So Stiles has this thing. For Scott.
It's not like he's a creeper or anything, alright, it's just that of the whole Beacon Hills community (all 15,700 of them) there's only one person who is willing to sit through every episode of Batman: the Animated Series with him (not once, but six times), only one person who consistently answers his text messages, who tags after him every summer for the inevitable disaster of Stiles' attempts at surfing, and that person is Scott. Who also, Stiles knows, happens to be a pretty great guy when he's paying attention, and prime boyfriend material. You're supposed to marry your best friend, anyway, Stiles thinks. It's a rule in all the romantic comedies.
And, okay, to be fair? Stiles hasn't really been reaching out for a wider social circle. He's a creature of habit, and Scott has been a habit since well before kindergarten. Scott's dad had been a deputy and their mothers had been quick friends and then pregnancy buddies, eventually sharing babysitting, so being best friends is pretty much their destiny. Which had been awesome right up to puberty and then Scott started... well, the definition of best friend stayed, but there was that quiet little "plus some" hanging over it. Soulmate, Stiles thinks sometimes, because there's no one else in the whole world who is ever going to get him like Scott does, and it's sort of pathetic how much Stiles wants the "plus some" to be reciprocated.
Not that Scott notices. Stiles is careful; you don't spook your only friend by showing up in his bed naked, candles lit and a bowl of strawberries and cream at the ready (romantic fantasy number 24). Or by offering a blowjob. Which, Stiles starts to think after the thousandth attempt at turning movie night into something resembling a date, might be the only thing to break through Scott's thick skull.
It's just -- Stiles has a plan. It's a good plan, 54 very small, subtle steps to be taken carefully over the next year and a half. He's patient, but Scott hasn't been making it easy. He's stuck on step eleven (extended physical contact initiated by Scott) the week things go to hell.
Allison Argent is pretty, but not nearly enough to draw Stiles' attention, being neither a doe-eyed lacrosse player nor a ginger haired goddess-queen. He's pretty much blindsided by Scott after economics.
"Did you see her?" Scott is saying, flicking his eyes pointedly over to where Stiles sees Lydia Martin and Jackson Whittemore chatting with someone he doesn't recognize.
"Dude, I always see Lydia." It hurts, sometimes, how much he sees Lydia, because she is so pretty and so out of his league. Stiles focuses back in on Scott, who is also very pretty and much more achievable. It helps.
Scott is still staring over there, though, all big eyes and floppy hair. Stiles tightens his hands around the strap of his backpack to keep them to himself. "Not Lydia," he says, distracted, so Stiles gives it a second glance.
Those eyes are either for Jackson (Stiles seriously hopes not, because losing this battle to Jackson, douchebag of the century, might very well kill him) or the new girl. Who, it so happens, is looking back over at them, at Scott, all coy smile and fluttering eyelashes.
Stiles hates her.
"Her name's Allison."
Stiles hates her violently.
"That's nice," he says, turning to glare into the messy depths of his locker so as to not march across the hall and demand a throw down with a person he's never met over Scott. He's pretty sure the way to Scott's heart is not through punching pretty girls.
"She asked me for a pen," Scott says, like this is some sort of personal achievement. Stiles silently questions his taste when his tone is endearing instead of hilariously sad.
"That's also nice," he says, grabbing his chemistry textbook and transferring it into the void of his backpack. It's done with a little more violence than strictly necessary.
Scott tenses, swears, and grabs Stiles' arm. He barely has time to slam his locker closed before his best friend is steering them away. "They're leaving, come on, Stiles, move," which is ridiculous, and Stiles tells Scott just that.
"To the lunch room, dude, where we are all going!" but he doesn't pull his arm away, just lets himself be led. So it ends up step eleven is sort of a win, because he spends the whole lunch period hunkered down next to Scott on one side of a table, their legs pressed together from hip to knee, but also a sign of disaster, because the whole time Scott does nothing but narrate Allison's first Beacon Hills High lunch experience.
It starts up a worrying trend.
Neither Scott nor Stiles are particularly impressive lacrosse players, which is fine with Stiles. He doesn't need the limelight like most of the players on the team and is pretty content to just cheer Jackson on as he rips through the opposing players. Scott, too, seems to have settled down from his desperate attempts to get firstline, which is a welcome reprieve from the hours of drills he'd forced Stiles to join in with in the name of manly bonding during their off-season.
They spend most of their first game on the bench, arguing cheerfully about the merits of storebrand versus namebrand cereal when the Glenbard West team calls for a time-out. As is tradition, Jackson waits patiently for Lydia to make her way over to offer encouragement in the form of vicious critique. Stiles isn't paying it any attention, distracted as he is by Danny pouring half a bottle of water into his mouth and mostly missing, so he doesn't catch the very beginning of Scott's panic attack.
"She's here," Scott hisses after digging his very pointy elbow (seriously, like the business end of a spear, does he sharpen them?) into the weak bits of Stiles' padding. There's a gobsmacked, desperate look on his face, so Stiles is pretty much expecting to turn around and see Miss Milkovitch from their third grade standing behind them, come back from the grave to seek revenge for a year of spitballs and fart jokes.
Instead it's just Allison, hovering a little awkwardly behind Lydia. As Stiles watches, she keeps sneaking tiny looks over at Scott, who is bright red but not looking away.
Stiles feels all the warmth and camaraderie games usually bring drain out of him.
"What do I say?" Scott finally manages, tearing his gaze away from Lydia's new hanger-on long enough to set those pleading eyes on Stiles.
They drain him of strength almost immediately. "Are you really going to go over and talk to her?" Stiles grips his crosse, fighting the urge to grab Scott and drag him far, far away from every pretty girl in the universe. Or maybe just Allison.
"No?" Scott shoots a very unstealthy look back towards her, chewing at his lower lip. It's ridiculously attractive and Stiles quietly hates himself.
"Okay. No, that's -- a good plan. She probably doesn't even remember the pen-giving incident." Stiles knows he'll never forget, not with how many times Scott has gone over the story, waxing poetic about the softness of her fingertips as they brushed his when reaching for the bic or the delicate sweetness of her 'thank you.' At Scott's sudden slump of dejection, Stiles smoothly switches track. "Or she does, and it's, like, wrapped you in this cloak of mysteriousness. You should work that angle."
For once, Scott doesn't seem to be buying Stiles' story. He's still chewing on his bottom lip, turning it red and wet, utterly unfair, and peering over at Allison from the corner of his eye every other second. The time out is nearly up and Stiles just needs to keep Scott distracted long enough --
Just as coach is passing, Scott leaps up to trail after him. "I want to play," he says, gripping his crosse and bouncing up onto his toes. "Come on. Phillip is looking pretty rough. Has he even recovered from the flu yet?"
This is... different. "Scott," Stiles says, grabbing at the back of his best friend's jersey, trying to haul him back to the bench where they belong. Mr. Finstock looks ready to cut Scott off before he can really start wheedling, but Jackson interjects with mocking laughter.
"Let him play, coach," he says, a nasty smile well in place. "There's no way we're going to lose. Not even McCall can screw up a nine-nothing game." Lydia looks slightly panicked, but probably not nearly as much as Stiles, who is still tugging helplessly at Scott's jersey and attempting telepathic communication with his insane economics teacher.
"Why not?" Coach finally agrees, shrugging and waving a dismissive hand. "Phillip, grab a seat and take a breather. McCall's in!"
Scott turns a glowing, victorious smiles onto the world, but mostly on Allison Argent, who returns it without an ounce of irony. Stiles feels his grip go weak and watches his best friend jog onto the field and join their team.
"The bruising is going to be spectacular," Stiles says, holding an icepack to Scott's left shoulder with gentleness rather than slamming the fire extinguisher from across the hall into his head like he wants to.
"Do you think she saw?" Scott has his head hanging down between his legs, his entire person screaming man angst of the highest order, and Stiles thinks maybe Scott missed a very promising career in soap opera levels of overacting.
"Which part? You getting blindsided by Glenbard's littlest freshman, or you actually throwing the ball to the other team?"
Scott whimpers, and Stiles is possibly enjoying this revenge too much. He shifts the icepack carefully, using his other hand to brush through the hair on Scott's nape soothingly. It's still damp from his post-game shower and the way Scott leans into the touch puts Stiles a little more at peace with the world. He's a sucker, there's no denying it.
"You were fine," he says, fond, and ignores Jackson's snort and Danny's zen-yet-judgmental-or-maybe-that's-pity stare as they pass by. "And she probably didn't see, I think she was at the concessions." Stiles pauses. "Both times."
Scott perks up a little bit, because he's unbelievably easy when he wants to be, and Stiles spends just a second longer petting than is entirely bro-appropriate before leaving Scott to finish changing.
Mrs. McCall is waiting for them outside the locker room, familiar face twisted in a mixture of pride and worry. It takes Stiles a second to recognize the towering figure behind her, but Scott's quicker on the uptake for once. "Mom!" he says, then more warily, "Derek. I thought you wouldn't be back until tomorrow."
Mrs. McCall presses a cautious hand onto Scott's left shoulder, relieved where he doesn't so much as wince. "Derek drove the last few hundred miles. It was terrifying, but I didn't want to miss your game." She beams. "And you played! It was great, honey."
Stiles, with the wisdom of many years, does not let even a square centimeter of his person advertise disagreement. He does, however, meet Derek's gaze over Mrs. McCall's shoulder and catch the rolling of his eyes. There's an intensity to Derek that makes Stiles occasionally uncomfortable, so he's quick to look away, studying the cinderblock walls with interest as Scott allows himself to be accosted by his mother.
"It wasn't," Scott disagrees, embarrassed, but not as much as Stiles expects. He's distracted. Stiles looks down the hallway and catches sight of Lydia, Jackson and Allison standing together, the two former apparently deep in conversation while Allison watches them, laughing.
Mrs. McCall follows his gaze just as Allison looks over to Scott and waves, charmingly shy. And also, Stiles theorizes, invitingly. Lead forms in his stomach.
"Who's that?" Scott's mom breathes, lighting up, and Scott turns terrified eyes on her and whispers, desperately, "Please don't, mom, God."
Mrs. McCall manages to smooth her face back into something resembling neutral and nods. "Sorry, of course. I just wanted to say how proud I am!" She stabs an elbow backwards and Derek jerks, coughing. Pointy elbows must be genetic.
"Yeah," Derek says, maybe sincere. "Congratulations."
There's an awkward pause, Derek and Scott not quite looking directly at each other. Derek is grumpy and seems to find little about his half-brother worth noticing, but it's not as though Scott's ever put any effort into getting to know him. There's no denying the weirdness of Scott's family situation, but it's not like Stiles has any place to comment. He spends more time stalking his father through the dispatcher than actually talking to him, after all.
"Well, I'm sure you have celebrating to do," Mrs. McCall interjects, ignoring the heavy silence that has descended. "Friday night is when all the good parties happen, right?" Stiles and Scott nod, because it's true. They just don't get invited to those sorts of parties, not even after winning games.
Being on the lacrosse team is only social currency if you play.
"Don't be home too late," Scott's mom calls back, letting Derek steer her towards the parking lot. "And call me if you, you know, need a ride home."
"You're a cool mom," Scott agrees, blushing but smiling, and waves.
"That wasn't awkward," Stiles says as the last of the team trickles out of the doors behind them. He's got half an eye on Lydia, Jackson and Allison, who are still hovering at the end of the hall for some reason.
Scott shrugs and starts heading towards the doors. At least the uncomfortableness of seeing Derek again has distracted him from making eyes at Allison. "I was just surprised, that's all." Stiles nods, bumping his shoulder against Scott's companionably. He doesn't bother to fight down the smile when Scott jostles him back, shaking his head.
"Scott," Lydia says, as they're passing. "It is Scott, right? Have you met Allison?"
Stiles, for once, is struck dumb. He can count on one hand exactly how many times Lydia has ever addressed either of them (once each, and that's generous: she'd mistaken Stiles for someone else) and it's never been in that friendly-yet-fake tone she uses on people who are... well, useful.
Scott blinks slowly for a second, staring blankly at Allison, and then smiles, the lopsided one Stiles has to fight tooth and nail to get. "Yeah. We're in economics together."
"And chemistry," Allison says, holding out a hand. Scott takes it, blushing a little, and Stiles, for the first time in history, absolutely agrees with Jackson when his teammate rolls his eyes to the ceiling and mouths shoot me to an unresponsive God.
"Anyway," Lydia continues, after the handshake has gone on a little too long. "We're going to a party. You know, to celebrate." Now she does smile genuinely, because winning is always worth celebrating in Lydia Martin's world.
"You should come," Allison says, and then looks at Stiles. "Oh! You, too, obviously," and holds out her hand for a belated handshake. Stiles clasps it halfheartedly, but shakes his head and doesn't bother with an introduction.
"No, that's -- I'm gonna head home. Benchwarming really takes it out of me, you know?" He claps a hand against Scott's back, right over where the bruise is forming, and backs away before Scott can do anything more than wince and toss him an annoyed look.
"Are you sure?" Allison is asking as Stiles turns to go, because he really, really doesn't want to have to face down that much earnest friendliness from someone he wants to accuse of being a homewrecker. His only reply is throwing back a jaunty wave, missed by the only person it was really directed at.
Scott is too busy smoothing his hair back and smiling at Allison, utterly besotted.
The parking lot has mostly cleared out by the time Stiles folds himself into the front seat of his jeep, breathing deeply and trying to force his thoughts to slow their whirlpool-like fury. He grips the steering wheel tight enough to see his knuckles go bone-white and sits there for a few minutes, swallowing down sour disappointment. He's sitting there long enough for most of the feeling in his hands to have drained away when there's a businesslike tap on his window.
Stiles startles, then peers out at Derek, who looks twice as intimidating as ever with half his face thrown in shadow. Stiles rolls down his window and swallows, thickly, before he tries speaking.
"What's up, sourpuss?" he asks, going for cocky and coming out hollow instead.
Derek barely even bristles, which is just another tiny disappointment to add to the rockslide of other disappointments the night has been. "Where's Scott?"
Stiles shrugs, mostly because he doesn't think he can manage a proper answer without sounding like a pissy twelve-year-old, but also because he doesn't actually know where the party is at.
Derek rolls his shoulders, settling into his thick leather coat in a move Stiles is pretty sure James Dean couldn't have made look half a cool. "You alright to get home?" Derek asks, and Stiles laughs.
"What are you, some sort of proper adult?" It comes out better this time, a bit of friendly bite to the words. "Don't tell me you ran away to New York and grew up."
Derek tilts his head, peering in at Stiles with that unreadable stare. "Night, Stiles," he says, apparently satisfied by something, and Stiles watches Derek make his way through the maze of cars, slide into his sports car and speed away.
It's only then that Stiles manages to get his key in and turns the jeep engine over, preparing himself for a good, long brood back home in his bedroom.
This developed plot. I'm shocked, too!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Stiles lets himself into the house, typing back a mindless reply to his father's text message inquiry into the game results one handed. He gets congratulations, son. ill be there next time! as he moves chocolate fudge ice cream from the container directly to his mouth, because there's no other acceptable way to consume cliched comfort food during a sulk.
The house is usually comforting despite its size and emptiness, familiar decorations still exactly where his mother had left them four years ago, giving Stiles a sense of timelessness. His mood is enough to make the house feel lonely, though, and he tries unsuccessfully to not resent his father's career choice as he hunches over the kitchen island and silently, miserably demolishes half the tub without bothering to think about calories or saturated fat, even when he has to pass the brightly colored computer printout he'd taped to the refrigerator outlining preventions for cardiovascular disease.
Sulking loses it's charm fast. The ice cream has mostly melted to a gooey mush by the time his stomach sloshes uncomfortably and the feeling of being overfull is twice as awful when paired with the memory of Allison smiling back at Scott, because now he's going to be single forever and fat.
He drops the remains of the melted dessert into the trash in a fit of pique before stomping up the stairs, giving into his childish sense of injustice like he hasn't since seeing twelve-years-old come and go. His bed, at least, is a perfectly nonjudgmental thing that welcomes him with a messy embrace of comforters and clean smelling pillows. Stiles curls up around the softness, feeling tension sink out even as his throat closes up.
Crying would be nice, he thinks, exhaustion and unhappiness welling up behind his eyes like the tears he knows won't come. It's nearly pleasant, this feeling of hopelessness, because at least this way he gets to keep a part of Scott close by. It's better than his worst-case-scenario, the one he prodded himself with on bad nights, but losing is still unpleasant.
Stiles falls asleep torturing himself with thoughts of the remaining 43 steps in his plan.
The ringing of the housephone wakes Stiles up before the sky has even begun to lighten. He blinks blearily at the time, then rolls gracelessly from his pile of blankets. Not even the most convincing of telemarketers would be willing to try their luck at 2 am, so he jogs down the hall and catches the call moments before the answering machine can.
"Stiles," his father says, sounding relieved and annoyed at the same time. "You weren't answering your phone."
Stiles rests his head against the hallway wall, feeling his eyes sag shut a little. "I left it downstairs. Sorry."
His dad sighs. "I'm sorry I woke you. Just wanted to check in, let you know I won't be home for a while."
That perks Stiles up faster than if he'd taken a shot of espresso or one of his pills. "Everything okay?" he asks, padding back towards his bedroom half-blind in the dark. Flipping his overhead light on is jarring, but Stiles hardly needs sight to slide into his desk chair and flip on his computer monitor.
"Nothing to worry about," his dad lies, obvious as hell, and Stiles thinks he can hear a few dogs barking in the background. Weird. "Stay in tonight, alright?"
"Sure, no problem," Stiles agrees, phone propped up between his ear and shoulder as he types in the url for the Beacon Hills dispatcher radio feed.
He's pretty sure his father doesn't buy it, but there's too much noise in the background for there to be any time for an argument. "Get some sleep, alright?"
"Night." Stiles hits play before he's done hanging up, then listens carefully to the chatter going over the lines. Way too much for Beacon Hills, even if it is still arguably Friday night, and it takes Stiles a few seconds to figure out that it's not just the usual teenage party being broken up.
10-54. Dead body. Stiles is skidding down the stairs toward his cellphone before he can catch anything more. He turns the screen on and winces at the number of missed calls from his father, then quickly works his way to text messages.
Nine from Scott, but he only bothers with the most recent. I danced wit Allison!!!!!!!! it reads, and Stiles ignores the abuse of punctuation with ease won by too much practice. The subject matter isn't even enough to phase him, not with a 10-54 on his mind.
u still awake? he sends, then makes his way back up to his computer with more restrained speed. The dispatcher radio is still going, but it's quieter. Stiles leaves it running as he pulls up the local news website, refreshing over and over until a short update blinks on the twitter feed.
Body reportedly found in Beacon hills forest preserve, which is still somehow shocking despite not being new information, and he goes back to listening to the dispatcher.
He's gathered a little more of the story by the time Scott texts him back.
I DANCED WITH ALLISON!!!!!!!!!!!!
Stiles breathes in and then out, trying to force himself to be best friend rather than hopeful suitor for a few seconds, if only to drum up a sincere congratulations. It doesn't work, but he tries for one anyway.
that's awesome!! Stiles stares at the text message draft, questions his words, then deletes the whole thing. nice! looks even less right, somehow, and then Stiles forces himself to stop overthinking the whole thing because he's never going to be satisfied with Allison and Scott being near each other, ever.
It's just one of those things that is not okay, like peanut butter and jelly from the same jar or Lindsay Lohan's swandive into crack.
So Stiles backspaces again and types in you go girl and sends it before he can give it any more of his consideration. And then, as if it were an afterthought, he sends i'll be right over.
Stiles ignores the buzzing of Scott's text messages as he speeds through finding his shoes and keys. The drive over takes less attention than it should, he's traversed the streets so often. Stiles knows the path to Scott's better than anywhere else in the world.
The McCall house is dark and silent, which is to be expected at 2:30 in the morning. Stiles does his best to not look like a murdering stalker as he parks the jeep and cuts across the yard. The front porch is easy enough to climb, natural foot- and handholds marking a familiar path up, but Stiles nearly brains himself when he slips on a loose clump of leaves. He saves himself only by slamming a knee down onto the wooden slats, loud. He cringes, then scurries forward as quickly as feels safe when Scott opens up his window, peering out.
"Dude," Scott says, jumping back when Stiles swings himself over the narrow ledge. He lands in a manner that, to a person not familiar with sports or any other sort of physical elegance, might be described as graceful. He doesn't fall, at least, or knock anything over. "It's, like, sort of late. If you wanted to hang out you could have just come to the party."
Stiles doesn't point out that Scott would not have been hanging out with him at the party; Scott would have been dancing with Allison Argent, and judging by the way his best friends' eyes light up, Stiles is pretty positive he knows just what Scott is remembering as he settles down on the edge of the bed.
"Yeah, no, this is better than hanging out." Stiles waves his hands, excited, but keeps his voice low. "Cops found a body out in the preserve."
"A dead body?" Scott asks, a little too loud as he straightens up to his full height. Stiles jumps up and presses a warning hand over Scott's mouth, shivering at little at the warm exhale against his palm but mentally excusing it as a symptom of his there's-a-dead-body-jitters.
"No," Stiles hisses, eyes rolling. "A body of water. Yes, a dead body. Some joggers found half a woman on the east trail, but they're still searching for the other half. Are you in?"
Scott wraps a warm hand around Stiles' wrist and frees his mouth. "In what?"
"To go look for the other half!" Stiles leans closer, and he's sure his eyes are lit up by that manic energy that always hits after a low, familiar as clockwork, but he's got enough control to keep himself reigned in. Well, mostly, because Scott making his confused face and wetting his lower lip is enough to have Stiles swaying in like he might just go for it, heterosexuality and Allison be damned, but then the moment is broken by Scott speaking. It happens a lot.
"I -- that seems sort of illegal. And dumb."
Stiles rolls his head back, staring up at the ceiling. "I'm going, man. You can tag along or forever be jealous when I solve the mystery of Beacon Hill's half-a-chick."
Scott flicks his gaze towards his bedroom door, and then outside to the dimness of suburban nighttime. "Yeah," he says, a little bit reluctant. "I'm coming."
Scott's flashlight cuts an arc across a foreboding looking grove of trees. It's foggy and unseasonably cold, but Stiles can't help but feel warm. He jogs ahead, peering through a fine mist of fog and straining to hear anything, but the shift of leaves by the wind is all he can catch.
"Wait up," Scott says, breath coming in visible puffs. Stiles turns, resting a hand against a tree.
He feels a flash of guilt when Scott digs out his inhaler and waits, patiently, for Scott to try and catch some air. "Sorry, man."
They take a minute, pressed up against the same tree and staring out into the dark. Stiles can't see much of anything, just shadows shifting as the wind twists its way through the thin underbrush. It's not nearly as eerie as it ought to be with Scott a warm line down his arm. "Alright?" Stiles asks, chancing a look over.
Scott turns an annoyed frown on Stiles; he's reminded of how sensitive Scott is about a perfectly legitimate physical limitation. "I'm fine," he says, shrugging.
"Do you want to go back or carry on, comrade?"
Stiles' potentially offensive Russian accent is both terrible and usually guaranteed to pull some sort of smile out of Scott, and it doesn't fail this time, either. "Carry on," Scott says, wiggling his flashlight in the direction they'd been heading. "Why not get thoroughly lost?"
He's nearly stung by that dig. "GPS," Stiles reminds him, pushing off the tree and working his way carefully down a surprisingly steep incline. He slides a little despite careful footing, and the snapping of twigs behind doesn't draw attention until Scott comes barreling down past, swearing and somehow still upright despite the speed of his descent.
Another branch snaps just behind, and Stiles turns in time to get a good look into a set of snarling teeth and glowing red eyes before an impressive weight knocks him off his feet.
Stiles hits the ground painfully, a muscle in his shoulder announcing loudly that it doesn't appreciate being treated like this, but the weight (a body, he thinks, too stunned to be certain) holding him down disappears before the initial shock fades. Ignoring the way moving stabs knives through his left arm, Stiles claws his way away from the snarls echoing too close for comfort. Scott shouts something from down below, so Stiles directs his movements toward that noise and lets gravity do a little of the work, sliding ridiculously down the hill on wet, mouldering leaves.
He sort of wishes he hadn't when he finally comes to an abrupt stop at Scott's feet, face to face with the other half of the body. "Jesus Christ," he breathes, then lets himself be hauled up and away despite the clamoring protests of his body.
Scott seems to have forgotten about his asthma, because Stiles is positive neither of them have ever managed to move this quickly before. Even sliding and stumbling over the uneven ground, it takes only seconds for the sounds of fighting fade into the background
"Don't stop," Scott begs when Stiles chances a glance backwards.
"Definitely not." Stiles turns his head back and puts on a fresh burst of speed, further encouraged by the shadowy shape loping after them.
Nothing grabs them when they burst from the treeline half a minute later, skidding to a stop on the paved road. "What the fuck?" Scott says; no, wheezes, and Stiles is patting him down for his inhaler before thinking of the thing that had been nearly at their heels, because he's been friends with Scott long enough to know and fear that noise more than anything else.
"Move," someone snaps, shoving Stiles out of the way, and he swings blindly and ineffectually with his flashlight at... Derek.
Who appears to be bleeding rather heavily from -- everywhere, actually, through the ruined leather of his coat and the dark fabric of his jeans, a line of it cutting down across his forhead.
Scott is keeled over, shoulders shaking with the effort to breathe, but Derek presses something small and white to his mouth, and it takes Stiles a few seconds to realize it's an inhaler, Scott's inhaler, and then everything goes sharp and fuzzy at the same time with relief and gut churning terror.
"Jesus Christ," he says, faintly, and watches Derek drip all over the pavement while his best friend shudders through an asthma attack. "What the hell was that?"
A bonus bit of information: it's fully possible (and completely legal!) to listen to your local police dispatch and emergency channels. Be like Stiles -- give it a try!
Note: I don't guarantee your local police force will be on here, and if they aren't I recommend the Chicago station. There's always something going on in my home city.
Getting off the empty road and away from whatever the hell had been chasing them down is a blur, and Stiles mostly remembers flashes of it later.
Scott, still wheezing on every inhale, staring at him from over the passenger seat of Derek's Camero. The way the leather of Derek's jacket stuck to his hand when it was tossed next to him in the back seat, tacky with the mixture of blood and forest dirt. Making his way unsteadily to the front door of his house, ignoring the empty space in the driveway where his jeep was supposed to be with a bizarre kind of calm dread. Clutching his phone in one fist as it vibrated, a text message lighting up the screen from an unrecognized phone number.
Stiles rereads it the next morning, and finds the message just as ominous as he had under the covers of his bed last night, still in his muddy tennis shoes.
Stay inside at night, it says.
Saturday is a mess. Stiles mostly sits on his bed, clicking through pictures of monsters with red eyes on his laptop in between sending texts to Scott that go unanswered. His father gets home sometime after what would normally be lunch, and Stiles knows they haven't found the jeep in the way the sheriff simply makes his exhausted excuses and disappears into his bedroom for sleep.
He thinks that it might be a good idea to ride his bike back to the preserve now to pick up his car, but doesn't. It's easier to return to his web search.
Sunday is both better and worse. He sleeps, for one, but it's fitful and brief. Scott still doesn't answer any of his text messages, not even the ones with the pictures he found on some obscure german folklore site about a lake monster with some spectacularly phallic tentacles.
When Stiles finally does convince himself to go pick up his car from the forest preserve of murder, he finds that it's already sitting in the driveway, no worse for wear, his keys placed innocuously on the drivers seat. Stiles fingers them for a while, staring blankly out beyond his cul-de-sac as though some explanation might drive up and honk it's horn.
None is forthcoming, so Stiles pockets the keys and slips back into the house to double and triple check the locks on all the windows.
"He freaking narked on me," Scott says first thing Monday morning, appearing without any announcement and nearly sending Stiles into an early grave. Stiles only half listens as he takes stock of his best friend, the wash of relief sweeping away any sort of detail as Scott bitches about Derek siccing Mrs. McCall on him. He doesn't look any worse for wear, really, which is a major step up from Stiles, who had contemplated watching a youtube tutorial on hiding dark circles. He catches back up just as Scott is finishing. "So my mom took my phone all weekend and I'm grounded until Friday, can you believe that?"
"So you guys are okay?" Stiles peers a little closer, infringing on personal space in a major way and not caring a bit. Scott barely even shies away, all righteous annoyance at his brother.
"What? No, I mean, he's a dick, I'm not talking to him for the rest of ever. Why would we be okay after he got me grounded? Were you listening?"
"The blood!" It only occurs to Stiles after his overly vocal outburst that this conversation is probably best held somewhere besides the hallway, but Scott is already spinning his locker combination in. Lowering his voice considerably, Stiles shoulders his backpack a little higher and makes a few significant hand gestures. "I mean is he okay after all the bleeding and the being chased by some sort of weird freaking monster thing and the dead body incident."
Scott looks startled and reaches out to touch Stiles lightly on the shoulder, annoyance having faded to confused sympathy sometime during Stiles' hushed rant. "Dude, he was screwing with us, some sort of lesson to not go wandering in the woods so we don't get picked up by a shady van guy or, like, your dad. Are you okay?"
Stiles doesn't really know what to say to that, because he's not entirely sure what he saw in the woods but it didn't look like a prank, and anyway Derek doesn't have a sense of humor. Scott has said so all along. "I'm fine," Stiles says automatically, which is good enough reassurance because Scott goes back to digging for his chemistry text book, having dismissed the entire situation in a typical Scott sort of way.
Stiles envies him for a minute, chewing on the edge of his sweatshirt sleeve. What a safe place it must be, the trusting and warm center of Scott's mind. It's always soothed the paranoid speed of Stiles' own thoughts, but he can't shake this one as he follows Scott into the lab room and grabs a seat close to the windows. Thinking is easiest when there's something to stare out into.
Allison shows up late to homeroom, smiling apologetically in a way that has never worked on Mr. Harris before but somehow gets her out of the usual lecture about preparedness and college expectations. Stiles is pretty sure he wouldn't have noticed if his mood wasn't already so awful, but he's positive he sees her hand slide across the line of Scott's shoulders as she passes by, and the casual affection in the gesture has him wanting to sink down into his seat and through the floor and into the bowls of hell, which couldn't possibly be worse than high school.
She takes the seat next to Stiles, which gives her the perfect vantage point to see the blush rising up along Scott's neck. Stiles doesn't want to watch, but he can't help it, finds his attention flicking between Mr. Harris' droning voice to Scott's impossibly pleased posture to Allison's inattentive doodling in her notebook. It's a long fifteen minutes before they're released from lecture to actually play with their lab equipment, and Stiles is bracing himself for seeking out whatever other friendless entity he's going to have to pair up with when Allison surprises the hell out of him by scooting her stool closer.
"Stiles, right?" she asks, and politely ignores the way he looks between her and the disgruntled expression Scott turns on them both before answering.
"Yeah. Hi. You're, uh, Allison?" It comes out as a question and Stiles wants to kick himself even when she simply continues to smile and nod, Allison's wall of friendly approachability immune to his social failures. She spreads out her pre-lab work and doesn't bother asking before pulling Stiles' out from under his elbow. It's automatic to let her instruct his movements, if strange, and they're halfway done with everything before Stiles can really come to terms with the sudden realization that Scott's maybe-girlfriend is both hot and competent.
The silence spreads out between them as Stiles stares deeply at the beaker heating over the bunson burner, tearing the corner of his notebook to shreds in an effort to keep his mouth shut.
"Your dad's the sheriff?" As far as small-talk goes, it's not the strangest starter Stiles has ever heard. He chances a look over at Allison. "I met him."
"Starting an arrest record kind of early, huh?"
She doesn't laugh, just twitches her smile bigger for half a second, which is entirely fair because Stiles isn't quite sure how much of the question was a joke. He swallows, clicks his pen open and closed and open again, nods. "Yeah."
"Must be weird, with that dead woman in the woods. My dad said it was an animal attack." Allison scribbles something down on her lab sheet, but there's an edge to conversation all of the sudden. Stiles feels a slow sweep of relief, because getting pumped for information by curious classmates is something he's used to.
"Mountain lion," Stiles agrees, because that's what his father had claimed over breakfast and he's not about to start reminiscing about the giant animal he might have maybe possibly seen in the woods.
The one that hadn't looked anything like a mountain lion.
She nods, but shifts slightly on her stool. There's a beat before she replies. "I heard it was a wolf."
Stiles blinks, clenching his hand around his pen mid-click. He thinks back on the two glowing red eyes, elongated maw of sharp teeth, the milky gaze of the dead woman, and thinks oh. "No," he says, releasing his pen and pressing both hands, palms down, onto the lab table. "Wolves haven't lived in California for nearly sixty years."
Scott maintains a quiet resentment towards Stiles until lunch. It lasts until Allison settles down at their table without hesitation and is immediately sympathetic to Scott's story of getting caught sneaking out, which apparently is enough that the cold shoulder he'd been giving Stiles warms considerably. He even starts kicking at Stiles under the table when Allison picks out the grapes from his fruit salad, like Stiles doesn't have eyes to actually see the disgustingly couple-y behavior going on two feet in front of him and needs to have it pointed out via platonic footsie.
The day maintains its general feeling of suck all the way through lacrosse practice. Stiles pants his way through suicides until the only thing he can think about is laying down on the grass and dying, but not even Coach Finstock in a viciously cheerful mood can dampen Scott's outlook, who wheezes from behind a smile and is happy to sweat through his already disgusting jersey.
"There's something wrong with you," Stiles observes after their cardio torture is over, laying flat out along the bench in the locker room as Scott rubs his hair dry. He knows he ought to drag himself over to the showers, too, because even if he didn't throw every ounce of love-drunk energy into self-improvement, he's definitely not fit for the noses of the public.
Scott drops the towel onto Stiles' chest, beaming. "Whatever. I'm awesome." Stiles can't bring himself to argue with that, so he doesn't, just forces himself up onto aching legs and stumbles to go rise off the worst of his day.
By the time he's finished, most of the team has cleared out to go home and lick their wounds except for Scott and a few of the first-liners. Stiles speeds though getting dressed, more interested in being done with the day than having entirely dry clothing.
Too tired to keep up a steady stream of conversation, their walk to the parking lot is companionably silent. Stiles spots the Camero before Scott, but he doesn't want to be the one to break the moment. He lets Scott find it for himself, and tries not to feel too bad when it has Scott's shoulders tensing up defensively.
"An escort," Stiles observes, watching Derek watch them slowly walk closer. "Your mom is serious about this grounding."
"He's just being pushy," Scott says, hunching his shoulders in a preemptively defensive slump. Stiles doesn't bother to change course for his own jeep, just sticks by Scott's side until they're at the Camero.
"Pretty flashy for a taxi," he says, peering down at Derek's face. There's no indication of the tussle in the woods. Where Stiles remembers a line of dripping blood across Derek's face there's nothing but clear skin. No bulk under the canvas jacket for bandages, nothing to imply any of the wounds he'd observed.
Only the missing leather jacket kept Stiles from considering the entire night a hallucination.
"You coming for dinner?" Scott asked, tossing his backpack into the car and causing only a minor blood vessel to throb in Derek's neck when it whacked against one of the windows.
"I've got leftovers--"
"Meatloaf." Derek's interruption was strange, but it barely phased Scott. "Melissa said you should come by."
"Oh. Yeah? Sure." Stiles took a hesitant step backwards, but Derek didn't move to turn the engine on, just waited until he'd made his way over the the jeep and climbed in, then let Stiles pull ahead to lead.