Once upon a time, there was a fox named Stiles.
Foxes are tricksters, always, and Stiles was no different. He had a human best friend, whom he dragged into his schemes. They were as close as brothers, the human and the fox, and neither expected their plots to haunt them.
One dark night, the fox convinced his human friend to follow him into the woods, so that they could beat the lawmen in a race they didn’t know they were running. Half of a body had been found, and the fox wanted to get to the other half first, before all of them — even before his father, who led the lawmen on their hunt.
Stiles and his human friend went deep into the wood in their search, and they did not find anything. The fox’s father found his own son instead, and the friends were separated by their own ruse.
Though the two friends did not know it, there was an evil in the woods that night — a wolf driven mad by murder and betrayal. The wolf bit the human boy and cursed him to be a part of his pack and follow his every command. It wasn’t until morning that the fox realized something was wrong, and then it was too late.
The fox went into the woods in search of his friend, but he couldn’t find him anywhere. He went deeper and deeper, until he found the place where his friend was bitten — until he could smell the blood from the bite and the sting of magic.
“Give me my friend back,” the fox cried into the woods. “Give him to me or you will regret it!”
“What does a fox need with friends?” the woods growled back. “What does a fox need with any companionship?” The fox did not answer, and the woods chuckled, for they also carried the magic of the wolf. “I have more need of your friend than you do, little fox, so let me keep him a while. I’ll return him to you when my quest is done.”
And then the woods went silent and the wolf was gone. The fox whimpered and laid down in the place where his friend last was, for he knew that all was lost. The wolf was a wolf, and he was just a fox. What could he do?
“Why are you crying?” someone asked.
Stiles sprang to all four paws and squinted into the wilderness. Now that the wolf was gone, the forest seemed lighter, somehow; more hospitable. The fox turned in circles, trying to find who spoke to him.
A dark wolf stepped from the shadows, his coat blacker than coal. The fox stepped back, frightened.
“Tell me,” the wolf said. “Why are you crying?”
“A wolf took my friend,” the fox said wearily. He sniffed, inhaling the scents around him, and though this wolf did not smell like the wolf that took his friend, he did not relax. A wolf was a wolf, and Stiles could not trust any of them.
“It was not I that took him,” the wolf said with a huff.
“How do I know that you don’t follow the one that did?” Stiles challenged.
“I am Derek,” the wolf growled. “And I hunt for the same wolf as you — he took your friend? Well he murdered my sister.”
And the fox and the wolf became uneasy allies in that moment, for they both wanted something: Stiles wanted his friend returned to him, safe and whole, and Derek wanted the wolf’s blood on his teeth.
They fought over plans for a month, almost. Long enough for the moon to cycle again. Finally, the wolf agreed to do as the fox said, because he was a fox and he knew the ways of trickery better than a wolf could.
“I don’t like this,” Derek objected again. In the month they’d been fighting, side by side and with each other, he had grown fond of this upstart little fox. Their plan was a dangerous one. He was worried.
“You don’t have to like it,” Stiles said. His fur gleamed in the moonlight, whereas Derek’s turned darker than the shadows. They were opposites, the fox and the wolf, only — not at all.
They went their separate ways, following the plan. Derek went deep into the forest, back to where the fox’s human friend was bitten. The fox, however, followed another path, one far, far away from any woods. The fox climbed high into the sky, until he was perched on the moon itself. Once in position, he yipped to let Derek know that it was time to act.
“Peter!” Derek howled, calling out the evil wolf’s name. “Peter, I’ve come to challenge you!”
The woods were silent, and the moon crept higher.
“Peter!” Derek howled again. “I’ve come for vengeance! You shed my sister’s blood, and now I’ve come for yours!”
The woods were silent, and the moon crept higher.
“Peter!” Derek howled, desperately now, because the moon was getting higher and Stiles was up there, so far above his head. “Come and fight me, you coward!”
“You think you can fight me?” the woods laughed. Derek could hear Peter in its voice, in its words, and that made him growl.
“Yes,” Derek said.
“You?” Peter asked, and then he was right there, just out of Derek’s reach. At his side was the fox’s human friend, his shirt bloody and torn from the bite. “You’re a lone wolf, nephew of mine.” He laughed, and the trees echoed him. “You don’t stand a chance. Join me on my quest, nephew, and I'll let you and your little fox live.”
“No,” Derek snarled. “You killed my sister, Uncle. You slaughtered her for power.” He howled the signal as loud as he could, so Stiles, high upon the moon, could hear him. “I’m going to kill you. I’m going to taste your blood and take her death from your hide.”
And then the wolves were fighting, and the fox’s friend was fighting as well, deflecting Derek’s bites and claws. Derek tried to avoid hurting him, for he was the fox’s friend and the reason the fox was helping to begin with, but it was hard, so hard, especially as the moon rose and grew stronger.
For it was the full moon that night, the night that all wolves grew weak to the bloodlust within themselves.
The wolves snapped and snarled, bit and clawed, ripped and savaged, and then Derek began to lose. The human grabbed Derek from behind and weighed him down with his own body weight, and Derek couldn’t defend himself from Peter’s jaws. He howled at the sky again, worried that the fox had not heard his signal, worried that all had been lost before it began, but then—
The moon gave wolves strength, and it gave Peter more than most. Peter fed off of the power of others, consuming the moon’s blessings as if they were his own. He had the power of three wolves, of six, of ten. He could do magic that Derek couldn’t imagine.
But without the moon, he was just an ordinary wolf, same as Derek.
So as they fought underneath the forest’s gaze, in the light of the full moon, Derek slipped on his own blood and howled for Stiles to save him, to pull through, to complete his great trick—
And the moon disappeared from the sky.
Derek growled in triumph and threw the human from his back, sending him sprawling across the leaves. Peter met his eyes and quaked in fear, for now, in the darkness, his nephew was his equal. Derek lunged at his uncle, and the two sprawled, locked in battle, until Derek gave a mighty snap of his jaws and severed the evil wolf’s head from his body with one quick bite.
Derek howled again, celebrating his victory and the blood staining his teeth, and he waited for his fox to reappear.
But he didn’t.
The moon flickered back on, like a candle igniting itself, and but the fox didn’t. Derek waited long enough that the human Peter stole began to stir, and the sun broke through the night, and still, the fox did not come back.
“I don’t think he’s coming,” the human said, sounding small and sad. Derek snarled and snapped at him until he ran away, because the wolf couldn’t bear to hear that. He couldn’t.
Derek waited and waited. The sun traveled across the sky and then set again. The moon rose, thinner now, and then dawn came again, and still the wolf waited.
Dawn came again, and a twig snapped. Derek swirled in the dim morning light and was faced with another human, a stranger.
“Hi,” the human said. Derek started in surprise, for the human sounded exactly as the fox did.
“Stiles?” the wolf asked.
The human smiled weakly. “Yeah, it’s me.” He looked down at himself. “My, uh. My negotiations with the moon didn’t go quite as planned.”
Derek padded over to the human — to the fox — and circled him. He smelled the same. He spoke the same.
“What did you do?” the wolf asked. The sky began to brighten even more, and something in the air began to change.
“You’re about to find out,” Stiles the human said. He had the same fox grin on his smug face, and Derek wanted to snap his teeth at him and surprise it off, but his body felt tingly and he couldn’t feel his paws.
“I’m a human too,” the wolf said, looking down at his naked, hairless body.
“Something like that,” the fox said. He shrugged. “Turns out the moon had her own agenda.”
“Will I ever walk on all fours again?” the wolf asked, because running through the night and experiencing the thrill of the hunt and feeling the comfort of snuggling with your packmates — those were all important, and he didn’t think he could do it as a human.
“At night you shall,” the fox explained, drawing closer. “Just as I will. We’re creatures of the moon now, my friend.”
Derek blinked and tilted his head back as he felt the sunlight on his new, human skin. “And during the day, we’re humans, belonging to the sun?” he asked.
“Yes,” Stiles said and licked the wolf’s throat. He pulled back and grinned his trickster grin. “Isn’t this going to be fun?”