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Stiles slams his locker shut one day and turns around to come face to face with Cora Hale. “Jesus,” Stiles hisses, his books gone flying in one direction as he accidentally falls back against the row of lockers.

Cora blinks at him.

“What are you doing here?” Stiles asks, stooping down to pick his English book back up and double checking that he still has a pencil in his hand. Cora is gripping a book in one hand and has a backpack slung over one shoulder. It’s a light teal with floral print. For some reason, that surprises Stiles more than he thinks it should.

“I’m seventeen,” Cora starts, and rolls her eyes when Stiles gives her a pointed look, “and apparently Derek and good old Uncle Peter decided that it was - it would be best if I went to school like a normal seventeen year old.”

That doesn’t surprise Stiles one bit. Derek is always going on how the teens should live a normal life, and Peter is nothing if not mischievous, so Stiles is sure he’s got an alternate plan for sending Cora back to school and making her suffer like every other normal red-blooded American teenager in the country, but Stiles is too exhausted to figure it out.

“Awesome,” he huffs, “that’s just awesome.”

Cora arches a brow like she doesn’t believe him and Stiles knows that look; he’s been on the receiving end of that particular look more times than he’s comfortable with, and he decides it’s obviously a Hale family trait. He curls his arms so his books are protecting his chest just in case Cora has the sudden urge to punch him in the chest for no reason and tries to get around her.

Cora steps in front of him.

Stiles squints. “What is this about?”

When Cora speaks again, her voice is soft, almost vulnerable, something Stiles isn’t used to hearing from her – he’s only known her for three weeks but he’d figured he’d had a pretty good hold on how the youngest Hale worked, but trust her to take him for a spin and shock him. “I don’t know where my English class is, Stiles, and you’re – ” Cora takes a breath. “You’re the only one I know besides Lydia and Lydia and I don’t – it’s just better if we don’t speak.”

Stiles stares blankly at her until Cora waves a hand. “I’m asking for your help. Or do you expect me to get on my knees and beg you?” There’s a hard look in Cora’s eyes, a look that says of course Stiles is giving her a hard time, why should she expect any different? A look that says she’s not used to trusting many people, and she’s scared to trust Stiles.

Stiles feels guilty about the look. He wants to make it go away, and then he wants to punch himself for wanting to make it go away because getting involved with a Hale is asking for trouble. Two broken people don’t make a fixed person, he reminds himself. And Stiles and Cora are extremely broken.

But still –

“Yes,” Stiles swallows. “Yes, of course. I’m headed to English anyway.”

“I read the book already,” Cora tells him as they make their way down the hall.

Stiles snaps his head up. “We’re not even finished reading it yet,” he replies, sounding surprised even though he’d tried not to. Cora shrugs.

“You – when you were talking about it. You made me want to – I figured I should try to understand what you were talking about. Besides, don’t act like you haven’t already finished the book, too.”

It’s true, Stiles thinks, glancing down at his battered copy of Heart of Darkness. There are notes in the margin and he’d highlighted important parts to him – not just parts that were important for class, but parts that made him think about what was going on his life at the time, too. Instead of saying any of this, he shrugs. “It’s too slow to follow along in class.”

Cora just smirks at him.

They reach Ms. Blake’s room and Ms. Blake catches a glance of Cora, eyes widening for just a moment before she clears her throat, nodding. “Class, we have a new student,” she says, and pulls Cora over to stand in front of the class for a proper introduction. Stiles takes his normal seat and tunes the rest of the introduction out, opening his book and going back to the section he was reading last night before bed.

There’s the noise of a person sitting beside him, and Stiles expects it to be Scott, but it’s not – it’s Cora taking the seat next to him, and after a long moment of the both of them staring at one another, Cora offers him a small smile, and Stiles can’t help the skip of his heart and the smile he offers back.

She’s not so bad.

++

“I can’t stand her,” Lydia hisses. Allison glances up and looks over to where Lydia’s gaze is predictably burning a hole into the side of Cora Hale’s head. Stiles crunches thoughtfully on his apple and shrugs. “She’s not so bad. We worked together that one time.”

“After she threatened to rip my tongue out, Stiles,” Lydia snarls, turning her glare on him.

“She read ahead for Ms. Blake’s class, and she’s really smart. She’s helping me with my AP Chem.”

I could help you with your Chem,” Lydia sniffs. “There’s no need to be hanging around with – trash,” she finally settles on what must seem like an appropriate word to describe Cora. Stiles winces. He knows Cora can probably hear every word Lydia is saying, and he knows that’s what Lydia intended for in the first place.

Cora doesn’t really deserve it, he thinks. She’s been getting a lot of judging looks from the students in school, and the rumor mill has been flying since she arrived. Is she Peter’s illegitimate daughter? Where has she been all this time? How did she make it out of the fire unharmed and Peter was burned to a crisp? On, and on, and on. Stiles is sick of hearing about it. Cora is actually perfectly nice and not nearly as emotionally stunted as her brother, or as psychotic as her uncle.

Besides, Lydia is being kind of stupid getting mixed up with one of the twins. Not that Stiles would ever tell her he was thinking that.

Stiles has plenty of smart ass retorts locked up inside his throat, ready to slip out at a moment’s notice, but it isn’t worth the suffering he’ll have to go through if he pisses Lydia off enough, and it’s not like Lydia would take him seriously anyway, so he shrugs and picks his tray up. “I think I’m going to go sit with her,” he says, and Allison’s eyes widen, and Lydia stiffens, the only sign of surprise she’s willing to show.

“You do that,” she says in an icy tone, and Stiles thinks, I will do that, thanks, and walks away just as Scott is coming into the cafeteria. Scott sees where Stiles is heading and turns direction, coming to sit with him.

After they’ve both taken a seat, Cora looks up. “To what pleasure do I owe the Dynamic Duo for choosing to sit with me?” she asks dryly, and Stiles shoots her a sheepish grin.

“I thought you might like the company. And Scott’s in a total awkward phase with Allison so he’s always relieved if he doesn’t have to sit there.”

Scott sighs. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

“That’s a first,” Stiles says, jerking a thumb at Scott, but looking at Cora. “This guy? Last year at this time, he couldn’t shut up about Allison Argent. But y’know what happens when you turn into a werewolf? Hunters come after ya. Imagine the surprise and fear on Scotty’s face the first time he got shot by Allison’s dad.”

Cora covers her mouth with her hand and Stiles thinks she’s trying to cover a smile and a laugh.

Stiles’ eyes twinkle and there’s that skip of his heart again, and for a moment he’s worried someone is going to try and call him out on it.

But no one does, and lunch goes much more pleasantly than it would’ve gone sitting with Lydia and Allison and listening to Lydia bitch about how Cora is wearing jeans for the third time this week.

++

Stiles is heading to his jeep a week later when he almost trips over Cora on the steps. They met last night for their usual session of Chem tutoring, and discussing English class while working on their term papers, but they hadn’t had any plans to meet tonight. He’s still eating with her every day at lunch, even though Cora says just a little more than her brother has ever said, but what she does do is listen while Stiles chatters away, and Stiles thinks that’s nice. When he sits with Lydia and Allison he can barely get a word in edgewise, and neither of them really ever want to hear what he has to say about Greenberg’s supposed case of herpes anyway.

Scott sits with them too, when he’s not sitting in a corner trying to plot with Isaac, or torturing himself by sitting next to Allison. Those days are spent with Scott and Cora being cordial and trying not to pretend Scott can’t stand Derek and has turned him down, betrayed him – even if he didn’t mean to – and has repeatedly ignored Derek’s advice. Sometimes Stiles gets the impression Cora doesn’t always think Scott is wrong, but she’s unfailingly loyal to her brother, and she would never say such a thing.

“Hey, Cor,” Stiles says, taking a seat on the steps next to her. Cora glances up from her book. Stiles notices it’s her English book, and in her right hand, she’s holding an orange highlighter and her fingertips are stained orange.

Stiles swallows back an unexpected wave of arousal and smiles at her. “What’re you waitin’ for?”

“Derek,” Cora sighs, glancing down at her watch before rolling her eyes and capping her highlighter. “Look, do you think you could – Derek’s just been – he’s not himself. He’s – since Boyd.” Cora swallows. “Can you please give me a ride to the loft?”

“Sure,” Stiles shrugs.

“Thanks,” Cora says in a small voice, gathering her things up and shoving them into her backpack. Stiles digs his keys out of his pocket.

“Y’know – if you don’t want to go home right now – or any time, really – it’s just. My door is always – well, my window, because apparently not knowing how to use doors is a Hale trait – it’s always open, is what I’m saying.”

There’s thick silence between them as they reach the jeep, and Stiles unlocks the passenger door, opening it for Cora. She climbs in, and Stiles is about to shut the door when she reaches out and catches his chin in her hand, tilting his head until he’s looking at her. “Thank you,” she says simply, and Stiles licks his lips, swallows, and nods, and Cora looks at him for a long moment, his chin still caught between her fingers.

They feel delicate, Stiles thinks, lowering his lashes until he’s peeking at her through them. There, gripping his chin lightly, Cora’s fingers feel delicate, but Stiles knows the truth of it. If he was her enemy and she had him caught like this, she could squeeze, so tight, until his jaw crushed under her fingers, and this is all about trust, Stiles thinks. Cora, holding him like this between fingers that could deceive any human being, and Stiles letting her – this is trust. I trust you, Stiles thinks, trying to project it through his eyes at Cora, and Cora stares back at him, grip tightening just a little.

Just a squeeze, a squeeze that says thank you, and, I trust you too, in one breath, and then she releases him, and Stiles shuts the door, and takes a deep breath.

++

There’s an unspoken understanding after that, that Stiles and Cora are closer and undeniably dependent on one another for most things. Some days, Cora misses school and one day when it happens, Stiles freaks. He texts her twenty times, varying messages that all say the same thing: please tell me you are alive, and he doesn’t get a reply until six in the evening, long after school has let out and Stiles is back home, pacing back and forth in his bedroom, gripping his phone tightly and checking it every ten seconds.

Did u know peter killed laura? the text says, and Stiles’ heart stops.

I didn’t know you didn’t, he replies, and Cora shows up in his room that night, eyes red and fingers still bruised and bloodstained. Stiles takes a wild guess that she’d tried to take on Derek.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles whispers, and he forces Cora to sit down on his bed while he gets his first aid kit and starts cleaning her hands up.

“It’ll go away in a little while,” Cora says, trying to push him away, but Stiles stands his ground, kneels between her legs and cleans the blood away and cleans the cuts with alcohol and shushes her sweetly when she hisses in surprise and pain. When he’s finished, he holds both her hands in his, and picks one up, brushes his lips across it in the gentlest kiss he can. She cups his face in her hand, strokes a thumb across his lip and Stiles looks up at her through hooded eyes.

There’s pain and anger in Cora’s eyes, but she manages to offer him a tired smile, and Stiles’ heart skips a beat.

It is wrong, Stiles thinks.

They are both so broken, Cora and he. Cora doesn’t know which of her own family she can trust, yet she’s loyal to both of them despite everything, and Stiles has so much rage built up inside of him, could turn dark in an instant if no one were there to pull him back from the ledge. He’s overprotective of his father, won’t let any of this touch him, and Cora won’t ever defy her brother and uncle, even when it might be needed.

They’re both so broken, and perhaps they won’t be fixed, but they can be comforted, Stiles thinks.

And then Cora is leaning down, brushing her lips across Stiles’, and it’s heat and electricity. Stiles’ slips his tongue out to brush across Cora’s lips, and Cora lets him in, opens up for him, winding her arms around his neck and gripping tightly, pulling him up so they’re flush against one another. Cora slips both hands under Stiles’ shirt, and sparks skitter across his spine where her skin touches his. He smiles into the kiss, can’t help it, and Cora pulls back and looks up at him curiously, eyes shining in the dim light of Stiles’ room. “What?” she whispers. Stiles leans forward and bites at her bottom lip.

“It’s good,” he says. Cora arches a brow. “It’s perfect. You – touching you is perfect.”

“It’s asking for disaster,” Cora counters, but she doesn’t pull away – instead she runs her hands along Stiles’ spine again and rests her head on his shoulder, sighing out a breath against his neck before kissing it.

“It’s reckless,” Stiles agrees. “But – doesn’t it – it feels like it fits.

“We fit,” Cora swallows, and Stiles nods.

When Stiles kisses her this time, it’s more desperate, hands gripping one another tightly, teeth clacking together occasionally, until Cora pulls away, steps back and pulls her shirt over her head. Stiles’ mouth waters at the sight of her in just a simple black bra, and Cora watches him watching her, watches as he licks his lips and his eyes flicker over her, from her face to her chest to her stomach to the waistband of her jeans. When his eyes slide back up to meet hers, she offers him a wicked grin before she unsnaps her jeans and slips them down over her hips.

Everything about her is so simple, Stiles thinks, right down to the basic black boy-shorts and bra she’s wearing. The complete opposite of anything Stiles has ever fallen for (Lydia Martin comes to mind for a brief second), Cora never wears makeup, wears jeans and a plain tee shirt to school every day and if it’s cold out she slips a flannel on over it. She’s so smart but she never feels the need to outdo anyone, and she’s strong and loyal and beautiful and Stiles wants.

“C’mere,” he rasps, licking his lips again, and Cora offers him a shy smile. Stiles reaches out as she steps forward, until his fingers are curling around her hips, and her head is tilting up until their lips meet again.

It’s bound to be awkward in some spots, because Stiles has never done this before, never trusted anyone enough to go this far. Perhaps he would’ve, with Heather, because he’d known her since they were three and it would’ve been casual, but it’s not with Heather, it’s with Cora, and Stiles’ hands get clammy and his heart beats faster just when he thinks about Cora – he’s bound to be clumsy and a little slow at the game. But Cora just smiles against his lips and pulls back a centimeter to whisper, “I’m nervous too,” and something in Stiles relaxes enough that he’s no longer accidentally biting her lip, and his fingers aren’t gripping so tightly at her hips.

He pushes her back until the backs of her knees hit his mattress, and then he pushes her down gently, until she’s laying on the bed, staring up at him, eyes sparkling with delight and a smirk on her face as Stiles pulls his shirt off. She reaches up, runs both palms down his chest until they reach the button on his jeans, which she quickly unsnaps.

Now’s the time to panic, Stiles thinks, swallowing. But there’s no panic, nothing clawing up his throat making him nervous. There’s just Cora, sliding his jeans and boxers down until they fall to his ankles, and his cock springing free, and Cora running gentle fingers along it. She looks up at him. “Come down here and kiss me,” she murmurs, so Stiles does.

He kisses across her jaw, down her collarbone, along her breasts, cupping both of them and rolls her nipples between his fingers, before kissing down her stomach, down, down, until she’s spread her legs, and Stiles is looking up at her for her permission, and she nods, so Stiles does it – he licks at her clit, and Cora moans in pleasure, threads her fingers through his hair and tugs just a little bit, enough that Stiles enjoys the burst of pain that comes with it.

It doesn’t take long until Cora is smothering her moans with her wrist in her mouth, and she arches her back, lets her wrist fall from her mouth to let out a breathless Stiles, before gripping at his shoulder and coming, panting and scratching her fingernails across Stiles’ shoulder blades.

“C’mon,” she says, breathless and desperate. “C’mon, Stiles, c’mon, get in me.”

“I can’t – are you sure – Cora,” Stiles says brokenly, licking his lips. The taste of her is smeared across his mouth and he finds that he likes it, he enjoys it, because it makes Cora feel good, and Stiles wants to keep making Cora feel good for as long as he can.

Yes,” she sighs, pulling him up to kiss him. She licks at his lips, tasting herself, and Stiles’ cock twitches.

“Okay,” he mumbles against her, reaching into the bedside table and pulling out a condom. He’s about to open it when Cora gently takes it out of his trembling fingers and opens it for him, rolling it smoothly down his cock, smiling when Stiles lets a gasp slip loose, before winding her arms around his neck again and pulling him down for another kiss, this time with more tongue and teeth. Stiles guides himself in and whimpers at the tight wet hot feel of her surrounding him. “God, Cora, God,” and Cora smiles up at him, eyes shining bright, fingernails scratching through the hair at the base of his neck.

“’S good,” she sighs, and lets her mouth fall open against his shoulder as Stiles starts thrusting. She mouths across his shoulder before sinking her teeth into the space where neck meets shoulder and Stiles lets out a broken moan, hips stuttering.

“’m gonna come,” he says, and Cora clenches around him, pulls away from the probably gigantic bruise she’s creating and sighs.

“Do it,” she says. “It doesn’t have to last forever, moron. We’ll definitely be doing this again.” She thrusts her hips up to meet his, and Stiles is done.

He’s never laughed while he was coming, but with Cora it’s different. It feels like his cells are coming apart, flying across the room as he comes, a breathless laugh escaping and a grin on his face, staring down at Cora who is laughing up at him, with him, and Stiles has never had this with anyone, never felt so close and intimate with someone, never felt like he could lay there and listen to someone talk for the rest of his life, but he thinks maybe it’s a start, right here with Cora.

Stiles comes back to himself and Cora is already tying the condom off and flinging it into the garbage can before she falls back against his chest. She folds her arms over his chest and rests her chin on them and looks up at him, a kind, soft smile on her face. She looks much more relaxed and healthier than she had when she’d appeared in Stiles’ room less than an hour ago.

“Are we gonna be okay?” Stiles asks her, brushing a strand of her hair behind her ear. Cora nuzzles into the touch.

“Why wouldn’t we be?”

Stiles snorts. “Because we’ve got an alpha pack on our asses. Because everyone around us is constantly dying. Because – because you and I – sometimes we’re on really opposite teams.” Stiles swallows. Derek and Scott are bound to disagree on something soon, and they will go their separate ways, and Scott will expect Stiles to follow him, and Derek will need Cora to follow him. “And that means someday we might have to separate from each other,” he says this in a tinier voice.

Cora hums, kisses his chest, and looks up at him. “But the thing of it is,” she says thoughtfully, “Opposites attract. And if we’re on opposite teams, then… it can only make sense that we’ll find our way back to one another again before too long. And, Stiles – just because I choose my brother over Scott – it doesn’t mean, I could – someday Derek might not make enough sense for me to stick around. Someday I might choose you.”

Stiles laughs and Cora does, too.

It’s a lie, but it’s not. Maybe someday Cora will choose Stiles, but it’s a long way off, and there’s a lot of heartbreak and pain down the road for them, and Stiles dreads facing it without Cora standing next to him. But in the end, he supposes, two broken people won’t make a whole one, but they can help to mend one another along the way.

And the truth is, Stiles trusts Cora to make the right decision, and Cora has found a reason to trust Stiles, whatever it may be.

So they’ll be okay.

Someday.