metisket: (spy vs spy)
[personal profile] metisket

Derek always said it was a bad idea to take Stiles along on an omega hunt. He said it to everyone, no one listened, and that’s why this is happening. He tells Laura as much over the growling of the five omegas surrounding them.

And they’re not just feral omegas who’ve lost control to the wolf, oh no. They’re filthy, thin, spattered with old blood. They’re not right. Their eyes are glazed and they move as a unit, not a pack. Like they’re being controlled by someone. Someone who doesn’t much care if they survive.

“No one expects zombies,” Laura snaps at him.

“S’true, dude,” Stiles agrees. “Although I don’t think they totally count? In that they’re not dead. Then again, there are various zombie definitions, and if you’re going with ‘mindless horde,’ can’t argue with you there.”

They’ve got Stiles tucked between them, but Derek seriously doubts they’ll be able to protect him from five omegas on their own. And they are on their own, they’re totally on their own, because Laura didn’t clear Stiles with their parents. She said it was better to ask forgiveness than permission. One day Derek is just going to kill both of them himself and spare everyone the drawn-out agony.

Stiles doesn’t smell particularly afraid, though. Nervous, but not afraid. Stiles is a genuinely insane person. Derek knew that, but he didn’t fully appreciate the extent until now.

“So…” Stiles says quietly. “They’re um. Closing in.”

“So they are,” Laura agrees as she and Derek back away, dragging Stiles with them.

“And your plan is?”

“My plan revolved around there being one omega, Stiles.”

“Right. Mine too. But things always go wrong, so, you know, backup plans. Okay, just, don’t breathe for a second, yeah? Cover your noses.” And he pulls a bottle of peppermint extract out of his bag, uncaps it, and throws it on the ground.

The omegas howl (Derek doesn’t blame them; even making an effort not to breathe, the peppermint burns), and Stiles swings himself onto Derek’s back with what seems to be the ease of long practice (what the hell?). He says, “My house is closest,” and obnoxiously points the way over Derek’s shoulder. Nobody has any better ideas, so Derek and Laura go that way, and the omegas take a minute to pull themselves together before they seriously start the chase.

So far so good. Laura and Derek are part of a huge pack; they’re much stronger and faster than omegas, even with Derek carrying a human. (A human who seems to be having fun, for Christ’s sake.) But they can’t keep going forever, and it’s obvious the omegas will continue running until they literally die of it—whatever’s controlling them must’ve stripped away their sense of self-preservation. So this is a run with a time limit.

It’s lucky they don’t have more time to think, i.e., argue, because Derek and Laura would’ve argued against using the Stilinskis’ house as a base of operations, and that would’ve been a mistake. Because it turns out that Stiles has an almost complete ring of mountain ash around the house (he drops from Derek’s back and closes it as soon as they cross the property line) and a positive supernatural arsenal inside. Derek has no idea how they’ve gone this long without smelling the wolfsbane—Stiles probably has enough to kill every wolf in North America. Holy shit.

“The bad news,” Stiles whispers once they’re (relatively) safely inside, peering out between the curtains in the living room, “is that I have no clue what kind of weird magic can control omegas like that. And I don’t know if it works on betas and alphas, and yeah, I don’t know jack, basically, and it seems like you guys don’t either.”

Laura and Derek just pace the living room in glum silence, because they don’t know jack, that is correct.

“The good news,” Stiles goes on after a fruitless pause, “is that they don’t seem to have any strategy left in them, so…oh, wait. In the words of Clint Barton: scratch that. No good news. Everything sucks.”

“I thought you were a DC guy,” Laura murmurs as she and Derek come to stand at the window with Stiles.

“Sometimes I stray,” Stiles admits, and he actually seems to feel guilty about it. He’s so weird.

He’s right about the lack of good news, though. The omegas have spaced themselves out evenly around the house, each within sight of at least two others, far enough away not to look like they’re obviously watching the place, but close enough that no one could get out without their noticing. They may not have strategy left in them, but the one controlling them obviously does.

“So if you’re being mind-controlled, do you count as a zombie?” Stiles asks idly.

“Interesting question,” Laura says. “But not actually useful.”

“Let’s just leave them there for an hour, see if they get bored and go away,” Stiles suggests. “I mean, why would they be after us in particular?”

“Because my parents have been killing them?”

“Yeah, but we haven’t. Maybe the zombie omegas will smell your mom and wander off.”

“…What would we do for an hour?” Laura asks, bemused.

Stiles shrugs and drops the curtain, turning to wander deeper into the house. “I dunno. I could make pancakes or something?”

“Right,” Laura says blankly, staring after him. “Pancakes.”

He does make pancakes. He actually makes them fucking pancakes. And they’re good.

“This day isn’t turning out at all the way I expected,” Laura complains around a mouthful of pancake, squinting in confusion at Stiles as he washes the dishes.

Derek, meanwhile, is struggling not to dwell on the sense-memory of Stiles on his back, limbs wrapped tight around him. Because Stiles is only seventeen, and Derek spends way too much time thinking about him as it is. He shouldn’t be encouraging himself.

“Well, like you said,” Stiles says to Laura, leaning back against the counter while he dries a mixing bowl, “no one expects zombies. I’m kind of bummed by the fact that they’re still lurking out there, though. Maybe there are other ones after your mom and we’re just, I don’t know, collateral.”

“God,” Laura groans, dropping her fork. “Now what we do?”

“Well, the omegas can’t get in as long as no one breaks the mountain ash line, and I can’t see their controller bothering to break cover for the sake of collateral. It’s good to be nonessential!” Stiles decisively plunks the bowl down on the counter.

“That’s…do you ever joke about things that don’t secretly make you angry? Because I’ve never met anyone who makes as many bitter jokes as you do.” Laura gives Stiles an uneasy grimace.

“Then you’ve been running with the wrong crowd,” Stiles tells her earnestly, “and Erica will be good for you. God, I wish I had projectile weapons in the house—I really should, I know, but they’re tough to explain to a dad, particularly a dad in law enforcement. And you guys can’t get past the mountain ash either, and I only have so much pancake batter. Looks bad around here.”

“You mean we’re trapped here?” Laura asks, appalled. “Stiles! For how long?”

“Hey, so far today I’ve saved your werewolf asses and made you pancakes. Back off the Stiles.”

“I’m sorry,” Laura says immediately, ashamed. “You’re right.”

Stiles frowns at her, obviously thrown by the quick agreement. Not for the first time, Derek wonders what the hell was wrong with Stiles’s old pack, that they apparently took him completely for granted. “Not that we don’t need to come up with a plan,” Stiles goes on, because apparently if Laura isn’t nagging him he has to nag himself. “Because we do. Because my dad is coming home in six hours, and we have omegas circling the house. Which…huh.”

“What?” Derek asks.

“‘Pack law states that it is the responsibility of the local alpha to rein in rogue omegas,’” Stiles quotes, starting to grin. “I’m calling your mom. Because this is provably not my responsibility, yes!” He punches the air.

“There’s going to be a lot of yelling in our futures,” Laura sighs, but she’s not disagreeing, which is good, because Derek would have to kill her if she did.

“Why would there be?” Stiles asks, scrolling through the contacts on his phone. “We were cornered in the woods by zombie omegas. How is that our fault?”

“We were out in the woods looking for an omega, Stiles,” Laura reminds him.

“Well, yeah, but it’s not like I’m mentioning that part,” he says blithely and like the tiny sociopath he apparently is. “Hey, Mrs. Hale? Yeah, this is Stiles. I have an omega problem. No, wait, you have an omega problem, because I’m just the pixie guy, remember. So Derek and Laura and I were in the woods, and suddenly we were surrounded and then chased—exciting times—by five omegas that seemed to be mind-controlled by someone. It’s pretty freaky. And now they’re hanging around my house, and yeah, they can’t get past the mountain ash, but Laura and Derek can’t either. I’m just saying, I haven’t been grocery shopping with a siege in mind.”

No, he’s only been weapon shopping with a siege in mind. Or maybe not, since he doesn’t have projectile weapons. Which means he has…close-range weapons? Does this mean he’s been shopping with assassination in mind?

Derek is suddenly reconsidering his decision to eat this kid’s pancakes.

* * *

It’s too good to be true, and Stiles knows it. The Alpha Hales show up, growl for a while, make some threatening gestures, and the omegas just…go away. Easy as that.

That is not how things work in the world of Stiles. Not unless it’s some kind of setup. So yeah, after he sends the Hales home with extra pancakes, staggers through the rest of the school week, and spends the entire weekend trailing around after Dad and putting newer and nastier wards all over the house, he’s not really surprised to go to school on Monday and find Allison Argent walking into his classroom first period. Because of course. The other shoe had to drop, and it turns out the other shoe belongs to an Argent. Awesome.

On top of that, Allison walks in the door, and Scott is, wow, instantly lost to sanity. Bam, gone, RIP, Scott’s common sense. It was good while it lasted.

Stiles isn’t a total bastard, though, and he does enjoy his secondhand true love, supernatural bullshit aside. Plus, this time, the Argents haven’t murdered the entire Hale family—maybe they’re only a little evil. So he elbows Scott and says, “That’s Allison. She’ll probably need a pen.”

“…Huh?” Scott asks, lost, dazed, dancing in distant mental fields. Stiles finds it pretty funny that, confronted with Allison’s face, Scott seems to have completely forgotten their homicidal fugue state conversation. Same old Scott.

“A pen! When she sits down, offer her a pen, dumbass.”

“…Oh. Okay.”

Stiles has no faith. But his lack of faith is misplaced, because Scott does manage to pull himself together enough to offer her the pen she does not, in fact, have. She smiles the exact same confused smile she smiled the last time.

Interesting that she’s a whole year and a semester late, and yet this part of the story stays the same. Maybe Allison’s a compulsive pen-forgetter. Maybe she has unreliable pen habits. Maybe she secretly prefers pencils and forgets her pens in a quasi-deliberate act of aggression against them. Maybe it’s all a sign of her fear of and/or unfamiliarity with permanence and commitment.

Maybe Stiles needs to stop thinking about pens and their possible metaphorical meanings now, right now, this instant.

The main thing about this Allison, though, is that she reminds Stiles of himself. Everyone else in this reality, they just, they’re so innocent, they wear Stiles out. They’re not remotely prepared for what’s coming, and it’s terrifying.

Not so, Allison. She’s clearly been dragged through hell by the heel, just like his Allison. He doesn’t know the details, but he doesn’t need to. He knows the look. And it probably makes him a terrible person, but he’s relieved to see it. Now he feels less like the only lunatic in a world of sane people.

He wonders what Allison sees in him, if anything.

The following week goes almost exactly the way it went the first time, but with less running around in the woods and attendant werewolf crises. Should Scott ask her out? Would she shoot him down completely? Are Lydia and Jackson brainwashing her with their evil evilness? Omigod Stiles you can’t be serious that she went out with me before because she is way too hot to ever date somebody like me omigod omigod.

Okay, that last one is kind of new. And yet old in spirit.

Much like last time, it only takes Scott the one week to get his shit together enough to ask her out. There’s no animal cruelty involved this time, so Stiles doesn’t know what the tipping point was, and he aggressively doesn’t care. There was one, that’s what matters, and Scott asked her to a party, same as last time.

“She said yes!” Scott announces, panicked.

“And…this is a bad thing why?” It can’t be because her dad was shooting at Scott this time, so really, where’s the problem.

“I have work on Friday!”

Oh, man. This Scott. “What are you even—that is not a problem.”

How is that not a problem?!”

“I can cover for you at work, okay? Yeah, Deaton knows me, so call him and ask. Solved.”

“Really? Wait, don’t you want to go?”

“Nah, I probably wasn’t going anyway.”

“So I can take Allison to the party?”

“So you can totally take Allison to the party.”

“Stiles…dude, since when are you my fairy godmother?”

“I’ve always been your fairy godmother, Scott. Pay attention.” Would that everyone’s problems could be so easily solved, Jesus. Stiles thinks he’s actually killed people for his own Scott without rating this level of gratitude.

Then again, his Scott also killed people for him, and he didn’t make a big deal of it either. All in what you’re used to, probably.

“Oh, that’s the other thing I was gonna tell you,” Scott says, eyes flying earnest-wide. “Allison’s mom died last year.”

“Well, that’s a relief.”

Stiles!

“Though admittedly terrible for Allison! How’d she die?”

“I don’t know, it’s not like she gave me the gory details. You’ll have to ask her yourself. I’m not asking her.”

“Fair.” Second verse, same as the first? Did she try to kill Allison’s other werewolf boyfriend and end up accidentally bitten by his alpha friend? Is that a thing likely to happen in multiple universes? No. No, it is not. It was pretty unlikely to happen in one universe, let alone two. “Her dad’s alive, though, right?”

“Yeah. I guess they’re pretty close.”

Okay. Well that’s…tentatively good? “So no other relatives she spends a lot of time with? No grandparents, no aunts or uncles…?”

“There’s an aunt,” Scott says, squinting like he does when he’s trying to remember something and the pesky memories are refusing to surface. It always makes Stiles want to pinch his cheeks and mess up his hair. “I don’t think she lives here. But Allison really loves her.”

“Aunt Kate,” Stiles sighs. That is tentatively very bad. “Yeah, Allison loved her in my timeline, too. Only thing was, our timeline’s Kate was the one who burned down the Hale house. While most of the family was inside it.”

Kate’s the setting-people-on-fire aunt?!”

“Yep, that’s the one. But obviously, here, the Hales are still alive. So does that mean this Kate’s not a murdering nutjob? Or does it just mean she hasn’t had the opportunity? If we’re lucky, it’s option one.”

“What about if we’re unlucky?”

“Oh, you know.” Stiles waves his hands around. “The death, the blood, the screaming.”

“Yeah, about that,” Scott says. “I’ve been meaning to ask: how much do bulletproof vests cost?”

* * *

Ever since the Hale pack took in Erica Reyes, Stiles has shown up at their door every Saturday morning to check up on her, on top of his now habitual Wednesday night research. Mom was worried at first—she was afraid he’d try to sneak in and find Erica, probably—but it’s like he’s never even thought about it. He just shows up, asks how she’s doing, asks how her parents are coping, sometimes drops off food (why?), and then…leaves. Without setting foot inside.

Laura says she can’t tell if it’s cute or the weirdest thing she’s ever seen a human do. Derek can actually think of weirder things Stiles himself has done, but decides not to mess with her mind by pointing that out.

What it comes down to is that Derek expects to open the door on Saturdays to an immediate barrage of Erica-related questions. So it’s very unsettling when he opens the door one Saturday and Stiles says, “Derek, hey. I need to talk to your parents. Is that cool? They at home for humanity?”

“They’re at home for you.” Derek steps back and lets Stiles in, concerned. “What’s wrong?”

“Why does something have to be wrong?” Stiles asks breezily, brushing past Derek and taking a few steps toward the living room, like he can smell that Mom and Dad are in there. Which he can’t; humans can’t do things like that. Right? “Maybe I just miss them.”

“What’s wrong?” Derek repeats. Sometimes you can wear Stiles down with repetition.

“Probably nothing. I’m just, you know, being paranoid.”

Derek remembers that the last time Stiles displayed his paranoia, it saved them from being killed by mind-controlled omegas. He reserves the right to be worried if Stiles is worried. “Paranoid about what?”

“How about you come with me when I tell your parents? Then I can just get this out of my system all at once without having to repeat it over and over to everyone, feeling crazier every time. Fair?”

Derek shrugs agreement.

“You too, Laura!” Stiles shouts up the stairs to…yeah, exactly where Laura is. How is he doing that?

Laura obediently comes downstairs, looking uneasy. But then, she was there for the omega thing, too.

“Philip’s already with your parents?” Stiles asks.

“Yes. Nana Thea, too,” Laura says.

Stiles nods and goes to the living room, Laura and Derek trailing behind him.

“How did he know they were in the living room?” Laura whispers.

“No idea,” Derek murmurs back. “Magic thing?”

“Hm. Maybe.”

Mom and Dad look surprised to see Stiles. It’s a nice thing about him—as much as he throws Derek into terminal confusion every time he shows up, he at least has the decency to have that effect on everyone.

“Stiles,” Mom says, startled but pleased. “You don’t normally visit us. What brought this on?”

“There are Argents in town,” Stiles tells her, visibly unhappy.

“That’s fine,” Mom soothes. “The Argents follow the code.”

“Oh. Right. But—okay, do they actually follow the code? Or do they just talk about it a lot while, in fact, doing whatever the hell psycho thing they want?”

“You’ve had bad experiences with hunters, I take it,” Dad says, worried about Stiles. Derek can’t blame him. Stiles is worry-inducing.

“That—yeah, understatement.”

“As far as we know,” Nana Thea says, “the Argents actually do follow the code. Of course, we’ve had our fair share of unhappy experiences with hunters, too.” Everyone glances at Mom. “So feel free to watch them as closely as you like, if it’ll make you feel better.”

“Oh, yeah, I was gonna do that anyway. But thanks for official permission, I guess?”

Dad and Philip rub their temples, Mom’s eyebrows fly up, and Nana laughs. Derek isn’t even surprised.

“Don’t do anything stupid, Stiles,” Laura says sternly.

Stiles gives her a sardonic look. He has a real gift with those. “I’m a seventeen-year-old boy,” he says. “I’m pretty sure I’m legally obligated to do stupid shit.”

“Bravado,” Mom says, disappointed. “You don’t have to prove anything to us, Stiles. You can tell us when you’re afraid.”

“Oh no, hey, I am afraid pretty much constantly,” Stiles admits easily. “And I don’t feel bad about it, because my life is a genuine nightmare. Also, I have gone dress-shopping with Lydia Martin not once, but twice. I know fear. Keeping an eye on the Argents isn’t scary, it’s just…I don’t know. Annoying, sometimes painful, always frustrating. Don’t worry about it.”

They’re worrying. They are all worrying now.

“You have history with the Argents in particular?” Philip asks in alarm.

“Sort of? Not these Argents. Or at least, not exactly these Argents. Some of the Argents I knew were seriously evil, though, so I’m…prejudiced, I guess.”

“And watching your evil Argents was…annoying and frustrating?” Nana Thea asks, gleeful the way she always is when people are being entertainingly crazy around her.

“So annoying,” Stiles sighs. He just missed the entire point of that question.

“Stiles…” Mom’s hesitating. Mom never hesitates. This is the final proof of how confusing Stiles is. “How about this? If you’re keeping an eye on the Argents, that’s…well, it’s for our benefit as much as yours. So if you run into any trouble, please call us.”

“No, it’s cool,” Stiles insists. “I can handle it.”

“It’s not a question of whether or not you can handle it,” Mom tells him. “It’s a question of whether or not it’s your sole responsibility. And it isn’t. It’s our responsibility, too, and if you run into trouble, we have a duty to help.”

“We divided up omegas and pixies, though,” Stiles points out, clearly confused. He’s starting to give Derek a headache. It looks like he’s even starting to give Mom a headache.

“And if we ever get multiple families of hunters, we’ll divide them up, too,” Mom says, struggling to work around Stiles logic. “Until then, the Argents are all we have, so we’re sharing.”

Stiles chews on a fingernail briefly, then nods, apparently satisfied. “Okay. It’s a plan.” He looks up and meets Mom’s eyes with a smile. “So! How’s Erica doing?”

The room fills with groans and laughter.

* * *

Working with Deaton is weirder than Stiles had expected. He figured he’d worked with Deaton before, right? Except no. Before, he’d learned stuff from Deaton, and it turns out that’s a whole different ball of twine. Apparently when Deaton’s paying you? He takes it as license to mess with you even more than usual. Which shouldn’t be possible, but there it is.

“Can I move yet?” Stiles asks plaintively.

“Not yet,” Deaton murmurs, fishing for foxtails in an unconscious dog’s ear while Stiles stands perfectly still at a seemingly random spot in the room. For no apparent reason. For half an hour and counting.

“I’m willing to do anything, by the way, if that’s the problem here,” Stiles announces. “I will clean cat cages. I will even clean puppy cages! And I have it on good authority that those are the worst. But I’ll tell you what I’m not awesome at: standing still for a long time doing nothing. That’s not among my skills. Let me clean cat cages. Help me out here, please God.”

Deaton looks up and gives Stiles an amused but kindly smile, the sort of smile that really shouldn’t be found on the face of a rampant sadist. “I…could have you clean the cat cages, I suppose, but I think it might be a better use of your talents if you’d refresh the wards instead. I was hoping you’d get a feel for them if you stood there. That’s the center of the matrix.”

Stiles just stares because he has no idea what to do with Deaton and what passes for his sense of humor.

“Unless you’d rather clean cat cages,” Deaton goes on, still smiling.

“Wards sound good,” Stiles answers, baffled. “Awesome. I love me some wards.”

“Well then,” Deaton says, doing a complicated eyebrow thing. “You’d better get started.”

And to think that Scott—both Scotts!—have worked with this guy for years. If Stiles had worked with Deaton for years, he’d be holding one-sided conversations with the walls of his padded cell by now.

That said, the man’s wards are really cool. Much cooler than Stiles’s Deaton’s wards. (Why?) They’re just, they’re layered and they’re sneaky and they make cool geometric shapes when they activate and if you piss them off they will fry you to ash. Stiles has a total magical geek-crush on them.

“These wards are the coolest thing ever,” he informs Deaton, because hey, credit where it’s due.

“Philip Hale designed them for me,” Deaton says, and yeah, that explains everything. “You were right—I am better at offensive spells than defensive. And Philip—well. As you can see, he has a gift for design.”

Philip Hale is a goddamn ward-making genius is what he is, and he doesn’t realize it, but he’s about to start spending a lot more quality time with Stiles. They will be magical bros. Stiles will make this so. Philip was already stupid enough to give Stiles his number.

“You pick your assistants well,” Stiles tells Deaton, running his hand over the central anchor and barely resisting the urge to coo at it.

“But I missed you, somehow,” Deaton points out, unreadable.

Stiles shrugs. “I wasn’t actively doing magic.”

“When did we meet in your timeline?”

“I was sixteen. Scott got bitten, and he brought me here to…I don’t remember now. There was a kanima, it was a whole thing.”

“And I knew then.”

“Yeah. Not that you told me then. You just handed me mountain ash and said, ‘Be the spark.’ What the hell kind of mentoring is that?”

“Did it work?” Deaton asks, interested.

“Well, yeah, but—” Stiles glances over his shoulder and catches Deaton looking smug. “Don’t even make that face. It was luck!”

“Hm,” Deaton says, turning back to the dog. Stiles shakes his head and turns back to the wards. A surprisingly peaceful silence falls.

“Nothing comes for free, Stiles,” Deaton says quietly and out of the blue.

“Yeah, I know,” Stiles replies, confused.

“Do you?”

Okay, there’s clearly more going on in this conversation than meets the eye. Stiles turns his back on the wards—he should probably keep an eye on Deaton for this talk. “I…yeah. Magic is just a shortcut, I get that. The price is still as high as if you’d done it by hand.”

“If not higher.”

“If not higher,” Stiles agrees. He figured that one out the unpleasant way, oh yes. “Extra charge for fast service.”

“To come to this world, you had to lose yours.”

“…Right.”

“You lost everything. It was only worth the risk because, at that point, you had virtually nothing to lose. And even so, you don’t seem entirely happy with the outcome.”

Stiles wishes to God there were some way to derail Deaton once he gets going. There isn’t, though. You just have to sit there and take it.

“My point, Stiles, is that if you were to make a similar bargain now, you’d be making it from a far worse bargaining position. You have everything to lose, and potentially nothing to gain. Every trade from here on out is liable—even likely—to be a trade down.”

Ah. So this is that talk. “You’re saying I should stay in this world.”

Deaton shrugs. “I’m saying you need to consider how miserable you’re likely to make yourself if you manage to leave. To say nothing of how miserable you’ll certainly make everyone you leave behind.”

The man plays dirty.

“The longer I stay, the harder it’ll be on everyone if I go,” Stiles points out.

“You’ve already stayed too long,” Deaton counters. “If this were the first week, you’d have an argument, Stiles. But it’s been three months.”

Shit. It has. Three fricking months. How did that happen?

“At this point,” Deaton goes on, “everyone would feel abandoned if you left. It would feel, to them, like the death of a friend.”

It basically would be the death of a friend. Stiles would—he’d just drop dead or disappear, and Scott and Deaton would be the only ones who knew why.

Assuming he did drop dead or disappear. What if he didn’t? There’s nothing technically wrong with this body anymore. What if he left without it and it just kept going? Would it wander around, mindless? Would it fall into a coma and never wake up? Would Dad actually lose it if it did? Stiles has been so focused on his own Dad and Scott…he’s never let himself think about any of this before.

And he’s not thinking about it now. Not with Deaton watching.

“I meant to ask,” Stiles says, eyes and attention straying back to the wards. “Can I take my payment for today in projectile weapons?”

Deaton sighs and shakes his head, like dealing with Stiles is a trial.

Whatever. Turnabout is fair.

* * *

Erica Reyes is taking to being a werewolf with speed, grace, and absolute glee. Stiles was right about her. She’s incredibly fun to train, because she’s so delighted with every new thing she learns—every skill, every sense, every strength. Just watching her discover herself makes you happier to be a werewolf.

This has led to some really stupid pack infighting. Derek thought he was going to manage to stay out of it, but no, no such luck.

“I just wanted to take her to buy clothes that fit,” Derek…whines, it is a whine, he is actually whining. This is all Laura’s fault.

“Well, you can’t, because I called dibs on shopping,” Laura says firmly. They’re in Erica’s room, and Laura’s sitting next to Erica on her bed, a possessive arm flung across her shoulders. Erica seems to be enjoying it. “I’m taking her as soon as I’m sure she won’t accidentally maim anyone who bumps into her. Oh, and the twins called dibs on teaching her to hunt and fight. Philip is helping Mom teach her all the history stuff. You’re slow, Derek. I don’t even know what you have to offer at this point, unless you two want to moon about Stiles together.”

“I do not moon about Stiles!” Derek and Erica insist in synch, then turn to stare at each other.

“I love it when I’m right,” Laura coos, insufferable. “And I’m so often right. Alpha material!”

“You can’t make this into a love triangle,” Derek informs her severely. “We just have to figure out whether Stiles is gay or straight, and it’s game over.”

“Oh, baby brother, I’m almost sure Stiles is bi, because he absolutely lives to make my life hilarious. This can be a love triangle and a wooing contest and a romantic deathmatch and basically hours and hours of entertainment for me and the twins and Nana Thea and, unless I’m much mistaken, Stiles, too. Go forth and entertain me!” She leaps to her feet and points at them for a dramatic moment before bounding away upstairs, cackling insanely.

“We’re not actually related,” Derek informs Erica after a moment of stunned silence. “She was left on the porch in a basket as a baby. Mom thought she was too pitiful not to take in.”

“I heard that!” Laura shouts from the hallway, and Erica laughs.

“I don’t really have a crush on Stiles anymore,” she tells Derek once Laura’s probably out of earshot. “I got over him, like, sophomore year.”

How?” Derek asks, probably pitifully, going by the gleeful/sympathetic look on Erica’s face.

She shrugs. “I don’t know. It helped that I had no chance with him. He was so hung up on Lydia Martin, just like everybody was…I didn’t even think he knew I existed until he all of a sudden started asking me if I wanted to be a werewolf.”

“He just asked?” Derek is appalled. And feeling kind of betrayed, actually.

“No, no!” Erica reassures him. “I mean, looking back on it, I can see that’s what he was doing. At the time, I just…I don’t know what I thought was going on. Mostly I figured at least one of us was crazy.”

“Bet on Stiles,” Derek tells her. “If one of you is crazy, it’s Stiles. I promise.”

“Well, he wasn’t crazy about the werewolf thing,” Erica points out. “And I would have been pretty confident about my bet on that one.”

There’s a terrifying idea. What if all of Stiles’s weird behavior doesn’t mean he’s crazy? What if it just means he knows a lot more than Derek does? Derek plans to run crying to Philip with this horrible thought at the earliest opportunity.

“Hey,” Erica says, “tell me about your family?”

“What?” Derek asks, startled from his Stiles-related freakout. “Aren’t Mom and Philip supposed to be doing that?”

“They’re teaching me about, I don’t know, werewolf history in general. I just…I don’t know anything about your family history. And it’s…it’s kind of my family too, now. Um, isn’t it? I mean—”

“Yeah,” Derek reassures her hastily. God, she’s so worried about being alone. It must be awful to be human. “We’re your family. So…what do you want to know? How my parents met, stuff like that?” He’s not much of a talker, but family stories are easy. He’s heard them told so often, he’s memorized how they’re supposed to go.

“Everything!” Erica says, leaning forward, intent. “And no more lies. I don’t believe Laura really got left on the porch.”

“It would be better if it were true,” Derek grumbles.

Erica laughs, bright and loud and unafraid. Derek can’t help but be grateful to Stiles for this. Grateful that he gave Erica to them, them to Erica. Despite the fact that he’s pretty sure he’s screwed when it comes to Stiles, who’s the sheriff’s underage son, and may not even find him attractive.

“I’m starting with all of Laura’s embarrassing childhood stories,” Derek says, because it’s only right.


Part 3


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