Stiles grabs a pen off his desk--the red one he has been meaning to replace for weeks, because he needs something that is not black or blue--and thinks c’mon, c’mon, just this chart, while he colors in the bar graph, filling in mostly-white space where his printer ran out of colored ink. He has three hours until school, and all he can think of is how little time he has to finish this off for his algebra class first thing in the morning, and how much he hates werewolves for taking all night to heal and for getting gutted in the first place. Next time, Scott and Isaac can hold each other’s internal organs in place, he tells himself.
Stiles scribbles with the pen on a piece of blank paper on his desk, willing it to keep writing. “Just a little more,” he tells it, and tries not to smear more wet ink across his chart while he finishes coloring in the empty spaces with ease. Huh, maybe the pen wasn’t as close to running out of ink as he had thought.
Stiles takes the pen to school with him and finishes three worksheets before Scott shows up just in time to give him something else to write with before the pen finally runs out. He really expects it to, at that point.
A small, rational part of his mind in the very back, the same one that screams every time a werewolf looks at him wrongly, and flails whenever it can lately, wants to know what is happening, why he keeps feeling an intangible something when he wills the pen to work a little longer, like the pull he felt when he had created the circle of mountain ash with more ash than he had at the beginning. The other part of his mind, the one that thinks werewolves are pretty cool, and hey, it is totally disgusting the way Scott’s bones show sometimes, but the important thing is that they heal, thinks that the pull of conjuring extra ink or ash is probably a little like learning to fly--don't think about it too hard, and it will keep working. Stiles can be Arthur Dent for this. He can be the only human in a universe of weird if it means he can still do something.
Stiles is sleep-deprived the next time he tries anything. He has spent the last few hours on TvTropes. He started with the Our Werewolves are Different page and he finishes with The Dark Knight Saga before he loses interest and leans back in his chair to stare at the ceiling and let the late night tired-but-not-sleepy burn of his eyeballs recede to more bearable levels.
Stiles thinks of Batman and then of the tug he felt with the pen and the mountain ash.
He is almost disappointed when, even though he has pulled something bigger from the aether, it is not a sleepy, confused, half-dressed Christian Bale, only a black, plastic mask, like the ones in the movies.
The mask fits better than he expected, perfectly-sized and -shaped for Stiles’s face. After a moment, Stiles tries out his best Batman voice, too, but the mask does not enhance it, so it sounds less like deep-low-growly-Christian-Bale and more like angry-cat-because-I-can’t-actually-growl-Stiles.
Stiles meant to tell Scott first. He had. It is hard to share secrets when they are never alone together, though. With Boyd, Jackson, and Isaac’s super werewolf hearing, the locker room is no longer safe for secrets, and outside of practice, Scott is too busy hanging out with Isaac, Allison, and Deaton (okay, he works for Deaton, which is admittedly different, but he also makes Secret Plans with Deaton, which is supposed to be Stiles Only territory), and Scott is not even sleeping with any of them, which Stiles could at least forgive, because sleeping with Scott? Emphatically not Stiles territory.
Okay, that’s not entirely true, either, Stiles admits to himself. But, to prevent further awkwardness in his head, Stiles is claiming a.) best friend deprivation on that one, b.) teenage hormones, and maybe also c.) Scott is pretty attractive lately between all the Secret Planning, the ass-kicking, and his developing muscular figure due to a combination of years of lacrosse and werewolf super strength, so anyone with a libido would want to sleep with him right now.
The point is, Stiles does not mean for Derek to be the first one to find out about the conjuring, even though Derek probably needs to know at least as much as Scott, because Derek is not Stiles’s BFF. But, Stiles tells Scott later, you don’t really get to decide these things when you’re dying of aconite poisoning, okay.
The wolfsbane incense burns Stiles’s lungs with every breath. He has no idea how long he can last like this because the internet has zero resources on wolfsbane incense, probably because aconite is deathly poisonous, and even the internet knows better than playing around with aconite incense. It must not hurt Stiles as much as Derek, though, if the pained writhing on the floor is anything to go by.
Stiles feels a bit like he is floating, so it is marginally easier than usual to push past the fuzzy rational voice in the back of his head trying to insist that magic Does Not Exist and there is an explanation for this thing that Stiles keeps doing that he is never going to hear because of the part where Stiles is dying from werewolf poison because that is what happens to humans who are dumb enough to hang out with werewolves.
He mentally gropes for the tell-tale pull of magic until he grasps something that feels like a gas mask. He tosses the first to Derek, across the room, who glares at him with an unfocused, glazed expression, as if trying to tell how much is hallucination and how much is reality. Stiles pulls another mask from nowhere and puts it on. By the time he takes his first few wolfsbane-ash-scented breaths, Derek has his mask on, too. Stiles finally takes a few seconds to look at what he conjured: gas masks with tiny, pointed ears. Derek’s looks like a wolf’s face with a vent for a snout.
Wearing the mask seems to help Derek with his pained writhing for all of two seconds, which, Stiles estimates, is probably how long it takes him to inhale. Derek bucks off the floor, a glow under his skin coating his lungs while he thrashes, shirtless and sweaty, just like last time. Not a bad final image, Stiles thinks.
His poison-high is not getting any better. Stiles’s heart feels strange, fluttery and inconsistent. He is unsure how much is I’m-dying-and-my-dad-will-never-know-why-fear and how much is the wolfsbane in his lungs taking effect. He wonders if the masks will stay, or if they will fade with him, leaving Derek in a locked room with wolfsbane smoke and Stiles’s cooling corpse.
Stiles is barely conscious when Derek lifts him. He thinks he hears his name, but it sounds muffled by Derek’s mask and his own disconnection, so he suspects it may be imagined. It sounds imagined. Fuzzy.
Stiles wakes up in the hospital with Scott’s mom leaning over him in her tiny baby elephant-patterned scrubs. Her eyes widen in surprise-relief-anger. She becomes a hurricane of feelings. Stiles is so far from ready for that.
“We are going to have a talk,” she hisses. Melissa shakes her head on the way out of the room, reminding Stiles of the times when he and Scott used to get into trouble under her watch and she would shake her head and throw her hands in the air before going off to call Stiles’s dad and discuss appropriate and consistent punishments for the both of them.
Stiles tries to smile when she returns with his dad, but he catches Derek lingering in the doorway of the room, holding two gas masks by the straps. They appear identical at first glance, but one is smaller, the features narrower, more fox than wolf, but then Stiles’s dad is hugging him and Derek flees.
“Dad, I’m fine,” Stiles insists, even though he still feels fuzzy-headed, from aconite or painkillers, and his lungs still burn every time he breathes. His heart is at least settled, back to its usual half-panicked thump-thump instead of the fluttering flip-flops, like it wants to tear itself from Stiles’s chest.
Not for the first time, Stiles comes home to find Derek lurking in his bedroom. It is the first time it happens while Derek is not a wanted criminal, though, which is a refreshing change. Derek tosses him the smaller mask and mutters, “Thanks,” so lowly that Stiles sees it in the way his lips move more than hears it.
“Yeah,” Stiles agrees. Derek is obviously welcome. They are both welcome after so many rescues. Stiles does not ask about the hunters who trapped them. If there were any survivors, they are clearly done trying to poison Derek and Stiles for now.
They sit in silence. Stiles knows he should sleep. He would love to sleep, he is exhausted and needs to rest in order to heal, but he is not ready to wake up gasping, images of half of Scott, or his eviscerated father, or Derek sinking but never rising while water fills Stiles’s lungs clinging to his consciousness like cobwebs--cleared easily, but leaving a phantom sticky-silky discontent where they had touched him.
So, Stiles does not ask Derek to leave. He sits on the other side of his bed, facing Derek, and when Derek focuses on him, his expression too open for Stiles to bear, Stiles lifts his mask in a slow, deliberate motion and pushes, returning it to nothing. Derek inhales quickly, too light to be a gasp, too sharp to be anything else, the sort of sound one does not expect from an alpha who should know everything about his pack and those who associate with it.
“I can conjure things,” Stiles admits. It sounds stupid out loud, moreso because he does not understand it. Googling conjuration mostly came up with leveling advice for Skyrim (something else Stiles put on hold for the werewolves in his life), and summoning rituals for a variety of mostly unpleasant supernatural creatures. Stiles thinks he probably knows enough of those.
“We had a witch in our pack,” Derek replies. He turns the other mask over in his hands. “My aunt used to do parlor tricks. Peter loved them. She was best at electricity. She made static dance, little blue bolts from hand to hand. Never could do water. Too heavy.” Derek’s breath catches, but Stiles chooses to ignore that.
Stiles is not sure how to respond to that, so he almost doesn’t. “Dad used to do card tricks. I never figured all of them out, but mom never tried. She liked the mystery. He said most magic was just misdirection.” Stiles refuses to allow their interaction to humanize Peter, but he can maybe allow a moment of solidarity in grief to unite himself and Derek.
Stiles wakes slowly the next morning, because of the light from his window shifting over his eyes. He feels colder down one side than the other, his body missing an expected warmth.