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"You can't keep doing this Derek,"

If he could count on his fingers the number of times he had heard that in the last few months... he'd definitely run out of fingers....

"You don't have any time left, and if you don't choose someone by the end of the week, you're screwed,"

He knew that, and he knew logically that she knew that he knew that, and he wished that she would stop trying to convince him otherwise

He heard the footsteps coming closer to him, forcing himself to glance up at the woman as she stepped in front of the couch, a concerned frown on her face as she slowly leaned down and placed a hand on his shoulder

"I know how much the band meant to you, I know how guilty you feel... but you can't keep letting your life go to hell over this, they'd want you to be happy Derek, they would want you to live your life,"

The tragedy was that he was actually sure she was right, in fact, he knew she was right, but he just... couldn't find a way to force himself into this

He didn't know what to do and sooner or later- probably sooner, at this point- that was really going to come back to bite him.....

"Derek, you know if you don't find someone by the end of the week, they'll choose for you, do you really want that?"

No, he didn't, but right now he didn't want any of this

He wished that he could go back in time and not even bother signing the contract in the first place, he just... couldn't get any enjoyment out of his music anymore and that was killing him almost as badly as his greif

He couldn't connect with anyone that the agency tried to set him up with, he couldn't manage even a shred of chemistry between himself and any of the bands or backup singers or musicians that he was introduced to, there was just... nothing there

No spark, no magic, no desire to have anything to do with music ever again

And at this point, he'd rather just give up on being a musician than keep failing at the most simple tasks of all

"Promise me you'll atleast give people a chance, please Derek?"

He glanced up at his sister, forcing a smile and nodding slowly

"I promise Laura, I'll give them a chance,"

She only seemed moderately convinced, wich was fairly understandable, Derek never had been the best liar

"Good, I've got some errands to run, but wile I'm gone, you really should reveiw some of the applicants that are going to come in on Friday, see if anyone jumps out at you or anything,"

"Alright,"

He knew not to argue, it was better to just go along with it so that he could atleast say that he had tried

So he smiled as much as he could, wich admittedly wasn't much, and accepted his sister's iPad as she handed it to him, waved politely as she walked away, and leaned back on the couch

He was in for a long, irritating afternoon, he just knew it....

The profiles he needed should be on the label's website, he just needed to get there...

For some reason Laura always left her homepage as the trending topics for the day, Derek never saw the point in those in all honesty, but to each their own

He was getting ready to start on the website, but something caught his eye at the edge of the page

Yet Another Disney Medley- The Guardians

The Guardians... he had been starting to hear about them, all good things

There was buzz lately about possibly signing them to a label, they had broken some kind of subscriber count on YouTube but he couldn't remember the number

Out of a mixture of curiosity and procrastination, he decided to click on the video, eyebrows raising curiously as it began

Seven people appearing on the screen, each dressed as a different Disney charector

He had seen acapella videos like this before but this one ... for some reason it seemed a little different, though he couldn't really place why

The video started with the girl dressed like Belle, her hair brown and curly, smiling cheeks sporting dimples, as she began the song

"Little town, it's a quiet village
Every day, like the one before
Little town, full of little people
Waking up to say..."

The tone shifted smoothly, focus turning from Belle to the guy with the crooked jaw across from her, dressed as Aladdin

"Riff raff, street rat, I don't buy that
If only they'd look closer
Would they see a poor boy?
No Siree,"

So far it was quite good, their voices were strong but elegant, definitely strong and stable, and they seemed to have an actual passion for what they were singing

That was common in acapella though, especially with things like Disney or musical numbers

The tone shifted again, something darker on the rise as the focus shifted to a ... well... at first Derek wasn't quite sure who he was supposed to be dressed as

The boy was pale, speckled in moles, pouting a crooked, wicked grin, eyes bright gold and a scar running down one side of his face, his eyes covered in thick brown eyeshadow, lips sporting glittery gold gloss, but .. no costume to speak of, just a black leather vest

"I've never thought hyenas essential
They're crude and unspeakably plain
Still, there's a glimmer of potential
When allied with my vision and brain,"

Derek was... enamored with this guy, the way he spoke, the look in his eyes, the way he emoted and pronounced every last syllable, his voice deep and raspy, and he ... well, he took Derek's breath away

He was actually disappointed that the entire video didn't just shift into the stranger's rendition of "Be Prepared", it was absolutely stunning, and the backing vocals only aided in assisting the guy's natural talent

Then, a few lines into into it, the lyrics suddenly shifted, the singer disappearing off screen for barely a blink of an eye before reappearing with an entirely different look to him

Spray-dyed wisteria hair, violet eyes, and make up in tones of greys and violets, with a seashell necklace around his neck

It wasn't hard to guess where this was going

"Beluga sevruga
Come winds of the Caspian sea
Larengix glaucitis
Et max laryngitis
La voce to me.... now sing

Derek was then officially disappointed when a redhead dressed as Ariel took over

She had a perfectly beautifull voice, in fact, she was probably the best vocalist of all of them, but he was still so utterly entranced by the guy who had come before her...

They cycled through another five or so song clips, all melted together practically seamlessly, and no singer seeming weaker or out of place in comparison to the others

He found himself actually enjoying it, wich was something of an oddity, he hadn't enjoyed music since- ...

Well...

Not for a long time

And then, near the end of the video, the guy who had caught his attention from the beginning took center stage- or, center square he supposed- again, once more having changed his appearance- so that was what he had dropped off screen for a minute ago...

This time his hair was a normal shade of brown, but his make up had changed to a bright orange, and his once wicked and almost frightening demeanor had shifted completely into something more playfull and childlike, his face beaming with a smile as he began to sing

"Ooooh, woo-be-do, I wanna be like you
I wanna walk like you, talk like you, too
You see it's true
That an ape like me
Could learn to be human too,"

Derek was floored

Gone was the dark rasp, the growl, the intensity of his voice

Instead it had shifted into something bright, cheery, and smooth

It was like he was listening to a completely different vocalist...

He made his decision right then and there: This was the group he wanted

If Derek was ever going to sing again, it needed to be with them, there wasn't any other option- not as far as he was concerned

So he picked up his phone, called up his sister, and waited anxiously for the other shoe to drop

 

~+~

 

Stiles was the biggest mix of excited and anxious and cautious that he could possibly be

On the one hand, he was excited

His acapella group had been invited- personally!- to audition for a record label, and if they were chosen, they'd get a big deal with albums and touring and all kinds of perks

On the other hand, he was anxious

He had no idea how many other people were auditioning and how many (or how few) were acapella groups, and when up against bands... acapella rarely actually did well

And on, somehow, the last hand, he was cautious

He had always been wary of signing a contract for anything, he didn't want to be owned by anyone, especially not some huge label that could break him just as easily as make him, and he didn't actually know what the audition was for, just that it had something to do with one of their already-signed artists, and the LAST thing he wanted to do was become someone's backup singer

So to say he had mixed feelings was putting it pretty mildly

And the moment they walked into the lobby and saw all of the other bands and groups there... those feelings went from "mixed", to "almost entirely negative"

This just SCREAMED "not a chance in hell"

But he wasn't going to say anything, everyone else still looked excited and he wasn't going to crush their dreams, besides, maybe they were the only ones who got a special invitation

He didn't recognize anyone here so it didn't seem to be a "Pick the best YouTuber to sign" type of deal, wich was a releif atleast

If they could just get through an audition....

"Where are your instruments?"

Caught off guard by the question, Stiles glanced down at the man tuning his guitar

He was Stiles' age, or just about, blonde, blue-eyed, attractive, and ... so smug that he could probably give a Marvel villain a run for their money

"Our voices ARE our instruments, we're an acapella group,"

All of a sudden, the room went quiet

The little chatter and quiet discussions going on seemed to halt, and everyone's attention turned towards them

Great.... one of those groups.....

"Did I hear that right? Did you actually say you're an acapella group?" the brat with the guitar snorted, clearly only moments away from full-on laughter

Lovely...

"I'll have you know that acapella is very popular these days! Ever hear of Pentatonix? Or Pitch Perfect?"

"Oh it has nothing to do with popularity, but .... don't you know what this audition is for?"

Well that couldn't possibly be a good sign

"Enlighten me," Stiles frowned dryly

"We're auditioning to be Derek Hale's new band, what, did you not read the details before signing up?"

"Actually, we were invited here personally," Stiles frowned back, wich atleast took a breif chip away at the stranger's arrogance, but it didn't last for long

"Even if you were, how the hell is a vocal group going to act as a band?"

"The same way we always do, with talent,"

"Oh, right, TALENT, that makes sense," the stranger snorted, setting his guitar down and rising from the chair he had been sitting in

"Because you can just will your voices to sound exactly like drums, electric guitars, keyboards-"

"You don't need all of that if you're really skilled, and if Derek wants us to be his new band then that's totally his right,"

Although he had to admit, the thought of being the "band"- what would that even BE in this situation?- for one of the most highly talked about debut artists in the last couple of years was more than a little intimidating, and Stiles wasn't entirely sure if he wanted to be the guy's "band" or not

"Oh really? Then why don't you prove it? Prove to me that vocals can do everything instruments can,"

"And how will we do that?" Stiles frowned

"I believe acapella artists call it a riff off? Only difference is, my band and I will be using instruments,"

"Fine,"

"Stiles!!"

He turned at the sound of his name, wincing at the furious looking expression on his bandmate's face

"It'll be fine Lydia, we always ace these things,"

"Yeah when it's voice versus voice, but they have actual instruments," Scott added with a small frown of his own

"Oh my god, I cannot believe what I'm hearing from you guys, you aren't seriously going to let him get away with badmouthing acapella are you?"

"Ofcourse not!"

Well atleast he could always count on Malia for these things....

"Come on, we can't let this jerk win, this is how artists like us always get thought of as weak artists, we have to fight for this," he insisted

"Stiles is right, besides, it isn't like we have anything better to do wile we wait,"

"Thank you Allison!"

"Alright," Lydia finally relented, taking a step towards the stranger and glaring

"We're in, but the categories and rules are chosen by an unbiased third party,"

"Fair enough," the blonde menace said with a smirk, his eyes dancing with a wicked glee

"Any volunteers?" Stiles called over his shoulder, heart leaping happily when a girl with pink-hair raised her hand and immediately rose from her seat, making her way towards the two groups- apparently the blonde's band had gathered around him wile Stiles and Lydia were hashing things out

"Ok, typical riff-off rules apply, stick to the category, you have to match the last word your opponent sang, no repeating the same song, and hold the tune for atleast five seconds, now I need your group names and atleast one participant's name so I can announce each round's winner,"

"I'm Stiles, our group is called The Guardians," Stiles answered immediately, eyes shifting forward

"Theo, my band's name is Chimera," the blonde smirked back

"Alright, sounds like we're all set!" the pink-haired referee said with delight

"First category.... songs about deceit, we'll flip a coin to see who goes first,"

Stiles nodded tensely, watching as she pulled a quarter from the coin purse in her pocket and flipped it into the air

"Tails!" he blurted immediately, much to Theo's apparent annoyance

And, thankfully, luck seemed to be on his side

"Tails it is, Stiles- songs about deceit,"

He nodded slowly, taking a breath before turning towards his group and leaning in a little closer, wanting to make sure the song he had in mind would work

And the moment he had confirmation... he stepped to the forefront, listening as his group started to mimic the familiar beat of the song

"Rule number one, is that you've gotta have fun
But baby when you're done, you gotta be the first to run,"

Lydia stepped up in front of him, taking on the lead vocals from there

"Rule number two, is don't get attached to
Somebody you could lose
So let me tell you-"

"You just want attention," Theo sang out

The band immediately started joining in on the song, and Stiles felt an ounce of frustration at the beauty of his voice

He was a talented singer, weather Stiles wanted to admit it or not, and his band really wasn't bad either, as a matter of fact, they were pretty good to have picked up on a song so suddenly and smoothly

"You don't want my heart
Maybe you just hate the thought of me with someone new
Yeah you just want attention, I knew from the start
You're just making sure I'm never getting over you
You-"

"-You a liar," Kira jumped in suddenly

Stiles hurried to start humming along to the beat, releif flooding through his veins as everyone else soon picked up on it just as easily

"Just don't lie to me
I'm not calling you a theif
Just don't steal from me
I'm not calling you a ghost
Just stop haunting me
And I love you so much
I'm gonna let you kill me

There's a ghost-"

"Ghosts, they want me to make 'em all,"

Crap...

"They won't let go
Exes and ohs

I had a summer lover down in New Orleans
Kept him warm in the winter, left him frozen in the spring-"

"Wait wait wait," Malia interrupted suddenly, a cocky grin on her face

"Exes And Ohs isn't a song about deceit, you went outside the category,"

"What!?" Theo practically screamed

"Ref?" Stiles asked with a smirk of his own, turning towards the pink-haired musician beside them

She looked stunned for about a second, before giving him a slow nod

"They're right, this round goes to Guardians,"

Stiles, practically high from the excitement, reached out and high-fived Malia enthusiastically, his eyes practically glowing with happiness

Take that one Theo....

"Celebrate now, it won't be happening again," the blonde sneered

And it really did take EVERY bit of Stiles' maturity not to just stick his tongue out at the guy right then and there

"Next category, songs that name drop- any song is applicable, just as long as it drops someone's name- and yes, fictional charectors like Superman are included, now since The Guardians won last round, they get to go first again this round,"

It only took a few seconds for them to come to a decision, and once they did, Stiles had to admit that he was actually pretty proud of it

"I know there's no form, and no label to put on
To this thing we keep, and dip into when we need
And I don't have the right, to ask where you go at night
But the waves hit my head, to think someone's in your bed,"

Scott grinned as he jumped in to join him, the two of them swaying somewhat in unison (well, kind of broken unison) together against the rythem

"I get a little bit Genghis Khan
I don't want you-"

"-You sure are looking good,"

Stiles wrinkled his nose in irritation at the interruption, his attention turning towards Theo as the music his band was producing started to grow louder and more sure

"You're everything that a big bad wolf could want
Listen to me!
Little Red Riding Hood, I don't think-"

"-Think she'll know,"

Just as he had said before- he could always count on Malia

"When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead
And the white knight is talking backwards
And the red queen's off with your head
Remember what the dormouse said- Feed your head, feed your head,"

The end of a song meant the round was over, and since it was Malia who had brought about the end, that meant their group had won

"That's another point for The Guardians," the referee grinned, much to Theo's continued irritation

"Next theme: Superhero songs, they can be about a superhero, appear in a superhero movie, mention a superhero, as long as they have SOMETHING to do with superheros, they're in,"

And Stiles knew exactly where to start with this one

"Oooga chaka, ooga ooga ooga chaka,"

Clearly Theo wasn't entirely sure what to make of the weird chanting, but Stiles was going to use that to his advantage

"I can't stop this feeling, deep inside of me
Girl you just don't-"

"Don't own me,"

Crap... of all the songs he had wanted to finish, that would probably be the one, although he didn't have much time to lament on that, instead he was focused on the odd new development in front of him

Theo wasn't the one who had answered his challenge- it was his drummer instead

A girl with long brown hair, a slightly anxious demeanor, and a feircely determined look on her face

"You don't own me,"

That was cue for Theo to jump back in apparently, much to Stiles' frustration

He usually liked this song, but as of now, the sooner they could get rid of it, the better

"Well let's go
But I'm Gerald and I can always have just what I want
She's the baddest I would love-"

"-Love you, I'll love you forever,"

He was going to have to seriously thank Kira for this later

Ofcourse now that she had taken the challenge, she would have to spell out the song for the rest of them

"I watch Superman fly away
You've got a busy day today,"

Ah.. Taylor Swift... how bad was it that Stiles was the first one to catch on and start mimicking the beat?

"Go save the world, I'll be around
And I watch Superman-"

"-Superman,"

Stiles cursed under his breath, gritting his teeth

How did they match that lyric so quickly..?

"If I'm alive and well will you be there holding my hand?
I'll keep you by my side with my superhuman might, Kryptonite,"

They needed to think quickly

If they didn't come up with something fast they'd lose the round

"You called me strong, you called me weak
But still your secrets I will keep
You took for granted all the times I never let you down
You stumbled in and bumped your head, if-"

"-If you don't love me now, you will never love me again,"

Everyone in the group knew Fleetwood Mac like the back of their hand- especially "The Chain", this one was easy for them to pick up on

"I can still hear you saying, you would never break the chain
And if you don't love me now, you will never love me again
I can still hear you saying, you would never break the chain,"

"Wait, does that even count? What movie is that from?"

Clearly the annoyance on Theo's face meant that he didn't appreciate the interruption from his drummer, even though it wasn't his turn

He probably knew that interruptions meant automatically switching categories

"Guardians Of The Galaxy 2," Stiles repeated proudly

Clearly Theo and his band were less than amused, but Stiles couldn't care less

"Next category- songs that make you feel evil,"

Now this... this would be an easy one for Stiles

"I don't like your little games,"

It didn't surprise him at all how quickly and easily everyone was able to get on board with his song choice, considering how much he had been singing it ever since it came out

"Don't like your crooked stage
The role you made me play
Of the fool, no I don't like you
I don't like your perfect crime
How you laugh when you lie
You said-"

"-Said 'hey', Girl With One Eye,"

Crap... and to take over with a Florence + The Machine song too, that was a new low

"Get your filthy fingers out of my pie
I said 'hey', Girl With One Eye
I'll-"

"-I'll be right behind you,"

He hoped his group would catch on soon, luckily he could already hear Braeden starting to hum, releif flooding through him that atleast someone caught it right away

"So glad we've almost made it
So sad they had to fade it
Everybody wants to rule the world,"

Now they were starting to get into a good groove, the voices around him vibrating low and rhythmic as he continued on

"I-"

"I walk the plank, not a tear in my eye,"

Stiles wasn't really sure if this song fit the theme, but in all honesty? He was having too much fun and couldn't care less at this particular moment

"I won't go down your blushing bride
Under the water, I'll be sharpening my nife,"

The big problem here though, was that matching this particular song was rather difficult

It was a beautifull song, but the lyrics were mostly rather uncommon in comparison to most others

"Do not try me Devil Devil
Cannot buy me Devil Devil
You won't make a fool of me, oh no
What makes you so special, special?
To think I-"

"-I see a bad moon rising,"

It was definitely an act of desperation, but he was glad to see he had pulled it off atleast

"I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightening
I see bad times today,"

He let Braeden take over from there, a small smirk on his face as she stepped forward

"I hear hurricanes blowing
I know the end is coming soon
I fear rivers overflowing
I hear the voices of rage and ruin,"

Were they giving up?

It was weird that it was already Lydia's turn to take over and they hadn't interrupted yet....

"Don't go around tonight
It's bound to take your life
There-"

"-There is a house in New Orleans,"

And there it was....

"They call the rising sun
It's been the ruin of many a poor-"

"-Poor unfortunate soul,"

This...

This was perfect

He had this in the bag

 

~+~

 

Derek wasn't sure what to make of the noise coming from outside the office

He could hear that it was music, even though he was too busy trying to concentrate on the meeting he was having with his boss to really pick apart what it was, atleast until he heard something hauntingly familiar....

"Poor unfortunate soul!"

Without a single thought to what he was doing, he raced out of the office, his heart pounding as he opened the door to the sight in front of him

There was the man he had been so enchanted by, singing the song that had nearly taken his breath away, right in front of him

"It's sad, but true
If you want to cross the bridge my sweet then you've got to pay the toll
So take a gulp and take a breath and go ahead and sign the scroll!
Flotsam, Jetsam, now I've got 'er boys, the boss is on a roll...
This poor unfortunate soul!"

"What's going on out here?"

Derek was honestly pretty disappointed that, yet again, the acapella singer had been interrupted

And this time courtesy of the label's president too, as if things weren't bad enough already...

A girl with pink hair, who he didn't recognize from the acapella video(s) he had watched (he may have watched more than one after his phone call to Laura...) turned around and smiled brightly at them

"Riff off!"

...

Right

"Well, I hate to interrupt, but we need to borrow the acapella group now," the president chuckled lightly

"That'd be us," the former-Ursula singer volunteered, tossing a nasty look over his shoulder at the band that, Derek could only assume, he had been competing against, before starting towards the office with the other six trailing behind him

He wanted this meeting to go well, and he really hoped that the president understood why Derek wanted this group so badly now that he had heard first-hand what they can do

"So you're The Guardians hm? It's nice to meet you, I'm Alan Deaton, and this is-"

"Derek Hale!" grinned one of the girls, the one with long black hair who always sang high falsettos

She hurriedly reached her hand out to shake Derek's, looking absolutely giddy

"Thank you SO much for inviting us here!! We're so excited to audition! And we love your music by the way, Stiles listens to it all the time!"

"Ok Kira, I think that's enough," the guy that Derek had been so enamored with- Stiles, he was assuming- had started turning red, grabbing Kira's shoulders gently and dragging her back

"I don't mind, and atleast it's an introduction," Derek teased lightly, wich brought a quick flash of realization over Stiles' face

"Oh right... we don't list our names on our channel do we? Um, well, I'm Stiles, the over-excited one there to my left is Kira, then Scott and Allison are to my right, Lydia is the strawberry-blonde currently inspecting her nails, and behind me are Malia and Braeden,"

"Nice to finally meet you, your videos are pretty impressive,"

The compliment made Kira squeal, a clear look of utter excitement flashing across her face as she practically started bouncing

She must be the optimist of the group

"I should hope so, I'd like to assume that's why we got an invite," Stiles teased right back

"So .. what is this audition for exactly? You're looking for a band?" Lydia asked suddenly, her full focus on Derek now that she was, apparently, done with her nails

"That's right, I'd offer for you all to sit down but it seems there aren't enough chairs," Deaton said with a small smirk, making his way back to his desk as everyone gradually started to spread out and move away from the door, though the acapella group was still mostly clustered in one general area

"Some of you may have heard about the.... accident ... from about six months ago, wherein the majority of Derek's previous band died in a fire, sans Derek himself,"

Just the mention of it had Derek's stomach twisting, guilt and greif settling low in his belly he stared down at the floor, some part of him wishing that a black hole would appear and swallow him up

"Yeaaaaah... except I didn't hear it was an accident, I heard it was a hate crime, hunters, right? Or a hunter atleast?"

To say Derek was surprised by Stiles' interruption was putting it mildly

Usually people had enough respect or atleast common sense not to say something like that, even if they did bother caring enough to even think it

"Well.... yes," Deaton said slowly, clearly uncomfortable by the sudden question

"Regardless, the other three members of Mr. Hale's band have, unfortunately, passed on, wich leaves us in something of an awkward position, Derek is still signed to the label... but under a band, not a solo artist, we need to sign another band to perform with him,"

"Wouldn't it just be easier to make him a solo act?" Malia asked curiously

"Well... yes, it would, but Derk has some... opposition to that,"

"So if you need a band, why invite an acapella group? I mean, not that we aren't just as talented, but it's a pretty different thing," Braeden frowned

"It actually wasn't my choice, it was only by Derek's personal insistence that you all audition for this, you're the only ones who received a personal invitation,"

"Seriously?" Scott asked in surprise

Derek took a carefull step forward, feeling that this might be the best time to offer his... insight

"Once I saw your videos, I knew that I wanted to sing with you, I .. haven't felt any connection to any other band or musical group or even solo musician since my band died, I felt something when I watched your videos, so I figured if there was any chance that I might be able to get back into singing, it'd be with you guys,"

The room fell silent, clearly none of the other singers knowing what to do with that peice of information, it was lucky that Deaton decided to speak again, shifting the subject if only slightly

"As happy as I am that Derek is finally getting back into the swing of things, I have to admit, I have my doubts about an acapella group being used as a band, acapella is at a peak of popularity right now but it's still a very niche genre, and most of what Derek has performed in the past can be classified as rock, wile I'm aware that acapella can breach into genres like that, I'm still unconvinced that you'd be able to do a better job of it than an actual band,"

"So all we need to do is convince you then?" Stiles asked, eyebrows raising curiously

"Yes, but I'm afraid that might not be as easy as it sounds,"

"Gee, why am I not surprised?"

Derek's lips twitched towards a grin, amusement laying under his skin

Stiles was a firecraacker, and some part of it felt... comforting to him, in an odd way

"Don't get me wrong, you're very talented, but I just feel that an actual band would be more suited to what we need, someone like Chimera, for example,"

"Chimera? You can't be serious!"

"They're very talented, and they mostly do rock- and in the style Derek is most accustomed to, I think they would be a good fit,"

"So how are we supposed to prove you wrong if you've already made up your mind that they're better than us?"

"That isn't what I said," Deaton said with a small frown

"But you have already decided that we aren't fit for the job, you're just letting us 'audition' to satisfy Derek, aren't you?" Lydia added smoothly

Judging by Deaton's slowness to answer, Derek would figure that she hit the nail right on the head

"I promise to give you a fair chance.... but yes, I do already have leanings towards the group that I want,"

"Well we aren't going to let them win that easily," Stiles said with determination

Derek wanted to say something, to cool tempers maybe, but he didn't get a chance

Only a second after the words left Stiles' mouth, the door to the office opened and the band that The Guardians had been "battling" against outside stood in the doorway

"I hate to break it to you but I don't think a riff off is what he's looking for," the lead singer smirked, an arrogant smirk plastered on his face

"Mr. Raeken, now isn't the time-"

"We could beat you any time, anywhere, at anything, choose the arena and we'll be there and we'll mop the floor with you," Stiles challenged

"Alright then.... next week Beacon Hills is having it's annual music festival at Clearwater Park, why don't we have a good ol' fashioned battle of the bands? We perform at the festival, the audience votes, the winner gets the contract, what do you say?"

Derek frowned, confusion setting in

"That isn't how-"

"You're on!"

Apparently Stiles was speaking for him now

"Wait, none of this is official," Deaton said quickly, clearly just as concerned as Derek was

"Why not? You want to know who's the best don't you? We're the band that Derek wants, apparently, so now you choose a band that YOU want and let us battle, doesn't it make sense that the winner would be the best for the task? You're worried that we aren't up for the challenge that this would present so let us prove you wrong, if the audience- an audience of hundreds of people- vote our way then what more proof could you possibly need?"

Much to Derek's surprise, he could see Deaton actually considering that, before, apparently, nodding his approval

"Alright then, if the audience is more responsive to you than they are over Chimera, I'll sign you to Derek's contract, deal?"

The smirk that filled Stiles' face was confident and certain, and it gave Derek atleast a little bit more hope that they may actually pull this off, he just hoped that confidence wasn't misplaced....

"Deal,"

 

~+~

 

Acapella was .... different

There was a learning curve to it that Derek hadn't anticipated, and although he had no doubts that The Guardians could defeat Chimera at the festival, he did doubt that he would actually be able to get a grip on this acapella thing before it was too late

"You're pitching too high, you need to drop it an octave,"

Stiles was, no surprise, the unofficial leader, and he wasn't at all afraid to point out Derek's flaws or correct him when he failed

...

The problem was, that seemed to be constant

"You have to remember that this isn't you singing with backing vocals, this is a group, there's no lead singer, there are no instruments or backup singers, you have to work with all of us like a team,"

"That's what I'm trying to do," Derek said with a frustrated sigh, rubbing his temples in frustration

He wasn't upset with Stiles- as much as he was annoyed by his constant nit-picking- he was upset with himself

He wasn't getting this, he was failing- and flailing- all over the place, and it was going to cost him alot more than just a competition

If he didn't get this right, if he didn't figure this out, not only would he let the group down, but he would also be stuck in a recording contract with a band that he felt no connection to, and one that, for that matter, he could barely stand

He had met with Chimera a few times, as per his agreement with Deaton, and he could already tell that his personality violently clashed with those in the band- especially Theo's

The fact that Theo was an Alpha only further grated on his nerves, it made his superiority complex, and his insistence on Derek following his lead just made the beta wolf want to explode

Hell even Laura took issue with him and generally speaking she was pretty laidback and accepting of people

The Guardians had an Alpha too, but Scott didn't really try to enforce that on anyone, and hell, sometimes Derek even forgot that he was one

It wasn't that uncommon though, for the Alpha of a multi-species pack to let a witch take lead- if they had a witch ofcourse

Derek couldn't quite place what it was but Laura had always told him it had something to do with a witch's ability to control nature, and a wolf's instinct to bow to it

"Derek?"

The wolf glanced up at Stiles, not having realized until a few moments ago that he had completely zoned out

"Right, sorry, what ... what did you say?"

Stiles frowned slightly, a look of concern on his face

"I think we need to take a break for the day,"

No....

No, that was not what Derek wanted to hear

"No, I'm fine," he insisted quickly, a tense frown on his face

"I can keep going,"

"Maybe, but we really do need to take off, we have a gig to hit,"

Derek's shoulders fell, a look of disappointment crossing over his face

He didn't even know that they did gigs

Actually.... the more he thought about it, the more he realized how very little he actually knew about them at all

Outside of names, vocal ability, and a few trivial things like Kira's love of pink lemonade and Braeden's tendency to twirl her hair when she was bored, he didn't know much of anything

He knew better than anyone that a band had to operate like a pack, they had to all know eachother well, all enjoy eachother's company and understand eachother's strengths and weaknesses on a personal level, if they were ever going to succeed at anything

"Let me come with you," he said suddenly, rising up to his feet

Stiles raised his eyebrows, surprise written all over his face

"You want to come with us?"

He gave a quick nod, swallowing tightly

He knew he hadn't exactly been the most social person since he started rehersals, but he hoped that maybe, just maybe, seeing eachother outside of a rehearsal would shift things in his favor

Maybe if he saw them in their natural element, he could figure out what he was doing wrong, and why he didn't fit

 

~+~

 

Derek was... surprised, to put it mildly, at the venue for the performance

Apparently The Guardians were performing a song to celebrate the opening night of a new club, they were inside, currently, presumably getting set up, and Derek didn't quite understand why an acapella group had been chosen to open up a night club, or what exactly they were planning to do

Atleast.... not until he heard a quiet, familiar humming coming from inside, the doors opening suddenly, and the seven of them standing in the doorway, each wearing headsets that he assumed were hooked up to speakers, if the sheer loudness of their voices was any indication

"Come on, come on, come on,"

"Shawty had them apple bottom jeans
Boots with the fur
The whole club was lookin' at her,"

So they were combining two songs

It sounded like the girls were doing S&M and the boys were doing Low, but it didn't sound as ... divided as that

It sounded clear and well mixed and like the songs had practically been written together

"Feels so good being bad," Lydia sang first, taking a step towards the center of the half-circle the group had started to form

"There's no way I'm going back
Now the pain is for pleasure
'Cause nothing can measure,"

She took Allison's hand, pulling the brunette towards her as she took over the main vocals

"Love is great, love is fine
Out the box, out of line
The affliction of the feeling leaves me wanting more,"

Then Kira took over, and it started to become clear how well they all truly worked together

Each taking a verse from the other, one as flawless as the last, and each time someone gave the main vocals to someone else, they quickly faded into backing vocals themselves

It was so seamless and effortless that it was hard for him to imagine that the songs hadn't somehow been written this way...

"Apple bottom jeans
Boots with the fur
The whole club was lookin' at her,"

Derek was hesitant to call what they were doing dancing as much as just.... performing

It was all smooth and effortless, Stiles and Scott dancing together as the girls backed vocals behind them, the tune remaining perfectly in tact no matter how or where any of the members of the group moved

It was... almost hypnotic to watch

"'Cause I may be bad but I'm perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don't care, I love the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones but chains and wips excite me,"

There was a crowd starting to form around him, and Derek was suddenly in firm understanding of why the club had hired The Guardians to perform at the opening

There was atleast twice the amount of people here watching the show as there had been a few minutes ago when there was just a small line of people waiting to get into the club

The advertising power was alot better than he had anticipated, and part of him really wished Deaton could be here to see this, not that that would have likely been enough to call off the battle and sign The Guardians ahead of schedule, but it still would have been a moment where Derek could be proud of his decision

One thing about watching the performance was becoming abundantly clear though

Whatever Derek had been doing over the past several days, it wasn't working

And if he wanted this to work, if he really wanted The Guardians to be signed on his contract, he was going to have to learn how to move with the group as seamlessly as they did with eachother

 

~+~

 

"You're awfully quiet,"

Derek only offered something of a shrug, looking somewhat shy and anxious as he stared down at the table

They had stopped at a diner after the club gig had finished, Derek wasn't sure what time it was but he was choosing not to look at his watch

The last thing he needed was to know that it was late at night and he was going to have even less sleep than usual going into rehearsals tommorrow

"You aren't having second thoughts about us are you?"

That actually pulled Derek's attention away from the spot on the table he had been glaring at, shaking his head slowly at Stiles' suggestion

"Never, if anything I'm... I'm having second thoughts about myself,"

Stiles frowned slightly, a look of melancholy falling over his face as he slid into the booth across from Derek

Everyone else had taken to the counter by now, overly anxious to order food probably, no one had eaten since the breif snack break at around six that evening....

Derek wasn't really hungry, he was too frustrated with himself to think about something like food now

"Look... acapella is hard to get used to, especially for a traditional musician, but we're going to figure this out," Stiles insisted with a small frown, reaching across the table and very carefully placing a hand on top of Derek's

"I know I've been harsh but-"

"I need that," Derek hurried to correct, not wanting Stiles to feel guilty or think that he was somehow at fault for Derek's lack of confidence

"I .. I need to learn this well and I need to learn it quickly, I need you to keep pushing me, don't go easy on me,"

"Oh, believe me, I won't," Stiles smirked back

"I just want you to understand that adjusting to this isn't easy for anyone, it isn't just you,"

"Thanks," Derek said quietly

"You sure you still want to go through with this though? I mean, I know I pretty much pledged your allegiance for you but..."

"I do," Derek promised firmly

"I meant what I said a few days ago, I haven't ... been able to connect to music since my band died, they were more than just musicians, they were...."

"Your pack," Stiles concluded quietly

"My pack, my freinds... and they died... for the same reason in the same way that my family did,"

He knew that Stiles knew what he meant

It had been a big scandal at the time, the Hale fire, a hunter gone absolutely crazy and having burnt down his family home with his entire family inside, sans himself and his two sisters

The fire six months ago that had taken his three bandmates from him had been almost the same exact thing, the police were considering that it might even be the same person

His disconnection to music wasn't surprising, considering that

In fact it was kind of par for the course, the same thing had happened when he was a teenager and lost his family

He had dropped music entirely until one of his sister's betas brought the topic up to him and they started forming a band

The way he felt then .. it was the same way he had started feeling when he saw the acapella videos for the first time

"I get it," Stiles promised quietly, reaching out and squeezing Derek's hand

"We just have to find some way to make you feel connected, maybe change the song? You aren't overly attached to it are you?"

Derek shook his head, he didn't really care what the song was actually, it had been Laura's suggestion in the first place, not even his, so if Stiles wanted to change it-

"Oh! Stiles!! Do you hear what's on?"

Kira's voice peirced like a needle through their conversation, popping the bubble that had sort of formed around them

Derek's eyebrows raised, tilting his head curiously as he listened to what was playing over the radio

"Talkin' in my sleep at night, makin' myself crazy
Out of my mind, out of my mind,"

"Oooh.... we were working on a video covering this when we got your call," Stiles said with a grin, his eyes lighting up as he squeezed Derek's hand, giving it a slight tug

At first Derek didn't understand why, what his plans were, but then Malia jumped off of the counter chair she had been sitting in and started singing, and everyone else followed, just like they always did

"One, don't pick up the phone
You know he's only calling 'cause he's drunk and alone,"

Then Braeden picked up, taking Malia by the hand and spinning her playfully

"Two, don't let him in
You'll have to kick him out again,"

Then Allison

"Three, don't be his freind
You know you're gonna wake up in his bed in the morning,"

And then Lydia

"And if you're under him
You ain't getting over him,"

Derek couldn't help the small smile that came over his face, watching everyone gradually start joining in the middle of what he was tentatively calling "dancing"

Their voices definitely overpowered the quiet hum of the radio at this point, and the very few people who were in the diner besides the group seemed as thoroughly amused by it as Derek did

Stiles decided to use this moment of Derek's guard being let down to drag him out into the middle of the floor with everyone else, a devious look in his eyes as he danced and swayed up against the werewolf

Derek could feel the blush creeping up against his cheeks, but he strangely felt... good about it

He wasn't embarrassed or anxious, he was just ... having fun

There was a rising joy around them, and each person seemed just as carefree and happy as the last

It was incredible

"One, don't pick up the phone
You know he's only calling 'cause he's drunk and alone,"

Kira then passed the leading vocals over to Scott, not once breaking rythem or stepping out of the fun, playfull dancing that the group had going on

"Two, don't let him in
You'll have to kick him out again,"

Then Stiles took over, his eyes latched onto Derek's the entire time as he looped his arms around the wolf's neck and swayed up against his body

"Three, don't be his freind
You know you're gonna wake up in his bed in the morning,"

It occurred to Derek, very breifly, that there was no one left who hadn't taken one of the chorus lines... except him

And with the way Stiles was staring at him, he didn't feel like there was alot of room for argument

So what did he have to lose?

"And if you're under him
You ain't getting over him,"

Stiles gave a sharp wistle of encouragement, beaming as if Derek had just handed him sunlight in a bottle, and it was suddenly taking all of Derek's professionalism and self-control not to burst out laughing

His voice fell into the rythem easily now

Humming softly in the background like half of the group was as the song carried on

"I've got new rules I count 'em
I've got new rules I count 'em,"

He was having fun

For the first time in half a year, he was actually having fun singing

He wasn't just listening and he wasn't forcing himself, he wasn't struggling, he was just.... singing

Just like he had always loved

And it occurred to him immediately in that moment that he knew exactly what he was going to have to do to win this competition:

He was going to have to make it fun

 

~+~

 

"I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner, it was so obvious!"

Derek only smirked at Stiles' excitement, his face rested in a look of soft amusement, arms crossed over his chest as he stared at the other

He couldn't believe he was saying this, but he was actually excited to be here at the festival, waiting backstage, ready to go on

He hadn't thought a week ago that he would ever be able to get excited over this, that the performance would be too anxiety-inducing and difficult for him to be at all pleased about, but the moment he realized that he had to make this project fun in order to be any good at it... things had drastically changed

He had handed the reins over to Stiles, only having made a light suggestion for what they should do, and ever since things had been outstanding

Rehearsals were fun

He felt confident and he blended with the others well- finally- and he actually felt confident that they could defeat the competition

Sure, Chimera had given a pretty strong performance, but he still had a good feeling about things

Especially now with their secret weapon

"You ready for this?" Stiles asked, reaching out to gently squeeze Derek's hand

The older musician gave a slow nod, a confident smirk settling over his face

He was, he really, sincerely was, and as the announcer shouted out their presence, he felt nothing but pure confidence and walked onto the stage with the rest of the group behind him

The looks on the crowd's faces were enough to prove that their secret weapon was in full effect, clearly no one had expected them to all walk out dressed as charectors from The Walking Dead

But the looks of surprise slowly started to fade into that of humor and excitement when the group began to slowly hum, their voices shifting slowly into the show's theme song, before fading into the next, with Scott taking the lead to start with

"I'm waking up to ash and dust
I wipe my brow and I sweat my rust
I'm breathing in the chemicals,"

Originally, Derek's suggestion had just been to do a themed medley, something along the lines of what they might find in a riff off, it had been Stiles' idea to go with "End of the world" as the theme and dress them all up

And that wasn't the only surprise he had in store either...

"Another head hangs lowly, child is slowly taken
And the violence caused such silence, who are we mistaking?
But you see, it's not me, it's not my family
In your head, in your head, they are fighting,"

As the lead shifted to Kira, Stiles subtlely snapped his fingers, and Scott's make up suddenly turned into something much more decayed and bloody, gory and brutal

Zombiefied

"What doesn't kill you makes you stronger
Stand a little taller
Doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone,"

Each time the lead vocals switched to someone else, the person who had been singing before took on a zombie life appearance, courtesy of Stiles' magic, just something a little extra to make the show even more fun

Because that was the point now- having fun

Music wasn't a chore, it wasn't a job, it was something he loved from the bottom of his heart and he was never going to let that motivation leave him again

"Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust,"

There was actual excitement blooming from the crowd below, people were clapping, cheering, and although Derek hadn't seen how Chimera had done, he had a pretty good feeling that they hadn't elicited nearly this much joy from the audience

It was electric, and Derek could easily say that it was the most fun he had ever had performing for a crowd

The entire reason that Derek hadn't gone solo to begin with was because he had a tendency to get stage fright when he was alone

He needed a group, or atleast one other person, to perform with or he would freeze up like a possum

But finding the right chemistry was nearly impossible, or atleast... it was until he met Stiles and the others

"He ate my heart
(I love that girl)
He ate my heart
(Wanna talk to her, she's hot as hell)"

He and Stiles had resorted to dancing together, somewhere along the way, possibly due to being the only ones who hadn't taken the lead yet

Derek didn't really care about that though, he had never really cared about being a lead singer, or being the leader of anything

He just wanted to make music and that just typically had translated to him being the lead vocalist, back in his old band, he had been the only one who could sing at all

But he definitely didn't mind sharing that role with others- in fact, he actually felt... better doing that

Ofcourse, that didn't mean he wouldn't gladly take the option of singing lead when it presented it's self- like now, for instance

"Cold, cold, freezing freezing
Got my heart beating, beating
Cold, cold, freezing freezing
Got my heart beating, beating,"

As per their skit, Stiles snapped his fingers and Derek felt his make up turn to blood and decay, leaving Stiles the only one who had yet to become zombiefied

And that was sort of fitting, given that he was dressed as Rick Grimes

"Stop, na-na-na-oh
I'm already dead
Stop, na-na-na-oh
I'm already dead
I am already dead,"

Derek wrapped his arms around Stiles', "biting" down on his neck as Stiles' subtlety snapped his fingers and activated the zombie make up

They went quiet once the song ended- utterly silent, atleast until the crowd erupted into cheers and screams of support

Derek wasn't sure if they had won, it wasn't the actual voting period yet, but considering how loud the audience was, he had a pretty good feeling about it

"I think we won," Stiles breathed, his face still only inches from Derek's

"I think you're right," he promised back

"You know what that calls for?"

"Give me a hint,"

Stiles grinned, cupping his face gently before leaning up and giving him a slow, affectionate kiss

"I think you've won a prize,"

"Yeah," Derek agreed confidently

"I think I have,"