Stiles is eight years old when his mother dies in a vicious animal attack. Her body is mauled almost beyond recognition, and Stiles knows this to be a fact, because he makes the mistake of sneaking into the mortuary to look at her. Two hours later, his dad had finds him curled up in a ball in the corner, shaking and sweat-damp, vomit coating his chin and hands. Sheriff Stilinski wordlessly pulls his son into a hug, and they both ignore the fact that Stiles isn’t the only one crying.
At fifteen years old, Stiles discovers the truth about her death, and about the supernatural. It takes some convincing, getting his dad to admit that Mary Stilinski had been a hunter, but once pressed, the floodgates open. Stiles, pragmatic even at this age, takes it all in his stride. He talks to his dad for hours for the first time since his mom died, and he knows they’ve finally found a common ground. Stiles is still difficult and attention deficit and uncoordinated, and maybe he isn’t everything his dad had hoped for in a son, but he would keep their secret – and that would have to be enough.
Scott is his best friend, and for the first time in his life, Stiles has to keep a secret from him. It’s disturbingly easy, and Stiles doesn’t bother to look too closely into that. The supernatural is under his skin and in his bones, and his interest becomes an obsession. Lydia and lacrosse are no longer at the forefront of his mind; he spends every spare waking hour buried in research, preparing himself for the worst the world has to offer. He goes to school, he aces his tests, and he goes round to Scott’s after school to play video games. None of it really matters, though.
His dad is adamant that Stiles won't follow in his mother's footsteps, and he tells Stiles that he couldn't bear it if he lost his son too. Of course, Stiles promises he won't go there, but he does. His curiosity is insatiable, and he needs to know who really hurt his mother and what happened to them afterward.
He becomes a permanent fixture at the local library, and he doesn’t get into any trouble. He gets a date for junior prom, and then miraculously gets a date for senior prom, too. He applies to colleges and graduates from school. He surprises everyone by choosing to go to CSU and study criminal justice. When his dad asks why, Stiles says it’s because he wants to be like him, and they both know that’s not entirely true.
Two more years only serve to cement Stiles’s obsession. He learns hard and works harder, and he impresses the people around him. He doesn’t stop talking, or flailing, or being the smart mouthed kid with adhd, but it matters less at college, it seems. He grows into himself, and loosens up a little, but none of it fills the hole in his chest. His dad still has to visit the campus alone, and Stiles still has to check up on his cholesterol, because Stiles’s mom is still absent from their lives.
Scott gets a girlfriend, and Stiles goes to visit them at Berkeley. Allison’s gorgeous and sweet and funny, and way out of Scott’s league – and apparently none of that matters. Stiles spends the weekend with them, and that weekend turns into a week when Stiles meets Allison’s aunt. Kate is like Allison in every way, but turned up to eleven. She’s rough around the edges, and she works hard and plays harder. Stiles doesn’t trust her entirely, but he lets her take him to a shooting range, and when she presses her lips to his, he kisses back.
When it’s time for Stiles to leave, Kate thrusts a crossbow into his hands, and tells him she’ll call – maybe even ‘drop by sometime’. Stiles doesn’t really believe it, but he learns how to shoot the crossbow anyway, because it might be useful someday. He buys a gun and gets his licence, and learns to hit a target. He doesn’t think of Kate, because he knows what she saw in him, and that darkness isn’t who he wants to be. She doesn’t text him, and he doesn’t text her, and life goes on. Instead, Scott calls to wax poetic about Allison, and Stiles hums at the appropriate moments, and never mentions the fact that Kate kissed him.
Stiles graduates, and decides to take a retroactive “gap year”. His dad looks at him like he knows that this is about more than just having fun, but he doesn’t say anything, so neither does Stiles. Scott and Allison accompany him as far as Santa Monica, and then Stiles is on his own.
He continues on another two or three hundred miles down the coast, putting as much space between Beacon Hill and himself as he can, and only stops when he has to. He’s in town less than an hour before he finds a possible supernatural threat, like it’s that easy because he’s inextricably linked to it all.
His first supernatural encounter turns out to be a wendigo, and it takes Stiles a full week to take the creature out. He escapes with a dislocated shoulder and a couple of nasty flesh wounds, but he’s alive and triumphant.
From there, the towns and the creatures blur into one another. Stiles encounters poltergeists, fairies, sirens, ghosts, wraiths, zombies, changelings, ghouls, skinwalkers. He starts a journal and keeps track of everything he knows to be true, crossing out anything that turns out to be false. He learns to sleep in his car and the occasional abandoned building, and lives on ramen noodles and takeaway.
He comes undone when he meets his first werewolf. It doesn’t take Stiles long to figure out what he’s tracking down, but the beast is powerful and bloodthirsty, and Stiles knows he’s in over his head. He sends Kate a casual text, and it turns out she’s in the area. It doesn’t take them long to cross paths, and even less to work out that they’re both playing on the same team. Kate’s eyes light up with a maniacal fire and Stiles ignores it because he needs her expertise.
She knows werewolves because she hunts them. She knows their strengths, their weaknesses, their penchants, habits, habitats, and just about everything in between. Stiles is a quick study, and Kate obviously enjoys his rapt attention. She talks too much and gives even more away, and Stiles pretends to be ignorant of it.
It takes them three days to track down the werewolf’s hideout, and another two to take him out. Kate lights him on fire, and Stiles lets her do it, despite the fact that burning to death seems like unnecessary cruelty. She obviously thinks the werewolf deserves it, and Stiles doesn’t point out that he might have had a family and people that loved him. He doesn’t agree with her methods, but they’re effective, and the werewolf had killed four people and maimed countless others.
They bury the remains in a fresh grave, and Kate kisses him in the moonlight. She tastes like blood and dirt and smoke, but Stiles kisses her back anyway, because he thinks he should. When she pulls away, she says, “I know who killed your mom,” and Stiles is hers, completely.
They travel together for a while, Kate handing Stiles just enough pieces of the puzzle to keep him hanging on. The hole in his chest grows deeper and wider, and Kate doesn’t try to kiss him again. They take down another werewolf together, and Stiles stands back and watches again when she sets the creature on fire. Kate tells him that omegas are weak, because werewolves have to run with a pack, and that’s why they’re such easy targets. She promises to show him how to take out an entire pack, and calls it a long-con. Stiles privately thinks she’s been watching too much tv, and presses her for more information about his mom.
Scott texts him often, and Stiles phones his dad every other day. The sheriff asks when he plans to return home, and they both know he’s lying when Stiles says he doesn’t know.
Kate grows tired of him and hands him a final lead, and Stiles can’t leave it alone, even though he knows he should, so he goes where he has to.
He follows lead after dead end after lead and eventually gives up. He texts Kate and she doesn’t answer, so he calls her, and finds that the number has been disconnected. He breaks his phone out of sheer frustration, and then begins to slowly head back toward Beacon Hills.
The town stifles him when he gets home, and Stiles know he’s restless and cagey, snapping at too many of the people he cares about the most. He can’t settle, can’t sit still, can’t focus, can’t do anything but think about the fact that he was so close to finding his mom’s killer. He shouldn’t want revenge, he knows, but the hole in his heart grows deeper and wider and Stiles doesn’t think about Kate anymore.
Scott gets bitten by a werewolf, and Stiles knows, because he’s there, inextricably linked to it all. It’s too dark to see more than a hulking silhouette, demon red eyes terrorising the night. Stiles helps Scott back to his house, and they tend to the wound. Scott passes out on his bed, and Stiles doesn’t tell him what it was that attacked him, flinching away from the disappointed look Scott gives him because he knows he’s lying.
Stiles stays at Scott’s bedside through the night, and then the morning as well. When he wakes up mid-afternoon, he’s completely healed. Stiles has no choice but to tell him the truth, and Scott doesn’t have time to be hurt about the lies, because he’s too busy freaking out about being a werewolf. He says, “what if Allison finds out?” and Stiles rolls his eyes and points out that that’s the least of Scott’s problems.
They should tell Stiles’s father, but Stiles is reluctant to do so. He knows his dad will help them if he can, but he knows also that he’s not going to let Stiles go after the problem. Part of Stiles thrills at the idea of the hunt, and another part of him is bloodthirsty, hoping that maybe he’ll get a chance to exact revenge on the werewolf that killed his mother. He has no proof that this creature is in any way linked to her, but it’s enough to stop him from going to his dad straight away.
It’s a sick sense of humour that has him donning a red hoodie, and this time around Stiles is armed to the teeth. He heads back to the forest in the late evening and doesn’t bother to be quiet. He’s learned that the best bait is invariably himself, and if getting the wolf to come out of the woodwork means pretending to be hapless and helpless, Stiles will play along. He’s never been particularly coordinated, anyway.
The moon is a silver crescent in the sky, casting little light among the trees as Stiles walks. It’s not quite dark enough for him to need a torch yet, but he has it out anyway, using it to conceal the small crossbow attached to the underside. He walks around seemingly aimlessly, tracking across the same area of forest he was in with Scott when his friend was bitten. He’s good at looking innocuous, at making too much noise and breathing too heavily, and he can tell that the werewolf must be out there, somewhere, because the forest is deadly silent around him.
To his left, he catches the slightest movement, and barely has time to turn to face his attacker before he’s being thrown bodily through the air. He goes crashing to the ground, back connecting painfully with the rocks and dirt, and the air is briefly knocked out of him. He’s got no time for recovery, however, as the werewolf shows it’s true size. Twice the size of the average wolf, Stiles can only compare the creature to something out of a bad horror movie. Acrid breath and razor sharp fangs make that a pretty poor comparison, all told.
The werewolf growls, throatily, and Stiles thinks he should be scared, but as the creature advances on him, he brings up the torch and strikes a bone shattering blow to the side of its face. There’s the sound of bones quite literally cracking, and the creature falls back with a pained howl, blood blossoming below its right eye and trickling down through thick fur.
Using what little advantage the blow affords, Stiles scrambles back to his feet, ignoring the way that the world swims briefly around him; he doesn’t have time to be injured. He also doesn’t have time to open the crossbow, because the werewolf launches itself at him, snarling viciously. Stiles ends up sprawled in the dirt with the creature crushing his chest, claws sinking through his shirt and into soft skin like a knife through butter.
There’s a small scuffle and then a long, painful moment where Stiles’s heart lurches into his throat as he thinks he’s going to be bitten. But instead of going for his jugular, the creature pauses, tilting its head like it can hear something Stiles can’t. It’s all the encouragement he needs to pull a wolfsbane coated knife from behind him, plunging it through the thick muscle of the werewolf’s shoulder.
The werewolf howls, rearing back, and Stiles takes his chances with rolling out from underneath it. He’s back on his feet again in seconds, recovering better than he’d have expected of himself, and watching as … another werewolf comes hurtling out of the trees? Stiles is good at thinking on his feet, but he can only watch in surprise as the leather jacket clad werewolf attacks the alpha. The ensuing fight is a surprisingly short one; Stiles thinks it’s pretty grim, watching the half-human werewolf tug the knife out of the alpha’s arm, plunging it into his chest repeatedly.
The wolfsbane obviously does the job, and the alpha eventually falls to the ground. Stiles anticipates this a second or so too late, and although he has the crossbow armed and ready, the half-human werewolf has already ripped the throat out of the alpha. Swallowing down the bile rising in the back of his throat, Stiles does his best to keep his hands steady as the werewolf turns to look at him, features human now, but eyes glowing that demon red.
“You’re Mary’s kid,” the werewolf says, and Stiles hadn’t been expecting that.
“Yeah,” he answers, eyes widening comically as everything suddenly clicks into place. He glances down at the dead body to their right, human now, but no less bloody for it. “You’re Derek Hale.”
Derek nods, once; looks at the crossbow pointed at his chest, and then back at Stiles, before turning and disappearing into the forest. Stiles doesn’t shoot him, just like they both knew he wouldn’t.
Stiles trudges home, doesn’t bother to look back, and can’t stomach dealing with the corpse of the ex-alpha. That’s Derek’s problem now, anyway. It’s his territory, Stiles realises, and that means Derek is probably going to want to kill Stiles next.
When he gets home, he takes the longest shower of his life, stitches up his arm, and crashes on the bed, already regretting the inevitable adrenaline rush comedown of the morning.
The last thing he expects to see when he opens his eyes is Derek Hale standing in the corner of his bedroom. Stiles starts, violently, and then reaches for the gun taped to his nightstand, and when he sits up, it’s pointed steadily at Derek, safety off.
“Jesus Christ, don’t you know how to knock?” he grits out, knowing that Derek can hear the way his heart is currently trying to beat its way out of his chest. Violently.
Stiles raises his eyebrows. “On the front door or the window?” he asks, pointedly, and doesn’t miss the way that Derek seems to balk a little at that.
“What do you want?” Stiles asks, finally, itching to stand up, but too weary of the werewolf in his bedroom to risk movement. He’s got a clear shot from where he’s sitting; he can wait.
“You’re a hunter,” Derek says.
“No,” Stiles answers, too quickly, and they both know that Derek can hear the lie.
“You didn’t shoot me,” he says next, and Stiles wonders where he learned to punctuate.
Stiles raises his eyebrows and returns, “You didn’t try to kill me, either.”
Derek looks like he’s about to concede the point, and it occurs to Stiles that the entire exchange would be a lot easier if the werewolf in front of him learned how to properly communicate. The sooner it’s over, the sooner Derek can leave, and Stiles isn’t self-conscious about his Batman pyjama bottoms so much as he is worried about his personal safety.
“That was your uncle, wasn’t it?” Stiles asks, because he knows he can’t hold the gun for much longer; his arm already aches. They never tell you that in the movies.
An unreadable expression crosses Derek’s features, and Stiles thinks he looks young and vulnerable, which is kind of hilarious considering the fact that he ripped somebody’s throat out with his teeth last night.
“I had no choice,” Derek says, like he knows what Stiles is thinking.
“You always have a choice,” Stiles tells him.
“You didn’t choose to become a hunter,” Derek shoots back, and Stiles thinks: touché. Hunting is in his blood, like lycanthropy is in Derek’s. He wonders if that makes them enemies or something else entirely. He’s not sure he has it in him to kill Derek.
“Will you help Scott?” Stiles asks, because one of them has to.
It looks like it physically pains Derek to admit that he doesn’t know how.
Stiles lowers the gun, finally, flipping the safety back on. Derek could probably get to the bed before Stiles could fire off a shot, anyway.
“There was never a cure, was there?” Stiles presses and Derek shakes his head. Stiles had heard stories, rumours, that killing the alpha that bit you would return you to human. He hadn’t believed it, but he’d hoped for Scott’s sake that maybe it would turn out to be true. He’s not sure he has it in him to kill Derek, but he knows he could never hurt Scott.
“Then you’ll help him,” Stiles decides, firm, and pins Derek with a look that stops him from interrupting. “You and I, we can play on the same team. Scott doesn’t want to hurt anybody, and I don’t believe you do, either.” He pauses, wiggling his eyebrows at Derek for effect. “You help Scott, I help you. That’s how this works.”
“What makes you think I need or want your help?” Derek returns, gruff, and obviously unimpressed with the eyebrow waggling.
Stiles untangles himself from his sheets, finally, and doesn’t let go of his gun as he stands and says, “Because you wouldn’t be here otherwise.”