’s somebody else’s secret. So I’ll have to talk to them first. If they say it’s okay, I can…God, drive you out to an undisclosed location to talk to strangers, I guess. And that’s not even what makes this a terrible idea.”

Erica raises a clearly unimpressed eyebrow. Stiles sighs again and mentally prepares himself for a really strained chat with the Alpha Hales. “Fine.”

“You’re sweet,” Erica says insincerely, tapping her fist on the hood of the Jeep and wandering off. So familiar. Apparently annoyed Erica is annoyed Erica regardless of debilitating health issues. This is going to end so badly. Although hopefully not as badly as it did the last time, holy crap.

“Well, that was a disaster. Oh!” Stiles snaps his fingers. “That reminds me. Scott, your first mission, should you choose to accept it: adopt Isaac Lahey.”

Seems like Scott can’t decide whether to be worried or just very confused. “Who?”

“Isaac Lahey! Come on, dude, he plays lacrosse. I know you know him.”

“…I do?”

“Well, you should. And you will. And then you’ll adopt him, because I say so and I am always right. And because his dad is an abusive dickwad, and no one cried when he got torn apart by a giant lizard. How’s that for an epitaph?”

“That is…one hell of an epitaph. Wait. Wait, was the lizard Jackson?

“You do listen! Yes, the lizard was Jackson. Oh, also, we should start having lunch with Boyd.”

“Are you making Boyd help?”

“Maybe. But even if I don’t, we should still have lunch with him.”

“Why?”

“General principles. We like him.”

“We do?”

“We could. He’s cool. Level-headed in a crisis.”

“…High pain tolerance?”

“That too.”

“Uh huh. How do we feel about Matt? Because you watch him all the time, so I figure we have some feelings.”

“We hate Matt.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously. Matt…okay, Matt shot you one time, and that was the least of the creepy things he did that day.”

“Holy shit.”

“We’re going to watch Matt very closely, Scott. And if he starts doing anything, you know, serial-killer-like, we’re taking him down.”

“We didn’t…uh. We didn’t kill him or anything, did we?”

“Nope.”

“Oh. Good.”

“Gerard did.”

“Oh. Do we like Gerard?”

“Gerard once dragged me into his family’s basement and beat the crap out of me.” It feels weird saying that out loud. Stiles never told his own Scott about the Gerard beating. Obviously he didn’t—he never told anybody, because his body is not a billboard for crazy old men to write messages on. It’s nice that he can get away with telling this Scott, though. That it’s safe to tell him, that he doesn’t get the significance. “Also he stabbed you.”

“So,” Scott says, wide-eyed, blessedly free of understanding. “Not big fans, then.”

“Not so much, no. Eventually you poisoned him, though. I was proud.” Mostly. Aside from the part with the unnecessary lying.

“I really don’t think I have it in me to poison someone.”

“Scott, my man, I promise that you do. When you need to.”

Scott shudders and goes quiet. It’s dangerous when Scott goes quiet; it means he’s actually thinking things through. He can be scarily perceptive when he stops to think things through. The world is lucky it happens so rarely. “Hey Stiles?”

“Yeah?”

“Um. Don’t get mad, but…my Stiles was a lot more. I don’t know. Possessive? Not—not in a bad way, just. He wasn’t big on other people, uh, taking up my time.”

Scott feels under-loved because Stiles is not behaving like a jealous loon. Jesus. “And I know exactly how your Stiles felt.” He does, too, that’s the sad truth. “The thing is, though, when you and your Stiles set up the terms of your friendship? It was on the understanding that you were both equally likely to die. Yeah? You were equally likely to hit that deer. That made it fair, see. Same with me and my Scott. He was as likely to get cut in half by hunters as I was to get ripped apart by werewolves.”

“Okay. So?”

“So you and me? This isn’t a fair situation. I am a thousand times more likely to die than you.”

“Stiles—”

“No, shut up, I prefer it this way. But it’s not fair on you; you’re the one who probably gets left behind here. So you need other people. You need people who aren’t going to, oh, run unarmed toward rabid werewolves. I don’t actually want you to hang around with Isaac, but I need you to, so that when I get myself killed in some stupid way—” or when he ditches everyone for his old universe, not that he’s admitting to that “—you won’t be left alone.”

Scott frowns at him. “I’m not cool with you doing all this crazy stuff on your own. I mean, it actually killed you before.”

“I’m not even your Stiles,” Stiles reminds him.

There’s a spike of misery and, oddly, guilt from Scott in response to that, but he bulls on past it. “So? You’re the only Stiles I’ve got.”

Stiles hates it when Scott comes out with stuff that sounds stupid and yet makes inarguable, perfect sense. Now he really feels like a dick about the whole universe-jumping plan.

“Fine. Fine! I promise not to do crazy stuff on my own,” he sighs. “I’ve got, you know. Werewolf friends. They’re tough. Much harder to kill than human asthmatics.”

Scott nods thoughtfully. “The Hales, right?”

“What? No.”

Scott rolls his eyes. Rolls his eyes! “Dude. Did you think I wouldn’t notice that all of a sudden you’re hanging out with Derek Hale all the time? Because I totally noticed. Everybody noticed.”

“When you say everybody…” Stiles mumbles, wincing.

“I mean you are hot gossip in a good way for basically the first time ever. Congratulations, I guess.”

“No, this is definitely a condolences occasion, Scott. Crap, this is the last thing they need—more attention.”

“Whatever, it’s not like anybody sees you hanging around with him and thinks, ‘Oh, he must be a werewolf.’ Everybody looks at you and him and thinks, uh. Other things.” Shifty eyes. Great. Just great, because that particular type of shiftiness can only mean one thing.

“Things like statutory rape?” Stiles demands in a strangled shout.

“…Maybe?”

Oh, God. So this explains Derek’s awkward face whenever he meets Stiles at school, because if people are talking about it, Derek can hear it. This also puts a whole different spin on the Danny looks Stiles has been fielding, because he’s been stuck in a whole Miguel/stripping/hacking mindset and forgot that, of course, that never happened here, so when Danny gives them those looks, he isn’t thinking about Derek shirtless, he’s thinking, he thinks—

Wow. Stiles would make the worst spy ever.

“Bell’s ringing,” Scott points out. “Class, Stiles. Stiles. Stiles, we have to get to class. Seriously, dude, think this through in class, come on!”

Sure. He can think it through in class. And then he can think about the talk he needs to have with Derek’s parents about turning teenaged humans into werewolves, thank you, Erica. He’s sure that won’t be miserably uncomfortable at all.

Ha ha.


Chapter II
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