Disclaimer: 'Teen Wolf' isn't mine. Shocking, right? But it's true. If there are any similarities in content or dialogue, it has probably originated with the show.

A huge thank you to chibichibi98, bagginsoftheshire666, SK-Scatenato, WhatsGoingOn, Ayine, Gee Brittany, darklou, Daenerys86, emmy72, Aurora Abbot, Doieversleep, Katiesgotagun, ForgeandGred4Ever, Damselindestress98, .heaRt, cateslikescats, Stilinski's Heart, TheMMMG, zvc56, Bookiee, KennedyRaye, carlie-the-dreamer, meels234, nessafly, Valkyrie101, artificial-paradises, Iwannabelikeme, Lia, Guest 1, M the Turtle, Guest 2, Tania, Just Anonymous, L. , TWsos12345, Atomicity, Undeniable Weirdness, Smiles in Shadows, Jaiime95, Shes-The-Proto-Type, Guest 3, Chibisemo, Micaela M, Female Whovian, Tania (again! Thank you!), Ericana, ellsosaurus, FetusPosey3, ParalyzedInHeaven, and YellowSubmarine93 for reviewing! Thank you so much! And thank you for the busy, busy BrittWitt16 who hasn't been able to work on her story for a while but should always be remembered!

Chapter 10 – The Fall

"You know, Charlie, when you suggested that the two of us spend free period together, this wasn't exactly the first thing that came to mind. Or the second. Or the third. Actually it didn't even make the list."

Charlie couldn't blame Allison for having been surprised. Usually girls their age spent their free period chatting idly, doing a hair and makeup touchup, or, God forbid, actually studying. But she and Allison, well they weren't exactly your typical high school girls were they? Not any more at least. Which was why, as strange as it may seem, she considered it to be perfectly natural for them to be stomping through the woods with a duffle bag full of projectile weapons.

"Come on, Allison," Charlie drawled out sarcastically, narrowly avoiding face-planting in a pile of leaves as her toe caught a tree root. "The sun is shining, the birds are chirping...why wouldn't you want to go for a nice walk in the woods? It clears the sinuses and gives us some perspective. These days with all the electronics and fluorescent lighting—it's important for us to get perspective." Charlie sucked in a deep breath and sighed theatrically as she threw her arms out and spun around in a circle. "See. I'm soaking up the perspective already."

Allison let out a snort and trudged to a stop, readjusting the strap of the small, black duffle that hung from her shoulder. "Since when exactly have you cared about perspective?" Allison shot back, staring at her friend with raised eyebrows. "Up until today you referred to your free period as 'nap time'."

At the mention of her 'nap time', the benign expression on Charlie's face faltered slightly. This was bound to happen more than a few times in the coming weeks, her tripping right over one of the easy lies she had tossed out for Allison over the past few months. And there were so freaking many of them, she felt like she would always be surprised when one appeared. But that was why they were out here, wasn't it? Partially at least. It was so that the two of them could stumble their way back into a friendship with each other.

From the look on Allison's face, she had recognized the sudden shift in Charlie's demeanor, and she knew what it meant. 'Nap time' hadn't involved any actual napping. Well, sometimes it did, but more often than not it was a whole lot of whispering and researching and conspiring with the rest of Team Werewolf behind Allison's back. For a moment Charlie's heart seized up. The sudden fear that Allison would storm off and start hating her again shot through her like a jolt of electricity.

But Allison didn't storm off. A dark look crossed her face, but it only lingered for a moment. She exhaled sharply and shook the feeling off before pressing her lips together in a thin but determined smile. "It should be okay for us to stop here," Allison said, unslinging the bag from her shoulder and dropping it on the ground with a light thump. "We're far enough from the school and out of the way of any of the trails the cross-country team runs."

"And far enough out that we don't have to worry about your grandfather," Charlie pointed out through a bitter snort. "No offense or anything, but that guy seriously creeps me out."

Allison didn't respond. Instead she quickly unzipped the bag and pulled away the fabric, revealing its contents. Charlie peered in, observing what was inside, and let out a long, low whistle. It was Allison's archery set, all pretty and shiny and new. Usually she thought about bows and arrows in the context of 'Lord of the Rings' and 'Robin Hood', but the bow in that bag...it was a freaking Ferrari. It looked deadly.

"So how's the training going?" Charlie asked, feeling the sudden need to make conversation. "Is your dad pulling a whole Mr. Miyagi type thing? If he tries the 'wax on, wax off' lesson, that's a con. He's just trying to get you to wash his car." Allison let out a sigh and shook her head, making Charlie frown. "That good, huh?"

An almost passive-aggressive laugh burbled out of Allison's throat. "Well for starters he had me kidnapped."

"Excuse me?" Charlie demanded, drawing her eyebrows together in a quizzical frown. "Your dad had you kidnapped? That helps you become a hunter how exactly?"

Allison sighed, freeing her bow from the duffle and straightening to her feet. "I've always got to be prepared," she said with a shrug. "Some guys threw a bag over my head, drove me over to the Hale house, and tied me to a chair. It wasn't until they took the bag off my head that I even knew my dad had anything to do with it."

"Wow," Charlie murmured, folding her arms across her chest. "I've gotta say that is some top notch parenting right there. You better clear off a space on your mantle where the 'Father of the Year' trophy is going to go."

"He left me with an arrowhead," Allison murmured, suddenly getting slightly defensive. "I managed to cut myself out eventually. And anyways, he's right. I've got to learn to be prepared. Especially now."

Charlie scratched at her forehead, still slightly skeptical about the methods Allison's dad was using, but nodded in understanding anyway. She knew what Allison was alluding to. She had heard the story about four times now from two different people with varying amounts panic in their voice. Apparently Beacon Hills was now home to more than just werewolves. It was also home to giant snake-monsters with tails that could walk on ceilings. Charlie wasn't sure that she bought into the whole thing yet. It wasn't that she didn't believe Allison because she did—at this point she would believe pretty much anything and everything—but it just didn't seem quite real. Unfortunately for her, with the luck she seemed to have, it would start seeming very real very soon.

Lifting the bow up, Allison pulled back on the string, testing it out. She had this look of intense concentration on her face, almost like she was having a conversation with. Like the bow was telling her how to proceed from here. It was almost like the thing was her friend. Hell, in some ways it probably was. When the chips were down, it was the thing that she chose to depend on.

"You ever consider picking up a gun?" Charlie asked, surveying her friend carefully. "Your dad uses them. Kate us—" As soon as the name left her mouth, Charlie immediately stopped talking. It had just sort of slipped out, the casual reference to her aunt. Allison's hand tightened around the bow, but she didn't show any other signs of distress. Charlie cleared her throat uncomfortably and shifted on her feet before continuing. "The point is the silver bullet is kind of notorious."

Slowly, Allison allowed the bowstring to relax back into place and lowered the bow, laying it out on the palms of her hands like she was testing the weight. "I don't think so," she murmured, staring down at the thing. "Shooting a gun is too easy. You pull a trigger and that's it. There's no time to take it back. When you shoot a bow...I don't know, you just have to think about it. When you find your target, you have to actively make the decision to let the arrow go. And you know what the consequences are. People need to know what the consequences are."

After that, Allison seemed to disappear into herself a little bit. Charlie had noticed that look about her a few times over the past week, usually when the 'K' word was mentioned. Which meant that Charlie was now kicking herself for being such an emotionally constipated idiot. After a few moments, Allison shook her head and rolled her shoulders, like she was trying to shrug off the troubling thoughts. "Okay," Allison said, nodding at Charlie with a renewed sense of purpose. "Okay, so first things first. We want to get a sense of your natural stance—to see what your strengths and weaknesses are and where we can improve."

"Great," Charlie said, eager to move away from the emotional quagmire that she was stupid enough to wade into. "And how do we do that."

Allison bit her lip and looked around, a pensive expression on her face. "You're going to shoot that tree."

Charlie's eyebrows shot up and she let out a tiny scoff. "We're in a forest, Allison," Charlie drawled out sarcastically, waving her hands around. "You're going to have to be more specific."

Allison sighed heavily and rolled her eyes, but didn't respond. She moved behind Charlie and grabbed hold of her shoulders, turning in her in the right direction. "That one," she elaborated, pointing at an exceptionally and almost insultingly large pine.

Suddenly the bow and a single arrow were thrust into Charlie's hands, leaving her wondering fumbling with them and wondering what the hell she had to do. Well she knew the basics of what needed to be done, but this wasn't laser tag. It wasn't as simple as point and shoot. There were a number of factors that needed to be taken into account—strength, gravity, wind resistance. A thousand tiny things added up, leaving Charlie with a daunting task. As she lifted that bow—Allison's bow—she realized three things. One, she knew nothing about how this actually worked. Two, bow strings were actually really, really hard to pull back. Three, she was about to make a complete ass out of herself.

Charlie notched the arrow and held the bow with her right hand, drawing back the string with her left. She tried not to wince as she pulled the arrow back even though the still aching muscles of her abdomen strained and stretched over her ribs. Pursing her lips, Charlie blew out a careful breath, closed one eye, took aim, and released. The arrow sailed through the air. In the wrong direction. It missed the gigantic pine by about a foot and flew right past it, clattering ineffectively against the bark of a different tree and falling to the ground. It looked kind of pathetic, just lying there on the leaves like that. Charlie scrunched up her face and slowly turned around, looking to Allison for some sort of input, only to find her mouth hanging open slightly.

"How about we be less specific about which tree I was supposed to hit?" she said, turning to Allison with a sheepish smile. "I feel like that might slightly increase my odds."

It was a few moments before Allison managed to conjure up some sort of response. "Huh."

"Huh," Charlie repeated, bobbing her head. "I guess that's not exactly a ringing endorsement."

"It wasn't that bad," Allison said, jerking her head to the side noncommittally. She stared after the arrow with a perplexed expression and planted her hands on her hips. "You've got the strength, that's for sure. You just need to work on your aim. And your stance. And some other stuff."

"Is that all?" Charlie said with a snort.

Allison sighed and rolled her eyes theatrically. "Charlie, you've been practicing for all of fifteen seconds," Allison shot back. "You can't automatically be awesome at absolutely everything."

"Why nooooooot?" Charlie whined, channeling her inner kindergartener.

An involuntary smile tugged at the corner of Allison's lips and she rolled her eyes again. She walked up to Charlie and crouched down to the ground, grabbing at her feet. "The first step in archery is to get the correct stance." She physically picked up one of Charlie's feet and pulled it forwards slightly. "You need to keep your feet a shoulder's length apart and adopt a square stance."

"Great," Charlie muttered, allowing herself to be positioned appropriately like a doll. "What is a 'square stance' exactly?"

Allison stood back up and gave Charlie a frustrated look. "What do you think I'm in the middle of showing you?" Allison muttered. "Has anybody ever told you that patience is not your strong suit?" She grabbed Charlie's waist, twisting it so that her hips were oriented in the right direction. All of the sudden a searing pain shot through her, making her grunt. Allison immediately released her, and her eyes flew up to Charlie's. "What was that?"

Charlie made a face and shrugged. "Nothing."

"Like hell," Allison scoffed. She reached forwards and grabbed the hem of Charlie's top, pulling it up to reveal her stomach. The bruises she had received the night of the full moon had faded slightly, but they were still there. The deep purple had just faded to a sickly, mottled green color. And it still looked pretty gross. Swearing to herself, Charlie yanked the shirt back down and avoided Allison's concerned glare. "Charlie!" she hissed. "What the hell happened?"

"That hunter guy that went after Isaac—he and I had a little disagreement," Charlie replied simply. "We exchanged words. And...punches."

"And you want me to teach you archery now?!" Allison demanded, staring at Charlie with slack-jawed disbelief. "Why not wait till you've fully healed?"

It was a good question. Why did she insist on going on this little field trip, today of all days?

Control. That's why. She needed to feel in control of something in her crapshoot of a life. Sometimes she felt like she was unraveling at the seams—that everything was spinning away from her. For all she knew, her mind wasn't her own anymore. Not fully at least. She had no idea how to get it back, but she could do something. She could do this. If she could learn some way to defend herself physically—something new—then maybe she could learn to defend herself mentally as well. But she couldn't exactly tell Allison that, could she?

"Stress relief," she answered simply. "The video games aren't really doing it for me anymore. Fake shooting at random crap isn't satisfying. I want to actually shoot at random crap."


"Allison," Charlie interrupted, looking pointedly at the girl. "There are hunters and werewolves are wandering around the city, there's a new lizard monster attacking people, I made a B on that history quiz—"

"Charlie, that was a pop quiz," Allison admonished. "You can't seriously—"

"AND," Charlie declared, lifting a hand in the air, "my aunt is now dating my economics teacher. I don't know about you, but all that kinda makes me want to shoot something."

Charlie quirked up a single eyebrow in Allison's direction, challenging her to offer up some sort of contradiction. Allison narrowed her eyes and opened her mouth to respond, but, as predicted, no sound came out. Instead she just snapped her mouth shut again and shook her head. "You really want to do this?"

"Given the fact that I asked you repeatedly," Charlie drawled out, "I'm leaning towards yes."

Allison let out a sigh of defeat and scratched at her forehead. "Fine," she muttered. "Fine."

A grin spread across Charlie's face and she pumped a fist in the air. "Score!"

After that, Allison followed through on the promise Charlie had extracted from her while she was still in her early morning sleep-addled state. Stance, aim, possible intervening factors—she taught Charlie all of it. Or as much as she could within a period of twenty minutes. Turns out Allison was actually a pretty damn good teacher. Patient, clear, concise. In those twenty minutes Charlie had improved markedly. That still didn't mean that she was good, but she was getting better. But as time dragged on, Allison started getting a little distracted. Her hand kept reaching for the back pocket where she kept her phone. It didn't take much to figure out what was going on behind those pretty brown eyes of hers.

"Go ahead," Charlie said as she notched another arrow.

Allison looked up at her, furrowing her eyebrows in confusion. "What do you mean?"

"Really, Allison?" Charlie smirked. "You gonna play that game? Go find your boy-toy and have a little fun."

"It's fine," Allison said, waving her hand dismissively. "I'll see him later."

"It's okay," Charlie insisted. "Go ahead."

Allison pressed her lips together in a thin line. She began bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet and bit her lip, glancing back in the direction of the school with a conflicted look on her face. "You sure?"

"Absolutely," Charlie proclaimed, accompanied by a confident nod. "But do you mind if I stay out here for a while longer. I'll get all this stuff back to you after classes."

"Y—yeah," Allison said. "Yeah, okay, sure." She turned around and ran a couple of steps back towards the school but then stopped, looking back at Charlie over her shoulder. "Hey, I'll see you in gym class later. Apparently Finstock got us a climbing wall."

Charlie clenched her jaw, and gave Allison a salute. "Of course. Wouldn't want to miss out on chillin' with my aunt's new boyfriend. Sounds awesome. A dream come true."

Allison snorted loudly and returned to salute. "Have fun working out all your frustrations."

It took about two seconds for Allison to melt into the forest, leaving Charlie alone. She jogged forwards, collecting the forgotten arrows that lay strewn across the forest floor before resuming her previous position and dropping them in the duffle. Sighing to herself, Charlie fished her iPod out of her pocket and shoved the earphones in ears and began blasting music. She snatched up one of the arrows and took aim at that same stupid pine tree. But that time its bark was notched and pitted by all of the glancing shots she had thrown at it, but not one shot had stuck. Not yet, anyway. Allison had said something about how she took aim—about how she timed her shots. 'Shoot between the heartbeats'. Well Charlie didn't have that level of skill yet, but she could shoot between the notes of a song.

"Once more with feeling," Charlie mumbled to herself. She lifted the bow again and pulled the string back, letting the arrow fly. And for some reason her hand chose that exact moment to start cramping up. "Dammit," she hissed, shaking her hand out. The muscles tightened rigidly, causing her fingers to just out in odd directions. She swore under her breath and began to rub at her hand, massaging the muscles back into their intended configuration. It was a while before she looked up, only to see the arrow firmly embedded in the wood of the tree. Charlie's face split into a wide grin. "Nice."

A few more shots, a few more arrows sticking out of the tree, and Charlie was suddenly feeling very pleased with herself. When she ran out of arrows, she moved towards her target. It took all of her strength to wrench those arrows out of the tree, and by the time she was done with it her hands were covered in bark or sap. She tucked the arrows under her arm and wiped her hands on her jeans—Lydia would have had a heart attack—before marching back to that same spot. Lather, rinse, repeat. She drew the back the string and prepared to let the arrow fly, but before she did she heard something above the music pumping in her ears. A sound that definitely was not characteristic of an empty forest.

Charlie spun around in the direction of the noise, bow still drawn, only to find one Isaac Lahey standing there, doing a slow clap. Swearing loudly, she let the bow go slack and ripped the earphones out of her ears. "God dammit, Isaac," she growled. "I almost shot you!"

Isaac sighed heavily and smirked at her, an expression that was still seemed oddly foreign when on his face. He shoved his hands in his pockets and ducked his head slightly before taking a few steps towards her. "Oh, I don't know about that," he murmured. "I mean, you might be getting better, but you're not quite there yet."

"Okay, judge-y," Charlie scoffed, waving her hand in his direction. "I don't recall asking your opinion. What are you doing here exactly?"

"Looking for you," he said, gesturing in her general direction. "I needed to talk to you about something."

"You needed to talk to me about something?" Charlie repeated, raising her eyebrows at him. "How the hell did you find me?" Isaac opened his mouth to reply, but before he could Charlie lifted a hand to cut him off. "You know what—don't tell me. I'm getting tired of being told that I have 'a smell'. It's creepy. And it makes me sound like a garbage dump. Or a carton of milk that's gone bad."

Isaac shrugged his shoulders sheepishly. "Well, I wouldn't put it like that. It's more of a scent. An aroma, even."

"An aroma?" Charlie shot back, curling her lip slightly. "That makes me sound like somebody's lunch." She carefully dropped the bow and arrow on the ground and folded her arms across her chest before turning back towards Isaac. "So how's being a fugitive treating you?" she asked, eyeing him with no small degree of curiosity. "Are you alright? I mean did you find a place to stay and everything?"

That tiny smile returned to Isaac's face and he scratched at the back of his neck, seeming oddly self-conscious. "Um, yeah," he nodded. "Derek's got this place where we're staying. It's at the abandoned Railroad Depot."

"Seriously?" Charlie said through a snort. "The Railroad Depot? That sounds like a recipe for tetanus. Though that's probably not something you've got to worry about anymore with the whole 'never getting sick' thing."

"Well it's not exactly cozy, if that's what you're asking," Isaac chuckled. "But it's not all that bad."

"Wow," Charlie said, pacing back and forth a little. "So Derek went and found himself a Batcave, then? Well at least he chose a place that suits his personality." She stopped pacing and spun on her heel, facing Isaac directly. "Speaking of the brooding wonder, wouldn't he be kind of pissed that you came this close to the school to talk to me? In case you haven't noticed, I kind of annoy the shit out of him."

"Yeah," Isaac laughed. "Yeah, you do. A lot. Whenever someone mentions your name around him he gets—" he gestured in the general direction of his own face "—he gets this 'why me?' look and rolls his eyes."

"Of course he does."

"But he respects you," Isaac piled on, sounding weirdly apologetic. "I mean he respects your opinion. It annoys him when you're right, though. Apparently you're right a lot."

Charlie snorted to herself, but then leveled Isaac with a serious look. "Isaac, what are you doing lurking around here? You could get caught."

"Wha—I was not lurking," Isaac protested.

"You were kind of lurking," she shot back, holding up her thumb and forefinger to indicate.

Isaac opened his mouth again to protest, but Charlie raised her eyebrows at him, essentially cutting him off. He exhaled sharply and scratched at his forehead before continuing. "Look, I just needed to—to say thank you. For everything."

The earnestness in Isaac's eyes was almost off-putting. She furrowed her eyebrows and wrapped her arms around her waist, trying to make herself smaller or even disappear. "If you're talking about you busting out of lockup, you really don't have to thank me. You took care of that pretty much on your own. If anything I got in the way."

"No you didn't," Isaac said, taking a step towards her. And then something in his face changed. He paused for a moment before finally looking back up at her again. "And anyway, that's not what I meant. That's not all that I meant anyway. I—I was talking about before I got arrested. Before all...this."

Charlie scrunched up her face in an expression of confusion. "Still not sure I'm following you."

"You noticed," Isaac said simply. When Charlie didn't respond, he took yet another tiny step towards her. "You noticed something was wrong," he reiterated. "W—with me, I mean. Nobody else did, and it took you like two days. And you...you told me that I could come to you if I needed to talk to someone. That means a lot. I just needed you to know that I appreciate it."

Charlie bit her lip and suddenly found herself wishing that she was anywhere but in that exact spot. Over the past couple of months she had made some pretty big strides, but sometimes she still found herself becoming uncomfortable with genuine human emotion. So, in true form, she let out an uncomfortable chuckle and pointed at him awkwardly. "Well, you...are...welcome. I guess. That's what people normally say, right? You're welcome?"

"Yeah," Isaac said, that oddly easy smirk finding its way back to his face. "That's normally what people say." Then for some reason his head perked up and his eyebrows pulled together curiously. "You should probably get going."

"Um, why?" Charlie murmured.

"Because the school bell just rang."

There wasn't even time for Charlie to make a crack about how annoying that superior look on his face was. After the spectacularly loud cry of 'oh shit', she was shoving everything into the duffle bag and when she had managed to zip up the bag and get to her feet, Isaac had disappeared. She was standing alone in the forest again, like he had never been there at all. Great. He was taking a page out of Derek's book now. Freaking werewolves.

Charlie practically sprinted back to the school, narrowly avoiding more than one headlong collision with various trees. It took about three minutes for her to actually manage to get back on school campus. Immediately she went for the parking lot, stowing Allison's archery gear in the trunk of her car just as the second bell rang. Which meant that she was late for class. Again. And apparently her tardiness was becoming frequent enough that it wasn't even a surprise anymore. When she skidded into the French room, slightly sweaty and her breaths coming out in heavy pants, Ms. Morell barely even acknowledged it. She just shot Charlie an 'I don't approve of this type of behavior' glance and allowed Charlie to take her seat.

Was all of this sustainable? At first she thought she could keep up with all of this stuff and school and have some semblance of a life, but the way things were going, it didn't quite look that way. Peter and the hallucinations she had been having—she had taken those things and put them in a tiny box in the corner of her mind where she never, ever had to think about them. Now, though? That residual ache that she felt in her stomach every freaking time she breathed served as a constant reminder that she could be losing it. It didn't help that with each passing night she was getting more and more sleep deprived. It had gotten to the point where she felt her eyes drooping in class.

Charlie never fell asleep in class. Ever. Sure she might ignore the professor from time to time when she was distracted or bored, but she had never fallen asleep. Except for that one time in the third grade when they were counting macaroni, but that was in protest. If you're still counting macaroni in the third grade, your educational system has already failed you. But that wasn't the point. The point was she had to keep fighting an enemy she couldn't see as well as the one that she could. It felt like she kept climbing and climbing, but it was completely useless. She never got anywhere. And to top it all off, French class ended and she was sent to the gym, which meant that she now found herself staring at a physical manifestation of her own metaphor.

Finstock's stupid climbing wall. Yet another one of the ridiculous things this place came up with to 'enrich the experience' of their students. Like shipping in a giant plastic wall was going to make any difference in the morale of the student body. What exactly was the point? There wasn't one! It was literally an exercise in futility. And now she was internally monologuing bad puns. She blamed Finstock for those stupid puns. Stupid Finstock and his stupid face and his stupid climbing wall and his stupid decision to start having the hots for her freaking aunt.

Okay, maybe she was overreacting a bit. The whole thing actually looked kind of entertaining. Scott and Allison certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves, though that might have more to do with the flirting than the climbing.

"So what do you think?" a voice said, interrupting her reverie.

"Huh?" Charlie mumbled indistinctly, looking in the direction of the sound. What she was met with was a highly scandalized looking Stiles.

"Wha—have you not been listening this entire time?" he demanded, spluttering loudly. "Seriously? I mean I just laid out all of the arguments in a—in a very clear and concise way, and you just went and missed the whole thing! That—that is just plain rude is what that is what that is. I mean, come on, Oswin—"

"Okay," Charlie interrupted, holding up a hand to cut him off. "How's about you stop yelling at me for not knowing what you're talking about and actually tell me what you were talking about."

Stiles stood there, eyes narrowed and mouth hanging open slightly, considering whether or not to keep on berating her for her inattention. Then he snapped his mouth shut and looked away from her, folding his arms across his chest. Charlie waited for a few a few moments for him to actually say something, but he didn't. Letting out a scoff, she rolled her eyes heavily and smacked him in the chest. "Really?" she demanded. "Are you actually sulking right now?"

"Wha—I am not sulking," Stiles defended. "I do not sulk. There is no sulking happening right here—" he waved his hands around himself "—here in this general vicinity!"

"Are you sure about that?" Charlie shot back. "Because you refusing to talk like this...it seems kind of like sulking."

"There is no sulking!" Stiles hissed. "What I was talking about isn't exactly relevant anymore. There's no point in repeating all over again! It'd just sound stupid."

"And since when has that ever stopped you?"

Stiles glowered at her for a few moments, and she simply raised her eyebrows back, waiting expectantly. As per usual, his resolve crumbled and he let out a frustrated sigh. "Fine," he said snappishly. "If...if Godzilla and King Kong got into it, who do you think would win?" As soon as the sentence left his lips, Charlie scrunched up her face into a disbelieving and slightly judgmental expression, making Stiles nod knowingly. "See?" he said, pointing at her. "I told you it would seem stupid."

"Of course it seems stupid, Stiles!" Charlie groaned. "I mean what the hell kind of question is that?"

"Um, an awesome one?!"

"Try a pointless one," she snorted back. "Even more pointless than the last one. I mean, come on! Godzilla vs. King Kong? I wouldn't even go so far as to call that a debate. There's nothing to talk about. Godzilla would flatten King Kong inside of like ten seconds. Probably less."

On the climbing wall, Scott and Allison both rappelled down the wall, landing neatly on the two blue mats. Stiles and Charlie moved forwards a bit, slowly shuffling to the front of the group milling around the wall with their shoulders knocking into each other. "You're being awfully dismissive, doncha think?" Stiles grumbled. "I mean you didn't even think about it for a second."

"I didn't have to think about for a second Stiles," Charlie replied. "King Kong climbed the Empire State Building. Godzilla is the size of the Empire State Building. And he spits fire. Case closed."

"Well that's just plain size-ist."

"Size-ist?" Charlie snapped, planting her hand on her hip as she glared at him. "Really?"

"Um, yeah?" Stiles said, waving his hands about. "Small means stealthy! King Kong could sneak up on Godzilla and—"

"And what, Stiles? Give him a monster-sized paper cut?"

"No!" Stiles exclaimed vehemently. "He could like gouge out Godzilla's eyes or something!"

Stiles took his index and middle finger and hooked them slightly, miming gouging out somebody's eyes. They got a little too close to her face, forcing her to slap them away, probably a little harder than she needed to. Stiles let out a yelp of protest and was probably about to whine at her like he usually did, but before he could the coach's voice rang out through the gym. "Okay, who's next?" he shouted looking around at the crowd of grey-clad students. A single hand shot up, which Finstock promptly ignored. "Anybody?" he asked, continuing to scan the group. "Seriously, anybody? Put your hand down Greenberg, everybody here knows you have the upper body strength of a toddler. We're not doing this again. Not after last time! Do I have to remind you what happened last time?"

That single hand slowly retracted back down, disappearing into the sea of grey. After that, they might as well have been listening to a chorus of crickets. Stiles turned to her and shrugged, jerking his head in the direction of the wall. "You want to—"

"Oh my God!" Lydia's disembodied voice interrupted loudly. Charlie blinked and turned around to see the red-head moving towards her, winding her way through the other gym clothes-clad students, trying very hard to avoid touching any of them. It almost wanted to make Charlie laugh, actually, seeing Lydia in gym clothes like this. She saw it every school day and it never stopped being funny. The uncomfortable way that she was walking, you would have thought that everybody else there had been steeped in bedbugs or something. The only thing that made it funnier was the fact that she was actually wearing sneakers. She walked up to Charlie, her nose wrinkled in an expression of distaste. "I made sure it took me over twenty minutes to get changed into this ridiculous getup. How did I manage to not miss this?"

"You failed to take into account the laziness of the average high school student," Charlie replied, glancing back up at Stiles who for some reason suddenly appeared immensely uncomfortable—all fidgety and stuff. "Speaking of which," she continued, jerking her thumb over her shoulder in the direction of the wall, "I've got to—"

"Oh, you're not leaving me," Lydia declared, linking her arm through Charlie's definitively. "If I've got to put up with this, I'm at least going to be doing it with somebody whose company I find reasonably tolerable."

"Lydia, I don't think—"

"Stilinski!" Finstock's voice announced, reverberating against the walls of the gym. "Erica! Congratulations, the both of you have graciously volunteered to be the next two people to climb this wall!"

Charlie turned to Stiles to apologize, but he smiled and waved his hand dismissively, heading to the blue mat where he and a frizzy-haired blonde girl from her chem class—Erica—both put on their harnesses. Once again, for the thousandth time in the space of a week, Charlie felt like she had done something wrong—something stupid. Was this why they called it having a 'crush'? Because you had the perpetual, crushing feeling that you were screwing up the relationship at every possible opportunity? He glanced back at her, giving her a thumbs up, which she returned, before starting to climb the wall. And then something weird happened. The girl next to him—Erica—she glanced over her shoulder as well, staring at her with an expression Charlie couldn't quite place. All she could say about it was that it wasn't particularly appreciative. Charlie frowned at the girl, trying to gauge her attitude and why exactly she was being looked at like a chewed piece of gun that had just been stepped on, but yet again she was interrupted by the sound of footsteps approaching.

"Hey!" Allison breathed out as she jogged up to Lydia and Charlie, a resplendent smile on her face. "How's it going?"

"Well it's not going that well," Lydia replied, waving a single finger in Allison's smiling face. "What exactly is making you so happy?"

"Wha—nothing!" Allison said defensively, flushing a bit. "There's nothing."

But Allison was fooling herself if she thought that Lydia was actually paying attention to her. Nope, at this point all of her attentions were focused on the righteous rage she was directing at the climbing wall. "I mean what is the point of this?" she demanded, waving her hand at Stiles and Erica. "We're climbing up a ten foot wall so we can climb back down a ten foot wall. I just got a manicure."

"You have a weekly standing appointment at the nail salon," Charlie pointed out. "You always 'just had' a manicure."

Lydia flashed her a disparaging glare. "Again, Charlie, not the point."

"Then what is your point exactly?" Allison said, raising her eyebrows.

After that Lydia launched into a long and in-depth monologue as to exactly how these sort of mandated physical activities were wholly unacceptable, but Charlie began to tune her out. Instead, she watched the climbing wall, observing as Stiles made his way up the wall. He was moving quite quickly actually, like he was trying to prove something. This could become a problem—her inability to not look at him. Jesus, was she becoming a stalker-ish? She was, wasn't she?

Stiles managed to make it to the top of the wall fairly easily. There was one point when his foot slipped and he ended up flailing a bit, but Charlie pretended not to see that for both of their sakes. He repelled down the wall and landed, throwing his hands in the air in a gesture of victory. He kind of looked like a female gymnast who had just 'stuck the landing', not that Charlie would ever tell him that. She chuckled at the expression of extreme self-satisfaction, shooting him a double thumbs-up and making him grin widely. But almost immediately it was drawn somewhere else.

Erica. She and Stiles had started climbing at the exact same time, but while Stiles had managed to climb to the top of the wall, she had barely made it five feet off the ground. Charlie narrowed her eyes at the girl. Looking at her carefully it didn't take more than half a second to realize that there was something wrong. It had been a couple minutes before she moved from her spot, and from what Charlie could see, she was trembling with fear. And apparently she wasn't the only one who had noticed. A steady stream of whispers began to flow between the students, slowly getting louder.

"Is she okay?" Charlie inquired, talking more to herself than to anybody else.

"What?" Lydia asked stupidly, turning away from her conversation with Allison.

"Erica," Charlie said, taking a small step towards the wall. "She looks like she's having a panic attack."

Almost as soon as the words left her mouth, the quiet whimpers Erica was giving off turned into panicked sobs. Her forehead creasing in concern, Charlie pushed her way through the rest of the few students in front of her, making a beeline for Stiles who was still strapped into his harness, watching Erica as well. "Hey," she breathed out, making his glance at her for a moment before looking back up at the trembling blonde. "What happened?"

"I—I don't know," he said, shrugging a bit.

Within seconds the other students had crowded around the wall as well, pushing in to get as good a view as possible. Some of them were worried, most of them were just curious, and much to her disgust, Charlie found one of them—Aaron Harrison—laughing to himself and filming the whole thing on his phone. That guy had a face made for punching.

"Erica?!" Coach Finstock shouted at her. "Are you dizzy? Is it vertigo?"

"Vertigo is a dysfunction of the vestibular system of the inner ear," Lydia chimed in, no small degree of contempt in her voice as she addressed the coach. "She's just freaking out."

"Wow, Lydia," Charlie said sarcastically, sneering slightly at her friend. "Your compassion is just blowing me away right now."

The coach looked slightly abashed at Lydia's instruction, but turned back to his anxiety-ridden student. "Erica!"

"I—I'm fine!" she squeaked back. But it wasn't very convincing. Her voice was small and thin, and the words came haltingly, like she was forcing them out through panicked breaths. Nope. She was definitely not 'fine'.

"Coach, maybe it's not safe," Allison murmured, appearing at the coach's shoulder. "You know she's epileptic."

Flabbergasted was the best way to describe Finstock's subsequent expression. Or maybe bamboozled. Or nonplussed. Whichever word could best describe the shocked, bugged out eyes and gaping mouth, that was what he was. "Wh—why does nobody tell me this stuff?!" He turned back to Erica with even more concern than before. "Erica! You're fine! Just—just kick off from the wall! There's—there's a mat to catch you! Come on."

Charlie actually held her breath as she watched. Slowly, Erica leaned backwards in her harness. She was barely clutching onto those small, fake, brightly colored rocks, but she couldn't seem to make her fingertips let go. Finally, the weight of her body leaning back was to much to support and her fingers slipped. Erica flailed for a moment, grasping for the hand-holds, but she had fallen too far back. Instead she seized onto the rope connected to her harness, holding onto it like it was her lifeline as she was slowly lowered to the ground. She jolted a bit as soon as her feet touched the mat, but Finstock was there to put a comforting hand on her arm and keep her steady.

"See, you're fine, you're on the ground," he said with an uncharacteristic degree of gentleness in his voice. "There you go. Shake it off. You're fine."

As soon as her feet touched the ground, the attitude of the entire room changed. It was like there was this blanket agreement that while Erica was still potentially in danger, everybody would be quiet and concerned—worried about their classmate's safety. The minute the danger was gone, though, they turned back into that stereotypical high school nightmare, laughing and giggling with each other. Charlie noticed Erica's eyes water slightly and watched with regret as the girl pushed her way through the crowd, making her way back to the locker rooms. A big part of her wanted to go make sure that Erica was okay, but she knew that any extra attention—even if kindly meant—would just make things worse. Pity never helped. She knew that much from experience.

When Erica disappeared from the gym, so did the whispers and everything passed pretty much as normally as possible. Kids talked idly while others scaled the wall, guys stared at the girls' asses and vice versa, though the girls didn't wolf-whistle nearly as much. Mostly everybody just stood around doing absolutely nothing. You know, your usual gym class.

Finally, that final bell rang releasing from that hellhole of an institution that was colloquially referred to as 'school'. Not to be outdone by the P.A. system, Finstock blew the whistle that was permanently glued to his lip. "Alright!" he shouted, glaring at the students. "You are officially not my problem for the next—" he glanced at his watch "—fifteen and half hours." He looked at them expectantly, but nobody moved, confused by the sudden and completely unnecessary declaration. Finstock scrunched up his face, looking at them all with an expression of confusion. "What the hell are you waiting for?! Just because you don't have anything to do with your spare time except stare at your computer screen doesn't mean I don't! Stop wasting my time and get your asses out of this gym and off school property! I don't want to be looking at any of your faces any more—especially yours Greenburg!"

After that Charlie heard the collective grumblings of the class and the crowd around the wall began to disperse, girls and guys splitting off into groups as they headed back to their respective locker rooms. Charlie sighed tiredly, trudging towards the locker room. She was ready for a night of procrastination and sleep. What little sleep she could get, anyway. But when Lydia strode up, dragging Allison with her and linking her arm through Charlie's, the chances of that seemed to dwindle significantly.

"So what are we doing tonight?" Lydia demanded, smiling radiantly at her friends, neither of whom were particularly enthusiastic.

"It's a week night, Lydia," Charlie said through a yawn.

"And that would be a perfectly reasonable explanation," Lydia nodded. "If we were eighty and eating liquefied food because normal food was too hard on our dentures. But we are young and we are hot and we are—"

"Sleep deprived," Charlie finished for her. "Seriously, Lydia, if we did anything tonight I would be falling asleep two hours in."

"God, you are a constant disappointment," Lydia said lightly. She looked in Allison's direction next, but the brunette shook her head as well.

"I can't," Allison muttered, shooting Charlie a knowing glance. "I've got a...a family thing."

It didn't take much for Charlie to realize that 'family thing' meant 'crazy hunter training', but Lydia wasn't gifted with that degree of understanding. To her 'family thing' meant a bunch old people sitting around a table covered with lace doilies, having tea and crumpets. Which, apparently, was not acceptable. "Come on!" Lydia whined. "You are two of the hottest girls in this entire school. How can you possibly be so boring?"

It actually took some effort for Charlie to contain the snort Lydia's last statement inspired, but somehow she managed. And then Lydia launched into yet another lecture about how horrifically disappointing both she and Allison were. Charlie tried to listen to it for a while, but eventually began to tune it out. Her long list of failings had been recited so many times, it had kind of turned into white noise. And then there was the fact that her attention was drawn in by something else.

A few yards off from her own trio, Charlie saw a group of three boys huddled around a phone and sniggering to themselves. Their backs were facing her, but Charlie recognized the guy on the far left with his blonde hair and excessive amounts of hair gel. That was Aaron Harrison. And if he was laughing at anything, you could be damned sure if was at someone else's expense. Charlie's lip curled into an involuntary sneer and she withdrew her arm from Lydia's, breaking off in another direction.

"Um, Charlie?" Lydia shouted after her. "Where the hell do you thing you're going?"

"I'll meet up with you in the locker room," Charlie said, waving her off as she continued towards the congress of idiots. "Give me a few minutes."

As she approached, she could hear the tinny sound of a girl whimpering from the small speakers of the phone. Immediately she felt her muscles go stiff and she began grinding her teeth together. "Look at that," she heard that irritating voice say. "I mean, come on! Could you get more pathe—"

But he didn't get the chance to finish that thought. It was soon replaced by some whimpering of his own. Busting one of her old favorites, she reached for his free hand and grabbed hold of his thumb, twisting back in a way that forced him to bend over at the waist lest that thumb be dislocated. "O—Oswin!" he yelped. "What are you doing?"

"Hey, Harrison," she drawled out casually. She flashed the two other lacrosse meatheads a smile while the two of them looked at each other stupidly, both unwilling to physically confront a girl. Which meant that she was free to snatch up the phone that Aaron had so conveniently dropped at her feet. "Now what do we have here?" she mused passive-aggressively. She frowned at the screen as she saw the image of Erica struggling on that tiny screen. "Aaron, I didn't know you were an amateur photographer," she said in a tone that was so sickly sweet it was threatening. Scowling, she punched the few necessary buttons necessary and the image disappeared from the screen.

Charlie released her hold on Aaron's thumb and he stumbled a few steps back, rubbing at his sore hand and glaring at her like he was trying to set her on fire. The guy had no shame, but apparently he could get embarrassed pretty freaking easily. Apparently he had given up hitting on her and had moved on to hating her. "Bitch," he spat angrily. "You're lucky you're hot or nobody would—"

"So sorry," Charlie interrupted sarcastically, staring down at the screen and hitting random buttons. "As a female I am obviously terrible with technology. I seem to have deleted that video. And half your contacts. Also it looks like you've got some compromising pictures on here. I hope my fingers don't slip and accidentally text them to great aunt Margaret. Oh, dear, the incompetency!"

At that point Charlie threw his phone at him probably a little harder than necessary causing it to the clatter to the ground. Aaron swore loudly and swooped down to pick the thing up before she could do anything else. "You could have broken the screen!"

"I didn't?" Charlie drawled in a disappointed tone. "Damn."

Aaron's eyes narrowed into slits and he took a threatening step towards her. "I'm gonna—"

"Oswin!" Finstock's voice echoed through the gym. "My office! Now!"

Charlie spun around to see Finstock standing on the other side of the gym at the entrance of said office, staring in her direction with his hands on his hips. She let out a pitiful whine that almost sounded like dying cat and her face scrunched up into an expression of distaste. Detention was one thing. It was unpleasant, but bearable. A one-on-one with Finstock? That was the absolute last thing she wanted to be subjected to right now. The universe hated her. That had to be it. She must have done some pretty terrible shit in a past life because karma was kind of kicking her ass right now.

"Well how about that?" Aaron said, folding his arms across his chest and smirking. "The princess is in trouble."

Charlie let out a scoff and rolled her eyes. "Shut up, Aaron. I know you wet the bed until you were ten."

With that she spun on her heel and walked towards the coach, leaving Aaron Harrison—who had since turned into spluttering, yammering mess—in her wake. The closer she got to Finstock and the gym-side entrance to his office, the more hesitation she felt. Hesitation which manifested on her face in the form of an elaborate wince, one that became more pronounced with each step she took. Finstock on the other hand...he was smiling. A smile that got bigger and bigger until it became something bordering on psychotic. When Charlie approached him he reached for the doorknob and allowed it to swing open, gesturing for her to come inside. "Ladies first."

Charlie frowned in the face of his politeness, but did as he said and ducked through the door.

"Wait here," Finstock ordered. Then he disappeared through the other door to his office—the one that led to the boys' locker room—for a few moments. Leaving Charlie with a few minutes to contemplate her fate. When he returned, she immediately began to defend herself.

"Look," she said as she entered, "if this was about the things that just happened with Aaron Harrison, I can understand why that might look bad but there were definitely extenuating circum—"

Finstock circled around his desk and look at her with an expression of confusion. "Aaron Harris—God, no it's not because of him," he said with a dismissive laugh. He collapsed back in his chair with an exhausted sigh and gestured for her to do the same. "Harrison—you've got to be kidding me. I hate that kid. The only reason I ever put him on the field is so I can watch him get his ass kicked. I'll tell you Charlie, there is no joy that can compare to watching a dumbass like Harrison getting the crap kicked out of him." He leaned towards her, resting his elbows on the table and giving her a funny look. "Did you know he wet the bed till he was ten? It makes a weird sort of sense if you think about it."

Then Finstock started bobbing his head and narrowing his eyes pensively. Charlie sank down in her seat and shifted uncomfortably. "Am I supposed to be thinking about it?" she asked, eyeing him warily.

Finstock shot her a funny look. "Why would you be thinking about it?"

Sighing heavily, Charlie ran her hands down her face. Given the direction the conversation, detention would have been the preferable outcome. "If this isn't about Harrison, what is it about?"

Almost as soon as she stated the question out loud, she wanted to take it back. It was like the words were floating in the air above her head and she was reaching up to snatch them back, but couldn't quite make it. "This is about laying some ground rules," he said, causing Charlie to start making that dying cat noise again. Finstock gave her yet another weird look, but continued talking. "Now that Melody and I are—

A strangled cry of protest erupted from Charlie's mouth and she began shaking her head vigorously. "No. No, no, no. I can not be having this conversation right now. Can you just give me a detention instead? Or suspend me? I'd be totally fine with both of those options."

"Really?" Finstock said, looking slightly offended. "You'd rather be suspended than talk to me. Well, I'd like to say that's a new low but an incident in high sch—you know what—that's not important. I mean, we've already got stuff in common. You like your aunt, I like your au—"

"I will literally pay you to stop talking right now," Charlie begged, planting her hands on the desk and looking at him seriously. "I've only got like thirty bucks in my locker, but I can stop by an ATM!"

"You're trying to bribe me?" Finstock demanded incredulously. "It's not the nineties anymore! I—" he pointed at himself "—I have my integrity." Then he jerked his head to the side, seeming to reconsider. "Sort of. Look...Charlotte, I'm—"

"Oh, God," Charlie whined, looking around the room for some sort of escape. "There's got to be something around here that I can kill myself with. Do you think I could impale myself on that trophy?"

Finstock snapped his fingers and pointed at her angrily. "Hey! That is last year's state championship lacrosse trophy. That is sacred. You leave that alone or I swear I'm going to start using some very harsh language!"

The two of them sat there glaring at each other for a fairly long time, probably with unnervingly similar facial expressions. Somewhere in the middle of it, it seemed to turn into a staring contest, with neither of them blinking. The clock seated on his wall began to tick loudly, making sure that they were both painfully aware of exactly how much time was passing. First the eyes began to itch and to water. Then Finstock's left eye began to do this weird twitchy thing. Finally let out a strangled cry of frustration and threw his hands in the air. "Okay, this—this is ridiculous. Look...Charlotte...I'm not going away. I'm sticking to you like—"

"An incurable disease?" Charlie mumbled

"Yeah! Fine! Whatever!" he shouted, waving his hands around a bit. And then he let them collapse back on the desk. "Look I know this has got to be awkward for you—your aunt dating a teacher. I've got to say, your aunt—" he let out a disbelieving laugh and shook his head a bit "—that woman is incredible. I mean, whoa!"

Charlie's hands instinctively gripped the armrests harder so that her knuckles strained against the skin, turning them white. "You're not exactly making me any less uncomfortable," she muttered.

But Finstock didn't seem to hear her. Or he wasn't paying attention. Or he didn't care. "Okay, first off," he said, holding up a single finger, "first off she's insanely beautiful. But not only that, she's smart, funny, and successful? It's almost ridiculous. But I do know one thing." He lowered that finger he was waving around so it was pointing directly at her. "You. Melody loves you more than pretty much anything in the world, even with that mouth you've got on you. Which means that if you don't want her to date me, she's not going to." Finstock clasped his hands together and fixed her with a look she didn't recognize from him. A serious one. "So here's the deal. That woman deserves to be obscenely happy. I think I can help with that. Right now what I'm asking is for you to let me make her happy. Is that something you can do?"

To say that Charlie was surprised at his words would be an understatement. Though in retrospect she probably shouldn't have. Sure the man was absurd, but as much as he mocked and ridiculed his students, he did care about them. When the chips were down, he would be there for any of them. Except Greenberg. He definitely hated Greenberg. Charlie probably should have told him that—she should have had a nice, heartfelt moment with the guy—but she wasn't exactly good at heartfelt moments. "I already told Mel it was cool," she said abruptly, shrugging at him.

It was kind of like he had been Finstock had been hit over the head by a giant club covered in some sort of soft material. The eyes widened, the jaw went slack, and his face carried a general air of bemusement. "Huh. How about that?"

"Yup," Charlie nodded. "How about that?"

"I had this whole speech thing prepared to," he mused to himself. "It was going to be pretty moving actually. I wrote a haiku. You don't think I could..." He looked at Charlie, almost asking for permission to launch into his speech. Charlie just stared back blankly. He narrowed his eyes, trying to gauge her reaction, but she was a brick wall. "Right," he quipped, looking slightly disappointed. "The moment's passed."

He waited a few more seconds for her to contradict him. She didn't.

"Alright," Finstock barreled on. "Which brings me back to the first point. I'm supposed to have something called—" Apparently he couldn't quite find the word, because he kept snapping his fingers and staring out into the distance.

"Professional responsibility?" Charlie suggested, raising her eyebrows at him.

Finstock snapped his fingers one more time, this time definitively, and pointed at Charlie. "Exactly. Professional responsibility. So this is what we're going to do. In school, no special treatment. You're not getting any extra points on tests, you don't get to cut class, and if you're lookin' for a hall pass, don't come to me."

"You literally just eliminated all the positives from this situation."

"And," Finstock continued, "when you're here you'll have to call me Mr. Finstock. Or Coach Finstock. Or just coach. Or sir. But when we're outside of school, you can think of me as Uncl—"

"If you tell me to call you 'Uncle Bobby' I am leaving right now," Charlie hissed.

Finstock made a face, but bobbed his head in understanding and held his hands in the air. "Noted. Anyways that's—" he knocked his knuckles against the wood of the desk "—that's that I guess." He pointed at the door. "You can go now."

But Charlie didn't move from her chair. Instead she settled into it, crossing her legs and staring evenly. "Not quite yet," she said, making him straighten in his seat. Charlie leaned forwards, resting her arms on the table, and shrugged her shoulders with an almost threateningly sweet quality. "I've got a few conditions of my own. Three to be exact."

Finstock eyed her with a high degree of suspicion. "I may or may not be vaguely terrified right now."

"That makes perfect sense."

"Yeah," Finstock said, rubbing at his jaw and never taking his eyes off her. "That's what I was afraid of."

"Condition one," she barreled on, not ignoring the uncomfortable expression that was now etched into his face. "It's the same as yours. No overlap between home and school. If you come up and start talking to me about your dinner plans, I will not respond and will immediately start walking in the opposite direction. Condition two, do not bother me about homework. If I haven't started writing my history paper yet, I know I still have to work on it. I don't need you to tell me."

After that she paused, letting it all sink in. Finstock nodded with that same sort of crazed enthusiasm he seemed to have for everything. "I can live with that. What's the third condition?"

And then Charlie smiled. A smile that made Finstock go even paler than usual. "The third one isn't so much a rule as a promise. Number three: if you hurt Mel in any way, I will kill you."

Finstock started to laugh, shaking an amused finger at her, but when he took note of her somber expression, his attitude immediately changed. He went rigid and there was a fearful glint in her eye. "Will you now?"

Charlie shrugged for what felt like the thousandth time. "My dad was in the Coast Guard. He had a gun. I'm not sure which box it's in, but it is definitely somewhere in the attic."

"You know how to shoot a gun?" Finstock demanded.

"No," Charlie replied. "I have no idea how to shoot a gun. At least not well. But then again I might not have ever had the proper motivation."

Finstock actually gulped audibly as he looked at her. "Alright, I'm just going to come out and say it. You scare me."


Being a general fan of the dramatic exit, Charlie chose that moment to get out of that chair and march out of his office. But as soon as she left the room, that sense of satisfaction subsided slightly. Honestly she didn't know how she felt about the whole 'Mel dating her teacher' thing yet. She knew Mel deserved to be happy—Finstock probably deserved to be happy too—but until she knew how this was going to change things, she couldn't say for sure that she would be able to deal with the whole thing. Not that she would say anything. As far as her aunt was concerned, she was an Oswinstock shipper. And no she did not respect herself for coining the term. Though she doubted that she would be the last to use it.

Sighing heavily, Charlie collapsed back against the wall behind her and slid down till she was sitting on the gym floor. Jesus. As much as she hated spa days, she could really use some sort of deep tissue massage or something. Or a lobotomy. She wasn't quite sure which. All she was sure of was the fact that she needed a break—a full seventy-two hours where she could do nothing but sleep and catch up on old episodes of 'The Daily Show'. But, as per usual, Murphy's Law intervened. Something bad happened.

After Charlie's brain stopped screaming at her, she heard something else. A soft, determined whimpering. Her eyes flew open and she stared straight across the gym. Most of the lights were off—it was the end of the school day—but the ones right above the climbing wall were still blazing and they threw into relief the figure of a trembling girl with blonde, frizzy hair.

Charlie's heart seized in her chest and she pushed herself back up to her feet, stumbling as she did so. The girl was almost to the top of the wall, no harness and no spotter, hauling her way to the top like she had something to prove. It couldn't end well. And then Charlie saw the girl start to shake.

"Erica, no!"

The words ripped out of her like a tornado, like they were physically ejected from her body. She could run—she tried to run—but it didn't make any difference. She was too far away, too slow, to do anything. The whole thing happened like it was in slow motion. Erica shook violently, at first managing to hang on, but then fell backwards onto a mat that was nowhere near good enough to catch her fall.

But apparently Erica didn't need a mat. As she was running towards the girl, someone else managed to get there much, much quicker than her. Scott flew across the gym just and time. Erica was feet from colliding with the cold, hard ground, but Scott swooped in just in time to catch her, lowering her slowly and steadily to the ground. Now that she thought of it, that was the best way to describe Scott. Steady. Scott was steady.

Just as she skidded to a halt next to Scott, a number of other people did too. Stiles, Allison, and a few other onlookers—all of them crowded around Erica's spasming body. She was having a seizure. Charlie and Stiles exchanged a look for about half a second before returning to Erica. "Put her on her side!" Allison exclaimed. "Put her on her side!"

"Hurry!" Charlie hissed. "So she doesn't choke on her own vomit."

Scott did as he was told and shifted Erica, holding her hand as it and grasping it to keep her in place. Charlie held on to Erica's shoulder, trying to keep her steady. The force with which her body shook...Charlie almost couldn't hold her in place.

"How did you know?" Allison whispered to Scott.

Scott shook his head and looked up at Allison. "I didn't."

That sickened feeling twisted inside Charlie again—that feeling that things were about to go horribly, horribly wrong. Instinctively she looked between Stiles, Allison, and Scott, but none of their faces held any answers. But then she looked in the direction of the entry to the gym. Then she didn't need a 'look' or an 'impression' to understand. All she needed was to see was his silhouette in the doorway. That one shadow, and while she didn't know exactly what was going to happen, she knew it would mean trouble.

Because she was pretty damn sure that shadow was Derek.

GAH! Sorry this took so long. Not a ton of Stiles in this chapter, but it's a chapter dedicated to Allison, Isaac, and Finstock. The next chapter will have a TON OF STILES, and that's all in caps for a reason. Seriously, it's gonna be adorable. I've got most of the scenes in my head, I've just gotta write them down.

PLEASE REVIEW! I've had a seriously shitty week. So, pretty please! Review! Make me feel happy and make the muse in my basement stop raiding the fridge. SHE ATE MY BEN & JERRY'S! That is unacceptable. Nobody touches my ice cream.


Allison and Charlie go out to the woods and practice archery.

-~-~-~-~-~Hand Over Hand – Dana Buoy

Charlie and Isaac have an awkward yet meaningful conversation.

-~-~-~-~-~Constellating – James & Evander

Everybody gets ready to climb the wall, Charlie and Stiles debate.

-~-~-~-~-~Coma – Brother

Erica falls off the wall, Charlie sees Derek in the doorway.

-~-~-~-~-~New York Is Killing Me – Gil Scott-Heron*******The percussion in this song is amazing. I picked it because of the rhythm. It sounds like there's a resigned anxiety to it. Like Charlie sees Derek and knows he's going to do something with Erica, but also knows she can't change anything about it.