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murder most (un)fair

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1.

Derek hates Lydia.

It started long before the party, but it’s the day of the party when he finally admits it to himself. He hates her; that’s the fact of the matter. He’s been dancing around it for a while, weighing the possibility of hatred, knowing its power and knowing how difficult it is to eradicate once it settles into his bones, the inexorable clench of his jaw. He’s spent a few months feeling all the hallmarks of hatred in little flare-ups, not only when she’s around but even when she’s only mentioned , so he really should have figured it out sooner, but something made him reluctant, made him write it off as merely dislike , made him doubt whether this five-foot-nothing redhead on stilt-heels was really worth the kind of energy it took, hating a person the way Derek always commits to doing.

But the more she’s settled into the pack over the past months--years, really--the more opportunity he’s had to measure the matter, and he wakes up the morning of Kira’s party to the sudden, bell-clear realization that he finds her reprehensible, unaccountably so, that not only does he hate her but he fears her, fears how he doesn’t understand her, and he would really rather not be in a pack that she’s in, now that he’s finally thinking about it.

The realization isn’t a happy one, and he knows it won’t do anything for his popularity or his self-esteem. There are, after all, lots of reasons not to hate Lydia. He knows this, not only because he has eyes and a brain and can grudgingly concede that she’s saved all or some of the pack with her confidence and savvy more times than most (but who’s counting), but also because everyone else likes her so much. But Derek doesn’t like her, not one bit, and now that he’s accepted his hatred he knows he will live out the rest of his days raising his hackles at the merest mention of her. It’s an inescapable fact.

He glowers at the suit that’s laid out on his bed, the one Lydia texted him to pick up from the dry cleaner’s the day before. There’s a note pinned to it, the way the cleaners will sometimes pin notes to the clothing, except that this one is in Lydia’s handwriting, with its obnoxious curling flourishes and underline that just encourages him to read the words in Lydia’s most imperative tone.

For the party.

He removes the note and tears it to confetti with his claws. It’s a testament to Lydia’s power over him that he puts the suit on anyway.

 

2.

Derek hates that Lydia has stolen Cora. Cora, who’s all the family Derek has left. (Well, except Peter. But Lydia certainly isn’t going to be stealing Peter anytime soon, much to Peter’s dismay.) Cora, whom Derek hadn’t seen in so long--had thought was dead forever--and who was supposed to be spending her time back in Beacon Hills becoming reacquainted with him , with the brother she thought she’d lost, too. But instead she’s sneaking off with Lydia, helping her plan mysterious parties god knows where and doing god knows what. Over the past few days he’s tried to get the answer out of her, even tried to catch her scent to see if he could figure out where she’s been going, but she’s caught him, called him out, rolled her eyes at him and said he’ll just have to wait and find out like everyone else.

Now, she’s all dressed up. She’s wearing a waistcoat and a chatelaine with a collection of skeleton keys, a skirt with a bustle. Her hair’s all done up. He’s never seen her with her hair done up in anything more complicated than a ponytail, not since she was a little girl and used to wear it in two braids. She shepherds Derek out to the car, not commenting on his appearance.

“Drive,” she says.

“I can’t drive if I don’t know where I’m going.”

“Well first, we’re picking up Allison and Isaac.”

Derek refuses to drive any closer to Chris Argent’s place than he has to, so Allison and Isaac walk out to meet them two blocks away. They’re both done up like Victorians, too, Allison in a high-necked dress of a dramatic violet and Isaac in a dark blue suit with a double-breasted coat and a tall hat.

“Let me guess,” Allison says, catching sight of Derek in his suit and smirking, “Lydia picked out your clothes, too.”

“Where in the world did she get all of these outfits?” Isaac grumbles. He has to take his top hat off and hold it in his lap because it’s too tall for the ceiling of the car.

“Local theater company put on Sunday in the Park with George ,” Cora explains. “It didn’t cost much to rent these.” She sounds devious, but also happy, and Derek supposes he shouldn’t hate Lydia for that , but he’s petty, so he does anyway.

 

3.

Derek hates how Lydia thinks she’s smarter than everyone else, for one, which wouldn’t be a problem in and of itself--she is , after all, smarter than everyone else, and Derek doesn’t mind a woman who’s in touch with her strengths--but what he finds so cloying is the way she behaves like she’s smarter than the others. “Lydia moves in mysterious ways,” Stiles has said to him, more than once, like it’s a joke that Lydia might orchestrate the others without revealing her intentionality, like it’s a joke that Lydia thinks of herself as a god, but it isn’t a joke. It is the reality they all inhabit, only nobody but Derek seems to mind. Not a single one of them has any idea why she does the things she does, but they all follow her as if she , and not Scott, were the Alpha. When Lydia chose Kira’s birthday to be the pack event of the season, nobody could tell why; nobody even bothered asking her outright. They all just fell into line, with no griping. Okay, minimal griping. “Don’t invite anyone else,” she told Stiles, within Derek’s hearing, to which Stiles rolled his eyes and said defensively, “Who else would I invite?” But Derek also overheard Stiles grumbling to Scott that he couldn’t believe Lydia didn’t want his Jungle friends coming. It took a beat for Derek to realize that Stiles was referring to friends from the club the Jungle-- the gay club , he reminded himself, feeling a bit odd at the thought--not friends he’d made in an actual jungle. Werejaguars were far, far behind them now. He hoped.

There was plenty of speculation, however, as to what exactly Lydia was up to. One of her stipulations, for example, was that they block off not one but two nights for the occasion, as well as the intervening day. “What kind of rager is this gonna be, I wonder,” Erica said meaningfully, draping herself backward over the arm of Derek’s sofa. Cora merely hummed in response, not looking up from her physics textbook.

Derek was determined not to be one of the curious ones. That was just what Lydia wanted, and he knew better than to give her that. Lydia has always struck him as something of a smoke-and-mirrors type, the larger-than-life myth of her a construct of her own designs. He had seen the same kind of careful elusiveness in Peter, was fully familiar with it, had been for some time. He didn’t trust her, didn’t particularly like her, and more than anything he didn’t care for the way others followed after her. His own resistance to her power hardly went noticed--he was older, out of high school, which was her realm of influence, and he highly doubted that he would have registered on her radar at all had it not been for the pesky fact that she was sort of part of the same pack as he was sort of part of, too, and as a result of this they had both been placed in the accidental and mutually bothersome position of saving each other’s lives more often than either would like. Cora was a different story; at first, she had seemed every bit as defiant as Derek against Lydia’s hegemony, and Derek had taken delight in seeing the way Cora flashed her eyes and teeth at the banshee’s pointed attempts to assert her power. Yet the nature of their angry exchanges of traded barbs had shifted recently, had become more a dance than a struggle, and the scent of anger and even annoyance no longer clung in the air between them when they spoke. When Cora had told Derek she was helping to set up Kira’s party, he had felt disappointed, but hardly shocked.

There were some two weeks of preparation, during which time Derek could pretty much expect that Cora would be out with Lydia somewhere or other, and he would be left to hold down the loft on his own. Or, he would be on his own--a state of being he quite liked, to be honest--except that the pack had long ago considered the loft more or less a communal lounge, and Stiles had copied keys for everyone, and more and more he could reasonably expect that there would always be someone lingering around, helping themselves to his autokettle and instant coffee, ordering a pizza using his laptop. And, because Cora knew what was going on with Lydia, and if Cora knew the others guessed that Derek must know, too, they had taken to speculating at him, loudly, and watching for his responses as though he would, by some grunt or gesture, accidentally give something away that he was holding back from them.

“It’s gonna be just a slumber party,” said Scott. “A big movie-night sleep-in.”

“Puppy pile,” added Isaac with a smirk, earning him a gentle elbow jab from Scott.

“That sounds severely underplanned,” said Allison, who honestly sounded and smelled a little irritable, probably upset that Lydia had not thought to share her plans with her best friend. “Lydia wouldn’t be secretive about that.”

“It’s your birthday,” Isaac implored Kira, who stood leaning against the kitchen counter, waiting for her tea to steep. “Surely she’s hinted something to you?”

Kira only lifted her hands in surrender. “She asked if I wanted her to plan it, and I said yes.”

“Big mistake,” Allison muttered, and everyone chuckled. Everyone except Derek.

On another occasion, a handful of people had sat studying for a trig exam at Derek’s coffee table while he cleaned leftovers out of the fridge, when Lydia’s Toyota pulled up and sat idling outside. Cora automatically lifted herself up, stretched out her back with a loud pop , and began pulling on her boots.

“Where are you going?” Stiles asked, affecting nonchalance, but Derek could practically smell the interest on him, even over the stench of rotting chow mein.

“None of your business,” she answered roughly, prompting a derisive snort from Boyd.

He met Cora at the door as she was leaving. This was before he’d started trying to get the answers, back when he was still devising an excuse to give so that he wouldn’t have to go to the party in the first place. He didn’t do well at parties, didn’t much figure he would be missed if he didn’t make it. If asked, he was planning to give the old standard-- I can’t leave Beacon Hills entirely unprotected while we all celebrate some teenager’s birthday --and hoped that would be that.

Cora smirked at him as she approached. She hadn’t used to look at him like that, not before; that smirk was all Lydia.

“Lydia wanted me to show you this,” she said, before Derek could say anything to her. Then, she flashed him the screen of her phone. It displayed a text from Lydia, reading:

Stiles is going to break up with Malia .

Derek was too dazed to say anything as Cora patted him twice on the cheek, let herself out of the loft.

Later that night, when everyone had gone, Derek decided he would go to the party after all. It’s easier to go along with what Lydia wants than to fight her. That’s what he hates about her most of all.

 

4.

Derek hates the way Lydia greets everyone else with a smile but only gives him a nod and a once-over, as though she’d been convinced he wouldn’t dress as she wanted him to. He hates that he followed her instructions, despises the pleased “hmm” she makes when she sees she’s brought him to heel.

He follows the others inside.

He hates how much work has clearly gone into this. The Martins’ lake house is entirely done up like an old Victorian manor, with each room themed like this is the house from Clue. Why in the world would she be so ambitious about something so small so frivolous? There are better uses for her energies, things that might actually benefit the pack, but it’s not like she’s going to properly defer to Scott in order to find out what those might be.

It’s also not like Scott is going to give her the guidance she needs, that might help bring her in so she can become a real, contributing member of the pack. No, Scott is too excited, nearly tripping over his coattails in his eagerness to check out all the decorations first. He’s pulling Stiles along with him, Stiles who smells a little sad but is putting on a good enough show of happiness that no one calls him on it. Derek doesn’t need to look over at Malia to know she’s sad, as well, but Lydia’s ensured that there’s more than enough to distract everyone, and soon she’s calling them back into the living room, which she insists they call the “parlor.”

“Cora, if you please,” she says, clapping twice gracefully, and suddenly Cora is pulling down a projection screen, and there’s a video showing. It’s a webcam, a little grainy, and Derek couldn’t be more surprised when he sees that it’s Jackson. It’s dark out wherever Jackson is, even though it’s still afternoon here in Beacon Hills, so Derek figures Lydia must be Skyping Jackson in from London. The pack starts to cheer when he shows up--Scott and Allison sincerely, Stiles, Erica, Boyd, and Isaac sarcastically--even though he looks like he’d rather be doing literally anything else.

“Hey,” he says, then lifts a notecard, starts to read off of it. “‘All of you are guests at my and my beautiful fiancee’s engagement party when I, your host, am found m--’”

“Jackson,” Lydia admonishes.

“What?”

She makes a move toward her neck. He rolls his eyes.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously,” she says.

Grumbling, Jackson pulls something toward him from off screen, bends down. When he sits up, he’s wearing a ruffly lace jabot collar. Erica has to press her face into Boyd’s shoulder to muffle her laughter.

Jackson continues, voice dark and dangerous in a way that Derek has to confess is childishly pleasing. “‘I, your host, am found murdered here in the parlor. I was shot once through the head. There’s been a snowstorm and all the roads are impassable--no police will be coming in until the day after tomorrow at the earliest. It’s up to you, my and my fiancee’s family and friends, to identify and detain the killer until help can arrive.’”

Applause sounds at the end of this speech, with even those who didn’t know Jackson joining in this time. Jackson grumbles if he can go, it’s getting late, and Lydia tells him he’s done well enough. They sign off, and then Cora and Lydia are handing out sealed manila envelopes, one to each person.

“There’s information about each of your characters in here,” Lydia says. “Find someplace where you can look through everything in your envelope alone. You have to keep this information secret from everyone else for now. Remember--you don’t know whom to trust. If you’re the killer, your job is to escape detection and suspicion. If you aren’t the killer, your job is to find out who the killer is, and to work with the others to expose and detain that person.”

Derek finds a spot outside, on the pleasant back patio that’s been done up like a fancy tea garden, where no one else will bother him. He opens his envelope and takes in all of the information about his character.

He’s a factory owner, an old friend and business associate of the victim’s. He’s also the killer. He snuck up on the victim while he was reading over a glass of wine. The victim was reading a letter, written by the victim’s fiancee announcing her plans to break off their engagement. The letter--a facsimile of it, anyway--is in the envelope, as well. Derek picked it up after shooting Jackson because it was covered in splatters of Jackson’s blood. Evidently the fiancee was in love with someone else. Derek hunts around his documents for his own motive. Ah, there it is… the victim has been stealing from him for years, and Derek just found out last week. Well, there you have it. He used the victim’s own pistol, which he then stashed in the boat house. Not a very good hiding place--someone’s bound to look there sooner or later. If he’s going to play this game at all, at least he’s going to do his best not to get caught right away.

Derek looks around. The boat house is only about a hundred yards away, and he didn’t notice anyone else slipping outside earlier. If he can find where the prop gun is hidden, he can put it someplace even safer, maybe do something to help mask its scent so that none of the wolves have an opportunity to sniff it out.

He’s just setting out toward the boat house when the back door opens, someone whistles after him. It’s Stiles, because of course it is.

“We’re all gathering our nerves over some cocktails,” he says. He’s eyeing Derek suspiciously, like he’s caught him out at something. He glances to the boat house and back to where Derek now stands frozen. He says nothing about it, though, only smirks. There’s that Lydia smirk again. It’s as contagious as the bite. “Care to join us?”

He follows Stiles in. He’ll go to the boat house later.

 

5.

Derek hates the music Lydia’s chosen, the melodramatic orchestral record with strings that screech. He thinks maybe it’s a werewolf thing, except none of the others seem too bothered by it. Isaac even seems to be humming along faintly as if it’s a song he recognizes.

He hates her stupid acting, her fake tears as she sobs out her story about finding Jackson’s body slumped over in his chair. The others all coo over her, Cora and Allison patting her hair and sending dirty, furtive glances around the room as if that will make the killer step forward and confess to it. He wishes he could share the letter with the others, let them know that Lydia is an untrustworthy liar, but he knows that will incriminate himself, end the game too early. He doesn’t want to be responsible for spoiling everyone’s fun. Everyone except for Derek seems to have gone into this whole hog, is doing absolutely everything in character. Neither Stiles nor Malia smells like sadness anymore, both of them evidently too distracted to think about whatever their interpersonal drama is. Stiles somehow managed to bring along a bubble pipe, and he’s puffing absurdly at it now, standing with one leg propped up on a nearby ottoman, gazing around the room from face to face through a pair of prop spectacles.

They all talk, share what they know or what they think they know. There’s the jumping pulses of a few lies, but the wolves seem to be playing fair for the most part, pretending not to hear, and anyway, it’s all play-acting and lying anyway, so there are bound to be a few crossed wires. Eventually, the time comes for Derek to introduce himself, explain why he’s here and why he shouldn’t be considered the murderer. He spits out a few lines, talks about his long-standing friendship and partnership with Jackson, and then attention mercifully drifts away from him. Nobody challenges him, except maybe for Stiles, silently, who grins and blows a stream of bubbles in Derek’s direction after he’s done speaking.

 

6.

Derek hates that Lydia’s thought of this, that the inside of the boat house has clearly been filled with some kind of artificial fragrance to keep him from sniffing out the exact location of the gun. He has to spend much longer than he wants to in finding it, and by the time ten minutes pass he gets worried that someone will become suspicious, follow him out here. For the most part they’re all just chatting and drinking--there’s even some dancing going on, despite the recent tragic events--but if he takes much longer surely someone will realize he didn’t just step into the other room to freshen up his drink.

He can’t turn on the light, either, or else he’ll risk drawing the others’ attention. He’s never missed his alpha night vision quite as much as he does now, feeling around in the dark on hands and knees.

He must be distracted by the hunt, or by the horrible pine-fresh scent that makes him nearly want to vomit; that’s why he misses the footsteps approaching, the presence of another person. Just as his hand closes around the toy gun, hidden behind a tacklebox, the lights flick on, and Stiles is standing in the doorway.

“Well, well, well,” he says, “what have we here?”

Five minutes later, Derek has handed the gun over, as well as everything else from his envelope. Stiles looks them over with an expression of smirking triumph and leads Derek by the arm back into the lake house. It’s only a matter of minutes before he turns Derek in and the whole game ends. Stiles will feel superior for figuring the whole thing out before any of the wolves were able to do so.

Except that Stiles doesn’t call a halt to the party, doesn’t draw everyone around for the big reveal. Instead, he joins in the dancing, and he crooks his finger at Derek to let him know that he’s supposed to dance, too. It’s nothing short of awful, shameless blackmail, but what else can Derek do?

He joins in. Tries to ignore the way nearly everyone seems to be leveling Lydia’s smirk in his and Stiles’s direction.

 

7.

Derek hates Lydia’s sleeping arrangements. He’s going to have to shove cotton in his ears to keep from overhearing Scott and Allison and Isaac in the next room, let alone Boyd and Erica up above. Cora and Lydia on the other side are a little better, whispering and snickering over how the party is going. Kira and Malia, two rooms down, are watching something on Kira’s computer.

Meanwhile, Stiles is in the shower. Derek doesn’t think too hard about that as he dresses down for bed, stripping to his boxer briefs. At least there are two twins; they won’t have to bunk up. That would have been a bridge too far; Derek would have insisted on taking the couch out in the main room.

“I’m glad we’re rooming together,” Stiles says when he comes back, smelling of soap. At Derek’s inquisitive glare, he smiles, lowers his voice. “I want to keep an eye on you. Make sure you don’t slip away in the night.”

“Why didn’t you just turn me in?” Derek asks later, when the lights are out and they are both doing their level best to pretend they can’t hear the creaking of bedsprings above them.

“And end the fun so early?” he whispers back. “Besides, it seems too simple. I’ve got a plan.”

Derek waits, but Stiles doesn’t share the plan with him. Before long, Stiles’s breathing has leveled out, and his heartbeat has gotten slow like it only ever does when he’s sleeping. Derek feels a little strange that he knows that.

 

8.

Derek hates that Lydia’s put them in an east-facing room, that Stiles is able to wake with the sun while the rest of the house is still asleep, that he’s up even before Derek is, shaking him awake eagerly.

“What is it?” Derek grumbles.

“Lydia’s computer,” Stiles says, holding up the laptop. “Don’t worry. I know her password.”

Stiles opens up the computer and logs in, settling himself at the foot of Derek’s bed.

“I doubt she’d be stupid enough to leave the files someplace that’s easy to access,” Derek grumbles.

“I’m not cheating ,” Stiles says, aghast. “I’m contacting the spirits.”

“The spirits--?” Derek begins, but he already sees that Stiles is opening Skype. Calling Jackson.

An irritated Jackson answers the call. Looks even more irritated to see it’s Stiles and Derek calling him. “You’re not Lydia,” he says.

“And you’re not wearing your tie,” Stiles says, clicking his tongue. “Most unprofessional.”

“Bite me.”

“Hear that, Derek? He wants you to bite him again.”

Jackson makes a gesture in response, but Stiles only smiles. Derek can see it in the small picture in the corner of the screen, but even more so he can smell it, the way Stiles’s energy seems light, playful, excited. How he used to get sometimes when researching the supernatural.

“Why are you bothering me, Stilinski?”

“I’m channeling the spirit of the dead guy.”

“What, you mean no one managed to figure that dumb mystery out yet?”

“Nope,” Stiles says, popping on the ‘p.’ “So Derek and I decided to hold a little seance, didn’t we? And if you don’t cooperate, I’m going to tell Lydia you referred to her big project as a ‘dumb mystery.’”

Jackson grumbles, glares, but doesn’t object.

“When you gave your spiel,” Stiles says, “you very carefully said that you were found with a gunshot to the head. You didn’t say that was how you died.”

“Wow. You’re a deductive genius,” Jackson gripes.

“So? Who did kill you?”

Lydia’s planned for this contingency, as well, it seems, because Jackson is pulling out a second notecard, looking it over. “‘I don’t know who killed me,’” Jackson reads, tone bored. “‘I went into the parlor to have a moment alone. The last thing I remember is drinking a glass of wine one of the guests had poured for me. I didn’t hear anyone else enter.’”

“To have a moment alone?” Derek asks, suddenly interested. “Not to read a letter?”

“All I know is what’s on the card, dumbass.”

But Derek and Stiles are already exchanging glances, and Stiles closes out the call while Jackson’s still in the middle of complaining about them for interrupting his lunch.

 

9.

Derek hates how Lydia glances between the two of them all day, the little twinkle to her eye whenever she catches them whispering together. They’re playing her game, trying to collect as much information as they can to support their theory, but they’re in no hurry. Stiles says he wants to be sure by the time he makes his formal accusation, but really what he means is that he doesn’t want the big, elaborate project Lydia put so much effort into setting up to be over too quickly. Derek doesn’t mind following Stiles’s lead on this one, even if he does resent that Stiles is probably doing it out of a sense of deference--or worse--to Lydia. After all, Stiles is single again, and so is Lydia. It’s little wonder the boy will do whatever he can to try to make Lydia happy.

Today, people are drifting in and out of character, sometimes bargaining with one another for information and at other times talking about how difficult their o-chem quiz the other day was. all while also watching movies and eating snacks and lounging around with the other party guests, none of whom bother changing out of their pajamas until the late afternoon. In the hour or so before dinner, while Derek offers to help Boyd and Erica in the kitchen, Stiles walks off with Scott for a stroll around the lake. They’re both supposed to be finding out whatever the others know or suspect about the situation. Boyd and Erica don’t know much; in fact, they seem much more interested in talking about the recent break-up.

“I heard it was because of someone else,” Erica whispers conspiratorially. “Malia had accused him of still being in love with someone. And then, after some soul-searching, he told her she was right.”

It all slots together in Derek’s head, the pieces of the mystery that is the text Cora showed him nearly two weeks ago now. How else would Lydia have known, if not because Stiles had confessed his love to her? Maybe they were together now. Maybe Stiles finally got what he’s wanted for so long. They don’t smell like each other yet, but they could just be being careful, trying not to alienate Malia. Derek’s seen Lydia make special efforts to reach out to Malia all weekend so far; maybe they’re trying to time it just right, just the way Stiles is being careful to time how and when he’s going to reveal the solution to the mystery.

Derek must be giving off some strange energy, because Boyd and Erica keep sending him cautious looks while they gossip. He focuses in harder on mincing the onions, cutting them until they’re barely there at all before Boyd rests a hand on his arm, tells Derek, “That’s enough.”

 

10.

Derek hates how Lydia guesses the truth, forces Stiles’s hand by clinking her fork against her champagne glass and announcing that Stiles has figured everything out. Stiles’s look of surprise lets Derek know that he didn’t tell Lydia, she just figured it out, and isn’t it just precious how they seem to know each other without talking about it beforehand, already on each other’s wavelength in a way Derek can’t ever imagine being with another person.

It might not be the timing Stiles would have chosen, but he’s ready for the speech, anyway, hamming it up by strutting around the table while everyone else is seated, listing all of them and all of their motives and those who did and didn’t have opportunity or alibis. When it comes to Derek, Stiles gives him up: how he walked in, found the victim sitting at his desk, and shot him. Cleaned up the letter in an attempt to hide evidence. Stashed the gun in the boat house. Stiles tells the story of how he followed Derek out to the boat house and caught him searching for the gun. He presents both the gun and the letter to those at the table, all of whom gasp appropriately.

“So it was Derek?” Kira asks. She sounds disappointed, as though this were somehow the expected outcome. Of course it is , Derek thinks. Considering I’m also one of the only ones here who’s actually killed someone.

“Actually,” Stiles says, smile spreading broadly across his face. “Derek only thought that he had killed the victim when he shot him in the head. But actually… the victim was already dead!”

This time, there are real gasps. Even Derek finds himself perking up with interest.

“In reality,” Stiles explains, “the victim died by poisoning. He was given a glass of wine before retiring to the parlor. That glass of wine contained cyanide that one of us here had brought with the express purpose of killing the victim. The poisoner also planted the letter before the victim in hopes of incriminating the fiancee.”

“Who did it, then?” Erica asks. She’s positively leaning onto the table in her eager excitement.

“The fiancee’s jealous lover did it,” says Stiles with excitement. “Angry that the fiancee had decided to break things off and marry the victim, after all. It was--” then, with a flourish, he points to Cora, “--Cora, the maid!”

There’s a moment of excitement, in which Cora jumps up from her seat, shouts, “You’ll never catch me alive!” and tries to make a run for it. A minute later, she’s laughing while screaming uncle, buried under a pile of four werewolves, one werecoyote, and a kitsune, all of whom have worked together to tackle her to the ground. The humans all laugh, clap for such a fun and dramatic resolution to the mystery, and even Derek finds himself joining along.

 

11.

Derek hates Lydia, glares at her openly when she approaches him for the first time all weekend, offering a bottle of beer like she’s throwing him a bone. He accepts it, sips from it, grunts out a thank you that hurts like a barb.

She stands next to him for a while. She’s small, but Derek knows better than to think that means she’s harmless. She watches the room, gaze flicking around until they settle on the sofa, where Stiles lies on a pile of pillows, playing Call of Duty on the big projection display with Scott. Isaac and Allison are nearby, fiddling with each other’s hair, sometimes one and sometimes the other reaching out now and again to run a finger down Scott’s leg, as if they have to maintain constant contact or else they’ll forget who they are.

No one is touching Stiles. He’s absorbed in the video game, shouting out excitedly at it, bouncing up and down on his pillows. The round ends--Scott won this one, but Stiles looks pleased anyway--and, in the few seconds before they agree to start another, Stiles looks up, over at where Derek and Lydia are standing together. Meets Derek’s eyes. Smiles.

“You’re an idiot,” Lydia finally says, voice low, “if you think I’m the one he’s in love with.”

 

12.

Derek hates how Lydia is always right, but he loves the way Stiles’s mouth feels against his own. Loves the way they can make room in just one of the small twin beds, can fold around each other to fit if they press close enough. Loves the way Stiles is so eager to kiss that he keeps doing it not matter how exhausted he feels, that he falls asleep doing it and starts to snore lightly while his lips are still pressed against Derek’s. Derek loves the way he shifts closer in his sleep like holding Derek is all he wants to do.

Derek hates Lydia, but he thinks that maybe he loves her too. He knows he has her to thank for this, and he’s not pleased about being in her debt, but he’d pay anything for this--this opportunity just to watch Stiles’s eyelids flutter as he dreams, watch the way his chapped lips part and close on every breath.