Stiles picks up the jar of mountain ash first, because it’s usually a good base, but he puts it back on the counter after a second thought. Mountain ash tends to repel supernatural creatures and energies, block them off, and that’s not exactly what he’s going for here. Instead, he takes the jar of labradorite dust, smiling a little at the dog-like name, and pours a good handful of it in the bowl in front of him.
He adds in a little bit of rosemary, some powdered juniper berries, and a fair dose of basswood bark. Then, a fingertip pressed against his lips, he cocks his head to the side, thinking. Something’s missing. Ah, yes, that could do it. Stiles opens the gemstones box and picks up a small, pink, translucent gem. The morganite catches the artificial light as Stiles puts it down next to the bowl.
“Do you think it’ll work?”
“Well,” says Dr. Deaton, “let’s see.”
The veterinarian smiles, then opens the wooden box containing a single Indian aconite flower, dissipating the protective spells over it with a brush of his hand. Aconitum ferox, Stiles knows. Not poisonous in itself to werewolves, but it prevents them from healing. Hunters don’t really use it, they prefer the more aggressive forms of wolfsbane, but it’s perfect for studying healing rituals.
Scott watches nervously as Dr. Deaton chops up the flower with a sharp knife, then walks up to him with said knife in hand. But he’s agreed to this, and if Stiles messes up he’s pretty sure Deaton can fix it, so he holds out his arm to the vet. Deaton cut’s the skin of Scott’s forearm with professional precision, and Scott hisses as blood starts to pour out.
“Okay,” Stiles says, determined. “Let’s do this.”
Under Deaton’s watchful eyes, he makes Scott sit down on the floor and takes a handful of the bowl’s contents, letting it drip out of his fist to form a circle around his best friend. Intent is everything when you’re doing magic, so Stiles concentrates, forces himself to look at the cut, at the blood now dripping on the floor next to Scott.
He kneels in front of the werewolf, pouring the rest of the mixed powder in his right hand. With the left one, he presses the morganite gem against one end of the cut on Scott’s arm, and Scott makes a small pained noise, very faint but there. Stiles forces himself to ignore it as he holds the gem in place and covers the cut with the powder in his right hand, visualizing in his mind the wolfsbane vanishing, the cut starting to heal. His breathing is labored, his head buzzing as he focuses, but suddenly he can see Scott’s skin slowly starting to mend.
“Yes!” Stiles shouts, fist-bumping the air, letting his mind go back to its usual distracted state. He’s going to have a hard time concentrating on things for the next twenty-four hours, but it’s worth it, because he did a thing.
“Well done, Stiles,” Dr. Deaton says calmly.
“I wasn’t quite sure about the juniper berries with the basswood at first, but the morganite totally made it work, right?”
“Yes. Though personally I would have gone with the basswood for base instead of the labradorite, but then I have an affinity for plants, whereas I believe you might be more strongly connected to earth.”
Stiles is scooping the powder on the floor back into the bowl, because you never know, it might come in handy at some point and it would be stupid to waste it. He looks up at the vet, though, frowning.
“Connected to earth?” he prompts, because Deaton always does that, drops a little bit of information that he will not expand on unless Stiles asks for more details.
Deaton smiles like he’s proud Stiles picked up on this.
“Witches,” he says, and Stiles’s eye twitches like every time Deaton uses that word to refer to people with an affinity for magic, “can draw energy from six elemental sources: plants, which are my personal inclination, earth, like you seem to be doing, favoring minerals, fire, water, the moon and the sun.”
That’s just fascinating, and Stiles is about to press the vet for more details, but the door of the clinic opens. Since it’s after hours it means someone with a key, and both Stiles and Scott are already in, so that leaves only one other possibility.
“Hey Isaac,” Stiles says without turning around as he finishes cleaning up.
“Hi Stiles,” comes the easy reply. “Dr. Deaton. Scott.”
Isaac has been passing by on a regular basis. Deaton is teaching him some of these neat werewolf tricks that Scott has shown Stiles, and the young werewolf has been casually keeping them up to date with the Peter situation (Derek rarely lets him out of his sight, but he seems okay and not particularly murder-inclined) and the Alpha pack situation (no real news on that front, they’re here somewhere but haven’t shown themselves). Stiles actually likes Isaac when he’s not trying to be a badass.
“Hello Isaac,” Deaton says with his usual calm, but his voice is slightly colder when he adds, “Derek, Peter.”
Stiles turns around and sure enough, Derek and Peter Hale are in the clinic with them. Derek looks at the blood Scott is currently cleaning off his almost-completely healed arm, then eyes Stiles with heavily-concealed curiosity. The fact that Stiles knows Derek’s almost identical facial expressions well enough to read him like that is kind of weird, but it’s Stiles’s life.
Peter leans against the wall next to the door, trying to look as non-threatening as he can, but Stiles is with Derek on this one, he doesn’t trust the former Alpha.
“What are you doing here?” Scott asks, frowning in the general direction of the Hales.
“I needed to talk to you,” Derek says. “About the Alpha pack.”
“They’re your problem, not mine,” Scott says, dismissively.
Stiles rolls his eyes. “Come on, dude, for once he seems to be willing to spontaneously share info.”
Scott looks at him like Stiles just betrayed him. Stiles shrugs. What harm can talking do? His eyes catch a glimpse of Peter’s vaguely amused expression, still nonchalantly leaning against the wall, and looks away, feeling a little bit uneasy.
“Alright, what do you want then?” Scott asks Derek, eventually.
“We picked up what we think might be their scent, and it lead us close to your house. So keep an eye out,” Derek grits out.
“Wait, near his house?” Stiles cuts in. “I thought they were here for you, looking up the new Alpha and all. What does Scott have to do with it?”
“How would they know you’re… he’s not pack?” Derek snaps back. “It makes no sense for a young werewolf to be an Omega in a town where there’s a pack.”
“It makes sense when you’re the Alpha,” Scott replies.
Derek doesn’t say anything to that, his jaw clenching, his eyes squinting like he’d really like to throw something against a wall. Or someone. Stiles resists the urge to take a step back, no matter how prudent it would seem. He’s learning not to show weakness or fear in front of a big, scary predator such as a werewolf. Well, it’s a work in progress.
“We’ll let you know if we see anything,” he says when the silence stretches for too long, because he hates that tension. They are all on the same side here, and there really is no point in fighting each other.
Derek nods, which is as much of a thank you as anyone could expect from him, and walks out the door.
“You know, there are much worse Alphas than my admittedly incompetent nephew,” Peter tells them. “But you’re probably going to see that by yourself sooner rather than later.” He shrugs, then follows Derek outside.
“We already have,” Stiles shouts after him. “You were a TERRIBLE Alpha!”
There’s no reply, but he knows Peter heard him.
Peter raises an eyebrow at him, managing to make it look almost mocking, and Derek grinds his teeth before turning the key in the ignition. They drive in silence for a little while, until Peter reaches towards the radio with the clear intention to turn it on. Derek shoots him a look that he wishes could kill.
“Okay, okay, no music,” Peter says, taking his hand back. “But you know, your conversation skills are kind of lacking.”
Derek’s only reply is a low growl. Peter sighs dramatically.
“What I wouldn’t do, sometimes, to have someone like Stiles to entertain me,” he continues. “Seriously, you should keep this kid around, and not only for his very useful and pretty mouth. Forget Scott, it’s Stiles you should want in your pack. I know I did.”
Derek steps on the breaks and the Camaro comes to a brutal stop in a screech of tires.
“What the Hell?” Derek barks, and Peter’s answering smirk is just enraging.
“Come on,” his uncle says, nonchalant. “The kid’s resourceful, incredibly loyal, has great instincts and, as it turns out, he’s a witch! You know how powerful witch werewolves can be.”
“Because randomly turning someone who doesn’t want the bite is the best way to convince them to join the pack,” Derek snaps. “It turned out so well when you did that to Scott.”
Derek knew that neither Scott nor Stiles would ever forgive him if he bit Stiles.
“Just because I messed up that part doesn’t mean you have to. He wants it, you just need to convince him that you’re not me.”
Did Peter just admit that he’d been wrong about something? That might be a first. Still, Derek doubts there was anything he could do to convince Scott to join him, and that Stiles would never betray his best friend.
“Forget it, I’m not going to offer the bite to Stiles.”
Derek starts the car again, feeling even angrier than he did when they left the animal clinic. Peter has that effect on him. It’s been incredibly hard to resist the urge to slash his uncle’s throat again, maybe cut him in half afterwards to make sure he stays dead. But he needs any manpower he can get, now that the Alphas are here. They don’t know what they want yet, but it can’t be good. It’s never good.
“Fine, suit yourself,” Peter says. “We still need a witch.”
“We have Deaton,” Derek grits out.
The vet said he would help, though he hasn’t really proven that useful yet where the Alpha Pack is concerned. He only hears rumours, ones that Derek’s heard before, about how they roam the country and leave a trail of death and fear behind them in the supernatural world, and are good enough never to get caught by humans, hunters or otherwise. Some say they have witches with them, some say they have witches among them, and all agree that whatever they want, it’s never good.
“I don’t trust Deaton,” Peter huffs, almost pouting.
As a rule, Peter doesn’t seem to like anyone who isn’t scared of him, and doesn’t trust anyone period, though, so Derek decides to ignore him.
Neither of them says another word for the rest of the drive back to the family house but Peter is an unnerving presence in the car, darkening Derek’s mood just by being there. Just by being.
When they arrive, Derek stomps out of the car and goes straight inside. He walks up the stairs, refraining from just leaping up, and shuts himself in his room. His shirt probably doesn’t deserve to be taken off quite so forcefully, but between Scott’s renewed rejection and Peter’s... well, Peter, he has a lot of anger to work out.
Derek grabs his barbells from the corner of his room. He knows it’s not really necessary, the muscles don’t provide that much extra strength. That’s been even more true since he became an Alpha. But still, it’s always been a way for him to clear his head, to stop thinking.
He tunes out the sounds of Peter working on repairing the stairs as he begins lifting. Derek’s anger starts to recede after five minutes, and he’s mostly calmed down by the time he moves on to doing push-ups.
He only stops about an hour later, when he hears Isaac come back from the vet’s. He meets him in the hallway and they exchange a few words, but Isaac doesn’t have much to say and he trails off to the room he’s claimed as his own, the one that used to belong to Derek’s little brother.
Before his thoughts can drift to painful memories, Derek shakes himself and walks up to the bathroom. Someone –probably Peter, but it also could have been Isaac– has replaced the broken glass door of the shower with a white plastic curtain. There are most likely more important things to repair or replace in this house, however Derek can’t deny that it makes the place look more civilized.
The water is lukewarm and the pressure too weak, but it still feels good to wash out the sweat and stress of the day. When he turns the shower off and grabs a towel to dry himself, he finds Peter leaning against the door frame. He’s not surprised; he’s heard him arriving. Still, it irritates him.
“What do you want?” Derek asks flatly as he towels his hair, not bothering to cover up.
“You got a text,” Peter says, waving Derek’s cellphone. “From Stiles.”
“Give me that,” Derek growls, snatching the phone from his uncle’s hand.
“Calm down, I didn’t read it.” Derek doesn’t have to look at him to know Peter’s dramatically rolling his eyes. “I just wanted to know if it was anything interesting.”
“No,” Derek replies shortly after skimming through the message. Then he pushes past his uncle and goes back to his bedroom, even though he’s still dripping water.
Once he’s in the privacy of his own room he finishes drying off before sitting down on the bed and opening the text again. He didn’t lie, there’s nothing of vital importance in there, it’s just Stiles babbling.
Hey, dude, just wanted to thank you for keeping us up to date with the whole Alpha Pack thing! I’ll make sure Scott lets you know if he sees anything, or at least I’ll make him tell Isaac. Scott really likes Isaac, you know? It’s a good thing too. Isaac seems to need to feel loved after all that happened with his dad. I know you tend to express yourself by shoving people against walls, but you should make sure he knows you care, you know? Anyways, I’m rambling, so yeah, thank you, and don’t worry about Scott too much. Don’t be a sour wolf!
Derek feels both exasperated and amused by Stiles’s parting words. He reads again the part about Isaac and Scott, wondering if there’s a risk Isaac might leave the pack and join the other teenager. If that happened, it would leave Derek weak, with Peter his only Beta.
Jackson doesn’t count, he’s not quite a werewolf, he’s something else, so he can’t be pack. Well, he could, in the same way that humans can be pack, too, but Alphas can’t draw strength from them. Jackson wants to be left alone, anyway.
Derek mulls it over as he slides under the covers. He can’t... He’s not the kind of person who can easily show feelings. He’s not going to give Isaac hugs (that would be just awkward) or go easier on him during training (that would be just stupid), but maybe he could try and give him some words of approval?
He doesn’t know why he takes Stiles’s words so seriously. Probably because they only voice Derek’s inner fears. Erica and Boyd left him. Even when they realized it had been a ruse and there hadn’t been another pack, they didn’t come back to him when Chris Argent let them go. Scott not only left him, he’s rejected him constantly, and only joined him briefly as part of his plan.
Not for the first time, Derek wishes that Laura was still here. She’d been a good Alpha to him. She wouldn’t have messed things up the way he did. Which makes Peter’s presence even worse. Accident or not (and Derek still wasn’t sure he believes his uncle when he says he never meant to kill Laura), he’ll never be able to forgive Peter.
Derek dreams of the fire. He dreams of the moment when he felt his Alpha (his father) burn, their bond a liquid flames of pain. He’d fallen from his chair, and then Laura had been there, running through the classroom door and wrapping her arms around him as they felt the pack bond turn to ash.
As he wakes up suddenly in the darkness of his bedroom he can still feel it, can still feel his pack slipping away from him, but this time Laura isn’t here, and there is no new bond forging between the two survivors. Derek shouts as the bond between him and his pack gets torn from him, along with something else, something that’s always been a part of him, even after Laura’s death, when he was completely alone...
Isaac and Peter burst through the door but Derek can’t feel them, all he can feel as he lays panting between the torn sheets is absence. There’s a void in his mind where he can’t feel his Betas anymore, and there’s an even deeper void that he can’t identify.
He blinks in the darkness. He can’t see; Peter and Isaac are only shapes. He can’t hear the sound of their heartbeats either, or smell their scent. His senses are dull. Human. Once the word comes to his mind, he knows what that void inside him is. His wolf. His wolf is gone.
His fingers claw the mattress and it tears. His shout goes from human to animal as he feels his face shift, skin rippling over morphing bone structure. When the pain finally recedes, Stiles takes long, panting breaths.
He knows even before he sits up and looks in the mirror. He knows, because there are fangs in his mouth, because he’s slashed his mattress with long claws, because he can see in the darkened bedroom as if it was day. He knows because he can hear the neighbors complaining about stray dogs, because he can smell the flowers from the neighbors’ yard and the dirty laundry in the bathroom basket. He knows, but he doesn’t believe it. Can’t believe it.
And yet the mirror doesn’t lie. Stiles gets up, walks towards it. Slowly, almost carefully, he lifts a clawed hand to his face, touches the flat, strong nose, the thick, brown hair on the side of his cheeks. His long ears are puzzlingly hard but somewhat soft at the same time, with a tuft of hair at the tip.
The fangs are... They’re huge, is the first thing that comes to Stiles’s mind. Huge and sharp. His whole jaw has changed, it’s wider, more square, and full of killer teeth. He wonders how awkward speaking must be.
“Hello,” he says to the mirror, and it sounds angry, threatening. The adrenaline from the change is still coursing through his system, so that might be why.
“I’m a big, bad wolf,” he tries again, snarling. The werewolf in the mirror looks scary, charismatic, powerful. His eyes glow red.
He has no idea how this happened, how it’s even remotely possible. Even if he’d been bitten and somehow didn’t remember it, his eyes would be yellow, like Scott’s and Isaac’s. Not Alpha red. Stiles’s heartbeat picks up, his breathing becomes more labored as fear starts to flood his mind, and fuck, that’s the beginning of a panic attack.
It’s difficult to calm himself when all of his senses are heightened and he can barely cope with the flow of information that his nose and ears keep sending him. But Stiles has had a lot of practice fighting these attacks, and he takes deep breaths, trying to shut down the smell-taste of sweat and anguish.
As his heartbeat slows down, he shifts back. It’s painless, nothing like his first change. It’s like peeling off a layer of clothing, or stepping out a tub of hot water. He can still see in the dark, can still see his reflection, startled and frightened. His eyes glow briefly red.
Stiles doesn’t think; he pulls on his jeans and grabs his phone, already walking down the stairs as he dials Derek’s number. It rings three times, and Stiles is unlocking the Jeep’s door when someone answers.
“That’s not exactly the best moment to call, Stiles”
It’s Peter. Stiles doesn’t want to have to deal with Peter.
“Where’s Derek? I need to talk to him.”
He can hear Derek’s voice in the background telling Peter to give him the damn phone.
“We have a bit of a situation here, so I hope this is important,” Peter tells him before handing the phone to Derek.
“What’s going on?” Stiles asks, “because I’m having a situation and if you’re having a situation too I doubt it’s a coincidence. I’m freaking out! Are you at your house?”
“Calm down,” Derek groans, “and tell me what’s happening. Is it the Alphas? Are they at your place or Scott’s?”
“No.” Stiles shakes his head even though Derek can’t see him. He pulls out of the driveway and turns towards the woods. “It’s not that. I don’t know how to say it, it feels surreal. It sounds crazy when I think the words in my head.”
Derek sounds annoyed and impatient. It’s familiar and reassuring, somehow. Stiles takes a deep breath.
“I’m a werewolf. An Alpha, to be more exact.”
The other end of the line goes completely silent. It’s the shock, he thinks. Or disbelief, because, as he said, it sounds completely insane.
“Stiles,” Derek eventually says, his voice tight, “get here as fast as you can.”
“Already on my way, dude.” He speeds up nonetheless, because the streets are empty and he has supernatural reflexes now. “You said there was something going on at yours, though?”
“I’ll explain when you get here.”
Derek hangs up. Which is a good thing, because Stiles just realized he’s been speeding while on the phone, and his dad’s on patrol. If he gets caught, he’s so dead.
Stiles thinks about calling Deaton as he leaves the main road and starts driving up through the denser woods towards the Hale residence, but he doesn’t know what’s waiting for him there, so it’s better to wait until he’s sure it’s safe. The road is in a better state than it used to be, and it’s a good thing because the old Jeep’s not made to go that fast on bumpy terrain. When he comes to a halt in front of the burnt house, it makes a plaintive noise that lets him know he’ll soon need to make a trip at the mechanics.
They’re waiting for him on the porch. He walks out of the car and he’s immediately distracted by everything. Now that the engine’s silent he can hear wings flapping, an owl hooting far away, dead leaves rustling as countless animals walk beneath the trees. The night has never been so loud to Stiles’s ears.
There are smells, too, scents that he can’t identify but are wild; probably foxes and rabbits, stray cats and deers, all the creatures that belong out there. On top of it, closer and everywhere, are the smells of earth and trees, of the grass beneath his feet, and three distinctive scents that he knows without a doubt belong to the men in front of him. Who have been staring at him for a whole minute now, as he just stands beside the Jeep.
“Right, sorry,” he mumbles, stepping forward. “I just got a bit... not overwhelmed, which by the way, how is it even possible to not be overwhelmed by all... all this?” He waves his hand around wildly.
“I don’t smell anything different,” Isaac says, looking at Derek.
“You wouldn’t while he’s in human form. His scent will only change when he shifts.” Derek looks right into Stiles’s eyes then. “Show us.”
“Um, I don’t know how?”
Stiles bites his lip. It’s not entirely true, he knows he has to get angry, or scared to trigger the change. What he doesn’t know is how to provoke these feelings.
That’s when Peter leaps down from the porch, all wolfed-out and menacing, blue eyes glaring at him and claws slashing in his direction. Something that feels like instinct kicks in and Stiles moves, faster than human, catching Peter’s wrist and twisting it hard enough to make him fall to his knees. Something in the back of Stiles’s mind wants to throw Peter down, to make him submit, and Stiles lets it take over.
He’s not quite sure how he ends up straddling Peter’s body on the ground, or even how he got the other werewolf down, but there he is, holding him down, his fangs just an inch of Peter’s throat. Peter who’s human again and throwing his head up to bare his neck in clear submission, which is probably the only reason Stiles hasn’t torn him to shreds.
Stiles ignores Isaac’s words and just growls at Peter. When a hand touches his arm he turns toward Derek, snarling.
“Stiles,” Derek says, calmly. “Stay in control. Don’t let it take over.”
“I am in control,” Stiles retorts, because he is now. But the adrenaline’s still coursing through him, and all of his senses are focused on keeping Peter down.
“Then prove it. Let him go.”
“He attacked me.”
“To make you shift,” Derek explains, irritated. “And it worked.”
Stiles growls, but slowly rises to his feet, glaring down at Peter. The older werewolf stays on the ground a few seconds before slowly getting up. He looks smug, though he avoids Stiles’s gaze. Stiles turns his own eyes toward Isaac, who’s changing from wolf to human, his scent going back to that lighter tone it had when Stiles arrived. Derek is standing next to him, and he can’t read his expression, but his heartbeat’s fast, too fast.
“Why are you still human?” Stiles asks, surprised. “Your heart’s racing, you should be shifted.”
Derek exhales through his nose, and it sounds pissed off and maybe a little bit embarrassed, which is just so strange.
“He can’t,” Peter says, and Derek shoots him a dark look, even scarier than the ones he usually graces Stiles with, and that’s saying a lot. Peter just smirks. “You’re a smart boy, Stiles. Tell me, where do you think your new Alpha powers come from?”
“That’s... what?” Stiles looks back and forth between Derek’s glare and Peter’s amused smile. “But how?”
“If we knew that, we’d already be trying to fix it,” Derek snaps.
“Wow, so the crankiness and aggressiveness had nothing to do with you being a werewolf, I see. It’s just a Derek thing.”
Derek glares at him, but for some reason Stiles isn’t scared. The thing in him that made him want to rip open Peter’s throat now makes him stretch his lips in an amused grin, and Stiles feels his body morph back to human.
Then he cocks his head to the side because he can hear a car coming, but he can’t see any lights on the road yet.
“That would be Dr. Deaton,” Isaac tells him. “We called him after you told Derek. He’s still pretty far away.”
Stiles nods, then fishes his phone out of his pocket. He taps the keys quickly then hits send, knowing that he probably should have done that earlier, but he’d been too busy freaking out.
Deaton arrives a couple of minutes later, parking his car between the Camaro and the Jeep. He has a familiar-looking bag with him, the one the vet keeps basic magic supplies in, like mountain ash and moonstone.
“How about we all get inside?” he says amiably as he walks up to them.
Once they’re in the house all Stiles can smell is ashes. He’s never actually been in there before, so he doesn’t know if it’s just because of his newly improved senses or if even a human would choke on the smell. It’s a very sad smell too, somehow.
He sneezes, but it doesn’t make things better.
“Oh my god, how can you guys live in here?” he complains. “I can literally taste the ashy dust in my mouth!”
He makes a face then, sticking his tongue out. Derek’s face is its usual slightly exasperated mask, and Peter’s raising an amused eyebrow at him which, combined with the evil goatee, makes him look quite creepy. Stiles turns to Isaac for support.
“No, seriously, it doesn’t bother you?”
Isaac shrugs. “You get used to it. Sort of. I try to focus on other scents, like the food in the fridge, or people.”
Stiles figures he might as well give it a try. Deaton smells of dogs and chemicals and herbs. It’s strong, but not very attention-grabbing, and soon Stiles is overwhelmed again by the ash.
“Derek, let’s start with you,” the vet says, putting his bag down on a wobbly table. “Tell me what happened.”
They’re standing in the living room, and Stiles drops down on the beat-up couch, half-expecting a cloud of dust to rise in the air as he does, but the place is mostly clean in spite of that horrendous smell.
“I already told you,” Derek says, frowning. “My wolf is gone. I’m vulnerable. Weak.”
“How did it feel?” Deaton presses, because Derek’s clearly not being very helpful. Though if it was as painful for him as it was for Stiles, then Stiles can’t really blame the guy for not wanting to dwell on the details.
Stiles exhales through his nose, trying to clear his nostrils of the once-again overwhelming smell. Derek narrows his eyes at him before turning his gaze back to the vet.
“It felt like my blood was boiling while someone was ripping out part of my soul,” he grits out. “To put it in him, apparently, so if you can explain to me where the logic in that is, I’d be grateful!”
“Hey, I resent that!” Stiles complains, rubbing his nose. “Also, wow, dude, I don’t have a part of your soul in me. Just your powers.”
“It’s a part of me, of who I am. Of who I’ve always been. Now my senses are dull and so are my instincts. How you people even survive when you’re this weak is beyond me!”
Anger and frustration emanate from Derek in waves, so thick that Stiles could almost taste it. It gives him a good distraction to the scent-taste of dust and ash, so Stiles clings to it, seeking out Derek’s scent. It’s kind of familiar, what with all the times Derek’s been in his personal space. He smells like wind and wilderness and spices.
They’re all looking at him, and Stiles realizes he’s missed a couple of beats because he was too busy taking in the scent of Derek. Which sounds wrong in so many ways. But the fact is, he’s perched on the edge of the sofa, nose turned up in the general direction of Derek, sniffing the air.
“Sorry,” he mumbles. “I, um, never mind. What where you saying?”
That’s when Scott bursts through the door, wearing only boxer briefs and dead leaves clinging to his hair, because apparently he’d run all the way here in like, five minutes. Which wow, that’s insane.
“Why did you do that to him?” Scott yells at Derek, without even looking at anyone else. “What made you think you had any right to make that decision for him? If that’s another twisted way to make me join your pack then you’re dead wrong! I’m going to kill you, I swear!”
“Scott!” Stiles calls, up in a second and stepping in front of Scott.
“I didn’t do anything!” Derek bites out, and Scott stares at him for a second before finally turning to Stiles.
“Oh my God, does that mean one of these Alphas bit you? Where you attacked?”
“No one bit me, Scott,” Stiles says, pinching the bridge of his nose.
“But your text...” Scott looks so confused Stiles almost wants to pet him. “It said that you were at Derek’s and that you were a werewolf, Stiles!”
“Oh for Heaven’s sake, did you even bother reading the whole thing?”
Scott looks sheepishly at him, and Stiles digs his phone out of his pocket and goes through his sent messages.
“‘You need to come to Derek’s, because I’m a werewolf,’” Stiles reads, “‘and Derek’s human and we have no idea how that happened.’”
“Derek’s what?” Scott asks, his eyes growing wide.
“Derek’s right here,” the former werewolf growls, his jaw tightening. A new kind of irritation is coloring his scent, which Stiles realizes he’s still attuned to.
Scott has the good grace to look apologetically at Derek then, briefly, before turning his attention back to Stiles.
“How is that even possible?” he asks, looking adorably confused.
“This is what we’re trying to find out, Scott,” Deaton cuts in. “Now I was just about to ask Stiles to tell us his side of the story.”
Stiles tries to make his account as detailed as he possibly can, but there’s not really much to say about the first transformation except for the initial pain and surprise. He knows he rambles a bit on how incredible and distracting his senses are, and really how do werewolves even manage to stay focused on anything, with all these noises and smells?
“How did you stay in control?” Deaton asks, gently steering Stiles back to the important things.
“I... I don’t know, I didn’t really lose it? I was always me. Maybe a little bit more volatile, but not feral-monster like.”
“It’s not a full moon and he’s an Alpha,” Derek cuts in. “It’s easier for us to stay mostly in charge, though our instincts are stronger even when we’re human.”
“Interesting,” Deaton mutters, pensively stroking his chin.
“Do you have any idea how this transfer of power thing happened?” Scott asks.
“Not yet,” the vet replies. “To be honest, I’ve never heard of anything like this before.”
“Are we sure it was a transfer though?” Stiles wonders. “I mean yeah, the timing seems to indicate it was, but it wouldn’t be the first time we made assumptions.”
Stiles turns to Peter, who’s leaning against a freshly repainted wall. He looks dead serious for once, there’s none of his secretive smiles, none of his aggravating cockiness that usually make Stiles want to steal his dad’s gun and shoot the creepy werewolf in the face.
“How?” Stiles swallows around the sudden lump in his throat.
“The pack bond, I can feel it trying to reconnect with you, like you’re my Alpha, but you’re just shutting me down.”
“I’m doing what now?” Stiles blinks, because he wasn’t aware of any of this. He looks from Peter to Isaac, who seems confused, then to Derek when he grabs Stiles’s shoulder to make him face him.
“Stiles, you need to let them in,” Derek tells him, and he’s too close, too much in Stiles’s personal space.
Stiles reacts by pushing him against the wall, getting in Derek’s face, asserting that he is the one in charge here.
“You don’t give me orders,” Stiles barks, then realizes what he’s doing with a jolt when Derek drops his eyes down. He steps back, letting go of Derek’s shoulders. “Oh, dude, I’m sorry, I don’t know why I... Sorry!”
Derek glares at him, then averts his eyes again. “We’re vulnerable,” he says. “You’re vulnerable. We... Well, you need to be a pack, if we want to all stay alive long enough to find a way of fixing this.”
“But I don’t even know how!” Stiles complains, throwing his arms in the air.
Derek grits his teeth, like Stiles is trying to make this difficult on purpose.
“It’s just...instinct. No, intent,” Derek corrects. “You need to think of them as pack. As yours. Yours to lead, yours to protect.”
A few months ago that flimsy explanation probably wouldn’t have helped Stiles at all. But it sounds a lot like the kind of concentration needed to cast a spell, something he’s now very familiar with.
He closes his eyes, hoping it’ll help him focus, but it only exacerbates all the input from his other senses: he can hear everyone’s heartbeat, smell everyone’s scent and the ash on top of them, taste expectation in the air and even feel the air move around Derek when he takes just a little step towards him. It’s not helping.
So Stiles opens his eyes and looks at Isaac, thinks about all that he’s gone through with his father, then with Derek dragging him into that whole werewolf drama with promises of metaphorical cake. He remembers the way Isaac helped getting Scott on the field the night they thought Gerard Argent was going to make Jackson kill everyone. He likes Isaac. He wants to help him, lead him, protect him.
Something changes. He couldn’t say what, couldn’t describe it even if he used a million words, but it happens. Isaac makes a small whimpering sound, and then he just relaxes, like a knot was loosened. There’s a hesitant smile on the boy’s lips, and it makes Stiles smile too.
“Okay,” Stiles breathes. “Okay. I can do this.”
Then he turns to Peter and winces. Because yeah, there’s no way he wants to protect Peter, not even with all these confusing new instincts of his. He does want to keep him in line, though, to make sure he behaves. Make sure he obeys. That last thought is a bit of a surprise and Stiles tries not to look too closely at it.
Again there’s a little something, though it’s more subtle than what he felt with Isaac. Peter smirks, so he guesses that’s enough to establish at least a flimsy bond. Stiles still doesn’t trust him. He still kind of wants to rip his throat out.
“I guess this’ll do for now,” Peter says, turning his attention back to Deaton.
The vet had opened his bag and was pulling out a few jars. Alder bark, which has been crushed in a thin powder, hawthorn shavings, and a twig of beech tree. Stiles raises an eyebrow.
“Divination?” he asks, biting down on a sarcastic “really?” because it’s never a good idea to mock your teachers. Harris is a bitter reminder of that fact every day he has to sit through Chem.
“Very good, Stiles,” Deaton praises him. “Now, could the two of you come over here and hold one end of the branch, please?”
He steps forward and Derek follows, reluctantly grabbing the twig. Stiles resists the urge to make a “got wood?” joke, because that would be just too easy. He makes a face when the vet puts a hawthorn chip in his mouth and starts chewing on it, because eww. But it makes sense, he supposes, creating a more intrinsic link between the caster and the spell.
It looks so simple, looking at Deaton. Basic materials, basic ritual, but Stiles knows how much concentration, how much energy and how much practice and just raw power it must take to get any sort of helpful result. Deaton takes a handful of alder bark and blows it in Stiles’s face, which makes him sneeze, then he does the same to Derek.
They wait, while Deaton keeps chewing on the piece of wood in his mouth, eyes closed. Stiles’s fingers, those holding the beech twig, tingle lightly, and Stiles can feel something in the air, like static electricity.
When Deaton opens his eyes again, he looks disappointed. He spits out the wood chip in his hand and Stiles lets go of the twig. Derek stares at it, like he doesn’t know what to do with it, then eventually puts it down on the table, next to Deaton’s bag.
“So?” Stiles asks, but he already know the vet isn’t going to tell them how to fix things, or who’s responsible.
“All I can say is that this is indeed witchcraft, and very powerful. From the energies I sensed, I would say it might be the work of a perfect coven.”
“A perfect coven?” Stiles parrots. “What does that mean?”
“Do you remember what I told you about witches being connected to different elemental sources?”
“Plants, earth, fire, water, the moon and the sun,” Stiles recites even though he’s only heard them once, because that’s the kind of things his mind just remembers, like the list of all the actors who played the Doctor even though he’s barely ever watched Doctor Who. Except, this is actually useful.
Deaton nods, and once again he looks almost proud of him, which makes Stiles smile.
“A perfect coven is composed of one witch of each element, which allows them to cast very powerful spells since they can draw energy from pretty much anything. I could sense at least four, maybe five elements in this spell, hence my deduction.”
“So now we have crazy Alpha werewolves and crazy witches to deal with?” Stiles whines, because seriously, aren’t their lives complicated enough without new enemies popping out of nowhere?
Then his eyes widen. No... It wouldn’t make sense, why would they do something like that? But once the thought has occurred to him, Stiles can’t shake it.
“Oh my God,” Stiles breathes out. “What if the Alphas are all witches?”
With time, he came to think it was only a teenage mistake. One with dramatic consequences, one that he couldn’t ever forgive himself for, but maybe not a proof that couldn’t ever be in charge, know what he’s doing. Laura’s death had forced him to be that man he thought for so long he couldn’t be. He took control, took responsibility, and even though he knows he screwed up a few times he had been pulling it all together as best as he could.
But now, as he watches Peter, Scott and Isaac teaching Stiles how to control his anger and keep the wolf in check, he doesn’t think he’s ever felt so powerless before. The panic from before has receded to a vague nauseating feeling, leaving enough room in its place for Derek to feel the void that the absence of his werewolf nature has left in him.
In the clearing in front of the house, Stiles throws Isaac away when the young werewolf tries to jump on him from behind. But then something seems to catch his attention from somewhere in the woods, something Derek can’t hear or smell or see anymore, and Peter takes advantage, moves in as Stiles’s head is turned towards the trees. He tackles Stiles, who falls on his back and immediately wolfs out, kicks Peter in the guts with his feet, sending him crash against a nearby tree.
“I still would have had the time to kill you if I wanted to,” Peter says calmly, brushing bark and dirt from his shirt. “You were distracted.”
“No shit,” Stiles snaps back. “How can you guys ever concentrate on anything with all these... with everything?” he asks, wildly waving his arms around, probably trying to encompass the surrounding woods and all it contains.
“It’s not that distracting,” Scott frowns. “It’s been three days, Stiles, and we’re not even close to the full moon yet.”
It sounds like an accusation, and Derek is torn between agreeing with him and wanting to defend Stiles. For Scott and Isaac, the transformation had been progressive, whereas Stiles had become a full Alpha in a matter of minutes, maybe second. Who could say how hard it must have been to adapt to it. Probably as hard as it was for Derek to keep moving in this muted world.
Still, it’s been three days already. And though Stiles’s control is mostly good, his focus is terrible.
Three days. And they still haven’t got a clue about why the Alpha pack, if it was them, or an unrelated witch coven if not, might want to make him an Alpha instead of Derek. They haven’t found a way to reverse it either. And if they don’t... Derek doesn’t know if he can live like this for long, in this grey, silent world.
When he looks back to the werewolves, Stiles is stomping off in the direction of the house, and Scott looks like a sad puppy. Derek must have missed Stiles’s reply, lost in his thoughts. Before, he could have been monitoring everything that was going on while thinking of something else without having to make a conscious effort to follow the conversation. And now he can’t.
“Dude, I swear, you look miserable,” Stiles says as he drops down on the porch steps next to him. “And you smell miserable. That’s so weird. Emotions shouldn’t have scents.”
Derek growls, low in his throat, out of habit. The power of the wolf’s anger isn’t there though, and Stiles doesn’t recoil like he usually would have, just gives him a look that Derek can’t quite read.
Stiles sighs, looking away. Derek thinks he must have heard something, must be distracted again. When Stiles speaks again, he sounds frustrated.
“I wish it was easier to ignore all this stuff around. It’s not my fault werewolfness doesn’t seem to cure ADD. Plus, I’ve spent the whole afternoon yesterday trying restoring spells with Deaton, and magic always leaves me... Well, it’s hard to focus. Plus, I keep wanting to either hug everyone in the pack or toss them around. It’s weird. How come you never hug anyone?”
Stiles’s eyes are suddenly back on Derek’s face, inquisitive. Derek shrugs, looking away.
“Not all werewolves are touchy-feely,” he grumbles. “To me, the protective aspect of being an Alpha was more about keeping everyone alive and able to defend themselves than wanting to wrap my arms around them.”
“Makes sense, I guess,” Stiles says after a pause. “Does that mean I’m a weaker Alpha though, that I need to feel them around me to know they’re safe?”
“Not weaker, just different.”
Derek’s head jerks up. Peter is standing a couple of feet away, and Derek had no idea he’d creeped up to them.
“And you should try doing magic at night, when the moon is up,” Peter continues, climbing up the stairs and slipping between Derek and Stiles. “You can draw energy from the moon now. One of the perks of being both a werewolf and a witch.”
Peter’s eyes grow cold and he leaves them there, walking into the house and shutting the door behind him.
“How would he know that?” Stiles breathes out, more to himself than to Derek.
“His wife,” Derek replies anyway. “She had the spark too. A witch and a werewolf, like you.”
“Wow, I had no idea,” Stiles says, quietly, then he frowns, looking somewhat suspicious. “How long has he known about me? Could he have smelled or felt the magic on me or something?”
“Well, it would make the whole thing about him offering me the bite even more creepy,” he says, shuddering.
“He did what?” Derek barks, feeling anger boiling deep in his chest.
Stiles blinks, like he’s surprised by Derek’s reaction.
“He never told you?” he asks, then rolls his eyes. “Of course he never told you, why would he? That was back when he was the Alpha, obviously. You’d been captured by Kate Argent and he made me help him find you. He offered me the bite as a “reward”.” He does the air-quotes with his fingers.
Derek grits his teeth. Peter is devious and secretive. He should have expected something like this. He shouldn’t be this surprised, shouldn’t feel this angry at his uncle.
“You said no,” Derek growls.
Stiles said no and yet Peter had still been pushing him a few days ago to make Stiles a werewolf, to bring him into the pack.
“I saw how he treated Scott,” Stiles replies darkly. “How he tried to turn him into a killer. He had just attacked Lydia, and for no reason, or so I thought. Why would I want to be under his power?” Stiles pauses, glaring at the door behind which Peter disappeared. “What I still don’t understand is why he didn’t bite me anyway.”
“Learned from his mistake, probably,” Derek says, looking at Scott.
The kid’s sitting against a tree, talking with Isaac, and once again the frustration of not being able to hear them swells in Derek.
“Damn, you really are a pit of anger and despair, aren’t you?” Stiles says, leaning towards him.
Derek can hear there’s no true malice in Stiles’s words, but still, it stings.
“Why don’t you go give Peter a hug?” he snaps.
“Don’t joke about this,” Stiles growls, eyes glowing red for a moment before he reins himself back. “It’s weird, to feel both protective and suspicious of someone.”
“I know,” Derek replies, his eyes falling back on Scott.
Later, Stiles makes him drive them back to their houses. Scott and him had come on foot, but Stiles was feeling lazy, or maybe he was afraid he’d get too distracted by something while running through the forest and wouldn’t make it home, who knows. But he gives the order to Derek as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
It’s irritating, and suddenly Derek understands a little bit better why the humans and former humans disliked it so much when he did it to them. To a werewolf, taking order from an Alpha is the most natural thing in the world. To a human, apparently, obeying is still a strong compulsion, but there’s no instinct to submit to the Alpha’s authority, which makes it...grating.
Stiles claims the passenger seat and Scott reluctantly climbs in the back of the car. Derek looks at him in the rearview mirror, but Scott stubbornly turns his face away, like a pouting teenager. Which he is, Derek reminds himself as he starts the car. Scott has been tolerating him for the last few days, for Stiles’s sake, but he barely talks to him, or to Peter for that matter.
Derek wishes there was something he could do, anything, to bridge that chasm between them. Not only for when he becomes an Alpha again (if he becomes an Alpha again, his subconscious kindly reminds him), but because he had truly meant it, all these months ago, when he’d told Scott they were brothers now. Even though Scott had been infuriating and never listened to him, Derek had needed someone to bond to after Laura’s death, and he cared about Scott.
That flimsy, one-sided bond is why he started caring about Stiles, too, in a way. Derek’s eyes slide over the young Alpha next to him before settling back on the road. Stiles is drumming his fingers on his knee, looking through the window at the thinning trees as they get closer to the town. Damn Stiles, ever getting in the middle of things to try and protect his friends, protect everyone. No wonder the pack has no difficulties accepting him as their Alpha.
“You’re thinking so hard I can almost hear you,” Stiles says.
Derek huffs, but there’s no heat in it. He takes a turn to the left and they’re now passing a few buildings and a slightly crooked sign that reads “Welcome to Beacon Hills”.
“What’s on your mind, dude? Your scent keeps jumping from angry to miserable back and forth. It’s annoying.”
“It’s rude to mention other people’s emotional scent,” Derek growls out, hiding his surprise behind irritation.
He wasn’t expecting Stiles to be so attuned to his scent. Unless he’s making a conscious effort to keep an eye -or rather his nose- on Derek’s emotions. Yes, that makes more sense. Stiles must be still a bit wary of him. Derek can’t blame him, he would too in his place.
“Then maybe you shouldn’t broadcast your bad mood quite so strongly,” Stiles snarls back. “Sorry, no one took the time to teach me werewolf etiquette.”
“I know,” Derek replies. “That’s why I’m telling you now.”
“Sure,” Stiles snorts. “Nothing to do with avoiding answering the question.” He already sounds more amused than angry.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Derek says without blinking.
Stiles laughs at that and the tension in the car eases up a little. Derek can see him from the corner of his eye, shaking his head with a grin.
“Have it your way,” he says, dismissively. “I’ll wear you down eventually.”
“I have no doubt about that,” Derek sighs, almost dramatically.
And he’s afraid Stiles might be right. A lifetime of obeying an Alpha has left him more reluctant to stand up to Stiles. Though if he’s perfectly honest, even before the transfer Stiles has had a knack for annoying him long enough to get him to answer his questions, at least partially.
He drops Stiles off first, because his house is the closest. It leaves him alone with Scott, who takes the passenger seat even though it means sitting next to Derek, because the backseat really doesn’t have much leg room at all. The tension in the car is almost palpable, and it’s grating on Derek’s nerves.
“What the hell is your problem with me?” he snaps eventually, taking a sharp turn, and the tires of the Camaro screech in protest.
“What’s my problem with you?” Scott snaps back. “Oh, gee Derek, I don’t know! Maybe the fact that your thirst for power prevented me from getting cured, which not only screwed up my life and my relationship with Allison but also put my mom in danger, and now Stiles is struggling with werewolf powers, and there’s a whole pack of Alphas after us, and it’s all your fault!”
Derek steps on the brakes, stopping the car in front of Scott’s house, and turns to face the angry teenager.
“You think I don’t know that?” he growls back, doing his best not to shout and attract unwanted attention. “You think I don’t feel responsible for all the things that have happened to you, and to the people around you? Even though I’m not the one who bit you, I’m not the one who dragged you into all this! I did what I had to do. I’m pretty sure killing Peter wouldn’t have cured you, Scott; it’s an old myth, I told you so. And I couldn’t take the risk of having you be an Alpha!”
“Why, because I’m so untrustworthy I would have made an even worse one than you?”
“No, because you wouldn’t have had me!” Derek exclaims, unable to prevent himself from shouting this time.
Scott is watching him with surprise and confusion painted all over his face. When Derek speaks again it’s lower, almost softer.
“You made it pretty clear you didn’t want me as pack. I would have been an Omega, and I...I couldn’t. You don’t understand, because you haven’t had a pack your whole life. I don’t know how to function without one. Every time Laura left me alone for too long, it was a nightmare for me. I never wanted to be an Alpha, but it was the only way I could think of to get a new pack.”
There’s a stunned silence in the car after that. It’s awkward and complicated, and Derek isn’t sure if he wants Scott to say something (anything), or if he’d rather have the kid not say a word. He chances a glance in Scott’s direction. Scott is staring at him with a frown, like he’s trying to figure something out. Derek wonders what’s left to figure out after all that he suddenly blurted out.
“Stiles told me the protective instinct of an Alpha is very strong,” Scott finally says, slowly, like he’s trying to choose his words carefully. “Who’s to say I wouldn’t have wanted... wouldn’t have needed a pack?”
“You already had one. You already had people to protect, people to support you, and you wouldn’t have known that it’s not quite enough.”
Scott stares at him a little bit longer before sighing.
“I guess we’ll never know,” he declares. “Good night, Derek.”
Derek watches Scott get out of the car and start walking to his house, trying to keep a lid on the conflicted emotions swirling in him. Human emotions are so messy, he thinks. They’re just as strong as when he was a werewolf, but it’s so much harder to just grab onto one and hold on to it to push the rest to the back of his mind.
Scott has almost reached his front door when Derek sees him suddenly drop to his knees and grab his head. Derek is already half out of the car and running towards him before he sees them. There are two women walking towards Scott, chanting slowly. The one in the front looks completely human, and she’s carrying a bowl of burning incense. The one in the back is partially wolf-ed out, her eyes glowing red as she stays clear of the incense smoke.
They turn their heads in Derek’s direction, and the Alpha smirks, showing sharp, white fangs. She leaps forward, placing Scott and the other woman behind her and Derek in front of her. Then she cocks her head to the side.
It’s difficult to read a werewolf’s face when they’re wolfed-out, especially since Derek has always been able to rely on his sense of smell to do just that and now he can’t anymore, but he’s pretty sure she looks surprised. Startled, even. Derek clenches his fist, blunt nails digging in his palm. He knows how powerless he is now against any werewolf at all, and even more against this one. But the other woman, the human one, is just two feet away from Scott. She’s raising a hand.
“Scott, to your left!” he shouts, and he barely has time to see Scott smack his hand against the bowl of incense with a pained grunt before he can feel the Alpha’s claws slash open his chest and arm.