The alarm went off, and he jerked up out of bed, crying out because he had no idea how he’d gotten home the night before. The last thing he remembered was watching the nogitsune crumple and dissipate like so much dust in the hallway of the school. Had Scott and the others dragged his unconscious ass back home? Surely, they wouldn’t have left him on his own if that was the case. Unless something else was wrong. Was something else wrong? And where was his dad?
His gaze darted around his room, as though simply looking would magically make his remaining parent materialize, but his dad was, naturally, nowhere in sight. It took him a moment realize that something else was missing, and when it finally dawned on him, he felt his already elevated heartbeat skyrocket.
The evidence wall was gone. All of his clues, theories, different colored strings. All of it, gone.
Nobody would have taken the time to dismantle his research, and especially without asking him about it, first. Something was seriously messed up here, but he couldn’t understand what.
It was as he was beginning to fall into a panic attack that his eyes landed on the calendar on the wall. The month was all wrong. It should have read ‘November 2011’ at the top, but instead, clear as anything, it said ‘January 2011’.
His heart in his throat, Stiles stumbled up to read it again, only to be met with the same set of symbols. In his agitation, he ran a hand through his hair - or tried to, at least. Rather than his long, unruly spikes, his fingers encountered the old, familiar fuzz of a buzzcut.
On numb legs, he made his way into the bathroom. There he stood, staring into the mirror, which gave him all the visual confirmation he needed. His hair was less than half a centimeter long, and his cheeks were fuller than they had been the last time he’d seen himself. Though they were not sickly the way they’d been after his possession, and the dark circles were gone, he did look pale, as though he had seen a ghost. Essentially, that was what had happened. He was looking at the specter of the boy he used to be. The one who didn’t know anything about werewolves or kanimas or chaotic demons.
His hand came up to cover his mouth, smothering the scream that threatened to tear out of his throat, and he backed away from the sight of himself in the mirror, not stopping until his back hit the opposite wall.
Though his mind was racing, he couldn’t actually think about anything. Not clearly, at any rate.
If this was all another trick of the nogitsune, it was far more elaborate than anything else it had pulled off so far. It played mind games, sure, but it typically had more interesting things to play with than its host.
Even so, the idea was enough to make him thrust both of his hands before his face, and he counted to ten several times before he felt confident that he truly was awake and in control of his own body.
Gradually, he began to feel - not calm, exactly, but somewhat more rational - and his breaths came easier, his thoughts at a more coherent and intelligible rate. The first thing he needed to do was find out what day it was, exactly, and then he needed to do whatever he could to get some answers.
He went back to his room and looked at his cell phone. It was the same one he had had before he’d accidentally killed it in the high school pool, trying to keep himself and Derek alive. With shaking fingers, he pulled up the time, and saw that it was the Sunday before the end of winter break. Today was the day he and Scott were supposed go into the woods, the day Laura Hale was killed and Scott received the bite. Except that it would never happen, now. Not if he could help it.
Abruptly, Stiles wondered whether anything had been real. If what he was starting to suspect was actually true, then Stiles had dreamed the whole thing, from start to finish. Did werewolves even exist?
He supposed there were a few things he could do to find out. First, he got on his laptop and looked up the Hale fire. Sure enough, the articles about it were exactly the way he remembered. So that, at least, was real. Then, he looked for any articles detailing the recent animal carcasses found in the woods. He found the same picture that someone had sent to Derek and Laura, of the deer with the revenge spiral carved into its hide. He rolled away from his desk and retrieved his phone, scrutinizing the screen and steeling himself for what he wanted to do next.
Slowly, he started typing in the numbers he had memorized after needing the person who might not even be on the other end of the line time and again. He hit ‘call’ and then held his breath, not entirely certain what he hoped would happen.
On the third ring, the call was answered, and he heard a scratchy, sleepy, ”Hello? Laura? Is that you? It’s early. Why aren’t you calling me on your cell?” and then he yanked the phone away from his ear and ended the call. That had definitely been Derek. And he must have answered after seeing the area code for Stiles’s cell number, assuming Laura was calling from a payphone, or maybe a phone in a hotel room, if she’d had one while she was here.
So, now what did he do? If werewolves were real, then that meant that Laura was here to check out what was going on in the woods, and that meant that she was about to be murdered by her uncle, which, now that Stiles knew about it, he had to find a way to stop. Except that he didn’t have the first clue how to prove that werewolves were real without either finding one and getting him or her to shift, or talking to someone else in-the-know.
Which meant that he now had to choose between someone who scared him more than Lydia Martin on the warpath, or someone who kept more secrets than the pentagon.
In the end, he went with the option that at least left him confident that he would get away without having to fear being maimed or worse.
The drive to the veterinary office was at once too long and too short, and he spent the entire time trying to figure out how to ask Deaton about the existence of the supernatural without coming across as a lunatic. Granted, he already had a bit of a reputation for being odd, so he supposed confirming that once again wouldn’t be too terrible, but still.
It wasn’t until he’d already pulled into the parking lot that it occurred to Stiles that he should be concerned about store hours. Would Deaton even be in right now? He was so accustomed to the vet simply being available whenever he and Scott needed him that the idea of that not being the case nearly knocked him on his ass - metaphorically speaking, considering he was still in the driver’s seat of the jeep. Then he saw Deaton’s car parked a few spaces away, and he relaxed, deciding to go to the back door of the clinic, where the vet would probably be.
He rapped on the back door a few times, shifting from foot to foot anxiously. When the door opened, he took in Deaton’s confused recognition; Stiles had picked Scott up from work often enough when his mom had to take the car that Deaton knew who he was on sight, but they rarely interacted with each other, and Stiles never sought him out.
“Mr. Stilinski, what brings you here so early? I thought you and Scott would take advantage of your last day of freedom to sleep in.” His lips tilted up ever-so-slightly at the corners. “Maybe catch up on that homework you put off until the last minute?”
Stiles wracked his brain, trying to figure out a way to explain what he needed to know, and why, without making Deaton think he was either crazy or some sort of threat. What ultimately came out of his mouth was, “Werewolves! I need to talk to you about werewolves. Specifically, the Hales. You know, Laura and Derek? Peter, too. Is any of this sounding familiar?”
He watched with a sinking heart as the vet’s face became even more inscrutable than it normally did. Wow, could he have screwed this up any further if he’d tried? “Mr. Stilinski, I don’t know what to tell you about werewolves, other than the fact that they don’t exist, and even if they did, they certainly would not be my area of expertise. I am, after all, only a veterinarian.”
The trouble with Deaton was that Stiles could never tell when he was being completely honest and when he wasn’t. He found himself starting to wonder if the man was right, and werewolves did not exist, that he truly had dreamed everything up, and the Hale house fire had been nothing more than a tragic accident. That he hadn’t actually heard Derek’s voice on the phone this morning, or if he had, it was some phenomenal coincidence. He swallowed against the lump forming in his throat, because as horrible as things had become, there had still been some bright spots that he wouldn’t take back for anything. Some people who had come into his life that he couldn’t bear to lose.
He’d become friends with Lydia Martin because of werewolves. He had gotten to know Derek Hale, and Erica Reyes, and Derek’s surly younger sister, Cora. He’d learned that there was more to himself than he had ever dared to imagine, facing things more terrifying than many of the adults he knew, and still managing to survive. If all of that was some fantasy invented by his sleeping mind, he honestly didn’t know what he would do. He didn’t know how to go on about his life as though nothing had changed. Because maybe none of it had been real, but he felt like it had, and the things he had seen and done had changed him in ways that even he could not fully understand.
As he stood there and had to contemplate the increasingly real possibility that he was about to be forced to find a way to live with that enormous loss, someone came up behind Deaton. She was tall, with broad shoulders, strong features, and the kind of body models would gladly kill for. She was striking in all the ways that Derek was, which would make sense, because the young woman standing at Deaton’s shoulder was, “Laura?”
Her smile was full of teeth. “Stilinski, was it? What were you saying earlier? Something about me and my family being werewolves?”
He stepped forward woodenly, his hand reaching out without his permission. Pulling it back, he curled it into a loose fist and brought it down to his side, asking, “You’re here about the dead animals, aren’t you? Trying to find out if it has anything to do with the fire?”
Laura’s nostrils flared in a telling way, and Stiles felt a disproportionate amount of relief at the sign that he was quite likely in the presence of someone who could kill him with a single swipe of her so-far concealed claws. “You’re not a werewolf.”
“Are you the one who sent me that e-mail?”
“Also no. Although, if I’m right about everything, I might be able to tell you who did.”
She eyed him with evident suspicion and asked, “Why should I trust you?”
“Because I’m trying to keep you alive? Just a thought.”
With a snort, she looked him up and down. “No offense, kid, but I doubt you’d be much help.”
Geeze. The Hale siblings really were exactly alike. It was like meeting Derek and Cora all over again. “Maybe you’ll change your mind about that when I tell you that there are hunters coming, and that the person responsible for drawing you here wants you dead.”
“Excuse me?” For the first time, Laura sounded concerned, rather than condescending.
Stiles cocked his head. “Did I stutter? Better yet, did my heartbeat?”
Her jaw clenched, and she looked away.
“Perhaps we should continue this conversation inside,” Deaton suggested, startling Stiles and Laura, who had managed to forget that he was standing there, even though he was still partially in front of Laura.
Nodding and shoving his hands in his pockets, Stiles told the other two, “Lead the way.”
Once they were all three inside the clinic, and the back door was both closed and locked, Laura turned to Stiles and demanded, “Tell me everything.”
“I will,” he vowed, “but can I maybe have some coffee, first? I kinda skipped breakfast, and I haven’t taken my Adderall.”
“The break room is -”
“Down the hall, on the left. I know.” He’d had to make coffee for the pack often enough when they were trying to deal with the kanima and the alpha pack, respectively. “Thanks.”
Deaton blinked, clearly caught off guard. So far as he knew, Stiles had never been anywhere near the break room. He shouldn't even know of its existence, let alone how to find it.
As he waited for the coffee to brew, Stiles sat on the small couch in the break room and put his head in his hands, silently trying not to go to pieces. He had spoken to Laura Hale. Laura Hale was alive. The first and only time he had seen her since before the fire, he had only seen half of her, and she had been dead. He’d helped dig up her body, and made her brother’s life all kinds of hell. Granted, he had tried to make up for that several times over in the months that followed, but still, he'd been a complete menace.
He had to remind himself repeatedly that none of that had actually happened yet. That it didn’t have to happen at all. Even after the coffee was done brewing, Stiles did not feel remotely ready for the coming discussion. He made himself doctor up his coffee to his satisfaction and then head back to the others, regardless.
When he returned, Laura and Deaton gave him the kinds of looks that implied that they had been talking about him while he was gone. Stiles shrugged the looks, and what the said, off, settling for taking another sip of his coffee and then taking a deep breath.
“So, okay. You said you wanted me to tell you everything. I can do that.” So he did. He started with the chatter on the police scanner, apologizing for thinking it would be cool to find the second half of a body - specifically, Laura’s - and he went from there. He had to take several breaks to refill his Styrofoam cup, and then, to use the restroom, but ultimately, he found himself talking about watching the nogitsune finally fall apart, and then about waking up in his room. How he’d thought at first it might be a bizarrely cruel and elaborate prank pulled on him by the pack, or possibly another game the nogitsune was trying to play. “But then I realized that this is real, and all of that was the dream. And now I’m here, talking to the two of you.”
Laura stared at him long and hard, and then she shook her head, turning to look at Deaton. “Have you ever heard anything like this before?”
“I have, actually. It happens sometimes to druids, before they join a pack and become their emissary.”
“Wait, what?” Stiles asked. “What do you mean?”
“Some druids receive a vision of how their pack’s future might unfold. It helps them to guide their pack down a better path.”
“Did that ever happen to you?”
Solemnly, Deaton told him, “No. Unfortunately, I never saw anything, though the woman who served as the Hale emissary before me did.”
Stiles felt a pang of guilt when he realized the implications of his question. Of course Deaton hadn’t had any visions. Surely, if he had, he would have been able to prevent the fire. To prevent what happened with Paige. He hadn’t meant to throw the past in Deaton’s face so spectacularly, but that was exactly what he had managed to do. Desperate to change the subject, he cleared his throat and asked, “So, what now?”
Looking ill, which had to be a strange feeling for her, Laura said, “I guess we have to figure out what to do about Peter.”
Huffing, Stiles told her, “Get rid of his nurse, for one thing. If we do some digging, we can probably prove that she’s been hiding his progress and letting him out during unsanctioned hours, and get her fired - or maybe just pressure her into leaving. As for actually dealing with Peter - I don’t know, man. He’s always going to be a problem, even as messed up as he is right now. I guess, until we figure out exactly how we’re going to handle him, just don’t go near him or around town on your own?”
“And who’s going to go with me? You?” That disdainful incredulity was classic Hale, to the point that it was almost as comforting as it was insulting. Almost.
“Yeah, actually. Do you have a problem with that?”
“Other than the fact that, even basically comatose, Peter could still snap you like a twig?”
Scoffing, Stiles told her, “So I’ll get some mountain ash and make sure to never leave my bat at home. Problem solved.”
She rolled her eyes. “Why do you even care?”
“Okay, maybe you weren’t listening, but according to Deaton, I’m going to be your emissary. I’d say that makes me pretty invested in your future, wouldn’t you?”
“No,” she said slowly. “I mean, yeah, that’s part of it, but that isn’t the real reason.”
“Does it matter?”
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out.”
They decided to visit the hospital, to see if Laura could pinpoint which door Peter’s nurse had been using to smuggle him in and out during full moons. As they had expected, it was the one closest to the long-term care ward. They made plans to stake out the area that night and capture the two of them on camera.
At one point, Stiles asked Laura where she was staying, and she told him she’d gotten a room at the motel off of the highway.
“That roach-infested nightmare? Okay, no. You can’t actually stay there. I’m getting the heebie jeebies just thinking about it. We’ll stop by and pick up your things, but after that, you’re living with me.”
“Won’t your dad have something to say about that?”
Stiles shrugged. “Probably. I’ll just remind him that you’re an orphan and you have nowhere else to go, and that it’s his job, as the sheriff, to make sure the people in his county are safe.”
She raised a thick, sharply arched eyebrow. “Something tells me that doesn’t include housing adult women so that they can avoid having to deal with insects.”
“Are you seriously trying to argue with the guy who only wants to improve your quality of life?”
“Laura, perhaps you should accept Mr. Stilinski’s offer.”
Closing her eyes, she muttered, “I’m going to regret asking this.” Opening her eyes, she asked, “Okay, why?”
Smiling gently, he reminded her, “Few places are safer to sleep than the sheriff’s house, and if you are there, you and Mr. Stilinski will both have an easier time looking out for each other.”
She let out a deep breath and then conceded. “Fine. But if the sheriff kicks me out, I’m holding both of you responsible, and then I’m going back to the motel.”
Stiles bobbed his head, his lips pursed and quirked to one side. “Works for me.” Because it wouldn’t come to that. Stiles would make sure of it.
When Laura emerged from the dingy, decrepit motel, she had one measly bag, and a pillow.
Stiles supposed she had not planned to be in town for long. They would have to remedy that situation if he was going to be able to convince her to stay. The two of them may not have had the most auspicious start, but then, neither had he and Derek, and that had ultimately worked itself out.
He shook his head at himself. He had to stop thinking about what had happened in his dream as though it was his past. None of that had actually happened, and it was time to start remembering that. After all, it wouldn’t do to go to school tomorrow and expect his best friend to be the asthma-free werewolf he had been in his dream - vision - thing. Nor would it be a good idea to jump on Erica and give her the hug of her life - because she was still alive, and that was awesome. She would probably freak out and decide he was crazy. Or crazier, at least.
Perhaps there were little things he could do. As little as he had liked Isaac in the vision, the kid was still under his abusive father’s thumb right now. He could try to make friends with him, or get Scott on that, and maybe head some of that douchebaggery off at the pass while trying to make his life a little more bearable. He could try to get to know Erica, and then introduce her to Boyd. And maybe, if he was feeling especially brave, he could approach Lydia, and promise her that he was trying to be her friend, and not the love of her life.
Right at this moment, though, he was going to lead Laura to his house and help her figure out what to do about her uncle.
She was driving the camaro. Stiles supposed it must have belonged to someone in the family and that it was spared by the fire, which would explain why Laura, and then Derek, had wound up with it in his vision. He tried hard not to imagine Derek coming back to Beacon Hills and only finding the car, wondering what had taken his last family member away, but found that he was a little choked up when he pulled into the driveway of his house.
Laura gave him a curious look when he got out of the jeep, but he shrugged it off. Having that sort of expression directed his way was nothing new. “So, we have a guest room you can use. No one’s touched it in years, so feel free to make it your own.” The only one who had ever used the guest room was his mom’s sister. She’d come to stay with them while his mom’s health deteriorated, and she remained with them for several months after, trying to help get the sheriff back on his feet so that he could take care of Stiles. Since then, she hadn’t been back, and Stiles couldn’t say he blamed her.
The house was full of too many bad memories for his aunt, whereas for him and his dad, the good memories outweighed the painful ones. His mom had made funny face pancakes on Sunday mornings in that house. She’d measured how much Stiles had grown on one of the walls, and run screeching from a mouse in that house. She’d let him watch old horror flicks when dad had the night shift in that house. And yeah, she’d started to get sick in that house. There was simply too much history there to walk away.
“And you’re sure your dad won’t mind me just showing up like this?” she asked skeptically.
“No. But we’re doing it anyway. I’m not letting you stay in that gross motel, and there is no way I’m going to let you pull a Derek and hide out in your old house. That is just so not happening.”
Openly assessing him, Laura concluded, “You’re all right, Stilinski.”
“Excuse me?” she asked, cocking her head. Stiles was one wrong move away from making a dog joke. He manfully reigned in the urge, choosing to open the front door, instead.
“My name. Well, my nickname. But nobody can actually pronounce my real name, and I don’t actually want to listen to you try, so. Stiles it is.”
Her eyebrows rose, but other than that, Laura did not deign to comment. Stiles led her through the entrance and up the stairs, to the guest room.
“You can leave your stuff in here, and then maybe we could see about making some lunch? ‘Cause I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
“You’re a teenage boy,” was Laura’s dry response. “You’re always starving.”
“Actually,” Stiles corrected, “with the medication I take for my ADHD, I’m not as hungry as I could be. But coffee really isn’t enough to live on, and it’s almost noon, so. I figure it’s probably better to eat now, before we start gnawing on the furniture.”
For the first time, Laura graced him with a smile that was entirely genuine. It was, unsurprisingly, incredibly beautiful. “Fair enough. That would definitely get me kicked out on my ass. But I hope you don’t actually expect me to pitch in with the cooking. I can make moderately palatable scrambled eggs, and I can throw together a pretty mean salad. Other than that? I let Derek handle everything.”
Stiles whistled. “I’ll have to see that, sometime.”
“You’ll have to wait until he graduates. After that, if everything works out, I think we’ll both move back here.”
As Stiles rooted around in the kitchen for the ingredients he needed - mainly spaghetti noodles, ground chicken, oil to brown the meat in, and tomato sauce - he asked, “What’s he studying?” Trying not to let on exactly how excited Laura's announcement had made him.
“You don’t know?”
He shook his head and went over to the sink to wash his hands, now that all of his ingredients and utensils were gathered on the counter. “What I told you and Deaton was basically everything I remembered. If he ever told me about college, I forgot after I woke up.” Except that Stiles was pretty sure that would be the kind of detail he would do his best to remember. Something personal about Derek that had nothing to do with the fire, and all of the stuff that had happened once he came back to Beacon Hills. Stiles had a feeling that he’d only seen the highlights of that possible future, and even though it felt as though he had lived all of those months, he had actually only witnessed bits and pieces of them. He would have had to, considering that from the time he had gone to bed the night before, to the time he woke up this morning, it had only been, at most, twelve hours.
“We never really had time for the whole getting-to-know-you thing,” was all Stiles gave Laura.
“Hmm. Well, he’s getting his bachelor’s in history at NYU, and he only has one semester left.” She preened a little, and told him with obvious pride, “He’s been on the Dean’s list ever since he was a freshman.”
So he had been that close to graduating when everything fell apart? Not to mention, super smart - which he had kind of suspected for a while, but having actual proof was a bit of a trip. Stiles winced. He knew that if something happened to his dad or Scott, he would drop everything in a heartbeat, but that didn’t mean that he wouldn’t, at the back of his mind, resent having to give that up. Especially if his compensation was a bunch of ungrateful teenagers and one seriously messed up uncle.
“Then yeah, absolutely, he should stay where he is. Wouldn’t want to mess something like that up.” He had to tell himself a few times that he had nothing to feel guilty over. Derek was in New York right now, with no idea what was going on. He was going to graduate - with honors, apparently - and he was going to have a completely different life than he would have had if his vision ever came true.
Which it wouldn’t.
“No. No, we wouldn’t. Derek was always the smart one in the family. I’m glad I kicked his ass after we moved and made him finish high school in New York, instead of just getting his GED like he wanted.” She shook her head, saying, “One of us had to go to college, and it wasn’t gonna be me.”
“What did you do when you moved to New York?” Stiles asked, stirring the meat and reducing the heat. It was almost time to get the sauce in the pan and start the water for the pasta boiling.
“Mostly, I bussed a lot of tables and waitressed. There were a memorable few months when nothing good was available, and I worked in a strip club.”
“Uh, but didn’t you guys have money that you could have used?” he asked, trying desperately to distract himself from the images he suddenly had of Laura in nothing but a sequined bra and a thong. For one thing, this was Derek’s sister, and for another thing, werewolves could smell that crap.
“Sure,” she said easily. “But I wanted to use that for Derek’s tuition, and for rebuilding our house, if we ever felt like we could come back.”
“That should be your cover story.”
“That you’re looking into rebuilding the house while Derek finishes up school, and that’s why you’re back in town. Here. Living with us.” Stiles had a feeling his dad would have a hard time staying ‘no’ to an orphaned girl trying to rebuild her family home.
“Sure. But why stop at a cover story? I mean, I’m here, and I can’t spend all my time trying to figure out what to do with Peter. I might as well go ahead and get started.”
“Sounds like a plan.” He glanced at her nervously, stirring the pasta, which had been cooking for less than a minute. “I could help with that, if you want? And, I mean, my laptop is always available, unless I need it for school, or -” His cheeks flooded with heat, and he stared determinedly down at the pasta.
She laughed, though the sound was kind. “Relax. I brought my own. No offense, but I don’t really want to go anywhere near a teenager’s laptop.” Smiling wryly, she told him, “I was sixteen too, once.”
And cue more inappropriate images that he absolutely did not need. “Right,” he said, blinking and trying to shake all of the mortifying thoughts away. “But anyway, the offer to help still stands.”
“I might just take you up on that.” She put her elbows on the counter and rested her chin on her fists. “Tell me something, though.”
“Okay. What? I’m pretty sure I’ve told you everything I know.” He had done his best to be as detailed and frank as he possibly could when he spoke to her and Deaton, which was why they had been at the clinic for nearly four hours that morning.
“Why didn’t you ask Deaton to train you?”
He made a face, asking, ”Train me? Train me in what?”
“Magic, obviously.” She said it plainly, as though it was a foregone conclusion that magic would come up, which, as far as Stiles was concerned, it absolutely wasn’t.
Stiles sputtered and tried to come up with something that wasn’t along the lines of, ‘Are you crazy?’ He settled for the much more diplomatic question of, “Why would I ask him to do that?”
She shrugged. “Well, you’re my emissary, aren’t you? You guys use magic, don’t you?”
Rubbing his face with the hand not holding the wooden spoon, Stiles said, “I’m pretty sure what we do is not actually considered magic. It’s all tied up in nature, and maintaining the balance and all that, not, y’know, waving our hands and making pretty lights. It’s like the difference between a shaman and a witch. A shaman is like a wise, holy man, and a witch actively practices magic, which is in direct contradiction of nature.”
Raising both eyebrows, Laura asked, “You just had a vision of the future, and you don’t think that makes you a bit magic?”
“I had a vision of one possible future, and humans have been having visions for centuries. If you don’t believe me, check the Bible.”
“I didn’t peg you for the religious type.”
He lifted one shoulder and then let it fall. “My mom liked to say she was spiritual, rather than religious, but she did teach me some stuff.”
Carefully, Laura noted, “I’m not really getting any fresh female scents in this house.”
Stiles stirred the noodles with slightly more vigor than they required. “Yeah, well, you wouldn’t. She died six years ago. A few months before the fire, actually.”
“Oh.” She didn’t say anything more than that, which Stiles appreciated, but she did move over to him so that she could place her hand on his shoulder, squeezing it with gentle fingers. He appreciated that, too.
The timer went off a few minutes after that, and they started talking about things that were much lighter.
When they were both full, and the leftovers were stored in the fridge, they moved into the living room and got down to business.
Stiles sat on the couch, turned towards Laura, who was sitting in his dad’s easy chair, apparently unbothered by the odor of gunpowder he knew had to cling to the dark green fabric. He was on the edge of the couch cushions, his arms braced on his thighs, hands dangling down between them. “I don’t know what, exactly, you want to do about Peter, but we need to do it fast. The hunters aren’t just coming. They’re already here. And if we don’t do something to stop Peter from mauling any more helpless woodland creatures, they will.”
She shook her head. “I’m not going to let that happen. He’s my family, which makes him my responsibility.”
“Even if that means putting him down?”
Her lips tightened. “Especially then. I’m not going to let the hunters get their hands on him. At least if I do it, I know he won’t suffer at the end.”
“You make a good point.” He wanted to believe that Chris wouldn’t let Peter’s death be dragged out, but his wife had tried to murder his best friend with vaporized wolfbane, and she was technically the hunter in charge.
She huffed. “Thanks, I guess.”
“Yeah, don’t thank me yet.” Because he was starting to feel pretty convinced that killing Peter was the only viable, permanent solution, and the death of a family member was never something to be grateful for, no matter how psychotic they were. Not for people whose families were already so small.
“Are you kidding? You’re the reason I won’t be dead this time tomorrow. I should be doing nothing but thanking you.”
He waved that away. “It wasn’t like I had that vision on purpose, and anyone would try to warn someone if they were going to die soon.”
“Not anyone,” Laura insisted. “You’re special, Stiles. Whether you want to admit it or not.”
Snorting, she asked, “You’re going to be in denial about this just like you’re in denial about the magic thing, aren’t you?”
“I’m not in denial about anything if I just think you’re wrong.”
”You’re wrong.” They looked at each other, both trying to keep a straight face, and then cracked up. It was amazing that, in the midst of everything that they had talked about today, they could still devolve into a childish bout of, ‘Nuh-uh,’ ‘Yeah-huh,’ type bickering. They may not have gotten off to the best start, but Stiles had a feeling the two of them would get along fine.
They were going to kill Peter.
Actually, they weren’t going to do it. They were going to collect blackmail on Jennifer, his nurse, and make her do it before convincing her to quit her job and move to someplace far, far away, where no one had so much as heard of Beacon Hills.
After the deed was done, Laura would take Jennifer’s memories of Peter, and any conversations she might have with Laura and Stiles.
“Is that safe?”
“Do I actually care? That woman has been abusing her position and endangering the lives of innocent people. If she loses a few memories, or hell, a few I.Q. points, I’m not gonna cry about it. Are you?”
Stiles gave her a look. “I meant is it safe for you.” The ‘you moron’ was heavily implied. “You’ve never done anything like that before, right? And you don’t exactly know any alphas who would be willing to walk you through it, unless there’s something I don’t know about.”
“Oh. No, I haven’t taken someone’s memories. But I’ve seen my mom do it.”
He rubbed both of his hands over his face, because this time, one was not enough. “Okay, watching your mother do something years ago does not mean that you know what you’re doing now.”
“Well, then what do you suggest? It’s not like we can just let her go, knowing what she already does about the supernatural, and I draw the line at killing humans. That’s the kind of crap that gets every hunter within a hundred-mile radius crawling all over my ass.”
“All right. Okay. Fine. But are you sure you can do this?”
“I’m sure I’m gonna try.”
He didn’t like any of this even a little bit, but at this point, he couldn’t see any other options available.
“I really hope this doesn’t wind up blowing up in our faces.”
“Cheer up,” Laura told him. “If it does, you have my permission to say, ‘I told you so’.”
Yeah, that didn’t make him feel any better.
For once, Daylight Savings Time served Stiles well.
He and Laura were able to head out of the house a few minutes before six, when the sheriff would be getting off of work, and it was already almost completely dark outside.
Stiles called Scott and asked the other boy to cover for him in case his dad called and wanted to confirm that Stiles was hanging out over at the McCall house. Thankfully, Scott agreed without asking too many questions. He did, however, caution Stiles against staying out too late on the night before lacrosse tryouts.
Stiles made sure to tell Scott to do the same, though that was more to keep Scott safe than anything else. He wasn’t too worried about tryouts. After all, he already knew that he wasn’t going to make first line, and he had a feeling that, absent a chemical or genetic boost, Scott wasn’t either. He wished he could feel guilty about inadvertently keeping Scott from getting what he wanted, but the truth was, keeping him on the bench would prevent a lot of problems that were almost certain to crop up later.
While he was thinking about the effects of the bite, Stiles decided to bring the issue up with Laura. “So, are you planning on building a pack?” he asked, grateful for the excuse of backing out of the driveway to explain why he wasn’t looking her way.
“If you’re trying to get me to bite your friends, you can relax. I was already planning on it.”
“Yes. I mean, it’s kind of perfect, isn’t it? Not having to worry about whether or not their bodies will accept the bite? Any time an alpha decides to bite someone, they live with that fear that instead of helping that person, they’re killing them, and if I bite the kids you told me about, that won’t be an issue.” She shook her head. “I’m not biting Jackson, though. You couldn’t pay me to take that kind of risk.”
“Heh, yeah. Living through that once was more than enough, believe me.” Something else occurred to him, then. “But you will bite Lydia?” After all, she wouldn’t turn into a werewolf. Would Laura want that?
“If she wants me to? Sure. Having a banshee around could be pretty useful. And I wouldn’t mind having a brain like that on my side, either. Not that yours isn’t already perfectly devious on its own, but it’s always good to hedge your bets.”
“You are surprisingly machiavellian,” Stiles told her. He might sound a little too impressed.
She shrugged easily. “That’s just how it worked out. Derek got all the book smarts, and I got the street smarts. Our little sister Cora was (Is? That’s so weird. Good, though.) kind of a mix between the two of us, and we never really got to find out how our baby brother would turn out, since he was only three when the fire happened.” She made a face, but her heart wasn’t in it. “His name was Merrick. Who does that to a kid? Everyone gave mom so much crap about that when it happened. Like, we knew he wouldn’t be able to protect himself from bullies, because he was born human, and then she goes and gives him a name like Merrick?”
It was kind of heartbreaking watching her try to act nonchalant about the fact that her little brother was dead. He had a feeling she wouldn’t appreciate him commenting on it, though, so he kept his mouth shut and his eyes on the road.
She sniffed hard and rubbed at her nose, then reached toward the stereo. “How about some music, huh?”
“Have at it. As long as it's not country or, y’know, opera, I’ll listen to pretty much anything.”
Grinning an evil little grin, she asked, “So, if I wanted to pick the easy listening station, that would be completely cool with you?”
“Go for it.” He gave her two minutes before he figured she would cave and pick something else.
She didn’t even make it past one.
After she changed the station, they spent the rest of the drive to the hospital listening to the classic rock station, and were both much happier.
“All right,” Laura started when they pulled into the hospital parking lot and found the right spot, “do you have the camera?”
“Let’s not give it too much credit, there, okay? It’s a camcorder. But yeah, it’s in the back seat.” He unbuckled and twisted around, muttering, “Here, let me just-”
While he fumbled around for the camcorder, Laura scoffed. “You have a camcorder? Those things went out of style before I was in high school.”
“Yeah, well, it’s better than using one of our phones. It’s not like we want this to be traced back to us, and I picked this thing up at a pawn shop a few months ago.”
Stiles shrugged. “I was thinking of starting a garage band, and I thought it would help everyone to see what they looked like while they were playing.”
He watched her process this, and then she asked, “Okay, so what happened?”
“The guitarist moved away, the vocalist started failing two of her classes, and the bass’s mom said ‘no’.”
“Yeah. I figure at this point it probably wasn’t meant to be.”
“Well, hey, that just means you’ll have more time to spend with me. And,” she added slyly, “more time to brush up on your magic skills.”
He sighed. “You mean all those magic skills I don’t have? Yeah. I’ll get right on that.”
Rolling her eyes, Laura ordered him, “Just talk to Alan. I’m sure you two could work something out. Maybe you could start working for him part-time, and work on magic when business is slow.”
“That might work,” he allowed, “if Scott didn’t work there already. How many assistants do you think one small-town vet needs?”
“Except that I know, and you know, that he isn’t just a small-town vet. Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little extra cash?”
“I am perfectly fine with the money I make as the unofficial sheriff’s department babysitter, thank you,” Stiles told her primly.
He glared at her. “Shut up. I happen to like kids, and they all love me.”
She held up her hands peaceably. “Never said they didn’t.”
“Well - good.” He couldn’t come up with anything else, now that she had taken the wind out of his sails. Besides, the longer he thought about it, the better Laura’s idea started to sound. He did need to learn more about being an emissary, and it never hurt to learn even more about werewolves and other supernatural beings. And it would be nice not to feel like crying every time he had to pay to have his jeep fixed. He loved it, but it ate all of his savings, and now that werewolves were on the scene, he had a feeling that would start happening more and more.
Abruptly, Laura swatted at his arm, and when he turned to glare at her, she was motioning toward the side door of the hospital. Stiles could not see anything yet, but he raised the camcorder and hit ‘record’ all the same. A minute later, Jennifer came out, Peter in tow, hospital clothes and all. The nurse put Peter in her car and started driving off toward the preserve, and Stiles wanted to crow. The camcorder caught the whole thing from start to finish.
Stiles turned off the camcorder, and he and Laura settled in to wait until Jennifer and Peter came back. During that time, the two of them sat and shared a bag of Twizzlers, followed by a bag of Sour Patch Kids, and went over some of the finer details of Stiles’s vision, and how they could use some of that information to decide what they wanted to do in the future.
It was nice to feel like they were ahead of the game, for once, since so much of what Stiles had seen involved the pack working off of less than half of the information while their enemies knew everything. Stiles knew how likely it was that things would change. Some new person would arrive and throw all of their carefully laid plans into chaos. For now, though, he felt as though he had a handle on things, and he planned to enjoy it for as long as possible.
“The main thing,” he concluded, “is to never ever, ever, ever wake up the nemeton.”
Laura nodded grimly. “And we need to figure out what to do about Kate and Gerard.”
“Well, for Kate, I was thinking we could just gather all the evidence against her and get her arrested for starting the fire.” He had to look away when he mentioned the next part, unable to look at Laura. “It would help if we could get Derek to testify about what she did to him, too.”
She went still for a moment, and then asked in a voice that expressed exactly how much she didn’t want to know, “What did she do to Derek?”
“Derek is twenty-two, right?”
“And he would have been sixteen when the fire happened.”
He sighed heavily. There was no good way to say this, and he hated having to be the one to tell her, but Derek never would, and someone had to do it. “According to California law, that’s two years below the age of consent.”
Few people could understand what it was like to be in a small, enclosed space with an enraged female alpha werewolf, and those that didn’t should feel grateful. Laura let out a roar that ricocheted around the parking lot and nearly did permanent damage to Stiles’s ears. Her fangs and claws dropped, and her eyes flashed brilliant red.
Stiles, concerned that the noise would draw unwanted attention their way, reached into this pocket and grabbed the packet of mountain ash Deaton had given to him before he and Laura left the clinic. He opened it and pinched a bit between his fingers, letting it fall around Laura, and then closed his eyes, picturing what he wanted the ash to do.
When he opened his eyes again, Laura was back to her usual self and looking highly confused. Good to know that something could cut through all the rage she had been feeling a moment ago. “What did you just do to me?”
“Nothing dangerous,” Stiles promised. “I just figured this wasn’t how you wanted Peter and the hunters to find out that you were back in town.”
Slowly, Laura shook her head. “Have you ever done something like that before?”
“In reality? No. And you know that even in the vision, when I put the mountain ash around the rave, all I really did was make it so that nobody supernatural could get out or in. That didn’t stop them from shifting.”
She stared at him, more than a little dumbstruck. “So, let me get this straight. This is your first time to really touch mountain ash, and you just made an alpha werewolf involuntarily shift back, and you don’t think you’re magical?”
He lifted one shoulder awkwardly. “No?”
If focussing on that would keep her from thinking about how much she wanted to tear Kate Argent apart, Stiles would take it.
A little while later, Laura let him know that their quarry was returning, and he flipped the camcorder back on. He caught the car, including Jennifer’s license plate, as she drove by the jeep’s hiding spot. Then, he recorded a much leafier, dirtier, and slightly bloody Peter Hale being led out of the car and into the hospital.
Once they were both back inside, Stiles shut the camcorder off, and waited for Jennifer to emerge so that Laura could confront her. They’d decided that Stiles should stay away, since he was the son of the sheriff, and if things went poorly, he didn’t have the option to pack up and flee for New York.
The nurse walked out, and Laura got out of the jeep with the camcorder, looking surprisingly calm. She went up to Jennifer and began speaking to her, showing her the two videos. Stiles watched the whole conversation from the jeep, seeing Jennifer’s anger and agitation, and ultimately, her capitulation. She walked back into the hospital, and Laura returned to the jeep.
“So?” he asked, though he already knew the nurse had agreed.
“She’s going to inject him with an air bubble. I’ll be able to hear it when his heart stops.” Her voice became slightly unsteady at the end of that last statement, and she took a deep breath, sounding stronger when she said, “She’ll alert the other staff members a few minutes later, and let them record the time of death. They’ll take him down to the morgue, and then she’ll smuggle him out to me. She’ll resign, and I’ll take her memories. Then, you and I will take Peter’s body out into the woods and b-burn it, so that there’s no way for him to come back.”
Stiles reached out and took Laura’s hand in his own, squeezing it gently. Together, they sat and waited for the drama of Peter’s death to play out.
Sitting in the driver’s seat with Peter’s dead body in the back sucked on so many levels. He kept expecting one of his dad’s deputies to drive up and shine a flashlight in the backseat. Instead, there was nothing. Laura walked up a few minutes after meeting Jennifer for the final time, looking a little dazed.
When she got in, Stiles asked, “You okay over there?”
“Huh? Oh, yeah. I’m okay.” She shook herself, though, and then said, “That was weird.”
“But it worked? You took all of her werewolfy memories?”
“Every last one.” She grimaced. “Along with some details of her time in college I really could have lived without knowing.”
“Oh, geez.” He winced and started to pull out of the hospital parking lot, headed in the same direction Jennifer had been earlier that night.
He caught Laura glancing in the backseat with a wounded expression, and he told her to try not to think about it.
“Yeah, thanks, Einstein. What should I think about instead?”
After thinking about if for a moment, he tilted his head. “Good point.”
She snorted, and Stiles chose not to take offense, considering he had kind of earned it.
That got him a look that was as incredulous as it was irritated.
“What? It worked before.”
“Before, we didn’t have my uncle's dead body in the backseat!”
“Okay, I will concede that that was a bad suggestion, if you will agree to avoid yelling at the guy who is currently driving the jeep!”
Air came out of Laura’s nostrils the same way it would if she were a bull, and the two of them stewed in silence for the rest of the journey toward the preserve. Once they were there, they got out of the jeep and grabbed Peter’s body from the backseat. They hauled him, along with two shovels, several miles into the trees, finding a small clearing. Together, they laid him on the forest floor, and then went about gathering stones to place around his body to ensure that the only thing they set fire to was Peter. No need to add starting a forest fire on top of the list of crimes they were racking up tonight.
Once Peter’s body was surrounded Laura got out a lighter. She held it in her hand as she stared down at the corpse of her uncle. She’d chosen to stand on the side of Peter that hadn’t been burned, wanting to remember him the way he had been before the fire. “It’s not a vanity thing,” she’d told Stiles. “I don’t care about the scars, really. I just want to see my uncle one last time, and that guy? The one with the burn scars and the vacant look in his eyes? That’s not my uncle.”
Now, she took a deep breath and spoke softly. “You and I were never close. I had no patience for the whole manipulation thing you had going on, and it drove me crazy that Derek always fell for it. But you were still my uncle, and I still loved you. I’ll still miss you, now that you’re gone.” She flicked the lighter until the flame caught, and then she knelt down and lit a part of Peter’s hospital robe.
This time, when she rose to her feet, she reached out to Stiles, lacing their fingers together.
They stood with their eyes on the flames that slowly engulfed what had once been Peter Hale, and held vigil until the last embers died out. Then, they dug a hole deep into the dirt, burying the bones and the stones and eventually covering the hole back up as best they could.
When that was done, they trudged back to the jeep and made their way to the motel where Laura was still paid up for the next week. They took turns showering and changing clothes, getting rid of all the dirt and grime, and only spoke when it was necessary.
Finally, they headed back to the Stilinski house, where they crept inside and up the stairs. They were each able to hear the sheriff snoring, even though only one of them had enhanced senses, and they exchanged an exhausted but amused look before heading to their respective rooms.
They would talk to the sheriff about Laura’s presence in their lives tomorrow, but for now, it was time to sleep.
In his room, Stiles changed into his pajamas and balled up the spare clothes he had changed into at the motel. The soiled ones, he hid in a plastic bag at the back of his closet.
Gracelessly, he dropped onto his mattress, turning onto his back and putting his arms behind his head so that he could stare up at his ceiling. So much had changed in his life, and it had only been a day.
What would the rest of his life be like? Laura’s? Derek’s? His dad’s?
It occurred to him that he should probably feel more disturbed about the large part he had played in blackmailing one person into murdering another, let alone being involved in disposing of the body, and he certainly didn’t feel entirely comfortable with the whole thing, but he also knew that he wasn’t going to lose any sleep over it. For one thing, he had done it to protect everyone, and for another thing, he had seen and done worse things in the vision he had seen the night before.
He pictured a Derek Hale unburdened by the loss of his older sister. Without the burden of killing his uncle and becoming an alpha in circumstances that were poor at best, and impossible at worst.
It was a picture Stiles liked.
He started plotting ways to track down Cora before the alpha pack did, enjoying the thought of having her here and whole when Derek came home after his graduation. Or maybe Cora and Laura could go see him walk across the stage and get his diploma together. Except that it would be incredibly cool if Laura could pick Derek up from the airport and drive them straight over to the Hale house, rebuilt in all its former glory, and have Cora sitting there on the front porch.
There were so many possibilities, and Stiles wanted to consider them all.
So, of course, he fell asleep a few minutes later.
His alarm clock went off before anyone else was scheduled to be up that morning, giving him plenty of time to make breakfast for all three of them. Hopefully, a few strips of bacon would soften the blow of having a houseguest his dad wasn’t expecting join him at the kitchen table.
Laura followed him downstairs a few minutes after he started working on the eggs, bleary-eyed and wild-haired. “Sorry about the alarm,” he told her. “Forgot to worn you about that last night.”
She yawned in the middle of asking why it was so loud.
“Well, when I’m not being driven mad by a dead tree or controlled by a demon of chaos, I tend to sleep like the dead.”
“I only understood about half of that sentence, and I don’t think it’s because I haven’t had any coffee yet,” his dad announced, padding into the kitchen with his eyes squinted shut against the light. He clearly got distracted from the latest bizarre thing to come out of his son's mouth, because he stopped and then turned, rubbing his eyes before getting a good, long look at Laura. Then, he did an about face, and crossed his arms, demanding to know why Laura Hale was sitting at his kitchen table.
“Well, dad, I ran into her at the grocery store yesterday. I caught her stocking up on junk food, and asked her what, exactly, she thought she was doing clogging up her arteries with all of that crap. Apparently they don’t have mini fridges at the motel off of the highway, and what kind of person would I be if I let someone get scurvy while she tries to rebuild her family’s old house?”
“So your solution was to bring her here?”
“Uh, yeah. Where else should I have brought her? Unless there’s a lake house or a summer home that we own and I’m only just now hearing about it.”
For a moment, the sheriff stood there wordlessly staring at his son, and then he pointed at him accusingly. “You and I will be talking about this later, young man.” After that, he turned back to Laura and told her, “Sorry about that. I don’t handle being surprised very well. Welcome back to Beacon Hills, Miss Hale. Stiles said you were thinking of rebuilding your house?”
“Laura is fine, sheriff. It would be a little weird for you to call me anything else, now that you’ve seen me in my pajamas.” They were light blue, with dozens of little penguins on the pants, and a single, smiling penguin on the front of the tank top, and yeah, they kind of made any attempt at formality moot. “But yes, I am going to rebuild my family’s home.”
“Glad to hear it,” the sheriff said sincerely. “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” He glanced at his son with mild irritation, though it lessened some when Stiles placed a mug of coffee, black, in front of him. “Including letting you stay with us while you get everything sorted out.”
“Thank you, sir. That’s very kind of you.” She also shot a look at Stiles and then confessed, “I wouldn’t have stayed here last night, but Stiles was kind of-”
“Stubborn? Persistent? Constitutionally incapable of taking ‘no’ for an answer when he thinks he’s doing something for a good cause?” the sheriff supplied dryly.
Laura nodded. “All of those. Yeah.”
Stiles had another vision of the future, but there was nothing mystical about it, nor was it uncertain. It was Laura and his dad, conspiring together to thwart all of his plans and then teasing him about it later. He was about to express the thought that perhaps Laura shouldn’t stay with them after all, when Laura twitched and then glanced toward the front door.
He glanced at her curiously, but before Laura could offer any sort of explanation, the doorbell rang. Stiles turned off the stove, since the eggs and bacon were done, and then went to answer the door.
The last thing he expected was to open the door and blink before saying, “Hey, Derek.”
He watched Derek’s eyebrows furrow in confusion. “Why is my sister here, and how do you know my name?”