- Tuesday, September 25th, 2012 -
Now that the threat of more attacks is gone, Stiles breathes slightly easier.
As much as he doesn't want to, he knows the only way to get Derek some help is to try and wake up, to return to his body back at the house. He says a quiet prayer that his mate will be safe for the time being as he closes his eyes and concentrates, feeling the world fade away, the sounds of the preserve getting quieter and quieter until they're gone altogether. When he opens his eyes again, he finds himself lying flat on his stomach on his and Derek's bed, in their bedroom once more. Not wanting to waste any more time, he leaps to his feet and fumbles for his phone, dialling Isaac immediately after he gets it in hand.
The beta sounds groggy when he answers, understandably so because it's after midnight now, but he perks up quickly when Stiles informs him of what has just happened. He tells Isaac to alert and gather everyone else before hanging up and getting dressed, and a minute later he's racing outside again.
When he reaches the Nemeton, he finds Isaac and Scott are already there, crouched down on either side of his mate's still-unconscious form.
The cut on Derek's head has healed over now, and the way Isaac is cradling the man's broken arm tells him that the bone must have knitted itself back together in the time it took him to arrive. "Do you think you can carry him between you?" he asks, knowing he couldn't manage Derek's weight by himself with his weaker human muscles. He helps support Derek's back while the betas both swing one of his arms around their heads and lift, bringing the alpha to his useless feet. He leads the way back, using a flashlight be brought from the house to light his path so he doesn't accidentally trip on a root or something and knock himself out, too. The mood is sombre, and he can tell that Isaac and Scott have questions they want answered, but luckily for him they keep them to themselves for the time being. The house comes into view after ten long minutes of walking, and he finds Erica waiting for them at the open front door. He walks right past the blonde without a second glance and instructs Isaac and Scott to lay Derek down on the sofa while he makes a quick trip to the kitchen.
Returning with a wet rag, he gently picks Derek's head up and sits down in its place, cradling it in his lap as he starts cleaning off the blood that's dried to the man's skin and in his hair. He feels many sets of eyes on him but doesn't look up even once, not knowing what he would say. When the last of the blood is gone, he tosses the ruined rag onto the coffee table and sets in to wait until Derek reawakens.
"Stiles?" Erica pipes up eventually, tired of the quiet. "What's going on?"
Sighing, Stiles responds with, "Let's just say that Elizabeth succeeded in making herself stronger." He still doesn't take his eyes off of Derek's face. His hand moves constantly, fingers stroking through dark hair and across the smooth skin of the man's forehead.
No other words are said. Everyone can tell that Stiles isn't in the right mindset to properly explain what happened, not yet, and they all harbour their own worries for their alpha. Time ticks by slowly, and after another five minutes of awkward silence, Lydia announces that she's going to make everyone some tea and drags Jackson along to help her as she steps into the kitchen. Stiles doesn't respond anymore to anyone, not even when Lydia forces a steaming mug in his hand, so she gives up trying and retakes her own seat with a put-out sigh.
Stiles is too busy cogitating over what little he knows about his abstruse powers. He searches fervently for a way to combat their newly strengthened enemy, but has no clue where to start.
Every single idea he manages to come up with seems likely to fail.
The Nemeton was such an overwhelmingly powerful and mysterious thing that he doesn't know how they'll be able to put a stop to Elizabeth's aggrandised reign of terror now. As he sees it, they have two options: either they forego any preparations themselves and go after her right away before she has a chance to come to grips with the change, or they wait and prepare, unfortunately letting Elizabeth become more adept at using her new power. It seems like a lose-lose situation no matter how he cuts it, and the realisation is extremely disheartening. Still, he's never been one to give up even when the odds are stacked against him. His mother's death, Peter, Gerard, the Alpha Pack, the Nogitsune, Landon...if he had called it quits during any of those tough times, he never would have survived to see eighteen, and it's that thought that cements his determination to keep going now, no matter what. He'll go down fighting, even if they lose and it ends bloody. It's when he makes that decision that Derek groans in his lap and turns toward him slightly, waking up.
Hazel eyes blink up at him, and he smiles in relief as he helps Derek to sit up. He doesn't take his hands off of the man even when he's upright again. "How are you feeling?" he enquires as Derek twists his torso from side to side and winces. He suspects that broken ribs might be the problem.
"Angry," comes his wolf's succinct reply, in the form of a low growl.
"Alright, now that Derek's back in the land of the living, can I please know the reason you woke me up at this ungodly hour?" Jackson asks petulantly, dodging out of the way of Erica's fist when she goes to punch him for his callousness. It becomes a pointless move when Danny hits him up the back of his head anyway. "I mean, aside from the obvious." He waves a dismissive hand in his alpha's direction.
Stiles scowls at the stubbornly nescient beta. "I've already told you why, and I'm in no mood to deal with your bullshit right now, Jackson, so shut the fuck up before I come over there and make you," he warns in a sibilant whisper, getting immense joy out of the way the other boy's eyes widen in fear as he backs away a couple of paces. He lightens up a little bit when Isaac and Scott snigger at Jackson's reprimanding and refocuses his attention on the others. "Elizabeth has what she wanted now, the power of the Nemeton, which means she'll probably try to curse us all again soon."
When everybody's faces become twisted in fear, he smiles wryly and nods. He's quick to wrangle his expression into something more positive, though, knowing that, if they have any hope at all of coming out the other end of the impending fight alive, he must remain indefatigable and sanguine.
"How are we going to stop her now?" Isaac asks timorously.
"I don't know, but we'll figure it out. We always do," Derek replies with immense conviction. He doesn't let the doubts he has about his words show on his face, wanting to mitigate the pack's concerns so that they don't become overwhelmed. The thought of losing is anathema to him, and he vows silently to himself that he'll do whatever it takes in order to bring down Elizabeth, Beacon Hills' new despot. He leans back into the sofa cushions, the pain of his ribs finally easing off enough for him to get comfortable and wait for them to heal completely. It shouldn't take too long, and he sends Stiles a small smile when the boy presses a hand to his side tentatively, still looking for reassurance that he's really alright. He sympathises and knows without a doubt that he'd be the same way if their positions were reversed. "There's no use worrying about something we can't control, so what I said earlier still stands: to stay out of her way if you can avoid her. For now, I want you to all head home and try to get some rest. We'll probably need all the sleep we can get."
Most of the pack are reluctant to leave, but they know their alpha is right. One by one, they head back to their own homes, with Stiles bidding them all farewell from the front door until it's just him and Derek left in the house. At least that's what they think until the door is pushed open again before Stiles can shut and lock it. Isaac comes back inside, picking at his nails nervously.
"What's wrong?" Stiles asks, taking his hand off of the door handle and reaching out to touch the beta's arm gently. He tilts his head to the side inquisitively as he waits for an answer.
"Do you think it would be OK if...if I stayed here tonight?" Isaac mumbles, his cheeks colouring with embarrassment. He's unable to look Stiles in the eye as he voices his request and continues to look down at his feet even after it's been given, shuffling from one to the other repeatedly.
Derek leaves the sofa at this and joins the two in the foyer.
"Of course, puppy," Stiles is quick to say after a moment of silence, realising just what the waiting is doing to his favourite beta. "It's fine if you feel you need to be close to us, especially right now, so don't be scared about asking in the future, OK? I'm happy to have you here, and I'm sure Derek feels the same. Right, Der?" He goes to dig his elbow into the alpha's side but refrains at the last second, remembering that the man's ribs have only recently healed and are sure to be tender. Instead, he bumps their shoulders together and looks at him pointedly.
"Umm, yeah," Derek agrees, not knowing what else he could add. He shrugs off Stiles' exasperated eye roll, figuring that he can fall back on the excuse of being recently knocked out to explain his idiocy.
Waving his mate off, Stiles wraps an arm around Isaac's shoulders and guides him up the stairs and into his and Danny's bedroom. "Did you want Danny to stay with you? I can call him; I'm sure he wouldn't mind at all," he enquires gently, running a calming hand through Isaac's hair when the beta takes a seat on the edge of the bed. He nods understandingly when Isaac says 'yes' and pulls out his phone, quickly navigating to Danny's number and hitting the call button. While he waits for an answer, he notices that there aren't any sheets on the bed yet because he washed them recently, so he makes a mental note to go and retrieve some as soon as he's finished speaking to the Hawaiian boy. It doesn't take long, with Danny readily agreeing to come straight back like he thought, and as he's helping Isaac make the bed he hears the sound of approaching footsteps just before the pushed-to door is opened again. Danny steps into the room a second later, and Stiles feels comfortable leaving for his own bedroom now that Isaac has his boyfriend there to keep him company.
Derek is waiting right outside in the hall, making him jump.
"They all set?" the alpha asks, following Stiles into their room and shutting the door behind them. He took care of everything downstairs while his mate was tending to the two betas' needs, switching off all the lights and locking all of the doors. That won't stop Elizabeth, but it makes him feel a little more secure anyway.
"Yup," Stiles replies, popping the 'P'. He shrugs off his shirt and tosses it to the floor, not caring where it lands, and begins unbuttoning the chinos he changed into after waking up from his earlier vision—or his astral projection, as Elizabeth called it. Although her whole pretence for being in town was proven a lie, he doesn't think her explanation for the state in which he found himself was a mendacious act. It's the best delineation he can hope for in present times, so he'll take what he can get.
He adds it to the endlessly growing list of things to research further at a later date.
As Stiles takes his turn in the bathroom, Derek stands by the bedroom door and listens as Danny and Isaac settle in down the hall. The quiet murmurs of their conversation echo through the wall, indecipherable, but that doesn't matter. It's not often they have company overnight, and he must admit that having it then puts his anxieties in a state of repose.
Finally pulling off his own clothes, he holds them up in front of himself for inspection and sighs when he sees that the Henley is basically ruined. It must have caught on a branch and torn when Elizabeth threw him into the tree, so he balls it up and tosses it in the bin with a quiet growl, annoyed because of all the shirts he owns, that one was his favourite. Cerulean blue, v-necked and made of the softest material, he laments the loss of another article of clothing somewhat dramatically, flopping down across the foot of the bed and throwing an arm over his eyes. He only realises that he's getting dirt on the sheets when Stiles points it out to him, and he then stands wearily and heads into the bathroom to take a shower and get all of the brown smears off of his skin. Luckily, the bulk of it is concentrated on his face, neck and arms because those were the only parts of his body uncovered at the time of the attack, so it doesn't take him long to get himself squeaky clean again. Towelling off, he doesn't bother putting on any underwear and just slides right into bed with a pleasured groan.
Stiles is also feeling the results of a hard day.
The new discovery he made with his enervating powers has left his mind slow and his body aching, so the comfort of the mattress and Derek's strong arms feels like a godsend. He snuggles impossibly closer to the man, who smells like cinnamon and home, and it's a combination that works wonders in calming him, just enough for his eyes to slip closed as he falls into a restless sleep.
* * *
Hours later, no one is surprised when Charlie isn't in school again.
"Elizabeth's probably keeping her home, under her thumb," Stiles theorises, his voice cold where he sits wedged in between Isaac and Lydia around the lunch table. He picks disinterestedly at his food, arranging the mashed potatoes into a perfectly rounded mound in the centre of his tray before spearing peas with his fork and dropping them on top. He makes a game out of guessing which way the little green balls will roll off. His stomach feels full even though he hasn't eaten anything since leaving his and Derek's house that morning.
"Good... I don't want to see that bitch," Jackson comments offhandedly, tapping away at a game on his phone to pass the time. When he feels something small bounce off of his forehead, he finally looks up and returns Stiles' glare. "What? Don't tell me you actually feel bad for her after what she did to us."
Shaking his head, Stiles decides to ignore the question and return to his food.
It's always been clear to him that there is an extreme disparity in the way he and Jackson feel and look at things, so he doesn't waste his time reminding the beta of what he saw in his vision the previous night. Jackson wouldn't understand. His mind wanders, and he can't help thinking of Derek, all alone at home, left without anyone's help should Elizabeth make her next move. The one plus about being stuck in school is that they're surrounded by civilians, the perfect place to avoid being attacked, but the same cannot be said for his mate. Because of this, he insisted over breakfast that Derek keep in contact with him constantly, in hourly updates via text, to combat the worries he knew he would have. The next update should come in any minute now, and he pulls out his phone and lays it on the table beside his tray so that there's no chance of him missing it. The device taunts him in its silence, with the blackness of the screen, and all sounds of conversation and utensils scraping against plastic fade away as he waits and waits and waits.
Though his attention is so focused on it, it still comes as a surprise when his phone dings loudly and the screen lights up. He drops his fork with a clatter, ruining the meticulous work he did constructing his mashed potato pile, and snaps the device up, reading each word twice over. A sigh of relief escapes his mouth when he reads that Derek is fine, that nothing out of the ordinary has happened yet.
This constant vigilance is going to ruin him, Stiles knows, but he can't see any other way with which he can deal with the looming threat of destruction.
He has more mettle than he gives himself credit for, though. Now that his worries have been assuaged, though only temporarily, he locks his phone and tunes back into the discussions happening around the table. Scott, Allison and Kira are hunched together and laughing with each other in a disgustingly cute display. Danny and Isaac are the same. Boyd is silent where he sits beside Erica, an arm resting casually across the back of the blonde's chair as she converses somewhat raucously with Cora.
Jackson and Lydia are arguing about something.
He doesn't want to eavesdrop, so he tunes them both out again and stares out of the window. From his seat, he faces the parking lot and the tree line beyond, giving him the perfect vantage point from which to see other students sneaking off the property.
People-watching is one of his favourite pastimes, and he indulges himself in it now. He can just about make out someone standing by the far corner of the building, their greying hair blowing in the wind as they hold a cigarette between their lips and attempt to light it. It takes him a second to realise who it is, but Ms. Adler's hunched posture and dress sense are unmistakable. It's not a surprise that she smokes, not when she has such a raspy voice, like she has gravel trapped between her vocal chords. He chuckles to himself when she drops her cigarette, but when she bends down to retrieve it, the smile is quickly wiped from his face. Elizabeth is revealed to be standing just behind his most hated teacher.
Ms. Adler stands at her full height again, dirtied cigarette now in hand, unaware.
Before Stiles can react, can even think of anything to do to stop it, Elizabeth moves forward and, keeping eye contact with him the entire time, snaps his teacher's neck with a flick of her wrist. He gasps in shock and holds a hand over his mouth, drawing the attention of the rest of the pack. As much of a bitch as Ms. Adler was, he didn't want her dead, especially not like this.
"Stiles? What's wrong?" Isaac asks worriedly, following his pack mom's line of sight. He sees nothing strange, so he's baffled when the human boy continues staring out of the window.
Stiles sees Elizabeth's lips move and jumps when, a second later, her voice runs through his mind and echoes around inside his head. "Why don't you join me?" it says, scarily calm and pleasant. "I've got so much I want to talk to you about, and I doubt you'd want any more of these people to meet the same fate as this woman, right? I'll be waiting." He doesn't realise he's moving until he's already dashing from the room, yells of his name following him as the pack tries to get his attention and fails. As much as he wants to go straight outside and tear Elizabeth limb from limb, he has enough sense still to know that he would be the one coming out of that fight without his life. He darts into the closest boys' bathroom and is glad to find it empty. When everyone pours into the room right after him, filling it up, he doesn't react and just stares at himself in one of the mirrors. Preempting any more questions about his sudden exit, he tells them all what he saw and heard as his knuckles become white from gripping the sink so tightly. He can hear the porcelain groan in protest.
It's only when the sink cracks and he comes away with two chunks of it in his hands that he turns to face the pack. They all look shocked as he drops the pieces to the floor with two thuds and washes the dust from his hands in the next sink over.
"I thought she wouldn't come after us here," Erica pipes up, scared.
"Me, too," Stiles responds as he dries his hands with a paper towel. "I guess since she can't get us directly right now, she's going for a different approach... She wanted-" He's cut off by a commotion out in the hall, and he cuts through everybody to open the door and stick his head out to find out what's happening. A couple of boys walk past, great smiles on their faces, and he grabs hold of one of their shirts before they can get out of reach. "What's going on?"
The boy's grin gets impossibly larger. "Oh, that bitch, Ms. Adler, was just found dead outside. It looked like she'd been murdered, so they've cancelled the rest of everyone's classes today so the cops can come and interview us all." Sick excitement drips obviously from his voice, and when his friend beckons him he shakes off Stiles' grip again and hurries to catch up.
At that moment, a teacher comes around the corner and spots Stiles.
"C'mon," she says, her eyes narrowing when she sees everybody else gathered behind the boy. "All of you need to go to the gym and wait for your turn." She accompanies the group after they all trail out, knowing their reputation and suspecting they may try to sneak off if left alone.
Once they've walked past the couple of deputies that are stationed outside the doors and are all packed tightly in the gym with the rest of the student body, squished into a tiny circle next to a wall, Stiles keeps his eyes locked on the door and listens for any more signs of Elizabeth. All he hears, though, are the murmurs of quiet conversations going on all around him. The atmosphere in the room is strange. Half of the students are shocked by this newest death and sit silently, while the others all whisper with each other, sharing theories about how Ms. Adler met her demise and tales of how badly she treated them, though a lot of them sound embellished. All of that energy combines with the smell of old sweat to make the place seem oppressive, no longer commodious and free-feeling. He slips his phone surreptitiously out of his pocket, planning on sending a message off to Derek to let him know about this newest development, but before he can type the first word, the same teacher that walked him and the others there snatches it from his hands.
He resists the urge to argue when she reprimands him, not wanting to draw attention.
"The Sheriff's Department has said that no phones are to be used. They don't want to risk any information getting out before they're ready, so the rest of you hand yours over, too, please," the teacher instructs, holding out a small cardboard box. It's soon filled, and she smiles at them all tightly before wandering off to another group of students.
"What are we going to do?" Danny whispers, his head low.
Sighing, Stiles sags against the wall and wraps his arms around his knees. "There's nothing we can do but wait, I guess," he replies calmly, the back of his head bumping against the wood panelling. "Derek should realise something's wrong when school ends and none of us show up, if this takes that long."
Derek may know already if he can feel Stiles' emotions clearly enough through their bond. Because they strengthened it again a couple of days ago, Stiles hopes that's exactly the case. He doesn't want Elizabeth to get angry at his not showing up in the preserve like she told him to and take a chance at her going after Derek as payback. It seems like just the sort of crazy thing the woman would do, so he'd feel better if his mate was around and surrounded by the protection of civilians.
He doesn't think Elizabeth is stupid enough to make a move in the presence of so many people. That's what he tells himself, at least.
Time passes incredibly slowly as student after student is led back out of the gym and into a separate room down the hall to be questioned by a deputy. They don't reappear afterward, so Stiles assumes they're sent home when the deputies are finished with them. He anxiously awaits his own turn, not knowing what he should say. Lying stands out as the obvious option, and it seems strange to him that he feels grateful for his exceptional ability to bend the truth, tempered by years of practice, even before this whole supernatural mess started. Eventually, the deputies call on students closer to the pack, and then it's their turn. Cora and Lydia are first, breaking up his little coterie, and both girls look back over their shoulders with unsure expressions before the doors shut and they're out of sight. Stiles knows they'll know to lie, too. Half an hour later, Erica and Isaac are called, leaving just him and Jackson alone in their corner. There are a few other students still left on the other side of the large room, but they're so far away that it feels to Stiles like they're not there at all.
He distracts himself by playing with the strings of his hoodie, the black wolf one Kira gifted him for his birthday, and becomes so caught up in it that he doesn't hear his name being said until a hand comes to rest on his knee. He looks up, startled, to find Jordan Parrish looking down at him, concerned. "O-oh, sorry," he stutters when his mind catches up.
Jackson scoffs disapprovingly as he saunters away, following a different deputy.
"C'mon, Stiles, it's your turn," Parrish says gently, offering the boy a hand. He leads his young friend outside and into one of the empty classrooms off of the next hall over and gestures to one of the desks in the front row once the door is shut tight. "Have a seat."
Luck might actually be on my side this time, Stiles thinks as he follows Parrish's instruction. He feels relief because, now that the deputy is aware of the supernatural goings-on in town and they are the only two people present, he can tell the truth about what's happening. Still, he waits for the man to start talking first and leans forward in his hard seat, bracing his elbows on the desk's smooth wooden surface as Parrish takes his own place leaning against the teacher's desk.
"Do you know anything about the discovery of Ms. Adler's body outside?" Parrish asks, pad and pen in hand. The way Stiles' carefully held expression of calm cracks, showing some nerves, clues him in on the answer.
He should've known.
"Yes," Stiles replies with certainty. He takes a deep breath before continuing and explaining all the new discoveries he's made since the last time he and Parrish talked. The man writes none of it down for obvious reasons and just listens attentively, his face in a state of shock that doesn't change throughout the entire tale. "So, basically, my friend's mom has been doing all of this, and she killed Ms. Adler to try and lure me outside. I would've gone, but...y'know, there was the whole 'no one is allowed to leave' thing. Plus, it was probably a risky move anyway, since I have no idea what she's capable of with her powers now-" Cutting himself off when he sees how overwhelmed Parrish seems, he sympathises with what he knows the deputy is feeling, having both felt it himself and seen it on the faces of his packmates as they were brought in to this occasionally harrowing world one by one. He twiddles his thumbs as he waits for Parrish to process everything and perks up when the man finally moves to set his notepad down.
Scratching at the back of his head, Parrish feels lost for words. "That's, uh...a lot," he mumbles lamely before pursing his lips and crossing his arms over his uniformed chest. "What are you planning on doing about it? Can I help at all? Because I do want to, y'know, any way I can." He knows that he's ill-equipped to deal with this latest threat, but he won't let that stop him. He feels an obligation to the late sheriff to protect his son.
"I'll let you know, on both accounts..." Stiles sighs, resisting the urge to slam his forehead down on the desk. All he can really do is hope for another vision, one that will tell him how he can defeat Elizabeth, but until that happens, he'll look for a way by himself.
They both stay in the classroom for a few minutes longer to avoid looking suspicious.
When Stiles is let go, he makes a promise to Parrish that he'll keep the man updated as much as he can. He's quick to grab his things—his phone is difficult to track down, but eventually he finds the teacher who confiscated it and gets it back—and exit the school, resolutely keeping his eyes averted from the crime scene as he scurries across the parking lot to his car. Before he slides in behind the wheel, a hand on his shoulder makes him leap back in shock before he senses who it is.
Derek stands a couple of feet away, clad in his signature leather jacket and looking at him with worry. "God, how many times do I have to ask you not to scare me like that?" Stiles whines, breathing heavily.
"Sorry," Derek says sincerely, rubbing a hand up and down both of Stiles' arms in an effort to calm the boy down. Once his touch has worked its magic, he heads around to the passenger-side door of the blue Camaro, slides in, and waits for his mate to do the same. Stiles starts the car a second later and pulls out of the parking space, and he instructs the teen to drive them home. "The rest of the pack are gathered there already, waiting for us. Are you OK? I felt you panicking earlier, but when I got here and tried to sneak inside to check on you, I was told that no one was allowed in or out. What happened?" He sees Stiles' hands tighten on the steering wheel and stops himself from asking any more questions, choosing wisely instead to wait for the boy to answer the ones he's presented already. His mind runs away with him as they draw closer to their home, providing him with endless horrific images that get progressively worse. Only the fact that Stiles is sitting alive and relatively well in the seat next to him prevents him from getting caught up in them all and succumbing to his own panic.
"Let's wait until we get home, 'K?" Stiles suggests tiredly, feeling guilty for Ms. Adler's death though he knows with certainty that there was nothing he could have done to stop it. People dying because of him, even horrible people and even if their deaths aren't linked to him directly, never feels good.
He's glad when Derek nods and remains silent for the rest of the drive.
Everybody else's vehicles are squished together on the front lawn when he pulls his own to a stop, and it takes some careful manoeuvring to ease himself between Jackson's Porsche and Derek's black Camaro. He manages it, though, and a minute later they're walking through the front door to find the pack waiting for them in the living room. Their usual spots on the left and in the centre of the sofa have been left open, and Stiles takes his gladly, falling into it with a sharp exhale.
Derek is quickly filled in on Elizabeth's latest act of malice. He resolves that they need to find a way to stop her, and soon, before she can harm any more innocent people. It becomes like a study session, except instead of going over material for school, the group tries to come up with any conceivable way they can overthrow their seemingly unassailable enemy.
"I'm gonna try something..." Stiles speaks up after a couple of fruitless hours have passed by. "I'll be back soon." He doesn't say anything more than that in case his plan fails.
Locking himself in the privacy of his and Derek's bedroom, he focuses and makes sure that the soundproofing is working before taking a seat in the middle of the large bed. He sits crosslegged, his hands resting on his knees as he takes repeated breaths, long and deep.
If he's apparently so strong, then what he's attempting should work. At least he hopes as much.
He's never tried to initiate a vision on his own before, so he's left drifting in a sea of confusion for a while as he tries to figure out just how to accomplish the task. There are no candles, no Nemeton beneath him to give him power, and no strange-smelling paste smeared across the skin of his face to guide his way. It's just him, alone in his for-once clear head. His breathing becomes rhythmic and automatic as he narrows his mind down to a single thought, a single desire: to find a way to defeat Elizabeth with as little bloodshed as possible. Suddenly, his world tilts and he finds himself lying on his side, reclined on something hard and smooth that's definitely not the soft bed sheets upon which he was just sitting. Cracking open one eye, he pushes himself up and looks around to find that he's in a strange room. Nothing about it looks familiar, but from the rows of bookcases that span its entire length, he can tell it's a library of sorts. Nothing is visible outside of the windows to tell him where he is, and when he scans the shelves he finds he cannot read a thing.
Every label is in a strange language, one he doesn't recognise at all, and even stranger still is the conspicuous absence of any books on the bookcases. Row after row is completely empty, and he is just beginning to wonder what answers could possibly await him there when he spots something.
A lone book lies on the middle shelf of the bookcase at the back of the room, pressed up against a wall. It's thick and hard-backed, the old cover peeling and threatening to disintegrate into dust at the slightest touch. He picks it up carefully and carries it over to a table before opening it and hovering his hands over the yellowed pages. Frowning, he finds that the text is written in the same strange language, and he guesses that it must be a lost tongue, something esoteric and long forgotten except by a select few.
With a disappointed whine, he slips back and lands heavily in one of the wooden chairs around the table. He turns the book's pages aimlessly, not really expecting anything to happen.
Because of this, he's surprised when something changes.
He comes across a double page that's written in English and devours the words like they're curly fries and he hasn't eaten in a week—the fact that he actually has experience with that is quickly brushed off. As he reads, he almost fist-pumps the air when he finds that it could be just what they need, if it works. Closing the book, he holds it against his chest and closes his eyes once more, letting the strange, eerily silent room fade away as the chair on which he still sits gets slowly softer. A second later, he hears knocking and looks around to see that he's back in his and Derek's bedroom, and said man is calling for him through the locked door, sounding worried. He shuffles over to the edge of the bed and stands, the old book still in his arms, and flicks the lock open so that he can get out. Transferring the book under one arm, he pats Derek consolingly on one bearded cheek when the door swings inward and he sees the deep frown on the alpha's face. Derek leans into his touch and huffs out a sharp breath, eyes flicking down briefly to the book before resettling on his face.
"What happened? I was trying to reach you for almost a full minute before you answered," Derek mumbles as he follows his mate back downstairs. He can smell magic, and he guesses the scent of it belongs to Stiles because it's not like what he smelled last night from Elizabeth.
"Sorry," Stiles apologises sincerely, bumping their shoulders together after they've both retaken their seats on the sofa. All of the betas watch them curiously. "I was getting this," he sets the book on the coffee table, the muscles of his arms thanking him because the substantial weight of it was starting to strain them, "and I guess I just lost track of time."
Lydia reaches for it and uses the smooth surface of the table to turn it around easily. "What is it?" she asks, becoming more interested when she finds she can't read the worn lettering on the cover.
"A book," Stiles answers cheekily.
He can't help smiling when the banshee sighs and rolls her eyes in exasperation. "No, but seriously... I tried using my magic to find a way to bring down Elizabeth, and I was led to that." Talking everyone through everything that happened, he blushes deeply when Derek compliments him on his idea and brushes off any more praise. He's still pleased about making his mate proud of him, though, but he doesn't tell anyone, feeling weird with the pack all still staring at them.
Opening the book to the double page Stiles dog-eared, Lydia reads the spell. Her eyes widen in shock and her face tightens with apprehension as she nears the end. "If you can pull this off, Stiles...this could be the answer to all our problems," she offers approvingly, impressed.
"Yeah...don't jinx me," Stiles jokes, not really joking at all.
* * *
Later, not long after everybody's parents have demanded they come home and talk to them about what happened earlier at school, Stiles reads over the spell he found again. The list of ingredients is long and incredibly complex, and the things he'll have to go through to enact the spell itself once they're all gathered is daunting and a little sickening. He makes quick trips out to the preserve and back to Deaton's clinic in order to get everything ready, planning the whole time that, when Elizabeth is gone and things have settled down again, he'll really have to make a start at growing his own herbs in his and Derek's back garden. The perfect picture forms in his mind, of a small flourishing plot right beside his vegetable patch. It will definitely save him some time in the future, and it'll also mean fewer excursions to steal from Deaton's dwindling supplies. He's sure that the man will appreciate that. Once he has everything he needs and returns home, he finds Derek waiting for him in the foyer, leather jacket and shoes on, phone in one hand.
The man says he wants to keep an eye on things, so throughout the night he'll be patrolling several times around town and checking up on each member of the pack to make sure they're still alright.
Stiles makes him a thermos of coffee before he leaves.
After Derek is gone, Stiles stands in the foyer and tries to determine where the best place to attempt the spell would be. In the end, he decides on one of the training rooms in the old catacombs just off the basement gym and descends the stairs to start setting everything up. He has to make several trips, and his thighs ache and small beads of sweat have formed on his forehead by the time he's carried it all down there because of the sheer amount of stairs he's had to take repeatedly.
Ordinarily, he would've enlisted his mate's help, but Derek is not around to provide him with any. At least his absence is for a good cause, Stiles muses. And honestly, because of what this spell entails, it will probably be better for both of them if Derek isn't around to see him attempt it.
He finds it a little seedy, an opinion Lydia shared with him before she left.
In spite of this and the fact that he's scared out of his mind, he shuts the door leading down to the basement and heads down the long, dimly lit hallway to the training rooms one last time, a sizeable kitchen knife in his trembling hand. He drops the knife with everything else, unfolds a large towel, and spreads it out across the floor. Things are probably going to get messy, and he doesn't want to give himself any more to clean up than he can avoid. His next step is to light a series of candles and place them in a ring around where he'll be sitting, an action that is fast becoming second nature, followed by lighting them and taking his place. Pulling all of the spell's other components closer, he says a small prayer before taking a deep breath and holding it as, by its legs, he picks up the fawn he tracked down in the preserve earlier. He was thankfully able to put it to sleep with magic instead of having to capture it by hand. Derek didn't appear to notice it laid conspicuously across the backseat of his car when he returned home from Deaton's clinic, saving him from an awkward explanation.
If it were awake, he doesn't think he would have the nerve to do what he has to do next, but because it's deep in sleep, completely unaware, he proceeds, silently cursing the spell for requiring the sacrifice of an innocent the whole time. Taking the knife, he whispers a quiet, "Sorry," to the fawn before clenching his eyes shut and stabbing it right through the neck.
Blood spurts everywhere, its little heart still pumping, and he hastily positions the gaping wound over the metal ceremonial bowl he borrowed from Deaton until it fills disgustingly with the red, viscous fluid.
Some spills over, so he lays the fawn back down, next to him on the towel, and strokes his bloodied hands—both literally and figuratively—across the fur of its side until its lungs stop filling with air. Tears form in his eyes when it takes its last breath. His reputation as the most sagacious member of the pack might take a hit if the spell doesn't work, and he hopes that what he's just done isn't deleterious to his soul and that Derek will understand if he should ever find out.
Magic is fucked up, he thinks as he blinks away the wetness in his eyes.
After wiping away the lone tear that ran down his cheek, he swallows tightly and moves on to the next part of the spell. Using a mortar and pestle, he crushes up every other ingredient he brought down with him until they mix together into a powder finer than the sand found in an hourglass.
This is tipped and mixed into the blood, making it thicker like syrup. Dipping his index finger in, he draws a line across each cheek and a third down the centre of his forehead before wiping his hand off on the towel and preparing himself for what he knows will be the most difficult part of the spell, and considering what he's already had to do, that's saying something. Picking the bowl up, he doesn't give himself a chance to think it over any longer as he brings the rim to his lips and begins drinking it down, his body immediately rebelling and trying to throw it all back up again. He perseveres. The blood feels hot in his stomach, like it's burning him from the inside out as penance for the slaughter of its old owner, but he doesn't worry about it too much because the book warned him of this feeling beforehand. When the last drop is forced down his throat, he drops the bowl with a clang and hunches over, coughing and retching and breathing heavily as he waits for it to settle. "This better be fucking worth it..." he groans before returning to sit with his back straight.
Legs crossed and hands palms-up on his knees, Stiles tries to ignore the foul taste of copper that stays on his tongue as he closes his eyes and recites from memory the incantation which mercifully serves as the spell's final step. It's longwinded, and he stumbles a couple of times before getting it right.
As soon as the last word leaves his lips, all of the candles blow out and the single bulb above his head flickers and dies, leaving him in total darkness.
That's when it happens.
Pain shoots through his veins, spreading out from his stomach and burning until it reaches the tips of his fingers and toes. He tips over onto his side, gritting his teeth through it all to stop himself from making any loud noises. Time is immaterial. He couldn't keep track of how long he lies there, shaking and whimpering, if he tried. It's worse than submerging himself in ice water, worse still than what he felt when Landon attempted to rip his fire powers from his body.
As abruptly as it started, it stops. He stays where he is, hardly daring to believe that it's really over, but eventually, he cracks open his eyes and stands cautiously, afraid that another jolt of pain will render him useless once more. Nothing happens, though, so he leaves everything where it is, walks back through to the gym, and studies himself in one of the floor-to-ceiling mirrors to see if anything has physically changed.
Disappointment doesn't grip him when he sees nothing out of the ordinary, barring the fawn's blood still on his face, because he thought the spell would probably be all internal anyway.
Concentrating, he gathers every little piece of magical power in his being and visualises it compressing down into a tiny ball in his mind. He begins to feel weaker as it gets smaller, and he takes that as a sign that the spell has worked. Sighing in relief, he lets the power loose again to reinvigorate himself and goes to make a start at cleaning up the spell ingredients he left out in the training room. The dead fawn is the most difficult thing to dispose of, and he apologises to it again as it wraps it up in the towel and carries it outside. He takes it a little way out into the preserve and buries it in its own small grave, patting the soil down flat so that the disturbed earth is as inconspicuous as possible before returning to the house to shower all the dried blood from his skin. A surprise waits for him there, though, one that impedes his plan, one that's unwanted and stops him in his tracks when he crosses the tree line and enters the back garden. Elizabeth. She stands in front of the back door, facing the house with her hands clasped behind her back.
He contemplates backtracking and calling Derek when he's far enough away that she won't hear him, but before he can even move one step, the woman turns around and smiles at him knowingly. So much for that, he thinks nervously, fearing the worst about why she's there.
"My, my, haven't you been busy!" Elizabeth coos.
Her eyes flick across his body briefly, and Stiles guesses she's eying the blood still on his skin and clothes. He hopes she doesn't know what it's from. When she starts moving toward him, he calls forth his fire until his palms and eyes glow as he stumbles backward, but his focus is lost and the glow fades again in his panic when his heel catches on a tree root and he almost topples over.
"Oh, come now, Stiles! There's no need to be so scared of me," Elizabeth chuckles, choosing to stay where she is now, a few feet from the house instead of right next to it. "If I wanted to kill you, you'd already be dead." When Stiles gathers himself and stares at her disbelievingly, she chuckles again before making her face as innocent-looking as possible. "Where's your dear Derek? Off lolloping about, doing alpha-wolfy things? He's very cute, I must say. Quite the catch."
Stiles remains silent, not rising to the fatuous bait Elizabeth is so obviously dangling in front of his face. "If you're not here to kill me, then why are you here?" he dares to ask, keeping his stance strong.
"Why didn't you come see me outside of the school earlier, Stiles? I was waiting there for you for hours," Elizabeth counters, her voice creepily sweet like a schoolgirl's. "It was quite disappointing, I must say. I mean, a boy like you surely could have gotten around the police and found a way to meet me. Oh well... I suppose it doesn't matter too much now. I see you've been busy doing something messy, and I sense that something about you has changed because of it." She holds out a hand that makes Stiles jump and moves it leisurely through the air, her eyes slipping closed as she gets a feel for just what exactly is different about the boy. They open again when she finds what she's looking for. "Ah, I see what you've done now. Very clever. Very clever, indeed... I've known other, more experienced people who failed where you've succeeded, so I must congratulate you on pulling it off. Too bad I can't actually let you use it, though." Without waiting for Stiles to react, she sends the boy sprawling backward with a flick of her wrist and approaches his dizzied form quickly.
Kneeling down next to Stiles, Elizabeth rests her hand on his forehead in an almost motherly touch. "I was planning on doing this myself later, but I think it will be much more fun for your friends if we do things this way, don't you think?" she asks rhetorically as she pulls all of Stiles' magic to the surface and injects some of her own into it, contaminating its blinding whiteness with black.
As soon as she finishes, she hears hurried footsteps approaching. "Time for me to leave. I'm sure you'll figure out what to do," she whispers. She stands and runs for the trees just as Stiles begins coming around again, smiling to herself the whole way.
"Stiles!" Derek yells, skidding to a stop next to his mate.
Scott, Danny and Isaac watch from a couple of feet away as Derek picks up Stiles' groaning form and carries him into the house, covering their noses when the stench of blood and fresh dirt reaches them. None of them dare to speak, remaining silent as they tail the alpha into the living room and take up different positions. Scott stands by the window, keeping watch, Danny is by the kitchen doorway, and Isaac takes a seat on the edge of the coffee table, ready to help if Derek asks him to.
Groaning again, Stiles pushes himself up from where he lies on the sofa and holds a hand to his head as he waits for the spots in his vision to clear. "Ugh, fuck that bitch..." he mumbles.
"Are you OK?" Isaac asks, leaning forward and resting his forearms on his knees. The scent of blood is sickening, and his stomach turns unpleasantly when he gets another whiff of it. It doesn't belong to the boy himself, so he wonders what Stiles could possibly have done to get himself covered in the stuff and guesses that he won't like the answer. "You smell awful..."
"Yeah, thanks," Stiles sighs as he stands. He waves away Derek's hands when they try to push him back down on the sofa and leaves the room, heading for the stairs to finally take that shower he was planning before Elizabeth interrupted him. Derek follows him, he knows, but when the wolf tries to accompany him in the bathroom, he pushes him back with a hand on his firm chest and shuts the door before the man can actually get through, ignoring his protests. "You stay out there, Sourwolf! I'll be out in a minute, and we can talk then." He wants to examine himself in private to find out what Elizabeth has done to him. Her words outside sounded muffled because his mind was still foggy from slamming it into the ground, but he thinks he got the gist of them. It's worrying, but as he strips out of his clothes and steps into the shower stall and still finds that nothing seems out of place, he lets himself breathe again. The water that swirls down the drain is an ugly brown for a while until all the blood and dirt on his skin is scrubbed off.
He still has the faint taste of fawn's blood on his tongue, so he brushes his teeth vigorously.
Something strange is definitely happening to him, that much he can tell. What it is, though...that eludes him. It's pulsing beneath his skin, a nagging sensation that makes him feel strangely tainted, similar to what he felt for weeks after the Nogitsune was expelled from his body.
After stepping into a pair of loose sweatpants, he tries again to gather all of his power into a ball, but it's harder this time. His magic doesn't cooperate. It fights him every step of the way, and at the last second, just before he's able to mould the last spark of it into place, it flies out of his body and shatters the mirror above the sink, making him leap back with a startled yell. Derek knocks loudly on the door, but he can't find it in himself to answer. Everything feels wrong.
So very wrong.
The next thing he knows, the door is open and Derek is gripping him tightly by the shoulders, shaking him gently and asking if he's alright. He doesn't know how to articulate everything he's feeling in that moment, so he just pushes past the alpha and races downstairs and outside. Somehow, he's managed to keep the rest of his magic held tightly in its ball, but it's getting harder.
Being inside the house when he finally loses control would not be a good idea, he knows, so even though he can hear all four wolves calling after him in their own states of panic, he doesn't stop running until he gets as far away from his home as he can. The coldness of the night air doesn't affect him, but he doesn't give himself time to wonder why. "Stay back!" he shouts when he sees Derek and Isaac approaching him cautiously out of the corner of his eye. They both move slowly like they're approaching a frightened animal, and Stiles guesses that is half true. "I mean it, guys! I don't want to hurt you!" Now that the shock of his magic rebelling against him has worn off, he can look more closely at it to see just what is going on. It's a strange thing, almost being able to see it before his eyes like its a tangible thing, but he's grateful for it now because, after a few seconds of watching it spin in place, swirling inside its little ball, he sees what the problem is. There is a small dark spot in the white which is getting bigger, and he knows that whatever happens when it reaches its full size won't be good.
Derek senses that Stiles is serious in his warning, so as much as it kills him to do so, he stops himself and Isaac from moving any closer to the human boy.
Somehow, Stiles can tell the exact moment when the blackness of Elizabeth's magic wins, becoming larger than and subjugating the light of his own until it has no choice but to obey its whims. Before he loses control completely, he crouches down on the ground and yells, "Get back!" as he covers his head with his arms. He doesn't have time to make sure everyone has gotten out of range before he's forced to let go, not that he even knows what the range for something like this is.
The force of it is devastating.
It's a shockwave, expanding rapidly outward in a substantial radius and bringing down everything it touches. Tree roots are ripped violently from the earth as they are bowled over, shaking the ground as their heavy trunks come down on it as one. Stiles stays where he is, breathing hard.
Derek lifts his head from where he has it buried in his arms. At Stiles' last warning, he'd thrown himself backward and ended up flat on his stomach, praying that Isaac had the good sense to do the same. Neither Danny nor Scott came this far out, so they're probably safe. He gets to his feet now and looks over the devastation with horror, finding that he was thankfully out of the path of any falling trees.
He doesn't see Isaac in the immediate area, so he assumes optimistically that the beta was able to save himself from being crushed as well. He's usually light enough on his feet.
The sight of the trees reminds him of the time when, a few months ago, Stiles had made him watch a couple of episodes of Supernatural, in one of which the character of Dean Winchester dug his way out of his own grave and found the trees surrounding it knocked over, arranged like petals on a flower. He usually thinks of himself as an equable person, but this really gets to him, especially when his eyes land on his mate's shaking body, still crouched down low to the ground. The scent of magic is heavy in the air, but where Stiles' magic usually smells quite pleasant—fresh, like a mixture of grass, honey and pine—this time, there's a distinct vein of something malodorous, like half-rotten eggs and cooking meat. "Stiles...?" he asks uncertainly as he gets closer, guessing that the worst is over and it's now safe to do so. Stiles doesn't react to him at all until he reaches out a hand and touches his shoulder, at which point the boy gasps as if shocked and flails away. The smell of salt joins the other smells permeating the air, emanating from the tears in Stiles' eyes as the teen looks anywhere but up at him.
What he should do, he doesn't know.
"Don't touch me..." Stiles chokes out, sniffling and crawling away another couple of feet when Derek takes another step toward him. "I mean it! I'm not safe to be around right now... Whatever she did to me...I don't have control." The darkness is still there, threatening to cause more havoc any second.
Ignoring the first half of Stiles' words, Derek edges ever closer until he drops to his knees right next to the boy. He doesn't know how to handle the situation. Ordinarily, he'd just draw his mate right into his arms and console him until the crying has stopped completely, but given the second half of Stiles' warning, Derek is more cautious. Still, the sight of more tears leaking from the teen's eyes pulls at something deep in his chest, and he just as to try anyway.
He reaches out and takes one of Stiles' hands in his own, starting small. So far, so good, he thinks with relief. Feeling more confident, he attempts to pull Stiles closer, and that's when things go wrong. Heat spreads suddenly across his palm, and he recoils when Stiles' hand glows with fire, burning him. Hissing through his teeth, he waits for the pain to fade before looking back up.
"I told you..." Stiles says hoarsely. "I'm not safe."