Stiles clutches the scrap of paper in his hand and stares at the huge house in front of him. It's a massive house, big enough to fit at least two of his own and he can only imagine the size of the family that lives there.
His hand trembles but he forces himself out of the Jeep. The Hale house is set in the middle of nowhere, deep in the Preserve. The residents – and he knows there are some by the cars in the drive – had to have heard him coming. His Jeep rumbled down the road loud enough to wake the dead, so waiting in the Jeep only makes him seem like a weird stalker.
He shouldn't be here. He shouldn't even have the address or the name attached – Laura Hale – but he can't help himself sometimes. He has the need to know and the skills to find out. His dad always said it would make Stiles a great detective someday. Unsaid was the caveat of whether he would live that long.
He has to walk slowly up the driveway, careful of the stitches in his chest and limbs weak from two weeks of enforced bed rest. He's only a few days out of the hospital and he's technically not supposed to be exerting himself. His dad would kill him if he knew Stiles had even left the house, but Stiles had to.
He knocks on the door and doesn't even have to wait a second before a girl about a year older than him opens the door.
"Hi," Stiles says awkwardly. All the words he'd practiced die on his tongue and he's at a loss. That's not common for him.
"Hi." The girl looks at him strangely. She seems familiar. Probably goes to school with him. "Can I help you?"
"Um." Stiles rubs a hand through his hair. It's longer than he usually keeps it. He hasn't had a chance to get it cut yet. "I wanted... It's about Laura."
The girl's eyes go wide. Her expression turns sad, which is only expected when Stiles brings up the girl's dead sister. Or at least Stiles assumes they're sisters. "Oh. You knew Laura?"
He shakes his head. "No. I... um..." He places his hand over his chest, over the bright red scars still healing on his chest and his new heart. "She gave me this."
"She gave..." Confusion turns to understanding and the girl turns and shouts into the house. "Mom. Dad." When she turns back her eyes have the beginnings of tears but she's smiling. She holds out her hand. "Come in."
Stiles takes her hand awkwardly and follows her into the house. It's just as pretty inside as it is out. Someone put a lot of care into this home. It feels welcoming, like a place he'd want to stay for a while. It almost feels like he belongs here.
He moves slowly and she adjusts her pace to match.
"I've seen you before," she says.
"School, I think."
She leads him down the hall and into a massive living room. "Right. You're what, tenth grade?"
"Eleventh, assuming I can make up the work I need to. I missed a lot of classes thanks to..." He waves his free hand at his chest.
She helps him settle onto the couch. Stiles is surprisingly winded for just walking from his Jeep into the house. He's still healing, he reminds himself. Surgery takes a lot out of a person.
A strikingly handsome woman with long black hair walks in, followed by two brunette men, one slightly older than the other. "Cora?" The woman asks, glancing between the girl – Cora Hale, a senior if he remembers correctly and captain of the volleyball team – and Stiles.
"Mom, Dad, Peter, this is..."
"Stiles. Stiles Stilinski."
"The Sheriff's son," the woman says. Cora's mother. Laura's mother. A pain that has nothing to do with his healing wounds makes his chest ache. He's been without his own mother for years, but when he looks at Cora's mother he feels that same sort of connection. He quickly derails that train of thought. He's not here to replace his mother, and he couldn't even if he wanted to. "What can we do for you?"
"That's not..." He looks away, down at his hands clenched tight between his knees. "I'm not supposed to be here, but I had to..." Cora's hand lands on top of his, squeezing lightly. He looks up and this time it's his eyes that are shining with tears. "I came to thank you, because I can't thank her. Your daughter, Laura... her heart saved my life, and I needed to thank you for that. Without her, I wouldn't be alive right now."
Tears well in Cora's mother's eyes and she sinks down onto the coffee table. Her hand joins Cora's on his, squeezing once. "You're very, very welcome."
"I'm sorry that you lost your daughter, Mrs. Hale."
She smiles at him through the tears. There's not a dry eye in the room. "She will be missed, but I'm glad she could help you. And, please, call me Talia."
He's sitting in the school library and the room is empty save for a young woman with long brown hair sitting across from him.
"Hi," he says, after they sit there staring at each other for minutes. It seems like the dream won't go anywhere until he starts it.
"Hello," she says. She tilts her head to study him, as if he were a strange sort of bug. "You're Stiles, right?"
He nods. "Do I know you?" She looks familiar. He's seen her picture somewhere before.
His eyes go wide then. "Laura Hale."
"The one and only." She grins at him.
"You're dead." It's a stupid thing to say, but his mouth is known for blurting stupid things.
"So it seems." She doesn't seem upset about it at all. If Stiles were dead, he'd be a little upset. Hell, he'd haunt his dad to make sure he ate his vegetables. He'd be the avenging poltergeist of good heart health.
"I'm sorry that you died."
She shrugs. "Can't change the past, no matter how hard you try."
He frowns. "Still..."
"If I were alive, then you'd be dead."
He doesn't have an argument for that.
She leans back at her chair and stares at one of the windows high up on the wall. "I think it's going to be better this way. I think you're going to make a difference."
Her words set a high goal for him. He only hopes he can live up to them.
He'd run into Peter while he was out grocery shopping with his dad – his first official trip out of the house and the only time he's been out since his surgery, as far as his dad is concerned. Cora's older brother Paul is one of the new deputies at the station. Her father, David, stopped by the veterinary clinic where Scott works while Stiles was visiting. David had seemed just as surprised to see Stiles as Stiles had been to see him.
Cora joining him for lunch is just another part of the massive coincidence of Hales being in his general vicinity.
"Hi," Cora says as sits down. "I'm Cora."
Scott and Erica just stare. Stiles rolls his eyes. "This is Scott and Erica. Don't mind them."
"Okay," she says, drawing out the O. "Mom wanted me to ask if you'd like to come over for dinner Sunday. You and your dad."
Stiles grins. "Of course." He'll worry about how to explain it to his dad later.
Erica very pointedly raises an eyebrow and glances between Stiles and Cora. Stiles shakes his head. Erica thinks he's dating Cora but he's not and that's stupid and she should know better. He taps his heart and then tilts his head at Cora. That could be taken as an admission of affection, and Scott's eyes widen until Stiles glares at him.
"He's trying to say my sister donated his heart," Cora supplies, and Stiles flushes in embarrassment.
"I was trying not to be blunt."
Cora shrugs. "I'm not offended if you talk about it. It's your heart now."
"And your dead sister."
Cora shrugs again and picks at her lunch. "Avoiding talking about it won't change that."
Stiles stares at his food for a second before nodding. "Yeah. You're right. When my mom died, no one would talk about her. It was like she'd never even existed. It drove me insane."
Scott smiles at him, offering silent condolence.
Erica gives Cora a considering look. "Do you want to talk about her? Maybe tell us a story about your sister?"
Cora smiles then, though it's a dim smile. "Yeah. I'd like that."
She tells them about the time Laura wanted to try out for wrestling and kept practicing moves on her brother Derek. Stiles laughs and feels something in his chest lighten.
Stiles flinches as he settles back onto the couch. He has a massive pile of back work spread out on the coffee table in front of him and he's determined to get through it as fast as he can so the school administration stops talking about holding him back 'for his own good'.
"I may have gone to see them the other day."
"Why?" His dad's tone is the same as when Stiles tried to climb the tree in their backyard or wanted to learn fencing. It's the tone that says he knows Stiles has a reason for what he's done and that the Sheriff isn't going to like it.
Stiles stares down at his homework. "Because their daughter donated my heart."
Silence fills the room and it's a heavy silence, weighed down with all the things they don't talk about, like how Stiles nearly died. Like how the disease that took his mom years ago almost got him too. Like how there's still a chance that his body could reject his new heart and that his dad still might lose him, after all they've done.
"I had to thank them."
Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles watches his dad nod like that's the most rational thing in the world. "I don't want to know how you found out, but... well done."
Stiles smiles and looks up finally. "So. That's why she invited us to dinner."
The Sheriff nods once and gets a speculative look. "Do you know if they like Scotch?"
Stiles laughs. "I think I'm dreaming. I don't know why you're here."
"I'm here because you're here." In his dream, that makes perfect sense.
Stiles watches a cloud shaped like a malformed train roll across the sky. "I'd like to think you're in Heaven. You seem like a good person. You deserve it."
Laura hums in agreement.
"I'd also like to think Heaven is not a seventeen year old boy's dreams."
Laura laughs. It's an easy sound, one that has been filling his dreams of late. He dreams of Laura more often than not and it's surprisingly relaxing.
"Your family misses you."
"I miss them too." Her voice takes on a note of longing. "But I'm dead, gone. We can't change that. They need to move on. Stop holding onto my stuff and let me go."
"Still... Don't you wish you hadn't died?"
She turns to face him, her eyes suddenly serious. "Then you would have died and where would the world be? My family needs you, Stiles. Wait and see."
"They don't need me. They need their daughter back."
Laura says nothing and turns back to the clouds. She points to the sky where a dragon takes shape, swallowing up the train and all the people on it.
Stiles wakes with a start. The dream feels real but he knows that it isn't. It's just a dream, just his mind's way of reassuring him that Laura's okay, that he didn't steal her heart. He's seen photographs, heard stories. It's enough to piece together the image of a dead girl in his head.
He rolls onto his back and stares up at the ceiling. He should be worried that he's dreaming about a dead girl, but instead he finds it comforting. He feels like Laura is at peace.
That's what he would have wanted for her. It's what she deserves.
Erica glances over at him from where they sit on the bleachers, watching the other kids play basketball. "I think you're the only kid in the world that doesn't enjoy sitting out of gym class."
Stiles waves his hands towards the other kids, as if that were answer enough. It isn't, judging by Erica's pointed look.
"Dad's considering letting me join lacrosse next year."
Erica snorts. "And by considering you mean he said 'we'll see' and didn't actually say yes."
Stiles frowns. She knows him too well. He blames their frequent hospital stays, usually in the same room. "Maybe."
"I'm right and you know it."
Stiles shrugs. That's the best she's going to get from him.
"So, seriously, what's going on with you and Cora? Is she your new girlfriend?"
Stiles snorts. "You know me better than that."
"Right. Still pledging your undying love to Lydia Martin?"
"Until the day I die." He can say that now because it might not actually be in the near future.
"Unfortunately for her, that's hopefully a long way away."
"Hopefully." They both make the sign of the cross, even though neither of them are Catholic. It's an old habit they'd picked up from Sister Mary who used to visit them every Sunday and used the sign of the cross practically every other sentence.
"Her sister donated my heart. You know that."
Erica shrugs. "It just seems like there's more to it than that. You're in the perfect rom-com setup. Besides, aren't those records supposed to be sealed?"
Stiles shrugged. "I heard the nurses talking. They said my heart came from a young woman who was in a car accident. Beacon Hills is a small town. Only one car accident fatality in the last month so..."
"Wow." Erica leaned back onto the row of bleachers behind them. "And she's just okay with you walking around with her dead sister's heart?"
"The whole family is. It's a little weird."
"The Hales are weird. Did you hear about the house fire a few years ago?"
Stiles shakes his head.
"This crazy lady tried to burn their house down. Thankfully everyone got out okay and there was only a bit of damage. My mom handled some of the paperwork on their insurance claim."
Stiles whistled. He knew how badly it hurt to lose one family member. He couldn't imagine the pain of losing all of them. He was glad no one got hurt. It'd only been a few weeks since he'd met the Hales but they'd already changed his life so much. Without Laura he'd probably be dead.
He owed a huge thank-you to whoever had stopped the Hale fire.
Stiles sips at his hot chocolate. "Dramatic much?"
Laura sticks out her tongue at him. "I mean it. Something's coming. Something big."
"That's helpful. Thanks. I'm so glad I dreamed of something useful."
"I mean it." Laura flicks him on the nose. It hurts.
He blinks and sits up, suddenly awake in his dark room instead of inside the coffee shop with Laura. It's raining outside, much like it was in his dream.
His nose hurts. He brings his hand up to touch where Laura had flicked him and he wonders how much of it actually was a dream.
Stiles lowers the paper and offers a weak grin.
"I don't suppose you know Isaac Lahey?"
He shakes his head. "Scott does though. They're both on the lacrosse team. They bench warm together."
"Right. Get back to class. I've got a bunch of lacrosse players to talk to."
Stiles sigh. He never gets to do anything fun.
His hopes are dashed as soon as he falls asleep. Laura is in his dad's study, flipping through the police report. "The storm is here."
"Yay. Why can't a missing kid just be a missing kid?"
"Things are never what they seem."
"Says the ghost haunting my dreams."
Laura smiles, a big wolfish grin. "I'm not a ghost and this isn't a dream, technically."
Stiles frowns. "What is it then, because it certainly feels like I'm dreaming?"
"A vision. A pathway, if you will, between your soul and mine. Our hearts are connected, which means our souls are connected." Laura touches him on the chest, right over his heart and he can feel warmth spreading from her touch.
"That's because your heart is my heart."
"Your Spark is your own."
Stiles raises an eyebrow. "Spark?" He wants to make a Frankenstein joke but he refrains.
Laura smiles. It's a mysterious smile, and a touch devious. "Ask Alan Deaton."
His frown deepens. "I'm supposed to ask the veterinarian about sparks?"
"He's more than he seems. Trust me. And it's not sparks, it's Spark. It's a title. You're a Spark."
"Sure. Whatever you say. Just don't call me Sparky."
Laura just grins.
Stiles sighs and throws up his hands. He stomps out of the room and goes to the living room to watch TV for the rest of the dream. After a few minutes, Laura joins him and they sit together in companionable silence while reruns of Bewitched play on the TV.
"I know. I came to talk to you, actually." He glances at the woman waiting on her Cocker Spaniel. "Privately."
"Just a moment."
Deaton finishes with the woman and her dog and then waves Stiles into the back. He's never been in Deaton's office before and he's kind of regretting that now because it's full of all sorts of fascinating trinkets and a giant wall of books. He wants to read every one of them. He nearly forgets why he's there and starts migrating towards the shelves before Deaton's voice pulls him back on track.
"What can I help you with, Stiles?"
Stiles turns away from the shelves and drops down onto Deaton's couch with a loud thump. He clenches his hands between his knees to keep from fidgeting. "Okay, this is going to sound really weird, but what do you know about Sparks?"
"I don't know much about electricity." Deaton smiles. He's being deliberately obtuse.
Stiles frowns. "Not electricity. Sparks. Or maybe it's just Spark, as in I am a Spark, supposedly."
Deaton's whole mannerism changes, sharpening suddenly, and he regards Stiles as if he's never seen him before. It's almost like he's looking through Stiles instead of just at him. "Where'd you hear that term?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you."
Stiles sighs and prepares for his whole credibility to go out the window. "Laura Hale."
Both of Deaton's eyebrows shoot up. "You spoke to Laura Hale?"
Okay, so maybe it wasn't as ridiculous as he thought. Or, maybe Deaton's just humoring him while he gets ready to dial the funny farm. There's something in the way Deaton's looking at him that suggests otherwise. There's something that makes Stiles think he believes.
In for a penny, in for a pound, Stiles supposes. "In my dreams. She said we're connected, since I have her heart."
"Well, the heart has always traditionally been viewed as the container for the soul."
Stiles raises his eyebrows in alarm and stares down at his chest. "I have a dead girl's soul in me?" He thinks he would feel it if there were someone besides him knocking around inside his body. Besides, that would mean his soul got incinerated along with his defective heart and he doesn't feel soulless or less like himself.
"No. Not necessarily. What else did she say?"
Stiles frowns. Deaton's taking this far better than he'd expected. "She said there's a storm in Beacon Hills."
He nods. "She said it kinda spookily, like there was some big thing about to happen. Something dangerous."
Deaton leans forward across his desk. His hands are clasped in front of him and he looks serious, like he's ready to get down to business, though Stiles has no idea what kind of business that is. "Did she give any details? Any specifics?"
Stiles shakes his head. "No. None. She just said I should ask you about sparks and that I was one."
"Ah. Well." Deaton leans back in his chair. "In that case, what do you know about magic?"
It's Stiles's turn to raise an eyebrow. "The card game or the D&D stuff?"
"I mean real magic," Deaton says and makes a ball of fire appear in his palm.
Stiles's eyes go wide as saucers. "You have to teach me how to do that."
Deaton smiles. The fire vanishes with a flick of his wrist. "That's the plan. I can't promise you'll be able to do something like that. It's a bit advanced and we don't know how strong you are, but if Laura says you're a Spark, I can at least teach you the basics."
Stiles barely contains himself from dancing in his seat. He's going to learn magic!
"My dad will find them," Stiles assures her at lunch. He doesn't mention that Deaton promised to teach him locator spells. As it turns out, he's pretty strong for a Spark, strong in a way that had made Deaton hum a lot and mutter to himself. They're still working on the basics, but Deaton's skipping most of the theory for now in an effort to cram as much practical knowledge into Stiles's head as possible.
He's not quite ready to share his magical secret yet. He's waiting until he has something cool to show Scott and Erica before he bursts that cherry.
"But what if something happens to him?"
"Or Isaac," Scott adds. "Have you heard the stuff they're saying about his dad? I had no idea. I really hope he's okay. I should have talked to him more. I should have-"
Scott's mouth snaps shut.
"Don't forget. You're on the team too. You could be next," Cora says. Stiles glares at her. He's been trying not to remind Scott of that, or think of it much himself. He doesn't know what he'd do with himself if Scott went missing.
Scott just waves a hand. "They're going after the good players. I'm fine."
"You better be," Stiles says. "No disappearing. Promise me."
Scott laughs. "I promise."
Worry fills Stiles anyways. He resolves to practice harder, maybe get Deaton to give him something to work on when they're not at the veterinary clinic. He needs his dad to find those missing kids. Stiles just wishes there was something he could do now to help, but he's not ready yet.
He has another meeting with Deaton after school and then he's supposed to pick Scott up from lacrosse practice to go for burgers. His time with Deaton runs over. He's distracted making a pencil levitate. By the time he leaves, he can make the pencil stand up on its tip. It's the first real thing he's done and he can't wait to show Scott.
When he gets to the school, Scott isn't in their usual meeting spot. Stiles checks the locker room, then the lacrosse field. Scott isn't there. He calls Scott but it goes straight to voicemail. He leaves at least a dozen messages, each more frantic than the last as he runs the length of the school, looking for Scott. The fact that he can run without his chest twinging is amazing, but the miracle of his recovery is lost in the face of his worry over Scott.
He calls Melissa, in case she'd picked Scott up. She hadn't. She's still at work. He hangs up before she can start questioning him.
He ends up back at his Jeep with no sign of Scott. The world is spinning and he can't breathe. He's having a panic attack. He sinks down to the concrete and puts his head between his knees. Through the panic he can feel the steady thump, thump of his new heart, the beating loud in his ears. It calms him. The panic attack is over almost as quickly as it started.
He calls his dad.
"Whazzat?" Stiles asks through a mouthful of dream pizza. It tastes heavenly. Food always tastes better in his dreams than real life because, really, why would he dream about bad food when he can have the good stuff.
He nearly chokes. He swallows roughly and stares at her. "Not funny."
She doesn't have her joking expression on. She's deadly serious.
Stiles sits back. "Oh. Really?"
A million questions pop to mind but he holds them back. Laura always has a reason for the things she tells him, even if Stiles doesn't always get what that reason is at first.
"I think they might know what's going on with your missing friend. If the Argents are in town, it's likely werewolf-related."
Stiles frowns. "What does Allison's family have to do with werewolves? Are they werewolves too?"
Laura laughs, but it's a bitter laugh. "No. They're hunters. They kill my kind."
Stiles sits up, spilling his pizza on the floor. The good thing about being in a dream is that he doesn't have to clean it up. "What!?"
"You remember the house fire we had a few years ago?"
"That was Kate Argent, Allison's aunt."
"Derek – my brother – managed to stop her before the fire got too far, but she was out to kill all of us. Not all of her family is that deranged. They usually stick to a code, only hunting werewolves that have hurt humans, but not all of them do. Obviously. Kate's father was just as bad before he got arrested. Last I heard, cancer took him out of the game, thank God."
"And you think they're here to hunt a werewolf? What's that got to do with the missing lacrosse players?"
"There are three kinds of werewolves. Alphas are the leaders. They're big with red eyes. Betas have blue or orange eyes. They're part of an Alpha's pack. Then there are Omegas, who are packless werewolves that tend to go crazy on their own. I think we're dealing with an Alpha trying to rebuild his pack. We're stronger in packs. Literally stronger, and the more people there are in a pack, the stronger the Alpha gets. Who better to recruit than some beefy lacrosse players?"
Stiles snorts. "Beefy and Scott have only been in the same sentence if you're referring to stew. He has asthma. He's never played more than ten minutes of any game."
Laura shrugs. "It's the best I've got. You should talk to mom. Maybe you can help each other out."
Stiles shrugs. "It's worth a shot."
"What?" The guy says.
"Hi." Stiles forces a smile. He hopes it looks suave but he knows it doesn't. He has zero skill with the opposite sex and the same goes for his few same-sex attractions. Suave he is not, but at least he's trying. "Is Talia home?"
"No." The guy starts to shut the door in his face, but Stiles sticks his foot out to stop it.
"How about David? Peter?"
As if summoned by his name, Peter comes down the stairs. He takes one look at the situation and grins. "Derek, let Stiles in." Stiles's eyes widen. He's heard that name before. Derek's supposed to be in New York. That's what Cora had said and Stiles has a momentary silent freak-out that he crushed on the brother of the dead girl who gave Stiles his heart, even if said crush was momentary.
Is it weird? He thinks it's a little weird, and Derek will definitely think it's weird. Hell, Derek probably doesn't even like men. He certainly doesn't seem to like Stiles, judging from the way he's sort of scowling in Stiles's general direction.
Derek steps aside but doesn't look happy about it. Stiles wonders what he did to offend Derek, considering they've only just met. Maybe Derek is always grumpy. Maybe he's the grumpy dwarf to Laura's happy.
Peter waves Stiles into the living room. Derek follows, hovering in the doorway while Peter and Stiles take a seat. "What can I do for you, Stiles?"
Stiles licks his lips and wipes his hands on his jeans. "Okay, this may sound really stupid, but I have it on good authority that you're all werewolves and I was wondering if you knew anything about the recent abductions?"
Peter's eyes widen and Derek's gaze locks on him like he's ready to gut Stiles with his bare hands. Peter is a lot calmer, though his voice is carefully measured as he asks "What makes you think that?"
Stiles scoots away from Derek. He knows the words aren't going to end well even before they come out of his mouth but that doesn't stop him from saying "Laura told me."
Derek wolfs out then – that's the best way Stiles can think to describe the change in features, the sudden blue glow of his eyes, the teeth and claws – and Stiles is convinced then that yep, werewolves are real. Derek takes a step towards him and Stiles goes with the very proper and manly reaction of passing the fuck out.
"No one's going to hurt you, Stiles," Talia says.
That option hadn't even crossed his mind. Now he remembers Derek and his wolfy features and he has to open his eyes to keep from imagining what Derek could do with those claws. His heart speeds up even further and he looks at Talia for help as his breathing turns shallow and labored.
She sits on the bed, rolling Stiles towards her slightly as the bed dips. She takes both of his hands in hers, squeezing lightly. "Breathe. Come on. I know you can do it. Just breathe. In. Out. In. Out."
He tries to match his breathing to her voice. It helps. After a few minutes he actually manages some semblance of control. She doesn't let go of his hands, not until his heart slows down to a normal pace and his breath comes out normally.
"I'm sorry if we scared you."
He shakes his head. "No. I get it. Werewolves. Big secret. Especially with hunters in town."
She raises an eyebrow. "You know about the Argents?"
He nods. "Laura told me."
"About that..." Her eyes sharpen as she regards him. "When did Laura tell you that? You said you'd never met."
"We haven't." He licks his lips and considers how strange that sounds. "I mean, not in real life. This is going to sound really crazy, I mean not as crazy as werewolves, okay, maybe as crazy, but when I dream, she shows up sometimes and we talk. She said I'm a Spark and I'm training with Alan Deaton and you can totally call him and confirm that I'm not crazy."
She looks at him like most people do when he spews a bunch of words at them, which, yeah, he'd done that but he can't help himself. He talks fast when he's nervous.
"I can make a pencil float if you want proof."
Talia's lips quirk like she's trying to hold back a smile. "No, I think that won't be necessary. Would you like to come downstairs?"
"Please, God, yes. No offense, but it's really weird being in Laura's room."
Talia's expression goes pained and Stiles regrets that he said anything. She looks around the room and Stiles can feel her loss like a palatable wave of emotion. "We haven't decided what to do with her things yet."
Stiles hesitates. He knows what the answer is. "She'd want you to let her go, to get rid of anything that's not valuable to you and move on."
Talia looks at him with an expression too complicated to read. "Did she say that?"
He nods slowly.
"Come on." She leads him downstairs where the Hales are gathered in the living room. He's happy to note that Derek seems slightly less grumpy. Talia takes a seat in a vacant armchair before gesturing Stiles to the other open spot next to Cora. "Just so you know, they heard everything. It's hard to keep secrets in a family of nosy werewolves."
"Oh." He doesn't question how they heard, just chalks it up to werewolves and moves on with his day.
"I vote Stiles makes a pencil float," Cora says as soon as Stiles sits down. He gives her a small smile.
"Maybe later," Talia says. "First I'd like to hear what you know about Laura."
Derek tenses on the opposite side of the room and David puts a hand on his shoulder. Stiles isn't sure if the gesture is meant to keep Derek in place or to comfort him. Maybe both. Laura had mentioned that she'd been closest with Derek, and obviously her loss had hit Derek pretty hard.
Stiles looks down at the floor. "Obviously not a lot. Not as much as her family, but I have dreams about her. I thought, at first, that it was just my imagination filling in holes. I was curious what kind of person she would be. I mean, I have her heart. I just wanted... I wanted to know. And we talked – about her death mostly, and then other things. I thought it was just a dream but things from the dream carried over, like when she flicked me on the nose." Cora snorts at that and Peter and Talia look like they're trying not to smile. "Then she said stuff. Stuff that I couldn't possibly know. She said I was a Spark and told me to talk to Alan Deaton, who I had no idea wasn't just a normal veterinarian, and he explained about hearts and souls and how I have a piece of her inside of me so now we're connected."
"So she's trapped here?" The way Derek says it makes it sound like a bad thing, like Derek might rip out his heart to put her at rest.
Stiles scrambles back against the couch and holds his hands up. "No. No way. She's at rest or at peace or whatever. I think... I think she's here because she wants to be. Kinda like popping back for a visit but she's not trapped."
They all seem to listen a moment before Talia nods. "He's not lying."
"What? Of course I'm not lying." Then the listening thing catches up to him. "Wait, you can hear when someone's lying?"
"It's in the heartbeat," Peter explains.
Stiles relaxes a little. His eyes are slightly wide with wonder. "That is so cool."
Derek snorts and looks away. If Stiles didn't know better, he'd think Derek was trying to hide a smile. Maybe the sourwolf wasn't so grumpy after all.
"So what about Scott and the others?" Stiles says after a second. There's a reason he had come here and was having this awkward conversation after all. "Laura said you might know why they were taken. She said it might be an Alpha looking to build a new pack."
Talia raises an eyebrow. "That's very astute. We'd come to the same conclusion as well. There's an Alpha named Ennis in town. The Argents killed most of his pack. He was last seen heading this way so we think he's taking people to be in his pack."
Stiles relaxed slightly. "So he's not going to kill them?"
"Not on purpose."
No one blinks an eye at that and Stiles looks around. "What do you mean not on purpose? Does that mean he might accidentally kill them? Like, oops, I tripped and fell on you with this knife seventeen times or-"
Cora's hand covers his mouth, cutting off his stream of words. He shoots her a grateful look.
"To change someone into a werewolf, they have to be bitten by an Alpha," Peter says. "Sometimes the bite doesn't take. No one knows why."
Stiles frowns. "What happens if it doesn't take?"
"They die." Derek says it so matter-of-factly that Stiles is stunned. He doesn't want Scott to die. He doesn't want any of them to die. He barely knows Isaac or Boyd but he doesn't want them to die.
Cora glares at Derek. "But that likely won't happen. They're young. It's easier for people who are young to survive the bite."
"Oh." He feels himself relax a fraction.
"Especially if they're healthy," Talia adds.
The relaxation goes out the window. "Scott isn't healthy. He has asthma. Really bad asthma."
Derek raises an eyebrow. "What the hell is he doing playing lacrosse?"
Talia speaks before Stiles even has a chance to feel offended on Scott's behalf. "He'll be fine. It's very rare for the bite not to take. Your friend will be fine."
Stiles can only pray she's right. "What happens after they're turned though? I mean, he's not just going to bite them and then let them go back to school is he? That doesn't make any sense."
Talia gives him an apologetic look. "No. Once he's made his pack, he's going to leave with them."
"But they can just refuse, right? There's no way Scott would leave his mom."
Now Talia's look turns pitying. "They won't be able to resist. The bond between an Alpha and a newly bitten Beta is too strong."
"Well then," Stiles says, "that just means we have to find this Ennis guy before he leaves."
If only it were that easy.
He tries it over and over again, until he's shouting the spell and concentrating so hard that the pendulum cracks.
He doesn't cry but it's a close call.
He drops the pendulum and Scott's sweater on the map and leans back against the base of the couch. It's easier to work from the floor. He stretches and as he looks up he jumps. Derek is watching him.
Stiles offers a small, weak smiled. "Hey."
Derek doesn't say anything back. More often than not Derek's around when Stiles is over, always watching him with distrustful eyes. Stiles knows that Derek hates him, but that doesn't make his crush fade in the slightest. It just makes his chest ache with longing and makes him try harder to get Derek to like him.
"Are you home on break?" It's a little early for winter break but who knows what schedule Derek's school is on.
He's surprised when Derek answers. "I took a leave of absence."
Stiles blinks and nods. He doesn't need to ask why. "I'm sorry." It's not the first time he's said it. He can't seem to stop apologizing to Derek, like Laura's death was his fault. It wasn't, but Derek makes him feel like it was.
Derek shakes his head. He doesn't look at Stiles, but rather at a point past Stiles's shoulder.
"You lived with Laura, right? In New York City?"
Derek's frown deepens. "Did Laura tell you that?"
Stiles shakes his head. "No. Cora did. She missed you, so she talked about you a lot."
Derek stares at the wall. "I had to take care of the apartment before I could come back," he admits softly, startling Stiles. This is probably the most words Derek has said to him since they were introduced.
He knows Derek resent him for having Laura's heart. It's not something he can help, but it feels a little unfair. This conversation feels like progress, like Stiles is slowly bridging the gap of resentment between him and Derek.
"It's good that you're home," Stiles says.
Derek stares at him a moment before turning and leaving Stiles alone in the living room. It feels like progress.
"I have a crush on your brother."
Cora's eyebrows shoot up. "Paul?"
Stiles blushes and shakes his head.
Her eyebrows shoot even further up. "Derek? Really? Have you met Derek? I know you have, but have you met the same Derek that I know."
Stiles feels like his face is going to ignite. "What can I say? I apparently have a thing for tall, dark, and scary."
"Really? You picked Derek of all people?"
Stiles regrets saying anything. "I can't help it. He's hot and I like that he doesn't coddle me. I've been coddled all my life. It's refreshing."
"If you say so." Her look is dubious.
"What do you think I should do?"
"Say nothing and hope it passes?"
Stiles frowns. He wants to argue, but that's probably the best advice he could get. He knows Derek doesn't like him but he can't help how he feels.
It's probably best not to say anything.
He only has until the end of the school day to worry about it. When he gets home, his dad tells him that Erica is missing and Stiles has bigger things to worry about.
Peter turns a page in his book. "You don't. Your best bet is to keep them contained and hope no one notices."
Stiles turns his head to the side, curious. "How do you contain werewolves? I mean, aren't you guys super strong. I doubt regular doors would do much."
Peter looks up, thoughtful. "You'd need mountain ash. It's impenetrable to werewolves. If someone with a bit of a spark makes a circle out of it, a werewolf would be trapped."
Stiles sits up. "Do you think it would stop magic as well?"
"Do you have some?"
Peter nods. "I think so. Maybe in the basement."
While Peter goes to fetch it, Stiles pulls the map he's been abusing out of his backpack and spreads it on the coffee table. He makes grabby hands when Peter returns and opens the jar. The mountain ash feels like black sand when he grabs it, gritty in his palms. He closes his eyes and holds his hand over the map. "Please work." He can hear footsteps coming into the room as he starts chanting. He moves his hand over the map, letting a thin trickle of mountain ash spill from his fingers.
When he opens his eyes, the ash has formed a pile over one specific spot. Stiles smiles in victory. "Gotcha."
Peter's on his feet in seconds. "Derek, call Talia. David, get Paul and Cora." Peter grabs for his car keys.
Stile scrambles to his feet. He's halfway out the door after Peter when Derek grabs him by the back of the shirt. Derek's so close Stiles can hear the phone ringing against his ear. "Where do you think you're going?"
Talia answers the phone, interrupting whatever Derek was going to say. Derek passes along the address to Talia. He doesn't let Stiles go, not even after he hangs up the phone. "You're staying here."
"I want to help."
"I need to help." He does. These are his friends that have been taken. He has to be there to save them. He can't just sit at the Hale house waiting.
"No," David echoes as he comes back from calling Paul and Cora.
"How are you going to get past the mountain ash?"
Derek frowns. David pauses on the porch.
"Let him come," Peter calls from outside. "And all of you, hurry up."
Derek lets go and Stiles wastes no time scrambling into Peter's car. They take off as soon as David and Derek are in the car.
Stiles is a giant bundle of nerves, which is nothing compared to how he feels when they pull up to the warehouse district. One building looks much the same as the other, but Peter raises his nose and the other two do the same and then they're heading for one of the buildings at a run. Stiles follows behind more slowly.
He'd promised on the way over to stay out of the way, and that's what he's doing. Combat is so not his thing. He counts to ten after the werewolves go in before following. He spots Scott and the others instantly, huddling in a corner, well out of the way of the fighting. Ennis isn't alone. He's got another werewolf with him, but Peter and the others seem to have the other beta contained.
Stiles edges around the fighting until he can get near Scott. He's only a few feet away when he sees it – the thick line of mountain ash circling the group. Unfortunately he doesn't have time to reach it before Derek is shouting "Stiles, look out."
Three things happen at once. Ennis lunges at Stiles with a roar. Stiles trips in his haste to scramble away and falls on the circle, breaking the mountain ash barrier. Derek leaps from across the room and tackles Ennis to the ground.
Scott and the others growl, their eyes flashing yellow. They take a few steps forward, and Stiles isn't sure if they're going to help Derek or Ennis but the point is moot as Derek rears back and slashes Ennis across the throat.
Blood sprays. Stiles is pretty sure he's going to be sick. Derek rears back and howls and when he looks at Stiles, his eyes are blood red.
The door bursts open at that moment. Talia takes in the scene with an air of authority. Ennis and his werewolf lackey are dead. Derek collapses to his knees and Stiles rushes over, taking Derek's arm to keep him from crashing to the ground.
"Hey, are you alright?" Stiles's voice is low. Talia is saying something, giving commands, but Stiles's focus is all about Derek right now.
"Yeah." Derek pushes away from him, wobbling as he stands.
Stiles reaches for him to steady him but Derek moves away from his touch, heading towards Talia instead. A blonde man had come in with Talia and he heads towards them now. "Are you kids alright?"
Stiles nods, since the others stills seem a bit dumbstruck. "Yeah. We're cool. Right, Scott? Erica?"
"Scott... Scott McCall?" The man asks and Stiles has a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Yeah," Scott says warily.
"Allison will be glad to know you're safe. Stick with the Hales and I won't have to shoot you. That goes for all of you."
Scott's eyes go wide and Stiles laughs. The others look a little freaked at the mention of shooting but Stiles steps in, clapping Scott on the back. "Don't worry, Mr. Argent. Scott's a good kid. We'll steer him right. No trouble here."
"See that it stays that way." Mr. Argent turns and walks back to Talia.
"What just happened?" Isaac asked.
"That is a very large question," Stiles says. "In the most immediate sense, Scott just met his potential girlfriend's dad and he gave Scott permission to date his daughter. Pretty high praise coming from a werewolf hunter."
"Werewolf hunter?" Erica looks like she's going to be sick. Scott's mouth is hanging open and he just looks dazed with wonder.
"Don’t worry. We'll go through the basics soon. I'm all set for Werewolf 101." He's been pestering Peter with questions and reading everything he could find on werewolves just for this. These are his two best friends, and he's not going to let them down.
"This should surprise me," Erica says, "but it doesn't."
Stiles shrugs. They really should just expect this sort of thing from him by now.
When they finally finish up with the werewolf part, Paul gives them all a cover story about how their kidnapper got killed by a wild dog he was keeping and piles them into his cruiser to take them to the station. Scott and Erica linger by Stiles for a moment.
"Are you a werewolf?" Scott asks.
Stile shakes his head. "No. I'm magic." He makes jazz hands. There's nothing impressive he can do yet without a pencil or a map.
Scott's eyes widen. "Cool." Erica punches him on the arm. For once, it hurts. He tells her so and she sticks her tongue out.
"Thanks," Erica says. "I knew you'd find us."
Stiles has no idea what to say to that. They leave and Stiles gets a crazy idea in his head. He goes to find Derek, who's up in his room. Stiles knocks before opening the door. Derek looks surprised to see him.
"Thank you," Stiles says. Derek raises an eyebrow and Stiles elaborates. "For saving my life."
"You're welcome." Derek says it like he saves Stiles's life all the time. Like Stiles didn't think up until an hour ago that Derek wanted him dead.
"Do you want to go out sometime?"
Derek gives him that look that says Stiles is an idiot. Stiles does not argue with that look, because most of the time he is, in fact, being an idiot. Like now. "You're sixteen."
"Seventeen," Stiles corrects. It's not a no.
Derek rolls his eyes. "Fine, seventeen."
"That's still not a no."
Derek snorts and stands. He walks towards the door. Stiles backs up until he's out in the hall. Derek pauses with his hand on the door. "Ask me when you're older." Then he shuts the door in Stiles's face.
Stiles is grinning anyways. He can't wait until he turns eighteen because he's totally asking Derek out the minute the clock strikes midnight on his birthday.
Derek's never going to know what hit him.
"I'm leaving," she says.
Stiles eyes widen. "Why?" He feels connected to her in a way he hasn't with any other person, living or dead.
She sits on the bed and turns to look at him, patting the space beside her. Stiles obediently takes a seat. "I'm done here. I helped and it's time to move on."
"What if I need your help again?"
She chuckles. "You've got my entire family and your friends. I think you'll be fine without me." There's no ruefulness to her tone, just certainty. She's moving on whether Stiles likes it or not.
"What if your family needs you?"
She smiles. "They've got you. It's time they let go, anyways. It's not doing them any good knowing I'm still hanging around."
Stiles nods. He gets it. He really does. He can only imagine if it was his mom haunting someone right after their death. He wouldn’t have taken it nearly as well as the Hales have. "What should I tell them?"
She tilts her head back to look at the ceiling. "Tell them I'm happy. Tell them I'm at peace. Tell Derek to be good to you and Mom not to worry and Peter to behave. Tell them that I'll miss them but I'll see them again eventually. Tell them to take their time getting here, and if they're here soon I will have stern words."
Stiles chuckles. He's surprised to find his face wet, but he can't help it. He's always been a sucker for sappy endings. "I will."
Laura squeezes his shoulder and stands. "I'll tell your mom you said 'hello'."
With that she turns and walks out the door. He wakes as soon as the door shuts. He's not surprised to find that his tears had carried over into the real world. He's really going to miss her.
In the morning, he'll go over to the Hales and relay the message. For now, he sleeps and he doesn't dream.