The day of his departing, he couldn’t seem to get the nervous, jittery feeling out of his system. He had gone through the training, the practice interrogations and the classroom learning of the details regarding his target city. He had gone over his cover identity countless times, practicing in the mirror of his shared bathroom in the dark hours of the night, when he was sure everyone else was asleep.
He made sure to be quiet so he wouldn't wake up any one else on the floor, like Jackson and his weird douchebag cult followers with the exception of Danny, who barely seemed to put up with him. Or his own roommates, Isaac, Boyd and Scott. (But he was fairly sure he didn't have to worry about Scott-he always slept like a rock, even before they had been transferred into this boarding school and its tiring assignments and class requirements.)
And yet, even with his roommates around him now, sharing his company in the bright, sunny room before Finstock arrived, and Scott chattering excitedly about how they were about to embark on their missions, that feeling stayed, deep in the pit of his stomach as if to remind him that the next few hours would be the most stressful and important ones of his life-which could end up being much shorter than he would like if he wasn't careful.
Sure, there were some things he could afford to mess up on-if his real name slipped it wouldn’t matter, if he gave his real age it would be fine-these things were reflex questions; as long as they were answered naturally, there would be no harm in giving the truth. But if these things were answered after a pause or a moment’s deliberation, it would be a indicator of dishonesty, of falsehood. And whoever asked the question would begin to wonder if the other answers were lies too. If these things weren’t answered in the right way, at least this was Stiles’s assumption, then every detail would fall apart. Backstory would be unreliable, and then it would be over. He would be found out.
“Stiles?” Scott’s voice broke Stiles out of his thoughts. “Are you listening?”
“Oh, yeah. Sorry, man. Just nervous.” Complex conversation seemed to be out of Stiles’s ability right now. But the look on Scott’s face, full of compassion and adorable puppy dog-ness was enough to make him engage. “You know, if you’re still making faces like that, Scotty, they’ll be able to read you like an open book, and you’ll get a low score on your assignment.”
“Please,” Scott replied easily, a goofy grin breaking out across his face. “I am going to rock this. I’ll swoop in with my superior spy ability and ace it. Mine’s pretty easy. All I have to do is observe the situation from a citizen point of view and find out what the common person actually knows about the Hales. But,” he added shyly, “ that’s a kind of lame objective. Yours is way more interesting, Stiles. Yours is the real kind of spy stuff.”
“They know I’ll do the best in the field.”
“I don’t know, man, maybe Finstock just decided this was the best way to get rid of you.”
“Or maybe,” Isaac said, “Jackson bribed Finstock to give you the hardest one. You know,” he said, “to get back at you for that time you poured itching powder down his back during the school fire assembly.”
“Or that time you you welded his locker shut,” Boyd added, apparently decking it was the best time to enter the discussion.
“Or that time you kept asking his boyfriend if he found you attractive.” Scott added helpfully.
It was true, Stiles was playing a dangerous game with Jackson, and it didn't help his family was totally loaded, or that he wasn’t above something like that.
“Point taken,” Stiles said. “I mess with Jackson too much and it’ll come back to bite me in the butt. Even though I’m just exacting my revenge is all… And, guys, it’s not like I have the hardest one, ok? I’m just playing butler to some recluse.”
“And that recluse happens to be one of the most influential people in the target city. He’s a Hale. He’s like a king, dude. His family is the royalty of Beacon Hills.” Scott took a deep breath. “ You realize you’re the only person, out of everyone here, that’s actually interacting with a Hale for a long time? I mean, your entrance time to the city is staggered specifically so that you can start before most of us even get settled in.”
“Yep,” Stiles sighed. “They’re definitely putting me to work as soon as possible.”
“It’s cool,” Scott said. “I’m gonna be in the city right after you, and then it’ll be Boyd, then Scott. We’ll be there before you know it.”
“Well, not that we’ll actually be able to hang out with you though.”
“You’re not helping, Isaac. Anyways, Stiles, what I’m saying is that we’re all gonna be here today. Everyone in our grade will have gotten in by next week. You’re bound to run into somebody you know.”
But Stiles wasn't so sure if it would be a friendly face. He wasn’t as dedicated to befriending people as he was to his school work. He hoped it wouldn’t affect him. God forbid he run into Jackson. Or Greenberg, oh god, it could compromise his whole mission.
The tension in his stomach began to return.
Would his time in the Hales’ city, Beacon Hills, be filled with familiar faces of fellow students? He hoped not. He hoped he would be away from most of the people in his grade, because they could cause serious distraction. What if he was seen when he looked at someone he knew, and his face showed it? Wouldn't that cause suspicion? He was supposed to be new to the city and all its residents. He was supposed to be just a servant from a nowhere town, coming in to be a butler for Derek Hale. That sort of thing could get him caught. He could be found out, and then what?
“Stiles,” Scott once again brought his attention to their conversation, and Stiles looked at him promptly. “I think it’s almost time for you to go.”
Stiles blinked. It was happening faster than he had thought it would. “How much time do I have?”
“About half an hour.” Scott said. “You still have some time,” he said, but he stood up, with Isaac and Boyd doing the same. They were waiting.
Stiles remained seated, with his legs still crossed and his back resting against the uncomfortable metal back of the chair. “We still have a while,” he said. “What’s the rush?”
“No rush,” Scott replied, but he continued to stand alongside the other two. “I just figure Finstock will be here soon.” That seemed to get Stiles up fairly quick.
For a second, they all stayed silent. It was comfortable. Conversation was often forced in this kind of situation, and it was nice. Relaxing to him, even. And so he hated to ruin this peaceful quiet, even though he knew he had to speak now, or he would never say it.
“Alrighty,” Stiles started. He wasn't going to let them get away without saying goodbye. Anything could happen out there, and it wasn’t an option for him to know something that and pass up the opportunity of last words.
Isaac and Scott looked at each other questioningly as Stiles rubbed his hands in preparation. Out of the corner of his eye, he was pretty sure he saw Boyd trying to edge backwards.
“Now, boys,” he said before Boyd could get any closer to escaping. “I know you’re all going to worry about me, but it’s cool, because you’re all going to be in just as much danger as me by tomorrow.” That came out wrong.
“Not a great starting speech,” Scott pointed out.
“Anyways,” he continued like he hadn't been interrupted. “If I mess up, or if something gives me away… Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about me. I can take care of myself.” Even with the sun coming in through the curtains of the waiting room, he suddenly felt cold. He couldn’t bring himself to say much else. “I hope you guys do well. I’m sure you will.”
“Stiles…” Scott began.”
“How much time?”
“Any minute now,” Scott answered, looking sheepishly at him. “You know, they wouldn't have given you this assignment of they didn't think you could handle it. No matter how much Jackson bribes, or how much Finstock wants revenge. At least in your mission, those things can’t get you.”
He cut off just as the door opened, and Stiles immediately put his hand over his eyes to shield them from the brightness. Coach Finstock had arrived.
“I’m going,” Stiles said, following coach to the door. He looked back at his friends, smiling to reassure them of his confidence. “Good luck.” He remarked and left the room, closing the door behind him.
The waiting room doubled as a fire exit, leading to the massive gravel driveway in front of the academy. The school itself was huge, with seven floors for each level of students. The better graded and skilled students would get to be in the top floors, with professors or coaches relocating them as needed. However, students lacking in experience or doing poorly in the field would go down each floor from the one they were previously placed in. In other words, based on grades, Stiles was always either leveling up with good evaluations, or leveling down with bad ones.
Each floor catered to the needs of that ranking-many of the lower floors had more teacher quartering then students did, because that number of students in the ranking would always be low but required more teacher assistance.
Stiles, like all students, had started on the fourth floor, which housed the largest population because of its grade evaluation rank: average. However, only about three hundred students made it in each year, while an equally small class graduated, and this kept the student population just about the same, along with the transfers and drop outs.
He ranked a six for the past two years, but, like Boyd, he had been transferred into a lower floor for messing with other students (for Stiles, it was Jackson). They ended up in the fifth floor in the same room with Scott and Isaac. The four had also started off in the third floor as first year roommates together four years ago.
Finally, they had all come to their equivalent of a senior project-the final evaluation of in the field agent work. After this, when they came back-if they came back-they would be given final rankings and put to work accordingly.
And now Stiles was the first one to be sent into Beacon Hills, the werewolf-ruled city that had been brought under the law of the Hales. With its increased death rates-most of which seemed to be animal attacks-it had brought the attention of the academy enough to become the target area for every agent in training in this year Student Evaluation Project.
With every step, he was getting closer to Beacon Hills. Well, very step was bringing him closer to the car that would then bring him to the city. So, by association, each step was very important. As the gravel crunched under hid feet, and he saw the glint of the black car in the sun, he wondered what, out of all the signs of his distress, would be more noticeable about him. There was sheen if sweat on his face, his overconfident stride that surely gave him away in its over extravagance, and his forced bored expression.
He shouldn't have been the nervous-he was an academy agent. He had learned how to deal with this-even if none of the calming exercises actually worked-and yet that nervous, aggravating feeling stayed all the way through his getting into the car and the driving away.
Green of trees and and the blue of the sky flew past his window and still it didn't leave him. Rain sputtered from the clouds after a while and the feeling was still there-coiling tighter the longer the ride went on. The driver didn't say a word to him, and that definitely didn't help. When he rested his head near the window-but not against it directly because the road seemed particularly bumpy today-he didn't find any peace.
And finally the ride ended. The car slowed to a stop and the driver still offered no words, only a stiff look. And Stiles knew it was time for him to leave the car and start his journey.
Stiles came up with two possibilities about the city and the Hales after the driver of his car sped away from him, leaving his bags and belongings with him and leaving him otherwise alone in front of the seemingly shady trail that would lead him to the Hale house.
One: Beacon Hills was mostly a wooded city, with long and dark roads (also surrounded by woods) connecting all of the buildings and industrial areas together. That could help, though, by making it less likely for him to run into any of his academy students.
Two: The Hale house was over dramatically and unnecessarily placed in the middle of the woods, even though the rest of the city-which they controlled-was probably normal, and too far away to be convenient. That could mean that whenever he went into the city-if he did-he would probably see a lot of those familiar faces Scott had mentioned.
Closing his eyes for a brief moment, he shook his head to clear it. He could worry about that later. Right now he had to focus. He had to be on time for his job, or hopefully even early to make a good impression.
Puffing out his chest and collecting his suitcase, Stiles crossed over to the trail and began his walk through the forest.