“Welcome to the second to last class before the final.” Stiles settles on the desk and looks out at the class of about thirty sitting in front of him. “Next class will be review, aka the highest attendance beyond the midterm and the final, and we’re done with the curriculum, so today will be all of the questions that you have about werewolf stuff that wasn’t covered that you’re curious about. I’d prefer you not ask review questions today, because we will inevitably go over them next class. The way the review is going to work is that you can all email me up to three questions. I’ll pick the best ones, or at least the most relevant ones, and we’ll go over those in class next time. If there’s time left over, you’ll be able to ask, but if I have to decide who to answer with a hundred hands up, it’ll be a mess and we’ll never get anything done. You’ll all get an email about that later. So now. Questions. Ask away.”
Fifteen hands go up, and Stiles calls on someone kind of by random. “If Laura Hale runs for president, what party would she run for?”
Oh boy. “That’s a good question. I’ll talk about it, but before that, does someone want to tell me why it’s a good question?”
He calls on someone who hasn’t been to most of the classes, mostly just to see if they actually know what they’re doing, and they say, “Werewolf politicians are non-partisan, especially on the federal level. The Alpha Council doesn’t align itself with any political party. And it’s actually really hard to see the individual votes, because for the most part the only thing announced is the final result, with is one answer.”
“Exactly. Good answer. The thing is that it is actually possible to see where they’ve stood, more or less, and we can also look at the general voting record of the Council. So I’m going to start this with the disclaimer that I have no idea if Laura Hale is planning on running for president, and this is all speculation. There are essentially two problems here, ignoring the will-she-run question. The first is whether or not Hale would run aligned with a party. The second is, if she does, which party would she pick. This is actually a kind of interesting microcosm of the broader werewolf political issue, so I’m going to walk through it a bit.
“First, whether she would run for a party. Anyone know why she would?”
Richard—Richie? Ricky? God, Stiles needs to learn his students’ names—answers, “Money. We’re very much a two party system, and the whole system is based off of that, and you basically can’t get funding if you’re not with either the Democrats or the Republicans.”
“Yep. Now why wouldn’t she?”
It takes a bit for anyone to stick their hand up, which makes sense, because Richard-ichie-icky was right, and the two-party system is the one that they’ve all grown up with is a hard one to think outside of. But finally Cole puts his hand up, a bit tentatively. Stiles points to him. “It makes a statement. Alpha Hale is the most famous of everyone on the Alpha Council, and if she turns herself partisan, it could turn the entire Council partisan, and that would be…complicated.”
Sometimes Stiles wants to buy the kid a pony. “Right. That really is the big question in this situation—if Laura Hale does run for President, would she go with a political party and risk turning the entire Council—and, by extension, the entire political representation of werewolves—partisan? And the answer is that I have no idea. But to move on to your actual question, werewolves tend to lean further left on average than other Americans socially. Fiscally they’re a bit more center, except when it comes to social welfare, in which case the Council has consistently voted about as far left as you can in the U.S. Given what I have been able to find about Hale’s voting record—which, I will admit, is only maybe fifty percent of it—she tends to be just left of center fiscally and pretty far left socially, which means that, if she does run for president—or at least for the nomination—with a political party, it would probably be the democrats. But, obviously, that’s just my guess. Next question?”
The next question is about why werewolves care about social reform, to which the answer is basically, they protect their own and they don’t give up on their children or anyone else’s, and then someone asks, “Why did the HFU shoot at Allison Argent if she’s one of them?”
Stiles, for possibly the first time ever, is struck with the urge to hit a student, and from the expression on Cole’s face, he can smell it. But then Stiles swallows his anger like burned almonds and bile, keeping his breathing even as he hops off the desk to stand in front of it. “There are two things you need to understand, and I’m going to try not to sound too angry about this. One, her name is Allison Agazzi, not Allison Argent. Two, Allison Agazzi got out of the HFU at seventeen, risking her own life and estrangement from her only living parent because she didn’t want to hurt werewolves. Of anybody that you might accuse of being part of the HFU, she’s not the right one to go after.”
Someone else is on their phone, glancing between Stiles and the screen, and he gets a bad feeling just as they say, “This is you, isn’t it? In Isaac Lahey’s Instagram picture right after the shooting, that’s you? And that’s why she was in the classroom, because you’re in her pack.”
Stiles really didn’t want to deal with this, because he’s a professor and doesn’t have tenure and didn’t want this shit to go down, but it’s not really like he has a choice, and he didn’t think he could keep it secret forever. And it’s not that he’s ashamed of his pack, not at all, but he doesn’t want the publicity mess that is Isaac and Allison, especially right now. So he’ll do some damage control and try to minimize this before they all freak out on him. “Technically, it’s Scott McCall’s pack. But yes, I am in the same pack as Isaac Lahey, as those of you who were in that class know, but also Allison Agazzi. So yes, I’m a bit protective of her, but part of that is that it needs to be understood that whatever the HFU has done, it’s not on Allison’s head. Next question?”
The person who asked the original question says, “Well you didn’t actually answer my question. Why shoot at Argent or Agazzi or whatever her name is?”
Apparently they want to talk about the HFU, so they can talk about the HFU. “The problem is your question is predicated on the assumption that Allison was the one being shot at.”
“You’re saying she wasn’t?”
Stiles really doesn’t want to think about the shot, the red splattering across his face and hers, but he swallows down his rising panic to say, “The only reason Allison was hit was because she pushed our Alpha out of the way. The shot was for him, using something that is significantly more harmful to werewolves than to humans. Given that the shooter still hasn’t been identified, we still don’t know if they knew who she was when they fired, but either way, she wasn’t the target.”
“But why go after the school at all?”
It’s all his fault, that’s why, it’s always his fault, and his heart is beating too fast, and his chest hurts, and he’s not going to have a goddamn panic attack in the middle of his class, so he digs his fingers into his leg to give himself something other than the shot there’s always a shot he fucking hates guns and the tree wants him to take the territory but he won’t do it even if it would keep it safe—
“Professor Stilinski?” Cole’s standing, and Jesus, Stiles needs to get a grip. “Are you okay?”
Stiles forces himself to exhale and hop up on the desk, fingers tapping on the side of his leg because he needs to move. “The answer to your question—not you, Cole, I’m fine, thank you, you can sit down—” and Cole hesitates, then lowers himself back down into his chair “is complicated, and to be honest, I don’t have a full answer for why.” Especially because he’s not going to talk to them about the Gerard/Kate mess, not right now. “For those of you who don’t know, the HFU or Hunter’s Federation United, is the oldest anti-werewolf hate group in the United States, and it actually has origins in both France and Mexico.”
One of the kids who hasn’t really shown up before asks, “Aren’t they just a hunting group?”
Oh, Jesus. A human-firster, probably. Though why the hell is he in a werewolf class? “By U.S. law, as of 1947, the only time the hunting of a werewolf is legal—hunting, not killing in self-defense—is when they have been declared rogue by a law enforcement agency and have killed a human. The HFU goes after any werewolf they can, regardless of whether they’re pack aligned or not.”
The presumed human-firster (or at least just asshole) says, “You don’t know that.”
“I’m from Beacon Hills, so yeah, I do, but I was also one of the people who helped Allison Agazzi get out of the HFU. I have had members of the HFU point guns at both of our heads because she wanted to get out. And if you don’t want my own experience, remember the shooting at the Pack Alliance building in New York, which was also done by the HFU. I’m not going to keep talking about this. Next question?”
Stiles drops down onto Derek’s—his and Derek’s, that’s so weird—couch, dropping his arm across his face and groaning. God, he almost liked it better when half his class was missing and they weren’t asking him shitty questions about the HFU. Because he barely likes talking about the HFU with his pack where they know his triggers and can talk him down from a panic attack, and talking about it in front of his class is awful.
“You smell awful.”
Stiles doesn’t move his arm because he doesn’t want to do anything except sleep. He doesn’t even really want food at the moment, or sex, and that’s saying something, but he spent half the night curled up against the headboard trying to sleep because he keeps thinking he’s seeing stiles in the corner of his eye and it’s freaking the fuck out of him, and he’s exhausted. “Thanks.”
Derek’s fingers touch Stiles’s, but he doesn’t try anything any further, which Stiles is glad for, because he really doesn’t want to have to deal with turning him down at the moment. Instead he sits down in a chair, or so it sounds like, but Stiles isn’t going to look. He really doesn’t want touch now, doesn’t want anything, but he has a call with pack in half an hour, and that’s going to fucking suck.
Derek sighs. “You smell like anxiety, and I don’t like it. Are you okay?”
“You want me to help?”
Stiles thinks about that for a second, and oh god, he can’t deal. “Not really.”
“Okay. I’m just going to sit here and do my work, unless that’ll bother me.”
Stiles can feel Derek sitting there, like an itch at one of his temples, or pressure, and right now he really can’t deal. It’ll drive him nuts, and he just wants to sleep. “Can you…not? Just for a bit. I just need to not deal with people for a little bit before I have to call my pack.”
“Sure.” It sounds like Derek stands up, and then his fingers brush Stiles’s again. “I love you.”
“Love you too.”
And then Derek walks out of the room, and Stiles is alone to wallow in the misery of this shittiness that is the situation right now.
And he’s not in too-much-thought panic mode right now, probably because he’s so goddamn tired he can barely think, and he ends up somewhere between asleep and awake, where he’s more or less aware of his surroundings, but he’s not really awake enough to do anything.
It’s just as well, because asleep means dreaming and dreaming means the tree, and awake means panicking, and he really doesn’t want to panic, and this way there’s pain pounding behind one eye and his arm’s falling asleep and he wants to not move for the next month.
But then the alarm on his phone goes off, and he flops his pins-and-needles arm off and then just falls off the couch because he doesn’t really want to get up. Though that hurts, because the floor is hard, and he really needs to get some actual sleep sometime soon.
Stiles groans, flailing around his phone with his less-asleep arm. “Yeah, I’m good. I’m going to call Scott now. And then sleep for a week.”
Stiles finds his phone on the table and considers getting back up on the couch, but that seems like too much work, so he just leans back against it and dials Scott’s number. Scott picks up after two rings, and then they set up a conference call, and Scott has finally figured out how to work his new phone, oh thank God.
Once everyone’s on, Scott says, “Okay, hi, everyone. Just wanted to have a check in, as you all know, because we have a lot of stuff to figure out. So, I guess, first we need to figure out what we need to figure out. Anyone?”
Nobody says anything for a second, so Stiles starts, “The main things that I know of are figuring out the source of the leak about Allison, figuring out what the tree wants, and figuring out what Kate Argent’s goals are. Lydia, you have anything else?”
They listen to her typing for a second, and then she says, “I think one of our primary concerns, especially the two of us, has to be figuring out how to keep the campus safe. Regardless of what Kate Argent actually wants, if they’re setting stuff on fire and ashing kids into and out of rooms, we need to stop that, and we haven’t been doing a great job.”
Stiles leans his head back against the couch cushion, closing his eyes. “I know, but I don’t know what we can do. We can’t be everywhere at once, especially with just the two of us, and I’m not big on bringing kids in on this.”
“We did it when we were kids, running patrols, even the two of us.”
Stiles shoves his free hand through his hair, and it’s still pins and needles, and it hurts, and he doesn’t have a shit. “And it fucked us up, and I would rather be shot myself than do what we did to ourselves to these kids.”
Scott makes a noise. “We didn’t turn out that bad.”
“When was the last time you slept through the night? Someone other than the wonder trio answer that.”
Lydia sighs. “I get your point. But if the choice is them being smoked out of campus or helping us keep the campus, isn’t one obviously better? And, more to the point, shouldn’t it be their choice?”
She makes a disdainful noise. “Why not?”
“Because they’ll choose wrong.” Stiles drops his head down onto his knees. “We can talk about this later. I just spent my entire 101 class being interrogated on the HFU; I really don’t want to think about kids with guns to their heads right now.”
“Okay.” Scott claps his hands, which doesn’t come through well over the speakers. “Do we have a plan for dealing with anything else?”
Stiles sighs, sitting up and opening his eyes again. “Derek and I have an idea for dealing with the Argent thing, but you’re not going to like it.”
The car ride is three hours long, and Stiles doesn’t know if he’s ever wished more to not be in a car in his life. Like, he would actually consider opening the door and throwing himself out of it if he thought it would help. But it wouldn’t, and they need to do this, and there’s no way in hell he’s letting Derek do this alone.
Derek doesn’t look away from the road as it speeds past. “I’m fine.”
Well, that sounded convincing. “If you’re not okay, we can do this another time.”
Derek shakes his head just a little, a quick aborted movement. “If we turn around, I’m not coming back, if only because Laura will lock me up for the next year. I’m not going to freak out. It’s fine.”
It doesn’t sound fine, but Stiles knows better than anyone that sometimes pushing isn’t the answer. Not that he’s all that good at actually following through on that, because he pushes a lot, and too hard, and too far, and god knows how anyone ever decided to hire him to teach, but he’ll stop for now.
“Speaking of Laura, my 101 kids want to know what political party Laura wants to run for if she runs for president.”
Derek groans, but there’s something almost like a smile on his face, so it’s okay. “If nobody mentions Laura running for president again, it’ll be too soon.”
“You don’t talk to people; who’s been mentioning her running for president? Also, does that mean she’s not running?”
“The TV. The internet. My editor. My editor brought up Laura running for president, and they don’t even know who I am. And I don’t know if Laura’s going to run for president, because Laura doesn’t know if Laura’s going to run for president, and the whole thing is ridiculous, because nobody’s going to elect a werewolf anyway.”
That’s quite a speech, Stiles wants to say, but now, that would be a bad idea, make Derek clam up and Stiles won’t get another word out of him for days.
But before he can figure out what actually would be an appropriate response, Derek turns into a parking lot, and they’re there.
Security takes forever to get through, and Derek is practically shaking by the end of it, but Stiles doesn’t know if he wants him to hold his hand, so he just bumps up against him and doesn’t complain when Derek starts doing the weird herding thing werewolves are so fond of.
They stop right outside the door, Stiles turning to look at Derek. “Are you going to be okay? We can turn around right now and walk out of here, and nobody will blame you.”
Derek shakes his head. “Come on.”
The door opens in front of them, and Stiles leads into the visiting room, Derek’s hand pressed against his back under his shirt.
Across the table, Kate Argent smiles at them. “Hello, sweetie. Look how grown up you are.”