When Stiles Stilinski is born, his mother wants to name him Stephen.
It’s an easy, uncomplicated name, one that’s been handed down in her family for generations.
So when the nurse comes to do the paperwork with her, she looks into her new born son’s eyes and says –
- something completely different.
The nurse blinks big, startled doe-eyes at her and she repeats the name, pronunciation solid and conviction absolute.
Fifteen minutes later, when the deed is done, she tries to sound out her son’s name and stumbles over the syllables, the discordant harmonies that fall from her tongue like a completely alien language.
Only when she is looking into her baby’s dark, dark eyes can she ever say his name correctly.
There are books, somewhere, buried deep, lost grimoires written on human skin.
In those books, the name stands written in human blood, a lick and curl of long forgotten letters.
The translation, if anyone were alive to undertake it, would be simple.
The Beacon Hills police department gets used to the little Stilinski brat being underfoot all the time because no matter how many times his father takes him home, the kid always shows back up.
And really, he’s not disturbing anyone. He just sits and watches the proceedings with a child’s curiosity.
The only thing that freaks them all out a little is the way he scampers off the minute someone calls in a death – no matter what kind, accidental, natural, forceful – and inevitably shows back up in the basement, where the town’s part-time coroner is set up, staring at the black plastic bags as they wheel past with an expression like hunger on his face.
Except, no. It’s not hunger, not really. More the opposite of it. The absence of hunger.
When he is five, his mother takes him out for ice-cream.
There is a young man sitting two tables over and when their gazes meet, he grins, all teeth and viciousness. His face is a sun-bleached and bitten-clean skull with holes for eyes.
From within, laughter rings like madness.
There are images all over the world, of a skeletal creature in a black cloak, a black, beaked mask on its skull-face.
Plague has come, the drawings and carvings say. Plague is here.
The sheriff’s son grins as he licks his spoon clean. Waves.
The man – whole and alive, healthy and hale, that was only an after image, burned into retinas and faded in the light - nods back.
Stiles – it’s his name now, the one he chose when he realized that no-one will ever manage the other one, not anymore – stalks Lydia Martin for an entire week in first grade before she snaps.
Spinning on her heel, she digs a delicate, tiny finger into his chest. “Stop,” she snaps, fire-hair flying, eyes burning with hunger, hunger, hunger. Her curls fall perfectly to frame a rounded face, pale skin, dark eyes. Her dress is frilly and pretty, drapes her almost-still-a-toddler frame perfectly.
She looks like a doll. Stiles cocks his head to one side, changes the angle, the fall of light, and glimpses the waif below, the hungry, sunken cheeks, the fever bright eyes of the starving, the craving, the desperate, the junkie whores and bloated children.
She throws her hair over one shoulder, flash of red, vision broken. Not yet.
“But,” he tries, only to be cut off.
“My name,” she tells him, fiercely dangerous, “is Lydia Marie Martin and I am human. So fuck off!”
A close-by kid starts screaming bloody murder because of the bad word and the two are separated by a stern teacher and dragged inside to waste away in the library for the rest of recess.
Stiles huffs and glares at her, because she’s being stupid and did she have to make a scene? It not like she can really change it and –
- “please,” she adds, quietly, head lowered, peeking at him through her lashes. “Please.”
With a sigh, he pats her on the head, relenting. “For a while,” he grants.
She gets a decade.
“Mommy,” he begs, holding onto her hand too tightly, refusing to let go. “Mommy. Not yet.”
Not for a while. Please.
“Baby,” she soothes, then shakes her head, regal as ever, and speaks his real name instead, the True one she hasn’t uttered in almost a decade, preferring to call him by petnames and nicknames instead.
She speaks his Name now, whisper of breath between them and Stiles blinks up at her, surprised, only to find her smiling down at him.
“I love you,” she tells him, a hand on the hair he shaved short in her honour. “I love you. Now let me go.”
For once – for the first and last time in existence – he lets himself be commanded.
He lets her go.
“Lyds?” he asks her, quietly.
They’re on a field trip to the town museum and he’s drawn her away from the ever growing crowd of her fans.
His mother has been dead three weeks and perhaps that is why she let him.
“Lyds, what do I look like? To you, I mean. Not… not Stiles Stilinski, but, you know, the… what do I look like?”
In some stories, death is a skeleton with a scythe. In some he is a little girl, I others an old, wizened man. These are not his stories.
Lydia sighs, too worn for an eight-year-old girl and quickly, delicately, touches a hand to his temple. Lets him look through her eyes.
In front of her stands a boy in a too big hoodie, with a shaved head and dark-ringed eyes. Behind him, his shadow flares to cover the earth.
He is there, the night the Hale Pack burns to ashes on the breeze.
He stands, hidden by the shadows between trees, swaddled in his father’s too big black workout clothes, watching as thirteen wolves and humans– women, men, children – burn to death inside their home become prison.
There are tears on his face as he listens to the screams and knows that there is nothing he can do to stop this.
Still, when the mountain ash barrier finally collapses, he twists the tiniest spark of his will into a crashing beam, a collapsing wall. A single figure leaps from the highest window, landing like a comet, impact pattern in the backyard, fire trailing behind.
The man from the ice-cream parlour snarls at Stiles with a face that is half wolf, half skull, madness and rage coiling behind his gaze in a familiar crescendo that will end in blood.
But not tonight.
Stiles lowers his head in silent apology for what had to happen.
The man – monster – collapses just as the sound of sirens finally cuts through the air.
Across the clearing, a woman sinks into the darkness with a satisfied smirk on her pretty red lips. Stiles marks her. For later. For revenge. For his brother.
“Promise,” he tells the prone form a few feet away and then skips back into the wood. He has school tomorrow.
“Allison Argent,” she says and Stiles blinks and sees her bathed in moonlight and desert skies, a blade in each hand and a trail of dead behind her, murder in her every motion.
He blinks again and she’s just a teenager like him, like Lydia. Just a girl.
Three weeks later he sees her – this her, Allison-her - with a crossbow in hand and when she winks at him, he laughs and laughs.
The first time he meets Derek Hale – after the fire, at least – Stiles has to stop and wait for the after echoes around him to disappear because the man carries so much death around him, inside of him. The ghosts and blood of anyone he has ever lost, has ever killed, will ever kill is sunken into his skin and bones.
And there is so much of it.
Mother, father, brother, sister, enemy and oppressor, abuser and victim, friend and lover and hater.
Derek Hale, after his breaking, is a nexus of death and dying and Stiles wants to strip him bare and lick every single atom of it off his skin.
Peter stands in his hospital room, healed and mad, diseased inside, in his head, his nurse pressed against his front like a shield and his grin a rictus of murder.
“You promised,” he says and his nephew asks, “Promised what?” he because he doesn’t realize he’s not the one being spoken to.
Stiles, unable to respond verbally, shrugs his shoulders a little and does nothing to stop the older man’s escape. Kate Argent has been Marked for six years. Peter will have no trouble finding her.
“I think I love him,” Allison confesses, twirling a bolt idly with deft fingers, staring into the darkness where Scott is fighting through his second full moon.
“I’m happy for you,” Stiles says. She smiles.
“No, seriously. I am. Scotty was getting way too clingy, if you know what I mean. You can totes have him for a little while.”
She laughs. “It’s always just a little while with you,” she tells him, like it’s a secret.
For a while they’re silent. Then, “Do you think Peter is…”
He shrugs. “Who knows? It’s… Peter.”
Stiles finds Derek after a full moon, pushes him into a wall – for once, the tables are turned, for once, he is not the prey – and buries his nose in the other man’s neck.
“You smell of death,” he says, biting down on bared skin. “Just so you know. It’s hot.”
Derek grunts, growls, tries to buck him off and finally goes limp, eyes shining in the early morning twilight. “What are you?”
Snickering, Stiles tells him, “I’m the one who wants to help you get laid. Are you in or not?”
By the time he leaves, Stiles is sure he will smell of sex and blood for the rest of the month.
“I don’t get you,” Derek growls from the nest of blanket he calls a bed.
“You’re not supposed to.”
Lydia’s skin is hot against his where their shoulders press together in the clearing beyond the Hale house. Her curls still fall perfectly, but her eyes burn again and Stiles knows they are all slipping their skins.
It’s why Peter brought them here. To witness.
Stiles takes it as a sign.
Allison stands across the clearing, bow in hand, her father by her side, Scott lingering close by. Derek is still trying to regain his footing off to one side. Stiles reaches for him with that seventh sense, finds nothing there. Not yet. Not tonight.
He is glad.
In between them all, Kate Argent screams as Peter rips into her with tooth and claw and vengeance.
No, not vengeance. Revenge.
He shreds her and it’s so fast that no-one can do anything. Even if they wanted to.
But then the screaming stops and Chris Argent steps forward, intent on avenging his sister. He is stopped by his daughter’s hand on his arm.
“No,” she says, her voice ringing with a thousand battle cries. “It was his right.”
“He killed-,” that’s as far as he gets before a snarling, raging alpha is hurtling toward him. Allison shoves herself forward the same second Stiles barks a name across the night like a crack of thunder, the fist of the first and last god.
That name, it is not ‘Peter’.
It’s a name written in human blood on human skin in lost grimoires gone from the memories of men, side by side with three others.
The werewolf stops dead.
As does the hunter, shocked.
Derek looks at Stiles, eyes glowing, and the confusion that was his constant companion around Stiles for the past few weeks settles into something different. Something surer.
“Peter,” Stiles warns, only to have a mouthful of teeth thrown his way. A growl.
Lydia sighs and hitches up her formal dress, stalking forward. “Drama queen,” she mutters, approaching the feral alpha without a shred of hesitation.
But because Stiles is Stiles, he keeps talking anyway. “Enough death for one night. It’s done.”
A mocking bow is his only answer before Lydia steps between them, humming softly. They have always been the ones most alike, she and Peter, the ones connected closely. Allison is a fierce, wild thing and Stiles is overwhelming, but madness and hunger, famine and disease, they are twins, in a way.
Chris tries to step forward again, but Allison pulls him back. “You die in battle, Daddy,” she tells him in the tones of a little girl she never was. “But not tonight. Not here.”
She meets Stiles’ gaze across the clearing, Derek and Scott both halfway between them, lingering, framing the gory spectacle of Peter’s justice in a rectangle of living bodies.
Allison loves Scott, or cares about him at least, the same way Stiles does Derek.
She wants to keep him, keep her skin. Just a bit longer.
For a little while.
Stiles nods. “Not tonight,” he agrees, heading toward his wolf.
“When do I die?” Derek asks, nose buried in Stiles’s neck, something like knowledge vibrating in his growl.
There is blood caked on his hands, his mouth, his face. Stiles wants to lick it off, to try and identify its owner by taste alone.
Instead he wraps an arm around the older man’s waist, pulls him in close.
“Not for a while,” he answers. “Not yet.”
Somewhere close by, Allison watches her father leave and Lydia, wrapped around Peter, snorts.
Scott hesitates, then slips his hand into his girlfriend’s. She shudders inside her human shell, then settles.
Derek buries bloodied nails in Stiles’ bare forearms.
Tonight, all their skins hold.
For a while.