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When Stiles first realized that his belief allowed him a form of magic that would be useful to the pack, he was overjoyed, but painfully skeptical. Because as much as he wanted to help the pack, as much as he wanted to protect them and keep them from harm, there was still that unshakeable insecurity: Stiles was human. What could human Stiles do that werewolf Scott couldn’t? How could a few measly wards aid in protecting a group of people that amounted to superhumans? How could belief protect from teeth sharp enough to rend bone and claws strong enough to cleave trees?

The concept of belief still eludes him. It circles in his head night after night, especially in the lonely sprawl of the hospital ward. His last run in with werequeen had shaken something fundamental inside of him, that needy core that required reassurance. He would’ve died without his father’s help. His belief hadn’t been strong enough to keep the alphas at bay.

And that brings him back around to what belief is. Because he has no idea. If he believes something will happen, it does? He’d been taught most of his life that that practice was faulty. It hadn’t worked when he was little, believing Santa would bring him every toy under the sun; it hadn’t worked when he was in school, believing one glance from a girl or one smile from a guy would win him lifelong happiness; it hadn’t worked when he had believed his mother would get well after he practically killed her. Belief is false. But belief is his ultimate defense.

He has no idea how this works.

“Melissa says you can come home today,” his father says. He looks tired, but happy. “We have to keep you on crutches until your leg heals.”

“How long will that be?” Stiles asks. The stitches itch beyond belief. “I really, really, don’t want to hobble around that school on a crutch. And how would that even work? My entire left side was mauled.”

“You should probably practice batting with your non-dominant hand,” his father muses, grinning. “They have ways, don’t worry. Your shoulder will be able to support most of your weight by Friday. It wasn’t that bad.”

“Yeah, tell that to my body,” Stiles grumbles. He shifts around on the pillows, fingers plucking at the sheets. “Has, uh, has anyone come by?”

“You mean Derek?” his father asks. Stiles squints at him. “Oh, come on, there is no way you mean Scott, because he was here this morning, practically clawing up the sheets when you moved too fast. And no, Derek hasn’t. The rest of the group – pack? – will be waiting at the house for when I drag you in. They’ve been eating me out of house and home.”

eat you out of house and home. And someone had to watch what you cook for breakfast. I know there’s more bacon hidden somewhere,” Stiles says. He is not worried about Derek’s lack of presence. “And I wasn’t asking about Derek because why would I. Stop looking at me like that. When do I get to leave?”

“Afternoon. You get the wheelchair and everything. Melissa will show you how to use the crutch later today.” His father pulls up his usual chair, sitting down. “Though, before we return to the house, I’d like to talk.”

“I was wondering when you’d hit me with twenty questions.”

His father smiles, loose. “More like nine hundred. First starting with, why Scott?”

Stiles laughs, “Oh, man, I ask myself that question every day. You should’ve seen Peter’s face when he realized just who he’d turned. Hilarious.”

“Peter? You mean Peter Hale?”

“He was the one randomly murdering people. The maulings that everyone claimed was the work of a mountain lion? Yeah, no, it was Peter. He was a tad deranged and a lot loopy. We, uh, we killed him? And then he came back to life?”

“My questions just breached a thousand.” His father crosses his arms, leaning back in his chair. “He killed Kate Argent?”

“Yes.”

“Well, that must’ve created an interesting rift between Scott and Allison.”

Stiles shakes his head. “Nope, still going at it like bunnies. Right up until her mom died.”

“I suddenly fear asking anything more. So, let’s just go with what I need to know now. Those werewolves that attacked you in the yard, who were they?” his father asks.

Stiles picks at the IV. “We’re not entirely certain. We just know that an alpha pack came sniffing around and decided they wanted the territory. Derek hasn’t really explained it to us, but I’m not sure how much he knows. Werequeen is the head of this alpha pack, and I was singled out because I kept humiliating her in front of her pack mates. Our first introduction was at the wrong end of a baseball bat. Our second, I beat her at hide and seek. Those things burn deep, you know.

“Since then, she’s kind of been incredibly vindictive and straight up following the Bad Guy Book of Evil. She calls me ‘Red’. I find it endearing. I call her werequeen.” Stiles shakes his head. “But we’ve seemed to have crossed a line. She wanted me dead. She wanted me dead hard. And instead you killed two of her pack members. Her revenge meter is probably off the charts.”

“They were on my property,” his father defends. “And frankly making a mess of the yard.”

“Yes, your yard,” Stiles says, but he’s smiling again. “Anyway, that’s the beef on her. We’ve been trying to keep them at bay and from tearing apart the pack and possibly the town. With her attention focused on me, though, it looks like werequeen’ll spare that majority of the squishies.”

“You assume,” his father points out. “Never assume. Second question, how did I kill that one?”

“Monkshood, or better known as wolfsbane, is the easiest way to take a werewolf down. They heal supernaturally fast, so lacing the bullets with wolfsbane halts the healing process and allows for the poison to kill the werewolf. It takes about twenty four hours, but don’t quote me on that because the last patient I had was Derek and he wanted me to cut off his arm.”

“Your relationship with Derek makes me question so many things.”

Stiles laughs, but it has a bitter taste. “You have no idea.”

“And that brings us to the third, and to me the most important, question: what role do you play in all of this?”

Blinking, Stiles starts picking at his IV again. Truth of the matter, he’s kind of uncertain on that front. Yes, originally, he’d been there for Scott. But something has shifted in the entire dynamic, especially concerning his use of magic and his connection with Derek. He looks up at his dad and shrugs a shoulder. “I’m there for Scott.”

His father sighs. “Stiles.”

“I don’t really know, okay?” Stiles says, the tape coming off in his worried fingers. He hastily pushes it back down. “I don’t know what role I play. First it was helping Scott figure out the whole werewolf thing but now? I honestly don’t know. What Ido know is that I can’t think about Scott dead. I can’t think about the pack dead. I can’t think about Derek – I just, the idea that I can do something, that I can make their burden just that much easier, is too strong to ignore. So, I don’t ignore it and instead get on an alpha’s Most Wanted list.”

“You do have a knack for trouble,” his father says.

“I’ll have you know I was completely normal before Scott got bitten. Completely.” Stiles grins at his father’s eye roll. “But, well, there’s another little thing we should probably talk about that might make you want to ground me for life.”

“Oh, I can’t wait,” his father drawls, but his eyes narrow. Stiles fidgets.

“I’m magic?”

Thank god for the constant beeping of machinery or the silence would be far too awkward for Stiles to stand. His father stares at him and Stiles stares at the pink fabric of his chair. They should really think of new colours. “Can you repeat that?”

“I, uh, I have magic. I can do magical things. Or, well, magical things that are less like the magic you see in Dungeons and Dragons but more like magic that even I really don’t understand and that half the time I’m afraid will blow me up.”

“That sentence didn’t – Stiles, you have magic?”

Stiles nods, frantic. “Yes. Yes, I do, and that’s why werequeen has such an issue with me, I think. I don’t believe she expected to face a fledgling magic user, not to mention one that uses unconventional methods. So, it startled her, it startled me, and now here we are. Sitting in a hospital.”

“You’re magic.”

“Yes, we’ve established this.”

You have magic?”

“The more you say it, the more insecure I feel, jeez,” Stiles says. His father blinks at him rapidly. “Would it be better if I could show you some of it?”

“In the hospital?” His father looks close to throttling the nearest person. Which, seeing as that’s Stiles, makes him jump to explain.

“Deaton brought me my book on wards. I’ve been studying up on a slew of healing wards that might help me get back on my feet faster. If, uh, if you want to watch? I can show you how it works.” Stiles sits up and grabs the thick binder from under his pillow. His father is silent. Stiles drums his fingers on the spine, apprehension a messy crawl up his throat. “Or we don’t have to, never mind, it was a silly idea. Of course you don’t want to see magic. I’ll, uh, I’ll just –” Stiles moves to put the binder away and his father touches his shoulder.

“Show me a few spells.”

“Are you sure?” Stiles asks, unable to shake the anxiety. His father nods. “Because we don’t have to.”

“If you can do magic, I want to see it. Come on, let’s see what you can do.” His father keeps his hand pressed against Stiles’ shoulder until Stiles flips open the binder. And then he sits back, looking a little pale.

“Okay, so, I’ve been fiddling around with mostly defensive spells of late, but Deaton told me that there are healing spells that could be imperative in battle. It’s a matter of believing they’ll actually work that’s the trick. I can’t seem to get on top of that particular belief,” Stiles says. He picks up a ward inked in green. “There’s always that niggling doubt that a piece of paper and some wonky symbol can’t possibly heal me, don’t be absurd, and I feel too skeptical to even try.”

His father leans forward again, curiosity furrowing his brow. “So, your magic depends on belief?”

“Strange, isn’t it?”

“That sounds like difficult stuff. What happens if you don’t believe?” His father picks up the sheet, fingers tracing over the ancient ward. Stiles chews on his bottom lip.

“Well, it’ll either backfire or it won’t work. Though at one point I thought a certain spell wasn’t going to hold and it ended up doing so just out of spite. So, you can see why I haven’t tried with healing wards yet. I kind of want to get my belief under control. But I think I’m getting the hang of it.”

“All right, go on, show me how this works.” His father hands back the ward.

Stiles takes it and flips to a fresh paper, grabbing his pen and sketching the ward thick onto a strip at the top. The entire time his father is silent, almost oppressive, but Stiles focuses on his belief. This ward will heal the gash on my shoulder. It will heal the gash because it itches like a bitch and he wants the stitches out. It will heal the gash because Derek needs him and he needs Derek and he can’t stay holed up in a hospital while his sourwolf does something stupid.

He finishes drawing and breathes out. “Okay, ready?”

“Go for it.”

Stiles yanks down the neck of his shirt, ignoring the prickly burn that flares as the material drags over sensitive skin. He frowns, looking down at the ward on his lap, and the useless curl of his left arm. “Hold the collar.” His father reaches forward and does as told, watching narrow eyed as Stiles maneuvers the ward around until it hovers over his skin. He shares a look with his father and then gently lowers it over the wound.

There’s a brief moment of silence and nothing seems to happen. But between one breath and the next, the ward flares a silvery white and the paper flutters against his stitched up shoulder before pushing off on its own. Marked into Stiles’ skin is the ward, curled black ink and scratchy edges, and Stiles stares resolutely at it. Heal me. The ward flashes, again, and starts sinking into the puffed up edges of his clawed shoulder. The skin eats away at the marking, absorbing the entire thing, and Stiles is left with the same stitched up mess and nothing to show for it.

“Well, that was anticlimactic,” he says. He sits back against the pillows, fingers drumming out a beat on his book. “I was sure there would be more –”

Pain slams into his body so sharp he bows forward in shock. It spirals around his shoulder, little claws of agony digging in and setting up camp; it feels like shrapnel, angry shards of pain and tingling nerves playing havoc with his vision. He thinks he shouts. He thinks he tries to get away. The pain is so blinding that there’s nothing else he can focus on. Black ink swirls behind his eyelids in the form of the ward, and when he opens his eyes, his father is shouting for help.

“Dad,” Stiles tries, but his throat is sandpaper dry and the sound dies on his tongue. The pain pulses a steady beat, echoing his heart, and he can’t feel his left arm at all. His dad is still shouting. “Dad, it’s okay.”

The pain spikes again, but it’s moving around his shoulder now, cartwheeling down his arm and focusing laser fast on the stitches crisscrossed down to his elbow. He can’t see, he can’t hear, and Stiles is almost certain this is what dying feels like. None of his other wards had reacted like this, like this excruciating tangle of agony and numbness. He’s lost, drowning in an unbearable spiral, and nothing he does can drag him out.

Stiles doesn’t know if his father is still in the room; he can’t hear him shouting, but then again, he can’t hear anything but white static, filling up his ears like cotton. He digs his shoulder blades into the bed, yelps when that causes his left side to blaze fury hot, and tries to roll over. The fingers of his left hand are curled into a claw, sheets caught up in and around his fingers, making it impossible to turn without increasing the already impossible pain. He tries to sit up instead and pain sends him falling back down. His vision clears, just a moment, and he sees a flash of recognizable black hair.

Derek,” he gasps, but he can’t say more. The fire is devouring his entire left arm, blazing bright with blistering torment that he can’t run away from. It digs into his wrist, snaps up and over his elbow, and twists around his shoulder. He’s dying and he can’t stop it.

Fingers press against his pulse, tender and easy, and he can hear his name being called. His hand jerks up, fingernails digging into the thin skin of his saviours’ wrist, and suddenly he can breathe. The pain starts to recede, racing away like a drain plug being pulled, and his vision is completely shot. The hand stays curled gentle against his throat, hot and sure and safe, and Stiles can feel an answering heartbeat in those fingertips.

“You could’ve called,” Derek says, a flush over his cheeks and eyes bleeding red. The veins up his arm pulse black before fading away and Stiles is left exhausted and shaken on the bed. Derek doesn’t release him, though, keeps running light pressure up and down Stiles’ neck.

Stiles croaks, “But this way was so much more fun.”

“What did you do?” Derek asks. “You blacked out your room.”

When Stiles can hear past the insistent ringing in his ears, the howl of the wind through the shattered remains of his window is deafening. His IV lies on the floor, blood pouring sluggish over the pale strip of his hand. The machine monitoring his heartbeat is frozen mid beep, the little blip on the screen fluctuating like it knows it needs to drop. There are calls of alarm out in the hallway, speakers crackling in confusion, and Stiles swallows. Blinking, he tightens his hold on Derek’s wrist. “I don’t know.”

“I could hear you,” Derek says. He drags his thumb feather light over Stiles’ pulse. “You were in so much pain and you were screaming. What did you do?”

“I tried a healing ward?” Stiles says. He blinks. “I wonder if it worked.”

Carefully maneuvering himself so that Derek is still touching him in some way, he yanks down the collar of his shirt. Unblemished skin meets his eyes and he grins. Then he flexes his wrist, rolls his shoulder, and stares in stunned surprise at the pale unmarked skin of his arm. It worked.

“Healing wards suck,” Stiles says. Derek sighs and ducks his head close, removing his hand so he can box Stiles in. He tucks his nose right up behind Stiles’ ear and Stiles freezes. Derek breathes in deep, brushing a stubbled cheek against Stiles’ fluttering pulse. “Derek?”

“Next time, call,” Derek says, voice rough, and Stiles swallows. Derek presses close until his weight pushes Stiles’ shoulder down, bearing his neck. Stiles doesn’t stop him, just lets his shoulder drop and tilts his head to the side, pulse ratcheting up at the pleased rumble Derek gives him. He feels heavy, not because of how Derek is practically climbing onto his bed, but like there’s a dense pull in his chest, as though something is clicking into place.

Derek nuzzles closer and Stiles hauls him in with his healed hand, fingers wrapped eager in his leather jacket. Derek’s warmth covers him completely; it sinks into his bones and takes up residence in his stomach, thick and heady. There’s magic on his tongue, tangy sweet and ready, and when Derek drags his lips over Stiles’ jawline, he can almost feel it reacting. He turns his head so he can press his mouth against Derek’s temple, eyes closing.

And then the door clicks and Derek stumbles away from him so fast Stiles almost gets whiplash. The machine beeps on with an angry screeeeech and the television blows out. Static crackles over the speakers and the feedback loop makes Stiles dizzy. His father stares at him from the doorway, eyes wide and afraid, and Stiles gestures with his left arm. “Look, pa, I’m magic!”

His father drags a hand over his face and strides in, grabbing him up in a hug and not letting go. Stiles is hyperaware of Derek edging toward the doorway, and he’ll be damned if he loses him again because he can’t move. “I’m thinking I’ll try those wards on my leg now.”

“You’re an idiot,” Derek says, but he stops trying to flee.

His father pulls back, fingers flexing on his shoulders. “Derek just showed up and threw us all out. Are you okay?”

“I think so,” Stiles says. “I don’t know what went wrong.”

“Your room went insane. Something broke the window, the machinery went haywire, and you just wouldn't stop screaming. You didn’t tell me your magic would hurt you like that,” his father says, hauling him back in for a hug. “Don’t do it again.”

“It’s never done that before!” Stiles protests. He can see Derek shifting on his feet, looking uncomfortable and caged and Stiles sighs. “Dad, I need to talk to Derek. I know this was a traumatizing moment, I know that we’ll need to talk about this and all the repercussions, but I really need to talk to Derek.”

“Okay,” his father says. “Okay. Okay, I can allow that. But you call me the moment anything happens. And Derek, if you let him use that ward magic on himself again, I’m holding you personally responsible. And the bullet won’t come out this time.”

Derek blinks, eyes widening in alarm, and nods. “Yes, sir.”

“I need something greasy,” his father says, scrubbing hands through his hair as he walks toward the door.

“Don’t! I’ll tell Melissa on you!” Stiles calls after him, but his father is already gone. Stiles flicks his fingers in annoyance and then turns his attention to Derek. “You and I need to have a talk.”

“I’m sure it can wait until you’re out of the hospital,” Derek says.

Stiles throws his arms in the air. “Did you miss the part where I healed myself? I can be out of this hospital within an hour if I keep it up.”

“You almost killed yourself!” Derek snaps, reaching his bedside in three easy strides. “You were dying, Stiles, I could smell it on you. It was all over you, magic and death and so much pain, and you were dying and I couldn’t do anything about it because I didn’t know what you did.”

“But I’m fine now,” Stiles points out.

Derek makes a motion like he wants to shake Stiles by the face, eyes pinched and scared and angry. “I’ll reiterate, then. If you use those healing wards on yourself again, you will die.”

“You don’t know that,” Stiles says.

“I don’t know how to make you understand this. Whatever you did, you did it wrong. It almost killed you. It almost killed –” Derek cuts off, looking away. He huffs out, frustrated. “I won’t watch you kill yourself.”

“You weren’t answering my calls,” Stiles says. Derek stares at him, incredulous. “What? I had the entire pack out looking for you. You told me you would be back in the morning and you weren’t. You were gone, Derek. For five days. For all we knew, you’d gone off and sacrificed yourself to werequeen’s mercy.”

“Her name is Alex,” Derek says absently. “And that doesn’t give you the right to kill yourself.”

“I wasn’t trying to kill myself!” Stiles says. He gropes around for his binder, yanking it toward him. “Deaton told me healing wards can be incredibly useful in battle. I’d been working on them ever since you up and hid, but they never took my belief. And I needed them to work because if you were captured, or worse, dead, then being half crippled wasn’t going to get you avenged.”

“You would sense if I died,” Derek says. And then he blinks, startled. “I mean, the pack would sense if I died. You would’ve known immediately through one of them.” 

Stiles stares at him. “Say that again.”

“The pack would –”

“You are the most frustrating supernatural creature I’ve ever dealt with,” Stiles says. “Why would I be able to sense if you were dead? What are you keeping from me? And why do you keep, you know.” Stiles gestures between them and Derek just frowns harder. “Why do you keep climbing all over me and smelling me and other things?”

Derek gets that caged look again, like there are nineteen different places he would rather be than here and he could name each one at the drop of a hat. Stiles leans forward and snags his sleeve, certain that Derek won’t pull away if it might harm him. Derek shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter.”

“You are so full of bullshit.”

“And you are a constant headache.”

“That doesn’t mean you have to lie to me. I can help, Derek.”

“No, you can’t.”

“Will you stop with the lone wolf routine? I know what happens to omegas, Derek, and you aren’t one. Let me help.”

Derek’s eyes flash, crystallized rage, and he snarls low, “Your help is the last I want.”

The words kick him in the chest, right where his heart is rabbiting against his ribcage. He can taste them like black acid on his tongue, bouncing up and into his head. His fingers fall from Derek’s sleeve. Derek doesn’t look away from him, clear eyes burning, and Stiles swallows against the sick fear that suddenly takes over. Oh, he hasn’t felt that in a while.

“Right. I think you should be elsewhere now.” Stiles shifts, tucks his shoulders up against his ears. He can still feel the phantom touch of Derek’s lips along his skin. “And check in with your pack every once in a while. I’m sick of playing messenger bird.”

Derek squeezes his eyes shut and turns on his heel, slipping out the door without a sound. Stiles glares after him, body hunched up and defensive, and his throat burns from the force of holding in the words. He waits, waits until he’s certain Derek is gone, waits until he can hear his father’s voice bouncing down the hallway on the way back to him, and then finally lets himself say it.

Come back.”

 

His father wheels him out of the hospital at four o’clock to pouring rain and stormy wind. Scott is beside him, practically vibrating in his steps, holding the umbrella straight up against the gust. He’s talking nonstop, filling the silence that Stiles himself can’t bother to. He can still hear Derek’s anger and it’s feeding his own, a dangerous loop that doesn’t seem to have an end; he doesn’t even register when they get to the car and his father asks if he can stand.

“I can try,” Stiles answers, awkwardly placing the crutch on the ground. Scott hovers beside him, hand out just in case, and Stiles rolls his eyes at him. It takes a moment, more staggering to the side and almost losing his balance, but he gets the crutch under his shoulder and the pain eases up on his leg. Scott passes a hand over his arm, taking away what he can, and Stiles quirks a smile at him.

“Let’s get you in the car and home,” his father says. Stiles nods, hobbling toward the opened passenger door. The stitches pull against his back, against his chest and thigh, but he’s mobile. He thinks of the healing wards tucked in his backpack. But then he remembers Derek and that curl of anger starts all over again.

“You’ll have to put me up again, dad. Don’t think your bacon will survive,” Stiles says, carefully holding onto the edge of the door. His father sighs.

“Your pack ate all of it. I have no more bacon. I am baconless.” His father guides him carefully into the seat, taking his crutch and putting it in the back. Scott bounds in after it, shaking water out of his hair. He leans forward so he can be beside Stiles, still wriggling in contained excitement.

Stiles gives him a look. “You’re freaking me out here, dude. Did you have an extra cup of coffee this afternoon? Why are you wiggling, I am so uncomfortable.”

Scott gives him a hurt look and Stiles tries to return it. Scott says, “You’re okay. You’re up and walking around and you smell like hospital but it's fading and that means everything is going to be okay.”

The optimistic smile on Scott’s face makes Stiles huff a laugh. His father slips himself into the driver’s side and starts the car, asking Scott about whether or not the pack is still taking up all his space. Stiles stares out the side window, the rain smearing up the street and painting it in kaleidoscopes. His teeth find his bottom lip; he doesn’t know what to do.

They turn down Stiles’ street and he can already feel the thrum of magic against his fingertips. The house doesn’t look any worse for wear and Stiles has to ask, “Any sign of our favourite werequeen?”

“Not since your dad shot two of them,” Scott says. “We haven’t even been able to track them, either. Their scents disappear in the trees around your house.”

“Well, that’s worrying,” Stiles says. Scott props his chin on the seat.

“What’s more worrying is how it’s the same with Derek. We can’t seem to get a hold of him, and Erica has been trying for days to contact him. Boyd can’t even get him to answer and Derek always appears when he calls. I think your neighbours are starting to get worried about all the howling. You don’t think he went out and after the alphas do you?” Scott asks.

Stiles purses his lips, the confession tight on his tongue, and he shares a look with his father. His father says, “There are always ways to contact a person. Maybe you’re looking into the wrong sort.”

“And I’m pretty sure anything we do come up with, Derek will ignore,” Stiles says, thinking again of the wards. If he tried to heal himself, would Derek come running again? Or would he let Stiles die? Would the ward act the same way; would he be trapped in that horrible pain until his heart stopped or was that a one off thing? He hates to admit it, but his curiosity is piqued and he wants to know.

Scott frowns. “Do you have another way?”

“Yes,” Stiles says at the same time his father says, “No.”

“Don’t you dare, Stiles. I won’t have you short circuiting everything in the house and possibly killing yourself because Derek Hale is too stubborn to answer his phone,” his father warns.

Stiles flaps a hand. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

But his father’s face is set in that firm determined way that means Stiles won’t get any time alone to possibly institute his plan. He picks at the fold in his pants, mind racing. He needs to try again. There’s that distinct possibility that he can do this, that he can get it right, and even if Derek doesn’t come running, at least Stiles will know. It’s his magic, after all. He can do what he wants with it.

Turning into the lot, Stiles feels the crawl of magic up his spine, familiar and warm, and the tightness in his chest finally ease. Scott scrambles out of the back once they park and gets Stiles’ door open, umbrella up and ready. Stiles takes his hand and hauls himself out, setting up the crutch and glaring mutinously at his leg. That’ll be the first thing he heals. He needs to at least be able to walk.

His father grabs his bag and Stiles’ fingers itch to get the binder out. But he has to put up appearances first. Once he’s alone, though, that book is his. Together, all three make their way up the steps, Stiles’ eyes drawn to the ward carved under the windowsill. The magic is weakening, fading from his lack of presence, and Stiles hobbles over to it to instill a bit more of his belief in it. The house is safe from the alpha pack. The ward vibrates warm against his fingers and Stiles grins. He’ll have to make his way around the house later.

“How many of those do you have on the house?” his father asks, squinting at the tiny carving.

“Eighteen in total. That’s not to include the barrier I’ve drawn around most of the property. I should probably finish up the backyard, what with how it kind of failed me last time.” Stiles gets to the door first, shoving his shoulder against the wood as it sticks. It gives under him and he stumbles inside, catching himself against the frame.

“Have to say, I was expecting a party,” Stiles says to the silence. His father moves him to the side as he walks in, shaking out his blazer and hanging it up. He hands off Stiles’ pack to Scott, who lifts his nose to the air, and frowns.

“They still smell like they’re here.”

“They’ve been sticking close ever since you went into the hospital,” his father says. He walks toward the kitchen, leaving Scott and Stiles in the foyer. “They probably just needed some fresh air.”

“I’m just going to settle in upstairs!” Stiles shouts. Scott sticks to his side like he’s about to faint at any moment and Stiles purposefully staggers just to watch his reaction. When they get to the stairs, Stiles smacks his crutch against the first step. “I have decided to veto all stairs. Ever. Why is my room upstairs, Scott? What did I do to deserve this?”

“Do you want me to carry you up?” Scott asks, and he sounds so sincere that Stiles contemplates it for longer than he should. Scott does that wiggle again. It’s almost like he’s waging an imaginary tail.

“I am both on board with that plan and completely against it. On board because you haven’t carried me since we were seven and I talked you into playing airplane. You almost died when we got to the stairs. Against it because I’m not a damsel in distress and if you say I am I will hit you with a shoe.” Stiles tucks his crutch up close and takes the first tentative step. “Though if you’re feeling particularly heroic, I will not complain.”

 “It was a yes or no question, Stiles,” Scott says, but he’s smiling. Stiles clings to the banister as he forces his body up the stairs, gritting his teeth against every pull and strain. At one point, Scott grabs his shirt like he truly will lift him up and carry him the rest of the way, but he backs off and let’s Stiles make the climb. When Stiles hits that last step, he’s exhausted and still strong in his plan to veto all stairs.

“We’re having dinner up here. I don’t care what you say, I am not doing that again,” Stiles wheezes, leaning against the wall. Scott digs in his backpack, tongue peeking out between his teeth, and huffs in triumph when he pulls out a white bottle.

“Pain killers! Mom said you shouldn’t overdo it, though. They’re just for extreme cases.” Scott tucks the backpack close to his chest as he fights with the cap. Stiles watches him, amused, catching his breath. Walking is going to suck. He needs to get his hands on those wards again.

“Oh, give me that, you’re making me cry,” Stiles says, reaching for the bottle. Scott pouts at him but hands it over, snatching the bottle back when Stiles gets it open. “Come on, I’m not going to down the entire thing. I’m not stupid.”

“Only one pill,” Scott says, pointedly shaking out a white pill. “And only once every four hours. Otherwise there could be side effects.”

“You are adorable, really,” Stiles says. “You’re killing me here, dude. I don’t need a nursemaid.”  

“I promised your dad I would help out,” Scott says. “And besides, you’re not really in fighting condition, so I can act as a bodyguard too!”

“Guard dog duty,” Stiles grumbles, pushing off the wall. He takes the pill from Scott’s outstretched hand. “My life, what is it?”

Swinging the crutch, he starts his way toward his door. Scott takes the lead, walking backwards as he talks amicably about how Allison will be getting all his homework and how not to worry, because Lydia promised to give him the lectures if he missed anything crucial. But then he stops, nose wrinkling up, and turns toward Stiles’ closed door.

“What is it, boy?” Stiles asks, grinning despite himself.

Scott hits him with a look as Stiles pushes past him. He swings the door open and there, on his bed, are all three pack members jumbled into a messy, sleepy pile. Erica has her face shoved into Boyd’s neck and Isaac is sprawled across Boyd’s chest and Erica’s hip in what looks like the most uncomfortable sleeping position to date. Boyd’s eyes snap open when Stiles steps through, and he tumbles the other two off of him as he grins at Stiles.

“How are you feeling?” Boyd asks.

Stiles hobbles his way in. “Well, considering I was mauled a week ago, awesome. Though I have to admit, no welcome party, no hugs, no nothing, and I had to climb the stairs all by my lonesome? I’m offended.”

“Shut up, Stiles,” Erica grumbles, blonde hair a tangle around her head. “We got bored waiting for you. Isaac made you a casserole using the remainder of the bacon. I was going to make a cake but I got vetoed.”

“And you’re all sleeping in my bed why?” Stiles asks. Isaac looks away guiltily but Erica just shuffles until her head is shoved under his pillow. Boyd stands and approaches him, passing a hand over his and taking some of his pain. Stiles flicks his eyes down to watch the rush of black. “You guys have to stop doing that. I’m going to get addicted.”

“You don’t have as much pain in you as before,” Boyd says, frowning. “Your left arm is pain free.”

“Ah, yes, about that,” Stiles says.

But Isaac suddenly perks up. “You smell like Derek. Mostly hospital, but there’s a faint Derek scent there.” He scoots off the bed and prowls his way toward Stiles, nostrils flaring. “When did you see him?”

“I didn’t,” Stiles hedges, trying to hobble around him. Curse his lack of mobility. “I haven’t seen him since the accident, obviously.”

“You would be terrible at poker,” Erica says, voice muffled. She lifts the pillow long enough to hit Stiles with a look. “You didn’t smell like him yesterday, and you didn’t smell like him last night, so it had to be this morning. That is all easily figured out. What I find interesting is how your heart is going like someone caught you with your hand down your pants. Did something happen?”

“Nope,” Stiles says. Isaac is almost on top of him, his lips pulled down in a frown. Stiles did not sign up for this. “Last time I saw him he was bleeding all over the lawn, probably killed it down to the roots, and that is all. That is it. I didn’t see him this morning. It’s incredibly disconcerting when you all stare at me like that.”

“Well,” Isaac says, crossing his arms. “If you saw him this morning that means he wasn’t captured, so we can stop freaking out in your room. He should be nearby still, yeah?”

Boyd nods. “We can spread out around town. He might’ve gone back to the Hale house. You said it was warded?”

“I didn’t see him this morning, you weren’t there, so obviously I didn’t,” Stiles points out. Isaac cocks his head to the side. “No, not with the puppy eyes, I have to deal with Scott’s on a regular basis, I’ve built an immunity. The Hale house was warded a month ago. Flee. Go. Let me actually sleep on my bed.”

Erica doesn’t move, clinging to the pillow when Boyd tries to shove her off. “I volunteer to stay here. I can protect Stiles from the big bads. And his bed is comfy.”

“Off, she-wolf,” Stiles says, lifting his crutch to poke at Erica’s side. “I just got out of the hospital. Cut me some slack here.”

“I’m supposed to protect Stiles,” Scott speaks up. He’s getting that wounded look again. “I already talked to his dad and everything. I’ll make sure he’s okay.”

“It’s not like I can’t protect myself, guys, really. I’ve managed to do pretty well considering the fascination Death has with my ass at the moment.” Stiles hears his window open and pokes at Erica again. “I promise to lock the window behind you. I promise to set up little wards all around my bedroom so that I can’t be snuck up on. I promise to sleep in my own bed, oh my god, Erica, get off.”

Erica rolls off the bed in a smooth glide, tangled hair still looking fantastic regardless of how it sticks up around her head. She’s holding his pillow. Stiles records it as a loss, resigning himself to crawling down the hall to steal his fathers. “Go, shoo!”

The pack gives him another look before slinking out the window. Erica sticks her tongue out at him before disappearing. Stiles falls face first onto his bed, despairing at the loss of such a wonderful pillow. His stitches protest vehemently and he rolls over with a pained groan. Scott circles around his room, closing and locking the window, before falling onto the bed beside Stiles and propping his chin on Stiles’ arm. He grins up at him. “Dinner?”

Stiles yanks the comforter up to try and smother himself. Scott wuffs at him and tugs it back down. The window bleeds golden light into his room. Sound quivers along the edges, howls tense in the air, and Stiles doesn’t think about Derek.