"Admittedly, the last person I saw in a trunk was a corpse, so..."
Stiles realized he wasn't doing a good job of comforting the woman pressed against him, but then again, the new school librarian didn't seem to be freaking out. In fact, she seemed bored, of all things. He hoped that was due to the dull pounding in his skull, because, seriously, this situation required at least a minor freak-out from all parties involved.
"Yeah, me too," she answered, nonchalantly, and yawned. She actually yawned. "And, Mr. Stilinski, would you mind not wiggling around too much. We're kind of working with limited space here."
Stiles froze, realizing he was mid-wiggle, one leg folded behind him, his arm above his head. He wasn't even sure how he'd turned himself into a human pretzel in his attempt to not grind his, ehem, lower region against Ms. Summers' nicely shaped rear end.
Not that he'd been staring at her rear. Because ogling teachers was wrong. And librarians were teachers who didn't teach, so, yeah, wrong and bad, and Stiles cleared this throat, mentally chastising himself into thinking about something less dangerous. Like how he and his librarian were just kidnapped by some deformed mutant dude. As least said-mutant didn't appear to be reptilian. That was a plus.
"Wait, what do you mean 'me too'?" Stiles asked, catching up to her comment.
"Television," she replied, after a beat. "That's what you were talking about, right?"
"Uh, yeah, television... Me too. I mean, obviously, right?" Stiles scrambled for a reference. "That Alfred Hitchcock episode, where the guy stuffs his wife's body in the trunk."
"'One More Mile to Go'. Hey, that's the one I was thinking of too!" She took her voice down a notch, for which Stiles was thankful since his headache didn't appreciated that excited pitch. "By the way, you can call me Dawn," she noted.
"Stiles," he provided. "Have you tried to find the latch? All newer model cars have one. I mean, it feels like we're going pretty fast, so jumping out might not be an option, but if we can open the trunk, we can at least get the drop on the guy when he stops or alert other drivers."
"Bad news," Dawn said with a sigh. "That was kind of the first thing I did. There is no latch. If there was a latch, it's been taken out or covered up. And speaking of covered up, someone has patched over the rear lights. So much for those handy Lifetime movie tips," Dawn chirped.
"You mean someone actually modified this trunk for holding live captives?" Stiles asked. He swallowed hard, hoping the sound wasn't audible.
"Well, when you say it that way, it's a tad worrisome."
Stiles closed his eyes, trying to calm down. Not that it helped. It was already dark inside the trunk, and the air seemed shallow, too. Was that a thing? His eyes shot open at the thought. Could they actually run out of air if they stayed in here long enough? What if this asshole driving was planning to just park in the middle of nowhere and leave them in here? Maybe mutant guy liked to eat corpses instead of fresh meat... Stile tried to swallow again and failed; if he died, Scott would blame himself, Stiles knew, as Scott always considered everyone's problems his fault. And his dad...Oh, Jesus. Dad.
"Stiles? Hey, Stiles, you sound like you're freaking out. Don't do that, okay? You'll use up all the oxygen. Kidding, kidding, sorry. Bad me, this is not the time for jokes." Dawn reached around, poking him once in the chest before she found his hand. She gave it a squeeze. "I get that this isn't the best of circumstances, but it's also not the worst. We'll make it out of here."
"Yeah. Sure." Stiles took a shaky breath. She was right. He'd been in worse situations. Sadly. Ones that involved werewolves and crazy people and a kanima. "I'm sorry, it's just...it's hard to explain, but I've kind of been in a similar situation before. Not good memories."
Dawn was quiet a moment. "Being abducted rarely provides funny anecdotes."
The way she said it, Stiles wondered if she knew what she was talking about. But he didn't want to ask her. If he asked her, then she'd ask him, and he didn't want his mind to venture there again.
"So," Stiles cleared his throat, "all I remember is some blurry outline of a dude coming at me in the Reference section, and then me waking up here. I mean, for all I know you could have kidnapped me and planted yourself here. Not that I'm saying you did, but, uh, I guess what I'm asking is, do you have any clue who took us?"
"I followed a strange sound to the back of the library...apparently that strange sound was you getting knocked out. Go figure. But, if that's the case, then there's a good chance that you were the intended victim."
"That's great, just great..." Stiles felt a fresh layer of sweat rise on his brow. He'd kind of guessed as much, seeing as, despite what he'd told her, he'd actually seen a tad more than a blurry outline. Stiles had no clue what the thing was, though, just that it wasn't a human, so it probably wasn't some psycho old hunter planning to beat him up in a basement. He almost would have preferred Gerard.
Dawn let out a short chuckle that sounded oddly grim. "Which is a change of pace for me," she muttered, then raised her voice. "What were you even doing in the library an hour after school let out?"
Stiles snorted. "Google was failing me, and I had to look something up. But I had detention with you first, and then I had to meet up with Coach about the Cross Country meet and...wow, you just completely chose not to answer my question. About the thing that took us?"
"Hey, you accused me of kidnapping you, buddy."
"Yeah but, I mean, I didn't really think you'd actually done it because, hello, you'd have needed to hire a driver too and that's...You did it again! You just did it again. Fine."
Stiles purposely squirmed until he was laying flat on his back, legs pulled up to his stomach, which was only a bit painful. He kicked out, feet hitting the cloth-covered side with a loud thud. "Hey, asshole!" he shouted. "We're awake! Come and get us!"
"Shh!" Dawn hissed. "What the hell are you doing? Also, hello? My ear is right there. Could you try not to deafen me?"
The car didn't so much as slow down. Stiles made a face. "I'll shut up if you answer the question you're dodging."
"Does this tactic work often?" Dawn huffed at her own question. "Nevermind. Who am I kidding? I used the 'I'll scream' method on my big sister plenty of times...You know a kid named Greenberg?"
"Sure I do." Stiles' jaw hung open. That mutant freak thing...He knew it had looked oddly familiar. "What the hell happened to him?"
"How would I know?"
"Okay, I might believe you if you didn't sound so not completely freaked out about him looking like a melted wax statue with horns!" Stiles snapped. "Come on, lady, if you're in the know, just tell me you're in the know."
"Fine!" Dawn groaned. "I'm 'in the know'. Are you happy? Your classmate, Greenberg, from what I picked up during his oh-so-typical villain speech while he was forcing me into his trunk, started dosing on demon hormones in order to get an edge in 'lacrosse'. Apparently it's a highly competitive sport around here..."
"Seriously?" Then, for good measure, Stiles ran a hand down his face. "Did you just use the words 'demon hormones' in a sentence?"
"Gets better," Dawn said, sounding pleased with herself. "Apparently, he's started turning into some bull-hybrid creature with a craving for flesh. My guess is, it's irreversible. Too bad, I'm sure he had a lovely personality."
"Oh, God, do you think he ate Coach?" Stiles made a face. "Wait, I saw Coach. So, no, unless he eats really fast. But, here's a better question. Why would he come after me? I'm skinny. Like I'm almost entirely bone. I'm not saying any fat kids should die in my place, I'm just questioning the logic here. I'm not the filling choice."
"Well, I didn't want to tell you this, but he was kinda grope-y when he took your cell phone. I think he might have craved your flesh in other ways, you know due to pre-demon hormones."
"Oh, God! Greenberg had a crush on me? Wait. Greenberg was gay? I'm attractive to gay guys?"
"Don't worry. I won't let the Minotaur have his way with you," Dawn assured. "Unfortunately for him, he doesn't know who he just kidnapped."
"Did you say, 'Minotaur'? You know what? Nevermind. He knows he just kidnapped the Sheriff's son, so something tells me he's not easily deterred." Stiles sighed loudly. "Okay, so can I ask you one more question?"
"Sure. Doesn't mean I'll answer you."
"Are you a hunter? Because, currently, my only escape plan hinges on you not being a hunter."
"Like a freelancer?" Dawn shifted her weight. "Well, since I somehow doubt you're going to forget this conversation happened, and since you seem to have mad technique when it comes to annoying information out of people, I guess I should let you in on something. I already know."
"About your best friend. Scott McCall. I know he's a werewolf. But don't worry, while I do occasionally hunt down creatures who, you know, crave flesh, I don't go around killing innocent werewolves. So there's no reason for you to be afraid I'm going to go after him."
Stiles wanted to freak out. He really did, but there just wasn't sufficient room. "Who the hell are you?"
"Dawn Summers, librarian, Watcher, part-time badass," she said, pleasantly. "Who happens to be having an off day, and will no doubt be the butt of many bull jokes to come. But back to the topic at hand. We're not going to have to worry about your furry buddy getting involved."
The car was slowing. Stiles concentrated on happy thoughts. Like how nice it was not to be eaten. "Why's that?" he forced out, as the car stilled.
"Because I have an active locator in my locket. After you've been kidnapped enough times, you stay prepared. You're young. You'll learn."
"Is that supposed to be comforting?"
A loud thud sounded from above them. Whatever had hit the hood was about the size of a bowling ball and must have been shaped similarly, because it rolled down the slope of the trunk and off the car.
"Yes," Dawn answered, before he could ask, "that was a decapitated head. Our rescue party is here."
"Yay," Dawn confirmed.
Stiles wasn't so sure, but he was still feeling a bit too queazy (thanks to both a mental image of Greenberg's deformed head rolling and what was likely a slight concussion) to fear whoever was about to open the trunk. Something in the lock mechanism popped as the metal was wrenched up. Stiles blinked at the afternoon sunlight, looking down to avoid it, and realized he could see most of Dawn's face from this angle. And she looked surprised.
Which, she shouldn't be, right?
He frowned, his nerves back on high alert, and looked up to see a brunette staring down into the trunk, a lazy smile on her face.
"Hey, Brat. How's it hanging?"
Dawn pushed herself up onto her elbows, shoving Stiles back down when he attempted to do the same. His face tightened into an annoyed grimace, but he managed to stay quiet, for his own curiosity's sake.
"Faith? What are...?" Dawn blinked, as if to get the shocked expression off her face, then frown slightly, as if put-off. "You going to give me a hand or what?"
The other woman, Faith, shook her head, and for a moment, Stiles thought for sure she was going to close the trunk again. Instead she reached in, grabbing Dawn at the elbow before the librarian toppled forward. Stiles heard Dawn's short heels crunch gravel when she hopped down.
Dawn opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off.
"I think the question you were looking for is, 'What are you doing in Beacon Hills?'"
Faith raised a brow, and somehow the arch on her otherwise laid-back expression made her look a bit more dangerous. Even more dangerous than a woman who, theoretically, had just cut off Greenberg's head. Stiles pushed himself a little further back into the confines of the trunk. Maybe getting out could wait a moment longer.
"Oh, wait," Faith said, her smile tightening into a grimace, "that's my line, D. What the hell do you think you're doing in Beacon Hills?"
3 Days Earlier
"So, how's the new job working for you?"
Robin balanced one elbow on the edge of his desk, using the hand that wasn't currently holding his cell phone to rub his forehead. A part of him knew he was only revisiting the hurt every time he called Faith, but despite how much he hated how things had ended between them, they had a past. And, frankly, at this point, he didn't have a lot of friends to talk to. It might have been bizarre to others, but chatting out his problems with his ex tended to help him more often than not.
"Well, I've been here less than a week," he reminded.
"Yeah, feels like longer when you're getting calls from a dozen slayers who miss their Principal."
"I know, I know. You needed to get away. I get that...Sorry. Just want you to know you're missed. Or so I hear."
Robin smiled into the phone. "I might not be mentoring a team of slayers, but I have a feeling I haven't strayed very far from my old life."
"Ran into vamps already?"
"Not a one. But I've been doing some reading on this town. Let's just say I'll probably stay busy here. Especially during the full moon." He shook his head. "I actually found a sword when I was cleaning out the office."
"Guess you won't be the first principal packin'."
"But hopefully the first one to do his job over the past year. There's something definitely shady about the resignation and hiring of the last principal. And don't get me started on the staff and faculty...You wouldn't believe how much the school is willing to pay for a night janitor, but there haven't been any takers yet. The locals are too scared to take the job. I hear the Sheriff's department is having a similar problem. Which is probably why my salary is the best it's ever been."
"You sure you're not on a Hellmouth?"
"Dawn is looking into it, just to be certain. But I don't think so. There's definitely something going on in this town though...Hey, listen, I have to let you go. I have to have a word with one of the local trouble makers."
"Set him straight, teach."
"You know it."
He ended the call just as his secretary was showing the boy into the office. The kid was tall, skinny, and made a big show of staring at the office, as if taking in Robin's fine decorating skills.
The kid popped his lips when he realized he was being watched. "Love what you've done with the place. Homey, but with clean professional lines." He waved his hands at the wall displaying Robin's degree. "And the white walls are very modern. Institutional even."
"Take a seat, Mr. Stilinski," Robin said, biting back a smile when the teenager scrambled to do just that. "I'm Principal Wood. I don't believe we've had the chance to speak yet. Of course, if you were so set on meeting me, you could have just asked instead of leaving a banana pudding in your teacher's chair."
The teenager opened and closed his mouth, but Robin's expression must have cut off his denial. "Everyone calls me Stiles, just for the record."
"Stiles," Robin repeated. He wasn't a big fan of using nicknames for his kids, but he'd seen the boy's first name on his record. 'Stiles' was easier to shout. "It's good to meet you, Stiles. I'd ask you why you wanted to meet the new principal so badly, but I have a feeling you'd just lie, and then it would be awkward for both of us. So I'm to go with the assumption that you wanted to check in and see if I'm as big a sleaze ball as your last principal. I certainly don't think so, but you'll have to use your own judgment."
Stiles' eyes widened slightly, and there was a slight twinkle in his stare, as if he couldn't choose between being amused and being shocked. "Principal Argent? Oh, no, he was just a big fluffy ball of joy, that guy. Will be missed. Totally. By someone, I'm sure. I was just...I was just eager to check out your, umm, credentials."
Robin snorted. "Then you'll be happy to know that I have many years of experience doing this job, and in far stranger towns than Beacon Hills."
"Like the one that became a giant sink hole like ten years ago?"
Robin froze a moment, then relaxed again. Of course. There was always that one kid who enjoyed doing research. "Yes. Like that one. But don't worry, I highly doubt that there are any sink holes in Beacon Hills. Now, if you're done. I believe you owe your Coach a detention. You'll be taking it in the library later this week."
Robin already had his attention back on a stack of paperwork on his desk, and he pretended to not watch Stiles take another long look at the office before disappearing out the door. As soon as he was gone, Robin asked his secretary to hold his calls and shut his office door. Certain he had at least a few moments of freedom, he pulled back the hidden latch he'd found inside the book case. It slid back, revealing a large monitor, the screen divided into square windows, each seemingly attached to cameras placed around most of the school. And even a few that seemed to be placed around the town.
Gerard Argent, it appeared, was very interested in the students here, that or extremely paranoid. Maybe even a pervert. The initial finding was disturbing to the point where Robin had almost called in Mr. Stilinski's father, the local sheriff. Then he started to review some of the older video files, ones Argent had kept for his own purposes, most of them labeled or put under one file as "betas". Ones that showed a few students who were a bit stronger than the average high schooler, who had eyes that flashed when they hit a bright light just right. Robin hadn't had time to look through all of them, and he figured, since he'd already missed the full moon, he probably had time on his side.
But perhaps sooner was better.
Robin sighed, then clicked on the file labeled "STILES" to see what would come up. The fact that the boy had a video file in the first place told him more than he wanted to know. The kid seemed nice, but he had to be up to something. Now it was just a matter of finding out the truth, and figuring out if the last principal had been the hero or the villain.
"New job, same problem..."
Allison could feel his eyes on her, and not just in that creeping sense of being watched that so often raised the hairs on the back of her neck. She felt his gaze as if it were as warm and pleading as a caress on her cheek. Why did Scott have to look at her like he didn't remember why they weren't together? What she hated most about that stare of his was that she didn't hate it nearly enough.
Nodding along to whatever Stiles was saying, she made a show of looking toward the empty classroom's door, as if to keep an eye on it, despite the fact that a werewolf's senses should be able to catch an intruder faster than her own. If she ignored the problem, maybe it would go away. Maybe she'd even be able to convince herself that there wasn't the tiniest part of her that just wanted to give in to old feelings and sneak away with Scott and pretend they didn't still live in a world where her mother was dead, her mother who tried to kill her boyfriend, her mother whose legacy was tainted so heavily by Gerard that it had almost sent Allison down a path from which she couldn't return.
"Probably something evil. At the very least, supernatural adjacent."
Allison blinked, bringing herself back to the moment at hand and turning to give Stiles a hard stare. "Wait, are we still talking about the new principal?"
Lydia raised her perfectly arched brows, her expression somewhere between amused and annoyed, which seemed to be a constant whenever she was listening to Stiles Stilinski.
"No, we aren't. These two are. We could care less about high school conspiracy theories," she answered, gesturing to Scott and Stiles as if she could shoo them away. She gave the pair a sharp look. "I can't believe you drug us into an abandoned classroom to discuss this, when we have real problems."
Scott scratched the back of his neck, frowning. "They're right, Stiles. Principal Wood has only been working here four days...Just because the guy is new and gives off a weird vibe doesn't mean he's up to something. I'll let Issac and Boyd know they should be cautious around Principal Wood, but, in the meantime, we should be focusing on the Alpha pack."
"Et tu, Scottie?" Stiles snapped. He sighed. "Fine, ignore my excellent research on Mr. Robin Wood and the strange accidents surrounding the very-little-not-blacked-out info I could find on him. You know, the info that wasn't immediately wiped from the internet the moment I located it. Ignore the fact that the last public school he stayed at for more than a semester sank into the earth. It's not like my hunches are ever right." He waved his arms enthusiastically. "Oh. Wait. Yes they are!"
Allison bit down a smile. "I doubt if it will help, but I'll ask my dad about him. If he's a hunter or ever encountered any hunters, my dad might know."
Scott's eyes widened slightly. "You think Principal Wood might be a hunter?"
Stiles muttered under his breath, "Actually covered that in my list of possibilities..."
Scott elbowed him. "You also covered 'wizard'."
"I swear I saw runes etched into the office window frame," Stiles defended. Then deflated when his friends just stared back at him. "I just couldn't get close enough to get a good look at them...Lest I remind you, 'Alpha pack ally' was also on that list. Which would actually be equally as scary as wizard or hunter."
"I still think this is a waste of time," Lydia noted, studying her nails. "Just because an authority figure saw right through you, Stiles, doesn't mean he's something supernatural. And as for his last school, that was a decade ago and the whole town sank. Mysterious as they are, sinkholes aren't unheard of."
Allison narrowed her eyes at her friend. She didn't have to be a werewolf to notice the way Lydia's voice pitched, as if, beneath her dismissal, she'd come to a different conclusion altogether.
Stiles bit off his initial rebuttal. "So I guess you don't want a copy of the file I've made on him?"
Lydia somehow managed to look pretty while sneering. "Oh, I still want a copy. It always pays to have dirt on your principal, especially when gathering letters of recommendation for college." She turned on her heel, bringing the conversation to an end, and glanced at Allison, something strained in her wide eyes. "Coming?"
Allison nodded, and turned to leave, trying not to notice the way Stiles groaned in frustration and the way Scott instinctively leaned forward as she left, as if he'd almost moved to follow her. Instead she put her focus on the one person she knew she didn't have to leave behind.
"Is everything okay, Lydia?"
Lydia blinked at her. "Perfectly."
"If I didn't know better, I'd think you might have your own suspicions about the new principal."
Lydia smirked. "But you do know better."
Allison smiled back at her. "I know that you'd tell me if you knew anything."
Lydia rolled her eyes. "I couldn't care less about the new principal," she corrected. "I just...while we were in the classroom, I thought I heard something strange. Like a voice in my head when Stiles mentioned that sinkhole, whispering the name of that town, but the voice, it sounded like someone I..." She trailed off, shaking her head. "It was nothing. Probably just me remembering the news breaking on television. I was in elementary school, but I can still remember how panicked my parents were, making phone calls to check up on cousins and clients... Sunnydale was all anyone could talk about for months, at least until that extremely disturbing terrorist attack in L.A."
Allison opened her mouth to reply and closed it again when she saw someone over Lydia's shoulder. No... She swallowed hard. She didn't see anyone. She thought she did. Just for a second, she thought she saw a woman with long blond hair, a sneer on her face as she watched from afar. It was probably a student, a teacher...anyone else. But for half a second, she was certain she'd seen Aunt Kate.
Derek stood beside the wide window of his loft, in plain view, arms crossed over his chest as if he were daring an onlooker to make a move. With the Alpha pack on the verge of doing just that, he knew he should be cautious. In fact, he usually was. Standing in front of windows was too careless for him, but he'd been drawn here by too much time and an argument with Cora. The young she-wolf had stormed upstairs to take a shower, leaving him with his thoughts.
Derek didn't enjoy being left alone with his thoughts. Or with the ghosts who haunted him.
"I'm sorry," he said, quietly.
The reflection beside his shifted slightly, mimicking his crossed arms. The dead girl rolled her eyes at him, though. "Sorry doesn't help me," Erica said, an edge to her voice.
Derek was quiet a moment longer. He blinked his eyes. She was still there when he opened them. He didn't turn though, almost afraid of what he would find there. Almost afraid that the girl would fade. He didn't want her to. A part of him wanted her to stay, to be a real ghost instead of a figment of his guilt. He needed the reminder of what he'd done.
"I was a sixteen-year-old girl," she reminded him, sounding almost wistful. "Sixteen and full of life, and this beautiful man suddenly shows up and promises me everything I'd never had. You seduced me, Derek Hale. And now I'm dead. I'd be alive if you'd never spoken to me. If you hadn't been so caught up in your new power, your loneliness...I might be learning to drive my mom's car instead of buried in a shallow grave."
Derek stared at the window, past her reflection, to the sunny daylight outside. It felt like it should be raining, cold, but it was a nice day outside. His brow furrowed in anger.
"But it's not you I blame," she said, her eyes narrowing slightly. "You were doing what your instinct told you to do. And for a while, your gift was exactly as advertised. No, I don't blame you for my death...But you're such a disappointment, Derek."
He couldn't argue.
Erica shook her head, as if the frustration was building up inside her, leaving her vibrating. "It really pisses me off, you know. Here I am, dead. Here you are, alive. And you act like you care, you really do, but if you cared so much, why are the Argents still alive?"
Derek blinked again, this time in surprise. "The Argents didn't do this to you."
"They tortured me. They tortured Boyd. They beat Stiles bloody..." She huffed. "But you, what? Were too busy with reptile boy to care about that?"
"Screw Gerard," Erica snapped. "He's as good as dead. But what about the rest of them, huh? What about Chris Argent and that bitch Allison? Come on, Derek. Am I supposed to believe you don't see Kate in that girl's eyes, every time you catch a glimpse of her? You know what she's going to become...A monster, like everyone else in her family. But what are you doing about her? Nothing. You're going to sit here and pretend like your main concern is a pack of your own kind, while the real monsters lie in wait to kill off your sad little pack..."
"Am I? I'm you, after all. Unless you actually believe I'm me." She cocked her head, false pity in her frown. "Are you that far gone, poor, broken, Derek Hale?"
Derek cupped his face in his hands, rubbing at his eyes, hoping to wipe the thoughts away. Some part of him knew what she said was true. Had to be. After all, the words had come out of his own mind. He wanted to laugh. Here he was, arguing with himself, when he should be doing anything else. His chest shook, but no noise left his lips. It wasn't laughter or a sob trying to work its way out. It was rage, barely restrained, and it showed in the flash of his red eyes. He took a deep breath, holding it down.
He turned, hoping his sister wouldn't understand the anger on his face. He raised a questioning brow, as if nothing had happened.
"Were you talking to yourself?" Cora asked, toweling her hair.
Derek turned back to the window, watching his reflection, looking for another. He didn't find one. "Just sorting out a few things."