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

Chapter 2 of the neverending Teen Wolf fic which never ends! (Actually it ends with Chapter 3, but you know what I mean.)

In this chapter, the Argents appear and Stiles is unable to resist poking at them with a stick. Not that he tries particularly hard. Not that he ever tries particularly hard to resist bad ideas. Bless.

Teen Wolf still doesn’t belong to me. In fact, I have gained no property, intellectual or otherwise, since the last time I posted. Is that true? I think that’s true.

Play It Again – Chapter 2

Derek comes home from work, climbs the stairs, and finds all of his siblings and cousins at the top, sprawled facedown in the hallway with their ears pressed to the floor, or in the case of the humans, with cups pressed to the floor to amplify sound. And he was so sure they’d outgrown this.

“Oh my God,” Cora breathes. “Did he really just tell Dad to use his words?

“He really did,” Rachel confirms. “Best day ever.”

Everyone laughs quietly, but they quickly hush each other and settle again, listening. Derek thinks about acting like an adult and walking past them to his bedroom the way he’d planned. He thinks about it for almost a minute. Then he drops down next to Laura and puts his ear to the floor. She throws an arm over his shoulders and smirks at him.

“…faith in me is amazing,” Stiles is saying in the almost-but-not-quite soundproofed room below. “No, oh my God, I’m not starting my own werewolf army.” Pause. “Although that would be pretty awesome.”

The twins giggle. Philip glares them into silence. Laura nudges Derek and grins. It feels exactly like being ten years old again. Actually, Derek’s pretty sure that was the last time they did this—when he was ten. Stiles is making them regress.

Well, Cat and Cal haven’t gotten to do this before. Cat’s definitely enjoying it, though Cal’s so little, he probably won’t even remember. But right now he’s having so much fun he can hardly stand it, so that’s something.

“All I’m asking is, is it safer for people to be bitten young? Are they more likely to live through it? Also, is it psychologically better that way—to be bitten young, to have more time to adjust? Or, flipside, is it morally wrong to ask if people want the bite that young, seeing as your average teenager has no freaking clue what they want?”

Derek’s never thought about any of this. Of course, he’s never really known anyone bitten. It must be confusing for them. He can’t imagine.

“It’s a balance,” Mom tells Stiles. “We try not to take anyone before seventeen or after twenty, but we make exceptions for people who are dying anyway, from injuries or illness. And we’ll sometimes take very adaptable adults, as long as they understand the risks.”


“And when I say ‘we,’ I mean other packs, because the Hale pack hasn’t bitten anyone in generations. It’s complicated, and there hasn’t been any need.”

Uncle Peter hits the top of the stairs at this point, and everyone cringes. Peter’s always been good at sneaking up on them—at home, anyway, where everything smells like all of them all the time.

He runs a stern eye over them, frowning at Philip, who looks away guiltily. Then he frowns at Laura, who shrugs unrepentantly.

And then he drops down between Cat and Cal and puts his ear to the floor. There’s another wave of giggles and hissed demands for quiet, and Cal climbs happily onto Peter’s back and curls into a ball. It’s almost offensively cute.

“So I know this girl who has seizures, and some people can roll with that, but it’s basically destroying her,” Stiles is saying. “And there’s this guy—he’s kind of a loner, but he’s got a solid sense of responsibility. I think they’d be, I don’t know, happier in themselves if they were werewolves, and definitely if they had a pack. Although Erica’s gonna need some serious lecture time on why it’s wrong to take out your rage against the bullies by becoming a bully, if you know what I mean.”

“Well,” Aunt Felicia says, appearing from nowhere and making everyone jump—she’s the only one sneakier than Uncle Peter. “You are adorable, I have to admit. But I will tattle on you if you keep this up. I will do it without a second’s hesitation or a moment of remorse. Come on, up, all of you.”

They get up, guilty and resentful in equal parts. Except for Peter, who swings Cal into his arms and shamelessly saunters over to Aunt Felicia, leading Cat by the hand, smiling his sweetest smile, like he’s saying, You wouldn’t yell at your dear husband and innocent children, would you? Aunt Felicia rolls her eyes, but she lets Peter reel her in with his free arm, lets Cal grab onto her shirt while Cat bounces beside them, chattering about how fun it was.

Everyone else silently blesses Peter for the distraction and scurries away to their rooms before Felicia remembers they exist.

Derek wonders what Stiles is saying now.

* * *

The day after the, wow, seriously off-putting chat with the senior Hales, Stiles catches Erica in the parking lot on the way out of school. All these life-altering conversations happening in the parking lot lately; Stiles really needs a more sedentary life. His next life-altering conversation is happening in the cafeteria, dammit. “If you want to talk to them,” he says, “they’ll talk to you. If you repeat what they tell you to the wrong people, though, they’ll kill you. FYI.”

Erica rolls her eyes. “Very funny.”

“No, no, it isn’t, because I’m actually being deathly serious right now. I know it’s confusing because it’s so rare, but I am as serious as I’ve ever been. They will really, truly kill you dead. They will feel they have no choice, and I can’t even say they’d be wrong. Do you really want to know about this?”

Erica settles, looking frail and sick, maybe, but also determined enough to ride through hell. “Stiles, you said you needed my help. Do you know when someone last needed me for anything? Never, Stiles. Never. No one has ever needed me. So if you actually need me for something, I have to at least find out why. I have to. Do you get that?”

Stiles sighs, lets his head fall back, and stares at the sky like it has the answers. It doesn’t seem to. “Yeah, I get that.” And when she puts it that way, he can’t even bring himself to feel too guilty about it.

He wonders if she’ll take the bite this time. He wonders if Laura will let her wear the crazy werewolf vamp clothes if she does. Somehow he’s thinking no. “Right. So do you want to go now?”

Erica blinks. Apparently she wasn’t expecting right now. “I…guess?”

“You need to call home and say you’ll be late?”

“No. My mom is working late tonight.”

Damn, it’s like she doesn’t even care if he drives her into the woods and kills her. Maybe she doesn’t. Stiles already feels so good about the way this is going, Jesus. “Climb in, then.”

She climbs in. It’s a quiet ride out to the Preserve. Erica seems to have a lot on her mind, and Stiles is first busy worrying that he won’t be able to find the clearing Talia told him to go to, and then weirding himself out by thinking the ruined Hale house would be a good place to meet before realizing it doesn’t exist.

His mind is still chasing itself in circles on that theme when they get to the clearing. He introduces Erica and Talia (the only wolf there, interestingly), and stands back while Talia gives Erica the whole werewolf speech and Erica fails to flip out over it to an extent that is either very cool or very upsetting. Next, Talia gives all the warnings about hunters and the current unsettled supernatural situation and the sliding odds of the bite killing you and a lot of things Stiles doesn’t remember Derek ever going into in any detail. It makes Stiles wander off into strangely fond thoughts about his Derek’s ineptitude, and he doesn’t tune in again until Erica asks if they’re actually offering her the bite.

“We are,” Talia says gently. “But if you decide to go through with it, we’ll need to talk with your parents.”

“My parents?” Erica asks, horrified. “Why?

“Because they’re still feeding and housing you, Erica. Unless they’re somehow abusive—are they?”

Erica shakes her head, but Stiles—and Talia, he sees—notices that she doesn’t seem too sure about that.

“They deserve to have a vote,” Talia concludes anyway. “It could cure your medical problems, but it could also kill you.”

“It won’t,” Stiles murmurs.

Talia eyes him with extreme suspicion. “Why do you say that?”

“No reason!” he counters hastily. Crap. He really needs to remember who he’s admitted what to, or he’s gonna end up dumped in the woods with broken legs to be eaten by pixies.

“Hm,” is all Talia says, ominously. “The other thing, Erica, is that once you’re bitten, we’ll need to train you. To train you, we’ll need to pull you out of school for at least a year. So you won’t graduate until next year.”

“Wait, what?” Stiles demands before Erica gets a chance to.

“That’s the way it has to be, Stiles. It’s not an easy adjustment. To bond with the pack, we’ll need to isolate her from everyone who isn’t pack or family for the first two months, and then we need to keep her away from anyone who might upset her and cause an accidental change for another two after that. The last eight months are for training, for learning control and our history. How did your alpha handle this?”

Ah. She’s figured out he was in a pack, then. Well, he probably does have a vibe. Whatever.

“Badly,” Stiles says, and while this is not news to him, he’d never understood how badly until just now. “So very, very badly.”

You had an alpha?” Erica demands.

“Once upon a time, yeah. Not that I’m a wolf or anything. You know what? This is a very awful story; let’s not talk about it.”

“Erica?” Talia asks softly.

“Why is it an awful story?” Erica persists, because she’s not stupid, which in this case is too bad.

“Because it’s a rocks fall, everyone dies kind of story, okay?”

“Oh. I didn’t know, I’m—Stiles, I didn’t mean, I didn’t know—”

Stiles cuts her off and waves blanket forgiveness. He can’t handle sincere apologies or other people’s guilt in general. He should always be the guilty one; that is the correct order of things.

Erica avoids everyone’s eyes for a while, but Talia just waits her out. She recovers pretty quickly; she’s always been tough. “How much more dangerous is it to be a werewolf than a human?”

“In this town?” Stiles snorts. “Not much. You may even be less likely to die than the squishy humans. Well, unless you go omega, which is stupid and to be avoided.”

“What do you think, Erica?” Talia asks, voice polite and devoid of any kind of pressure. And this is somehow Derek’s mom.

Erica looks totally overwhelmed; she looks small and confused and terrified. But still determined. “I want to do it,” she says firmly. “We can…we should talk to my parents.”

“I’ll give you a week to change your mind, first,” Talia informs her, no-nonsense. “Use it to spend time with my kids, because if you like them, they’ll be your new pack. If not, we’ll find you another pack. Once you’ve chosen a pack, then we’ll talk to your parents.”

That whole process will take at least a month, then it’ll probably take another month to talk Erica’s parents around. And then Erica will be at werewolf camp and talking to no one for another two months after that. Stiles will be gone by then.

It’s kind of looking like he just helped Erica get a new life and lost her anyway.

Not that this is about him. This is definitely not about him; this is about making Erica less miserable. God, he seriously needs to get a grip, here, because for some reason, Erica’s looking at him like his opinion counts for something with her.

“Go crazy, Catwoman,” he says.

It’s a reference she shouldn’t catch, but she grins anyway.

* * *

“Who lives at 255 Cedar?”

“Derek! I love you too, little brother. It’s good to hear from you. I hope you’re having a nice evening as well. Are you on your way home from work?”


“You are such a—this is an abuse of power! You’re going to get me fired someday, and then I’m going to make you buy all my food and shoes and clothes and—dum, da da dum, dum dum dum—the McCalls. 255 Cedar, home to Melissa and Scott McCall. Why?”

Derek rubs his forehead and leans against a warded tree. “Because there are some really familiar wards all around their house.”


“Probably. Scott’s a friend of his. And…there’s mountain ash, too.”



“For us, or…?”

“Who else would it be for?”

“Well, I don’t know, Derek. Who does Stiles think is planning to burn our house down? We don’t know. Plus, rogue omegas everywhere.”

“Maybe he just doesn’t trust us.”

“I doubt that. Go check the Stilinski place, see if there’s mountain ash there.”

“Why should I? I’m going home.”

“Or you could shut up and do what I tell you.”

“…Or that.”

Derek needs to learn to say no to Laura. He’s definitely going to learn someday. Apparently not today, but someday.

It turns out that the Stilinski house is warded to the limits of sanity and possibly beyond…but there’s no mountain ash. Derek walks right up to the wall and touches it. If there were mountain ash around the foundation, he’d feel the effects of it from here, but there’s nothing.

So Stiles does trust them. But he doesn’t want werewolves around Scott McCall.

Derek looks up at the nearest lighted window and catches a glimpse of Stiles moving around up there. Must be his room. Derek really wants to ask why there’s mountain ash at the McCalls’, and there Stiles is, right there.

Without thinking it through much beyond that, Derek jumps up to the first floor roof, then swings himself over to the window and in.

And that’s when it hits him that he’s just climbed, uninvited, into a teenager’s bedroom. Laura is going to laugh at his face and then punch him in it.

Stiles, though, seems only mildly surprised. “Hey, Derek. Since you’re here, you can help me find something that kills pixies, because your mom put this on me, and they’re like impossible to kill in any numbers, and I’m just, I am done with their whole species. They’re mystical, magical, poisonous cockroaches; I can’t deal.”

He chucks a book onto his bed. Presumably that’s where he expects Derek to sit and read about pixies. Fucking Stiles Stilinski. “You’ve got mountain ash around Scott McCall’s house,” Derek says, ignoring the book.

Stiles abruptly stops moving. “Why were you at Scott’s?”

“I wasn’t.” This is confirming every suspicion Derek has. “I was coming home from work and felt the wards, so I stopped. Then I noticed the ash.”

“Oh.” Stiles goes limp with relief, then says, “Sorry. Sorry, I just—I don’t want him more involved than he already is, you know? Like, he’s a good friend and a good employee and a decent student, but that’s all he can handle. If he became a werewolf, too? His grades would tank for at least a year, he’d show up late for work when he showed up at all, and things like me being chained up in a basement somewhere would slip his mind. And if he had a love life on top of that, oh my God, don’t even get me started. The love life is the worst.”

“You think we’d bite him?”

“What? No!” Stiles gives Derek a scandalized look. “Of course not! I mean, unless he asked, but in that case, he’d prance right over to your house and I couldn’t stop him. And I wouldn’t—that would be his call. I’m not worried about you guys. It’s just, all the crazy omegas lately, right? They could kill him. And who’s to say we won’t have crazy alphas coming through? And Scott’s like—if there’s a way to pitch headfirst into danger, Scott is there. Oh! That’s why you—I was only worried you were at his house because I figured you wouldn’t be there without a reason, and any reason you’d have for going there would mean he was already neck-deep in something bad that he wasn’t telling me about. It wasn’t about you. You totally have my blessing to talk to Scott as much as you want, if you want. Although, honestly? I don’t think you’d get along.”

Derek would like to know how it’s possible to talk that much and still have time to breathe.

And he should probably apologize. No, he knows he should; he was being suspicious of Stiles for no reason. Not that Stiles seems offended. He should still apologize. He can practically hear Laura nagging him about it.

He’s not great at apologies, so he just grabs the nearest pixie book and settles back to flip through it: apology through labor. He doesn’t know what Stiles thinks he’s going to learn from these books that isn’t already common knowledge, but whatever. That’s not the point. The point is that Stiles smells…content, now. So that’s good. It would be even better if Derek could actually focus on the damn book instead of Stiles, because this is helping no one.

He always seems to be doing at least three things simultaneously, Stiles, and the amazing thing is that he never loses track of any of them. He goes from one to the other to the other and back around, smooth and endless, no apparent confusion. It’s either impressive or terrifying; Derek can’t decide.

At the moment, Stiles is doing math homework, college applications, pixie research, and…some other kind of research, Derek isn’t sure what. It’s supernatural, that much is obvious; he’s busily sticking newspaper clippings between the pages of a giant tome on runes and curses that he probably stole from Philip. Derek’s not sure if the clippings are for cross-referencing purposes or just bookmarks. Or both.

With enormous force of will, Derek tears his mind away from Stiles and forces himself to focus on the pixie book. Which, as he suspected, contains nothing useful. Which is what he tells Stiles every five minutes, because that’s how often Stiles interrupts him.

“Anything new on pixies?”

“Stiles. I just started reading.”

Five minutes later: “So what kind of work do you do? When you’re not running around the woods catching omegas or sniffing out Scott’s house.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “I work at the gym.”

“Oh my God, that is so perfect it’s ridiculous.”

“Shut up.”

“No, it is, it’s so, so perfect. You seriously just made my day, dude.”

“Don’t make me kill you.”

“Yeesh. Touchy.”

Five minutes later: “So…pixies? Progress?”


Really, Derek’s sure there’s nothing to learn on the subject of pixies. They’re a fucking menace, yes, but everyone’s known that since Fenrir, and in all that time, no one’s cooked up a magical equivalent to Pixie Off. If they had, everyone would know about it. He’s being set up to fail, here. Well, him and Stiles both.

An hour into the futile studying, Laura calls. Derek’s amazed she lasted that long, and also amazed to find he wants a break badly enough to actually want to talk to her. “…Hi.”

“Hi there, Derek. And…where are you, exactly? Because you’re not home. Everyone is sort of wondering why it is that you’re not home, actually.”

“Ah.” He’s not sure where to go from there, but it doesn’t matter, because Stiles takes that moment to put his foot in it.

“Is that Laura?” he asks, and then, without waiting for an answer, “Gimme the phone, I want to ask her something.” When Derek just stares at him, he beckons imperiously. Derek hands over the phone. What the hell.

“Laura! I have all the questions about pixies, but Derek’s specialty is definitely not research wizardry. I don’t mean to hurt your family pride or anything—he has other strengths!—but he hasn’t told me how to exterminate pixies yet, which is what I need at the moment, so I’m asking you. Thoughts?”

Laura laughs. “Derek’s at your house right now? Oh my God. Did you catch him sneaking around your yard and invite him in or something?”

“Hm? No, he climbed in my window. Why?”

“He what?

“I know, right? I’ve given up on training him out of it.”

“You mean he’s climbed in your window before?!”

“No, no! No, this is the first time. I just meant—social skills. Generally. I’ve given up on them.”

Derek would be offended under normal circumstances, but there are no normal circumstances with Stiles, and he’s more confused than anything. Because when Stiles said, This is the first time, he was lying.

Except that Derek has definitely never climbed in any non-family member’s window before. Which either means that he’s got all of Stiles’s tells wrong, or—

Or what?

…Derek reminds Stiles of someone, he’s said it more than once. How much does Derek remind him of this person? This person who slammed Stiles into things and claimed not to trust him and had some kind of mutual life-saving arrangement with him. This person who very possibly used to climb into Stiles’s bedroom window to help him with research.

It makes no sense. According to Laura, Stiles has lived in this house in Beacon Hills all his life. If there was another pack hanging around close enough to spend time at the Stilinski house, the Hales would have known. Besides, Derek can’t smell another werewolf here. He can smell tiny hints of Stiles’s mother’s perfume, years old now, but no wolf. And that grief Stiles feels—that’s new.

Stiles acts like pack. Stiles worries and defends and organizes; he never shows weakness except as a ploy. He acts like…like a human alpha. He clearly had his own pack once—but where are they now? Where did he meet them? How did he lose them? Why is he so guilty and devastated about them? Derek wants to know everything, and that’s a strange feeling for him. He doesn’t dare ask, though. He won’t risk making Stiles feel that loss again.

Stiles abruptly tosses the phone back to Derek. “Here you go. Laura’s going to come over bearing pixie books,” he says happily. “I think she wants to bitch you out for the whole window-climbing thing.”

“He’s right,” Laura says as Derek brings the phone to his ear. “What the hell is wrong with you? He’s seventeen! He’s the sheriff’s underage son! You climbed into the sheriff’s underage son’s bedroom window, Derek! Do you have any idea how much Mom is going to yell at you?”

“Don’t tell Mom!” Derek yelps, thereby earning himself a really weird look from Stiles.

“Too late,” Laura declares, devoid of sympathy. “She’s been listening. I’ll see you soon, baby brother.”

And because this evening hasn’t had enough fun at Derek’s expense yet, he no sooner hangs up on that impending disaster than Stiles’s dad, the sheriff, knocks briefly and throws the door open. He looks about as happy to find Derek in his underage son’s bedroom as Laura figured he would.

“Dad!” Stiles says, panic-bright. “Fancy meeting you here, in our, um, house…you know Derek Hale, right?”

The sheriff narrows his eyes suspiciously at Derek. “We’ve met. Gave up on that idea about a restraining order against my son, did you, Derek?”


“Dude, you were going to get a restraining order against me?” Stiles laughs, apparently forgetting how incredibly awkward this situation is. “That would’ve been hilarious. Also? Wouldn’t be the first time I tried to help somebody out and ended up with a restraining order.”

“Excuse me?” the sheriff demands.

“Kidding! Obviously, no restraining orders here. Which you would know, because you’re the sheriff. You’d have to know if there were any restraining orders against me, right? Of course right. I’m restraining order free. Ha ha.”

He’s lying again. What.

The sheriff, probably wisely, shakes his head and ignores his son. “Derek. Why are you here?”

Derek scrabbles for a response consisting of something other than frantic, nonspecific denials.

“He’s helping me with a research project,” Stiles cuts in. “History class. We’ve got a mythology unit, and his Aunt Felicia is all about mythology. Seriously, their library is the best. Plus, I get to write a paper on pixies. How cool is that?”

The sheriff is smiling reluctantly, almost despite himself. Derek knows the feeling. “Uh huh. And what have you learned about pixies?”

“That despite all the Disneyfication they’ve gone through? Original pixies were freaking evil, Dad. Also venomous. Neurotoxins in their venom. Flies like a hummingbird, bites like a komodo dragon. And they breed like rabbits. They’re blue and hand-sized, and you should avoid them, that’s my newly expert advice. Shoot them in the face and run if you have to, but as a general rule? Avoid.”

“I’ll bear that in mind,” the sheriff says patiently. “If pixies ever become real, I will avoid them. Remind me how Derek’s contributing to this effort?”

“Mostly I cart books around,” Derek says. It’s true often enough that it sounds convincing. It may even become true for Stiles in the near future, if Philip has his way.

“He’s the Hale family gofer,” Stiles explains. “Sad, really.” Derek glowers at him. Stiles is unmoved.

The sheriff seems to accept all this as being within the bounds of normal behavior for Stiles’s friends. “Right,” he sighs. “Well, don’t stay up late. You have a lacrosse game tomorrow, remember.”

“Oh. Right.”


“Bed early! Totally early. Promise. Oh! Laura’s coming by in a minute with more books. I guess she can pick up Derek then?”

“All right, sounds good. Have a safe drive home, Derek.”


“Goodnight, Stiles. Love you.”

“Love you, Dad. Night.”

He closes the door, and Stiles spins to point at Derek accusingly. “What the hell, dude?” he hisses. “What do you think your freaky werewolf senses are for?

Derek scowls back. “I didn’t know I was supposed to be listening for your dad!”

Stiles’s hand drops and he frowns in confusion. “You didn’t know you were supposed to—what, you just had your hearing turned off?”

“No, human kid, I—you can’t constantly pay attention to everything! You’d go crazy. The only time I’m that on is when I’m actively in danger. Nobody can be that keyed up all the time unless they’re, I don’t know—”

“Hypervigilant,” Stiles interrupts, looking and smelling…very strange, all of a sudden. “Suffering from the persistent feeling of being under threat.”


“Okay. That explains a lot.”

“About what?” Derek demands, fed up with Stiles’s everything.

“You,” he replies nonsensically. “Anyway, Laura. We should go downstairs and wait for her.”

Derek despairs of anything in his life making sense ever again.

* * *

Stiles had figured there would be some good, old-fashioned mockery when Laura arrived, but he hadn’t anticipated the actual freakout that occurred. Maybe Stiles is just desensitized, but he doesn’t get what the big deal is. His Derek did way worse things all the time (which…yeah, okay, maybe not the strongest argument). Not that it mattered what Stiles thought—he was definitely not consulted.

No, it went like this: Laura dropped the books off, chatted politely with Stiles about them, and then dragged Derek out by the ear, scolding viciously all the way. RIP, buddy.

One of the books Laura dropped off is in Archaic Latin. She asked if that would be a problem, Stiles blithely claimed it wouldn’t, and it’s taken an hour to hit him that his former source for reliable Latin translations (Archaic, Classical, whatever) either doesn’t know his name or is pretending very firmly not to.

So that…makes things weirder. But it can’t be helped—how many people in Beacon Hills are likely to know Archaic Latin? Yeah. He’s just gonna have to suck it up and deal.

And with that rallying cry in mind, he heads to school the next day, preemptively kissing his temporary, tentative cool factor goodbye. And then he fails to find a chance to talk to Lydia all morning, which kills his momentum. Life never has any respect for Stiles’s sense of timing.

“I see Erica’s hanging around with the Hale twins all of a sudden,” Scott says accusingly when they sit down for lunch (still no Lydia in sight).

“Is she?” Stiles asks, innocent as the day is long, pure as the driven snow.


“Hey, it’s not like everything to do with the Hales has something to do with me.”

“Maybe not, but this does. Come on. You’ve been talking to Erica, you’ve been talking to the Hales, suddenly they’re talking to each other? This has you written all over it.”

Lydia arrives in the cafeteria. Finally. She sits with Jackson and Danny, but their satellite minions haven’t shown up yet. This is as close to alone as Stiles is ever going to get her. The time is now!

“Are you ignoring me?” Scott asks, affronted. “You can’t ignore me, I’m being serious. What’re you up to with Erica?”

“Hold that thought, okay? I’ve gotta go ask Lydia for something.”

Scott’s eyes go saucer-wide. “You’re…you’re asking Lydia for something?”

“Uh, yeah? What, dude, what’s with that face?”

“You can’t just go talk to Lydia! You never do that! She doesn’t know who you are, remember?!”

“Can’t be helped. Biting the bullet. It’s been nice knowing you, Scott, but I’m off to have my dignity eviscerated in public. Stand aside.”

Scott is reluctant to stand aside, so Stiles puts a hand on the table and vaults over it, scurrying Lydia-wards before Scott can catch him. This is a major bonus to a non-werewolf Scott, Stiles has to admit.

He was lying about his dignity, anyway; it’s not like he actually has any left. He’s walking around in the wrong world wearing a dead kid’s body while lying to Dad about his identity and personal history. There’s nothing Lydia can say to him that’s worse than what he’s already said to himself. Loudly. Several times.

“Lydia! Hi. I’m Stiles, I sit behind you in—it doesn’t matter.” She’s bored. She’s mentally absent. She’s wondering why this sub-species creature is talking to her. Stiles has definitely not missed any of these facial expressions on her. “I need you to translate something for me.”

And we’re in business. Now showing on Lydia’s face: surprise, alarm, reluctant interest. “…What?”

“I have this book, okay, in Archaic Latin, and I don’t know anybody else who can translate it. Please?”

She’s now giving him the only slightly hostile you’re an alien look. Now that, that’s a comfortingly familiar look. “Walk with me,” she says, standing abruptly and marching toward the door. Stiles flees the Jackson glare of doom and the Danny incredulous stare and trails after her, noting Scott’s horrified averted eyes as he goes. He also notes Cora Hale passing Rachel Hale ten bucks while Erica (who is indeed hanging out with them) giggles, but since he doesn’t know what the terms of the bet were, he doesn’t know who to frown disapprovingly at. Both Hales feel amused and slightly smug. He decides to ignore them; he’s starting to suspect that’s always the safer option.

“Why do you think I can read Archaic Latin?” Lydia demands, reaching the lockers and spinning to glare at him suspiciously.

“A reliable source informed me you got bored with Classical Latin,” he says. It’s even true, for all that Allison doesn’t seem to exist here. Or maybe she’s just not here yet.

“A reliable source,” Lydia repeats, eyes narrowing dangerously. “And who might that be?”

“…I protect my sources.”

“Your source was wrong.”

“She really wasn’t.”


“Lydia, look—I won’t tell anyone you’re secretly a genius and a future winner of the Field’s Medal if you will just translate this one thing for me. You can keep pulling the whole airhead act for as long as you want, and I won’t say a thing. I’ll just admire your sneaky genius silently and from afar. And! I’ll buy your dress for the winter formal.”

Now she’s giving him almost exactly the same shocked look she had when he told her he knew how smart she was in his last timeline. After a good, long study and a hastily-hidden smile, though, she pulls herself together, scrapes up some disdain. “I’m not going with you to the winter formal.”

“No, of course not. You’re going with Jackson; he’s your boyfriend. And hey, I may not understand your taste, like, at all, but to each her own. I’m just buying the dress. As long as you do this translation for me.”

She frowns at him, which is fair. His current behavior is definitely not within spec. “The dress may be…quite expensive.”

“Trust me,” he sighs, “I know.”

“This translation must be really important to you,” she muses, tipping her head to the side and eyeing him with that wonderful, familiar, cold speculation.

“It is, but I’m not telling you why.”

Her eyes widen mockingly. “Very mysterious.”

“Maybe. Or, hey, maybe it’s just embarrassing!”

She shakes her head, dismissing all of his nonsense, and holds out a hand. “Book.”

He digs around in his backpack and pulls out the book, passes it over. “If you could translate from the first post-it to the second one—the end of the chapter—that’d be great.”


“How long do you think…?”

“Hm. Mythology?” She flips through the text. “How urgent is it?”

“As…as soon as possible. Really, sooner is better.”

“Of course. Medieval mythology is always so urgent. I suppose I can get it back to you tomorrow.”

She’s translating twenty pages of obscure, closely written Archaic Latin on methods for killing pixies overnight. On top of homework. “Lydia Martin, you are made of rainbows and awesome.”

“Yes,” she says, smiling at him briefly. “I am.” She turns on her heel and walks off, calling, “This dress will cost more than your car!” over her shoulder.

Stiles waits until she’s out of sight, then laughs and gleefully punches the air. That’s right. The band is back together, and no one’s even died!

…Well, except for him. Technically, he died. Twice. Oh, well. Omelet, broken eggs, whatever. Making the magic happen. Forward momentum.

“You survived?” Scott asks incredulously when Stiles comes back to the table. The Jackson death glare, meanwhile, is reaching epic, if not kanima, proportions. Stiles thinks about smirking at him just to see what would happen, but decides that would mostly make Lydia’s life difficult, so he goes with ignoring Jackson, as usual.

Poor Danny is actually scowling in confusion. Stiles feels bad about that; he didn’t know Danny was capable of looking that off-balance. He doesn’t even look that off-balance when he’s just been paralyzed by a giant lizard.

“Ye of little faith,” Stiles says to Scott, trying to forget about the Danny situation he’s accidentally created. “Yeah, I survived. She even agreed to translate something for me; I win all the marbles. Next I’m planning to talk her into helping me figure out why the pixies are going nuts around here. It’ll be like old times!”

“You guys used to research together?!”

“We did, yes. It was a whole ’nother world. Literally.”

“Oh.” Scott takes a moment to digest that with a disturbed look on his face. Why is that disturbing to him? Why? “Anyway,” he says eventually, waving the Lydia distraction away. “Erica.”

Sometimes Stiles wishes Scott had a touch of the old ADHD. “Can’t you just let that go?”


Stiles sighs. “Fine. Okay. The Hales can do things for Erica. Things that, among other things, will get rid of her seizures.”

“Things like turn her into a werewolf?” Scott demands in a shocked whisper.

“She’s going in with her eyes open,” Stiles says with a shrug. “Don’t tell anyone, though, because if you do, hunters might find out, and if hunters find out, everyone dies.”

“Oh my God,” Scott hisses, horrified.

“Let’s talk about you and Isaac Lahey,” Stiles counters brightly. “Your budding friendship. How is that going?”

“I hate you so much sometimes,” Scott groans, putting his head down on the cafeteria table. Poor choice, Scott. Unsanitary.

* * *


Isaac looks up hesitantly from his lunch tray, ready to abandon it and run if necessary—but it’s just Erica, and he breathes out in relief. Erica’s on his side, as much as anyone can be said to be on his side. (Even if she has been hanging out with the Hale twins for the past couple of weeks—what is that about?) “Hey.”

“So.” She sits down across from him and stares fixedly his way, more focused than he’s ever seen her. Usually Erica looks like she’s living inside a glass box, but today it’s more like a shell. A shell she’s thinking about breaking.

Isaac’s getting a little weirded out. “So?”

Her mouth tilts down guiltily on one side. “So I’m…I’ll be out of school for the rest of the year.”

Which means Isaac is going to be alone. That explains the guilt, anyway. Wait, this means she won’t graduate this year. “What…why?” She doesn’t look more sick, but. “Are you okay?!”

She pushes back her tangle of hair and looks away. “Yeah? I mean. I will be, maybe. There’s this…this treatment they’re going to try. Experimental. It’ll take like a year, and I won’t be up for school. Or, um. Visitors outside of family, I guess.”

“A year?” Isaac breathes, horrified. And then, because the horror is coming from all directions at once, “Experimental? How experimental? Is this dangerous?”

Erica shrugs. “Worst case, it kills me. Best case, I stop having seizures.”

“And…did anyone give you the odds on this?”

She shakes her head. “Experimental,” she says. Jesus.

Not that Isaac doesn’t understand the appeal of just going for it. He gets that. He doesn’t want to, but he gets it. At least she won’t have to live in between anymore. “A year,” he repeats sadly.

“A year.” They stare unhappily at each other. There’s no solution to this problem. If Erica goes, Isaac might actually be crazy by graduation. If she doesn’t go, she’ll probably be crazy within a few years. Isaac’s problems are external, but Erica? Erica carries hers around inside her all the time. It’s worse, Isaac thinks.

“You should hang around with Scott McCall while I’m gone,” Erica announces abruptly.


“I hear he’s nice.”

“Who did you—what are you talking about? I don’t even know Scott McCall.” Except that he’s starting to, because lately Scott’s been popping up everywhere and smiling at him and asking how his day’s going and it’s been seriously freaky. Isaac assumed it was some kind of long-term prank, but if it were, there’s no way Erica would be in on it. He’s sure of that much.

“Oh, well. I told Stiles I was worried about you being alone, and he said, um, he recommended Scott. As friend material. And Boyd.”

He’s not even touching most of what’s wrong with that statement right now. “You’re talking to Stiles?” Erica has never talked to Stiles. Erica didn’t even talk to Stiles when she had a life-ruining crush on him freshman year, possibly having learned from Isaac’s terrible Lydia Martin mistake.

She shrugs and smiles vaguely into the middle distance. “We have mutual friends.”

“The Hales,” Isaac guesses. “Except they weren’t your friends until, like, two weeks ago.”

“They’ve had family go through this treatment I’m going to try, so, you know.” She holds up crossed fingers. “We’ve bonded.”

“…Did their family member survive?”

“Yes. I doubt we’d have bonded otherwise.”

Fair point. “When…when are you, when is this going to start?”

“Friday’s my last day at school,” she says, losing her smile and looking down at the table.

“Oh.” We should have a going away party or something, he means to say, but what comes out is, “What should we do?”

“We should eat lunch,” Erica says, forcibly recovering her optimism. “I’ll get food. You go sit with Boyd.”

“But I’m—”

“You’re sitting with Boyd.” She gives him a dead-eyed look he hadn’t even known she was capable of. It’s terrifying. “Go.”

He goes. He goes slowly and reluctantly, dragging his feet, but he does go. Because he is a tool like that. Isaac Lahey, folds for skinny, sickly girls. His dad would be…unsurprised.

“Hey,” Boyd says, studying Isaac with extreme wariness. Isaac can’t blame him.

“Hey. Um, how are you?” Oh God, he sounds like Scott McCall.

“Curious,” Boyd replies.


“About why you’re sitting at my table.”

“Yeah.” Isaac looks over at the lunch line. Erica gives him a firm thumbs up and then turns away to pay, ignoring the social disaster she’s engineered. “Apparently it has something to do with experimental medical treatments and Stiles Stilinski. I’m not sure.”

“Erica’s making you sit with me.”


“Because of medicine and Stiles Stilinski.”

“I guess?”

“Is this some kind of joke?”

Great, now he looks pissed. Boyd is…Boyd could probably crush Isaac’s head with one hand if he felt like it. He’s not the kind of guy you want to see looking pissed.

“If it is,” Isaac sighs, resigned, “I’m pretty sure the joke’s on me, not you.”

“It’s not a joke on anyone,” Erica insists, dropping her tray on the table and settling firmly next to Boyd, much to his obvious confusion. “I’m going to be out of school for a while, so I asked Stiles who Isaac should hang around with while I’m gone, and he suggested you, Boyd. And Scott, obviously.”

“Stiles Stilinski?” Boyd asks. “He doesn’t know anything about me.”

Erica raises an eyebrow at him. “Sure, you think that. I thought he didn’t know anything about me, either, and then he gave me a disturbingly accurate summary of my entire personality. Don’t assume you know what he knows. I think he has everyone’s phones tapped or something, the giant freak.”

She looks strangely happy about that possibility.

“I don’t know anything about you,” Isaac offers Boyd by way of comfort.

Boyd heaves a put-upon sigh, but he does push his fries toward Isaac. Isaac’s had worse responses to overtures of friendship.

There’s a thump to Isaac’s right, and he jumps and turns to see that Stiles has manhandled Scott McCall into the seat next to Isaac and across from Erica, and is now giving the whole table a satisfied look, like he’s successfully herded all his chicks into a safe corner.

“Um, hey, guys,” Scott says, waving sheepishly.

“Boyd, Erica, Isaac,” Stiles says, nodding at everyone. “I’m trusting you to take care of Scott for me for the rest of the day, okay? You wouldn’t believe the crap he gets himself into when he’s on his own.”

“Oh my God, this coming from you,” Scott complains. And he has a point.

“What the hell is going on?” Boyd demands.

“Aren’t you eating with us, Stiles?” Erica asks.

“I need to cut out early,” Stiles says vaguely. “I’ve got a…thing. With some people.” About some stuff, presumably.

“Omegas?” Scott asks. Isaac would guess video game, but Scott looks way too worried for that.

“That’s the one,” Stiles agrees. “Anyway. See you tomorrow.”

He waves cheerfully and ducks out of the cafeteria. “Be careful!” Scott shouts after him. It makes about as much sense as anything else has today.

Awkward silence descends on the table.

“Sooo,” Scott says eventually, glancing around with an embarrassed smile. “Who else feels uncomfortably manipulated by Stiles Stilinski right now?”

Isaac cracks up.

Part 2
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