Chapter 1

Something was off. Actually, something has been off for quite some time now.

It started the night a female corpse was found in the woods. Well, only half of it actually. The upper body was still missing. Stiles only knew about it because he'd done what he always did – eavesdropping on his Dad, the Sheriff, while he was busy orchestrating a search party over the radio.

Of course, Stiles wanted to sneak out that night, hell-bent on finding the missing part himself. But as bold as he might be – not to mention downright stupid sometimes – he didn't want to go alone. Unfortunately, his usual partner in crime and best friend Scott had been sick at the time, confined to his bed with a severe cold.

In the end Stiles was kinda glad that he didn't follow through with his idea. After three weeks the police still had no clue what had killed the girl. Well at least they had no irrefutable results. There were rumors about a mountain lion attack. And going by the viciousness of the assault it must have been an animal, and a big one at that. But there haven't been any sightings of mountain lions for years, or any other animal that size for that matter. And on top of that, Scott had overheard his boss Deaton talking to Stiles' Dad about the whole incident. Something about traces of human DNA mixed in with all the animal saliva. Human DNA, that didn't belong to the still unknown victim.

Stiles had racked his brain about that piece of information for days, driving Scott insane. Sure, he too thought it was strange, but unlike Stiles, Scott wasn't quite so obsessive. He had other things on his mind … or rather another person.

And in a way Stiles could see the attraction the new girl represented. Allison might not be his type, at all, but she was without a doubt very pretty. In fact, she was a natural beauty, using only a hint of makeup to underline her features. And despite her friendship with Lydia and Jackson, she was pleasant company too.

Her Dad, on the other hand, was another story.

Stiles had seen Chris Argent just a couple of times at school, when he came to pick up his daughter. But even from those brief encounters Stiles could tell that there was something off about the man.

Sure, at first glance he seemed to be a nice guy, obviously very protective of his sixteen year old daughter, the way he scowled at practically every male looking at Allison. But despite that there was something in his eyes, and in the way he moved and held himself that gave Stiles the heebie-jeebies. And even though he was used to guns due to his father's profession, Stiles thought that Mr. Argent's choice of work was a bit unusual. Why would someone who deals with firearms, legally or not, settle down in a place like Beacon Hills?

Thankfully, Stiles didn't spend much time with Allison outside of school, which meant his contact with her family was practically nonexistent. Of course, Stiles was curious to find out more about the Argents, but somehow he knew that poking around their lives wasn't a good idea.

Strangely enough it wasn't the major events – the dead girl and the Argents arrival in town – that had kept Stiles on edge for the last three weeks. No, it was the little, seemingly insignificant things that were slowly but surely causing him to doubt his own sanity.

It started really small. The window in his room being wide open in the morning, although Stiles could have sworn he'd left it ajar in evening. There hadn't been any storms, which might explain the pushed open window. He would have closed it completely if that had been the case.

Then there were the increased canine footprints in the yard, even though no one in the neighborhood had gotten a new dog. Stiles might not be a veterinarian like Scott's boss, but he was an excellent researcher. It took him only a few seconds to learn it couldn't be anything else. The only other conclusion would have been a wolf. But according to wildlife service there haven't been any wolves in this area for years. Anyhow, whosever dog it was, at least it was well behaved. So far, Stiles hadn't found any poop on the entire premises, or dug holes, containing bones.

Even though neither he nor his father was fond of gardening, they both kept the backyard nice and clean. Partly in memory of Stiles' mom, who loved spending time pottering around the garden, but mainly because it was expected. It certainly wouldn't look good if the Sheriff's garden resembled a dumping ground.

But that wasn't all. In fact, Stiles might have ignored those incidents, if it hadn't been for the stuff that kept disappearing around the house. Not money or something valuable, sentimental or otherwise, but simple things like a few pieces of clothing and food.

Strangely enough, John Stilinski hadn't noticed anything amiss. Not because he wasn't observant. That would be really weird, with him being a police officer and all that. Being perceptive was part of the job description. Sure, he sometimes turned a blind eye to Stiles' misdemeanors, but never at work. In fact, he took his job very seriously, doing overtime more often than not, leaving Stiles to take care of the household duties. Like doing the laundry, going grocery shopping and cooking … which was probably why Stiles was the only one noticing that some of the food started to go missing from the fridge and pantry, along with a few clothes from the dryer.

At first he chalked it up to his ADHD. Stiles was the last one to deny that sometimes the disorder caused him to overdo things – literally and figuratively – but given that he rarely ever forgot to take his medicine, not to mention that he kept a close eye on his father's eating habits, he knew something was off.

But what fool would break into the Sheriff's house to steal food, or anything else for that matter? Not that there had been any signs of breaking and entering … which left only one conclusion. It had to be someone who had free access to the house.

Needless to say, accusing his father of stealing food didn't go over very well. Okay, that was actually a complete understatement. Convincing the Sheriff to stick to a low fat diet in order to keep his blood pressure in check was already a daily challenge, for both of them. Even though Stiles didn't look like it, he could eat for four. Of course, he loved greasy food, especially curly fries, but to make easier for his father, he had banned all junk food from the house. The only exception was his homemade chocolate chip cookies. The recipe had been handed down to him by his grandmother, from his mother's side. Every two or three weeks Stiles made a batch, storing them in the pantry. Usually they lasted two weeks, but not lately.

"Are you serious? You actually think I sneak into the pantry at night and steal cookies." His dad sounded both insulted and amused.

"Well, I didn't eat them, which only leaves you." Stiles reasoned, not backing down one bit.

"Oh, does it now, Sherlock. What about Scott? He practically lives here." John shot back. It was obvious that he wasn't searching for an excuse, only pointing out another, reasonable explanation for the disappearance of the cookies. And he certainly had a strong point there. Scott's mother Melissa worked as a nurse at Beacon Hill Memorial Hospital, more often than not taking the late shift. And unlike Stiles, Scott didn't know how to cook, which was why he was a regular guest at Stiles' home. And he was known for his sweet tooth.

"Maybe you are right …" Stiles allowed, somewhat ruefully.

"Good. And maybe next time you should consider all the possibilities before accusing innocent people." His father scolded, effectively closing the subject.

Stiles didn't bring up it again. In fact, he had never been fully convinced that his father was the culprit. John Stilinski knew how serious his son took the whole healthy diet thing. If he was cheating – and Stiles was sure that he did every now and then – he certainly wouldn't do it at home.

Of course, Stiles also interrogated his best friend. Naturally, that conversation went over better, seeing as Scott wasn't nearly as smart, or scary, as his father. But unfortunately, his best friend equally denied the theft. Which meant Stiles was left none the wiser.

Maybe he really was going crazy, seeing things that weren't there. It wasn't like he actually took stock of all the food on a daily basis. But still, even without certifiable proof he was sure someone was regularly helping himself to their food. Whoever it was, he or she was smart enough not to clean out the whole pantry or leave any evidence behind. Smart, but certainly frustrating …

And then there was the subject of the clothes that went missing. So far it was just two of his old, worn-out t-shirts, a couple of socks, and some sweat pants, nothing major. Stiles wasn't angry about the loss of those items, just confused. But unlike with the food, he didn't mention it to his father, fearing his reaction. Yelling fire without probable cause was never wise a decision. And he certainly didn't want to worry his dad needlessly. Or end up being grounded … which was a strong likelihood after the whole food-stealing debacle.

Instead Stiles decided to carry on, like nothing was wrong … until the second murder happened. Or animal attack as the police classified it.

Having his own car now, Stiles wasn't any longer dependent on the bus to get to school. But even though it's been a while, he could still remember how shifty the bus driver Garrison Myers had been. At the time Stiles hadn't given it much thought, dismissing it to the stress of the job. Driving a school bus full of teenagers surely wasn't the easiest profession, but then again, Myers had always been grumpy, sometimes downright rude.

Stiles would never forget the morning the man had snapped at Erica Reyes. For no reason. So what if the strap of her bag ripped right when she was getting on the bus? It's not like she had done it on purpose. Kneeling in the mud, hastening to gather up all the things that had spilled out, Erica had kept on apologizing, over and over again. Unnecessarily, in Stiles' opinion, and apparently completely in vain, given the bus driver's reaction. Myers hadn't shown any sign of compassion whatsoever, just snapping at her to hurry the fuck up. Actually, he'd stooped so low to call her a dimwitted bitch. That's when Stiles stepped in, shouting at the driver to shut it. Not a wise move, as it turned out. They both had been kicked off the bus, forced to wait for the next one, barely making it to first period on time.

Stiles never regretted speaking up for the blonde girl. For one, he couldn't stand people who took advantage of weaker personalities or making fun of them. It struck to close to home. And secondly, Erica was anything but stupid. In fact, she was among the top ten of the best students at Beacon Hill High. Unfortunately, no one seemed to care. Well at least no one among the student body, except for Stiles, of course. He always kept a close eye on his competition, so to speak. But to most of his classmates good grades were a sign of weakness, a flaw. Even Lydia, who was well on her way to make valedictorian, was hiding her intelligence behind too much make-up and a rather unpleasant behavior. Or rather she tried.

Being a nerd meant being an outsider. But unlike Erica, Stiles at least had lacrosse. Sure, he spent most of his time on the bench, but still. Lacrosse was the only sport that truly mattered at Beacon Hill High. Being a team member – active or not – spared him a lot of grieve.

But more than being a nerd, and for obvious health issues not into sports, Erica was really shy. Stiles doubted she had even one person at school she could call a friend. He would have offered his friendship in a heartbeat, if it hadn't been for the obvious crush she had on him. He didn't want to give her false hope. But he still kept an eye out for her. Whenever she was in trouble, he helped out … mostly without her knowing it. Nerds just had to stick together. Or at least, that's how Stiles saw it.

Anyway … despite his less than nice demeanor, Myers hadn't deserved to die like that, or at all. He might have been a prick, but being mauled by who knew what or whom … well that was just nasty.

It didn't really come much as a surprise that the police enforced a night-time curfew after that second murder. Yes, unlike everyone else, including the entire police force, Stiles classified the killings as murders. He was convinced there was something else going on than some wild animal going on a rampage. Seriously, what animal would climb into a school bus to kill the driver?

And seeing how stressed out his father was, trying to make progress in his investigation, not to mention trying to prevent any further fatal attacks, Stiles thought the least he could do to help, openly, was to abide by the new set of rules. He came home after school, did his homework, and housework, rarely leaving the house after dark. And unlike Scott, Stiles didn't have a reason to sneak out at night.

But when he went out after sunset, to go over to Scott's for some bro-time or do some last minute grocery shopping, he felt like he was being watched. With everything going on – the killings and the weird happenings at the house – Stiles was extremely vigilant. Some might say paranoid. But then again, better safe than sorry, right?

Stiles simply couldn't shake the feeling that he was being followed. He never saw anyone or anything suspicious … except for one time.

Stiles was on his way back to his jeep after picking up a few movies and some popcorn for a lone movie night. It wasn't that late yet, still two hours till curfew, but it was already dark. He was still grumbling about the bad selection when he heard something behind him. A rustle of leaves, a snap of twigs, but no footsteps. Stiles turned around anyway, mostly driven by instinct. Unfortunately, the parking lot in front of video store was very dimly lit. He was lucky to make out his own car, which was in fact the only vehicle there. But other than that, he couldn't see anything. Just darkness and shadows.

Stiles rarely acted on gut instinct. His decisions were mostly based on logic. Mostly. But this time was different. His instincts were practically screaming at him, that he shouldn't linger. And for once he actually listened. Stiles threw his purchases into his car, quickly scrambling behind the wheel. But just before he was able to turn the key in the ignition, he heard another sound. A low growl … not truly menacing, but not very comforting either. Deep down Stiles knew he should take a hike, but his curiosity was stronger. He stopped mid-action, staring outside the window, trying very hard to make out anything in the dark. He still couldn't see much. He was just about to give up and leave, when the thick bushes nearby moved, and a dark figure came into view.

Due to the lack of light, Stiles wasn't sure what it was. But it was big, huge even. Definitely taller than a mountain lion. The creature didn't come closer, just standing there, watching Stiles like it was studying him. And Stiles couldn't do anything else but stare back.

Back into bright, magnificent blue eyes.