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team up

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Allison finds out about werewolves during the first week of sixth grade.

Scott blushes, helps her put her papers back into her bag, stammers through an apology for knocking it over. He doesn't seem to notice the way his eyes light up, his brow goes ridgy, or his fingernails lengthen into claws, and Allison doesn't mention it. They've only just met, and he's so embarrassed, and it's hard to be afraid of a werewolf who knocks over your backpack and apologizes for a full two minutes afterward.

"It's okay," Allison says. She pats Scott's shoulder. "I don't mind."

She thinks Stiles must know, too, because he and Scott are so close that Stiles finishes Scott's sentences. Scott never finishes Stiles's sentences, probably because even Stiles doesn't seem to know where half of them are going before they get there. They're the first real friends she's had since Nashville, the last place she wasn't constantly struggling to catch up. Stiles does well in school, but Scott's transition from elementary to middle school seems like it's not going as smoothly. It makes Allison feel a little better that she's not alone.

None of the girls in her classes are that welcoming: they seem to stick to their elementary school groups if they're not following Lydia Martin and Mandy Li around. Allison isn't anything like Lydia, who reads Vogue instead of paying attention in their science class but still gets the highest grade on all their pop quizzes. Allison's also better than most of the other students in the chamber orchestra class that's for eighth graders, so instantly unpopular there, and it's not like language arts, her best subject, is a great place to make friends.

Scott and Stiles like her, though. Scott wants to hear every ridiculous thing that's ever happened to her, and Stiles wants to know if she's ever shot somebody with an arrow, what the recoil on a bow is like. "Are you going to be in the Olympics someday?" he asks.

Allison rolls her eyes. "I don't know," she says. "That's all recurve bows, and Dad wants me to cross-train."

"Mom made me take piano lessons for a while," Scott says, poking at his Capri Sun. "I'm not very good."

"And yet we like you anyway." Stiles takes the Capri Sun away from Scott and jabs the straw into the pouch in one swift move. "Check it out, I'm a champion."

"You have a straw problem," Scott says.

Allison kicks Scott under the table, not too hard. "And yet we like you anyway," she says to Stiles.

After school each day, Allison goes home and practices archery in her backyard for two hours, plays viola for another. She's been doing both for long enough that the rhythm is natural, the instinct automatic. Her training is the center of her life, no matter where she goes, two overlapping sets of callouses. Today, she's practicing with her crossbow, which is a new addition.

"We might go hunting when you get more comfortable," Dad says, watching her. They practice together a lot, but he's going out to dinner with Mom when she gets home from work. She's teaching English at Beacon Hills High now; her contract's for a full year.

"Ugh, hunting." Allison reloads, adjusts her stance. "Do we have to?"

"You need some practice with moving targets," her dad says.

Allison's practiced at a lot of ranges, but she likes it better when they have room for her to train at home. Their new house backs up onto the woods, and she's got fifty yards clear, easy. She braces, lets the arrow fly. It lands just off center. She needs to work harder. "Stationary, too," Allison says with a sigh, sitting down the crossbow on the lawn chair next to her. She rolls her shoulders, lifts her arms until her hands are clasped over her head, spine straight: breathes, holds position, lets go.

Dad comes over and gives her a half-hug. "Give it another half hour, then do your homework and viola, okay? I'll come out and work with you tomorrow."

Allison leans into the hug. "Thanks, Dad," she says.

Stiles comes into the cafeteria one day looking… awful, face pale and drawn, and he and Scott aren't looking at each other. Well, they do, but briefly, and look just as quickly away. It doesn't seem like they're mad at each other, and Scott looks fine, although he was quiet in class this morning.

"What's wrong?" When neither of them answer, Allison takes a deep breath, ignoring the butterflies in her stomach, and whispers, "Is it werewolf stuff?"

Scott is the first to react: he jumps in his seat so high that he almost falls off the bench. Allison has to put out an arm to catch him. "How did you know?" he says, not bothering to lower his voice. "What—"

Allison makes a claw with her hand.

"Since when?" Stiles says.

"The first week of school," she says. "I didn't want to say anything, because Scott looked—he looked really embarrassed. Are you one, too?"

Scott is hiding his face in his hands, but they stay human this time.

"I'm not. Scott is," Stiles says helpfully. "Embarrassed, I mean. I would say that becoming a werewolf has included a great deal of embarrassment for Scott, actually, like the time that you p—"

"I never said that!" Scott's groan is muffled by the palms pressed to his mouth. "Stiles—"

"So this is new?" Allison asks, leaning in. "Did you get bitten? Is that how it works?"

Stiles nods, then frowns. "Look—we shouldn't talk about this here. Can you come over after school tomorrow?"

Her mom is reluctant to deviate from routine, but she relents when Allison says it's for class, that they have to do a lab report together. "You can ride the bus home with Stiles," she says, writing Allison a note. "I'll pick you up at five sharp. You'll have to cut archery an hour short, make it up on the weekend."

"Give her a break, Vic," Dad says. He comes over, kisses Mom on the cheek. "It's past time for Allison to make some friends here. Do some normal kid stuff."

"Really," Mom says, sounding amused.

Allison's not sure what's funny about that.

Stiles doesn't tell her everything. "There are other werewolves," he says. "We don't know who bit Scott, and I think they know, but they won't tell us."

"Because you're kids?" Allison nibbles at one of the Keebler cookies Stiles took out of the pantry. Mom always puts them on plates, but she and Stiles are sitting on the couch, eating straight out of the container.

"Something like that," Stiles says vaguely, not meeting her eyes. "They don't think we can do anything. Because we're, you know, eleven. But Scott's a werewolf, and I might be able to do magic, maybe. Eventually."

"Hey, archer here," Allison points out. "That counts, right, even if I'm twelve?"

Stiles pauses mid-chew. "You want to team up?"

"You're my friends." She's surprised by how fiercely protective she feels. "Of course, I want to help you."

"What if it means you have to hurt someone?" Stiles looks up. "You weren't there when the thing—it wasn't like Scott, the werewolf that bit him, it was, I thought we were going to die. I thought Scott was going to die. It's not—it's scary."

Allison doesn't like hunting, not even squirrels. She doesn't like hurting anything, anybody: she couldn't even say, Scott, are you are werewolf? in the face of his red cheeks and overflowing I'm sorrys. A bow in her hands feels more natural than anything else, whether it's a curve or a crossbow or the one she draws across the strings of her viola, but it's a tool of performance as much as it is one of precision. Archery has always been about the trajectory toward her target, never the impact.

"I don't know," Allison says, honestly. "But I can—I guess we'll find out."

Dad and Mom go out on Friday night—"dinner and a movie," Dad says, grinning at Allison—a last moment thing. "We'll be home late," Mom adds, "That's not an excuse to stay up past your bed time, young lady."

"I won't, I promise," Allison says, even though she intends to do just that. Maybe she'll even watch MTV on the big TV in the living room. She's not allowed, but sometimes she watches The Real World with Aunt Kate when she comes to visit, and music videos, all the kind of stuff her parents think she needs to wait until some arbitrary milestone to be able to see. Aunt Kate doesn't care about that stuff; Allison loves her.

She's halfway through an episode of Laguna Beach when Stiles calls her on the cell phone Dad got her for emergencies. "Scott's missing," he says, panicked. "He was spending the night and I went to the bathroom and when I came back he was gone, and Laura was gone, and I think—I can feel him, I think he's in the Preserve."

"I'll meet you by the entrance," Allison says, flipping back to PBS before she turns off the TV. That's less than a mile from her front door, she can do that in ten minutes on her bike, or less. "We'll find him, okay? We can do it."

"Okay," Stiles. "I'm—I'm almost there. I'll meet you."

Allison pulls on her sneakers, gets her bike out of the garage, grabs her recurve bow and arrows, too. The lights on her street grow farther apart the closer she gets to the Preserve, and as she pedals forward, everything around her begins to take on the dim glow of the waning moon.