Two days earlier
It’s summer break, and that’s both a blessing and a curse. It’s good because, duh, there’s no school with all of its unreasonable expectations about sitting still and being quiet. But it also sucks, because all of that free time is just more time for Stiles to miss the things that he doesn’t want to think about missing.
He misses his mother. He’s never going to not miss her, but it’s worse in the summer because his mom had totally rocked at summers. She’d taught first grade, so they’d always had the summers off together and there’d been like non-stop picnics and camp-outs and trips to the pool and playing in the garden, and basically just Stiles and his mom and Scott, too, turning wild and brown in the sun every year. And then that had ended.
The next summer, he’d been about as emo as a ten-years-old kid could be and things hadn’t gotten any better until he’d secretly maybe half-adopted a dog. Fang was sort of wild and grumpy, and he seemed to think “Fang” was a stupid name even when Stiles tried to explain that it was a classic because of White Fang--and okay, Stiles wasn’t crazy. He knew that Fang didn’t really have opinions on things like Jack London novels, but it was hard not to think that he did when Fang had such a perfect “What, are you stupid?” face. Seriously. There should be macros all over the web of Fang in all of his magnificent, furry disdain for lesser mortals. Stiles would have made the macros himself, but Fang was pretty hard to get a picture of. And now, that totally sucked, too. Fang was gone, and Stiles didn’t even have a decent photo of him for his posters.
Stiles was good with words, though. And while he couldn’t fit a thousand--a picture was worth a thousand, right?--words on a page, he thought he’d done a good enough job describing Fang that a photo wouldn’t be necessary.
While they’re hiding in the bushes around the corner from the Sheriff’s Office, waiting for Stiles’s dad to leave for a call or a doughnut break or something, Stiles shows Scott the signs he’s made. Scott reads the first one, and then he’s quiet for a long moment--probably wishing that he could write half as well as Stiles does--before he says, “But Fang isn’t really your dog.”
“Well, yeah,” Stiles says. “I know that. That's why I'm doing this like he's a missing person. Only you can't file a missing persons report on a dog, so that's why we're here.”
"Here. Where there are cops--"
"They're the same thing."
"No, they're not," Stiles says.
"Do you know what the difference is?"
"Mmm..." Stiles thinks about it. "No."
"Yeah," Scott says. "I didn't think so. They’re the same thing."
"I can find out. I'll tell you tomorrow."
"I don't really care."
"Maybe you should. What if someday that one piece of information is the one thing-- the only thing-- that can get you out of a life-or-death situation in one piece? Huh? What would you do then?"
"I won't worry about it," Scott says. "You'll be with me, so I'll be fine."
"Oh," Stiles says. "Really?"
Stiles sorta wants to hug Scott for that. He likes knowing that he’s appreciated, that Scott relies on him and knows they’re stronger as a team. But Scott has taken turning thirteen pretty seriously. They’re in a hug-free zone now... and Stiles doesn’t want to think about that because that only makes him miss his mom and Fang more.
There’s an awkward silence for a minute while Stiles shuffles his feet and Scott starts reading the next sign. Then Scott picks up the conversational thread again.
“So, we’re here, where there are deputies and things, where people would file missing person reports, but we can't file one, because Fang is a dog.”
“He might be a wolf,” Stiles reminds him. “I’m half convinced he's a wolf.”
“Whatever. He's still not a person, and he's still not your pet, and your dad will still probably throw a fit if he knew how often you were out in the woods playing with a wild animal.”
“Yeah... about that...” Stiles says. Stiles’s dad can be reasonable. He probably wouldn’t throw a fit about playing outside with strange dogs, but then there’s that whole secretly kinda half-adopted means secretly lets into the house when Dad isn’t home... or when Dad isn’t awake thing, and that’s a secret best kept just between himself and Fang. “Let’s keep my dad out of this.”
“Yeah, no shit. So why are we here... at your dad’s office?”
Stiles rolls his eyes. That should be obvious. “Where else are we going to get free copies?”
“Oh my god,” Scott says. “Are your plans always this bad--?”
“Hey! My plans--”
“--or am I only just noticing it?”
“Dude. My plans are genius.” And Scott should know that, too. They’d both be grounded for life like three times over if Stiles weren’t so brilliant.
“Whatever,” Scott says. “Do you have a pen?”
“Gimme a pen. I’ve got to fix this.” Scott flaps his handful of signs at him.
“There’s nothing wrong with those!”
“Pen,” Scott says with his voice full of stubborn.
“Fine.” Stiles digs through the pockets of his cargo pants. “Fine. But if you fuck up my signs, I reserve the right to start over... and kick your ass, too.”
Scott snorts. “As if.” He quickly writes something on the bottom of the first sign, all big sloppy letters and--
“Oh my god, dude. What is wrong with you?”
“What?” Scott says.
Stiles points at what Scott has just written, and then points at the big Beacon County Sheriff’s Office sign that’s no more than ten feet away from them.
“How can you misspell ‘sheriff’ when it’s right there in front of you?”
Scott follows the line of Stiles’s pointing finger, and Stiles can almost see the gears slowly turning in his head.
“Oh,” Scott says. Then he looks back down at the paper in his hand. “Oops. Sorry... but one extra ‘R’ is not an ass-kicking offense, okay? Not that I’m scared of you or anything.”
“You should be,” Stiles mutters. He chews on his lip for a moment while he stares down at the DO NOT CALL SHERRIFF and then figures, ah, what the hell. Half of Beacon Hills probably can’t spell it either.
It’s maybe fifteen minutes later when they finally see Stiles’s dad leaving the office along with one of his deputies. Scott breaks off his rather one-sided conversation about the superiority of lacrosse over soccer--as if it matters. They’re still in junior high. Basketball, soccer, and wrestling are their only options, and that’s the same as no options at all as far as Stiles is concerned. Unless the choice is soccer or nothing.
They duck into the building for a visit with Nancy, the office clerk. This gets them access to her candy dish--it’s M&Ms today because finally, the long reign of the unloved and unconsumed Tootsie Rolls is over--and the Xerox machine. Scott gets drawn into a discussion about Nancy’s cats, but he’s really amazingly good with stuff like that, even when it devolves into descriptions of hairballs and litter box habits, which... eww. There’s a reason Stiles has only half-adopted a dog. He doesn’t need to be responsible for anyone else’s bathroom usage. Thank you.
Stiles makes five copies each of his three signs. He’s seen other people plaster every telephone pole in town with lost dog signs, but he’s working more strategically. He’s going for a targeted strike, maximum impact with the least amount of signage. He can’t have his name out there on a hundred signs. There’s no way his dad wouldn’t notice that.
They say good bye to Nancy, and Stiles gives Scott the signs meant for the areas around the library, the comic shop, and the used book store by the indie coffee place. Those locations are pretty spread out from each other, so Stiles will handle the rest.
“Know where you’re going?” he asks Scott as they collect their bikes from the spot behind the bushes.
“Yeah,” Scott says, but he doesn’t really seem to be paying attention. He’s looking at the signs with a weird expression on his face.
“What?” Stiles says.
“Maybe we should take your name off of these?”
“Then people won’t know who’s looking for Fang.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” Scott says. “Then people won’t know that you’re crazy.”
“What? There’s nothing crazy about wanting my dog--”
“No, no. Seriously, Stiles. Listen to me. Just. Listen.” Scott reads part of the sign out loud. “He’s a bit wild, but that’s okay ‘cause he’s easily soothed by reading to him. He prefers X-Men comics--he’s all about Wolverine, of course--and going old school with the ‘Adventures of Tintin.’ Not sure if he has a man crush on Snowy or if he’s mistaken Snowy for a nice, tasty lamb. Either way, it’s all good.”
Stiles nods. “It’s true. Snowy is one hell of a--”
“You can’t really say this! In public! People will think you’re insane.”
“It’ll get people talking.”
“Talking about strait jackets!”
“Scott. Calm down.” Geez, the last thing they need is for Scott to have an asthma attack brought on by his overreaction. “Take a deep breath. Are you breathing?”
Scott swats at him, but Stiles dodges easily.
“That’s not deep breathing, buddy!”
“I’m breathing, okay? I’ll still be breathing while the men in white coats cart you away.”
“That’s not going to happen,” Stiles says. “This is all a strategy. We’re personalizing Fang, getting people talking about him, and that’ll make people care about him and word will spread and we’ll find him, and--”
“Wait. This is... is this that stuff from Silence of the Lambs? Humanizing the kidnapping victim?”
“Exactly! See? It’s brilliant.”
“I don’t think anyone has like... abducted Fang...”
“It will still work. I’ll still get Fang back.”
“Maybe,” Scott says. “If Fang will come back after you’ve told the whole town he’s gay.”
“I said a ‘man crush’! A man crush is not gay!”
“Yeah, yeah.” Scott hops onto his bike, and then grins. “Hey, let’s get some lavender paper for the next batch of signs.” He laughs and rides off before Stiles can retaliate.
Whatever. Man crushes are totally legit. Stiles is confident in his masculinity, and Fang is a big wild wolf dog. He can totally pull off a man crush on a fictional fox terrier.