He who makes a beast of himself
gets rid of the pain of being a man.
They were waiting for Stiles.
They were always waiting for Stiles. In fact, it had become such a habit for him to roll up at least five minutes late that if Stiles were to ever show up on time, Derek would probably get the shock of his life. And he hunted serial killers for a living, so that was definitely saying something.
The rest of the team was already gathered around the big round table in the briefing room, Deaton efficiently handing out case files, Lydia queuing up visuals on the smart board, Reyes’ finger hovering over her laptop keyboard. Derek had already read through the first few sheets clipped neatly in the folder when SSA Stilinski – Stiles – drifted casually into the room, a ragged-looking file folder in one hand and a Reese’s peanut butter cup in the other. He paused at the doorway, looking down at the folder, as if to ensure he had the right one, and aimlessly shoved the whole cup into his mouth, adjusting the trajectory slightly to the left when it missed its mark. Derek watched with rapt attention as Stiles darted his tongue out to lick chocolate from his lips then proceeded to lick each of his sinfully long fingers clean. It was truly obscene. And very, very distracting. But then, a lot of what Stiles did most of the time served to be an utter distraction.
At age twenty-four, Stiles Stilinski was the youngest member of the BAU team. He had an IQ that rivaled Einstein (the high end of Einstein’s estimated IQ), holding doctoral degrees in both Psychology and Criminology as well as several bachelor’s degrees in various sciences, all completed before he joined the FBI at age twenty-two.
Although looking at the kid (Derek was on the tail end of thirty-something so he could call him that), one would probably never guess he was a certified genius. While the typical FBI attire for male agents was a dark suit (even McCall wore a suit, although he tended to ditch the jacket by mid-morning; and Derek usually wore dark jeans and a Henley because suits made him feel like he was at a funeral and he’d had enough of those in his lifetime, thank you), Stiles’ standard attire was plaid over t-shirt, said shirt generally spouting some geek (and occasionally offensive) witticism. Today’s gem: Nerd? I prefer the term intellectual badass.
Intellectual badass was a fairly apt description, Derek thought. Stiles’ genius-tude (“I can make up words if I want to, Hale, so shut it”) not only extended to having photographic memory and being able to read twenty-odd-k words a minute but also included being proficient with a variety of firearms (“Perks of being a sheriff’s kid”) and being not half-bad at hand-to-hand combat (“Seriously, you don’t think a dork like me learned how to defend himself in grade school?”). And while it was said that there was often a fine line between genius and insanity, Stiles showed only the usual sort of crazy. He tended to be a bit awkward, of course, but given all of the above that was to be expected.
In addition to being genius-level smart, nerd-awkward and utterly ridiculous, Stiles Stilinski was also witty, charming, and kind of adorable.
And fuck it all if Derek wasn’t just a little bit in love with him.
Stiles flopped down into the seat next to McCall and peeled back the wrapper on another peanut butter cup. Derek intentionally diverted his glance, not wanting to subject himself to the further agony of Stiles’ oral show.
Deaton cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention then gestured to Lydia to start the slideshow.
“Two bodies were found in a woodland preserve in Beacon Hills, a small town about 120 miles north of Sacramento,” their Unit Chief began. Corresponding crime scene and autopsy photos flashed up on the board courtesy of Lydia.
McCall shot Stiles a look. “Beacon Hills,” he mused. “Isn’t that where you’re from, dude?”
Derek frowned down at the table as Stiles gave a nod. Agents McCall and Stilinski had hit it off right at the start and the easy way they interacted only served to remind Derek of the blatant generation gap between him and his younger colleagues.
“The case actually comes to us via the Beacon County Sheriff’s Office,” Deaton further explained. “Stiles’ dad is the sheriff there.”
There were nods all around to acknowledge this. Stiles often talked about his dad and about his hometown in northern California.
“Both victims are young white males,” Deaton continued. “Cause of death: two shotgun blasts to the chest. Now this, in itself, wouldn’t have triggered a referral to our office,” Deaton said, “but there was considerable post-mortem mutilation involved suggesting these murders might be the work of a sadistic killer, so Sheriff Stilinski thought we should take a look.”
No one had to ask what kind of post-mortem mutilation was involved because the images were now up on the board in full gory detail. The bodies looked like they had been ripped in half, organs and intestines clearly showing. The savagery of the mutilation definitely seemed more animal than human.
“Have they been able to rule out post-mortem animal attack?” Kira asked, dragging her gaze from the gruesome pictures. Derek did the same. He’d been on the job for ten years (and five before that as an NYPD cop) but the brutality of murder still got to him. It wasn’t surprising, he supposed, given how his sister had died.
“Preliminary autopsy confirmed the wounds do not appear to be inflicted by any known animal in the area,” Deaton said.
Stiles quickly added, “There was a rash of mountain lion attacks in the Beacon Hills area during the nineties, so my dad would have looked for that first thing.”
“It gets even more complicated,” Deaton told them, tapping the file folder against the table. “Apparently, residents have started calling the unsub ‘The Full Moon Killer’ as it appears both murders might have been committed on the full moon.”
Five sets of eyebrows shot up. Stiles, though, looked unfazed.
“How sure are the authorities about that?” McCall asked, already shrugging out of his suit jacket. Derek wondered why he even bothered. But Scott’s father was an agent with the FBI who wore a suit each and every day on the job, so Derek figured it was a matter of the young agent simply wanting to follow in his dad’s footsteps.
“They’ve been able to establish the first murder as having occurred sometime between April 12th and 17th and the second murder between May 9th and 16th,” Deaton reported.
“Moon was full on April 15 at 7:43:31 and on May 14 at 19:17:01,” Stiles immediately pitched in before Reyes could pull up the screen on her laptop. Their Technical Analyst pouted then stuck her tongue out at Stiles. The childish gesture went well with the girlish pigtails Erica was sporting.
Derek had long since known not to question how Stiles knew these things. If you asked, he probably had the entire lunar calendar for the next five years memorized.
They all took a half-second to let the implications sink in: Full moon and savage animal-like mutilation.
“So, what, the residents believe that a werewolf is killing people?” Lydia expressed because their Communications Liaison was not afraid of the elephant in the room. She was more likely to put something pink and designer on it.
“Hey, we take our supernatural seriously in Beacon Hills,” Stiles remarked, deadpan.
“Werewolf mythology is quite enduring throughout history,” Kira, their expert on symbology and mythology, confirmed.
“In the Middle Ages, werewolf legend was a common way to understand and explain serial murder, especially when the killings were particularly brutal or savage,” Stiles told the group. “Peter Stumpp, for example, was executed in 1589 Germany for killing and cannibalizing fifteen women and children. They called him ‘The Werewolf of Bedburg.’ Gilles Garnier was a cannibalistic serial murderer in sixteenth century France who was actually found guilty of crimes of lycanthropy and witchcraft and burned at the stake. And in France in 1603, thirteen year old Jean Grenier confessed to killing and cannibalizing more than fourteen children, claiming he transformed into a werewolf after donning a wolf’s hide.”
Derek really should not find Stiles’ fact-rambling sexy, especially since Stiles tended to deliver such gruesome facts with a disturbing amount of enthusiastic glee.
“It’s likely that these killers were suffering from a condition called clinical lycanthropy,” Stiles explained further. “A form of psychosis in which the patient believes he or she can transform into an animal, most commonly a wolf.”
“Dude, are you saying that there are people out there who think they’re actual wolves?” McCall said. “Or, like, werewolves?”
“It’s a pretty rare and mostly culture-bound psychiatric disorder,” Stiles told him. “Basically an idiosyncratic expression of a psychotic break most likely caused by another condition such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, severe depression or even substance-induced psychosis.”
Derek didn’t understand half of what Stiles was saying – a pretty common occurrence, really – but he thought the kid might be onto something. “Culture-bound?” he asked for clarity.
“A disorder that tends to manifest in specific regions of the world,” Stiles said. “In the case of clinical lycanthropy -- North America, Europe -- probably reflecting cultural influences of folklore and mythology.” He flicked a glance at Kira, who nodded in confirmation. Stiles may have been a genius, but he was humble – at least some of the time.
“So what might a person with such a disorder be capable of?” Lydia asked, curious.
“Symptoms include belief in transformation as well as expression of animalistic behavior,” he mimed clawing motion and made a ‘grrr’ sound low in his throat, “which might account for the savagery and cannibalism in the cases I mentioned,” Stiles said. “In this case?” He lifted a shoulder.
“There were two shotgun blasts to the chest,” Derek reminded them.
“So hunting down prey like a man and desecrating the body like an animal?” Lydia said, tilting her head thoughtfully. “I’d say it screams werewolf to the average resident of a small town,” the corner of her mouth lifted, “especially one that takes its supernatural seriously.”
“There’s a full moon next week,” Reyes pointed out, tapping on her laptop. “If the killer sticks to the pattern, there could be another murder.”
Deaton nodded grimly. “Pack up,” he told them. “We leave in twenty for Beacon Hills.”
Stiles jolted up and followed McCall out of the briefing room, whistling what sounded suspiciously like ‘We’re off to see the Wizard’ under his breath.
Did Derek mention the kid was ridiculous?
“Victim number two,” Deaton was saying from his perched position on the BAU jet. “Bryan Masters. Twenty-one years old. Reported missing by his girlfriend two weeks before his body was found in the preserve. His parents – Mac and Janine Masters – moved to Beacon Hills seven years ago from Los Angeles, claiming they had wanted a quieter life. Bryan was enrolled at the local community college, studying political science. Family and friends describe him as ‘kind and generous’. He volunteered at the animal shelter and played recreational sports, mostly lacrosse.”
“Go Cyclones,” Stiles expressed, drawing Derek’s attention away from the case file.
Stiles was slumped in the seat opposite him, legs casually splayed, amber eyes blinking slowly, hair sticking up every which way, looking like he’d just woken up from a cat-nap. Which, to be fair, he had, about ten minutes earlier. If there was one thing Derek and the team had come to know about Stiles in the six months he’d been with the BAU, it was that the kid could sleep pretty much anywhere. Slyly, Derek raked his eyes over Stiles’ relaxed form, letting his gaze linger for a moment on Stiles’ t-shirt of the day boldly proclaiming that spooning leads to forking before shifting it back to the file folder in front of him.
“Victim number one,” Deaton continued. “Kyle Cassidy. Seventeen. High school junior. Believed to have run away due to conflict with his over-bearing father. This was part of the reason why his body wasn’t discovered until weeks later, after Masters was found and a full search of the preserve was conducted.”
“The preserve is about five hundred acres of woodland,” Stiles added. “They would have had to search most of it on foot.”
“Cassidy had missed quite a bit of school before he went missing. The dad isn’t saying much so we’ll have to talk to friends and neighbors to get a better sense of what was going on in the home.”
Members of the team nodded.
“Aside from being male,” McCall noted, “there doesn’t seem to be a solid victimology pattern here.” They all well knew that part of behavioral analysis regarding the offender was understanding that victims were often selected for specific attributes the killer perceived them to have.
“Masters had dark hair and brown eyes; Cassidy was blonde with blue eyes,” Deaton stated. “Both were average height with slightly muscled frames, though it would be a stretch to say they had similar body types.” Their Unit Chief glanced down at the file. “The only thing in common seems to be that both victims were only children.”
“Must be something in the water,” Stiles commented.
Stiles was, of course, an only child.
“Anything suggesting the victims might have been gay?” Lydia asked.
The initial ME report had confirmed that there had been no sexual activity or sexual assault prior to or after the victims were killed. There was nothing, however, in the case file that suggested either victim’s sexual identity, a characteristic that could tie the victims together.
“Masters had a girlfriend but that does not necessarily mean he was secure in his heterosexual identity,” Deaton said. “The situation with Cassidy is less clear but it’s possible his sexuality could have been part of the conflict with his father.”
“Is the M.O. here typical of serial killers with gay victims?” Kira wondered out loud.
“Strangulation tends to be the method of choice among serial killers who target boys and young men,” Stiles said. “John Wayne Gacy, Colin Ireland, Gary Ray Bowles, for example. Patrick Wayne Kearney, the 1970s ‘Freeway Killer’, shot his victims in the head then dismembered the bodies and sexually violated them after death. And, of course, there’s Jeffrey Dahmer.”
Everyone nodded. It was difficult to put together an accurate profile without knowing more about the two victims in the case or having the opportunity to get a better picture of the crime scene. One of the first things Derek had learned is that the crime scene often gives a snapshot of the internal workings of a killer’s mind which can help generate leads concerning the unsub.
This was why they were on route to Beacon Hills, to speak with Stiles’ dad, the Beacon County Sheriff, about the murders, to visit the crime scenes and to talk to the victims’ families.
Derek did not sneak glances at Stiles for the rest of the flight. If he happened to notice the brightness of the kid’s amber eyes when he talked or the way he gestured adorably with his whole body or that he was on his fifth peanut butter cup of the day, it was because Derek was a highly trained FBI agent with superior observation skills and nothing more.
He’d called ‘shotgun’ to ride with Hale in the rental SUV from the Sacramento International Airport to Beacon Hills, a two-hour-and some change drive.
At the start of hour two and less than five short sentences uttered by SSA Hale (which had included “Don’t touch the radio” and “Stop fidgeting”), Stiles began to question his decision. He was chatty by nature and the fact that there was about a gazillion facts stored in his head just waiting to be released meant that Stiles was not short on things to talk about while travelling.
The problem, though, was that Hale was the strong and silent type – to the power of about three hundred. Stiles had been with the BAU team for a little over six months now but he still felt like he hardly knew Agent Hale. He knew Hale’s background – they all did – and he supposed it explained a few things, especially what had brought Hale to the FBI and to the BAU in particular.
Peter Hale, Derek’s uncle, had been a prolific serial killer who had murdered twelve women, including Derek’s sister, whom he had stabbed twenty-three times with a bowie knife. According to the case file, Peter Hale showed signs of psychopathy, even at a young age, but was able to keep it in check mostly due to the protection and care of his sister, Talia, Derek’s mother. But after a house fire claimed the life of Talia Hale and left Peter badly burned on one side of his body, Derek’s uncle no longer had the support needed to keep him stable. He began stalking young women, using his charm to lure them into a false sense of security, then he took them to the old burned out house in upstate New York, strung them up from a beam and proceeded to stab them multiple times, claiming that he did so to release evil spirits that had taken hold in these women. Laura Hale had been Peter’s last victim.
As would be expected, Derek blamed himself for his sister’s murder (as well as the murders of the eleven other women) for not keeping tabs on his uncle and for not recognizing how far gone Peter had become. He had been a New York City police officer with the bomb squad at the time and, shortly after, he joined the FBI, upgrading his education and credentials to become a profiler. Derek Hale was considered one of the FBI’s top agents and was a valuable asset to the BAU team. He was a certified marksman and a martial arts master, could still defuse most bombs when needed, and looked amazing in dark jeans and a tight Henley.
Okay, so Stiles may have had a tiny crush on Agent Hale. But, really, who didn’t? He was pretty sure everyone on the team had a crush on Hale, including Deaton. But given how incredibly reserved Hale was, Stiles doubted that he even realized his appeal to his teammates much less to everybody in the universe.
Stiles fidgeted and made an attempt to reach for the radio again, drawing his hand back when Hale growled at him.
And, damn, Stiles wished he could say the growling wasn’t sexy.
“…borrowed the practice from the Egyptians, who treated the procedure as a method of purification, serving to transform boys into men and preparing them for the divine mysteries…”
Derek listened to Stiles’ rambling about the history of male circumcision, finding it oddly soothing as he drove the last leg of the drive to Beacon Hills.
Derek wasn’t much of a conversationalist and even less so when he was confined to a vehicle and concentrating on driving. Laura had always said he was socially awkward, which was probably true. Still, he nodded and murmured at appropriate intervals in order to prevent the ‘conversation’ from being completely one-sided.
What he didn’t get was why Stiles had chosen to ride with him. Out of everyone on the team, Derek would have expected Stiles to have gone with Scott. That was what usually happened. It was usually Deaton and Derek, Scott and Stiles and Kira and Lydia, with Erica riding with whomever she chose when she was out in the field. But as soon as they had landed, Stiles had called ‘shotgun’ (literally) to ride with Derek to Beacon Hills. At first, Derek had thought he was kidding but Stiles had followed him to the SUV, putting his bag in the back next to Derek’s.
Derek skipped any pretense of small talk and let Stiles continue on rambling. He figured Stiles needed to let out some of his pent-up energy (he’d been antsy and fidgety for the last hour) and Derek didn’t actually mind listening.
By the time they pulled up outside the Sheriff’s Office in Beacon Hills, Derek was certain he knew more about the mating rituals of wild turkeys than he’d ever thought possible. (He downright refused to acknowledge that Stiles’ main topics of discussion for the better part of two hours had revolved around genitalia and sex, because that just led to inappropriate thinking all around.)
Sheriff Stilinski met them inside the station, giving curt nods and handshakes as Deaton introduced them. Derek couldn’t help notice the wry look the man gave to Stiles’ t-shirt before pulling his son in for a quick hug-and-pat. The sheriff, in turn, introduced the team to Deputies Parrish and Boyd, who were working the case along with the sheriff.
Derek caught Reyes not-very-subtly checking out Deputy Boyd and saw Stiles just as subtly wag his eyebrows at her. As with McCall, Erica and Stiles had hit it off instantaneously, bonding over their mutual love of comic books, computer code and cosplay (which, Derek had come to find out, sometimes involved ‘larping’, a kind of role-playing, although Stiles had expressly assured him it wasn’t role-playing of the kinky variety. To be honest, Derek couldn’t really remember much beyond vague rambling on the subject because he’d been too focused on the way Stiles’ tongue had darted out to lick his lips every other sentence and how hot it had sounded when Stiles had said ‘kinky’.)
“So,” the sheriff said to Derek, drawing his attention back in. “Stiles rode with you from the airport, did he?”
“Well, you’re a good man, Agent Hale,” Stilinski said, clapping a hand on Derek’s shoulder. “Thought for sure I’d have to send a deputy to pick my son up somewhere on Highway 70.”
“Hey!” squawked Stiles.
Sheriff Stilinski gave his son a pointed look. “Kid, you’re brilliant. But you’re a little hard on the nerves, especially when cooped up in a car for more than an hour. Remember that time we drove to the Grand Canyon? I was ready to leave you on the side of the road at the town limit but your mother wouldn’t let me.”
Derek’s mouth turned up in a half-smirk. He was definitely going to like Sheriff Stilinski.
“Got a place for us to set up?” Deaton asked.
The sheriff jerked his head toward the back. “There’s a conference room in the back you can use. We’ve moved all the case materials there plus set up two computers and a laptop for Ms. Reyes.” Erica flashed the sheriff a grin then whispered loudly to Stiles that she was going to marry his dad. Derek could see her fingers twitching – Stiles called it ‘keyboard withdrawal’ – as they twisted and looped her pigtails.
“I also took the liberty of booking some rooms at the local motel,” the sheriff told them. “It’s nothing special,” Stiles snorted loudly, “but it had a block of five rooms available so…”
“Thank you,” Deaton expressed as Derek did the math. There were seven of them and five rooms. It was a given that Deaton and Lydia would get their own rooms, which meant that the rest of them would have to pair off. Just fucking great.
Derek wasn’t anti-social exactly but he liked to keep others at a safe distance, which generally meant not sleeping in the same room as one of his teammates. Scott and Stiles were likely to pair up anyway, so he knew he didn’t really have to worry but the thought rattled him nevertheless. Derek liked the company of others but he preferred to have it on his own terms.
They spent the next two hours sifting through the case files, Stiles speed-reading through as much material as he could (twenty-k words a minute, remember?) and bringing the rest of the team up to date.
It was Reyes who finally asked the question. “People don’t really think a werewolf might be responsible for these killings, do they?”
Sheriff Stilinski shrugged. “Vampires, witches, werewolves…the residents here tend to take their supernatural pretty seriously,” he said wryly.
“You should see us at Halloween,” Stiles commented.
“Boyd does do a mean Deputy Frankenstein,” Deputy Parrish added with a grin.
Reyes perked up with interest. Derek was sure it had something to do with costume play. And probably the kinky kind.
“Isn’t there something about the full moon making people crazy or causing them to do strange things?” Deputy Boyd said. “We do get a lot more calls during a full moon.”
“The perception is probably rooted more in psychology and imagination,” Stiles said. “Carefully controlled studies have not found any evidence of the full moon having an effect on humans, although there are some interesting lunar effects on animals. For example, doodlebugs dig larger holes during the full moon, lions will kill during the day instead of night on a full moon, and European badgers will lift their legs and pee more on a new or full moon.”
“Doodlebugs, badgers, and lions, oh my,” murmured Lydia, giving Stiles an amused look.
Derek was just glad that Stiles hadn’t mentioned anything about genital mutilation or mating habits.
“What about the Zodiac Killer?” Deputy Parrish said. “Didn’t his killings occur on a full moon?”
“It was often reported that the Zodiac Killer’s attacks coincided with the new or full moon,” Stiles was quick to tell him, “But the attacks actually occurred on dali days - the first, eighth, fifteenth and twenty-second of each moon cycle, the first day in each week of the twenty-eight day cycle of the moon calendar. In fact, the signature symbol on the Zodiac’s letters is the dali symbol.”
Boyd and Parrish raised eyebrows, obviously impressed with Stiles’ fact knowledge. Derek saw the sheriff’s mouth tilt up in a small, private smile. It couldn’t have been easy raising a child genius (and mostly on his own since Stiles’ mother had died when Stiles was just a kid) but it was clear that Stilinski was very proud of his son.
They continued reading through the materials, finally packing it in at nearly ten o’clock, Deaton suggesting that they get a fresh start in the morning. Having spent about seven hours travelling and then catching up to speed with the case was taking its toll on the team and they needed to rest.
Derek was glad to be packing it in. Stiles had reached the point of non-stifled chain-yawning and the sight of the kid’s open mouth was doing things to Derek that were highly inappropriate.
He didn’t quite bolt from the station, but it was damn-near close.
They were standing outside the Green Acres Motel and Campground, waiting for Deaton to return with keys for the rooms the sheriff had pre-booked for them.
“So,” Stiles remarked in the quiet of the night, “Anyone else getting a Bates Motel vibe here?”
Reyes snickered. “And to think half of the rooms are already booked up.”
“Hog hunting,” Stiles explained.
“Hog hunting?” Scott asked, nose scrunched.
Stiles nodded. “There’s a wild pig hunt every year in June.”
“Are wild pigs a problem in Beacon Hills?” asked Kira, looking somewhat alarmed.
“You’re more likely to be attacked by a mountain lion or a vampire than a wild pig, if that’s what you’re asking,” Stiles replied, grinning at Kira. “But people around here seem to like the sport.”
“Great,” expressed Lydia. “We’re sharing a skivvy motel with a group of hog-hunting yahoos, probably dressed up as vampires.”
Stiles grinned widely. “That’s the spirit.”
Deaton returned from the motel office and handed a key to Lydia, Kira, Scott and Derek. Derek looked at the tag and then headed toward room number six, surprised to find Stiles following him. He raised an eyebrow as he shoved the key into the lock to open the door.
“Scott snores,” Stiles announced, pushing past Derek into the motel room. He gave a cursory look around before tossing his bag onto the floor and flopping down on the far bed.
Derek stood in the doorway, gaping. What the hell? First Stiles had opted to ride with him from the airport and now he was claiming space in the same motel room? Derek forced himself to move across the threshold, dumping his own bag at the end of the other bed. Thank fuck there were two.
“Well, at least we’re not in Room One,” Stiles commented.
“Dude, Psycho? Plus, you don’t want to know what Greenberg used to do in that room after school when he was a teenager.”
“The motel owner’s son. He was a senior when I fast-tracked through high school.”
“Should I bother asking if he’s into taxidermy?” Derek asked drolly.
Stiles gaped at him then the corner of his mouth tilted up. “Dude. That’s funny.”
Derek allowed a grin. It seemed he was on a ‘dude’ basis with Stiles now. He supposed it was better than Stiles calling him a ‘douchebag’ or something similar. Still, ‘dude’ calling didn’t make relating to Stiles any easier for Derek, especially when he was having ‘thoughts’ about how plump the kid’s lips were and how adorable his upturned nose was.
Derek turned away from Stiles, digging through his bag, hoping the younger agent hadn’t noticed the blush that had settled across his cheekbones when he’d slipped into fantasizing about upturned noses and plump lips.
It was good to be home, Stiles thought as he scrubbed his teeth in the motel bathroom, although he definitely wished the homecoming had been under different circumstances. He rinsed and spit then set about dutifully flossing. His dad hadn’t spent several months’ paychecks on childhood braces for Stiles to begin neglecting his teeth as an adult.
He’d been happy to see his dad looking healthy if a bit older than the last time he’d seen him. That was the job, though. For a town with a population under twenty thousand, John Stilinski had his work as Sheriff of Beacon County cut out for him. Strange and unusual things always seemed to happen in Beacon Hills, which explained why residents were quick to believe in supernatural forces. It was easier to pretend they were in some variation of Sunnydale than to find reasonable (and verifiable) explanations to the weird goings on.
But for all the strange and bizarre that went on in Stiles’ little town, murder wasn’t part of the Beacon Hills norm. Sure, there had been those bizarre mountain lion attacks when Stiles was a kid and the unexplained disappearance of Mrs. Shultz’ terrier that summer he was in high school, but death came to most residents mostly when it should – in old age – and did not involve gunshots to the chest and bodies being ripped in half and left in the woods. This was new for the town and its sheriff and Stiles vowed he would do everything he could to help his dad solve this case. The whole team would do everything they could.
A noise from beyond the bathroom reminded Stiles that he was not alone. And, really, what the hell had he been thinking? First, he had insisted on riding with Hale on the way here, and now he had practically pushed his way into the same motel room with the aloof agent with the excuse that Scott snored. (Scott did snore but it didn’t bother Stiles that much as Stiles did his own slightly less obnoxious snoring.) Since joining the team, Stiles had spent most of his time with Scott, Erica and Kira while staying on friendly terms with Lydia, who was very efficient but also somewhat terrifying. He respected Deaton for his vast knowledge and leadership skills but Stiles understood the chain of command (sheriff’s kid, remember?) and saw their unit chief first and foremost as The Boss. Derek Hale was a co-worker, of course, Stiles’ teammate, but he and Hale weren’t friends. Not like Stiles considered Scott and Erica and even Kira to be friends. Scott was like his brother from another mother, Erica was practically a female version of Stiles, and Kira was the best go player Stiles had ever gone up against, so it was fate, really, that they’d be friends.
But Hale? The man was hard to get to know. He understood that Derek tended to keep people at arm’s length, sometimes two, for reasons and he respected that. But there was also something about Derek Hale that made Stiles want to crack his armor, just a little, and get to know the real man under the aloof agent.
Derek Hale was shirtless and pacing when Stiles came out of the bathroom. He tried not to gape, but goddamn the man looked good without a shirt on. Really, really good. All firm, lean muscle, with a six-pack Stiles would love to write sonnets about. Or haiku. Or an actual song. Song lyrics were basically poetry, right?
“You okay?” Hale asked.
Stiles shook himself out of his daze. It was not right to ogle his co-worker. There were workplace sexual harassment policies geared toward this very thing. And Stiles was in his hometown, just a few blocks away from his childhood home and paternal authority figure, who happened to be the sheriff and was a damn good shot with his sidearm.
Okay, so maybe he was being a bit dramatic. He appreciated the way Hale looked. Big deal. Stiles appreciated the way other members of his team looked. Scott definitely had a cute butt. Lydia’s green eyes were amazing. Erica had awesome boobs. Kira’s complexion was absolutely flawless. And Deaton had a badass goatee and a kicking tattoo on his forearm. Hale just happened to have many fantastic physical qualities that included, but were not limited to, his face, his pecs, his abs, his biceps, his thighs, his ass, and his feet (he’d seen Hale barefooted once). Oh, and his eyes, which were a kaleidoscope of greens, blues and browns.
So, objectively speaking, Derek Hale was a gorgeous human being. But it wasn’t like anything would ever happen between them. For one thing, Hale was older than Stiles – almost fifteen years older. This didn’t bother Stiles at all but he was sure Hale probably thought of him as a kid. A smart kid, but still a kid, who didn’t have one tenth of the experience and tactical know-how that the older agent possessed. For another, they were co-workers, and Stiles was certain relationships between members of the BAU team were indirectly, if not expressly, frowned upon. Still a third reason had to do with Hale being very adept at not letting people get too close to him. And even if Hale did let someone get close, Stiles would bet it wouldn’t be a someone like him – average-looking and awkward. Sure, he could hold his own in a fight and was as good a shot as his dad with a firearm. But he doubted these things impressed a man like Hale any more than having an IQ of 185 did. Stiles knew he was a bit much to take and that some people had a hard time warming up to him. He figured Hale was probably in the top percentile of that category of people.
Stiles made sure he was in bed with his eyes closed by the time Hale came out of the bathroom, freshly showered. He didn’t need the image of a wet and shirtless Derek Hale to fuel the already forming fantasies running rampantly through his head.
It turned out Stiles was a snorer. Derek had always been a light sleeper, even before the events that had happened, but those events combined with the job made it so that he usually surface-slept, never quite going under, always aware of what was going on around him so that he could act immediately if he needed to.
He found himself fidgeting, trying to relax. It was unnerving sharing a room with someone, especially someone who was Stiles. It wasn’t the snoring so much- Derek actually found Stiles’ snoring oddly soothing - but the fact that Derek was so aware of him, sleeping soundly only a few feet away. Derek felt awkward around most people on the best of days, but he especially felt awkward around Stiles, the one member of the team he was intrigued with and maybe fantasized about on occasion.
Derek wished he could relate to Stiles, talk to him in that easy way McCall and Reyes did. He kept his conversations with Stiles mostly professional because Derek could do that, he could relate to the younger agent when focused on the job. But when it came to casual conversation or anything personal, Derek tended to fail miserably.
He fell asleep thinking of ways he could talk to Stiles that wouldn’t completely reveal how pathetic and socially inept he was.
Stiles emerged from the bathroom, wearing his usual plaid over t-shirt, and - God help Derek - jeans that made his ass look incredible.
Derek cocked an eyebrow at Stiles’ t-shirt of choice: Sarcasm is my Superpower.
“What?” Stiles asked.
“I would have thought your brain was your superpower.”
“No way,” said Stiles. “My sarcastic wit is far superior. Scored a 190 on the SQ.”
“SQ?” Derek asked.
“So how are we going to play this today?” Stiles asked, eyes bright. He’d obviously slept well.
Deaton had instructed Derek and Stiles to go to the coroner’s office and follow-up with the medical examiner regarding the two victims.
“Play?” Derek tried not to think of the kinky kind of role-playing.
“Yeah, you know. Good cop/bad cop?”
“It’s a follow-up on the autopsies,” Derek said, slotting his gun into the holster and clipping his badge to his belt. “There’s no need for good and bad cop.”
“Superhero/sidekick then,” Stiles insisted, securing his own badge and gun. “You can be Batman and I’ll be your snarky sidekick.”
Derek scrunched his eyebrows. “Why would I be Batman?”
“Dude, you totally got the whole Batman thing going on,” Stiles said, waving his hand vaguely at Derek. “Dark, broody, growly.”
Tragic backstory, Derek added to himself. “I don’t growl.”
“Yes, you do,” Stiles said, grinning wickedly as he sauntered out the door of their motel room.
“Agents,” Dr. Evans, the medical examiner, greeted, reaching out to shake each of their hands. Derek did not miss how the doctor’s handshake lingered about ten seconds longer with Stiles than it had with Derek. He led them into the room where the covered bodies of Bryan Masters and Kyle Cassidy were laid out.
“Take a look at this,” the doctor said without preamble (mostly to Stiles, Derek noticed), pulling back the sheet on the first body. Stiles immediately stepped in to get a closer look. Derek hung back.
“Bodies weren’t so much as ‘ripped apart’ as they were ‘cut in half’,” the ME told them. He pointed at the section where the body was detached. “See. It’s a little jagged but the incision is relatively neat.”
“Best guess on weapon?”
“Machete with a saw-back blade,” the doctor replied.
“Killer means business,” Stiles said.
The doctor hummed in agreement. “See these marks on the torso?”
Stiles leaned in even closer, peering intently at whatever the medical examiner was pointing at. “Looks like charred skin,” Stiles murmured.
Dr. Evans flashed a grin that was entirely inappropriate for the circumstances, as far as Derek was concerned. “Yes. Marks caused by application of a low-level electrical charge.”
“Marks were found on both victims?” Stiles asked.
Dr. Evans nodded. He pulled the sheet back over the body and moved toward a table against the wall.
“Something else you’ll find interesting,” Dr. Evans said, handing Stiles a file folder with the toxicology report. Stiles quickly glanced it over, his eyebrows pinching together then shooting upward. Derek couldn't even begin to guess what that meant but he was certain Stiles would share soon enough.
Derek thanked the medical examiner for his time and information. The doctor barely looked at him but he did smile at Stiles and shook his hand again. Derek couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
“Dude, general impression,” Stiles said as they made their way toward the rented SUV. “Do you think the ME was flirting with me?”
“Yes,” Derek managed through gritted teeth.
“Cool,” Stiles said as he slipped into the passenger seat, a smirk on his lips.
If Derek slammed the door a bit too hard when he got into the driver’s seat, it was because he sometimes didn’t know his own strength, okay? It definitely had nothing to do with how not cool he was with the gratuitous flirting that had just gone on and right in front of him.
The team met up at the Sheriff’s station where Deaton and Reyes were holding rank at the command post.
Scott and Kira reported that there was nothing to be found at the crime scenes that hadn’t already been revealed through the preliminary investigation, although they had obtained a list of residents, courtesy of Reyes, who lived or owned property near the woodland preserve for further follow-up. The sheriff and his deputies had already canvassed any possible witnesses, but Deaton generally liked his agents to do their own questioning. Sometimes, a person who thought they didn’t see or hear anything has information that a member of the BAU team found highly relevant to the case and was able to coax out during follow-up questioning.
It was then Derek and Stiles’ turn.
“So,” Stiles said, excitement clear in his voice. “ME found small patches of charred skin on both victims that were most likely due to application of a low-level electrical charge.”
“So the victims were electrocuted?” said Kira.
“Looks like it,” Derek answered.
“And get this,” Stiles said. “Toxicology revealed small amounts of an alkaloid toxin in the bodies of both victims.”
“What kind of toxin?” Lydia asked.
“Best guess? Aconitum.”
“Monkshood?” said Deaton, eyebrow raised.
Stiles nodded with glee. “Also known as wolfsbane.”
“Wait,” McCall said. “Both victims were shot twice with a Remington 870 shotgun. Why would the killer poison them if he was going to shoot them anyway?”
“Maybe he wanted them to suffer,” Kira mused. “Gets off on the victim’s suffering?”
“Autopsy revealed no usual signs or symptoms of aconite poisoning before death,” Stiles told them. Derek could tell the kid was gearing up to the Big Reveal. He crossed his arms and waited for Stiles to deliver the punch line.
“Which means they must have been killed quickly after the poison was administered,” Lydia reasoned.
“Not quickly after,” Stiles countered with a smirk. “Simultaneously.”
Eight sets of eyebrows shot up.
“Stiles thinks the bullets of the shotgun were laced with wolfsbane,” Derek said, stealing Stiles’ thunder because he was an asshole like that.
“Okay, let me get this straight,” Sheriff Stilinski said. “Our working theory here is that the victims were held captive, electrocuted with a low level charge, then released into the woods, hunted down, shot with poisoned bullets, and then ripped apart?”
Stiles gave a gleeful nod.
“So how does this fit in with the killer is a werewolf idea?” Deputy Boyd wondered.
“That’s the thing,” said Stiles. “It doesn’t. Not exactly.” Derek could tell he was itching to disclose his own theory to the group.
“Sounds more like the behavior of a hunter than an animal,” Deputy Parrish pointed out. “Except for the mutilation.”
“Many indigenous tribes are known to use aconite in their hunting practices,” Stiles informed the group. “In the mountains of India, ibex are hunted by the Minaro with aconite-poisoned arrow heads. The Ainus of Japan use poisoned arrows to hunt bear. Sea lions and whales are even hunted using harpoons laced with Monkshood.”
“Okay, so our unsub is probably a hunter,” McCall speculated.
“Not just any hunter,” Stiles said. “This unsub is very particular in what he hunts. Think about it. Both victims are young males with nothing much in common. They’re captured, electrocuted, shot with wolfsbane bullets, bodies cut in half. Seems a bit of an overkill, right?”
“Yes,” Deaton allowed. “Unless the overkill is part of the unsub’s compulsion.”
Stiles nodded, darting out his tongue to lick his lips. “Could be. Or…it’s not an overkill at all, at least not in the unsub’s mind.”
“What do you mean?” McCall asked.
“Maybe the unsub believes it’s necessary. Maybe he thinks the victim can’t be killed any other way.”
They all seemed to ponder over this for a moment.
“Son, are you saying that the killer thinks he’s hunting wolves?” the sheriff finally asked.
“Not wolves, Dad – werewolves.”
Sheriff Stilinski scrubbed a palm down his face. “A serial killer who thinks he’s hunting werewolves. In this town?” He exhaled a sigh. “Sure. Why the hell not?”
Scott slid a glance at Stiles. “So, uh, how was the sleepover?” he asked with a smirk.
“He doesn’t snore,” Stiles replied.
“Hey, I had asthma as a kid,” Scott immediately defended and Stiles chuckled.
“Make a right turn at the next intersection,” Stiles directed. They were on their way to the Beacon Hills High School to talk to some of Kyle Cassidy’s friends while Kira and Hale had been sent to talk to Kyle’s father.
“Did he say anything?”
“About what?” asked Stiles.
“About anything,” Scott said. It’s no secret Hale is the poster boy for the strong, silent type.”
“He might have told me to stop humming,” Stiles said. It had been more of a growl actually but since the whole growling thing was doing things to Stiles that he wasn’t ready to talk to Scott about yet, he figured he’d stick with non-descriptive verbs.
“You do hum a lot,” Scott pointed out.
“’m aware,” Stiles hummed in response.
At the school, the principal kindly directed them to the boys’ locker room where one Isaac Lahey was getting dressed for lacrosse practice. It turned out that Kyle Cassidy hadn’t had many friends. This Lahey kid seemed to be the only one he had hung around with.
“Hey Coach,” Stiles returned, not bothering to correct the man who coached the senior boys’ lacrosse team. He’d been ‘Bilinski’ for the two years he was at Beacon Hills High so Stiles figured there was no point in trying to change things now. Finstock had always been a unique individual.
The principal spoke in hushed tones to Finstock, who nodded vigorously then abruptly blew his whistle, a shrill sound that still managed to rattle Stiles ten years later. He sincerely hoped Coach wasn’t going to make he and Scott do push-ups.
“On the field!” Coach yelled at his players. “Lahey, hang back a sec.”
The principal left Scott and Stiles with a skittish looking seventeen year old with blond curls and killer cheekbones.
Scott took the lead. “Hello, Isaac. I’m Agent McCall and this is Agent Stilinski. We’re with the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI.”
Isaac looked them over, hooded gaze falling onto Stiles. “I thought Coach called you Bilinski.”
“Yeah, well, you know Coach,” Stiles said with a half-grin, “he’s such a kidder.”
“We wanted to talk to you about Kyle,” Scott continued. “Kyle Cassidy. He was a friend of yours, right?”
“Is there anything you remember about the day Kyle went missing?”
“He, uh,” Isaac began, raking his bangs back with a hand, “had a fight with his dad.”
“Do you know what it was about?” Scott asked.
Isaac shook his head. “Probably just the usual stuff.”
“The usual stuff?” Stiles probed.
“Yeah. Kyle’s dad didn’t like him hanging out with other kids,” Isaac said, darting his gaze to the floor. Stiles guessed that Isaac had been included in the category of ‘other kids’.
“Did Kyle tell you this?” Scott asked.
Isaac shook his head. “No. I just – I knew.”
Kyle’s father was definitely the controlling type, Stiles thought. It sounded like the man liked to keep his son close to home and under his thumb. Stiles wondered if Kyle had been abused. If he had to lay a bet, Stiles would guess that Isaac was experiencing something similar at home, given all the telltale signs of abuse on display here. It was probably why Isaac and Kyle were friends.
“Did Kyle’s dad ever hurt him?” Scott asked, picking up on Stiles’ train of thought.
Isaac said nothing. It was as much as an admission.
“Did Kyle ever talk to you about leaving home?” Scott questioned further. “About running away?”
“What does this have to do with Kyle being murdered?” Isaac asked, his tone shifting to defiance.
“We’re just trying to get a sense of Kyle’s state of mind at the time of the incident,” Scott related, aiming to soothe.
“Yeah, he talked to me about running away. All the time,” Isaac disclosed. “He made first string this year and started training really hard. His dad didn’t like that he had practice three days a week after school. Said he should be home taking care of things. Kyle just wanted his dad off his back. He always talked about leaving Beacon Hills after graduation but he started saying he wanted to go sooner, get away from his dad.”
Scott put a hand on Isaac’s shoulder. “Thank you. That’s very helpful.”
“One more question,” Stiles said. “Did you or Kyle know Bryan Masters?”
“He was the other kid who got killed, right?” Stiles nodded. “No,” said Isaac. “I mean, I think he was a senior when Kyle and I started high school but we didn’t really know him or anything.”
“Look, if you want to know more about Kyle,” Isaac said, grabbing his helmet and lacrosse stick, “you should talk to Ms. Argent.”
“She’s the guidance counselor. Kyle went and saw her all the time.”
Scott and Stiles thanked Isaac for his help. Then they went in search of Ms. Argent, the guidance counselor.
Jake Cassidy showed all the signs of an abusive personality: controlling and manipulative with unrealistic expectations, a quick temper, and a substance abuse problem.
Kira took the lead in questioning, a strategy typically used with suspects or witnesses who appear to have rigid notions about gender. Cassidy provided minimal answers, comprised mostly of terse ‘yes’ and ‘no’, directed toward Derek, doing his best to ignore Kira all together.
They learned nothing that wasn’t already in the case file except that Kyle had started spending more time playing lacrosse and neglecting his duties at home. When asked his opinion on the sport, Cassidy replied that lacrosse was a sissy man’s game that his son had no business being a part of. In fact, Cassidy had told his son that he had planned on sending him to military college after graduation.
If Kyle Cassidy had thought about running away from home before finishing high school, it would not be any surprise to Derek.
Allison Argent was a pretty brunette with gorgeous brown eyes, adorable dimples, and a sunny personality. Scott fell in love at first sight. Stiles saw the sparkles in his eyes when it happened.
“Kyle never said but I suspected he might have been being abused,” Ms. Argent told them. “I made a report to Child Services a week before Kyle went missing. I’m not sure if they followed up or not.” Her brows pinched together. “You don’t think Kyle’s father had something to do with Kyle’s murder, do you?”
“At this point, we’re just trying to establish a few details about the victims,” Scott assured her, beaming.
“What did Kyle talk to you about when he came to see you?” Stiles asked, directing them back on task.
“He mostly talked about lacrosse,” Allison said easily. “He’d been second string for the past two years and had just made first string. He was really proud of this accomplishment, although his dad was apparently less than thrilled. Kyle had trained hard last summer, showing marked improvement on the field. There was talk of Kyle being named co-captain even.”
“That’s quite a feat,” Stiles commented. “Going from second string to maybe co-captain.”
“Yes,” Allison returned. “Like I said, Kyle had worked really hard and was proud of what he was able to accomplish.”
“Anyone on the team seem jealous about Kyle being new-and-improved?”
“Coach Finstock would know best,” Allison answered, “but I didn’t get the sense that Kyle had felt any animosity from his teammates.”
Stiles gave a nod. “Did Kyle know Bryan Masters?”
“The other boy that was killed?” Allison shook her head. “I don't think so. At least not on a personal basis. He probably knew him from ‘around’, you know?”
Scott beamed again, indicating that they did know. He presented Ms. Argent with a business card, telling her to call him if she thought of anything else that might help the investigation. If the adorable depth of her dimples was any indication, Stiles was sure Allison Argent would give Scott a call.
Stiles thought about what they had learned as he and Scott made their way to the parking lot. So far the only things in common between the two victims were: they had both lived in Beacon Hills, they had both been only children, and they had both played lacrosse. And they were both dead.
Stiles couldn’t quite see a connection yet but maybe the others had found something that would help them better profile the unsub, the one who thought he was killing werewolves. Or so that was still Stiles’ working theory, although he had not yet convinced everyone on the team that this was the case.
He knew it sounded far-fetched. But electrocution? Wolfsbane-laced bullets? Cutting the bodies in half? Just as the way to ‘kill’ a vampire was stabbing it in the heart with a wooden stake (or chopping off its head if you were a Winchester) and the way to ‘kill’ a zombie was shooting it in the head (or skewering it in the eye with an arrow if you were Daryl Dixon), these were all methods described in folklore and popular culture to subdue and kill a werewolf.
For Stiles, it wasn’t a question of whether the unsub believed he was killing werewolves, but a question of what it was about the two victims that made the unsub believe they were werewolves. That seemed to be the key to putting the pieces together.
Derek tried not to scowl as he made his way past the front desk at the sheriff’s station. First it had been the medical examiner at the coroner’s office. Now it was one of the sheriff’s dispatchers. A pretty brunette with highlights who was batting her eyelashes at Stiles and laughing. The young agent was like fucking catnip.
“Oh, hey, Derek!” Stiles called out to him as he passed. “Hale!”
Derek stopped and turned, letting Stiles catch up to him (Derek was quite the fast walker, especially when he wanted to be). He cast a glance toward the front desk then leveled a gaze at Stiles. “New friend?”
“Oh,” said Stiles, looking slightly confused. “That’s Malia. We used to play in the sandbox together when we were kids.”
Derek couldn’t help wonder if ‘play in the sandbox’ was Stiles code for something else but he didn’t bother to ask for clarification. The way ‘Malia’ was currently checking out Stiles’ ass, Derek was certain the girl wanted a repeat sandbox experience.
“Your town is strange,” Lydia proclaimed when Stiles and Derek walked into the room at the back of the station.
“Better not let my dad hear you say that,” Stiles cautioned amicably.
“He agrees,” Lydia informed him. “We just spent the better part of the morning with various members of the press” she made air quotes “trying to convince them that these murders are not the work of a supernatural creature with claws and fangs.” She huffed in exasperation. “The woman from The Beacon was rather quite tenacious.”
“Mavis Davenport?” Stiles said. “Yeah, she’s always been a bit of a conspiracy theorist,” Stiles said and Derek could hear a hint of fondness in his tone. ‘Mavis’ was probably some septuagenarian news reporter who’d been Stiles’ kindergarten teacher or something.
“Which, I must point out, is a little disturbing,” Lydia replied, “seeing as she’s the resident advice-slash-gossip columnist for the newspaper, not the one writing crime news.”
“Dear Mavis,” Reyes quipped from behind the bank of computer monitors. “My neighbor is very hairy and gets antsy every full moon. Do you think he might be a werewolf?”
Lydia rolled her eyes and shot a glare at their tech analyst. “Mavis isn’t the only one in this town on the killer-must-be-a-werewolf wreck of a train ride,” she said dryly.
“You’d a least think some would embrace the vampire killer theory,” Reyes retorted then sighed. “Is Team Edward truly dead?”
Lydia gave another eye roll. “I’m going back to the Bates Motel,” she told them, turning on her red Louboutin heels and clicking her way out of the room.
Reyes chuckled merrily. Stiles quickly joined in.
There was a time when Derek had thought any kind of joking antics during an investigation was considered sacrilege. Murder was horrible and gruesome and he felt that everything surrounding it should be treated with seriousness and respect. He’d felt that way in his early years as an NYPD cop, although as a member of the bomb squad, there had been a fair amount of joking around to ease the tensions that went with the job. When he came to work with the BAU, fresh from the trauma of his sister’s murder, Derek had adopted a hardline, serious approach to the work. He spent years keeping his emotions in check, not allowing himself to let his guard down, certainly never joking around with his colleagues. That changed, though, as the years clicked by and he’d seen the worst of the worst that humanity had to offer. A little light-hearted joking now and then helped him (all of them) to cope with the evils of the world.
He decided to return to the motel as well, hoping to maybe have some Stiles-free time to read or perhaps go for a run. Stiles had already migrated over to where Reyes was holding court with her computers and murmured a distracted ‘see you later’ as Derek informed them he was leaving.
“So,” Stiles said, hopping up on the table next to Erica. “Still drooling over Deputy Hotness?”
“Still mooning over Hale?” Erica returned, her attention focused on one of the monitors where she was puzzling over a Sudoku board. Stiles spotted the solution easily but did his best to resist giving any over-the-shoulder game advice. Erica hated it when he did that.
“Who’s mooning over Hale?” a voice asked.
“Stilinski,” Erica replied at the same time Stiles asked, “Is that Danny on skype?”
Like Reyes, Danny was a technical analyst with the FBI who was mostly responsible for doing the techno-grunt work for senior field agents but who also occasionally assisted the BAU. He was smart, funny and attractive - qualities that Stiles very much appreciated. And he was a really nice guy. If Danny hadn’t already been happily married to an aspiring boxer named Ethan, Stiles would have considered asking him out.
“Hale is definitely worth mooning over,” commented Danny.
Erica tsk-ed. “Now, now, what would Ethan say?” she jested.
“That Hale is worth mooning over,” Danny replied then chuckled.
“How are you playing Sudoku, skyping with Danny and doing your work?” Stiles asked Erica, just to move the conversation away from Hale and mooning. He was not mooning. He was objectively appreciating. Plus, the use of ‘mooning’ this close to a full moon when a killer might strike again was a little too ironically macabre. Even for Stiles who, like the other residents of Beacon Hills, tended to love that shit.
“I’m a master multi-tasker, Stiles,” Erica told him, pushing her sliding glasses further up her nose. “My fingers need lots of things to do. Ah-ha! I solved it!” Puzzle solved, she turned to Stiles. “Trust me, I can easily run whatever Deat needs while playing Sudoku or Scrabble and skype-gossiping with Danny here.”
Stiles’ eyebrows shot up. “Deat?”
“Boss’ nickname,” Erica clarified, pulling up another Sudoku puzzle.
“Since when?” Stiles wanted to know. “I’ve been with the team for six months and I’ve never heard anyone call the boss ‘Deat’.”
“That’s because you’ve been busy mooning over Hale,” Danny quipped smartly.
“I’m leaving,” Stiles mock-huffed, hopping down from the table. “You two have a one-track mind.”
“Night,” Erica called after him. “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
It wasn’t bed bugs Stiles was worried about.
On the way back from his morning run, Derek stopped by the main office of the motel, hoping he could get some more towels - or bigger towels - for the room. The two towels they had been given were the size of a postage stamp and didn’t do much covering of the…essential parts. There was no way Derek could survive a few days with Stiles strutting around the room in a towel loincloth. They would have to drag his dead body out and that would just be inconvenient all around.
A twenty-something guy was sitting behind the desk, a squirrel perched on his shoulder.
An actual fucking squirrel.
Derek wasn’t sure if he was thankful or disappointed that it wasn’t stuffed.
“Nice squirrel,” he commented, because what else do you say to a guy with an actual fucking squirrel on his shoulder?
The guy smiled. He had an overbite and a missing front tooth. “Nutz,” he said.
“That’s his name,” the guy said, tilting his head toward the squirrel.
And so are you, Derek thought unkindly. Jesus, what was with this town? ‘Werewolf’-killing, hog-hunting and squirrel-keeping? Apparently, Beacon Hills was a beacon for all kinds of nut jobs, objectively speaking of course.
“Need towels,” Derek said gruffly, purposely diverting his eyes away from the bushy-tailed rodent. Unfortunately, Stiles wasn’t here to confirm, but Derek was pretty sure there was something about not making direct eye contact with wild animals, pets or otherwise. The last thing he needed was for some squirrel to launch an attack that would most likely end disastrously for all parties involved.
The guy reached under the desk and produced two more white postage stamp-sized towels. To its credit, the squirrel clung to the guy’s shoulder obediently, although Derek had a feeling it was keeping a close beady eye on him. He was definitely going to have nightmares.
“You’re one of the fed fuzz here with Stiles investigating those werewolf murders, aren’t ya?”
Derek had never been called a ‘fed fuzz’ before. That was interesting. And, he could see how easily rumors could spread about the killer being of the supernatural variety. He nodded for form’s sake, although inwardly he rolled his eyes. Hard.
“You know there’s a full moon on Friday, right? Friday the thirteenth?” The guy gave a gleeful grin. “Someone’s gonna get wacked by a werewolf on Friday the fucking Thirteenth. How fucking cool is that?”
Derek made no comment, just snatched the two scraps of terry cloth and went for a quick exit, muttering ‘thanks’ on his way out.
“Oh hey,” the guy called cheerily after him. “Tell Stiles Greenberg says hi!”
“He had a fucking squirrel on his shoulder,” Derek said, tossing the newly acquired, barely functional towels at Stiles.
“Yeah, Greenberg’s always been a little, uh, outside the box,” Stiles commented. He had a scrap of white terry cloth in each hand and was staring at them with that look Stiles got when he was on the verge of a bright idea. Genius or not, Derek doubted Stiles would find a way to magically fuse the two towels together.
“‘Outside the box’ is a euphemism for ‘kinda crazy’, isn’t it?”
“More or less,” Stiles hummed. The kid was a hummer, Derek had noted. In fact, Stiles had hummed the whole of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 (what? he’d been a cop for fifteen years, that didn’t mean he wasn’t cultured) in the shower yesterday morning. “But he’s mostly the harmless kind of crazy.”
“You sure about that?” Derek asked skeptically. “He seemed pretty excited that someone was probably going to be murdered by a werewolf this Friday. Friday the thirteenth, by the way.”
Stiles gave a wave of his hand. “Residents here are a pretty superstitious bunch. They live for full moons and Friday the Thirteenths. Throw in a maybe-werewolf serial killer and that’ll be entertainment fodder for at least a month.”
“People are dying, Stiles,” Derek reminded. “Electrocuted, poisoned, shot, and sawed in half. This isn’t some reality TV show.”
Stiles rolled a shoulder. “I’m just saying that not every crazy, squirrel-wielding, gleefully superstitious Greenberg in Beacon Hills should automatically be suspect. This town just rolls like that.”
Derek raised a pointed eyebrow at Stiles.
“Yeah, okay, we should probably question Greenberg,” Stiles said, ducking into the bathroom. As the door closed, Derek heard: “Man, a squirrel is way cooler than a parrot.”
Stiles made grabby hands as Hale passed him the extra large black coffee he’d purchased at the café drive-thru window. Stiles thumbed the tab open, tilted the paper cup and drank greedily, not caring that the brew was hot and maybe burned his tongue and lips a little. He wasn’t wearing his ‘I drink coffee for your safety, not mine’ t-shirt without reason. Stiles needed a healthy dose of caffeine in the morning to function (read: play nice). Hale, he had noticed, had gotten chai tea. It figured the agent’s morning beverage of choice would be one full of physical and mental health benefits. Pop a raw egg in there and that could be the six-pack superhero agent’s breakfast.
He and Hale were on their way to the city just outside of Beacon Hills to talk to Bryan Masters’ girlfriend. As usual, Deaton’s pairing was strategic. Masters’ girlfriend was twenty-one year old Meagan Foster, member of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, commonly known as Z-Phi-B. Interestingly, Masters had been a chapter member of the “Betas” (Beta Theta Pi), a well-known fraternity at many colleges and universities across America. Stiles absolutely did not dwell on the fact that one of the victims had been a beta, which in wolf/werewolf-speak had some meaning.
Hale’s role in the interview was to essentially look pretty – to disarm the girlfriend with his face and muscles and thereby get her to open up beyond what she might have revealed to the local police. Stiles’ role was to be the smarty-pants goofball who would bond with the girl and be able to draw out more personal information. Neither role, of course, was much of a stretch for the agents.
Meagan Foster turned out not to be your stereotypical sorority girl. She was an environmental activist who cared little about fashion beyond whether clothing was made with eco-friendly fabrics and whom Stiles was sure held stock in a subdued line of eco-friendly cosmetics. She was pretty, though, and ate up the eye candy that was presented while allowing Stiles to lead the discussion about Bryan Masters.
“Did you notice anything different or strange about Bryan in the days or weeks before he went missing?” Stiles asked, graciously accepting the organic, shade grown, fair trade, bird-friendly black coffee Meagan handed to him in a canning jar fitted with a BPA-free and one hundred percent recyclable lid.
“He was more distracted than usual,” Meagan replied.
“Spending more time with his fraternity brothers, volunteering at the animal shelter, playing lacrosse.”
“And that was unusual for him?”
Meagan shook her head. “No. But Bryan was a serious student and usually spent more time on his studies.”
“Did Bryan happen to mention what he and his frat bros were doing during the times he spent with them?”
Meagan shifted uncomfortably and Stiles felt his spidey senses tingling.
“He said the chapter was going through a kind of ‘cleansing’ phase. A back-to-nature, wilderness survival kind of thing. They started spending weekends in local forests and woodland preserves. Training for a potential apocalypse, I guess.”
Weird sort of bonding ritual for a fraternity, Stiles thought. Although it explained why Masters might have been roaming around in the Beacon Hills Preserve only to be captured by a killer whose hobby was apparently hunting werewolves. If it turned out Masters donned a wolf-hide as part of his Beta Theta Pi survivalist training, Stiles would not be surprised.
“Anything else out of the ordinary?” Stiles probed.
Meagan darted a glance at Hale before focusing her attention back on Stiles. “Bryan and I had been going through a rough patch in our relationship,” she admitted. “We were spending less time together and the time we did spend, we spent mostly arguing. I made friends with people who weren’t connected to the sorority or fraternity and started involving myself in projects Bryan wasn’t interested in.”
“Did Bryan make new friends too?” Stiles asked. It was possible the unsub had befriended Masters.
Meagan shrugged. “His brothers might know.” She became quiet then, and Stiles understood that this was probably a reaction to feeling guilt about going through a rough patch with her now-dead boyfriend.
They thanked Meagan for her time and offered condolences for her loss. Losing someone was never easy; losing them to vicious murder even less so. Hale especially understood this and Stiles could hear the empathy in his heart-felt words.
They paid a visit to the Beta Theta Pi house next. Hale took the lead here because his testosterone levels out-masculinized Stiles three to one even if Stiles’ knowledge of fraternities and the frat boy mentality beat out Hale’s by a long mile.
After a show of manly posturing (Hale clearly won that round), they learned that Bryan Masters had indeed been participating in the Betas’ latest project: Survival Skills for the Future (or, as Stiles liked to call it ‘Frat Boys in the Wild’). There had been both group and individual ‘quests’ and it was believed that Masters had been on one of these individual quests when he went missing.
“What exactly did these quests entail?” Hale asked.
“Going back to the roots of nature,” Head Frat Boy answered. “We’re like betas, you know? Wolf betas,” he clarified in a tone that suggested he believed the two FBI agents were dumb as rocks.
Hale pulled his eyebrows together, an expression Stiles found endearingly sexy. “Wolf betas?” Hale said, playing along.
Head Frat Boy rolled his eyes. “Yeah, like Alpha, Beta, Omega,” he huffed in annoyance. “The fraternity is like a wolf pack.”
“Who’s the alpha?” Stiles asked cheekily.
“There is no alpha,” Head Frat Boy replied. “Technically, it’s the head of the national fraternity. All chapter members are betas. You know, Beta Theta Pi.”
“An alpha-less pack,” Stiles said. “I get it. That’s why you’re completing survivalist quests.” It made sense. In a weird fraternity kind of way. Betas training for the next zombie-wolf apocalypse. Sure.
“Did Bryan ever talk about his relationship with Meagan Foster?” Hale asked.
“She’s that save-the-earth bitch, right? They apparently argued a lot. Bryan was always at the house, trying to get away from her and her eco-friendly bullshit.”
“Do you know if Bryan had any other friends outside of the fraternity?”
Douchebag Frat Boy shrugged a shoulder. “Saw him with some chick a few times – a little older, blond, hot. Would lay a bet he was boning her.”
Such a suave guy, Stiles thought, mentally gagging. “Did the ‘chick’ have a name?” he forced out.
“Probably,” Douchebag Frat Boy replied with a smirk.
It was lucky for all that Hale drew Stiles away before he punched the dickwad frat boy in the face. He settled instead for having Reyes pull up everything there was on this kid so that Stiles could find a way to make his life miserable for the next few decades. Hale, it seemed, was completely on board with this strategy.
According to Scott and Kira, Mac and Janine Masters had no idea that their son was involved in survivalist training or that the fraternity Bryan belonged to thought of themselves as a kind of pseudo-wolf pack. And while it explained why Bryan might have been in and around the Beacon Hills Preserve when he went missing, they were at a loss to understand why this information was important to finding and catching the ‘evil creature’ responsible for their son’s murder. (It was apparent, Kira explained, that the Masters subscribed to the prevailing theory among the Beacon Hills residents that the killer was some sort of ‘were-being’.) Also, they were under the impression that Bryan’s relationship with Meagan Foster had been holding strong and were not aware of any other women, blonde or otherwise, that their son might have been seeing. In fact, Scott reported, the Masters had been expecting Bryan and Meagan to announce their engagement at the end of the school year.
Scott further reported that he had received a call from Allison Argent (there was a ridiculous gleam in his eyes, Stiles noticed), the guidance counselor at Beacon Hills High, who related that she thought that maybe Kyle had been seeing someone in the months before he went missing. She couldn’t guess who it might have been or even if it was a woman or man, just that there were occasions when Kyle had left a session with her early because he ‘had to be somewhere.’ Isaac Lahey could not confirm if Kyle was indeed seeing someone but he did tell Scott that it was not him whom Kyle had been meeting up with.
“Argent,” Deaton mused. He jerked his head at Reyes. “Isn’t there an Argent on that list of properties near the Preserve?”
Erica nodded, her pigtails bobbing. “Gerard Argent,” she confirmed, handing the list over to the Unit Chief. “He’s got a hunting cabin in the woods just outside the Preserve.”
“Gerard Argent is Allison’s grandfather,” Sheriff Stilinski told them. “The Argents moved into Beacon Hills a couple of years ago. Allison and Chris have a place in town. Gerard and Kate – that’s his daughter – move between the Beacon Hills cabin and a place further north on the outskirts of Modoc National Forest.”
“Chris?” Scott squeaked out, looking slightly panicked.
“Allison’s father,” the sheriff said and Scott let out an audible sigh of relief. Stiles gave a supporting thumbs-up, grinning.
“Were all of the people on this list interviewed?” asked Deaton.
Stiles’ dad nodded. “Sent deputies to talk to them right after we found the bodies. Notes should be in the materials here for review.”
“Good, good,” Deaton murmured, looking thoughtful.
The team spent the remainder of the afternoon and a large part of the evening reviewing the case files and their own notes in an effort to develop a working profile of the unsub so that they could relate this to the sheriff’s deputies in the morning. There were two days until the full moon. And Friday the Thirteenth. It was imperative that they find the killer before he struck again.
Sheriff Stilinski stared at his son’s t-shirt of the day and blinked. It was pretty much the reaction Derek had had when confronted that morning with the t-shirt witticism Stiles had chosen: Full Frontal Nerdity. The kid had a ridiculous sense of humor.
Stilinski’s mouth quirked wryly before he turned his attention from Stiles and, along with the rest of his deputies, focused on Deaton who was introducing the team members and their goal for today.
“It’s important to remember that a profile is simply a tool,” Deaton said, “not some kind of magical formula. Our goal is to provide likely characteristics and behavior patterns that could, with your assistance, lead us to the identity of the unsub.” He turned to McCall as several of the deputies nodded soberly.
“Based on victimology and past experience, the unsub is likely to be male, between the ages of thirty and forty-five,” McCall told them.
“He is likely to be strong,” Kira continued. “Both victims were young men with slightly muscular builds so the unsub had to have enough strength to have been able to subdue and abduct them--”
“--or may even have a partner who is helping him,” Lydia added. “It’s been reported that Bryan Masters was seen with an unknown blonde woman and there is reason to believe that Kyle Cassidy may have met with the killer or possibly a partner before he went missing.”
“Our unsub shows signs of psychopathy,” Derek told the group, “but he’s far from being socially inept. He is quite able to blend into society and would appear rational and quite level-headed.”
“But he does suffer from delusion,” Stiles said. “Specifically, he believes the chosen victims are supernatural in nature. Electrocuting, shooting and cutting the body in half are seen as necessary in order to effectively kill the victim.”
“Supernatural?” a stern-looking female deputy asked.
“Werewolf,” Stiles said bluntly.
There were murmurs among the deputies. “Kyle Cassidy showed marked improvement in athletics within just a few months, while Bryan Masters was a member of a fraternity that thought of themselves as a pseudo-wolf pack,” Lydia informed before anyone could ask what it was about the two victims that might have suggested to the killer that they were anything but strictly human. This was followed by more murmurs all around.
“The killer may be delusional,” Derek continued, “but there’s definite evidence of narcissism. He waits for a full moon, presumably when a werewolf’s powers are at its peak, to abduct and then subject to mild torture before releasing and then killing the victim. So he’s arrogant, cocky.”
“It’s likely some stressor in the unsub’s life has contributed to this delusion,” Scott said. “A bad encounter with a wild animal, for example.”
“Maybe a wolf,” Kira suggested. “But more likely a coyote, especially if some such incident happened within California.”
“What about signature?” one of the deputies asked. “Don’t serial killers usually have some kind of, you know, calling card?”
“Signatures are actually pretty rare in serial murder,” Stiles informed them. “Less than one percent of serial killings show clear signs of what could be called a signature or calling card, as you put it.”
“Signatures are usually something personal,” Deaton said, “but are also generally quite vague. It’s often something the killer must do in order to complete the fantasy, to gratify the compulsion. In this case, the full moon and the acts of electrocuting, shooting with poisoned bullets, and cutting the body in half all serve to feed the delusion and satisfy the fantasy.” He paused to let the information sink in. Then, “We’re asking that you keep your eyes and ears open, using this profile as a general guide. If there are any suspects that are not already on the radar, we would ask that you kindly report this to Sheriff Stilinski for further investigation.”
Deaton thanked everyone for their time and vigilance and then invited those with questions to approach individual team members.
Derek was surprised when Deputy Walker, a young female deputy, approached him to ask some questions.
“Agent Hale,” she greeted somewhat shyly. “You said that the killer shows signs of psychopathy. How do you determine that?”
It was a question that was often asked. How does a profiler intuit that a killer is a psychopath and, more specifically, the kind of psychopath? “It’s based partly on the nature of the crime scenes and the behavior patterns displayed there,” Derek told her. “We can generally distinguish between organized and disorganized killers, although the line is often more blurred than clear. And there are certain characteristics that are often associated with one type over the other.”
“So you would say the killer in this case is organized?”
Derek nodded. “The crime scene and M.O. do suggest that, yes.”
“And psychopathy is associated with organized killers?” Walker asked.
“Not conclusively,” Derek said. “But part of the profile is also based on experience.”
“You’ve had experience with psychopathic serial killers,” the deputy acknowledged.
Derek nodded. He had experience. In fact, he had first-hand experience.
Peter Hale had been a classic psychopath: charismatic and manipulative with shallow affect and complete lack of remorse or guilt. Sure, he had learned how to play the game, to appear normal (as a rule, those with psychopathic tendencies usually did) and had used this ruse to charm, lie and manipulate his way through life. Derek could remember his uncle as a teenager, the way he was able to captivate people, could remember even wanting to be like him when he grew up, before he had understood what was wrong with Peter. Derek’s mother had been Peter’s anchor, had kept him from slipping into the bowels of hell, but when she died…
Twelve women had lost their lives, stabbed multiple times with a bowie knife that had been passed down through three generations of Hales, viciously killed by a man whom Derek had loved and respected. A man who couldn’t control his urge to kill. A man who had plunged ten inches of sharp carbon steel into Laura twenty-three times.
“A buck for your thoughts,” someone said and Derek returned his attention to find Stiles standing in front of him instead of the deputy.
“Meh, inflation’s a bugger these days,” Stiles returned.
Derek allowed himself to chuckle. “I could quit my job selling my thoughts for a buck.”
Stiles smiled and there was a hint of understanding behind his smile. He was young and hadn’t experienced as much as Derek, but Stiles Stilinski somehow understood. He knew what Derek had gone through and, more importantly, he seemed to get Derek. Derek wasn’t sure if he found this fact comforting or disconcerting.
It was comforting to be back in his childhood home, sharing a meal with his dad. The burgers were grilled to perfection, just the way Stiles liked them, loaded with onions, pickles and hot peppers. It had been a while since Stiles had been home – the job didn’t allow for too many visits – and he had missed his dad more than he had realized.
“So,” his dad said, wiping his mouth with a napkin. “Hale.”
“What about him?”
“Are you and he…?” The sheriff gestured vaguely.
“No! No, Dad,” Stiles replied, shaking his head. “Derek and I are colleagues. Just—Just colleagues.”
His dad’s eyes narrowed. “Derek?”
“Agent Hale,” Stiles corrected.
“Just taking a wild guess here,” said his dad. “But I don’t suppose you’re hoping to be more than ‘just colleagues’ with ‘Derek’?”
“No,” Stiles insisted. “Absolutely not. No. Okay, yes.” He may have been a twenty-four year old FBI agent, but Stiles still buckled under the scrutiny of his dad’s interrogation.
His dad quirked an eyebrow.
“Look, I know I have a history of falling for people who are unattainable--”
“Just a tiny history,” his dad said dryly.
“But I am very clear on the fact that Hale is a colleague, although I’m hoping that one day he’ll be a friend. Look, I’m not delusional, Dad. I know he’s never going to be interested in me romantically.”
“I don’t know,” said the sheriff, looking thoughtful. “The way Hale looks at you when he thinks no one is watching says otherwise.”
“What? How? How does he look at me?” What was his dad talking about? Hale didn’t look at him in any kind of way other than patiently tolerant and even that was mostly a stretch.
“Lustful is the word that comes to mind,” his dad said, looking slightly chagrinned, “but for my sake, can we just go with ‘smitten’?”
His dad shrugged, picking up one of the baked fries Stiles had made. Stiles returned to demolishing his burger.
Later, when they were cleaning up, his dad said, “Hale is the one whose sister was murdered, right?”
“Yeah,” Stiles said, suddenly feeling morose. “If that wasn’t bad enough, their uncle was the serial killer who murdered her.”
The sheriff shook his head sadly. “It’s got to be hard for him being so close to so much nasty all the time.”
“He’s good at what he does,” Stiles said. “Hale is one of our top agents. It’s probably the experience of that nasty that gives him an edge.”
“Still, it’s got to be hard.” Stiles hummed in agreement. “He ever talk to you about it?”
“About his sister or his uncle, you mean?” Stiles asked. His dad nodded. “No,” Stiles said. “He never talks about that stuff.” Most agents were aware of the details from reading through the case files on Laura Hale and the eleven other victims and through old-fashioned water cooler gossip. To Stiles’ knowledge, Hale had kept mostly quiet about his sister’s murder and about his uncle’s involvement, except where profiling necessitated drawing on Peter Hale, the serial killer, as an example.
“That’s a shame,” the sheriff said. “He could probably use someone to talk to once in a while.”
If Stiles knew his dad – and he did – he was pretty sure his dad’s comment was meant to be a nudging hint.
On his way back to the motel room, Stiles stopped by the main office to see if Greenberg was around. Okay, so he mostly wanted to check out the guy’s pet squirrel because that was pretty cool, right? And kinda strange. But mostly cool. Greenberg never did disappoint when it came to the strange kind of cool.
But it was Stella Greenberg and not her son that Stiles found behind the desk in the main office.
“Stiles!” Mrs. Greenberg greeted. “Marion is going to be disappointed he missed you again.”
‘Marion’ was the reason everybody called Greenberg ‘Greenberg’. It was hard to take Greenberg seriously as it was. And Stiles, whose own given name was unusual and hard to pronounce, was not one to cast stones.
“Yeah,” Stiles said, only mildly disappointed. “Uh, Agent Hale said something about a pet squirrel Green—Marion—has?”
Stella Greenberg frowned. “Oh, that silly thing. I keep telling him squirrels are not pets.”
Stiles’ return hum was non-committal. “Well, tell him I stopped by. I’m sure we’ll cross paths soon.” He shot Mrs. Greenberg a smile as he left the office.
Damn. He’d really been hoping to see that squirrel.
Derek was immediately suspicious when Stiles returned to the motel room after his visit with his dad, the sheriff. He couldn’t put a finger on it, but Stiles seemed more subdued than usual, like he had something on his mind that he wanted to share but didn’t know how to approach whatever it was with Derek. Stiles being hesitant about something was concerning to Derek. The young agent was generally an easy conversationalist. Derek, of course, was not. If Stiles didn’t know what to say, then Derek definitely wouldn’t.
“Stopped by the motel office to see the squir—I mean, Greenberg,” Stiles said, running a hand through his already-mussed hair. Derek averted his eyes. Stiles’ hair was one of many features that Derek found both adorable and sexy. It managed to have that ‘just fucked’ look all day long, which paired with his full lips, cute nose, and easily flushed cheeks, made Derek think of a porn star. “He wasn’t there. Greenberg, that is,” Stiles quickly clarified.
Derek quirked an eyebrow. He would lay a bet Stiles was disappointed that he hadn’t gotten to see the squirrel. It was cooler than a parrot, Derek supposed.
“Look, I know I said we’d talk to Greenberg,” Stiles said, flopping down in the only chair in the room. “But I really don’t think he’s a suspect.”
“Yeah, I mean Greenberg is an odd ball with some freakish tendencies – pet squirrel, for example - but he’s definitely no killer. The guy has trouble keeping his shoes tied for an entire day, there’s no way he could carry out the kind of activities displayed by the unsub.”
“Alright,” said Derek. “I trust your judgment on this one.”
“Oh, okay,” Stiles said, shifting slightly.
It was obvious Greenberg wasn’t what Stiles had wanted to talk to Derek about. He waited for about thirty seconds for Stiles to say something else but he didn’t, so Derek returned to the book he had been reading.
He was able to read a whole paragraph before Stiles spoke.
“You know, I have a doctorate in clinical psychology.” Pause. “Like, if you ever need to…talk or anything.”
Derek looked up from his book. Where the hell was this coming from? he wondered. He had suspected Stiles had something to say, but to be honest, Derek hadn’t anticipated this. “Are you saying I need therapy?” he asked, confused.
“No,” Stiles quickly replied. “I’m just saying you can talk to me. You know, if you ever want to. Like, as a friend.”
“Oh,” Derek said, his eyebrows remaining pinched. “You want us to be friends?”
“Yes. No! I mean, yes,” Stiles said, looking flustered. “Gee, I can see why you’re lauded for your interrogation skills,” he half-mumbled, shifting around in his seat. He lifted his gaze, making direct eye contact with Derek. “Yes. Derek. I want us to be friends.”
Stiles wanted to be friends with him? Derek honestly didn’t know how to interpret that. Did Stiles want to be friends in addition to or instead of – what? He had thought they were already sort of friends. Colleagues at least, who were more or less on friendly terms with each other. Stiles had rode with him to Beacon Hills, hadn’t he? And they were sharing a motel room, weren’t they?
Or maybe– God, Derek realized, suddenly embarrassed - this was Stiles’ way of friend-zoning him before Derek could entertain any possibility of a romantic and/or sexual relationship between them. He obviously hadn’t been as subtle as he had thought in his appreciation (he refused to call it ‘ogling’) of the young agent. He definitely needed to tone it down and be more professional. It hadn’t been his intention to make Stiles feel uncomfortable.
“Okay,” he said cautiously.
“Yes,” Derek responded, inflecting a healthy dose of professionalism in his tone. “We can be friends.”
It might have been Derek’s imagination, but it was Stiles who now sounded cautious and confused with his reply.
What the hell?
Stiles was confused.
He had thought he had made it clear to Hale that he was open if the agent ever needed to talk to him about past tragedies and whatnot. Stiles wanted Hale to think of him as a friend, someone he could turn to if ever the need arose. He hadn’t wanted Hale to think of it as a therapy session, for godssakes, even if Stiles did have a PhD in clinical psychology and an impressive number of therapy hours under his belt. The intention was to bond with Hale, to let the agent know that Stiles was there for him. This was the only way Stiles could think of to slowly wean his crush on Agent Hale. His dad was right. Stiles had a long history of falling for People Who Were Unattainable and Derek Hale was definitely near the top of that list.
Stiles had difficulty falling asleep, which was unusual because he could pretty much fall asleep anywhere and anytime. He kept replaying the conversation with Hale in his mind, and the more he did, the less he understood what had actually happened.
Hale had said he wanted to be friends with Stiles. Well, what he’d actually said was: We can be friends.” What did that mean exactly? And, more importantly, why had Hale sounded like he was agreeing to a business deal rather than having a friendly conversation about being friends?
Had Hale thought Stiles was trying to propose a more intimate relationship between them? God. And was his response - We can be friends (he tried to recollect if Hale had put emphasis on the word ‘friends’ but only remembered it sounding neutral) – a way of emphasizing that Hale would be willing to go as far as being friends with Stiles but nothing more?
Stiles stared up at the grimy ceiling (he’d tell Stella Greenberg it was probably time to paint the rooms) and blew out a sigh. He was now pretty sure Hale the Already Unattainable had effectively friend-zoned him.
Just fucking great.
If Derek felt a little awkward the next morning, it was because he was still unsure about that conversation he’d had with Stiles. Oh, who was he kidding. Derek was always a bit awkward, and especially so around Stiles. It was times like this that Derek really missed Laura. His sister would have known exactly what to do about the inappropriate crush Derek had on his fellow agent. Laura had always been confident, a woman in complete charge of her life. It was, Derek realized with a sudden pang, most likely the reason Peter had targeted her as one of his victims.
“Met with Allison Argent,” Scott said, a hint of a blush on his cheeks and Stiles had to wonder exactly what ‘met with’ meant. “She told me that she and her dad have been kind of on the outs with her grandfather and aunt the last little while. Something about not respecting the hunter’s code?”
“There’s a Hunter’s Code?” said Kira.
“Respect the environment and wildlife,” Stiles began to quote. “Respect property and landowners. Show consideration for non-hunters. Hunt safely. Know and obey the law. Support wildlife and habitat conserva--”
“Did she say which part of the code they’d violated?” Lydia interrupted.
Scott shook his head. “No, but I got the impression they thought Gerard and Kate Argent had become reckless, unethical even in their hunting.”
“Is Allison a hunter?” Hale asked.
“She’s actually a bow hunter,” Scott replied, beaming. “Pretty neat, huh?”
Man, Scott had it bad.
“What about her father?” asked Kira.
“Oh, he’s also a hunter,” Scott said. “But he’s more into rifles than bows.”
“Got a Remington 870, by chance?” Lydia asked.
Scott shook his head. “I sent some deputies to take stock.” He glanced down at a paper in his hand. “Weatherby Mark XII, Browning X-Bolt and a Jarrett Signature,” he read off.
“The Weatherby’s a rimfire and caliber is too low,” Stiles said. “Not good for wolf hunting. Browning would do the trick, though. And a Jarrett rifle. Really? The base price on those are, like, eight grand. Sweet.” Man, Stiles would love to get his hands on a firearm that was as sweet and accurate as a Jarrett. He subconsciously patted his sidearm. He was first and foremost an intellect but he did so love his guns.
“If Stiles is done cataloguing the merits of Chris Argent’s rifle collection,” Deaton said with a hint of a smile, “then perhaps he and Hale could pay a visit to Gerard Argent and his daughter?”
Stiles glanced at Hale and winked. Winking was friendly, right? He was not prepared for the tips of Hale’s ears to turn pink and for the agent to brusquely exit (Stiles might have said ‘bolt’) the room.
What the hell? thought Derek as he left the room, perhaps a bit more brusquely than he had intended (it wasn’t like he was bolting or anything). Stiles had winked at him. So what did that mean? Was it a ‘glad to be your friend and nothing more’ wink? Or was it something else entirely? Damn if Derek knew. He was completely baffled by the young agent.
Derek waited in the SUV for Stiles, telling himself not to overthink things too much. He had a habit of doing that, which Derek knew from experience (and Laura’s constant preaching) only led to further bafflement and a whole lot of frustration.
When Stiles climbed into the SUV, he pointed Derek in the direction of the Argent property. He didn’t wink again. Derek was thankful.
Of course Deaton had sent Derek with Stiles to follow-up with Gerard and Kate Argent. According to Sheriff Stilinski, the Argents had been out of town when the bodies of Kyle Cassidy and Bryan Masters had been found but deputies had been sent to their residence in the north to ask questions since their property in Beacon Hills was just on the outskirts of the Preserve.
“I’m Agent Hale and this is Agent Stilinski,” Derek announced when Kate Argent opened the door. He and Stiles both presented their identification badges. Kate didn’t even bother looking at them, her gaze immediately zeroing in on Stiles. Derek quickly noted the blonde hair and attractiveness of the woman, concluding that she fit the general description of “hot blonde chick” the Beta guy had given.
“Well, aren’t you just a little cutie,” Kate Argent drawled, giving Stiles an appraising once-over and a flirty wink.
Derek couldn’t help himself. He growled. He blamed it on the lack of sufficient chai tea in his system, which tended to make him cranky.
Kate Argent shot him a sharp look.
“Don’t mind him,” Stiles said with a smirk. “He gets a little cranky sometimes.”
“We’re with the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit,” Derek continued, ignoring Stiles’ comment and Kate Argent’s obvious flirting. “We’re here to ask a few follow-up questions regarding the two bodies that were recently found in the woodlands of the Preserve. Is your father Gerard here? We’d like to talk to him as well.”
Kate dragged her eyes away from Stiles and finally gave Derek her attention. Her gaze wasn’t nearly as flirty as it had been with Stiles but there was definite interest there, Derek noted, and a weird sort of curiosity. It gave Derek the creeps. “He’s out,” she said shortly, gesturing for them to come inside.
The look of mock-horror Stiles tossed over his shoulder as he followed the Argent woman inside the large cabin would have made Derek laugh if he wasn’t mentally doing the same, albeit with a whole lot less mock to it. Everything about Kate Argent screamed predator and it was damn unsettling, even for a fifteen-year police veteran like Derek.
Kate Argent led them into the kitchen area. She didn’t suggest they take a seat at the table or offer them anything to drink. She did, however, give them both a more scrutinizing glance-over, her eyes inevitably drawn to Stiles’ t-shirt of the day that announced he could ‘speak fluently in movie quotes’ at which she raised a perfectly shaped eyebrow.
“You’ve got to ask yourself one question,” Stiles said, Dirty Harry style. “Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?”
Like Derek had said, the kid was ridiculous.
“You talking to me?” Kate Argent returned in her best emulation of Robert De Niro a la Taxi Driver.
They were both ridiculous, Derek decided. Except, A: Stiles was a federal agent with genius-level intellect and B: Kate Argent may well be a psychopath who butchered two young men she thought were werewolves, so ridiculous had slightly different meanings in each case. Frankly, Derek would choose the A kind of ridiculous over the B kind any day.
“So what do you want to know?” Kate Argent asked, leaning against the kitchen counter like she didn’t have one fuck to give. It reminded Derek of Peter. “We both already told the deputies we didn’t know the boys and didn’t see anything.”
Stiles was being purposely restless, moving about and casually looking around the cabin. “Your niece Allison said you are hunters,” he told Kate. “What game do you hunt?” There were no pelts or game trophies evident in the cabin, at least not from what Derek could see.
“Oh, you know - deer, hog, elk, turkey, quail,” Kate replied. She smiled eerily. “Gerard makes this quail and white bean stew that is really the talk of the town.”
“What about wolves?” Stiles asked. Least smooth segue ever, Derek thought, but he wasn’t about to critique the younger agent’s interrogation style, especially since it tended to be effective.
Kate looked startled for half a second before laughing loudly. “The occasional coyote maybe. There aren’t any wolves in California. You know that.”
“Except for when OR-7 passed through,” Stiles retorted. Both Kate and Derek gave blank stares. “The collared gray wolf that travelled from Oregon to northern California in search of a mate, the first wolf in the state since 1924?” The blank stares continued. “It was just reported last week that OR-7 had pups with a black she-wolf!” Derek raised an eyebrow. “What? I follow the wolf’s twitter.”
Of course he did.
“So you didn’t know Bryan Masters or Kyle Cassidy?” Derek asked, bringing the conversation back around.
Kate Argent tilted her head. “Like we told the deputies. Didn’t know them. Didn’t see anything.”
It was clear that they weren’t going to get anything from Kate Argent. Derek asked a few more routine questions to allow Stiles to continue his subtle look around. Then they thanked Kate Argent for her time and kindly asked that she relay to her father that they wished to speak to him.
“So what do you think?” Stiles said as they walked the path back to the SUV.
“There’s no way her father’s quail stew is that good,” Derek said.
“Obvs,” said Stiles. “And, come on, Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver? I totally would have gone with John Cleese in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” He stopped abruptly then quoted, “I fart in your general direction. That would have been way funnier.”
Stiles really was ridiculous. “She could be a killer, Stiles,” Derek reminded, trying to hide his grin because despite how ridiculous the young agent was, Derek liked him. Really liked him. “Anything else you notice?” Derek asked, steering the conversation back to the matter at hand.
“Besides the creepy cougar vibe Kate Argent was giving off?” Stiles said with a shudder. “Yeah. Two hunting knives – one of them with a serrated blade but not one that would have cut a body in half – and what looked like a CRKT Ultima survival knife. Rifles in view: Sauer 303, Savage 11 - GNS model, I think - and a Browning A-5 rifle. Lady’s got good taste in guns. And it’s what you’d expect for avid hunters of the kind of game the Argents claim to hunt.” He hummed thoughtfully. “It’s the box of Federal Premium twelve-gauge two-and-three-quarter double O buckshots that makes me kind of curious, though. Because that is exactly the kind of ammo I’d choose for a Remington 870 Express Tactical Magpul, the likely weapon used to shoot Masters and Cassidy.” He winked at Derek. “Just saying.”
Stiles may have been ridiculous but the kid’s observation skills and knowledge of firearms were beyond impressive.
“Enough for an expedited warrant, you figure?” asked Derek.
“Oh yeah,” Stiles said with a grin.
Kira and McCall were still out talking with the other Argents – Chris and Allison – when Derek and Stiles returned to the sheriff’s station. Derek asked Reyes to do a second check on all the property holdings in Beacon Hills that may be connected to any of the Argents, while Stiles apprised Deaton and his dad of his observations in hopes of getting an expedited warrant to search the Argent cabin and surrounding area.
“We’re treating Gerard and Kate Argent as the primary suspects in this case,” Deaton told Sheriff Stilinski. “Together, they fit the profile. And we had anticipated that a possible pairing might be involved in the abduction and killings. Stiles, I want you running point with your father on securing the warrant,” Deaton instructed. “Hale, see if you can get a positive ID on Kate Argent from that fraternity kid you spoke to. Reyes will be sending a photo to your PDA.”
Reyes was in her element, her fingers flying over the keyboard, multi-tasking like a pro. It took less than two seconds for Derek’s mobile device to ping, indicating that a photo of Kate Argent had been sent. Derek waved his thanks to Reyes, who stopped only momentarily to blow him a kiss in return.
Five years as a NYPD cop with the bomb squad and ten years as an FBI profiler (not to mention he was a certified marksman and was highly trained in mixed martial arts) should have prepared Derek for what came his way next. He was able to get a targeted kick to the back of the knee in before he was zapped with fifty-k volts, causing his muscles to contract as the electrical signal of the taser pulse overrode his central nervous system. He dropped, twitching, then blacked out.
He awoke in near darkness, his head fuzzy, his thoughts disoriented.
He’d talked to that frat boy, he remembered, who’d been able to vaguely confirm that the ‘hot blonde chick’ Bryan Masters had been seen with might have been Kate Argent—
---who, with the help of an older man Derek suspected was her father, had zapped him with a taser as he’d gone to get into the SUV.
He might have felt embarrassed at having been subdued and abducted so easily if he had been able to think more clearly. Unfortunately, a jolt from a CEW was known to put one in a fog for a bit. He was clear-headed enough to realize he that he was on his knees, hands bound above him, stripped of his shirt and his dignity. There were leads running from a box of some sort that he could just make out in the relative darkness, the ends stuck in strategic places across his torso. It didn’t take much for Derek to figure out what they were for.
Kate Argent slithered out from the shadows.
“Look at the muscle tone of that body,” she drawled creepily. “Someone filled out in all the right places.”
“I work out,” Derek said cheekily.
Kate Argent laughed. “I bet you’re strong too. Like, supernaturally strong,” she said, slinking closer to Derek. She reached out and rubbed her knuckles over his heavy stubble. “Fair amount of facial hair, too.”
“Oh, I have no doubt of that,” Kate returned, smoothing a palm now over the patch of dark hair on his chest. Derek felt violated.
Kate heaved a breath of satisfaction. “We did have our eye on a high school cutie named Liam,” she said, “but I gotta say, you’re a much better catch.”
“I’m a federal agent,” Derek reminded her. “It would be wise to release me.”
“Now where would be the fun in that?” Kate said with an exaggerated pout. She backed away from Derek and turned toward the box, reaching out and fiddling with something there.
Derek felt the pulse of the current feeding through the leads and swore.
“Here’s the deal, Agent Hale,” Kate Argent said far too calmly for Derek’s liking. “Shift, and I stop this.”
Another pulse of electricity came through.
“Stop trying to control it,” Kate commanded, her temper rising.
Control what? Derek wondered.
Kate Argent delivered another electrical pulse. Images from the autopsy photos of the patches of charred skin on Masters’ and Cassidy’s torsos filled Derek’s mind. There was no wondering how the patches got there. Kate was now in front of him, her head bending in toward his. “I want to see you,” she said into his ear. “I want to watch you shift.”
“I don’t…know…what…you’re talking about,” Derek said.
Did Kate Argent believe he was a werewolf?
“Come on, Hale!” Kate shouted, turning the knob on the box to elicit another pulse of electrical current, this one hurting more than the others.
Derek knew enough about physics and electricity to know that it was the current and not the voltage that posed the greatest danger. Kate made sure the amperage was high enough to produce mildly painful shock but low enough not to be lethal, applying the charges in short bursts, which was starting to annoy the hell out of Derek.
“I am not…a werewolf!” he said, gritting his teeth through the pain.
“I wanted the other two to show me,” Kate continued, clearly suffering from psychopathic delusion. “They wouldn’t. They would still be alive if they had, you know. That’s all you got to do, Agent Hale. Shift. Then I promise I’ll let you go.”
Bryan Masters and Kyle Cassidy had been doomed from the start, Derek realized. The boys had ‘refused’ to shift for Kate Argent because they couldn’t. They were not werewolves. Derek was not a werewolf. There was no such thing as werewolves.
But just as she was doing now, Kate Argent must have insisted. And when she believed Masters and Cassidy wouldn’t show her their wolf within, she released them. Then she hunted them down, shot them dead, and cut their bodies in half.
And now, that same fate awaited Derek.
“He’s still not answering,” Stiles said, pushing the button on his mobile phone impatiently.
Hale had gone to the Beta Theta Pi house to get a positive ID on Kate Argent while Deaton and the rest of the team worked on getting a warrant to search the Argent cabin and property. They had managed to do so after Hale had called to let them know that Masters’ frat brother had more or less identified the blonde mystery woman as Kate Argent. Hale was then set to return to Beacon Hills, which should have taken him twenty minutes or so, give or take. But Hale never arrived. Repeated calls to his cell phone resulted only in increased frustration and worry, especially from Stiles, who had begun to think that maybe he had been reading Hale all wrong, after all. It was possible that Hale actually wanted to be more than just friends or colleagues with Stiles and that the interactions between him and Hale had actually been some form of awkward flirting.
But now the other agent was missing and it was strongly suspected that Kate and Gerard Argent had something to do with that. Kate had given off super-duper creepy vibes when he and Hale had paid a visit and Stiles had not liked the way Kate had looked at Hale when he had emitted a growl in defense of Stiles’ professional honor. Plus, Taxi Driver instead of Monty Python? Yeah, that spelled creepy psycho right there. Kate Argent had taken Hale, there was no doubt in Stiles’ mind.
Scott pinned up the satellite images of the tracts of land owned by the Argents that butted the Preserve, along with the satellite images of the woodland where the bodies of Masters and Cassidy were found. Stiles didn’t even wait for the last pin to go in, just started marking with the red marker in hand. (One of the things that had impressed the upper administrators when he was being considered for a position with the BAU was Stiles’ expertise regarding geography – he had a degree in geophysics - and geoprofiling.) With the speed of a machine, he calculated several variables as he marked, keeping in mind all of the tidbits of information that they had learned in the past couple of days. Scott knew enough to back away from the board and to let Stiles work, hovering in the background to provide support, if needed.
Stiles hummed while he worked. Two minutes and fifty-three seconds later, he marked an X on a spot and proclaimed, “Here.”
Nobody questioned the thought process that led Stiles to this particular location within the Preserve. It would take longer for him to explain than it had for him to come to this conclusion, anyway. The agents simply vested up, got into an SUV and took off toward ‘X’ to rescue their fellow agent.
Thoughts of Laura flitted through his mind as Derek ran, trying to put distance between himself and Kate Argent. (Gerard Argent had yet to make an appearance since the initial attack but Derek was not fooled into thinking that he was being tracked only by Kate.) His sister had been caught off-guard by Peter, an uncle that she knew was unstable but had still believed she could trust. Laura had responded to Peter’s plea for help (there was evidence of a phone call made to her from Peter that night) then had been rendered unconscious and taken to the abandoned Hale house upstate. Derek had read the autopsy report and knew that his sister had suffered. It was the part Derek had the most trouble coming to terms with, the thought of Laura suffering. Their mother had burned to death in a house fire years before. The two most important women in his life had died such horrific deaths and no matter how many times the therapists told him it wasn’t his fault, Derek hated himself for not having been able to save them. He should have saved them.
He should have saved Laura.
And now he was going to die just like his sister – at the hands of a psychopathic serial killer who believed he was a werewolf.
Fate could be such a bitch.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Kate Argent sing-songed from an ever-closing distance behind him. Derek’s boot caught on a branch and he stumbled, righting himself quickly. He knew he could only run for so long. Kate Argent clearly had the advantage. She knew the woods and had gone through two prior trial runs. And Derek was considerably weakened from the electrical shocks. He supposed that was why Kate Argent believed she could overcome the enhanced powers of a supposed werewolf so close to a full moon.
Derek glanced at the moon lighting the night sky. He was certain that it was still technically June 12, even though the moon looked to be full from his vantage point. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Derek heard Stiles’ voice saying “4:12:34”. It would still be several hours before the full moon was at its peak then (and Friday the Thirteenth was upon them) but Derek didn’t think that mattered much to Kate Argent. The fantasies fuelling Kate’s delusions about werewolves and her desire to watch them shift (into wolves? Derek wondered) had shown to be inconsistent and adaptable to whatever was going on in her head. It wasn’t meant to make sense other than to Kate herself.
Running aimlessly was making him tire quickly. He didn’t know the woods, was still feeling off-kilter from being electrocuted and didn’t know when Gerard Argent would pop up to join Kate in her pursuit (if he wasn’t already). Derek tried to keep a clear head but the longer he ran, the more he was convinced he wouldn’t be able to survive this. A part of him still had hope the team would find him – that Stiles would find him – but the other part knew such hope was only fleeting.
He sensed her before he heard her.
“Gotcha,” Kate said cheekily.
Derek stopped running. This was the end, he thought. Still, he wasn’t going to let Kate Argent shoot him in the back. So, Derek turned around and prepared himself to meet his fate.
Stiles came through the brush, his weapon drawn. He didn’t bother to wait to have Kate Argent clearly in his sight before he took aim and fired. As he had innately calculated, the shot struck her forearm, causing her to drop the Remington. Scott, Kira and Deaton quickly moved in to subdue her while Stiles rushed toward Derek.
Hale, who had sunk to the ground on his knees with fatigue, was shirtless and dirty. Stiles did a quick security check of the surrounding area before re-holstering his weapon and attending to the other agent.
“Dude,” he said, crouching in front of Derek, relief flooding through him. “I thought I said I was going to be the snarky sidekick. And you were supposed to be Batman, not the damsel in distress.”
“I’m not a damsel,” Hale countered, his voice rough.
Stiles did a cursory check of Hale’s vital signs and any visible injuries before reaching forward and flicking a thumb and forefinger at Hale’s forehead. “Don’t ever do that again,” he said.
Hale looked at him with confusion. “Do what?” he asked.
“Almost get yourself killed!”
Hale huffed out a shaky laugh. “I didn’t do it on purpose,” he said. His look became serious. “I was really hoping you’d find me,” Hale told Stiles. “I didn’t want to die like Laura did.”
Overwhelming emotion threatened to spill over but Stiles managed to keep it in check. It was the first time Hale had ever mentioned his sister to Stiles. And though it could have been just the trauma talking, Stiles took this as a sign that maybe he and Hale had a possible future together.
Stiles took hold of Hale by the scruff and hauled his head forward, mashing their lips together.
Hale didn’t protest.
Definitely progress, thought Stiles.
“So,” Scott said, bag in hand, ready for the ride back to the airport. “You’re staying an extra couple of days to spend time with your dad?”
Stiles waved a hand. “Long overdue, really,” he explained.
Scott raised an eyebrow. “And, of course, it’s got nothing to do with Hale staying a few extra days in Beacon Hills to recuperate from almost getting killed, huh?”
Scott McCall was shrewd. “Pure co-inky-dink, Scottie,” Stiles replied breezily.
“Uh-huh,” said Scott. “Like it was just pure co-inky-dink that your lips happened to fall onto Hale’s when you rescued him.”
“When we rescued him,” Stiles corrected. “And I’ll have you know that the chance of the simultaneous occurrence of two unrelated but meaningful events is not that uncommon. For example, in a random selection of twenty-three people, there is a fifty percent chance that at least two of them celebrate the same birthdate. And did you know that the chance of meeting someone you know at the top of the Empire State Building during the same hour is, like, eleven in thirty-six? And dude - don’t even get me started on the number of coincidences in the lives of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy…”
Stiles did spend time with his dad. He also spent quite a bit of time with Agent Hale. Derek, he mentally corrected. Stiles had kissed the man, after all. Surely the use of first names was appropriate under such circumstances, even if ‘Hale’ sounded more like the name of an aspiring superhero. And there was no doubt Hale was a superhero. He had done battle with a worthy villain and had lived to tell about it. (Derek had actually said very little about the whole Kate-holding-him-captive-and-then-hunting-him-down thing to his teammates but Stiles knew it would be detailed in his report because Hale was a very efficient and detailed report writer, although he sincerely hoped the Stiles-kissing-Hale-in-relief part wouldn’t make the edit.)
Sheriff Stilinski rolled his eyes as his son continued to argue with Derek about the best and lamest sidekicks of all time.
“Jim Rhodes started out as a pretty lame sidekick but, come on, War Machine? He’s like a super badass Iron Man,” Stiles insisted, gesturing wildly as he spoke. Derek found it adorable. “And what about Bucky? Lame sidekick-turned-ultimate-assassin.”
“He was an assassin, Stiles. For the KGB,” Derek said, taking the beer Stiles’ dad offered him. “Not sure that qualifies as lame-to-totally-awesome.”
“He was brainwashed!” Stiles countered.
“He was de-programmed when he started working for S.H.I.E.L.D,” Derek conceded, “but a previously brainwashed spy may not be the best superhero in the making.”
Stiles beamed at him. “Dude,” he said in a tone that could be described as besotted. “You know comics. I think I love you.”
Sheriff Stilinksi coughed awkwardly and made a quick exit from the room.
Derek returned Stiles’ grin. “You want to talk Robin or Aqualad next?”
Stiles scooted toward him at the speed of light. “Maybe later,” he said, drawing Derek’s mouth in for a kiss.
The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary.
Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.