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You Only Live Once...or Twice

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 (When something tickles his funny bone)


The sky is a cool gray with blotches of ominous purple-gray clouds in the distance. The wind is picking up around them, sending the trees swaying with the force of the gusts. It’s peacefully quiet in the cemetery, even more than normal. The cool weather and hint of an impending storm is likely keeping most people inside for now.

Stiles sits cross-legged with a checkers-board resting between him and the teenager kneeling on the other side. Erica is deathly pale, her long blonde hair decorated with leaves and specks of dirt. Her white dress is stained with brown and green from the many times she’s crawled out of her grave.

“Gotcha,” Erica says with a smirk. Stiles sighs faux-dramatically as she jumps two of his pieces and swipes them off the board. “King me, Batman.”

“Yeah, yeah. You’re winning again, no need to gloat, Catwoman,” Stiles smiles, adding the additional piece to hers. The tiny skulls on his thin black bracelet clack together at the movement.

“Maybe you should stop letting me win. You’re not actually this bad at checkers,” Erica shoots back teasingly. Stiles gasps, clutching at his chest.

“You accuse me of losing on purpose? It would probably help my pride a lot more if I were,” Stiles laughs, leaning forward to make his next move which, predictably, enables Erica to jump him again. “I guess I’m just distracted. Speaking of, Parrish wanted me to ask you if you saw anything strange last night.”

Erica’s eyebrows rise at that. “Strange? Like what exactly?”

Stiles shrugs. “Anything suspicious.”

Erica’s eyes narrow at his hedging, but looks like she is thinking about it. “Um, some woman was here pretty late last night. Like, way later than most people are here. She looked like she was following something- not visiting.”

Stiles digs a hand into his pocket and pulls out a photograph. It’s a picture Sheriff Parrish had given him earlier that day of a woman with long black hair and a fiery grin.

“Is this her?” Stiles asks, handing her the photo. Erica stares at it intently before nodding.

“Yeah, that’s her. She was wearing jeans and a black jacket- looked like leather. Why?”

“That’s Laura Hale. Her brother reported her missing early yesterday morning,” Stiles explains.

Erica whistles and hands back the photo. “She was definitely here last night. But I don’t know where she went.”

Stiles nods and repockets the photo. “I’ll tell Parrish she was spotted around here.” He jumps one of her pieces, getting kinged in the process.

“Hey,” Erica mumbles as she makes another move. “Have you seen Boyd around?”

Stiles nods. “I have.”

“He seem okay to you?”

“Yeah, seems fine. Quiet as usual, but I don’t see him much or very often, why?” Stiles stares at her as she fidgets under his scrutiny.

“He just…seems sad to me, is all.” Erica says and purses her lips, lifting her chin defiantly as if daring Stiles to ask her why she knows how Boyd looks lately.

“I hear being an omega werewolf can do that to you,” Stiles simply replies. The supernatural hadn’t been very well-known by Beacon Hills until a couple of years ago when a feral werewolf went on a rampage, biting and turning or, in the worst cases, killing a bunch of townspeople. The death total had reached the double digits, causing a curfew to be enacted and wide spread searches that still turn up nothing. It’s almost like they’re chasing a ghost.

Naturally, in the beginning, there was a fear left over from the killer, especially since they still haven’t been found. But, thankfully, most of the town has rallied together to give support to the survivors and even welcomes supernatural creatures into their town. It’s because of this welcoming attitude that his and Lydia’s shop is able to stay afloat in this tiny community.

“I know,” Erica says with a slight pout. “But, last time, you said that Parrish was looking for local packs that might be interested in taking him in…”

Stiles shakes his head sadly and moves one of his pieces closer. “We haven’t found any yet. Most that have been willing to work with us so far are still getting used to their newest members. But Deaton is working with him, so he should be okay until we find the right pack for him.”

Erica sighs, but leans forward and continues their game, making a move that takes another of Stiles’ pieces.

“I win.”

Stiles grins. “Good game.”

“It would’ve been a better one if you actually tried,” Erica says with a frown.

“It’s been a rough day.” Stiles shrugs casually, but he can feel the tension building in his muscles from the admission.

“Oh? What happened?” Erica asks curiously.

“Lydia said something important was coming,” Stiles explains, running a nervous hand through his already messy brown hair. He licks his suddenly dry lips, remembering the morning clearly.

Lydia had turned toward him with a smirk, her eyes dull as they landed on him.

“It’s time,” Lydia said, void of emotion or any sign of being conscious of what she was saying.

“Time for what?” Stiles replied nervously.

Lydia’s head tilted as if considering his question. “It’s coming.”

“Something important?” Erica echoes in confusion. “What does that mean?”

Stiles’ frown deepens. “Nothing good. The last time she said that…” his dad and Scott were killed.

Erica nods in understanding, not needing to hear the rest of the sentence to know what Stiles is referencing. It is common knowledge in Beacon Hills, everyone knows about the tragic week Stiles Stilinski had lost all of the family he had left.

Stiles stretches out a hand and rearranges the pieces and board into their box.

“Aw, is my time over already?” Erica asks teasingly.

“Afraid so, I’ve got other clients, you know,” Stiles replies with a smile.

Erica rolls her eyes as she stands and they walk to her empty grave, the wooden casket hanging open and waiting for her return.

“Even I know most people go to see Lydia and not you,” Erica shoots back.

“You wound me, Erica,” Stiles says, “Now get into your casket so I can go back to my very busy life.”

Erica smiles, stepping close and pressing a chaste kiss to his cheek before laughing and hopping back into her casket. Stiles smiles softly, a tingle on his cheek where her cold lips had pressed.

“Ready to go,” Erica declares once she’s wiggled around and found into a comfortable position. Her hands clenching tightly together on her stomach are the only noticeable sign of her nervousness. Stiles knows it isn’t easy for the dead to go back, to forfeit their lives once again after experiencing being alive again- even if only for a short while.

But Stiles can’t promise more than that— more than a few hours of life every so often.

“Goodnight, Erica. I’ll see you in a month, okay?”

“Okay,” she says on a shaky breath, closing her eyes. “Goodnight Stiles.”

“I’m right here,” Stiles murmurs as he, too, closes his eyes and grasps onto the pendant that dangles around his neck. It’s a vivid red stone carved into the shape of an anatomically correct heart that glows brightly at his touch, sending a jolt through his body. Erica gasps, her body going rigid as it returns to its normal state. Within moments, it’s over and the necklace returns to its original color. Stiles opens his eyes to find Erica dead once more and himself alone again.

He leans down and shuts the casket, sealing her away.

Out of all the dead he’s worked with, Erica is the only one he routinely visits and brings back to life. She’s the only one that he would call a friend; the only one whose company he truly enjoys.

She’s also one of the few who chooses to remain here, who rejects the promise of better things in order to watch over her family and Boyd. Erica never admitted to the latter, but Stiles knows she spends most of her time as a ghost watching him and worrying whether or not he’ll find a pack.

Stiles concentrates on the piles of dirt around the grave, waving his hands and watching the mounds topple onto the wooden coffin. It doesn’t take long for the dirt to reach the top and connect with the ground next to it. With one final act of flourish, the soil sprouts a healthy layer fresh grass and bright yellow sunflowers, the kind of vivid yellow that always reminds Stiles of Erica’s hair when she had been alive.

He takes a few moments to build his courage. He really doesn’t want to leave the sanctuary or the calm of the cemetery, doesn’t want to face the world or find out what is important about this day.

He picks up the checkers box, but pauses once he notices a black blur moving through the trees in the surrounding forest. It has no definitive shape that he can make out, other than it doesn’t look human.

Probably just a mountain lion, he thinks, shaking off the strange sight. He trudges toward the gates, shaking as another gust of wind tears through him, this time carrying a few drops of rain with it.

The storm is getting closer.

 

Their tiny shop, Psychic & Skeleton, has only been in business for roughly six months. The decrepit brick building had once been a tattoo parlor years ago before it was abandoned when the owners moved shop to L.A. The outside is still covered in vines, since Lydia and Stiles had both agreed that they liked the supernatural feel the plants give the building. The only new addition is the neon sign out front, highlighting its name.

Stiles enters through the back entrance, knowing Lydia has a few clients scheduled for the day. As he steps into the backroom and walks up to the large reptile habitat stationed on a plastic folding table, Lydia’s voice floats in through the open doorway connecting the backroom and the front of their office.

“Hey, buddy,” Stiles coos at the creature in the cage, removing the top barrier and placing it off to the side. He reaches for a large box on the floor, opening it and pulling out a few wriggling mealworms.

Jackson, Stiles’ bright green teacup dragon stares up at him curiously with her wide black eyes. She blinks slowly and waddles closer to where his hand offers the tiny worms. The dragon lunges, snapping her jaws around the mealworms as she quickly chews and swallows them down.

The lizard-sized dragon was given to him as a gift after he gave a young wizard a full day to spend with his 4 year old son. The little boy had died suddenly during the night, nobody knew why, but the wizard and his wife were both desperate for one more day to say goodbye and Stiles couldn’t say no.

Stiles didn’t know why the wizard had the dragon in the first place, since dragons are very rare in the supernatural world, but he wasn’t going to question the present. She’s been the best thing to happen to him in a long time.

Stiles watches her eat, his head pillowed on his arm at the table. As she devours the last of the worms, he runs his free hand over her coarse back, enjoying the feel of her scaly body breathing under his hand. Jackson peers up at him with her large, unblinking eyes, the small wings on her black fluttering.

“What, you wanna come up?” He opens his palm and wiggles his fingers, encouraging her to climb up his arm. She digs into the flesh with her tiny nails until she settles comfortably on his shoulder. She lies down, curling her long, thin tail around his arm and resting her head at the juncture of his neck and shoulder. Stiles shudders as her hot breaths hit his neck, but he smiles and strokes her tail affectionately.

“Your vacation will end badly. I’d suggest you save your money and invest it elsewhere. Also, stop cheating on your wife,” Lydia loudly states with a harsh, monotone voice. Stiles winces at her bluntness and pushes away from the table, moving and stopping in the open doorway between the rooms. He watches the scene warily, knowing Lydia isn’t always the best as sugarcoating the truth and that often lead to trouble.

As if on cue, the customer’s chair is shoved back with a shrill screech as he stands angrily. “What the fuck did you just say?”

Lydia, nonchalant as ever, simply looks up at him unflinchingly and reiterates, “I said stop cheating on your wife. Technically, you can ignore my advice all you want, but if you do- don’t expect to keep your house. She’ll hire a way better lawyer and wipe the floor with you.”

The customer- a burly man with dark hair speckled with gray- swiftly picks up his coat to leave.

“Fuck you, I don’t need to listen to this.”

Stiles decides it’s time to chime in, “No, you don’t, but I’d suggest you pay her before you leave.”

The man turns to him with a glare. “Did you not hear what she accused me of?”

Lydia huffs a laugh and rolls her eyes. Stiles uncrosses his arms, lifting his hands in a placating gesture. Jackson lets out a tiny grunt of annoyance, digging her claws through his shirt and into his skin in order to hold on.

“I did, and while it could have been said with more tact,” Stiles snaps his accusing gaze to Lydia before focusing back on the customer, “She was correct, was she not?”

The customer doesn’t reply, simply pursing his lips in a sour expression.

“And she is providing a very helpful service by warning you what will happen if your wife finds out. Now you know to be more careful,” Stiles explains slowly. The man’s shoulders lose some of their tension and he obligingly pulls out his wallet, tossing cash on the table. He curtly nods at them both and leaves.

Stiles lets out the breath he’s been holding and sags into the recently vacated chair. Jackson scuttles to the top of his head, wrapping her tail around his neck as her little clawed feet scrape at his ears and temples.

“You really had to bring up his cheating?” he asks dully, pointedly ignoring how silly he must look with a small dragon on his head.

Lydia shrugs, picking up the money and counting it. “It was that or tell him he was going to crash his corvette on the way home. You should be proud, I kept one of those upsetting predictions to myself.” She smirks at Stiles’ shocked face and adds, “Relax. He’ll be fine, he just totals the car.”

“You better hope that’s all it is.”

Lydia grins. “What, like he could sue me for not telling him that? Not like he knows I saw it. Also, you look ridiculous with that thing on your head.”

That thing has a name, Lydia!” Stiles cries, offended on Jackson’s behalf.

“Maybe I would call that thing by its name if you didn’t choose to name it after my ex-boyfriend,” Lydia snaps.

“To be fair, he was a douche,” Stiles retorts, “and so was dragon-Jackson the first month we got her. Do you know how many times she tried to claw me to death?”

“Yes, I do know, because you still won’t shut up about it,” Lydia growls.

“I’m just saying, the name fit at the time!” Stiles defends, cringing at the sound of his voice going high-pitched. He coughs and forcibly lowers his voice, “And I can’t change it now, she knows her name! She responds to it.”

“Oh, does she?” Lydia questions with a raised brow. “Prove it.”

“Hey, Jackson, go fly to Lydia,” Stiles orders, turning his neck awkwardly to look at the dragon on his shoulder. She doesn’t move or acknowledge him. Lydia snorts. “Shh, she doesn’t know any tricks or orders, okay? But she knows her name, don’t you, Jackson? Jackson? Jackson!”

Jackson cracks one eye open, glaring at him with all the might in her tiny green body.

“See? She knows!”

“Or she’s mad you’re yelling in her ear,” Lydia replies, “like me. Have fun with your pet lizard, I’m going out for lunch.” She tosses her hair back over her shoulder and saunters out the front door with the clacking sound of her heels.

Stiles turns to Jackson and grins. “Looks like it’s just you and me, buddy.”

Jackson huffs, climbing down his arm and jumping onto the table. She rotates a few times before plopping down, closing her eyes and looping her thin tail around herself.

Taking it as the rejection it is, Stiles huffs a laugh and pulls out his cell phone to dial the Sheriff. It rings three times before it’s picked up with a less-than-cheery, “What do you want, Stiles?”

“Wow, don’t sound too eager to talk to me, Jor.”

Jordan sighs on the other side of the line, his voice tight with annoyance as he repeats, “What do you want, Stiles?”

“On the contrary, I’m calling you to tell you that Erica said she saw Laura Hale in the cemetery late last night,” Stiles says, wandering into the backroom and opening the fridge. He eyes the empty shelves with a frown, suddenly remembering that it’s his turn to restock the fridge this week.

Stiles groans and steps to the left, reaching up and opening the pantries to find a half-empty box of Lucky Charms. He forgoes a bowl, shoving a hand into the bag and scooping a handful into his mouth. The angle is awkward as he tries to keep the phone from falling off his shoulder, but he manages.

“The cemetery? Did she say anything else? Did Laura look scared or—”

Stiles swallows the half-chewed cereal in a single gulp, coughing at the dryness scraping down his throat. He quickly reopens the fridge to grab a bottle of water and takes a drink before he answers with a raspy voice, “Just that it looked like she was following something. Erica says she doesn’t know where she went after that though.”

“Alright. I’ll check the area around the cemetery and see if I can find any leads. Do you…”

A loud bang comes from the front office, drawing Stiles’ attention. He steps away from the fridge and toward the open doorway. As he gets closer, he can see the darkened silhouette of a man clutching a woman to his chest. The sight of pouring rain blowing in through the open door behind them has Stiles dropping the cereal box and rushing forward to usher them further into the building. He grabs the handle of the front door, glimpsing the torrential downpour outside and hearing the sound of distant thunder before he slams the door shut and turns to face the visitors.

“Stiles?” Jordan questions hesitantly in his ear.

Jackson spreads her wings with a cry as the strange man nears her. She soars into the air, drifting into the backroom for safety. Stiles moves towards the man, finally getting a good look at the handsome face, the sculpted cheekbones and neatly trimmed beard- but the most notable feature is the desperate sadness in his eyes as he stares at Stiles and carefully, so carefully, lowers the injured woman onto the table.

It’s impossible not to recognize them both. They had lived in Beacon Hills for years- Stiles still remembers the massive crush he had freshman year of high school on basketball captain Derek Hale. He had a ten year plan to woo him, until the plan metaphorically went up in flames when the Hale house had, literally, burned to the ground- taking most of the family with it.

The fire was ten years ago and, at that time, werewolves hadn’t been revealed to the town yet. But once they figured it all out, it made sense that the only family of werewolves in the town had been targeted by hunters. It seems devastatingly sad to Stiles that, the week the two remaining Hale siblings decide to come back, one of them is killed.

Because, looking at the woman on the table, it is obvious that she’s dead.

“Can you help her?” Derek asks, his voice so low that Stiles almost misses it. Stiles’ eyes trail up to meet the light green ones he remembers seeing in his dreams so vividly as a teenager. Much of Derek Hale has changed- he’s visibly grown a lot in ten years time: his muscles now barely contained by the leather jacket, his well-fitted jeans that curve perfectly around his butt, and— the piercing gaze glaring daggers at Stiles right now.

Right. Dead body. Not the time to be checking someone out.

Stiles snaps his gaze to the ground as he speaks into the phone, “Jordan, I’m gonna need you to forgo that visit to the woods and come straight to the shop instead,” Stiles says, his voice steady and even.

“What’s going on?!” Jordan asks with a hint of urgency and worry.

“Derek Hale just brought Laura in. She’s dead,” Stiles says, noting the pained expression on Derek’s face at the last statement.

“I’m on my way.”

Stiles shoves the phone in his pocket, stepping up to Laura and analyzing the damage. She’s pale and rigid, her body locked in its position. Her lips are colorless, and her body fairly cool to his touch, but not overly so. There are scratches all over her abdomen, but what catches Stiles’ notice is the deep slash across her stomach, so deep it’s amazing Derek was able to carry her without the body completely severing into two. It’s sickeningly familiar.

“I didn’t kill her, I wouldn’t—” Derek chokes out, staring down at his blood soaked hands with an empty look from shock.

“I know you didn’t,” Stiles says, the surety in his statement causing Derek to gape at him in surprise. There isn’t a doubt in Stiles’ mind that Derek didn’t kill Laura- he still remembers the cocky senior Derek had been; how young Derek was great at sports, was popular and hot, was the reason young Stiles had realized he was bisexual, but, most of all- Stiles remembers how devoted Derek was to his family. There was no way he would ever raise a hand to his sister.

Stiles points at the slash across Laura’s stomach. “See that? That’s the same way many victims have been killed over the past two years. That’s practically a signature, right there.”

Derek’s eyebrows furrow. “Two years?” Stiles nods as he gently pulls Laura’s shirt away from the gaping wound and bunches the material up just below her breasts so that he has room to work. He presses his hands against the major wound, taking a breath to center the magic vibrating inside him and then pushing it out of his hands in gentle, but hot bursts. He drags his hands across her stomach, trailing the entire laceration.

Derek snarls, reacting badly to the smell of burning flesh. He tears Stiles’ hand away from his sister’s body with fingers that squeeze bruises into his skin with their strength. “What the hell are you doing?” He growls through bared teeth.

Stiles raises an unimpressed brow, pointedly glancing down at Laura’s body and replying dryly, “I just thought if I were to bring your sister back from the dead, you might want her to be in one piece. But if you want her upper half to be wandering this way while the other half tap-dances off to who-knows-where, well, that’s your choice then, I suppose.”

Derek drops his hand, nodded towards Laura and giving him wordless permission to continue. Stiles rubs his sore wrist with a pout, the skull bracelet clinking at the movement. He mentally thanks whoever is looking out for him that Derek hadn’t wolfed out. There’s only so much control a werewolf can have, especially after losing another member of their pack.

“Before I do this, I need to go over a few things with you,” Stiles says, “First, I will only bring her back for a few hours. During that time I suggest you enjoy your time with her and say your goodbyes.”

Derek’s face is pinched, but he nods in agreement.

“Second, no matter how far you run, when I decide to stop the enchantment, Laura will be dead.” At Derek’s confused expression, Stiles explains, “I’ve had a few people try to run. Which brings me to my third topic, payment.”

“Anything,” Derek’s eyes are determined, boring into Stiles’.

Stiles huffs a laugh, “Careful there, big guy. Don’t want to be promising anything to every necromancer you meet. Some might ask for your soul or someth—”

“I’ll give you my soul to bring her back,” Derek says, his voice steady and strong with resolve, “if that’s what you want.”

Stiles’ mouth gapes open for a moment before his brain kicks into gear and he stutters out, “N-no, I don’t ask for that. I only ask for money- typically whatever the client can afford. The average is usually about a thousand dollars for a few hours, so...”

“I can pay that,” Derek agrees.

“Okay, last thing is that I’ll need to ask her some questions when I bring her back, so you won’t be able to leave right away,” Stiles says.

“What questions?” Derek asks, skeptical.

“I want to see if she saw who killed her,” Stiles admits, “If she can help us find out who they are…then we can finally put a stop to this monster.” And I can get my revenge, he mentally adds.

“Okay. When do you want the payment?” Derek questions.

“You can pay me later,” Stiles states, rolling up his sleeves in preparation. Usually he has his clients pay beforehand, but he suspects Derek didn’t plan on visiting a necromancer this day. He likely discovered his sister’s remains and ran here directly after without stopping to pick up money or a check.

Stiles pulls his pendant out from under his shirt, wrapping a hand around the stone, closing his eyes and waiting.

Ba-dum. Ba-dum.

The pendant pulses under his hand, beating in tandem with his heart. Stiles opens his eyes, seeing everything through a haze of purple. He moves to Laura’s side, pressing his free hand onto her chest where her heart lies silently. Unlike the usual purple tint when he performs his usual magic, his hand now glows with an aura of white.

He can feel Derek’s stare on him, boring holes into the back of his neck, but he focuses on making the heart beat beneath his palm. With every pulse of his necklace, Stiles pushes his magic into Laura’s chest.

Ba-dum. Push. Ba-dum. Push.

A wave of weakness hits Stiles, causing him to sway and his vision to blur. He sinks to his knees, keeping his hand over Laura’s slugglishly beating heart as he breathes through the dizziness.

“Are you okay?” Derek asks from close behind him. His hand hovers, as if unsure whether or not he’s allowed to touch the necromancer. Stiles ignores him and continues to force his magic forward.

Ba-dum. Push.

Laura jolts up with a gasp, the motion causing Stiles’ hand to drop down. Stiles sags against the leg of the table, pressing his forehead against the coldness as he struggles to catch his breath.

“Holy fuck,” Laura says breathlessly, her wild eyes darting around before landing on Derek. “Der? What the hell is going on?”

Stiles blinks and lifts his head, watching as Derek darts forward and envelopes his sister in a tight hug. He pulls away moments later, wiping at the dampness on his cheeks.

“Der? What happened?” Laura’s voice shakes on the question and Stiles decides that is his cue. He stands slowly, bracing his arms on the table to help keep him stable during the process.

“Hello, Laura. I’m Stiles Stilinski, maybe you’ve heard of me,” Stiles says with a grin and a small wave. Laura eyes him warily, glancing between him and Derek with a confused expression. Apparently not. “I’ve done this a lot, but I’ve never quite gotten the hang of this part, so…What do you call a bee that never dies?”

Laura and Derek both stare at him with matching blank looks.

“A zomBEE!” Stiles answers gleefully, “Which brings me to my next topic, which is that you are one. A zombie. You died and I brought you back. Ta-dah!” Stiles ends with a flourish, spreading his fingers and wiggling them in a parody of ‘jazz hands’.

Derek makes a pained noise low in his throat while Laura simply stares at him in horror.

“I’m dead?” Laura whispers.

Stiles’ grin vanishes and he smiles sadly. “Not right now, you aren’t. But you only have about…four hours before my spell will wear off. Of course, I will give you both time to spend with each other and say your goodbyes, but I have a few questions I’d like to ask you first.”

“Yeah, sure,” Laura says, though she seems very subdued after learning that she’s going to go back to being dead later that day.

“Do you—”

Jordan Parrish, soaked to the bone in his Sheriff’s uniform, barrels through the front door, his chest heaving with gasps for breath, “You said…Laura…” He freezes at the sight of the three people, his mouth forming a comical ‘O’ shape as his eyes land on Laura. “Wow, yeah, so you are dead then.”

Laura and Derek both flinch at the blunt reminder and Stiles sighs, “Jor, Don’t you have more tact than that?”

Derek swivels a glare in Stiles’ direction, snapping, “You told my sister that you brought her back from the dead with a zombie joke.”

Stiles shoots him an offended look, raising his hands in defense. “I tried to break the news in a fun way. I’m tired of people bursting into tears when I tell them, so sue me.”

Jordan grabs a chair nearby and sits down, staring at Laura. “You handling the news okay? We’ve been looking for you all morning since Derek called about you being missing. I’m sorry we didn’t find you in time.”

Laura gives him a grateful smile. “Thanks. For trying.”

“I was just about to ask Laura some questions,” Stiles explains to Jordan, “She had the same sliced abdomen as previous victims.”

“I see…” Jordan mumbles, “And a spiral?”

“No visible one,” Stiles replies, “Laura, do you remember anything at all about your death or where you were going?”

Laura considers the question for a moment. “I remember...I remember being in the cemetery, saying hello to our family and I saw…something moving in the trees. I went to go investigate and then…nothing.”

“So you don’t know who killed you then?” Jordan asks, his eyes flicking briefly to Derek. Stiles’ eyes widen in realization.

“Jordan,” Stiles warns.

“Laura, what color are your eyes?” Jordan questions. Laura flashes her eyes, golden orbs reflecting back at them before returning to their normal hazel. “And Derek?”

Laura’s mouth parts in surprise, realizing what Jordan is hinting at. “My baby brother didn’t—”

“Derek,” Jordan interrupts sternly, “Show me your eyes.”

Derek purses his lips, but obediently shines his bright blue eyes back at them. Stiles blinks in surprise. While it thankfully isn’t alpha red, meaning he didn’t kill Laura, the brilliant blue color meant that he had, at some point, killed someone. Someone innocent. And that isn’t reassuring.

Derek glowers at Stiles’ obvious surprise as if daring him to say something. Stiles turns away, focusing back on Laura.

“Do you remember any smells? Any right before you died?” He asks.

Laura shakes her head. “I don’t remember smelling anyone nearby, so whoever it was caught me off guard. Wait…there was…something strange. Like an herby smell.”

Stiles hums before rushing over to the nearby bookshelf, pulling off a couple of thick books and a manila folder. He drops the items onto the table, not caring about the contents spilling out of the folder as he opens one of the books and searches its pages.

Derek reaches out, grabbing one of the photos and staring down at it with a frown. The photo is of one of the many deceased victims, a thin spiral carved into their back as they lie on the forest ground.

“This is the sign for revenge. It’s used by most wolf packs,” Derek says, “The killer’s a werewolf?”

“We figured that out last year when they kept killing on the full moon,” Stiles grumbles as he rapidly turns through the pages.

Jordan snatches the photo out of Derek’s hand and grabs the manila folder, his scowl deepening as he searches through it and finds private case files and police photos. “Why do you have these files?! How do you have these files?”

Stiles grins cheekily up at him. “I don’t think you really wanna know the answer to that.”

Jordan sighs and drops the folder, watching in amusement as Stiles flails and jumps up from his seat, pointing at his book.

“Here it is!” Stiles yells, “Okay, so, we know this guy is a werewolf and that they now have Laura’s alpha power, right?” They all nod. “But, if they’re a werewolf, then Laura should have smelled them, correct?”

“Yeah,” Laura mumbles, “But I didn’t. I just smelled…”

Stiles beams, shoving the book under her nose. “An herb,” he points to the drawings on the page. There are four small bags drawn with a list of ingredients scribbled underneath each frame.

“Are those pictures supposed to mean something to me?” Laura asks, confused. Derek pushes the book away from her.

“Make your point, Stiles. I’d like to spend time with my sister,” Derek growls. The while I still can hanging in the air, unsaid.

“Right. Well, these are talismans that can hide the smell of a shape-shifter. But, here’s the thing, in each of these bags are ingredients that shifters can’t touch,” Stiles says, watching as the realization dawns on each of them.

“So they have help,” Jordan deduces.

“Not just any help. These babies require an element of magic to them, so…” Stiles licks his lips, “So they’re working with someone magic. Now,” he turns to Laura. “Since you’re the first werewolf that’s been killed, we don’t know how long they’ve been using these talismans, but I think they’ve had help from the beginning.”

“Wait, why?” Jordan questions.

“Because, this werewolf is an alpha, but I think they specifically targeted Laura because of her power. It’s more than likely they killed her because they saw her as a rival alpha encroaching on their territory. Which is why she was sliced in half instead of carved when they killed her. Look at the past victims,” he pulls out the manila folder, moving all the photos of the victims side by side, “most were killed the same way, a large slice through the stomach, but they also had the revenge symbol carved on their backs. So they were planned kills—”

“But your dad and Scott didn’t have that symbol,” Jordan interrupts. Stiles’ mouth clacks shut at the mention of his deceased father and best friend. “And all the victims that were bitten and turned.”

Derek’s stare bores into the necromancer. “Sheriff Stilinski?”

Stiles’ lips thin in a tight line. “Yeah, yeah, he…he’s gone.” He faces Jordan and continues, “But they were an accident. Wrong place at the wrong time.” Stiles bites down on the acrid taste of guilt, avoiding looking anyone in the eye as he adds, “But we knew all along that this alpha has been building itself a pack, biting and turning a bunch of people over the past two years. However,” he points to the dates marked on the photos, “The dates all line up with the full moon. It loses control, every full moon. That means that it might not be aware of what it is doing, it’s just running off instinct.”

“You already figured that out months ago though,” Jordan points out, “That’s why we have a curfew on the full moons now.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Yes, but I’m saying that, as an uncontrolled alpha running solely on instincts…it probably also needed help finding its intended victims. The ones it kills for revenge.”

“So you think whoever made their talisman is helping with them find targets,” Jordan states slowly, trying to follow Stiles’ train of thought. Stiles nods vigorously.

“Yes, yep, exactly,” He says eagerly. “If we can get the talisman, I can track the magic user and take them down. But I would need help with the shifter.” He looks at Derek and Laura.

“Of course,” Laura agrees, the same time Derek barks out a sharp, “No.”

“What do you mean no?” Laura glowers at Derek.

“Whoever this is already killed you once, and you want to fight them again?” Derek asks incredulously.

“That doesn’t count! They caught me off guard, I didn’t even know they were there!” Laura argues.

Jordan and Stiles share an amused look, watching the siblings squabble.

“You still died!” Derek roars, “And I’m not going to spend the last hours I have with you searching for the shifter who killed you just so they can kill you again.”

Laura deflates at the comment, turning her beseeching expression to Stiles.

Stiles bites his lip, unsure if what he’s about to do is smart. But he has to try something. He has to take the chance to find Scott and his father’s killer.

“I can extend your reanimation time. You help me find the killer and I’ll give you a week,” He offers.

“A month,” Derek demands.

Stiles blanches at the thought of how much energy that would drain. “Two weeks.”

“A month or no help,” Derek insists with a smirk, already knowing he’s won.

Stiles stares down at his feet, his face pinching at the idea. Using his magic that much would be incredibly painful, would nearly drain him completely, but…

“Okay,” Stiles whispers, knowing the werewolves would pick it up.

Derek grins at Laura who beams back. Jordan rests his hand on Stiles’ arm, obviously seeing the distress on his face. Stiles smiles reassuringly in his direction, but knows it likely comes off more like a grimace.

One month. He can do this. He can.

Maybe.

Chapter Text

(On The TeleBONE)

After discussing it for over an hour, Laura, Derek, and Stiles come to an agreement that they will wait closer to the full moon to make a move against the alpha, since the werewolf is dormant in the in-between time.

As the siblings make their way out the door, Laura loudly announces that she wants to go to the ice cream parlor down the street.

“I want to see if their ice cream is as good as I remember,” Laura pouts, jutting out her lower lip until Derek caves.

“Actually, I wouldn’t recommend you eat anything,” Stiles says as he gathers up his books and moves them back to the shelf.

“Why not?” Laura asks.

“Your body isn’t meant to ingest food anymore. It’ll just pass right through you and make a very uncomfortable scene for everybody around,” Stiles explains.

Laura’s eyes go wide and she stalks over to him, grabbing his wrist and tugging him towards the front door. “Come eat with us, you can tell me more about what I can’t do anymore.”

“Laura,” Derek growls, “You can’t be serious.”

“Why not? I’d like to get to know the guy who saved my life better. Besides, he’s so cute, look at him.” She smushes Stiles’ cheeks between her hands, laughing at the ugly face it engenders.

“Technically, I didn’t save you. I’m just postponing your death for a month,” Stiles mumbles through his squished cheeks and pursed lips. Laura snickers, dropping her hands and pushing the door open with her shoulder. 

“Close enough,” she entwines her fingers with Stiles’, pulling him along through the doorway and into the street. Stiles quickly grabs the umbrella at the front of the door, opening it as soon as they step out into the rain. Derek follows closely behind with a disapproving look.

With a screech, Jackson charges out from the backroom, getting stuck at the last moment when the door closes and pins her against the frame. Jackson struggles to escape the clutches of the door, but to no avail. Her little claws scrabble against the ground as she lets out a piercing wail, instantly gaining Stiles’ attention. 

“Oh. Hey, buddy, I gotcha,” he untangles his hand from Laura’s, walking back to open the door and picking up the dragon. Jackson quickly scrambles up his arm and curls around the back of his neck, winding her tail around Stiles’ bicep to keep herself steady as he walks.

“What is that?” Derek asks. 

“This is my teacup dragon, Jackson,” Stiles coos, rubbing a finger under Jackson’s chin.

“Oh my god, it’s so cute, Stiles,” Laura grins, giving Jackson a little pet on the head. Jackson narrows her eyes at Laura, nipping nastily at the fingers. “Oh, it’s not very friendly, is it?” 

“Nope!” Stiles proudly exclaims. “She’s my little diva, aren’t you?” Jackson chirps happily at Stiles’ tone, rubbing her scaled cheek against his. 

“Usually that’s not considered to be a good quality in a pet,” Derek mentions.

“Good thing she isn’t a pet then,” Stiles retorts. “She’s more of an equal. My other-species partner in crime.”

Derek snorts, “Now that you mention it, the resemblance between you two is uncanny. The tiny bodies, the obnoxious noises that come out of both your mouths…”

Stiles squawks indignantly, “I’ll have you know that I am not, in any way, shape, or form, tiny. Thank you very much.”

Derek quirks an eyebrow and smirks as heat rises to Stiles’ cheeks once he’s realized the implication behind his words. Laura whistles lowly, “I volunteer to be the judge of that, if you want—”

Stiles coughs and sputters, “I-I’m flattered, but also not really into necrophilia, so…”

Derek’s expression goes sour at the reminder and Laura’s smile drops. Stiles bites the insides of his cheeks and shifts his gaze to the ground, disappointed that it hadn’t taken him long at all to ruin the joking atmosphere. Of course he would fuck it up, he’s lost all ability to communicate normally with people who aren’t dead, a dragon, or skeletal. Even Lydia dislikes him, why would the Hales be any different?

An uncomfortable silence falls between the three of them until they reach the entrance to Mr. Hill’s Ice Cream Parlor. Laura yanks the door open with more strength than is needed, before stalking up to the counter and regaining her friendly demeanor to order. Derek and Stiles follow suit, all three of them dropping into a booth. 

Stiles takes a bite out of his hodgepodge of ice cream- five different flavors mixed together with a smattering of different toppings. Derek looks vaguely ill as he watches Stiles shove a spoonful in his mouth and moan obscenely around it. 

“That’s disgusting. Can you even taste any of the flavors?” Derek’s brows furrow together, his mouth parting slightly in a way that showed off the bottoms of his bunny teeth. It’s absolutely adorable. Stiles melts inside despite the cool ice cream on his tongue. He swallows and slowly pulls the spoon out of his mouth, smirking when he notices Derek tracking the movement.

“I can taste all of them,” Stiles replies smartly.

“Oh yeah? Do you even remember what flavors you ordered?” Derek challenges.

Stiles hesitates. No. No, he can’t.

“Of course, I can!” Stiles argues, “There’s…uh…Mint.” He takes another spoonful, speaking with a full mouth, “Some…cherry?”

“Strawberry,” Derek corrects with an entertained smile.

“Strawberry,” Stiles echoes, “Okay, fine. I can’t name them. I can still enjoy it though.” Derek hums, looking pleased with himself.

Laura’s gaze darts between them, a curious look on her face. She hasn’t touched her ice cream, thankfully, and is just letting it sit in front of her.

“You going to eat that?” Stiles asks.

Laura laughs, “Why, you want it?”

“No, but Jackson does.” Stiles says, pointing to the dragon on his shoulder that is dripping drool down his shoulder. Her gaze is fixated on the untouched, melting ice cream.

“Have at it,” Laura tells Jackson, “I just bought it for old time’s sake.”

Finally given permission, Jackson leaps onto the table and smashes her head into the chocolate ice cream, eagerly devouring it as much as she is wearing it. 

“So,” Laura continues, “What else can I expect during this month of being dead?”

Stiles’ spoon slips in his slack grip, falling into the cup. “I don’t really keep people alive for more than a day, so… I’m not completely sure, to be honest. You can’t eat or go to the bathroom or sleep, I know all that.”

“I don’t understand it though, I’m technically alive. I can feel my heart beating,” Laura says petulantly.

“That’s actually just the spell. Your heart is beating, yes, but it isn’t pumping blood or anything. It’s just an echo of your humanity in a way,” Stiles says.

Laura deflates and Derek ruffles a hand through her hair, “At least you’re alive.”

Laura smiles at him and turns to Stiles, “Yes. That’s true, I’m very grateful for that.”

“Oh, no, don’t thank me. You’re only alive because he’s paying me a thousand dollars,” Stiles states bluntly, pointing his dripping spoon at Derek.

Laura snorts, “I think I’m worth a lot more than a thousand dollars, Der.” 

Derek shrugs with a grin, “Hey, I didn’t set the price. I just agreed.”

“Wait, are you saying you would have paid more? How much more? Twice?” Stiles asks. 

“If you had asked me for ten grand I probably wouldn’t have blinked an eye,” Derek admits honestly.

Stiles’ mouth drops open. “Hold up, can we go back to the beginning? Pretend we just met. You tell me you’ll pay me to bring your sister back for ten grand, and I enthusiastically accept.”

Derek laughs, the skin by his eyes crinkling and his bunny teeth on full display. Stiles’ heart flutters embarrassingly at the sight of a happy Derek. It’s almost like being transported all the way back to high school, before tragedy struck and Derek lost his smile. He can still remember going to visit his dad at the police station, seeing an ash-covered Derek with his head in his hands, agonized sobs making their way out of his throat. Laura had been there, too, her arms wrapped tightly around her younger brother while the Sheriff explained to them that nobody else had made it out.

Stiles never wanted to see that look on him again, but, as he sits here now, his stomach sinks at the thought that he will. He will see the devastated look again, because Laura isn’t going to survive the month. 

“I’ll have to turn you down on that offer,” Derek comments. “I prefer the deal for a thousand.”

Stiles chuckles, glancing down at his watch to check the time. 1:30pm. “Sorry to cut this short, guys, but I should probably head back to the shop before Lydia thinks I’ve been kidnapped.”

“Oh, who’s Lydia? Your girlfriend?” Laura asks curiously.

Stiles lets out a bark of shocked laughter, “Oh. Oh, no. She would have killed me by now. She’s the psychic part of Psychic & Skeleton and she’s basically my work partner. She gives readings and tells fortunes and such.” 

He grabs his empty cup and swipes the empty one from under Jackson, tossing them in the nearby garbage can. 

“We’ll walk you back,” Derek says, placing his hand on Stiles’ lower back as they exit. Stiles feels his ears going pink so he quickly glances away, unfortunately not fast enough to miss Laura’s knowing smirk.

Jackson trots on the ground by their feet, seemingly happy to make the walk home on her tiny legs despite the puddles.

“So, I was thinking…” Laura announces loudly.

“Oh, no, you’re not supposed to do that,” Derek grunts as Laura elbows him in the stomach.

“As I was saying, we should exchange numbers,” Laura says, looking at Stiles. “That way we can contact you if we see or smell anything with the alpha. Or if I have any issues.”

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” Stiles agrees, coming to a stop in front of the shop door. He hands her his phone, watching as she quickly types in her information before handing it to Derek, who does the same.

“Send us a text so we have your number, okay?” Laura moves forward, wrapping her arms around Stiles. Stiles’ eyes widen in surprise and he can’t suppress the shiver that runs through him at the contact. He can’t remember the last time someone hugged him, touched him like he was something special. Probably before Scott and his father died. He sinks into the hug, probably extending it past the point of what is comfortable, but he doesn’t care. Laura finally pulls out of the hug, giving him a peck on the cheek. She looks pointedly at Derek who grimaces and steps forward.

“You gonna hug me too, big guy?” Stiles jokes, his arms wide open and fingers wiggling. He’s trying to lighten the sudden awkwardness, only to have Derek grab him by the back on the neck and pull him into another hug. Stiles reacts immediately this time, looping his arms around Derek’s neck. He presses his face into Derek’s shoulder, pushing their bodies that much closer, figuring if this is the only chance he’ll get to do this with his high school crush, he might as well enjoy it. 

“Thank you,” Derek whispers lowly in his ear before pulling back. Stiles nods, letting his arms fall to his sides as he watches them leave. Derek wraps his arm around Laura, tugging her closer with a smile.

“Who was that?”

Stiles swivels around to see Lydia standing in the now open doorway.

“Laura and Derek Hale,” Stiles answers simply, stepping past her into the shop, trying to pretend his skin doesn’t still tingle from the hugs.

“Clients?” Lydia questions, closing the door behind them.

Stiles nods, moving into the backroom where Lydia and Jackson follow. He flings himself onto their ratty old couch, opening his phone and forming a group text. He adds both Laura and Derek to the group as Jackson plops onto his stomach, settling down for a nap.

“Did one of them die?” Lydia asks, “When did they even come back to Beacon Hills? I thought they left after the fire.”

“They came back last week.” Stiles comments distractedly, typing out his message.

What type of dogs do zombies like to eat?

Lydia hums, watching him curiously, “What for?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t ask,” Stiles grumbles.

Stiles’ phone buzzes with an immediate response and he quickly swipes the screen, snorting at the messages.

Derek’s reply is a curt No.,while Laura helpfully sends Idk, what?

He swiftly types his response with a grin.

BLOODhounds!

“Who are you texting?” Lydia frowns, “Since when do you have people to text?”

“I’m allowed to have friends, Lydia,” Stiles comments. 

“I’m not saying you’re not allowed to, I’m just saying that you don’t have them,” Lydia says.

“Apparently, I do,” Stiles sing-songs, waving his phone in her direction.

Lydia makes an ugly sound in her throat before snapping out, “Whatever. I was just trying to make conversation. Go back to texting your mystery friends.”

Stiles smiles to himself, reading the new texts as Lydia storms out of the room.

You didn’t have to emphasize the blood part. We got it, Derek texts, waiting a beat before sending,It’s still a terrible joke that makes no real sense.

Laura is more enthusiastic in her reply: Hahaha my turn- What do vegetarian zombies crave?

There’s a short moment before she sends the answer: GRAAAAAAAAINS!

Stiles snorts and shoots back his response: A+ joke. Would read again. 

To his surprise, Derek texts him outside of the group message. Stiles’ heartbeat picks up as he checks the message, having no idea what it’s going to say.

Don’t encourage her bad jokes.

Stiles laughs, not wasting any time before responding: I can’t make that promise, sorry.

I’ll pay you a thousand more, comes the quick reply.

Stiles stares at the screen in surprise, typing out a flurry of messages: Wait seriously

Don’t play with me like that dude

ARE YOU JOKING OR NOT

D ERE K  

Derek doesn’t respond, but the conversation leaves him in a good mood for the rest of the day, grinning and annoying Lydia with his cheeriness. 

He had forgotten what it was like to have friends. If that’s what they are, that is. He isn’t quite sure, to be honest.

  

The next few days start to pass by fairly uneventfully. A client comes in every so often for Stiles. They’re mostly human cases, but also include the occasional beloved pet.

Derek texts him sometimes, usually a short update on how Laura’s doing. Laura texts him more often, sending him photos of them around town or random photos of Derek when he’s not paying attention. It’s weird, but Stiles doesn’t ask her to stop since he likes receiving the pictures so much. Sometimes he’ll send back pictures of Jackson or selfies that Laura always makes a fuss over.

Stiles yawns loudly, tears welling up in his eyes at the action as Lydia’s client leaves. Lydia looks at him with a concerned expression, “Did you get any sleep last night?” 

“A full eight hours,” Stiles says with a sleepy smile. He pulls his phone out of his pocket, checking to see if Derek responded to his earlier text. He had sent him a video of Jackson chewing on Lydia’s purse while Lydia seethed a few feet away, holding a severely scratched book defensively in front of her. There’s no response. 

He tries not to feel disappointed, but does anyway. For a long time, he hasn’t had anyone to talk to, to anxiously await texts from, but now he does. It’s kind of overwhelming.

He’s used to the sound of the front door opening, but the voice that accompanies it drags him to the front of the shop.

“Where’s our skeleton boy?” Laura calls out. Stiles finds himself grinning in the other room before he even sees her. He steps through the doorway, extra pleased when he sees Derek standing beside her, scolding her for being too loud. Laura rolls her eyes exasperatedly and Stiles suddenly notices that she has a backpack slung over her shoulder.

“Laura!” Stiles exclaims, equally loud, as the woman runs up to him, grabs him by the waist and lifts him up. “Derek,” he greets with a smile once he’s returned to the ground. Derek nods his greeting.

“Hello,” Lydia says from where she’s standing by the bookshelf, “I think I saw you guys a few days ago. Laura and Derek Hale, right? I’m Lydia.”

“Yep,” Laura grins. “Nice to meet you. Stiles has told us a lot about you.” 

“Only good things, I hope,” Lydia says, looking at accusingly Stiles with a raised brow.

“Actually, yeah, it’s all been good,” Laura confirms, and it’s true. Lydia might not be Stiles’ biggest fan, but he would never say a bad word about her to anyone. She offered him a job, a sanctuary, a home, at a time he needed it most and he will never forget that.

Lydia’s expression morphs into one of surprise before she controls it back into a stoic mask.

“Good to know,” she says before strutting into the backroom.

“She seems nice,” Derek drawls. Stiles chuckles, before propping the front door open with a brick.

“It’s a nice day out. We were wondering if you wanted to go to the park with us?” Laura asks.

“Sure,” Stiles smiles.

Laura grins, enthusiastically linking their arms together as she pulls him outside- Derek on one side of her, Stiles on the other.

“Tell us about your day, Stiles,” Laura orders, rather than asks.

“Well, a guy asked me to revive his dog today. Not just for a day though, he wanted me to make his dog immortal. And he threw a fit when I explained that that wasn’t what I do. How about you?” He watches in amusement as Laura listens to him, practically vibrating out of her skin to share something.

“Derek and I visited the Yosemite National Park yesterday. We always talked about going, but never did. Have you ever been there? It’s gorgeous!”

Stiles shares an entertained look with Derek as Laura goes on and on, describing the beautiful landscapes and animals she saw.

“You don’t understand, Stiles. It was amazing,” Laura beams at him.

“I’m glad to hear—” Stiles cuts himself off, gritting his teeth and stumbling to a halt as his pendant pulses beneath his shirt. He clutches at the pendant, gasping for breath, barely able to get air into his lungs. He sways on his feet, but is quickly steadied by strong hands gripping his biceps.

“Stiles? Stiles, what’s wrong?” Derek is frantic as his eyes dart across Stiles’ face and body, looking for the cause of the episode. Laura stands behind her brother, her hand covering her mouth and her eyes wide open in horror as she watches.

Stiles wheezes a few more times, dots starting to appear in his vision when it all suddenly stops. The pendant goes still and quiet again and suddenly, as if it all never happened, he can breathe again. 

“Stiles?” Derek asks quietly. Stiles closes his eyes and pushes forward until his forehead rests on Derek’s shoulder, too exhausted to hold his own weight. Derek doesn’t question the behavior, simply slings his arm around Stiles’ shoulder to keep him steady.

“Stiles,” Laura murmurs nervously, “What was that?”

“The spell,” Stiles slurs.

“The spell to keep me alive?” She asks quietly. Stiles nods weakly. “It hurts you?”

Stiles sighs, reluctantly pushing away from Derek’s warmth with what little energy he has. He wipes a hand down his face, “Kind of. My normal magic takes energy, necromancy takes a lot of it.”

“So it makes you tired?” Laura asks.

Stiles hesitates before answering, “Yeah. It’s pretty exhausting.” His heart doesn’t stutter over the half-truth. After all, the spell really does make him tired. It just also drains him of his life too.

But that’s his business, not theirs.

“Come on, I’m fine,” Stiles says, continuing back onto the path with heavy feet.

 

 

It’s a slow walk to the park, slower than usual since Stiles is too weak to keep up with their fast pace. After the third time they almost leave him behind, Laura and Derek finally decide to slow down, following Stiles’ lead and letting him control the pace. He chooses a nice resting spot in some shade underneath a couple of large trees. The area around them is a completely open field, the grass recently mowed short.

Laura pulls a blanket out of her bag, lowering it to the floor and draping herself on top of it. She grabs a book, cracking it open and beginning to read.

“You came to the park to lie down and read?” Stiles laughed.

“Derek will keep you entertained while I relax. He’s the one that comes here to exercise,” she whispers the last part like it’s something scandalous.

“Exercise?” Stiles echoes back, curious. 

Derek smirks at him before moving to hide behind the cover of the trees.

“What is he doing?” Stiles turns his head to follow the movement, only to have his line of sight blocked by the trunks.

“You’ll see,” Laura giggles.

From behind the very same trees, a handsome black wolf comes trotting out, his bright blue eyes steady on Stiles.

“No fucking way,” Stiles breathes as wolf-Derek steps tentatively closer, as if unsure whether or not Stiles is scared of him. Stiles reaches out with his hands, pausing close by Derek’s head so that Derek can back away if he wants to. But he steps even closer, pressing his furry head into Stiles’ hands. “Good boy.”

Derek snorts, jumping up to tackle Stiles to the ground and growl playfully in his face.

“Oh my god, no, stop. I’m sorry about the dog joke,” Stiles bursts out laughing as Derek sits all of his weight on the man’s stomach, pinning him to the ground. Derek’s tongue lolls out like he’s proud of the human he’s caught. “You’re so heavy, how much do you eat? Geez.”

Derek’s mouth shuts and his eyes narrow at Stiles in offense. He pushes his head closer, growling menacingly before stopping once the tip of his nose barely an inch away from Stiles’. His tongue darts out, licking the pink, upturned nose, and then he huffs in amusement, sauntering off to dig in Laura’s bag. 

“Your brother’s a bully, Laura,” Stiles groans from the ground.

“Don’t I know it,” Laura replies.

Derek comes trotting back to Stiles, a wooden Frisbee dangling in between his front teeth. His fluffy tail wags excitedly, waiting for Stiles’ response. 

“Oh, you want to play now, huh?” Stiles snorts, “Alright.” He takes the Frisbee, aiming far away and flinging it. Derek races after it, leaping into the air for an impressive catch.

Stiles scoots over to Laura’s side, sitting cross-legged and waiting for Derek to return with the Frisbee. When Derek comes back, Stiles pushes a small amount of magic into the disc, demanding it go farther. Like last time, Derek catches up fast.

Stiles laughs and waves a hand, sending the Frisbee higher in the air just as Derek jumps to snatch it. Derek leaps again, jaws snapping on nothing before he turns and glares at Stiles.

“Alright, alright, don’t get your tail in a twist,” Stiles snickers, flicking his wrist to send the Frisbee soaring through the air once again. Stiles continues to watch, completely mesmerized by the spectacle, telling himself it has nothing to do with his crush on the man.

It’s just that Derek is absolutely beautiful as a wolf. He’s the kind of animal people look at and wish they would become in a next life: powerful, elegant, intelligent, and sleek. But, as Stiles watches, he can’t help but wonder what it would be like to stroll through the park with human Derek, their hands entwined as they walked together. If they were here under other circumstances, would Derek still want to spend time with him? Would someone like Derek have ever looked at him twice? Probably not, he thinks.

The sound of Laura’s voice drags him out of his reverie.

“Hmm?” He blinks at her.

“Do you like him?” Laura repeats with a smug grin. “You keep making heart-eyes when you look at him.” 

“It depends on how you define ‘like’,” Stiles hedges, keeping his expression blank and pretending his heart didn’t speed up at her words. He’s not even going to refute the other part.

Derek, thankfully, isn’t paying them any attention. Instead, he’s preoccupied himself with chasing squirrels across the field and up into the safety of the trees. Stiles sympathizes with the squirrels an awful lot right now.

“I define it as wanting to have sex with him,” Laura chuckles as Stiles’ face reddens.

“That’s your brother!” Stiles hisses.

“So? He’s allowed to have a sex life,” Laura shrugs, “Preferably one with you in it, if I’m being honest. I ship you two so hard." 

“Ship?” Stiles asks in confusion.

“I want you two to date,” Laura clarifies, waiting a beat before adding, more softly, “And for you both to be happy. I want him to have someone when I’m gone. I’m all he has and… I’m afraid what losing me will do to him.”

Stiles’ hand digs into the ground, pulling at the grass by his feet.

“I used to have a crush on him,” Stiles admits. “In high school. He never noticed me because I was a freshman, but I paid close attention to him. I went to every one of his basketball games and even sent him some of those balloon-o-grams to his homeroom for his birthday.”

“His birthday’s on Christmas,” Laura comments quietly, her expression having softened to something more surprised and gentle the longer Stiles spoke.

“I know. I sent them on the last day of classes before break,” Stiles laughs, but it sounds hollow even to his own ears, “You know what’s really pathetic though? I decided to ask him to prom towards the end of the year. I don’t know how I gathered the courage, but I did.”

Laura frowns, watching as Stiles’ fingers anxiously play with the skull bracelet around his wrist. She patiently waits for him to continue.

“I made a huge poster that I was going to hold in the middle of the basketball court and had this whole elaborate plot. Scott was going to convince Derek that the other players hadn’t put all the equipment back after practice and, since he’s captain, he’d have to go back to the court and I’d be there, all suave and irresistible…” Stiles glances up at Laura with a mirthless smile. 

“What happened?” Laura asks on a whisper.

Stiles lies back, pillowing the back of his head on his hands, “Scott found Derek making out with a substitute teacher. Came back with his tail between his legs to tell me.”

“Oh. Kate,” Laura sighs, “I get that that hurts, but that has nothing to do with you guys now.”

“Doesn’t it?” Stiles pushes himself up onto his elbows, “I was gone on Derek, but he had a fling with an older woman who was later arrested for burning down your home. I didn’t date anyone for a while after that, because I was still hung up on him even after you guys left, but then there was Heather… We were just friends having fun, but… She was one of the first victims.” 

“Of the alpha that killed me?” Laura questions. 

“Yeah. Not to mention my mother, father, and best friend are all dead too. So, the moral of the story is that Stiles Stilinski is toxic. Everyone around me dies,” he says. “I should walk around wearing one of those caution signs.”

“I guess that makes us similar in a way then, doesn’t it?” Laura mentions. Stiles blinks at her in surprise.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Stiles admits, falling back with a startled cry when Derek’s cold nose huffs a breath in his ear. “How long have you been over here, Derek?”

Derek rolls his eyes, but curls up next to Stiles, laying his heavy head on the grass next to him. Stiles smiles, running his fingers through the thick fur on Derek’s neck. Derek lets out a content sigh, closing his eyes as he enjoys the petting.

“I miss the easier days,” Stiles whispers. He stares up at the clouds, imagining his father’s face in them.

He glances at Derek and looks to the side where Laura watches them both with a soft smile.

Yes, he misses those days when things were simpler and his family was alive.

But maybe, as his fingers caress coarse fur, the present isn’t so bad either.

Chapter Text

(He could feel it in his bones)

 

The next week starts with pain. It’s not sharp or intense, just a dull ache that sits in Stiles’ bones— a constant reminder that Laura’s still living. 

“You look like shit,” Lydia states the moment she walks through the shop doors.

“Aw, that was so sweet, thanks,” Stiles drawls, lifting his cup of coffee to take a sip. He knows it’s true though- he looked in the mirror this morning. There’s a dark tint under his eyes hinting at his exhaustion and he’s paler than usual, his moles standing out more prominently against his nearly colorless skin.

“Did you get any sleep?” She asks, genuine concern in her voice.

“Careful, Lydia, don’t want your kindness to show,” Stiles teases, leaning his weight onto the counter behind him. He sets his partially drunk coffee on the surface, unable to bring himself to finish it despite his need for the caffeine.

“Screw you, I care,” Lydia snaps. “You’re such an asshole.”

Her outburst surprises him. Usually harsh words are a playful banter between the two of them, but obviously she must have been upset before she came in to the shop.

Stiles reaches out, grabbing her by the waist with both hands and tugging her close. Lydia complies, letting Stiles press a gentle kiss to her temple. 

“I’m sorry, I know you’re worried,” he mumbles into her hair. “I’m fine though. Really, Lyds.” 

Lydia immediately pulls herself from his grip, busying herself by grabbing her notebook and recorder out of her purse and setting them on the table for her next session.

“I think you forget which one of us is the psychic,” Lydia says with a shaky voice.

“Did you see something?” Stiles asks tentatively, not sure if he wants to know the answer.

Lydia swivels around to face him, her eyes brimming with unshed tears, “No, I didn’t. But things feel bad, Stiles. Like something is wrong. Really, really wrong.” 

“Like…the day before Scott…?” Stiles frowns.

“Like that,” Lydia confirms, “What are you getting yourself into? I know this feeling is because of you.”

“Laura’s still alive,” Stiles admits. Lydia’s mouth parts in shock and she blinks rapidly to keep her tears at bay.

“No, no, you’re not supposed to do that,” Lydia whispers. “Your dad—” 

My dad isn’t here, Lydia,” Stiles says firmly.

Your dad forbade you from bringing him back exactly for this reason! Because you’d keep him alive until it killed you! Why are you doing it for a stranger?” Lydia seethes.

“Derek Hale isn’t a stranger and—”

“You’re doing this for Derek Hale?” Lydia snarls, “Your fucking high school crush? What the hell is wrong with you, Stiles? You know he’s never going to like you back! You’re just going to kill yourself for his attention, is that it?”

“It isn’t like that,” Stiles disagrees.

“You want to bet? You really want to bet he isn’t just using you, flirting with you to extend the life of his dying sister? Really?” Lydia’s eyes burn as she stares him down.

“He agreed to help me kill the rogue alpha,” Stiles says weakly. 

Lydia’s face shuts down, “What?”

“I promised to keep his sister alive for a month if they help me kill the rogue alpha,” Stiles states.

“And how are you supposed to find the alpha exactly?” Lydia questions with a scoff.

“I was actually hoping you would help for that,” Stiles says, “Maybe you can focus your power and—” 

“You want me to predict a death,” Lydia deadpans. “No. I don’t do that.”

“But, I think, if you really concentrate, you could. I have faith in you,” Stiles pleads, stepping closer.

“Yeah? Well, sometimes faith isn’t enough! I had faith that you wouldn’t do something stupid and get yourself killed— and now look at you!” She yells.

“I’m not dead yet,” Stiles insists. 

“Yet,” Lydia scoffs, “Great. That’s really comforting…”

A movement from behind the fuming redhead catches Stiles’ eye. In the doorway, a tan blur in the shape of a masculine figure shakes his head, as if disappointed. Stiles rubs at his eyes, reopening them only to find the doorway empty once again.

“Are you even listening to me?” Lydia demands.

“No,” Stiles sighs, suddenly feeling very exhausted with everything. “Look, I’m going to go lie down, okay? Maybe I’ll be up for listening to you yell at me later.” He trudges into the backroom, falling onto the couch with a grunt.

Jackson looks up and makes a dejected noise from the corner. 

“Not you too,” Stiles groans, “I can’t handle more sadness right now.” He rolls over, pressing his face into the back cushion until he can’t even see the stars dancing behind his eyelids.

Tiny claws pinch on his arms until the dragon’s weight settles in the thin space between Stiles’ body and the couch. Jackson chirps, shoving her face onto Stiles’ shoulder.

“Shhh,” Stiles grumbles, “Nap time.”

They both fall asleep within moments.

 

“Stiles,” someone whispers, pulling Stiles out of his dreamless sleep. Stiles rolls over, blinking to focus his blurry eyes on the figure standing next to the couch.

“Derek? What’re you doing back here?” Stiles mumbles on a yawn, suddenly noticing that Laura isn’t accompanying Derek like usual. “What’s going on? Is Laura okay?” 

“She’s fine, don’t worry. And the door was open, so I let myself in,” Derek says, his eyes darting away as if he’s nervous. 

“That’s fine. Is something wrong?” Stiles asks quietly.

Derek frowns, “I said Laura was fine.”

“I’m asking about you,” Stiles responds with a friendly smile. He pats the space on the couch next to him not occupied by Jackson. Derek takes the invitation, sinking down onto the cushions.

Now that he’s closer, Stiles can see the paleness in his face, the scruffy beard Derek hasn’t bothered to shave, and the sad look in his eyes as he glances toward Stiles.

“I don’t have anyone to talk to other than Laura,” Derek sighs, dropping his head into his hands, “and she’s going to be gone again soon.”

Stiles swallows around a dry throat, “You can talk to me about it, whenever. I’ve lost family, too, and I’m a pretty good listener, if I may say so myself.” 

Derek looks at him in consideration before hesitantly admitting, “All I can think about is how I’m going to lose her again, see her lifeless body again. And there’s nothing I can do to stop it.”

Stiles nods as he listens, picking at loose threads on the couch, “It isn’t easy, I know, but I can promise you that it will be painless this time. When she passes.” 

“Is there nothing you could do to save her?” Derek asks, pleadingly.

“If there were a way, I would, but…” Stiles trails off, eyeing Derek as he drops his head back onto the couch.

“I just wish I could stop thinking about it,” Derek confesses, “Laura’s out visiting friends to tell them what’s going on, and I’m stuck here moping because I can’t stop counting the days we have left.” 

“Is there anything I can do to help take your mind off it?” Stiles asks, “We could go to the park again or—” Stiles freezes at Derek’s look. He's staring at Stiles’ face intently, his mouth parted as if a question is stuck on his lips. “What?”

Derek moves slowly forward, giving Stiles time to back away, but he doesn’t. He sits there, an expression of confusion and awe on his face as soft lips press oh-so-lightly against his, a gentle question rather than a demand. Stiles’ heart skips, changing rhythm to pound faster and harder in his chest, as if it could escape if it beat hard enough. He quickly answers, his lips pushing back against Derek’s with enthusiasm. It lasts for a few moments, their heads tilting and noses brushing each other’s cheeks in a way that sends shivers up Stiles’ spine. As first kisses go, it’s slow, deep, and perfect. Stiles’ lips tingle when Derek pulls away, his eyes slowly fluttering back open before he’s even noticed they were closed.

“T-that wasn’t what I had in mind, but if that helps, I’m totally up for that,” Stiles laughs breathlessly. He’s sure he must look ridiculous, a ruddy color on his cheeks and goofy grin on his face, but he can’t bring himself to care about how affected he is by one single kiss.

Derek’s eyes flit across his face, “I just want to stop thinking for once.”

Stiles nods in understanding and agreement before leaning in for another kiss, ready to see how much better the second kiss will be. Derek halts the action with a hand on his chest and Stiles pulls back, confusion etched on his face.

“I just want to make it clear, that… I’m not looking for a relationship. If we do this, it’s just something casual. To help me forget,” Derek says and oh. Oh. The sentence hurts like a punch to his gut and Stiles swallows around his suddenly dry throat. Of course this is just something casual, for fun. Why would Derek want to be in a relationship with the person who was going to send his sister back to her early grave? The freak that plays with skeletons for fun? He wouldn’t. This is just a fling then, a way to help Derek clear his mind. Stiles isn’t worth more than that. 

Stiles bites his lip, not wanting to show that it stings. It isn’t Derek’s fault that he doesn’t want to actually be with Stiles, to go on dates or be something more. And if casual is what Derek wants, Stiles can work with that. He’s spent most of his life dealing with unrequited feelings, and he can continue to do so. No problem. Really.

“Okay,” Stiles agrees.

Derek grins and tugs him closer. “Okay,” he breathes against Stiles’ lips, his eyes half-closed as their lips brush together lightly- barely enough contact to be considered a kiss. Stiles closes the space between their bodies even more, clutching Derek’s soft V-neck shirt under his hands as the kiss deepens. Jackson lets out a noise of annoyance from next to them and quickly hops down off the couch and into the front office.

“I can’t believe you’re into me,” Stiles laughs as they separate for air.

“Why not? This isn’t high school, Stiles,” Derek replies and Stiles’ eyes narrow into suspicious slits.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” He asks coldly.

“It means I heard you and Laura, okay?” At Stiles’ horrified expression, Derek continues, “I have enhanced hearing; you really thought I couldn’t hear you two? I know you had a crush on me back then, but just because I didn’t like you in high school doesn’t mean I can’t like you now.” 

Stiles pulls back in embarrassment, moving to get up off the couch, only to be held down by Derek’s hands on his waist. Stiles glares resentfully at him.

“The truth is that you’re beautiful, Stiles. Especially when you perform magic. The first time I saw you, I wanted to wreck you,” Derek admits lowly, “to get you on your knees and put your mouth to good use.” He presses feather-light kisses to Stiles’ neck, causing his breath to hitch and his heart to flutter.

“That’s kinda awkward to say since your sister was there at that time,” Stiles points out, laughing when Derek lifts his head to glare at him before resuming his worshiping of Stiles’ neck.

The kisses go from gentle pecks to light suction that make Stiles’ hands shake. He moves to straddle Derek’s lap, a moan slipping out of his mouth without permission when Derek adds a hint of teeth, grazing against the skin as he sucks.

“Do you care if I leave marks?” Derek asks, pulling back. Stiles groans at the loss, already missing the sting of stubble against his sensitive skin.

“If I cared I would’ve stopped you,” Stiles states.

Derek licks his lips and glances around, as if only just remembering where they are. “We should take this back to your place.” 

Stiles freezes at that, “I, uh, don’t really think that’s… a good idea.” He mumbles, his nervous gaze fixed on the floor.

“Oh. I thought… Nevermind,” Derek moves Stiles off of him and pushes himself up from the couch, getting ready to leave. He looks disappointed and even a little bit hurt, causing Stiles’ stomach to drop into his toes. He can’t let Derek leave like this, thinking that he wasn’t interested.

Stiles rushes to his feet and lunges forward, his hands latching onto Derek’s bicep and tugging him back.

“I live here. In the shop,” he blurts, looking down again to avoid Derek’s pitying gaze.

“You what?” Derek asks, surprised by the admission. 

“I can’t afford an apartment or… anything, really. Lydia lets me live in the shop,” Stiles’ cheeks burn in humiliation. Nobody but Lydia knows about his situation, how pathetic and far from successful he is.

“But you charge a thousand dollars for a couple of hours,” Derek says, doubt heavy in his voice.

“Not usually. You’re the only one so far that’s agreed to that; usually people beg for lower prices and how can I turn them away? Who am I to tell them they can’t say goodbye to their loved one because they can’t afford it?” Stiles scoffs at the idea. He may be a bit of an asshole, but he isn’t that much of one.

“How do you stay in business?” Derek questions with concern.

“Because of Lydia, mostly. I give her all my earnings though. Well, what I don’t spend on food, that is,” Stiles says with a lopsided smile.

“I can pay you more,” Derek offers and Stiles guffaws. 

“I wasn’t asking, thanks. I don’t need pity money,” Stiles bites out, “But I will gladly accept other forms of gratification if you’ve got an available place.” He winks and Derek snorts. 

“Laura’s going to be gone for the night,” Derek says, pulling his keys out of his pocket.  “We’re staying in the hotel down the street.”

“She’ll be okay coming back to the room with my scent there?” Stiles asks, shifting worriedly on his feet.

“She’s fine with it. In fact, before she left, she told me, in her words, not mine, ‘I’ll be gone all night, please make use of the time and make a move on the adorable freckled kid already’.” Derek recites with a smirk.

“Wouldn’t want to disappoint her, now would we?” Stiles laughs, as they leave the office, walking to Derek’s sleek, black Camaro. Stiles slides into the seat, knowing that things are moving really fast and that he’s probably going to get hurt in the process. He has too many feelings for Derek to be satisfied with the bits and scraps he’s thrown.

He glances at Derek from the corner of his eye, seeing the content look on the other man’s face as he pulls out of the parking lot.

Oh, yes, he knows it’s going to hurt. But it will be worth the pain. Derek is worth it.

 

The hotel room is glamorous compared to his current sleeping arrangement. The pristine condition of the room, the soft white sheets adorning the two beds, and the fluffy pillows all send him back to a time when his mother was alive and they could afford to go on trips and rent hotel rooms.

Stiles, suddenly feeling like a kid again, runs and flops onto the left bed, burying his face in the sheets and breathing in.

“You know hotels are notorious for not actually cleaning their sheets and things, right?” Derek says with a smile, watching Stiles starfish out on the bed.

“I got my couch from outside a house where it sat for days with a ‘For Sale’ sign. How much do you think I care about cleanliness, hmm? Besides, you could probably smell if there were really weird stuff, right?” He rolls onto his side and props his head on one of his hands, watching as Derek shrugs out of his jacket.

“I can,” Derek states, draping his jacket over one of the chairs. “Your couch smells like a sewer.”

“Mmmm, I love your dirty talk,” Stiles purrs, bursting out laughing when Derek purses his lips and sucks in his cheeks in a perfect imitation of a smoldering look.

“Pizza stains, cat pee, and French onion dip,” Derek says in a husky voice. Stiles throws his head back on a laugh, causing him to lose his balance and collapse into the pillows. 

“Oh my god, does it really smell like that?” Stiles questions, staring up at the ceiling.

“Do you really want to discuss your awful-smelling couch right now?” Derek asks with an arched brow.

“Good point,” Stiles sighs. “Mind if I use your shower?”

Derek gestures towards the bathroom, giving him the go-ahead.

Hotel bathrooms are even more amazing than Stiles remembers. Everything is a glistening white, the towels feel like cotton clouds, and the showerhead works and looks brand new. It’s nothing like the cramped metal showers Stiles uses at the local gym.

“Were you planning on staring at the shower until you got clean?” Derek drawls behind him. Stiles rolls his eyes and turns the shower on, letting the water warm up before he goes in.

He strips off his shirt, throwing it off to the side. As he reaches down and undoes his belt, rough hands wrap around his and gently pull his hands away. Stiles gazes up into Derek’s mesmerizingly light green eyes, the heat inside them sending a tingle of anticipation through his body. 

“Let me,” Derek murmurs, dropping to his knees. That sight alone has Stiles’ cock starting to harden in his jeans as Derek pulls the zipper down slowly, dragging the jeans down until they pool around his ankles. Stiles steps out of them, completely captivated and Derek reaches up for the tight red briefs, tugging them down just enough to tuck them under his balls. Derek pushes forward, mouthing at the balls, alternating between teasing them with his tongue and sucking on them.

Stiles groans at the warmth, lifting his hands to Derek’s hair and brushing through the strands affectionately. Derek continues to lick at him, encouraging his dick to fill and stiffen even more at the pleasant attention. Thick hands wrap around the backs of Stiles’ thighs, holding him steady as Derek moves lower, pressing biting kisses to the insides of his thighs. He pauses his kisses to help Stiles remove the briefs completely, giving him more access to skin.

A shaky breath makes its way out of Stiles’ throat, becoming heavier as it escapes and morphing into a drawn out moan when Derek, finally, sucks his cock into his mouth.

The wet sound drives Stiles insane, has him tightening his hand in Derek’s hair as the man bobs his head and takes him down his throat. He goes on like that for a few moments, maintaining a steady rhythm that has Stiles’ toes curling and wishing they could stay here and do this forever. Screw responsibilities, this is what he is meant to do in life. When Derek pulls off with a pop, he licks at the leaking slit and moans, as if it were the best thing he’s tasted.

“Der,” Stiles breathes, using his grip in Derek’s hair to urge him forward again. Derek goes easily, trailing his tongue down the prominent vein on Stiles’ dick.

“You can fuck my mouth,” Derek rasps, peering up at Stiles with abused lips and blown-out pupils. He opens his mouth and surrounds Stiles once again in the wet heat, holding still as Stiles starts to move his hips. In and out, in and out, Derek opens his jaw, accommodating Stiles deeper until his nose is pressed up against Stiles’ trimmed curls.

“Fuck, Derek,” Stiles groans, watching as Derek swallows around him with a blissed-out look. There’s nothing Stiles wants more in that moment than to take a picture of him like that and frame it, hanging it on every wall in the shop so others can see how much Derek enjoys sucking his dick. “You look so good like this. On your knees for me. You take my cock so well, fuck.”

Derek hums in response to the praise, sliding his tongue along the length in his mouth. Stiles shudders and pulls himself out, wrapping a tight hand around his dick at the expression on Derek’s face. He looks like he’s waking up from a good dream, his eyes fluttering open as he licks at his swollen lips. 

“I don’t want to come yet,” Stiles says, cradling Derek’s cheek and encouraging him to his feet. Derek dives in for a brutal kiss, licking into Stiles’ mouth and pushing him against the shower door. Stiles reaches around, grabbing the globes of Derek’s ass in his hands and kneading them underneath his fingers. It feels even better than it looks.

“Take your clothes off,” Stiles mumbles into the kiss, pressing a few more pecks to Derek’s mouth before pulling away completely and stepping into the shower.

Derek obeys, shedding his clothes and stepping under the warm spray. Stiles is already massaging shampoo into his hair and washing the suds out with a peaceful expression. His cock remains hard between his legs, shifting against his pelvis with every movement and leaving a sticky trail that swiftly washes away with the water. Derek reaches for it, ready to resume previous activities, only to have Stiles bat his hand away with a playful smile.

“Clean first, then sexy times,” Stiles states, maneuvering Derek around so that he’s not in the direct path of the spray. He grabs a shampoo bottle, squirting some into his hands before he massages it into Derek’s dark hair, digging his fingers in around Derek’s temple. He’s rewarded instantly with a pleasured groan that makes his dick twitch in response.

He’s never been this intimate with a partner before, only having had casual sex with Heather a couple times two years ago. The experience of sharing a shower and washing the other is new, but could easily become addicting. He already wants to keep this content expression on Derek’s face, to shield him from further loss and pain. And with their situation being what it is, that isn’t good.

“I think I’m good now,” Derek says softly, gently removing Stiles’ hands from where they rested unmoving on his scalp. Stiles instantly steps back, pulling his hands away and watching as Derek tilts his head back and lets the water wash away the suds.

Stiles stares, fascinated by the beautiful man next to him. He’s enticing even as he does nothing but tilt his head back, the ripple of muscles on display being enough to make Stiles’ mouth water.

He takes a bold step closer, pressing a kiss to Derek’s hairy chest and taking his nipple into his mouth, biting down gently. Derek hisses, but places his hand on the back of Stiles’ neck, encouraging him to continue.

“Turn toward the glass,” Stiles says hoarsely as he pulls away. Derek does and presses his palms against the clear wall, looking heatedly over his shoulder to see Stiles lower himself to his knees on the wet tiles. 

Stiles grabs Derek’s ass cheeks, pulling them apart and watching as water cascades tantalizingly down the crack. He massages the hole with the tip of his thumb, rubbing soft circles that elicit a heady groan from Derek.

He pushes close, licking a stripe from his balls to his hole, before flicking his tongue against it. He smiles at the punched-out gasp the action earns him, still flicking relentlessly.

“Fuuuck,” Derek moans, shifting to press his elbows against the glass and rest his forehead on them. He spreads his legs wider, giving Stiles better access. Stiles glances up, taking in the delicious arch of Derek’s back twitching above him.

Closing his eyes with determination to make this as unforgettable as possible, Stiles shifts even closer, sucking the rim in a way that makes Derek quake under his fingers. He sloppily kisses the hole, running the flat of his tongue against it as he hears Derek start to jack himself off.

He shifts a bit, holding the cheeks apart with his palms so that his fingers are free to explore. Derek groans as Stiles’ middle finger gently traces the rim, and he moves a hand back from the glass to help pull the separate the cheeks even further. 

“You’re so needy for me,” Stiles purrs, sucking on his middle finger and wetting it before pressing it against the hole, watching as the digit is sucked greedily into the tight heat.

He fucks Derek slowly with the finger, going in and curving just right to press against the small nub inside that causes Derek to jolt in pleasure. 

“Yes, fuck, keep going,” Derek sighs, pushing back on the finger. It’s incredibly hot, the sight making Stiles’ dick twitch and leak profusely with need. He wants to reach a hand down, to jack himself off at the sound of Derek’s groans and curses, but he can’t. Not yet.

Stiles starts to move his finger faster, licking around the rim as the digit rubs insistently against his prostate. Derek is moaning, letting out little pleasured gasps and sighs at a steady rate as his own hand works his cock.

With one last strangled moan, Derek’s whole body shakes and his come paints the glass. Stiles immediately pulls his finger out, not wanting to over stimulate Derek, and then he rises to his feet.

Derek looks completely fucked out, his eyes half-lidded and his mouth still parted from his moan. But, as his eyes fall on Stiles’ red, neglected cock, he stalks forward and pins Stiles against the wall. He kisses him sloppy and dirty as he wraps his hand around Stiles’ dick and gives him some much needed relief.

Stiles groans, his head falling back against the wall as Derek moves down to suck and kiss his neck. After two years of nothing but his own hand, Derek’s rough palm on his cock feels like heaven, coaxing him towards bliss. Derek bites at the mole-speckled skin, speeding up his movements until Stiles can feel his orgasm building.

Stiles grips Derek’s hair with his hand, tugging him up so he can crash their mouths together. Derek swallows the punched-out moan Stiles makes as he comes, continuing to kiss him and strip his cock until Stiles lightly pushes his hand away.

Stiles hums, sagging forward against Derek tiredly. Derek quickly washes the come off his hand before shutting off the water and helping Stiles out of the shower. He towels him dry as Stiles tiredly leans against the counter, completely drained. 

“You okay to walk to the bed?” Derek smirks as he dries himself off.

“Yeah, I can make it,” Stiles sighs. He stands on wobbly legs, skipping getting dressed so he can simply drop onto the bed, face first. He hears a snort from behind him and then the bed dips beside him.

Stiles tugs the covers over himself, his eyes drifting shut in exhaustion despite the light still pouring in through the windows.

“Sorry I’m too tired for more,” Stiles mumbles sleepily. A hand runs through his hair, lulling him further towards unconsciousness. He can’t remember the last time he’s rested on something so cozy, so soft and comfortable. 

“We have time,” Derek says simply. 

“So you want to do this again?” Stiles asks, cracking an eye open to look at Derek’s soft smile.

“Of course,” Derek answers. “I had fun, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, I had fun,” Stiles replies honestly, although wishing it could’ve been something more than just that. But he knows better than to hold onto hope for the impossible. “Did it help distract you from everything else?”

“It did until you said that,” Derek teases. “Go to sleep, Stiles.”

Stiles snuggles into his pillow and, for the first time in two weeks, he dreams.

 

The room is huge and empty, the bright white lights on the ceiling reflecting off the plain tiles under his feet.

“Hello?” Stiles yells out, jumping at the sound of his voice bouncing back at him, reverberating off the walls until the echoes fade away.

He turns around, startling at the sight of a man watching him. He’s not moving, just standing and facing Stiles, his body a tan blur with no details to be found, as if he were hiding behind a thick panel of glass. 

“Hello?” Stiles repeats, stepping closer. He comes to a stop in front of the man and raises his hand to touch the figure. His palm rests against something cold and solid, an invisible wall that separates them both. The man lifts his hand on the other side, pressing it against Stiles’. He can’t feel it, but something about the man is familiar, sending a surge of longing through him. “Do I know you?”

The man’s head tilts to the side and his figure abruptly fades away. The sound of a twig snapping catches Stiles’ attention and he whips around to see a younger-looking figure. He’s a bright red blur surrounded by a dying forest, decaying trees with rotting leaves framing him. The red figure is a stark contrast against the dark colors of the forest and the black dirt decorated with broken bones and skulls underneath his feet.

Stiles shivers from the sudden cold, a gust of wind blowing through the trees and causing them to groan and creak in protest as they sway. Despite the haunting background, the blurred figure doesn’t seem threatening. Something about him, like the other figure, is familiar. Comforting.

A red sweatshirt appears in the figure’s blurred hands and he holds it out to Stiles in an offering. Stiles grabs the sweatshirt, warmth spreading through his body as he touches the fabric. Tenderness and love flows through him, rushing through his veins and warming his aching muscles and bones. Tears start to cascade down his cheeks, feeling overwhelmed by it all.

“Thank you,” Stiles whispers. He suddenly spots a third figure standing next to one of the trees. It’s obviously a woman’s figure despite the light blue blur hiding many of her details. The sight of her makes Stiles choke on a sob; he doesn’t know who she is or why she’s here, but he misses her. It feels as if, just by looking at her, he’s opened a gaping wound in his heart where she’s supposed to be.

“Stiles,” a booming voice says from nowhere and everywhere, shaking the room. The trees begin to dissolve, crashing to the ground in piles of ash and rubble. The figures step back, all three of them standing together- not moving, yet getting further and further away just the same.

“No, wait,” Stiles calls out, reaching out for them with empty hands. The sweatshirt has vanished and the lights above him, one by one, begin to flicker out. Yet the three figures still stand, watching and waiting.

“Stiles!” The loud voice yells again. Stiles jolts awake, shooting up into a sitting position as he heaves for breath. The pendant around his neck pulses, beating in tune with his rapid heartbeat.

“You okay?” Derek asks, staring at Stiles in concern with adorably sleep-rumpled hair. The room is dark, the hotel windows revealing a star-filled sky. Stiles leans back against his pillow, still panting, though his heartbeat begins to slow.

“Yeah, just had a… a dream,” Stiles stutters. It wasn’t a bad dream or a nightmare, but it left him feeling empty and upset all the same. He wipes at his tear-streaked face, letting Derek pull him close and wrap his arms around him. Stiles nuzzles into Derek’s hair-dusted chest, letting his arm drape across Derek’s bare hip. He’ll accept whatever attention he’ll get from Derek, no matter what it does to him in the morning.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Derek whispers, “Talking about my nightmares with Laura sometimes helps me when I have dreams of the fire.”

“You dream about the fire?” Stiles asks tentatively. He can feel, rather than see, Derek’s nod.

“I-I dream about setting the fire. Watching them burn with the matches in my hand,” Derek’s voice is tense and fragile, and Stiles can’t help but wonder if he’s shared this with anyone else but him and Laura. Selfishly, he hopes Derek hasn’t— that this is something special for Stiles to hear. 

“Is that because you feel guilty?” Stiles whispers back, “Because you didn’t set the fire. It wasn’t your fault. Everyone knows it was Kate, nobody blames you.” 

“I let her in,” Derek admits hollowly, “I didn’t see her for who she was and she burned them all alive. It was the Solstice, so my whole family was there, cooking and preparing for the celebration while Laura and I were at school. Kate knew there was another entrance beneath the house. She knew that because I told her about it. All of it. It was my fault.” 

Stiles presses closer, tightening his arms around Derek’s body as if he could shield him from the guilt. “She’s the monster. You didn’t know, Derek. You can’t blame a child for an adult’s actions. You can’t blame yourself for what you couldn’t control.”

Derek snorts derisively, “And what do you know about guilt, Stiles?” Stiles doesn’t dare look up at him, to see his angry face. He doesn’t want to see that directed at him, not now.

But he knows so, so much about guilt. About staying up at night, blaming himself until the morning dawns, wishing he were dead instead of another.

“I got my dad and Scott killed,” Stiles confesses, a heavy whisper in the darkness of the night. He’s never said that out loud before, never admitted it to anyone but himself. He shuts his eyes tightly, bracing himself for the blame, for the disgust.

“What do you mean?” Derek asks, gently touching Stiles’ shoulder to encourage him to continue.

“There was a body in the woods that had been severed in two. It was the third one in as many months, and I convinced Scott to go with me to find it so I could…I don’t know, analyze it? Get a clue as to what was killing people? I didn’t really have a plan. But we went and, of course, got caught by my dad,” Stiles laughs hollowly. “He sent me home, but stayed behind with Scott to help find the inhaler that he had dropped. He was a severe asthmatic and was nervous about not having it for work the next day…”

Stiles trails off, his voice cracking at the memory of the last time he had seen his family alive. Derek pushes closer, offering what comfort he can. 

“They weren’t planned victims. They were torn open, harshly, but without carving of the spiral. I think… they stumbled onto the alpha that night, saw who it was and it killed them,” Stiles whispers, his silent tears catching on Derek’s chest and dripping down it. “So I know about guilt okay? Because I got my family killed too."

Derek shushes him, pressing small kisses to his hair and wrapping his arms tightly around the younger man.

“I got them killed too,” Stiles whispers, clinging to Derek like a lifeline.

He had gotten his family killed, leaving himself alone in the world. The time and energy he poured into his magic, determined to bring them back, all gone to waste.

He’s battered by time, weary and exhausted from the fight, constantly bringing people back to life, but none of them the ones he wants to be with the most.

He thinks of the figures waiting for him, of their comfort and their gentleness.

He hopes that, whatever they’re waiting for, they won’t have to wait long.

Chapter Text

(With Their Horrorscope)

 

It’s getting close to being the fourth week since Stiles brought Laura back to life and the deal is almost over. Every time he sees her, he can’t help but be envious of the color returning to her skin and the rosy hue of her cheeks when she laughs. She’s growing stronger, more alive every day while he’s only growing paler and skinnier, bags becoming more prominent under his tired eyes. 

People around the small town are starting to express concern when they see him, pulling him aside on the street or grocery store when he’s walking alone. He always plays it off with a grin, laughing and saying that he’s been working extra hard so he can afford a nice vacation for once. They usually take the answer easily, wishing him luck and not asking any more questions.

But Derek isn’t one of those people.

“Are you saying I don’t look hot?” Stiles asks, mock offended.

“You always look hot,” Derek rolls his eyes, and Stiles tries to hide how pleased he is at the compliment, “I’m saying you look like you haven’t slept in days.” 

“Try weeks,” Laura chimes in.

“Not helpful,” Stiles grits out, pointing his plastic spoon at her. It’s covered in vanilla ice cream that drips onto the table. Jackson scurries over to it, licking at the spoon excitedly.

Stiles pushes his cup closer to the dragon so that she can eat the rest. Derek’s eyebrows furrow and Stiles knows he’s behaving strangely, that he’s usually the first one to finish eating and he’s barely touched the ice cream since they sat down. But his appetite has been waning lately and he can’t seem to will himself take another bite.

“We’re friends, Stiles. I’m allowed to be concerned,” Derek says.

Stiles makes a face at the word ‘friends’, glancing down at his hands unhappily. It’s been a week since they’d slept together and they’ve texted daily, sometimes going for walks or out to eat, but always with Laura joining them. He adores Laura, he truly does, and it’s not her fault that she wants to spend time with her brother before she dies again, but the lack of alone time with Derek is killing him.

Not literally killing him, though. That would be Laura. Again, that’s not her fault either.

“Hey, Derek, go find something to do for an hour,” Laura orders, shooing him away with her hands, “I’m officially declaring this Stiles and Laura time.” 

“What? No, I—” Derek starts to argue, only to be faced with Laura’s sad, puppy-dog eyes.

“But, Derek, I’m dying,” Laura speaks softly, her lip trembling dramatically. “You’ll get more time with Stiles, but I won’t.”

Derek swears under his breath, unable to argue with her. He slides out of the booth, trudging out of the ice cream parlor, the bell chiming as the door closes shut after him.

“What was that about?” Stiles asks.

“Come with me,” Laura says as she stands, tossing her ice cream out in the trash. Stiles follows her out of the shop, Jackson skipping along at their heels.

Silence falls between them as Laura waits for them to be far enough away from Derek’s super hearing range, or so Stiles assumes. He’s hoping it’s that and not that Laura’s planning on murdering him or something.

“At first, I was hoping that maybe you’d bring me back to life for good if I befriended you,” Laura admits suddenly.

The admission feels like a physical slap and Stiles’ steps falter beneath him. “Oh.” First Derek and now Laura. This is why he shouldn’t do friendships, nothing good lasts.

Laura turns to him, staring at him beseechingly with her brown eyes. “But I like you, I really do. I’ve… accepted that there’s no way to save me.” She takes a shaky breath, wiping at her eyes to try and stop the tears from spilling over, “Don’t tell Derek I cried okay? This is so embarrassing.” She laughs, more tears spilling down her face.

“It isn’t embarrassing,” Stiles says, draping his arm over her shoulder and pulling her to his side. She stops walking, turning to envelop him in a tight hug. 

“You’re going to make Derek so happy,” Laura whispers. Stiles’ heart plummets and he shakes his head, pulling away with a rueful smile. 

“It isn’t like that,” Stiles confesses, “He wants something casual. Just fun. And I agreed.” Laura’s expression drops into one of pure disappointment. 

“He said that?” She asks. 

Stiles nods, trying to ignore the voice inside reminding him that he isn’t good enough for more, that he isn’t worth a relationship. Just as it had been with Heather, it’ll just be some fun between friends. Nothing more.

“I’m sorry, Stiles,” Laura says, her bottom lip trembling, “I thought he really liked you. This is all my fault, I practically threw him at you and now you’re hurt. I’m such an awful friend, I’m so sorry. I’m fucking everything up.”

“You aren’t fucking anything up, Laura,” Stiles reassures, tugging her into another hug. Laura presses her tear-stained cheeks into his shirt.

“I know I’m killing you,” she chokes out. “I know it.” Laura tightens her arms around him. 

“Well, you sure are squeezing the life out of me right now,” Stiles wheezes.

Laura moves back with a small grin, laughing as she almost trips over a very confused Jackson. Stiles bends down to pick her up, cradling her closely against his chest. Jackson chirps and rolls onto her back, staring up at Stiles with black, beady eyes. Stiles brushes a hand across her stomach, turning the feisty dragon into a pile of mush in his arms.

“If I could keep you alive,” Stiles says to Laura, needing her to know, “You know I would, right?”

Laura nods, looking incredibly sad. “I know,” she whispers. She sniffs, wiping the tears away. “I just needed you to know that… it was fake at first, but I-I truly care about you. You’re like my little brother now. I want you to be happy just as much as I want Derek to be.”

“Maybe we will be,” Stiles offers the hope he doesn’t feel, “Just not together.”

Laura sighs and nods. “I’m going to go find him now, if that’s okay. I think we’re going to have a family movie night.”

“It’s fine, go ahead.” Stiles watches her go and then begins to walk.

He’s wandering aimlessly for a while, lost in his thoughts before he realizes he’s reached the cemetery. He follows the familiar paths, heading deep into the maze of headstones until he reaches the right one. 

He sits down on the grass in front of the headstone that reads:


Scott McCall, beloved son and brother

September 16th, 1991-January 9th, 2013

Jackson jumps out of his arms, curling into a ball at the base of the headstone for a mid-day nap. Stiles waves his hand and a fresh bundle of white, red, and pink chrysanthemums burst from the soil above the grave, hiding Jackson’s body behind them.

“Hey,” Stiles greets the tombstone, “It’s been a while since I last visited, I know. But some stuff has come up. You wouldn’t believe some of the things that have happened, man. I had sex with Derek Hale…I know, it’s crazy, right?”

He doesn’t know how long he sits there, retelling the story of how he met Derek and Laura and what’s happened since. He outlines how the spell is exhausting him, how his still-existing feelings for Derek are still unrequited, how Laura has become the closest thing to a best friend that he has and he’s going to have to kill her.

He reaches up with a hand, lightly touching the pendant around his neck. What right did he have to live while Laura’s fate is to die? Why was his father, the caring Sheriff, murdered while the alpha still gets to breathe? Why his best friend, the innocent and sweet Scott?

“I don’t get it, Scott,” Stiles whispers with watery eyes, “Laura has her brother and so much going for her, and I-I don’t. I’m tired of being alone, I can barely afford to live, and my future doesn’t look much brighter…”

And that’s it, isn’t it? He looks at the skull bracelet on his wrist, tracing the outline of tiny human heads with his fingers.

The fact of it is, Laura Hale deserves to live and Stiles Stilinski is tired of living. He takes a shuddering breath, looking at the gravestone and wondering what his own would say.

He’s read about it before— necromancers that pushed their powers too far, let someone live too long by accident. Or, sometimes, on purpose. Hoping they end up trading one life for another.

“I think my time is done, buddy,” Stiles whispers, “Time for the Stilinski era to end here. Maybe I can do something right for once, by doing this.”

He rises to his feet, glimpsing a red figure in the woods as he lifts his head. He blinks and, by the time he opens his eyes, the figure is gone. 

 

The next few days at the shop, Stiles is feeling better than ever. He’s still pale and sickly looking, but his energy and enthusiasm are back. He flails as he speaks, laughs brighter than he has in a while, and smiles cheerily at every customer that comes in.

Lydia looks at him strangely and comments on it a few times, asking what drugs he was on and why he’s suddenly so happy lately. 

“I’m high on life, Lydia,” Stiles simply responds with a shrug. It’s funny how, when one’s perspective on death alters, it can change a person. Before, he was stuck, not moving forward or progressing, just standing still in time without hope. But now he has a purpose. Stiles Stilinski is going to save Laura Hale.

“Whatever, just stop being so loud,” Lydia grumbles, pressing a hand to her temple and grimacing.

“You’ve been getting a lot of headaches lately,” Stiles notes.

“Not like this one,” Lydia groans, “It’s like a sledgehammer against my skull.” Stiles goes to grab some ice from the freezer and brings it to her. Lydia smiles gratefully before taking it and pressing it against her forehead. “It’s not just pain either. It’s this sense of…of doom. Or death.”

“Death? Whose death?” Stiles questions, pulling out a chair and plopping down in it as he stares at Lydia with concern.

“I don’t know,” Lydia sighs.

Suddenly, it clicks. He pulls out his phone, pulling up his lunar cycle app. How had he forgotten? Had he really gotten so distracted by the Hale siblings that he forgot the main reason Laura was still living?

“Lydia, tonight’s the full moon,” Stiles exclaims.

“So?” Lydia sneers.

“So, what days does the alpha kill people on? Full moons. And you’re saying that you’re feeling a sense of doom and death. You’re—”

“I don’t predict deaths, Stiles,” Lydia bites out. 

“No, you don’t, but maybe you can,” Stiles insists. “Just focus on the feeling, really focus on it. Maybe you can get something— a face or a location, something!”

“Can you just drop it?” Lydia barks, standing up and pushing her chair back with a screech. She stomps towards the front door only to be stopped by Stiles’ plea.

“No, I can’t drop it. They killed my dad. They killed Scott, and Heather, and so many others. I’ve waited for this chance for two years and you want me to drop it because you’re scared you might have the ability to predict death?” Stiles yells, standing and glaring at Lydia’s back.

“It isn’t that easy,” Lydia snaps, turning to face him.

“Maybe it is! We don’t know because you won’t try. If I could have saved any one of those victims, if I had the chance, the slightest possibility of preventing their deaths, I would have done it. It’s been two years too long of this shit for you to run from this,” Stiles implores.

“What if… What if I can’t do it? What if I try and it doesn’t work?” Lydia asks softly.

In this serious, emotional moment, Stiles calls upon his past teachings from wise elders for advice.

“Come on, Lydia, don’t you think it’s worth a shot? You only live once, or… twice, in this case, since I can technically bring people back, but— not the point! The point is, wouldn’t you rather say you tried your best than to say you never tried at all?” Stiles urges.

Lydia snorts, rolling her eyes at him, “That was the worst motivational speech I’ve ever heard. YOLO, really?” Still, she moves back over to the table and sits down in her chair, so he counts it as a success.

“Well, if we get this right, they won’t be making a movie about me, so I don’t think the quality of my motivational monologue matters all that much,” Stiles grins.

Lydia looks at Stiles with all the nervousness and vulnerability that she normally keeps hidden away, and asks, “What do I do?”

“Try closing your eyes and focusing on the feeling. Try to visualize it, follow it to the source and see where it brings you,” Stiles suggests, recalling his own past experiences with magical visions. 

Lydia reaches out for his hand, pulling it into her lap and holding it in between her smooth hands. She takes a deep breath and closes her eyes.

Stiles stares at her as she sits, silent and still for minutes. He can almost hear time ticking by and he starts to wonder if they made the wrong choice. Maybe they were meant to leave and search the town already now that the sky is dimming or maybe the victim would be dead before they got there. The what if’s fly through his mind, worrying him more and more as he watches the street empty of people following the strict 8pm curfew.

Suddenly, Lydia’s hands clench around his, her manicured nails digging harshly into his palms. Her eyes are scrunched closed and suddenly a blood-curdling scream tears its way out of her throat. Stiles covers his ears, waiting for the sound to finally die down. When it does, her eyes fly open and she stares at Stiles in horror.

“It’s a man, the alpha. He’s- He’s strong and he has Harris, from high school, at the Hale House,” Her lip trembles. “We’re too late, we’re not going to make it in time, he has him—”

Stiles jumps out of his seat, plucking his phone out of his pocket and shoving it at Lydia without needing to hear more. “Text Laura and Derek, tell them to meet me there ASAP. Call Jordan, tell him to bring wolfsbane bullets,” he barks the orders before whistling high and shrill. Jackson soars out of the backroom, following Stiles as the man runs out the door, ignoring Lydia’s yells of his name. 

He shoves his keys into the jeep, apologizing profusely to the loyal car as he speeds out of the parking lot and towards the Hale House out on the edge of Beacon Hills. He won’t get there in time, not to save Harris if the alpha already has him. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try.

His heart beats frantically as he takes the winding dirt path up to the decaying ruins of the once beautiful home. He haphazardly parks his car, grinding to a sudden halt and throwing himself out of the door. 

The area is empty, not a soul in sight. He pulls his jacket tight around himself, uncomfortable with the sound of silence surrounding him. There isn’t a snap of a twig, a rustle of leaves, a chirp of a cricket—nothing. Just complete silence.

“You creeped out too?” Stiles whispers to Jackson. The dragon stands stock still, tilting her head as if listening for something. When she catches the sound she’s looking for, she takes off, beating her wings and flying toward the back of the house.

Stiles chases after her, not wanting her to get too far away without him. Behind the house, there’s a lifeless body, coated in blood lying still on the ground. Harris.

Stiles’ eyes trail upwards to find a man with slicked-back hair and burning red eyes staring at him hungrily. Jackson stands a few feet away, growling deep and guttural.

“Aw, the little necromancer and his pet,” the man coos, “I’ve got to say, I expected you to find me a lot sooner. I’m rather disappointed.” 

Stiles suddenly realizes that he has no plan or chance to win against the alpha alone, and he grabs onto the chance to stall, to wait for backup. “I have to say that I expected you to be a lot more feral.” 

“Feral?” The man echoes with an arched brow.

“With the killing on full moons and all,” Stiles explains, his heart hammering in his chest, giving away his fear.

“What can I say? I’m a fan of the classics,” the man says through bared teeth as he steps closer. “Big bad wolf losing control every month, killing someone and wreaking havoc throughout the unsuspecting town.”

Jackson’s growling gets louder and she shifts closer to Stiles, coming to a stop when she’s placed herself fully in-between Stiles and the wolf. 

“Awfully loyal pet you have there,” the man notes with a sickening smile. Jackson’s skin begins to ripple in her fury, reacting to Stiles’ magic and stretching as she grows in size. The alpha’s smarmy grin falls from his face as he watches Jackson reach his height on four legs, her enormous fangs drooling with saliva that drips down her chin.

“She’s not a pet,” Stiles corrects. “She’s a familiar.”

Jackson darts forward at the alpha, raking her claws against his chest only to barely make contact before getting thrown to the side. The alpha’s features shift, growing fangs and claws, but not quite fully turning yet.

The werewolf lunges at Jackson and the two land bite after bite, scratch after scratch against each other in a ferocious battle. Stiles watches anxiously, praying for Laura and Derek’s quick arrival. He can’t waste his magic yet, has to save it for when they’ll need it most. He has to wait— 

Jackson’s jaws clamp around the werewolf’s shoulder, tearing flesh and muscles as she twists and turns. The alpha roars in fury, clawing a line down her abdomen with a sickening squelch. Jackson whines pitifully, collapsing to the ground in a heavy heap. The alpha grins through his shifted teeth, lifting his claw to end it.

“Jackson, go!” Stiles yells, darting forward and doing the only thing he can think of. He stands in the middle of the two and throws all his weight forward to punch the alpha in the face. He groans and clutches his throbbing hand to his chest, wincing even more when he realizes the wolf didn’t even flinch.

“Little pitiful necromancer,” the alpha slurs through his fangs, sinking his claws into Stiles’ shoulder and sending him to his knees. Blood drips down Stiles’ shirt and he glares up at the wolf defiantly.

“How many times do I have to say there’s nothing little about me?” Stiles yells to the sky.

The alpha’s lips quirk and he looks at the human in amusement, “Such a shame for you that there are no skeletons here for you to use. What a useless power to have in a fight, I almost feel sorry for you.” Despite his words, he clenches his fingers, digging the claws even deeper. Stiles cries out in pain. 

His shoulder throbs and he can’t feel his left arm through the pain, but still, he laughs at the ridiculousness of it all. The alpha’s eyes narrow and his smile thins, “What are you laughing at, boy?”

“Whoever told you necromancers need to be in a cemetery to fight has seriously outdated information, man,” Stiles says through a grin. His skull bracelet glows purple, the tiny skeleton heads clacking together noisily and separating from the chain. The floating heads shine brightly, growing in size and forming bodies out of thin air. Their bones multiply even more, some thickening to form shields while others sharpen into swords.

The alpha looks around in shock, releasing Stiles and backing up as the skeletons advance, their weapons aimed at the wolf’s heart. Out of the surrounding forest, animal skeletons come to life, skittering out from under rocks or from inside logs, while long-buried human remains claw their ways out of the soil.

“Didn’t you know? There are dead things everywhere,” Stiles smirks. Despite the confident façade, his hands quake and he knows he only has a few minutes before he can’t maintain the spell anymore. His magic is already strained thin from keeping Laura alive, and it can’t handle this many revivals for long. He needs Derek and Laura to hurry.

The alpha snarls as the skeleton soldiers surround him. The bones of chipmunks and squirrels dart up his body, biting viciously into any flesh they can with their tiny bone teeth. The werewolf roars again, tearing them apart and sending the bones cascading to the ground, only to see them reform again.

One of the skeletons swings its sword, slashing deeply into the wolf’s stomach. He flinches, but immediately shifts into his alpha form, growing bigger and furrier. His mouth extends out into a muzzle, his body deformed like a mutant wolf that’s confined to walking upright on humanoid legs. It’s a disturbing shape molded after the rotting soul inside.

Stiles lets the skeletons work, hoping the spell will hold up long enough for him to heal Jackson. The dragon is panting behind him, defiantly disobeying his orders to run, and breathing quickly but shallowly. Stiles lays his hands on her, murmuring praises and loving words. The dragon’s black eyes remain on him the entire time, not straying away for a second as if begging him to save her.

Stiles doesn’t know how to heal, doesn’t know how to repair extensive damage or fatal wounds. He hopes no organs were injured and that the cut is clean as he cauterizes the wound with his hands. Jackson lets out a wail of agony, but Stiles doesn’t let up, just continues whispering whatever comforting phrases he can. As he finishes, Jackson stares up at him weakly, her stomach heaving under his hands.

“Please don’t die,” Stiles whispers brokenly. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to bring you back.” Jackson blinks and closes her eyes, her stomach still moving with her breaths. She’s okay for now. 

The sound of the alpha’s fury has him turning around again. His skeletons are getting battered to the ground and torn apart, but their bones keep pulling back together to attack again. The werewolf is heaving, his body coated with blood from already healed wounds, but he’s moving slower from the exertion. It might just be enough after all, Stiles thinks.

That’s when it goes wrong. At the swipe of the alpha’s claws, one skeleton doesn’t regenerate. Its bones lie on the ground, their purple glow gone, rendering them useless. After that, the next one falls and then the next. One by one, the alpha takes them down now that Stiles’ magic needs to rejuvenate and can’t continue reviving them.

He’s fucked.

The alpha snarls in his direction after the final skeleton is destroyed and he stomps his way over. Stiles holds his ground, determined not to run away and leave Jackson defenseless. The werewolf shifts back to human, his teeth still pointed sharp when he grins. He wraps a hand around Stiles’ neck, lifting him up as if he weighed nothing. Stiles chokes, grabbing at the hand around his neck, trying to release its iron grip.

“I’m going to take great joy in killing you,” the man spits. Stiles can feel his face getting redder from the lack of oxygen and his heart hammers in his chest. There’s no way out of this. He has no magic left and he’s no match for a werewolf. But he can’t die like this— he has a plan.

“Uncle Peter?” A shrill voice calls out. Peter’s head turns to look at the intruders—Laura and Derek. Laura’s eyes are wide in astonishment, locked on the alpha, on Peter. Derek, however, is staring at Stiles, his face contorting into a snarl.

“Let him go,” Derek demands. Peter laughs cruelly.

“Have you gotten attached to him, Derek? That’s such a shame, it’s not wise to befriend those that play with dead things. You’ll often find they’re just as rotten on the inside.” Peter continues to hold Stiles by his neck, releasing his grip just enough to allow Stiles a desperate gasp of breath before it’s squeezed shut again. Peter raises a hand and starts to tear lines through Stiles’ t-shirt with sharp claws. “How do you think I should kill him? A stab to the heart maybe? Or should I make it go slower and puncture a lung? So many options.”

“Please,” Derek pleads, shifting closer, “please let him go.” 

Peter smirks, finally making his decision by brutally shoving his claws into Stiles’ stomach. Stiles gasps at the sharp pain, feeling blood leaving his body before he’s dropped to the ground. His head slams against the dirt with a thud and his vision swims. He presses his hands against his stomach, aware enough to know that he has to put pressure on it to slow the bleeding, but he refuses to look at the wound, knowing the sight of his blood will make him pass out.

“I’m afraid you have nothing to bargain with, my dear nephew,” Peter sighs, stalking closer to the two werewolves. “I had hoped that you had learned your lesson with Kate, to stop associating with dangerous things. And yet here we are.”

“He’s nothing like Kate,” Laura hisses. “Stiles is good, and kind, and nothing like her!” 

Stiles struggles on the ground, trying to push himself up into sitting position, but his left arm is still tingling from the claws and is too weak to hold his weight. He makes the mistake of glancing down at his stomach where there are five puncture marks, blood starting to pool onto the ground beneath him. He shuts his eyes at the sudden wave of dizziness, chanting an internal mantra of ‘not going to die’. When he looks up, he sees Laura circling Peter and Derek running over to where he lies crumpled on the ground.

“Stiles, hold on, okay?” Derek whispers urgently, ripping off his shirt and pressing it against Stiles’ abdomen to slow the flow of blood. Stiles frowns, disappointed that he can’t seem to appreciate Derek’s shirtlessness while feeling like he’s dying. “Can you heal? Can you stop it at all?”

Stiles shakes his head minutely, smiling through bloody teeth at Derek’s panicked expression, “Too weak,” he grits out. Derek moves a hand to Stiles’ neck, the veins on his arm going black as he drags the pain out. Stiles leans into the contact, sighing as the feeling of floating replaces the agonizing pain. Everything feels blissful now, why was he worrying before? 

“You have to hold on,” Derek demands, turning his head to keep an eye on Laura and Peter.

“Why’d you do it Peter? Why kill me? Your niece, your own flesh and blood?” Laura’s tone is cold and unforgiving as she circles him.

“I wasn’t aware at the time,” Peter says slowly, raising his hands to show his intent not to attack. “I didn’t know it was you, I was running on instincts."

“Bullshit!” Laura screams, “Bullshit you didn’t know it was me! You know who I am now, you’re perfectly fucking aware now.”

“Your power gave me that extra edge, that awareness,” Peter explains, his voice a plea for forgiveness. The flash of doubt on Laura’s face is quickly covered by the anger of betrayal, but Stiles know she’s struggling to decide what’s true, “Why do you think I’ve been attacking on full moons, Laura? I couldn’t control it…”

“He’s lying,” Stiles mumbles, staring at Derek’s green eyes, begging him to believe him. “Don’t trust him. It’s the full moon tonight and he’s in just as much control now as he was then.” Derek nods and Laura’s gaze snaps to them. Peter tenses, immediately sensing their distrust.

Laura shifts into a wolf with light gray fur and furious yellow eyes, her teeth are bared and she’s growling lowly in the back of her throat. She charges at Peter with a furious snarl, jumping and landing a harsh bite to Peter’s neck that causes him to bleed profusely.

“I was hoping you’d believe family over a boy, but I guess I had too much faith in you,” Peter grounds out, leaving the wound open and bleeding as it stitches itself back together before their eyes. He cracks his neck side to side before shifting to his full alpha form again, fur and claws replacing his human body. 

Laura launches at him again and they clash, claws raking against claws. Peter gets in a good bite that leaves Laura limping, unable to recover as fast from an alpha’s attack. 

“Help her,” Stiles orders, pushing Derek away. Derek’s eyebrows furrow and he stares down at Stiles with a terrified expression. At the sound of Laura’s pained grunt, he darts forward and presses their lips together, knowing he has to leave Stiles vulnerable and unprotected. Stiles breathes a shaky sigh into the kiss, pushing as much emotion into as he can, trying his best to convey ‘Don’t die, I really like you, be safe’. He tastes the bitter tang of iron on their lips from his blood and, when Derek finally pulls away, his mouth is tight with sadness and worry. But he runs to join the fight.

Stiles drags his injured body over to Jackson, curling up next to her shrunken form and watching as Laura and Derek, both wolves, pounce on Peter, pinning him to the ground.

Derek barks at Laura as Peter struggles underneath them, but Laura’s eyes are wide and full of panic as she glances between Derek and Peter. The moment of hesitation is enough to give Peter the upper hand and he throws them off, knocking Laura into a tree and sending Derek flying in the opposite direction. 

“Someone call for backup?” A voice rings through the darkness as the sound of four shots echoes through the trees. Peter’s head and body jerk, and he topples to the ground, lifeless. Sheriff Parrish steps out from the protection of the house, his gun still held in hand.

“Wolfsbane bullets?” Derek questions, after shifting back. Parrish nods and offers a hand, helping the man to his feet. Laura stands nearby, staring at her dead uncle with a grim expression. She glances at Derek and flashes her beta gold eyes, looking proud when Derek’s flash alpha red.

“I guess you were next in line, bro,” Laura says with a smirk, “You’ll make a great alpha.”

Stiles opens his mouth to agree, but his throat scratches with the effort and he coughs, groaning at the sight of his blood splattering on the ground. That’s so gross and… now he feels dizzy again. Great. Derek tenses and immediately darts to his side, preparing to pick him up. 

“I can walk, I’m good,” Stiles croaks, his throat scratching painfully around the sounds. He struggles to his feet, but doesn’t give up. He’s fine, he’s going to make it, he’s— he’s leaning heavily on Derek. Okay, he can work with this.

“We need to get to the hospital now,” Derek barks at Jordan, slinging an arm around Stiles to help him hobble to the car. Jordan trails his eyes across Stiles’ body, his expression dimming as he nods.

“I’ll drive. We can take the cruiser. It’ll be faster,” Jordan states.

“Jackson?” Stiles murmurs, blinking tiredly up at Derek.

“Laura’s got her. She’s fine,” Derek whispers back. Stiles smiles, relieved.

“Hey, Der?” He mumbles, “What does the skeleton say to the guy he likes?”

“Seriously? You’re telling jokes now?” Derek asks, incredulous.

“I love every bone in your body,” Stiles breathes the punch line, his body shaking slightly with soundless laughter. He feels Derek tighten his grip around him and, as he slides into the cruiser, he lets unconsciousness take him.

 

Stiles groans as he opens his eyes, immediately shutting them against the bright white lights of the hospital room. He lifts a hand to help shield his eyes, only to feel the unmistakable tug of tubes attached to him. 

“Nice of you to finally wake up and join the living,” Jordan’s voice says from beside him. Stiles slowly reopens his eyes just to glare at him.

“I don’t feel like what I am right now constitutes as ‘living’,” Stiles huffs, groggily pushing himself into an upright position, ignoring the pain in his abdomen and arm as he does so. He takes in surroundings, the room empty and sterile except for Jordan sitting next to him and Jackson lying on the bed at Stiles’ feet. She’s fast asleep, tiny snores escaping from her nostrils as she breathes. 

“Yeah, well, that’s probably because of the pain meds,” Jordan says with a quirk of his lips.

“What’s the damage?” Stiles asks.

“Gastrointestinal perforation and a bump on the head. They stitched up the holes on your stomach and arm, and you’re ordered on bed rest for the next few weeks. No strenuous activities, less stress in general, and no magic,” Jordan emphasizes the last part with a pointed look. 

“Who, me?” Stiles asks innocently, batting his eyelashes, “I would do no such thing.”

“I’m glad,” Jordan grins as he pulls a small burlap bag out of his pocket and tosses it to Stiles, “Then I can give you this and trust you not to use it until you’re better.”

“That’s an awful lot of misplaced trust,” Stiles mumbles, staring at the talisman and moving it around his palm. Jordan laughs. 

“Yeah, I suppose it is. Just don’t kill yourself with it and we’ll be fine,” Jordan comments.

“Oh, this won’t be what kills me, that’s for sure,” Stiles rasps with a slanted smile.

“That’s good to hear. Now, I’d like to point out that what you did last night was reckless, downright stupid, and your father would be furious. He’d probably also be pretty damn proud. But only after you recovered fully, so hurry up and do that,” Jordan states.

Stiles beams at him and gives him a two-fingered salute, “Will do. See ya, Jor.” Jordan exits with a wave, the door shutting for only a brief moment before it opens again with Laura and Derek.

Derek’s eyes drag across Stiles’ body like a physical touch, as if checking for any signs of pain or discomfort. Stiles shies away from the gaze, not wanting to overanalyze and get his hopes up, so he focuses on Laura who is smiling happily at him instead.

“You’re looking better,” Laura mentions with relief. 

“Well, the last time you saw me I was on the brink of death, so that’s setting the bar kind of low,” Stiles quips. Laura laughs, but Derek’s expression goes pinched and tight. His eyes fall on the talisman in Stiles’ hand, a displeased expression on his face.

“You aren’t going to track the mage yet, are you?” Derek asks with a frown.

“Not right now. When I get out and my magic recovers, I will,” Stiles replies. “Peter was only one half of the whole problem. Whoever this magic user is, they’re just as much of a threat as he was." 

“You’ll call for help when you find them, right? You won’t go after them by yourself?” Laura questions.

“They’ll be easier for me to beat than Peter. I don’t have an advantage of rapid healing, speed, and super strength, but magic battles I can handle just fine,” Stiles reassures.

“Still, it doesn’t hurt to have backup,” Laura insists.

Stiles nods, “Alright. I will,” he agrees easily, knowing he probably won’t when the time comes. “But hey, there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.” Stiles focuses on Derek, whose eyes flit to Laura nervously.

“Should I go?” Laura smirks knowingly.

Stiles rolls his eyes, “It isn’t that kind of talk. Look, cutting straight to the point, Derek, you’re an alpha now and you’re virtually packless, right?” Derek winces at the bluntness, but nods in affirmation. “That’s good because I happen to know a few downtrodden teens that could use some help. They’re all victims of Peter and they’re good kids, they just need some help.”

Stiles grabs his phone from the food tray nearby, rapidly texting the information to Derek and Laura in the group message. “I’m not saying you have to take them on, but give them a chance. See them in person, you might like them more than you expect.”

“Who are they?” Laura questions.

“Vernon Boyd, Isaac Lahey, and Allison Argent,” Stiles lists. “They’re the only teen survivors from the attacks that turned successfully. The rest were adults that other packs have already taken on.”

“Argent? As in Kate Argent?” Laura grits out.

“Yes, Kate was her aunt. But Allison has no anger towards werewolves and her father abandoned hunting when she got bit. They’re trustworthy, I wouldn’t ask you to take them in if they weren’t,” Stiles implores. He needs them to find a home, to leave something successful behind on Earth that he can be proud of. He begs them with his eyes, waiting impatiently for them to answer. Laura and Derek glance at each other, communicating silently.

“We’ll talk to them and see if it’ll work, but no guarantee,” Laura states. Stiles sags back into his pillows with a relieved smile.

“You’ll love them, I promise,” he says.

After that, Laura tells him about what he’s missed while he’s been sleeping the past few hours. Derek stares intently at Stiles as Laura goes into detail about how Harris had helped Kate set the fire and kept quiet for all these years. Stiles is entranced, uttering “no way” and “oh my god” throughout Laura’s detailed description. She even starts praising him, telling him he had been right about Peter’s intent and that the victims with spirals carved into them had all been involved in the fire somehow. At the end of her story, they all sit in silence until Derek finally speaks up. 

“It’s been four weeks…” He starts, looking down at his palms. “Are you going to… Is Laura…?”

Stiles smiles reassuringly at them, “I think I’ll keep Laura around for a little bit longer, if that’s okay with you both. Just in case something comes up, you know? At least until the mage is found.”

The tension in Derek’s shoulders eases and Laura lets out a sigh of relief, grinning at him happily.

“Can Stiles and I talk in private?” Derek asks. Laura’s eyebrows shoot up into her hairline and she grins like a cat that’s caught the canary.

“Of course, of course, talk. Right. I’ll just… yeah, bye, Stiles!” Laura giggles unsubtly, shutting the door on her way out. Stiles and Derek aren’t making eye contact, their ears tinged pink at the awkwardness.

“I really do just want to talk,” Derek mumbles, pulling his chair closer to Stiles’ bedside. 

“Okay, what about?” Stiles questions.

“I’m sorry about how I handled the day we slept together,” Derek says, looking up at Stiles earnestly.

“What do you mean?” Stiles asks, honestly confused, “I had a good time, you have nothing to be sorry about.”

“No, I mean… What I said,” Derek sighs, running a frustrated hand through his hair, “about not wanting a relationship. I was really worried about Laura at the time and couldn’t really imagine being in a relationship while she’s…”

“You don’t have to explain,” Stiles whispers, reaching out and squeezing Derek’s hand reassuringly. “Casual’s fine with me, I understand.”

“No, you don’t. I’m saying I want it. If it’s with you. I want for us to go on dates and to get to know you better. I want us to be together,” Derek blurts out, the words tumbling quickly from his mouth and sending Stiles’ head spinning.

Derek wants a relationship with him? Stiles blinks in shock, unable to believe his luck. After eleven years, his feelings are finally returned. Finally.

“Seeing you bleeding out on the forest floor,” Derek exhales harshly, “I was so worried, Stiles. So fucking worried, and I-I realized that my life’s been better with you in it and I don’t want to let you go." 

Stiles swallows thickly, Derek likes him, Derek wants to be with him. It’s everything Stiles has dreamt of for so long and it’s finally happening. But… if Stiles says yes and stays to be with Derek, then Laura dies. Laura dies and leaves Derek devastated with the guy he’s only recently become interested in. If Stiles says no, and doesn’t let Derek develop deeper feelings for him, then Stiles can die and keep Laura alive. And, sure, Derek might be sad, but he wouldn’t be nearly as devastated by his passing as he would if it were Laura. Derek needs Laura. In a way that Stiles will never be able to fulfill. 

Derek looks at him with a hopeful expression that leaves Stiles hollow, feeling like he’s about to tear out another piece of his soul, but he knows what has to be done. He gently pulls his hand away from Derek’s. 

“I’m sorry, Derek. I don’t feel the same,” Stiles says as cold and emotionlessly as he can, keeping his heart steady the best he can. It feels as if he’s tearing open his wounds, offering the blood that pours out of his body, destroying himself in the process of trying to save Derek from as much pain as he can.

Derek rears back as if the words were a physical blow, “I thought you…’’ 

“I like you, don’t get me wrong. You’re beautiful, Derek, and hot like the sun, but I’m not interested in anything more.” The words spill from his lips, leaving him feeling like a ghost, cold and haunting, left to watch those he loves walk away and move on without him.

“Right,” Derek says roughly, he stands and trudges towards the door. “Sorry, I misread the signs.” The door bangs harshly behind him and Stiles counts down the seconds, waiting until a full minute has passed before he lets out a broken sound.

Jackson lifts her head at the noise and waddles up to where Stiles lies, curled up tight. She snuggles into the crook of his neck, offering comfort that Stiles instantly latches onto. He wraps his arms around her tiny form, shaking with his unsteady breaths. He’s silent as he holds her, unable to feel anything but hollow and numb.

He tugs Jackson even closer and hopes that he’s making the right decision even though it feels like every ragged breath he takes is somehow wrong.

Chapter Text

(DEADication)


Ultimately, Stiles ends up spending two days in the hospital before the doctors agree to let him free. Lydia picks him up, helping him wobble to the car and driving him back to the shop where he slumps into the couch and sleeps for another few hours, high as a kite on his pain meds.

The third day after his release, he’s obsessively checking his phone with a disappointed frown. Laura texted him two days ago to congratulate him on his return home, but he’s yet to receive anything from Derek. It probably shouldn’t surprise him after the scene at the hospital.

Stiles sighs and wipes a weary hand down his face. He feels his magic buzzing underneath his skin, begging for his attention. He goes over to his table and lifts the talisman, rolling it in his fingers before sniffing at the contents. Jackson watches curiously from the floor and Stiles lowers it to her nose, watching with amusement as she sneezes.

“Does that smell like ginger and toad skin to you?” Stiles asks and Jackson nods vigorously, “Probably has a hint of water-dragon tongue and oleander too, if they really wanted Peter’s stench to be completely erased.” 

Jackson’s black eyes go even more wide, an expression of pure horror on her face. Stiles snorts and drops the talisman to the table. He saunters over to the closet where he hides his stash of magical ingredients and items, and starts digging.

The floor is lined with jars and chests, various sticky notes attached to them with scribbled phrases ranging from ‘pig noses’ and ‘phoenix wings’ to ‘CURSED: DO NOT TOUCH!’ As he’s sorting through the mess, his phone dings from his pocket alerting him to a new message from Laura. 

Is Derek with you?

Stiles frowns and types out his reply: No, why?

Laura immediately sends back: JW he went for a walk earlier and hasn’t come back. Just thought he might’ve gone to see you…

I don’t think he really wants to see me right now, he texts.

His phone is silent after that and Stiles can’t help but feel nervous. Where is Derek if not with Laura or him? Maybe he’s seeking comfort from someone else, he thinks bitterly. He pushes the thought aside to focus on searching through the stockpile for his ingredients. He’ll worry about Derek later, right now it’s time to find the mage.

He carries the necessary jars, carelessly letting them down on the table so he can make a quick trip to the bookshelf in the other room, lugging a thick spell book back with him. The book slams onto the table with a thud, rattling all the jars, and Stiles flips through the pages until he lands on the one with the location spell he wants.

Almost ready, he drags a large pot over to his feet along with a portable stove, plugging it in and turning it to the highest setting before placing the pot on top.

“One severed toe, two diced newts, and a cup of vegetable oil,” he reads from the book, dropping the ingredients into the pot. He goes to the closet, grabbing a few more items and throwing them into the mix before he grabs the talisman. He lets the bag sink inside the mixture, spinning it with a plastic spoon and watching it change color as it starts to simmer.

Jackson prances nearby, staring intently with a look of hunger and awe.

“You can’t eat this,” Stiles chides. Jackson flops to the ground dramatically, whining pitifully despite the fact that eating the potion would probably kill her. “You’re an idiot. There are mealworms in the closet on the left side, you can have some if you’re that starved.”

Jackson perks back up, running over to the closet and disappearing inside. Stiles refocuses on the mixture and looks at his watch. Only three more hours of watching the pot boil before it’s ready to use.

Stiles pulls his phone back out and goes through his album, flicking through all of the photos Laura has sent him the past few weeks. Some of them are of Laura smiling at the camera, but most of them are of her and Derek together. Stiles pauses on one, his finger hovering over his favorite candid picture of Derek. It’s of Derek, grinning down at his phone in a way Stiles has never witnessed in person. He remembers the caption Laura had texted beneath it: I like to call this the ‘texting Stiles look’, which had Stiles beaming for days after.

Tentatively, Stiles’ fingers press down the keys and he sends Derek a message.

Are you okay?

He leans back against the wall and waits for a reply.

It never comes.

 

The pot starts to boil over after the three hours have slowly ticked past. It spills a thick, oozing blue slime onto the floor and Stiles curses, running over to it with paper towels to wipe up the mess. Lydia will kill him if he leaves the floor covered in magical goo. Again.

“Do not eat this,” Stiles growls, shaking the dirty paper towels at the little dragon. Jackson lowers her head, looking sheepish and innocent, as if she would never do such a thing. Which is a lie because she’s tried to eat multiple potions in the past, but Stiles leaves the pot unattended anyway to go throw out the towels. He comes back and stands in front of the pot, holding a cup and scooping out some of the potion.

The color is actually a nice shade of blue, but the texture is lumpy and continues to grow large bubbles that expand and pop even without the heat source. Jackson sits on the floor, staring up at Stiles with a disgusted expression.

“Yeah, even you don’t want to eat this anymore, right?” He offers the cup to her, laughing as she hisses and scurries to the couch, glaring at him from its safety. “Down it goes.” He holds his nose and opens his throat as much as he can, trying to drink as much as possible without tasting it. It doesn’t help.

“Oh my god, oh my god,” Stiles groans, dropping the cup and dry-heaving, “So fucking gross. This is what I imagine the contents of a gym bag would taste like.”

Jackson whines sympathetically as Stiles braces himself against the table, breathing in through his mouth as heat starts spreading through his body. It starts in his stomach, a feeling of warmth that progresses to his chest, his legs, and arms, and leaving a tingling feeling of pins and needles in its wake. It’s not pleasant, but he’s definitely had worse reactions to potions before. He doesn’t like to remember those times.

He closes his eyes, focusing on the warmth in his bones, his skin, and his mind. He blocks out the noise from the shop and slowly, when he opens his eyes again, he’s surrounded by trees. 

Birds caw and a flock flies out of the branches overhead as if startled by his presence, though he knows they can’t really see him. It’s only an illusion. He takes in his surroundings and realizes that he’s in deep in a forest; a forest that, as he passes through the foliage, he realizes he’s been in before. Two years ago. The potion brought him to the woods where Scott had lost his inhaler, where he and Stiles’ father were murdered.

Stiles rests a hand on a nearby tree, the bark scratching roughly against his palm. The illusion feels so real, he can almost believe that he’s really there if it weren’t for the pull of magic in his stomach telling him where to go to find the mage. He follows the feeling, noting markers that will help guide him later: a strange knot-like tree, a large pointed rock…

The sight of a massive tree stump stops him in his tracks. There’s something off about it, something dark that has the hairs on his arms rising in alarm. He reaches out with a hand, tracing the lines and feeling the strong aura of power radiating off of it despite it being long dead. 

“So you’re the necromancer. I’ve been waiting for you,” a feminine voice comments from behind. Stiles whips around, his eyes narrowing at the woman. She has wavy, shoulder-length dark brown hair and a mischievous smile— by all definitions, she’s beautiful. However, at her feet is a kneeling muscular man, tied in rope, with his head slumped down. The mage grips the man’s dark hair and yanks his head up. Derek. He’s pale and sweating, another strip of rope tied in his mouth that he bites firmly on as he glares at the woman next to him, unaware of Stiles’ presence.

Stiles scowls, watching as she lights a fire in her palm and holds it inches away from Derek’s face. Derek flinches harshly from the fire, but is unable to get away due to the ropes and her grip on him. Given the red rash forming around his arms and mouth, the rope is most likely crafted out of wolfsbane to keep him weak.

“If you want your dog back, I’d suggest you come quick,” the woman states and the illusion around him fades away.

Stiles gasps and pushes away from his table, disoriented by the sudden return to his shop. He ignores the off-kilter feeling as he darts toward the exit. Jackson loyally starts to follow, only to have Stiles yell for her to stay. She looks up at him from the floor with a hurt expression, but his resolve is firm. 

“I can’t have you get injured again,” Stiles says. “I can handle a mage, don’t worry about me. Lydia will be back soon to feed you.” He runs out of the shop, getting into his car and driving toward the forest he’s so carefully avoided. 

 

Stiles follows the trail from his vision, seeing the markers from his as he continues on. The stump looks almost exactly the same, if it weren’t for the new addition of Derek strapped to it as he sits on the protruding roots that jut out of the soil.

“He seemed pretty adamant that you wouldn’t come for him,” the woman comments as she steps closer from the trees. 

“Oh, I’ll always come for him,” Stiles grins and winks cheekily, “in more ways than one, if you catch my drift.”

The woman’s lips quirk upward and she comes to a stop in front of him, her hand outstretched and waiting in the air between them. “I’m Jennifer. Fire mage.”

It’s pretty customary for mages to introduce themselves when meeting, as a sign of respect for each other’s magic and acknowledging each other’s power, although Stiles must admit he’s surprised that Jennifer is showing such manners at a time like this. But if she wants to be pleasant about things, Stiles certainly isn’t going to look that gift horse in the mouth.

“Stiles, earth mage and necromancer,” Stiles introduces, shaking her hand as if they were meeting over dinner rather than because she kidnapped Derek and helped a vengeful, bloodthirsty alpha. “Mind if I ask why you have my friend over there tied to a tree?” 

“Oh, that. That isn’t just a tree, sweetie. It’s a Nemeton. A power source ideal for sacrifices,” Jennifer’s smiles grow wicked, “and you, Stiles, are my sacrifice.”

Stiles’ heart skips a beat and he takes a step back. Okay. Maybe she isn’t actually going to be pleasant. “Sacrifice? For what?” His eyes finally wander to behind Jennifer and what he sees leaves him feeling off-balance: a tan-skinned woman is lying lifelessly on the ground a few feet away. “I don’t understand.”

“A pack of alphas killed my girlfriend, Kali,” Jennifer gestures to the dead body, “Peter helped me get my revenge on them, so, in turn, I helped him. But don’t worry, I don’t care that you killed him. In fact, I’m grateful. Now that I’m free from obligations, I can finally bring her back to life. But I need a sacrifice for that to happen. A life for a life, right?”

Jennifer looks at Stiles with a tight smile, her eyes willing him to understand her plight. Worst of all, Stiles does understand. He understands too well why she’s doing this, but a sacrifice like this is doomed to fail.

Stiles feels sick, feeling thrown by how wrong her plan is, “That isn’t how necromancy works. You can only offer what is freely given,” he explains adamantly.

Jennifer’s smile doesn’t falter as she replies, “Why do you think I kidnapped him?” Stiles blinks at her dumbly before the words register. He takes another step back, only to be surrounded by a blazing ring of fire, the flames reaching up to his chest and trapping him.

“I can torture your little dog until you say yes, if that’s what you want. Or we can do this the easy way and you just agree to give up your life so that no harm has to befall poor Derek here.” She moves close to the tree and cups Derek’s chin, angling his face directly at Stiles. Stiles frowns, taking in Derek’s injured state and his furious gaze.

“I can’t,” Stiles answers truthfully, hoping she will listen to him and not harm Derek. “I already use a piece of my soul. My life, and my life alone, is the source of my necromancy.” He lifts up the pendant that dangles around his neck, making sure that she can see its dim red color. “And it’s almost used up.” 

Derek’s panicked eyes snap to his and Stiles tries to smile back reassuringly, but quickly drops the fake expression, unable to find the effort within him to lie anymore. 

“Then, if you can’t be my sacrifice, Derek still can. And with you here, I have faith in my ability to convince him to cooperate.” Jennifer’s voice is tense, filled with anger and determination, nothing like how strangely friendly it had been only moments before.

Stiles, sensing a fight coming, pushes his magic into the ground, sending waves pulsing through his body and feet, encouraging the Nemeton to cooperate— asking it to come back to life, to help save them.

It does. 

“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that,” Stiles comments, watching as pale, dead roots break through the surface of the ground, coming back to life and snaking their way around her ankles. His pendant pulses an irregular and harsh beat against his chest, causing him to gasp in an attempt to catch his breath. It’s a painful reminder that he’s almost out of time. 

Jennifer snarls and sets the clingy roots on fire, freeing herself momentarily from their grip, “You really think your little plant magic will hold against my fire?” 

“Not really,” Stiles laughs, a pained raspy sound. The roots, more persistent this time, tangle around her neck, arms, and legs. As Jennifer struggles to get free, setting them on fire again and again, he watches as a large root wiggles underneath Derek’s ropes and starts to loosen them. Derek’s gaze is fixated on Jennifer as he pushes forward to get free faster. 

“I’d be careful when setting those roots on fire,” Stiles says slowly to Jennifer, “since they’re attached to your beloved stump and all.” He’s sent into a coughing fit after he’s finished speaking, struggling to catch his breath, and he knows that this will be it. This will be his final act of defiance. 

“You’re not sounding too good,” Jennifer laughs. The roots catch fire, still persistently wrapping around her. “Why waste your energy like this? Your life? You can’t win in the—” Her eyes bulge as her throat is slit open, Derek snarling in her face, half-shifted.

Stiles wheezes out a victorious laugh before his pendant beats harshly again, sending a numb tingling sensation through his heart and into his limbs. He’s never felt this before, but he knows what it means. The realization is quickly followed by a wave of terror. This is the end, his final moments, and then what? He sinks to his knees, the fire around him having disappeared as if it never existed.

“We did it,” Stiles mumbles groggily, swaying before he lands on his back, staring up at the dull, gray sky.

Derek’s terrified face hovers into view, blocking the sight of the clouds. He’s yelling about an ambulance, holding Stiles’ phone against his ear, only to swear harshly about a signal. Stiles reaches out to tell him it’s okay, that this is the plan, but the words are stuck on his tongue. He can’t make himself tell another lie, not now. He can see his own chest heaving, working hard for tiny amounts of air that pass through.

“I’m scared, Der,” Stiles chokes out instead, his bravado finally leaving him as his eyes burn with unshed tears. He’s so scared, so terrified of the unknown, of what comes next. He feels Derek’s hand grasping desperately onto his own, a comforting pressure that eases the fear just a little. “Stay… with me. Don’t want to… die alone.”

“Breathe,” Derek orders. “I’m not leaving you. Come on, Stiles. I can’t lose you— please. Please.”

Stiles wills the rest of his magic to go to Laura, to find her and keep her alive, even in his death. Derek grabs his face, forcing Stiles to look at him. 

“I can… hear…” Stiles mumbles through gasping breaths.

“Hear what?” Derek asks urgently, still cradling Stiles’ face in between his palms.

Stiles closes his eyes and focuses on the sound. It’s faint, but it’s there, the sound of a woman’s scream. It makes him think of how his mother used to tell him stories about banshees and wailing women that would scream before a death. He had nearly forgotten about that memory, until now. It’s funny how the mind works like that. He wonders if Lydia knows the tale.

He wonders if they’re screaming for him.

“Open your eyes, damnit!” Derek pleads and Stiles obeys instantly focusing on the dark clouds in the distance, drifting slowly closer. It reminds him of the day he met them: Derek and Laura. It’s almost fitting that the clouds hover overhead now, he thinks.

And, with what little courage he has left, he lets go.

 

There’s silence. 

Silence and a warm feeling of contentment, of safety, the fear having left his body in a rush. When his whiskey brown eyes snap open and take in the colorless world around him, it’s to see his body lying on the ground, still and unmoving. Derek’s hunched over him, his body shaking with the force of his sobs. He’s clutching Stiles’ body as if afraid that he’ll disappear completely if he lets go, mindlessly repeating a mantra about not leaving.

It breaks Stiles’ heart to watch, but it is for the best. Laura will live on and Stiles’ pain has finally ended.

“We weren’t expecting you so soon,” a voice says. Stiles swivels around, blinking back tears as he comes face-to-face with the vibrant red figure from his dreams.

“Scott,” Stiles whispers brokenly, launching himself into his best friend’s open arms. Scott’s arms wrap tightly around him, and Stiles laughs ecstatically as he sees the other two figures standing over his shoulder. “Mom. Dad.” Scott loosens his grip, letting Stiles stumble to his parents, hugging them and kissing their cheeks. 

“You did good, kid,” his father, John, says proudly. He’s dressed in his tan Sheriff’s uniform, the outfit he had been wearing when he died, and claps Stiles on the shoulder. “I was hoping we wouldn’t see you quite yet, but… You protected the town when I couldn’t. I’m proud of you, son.” Stiles grins and wipes at his eyes before his mother moves and envelops him in a tight hug.

“Look at how tall and handsome you’ve gotten,” Claudia, his mother, coos. She kisses his cheeks and forehead lovingly. “And so smart too. My beautiful baby boy.” She’s wearing the baby blue dress from his childhood, the one she wore the day she collapsed and was brought to the hospital. The one she was eventually buried in.

“It’s good to see you, Mom.” Stiles whispers, no longer able to stop the flow of tears. Claudia smiles and brushes a hand through his hair.

A sudden rush of noise has them all turning to watch as Laura, Lydia, and Jackson enter the clearing and cautiously move towards Derek and the body, shock obvious on their faces. Derek doesn’t move from where he’s hunched by Stiles’ side, but he pulls back a bit and loosens his grip, as if he realizes that he can’t force Stiles to come back by holding him tight enough.

Jackson lets out a devastated wail and she tumbles gracelessly over to Stiles, crawling onto his body and lying down over his heart where it lies still and silent. She whimpers pitifully at the absence and Lydia breaks down at the sight, covering her face as she cries.

“Hey, it’s okay, little buddy,” Stiles says sadly, despite knowing Jackson can’t hear him.

Laura slowly steps up behind Derek, resting her hand on her shoulder as silent tears roll down her cheeks. Her eyes never leave Stiles’s body, even as she runs her hand comfortingly through Derek’s dark hair, trying futilely to ease some of his pain. Despite the sad display, Stiles’ lips quirk up in pride that his magic had worked—had kept her alive even in his absence. He did it.

“He looks pretty torn up, dude,” Scott mumbles, staring at Derek with a concerned expression.

“He’ll recover. He has Laura. He won’t have to deal with this alone,” Stiles replies softly, but Scott looks unsure.

“I told you not to do this,” Lydia cries, hitting Stiles’ body as she sobs angrily, “I told you this would happen. Why couldn’t you listen to me?”

Derek tenses, turning against her with a furious expression, “You knew this would happen?”

“Oh, that accusation is real rich coming from the guy who basically demanded he do this!” Lydia snarls back.

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Derek grits through his bared teeth. Laura steps back from them both, watching the argument in confusion.

“Lydia, don’t…” Stiles warns helplessly.

“He’s like this because of you and your sister! Why do you think she’s still alive if he’s dead, Derek? His heart has stopped beating and I’m willing to bet hers just started!” Derek’s face loses even more color and he stares at Laura as if he’s seeing her for the first time— or hearing her heart pumping blood for the first time since she’s been resurrected. “He probably planned this. A life for a life. His for hers.”

“He did this…to keep me alive?” Laura questions lowly. 

“I didn’t ask for this. We wouldn’t ask for him to do this,” Derek insists.

Lydia turns her attention away from the Hales and runs her hands affectionately through Stiles’ hair, the sweetest gesture she’s done since they met, “Stiles, you stupid idiot. You taught me how to predict a death, it isn’t fair that you made me scream out yours too.” New tears trail a path down her cheeks, dripping down onto the soil beneath them. It’s the first time Stiles has ever seen her look anything but elegant and strong.

“She’ll be okay too,” Stiles says to his family, smiling with more conviction than he feels. He has to believe that everything will work out, that everyone will be happy in the end. He has to have made the sacrifice for a reason.

“Are you certain about that?” John asks hesitantly, looking pityingly at Derek and Lydia. “It can be incredibly hard on those left behind, you above all should know that.”

Stiles watches them, his heart shattering at the sight of Derek crying, staring down at Stiles’ body like he’s lost something important. Of Lydia sobbing beside him, swearing strings of curse words under her breath. Of Jackson whimpering with every breath, as if it physically hurts to exist without Stiles there.

“I didn’t think they’d be this upset,” Stiles admits. He lets out a startled cry when Scott smacks him. 

“What do you mean you didn’t think they’d be this upset?! Lydia has been helping you for two years, watching over you and trying to keep you alive. And Derek obviously cares about you!” Scott yells.

“Yeah, but he and I aren’t… anything,” Stiles says defensively.

Because you said no. That’s it. That’s the only reason,” Scott shouts. “Which was really stupid if you ask me.”

Stiles’ eyes narrow, “Have you been watching me this whole time?” Scott shrugs, glancing away sheepishly.

“It gets boring sometimes around here, gotta have some kind of entertainment,” Scott grins. “Plus your life is kinda like a soap opera, dude.” Stiles rolls his eyes and turns to his parents, ready for the next step. Ready to move forward. 

“What do I do from here?” Stiles asks them, looking around for a gateway or something. They don’t just wander around Earth for eternity do they? He has nothing against haunting the living and playing some jokes, but he’s been really looking forward to the “eternal rest” part of being dead.

Claudia smiles at him, “Have patience and your door will appear when it’s ready.” Stiles nods at her and turns to the group hovering over his body for the time being. He wants to tell them that he’s okay, really, and that he’s finally reunited with his family, but he can’t. So he watches.

Lydia is staring intently at his pendant, a look of deep thought and consideration on her face. Suddenly, her expression turns determined and she turns to Laura and Derek, “I might know a way to save him.”

Stiles’ heart drops as she grabs the pendant, breaking the chain around his neck and holding it out to the siblings. “The pendant, part of his soul is in the pendant and it’s keeping Laura alive,” she explains. 

“Even though it’s not touching me?” Laura questions. 

“No, no, no, don’t touch that. What are you doing?” Stiles snaps at them, stepping closer, but still unheard. 

“It has nothing to do with proximity, it has to do with intent. His intent, even as he died, was to keep you alive, and this pendant is still doing that. It uses a lot less magic to keep you alive than it does for Stiles to use it… You could live for another twenty years with this, but…” 

“But Stiles would remain dead,” Laura finishes tonelessly, “And if we break it… That might bring him back?” 

“It might,” Lydia says, glancing down at Stiles’ body, “It just might.” Lydia looks guiltily at Derek before she adds quietly, “But it will kill Laura.”

“It’s not worth it! Just let me go,” Stiles yells, his voice breaking at the end. “Let me go, please.”

Derek looks devastated by the information, being forced to make a decision between keeping Laura and losing Stiles, bringing Stiles back while losing his sister, or risking losing both trying to bring Stiles back. He startles when Laura envelopes him in her arms, whispering in his ear as new tears trail down his cheeks. Despite her quiet voice, Stiles hears her voice clear as day and it makes his mind race.

“You don’t have to choose, baby bro. It’s my choice,” Laura reaches for the necklace in Lydia’s palm and she holds it gently in her fingers. “It’s okay, I’ll be with the others. Our family.” She kisses his cheek and slams the pendant into the ground, looking satisfied at the sight of broken red shards decorating the dirt.

There’s a bright flash of white light and Stiles can feel the change instantly, can feel the strangeness of his soul becoming whole again. He looks at Scott, his father, and his mother, and frowns. 

“You can choose to stay with them,” Claudia says kindly, her arm curling around the sheriff’s waist. Her face holds no judgment, no hint of what he should or should not do.

“Or you can choose to come with us,” John states.

“It’s up to you,” Scott bounces on the souls of his feet, grinning widely as if he’ll be pleased by whatever choice his best friend makes.

Stiles feels a phantom touch on his face and he sees Derek sobbing openly, tears rushing down his cheeks as he caresses Stiles’ cheek and begs him to come back. Laura is on the ground next to him, her expression peaceful with a hint of a smile as she lies there, lifeless. Lydia’s eyes are fixated on Stiles, holding her breath as if waiting for him to restart. 

Stiles glances up and sees a handful of figures appearing through the trees. A middle-aged woman and man stand at the front of the group with familiar black hair. The woman’s eyes are a beautiful light green while the man’s are brown and their gazes are fixated solely on Laura and Derek. As if feeling his eyes on them, the woman turns to look at Stiles with a soft smile and the man wraps his arm around her, nodding a brief hello to him too.

Stiles nods back and turns when he hears Derek whisper his name. 

“Please, don’t leave me alone. Come back. Please, come back,” Derek whispers through his sobs. Stiles’ heart plummets at the sight, as he looks at Derek and remembers the face of a young man, covered in soot and ash as he cried in the police station. Stiles had never wanted to see that expression of sadness on Derek’s face again, and yet here Stiles is, the very reason it’s there. And what will Derek do without Laura? Without Stiles? Completely alone, even more than he was ten years ago. That thought settles heavily in his chest, making his decision for him.

“I can’t leave him alone,” Stiles decides. Scott lets out an enthusiastic whoop and claps Stiles on his shoulder. 

“Go get him, Stiles! We’ll be here. Waiting. Don’t rush on our behalf,” Scott says with a grin and a wink. His parents nod and smile in agreement, watching as their son steps over to his body and wakes up with a gasp.

Derek’s sob stutters into a disbelieving laugh as Stiles pants for air. He leans down and kisses Stiles’ cheeks and nose before pulling him close. Jackson lets out a string of happy chirps, nuzzling at Stiles’ stomach and purring with joy.

Stiles looks down at Laura’s body and knows that she’ll be okay, that her family is waiting for her on the other side.

He wraps his arm around Derek and pulls him into a hug with Jackson between them, protesting at being squished. 

Now maybe he’ll get the chance to be happy too.

Chapter Text

(Because of all the coffin)

 

They don’t talk about it.

Derek and Stiles spend the day of Laura’s death digging her grave by the Hale house, silent as they lower her body to the ground and cover her up.

He doesn’t know what to say to make things between them right again. He’s overwhelmed by guilt, knowing that he may not have killed Laura with his own hands, but in the end, he is alive because she is dead. That’s all that matters. He glowers at the dirt, unable to comprehend how Derek is able to stand being near him. But, then again, it isn’t like Derek is going out of his way to fill the painful silence between them either. 

With a wave of his hand, Stiles covers the grave in vibrantly colored roses, a myriad of colors as bright as her personality was. He stares down at the grave until his eyes lose focus, the colors blurring together in his vision. He hears Derek’s footsteps as he leaves, the sound slowly fading with the distance. 

It sounds like goodbye. 

The next day, a thousand dollars sealed in a box is dropped on their doorstep, no note or return address, but Stiles knows the payment is from Derek. He shoves it in the back of his closet full of trinkets and other cursed objects. He knows he won’t be able to touch it for a long time, feeling sick at the idea of being anywhere near money that tainted.

Lydia lets him stay at the shop for free, saying that he can remain there until he finds a new job, since he can’t perform necromancy anymore. It’s a kindness which he is incredibly grateful for, but, when night hits and he lies on the couch, wide-awake, he can’t help but be angry that he came back for this. He agreed to return, hoping for something with Derek, for a better life than what he had before, but now he has even less than what he started with. The unfairness of it all leaves a bitter resentment growing inside him with every passing day like a wound that’s festering, growing worse the longer it goes without treatment.

After a week of no contact with Derek, Stiles wonders if Derek hates him. He would, if he were Derek. He’d hate him for leaving him without any family left.

He doesn’t reach out to Derek and Derek doesn’t reach out to him. 

It’s a clean break for both of them, Stiles tells himself. It’s a good thing.

He wishes he could believe his own lies. But he can’t, and the wound inside him gapes open, waiting for something to fill it. So he forces himself off the couch, squinting at the brightness outside, the sun gently warming his skin. He plops in the dirt and does the only thing left that he can. He gardens. 

 

Stiles sits in the dirt in front of their shop, touching the ground and watching as five-foot-tall sunflowers sprout from the soil. They spin and swirl as they stretch upwards, reaching for the light they crave. Stiles smiles proudly at his choice. He had gone to the store that morning, buying multiple types of seeds in various colors— a surprisingly difficult decision.

He repeats the action with the other groups of seeds, growing tulips, lilies, poppies, and orchids that fill the square of dirt before their store, giving it a sense of color and brightness it’s never had. The sign that hangs at the top of the building now simply reads “Psychic”, the rest of it having been swallowed up and covered by overgrown vines that Stiles grew earlier in the week. Surprisingly, the thick pile of green vines actually adds a flair to the building that he’s quite pleased with. 

Lydia sits on the steps leading up to the front door, a cup of iced tea in her hands. “Parrish and I are going out on Friday,” she says casually and Stiles looks up, wiping the sweat from his forehead with dirt-covered hands that leave a smear of dirt behind.

“On a date?” Stiles asks.

“Yeah. He stopped by and just stood there with this dazed look on his face and… then asked me to dinner,” Lydia recalls in a stunned voice, as if getting asked out on a date is the craziest thing that’s happened to them lately.

“Have you been on a date since Jackson?” Stiles questions and Lydia shakes her head. “Well, Jordan’s a great guy. Takes his job seriously and is good at it. Plus, he’s a sweetheart. You won’t regret it.”

“You think so?” Lydia frowns. “I’m not sure if I’m looking for anything serious just yet.”

“That’s fine,” Stiles reassures her. “One date doesn’t mean you’re promising anything. Just have fun and see where it takes you.”

Lydia hums, leaning back and staring up at the blue sky.

“Oh my, what a lovely garden!” Mrs. Bell, the old lady who runs a salon down the street, exclaims as she comes to a stop in front of the building. “I always thought this dreary old place could use some color.” 

Stiles smiles up at her, “Thanks, Mrs. Bell.”

“Did you grow them all yourself?” Mrs. Bell asks curiously and, at Stiles’ nod of affirmation, adds, “You’ve got quite the green thumb! I’m sure many people would pay for such nice flowers. You could start a little shop with a skill like that.”

“Yeah, maybe. I’ll think about it,” Stiles laughs, waving as she shuffles off.

“She’s got a point, you know. You’d do well as a florist and I know you enjoy growing plants. I always see the beautiful flowers you leave at the cemetery,” Lydia comments. 

“It’s relaxing,” Stiles shrugs nonchalantly, but he’s considering the idea; perhaps he could open up a floral shop somewhere when he has enough money.

The nearby sound of happy munching stops his train of thought, preventing him from getting too far ahead of himself. He turns with a suspicious glare towards the sound, his eyes landing on Jackson just a few feet away, her head buried in the flowers. Jackson’s head swivels around and, when she spots his glare, she freezes with a guilty expression.

“Jackson! Stop eating those.” He reaches over, pulling the dragon away from the flowers. She stares up at him innocently, as if to suggest she wasn’t doing anything wrong, unaware of the broken white petals sticking out of her mouth and teeth. Stiles snorts at the sight, picking the bits of petals away from her face.

“Excuse me,” a young woman steps up with long black hair and a nervous smile. “Hi. My name’s Kira and I was hoping I could get a psychic reading. I’ve been having some… strange things happening lately and thought you could help me… Maybe?”

Stiles and Lydia both blink at her in surprise.

“What kind of strange things?” They both ask in unison, wary about getting involved in anything too hazardous these days.

Kira’s smile widens and she shifts on her feet anxiously, “Um… like weird electrical things. Shortages and broken bulbs and stuff.”

“As long as it doesn’t involve dead bodies or rogue alphas, then we’re fine,” Stiles grins at her. 

“I’ll give you a reading and see if we can figure it out,” Lydia says, walking inside the shop. Kira stares after her with a confused expression, her eyes glancing between Stiles and the door. 

“You’re supposed to follow her,” Stiles informs her. Kira’s eyes widen and she nods, hurriedly going through the front door after Lydia.

Stiles hums to himself as he moves onto the second plot of dirt, growing more flowers with the same pattern as the one on the right so that they’d match, illuminating the path to the shop with vivid colors. After another hour of gardening, he sits back, stifling a yawn with a dirty hand. He glances over and sees Jackson batting her wings to reach the sunflowers, hovering in the air as she chews the petals.

“Oh, for the love of…” Stiles grumbles, pushing himself up, “What did I tell you about eating the flowers?” 

Jackson burps, a small burst of flame bursting out of her mouth and catching some of the plants on fire. It’s the most beautiful sight Stiles has seen in days.

“Oh my god, did you just blow your first flame?” Stiles exclaims, running over to hug the still-chewing Jackson. He holds her in his hands, moving her close to his face as he beams. “I knew you had it in you! You’re all grown up now.”

The sound of someone clearing their throat surprises him, but he doesn’t look away from the teacup dragon.

“Hi, sorry, Lydia’s in a reading right now so you’ll have to wai—” the words die on his tongue and he freezes when he turns to look at the visitor, expecting a random customer, but finds Derek instead.

He looks good. Better than when Stiles last saw him with grief and sadness written all over his face. Now, he looks healthy, less burdened, and somehow softer. His beard is trimmed neatly and he’s wearing an olive gray V-neck that Stiles wants to reach out and tug off, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t move from where he stands with Jackson in his arms. 

Derek’s eyes trail down Stiles’s body and he frowns, as if he isn’t happy with what he sees. As if he can tell how miserable Stiles has been this past week and a half just by looking at him for a few seconds. Stiles hopes it isn’t that obvious. Jackson struggles in his arms, kicking against Stiles’ hold so that she is free to jump and fly over to Derek. Both Derek and Stiles look surprised when she practically demands Derek hold her, excitedly chirping at him and nuzzling his neck when he does. Derek grins down at her before looking up at Stiles with a soft expression that makes his heart beat faster.

“I’m here to talk to you actually,” Derek says, as if his presence here doesn’t turn Stiles’ world upside down.

“Oh? What about?” Stiles asks faux-casually.

“I just wanted to let you know that I talked to Isaac, Boyd, and Allison.” Stiles’ eyes widen and Derek continues, “I like them. They’re… You were right, they’re great. I invited them into my pack and they all accepted.”

“That’s awesome, Derek,” Stiles beams at him. No wonder Derek is looking so good if he has a whole pack to draw support and power from. A small sense of pride bubbles in his chest, knowing that he helped Derek in some way at least. 

“I also wanted to let you know that we’re leaving Beacon Hills. The pack and I,” Derek adds, watching Stiles intently for his reaction. Stiles’ smile drops and he quickly tries to cover it up with another grin, but it feels wrong on his face, like a grimace rather than something pleasant. He understands why Derek is leaving, he truly does. There’s too much pain and death here with very little worth staying for. Including Stiles.

“Their parents are okay with that?” Stiles raises a questioning brow.

Derek shrugs casually, “Allison’s dad admitted it wasn’t safe for her to be there right now. He doesn’t know how to help her the way she needs and he has to work on cutting ties from other hunters first. As for Isaac and Boyd, well, they don’t have much of a home life to miss. Though I won’t stop any of them from visiting if they want to.”

Stiles nods in understanding, wiping his hands on his pants. The dirt has turned into mud, mixing with the sweat of his palms that leaves a brown stain on his thighs.

“That’s… good for you, man,” Stiles ends up saying instead of ‘please don’t go’, ‘I really like you’ and ‘don’t leave me alone’. “You deserve something better than this hellhole.” 

Derek smiles at him and nods, lowering Jackson back to the ground where she looks up at him pitifully. He gestures behind him to a silver Toyota Cruiser that’s sitting in the parking lot. “I should… go then. The betas are waiting in the car.”

Stiles smiles back, glad Derek’s doing well and has the chance to start over. Glad that he has a pack and bought a new car to bring them all with him. But he isn’t glad about much else other than that. Watching Derek walk away, Stiles has a moment of panic. He knows this is their goodbye, the last time he’ll ever see Derek and he needs to say something, needs to have at least tried to keep some part of Derek in his life.

“Keep in touch, okay? Send me pictures and stuff. I’d like that,” Stiles blurts. 

Derek stares at him with a confused expression, his eyes searching Stiles’ face for sincerity. Whatever he sees seems to only confuse him more and he opens his mouth to ask, “Did you mean it?”

Stiles’ brow furrows, “Uh, yeah. I mean, I’d like for us to stay in touch and—”

“Not that. What you said at the hospital. That you weren’t interested in a relationship with me, did you mean it?” Derek asks, stepping closer to him and away from the car.

Stiles’ heart pounds in his chest and he doesn’t even consider lying, “No. No, I didn’t mean it.”

“Then why’d you say it?” Derek questions.

“I… had a plan,” Stiles states lamely. “I didn’t think I could make you as happy as her.” He can’t bring himself to say her name out loud. Not yet. It’s too fresh of a wound.

“You’re an idiot, you know that, right?” Stiles nods at the response, looking down at his feet in shame as Derek comes to a stop in front of him. “Can I kiss you?”

Stiles’ head shoots upwards and he stares at Derek incredulously. There’s a beat where Stiles isn’t sure if he’s joking or not, before he slowly nods again. Derek closes the space between them, and Stiles sighs contentedly into the kiss. It’s more than he thought he’d ever get to have from Derek again, and he pushes closer to wrap his arms around Derek’s neck and deepen the kiss. Stiles forgets where they are, losing himself in the feel of Derek’s lips against his own. They only break apart when the betas rolls down the car windows and start wolf whistling loudly.

Stiles chuckles shyly, stepping back from him, “That was definitely a nice goodbye kiss.” Derek’s face goes pinched. 

“Come with me,” Derek says, looking at Stiles imploringly.

“What? Are you joking?” Stiles laughs, unsure and nervous.

“What’s keeping you here, Stiles?” 

Stiles’ brain halts and his heart starts pounding. Nothing. Nothing is worth staying for, but Derek— Derek is someone worth leaving for.

“Okay,” Stiles breathes, darting forward to kiss Derek before he runs back into the shop yelling over his shoulder that he’s going to grab some stuff.

He slams through the front door, passing Lydia and Kira as he heads into the backroom, grabbing a duffel bag from the closet. He shoves his clothes, money, and personal documents in the bag, not having anything else to his name. He bolts into the front office with it slung over his shoulder, coming to a stop next to Lydia. She glances up at him with a knowing smile when Stiles bends down to gently kiss her cheek.

“I’m getting out of here, Lyds. For good. I promise to keep in touch,” Stiles whispers to her, pulling back and grinning as she sniffs and looks away.

“You’d better, Stilinski,” Lydia says tightly, as if trying to keep her voice steady. 

“Thank you for everything. I love you!” Stiles calls out to her over his shoulder and he pushes out of the front door, handing Derek his bag to put in the trunk. He whistles sharply as he slides into the passenger’s seat, rolling down the window so that Jackson can soar through it, landing with a plop onto his lap. They both turn to look behind them at the three betas in the back seats.

Isaac, a blonde curly-haired teen, is wearing a scarf and half-heartedly waves at them before going back to playing a game on his DS. The brunette girl, Allison, with dimples and a sweet smile, says hi and coos over Jackson’s miniature size. Jackson hops over to her, enjoying the attention as she fawns over her and pets her head. Boyd, the largest teen out of all three, simply nods at him and shoots him a small, grateful smile.

Derek slips into the driver’s seat and turns to look at Stiles with a raised brow, “Ready to go?”

He almost says yes, before he realizes that there is one more thing left to do. “Actually, can we make one more stop?” 

 

The flowers still look fresh and new at the base of Erica’s gravestone as if, like she is, they are suspended in time, unaffected by aging.

Stiles stands, remembering how she had been quiet and shy when they went to high school together, and only really opened up to him in death. They had gotten close after she had died, she being one of the few teenage victims of Peter that hadn’t lived through the bite.

He remembers her telling him secrets, dreams that never came true, and hopes for those that she loved. She had always been afraid of moving on, of finally letting go, but maybe now it is time. 

“I’m leaving with Derek and his pack, so I probably won’t be coming back. Though I wouldn’t be able to bring you back again anyway…” He pauses, “Boyd’s coming with us. He has a home now and he looks happy. It might not be easy, but he has people to look after him. Including me. You don’t have to worry about him anymore…” He takes a breath and wills himself to say, “I think it’s time for you to move on. Time for you to enjoy the afterlife like you deserve to, Catwoman.” 

He adds a few more flowers to the grave and pushes more magic to the older plants so that they would continue to last. As he turns to leave, the tree they used to play under begins to rustle and sway. His mouth parts in surprise and he swears he can hear the faint sound of her laughter echoing through its leaves. He smiles softly, pleased at the sound and goes back to the car. He buckles his seatbelt and Derek latches onto his hand, squeezing it reassuringly. Stiles pulls the hand into his lap, holding on to it gratefully as the car begins its journey to their new home.

Derek’s eyes shift to Stiles’ before he refocuses on the road. He clears his throat, getting everyone’s attention before tonelessly reciting, “What’s a zombie’s favorite bean?” 

Stiles stares at him in shock, his mouth falling open. Derek isn’t— no way he—

“A human bean,” Derek deadpans and Stiles’ head hits against the headrest, his body shaking with the force of his laughter. He laughs until he cries, tears streaming down his face, while the betas groan at the bad joke. Derek smiles shyly at Stiles, visibly proud that he’s managed to make the brunet laugh so hard.

“I definitely made the right decision in coming with you, oh my god, we’re going to be the best couple,” Stiles wipes his tears and Derek’s smile widens.

“Yeah, we are.”

Jackson moves to sit in Stiles’ lap as he quiets down, watching the scenery of Beacon Hills fly past. Her black eyes are wide and her mouth is open as if she’s just as excited as the rest of them. Allison, Isaac, and Boyd are all chattering loudly in the background and Stiles turns to look out of the window, just in time to catch the sign that reads:

You are now leaving Beacon Hills 

For the first time in a long time, Stiles feels truly content and excited for the future.

It’s time for something new.