It starts with Peter Gabriel.
More accurately, it starts with Stiles blasting Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" from the shitty iPod speaker he got off Amazon for twelve bucks. He gets halfway through the song before Erica's window finally opens and a mass of messy blonde tentacles sticks out.
"What the hell, asshole? I was sleeping."
Stiles pauses the song and grins up at Erica, his expression possibly bordering on manic. "Dude. Dude! You'll never guess what happened?"
Erica groans and slumps down against the windowsill, only a few strands of hair showing. "Did the school burn down? No? Then I need to get some sleep before classes start tomorrow, you fucker."
"No, no, no!" Stiles jumps in place. He's vibrating with excitement and he needs to do something to work it off. His usual hand flailing will only cause an unfortunate demise to his iPod. "I saw my dad leave like twenty minutes ago. Dispatch called."
"Rhonda, Tara, or Eddie?"
Stiles waves his free hand. "It doesn't matter. Rhonda. But no, listen to this. They're bringing in every officer from the sheriff's department and even the state police."
Erica's face pops back into view. It's too dark to make out her expression but Stiles knows there's a gleam of mischief in her eyes. "Go on."
"Two joggers found a body in the woods."
Erica leans forward. "A dead body?"
"No, a body of water. Yes, dumbass, a dead body." Stiles has to dodge the baseball that comes flying at him. He immediately picks it up and adds it to the collection of items clutched in his hands.
"Okay. Dead body. Potentially worth waking up for. They thinking murder?"
"That's just it," Stiles says. "No one knows yet. Just that it's a girl, probably in her twenties."
Erica tilts her head. "Well, shit, son. So if they found the body, what are they looking for? The murderer?"
"That's the best part," Stiles says, though few people besides him and Erica would consider anything having to do with dead bodies 'the best part.' "They only found half."
"We're going," they say in union. Erica adds, "I'll be down in five."
Stiles dumps his iPod, speaker, and the baseball in the back of his Jeep, where they rest next to his baseball bat. He clambers into the driver's seat and has time to put his keys in the ignition before Erica is wrenching the passenger door open. Her hair's pulled back in a messy ponytail and she's wearing the Batman sweater he got her for Christmas last year.
"Let's roll, Batman."
The Preserve is pitch black when they pull up to the closest entrance near where the deputies are supposed to be searching. Stiles pulls his backpack into the front and produces a flashlight. Erica grabs it before he can even think of being the one to use it. He's about to jump out of the Jeep when Erica grabs his arm.
"What if the murderer's still here?"
Stiles frowns for a second before an idea hits him. He runs around to the back and pulls out his bat with a flourish. Erica shuts the passenger door and looks at him with a raised eyebrow. For a moment, Stiles thinks she's going to protest but then she shrugs and says, "I don't have much to live for anyway."
"Hey! You have me!"
Erica rolls her eyes. "Not if we're both caught by the crazy murderer who's chopping people in half."
Stiles pauses. "Fair point."
Erica sighs from the other side of the fence. "You coming?"
The grin on Erica's face, once she turns on the flashlight, is payment enough for Stiles. He doesn't expect to find half a body, but the opportunity for adventure is so rare in Beacon Hills that he can't pass it up, especially on one of Erica's good days when she's smiling and willing to leave the house.
Dead leaves crunch underfoot as they make their way deeper into the Preserve, following one of the many jogging trails that crisscross the area. The moon is out, at least, offering a little extra light to aid in their search.
"Out of curiosity," Erica says, "which half of the body are we looking for?"
Stiles blinks. "Huh. I didn't think of that." He can practically hear Erica's eyes roll.
"It's comforting to know you planned this out with your usual attention to detail."
"Hush," Stiles says, playfully swiping at Erica's arm. "Where's your sense of adventure? Of living in the moment?"
Erica snorts. "It's not an adventure unless I'm teasing you at the same time."
There's a flash of lights up ahead and Stiles grins, ready to take off before Erica yanks him back so hard he tumbles down a short hill.
Erica comes sliding down after him and holds a finger to her lips. "Shh. Do you want to get caught?"
Stiles blinks, then blinks again. His eyes are caught on something shining just outside of the cone of light from the flashlight. "Hey, Erica," he begins as he scrambles to his feet. "Go a little left."
The light trails over forest debris before halting on the lifeless eyes of a naked woman's torso. They scream in unison, jerking back away from the dead body. The flashlight falls from Erica's hand and rolls away from them. A dog barks nearby, signaling the attention of the sheriff's department which will likely be heading their way shortly. Before they can even think about running, the woods fill with a loud rumbling.
Stiles and Erica share a look. Curiosity turns to fear a second later as a whole herd of deer comes rushing at them. They both scream again and Stiles dives for Erica, covering her body with his. Surprisingly, the deer dart around them, though a few hooves come far too close for Stiles's comfort. They stay huddled for a whole minute after the last of the deer have run off.
Stiles jolts upright as something howls nearby. "What the-"
His question is cut off as Erica screams, first in surprise as she's pulled away from him and then in pain.
"Fuck! It bit me!"
"What?" Stiles stands on shaking legs, his baseball bat clenched in both hands. All he can see is darkness until the thing—the creature?—lifts its head to stare at him with glowing red eyes.
Stiles doesn't even think. He shouts as he swings, the bat missing the thing by a mile but it moves away from Erica to slowly circle Stiles. Stiles swallows hard and squares his shoulders. If this is how he goes out, at least he's trying to protect someone. "Erica, run."
"What?" He can hear her climbing to her feet. "I'm not leaving you."
The creature growls and hunkers lower to the ground. Stiles knows it's about to launch at him and he's ready. "I'll keep it distracted while you escape."
Erica grabs the flashlight from where it'd rolled and squares off next to him. "Like hell, asshole."
"Love you too, fuckwad."
"You better, dipshit."
The thing growls again and Stiles thinks this is it. This is where he dies.
Instead of death, he's suddenly blinded by a whole lot of light shining on his face, followed by a very familiar voice shouting "Stiles!"
Stiles stumbles backward and raises a hand to block the light. The thing, whatever it was, is gone.
"What do you think you're doing?" Sheriff John Stilinski says, tone implying that Stiles is about to be grounded for a very long time. Erica shifts at his side, but John points a stern finger at her. "Don't think I don't see you too, Miss Reyes."
"We were, um," Stiles tries and fails to think of a way to make their excursion sound better than it is. "Looking for a dead body?"
John sighs and rubs a hand over his face. "Do you listen in on all my phone calls?"
Stiles shifts on his feet. "Not the boring ones. But look, we found the body." Stiles grabs the flashlight out of Erica's hand and points it at the half-corpse. The deputy closest to it startles. He was practically about to step on her.
John grabs the flashlight out of Stiles' hand. "And it didn't occur to you that blundering around her might tamper the evidence?"
Stiles's mouth hangs open a second before he admits, "No, not really." He tugs on his dad's sleeve. "But listen, there was this huge thing. It attacked us and it bit Erica."
John's eyebrows shoot up. "Erica, are you injured?"
"A little." She pulls up the side of the sweater to reveal a huge bite mark.
John curses under his breath. "Fields and Norton, start marking off the area. Graham, take Miss Reyes to the hospital and notify her parents." Stiles's protest is cut off as John grabs his arm and tugs him away from the crime scene. "I've got to escort this little delinquent back to his car and have a conversation about something called invasion of privacy."
Erica isn't in school the next day, which is kind of expected after a late-night trip to the hospital. Stiles sighs and takes out his phone in first period.
Surprisingly, he gets a response in seconds.
The teacher chooses that moment to walk in, already addressing the body in the woods. Stiles shoots off a quick "g2g" and stashes his phone before the teacher can confiscate it. Then there's a new girl who could probably give Lydia Martin a run in the looks department. Stiles makes sure to take more notes than he normally would as the teacher drones on about Kafka's Metamorphosis so that he can give a copy to Erica later.
By the time school lets out, his phone has exploded with a barrage of messages from Erica.
He makes it out of the parking lot in decent time since half the student body is staying behind to watch lacrosse try-outs. He'd considered joining last year, but he barely knows anyone on the team and he has better things to do than being a bench-warmer by himself.
Erica's mom glares as he bounds through the house with a wave, not stopping until he's at Erica's door. He doesn't even have a chance to touch the door before it swings open. Erica grabs him by the front of his shirt and yanks him inside with enough force to send him reeling into her bed.
"What the hell?"
"It's the bite," Erica says. She yanks up her t-shirt high enough to show a smooth expanse of stomach and a bit of bra. "It's healed and it's like... I don't know, like I'm high or something." She drops her shirt and grins at him. "I can hear things I shouldn't be able to hear. And smell things."
Stiles raises an eyebrow. "Smell... things? Like what?"
Erica smirks. "Like the mint mojito gum in your pocket."
Stiles rolls his eyes and shoves his hand in his pocket. "I don't even have any mint..." His fingers brush against a smooth packet of gum and he pulls it out with a frown. "...mojito... So, this all started with the bite?"
Erica nods and drops to sit cross-legged in front of him. "I feel amazing! I don't know if it's some kind of weird infection producing adrenaline to boost my immune system or what, but I'd take a bite every day if this is what happens."
Stiles snorts. "You know, I've heard of an infection like this."
Erica's eyes go wide. "Really?"
"Yeah. I think it's called... lycanthropy."
Erica's eyes practically pop out of her skull. "Yes!" She smacks Stiles's leg hard enough to hurt. "Yes! That's totally it!"
"Woah, woah. I was joking. Lycanthropy isn't real."
Erica leans forward on her knees and grabs Stiles by the shoulders. "But it fits! We heard a wolf howl and then that thing bit me. What if it was a werewolf? A real, live werewolf. And now I'm a werewolf too."
Erica's eyes flash gold for a second and Stiles jerks back, smacking into the bedframe yet again. "Woah!"
"Your eyes did this," he gestures vaguely at his face, "shiny thing."
Erica falls backward with a squeal of delight and kicks her feet against the floor. "I'm a fucking werewolf!"
"Woah, shhh." Stiles flaps at the air in front of her. "Even if... If it's true you can't just go around saying that. What if people think you're crazy?"
"I'll bite 'em." Erica's grin as she says that is not entirely human.
"No! No biting! I need..." He grips his scalp as his brain spins of connections back to all the folklore and mythology he's read, both in book form and on the internet. "I need to research this. Find out what's going to happen, what your powers are, your limitations."
"This is so cool," Erica squeals.
An idea comes to Stiles. It's a little crazy, but it might be the only answer. "We need to go back to the Preserve."
"Where the werewolf was?"
"Yes! You werewolf, it werewolf. Maybe it can take you under its wolfy wing and explain a few things."
"That's not the worst idea you've ever had."
Stiles makes a face. "Come on."
Erica pulls on her shoes and follows Stiles out the door with a quick "Hi, mom, I'm going out with Stiles, bye." They're outside before her mom can even start her protest.
Stiles drives them back to the same place they were last night. They don't need a flashlight this time, but the sunlight doesn't help them. It's hard to tell one tree from another and they don't come across any crime tape.
"Where the hell is that place?" Erica says.
"It has to be around here somewhere."
"What are you doing here?" They both turn as a new voice startles them. "This is private property."
Erica grins and elbows Stiles in the side. "Ooh, daddy alert."
Stiles blushes and swats her away. "Erica, please!" The guy arches an eyebrow. "Uh, sorry, man, we didn't know."
"Yeah." Erica grabs Stiles's arm and tugs him away. "No harm, no foul, right? We'll just be going."
Stiles can't help but look back at the leather-clad Adonis with really intimidating eyebrows. He at least waits until they're out of sight before he swats at Erica in excitement. "Dude, that was Derek Hale! You remember, right? He's only a few years older than us."
Erica's eyes go wide. "Shit. Didn't his family die in a fire?"
"Yeah. Like ten years ago. He left with his sister."
Erica frowns slightly. "I wonder what he's doing back." Her frown swiftly morphs into a grin and she elbows Stiles again. "And if he's single."
Stiles has to call Erica three times before she picks up.
"I was eating dinner. What's got your panties in a twist, freakshow?"
Stiles ignores the insult because what he's found is amazing. "Listen to me. I've been doing some research-"
"And exactly how much Adderall have you had today?"
"A lot. Doesn't matter. Just listen. Do you know why a wolf howls?"
Erica sighs. This is not the first time he's called her during a research binge. At least this time it's something they're both interested in. "No, but I'm certain you're about to tell me."
"It's a signal, okay? When a wolf's alone, it howls to signal its location to the rest of the pack. So when we heard that wolf howl—that werewolf howl—that means there could have been more wolves nearby. Like, a whole pack of them."
Erica sucks in a breath. The line's quiet for a long minute. "You mean a pack of werewolves? More than just the one that bit me?"
"Yeah. Yes. Exactly."
"Then we should go find them! We can go back to the Preserve. Maybe run into Cutey McHotPants."
"Yes, but not tonight."
"Why not tonight?" Erica huffs. "Planning on crashing Lydia's party."
"No. Not this time." Stiles grabs a stack of print-outs. The top page has a full lunar calendar for the year. "Tonight's the full moon."
Erica pauses. "Shouldn't that make it easier to find the pack, then? Werewolves come out on the full moon."
"Yes, but that's not everything. Yes, the moon makes them change but it's also when your bloodlust will be at its peak."
"Bloodlust? I don't like the sound of that." He can hear Erica moving. "What's going to happen? Am I going to attack people like the one that bit me? I can't stay here. I can't hurt my parents."
"Look, I'll come get you." He's already out of his chair and grabbing his keys. "We'll go somewhere. Somewhere safe. I'll make sure you won't hurt anyone. But, for now, you need to stay calm. It says the change can be caused by anger or anything that raises your pulse."
Erica laughs, but it comes out bitter. "Nothing raises my pulse like potential death and dismemberment."
"No! No death, no dismemberment. I've got a plan."
Erica laughs again and it's softer this time. Her voice is fond. "You always do."
As far as plans go, this is not Stiles's best.
"Really, Stiles? This is it?" Erica shakes the manacles around her wrists. "Where did you even get these?"
"Army supply store." He tugs at both ends of the chain and checks the support pillar to make sure it doesn't budge. "This should work."
"Your grand plan is to lock me in your basement?"
Stiles frowns. "I don't see you coming up with a better one. Look, my dad's going to be gone all night. He says the full moon always brings out the crazies, and in this case, it's literal. He's not going to be back until morning. We should have your furry problem under control by then."
"How do we know I'm even going to change?" Erica asks. "Like, am I gonna sprout claws and fangs and a substantial amount of body hair? What if I turn into a gigantic wolf like the one we saw the other night? What's going to happen then?"
Stiles edges over to where he's set up a station on the stairs with his bat, some snacks, and his Nintendo DS. "Then I'm gonna run like a motherfucker."
Erica rolls her eyes. "That's hardly reassuring. What if I have to pee?"
"I got a bucket." Stiles produces said bucket with a flourish and places it next to the pillar.
The look Erica gives him is nine hundred percent done. "Really, Stiles? A bucket?"
"I'm sorry. They don't make little portable werewolf potties."
"Ugh." Erica flops on the floor and leans against the pillar. "Did you at least make some food?"
Stiles tries to smile reassuringly. "I got some steaks."
Erica sees right through him. "Are they cooked?" Her voice is flat.
"They can be?"
She sighs and bangs her head against the pillar. After a few minutes of staring at the exposed ceiling, she says, "You know what's great about this whole bite thing?"
"I haven't had a single seizure since I got bit. I know it's only been a few days, but I haven't even had any of the symptoms. No headaches, no tremors. It's like I've turned into a normal, healthy person."
Stiles smiles. "Just one that turns a little hairy every once in a while."
Erica shrugs but she's smiling too. "I could live with that."
"Yeah, me too."
Nothing happens until after midnight. Stiles stays on the stairs except to pass Erica some of the actual snacks he'd brought down and some soda. He even goes upstairs for a bit and cooks one of the steaks. Then he cooks two more because the full moon apparently makes Erica ravenous.
He looks up from his game and he can tell something's wrong just from first glance, but he can't pinpoint what. Not until Erica turns to face him with some wicked facial hair and a mouth full of fangs.
"Holy Jesus!" Stiles throws himself back against the stairs.
"Something's wrong, Stiles." Erica turns her hands over, revealing sharp claws.
Stiles forces himself back down onto one of the stairs. "It's going to be okay. You've got this, Erica. You can control it. You're stronger than you think."
She rolls her head. The sound of cracking joints is loud in the otherwise quiet basement. "Let me out, Stiles."
He shakes his head. "I can't do that, Erica. You don't want me to do that."
She lunges at him with a roar. Dust and dirt rains around them as the whole house shakes. "Erica..."
Loud, insistent knocking interrupts Stiles.
"Wait," he says, holding both hands up, palms out. "Wait right here." He scrambles up the stairs and automatically starts toward the front door. The knocking sounds again and Stiles freezes as he realizes it's coming from the back door.
Stiles approaches the door slowly. He's tempted to reach for one of the knives in the block by the stove, but what if it's just a neighbor? A neighbor who forgot about front doors. His hand shakes as he reaches for the porch light switch. He flicks it on and then jerks back with a shout because Derek Hale is right there, practically pressed against the window. His scowl is terrifying.
"Open the door." Derek's voice is slightly muffled by the door but still intimidating.
Stiles's mind races with theories. Derek Hale show up at the same time as someone was murdered. Derek Hale was in the woods near where the murder was.
"Fuck!" Stiles says. "Are you going to kill me?"
Derek rolls his eyes. "Only if you don't open the door."
"But..." Another roar from the basement makes Stiles jump. He turns to see if Derek's noticed, only to come face-to-face with a twisted, hairy face and glowing blue eyes.
Stiles screams and falls backward onto the tile. His head hits the floor hard enough to make him blackout, just for a second, but it's long enough for Derek to break through the door. Stiles blinks up at Derek, confused how Derek ended up kneeling next to him. He swears he feels a gentle touch on the back of his head.
"You'll be fine." Derek disappears into the basement. Erica roars once more, only to be cut off by a louder roar. The sound reverberates through Stiles's bones, telling his lizard brain to relent, submit.
Stiles lets his head rest on the tile and stares up at the ceiling.
How is he going to explain this to his dad?