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

Peter walks into the library on a Wednesday evening to find the mysterious Stiles down there alone, studying away. Just as if it’s his house.

Which, in a manner of speaking, it is. If Stiles thinks Peter and Felicia haven’t noticed his little binding spell, he’s tragically mistaken, and that does give him a foothold in the pack. It’s also set him up for trouble, because without it, Peter would’ve avoided him out of respect for his apparent trauma flashbacks. Not now, though. Not now that Stiles has chosen to bind himself to the Hale children, and most importantly Peter’s own children. He really should’ve known there would be consequences. One of them being that Peter would, necessarily, take a personal interest in his motives.

“Stiles,” Peter says, waiting for and receiving the expected response: a polite nod on the surface, and beneath that, fear followed by anger followed by impatience, presumably with himself for all of the above. “What brings you here today?”

“Oh, just. You know.” He waves vaguely at the books. “Research.”

“I see.” Stiles is very good at answering a question without answering the question—Peter will just have to work out the answer for himself. He moves closer to the table, running an eye over Stiles’s materials. There’s a laptop squeezed between stacks of books and notebooks—pixie-related books in one pile, multiverse theory books in another (he must’ve brought those in himself; Peter doesn’t remember owning them), and a final disorganized pile on, what, change, generally? Seasonal shifts, moon phases, solstices, star alignments, and their respective, alleged influences on the supernatural. Including one book on star charts that Felicia couldn’t find last night. He must be looking into why the omegas are running wild.

“Why pixies?” Peter asks idly.

“…Because Talia made me? Plus pixies, you know, they feed on magical instability. So: related,” Stiles answers impatiently, typing up notes from a book in the multiverse stack.

“I didn’t know. Why do you?”

“Because I hate them and I want them gone. If you want something gone, you need to know why it’s there. And it turns out, pixies like magical instability. Meaning they’re probably part of this wider problem we’ve got going, and they might just be a symptom, but. I don’t know. I’ve got a feeling about them.”

“Or maybe you just hate them,” Peter suggests.

“Or that. Or both!”

Peter pulls up a chair and makes himself comfortable. It is his library, after all. “Why so concerned about multiple realities?”

“Instability,” Stiles lies. Blatantly lies. Peter’s a little disappointed; he knows the boy can do better than that. Peter’s seen him do better. But he’ll let it slide for the moment.

“You think all of our problems come back to the instability.”

“Right.”

Interesting. That does change the research approach slightly; instead of looking for violent seasons, he and Felicia should, perhaps, be looking for unstable seasons. “Any guesses as to what caused it?”

Stiles heaves a sigh and sits back in his chair, nervously flipping a pencil between his fingers. Interesting how his coordination improves with anger or frustration. “Nope. No idea. But I really hope someone’s causing it and it’s not an alignment of the stars or whatever, because if it’s someone, we can do something about it. Stars, not so much.”

“Stars move,” Peter points out.

“Yeah. And sometimes it takes a day to get them out of alignment and other times it takes ten thousand years. You see where I’m going with this.”

“Mm. I suppose it would be awkward to try to destroy a star,” Peter allows.

“Even the Death Star could only do planets.”

“Don’t you like a challenge?”

“Dude, NASA’s funding is getting seriously cut right now. We barely have space travel at all; we definitely do not rate a Death Star.”

“We have you. I hear you’re magical.”

“Haha! Right! Only no, I can’t fly independently into space and blow up a star, and even if I could? I’m tempted to think the unintended consequences would be pretty freaking dire, and I don’t want to be responsible for them. Whatever, hopefully it’s just a person—people can rip holes in magic, did you know that? That’s a thing. Or, hey, maybe it’s some pissed off chaos-making creature. Like a kitsune. That might even be fun.”

Stiles has something of the kitsune about him, come to think of it. “That’s our problem, isn’t it? Anything could be causing this. We need to narrow the field.”

“Trying.”

“Also trying,” Peter sighs. “And yet, failing.”

“…I’m actually starting to like you,” Stiles mutters resentfully.

Hm. “Do you want me to apologize for being likable?”

“I want you to not be likable,” Stiles informs him, aggrieved. “It’s really confusing, okay?”

Peter has a series of answers lined up for that piece of inanity, but his eye catches on something that distracts him. It’s a handwritten pamphlet shoved in at the bottom of the multiverse stack, as though Stiles was trying to hide it from casual inspection. Peter pulls it out, and yes, it’s that pamphlet. He looks up to find Stiles staring back at him in horror.

There’s a chain around Stiles’s neck. Peter’s taken note of it before, because Stiles doesn’t strike him as the type to wear jewelry, and yet. He reaches out and hooks a finger around the chain, dragging the pendant out from under the boy’s shirt. The blackened, burned, partially melted pendant, but still recognizable. And once he’s seen that, he hardly needs the visceral terror pouring off of Stiles to help him put the rest of the pieces together.

“It’s confusing to like me,” he says thoughtfully, “because I killed you. Is that accurate?”

“And ate me.” Stiles sneers, defiant even in the face of…this. “You killed me and ate me, if we’re getting technical about it. And that was just our grand finale.” He stops abruptly and frowns, suddenly guilty. “I mean, it wasn’t really you. Not you you. Just. The guy you could’ve been if all that stuff had happened.”

Peter drops the pendant and sits back, putting some much-needed distance between them. He tries to imagine what might drive a person, what might drive him, to kill and eat someone like Stiles—someone talented and brave and strange. But then he remembers that, after all, there are myths about magical creatures and transference of power. Eat the heart, inherit the courage, and so on. He thinks about how much he must have lost to consider that a good idea. He thinks about the state of that pendant, Philip’s pendant, blackened and burned.

And then he very carefully stops thinking. “Felicia,” he hears himself say distantly over the howling of the wolf. “I need you.”

* * *

Stiles is actually feeling bad for Peter Hale, who is wolfing out this very second, holy fuck. Stiles has backed all the way across the room, putting the maximum possible amount of furniture between them, and is thinking seriously about pulling a knife. And yet he still feels bad.

Because the thing is, this is the wrong Peter. This Peter’s never done a thing to Stiles, and it was all kinds of fucked up and unfair to even say anything about that to him. Stiles is a dick. But at least he didn’t mention Laura. That would’ve been Jackson Whittemore levels of dickishness.

“What did you do to him?” Felicia snarls, swooping in like an angel of death. And, oh yeah, Stiles recognizes that crazed, murderously protective look on her face. He recognizes it from the mirror.

He’s gonna die. Again. But hey, at least this time he’ll have it coming.

Felicia ignores him for now, though. She’s too busy running over and dropping to her knees in front of Peter, which is brave, because he’s not looking very sane.

Well. More sane than Stiles’s Peter, for what that’s worth. Which is nothing.

“Peter,” Felicia whispers, cupping his face in her hands, not afraid at all. “I’m here. I’m safe. Cat is safe, she’s upstairs playing with Cal. Cal is safe, he’s making Cat’s life a Lego-filled misery. You can hear them, can’t you? Listen. We’re all here; we’re all safe. We’re here, Peter. We’re here.”

So Peter’s anchor is his family. Not his pack, not his extended family. Just his wife and kids—or kid, at the time.

And they burned to death. Right.

Peter’s settling now, coming back to himself, not wolfy at all. As far as Stiles has seen him go the other way, he’s never known what it looks like when Peter pulls himself together. It’s not like Derek; Derek is all flash and melodrama all the time, but with Peter, it’s…he’s just more steady. Same guy, similar expression, but somehow he’s gone from being almost the Peter Stiles knew to being, he guesses, the Peter Derek and Laura loved.

It’s good to see the difference laid out in front of him like that. He thinks he can stop freaking out over the wrong Peter now.

“What happened?” Felicia demands sharply, hands still on Peter’s face, glaring over her shoulder at Stiles.

“It’s not his fault,” Peter soothes, reaching up to put his hands over Felicia’s. “He was just the messenger. And you know what they say about shooting the messenger.”

“I’ve never seen why not,” Felicia complains, reluctantly letting Peter go.

Peter brightens. “It’s a question of holding the importance of information over the importance of any individual’s feelings about that information. The dragomans of the Ottoman Empire—”

Peter.”

“…He’s from another universe. Isn’t that right, Stiles?”

Stiles nods, fascinated by the freaky dynamic these two have going.

Felicia closes her eyes and rubs her temples, like it’s all too much. “What?”

“In his universe, he apparently got his hands on Philip’s pendant. How did that happen, by the way?”

“Derek gave it to me,” Stiles says.

Did he.” Peter and Felicia both turn to give Stiles the exact same narrow-eyed stare. Yikes. “And how did he come to have it to give away?”

See, and this, this is why Stiles had planned never to admit to any of this. “Everybody else was dead.”

Felicia gasps, but Peter just frowns thoughtfully. “Everybody but me.”

Him and Cora, but that’s complicated and Stiles refuses to go there. “Well, you were, uh. Catatonic for a while. And burned all over—you know what? This isn’t relevant to our lives right now. Let’s just say, your body got better, but your mind was still toast as far as I could tell. And I think your anchor was revenge.”

“Derek was the alpha?” Peter asks, and of course that’s what he’d take away from that.

“Yeah.”

Derek was the alpha?

“Shut up about it, okay? You were the alpha for a while, too, and you sucked at it a lot more than Derek did.”

Peter dismissively waves this away. “Yes, yes, but I was insane.”

“Yeah, well, it’s not like Derek was firing on all cylinders.”

“Hm.”

“Have you told anyone else about this?” Felicia asks, clearly unhappy. Not that Stiles is happy with this, either, okay, Stiles is the least happy.

“No, I haven’t. It’s a really uncomfortable topic for me.”

“We should tell Talia and Kevin,” Felicia murmurs to Peter.

“Don’t tell them,” Stiles insists, pointing at Peter in horrified demonstration. “Look what happens when you tell people! It won’t prove anything; it’ll just make everyone hate me. I’m sorry I told Peter.”

“Technically, you didn’t. I figured it out on my own,” Peter says smugly. So, good, he’s recovering nicely from the idea of Stiles’s brutal murder at his claws.

“Good for you,” Stiles mutters resentfully. “How about giving everyone else a chance to work it out on their own, huh?”

“What’s it like?” Peter asks, intrigued. “Being familiar with an alternate reality? Having an educated guess about the possible future?”

“It’s like playing three-dimensional chess with all the pieces making up their own rules,” Stiles tells him. “By which I mean it sucks, and I’m tired of it.”

“Technically,” Felicia says, “you shouldn’t have been sent here unless you had something to contribute. That’s how the magic works, in theory. It tries to send the user to the nearest available body from which that user can be of use to the Hale family.”

Stiles is 90% sure she just made that up to freak him out. Then again, maybe skimming over the fine print in that pamphlet was a mistake. “So no pressure, then.”

“We should tell Talia and Kevin,” Felicia says again.

“What would that prove?” Stiles demands. “This is—it’s like the pixie thing, right? It’s not really a werewolf thing, it’s just, I don’t know. A side issue.”

“You think you’re a symptom,” Peter declares in a tone of gleeful revelation. “Instability, you said. Pixies are a symptom. And here you are, from another world. You do, don’t you? You think you’re a symptom of the problem.”

“Yes, okay? Yes,” Stiles snaps. “I think I’m a symptom. And by the way, I take it back: I don’t like you at all.”

“You are not a side issue,” Felicia cuts in impatiently. “That pendant means you’re very clearly a Hale family issue. I’m telling Talia.”

Fine.” Stiles buries his face in his hands. “Tell her, whatever, knock yourself out. But you don’t have to tell the kids, right? Because I don’t even know what Laura would do. And Derek’ll make this face if he knows, and I can’t deal with his face when it gets like that.”

“I’ll only tell my alpha,” Felicia concedes.

“Derek again,” Peter murmurs happily. “Derek, Derek, Derek.”

“Shut up, he was my alpha.”

“Of course.” Peter smirks at him.

I set you on fire once, Stiles thinks. And I’m not sorry.

* * *

Stiles runs up the stairs from the library and almost crashes right into Derek, which would be alarming on its own—Stiles always seems to know where everyone is; he’s never this oblivious to his surroundings. At the moment, though, that’s the least worrying thing.

Stiles smells like Peter and Felicia, and he’s practically melting with guilt and stress and anger. Seriously, what the hell is going on with Stiles and Peter?

“What’s wrong with you?” Derek demands, alarmed.

“What are Peter’s kids even named?” Stiles Stilinski: king of the non-sequitur. “Cat and Cal?”

“Caterina and Caligula,” Derek sighs. Those kids’ high school years are going to be hell.

Stiles blinks. “I thought I had it bad. He named his kid Caligula?

“Stiles isn’t that bad.”

“Yeah, well, Stiles also isn’t my name. But Caligula? Really?”

“He says no one messed with Caligula.”

“Caligula was assassinated, dude. He was assassinated really young. They made a movie about it and everything.”

“I guess…no one messed with him until he was assassinated? Don’t look at me. I didn’t name him.”

“So what’s the story on Caterina?”

“Felicia picked that one. Caterina’s human, so Felicia said she needed to be named after someone tough. Caterina Sforza. Look her up. No one messed with her, either.”

“The way no one messed with Caligula?”

“No, people really didn’t mess with her. Not and live to talk about it, anyway. She tortured enemies for fun and killed everyone who pissed her off and led armies into battle while pregnant. This was all in the 1400s, maybe? I think she murdered a pope or something. Then she got bored with politics, became a nun, and eventually died of pneumonia. In a convent.”

“Under a new pope, huh? Okay, yeah, you have to love that. Caligula, though. Just, no. Not well thought-out.”

Derek isn’t sure when it happened, but Stiles isn’t a mess of unhappy emotions anymore. He’s…centered, maybe. The way he should be. Derek doesn’t get why making fun of his cousins’ names would have that effect, but whatever, he’s glad. “What’s your name?” He’s curious now.

“What?” Stiles asks, heartbeat speeding up for no apparent reason. Stiles’s heartbeat is forever speeding up for no apparent reason; Derek’s trying to make himself stop worrying about it.

“Your real name,” he repeats. “You said it wasn’t Stiles.”

“It isn’t.”

“Then what is your name?”

“I’m named after my mom’s dad.”

“And his name was…?”

“Why do you care? He’s dead.”

Stiles.”

“What?”

Derek gives up.

“Hey,” Stiles says quietly after a moment, strangely hesitant. “Uh. Thanks.” He reaches out and grips Derek’s shoulder briefly, either for Derek’s comfort or his own. And then he turns and leaves, just like that, in a tangle of conflicting signals and confusing smells.

Derek isn’t even sure he wants Stiles to make sense anymore.

* * *

After the near-disaster with Peter, Stiles was really hoping he’d, whatever, get the rest of the week off or something. He doesn’t know why he still bothers to hope for crap like that, because obviously it never happens. And it’s usually his own fault.

He wouldn’t say he’s stalking the Argents, exactly. Not stalking per se. But he is keeping a very close eye on them, up to and including cyber…stalking. Yeah, okay, he’s owning that word: cyberstalking. It’s worth the effort and illegality, though, because it means he knows how worrying Allison Argent’s internet habits are.

Allison has a problem. A werewolf obsession and a weapon obsession and some extremely unsettling online friends and a problem.

Stiles was really hoping to avoid this this time, but it looks like it’s not happening. It’s the Allison Problem, Take Two. Hopefully they’ll handle it more gracefully than they did the last time (but he’s not holding his breath).

Stiles has one advantage this time around, at least: he already understands Allison. He knows that she wants to be a good person, but she’s also a born killer. She smiles when she shoots people. She tries to make sure she’s only shooting the bad guys, but her definition of ‘bad guy’ gets scarily flexible when she’s looking to inflict pain on someone. She’s a closet sadist.

Not that that’s a surprise or anything. You don’t even have to have the nature vs. nurture argument about it because it’s clearly both.

In view of that, though, Allison needs someone to keep an eye on her so she doesn’t go off half-cocked and kill everybody who irritates her. Stiles can’t take on that job—he’s got enough to worry about with his dad and Scott and the Hales. So he’ll have to leave this one up to Scott (oh God, he does not want to have to talk about this with Scott), and…Chris. Last sane Argent standing.

Which means he needs to talk to Chris, too. This is not going to be fun at all. He may even end up running for his life depending on how Chris decides to take the conversation. But it has to be done.

“Mr. Argent!” Stiles says brightly when the door opens (to the same house, should it really be the same house? Is that weird? Would the apartment be weirder?) “Hi. I’m, um. Stiles Stilinski.”

“You’re here for Allison,” Chris decides, trying to look friendly and welcoming. It isn’t a look that sits very comfortably on his face.

“Actually, I’m here for you.”

Chris’s expression veers into suspicious with a hint of threat, i.e., his normal expression. Stiles finds it backhandedly reassuring. “Really.”

“Really. Just wondering what brought the Argents to town. Because, you know, I was under the impression that the local pack had Beacon Hills covered as far as supernatural threats go, so…”

Chris grabs Stiles by the back of the neck and drags him inside, slamming the door behind him and then slamming him into the door. Ah, this old, familiar place. Chris is such a molester sometimes.

“Who is the local pack?” Chris demands.

“Why would you think there was even an off-chance I’d tell you that?” Stiles asks incredulously.

Chris bares his teeth. He who fights monsters, huh? “What the hell are you?”

“Just a human kid who knows too much for his own good.”

“I doubt that.”

“And that’s your prerogative. Doesn’t really matter, though, so would you just answer my question?”

It’s terrible, but Stiles is secretly enjoying baiting Chris. He’s been kind of lonely without the mistrustful bastards in his life. Clearly there’s something wrong with him.

“I’m retired,” Chris says grudgingly after a second, easing up on Stiles a little. “The fact that Beacon Hills was under control was part of the appeal. I’ve been finding it more supernaturally active than I’d hoped.”

“So, what, old instincts just jumped up and bit you right now? That’s your excuse?”

Chris slams him back against the door. Argent family tolerance for smart remarks: very limited. Stiles should’ve remembered that about them.

“Okay, fine! Fine, not questioning it, jeez. So you’re saying you moved to Beacon Hills for a quiet life?” The mind boggles, wow. “Um, I think you’re gonna be disappointed? Because first it’s a kanima and a few rogue omegas, then it’s pixies and alpha packs and human sacrifices, and then the next thing you know, supernatural apocalypse, doom doom doom.”

“That’s what you’re predicting?”

“That’s what I know.”

“How?”

“Don’t worry about it. It’s an alternate timeline thing.”

“…So you see the future.”

Stiles shrugs. He doesn’t remotely see the future, but he has a policy about letting other people’s assumptions stand until it’s in his best interest to correct them.

“You’re a witch!” Chris accuses.

“Oh my god, I live in a Monty Python sketch,” Stiles groans. “Can we not, right now? Please? Because I need to be having a sane conversation with you about real problems, not battling your attack of the paranoid crazies. Okay?”

“So you’re claiming not to be a witch.”

“No, I’m saying it doesn’t matter, and also you’re a pain in my ass.”

Chris does the threatening-finger-in-the-face thing. Someday Stiles is going to bite that finger. “If you’re coming here asking for favors from my family, I don’t think it’s a wise choice to antagonize me more than you already have.”

“I’m not asking you for favors,” Stiles insists, stung. “I’m warning you about something.”

“So you’re threatening me.”

“Dude, you have so many issues. No. No, I’m not threatening you, I’m not asking you for a favor, and I’m not gonna rat anybody else out. I’m warning you about something outside all of us so you can be prepared. I think it’d be nice if you were prepared. It might help me out, and even if it doesn’t, it doesn’t do any harm to tell you.”

For the first time, Chris looks like he might actually have touched down in the Land of Reason. So of course it can’t last. Allison has to take that moment to call out from upstairs, voice high and shocked. “Dad? What are you doing?”

“Oh, just assaulting a minor in the entryway,” Stiles mutters, sneering at Chris, who lets him go and steps away, sneering back with interest. “Must be Tuesday.”

Stiles?” Allison’s voice rises to a near-shout.

“It’s okay, Allison,” Stiles calls up to her, trying to make her look less worried and pale, because in his experience, a worried and pale Allison can quickly morph into a vengeful and homicidal Allison. “Your dad just worked out that I’m kind of magic and was overcome by a fit of bigoted douchebaggery, but I think he’s mostly over it now. We’re cool.”

“For some definition of cool,” Chris mutters.

“Did you just say magic?” Allison demands. “Does Scott know about this?!”

This chat is going exactly the way Stiles was afraid it would. “Yeah, Scott knows.”

“Does he know about werewolves?”

“Yes.”

“Does he know any werewolves?!”

“I think, statistically speaking, most people know a werewolf or two? Seems to have about the same genetic frequency as red hair. Of course, you might not realize it since you can’t see the werewolf on people, and there’s no percentage in sharing it around, because that might get them shot. Whereas nobody shoots redheads…although they are kind of weird about them in the UK. Possibly because the English have the whole Irish racism thing going on? Not sure. Anyway, not applicable in California. Go redheads.”

Allison appears to have lost the thread of whatever argument she was trying to make, so that’s all win. Chris looks like he wants to beat his head against the wall; arguably that is also all win. People give Stiles crap about the babbling, but that’s because they don’t realize what an awesome weapon it can be. And if he tells himself it’s deliberate more often than it actually is, no one has to know.

“Hey, Allison?” he barrels on, since no one’s stopping him. “You mind if I talk to your dad for a second? Then you can do the twenty questions or whatever.”

“Oh-kayyy,” Allison says dubiously, fading silently back from the railing like a ninja. Stiles would like to learn that trick. Allison, so effortlessly badass.

And terrifying. Also terrifying, which is the whole point of this visit. Right. “So. Chris. Basically, it’s like this: there’s some kind of magical instability going on right now, we’re trying to figure out why and squish it, but in the meantime, things are going to be weird.”

“You want help fighting the…symptoms?” Chris guesses.

“You always guess wrong,” Stiles informs him. “No. Or I guess, I don’t care, whatever, if you want. Take pot shots at as many pixies as you feel like, but I thought you were retired. No, I just want you to keep an eye on Allison.”

“She’s my daughter,” Chris snaps.

“Yeah, exactly. She’s your daughter. And you and I both know what the rest of your family’s like, and what I’m saying is—hey, Allison’s awesome and all? But if she gets the idea that she’s right and somebody else is wrong, she has no limits. In a way that is profoundly scary and dangerous for everyone, including you. And her.”

“You’re saying my own daughter would turn on me.”

“Not…exactly? It’s not like she’d kill her loved ones. Just, uh. Her casual acquaintances.”

“You’ve seen this in your visions.”

“I’ve lived this, okay? And she shot a hunter because she thought he was wrong, and then later she shot the shit out of a couple of teenaged werewolves because she didn’t like their alpha. I’m just saying watch her, because she’s great in a lot of ways, but she’s still related to Gerard.”

I’m related to Gerard,” Chris growls.

“I know, and I have no idea how the backsplash evil mostly missed you, but congratulations. Is he alive, by the way?”

“Gerard? No.”

“Oh, good. I mean, sorry for your loss. Anyway, what I’m saying is, Kate could potentially burn a house down with an entire family trapped inside, Allison could potentially shoot innocent teenagers to death, but you, you actually follow your code. The point of my visit is to say: brainwash Allison with as much honor the code stuff as you can. Indoctrinate her right this time. It’ll make all of our lives so much easier.”

“And what will you do if I can’t control her?” Chris demands, because he still thinks this is a threatening talk. Sigh.

“Me? Nothing,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “I mean, I’ll do my best to keep her from killing anybody I like, but the thing is, I like her, too. Anyway, it’s not my job to police hunters. That’s your problem.”

“I don’t understand you,” Chris says, eyes narrowed.

Stiles nods placidly. “I get that a lot.”

* * *

There’s a knock at the door, and Stiles tentatively sticks his head in, eyebrows raised in question. “Can I come in?”

He doesn’t look any different than he did yesterday. Why would he, though? Apparently he was a witch yesterday, too, even though he’s never looked anything other than sarcastic and stressed out and fragile. There’s nothing about him that suggests he could kill everyone in a room with a thought.

But then, Allison looks harmless, too.

“Sure,” she says. “Come in.”

He sidles in—or as close as Stiles gets to sidling—and studies her. “Are you gonna be weird about this?”

“Probably,” she admits. There doesn’t seem to be any point in lying when he’ll find out soon enough.

“Okay.” He eyes her warily, unnervingly quiet for Stiles. “So does that mean…how likely are you to shoot me with a crossbow? Just so I know.”

What? I wouldn’t! Not as long as you don’t hurt anybody. Anyway, we’re retired.”

“Are you sure? Because you’re kind of rocking your justifiable homicide face.”

“Stiles! Look, I’m never going to like that you’re a witch, but that doesn’t mean I’ll kill you for it. Even though you chose that. It’s not like—like werewolves, who don’t always get to choose, and can’t change their minds later either way.”

“Well, Allison, I’m never going to like that you’re a hunter, which is something you chose, but I do like you personally. It’s like when your friend has an evil girlfriend, and you really wish he’d dump her, but you don’t hate him for it. You worry about him.”

She narrows her eyes. “Am I the evil girlfriend in this analogy?”

“Um, I think Scott was the evil girlfriend? Metaphorically? No, hang on, hunting was the evil girlfriend. Wait, now I’m just confused.”

He’s just so…Stiles. “Then that makes two of us.”

“Yeah, well. Oh! Random, but, uh…your Aunt Kate’s philosophy on hunting: lay it on me.”

“Um…why?”

“Because I’m interested? Because I asked, okay! What, is it classified or something?”

Allison rolls her eyes and wonders, not for the first time, if Scott has secret techniques for dealing with Stiles when he’s like this. “It’s not classified, but it shouldn’t matter. She’ll never come here.”

“Why not?” Stiles asks with a level of interest that is frankly suspicious.

“She hates Beacon Hills. She won’t talk about why.”

“Uh huh.”

“I think…I think she took it pretty hard when my grandfather—her dad—died. He died in Beacon Hills, and she just. It’s like she thinks he abandoned her. She was only sixteen.”

Stiles nods thoughtfully, steepling his fingers and tapping them against his lips. “How much younger is Kate than your dad?”

“Why are you asking me this? Because this is strange, Stiles. This is a suspicious line of questioning.” From a witch, especially.

“I’m easily obsessed; you know this about me. Anyway, your dad trained you, right? So if your grandpa died when Kate was that young—who trained her?”

“My grandfather did, at first. But then I guess Dad and, and Mom took over. She lived with us for a long time. Her hunting philosophy is a lot like ours, except she won’t hunt anything but werewolves. And she’s very picky about who she’ll hunt. She has to have absolute proof. She’s…fanatical about it.” Allison loves Kate, God knows, but she’s getting weirder and more hermit-like every year. Allison doesn’t understand her anymore.

Stiles seems to, though, because he drops his hands and nods like it all makes sense now. “Rebelling against Gerard,” he says.

“Why do you know my grandfather’s name?” Allison demands coldly, trying not to panic. “Why do you know Kate’s name?”

Stiles just shrugs like it isn’t in any way scary or invasive. “Argents. Famous. Or maybe infamous, if we’re talking Gerard—there was something seriously not right about that guy. Not like your dad. People respect Chris—he follows his code, you know? But Kate I don’t know much about.”

“Well, she’s not here,” Allison reminds him brusquely. “So I don’t see why you need to worry about her.”

“Because I worry?” He frowns. “It’s kind of my thing. My identity. Stiles Stilinski, worrier. Hey, do you know how Gerard died?”

He asked for it. “Witches killed him.”

“Oh.” He blinks. “Awkward.”

“Very.”

“Why did witches kill him? How did they kill him? Where is he buried?”

Wow. She just gave him a pretty cast-iron reason for never trusting him, and he’s responding with twenty questions. That’s so…

Allison firmly tells herself she’s not remotely charmed by the sheer gall of him. “I have no idea. And even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you, Stiles.”

“Cold!” Stiles cries, clutching at his chest. “I just want to know for sure that he’s actually, honest-to-god dead.”

“He’s dead,” Allison insists. “He’s been dead for years.”

“Right. Or at least that’s what they want you to think.”

Allison closes her eyes briefly and prays for patience. “I’ll look into it. Happy? Any other sketchy things you want to know about my family history? Little favors I can do for you, maybe? Because I love helping witches out; it’s a hobby of mine.”

“Awesome,” Stiles says, and if he’s aware of her sarcasm, he’s hiding it well. “Because I’d really like a copy of your family’s bestiary.”

He wants what? “I think you mean—”

Oh my God, no. Why? Why here, too? You’re humorless!Allison, you shouldn’t even—I mean bestiary. It’s a book on mythical creatures, you should know this, I am embarrassed for you. Because I know you have one. In Archaic Latin, inconveniently.”

“…You should probably ask my dad, then.”

“Yeah, your dad? Not my biggest fan. How about you ask your dad?”

“I’m not your biggest fan either. And Dad’ll want to know why I want it.”

“To study up, obviously. Easier if you have your own copy. Allison Argent: Superhunter!”

“We’re retired.”

“Whatever, old soldiers never die.”

“What would I do with a book in Archaic Latin, anyway?”

“You’re friends with Lydia Martin, look at you, and she totally knows Archaic Latin.”

“She does?”

“Yep.”

“Exactly how smart is she?”

“I know, right?” And he instantly goes shiny-eyed with admiration. He’s making it really hard not to like him. “She’s a genius. Also somehow too smart to fall in love with me, but not smart enough not to fall in love with Jackson? It seriously confuses me, I’m not gonna lie. Couldn’t she have gone for, I don’t know, Rodriguez? Someone who is not the scum of the earth, I’m just saying. It’d be so much easier to make my peace with that.”

Allison finds herself close to laughter despite her principles, her training, and her better judgment. “Stiles. Jackson is not the scum of the earth.”

“He kind of is, though. It’s just that he’s sometimes awesome on alternating Thursdays; it muddies the water. Maybe that’s what he and Lydia have going for them. The attraction of the mutually confusing. Wait, why are we even talking about this? Bestiary! We’re talking about the bestiary.”

“Fine,” she sighs, knowing she’ll regret it even as she gives in. “I’ll get you a copy of the bestiary. And I’ll ask Lydia to translate it. And when she asks me a lot of uncomfortable questions, I’m sending her to you.”

“Fair,” Stiles agrees, nodding earnestly. “Totally fair. Allison, you’re the coolest.”

She suspects that what she is, in fact, is the most gullible, but it’s a little late to be worrying about that now.


Chapter III
 
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