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Find It In Our Hearts

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Two months ago, Allison had been sure of so many things. She had been sure of her place in her family, despite the problems they'd had, and she had been sure of her love for Scott and his love for her. She had been sure of her friendship with Lydia and with Stiles, even with Jackson; she had sure of smaller, insignificant things, like what she'd be doing with her summer vacation and what she'd be wearing to Lydia's birthday bash. Most importantly, Allison had been sure of herself.

Now, she wasn't sure of anything, least of all herself.

It had been over a month since she had buried her mother, a few weeks since she had tried to kill several of her classmates, and a little less than that since she had snapped out of a vengeance-fueled stupor only to find her hands covered in blood, both real and metaphorical. She had done exactly what she had promised herself she'd never do when she'd learned the truth about her family's heritage -- she had spilt innocent blood and let revenge consume her like a wild fire that couldn't be smothered unless it was in death -- in Derek Hale's death, in his pack's death, even in Scott's, she had realized later. When the fog of her wrath had cleared, Allison had been left with nothing but the grief still burning in her gut for her mother's death and the sick realization that she had let herself be twisted into the weapon her grandfather had wanted with very little resistance.

Allison wasn't sure of herself anymore, and she certainly didn't trust herself, not when she had been so willing to turn into the same kind of cold-blooded murderer that Gerard and Kate had been, that her father hated. Part of her blamed Gerard, and part of her still blamed Derek and his bloody, alpha bite, but the largest part of her knew where the blame rested: on herself.

She had never been so glad for school to be over in all her life, and for once it was for reasons other than escaping the boring monotony of classes and homework. It had been to escape the knowing and wary eyes of her classmates, people who had once been her friends. There had been Lydia and Jackson, polite but distant, a strange new duo after his second transformation from kanima to something else. There had been Isaac, now without Boyd and Erica who hadn't been seen since their escape from the hunters, all wounded eyes and stiff-spined fear in a way that made Allison sick to remind herself she had caused that in him. The same boy she had pitied when she had learned about the abuse he had suffered at his father's hands now looked at her with the same apprehension and he had every reason to.

There had been, of course, Scott and somehow his respectfully distant kindness had been the hardest thing to bear. Scott, in that way he had, had forgiven her even as he had gently tried to explain the pieces of the last few weeks that she had missed in letting Gerard mold her into his new Kate. And it had made sense, Scott's words -- that her mother had found out about the two of them, had tried to kill Scott to protect Allison and that Derek had been willing to do the same to her mother for Scott. It hadn't absolved Derek of his guilt, though, it had only widened its net to include herself and Scott and their relationship, had only reminded Allison of how much of everything was her fault. It hadn't stopped her from loving Scott or him loving her but Allison couldn't stand to look him, even more than she could look at herself. That was why when he'd said he'd wait, she hadn't wanted him to -- Allison wasn't sure she would never be able to look at him again without thinking of how she had traded her mother's life for their relationship.

Stiles -- was different. He didn't look at her with Isaac's fear or Scott's affection, or even Lydia's calculation. He was removed but not unkind, even though she couldn't call him friendly either. There might've been a hint of understanding in him, she thought sometimes, but there was also a condemnation that made her always look away. Stiles, ever the odd one, wasn't as easy to read as his expressive eyes should've made him.

She hadn't seen Derek Hale since and she was thankful for that.

Now, a few days into summer break, Allison was also thankful for the relative protection of her home, even if her mother's loss haunted every room like a ghost. There was still some tension between her and her father but he was everything she had forgotten he could be when they had fought about Scott, kind and patient and forgiving. It looked as if he had taken a break from hunting because there were no late night disappearances, no hunters showing up to discuss strategy. There was just him and Allison and quiet evenings together, silent moments of support between them that transcended any other concerns they might've had. It wasn't perfect and everything still hurt and Allison barely knew how she was going to make herself keep going from one breath to the next but they were together and it was enough, at least for the moment.

They were having another one of those evenings, Allison sitting with her father in the living room after dinner, content to share the space. Her father was reading something that she was pretty sure was a spy thriller while she was a playing brain teaser game on her phone, the soft sound of her father's favorite jazz instrumentals in the background. Allison was comfortable and distracted, almost able to forget about the horrors that plagued her most of the time.

And then there was a loud knock at the door.

Both Argents jumped visibly and Allison could feel her heart rate speed up, adrenaline slamming into her system. "Dad?" she asked, her voice high and questioning and worried.

Her father stopped to squeeze her shoulder as he passed but she noticed he went for the gun he kept locked in the drawer. "I'm sure it's nothing," he told her. "I'll go see."

But Allison was not going to sit and wonder and worry, so she was on her dad's heels as he tucked the gun into the back of his jeans and headed toward the door. She didn't even realize she was wringing her hands until she felt her own nails cut into the flesh of her palms.

Her father checked the peephole before he opened the front door and Allison was both relieved and curious at the sight that was waiting on the other side. It was an older woman with a stern, no-nonsense expression, her gray hair cut short and her clothing utilitarian. She shot her dad a confused look when he seemed to relax. "Marian?" he said. "This is a surprise."

The woman's face didn't change. "Christopher," she said, nodding. Her eyes travelled over to Allison. "And Allison, I assume? I haven't seen her since she was a baby."

Her father nodded, then turned to Allison. "This is Marian Sullivan," he explained. "She and her husband, George, used to -- work -- with Gerard, back when I was a child." He frowned at Marian. "But I had thought she had retired after George..."

"After my husband died, yes, I stopped," Marian said, as if impatient with the conversation. "But your father hired me on to help him out with -- things -- at his house and that's where I've been for several years." She paused. "That's actually why I'm here now."

Allison tensed. "You're here because of Gerard?" she asked. "Why?"

"We haven't heard from him in several weeks," Marian said. Allison wondered who the "we" were but then she remembered she didn't know anything about her grandfather's life outside of his murderous tendencies. "I am right to assume he's...?"

"Missing," her father supplied. "Presumed dead."

Allison didn't know if dying of cancer and then vomiting black ooze from the combination of werewolf bite and mountain ash ended with anything other than death but she hoped it didn't.

Marian took a shaky breath, then bowed her head. "I had feared the worst, you know," she said. Her pale eyes locked onto Chris's face. "We have things we have to discuss, then. I need your help."

"If it's money," her father said, "I, of course, will do anything --"

"No, it's not about money, Christopher," she said. "It's about family."

Allison knew she was surprised and she saw her father's eyebrows climb at such a statement. "Family?" he repeated.

"It's a conversation we need to have alone," Marian declared. "So if you don't mind inviting me inside and if Allison wouldn't mind...?"

Allison, at first, wasn't sure what Marian thought she might mind doing, until she realized that Marian had stepped back a little and had tugged forward -- a person. A small person, a child, in fact, one that had remained all but hidden behind Marian's solid bulk for the first few minutes of the conversation. It was a little girl who didn't look much older than five or six years old, and her hand was wrapped tightly around Marian's. "This is Claire," Marian said into the surprised silence. "If Allison wouldn't mind getting her something to eat, Christopher, while you and I had that talk?"

Allison watched as her father's eyes tracked slowly between Marian's face, the little girl's and then Allison's. "Sweetheart, you don't mind?" he asked her, but he could hear the subtle order in it. His tone implied that he needed to hear whatever story Marian had brought and he wanted to hear it alone.

"Of course not," Allison said softly, smiling down at the little girl. She held out her hand. "You want to come with me, Claire?"

Claire looked warily between Allison's hand and Marian but when Marian dropped her hold on the little girl's hand and nudged her forward, the little girl stepped into the house and wrapped her small fingers around Allison's. Allison tried to give the little hand in hers a gentle, comforting squeeze.

"Why don't you take Claire into the kitchen?" her father suggested. "We'll join you there after Marian and I talk."

"Sure, Dad," Allison said. She nodded toward the hall. "Are you hungry?" she asked the little girl as she led her through the dining room and into the kitchen. It was more brightly lit than the hall or the living room had been and Allison blinked against the flood of light. "I'm sure we have something you like."

Claire didn't answer while Allison settled her in one of the chairs at the kitchen island, leaving Allison to ponder food choices for little girls. Allison hadn't spent much time around children but Claire still struck her as unusually quiet. "Any requests?" Allison asked, forcing a lightness she didn't feel. "We have chips and cookies and cheese. I could make you a sandwich," she continued as she opened the fridge door.

"I like carrots," the little girl finally said, obviously seeing the bag of baby carrots in the fridge door, and Allison let out a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. "They're good for you."

"Yes, they are," Allison said as she grabbed the bag from the fridge and, on a whim, the bottle of Ranch dressing. "Do you like to dip them?" she asked Claire as she pulled a small plate and bowl from a nearby cabinet. "That's how my mom always gave them to me when I was your age."

"I don't know," Claire said but she looked interested, so Allison poured some dressing into the bowl and offered it to her along with the carrots she'd shook out on the plate. Claire slowly reached out and took one, dipping it into the dressing when Allison did. She must've liked it, Allison decided, because her face lightened a little and Claire made sure to submerge her next carrot into the dressing up to where her chubby little fingers held onto it.

"A napkin, I think," Allison declared, tugging a paper towel off the roll. She also poured them each a glass of milk, setting the small plastic tumbler within Claire's easy reach, before she settled back to watch the little girl eat one carrot after another. In the bright light of the kitchen, Allison could see the little girl much more clearly than she had when Claire had been standing on the porch. She had long, light brown hair, and a round little face above the old-fashioned lacy collar of her dark blue dress. But what was most striking about Claire was her solemn hazel eyes that reminded Allison of...someone she had seen before.

Claire ate in crunchy silence for a few minutes while Allison tried not to let herself wonder about what Marian and her dad could be discussing, something that had to do with family and Gerard. She was failing rather spectacularly at it, though, so she was almost glad when Claire turned her striking gaze on Allison. "Where's your mom?" she asked Allison. "Does she live with you?"

Allison felt struck dumb until she remembered that she had mentioned her mother earlier, in such a quick, off-hand way that the grief hadn't swallowed her whole. But it was threatening to do so now. "No, she doesn't," she managed to say. "She...went to heaven," she decided on after a long pause in which she deliberated the best way to discuss death with a five-year-old.

Claire didn't seem unduly troubled by Allison's euphemism and her eyes remained steady on Allison's face. "My mom, too," she said. "Grandpa Gerard told me."

Something about the short, matter-of-facts statements -- or perhaps the Grandpa Gerard -- made Allison's heart thunder in her ears again as an inexplicable horror seemed to creep up her spine. "Grandpa Gerard told you?" she asked. "When?"

Claire nodded. "Before he went away."

Allison wasn't sure exactly how she started to jump to the conclusion she was coming to but it was there, large and looming and unbelievable. She wondered if her dad was having the same revelation in the living room.

With nothing left to do but wait to see if he was, Allison ran a trembling hand down Claire's hair and did just that.

**

In the end, Allison wasn't surprised that Claire was yet another family secret only recently brought to life since it seemed to be an Argent specialty. Still, it was difficult to internalize another one of such magnitude so soon even when it stared her in the face every morning.

Claire was her Aunt Kate's daughter.

It shouldn't have hurt as much as it did, Allison thought more than once, not with all the other secrets that Kate had kept from her and her dad, that Kate had hidden Claire's existence from them for almost six years, had let Gerard help her raise her daughter in secret. But it did hurt, almost more than when she had found out that her aunt orchestrated the mass murder of an entire family of werewolves because -- Allison could understand why that needed to be a secret. But Claire...Allison couldn't understand why Kate had been so ashamed of Claire that she'd kept her hidden from them.

Claire was a sweet child but a quiet one, just like Allison had thought from their first meeting. She was much more subdued than one would expect from a five-year-old child and her dad agreed with that assessment, usually with sadness in his eyes. Allison thought about the cruelty inherent in both her aunt and her grandfather and tried not to stop herself from wondering if something other than a natural inclination had shaped Claire into the introspective girl they were now tasked with raising.

Of course, her father hadn't hesitated to take custody of his niece when Marian had suggested it and Allison hadn't minded one bit. The sad truth was that their family had suffered a number of blows in the last year, enough that Allison knew that she -- and her father -- had reached a point where they didn't want to take family for granted any longer. They had opened their home to Claire and welcomed her with open arms.

It was another reason for Allison to be glad it was summer time because it meant that she had all the time in the world to dote on her little cousin, thinking of projects to keep them both occupied. In those first two weeks, that had meant Allison and Claire had been preoccupied with a lot of shopping because Claire hadn't come with much more than the clothes on her back and it was just the kind of bright distraction that Allison needed. Lydia would've been a perfect companion for such a venture but she still wasn't actively taking Allison's calls so she hadn't bothered trying after that first afternoon, instead choosing to go out on her own with just Claire as company. She was surprising good company for a shy five-year-old, if only because she didn't look at Allison with the weight of heavy emotion in her eyes. She just watched her like she was something new and something interesting, which Allison didn't mind at all.

As part of her grand schemes, Allison had decided to take over the upstairs guest bedroom and to give her room over as Claire's. The guest room was bigger, for one, and had an attached bathroom, but it was more that Allison was ready for a change than anything else. Moving Claire in made for a perfect excuse for a shake-up and her father hadn't objected, so she had set out to re-decorate both rooms to befit their new occupants. If it made her miss her mother a little more than she had expected, Allison ruthlessly suppressed it and focused instead on the color schemes she was choosing for her new room.

That afternoon, she had driven herself and Claire out to the closest Bed and Bath chain store, on the lookout for new comforters for both her bed and Claire's. She and her dad had quickly learned that Claire was good at sleeping through the night in a "big girl bed," so Allison didn't see the point in replacing the twin bed they already had, since Claire could grow into it. But a teenager's taste in linens and quilts didn't really fit a five-year-old's, so Allison wanted to get something for Claire, something that Claire would like.

Of all the people Allison had dreamed she could run into looking at drapes in a bed and bath store, Scott and Stiles were probably near the very bottom of that list. So, given her luck, she shouldn't have been surprised that that was exactly who she stumbled into as she turned her cart toward the children's room displays.

"Allison!" Scott tried to school his expression but even Allison could see that his face lit up as he said her name before he toned it down a little, looking sheepish as Stiles glanced away to make his massive eye roll a little less apparent. Allison tried to tamp down the rush of affection she felt for both of them. "I -- It's good to see you."

"Yeah," she said. "You, too." She wasn't sure if she really meant it or not but it didn't feel like a lie. Scott looked much like he had the last time she had seen him but she found herself searching for some difference. But there wasn't one. He was still the Scott she had loved in the past and the one she wasn't sure how she was supposed to feel about in the future. "How -- how are you?"

"Good! Good," he said, nodding. Stiles coughed something up his sleeve from where he stood behind Scott, manning their bright orange shopping cart. "Just, you know. Good. And you?"

Allison saw the way his eyes trailed over to Claire who had grown restless of riding in the cart, so Allison had let walk beside her, as long as she held tightly to the hem of Allison's shirt. Claire had obeyed to the letter and was still clinging tightly to Allison's side, staring up at Scott with her wide, hazel eyes. "I've been -- fine," Allison finally answered, which wasn't exactly a lie either, she supposed. "Uh, Scott, this is my cousin, Claire."

Stiles's eyes widened. "Did you say...cousin?"

She nodded.

"An Argent cousin?" Stiles prodded, eyes crinkling in thought.

"Mmm hmm," Allison said with a pointed look down at the little girl in question, hoping that it would signal the end of that line of questioning. Stiles exchanged a look with Scott but he nodded at Allison, obviously agreeing to back off. She smiled in thanks before she bent down a little to speak directly to Claire. "Claire, these are my...friends, Scott and Stiles." She pointed first to Scott who smiled and then Stiles who both smiled and waved.

Claire almost smiled back but instead buried her face against Allison's side. Allison patted her on the head. "She's a little shy."

When she looked up, Scott was giving her an imploring look with his entire face, an expression that looked like nothing more than a begging puppy. It should've been off-putting but somehow it wasn't. "I was hoping, since we're both here, that maybe we could catch up a little? If you're cool with that," he quickly added. "You can say no, it's cool if you're not cool. With it, I mean."

Allison was pretty sure that the snort she heard came from Stiles. She ignored it as she nodded her agreement. "That would be great. I mean, for a few minutes. Claire and I have a lot of shopping to do."

"Uh, of course..." Scott looked down at Claire and then over his shoulder at Stiles. Whatever message he was sending with his eyebrows must've been communicated effectively because Stiles snapped to attention.

"Oh, yes! Speaking of shopping, I could do some of that, too," Stiles said. He caught Allison's eye and said, more gently, "If Claire wouldn't mind, I could use some help? I never know what stuffed animals I need for my collection."

It was Allison's turn to snort but it just made Stiles grin a little. "You want to go with Stiles to look at the stuffed animals?" Allison asked her. Claire looked from Stiles back to Allison, who added, "You can if you want."

"Whaddya say?" Stiles asked the little girl. She looked up at Allison once more for permission before she detached herself from her side and let Stiles lead her away toward the piles of fluffy stuffed animals the store was trying to pass off as pillows in the children's section. Allison watched for a few seconds to make sure Claire wasn't uncomfortable with Stiles before she let her attention drift back to Scott. "What are you two doing here?" she couldn't help but ask.

"Oh, here? Stiles," Scott explained. "He thinks his dad's not sleeping good enough when he works nights, so we're looking for blackout curtains and maybe even some kind of orthopedic pad thing to help his dad's back or something? Who knows with him?" Scott shrugged his shoulders, laughing a little. "It's this thing Stiles does every once in a while." Allison glanced over Scott's shoulder where she could see that Stiles was doing some kind of impromptu puppet show with a clingy monkey toy. Claire looked enthralled as Stiles carried on a pretend conversation with the monkey. She snapped back to the conversation when Scott spoke again. "So...you have a cousin? You never mentioned her before. Or other aunts and uncles."

"I don't," Allison said. "Have any, I mean."

"So she's...Kate's?" Scott asked, eyes wide and mouth open in surprise. "I didn't..."

"Me neither!" Allison said, suddenly ready to share her confusion with someone who might understand. "My dad, either. She'd been living with Kate...and Gerard. After...after everything, we found out and she came to live with us."

Scott craned his neck to watch Claire giggle as Stiles attacked himself with the monkey. The monkey was winning. "Any idea about her dad?"

"No," Allison said. And it wasn't for lack of trying, either. Finding out who Claire's biological father was had been high on her dad’s list of things to-do as soon as Marian had left her with them, but not even Claire's birth certificate had been much help since Kate had left the father's name blank. Allison had been able to tell from her father's face that he was drawing conclusions about that fact and the others that weren't adding up to something good. She wasn't sure she wanted to know, though. "But it doesn't matter. We're going to keep her."

"That's really great," Scott said. "You and your dad -- it's good of you to take her in."

Allison felt her throat close up at the idea that anyone would ever call her good again, not when she still saw herself driving arrow after arrow into Isaac whenever she closed her eyes. "It's nothing," she said. "She's our family." Allison let her gaze go soft and unfocused, catching Claire out of the corner of her eye. "She doesn't...she doesn't laugh much. Or smile, really. I want to change that." Her eyes focused again and Claire was still giggling at Stiles's antics and it made Allison smile in response. "Stiles seems to be just her speed, though."

Scott laughed. "Yeah, it's part of his charm," he admitted. "It's weird. Sometimes it's like he's way older than all of us and other times he's like the biggest kid ever."

Allison nodded a little in agreement. "Have you heard anything about Erica or Boyd?" she asked because apparently she was a glutton for punishment. "Or even...Gerard?"

Scott's face fell and he looked pained. "Nothing," he admitted. "Not even De-- I mean, no one has heard from them. Or anything about Gerard. I'd let you know," he added. "Or your dad. I promise."

"Thank you," she said. Since she wasn't sure what was left to say, she gestured toward the children's section. "I should probably check on Claire," she said.

"And I should probably check on Stiles," Scott said with a smile.

Allison couldn't stop herself from returning it even as they both wrestled with their carts to push them toward the children's section of the store. Stiles had moved on from talking to himself via stuffed animals and was instead keeping up a running commentary at Claire as they browsed the brightly colored comforter choices available for little girls.

"...for pink's sake," Stiles was saying as they approached. He had actually picked Claire up and was carrying her on one hip as they perused the lines of plastic-covered comforter sets. "Get green or blue or something. We don't go in for that hetero-normative crap here. Unless you just like pink, then, whatever, go for it. Nothing wrong with pink in and of itself. It can even be a manly color. Just ask Lou Diamond Phillips, I've seen him rock a mean pink shirt. Not that it needs to be manly, I'm just saying. But I definitely think you should say no to the Princesses. They're just bad role models. If you've gotta go cartoon, I say go My Little Ponies. If loving Pinkie Pie is wrong, we don't want to be right, right?"

Allison couldn't stop herself from laughing at that which made Stiles whip around so fast she was worried that both he and Claire might have suffered whiplash. "Hey," he said, slowly lowering Claire to the ground as a red flush crawled up his face. "You guys done?"

"Yeah," Scott said. He raised an eyebrow. "Are you?"

Stiles rolled his eyes. "I think Claire's got it from here, you know? She likes ponies and not princesses, right, Claire? Which shows she has impeccable taste."

Allison hid her laugh behind her hand. "I think we're good. Thanks, Stiles."

He slid around her shopping cart until he was back at Scott's side. "Anytime, anytime," he said, waving his arms. "But I think we need to go? Right, Scott?"

"Yeah, I guess," Scott said, still watching Allison. "Bye."

She ducked her head, suddenly feeling as shy as Claire usually acted. "Bye."

Stiles let out a loud, overdramatic sigh. "We definitely need to go," he said, tugging on Scott's arm. "Allison, bye. Claire, nice to meet you! Later!" With that, he dragged Scott away until they disappeared back into the drapery aisle.

Allison looked down to check on Claire, who had also watched them go. "Did you have fun with Stiles?"

"He's funny," she said in that way children had of being utterly serious no matter what they were saying.

"He definitely is," she agreed before she took Claire's hand. "Come on. We still have some shopping to do before we meet Uncle Chris for lunch."

Allsion tried to ignore the flutter she felt deep inside as she thought back over the last few minutes, the rush that came from seeing Scott again. But no matter how hard she tried, it was still there, a warmth that she thought she'd never feel again.

**

It took every bit of patience that Stiles had – which really wasn't much -- to wait until they had made their purchases and had climbed back into his Jeep before he started to pump Scott for every shred of information he'd gotten during his brief one-on-one with Allison.

"Out with it," he demanded, as he turned his Jeep onto the road from the parking lot. "Spill!"

Scott settled back in his seat with a shrug. "Not much to tell. She asked about Erica and Boyd, if we'd heard anything about Gerard. Which we haven't, so it was a big no on all counts."

"And Claire?" Stiles prodded. "Did you get the scoop on that?"

"Yeah," Scott said and Stiles wished he wasn't driving so he could see the look on Scott's face that went with his strangled tone. "She's -- Kate's."

"What?" Stiles might've jerked the wheel in surprise but luckily there wasn't a cop around to tell his dad about it. "That psycho was the cutie pie's mom?"

"That's what Allison said," Scott told him. "They were surprised too. Kate never told any of them, so they didn't find out about Claire until a few weeks ago."

"That's..." Stiles drummed his fingers on the steering wheel while he searched for the right words to convey the fucked-up-ness of that. In deference to Scott's adoration of one particular Argent, he settled on, "...a whole new level of weirdness for the Argents."

A glance at Scott told Stiles that he was grimacing in apparent agreement. "Tell me about it. Allison was really upset over it, I could tell. Not Claire but that Kate kept it a secret."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Yes, because that's what she should be upset about. A secret baby, not all the murdering and torturing and killing."

"That's not what I meant and you know it," Scott said and Stiles didn't need to look to know Scott was scowling at him. "I -- what's with you, anyway?"

"Me?" Stiles asked, perhaps taking a right turn a little more sharply than safety suggested. "What do you mean?"

"You," Scott repeated. "And Allison, I mean. One minute you're cool and then you're all angry and, like, grrr."

"Grr?" Stiles asked. "I'm not the one here who growls, buddy."

"You know what I mean," Scott said in a huff.

Stiles took a minute to gather his thoughts about Allison which were, at the moment, conflicted to say the least. It was a miracle, though, that Scott had even picked up on it given his usual level of awareness, so Stiles was weirdly proud of him. "Look," he began. "I know you and Allison have this epic fate thing going but the rest of us have to deal with the fact she tried to kills us all without the rosy tint of true love to soften it. That's all."

"She didn't try to kill you, Stiles!"

"So Isaac doesn't count?" he asked, even when he knew he did. They had sort of adopted Isaac after Erica and Boyd disappeared and a lot of the time the fledging werewolf didn't spend with his real alpha, he spent with Scott. Stiles wondered if Derek brooded in jealousy when Isaac came back to their hideout smelling of Scott. One day, he'd be brave enough to ask. "He's either in or out of our little werewolf club, Scott. No halfsies."

"Of course he counts," Scott told him. "And what Allison did to him was so totally wrong, but --"

"Ah! Ah!" Stiles wagged a finger in the general direction of Scott's face. "It's that but that I'm having trouble with."

"I thought you understood," Scott said, tone beseeching on behalf of his maybe-ex-crazy ex. God, they weren't even screwing anymore and Stiles still had to deal with Scott's epic love for her. "What she was going through -- Stiles, you know what it's like."

"I do," Stiles agreed, stabbed once again by the pain that never seemed to go away. Even years after his mom's death, Stiles knew what it was to lose someone that left a hole that nothing ever filled up because he still had one, right in the middle of his heart. "I know what's it's like when you just want to hurt everybody because you hurt so bad yourself. I know. When my mom..." He shook his head. "That part of me? Yeah, it understands that part of Allison. It's the actual torturing and killing part of her that the rest of me doesn't follow."

Scott sighed. "I don't think you're the only one," he said.

"You mean Derek? Isaac?"

"I mean Allison," Scott told him. Which Stiles should've expected but it was still a surprise. "She's trying to figure it out, I think. Make sense of it."

Stiles risked their deaths to shoot his best friend a frankly incredulous look. "And you got all of this from a 5-minute conversation while looking at curtains?"

Scott was scowling again. "Just try to cut her some slack, all right?"

"I was nice," Stiles protested which he totally had been because his feelings for Allison were conflicted, not scary. Plus, she'd had the cutie pie with her and he couldn't have been mean in front of Claire even if he'd wanted to. "And, seriously, I'm not the one you need to worry about, you know. I think Derek and Isaac are the ones with the real axes to grind."

"I know," Scott admitted quietly. Then he perked up. "Oh, hey, speaking of, I got a message from Derek. He wants me to come see him today. Says he's got something to discuss."

"Oh yeah?" Stiles perked up, too. "Something about the alpha pack, maybe? And, wow, that doesn't get any less terrifying no matter how many times I say it."

"Not as far as Isaac knows," he said. "It's been quiet."

"Except no one has seen Erica or Boyd," Stiles pointed out, trying not to think about the last time he saw Erica and Boyd, strung up and electrified in Gerard's basement of torture.

"Yeah." It was even more quiet, a sadness in it that Stiles knew was a recent addition to his friend's emotional repertoire. It was a sadness that came from having the world on one's shoulders, that came from too much loss, from having seen too much. Scott had never sounded like that before the werewolf bite.

The Jeep rolled to a stop at a four-way stop and Stiles glanced at Scott. "I can drop you at chez Creepy on my home if you want."

Scott frowned. "You're not staying?"

"Um, no?" Stiles answered. He waited for Scott to answer the question but when no answer came, he asked, "So am I? Dropping you? I need to know which way to turn here?"

"Oh, yeah! Thanks," Scott said and Stiles threw on his left turn signal and lurched into motion. "But why aren't you staying?"

"Well, for one thing, I didn't get an invite to werewolf prom," Stiles pointed out. "You did."

"I'm sure Derek just figured you'd come anyway," Scott said.

"Which makes me feel a whole lot better, thanks," Stiles muttered sarcastically. Or at least, he meant it to be sarcastic but just like his feelings for Allison, his -- how he felt about Derek was also complicated. And jumbled. And highly embarrassing when he stopped to think about it for too long, so he didn't.

"Seriously? Why aren't you staying?"

Stiles sighed. "Maybe I'm just kinda digging my break from supernatural death and destruction and I want to bask in it as long as I can. Also? Peter is creepy as hell, so I'll pass on the powwow. It's not like you won't tell me anything important anyway."

"You sure?" Scott sounded so concerned and earnest that Stiles risked a peek and, yes, he was wearing the expression to match. Stiles hated that expression because it meant Scott was going to try and talk about their feelings. "It's not about what you said back at the last game, is it, about you feeling useless? Because, Stiles, dude, you have to know --"

"Scott," Stiles said, ending the earnestness before Scott really built up steam. "Come on, get real. Just because you have one good idea that totally works doesn't mean I'm not still the brains of this operation and, hello, alphas, plural, we're going to need brains. It's cool."

"You sure?" he asked again, though less earnest. Thank god.

Stiles nodded. "Look, I'm sure and the truth is really -- things have been better with me and my dad, you know? Since the game, since things have calmed down and there's not so much rampant lying going on. And I'd really like to keep that going for as long as I can because I know that soon enough we'll be fighting for our lives and I'll have to make up more bad lies and...so, yeah, I'm sure. I promise. I'm going to drop you off at Derek's, then I'm going to go home, hang these blackout curtains and make my dad something decent to eat while I wait for you to call and fill me in on whatever Tall, Dark and Broody had to say. Okay?"

"Okay," Scott said, meaning it. Stiles sighed in relief and he slowed the Jeep as they approached the burnt out husk of the Hale mansion that Derek still insisted on using despite its creepiness, its deplorable state and the alpha graffiti on the front door. Or maybe it was Peter who insisted; Stiles wasn't sure but it was still creepy.

"Here we are," he announced as he came to a stop behind Derek's Camaro. When he looked up he could see that Isaac and Peter were both on the porch, loitering. When he noticed Stiles looking, Isaac threw his hand up in a quick wave. Peter, smirking, did the same. "Oh, look, Peter is waving at me. So glad I'm not staying."

"Stiles..."

"Nope, you're on your own for the next few hours," Stiles said. "Now get the hell out of my car and call me later, okay?"

Scott laughed and gave him a quick slap on the shoulder. "Yeah, okay. Later."

Once Scott had slammed the door shut and was bounding toward his new buddy, Isaac, Stiles gladly threw the Jeep into reverse and squealed away from the werewolf gathering. He chanced a glance back at the porch in his rearview mirror only to see Peter still watching him, a smug expression on his face like he knew something Stiles didn't. Of course, Peter probably knew a ton that Stiles didn't, but the look was still rude and, of course, creepy.

He gunned it until he reached the main road.

Stiles tried his best not to think about things that made him shudder in fear like Peter Hale or alpha packs, so he flung his thoughts out, looking for some other topic to think about while he drove back to his house and the one he settled on was little Claire. Claire Argent, he supposed, although he hadn't asked about paternity and he doubted Scott had been nosy enough to when he'd had Allison within arm's reach for the first time in weeks. Stiles snorted and rolled his eyes at the mere thought of that drama; from his point of view, they were only in the third act of that tragedy and the third act is where things tended to get muddled. Hopefully, he'd have the summer off from dealing with it.

So, Allison had a niece that her crazy, murdering aunt had hidden from everyone for years. It was definitely weird, Stiles decided, but a lot of what the Argent family did struck him as weird. He tried to think of Kate as a mother -- like any mother, his or even Mrs. McCall -- and he just couldn't manage. She'd been hot but evil as fuck, and even Allison's good memories of her didn't really leave Stiles with the impression she'd be much of the nurturing type. He was sad to think that the little girl had lost her mom because it hurt to think of anyone losing that, but he couldn't imagine that Kate had been very good at it anyway, what with the way she seemed to be focused on murder and torture and evilness.

At least Chris Argent was the least psycho of the bunch, so maybe Claire would be okay. Up until she had snapped, Allison had been refreshingly well-adjusted for a member of her family, so there was hope, at least.

Stiles let himself think about it for a few more minutes until he saw his house up ahead and then his mind slammed into high gear with thinking about all the things he wanted to do before his dad got off work, the curtains and the dinner and maybe some good old-fashioned Stilinski male bonding because Stiles knew that he'd spoken the truth to Scott.

Stiles knew he was living on borrowed time when it came to the current peace and quiet, and he didn't want to take a moment of it for granted.

**