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And the Cold Pulls You Down

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Stiles unpacks the last of his stuff on a Tuesday and it’s unsatisfyingly anticlimactic. He dumps the box in the corner of the room to take out for recycling later and slowly turns a full circle, eyeing things critically. There are footsteps on the stairs that turn and head down the hallway towards him, and he twists to face the doorway in anticipation. Derek pauses, one hand pressed against the door jamb as he leans into the room, holding out a glass of water.

“For you,” he says and Stiles takes it appreciatively, gulping it down as he wipes his forehead with the back of his arm. “Is that the last of it?”

“For now,” Stiles says with a sigh. “Definitely should have thrown this shit out.”

Derek makes a thoughtful face and Stiles points a finger at him.

“Don’t say ‘I told you so’,” Stiles accuses and Derek blinks at him.

“Wasn’t going to,” Derek says, in what is clearly a lie and Stiles sighs again.

“We should have done this earlier,” he complains. “There was an inch of dust on everything from sitting here for months.”

“Come downstairs and relax,” Derek suggests and Stiles takes another look at the room.

“I really need to organize that desk,” he admits, passing the empty glass back to Derek, who accepts it without complaint.

“There’s a Mythbusters marathon on the TV,” Derek tells him and Stiles makes a pained noise and gives in almost immediately.

“The desk can wait,” he says and turns to find the corner of Derek’s mouth curled up in an almost-smile.

The desk can definitely wait.

*

“Have I told you how much I hate this room?” Stiles directs to Derek’s ass as Derek bends over to pick up an armful of stuffed animals off the ground.

“No,” Derek deadpans, which is fair enough because Stiles thinks he’s told Derek his feelings about it every day since they moved in.

“They have to disclose deaths in a house before they sell it, right?”

“Stiles, no one died in this house. It was built two years ago.” Derek is slightly less credible when arguing with a large plush rabbit tucked under one arm, but Stiles will allow it.

“Yeah, but if the house is only two years old, why move? This place is perfect.”

Derek sets the toys inside the crib and turns back towards Stiles.

“People move, Stiles,” he says. “Some people get new jobs and move away. Some people find out they’re accidentally pregnant two months into their marriage and decide they need a bigger house.”

Stiles rubs a palm over his rounded stomach and feels his face heat.

“Our situation wasn’t ideal,” Stiles admits and Derek interrupts.

“This isn’t about our situation,” he tells Stiles softly, taking a step closer to press a comforting hand against him. “I’m just saying that people move and it’s not always nefarious.”

Stiles can feel but what if it is? burning at the back of his throat, but he swallows it down.

“Okay,” he says quietly instead and Derek nods, taking Stiles’ face between his hands.

“Okay,” Derek repeats, and leans down for a kiss.

*

Stiles’ keys go missing, but he knows he left them on the kitchen counter because he’d set them next to Derek’s wallet, knowing that when they left the house, Derek would remember his wallet and subsequently Stiles’ keys. Stiles has a whole system to combat the baby brain he well and truly has.

“Have you seen my keys?” he calls out, listening to the rustle of Derek pulling on his winter coat.

“Did you put them in the bowl?”

Stiles winces, because Derek may or may not remind him daily to put them in the designated keybowl by the front door.

“No?” he answers cautiously, secretly enjoying Derek’s unamused expression when he makes his way into the kitchen.

“Where did you leave them?”

“Right here,” Stiles says, pointing to the spot he knows he saw them last.

“Have you left the house since then?”

“No? Taking the trash out doesn’t count.”

“You went out the back door?” Derek asks and Stiles nods, watching Derek head across the room to where said back door is.

He lets in a blast of cold air when he pulls it open, and Stiles tucks his hands into his armpits, wanting to complain but knowing it won’t help the situation. It’s still early and barely light out, but Derek disappears into the shadows, his heavy footsteps trailing down the porch steps.

Knowing he should be productive so they’re not late leaving the house, Stiles goes to put on his boots. They’re temporary velcro ones, two sizes larger than everything else he owns because 1) he can’t bend down and tie laces anymore, and 2) his ankles are the size of small planets now.

He’s in the middle of worrying that he might not be able to get up from the step he’d sat on to pull them on when Derek returns.

“Any luck?” he asks, holding his hands out and letting Derek tug him to his feet.

“No,” Derek grunts. “We’ll find them when we get back.”

He supposes it’s not really something to worry about. They’re far enough out that no one will stumble across them if they’re still outside anyway.

“Sorry,” Stiles says out of habit and Derek momentarily looks more fond than exasperated.

“Get your coat on,” Derek tells him. “I need my wallet.”

Stiles does as he’s told, wrapping an additional scarf around his neck to complete the bundled-up look, and when Derek returns, he’s back to looking annoyed.

He holds his hand up, dangling Stiles’ keys between his thumb and forefinger.

“Where the hell did you find those?” Stiles asks, eyebrows raised.

“Next to my wallet.”

Stiles blinks and frowns.

“But we both saw they weren’t there.”

“I think you missed them the first time,” Derek grunts. “C’mon we need to leave.”

It cuts off Stiles’ argument that, no, he didn’t miss the keys sitting there in plain sight, but Derek is right. They’re late and there are bigger issues to worry about.

*

Derek is naturally quiet, which means when the front door slams shut as Stiles is pouring himself a glass of orange juice, he drops the carton and sends juice sloshing in every direction across the tacky linoleum flooring they plan to rip out and replace at some point .

“Fuck, Derek!” he yells. “A little warning would have been nice.”

His socks are wet and his bare legs are sticky from the knees down, but the fact that Derek doesn’t head into the kitchen to at least apologize makes him suspicious. His mind immediately jumps to the worst — imagining there’s another creature back in town and Derek is upstairs trying to hold his guts in in their bathroom. It’s enough to shove him into motion and he heaves his way through pulling off his socks so he doesn’t track the mess through the rest of the house, and then he quickly pads his way down the hallway.

Derek’s boots aren’t by the door, nor his jacket.

“Derek?” Stiles calls out again, beginning to climb the stairs, but there’s still no answer. “Derek, are you up here?”

There’s no one in their bedroom and no blood stains anywhere to be seen.

“Derek, what the hell happened?” he asks, slowly making his way from room to room, double checking the nursery solely because it gives him the heebie jeebies. He’s just about to open the closet door — despite his brain screaming at him that this is how people die in horror movies — when there’s a crack from the hallway, more specifically, the guest bathroom.

“Derek?” he tries again, but there’s nothing.

He carefully nudges the bathroom door open and flips on the light, finding a mess of broken glass across the sink and floor. The mirror has been smashed, a hole in the middle as though someone has put their fist into it, with cracks spiralling outwards.

“Derek?” he calls, starting to panic because he doesn’t know what the hell is in their house, but there’s something.

“Stiles?” a voice answers from downstairs and Stiles doesn’t hesitate before quickly walking away, thudding halfway down the stairs before he sees Derek in the hallway, a dusting of snow still on his coat.

“Were you in here the whole time?” Stiles asks, his breathing labored in distress, but Derek shakes his head and reaches for him.

“Just got back,” he says. “You were calling my name.”

Fuck,” Stiles says with feeling, letting Derek tug him fully into his arms, despite their precarious position on the stairs.

“The front door slammed,” Stiles explains. “I spilled juice everywhere and then the mirror up here broke.”

He feels it the moment Derek shifts into high alert, his whole body tensing as he sniffs and turns his head to listen to the sounds of the house.

“There’s no one here,” Derek confirms, but he lets go of Stiles and heads the rest of the way upstairs anyway.

From the top of the stairs, Stiles watches Derek check each room, the claws of one hand extended as though he might need to use them. When Derek passes him to check downstairs, Stiles follows and then lingers in the living room with his back to the wall.

“Still no one here,” Derek tells him after a few moments, returning to fold Stiles into a hug, which Stiles gladly accepts with his heart still thundering in his chest. “Go sit down; I’ll clean up.”

Stiles tries to argue, saying that he can help but Derek holds him at an arm’s length and stares at him blankly.

“Going to get on your hands and knees to help?” he asks and Stiles glances down at his stomach, knowing full well that the size of it won’t let him do anything.

“Fine,” Stiles relents. “But for the record, I was at least going to offer.”

“Okay,” Derek panders, dropping a kiss to the side of Stiles’ head, knowing full well how much it annoys him, but it draws a laugh from Stiles as he attempts to shove Derek away.

“Get outta here,” Stiles complains and Derek does just that, leaving him to gingerly lower himself onto the couch.

He rubs his hands over his face, willing his pulse to slow — there’s no one in the house and it must have just been normal house noises. The mirror faces the window, so maybe sunlight exposure finally cracked it. But even thinking it, Stiles’ stomach rolls uneasily and he slouches backward and tries not to think at all.

*

Stiles’ sex drive disappears seemingly overnight. He probably wouldn’t have noticed any other time, but while pregnant, it’s been almost unmanageable. Derek’s been loving it because it means he gets to knot Stiles almost every other day, but even then he’s had to tap out a few times and let Stiles deal with it alone. Stiles had actually spoken to his doctor about it after the first few months of it, slightly worried if there was such thing as too much sex. She’d reassured him everything was fine, Derek had laughed at him, and they’d continued fucking in every room like they were back in the first few weeks of their relationship.

But now, as Derek kisses his way down his stomach, clearly gearing up for the best Sunday morning blowjob Stiles has had in a long time, his body doesn’t react at all. He’s not wet between the thighs, nor does his cock twitch in the slightest.

Derek makes a valiant effort to tempt him, but eventually, Stiles leans up on one elbow and glares down at his traitorous body. He can’t even see his dick, the curve of his stomach blocking his view, but he knows it’s there, not doing what it’s suppose to.

“Systems are offline,” Stiles grunts, flopping backwards into the pillows. “But feel free to do your thing.”

Your thing ends up being Derek leaning over him, sucking marks into Stiles’ soft skin while he jerks himself off, coming messily over Stiles’ stomach.

“That was really hot,” Stiles complains, still soft and unresponsive, but more than happy to accept the kisses Derek presses to his jaw up to his mouth.

“I’m here whenever you need it,” Derek says, forcing another frustrated sigh out of Stiles.

“Why do you have to be so good to me?” Stiles complains and Derek kisses him silent.

*

It feels like someone is watching him. He can’t put a finger on where it’s coming from, but he just doesn’t feel comfortable with his back to the door as he sets down a few decorations on top of the dresser in the nursery.

He turns, half expecting Derek to be lingering in the hallway, but there’s nothing and no one.

“Derek?” he calls out, not even sure if he’s in the house. Last he saw, Derek was out the front shoveling snow from the driveway.

Unsurprisingly, there’s no answer. But he can’t shake the feeling. He heads across the room to the closet, heart beginning to race as he pulls the door open, but there’s nothing inside, only stacks of diaper boxes from his baby shower and a handful of outfits on hangers. Nothing out of the ordinary.

He gingerly shuts the door, his body filling with the overwhelming feeling that he should leave the room immediately. He’s not about to argue. He knows better than to ignore gut instincts.

He barely refrains from slamming the door behind him, but he doesn’t look back as he heads downstairs, the cold dread slowly receding the further away from the nursery he gets. He can’t keep his hands from trembling and he leans against the kitchen counter to catch his breath.

From outside, he can hear the shovel against the driveway as Derek clears snow and it helps ground him. Beneath the thin skin of his stomach, his baby shifts as though also feeling uncomfortable, needing to find a new position to curl up in. Stiles rubs a palm over the bump makes a noise of comfort as though it’ll help.

He doesn’t know what’s going on with the house, but there’s definitely something weird and something he doesn’t want to get involved in, not when he’s a month away from his due date. Clearly, Beacon Hills can’t chill for more than two seconds.

He sighs and pours himself a glass of water from the jug in the fridge, the coldness of it making his teeth ache in a way that actually makes him feel a little better. He shuts his eyes and takes a calming breath. Even if it is something in the house, it won’t be anything they can’t handle. Things will be okay.

The sound of the front door opening startles him from his thoughts and his eyes spring open, his fingers loosening almost enough to drop his glass. He sets it aside and moves to the doorway.

From where he stands, he can see Derek halfway through the door, leaning out solely to wave at someone. As much as Derek will never admit it, he’s managed to unknowingly befriend two of their neighbors already.

“Is that Mrs. Janset?” Stiles asks, taking a step closer. “Tell her I’ll bring back her casserole dish soon.”

Derek physically recoils at the sound of Stiles’ voice, his head slamming on the side of the door as he turns, losing his footing in the same moment and sending him sprawling backwards down the front step.

“What the fuck,” Stiles yelps, rushing forward to make sure Derek’s okay, but other than looking slightly pale, he appears okay.

He offers Derek a hand up, which he accepts, brushing snow off the bottom of his coat as he steps through the door and shuts it behind him.

“What the fuck was that?” Stiles asks, watching as Derek doesn’t even bother taking off his boots before stomping his way upstairs. “Derek?”

“Were you just upstairs?” Derek asks, heading into the nursery and immediately pulling the closet door open.

“A few minutes ago,” Stiles admits. “But I went to the kitchen for a drink.”

Derek checks beneath the crib and then circles around, heading into the next room while Stiles watches on in confusion.

“Derek, what are you looking for?”

“You were just upstairs,” Derek tells him, which doesn’t entirely make sense. “I was waving at you.”

“Waving at me? I watched you from the kitchen,” he points out.

Something heavy settles in Stiles’ stomach.

“Is there someone in the house?” Stiles asks in disbelief that it’s happening again already.

“I can’t hear anyone,” Derek says, but that doesn’t stop him from checking the rest of the rooms.

Eventually, he returns to Stiles on the landing, one hand reaching up to his head belatedly to press where he’d knocked it against the door.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asks, but Derek just blinks and nods.

“Fine,” he admits, but doesn’t look it.

“Now we’re even,” Stiles tells him. “I’ve been hearing things and now you’re seeing things. Maybe we’re a good match after all.”

Derek lets out a sigh, throwing an uneasy look towards the nursery, and Stiles reaches out and tugs at his arm.

“Let’s go downstairs,” he suggests and Derek doesn’t fight it.

Derek goes first, leaving Stiles to follow. He can’t help but throw a look towards the open doorway of the nursery one last time, but there’s nothing there. No evidence of anything.

*

Once a month, Derek takes a trip five hours north for a small pack gathering. It’s really just an excuse for three different West Coast packs to meet up, share a potluck dinner, and pass along news, like the birth of twins in the Verow pack last month. It’s casual and fun, but Stiles hasn’t been in two months now. His bladder, combined with the terrible road surfaces, hadn’t let him go more than fifteen minutes without having to pee. Derek had been more than understanding, but Stiles had been pissed off enough for both of them.

So now, Stiles loads the car up with store bought cookies — because fuck if either of them can bake — kisses Derek in the driveway, and stands at the front door and waves him off. Derek honks on his way out because he’s ridiculous and Stiles heads back into the house where it’s warmer.

There’s the faint rumble of the washing machine downstairs in the basement from where Derek had put it on earlier that morning, but other than that, it’s quiet in the house. He switches on the TV as he passes through the living room, solely to have something to listen to and to help fill the silence.

He makes himself a cup of coffee because Derek isn’t there to judge him, and then sprawls on the couch. He makes it ten minutes into an episode of Catfish before he gives in to the urge to nap. He’s been napping more than ever the further into the pregnancy he gets, which means there’s already a blanket draped over the back of the couch. He drags it over himself as he tucks his feet up and it’s only a matter of minutes before he falls asleep.

**

He dreams that he’s looking down at himself on the couch, which is slightly unnerving. Even more so when he reaches a hand out towards himself and his fingers are charred and decomposing, the skin clinging to the bones like a last resort. There’s a dark mist hovering around him, seeming to settle over his sleeping form the closer the hand gets.

Panicking, Stiles tries to stop it from getting closer, but there’s nothing he can do. It feels as though he’s swimming through molasses and he can’t open his mouth to yell. Above the blanket sprawled over him, the hand rests on the curve of his stomach, the fingers curling in, seeming to grip with a bruising force.

Stiles is frozen in silence, unable to do anything but watch as the hand presses down harder, disappearing into his sleeping form, and he can almost feel it in his own body. It’s cold and unwavering and fills him with a dread he’s never felt before. It’s worse than even the darkness of the Nemeton.

And in the next moment, he’s startling awake, his body shooting upright, hands jerking down to his stomach. But everything is as it should be with the baby gently shifting beneath his palms, once more pressing awkwardly on his bladder. He’s breathing hard but unharmed as he realizes it was just a dream.

The clock behind the TV says he’s been asleep for two hours and downstairs, the washer has gone silent, the cycle complete and ready for drying.

He takes a moment to catch his breath before slowly climbing to his feet and wandering to the bathroom to pee. Looking at himself in the mirror, he half expects to catch a glimpse of the decaying body, but there’s nothing different about his appearance, only slight paleness that comes with nightmares.

He splashes his face with water and pulls himself together enough to head to the basement to switch the washing to the dryer. There’s not much in there — just a handful of towels and some socks and underwear — which means it takes minimal effort. He sets the timer and slowly climbs the stairs back up, stopping at the top to glance backwards, hand on the switch to turn out the lights.

In the corner of the basement is a dark shadow, one that looks eerily like the one from his dream. He stumbles, his palm inadvertently hitting the light switch, plunging the room into darkness. Just as quickly, he switches it back on, needing to keep an eye on the shadow, but when the lights flicker to life, it’s gone. A chill runs through him and he doesn’t dare turn his back to the room as he leaves, shutting the door without turning off the light.

His hands shake as he grabs his phone off the coffee table and he tries to keep his voice as even as possible.

“Hey Dad,” he says when he picks up after two rings, “Want to get out and grab lunch?”

*

“Do you believe in ghosts?” Stiles asks Derek one night after he’s settled into bed, listening to the sound of Derek brushing his teeth in the bathroom.

“Ghosts?” Derek asks, voice muffled by toothbrush and paste as he stands in the doorway to stare at Stiles.

Stiles nods and Derek disappears for a moment, spitting into the sink and rinsing his mouth before returning to slip into bed beside him.

“You do?” Derek asks and Stiles shrugs.

“I mean, werewolves are real, right? Why draw the line at ghosts?”

Derek raises his brows in disbelief but doesn’t try to counter Stiles’ argument.

“Why are you asking now?”

Stiles shrugs, aiming for nonchalance as he says, “What would you say if I said I thought this place was haunted?”

“Haunted,” Derek repeats and Stiles nods.

“Yeah, like things moving, spooky shadows, that kind of stuff.”

Derek lets out a breath and Stiles knows he isn’t going to like what’s about to come out of Derek’s mouth.

“You remember how paranoid Malia was with her first pregnancy?”

Stiles groans in annoyance and tips his head back.

“Are you seriously going to blame this on my pregnancy? I’ve been seeing things, Derek! Pregnancy doesn’t cause visions.”

“No, but it can make you think you’ve seen things.”

“There’s a goddamn demon in the basement,” Stiles blurts out, throwing his hands up, and Derek glances at him as though he’s trying his best to be patient.

“I thought it was the nursery you didn’t like,” Derek says bluntly and Stiles really doesn’t appreciate the tone.

He lets his face go coldly blank and he knows Derek notices in the instant his expression softens and turns apologetic.

“Stiles,” Derek says gently. “It’s not that I don’t believe you.”

“It’s just that you don’t believe me,” Stiles mocks.

“What do you want to do about it?” Derek asks. “Move? Have a seance?”

Strangely enough, Derek sounds entirely serious when he asks and Stiles rubs his face with his hands.

“I don’t know,” he says quietly. “Maybe we can get Deaton to check it out?”

“Okay,” Derek agrees. “We’ll call him in the morning.”

It’s actually a better outcome than Stiles was expecting, though he supposes that’s part of why he married Derek in the first place. He leans over, resting one hand on Derek’s chest as he presses a soft kiss to Derek’s mouth. Derek kisses him twice quickly in return, the way he does when thinks he’s fucked up and Stiles touches his face softly to wordlessly say that he hasn’t.

“Thank you,” he murmurs and lets Derek fold him down under the covers.

*

“Deaton’s on vacation?” Stiles parrots, glancing across at Derek, who’s stirring scrambled eggs around a pan on the stove. “For two weeks?”

“He left an emergency number if you’d like it,” the woman — who must be Deaton’s new receptionist — says on the phone.

Stiles pinches the bridge of his nose and knows he has to be rational. He can’t call Deaton back from the first vacation he’s had in who knows how long solely for a possible ghost, which may or may not be a figment of his own imagination.

“No,” Stiles says gently. “That’s okay. I’ll call back in a few weeks. Thank you.”

“Have a great day,” she tells him as the call ends and Stiles sets his phone down on the table and lowers his forehead to the cool wood surface.

“Why now?” Stiles asks the room.

After a few moments of sulking in silence, Derek nudges him with a plate full of food, which he sets in front of Stiles once he’s lifted his head.

“Thanks,” Stiles mutters and Derek sits beside him with his own breakfast.

He pushes his homefries around his plate and sighs dejectedly. “What do we do now?”

“He’ll be back soon,” Derek points out, which is true. Two weeks isn’t that long. He’s suffered through worse.

“We’ll call him as soon as he returns?” Stiles asks and Derek nods solemnly.

“We won’t give him time to unpack.”

Stiles musters up the strength to smile and Derek nudges the ketchup bottle towards him, knowing he won’t start eating until he’s covered everything in it.

“Okay,” Stiles agrees and picks up the bottle.

*

Stiles blinks awake.

The clock on the nightstand says it’s just past two in the morning, but he doesn’t have the urge to pee and the baby is still, most likely sleeping, so he’s not sure what woke him. Beside him, Derek is breathing evenly, his body curled away from Stiles, one arm hanging over the edge of the bed. Stiles tends to gravitate towards the center of the mattress when he sleeps, so he does his best to scoot over a few inches to return the space, not that Derek will ever complain.

Stiles adjusts the comforter around himself and stares at the ceiling. He hates sleeping on his back, but it’s the only position his body will let him sleep in these days. He turns his head to the side, willing exhaustion to come back up and tug him under, and that’s when he sees it: the figure standing in the shadowed corner of the room.

His heart thunders in his chest as two glowing red eyes stare him down, but they’re not at all like Derek’s alpha eyes. These are cold eyes, full of all the bad things in the world; and that feeling manifests in the room, settling on Stiles’ chest like a lead weight, making it difficult to breathe.

Derek,” Stiles hisses quietly, his voice sounding cut-off, as though he has a hand around his throat.

Derek doesn’t stir and the figure takes two steps closer. The temperature in the room seems to drop and Stiles feels his body start to shiver, though he’s not sure if it’s the cold or fear that causes it.

“Derek,” he says again, louder this time, and Derek makes a soft noise, face buried in his pillow as though the last thing he wants to do is wake up.

Stiles blinks and the figure appears next to the bed, so close Stiles could reach out and touch it if he wanted to. But he doesn’t want to; he doesn’t have a deathwish.

Whatever it is raises one hand — skeletal-like just like in his dream before — and presses one bony finger to where its mouth should be, telling him to be quiet. But Stiles has never been much good at keeping his mouth shut.

“Derek!” he yelps and he feels Derek come awake at the same moment the figure descends upon him, rage clear upon its face as ice fills his veins.

It’s a sensation unlike anything he’s felt before, and it’s so cold that it feels like burning. It presses in and in and in, settling in his chest like heartburn, the pain so bad it takes his breath away.

“Stiles?” Derek asks, one hand touching his face, the other clutching his hand where he’s gripping the comforter in a vice-like hold.

The instant Derek touches him, the pain disappears, the coldness slipping away like he’s stepped into a warm shower, leaving his body tingling at the change.

“Stiles?” Derek repeats. “Are you okay?”

Stiles knows he has to try to regulate his breathing, but it’s too hard. He lets Derek roll him over onto his side to face him, and focuses his attention on Derek instead. He knows how to guide himself through a panic attack, but Derek has always been better at it. He rubs Stiles’ back and begins counting in a soothing voice.

Stiles concentrates on the numbers, his body slowly allowing his breaths to fall in time with them, and he shuts his eyes and feels Derek there, all around him, pulling him back to where he belongs.

When he finally can, Stiles shuffles closer to Derek, tucking his face into his throat and carefully curling an arm around his chest.

“Okay?” Derek asks quietly and Stiles nods, inadvertently wiping his runny nose on the collar of Derek’s t-shirt.

“There was something in here,” Stiles tells him quietly and Derek’s hand hesitates where it’s rubbing circles against his back.

“Stiles,” he says, voice serious and Stiles’ breath hiccups. He needs Derek to understand that he’s telling the truth.

“I swear, Derek,” he replies. “It came for me.”

Derek sighs softly, his breath tickling against Stiles’ neck.

“Stiles, you should see the doctor,” he says, and he apparently expects Stiles to protest as he continues with, “not just about the feelings you’ve had. Anxiety isn’t good for the baby.”

Guilt slowly washes over Stiles and he knows there’s nothing he can do to stop his anxiety from looming, but it doesn’t make Derek’s words any less true. He reaches down to his stomach with one hand and feels Derek’s own settle on top.

“Just a checkup,” Derek insists and Stiles curls towards him, his eyes beginning to sting as his emotions get the better of him.

“I’ll call in the morning,” Stiles says in a small voice, and Derek holds him tighter.

*

“It’s a normal mix of hormones,” his doctor tells him with a comforting smile. “Any omega may or may not experience paranoia, but with your history of anxiety, it may be more prevalent. Call the office if you find your panic attacks increasing in frequency or worsening, but you and the baby are otherwise healthy.”

Stiles rubs a hand over his stomach, recently cleaned of ultrasound goo, but doesn’t feel reassured, which apparently shows because the doctor smiles again and rests a gentle palm on Stiles’ shoulder.

“The first one is always the hardest,” she tells him with a smile that says she’s letting him in on a little secret, and he’s sure she doesn’t mean it to be condescending, but that’s how it feels.

“I’ll give you a call if it gets worse,” he tells her to keep from saying anything else and she pats his arm and helps him off the examination table.

“Best of luck with the house,” she says to his retreating back and he offers a wave, if only to not seem like an asshole.

Everyone knows about their house — it’s hard living in a big town that pretends it’s a small town — and the fact that they’re not making as much progress on the renovations as they’d like is beginning to make him resent it all. His doctor would probably say that’s also the hormones, and maybe she’d be right about that one, but he can feel inside him that there’s something not right about it. There’s something in the house with them.

The receptionist wishes him well as he passes through and he’s glad for the silence when the door swings shut behind him.

He cups a hand under his stomach and sighs as he sees Derek pulling into the parking lot to pick him up.

“Everything okay?” Derek asks as Stiles pulls on his seatbelt, and Stiles nods and passes over the new ultrasound picture the doctor gave him.

Derek smiles down at it and then glances over at Stiles.

“She’s getting bigger,” he says, and Stiles nods. “I picked up dinner,” Derek continues, gesturing to the backseat where there’s a grease-stained bag of KFC.

Normally, disgusting, unhealthy food would make Stiles’ heart soar in happiness, but now it just feels as though he’s missed the punchline to a joke, and he sits feeling dissatisfied.

“Looks good,” he lies and Derek leans over to kiss him before shifting the car into drive and pulling out of the parking space.

“Thank you,” Derek says, and Stiles knows he means for going to the doctor, but Stiles can’t help but feel as though he’s being thanked for giving in.

Something deep inside him seems to shift and grin in contentment.

*

Stiles spends a quiet afternoon under the shade of their largest oak in the backyard on an abnormally warm day. He gives up the pretense of reading only half an hour in, and takes to watching Derek where he’s shirtless and clearing out their gutters. He’s partly filthy, mostly sweaty, and entirely attractive in a way that still makes Stiles’ stomach flip.

“Hey,” Stiles calls out, settling his book across his stomach as Derek climbs down the ladder with another full bucket of leaves and who knows what else. “Does your husband know you’re out here putting on a show for the neighbors?”

Derek sets the bucket aside while he wipes his forehead with the back of his arm.

“I don’t know,” Derek says. “Does he?”

He strolls over, feigning indifference, which makes Stiles’ heart stumble, until he’s able to tower over Stiles, offering more shade with the breadth of his body. Stiles stares up at him, trying to pretend his heart isn’t beating a dozen times a second, but the corner of Derek’s mouth curves up as though he already knows.

“Get down here,” Stiles tells him, mostly because there’s no way he’s getting to his feet without at least a hand.

Derek doesn’t argue; he sits on the edge of Stiles’ sun chair and leans towards him, letting Stiles draw him in for a kiss. It’s crunchy with dirt and sweat and not at all as sexy as Stiles had been hoping.

He pulls back and smacks his lips, pulling a face as Derek’s amusement bleeds through.

“No more kisses until you’ve showered,” Stiles tells him and Derek draws away.

“Okay,” he agrees, holding out one hand, “let's go shower.”

Stiles tips his head back and groans in frustration at the sky. His body is still entirely unresponsive sexually and it's like there's a disconnect between his brain and body. He knows Derek is hot and wants to bang him like a screen door in a tornado, but his body isn't getting the memo.

“Sorry,” he says, knowing Derek will understand — and he does.

He leans down and kisses Stiles again, something soft and chaste, not meant to frustrate Stiles any further.

“We'll make up for lost time later,” he promises and Stiles sighs.

“You’re the best,” Stiles tells him and Derek makes a noise of agreement before turning away and heading back to resume his task.

Stiles sits for a long minute, staring quietly at him, wondering what he did to deserve someone like Derek, before the warmth of the sun eventually gets the better of him and lulls him into a light sleep.

**

In his dream, everything in the back garden is dead. The rose bushes have dried out, the grass crunches underfoot, and the heavy branches of the trees sag down to the ground, threatening to snap in the lightest of breezes. Overhead, there’s a storm brewing, the clouds crowding closer, darkening until everything around is a shade of gray. Stiles can feel the first drops of rain on his skin.

He stands in the middle of the yard and stares at the figure by the backdoor. It’s not Derek.

The figure takes a step closer to him and instead of the icy terror he’d felt before, a wave of familiarity hits him. He knows the woman before him.

“Hello, Stiles,” she says, hair twitching in the swirling storm winds like Medusa’s snakes.

This is the figure from the house.

“What do you want?” he asks and she smiles, her teeth razor-sharp in the shadows of her mouth.

“I want you to let me in, Stiles.”

“No,” he says immediately, a gut reaction, and she huffs out a laugh.

“I haven’t told you what my deal is yet. Don’t you want to know what I have to offer?”

“No,” he repeats with more force and she tilts her head and smiles again.

“You don’t really get a choice,” she tells him and fear slowly bleeds back into Stiles’ body.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m already here,” a voice says beside his ear, forcing Stiles to flinch away, though there’s nothing there. The woman in front of him smiles softly and asks, “Don’t you want to know what you can do to protect your family?”

Stiles presses his hands to his stomach, a mix of horror and anger filling him.

“What do you want?” he asks again though he’s seen enough episodes of Supernatural to know he shouldn’t bargain with a demon.

“I want this town,” she tells him. “I want to watch it rot and fester and dissolve into nothing.”

“I don’t get to decide what happens to this town,” Stiles says and the woman reaches out to set a hand on his shoulder, her fingers cold and bony like the skeletal hands from his dreams.

“But you have before,” she reminds him, hand gripping him firmly. “You saved this town when it should have burned to the ground. You’re one of its protectors.”

“You can kill me, but you’ll never get this place,” he warns her and when he inhales, he smells old blood on her breath.

“I won’t kill you,” she says. “Not yet.”

It’s ominous in a way that shakes Stiles to his core and when she lets go of his shoulder, it seems to unground him and he feels himself floating backwards, tipping away from her until she disappears from view. It’s worse that he knows she’s there, but can’t see her and when he thinks he’s about to hit the ground, he wakes, the sun blinding him until his eyes adjust.

He can’t see her, but he knows she’s there.

*

He’s on edge for a week, waiting for something, anything to happen, but things are suspiciously quiet. Even the house seems to settle around him. The good news is that Derek appears happier, though probably because Stiles doesn’t talk about any of his weird episodes.

He takes to curling around Stiles for a few extra minutes each morning before kissing Stiles’ jaw and getting up to start his day. He even brings Stiles breakfast in bed twice in a row, letting him lounge among the sheets while shovelling oatmeal into his mouth. Stiles could really get used to it.

But on the morning of the eighth day, Stiles drags himself out of bed to pee when the sun has just begun to rise, and when he glances in the mirror above the sink after he flushes, it’s not his reflection. It’s a woman with eyes that are almost entirely pupil and she sneers at him, her expression barely recognizable as human.

He startles away, not bothering to wash his hands as he flees the bathroom, back to the safety of Derek in the warm cocoon of sheets on their bed. Derek grunts when Stiles accidentally elbows him in the side and then blinks and stares down at him.

“Do I look normal?” Stiles asks, and he sees the exact moment Derek’s expression shutters, his body tensing against Stiles’ own as he grows more alert, back to the person he was a week prior.

“What happened?” he asks, leaning up on one elbow and carefully clutching Stiles’ arm.

“There was a woman,” he says, tucking himself closer to Derek’s body.

“In the bathroom?”

“It was my reflection,” Stiles admits, despite how crazy it sounds. “It was a woman.”

“The ghost from before?”

“Yes,” Stiles tells him before pressing his face into Derek’s shirt, not wanting to talk about it anymore. He wants to go back to sleep and forget anything happened.

“Want me to check the bathroom?” Derek asks after a beat and Stiles sighs.

“No,” he says, mostly because he knows the problem isn’t with the bathroom; it’s with him.

Instead, he curls an arm around Derek’s side and listens to the even beating of his heart. If Derek’s not worried, he shouldn’t be either.

Eventually it lulls him to sleep.

*

The next time Stiles heads into the bathroom, there’s newspaper taped over the mirror. He knows Derek means well, but sticking their heads in the sand won’t do a goddamn thing to stop whatever is inside Stiles. Though, he’s not sure what will.

*

“Derek!” Stiles yelps, dropping his bowl as he hurries to pull himself onto the nearest chair, standing up with his hands gripping the solid back of it just to be sure he won’t fall. “Derek!”

There’s a snake in the kitchen, its body fat like it’s just eaten, its tongue poking out to survey the area. It stretches from the sink to near the back door, probably almost five feet long, and Stiles has no idea how he didn’t see it when he was grabbing milk from the fridge. He would have had to have stepped over it.

“Derek!”

The snake reacts to Stiles’ voice, its head twitching towards him, the first foot and a half of its body raising up like a cobra as it watches him steadily. Stiles doesn’t know what kind of snake it is, but he damn well knows it’s not a Californian native. It looks like something that belongs in the deepest circle of hell, or better yet, a zoo.

He doesn’t know if he’s in striking distance, but he isn’t about to find out. He climbs onto the table, putting another few feet between it and himself while he waits, because apparently Derek doesn’t think it’s important that Stiles is screeching at the top of his lungs.

“Derek! What the fuck?”

He can finally hear Derek’s footsteps on the stairs, thudding down quickly before he makes his way through the hallway to where Stiles is in the kitchen.

“Stop, stop!” Stiles warns, throwing out a hand, because Derek is only a foot or so away from the snake, which turns and focuses on Derek instead.

“What are you doing?” Derek asks, staring with disbelief clear on his face.

“Get away from it!” Stiles warns, pointing to where the snake is now hissing, its jaw opening wide, showing off deadly-looking fangs.

“Get away from what?” Derek asks, moving to grab Stiles’ arm as though worried he’ll slip off the table.

Though Stiles is slightly worried about falling, he’s more concerned about the goddamn snake in their goddamn kitchen.

“There’s a snake, Derek,” he cries, gesturing widely at the length of it. “We need to call animal control or the cops or something. How are we going to get it outside?”

“Stiles,” Derek says firmly, briefly glancing around the kitchen, “there’s no snake.”

“What do you mean there’s no snake?” Stiles hisses. “It’s right goddamn there!”

But when he gestures again at the floor, there’s nothing there but bits of Stiles’ broken bowl and the sad scattering of Cheerios and milk. Stiles blinks and then blinks again.

“What?” he says softly, shifting his weight so he can peer over the edge of the table, but there’s still nothing. It’s not just Derek trying to trick him. “I saw it.”

Derek’s hand squeezes his arm and Stiles turns to look at him, panic welling up in his chest. His life is spiralling out of control and there’s nothing he can do.

“I swear, Derek,” he says, “I swear I saw it. It was right there.”

Inside him, something curls up low in his stomach, dark, humiliating satisfaction pouring from it. He can’t stop it when the first frustrated tears fall. It feels like he’s falling apart and judging by Derek’s expression, he doesn’t know what to believe.

“When did you stop believing me?” Stiles asks, face crumpling in sadness and overwhelming hopelessness.

“C’mon, Stiles,” Derek tells him softly, guiding Stiles to the edge of the table and then down onto his own feet. From there, he takes Stiles upstairs as though he’s an invalid, treating him like he half expects him to break if he speaks too loudly or makes Stiles walk too fast.

He tucks Stiles into their bed, gently scratching his nails through the hair at the nape of Stiles’ neck as Stiles cries and holds his stomach. He knows the second Derek starts draining his pain because it hits him like his anti-anxiety medication used to. It’s like a muscle relaxant slowly turning his limbs to lead, letting him sink further into the bed, his body and emotions becoming numb.

He can feel the woman inside him laughing cruelly and the worst part is that he has to bite his tongue to keep it from bubbling out of his own mouth.

I can make this end, she tells him and Stiles curls closer to Derek.

“Don’t leave me alone,” Stiles says and Derek kisses his shoulder and doesn’t reply.

*

On Thursday, there’s blood dripping from the walls in the nursery. He doesn’t even realize what it is until after it’s all over his hands and smeared down the front of his shirt. It looks obscene on the bump of his stomach and he pulls his shirt off, beginning to panic as he quickly makes his way to the bathroom.

He scrubs at his hands, but the stains stubbornly refuse to leave his knuckles and it’s all caught under his nails.

“Stiles?” Derek asks from down the hallway, probably drawn by the sudden increased speed of his heart, but for once Stiles doesn’t want him there.

He doesn’t want to be told it’s all in his head again. He just wants to be left alone to clean his hands.

“Stiles,” Derek says softly, standing in the doorway.

“It’s fine,” Stiles tells him, adding extra soap to his hands, lathering it up more.

“What happened?”

“Nothing,” Stiles says, making his irritation clear.

“Where’s your shirt?”

“I got hot,” he lies, picking up the fingernail brush, scratching at his skin with it, but nothing seems to get any cleaner.

Derek lingers for a moment before making a thoughtful noise and turning to leave. Stiles adds yet more soap, the water still running pink, as though he isn’t making progress at all. He scrubs and scrubs, his hands growing sore, but the blood won’t come off and more seems to appear out of nowhere, dripping down along his palms.

“Stiles,” Derek says, returning a few minutes later. He’s holding Stiles’ shirt in one hand and it looks clean, not stained with blood. “What are you doing?”

“I’m washing my hands,” Stiles snaps as though it’s not obvious and Derek steps into the bathroom, moving as though to stop him.

“Stiles,” he says, “Look.”

He points at Stiles’ hands and when Stiles looks down, there’s no blood anywhere in sight, and not even any stains. But from where he’s been scrubbing, his fingers are rubbed raw, some of the skin from his knuckles scratched entirely off. Stiles drops the nail brush and rinses the remaining soap off, the cuts stinging enough to ground him, and Derek moves closer.

“Let’s patch you up,” he says as though Stiles isn’t going completely insane, but it’s all Stiles can do, so he sits on the closed lid of the toilet, lets Derek carefully dry his hands, and tries not to flinch as bandaids are wrapped around his sore fingers.

Stiles feels isolated in that moment, knowing he’s the only one who will ever see his visions, the only one affected. And that’s what the woman inside him wants, he thinks. She wants him to be entirely alone so it’s easier to take him out.

*

They’re halfway to Stiles’ dad’s house for dinner when the bump of Stiles’ stomach disappears. Derek’s driving and Stiles quietly watches the scenery pass out the window as he goes to rest his hands on his stomach. It’s something that’s almost habit now; he’ll cup his hands around it to feel the movement of the baby, or just use it as a place to rest his arms. But as they pass Fourth Avenue and he reaches down, there’s nothing there.

“Derek,” he yelps, clearly startling him because the car swerves slightly before Derek immediately signals and pulls into an open space at the curb.

“Are you okay?” he asks, putting the car into park, but Stiles doesn’t know. He has no idea about anything.

“It’s gone,” he says and Derek takes off his seatbelt to lean over.

“What’s gone, Stiles?”

“The baby.”

Derek’s face morphs quickly in worry as he reaches for Stiles.

“Are you bleeding?” he asks. “Is it hurting?”

But Stiles shakes his head because it’s not painful at all, the baby is just missing.

“She’s gone,” Stiles says. “I can’t feel her.”

“She’s not moving?” Derek asks, but Stiles shakes his head again and gestures down at his flat stomach.

“She’s gone, Derek! Look at me!”

Derek’s expression of worry changes to understanding and then to a tired kind of resignation.

“What do you see?” he asks and Stiles tries his best to calm his breathing so he can actually talk.

“It’s flat,” he says, rubbing a hand along his abdomen. “There’s no bump. She took our baby.”

“She?” Derek questions. “Who’s ‘she’?”

“The woman at the house,” Stiles says.

“The woman from your dreams?”

Stiles nods and says, “She’s here.”

“Stiles,” Derek says softly. “The baby is still there. Shut your eyes for me.”

Stiles doesn’t want to for fear that he’ll see the demon’s face, but he concentrates on Derek’s presence and eventually shuts his eyes.

“Take a deep breath and think about how you looked this morning.”

It’s easy to imagine; Stiles’ had been the first to shower that morning and he’d lingered in front of the mirror by the sink with just a towel around his waist, asking Derek if he thought he was any bigger than the week before.

Derek had kissed his neck, slapped his ass firmly, and said, “Parts of you are.”

Stiles had laughed and shoved Derek in the direction of the shower, and had gone to get dressed.

He pictures it now in his mind — the way he had looked with his stomach jutting out, the way he definitely looked eight months pregnant.

“Your bump is still there,” Derek tells him. “Reach down and touch it.”

Stiles is afraid to bring his hands around, not trusting it to be the truth, but when he gradually lifts his hands and moves them inwards, the curve of his belly is there again, and Stiles clutches at it like a lifeline.

“Oh, god,” he exhales, opening his eyes, his fingers pressing into the familiar dips.

Derek’s hand joins his own, rubbing his palm carefully under Stiles’ navel.

“It’s not the house,” Derek says quietly, almost too soft for Stiles to hear.

“What?”

“Whatever it is that’s happening to you,” Derek explains. “We’re not at home this time. It’s not the house.”

Stiles blinks and stares over at Derek.

“I know it’s not the house,” he says. “That’s what I’ve been telling you this whole time. It’s the woman I’ve been seeing.”

“Stiles,” Derek says gently. “If it’s not the house, it’s you.”

It takes a moment for the insinuation to settle, and then it feels like a hand wrapping around his heart and squeezing, the pain making his breath hiccup.

“All in my head, you mean.”

“Stiles, that’s not what—”

But Stiles cuts him off.

“Just because you don’t believe me,” he spits, and he goes to say you don’t believe that there’s a demon here inside me, but the words lodge behind his teeth and a cold feeling trickles down his spine.

Not today, the voice inside tells him. You can’t tell him. We’re not done yet.

He finds himself saying, “I don’t feel so good. Can we talk about this later?”

Derek pauses, watching him carefully, clearly suspicious of his mood change, though apparently Stiles looks rough enough that he doesn’t argue.

“Do you want to go home?” Derek asks. “Your dad will understand.”

Stiles shakes his head and says, “No, I’ve been looking forward to his pot roast all week.”

He smiles for Derek’s benefit, though it seems to take every ounce of effort to do it.

“Sorry for worrying you,” Stiles says. “I’ll go see the doctor again.”

He says it hoping to appease Derek, who seems to soften.

“You’re sure you’re okay?” he asks and Stiles nods.

“Food will definitely help,” he jokes and Derek finally relents.

“Okay,” he says softly, putting his seatbelt back on. “Just say if you need me to stop again.”

“Sure,” Stiles agrees, but he knows he won’t. He can’t.

The rest of the drive is thankfully uneventful.

*

The doorbell rings at ten thirty on Tuesday night. It’s late enough that Stiles half expects it to just be another auditory hallucination, but Derek digs himself out from under Stiles’ legs and slips off the couch to go answer the door, which means it’s probably real. He listens to the muffled voices but can’t tell who Derek’s talking to and his exhaustion outweighs his curiosity so he stays sprawled on the couch.

There’s the telltale creak of the front door closing and then footsteps in the hallway. There are no more voices that he can hear, but it definitely sounds like more than just Derek heading into the kitchen.

“Derek?” Stiles calls out, leaning up on one elbow to listen, but there’s no response.

A cupboard in the kitchen slams shut and something about it makes him feel uneasy.

He swings his legs around to the floor and carefully climbs to his feet. When he reaches the hallway, the kitchen door is closed and Stiles worries what he’ll find behind it. He expect it’ll be another vision, but he’ll have to check if he wants to find out.

“Derek?” he questions again. “Everything okay?”

He takes it one step at a time, slowly drawing closer to the door, part of him wondering what he’ll do if it ends up being locked. But fortunately, the handle twists beneath his hand and he lets the door swing open with its own weight.

On the opposite side of the kitchen, Derek’s leaning casually against the counter, his arms folded across his chest.

“Hey,” Stiles says cautiously, moving further into the room. “Did I hear someone else come in?”

“Hello, Stiles,” a voice says from the other side and Stiles whips his head around towards the back door, finding Deaton lingering in the area where the main kitchen light doesn’t reach.

“Dr. Deaton?” he questions. “You’re meant to be on vacation.”

Deaton glances past Stiles at Derek and he realizes that Derek must have called him without Stiles knowing. It doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t tell Stiles, until the moment the demon inside him stretches and makes itself known. The demon knows exactly why Derek wouldn’t tell Stiles, because if Stiles knows something, then so does the demon. And the only reason to bring Deaton in would be to get rid of said demon.

It hijacks Stiles’ body before he even has a chance to fight back, and he finds his legs searching for purchase as he shifts his weight and turns to run. But he only makes it two steps before Derek wraps an arm around his shoulders, his other hand gripping at Stiles’ hip, halting him where he stands.

“Let me go,” Stiles pleads, but it’s not him speaking — it’s the demon using his voice. “Derek, don’t do this.”

“What’s your name?” Derek asks and the demon struggles in his grip.

“It’s Stiles, Derek; what are you doing?”

“Who are you?” Derek questions, fingers digging into Stiles’ skin, and Stiles feels the moment the demon realizes how far she can take things.

“Ow, ow, Derek, please,” the demon pleads in Stiles’ voice. “You’re hurting me.”

She draws in a wet breath as though about to start crying and Derek’s grip loosens before Stiles can try to warn him that it’s a trick.

The instant Derek’s defense drops at the thought of hurting Stiles, the demon twists Stiles’ body out of his hands and towards the far-side kitchen counter.

In one quick movement, the demon reaches towards the block of kitchen knives by the oven and pulls out the biggest one. For a second, Stiles panics that she’ll try to stab Derek or Deaton, but terrifyingly, she turns and points the knife at Stiles’ own throat.

“Don’t move or I’ll bleed him like a stuck pig,” the demon spits, and it’s no longer Stiles’ voice, instead, it’s a guttural noise that puts fear into every inch of Stiles’ body.

The horror is clear on Derek’s face as he stares at him, hands up in submission. “Stiles,” he says gently, clearly not talking to the demon, but to Stiles himself.

Stiles tries with all his might to reach out for him, but it’s like his knuckles meet a brick wall as he lifts his hand.

“He’s unavailable,” the demon says and Derek’s expression hardens.

“Who are you?”

“Some call me Ralvos,” she says. “Though some just call me a bitch.”

She laughs, the noise throaty and unnerving.

“Where are you from, Ralvos?” Deaton asks from across the way and Ralvos turns her attention to him, like a predator spotting prey.

“I live in the place you cannot reach,” she says. “I know the darkness that was in this boy before.”

Stiles immediately knows she means the Void, the Nogitsune that haunted him for months. There’s a flash of fear within him at the thought of going through it all again, but Deaton interrupts his thoughts.

“You’re not as strong as that darkness,” he says, and Stiles thinks he probably shouldn’t be antagonizing a demon that has a knife to Stiles’ throat. “The connection between your body and his is weaker.”

“And yet I still have the power to kill him,” she says, pressing the blade to Stiles’ skin enough that he can feel it pinch. He hardly dares to breathe. “Now, let me go.”

Stiles struggles in the prison of his own body, knowing they can’t let her go. God knows what she’ll do with Stiles using his body if they do.

“Don’t hurt him,” Deaton says, mirroring Derek’s stance as he holds his hands up, surrendering his position by the back door, which would be an easy getaway for Ralvos.

She knows it too because she doesn’t hesitate as she moves towards it, keeping Derek and Deaton in her sights at all times. Stiles tries to fight; tries to kick and bite and make it as difficult as possible for her, but nothing seems to work and she keeps putting one foot in front of the other.

“Don’t do it,” Stiles pleads with her, but she just laughs viciously.

She’s two steps away from the door when Stiles feels it — it’s a deep kind of magic, one barely distinguishable in the buzzing energy of the room. It’s perfectly hidden, but it’s there nonetheless, and as Ralvos passes over it, it clings to her wispish body, gripping at her existence and dragging her down.

When Stiles glances at the floor, he finds small runes drawn on the linoleum in coal, and though he expects to be pinned down with Ralvos, he passes through the magic, leaving her behind like a sieve finding the dirt and lumps that have no business being incorporated into the mix.

He staggers as he gains mobility again, the knife clattering out of his hand and under the kitchen table as he moves to touch his bump, feeling his daughter shifting uneasily as though sensing his panic. He pins himself against the door, away from Ralvos, and stares at Derek.

It’s clear Derek wants to immediately go to him, but Deaton stares pointedly in his direction and it’s obvious they have work to do.

“You are not meant to be here, Ralvos,” Deaton says, sliding his hands calmly into his pockets. “You have never belonged here.”

“And what will you do about it?” Ralvos asks, her formless shape appearing like a cloud of ash lingering in the air. Even without a body she’s terrifyingly forceful, but it’s different from when she visited Stiles in his dreams. She’s weaker now and if he concentrates enough, he can sense the fear in her instead.

“There are others searching for you, from the other side,” Deaton tells her. “I can announce your presence here and draw them in.”

“No!” she bellows, Deaton clearly having struck a sensitive spot as she swirls within the cylindrical cage of the runes. She twists with the force of a hurricane, threatening to rip the tiles straight from the ground, but it all stays contained within the runes; she can’t touch them.

“You will let me go!” she orders, voice rumbling like thunder in the mountains, and Stiles prays that Deaton’s runes hold up, because if not, she’s going to turn them all inside out.

“You will give yourself up and banish yourself from this world,” Deaton tells her calmly and Ralvos’ body flickers like a lightning storm brewing.

“You won’t tell me what to do!” she screeches, twisting around and around and around, curling like black smoke, and before she has a chance to respond again, Deaton whips his hands out of his pockets and flings something powdered at her. It’s clearly not anything she likes because parts of her disappear like bubbles in a bath touched by a bar of soap.

“I will find you in the next life,” she threatens Deaton, her form falling still between one breath and the next in a terrifying display of control.

“If I had a dollar,” Deaton replies, and just like that, Ralvos screams in frustration and then blinks herself out of existence, plunging down into the ground, leaving only a fine powder on the floor within the runes.

Derek moves first, carefully stepping around the mess to get to Stiles, who he pulls against his chest, burying his nose into the hair at the side of Stiles’ head as he inhales slowly as though to ground himself. Slightly shellshocked, Stiles clings to him in return, pressing the curve of his stomach against Derek to let him feel everything that’s real between them.

Over Derek’s shoulder, Stiles watches as Deaton picks up the broom from where it’s leaning against the wall nearby, using it to sweep up the mess as though it’s not the remains of a horrifically powerful demon.

“I’d like to keep this,” Deaton says, moving towards his bag that’s hanging on one of the chairs at the kitchen table. He pulls out a glass container.

“Let me get the dustpan for you,” Stiles says, carefully extracting himself from Derek’s grip.

He can feel that Derek doesn’t want to be far from him, so he grabs Derek’s hand as he heads for the hallway cupboard where the rest of their cleaning supplies are kept.

The dust in Deaton’s container after looks unassuming and Stiles really hopes Deaton sticks a label on it so he doesn’t mistake it for anything else and accidentally bring Ravlos back to life.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get here sooner,” Deaton says, wiping away the runes on the floor with rubbing alcohol. “I didn’t have service for a few days when Derek first tried to call me.”

Part of Stiles wants to tell him he was the one that wanted to call as soon as things started happening, but he’s not ready to address that issue yet. Not with Derek still gripping his hand like he doesn’t ever plan on letting go and staring at him as though he’s the only thing that matters.

“If the visions continue, call me. I doubt she’ll return, but it’s better to be safe.”

Stiles nods in agreement, watching as Deaton repacks his bag, the kitchen returning to the way it normally looks, no sign of anything having happened. Deaton pauses when he appears ready to leave, his gaze trailing across Stiles’ face. Unexpectedly, he steps forwards and pulls Stiles into an awkward hug, inadvertently dragging Derek in as well.

“The rest of your pregnancy will be easier,” he promises before pulling away, not waiting for Stiles or Derek to walk him to the door before he leaves, the click of the front door the only noise in the silence.

Without a word, Derek pulls Stiles into his arms, back into his comforting grip, and Stiles shuts his eyes and for once doesn’t see Ravlos’ face or something disturbing that she’s imagined up.

“I missed you,” Stiles says nonsensically, having not been gone at all, but Derek seems to understand as he clings to Stiles and presses dry kisses to the side of Stiles’ throat.

“I missed you, too.”

*

Stiles wakes slowly in a way he hasn’t in a long while. It’s quiet in the house and the light outside is just beginning to slip around the blinds covering the window. Derek’s awake beside him, his breathing even, but softer than it is when he’s sleeping.

Stiles rolls onto his side and reaches for him, his palm finding the solid warmth of Derek’s chest. Derek turns his head to look at him, but his expression isn’t as open as it usually is.

“Hey,” Stiles says softly. “You sleep okay?”

Derek stretches an arm out to wrap it around Stiles’ shoulders, pulling him closer to settle their bodies together.

“Not really,” he grunts. “You?”

“Surprisingly, yeah,” Stiles tells him, resting his cheek on Derek’s shoulder, his stomach shifting as the baby rolls to find a new position. “It was weird being alone.”

Derek’s hand pauses from where it’s rubbing gently back and forth between his shoulders.

“I’m sorry,” Derek says, the words sounding like a confession.

“What for?”

“It took me too long to believe you. You knew something wasn’t right and I didn’t listen.”

Stiles draws in a steady breath because apparently first thing after they’ve woken is the best time to talk about this according to Derek. He shifts back enough to meet Derek’s tired gaze.

“Can we have coffee before we talk about this?”

“We should have called Deaton’s emergency number,” Derek says, which answers Stiles’ question.

He rubs Derek’s arm comfortingly as he says, “Hindsight is 20/20. Look, not even I thought it was bad enough to call until it was too late.”

Derek doesn’t seem comforted.

“Deaton didn’t pick up the first few times I called.”

“When did you call him?” Stiles asks, part of him afraid of what Derek’s answer might be, because what if he didn’t care enough to realize until the end?

“After you saw the snake,” Derek admits, which is sooner than Stiles expected and fills him with relief. “But Deaton couldn’t find a flight out quick enough.”

“The point is that you called,” Stiles says, finding Derek’s hand to hold it.

“I couldn’t do anything to help,” Derek complains. “I had to act like I had no idea and I couldn’t even tell you help was on the way.”

Stiles isn’t about to make things worse by admitting how alone he’d felt, how hopeless, but he thinks Derek probably smelled it on him the entire time.

“Hey,” Stiles says firmly. “We can’t change anything. We’re both okay, right? We’ve learned that next time we should call the experts, because apparently an entire decade of dealing with stuff like this hasn’t prepared us.”

Derek huffs out a breath that might be a concession of some sort.

“And if you think about keeping this all inside,” Stiles continues, prodding Derek with a firm finger, “like, bottled up guilt, or whatever, just don’t.”

Derek stares at him, his chest rising and falling in a heavy sigh. “No promises,” he says, which is close enough that Stiles will allow it.

“Okay,” Stiles agrees. “We can work on that, now come here.”

He tugs on Derek’s arm and it’s easy to lure him closer for a kiss, something he’s missed over the past few weeks. Derek kisses him as though welcoming him home and it’s just what Stiles needs. He’s missed Derek’s touch and the way it feels to be pressed into the mattress by him.

“Oh my god,” Stiles says, voice muffled as he pulls away.

“What?” Derek asks, expression alert, but Stiles just tugs back the sheets and gestures down at his body.

“Look who got their boner back!”

He can’t actually see it, but he can feel it, and it’s all for Derek, who doesn’t look as impressed as Stiles feels.

“Stiles,” he says, sounding resigned, but Stiles just laughs and pulls him in for another kiss.

“If you don’t get your hand on my dick in the next few seconds,” Stiles tells him between heady kisses, “I’m going to do it myself in the bathroom.”

Derek doesn’t even hesitate before touching him, his grip firm and familiar, and Stiles feels like a teenager again. Two weeks without sex has messed with his hormone-filled body because he knows he’s going to come very quickly. He’s already wet between the thighs and he hopes Derek can smell it because then he might actually do something about it.

He’s pretty useless on his back however — feels a little bit like a turtle stuck on its shell.

“Roll me over,” he tells Derek, who assumes Stiles wants to face him, because he pulls Stiles towards himself.

“Other way, idiot,” Stiles says fondly, earning a gentle shove from Derek, who gets the hint and positions him as the little spoon instead.

Stiles loves it that way, if only because it’s the one position that actually works when he’s so huge. He slides one leg up and opens himself up to Derek, who immediately takes advantage.

Derek bites a row of marks along Stiles’ throat before focusing on his shoulder, all the while rubbing two fingers over Stiles’ wet hole. It’s a lot to deal with and Stiles can’t find the words to express how he feels, but it doesn’t matter because Derek dips his fingers inside and Stiles loses his breath too. It seems like an age since Derek last touched him like this, but his body adjusts as though made to fit everything Derek gives him.

“Yes, c’mon,” Stiles pleads, pushing down onto Derek’s fingers. “You know you can give me more.”

Derek hesitates enough that Stiles thinks he might disagree and tell Stiles to slow down, but then he’s slipping in another finger instead and giving Stiles the stretch he needs.

“I missed this,” Stiles tells him. “You always know exactly what I want.”

Derek pushes his fingers in deeper, curling them and making it feel like the beginnings of a knot. Stiles keens, his body reacting, opening to Derek’s touch, slicking the way to the point where he can feel it soaking the sheets below. Part of him is annoyed that he’ll have to do laundry, but the other part is impressed that even after so long, Derek knows exactly what to do to make him dripping wet.

“Okay, okay,” Stiles grunts. “That’s enough.”

He should probably take four fingers if Derek is going to knot him, but he’s missed the burn of the stretching anyway and it’ll make him come harder. Derek must be too far gone with the scent of his wetness anyway, because he doesn’t argue. He slips his fingers out and tucks his hand under Stiles’ thigh, lifting his leg higher to open his hips, meaning he’ll be able to press in deeper.

Derek takes his time pushing inside, letting Stiles feel the full thickness of him until he’s pressed as close as he can get, the curve of his hips against Stiles’ ass. Derek curls an arm around his waist to begin jerking Stiles off, but Stiles has to bat his hand away.

“If you do that, I’m going to come,” Stiles pants and Derek doesn’t reply, but he nips at Stiles’ shoulder as though it’s too much for him to think about.

But it prompts him into truly fucking Stiles, shoving his hips forwards and forcing Stiles to cling to the bed — not that Derek would ever let him slip off. The hand he has on Stiles’ leg is firm enough to keep him mostly pinned where he is.

“Good?” Derek grunts and Stiles grins despite knowing Derek can’t see it.

“You know it is,” he says, knowing Derek can feel the shifts of his body, the way he’s clenching around his cock trying to tempt him into knotting him sooner.

Derek doesn’t last long anyway and Stiles loves how easily he gives in.

“Been a while, huh?” Stiles says, reaching back enough to playfully slap Derek’s thigh.

Derek counters by pushing in deeper, letting the edge of his knot catch at Stiles’ rim, turning Stiles mostly nonverbal. Stiles tucks his face against the nearest pillow, muffling his moans as Derek fattens up inside him, stretching wider and then wider still as Derek begins to shake apart behind him.

What puts Stiles over the edge is the tight pressure of Derek’s knot against his prostate, and he gets a hand on his dick just in time to draw out the feeling until he feels half mad with it.

“I love you,” Derek murmurs in his ear and Stiles gasps and grinds onto Derek’s knot, milking him for all he’s worth.

“Oh my god,” Stiles says after a few long minutes of panting to catch his breath.

Derek lets go of Stiles’ leg and shifts his hand to his stomach instead, holding him close as he presses kisses to the back of Stiles’ neck.

Fuck, I missed this so much,” Stiles murmurs.

“It was barely two weeks,” Derek points out and Stiles huffs out an exhausted breath.

“Still missed it,” he says, turning his head and puckering his lips for a kiss; Derek obliges wordlessly and Stiles sighs happily. “I love you, too, by the way.”

Derek kisses him again and Stiles begins to doze at the sensation of Derek rubbing at his taut skin. He’s warm and entirely satisfied, and being tied to Derek means at least another half hour of napping.

“Let’s stay in bed all day,” Stiles mutters, earning himself a soft grunt of agreement from Derek as Stiles shuts his eyes and slowly lets himself fall back asleep.

*

“Do you feel that?” Stiles asks as they stand in the nursery, peering down at five-day-old Clara in her crib, sleeping soundly after her latest feeding.

“What?” Derek questions, body stiffening as though waiting for Stiles to break bad news.

“It’s nothing,” Stiles says and Derek frowns.

“What do you mean it’s nothing?”

“I mean, I don’t feel anything. There’s nothing here. It’s just a regular house again.”

Derek sighs quietly, the noise almost sounding like relief as he reaches over for Stiles and carefully pulls him into his arms.

“She waited until it was safe,” Derek says and Stiles huffs out a laugh.

“Clearly not ours,” he jokes, despite the new c-section scar that says otherwise. “Maybe that means she won’t get into as much trouble.”

“That’s doubtful,” Derek says as Clara scrunches up her tiny, sleepy face and lets out a noise that is definitely not just a bubbly fart.

“Oh, gross,” Stiles says, pulling away from Derek as the smell begins to waft over. “That’s on you. You jinxed us.”

Derek sighs again and reaches over the side of the crib to scoop Clara up. He turns in such a way that Clara’s diapered butt glances across Stiles’ face and Stiles reaches out to jab Derek in the side with his knuckles. Derek grins and Stiles laughs, clutching at his stomach.

“Don’t,” he pleads, “it hurts when I laugh.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek says, but doesn’t look the least bit repentant and Stiles wouldn’t have it any other way.

He watches them both quietly, finally feeling content, finally feeling at home again.