Stiles grumbles as he stomps through the Preserve. He'd tried to get Scott to come with him but Scott's too worried about making first line in lacrosse to come out. Scott wants to rest up for practice, as if that will make any difference for a severe asthmatic. But there was a dead body! In Beacon Hills! That kind of stuff never happens here! It's their one and only chance for adventure and the best part is that there's still half of the body somewhere in these woods. Stiles is totally going to be the hero that finds it.
He hopes Scott never makes first line. The only reason Stiles was even on the team was because Scott wanted to. If Scott's first line, then Stiles won't be able to talk to him from the bench and that is literally the only reason Stiles still goes to games. Finstock isn't going to let him play, ever, unless half the team has the plague and Stiles is literally the last player left.
A dog barks in the distance and Stiles scrambles up the slope to get a better view. Lights flash between the trees. That'd be the search party from the Sheriff's Department, with his dad in the lead. Stiles runs forward, hoping to stay in front of the deputies to avoid getting caught, but a leaf-covered branch catches his foot and sends him tumbling back down the slope he'd just climbed.
"Ow." Stiles groans and stares up at the bits of starlit sky he can see through the trees. His back and sides ache from where he hit a few rocks on the way down. His ankle throbs. Hopefully he just sprained it, otherwise getting back to his Jeep is going to be a nightmare.
Stiles sighs and turns his head to the side, only to roll backward with a shout. He shoots to his feet and stumbles a good distance away. He nearly drops his phone twice before getting the flashlight app turned on. Dead eyes stare at him from a naked woman's face. Well, half of a naked woman. She's a young, probably only a few years out of college. She has brown hair and she's very, very naked. And bloody. And gross. He gags.
He switches off the light as soon as he hears a noise in the woods. Had the search party caught up to him? He doesn't see any lights. He can hear a rumbling in the distance, coming closer, growing louder. His instincts are telling him to move, but he's frozen in place, staring into the dark in the direction of the sound.
A whole herd of deer come barreling through the trees. Stiles runs, trying to get away from the deer only to have them overtake him seconds later. One bumps into his side, bouncing him into another and he falls, hard, onto the ground. He covers his head with his arms and curls up as small as he can to avoid getting trampled.
The deer are gone as suddenly as they appeared, racing off into the dark woods. Stiles slowly sits up and stares after them. Luck is definitely on his side tonight. His heart's still racing from the near-death experience. His whole body trembles and he lets out a soft sound that's a mix between a sob and a chuckle.
He found the dead body. He's going to be the talk of school tomorrow.
A low growling pulls his attention away from his impending popularity. He turns slowly, his curiosity forcing him to look while his common sense dreads the answer. There's a massive shadowy shape stalking toward him. It's red eyes glow unnaturally bright. This must be what had scared the deer into a stampede.
"Shit!" He jumps to his feet, intending to run, but he isn't fast enough. The beast—creature, thing, whatever it is—lands on his back, knocking him flat on the ground. He reaches out, grasping at twigs and leaves as he tries to scramble away. Sharp pain pierces his side and he screams.
That fucker bit him!
He kicks backward with his right leg, jerking the beast off him long enough to let him get to his feet. He runs. Trees keep appearing in his way and he pushes off of them, sending him careening through the woods like a pinball. He doesn't stop running, not until the ache in his legs and the burning in his chest force him to either slow down or pass out. He collapses against a tree trunk and risks a glance behind him. There's nothing but darkness.
Stiles releases an explosive breath and slides to the ground. His shirt is ripped. There's a massive, bloody wound on his side. Fuuuuck. He's going to have to go to the hospital and get a rabies shot.
His head thunks against the tree trunk. First, he has to figure out where he is.
"Great," Stiles grumbles. He pushes himself to his feet and winces as movement pulls at the bite. He turns toward what he vaguely assumes is east. Maybe if he's lucky, he can find his Jeep before first period.
Stiles bounces in place as he waits for Scott to roll up to the school entrance on his bike. His head throbs but that's secondary to his excitement. He can't wait to tell Scott what he found.
"Dude," he shouts the moment Scott is within hearing range. "You will not believe what happened last night."
Scott gives Stiles the "I can't believe you" look. "Did you really go out looking for that body last night?"
"Duh." Stiles falls in line with Scott as they head up the steps.
"And you didn't think that maybe whoever killed that person might still be out in the woods?" Scott's eyebrows reach exceptional heights. He turns suddenly and grabs Stiles's arm. "You didn't run into the killer, did you?" Scott paws at Stiles's hoodie. "Are you hurt? Did he attack you?"
"No, maybe, yes, and no." Confusion sweeps over Scott's face. "There was this huge wolf thing and it bit me, but I'm fine, and how remarkable is it that there was a wolf here? I mean, there haven't been wolves in California in like sixty years."
Scott's eyes turn into saucers. "You got bit?" He shrieks, causing several students around them to turn their way. "By a wolf?"
Stiles flails at Scott. "Keep it down. Yes, something bit me, but that's not the coolest part." Stiles's attention is momentarily distracted by a flash of strawberry blonde hair. He turns with a wide smile and waves. "Hey, Lydia." She doesn't even glance his way. Stiles turns back to Scott. "You know, this is your fault. You're draggin’ me down to your nerd depths. I’m a nerd by association. I’ve been scarlet nerded by you."
Scott frowns. "Is that even a thing?"
"Doesn't matter." Stiles waves his hand as they walk to their first period class. "Here's the cool thing." He leans in and drops his voice low so only Scott can hear. "I found the body."
Scott jerks back with wide eyes. "Dude!"
"Did you tell your dad?"
"Kinda hard to do that when I was theoretically home last night. I'm going to go back later and see if I can get the GPS coordinates and then call in an anonymous tip."
They make it to English just before the bell rings. Stiles bites back a curse and grabs at his head. Is it just him or are the bells really loud today? The teacher rants about the body in the woods and how they have a suspect in custody, which is bull because the Sheriff's Department still doesn't even know who the murdered girl is. Then he starts introducing Kafka's Metamorphosis, which is such a crap choice. Stiles flinches as someone's cell phone starts ringing. He looks around but no one else seems to notice and the teacher isn't calling anyone out. Out of the corner of his eye he notices someone outside the school.
There's a girl on the bench out by the curb. She answers her phone and Stiles nearly falls out of his chair as she starts talking. It's like she's right next to him, but that's impossible because he can see her. Way over there. Far away from him and on the other side of a wall of windows. Now that Stiles thinks about it, he can hear a lot of things—the slight wheeze in Scott's breathing, a whole bunch of hearts beating in a cacophony of rhythms, tapping pencils, scuffing feet. He can hear the teachers in the other classrooms handing out their syllabi.
It's too much. He grips the sides of his desk in an effort to ground himself. He can't go into a panic attack right now. Not at school.
The door opens and Stiles's hearing suddenly zeroed in on the new girl walking in the door. Scott's jaw is practically on the floor as he looks at her. She heads right for the free seat by Scott. Stiles palms his phone and sends a quick text to Scott. Give her a pen.
Scott surreptitiously pulls out his phone and then shoots a questioning look at Stiles. Stiles nods to the new girl—Allison something. Scott turns around and offers her a pen. She beams and thanks him. Scott looks like he's going to die of happiness. Stiles, on the other hand, is definitely freaking out.
Getting through the rest of the day is torture, with lacrosse practice as the cherry on top of the shit sundae. He wants to skip but it's the first practice of the season and skipping pretty much means he's off the team. Plus, Scott practically herds him there, going on and on about how he's going to make first line this year.
He winces in sympathy as Finstock sends Scott to the goal. This is going to be humiliating. He rolls his eyes but gets in line with the rest of the team. Scott has never played a day in his life. Neither has Stiles, but Stiles has no ambitions about his lacrosse finesse. To make matters worse, Allison is in the stands with none other than the goddess Lydia Martin. He can clearly hear the two girls' conversation. Allison asks about Scott which is awesome, but apparently Scott is beneath Lydia's attention which is expected. Lydia doesn't even acknowledge nobodies like them.
Scott is so distracted staring at Allison that he takes the first shot to the face, knocking him backward. Stiles winces in sympathy. It's going to be a practice full of pain and humiliation for his brother.
Or maybe not. Once Scott rights himself and puts his head in the game, he actually manages to catch a shot. Then the next one. Then he misses, but hey, he's doing kind of all right. This could be good. Obviously, Jackson shows off because he's a douche, but Greenburg's pitch practically sails right into Scott's net. Then Stiles is up. At least he can make it easy for his boy.
Stiles rolls his shoulders, steps forward, and picks up the ball. He swings and it's like lacrosse is suddenly effortless. Like he's practiced this exact move a thousand times. The ball goes whizzing past Scott and straight into the goal.
Stiles blinks. He scored a goal. Holy hell. Scott beams at him like Stiles just won the biggest prize at the fair.
Stiles shuffles back to the end of the line and twists the stick in his hand. He shouldn't be able to throw like that. Not from this distance. Hell, last season he could barely even get the ball to the net. Something's off and he'd bet good money it's related to his crazy hearing.
Someone prods him in the back and he realizes it's his turn to shoot again. He moves without even thinking about it. Pick up the ball. Pitch. It flies into the net. He shuffles to the end of the line.
"What's with Stilinski?" Coach says. Stiles risks a quick glance over. Finstock is staring at him. There's no way anyone could become magically good at lacrosse overnight. Shit. Finstock knows something's up.
When it's Stiles's next turn, Coach is staring at him hard. Stiles takes a breath and then purposely aims for the side of the net. His ball bounces off the goal post and a couple of his teammates chuckle. Finstock's attention drifts away and Stiles sighs in relief. For the rest of practice, Stiles picks different places to aim—Scott's shoes, the divot in the ground a foot in front of the goal. He makes one of the balls go wide of the net, forcing Scott to chase it. Scott glares at him for that and Stiles shrugs in a sort of apologetic gesture.
At least Scott is doing decent at catching the ball for the rest of the players—except Jackson, of course—so maybe there's hope for him after all.
There's no hope for Stiles. He quits as soon as the drill is over.
Stiles goes straight home, drops his bookbag beside his desk, and dives into the internet. There has to be an explanation for what's happening, besides Stiles's secret hope that he's turning into a werewolf. But werewolves are sadly not real, so he starts with symptoms of rabies. He knew he should have gone to the hospital last night.
He's hearing things that should be impossible to hear. He can smell things he couldn't the day before—like the piece of mint mojito gum that's been hiding in his pocket—and he could swear his vision is sharper. He can move faster. His reflexes are hella better. He hasn't tripped over anything all day, which is practically a world record.
He's completely freaking out.
The first page of search results is full of werewolf movie references. Stiles snorts. He wishes it was that simple. He retries the search with different parameters. There are no infections that improve hearing and it's definitely not rabies. Yay! WebMD doesn't even have categories for most of his symptoms. He tries searching infected bites and gets some really nasty images that need immediately bleached out of his brain. He peels back the gauze and tape covering his side to see if his bite looks like any of the pictures and then blinks. The wound is gone.
Stiles stares at his side. He stares at his computer screen. He looks back at his side. He clicks back through his search history until he comes back to the pages about werewolves and then he starts reading.
It makes a strange amount of sense.
Stiles yawns and stretched his arms. His hand hits something hard above him. Stiles opens his eyes. He's in a cave. Well, sort of a cave. More like a small outcropping next to a river which is not where he fell asleep. He crawls out and surveys his surroundings. He's still in his pajamas and barefoot, which does not bode well for getting home, nor help explain how he got here in the first place.
The sun is just starting to rise so Stiles heads toward it. If he's in the Preserve again, then that means he's on the west side of town and civilization waited to the east.
A twig snaps nearby and Stiles turns. It takes him a minute to locate the source of the sound in the thick fog coating the forest floor, but when he does, Stiles bites back a startled scream. The giant wolf that bit him—and now that he has a better look when it's light out, yes, that is absolutely a massive wolf—stands a few yards away, staring at him with those same glowing red eyes.
Stiles goes from frightened to angry in seconds. "Hey!" He stomps forward, wincing every time he steps on a sharp rock or pointy twig. "You! What the hell?"
The wolf's head tilts slightly but it doesn't move.
Stiles marches straight up to it and pokes it in the nose. The wolf jerks its head back and snarls. "Don't give me that," Stiles snaps. "You bit me, you giant fucking werewolf. So now I'm a fucking werewolf and I have no idea what's going on and that's your fucking responsibility."
The wolf blinks.
Stiles pokes it on the nose again. "I know you're human in there so turn back and talk to me." He pokes it a third time for emphasis.
The wolf snarls and lunges forward, knocking Stiles flat on his back. He stares up at a mouth full of very sharp teeth that are very close to his face. "O-okay, that's a valid point. You're the alpha dog. I get it. Now can you answer some questions?"
The wolf growls in his face.
"Okay. Got it. No questions." He tries to push the wolf off. The moment his hands connect with the wolf's chest, something like electric jolts through him. The wolf startles, like it felt the same thing. The wolf's form blurs. Its muzzle recedes, and its black fur shrinks until Stiles is staring at pale skin and a half-disfigured face above him.
So, he was right. Werewolves. Huh. A thought comes to him. "You're naked, aren't you?"
The man says nothing.
"This would look very bad if we weren't in the middle of the forest. Alone. I'm alone in the forest with a naked guy. I'm not sure which of us my dad would shoot first."
The man stumbles back, a wild look on his face, and Stiles very quickly averts his eyes to keep from ogling the guy's package any more than he already has. It's a very impressive package. For a guy walking around naked in January, he's surprisingly well hung. Stiles may not have entirely stopped ogling. He can't help himself, he's a horny teenager with questionable morals and definite bi-curiosity.
Stiles jumps to his feet. "So, I Stiles, you..."
The man takes another step back and stares at Stiles, obviously confused. He's lost the red glowing eyes but that doesn't make the stranger any less intimidating. Even if he is naked.
"Not the chatty type? That's fine. I've been told I talk enough for two."
The man's head tilts. His gaze goes past Stiles, and then he turns, shifting back to wolf as he bounds off into the forest.
"Well, that went well," Stiles says to the empty forest.
Now, how the hell is he getting home?
"Dude, you look like shit."
Stiles glares at Scott as he shut his locker. "Early morning." He opens his mouth to tell Scott about the whole werewolf thing but Scott's already talking, telling Stiles in detail about how Allison had stopped by the clinic last night and how they had a date on Friday.
"That's great," Stiles says, because, hey, romance is awesome and this is the first time in never that a girl's even looked twice at either of them.
"Are you going to come to the party with us Friday night?" Scott asks.
Friday. Full moon Friday. Possibly go crazy and murder everything in sight Friday. Stiles shrugs. "Sorry. Not feeling it. Besides I'd just be a third wheel. You and Allison have fun."
Scott claps him on the back. "Thanks, man. And if you change your mind, let me know. It's not a party without my best bud."
Stiles smiles and follows Scott into English. He has a feeling he'll be a bit tied up on Friday. Or something. He needs to figure out what he's going to do to keep himself from going crazy like that other werewolf and hurting anyone.
Stiles heads straight for his laptop the minute he gets home. The guy he'd seen that morning had obviously been scared by something. Fire, or acid maybe. Stiles logs into the Sheriff Department's system using a login that he totally is not supposed to have and starts searching for incident reports. He's going to assume the guy is local and not some crazy wandering naked hobo.
So, fire. There have been three house fires with survivors in the surrounding area—the Hales near the Preserve, the Talbots the next town over, and the Arturos a little way to the north. He clicks into the Hale fire report. He remembers that being a big case a few years back. Almost all the family died. His dad had been sure it was arson, but the fire had been ruled accidental. Stiles pages through the scanned reports. Cause is listed as an electrical malfunction. Eight killed. Three survivors—siblings Derek and Laura Hale, and an older relative, Peter Hale.
He does a DMV search on all three, Derek first. He's a decent looking guy, if a little scowly and with eyebrows that threaten murder, but Stiles supposes the guy has a right to be angry if his family had been killed. His address lists him in Brooklyn and his face is unmarked, so probably not his mystery werewolf. Laura is obviously not the guy he's looking for, but he clicks into her file anyway and then stares in shock.
She's the dead girl! Laura Hale is the woman who'd been found ripped apart in the woods. Her dead face is practically seared in his memory.
Stiles's hand trembles as he clicks on Peter's record. It's an older photo. His license is expired. It hasn't been renewed in years, but Peter's his werewolf. Age him up, burn half his face, and yeah, that's his guy.
Which begs the question of why Peter would kill Laura? Are they both werewolves? Is Derek a werewolf? Had the Hales been a whole family of werewolves, living right here in Beacon Hills? The mere idea is mind-blowing. He never had a clue.
So, if they were werewolves, why hadn't they survived the fire? The report says most of the bodies had been found in the basement, even though only part of the house collapsed. There had been children in there, and a pregnant woman.
Were they targeted because they were werewolves? Was that a thing? Were there people like Sam and Dean Winchester out there trying to rid the world of evil creatures? But the Hales hadn't been evil. He's only ever heard nice things about them. His mom had known a few of them, but Stiles had been too little at the time to remember meeting any of them.
Who would want to kill the Hales? Stiles clicks back to the report on the house fire. There are no suspects listed. There wouldn't be if it was officially an accident. But the fire incident report states possible arson, which means someone had tried to shut the investigation down. Stiles searches through files until he finds the insurance investigator's report. Clearly accidental, it says, and it's signed by Garrison Myers.
Stiles guesses that's as good a place to start as any. He googles Garrison Myers. There's not much relevant, but at least it gets him the guy's LinkedIn profile. He's a bus driver now. Poor guy. Who'd give up a comfortable insurance job to drive a bus? Either the guy really likes kids and doesn't enjoy money, or he'd been fired. So, why had he been fired? It must have something to do with the Hale fire.
He looks up Garrison Myers's old insurance firm. A very interesting name pops up—Charles Reyes, who is very likely the father of Beacon Hills High School's very own Erica Reyes.
Well, Stiles knows who he's eating lunch with tomorrow.