At first Stiles hadn't realized that anything was wrong. He'd gotten up that morning, late enough that he would miss the first bell before he even left the house, showered and dressed, and hastily made a peanut butter sandwich that he stuffed in his mouth as he stumbled out of the house. English was his first class of the day, though by the time he'd parked in the back lot and rushed through the halls the class was nearly half over. He considered skipping the class entirely but their papers on Something Wicked This Way Comes were due and would be collected at the end of the period. Fifteen percent of his grade was worth admitting that he'd woken abysmally late and he slunk into class as quietly as he possibly could. Which of course meant he tripped over his own shoe laces and knocked over a pile of books stacked on a shelf.
"Glad you could join us, Mr. Stilinski," the teacher said dryly, not turning from where she was writing on the board.
"My pleasure," Stiles returned because he had a complete inability to not return sass when it was directed at him.
The teacher did turn around at that, staring at Stiles with raised eyebrows until he fled to the empty desk next to Scott. Scott was staring as Stiles took a seat and opened his rather battered notebook and didn't stop staring even as Stiles started to make disjointed notes about what had already been written on the board.
"What?" Stiles whispered when Scott had been staring for at least a minute even though it felt like much longer.
Scott did the fish thing where he opened his mouth to speak, closed it when he realized he had no clue what to say, and then opened it again but remained silent.
"What?" Stiles asked, slightly louder now. The teacher had called on a group at the front of the room and was focused on them and the people seated near them had a lot of practice at tuning out Stiles and Scott's whispered conversations.
"I just didn't think you were going to show up today," Scott said finally, his eyes flickering to an empty seat a row over where Isaac usually sat and then back to Stiles and then to his own messy notebook on his desk.
Stiles glanced around the classroom, confirming that Isaac wasn't there though that wasn't exactly unusual either before or after his werewolf transformation. "Why wouldn't I?" he finally asked, having no clue as to why Isaac's absence would have anything to do with him.
Scott was giving him the fish look again, round eyes and slightly open mouth, and only shook his head before looking away. "Yeah, I mean, probably best not to talk about it. Like, it never happened, you know?"
Stiles did not know, though he could get behind that principle in general. "Okay?" he asked, because if it was important, Scott would tell him. Or well, Scott would probably tell him. Scott might tell him if it was something life threatening. Or if it involved Allison. Stiles sighed and turned his attention back to the board. As much as Scott was like the other half of his soul, sometimes he had to accept that the other half of his soul didn't always pay so much attention to what was happening around him. That's what Stiles was for; Stiles noticed things, came up with the terrible plans to keep them alive, Scott kept them alive and made it all worth it. A balanced equation, for the most part.
He tried to focus on what the class was discussing, knowing that it would come up on a 'surprise' quiz in the next couple of days, but he kept looking over to Isaac's empty seat and wondering why it felt like something was missing. Like something was wrong. Over the past couple months Stiles had gotten very good at not ignoring the little warnings that his brain gave him to say something was wrong. More often than not his brain knew what it was talking about and just didn't give him the information he needed to keep up. So if it was important that Isaac was missing, he just had to figure out why that was important today. Before the bite Isaac had missed school a fair amount and even when he'd been there he hadn't really been there. After the bite Isaac had been a fugitive for a few weeks and then attended intermittently when he wasn't off doing werewolfy things for Derek. Stiles was pretty sure that attending college wasn't in Derek's plans for his pack, though Boyd still seemed pretty committed even after the bite. On any given day it was at least fifty-fifty as to whether Isaac would show up for school or not.
Stiles tapped the tip of his pen against his notebook and nearly missed the bell that signaled the end of class as he chased the hints of what was trying to bother him.
"Mr. Stilinski," the teacher said when Stiles was almost out of the classroom.
Stiles was the last one remaining, Scott having slipped out before Stiles even realized that people were moving around him. "Yeah?" he asked, hoping that he wasn't about to get a lecture on tardiness or talking in class.
"Do you have a paper for me?" the teacher asked, eyebrows raised.
"Oh, yeah," Stiles said, shaking his head vigorously and dropping down to the floor to dig through his backpack for the folder where he put things he didn't want to lose. He usually printed three copies of things he had to turn in, just in case. His hands undid the zipper by rote and it wasn't until he looked down that he noticed that something was off. There was a shirt in his backpack, which wasn't unusual on its own, but the shirt was torn and had blood dried into the fabric. A bloody, torn shirt was pretty standard for him, though he didn't tend to carry them around with him as a souvenirs, but he knew that this shirt wasn't one of his.
The sound of the teacher letting out a huff of impatience brought Stiles back to what he was supposed to be doing and he pulled out his folder as carefully as possible and zipped up his backpack again before locating his paper and placing it on the stack on the edge of the teacher's table.
"I look forward to reading your insight," the teacher said, though it was hard to say if she was being sarcastic or not. "Perhaps even on the assigned topic this time." And there was the sarcasm.
Stiles smiled, knowing that his expression was probably starting to veer into that creepy smile people gave when they were hiding something bad. "I'm very insightful," he managed and then scrambled from the classroom before he could dig himself in any deeper.
He had a full five minutes before the bell for his next class rang, one he didn't share with Scott but Boyd should be there, and he made a detour into the nearest bathroom and locked himself in the last stall before he unzipped his backpack again. With the caution of someone handling a live snake, because Stiles had learned that touching things when he wasn't exactly sure what had happened was pretty much always a bad idea, he pulled out the bloody, shredded, royal blue, button-up shirt. In the state it was in it took him a few moments to place where he recognized the shirt; it was the one Isaac had been wearing yesterday.
Boyd didn't show up for Algebra II which only cemented the idea in Stiles' mind that something was terribly, horribly wrong. Which, honestly, was about par for the course given his life in the past sixth months. If there wasn't something supernatural trying to kill them or mass murdering people in Beacon Hills, then there was tests and papers and all of the endless drama that came along with going to high school. On the days Stiles wasn't actively running for his life he would say that the high school drama was potentially worse than the near death experiences.
Stiles made it through his next two classes by going through yesterday step by step, his fingers constantly tapping and his knee bouncing up and down as he worked through the process. School and lacrosse practice had been typical and the only thing that Stiles noted of importance was that Isaac had been wearing the button-up blue shirt along with a pair of light blue jeans. After lacrosse practice Isaac had pulled on his black leather jacket over the shirt and had walked out of the locker room alone. Stiles had privately rolled his eyes at Scott, who had a very sneaky date with Allison planned at the town library, and then he'd driven his jeep home. Dinner was leftover stir-fry, eaten by himself in the living room with the tv on in the background and his laptop out as he finished writing the paper for English class. He'd printed it upstairs at his desk, put it in his backpack, and then his phone had vibrated in his pocket with a text. Try as he might he couldn't remember anything beyond that point except for waking up the next morning.
As soon as French was over Stiles pulled out his phone and opened the most recent text in his inbox. It was from Scott and simply read: need your help. meet at dereks? There was no text sent in response but Stiles could only assume that he'd met with Scott at Derek's and something bad had happened. Bad enough that it kept all of Derek's pack away that day. Bad enough that Stiles had kept Isaac's bloody shirt. Stiles couldn't even conceptualize something that bad.
The cafeteria was already fairly crowded when Stiles arrived and he scanned over the tables until he found Scott. Scott was sitting on the edge of the table where some of the lacrosse team usually gathered, though he wasn't paying them any attention. Allison was at the table behind Scott's, sitting by herself even though her lips were moving. The worst part of it all, Stiles thought, was that they probably believed they were being subtle. Stiles walked over to Allison's table, knowing that Scott would hear him if he talked to her, and that he had a better chance at getting Scott's attention through Allison.
"I need to talk to Scott," Stiles told Allison.
"Now?" she asked, aborting her glance over her shoulder just in time for the movement to not be completely obvious.
"Yes, now," Stiles said, his hand tightening around his backpack strap as he thought of Isaac's bloody shirt folded inside. He should at least know if Isaac was dead, that was something he should be told. "It's important."
Allison frowned, though this was now a frown of concern instead of irritation at lunch with her boyfriend being interrupted. "What can I do to help?"
"I don't know yet, depends on what kind of bad this is. Which is why I need to talk to Scott. Now," Stiles said, narrowly avoiding the singsong voice he used when he when he was stressed and irritated.
"Alright, I'm coming," Scott grumbled from the opposite table, standing and grabbing the last of his food from his tray.
Stiles walked out of the cafeteria, not wanting to stay to witness the sappy goodbye, and three minutes later Scott showed up in the hallway.
"What?" Scott asked, exasperation and worry coloring his voice in equal measures.
"What the hell happened last night?" Stiles asked, grabbing Scott's arm and tugging him away from the people roaming in and out of the cafeteria.
Scott stared at him, his lips slanting unhappily. "I thought you didn't want to talk about that. You know. Ever."
Stiles flung his hands out. "I don't remember what happened from the time you texted me to meet up at Derek's to when I woke up today!"
Scott's mouth dropped open. "Seriously?"
"Yes!" Stiles very nearly shouted and then looked around to make sure no one was listening. "I have Isaac's shredded, bloody shirt in my backpack. None of the big bad wolf trio are here today, not even Boyd. What happened last night?"
Scott licked his lips and looked away. "You really don't remember?"
"I really don't," Stiles said, pressing the heels of his palms to his forehead.
"Maybe that's a good thing?" Scott asked, holding up his hands in surrender when Stiles turned to stare at him. "Look, if you didn't have to know something, something really bad, then maybe there's a reason? Like, you're better off not knowing."
Stiles stared, wondering if this was what Scott told himself when he kept the whole werewolf thing a secret from his mom. The only reason Stiles hadn't told his dad was because it wasn't his secret to share and he didn't want to bring the Argents' network of spies anywhere near the Sheriff's Department. "Is Isaac even alive?" Stiles asked, voicing the worse case scenario that had been echoing in his mind ever since he'd found Isaac's shirt.
"Yeah, Isaac will be okay. I'm sure he doesn't even have a scratch now," Scott said, his expression guarded.
"Scott, I need to know," Stiles said, feeling his fingernails bite into his skin as he clenched and released his hands.
"Please, trust me," Scott said. "If you don't remember, then that's the best thing that could have possibly come from this. We're all going to try to pretend it never happened, so, you're like a step ahead of us. Okay?"
Stiles stared, part of him wondering how bad it could possibly be that Scott wouldn't tell him and the other part wondering how Scott could even think that he wouldn't try to figure this out. Then again, Scott had never been driven by that need to know every detail about something. "Okay," he said, willing to let Scott think he was letting it go. If he had to, he could come back to Scott and learn exactly what he needed to know, but there were other ways to do this that wouldn't end up destroying his friendship with Scott.
"Okay," Scott agreed, not meeting Stiles' gaze. The bell rang, startling both of them, and they walked to Chemistry class in distracted silence.
It didn't take long for Stiles to drive across town, even though he wasn't speeding because every deputy in town knew Stiles' jeep and wasn't afraid to pull him over. He carefully descended the steps into the pack den; he'd fallen more than once on those stairs and knew all too well that most of the werewolves wouldn't use their strength and speed to catch him. "Isaac? Erica?" he called as he stepped down onto the dusty floor and glanced around.
There was no response and Stiles sighed heavily. "Boyd? Are you here buddy?"
When the echo of his voice died out Stiles frowned because those three were his easiest option to get the information he needed. As anyone who had spent more than five minutes with the guy knew, getting information from Derek was like getting water from a brick. Still, Stiles had a few tricks up his sleeves and he wasn't afraid to use them. "Derek? I know you're lurking down here. Pretending to be a vampire, again? I'm sure you can get Scott to role-play Twilight with you, but I think that might wind up with Allison shooting you both with her crossbow."
A low growl from one of the subway cars gave away Derek's location and sure enough a moment later Derek stepped out with his shoulders hunched and his arms folded. He looked the very epitome of a teenaged delinquent that tried to carry it on into his twenties, the leather jackets the three Betas had picked up to emulate him only increasing the illusion. More than once Stiles' dad had asked him if Derek was starting some kind of gang and if Stiles had heard or seen anything suspicious. Stiles had very manfully restrained himself from mentioning glowing eyes and massive claws and fangs, and had only said that he thought Derek was kinda lonely and didn't know what to do with himself. It wasn't any less of the truth, fangs and glowing eyes aside.
"What?" Derek demanded.
"What do you think?" Stiles asked, his hands out and his palms up.
Derek stared. "Are you honestly this stupid? I didn't think you'd stay away from here forever, but I would have thought you cared enough about not dying to not show up the very next day."
Stiles rolled his eyes, because of course Scott wouldn't have thought to fill Derek in on the developing situation. "How about let's start with I don't remember anything that happened last night and then move straight on to what the hell happened last night?"
"You don't remember?" Derek asked.
"That's what I just said. Do you need it in wolf-ish, because I'm afraid I left my translator at the school sneaking around to see his girlfriend," Stiles said, sighing when he saw Derek mouth the word 'wolf-ish' with disbelief. "Tell me what happened. Where is Isaac? And Erica and Boyd while we're at it?"
"Away from here. It wasn't safe to send them to school today," Derek said, his eyes glowing red ever so briefly. "I'm not sure that it will be safe again. Ever."
"Care to elaborate?" Stiles asked when Derek didn't continue.
"Not really," Derek said. "But in case it wasn't clear, you need to stay away from the pack. Clearly Scott can still control himself around you, but the same won't be true of the others. Don't seek them out. Not if you want to live."
Stiles stared in disbelief. "I know we've had our problems, but I thought we we'd moved beyond the whole 'I'm going to tear your throat out with my teeth' thing. You know, helping each other, keeping out of jail, all of that? Bonding?"
Derek sighed. "You really don't remember."
"We've already covered this. I really don't remember," Stiles repeated for what felt like the millionth time that day. "Now, why don't you tell me what happened and we can figure something out that doesn't result in one of your puppies clawing me open."
Derek actually flinched. He stepped back into the subway car and shook his head. "You need to leave now. Be thankful you don't remember and if you hear things in the woods at night, stay away. I'll send you a message if it's ever safe for you to be near us again."
"What the hell!" Stiles demanded, his hands balled into fists as he shouted. "You don't get to decide on some whim that I can't be around the pack. Not if you want Scott's help and, coincidentally, my help."
"You've helped enough," Derek's voice came from inside the subway car, followed by a roar that left Stiles staggering and covering his ears.
Stiles scrambled up the stairs and out into the daylight, blinking rapidly as his eyes readjusted. He thought about Isaac's shirt, realizing he should have made Derek confirm that Isaac was alive and alright, but he wasn't going back down into the den right now. Part of surviving around werewolves was knowing when to back off and while he didn't think Derek would kill him on purpose, sometimes Derek wasn't the one in control. Stiles knelt down and pulled Isaac's shirt out of his backpack, looking around for a moment until he found a smallish slab of torn-up concrete that he used to pin the shirt down just inside the first steps down into the subway. The shirt itself was useless but Stiles felt wrong carrying it around with him and he didn't know what else to do with it.
It was a good thing their backyard was hidden enough that none of the neighbors had noticed Stiles' bedroom window was used more frequently than the front door and that his dad usually wasn't home when werewolves came visiting. "You don't usually need an invitation," Stiles called, rolling his eyes as he saved what little he'd typed up and closed his computer. By the time he looked up again he found himself staring at thick brown curls and stormy ocean eyes that were just peeking over his windowsill. "Isaac!"
Isaac poked his head the rest of the way up, his fingers wrapping around the ledge as he stared into Stiles' room. "Can I come in?"
"Sure," Stiles said, not mentioning that Isaac could have used the doorbell or asking if Isaac was planning on mauling him once he was inside. Mostly he was just strangely glad to see that Isaac was alive and seemed physically unharmed.
"Thanks," Isaac said and slipped through the window with more grace than Scott ever managed even as a werewolf. He stayed standing near the window, his eyes traveling around the room until there was nowhere left to look but Stiles. Isaac shoved one hand into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out the shirt that Stiles had left back at the entrance to the subway station, holding it uncertainly like he wasn't sure what he was doing with it.
Stiles frowned at the evidence that Isaac had not been so alright last night; even if he was okay now it still had to have hurt like hell to be torn open like that. "I don't suppose you're going to tell me what happened?" he asked, gesturing to his desk chair so that he wouldn't be the only one sitting.
"If you want me to," Isaac said, his gaze falling to the shirt in his hands as he traced the torn edges with his fingers. "Derek said that the worst vengeance I could take would be to tell you. I'm not sure if that makes me want to do it any less."
Stiles nodded at Isaac's discontent shrug and pointed him toward the chair again. "Well, Derek doesn't know me as well as he thinks he does. I'd always rather know. It can't be worse than the things that I could imagine."
"Are you sure?" Isaac asked, finally turning Stiles chair around and sitting across from him.
"About wanting to know or about the capabilities of my imagination?" Stiles asked. "The answer is yes in either case. Though, does Derek know you're here?"
Isaac shook his head. "I haven't gone by the den much. Didn't want to see anyone yet. Better with you, because you don't know. You don't look at me like that. Even Derek looks at me like he pities me."
The corner of Stiles' lip twisted up at the irony; you had to be pretty bad off to be pitied by the guy who had survived what Derek had. "But you're still going to tell me?"
"Yeah. I've never been one to pass up the opportunity for vengeance when it's presented," Isaac said, ducking his head down and clenching his hand in his hair in order to pull at his curls for a moment. "There was a disturbance in the woods last night, Derek thought it might have to do with the kanima, so he called Scott. You and Scott showed up together, and we went searching."
"Okay, sounds plausible," Stiles said, motioning his hand in a circle to get Isaac to hurry up.
Isaac seemed unwilling to be hurried, his attention directed at his own hands instead of at Stiles. "Erica and Boyd went ahead, hoping to circle around so the kanima wouldn't have anywhere to retreat. Derek saw something in the trees, I didn't catch what it was, but he grabbed Scott and shouted to tell us to run. It was too late. You already had your hands around my neck and forced me to the ground."
"Wait, hold on. I, puny human who gets knocked to my ass by other humans, forced you, werewolf with claws and fangs and supernatural strength, to the ground?" Stiles asked incredulously. He'd seen some strange things in the past couple months, but him overpowering a werewolf was not among them.
"You were possessed," Isaac said, look up uncertainly and met Stiles' gaze. "Later, after, Derek called it a Yurei. A spirit that lost its way and uses a host body to enact its revenge when it stumbles upon a suitable situation. Most spirits can't possess werewolves, and-"
Stiles nodded with irritation. "And I was the only human around for the taking, got it." When Isaac looked away again, apparently finished with his recounting, Stiles snapped his fingers to get Isaac's attention. "So what did this spirit want?"
"Revenge," Isaac said quietly. "That's it, really. It just wanted to hurt someone."
"So it possessed me," Stiles said and then put together the rest without Isaac having to spell it out. "The spirit possessed me and used my body to hurt you."
"I could have stopped you," Isaac said, his gaze traveling to the window and out into the night. "The spirit gave you the strength to hold me down, but if I had fought I would have torn straight through you. When the spirt left you, you would have died."
Stiles felt oddly uncomfortable with the direction this conversation was going but reminded himself that he had literally asked for this. "Why didn't you?"
"Derek ordered me not to attack. It took both Erica and Boyd to hold Scott back, even after Derek used his Alpha growl to knock all of us out of our wolf forms. Derek talked to me the entire time, kept reminding me that I would heal and you wouldn't. He ordered me to stay still, to not even move no matter what you did, even when-" Isaac stopped himself abruptly, his claws slipping out and deep into the already ruined shirt in his hands.
"What?" Stiles asked, staring at the bloodied shirt in Isaac's hands. He didn't think that Isaac was talking about whatever he must have done to cause those wounds. "Isaac, what did I do?"
Isaac shook his head, his eyes now a deep gold but completely unfocused. "It wasn't you, Derek was saying that over and over. I know that."
Stiles wondered if he needed to be worried about Isaac attacking him. He didn't think that Isaac wanted to, despite what Isaac had said about his capacity for vengeance, but he'd learned to be cautious when eyes flashed and claws came out. "I need to know," he said, his mind already flipping through possibilities like a slot machine starting to fall into place.
"Nothing, really," Isaac said uncertainly as he stood and walked to the window. "Derek stopped you in time; he finished the rites to release the spirit and you collapsed. Scott brought you back home and Derek said we all had to stay away from you. He doesn't trust our wolves not to kill someone they saw attack one of the pack."
"Isaac," Stiles said, but before he could ask again Isaac had leapt out the window. Stiles got to his feet and watched as Isaac raced across the backyard, over the fence, and out into the woods. He briefly considered texting Derek to tell him that one of his wolves was running uncontrolled but he figured if Isaac had enough control to run instead of attack him, everyone else would be safe enough.
Stiles considered what Isaac had told him and reached for his laptop. It was possible that Stiles may have once copied down his dad's login information to the Sheriff's Department database and it was also possible that Stiles occasionally logged on when there was a desperate need for information. And also when Stiles was extremely bored. Stiles logged in and paused for a moment before he searched for dead bodies in the woods, setting the parameters in the past ten years and hoping that he wouldn't have to go back further than that. There were a lot of dead bodies in the woods surrounding Beacon Hills in the past decade, though most of them were ruled hunting accidents or animal attacks - Stiles had some suspicions about the ones labeled 'animal attacks' after what he'd seen blamed on wild animals recently.
It took two more searches and was twenty six years ago that he found an unsolved murder where the body was found in the woods that met the basic criteria. Stiles clicked to bring up the report and read grimly about a seventeen year old guy who had attended Beacon Hills High School, out in the woods for reasons unknown, who had been slashed open all over his chest and back with a knife, raped, and then left in the woods to die. He didn't know how long it took him to log back out on auto-pilot, shut down his laptop entirely, and get out of bed to turn out the lights in his room.
'Derek stopped you in time,' was what Isaac had said, but Stiles wasn't sure that he trusted Isaac's definition of 'in time' or even Isaac's definition of 'stopped'. Stiles climbed up in the upper corner of his bed, pressing himself against the walls, and he wondered not for the first time if he should have accepted Peter's offer to take the bite.