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Alpha Spikes

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"How's that, folks? A half dozen beautiful Alpha bachelorettes seeking mates this heat season. Could you be the lucky Omega that catches their eye? Only time will tell!"

"Did you hear that, Scott? Only time...will tell," Stiles mocks, snorting out a laugh. He heaves a scrap of apple at the town square video screen, short-circuiting the feed a second. Real big loss there. He’s crying invisible tears over it.

The same brainwashing Heat Week propaganda’s been playing over and over for hours now, on a continuous loop, beamed in direct from the West Capitol compound, with no way to change the channel or turn it off. If there was anything better to do than sit here and watch it, Stiles would be doing it. He’d be doing it so hard. As it is, somehow there isn’t anything better to do, and he could probably repeat the script word-for-word by now. Pretty much.

Of course his interpretation would be much more entertaining than whoever this bozo is reading off the prompter. He'd actually use this thing some people like to call a ‘sense of humor.’ A sense of humor and none of the makeup.

Less of the makeup.

Maybe a little makeup.

"How much do you wanna bet all those ladies are going to come to Beacon Hills and fight over me? Hey, wow...thank you for that face of disgust. Just wait. I'll be living in the lap of luxury. It's calling my name. What's that?" He cups a hand to his ear.

"Better keep dreaming, Stiles," Scott says, and Allison grins from where she's got her head crooked on his shoulder.

Everyone's against him.

Stiles scoffs, "Ye have little faith. While you and Allison are here in Beacon Hills, aka ‘been there, done thats ville,’ I'll be in the big city, sipping champanya and eating all the curly fries I can shove in my face. Try not to drool too much on the video screen, okay?"

"Hey, don't go putting your foot in your mouth before anything's even happened, dude. You can always tag along with us this week, anyway... If it doesn't, you know,” he frowns, “happen for you. I mean..."

Did Stiles— Did he just feel a slap to the face? Was that—

"Don't worry, Stiles," Allison smiles. "I think you'll get picked."

"Thank you, Allison. At least there's someone around here who sees me for the catch that I am. You're missing out, Scott."

“I bet,” Scott says.

Allison winks at Stiles though, no mocking to it, and for a second, it actually has him starting to believe he will get picked. That it’s only a matter of time, and not the stupidest joke in the world. He wonders if she realizes the power she wields.

At first, Stiles hadn't really liked Allison, just for the fact that she was stealing away the best bud of all best buds, the bestest bud he'd ever known. Emphasis on ‘best.’ Much, much emphasis on ‘best.’ And only. ‘Only’ would be a good word, too.

But Allison’s too nice for anyone to hold any kind of real grudge against and besides, a few more compliments like that and Stiles'll be eating out of the palm of her hand, just like Scott; that could get awkward on date night.

It doesn't hurt that when it comes to Scott, Stiles is soft. Or that Allison looks like a goddess, either. Next to Lydia, she's the prettiest girl in town. Even prettier than Lydia, some days, but Stiles feels like a traitor for thinking it. Not just for the fact that he’s had a crush on her since forever, but because Allison’s Scott’s lady love, and you don’t go around fantasizing about your friend’s lady love.

At least you don’t tell them about it, if you do.

Point being, Stiles’d probably literally eat out of her hand if she asked nicely and batted her eyelashes. Hell, even if she didn’t ask nicely. He could go for that, too.

"Now, let's take a look at this year's bachelors!" the announcer bursts out. He sounds way too excited for a bunch of losers who’re getting dates through political intervention, Stiles thinks.

Yeah okay, so he has no room to talk. No mate in his life, no mate in the near future and probably, let's just be generous, no mate in the next ten years, either.

Maybe the eleventh year’ll be his year. That sounds like a reachable goal.

He’s the one who needs an intervention. And not just the kind where his dad tries to pawn him off on his coworkers’ daughters, like Stiles’s the last dented melon that no one wants.

One word: awkward. No, two words: awkward and painful. Three words: awkward and painful and why? Does he have ‘loser’ written on his face?

Rhetorical question. That was a rhetorical question.

"—nly have three this season, ladies and gentlemen, so the competition for their attention is going to be even tenser than usual. First up is Alpha Daniel Mahealani, from the coastal precincts."

"What're you assfaces doing out here?"

Crap.

Stiles catches Scott's eyes. There's a shared look.

It's the ‘Why, why, why again, why ever, why? Did I mention why?’ look. Also known as the ‘Jackson Look.’

"I know thinking’s not your strong suit, Jackson, but here’s a thought," Stiles turns toward his approach, "for such a popular guy, you really have nothing better to do than bottom feed with us half the time. What’s that all about? Curious minds..."

"What can I say?" Jackson smirks. "Beating on you's my favorite pastime."

"Yeah, well, maybe that's why you don't have a heatmate this year," Scott mumbles and Stiles can't tell if him pulling Allison closer is to make Jackson jealous or just to use her as a shield. He'd give Scott the benefit of the doubt, but Scott's never really been prone to bragging. Not to mention, Allison could probably kick Jackson’s ass from here to space and back. And Stiles would pay to see that. "Did you ever think about that?"

Jackson spits out a laugh.

Stiles huffs and wipes his face. "Thanks. For that. Really. The water’s out at our house; I was wondering when I’d next get to take a shower."

"Neither of you testicles knows anything. Lydia's just taking her sweet time. It's called ‘the chase.’ But you wouldn't know anything about that, would you, Stiles?"

"Stop, please, you're killing me with wit," Stiles monotones.

"Besides," Jackson says, totally ignoring that grade-A insult, "even if she doesn't get with me this heat, it's not like I'll be poked and prodded at the meat market tomorrow, like all the Omega virgins. Stiles, you're still carrying your v-card, right? I haven't heard any girls pointing and laughing at you lately, so I guess you must be."

"Jackson, you're still carrying your d-bag card, right?"

Jackson frumps up his mouth in false pity. Not a good look. "Awe, that sounds like a yes to still being a widdle virgin. Maybe one of the Alphas'll pick you and put you out of your misery. We all know that’s the only way you’ll ever get any. They could teach you a thing or two hundred."

"Hey, you’re right. Maybe they will put me out of my misery this year. And then I can have them put you out of yours, too.” Stiles gives him a tight smile. “The slower and more painful, the better."

"You know what, Stiles—"

"Guys," Allison interrupts, ever the kind, beautiful angel of mercy that she is. She's stamped out a number of fights between the three of them since she moved here, and Stiles’s face is forever grateful.

Not that he’s not sure a broken nose or swollen eye wouldn’t actually improve the view somehow. Or at least give him some cool points with the ladies. They like the bad boy types. Better than…whatever type Stiles is. He has the lack of play to prove it.

Allison motions toward the video screen. "Please, could you be quiet? I want to hear this."

Stiles looks up at the feed just in time to catch an eyeful of dimples, dimples, dimples. When he first saw Allison smile, he swore someone could get lost in those things (hey, maybe that's where Scott disappears to sometimes), but this Alpha Mahealani has her beat in spades. It's like whenever he smiles, his face gets half gouged by them, which sounds pretty gruesome, but somehow it works on him.

"Who's that?" Jackson snorts and shoves Stiles over — ow — to steal a seat on their bench.

"Could you not?" Stiles doesn't have a heatmate, but even he can't make anything good out of Jackson all up in his personal space. He's not that desperate.

...He hopes he never will be.

"That's Alpha Danny Mahealani," Allison says, with that ever-present smile of hers. Seriously, she must be part goddess of sweetness or something. "He's our age. Mm, I think they said he lives on the coast."

"Our age and an Alpha?" Stiles says. "I feel really good about myself right now."

"Get a good look, Stiles." Jackson reaches over to cup Stiles’s chin with an unforgiving hand. "That could be your new boyfriend."

"Hah hah," Stiles says, pushing him off. But really, stranger things have happened.

He's come to terms with his gangly body and unfortunate baby face and how he's pretty much been an Omega since the day he was born, and nothing good ever comes from being an Omega, in his opinion. But even the most insignificant specks have to prepare for the worst, as the saying goes. Of the three Alpha males, Alpha Mahealani's probably the least terrifying. He’s young and new to the whole alphadom, and he doesn’t act like he has something to prove, so maybe he’s not that into throwing his power around, yet. Plus he’s an objectively attractive dude, and he actually smiles, which is more than Stiles can say about the other two guys. The one, Alpha Peter Hale, is just creepy, and though he does smile a lot, too, there's this calculated predatoriness to it that makes Stiles have the whole fight-or-flight response—without any of the fight, and a whole, whole, whole lot of flight. Run away, run away.

Supposedly, he challenged and killed the Alpha up in the del Rey compound. But some people claim Peter just sat her down for a very convincing chat, and she willingly gave power over to him. And then was never seen or heard from again. Sure, that happens all the time after convincing chats. Either way, it doesn’t really do him any favors in Stiles’s opinion. Still raises his hackles.

And Peter’s nephew, Derek — now Alpha Derek Hale — who ran Beacon Hills and several neighboring compounds with his sister, until she passed away two years ago...yeah, well.

Stiles just thinks he's probably also a homicidal maniac, by now. He wears this intense, ‘I will kill you in your sleep’ expression in most of the footage they play, and the one picture they keep posting of him smiling just looks faked to lycan hell.

The wonders of Photoshop.

The few times that Stiles's seen him around the compound for yearly inspections hasn’t done much to disprove his theory, either. But from what he can remember of Derek when they were younger, and Derek actually still lived in Beacon Hills, it’s a new development. Newer. Ever since the arson up at the Hale house that killed most of his family, six years ago. Stiles wasn't good friends with Derek before that – or ever, really – but he vaguely remembers that Derek used to be different. Happier different. Less intimidating different. Less self-aware different. He was more of a social butterfly. He wasn't off cocooning himself somewhere, like he is now.

Stiles can't really blame him if the loss of his family just took everything good right along with it. That’s not exactly a foreign concept for Stiles.

For some reason, he also remembers that Derek was weirdly shady, too. Literally, he was like a shadow, just there. Whenever Stiles would turn around. At the ice cream shop? There. In the library? There. At his own house in the creepy woods, where Stiles would snoop around after school? There.

Okay, Stiles’ll give him that one. That one is totally his doing.

At the time, he’d kind of been a little obsessed with Derek, for…reasons unknown. Sadomasochism or some kind of death wish, probably. So maybe it hadn’t been that Derek was always there, but that Stiles just really noticed when he was.

It’d been hard not to notice him.

It still is.

The jury's out on if that's a good thing or not. Stiles is thinking no.

Derek hasn't been to visit the compound lately, though, so Stiles has had to live on memories and presumptions from the news broadcasts, of which there are few. Derek's apparently even more reclusive now than ever, a troll who hardly comes out from under his bridge.

"Don't forget, Laura Hale picked an Omega from here a few years ago. So it's not impossible," Allison says over the footage of Peter Hale at some event, waving to the crowd, posing for pictures, signing autographs for fans. He looks like he loves it all. And weirdly like he was made for it—or like it was made for him.

"How old’s that geezer?" Jackson scowls. It’s times like these Stiles is reminded, and with great joy, just how bad Jackson is at hiding when he feels threatened. Even by a video clip.

That’s just sad.

"He's not old at all," Allison laughs. "Maybe thirties, early forties at most? Lydia was talking about him earlier."

Jackson goes rigid at Stiles's side. But then, just as fast he shrugs and shakes his head, tries to play it cool. Which he really sucks at, too. His heart is picking up speed, right in Stiles’s ear. "He's not her type."

"Sounded like she was pretty interested in him, type or not," Allison offers loosely, a little teasing. She looks over at Jackson out of the corner of her eye.

"Uh-oh, Jackson," Stiles starts, jostling his shoulder. "Maybe you should go and brush up on the old begging technique."

"Shut up," Jackson snaps and goes back to watching the footage with a bodily stiffness that makes Stiles uncomfortable, in the sheer radiation of it. "I’m better than him, anyway."

"Whatever helps you sleep at night, pal," Stiles says.

In a truly shocking turn of events (and by “truly” Stiles means “not at all”), Jackson’s really crappy charade doesn't last long after that. Not a minute later, before the announcer's even gotten through with Peter's segment, he’s pushing off the bench — and off Stiles, again, ow — and stumbling away in the direction of Lydia’s house.

Stiles really hates him – like, really, really, really hates him – but even he has to spare Jackson pity enough to tune out the sound of him yelling Lydia's name down the street, like some lost puppy, if just because it sounds so pathetic and Stiles kind of really wants to forget the low to which weremanity has just sunk.

But he’s one to talk. If Lydia ever threw him even half a bone, he’d probably be like that too, or worse. Definitely worse. But he’s too used to her pretending like he doesn’t exist to be getting his hopes up anymore, no matter how many times she touches up her lip gloss right in front of him.

It should be illegal.

So he just takes his frustration out on Jackson, who Lydia does throw half a bone. It’s a fair trade, in his opinion.

"Did Lydia seriously talk to you about Peter Hale?" Scott asks after a while, combing at Allison's hair.

Really, sick. They make him sick with all the touching and lovey-dovey and mates forever and ever. Put a ring on it and let’s move on already. Preferably to a scenario that also includes Stiles. Just a thought.

"Yeah, she did," Allison says. Her eyes crinkle under the brunt of another smile, "But...I might've exaggerated her interest in him just a little? Or maybe a lot?"

Her grin's infectious. Scott's got one not half a second later, and then Stiles can feel his own, too. He starts laughing.

Allison's winning him over. She's definitely a keeper.

^

"I remember the first time I went to a choosing ceremony. The Alphas were really something else, then."

"Yeah, Dad, hate to rain on your nostalgia parade here, but you're leaving out a key detail. It's purple. As in, not black or blue or gray or white or brown or even any other color but purple. Purple." Stiles makes an abortive flail at the suit his father's laid out on his bed. It's a three-piece, all made out of the same Play-doh purple velour.

Velour. Why is that a real thing? Who sat down and decided the world needed it?

To make matters worse, there's a white dress shirt set out next to the suit, with ruffles at the collar and sleeves, and can someone just shoot him now?

Really, he doesn't need any help looking like a doofus. He’s got that covered.

"C'mon, purple is a very...it's. It's a regal col— awe hell, Stiles. Look, my father gave me this suit because his father gave it to him, and now I'm giving it to you. All the Stilinski men have had to wear this at least once in their lives. It's one of our traditions."

Grand dad should've made burning it the tradition.

"Just because your dad made you wear it doesn’t mean you have to punish me, too. "

His dad sighs. "You know things have been tight around here, the last few years. If I could buy you a decent black suit, I would, Stiles. I even asked Melissa if she could give me something of Scott's, but she said his best suit's got holes and rips all over. This is the best option we've got. Besides, it'll really...well, it’ll set you apart from the crowd."

"The sad thing is I think you actually really tried to make that sound convincing."

"Stiles, you have to look at this from a positive angle. I'm really trying here. Give me something to work with."

"I would rather go there naked. Are you happy, Dad? It's come to that. Public nudity. Your call. Purple suit or birthday suit."

His father gives him a flat look. "I think I'll go with purple." He picks up the dress shirt and hands it to Stiles, who, let's face it, takes it only after his dad manually pries his fingers open one-by-one and shoves the hanger into them. "I know it looks bad now, but you haven't even tried it on yet."

"I think I can picture it well enough in the old noggin’." It's not a pretty picture, either.

Someone, anyone. Really, just...anyone, shoot him.

"Stiles, I met your mother when I was wearing that suit."

No. Not the mom card.

It's his one true kryptonite. And cake. And Lydia. Lip gloss.

"She said it really brought out my eyes."

Your eyes are gray, Dad, he wants to say. What comes out is:

"Well, she was clearly the queen of tact."

"Stiles..." His dad frowns, starts doing that thing where he pinches the bridge of his nose and makes Stiles feel all constipated with guilt. "Just...just do it, Stiles. I don't want to fight about this. Get in the bathroom and put it on. The sooner you do, the sooner it’s done."

"Now that’s some logic right there…"

“Get your ass in the bathroom.”

^

Scott's face says it all, really.

He slows down as he approaches Stiles, and Allison just...buries her smile in his shoulder.

Yeah.

Well.

"Dude, what are you wearing?" If Scott's trying to hold back his laughter for Stiles's sake, it's really not working.

Yeah, he’s not even trying. Him, trying? No. Trying does not exist in his universe, right now.

"All right," Stiles says, holding his hands up in surrender. "Just, let's just get it all out now. I already look like a piñata. You might as well get a few blows in, too. Maybe some candy’ll fall out of the pockets. I don’t know."

"I mean, dude...you're wearing a purple suit. What else is there to say?"

"A lot, apparently. Everyone's laughing at me. Which wouldn't ordinarily bother me, but today it's pretty much killing me slowly. There’s no way an Alpha's gonna pick someone dressed like a disco vampire. Not gonna happen. Never gonna happen. Would you pick me?"

Scott caps a hand over Stiles's shoulder, grimacing. "You know I’d always pick you. If I were an alpha, I’d totally pick you today."

Stiles sighs. "It was nice knowing you, Scott. I enjoyed this thing we called a friendship, but now I have to move on to the death stage."

"Hey, Stiles," Allison says, "I think I might have something to cheer you up."

"Oh yeah?" Somehow he doubts this mystical promise of hers to turn a day like this around, but he’s willing to let her try. He doesn’t exactly have much to lose, right now.

She separates away from Scott and comes around behind Stiles to gently turn him toward all the virgin Omegas crowding in the town square, in front of the huge stage that’s been set up for the Alphas.

And…

Okay?

Is this it?

Staring at a bunch of other losers? Losers who are better dressed than him, even.

Not to fault her idea of Things That Make Stiles Happy or discourage her soft hands on him, but he's pretty unimpressed. Actually, he may feel even worse, now. No one else is wearing a purple suit. Or ruffles. Not even any of the girls. Half the guys look like James Bond. This is going to be a long day.

She leans in close to whisper in his ear, "Look at the far left of the crowd."

Honestly? It takes him a second to get over the goosebumps that her breath raises on his skin.

He doesn't see what she’s talking about at first. He’s usually horrible at this game, and her sweet smell is doing a real number on his ability to concentrate. But then—

"Oh my god."

"What?" Scott comes up beside them, looking out over the crowd, lit with anxiety. "Stiles, what?"

Stiles makes a frantic gesture at Jackson.

Jackson.

Jackson in the crowd of Omega virgins. In a suit. Jackson

Jackson Whittemore!

"Oh my god!" Stiles says again, on a breathless laugh.

"Stiles, what?!"

Allison turns and, with those soft, soft hands, tilts Scott’s head until she's sure he's looking dead at him, too.

"Dude!" Scott shouts. “Jackson’s there!”

Behind them, Allison claps her hands over her mouth to stifle her laughing.

"Oh my god, this..." Stiles trails off, reveling in the moment. It's a sweet one. Jackson, Mr. Suck-It-I’m-A-Beta Jackson, is an Omega. And a virgin. He’s no better than Stiles, after all. They’re actually equal. Mind? Blown. Confidence? Skyrocketing.

No, scratch that. Still wearing the purple suit. But still.

"This is the best day of my life. I don't...I don't know what to do with myself anymore. Nothing can ever top this moment. Nothing else has meaning. …I can die happy."

"I thought he was a Beta," Scott says, and he sounds about as confused as Stiles is excited. He's struggling not to laugh, though, his voice all rubbery with restraint. "He told everyone he was a Beta. He was in the Beta classes with me. He felt like a Beta. How…how’d he lie about it? I never—what? And he and Lydia, like, all the time— Dude."

"Lydia told me she just fluffed up the stories about them. They’ve done things, but not that," Allison bites at her lip as she speaks, almost reluctant. "She found out his family paid off the class recorder to say that he was Beta class, and they must've somehow been doping him so everyone bought it. They definitely have the money. Jackson and Lydia got into a fight about her taking her time choosing a heatmate and he just, he blurted it out. But I guess she rejected him after all? And since he’s actually here, that must mean his parents couldn't pay off the Alpha administrations, too. Lydia told me to keep it a secret…but that seems kind of useless now."

"Hey, how long've you known that? You should've told me. I could've kept it secret," Scott frowns, voice pitching a little high.

Right. Sure. He would never have kept that secret.

Not from Stiles, at least.

He better not have.

Allison gives Scott a quick peck on the cheek in compensation, which works all too easily because he just gets this goofy grin on his face and looks at his feet. Interrogation totally dropped.

Jealous, thy name is Stiles.

"I just didn't want to embarrass him," Allison says eventually. "Lydia said she didn't think even Jackson knew he was an Omega until, like, a week or two ago. If even that long. She said he started getting really panicked all of a sudden, last week." Allison really must have a heart of gold because she glances over at Jackson with something like sympathy, as she talks. Sometimes Stiles envies her ability to somehow see the good in people.

But now is not one of those times. He’s having a party inside his head.

And by the look of it, Scott is too.

Pity for Jackson? Not really happening.

When Stiles has the presence of mind to look around a little, it seems like a lot of other people are confused as hell about it, too. They're staring at Jackson or whispering and trying not to point (failing hard). Jackson's fielding questions from all directions with fake smiles and shrugs. But he’s red in the face, like Stiles has never seen before, and he keeps dipping his head in embarrassment and looking around for someone to save him and readjusting the edges of his suit, as if it doesn’t fit quite right.

Suddenly Stiles doesn't feel so bad about what he’s wearing. At least people’ll have something else to talk about tomorrow, besides him. And by and large, Jackson being an Omega is a lot more news-worthy than Stiles wearing something from a pimp's closet. His embarrassment will last a few weeks, tops. Jackson’s will carry on for a lifetime.

It’s a beautiful thing.

"People are really going to rip him apart after today," Scott muses, actually sounding concerned for a second. "He bosses the Omegas and Betas around like he’s an Alpha, and now he’s an Omega... This is seriously warped."

"Yeah..." Allison trails off. "Maybe that's why he's been so touchy about Lydia, the last couple days. I guess if she'd gotten with him, he wouldn't be here, and no one’d know he wasn’t a Beta."

"I don't know about you guys," Stiles cuts in, "but today's really starting to look up for me."

Scott snorts.

"Listen up!" Mayor Finstock's voice suddenly claps over the loudspeaker, punctuated by a high-pitched feedback that has everyone groaning, including him. "Damn it, who set this thing up...one second. Is it, is it ready now? Is it—this was supposed to be ready to go by the time I—" he scowls at someone somewhere, tapping the podium microphone cautiously. "Testing, one, two... Okay, there, good. Great. No one's ears are bleeding anymore. I realize that the Choosing is always a big deal for you Omegas, but I need for you to get your sorry asses into rows of twenty, oldest in front, youngest in back. And hurry up. There are way too many of you this year— what're you doing with your lives? The Alphas have come a long way to see you all, so let's not make a bad impression. That's the last thing we wanna do. We already look pretty pathetic as it is! Get your asses in gear!"

"Pathetic, good word choice."

"Awe, c'mon, Stiles. Yesterday you were telling us about how you're gonna go out and score yourself an Alpha, right? So? Go get one."

"Now's not the time for jokes, Scott. I'm wearing a purple suit. Do you see the ruffles? Nothing can make this better."

"Jackson's a virgin Omega. Just remember that."

Stiles slaps Scott hard on the back. Gives him a soldierly nod. Of all the good things to focus on right now — and there aren’t many — that’s the goodest. "I appreciate that. You know me well."

Scott laughs. "Get going already!"

^

Stiles is two rows behind Jackson, and five people to the left. This doesn’t stop him from getting Jackson's attention long enough to wave and mime-laugh at him. Jackson flicks him off and turns back around.

If for nothing else but that, today will have been a good day.

^

Stiles passes the first three-quarters of the ceremony a). making up shit about the Alphas in his head, b). pulling faces at everyone and no one and c). watching the way Jackson puffs up as each female Alpha comes down his row, and then deflates when, one-by-one, they don't choose him. It's kind of icing on the cake for Stiles (really, trying hard not to laugh every single time), but he can unwillingly admit to some kind of a solidarity with Jackson because none of them pick him, either.

Understandable.

Key phrase: purple suit.

He's probably a little more used to rejection than Jackson is, anyway, so maybe he even has the upper hand in this case.

Wow, what a silver lining.

And at least he won't wake up to a town that feels cheated by years of lies, tomorrow. So there’s that, too.

None of the female Alphas pick anyone, actually. The last one's making her way back up to the stage with only her guards in tow. It's usually like that, though. The Beacon Hills compound is pretty much a no man’s land in terms of the Choosing ceremonies. Save Laura Hale picking her heatmate here over half a decade ago — some Greenberg guy literally no one could remember having ever seen, until he was chosen at the ceremony, and even then people were still like, "who?" — no other heatmate’s ever come out of this place. Even the press hardly gives the town any play, and they like to suck the soul and cents out of everything. There’s only a small pack of cameras and reporters from the local news station along either side of the Omega rows, and Stiles is pretty sure they’re just going through the motions at this point, like everyone else.

All told, he can’t help being a little impressed none of the ladies did pick Jackson, though. He's from a wealthier family in town, and his black suit fits him like none of Stiles’s clothes have ever fit him. His hair is slicked back, and he looks like he even has some makeup on, at least to disguise his blemishes. Stiles may have made a pact with Scott to hate Jackson until either they die or he dies, but even Stiles can see how at least eighty or ninety percent of the girls in town — and some of the guys...and probably the livestock too, Stiles really can't judge — have a soft spot for him, all dickish qualities aside. There’re a lot of things a pretty face can buy in the world.

Stiles wouldn’t know. He’s more of a winning personality.

The Alpha ladies must just have really good taste, especially considering they’re picking purely for aestheticism and sex. They can call it like they see it, and they've likely seen a lot. Maybe faces like Jackson’s are a dime a dozen back home, where they’re from, and without the douchebag part.

What did they call it like, when they saw Stiles? He can't blame them, but it stings a little, all the shame in his head that never goes anywhere.

They'll go on to the next compounds in the circuit and find someone much more fitting there, Stiles guesses. He'll watch reruns of it on the video screen later. Listen to all the commentary about his purple suit. The fun's just never-ending around here.

Really, a purple suit.

Black seems to be the color du choice of the Rich and the Douchebag this year, which makes him stand out even more. Alongside Jackson, the rest of the wealthy Omegas are wearing black suits or dresses, and all of the Alphas have on black, too: the ladies, these sleek party dresses the likes of which don't exist in Beacon Hills — even on the rich girls — with black jewelry and the crown of large spikes that all Alphas wear for public events, and Derek in a black suit and tie, with a black shirt, black shoes, black hair, black spikes. Probably even has on black cufflinks and underwear. Black socks.

He looks like Death came to life just for the occasion.

Alpha Mahealani's the only outlier, which seems on par for how Stiles judged him in the video footage. He's got on a dark blue suit, with a white shirt and tie. His Alpha spikes are blue too, and he’s wearing that dimpled smile of his; he probably doesn’t go anywhere without it. That thing must be as good as cash money. Just—even if he wasn’t an Alpha, he could probably get things for free with it.

"Now," Mayor Finstock coughs awkwardly, looking down at his note cards as the last female Alpha resumes her seat. "Since Peter Hale found his mate in Landrove Lake— what, really? That train wreck of a… I had a girlfriend from there once, she was the worst. She was always calling me ‘Cupcake’ and I don’t know about you, but—" he looks out at the crowd with a laugh that quickly dies off in his throat, like he forgot where he was for a second, “—I, uh…yeah, look, no one likes to be called ‘Cupcake.’ End of story.”

Why is that pinging as a lie? Just why?

Stiles really doesn't know how Finstock became the mayor at all. He can't even remember an election. One day Finstock just started calling himself the mayor, and no one wanted to pick a fight with his brand of hostile weirdness.

"Anyway. That's all beside the point. So we've got the two Alpha males left. They were introduced at the beginning of the evening, but in case any of you chuckleheads weren't paying attention, to my left is Alpha Danny Ma—Maha—Mahealani? What even is that—is that even a real name? …He, let's see. He’s eighteen, one of the youngest Alphas on record and he heads up the Long Beach community. That's. Wow, eighteen and an Alpha. Well, aren't you a little overachiever?"

There's a huge crack of derision in the comment, but Alpha Mahealani only gets this embarrassed smile on his face, which he ducks his head to hide. It's so uncharacteristic of all the Alphas Stiles has ever seen that he can't help liking him for it. Seems like a humble, down-to-earth dude, all things considered.

"And to his left is Alpha Derek Hale. Of course we all know him and love him, etcetera etcetera. But again, you all probably weren't paying attention, so here’re the Spark Notes."

Stiles glances up at him, along with the rest of the crowd, and feels his heart thud in his chest, like he's just been spooked.

Derek's not—

Stiles looks over either shoulder, seriously confusing the people in the row behind him.

He turns a cautious eye back up to the stage and—yeah. Yep.

Yep.

Derek's staring him down.

He makes a face. What?

It's the purple suit, isn't it?

Finstock is jumbling through all of his achievements, and Derek's just—

staring at him.

Stiles must be seeing things.

He catches Scott's eyes in the crowd and just shakes his head.

Scott cocks his own head. What, dude?

Stiles tries to convey back the fact that Derek — Derek Hale, Alpha Derek frickin’ Hale — is staring at him, Scott, how can you not get this?, but somehow it just makes Scott scrunch up his face.

Because he's not a mind-reader. Right. That would do it.

What? Scott mouths.

"We should let the guest go first. Etiquette and all that," Mayor Finstock gruffs, through Stiles's psychic dialogue with Scott. It was already down the drain, anyway.

Really, is it too much to ask for a little telepathic ability, every once in a while?

"Alpha Mahealani, you’re up,” Finstock says, “go out there and find yourself a nice shewolf to take home to dear, sweet, old mommy and daddy."

Despite what Finstock just said, Alpha Mahealani looks to Derek before he even so much as sits forward in his chair or raises a foot. Derek gives him a nod, a brief flick of his fingers. And that’s that. Permission granted. Take your pick.

Even among the Alphas, there's a sense of order; the younger always defers to the elder. Not to mention that Beacon Hills is Derek's territory, his pack, and therefore each one of the other Alphas has to have his permission to pick from it.

He could've denied any of them the right, if he really wanted to. Stiles has seen things like that happen before, in broadcasts of other Choosings. Alphas cockblocking Alphas because of rivalries or bad blood. Or just because they can, even, to make a point not to mess with them.

But Derek’s apparently not the type. Or he just can’t be bothered to give a damn about Beacon Hills.

It’s probably the latter, considering how the compound’s gone down the drain over the years.

Alpha Mahealani's guards rise quickly and assume the position, two in front, two behind, as he descends the stage stairs and starts combing along the first rows of Omegas.

He doesn't stop or even slow until he comes to the girl right next to Jackson, someone Stiles recognizes from school, though he can’t remember her name. Alpha Mahealani gives her a long once-over, but smiles and walks on to the girl directly on the other side of Jackson, to which he does the exact same thing. There are gasps popping off in the crowd, both at the prospect of a Beacon Hills girl being chosen by an Alpha, and then the disappointment of him moving on.

These people need to learn how to get comfortable with rejection. Stiles is a pro at it. He plans to put it on job applications under ‘skills,’ that’s how much of an expert he is.

Alpha Mahealani makes his way down Stiles's row without stopping at all, except to give Stiles a small quirk at the corner of his mouth.

Thanks, really...the purple, right? Stiles thinks to say, but the guards look like they mean business. They have guns and knives and these things called “muscles." Can’t forget the armor. And the muscles, did he mention those?

Not five minutes later, Alpha Mahealani comes to the end of the last Omega row and circles around to go back to the stage, all eyes on him.

So. Another rejection for Beacon Hills. Stiles has absolutely no pride for his compound, except on Choosing days. There're some real gems here. Including himself. First and foremost him. He's a real diamond in the rough, if he can say that. He’d make a great heatmate.

Who’s he kidding?

He looks back up at the stage, and, to his confusion, Derek's still staring at him.

Okay, it's not that bad a suit!

…What is he saying? Not that bad a suit? Even he doesn't believe that one. Take it out back and shoot it.

A commotion breaks out in the crowd suddenly, and Stiles looks over in time to see that Alpha Mahealani, rather than making a direct line for the stage, has instead cut back down one of the rows — Jackson's row.

He’s going back for one of the girls?

Oh man, what a slap in the face for Jackson! Standing right next to the person who gets picked. So close he could literally reach out and touch Alpha Mahealani. Outed to the whole town as a virgin and an Omega, and no one, not Lydia or the other Beacon Hills girls or the female Alphas or Alpha Mahealani, wants him, all in one evening. This day just keeping getting better and bett—

Alpha Mahealani passes right by the one girl and pulls up short of the other. Right in front of Jackson.

Jackson stumbles back a step, choking out this disbelieving sound.

Wait…

What?

And cue the shock and amazement.

A very soft, reassuring smile catches Alpha Mahealani's mouth, dimples blunt, and he raises a hand to wipe his scent over Jackson's face.

Stiles goes slackjawed.

Seriously...what?

"No—!" Jackson stumbles back as Alpha Mahealani's hand makes contact with his forehead, but the guards have already circled around behind him and pin in him place. He starts struggling against them for all he’s worth, though it’s clumsy and muted, sloppy, like he can't really comprehend what's happening to him and his body isn't doing him any favors.

He's being claimed. By a dude. An Alpha Mahealani-type dude.

Stiles finds himself looking stupidly over at Scott, who's looking back at him with a weird jumble of bafflement and hilarity all over his face. Allison's beside him, smiling in some kind of pleasant disbelief. Stiles's dad, just off work, is standing right behind them and squinting at Alpha Mahealani and Jackson, mouth hung wide. The whole scene is some screwed-up family portrait, but Stiles takes comfort in knowing they’re as dumbfounded as he is.

It's not the first time an Alpha's claimed an Omega of the same sex, not by a long shot, but it's less common and for sure has never happened in Beacon Hills. This is literally history being made.

There's a tension to the air that makes Stiles start fidgeting with his coat collar, the ruffles on his shirt. He catches a glimpse of Jackson's face as they go to lead him off — he's frantic to find his parents in the crowd, it seems like — and there are angry tears just streaming openly down his face. He’s not doing anything to hide or stop them, either. He’s just letting them come, shouting for the guards to get off me, this isn’t right, you can’t do this, I’m not even supposed to be here, I’m not an Omega! And Alpha Mahealani’s just—walking beside him, patient, trying his best to wipe the tears off, though Jackson flinches away from his hands and keeps spitting back "no" over and over.

He just royally embarrassed himself in front of the entire compound and, more importantly, the entire country watching. Stiles should be busting a gut laughing right about now, and he feels like he needs to, but for some reason he can't. His heart’s just going a mile a minute, the hearts of everyone going a mile a minute in his ears. There's something scary about someone who's so afraid, they don't care how they look anymore. Especially when that someone is Jackson, who always, always cares how he looks. Stiles’s getting a little sick with it, the fear and panic Jackson’s little show inspired.

Derek is still staring at him, when he chances a glance back at the stage, and he throws a prayer up to the sky.

Please, seriously, a freak tornado or lightning bolt to the head would be really good right about now.

Mayor Finstock gets up to resume the podium, but he's quiet a minute, just frowning and bug-eyed. He tries to compose himself with some frenzied shake of his head, even though it really doesn’t help. Then again, he always looks somehow stunned and disappointed at the same time. "Well...that was. Wow. That was interesting, huh? What am I saying? We should all feel…uh, honored. Yeah, honored that Alpha Mahealani chose one of ours. Finally, am I right? I was beginning to think it'd never happen again. But look at us now! Beacon Hills is back on the map, baby! Eat wolfsbane, Landrove Lake!"

Is he really giving a victory speech? After what just happened?

"Now let's see if we can't go two-for-two, huh? Alpha Hale, they're all yours. Go to town. Seriously. If you want them all, hey, who’m I to stop you, right? Yeah! Have at ‘em, buddy!" Laughing, he motions out toward the crowd, that it's Derek's for the taking.

Stiles is gonna die.

Derek doesn't bother getting up from his seat, which calms Stiles down for all of negative .00000001 seconds. Instead, he grabs the sleeve of the guard closest to him and reels her in to whisper something so low, Stiles can’t make it out. Can’t hear it over his heart, clawing up his throat.

The guard nods and stands, makes a gesture for the other guards to stand, too.

Derek stays on the stage as they file down into the crowd of Omegas, and they don't waste time snaking up and down every row to feel anybody out. They slice down the side aisle with a purpose.

Stiles wills them to turn down every row before his; and now— turn now— now— now— go now— he chants in his head, but they don't. Until they get to his row.

Derek doesn't even have to come, doesn’t have to touch or smell or mark what’s his— he knows exactly who he wants and no one will challenge him. Not on his own turf. He doesn’t even have to—

This isn’t happening.

They stalk closer and closer, and Stiles's palms get clammy, and his face is hot, and he looks over at his dad, and his dad's watching the guards, and he looks at Scott, and Scott's watching him, and he looks back up at Derek and—

The guards stop in front of him and fan out around him, like the points on a compass.

He gets flustered, looking from armored face to armored face. Then there's a hand on his back. One on his shoulder. Blood is rushing loud through his ears. His heart is squeezing itself apart, pushing straight out of his chest, it has to be. The crowd is buzzing, but he can't single out any words. Can’t say any, himself. They’ve closed in on him, caged him in. He’s trapped.

There's nowhere to go.

He won't be proud of this later, but he just— just right there, right...right there, down for the count faints.