- Alternate Universe
January 2, 2011
A brief tap on the bedroom door was all the warning Stiles Stilinski got before it swung open, revealing his father. Stiles startled and whipped his head around before reaching out to pause the video streaming on his laptop. “Dad! You – what?! A little more warning, please! You might have walked in on something no dad needs to see!” Stiles babbled, dramatically clasping a hand to his chest as his heart calmed.
Sentinel Noah Stilinski shifted his weight to lean his shoulder against the door jamb as he crossed his arms. He pinned Stiles with a dubiously amused expression. “Kiddo, if you were doing something you didn’t want me to hear, you would have turned on the white noise machine. It’s not on. Ergo, I could hear the video playing on your laptop before I even started up the stairs.” Noah paused a moment, then, mouth twitching up in a slight smile, “Do I even want to know why you were watching someone trying to put an iPad through a blender?”
“Curiosity is good for the soul?” Stiles asked, face scrunching.
Noah nodded slowly and side-eyed his son. “I see. Well, maybe you could be curious about going back to school tomorrow. Break homework done?”
“Yup,” Stiles said, popping the “p” and swiveling back and forth on his chair.
“Good. Make sure you get to bed at a decent hour,” Noah said, straightening. “And by ‘decent,’ I mean sometime before midnight. I’m heading into the station. See you tomorrow for dinner?” he asked, stepping forward into Stiles’ room and squeezing his shoulder.
“You got it, pops. Any dinner requests?” Stiles asked, then narrowed his eyes at his father. “Not pizza.”
Noah snorted. “Who’s the parent, again?”
“Well…” Stiles began, pondering how to explain the growing need to ensure his dad’s well-being…or as much as he could be without a Guide. Stiles knew he’d started to go a bit overboard the last few years. He’d always been sensitive to the needs of others and had tested as a latent Guide as a child. Since his mother had passed, an online Guide, he had become increasingly sensitive to his father. Stiles didn’t think he was any closer to coming online than he had been, but the normal desire of a kid with one parent dead to see the other safe had been compounded by whatever subconscious instincts were at play.
“All right, smart ass. Be good. Call me if you need anything,” Noah said, gripping his son’s shoulder again in a brief squeeze before heading off to work.
Stiles watched him go, then turned back to his computer as his video messenger started going off with an incoming call from Scott McCall, his best friend since they’d both met in baby Guide training. “Scotty, bro….what’s up?”
“He wants us to do what, now?” Stiles asked a short time later standing in front of Scott’s house. His best friend had come rushing out the door as Stiles walked up, waving a bit of paper around as if it was Wonka’s Golden Ticket. Stiles stared at him, incredulous at the words that had just come out of Scott’s mouth.
Scott sighed and shoved the crumpled bit of paper towards his best friend as he repeated himself. “We have to go out into the woods, find the flag, and bring it to tryouts tomorrow. If we do that, Jackson said he’d put in a good word with Coach.”
“Uh huh. Sure. Assuming we don’t trip over our feet or something once we get on the field,” Stiles said as he flung his arms up, paper crinkling slightly as his fist tightened. He had known Jackson since they were in preschool and they had, by mutual agreement, steered clear of each other whenever possible. When it wasn’t possible, Stiles had often been the target of Jackson’s taunts…at least until his mom had died. It seemed that even Jackasses had hearts, sometimes. The cease-fire had only lasted until they hit middle school and puberty, but by then, Stiles had dropped back a year after his mom’s death and wasn’t in Jackson’s direct line of sight most of the time.
Now, though, Scott was determined to make first line on the varsity lacrosse team. Stiles was pretty sure that Scott had damaged his head during one of their never-ending practice sessions. They’d been on the junior varsity team and had sat on the bench. Stiles was pretty sure upgrading to the varsity bench wasn’t going to be much different, other than giving Jackson a guaranteed window to pick on them.
“I think this is a bad idea, dude. We’re gonna get lost. It’s already getting dark,” Stiles griped. “You sure you don’t want to just have a CoD session instead?”
Scott’s crooked jaw firmed and Stiles sighed, knowing what was coming. “No, Stiles! I really want to make the team tomorrow and if I don’t do this, I definitely won’t. You don’t have to come with me into the woods….Just wait in the Jeep for me while I run and grab the flag.”
Stiles gaped at Scott for a moment before shaking his head quickly. “No way, dude. Your mom would have me drawn and quartered if I let you go into the woods on your own and something happened. And that would be *after* my dad kills me. She’d resuscitate me just to do it all over.” He huffed out a sigh and started trudging towards his car. “I can’t believe we’re doing this,” he mumbled and glanced over his shoulder at Scott, who hadn’t started moving yet. “Are you coming? We need to get out there and get back.”
“Yes!” Scott pumped a fist and started jogging after Stiles. His breaths came out in slight huffs and Stiles rolled his eyes as Scott reached into a pocket and pulled out his inhaler without even seeming to be aware of it. While Scott’s stamina had improved over the last year, Stiles knew his asthma had not gone away, and he didn’t know exactly how Scott thought playing first line on the varsity Lacrosse team was a good idea.
Shaking his head, he climbed into the Jeep, patted the steering wheel fondly, and started it up as Scott climbed in the passenger seat.
He shoved the crumpled paper with their task at Scott. “Where do we need to go?” Stiles asked, shifting the Jeep into drive and heading off towards the Preserve.
Two hours later, Stiles was still trudging through damp leaves at night in the cold. This was not what Stiles thought of as a good time. The deeper they went into the Preserve, the more Stiles was sure this was a bad idea. “Are you sure we’re going in the right direction?” he asked again.
“Yes, Stiles, we’re going in the right direction,” Scott replied, his voice tight with exasperation and his breath visible in the cold air as he plodded forward. “I think we’re almost there.” Scott peered down at the crumpled paper in his hands, shifting his phone to shine the light on the now-smudged text before looking back at the GPS on his phone. Scott adjusted his path slightly and kept going.
They had been in the woods far longer than Stiles wanted.
It was completely dark. And cold. And dark. And did he mention it was cold? The dampness from the leaves underfoot had seeped through his trainers long ago and Stiles wasn’t sure if frostbite was a thing that could happen at the current temperatures. It wasn’t *that* cold, but his toes were numb and his feet hurt and he was thirsty and hungry and tired and cold. He just really wanted to go home. Fuck lacrosse and fuck Jackson Whitmore. “You know Jackson is trolling us, right?” he asked, then promptly tripped over a root sticking up from the ground. His palm scraped across the bark of a tree as he flailed to keep from face-planting. “That dick is trying to make sure you don’t even get to try out tomorrow, man.”
Scott sighed. “Dude, you could have waited in the car.”
“Seriously, Scott? We’ve been in the woods for like two hours now. There’s no way I would have lasted two hours in the car, wondering if you had fallen and couldn’t get up. You could be dead for all I know,” Stiles ranted. “What if you were dead, dude? How would I know? You’d just be out here, in the dark, cold woods, decaying and getting nibbled on by squirrels!” By the end of the sentence, Stiles knew his voice had started approaching dog-only hearing levels, but he was so done. “We should turn around. There’s nothing out here.” He paused and glanced over his shoulder as a rustling caught his eye. “Except death,” Stiles deadpanned.
“We’re almost there. Do you want to just wait here?” Scott asked, not even pausing as he kept moving. Stiles appreciated his commitment to this insanity.
“Um, how about no?” Stiles asked. “I don’t want to die alone.” Stiles could almost hear the eye roll he knew Scott was making. He was also pretty sure the battery on his phone was about to die, taking his only source of light with it along with the GPS and Stiles had no idea where they were at this point. Part of him hoped they were getting closer to Hale property, not that Stiles was sure it would matter. The remaining Hales didn’t spend much time in the Preserve after the fire that had killed several of the pack. According to his dad, there was usually someone in the Preserve, but Stiles had no idea if a call for help would be heard.
The rustling noise that Stiles had heard moments earlier happened again and he whipped his head towards it. “Did you hear that? What’s out there?”
“Look! There’s the flag!” Scott exclaimed and started rushing forward. “I told you it was out here,” he said, and Stiles caught a glimpse of his face as he looked over his shoulder briefly. Scott was grinning with excitement.
And Stiles heard another rustling in the dark underbrush.
“Well, hurry up and grab it,” he said, daring to walk backward briefly to keep an eye out.
“OH MY GOD!”
Stiles whipped his head around at the completely freaked out scream from Scott. He turned around and hurried over as he saw Scott crab-walking backward on his hands away from a scrap of cloth stuck in a bush.
“I wish I waited in the car,” Stiles said, breathlessly, as his eyes landed on the bloody dismembered body lying in a slight dip behind the bush. “What the hell is this?!”
“Dude, it’s a body!” Scott said, completely stating the obvious.
“No, really? I thought it was a lake!” Stiles said, not able to tear his eyes away from the macabre image in front of him. “We need to call my dad.”
“No! We need to get out of here!” Scott said, already turning around and heading back in what Stiles thought was the direction they’d come. “My mom can’t know I was out here!”
Stiles stared after the retreating figure and pulled out his phone. Sometimes, Scott’s priorities really concerned him. He hoped it was just teenage idiocy and that Scott would grow out of it one day. In the meantime, he was going to do the right thing and report the body in the woods to his dad.
“Dude….we have to call this in. Whoever it is, and their family, doesn’t deserve to get eaten by those squirrels, man,” he said, pulling up his contacts.
“Fine, you call. I’m heading back,” Scott tossed over his shoulder, and not stopping.
“Seriously?! You’re going to leave me here, by myself, in the cold *literal* murder woods so your mom doesn’t ban you from lacrosse? Really, Scott?”
Scott finally stopped, tipping his head back and heaving a sigh that said the entire world was out to get him and he was entirely done with Stiles’ nagging. He turned around and pinned Stiles with a glare, his crooked jaw set and his teeth grinding together. “Look, Stiles, whoever it is is already dead. What good is it going to do for me to get caught out here and miss tryouts? It’s not going to bring her back to life, is it?” He shook his head and answered himself. “No, it isn’t. Me getting caught out here is just going to end *my* chance at a social life.”
Stiles shook his head and hit dial on his phone. “Fine. Go on and be social,” he said, turning around to see if he could spot any landmarks in the darkness. “It’s not like your mom isn’t going to find out, anyway,” he muttered, sotto voce.
Behind him, he could hear the rustling as Scott actually walked away. The murder woods weren’t only going to take the life of this person. Stiles had a feeling they were also going to put a nail in the coffin of his friendship with Scott.
“Yeah, dad? Look….Yeah-yes-I did something stupid with Scott and now I’m out in the Preserve by myself staring at a corpse,” he babbled into the phone as his dad answered.
It was definitely not going to be a good night.