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We Got Something Magic

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Stiles has always dreamed of the Wolf.

He’s always been a vivid dreamer, his dreams often seeming more real to him than his waking life. They’re dictated by the peculiar dream logic that makes the impossible seem totally normal, but that’s not what makes his dreams so visceral, so real. It’s everything else about them, especially how he feels in them; all of his senses seem heightened, all of his emotions feel deeper, more rooted in his body. There’s often a sense of something tugging just at the edge of his awareness, something he should know but can’t quite grasp, can’t quite name. It’s like a word is just on the tip of his tongue or there’s a shape on his periphery that he’s too slow to turn and see.

The feeling chases after him when he wakes, and as he grew up, he became so accustomed to it that he often fails to consciously notice it. It becomes a part of him, just like the Wolf, which makes a kind of sense, he supposes, since the feeling is always stronger when dreams of the Wolf. He’s not sure exactly how old he was the first time he had the dream, probably five or six. He remembers waking up in the middle of the night, the glow-in-the-dark stars on his ceiling shining a faint greenish yellow.

His mother had put the glowing plastic stars on his ceiling in lieu of the nightlight he declared himself too old for when he turned five, and they had become his way to reorient himself to wakefulness. Even after he moved out of his childhood home, in the various college apartments he and Scott had shared, he had always glued a single small star to the ceiling above his bed, and it was the first thing he did when he moved into his first solo apartment in Seattle. His mother’s constellations, and then the single star, are his anchor to his waking life. His real life, he reminds himself.

The stars on the ceiling of his childhood bedroom were nothing like the stars in his Wolf dream, which shone with an almost blinding white light in the dark sky that curved over the tree-encircled meadow he stood in. The meadow was a perfect circle, too perfect to be real, and Stiles stood in exact center of it. He had no sense of what he looked like, but he felt older, felt like a grown up. There was snow on the ground, a lot of it, but he wasn’t cold, and the moonlight that reflected on it sparkled almost as brightly as the stars. It felt like his entire existence was rooted there, like he was waiting for something. In the elastic time of dreams, it felt as if he had both always been there and had just arrived.

When the Wolf arrived, the brightness of the stars and snowy moonlight mellowed, as if someone had turned a dimmer switch like the one in the dining room he liked to spin back and forth as fast as he could to see if he could make himself dizzy. Even when everything else looked washed out and pale, the Wolf’s eyes always burned a fiery, rich, glowing red, the only color in a sea of gray.

The Wolf is the most beautiful creature he had ever seen, awake or asleep. He’s very large, with an inky black coat that shimmers with the muscular strength beneath. Stiles has never been scared of him, has always wanted to run to him, wants to touch him and feel the soft thick fur, look closer into those red eyes. But he’s never been able to move in the dream. He simply watches as the Wolf trots out from the tree line toward him and stops about ten feet away, staring at him with a confused expression on his face that seems almost human.

And that’s it. One moment he’s there, gazing into those red Wolf eyes, and then he’s awake, looking for plastic stars.

The first time he had the dream as a kid, he got up the the next morning and declared to his parents that he loved wolves and needed to learn everything he possibly could about them.

“Wolves, huh?” his dad asked, ruffling his hair as he walked through the kitchen to the coffee pot. “Where did this new interest come from?”

“My dream,” he said, like it should have been obvious.

His mother put another piece of French toast on his plate and kissed his head. “Duh, John,” she said, smiling. She turned on the old-timey radio she kept on the windowsill above the kitchen sink to her favorite oldies station, and his dad, dressed in his deputy’s uniform, grabbed her hand and danced her around the kitchen to “Brown-Eyed Girl” while she laughed and twirled, the long, flowing skirt she wore spinning around them. Stiles devoured the rest of his breakfast while laughing at his parents, and when he carried his plate from the kitchen table to the sink his mom grabbed his hand and the three of them danced in the kitchen until it was time for Stiles to go to school and for his parents to go to work.

When he returned home from playing at Scott’s house that evening, his mother presented him with a stuffed wolf, the first of many wolf-related purchases that she would make for him. The stuffed wolf was gray and white, not black like one in his dream but that was okay, because he hadn’t told her yet what the Wolf looked like. She also bought him two books, one an illustrated kid’s book that told the story of Little Red Riding Hood from the Big Bad Wolf’s perspective, and another that he couldn’t quite read yet that was full of photos and facts about wolves. They read them together every night.

Two months after the first Wolf dream he received a certificate in the mail from the World Wildlife Foundation declaring him the proud guardian of a Canadian Timber Wolf named Apollo. It came with an 8x10 glossy photo; Apollo was dark gray with a white chest and golden eyes. Stiles tacked the photo and the certificate on the wall next to his bed, and he continued to do so with each one he received. There was no rhyme or reason to when his mother would make a donation in his name, but over the years the wall steadily filled with certificates and photos, some from WWF, some from Wolf Haven International, some from Wildlife Defenders. When he couldn’t sleep, he would close his eyes and list the names of all of the wolves his mother had “adopted” in his name: Apollo, Thor, Mariposa, Duke, Odin, Zoe, Athena. He would picture each one in his mind, the whispered mantra of their names lulling him to sleep.

The Wolf dream returned frequently, sometimes two or three times a week. For years, it was always exactly the same, no detail changed from that first time.

Then, one night when he was ten, when the Wolf walked up to him in the center of the meadow, instead of standing and staring at him until he woke up like he always did, he sat back on his haunches and howled. It was a piercing, heartbreaking sound full of pain and rage and for the first time, dream!Stiles tried to run to him, but he couldn’t make his body move. The Wolf howled on and on, a long plaintive cry that cut through to Stiles’ core and seemed to echo off the moon, ricocheting into his heart.

He woke with a gasp, the Wolf’s pained howl still echoing.

It upset him so much he refused to go to school the next day, and for some reason, his parents didn’t fight him on it too much on it and they let him go to work with his dad, where he spent the early morning behind the front desk with Rhonda, the daytime receptionist. He was drawing – a wolf, of course – on scrap paper he pulled out of the recycling bin when his mom walked in. She had two teenagers behind her – a boy and a girl, twins by the look of them, probably students of hers at the high school. She was escorting them to the station to talk to his dad, who had rushed out sometime before with a few deputies, yelling at Stiles to stay put and listen to Rhonda. His dad walked in not long after his mom did, and they both looked at him and smiled softly, the expression not reaching their eyes, as they took the two teenagers into his office. Rhonda was sniffling and wiping her nose with her hand while she was trying to answer the phone, so Stiles jumped down from his chair and headed towards the bathroom to get her toilet paper.

On his way back to the receptionist desk he stopped for a moment, looking into the slightly opened door of his dad’s office where he could hear his mother quietly consoling the girl. From where he stood, the only person he could see was the teenage boy, his handsome face pale and blank, pale green eyes staring straight ahead at Stiles, but with a look that was seeing right through him. Stiles was just a kid, but he could tell that the boy was broken. For some reason the look on his face made the memory of the Wolf’s howl echo even louder in his head. So loud he didn’t hear Rhonda calling for him until she was standing right next him, sighing in relief and pulling him back to her desk. She thanked him for the tissues and hugged him and gave him a dollar to buy a Reese’s from the vending machine, but he didn’t feel like eating.

When he saw the Wolf again a week later, the dream was back to normal.

~*~

His wolf obsession continued unabated throughout his childhood, until he was too old to be obsessed with things from his youth. Until his mother died when he was twelve. He removed the pictures and the certificates from his wall the day after her funeral.

He makes a donation in the name of Claudia Stilinksi every year on her birthday.

He doesn’t open the large envelopes that arrive a month later.

~*~

Despite the devastating death of his mother and his father’s subsequent flirtation with alcoholism, Stiles’ life is for all and intents and purposes, good. His father loves him dearly; learning how to be a family of two had made them close. He grew up comfortably in the small California town where his dad eventually became sheriff, and Stiles had his best friends Scott and Lydia. Allison moved to town right before freshman year and fit seamlessly into their little group, which had by then somehow grown to include Lydia’s douchenozzle boyfriend Jackson. At least Jackson was friends with Danny, who Stiles had harbored a mild crush on for years. Their little group had had the typical high school drama, of course, but nothing major. The worst thing that had happened to Stiles when he was a teenager was getting rejected when he asked Danny to prom. Upsetting, but he got over it quickly. He attended Berkeley on a partial academic scholarship, majoring in English with a minor in web design. Scott spent two years at Diablo Valley before transferring, and they had lived together for all four years of college, during which they had an absolute blast and further solidified their friendship into the brotherhood it was always meant to be, something that’s about to become legal when his dad marries Melissa this Christmas.

Sometime during sophomore year of college, during his hardcore burnout phase, Stiles began to worry about the vividness of his dreams. He convinced himself that feeling more awake while dreaming meant that he was actually dead in real life and only alive in his dreams: convoluted stoner logic that seemed epiphanic at the time. He told Scott about it, who laughed and told him to do his laundry because all of his clothes smelled like bong water.

A couple months later when he finally forced himself to be a more responsible stoner – only after eight pm on weekdays, and no more going to class high – he rescued his GPA and stopped getting into his head about it too much. But he still couldn’t quite shake the thought that there was something…off about his dreams, and by default, about him too. Maybe the dreams were a symptom of some yet-to-be-diagnosed psychosis that would make itself more fully known at any moment; maybe it was a side effect of his ADHD. Whatever the cause, he knew it was wrong somehow, to feel so alive in his dreams when his waking life was good. He felt guilty, like he didn’t have the right to escape to a dreamworld, something his logical, self-effacing tendencies told him was a privilege reserved for those who had lives troubled enough to warrant such a dramatic escape.

It’s not that he’s unhappy; far from it. There’s just something more that he feels in his dreams that always makes him the tiniest bit sad when he wakes up, like he’s lost something before he’s even had the chance to have it.

It’s worse when he dreams of the Wolf.

In the approximately seventeen years that he’s been dreaming of the big black Wolf with red eyes, with the exception of that one night when he was ten, not a single detail of the dream has changed. What has changed, however, is how he feels when he wakens. As he’s gotten older, that feeling of loss at waking that strikes him after seeing the Wolf has gotten stronger and stronger. Once, in his senior year of college, right after an exhausting week of midterms, he woke up sobbing, feeling like his heart was being torn out of his chest, the loss of the dream hitting him harder than any loss he had felt since his mother’s death. Scott and Kira, who was pretty much living with them by then, had run to his room to make sure he was okay. He lied and said it was a nightmare. They both crawled into his bed and held him until he fell asleep again.

 

~*~

By some miracle, Stiles lands a great job right out of undergrad with a successful independent publisher in Seattle. It’s a small house, and Stiles is paying his dues copyediting, managing the various author websites, and reading the slush pile, but he's been promised opportunities to develop his own projects soon.

The office is located in a renovated historic house in upper Queen Anne, and Stiles gets an apartment at the bottom of Queen Anne Hill and, having lived in Berkeley the past four years, has no problem adjusting to Seattle life. He quickly makes friends with a few of his coworkers and one of his neighbors, and counts himself lucky that he can wear tattered graphic tees and a beanie to work. The music scene is incredible – he saw Gaslight Anthem at the Crocodile for ten bucks last week! And legal weed? Pretty fucking legit. He even likes the rain. It sucks to be so far away from his dad, but there are promises of frequent visits and his dad has Melissa now, so Stiles doesn't feel too bad about leaving him alone. Plus, Scott and Kira got jobs in Portland and are only a three hour drive away, and Lydia called just yesterday to tell him that she’s been accepted to med school at UW and will be moving to Seattle in a month. Stiles is thrilled and utterly relieved when Lydia immediately rejects his offer to let her move in with him, even though he only has a one bedroom. “Stiles, you know I love you, but if we lived together I would fucking murder you and no one would ever find your body,” she says sweetly, and they both know it’s true. He loves his friends.

He’s been in Seattle for nearly six months when he has the Wolf dream again, only the fourth time since he’s moved, the longest he’s ever gone without it. When he wakes, the familiar pang of loss is there, but so is the relief that he hasn’t lost the dream, even more so this time, because he had been starting to worry that the Wolf wasn’t coming back.

He sighs heavily, glancing at his phone where it’s charging on the nightstand. It’s nearly six am, and he’s wide awake. Might as well get up.

He stumbles to the kitchen to make coffee, red eyes and black fur on his mind, thinking that, with the exception of Scott, who he met in preschool, the Wolf is his oldest friend. It might be a further sign of his vaguely-defined weirdness that he considers a creature invented by his childhood subconscious to be a friend, but oh well. The Wolf is part of him; part of him that he doesn’t understand fully, but an important part of him nonetheless.

He decides right then he wants to acknowledge the Wolf somehow, acknowledge his admittedly strange but compelling presence in his life.

And just like that, he decides to get a wolf tattoo. No, not a wolf. The Wolf. His Wolf. He leaves his coffee to brew and slips on some flip flops to walk down to his storage closet in the basement of his apartment building, not bothering to change out of his pajamas. There, among the many boxes of books he doesn’t have the shelf space for but he couldn’t bring himself to get rid of (and choosing which ones would live on the wall of bookshelves in his apartment and which ones would wither and die in storage was torture), is the box that holds an eclectic mix of childhood memorabilia, most of it wolf-related.

It’s one of those file boxes with a lid that his dad long ago liberated from the Beacon Hills Sheriff’s department, and he lets his fingers dance nervously over the lid before he opens it. He finally does after steeling himself with a deep breath, but he doesn’t let his eyes focus on the unopened envelopes stacked on top of the pile – eleven of them, now. He’ll add the twelfth in a few months.

Instead he reaches beneath the stack to a file folder filled with tattered-edge pages and bent-edged photos. He pauses for a second before putting the lid back on the box, grabbing the stuffed gray and white wolf, damaged and tattered, before he puts the box away and locks the storage closet.

Back in his apartment with a mug of steaming coffee, he pulls the photos from the folder and lays them out on his kitchen table, leaving enough room for the blank pieces of paper he starts drawing on. He’s not an especially talented artist, but he understands perspective and lines well enough. He draws the Wolf from memory, using the photos of his adopted wolves for reference, trying to get the shape of his eyes just right, the line of his powerful jaws. Several balled-up pieces of paper later he has something he’s almost satisfied with. He has to stop so he won’t be late to work, and he doesn’t even notice until he’s in the shower that he’s been whispering to himself since he started drawing.

“Apollo, Thor, Mariposa, Duke, Odin, Zoe, Athena…”

~*~

Liz, one his coworkers, has the most beautiful tattoos he’s ever seen, so he asks for an artist recommendation. Stiles spends his lunch break perusing the artist portfolios on the Triskele Tattoo website, becoming more and more impressed with each photo he sees. The website says that they do consultations on a walk-in basis, but all of their artists are typically booked at least three months out. His enthusiasm dampens a bit at that – having made the decision to get the Wolf tattoo, he wants it now, patience never really being a thing at which he excelled. Liz assures him that the long wait for an appointment is a good thing, a sign of a truly good artist, and Stiles can’t help but agree. He’d rather wait and get the tattoo he wants, that will do justice to the Wolf, rather than give in to his impatience and get something shitty, but he decides to go in for a consultation as soon as he’s done working.

Fortunately, it’s Friday and his boss has a soul, so at three she tells everyone to clear out and have a good weekend. Stiles grabs a latte and jumps on a bus to Cap Hill and is walking into Triskele Tattoo by forty-five after.

The shop is small, wedged between a record store (they still have record stores in Seattle!) and an independent coffee shop. It’s brightly lit, with low black leather couches and a coffee table covered in leather-bound portfolios in the waiting area. He had expected the standard flash-covered walls, but instead the shop is sparsely decorated with only a few professionally framed and breathtakingly beautiful photographs of forests and the Pacific ocean. There’s no one behind the counter when he walks in, but the bell on the door rings his arrival and he expects to see someone soon. He can hear the buzz of a machine from the back, then a woman’s loud, throaty laugh.

The saloon-style doors that separate the back from the front swing open and a young guy with a short, bright pink Mohawk and a thrashed Nirvana t-shirt saunters through to stand behind the counter. He’s tall with dreamy blue eyes slightly smudged with eyeliner and when he smiles Stiles thinks of cherubs. Punk cherubs.

“Hey man, what can we do for ya,” Punk Cherub asks, leaning his elbows on the counter.

Stiles feels a little nervous, not expecting such handsomeness. “Um, yeah, I wanted to get a consultation on a tattoo?” He hopes framing it as a question will prevent an eye rolling duh from the cute guy, and either it works or the guy isn’t a jerk because he just smiles again.

“Cool, what are you thinking about? Color? Black and gray?”

“Black and gray. With just a tiny bit of color.” He pulls the paper from his messenger bag and flattens it on the counter. He’s suddenly very self-conscious of his amateur drawing, especially when one of the guy’s eyebrows goes up a bit and his smile turns into a little smirk. “I’m not the best artist…” Stiles says feebly.

“No worries, man. Our artists can definitely work with this. You’ll probably want Erica. She’s our resident black and gray expert, and she’s great with animals.” The guys smirks again, like he’s laughing at inside joke.

“Yeah, I saw some of her stuff online. It’s awesome.”

“And lucky for you, she’s working today. She’s finishing up a piece right now, but she can meet with you when she’s done, if you don’t mind hanging out for a bit.”

“Yeah, that’s cool. Thanks,” he says, turning towards the couch. Punk Cherub looks like he’s about to say something else when a voice sounds from the back.

“Hey Isaac! Get your ass back here and get me a clean fucking rinse cup!” Punk Cherub, Isaac, rolls his eyes and smiles at Stiles, grabbing his drawing and disappearing back through the swinging doors.

Stiles settles into the couch and gets his book of his messenger bag, but he decides to flip through the portfolios instead. Each of the three albums is several inches thick, suggesting a lot more photos than what he saw online.

He grabs Erica’s – her name carved into the red leather cover in elegant lettering that was clearly done by a very sharp implement in a very skilled hand. Isaac is right. There are a few excellent color pieces, but it’s clear that her passion is black and gray. The detail and shading of each piece is exquisite, as is the placement of each tattoo, the lines and curves of the art flowing organically with the wearer’s body. There are sugar skulls, memorial portraits, a large piece on a man’s thigh that looks to be a scene from The Inferno, fierce tigers, the Virgin Mary on a delicate foot, classic roses, an incredible owl on the muscled bicep of a woman, and even a couple of wolves. Stiles gets more and more excited to have her tattoo him with each page he flips.

After looking through Erica’s portfolio, he grabs the next, this one with the name Laura carved into the purple cover in much simpler lettering than Erica’s, but no less skilled. Her specialty seems to be script and small, detailed pieces – Stiles didn’t even know tattoos could be that small and still be so intricately detailed. Her work is just as stunning as Erica’s, and Stiles is feeling more and more confident in his decision to come here. He should buy Liz a bottle of wine to say thank you.

The third album is black, the name Derek stamped into a small square of metal that’s been screwed to the cover. This one has the most unassuming and plain cover, but inside it’s an orgy of color: Derek is obviously their color expert. His work seems to run the gamut of styles from classic sailor pieces to minimalist, abstract to watercolor and everything in between; he seems to be a master of them all. There are vibrant landscapes, simple, elegant animals, a truly masterful back piece of the Alchemy tarot card. There’s even a couple of multi-panel comic book pieces that Stiles practically drools over. He almost wishes he wanted his Wolf to be in color, just so he could wear this man’s incredible art on his body forever. He decides that his second tattoo will be in color, by Derek.

Not long after he’s looked through all of the portfolios the saloon doors swing open and a middle aged guy with a bandaged forearm walks out, followed by one of the most beautiful women Stiles has ever seen. Long, thick blonde hair that falls in perfect curls down her back and big brown eyes and bright red lips, and god, do you have to be a model to work here? If Stiles were into women, he’d be tripping over himself to either flirt awkwardly or run away in utter terror. She’s covered in tattoos; pretty much all of her skin that he can see, a fair amount, since she’s wearing a low cut, thin-strapped tank top, is inked beautifully. There’s a bright magenta and purple peony on her neck that Stiles is pretty sure he just saw a photo of in Derek’s portfolio.

Erica hugs her client goodbye and then levels her eyes at Stiles. “Are you my wolf boy?” she practically purrs, smiling mischievously.

“Uh, yeah, I guess that’s me. Hi, I’m Stiles.” He stands and extends his hand, which she takes in a firm – holy shit, really firm – handshake.

“Hey Stiles, I’m Erica. Nice to meet you. Thanks for waiting. Come on back.” She turns without making sure he’s following.

Behind the saloon doors, the shop is divided by half-walls into four workstations, two on each side of the narrow path that leads to another backroom and the bathroom. Three of the stations look like tattoo spaces, and the fourth holds various pieces of equipment and a large drafting table, with a hand-lettered sign on the half-wall that says "if you don’t fucking work here, don’t fucking come in here." Isaac is sterilizing Erica’s workstation, so she takes him to the one across from hers, the little square downright plain in comparison to the chaotic spray of stickers and art that's covering Erica’s. There are some drawings on the wall above the drafting table, clearly tattoos waiting to be inked, but other than that, there’s absolutely nothing to suggest whose space this might be.

“Derek’s off today, so he won’t mind if we sit here,” she says, kicking a rolling stool over to Stiles while she sits in the other chair at the small drafting table nestled in the corner. Derek’s workstation is as plain and unassuming as the cover of his portfolio, and Stiles is suddenly quite curious about the man whose space seems in such stark contrast with the vibrant work he creates.

Erica spreads his drawing out on the table in front of her and flips on the lamp clamped to its side. “I like wolves,” she says approvingly, smoothing her hand the paper. Across the way, Stiles thinks he hears Isaac snort in laughter. Erica ignores him. “Did you draw this?”

He feels his cheeks redden. God, he’s such a loser, showing his crappy drawing to a real artist and asking her to lower herself to recreate it. “Um, yeah, I know it’s not the best, I’m better with words than I am with drawing, but it’s, um, a specific wolf, so I want to make sure it’s just right.” He wonders if that makes him sound crazy; after all, it’s not a portrait of a person, how much should it matter if it looks exactly like he wants it to? Wolves have pretty similar features, so maybe Erica thinks he’s nuts for wanting something so particular.

She slides her assessing eyes away from his drawing to study his face, holding his gaze for a second too long before responding, like she’s trying to puzzle something out. “Of course,” she finally says. “Each wolf is an individual.”

“Yeah,” Stiles says, breaking into smile and letting out a breath he didn’t know he was holding.

“If you don’t mind,” Erica says, looking back to the drawing, “I’d like to redraw it. Nothing too major, just smooth out the lines, add a little more depth, maybe change the perspective, stuff like that. It’ll be this wolf, just…”

“Better?” Stiles supplies, laughing.

Erica laughs too. “Yes. It will be better. But of course, it’s going on your body, so you have final say. Sound good?”

“Sounds great. Thanks.”

“Where are we putting this guy, and how big do you want him?”

“That’s what he said!” Isaac calls from across the way.

“You wish!” Erica hollers right back, not missing a beat.

Stiles, who had been grinning at her double entendre, snorts with laughter and Erica rolls her eyes. “I like you, kid,” she says, even though she can’t be that much older than him.

“My back,” he says. “Left shoulder blade.” Just behind my heart, he thinks. “About this big?” He holds his hands up in circle, the tips of his long fingers not quite touching.

“Rad. Stand up and strip.” Stiles does as he’s told. Isaac turns their way to ask Erica a question and stops mid-sentence when he sees Stiles standing there shirtless. Stiles knows he as a certain appeal to some guys, and apparently Isaac is one of those guys because he is openly staring, and yeah, Stiles is hella flattered. He’s not as gangly as he used to be, but he’s not super buff by any stretch of the imagination; his lanky frame has filled out as he’s put on muscle in recent years, mostly thanks to Scott’s manipulative use of puppy eyes to get Stiles to go to the gym with him. He’s not really used to people staring at him so openly and it flatters and flusters him.

Erica seems to take pity on both of them and turns Stiles away from Isaac with a gentle hand on his shoulder. She places her hand on his back, where he told her he wanted the tattoo. “About here,” she murmurs quietly and Stiles doesn’t think it’s a question so he doesn’t answer. Her warm hand lightly traces the skin on his back curving against his shoulder blade. “Yeah, this is going to look badass, dude. It’s gonna look like this wolf grew right out of your skin.”

“Promise?” He tries to make it sound like he’s joking.

“Promise. And, this is your lucky day, wolf boy. I had a cancellation, so I can get you in tomorrow.”

“Tomorrow?” Stiles practically yells.

“Is that okay?”

“Fuck yeah, that’s awesome! I was dreading having to wait for months. Thank you. Shit, I am so excited.”

“Good. You can put your shirt back on.”

Erica is studying his drawing again, and he can see her eyes tracing his amateur lines, her hand twitching to make them better. He’s dying to see what she draws. “Isaac said you wanted some color?”

“Yeah, the eyes. I want his eyes to be red.” He’s sliding his shirt on over his head as he says it, and when his head pops out of the whole, she’s staring at him, her big brown eyes wide.

“Red eyes?” Her nostrils – each one decorated with a tiny gemstone – flare slightly.

“Yeah. Not like evil, though. Just red. Like a magical, but not evil, glowing red. If that makes sense.”

She regains her composure quickly, so quickly Stiles wonders if he imagined her strange expression. “Yeah, that makes sense. We'll look at my colors tomorrow. If I don’t have the right shade, I’m sure Derek does.” That gets another snort from Isaac, and this time Stiles has no idea why.

They discuss the price and Stiles pays a deposit; he leaves with Erica’s card and a half-hatched plan for asking Isaac out tomorrow. He can’t wait.