So, the first thing that happens is that Stiles gets hit with some kind of dart right in the fucking jugular.
No, wait, the first thing that happens is that Rogue Hunter Group number 56,790 rides into town in their cavalcade of overpriced, gas-guzzling SUVs and does what every single other fucking cavalcade of Rogue Hunters do; make his life difficult. Yeah, that's probably—no, wait a fucking minute. The first thing that happens is that Creepy Uncle Fucking Peter bites Scott when he's sixteen.
Yeah, okay. Stiles is good with that. The first thing that happens is that Scott gets bitten, and then high school becomes a shitstorm of blood and late nights and fucking claws. The thing that's happening now—the getting-shot-in-the-jugular-with-a-dart-that's-making-him-woozy thing—that's like the millionth fucking thing to happen. Billionth. Whatever.
But then again, the details of what came first and what came after isn't really important at the moment. What's important at the moment is that there's a dart in Stiles's neck, and he's propped up against a tree in the woods—it's a tree just like all the other fucking trees around him and god Stiles fucking hates trees and forests and woods and the sound that leaves make when you're running on them—and Lydia is kneeling next to him, mascara running down her face as she tries to do something (he's not sure what?) with trembling hands. Maybe she's trying to pull it out, because there's a definite pulling sensation in his neck area. Maybe the dart has barbs.
It makes sense because it doesn't make sense, okay. This is Stiles's life. It's nonsensical.
Anyway, back to whatever this is. Stiles is splayed out, head resting against the rough tree trunk, blood all over the right side of his face and shoulder (he can feel it, can smell it). There's snot running from his nose and spit on his lips that he can't get the strength to wipe off and he thinks—he thinks—there are some tears but whatever. They're man tears. Of manliness. Silent and meaningful and shit.
His chest is tight and heavy. His throat isn't in danger of closing up, though. He's almost unnaturally calm, considering the circumstances. And it's not like he's used to stuff like this. Sure, he's more used to it than is necessary, but it's not like every time the shit starts flying he gets a face full of crap (it's a metaphor okay, it fucking works). He's just… there's no use panicking.
Lydia is yelling something at him, and he considers trying to listen to her, except his head is pounding and whenever he tries to keep his eyes open for longer than like, five seconds the world (which, granted, is full of dark shadows made dramatic by the full moon and trees, so many fucking trees, and leaves and the occasional boulder to add some excitement) starts looking like an LSD experiment gone right. So so so right.
"Fuckin' hell," he tries to say, except it comes out sounding more like, "fgghll," which is bad.
Probably. Stiles doesn't know because everything is numb.
He's not panicking, but he doesn't like this. He doesn't like that he can hear snarls now, and growls, and howling, but he can't do anything about it. He was out here to save Derek—or, he was out here so Scott could save Derek—and now he's… here. Collapsed against a tree. With Lydia resolutely trying to do something.
(He thinks the dart is out now. Doesn't matter, though, does it? It was meant to poison him with something, and whatever he's poisoned with is already in his bloodstream.)
His head tips forward, chin resting on his chest, and then it tips back—there's a time delay in there somewhere, he's sure of it—and Scott is in front of him. Derek's there too, of course. It's a good thing he's there—they came out here to fucking help him, of course he should be here—because if he wasn't it means all of it was for nothing. Boyd is off in the distance, standing over a prone body, claws out, back towards Stiles. Isaac is supposed to be here, but Stiles doesn't see him. Erica is walking out of the trees, eyes glowing red, face contorting into something angry when she sees him.
"Stiles." Scott sounds urgent; worried. "Stiles fuckin' look at me, dude. I think we need to take him to Deat—"
"He's poisoned idiot." Ah. Lydia. "Of course we're taking hi—Derek, what are you—"
"I'm picking him up." Derek's voice is raw; wrecked from whatever the hunters did to him. If Stiles concentrates, he can focus on the rips in Derek's clothing and the dirty, jagged lines of red on his skin that look like someone tried to hack his arm in half with a chainsaw. "Scott, the car—"
"Stiles drove—god, dude, slow the fuck down your arm was almost ripped off," Scott says, and Stiles realizes he's getting picked up, strewn over Derek's back piggy-back style so his chin is resting in the crook of Derek's neck, arms hanging limply over his shoulders. It would be comfy—cute, even, if Stiles allowed himself to think about things like that—except he's drugged (in a bad way) and hurting and Derek just escaped after being lured into some sort of hunter trap and god he's so tired of this.
He's nineteen. He's—fuck, Stiles doesn't know why him being nineteen should mean he doesn't have to do this any more. He just doesn't want to do it anymore. He wants—he wants something else. Wants to come back home and not end up bleeding and poisoned. Wants to stop paying attention to the phases of the moon. Wants to stop doing double-takes every time the sun glints off a pair of sunglasses.
He wants Derek. He wants the warmth he's feeling against his front pressed against him without it being an emergency. He wants his hands all over Derek's skin without it being to punch him awake or pull him out of a polluted drainage ditch. He wants him to smile. At anything.
Fuck, he wants him so bad, and it's pitiful.
"Okay," Derek whispers.
Sometime during his dramatic rescue Stiles must finally drift off, because he's in his bed in his room, and he has no idea how he got here. It's morning—the sun is shining through the curtains—and he actually feels pretty good. Like, so good that you wouldn't even think that last night (he's assuming it was last night) he got shot in the neck with a dart. A poisoned dart.
Stiles clears his throat, reaches a hand up and presses it over the bandage covering his neck. There's pressure, a slight pain, but nothing that feels wrong, nothing that feels like he's missing something important. Except something is off. Whatever it is, it's not on him. He just has a feeling. Like the world isn't right, or the walls are too low, or the light coming from the window is too artificial, or—fuck, he'll just chalk it up to still being drugged with whatever he was drugged with.
He moves his head then, finally, and it's not as painful as he thought it would be. His phone is on the shelf behind his head, but he can see the cord from where it's plugged into the wall, and if he could just—
"Your father went to get groceries," a voice says, and Stiles freezes because it's not one he recognizes. He leans up, wincing as the movement pulls at muscles that are sore and achy, looks around, and…
There's a cat.
It's sitting at the foot of his bed, predator yellow eyes meeting his, covered in midnight black fur with a mark at the center of its forehead that reminds Stiles of a lumpy crescent moon (then again, everything these days reminds him of werewolf shit, so that's no surprise). Slowly, oh so slowly, it tilts its head to the side, as if it's waiting for him to say something, or respond, or just—
"Your father," it repeats, and oh god, its mouth is moving. Definitely moving. Stiles is definitely fucked. "Your father is getting groceries. The—" it stops as Stiles scrambles backwards, hits his head against his headboard and flails, ends up tangled in his sheets with his back on the floor and his feet on his bed, chest heaving. Something like a whimper escapes his mouth, except then the cat jumps down to sit on his chest, and he freezes. "Calm down," it says. Right. Yeah. Fucking likely. "This isn't a hallucination. I'm not here to hurt you. Your father went to get groceries. The other one—Scott?—took the hairy one somewhere. They were talking about a vet. And I'm here."
"You—" Stiles sputters out.
"Me," the cat says, "I'm Diana." And then it bows.
"That's great," Stiles gasps, "that's just fucking peachy. But first off, you're a cat, second, you're fucking talking. And I'm pretty sure a hallucination would say that they aren't a hallucination."
The cat—Diana—rolls her eyes, stands, and bats at his nose with her paw. "If I was a hallucination, I don't think you would feel that. That's not important. You need to trust me, Stiles. There are things happening, and I—"
"Things happening? And how do you know my name?" Stiles wants to go back to Berkeley. There are no talking cats at Berkeley. No werewolves, either. Just classes and parties and human problems that are so fucking refreshing in comparison to this.
"Get up," Diana says, jumps back on the bed and looks down at him, "calm down, and I'll tell you."
Stiles takes a deep breath and swallows back all the retorts he has in response to that. Most of them are pithy comments that really have nothing to do with the situation, anyway. It's not like they would help him. It's not like sarcasm will block out the sight—and sound—of a talking cat. He sighs, gets up and walks over to lean against his desk, and by the time he's over there he's somewhat calm.
Hah. Calm. Right. Stiles hasn't been calm since… ever. Calm is overrated. Calm makes you lazy.
"Okay," he says, gestures for her to continue. He can't really look straight at her—if he does, he'll start freaking out. "Explain."
His neck isn't hurting anymore. Probably the adrenaline.
"My name is Diana," Diana says, "There are things happening in Beacon Hills, Stiles. Strange things. And you're the only one that can help."
"I'm the only one—fuck, you know everyone I know in this fucking town is either a genius in some respect or a werewolf, right?"
"They're not you," Diana says forcefully, and her eyes glint for a bit. "They're not warriors."
"Right," Stiles says, looking around his room for either a weapon or a way out (there's the window and the door, and next to his desk there's his old lacrosse stick). "Warrior. That's me. Got me in one. I'm a warrior of—"
"—the moon. A warrior of the moon. Tsuki no senshi," Diana says, calmly. "A descendent of the Princess Serenity, a—"
"You have got to be fucking kidding me," Stiles says, and even he's impressed with how monotone his voice is. Must be the shock. "I'm not Japanese. Also not a… warrior of the moon."
"The light of hope does not require senshi to be of a certain nationality or ethnicity," Diana says, a little prissily. She jumps down from his bed, sashays over—he's frozen in fear and panic and disbelief, which is the only reason he doesn't move—and jumps up on his desk, her tail winding around the arm he's using to steady himself as she does so. "The light of hope is timeless and only burns bright in those who are needed. Yours was dormant; now it's not."
"Right, sure," Stiles says, except Diana hisses and bats at his arm, this time with her claws out.
"It's the truth, Stiles," she says. He takes a step back and crosses his arms across his chest, mostly so she'll stop hitting him.
"Okay," he says. If he walks slowly, he can get to his phone and call someone—anyone—to help him. Hell, if he just dived for it and ran out of the room it's not like Diana—no, the cat; if he keeps calling her by her name he'll start believing her—could really do any damage if he locked her in his room.
"Put this around your neck," she says, and Stiles looks from where he's been eying his phone to her. She has a… something in her mouth. There's a chain hanging from it, and it's large, glinting red in the light. "If nothing happens, then I'll leave."
"You really don't know anything about me if you want me to put that thing around my neck," Stiles says. "For all I know it's going to choke me."
Diana sighs, and very obviously rolls her eyes. And then, before he can do anything—before he even sees her fucking move—she's balanced on his shoulder, and there's a heavy weight settling around his neck.
"You fu—" he scrambles, throws her—she yowls—and tries to get it off, but it's stuck, glued to the loose t-shirt he's wearing, at first, but then somethings starts happening and his shirt starts disappearing and everything starts burning.
... understandably, he starts to panic. Vaguely, his thoughts go back to last night, when even as his heart thundered in his chest and his eyes got heavy, he was breathing easily, was relatively calm. Now though; now it's different. Now he's panicked and scared and he can feel his throat closing up because it needs to come off—
The pain starts. It's a nasty pain, something deep and dark and not at all natural. It feels like it's coming from his bones, from his very cells; feels like he's being pulled apart. He collapses, gasping for air, sobbing a little probably. He thinks, pitifully, that he calls for Dad once or twice. Scott, maybe. But they aren't here—if they were, they would've heard. Scott would've heard. Would've come up to help him.
There's a lot of… light, is all he's aware of. He feels his limbs start moving, feels himself stand up, unable to control his body, watches as ribbons of intense neon wrap around his torso (which is now naked? And burning? And painful?) and imbed themselves into his skin.
His feet definitely leave the floor, which means he's hovering. Which is bad. Probably.
The feeling of patterns—definitely patterns, he can feel the straight lines and curls and circles—being carved (fucking carved) into his skin is wrong and filthy and he's scared, angry at himself because after all of the shit he survived in high school, after all the shit he's survived period, he doesn't want to fucking die at the hands of a talking cat, evil skin cutting pendants aside.
Except he doesn't die.
The pain gets worse, turns into a burning, twisting, stabbing, itching pain, and stays that way for what seems like an eternity. Eventually though—let's go with eons later—it starts to change. Starts to get a little better, a little less "oh fuck I'm going to die" and more "oh fuck i am so screwed this is probably going to maim me forever." Not quickly—fuck, not quickly at all. It gets better, if anything, too slowly, his bones aching and his blood burning for far too long for him to be of sound mind when it actually does start to get bearable.
So when it stops—and when it does, he's not hovering anymore—he can't be blamed for collapsing to the floor in heap of useless, sweaty limbs, eyes closed, nails digging into the wood, heart pounding and breaths shallow and labored. He's cold—shivering, even. Scared and yet unable to move so he can run. He can't even fucking hear anything over the rush of blood in his ears for the first few moments, and then he feels something hitting at his arm, and opens his eyes.
Dia—the cat. The evil fucking ca—he scrambles backwards, presses his back against the wall nearest him.
"Don't fucking com—"
"Look down," she says, and he... well, it's mostly instinct, but he looks down. The noise that escapes his throat is like… is like if a zebra got a hold of a vuvuzela. It's choked off and raw and pretty much sums up what he's thinking, actually.
"What. The fuck," he manages to croak out. There are gauntlets—tanned leather, carved with patterns that look like vines—covering his forearms and hands, and his legs are bare except for a pair of fucking boots—leather, sandals almost, very Romanesque—and a fucking skirt, segmented and with little studs traveling down it's length. Or wait, it's not called a skirt, it's called a—
"It's a skirt," the cat says, and he glances up to see her looking perfectly serious, wonders if he was talking out loud or she's just a mind-reader. "We—the tsuki no senshi—are rooted in Roman mythology, Stiles. It makes sense that your transformation takes the form of a Roman gladiator, except your opponents are not in an arena, and they aren't human. They're worse, Stiles."
"See it didn't make sense when you spoke Japanese before and it still doesn't," Stiles manages to squeak out. He would stand—maybe start pacing—if his knees weren't weak. If he knew that they would actually support him. As it is he can barely sit up straight.
There's like fabric underneath the leather strips of his skirt—canvas, cotton, whatever; it's white and wrapped around his dick and ass like he's wearing a diaper. A grown-up, gladiator style diaper. Slightly cooler, whatever, but still.
His chest is covered in some kind of armor—not leather; metal. Bright, shining silver that doesn't feel like anything. It's freezing cold to the touch and there's a crescent moon carved into the center, simple and minimalist and it would be cool, if it wasn't on him and if it didn't get that way through a process that Stiles never wants to experience ever again.
Which reminds him.
"What the fuck do you want?" he hisses, trying to get his face to look intimidating when, at the back of his mind, all he's thinking about is how fucking ridiculous he looks.
"Personally? I want you to listen to me," the cat says. He's still refusing to use her name. He has some pride. "As a representative of the senshi, I want you to get up, use your senses and find out where the yokai is hiding."
"The yokai as in,"—Stiles pushes himself to his feet, makes to dust his pants off before he realizes… there are no pants, and then looks down at her—"as in Japanese for monster. Which is the "strange thing" you were talking about earlier, which is complete bullshit because strange stuff always happens here, and—"
"The hunters who poisoned you weren't just any hunters, Stiles," she says as she walks back over to his desk and jumps up on it. "They were yokai. Are yokai. From what I can tell, they came here with the harionago—"
"—the what?" Stiles asks. He really can't get any of the armor off. It's stuck—superglued to his skin (skin that's tender and sensitive and breaks out in goosebumps every time he accidentally moves too quick or pulls at the armor too much)—and his fingers are shaky and can't seem to grasp at anything.
"The harionago. The one you need to destroy."
"Listen, cat—" Stiles starts, a little desperately, letting his arms drop to his sides and leaning back against his wall.
"Listen Diana," he corrects, even though he doesn't want to, "I'm really not the person you're looking for. I'm—there's a werewolf pack in town, and they are so much better equipped for this kind of stuff than I am."
"You're in armor," the cat says. "Indestructible armor, might I add. Your light is growing even as we speak, Stiles. The goosebumps on your skin? The heavy limbs? The sensitivity? Tell me your vision isn't better. Tell me you can't sense that something is amiss—"
"Yeah, something is amiss. I'm in my room and a cat just fucking attacked me with a magic outfit… thing, and—"
"And why do you think," she continues over him, "you've been allowed to run with your precious ookami for so long? Why do you think nothing has happened to you—?"
"Stuff has happened to me. I get injured all the time. You would know if you actually lived here, cat."
"—why do you think you haven't died? Peter? The Kanima? Who could tread water for two hours with two hundred pounds of frankly unthankful weight in their arms? Who could do what you did with the alphas? With the—"
"So you're saying my magic soul light jewel shit stopped me from dying." Stiles sighs, suddenly tired—too tired, even to find out how she knows all of that—and plops down on the beanbag in the corner nearest him. Dust flies up into his face, and when he's done coughing, the cat is sitting on his bed.
"Stiles, you have to trust me," she says, and he can't stop from snorting. "You're the only one that can kill the harionago. It's not a werewolf thing; it's not a hunter thing; it's a tsuki no senshi thing."
"Not their jurisdiction?" Stiles asks, finding it hard to make the sarcasm not too obvious. The cat beams at him, though.
"Exactly," she says. "Just… trust me this once. We find the harionago. You destroy it. We discuss our options from there." She stares at him then, expectant, and as he stares back Stiles starts to feel a little tickle at the back of his head.
"I'm in a skirt and I look like I'm in a cult," Stiles says, after a pause. "If we're going to be going out, then tell me how I… turn this off."
"When the armor isn't needed anymore—when the threat is extinguished—it goes away on its own," the cat says, and Stiles has a second of panic as he imagines living his entire life encased in anime-style armor. Sleeping. Going to the bathroom. If he ever needs surgery he's fucked. And what about sex. Shit. Shit. Shit.
"I'm stuck like this—" he gestures at himself, admittedly his movements a little spastic— "until I do whatever it is that you… want me to do?"
"Right," the cat says, her eyes shifty. Fucker.
"Right," Stiles says. "And I can't call anyone because?"
"Because this isn't their business," the cat says. "Come on—the window is quicker."
She jumps from his bed to the windowsill and then looks back at him expectantly. "I don't have thumbs," she says. "You're going to have to open it."
"There's a door." Stiles gestures behind him at said door. Dia—the cat seems to contemplate it for a minute, and then scrunches up her nose.
"No," she says. "Practice your jumping."
"Practice my—" Stiles sighs and rubs at his temples, even as he walks over to the window. "And why, pray tell, am I supposed to practice my jumping?"
"… try it now," the cat says, looking at him, eyes all wide and innocent. "Just jump up and down right now to test it, and then you'll see why you need practice."
Stiles sighs again, gives the cat his best "are you serious" look, and then jumps. Except when he jumps, he uh, like jumps. The back of his head hits the ceiling, and then he's crashing back down onto the floor, arms curled underneath him and nose centimeters away from getting broken.
"Holy shit," he gasps out.
"Practice," the cat says. "See? Now open the window."
"I hate you so much," Stiles says as he gets up. "So so so much."