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First Son, Last Chance

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Stiles stumbled slightly as he climbed into the car. Once he would have blamed his body, the too-long-limbed days of his teenagers years were full of flailing arms knocking over lamps and vases, his legs never landing quite where he expected them too. Now, at twenty-two, his gangly limbs had turned lithe and his movements had finally reached a level of grace that satisfied his personal trainer. Any incoordination he suffered was far more likely to be the result of intoxication. Alcohol was the usual culprit, but less-legal substances made an appearance every now and again if Stiles felt a party was getting slow, or a particularly pretty girl or hot guy asked him to join them.

Stumbling - whether into cars, out of beds, or away from his ever present but far-too-trusting security team - was not usually cause for alarm, but Stiles was stone cold sober. He hadn’t even had coffee since he crawled out of bed this morning to make himself look presentable for his re-enrollment interview. Stiles knew something was wrong the instant he felt his knees give way as he stepped into his standard, non-descript dark car. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do about it as he lost consciousness only moments later.

 

“And that’s all you have?” Chris Argent said. Scott gave him an earnest look, but Chris could tell that the kid knew he was grasping at straws.

“Yes sir,” Scott said. “Stiles was definitely in full possession of his faculties when he left the interview. I talked with him briefly and he was fully cognisant. Totally alert. He was fine, sir. I told him to sit tight while I did a surroundings check and conferred with the driver; he sat down, relaxed, not a twitch in sight. There was no reason for him to run, sir.”

“He tripped a bit when he entered an unfamiliar vehicle, Scott, that’s not a lot to go on,” Chris said, sighing.

“Sir, I genuinely believe that at some point between me leaving to check the exits and perimeters and my returning to find Stiles gone, someone approached and drugged Stiles. That gives us a clear window of opportunity, and limits the pool of suspects considerably. Not everyone was allowed in that building,” Scott said. “That camera catching footage of Stiles entering the car was pure chance, the kidnappers wouldn’t have allowed for it and so wouldn’t have bothered hiding Stiles’s drugged state.”

“Look, kid. I like you,” Chris said. He pinched his nose and closed his eyes, but it was no use. The headache that came after realising the son of their most important client had been kidnapped was not so easily dislodged. “I trust your judgement, I would never have assigned you to be part of Mr Stilinski’s security detail if I didn’t. I really don’t blame you for what happened, you followed the procedure correctly, and Stiles is a known flight risk-”

“This wasn’t Stiles running off!” Scott protested. “The interview went really well, Stiles was happy, he was relaxed.”

“Scott, calm down,” Chris said. “Even if this was the point of origin for Stiles’s kidnapping, it still doesn’t get us anywhere. The university is not a closed location, anyone is allowed to be there. Given the number of friends he has that attend there and his history, it’s still far more likely that Stiles had been tempted to make a break for it and was ambushed at a later point. From a kidnapper’s perspective, waiting for Stiles to be alone - or at least unguarded - makes their job much easier. I need you to put aside your guilt and focus on our current theories.”

“But we don’t have any current theories!” Scott said, throwing his hands in the air.

“Of course we do,” Chris said sharply. Scott straightened himself instinctively, apparently only aware he had been shouting at his boss. “There are always groups who aim to injure, kidnap or kill Mr Stilinski, which is precisely why he has a close protection team. Anti-American terrorists, anti-Were groups, individuals who believe President Stilinski should not be in power, there’s dozens of likely suspects, and nearly fifty plausible theories.”

“Yes sir,” Scott said respectfully. “I apologize for my outburst.”

“I believe Allison is working on tracking down Stiles’s cell phone history,” Chris said, gentling his voice. “And try to remember your fondness for your charge is of no use to you if it clouds your judgement.”

“Yes sir, thank you sir,” Scott said, standing up and leaving swiftly. Chris collapsed back into his chair.

“Christ, I need a cigarette,” Chris muttered, reaching for the latest report on Stiles’s kidnapping.

 

Scott hurried down the corridor, ducking into the first empty room he passed, feeling stupid for being so disappointed. He had known before he had even handed the tape over that it was a long shot; hell, he knew that about five minutes after noticing the anomaly. Scott just couldn’t help but hope that it could have led to something, anything, to bring them closer to finding Stiles. It didn’t matter how thoroughly they analyzed his actions that day, how impossibly unlikely the kidnapping had been, the fact was that Stiles was Scott’s charge and he had lost him. No, worse than that - Stiles wasn’t some little kid who had been distracted by sweets in the grocery store, he was the son of the President and had been abducted by someone skilled enough to get past a trained Argent security agent. At best, Stiles had been taken by people who would do no more than rough him up a bit before a ransom was paid; at worst he might be killed in some horrifying act of terrorism. Scott squeezed his eyes shut, leaning back against the door as his knees threatened to give out from underneath him.

All of Scott’s training told him he needed to compartmentalize, that he couldn’t do his job if he allowed himself to become emotionally involved with his charge and right now he needed to be able to consider the matter objectively. But this wasn’t just a charge, a job, a routine procedure. This was Stiles. Stiles, who turned sarcasm into an art form but floundered in the face of a genuine compliment. Stiles, who wheedled Scott into playing video games with him, and teased Scott affectionately about his crush on Allison. Stiles, who felt more like family than his own father did.

Instead of turning the image of Stiles into something indistinct, something that could be dispassionately considered, Scott honed in on Stiles’s laughter, his looks of concern when he thought his behaviour might have upset Scott. There were already countless agents and other trained professionals trying to find Stiles, he didn’t need another dispassionate employee using the latest tracking techniques and following protocols to narrow down his possible location. Right now, Stiles needed a friend desperate to find him and willing to do everything he could to bring Stiles home.

 

Stiles rose to consciousness slowly, everything still feeling dreamlike even as he opened his eyes and felt his head throb angrily in response. He screwed his eyes shut and groaned, ignoring the protests of the rest of his body. Instead, he let himself drift on the floaty feeling of semi-consciousness that engulfed him.

It was difficult to gauge the passage of time, but eventually Stiles felt himself wake up enough to know that something was desperately wrong. The ground beneath his body was firm, but smooth, some kind of packed earth. A thin layer of dust shifted beneath his fingers as Stiles groped around, trying to work out where he was. He flexed his fingers, wriggled his toes, and systematically stretched and tensed his sore limbs. It was a relief to find the pain was not serious, presumably just a result of rough handling and a long night of lying on hard ground. When he ventured to open his eyes again, Stiles found he adjusted more quickly to the low light. His head still throbbed furiously, leaving him unwilling to try turning it just yet. Instead Stiles focused on the ceiling, ignoring questions of where he was and what had happened. He simply tried to puzzle out what sort of room he might be in that had low light, packed earth flooring and… were those floorboards on the ceiling?

Eventually Stiles realized that a ceiling of exposed floorboards most likely put him in a cellar. By this point, though the aggressive ache in his head had not receded, it was no longer consuming all of Stiles’s attention. A dull ache in his stomach let him know he was also hungry, and an intense dryness in his mouth and throat made water desirable enough to risk turning his head to take in the rest of his surroundings. He blinked and groaned until his head stopped complaining enough to let Stiles consider the new sight.

To his left there was no furniture, no junk lying around, no sign that this cellar room had ever experienced occupation at all. There was nothing blocking his view of the wall; all he could see was a depressingly rough, unpainted surface, with no windows or doors or vents or anything that could lead to the outside world. The only positive Stiles could find about the wall was that it was only a few feet away, implying that the majority of the room, which would hopefully contain water and food and maybe even a phone, was to be found on the other side.

The right side of Stiles was so disappointing he almost vomited. He couldn’t believe he had gone through the now quite nauseating sensation of turning his head for this. The closeness of the walls made Stiles feel trapped. He jerked his head back to stare at the ceiling and took deep breaths until the pain in his head subsided to a bearable ache and he felt courageous enough to look in front of him. He had already reached his hands back and run into rough wall, so he knew that in front of him was the last place he could look, the final direction, the deciding factor in just how small this dank and depressing room was. He took a breath and looked.

“Oh thank god,” Stiles croaked. The wall in front of him was easily another six, maybe even eight feet past his shoes. Stiles was so delighted to find he was not trapped in a near coffin sized room that it took him a few minutes to finish celebrating before he noticed the door. Fueled by the euphoria of discovering a possible exit, Stiles shoved himself to standing and lurched towards the filthy, dark brown little square of heaven. He moved quickly, ignoring the sharp pain this sent through his skull; uncaring of the roiling protest his stomach was making. Stiles stumbled triumphantly towards the door and grasped the handle. It creaked in his hand as he twisted it, pulling and pushing and rattling and shoving and swearing, rage building in him as the door refused to open.

A sob rose in Stiles’s throat, bringing with it the contents of his stomach, pouring out and over the dirt floor in front of the door. He felt utterly betrayed by the door. By the time Stiles was able to calm himself down enough to recognize he was sitting and sobbing in a pile of his own sick, his tears had dried and the vomit had grown tacky. When a final glance around the tiny, bare room revealed no hidden treasures, Stiles picked himself up and walked back to the other side of the room, reassuring himself that much as the door seemed to have betrayed him now, it really was a godsend.

“A door means someone wants to be able to come in,” Stiles muttered to himself, lying down and curling in on himself. “A door means someone is coming back. Someone who might have water and food and clean clothes.”

Stiles repeated this mantra to himself until he fell into an uneasy sleep.

 

The son of the incumbent President being kidnapped was not an incident that could be kept quiet for long and within twenty-four hours, every news station was presenting their version of events. Various nefarious organisations that could be responsible for this attack on the nation were named, though no evidence for the accusations was offered. Derek frowned at his television, easily able to imagine the chaos at Argent Security in the wake of such a disaster. It gave him no pleasure to think of his former employers having to deal with this sort of high-profile incident. He held no resentment for Argent Security. The nature of the rumours circulating meant that there was no way Chris Argent could have turned a blind ear to them, and he had allowed Derek to leave with dignity, grace, and enough respectability that Derek had been able to turn his skills to work as the night security at museums and office blocks.

 

A glance at the clock told Derek he only had a few minutes to spare before he needed to get ready for work, but he turned up the volume on the anchor’s passionate speech about the President’s presumed suffering, and fished around for his mobile. It was strange to think how easily this story could have been his problem, could have taken over his life, and he felt an unexpected need to check in on Scott.

“Scott, it’s Derek,” Derek said shortly.

“Derek!” Scott said, sounding surprised and stressed, but with definite notes of pleasure coloring his voice. “I take it you’ve heard?”

“Hard not to,” Derek said. “I imagine it’s pandemonium over there?”

“Yeah,” Scott said. He let out a shuddering sigh. “Derek, I screwed up. I lost my primary. The frickin’ President of the United States’ son has gone missing on my watch. I knew I wasn’t ready for this assignment.”

“Scott, calm down,” Derek said. “Have you been fired?”

“What? No,” Scott said, sounding confused.

“If this was your fault, Chris Argent would have fired you,” Derek said reasonably. He glanced at the clock. If he talked to Scott any longer, he was going to be late, but keeping drunk strangers from trying to piss in the shark tank seemed significantly less important than finding out what was happening with the President’s son. With Stiles. “Tell me what happened.”

Since his resignation, Derek had found himself falling out of the world of the Argents that had taken over his life in the eight long years he had worked with them. The security business, particularly working close protection for high-risk clients, was a consuming one. The intense hours and the confidential nature of the work led most people to living a somewhat insular life. Derek’s off-hours were spent mostly sleeping or drinking with his colleagues. Beyond his monthly visits to reconnect with his family and pack, Derek rarely talked to people outside of work the whole time he was with them.

Perhaps it was inevitable that when he fell out of that world, his social connections would be slowly severed, but Derek knew that wasn’t quite true. Most of the people he worked with were little more than acquaintances, connections forged in high-pressure situations; he never let it lead to more intimate friendships. There were at most half-a-dozen people he could have stayed close to, had he been willing to put the effort in, but when Derek quit, he desperately wanted to cut all connections to that part of his life. What he hadn’t accounted for was Scott.

“Stiles had his interview for readmission,” Scott said. “We were assured it would take no more than half-an-hour, we know the Dean, we’ve worked with him before to ensure Stiles’s safety on campus. We checked out his secretary, the building, everything. The university was happy to have us drive right up to the building, and Stiles was really excited about the interview, totally calm, not a hint of trouble about him. We discussed it with Dean Finstock and Mr Argent, and everyone agreed it could be done with just me on close and Isaac driving. It should have been fine.”

It was slightly surreal to hear Scott outline the plan for Stiles’s safety, and not simply because it was reminiscent of the sort of close protection Derek had done in the past. He worked, briefly, as part of Stiles’s team of bodyguards; this used to be his territory and yet there was something unfamiliar about the types of concerns Scott and Chris Argent prepared for.

“No trouble?” Derek asked. “Have there been threats?”

“No, nothing like that,” Scott said. “Just the usual. But this interview wasn’t raising any flags, Stiles wanted to go and he hasn’t been restless lately, so it really wasn’t likely he was going to try and give us the slip.”

Derek frowned. Scott hadn’t become part of Stiles’s security detail until after Derek left, and they hadn’t discussed the work much in the meantime. He couldn’t believe that Stiles would have changed that much in the last four years. Whenever Scott mentioned Stiles, he was relaying a joke only Stiles’s strange sense of humour could have cooked up, or a piece of trivia Stiles found it desperately important everyone know. Not once had Scott said anything about Stiles trying to escape his security team. Nothing to suggest that such behaviour was considered a standard part of having Stiles as a primary.

“Stiles is a flight risk?” Derek asked, confused.

“What? Yeah,” Scott said. “A big one. I thought you used to work close with him?”

 

“I did,” Derek said. “For about a month, just after Stilinski was elected.”

“And he wasn’t a runner then?”

“No,” Derek said slowly. “I think he used to try and sneak off to visit girlfriends in high school, and he got a bit twitchy if he was inside for too long, but nothing out of the ordinary for an eighteen-year-old. Certainly no behaviour we had to account for when planning outings.”

If anything, Stiles had been almost overly comfortable with having security around him. Derek had chalked it up to the way he lost his mother, but Stiles was almost clingy with his protective detail. He disliked it when Derek chose to walk around the perimeter, or even sit at a different table at a coffee shop. The hardest part of Derek’s job had been trying not to get distracted by Stiles’s rambling, keeping a keen eye on the surroundings rather than following Stiles’s hands as he tried to explain gesturally how important it was that Derek listen to a particular band or how Marx’s theory on capitalism had been flawed. He found it hard to believe Stiles could have changed so much in four years.

“Huh,” Scott said. “I wonder if it’s because you’re not as standoffish as the other people in his teams.”

Derek hummed vaguely, not sure how to respond to this comment. No one had ever suggested Derek was less standoffish than other people. Of course, there were few people outside of his pack Derek respected or liked as much as Scott, so perhaps Scott’s view was slightly skewed.

“I know he’s never as bad with me as when Mahealani is on close, and that guy’s a way better bodyguard than I am,” Scott continued. “But look, I know Stiles, and he was not looking to run. There was no way he would have wandered off, which means he was taken outside of the Dean’s office. Derek, the whole investigation is being pursued with the wrong point of origin.”

“Argent’s thinking Stiles left of his own free will before he was taken?” Derek confirmed.

“Yeah,” Scott said, his voice losing the earlier urgency in the face of Derek’s calm acceptance.

A cold wave of fear crossed over Derek as he realized the implications. If Argent was presuming Stiles had been taken after wandering off, he was going to be drawing from the wrong pool of suspects. Being taken outside the Dean’s office implied a deliberately planned kidnapping by people who knew Stiles’s schedule, not simply someone with a vendetta taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity. Those crucial first twenty-four hours had already been wasted, and as time passed, the window for following any sort of trail was closing fast.

“I’m coming in,” Derek said.

 

When Stiles woke again, he was feeling much calmer. The situation he was in was far from ideal, but it was by no means hopeless. For a start, the smell of vomit was no longer permeating the room. He wasn’t sure if it had actually dissipated at all or if he had merely grown used to the scent, but he quite frankly didn’t care. Though still aching, Stiles’s head was also feeling better, his stomach calm and the groggy feeling of a bad hangover mostly gone, so Stiles presumed whatever they had drugged him with had cleared his system.

The room still felt too small, too closed in, the lack of windows and the unmoving quality of the door more obvious now. Stiles stood slowly and walked around the edges of the room, pressing his hands against the walls to reassure himself of the firmness, their immovability. Muscle memory of the deep breathing exercises taught to him when he was younger, just after his mother had died and he would have panic attacks every time his father left the room, came back to Stiles and by the third loop around the room he felt confident the walls weren’t about to close in on him. The more relaxed he grew, though, the more he felt the pressing call of nature and he discretely relieved himself in the corner near the door, feeling a perverse sense of satisfaction that his kidnappers would have to step through a puddle of piss and vomit when they came to collect him.

“How do you like that, you fuckers,” Stiles muttered to himself, managing a small pleased grin before he headed back to the other side of the room.

Growing up, Stiles had always been a resourceful child. At five, he had become preoccupied with knowing what was on the top of his house and not two weeks later, with the aid of an unguarded ladder, he had his answer. At nine, Stiles was locked out of his house for a few hours and subsequently dedicated two months to devising eighteen strategies for breaking into and out of his house, allowing him entrance and exit from any room, even if all or any of the others were barred to him by fire or locked doors. Two weeks later and he had twenty-three strategies and was able to unlock a variety of doors, given time and a decent paperclip.

After losing his mother, Stiles’s planning had taken a more realistic and morbid turn. He knew precisely what would happen if his father were injured or killed. Extensive drought, flooding, forest fires, tornados, meteorites, civil war and terrestrial invasion were all accounted for in emergency bags Stiles left in the house, car, and his homeroom at school. Though his father longed for Stiles to be able to experience a normal childhood, he was also more than happy to pay for the lessons Stiles demanded in order to defend himself in an attack, or how to survive an assassination or kidnapping attempt.

This tendency to obsessively map out possible crises as they occurred to him had largely left Stiles by the time he was in university, where he instead focused his energies on living in the moment, but the ability to separate out emotions and consider survival strategies was not lost to him.

“No phone,” Stiles said, settling down and emptying his pockets. He looked carefully around the ceiling. “No sign of video or audio devices. Walls and floor seem thick, but ceiling looks like it’s just the bottom of the first floor.”

Stiles took a deep breath and screamed as loudly as he could. It wasn’t terribly likely that he had been stashed below the floor of upstanding law-abiding citizens, but there was no point in wasting away down here when rescue was only a few feet above him because of some stupid likelihood. And even if it was his kidnappers living above him, better that they come down to ask him to shut up and give Stiles a chance to start forming his escape plan.

“No food or tools,” Stiles said, looking at his sad assortment of scraps of paper, small bits of tissue, an impressive-looking ball of lint, and one old condom he had forgotten was tucked in the small inner pocket of his pants. He frowned at the condom for a long time before conceding that he could think of no use for it in the near future and tucked his limited bounty carefully back into his pockets. “No liquids, either.”

Stiles sat for a long time, thinking deeply. It was unlikely that he had been missing for much more than twenty-four hours. Possibly less, Stiles reasoned, based on the fact that he had only peed once, and not that desperately. His belt, shoes and hoodie had all been taken from him, presumably so he could not attack his assailants or run away easily. A brief pat down of himself revealed nothing worse than bruises and scrapes, suggesting he was unlikely to be in physical danger in the imminent future. The most likely scenario was that he had been kidnapped to either get money from his father, or to force his hand in some political endeavour, neither of which required anything of him from his kidnappers. Despite his situation, Stiles wasn’t really in any imminent danger. The odds were that the demands would be given in to, or the Argents would track him down before a lack of compliance might encourage his keepers into hurting Stiles to prove they were serious.

All Stiles needed to do was wait until someone brought him food and water, and make plans once he got the measure of his keepers.

After what felt like several hours of staring aimlessly at the dull grey walls of the room, Stiles’s boredom was broken by another call of nature. He wandered back over to the corner near the door and pulled down his pants, squatting, and suddenly his peaceful detached attitude was broken. He was crouching in damp piss and vomit soaked dirt, taking a dump and god he had been naive.

A sob swelled in his throat as Stiles realized his mistake. He had been assuming that because he was alive, whoever it was that had taken him had wanted Stiles to stay that way. Surely if someone had wanted him dead a more logical solution would have been to put a bullet through his brain. But that wasn’t really the case. Locking him in a cellar room, tucked away in a long disused pantry, and leaving him to starve was actually a far more clever plan. Shootings were noisy and messy and far easier to trace and harder to cover up. If his assailants were somehow caught for kidnapping, it would prove nearly impossible to pin anything beyond abduction onto them. And if they weren’t caught, it would be simple enough to dump his uninjured body into the preserve near home and make it look like he had just slipped his bodyguards and snuck off to go meet someone in the woods and got lost. And shit, wasn’t that just the the icing on the cake. It was so fucking believable that President’s fuckup of a son would be stupid enough to get himself killed.

Shuddering and crying and gasping for air, Stiles finished his business and felt his stomach twist as he remembered how proud he had been to cover the floor in urine because he assumed someone was coming for him. How proud he had been showing up without warning at a Were-rights rallies before three people had to be rushed to hospital in the chaos that followed. How proud he had been the first time he had slipped his protection team. Stiles returned to the far corner and sat down, staring unseeing at the drab walls, berating himself and wishing desperately there was some way to tell his dad he was sorry.

 

Stiles had been missing for nearly thirty-six hours by the time Derek had caught up with the case. Thirty-six hours and no ransom, no demands, no contact at all from the kidnappers. President Stilinski had given a speech imploring the kidnappers not to hurt Stiles, assuring them their demands would be heard and every consideration would be given to their needs if they returned Stiles unharmed. It was playing on a near constant loop across the channels, interspersed with commentaries from reporters espousing Stiles’s innate goodness and innocence despite his sometimes reckless party lifestyle, and oozing with sympathy for the clearly stressed out President who was just a few days ago working on his campaign for the upcoming election.

Derek scowled at the television, about to snap at Scott to turn it off when something the newscaster was saying caught his attention.

“...some have argued that it was only a matter of time before such a tragedy occurred. It might seem easy to blame Argent Security for failing to perform their duties, but ex-members of the First Son’s security detail have anonymously and almost unanimously come forth to defend the agency. One such member has been quoted saying, “It’s unreasonable to expect a close protection team to keep their charge safe when the charge won’t work with them.” Another adds that, “Working with the young Mr Stilinski tears your focus. Keeping him safe means spending half the time looking out for external threats, and half the time trying to keep Mr Stilinski safe from himself.” All are quick to make it clear that they have nothing personally against Mr Stilinski, but that the young man’s charms do not make working in his security team any less impossible. We turn now to Olivia Pope for updates on…”

Derek muted the television and turned thoughtfully to Scott.

“You said earlier that Stiles is a known flight risk,” Derek said, turning over the snippets of information he had gleaned over the last few hours, realising they formed a somewhat startling whole. A new image of Stiles was forming in his mind. “But that’s not the entire story, is it? He’s not just sneaking off for a bit of privacy, it’s not just about proving his independence or wanting to keep who he’s sleeping with secret.”

“No,” Scott said, shaking his head. “I can’t believe you don’t know any of it. There’s pictures of Stiles in the papers nearly every other day.”

Derek frowned. It was hard to reconcile this with the Stiles he knew. Admittedly before he was eighteen there were contracts signed that Stiles was only to be photographed at official events, ribbon cuttings and campaign functions and the like. But Stiles had given no indication he wanted to be a more public figure, even after he turned eighteen. His behaviour was never outlandish, not when they were able to be seen, and if Stiles was seeing anyone he was doing it very discreetly. On the odd occasion an opportunistic photographer did manage to find them, Stiles tended to move closer to Derek, tucking himself behind Derek as best he could.

“Some of it’s just the usual gossip about where Stiles is eating and who he’s got an arm draped over, and there’s always footage after an opening or a charity function,” Scott added quickly. “And even when Stiles’s more wild stuff gets out, there’s usually a sort of positive spin put on it. Youthful spirits and letting off steam sort of stuff. The public loves Stiles.”

It was strangely disappointing to Derek that Stiles had become such a big figure in the media. It didn’t matter in the slightest to Derek if Stiles was enjoying the attention his father’s position brought him, even if the eighteen-year-old Derek had known was still quite nervous about it all. Now that Derek wasn’t responsible for the young man, his perspective on Stiles’s behaviour had shifted, it was true. When he thought about paparazzi following Stiles, it was Stiles’s much treasured privacy being invaded that Derek considered, rather than the possible threat they presented to his primary’s safety. Although why, Derek couldn’t fathom. Any consideration for Stiles should have been no more than a passing thought, he was nothing more to Derek than a friend’s charge, someone Derek had not seen nor spoken to in nearly four years. Certainly not someone who Derek held in enough esteem to feel let down when he heard that Stiles was seeking the sort of attention Derek eschewed at all costs.

“So his habits and whereabouts are widely known?” Derek asked, trying to dismiss his personal feelings on the matter and turn his attention wholly to how this information could help them find Stiles.

Scott shrugged. “He doesn’t really keep any sort of a routine or keep any regular habits. His readmissions interview was kept out of the media, though.”

“You were concerned about a potential attack?” Derek said.

“No, nothing like that.” Scott gave a frustrated sigh. “Stiles just didn’t want to tell anyone until the readministration process was over. He was safe! He doesn’t get any threats that need to be taken seriously. His dad makes him keep out of the politics enough that radical groups don’t tend to bother him and he doesn’t make personal enemies. People like him.”

Hearing the president referred to as someone’s dad felt very strange to Derek, turning the powerful man seeking a peaceful resolution with an unknown attacker into a father desperately concerned for his son. There was no time to dwell on it, though, so Derek simply filed the odd thought away. “What about ex-girlfriends?”

Scott shook his head. “Stiles doesn’t really date, there’s never really one girlfriend or boyfriend. He flirts a lot, and there’s a couple of people he’s slept with on and off, but he doesn’t really do relationships.”

Again, Derek didn’t allow himself to consider the slightly surprising mention of a possible boyfriend, beyond it’s implication on the issue at hand. “Stiles is openly bisexual?” Derek confirmed. Scott nodded. “And has he received any backlash for it? Any groups particularly upset by it.”

“There was a bit of fuss when a photo was released of Stiles kissing a guy, but PR got on it right away and the press was mostly positive,” Scott said. “He’s careful not to be too out there in public, and there is a somewhat steady stream of hate mail, but nothing concerning. To be honest, he caused more of a stir when he publicly supported a friend’s relationship with a Were.”

“A human friend?” Derek said. Human/Were relationships weren’t unheard of, but they rarely received any social or legal support. Generally such relationships were regarded as unnecessarily risky, and the Were partner was often looked down upon for not considering the safety of their loved one. Some people thought humans had to be a bit kinky to want a relationship with a Were, and a mixed relationship could lead to problems finding employment, getting loans, and if the Were was not part of a pack, they could even have their children taken away. President Stilinski was doing a lot to try and reform the legal side of things, but the social stigma was proving much harder to shift. Public support of inter-species relationships could cause as much trouble as being in one if it wasn’t handled correctly.

“Yeah,” Scott said. “And old friend from school he kept in contact with. They’re petitioning for a marriage licence and Stiles did a bit of work to get a lot of public support so it won’t be rejected.”

“And this has caused trouble?” Derek said.

“About what you would expect,” Scott said. “Hang on, I think Allison’s following up that side of things, I’ll call her in. She can catch you up on Stiles’s last cell-phone transmissions, too, not that it gets us anywhere.”

Derek tensed slightly, but said nothing as Scott left the room. It had taken Derek nearly six weeks of working side-by-side with Scott, day in and day out protecting the Vice President’s wife and their three children before Derek reached a point where he trusted Scott completely. He had a feeling that Scott reached that point within a few hours of introduction. It made Derek hesitant to reveal his very unauthorized and probably quite illegal presence in the investigation to a person he was only tangentially familiar with. Particularly as Scott’s very obvious crush on Allison would be clouding his judgement quite severely. But Derek genuinely trusted Scott, with both his life and his freedom and as such he was going to have to force himself to trust Allison too.

During the few minutes it took Scott to track down Allison, Derek tried to slot this new information into the broader and more complicated picture of Stiles’s life he was forming. Unless Scott’s penchant for optimism had steered him incredibly wrong, Stiles’s new life in the limelight was not cause for undue concern. Argent Security had a thorough and reliable process for detecting threats in all of their client’s incoming mail, both the old-fashioned kind and electronic. If anything threw up red flags, or even orange flags, it would have been part of the briefing report Scott had procured for him. There was no way this attack could have been predicted, particularly in light of the worrying lack of ransom demands. He shook his head to clear it as Scott came back, ushering an attractive young brunette in before him.

“Derek, this is Allison, I think you two have met before,” Scott said. Allison and Derek exchanged a curt nod, and Derek could tell from her expression her knowledge of him came solely from Scott, though she was familiar enough Derek presumed they had crossed paths a few times in the past.

“Mm,” Allison said noncommittally.

“Scott says you’ve been following the anti-human/Were relationship angle?” Derek prompted.

“What little angle there is,” Allison said with a sigh.

“Stiles is a huge public figure openly supporting a human/Were relationship, surely that’s caused some uproar somewhere?” Derek said.

“To be honest, I don’t know how seriously he was taken,” Allison said, giving Scott an apologetic look. “Everyone knows Stiles is a bit… different. A bit out there. He’s the life of the party, the President’s wild but likable son. He’s not a spokesperson for rights groups. He’s not changing minds. 40% of the people supporting this marriage application are already pro-human/Were relationships, 20% see Lydia and Jackson’s relationship as a once-in-a-lifetime, fairytale, beating all of the odds. The rest are just glad this puts Lydia out of the running to become Mrs Stilinski.”

“No one’s angry?” Derek asked, confused and once more seized by an odd sense of disappointment.

“I didn’t say that,” Allison said. “It’s upset people, and there’s been hatemail and retorts, but not full-scale fury, like you would expect if it was being taken seriously. It’s like people are willing to indulge Stiles’s desire to follow the fashion of young people to pick some crazy liberal cause to support, but that doesn’t mean they think he’s right.”

“Stiles isn’t doing it for fashion,” Scott said, more furiously than Derek had supposed he could be at Allison. “He really cares about Lydia and wants her to be happy.”

I know that,” Allison said, running a soothing hand down Scott’s arm. “But the media doesn’t, and if the media doesn’t, then the rest of America won’t either. It’s my professional opinion that anti-mixed relationship groups are unlikely to have been behind this attack and our energies are better spent focusing on something else.”

“What would you recommend?” Derek asked. Allison sagged and Derek was struck by the difference. She seemed to have dropped her professional persona, and now the dark shadows beneath her eyes and her creased brow stood out as they hadn’t before. Gone was the easily self-assurance, the core of steely determination Derek instinctively recognized as Argent, leaving behind nothing more than Allison, friend of Scott and Stiles. If Derek was going to save Stiles, he needed to stop thinking of her as Agent Argent: woman on a mission to find the First Son, motives unknown. She was Allison, Scott’s friend and one of the few links Derek had to Stiles.

“That’s just it,” Allison said. “All of the other avenues are being explored and there’s nothing, nothing. The only likely reason someone would take Stiles is for his connection to the President, and the longer a ransom demand doesn’t come through…”

Allison trailed off, and when Derek glanced at Scott’s stricken face, he could understand her reluctance to put it into words. But the facts were the facts, and if no word was heard from the kidnappers in the next few hours, the odds that Stiles would not be returned alive rose astronomically.