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ghost at my shoulder

Chapter Text

 

“I’m not your errand boy,” Stiles grumbles even as he wriggles through one of the air ducts inside the bank.

The translucent figure currently settled in his torso waves a ghostly flippant hand that Stiles just manages to catch in his peripheral vision.  “Well you don’t have to do what I ask.”

He tosses a glare over his shoulder at the woman.  “Then you’ll just nag me all day and give me those stupid puppy-dog eyes.  You’re a grown-ass werewolf for god’s sakes and you’re bossing teenage boys around to do your dangerous dirty work ’cause you don’t feel like moving on.  Has anyone ever told you you’re next to useless?”

“Uncle Peter did,” Laura answers matter-of-factly.  “We had some choice words for each other right before he killed me.”

Stiles huffs and inches forward another few feet.  He can practically feel the grimy layer of dust he’s picking up.

Laura swans forward, at least three-quarters of her body sinking further into Stiles’ as she leans forward over his head to peer at him upside-down.  Stiles swats at her but – of course – his hand simply passes right through her forehead.  Contrary to popular belief, there’s no actual chill when a ghost travels through you or vice versa.  At the very least, Stiles never feels anything except a slight pressure whenever Laura swoops through him, and the pressure isn’t even uncomfortable.

“I don’t really care anymore,” She continues, and there’s something a little sad in her voice but not dishonest.  “Death puts certain things in perspective.  And since I’m already dead, there’s not much point getting hung up on how I got that way.”

Stiles grunts as he hauls himself up one duct before swinging into another horizontal one.  “Well that’s good.  I mean, you were kind of a shitty Alpha anyway.  At least to Peter.”

“Thanks,” Laura says dryly, sitting up again so that everything below her waist is inside Stiles’ chest area.  “You should tell Uncle Peter that.  You two can bond.”

“Over what exactly?”

“Your shared ruthless opinion of pack loyalty.”

Stiles snorts.  “I haven’t tried exorcising you yet, have I?”

“True,” Laura agrees.  “But I haven’t betrayed you the way I did Peter either.”

Stiles pauses and looks over his shoulder at her.  Laura smiles back placidly, hands clasped between Stiles’ shoulder blades.  “Would you?  If you could?”

“Betray you?”  Laura looks almost amused.  “Probably not.  I mean, I’d like to think I’ve learned my lesson.  And you’d make the exorcism hurt, wouldn’t you?”

Stiles turns to face forward again and continues his squirming crawl.  All he says in response is, “You Hales are so damn weird.”

Laura laughs, airy but not quite humorous.

Because yes, he probably would.

 


 

Stiles finds Cora Hale in record time, along with Erica and Boyd.  Laura’s already scoped the place out for him, and when she drapes herself through him and wraps her hand around his heart, she can’t hurt him but she can make it so that it’s as if Stiles isn’t even there.  No heartbeat, no scent, no sound.

As if he’s dead too.

It’s a convenient trick to have, and Stiles takes shameless advantage of it.  Laura doesn’t seem to mind either, especially when her younger sister’s on the line.

So when Stiles slides out of the vent and into the hall leading to the vaults, his shoes don’t so much as squeak as he lands in a crouch.

The other Alphas are out.  The twins at school mocking Scott and the others, and Deucalion and Kali at the nearby supermarket, leaving only Ennis on guard duty.

One Alpha, Stiles can handle.

Ennis is sitting in a far corner with his feet kicked up and an open magazine in front of him.  He’s half turned away from the direction Stiles is coming from, which leaves Stiles free to creep forward and pop his head into the vault Laura directs him to.

Three teenagers stare back at him, eyes wide behind the circle of mountain ash surrounding them.  Stiles hastily puts a finger to his lips before miming holding his breath a few times.  He waits until they all nod, confused but cautiously, desperately hopeful, and then he reaches into his bag and retrieves a grenade.

He raises three fingers and counts down.  When he gets to one, Boyd, Erica, and the girl who has to be Cora if Laura’s anxious frown is anything to go by, all suck in a deep breath.  Stiles does the same before pitching the grenade at the ground near Ennis’ feet.

Ennis is up in an instant, and he catches sight of Stiles in the blink of an eye, but before he can react with more than a flash of hostile red eyes, the grenade detonates in a smokescreen explosion filled with wolfsbane.

Stiles doesn’t waste any time.  He’s digging out four gas masks even as he hurries forward, stopping only long enough to break the mountain ash line before shoving three of the masks at the captive teenagers and buckling the last one onto his own face.

With Laura chanting “Go go go!” in his ear, and Ennis’ agonized, furious howls in the background, Stiles yanks the two nearest – Cora and Erica – onto their feet as soon as they’ve clumsily secured their respective masks and swiftly leads them towards the nearest escape route.

Always have an exit plan.  First rule of breaking into anywhere.

They stumble out of the bank, and Stiles herds them towards his jeep parked out back and waiting for them.  All three werewolves pile into the back in a heap of limbs while Stiles scrambles behind the wheel, flooring the pedal almost before the doors are shut.

Laura disappears for the length of the street that Stiles hurtles down, and then she’s back, settling into the passenger seat beside him.

“Deucalion and Kali just got back,” She reports as Stiles runs a traffic light in his haste to put as much distance between them and the bank.  “You got out just in time.”

“No thanks to you,” Stiles mutters under his breath as he removes his mask.

“I helped!”  Laura protests indignantly.  “I did the recon and everything!”

And I did the planning and all the legwork, and the grenade and gas masks didn’t come cheap either, Stiles thinks rather uncharitably.

He’s always rather uncharitable when it comes to Laura.  Derek drowns because he’s an idiot and big sister Laura spends the next two hours wringing her hands and reminding Stiles not to let her brother go, as if Stiles could forget while treading water and holding the stupid Alpha’s deadweight afloat, especially considering he also had Derek snarling at him about the exact same thing.

Derek’s living in squalor because he’s an Olympic champion at brooding and wallowing in guilt so big sister Laura strikes again and bugs Stiles until Stiles goes and bugs Derek about moving into a place fit for actual living, never mind that Stiles gets slammed into three walls and a steering wheel before the asshole finally grudgingly agrees like he’s doing a favour for Stiles instead of the other way around.

Laura even bothers him about Peter.  Well okay, maybe she doesn’t.  She’s prodded half-heartedly at Stiles a few times when Derek threw his uncle into a wall or drew blood with threatening claws, but she never actually asked Stiles to do anything about it, and if he’s being honest, it was really mostly Stiles’ decision to step in and distract Derek from going after Peter some more by mocking the Alpha until the scowls and threats are redirected at Stiles.

Clearly, Laura’s crazy was infectious.

And now of course, Stiles can add Cora to the list.  After going out to possibly find out more about the Alpha Pack for Stiles, Laura came back with a heroic mission instead, exclaiming over Cora being alive (“You know, if you’d stayed long enough seven years ago to hear the police report instead of running away right off the bat, you would’ve known that only eight people were reported dead in the fire.”  “You’re a heartless, tactless brat, you know that?”) and then insisting and wheedling him to save her sister, and Stiles has decided he’s going to hate this woman forever.

He ended up pulling two weeks’ worth of caffeinated all-nighters to come up with a viable rescue just to shut her up.

“Stiles?”

Erica’s timid, hoarse voice interrupts Stiles’ internal lament.  He flicks a look at the three werewolves reflected in his rear-view mirror.  They’ve taken off their gas masks as well, and they’ve untangled themselves from each other.

They are not friends, them and Stiles.  Allies, at best.  More importantly though, they’re Derek’s responsibilities.

“Do you want me to drop you off at Derek’s?”  Stiles asks abruptly, taking a left into busier traffic and slowing down now that there isn’t much of a chance of an Alpha werewolf springing out at them.  “Or home?”

Erica wilts, and even Boyd cringes a little, which is strange to see.  Cora huddles against the door, arms wrapped around herself and a very Derek-esque scowl on her face, defensive and wary.

“Stiles,” Laura says softly, and Stiles’ lips thin.

He loathes taking care of people.  He’s good at it, he’ll do it without complaint for the people he cares about, but it’s hard.  He’s already had his hands full with his dad and Scott for years.

But he’s also known Laura long enough to understand what she wants, and it’s ridiculous the way she can simply say his name and Stiles can automatically hear the unspoken words underneath.

“Or I could drop you off at my house,” Stiles relents after several tense beats of strained silence.  “I’ve got a guestroom, and my dad won’t be home for a couple days.  You could get some rest and a few hot meals there.”

He watches his two schoolmates practically sag with relief.  Apparently, option three is better than facing Derek or facing their families right now.

The words come unbidden as he pulls up in front of his house and tosses a key at them.  “Then grab a shower and help yourself to anything in my closet.  There should be something that fits.  And the kitchen’s yours if I’m not back by then.  Just don’t blow anything up.  There’s no mountain ash around the house but I’ve got wards raised so no one without a personal invite from me will be able to get in.”

Erica smiles weakly at him, fingers brushing his shoulder as she moves to get out of the car, and Boyd gives him a nod, a little hesitant but steady enough.  They both glance at Cora but don’t say anything, and Stiles waits until they’re safely inside his house before pulling away from the curb again.

Laura smiles at him, curled up in her seat, dead and beautiful and looking at Stiles like she trusts him with her family.  Stiles ignores her in favour of the girl in his backseat.

“So.  Derek’s or Peter’s?”

 


 

“Derek’s the Alpha now?”  Cora asks in a voice rough with misuse.

Stiles hums a confirmation as he takes another trip around the block.  He considers her reflection for a moment before launching into a succinct summary of all the shit that’s gone down in Beacon Hills.

“Starting with you digging up my naked body,” Laura murmurs cheerfully, and Stiles shoots her a flustered glower.  Laura snickers.

“Uncle Peter killed Laura?”  Cora asks after Stiles finishes, and she sounds almost dazed.

Laura grimaces and stares rather helplessly at her sister.

“…He wasn’t really in his right mind,” Stiles offers after a lengthy minute of awkward silence.  “And if Laura were here, I’m sure she’d agree that she deserves at least some of the blame.”

“How would you know?”  Cora scoffs weakly, gaze dropping to her knees where her hands are white-knuckled.

Stiles glances at Laura before looking back at the road.  “Because I think any halfway decent person would feel the same.  Because if anything is worth regretting, it’s leaving someone to suffer on their own when you’re supposed to look after them.”

He meets Cora’s eyes in the rear-view mirror.  “Was Laura a decent person?”

He sees the flinch that ripples across the werewolf’s shoulders.  He doesn’t really expect her to answer something so personal so he’s surprised when she does.

“She was bossy and annoying like big sisters are,” Cora mutters, forehead pressing against the glass of the window.  “But she could be nice and funny and she helped Derek with homework and she kicked some high school guy’s ass when I was nine because he laughed at my haircut.”

There are pearly tears in Laura’s eyes.  And Cora suddenly looks very young and very tired in the backseat.

Stiles suppresses both a sigh and the desire to run for the hills.  His jeep trundles down an empty street.

All three of them are quiet for a while.  Stiles drives five blocks in total before Cora speaks up again.

“You’re Stiles?”  She squints at him through the mirror.  “Are you part of Derek’s Pack?”

“No,” Stiles denies shortly.

“Oh,” She cocks her head and doesn’t ask why.  “Is Uncle Peter part of Derek’s Pack?”

“Yeah.  No.”  Stiles’ brow knits.  “Kind of?  Peter’s not exactly welcome in it but he’d be an Omega otherwise.”

Cora doesn’t look surprised.  Stiles is pretty sure she’s an Omega too.

“Uncle Peter,” She says at last after another minute of pensive contemplation.  “I’ll go to Uncle Peter’s place first.”

“Will do,” Stiles agrees.

Beside him, Laura slumps a little, and she looks sad again, if also a bit relieved.  Stiles watches her out of the corner of his eye before reaching over and surreptitiously passing his hand through hers in an imitation of two living people holding hands.

Laura blinks, startled, and then she laughs and sinks her palm into his wrist.  “You’re such a softy, Stiles.  Who do you think you’re fooling?”

Stiles scowls at the car in front and doesn’t look at the former Alpha.

But he doesn’t remove his hand from the passenger seat either, even if it does garner a puzzled look from Cora when she notices the somewhat odd placement of Stiles’ limb.

 


 

“Where did you find her?”  Peter asks once Cora is in the shower and therefore not within earshot.

Stiles shrugs, idly watching Laura make faces at some of the food Peter has in his cupboards.  Not that Stiles can see anything but his ghostly companion is nosy enough to stick her face through the closed cupboard doors before retreating with a scrunched nose and a pout.

“The Alpha Pack had her,” Stiles replies.  “Along with Boyd and Erica.”

“And Boyd and Erica are…?”

“Safe,” Stiles directs a winning smile at the werewolf.  “They’ll return to civilization when they’re ready.”

Peter stares at him, arms crossed, icy blue eyes unwavering.  “And you brought Cora here?”

“She wanted to come here.”

Peter’s eyebrows go up.  Stiles shrugs again.  Laura disappears into the living room.

“Look, she’s your niece,” Stiles sighs, pushing himself to his feet from where he’s been sitting at the kitchen table.  “Don’t go killing this one, okay?  I get the feeling she’s had a rough time.  Maybe you two can bond.”

He heads for the door.  Peter doesn’t stop him.

“Hey, Uncle Peter’s as antisocial as Derek is!”  Laura hollers from the living room, and Stiles doesn’t quite remember to stop himself from turning and glancing in the direction of the woman’s voice.  “He plays chess against himself, and there’s a depressing amount of video games here for a thirty-five-year-old man!”

Stiles rolls his eyes, catches Peter studying him intently, and quickly lets himself out of the apartment.  He’s in his jeep again before Laura joins him.

“Where are we going now?”  The ghost asks.  “Home to take care of your pups?”

Stiles splutters.  “Don’t even joke about that!”

Laura cackles.

Stiles hates his life.

 


 

They go shopping for clothes.  This one’s all on Stiles; Laura never even suggested it.  But Stiles’ mind just sort of meandered in that direction, thinking of the tattered jeans and shirt that Cora had on and the lack of a bag or even a wallet, and he finds himself driving to the nearest mall.

If nothing else, Laura will have fun, and she does, practically glowing as she flits from store to store, picking out things that she thinks her sister will like and will look good in.

It gets expensive.  Not waterworks-worthy expensive thankfully, but the amount still gets high enough to make Stiles wince, and that’s after Laura notices and tries to cut back.  Money doesn’t mean anything to the dead but she’s aware enough to know that Stiles isn’t rich and can’t afford everything that catches her eye.

They end up with three pairs of jeans, a pair of sweats, and few pairs of short shorts, two sweaters, a jacket, and a variety of tops, from denim to tees to blouses.  And then there are the shoes – a pair of ankle boots and a pair of high-tops.

“Jesus fuck,” Stiles mutters as he throws in some socks, a hairbrush, and some female toiletries because why the hell not.  He already got the bras and underwear that Laura instructed him to pick out; nothing can be more embarrassing than that, especially when the cashier shot him a suspicious, judge-y look like she thought he was a pervert or something.  What, never seen a guy shop for girl things?  Honestly.

Hovering beside him, Laura chews on her lip.  “You know, I have a private bank account.”

Stiles pins her with a flat look.  “And you’re mentioning that now?”

Laura has the grace to look sheepish.  “I’ve been declared dead though, and everything goes to Derek, so I guess it isn’t so private anymore.”

Stiles rolls his eyes so hard he nearly strains himself.  “Then what was the point of mentioning it?”

“I’m just saying you could ask Derek for money.”

“Yeah, call me stupid, but I’m not that desperate.  Besides, if I was gonna get Derek to pay for this stuff, I’d just get him to go shopping.”

“Ugh,” Laura pulls a disgusted face.  “Don’t.  Derek hates shopping.  Also, he has no fashion sense whatsoever.  Those clothes he’s wearing even now?  I bought them for him.  Every last one.  The only things he ever buys are his own underwear and shoes.”

Stiles smirks.  “Boxers or briefs?”

Laura grins back, sly and mischievous.  “He’s a total briefs guy all the way.”

Stiles sniggers, and he doesn’t even care when a mom shopping in the same aisle turns to give him a disapproving look.

Stiles is weighed down by five different shopping bags by the time they leave the mall, and he shoves them all into the backseat of his jeep.

“You could just get Derek or even Peter to take Cora shopping,” Laura tells him, slanting a look at him from under her eyelashes.

“I could,” Stiles agrees as he leaves the parking lot.  “And from now on, they can fund Cora’s wardrobe and livelihood.”

Laura props her chin in her hands and her hands on her knees, and she doesn’t speak until Stiles is turning onto the street where Peter’s apartment building is on.

“Thanks for letting me shop for her,” The woman whispers.

Stiles makes a noise of acknowledgement at the back of his throat and pretends not to notice the tears that Laura’s trying to hide.

 


 

He leaves the bags at the door, rings the doorbell once, and leaves.  He’s not really in the mood for socializing anymore that day, and he still has two runaway werewolves at home to deal with.

 


 

Erica and Boyd are asleep in the guestroom when Stiles gets home.  They’re pretty much wrapped around each other, with Boyd facing the door, no doubt ready to rip apart anyone who registers as a threat on his radar, and Laura floats above them, cooing about how cute they are.

Interestingly enough, Stiles makes it all the way into the room and neither of them stirs.  Erica’s wearing a pair of Stiles’ pajamas – the soft grey ones with small Batman symbols all over them – while Boyd’s picked out one of Stiles’ baggier t-shirts and sweats, ones that aren’t quite so baggy on Boyd.

Stiles lingers long enough to open a window, figuring fresh air – along with sunlight – would be welcome, even deep in dreamland.  And then he shoos Laura back out, closing the door behind him most of the way.

The kitchen downstairs hasn’t been touched, which means the two upstairs must have simply fallen straight into bed after a shower.

“You’re gonna cook dinner for them,” Laura singsongs from her perch on the stove.

“Shut up,” Stiles grouches at her, and then he proceeds to cook dinner.  He has to eat after all, so he may as well cook for three.

 


 

Erica and Boyd stay for the entire weekend before Stiles manages to convince them to go to the police station.  They dither until Stiles gives up and goes inside with them, which results in the inevitable disappointed expression from the Sheriff because his delinquent son has gotten himself involved in yet another case.

Stiles ignores it.  He is a goddamn pro at ignoring his dad’s disappointment in him these days.

Laura hovers, ghostly hands resting protectively on Stiles’ shoulders as if they’re still made of flesh and blood.  Stiles says nothing but he supposes he appreciates the gesture all the same.

They stick to the runaway-gone-wrong story.  They can’t exactly say they’ve been kidnapped; they can’t explain the supernatural to regular humans, and the entire police force is no match for the Alpha Pack anyway, not to mention Erica and Boyd’s injuries have already healed so there’s no evidence of abduction.

So the two of them sit through their families’ tears and hugs – nobody’s angry, just really fucking relieved – while Stiles plays Candy Crush in the bathroom so that he won’t be the spare prick at a family reunion.

“How do these work?”  Laura says from where she’s examining a urinal.  “I never really took much notice.  Do guys just pee in here and then it automatically flushes?  Do you not use toilet paper?”

Stiles buries his face in his hands.  God.  Kill him now.

 


 

Trouble starts after that.  Well, trouble was already hanging around like an executioner’s axe, has been since Scott got Bitten and the Argents moved back into town.

Boyd and Erica return home with their families, but early Monday morning, Stiles gets two separate phone calls and two separate requests for a lift to school if their respective houses aren’t too out of his way.

Stiles sighs and agrees, mostly because it isn’t as if he has much else to do on that front, what with Scott busy doing the on-again-off-again tango with Allison and being werewolf bros with Isaac.

How Derek’s taking that, Stiles doesn’t know and doesn’t want to know.  He has enough on his plate as it is, even more once Stiles realizes he’s gained two werewolf shadows, and no, he isn’t counting Laura.

The student body as a whole is surprised to see Erica and Boyd again after such a long absence, and Scott, Isaac, Allison, and even Lydia are downright stunned because none of them have heard any mention of a breakthrough with the mystery surrounding the Alpha Pack.  The Alpha twins just look mostly pissed off because their former prisoners are now walking around free.

Erica and Boyd stick close.  They still walk down halls with their heads held high, but their shoulders brush as they walk, and they remain within half a step of Stiles whenever possible.  They no longer flaunt their werewolf assets.

“Scott’s looking this way,” Erica hisses under her breath as she sits down across from Stiles at lunch with Boyd beside her.

“They’re pro’ly won’ring why you’re hanging out wi’ me,” Stiles says around a mouthful of sandwich.

Laura wrinkles her nose at him.  “That’s gross, Stiles.”

Stiles shrugs, not particularly repentant even as he swallows.

“I didn’t have classes with him today,” He explains to the living werewolves.  “So he hasn’t been able to ask me anything about you guys.”

“Why aren’t you sitting with him?”  Boyd enquires, gaze flitting thoughtfully between Stiles and the table across the cafeteria.  “Did you and McCall have a fight?”

Stiles shakes his head, shoving down the twist of resentment and hurt in his chest.  “Not really.  Scott’s just been busy lately.  And I’ve got better things to do than watch him and Allison make gooey eyes at each other while Isaac moons after both of them.”

Boyd snorts.  Erica grimaces.  “Why is he still with her?  Didn’t Argent try to kill him?  And us?  Like, she literally tried to kill everybody.”

Stiles hums noncommittally.  “The heart wants what the heart wants.  But also, she’s not as crazy anymore since Grandpa Argent’s fucked off somewhere.”

Boyd’s eyebrows lift briefly, but as expected, he doesn’t really say anything, though his silence alone is opinion enough.

Erica just sighs.  “Awesome.  Well.  So long as they don’t expect me to stay in the same pack as her.  Now pass me the fries.”

That should’ve been Stiles’ first clue, especially with Laura swimming around them, a secretive smile on her face.

 


 

They both follow Stiles home after school.  They have early curfews now but not that early, and their parents are apparently okay with Stiles since he was the one who supposedly stumbled on them and gave them a ride to the station.

The Sheriff isn’t home so they play Mario Kart, do a bit of homework, and then somehow end up puppy-piling in Stiles’ bed while watching a movie on his laptop.

It’s weird.

“You two are being weird,” Stiles mutters as they watch the Avengers duke it out with the aliens in the middle of New York City.  Erica’s head is pillowed on Stiles’ left shoulder.  Boyd is lying on Stiles’ right side, semi-plastered against him.  “I mean I know I got you away from the Alpha Pack and all but this level of gratitude is strange no matter how you look at it and probably not healthy to boot.”

There’s a moment of awkward silence.

“Do you want us to leave?”  Erica asks in a tiny voice at the same time that Boyd mumbles, “This isn’t gratitude.”

Stiles squints skeptically at his laptop screen until Boyd amends, “Okay, some gratitude.  Most people would encourage that, Stilinski.”

Stiles rolls his eyes.  “Whatever.  You’re welcome.  But look, I’m not kicking you out or anything if you actually want to stay.  I’m just saying.  I mean we were never even friends.”

“…We could be?”  Erica ventures tentatively.

Stiles sighs.  He glances up at where Laura is sprawled on her belly in midair.

“Don’t be shy, Stiles,” Laura clucks.  “Socializing is good for you, or you’ll turn into a hermit.  And you don’t want to hurt their feelings, do you?”

Stiles kind of wants to strangle her.  To be fair though, that sentiment has been a vague feeling itching at the back of his mind since they met, so it’s more accurate to say that he kind of wants to strangle her more than usual.

“Stay if you want,” Stiles says at last, focusing on the movie again.  “But you know, if you ever want to go back to Derek’s Pack, just say so.  I’ll even act as a buffer in case he gets violent.”

He pauses.  “That’s a figure of speech, by the way.  I don’t actually think Derek will get violent.  Well, you know, beyond what a werewolf can take-”

Erica is already shaking her head, blonde hair tickling Stiles’ chin.  When Stiles glances at him, Boyd shakes his head as well, a frown creasing his forehead.

“We already told him we were leaving,” Erica clarifies.  “We’re not taking that back, especially with Argent now part of Derek’s Pack.”

“She’s not really-”

“We know,” Boyd interrupts this time.  “But we burned our bridges.  Maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do, but we did, and then we got ourselves abducted by Gerard and then the Alpha Pack, and Derek never showed either time.  So we’re obviously not Pack anymore if we’re not a top priority for him, and I guess that’s not all on him.  But we’re not going to put our lives in his hands again either.”

Stiles chews on his lip.  “He’s been looking for you.”

“But you’re the one who found us and saved us,” Erica finishes with a finality that makes Stiles’ skin crawl.

He looks at Laura again.  She shrugs, wholly unhelpful.  “They have a point.”

No they fucking don’t, Stiles thinks bitterly.  He only went to the bank because Laura wanted to save Cora, and Stiles is a two-birds-with-one-stone kinda guy, but he can’t explain that because he shouldn’t know Cora to begin with.

“Look, we’re not stupid,” Boyd is eyeing him with a mix of exasperation and curiosity.  “We get it; Derek was looking for us, you weren’t, but you somehow ended up finding us anyway.  You could’ve left us there.  But you didn’t, and that’s what matters to us.”

“And then you let us stay here,” Erica adds, lifting her head.  “And you drove us to school and let us eat with you and now we’re bunking in your room when you could just kick us both out.  Even if you weren’t leading a search party for us, you’re looking out for us now.  We don’t want promises of werewolf-y families where it’s supposedly all for one and one for all but nobody actually follows through ’cause we were never really a pack, Stiles.  So now we kinda just want someone reliable, you know?”

On screen, the Hulk is smashing things like no tomorrow.  Stiles says nothing until the nuclear missile is heading for New York.

“If you change your mind…” Stiles trails off.

Erica scoffs and drops her head back onto Stiles’ shoulder.  “Not likely.”

Boyd relaxes again and doesn’t disagree.

Laura gives Stiles a thumbs-up.  Stiles would give her the finger if he could.

 


 

Two weeks go by in much the same manner.  Erica and Boyd aren’t as jumpy in public, especially after Ethan and Aiden try to corner them and threaten them, only for Stiles to whip out a can of pepper spray laced with wolfsbane that had both wolves vomiting black goo within seconds.

The twins stay away after that, and Stiles spends an afternoon driving up and down the routes between Erica’s and Boyd’s houses, the school, and Stiles’ house, pointing out the CCTV cameras and where they should walk on the off-chance someone tries to nab them again.

Scott also corners them.  Well, he corners Stiles first and demands an explanation.  Stiles gives him a half-assed one just to be petty, and he doesn’t even mention Cora.  Cora can tell them about herself if and when she wants to.

Sunday morning, then the trouble begins.

Stiles is still asleep.  Erica and Boyd didn’t insist on another sleepover.  The Sheriff stayed overnight at the station again.

And then there’s a knock.  Stiles is a pretty light sleeper these days.  He sort of has to be, all things considered.

But the knock is just a knock, not rude banging or some other loud noise that might signify a life-or-death situation, so Stiles just rolls over and tries to convince his brain to remain asleep.

Another knock sounds, and this time, Laura decides to be gleefully evil because she’s bored and doesn’t want to wait a few more hours for Stiles to wake up on his own.

So, “STILES!!”  She bellows in his ear.  “MAIL FOR YOU!!”

“Fuck off!”  Stiles automatically snaps because he stayed up late on the phone with Erica last night after she called him in a fit of post-nightmare panic, not to mention this isn’t the first time Laura’s decided to screech in his ear to wake him up, and he almost jolts right off the bed to get away from the shout.

“You have ma-ail!”  Laura sings, zooming lazily through the air above him.

“There’s no post on Sundays!”  Stiles snarls, and he refuses to open his eyes.  “Now leave me alone and stop acting like a five-year-old on Christmas morning!  You’re supposed to be a grown-ass woman, Laura!”

There is complete, blessed silence after that.

It ain’t blessed for long.

“Uh-” Laura stammers, and that, that is enough to get Stiles up and on his feet in the span of a heart-stuttering breath, one hand already groping for his baseball bat, the other steadying himself when he almost staggers into his nightstand.

“What?”  Stiles barks, rubbing the grit out of his eyes.  “What’s wro-”

He freezes when he catches sight of the window.  It’s closed.  Only a select few can enter this house these days; the uninvited can’t even break a window to get in.

But perched outside on the sill is Peter Hale, and he must have been the one knocking earlier.

Peter is motionless, staring back at Stiles, no doubt having heard every word of Stiles’ half-asleep argument.

There’s an envelope in the werewolf’s right hand.  His left one is still poised to knock again.

Stiles forces himself to move, to lower the bat and shuffle towards the window.

“Say you were dreaming,” Laura whispers even though nobody but Stiles can hear her anyway.

Stiles slides open the window.  “Um.”

They stare at each other some more.

Stiles does not invite the werewolf in.  He doesn’t give a damn about being rude if it means today won’t end with dire threats and/or animalistic mauling.

The envelope makes a thwip sound when Peter flicks his wrist once.

“A cheque,” The man says quietly, eyes glued unblinkingly on Stiles’ face.  “For Cora’s expenses.  She approves of your fashion sense so she's not giving the clothes back but she insists on paying for them.  Well, she insists on getting me to pay for them anyway.  And she wants to know if you want to join us for lunch today.  She would’ve asked you herself but she has the good sense to agree to lie low for now just in case so I’ve come in her stead.  It is my cheque after all so I might as well.”

He stops.  His gaze sort of glides around the interior of Stiles’ bedroom, unknowingly sweeping over Laura twice.  Then his attention returns to Stiles, and his mouth smiles but his eyes don’t.  His head cants to one side, and the expression on his face is entirely lupine.

“That was an odd way for you to wake up,” Peter remarks with deceptive casualness, belied by the spark of otherworldly blue in his eyes.  “Who were you dreaming about, Stiles?”

“Oh, he’s not gonna let this go,” Laura mutters.

Stiles suppresses a twitch.  Yeah, no shit.