"Ex-sang-uin-ation," Stiles enunciated carefully, reading from the coroner's report. He glanced at Mr. John Doe, last seen dumpster diving behind Chez Leguizamo, a restaurant renowned for its pretentious food, surly waiters, and cranky cooks. It was entirely possible that one of them had taken murderous exception to Mr. Doe's criticism of the quality of their leftovers -- at least, that was the Sheriff Department's working theory.
It was an entirely plausible theory, based on past history. His dad had arrested the executive chef for chasing a food critic out of his restaurant with a meat cleaver for calling the frog legs tartare plebeian.
Stiles glanced over the body again. Maybe he'd seen too many horror movies, but in his head, exsanguination correlated with vampires, and he was surreptitiously searching for bite marks. The coroner's assistant had cleaned up the body before the autopsy, but there wasn't so much as a scratch on John Doe's throat. Stiles grunted unhappily.
"So much for that theory," he muttered.
"Vampires," Stiles said, shrugging. He rolled his eyes at Derek's smug, self-satisfied I told you snort and flipped through the report. The only reason why the body hadn't been transported for on-the-county burial or cremation was the open police investigation. "Well, there's no other cause of death besides -- oh, ho, ho, hold on here --"
He looked at the anatomical sketch. He squinted and brought it closer to his face. No, that wasn't a stray mark, that was a genuine, Yes, this is where the wound was located scratch across the paper, and, "Holy shit!"
Derek yanked the file folder out of Stiles' hands, but Stiles didn't notice; he was already rolling back the white sheet.
The first thing he noticed was the crude Y-cut over the chest with the rolling black-thread stitching holding the skin flaps closed. Number two -- a very high number two -- on the list were the engorged genitals. It wasn't quite a chubby -- Stiles supposed that there wasn't enough blood in the body for a full blown erection -- but the swollen balls were roughly the size of Florida oranges. Considering that it was days since the busboy at Chez Leguizamo tripped over John Doe on his way to dump a tray of overcooked calamari, the post-death hard-on should have flagged by now.
Idly, Stiles wondered if the Tennessee Body Farm ever ran experiments on exsanguination and the death erection phenomenon.
"Stiles," Derek snarled. Stiles looked up in time to see Derek's eyebrows doing that funny pinched piercing wriggle they did when he wanted to know What the fuck are you doing now, Stiles? Or, possibly, Derek was questioning whether Stiles' daily quota of Internet porn was insufficient if he had to resort to necrophilia.
"No, no, dude, wait a second --" Stiles said, twisting around until he spotted a box of blue nitrile gloves on the counter. He pulled on a pair. They snapped around his wrists. He held them up and grinned. "Smurf hands!"
Derek growled. That was his patented I'm losing patience growl.
"Riiight," Stiles said. "I can add Smurfs to the list of critical components of your social upbringing that sorely need rectifying. I'll have you know it's a ridiculously long list. I'll be educating you for the next ten years, at least. All right. Listen. Exsanguination. They found less than a pint in his body. But where's the blood? It wasn't where they found the body, and there's no way the body was dumped in the alley from somewhere else, right? You didn't smell anything, did you?"
Derek didn't answer. He stared.
"You didn't. And to corroborate the findings of your most excellent tracking schnozzle, forensics said that the body wasn't moved. So, again, how did they get the blood out of Johnny here without leaving a mess? For that matter, why didn't he fight? If he'd fought, there would've been splatter everywhere. But we didn't find a drop."
Derek stared at him wordlessly.
Stiles huffed. "Work with me here. What's the best way of getting the blood out? Not the artery, because that's nasty, it sprays out in pulses. We're looking for veins --"
Derek's jaw clenched. Stiles could spot a disinterested audience a mile away, especially when said disinterested audience was of the type to slam him against walls, so he got to the point fast. "Where are the biggest veins in the body? The jugular --"
He waved a hand at Mr. John Doe's throat.
"The brachial --"
He gestured over Mr. John Doe's arm. He didn't actually know what the veins in the wrist were called, but they were split off from the brachial, anyway, so it all amounted to the same thing.
"And let's not forget the femoral --"
Stiles put a hand on Mr. John Doe's knee and rolled the leg out. He tried not to think about how weird dead flesh felt, even through a four-millimetre thick glove, and forced himself to focus on the very distinctive piercings right around where the femoral artery was.
More importantly, the distance between the marks was about three centimetres apart -- an inch and change -- which was in the ballpark of the average distance between human canine teeth.
Stiles gave Derek a triumphant look. "Wanna revise your position on the whole vampires don't exist theory? Because I think --"
The growl should have been sufficient warning. Stiles didn't need any kind of warning that he'd crossed a line. He made it a personal quest to see how far he could plush Derek without tipping him over into psychotic murderous rage.
Stiles' heart raced with the flush of adrenaline and the brief flash of fear when Derek grabbed him. Stiles made painful connection with the stainless steel wall. The handle of one of the drawers dug painfully into his spine, and the corner of one of the doors caught him behind the head. A very familiar weight and heat pressed against his front, and, yeah, all right, maybe he had a thing for being manhandled by Derek if he was getting turned on in the morgue.
"Uh. Derek?" Stiles swallowed hard and wriggled to minimize the physical contact ratio before Derek found out just how turned on he was. The muscle in Derek's jaw jumped, and Stiles was pretty sure that he saw a flash of red rimming Derek's irises.
And he really shouldn't be thinking about rimming right now.
He stared at Derek. Derek stared back. Stiles was pretty sure that his was the deer-in the-headlights-of-an-oncoming-truck, while Derek's was of the will-murder-you-with-my-laser-gaze variety.
Neither of them moved.
There was a creepy, oily, metal-on-metal creak and an outraged, disgusted groan.
"Seriously?" Scott stood in the doorway. His mouth was open, his eyes were wide, and he was the photograph under incredulity in the dictionary. "You're supposed to be checking the body. Not. Not this!"
Scott flailed an arm in the air in their direction.
Scott's wild gesture had miraculous, magical powers, because Derek had dropped Stiles and was pushing Scott out of the way on his angry stalk out of the morgue.
"We were checking the body," Stiles said. Scott snorted, and Stiles gave him a look. Stiles wished Scott would just get over himself. There was no reason to hate Derek anymore. Derek was one of the good guys, but Scott forgot that sometimes. "Why are you even? You're on lookout. Is the coast still clear?"
Scott had a frozenpanic double take moment before darting out into the hallway. He came back a second later. "No. Hurry up. Let's go."
Stiles hastily covered up Mr. John Doe and rolled him back into his shelf, shutting the freezer door. He picked up the report, filed it roughly where he'd found it, and dumped the gloves in a biohazards bin. Scott dragged him up the hallway and around the corner just as the elevator door dinged open. They stayed there, listening to the whine of wheels turning and the clatter of a metal gurney hitting the swinging doors, before breathing a sigh of relief.
"So, what was it?" Scott asked.
"Vampires," Stiles said.
Stiles nodded once firmly. "Vampires."
"So, yeah. Vampires. They're a thing. They're walking, talking, non-brain-eating blood-sucking things that exist," Stiles said, wrapping up his lecture.
It really wasn't his best presentation. Derek didn't give Stiles much of a chance to do the research he needed to do to be even remotely useful, but he'd started off with "Don't believe everything you've seen in vampire movies until I check them out" and ended with "Um. Don't make eye contact with strangers, just in case the whole hypnotic gaze thing is real."
Stiles would have liked to have included a bit more by way of visuals, but again, getting dragged out of his house for a meeting by the sourwolf might have curtailed those plans.
The pack spent a few minutes exchanging glances -- everyone, that was, except for Scott and Allison, who were practicing safe eye sex for everyone's sake -- before Boyd broke the silence.
"Derek said there aren't any vampires."
"News flash. Derek is wrong," Stiles said. He side-stepped out of arm-and-claw reach at Derek's growl.
Jackson, the douche, snickered, but that faded when Derek turned his glare in Jackson's direction. Jackson withered like a balloon, twitching anxiously while simultaneously trying to make himself invisible.
"This is very boring," Lydia said suddenly. She stood up and brushed down her dress -- a mauve-and-black combo that shouldn't have looked good with her colouring, but did, somehow, because it was Lydia, and she looked good in everything.
Stiles realized that he should have noticed that Lydia was dressed up when the pack started trickling in for the meeting. He always noticed these things. He especially always noticed these things when they involved Lydia.
Instead, he had picked up on how Derek's stretched Tee was a particularly flattering shade of grey today, that it brought out the washed-out blue of his eyes. He idly wondered if it would be as soft as the one Derek had been wearing when he shoved Stiles against the body vault in the morgue.
"Don't call me when you find it. I have a date," Lydia said, her hips swaying as she headed for the exit.
Derek grunted in annoyance. Jackson scowled in a blend of irritation and self-important petulance. Erica snarled.
"Anyways," Stiles said, clapping his hands together, "I've got research, and it's vampire research, and with the garbage that's out on the Interwebs right now, I gotta get started."
Stiles was never sure if his Google Fu improved as a direct result of all the researching he did on behalf of the pack, or despite it. Either way, he was going to rock the research when he was in college.
Google was a smorgasbord melting pot of mythology, fiction, fan fiction, poetry, roleplaying games, video games, movies, and hilariously garish 1990s web design pages with sparkles and flowers and dripping fangs. The whole legend of Judas Iscariot as the first vampire really wasn't half as obscure as people thought it was. Dracula had metamorphosed over the years into Interview with the Vampire and degenerated from their highly sexual, misunderstood monster stigma to highly sexual and Jersey Shore dramatis personae in True Blood, only to reach new heights of creepy and wrong in Twilight. Sparkly vampires? Really?
Vampire of the Coast rocked the black-and-white silver screen, but Nosferatu was definitely B-movie night fare, and Queen of the Damned was smokin' hot even with Aaliyah's brother dubbing over some of her dialogue. Underworld -- all of them -- were on the Netflix queue only for intellectual purposes, and not at all because Stiles thought that leather was fucking sexy or because he thought Derek should totally wear one of those long werewolfy trench coats.
The Vampire Diaries made for an interesting, if twisted kind of ridiculous, and it was too bad that Blood Ties and Forever Knight went off the air just as they were getting good.
Stiles kept searching.
The fanfiction was frightening, the video games hilarious, and the PhD thesis comparing Byron's The Giaour and Coleridge's Christabel bored him to tears.
Stiles gave up mining Vampire the Masquerade for useful information -- it was like trying to use Dungeons and Dragons sourcebooks for data on monsters and magic: close, but no cigar.
The Bestiary was an early version of the Internet when it came to vampires. All the knowledge in the ridiculously old Latin language was already available on the web, and in English, to boot. There was precious little new data on how to kill a vampire and how to find a vampire and how to identify a vampire that couldn't be found in Fright Night, though it was a toss-up whether the original was better than the remake.
After spending several sleepless hours scraping the bottom of the barrel, Stiles Googled how to attract a vampire and got about half a million hits to a wicked blend of vampire wanna-be sites and several hook-up -- sorry, matchmaking -- websites for lonely ghouls and ghoul-wannabes.
Lord of Darkness seeks willing, young and nubile
Green-eyed redhead, f, 115lbs, appears to be 25, looking for same
Hoping for a master to unveil the mysteries of the night
Stiles rolled his eyes. Some of the ads were hilarious, others were just lame. He could write better with one hand tied behind his back.
He kept clicking and scrolling through the site on the off-chance that one of these people were real -- Vlad the Impaler as a singles guy on Match.com didn't quite work, though he was willing to bet that someone in Hollywood was writing up exactly this as a treatment for the newest blockbuster -- when he stumbled into a chat room.
Experience -- and a few awkward online stalkers who wanted a piece of the awesome that was Stiles -- taught him a long time ago that nicknames needed to be cycled and rotated or someone would get suspicious. He ditched his usual werewolf-themed handles (Sourwolf was his favourite) on the assumption that even the vampire-envious wouldn't like werewolves any better than the vampires in myths and legends, and went for the more bloodthirsty nicks.
Dracula, of course, was registered and unavailable. So was Renfield, though why anyone wanted to be a cockroach-eating lackey was beyond him. He tried Blade, but it was already in use, and BladeTrinity got him kicked by Blade, who was a douchebag with too much power in chat. Edward, EdwardCullen, Cullen, and every variation thereof were on the auto-kick list. VanHelsing and Abraham Lincoln got him insta-banned, and how rude was that? He had to route his IP through a masking scrubber eight times, trying out new nicks, before he made it into the channel as EbenOleson.
Surprisingly, no one tried to boot him. He figured no one considered the self-sacrificing Sheriff of Barrow, Alaska, a badass vampire hunter because he was bitten and turned into a vampire in the end. Either that, or the poseurs didn't even get the reference. It was a sad, sad day when a cult classic like 30 Days of Night didn't make the requisite list of a young vampire's education.
Stiles scanned the usernames list. There was a Camilla, a Lilith, a Lestat, a Baron this, a Lord that. He rolled his eyes when he saw a Bella.
Chat was mundane. The topics were everywhere from that guy who cut me off in traffic to how to get blood out of velvet -- the former elicited comments suggesting that the asswipe of a driver be tracked down and made to submit to the vampire's fearsome gaze while the latter was a bored rundown of all the laundry techniques that shouldn't be used for velvet.
[22:49] EbenOleson: Easy solution to that problem would be, don't wear velvet?
No one answered him.
Stiles did double-duty between keeping an eye on chat and reading a medical journal written in the early 1970s. There was a fascinating case of a man afflicted with the double whammy of catalepsy and porphyria. He insisted that he wasn't a vampire, but regularly his doctors and nurses were regularly weirded out whenever he slurped blood smoothies to alleviate his symptoms -- type O negative blood was his favourite flavour, apparently --
The browser tab flashed with a chat notification. Stiles ignored it for a few minutes while he tried to decode the patient's name from the anonymous ID the authors had given him. Maybe Patient 01171 from St Joseph Hospital in WA was still alive or had relatives who regularly felt the need to visit Beacon Hills for a late night high-haemoglobin snack.
Stiles gave up and hit the chat tab.
[00:04] BaronMacLaren: Steve Niles fan?
[00:24] EbenOleson: You know it, dude
[00:24] EbenOleson: Anyone catch your homage to LVK?
The cursor blinked without response for a few minutes before Stiles went back to his research. Stiles figured that if he could track down the patient in the medical journal, he would -- oh, hell, he didn't know what he'd do. It was pretty obvious from the trail of bodies around town that vampires were real, but maybe the guy was cured or something. Getting O-neg from the blood bank for the rest of his life would've raised anyone's eyebrows --
It was a light bulb moment. Stiles opened a new tab and started researching blood banks. A vampire couldn't subside on a diet of live blood without being noticed, especially not in a town as small as Beacon Hills. They'd need some sort of backup plan, and that meant feeding on animals or on blood donations.
[00:29] BaronMacLaren: Not yet. 2 yrs and no one's caught on.
Stiles wasn't surprised. Lesbian Vampire Killers was even more of a cult thing than 30 Days of Nights.
[00:31] EbenOleson: That's tragic. And very sad. I don't hold much hope for last century's youth.
[00:31] BaronMacLaren: lol
[00:32] BaronMacLaren: So what brings u here
[00:33] EbenOleson: Research
[00:33] BaronMacLaren: Don't tell me
[00:33] BaronMacLaren: You're one of those
[00:35] EbenOleson: One of those what
Stiles distractedly flipped back and forth between tabs, clicking new links as he went. If the vampire was getting sustenance from a blood bank, then it should show on the records. A bit of back-door breakage, learned courtesy of Danny if Stiles promised that he wouldn't ask any more questions about being gay -- Stiles never explicitly promised, and Danny hadn't noticed -- and Stiles was neck deep in blood bags.
He laughed at his own joke before glancing in the chat tab.
[00:36] BaronMacLaren: Vampire groupies
[00:40] BaronMacLaren: Hello?
[00:40] EbenOleson: Sorry, was doing one of those ROFLs, like literally
[00:41] EbenOleson: Trust me, totally not
[00:41] BaronMacLaren: What, then?
Stiles chewed his bottom lip for all of ten seconds before typing out a reply. It wasn't as if he hadn't used this particular cover excuse before, and it was definitely the one that garnered the best response.
[00:41] EbenOleson: Writing a book
[00:41] EbenOleson: Want to be as realistic as possible
He switched screens when he didn't get an immediate response. He switched tabs.
Aaaand of course the blood bank wouldn't have records on file of patrons who had a preference for O-neg blood, never mind an inventory of their supply available for public purview with a glaring, flashing neon sign pointing toward a suspicious missing shipment. That information was probably stored on the local servers, and Stiles was just not Hackers-level badass to be able to retrieve it with a virtual snatch-and-grab. Still, that gave him another idea.
Law enforcement officials were the worst when it came to network security. He ranted at his dad about it often enough, but the Sheriff never seemed to take Stiles' warnings to heart. Stiles logged onto the Beacon Hills Sheriff Department website and accessed the secure area with a password his dad should have changed years ago. He entered a search string, waited for the database to load, and copied the data into a spreadsheet.
He copied the information he wanted into a spreadsheet. He would sort through it later. There was a long list of reported break-ins, but he'd filter it to exclude everyone but the blood banks.
The chat tab flashed; he switched screens.
[00:42] BaronMacLaren: How's that going?
[00:43] EbenOleson: Real well.
[00:44] EbenOleson: So far, I've learned that one does not mock a velvet-wearing vampire
[00:44] EbenOleson: There's a strong possibility vampires don't sparkle but they are probably definitely creepers
[00:44] EbenOleson: Aaaand there may be a perfectly logical medical reason for the whole vampire mythos
[00:44] BaronMacLaren: Porphyria
[00:44] BaronMacLaren: I'm not convinced you can distil a vampire's existence to a condition found in medical journals
[00:45] EbenOleson: Actually a blend of different health issues
[00:45] EbenOleson: Albinism, photosensitivity, catalepsy
[00:45] BaronMacLaren: Science can't explain everything
[00:45] BaronMacLaren: That's the problem with the modern age
[00:45] BaronMacLaren: No one takes things on faith anymore
[00:46] EbenOleson: What are you talking about
[00:46] EbenOleson: Science is awesome
[00:46] EbenOleson: And I've got plenty of faith
[00:46] EbenOleson: I believe it when I see it
The familiar crack-slide of the window opening behind Stiles startled him into reflexively closing several tabs that he'd dig out of his browser History later, and he double-checked to make sure that he closed the page with the very illegal access to the Sheriff Department's database.
Derek's hand clamped down on Stiles' shoulder just as he alt-tabbed into the spreadsheet app, and he definitely did not squeak in terror. When nothing else happened, Stiles moved the mouse to the filter button and clicked, desperately suppressing a shiver at Derek's warm breath on his throat.
"I'm working on it. I totally am, it's just taking a lot of time. It would help if you'd get over your whole there are no vampires issues. So, what, you were wrong --"
"I am not wrong," Derek growled, his hand tightening on Stiles' shoulder. Stiles winced and cast a frantic side-eye at those fingers, making sure they weren't claws.
"Four bodies in two weeks, all of them with fang bites --" Stiles made a two-fingered bite-gesture in the air, "And you're telling me that vampires aren't a thing? Also, ow. Quit it with the -- fuck, Derek. OW. Seriously, stop, I'm running out of shirts. They all have Derek-sized holes in them, and I'm not talking the ones that you stretched out --"
Derek let go long enough to smack Stiles on the back of his head -- hard enough to make him stutter, but not hard enough to sting -- before his hand went back to Stiles' shoulder. The feeling was returning in his arm, though, and Stiles scrolled through the narrowed search results.
There was only one blood bank in town, and it had been hit at the abnormally regular frequency of once a month for the last four. The first time, a small refrigerator full of blood donated that day but pending testing and processing had gone missing entirely. The second hit, and every round after that, the only thing that the thieves had stolen was a cooler of packets and one box of small gauge needles and syringes. The Department had checked out every human lead and mundane possibility. Stiles very much doubted that supernatural had ever cropped up on their radar, and why would it?
Stiles could rattle off any number of monsters -- human and otherwise -- who would find blood useful. Witches, for instance. Some of the nastier ones preferred fresh blood, but bagged would do in a pinch for a ritual. Necromancers -- not that they'd encountered any so far, if the lack of shambling zombies were any indication -- probably made liberal use of varying grades of blood. Alchemist might try to make a creepy kind of Philosopher's Stone or whatever it was that they made with blood --
"You're thinking too loud," Derek grumbled. He squeezed Stiles' shoulder again, but at least no claws were involved this time.
"Look, I'm just --" Stiles waved a hand in the general direction of the computer monitor. "-- researching. You know. Vampires. And trying to think like a vampire. And realizing that you never explained why you're not wrong when vampires consider the good citizens of Beacon Hills as snack food, because apparently we're quite delicious and I totally have to look into that as a reason why all these freaky things keep happening, there's no Hellmouth here, is there, and you're obviously wrong because vampires? They're here --"
Those fingers tightened again, and Stiles froze; was that Derek's thumb stroking the back of his neck?
Derek broke away suddenly. "We don't get along. They stay in their territory. They don't exist in mine."
Stiles waved a hand in the air. "I hate to state the obvious --"
"Shut up, Stiles," Derek said. There was a snarl curling around Stiles' name, but if Stiles wasn't mistaken, there was also a tone of weariness -- a weariness that always showed up whenever they were alone. Stiles thought of it as Derek turning down the intensity of his tough Alpha act, but it could just be the enticing lure of the bed -- a bed that Derek was currently circling.
Stiles pushed away from his desk just in time to see Derek toe off his shoes, shrug out of his coat, and make himself comfortable. Stiles rolled his eyes as Derek wriggled around, messing up the sheets, and collecting all the pillows.
"No, dude. This is important. You might've missed this part, but they're invading," Stiles said. He twirled his chair around and pulled open the police reports for each of the robberies. Maybe there was forensic evidence. Did vampires leave fingerprints? Hair fibres, skin cells, DNA? Or was that whole physical presence thing like the mirror trick, where they didn't have a reflection? That could explain why no one had ever found a vampire. "That's my bed, by the way. I'm going to need it soon."
"When you find them," Derek said, leaving no question as to what he was talking about.
Stiles mockingly mouthed, when you find them and went back to the chat window.
[01:14] EbenOleson: Sorry about that. Was rudely interrupted
[01:15] BaronMacLaren: Life outside the Internet. How dare it interfere
Behind him, the bed creaked. Stiles could practically feel Derek's scowl burrowing holes in his back.
[01:15] BaronMacLaren: So what do you think?
[01:15] EbenOleson: About what?
[01:16] EbenOleson: Wait, let me catch up
Stiles scrolled up and read through the text that he'd missed
[00:47] BaronMacLaren: I can respect that
[00:47] BaronMacLaren: I was much the same way
[00:47] BaronMacLaren: If you need convincing, I'd be happy to oblige
[00:49] BaronMacLaren: Vampires need a large territory but I'm sure there's one near you
[00:49] BaronMacLaren: I could provide you with contact information
[00:55] BaronMacLaren: You scrubbed your IP
[00:57] BaronMacLaren: Never mind. There's never been a scrub I can't trackback. I've been doing this for a while. California? Beacon Hills?
[00:59] BaronMacLaren: That's fortuitous. I am nearby. We could meet, if you like.
Stiles stared at the screen for a long time. First, it was a panic attack that had his heart rate ramping up into ventricular arrhythmia zone --
"Stiles?" Derek asked, and Stiles was totally imagining it, but was that a tone of concern? Stiles took a quick swig of the nearest sugary energy drink for fortification.
His brain locked onto the very same safe-Internet talk he had given his dad -- mainly to counter the safe-sex talk that Stiles still had nightmares about -- in flashback mode. The bed behind him creaked; he sensed Derek looming behind him.
[1:20] EbenOleson: You're a creeping creeper of epic creeper proportions
[1:20] EbenOleson: How did you even --
[01:20] BaronMacLaren: Offer's on the table. No strings. Think about it
Stiles' hands were knocked off the keyboard, and he stared in astonishment as
appeared on the screen.
"That was rude," Stiles said lamely, distracted by Derek's hands on the keyboard. He had no idea that Derek even knew IRC codes. And those were really sexy hands. He hadn't realized that he had a fetish for muscular forearms, either. Or those fingers.
"You are not meeting this guy," Derek snarled, drawing away. Stiles shivered, and it had nothing to do with how rough Derek's voice was. Totally nothing.
"Dude, I'm not stupid," Stiles said, wincing at the tinny tone in his voice.
Derek didn't answer. An over-the-shoulder glance only confirmed that Derek had sprawled face-down on Stiles' bed. Stiles stared at Derek's ass before forcing himself to finish reading the police reports.
The forensics were inconclusive, the investigation was ongoing, and no closet horror movie fan deputy would risk their career by recording their personal theories for posterity.
Stiles logged out and did another Google search. He was idly clicking links, copying and pasting information in his own personal Bestiary, when he remembered what Derek said. He dug through his History and reread the website that explained the anonymity between vampires and werewolves and why the territory lines were a thing.
It was apparently a very serious thing.
So serious that both sides even had an agreement, Geneva-style, only no one knew where the original write-up was, and that detail totally had no relevance on the fact that there was a vampire in Beacon Hills feeding on people. But it supported what Derek had hinted at. Vampires and werewolves steered clear of each other.
Stiles rubbed his face and squinted at the clock. He turned around, pulling off his shirt, and froze with a startle. It had been happening more and more frequently lately that he'd literally blanked out on Derek bogarting his bed. As usual.
Stiles hastily pulled his shirt back on. He picked up his lacrosse stick and poked. "Derek. Derek. Derek."
Derek grunted. He rolled over.
Stiles poked again.
Derek's grunt became a sleepy, grumbly growl. It was almost cute. It was not going to make Stiles cave in again. It was not --
Derek made a tiny, snuffling sound. His leg even twitched a little.
Stiles cast a glance heavenward and spread his hands. "Why me?"
Derek could steal anyone's bed. Jackson's King with the high thread count. Scott's Double, though, admittedly, he never bothered to tuck in the sheets and that was annoying. Lydia's bed was probably an automatic out because of the flowery perfume she'd taken to wearing lately, and Stiles couldn't see Derek anywhere within a country mile of the Argents' house of his own free will. He wasn't sure if any of the others even had a bed to call their own.
Stiles rubbed his face. It really wasn't as if he minded. If anything, Stiles secretly liked it that Derek kept showing up at his place and cuddled. He just wished he knew what was behind it. If anything was behind it.
He fished a blanket out of his closet and settled down on the bed, bouncing as much as he could in an attempt to accidentally wake Derek, but he already knew from experience that nothing short of a nuclear blast, or, worse, a crisis with the pack, would wake him up.
Stiles yanked a pillow out from under Derek's monster pile, squirmed onto his side, and curled up under his blanket. He bounced a few more times for good measure.
The energy saver setting on his computer turned everything black, and Stiles finally closed his eyes to the sound of Derek's slow, soft breathing.
If no news was good news, they were on the receiving end of a whole lot of very bad news.
There were three deaths in one week, and both the Sheriff's Department -- most notably made up of the Sheriff and an overworked skeleton crew -- and the pack were coming up empty. The media was in a frenzy, as usual, but the good people of Beacon Hills simply weren't taking the hint, or they would be taking the curfew more seriously. Still, there were signs here and there that people were afraid they would become the serial killer's next victim. He was sure that he could see how scared the school cafeteria staff was, because the curly fries were woefully undercooked and over-seasoned.
Derek was coming over every night to loom over Stiles' shoulder and to touch him unnecessarily; Stiles was trying very hard not to read too much into it. Derek never touched anyone unless he was in the process of ripping their throats out.
"My boyfriend says it's not a serial killer," Lydia said, studying her reflection in a small hand mirror and dabbing a bit of concealer or blush or powder or whatever it was, to an otherwise perfect spot on her face. Stiles would never understand girls and makeup.
"Of course it's not a serial killer," Stiles said, rolling his eyes. "It's not like we don't already know that it's a vampire."
"That we can't track down because we have no idea what to look for," Boyd said.
"If it's a vampire," Isaac said.
"Oh, who cares," Lydia said, rolling her eyes. She threw her compact into her purse and got up, walking away from the table with a toss of her hair and a waft of strong cotton-candy perfume that made Stiles' burn. "I've got a phone date."
Erica growled. Stiles nodded in agreement. Lydia really should be paying more attention to the threat that the vampire caused; most of the victims were in their age group. Any one of them could be targeted next, though Stiles was willing to bet that the werewolves would have at least a chance at fighting a vampire off.
As it was, their age group consisted of horny teenagers who would have no resistance whatsoever to a vampire's supposedly dread, hypnotic gaze, especially when their feeding habits were intricately tied with sex. There was a reason that all of the victims had vampire bites on their inner thighs.
Some things in the Interwebs couldn't be unseen. The vampire porn had been some of the hottest thing that Stiles had ever seen until the fake plastic vampire teeth had popped out during blood play.
Porn notwithstanding, every website he'd skimmed agreed with one very important principle: sex and vampires were pretty much one and the same.
That had been confirmed by an essay he'd stumbled on -- a doctorate thesis on vampirism in literature and in history. In the foreword, the author had waxed poetic about vampires being the hottest supernatural creatures on the planet, even more than succubus and incubi, and how after all the research, they could understand why some people would happily offer their necks to vampires.
The entire thing had read like an Anita Blake novel. Stiles had felt both dirty and incredibly aroused afterward. A shower had been required.
Stiles' head snapped up. "Wait. When did Lydia get a boyfriend?"
Scott's mouth dropped open and he stared at Stiles like he'd never seen him before. "Where have you been?"
Stiles thought that it was quite unfair how Scott was giving him a pitying look that was mixed between obliviousness and denial. Okay, maybe Stiles had had a crush on Lydia since she turned down his delicious offer of handmade mud cakes in kindergarten, and had always hoped that she would come around, but it wasn't his fault if he was a little distracted lately. There was a certain werewolf occupying most of his free time with growly demands of research, and that, justifiably, required attention. And, also. Vampires.
Erica abruptly pushed away from the table with a snarl and stalked off.
"What's her problem?" Jackson asked.
Erica, who was already across the cafeteria, flipped him off. Stiles muffled a chuckle. Then he stopped.
"I know that look," Scott said. "That look is not good."
"I have an idea," Stiles said, and everyone at the table groaned.
The logic was legit, at least in Stiles' head, though it didn't seem to matter how much he explained it to Scott -- Scott couldn't concentrate on anything unless Stiles mentioned Allison's name every now and again. He tried that trick this time, but it got confusing for everyone when Stiles tried to use Hunters as a metaphor for vampires.
It came down to this:
The pack could search the town all they liked -- and they had. There was absolutely no scent to pick up at the crime scenes, which made sense since vampires were dead things whose bodies stopped making all the oily odoriferous by-products. Stiles could mine the Sheriff Department's database all he liked, but there was no discernible pattern in the attacks, no similar victimology, no anything that would point fingers to a particular area of town, or, more conveniently, to the name and address of the vampire doing all the killing.
They were grasping at straws, though the only people grasping at straws at this point were Derek and Stiles. Scott had Allison permanently on the brain, Jackson was his usual douchebag, heavy on the narcissism, Isaac and Boyd were pretty much glued to the PS2 someone had brought to the train depot, and Erica?
Stiles didn't want to think about Erica. She'd been porcupine-prickly lately, and it was getting worse these days. He'd ask Lydia what was up with her, but Lydia was apparently off dating some new guy, and Stiles should definitely care more about that, but, hello, vampires.
In the absence of any plausible suggestions and investigative routes, all that was left was research. And that dude from the vampire chat? He'd mentioned that vampires had territories and that he might know the local guy.
And maybe? The local guy was the bad guy and Stiles could totally offer himself up as bait if it meant that they could track the killer.
It was worth a shot
Stiles found the right website in his extensive bookmarks under the Vampire Research folder and clicked half a billion links before he tumbled into the chat again. The person he wanted to talk to was there, but marked Idle; Stiles sent him a private message.
[10:58] EbenOleson: Hello?
[11:04] BaronMacLaren: You're back
[11:04] BaronMacLaren: I thought I scared you off
[11:05] EbenOleson: I admit nothing
[11:05] EbenOleson: But that was freaky, tracking me down
[11:05] BaronMacLaren: I'm not very patient. I apologize
[11:05] BaronMacLaren: Most sceptics are trolls. It's not often that I run into a sceptic who has done their research
[11:05] BaronMacLaren: Or one who has an open mind. I find that fascinating and refreshing
[11:06] BaronMacLaren: I'd like the opportunity to show you that vampires aren't quite the monsters that modern literature and Hollywood movies have turned us into
[11:07] EbenOleson: Dash my hopes, why don't you
[11:07] EbenOleson: I was hoping for a bit of sparkle action
[11:08] EbenOleson: I suppose I'll have to do without
[11:08] BaronMacLaren: Seeing is believing
[11:08] BaronMacLaren: Are you up for it?
[11:15] EbenOleson: All right. Why not?
[11:16] BaronMacLaren: Club Suck
[11:16] BaronMacLaren: Friday night, 1 AM
[11:16] BaronMacLaren: Give the bouncer your nick, he'll let you in
Stiles logged off in a hurry when he heard an angry thump against the window. He turned in his seat and saw Derek's profile against the glass. There was a faint rattle, and holy shit, Derek's wolfed out, because his claw was working at the latch.
Stiles flew to the window and held it down, using all of his weight to force Derek to withdraw his finger.
"No, dude! This is my bed! You've got to, I don't know, haul a mattress to the Batcave or something. Furniture is a thing! Get your own! This? My bed! Mine! Bad wolf!"
Stiles couldn't just hear Derek's growl. He could feel it through the glass. The entire house vibrated. And Stiles was pretty sure that the flash of red was a bad sign.
The growling intensified.
"Come on, dude! Give me a break. Maybe I want some alone time?"
There was a strange, sudden, and startled pause. Stiles suddenly realized what he'd said.
"Oh, God. I mean alone time as in, I'd like my whole bed to myself for a change so that I can stretch out without waking up freezing to death because you stole my blanket again, which I totally don't get because you're a freaking furnace, and the cuddling this morning? I swear it wasn't weird, and I'm not going to rat you out to the pack about being a ginormous cuddle monster, but I'm not above using it as blackmail material so that I can have my bed for a few nights. You can come back. After. If you want. I mean, I want you to, just --"
Derek moved away. For an instant, Stiles thought that Derek might lunge through the window, but he realized that the expression he saw on Derek's face wasn't anger. It was hurt.
"-- I just. I just want a few nights to myself?"
Stiles sat heavily on the corner of the bed, feeling like a giant ass. It wasn't as if he didn't secretly love it that Derek spent more and more time with him, even if it amounted to growling, grunted and snarled conversations, and pillow thieving, blanket hogging, and unconscious cuddling.
But he had a plan to lure out the vampire attacking the good citizens of Beacon Hills, and the only way he could lure the vampire out into the open was if he didn't stink of werewolves.
Maybe it was a bad idea.
Stiles unlocked the window with shaky fingers, threw it up, and stuck his head out to invite Derek in, but Derek was gone.
Avoiding everyone was difficult when they all went to school together, but Stiles managed to put some distance between himself and the rest of the pack.
It was a near thing, though. Scott kept throwing him those adorable puppy eyes that were hard to resist, but Stiles wasn't half as gullible as Allison.
The rest of the time was easier. He skipped lacrosse practice; he went straight home instead of the Hale house where everyone hung out for a while before Derek got everyone together for a training round or a jaunty run through the woods. He got ahead on his homework, and had even finished his math homework for the rest of the month.
Stiles was taking the pizza out of the oven when his cell phone buzzed with an incoming text message.
SCRUFFYWOLF to STILES
He flinched. He tapped out a text while absentmindedly fishing through the cutlery drawer for the pizza cutter.
STILES to GRIZZLYWOLF
The hot cheese nearly burned a hole through the roof of his mouth when another text came in.
SCRUFFYWOLF to STILES
Meeting. Get here. Now.
STILES to GRIZZLYWOLF
Nah not feelng it 2nite
SCRUFFYWOLF to STILES
Im coming over
STILES to GRIZZLYWOLF
SCRUFFYWOLF to STILES
STILES to GRIZZLYWOLF
Dude personal time still NO
There was no response by the time Stiles demolished the pizza. He figured that the pack meeting was in full swing, and that was why he was surprised when the doorbell rang.
He was even more surprised to see Lydia at the door, dressed up as if she were ready to go out on the town. She stood there, her hands on her hips, wearing a scandalously short black skirt, knee-high boots, a low-cut V-neck, and a stylish blazer.
She was also wearing the most put-upon look that Stiles had ever seen her wear. She walked past him and into the house.
The trail of perfume -- this time a strong citrus that made Stiles' eyes water -- followed in after her and made itself as comfortable as an unwanted guest.
"I'll make this short," Lydia said. "When the pack has a problem, they turn to you. But when their problem is you, they turn to me. I have more important things to do than play Dear Abby to a bunch of moping werewolves and an Alpha who's been acting like someone's taken away his favourite chew toy. Whatever's going on, stop it. Fix it. Whatever."
Lydia held up an index finger, and shoved it in his face. Her manicured fingernail was deadly. It could probably tear out Stiles' throat without having to turn into a wolf's claw. "I don't care. Your drama doesn't interest me. Get over yourself."
"Uh --" Lydia's eyebrow rose, and Stiles hastily tacked on, "Okay. Tonight. I'll fix it tonight."
After, because Stiles had plans, but Lydia didn't need to know that.
Lydia's eyes narrowed. She lowered her hand, apparently deciding to believe him. "Good."
Stiles bobbed his head in a quick nod. "It's all cool. I promise. Um. Want to come in? I mean, even further in that you already are? My dad's not home -- not that has anything to do with anything -- but I could... Drinks! Do you want a drink? I mean, not alcoholic drinks, because dad put a lock on the cabinet after the last time Scott and I borrowed a bottle. We've got water, juice, that Snapple flavour you like so much? I've got it, it's not that I thought you'd ever stop by, but --"
"I have a date," Lydia said, cutting him off.
"Right. With your boyfriend," Stiles said, and if it was weird that the words didn't hurt him to say.
"Good night, Stiles," Lydia said, but she paused in the doorway, the cold night chill filling the front entrance. "How's the..."
She waved a hand.
"The vampire thing?"
"Yeah. That," Lydia said.
"Working on it," Stiles said.
Lydia didn't say anything for the longest time. If Stiles stretched his imagination, he'd think that Lydia knew exactly what he had planned to do tonight. He froze, because movement attracted predators, and if he stayed still, maybe she wouldn't pounce.
Instead, she surprised him. She shook her head.
"Don't get killed," Lydia said, raising an eyebrow in a meaningful way that went right over Stiles' head, but he nodded. She lingered on the porch for a second. Stiles thought she was going to say something else, but instead, she climbed into her car and drove off.
Stiles had nearly shut the door when a motorcycle roared past. He thought it was Erica.
Shrugging, Stiles pulled out his phone. He thumbed through his contacts list and typed out a text message.
STILES to SCOTTPUPPY
Call me aftr mtng pls
He had a vampire takedown to plan.
Club Suck was wedged between Route 7 and the San Diego Freeway. There was no direct route to get there, no sign outside the bar, and no line-up of people waiting to get in. Vampire clubs were a big thing in the mid-90s, were still a big thing in the larger cities, particularly New Orleans, but California? It was all about sunshine and nubile suntanned bodies. The gloom and doom and pale Goth look was so last season, that last season was the 15th century, only with less impaling and more Lycra. For a place that was as difficult to find and as out-of-the-way as Club Suck, it was doing surprisingly good business, if the full parking lot was anything to go by.
Stiles pulled up next to Toyota Camry with bumper stickers all over the rear fender. Someone had a sense of humour: Got Blood?, Beware the Vampire Kitty, and Phlebotomist by Day, Vampire by Night.
Stiles texted Scott to double-check on his backup.
STILES to SCOTTPUPPY
U knw what 2 do?
It had taken far too long to convince Scott that, no, he couldn't come over to apologize in person but they would totally get together later. They had a whole conversation about it.
"Later, I mean. Just later," Stiles said, checking his watch. If he kept having to explain this to Scott, he was going to be late. "You have the schedule, right?"
"Yeah, but why --" Scott paused. For once, Stiles hoped that it was an Allison-distracting pause, and that Scott would forget what he was asking. "This has to do with the vampires, doesn't it?"
Stiles groaned. "Yeah, but you cannot, under any circumstances, tell Derek. You can't tell him. At all. Promise me --"
"If it's the vampires, then he should probably --"
"You owe me, Scott. You owe me so hard."
"But Allison --"
"I'm cashing in all your debts. Right now. You're back at zero after tonight. Clean slate."
Stiles knew he'd won when Scott sighed heavily over the phone. "All right. Tell me the schedule again."
It was a conversation that Scott had better not have forgotten. Stiles was counting on him coming in at the right time to save Stiles' ass on the off chance that everything went wrong Scott's answer was sluggish in coming in.
SCOTTPUPPY to STILES
Do I have 2
Stiles stared at his phone, wide-eyed, eyebrows raised, his mouth open. That was definitely an indignant noise that came out of him, too.
STILES to SCOTTPUPPY
Dude u promised I need u tonite dont let me dwn
Stiles huffed while he waited for an answer. He was not going into a vampire bar -- even if it was a fake vampire bar -- unless he knew for sure that he had a way out. He might or might not have a vial of holy water in his pocket and he'd borrowed his mom's cross pendant, just in case, but from everything he'd read online, nothing beat having a werewolf on his side.
Speaking of werewolves, Stiles reached over his shoulder and yanked the I brake for werewolves placard from the back window, hoping that no one had seen it.
SCOTTPUPPY to STILES
Stiles nodded to himself. Everything was going according to plan, status quo, good to go. He was pumping himself up to go inside when he got another text.
SCOTTPUPPY to STILES
Can I brng Allison?
Stiles rolled his eyes. He erased his first answer -- omg whats wrong w u dont brng her -- and typed in a new one after remembering, hello, wicked Hunter skills, and that a crossbow-wielding badass Allison would probably be even better backup than a distracted Scott. He idly wondered if she used fibreglass, carbon fibre, or wooden shafts with her arrows.
STILES to SCOTTPUPPY
If itll get u here
Stiles checked himself in the mirror one last time before he left the Jeep. He didn't know what to wear at a vampire club and nothing he owned qualified as Goth gear, but if he could get away with a plaid shirt over jeans in Jungle, then he could get away with plaid shirt over jeans at Club Suck.
The big, pale guy in a turtleneck, black suit and black sunglasses didn't seem to agree, though.
"Hiya. Er. I'm expected?" Stiles said.
The man didn't say anything. He didn't even breathe, but that might just be theatrics. His voice was low and guttural when he grunted out, "Name?"
"St -- Eben. Eben Oleson," Stiles said.
The bouncer eyed Stiles up and down before shaking his head in a familiar Not what we expected twitch, and finally tilted his head toward the door.
Stiles didn't stick around to see if he'd change his mind.
The inside of Club Suck wasn't as cheesy as Stiles expected. It was actually as far from cheesy as cheesy got. There were the typical low lights in varying, flattering colours, blinking on and off in time with the indie music piped through the speakers. The DJ was in the back of the room on a raised platform. There was a fair crowd that gravitated between the booths and the tables and the dance floor, and some of the patrons lingered near the long bar .
Stiles was a little disappointed. He'd kind of been hoping for the extreme end of vampire décor -- leather and chains and cages for a bit of S&M vibe, against a backdrop of gauzy silk and red walls and black velvet curtains.
A few people glanced in his direction, but he mostly went unnoticed.
He wouldn't go unnoticed for long if he stood in the middle of the room looking like a deer caught in the headlights of a truck, though, so he wandered over to the bar, and leaned against it as soon as a spot cleared up. A bartender came over to him -- cute in a young Leonardo diCaprio kind of way -- and raised an inquiring brow.
"Beer," Stiles said. He couldn't believe his luck when the bartender nodded.
"Sure thing. Any preference?"
"Whatever's on tap," Stiles said. The bartender turned away and came back with a tall glass of dark, fizzy liquid. Stiles scowled. He could recognize a Coke when he saw one.
"Your beer," the bartender said. He whipped a bar towel out of his back pocket and wiped his hands. "I haven't seen you around before. Are you here with anyone?"
Stiles plucked a few straws from the bar and dunked them in the glass. The bartender was generous -- plenty of soda, not so much ice. It was a nice balance; Stiles would have to compliment him later, but there would be no tip. "I'm, uh. I'm meeting someone?"
"That should go without saying. Club's invitation-only, kid. Can't see you sneaking past Warren otherwise. Who are you meeting?"
"Warren. You mean the guy with the Miami Vice vibe covering the door? Him and me, we're tight. Great guy, a bit on the quiet side --"
The bartender planted his hands on the bar and leaned in impatiently. "I don't got all day. What's the name?"
"Uh." Stiles hesitated. He didn't really want to get into how this was all some sort of anonymous Internet hookup, and he felt weird saying Baron, so he settled for, "MacLaren?"
The bartender straightened suddenly, a trace of alarm crossing his features. It vanished in an instant, though, and his mouth twitched into a semblance of a smile that didn't look anywhere near real, and he said, "I'll let him know you're here."
"You do that," Stiles said, but the bartender was already on the other side of the bar, speaking quietly to a pretty brunette. They both glanced in his direction, and Stiles wondered if he was about to get tossed out.
Stiles was simultaneously bobbing his head to the music -- the DJ had awesome taste -- and chasing the straw with his tongue. He'd just managed to catch it and take a long sip when someone slid in next to him.
The voice was seven kinds of silky-sexy, and it curried an involuntary shiver down Stiles' spine. It felt like someone had simultaneously traced a feather around the back of his neck while running a low-grade electrical current through nipple clamps -- not that he'd know what either of those things felt like. He just had an active imagination.
Stiles turned around. The straws fell out of his mouth. He stared.
MacLaren was not the stereotypical creeping Internet possibly-vampire creeper hitting on people over the web that Stiles was expecting.
He had chin-length wavy brown hair brushed back from his face in a messy just rolled out of bed ruffle, bright blue eyes framed in thick black eyelashes that gleamed purple under the club lights, and full, lush lips tugging from a welcoming smile to an amused smirk. He had cheekbones and a chiselled jaw and arched brows and --
Stiles was pretty sure his brain short-circuited, but that didn't stop him from glancing south of MacLaren's neck.
Stiles had a good two inches on the other guy, but MacLaren was a bit stockier, definitely more muscular. He fit nicely in a button-down black shirt unbuttoned at the neck, the sleeves rolled up halfway up his forearms. His black trousers were tailored, and they'd been tailored really well.
There was hot, and there was Derek-hot, which were both on different measuring scales, but on the merely-hot scale, MacLaren came pretty close to Derek-hot.
Actually, the more Stiles thought about it, the more he realized that nothing came close to Derek-hot, and why was he thinking about Derek when a good-looking dude was staring at him like he was every Christmas morning that had come all at once?
"Like what you see, Eben?" MacLaren asked, a teasing lilt to his tone. Stiles' eyes shot up, but he found MacLaren checking him out, even biting his lower lip a little.
Stiles felt the burn of a blush on his cheeks.
"You're not what I expected," MacLaren said, preventing the destruction of the fabric of time-space by filling in the silence caused by the rare and deadly Stiles Tongue-Tied Syndrome. "When you said you were doing research for a book, I thought that you would be a little older. Shorter. With glasses. I certainly didn't picture you."
"Right back at you," Stiles said, and he barely kept from slapping himself. "And that was not smooth. What I meant was, I don't know what I meant, but I figured you'd be a creepy old guy with serious pedo tendencies --"
MacLaren smirked, and Stiles trailed off. "We've both surprised the other, then. I'm pleased."
"Likewise," Stiles said, half-absentmindedly. He didn't realize until later that it was almost as if he'd said, you're looking pretty hot yourself. Flustered, he reached up to scratch behind his ear while surreptitiously glancing around. "This place isn't what I expected, either."
MacLaren shrugged. "We change the décor according to the fashion. Our regulars would quite prefer that we keep the dungeon look, but that stopped attracting new blood back in the eighties."
Stiles didn't manage to stop the laugh in time. "New blood. That's funny."
"I'm quite serious, Eben," MacLaren said, his mouth spreading in a slow smile. He had white teeth. Very white teeth. Very sharp white teeth. Then, in a flash, his expression turned serious. He frowned slightly, as if trying to solve a puzzle -- or as if he were suddenly very constipated -- and shook his head. "But you're not here to trade interior decorating tips. You're here for... your research."
"What? Yes. Yes, definitely research," Stiles said, his head bobbing in a hurried nod.
"Tell me about the book you're writing," MacLaren said, an elbow on the counter. He slid in closer just as Stiles' brain was racing, trying to remember the plot of the latest vampire book he'd read.
"Well, it starts off with an airplane that lands at an airfield, but the air controllers can't get anyone from the cockpit to respond, and they can't get the plane to open from the outside --"
"Del Toro's The Strain," MacLaren said.
Stiles faltered. His brain went off-road at a hundred miles per hour and found another course. "-- but it doesn't matter anyway because by nightfall, everyone at the airport is dead and a plague spreads all over the world, turning people into vampires, every man except for --"
"Matheson's I Am Legend," MacLaren said. His lips quirked into a smile, and he leaned closer.
"-- a few survivors, who meet up with this kick ass fighter who has all the powers of a vampire --"
"Ultraviolet was a good movie. I enjoyed it," MacLaren said. His fingers touched the sleeve of Stiles' arm, and it was all that Stiles could do to keep himself from yanking his arm away, because all the alarm lights were flashing and the Emergency Broadcast System was blaring in his ear. Danger, Danger, Will Robinson.
"-- but this corporation keeps trying to hunt her down --"
"One of the Resident Evil. Or perhaps all of them. It's a repetitive theme." MacLaren took Stiles' hand, and, fuck, it was ice cold to the touch.
Maybe he had bad circulation? Stiles hoped it was bad circulation. He glanced around, wanting someone to help him out, and, hello, Stiles, you're in a vampire bar, because yelling for help in a vampire bar was like bleeding in an ocean full of hungry sharks. He caught his own wide-eyed stare in the mirror behind the bar --
-- and did a double-take when he realized that MacLaren wasn't showing up in the mirror.
Well. At least that part of vampire lore was true.
"You're not really writing a book, Eben," MacLaren said.
"Ahhh, I could be," Stiles protested. "It's totally within my ability --"
"Tell me why you're really here."
"Research," Stiles said without hesitation. "I'm totally about the research. For instance, did you know that the properties of garlic that are supposed to ward off vampires? They're also found in some types of onions like chives and scallions and, and this Japanese plant called ra... racket-o or something --"
"Rakkyo," MacLaren said, and there was a slight pinch in the middle of his forehead, between his brows that was probably the undead equivalent of a werewolf scowl.
"Yes, totally, which makes it sound like you guys could be warded off by a good bottle of salad dressing --"
MacLaren moved -- one second he was over there, looming creepily despite being shorter than Stiles, and the next, he was close, werewolf close -- and buried his nose in Stiles' neck. He took a big, nasty sniff.
He pulled back, smirking. "You had bean burritos for dinner. The only thing I should be concerned with are certain... odours and substances that your body will excrete when you're turned. Couldn't you have eaten something healthier?"
"Oh, no, you didn't just pull the healthy card on me and, what, wait -- T.. Tu... Turned?" Stiles stuttered. "No, no, no. No, thanks. Fuck, what is my life? First Peter, now you. Am I some sort of supernatural catnip?"
MacLaren's expression drifted to the vaguely confused but not caring category. He rubbed his nose. "Do you have a dog?"
Stiles froze, wide-eyed. On the one hand, he could say, no, but I have a pack of werewolves. On the other, he'd really much rather walk out of the club with all of his blood cells intact and still in his body, kthxbai, because if the Interwebs were accurate about the no-reflection thing and the garlic thing, every other bit of vampire lore had to be true, too, right down to their rabid hatred for werewolves and everything associated with them. He could lie, but he was pretty sure that MacLaren had a lie detector that was just as good as Derek's.
"My best friend works at a vet? I help out there sometimes? I held a puppy two days ago? A Westie peed on my shoe last Monday? My asshole neighbour keeps letting his Great Dane shit on my lawn? Well, not my lawn, exactly, my dad's lawn, which is all kinds of stupid, let me tell you, because my dad's a wicked hand with city ordnance, given that he's the Sheriff --"
And that had exactly the opposite effect of what Stiles was going for, if MacLaren's smile was any indication.
"Well, that does explain your choice in monikers, Eben," MacLaren said teasingly. "And if you're trying to dissuade me, I'm afraid you're only making yourself more attractive. A Sheriff's son? That's merely gravy, as they say."
"Not like you've ever had any," Stiles said weakly. He tugged at his arm, but MacLaren held him firm. Like steel grip. Cold steel. Stiles could feel it down to his bones.
"Oh, it has been some time," MacLaren said, with raised eyebrows and a slight shrug of agreement. "Though I've been craving a bloody steak in mushroom sauce lately. I haven't had one in centuries --"
"What time is it?" Stiles asked, because he did not want to get all that familiar with vampire eating habits, and also, Scott was supposed to call him right about now and totally give him an excuse to get the fuck out.
MacLaren gave him a tiny little smirk like he saw right through him, but he indulgingly glanced at his watch. "A little before two. Is this where you make a ridiculous excuse to leave? What will it be, then? You need to wash your hair? You forgot to plug in the coffee maker? You have a hot date?"
MacLaren paused. "I thought I was your hot date, Eben."
Stiles flailed. Or rather, half of him flailed, because MacLaren was still holding onto his arm. Stiles was going to kill Scott. He was supposed to call. Or at least pick exactly this moment to stumble through the door of the club because he'd realized that Stiles was a squishy human who wouldn't last two seconds against a vampire. A freaking vampire.
He glanced at the club entrance and fervently wished and wished, and when the door slammed open, Stiles had two colliding thoughts.
Oh my God. I'm going to die.
Stiles didn't think it was physically possible for anyone not to stare Derek, to run their eyes over him in appreciation of the pinnacle of the human form. Roughly ninety-eight percent of the Club Suck crowd looked like they wanted to get in on some throat-sucking action with Derek, but the remaining two percent looked at Derek, sniffed, and scrambled out of the way like their vampire capes had caught on fire. Derek didn't even glance in their direction; his attention was fixed on Stiles.
Stiles' mouth, which operated independently of his brain even at the best of times, told MacLaren, "I need to go... because I... forgot to feed my wolf?"
Derek's glare went from being set on stun to powered up to kill.
MacLaren's pinched V-frown was almost bat-like in its confusion. Realization didn't sink in fast enough before Derek was suddenly there, a growling Michelangelo statue of Angry Werewolf between MacLaren and Stiles.
MacLaren scrambled back a step, his human features twisting for a second until they were bat-like. He caught himself a few steps away and hissed. "This is outside your territory."
Derek didn't answer, but Stiles was pretty sure that he was wearing his Do I look like I give a shit? face right now. He surprised Stiles altogether when he broke the dominance stare-down and said, "I got what I came for."
Stiles glanced down at where feeling was just returning to his arm, pins-and-needle style, and felt Derek's hand around his wrist in a loose grip that was still somehow tight enough that he wouldn't be able to pull free from it, even if he wanted to.
Derek's touch was scorching where MacLaren's had been ice cold, and Stiles found himself leaning in closer to Derek to greedily suck up his warmth. It was right about then that Stiles realized what Derek had said, his words sinking in like bricks.
"Wait. What --"
"He's outside your territory," MacLaren said, crossing his arms. Whatever scare he'd had earlier when Derek arrived had been replaced by a smug smirk and the return of the creepy two percent of the club's patrons.
"No, I'm not," Stiles blurted out. "I'm totally Team Jacob --"
Derek's growl intensified. It vibrated through Stiles and did funny things to his cock that he definitely shouldn't be focusing on right now, because, reasons, but then his brain took a sharp detour down the sewer when Derek bit out, "Do you know how we mark our territory?"
Derek didn't wait for MacLaren's answer. He stalked off, pulling Stiles with him.
Not out the door.
To the Men's.
Stiles squawked when Derek pushed him past the couple necking -- literally necking, blood was involved -- on the couch and beyond. The guy -- they were both guys, actually, but the one with the teeth and the blood dribbling down his chin -- looked up sharply, got up so fast that the walking food bag nearly tumbled out of his lap and onto the floor, and ran the fuck out of there.
Stiles wanted to follow his example.
"What -- what are you --"
Stiles was shoved into a bathroom stall. He slipped inside, knocked his knee against the toilet, and was yanked back roughly before he could land somewhere hard and uncomfortable and completely embarrassing, and didn't vampires ever bother cleaning their toilets?
Derek pressed Stiles against the flimsy metal door with a searing-hot hand against his chest. Stiles didn't dare look away from the eyes full of hurt maim murder and blindly fumbled for the door latch in a scramble to escape, because while Angry Werewolf was nice to look at, Stiles wasn't so much into doe-eyed admiration while trapped in a cramped bathroom stall with one. Derek swatted roughly at his hand.
"Derek --" Stiles yelped.
He yelped because Derek was unbuckling Stiles' belt, and Stiles' body was having a very understandable but completely inappropriate response considering the circumstances. He was in a vampire bar. There was a vampire out there who wanted to suck his blood. He was trapped in a no-escape bathroom stall with a rabid werewolf. And that werewolf thought it was perfectly okay to start stroking Stiles' cock like he owned it.
His traitorous cock didn't object.
Neither did he, if the deep-chested groans and filthy moans coming out of his mouth were any sign.
But it was the principle of the thing. If he was going to get a hand job -- oh my God --
Derek dropped to his knees in front of Stiles and nuzzled his crotch and mouthed at a too-sensitive spot near his groin that Derek had no business knowing about. He licked a flat tongue up the base of Stiles' cock before sucking him down in one go, and he kept going until Stiles hit the back of Derek's throat --
And that was it. His brain short circuited. It flashed the Blue Screen of Death. Control-Alt-Delete wouldn't work. No. He needed a hard reboot.
And he was getting one.
Stiles' head banged back against the stall door with a dull thunk. He breathed like he was about to give birth; fast and hard and peppered with holy shit and I'm going to and fuck, Derek --
He didn't know what to do with his hands. The door behind him and the walls around him were too smooth and he kept slipping off. His knees would have buckled if it wasn't for Derek's hands digging into his hips. He flailed and found some support in the door latch, and --
It was such an abrupt stop that Stiles tore his gaze from the ceiling where he'd been busily counting holes in the soundproofed tiles -- one, two, seven, thirty-two, three thousand four hundred seventy-one -- that Stiles glanced down.
And he really shouldn't have.
Just the sight of Derek like that, on his knees, Derek's cock like an iron bar clearly outlined in his tight jeans? With Stiles' dick in his mouth like it belonged there? Never mind that heavy-hooded glare of pale eyes under dark lashes?
It was the hottest thing that Stiles had ever seen, and he'd seen a lot of things -- okay, all of them by way of various free porn clips on the internet, or amateur porn vids that were anywhere on the scale of dubious quality to suspiciously professionally edited. It was a billion times sexier than anything else because it was Derek, and Derek was doing it to him.
He was doing it to Stiles, and he looked as if he'd been wanting to do it for a while, too. There was no questioning the man's enthusiasm or -- oh my God¬ -- Stiles' breathing stuttered when he felt the flick of a tongue darting along the side of his penis, the hot huff of air exhaled onto his spit-slit skin. He just wished that Derek had done something sooner, had shown any sign of liking Stiles, because he would've been all over that a long time ago --
As if he were able to hear the runaway thoughts in Stiles' head, Derek growled. While Stiles' cock was still in his mouth.
It was a collision of adrenaline rush and teenage hormones and fear response and vibrations shooting through his dick and up his spine and into his brain centre, because Stiles was suddenly white-blind and blood-rushing deaf and out-of-body trembling from coming in Derek's mouth.
"Holy -- holy shit --"
Stiles gasped and moaned and shivered and was just a hot mess of overly-sensitized. His wasted dick had the temerity to twitch in interest at the obscene, sloppy pop as Derek added just that little bit of too much suction to get to the very last drop. Derek stood up abruptly and manhandled Stiles until he was kissing the cool surface of the bathroom door. Stiles' brain couldn't compute when Derek shoved Stiles' pants all the way to his knees and rearranged him by pulling his hips out and shoving his hoodie and shirt up to his armpits.
He barely even connected the dots when the sound of a belt unbuckling and a button popping open and a zipper sliding down filled the silence, but when he felt something hard and warm rubbing between his ass cheeks, something clicked and he looked down at himself and --
"What -- wait. Derek, wait --"
Derek's fingers pinched into Stiles' hips, keeping him still with the threat of human nails turning into werewolf claws.
"I'm -- wow --" Stiles stared down unhappily at his cock, because his cock was fighting valiantly to get with the program. He might be a teenager with awesome recovery time, and he might complain about being a virgin and have fantasies about fucking Derek every which way from Sunday, but definitely not having his first time in the bathroom stall in a vampire club --
"Shut up," Derek breathed into his ear, and yeah, Stiles might have said all that out loud instead of keeping it safe and sound inside his brain. "That's... later."
"Yeah, absolutely, I'm totally fine with later, I'm so fine with later, with plenty of kissing and mutual blowjobs and equally mutual handjobs and lube and fingering and kissing in between, then we can move up to the fucking and then the other fucking, did I mention kissing?"
Derek was still rutting against Stiles' ass, and that couldn't be comfortable, the way only slicked with sweat and pre-come, and --
Derek moved a hand from Stiles' hip. Stiles risked a glance over his shoulder in time to see a hungry, desperate expression turn into the most unfairly sexy orgasm face, ever, and it came as a matched set with the hot come splashing on Stiles' back and ass.
This time, Stiles' cock didn't just twitch. It showed definite signs of life.
"Oh my God, did you just --"
Stiles was silenced by the heavy, hot breaths blowing against his neck and ear, but what really made him tremble was the hand rubbing the come into his skin like it was lotion.
"What are you --"
Stiles jerked away. There was nowhere to go. Derek kept him effectively pinned against the door and snarled at him when he tried to wriggle free. Stiles rolled his eyes, tried to ignore how gross and hot this was, and resigned himself to a long hot shower -- and masturbation session -- when he got home.
"Wait --" Stiles twisted his head to look at Derek, nearly cracking their skulls together in the process. "You said something about marking territory. What does that even mean? Did you just mark me? I'm not territory. Dude, you need a dictionary. I'm a freaking person, not a tree that you lift your leg on, and no, that is not a kink. I'm very into kinks. I'm learning I have kinks. Everything --"
Stiles waved his hand in a circle to gesture the space between them and the bathroom stall.
"-- that just happened here? Very definitely on the kink list. I wouldn't be adverse to more --" Stiles decided that Derek's intense face wasn't of the I regret this variety but more of the Shut up Stiles variety. He stuttered to a faltering stop when he realized that Derek was tucking himself in and doing up his pants, and hastily sorted himself out, too. "Is this a thing? A one-time sort of thing? Because I'm hoping it's an ongoing thing. Are we dating now? I'm good with the dating. Do you even like me? I'm not sure I'm into the whole hate-dating, even though it's going to be one-sided hate. From you, I mean. I'm --"
Stiles was shut up by a too-hard kiss that was full of teeth and smashed noses. Derek stayed where he was, against him, holding him still, their faces stuck together in a caricature of a kiss.
Stiles didn't move. Neither did Derek. Stiles, being the less experienced one here, figured he should maybe let Derek take the lead.
And Derek, maybe figuring out that Stiles was focusing, for once, pulled back just enough for Stiles to feel briefly achy and cold and sore at the loss of contact. It all went away when Derek leaned in a second time and pressed a soft kiss on Stiles' mouth, chaste and gentle, but with the weight and pinch of the promise of more.
"Mine," Derek said when he drew back a second time, pale eyes fixed on Stiles', eyebrows raised in a mixture of I'm serious and I mean it, searching for understanding and acceptance from Stiles.
Stiles couldn't help it. He broke into a big smile. "So, it is a thing."
Derek huffed and rolled his eyes. He ran a big hand behind Stiles' neck before trailing down to unlock the door, but he didn't let go of Stiles when he led them both out of the bathroom and into a dim club full of vampires and vampire hanger-ons. None of them missed the Big Bad Wolf standing in the middle, growling low in his chest. Stiles caught how Derek stared at MacLaren, how MacLaren's nose wrinkled in disgust, how MacLaren stared long and hard at Stiles before holding up his hands in capitulation.
Satisfied that he'd made his point, Derek's fingers tightened around Stiles' neck and he was unceremoniously guided toward the exit. Stiles stumbled over his own two feet, caught up to Derek until there was some slack, and ducked out of Derek's grasp to hurry over to MacLaren.
MacLaren's brows were arched in a wriggle of confusion and he glanced between Stiles and whoever was looming behind Stiles' shoulder. Stiles half-expected that Derek had followed him, but Derek was at the doorway, looking perpetually annoyed and impatient as usual. There was no trace of the earlier aggressive possessiveness, but Stiles supposed the whole rubbing his come all over Stiles had mollified the werewolf somewhat. The edges of his mouth were curled into a smirk, and his lips were moving, the words lost in the low background music.
MacLaren must have heard him with his super-vampire senses, because he flinched.
"Ah. Um. Sorry?" Stiles offered, running a hand through his hair.
"While I don't particularly appreciate being used as a tool to prompt the object of your affections into action --"
"No, honest, that's not what I was doing --"
"-- I can't deny the effectiveness of your plan," MacLaren finished, and he looked Stiles over once more before exhaling a contrived sigh. Stiles didn't even notice MacLaren's chest rise and fall for breath before he continued with, "But do go on, Eben. If not to make your lycanthrope-challenged boyfriend jealous, why did you come here?"
Stiles took a deep breath and resisted the urge to glance over his shoulder at where he definitely heard a low growl, and said, "There's a vampire killing people. I thought it was you. Or someone, you know, from your nest."
MacLaren snorted. His eyes drifted over Stiles' shoulder in the general area of Derek's location. "Despite expectations to the contrary, some of us do respect territory lines. I am well versed in the agreement between our kind. I was there when it was signed."
Stiles did a bit of quick and dirty math and guessed that MacLaren was at least half a millennia old and reverted back to his earlier estimation of MacLaren as an Edward-level creeper, with bonus hacking skills -- which, incidentally, was kind of awesome. He supposed that even vampires had to have a hobby, what with all their free time and being undead. Then, Stiles said, "That's not really addressing the issue."
MacLaren's eyes found his, and there was a faint, disorienting moment that Stiles shook off. MacLaren looked momentarily nonplussed. "All those in my nest, as you so quaintly put it, are well educated in the laws and are aware of the consequences for breaking them if they are caught by either side."
"So whoever's in our territory? He's a rogue? Someone who doesn't know the laws? Someone newly turned?" Stiles ventured.
"You are bright," MacLaren said, smiling. He was showing human teeth, with no trace of fangs, but Stiles didn't doubt that they were there, ready to come out. "A pity that you've been claimed. What a waste."
"Okay. Great. That's awesome. And still epically creepy, just so you know." Stiles took a few steps away, not turning his back on MacLaren, when something occurred to him and he stopped. "Wait. Whoever it is? He's not in your nest, you said. But you didn't say if he was one of yours. He is, isn't he?"
MacLaren went stone-faced. Stiles knew that look. It was the no comment, not answering any more questions, already too close for comfort look. He pressed on anyway. "You turned him. He didn't like it, so he ran away where you couldn't get to him -- our territory. What, you couldn't pick up the phone and call us? Give us some sort of warning?"
"I'm afraid I didn't have the local Alpha on speed dial," MacLaren said.
"That's beside the point. The point is, you made a vampire who doesn't know what he's doing, who's probably acting on instinct, and attracting all sorts of wrong attention. Now we have to clean up your mess for you."
"If you would be so kind as to give me permission to enter your territory --" MacLaren suggested with a little, inviting shrug.
"Oh, no, no no no, dude. The dumb chick running up the stairs instead of out the back door when the psycho-slash-mass-murderer-slash-vampire is after them? So not me. But here's the thing," Stiles said, taking a daring step closer. He could feel Derek's anger; the entire club did. He ignored it. "I remember seeing a clause. Sins of the sons, sins of the father."
MacLaren flinched again, and Stiles wasn't sure if it was because of Derek's loud snarl, or because Stiles hit the nail on the head. Or both.
"I'm pretty sure it's bad manners for you to let a baby vampire loose on the world without the proper checks and measures, and I'm also pretty sure that it means that your walking undead card gets revoked as a result," Stiles said. As if it were possible for a vampire, MacLaren paled even more. "But I'll make you a deal. We'll take care of the problem. You'll pay recompenses to the families that were affected. And you owe us in perpetuity. Big time."
"And if I refuse?"
Stiles shrugged, his shoulders brushing his ears. He let his arms drop. "Oh, I don't know. I could scrounge around online some more, find some neighbouring vampires, see what they think about this little lapse in your judgment. They might call into question your ability to manage your little coterie. They might even start coveting your domain."
Stiles was bullshitting now, using every single bit of cool terminology that he'd found online -- sadly, most of it came from Vampire, the Masquerade -- and hoping that at least some of it was real, not just the language in vampire society, but the whole political aspect of it, too. And he must have hit the mark, because MacLaren's lips pursed unhappily.
"And, honestly, it'll be a contest in the end to see who gets you first. The Alpha behind me, or your buddies on the Council --"
"Very well," MacLaren exhaled, sounding very much as if saying the words was the equivalent to getting his blood teeth extracted. "You have my word."
"I'm sure your word's worth gold but we'll get it in writing, just in case," Stiles said. "What's the baby vamp's name?"
MacLaren soured. "Nathaniel Black."
"Nate Black. Got it," Stiles said. He nodded and gave MacLaren a Boy Scout salute before resuming his backward walk toward Derek. He didn't stop to turn around until he felt Derek's hand clamp down on his shoulder and slide behind his neck.
"Wolf," MacLaren called out, and they paused. MacLaren's gaze drifted to Stiles and stayed there, grudging admiration appearing in his expression. "You keep him close. Territory is only territory until the scent fades away."
Derek growled and dragged Stiles outside. Stiles was good with the dragging. The adrenaline surge of having negotiated with a vampire was hitting him, and he was starting to tremble. He was all over the place in his head, picturing all the ways that this could have gone bad, and that wasn't fair, because he missed out on Derek shoving his hands down Stiles' jeans pocket in search for the keys.
"Get in the Jeep," Derek bit out. Stiles didn't see the Camaro, figured that Derek had run to the club, and that it was probably Scott's fault that Derek showed up, but sometimes Scott was accidentally brilliant. He wasn't sure that MacLaren would have backed off as quickly if a beta had stormed in instead of an Alpha. Stiles climbed in the passenger seat and was silent until they hit more familiar sights going down the freeway.
"Did I just ally us with vampires?"
"You did." Derek even sounded a little impressed. Stiles grinned.
"Awesome. Although, totally not more awesome than the fact that we now have a thing --"
"Shut up, Stiles," Derek growled, but Stiles could see a tiny hint of a smile.
Stiles thought that the name sounded familiar. It took a few Google searches, a skim through the Beacon Hills yearbook, a quick hack of the school records, and a bit of prodding to convince Scott to take advantage of his mom's access cards so that they could check medical records for confirmation, just in case the guy went to the hospital to do something about low platelets or anemia or whatever it was that new vampires told people was their reason for hanging out near the transfusion unit.
Nathaniel Black was a MENSA-level genius 2013 Beacon Hills alumni with a full ride scholarship to MIT. He was the unremarkably average sort, where average fit the criteria for height, weight, appearance, car, friends; the only place where he stood out was in the Math Club and on the Honour Roll. He was in absentia for the last month under "doctor's orders" for an unnamed skin condition that probably had something to do with possibly burning to a crisp if he walked out in the bright Californian sunlight, but he'd been turning in his homework on a regular basis to keep up his grades in the meantime.
Stiles had absolutely no recollection of the guy. He felt bad, because he knew what it was like to be that guy, the one no one took any notice of, and here he was, guilty of doing the same thing to someone else. But, on the other hand, Nathaniel Black had stood out to someone, even if that someone happened to be the friendly neighbourhood bloodsucker, so it wasn't all that bad.
All right, so it was that bad, but at least now, Stiles knew that MacLaren had a type. He liked them smart.
"Anyway, that's what I've got," Stiles said, wrapping up. He'd gotten good at presenting his research to the pack -- he'd almost timed it perfectly this time, though he'd probably gone a little too long about the MIT scholarship and the that just goes to show you never know who might be the next boogeyman bit where he'd stared pointedly at Jackson, and had gotten the finger for his trouble. "Well there's that, plus a map of all the possible places where he's hiding out, based on the aesthetic appeal to a vampire and proximity to both his house and his hunting grounds --"
"So, what are we waiting for?" Scott asked, standing up abruptly. Allison pulled him back down onto the couch.
Stiles looked at Derek and realized that Derek had been staring at him the entire time. A hot flush flared in his cheeks and his heart started pounding and his libido suddenly had a mind of its own -- well, that was a given, anyway -- and Stiles jerked his gaze away. "Not my call."
"I'll save you the trouble," Lydia said, speaking up for the first time that night. She was elegantly done up as usual -- her makeup perfect, her hair shining even in the dull light filtering through the dirty windows of the train depot. For once, her perfume was understated, soft and tangy, like Lydia herself.
"How's that?" Boyd asked.
Lydia shrugged a shoulder. "Let's just say that I've broken up with my boyfriend on a permanent basis."
Allison laughed. Erica's grin was like the sharp edge of a knife.
If it was a joke, it was definitely a good, inside joke. Stiles definitely didn't get it. Derek had that little frown of confusion hidden behind his I'm the Alpha face. Jackson looked hopeful, but that was fleeting, and Scott was oblivious as always. Boyd was the one to wave a hand in the air in an inviting please elaborate gesture.
Lydia rolled her eyes. "Seriously, I think this pack would benefit if everyone cared more about what its members were doing outside the den. Why hasn't anyone ever asked me who my new boyfriend was?"
No one answered. Jackson looked both angry and sheepish, but he had an excuse; as the ex who dumped Lydia, he had absolutely no right to get involved in her personal life anymore. That apparently didn't stop him, because he said, "I did ask! You said to butt out!"
"Anyone else who didn't commit social suicide by dumping me before homecoming?" Lydia asked, raising a critical, judgemental brow.
Something clicked in Stiles' head. Stiles blurted out, "Nate! You were dating him! Oh my God. Do you have a death wish?"
"No, Stiles, that's all you," Lydia said primly.
Derek took two angry steps forward. "You were dating a vampire?"
"And he's dead now. You're welcome."
"But what happened? How?" Stiles asked. The answer hit him like a bag of bricks -- or rather, for once, it didn't. "Holy shit. Your perfume. Why didn't I think of that --"
Lydia tilted her head and gave them all an oh, now you care glare that relented into a not as dumb as I thought you were nod, and pointedly looked at her watch. "Oh, look at the time. I'm going to be late for my date."
No one said anything.
"Um. Who are you dating?" Stiles asked. He cringed and braced himself for the worst.
"Why, thank you for caring, Stiles," Lydia said sweetly. She walked around the couch and held out her hand for Erica. "Shall we?"
Erica's evil grin turned into something sweet and soft, and she slid her arm around Lydia's waist. The two of them left, taking all the air in the room with them.
"I missed something," Scott said. Allison patted his arm.
"I think everyone missed something," Stiles muttered. He plopped on the worn couch next to Scott. Scott recoiled and moved a bit further into Allison's lap to get away from Stiles. "What?"
"Oh, thanks, dude. That's a nice commentary on my new body wash --"
"You smell like Derek," Isaac said, glancing between the two of them before ducking his chin to avoid Derek's glare and Stiles' sputter.
"Don't use that body wash anymore," Scott said. Allison, beside him, shook her head in disbelief, and Boyd rolled his eyes. Stiles was too mortified to say anything, never mind move, and he didn't want to check to see if that grinding noise was coming from Derek's mouth or not. He wondered if werewolf healing included a dental plan.
"I… have a lot of it?" Stiles said. Behind him, Derek huffed. It might have been a laugh.
"Give it away or something. It's awful," Scott said, waving his hand in the air to chase the smell away from him. "Well. Um. I have a date too? Can I go?"
"Go," Derek growled. There was a hasty scuffle to get out of the train depot; Jackson was the last one out, and, for once, he was courteous enough to shut the door behind him.
Stiles stared at the door for a long time, barely noticing the couch dip beside him. He was disappointed. "I guess… I don't need to be bait?"
A heavy warmth like a favourite winter blanket weighted against Stiles, pushing him back until he was leaning against the couch's arm. Derek rearranged Stiles' legs to his satisfaction and made himself comfortable between them.
"There's just one thing I don't get," Stiles said. "We were surrounded by vampires. I counted at least three. Why didn't they attack? They could've finished us off, no one would've been the wiser --"
"Fear," Derek growled. His stubble scratched against Stiles' jaw.
"Fear? Vampires are afraid of things? Well, I suppose it makes sense. Garlic, running water, stakes, sunlight --"
"Who do you think hunts vampires?"
"Shut up, Eben," Derek said with a quiet huff, and helped him with that Herculean task by biting Stiles' lower lip.