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Cousins to the War, pt 1
Pen
icanbecreative
Title: Cousins to the War

Author: jo_anne_storm

Artist: sarah_jones

Fandoms: Teen Wolf/Buffy: the Vampire Slayer

Genre: Crossover

Pairings: None

Main Characters: Stiles, Xander

Rating: Teen

Warnings: None

Summary: Stiles is sent to stay with his cousin for the summer in the hopes that a reformed teen troublemaker will be a good influence on him. The cousin's name: Xander Harris. Set post season 2 for Teen Wolf and post season 6 for Buffy.

Notes: First of all, thank you to my beta and head cheerleader dream_mancer. Thank you to slythhearted for dragging me into this crazy fandom. And finally, thank you to sarah_jones for the wonderful artwork that accompanies this story.

Link to AO3 | Link to the art masterpost | Link to the art on LJ


 photo cousinstothewarbannertext1_zps5a027a3f.png



Stiles winced as the Jeep hit a particularly vicious pothole. He loved his Jeep, no doubt about it, but it was not designed for comfort. Normally that was fine, since it allowed him to do things like race over barely-there woodland tracks at top speed or burst through warehouse doors and slam into scary lizard monsters without killing either himself or his car. Sure, the gas mileage was crap, the windshield leaked whenever it rained, and the engine was too loud to hear the radio -- which had been fried by the leaking rain anyway -- but he still loved the old girl.

Unfortunately, that love was dimmed by the bruised ribs he was currently sporting. Every dip in the road made agony arc across his chest and his breath stutter. He had to force himself to take deep breaths, the doctor’s dire predictions of pneumonia echoing in his head.

The ribs were also his dad’s reason for this little road trip. Stiles had tried to pass off the injury as the result of a pick-up lacrosse game, but the sheriff had not bought it. Which led to Stiles getting shipped south for the summer, like some sort of reverse snow bird, to a cousin he barely even remembered. One who had apparently went through “a bit of a rough patch” in his teen years but was now on the straight and narrow. The elder Stilinski obviously hoped that said cousin would have a good influence on the younger one.

Stiles may or may not have taken a peek at the man’s police record. The Sunnydale Police Department was not very proactive about sealing juvenile records and he’d gotten a glimpse of Alexander Lavelle Harris’s life pre-clean living. He’d never been arrested, but had been brought in for questioning several times. Two of those times were for suspicious circumstance deaths and once when his high school had blown up. The SPD had dismissed the former instances as accidental -- seriously, who in the world fell onto barbecue forks and pierced their carotid artery -- and the later as a gas main rupture. He was also listed as a suspect in gang activity.

In his head, Stiles pictured Xander as a burly man with visible gang tattoos, carrying a Bible and a hammer. He was probably going to make Stiles read The Good Book every day before dragging him to whatever construction site he was currently working at, and that Stiles was being forced to work at, before dragging him to AA meeting after AA meeting.

The summer was going to be pure misery and Stiles once again cursed Jackson for not having enough control during the full moon and Derek for being two seconds too late to prevent the tackle that had bruised his ribs.

Stiles pulled into the parking lot of Xander’s apartment complex and sat with the Jeep idling as he contemplated just turning around and running. His dad’s disappointed face, even if it was only in his imagination, prompted him to turn off the engine and grab his cell phone from the console. He sent a quick text to his dad, telling him that he had arrived safely, and a longer one to Scott, bitching about the forced separation, before pulling his backpack from the passenger seat and carefully climbing out. He didn’t bother locking the door behind him. If someone really wanted to steal his luggage, a locked door would not stop them. His laptop, iPod, and wallet were in the backpack, as well as a couple of books of lore that he’d managed to smuggle out. Those were the important items.

He took a deep breath as he shouldered his bag and made his way towards the apartment. It was in a nice complex, new enough to still be polished, but old enough that the landscaping looked established. A good place for people who have moved past milk crate decor but have not started a family yet.

Xander’s apartment was on the second floor, and of course there was no elevator. By the time Stiles made it to his cousin’s door, he could feel his vision greying around the edges. He all but collapsed against the wall, trying to catch his breath.

He was still recovering when the door opened and a feminine voice rang out.

“Xander! There’s a guy about to pass out in your hallway!”

“I’m not going to pass out,” Stiles muttered, opening his eyes to see a girl with long brown hair staring at him worriedly. Even as he spoke, another head appeared above hers, male with short dark hair. Stiles vaguely recognized his cousin from their last family get together, which had to have been ten years ago.

“Stiles? Crap. Why didn’t you call when you got here? I would have helped you up the stairs. Dawnie, get his bag.”

Xander put his arm around him and supported him without putting too much pressure on his ribs. They twinged, but did not scream in protest like they had when Scott had tried to do the same thing.

He was lowered onto a soft couch and his head forced -- gently -- between his knees.

“Take deep, slow breaths. Uncle John said that your ribs were bruised. They are only bruised, right? Not broken?”

“According to x-rays,” Stiles managed. The position they’d put him in was not helping his breathing at all, so he slowly levered up until he was resting against the back of the couch. It was not the most comfortable of transitions, but the pressure on his chest eased.

He took a minute to observe Xander and his friend. Xander was not at all what he expected. No tattoos were visible, for one thing, and he was wearing clothing very similar to Stiles’ own. A grey t-shirt with a purple button up shirt on top, jeans and sneakers. It made him wonder if fashion choice was genetic.

His friend, Dawnie, was maybe a year younger than Stiles. She was willowy, he supposed the word was, still growing into her looks. He could already tell that she would be a knockout when she grew up.

He wondered why a kid was hanging out with his adult cousin. It was a little hinky, in his opinion. Of course, he had to remind himself that he and his friends were regularly in the company of adults, so he really should not throw stones. Not when his own glass house was so fragile.

“Did they give you any pain meds?” Xander turned towards Dawnie, who was still clutching Stiles’ backpack like a lifeline. Stiles made an aborted move to sit up straight, to protest when he saw his cousin reach towards the bag.

“I haven’t taken any yet,” he said, managing to snag the strap of the bag that was trailing. He jerked it out of Dawnie’s hand, hissing when the motion tweaked his ribs. He could see Xander and Dawnie exchange glances, no doubt assuming that he had something illegal in his bag, but he did not care. He had no explanation handy for the obviously antique books that were in the bottom of his bag.

He unzipped the small front pocket and pulled out his prescription of Lortab. “It’s one of those that cause confusion and drowsiness.” He shook the bottle to illustrate his point. “Not a good idea before driving more than four hours.”

“I’ll get some water,” Dawnie offered, but he shook his head in response.

“Don’t bother.” He palmed two of the pills, his prescribed dose, and dry swallowed them. Both Xander and Dawnie winced. “When you’ve been on daily medications for as long as I have, water becomes more of a hassle than it’s worth.”

He pulled out his bottle of Adderall to show them that as well. An inhaler fell out when he did so, and Dawnie picked it up before he could.

“Uncle John didn’t mention asthma.”

“My best friend,” he explained with a tired shake of his head. “He’s all but grown out of it now, but his asthma used to be really bad. Sometimes, if an attack was bad enough, he wouldn’t be able to even get his inhaler out of his bag. I started carrying one for him, just in case.” He supposed he didn’t have to do that now, but some habits were hard to break.

“You left the rest of your stuff in your car?” Xander asked after a few moments of silence. Stiles nodded. “If you give me your keys, I’ll get it for you.”

“It’s an old Jeep,” Stiles explained. The trip and his injury were starting to catch up with him and he could feel his eyes try to slide closed. “A CJ-5. There’s no point in locking it.”

Xander nodded and bounded out the door, leaving him with Dawnie, who was watching him suspiciously. Stiles wondered what in the hell his dad had told Xander and, in turn, what he had told the kid in front of him.

“How exactly are you related to Xander?”

“Our moms were sisters.”

“Were?”

“Mine died.” He willed his voice not to crack. “A couple of years ago.”

“Oh.” Dawnie’s voice had gotten very quiet, the earlier suspicion that colored it gone. “I’m sorry. Mine did too, just last year.” She looked like she was going to say something else, then changed her mind.

“Are you hungry? Xander doesn’t really cook, but he has decent taste in microwavable meals and a truly epic collection of takeout menus. He worked at a couple of the restaurants as a delivery boy, so he has the scoop on which ones spit in your food and things like that.”

“No, thanks. I stopped at the Double Meat Palace on the way into town.”

Dawnie shuddered. “My sister worked there. I’ve had it way too often to enjoy it. And I know what their secret ingredient is.” She waited for him to indicate that he wanted to know, then leaned forward to psuedo-whisper. “The patties are actually vegetarian ‘burgers’ with a little bit of animal fat added.”

Stiles blinked as he took that bit of information in. If it was true, then he could let his dad “cheat” on his diet at the Double Meat. He’d have to check the nutritional information first, of course, just to be sure. His Google-fu was great, after all.

Xander came in with his bags and set them by one of the doors that led off the main room.

“It’s not much of a guest room, I’m sorry to say. More of a storage space. But it has a bed and a dresser.”

Stiles maneuvered himself off the couch, ignoring the hand Dawnie held out to help. Sure enough, the room was tiny, barely big enough for the twin bed and highboy dresser. There was no closet.

“It’s fine,” Stiles assured his cousin. “Do you mind if I crash for a while?”

“Nope. We have nothing planned for tonight, so sleep as long as you want.”

Stiles nodded and set his backpack on the floor beside the bed before lowering himself down. Xander gave him a funny little wave before closing the door and leaving him to his own thoughts.



*~*~*~*~*~*


He woke up to the sound of voices in the main room. He laid there for a few minutes, just listening to the cadences. Xander’s was easy to pick out, as it was the only male voice he could hear. Dawnie’s was high and girlish. The second female voice he did not know. Deeper than Dawnie’s. Maybe Xander’s girlfriend or the sister Dawnie had mentioned.

He used his phone to check the time and noticed waiting text messages. Two were from his dad, reassuring him that this break was for the best. He replied to them, telling his dad that the trip went well, Xander didn’t seem too odd, and that he was taking his pain pills as prescribed.

He wasn’t mad at his dad, far from it. Annoyed, yes, but not mad. His dad was doing what he thought was the best for Stiles. If he had all the facts, then maybe the decision would have been different. Or Stiles would have been shipped cross country to Grammie Stilinski in Maine.

Five messages were from Scott, four of which were questions about what a certain look from Allison meant. The fifth a simple “I miss you.”

The last message in the queue was from Derek. Stiles paused in confusion before reading it. There was no reason for the alpha to even text him.

I’ll keep an eye on your dad. Call if you have problems.

Stiles felt tears prick at his eyes for just a moment. Derek had no reason to watch over his dad. Stiles wasn’t even part of the Hale pack.

Thx he sent in reply, then he wrapped his left hand around his ribs and used his right to push himself off the bed. It hurt like a sonofabitch, but he made it to his feet.

Xander, Dawnie, and the unknown woman were sitting around the table in the main room, cartons of Chinese piled in the middle. The smell was enough to make his stomach rumble.

“It moves,” Xander joked. “I didn’t want to wake you to find out what you wanted, so I got both beef and broccoli and kung pow chicken.”

“I’m a teenager,” Stiles snarked back. “I’ll eat almost anything.”

He chose the beef and broccoli, snagged a plastic fork, and dug in before he’d even sat down. The two girls watched him with wide eyes as he practically inhaled the food.

“I thought you were the only one who ate like that, Xand,” the unknown woman said, awed. Stiles glanced at her, taking in the shoulder-length blonde hair, which was well done, but he could see a hint of roots showing, a slender nose, and green eyes before concentrating on his food again.

“It’s a guy thing,” Xander explained around a mouthful of food. Stiles had a feeling that he did it partially just to annoy his female friends, who both made disgusted noises.

“You’re gross,” the blonde replied.

Xander just grinned before wiping his mouth with a napkin.

“So, introductions. Ladies, this is Stiles Stilinski, my cousin who will be staying with me for a few weeks. Stiles, the visions of loveliness before you are Buffy and Dawn Summers.”

Stiles nodded at them in greeting, his mouth too full to actually reply. The Chinese was better than the take out place he usually bought from in Beacon Hills.

“Any big plans while you’re in our little burg,” Buffy asked.

“Burg’s a funny word,” Dawn said, interrupting any reply Stiles might have made. “Who even says burg anymore. Burg. Burg. Burg. It sounds like something you say when you have a stomach virus.”

Buffy wrinkled her nose. “Lovely dinner conversation, Dawnie.”

“Like you haven’t done worse. Like that time! That one time, with th--”

“Dawn!”

The younger girl looked sheepish for a moment before perking back up. “So, plans?”

Stiles swallowed his mouthful of yummy, yummy beef and sauce before replying. “I’m supposed to start work with Xander on Monday, doing whatever it is that I’ll be doing. As far as I know, that’s it.”

“Gophering, mostly. Legally you can work construction as long as you’re not up on a roof or higher. The owner of the company has stricter rules than OSHA, though. Gophering, clean up, some actual work, but not much. And you’re required to wear a hard hat and orange safety vest the entire time that you’re on site. No exceptions.”

Buffy snickered. “Awww, look at the Xand-man being all grown up and responsible like.” She wiped an imaginary tear from under her eye. “I’m so proud.”

Xander made a face at his friend. “You smudged your mascara.”

They all burst out laughing as Buffy screeched and rushed to the bathroom to check her perfect makeup. They were still laughing when she stomped back in, a pout firmly in place.

“Not funny.”

Stiles had to hold his ribs to laugh, but it still felt good. He hadn’t really had a chance to laugh like that in a while.

He found Xander frowning at him when the laughter finally died down.

“How long since you got injured?”

“Three days.”

“In that case, you’re starting next week instead of Monday. They’ll still be sore, but you should be able to move around better. You can hang around the apartment next week, or drive around and explore the town, if you feel up to it. My only request is that you be back before it’s dark.”

Stiles nodded slowly. Dark was an odd curfew, but he’d promised his dad to live by Xander’s rules. Maybe he could find the local teen hangout and be normal for a while. It was a novel concept.


*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Normal was over-rated. Stiles had tried, he really had. But there was only so much an ADHD teen could find to occupy his time in a small town. He’d tried the high school, to see if any kids were making use of the athletic fields, only to find that the school itself was Xander’s job site. The fields were technically finished, but heavy construction equipment made them off limits for anyone without a hard hat.

The local coffee shop, the Espresso Pump, catered to the hipster and college crowd, who held loud conversations over the sound of the man playing an accordion in one corner. Not even their admittedly excellent coffee could keep Stiles there for longer than it took to order his coffee and go.

He visited the zoo, which was rather impressive for a small town. He spent a whole afternoon watching the small pack of grey wolves interact with each other, giving them ironic names in his mind. The alpha male was definitely Peter, prancing around with his tail up high and nipping playfully at the flanks of the alpha female, whom Stiles named Lydia due to her no-nonsense attitude. The betas were Scott, Isaac, and Erica, with Derek being the wolf who slunk around the edges of the enclosure and glared at the humans who cooed over him.

Stiles took a picture of “Derek” with his phone and sent it as a picture message to both Scott and Derek before he could think better of it. Scott replied with a laugh. Derek with a “not funny”.

The museum was closed for repairs, apparently the most recent earthquake had caused significant damage. The theme park was open, but the thought of getting on the Avalanche with bruised ribs made Stiles wince, so he skipped that as an activity.

He finally ended up at the library, browsing in the folklore section in what he was sure was a futile attempt to find a bit of research that he had not seen before. He really was not expecting to find anything but Twilight inspired drivel, which was why he stood in the aisle and stared in awe at the section. Both sides of the aisle were filled with antique books, the gilt on their spines faded and the corners bent. He could smell leather, vellum, and dust. It smelled like home to him.

Stiles reached out to trace a spine before pulling his hand back. He turned away to find the circulation desk, to find out how he could get a card and what the checkout limit was.

“You’re under eighteen,” the librarian he talked to confirmed. “You need a parent to come in and show proof of residency, which can be a driver’s license or a piece of mail addressed to them here in the county. And they need to sign for you to have a card.”

Stiles grimaced and rocked back on his heels. “I’m staying with a cousin, just for the summer.”

“What’s your cousin’s name?”

“Xander Harris.” Stiles thought it was an odd question to ask, but he saw no harm in answering.

The librarian nodded and pulled out his cell phone. He fiddled with it for a moment before holding it up to his ear.

“Harris, hey, this is Owen Thurman. Yeah, yeah, long time, no talk. Listen, I have someone here who claims to be your cousin. Yeah. Yeah. That sounds like him. Mind if I issue him a card on your account? Cool. Yeah. Hey, how’s Buffy?”

The librarian, Owen, waved for Stiles to follow him to a corner of the counter and presented him with a stack of papers to read over. Stiles kept one ear on Owen’s half of the conversation as he read over the library’s policies. Some were pretty standard, like only being able to check out ten books and two movies at a time. The heavily highlighted clause stating that he could not reproduce the books in any fashion, including photocopying, scanning, or taking a picture was the only oddity. At least he was allowed hand-written note cards for research purposes.

“No, her sister comes in every once in a while. She doesn’t cause any problems, no. Just sits in a window seat and reads. And we all make sure that no one bothers her. We know better than that. Yeah. Yeah. Listen, I need to get back to work. Yeah, give them my best. And tell Buffy to drop in some time. I promise I won’t break out the Dickinson until at least her third visit. Yeah, you too, man.”

Owen hung up the phone and took the paperwork back from him, checking it over to make sure he had filled in all the necessary information.

“You actually read it, right? Didn’t just skim it?”

“I read it,” Stiles assured with a tiny flail. His ribs barely even twinged, which was a good sign of his progress.

“Great.” Owen fiddled with his computer for a moment, scanning a card and then putting it in a smart card reader before handing it to Stiles.

“You’re good to go. Books have a two week lending period, movies and music one week.”

Stiles nodded and gave a cheerful wave before heading back to the folklore section. Once there he decided to start at the top, using one of those funny library stools to reach the top shelf. He carefully pulled out each book individually and checked the title before deciding if it deserved a second look. Most of the books seemed to be on demons. Several were on witchcraft and vampires. He found three dedicated just to werewolves and one bestiary that seemed to be different than either the Hale or Argent bestiaries.

He wished he had not agreed to not copy the books, because Lydia was the only person he knew who could have read some of them.

Still, as far as research went, he was set for his entire stay in Sunnydale. If Xander asked about the subject matter, Stiles would make up an excuse. Maybe a summer paper on a topic of his own choosing? It could work, especially if he threw in some references to cheesy horror movies.



*~*~*~*~*~*~*


“Yes, Mrs. Osborne, I really do understand. And we will do all we can to help. Can I talk to Jordy?”

Stiles looked up from his book, an 1736 treatise on werewolf pack dynamics that was so hilariously wrong that his ribs ached from laughing, to see Xander enter the apartment, phone pressed to his ear. Xander gave him a distracted wave and continued into the kitchen section of the apartment.

“Hey, J,” his cousin was saying, his voice gentle and light. “I hear you’re having some problems. No, I’m sorry, I don’t know how to get in contact with Oz. I wish I did, Buddy. Can you talk to me, try to explain it?”

Stiles went back to his book, chortling as he reread a passage. It was so funny that he had to share it.

An alpha’s pack is his harem. That explains why your pack is oh so pretty.

And then, when Derek did not reply. But not why you’re still grumpy. Are they withholding favors?

Xander came back towards the couch, still on the phone.

“No, Bud, your mom assured me that you were fine all three nights. She wouldn’t lie about that. She knows how important it is. I know, J. Other than the zoo, where did you get the wiggins?”

Can your magical sperm actually knock a guy up? Dude! No glove, no love! Esp with Jackson!

His phone beeped with a new text and Stiles opened it with a grin.

what the hell stiles?

Stiles giggled as he imagined Derek’s face.

Jackson would make a horrible mom. He’d bitch about losing his girlish figure and nag about taking out the trash.

“We’ll keep an eye out for anyone suspicious,” Xander promised the kid on the phone as he settled beside Stiles. “Yeah, kiddo. Yeah. Call me, any day or time, it doesn’t matter. Make sure that your mom knows. Yeah. Yeah. Bye.”

Xander ended his call and turned to him. “My kitchen smells good. Like cooking food. Why does my kitchen smell like cooking food?”

“It might have something to do with the casserole in the oven.”

“You cooked? Actual food, not just warming up take out or a frozen meal?”

Stiles laughed. “It’s nothing fancy, just chicken and broccoli. It’s really too warm for it, but it was easy and sounded good.”

“Actual food,” Xander mused, his face comically happy. “Can I keep you?”

“My dad might object.” Sometimes he wasn’t so sure about that.

“We...” Xander’s face took on an uncomfortable grimace. “Haven’t talked about why Uncle John sent you down here.”

Stiles turned his gaze to his phone, which he was flipping over and over in his hands.

“Oh, you know. A prank that went too far; one too many police investigations that I thought it would be fun to stick my nose into; a frenemy who was a little too rough during lacrosse. Normal teen stuff.”

Xander hummed, like he did not believe Stiles, but was willing to let him get away with the lie.

“Well, consider this the obligatory reminder that you can talk to me about anything. You can’t shock me and it won’t go any further than me. Unless someone is in danger. That’s kinda the tipping point. I can’t knowingly let someone get hurt.”

They sat in silence for a moment before Xander hit his fist against the couch cushion and stood up.

“Good talk. Good talk. Do y’think that casserole is done yet?”

“I’ll check.”

Xander followed him into the kitchen and started assembling plates and utensils as he got the casserole out of the oven.

“I can actually cook,” Xander said. “It was my responsibility when Anya lived here. But since she moved out... it’s more hassle than it’s worth.”

“Anya?”

His cousin sighed.

“My fiancee. Ex. I realized the day of the wedding that I wasn’t ready to take that step. Not because I didn’t love her, but because I still had too many issues of my own to work out.”

“Are you still friends?”

“Anya,” he paused, obviously searching for the words he needed. “She doesn’t really do amicable breakups. She’s more the type to hack into your bank account and steal all your money. Or wish that your insides were on your outsides.”

“That’s tough. But, not to sound fortune cookie-ish, it’s better to have loved and lost, dude.” Stiles served up heaping helpings of the casserole and the two settled at the table to eat.

“And you would know this how?”

“Vicariously, unfortunately.” Stiles threw up his hands before slumping down in his chair. “Girls don’t seem to like the Stiles charm. Hell, guys don’t seem to like the Stiles charm.”

Xander laughed. “I was just like you at that age. Ignored by my crush, the forgotten about sidekick. Not good at sports or at school or anything. Then, suddenly, I’m making out with one of the hottest girls in school. Usually in broom closets, but that’s neither here nor there.”

“Anya?”

“No, her name was Cordy, or Queen C, if we were feeling snarky. She was also the most popular girl in school. She’s living in LA now, working for a private investigator. We still keep in touch.”

“Awesome!” Stiles jackknifed upright again, wincing as his ribs protested. “That means my fifteen year plan still has a chance.”

“Fifteen year plan?”

“Also known as the Lydia Martin Fifteen Year Plan.”

“Lydia being your Cordy?”

“Yes,” Stiles agreed. “She’s brilliant. Like, scarily so. Unfortunately, she also has this epic romance with douchebag Jackson.”

“The same Jackson who tried to break your ribs?” Xander’s expression was knowing.

“He didn’t try to break my ribs. Jackson... has more issues than National Geographic, which I totally don’t understand since his parents think he can do no wrong, buy him anything he wants, and actually take an interest in his life. Anyway, one of his issues is that he’s overly competitive. I scored a goal, he got pissed and forgot that we weren’t wearing protective gear.”

It was close to the truth, at least. As close as Stiles could get. And anyone who knew Jackson knew it was the sort of thing he would have done.

“Sounds like a real winner of a guy.”

“He has his better moments,” Stiles said with a shrug. “Like he adores Lydia and will do anything for her. And he won’t let anyone give Danny a hard time for being gay.” He waved his hand dismissively. “Not that anyone would. Everyone loves Danny. It’s a thing.”

“Yeah, I’ve known a few people like that. Usually they improve after high school when they realize that the world is a big, scary place.”

For some reason, namely lycanthropy, natural good looks, and family wealth, Stiles did not think that Jackson would improve with age. He’d always be a douche.

“So, Friday,” Xander said. “Have any plans?”

“Oh, yeah, I made a ton of new friends today. Their names are Me, Myself, and I. We’re going to have a Call of Duty tourney on the invisible game system I have set up in the corner.”

“Or you could ditch them and come to The Bronze,” Xander said, not missing a beat.

“Bronze?” He thought he had passed a warehouse that sported that name, but he had no idea what it was. Sunnydale sported an inordinate amount of warehouses and churches. It was as odd as Beacon Hills having a train car in an abandoned warehouse. Some things defied explanation.

“It’s a local nightclub. Pool tables, a dance floor, live music on the weekends. I’ve been told by a semi-reliable source that their blooming onion is the best in the world. Enough teens hang there that you might meet someone interesting. Maybe even someone who could replace Lydia Martin.”

“I think only a goddess could replace Lydia in my affections,” Stiles said, holding his hands to his heart to show his loyalty.

His cousin gave an uncomfortable laugh.

“Let’s not test that theory, OK. Try for a nice, normal human.”

“Human?” The phrasing caught his attention.

“I didn’t want to presume.” Xander shrugged. “Either way, male or female, do me a favor and don’t leave the club with anyone. Sunnydale has a gang problem and the different gangs don’t always advertise who they are. So, that pretty girl hitting on you, or handsome guy, could actually be really dangerous. I’d rather not have to explain to Uncle John that I let his only son get kidnapped by some stoner on PCP.”

“Is PCP even a thing any more? I thought meth was the drug of choice.”

“Bath salts, actually. It does crazy things to a guy, man. You’ll be talking to a perfectly normal person, then they’re trying to gnaw through your neck. Really unpleasant.”

Stiles grimaced. He had enough of that kind of thing with the pack. “I’ll keep that in mind.”



*~*~*~*~*~*~*


The Bronze was very different than The Jungle. Since those were the only two clubs he’d ever been in, Stiles wasn’t sure if one of them was an oddity, or if clubs came in a full range of styles. Where Jungle had been pounding beats and flashing lights, The Bronze was more independent artists and low lighting. It kept the warehouse feel with the bare brick walls and steel supports, using tables and chairs that matched. A dance floor took up most of the downstairs, along with a stage, the bar, and a few pool tables. There was seating along the walls as well as on the catwalk above.

The band playing was called Noctura. The band’s sound reminded him of Evanescence, from the beat to the sound of the lead’s soprano. He found his head bobbing along with the music as he watched Xander and Buffy dance.

Though, in Xander’s case, “dance” was stretching the definition of the word. His cousin was spastically moving his body in no rhythm that Stiles could detect, alternating between too fast for the beat and too slow. And he was sure that he’d hit bystanders at least twice, and elbowed Buffy once. Not that Buffy seemed to mind. She just laughed at Xander’s antics.

Stiles held down the fort at their table, playing with his straw and people watching. It was odd to just watch people without looking for signs of the supernatural. He found himself turning every time something flashed in the light, checking to see if it was a pair of werewolf eyes reflecting the light. It wasn’t. It was always a watch or a necklace.

“Stiles!”

He turned at the sound of his name to see Danyella Dior in all of her glory, descending on him like he was her long lost baby brother. Which she possibly thought he was.

“Danyella,” he greeted, giving her a hug, careful not to smush his face into her impressive bosom. That would be awkward and would dislodge whatever padding she had. “What are you doing here?”

“Making the rounds, sweetie. I have a show in Oxnard tomorrow night. Sunnydale’s close enough to half way that it seemed like a good place to stop.”

“Any of the others with you,” he asked, scratching nervously at his eyebrow. It wasn’t that he disliked Danyella and the girls, but they did tend to be boisterous.

“Just me tonight, baby boy. None of the others wanted to get gussied up for a night on the town. I’m glad I did, though. I like the band.”

He laughed in relief as Buffy and Xander came back to the table. He watched them as they took in Danyella’s form-fitted dress and six inch heels, the careful dramatic makeup that emphasized lips and eyes, and the ash blonde wig that was artfully styled. He knew that Danyella could take care of herself, anyone in her line of work could, but he still tensed as he waited for their reactions.

“Who’s your friend?” The question came from Buffy, who was eying Danyella with a look that Stiles definitely did not like.

“Danyella Dior,” he introduced. “And this is Buffy Summers and Xander Harris.”

Danyella smiled politely at Buffy and turned a wide grin on Xander. “Scruptious.” Her voice dropped a good octave as she said the word, causing Buffy to stiffen and Xander to gulp nervously.

“I meant that figuratively, of course,” she directed at Buffy. “I’m not actually going to eat him up. But, boy could I rock your world, Xander.” The grin got wider as Buffy started snickering and Xander turned bright red.

“So...” Xander had to gulp before continuing. “How do you know Stiles?”

“Baby boy and I met a few months ago in a club. Poor boy was out of his depth.”

“I was just there to help a friend,” he protested. Which was technically true. The trick to telling lies was to keep them as close to the truth as possible. He hated lying, but he could stretch the truth with the best of them.

“So you said,” Danyella said, petting his hair with a smile. Stiles rolled his eyes and waved his hands in defeat. Any moment now she was going to mention her on going fight with Taylor Dakota over him.

“We’ve met up a few times since then, a party here, a club there. I’m still trying to convince him to give it a go, and he still protests that he prefers looking like a twink.”

Stiles banged his head on the table. There she went. Again.

“I don’t look like a twink,” he insisted. “And I don’t want to wear all that gunk on my face and totter around in heels that will destroy my back. I’m happy being who I am.”

Danyella gave him a fond smile. “I know, baby boy. I just like you turning such delightful shades when I bring it up.” She ruffled his short hair. “Though, if you ever change your mind, I do make an excellent Drag Mother. Much better than Taylor. She’d dress you up in the same frizzy wigs she loves. It’s her love of Hermione showing through, I think.”

Stiles laughed again and raised his head from the table. Buffy and Xander were both hiding grins behind their hands. He heaved a sigh and nodded.

“Just... lay off a bit, OK?”

“Sure thing, sugar.” She pressed a kiss against his head and he could feel her lips twitch into a smile. “I was just about to leave anyway. Tomorrow’s going to be busy and the girls want to get an early start. But I saw you and had to come say hi.”

“I’m spending the summer here, so if you come back through, give me a call.”

“Will do, baby boy.” She turned her eyes to Buffy and pointed a long-nailed finger at her. “You look after my boy here. A lot of good people would be upset if anything happened to him.”

“I can take care of myself,” he protested, flailing his arms around.

The two women ignored him as they studied each other over Danyella’s nail. It was a tense moment until Buffy nodded. Danyella gave her a large smile in return and kissed Stiles’s head one last time before sweeping out of the club.

“Do you ever feel like you missed part of the conversation,” he wondered as he rubbed at his head, checking to see if Danyella had smeared her purple lipstick on him again. “Is there lipstick on me?”

Xander laughed, a relieved sound. “No. No, you’re good.”


Part 2



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