Stiles sneezed. Once, then twice, then about nine times in a row, till he fell back, waving the dust out of his face. “For fuck’s sakes, Scott!” He yelled up. “Can you quit banging around up there? I’m in a freaking dust storm down here!”
“Sorry!” echoed down through the rather large hole they had, uh, created when they were trying to find the entrance to the basement – the secret one, the one that they were sure was there. Never mind the actual stairs, because that was too obvious. Talia Hale would have never just left the important stuff lying around on a workbench near the canning jars. She’d been crafty like a fox. Or a wolf. Or something.
Okay, a wolf.
Humming – rather obviously – “Hungry Like the Wolf,” because it had been 80’s day for Spirit Week today, not that Stiles gave a single damn – he kept pushing away burned debris, hunting for anything salvageable from Talia’s secret library. He had a feeling Derek wouldn’t be too pleased about the gaping, unlovely opening they’d created, no, but the entire house was scheduled for demolition the following week, so what was one more hole?
“Found anything?” Scott’s face appeared in the gap, and Stiles looked up. “Is that a sandwich? Are you really eating up there while I’m slogging through mud and dust and dirt and ash and …”
“Peanut butter and fluff,” nodded Scott. “I need to keep my metabolism going for practice later. You are going, right?”
“Why? My ass is perma-benched, and I don’t feel like stuffing my dick in a cup just for shits and giggles. Toss me down half, will ya?”
Scott raised one eyebrow, but ripped off part of the sandwich and dropped it his way, Stiles just catching it before adding marshmallow fluff to the mire he was standing in; he wiped off his hand and bit into the sandwich, letting the marshmallow melt on his tongue, realizing he was super-hungry. Hungry like the …
“Found anything?” Scott was apparently feeling conversational. “You know, when Derek figures out what you’re doing, he’s not gonna be amused. He’s gonna give you the look, then the scowl, then maybe kick your ass. “
Stiles didn’t reply, cause all this was true and nothing he hadn’t already considered, weighed the pros and cons of, then gone on and done it anyway.
“Seriously, dude, what are you looking FOR? A book – what book? And the library, what’s left of it, is up here and why would it be in the freaking basement of all places?”
“It wasn’t a regular book,” muttered Stiles. “It was like, a book of spells. A magical book.”
“Oh for Christ’s sake.” Scott sat on his heels. “Stiles, she was an Alpha Wolf, not a witch. She wasn’t Miracle Max. You tore a HOLE in Derek Hale’s house to look for a magic book of spells. You’re losing it. I’m the one who got bitten by a supernatural creature, and yet, you’re the one going completely insane.” He pushed his sweaty hair back. “Who told you there’d be a book like that, and even better, in the basement?”
Stiles finished chewing and rubbed his hands on his jeans again, not answering.
“Dude. WHO?” Scott was tenacious at the worst possible times, thought Stiles. Usually he’d shut up when he didn’t get a satisfactory answer the first twenty times, and this had to be twenty-two.
“Peter,” Stiles finally sighed. “Peter. Okay?”
Scott sat back on his heels. “Peter. Jesus Christ, you have lost it. You’re right out of your fucking mind if you’re listening to that freaking sociopath. On top of that, why tell you? If there was a magical goddamn book full of spells and potions, why hasn’t he stolen it himself?”
“No one said anything about potions, don’t be an asshole.” Stiles looked up. “Peter cares about money and revenge, okay? That’s his primary focus. He doesn’t give a damn about knowledge unless it’s something he can use against someone else. We were talking a while ago about supernatural stuff and magic and weird shit and he mentioned this book in passing, said it was full of rites and information about wolves and other creatures; like Talia’s own source book, a diary almost. And since Peter has no use for that stuff, being the super wolf he already thinks he is, well … if he doesn’t want it, then I do. And if Derek doesn’t know about it, well, tough. He should have listened better to his mom.”
“I should have what?”
Stiles jumped – literally – and smacked his head on a low beam, letting out a string of expletives that even amazed Scott, who blinked and got ready to run; Derek looked pissed. But then again, he always did.
“Listened to your mother, and what the fuck? You’re supposed to be …”
“In New York, yes, Stalker Boy. I got back early, came out to check MY HOUSE and find two idiots mucking around in it … and is that a HOLE? In my floor?”
“Is that a pledge pin? On your uniform?” Stiles tried, hoping Derek got the reference, cause if not, well, add another subject to his “10-Point Plan to Make Derek Hale a More Reasonable Sort of Asshole” project – pop culture, sub topic, “Quotes You Never Knew Could Apply to Anything, at Any Time.”
A long, exasperated sigh. “Stiles. You have exactly thirty seconds to tell me what you’re doing here and why I shouldn’t tie you up and hang your skinny ass from a tree till bears come by or I’m in a better mood – whichever comes first.”
“I’d bet on the bears,” offered Scott, and was silenced by a patented Hale “death by stabby-eyes” glare.
Stiles leaned on his shovel – brought from his stash of tools in the Jeep because you never knew when you’d have to dig up a basement (or a body) – and started. “Peter said your mom had a book that I’m very interested in for its educational value and told me it would be down in her workroom and not in the library but I couldn’t find the workroom from the main basement so I looked at my map of the house and it should be right here, so I made an opening, came down and am looking.”
He glanced at his watch. “Four seconds left – not bad!”
Derek was processing. “Peter. Peter told you there was something hidden in my house, knowing damn well that you’d come looking and destroy shit in the process and that the hidden thing was a what now?”
“Magic book,” chirped Scott, leaning over the hole. “Spells and rites and supernatural notes. Like Cliffs Notes for the creepy.”
Stiles rather liked that and gave Scott an approving thumbs-up.
There was an awkward silence, and then Derek rubbed his face. “Magic book.”
“You have a map of my house.”
Derek jumped through the hole, landing gracefully on his feet. Like a cat. Then he stuck out his hand. “Give it here, now.”
“What? No. It’s mine, I drew it. Get your own.” Stiles started to edge away, wondering how fast Derek would heal from a shovel across the head.
Derek advanced, paused. Smiled.
“Stiles. You can give it to me, or I can take it from you. Your choice.”
Stiles stalled, completely inappropriate images sprinting through his brain of Derek taking stuff, and such. Like his virginity, for example.
“Nope,” he said with more bravado than he felt. “Look, it’s no big deal. If you were a pal, you’d help me find it, cause your mom was brilliant, right? Her knowledge shouldn’t be hidden, right? You want something that important to be found, right?”
“If it existed, I would have found it. Laura would have found it. Peter was fucking with you and you let him cause you’re so goddamn eager to know it all about a subject you can’t even begin to understand. I thought you were smart, Stiles. I thought you were supposed to be brilliant, yet here you are listening to Peter, of all fucking people.”
He took a breath. “Give me the map. I’m not kidding anymore.”
“You were kidding before?” Scott again, and Derek snarled at him, making Scott scoot back from the opening . “Stiles, bro, let’s go. You’ve dug for like three hours – let it go.”
Stiles glared at Derek. “You know; brute force isn’t the answer to everything.”
“I do know that – do the smart thing and I won’t have to use it. And, it goes without saying, but I will for your benefit – stay the hell out of my house. You’re trespassing and I could easily get you in shit with your dad. So give me the map, and you two get out. “
“Derek …” Maybe a soft touch would help? A plea, a request.
He silently held out his hand again, and Stiles reached in his pocket for a much-folded paper and handed it to him, pulling his hand away quickly. “Fine. Whatever. Your loss.”
He grabbed his shovel and his hoodie, and Scott leaned down, way down, as Stiles reached up, and yanked him up, over the broken boards and onto the floor; that part of the basement had been raised, shallow, and it wasn’t a giant jump. Stiles rolled over and got to his feet, glancing over the edge.
Derek was standing there, with the paper in his hand, staring up at them, and Stiles figured that would be a good time to leave, after all.
Before Derek unfolded the paper and saw what it was; a detailed, well-thought-out document designed to do one thing, and one thing only, and titled thusly.
“10-Point Plan to Make Derek Hale a More Reasonable Sort of Asshole.”
A crinkle of paper, and Scott and Stiles ran.
“What I don’t understand,” said Scott, once they were safely in Stiles’ Jeep and heading away from the Hale house at an unsafe speed, “First, why you really want this thing at all and secondly, why you think it exists. Derek had a point about Peter; he’s a giant dick and he has no reason to help us. Well … not us. Maybe you, he seems to like you, probably because you can match him snark for snark, but still.”
There were a whole lot of things Scott didn’t understand, thought Stiles as his arms began to ache from the shoveling. Like not abandoning your best friend for pussy, or how peaches stayed suspended in Jell-O, or how to pick the right Pokémon for a specific battle. All of that, Stiles could sort of live with, but the fact that Scott had just seemed to accept this whole werewolf thing – after weeks of frustration, that is – baffled him. He seemed content with the little bits of information Stiles dug up, and here, here was a chance to possess a book of knowledge from an actual werewolf. An Alpha, at that!
If he hadn’t needed Scott along for sheer brute strength, he would have left him in the library with Allison, where he’d happily be counting her pores or something.
“Scott, think about it,” he began, cause an exercise in futility still counted as exercise in his book. “What we currently know about wolves comes from Google and a few ancient books that some nerd put online for gaming purposes.”
“And the Bestiary,” added Scott, and Stiles had to concede.
“And that, but that’s still secondhand observation. This is a book by an Alpha, a smart as hell one too. From what I gather about Talia, she was a lot more than she seemed. How can I not want that? How can Derek not want that? I mean, right now, the world’s werewolf knowledge is based on fucking Twilight. Twi. Light.” He glanced over at Scott. “Team Jacob, right here.”
“If only I looked like Taylor Lautner,” sighed Scott, and Stiles had to smile.
“You’re doing pretty well looking like Scott McCall, if you ask me.”
That earned him a wide, sweet Scotty-smile, and Stiles dropped him off at his house, then continued home, his brain still working the logistics over. Where the hell was that book?
Stiles didn’t go back to the Hale house, even though D-Day was only six days away. Instead he tried to clear his mind, hoping for a sudden bolt of insight that would lead him to the exact spot before the bulldozers destroyed the last of Derek’s memories, and for him, any chance of finding that book. He was pretty sure Derek was spending his time out at the Preserve, therefore rendering any other covert operations useless. He didn’t even have to worry about Derek hearing him – he’d smell him, first. Damn werewolf noses.
He didn’t even see Derek lurking. Granted, his lurking days were mostly behind him, but Stiles still caught him doing it occasionally, like a secret vice; some people snuck cigarettes, Derek snuck in a few lurks now and then, probably to keep in practice.
Stiles did see him at the grocery store, however, which was somewhat disconcerting; he assumed that Derek ate, but figured he stalked bunnies in his off hours, not that he made salad. But there he was in the produce section, checking out lettuce – organic, of course. Stiles wanted to weep, because there was not a box of Pop Tarts to be seen in Derek’s cart, only carrots and stuff, and was that kale?
Jesus wept, he thought and tried to sidle by, but found his way blocked by a cart, pushed by a sourwolf.
“Derek, what a pleasant surprise!” Stiles gave him his best ‘you don’t scare me enough for me to piss myself anymore’ smile. “Fancy meeting you here in Whole Foods, of all places. Glad to see you’re eating clean,” he added and tried to maneuver by, but was prevented by a body. Derek’s, not his own.
“You didn’t give me the map,” he said, eyes burning little holes in Stiles’ flesh. “I asked you specifically for the map you claimed to have, and instead, you gave me a little list that honestly was not your best work.”
“Ohh, dude, did I give you the wrong paper? Damn me. I have a lot of shit floating around in my pants.”
Wow, that sounded wrong. “I’ll get that to you, I will. Soon.”
Stiles lied like it was his job, and Derek looked unimpressed; of course, he always did. Derek often looked like a commercial for constipation – not how to fix it, but how to walk around with that condition, drive a car, play Twister, and do simple arithmetic.
“Stiles,” Derek started and then paused, gave him a searching look, then shook his head over some internal protest, and stepped back. “It’s not gonna matter in a few days anyway, is it? The house will be gone, along with anything that might be left in it.”
He jerked his cart back and pushed past Stiles, giving him what Stiles was pretty sure was an intentional shoulder. Much like Jackson, who was also a scowly, antisocial asshole.
Stiles felt like he should say something comforting, but for once, he couldn’t come up with anything, so he said nothing, just watched Derek push his cart down the aisle, not looking left or right. And, as was customary of his interactions with Derek, he was left feeling partly pissed off, partly frustrated, partly sad. And maybe a little, tiny bit turned on.
He finished his shopping, ducking Derek between the aisles like in “Frogger,” and finally arrived at checkout, sighing. Safe. Except that he wasn’t, because eyes were on him from two lines over. He brushed the bagger aside and bagged his own food, making a hasty exit.
He knew he should be doing homework, Stiles really did know, but his mind was on supernatural matters, and sines and co-sines were not nearly as much of a draw as moons and claws and such. He had texted Peter about the book, only getting back, Sorry, Stiles, I was sure Tal had it downstairs. My bad.
Stiles rubbed his face with both hands, then pushed back from the desk and started to get up – before suffering a minor cardiac incident. “Jesus Christ, have you heard of knocking like a normal fucking person?”
His heart was beating out of his chest, and from the end of his bed, where he was casually perched, Derek eyed him. “Take some deep breaths before you stroke out on me; your dad already thinks I’m a shady character.”
“He’s not wrong,” said Stiles through gritted teeth. “Not wrong at all.”
“Probably not.” A wolfish grin appeared – literally as well as figuratively – and Derek eyed him. “Glad I caught you doing homework,” he said. “Nice and normal.”
Stiles stared at him. “What else would I be doing?”
Derek smiled more widely. “What you were doing twenty minutes ago. I would have been here sooner, but, well, no. The smell nearly knocked me off the roof as it was.”
“The … oh fuck.” Stiles felt himself turning beet-red. “You … what, you smelled it?”
“Mmhmm.” The smile was still there, mocking and amused. “If I couldn’t have smelled you, I could have heard you. You are fucking loud; you know that? And did you yell out your own name when you came or was that ...”
“Fuck you,” grumbled Stiles, scrubbing at his face. “Just fuck you, okay? What the hell are you doing here, anyway? You don’t do social visits, I haven’t pissed you off in three days or so, so what?”
Derek smirked, but then laced his fingers. “Why did you think you had the right to come onto private property, knowing full well I’d be pissed if I knew, and poke around in my mother’s workroom? Never mind the hole and the resulting property damage. I want to know why you, Stiles Stilinski, thought you could do that? Who died and made you the arbiter of right and wrong?”
He paused, then added bitterly, “Well, other than my mother, father, sisters, Peter’s wife, cousins and the rest of my family.”
Stiles swallowed. “I could tell you a thousand times that I’m sorry for your loss and that I understand it better than you think, but you don’t want to hear it. You want to carry that hurt like a spike through your heart. A silver spike.”
Derek’s eyes darkened dangerously, but Stiles plowed on. Hey, they were in his room, his turf, and like it or not, his dad was still the Sheriff. No emotionally distraught werewolf was gonna intimidate him in his own fucking bedroom. Which kind of did smell like spunk.
He took a breath and met those eyes. “I didn’t think of it in terms of right and wrong. I didn’t do it to screw with you. When I heard there was, or could be, a, well, like a handbook, a diary, a source book to the supernatural overall and maybe specific to Beacon Hills? All I could think was that it couldn’t be lost, shouldn’t be lost, that it would be a travesty to let it be destroyed. I thought about helping my best friend cope with the switch between human and werewolf. I thought it might help you, too. I thought it might help to still have that important piece of your mom around, concrete, that you could hold in your hands.”
Stiles held the eye contact. “That’s why, and I’m not ashamed. If you weren’t so determined to think I was just some little prick intent on messing with your life, you could have helped. I could have come to you, told you this, and you might have said, “I’ll help you, Stiles, thanks.” Or even not thanks, because you don’t deal in gratitude, apparently.”
The next sentence was hard for him, but he pushed on. “If my mother had left something behind that had contained the very essence of what she was, I would kill to have it, to keep it, always.”
Derek stared at him, and Stiles stared back until he finally couldn’t, and turned away. “I didn’t find it anyway, so what do you freaking care? Peter was obviously screwing with me, and you were right, and so whatever.”
There was a thick silence in the room for a good twenty seconds, and then a sigh, and a rustle. “No, you didn’t find it. But I did.”
Derek’s voice was soft. “You were actually pretty close, where you were working – had I not chased your asses out, you probably would have walked out with it.”
Stiles tensed, then turned. Derek was holding a dusty, cloth-bound book, water and dirt-stained, with leather ties around it, arranged in a complex pattern. “She always tied the leather like this,” he said, eyes on the book. “Like rigging your ignition to know if someone else has touched your car, or booby-trapping your room from your siblings. Only she knew the pattern. And me. She showed me one day, saying I was the one she trusted most in the world. Little twelve-year-old me.”
He turned the book over and over in his hands. “Peter never saw this, Laura either. I saw my mother write in it, but not what was in it. I’m still not sure I want to see, but you do. So I’m going to let you.”
Derek looked up. “You’re a pain in my ass, Stiles. You’re always where you shouldn’t be, you jump to conclusions, you invade my personal space and you never shut up. But you also love your friends and you honestly care about knowledge for its own sake. My mother would have liked you. And I believe she’d be okay with me giving this to you. Lending it, rather, but yeah. So here.”
Stiles stood, stunned, as Derek held out the book to him. “This isn’t a joke, right? I won’t open it and it will be blank except for a note that says “HA, HA YOU ASSHOLE!” right?”
Derek snorted, rubbing his own face. “I considered it, I did. Maybe for your birthday.”
He got up and crossed to the window in one smooth movement. “Don’t misuse it,” he said, tone short again, as always. “Don’t fuck up. Don’t make me regret this.”
The window slid open and Derek dropped noiselessly to the ground, and was gone. Moments later, Stiles heard the Camaro start and tracked its muffler to the end of his street, till it was lost in the other night sounds of Beacon Hills.
He looked down at the book in his hands and sat down heavily in his desk chair, homework and the rest of the world forgotten.
To say that Stiles was distracted for the next few days was an understatement; when he was in school, he was a nightmare; tapping, muttering, fidgeting, trying to engage everyone he saw into a thumb-wrestling match, silenced only when Danny finally pinned his entire arm down, and said slowly and distinctly, “Stilinski, next time I will break your entire body into four distinct pieces. Stop.”
Stiles wondered if drawing and quartering was really how he wanted to go, and decided that it wasn’t. He stopped.
“Dude, what the hell is your issue?” hissed Scott into his ear as they headed for calculus. “You’re even annoying me, and we all know how patient I am. So what gives?”
Stiles raised a brow at the idea that Scott was patient, but figured he must be confusing his pained waiting to get some with actual patience. “What gives is that I have the book.”
A blank look. “Your calculus book?”
Stiles face palmed. “No, the Dead Sea Scrolls – Jesus, Scott. The book, Talia Hale’s book!”
“Oohhhh. “Understanding dawned over that crooked jaw, and Stiles nodded.
“Did you go back and find it? Alone? Dude, that’s dangerous! Derek looked pissed as shit and if you pushed him …”
“I didn’t push him and I didn’t go back there. He came to me. Through my window. Scared the hell out of me, almost made me stroke out at my desk. Sits down on my bed like I invited him for tea, and gives me this smirk, this big, shit-eating grin, and says he would have been there earlier but the smell was too much for him.”
Scott wrinkled his nose. “Smell? Did you have Taco Bell or did you … oh. Oh fuck!” Despite himself, Scott laughed, and laughed more when Stiles glared at him.
“Yes, oh fuck. Or as close as I’m ever going to get to “oh fuck”. What an asshole he is, for real.”
“He can probably hear you.” Scott looked around out of habit, and Stiles shrugged. “Probably – and fuck him if he’s eavesdropping, the sneaky bastard. Anyway after giving me the third degree over who in hell did I think I was, being in his house, snooping, being annoying and never shutting up, he pulls out this journal. It looks like it’s been through hell, and it probably has. It has water and dirt stains and it has all these leather bands on it – Talia rigged them so she’d know if anyone ever messed with it, smart lady. And Derek tells me he trusts me and not to fuck up, and then leaves.”
Stiles pulled out his phone and showed Scott a picture. “I took like ten pics so I could figure out how to put the bands back like she would have wanted. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but I want to. I won’t have it forever, just till … it’s a loan. Derek made that clear.”
“Which means you’re copying every page into a notebook,” nodded Scott, who knew him well.
“Well, yeah. I’m respectful, not stupid. And it’s not with me right now, I know better.”
Stiles looked around suspiciously and then pocketed his phone. “So if I seem a little distracted …”
“Yeah, yeah, I got your back.” Scott clapped him on the back and they made their way to class; Calculus, then AP History, Stiles chomping at the bit the whole time. All he wanted was to get home and get back to the book. Was he obsessed? Yeah, just a little bit.
After school, he headed for the parking lot and his Jeep and took off for home at unsafe speeds that would get him in deep crap if he didn’t know every single speed trap in town. Safe in his room, he flopped down on his bed with the book; he’d cleaned it as best he could, shaken out the dirt, wiped the cover clean. It had stains on the binding he couldn’t recognize, but it stood to reason it was probably blood, cause frankly, some of the stuff in this journal? Was dark. Or seemed dark to Stiles, whose supernatural knowledge base was still limited. Some rituals called for things he’d never heard of, and some for what he had – namely blood, and an astonishing variety of it as well.
Stiles had already paged through the book, had basically divided it into categories in his mind, and had bought a hard-cover notebook and tabs on the way home, preparing to transform the handbook into the ultimate resource book. He had plans.
On a warm Friday night, his date was an old, dusty book . His ‘plan’ was to read, copy, and annotate with his own ideas and information.
Yeah, these were the best years of his life, all right. Meanwhile, Scott was no doubt pawing Allison – no pun intended – Jackson was showing Lydia how far down the seats in his Porsche went, and Derek was probably sharpening his claws on a grinder, sparks shooting off into a dark room.
He kind of liked that image, actually.
After a shower, a change into pajama bottoms and a t-shirt, a sausage and mushroom pizza delivered, Stiles settled in and started to read, making notes as he went; it was a thick book and slow going, but he found it fascinating and the hours slipped by in a blur of diagrams and history.
At midnight, he set the book aside and rubbed his face, his head aching. He leaned back against his pillows, closing his eyes for a moment, then heaved himself off the bed to go brush before heading to bed, and as he stood up, the book slid off his bed and onto the floor. Cursing, he picked it back up and closed it, setting it carefully on the desk. He knew that Derek would not shy away from using those newly-sharpened claws on his throat if the book was not returned in the same condition it had been loaned.
He turned and saw the corner of a small slip of paper sticking out from between his sheets and covers, and reached to pluck it out; he didn’t remember seeing it before, but then again, the book had several such slips jammed into its binding – bits and pieces of information Talia had obviously meant to incorporate into the journal at some point, but had never gotten to. It made Stiles sad to realize that she’d never hold this book again, or write in it, or even scribble some note and jam it in for later, and for a moment, he felt Derek’s rage and pain at his loss, and regretted the silver stake comment. It might be true, but it hadn’t been necessary; he didn’t even want to think how he might react to a similar comment made to him about his mom.
He sighed. Being human sucked. Or rather, being a thoughtful human sucked. Asshole humans seemed to get along just fine.
Stiles set the paper on top of the journal, went and brushed his teeth and ran a hand over his hair before coming back into the bedroom, spotting the slip of paper immediately – it was on the floor this time. There was no draft, his window wasn’t open – weird. Absently, he picked it up and went to drop it back on the desk, but the writing caught his eye. It didn’t really look much like Talia’s handwriting – hers was much more precise – and it was written in green ink, not black, blue or even red.
Weird, but then again, everything about this book was weird. It was this amazing assortment of information with recipes for teas, diagrams of magic circles, bits of family history, bits of lore, and a few Latin phrases that Stiles was sure must be spells of some kind. Not a witch, his ass. His Latin was admittedly weak, but he wasn’t about to text the only person he knew who actually understood archaic Latin; she was probably panty-less in the back seat of a Porsche right now. And honestly, that was the most depressing thought he’d had in days.
He started to slip the paper back in, but then pulled it out again – why, he didn’t know – and stared at it some more, starting to mouth the words. He didn’t know if his pronunciation was correct or not, and it didn’t seem to matter, cause the sounds seemed to flow together., He managed the phrase two times, and was mostly through a third, feeling more confident, when a sudden, sharp pain made him stop and curse loudly.
A paper cut, deep and slanted, slashed across the pad of his index finger; he hadn’t realized he was fingering the paper as he spoke, but the blood bubbled from the cut and spilled into the paper.
“Fuck!” he muttered and tossed the now-stained paper on the desk reaching for a tissue to wrap around his finger to stanch the bleeding. Then he got up and went to wash the wound, drying it, slapping some Neosporin on it and wrapping a bandage around it. Why couldn’t it have been the pinky, is what he wanted to know.
This time, he got into bed and turned off the light, not looking at the paper again. But maybe he should have, because if he had, he might have noticed the blood soaking into the paper, then disappearing altogether, as though never touched.
But he didn’t, and instead turned over, breathed deep a few thousand times, and finally fell asleep, pillow bunched under his head as always, arm flung over his head.
Saturday meant no alarm, and since nothing was currently hanging over their heads and threatening to end their lives, Stiles slept in; slept until his bladder poked him awake forcibly and hissed GET UP NOW into his ear. So to speak.
He groaned and rolled over, then yelped – something was pulling his hair, and since his hair was at best an inch long anywhere, that was no small feat. “Goddammit,” he muttered, adding, “what the fuck,” for good measure, and rolled back, his fingers grasping for what he could be pulling.
It was hair. Lots of hair. The same color as his, but obviously not his, because this had to be at least a foot long, and frankly, if any part of him was going to approach a foot in length, he had some preferences – hair was not one of them.
Still muttering, he moved again, and this time, his hand met with an immovable object. Or rather, a moveable object – two of them, even – that were definitely not his. Not, not … oh fuck!
They were. They were attached to him, anyway, and his bladder was forgotten as he slowly sat up in bed, gingerly, afraid of what might break or bounce.
Honey-brown hair spilled over one shoulder, coming to rest against one, no, two breasts. Boobs. Titties, melons, jahoobies, whatever. His body had breasts. HIS body. Had breasts.
The hand not already exploring the Grand Tetons – they were big, but not too big, just right, in fact – snaked down between his legs and stopped. Stopped dead cause something super important was missing. Actually, three super-important things.
Stiles whimpered and took a breath, swinging his legs – pretty nice ones, actually, if still a little hairy – out of the bed and stumbled over to his full-length mirror on the back of his door, then almost shrieked, slapping his hand over his mouth just in time.
When he was reasonably sure he wouldn’t scream, he pulled his hand away and took a slow, deep breath, his chest inflating impressively, and then exhaling.
He was a female. His body was that of a probably sixteen or seventeen-year-old girl, complete with feminine features, cheerleader hair, the aforementioned breasts, small waist, swollen hips and long legs. And actually, the part of him not freaking out (about 6.7%) was impressed, because he looked good. He looked like the kind of girl that he would like to date. He was taller than Allison, taller than Lydia (well, who wasn’t?) and still retained the brown eyes, little upturned nose and bow lips – terms he only knew because of Marie Claire, thank you very much. (He’d been bored in study hall and had fished the magazine out of Lydia’s bag, all stealthy-like, and learned a lot. So much. Too much, frankly). He was actually pretty hot.
The irony of his features only being cute once they were looked at as female did not escape him, though, and he would think about that later. Right now, he had more immediate problems. Like boobs and, uhm, a vagina.
Without giving it much more thought, he went to the bathroom, pulled down his boxers – gaped – and kicked them away, sitting on the edge of the tub. He reached for the little mirror he used for a back view when he buzzed his hair and lowered it down between his legs, reasoning that this might be as close to a real life vagina that he was ever going to get. And wow, it was not exactly pretty down there; it looked sort of like Carlsbad Caverns from his fifth grade school trip. Dark and kind of damp and forbidding-looking.
He put down the mirror. Dude.
Then an even more immediate problem presented itself when his father yelled up the stairs that he was going to work, did Stiles want him to grab a pizza on the way home, or did he have plans?
Good one, Dad; always the optimist.
“Pizza would be great,” he yelled back, then clapped his hand back over his mouth. Was that him?
“I mean,” he said, consciously lowering the tone. “Yes, please!”
“You all right there, son?” John sounded concerned.
Your son is probably fine, thought Stiles. In whatever dimension he’s wandering around in at the moment. Your daughter, however, is not fine and please, please, please do not come up here.
“Yeah, just waking up. Have a good day!”
Stiles held his – her? – breath until he heard the truck drive away, and then rubbed his face. Holy fuck, how had this happened?
His phone started insistently buzzing in his bedroom, and he managed to get back to his bed, naked, and fall onto it, noting academically that his boobs rolled off a little to both sides. That’s how you knew they were real, he’d told Scott at ten. Fake ones stand straight up like watermelons on your chest.
Speaking of Scott …
“Dude, where are you? Practice! Coach is tearing the locker room apart looking for you!”
Scott was loud under the best of circumstances, and Stiles winced and held the phone away from his ear, getting it tangled in his hair. He uttered a brief and satisfying, “Oh fuck me,” before answering. “I can’t come. I’m sick. Tell him I’ll talk to him on Monday.”
“Shit, he’s not gonna like that. Sick? You were fine yesterday – did you eat something weird? Oh God, you didn’t eat artichoke hearts right out of the can again did you? That’s so gross, honestly. What’s the matter?”
Stiles cast about frantically for an excuse, settling on, “I have cramps.”
“Cramps? You did eat those disgusting little pieces of canned shit, didn’t you? Stiles, for God’s sake, I …”
“I might have my period, I don’t know. Scott, I’m sick, okay? If you’re worried, stop by after – in fact, yeah, you gotta stop by – and just make an excuse to Coach. Buddy, please – I’ll owe you one.”
There was a brief silence, or as silent as it could be on a lacrosse field with several hormonally charged males running around with sticks. “Did you say you had your period?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know, I have something. Just come by. And bring some Red Bull, the blue kind. I’ll pay you back. Okay? Okay.”
He clicked out before Scott could probe further, and lay back on his bed. This was unreal – this, this situation here was unfuckingreal. How did stuff like this happen to him? How? And more importantly at this moment, how did he get back to regular Stiles, with lots more body hair, Adam’s apple and penis?
From long experience with catastrophic events in his life, he allowed what his therapist called a “breather.” A breather was essentially a chance to freak the hell out, and he did so, spazzing around his room, babbling to himself, cursing indiscriminately, and incidentally, engaging in some boob play. These things were actually just as cool as he’d dreamed they were.
Finally exhausting himself, he sat on his bed again, and looked around; his room was a mess, but the journal was safely on his desk, alongside his open notebook – and the paper from last night. The paper he’d cut his finger on – and yeah, the cut was still there – and which he’d wiped blood on. But there was no blood to be seen. Not a drop. Just strings of words, maybe not all Latin after all, which, in his tiredness, he’d messed with, experimenting with pronunciations and repeating several times – at least three.
Stiles paled and reached for the book; the section on magic was small, a couple of pages or so, and nothing was concrete, nothing seemed to constitute a full spell, but he saw a note at the bottom he hadn’t noticed before, in Talia’s now-familiar scribble. Bad stuff, this. Whatever he gave you, burn before anyone else gets ideas.
Who was “he?” And what had he given her?
Stiles pawed through the book more carelessly now, finally shaking it to get all the bits and pieces of scrap paper out, and took a breath, looking through them. Four scraps, written in the oddly slanting script, in green ink.
His hands were shaking as he stuffed all four scraps into the back of the book, closed it and set it on his desk as though setting down a bomb; Stiles took a breath and swallowed hard.
Bad stuff, this ….
By the time Scott showed up, wet from the shower, a little pissed still but a lot more curious, Stiles had gotten himself mostly under control. Mostly. He’d pulled on a t-shirt that had been too big before, but now fit because of his chest, and some briefs and gym shorts. He’d showered for what felt like forever, mainly because he couldn’t get the shampoo all rinsed from his mane, and then had spent long minutes detangling after realizing that just brushing long wet hair pulled hard, and hurt. He now had a brand-new appreciation for how early most girls must have to get up to look the way they did at school every day, cause this shit took dedication.
He was still in the bathroom when he heard his door bang open and the welcome sound of a six-pack of Red Bull clank against the wood of his desk.
“This the book?” asked Scott, reaching for it, just as Stiles made his entrance from the bathroom.
“Don’t touch that thing, dude!” Stiles barked, and Scott pulled back his hand like it was on fire, and then turned around … and stared. Stared might not even be a strong enough word, thought Stiles; Scott’s eyeballs had practically popped out of his skull, rolled over to him and were crawling over him.
Stiles stood there and let himself be stared at, turning around for the back view and then waiting while the eyeballs rolled back up and into Scott’s head, finally allowing his best friend to blink.
Scott opened his mouth but no sound came out, and Stiles wondered if, somehow, that could happen more often, but sadly, it was short-lived.
“Dude. Oh my … DUDE!”
“Dudette,” Stiles corrected him tiredly and sat down on his desk chair, while Scott shook his head.
“Okay, you were not kidding when you said something was up, but please tell me you don’t have your period because I don’t think I could handle it.”
“You can’t handle it?” Stiles nearly shrieked. “Really? You woke up with all your bits intact this morning and knowing what they all do, and I woke up with these and this,” he said, pointing downwards. “And it’s not even good looking down there, let me tell you. It’s weird and twisty and it looks like it could eat you alive, and not in the sexy way we always thought. So don’t tell me you can’t handle it, McCall. Don’t even. I woke up like this and I think I even know why, but not how to fix it and my dad can’t possibly find out. He doesn’t understand any of this crap yet, and … “
Stiles rubbed his face and took another deep breath, and Scott bit his lip and reached for his arm, pulling Stiles over next to him. “You have a ton of hair, dude,” he said, moving it behind his shoulder, albeit a little awkwardly. “This is about as far from the buzz as you can get. You look pretty, though.”
Stiles turned his head and blinked. “I look pretty?”
“Yes, okay? You do. You’re a cute guy and a cute girl too, so – imagine me as a girl. So not cute. Hairy as hell.” Scott grinned, then added, “although your legs, dude – you need to shave those bastards.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “I’m glad you think I’m hot,” he said sarcastically, then sighed, looking down briefly – Scott was right. “I can’t imagine telling anyone about this. What do you say? “Hey, Lydia, can you stop by and advise me on makeup, heels, and how to get the fact that his son has turned into his daughter past my dad? Oh, and by the way, bring your knowledge of archaic Latin with you, will you?”
“Don’t forget tips on Tampax,” offered Scott, and Stiles blanched. “Oh God. God, no. He or She, or It, or Cthulhu or Shiva or whoever, would not actually give me a period, would they? Well … Shiva maybe. She’s an angry woman, but no. I will not accept that, not at all. No menstruating.”
He paused, his inner Stiles driven to ask, “Why is it called MENstruating instead of WOMENstruating? I mean, it doesn’t make any sense that …”
Scott was looking at him with that “Could you not be you for a moment?” expression he knew all too well, and he took another breath, his chest inflating and deflating impressively, an action not lost on Scott, who was eyeing them appreciatively.
“Stop perving on my boobs,” snapped Stiles, wrapped his arms around himself, and thought. “I guess we will have to tell someone though, right? I mean … yeah.”
Quickly, he told Scott what he thought had happened, but didn’t show him the paper – he had a feeling that the less people who saw it, the better. And he kind of wanted to keep as much of this fuckup to himself as possible. He merely told him he’d found a paper, it seemed weird, he’d tried to read it, fell asleep and woke up like this.
Thankfully, Scott seemed to accept and not question his explanation, focusing instead on who to tell; Stiles wasn’t surprised, since Scott had never been much of a detail man. “So, okay, we should tell Lydia, which means Allison too, and …”
“No, no Allison! Jesus, why don’t we just grab the PA Monday morning and invite everyone to meet Selena Stilinski, Teenage Femme Fatale?”
“Selena? Sexy,” mused Scott. “You could look more Latina though, if you’re going for Selena, but anyway – really, no Allison? Maybe she could help!”
“Help with what? Curl my eyelashes? No. The less people know, the better.” Stiles shook his head, then scowled as his hair fell in his face, but before he could do anything drastic, Scott sighed. “Got a hair band?”
Stiles eyed him. “Do I look like I have Poison or Stryper hiding in my closet? No, I don’t have a hair band, I only listen to rap and … oh. A … oh. No, I don’t have one of those either. There might be an elastic in my desk drawer, I don’t know.”
Scott got up, rooted around, and then came back. “Turn around,” he said, and pulled his own brush out of his backpack, starting to brush Stiles’ hair for him. Sensing Stiles about to open his mouth, he merely grumbled, “Shut up, okay?”
With clumsy fingers he managed a half-assed braid and snapped the elastic on it. “All right, so focus. What are we gonna tell your Dad?”
Scott thought, and Stiles thought, and several increasingly ridiculous suggestions later, Scott shook his head. “We got nothin’. Another problem for Lydia.”
“I got ninety-nine problems and all of them include being turned into a girl,” sighed Stiles, and then noticed Scott’s expression. “You’re not turned on, are you?”
“A little – you’re cute!” Scott grinned at him, then laughed. “No, just thinking. Should we tell Derek?”
Should they tell Derek. Tell Derek Hale, King Sourwolf of Beacon Hills and Surrounding Areas, that his mother’s book had a couple of appendixes that oh, contained spells for gender-swap amongst other fun rites and circles. He could just imagine how that would go over. Somehow, some way, Derek would make this entirely Stiles’ fault, and the hell of it was that it probably was. It probably was.
Okay, it definitely was, but that changed nothing about the reality of the situation, which was that he had a vagina and was scared of it.
Scott watched him, could see that agile Stilinski brain turning over the pros and cons, and while that was going on, decided to go grab a sandwich. “I’m gonna go get food – you keep working on this stuff, okay?”
Silence was his reply, and he headed downstairs, taking a cursory look outside to make sure the Sheriff’s truck was nowhere in sight, and fortunately, it wasn’t – there was, however, a vehicle far more terrifying pulling up to the curb. A shiny, freshly-washed-and-waxed black Camaro.
Sandwich abandoned, Scott ran back upstairs, only to find Stiles, legs crossed demurely, holding the neck of his shirt open with one hand and squeezing his breasts together with the other, looking fascinated. But before he could open his mouth, he smelled Derek outside the window and just stepped back, out of the way.
A muffled thump and Derek was in the room, nodding to Scott, then looking askance at the girl on the bed. His immediate thought was to congratulate Stilinski on his good luck luring a female to his lair, but one good sniff eliminated that possibility – only Scott and Stiles were in the room.
There was silence, and then a very emphatic “Oh my God.”
Stiles looked up from his chest and blinked. “Do you ever knock? Do you understand the basic concepts of civility and good manners? Do you?”
Derek folded his arms across his chest, and stared, and stared some more, and after a moment, a very, very strange noise erupted from him, and it took Stiles an embarrassingly long moment to realize what it was. Derek was laughing. And not just laughing, actually guffawing; the sound echoing around his room, bouncing harmlessly off the walls. And what was even worse, every time he seemed to catch his breath, he’d look Stiles over again and start laughing. Again.
Stiles bore this mighty insult for a full three minutes before he stood up. “It’s not funny, you asshole!”
“Oh, but it is,” managed Derek, pulling off his jacket, the better to wipe his eyes on the sleeve of his shirt. “It is beyond funny, as a matter of fact. It’s hysterical as fuck.”
As fuck; Stiles was reluctantly impressed ‘cause obviously he’d checked out one of the many, many Tumblr links Stiles sent him on the reg, and had picked up a useful phrase or two.
He folded his arms and watched Derek compose himself, cursing the dimples. Someone that eternally scowly should not be allowed to have dimples, he thought. It just wasn’t right, is what.
Scott, who had watched all this incredulously at first, was also giggling, and was not silenced by a glare from his bestie, which also wasn’t right; Stiles was losing control of the situation fast.
Oh who the hell was he kidding – he’d lost control the second he realized part of his body could qualify as flotation devices in a disaster situation.
Still, a man – or woman – had their dignity, so he stared Derek down until he finally stopped laughing, and took a deep breath, rubbing his face. “Haven’t laughed that hard in years,” he admitted. “Thanks, Stiles.”
“I’m so glad I could make you happy,” said Stiles in his third-most sarcastic tone. “You know I live for these moments. I woke up this morning asking myself, “What can I do to make Derek Hale happy today?” And I thought to myself, “oh, I could TRANSFORM INTO A GIRL, is what! Maybe we could date, get married, eventually have tiny werewolves roaming around our three-bedroom ranch in Lakewood Heights, and …”
Stiles trailed off – both Scott and Derek were giving him an odd look – and sighed. “Anyway. Now that you’ve unleashed your inner hysteric, how about offering some helpful advice?”
Derek raised an eyebrow and studied him intently, while Stiles waited impatiently. “Well?”
“Highlights,” said Derek. “Definitely highlights. I think you could really pull them off. Maybe start with a darker blonde and move on to a lighter shade gradually.”
In the resulting silence, Scott nodded. “I can see that. Maybe even a reddish tone.”
“I hate you both. I hate you both so much that I cannot even speak of the depths of my hatred.” Stiles glared at them both, and stomped off to the bathroom – he had to pee, and okay, check to see if highlights would suit him or not. Also, maybe touch his boobs some more.
“Did he just stomp off in a girly huff?” asked Derek, and couldn’t help laughing more, finally sitting down at the desk, while Scott snorted.
“Yes, yes he did,” sighed Scott, and then sat down on the bed. “You know, of all the weird shit that has happened in the last months – and there’s been a lot – this has to top the list. How do you just turn from male to female overnight?”
“You don’t,” said Derek flatly. “You don’t. This isn’t Freaky Friday, he didn’t switch bodies with someone; it’s still him, God help us. He had to have triggered this somehow, we just need to figure out what and how.” A moment later, though, that grin again. “Still, best thing I’ve seen in years. His expression …”
“He’s super-pissed,” said Scott, rubbing his face.
“He is.” A wider grin. “Welcome to my world.”
It took a while to coerce Stiles back out, and once he was out, it was time to form a plan, or plans, rather. The first thing that had to be done, reasoned Stiles, was to figure out what to tell his father.
Scott thought, opened his mouth, then closed it again, more than once, till Derek fixed him with a look. “Are you going to imitate a wide-mouth bass or do you have something to say?”
Scott scowled briefly, then sighed. “Okay, it sounds odd, but it’s plausible, sort of. Dude,” he said, addressing Stiles, who was so not a dude right now and might never be again – that was problem #2. “Okay, so you know how in our Sociology class we’re talking about gender, gender fluidity, how men and women are perceived in different situations, all that?”
Stiles nodded and Scott continued. “Okay, so, what we do is tell your dad that as a project for that class, you’re crossdressing to better understand the perception of females in society. Tell him it’s like a two-week thing, okay? And we’ll clear it with Miss Clarence, so you’ll be backed up if he calls and asks the school. She’ll love it, she’s into walking a mile in someone else’s shoes and all that. And it will work ‘cause you still act like you and all. You just have really, really good makeup and, uh, prosthetics.”
Derek rubbed his chin. “It could work. It’s the best idea we’ve had so far. You can’t just not go to school till we figure this shit out, and you can’t avoid your dad either so … good idea, Scott. Smart thinking.”
Scott smiled a little. “I am occasionally good for something,” he replied, while Derek muttered, “I wouldn’t go that far, but whatever.”
Stiles looked between them. “I don’t mind walking a mile in someone’s shoes – just never thought those shoes would be designer. And shoes. Clothes. Shit, what am I gonna do?”
“Lydia will take care of all that,” said Scott, sure of this, while Stiles blanched.
“She finally sees me semi-naked and I’ll have boobs. Fuck my life for real. Plus I can barely buy my own wardrobe, let alone a teenage girl’s in a fairly well-to-do town.”
“True, we are chronically broke,” mused Scott, and Derek sighed, then pulled out his wallet.
“Take my MasterCard,” he said, handing it to Scott. “Just sign my name, I trust you.”
“You do? Are you nuts?” Scott was staring at the shiny black card, the edition he knew had no spending limit.
“Probably, but Stiles still needs clothes. Don’t go crazy, because I can check online, will know instantly, and will find you and kick your asses,” Derek added. “So that’s clothes. Lydia will need to come here, so maybe she has something that can cover you long enough to get to the mall. You’re still pretty skinny.”
“But that rack,” started Scott, and Stiles glared at him. “Stop objectifying me!”
“Sorry! Sorry! It’s just that – my best friend, my male best friend, has a rack. It’s kind of amazing and I …”
“Oh Jesus, you want to touch them.” Stiles looked down, and Scott nodded without shame. “I kind of do. Just once and I promise I will keep my hands to myself forever after. Really.”
Stiles sighed deeply, and without thinking, pulled the t-shirt over his head, tossing it aside, making both Scott and Derek blink, then flush. Well, Derek flushed, Scott was too busy admiring.
“Just touch them, okay? You look like you’re about to come in your pants, so just go ahead. Minus the coming, though, okay? I’m traumatized enough as it is.”
“Like you haven’t seen me come,” grumbled Scott, while Derek groaned. “What kind of a relationship do you two actually have?”
They both looked up, like puppies. “Besties,” said Stiles, then looked down as Scott cupped him. “Pretty cool, huh?”
“Fuck yeah,” breathed Scott, and after a moment, Stiles yelped. “Nipples!”
“Right, right, sorry.”
Derek kind of wanted to die. He didn’t want to look or watch, but he couldn’t really look away and he felt all kinds of dirty, but still he watched, up until the nipple tweaking, when he firmly took Scott’s hands away.
“That’s enough of that. Stiles has boobs. You touched them. You’re done.”
Scott sat back. “Amazing.”
“Go call Lydia, you pervert,” ordered Derek, and when Scott was in the hall, Derek picked up Stiles’ shirt and silently helped him put it on again. When he was decent, he took a breath. “You okay? I mean, of course you’re not but … it will be okay. It will be. You’ll get dressed and the whole alibi set up and then we can work on figuring this out. It seems ass backward to do it this way, but it buys us time so we can understand what happened and reverse it.”
“What if we can’t?” Stiles looked at him, and he looked more vulnerable than ever. Derek had steeled himself more than once against the doe eyes, but these were genuine, big and worried.
“We can,” Derek replied with more certainty than he felt. “Every spell has a counter-spell. Every poison has an antidote. Every action has an opposite action. We’ll figure this out.”
He slid an awkward arm around Stiles, giving him a clumsy and uncharacteristic hug. His eyes flickered over to the book, then back to Stiles. “Whatever you did, we’ll figure it out.”
Stiles followed his eyes, sighed and nodded, and when Derek’s arm was around him, he rested his head on his shoulder, just for a moment.
The most shocking thing about Lydia’s reaction to seeing female Stiles was that she was absolutely silent for the first minute or so. No “Oh my God,” no “What did you do?”, nothing. She stopped in the doorway, and eyed him; Scott hadn’t told her anything but that Stiles needed her help and no, he couldn’t come to her; she had to come to him. She had been skeptical, and unwilling to get out of bed, but now she was here, and she was looking him over with a calculating eye.
Stiles swallowed and let her look, while Derek tilted back in the desk chair, and Scott ate the sandwich he’d been foiled out of before.
“I think we should go with muted colors,” she said. “Short skirts, definitely, but a muted color palette. I think soft, half up, half down for the hair, and maybe just stick to some light lip stains and a little mascara cause face it, you have those lashes that I’d die for.”
“Uh, Lydia, don’t you want to know what’s up?” Scott asked, finishing his sandwich and she just looked at him pityingly.
“What is up is that somehow, Stiles is a girl, he needs clothes – and incidentally, to wax those legs, and maybe his arms - and once he’s got something suitable on, we need to figure out how this happened and how to get him back to his goofy, lovable self.”
She turned back to Stiles. “All right, I have some of my mom’s stuff here, stuff she won’t miss – mine was too small, and my mom dresses really, really well, so no bitching. I have a sweater, a bra, panties – both new – and a skirt. Shoes, well, you can wear your high tops just to the mall – we hit the shoe store first.”
She nodded, still plotting. “Go change, and then I’ll fix your braid and we can get going.”
Stiles stared at her.
“Go! Now, chop, chop!”
Stiles went, taking the clothes and muttering, “Never had to put a bra on – have a hard enough time getting one off,” while Scott called after him, “When did that ever happen?”
While Stiles was changing, Lydia googled sales on her phone, Derek sat in silence, and Scott relived his grope-fest of an hour ago, and when Stiles emerged, looking uncomfortable, Lydia sighed. “Come here,” she said, and then unceremoniously reached under the sweater to adjust the bra. “You can’t just shove them in there,” she said, adding, “You need to make sure the cup is filled and … whoa, well, you’re over-filling the cups. We’ll have to get you fitted.”
She had him pull up the sweater while she undid the bra, repositioned the breasts, then clasped it again, while Derek finally flushed and looked away, and Scott busied himself tying his shoe till Lydia pulled down the sweater and grabbed the brush, expertly re-braiding, then pulling out tendrils.
“Okay,” she said, satisfied, and then looked around at all three boys. “Who has the credit card?”
Stiles had never shopped like that. He didn’t even know it was possible to shop like that. Lydia called it combat shopping and she wasn’t wrong, cause Stiles felt like he’d been through a war and come out the other side with bikini panties and MAC lipstick; he still wasn’t sure how either of those things had happened.
Back in his room, with Lydia and Scott for backup – Derek had foregone shopping in favor of going running in the Preserve – Stiles waited for his father to come home. On one hand, this would be his greatest dramatic performance ever, but on the other hand, he felt kind of like he might cry. And it wasn’t the first time today; whether it was just the shock wearing off and reality setting in, or whether it was actual hormones, he was not a fan. He might be an emotional boy in general, but this was ridiculous.
“He’s home,” said Scott from the window, and Stiles took a breath. “He better buy this, ‘cause I have no plan B.”
“Me either,” said Lydia, and shrugged when Stiles scowled at her. “He will. It’s for school and he’s used to you being a little different anyway.”
The door banged downstairs and there was the sound of papers shuffling as his father looked through the mail, and Stiles stood up. “Now or never, though I bet he’s gonna wish he had a couple of drinks in him before this is over. Hell, I wish I had a couple of drinks in me.”
Lydia raised a brow, then produced a small silver flask from her Prada bag. “Be convincing and you can have a shot when we’re done. Now go!”
John looked up when he heard footsteps, and then set down the mail – all bills – and stared; Stiles was getting a lot of that today, and was getting a little tired of it, but this was the hard part, he thought.
“What in God’s name is this?” asked his father, and Stiles opened his mouth, only to have Lydia squeeze by him and start explaining that Stiles was doing a gender-swap experiment for sociology, that he was going to write a paper on it – she got a nudge for that – and that it was going to be for a little over two weeks, and wasn’t it a brave thing to do?
Stiles mostly stayed silent until his father, looking confused, beckoned him down the stairs and checked him out from all angles. “Well,” he said finally, “You’ve done a hell of a job dressing up, son. If I didn’t know better, I would say you’d actually physically transformed.”
He shook his head and laughed. “So you take this off at night or what?”
“Uhm, no, it’s like a total immersion experience,” Stiles managed. “You know, like if you’re going to France and you only speak French for two weeks before, so you get used to it. “
“Well, you’re certainly committing to your project,” observed John. “And I guess I can’t fault that, so good luck, son.” He paused and looked him over. “You would have made a pretty girl,” he decided, patting his arm and picking up his briefcase, heading into the dining room to spread out his files. “Do you still want pizza tonight or are you hanging out with your friends?”
“We’re hanging out,” said Scott from the stairs. “But pizza would still be good.”
“All right,” came John’s voice, already distracted, and Stiles sagged against the stair rail before Scott tugged him back upstairs, where he was rewarded with a generous swig of some really good vodka. And then another for good measure, before they settled down to business.
“Should I call Derek?” asked Scott, reaching for his phone, and Stiles shook his head, knowing Derek was probably lurking as they spoke and had already heard everything.
“No need,” he replied, and sure enough, a moment later Derek was back in the room, leaning on the desk.
Before Stiles could say more, Derek held up a hand. “No, I don’t know how to knock or have any basic social skills or manners,” he said, then eyed Stiles. “Well, check you out.”
“Right? I’m hot,” said Stiles hollowly – it had already been a long day and even the boobs weren’t amusing him anymore. “My dad thinks I’m pretty.”
They all heard the edge in his voice, and Lydia reached over. “Why don’t you just get some sleep tonight, okay? We can start working on this tomorrow, cause I don’t think it’s time sensitive – the spell, I mean, or whatever did this – and we can start fresh tomorrow.”
She licked her lips. “I know you’re overwhelmed,” she said slowly. “I can’t imagine waking up as a guy and handling it even a quarter as well as you are, Stiles. You’re being strong but if you need to let go, do it. Any girl will tell you that sometimes you really need a good cry.”
Stiles nodded, taking a breath, and she leaned over and kissed his cheek softly. “See you tomorrow,” she said, and got up, digging in her purse and handing Derek the card and a sheaf of receipts. “The makeup was the most expensive item,” she told him. “But he can’t wear cheap stuff; it’s bad for the skin.”
That said, she tugged on Scott’s arm, and Scott went with her, signaling that he’d text Stiles later, and then the door closed and it was just he and Derek.
Derek sat down on the floor next to Stiles, his back against the bed; Stiles was folded in a mass on the floor, and his skirt was hitching up, but he didn’t care.
For a long time, neither one of them said anything, and when Stiles finally let himself cry, Derek moved over silently to sit beside him, and this time, the hug was less clumsy.
Sunday noon found them all sitting around Scott’s living room, staring at the book on the coffee table; in the daylight, it was easy to tell that the stains were blood, along with dirt and water splotches.
“So let me understand this,” said Lydia. “This book was your mother’s, Derek, and it was in the basement of the house, and somehow survived the fire. Peter told you about it, Stiles, when you were bitching about the lack of research on the supernatural one day, and you decided that you were going to go find it. You and Scott dug up part of the Hale basement to find it, were chased out by Derek, who later found it and then gave it to you, Stiles, despite his better judgment.”
She looked around. “With me so far?”
Nods from all sides.
“Stiles decided to start trawling through this book when he was alone and tired, and stumbled upon a spell that he couldn’t even begin to decipher, not knowing old Latin. Instead of setting it aside, or calling me or Derek, even, you started trying to speak the spell, which you did, oh, several times before you gave up and went to bed. And the next day, you woke up with a vagina. Is that about it?”
Scott nearly spat out his Coke, and she glared. “It’s a perfectly viable word, and you men better get used to hearing it more often.” She turned back to Stiles. “So that’s accurate?”
“Yes,” nodded Stiles, then yelped when she punched him in the arm.
“I know, I know! I should have just gone to bed, but it caught my eye ‘cause it was written in green ink and nothing else was. Well, the three other slips of paper were also in green ink, but ...”
“My mother never used green ink,” said Derek. “Always black.”
“I know, I thought it was weird too,” started Stiles, “And then I thought it was weird that the spell or whatever was on a separate piece of paper, along with–”
“My mother always wrote everything in the book right away,” interrupted Derek. “She would never leave things on little pieces of paper, because she wouldn’t chance them falling out and us getting our hands on them. How many of these were there?”
“Four.” Stiles reached for the book, and carefully undid the ties – he’d been sure to tie it up the same way as she had – and opened the book, finding the slips of paper jammed into the tight part of the binding where he’d found them in the first place. He found the paper and carefully picked it out, setting it on the table.
Lydia leaned in to pick up the book, touching a page. “It’s different paper too,” she said. “The slips. Could someone else have given those to your mother, Derek? It’s not her writing, either.”
“No, no, it’s not,” Derek confirmed and then furrowed his brow. “No, it’s nothing like hers at all … and I guess someone could have given it to her, but who? I mean, it’s not like everyday people go around with spells written in old Latin in their pockets. I have no idea who it could have been.”
“Did she travel?” asked Stiles. “Maybe she got it that way or maybe she found them in an old book herself. You said even you didn’t know all she included in her journal.”
He shifted, adjusted himself, while Scott laughed into his hand. “You playing with your boobs kills me.”
“Don’t laugh – the only good thing about this whole situation is Samantha and Serena,” said Stiles. “Everything south of the border sucks.”
“You named them?” Scott cracked up. “From “Bewitched,” right? You love that show.”
“Yes, and yes I do. All witches should look like Samantha.”
Lydia rolled her eyes. “Wait till you get your period,” she said, and Stiles put his hands over his ears, earning a laugh from her. “If you need to put in a tampon, however, there are videos on You Tube. My assistance stops at menses.”
“Can we not discuss periods?” Derek looked pained. “Please. So no, I didn’t know what she put in there, but like I said, she transferred any outside information into the journal immediately. These loose papers are really out of character.”
“Okay,” said Scott. “So it’s not her writing on the papers and it’s not her style. So she must have gotten them from someone, and if there’s a thing as hardcore as gender switching there, I don’t even want to know what the others are. The next one probably turns you into a sofa cushion or something. Or a bear.”
“Cause those two things have so much in common.” Stiles had to smile and Scott shrugged.
“I’m just throwing stuff out here. Don’t ask me to be rational.”
Stiles reached over and patted Scott’s shoulder. “No chance of that, buddy.”
“Nice manicure, dude,” replied Scott and Stiles smiled.
“Right? I like the French tips.”
Derek rubbed his face, while Lydia studied the note. “This isn’t any form of Latin I’ve ever seen,” she said. “Some of the words look familiar, but they’re not right, somehow. Dammit!”
They all looked at each other, then Lydia focused back on Stiles. “You said you read the spell – did anything else happen? Anything out of the ordinary?”
Stiles thought back, toying with his braid. “No, not really. I was tired, I put the book on my desk with the paper and I brushed my teeth and went to sleep.”
Lydia nibbled her lip, thinking, and after several fruitless hours, Google searches that revealed nothing and endless retracing of steps, Team Stiles had to admit temporary defeat. “I can’t believe there’s nothing anywhere that even triggers a thought process here,” she sighed, and Stiles looked up.
“Google Translate just laughed at me – literally, a smiley emoji and asked “Did you make these words up? You’ve stumped us!”
He tossed his phone on the couch and rubbed his eyes.
“Don’t do that tomorrow,” cautioned Lydia, gathering up her things. “You’ll get mascara in your eye and that stings. Do you remember how to do your makeup?”
“Uh, mostly. Oh God, right, school. Fuck.” Stiles blew out a breath. “I can’t believe we have no leads. None.”
“Well, we have the kind of paper – that stuff is really expensive vellum,” said Lydia. “And Derek, try hard to think of where your mother would get things like that or why she’d want them. And if I think of anything else, I’ll text you all. Stiles? Want me to pick you up and take you to school?”
“Uhm …” God, Lydia wanted to give him rides and do his hair and makeup and he had never been this close to her and still, there was no chance. The irony was unreal. He couldn’t have her, and Derek, of course, was out of the question. Stiles could be a Victoria’s Secret Angel, and Derek would still not be impressed. Or a member of The Thunder from Down Under, if that was more his thing – he wasn’t quite sure exactly what Derek’s “thing” was, even now. Maybe he was a spore or something and would reproduce by sprouting.
“Stiles?” Lydia was tapping her foot, and he had just opened his mouth when Derek jumped in.
“I’ll take him. I need to get the car detailed anyway, and his house is on the way to the shop.”
Scott raised a brow. “It looks like it was just done. Like, literally yesterday.”
“When you have a classic car you take care of it,” mumbled Derek, and Scott shrugged.
Derek took Stiles home and came in with him – through the front door, like a normal person – and upstairs, he took off his jacket and ate leftover pizza with Stiles, winding up watching a few episodes of “Orange Is the New Black” with him.
“I would not have pegged you as a women’s prison series aficionado,” said Stiles, partway through, and Derek looked over at him.
“Usually, I’m not,” he said, reaching for the crust that Stiles had left on his plate and eating it. “But it was on the list, you know, so I’m trying.”
“List?” Stiles was momentarily nonplussed, and Derek reached into his back pocket and pulled out a dog-eared piece of paper. “Number Four: Watch cooler shows so you get my pop-culture references. Not knowing who “Heisenberg” is, is just wrong. Not knowing that Ruby Rose is the hottest inmate ever is wrong. Just watch, you idiot.”
“Oh, that list. Uhm, yeah. Wow, you read it? And even more incredible, you’re following it? Who are you and what have you done with Derek?” Stiles paused the show. “Actually, yeah, what have you done? You’re not mad at me for messing with a spell I didn’t understand, you were sympathetic when I was upset, you gave me your credit card … you hugged me. Twice!”
Derek shrugged. “You messed with the spell and I can’t change that. You needed clothes. And I would have to be a really stone-cold asshole to not want to make you feel a little better, no matter how. “He paused. “You may have noticed that I tolerate you much better than I used to. I actually think I’ve gotten used to you. Strange days.”
“Strange days indeed.” Stiles looked down at his fingers. “Wow.”
They watched the rest of the episode, and Derek got up to go. “I’ll come by a little early,” he said, sliding on his jacket. “You might understand mascara, but your braid is a freaking mess. You’re gonna need my help.”
Stiles blinked up at him. “You know how to braid?”
Derek smiled. “I have many talents, and also, two sisters,” he answered, before going to the window and swinging his legs over the sill. “Good night Stiles,” he said in a softer tone, and dropped to the ground.
You could only have manners for so long, after all.
As it turned out, Derek was amazing with braids of all kinds, and Stiles went to school with a very creditable Katniss braid, his breasts appropriately arranged, his mascara not clumped and his scarlet skirt the exact right length. He had to admit he looked pretty good.
However, that self-congratulatory pat on the back was the last reasonable thing that happened all day.
His teacher was onboard with the idea and impressed that he had gone into this whole-hog, while in economics, Finstock gaped at him and suggested that he change for practice in the girl’s bathroom so that his boobs wouldn’t start a sex riot in the locker room. Several guys asked if he was now peeing sitting down, while girls admired his braid and told him how brave he was to challenge gender stereotypes.
He smeared his lipstick on his sweater, and unconsciously rubbed his eyes in pre-calculus, resulting in a sting that sent him to the emergency eye-wash sink, and he skipped practice and arrived home hot, smeared, red-eyed, and on top of that, his bra straps were slicing into his shoulders.
He had always admired girl’s ability to remove their bras under their shirts, and never more so than now, to the point that he took all his clothes off in order to get the bra off. When he was naked, he fell face-first on the bed, wishing it would swallow him up.
He laid there for a while, trying to take his mind off things with a little self-exploration until a dry voice said, “Nice ass.”
A start and groan was his answer, and Derek pulled up the blanket at the edge of the bed and covered Stiles’ butt before sitting down in his desk chair. “Long day?”
Stiles looked up, and that was Derek’s answer.
“Your braid went over well,” Stiles said tiredly. “You should do a tutorial on YouTube.”
“I’ll think about it,” said Derek, and looked at the prone figure.
“There are no other pieces of paper like that,” he said finally. “I went back to the house and dug around more, but nothing. Another book, but it was just a fairly common book on werewolf lore, nothing related. Everything else is ash. I looked more closely at the paper, and Lydia is right. It’s not standard at all. Last time I saw anything like that was an old history book that one of my professors had. He said it was really old because the paper was hand-made. I don’t know what Lydia can do with that, but I sent it along.
And then, even though he’d asked a million times already. “You’re absolutely sure nothing else happened that night?”
“I’m sure, Derek – you know I can’t be hiding anything because fuck, you think I want this? My hair is hot. It gets tangled, I keep rolling over on it. The thongs Lydia bought feel weird cause almost no fabric and a string up my ass crack. I had to shave down there. I have mascara on my eyeball somewhere. And when I roll over on my stomach, my boobs squish.”
He looked miserable by now, and Derek bit his lip. “Put on a sweatshirt and some sweatpants or whatever is comfortable.”
“Just do it. Okay? For once, just listen to me and do it.”
The woods were stiller than Stiles remembered, and he tried to tread carefully, like Derek, who seemed to make no sound at all. They walked through the afternoon, sun slanting down through the trees, and when they stopped to cross a brook, Derek nudged Stiles down onto a rock, then gave him a little smile before reaching into the water, down behind a rock, and pulling out a six pack of Coors cans He pulled off two and handed one to Stiles, opening it because, you know, nails.
“Figured you could use one,” said Derek. “I know I could.”
“Cause spending time with me is something you need to be drunk for?”
He got a Derek Hale glare for that, and then, “No, cause I’m thirsty and wanted a beer. Shut up.”
Stiles did, sipping his beer, looking around.
“Laura always used to hide her beer here,” Derek said suddenly. “She hid her beer here, and in that tree over there? There’s a hole and it goes down a little, and she had the perfect-sized rock to fit the hole to keep stuff dry. When she was sixteen, she started smoking, and my mom gave her hell, and she promised not to, but she did it anyway, out here, and stashed her cigarettes and lighters there. She’d swim in the brook afterward to wash off the smell. Peter found out and used the hole to keep his weed in – he was old enough to do whatever he wanted, but my mom felt strongly about anything more than wine or beer, so he got high out here. Wolfsbane weed. Mellowed him out, made him less annoying, so I was all for it. And of course, Laura stole some, and was wandering out here baked, and it took me and Peter to convince her to come home, ‘cause the woods were “so freaking beautiful.” I personally think there was more than wolfsbane in that weed – maybe a little peyote – but that’s Peter for you.”
He took a long swig of beer. “Now I just keep beer here. Feels like she’s still with me that way.”
Stiles looked at him for a long moment, and this time, he was the one to slide his arm around Derek’s shoulder.
Days passed; they could find nothing, nothing at all, and the two-week period he’d given his Dad was dwindling fast. John was being a good sport about it, but Stiles knew he privately thought his son had lost his mind. Stiles wasn’t sure he wasn’t going a little crazy, actually.
The paper was the only lead, and all Lydia had found was that the kind it likely was, was only distributed in California – small, home-based maker – and even when she obtained a recent list of their customers, saying she was in the fine printing business, the list yielded no familiar names.
They were all extremely frustrated; Stiles was trying to reconcile himself to his state, wondering how in hell to tell his dad or the school the truth – he couldn’t, he’d have to leave, go someplace where he’d never been known as a male. Either that, or say he was transgender, and that seemed too serious a place to go, not to mention it being a hot button issue at schools everywhere. Lydia had gotten nowhere with the source of the paper or the language, and Scott felt that he was no help at all, so he was upset, and Derek? Well, he was Derek. But a much kinder, more empathetic Derek than Stiles had ever seen, and he finally asked him why one night. Pizza or other takeout and Netflix had become sort of their thing, and in the midst of “House of Cards,” Stiles asked him what had changed.
“I’m not entirely sure,” Derek said after a long moment. “I guess when someone needs me, I rise to the occasion. Slowly, but I get there.”
“Needs you? Dude, I’m the neediest person ever, and you were never this way before. Are you … is it because I’m a girl?” Stiles hated to ask, but that thought had been hovering on the edge of his mind for days now. “Do you like me better this way?”
Derek looked at him for a long time, then turned the episode back on, not answering, and when Stiles prodded, he was rewarded with a short, “Watch the show, Stiles, and don’t ask questions you know the answer to.”
“But I don’t know the answer!”
But Derek just looked at him like he was mentally deficient and wouldn’t say anything else.
The Thursday before the end of the second week, Stiles was studying in the library. That is, he was sitting there, staring out the window while Lydia grumbled across from him. She was concentrating on the handwriting and the language now, and since the library was sparsely populated at this point in the day, she pulled out the photocopy of the spell she’d made, choosing to keep the original in the book, just in case. She had traced the words in green ink, idly, and finally, pushed herself back from the table and ran her hands through her hair.
Through all this, Allison hadn’t been told what was going on – as far as she knew, Stiles was embarked on an experiment, and she had been impressed with how good he looked, how much he was sticking to it, and had sweetly helped him with lipstick and a little eyeliner in the girl’s bathroom now and then.
She and Scott emerged from the stacks, flushed, and Stiles thought that finding a book had never made him look that hot and bothered.
Scott slid into the chair beside him at their table, and Allison dropped down beside Lydia, looking over her shoulder. “What’cha got there?”
“Just this spell I’ve been researching,” replied Lydia tiredly, reaching into the Purse of Doom for her bottle of ibuprofen. “It’s not anything I’ve ever seen before.”
Allison squinted. “That looks like my grandfather’s handwriting,” she said. “He has this weird up and down stroke because he holds his pen oddly, like this.” She demonstrated. “I can’t write like that, but he does. And he uses green ink all the time, in all his journals and stuff.”
Stiles looked to Lydia, to Scott, then back to Allison, who was studying the paper. “His journals?”
“Yeah, he’s kept them since he was way younger than me,” she said, tracing the letters with the eraser on her pencil. “They all came from this little, tiny place here in California. He ordered two dozen of them years ago and he’s still using them.”
“Is the paper in these journals handmade, by any chance?” Lydia tried to sound casual, and Allison nodded.
“Yeah, it’s really gorgeous. He said he’d get me six for my birthday if I wanted to keep journals too.” She looked down at the paper again. “It’s so weird that anyone else has that penmanship. Crazy.” She shook her head, curls bouncing. “Scott, we were gonna study at my house, right?”
Scott blinked. “Yeah, we were. You ready?”
“Mhmmm.” She got up. “See you guys later,” she said, waving, and she and Scott left, leaving a stunned Lydia and Stiles behind.
“Gerard,” said Stiles slowly. “How did we not think of that? Something evil and unnecessarily cruel – it practically screams Argent.”
“We didn’t think of it ‘cause when we were thinking who Talia could have had dealings with, the Argents weren’t even on the list.”
Headache forgotten, she started writing. “Derek thought Kate was the only one who knew about the Hales, but that doesn’t make sense. She’s definitely her father’s crazy daughter, and she probably told him about them, or about her suspicions at least. He would have done research, maybe even arranging to meet Talia … no wait, she wouldn’t. Maybe he sent someone … dammit, I don’t know. Those pieces are jagged, like they were ripped out of something.”
“His journal. Somehow his spells got into her hands, or into the hands of someone who then gave them to her. “ Stiles was thinking, his brain ticking over, then looked up. “Who have we not considered here?”
Lydia narrowed her eyes. “Peter.”
“Peter.” Stiles leaned back. “Why is it always Peter?”
“Because he’s an evil, self-serving sociopath?”
“We shouldn’t discuss this here,” Lydia decided, standing up. “He could be hiding in the dropped ceiling for all we know. What did he say when he saw you?”
They were walking out of the building, Stiles enduring catcalls from the swim team as they passed the pool, and then they were outside. “Assholes. Someone should pee in their pool. I would, but my aim is for shit these days.”
Lydia ignored him. “What did he say?” she persisted. “Did he laugh?”
“Loudly and for a long time, but he had nothing to add, other than that his sister was always thirsty for knowledge and all he’d known about was the book, not what went into it.”
“Lying son of a bitch. And he is conveniently “traveling” right now, too.” Lydia scowled as they got into her car. “Okay, so what we need to do is to go to Gerard and force him to decipher the spell and tell us how to reverse it.”
“Oh sure,” said Stiles with his second-most-sarcastic voice. “Appeal to the goodness of his heart and all.”
“It’s all we have,” said Lydia, shifting and backing out. “It’s either that or you learn about tampons real quick, cause this will be your life, Stiles.”
On that depressing note, she pulled into the street and headed towards Lakeview Heights, and home.
For the rest of that night, they discussed strategy – Peter was not answering calls or texts, unsurprisingly – and try as they might, they couldn’t make the connection. Around midnight, they gave up, having concluded that either Peter had somehow stolen a journal and ripped the spells from it and stuffed them into Talia’s book for safekeeping, or that maybe he had been a sort of go-between, between a Hunter who was known for double-crosses and an Alpha who wanted knowledge far beyond her ken. Stiles knew in his heart that Peter would never tell them the truth, neither would Gerard, and the only other option had died before any questions could ever be asked. It was a bitter pill for Stiles, who always wanted to know everything, and for Lydia, who never wanted to leave loose ends.
When Stiles went to leave, planning on walking against Lydia’s better judgment, Derek was waiting for him, and Stiles didn’t even question, just got in. “How long have you been out here?”
“Long enough,” he said, eyes on the road, his mouth tight and angry. “More than long enough.”
“I don’t want to talk, Stiles, all right? Basically, the conclusion is that either my uncle or mother stole or accepted spells from a crazy Hunter, for no known reason. Right? There’s nothing else to say.”
“Not for lack of trying. I would rather it be anything else.” Stiles was subdued, and after a moment, Derek glanced over, let out a long breath, and turned into his driveway.
“Maybe it was all innocent. Maybe Peter came by the papers honestly.”
Derek snorted, but looked thoughtful. “My mother’s birthday was a few days before the fire,” he said, musing to himself. “Peter gave her this old, really rare book that he’d gotten in San Francisco at this kind of shady shop.”
“Shady how?” Stiles asked, realizing that he really didn’t want Peter to be the bad guy again, and willing to suspend belief to get to that conclusion.
“Shady in that if you wanted something specific and asked the owner, he might not have it, but miraculously, a week later, he’d call you and he would have just gotten ahold of a copy of whatever you needed. It was a strict don’t ask, don’t tell situation.”
“So, Peter goes looking for a gift for his sister, and finds this book, buys it, maybe never looks through it, and gives it to her. The scraps are in that book. Maybe the book was stolen from Argent – I wouldn’t be surprised, if that guy was basically a broker for contract thieves.”
Derek sighed. “This is starting to sound like a spy novel. We’re not gonna find out what really happened, especially now. Peter would never accept any responsibility for giving those papers to my mom, even if he did it unwittingly, especially since this happened to you.”
“Maybe not. I just wish we had a final answer.” Stiles sighed and rubbed his forehead.
“There’s never a real final answer, Stiles. You should learn that now.”
Silence ensued until they pulled into the Stilinski driveway; Derek parked and looked over at him.
“I’ll find Chris Argent,” he said. “Tell him what’s going on and have him get his father to meet with us, however he has to. When I do, bring the spells – not the book – and we will force him into reversing the spell.”
“What if he can’t?” Stiles’ hand was on the door. “What if this is it?”
“It won’t be.”
“It won’t. Go to bed. I’ll text you when I have something to tell.”
Any other time, he might have pushed it, but Stiles was exhausted, Derek was tense, and he just wanted to sleep and wake up normal again. His normal, whatever that was.
He got out and walked up the driveway, feeling Derek’s eyes on him, but not turning around.
The text came the next day a little after noon; they were to come to the Argents’ that night; Chris would have Gerard there one way or the other and they would figure this out.
The afternoon dragged after that, more so than usual, and he was distracted, fidgeting, the Adderall having zero effect, and by the time Lydia picked him up to go to the Argent home, he was a mess, literally and figuratively.
Allison and her mother had gone shopping; while it was likely that Allison would eventually find out, Chris agreed that she didn’t need to be part of this – she’d already helped more than she would ever know, and in case things went badly, Chris wanted her away from the scene. Stiles couldn’t blame him; he didn’t even want to be on the scene.
At six PM, they were gathered in Chris’s study; Derek, Lydia, Stiles and Scott, and soon enough, Chris helped Gerard in; he looked pale and unwell, yet still like the black-hearted wretch he was.
Settled in a comfortable chair, he eyed each of them turn, lingering on Stiles. “Is that Mr. Stilinski under there? Is it Halloween already? I find it hard to keep track of the days lately.”
Stiles smiled thinly. “Funny. Yes, it’s me, and no, this is no costume, and though I appreciate your attempt at humor, very little of this is at all funny to me.”
He glanced at Derek, standing rigid to Gerard’s left, and Lydia, near Chris, and then to Scott, who was close enough so that Stiles could feel his heat.
He began to speak, short, declarative sentences, remarkably free of his trademark intonation or hand gestures; by now he felt numb, and couldn’t do more than he was. When he was finished, he stopped and took a breath; he couldn’t read Chris, but Gerard? He was easy. He found this funny.
“You know,” said Gerard idly, tracing the grooves of wood of the armchair where he was comfortably reclined, “While all this is very interesting – and amusing, I cannot deny – I still fail to see why I should offer my assistance. After all, those few spells were never meant for anyone’s eyes, save mine or some other soul powerful enough to handle such things. The fact that they fell into her hands and she kept them available in a book that anyone could have found strikes me as at the very least, careless, and at most, intentional.”
Derek was simmering, Stiles could tell, and he wanted to touch him, tell him to calm down, but he didn’t quite dare.
“How could such a spell be intentional?” Lydia, of course. “Who in their right mind would want to gender swap anyone? It could ruin their lives!”
Gerard smiled, all stained teeth and malice. “You answered your own question, Miss Martin. It might certainly do that. It might also render a powerful enemy unsure, perhaps physically weaker, perhaps too distracted or upset to fight.”
“My mother would never do that,” hissed Derek with great effort. “She wasn’t a psychopath.”
“Are you sure about that?” Gerard’s tone was idle, but his eyes alert, watching Derek’s every move. Chris, who had ensured that his father was disarmed in every possible way, still was smart enough to keep his eyes on the old man, who was full of surprises – none of them pleasant, ever. “Your mother was an Alpha, Derek. One of the most powerful in the country. She knew and did things you would never expect, and many that I’m sure that you, with your strained nobility, would never understand or condone. It doesn’t matter now though, does it? No one can take her place, even your little awkward protégé over there. He nodded at Scott, whose eyes glowed yellow, narrowing. “But all this is well beside the point, which, I remind you, was why should I help?”
“Because it’s the right thing to do?” Scott’s eyes were slowly turning back to brown, and then flared yellow again as Gerard laughed; a dry, hacking sound.
“Try again, boy,” he started, then choked as Derek reached out, grabbed him by the neck, and lifted him out of his chair, claws milliseconds away from closing in on his throat.
“You will help Stiles, because you owe ME,” he hissed. “You raised a complete sociopathic bitch – you, and you alone, are responsible for her hatred, her lack of empathy, her evil nature. She deliberately killed my family. ALL of my family, even the smallest, most innocent children. Her actions drove my uncle to insanity and he completed her mission by killing my sister. She took everything from me, because of what she learned from you. You, and you alone. So you will translate that spell. You will do it now, and you will do it faithfully, or I will inflict pain on you that makes your daughter’s little electric experiments seem like static shock.”
The growl, usually low in his chest, grew until it filled the room, soundwaves bouncing off the walls, and though Stiles thought he’d gotten over being afraid of Derek in shift, he realized that his knees were shaking a little, and he moved closer to Scott, needing him.
Derek’s now-red eyes bored into Gerard’s. “I don’t plan to have anything to do with any member of your family ever again unless I am forced for the good of the pack, so take a good, long look, old man, at what you and your spawn made. You owe me this.”
“You’d use such a favor on some human teenager with no real value?” Gerard could barely speak, and his last words were further choked by Derek’s claws, which were tightening enough so that Chris actually took a step forward – for Derek or his father, he wasn’t quite sure.
“No,” managed Derek, voice unnaturally calm now. “I’d use it for Stiles.”
Stiles closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them again, Derek had let go of Gerard and had stepped back, claws receding, face shifting back and Stiles was very glad Scott was right there, cause a strong Scotty-arm was around him and he took a long breath.
“Stiles,” said Chris softly. “The paper. Dad, sit down. And let me add this,” he said softly. “Don’t try anything, Dad. Every single thing Derek said was accurate and if you don’t adhere to the spirit of our code, and do the right thing, I will personally set every Hunter in the country on your tail, as well as a few foreign ones you will not care to see. I want to believe there is still some shred of good inside you – don’t prove me wrong.”
Gerard didn’t say a word, just waved for the paper, which Stiles set before him, and let his eyes travel over the words a few times, then looked up. “They say you’re supposed to be smart,” he said, glancing up at Stiles. “But not smart enough not to play with forces beyond a simple human with no extraordinary powers to speak of.”
“I fucked up, okay?” Stiles took a breath. “I made a mistake but its human nature to want to know, to want to seek, to want to master. I’m not apologizing for being human – male or female.”
One tangled old-man eyebrow rose. “Feisty as either gender, what a surprise,” he said dryly, then looked down again. “It’s not just the words, this spell. Words are words, in every language, even dead ones. Had you merely muttered and mispronounced the words, nothing would have happened. This took blood.”
All eyes turned to Stiles, who shook his head. “I didn’t …”
“Come on, boy,” said Gerard. “Girl. Whatever. This needed blood to activate the spell. It needed the incantation and your blood. Think back.”
Stiles did, biting down hard on his lip, then clenching his fist beside him; one of his nails had split and was jagged, and it was cutting into his palm. The discomfort made him uncurl and raise his hand, staring at the red crescent, suddenly remembering. It had been so insignificant, such a common occurrence, that it had completely slipped out of his mind. “Paper cut,” he said. “I must have been playing with the paper and I got this nasty paper cut; it was deep and it bled.”
“Onto the paper?”
“Yeah, onto the paper, but there’s nothing there now!”
“The spell took the blood inside of itself,” said Gerard. “And before you ask any annoying questions about how that could happen, remember that there are mysteries humans aren’t meant to know. Give me your hand.”
Stiles hesitated, and Gerard let out an angry huff. “Give me your hand!”
Stiles extended it and yelped a second later when the pen knife from the desk set sliced across the pad of his index finger; bright blood came immediately to the surface. “Don’t be a coward, boy, it’s a tiny cut.”
Stiles disagreed with that assessment, but swallowed and tried to not shudder as Gerard’s paper-dry hand squeezed his, several drops splotching onto the paper before the old man let go and pushed his hand away, then started speaking; Stiles recognized the words, but didn’t even mouth them, staying silent as Gerard spoke the spell once, twice, three times. On the third time, the blood disappeared into the paper, leaving no stain, no sign.
Gerard pushed the paper away, and Derek grabbed a brass bowl from the sideboard, and stabbed the pen knife into the paper, picking it up, impaled on the knife tip. He dropped it into the bowl and stared at it.
“It’s done?” He stared at Gerard, who suddenly seemed very, very old and tired. “It’s done.”
“The spell is really complete?”
Scott still sounded anxious, and Gerard sighed. “Do I stammer, McCall? It’s done. Over the next 8 hours, Stiles will return to his former state although frankly, I would have reconsidered. He makes a much more fetching girl.”
Derek reached for a tissue and wiped the blade of the penknife with it till no trace of the blood remained, and then dropped the tissue in the bowl too, flicking a light to it and watching it burn down to ashes, and then nothing at all remained except a black stain from the fire.
“Come on, dude, let’s get you home,” said Scott softly, and took Stiles’ shoulder, then smiled a little. “I’m gonna miss playing with all this hair, dude,” he added, and Lydia sighed.
“Once in a while, I might – might – let you braid mine. Possibly, if you’re not all weird about it. And may I remind you, your girlfriend also has long hair you can play with?”
She and Scott took Stiles out, while Derek paused in front of Gerard, looking down at him. “Thank you,” he said quietly, with effort. “Nothing will ever truly wipe the slate clean, but I don’t hold you, personally, to anything any longer, Argent.”
He nodded to Chris, and left, following the others, while Chris took an exhausted and oddly quiet father back to his room.
They – minus Lydia who had gone back inside the Argents to retrieve a scarf she’d loaned Allison – gathered back at Scott’s house; the Sheriff was home doing paperwork and frankly, Stiles was pretty sure that his father thought this “role-play” had gone on long enough and was about to ask a lot of uncomfortable questions that Stiles, for once, had no answers to. Melissa was working an overnight, and the house was quiet.
Stiles sat on the couch, remembering, finally, to sit with his legs closed and wiggled his painted toenails absently. “I liked the mani-pedis,” he said, apropos of nothing. “They were nice. And I didn’t mind the braids and stuff. I could do without the skirts, the constant hair removal and frankly, the bras, but otherwise? This wasn’t the worst thing in the world.”
Scott grinned. “You were a pretty girl. Are. But you’ll be back to your gangly, freckled guy-self in a few hours, right?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“You should get some sleep, Stiles,” said Derek abruptly. “The change happened while you slept last time, and I don’t know if it happens little by little or all at once, but it’s probably easier to wake up that way, you know?”
Scott nodded. “Take my bed, I’ll sleep on the couch down here. Come on.”
Stiles nodded and got up, starting for the stairs, and went up them slowly, the others behind him. “Take a good last look at the ass, boys,” he said over his shoulder, “and at the boobs while you’re looking.”
Scott rolled his eyes but laughed and Derek had a small smile playing around his lips as they entered Scott’s room. “Here are boxers – clean, yes – PJ bottoms and a t-shirt for when you wake up, okay? If you need me, yell for me, all right?”
“I will, Scotty. Thanks.”
Scott squeezed his shoulder and moved past Derek, heading back downstairs, while Stiles rubbed the back of his neck and then automatically started pulling out the ponytail tie.
“Let me,” said Derek softly, and pulled out the tie with gentle fingers, then ran them through the long locks, rubbing the nape. “Gonna miss this?”
Stiles snorted. “I don’t know. Maybe a little. Still, it will be nice to be able to rinse all the soap out – never got that great at that.”
“I imagine.” Derek was still combing through. “Uhm, Stiles, I was going to – I wanted to answer your question – a couple weeks late, but still, an answer.”
Stiles turned around, Derek dropping his hand, so they were face to face. “Which question? I ask a lot of them, you know?”
“I’ve noticed.” Derek smiled a little, then dropped his shoulders. “You asked if I liked you better as a girl – that night when we were watching “House of Cards?”
“I remember,” Stiles sighed, then tilted his head. “So? You have an answer for me now?”
“I do,” replied Derek. “The answer is that it doesn’t make any difference to me what gender you are – you’re still Stiles. You’re still smart, funny, more than a little hyper and when you’re on a mission, no one is funnier – or more inspiring – to watch than you. And as much as you drive me insane, as much as you can, and have, annoyed me, and will probably continue to, I can’t imagine you not being part of my life now. You hammered away at me until I cracked, then dug in, and now, well? Can’t be Stiles-less, no matter if you have Rapunzel hair or US Army hair. It’s all good.”
Stiles had been holding his breath, and now smiled, a sweet, bright smile, and Derek gave in; he cupped Stiles’ cheeks in both hands and pulled him close, crushing his lips against Stiles’.
Stiles let out a surprised moan as he was suddenly kissed, hard, by a scowly werewolf who had gotten under his skin from the first moment he’d laid eyes on him in the Preserve all those months ago, and his hands went to Derek’s arms, squeezing his biceps (finally!) and Derek kept one hand on his cheek and pressed the other against the small of Stiles’ back, keeping him close, keeping him from pulling back.
As though that was gonna happen.
The kiss lasted either a minute or eight months – Stiles wasn’t too good at measuring time – but when Derek let go, pulled back, he was slack jawed and trying to breathe, his eyes glassy, but all Derek saw was those soft golden eyes, the lashes, the pink cheeks and those lips, wet, slick, and unbelievably pink.
He swallowed, just murmuring, “God, look at you,” almost to himself, then Stiles blinked a little, and Derek had to laugh. “Hormones?”
“Happy,” whispered Stiles. “And maybe hormones.”
Derek touched Stiles’ cheek. “Go to sleep, okay? Let your body do its thing.”
“Sleep? After that? Are you kidding? I might never sleep again!”
“Yes, yes you will. Just lay down, roll over onto your side, stick your leg out of the covers so you can move your toes and shove the pillow under your chin, and you will be fine.”
“You know exactly how I sleep? Why am I not surprised?” Stiles had to smile again, then tilted his head. “I will sleep on one condition – that there are more of those kisses when I wake up. I mean it. Otherwise, I’ll think I dreamed all this and I want to make sure I’m not.” He paused. “I’m not, am I?”
In answer, Derek brushed his finger lightly against that full bottom lip, and then leaned in to press his lips against Stiles’. “You’re not. But sleep now, get more kisses later, and we’ll figure it all out tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay,” breathed Stiles, and then took a breath, pulling off his shirt and then flushing. “Ah, can you …”
Derek raised a brow, but turned around for form’s sake, and Stiles got undressed quickly, though taking a moment to look down at Samantha and Serena; he’d actually miss them a little.
In his panties – white lace with a little blue bow – he slid into Scott’s bed, which smelled comfortingly like him, and looked up at Derek. “Are you going to stay here?”
Derek actually smiled. “What do you think?”
Stiles smiled back, and got into position, just as Derek had described, and closed his eyes, opening them a moment later to check to make sure Derek was, indeed, there.
He was, in Scott’s desk chair, and had picked up a book; he didn’t even look up. “Go to sleep, Stiles.”
A moment later. “Seriously. Go. To. Sleep. Stiles.”
Two threats of bodily harm later, Stiles did fall asleep, his exhausted mind shutting out the lights and locking the doors, sliding into darkness.
The Sheriff had been very relieved to have his ‘son’ back, enough to take him out to dinner at a steakhouse, and in return, Stiles let him have whatever he wanted, and if he ate a whole blooming onion, well, he was willing to overlook it this one time.
The Coach was less relieved to have Stiles back, and after six wind sprints up and down the field, told him he ran like a girl.
Scott was somewhere in between; he was glad to have his dude back, but somehow, he still missed girl!Stiles, and frankly, the rack. Yeah, he’d perved on his best friend’s boobs and was not ashamed. Or, well, a little ashamed. Not that much.
Lydia, too, was torn; she and Stiles had gotten close in the past month, and it had been fun teaching him how to pass as a teenage female – she actually wouldn’t have minded him opting to stay that way, or thought she wouldn’t – till the Monday she’d found a bouquet of sunflowers in her locker, with the note, “You are my sunshine,” and turned to find Mr. Flannel-and-Hoodie himself beaming at her from a few feet away; all fuzzy hair and big hands, all ungainly limbs and staccato speech, and she had smiled back, brighter than the flowers and blown him a kiss.
The only one who didn’t have any opinion, voiced or otherwise, was Derek, cause as long as there was Stiles, it didn’t matter. Never had.
He had watched Stiles sleep that night, watched the change back with fascination, and when he’d woken, all flushed cheeks and still-pink lips, Derek had been there. And true to his word, that was not the last kiss that day – actually, the kisses pretty much hadn’t stopped since, which surprised no one but Scott. And his Dad, but considering how odd things had been in the last few weeks, he was just happy that Stiles had someone else in his life who loved him – it was pretty obvious to everyone that Derek did.
The remaining slips of paper had been destroyed by Chris, in the same brass bowl, and after making sure he had all the bits of the book copied that would ever be of use to the pack, Stiles had given it back to Derek, who had re-tied the bands on it in his mother’s pattern and locked it securely in a metal box which he stored it in his own vault under the foundation of the demolished Hale house. He didn’t tell a soul where it was; he wasn’t taking any chances.
But the box had one other very important piece of paper inside; a much-folded, much-consulted piece of notebook paper, titled, “10-Point Plan to Make Derek Hale a More Reasonable Sort of Asshole …” and finally, every point was checked off.
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