The first time it happens, he's eight. He’d been sitting around watching the people mourn his Mommy, wondering why they were talking like she wasn’t ever coming back when she was standing right next to him.
“It’s okay, my little star.” She whispers while he tucks himself in that night. He wishes she could do it, wishes she could kiss his forehead. But her hands slip through everything and make him feel tingly when she touches him. “Mommy will always watch over you.”
Her tears feel like ice where they don’t quite land on his face.
“If you ever need me, look to the moon that I’ll be watching you from it.” The bed didn’t shift or bounce or show any sign of her weight pressing on it when she sits next to him. “You have my gift now. Not all are nice, not all want to move on. There are dark souls out there that you need to be careful of, my boy. Please. You must be careful with this gift. You can touch so many lives with it but please be careful not to let it touch you.”
The young boy nods, not quite sure what else he’s supposed to be doing. But he knows that his mother had been buried that morning but she was sitting in front of him. It was like that movie Casper that she let him watch once when he was younger.
“I have to go, my love.”
“But I don’t want you to, Mommy. Why can’t I keep you?”
He never gets an answer.
His father tells him to ignore the ghosts. That his mother had been equipped to deal with them, that she knew how to get them to move on and go into the light. With her death, the gift had passed to the only living blood relative. It was a duty to their family.
He’s eleven when he begins to hate it. He’s seeing little children, skin burned and peeling away from their skull, eyes melting. They’re crying blood and screaming for help. Their voices are like a tornado, loud and sucking sound, whistling their wails. It makes his ears hurt and his head throb.
Up until then, the only ghosts he’d seen were kindly old people and his mother. It didn’t happen as frequently as he expected because Beacon Hills was a quiet town. They weren’t a high crime populace where people were murdered.
At least, until the Hale fire.
When he’s thirteen, he begins feeling lonely. After entering middle school, he’d decided to start fresh and go by ‘Stiles’ and started hanging around the hospital with the only friends he had. They only hung around for a few hours, a couple days if they were particularly unsure of their unfinished business, but it was better than the silence of his home while his father worked. Some of the nurses remembered him from when he was around daily for two years with his mother’s illness and others just recognized the Sheriff’s son.
He’s talking to old Missus Jefferies who used to live across the street until he son put her in a retirement home. She had a heart attack and wasn’t strong enough to survive. He’s asking her to tell his mother hi if she saw her, confesses he didn’t know much about how the other side worked, when a nurse comes around the corner and sees him sitting with Missus Jefferies.
He wonders how it looked, talking to the body. They’d left her in her room to finish paperwork, a sheet drawn up over her face. He knows the nurse can’t see the ghost standing not four feet from him.
“I’m sorry, are you family?” She asks and a quick glance at her badge tells him her name was Nurse Melissa McCall. There's a McCall in his class, an asthmatic kid that Jackson makes fun of.
“No.” He responds honestly, looking down at the sheet. “I just like letting them know that the other side is okay. My Mom went there awhile ago. I like to think they can still hear me, even if they’re not in their body. Maybe their spirit is still around.” He shares a secretive smile with Missus Jefferies.
The nurse seems at a loss for a moment, before she grasps his shoulders in her hands. She uses that advantage to pull him up and steer him from the room just as Missus Jefferies spots the ornate green door with gold vines and an antique knob. He hears her pleased gasp, crying out her husband’s name as Melissa leads him down the hall to the nurse’s station.
She asks about his father and her face gets sort of pinched when he explains that his father’s the Sheriff and is busy.
When she gets off twenty minutes later, she takes him to her house and they have dinner with Scott and her husband. It’s homemade macaroni and cheese and the first time he can remember eating something homemade in five years. When his dad picks him up a few hours later, Scott and he both beg to let him sleepover and it’s the start of a beautiful friendship.
He wonders if he should tell Derek about the girl that’s haunting him. She stares at him sadly, her tears fading into her skin before they could even drip. The center of her body is wet with red and smudged brown with dirt.
When she opens her mouth, it’s the same sucking sound that he hears from those few that he’s crossed who died violently. Their voice has been ripped away by their murderer. It’s another cosmic screw-up that prevents justice and keeps these souls locked to the Earth. At sixteen, it makes Stiles rage internally.
He’s taken to trying to help these people by solving their crimes. Or helping his dad, more accurately. When he finds out that the girl is Laura Hale and that Derek wasn’t in fact her murderer, it makes more sense as to why she stared at him like she wanted to wrap him in her arms.
She’s a flickering mass of light in his room, shimmering when she passes through the streams of sun that flare in his room.
“I’m sorry,” he tells her uselessly. He hates the look he gets. The sad understanding. She gets that he can’t hear her, gets that her mouth blurs and gapes when she tries to speak so that he can’t even read her lips. She gets that she’s not one of types of spirits that can move things. She just gets it.
Her acceptance makes Stiles even angrier.
He almost feels cruel for not telling Derek that he can see Laura. That she’s still lingering. But he likes the easy smile she gives after awhile, the faces she pulls when she sees what research he’s going through into the werewolf lore.
There’s empty space where a laugh should be, her body and face contorted after he tells her that he never thought there were any other sort of supernatural abilities out there. He can almost hear the echo of it, like a memory, when he asks about vampires.
She becomes a comfort, a friend of sorts. Scott doesn’t know that he can see ghosts, so to have someone around that knows, that gets that it’s hard, it’s nice. Even if she can’t reassure him with words, her face speaks volumes.
She’s the opposite of Derek that way.
“I saw your youngest siblings after it happened.” He tells her one day. Her body destabilizes, shakes and flickers out under the weight of his words. He doesn’t know where grounded spirits go when they’re not there, but he can assume it’s not a pleasant place. He doesn’t want her to go. “They crossed over.” He tells her quickly.
She fades back in, standing by the window and shining like a butterfly’s wings.
“We’ll get you to them.” He promises.
If he’s cursed to see the dead and not be able to bring them back to their living loved ones, he’ll at least get them to their dead ones.
He feels a sick sort of vindication when Peter gargles and burns, convulsing on the bed of leaves as Derek hunches over him. Laura’s standing there too, staring down at Peter. She doesn’t look angry, doesn’t look like she’s particularly enjoying this, the justice she’s about to receive.
She looks up as Derek’s claws tear through Peter’s throat, her eyes connecting with Stiles’ and they’re wet.
“Are you okay?” He asks, letting Scott think he’s talking to him, lets him have his tangent.
“There’s so much I never taught him to prepare for this in case it happened.” She’s staring off at where Derek left after declaring himself the Alpha. It’s the first time he’s heard her speak and he wants to weep.
She has her justice, she’s finally free. She’ll be leaving him. He wants to be selfish and keep her. Like he wanted to keep his Mom.
“Let’s go, Stilinski.” Jackson gripes, sliding into his abused sports car.
He considers it, but can’t bring himself to leave Laura crying over her Uncle’s body.
“I expected a light or a door or something.” Laura says when they’re alone twenty minutes later.
“Maybe there’s something else. You have your voice back so you have justice, but you’re not ready to move on.” Stiles is playing this by ear and tells her as much. “Like I’ve told you, I don’t have a Medium For Dummies book. When my Mom told me about this, she was a ghost.” He wants to hate her for not preparing him when she knew for two years that she was dying. But he can’t.
She looks up when the Dungeon o’ Doom creaks, Derek coming out with thick welder’s gloves on and a rope of wolfsbane in one hand and a shovel in the other.
He pauses when he spots Stiles, his jaw clenching. “What are you still doing here?”
Stiles makes a few unintelligible sounds, looking between Peter’s smoking body, Derek looking like Dexter and Laura staring pensively at Derek.
“Tell him it’s not his fault. Not the fire, not me, not Peter.”
“None of this was your fault.” Stiles says carefully, concerned about pissing off a brand new Alpha. He didn’t want to find out what the other side was like just yet. “Kate would’ve found another way to slaughter your family.” He repeats from Laura when she finishes speaking.
Derek throws the wolfsbane and shovel to the ground, his eyes bleeding red as he starts advancing towards Stiles. “Don’t you ever…”
“STOP!” Laura shouts.
Miraculously, Derek halts mere feet from Stiles’ shaking body. He’d tried backing away and ended up on the ground, scrambling and scratching himself up on rocks and jagged wood.
“Did…” Stiles looks between Derek and Laura, both of who look shocked. “Did you hear her?”
“I heard…” Derek shakes himself, “Hear who? There’s no one else here.”
“Actually,” Stiles manages to get on his feet with little injury to himself or Derek. “Uhm… how am I supposed to tell him this?” He directs it at Laura, knowing that he probably looks like a loon.
“I don’t know. Just tell him. He’ll believe you.”
“No he won’t.”
“Yes, he will.”
Stiles sighs, turning to face Derek fully, who is just staring at him like the boy’s insane. “Here’s the thing. My mother was able to see ghosts. She helped them move on. When she died, I sort of inherited the same gift. It’s mostly old people and the occasional car crash victim who can’t find their door or are scared to leave. But I saw your younger brother and sister, twins—” he pauses long enough for Laura to share their names with a sad fondness, “—Spencer and Amelia. And ever since you’ve been back, I’ve been seeing Laura.”
Derek looks like he’s two seconds from eviscerating Stiles.
“I told you he wouldn’t believe me!” Stiles hisses at Laura who has come up to stand a little to the left of Derek.
“Repeat what I’m about to tell you…”
Stiles looks at her warily as she launches into a story, “Your brother was supposed to be Alpha. Jeremy. He took a week off of college though for your mother’s birthday and came home from San Francisco. Laura was the second oldest, so it went to her because the Alpha was your mother and Peter was her brother in law, so it couldn’t pass to him through blood. The first place you went to outside of Beacon Hills was in Washington. You ran with a family friend there, a pack, that taught Laura how to control the Alpha. She was never meant to be the Alpha so it was overpowering.
When she was under control, you guys traveled the northern border for awhile, even went into Canada for a bit. You guys stuck together. But about six months ago, you went Omega and broke away from her. She thinks it’s ‘cause you think the fire was your fault.”
“It was!” Derek’s eyes get even brighter, his voice rough like sandpaper and choking with his emotions.
Laura spoke again and Stiles plays the ventriloquist dummy for her, “Kate was going to kill the family anyways. She went to you with the intent to annihilate. People would’ve died regardless.” Stiles stopped, his heart jumping into his throat at her earnest plea, “She needs you to forgive yourself.”
Derek looks… like he’s either about to kill Stiles, throw up, or pass out. Maybe a combination of all three in sequence. “I can’t.” It looks like it physically pains him to admit this in front of Stiles.
“I am not repeating that.” Stiles tells Laura resolutely, “He’ll rip my throat out with his gigantic Alpha teeth, okay?” He snorts, “Yes he will.”
“Just tell me whatever she’s saying.”
Stiles takes a deep breath, “She wants you to stop being a jackass, Alpha up, and stop letting yourself be haunted or you’ll end up like Peter. She thinks you’ll drive yourself mad. She also doesn’t want you to rush into making a pack and getting power hungry.”
There’s an all encompassing silence that follows, Stiles heart is beating thickly in his throat as he fears Derek’s reaction.
“Is she still here?” He asks finally.
“Yeah. I think she needs to believe you’ve forgiven yourself, or that you’ll at least think about doing so…” Stiles shudders, watches as Laura gapes behind him. He turns and there’s a door there, standing tall in the center of two trees beyond the house. It’s open, a black chasm inside.
“Mom? Dad?” Laura asks, her voice sounding almost as wet as her eyes. She’s running forward into the arms of the family standing there.
The Hales are all there looking healthy and whole. The twins don’t look like the burnt corpses that he first saw five years earlier. There’s one anomaly among the ranks though. Peter isn’t there. Stiles had hoped, even as they all played a part in his death, that death would be his peace. That he could go back to being who he was before the fire. A lively jokester that Stiles vaguely remembered from town events.
“What’s going on?” Derek sounds panicked, stepping up beside Stiles. His eyes darted back and forth over the empty air that Stiles’ seemed fixated on.
“Her door’s here.” Stiles mumbled quietly, “Your family’s here to greet her. They’re not allowed to cross to far outside of the barrier or to communicate with me seeing as they’ve already moved on, but maybe someone thought it’d be good karma for the universe to let them greet her.”
“Why…” Derek cuts himself off, steels himself from the emotions he was about to display. But Stiles still hears the question.
“I know there are theories about dogs and kids seeing ghosts. I read somewhere online that thought Alpha’s could see ghosts if they were from a long enough line. Laura wasn’t sure if it was true or not ‘cause she couldn’t see ghosts before she died. God… I wish I could let you see this.” Stiles wished more than anything that he could, and let it show in his voice, in his eyes. He let it show in the way his hand reached out to grasp Derek’s shoulder.
Derek looks at the before flicking his eyes up to connect with Stiles’, flashing the Alpha red that makes Stiles’ stomach twist. He thinks he prefers the ice blue even though he really didn’t think he should have a preference.
“They’re leaving.” Stiles says more out of recognizing the feel in the air, than actually seeing it. His eyes were still locked on Derek’s.
Derek breaks the gaze first, looking back towards where he assumes his family stands. Stiles watches as he lets out a shuddering breath, hunching in on himself as he stares. “I can see them.”
Stiles looks back, looks to Derek’s face, then his hand, and back to the Hales. Maybe that’s what his mother meant by touching lives.
The Hales stood together, smiling sadly at that legacy, the last Hale. They waved, some blowing kisses and mouthing that they loved him.
“Thank you, Stiles.” Laura says, wrapped up in her mother’s arms.
“I’m going to miss you.” Stiles tells her. Their conversations had lacked, all one sided, but her presence was a familiar comfort over the last few weeks.
“Take care of each other.” She responds, smiling at Derek, “I love you, little brother.”
“You too.” Derek chokes out.
She rolls her eyes to Stiles, “Get him to work on that, will ya? If anyone can, I think it could be you.”
With that little piece of… Stiles wasn’t sure if it was wisdom or what, but with that final word, the Hales faded into what was beyond the door frame, a white light brightening within as they all entered together.
Stiles isn’t sure how long they stand there staring at the space that’s once again empty, Stiles’ hand on Derek’s shoulder.
It feels like an eternity until anything is spoken, and when a voice fills the air, it’s not with threats or dismissals. It’s simple.
And it means everything.