I.

Principal Argent is one of the strangest dichotomies that she has seen yet in her short life: a mixture of three-days-older-than-dirt and clear eyes that bespoke of something completely opposite of what his 'grandfatherly' persona implies. His hands, wrinkled, were clasped over the desk, over an organized pile of paperwork on the funding of clubs and afterschool programs. She sat in a room that screamed 'this is a friendly environment - look at all the school colors on my walls, pictures of my family on my desk and medals, and accolades of Beacon Hills High on my bookshelves;' the room was trying so hard that it was almost going to strain its own metaphorical back. Her right knee was twitching uncontrollably under the oak desk. She needed Adderall two hours ago. Principal Argent smiled disappeared as he sighed dolefully, excluding an air of one who is exasperated and tired, "If you really refuse to tell me anything about Derek Hale, Miss Stilinski, I think we're through. Just remember that I'm trying to protect my students from a dangerous man." He reached up to pat her on the arm, "be careful; your father just set up curfew again after the third animal attack this week and he will be very unhappy if anything happens to you." She twitched again with the contact. Bad touch from a very bad man.

Dismissed, Stiles Stilinski offered a strained smile, pushed her chair back and rose to her feet, smoothing the wrinkles out of her vest and skirt as she headed back out the door with Argent's request to bring the next 'troublemaker' in. The hallway was empty save for a long bench backed against the wall with two sophomore boys sitting on either side, each leaning with their knees slightly away from the other, as if trying to put as much space between them without it seeming too insulting. To the one on the left, she said, "You're up. Nice camera." To the one on the right, she waited until the principal's door opens and closes shut and then muttered, "Dude. If looks could kill, I'd be six feet under with Nikon-guy's hate before you can howl. Who is he?"

Scott McCall snarled in anger, facial features still human, but regained his composure when Stiles warily stepped back, "He was taking photos of girls in the locker room. He was taking pictures of Allison." He rolled his shoulders back until they popped, "I forgot his name… Mike? Marvin? He's on the lacrosse team but we're not close."

"Far from it," she drily noted, stretching up and turning away. "Well then, I'm glad to know that his anger management issues were aimed at you and not me. Love triangles are a nice way to spice up life." Stiles held out an arm; Scott wordlessly straightened and hooked his arm through hers. As they walked down the empty halls and down the stairs, they were careful to keep their voices low, "Sorry I got out late, Harris hasn't let up on my ass despite me having not taken advantage of his sorry state with the whole Hale-Alpha thing and Principal Argent tried for half an hour to pronounce my real name." Her fingers brushed absentmindedly over the lockers as they strolled by.

"No worries," Scott crookedly grinned, pushing the front doors open, "I just got a text back from Allison. The family dinner is a-go," he deflated a bit as they stepped out into the sun, squinting at the bright reflection from the cars and then back at the school building as though imbued werewolf powers included X-ray vision, "every Argent is going to be there, even the Principal. Allison's dad hasn't said anything yet but I don't think he's forgiven me for introducing all of this supernatural wolf-stuff to her. I think her mom despises me for it. I'm pretty sure, you know, since she… with her car… Well, yeah, it wasn't me specifically who did that but I was a pretty big part of it." He hastily added seeing Stiles' mouth open in token protest and then flashed a double-thumbs up sign, "I'll give the Bestiality to you as soon as I can."

The term "Bestiality" has been going strong for two weeks.

"Uh huh. Give me a call if things go south. I managed to strong-arm Mr. Argent Junior into keeping you relatively alive but I can't say the same with Mrs. Argent." She rubbed the bridge of her nose, watching Scott unlock his bike from the rails and carry it to her vehicle, "I'll be hanging out with my jeep doing homework and patrolling the neighborhood. God, I hope she's fully drivable," and fretted as she rubbed the paint job and started picking at the parts where rust has started to set in.

"Don't stay outside," the other boy reminded her as he closed the back door.

"I know, I know." Stiles waved off his worries, "Don't mother me, dude. I'll stay inside the car… it's just that the weather's great and I need to get fresh air before I smash my head against the next available hard surface. My dad's already over protective as is with that whole new string of 'animal attacks' and his unofficial inquiry into Principal Argent's background." She glumly kicks at the concrete sidewalk, "Sucks that bureaucracy is such a bitch. He has his hands tied since he can't say, 'I need a warrant because werewolves.' It'll be easier if he just was, like, 'I need a warrant because fuck you that's why.'"

"Derek's not helping?"

She snorted as she opened the driver's door and climbed in. Closing the door behind her, she reached into the glove compartment, popped an Adderall into her mouth and washed it down with a bottle of water, "Derek Hale is persona non grata in the Stilinski household after their argument about Isaac Lahey and the murder of his dad, Coach Lahey. Remember? One wants the guy to turn himself in and the other wants to hide him from the hunters whom he's convinced have members in the police department? Not to mention that he also bit Erica Reyes last week and made her change the most talked-about event since Lydia and Jackson's epic break-up. Thank god he's keeping Vernon Boyd's bite under wraps." She rapped her fist against her temple, "It's just: common sense – he needs it." She and Scott took a moment to recall the sudden change in the epileptic girl that somehow made a complete one-eighty from zero to leopard print, low cut necklines, short skirts, and the leather jacket that she was certain is a Hale trademark. Stiles slips the keys into ignition and turns, muttering curses under her breath when it takes too long for the jeep to respond.

Scott dug into his backpack, pulled out his phone and started to fiddle with Angry Birds as they pulled out of the parking lot, "They looked like they were doing pretty well when we last checked on them." With raised eyebrows, he nudged her arm, "Remember when Erica suddenly rushed up and began making out with Derek when they were training in that abandoned station?"

"And then he pushed her off after, like, five seconds of serious tongue? Highlight of my week, right there, and awkward turtles for everyone." Giving a low whistle, Stiles made a turn, "Besides the whole 'ew gross PDA' thing, I don't know why they stopped so… violently. He obviously enjoyed it and she's obviously hot. And unstable," she tacked on as an afterthought with a face of distaste as she stroked the steering wheel. "Still haven't forgiven her for wrecking my baby, which was why we were visiting in the first place."

"At least she promised to pay for damages." Scott flicked his wrist at his phone's screen as Bomb, the black bird, smashed into a structure holding five Corporal Pigs, and exploded, "I mean: Derek forced her to offer but it was only right. You reap what you sow." He rolled down his window and rested his head against the frame.

"I guess… Not that her apology was most sincere. I'm actually more afraid of her now." A bad Alpha trains bad betas. Why do you still help them, Stiles? She frowned at the dashboard as it creaked ominously when she stepped gently on the gas, "Damn it, my car is overheating – the leak in the radiator is still there."

"Next time you go to get repairs, I can threaten the mechanic for you." Scott is as threatening as a cute Labrador puppy with a tendency to get distracted by his own tail. "No seriously, stop laughing, I can flash some fang at him and the wolf face and he'll give you a discount and good quality service."

"That asshole had the balls to tell me that I needed to refill on headlight fluid. You can find fucking headlight fluid in the aisle next to the elbow grease." She angrily punctuates her sentences with vicious jabs at the space in front of her, "Did you know that that is a tactic to test how stupid you are in car knowledge and to give an estimate on how much money they can cheat out of you. Like I don't need that type bullshit at all and I shouldn't have to bring a guy to defend my honor or anything, no offense." Stiles groused, having resumed tapping anxiously on the steering wheel, "Not that it matters anymore. He's dead. I'm pretty sure no one can survive getting crushed into a flat pancake."

("9-1-1, what is your emergency? …Hello? This is 9-1-1. ….Is anyone there?")

"I don't even know what that thing was," she murmured, shaking out the phantom numbness creeping up from her right fingertips, "What I don't get is that it wasn't werewolf-y. It was more lizard-y, with a tail…" She glanced over, flexing her hand, "Would Derek know…"

"I called him yesterday. Derek has no clue," he shook his head and tapped his ears, "no lie." A flash of gold in his eyes, his voice grew more guttural with worry, "Do you think his uncle…"

-nima…

She let her eyes drift back onto the road, "Probably." She replied grimly, "Another question for the dead man, Mr. Peter Hale, leaving us high-schoolers to clean up after his messes." They pulled up to the driveway to a modestly sized house in a moderately sized neighborhood. If one knew where to look, one can find the familiar foot prints of a teenage boy walking on the tiled roof top. The white sideboards were as fresh and the colorful Begonias planted under the windowsill of a second floor bedroom. In the shadows of the begonias were little patches of Wolfs bane. Stiles idly wondered how many secret caches the house has to store illegal firearms, "We're here." Scott gave a two fingered salute as he opened the door. "Alright, remember the rules. Be careful. Don't be stupid. Don't piss off the in-laws …too much. And use protection. None of us wants were-puppies at this moment," she dutifully listed off with her fingers. "I guarantee you that if you fuck up, or even just fuck, I will sell your sob story to MTV Teen Mom: Halloween Edition." Do you know how irresponsible it is to allow a werewolf, an Omega, to mate with the heir of royalty? I ought to kill you before you do something beyond stupid, errant Beta.

"Stiles!" Scott flushed as he quickly exited the vehicle with a graceless hop, slamming the door shut as Stiles barked with laughter.

As she restarted the car, Scott tapped on the driver's window insistently until Stiles rolled it down and asked nonplussed as she sensed a change in the atmosphere, "Yeah?"

Scott's face expressed grimness as he gently squeezed her shoulder, "Always keep the Mountain Ash with you, alright? Dr. Deaton said that it will ward off other creatures besides werewolves. Be like a Boy Scout. Be prepared."

Patting her inner vest pocket, Stiles nodded with the same amount of solemnity and bumped fists with him. "I'll be fine, mom." Scott made a face but didn't try to get the last word in and instead, in a rare show of maturity, brushed off her minor verbal jab and made his way to the doorstep. She stayed long enough to observe that it was Chris Argent who received him and long enough for Chris Argent to recognize her car and be aware of her presence. She reversed the car out of the cul-de-sac and back onto the main roads, trying to mentally map out the roads of the neighborhood community.

Ten minutes into her leisure drive, she gets a text. Frowning, she sends a text back. Two seconds later, she gets another text. She reads it and then swears as she throws her phone onto the passenger seat and turns the jeep around, "God damn it, Derek."

II.

At 4:22, she gets a text from Derek: You need to come to the abandoned train station.

At 4:22, she sends back: I'm a little bit busy here.

At 4:22, she gets a text from Derek: Now Stiles

"I'm here. What do you want?" Stiles demands as she shoves her hands into her pockets and steps gingerly over the threshold into the abandoned subway car. A quick survey of the area tells her that not much has changed since she had last ventured here with Scott. There are three Beta wolves perched on a window ledge behind him, each showing a remarkable amount of awareness despite their relaxed positions in the context of a near full moon. How long ago has it been since they were bitten? One week? Three? Their ease into the change is remarkable compared to Scott; then again, Scott was running around blind without guidance of any sort save for a best-friend who made the unreal logical leap from 'mysterious, disappearing bite-injury' to 'congratulations, you've got lycanthropy.'

Derek, fun guy that he is, looks even more irritated than normal and his eyebrows are telling her that his frustration is her fault because she can't find out why he was mad in the first place. "Why was there no follow up?"

Stiles blinks as she tears her attention away from the far wall where an enlarged, written-on map of Beacon Hills was haphazardly taped, marked with, she now realizes, the sites of recent supposed animal attacks that showed no discernible pattern to its madness, "Follow up? To what?"

Derek's glower manages to perfectly convey how stupid he suspects she is of which she's not because she's the proclaimed 'Brains' half of the Scott-and-Stiles epic duo, "Your friend traced a text a week ago. Are you telling me that he's still not done?" The three Betas are watching the exchange like an interesting Wimbledon match, deriving pleasure from witnessing someone get the fifth degree. It takes a moment for Stiles to get on the same page before the light bulb is turned on above her head and she scratches the back of her head nervously as dread shakes at her like a bucket of cold ice down her back.

"I didn't know that you wanted to hear the results," she protests, indignant because her week of intense mind bleaching of that particular incident just became moot point.

Derek closes his eyes in an attempt to control his temper and rubs a hand over his face as if he could wipe off rage like a rag to a dusty table, "Stiles, I was there with you because I needed the information. Why would I not want to know?" His voice was trying, full of mocking despair and incredulous amusement, standard tone when dealing with her and her 'unusual' ways. One could probably equate the rag that would 'wipe the rage away' to be his condescending, asshole attitude. Correction: she claimed that it was condescending but her dad later claimed that it was the exact way that he dealt with her.

Stiles flails in his general direction, "Dude! You looked like you were going to tear me apart after Danny agreed. If I could not remind you of that whole fiasco, maybe that offended air about you would be toned down to mildly irritated." As if she was preparing to flee, she steps back one step with her arms up in a placating gesture, "I mean, it's perfectly fine to be offended, I don't begrudge you of that, in fact," she manages to dish out a smile that seemed to only made the situation worsen ten-fold, "I would be offended too if I had to… err…" Her gaze shifts from Derek to his Betas and she loses her verbal momentum and let her arms hang back down on her sides. Because it would be very bad for Stiles' continued goals for longevity to at least age thirty before she dies of a cardiac arrest from a sickness of too many werewolves to poke again at the maggot's nest. We will do it again. It's time you sacrificed something for the pack, my dear Nephew.

Erica purses her lips while Isaac cocks his head in askance, "What are you talking about?"

And that's the crux of the problem, isn't it? With a low released breath, as she figures out how to side-step the question, Stiles digs out her cellphone and starts flipping through her emails. Though Danny had finished his hacking days ago, he didn't meet her eyes for the entire week but had at least deigned to send her a nice little summary of his findings into her inbox with no further questions asked. "I stole Jackson's cell because last week Scott overheard him asking Danny questions like 'I need this tape recording of me asleep on the full moon to be transferred to this hard drive. How do I do that?' It's not his exact words but it was damn close enough. Allison mentioned that he was even more of a jackass than before. I thought it was because he finally broke up with Lydia but Allison said, 'let's look deeper.' So I stole his cell." Stiles takes out Jackson's phone and tosses it towards Isaac. "And I had Danny break into it and in his message inbox, I found that somebody has been texting him pictures of the victims roughly an hour before their time of death."

Boyd raises an eyebrow, "Solid lead" he remarks with grudging admiration.

Stiles preens. "Time of texts also correlates to somebody with a schedule based around school and after school activities," she continues, standing a bit straighter, "I asked Danny if he could lend me a hand since he's the expert in this type of stuff. But he couldn't find out who sent the texts to Jackson but he did find the location of where they were sent from." She pulls up Google Maps on her own phone and shows the little blue flag proudly, "The Beacon Hills High swimming pool."

After a few moments of thought, Derek crosses his arms, "And what were you planning on doing with the information?" He asks with restrained anger that causes the very air around him to thicken with tension. The admonishment like an adult to a child or a boss to a subordinate created a tension can be felt through the air like crackling heat dancing across the skin or lightning without rain, leaving palpable goose bumps.

Chewing on her lower lip and uneasily rubbing her upper arms, Stiles glances up towards the light fixtures and then down towards her phone as she struggled to find words that won't get her slammed against her steering wheel again, "I can't just say, 'Jackson, someone is controlling you. You might not know it but you're killing people… to death.'"

"Stay on topic, Stiles," Derek frowns.

"Besides, the whole two-person operation going on here just makes everything so much harder and I-"

Derek growls, eyes flashing eerily as a warning sign like Peter Hale's. The Betas straightened in alarm, a hair trigger away from jumping into action. Stiles' words die in her throat with an undignified whimper, unable to speak until red eyes bled back into hazel.

"I… ahh… I was just going to go over there and check it out." She admits, tugging nervously at a few strands of hair out of years of habit, "Usually the texts won't be sent until later at night and it gives me a good chunk of time to scope out the scene with no one there, find clues on who the second person is. Maybe even ambush the person." The Alpha retained an expression that cordoned his own opinions from the interested audience, neither agreeing nor disagreeing, forcing Stiles to try in vain and interpret the lack of anything on his face. She finds herself growing defensive at the stretched silence, "You got any better ideas? And no, you can't stop me from going." She waves in the direction of the other wolves, "You know what Boyd said? He's so right. This is the most solid lead I've got since this whole thing started and now we're all like 'when the hell did Jackson get bit?' and others are all like 'more animal attacks, Sheriff? Have you really dealt with that cougar problem?'"

"Does your dad know about this plan of yours?" Derek remains stony and unreadable. "Does your dad know anything about what you've been up to?" Her instincts, as she stared into the face of the unmovable predator, starts to cry out in fear in the form of hair rising on their ends.

"I'll tell him later… much later…" Stiles stares distrustfully at the older man; for a minute, engaging in silent communication, they have a war of the wills until Stiles reluctantly gives ground, "You're not going to tell him are you? He's going to kill me. You two don't even get along anymore. You can't tell him!" Derek's face smoothed out into a lazy smirk, mimicking the one that his uncle favored to a frightening extent, "Oh come on!" Using her dad as blackmail as means to get grounded via not only withholding information but also participating in stopping diabolical murder? Not cool. Despite the two men's almost violent tete-a-tete, she knew that should Derek ever go on speed dial and say, "Sheriff, your daughter is about to do something amazingly suicidal and dumb," it will spell the end of her freedom and get her dad increasingly embroidered into dangerous supernatural happenstance. Father looks after daughter; daughter looks after father. She throws her arms in the air in defeat, "…What do you want?"

III.

At 6:12pm, she gets a text from Chris: I need to discuss many things with you in person.

At 8:12pm, Stiles sends back: How did you get this number?

At 8:15pm, Stiles follows up with: Just text me back. Nobody monitors my calls and texts.

Thirty minutes later, she finds herself driving her jeep full of werewolves as Derek preemptively separates them into two groups: Isaac and Boyd are going to searching the perimeter while she, Derek, and Erica are going to explore inside the building. Enjoying the effects of Adderall in her system, Stiles zones in and out of the conversation as she ponders about the recent events. What Derek had said made sense: it's not as though she's mad that they underhandedly insisted on joining her in her expedition since she could always use the help of more paws… uh, claws… hands… Well, it is going against Scott's determination of completely separating themselves from the Hale pack which Stiles prefers because it meant that she won't have to obey every command that Derek makes, smart or dumb (mostly dumb). Autonomy works well for her.

"Hey Stiles," Isaac starts, poking her nape to get her attention, "How did you manage to get Danny to agree to help you?" After all, doesn't the guy try to ignore her presence as much as Lydia Martin?

Stiles' hands begin tightening around the steering wheel until her knuckles whiten as she resolutely does not give a panicked glance at Derek in the shotgun, "Why do you ask?"

"Just curious," Isaac leans back into the seat and accidentally elbows Erica in the ribs, starting a minor scuffle between the two until Boyd growls at them.

The sole human of the group and therefore the only one with true prey instincts tapped her fingers against the top of the wheel in agitation, "I'd rather not talk about the Danny Incident. Even though it worked really well, everybody got an awkward turtle that day." She laughed nervously as they braked in front of a red light, "please don't kill me, Derek."

"We already agreed to never let it happen and to never talk about it. We already broke one rule and I'll let you off this one time," Derek casually pointed out, eyes staring resolutely ahead and red enough that she could see their reflections on her windshield, "But if you break the other rule or," his voice, despite hitting a low tenor, resounded in the small space of the jeep, "tell them in detail what happened in your room with Danny," Scott's shirts, Stiles' towel, blackmail with arrest reports, and a broken Mac all unmentioned but heavily implied, "and I will rip your throat out… with my teeth," he adds two seconds later and smiles in her general direction with fangs, all wide and fake.

She edges to the far side of the interior as she physically can which equates to three inches of progress and maybe a grand total of two feet of distance between them. "I apologized to him too," she tries to console him. Because queer-baiting is bad; it is a very, very bad thing – as Derek had pounded into her head after the incident. But god damn, she would be lying if she said that it wasn't funny. At the very least, it was one of those events where if it isn't funny now, it'll definitely be later, somewhere down the road, way down the road. Stiles checks the review mirror, "Yo Boyd, if your eyebrows move any higher, they'll disappear into your hairline."

It is then decided silently and unanimously that the conversation, at least this line of inquiry, was closed and will never be poked at with any metaphorical stick ever again. She parks her jeep under the cover of trees a block away from their destination, curbside without any street lights in their vicinity. Stiles blinks rapidly, waiting patiently for her vision to adjust until Erica grabs her elbow and guides her down the sidewalk until they reach a familiar building. As Derek breaks the lock on the back door (another potential set of breaking and entering charges for her permanent record – joy of all joys) Isaac and Boyd sink into the shadows and disappear, acting more like vampires than werewolves. Derek moves in first, scopes out the territory with glowing red eyes, sniffs the air, "clear" and then makes the universal gesture of 'come.' Erica takes a few steps through the doorway before turning around and tossing an expectant look back; Stiles hesitates for another two seconds before following.

"What do you smell?" The human murmurs as her fingers danced lightly across the glass of a vial she had tucked in her pocket, having planned to get some samples of that monster's poison to do some tests for curiosity and science.

Derek scopes out the corners, pushing a creaking ladder that led to the rafters to the side that had hinges that needed to be oiled, "There is at least one person, male. He was here yesterday and his scent is settled enough for me to know that he's been here on a semi-regular basis for at least the past month."

"Semi-regular meaning…"

Derek glances back, "a couple times a week for about an hour each."

Stiles gives a low whistle and keeps to Erica's heels, said girl had somehow procured an industrial flashlight from somewhere on her body. "Your noses are that strong?" Derek grunts and turns away; Erica's grin leaks through her moue as she winks. "That must suck… Well, if you're right, that would mean two things: since I highly doubt that a newly spawned pair of murderers would only send pics of victims to each other without any face to face, then this place isn't their evil headquarters." She uses finger-quotations for the last word and did an about-turn to head to the pool, converses making soft padding sounds on the tile that complimented with the harsh clicks of Erica's heels. There were no disturbances in the pool or any prints of signs of human activity. "Then again, Jackson is not a people-person." Turning her attention to the handles by the diving board, she spots a viscous opaque liquid-like substance coating the underside, bending light. As she allows a couple of drops to fall into her vial, she crows, "Bingo" and gestures wildly at Erica to come closer, "do you smell anything?" After a delicate sniff, Erica shakes her head. Stiles taps her lip in thought, "Shit. The monster and its venom are scentless." She glances up, "You know what that means?"

Erica's eyes flashes yellow, matching the shade of her hair and the various bangles that she had decided to hang from her wrist, "Jackson turns into a thing that is specifically designed to fight against werewolves." A little bit of her past-self, without the make-up and glamour and confident posture, leaks through when she shifts nervously from foot to foot. It was a subtle movement, kept alive from an entire teenage lifetime of habit, "Derek said that lots of shifters from lots of legends have a competition for favor from the moon. If it's a shifter, then what does it look like?" She levels an inquiring gaze at Stiles and cocks her head like what Isaac had done, distinctly wolf-like, "you saw it, didn't you? You said that it was some sort of reptile."

"It's not Jackson anymore," Stiles caps the vial and checks for leaks. Her eyes drift shut in an attempt to recall bad memories, "Scales were smooth and blue-green-ish tinted. It looked like it came from a del Toro film but with that sort of 'I can't believe it's not CGI' feeling attached. Head's bald and round; its eyes were… yellow and lizard-y."

"Human-sized and shaped but with a tail and could run on all-fours and up walls like a gecko?" Erica asks with an uneasy tone lining her words, causing Stiles' eyes to snap open in alarm. Before Stiles can even open her mouth, Erica hisses, "Get behind me," and grabs her arm with a clawed hand and yanks her back with such power that Stiles momentarily flies straight into the other girl's cleavage before being hastily shuffled back. She peers over the Beta's right shoulder and manages to catch mere glimpses of the action and had to rely more on her sense of hearing. A set of teeth and a pair of red eyes shine, moving fast that they leave track marks in the darkness. Derek roars as one of them, wolf or monster, bodily impacts the wall. The windows, all situated high in the building and surrounding all sides of the walls, shudder. Stiles winces at the tell-tale sound of claws rendering flesh. Seconds after the sounds of fighting died down, leaving nothing but the strain of heavy breathing; Erica ventures closer, shakily sweeping her flashlight left and right against the walls before landing on a familiar prone form. "Oh no," the sight of Derek supine on the ground was a death knell for both of them. Well, well, well, a creature native to South America, a Kanima.

The battle was over before Stiles could regain her wits. It was over in seconds; it was an ambush, it was a freaking ambush. The monster was lying in wait like a pit adder. She runs a hand across her scalp, tugging anxiously at her strands as she attempts to calm her hysterics and felt the need to inform that, "This is like the plot of every single bad Sci-fi film that I've ever watched in my short life. Alien vs. Predator but with more teen drama and sass."

"Shut up," Erica grits out, words guttural from the fangs present with her Beta form, "I don't know if Jackson… it…. can understand us." Truthfully, the creature looked like it had bypassed the modern day school curriculum on language and went straight to Sun Tzu and his propensity to educate upon the virtues of gathering all thy enemies into one place before smiting them… Or was that from the Bible? Erica sweeps the flashlight back over to Derek's body – at least he's still breathing, either that or a ghost is doing CPR. "I'll distract it and you run and get Derek and get the hell out of Dodge."

Since when did Erica Reyes become so self-sacrificing? Martyr is not in fashion (Lydia had once informed her). Stiles retreats slowly as she chews on the inside of her cheek, eyes darting left and right as she hurries to take inventory of what she has on her person. Her steady retreat was stopped by the vice grip the Beta werewolf has on her arm, having never really let her go since the initial assault, "Hear me out - you give me enough time to land one hit and then we'll play this by ear."

Erica's grip tightens until Stiles hisses in pain as she insists, "We're not leaving Derek behind." Stiles tugs insistently on her arm until Erica releases her, leaving behind faint marks that would surely bruise – that is if they can survive this intact til the next morning.

"We aren't," she reluctantly confirms as she warily eyes the thing's claws clicking on the tiled floor rhythmically as it approaches. "And I never said we were." Unretractable, her mind unhelpfully supplies with the congenial voice of David Attenborough, like the cheetah for traction across the great Serengeti. This characteristic is usually accompanied by a harder than average density in order to prevent wear and erosion to the quick.

They wait for the monster to come within striking distance, on the balls of their feet, knees slightly bent and arms in a standard guarding position. The creature has Jackson's smirk and Jackson's confidence but not his arrogance nor any of his mental acuity. Stiles wonders if Jackson was human enough to keep his favored method of attack, a lunge towards his opponent's left torso before knocking them over (a known fact from lazy afternoons on the lacrosse field observing the players with Scott on the bench, at least until Finstock declared that if she was going to sit by a team member, then she is a team member, and started her on suicide runs). She can palpate her own heart beat through her rib cage, drowning out the sibilant hisses from the lizard. With the new found adrenaline rush in her body, she can't stop shaking (in fear? in anticipation?) Erica snarls; the straining atmosphere snaps like a whip. The screech from the monster reminds Stiles of metal striking against metal, nails of a chalkboard, hair-raising and used to induce fear and freeze the prey in its place. For what it's worth, the call does work; it's just that Stiles has a tendency to blow through fear like firefighters through infernos. She springs to her right, flanking the reptile as Erica continues to demand its attention by swiping at its eyes on the other end and getting a good kick with her heels into the softness right below its sternum.

"Careful. Careful! Hey! Ugly!" Stiles yells as she digs her hands into her vest pocket; timing it so that as soon as the creature turns its head, she flings a handful of Mountain Ash towards its mouth, coating the air with black dust. The ash burns and starts melting through the skin like concentrated acid, leaving behind rising smoke trails that carries a vague scent of Molotov-Peter. Its claws frantically scratch at its own scales to rid itself of the burning temporarily distracted from its surroundings. She takes a moment to stare in disbelief, "That worked. I can't believe that worked… Erica! Where are you?" The werewolf grabs onto her bruising arm but her body was too full of adrenaline to even register the pain, "Erica. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Holy…" As Stiles is dragged along, she glances back, "It's already back up? What? What? WHAT?! Erica, go. Go. Go go go go go!"

They sprint past the monster toward Derek, each grabbing an arm and hauling him up just as he begins to stir and snap into attention. "Alpha," Erica ventures cautiously, clawed hand hovering an inch above his face, "Can you move?"

"No," Derek scowls after a couple of struggles, clearly unwilling to admit to his temporary incapacitation, "It managed a clear strike at the back of my neck." Stiles closes her eyes in despair. The strongest fighter of their trio just became a liability. The reptile stalks towards them on all fours, strategically placing its body between them and the sole exit, its tail swaying back and forth like a pendulum. Upon closer inspection, she noted that Derek had managed to get some good hits to its spinal area and that it was bleeding profusely off-reddish green from its head and shoulders, staining the ground as it walked. It moves in a way that implies a heavy blow to its ribs, favoring the opposite side to lean its weight on its legs. It's a pity that werewolves don't have their own brand of paralytic poison; then again, dealing with Alpha Peter would have been that much more of a pain.

"I'm going to turn you into a Prada bag and gift it to Lydia," Stiles swears as she lets go of Derek and takes a deliberate step forward, gave one moment of pause to contemplate the stupidity of her plan, and then lunges forward. To her credit, the lizard, having not expected her to initiate the frontal charge, freezes momentarily. Stiles spins on the balls of her feet, angles her body away from the late counter strike and throws out the remnants from her little zip-lock of Mountain Ash. Again, the monster begins to burn and thrashes about in an attempt to rid the powder from its face. She darts behind, away from the claws' reach and aimed a kick towards its back and runs off towards the ladder before she could hear the ensuing splash as the monster slips into the water.

Ladies and gentleman: Stiles Stilinski: kicking ass and taking names.

Erica had only managed to get the Alpha halfway up the ladder and seems to be slowing down; a combination of the waxing gibbous moon that saps a werewolf's strength due to an increased effort to keep control and another reason that Stiles realizes as soon as she awkwardly hooks her fingers around Derek's belt loops and pulled. Derek is heavy, muscular rage compacted inexplicably into a human shaped container of angst and it takes both of their combined efforts and a lot of synchronized force to haul him two stories up onto the metal rafters with questionable structural integrity, questionable structural integrity meaning that she could feel the protesting creaks and groans under her feet as loose bolts causes the beams to tremble beneath her feet and dust to shake every time she takes the slightest step.

Erica guides them through the mazes of the upper corridors, "This way!" and "Over here!" were punctuated with various, "Watch your step, a screw is missing." The monster, severely wounded by now, was progressing at a slow rate. Stubborn asshole, thy name is Jackson. Stiles briefly weighs the risk and reward ratio between killing the creature (because all she would really have to do is wait at the top of the ladder and then kick it off; the fall might kill it) and getting just the slightest bit of venom on her skin to turn her back into a sitting duck. If she had more Mountain Ash left. If she got bit by Peter and inherited werewolf strength. If Jackson hadn't begged off a bite from some Alpha, a problem that still needs to be addressed sometime in the near future. If. If. If. If. If.

Nobody has been up here since the last maintenance check that probably occurred at the founding of this school and the clouds of dust were tickling her nose; Erica had already sneezed twice. Her fingers were numb from how hard she had curled them over the paralyzed Alpha's collar for a better grip hold. Her heels dug into the grating as they scurried swiftly over to the far side where they can buy themselves some time. They might just get out of this alive and intact.

Of course, life hates her guts with a fiery passion of a thousand burning suns and never allows her to have any nice things. Later, when Stiles takes time to think about it, she'll guess that Jackson's partner in these murder rampages had figured out their presence and decided to cut his losses and bomb the place (or maybe that this was planned to be ground zero all along and Jackson's partner and Jackson had always been a step ahead of them). No, seriously, a bomb was thrown through the glass ceiling and lodges itself in the supporting beams by the walls. The sound of shattering glass had caused Erica and Stiles to look up in alarm at the small innocuous thing sailing in the air, small enough to fit into ones' arms. Before anyone can even adjust to the sudden introduction, the modified pressure cooker explodes.

There's grass beneath her feet: it smells of blood and burnt flesh. The bomb shakes the foundations of the building and the shockwave throws the three of them to the opposite railings, jarring the chains keeping the rafters suspended. Gingerly getting up on all fours, she army crawls over to the far wall, sparing a glance at Erica who was barely conscious and breathing, feeling pain radiate from the back of her knees and shoulder. She washed her hands five times and threw out the clothes that she wore that night, claiming that they smelled too much of ash. The floor tilts and moans and begins to drop beneath her. She visited the Hale house a week later and surveyed the area: noting the soft patch of dirt and the ring of wolfsbane that were beginning to wilt, a dying grave marker. Her stomach plummets, forcing her to reach out to grab something, anything, to prevent her fall to her death.

The pain from the ringing in her ears that grated on her senses forces her out of her hallucinations. She reaches out blindly just as one side of the metal structure falls and grabs onto Derek's wrist just as he tumbled over the side but his weight pulls her over as well. Their fall was temporarily broken by Erica's sudden grasp on her ankle, giving them ten seconds of stunned silence at their plight. For ten seconds, Stiles and Derek hang in midair, swaying like a parody of a pendulum, the only sound they could hear was Erica's breathing slowing. Then, the Beta wolf's grip weakens, slacks, and slips.

Plummeting is not a pleasant experience; the intense sense of vertigo turns into sheer terror. Here, she has no grounding. Here, in midair, as her stomach begins to summersault and morph into a much needed scream that she forcefully contained, she wraps her arms Derek around the waist and flips over so that her back hit the waters first, breathing out at the exact moment of impact.

Bubbles erupt all around as pain spikes up from her spine and through her arms. Her eyes snap open: on her left was a black shadow sinking down and on her right was the distorted light shining through the water. Submerged thirteen feet under water in the deep end, she looks up and realizes that it's so pretty and peaceful here it's frightening. She pushes off the concrete floor of the deep end, took a handful of Derek's shirt, and hauled them both up, kicking strenuously with her sneakers until she breaks through the surface. Gasping for breath, she drags them both to the side of the pool and props Derek up by the diving board, avoiding the residual venom hanging onto the bars, just as he started to flex his hands and arms, and pulls herself out of the water like a retarded mermaid.

She crawls on all fours and spits out a mouthful of chlorinated water before collapsing forward, unhearing of Derek's panic, of the monster's cries, of the double doors blasting out as Boyd and Isaac rush forward, because she is done. She is fucking done. Therefore, in the face of danger and death, she curls up and closes her eyes, hoping to catch a few seconds, hopefully minutes, and allows the world to spin. Why do you help this pack, Stiles?

IV.

You're a very interesting girl… I expected nothing from you and yet you offer opportunities of everything. You're so adaptable when faced with open curtains to a window that most people will never see, such a good, little girl. You have a beautiful mind and it has a spark.

"- Awake?"

And here the spark offers a second… no, third… chance. Tell me, Stilinski, what do you know about Life? Death? Magic? Are you curious?

"Don't stress her right now. What else did you find?"

Stiles jolts up from her unconscious state, feeling her heart pound against her rib cage, feeling like someone had punched her so hard that she lost breath. It's not tangible but it's based on the tangibility of that fear but it's bigger and ineffable. Derek and all his Beta wolves were conversing in a group, huddled just two meters from where she sat, propped up against the wall. "- found that phone right before the explosion," Boyd stands at the center of the group, scrolling through a smart phone, "-Matt Daehler. He's a member of the lacrosse team and photography club. And…"

To Stiles' right were her two first aid kits. She reaches for one and props it open, taking inventory and pulling out the alcohol and hydrogen peroxide bottles.

(Something is bothering me. I have an idea of what's coming but it isn't agonizing. The feeling disguises itself as concern, like it is not important, but I can't stop thinking about it.) "Scott and Mr. Argent called on Stiles' phone," Isaac mutters, "Jackson doesn't know what he's doing. He's being guided." (It's a bit like someone took a thin knife and dragged it across my arm, lightly grazing my skin.) "- the Master and the Kanima." (It hurts but not enough.)

(It only itches.) Stiles hisses as she pours alcohol over the bleeding mass on her leg. "Are you OK?" Derek stands over her with a hand on her shoulder, slowly absorbing the pain, handing over a thick roll of gauze with his other.

"No."

"Matt already took a picture of the next person. Johnny Langford. He was in the same graduating class as Camden and also on the swim team," Isaac continues, making his way over. "I think he'll die either tonight or tomorrow." Stiles takes a closer look at the three Betas and how any and all of their wounds had probably healed over five minutes after the fact. She then glances down at her various scratches and bruises and makes a disgusted noise.

"Can't take that chance," Derek replies, turning his head back to address his group. I'm not shaken. I can't falter. "Matt Daehler was willing to let the building fall with us and Jackson in it in order to hide his tracks."

"I haven't seen Johnny since Camden's funeral," Isaac shuffles his feet and turns away.

(But I can't breathe either). "Johnny Langford works at a club on Fifth Street until three in the morning every weekday," Stiles recalls, feeling the familiar narcotic like disappearance of her senses as the black veins on the Alpha's arm extend to his shoulder. "I can get us in." (It's really hard to breathe. It's stiffening and muted and dangerous.)

(It's like I'm walking through hell.) She shuts the first aid kit and makes a note to buy more supplies at the local convenience store. She gingerly stands up and test her limbs: no pain, not enough to cripple her at least, and no blood leaking out of any orifice. (And what do you do when you walk through Hell?) Stiles picks up her phone and stares mournfully at the screen, still sputtering but in its last throes of death. The wolves stare at her with contemplating gazes. Erica shrugs her shoulders, "Well then," utilizing two words to imply the work that they have ahead of them for the night isn't over. Stiles shakes off Derek's touch and runs a nervous hand through her hair.

(You keep going.)

At 9:30pm, she gets a text from Chris: Assuming that the company you keep won't be able to unlock your phone, I'll start then. There is this idea that violence begets violence. Once you start, you can't stop. It only escalates.

At 9:33pm, she sends back: So how do you stop it?

At 9:33pm, she gets a text from Chris: Do you know what an Alpha Pack is?

At 9:34pm, she sends back: No

At 9:54pm, she gets a text from Chris: How about this? Tomorrow is your school's lacrosse game. I'll see you there.

At 9:55pm, she sends back: Tomorrow. Sure.

V.

Trying to get Derek and his betas into the club where Johnny Langford worked at was easy. Trying to explain where in the world she got her connections that allowed them in with minimal fuss and admission fees was a bit harder, even with the added bonus of how physically appealing the group was. Especially when the bouncer did a double take and then tried to give her the bro-iest high-five ever, calling her, "that little chick with that kid in the Halloween furry get-up suit." Then the drag queens walked over, having spotted her, and started cooing over her, asking if she wanted any more of their… stuff for sale. After some amount of asking, the Drag queens dragged the werewolves in to have a good time. And then Danny, socializing on the dance floor, happened to glance over and immediately his eyes bugged over when Stiles, encompassed in leather, fur, and the smell of really nice Chanel perfume, offered a two finger salute from the doorway.

So yes, if this had been anybody else, Stiles would also be the one demanding for an explanation. The only problem is: she doesn't quite remember what happened. "So when Scott first got bit, we basically assumed Lycanthropy, as unusual as it was. Take all of the evidence in and remove all of the contrary explanations and what I got was: werewolf. And we didn't have any sort of guidance save for this one guy who was creepy around his burnt down house and was later arrested." She offered a cheeky grin, "my fault, by the way." She wiggled back into her stool and nursed her soda, not feeling in any mood to relax and party. Isaac and Erica were somewhere in the crowd of bodies, blending in. Derek was upstairs, asking for information from the drag queens that would hopefully give some information on how to get closer to Johnny Langford. Johnny Langford was on the opposite side of the bar, swamped with orders from the underage and desperate.

At least wonderful Boyd was here keeping her company. "Go on."

"I decided to do some experiments to test Scott's new body. Metabolism. Strength. Senses. It was almost like that obscure television show with Sentinels and stuff. At one point, we drove to a hidden place and decided to test his alcohol tolerance. I had some of my dad's scotch with me. Single-malt, good stuff. In conclusion, I got drunk and he didn't." She brushed her bangs away, "After that, it's like The Hangover. I woke up the next morning on a red couch surrounded by strangers lauding Scott as a hero and I as the one who is loved and feared thereafter. I also have some strange pics on my phone that hints at someone using small fireworks, making Molotov Cocktails, and a romp into the woods to stare at this ancient, gnarly tree. I get random texts from Victoria, Yulia, and Abbie Jean," she tilted her head towards the stairs where Derek and the drag queens had disappeared to, "and I reply back because common courtesy and all that. We're friends. They're nice."

"Did you ever ask what happened?"

"I'm too scared to," Stiles admitted.

After an hour or two, she leaves Boyd by the bar and heads out, giving a perfunctory nod towards the bouncer and heads back to her waiting jeep. The air was warm and slightly heavy. The moon was a crescent, like a scythe, slicing through the clouds that were beginning to provide some cover. It might rain soon. First world problems: she is jealous of everyone having fun but she doesn't have the energy to party. The entire fight for her survival at the high school pool seemed like a fading nightmare that would disappear from her psyche immediately after she woke up. Within five minutes, she'll be good as new. Stop complaining. You identified both the Kanima and his master. Stiles straightened up and winced as the jeep's side mirror dug into her back. That's right; she has information now that would be useful. She should… She puls out her cell.

Somehow, her phone still makes its occasional sputters of life, crackling and whining, screen flickering, repeatedly turning on and off until the repeating robotic sound of droid was aggravating enough to make the thought of putting the thing out of its misery appealing. But her dad does pick up after the fifth attempt to call and answers with a grievous tone. "What did you do, Stiles?" Not even the perfunctory 'Hello. I should fake my surprise as soon as I hear that you got caught up in something bad. Again.'

For a moment, she wonders whether she should stall and lie; then she takes a deep breath and crosses her fingers in hopes that when this whole thing blows over, from whatever bloodthirsty thing there is out there, that there are enough pieces of her for Scott to put back together, "The serial killer is a guy in my class named Matt Daehler but the one who is actually killing is Jackson Whittemore but it's against his will – supernatural mojo messed him up. I don't even think he remembers." She belatedly realizes that she probably should've accompanied her findings with an intro that would've eased the information more smoothly. There was silence on the other end, punctuated by a loud sigh, a signal to encourage her to continue, "Both of the guys' phones have pictures of the victims right before they die which were sent from Daehler to Whittemore. We think that the texts are how Whittemore is being controlled."

"We?"

Stiles taps her fingers restlessly against the window pane, "Derek and his wolves. You know who they are. I only got- …Hello? " And she hears a dial tone because her phone has been bitching for the entire night and it wasn't like an important communication to law enforcement was going to force it to be haved. Does her dad think that she purposely hung up?

Should she go to the station or not go to the station? Decisions. Decisions. On one hand, she'll be ensuring that all the new evidence will be in her dad's hands, in responsible hands that legally can do something about it. On the other hand, Derek expressively told her not to drive away, seeing that she's their only getaway if things go south. But werewolves can run farther and faster… But they don't need to attract any more attention than what they're getting, considering the general atmosphere of this town. Everyone's on high alert and reported sightings of a teenage gang running at the speed of a car isn't going to help matters.

She groans and stretches in the driver's seat, trying to find a good position for maximum comfort. She's been here for hours. At this point, she'd rather watch paint dry than stay where she is, staring at the club from the opposite side of the road. A group of scantily clad women share cigarette smoke. Nearby, a long line of clubbers were waiting to see if they could be cleared for entrance. She's tired and sore and nursing a massive headache that came from the feeling of chlorinated water in her upper nasal cavities. Sometimes, even with the knowledge that the other werewolves were doing their part in this whole adventure, she feels like she gets the short end of the straw for every plan that saves the world, or at least Beacon Hills. Her body itches for movement: she's pretty close to doing suicide runs around the around the block just to get the jittery feeling out of her limbs. She forgot her Adderall dosage again, hasn't she? Her ass is numb; it's been numb for hours.

Johnny Langford is having a hell of a time. If Dionysus debauchery is the definition of happiness for him, then she can't judge him harshly. The CD player that had played a selected compilation of songs from The Whos sputters until Stiles kicks the panel and then falls silent. Then the music starts again from the top of the track in soft tones, barely heard from the noises emanating from the bar.

Hours pass her by like water through fingertips.

In the middle of her mindless haze, Erica knocks on her window, jolting her back into reality. Her makeup remains perfect, not a hair out of place, "Johnny Langford's shift is finished." She slides into the passenger seat, "The car is in the parking lot around the corner. I saw him pull out. We're going to need to hurry, keep him in our sights, and make sure that he stays alive. Derek's orders."

"Great," Stiles manages a weak smile as she slips the keys into the ignition, "big Alpha wants us to have fun together, neh?"

The other girl doesn't reply.Stiles sighs, looks ahead, and concentrates on her job. Within seconds, Johnny's car was still within her head lights area and the guy somehow hasn't noticed that he was being tailed during his entire trip back. They drive for another half hour in complete stilted silence. Occasionally, Stiles flips on the high beam to get a better view of the road ahead. The road was smooth, absent of potholes and litter, casting an eerie glow that contrasted with the night sky. Erica tenses in a way that causes one to assume a mental state of high alert to life-threatening danger. Stiles side-glances over, quizzical. Crickets chirp in the tall grass. Langford's car was blasting music loud enough that the bass could be felt in their ribs. Stiles involuntarily twitches at a perceived shadow in her review mirror. …Why did Langford's car stop? "I…" Erica frowns, peering over her left shoulder and flexing her hands, "You… I…"

Stiles never quite figures out exactly what Erica wanted to say because a split second later, Jackson the Kanima crashes into the driver's side of the jeep, hurtling from her blind spot with enough force to shove the vehicle off the overpass.

VI.

Minutes later, when Stiles coughs through a cloud of dust and smoke and rubs her throat, hoarse from her scream. As she struggles to realign her bearings with the sky and the road, Erica gingerly sits up, rubbing her head and reaching blindly for Stiles' cell phone to attempt to make some calls. Miraculously, Stiles wearily notes, her jeep had landed on all four wheels. She dimly wonders if it was still working. She smacked her lips, tasted bitter dust, and winced when broken glass dug into her skin as she shifted, trying to move out of her car, and ended up hanging undignified halfway out of the window.

"…tow truck?" Erica murmured on the phone, still dazed, "- helpful. Thanks." She hangs up and collapse back into a pile of werewolf pain. "…Fuck." She groans and spits a mouthful of blood out the window, some of it lands on the glass. She starts picking glass pieces out of her matted hair. The Jeep whistles under the hood in a semi-sentient, despondent manner.

Stiles takes inventory, brushing her tongue over her teeth to check for gaps, testing out her spine and joints, though the lack of pain can be deceiving. Her dad is going to force her to get an X-ray at some point or another once he gets word of the new development. Personally, she would prefer an MRI on her brain, quite certain that she has gained enough trauma that pro-sports, especially American Football players, get over the course of their career. "What happened to Langford?" She manages to whisper as she craned her neck back and noted the placement of the moon: high, bright, white, dangerous.

"Dead. I can see him from here." Erica pauses, "I can see half of him."

Stiles closes her eyes.