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Phases of the Weaker Heart

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“Argent—”  Allison’s head snaps up, eyes wide.  Finstock isn’t looking at her though, eyes scanning the clipboard in his hand, a portentous smirk tugging at his lips.  “And…” the word seems to come with its own drumroll, “Stilinski.”

Allison flinches and doesn’t turn her head, knowing there’s likely a look of surprise and maybe even outrage on Stiles’ face.  They haven’t spoken since—since Jackson died and she and Scott were dating and Gerard was vomiting up black goop and she has no idea what Stiles thinks of her but she knows it’s not kind.  Stiles hadn’t exactly been warm to her before she became Gerard’s protégé.  Gerard who, undoubtedly, had been the one to paint Stiles’ face red and swollen.

She lingers after the bell rings, packing up her things slowly in case Stiles wants to discuss how they’ll work this project together.  Under the guise of tucking her hair behind her ear, she glances to the back of the classroom.  Stiles and his things are already gone.

Her next class is French and it’s on the other side of campus but she still can’t bring herself to walk any faster.  Leaving the classroom, Stiles scrambles upright from where he was leaning against the wall, roughly a metric ton of energy when a single kilogram would do.  He bruises the air next to her as he moves into her space.  “So… this isn’t awkward at all.” 

And it’s spectacularly easy to remember why she doesn’t really like Stiles.  He’s brash and mean and clumsy both emotionally and physically.  He and Scott are the quintessential example of opposites attracting.  Scott, who has a kind word and a smile for anyone, who’s nice and a little dopey and all the more endearing for it.  Honestly, she thinks Stiles just came up against someone who was too good for him to be awful to.

Allison shrugs slightly, looking in her bag for something she’s not missing.  “It doesn’t have to be.”

Stiles snorts, mouth open and engaged almost instantaneously.  “You can’t look me in the eye and that’s a favor I’m more than willing to return.  I’m not entirely sure you weren’t in on Grandpa Argent beating me out of my dignity in your basement.  I know you had something to do with Boyd and Erica and Scott is still as blinded by you as ever, which I know is his deal and not yours but, hey, what’s one more thing you need to be left holding the bag for, right?”  And maybe there’s such an intense recoil in her from Stiles because he’s unflinchingly honest and – on him – it’s not anywhere close to a virtue.  He shrugs too.  “Maybe we shouldn’t pretend like either of us got through any of this unscathed.  I know we sure as hell shouldn’t pretend to be friends, because that’s not something we ever were.”

“Maybe we shouldn’t.”  She stares at Stiles, his gaze a little darker, his posture a little straighter and, for the first time, Allison wants him to like her.  He’s going to be a player, she realizes, and it’s something of a shock.  “I’ll work on it tonight, pass it off to you tomorrow and we’ll do it that way for the next week.”

Stiles hitches up the strap of his backpack with a dip of his chin.  “See you tomorrow,” he says without inflection.

Allison frowns after him.  She’s still standing, and it’s a weak thing to count her successes by, but she’s building up to being strong.  Maybe for the first time.

Her dad knocks on her door as she’s sitting on her bed, cross-legged and with her book in her lap as she takes notes.  She’s not going to be the weak link in this partnership.  Her head comes up slowly to see him standing in her open doorway, disarmingly present.  The guilt around his eyes and the brackets of his mouth are prematurely aging him. 

She knows because she sees ghosts of them around hers, too. 

“Um, hi?” she says, a real effort shoved in not to sound short with him.  The way she’d spoken to him with Gerard behind the words still made her feel small and mean.  It was hard to see it then, how he’d been trying to keep her safe when it had just seemed like he was trying to keep her pitiful and useless.  It was an effort to remember that while she had just lost her mom, he had just lost his wife. 

“Everything all right?”   The words are said with careful consideration but there’s still concern and unconditional acceptance in his eyes.  She had always been more her father’s daughter and it had only made her more zealous after her mother died, because there was a bit of Allison that felt she’d taken her for granted.

She clicks her pen on her knee, worries her lower lip.  “Yeah.”  She smiles tightly.  “Real adrenaline-pumping stuff, the economics of the Great Depression.”  She sounds more bitter than she feels.  It’s true that this is all a bit bland compared to hunting down werewolves and kanimas and avenging slain family members but she doesn’t miss what she was doing.  She misses the sense of purpose it’d given her though.

Her dad moves halfway into her room, leans against her dresser with his arms crossed.  “Anything I can help with?” 

And it’s clear that pretty much no matter what she says – they’re in for a talk.  Which would make roughly their seven thousandth in four days.  “Not so much.  I kind of have a headache actually.  I was thinking of calling it an early night.”  As soon as she says it, she really does have a headache.  It had been lying low, just waiting for her to notice. 

Her dad frowns, picks himself back up from his not-so-casual lean.  “I’ll let you sleep then, sweetheart.  If you need anything just let me know.”

She pulls down her sleeve over her hand, makes a show of closing her book.  “Thanks, I will.”

He leaves without lingering to make sure she does what she said she would and she appreciates the show of trust even if she’s not sure she deserves it.  She lays back on her bed and stares up at her ceiling.  The light’s still on, uncomfortably shining on her face, but she can’t bring herself to get up.  Her foot hits her notebook, knocking it off the bed with a resigned thump

She’s been laying that way for two hours when her phone vibrates on her nightstand.  It’s Lydia and her stomach drops a little, not sure if she’d wanted it to be Scott or not.

I appreciate you not taunting me with how fantastic full moon fucking is while you were with McCall.  Let me take this opportunity to not return the favor.

Allison grins, leaves her phone next to her elbow.  Lydia won’t be looking for a response to any of the undoubtedly grossly intimate details she’s about to share.  Allison’s pretty sure she’s got a clearer mental image at any given time of what Jackson’s dick looks like better than she does Scott’s.

Lydia’s happy though and Allison’s even a little surprised to find that she doesn’t begrudge her that in the least.

She finally falls asleep to the arrhythmic buzzing of her phone.

Stiles doesn’t look at her when he takes the report and shoves it directly between the parted teeth of his backpack’s zipper.  He doesn’t bother to zip it, just hauls it up onto his back and walks off like he doesn’t know her name.

It was stupid to think he might notice and appreciate the crisp, bright yellow cover sheet or the clear folder or the design around the paper’s edges.

And, besides, he hasn’t really looked at it yet.  Maybe there’s still a chance that Office Depot could help her win over her ex-boyfriend’s best friend.  That’s officially her most pathetic thought to date and she quickly pretends it never happened.

When she gets the report back the next afternoon, there’s another sixteen pages added to her original three and Stiles just shrugs when he notices her staring at it.  “It might not all be usable,” he says, and then he’s gone, chasing after Scott undoubtedly, living in perpetual fear that he’ll leave him behind if he’s not diligent enough.

It’s almost sickening how well Allison understands that.

She’s kind of… blown away when she reads all of it.  It’s not that she thought Stiles was stupid, it’s more that she’d thought his interests laid elsewhere, like he couldn’t be bothered with anything as mundane as schoolwork, but – from what she’s read – his interests kind of lie… everywhere.  He’s drawn parallels all over the place, from The Grapes of Wrath, To Kill a Mockingbird, Of Mice and Men to the induction of Batman, Superman and Captain America in the Golden Age of Comics but he’s also mentioned books she’s never heard of – The Persian Pickle Club and The Girl in the Glass and whole movements and films and events that didn’t pop up in a single Google search.

He writes like he talks, drawing the person reading into his own enthusiasm, whereas Allison is much more facts on a page.  And he’s great about talking on your level, about making it interesting and imaginative, until he isn’t, until he retreats too far into his own headspace.  She spends most of that night rewriting the sections he’s added, expanding on points he’s assumed are universal and Allison is there to tell him are not.

She’s not sure he’ll be okay with her editing his work but she’s pretty sure she’s on track for her first ever ‘A’ in Finstock’s class and decides not to let his potential upset derail her.

She hands it off at the start of class rather than at the end and notices peripherally when Stiles’ legs start jouncing more that he’s idly flipping through their shared report.  He’s not exactly reading it, his eyes unfocused, but it doesn’t take him long to lean a little closer to the pages, biting the skin around his thumb nail and narrowing his gaze. 

Allison goes back to her own doodle of an arrow slightly off-center in the side of a tree.

Stiles walks up to her desk rather than waiting for her outside where he can make a quick getaway and lets out a punchy, “Huh.” 

She glances up at him from where she’s leaning over her desk, sliding her notebook into her bag.

He squints at her.  “We kind of… balance each other.”  He holds up the report to indicate the catalyst for this epiphany.

She shrugs, using the action to settle her bag, and stands.  “I thought so too.”

He looks down at the report, fingers tightening on it.  “I think we might actually do all right with this.”  He shifts his gaze back up to Allison, dips his chin, and she thinks maybe he wasn’t talking about the project at all.

The arrow smacks into the second ring of the target and Allison glares at it.  Her hands aren’t steady, her mind won’t settle and the second before her finger leaves the string she pictures the bullseye as Scott’s face.  She never hits it.

She yanks it back out by the shaft, drops it into her quiver and storms out of the woods. 

She ignores her dad when he asks how it went and slams the door behind her.

Allison starts running in the mornings because it’s something she can control.  That first day she runs until she feels like she might vomit up a lung.  Her limbs are shaky and her head is fuzzy, but remarkably empty of the usual guilt and anger.

Her dad doesn’t ask.  It’s the nicest thing he can do for her. 

She doesn’t shower after, just throws her hair up in a loose bun and runs a towel over her face and hairline to get most of the sweat.  It’s getting remarkably long and she’s considered chopping it all off more than once.

She sits down in the library during her free period and is surprised by Stiles taking the spot next to her.  Have they always had this time they could’ve shared and didn’t?  She’d never known that much about him, never asked and never cared.

“Here,” he says, and hands her back the report.  He starts to stand.

“What did you add this time?”  And it’s nothing she can’t figure out on her own.  It’s back in her hands after all, but she doesn’t want him to feel like he has to race off rather than be alone with her.

Stiles perks an eyebrow, assessing, steady in that moment between staying and leaving rather than frenetic.  It only strikes her then how unsettling it is to see him still.  He slowly sinks back down, flips the report without taking it out of her hands and launches into farming subsidies and food stamps.

When the bell rings, Stiles starts and blinks wide eyes at her, like he can’t believe they managed to spend a whole period together without feeling awkward or murderous.  He jumps up, clearly having somewhere to be, and rambles out, tucking his chair back under, “Adding those two pages will help connect the dots, I think.”  She nods.  He squints a little, says genuinely, “I like your hair today,” and leaves.

Allison stops in the bathroom before her next class and stares at herself in the mirror.  Whole, thick strands are falling out of the messy bun she’d tossed up that morning.  It’s dragged down by the weight of her thick hair and gotten looser and there are flyaways everywhere.  She looks… she looks like a real person.  A fraying and unfinished real person.  She doesn’t fix a bit of it.

Lydia’s going to give her hell.

“You’re… running.”  Lydia stares at her like she’s just shot an arrow into Prada.

“Yes.  I’m running, stop acting like you’ve just learned the word today.”

Lydia shoots her a dark look.  “Okay, but… why?”

Allison bats her eyelashes.  “Because Scott will only like me if I keep my figure.”  Lydia perks up a little and Allison rolls her eyes.  “Because I want to, Lydia.”

Lydia frowns at her, tilts her head, goes from vapid mean girl to insightful genius in half a second.  “I still say there’s a deeper reason to it,” she says mellifluously, almost sing-song.

Allison ignores her.

“I’m going running.”

Her dad pauses washing up from dinner, towel poised against the dish’s face.  “I thought this was going to be a morning activity.”

Allison nods, bun loose and tossed up haphazardly.  She doesn’t think about cutting it anymore.  “It was but I met Stiles this morning and couldn’t fit it in.”

He pauses, considering.  “Seems like you’re spending a lot of time with Stiles lately.  Anything there?”  She’s not sure if it’s a genuine curiosity or simply reaching for conversation.

Either way, she’s surprised to find she’s not disgusted by the idea.  She doesn’t like Stiles in that way, and sincerely doubts she ever will—there are still many pieces of his personality that are too jagged paired with her own, but if they’re somehow giving the impression that they could have that type of relationship then they must be friends now, or at least something close.  It shocks her a bit, how much that thought warms her.  “It’s Stiles, Dad.  He’s not—” She has no inkling of how to finish that sentence without sounding insulting to Stiles and, even in absentia, it feels horrible to say ‘dateable’ or ‘appealing’ so she doesn’t.

Her dad raises his hand.  “Got it.”  He watches her with tired, worried eyes.  “I don’t like the idea of you out there alone at night.”

She pats the elastic next to her hip.  It’s stretched around a taser.  “I can take care of myself.”

A ghost of a smile touches her dad’s lips.  “That I don’t doubt.  Still, it seems like courting danger,” he says.

“I’ll be careful,” she promises.

It’s cathartic, running through the Preserve, cold air suctioning to her sweat-slick skin, shadows becoming tree trunks and fallen leaves as she draws in on them.  It’s all monstrous and dark until she gets close enough that she can see it for what it really is.  The music in her earbuds is low but, even so, she can’t hear it until one slips out and falls onto her shoulder.

There’s something moving, like it’s being dragged, just beyond her line of sight.

Allison comes to a stop, hand on her taser.  It’ll make too much noise to charge it, the woods are quiet but for the slithering rustle of leaves, but it doesn’t mean it’s not blunt enough to do damage on its own.  She pulls it from the waistband of her pants, any sound drowned out by heavy panting.  She realizes that whomever it belongs to won’t be able to hear the crackle of electricity over their own breathing.

She fires it up and the sounds abruptly still.  Unless they have supernatural senses of course.  Shit.

There’s a wall of trees between her and the sound but there’s a break just up ahead.  If she can get to it first, she’ll have the clear shot.  She runs, slides and aims, executing the turn perfectly.

Her finger is in motion when she recognizes the wide eyes staring at her.

“Allison, stop,” Stiles strangles out.

She can’t abort the motion, it’s done, but she can jerk her aim away.  The prongs embed themselves in a tree, thankfully the voltage not high enough to spark up any forest fires.

Stiles is standing in the moonlit-drenched clearing, an arm thrown over his neck and the person he’s half-carrying, half-dragging mostly on their knees.

Derek’s head lifts, face streaked with dirt and blood.  His white tank top looks gray with an awkward maroon tie-dye patterned unevenly over it.  His eyes are red and his fangs are present.  He snarls at her.

Stiles bends his knees some, clings a little harder to the hand Derek has around his shoulders and lifts him up under the armpit with his own.  Derek stumbles into a stand, still rumbling out a low growl and Stiles shoots him a glare.  “Dude, not helping,” he hisses.  He looks back at Allison, expression kind of permanently set to stun.  “You stopped,” he says blankly.

And she can’t believe Stiles is helping him.  She’d thought—she’d thought… Maybe they weren’t friends but Derek had still killed her mom.  She’d thought Stiles could at least take her side when it came to that.  She retracts the wires back into the taser and her mouth tightens.  “We may not be friends,” she hits the word hard, wanting it to hurt him the way the realization does her, “but I trust you.”  She’s not sure Stiles even deserves to hear that but it’s the truth, for better or worse. 

Stiles hoists Derek up again and he’s still partway shifted but his head’s lolling.  Stiles licks his lower lip and darts a glance between them, considering.  A look of resolve comes over his face and he decides, “I trust you too.”  He heaves in a breath and puffs out, “And I don’t think I can get him to the Jeep on my own.”

Allison clenches her jaw.  This is a test, whether Stiles means it that way or not, it is.  A test of who she is versus who she was.  She’s not even sure which one means pass and which means fail.  She shoves the taser into the elastic against the small of her back, ducks under Derek’s arm and lifts him up.  He’s mostly dead weight.

Stiles looks over at her and, even if Allison isn’t sure that this is the person she wants to be, the girl who’s big enough to help her mother’s killer because Stiles asked her to, she is sure that she’s just won Stiles’ friendship.  And it feels like something worth having just as much as it feels like she had to give up something to get it.

Derek’s lip raises as he feels her take his weight and he falls more into Stiles as though it can negate the fact that she’s touching him. 

Stiles puts a stop to that instantly and shoves him back over.  “Nuh uh, I’ve been dragging your werewolf-y ass for half a mile.  We’re trying to lighten Stiles’ load here.  I’m ninety-nine percent sure Allison’s not going to stab you the second I’m not looking.”  He dips his chin towards her in an odd sort of deference.  “Sorry about the one percent there but you did stab Isaac.  Forgive the negligible doubt.” 

Despite herself, Allison has to forcefully stop her lips from curling.  It shouldn’t be funny.  It should be horrifying and make her feel cruel and cornered.  Something in the way Stiles came at it though, it doesn’t.  “Grudgingly,” she says, trying to keep up.

“Way to be the bigger person,” Stiles tells her, grinning, but his eyes say he more than means it.

She tries to show her appreciation with her own.

Derek’s conscious the entire time but his strength shorts in and out like a shitty wireless connection.  When he can do more than hang between them, then he’s listing more towards Stiles and it’s the only time he’ll inhale through his nose rather than his mouth.  He’s not the only one who’s having trouble hiding his disgust either.

Allison keeps having to forcibly swallow the questions that keep rising up in her.  Like why Derek isn’t healing, how Stiles found him, why Stiles is helping him, what did this to Derek – she notes them all while keeping them to herself.

Stiles is stronger than he looks but, even so, there’s no denying that Derek is a burden between them and Allison thinks the word ‘karma’ and the phrase ‘left for dead’ more than once.  She’s on the verge of undoing all the goodwill she’s just earned by opening her mouth when Stiles sighs, gasping in the words, “Oh thank fuck,” like they’re as good as oxygen.

Then Allison sees it too.  Stiles’ Jeep.

Derek doesn’t perk up any and Stiles drags his keys out of his pocket once they’re a few feet away and thrusts them at her.  Allison unlocks and throws open the passenger door before crawling in.  Stiles blinks at her in surprise but doesn’t hesitate before maneuvering Derek around so she can grab him under his armpits and tug him in.

He groans when he’s finally down on the tiny backseat and Allison pops out the other side.  She freezes going to close the door, her hands covered in blood.  She stares down at them, guts roiling.

She doesn’t even see Stiles before he walks up, covers both her hands in his plaid overshirt with barely a thought and cleans them off.  He doesn’t say a word about it.  Doesn’t make a joke or look at her as though he’s judging the reaction, he simply removes all evidence as though it’s not a huge gesture of any kind.

Allison blinks bright eyes at him and hands him back his keys.  She jogs over to the passenger side again and ends up closing the door at the same time that Stiles does his.

He stares at her, wide-eyed.  “Hey Allison, whatcha doin’?” he asks, voice inappropriately giggly and thin.

“You’re going to need help at Deaton’s, too,” she says back, voice hard. 

Stiles bangs his first few fingers on the steering wheel, bites into his lower lip, doesn’t look at her as he says, “Listen, this was—this was you being in the wrong place at the wrong time and me needing a fucking forklift and settling for you as a very poor second best.  I can handle it from here.”


He makes an inquiring sound in the back of his throat.

“Start the car.”

Stiles gives her a gauging look and then says brightly, “Okay then, starting the car.”  He looks into the rearview and frowns.  “Oy, Sourwolf, try not to die in my backseat.  I don’t know why you’re shipping my Jeep and your insides so hard and, frankly, I don’t really want to know either, but I’m not on board.”

Derek doesn’t give a reaction aside from turning his head more towards the seat, as though he can hide his face in the crevice. 

Stiles seems satisfied enough with that and then he’s turning over the engine and peeling out of the Preserve.  Allison eventually notices that every cursory glance into the backseat by Stiles correlates to another two to four miles per hour being added to his current speed and she opens her mouth to distract him.  “Why isn’t he healing?”

Stiles doesn’t even have a chance to process the question before Derek snarls from the backseat.  Stiles snorts and glares into the rearview judgmentally.  “Oh yeah, because you’re doing so well with only a manipulative dead guy and a teenager with the proportional strength of a twig in your back pocket.”

Did that mean Scott didn’t know about whatever this was?  And that thought immediately drew up why Stiles wasn’t with Scott now.


Allison thinks maybe Derek meant that to be a growl but it comes out as more of a soft hiss, as though he couldn’t wrap his lungs around anything deeper.

She notices the way it makes Stiles’ hands tighten on the steering wheel and the car picks up speed again.  There’s a tightness around his eyes but not in his voice as he snarks, “There, now stop talking.  That’s a perfect last word if I’ve ever heard one.  You wouldn’t want to ruin it.”  Stiles’ concern morphs seamlessly into a reckless sort of anger and then he’s turning to Allison and saying, “He was attacked by an Alpha.  A fucking Pack of them.” 

Derek’s eyes flash red in her periphery but he can’t manage anything more than that.

A Pack?  Of Alphas?  How did that even make sense?  And how in the hell had Derek managed to survive?  No, the important question here was: “Are they in Beacon Hills?” 

Stiles nods stiltedly, the magnitude of the situation apparently catching up to him again and curbing some of his anger at Derek.  “They have Boyd and Erica, undoubtedly a trap to lure that idiot,” his eyes flick up to the rearview, “into getting himself killed.”  Stiles sneers, and it’s an ugly look on him.  Mainly because it looks so genuine.  “He’s trying his absolute damnedest to oblige them.” 

Derek makes a sound somewhere between a gurgle and a wheeze and even Allison has a moment of relief when they pull into the parking lot of the Animal Clinic.

She doesn’t need to be asked before she’s helping Stiles drag Derek out, this time with her working from his feet and Stiles dealing with his shoulders.

Stiles pants as he reaches the door and scrabbles for the handle.  It’s open and Stiles shrugs – it jostles Derek between them – and explains, “Already made the ‘Derek’s dying’ phone call.”  He laughs without humor.  “It must be Wednesday.”

As soon as they’re inside, Deaton calls out, “Bring him back, Stiles.”

Stiles grumbles something under his breath that Allison doesn’t catch but it makes Derek’s bloody lips curl and he lets out a huff of air that’s almost like a laugh but can’t quite manage it.  The most surprising thing about it is that Stiles doesn’t seem surprised.  He’s made Derek laugh and isn’t poking him about it, which must mean he does it often, which must mean they spend a not negligible amount of time together. 

Deaton can’t quite hide his surprise at seeing her there.  Still, all he says is, “Allison, nice to see you again.”

She smiles tightly.  Once Derek’s weight is off her and he’s laid out on Deaton’s exam table, Allison is struck by a thought she’s not particularly proud of.  She wonders if Scott will be able to pick up her scent there, if she should touch something or leave something, and she’s basically plotting out the emotional torture of her ex-boyfriend without meaning it to be emotional torture.  It’s a way of communicating, a sign of life, when there’s been nothing but dead air between them, and yes that was her decision and she knows it wasn’t the wrong one to make but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t still miss him.

She shakes her head just in time to catch Deaton saying to Stiles, “—strain of wolfsbane.  Injuries from Alpha wolves simply take longer to heal.”

Stiles’ mouth tilts curiously.  “Well, could he, like, go into septic shock or get an infection or blood poisoning or bleed out while he’s taking his sweet ass time healing?”

Deaton’s brow furrows, like he finds that entire thought process alien.  “I am planning to dress the wounds.”

“That just seems like putting a bandaid on a crack in a dam, dude.  Did you look at him?”  Stiles sweeps a hand out towards Derek, who’s down for the count now, and points at him with it.  “He looks like someone tried to make grated Alpha out of him.” 

“He’ll live,” is Deaton’s only reply. 

Stiles huffs and pinches the bridge of his nose.  “Well that’s fantastic news,” he says, exaggerating the words.  “Now what the hell am I supposed to do with him?”

Deaton starts dressing the wounds just as he said he would and suggests evenly, “Take him home.”

Stiles’ eyes bug.  “To Peter?  Yeah, no, I wouldn’t let Peter look after a piece of string,” he says disgustedly.  “He killed Derek’s sister, his own niece.  This would basically be like leaving Alpha status gift-wrapped on his doorstep and have we all forgotten what Peter was like as an Alpha?”

Stiles has a point.

“Can’t he stay here?” Stiles tries a bit desperately. 

Deaton perks an eyebrow.  “I thought you were trying to keep Scott out of all this?” 

Allison stiffens a little at the mention of Scott and at the realization that she’s now indirectly keeping things from him. 

Stiles takes in a deep breath and deflates.  “Yeah, I am.”  He rubs his forehead.  “Guess he’s my problem then.”  He flicks Derek in the forehead grumpily.  He doesn’t so much as twitch.  “Awesome,” Stiles says sarcastically. 

“I’ll help,” Allison pipes up, taking herself by surprise.

Stiles opens his mouth, seems to cycle through a few different responses before tossing them aside, and dips his chin in acceptance, without asking if she’s sure, without trying to make her back down from it, and Stiles kind of aces friendship.  It shouldn’t surprise her.

It does.

Stiles’ dad isn’t home, which is beyond lucky because they sound like a herd of elephants dragging Derek – who is now totally dead weight – up the stairs.  Stiles drops him onto his bed with little ceremony and Allison puts the clean bandages Deaton gave them on his desk and turns around to blink at him.

Stiles is still panting but his lips quirk a bit.  “Thanks for—you know.”

She shrugs, looks between Derek and Stiles, and says, “Do you have an extra pillow?”

Stiles’ eyes widen.  “Oh, you—”

“I’ll tell my dad I’m spending the night at Lydia’s.”  He’s probably just on the verge of a freak-out considering how long she’s been gone and she unvelcroes her phone from her arm band.

Stiles swallows and says uneasily, “You don’t have to stay.” 

Allison’s lips twitch a little and she says, “I didn’t think I did.”

Stiles grins and disappears down the hall.  He comes back with a comforter, a threadbare quilt and two pillows.  He gives her the fluffier one and the comforter and says, “Sorry, the chair’s pretty much the only other option.”

She’s slept in worse.  “Where are you going to sleep then?”  But, even as she says it, Stiles is sliding down with his back against the door.

When his ass hits the floor, he stuffs the pillow up behind his head and drapes the quilt over his legs.  He knocks his knuckles against the wood next to his shoulder.  “We can’t exactly count on Mr. Comatose over there to hear my dad coming so this is the best alarm system we’ve got.”

She perks a questioning brow.  “Can you sleep like that?”

He shrugs.  “I’ve slept in stranger places.”

She laughs and has the fleeting hope that one day she’ll know those stories, pushes down the even fiercer one that one day she might be a part of them.  She bites down on a grin when she realizes she kind of is.  She doesn’t expect to fall asleep, between Derek’s simple presence and Stiles’ irregular snoring, but she must.

Because she wakes up to Derek groaning in a low, twisting sort of agony.  She’s debating what she should do when she hears the floorboard creak and she opens her eyes into slits.  Stiles is creeping across the floor in front of her, making his way over to the bed, pushing back on Derek’s shoulder when he tries to sit up.

Derek’s chest is rising and falling rapidly and Stiles sinks down onto the mattress, carefully rolling up Derek’s ruined shirt to get a look at the bandages.  Derek flinches something awful and Stiles says softly, imploring, “Let me see.”

Derek makes a quiet whining noise but manages to still some.  Stiles stands and Allison closes her eyes just as he makes his way over to the desk, searching for the bandages and tape in the dark.  He turns on the lamp on his bedside table, lowers it and turns it towards Derek so it doesn’t give off as much light, clearly trying not to wake her.  For some reason, it’s odd, real evidence of him being considerate right in front of her face.

He makes a noise like he’s been punched and says with stretched humor, “You still look like mincemeat but at least it’s healing.”  He starts moving around again and Allison hears the door open.  He’s barely gone a minute before he’s walking back over to the bed.  “Think you can drink something?” he asks in a hushed voice.

Allison doesn’t open her eyes to see Derek’s reaction and he doesn’t answer verbally either way.

Stiles snorts after a moment though and says with frayed disbelief, “This is so not how I saw this year going.  Playing nursemaid to Derek Hale.”  Allison hears the sound of tape being pulled from the roll.

Derek finally speaks up, voice like it’s been dragged through an endless field of thorns.  “You shouldn’t have been out there.”  It’s sharp, hard, even broken with panting.

Stiles doesn’t seem affected by it, still just as hard-headed and fierce as he would be otherwise.  “Says the guy who looks like he was playing chew toy to a velociraptor.”

“I heal, you don’t,” he snaps back, letting out a wounded noise to punctuate. 

“Whoa, I may not be Wolverine over here but I still have the capability to mend skin and bone, you—you specist.” 

Derek makes a sound like his jaws are snapping and he doesn’t sound amused in the least.  “Stop being difficult on purpose,” he hisses. 

Stiles’ voice goes hard.  “I told you to keep me in the loop.  Not that Peter isn’t my favorite way to get information,” he says mordantly.  Allison opens her eyes again.  Derek’s shirt is back down and Stiles has a pile of bloody bandages next to his foot on the floor.  He looks tired and unimpressed while Derek’s teeth are bared at him, human but still predatory.  Stiles sighs, glances at him without the slightest bit of expectation in his gaze and says blankly, “Think you can sleep?” 

Derek nods carefully, like he realizes he lost whatever this standoff was and has no idea why.

Stiles stoops down to pick up the old dressings and Derek grabs his wrist before he can turn away.  “Stiles,” he says, urgent but still somehow uncertain.  He swallows, eyes growing wide and Stiles rolls his own.

“Yeah, you’re welcome, Sourwolf,” he says, waving it away before leaving the room again.

Derek stares after him and, even when he’s gone, he doesn’t stop watching the door, not even to glare over at Allison.  He looks like he’s trying to puzzle something out and she thinks he’s being struck by the same realization she had earlier that night – that Stiles is kind of the best friend anyone could ever ask for.

He hadn’t made her justify her desire to help when she could barely justify it to herself and he hadn’t made Derek struggle through thanking him.  He just accepted it.  Accepted them.  Even when – and she can tell Derek’s thinking it too – maybe he shouldn’t.

Allison blinks bleary eyes down at their report.  In the last five days, Stiles has added four pages, which is the least he’s done since they’ve started this project.  It’s probably a good thing as it’s starting to get a bit gargantuan.  She halfheartedly flips through it before glancing to the back of the room towards Stiles.

He’s stretched awkwardly in his desk, legs straight out in front of him, arms folded and chin pressed to his chest to stop his head lolling.  He looks the definition of exhausted.

She catches Scott’s eye before she turns back and blushes hard in embarrassment.

Derek hadn’t been in Stiles’ room when she’d woken up that morning and Stiles had been out cold against the door.  She’s not sure if they spoke again before Derek left but she sincerely doubts it.  She hasn’t asked after him – has no way of knowing if Stiles would even know – and doesn’t care one way or the other.  She hopes Stiles won’t think her callous that she’s had the opportunity and hasn’t taken it. 

When the bell rings, Scott shakes Stiles awake with a concerned frown and he scrambles upright, grabbing his bag and following him out with legs like a newborn foal’s.  She frowns after them, clutching tighter to their report that Stiles hasn’t taken back.

She meets Lydia out by her locker, contemplates walking over to Stiles where he’s slouched up against the locker next to Scott’s and talking spiritedly about something.  She tucks her hair behind her ear and keeps her distance.  Stiles notices her after a second, gives her a tired, half-formed smile and it’s enough of an acknowledgement to keep her thoughts from turning petty.

Scott doesn’t catch the exchange, struggling with his lock as he is.  Allison bites down on a smile, remembering the way it had always seemed to prefer her touch to his.  She wonders if he’s remembering the same. 

“You’ve been hanging out with Stilinski far more than one shared report warrants,” Lydia says incisively, leaning back against the lockers with crossed arms and a curious gaze that’s focused exclusively on Stiles.  She purses her lips, in that pouty way that’s designed to turn heads.  It doesn’t fail as a few boys nearly trip over their own feet passing them.  Stiles isn’t one of them.  He hasn’t noticed and Allison likes that, likes that he’s starting to get that he’s better than what Lydia Martin would ever offer him.  Her sharp gaze cuts back over to Allison.  “And that was your Scott-smile,” she says, eagerness in her tone like it always is when she’s solving a puzzle.  She pauses, thinking.  “Only I can’t quite tell if it was for Scott.  Or for Stiles.” 

Allison’s tempted to say Stiles, to see if it might make Lydia take note of him.  Because Lydia loves to be loved, she just hates doing anything to nurture it.  Instead she gives an exaggerated, cutesy shrug.  “I suppose you’ll just have to drive yourself to distraction trying to figure it out.” 

“You know I will figure it out,” Lydia calls after her, unperturbed.

It’s not any of her business what Stiles is up to with Derek Hale.  Not really.  Yes, she helped them both in a bad situation but that doesn’t give her any right to ask questions.  She keeps reiterating that to herself as she runs.  There are no dragging, rustling leaves tonight.  Just muggy air and moonlight.  She’s not owed answers but she thinks Stiles might give them to her anyway, and she can’t pretend she’s not worried that maybe he’s wrapped up in something bigger than himself that might end up swallowing him whole. 

She detours off down Woodbine Lane, finds herself panting on Stiles’ doorstep and rings the bell.

The sheriff answers, gives her a gently assessing look – not quite the equivalent of an interrogation but gauging all the same.  After a moment, he jerks a thumb over his shoulder and says, “Upstairs.”

She nods her thanks, still catching her breath while he goes back to a den of some kind, files and folders and loose sheets papering nearly every inch of the table he’s sat down at.  She’s only just reached the landing when she hears the raised voices. 

She can’t make out the words until she rounds the doorway.

Derek’s barely half a foot from Stiles’ face, all strained neck veins and poorly contained fury and closer to him than he ever gets to anyone else, even accidentally.  “—so sure you’re worthless,” he’s snarling and he still hasn’t noticed her.  Neither of them have.  He scoffs, trying to play on making Stiles feel small.  “You’d rather die than admit that you maybe shouldn’t be running around with an Alpha Pack in the area.”

And Allison has had this conversation with her own father, right after everything with Gerard happened, concern masking itself as anger.

“God forbid Scott can’t depend on you for every microscopic little thing.  If he’s that shitty a friend then you shouldn’t be so invested in playing his shadow.” 

Allison can see the anger building in Stiles, anger over defending something he’s not sure he should even be arguing, which only makes him all the more vehement, makes his fists clench tighter.  He isn’t as certain of Scott as he once was and Allison knows that part of that is because of her, because sneaking around demanded so much of Scott’s time, so much of his attention and left almost none for Stiles.  But Stiles is loyal in a way that no one else Allison has ever met is, which is why he doesn’t give it easily.  Why Derek doesn’t have it.  She has no doubt that he’ll go down defending Scott at every opportunity presented. 

Derek’s fury breaks, becomes tired and his glare weakens but doesn’t disappear.  “You’re going to get yourself killed to prove something that’s never been in doubt.” 

Stiles is far from content about letting Derek get the last word though.  Allison’s not sure he has it in his DNA not to make a play for it.  “I’m going to get myself killed?” he retorts, heavy with disbelief and mockery.  “What about you?”  He squints, takes a step further into Derek’s space and does that unsettling honesty thing he sometimes does, where he sees into you and jabs.  “You actually believe Gerard Argent,” he hisses.  “A cowardly psychotic loser tells you that you don’t fit anywhere and you don’t even question it.  He was willing to become the thing he despised just to escape a well-deserved death.  He was basically Voldemort, the Windows Vista version, and you let him influence how you think about yourself.”

Derek’s eyes fall away, like he realizes the hypocrisy of telling Stiles to think more highly of himself and being unable to do the same.  He still can’t seem to bring himself to take the words back.

“Why?” Stiles demands, not even close to rhetorical.  Derek’s mouth tightens, his shoulders and fists follow and he’s no closer to an answer.  Stiles glares at him.  “You’re going around with this mentality that you’re completely expendable because you’re an idiot.”  And it’s so Stiles that Allison almost gives herself away with a snort, a compliment wrapped up in an insult and a condescending tone.  “I shouldn’t even have to remind you that the fact that Erica and Boyd are still missing makes you beyond necessary.”

Derek’s eyes flash, red flickering into his gaze and shorting back out and he starts furiously, “You’re the one who—”

But is interrupted by Allison shifting her weight on the wood floor, unable to stay still and silent at the reminder that Derek is a creature as much as a man and that red eyes are quite possibly one of the last things her mother ever saw, at least while she was still Allison’s mom. 

The creak turns both their heads around and she offers weakly, “Um, your dad told me to come up.”

Stiles still looks pissed but Derek looks amazed, like he can’t believe he was so tangled up in an argument with someone else that he completely lost track of his surroundings.  Allison’s not surprised, Stiles has that way about him – consuming and attention-grabbing.

It’d used to make her jealous when she was with Scott.  The way Stiles could blow into a room and make that moment all about him.  She’d taken for granted then that it was a blip in Scott’s attention, that it always defaulted back to her.  Only now can she see why Stiles might resent her for that. 

She smiles at him when she realizes he hasn’t looked at her with that bitter twitch in his smile for a while now.

Stiles looks a little confused by the gesture but his expression calms, at least until Derek takes a few steps away from him to cross the room, towards the window.  Just like that, she’s forgotten again and Stiles is storming over and grabbing Derek’s forearm.

Derek gives his encroaching hand a pointed look, eyebrows raised and Stiles just sneers back, demands, “Where the hell do you think you’re going?”  Derek communicates with just his eyes how uncomfortable he is now that Allison is there; he doesn’t even have to look at her to get the message across.  Stiles’ face darkens in response.  “We are so fucking far from done,” he growls, pointing Derek towards his desk chair.  “You’re going to sit here and tell me everything you know.  If you want me to keep helping you then you’re going to have to start treating me like an equal in this.” 

It’s a bluff and Allison knows it.  There’s nothing that would make him walk away now, not now that he’s got a purpose outside of Scott, outside of anyone else.  Something above reproach too – helping Boyd and Erica.  Allison thinks she understands it so well because she’s slowly beginning to feel the same.

Derek doesn’t seem to realize the threat is baseless.  He bares his teeth and now he does look over at Allison, distaste in every bit of his expression. 

Stiles doesn’t even let him get the stipulation out before he answers firmly, “Allison’s staying.”  Derek snarls at him and Stiles shrugs carelessly, as though the declaration means nothing.  “I trust her.”

Allison feels her heart give a flutter because it’s not something she ever would have thought she was even capable of gaining with Stiles, not after what she’s done.  Derek’s eyes flash back to her, fiercer than he’s been so far, and she notices the hand that’s resting on his thigh is now sporting claws.

He pulls the monstrous attributes back carefully, snarls, “She’s half the reason they ran.”

“And you’re the other half,” Stiles retorts without hesitation, rolling his eyes, “it’s a match made in heaven.” 

Derek shrinks in on himself slightly, but he starts talking.  About where he and Isaac and Peter are looking, about the games the Alpha Pack has been playing with them, about what he suspects they’re in town for.  He tries to give the bare minimum but Stiles pushes, does all he knows how to, riles Derek, gets under his skin, does everything he can do to keep him talking and keep him honest.

It works.  It surprises Allison how little it surprises her.

She takes Lydia out to the woods, bow resting heavily on her shoulder and this time it isn’t because she plans to intimidate her.  She’s more hopeful that Lydia’s analytical mind might have something useful to contribute or even just make her own want to mirror it.

Lydia sits on a log after giving it a dubious look and examines her nails.  She talks about Jackson, about the social events they’ll soon both be attending, and barely notices the twang of Allison’s bow or the arrows that never reach the center ring.

Allison thinks the inattention might be purposeful though she’s not sure what Lydia is hoping to achieve with it.  She clearly doesn’t think another set of eyes is going to help the issue though.

She might just be right about that too.

Allison stops at a gas station on her way back to drop off Lydia and finds herself blinking across pumps at Derek.  His scowl deepens when he notices her.

She thinks about the bow and the quiver full of arrows in her trunk and narrows her eyes.  She realizes that the only thing wrong with her aim is that she hasn’t been directing it at the right target.  The only thing that’s stopped her fully embracing the hate inside her is that Stiles’ trust isn’t one-sided.  She believes, without real reason to, that he’s helping Derek because he thinks Derek deserves it and she trusts that. 

For now, that’s good enough but she’s honestly not sure how long that’s going to tide her over.  The realization is far from a happy one.

By the time their project is due in, she’s finished ten pages and Stiles has done twenty-three.  They probably have the longest report of the entire class but Allison would also bet that they have the most thorough and engaging one too.  There’s an awkward moment after the period is over, Stiles standing in front of her row of desks while she walks up to him, nothing tying them together.  Not really.  Not anymore.

He offers a fleeting smile, looks away, hitches up the strap of his backpack and brightens.  “Hey, so.  The Alpha Pack, I’ll keep you updated?”

Allison smiles back brilliantly, instantly.  “Yeah, that’d be great.”  She’s sure she sounds overeager but she doesn’t care much in the face of Stiles’ clear relief at her acceptance.  Sure, it’ll keep her in contact with Derek, even if they never physically overlap, but it’s an excuse for her and Stiles to breathe new life into their fledgling friendship.

And they need it.  It’s too easy to let slip away otherwise because they’re not a pair that makes much sense.  Her ex-boyfriend’s best friend, it’s not something she should be scrabbling to hold onto but she thinks maybe she finally understands why Stiles was the only person Scott needed for so many years.

Stiles texts her two days later.  She would’ve expected him to abbreviate, to use numbers to replace genuine phonetics but he doesn’t.  He types in full sentences, proper punctuation and she’s seen him text before.  Maybe it’s that he knows doing it right won’t slow him down any.

Derek’s over, updating his army of one.  You should join in on the powwow, if only to make this look a lot less pathetic.  Seriously, if Erica and Boyd could see this they’d be appalled.

She snorts and, a second later, he sends along the afterthought:

If you can get away.

He’s already built her in an excuse.  If she’s suddenly realized it’s too much, that keeping grips on their awkward friendship isn’t worth sharing air with her mother’s killer, he’s already offered her the out of family, obligation, whatever other weak explanation she wants to give.  He’s saying he’ll buy it, for a lot less than it’s worth.

She doesn’t need the concession but she appreciates it all the same.

Be over in ten.

She doesn’t hesitate over it at all.

Stiles’ dad opens the door again and blinks at her.  There’s nothing curious in his expression now.  He’s got an apple caught between his teeth and a folder under his arm.  He looks back over his shoulder, murmurs something around the apple she doesn’t catch and thumbs upstairs just as he did the last time.

She smiles at him, closing the door behind herself as he trundles off to the study and she sprints up the stairs.

“—not dragging anything.  You’re the one making this—” Derek’s eyes flash over to her and he clenches his hands into fists, hiding the nails so she can’t see if they’re clawed or not.  He snarls, snaps back to Stiles.  “What is she doing here?”

Stiles is grinning, spinning himself around in his desk chair slowly, and shrugs.  “I invited her.”

Allison hides a grin herself.  Stiles hadn’t told Derek she was coming and yet had somehow managed to stall him for at least the twelve minutes it took for her to get there.  She has no trouble imagining Stiles pushing Derek’s buttons, trapping him in circular lines of thinking without breaking a sweat, while keeping him from saying or even thinking anything of real importance. 

“I’m leaving,” he growls.

Stiles snorts, shakes his head.  “Shut up and tell me—tell us,” he corrects, “what you found out.”

“I never agreed to involve her in this.”

Stiles seems to realize how close Derek actually is to bolting, pacing back and forth against the side of his bed between window and door and his expression grows serious.  “You trust me.”  Derek opens his mouth, eyes wide, hunted, and Stiles’ expression slips into a glower.  “Fuck you, you can say you don’t until you’re blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is – you trust me.  And, hey, I trust you too.”  Allison actually falls back a step.  That was not something she expected.  “I also trust Allison so, transitive property, you do too.”

Derek actually snarls.

Allison’s tempted to echo it because if that’s true for Derek, then the reverse is true too and she does not trust the man who murdered her mother.

“Fine,” he snaps, and it clearly isn’t but he’s not willing to argue it further – at least not in front of her – and he’s not willing to let it chase him out either.  He talks more vaguely than he might otherwise, doesn’t mention anyone else aside from Erica, Boyd and the Alpha Pack even though it’s clear there are others involved.  “There’s something further in town, not wolfsbane – at least not lethal, but something that causes burns.”

Stiles looks interested, perking up, but Allison interrupts.  “My dad has a lot of different types of wolfsbane and they’re not all deadly.”  She’s been through the large shadowbox in his study, nothing but variations upon variations of the flower.  It had made her shiver just looking at it now that she’s at the point where she never intends to use it.  She shrugs, belying her pleasure at being able to make a knowledgable addition to the conversation.  “It’s not surprising and I bet we have something that could at least mimic that.” 

Knowing it should make it that much easier to avoid, maybe they could even set up a trap for the Alphas with a lesser known strain.  She can tell Stiles is thinking the same. 

Derek straightens up uneasily in her periphery, like the reminder of her background has rubbed him wrong and she can’t help the way it makes her tighten up all over, or the distinct sensation of loathing that runs through her.  Her eyes are dark when she looks at him. “I know the perfect guinea pig for when we’re ready to test it.”

Stiles is standing in an instant, looking a bit shellshocked.  His eyes aren’t on Derek though.  Instead he’s blinking at her, disbelief in the twist of his features.  “Wow,” he says blankly.  “That is so not okay.”  Righteous indignation starts to rise in her but now that Allison’s words have settled, Stiles seems to realize the extent of his disapproval.  “You do not get to say shit stuff like that to him.  Ever.”  His tone brooks no argument.

It hadn’t been her most diplomatic moment, she can admit, but Stiles can’t have invited her here without expecting she might reach the end of her tether more than once, given the fact that: “He killed my mom.”

“Are you fucking kidding me?” he explodes, but now he’s not looking at her.  His face is red and he’s glaring at Derek.  Derek is glaring right back.  “You haven’t told her?” he demands.  The veins in Derek’s neck pop but he doesn’t answer and Stiles turns back to look at her.  He strives for something more calming and asks uncertainly, “And Scott hasn’t told you anything either?”  He doesn’t sound uncertain of the answer, only of how to ask the question without giving it away.

Allison shakes her head, feeling dread start to form in her gut.

Sure enough, Stiles doesn’t look surprised.  He sighs heavily, rubs a hand back and forth over his shaved head and drops down on the end of his bed.  Derek no longer looks angry, just resigned, his shoulders drawn in and mouth tight.  Stiles looks up at her, pulls in a deep breath and starts, “Okay, one, even without everything else – Derek did not murder your mom.  Your mom killed herself because of your family’s fucked up values.  You don’t get to put a murder off on Derek, that is so beyond—” he flails his hands, derails that line of thought and snorts, “By your family’s logic, Scott should have done the noble thing and put himself down or had me do it for him as soon as he realized what he was.  Being a werewolf is not a death sentence, the Argents may have turned it into one but that’s on you.”

It doesn’t matter to her, whose hands had done the slaying.  Her mother’s letter had made that clear.  Derek had killed her, holding the knife or not.  She’s not repentant for the comment or for calling Derek out for the murderer he is.  Stiles may not understand that but she’ll try and fix that when he’s exhausted himself.

He’s not there yet.

He’s only paused for another gargantuan breath and then he’s adding, “Second, your mom had a few fucking screws loose and was trying to kill Scott and make it look like an asthma attack.”  The words pack a punch, smack her sharply in her chest, pinch some valve on her heart that makes it feel like it’s barely beating.  Stiles doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care about, the reaction.  His voice has more of a drag to it, like just telling her this is tiring.  “Derek stopped her the only way he knew how, before he could succumb to the same wolfsbane she was using to poison Scott, and – honestly,” his tone garnering a bit of growl, a lot of challenge, “he would have been justified doing a lot worse.”  He actually catches sight of her face for the first time and whatever he sees there makes him pull it back, glance at Derek before saying, “I’m not saying you don’t have reason to hate him, because accepting that about your mom?  No one’s going to make you, you get to deal with all of it on your own time frame, but you definitely don’t have reason to hurt him.”

Allison looks down at her hands and they’re white, bloodless.  It feels like every bit she had in her has all rushed up, made her light-headed and her scalp tingly. 

Stiles allows the silence to linger only as long as he can stand it.  Allison thinks she and Derek could let it go on uninterrupted forever.  Stiles only lasts about a minute.  “If you can’t keep comments like that to yourself though,” he says softly, but not without power behind it, “comments that really bring your resemblance to your aunt in sharp relief, then I can’t let you be involved in this.”

“I didn’t know,” she gets out and it’s all she can think.  That she hadn’t known.  What her mother was doing, who she was, what Scott had gone through at her hands and suffered just so Allison wouldn’t have to know that side of her, that Derek had been cornered into—she hadn’t known any of it. 

Stiles worries his lower lip, clasps his hands together in what she thinks might be an anxious gesture.  As frenetic as she’s seen Stiles, she’s not sure she’s ever seen him truly anxious.  “Allison.  I am sorry.  I was so not the person to tell you but—”  And she knows he means that he’s not sensitive, not gentle, doesn’t weigh his words – all things she’s noted as vices of his – but he’s told her the truth when everyone else has danced around it or actively hidden it and that’s the only part that sticks.  Not the way it was said but that it finally was.

She forcefully beats back her tears and manages in a choked voice, “She was my mom.”  But she’s becoming more than that, in absentia, less of a figure, a role model, and more of a person.  A person with morals that scrape against Allison’s own, with jagged edges and a belief system that she can’t even pretend to understand.  She was Allison’s mom but she was also a sincerely flawed human being.  It doesn’t make Allison hate her, if anything it makes Allison empathize with her all the more.

She’s seen firsthand how easy it is to get turned around, to have yourself manipulated by the strongest voice in the room.  She knows better now.  Her mother never did.  Surprisingly, she feels closer to her than ever because of it.

Stiles’ eyes are bright, like he understands.  Maybe he does.  She doesn’t know how it works.  She’s only been without a mom for a few months.  Maybe once you’ve lost them though, you’re initiated into a club where all the other members just know.  Stiles seems to, even says, “I know.”

She turns to Derek, his eyes on the floor so they won’t accidentally meet anyone’s in the room.  He’s been remarkably silent, taking Stiles’ defense as grudgingly as he does his abuse.  Her breath catches in her throat and she swipes at her nose with the sleeve of her shirt.  She’s not crying, her eyes are bulging with unshed tears and her nose is running, but she’s not crying.  Even though she’s beginning to realize that neither of the men in this room would judge her for it.  She would.  “I’m sorry,” she says, voice thick with emotions she’s pretending aren’t there.

Derek doesn’t look at her.  His gaze goes to Stiles’ torso, flicks up to his face without taking anything in, and he says, staring at some spot over her shoulder, “So am I.”  Maybe he isn’t.  She supposes he doesn’t really have to be.  He’s doing it for Stiles, whatever the hell that means. 

She thinks she is, too.

Whatever the hell that means.

Their report comes back at the beginning of the next week.  Coach Finstock hands it to Stiles, unsurprisingly.  Stiles is the kind of student you either love or loathe and Finstock has firmly set up camp in the former.  Harris more than makes up for that slight bias though.  Stiles blinks down at it, turns to look at Allison and gives her a thumbs up.  She smiles back, catches eyes with Scott and doesn’t immediately flee his gaze like she’s been doing.

Scott offers her a small smile as soon as he realizes she’s still looking and she returns it before going back to her notes.

Stiles slides the folder onto the desk in front of her as soon as the bell rings.  The first thing she sees is the 98 written in red marker along with the note: Interesting, thorough and well-researched.  The second thing she sees is the yin yang Stiles has doodled up in the corner of the front page.

It makes her smile more than the ‘A’ does.

The small little black and white circle sticks with her, helps her remember that they do balance each other and that Stiles’ friendship is worth the price she’s paying.  Even though Derek Hale seems to come along with it, at least for the moment, that’s not an excessive cost for what she’s getting in return.  She reminds herself of it again when she turns off her regular jogging path and ends up in front of the old Hale house.

She has no reason to think Derek will be there except that he is and that, for whatever reason, she expected him to be.

He’s walking down charred stairs as she steps into the foyer and he seems to be actively trying for a non-reaction.  “What do you want?” he asks, it’s not dismissive, more like cutting straight to the point to get this over with as quickly as possible.

He looks older than he did the first night she met him.  He’s got a thicker beard and a less petulant expression.  “I didn’t know about my mother.”

“So I gathered.”  And that’s dismissive.  Even slightly cruel.  He winces a tad, like he – at the very least – hadn’t meant to say that out loud.

Mistakes are bound to be made, dealing with this, so it barely fazes her and she doesn’t even know why she came here.  She could so easily make this worse, makes the conscious decision not to.  “They’ve kept so much from me, so much they claim to hold dear, something important enough that they’re willing to kill a sixteen-year-old boy to—”  God.  Is that why she’d come here?  To whine to Derek?  What the hell is her damage that she’s here at all?  And that inner voice almost reminds her of Stiles – a little too blunt, mean but honest.

She has no idea what to say to him, something between an apology and a warning is what she would have expected but instead she finds herself wanting to vomit up all her fears about and for her family at his feet.  The last person who would ever, or should ever, care. 

Also, possibly, the only person who could ever understand.

“Why would she do it?” she finds herself saying, looking up at Derek with unseeing eyes because she doesn’t.  She doesn’t see—it doesn’t make—

“Because it was all she ever knew,” Derek says gruffly, quiet.  “Wolves are dangerous and one was sniffing around her daughter.  She did what she thought was right.”

She’s a monster.  Forcing Derek into being the one to tell her this when she knows Kate is the one who—who left behind the damage they’re standing in the middle of.  “I’m sorry, I—”

“You didn’t have anyone else to go to,” he says simply, head tilted like he’s realizing it himself as he soothes her with the same words.

“Yes,” she agrees, because she’s not sure what else to say.  She juts out her chin, looks him in the eye.  “I think they’re sick, what Kate did, my mother, Gerard—”

He laughs, mouth twisted viciously.  “You almost could’ve been on that list.”  He stops, breathes audibly and catches her gaze again.  “I’m glad that—for Scott’s sake, you stopped.  That you… realized yourself.” 

She dips her head, hating the way he’s so easily voiced her worst fear.  She was so close to people she can now barely stomach thinking of, their vengeful blood running through her veins.  And now she knows what she’s here for, what she needs to give to Derek Hale that the people who should never will.  “I am sorry.  That the name Argent can legitimately strike such terror into you.  I’m sorry that I’m a part of it, that I own it – however reluctantly.  I’m sorry for what my family’s done to yours.”

He studies her for a long moment, jaw tight.  Finally it unclenches and he says, “Make it mean something else.”

She hardens her expression, takes it as the challenge it is, and nods.  She will.

It’s only as she’s leaving, walking down the porch steps, that she realizes he had every reason to throw her out the second she showed up.  He didn’t.  And he only had one reason to stay the impulse.  The same reason that had driven her there.


They still don’t talk directly but things get better.  Allison no longer flinches at the mention of Derek and Derek no longer wrinkles his nose when he drops through Stiles’ window and finds her in his bedroom, studying or thumping him at Zelda – which is absolutely the only game she’ll agree to play.

They’re doing the former when Stiles gets a text from Derek that makes him pull an odd face.  “Apparently Isaac was missing,” he says with a roll of his eyes, thumbing down the screen.  “Now he isn’t but he’s sans a few memories.”  He mutters under his breath, “Font of information, Derek, well done.”

He closes his History textbook around his pen and looks up at her.  “I’m going over there because otherwise all I’ll get is more evasive bullshit from everyone’s least favorite Alpha.  You want to come?”

She nods and Stiles mirrors it like he expected nothing else.

He doesn’t drive out to the Hale house.  Instead, he pulls into an apartment complex on the outskirts of town and pounds up the steps like he’s been there a hundred times.  For all she knows, he has.  He knocks obnoxiously, and nonstop, on Derek’s door.

He yanks it open almost immediately and is halfway through a snarl when he notices her.  He swallows it, pulls the door wide, and his skin goes tight when she passes.

Isaac snorts when he sees her.  “Got any ring daggers?  Because I’m going to have to use my veto if you do.”

She smirks, holds out her empty hands, refuses to be beat down by her past actions.  She could easily crumble under the weight of them and Isaac would undoubtedly dance in the ruins.  She’s going to be strong now though, rather than just pretending it.

Isaac grumbles in response.

Stiles dusts up the awkward silence, obscures the fact that there was ever a line drawn through it.  “Hear you’re more stupid than usual?” he says brightly.  “Stuff just falling out of your head there, Stretch?”

Isaac looks around Stiles to Derek, piping up, “And he’s here again, why?”

“Because I asked him to be,” Derek says tightly.  He finally shuts the door, a little harder than necessary, and walks back into the room.  It’s clear even Allison’s presence can’t throw him off for long.  This is his domain and he’s willing to own it, or at least act as if he does.  He plants himself in front of Isaac, Stiles sitting on the coffee table next to him on his right and Allison farther away in the armchair on his left.  “What do you remember?”

Gone is Isaac’s fractious demeanor and he focuses in an instant, bond between Alpha to Beta obvious even to someone on the outside of it.  “Warehouses, and a lot of them, then the girl I told you about.” 

“What girl?” Stiles asks before anyone else can.

Derek gives him a slightly disapproving glance but Isaac doesn’t seem bothered by the interruption.  The excuse to linger on her, to mentally and vocally puzzle her out, seems like a welcome one.  “I didn’t think I’d ever seen her before but she knew my name.  Saved my life.  I only remember the once but I think she’s what pulled me away from the Alphas to begin with.”

“Werewolf?” Stiles asks, eyes narrowed curiously.

This time no one gives any sort of rebuke. 

“I don’t think so.”  Isaac glances at Allison and his expression sours.  “Hunter maybe.  She had one of those stun sticks but she saved that for them—it.”

Stiles looks up at Derek, brow furrowed.  “Um, explanation?”  He’s clearly done with having it fed to him so slowly through a disoriented Isaac. 

Derek shrugs, arms crossed over his chest, and motions towards Isaac with an elbow.  “Asking the wrong werewolf,” he says grimly and Allison gets the feeling that was for her benefit.  Reminding her what she’s all but surrounded by.  However much they solved with their little confab, it’s clear it wasn’t enough for him to feel comfortable having her in his living space. 

“Twin Alphas but they—they could combine into one—”

Stiles snorts, wholly inappropriately.  “Whoa, hold on, you mean to tell me we’re this close,” he holds up his thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart, “to a legitimate Captain Planet?  A whole, ‘by your powers combined’ type of thing?”

Allison can’t catch her laugh before it breaks free.

Isaac sneers.  “It really wasn’t funny when they were beating the shit out of me.”

Stiles’ chest is shaking with silent laughter.  It’s harder to hear in his voice than it is to see.  “Well you were hanging out with Stun Stick Girl.  And that thing can’t be good for the ozone layer.”

Allison’s laugh gets loud and Stiles is going to get her killed.

Isaac,” Derek snarls, cutting them both off and Stiles indiscreetly wipes his eyes, “what else do you remember?”

He shrugs, still looking sullen over Allison and Stiles’ lack of delicacy or remorse.  “Nothing really.”

Derek nods, unsurprised.  “We’re going to check it out,” he says firmly.  Isaac starts to stand and so does Stiles.  Derek whirls on him with a glower.  “You are not going.”

Stiles scowls right back and points at Isaac without taking his eyes off Derek.  “He is the one who isn’t going.”  He pokes his finger into Isaac’s shoulder and he wobbles.  “Mr. Head Injury over there can barely stay upright and Allison and I can more than take care of ourselves.”

Allison can see the muscles in Derek’s back tighten at the mention of her.

“I doubt the Alpha Pack is even still hanging around, considering they obviously know Isaac still has the memory of where he was and I don’t think they’re ready to fuck with you out in the open yet.  Besides, my guess is they’re dealing with this girl before they circle back to you.”

Derek’s muscles unwind some, like the point has merit.

Stiles seems to know he’s winning and he smirks.  “Allison and I would just be an extra pair of eyes while you sniff around.”

“Fine,” he snaps.  “But the slightest hint of trouble—”

“And I happily leave you for dead,” Stiles says with a toothy grin.  “Derek Hale who?”

Derek rolls his eyes.

Allison and Stiles stop to get her bow before meeting up with Derek.  The area seems mostly abandoned, just storage units and old warehouses and Derek won’t let either of them break away.  Allison shakes him off when he leads them into one of the larger warehouses, jerks her chin up to scaffolding that runs nearly the length of it, says with a half-smile and a pat to her bow, “Can’t beat that vantage point.”

Derek gives her an intense, assessing stare before nodding once.  He snatches onto Stiles’ shirtfront when he tries to break off too and shakes his head exasperatedly.

A mini, one-sided slap fight later, and he’s let go again with a huff.  It’s nothing but empty metal shelves and wooden crates and Derek eventually allows Stiles to split off to explore the shelves running parallel to his own row. 

Allison notices after a moment that she and Derek have both oriented their positions to a compass point.  It’s strange, both of them predators in their own way and a kind of seamless team.  Even in their differences, they’re similar. 

She hears the groan of metal before she sees the lean of the shelves.  It’s the row Stiles was in last and, looking back, she sees Derek’s gone too.  She doesn’t catch so much as a blur in her periphery, has no idea what caused it to topple, only knows that it falls fast.  Before she can even gasp, it’s clattering to the floor.

Well.  It would have if it hadn’t fallen onto something first. 

It takes her an entirely too long moment to recognize the strained screech of, “Stiles!” as her own.  The metal scrapes across the cement floor, shaves bone off her spine, and then she’s racing down.  She doesn’t see it get flipped, just sees it lying halfway across the room, metal twisted and Stiles scrambling out from under something heavy.

It’s Derek.

Stiles rolls him over carefully once he’s got enough of his upper body free that he can make the turn.  “Fucking moron,” he hisses.  Derek’s unconscious though clearly still in pain from the strain on his face.  Stiles swallows, looks up at her, eyes with pupils the size of bullet holes.  “We’ve got to get him to someone—somewhere—the hospital or—”

She shakes her head quickly.  “He’ll heal.  We shouldn’t move him.”

Stiles nods carefully, slowly, like he hadn’t even remembered what Derek was in that moment.  He’s clearly dazed and his hand hovers above Derek’s shoulder before he drops it, obviously wanting to offer reassurance but realizing Derek is so broken there’s a good chance it would only hurt him.

“You okay?” she asks guardedly.

Stiles snorts, shakes his head.  “I don’t know how he got there so fast, why he—” he cuts off the self-deprecating line of thought instantly, looks up at her with fierceness in his gaze.  “Did you see what caused it to fall?” 

She shakes her head.  “Not even a glimpse of it.”

Derek chooses that moment to groan and Allison thinks about what Stiles said, about how quickly he’d gotten to him and realizes what it must mean.  There was never a moment that Derek didn’t have one ear or one eye on Stiles, that he wasn’t constantly aware of him.  She doesn’t think he afforded her the same courtesy, he certainly didn’t with Erica or Boyd or Isaac.

It could be he’s making up for the mistakes he’s made or it could be unique to Stiles.

He groans louder and starts to struggle upright. 

Stiles places a hand on his chest, gently pushes him back.  “You just had a gajillion tons of metal fall on you.  Take a minute, Sourwolf.” 

“Stiles,” he says blearily, slurring out the name.

Stiles pats him a little more firmly.  “The one and only,” he confirms with a sigh, skin under his eyes dark and rubbery.  He suddenly looks exhausted, like he’s aged five years in the last five minutes.

Derek’s voice is thin, wheezy but he still manages to sound grumpy when he says, “There’s no way that wasn’t intentional.” 

“And the grand prize goes to…” Stiles says sarcastically, but he still sounds shaky.  “The real question is: what were they trying to tell you with it?  Was it to hurt you or to scare you?”

Derek shrugs, and he can shrug.  There’s already barely any evidence aside from soreness of what he went through.  “Either way,” he says gruffly, “message received.”

He and Allison stand at the same time and she reaches a hand down to get Stiles to his feet too.  It takes her a second to realize neither of them have followed her on her way out and she hears Stiles awkwardly clear his throat and say, “Thanks for saving my life.”

Derek sounds like he’s sneering.  He returns gruffly, “I was repaying a debt.”

She turns back to see Stiles’ face twisting up in anger and he bursts out, “Can’t you just for one second—” before biting it off, standing up taller and throwing his arms around Derek’s shoulders.  He holds on for roughly three seconds, squeezes, lets go.  “Only you would be an asshole about it,” he grumbles, stomping off and grabbing Allison’s forearm to make sure she does too.

At last glance, Derek was still standing there looking quietly stunned.

The adrenaline’s worn off by the time she gets home and she’s asleep almost before her head hits the pillow.  She wakes up hours later to a text from Scott.

hope this is ok but do u no where i put that button

A smile spreads across her face automatically.  She doesn’t have to ask which one, doesn’t have to ask anything to clarify what he’s talking about and texts back the answer.

Your Vans, the left shoe.

The response is immediate.

thanx ;)

Allison lets the screen go dark and leans back against her pillow, stretching out in bed.  She doesn’t agonize over keeping the conversation going, doesn’t obsess over it.  She still cares for Scott but she’s stopped defining herself by him, by what she would do to keep him.  She wants to know what she would do to keep herself more.

Lydia texts her an hour later, asks what she’s doing.  Allison thinks about it, invites her out to the woods to watch her target shoot again.  Lydia’s only response is a succinct:


Allison grins, leaves her phone upstairs, feeling more herself than she has in ages.  She makes herself toast, not stiffening any when her dad enters the room.  He does a subtle double-take, smiles.  “You look better today.”  He says it like she’s been getting over a stomach bug rather than having to rationalize stabbing, shooting and threatening her classmates – including one she was—is—in love with.

She shrugs, says, “I feel better.”

He watches her a second longer, rubs his forehead and lets out a slight sigh.  “I wanted to tell you, but I think it’s something you have to experience for yourself.”

She glances at him curiously, licking marmalade off the side of her palm.

“There are moments in life that are defining and ones that feel defining.  All of that—this—it didn’t define you.  It couldn’t unless you let it.”  He places a warm hand on her shoulder and squeezes, pride in his gaze.  “It seems like you figured that out.”

A grin finds her slowly and she says, “Yeah, I did.”  And it’s true.

This time, when she strings her bow and lets loose, she hits the target right on center.  She does it the next eleven times too.

It’s Peter’s idea to take Isaac to Deaton’s and submerge him in an ice bath.  Which is indication enough that it’s probably not a good one.  Derek wants to do it anyway and Stiles gets tired of butting up against the brick wall that is his decision and goes with.  He takes Allison too.  Derek takes Peter, probably just to be contrary.

Even as Deaton is explaining things to Isaac, Stiles is still loudly complaining about what a terrible plan this is, so much so that both Allison and Peter are wearing slight smirks, while Derek is only getting further ratcheted up and sniping back at everysingleone of Stiles’ comments because he can’t let any of them go.

It’s only when he’s got Isaac plunged under icy water and is still tracking Stiles’ every movement with his eyes that she realizes why Derek can’t let any of it go.

Things get quiet after Isaac leads them to the bank vault and they find nothing but an odd symbol and another dead end.  So, Stiles doesn’t text about the Alpha Pack but he does text about how hot it is, how he’s gotten farther than her in Zelda, how Peter is surprisingly chatty for a dead guy.

Allison doesn’t see him as often as he and Scott are back in each other’s pocket and she’s settling back in with Lydia and Jackson herself but she responds to all of his texts.  No matter how inane.

She assumes that the time Stiles isn’t with Scott, he’s with Derek.  Nothing suggests she’s wrong either.

A dropped scent leads them to their first clue in nearly a week and Stiles drags Allison along on the stake-out to watch the house out in the middle of nowhere that it disappears near.  Derek doesn’t look pleased with her presence but he also doesn’t look surprised. 

She’ll take it.

Stiles is sipping soda and eating curly fries and generally being his loudly quiet self when her phone chimes.  He leans over her shoulder, realizes himself and pulls back with an apologetic grimace.  She smiles back at him to let him know she’s more than fine with it.  It was something she’d seen him do with Scott; she’s not about to feel anything other than touched that he feels anywhere near that close to her too.

“Is that Lydia?” he asks brightly, covering the flub even though it’s already been forgotten.  His smile goes a bit dreamy.  “Tell her that her hair was the color of a fiery sunset today.”  He pulls a face, waves a hand.  “Or something more poetic and less cliché there.  I’ll leave it to you, you’re a girl.  If you could make me sound deep and philosophical though?  That would be ace.”

Derek goes rigid in the front seat.  Stiles doesn’t notice.  Allison pretends not to.

He chances a glance at her, looks away fiercely when he realizes she’s looking back.  It’s only another fifteen minutes before Stiles bounces out of the car, announcing he needs to ‘drain the lizard,’ mutters something about Jackson that makes Derek snort and leaves.

Allison drums her fingers on the seat next to her thigh, bites her lower lip, considers keeping her nose out of this, remembers she’s dealing with idiot boys and says, “You know he’s not really in love with her anymore, right?”  Derek tenses all over and Allison hurries to explain, “Lydia’s… safe.” 

Derek huffs out a laugh that isn’t and, yeah, that wasn’t the best way to put it, not if she wants Derek to understand it.

She leans in from the backseat towards him and he flinches away from her slightly.  She doesn’t take it personally.  She’s talking about Derek’s feelings for Stiles and she’s not even sure Derek’s come to terms with them yet.  “I mean,” she draws out, “she wouldn’t be if there was even a remote chance she were interested in him but she isn’t, so, she’s safe.”  Derek swallows, looks at her from his periphery at the promise of Lydia being uninterested.

She slumps back and says from her own personal experience – Lydia herself the most adamant about it, “It’s an answer to a question that’s never-ending when you’re in high school.  ‘Who do you like and what are you going to do about it?’  Everyone knows the answer is Lydia because Stiles isn’t subtle and he’s loud about it besides.  No one’s going to push him to go for it because it’s Lydia, which means he’s mostly left alone.  At least when it comes to that,” she qualifies before impressing, “But he’s not in love with her anymore.”  Derek doesn’t seem to relax any with the news and Allison purses her lips, adding her own observations into it.  “Not that he ever really was.  He only saw her good qualities and white-washed all the bad.”  She pauses, hedges her bets and throws out there, “He doesn’t do that with you.”

If she’d thought Derek was tense before, now he looks as if he’s made of marble.  He’s clearly cycling through the idea that she knew—that she has known—as well as slowly realizing that Stiles still doesn’t. 

She lets him go through all of it, only mentally rushing him.  Stiles will be done wandering around stupidly – as he now undoubtedly is – before long.  “He sees you for everything you are and he’s not afraid to call you out for the crap you pull and he’s getting to the point where he’s not afraid to praise you for the things you do right either.  He likes you, Derek.”

Derek’s hands slowly start to unclench from the steering wheel and Allison hurries on to her one sticking point about Derek being interested in Stiles before the latter can show up and derail her.

“He has… issues though,” she says carefully, torn between not wanting to over or underplay the truth of it.  “Being in love with Lydia all those years, or even just thinking he was – there’s a scale by which people judge this and whatever criteria they use, it was universally agreed that she was out of his league.”  She perks both brows even though Derek isn’t looking at her, is instead gazing blankly out the windshield.  “And that same criteria puts you there, too.”

Derek’s mouth goes tight but he keeps his silence, fingers flexing.

“He’s never going to believe you’re interested in him if you can’t tell him you’re interested in him.  And I don’t think you can yet.”  There it is.  The simple truth of it.  She doesn’t think Derek’s accepted it for himself yet but she’s not entirely sure that would stop him from acting on it.  And it needs to.  “He would fall into whatever relationship you wanted because he genuinely likes you but he wouldn’t be happy unless he thought you meant it.  So.”  She worries her lip, works out her phrasing, says, “So, don’t do anything with him until you can tell him how much you do.”

Derek doesn’t answer right away.  Or at all.  And Stiles has been gone for a good five minutes but Derek doesn’t seem worried, and if something were wrong, he’d already be out of the car.

He lets out a deep, uneven breath and his voice is croaky and loud in the thick silence.  “Allison,” he says carefully, still facing the windshield where she suspects he might be keeping an eye on Stiles.  He inhales audibly.  “You’re not your aunt,” he says bluntly.  “You’re not your grandfather, you’re not your mother and you’re not your father.  You are not your family.  I think we both believed – at least at some point – that you were.”  Now he does look back at her, expression as open as she’s ever seen on him and he finishes simply, “I hope you feel as foolish as I do for ever thinking it.” 

It’s closed back off by the time Stiles pops back in, grumbling about boring old houses and sticks that look like wendigos.  She doesn’t answer when he asks about the smile that’s playing around her lips all the way back to her house.

She gets a text from Stiles a day and a half later that just says:

Eyebrows of Doooom has commanded that I tell you to, ‘Come.  Now.’ 

Allison laughs before sobering herself.  Derek actually wants her there.  It’s not an obvious good but she reacts to it like it is, feeling lighter.  She texts back:


Yep.  Remember how to get there or do you need directions?

I think I’ve got it.  Call you if I get lost. 

She arrives at Derek’s seventeen minutes later and walks in on the familiar scene of the two of them yelling at each other.

Stiles lets out an exasperated breath as soon as he sees her.  “Finally.”  He throws a dark glare over in Derek’s direction.  “A sane person to take my side.  Deaton has a connection—” 

Derek rolls his eyes.  “Deaton, not at all an untrustworthy, sure-to-have-some-kind-of-underhanded-motive type of guy,” he says with a snort.

That might be the most she’s ever heard him say consecutively, or maybe it’s simply that for once it didn’t sound like it was being dragged out of him and was closer to Stiles’ aggressive form of speaking.

Stiles glowers at him.  “I think they have a word for that – called ‘suspicious.’  I’m getting you a dictionary, and then a thesaurus, just so you can shake things up.”  He turns back to Allison, gives her what he must think is a convincing sort of smile.  It just looks kind of smarmy.  “Also, Allison,” he starts pointedly, “should we just let Boyd and Erica rot somewhere because Derek has epic trust issues?  That’s—it’s—It’s inhumane, right?” he crows victoriously, both that he found the word and that he’s one-upped Derek.

Derek doesn’t seem to consider himself beat though.  He crosses his arms over his chest and squares his shoulders.  “It’s too risky, Stiles.  The answer is no.” 

Suspicion creeps into Stiles’ gaze and he demands, “Any reason for the overbearing, controlling asshole act or is this just where you’ve decided to set the default when it comes to me?”

Allison almost misses it, the way his gaze flickers over to her for barely a second.  He thinks she’s going to tell Stiles that it’s not overbearing, it’s overprotective.  He thinks she’s just looking for a reason to tell Stiles about feelings she has no right to reveal.  She lets her lips thin as she purses her mouth, the best physical sign she can give of her intent to keep his confidence, and Derek slowly starts to unwind.

She lets him enjoy it for all of a moment before smiling and saying perkily, “I agree with Stiles.”

Derek scowls at her.

Deaton sends them to an emissary for a Pack about two hours outside of town.  Allison and Stiles come up with separate alibis before piling in her car with Derek and taking off.  She puts in ’N Sync’s No Strings Attached CD and she and Stiles sing their heads off while Derek tries valiantly to ignore them and sleep.

His eyes only flash red twice.  Stiles says they can do better than that when Derek gets out to (chivalrously) pay for Allison’s gas. 

The emissary, a dark-skinned woman, who mutters something under her breath about hunters and werewolves that makes Derek sprout claws, will only speak with Stiles.  Derek doesn’t want to let him go but Stiles flicks him in the nose and tells him to suck it up because of course he’s other people’s favorite too, he’s just that lovable.

Allison tries to hide that she’s near as nervous and keeps braiding and re-braiding her hair, flicking her gaze up into the rearview, biting her lip and craning her neck to see her trunk, where her bow and a quiver full of arrows are waiting for her.  Every time she catches sight of it, it settles her all over again.

Pulling her gaze back, she sees that Derek doesn’t seem to have that same ability to relax.  “He’ll be fine,” she says, and doesn’t sound even a little bit convincing.

Derek doesn’t look at her but says without inflection, “She has something—magic and herbs probably around the perimeter that dampen our senses.  I can’t hear him.  I can’t smell him.  I can’t—”

He’s a second from sinking his claws into the upholstery of her backseat and she says firmly, “He can take care of himself.”  This time, there’s nothing but certainty in her voice.  Stiles has proven that much at least.

He blinks, looks over at her and nods his head slowly.  He doesn’t completely calm, but he’s no longer quite as tense.

It takes another excruciating twenty-seven minutes.  They both watch the clock for every moment of it.  Stiles comes running back to the car, grinning with fierce determination, grinning a grin that says he’s got something new – something promising.  His fist is wrapped tightly around old vellum and he picks up the pace, gets caught up on a garden hose and nearly trips over his own feet. 

Derek drops his head back on his seat, shoulders shaking with suppressed laughter.

Allison snorts and this is never what she imagined her life would be.  Friends with a loudmouthed klutz who’s judgmental and has a slight propensity for real cruelty and who’s one of the most loyal and genuine people she’s ever known and getting there with a gruff, monosyllabic, combative werewolf who’s been through more terrible things than she can count and has only come out a better, more caring person because of it. 

Stiles slides into the front seat and Derek orients his position from the back towards him without thought.  Stiles thrusts the scroll out beside Allison’s ear and waves it obnoxiously.  “I was right and you were wrong, I’m going to sing the ‘I was right’ song,” he bellows at full volume for Derek’s benefit.

Derek winces, growls and snatches it away, baring a mouth full of fangs in Stiles’ face.

Allison laughs at the both of them and turns the engine over.  Yes, this is definitely nothing like what she’d imagined for herself because, frankly, her imagination had never been that good.

When she gets home that night, she picks up a pen, writes across the front of the report with her and Stiles’ names on it – the only thing aside from a picture of her and Scott tacked up on her cork board:

Nous protégeons ceux qui ne peuvent pas se protéger eux-mêmes.