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strike while the irony is still hot

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Stiles never expected to find herself sitting at the popular table. She’s been a social outcast since kindergarden, when Lydia Martin called her a freak and forbid any of her friends from playing with Stiles. The order stuck, and even a decade later, her classmates avoid her eyes and sneer when she trips in the halls.

Scott, bless him, moved to Beacon Hills in the fourth grade and didn’t find out about the Order until Stiles confessed three years later. He still doesn’t understand.

Presently, however, Stiles is sitting at the popular table. In fact, the popular table has migrated to her, now that the king and queen of social order in the school are a werewolf and a witch. With them come the flunkies, all of whom are too frightened and cowed to question how Stiles and Scott got upgraded from losers to…cool. Scott can be explained by lacrosse and Allison, but Stiles is. Well, Stiles is Stiles.

She’s as far from ‘cool’ as anyone could imagine: baggy clothes that don’t really fit her, a beat up third-hand Jeep that no one else at the used car lot wanted, dyke hair, and a mouth that won’t shut up. She’s a tomboy, and she doesn’t fit the straight-queer mold the same way Danny does — she likes girls, and she likes sports, and somehow, the fact that she likes boys too gets lost underneath the usual patriarchal bullshit.

“So, like, is anyone even listening to me?” Stiles demands after her entire speech about the Marvel film house is ignored.

“I’m sorry, honey, were you saying something?” Lydia asks with incredible sweetness, and if Stiles didn’t want to kiss those damnable lips and maybe masturbate while Lydia recited scientific theories, she’d smack her so hard.

Allison and Scott are making eyes at each other, Jackson’s trying to see down Jessica’s shirt, and Danny is texting his boyfriend. No one cares.

Just another day.


---



Now that Stiles is apparently “in” with the popular crowd — Lydia even speaks with her in public! — she’s beset by nervous hellos and party invitations. Apparently her worn flannel shirts and ragged jeans have been deemed quirky instead of trashy, and her Jeep is a sign of her sporty-ness.

It’s fucking weird, is what it is, but Stiles’s life is filled with werewolves and psychotic hunters and the constant threat of imminent death, so she rolls with it.

Derek is no longer on California’s Most Wanted list, thanks to Kate and Peter being conveniently dead and unable to defend themselves in a court of law. The court of public opinion is what matters now. The Argents helped them frame Kate, planting evidence and giving carefully worded statements to the national press. The story was twisted and bloody and sexy enough to catch the media’s attention, and Stiles uses that to their advantage. She strategizes.

Peter’s story remains pretty much the same — he was driven mad by watching most of his family burn to death and was eager for revenge. He convinced his nurse to help him; the fact that her home was filled with obsessive notes and photographs of him just makes the whole thing fit into the narrative Stiles paints for the press. He attacked Lydia, kidnapped Stiles — apparently there actually are some security cameras in this town, and some of them caught Peter Hale tossing her around like a rag doll — and then went after the Argents.

Kate’s story takes care of itself. Turns out the Hales aren’t the only pack she burned alive.

(Derek’s eyes had gone red with rage at that particular bit of news, and Daddy Argent had reached for his gun. Just in case.)

Overall, the public has declared Derek a tragic hero, Stiles a damsel in distress, and all of the deaths the result of two murderers fighting to destroy one another. Her dad, on the other hand, is halfway convinced that Derek is using the aftermath to start a cult, considering the number of teenagers now hanging on his every word.

“Stiles? Stiles, are you okay?” Scott asks, interrupting her thoughts. Ever since the video of Peter slamming her around leaked onto YouTube, he’s been infuriatingly careful with her. She blinks and shakes her head to clear it. The cafeteria is empty, although the rest of their little pack is hovering near the doorway. The meticulous way none of them are looking at her let’s her know that she’s spaced out. Again.

She swallows. “I’m fine,” she snaps, more sharply than she intends. Getting angry at Scott has never been satisfying, even when he’s done something wrong. It just makes her feel like she’s kicked a puppy and then taken away his favorite toy out of spite.

He eyes her doubtfully but lets her have the lie. She pastes a smile on her face and jumps up from the table, all flailing limbs and never-ending chatter.

“C’mon, the guys are waiting for us! Well, not guys, really, since there’s Allison and Lydia, and, you know, guys isn’t really the correct term for a group that includes women? It’s like saying that the fellas are waiting, or that the bros are waiting, and heh, that’d be a great name for your little werewolf band: Bro Wolves!” She grins, allowing her shoulders to relax and her speech to flow more easily. “Or, oh, I know! WereBros!”

Scott rolls his eyes, and Jackson turns away in distaste, and everyone appears to move on. Except—

Lydia doesn’t miss a thing, and Stiles avoids her gaze because she knows that Lydia wears a mask as well, but she doesn’t want to see that knowledge reflected in Lydia’s eyes. She can’t.



---



Stiles gets a text from Lydia in the middle of her AP Chemistry class.

You’re lonely, the text says.

wht r u talkin about? Stiles sends back. Jackson twitches in his seat and twists around to glare at her, which. Great, the joys of werewolf hearing. He can tell something is upsetting her by her erratic heartbeat, and judging by his glowing eyes, he’s either annoyed or protective. Or both. It’s an odd look on him.

Stiles waves at him casually and tries not to flinch when Lydia texts her again.

Don’t worry, I’ll fix it for you.

“Miss Stiles,” Mr. Harris says, glaring down at her. He holds his hand out. “You know the rules.”

“What? Oh, come on!” she protests, but she hands it over all the same. She’ll steal it back at the end of class, no problem.



---



Last period gym is the saving grace of her day, since soccer lets her work off her frustration pretty damn well. She foregoes a shower; Derek has called another training session, and as the only two humans in the group, Allison and Stiles have taken up running while Lydia and the boys throw each other into trees.

She finds Lydia leaning on her Jeep, examining her makeup in Stiles’s dirty window.

“Er, hi,” Stiles says. She’s had many a daydream about Lydia waiting for her after school, but she has a feeling that this will involve less sex.

“I meant what I said,” Lydia smiles, tossing her hair back. Stiles kind of wants to get lost in those glossy waves, but that’s an old desire, so she ignores it.

“There’s really nothing for you to fix,” Stiles says. She edges around her packmate — and that will never not be weird — and tries to insert her keys in the door. There’s something strange in the air, something that makes her hands shake too much and her breath quicken.

“Derek thinks you don’t like him,” Lydia says with a raised eyebrow. “Of course we need to fix that.”

“Whoa,” Stiles protests. She gives up on her keys and just hits her door in the place that she knows makes it unlock. “I seriously have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“He likes you, Stiles,” Lydia continues. She rolls her eyes and twists her lips in a way that's really distracting. “He like-likes you.” She brushes her hand over Stiles’s short hair and then tweaks her nose. “He just doesn’t think that you like him.”

Stiles gapes. “What?”

“Here, I’ll prove it to you,” Lydia smirks, and then she touches Stiles’s cheek and leans in.

Stiles balks as Lydia crowds her up against the door of her battered Jeep. She can feel the harsh grit and chipped paint against her skin, can feel the day’s heat warm her up through the metal. Lydia smells like expensive perfume and soap. Stiles smells like sweat and wet gym clothes.

Lydia’s hand slides along her jaw, and then she grabs the base of Stiles’s neck, drawing her down and then kissing her like it’s the most important thing in the world. There are people staring at them, people taking pictures, and Stiles thinks she can see Jackson leaning on his car out of the corner of her eye, staring at them with, with amusement, and. And none of that matters because Lydia Martin is kissing her. Lydia Martin, who Stiles has had a big stupid dyke crush on since the third grade, who makes Stiles feel hot and itchy and wrong and right in her own skin, who owns the whole school and knows it.

Lydia tightens her grip on Stiles’s neck and wraps her other arm around Stiles’s back, and then Stiles feels her tongue tracing along her lips, and, and, and—

Stiles is only human. She puts her hands in Lydia’s hair, and it’s all awkward elbows and panting groans and wow, did Lydia really just put her knee there? Yes, yes she did.

Lydia draws back, looking flushed and triumphant. A bystander wolf-whistles at the two of them, and someone else calls for an encore. Lydia flips her hair and ignores them. Stiles blushes hard enough to burn.

“See you at the pack meeting,” Lydia says sweetly before sauntering off. As if she hadn’t just blown Stiles’s fucking mind.



---



dude wre u kissng lydia aftr school? 12 ppl just posted on fbook, Scott texts her.

not a dude, she texts back. Scott, somehow, assumes that’s a no and moves on to thoughts of Allison. As if she expects any differently.



---



“Hey, Dad, I’m just reminding you that I’m spending the afternoon with Allison,” Stiles says to her father’s answering machine. “And, you know, the rest of the gang. I’ll see you when you get home, okay? Be safe.” She hangs up and sighs for a moment, staring at her steering wheel.

There’s a knock on her window.

Stiles startles and flails, knocking over her QT cup and sending her cellphone flying into the back seat. She looks over and sees Derek eyeing her through the glass.

“Jesus Christ, dude, give a girl some warning,” she gripes, checking to make sure that nothing spilled on her poor abused seats and that her cell is okay. “Wear a bell or something.”

Derek huffs and stands back as she all but falls out of her Jeep. She would have hit the ground — wouldn’t be the first time — except that he grabs her shoulder and rights her with lightning speed. She’s wearing sweats, a tank top, and her least favorite sports bra. She’s sweaty and gross from gym. She jerks back and finds her own footing, unwilling to contemplate how rank she must smell to a werewolf. God, how embarrassing.

His face twitches, like he wants to smile but won’t allow the expression to blossom. Then he frowns and looms at her, just like old times. Stiles stays perfectly still as he sniffs her, like that isn’t weird at all. He recoils like he’s been stung, and for a moment she sees a flash of red in his eyes. It’s enough to have her shaking, because she still can’t think of Derek and his new wolfy powers without thinking of Peter Hale and his grip on her arm or the way he held her down like it was nothing or what he did to Lydia or what he threatened to do to Stiles or—

“Stiles, calm down,” Derek growls, which is completely unhelpful in every aspect, holy shit.

Jackson’s Porsche pulls up, and Lydia hops out before it even stops moving. She elbows past Derek like he doesn’t matter. Stiles can almost feel Lydia’s Mean Girl dismissal hitting their alpha like a sack of rocks. The mental image alone is enough to draw her back from memory lane and have her chuckling. Lydia meets her eyes, and yeah, she gets it. Of course she gets it. Peter attacked her too. Peter did worse to her, but Stiles is the one who can’t go a whole day without hyperventilating.

Scott and Allison appear as Derek stalks off towards the woods, Jackson trailing him like a displeased puppy. Lydia winks at Stiles before trotting after them, breaking into a run and slamming into Jackson’s back with all of her witch’s strength. Jackson goes tumbling ass over teakettle, and soon Scott is racing after them, whooping like a kid. Allison smiles after him and joins Stiles next to her Jeep.

“What was that all about?” she asks with soft curiosity. She’s wearing her favorite running outfit, and she looks like a model. Stiles’s just looks like a tragedy.

“Just, you know, Derek being alpha and me having a PTSD flashback,” Stiles says nonchalantly. “You know, the usual.”

Allison purses her lips but drops the subject. They do their stretches and then take off at a light jog through the woods. In the distance, they can hear a tree groan in protest as something is slammed into it and then an answering howl of amusement.

The fact that she knows it’s amusement probably means she’s been spending too much time around werewolves lately. Oops.

They start off slow. She lets Allison set the pace. Stiles is in pretty good shape from lacrosse, even if she’s not on the field often. There’s no girls lacrosse team at school, only the boys, but Stiles is stubborn. And her dad’s the sheriff. She’s not very good at the game, and she’s only on second line, but she’s still forced to do suicides with the rest of the team when Greenberg shows up late or someone fails a class. She keeps up, pace for pace, when Allison speeds them up and then slows them down in no discernible pattern.

They do their usual loop, and by the time they come around the other side of the Hale house, the boys plus Lydia have moved to one-on-one sparring. Stiles flops down on the house steps and takes one of the water bottles Derek had set there. Allison settles in beside her, grabbing her own bottle. Together, they watch as Derek puts Jackson in a submission hold and keeps him there until he howls surrender.

“Is it just me, or do these ‘training sessions’ get more and more homoerotic with each passing day?” Stiles asks. Allison chokes on her water, and Scott turns red. Derek growls vaguely in her direction, but she’s in a good enough mood that it doesn’t bother her. She bares her teeth in a grin right back. Then she uncaps her water bottle and gulps it down.

Derek wraps up the physical side of the meeting and herds them all onto the sagging porch. He does the usual alpha posturing to get them all where he wants them. Stiles winds up at Scott’s side, with Allison snuggled into him on the other. Lydia sits behind her, and at some point, she reaches up and starts running her fingers over the short hair at the base of Stiles’s neck. She tenses for a moment, but then she finds herself leaning back and tilting her head forward because, hey? Why not.

“So, what’s the subject of today’s lecture, sir alpha sir?” Stiles asks. This is what she does: she makes jokes and breaks the tension and loosens the atmosphere. Derek is the alpha male; Lydia is so alpha female that Derek better watch his back should he take them in a direction she doesn’t like; Scott is a beta; Allison is his mate or whatever; and Jackson is…Jackson. Stiles is human and unmated with all its sparkly connotations (and that will also never not be weird) and she…really doesn’t have a place here. She’s not badass like Allison or superhuman like Lydia or a werewolf like the guys. She’s just.

Stiles.

Derek narrows his eyes at her, but they don’t go red, so she just looks up at him. Waiting. Then Lydia wraps her hands around Stiles’s shoulders and starts to massage, and she can’t keep her eyes open anymore. It feels sinfully good.

“We’re going to talk about pack dynamics,” Derek says. He sounds like the words are being dragged from his throat by razorblades coated in broken glass, but that’s not unusual for him.

“We already know about the alpha-beta thing,” Scott says.

“There’s more to being a pack than who is dominant and who isn’t,” Derek snarls.

Stiles hears him take a deep breath and settle himself. “Alpha, beta, and omega — those are just ranks. They aren’t what makes a pack work.” Stiles opens her eyes and blinks. She knows that animal-wolves have omegas in their packs, but she didn’t know that werewolves did. Then again, werewolf dominance is much more rigid than that of animal-wolves, from what she’s read. In actual wolfpacks, rank is much more fluid, and it doesn’t hold the same significance. She kind of wants to raise her hand and ask questions, but after their second pack meeting, Derek told her he’d bite it off she kept that up.

She almost believes him, and anyway, she doesn’t want to test his red laser eyes of doom. She holds her tongue, even though she has to bite it to manage it.

“Pack is about bonding and shared experience and,” Derek swallows harshly, looking pale under his permanent five o’clock shadow, “love.”

“Seriously homoerotic,” Stiles mutters, mostly uncaring that everyone can hear her.

“Stiles,” Derek grits out. Stiles shuts her mouth, because despite what some may think, she doesn’t have a death wish. “Anyway,” he continues, “there are going to be changes in your behavior now that we have the beginnings of a proper pack.”

“What does that mean?” Jackson asks. Well, demands. He’s close enough to Lydia that breathing brings them into contact, which means that Stiles can feel his knee brush against her elbow when he moves. He doesn’t move away, to her surprise.

“Werewolves aren’t just mindless killing machines,” Derek says. “If our instincts were only to maim and kill, do you think there would still be werewolves? That there would be packs? Part of being in a pack is the protective impulse. You want to protect those weaker than you, especially those within your pack.”

“Wait,” Stiles says slowly. She thinks back to when Scott was first bitten, when he violently lost his temper at her at least once a day. “Protective? That didn’t stop Scott from nearly killing me when this all started, and I’m pretty sure I’m pack?”

Silence.

“Scott,” Derek says. He really likes using people’s names as sentences, Stiles thinks. His voice is inhuman, more growl than word, and Stiles can’t bring herself to look at his face. She knows what will be there. Lydia tightens her grip and pulls Stiles closer to her, like she knows that Stiles is about two seconds away from another PTSD-induced panic attack. Jackson even twitches slightly, like he’s going to reach out and comfort her. Or maybe Lydia, and maybe they’re close enough together that it doesn’t make a difference.

(It kind of looks like the thought of it mortifies him, but he recovers quickly. Jackson is the kind of douche that thinks that women ought to be protected. It’s just taking him a while to slot Stiles into the woman category.)

“Stiles, I—” Scott starts to say, but their alpha snarls. Scott hunches down, curving his shoulders submissively.

“He shouldn’t have.” Derek sounds almost normal again; anyone who didn’t know him would merely mistake him for a chain-smoker, not a supernatural being. “But now that there’s an established pack, he won’t be able to lose himself like that again. He won’t.” It’s a command.

Stiles, meanwhile, has moved on in her thought process. Earlier, when she’d been upset in her chemistry class, Jackson had looked ready to punch someone for her. That’s definitely never happened before Derek chomped on him.

“Huh,” Stiles says absently. “I really am pack. Cool.”

Lydia goes back to massaging her shoulders again, and the meeting continues. Derek outlines some werewolfy homework for everyone, and then he orders them to get the hell off his property. You know, the usual.



---



As everyone shuffles off to their vehicles, Derek motions for her to stay. Stiles looks out to where Scott is kissing Allison by her car and Jackson is examining himself in his Porches's mirrors. Lydia throws her a smile and pointedly climbs into Jackson’s passenger seat, leaving Stiles to fend for herself. Throwing her to the wolves, so to speak. Or, well, wolf. Alpha wolf.

Yeah.

Stiles gets to her feet and waits; she doesn’t want to have whatever conversation is about to follow while she’s practically on her back. She’s not a wolf, and this whole submission game doesn’t come as easily to her as it does to, say, Jackson. Who rolls over kind of easily, now that she thinks about it.

“What did my uncle do to you?” Derek demands. The battered wood creaks under his weight as he stalks closer to her.

“Uh, nothing?” Stiles lies, backing up a step. She doesn’t think about Peter’s hands holding her down or his growled words in her ear. Nope, not thinking about it.

“Nothing?” Derek challenges. He towers over her, making it impossible for her to hide from him, even if she wanted to. Which she kind of does, even though she hates herself for it. “If he did nothing, then why can’t you look at me? You can’t even be in the same room as me without panicking. It wasn’t like that before. What. Did. He. Do?”

His eyes are red. Stiles can’t think, can barely even breathe.

“Your uncle, he, he didn’t like women much, okay? That’s it. He was just a misogynistic ass, that’s—”

“Stop lying.”

“I’m not lying! Grade-A misogynist with a Boy Scout Badge and everything. He threatened me, okay?”

“And?”

“And what? That’s not enough for you? He threatened me, he said some stuff, he pushed me around a bit, and that’s it. You’ve seen the video, okay, everyone has.”

“If that’s all, why can’t you look at me?” Derek repeats, softer now.

Stiles braces herself and says what she’s been suspecting for weeks now: “You’re out of control.”

Derek growls at her, and his eyes are still red, Jesus Christ. Stiles flinches. She wants to run away, wants to crawl into her Jeep and hit the gas, wants to cower and quake like a victim, but she can’t. She’s only human, but Derek is her alpha, and he’s in trouble.

“You go all red-eye over every little thing,” she continues, pressing on despite her thumping heart and her shaking hands. “You can’t even have a single conversation without nearly wolfing out. This alpha thing is messing you up, and you’re—you’re gonna get someone killed.” She bows her shoulders and tries to look as harmless as possible; if he’s right about werewolves wanting to protect weaker pack members, hopefully he won’t kill her for this. Hopefully. “Whether it’s Scott or Jackson losing control or you doing it yourself. You need to get your shit together.”

She thinks she’s going to get hit, at the very least. She doesn’t expect him to agree with her.

“You’re right,” he says. She’s startled enough that she looks up at him. His posture is defeated, tired. It’s wrong enough that she wants to reach out and comfort him, but the memory of Peter’s blazing red eyes is enough to hold her still. He died not ten yards from where they are standing. She can almost feel the spot, pressed into her skin like a bruise.

“You should go now,” he says. “Go make out with your gi— with Lydia.” He turns away, and that’s what gives her enough courage to open her mouth.

“Lydia’s not my girlfriend,” Stiles corrects snappishly. “And I’m getting tired of everyone assuming that girls are the only option for me. Bisexuality is a thing that exists, okay, and I might not even be that! I could be pansexual, I don’t know, we’re not exactly swimming in out non-binary folks around here.”

“Her scent is all over you,” Derek says, grinding the syllables together. “And so is Jackson’s, for that matter.”

“Okay, one, none of your business,” Stiles says sharply, allowing herself to get angry. Better to be angry than scared. “Two, Jackson and I have class together. Lydia was basically pawing at me all meeting. Of course I smell like them.”

“You smelled like her before,” Derek growls. It, well. It clicks, suddenly, like something out a bad romance novel.

“Are you— Are you jealous?” Stiles asks, incredulous.

He turns away. “I’m a werewolf, Stiles. We’re territorial by nature. You’re the only unmated human female in the pack. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“Seriously?” Stiles shouts, throwing her hands in the air. “This isn’t a freakin’ Twilight movie, Derek. And you’re a lying liar who lies. That doesn’t even make sense.”

“We’re done here,” Derek says with finality. “Go home.”

Stiles storms back to her Jeep, stomping angrily. Damn Derek Hale and his stupid werewolf everything and his stupid excuses, and damn Lydia too, for causing this mess.

“Screw you!” she yells — at Derek, at Lydia, at Peter, at all of them.

She yanks open her Jeep’s door and then faces the Hale house. Setting her jaw, she narrows her eyes at it and talks. She knows he can still hear her, even though she doesn’t raise her voice. She doesn’t have to. “Just so you know, Mr. Creepy McCreeperson, if you only make a move because you think someone else is getting there first, you’re a douche, werewolf or not — douche.”

She peels away, still vibrating with anger and lingering fear.

Maybe that’s what makes it so easy for them. Maybe it just the old Stilinski family luck, coming back to bite her in the ass again. Maybe she’s just cursed, or she’s used up her nine lives dealing with werewolf bullshit.

Maybe.



---



Stiles breaks hard. The woman standing in the middle of the two-lane road doesn’t even flinch as Stiles’s Jeep stops a mere foot from her body. There’s a rumble behind her; Stiles looks in the rear view mirror and sees a giant-ass Hummer pull onto the road and cut off any chance of escape. There’s a light knock on her window. This time, she doesn’t startle. She just turns and meets the eyes of a deeply sketch dude pointing a shotgun at her head.

“Get out of the car, girlie,” he says. She mentally dubs him Creeper Dude, because there is something wild and predatory in the way his gaze rakes over her. Every slip of bare skin feels like a neon sign pointing right at her virtue. Why didn’t she change before she left Derek’s? Why doesn’t she have her cellphone handy? Why didn’t she—

Now, girlie,” Creeper Dude orders. She looks at the woman standing in front of her car. She has a shotgun too, but Stiles might be able to run her over before she fires it. Maybe if she slams on the gas, she can get out before anybody shoots her. Her car wouldn’t be able to take on a Hummer in a fair fight, but she could probably outrun it.

But before she can do anything, the woman aims and fires two shots — one into each front tire. Well, fuck. With a sigh, Stiles unlocks her door and pops it open.

“Seriously, you guys,” she says, making no move to get out. “If you wanted to meet me, you should have just called. Texted. Sent me a friend request on FaceBook. No need to murder my Jeep. Also, you are so paying my new tires,” Stiles continues, letting her mouth run while she contemplates who these guys are. People. Whatever. As much as she wants to assume they’re werewolf hunters, there’s still the chance that they’re after her for different reasons. Beacon County isn’t all that big, but there’s still crime, and her father is the sheriff. He has enemies. For all Stiles knows, these could be meth dealers looking for a little payback after her father’s big arrest last week.

Creeper Dude lowers his shotgun and grins at her. His free hand comes up and grabs the base of her neck—

And then he slams her head into the steering wheel.

It’s not like when Derek did it. Yeah, that hurt, but she’d never realized how much of his strength he was holding back until now. Agony blinds her, making it impossible for her to brace herself when he does it again. Blood drips down her face. Creeper Dude releases her neck and smears his fingers through it. The look he gives her makes her recoil, but she’s trapped by her seatbelt. He rubs his fingers along the steering wheel, dragging them until he’s painted a complete ring.

“Dude, what the fuck—” she sputters. Her hair is too short for Creeper Dude to grip properly, so instead he hauls her out by the back of her sports bra. She staggers and tries to find her feet. The woman appears at her side, supporting her weight as Stiles’s body realizes that she’s just received two hard blows to the head.

“Let’s get her in the back,” the woman says. Stiles dubs her Irene in her head, because it’s better than just calling her “the woman” over and over again.

“What about this piece of shit?” Creeper Dude asks, kicking her car. Stiles makes a soft noise of protest before she can censor herself. God, she does not want his attention. In fact, she wants the opposite of his attention. She wants him to be as far away from her as possible.

“Leave it running,” Irene says. Then she readjusts her grip on Stiles and drags her to the Hummer. They throw her in the back seat and bind her wrists behind her. Irene climbs into the front seat, leaving Creeper Dude in the back with her.

Stiles rests her head on the back of the driver’s seat. She’s pretty sure that they would have killed her already if that was their plan. They’re going to use her as leverage against someone, that much is obvious, though if it’s against the pack or her father — she doesn’t know.

“Do you really think that they’ll come looking for her?” the driver asks, which. That answers that.

“She’s in their pack,” Irene says confidently. “From what Kate said, she’s pretty close to the Hale boy. He’ll come after her, and the rest will follow their alpha.”

“Whoa,” Stiles protests weakly, raising her head from the cool leather. “Alpha? Pack? Huh? Ha, uh, I think there’s been some kind of mistake—”

“Shut up,” the driver orders. Stiles glares at the back of his head. If only looks could kill.

“I wonder if she’s a virgin,” Creeper Dude says hungrily. “Or have those animals fucked you already? Did you like it, or did you scream? Or both?” He leans in uncomfortably close, and holy fuck, Stiles can practically smell his arousal, even as a human. She never, ever wants to be a werewolf, Jesus Christ. “Did you fight?”

He edges towards her, shifting across the seat like the two hunters up front won’t notice. Stiles sees the driver watching them in the rearview mirror; he doesn’t look like he’s enjoying the show, but he doesn’t look like he’s going to intervene either. Creeper Dude actually reaches out and touches her cheek — just a slight brush of fingers against her skin. He chuckles as she flinches away.

Her insides are ice cold with fear. She’s a sheriff’s daughter; she knows how ugly the world can be. Scott used to complain that nothing ever happens in Beacon Hills, but that wasn’t true even before Kate Argent burned the Hale house to the ground. Every night, Stiles’s dad comes home and pours himself a drink and tries to forget the guy on the other side of town that beats his girlfriend regularly, or that mom that never feeds her kids, or that jackass on the county line that likes to breed dogs for fighting rings. She’s seen a lot of shit reflected in her father’s eyes, and she’s experienced a fair share of it herself.

“Did they hold you down when they fucked you?” Creeper Dude continues. It would be dramatic to say that his breath stinks, fitting to the narrative. Really, however, he just smells like mint gum and human. He leans in and grabs her face, holding her still while his other hand creeps up her leg.

Stiles holds perfectly still, frozen in place as he puts his hands all over her. Her arms are bound behind her back, immobilized. She wants to close her eyes, but she can’t. She won’t give him that.

“Did they do it all at once?” he asks. His hand reaches her crotch, and that’s when she snaps her head to the side and bites his wrist, tearing through flesh and tasting blood. He punches her reflexively, and then again as he realizes what she’s done. Her vision goes gray and grainy for a second. Nausea washes through her as the world slips in and out of focus.

“Fucking bitch,” he snarls, and then he hits her again. The blow glances across her ribs, knocking the breath out of her. She gathers up what composure she has and spits his own blood right back in his face.

“Damn straight,” she says with a bloody grin. Then she feels a sharp prick in the side of her neck, and the world starts

...to...

    …tilt...

        ...and...

            ...slide….

Her last sight of the conscious world is Irene putting away a tranquilizer kit and glaring at Creeper Dude.



---



Stiles’s dreams are laced with fractured glass and screaming. Sometimes they’re her screams, and sometimes they’re Lydia’s. She dreams of Peter Hale running his claws along the curve of her neck. She dreams of Peter’s face morphing into Derek’s, of his red eyes burning into her like the fire his family died in.

She dreams of breaking glass and sharp pain tearing through her hands and wrists and arms.

She dreams of her father’s face when he sees her abandoned Jeep, still running with the headlights beaming into empty air. Darkness swallows the scene as he collapses to his knees and roars. Blood on her steering wheel and shotgun shells on the road.

She dreams of Derek howling loud enough to raise the dead, loud enough to make the ground shake and the sky crack. Answering howls rip the night air apart. The pack runs to their alpha, called by the blaze of his fury.

She dreams of glass digging into her skin, cutting her face and arms and body. Reality wavers until the blood blurs into a cloak.

She dreams of her own funeral, sparsely attended by her father and her mother’s family. There’s no one else to come; the town is still reeling from the murders of so many of their children, all cut down by Kate Argent’s followers. There are children better loved than her to mourn — the whole pack, slaughtered like animals.

Stiles dreams of fracturing glass.



---


 


She jolts awake when the Hummer leaves any semblance of a paved road. Creeper Dude and Irene have switched places. Stiles doesn’t know how long she was unconscious or what drug they used on her. No one appears to be villainously talkative, and she doesn’t want to get knocked out again, so she keeps her mouth shut.

They travel on a glorified dirt track for a few miles. The Hummer brushes against trees and runs over stray bushes, but no one seems to mind. Stiles flexes her hands behind her back, wincing as they cramp. Her shoulders are sore from the awkward angle, and her face is stiff with bruises and dried blood. The silence gives her time to think.

These are hunters. They’re probably not with the Argents, but there are no guarantees. (In her dream, they were friends of Kate, but—it was just a dream. Just a dream.) So, she’s been kidnapped by hunters. They want to give the pack some kind of message. Not just a message — they want to hunt the wolves. Hurt them, kill them. She’s their bait. Somehow, they know that she’s in the pack. They knew that she was human, but that’s probably not that hard to figure out. She and Allison are the only ones who don’t play in any werewolf games, after all.

Why didn’t they go after Allison if they were looking for a human?

Well, duh, Stiles thinks, answering her own question. Allison is an Argent. Presumably they wouldn’t want to risk pissing off a family of fellow hunters, even if their daughter runs with wolves. Plus, Allison is a whole lot tougher than Stiles; she can defend herself. Stiles can’t. She’s the weakest member of the pack, and anyone with eyes could see it.

The pack will come after her. They’ll track her scent and follow her. Derek cares about her — he’s tense and awkward and really fail at human interactions, but he really does. He’ll lead the others into a fight to get her back.

Just as the hunters plan.

“Home, sweet home,” Creeper Dude chuckles. The Hummer shudders to a stop in front of a worn down cabin. Irene grabs Stiles’s arm and pulls her backwards across the seat. She lets Stiles fall to the ground without any sign of caring. Whatever concern she showed before, when Creeper Dude was feeling Stiles up, is long gone. She didn’t care about Stiles’s safety, not really.

Stiles twists until she’s on her knees. The trees around them are high enough to block out the moon’s light, casting them all into the black sea of the forest floor. Stiles breathes and lets the smell of moss and green decay wash over her.

“Ow,” Stiles grumbles, her decision to stay quiet forgotten. “So much for hospitality.”

“Quiet, traitor,” Irene says. She steps back and allows Creeper Dude to yank their prisoner to her feet by her bound hands. Stiles screams in agony as her shoulders and arms burn in protest.

“Traitor?” Stiles gasps, panting to catch her breath. Creeper Dude tugs her close his body, too close; she can feel his erection pressing at her lower back, which—

Stiles doesn’t want to think about it.

“How can I be a traitor? I was never on your side!”

“We’re on the humanity’s side,” the driver says. He jerks his head and tries to shepherd them all into cabin. The door’s not locked.

“You’re a traitor to your own species,” Irene continues tonelessly. “You choose to run with werewolves.” She meets Stiles’s wide brown eyes with her own pale blues. There’s no emotion there, not even disgust. Somehow that’s more chilling than anything. “Now shut up.”

Creeper Dude shakes her a bit, just to emphasize the point. Stiles grunts in pain. Her head hurts, and her shoulders hurt, and her arms hurt, and her wrists hurt, and her ribs hurt, and everything hurts. Stiles is not a werewolf, nor is she superhuman or a witch; she is not built for this kind of thing.

They half-drag, half-carry her into the cabin. It’s dusty, and it smells dank. If there’s such a thing as a cliche cabin in the woods, this is the epitome of it. Stiles barely has time to recoil at the sight of rat droppings and general disuse before the driver opens a door and flips a switch. There’s a grinding noise, like a car sputtering at a stoplight, and then a lightbulb flips on. Stiles squints against the sudden brightness.

“Take her to the basement,” Irene says.

“Gladly,” Creeper Dude purrs. His mouth is way, way too close to her ear. Stiles curls in on herself rather than display the bone-deep revulsion pulsing through her.

“And then come right back,” the driver adds sharply. Creeper Dude grunts, and Stiles doesn’t want to be pathetically grateful for her virtue, but she is.

Creeper Dude takes her down the steps to the basement. A generator squats in the far corner, humming steadily. Her captor hooks his foot around one of her ankles and shoves, sending her sprawling across the hard concrete floor. The impact makes hot white tentacles of pain wrap around her ribs and squeeze.

“I’ll see you soon,” Creeper Dude whispers, leaning over her prone body. The intimacy in his voice makes her want to scrub her own skin off, just to feel clean. She hasn’t felt this way since Peter—

No. She doesn’t have time to think about that. She won’t let herself.

Creeper Dude leers at her one last time before turning and going back up the stairs. Stiles has time before the light cuts out again to examine her surroundings. Above her, high enough to be right up against the ceiling, is a window filled with fractured glass.

Fractured glass.

Stiles has just enough time to stare at the spiderweb-delicate pattern splayed across the panel before everything goes dark and she’s plunged into nothingness.



---



At some point she either drifts off to sleep or loses consciousness. There are more dreams clawing at her from the edges of her mind, sharp and hot like fire. They’re all of death, all of blood and gore and slaughter.

When she wakes, faint light is creeping through the cracked window. Stiles squints in the darkness. Her body is a mess of pain and soreness, some of it going right down to her bones. From the almost-familiar feel of it, that punch Creeper Dude gave her ribs did some damage; breathing is becoming more and more difficult as time passes and her body discovers new and interesting ways to hurt.

The generator chugs on in the corner, looking beaten up and tired. Stiles is intimately familiar with that feeling. There’s a stack of logs to her left; she eyes them doubtfully, wondering what wildlife is lurking within. What kind of idiot stores firewood indoors? And in a basement no less? The stairs rise before her, and behind her is...the window.

Stiles steals herself and turns to look at it. The pattern from her dreams is all but imprinted on her brain, and the cracks in this window...match.

There’s a creaking noise above her, distracting Stiles from her newest freakout.

“I didn’t think they’d mobilize this fast,” she hears Irene say. Stiles holds her breath and cranes upward, trying to catch every word.

“We should have expected this!” the driver shouts. Stiles shrinks back against the basement wall. He sounds like he wants to kill someone; it’s the first bit of emotion the man’s shown since she was thrown into the back of his Hummer. “Dammit, we should have taken the Argent girl.”

“And risk the combined wrath of the two great hunter families?” Irene retorts, her voice rising sharply. “The Argents and the Campbells have interbred enough to have both their clans on us if we took her.”

“What are we going to do about the sheriff?” the driver asks. Stiles leans forward again, fear caught in her throat. What if they hurt her dad? What if they do something to him so that he won’t get in the way?

If anything happens to her father because of her, she’ll never forgive herself. And honestly, she’ll probably never forgive the pack for letting it happen.

“We have bigger problems at the moment,” Creeper Dude interjects. Stiles feels a shudder of horror just from the sound of his voice. “Like the Hale pack. Is the trap ready?”

“Almost,” Irene answers. The ceiling — well, floor for them, but whatever — creaks again as someone walks from one end of the cabin to the other. “We’ve got some time.” The voices grow faint as the hunters leave whatever room is right above her.

They leave her in the basement for the entire day, coming down only to let her use the bathroom and fiddle with the generator. No one gives her food and water, and Stiles isn’t even sure it occurs to them to do so. After the fourth time Stiles asks, Irene threatens to relocate her to Creeper Dude’s bedroom and leave her there. She doesn’t make any requests for anything else after that. She’s hungry as a wolf (heh), and her throat is bone dry, but it’s better than being someone’s plaything for the night. It has to be.

As evening blankets the forest again, the driver comes down and drags her up to the main floor. It doesn’t look like something out of a horror flick anymore, but Stiles doesn’t have any doubts as to what genre she’s stuck in. If this were a movie, the critics would rave about the role reversals: the werewolves are the good guys who fight to rescue the damsel, and the human hunters are the wicked villains. Box-office gold.

They take her outside and make her walk in circles around the cabin, getting her scent everywhere.

Stiles knows what she must smell like — sweat and blood and fear. Werewolves have sensitive noses; Derek will be able to scent her desperation and terror from a mile off. If Derek was telling the truth about the wolves’ protective instincts toward weaker packmates, things are going to go very badly. Her pain will drive Derek and the pack right to her side — and right into whatever trap the hunters have set.

Creeper Dude is the one to lead her around like a dog, and judging by the watchful eyes of Irene and the driver, that’s part of the plan. Stiles can’t help the shiver of revulsion and terror that washes over her every time his skin touches hers. To a werewolf’s nose, she probably stinks like it.

After thirty minutes of Stiles stumbling around in the dark with Creeper Dude pressed up against her back, Irene approaches them. In one hand, she has one of Stiles’s sweatshirts, the one she stole from Scott six billion years ago and keeps in the backseat of her Jeep. In the other hand, she has a knife with a wicked blade.

Stiles— She doesn’t think she’s going to get anywhere, but she struggles anyway. Creeper Dude gets one arm around her aching ribs and the other across her throat. He squeezes until she gives up and goes limp. He holds her as Irene cuts Stiles free of her bonds. He keeps holding her as Irene slices both of Stiles’s palms open. Stiles screams, and the sound echoes hollowly through the clearing.

Creeper Dude pants in her ear like he’s drinking in her terror and pain. She wants to gag but she can’t — she won’t let herself.

Irene presses the sweatshirt to her bleeding hands, ignoring Creeper Dude’s arousal and Stiles’s pained whimpers. Blood stains the red fabric darker, making it look almost black in the dim light. After she’s bled enough and soaked the sour scent of her fear into the thing, Irene takes the sweatshirt away and lets her bleed freely.

Stiles refuses to look down at her hands. She’s a mess of aches and pains and raw patches of agony, and she doesn’t want to see there’s bone showing through her skin. She doesn’t want to know if the knife cut through the tendons of her hands. She gathers herself up and shoves every once of her humanity into a small, small corner of her mind.

She compartmentalizes. It’s one of her talents.

They take her back inside and all but throw her into the basement. Stiles curls up as far away from the firewood as possible and tries not to sleep. She tries to hold onto her adrenaline and terror, tries to fight the blood loss and thirst, tries to keep herself conscious, but in the end, she fails.



---



They don’t tie her up again, and that’s a mistake.



---



She dreams again.

She dreams of the cabin burning, burning, burning, of Derek roaring in pain and anger, of Lydia screaming, of Scott gasping for breath as smoke spirals around them, of Jackson hunching down as far away from the flames as he can get and still not being far enough, of Allison laying still as her body burns, burns, burns.

She dreams of breaking glass and sharp pain tearing through her hands and wrists and arms.

She dreams of the hunters cutting her apart, bit by bit, and taunting Derek with the pieces, driving him into a rage so deep he never sees the sun again. Of his madness spreading to the rest of the pack, consuming them all. Of her father gunning down a wolf in the middle of the street and watching in horror as it turned into Scott, into Jackson, into Derek.

She dreams of glass digging into her skin, cutting her face and arms and body. Reality wavers until the blood blurs into a cloak.

She dreams of her death at the hands of Creeper Dude, his breath hot on her face as he strangles her in front of the video camera — partially for his own amusement and partially for Derek, who will receive a DVD in his P.O. box. Of Derek watching, helpless and unable to save her. Of Lydia watching, helpless and unable to save her. Of Jackson watching, helpless and unable to save her....

Stiles dreams of fracturing glass.



---



She wakes up with no sense of how much time has passed. Her body hurts — from being beaten, from being tossed around, from being deprived of food and water, from sleeping on a hard floor. Her skin feels cool and clammy, and Stiles knows just enough about first aid to guess that that’s...not a good thing. She tries to swallow but can’t; her mouth is too dry.

Stiles is going to die.

She’s familiar with death. Her mother died when she was ten, leaving her alone with her distant and workaholic father and a town full of pity. She cried at her mother’s funeral, big fat tears that ran down her cheeks and made the world go blurry and distant. For a whole week, Stiles had hid behind her tears. She didn’t want to see the gap in the world where her mom should be.

Intellectually, Stiles knows that anyone can die, pretty much at any time. A car accident, cancer, heart attack, murder — death stalks them all, if you want to get morbid about it. But she’s a teenager, and it’s one thing to know that she’s going to die at some vague point in the future. It’s another to be confronted with it so starkly.

This is different from dealing Scott hopped up on werewolf hormones or whatever. This is more like—

This is more like staring into Peter Hale’s red eyes as he places his lips oh-so-gently on the pulse in her wrist. This is more like watching her father’s face crumble on the anniversary of her mother’s death.

Stiles is going to die.

No. Wait. (Fracturing glass.) That’s not right. (Fracturing glass.) She can’t die. (Fracturing glass.) If she dies, the pack dies. (Fracturing glass.) If she dies, they all die. (Fracturing glass.) She won’t let them die.

She won’t allow them to die.

(Fracturing glass.)



---



Stiles ignores her torn hands and aching body. The pain is shoved in the same little corner as her humanity. There’s no place for hesitation in her now, no place for sympathy, empathy, or mercy. She considers and discards a plan involving sabotaging the clunking generator still chugging along in the background. They could bottle her in the basement too easily, and a fire would only result in her own death.

She looks at the glass. She looks at the firewood. She looks down at her bloody hands. She tries to bend her fingers and only barely manages it, but it’s enough.

She can feel the rough wood dig into her palms, can feel the blood welling up again as the weak clots break and she begins to bleed again. She holds the chunk of firewood like a club. She’s dehydrated and the beginning of starved, and she’s really only got one shot at this. The sound of breaking glass (fracturing glass) will bring them running, and she’s got to be up and out of that window before they can grab her.

She adjusts her grip on the wood and swings with all the strength lacrosse has given her.

The glass shatters loudly. Stiles drops the firewood and grabs the window sill, ignoring the broken glass cutting her to ribbons. It takes a few tries — she’s almost as weak as a damn kitten from dehydration, this shit never happens in the movies — but she manages to get her shoulders up and out. Her shoes scrape against the wall, hunting for purchase.

“Goddammit!” the driver shouts from somewhere above her. Heavy footsteps thunder towards the basement door, and she hears it bang open like a gunshot. The three hunters are down the stairs and in the basement before she can manage to wiggle much further.

Someone’s hands wrap around her ankles and try to pull her back. Glass digs into her skin; there are cuts all over her arms and torso, with blood everywhere, and it’s the metallic twang of it that makes her lash out. Her dreams are overlapping reality, showing her the consequences if she fails, if she allows them to maim and torture and kill her.

“Fucking bitch,” Creeper Dude snarls. The window is right on the ground level, so Stiles digs her fingers into the dirt and grass and kicks. She kicks back as hard as she can, and she feels her foot slam into someone’s face, into Creeper Dude's face. She can’t look back, but his cry of pain and the satisfying crunch of the bones in his face breaking are enough to drive her forward.

She uses the momentum to carry her through the rest of the way, and then Stiles is running across the clearing and into the woods, going as fast as she can. Her exhaustion and pain and hunger and thirst all drift away behind her, unimportant in the face of her escape.

She runs.



---



It’s a while before she comes back to herself. Stiles slows her run to a jog and then her jog to a walk. By the time she stops entirely, she’s feeling light-headed, nauseous, and alive. Her arms and hands are sliced to hell, and some of the cuts are still bleeding. She looks at the blood as her vision blurs and for a minute it almost looks like she’s wearing a superhero cape—

Stiles shakes herself and leans against a tree. Her top is difficult to get off, what with her having a hard time moving her arms and all, but she manages it just like she’s managing everything else. She uses her teeth and her nails and some kind of superhuman strength she didn’t know she had to rip the tank top in half. She wraps the pieces around her wrists, hoping that helps.

Stiles shivers pathetically, feeling unbelievably exposed in just her sports bra and sweatpants. She can’t see the sky to tell what direction she’s going, but something nudges her to her left (a brief flash through her head, a road a road a road). She puts one foot in front of the other and concentrates on not dying.

They pack will find her.



---



She wakes up to the sound of screeching tires.

There’s sunlight touching her skin, but she can’t stop shivering. She blinks, but the world doesn’t clear from the smudgy blur that’s become her vision.

“Jesus Christ,” Chris Argent swears from somewhere above her.

Stiles wants to make some sort of witty remark, but her throat is dry as bone and she thinks that maybe the dried blood has sealed her lips together, which—ew, gross.

“Dad, is that—?” Allison asks. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God, Stiles.”

“Allison, go call the hospital and the sheriff,” Daddy Argent orders. Cool and professional hands hover just over her skin, like he’s afraid she’ll shatter if he touches her. Maybe she will. “Tell them we’ve found her.”

“I’m calling the pack on the way to the hospital,” Allison informs her father, and then she’s on the phone with some 911-type person.

“They say that it’ll take fifteen minutes for the ambulance to reach us,” Allison reports after a pause.

“That’s too long,” Daddy Argent snaps. Stiles squints, trying to his face, but in the end she just closes her eyes. “Stiles. Stiles, I’m going to pick you up, okay? Honey, can you hear me? Shit.”

Hearing Chris Argent, werewolf hunter extraordinaire, call her honey is possibly one of the weirdest things to ever happen to her. But then his hands are slowly caressing her shoulders and her legs, checking for breaks, and then he picks her up, and it hurts, it hurts so bad, and she’s too exhausted to scream or cry or squirm away, so in the end she just passes the fuck out.