- Chapter I -
He's sixty-five feet above ground and rappelling off the edge of a high-rise building, and it's imperative that he not drop either of the two sets of surveillance equipment he's just salvaged from said building, so naturally that is the exact moment he chooses to drop the radio.
"Shit," he says, and watches it smash onto the windshield of a parked car.
Possibly he isn't suited to vigilantism. Possibly he needs to be better coordinated. Possibly he shouldn't just hang there, swinging like a particularly pathetic spider, gaping at the street below.
From this height, and under the moonlight, the broken glass glitters like fairy dust.
His name is Stiles Stilinski, but most people know him as the Ghost. Or don't know him; that's kind of the point, the not-knowing. Ghosts that people actually know about usually acquire bad reputations, as - as poltergeists or something, so it's actually a blessing that most people know fuck all about Stiles' identity.
Yeah. A blessing. Especially since he really can't afford to pay for insurance or for the damage he's just done to that car. If the owner knew his name, he'd have to pay up. God, he's a horrible person. A horrible vigilante. Maybe he'll - he'll put in a couple extra hours at the soup kitchen this weekend. Compensate in some way for wrecking an innocent civilian's private property. Fuck.
Well, at least he's got the main stuff. The tapes with Congressman Lehrer's sordid backroom dealings, and the - the porn, okay, it's porn, but at least it isn't child porn, just really bizarre amateur stuff with horse costumes and saddles, and while Stiles usually isn't in favor of airing anyone's dirty laundry, Lehrer washes his laundry with public money, and that - that really isn't on. Lehrer can hire as many whores as he wants on his own tab, damn it; hiring them on the city's tab, and then bribing public officials to hush it up, is going a bit too far. The fact that there are some prominent mafia names on the clientele list of Lehrer's preferred whorehouse is also interesting. Very interesting.
Stiles is going to make sure these tapes make it to the police. And the media.
And Derek Hale. Which is kind of how they roll. Derek threatens to kill Stiles whenever Stiles shows up, but he ends up using the intel, anyway. Stiles is well aware of the fact that he's a stupid, bumbling teenager that can't even rappel down the side of a building without giving himself a wedgie, so obviously, he can't administer justice personally or beat down or tie up any actual criminals. All he can do is gather information onthose criminals, and then pass it on to the badass mofo that can whup their asses.
That mofo is Derek Hale. Also known as Howl, because of the whole grows-fur-and-fangs-in-the-light-of-the-full-moon thing. Stiles tries not to call him a werewolf. That would be passé.
Stiles manages to hang onto the remaining equipment as he grapple-hooks and swings and awkwardly skitters his way home. Jesus, this shit ain't easy. God damn all those comic books for making it look like flying, anyway. If this is flying, then Stiles is a drunken duck. The key point being that ducks can't fly. Not the domestic ones, at any rate. Not really.
Still, he hangs on to the stuff, and repeats the car's license number in his head, over and over. He'll find some way to pay the owner back. Somehow. Maybe he'll mow Derek's obscenely massive lawn. That alone should earn him a thousand bucks.
Not that Derek will ever pay him. Or let him near the mansion. Or the lawn. He'll probably shoot Stiles dead before he passes the fifteen-acre defense perimeter. Because Derek totally does have a defense perimeter. Hell, the man is a defense perimeter. Stiles ought to know; he keeps trying to breach it.
God, that came out wrong.
He's got the license plate memorized by the time he gets home.
"Hey, Dad," he says, after depositing the equipment in his room and taking off his mask and his gloves. He changes into his pajamas, ruffles his hair into some approximation of a bedhead, and groggily saunters out of his bedroom like he's just coming out for a midnight snack. Like he hasn't just been out clambering ungracefully across rooftops. "Dad?"
Dad isn't home. As usual. This is a good thing, because it means that Stiles has gone another night without getting found out, but it's also a badthing, because his Dad's still out on patrol in a crazy city, where there are more guns than paper-clips and more killers than secretaries. Hell, sometimes the killers even are secretaries.
He sighs. And grabs some milk from the fridge, and guzzles it, and pads back upstairs to his room to hook in his one remaining radio. He's going to keep an ear out for anything that might go bump in the night. He's got the camera feeds and the street footage hooked up to his computer, too, so he'll know what happens even before the police do, and he'll make sure the right people get informed at the right time. As far as they know, it's just the mysterious Ghost, giving them anonymous tip-offs about shit that's going down in their city, and broadcasting - as always - on a scrambled frequency. Stiles is pretty sure they actually appreciate his help, even though their official stance is that vigilantism and the hacking of government satellites is a bad, bad thing.
Whatever. They're still on the hunt for him, but if he plays his cards right, no one's ever going to figure out that the Ghost is a C-grade high-schooler and a middle-aged cop's son. And it isn't like he's doing anything but helping the cops - and, occasionally, Howl - in hunting down and catching the scum that give this city a bad name. Sure, Beacon Hills is... not exactly a beacon, of anything, let alone hope, but the people here are pretty nice, so long as they aren't being terrorized by gang wars and corrupt politicians and weird fashion trends.
Stiles slides on his head-set and tunes into the police channel.
"Pursuit in progress along - " static " - ur Boulevard. Suspect believed to be carrying - " static " - plosives."
He pulls out his cell and punches in Derek's number. Which Derek will - again - threaten to kill him for using, later, but it'll be later, after the lives of everyone on Stosur Boulevard have been saved.
"Yo, Sourwolf - wait, no, don't hang up - "
Another night, another phone call. They might as well be dating, now.
It's ink-dark in the alley, and quiet except for the muted, meaty thuds of a thug being resolutely beaten into submission. Stiles does the polite thing and waits just around the corner, clutching his parcel of Congressman Lehrer's incriminating photographs. He'd spent all of this afternoon developing them in his very own dark room, which he'll probably have to sanctify with holy water or something, because damn, that is some major bad-wrong Lehrer gets down to in those photos. Or gets up to - strung up to - no, not thinking about it. Not. He's been scarred for life enough, already. And how sad is it that even a depraved old bastard like Lehrer has gotten laid more in one week than Stiles has in his entirelife?
"Um, hi," he says, as soon as Derek's done with the perp and has left him zip-stripped for the cops. "Should I make the call? Or d'you just wanna leave him for - ow," he says, because suddenly, he's slamming into the alley wall and looking up at a pair of feral, glowing eyes.
And a mouth full of teeth, or, uh, fangs, and that's really -
"Don't kill me?" he croaks, and the clawed hands at his collar loosen. Slightly. From 'deadly' to 'threatening'.
"You," says Howl, and it is Howl, now, not Derek Hale. It's only because Stiles knows what Derek's real identity is that he can even recognise the man under all that wolf.
"Yeah, me. Hello."
Howl slams him against the wall. Again.
"Ouch. You don't have to keep doing that."
"I told you to stay away from my crime scenes."
"Dude, you realise that makes it sound like you're the criminal, right? They aren't your crime scenes, they're - okay, okay, don't bite my face off. Jeez. I'm just trying to help - "
"How did you find me."
It isn't even a question. "Satellites, genius. Like always. And, you know, keeping track of radio stations - people call in sightings all the time, you're really popular, you know that? I mean, there's only so many shirtless werewolves running around and jumping walls. The chicks think you're hot." I think you're hot. No, wait. He's supposed to be professional, here. Even though it's becoming increasingly difficult with an insanely muscled body pressed against his. Fuck.
"You. You hack into government satellites."
"Haven't we covered that before? Yes, I'm breaking the law, which means you should mince me and fry me on a high flame, but then again, you'realso breaking the law by going vigilante on some poor bastard's ass, so we're even. We're doing it for the greater good. That's what counts, right? Method and motive?"
Howl… looks at him.
"Or maybe it doesn't count. Maybe you're going to mince me anyway - "
"Hand. Me. The photos."
Stiles hands him the photos.
Derek - because his eyes have become human again, and his face a lot less psychotic - scans the photos at speed. And then, when he's done, he just pulls a lighter out of his back pocket and sets them on fire.
"Hey! What - it took me ages to get that stuff together!"
"There should be no paper trail." The pictures are now a pile of perfectly indistinguishable ashes.
"Right." Stiles stares. "Sure. I'll just - stop getting weirded out by the fact that that is exactly what Lehrer says when he fu - uh, screws around in barely-legal brothels and gets the public to pay for it."
"There may be more to it than that."
"Really? So it isn't just a coincidence that Tony Russo visits the same, er, establishment?"
"No," says Derek, quietly. "It is not."
"Well, shit. Just what we need in this city - the freaking mafia making inroads into politics."
"The mafia has always made inroads into politics."
"And Howl has always rooted them out?"
Derek's eyes gleam. He's wolfing out again, and - well, that certainly bodes ill for Tony Russo -
"Um, I'm. Glad to help. You're still… thinking about my offer?"
"No, you're not thinking about it anymore because you're going to say yes, or no, to, like, the offer?"
"I will not train you."
"Oh, come on, man. Wolf. Wolf-man. Batman needs a Robin, okay? And Howl needs a - uh, probably something that's less like a bird he can eat, but - I've already proven myself. I'm useful - "
"You're a nuisance."
"I'm not, and you know it." Stiles is glaring. He probably shouldn't be glaring at a guy who can kill him with his bare hands, but - "Don't you dare say that to me."
Derek's - Howl's eyes narrow.
Stiles gulps. "Or, uh. You can say that to me, but you can't actually expect me to believe it, all right? Not when even you don't believe it. Look. I'll be safer and more useful if you teach me some of that martial arts stuff - "
"Stuff," Howl says. Slowly.
Stiles flushes. "Aikido and kalaripayattu and goddamn muay thai, I don't even - all the martial arts stuff you know. Hell, any of it. Anything that'll let me go after Russo, too - "
"You are not going after Russo."
"Why the hell not? I can get intel that'll put the bastard in prison as soon as you've caught him, and - you know it won't work if you just beat on him, the guy's a snake - "
Stiles - grits his teeth. "I'm not a kid."
"Says the sixteen-year-old with the comics collection and the shelf full of action figures."
"You know about - hey, wait, have you been stalking me back?"
Howl… is Derek again. A kind of amused-looking Derek, and if it wasn't so goddamn scary, Stiles would - do something. Possibly something that wouldn't have anything to do with his dick, which is choosing just this moment to wake up and notice the fact that even though Derek isn't still pressed against him, he's still awfully close, and the faint scent of other people's blood on him isn't a turn-off, at all -
"Whatever you're smelling on me right now, you're going to ignore it. Right?" Please ignore it.
Derek snorts. And turns away. "Go home," he says, and just - leaps onto the rooftop of the nearest building.
Stiles is never going to get used to seeing that. Sometimes, it feels like he'll never stop masturbating to the memory of that -
"You're welcome!" Stiles calls after him. "For, you know, all the help I gave you that you just profusely thanked me for!"
Derek pauses on the edge of the rooftop - backlit by the moon and already, visibly transformed into Howl - before he disappears.
Gratitude. Someday, Stiles is going to get some.
But now, what he really needs to get is sleep, but only after he's gone back to his room and put the radio on an auto-sweep, set to wake him whenever the computer senses any word that matches a police code for a homicide, grand theft or violent assault.
And if he gets to call Derek and hear his voice after each wake-up?
That's just a perk he's going to keep to himself.
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