There is an essence in the air, a certain calamity to the entire room that throws Stiles off the moment she walks in. She’s still panting from running up the stairs – something she’s held onto despite having a date with running from certain death every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday night – and her hair sticks to her face when she whips her head to survey where her jacket is.
Instead of finding her jacket on her seat, she finds a cape. Dark, hoodless and stitched with metallic fibers, it’s obscene looking for her calmly colored room. She stops, pauses, and contemplates. “I cannot rock a cape.” She decides on and lifts it up to find her jacket underneath it.
“Asshole.” She says to it and turns on her heel and leaves the cape lying on the ground where it had fallen from the back of her chair.
Her date was moved up to that night and she’s still scrambling for her life when the monster of the week grabs her by the hood of her jacket and hauls her close to it. It, resembling a man in dark clothing and a hat, then grabs her pony tail and yanks her closer.
“Did your mother ever tell you not to run with wolves?” It says into her head, inhaling loudly right against the curve of her neck. She thinks about vomiting blood and scaring it off her back but then a grotesquely sharp, large body presses tighter to hers and rumbles, “Oh, I like you.”
Stiles is about to scream and use all of her – “It’s not girly, it’s just, well, you. I mean, it can’t be any less girl than any other girls. Never mind, I’m done talking but it isn’t that embarassing.” – not-girly screaming to alert everyone when a shot goes off right over head and she’s sure she’s shit herself at the proximity.
Allison comes out a moment later, holding a smoking shotgun and the body behind her is gone. Allison looks hard for a moment, the face she always has after she focuses, until her resolute breaks and she walks swiftly over to her. “We need to get you out of here.”
“Power on.” She says on shaky legs, and lets herself get hauled carefully by Allison until they reach someone pack. It turns out to be Derek and she doesn’t not sag against him when Allison hands her over to him.
“Something is wrong with her. She’s off. It’s too dark for me to see anything but try and smell her.” She says as if she’s not right there, under the watchful eye of Hunter Girl Turned Good and Big Bad. Instead, she hums agitatedly into the curve of his shoulder because she can’t quite stand.
He takes her easier than she likes to think about and suddenly it’s all Derek’s space she’s up in. She has no problem with it – none at all, because she trusts Derek a whole hell of a lot more than she’d thought she’d allow herself to – but she’s still reeling because Allison is stepping away.
She gets tunnel vision for a moment; eyes widening and she cannot tear her eyes away from Allison’s left shoulder to save her life because Derek has a claw in her neck. Like, real-life-inside-of-her-body and not in the sexy way, and it’s blindingly painful.
“He bit her.” He says somehow exasperatedly, as if he didn’t go around biting people for fun. She squirms and sighs in relief when he withdraws his hand.
“It isn’t a he, you moron, it’s a fucking it because it is a monster that we need to figure out what the fuck it is,” She’s having trouble standing still but she repositions herself against Derek’s side. He obliges, weirdly enough, and loops his arm high on her waist. “Before it kills me.”
“Whatever it may be, let’s get you far away from it.” Derek says and tightens his grip so his palm is covering her ribs with a single spread. It’s disheartening and she struggles to ignore his warm, warm hand. “Can you walk?”
“I can, yes. You would be most appreciated to assist me though. Please fucking help me.” She says and hears Allison snort in front of her somewhere in the rapidly disappearing light.
She’s passing out, awesome.
“Get on my back.” Derek says and she gets behind him and falls face first into the high of his back. The last thing she smells before dark warmth envelopes her is his apricot shampoo and sweat.
She doesn’t go home, but to Derek’s loft. She wakes up on his bed but he’s thankfully nowhere near because that would just be weird. He comes in a moment later though, and it is awkward when Derek bites out, “You talk in your sleep. It’s distracting.”
“I’m generally distracting.” She says and sits up. Her shirt is not hers and hangs over to expose her collarbones. “Did you change me? I’m not some floozy-“
“The entire pack came last night tweaking up a storm and you disappeared with the girls. I find you like this, out cold already changed and everything. Relax.” He takes a seat at the end of the bed. “Your bite is fine. Gone, but it left a mark. We all helped out on that one.”
“Ugh, I don’t even want to know.” She groaned, standing up. Her back tightened then cracked and she sighed. She felt fine, not good but better than yesterday. She could totally drive. “I’m leaving, but thanks for the bed.”
“Don’t crash.” Is all he says and watches her stumble out of the room. He doesn’t comment on his basketball shorts falling down her legs.
She does make it down the stairs with little problem except finding all her shit. It’s neatly cleaned and folded and right by the door and it makes her laugh because, “Derek, you fold?” She screams upstairs even though she’s sure he’s listening to ever move she’s making.
She grabs her clothes, slips on her hoodie, and savors the clean smell the entire ride home.
Her dad is indifferent, being that he’s asleep. She’s glad he is because she isn’t having to explain, “Oh, I was just at Derek Hales house all night, in his bed. Don’t worry daddy, this is his shirt too, but nothing happened!”
Her room is the same, sans the rumpled cape on the floor. It’s on her bed now and she falls onto it when she breathes out a sigh. She could sleep again, probably.
She does end up sleeping and well into the night as she does so. She only wakes up when she hears a faint neighing outside. Her head picks up in the dark and for a moment she wonders what the hell could be neighing outside her house. She’s in California, not beef-cattle capital Texas.
It’s not a cow, but a horse. It’s dark brown and just sat outside in a comfortable lazy stroll around her garden – “That I just planted last Spring! Son of a bitch, get out!” And she’s leaping down the stairs, taking three at a time and slamming open the door when the horse raises a braided head towards her.
“What in the world?” She wonders, taking a step towards it but a cool voice stops her.
“Your hair is beautiful. You should let it down more.” It says, suddenly beside her. She barely has time to react completely – flailing, a hoarse scream, maybe – before a hand is on her shoulder. IT is right beside her, cold and terrifying and she wants to scream. “Talk, puppet.”
“Go.” She says, voice faint.
“Does daddy not approve?” It says sarcastically, voice faking concern. It would make her blood boil, maybe even piss her off a little but instead she shivers. The hand on her shoulder moves down her back and settles on the flabby part of her hip, presses a little before another hand comes and grips the other.
“Get your fucking Equine off my lawn and away from my tomatoes.” She says weakly, hands sliding up.
“I had a love like you once. Dark, lustrous hair and a smile that could make the birds sing.” It pauses, and if it had a gender she would assume a male because he cannot get a fucking hint to leave her alone. “I’ve been watching you. I know you’ve got that smile too.”
The horse looks up and she desperately calls on any Fairy, any woodland creature that would take mercy and gore her right this instant to help her, to save her, but none come. A body never pushes into her back, never makes her squirm but she breathes harder in anticipation.
“Smile for me, next time?”
The hands are gone but she feels him breathing on her neck. He sounds like he’s smiling when he breathes into her head, “Tell your little boyfriend to step off. I don’t like intruders on my territory.”
When she feels the presence of another being gone, sans horse, she collapses onto the ground of her back porch. Her heart shudders, double taps, triple steps and does the waltz her hole way back down to Earth. When she resurfaces, the horse has made its way closer.
“Sorry for yelling at you earlier.” She says hoarsely. Ha, horse. “I yell when I’m confused. Or scared.”
The horse does not oblige by responding or even looking up, but snorts as it chews and it’s enough for her to drag herself up into standing and she walks into her home.
“There is a brand of an ass on my neck and didn’t tell me?” She screams, a day later. Malia winces.
“It’s a donkey. Plus, with that hair they won’t be able to see it anyways.” Lydia offers weakly, but Stiles plunders around her room until she produces the hand mirror with a flourish. She maneuvers it until she has a clean view and yep – there it is.
“You are so fucking lucky I’m a Democrat.” She snaps and then turns to Kira. “How could you not tell me? I thought we were tight, K, I really did. But here you leave me, running around with Barack Obama on the back of my neck and you don’t say anything.”
“Why is Barack an ass?” She asks instead of answering her legitimate question.
“He drones strikes middle eastern countries for the fun of it. You remember Aleppo, don’t you? Case proven – answer my fucking question. Why is this on my neck?”
“Derek said –“ Lydia begins, voice hopeful. It pisses her off even more.
“Derek this, Derek that. I don’t give a rats left nut about that jackass – hoo-ha, Stiles made a funny – because I am being hunted by some crazed demon suitor who wants to touch my hair.” She groans, falling backwards onto the bed and head landing in Malia’s’ lap. Instantly, the girl cards her fingers over her scalp.
“You do have pretty hair.” She comments.
“Thanks.” She groans. “Now someone call jackass and get him over here.”
Kira makes do by calling Derek and he shows up within half an hour. By then, the conversation has deluded from discussion about horses mating habits to shape shifters, to the alcohol rate in children during the seventies. He arrives just as Malia says, thinking deeply and fingers mid twirl – “I wouldn’t let my kid down an entire Captain Morgan’s, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it.” With meaningful nods being shared.
“I don’t want to know.” Derek says, even though he doesn’t look fazed in the slightest.
“Good, it’s a secret. It’s all code for we’re going to carve your heart of your chest tonight and share it for dinner.” She says, sitting up and looking straight at him.
“You’re still wearing my shirt.” He says for some reason, like he likes embarrassing her. She squints.
“And you’ve still got people problems.” She grumbles as she climbs off Lydia’s bed. She turns and says, “I’ll text you all later.” Before walking straight past him and out the door. Derek takes a moment but he’s following shortly after until they’re both out of the house before she speaks, “So, Cousin It came to my house last night. Molested me.”
“They’re listening.” Derek says, but he sounds agitated. She spares a look; he does. Normally, she would be thrilled at the fact that Derek was mad but right now it just confirms her fears.
“Let them. I have more to tell you, anyways, that they do not need to hear.” And she’s packing into her car. She hears Derek get into his car beside hers then slam his door, and they’re headed off to Deaton’s.
“A man is trying to court you. With horses, and touching your hair, a Spanish accent, and capes.” Deaton says slowly, like he doesn’t quite understand what she’s saying. She slams her head on the exam table hard enough that Derek shoves her head to the side. For a moment, she thinks he’s getting cuddly by touching her neck but instead he’s pushing her hair away and exposing the brand.
“And a brand.” Derek finishes.
“Is that –“
“Derek? Yes, it is a jackass.” She says into her arm, but she knows they can hear her. She imagines a shared look and a huff but instead her neck is covered back up. It makes her heart pound sadly; “Thanks.”
“Well, it seems like you have quite the problem on your hands.”
“Thank you, for your observation.” Derek says before she can and she just sighs into her arm.
“Which I would be happy to help with, if you’d answer more of my questions. Alone.” He makes a point to look at Derek and she just knows by the way Derek breathes a bit differently that he did. She looks up to – you guessed it – Deaton staring at him, before looking back down.
“Why?” She asks.
“Okay. Fine.” He sighs. “Have you been having sex with strangers?”
“What?” She blanches. Derek stiffens beside her. She does not dare herself to look back at him. “No?”
“Have you been talking to men online?” He asks, voice graver.
“I’ve been running for my life with men for the past three years. I get enough boy drama every day without wanting it. Why would I ask for it?”
“Okay. Have you been to Mexico lately?”
“No.” She says, voice hard. “Derek didn’t have to be here for those?”
“Well, given the circumstances presiding around your relationships, I thought you’d prefer me not to stir drama.”
“Stir the pot, but good effort.” She sighs and then, “Look, are we done here? I have a Molecular Biology test tomorrow and I need to not die during it.”
“Yes. I will contact you tomorrow when I’ve come up with some substantial evidence.” He’s basically shooing them out of his office when Stiles snorts and lets Derek follow her. When they’re outside, door locked behind them, she finds his green eyes the most infuriating thing to exist at the moment. “What?” She snaps.
“Are you approaching men, Stiles?” He snickers, walking past her.
“’Are you approaching men, Stiles’ who the hell does he think he is?” She snaps, sliding into the booth across from Scott. Scott doesn’t so much as bare a glance at her when she throws her menu down. “I don’t think I’m being dramatic here when I say this is Derek’s fault. That fucking demon dude probably would have left me alone in the woods if he hadn’t thought that I was Derek’s.”
“Well, you’re not.”
“Duh, but just – ugh! You men and your Oogah Oogah, Jane, Protect shit thing is getting old. Honestly, I am not some prize to be won, or some toy to be shared. I’m a person, for fucks sake.”
“Girl power.” Scott says, looking up.
“Woman power.” Stiles corrects, eye twitching.
“Woman power.” Scott agrees, and sets his menu down. “I’m thinking the bruschetta chicken. What about you?”
“The normal, probably. Why would that dickhead think we’re together? I mean, I wasn’t even near Derek when the thing caught me by the scruff of my neck. Derek was like, half a mile away.”
“Maybe he smelled him on you. I kind of do right now, actually.”
“I was just hanging out with him. We went to Deaton’s.” She says plainly.
“No, it’s more than that. It’s on your clothing, or something.” He says and then reaches across and grips the dark fabric in his hands. “Is this his shirt?”
“Yes.” She falls back onto the cushions behind her. Her face is probably red but she isn’t lying, no. This sounds worse than if she had to explain this to her father. Which, she doesn’t really have to explain anything to him. Hell, she hasn’t since she was sixteen, but her sex and relationship life? That was alllll Melissa.
Dad is for wellbeing type things, dinner stuffs and love and support. Not boys or girl drama – which, he totally navigated the bisexual terror very well when she was fourteen. That’s ancient history right now though: the present is the fact that a monster is trying to court her. For like, sex and stuff. She shivers.
“-don’t care who you sleep with,” She’s caught the end of Scott’s rant by the time she stops thinking about awful, interspecies sex and promptly chokes on her water.
“What?” She says, cleaning up a bit of spittle that had dribbled down her front.
“What what?” Scott repeats, face pink and white at the same time. Scott is Mexican, just a little, so he’s not always white. More tan, but this right now is a pure sheet of Terror White and Embarrassment Pink. She would laugh if it weren’t at her own expense.
“I’m not sleeping with him.” She says, clearly.
“Yeah, but you like him.”
“Even if I did –“
“You do. I can smell it –“ She does not want to know what her own arousal smells like.
“I’m not sleeping with him,” Scott stares at her. She squints back, “Yet.”
“Thank you.” Scott says and picks his menu back up. The pink has mostly flushed back to normal Scott-tan that he always sports when he finally says, “Maybe Cat’s Cradle! That sounds good. It’s got shrimp and everything.”
It visits her again later, on Derek’s doorstep. She’s just about to turn the knob when a sigh comes from behind her. Too cold, too high, and too unannounced for her not to hear someone sneak up on her. She shifts on her feet before turning around.
It, or Asshole, is tall and gangly, but packs a mean looking punch by the way his dark clothing sway around him despite the fact that there is no breeze. Instead, he looks about as cut out and pasted into the landscape as a Blue Whale would look. And there’s an ocean half an hour away.
“Can’t seem to stay away.” It clicks, not looking up from the brim of his terrible top hat. It takes a step forward and Stiles – totally not girly – screams as loud as she can. It actually hurts after a second of ear-piercing screaming but it’s all it takes for Isaac to come launching downstairs with Malila, Derek, and Kira all in tow. They all tumble around her in a makeshift circle before even speaking.
“Brought the crew?” It asks and she takes a step back into someone. That someone turns out to be Kira and she shoves her behind her as good a defense as she can before It looks up. There’s no real face to see, but she can tell It is giving them a nasty look.
“Leave her alone.” Derek says and she forgot he was there for a minute; she was just trying to make herself small. A second later though, Allison and Lydia come rushing down the stairs and each lay a hand on her arms, as if dragging her inside.
“She’s mine now. She wears my brand.”
“You’re a fucking jackass.” Stiles throws out there for some reason and steps around Kira, shaking off the hands that touched her. She feels Lydia’s nails dig into her skin before releasing and she stands directly behind Derek before stepping around him. “I’m not some land to take. I’m a person.”
“You always were so smart.” He’s addressing her, but she feels as though his eyes were elsewhere. “That’s why I picked you, and I would like for you to come with me. Now, I know I’m not an alpha by any means but –“
“So, get out. Just get the fuck out. Leave me and my family alone, and be gone.” She’s taking a step towards It when a hand pulls her back, warm, and testy on her forearm. She doesn’t need to see him to know it’s Derek’s.
“I can’t do that, Hermosa.” It says sadly. He takes a step towards them when they all bristle, even Allison, and It chuckles. “I can’t be having you sick your hounds on me. Send them off.”
“Stop making things difficult. I have had many lovers from many parts of the world. A few wolves do not scare me.” Stiles sees something flash in her peripheral vision – something shiny, like metal – in Derek’s hands. She desperately hopes its some sacred dagger to get them out of this mess.
It’s scissors, though. She can see them clear as day. She spares a glance at him and he’s not even looking at her, but his eyes are locked woefully onto the monsters in front of him, like he’s taking It in. She looks back to see It has stopped talking, stopped moving and all together almost seized. Instead of acting, she can tell it is watching.
The last thing she was expecting was for Derek to lunge at her. It takes her a moment of terrified “Oh fuck, he’s possessed and is going to haul me off to be Demon Queen with his boss.” But it turns out he’s got her head pulled towards him and he’s cutting her hair. She can feel the hair sliding down her neck and into her shirt – his, but she’s not thinking about it – and it’s going to be a bitch to clean later but this, this is just weird.
What’s even more strange is the thing – monster, It, Boo – is shrieking angrily, but not moving an inch towards them. She stares at it as it gets done yelling fitfully to all but storm away. Instead, it slams its foot into the ground so hard it shakes, and then he’s gone.
She blinks slowly, watching where It was, until Derek’s hands are gone. Her hair is short to her shoulders and stops choppily, but most of her hip length hair was gone, cast to the floor. She stares at the pavement littered with her hair until Derek speaks up.
“Sorry about that, but I did it to save your life.” He says, and wipes his scissors with his hands.
“What the hell was that thing?” Allison comes forward, breaking them all out of their stupor.
“El Sombreon. He’s from a Guatemalan folk story about being so obsessed and in love with a girl for her hair that when she cut it, he left. My mom used to read me stories about them all the time, to scare my sisters into not talking to weird boys.” He says, and looks to Stiles. “I’m sorry about your hair.”
“I could kiss you right now, do you realize that?” She says, and scratches her face. “I mean it’s not anything different from normal but right now especially. How did you know it was him?”
“The donkeys, the horse and braids, and the hair thing. I didn’t realize it until earlier and I was going to call you but I forgot.” He looks awkward, pink in the face and his shoulders tense. She wants to punch him and kiss the bruise. Instead she sighs and pinches her nose.
“He’s lying.” Isaac pipes up from the disbanding group of people slowly going upstairs.
“You didn’t forget, then?” Her mind swirls in dizzying circles. Derek seems to be getting increasingly red with each turn. “Did you not want to call me or something?”
“Stiles.” He says gravely.
“Don’t you ‘Stiles’ me, you were too chicken shit to call me! That’s so cute. I mean, it wouldn’t have mattered anyways because he would have stopped me right here and I don’t exactly have scissors lying around in my Jeep, but wow.”
She takes a step towards the lofts door, and past him. A thought occurs to him, being embarrassed. He probably likes her, oh! She turns then, faces him and he’s looking vaguely like he’ll throw up. “Come on, let’s go upstairs. We can laugh about this on our date.”
“Date?” He says, but the tension is gone from his shoulders. He looks oddly amused.
“Yeah, and we can tell our kids about how daddy saved mommy from a hair monster because he likes shiny things. But let’s save that for later. Right now though, I can smell a slightly burnt pizza.” She’s taking a step before a hand drags her back. “You know I like my pizza crusty.”
“Give it a minute.” Derek is saying against her mouth.
“I can be persuaded.” She’s laughing into the kiss. It fluttery in her stomach and she feels it in her toes, makes her laugh into the kiss and she doesn’t feel the stubble burn until her cheeks are pink when she pulls back, “What about the cape?”
“What cape?” He says, voice lighter than she’d ever heard it.
“The one on my bed right now. I found it before all this mess even started and I just thought-“
A coinciding. crash makes them both look overhead, to the loft upstairs where roars have broken out. “Fuck.”