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Stiles had no idea why he'd been the one chosen to moderate a panel on werewolf rights, let alone at the last minute. He'd done as much digging as he could, including some that might not be strictly legal, but nowhere near as much as he'd wanted to. As it was, he was standing at a podium, lights and cameras all around as he faced the studio audience and introduced the members of the panel, who sat at the long table one by one.

Gerard Argent, Congressman and writer of the Werewolf Safety Act. Lila Reed, from the Bureau of Werewolf Education. Professor Derek Hale, Dean of Therianthropic Studies at Stanford University. Araya Calaveras, Director of the Organizacion para la Libertad de los Humanos, the Organization for the Freedom of Humans. Three rabid anti-werewolf partisans against one pro-werewolf academic. But the deck wasn't being stacked at all, of course.

It was probably not a good thing that he'd almost dropped his cards when Derek Hale came out, but hot damn. The few videos of the guy that he'd been able to find online were blurry and hard to hear, obviously uploaded from cellphones, and the picture of him on the school website made him look a bit like a rabbit, all front teeth and bug eyes. He needed to sue whoever had taken that picture, let alone put it out there for the world to see.

Luckily, as a trained journalist, he could recover quickly enough to finish up with the introductions and start on the outline of what the rules would be. Argent broke them pretty much instantly, talking over Stiles to ask what precautions had been taken to ensure their safety from the werewolf at the table. Calaveras looked like she wanted to roll her eyes, even as Reed started to edge away from Hale.

Raising his eyebrows, Stiles said, "All reasonable safety measures have been taken for the safety of all of us here today."

"Considering that Mr. Argent and Señora Calaveras are both armed with wolfsbane rounds, I think I'm in as much danger as anyone here," Professor Hale said. "Werewolves are fast, but bullets are usually faster."

"Not everyone has access to the means to defend themselves," Argent cut in. "And it can be hard to predict--"

"I believe if the professor was subject to rage issues, it would've come up at some point when dealing with freshmen," Stiles said. "Now, each of you is to have two minutes to introduce yourself - Señora Calaveras, if you could start?"

Smiling slightly, in a way that didn't make her look even a little friendly, she said, "Please, call me Araya. My organization was established centuries ago for the protection of human beings. When we were hunters, we followed a code - we hunt those who hunt us. Now our priority is working with law enforcement for the same goals - making sure that no humans are harmed by monsters who would hunt them."

"Important work," Stiles said, even though he was dying to ask what kind of criteria they used to define 'humans' and 'harmed.' Hopefully he'd get a chance later. "Professor Hale?"

"Derek," he said, smiling so brightly that Stiles was tempted to shield his eyes. "I was born a werewolf and have continued to be a werewolf ever since. I also got my PhD in history, although that took a lot more work. I fell into Therianthropic Studies by accident, since I was the only werewolf most of my colleagues had ever met, let alone any of the less common shapeshifters. The activism is mostly just about wanting to be treated like the human being that I am."

Argent snorted and opened his mouth, but Stiles was quick to go to the lady from the BWE. "Lila Reed, Lila. My department, we're responsible for making sure that werewolves and, ah, other such, um, exceptional children receive an appropriate education despite their many obstacles."

Like not being allowed to attend regular public schools, having shitty teachers that had been fired from said public schools, and facing unreasonable discipline standards. Stiles had a lot he'd like to say to say to this lady, thanks to Scott's experiences, and from the fixed look on Derek's face, so did he.

"And, last but not least, Congressman Gerard Argent, who actually represents my home district in California. Welcome, Congressman."

"Thank you, young man." Gerard smiled, and Stiles thought he was trying for 'kindly old grandfather.' It looked more like 'evil old lizard-man,' but Stiles supposed he must be able to fool at least some people, since he kept getting elected. "In my years in Congress, I'm proud to have helped pass some important legislation, but none more important than the Werewolf Safety Act. The protection of all American citizens is our top priority."

By jailing or executing werewolves, who presumably didn't count as citizens. Stiles really thought he could hate this guy. "The floor is now open for discussion, after which we'll have a brief question and answer session."

Stiles leaned back, since he was supposed to let the guests do the majority of the talking and had been instructed to give them at least ten minutes without interruption unless it seemed like there was a risk of death or dead air. Finstock had added that under no circumstances was he to let more than three seconds of silence go by, which highlighted the priority of those two possibilities.

"If you don't mind, Lila, I had a question about why education for young werewolves is handled separately from education for children as a whole," Derek said to start off. "Isn't that against the principle of Brown vs. the Board of Education?"

"The precedent for providing federal management for special populations--"

Gerard interrupted her, leaning forward. "The government provides werewolves benefits, including spending millions of dollars a year just on education, far beyond what the taxpayer should be responsible for, just because they can't control themselves."

Pleasantly, Derek said, "I'm glad you're concerned for us taxpayers. As a voting citizen--"

"There has been no law passed granting citizenship to werewolves," Gerard said, a hint of a snarl coming through despite his smile.

"I was born in the United States, as were my parents," Derek said. "Any person born in the United States is a birthright citizen, and my ancestors were in the United States before it became a country."

Araya looked as calm and pleasant as if she was in a sewing circle when she said, "But werewolves are not people."

"My dog was born in the United States, that doesn't mean he can vote." Gerard laughed avuncularly, and Stiles had to dig his fingernails into his palm not to punch him in his smug face.

Adjusting his glasses, Derek said, "I didn't think that our country was still in the business of treating people as animals, or property. Are you going to suggest instituting a poll tax next?"

"You can pretend all you like, mijo, but the beast is still within." Araya looked at Derek in a way that almost seemed kindly. "Or have you never met a monstrous werewolf?"

Stiles forced himself to keep listening as they went another few rounds in the same vein, Araya and Gerard teaming up to talk down to Derek in ways that almost seemed reasonable and had audience members nodding absently along, while Derek kept slipping in barbs that pointed out exactly how unfair the system was. The lady from the BWE was severely outmatched and mostly just shrank away from the others as far as she could, although she did offer one timid comment that, despite the safety issues, the children under her department's purview were still just children.

"Time's up," Stiles said gratefully, the exact second that he could. "For our next segment, I'll be asking a few questions related to what's been discussed so far, after which we'll turn to the audience for a few comments before we wrap up."

Taking a deep breath, Stiles smiled and said, "Would anyone like to go first? Ms. Calaveras?"

She nodded and waved her hand regally to give permission. Stiles shuffled through his cards, fumbling a little, just to give himself time. If he came out too strong, the chances of a good career went plummeting. If he didn't come out strong enough, he'd just feel slimy. "Are there any circumstances under which you or your organization would consider a werewolf to be a human?"

"Sadly, no," she said. "The best that can be hoped for is for them to live quietly, but the urge to hunt, to kill, is too strong in them. Sooner or later, they give in."

Stiles nodded, hoping like hell that he'd managed a pokerface when every atom of his body was overflowing with 'bitch, please.' "Next question - yes, Ms. Reed. My question for you is related to Mr. Hale's, earlier. What does your agency plan to do to redress the inequalities between the schooling provided for werewolves and public schools?"

"It's a complex issue to define equality, especially given the issue of funding and the special circumstances of the children, especially the lack of parental involvement." Derek full-on flinched at that, and Stiles couldn't blame him. Not after what Scott had endured. "We just do our best to provide the children under our care the best education that their circumstances allow."

Stiles didn't know what his face was doing, but apparently it was enough to make Reed shrink away from him even more than she'd done from Derek. He turned to Argent, trying to pull himself together and ask something neutral, something that would let the man hang himself without Stiles risking his own career. The man spoke first, though. "Mr. Stilinski, have you or your family ever been attacked by werewolves?"

That asshole had set this up. There was no way he didn't already know the answer to that, and it explained a lot about why Stiles had gotten this job. He was supposed to be some sort of poster child for those harmed by werewolves.

"I'm supposed to be asking you the questions, but I'll answer, since you asked, and hold my question for the moment." Turning away from the panel, he looked at the audience and said, "My dad is the sheriff back home, and one night he was in the woods and came home all slashed up. He spent two weeks in the hospital and unconscious while Congressman Argent was instrumental in bringing in any and all known werewolves in the area for questioning."

"The safety of such an upstanding citizen--"

Stiles went on, ignoring the interruption. "We appreciated the Congressman getting so involved in ensuring my father's safety, especially given how unprecedented it is for a government official to be a part of an ongoing investigation. Guess it was a lucky coincidence that he was in town at the time, just like it was lucky that slashes so deep didn't turn my dad even though they were deep enough to dig out the bullets he'd been shot with," Stiles said, turning back to face Argent.

"Always happy to help," Gerard said, still smiling. The asshole was really so self-important that he was actively delusional or he was so used to lying on camera that smiling was automatic. "Especially after the trauma you'd already been through, being attacked by a werewolf that had been your friend before being turned into an animal... You're very brave for having endured it."

Someone off camera was gesturing to a cue card with a prompt for audience questions, and Stiles reminded himself firmly of his student loan debt before pulling the microphone off his podium. "Since we're not here to talk about me, why don't we go to the audience for some questions?"

Hands were up all over the audience, although Stiles had a list of what questions they'd submitted ahead of time and which audience members he was supposed to 'spontaneously' choose. He went to the first one, a timid looking girl in the front, and held the microphone for her as she said, "Hi, I'm Kendra, my question is for Doctor Hale?"

He nodded, not quite smiling but still looking friendly. "Dr. Hale, how do you reconcile wanting to integrate werewolves into society but still keeping a separate department to study them?"

"Hi, Kendra, it's nice to meet you." Hale's smile was everything perfect and charming, although the look he shot Stiles was a bit off. "There's kind of a two part answer, but I'll try to keep it short since none of you signed up for one of my classes."

A small round of nervous laughter went through the audience, and he waited before continuing. "Because we were hidden for so long, we were already integrated into society - we had to be in order to hide from hunters and not be killed for existing. Ever since we decided to trust the rest of the world with who we are, there's been… Well, no coming out story is ever smooth, is it?"

More laughter this time; Stiles didn't think that anyone really noticed that Gerard had leaned in to say something, only prevented from it by his microphone being off. Derek certainly didn't notice, just continuing smoothly. "As for why my department exists, believe it or not, I felt the same way as you did when I was asked to create it. My mother was the one who convinced me that it's important to study our culture and history, to make sure that we can understand what makes us different as well as how we're alike. It's just like how we don't just teach American or western history anymore, but study how our culture in general interacts with all the other cultures of the world."

"Thank you, Professor Hale," Stiles said, then frowned. His notecards said professor, but should he have called him doctor? He didn't intend to be disrespectful. "Sorry, Dr. Hale."

"Either is fine," Derek said, looking just as casual and unassuming as a smoking hot werewolf could. Stiles moved on to the next assigned audience member with alacrity, trying not to think about his newly developed glasses kink.

"Patrick Rothmun," the next person said, standing up to speak into the microphone. "With a question for Ms. Calaveras."

He'd been supposed to ask Argent something about ensuring the safety of schoolchildren, so something was off script here. Stiles decided to just roll with it even as Araya sat forward to listen to the question. "When you say you work with law enforcement to hunt monsters - what about monsters that are human, like serial killers or child molesters?"

Shaking her head, she said, "Those are crimes, horrible crimes, but they are for law enforcement to deal with. They do not know how to deal with the real monsters, the werewolves and shapeshifters, but we do."

If Stiles was a little too slow to pull the mike away before the man grabbed it for a followup, well, these things just happened. "But aren't they monsters? They still kill people, still leave little girls like mine damaged forever."

"I am sorry for you and your daughter," Araya said, her back absolutely straight. "But all that we can do is offer our expertise to law enforcement, and that expertise is from centuries of keeping animals under control."

Stiles laid a hand on the guy's shoulder, making a note to follow up and see if he could do anything to help the guy, but had to move on to the next question. This time it was an older lady, who skipped an introduction and went straight to, "Mr. Argent, since werewolves aren't citizens, can they be deported just like any other illegal aliens?"

"It's something we've explored," Gerard said. "Unfortunately, just as with illegal aliens, we run into the problem of other countries not wanting to admit undesirables. There are detention centers as well as the resettlement areas, but those are an expensive drain of funds that could be used for things real people need - food assistance, family planning, even the arts. All of those things suffer so that we can maintain werewolves who do nothing to earn the privilege."

He was pretty sure he'd failed at not rolling his eyes, but he went on to the next member of the audience. "Hi, um, I'm Crystal, and I just wanted to ask what you think of werewolf movies?"

"Was that question for Doctor Hale?" When the girl nodded shyly, Stiles looked up and said, "What about it? Got any favorites?"

Derek grimaced, wrinkling his nose adorably. "I never liked them very much, since they all seemed to make us out to be something we're not, but my sisters have probably watched every single movie ever made which featured a werewolf. They think it's hysterical how much they get wrong, and they just laugh and throw popcorn at the screen a lot. Van Helsing is one of Laura's favorite movies of all time, if that tells you anything about her taste, while Cora loves Underworld."

"But did they watch Weresquid versus Wolfman?" It wasn't planned but, whatever. Stiles was the host here, he could throw that out there.

"That sounds… right up their alley, actually." Derek took his glasses off to rub at the bridge of his nose. "I'm blaming you when they make me watch it once I get home."

"It's hilariously awful," Stiles said as he approached the next person scheduled to ask a question.

This one was a boy, with wide eyes and floppy hair. He looked like a miniature, white version of Scott. "I can see the werewolf school from the back of my school, and sometimes they get really close to the fences. My mom says there's a law against letting them get that close, but it's still scary, especially for the littler kids."

That was so very much a setup for Argent, who was already starting to speak. Stiles cut in with, "Since this is about schools, maybe we should let Ms. Reed address that."

She looked surprised, rather like she'd thought everyone had forgotten about her and had been happy with that, but she rallied well. "The fact is, there is no such law on the books, and we have to place schools where we can get the funding to place them. There's nothing to worry about, though, because the fences are just there to make sure humans don't accidentally wander in; the werewolves are kept inside by carefully maintained barriers of mountain ash, which are checked and reinforced at least once a week. They can't get off the property, or come within ten feet of the fences."

Time was running short, and Stiles went to the next question, which was supposed to be another fluffy one, setting up Araya to talk about her organization's charity work. Instead the middle-aged black woman turned to Stiles and said, "How can you defend werewolves when they've done so much to hurt people? Even people you love, like Mr. Argent said?"

A glance at Argent showed him looking much too smug for words, making it likely that the question had been planted specifically for him to be the one convincing the audience to hate and fear werewolves. The thought that he'd been playing along, letting that old bastard feel confident that Stiles would just toe the line, made him so deeply ashamed of himself that he could barely breathe. All of Stiles's lingering nervousness was swept away in a moment of pure, blinding rage, and he decided that he didn't give a single fuck about being diplomatic or salvaging his career or anything other than being able to look himself in the eye and know he did the right thing.

"Here's the thing," Stiles said, stepping away from the lady that had asked the question and moving towards the front so everyone would be able to see him. Journalism training hadn't been for nothing, even if he was prepared to see it all go down in flames. "My best friend got attacked by a werewolf when we were in the woods one night. It could've been me just as easily, except the guy ran off right after. It wasn't until later that I found out that his family's house had been burned down by hunters. He hadn't even been the alpha before that, his mom was. I went to school with one of his kids, actually, but she died in the fire right along with her werewolf cousins. Later on the news it said that the fire had been set by accident while the guy was resisting arrest, but he smelled like gas and burned flesh when he tripped over us and bit Scott."

"The investigation--"

Stiles didn't feel like dealing with Gerard interrupting, and signaled for his mike to be cut again. "So, you know, we were kids. We thought we could keep it a secret, and we got it under control at first, even when I was throwing lacrosse balls at his head, but then during the full moon someone made a joke about how barbecue was the best flavor of werewolf and Scott got so angry that he lost control. I got him into the locker room and he chased me, trying to kill me, but then I squirted him with a fire extinguisher and he calmed down, apologized, asked me to chain him up so he wouldn't hurt anybody."

The room was silent, and Stiles looked into the camera, letting the red light showing it was recording reflect off his entirely human eyes. "Someone had already reported him and so he got hauled off to one of those jails that Ms. Reed and the BWE call schools. We weren't allowed to visit - his mom wasn't even told where he was, just that she'd been found unfit for custody because she hadn't had him placed on a registry. Hell of a way to find out your son's a werewolf, right?"

"And my dad... Scott was my best buddy, Dad looked on him like a second son, and so my dad used every connection he had to track him down, find out where he was. They still wouldn't let us see him. Told us it was better that way, that it was easier to think he was dead than deal with what he'd become."

With a bitter laugh, Stiles said, "You have to understand, my dad's never broken a law in his entire life. My grandmother used to tell me stories about how he'd write her tickets for speeding, and dressed up as a cop for every Halloween. So when I tell you that he was prepared to grab Scott and run, you've got to understand just how important Scott is, and how desperate we were to get him back. There was no way, though. Trust me when I tell you that it would be easier to break into the White House and stroll off with the desk from the Oval Office than it would be to get a werewolf out of one of those so-called schools."

"Turns out, though, you know what's not illegal? Giving the guards at those places a ton of money to buy 'privileges.' Scott's mom moved in with us and sold the house that her parents left her, and when that money ran out, Dad and I took out a mortgage on our house, which had been paid off with my mom's life insurance." Turning to the schools lady, he said, "You forgot to mention that, in your big concern for their safety, right? How it's only if someone pays that they get to live in places with electricity, beds, privileges like that. We got to Skype with Scott, but only once a week for an hour - the rest of the time, the laptop we bought and the internet connection we paid for belonged to the guards."

Rounding on Argent, Stiles said, "But the laws that let innocent kids get kidnapped and held in jails without any rights aren't enough. This guy wants to take away more, wants to take away their right to even live, since he's already taken their liberty and property. Which brings up the question I should've asked him earlier. So, Congressman: would you still be pursuing the policies that you are if your request to be bitten by a werewolf had been successful?"

"That's a vicious slander," Gerard said calmly. "A complete lie, just like this delusional story you've wasted our time with."

"It's only slander if it's wrong." Everything else seemed to fall away as he just looked at the man's snarling face and smiled. "It's a matter of record, for anyone that looks in the right place. Anyone can submit a Freedom of Information Act request for themselves and find out."

"You can't prove any of this." Gerard stood and slammed his fists on the desk in front of him. "This will never be aired - you'll never work again, do you understand me? You or your father."

Stiles rolled his eyes. "Ladies and gentlemen, the noble actions of a true elder statesman. The lion of Congress at work."

The cameraman shrugged as Gerard stormed away, and Stiles adjusted his tie, pulling himself together. "So... Yeah, any final remarks, in case this does air?"

Araya shook her head, silent as a statue, but the schools lady said nervously, "That's... that's not how our schools work."

"Then I expect an invitation to visit your schools, with a camera," Stiles said pleasantly. Neither his tone nor his smile seemed to reassure her.

"I'll go with you," Derek said, leaning forward and looking at Stiles intently. "We can't let you fight for werewolf rights without any actual werewolves along, now can we?"

Stiles found himself blushing fiercely, completely tongue-tied in a way he hadn't been since ninth grade and trying to speak to Lydia. "Um. Sure. Yes. That would be... fine."

Looking away was one of the more difficult things he'd done, but he faced the camera and said, "Well, if this makes it to the air, this has been a discussion of werewolf rights, and I don't know if the sponsors still want their names read out, so I'll just say, for anyone that's listening, that you should think about what you've heard, get all the facts, and maybe think about the fact that humans with guns and knives are just as dangerous and just as likely to go out of control as humans with claws."

The camera turned off and Stiles handed the microphone off to one of the tech guys, who avoided looking him in the eye. It all started to sink in and Stiles felt the same weird kind of let-down that always seemed to follow the few lacrosse games he'd played in. He should probably get out of here, find a quiet place to call his dad to let him know he'd spilled the beans about him being shot instead of just clawed, and maybe find a way to convey that he'd severely pissed off Gerard Argent while somehow making it seem like no big deal.

"Excuse me." Okay, he was in no way prepared for Derek Hale up close. Holy cow. Between the shoulders like mountains and the fuzzy sweater, he was almost sure he was actually drooling. Then he slid his glasses off, showcasing multicolored eyes that were too pretty for words, and Stiles dispensed with dignity enough to actually feel his chin to make sure it was dry. "Are you busy? After this, I mean."

"Uh, not really? I mean, I need to make a call, but..." Stiles tried to think of why he would want to know anything about Stiles's schedule. "Did you want to talk about that school thing?"

With a small laugh, Derek said, "No. Or, I mean, we could, but mostly I just wanted to ask you out for coffee."

"Coffee? Like, like a date? Or, I mean, it could be totally casual, just, like, two guys hanging out, that'd be fine, too." Stiles would've paid money for the ability to close his mouth at that moment. "Just, you know, bros. Discussing politics or--"

"Or it could be a date." It took Stiles a moment of blessing Derek for interrupting before what he'd actually said filtered through. "If you're interested. I promise not to bite."

Eyes wide, Stiles blurted out, "Not even a little consensual biting in naughty ways?"

Derek's teeth flashed white as he said, "We can talk about it on our next date."

"Yeah. Okay. That sounds--" He was saved from having to find the right word by his phone ringing. "Huh. One second, it's my dad."

Stepping into the empty hallway close by to get a semblance of privacy, Stiles answered only to immediately hear his dad saying, "I'm proud of you, son."

"Uh." Stiles tried to think of what might have brought that on, but came up blank. "Okay?"

"The show was on live," his dad said. "It was supposed to be a football game, but it got delayed and they put you on in the meantime. You did good, kid."

Stiles felt dizzy at the thought that he'd actually been on air in front of who knows how many hundreds or thousands of football fans, almost staggering under the weight of the retroactive nerves. "Oh my God, I told everybody about Scott. Like, everybody."

"I could've done without the stories from your grandma being out there for the world to hear," his dad said. "Parrish already called to joke about going trick or treating in the cruiser."

Sinking down to sit on the floor, Stiles whispered, "Dad… I almost didn't. I kept thinking about my career and, and, I almost went along with it. What kind of--"

"You didn't," his dad cut in, with the same firm tone that had pulled him out of innumerable nightmares after his mom died and after Scott was taken. "You did the right thing, kid. I wish your mom could've seen it - she'd have been so proud."

"Dad." His voice cracked and he swiped the back of his hand over his eyes, completely unable to come up with something to say.

His dad let the silence linger for a moment before clearing his throat. "Just take it easy, kid. And when you ask that werewolf professor out--"

"Hey, he asked me out!"

"Huh." The fact that his dad was shocked into silence was not at all flattering. "Guess he's got good taste."

Snorting, Stiles said, "Or he's cracked in the head."

"Can't rule out both," his dad said cheerfully. "Call me when you get home - and if he's one of the Hales that used to be in Beacon Hills, have him give his parents my regards."

"Uh. Yeah, okay." They exchanged goodbyes and I love yous, and Stiles just stood still, staring at his phone and wondering if he'd ever again have the nerve to google himself.

The sound of the door opening made him jump, his phone flying out of his hand as he flailed. It landed squarely in Derek's hand, and Stiles really hoped the small squeaking noise had come from the door rather than his throat. From the wicked smile on Derek's face, it didn't seem likely.

"So, I realize this is moving our relationship a little fast, but my mom would really like to meet you," Derek said as he handed the phone back. "And she asked if you were related to Deputy Stilinski from Beacon Hills."

"Sheriff," Stiles croaked, then coughed. "Um, yeah. My dad's the sheriff now. But he said to say hi if you guys were the Hales from Beacon Hills."

With a small laugh, Derek said, "Small world, I guess. We moved away when I was pretty little, since big cities are..."

"Less likely to be hotbeds of bigotry?"

Derek laughed again, and Stiles stuffed his hands in his pockets to make sure he'd resist the urge to just grab him and see if his stubble was as soft as it looked. "Something like that. Plus the Argents' home ground..."

"Say no more." Stiles scuffed a foot over the floor, feeling a bit at a loss. "Unless, you know, you want to. I'm not trying to say you can't."

"Are you only articulate in front of an audience?" Derek gestured to the door and Stiles nodded, following him down the short corridor that led out to the parking lot. "Not that I mind, just curious."

Sighing, Stiles said, "Look, you need to become less cute if you want me to able to keep my brain and mouth functioning at the same time. This whole 'devastatingly handsome and smart' thing you're rocking is just not conducive--"

The second the door to the outside opened, they were overwhelmed by a wall of noise, punctuated by bright lights that flashed and burned. Stiles automatically took a step back, bumping into Derek and causing him to lose his grip on the door. Hands from outside reached to hold it open, voices still shouting questions and insults. "Holy shit."

"We can go back in, call security," Derek said, trying to pull the door closed without hurting any of the people thrusting their hands through.

Stiles nodded, then shook his head. "They're not going to go away - I wouldn't. So you stay and make the call, I'll distract them, and hopefully it'll be quick."

With that, Stiles ducked out, pushing the door closed behind him, and then realized he had no idea what to say. There were microphones being thrust at him, questions coming thick and fast, and he finally just answered the first one he could make out. "No, the network's not going to fire me, I don't have a job for them to fire me from - I'm a freelancer."

The questions started again - they'd never really stopped, just gotten quieter, and Stiles held up his hands. "Any chance I could get some room to breathe? I'll answer some questions if I can just get some of my personal bubble back."

"What do you say to Congressman Argent's having filed a lawsuit against you for slander?"

Shrugging, Stiles said, "Just like I said before, it's not slander if it's true. He filed his request in his wife's maiden name and in West Virginia instead of DC or California, but he still filed it, right after that time he was hospitalized."

"Stiles, over here!" He made eye contact with a guy holding out a recorder, who said, "What's your response that you're just showboating to come across as a hero and take the spotlight away from werewolves speaking up for themselves?"

"Um, I hope I'm not that much of an asshole," Stiles said. "I'm probably not the best judge, since I usually think I'm awesome."

He couldn't quite make out an individual question to answer next, and he had a rush of sympathy for actual celebrities that got ambushed like this all the time. "Sorry, I can't hear enough to-- I didn't plan any of this. I just got a call last night and it was a job, so I showed up. I don't even have bullet points for you."

"Is your father still looking for the werewolf that attacked him?"

Swinging around to face the blonde that had asked that question, Stiles said smoothly, "Surely you're not implying that my father would conduct an investigation with a clear conflict of interest?"

Tossing her hair, she said, "Oh, I don't know, sweetie, wouldn't you want revenge?"

"I want whoever did it to be arrested, and proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a jury of their peers," Stiles said, trying to strike the right balance between serious and casual. "Batman's the only vigilante I approve of."

There was some friendly laughter, but he kept glancing at the sneering blonde even as he took another question. "I think it's ridiculous to say werewolves should be deported. Dude, we have to have learned something from the Japanese internment during World War II, not to mention the whole civil rights movement."

"Would you want your daughter to date a werewolf?"

Shrugging, he said, "Why not? I'd hope that I raise my kid to recognize a good person, whatever race or background they may be. Although, you know, it's not like I've picked a co-parent yet. Maybe they won't be pretty enough to counteract the effects of my genes and the poor kid will never get a date."

That got another round of laughs, just in time for security to come outside and start pushing the crowd further back, giving Stiles space to walk towards the back lot where his car was parked. A few reporters still shouted out questions, including several offering to let him tell his story. Stiles wanted to laugh and say he'd tell his own story, but it'd be too easy for it to sound arrogant. God knows what they'd make of what he'd already said, but at least poor Derek had escaped the gauntlet.

Unlike his car, which was covered with God knows what, and spraypainted with a bright red "wolf bitch." Stiles pinched the bridge of his nose, wondering what Roscoe had ever done to deserve this - and who'd known how to spot which car was his. There was only one security guard that had made it this far back, and he was smirking. "So... Any chance you can radio for the police to come?"

"Why?" His mean little smile just got wider, and Stiles took out his phone, setting it to record. "You can't have that here, and you've been ordered off the premises."

"I think I'll keep it on, since I'm going to wait right here to report a crime," Stiles said.

The guard crossed his arms and loomed over him. "Yeah, there's a crime. You're trespassing."

"Call the police," Stiles said calmly. "Have them come arrest me. They can take my vandalism and hate crime report at the same time... Brian. Do you have a last name I should mention?"

That was enough to get the guard to make a grab for the phone. Stiles managed to keep a hold of it, barely, but he slipped on a pebble and went down, hard, followed up with a kick to the ribs that made the world explode with pain. He was bracing for another blow when he heard a scuffle and sat up, pointing the camera on his phone up to see Derek standing between him and the guard. "Why don't you hit me instead?"

He was holding his hands out at his sides, showing he wasn't holding a weapon or baring his claws. "I'll heal. If you need to hit someone, hit me."

The guard just spit on him and walked away. "Fucking mutt."

Stiles didn't stop recording until he'd gone around the building, at which point Stiles decided that finding the non-emergency number was no longer a priority and dialed 911 as Derek prowled protectively in front of him. "Code 242, known assailant," he said, then rattled off the address of the station. "Perpetrator is a security guard with Brian on his nametag; white male, about 5'7" with short grey hair. Positive identification available."

The operator was typing quickly even as she said, "Sir, is anyone hurt or still being threatened?"

"I don't know if he's coming back," Stiles said, groaning as he tried to sit up. "And I don't know if my ribs are broken or just bruised. Can you tell the responding officers to call ahead for a warrant on the exterior security cameras? I can see one from here, and I also need to report vandalism by an unknown perpetrator."

There was a slight hesitation and then the 911 operator said, "Sir, it's not our policy--

"Okay, that's cool," Stiles said. "It's just the place is a tv station and there's a crapload of reporters out front because of the thing on tv this morning, so I figured they'd want to come in with some warning."

She hesitated again, typing furiously, and then said, "The officers should be there within the next two minutes. Can I-- Can I ask your name?"

"Stiles Stilinski," he said firmly. If she had anything negative to say, it'd be recorded anyway.

The typing noises stopped and he could hear her breathing heavily for a long moment before she blurted out, "My sister got taken to one of those schools and I don't know what happened to her."

Derek stopped his pacing and gestured for the phone. Stiles handed it over willingly enough, wincing as he held a hand to his side and tried to breathe shallowly. Hopefully the operator had sent paramedics, since it seemed to be hurting more by the minute now that he wasn't actively busy. It was only distantly that he heard Derek telling her that his sister ran a registry and finding service for weres that had been taken, and giving her the name and number even as a police car pulled up.

Apparently the operator had briefed them, because one went inside, presumably to get the tape and/or arrest the security guard, while the other took his statement and took pictures of the car from all angles, which turned out to include a busted window on the other side and spray paint all over the interior. The paramedics arrived soon after, and Stiles got packed up to go to the hospital with assurances that everything would be taken care of. Given that the reporters from before had followed the police car back, Stiles was pretty sure everything about the case would be handled by the book.

He didn't realize that he didn't have his phone until he'd been x-rayed and was sitting in the waiting room, wondering what to do with himself. He was just about to give up and start reading Golf Digest when Derek dropped into the seat next to him and handed over his phone. "Sorry it took so long. Nobody would tell me anything."

"Did you sniff me out or something?" Stiles froze, pretty sure he'd just completely crossed the line between genuinely curious and accidentally racist.

Laughing, Derek said, "I could have, but people tend to notice if you go around like a bloodhound. It was easier to call your dad."

"Oh my God, you told my dad?" Stiles buried his face in his hands. "I'm going to be grounded for my whole next visit."

"If it helps, he saw it on the news while we were on the phone, so he would've found out anyway." Derek's look turned serious, and he said, "I'm sorry. You shouldn't have gotten mixed up in all this."

Wryly, Stiles said, "Guess not, but your cause appears to be stuck with me for now. Sorry about that, dude."

Derek stayed quiet, just looking at him for a long moment, before he said, "I think I'll go get us some coffee... dude."

The word just hung there in the air, as if placed there carefully with tongs so as to keep it separate from all other language that could be contaminated by it. "Okay, noted, don't call you dude. And this doesn't count as a date unless it gets you in my pants faster."

"We'll see." Derek looked him up and down, his eyes hot, and Stiles was torn between blushing and cheering. "Text me what kind of coffee you want. My number's in your phone."