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Bang, Bang, There Goes Paradise

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Fate was a fickle mistress. What she gave you with one hand, she took with the other. She dangled food in front of the starving, water in front of the thirsting, love in front of the lonely, unreachable through distance, time and death. She spun her threads of gold and her threads of silver, interwove them, separated them and in the end cutting them with cold eyes and colder heart. Pity for those that Fate paid special attention to, for their lives were short and wrought with pain, strife and suffering. But Fate didn’t care – could not, would not – for she was the supreme being of the universe itself: Time, Death and even God himself bowed down to her and when existence itself would come undone one day, she would be the last to end. But until then she would weave and they would dance on her strings like the puppets they were.

 

 i. scene one: epitasis

“Do you want the bite, Stiles?” the man asked. Once upon a time – before fire and pain and loss – he had been called Peter Hale (“Uncle Pete,” Anne, his niece would call him, even as the fire burnt away her hair and then her skin, even as her tongue turned into a charred piece of meat. “It hurts, Uncle Pete, make it stop, make it stop, UNCLE PETE!”) but that man had died first in the fire and then, bit by bit by bit, in the hospital as insanity slowly chipped away what the fire had not cared to destroy. The being that now stood on the parking lot, wearing Peter´s face, smiling Peter´s smile, speaking with Peter´s voice was held together by rage, hate and the unquenchable thirst for revenge (Tear, rip, destroy, kill! The Darkness screamed and Peter smiled as his niece´s blood splattered over the forest ground and the red in her eyes faded the same as it had in his sister´s eyes). “If it doesn’t kill you – and it could – you´ll become like us.”

“Like you,” Stiles repeated. He looked into Peter´s eyes and saw nothing staring back but hate, rage and the cold will to make the ones he thought responsible suffer a fate worse than death. Stiles looked into these eyes and for the first time wondered if one day someone else would stare into his and see the same emotions looking back at them. If the Supernatural would tear, twist and warp himself into the same thing that Peter was now.

“Yes, a werewolf. Would you like me to draw you a picture?” Peter taunted. “That first night in the woods, I took Scott because I needed a new pack. It could've easily been you. You'd be every bit as powerful as him. No more standing by his side, watching him become stronger, and quicker, more popular, watching him get the girl. You'd be equals. Maybe more. Yes or no?” He took Stiles’ arm and held his wrist on the same height as his mouth.

It would be a lie to say that Stiles wasn’t tempted. Like it was a lie when Stiles told his father that it was fine that he was pulling so many shifts at the station, leaving him alone most of the time; like when he told Scott that it was fine when he chose Allison over him again and again; like when he told himself that he was fine when he was always the one giving away himself piece by piece while others were only always taking.

Stiles imagined himself strong and powerful, unstoppable and unshakable. Imagined himself finally stepping out of the skin of the spastic ADHD kid with the dead mother, the kid who was too smart for his own good and finally being there only for himself. Imagined himself free of fears, expectations and the pressure of his identity.

He imagined someone else. A stranger; someone who wasn’t him.

“I don’t wanna be like you,” was Stiles’ answer.

In one version of events Fate would unlink their threads now: Stiles would walk away unscathed and Peter would walk into his second death that would be like his first: fire, heat and the smell of burning flesh (this time only his own, a small mercy at last). The last thing he would see would be his nephew´s eyes bleeding from icy blue into fiery red as Derek slashed his throat. The next-to-last, eyes coloured golden-brown like whiskey, looking at him filled with an untold apology for what their owner was about to do. The hand holding the Molotov cocktail didn’t shake as Stile aimed – and he aimed true, like Kate had with the match that took his family (“Make it stop, Uncle Pete!”) – and shoot. Fate would cut his thread, but it would not fall into the abyss, one fibre holding it together. One fibre on which Peter would claw himself back to life; that and the little Banshee that he had infused with his essence.

But this version of events Fate didn’t like. She looked at her threads and where they would lead and found the story they would tell her lacking. So, she took one thread – Stiles’, the boy whose mother she had taken and whose father she would take in a few years as well, but not before she had robbed the boy of everything else – and spun it anew.

One heartbeat was all it took to derail the story. One little heartbeat, such a small, inconsequential thing in the great scheme of life. One heartbeat and everything changed.

“Do you know what I head just then?” Peter asked. Stiles tried to wrangle his hand out of the other man´s grip, but he was just a boy while his opponent was a full-grown werewolf. “Your heart beating slightly faster over the words ‘I don’t want’. You may believe that you´re telling the truth, but you are lying to yourself.” And then, before Stiles even had the chance to process Peter´s word, his fangs had already sunken down, piercing his skin.

Pain surged through Stiles’ body, setting every single nerve in his body alight. He saw pieces of memories flashing before his mind – a dark-haired woman smiling at him. Fire. A baby in his arms, staring at him with wide, green eyes. Fire. Another woman leaning in for a kiss. Fire. Screams. Fire. Pain. Fire. Fire. Fire.

Stiles staggered back, holding his bleeding wrist to his body, breathing sharply as he tried to get his mind back under control.

“I´d love to stay and see if you survive the night,” Peter spoke, apparently unaffected by what had just transpired. “But one way or another, it all ends tonight. Maybe we shall see each other again when all this is over.” Then he turned around and walked away.

 

ii. scene two: peripety

Some things didn’t need changing. They were set in stone, meant to happen no matter what, thousands of different circumstances preluding them, yet all leading up to the same configuration of characters, place and time. Aristoteles couldn’t have written it better.

The opsis: the burnt down husk of the Hale house, looming in the dark preserve, surrounded by trees, their branches like the bony arms of the damned, reaching for salvation, yet never finding it. The broken and shattered windows, the particles of dust and hush that still hung in the air, the moon that hung above it all, unobscured by clouds, bearing witness to what would unfold underneath. The ground covered in leaves – brown, red, golden – underneath which the secrets of the Hales laid buried.

The ethos: Peter Hale as the antagonist, the beast in the shadows that had haunted the city of Beacon Hills. Derek Hale, the mysterious stranger whose motives no one seemed to know. Scott McCall, the dashing hero, pulled into this play on Fate´s whims and his fair maiden Allison Argent. Chris Argent, the father who just wanted to protect his daughter from the truth but hadn’t been able to starve off the inevitable and his sister Kate, the evil queen disguised as noble warrior whose machinations had all brought them here. And at last, Stiles Stilinski, the loyal friend, of whom everyone else thought as supporting character but who was a main lead on his own. Everyone was here, all their plot lines finally brought together.

The mythos: One was here to protect his love. One was here for justice and revenge. One wanted to finish what she started all those years ago when she lit the match. One was here for his daughter, the other for his friend and the last one for his dead sister. Their motives all contradicted each other and one way or another, one would have to give in – to die – in order to preserve the others.

The spotlights were switched on. The stage was set, the curtains drawn open. The audience watched with bated breath.

“Allison, I can explain,” Scott exclaimed, his eyes beseeching his girlfriend to just stop for a moment and listen to him. But Allison wouldn’t. A few weeks ago, hers had been the life of a normal teenager with naught a worry but the choice of dress for the winter formal (after long consideration her decision had fallen on lilac, strapless, clinging tight to the right spots) but that naïve girl had not survived Kate Argent. In front of Scott now stood a girl that had watched the fundament of her life crumble down, turning into ashes in front of her very eyes. Everything was a lie, so who said that the sweet boy that had lent her his pen on the first day of school wasn’t?

“Stop lying,” Allison pressed out between clenched teeth. “For once stop lying.”

“I was gonna tell you the truth at the formal,” Scott continued speaking. “I was gonna tell you everything. Because everything that I said, everything that I did…”

“Was to protect me?” Allison finished for him.

“Yes,” Scott replied earnestly. Allison looked at him, her expression closed off. A small part of her wanted to believe Scott, wanted to trust in his earnest eyes that even now looked at her as if she was his whole world, the moon and the sun, but she couldn’t allow that part to take control of her again. She had been lied to enough, been used enough. Never again, she had sworn to herself.

“I don’t believe you.”

“Thank God,” Kate interjected, rolling her eyes. “Now shoot him before I have to shoot myself.”

“You…you said we were just gonna catch them!” Allison exclaimed stunned.

“We did that,” Kate replied nonchalantly. “Now we´re gonna kill them. See? Not that hard.” She looked at Allison and for the first time Allison saw not the aunt that had given her piggyback rides as young child; the aunt who had listened to her when her parents wouldn’t, but the ruthless killer that didn’t care for the guilt of her victims, only for their race. “Oh, no – I know that look. That´s the ‘you´re gonna have to do it yourself’ look.” Kate reloaded her gun and strode towards Scott who was still lying on the ground.

“Kate, Kate, what are you doing?” Allison shouted frantically, but her aunt ignored her words.

“I love those brown eyes,” she taunted Scott as she grazed his cheek with her left hand, making the young werewolf shudder under her touch. Then the click of a gun released and Chris Argent entered the clearing.  

“Kate!” he bellowed. “I know what you did. Put the gun down!”

“I did what I was told to do!” Kate retorted.

“No one asked you to murder innocent people!” Chris shouted. “There were children in that house, ones who were human. Look what you´re doing now: You´re holding a gun at a 16-years-old boy with no proof he spilled human blood. We go by the code, Kate – Nous chassons ceux qui nous chassent.”

“’We hunt those who hunt us’,” Allison whispered.

“Put the gun down,” Chris pleaded, one brother to his younger sister who he still thought he could save. “Before I put you down.”  Kate looked torn – the desire to kill Scott wrestling with her self-preservation – but before she could do anything, a roar pierced through the atmosphere around them.

“It´s the Alpha!” Scott exclaimed fearfully, his eyes glowing yellow in response to his sire´s call. Before anyone could react, a shadow sprung forth from the remnants of the Hale house, darting around them faster than they could see, throwing Chris Argent against a tree and finally wrapping his hand around Kate´s throat and pulling her with him.

“She is beautiful Kate,” Peter taunted his gaze landing on Allison. “She looks like you, probably not as damaged, though. So, I´m going to give you a chance to save her. Apologise. Say that you´re sorry for decimating my family, for leaving me burned and broken for six years. Say it – And I´ll let her live.” 

Kate looks at Allison and it was at her that she directed her words to: “I´m sorry.” Then without a warning Peter ripped her throat out. Allison opened her mouth in a silent scream and was only held back from running towards her aunt´s corpse by Scott´s arms wrapping themselves around her.

It was a cynic irony of Fate that Kate Argent´s blood would soak the same ground as the blood of those that she had murdered.

“I don’t know about you, Allison, but that apology didn’t sound very sincere,” Peter spoke, his face contorting itself into a grotesque parody of a smile as he advanced towards Allison and Scott.  

“Peter, stop, please.” Broken and battered, Derek slowly stepped out of the house, his body still showing signs of the abuse Kate and her accomplices and inflicted upon it, despite Derek´s werewolf healing. “You´ve had your revenge. Just let them go.”

“Au contrair, dear nephew,” Peter jeered. “I´m just getting started.”

 

iii. scene three: retardation

In the original version of events, Stiles would enter the scene on the passenger seat of Jackson´s Porsche, pulling in motion the sequence of events that would lead to Derek slashing the throat of his own uncle and taking the mantle of Alphahood for himself. In this alternate version of events, Fate had different plans.

“Hey, hey, hey,” Jackson cursed as Stiles hid another bump on the trail that led up to the Hale mansion. “This isn’t exactly an all-terrain vehicle.” Stiles sent his archenemy (such a strong term for such a small rivalry. There were bigger things out there, things much viler and more deserving of that term than Jackson Whittemore) a venomous glare.

“Did you pay for it?” he asked.

“No,” Jackson replied sullenly.

“Then shut up,” Stiles gritted out. It was in this moment that they hit another bump on the road, only that this time the car didn’t move any further. Instead smoke began to ooze from underneath the engine hood.

“You wrecked my car!” Jackson exclaimed, his eyes wide.

“Oh my fucking God, will you shut up about your stupid car!” Stiles shouted at him. The bite on his right wrist, temporally bandaged with his shirt, was throbbing. “Right now my best friend´s facing a crazy werewolf and I couldn’t care less about your car.” He opened the seatbelt and exited the car, one hand clasped around one of Lydia´s Molotov cocktails. Stiles didn’t know how far away they were from the Hale house or what he would find once he reached it, but he pushed these thoughts out of his mind, instead focusing on just setting on foot in front of the other. He didn’t know what Jackson was doing – if he was following Stiles or stayed at his car – but it didn’t really matter to Stiles either way.

Stiles didn’t know how long he had been walking through the preserve – everything around him looked the same; the trees, the ground, the sky with its stars that only managed to sparsely illuminate the foliage around him – but there came a point when he could make out the faintest traces of voices. They were muted by distance, but Stiles was sure that he wasn’t far from the Hale house anymore.

With renewed vigour in his steps, he walked forward, the voices becoming clearer as he came closer to his destination. He could make out the outline of the Hale house against the moon light from above, could see the shapes of Chris Argent, Allison, Scott, Derek and Kate Argent´s lifeless body on the ground. One problem less to take care of.

Stiles stopped at the edge of the forest, shrouded in darkness, the wind blowing against him and carrying his scent downhill, away from the sensible werewolf noses. High on finally getting his revenge, revelling in the death of Kate Argent, Peter didn’t hear Stiles ragged breathing nor the snapping of dead branches underneath Stiles’ feet. He didn’t notice the Molotov cocktail leaving Stiles hand.

The bottle sailed through the air. Only now did the others notice. Peter´s head snapped around, his crazed eyes widening as he recognised what was flying towards him. For a short moment, a trickle of eternity, time seemed to stop. Scott and Allison lying on the ground, clutching each other, wide eyes directed at Peter. The Alpha himself, frozen mid-motion as he turned around to face Stiles. A drop of blood suspended mid-air, flakes of ash and dust dispersed all around, glittering in the moonlight.

Then time restarted. Peter roared, but he couldn’t prevent the Molotov cocktail from reaching him. It shattered against his head and engulfed it in a fiery inferno. If Stiles had hit anything else – arms, legs, torso – Peter could have survived. Severely burnt, but still alive. But to the head? It was an especially cruel way to kill someone. Peter was still alive when the flames engulfed his head, when they burnt down his hair and flaked the skin off his face and boiled his brain in its own fluids.

When Peter finally died, it was salvation for a tortured soul.

After Peter´s body stopped trashing, silence settled over the clearing as if everyone expected the Alpha to just stand up and continue his rampage. But when nothing happened, the dead body continued to stay dead, the tension left their shoulders and the breath they were all holding was released. 

“Stiles!” Scott exclaimed and ran towards him. “You killed him! Oh my God, you killed him.” To Stiles it seemed as if his best friend needed a few seconds to process what had just happened. Behind them Chris Argent engulfed his daughter in a fierce hug, probably intending to never let go of her again, while Derek crouched down next his uncle´s corpse, looking down on what remained of his last family member with an undecipherable expression.

A pang of pity and sadness shot through Stiles as he realised that Derek was truly alone in this world now. Crazy mass murderer or not, Peter had been his last remaining relative, but Stiles had robbed him of even that as well. He didn’t regret it, not when it had saved Scott, but Derek didn’t deserve this. No one did.

Before Stiles could do anything, though, Derek had already taken off, his silhouette vanishing behind the tree line.

“Are you alright?” Scott asked. “What happened with your arm?”

“I cut myself,” Stiles answered and bless Scott for his purity of character, for he took Stiles excuse without any doubt. Sometimes Stiles wondered how he had deserved someone as good as Scott as friend, but usually he managed not to question his good fortunes.

“I´ll never get the chance to turn back human, though,” Scott added forlornly.

“Scott,” Stiles began, laying his undamaged hand on his best friend´s shoulder. “Killing your Alpha to turn back into a human? You don’t know if it´s even true.”

“It could´ve been!” Scott protested.

“But what if not?” Stiles retorted. “Would you have wanted to be Alpha? You barely managed to scrap by as normal werewolf, imagine everything that you went through only thousand times worse.” Scott grimaced at the thought of it. “Besides, I know you, Scottie. Remember when you stepped on a snail and cried for a whole day because you destroyed its house?” Scott nodded. “So do you really think that you would´ve been able to kill someone in cold blood?”

“No,” Scott whispered. “But you could.” Before Stiles could reply anything, Chris Argent and Allison were walking towards them.

“You´re alright, boys?” Chris asked.

“What does it look like?” Stiles snapped at the man. “Are you gonna kill Scott now?”

“No!” Chris denied, taken back by the venom in Stiles’ voice. “We have a code.”

“Yeah,” Stiles sneered. “Much good it did to the innocent your crazy bitch of a sister burned down, wouldn’t you say.” He glowered at Argent, silently daring the man to say anything, but the Hunter didn’t raise to Stiles’ bait.

“I´ll bring you back to your parents,” he finally spoke. “They´re probably sick with worry for you.”

 

iv. scene four: dénoument

Stiles opened the front door to a deserted house. He didn’t expect anything else, his dad was probably out and cleaning up the mess left of Peter´s rampage. And for once Stiles was glad for it, because it meant that his father wasn’t there to question him about the blood splatters on his clothes, or the blood-soaked makeshift bandaged around his right wrist. Didn’t ask why Stiles looked like a soldier coming back from battle instead of a teenager spending time with his friends. Didn’t see the haunted look in Stiles’ eyes or noticing the uncontrolled shaking of his hands, the shallowness of his breathing.

Stiles managed to make it into the bathroom before he sank to the ground, head grasped between his hands. He tried to breath, but it was as if his lungs had suddenly stopped working, inhaling the air and yet he felt as if he was suffocating. The walls seemed to close in on him, making him feel as if he was buried alive. A sudden pressure was weighting him down, and there were black spots dancing in front of his eyes. He could hear his heart beating, could hear the blood rushing through his veins. Thump. Thump. Thump.

Stiles didn’t know how long it lasted – it could have been a few seconds or a few hours – but when he finally felt like he could breathe again his hands were still shaking. He had just killed a man. Now that the adrenaline was receding, the enormity of what he had done slowly began to sank in. He had murdered someone, had taken the time to think about the most gruesome way to go about it and then had done it. He had become like the people his father caught and locked away for the safety of others. If he knew – if he had seen – what Stiles had done, would there even be one single spark of love beneath the contempt and disgust his father would surely feel if he knew?

Stiles couldn’t think about that right now. If he continued, he would shatter, of that he was sure. It had started to rain. Stiles hadn’t noticed, but now he could see the rain through the window, could hear its rhythmic beating on the roof. Maybe it would wash away the blood, would wash away the taint that clung to Stiles like a second skin.

Stiles shook his head, trying to banish these dark thoughts from his mind. Instead he turned his gaze to his bandaged hand.

Slowly, Stiles unwrapped his right wrist, afraid of what would be revealed underneath it. If the wound was healing, it meant that the Bite had taken and he would turn into a werewolf, if not he would not survive the night. When the last shred of his shirt fell to the ground, Stiles looked at his wrist and saw nothing but unblemished skin.

He closed his eyes and leaned back.

When Stiles opened his eyes again, they were red.

Chapter Text

i. sequence one: sleeping beauty

No rest for the wicked, Stiles thought bitterly as he drove Roscoe through the deserted streets of Beacon Hills. There was no person out and about as if the populace somehow knew what had transpired on this night and decided that they were safer behind walls and closed doors. The rain probably did the rest. It was as if Stiles drove not through the city he had grown up in but in some zombie apocalypse version of it. Maybe at zombie would jump out from behind a corner and Stiles could run him over? He had to chuckle at that thought.

When the panic attack had abated and his eyes had turned back to their normal colour, Stiles had wasted no time: Lydia was still out there, hopefully in the hospital by now if Jackson had called the ambulance as Stiles had ordered him to. Nevertheless, Stiles had to make sure that she was okay. After all, it was his fault that she had been attacked. It was him Peter had been after and Lydia was only a victim of circumstances.

There was no time thinking about what had really happened tonight (his eyes were red now; not red like blood, but like the fires of Hell, a fire of damnation), no emotional capacity left to deal with the violation Stiles had been forced to suffer through. Stiles knew that he would come undone – break apart at the same seams he had when his mother had died; he had only been makeshift patched after that – if he tried to work through it now, so the worry over Lydia was a welcome distraction, something his mind could cling to like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood.

Either the bite would take – which meant that Lydia would wake up as werewolf in need of guidance, which Stiles intended to provide – or it wouldn’t, a possibility Stiles didn’t even dare to think about for it meant that Lydia would die a most gruesome death. So he just drove on, his mind replaying various scenarios from bad to worse, until he finally reached the hospital.

To his surprise the first person he ran into was his father.

“You know what?” Sheriff Stilinski said and Stiles could see in the way his father´s shoulders were tense and in the lines on his face that he was pissed. Like, royally, totally pissed. “It´s good that we´re in a hospital, because I´m gonna kill you. What were you thinking not answering your phone on a night like this? Do you know how many calls I´ve gotten? And now we´ve got the mangled corpse of Kate Argent of all people and a comatose girl.”

“I´m sorry,” Stiles apologised but he knew that it wouldn’t do much to calm his father´s anger, so he didn’t leave his father any chance to get a word in. “Is she gonna be okay?”

“They don’t know,” his father replied, his ire at his son replaced by the worry for Lydia. “Partially because they don’t know what happened. She lost a lot of blood, but there´s something else going on with her.”

“What do you mean?” Stiles wanted to know, desperately trying to keep the dread at bay. If there was something going on it could only mean that the Bite hadn’t taken and was now slowly killing Lydia.

“The doctors say it´s like she´s having an allergic reaction,” Stiles’ father replied. “Her body keeps going into shock. Did you see anything? I mean, do you have any idea who or what attacked her?”

“No,” Stiles lied and the word felt like ash on his tongue. When had it become the norm for him to lie to his dad instead of telling the truth? When had their once so open relationship turned into this bitter mockery? “I have no idea.”   

“What about Scott?” the Sheriff inquired.

“He wasn’t anywhere near when it must´ve happened,” Stiles replied to his father´s question and he was glad that he didn’t need to lie for once.

“Can I see her?” Stiles asked.

“Stiles, I don’t think that´s a good idea,” his father replied reluctantly.

“It´s just…I feel responsible,” Stiles confessed. “I was her date and the moment I´m not with her, she gets attacked by something.” He swallowed.

“Stiles,” his father said in that tone that always managed to make Stiles forget his worries. Full of warmth; supportive and strong. “It´s not your fault. You couldn’t have known that anything would happen to her. No one could have.”

‘You´re wrong!’ Stiles wanted to scream at his father. ‘You´re wrong! I knew, I should have known. I got the clues, but I didn’t manage to put it together until the very last moment. It´s my fault!’ But he didn’t say anything – he couldn’t really – instead just nodding at his father´s words.

“You can go in,” Stiles’ father agreed after a while. “But only for a moment. And then I´ll have one of my deputies drive you home.” Stiles wanted to protest, but his father silenced him with one glare. “You´re looking like you could drop dead any moment. Allowing you to drive would be grossly negligent.” Because he didn’t want to jeopardise his chance at seeing Lydia, Stiles just nodded.

“Alright. Lydia is right over there.”

When Stiles closed the door to the room Lydia was in, all the sounds that had poured in from the hallway – nurses scuttling around, relatives asking more or less panicked about the health of someone, a baby crying – suddenly abated, fading into a barely audible background noise. Stiles found himself in a typical hospital room: ugly, mint green linoleum floor, white walls and white curtains, which were drawn closed. The characteristic smell of hospitals hung in the air, a miasma of disinfection spray, dried blood, purulence and other bodily fluids. It smelled like Stiles imagined death would if someone asked him. So overwhelming was this smell to his new senses that his eyes began to water and he had to stop and stand for a short moment, taking deep breaths through his mouth as he leaned against the wall with one hand. No wonder Peter had gone insane, Stiles would have as well, if he had smelled nothing but this for years with no end in sight.

Lydia looked as if she was just sleeping if it wasn’t for her pale skin that stood in stark contrast to her red hair. It made her look like a ghost or a corpse and only the slow fall and rise of her chest – indicating that she was still breathing – assured Stiles that she hadn’t died already and that the nurses would come at any moment and cover her with a sheet. Around her lower neck and right shoulders a fresh set of bandages had been applied, smelling of cotton and polyester, still white as freshly fallen snow.

Stiles stretched out his hand and touched Lydia´s arm, afraid that she would break underneath his fingertips because she looked so frail. But for all that frailty, Lydia didn’t look as she was dying. The Bite either turned or killed you, but neither was happening to Lydia. Just now as they had finally resolved all of Beacon Hill´s murder mysteries a new one popped up and Stiles felt like smashing his head against the wall at the fruitlessness of it all.

“I´m sorry, Lydia,” he spoke instead to the girl lying in the bed, barely above a whisper. Maybe she could hear him or maybe not, but this was more for Stiles’ benefit than hers, even if it was selfish. “I´m sorry for dragging you into this. If you hadn’t been with me, then none of that would have happened.” He paused for a moment. “When you wake up – and yeah, I say ‘when’ and not ‘if’ because I believe that you´re stronger than some supernatural nonsense – I´m gonna tell you everything, I promise.” He looked at her, her whole body unmoving, her eyes closed, then stood up and left the room.

 

ii. sequence two: red riding hood and the wolf

Stiles woke up lying on the ground in the preserve. He knew that he was dreaming; he had laid down in his room, staring at the ceiling unblinking as the moon light shone through his window, its silver rays illuminating his room, creating an atmosphere of otherworldliness, as if he wasn’t in his own room but in another version of it, one cloaked in silence, serenity and peace. And when he had closed his eyes (whiskey brown, with golden specks in it, once shining with mirth but now hidden behind suspicion and mistrust) and opened them again he had found himself here.

The trees were looming above him, their branches bereft of leaves. Skeletons, dead until spring would come and the circle began anew. There was no visible source of light – no moon, no sun, no stars – and yet his surroundings were coated in silvery light, shoals of silver sparkles rising from the ground towards the horizon. He could feel the leaves underneath his hands, could feel the earth beneath his fingertips. There was a presence to it, a throbbing – unmoving, steady and old, older than anything – that spoke of something so vast and incomprehensible that he didn’t even try to grasp it with his frail human mind.

For a short moment Stiles wondered what would happen if he just continued to lie here, on this Earth that was so unlike and yet so like the one in the living world, caught in his own dream. Would he ever wake up again? Or would he stay here and die, leaves and earth covering him, roots piercing his skin and wrapping themselves around his bones until he was as much part of the earth as the trees around him?

It was only for a short moment, though, that Stiles entertained such thoughts. A split second, only a small fraction of the endless stream that was time, just short enough for him to deny that he had ever thought of it. The events that had transpired before may have tired him, but Stiles loved living – loved his live and those within it – that he would not allow this dream to be his end.

Slowly he stood up, brushing leaves and dirt off his shirt and trousers. There was nary a sound, just silence around him, encompassing the forest around him. Wherever he looked, Stiles saw nothing but endless rows of trees, seemingly stretching until the horizon and beyond.

“Is anyone out there?” he shouted out. It was a shock, hearing his voice piercing through the silence like a bullet. It felt sacrilegious, tainting this dreamscape with something as real, as tangible, as his own voice. As expected there was no answer.

‘Guess I have to walk around a bit,’ Stiles thought drily. There was nothing that would indicate which direction he should take (there was just trees and silence) so he just randomly picked one direction and started to walk. He walked and walked and walked, and there was neither fatigue nor hunger nor thirst, so he just continued walking through this forest made of trees and silver light.

It came as big surprise when Stiles stumbled upon a clearing. In the middle of it a tree once had stood, tall and proud, a weeping willow that would have made Pocahontas green with envy, but something had uprooted it and now it laid on the ground, a husk of its former glory.

Stiles didn’t have much time to take in this queer sight, for something appeared from behind the tree trunk and jumped upon it. Stiles’ jaw dropped when he saw that it was a wolf who was now staring back at him.

The wolf was enormous – at least the size of a small pony – and its fur was of the purest white Stiles had ever seen. The silver light that shone through the forest reflected upon it and made it seem like the wolf was glowing, like it had just descended from some sort of heaven. Stiles could see the muscles shift underneath the fur, strong and imbued with power as the wolf stood there atop the tree trunk. Then, as gracefully as it had appeared, it jumped from the tree and landed only a few meters away from Stiles.

The boy yelped in surprise and tried to put some distance between himself and the fierce predator, but unlike the wolf, grace has never been Stiles’ forte, so it only took some few backward steps before he fell to the ground, continuing his retreat crawling instead.

“Don´t eat me, please don’t eat me,” Stiles stammered, his back plastered against the tree as the wolf slowly stalked towards him as if he had all time of the world. “I don´t taste very good, I swear.” The wolf gave no indication that he heard anything that Stiles said. It just set one paw in front of the other, making no sound (no leave rustling, no twigs cracking under its weight) until it stood in front of Stiles, gazing at him with its red eyes. Stiles couldn’t help but stare in those fathomless orbs that seemed to glow from within as their owner seemed to appraise Stiles. He couldn’t help but stay frozen on the spot. It felt like this was something supposed to happen, something which Stiles shouldn’t try to avoid and so he continued to return the wolf´s gaze.

Stiles didn’t know how long they stared at each other, the human boy and the white wolf (and it didn’t really matter, did it, in dreams time was meaningless after all), when the wolf rushed forward all of a sudden. Stiles closed his eyes and prayed for the pain to be short and swift, but it never came. Instead, he could feel something wet and soft swiping over his face.

The wolf was licking him! Stiles opened his eyes and when the wolf noticed, it shifted on his hind legs and sat down. It just looked at him, tongue rolling out of the corner of his mouth and apparently expected Stiles to do something.

“Aw, you´re just a little puppy,” Stiles cooed. Tentatively, he stretched out his right hand and when the wolf made no attempt to bite it off Stiles started to scratch the animal behind his eyes. “You just want to cuddle. Who is a big, ol’cuddle wolf? You are!” The wolf just closed his eyes and enjoyed Stiles’ administrations.

“You´re my wolf, aren´t you?” Stiles asked after a moment of companionable silence between the two of them. “The Alpha?” The wolf opened his eyes – and now the red had a whole new meaning; blood, battle, power – and just looked at Stiles. “Scott never dreamed of his wolf. He´d have told me.” The wolf just huffed in indignation (such a human thing to do; such a Stiles thing to do) as if the mere mention of Scott insulted him.

“I don’t resent you, y’know?” Stiles told the wolf and he was surprised at how true it was. He resented Peter for forcing the bite upon him, for violating him in a way that would alter him forever and he resented the world for allowing it to happen, but he didn’t resent the being in front of him, this part of himself that had only now awakened, this more-than-himself. The wolf was Stiles’ – his instincts, his emotions, his subconsciousness condensed in one form – and for all the faults that were part of his being, Stiles could never hate himself. The acceptance of himself was, after all, the armour that made the insults of petty bullies like Jackson bounce off him.

“We´re stuck in this together now,” he continued, “and I´d rather have you on my side instead of suppressing and denying you like Scott does.” Stiles loved Scott – they were brothers in all but blood – but the desperateness with which he held on to who he had been before was something Stiles didn’t understand. Humanity, the term was so broad, why only let genetics define yourself? Werewolves could still be human and humans could still be monsters. "What do you say?

The wolf tilted his head as if in confirmation. He still hadn´t made a single sound and yet Stiles somehow was able to just know what the being wanted him to know. There was a connection between them – a bond, unbreakable and strong – and there was no force on earth that would be able to severe it.

The wolf nudged against his hand and then he took off, vanishing amidst the trees, soon completely out of Stiles' field of vision. The forest around him was slowly dissolving into silvery mist, tree after tree exploding into silver dust until there was nothing but whiteness around him.

Stiles woke up and for the first time since the whole werewolf mess had started he felt rested.

 

iii. sequence three: mirror, mirror upon the wall

The person staring back at him looked the same as it had yesterday. Stiles didn’t know what he had expected – maybe his teeth more sharpened or his hair a little bit more grown out – but his reflection gave no indication that he had changed in a way that only a few humans ever had. There was still the same buzz cut, the same moles doted all over his skin, the same whiskey-brown eyes staring back at him, the same thin lips set in a grim line. No added musculature or sudden overnight-sixpack (which would have been totally awesome!), but still the same lithe body with only small hints of the silent strength that laid underneath.

Stiles could hear his father rumbling downstairs, probably going through the cabinets in search for some unhealthy food for which Stiles had gone great lengths to hide. The sheriff had come home late tonight and Stiles wondered why he hadn´t already left yet, for the chaos that must have been caused by their little showdown yesterday surely must keep the whole sheriff station busy. Not that Stiles was complaining, he sure as hell wasn´t, but he was realistic enough to question it.

He longed to just go downstairs but Stiles feared what would happen if he lost control of himself and changed in front of his dad. He may have come to an agreement with his inner wolf in his dream, but it never hurt to be absolutely sure before springing into action. So now he was standing here, in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at his reflection, with absolutely no clue as to what he had to do.

From his training with Scott – if you could call it that, because it was for survival only – Stiles knew that strong emotions triggered the change. Whenever Scott had felt something strong (when he had kissed Lydia just because he could, even though he knew how Stiles felt) his teeth had sharpened, his eyes had glowed or his nails had turned into claws, ready to viciously tear into anything that dared to stand in his way.

So Stiles tried to summon something similar, an emotion that would elicit a reaction from the wolf within him. He thought about his father, still clueless about the Supernatural, about Scott who for all his idiocy was still his best friend and who was way above his head in this deadly game he had found himself in, about Melissa who had taken the role of mother to Stiles when his own couldn’t be it anymore. He thought about them and his need to protect them and he thought about his mother whom he failed to protect, even though it had been her own mind that had killed her in the end. They were his family and he would rather see the world burn that allow any harm to come to them.

They were his pack.

When Stiles looked back at his reflection, his eyes were glowing red. His ears were pointed now, with fuzzy hair growing at their tips and elongated fangs protruded out of his mouth. He looked down on his hands and instead of human nails he had black claws at the tips of his fingers now. If Stiles was allowed to say so, he did look pretty fearsome.

"Awesome," he whispered. His voice was deeper now, a growl reverberating through his whole body when he spoke. It had an animalistic sound to it like somehow had laid some pretty neat effects over it.

But how to turn back? Stiles closed his eyes, let go of this urge to protect and let the pictures of those he loved fade away in his mind. When he opened his eyes again, his human self was staring back at him from the mirror.

 

iv. sequence four: the boy who cried wolf

By day the Hale house didn’t look as imposing as it had during the night before. It still was a charred skeleton, a husk of what it had been, with the fresh wounds of their late night´s showdown: the broken door, the red blotch on the ground that indicated where Kate had stood when Peter had torn out her throat, the smell of wolfsbane and blood hanging in the air. Peter´s corpse wasn’t there, probably taken away by Derek before the police had taken Kate´s body to the morgue.

Stiles had his hands stuck in his pockets, the cold seeping through his jacket and shirt, his breath condensing the moment it left his mouth and floated skywards.

He stood there for a while, just looking and taking in the sounds – a lonely bird chirping, wind swirling leaves up, mice and other animals scuttling over the ground – before he opened his mouth.

“Derek!” he shouted, his voice reverberating uncomfortably loud through the forest. No answer.

“Derek, come on!” Stiles shouted again, as he slowly made his way towards the house. “I know you´re somewhere around here.” He took the steps leading up to the veranda, his skin crawling the nearer he came towards this house. It was as if the gruesome death of its occupants still hung in the air, poisoning the atmosphere and warning everyone who dared to come near. Stiles couldn’t fathom how Derek could stand being here. It must be even worse for him as it were the spectres of his own family that haunted these walls.

The door was unhinged and broken on the ground, so Stiles stepped over it, entering the staircase.

“Derek!” he called again. “I know you´re looming around here, and I ain´t gonna leave before you talk to me.”

“What do you want, Stiles,” came Derek´s voice all of a sudden. Stiles flailed around with his arms and nearly fell back on his ass, but he regained balance just in time to prevent catch the doorframe with his hand. The wood crackled forebodingly, but it held. Derek meanwhile regarded him coldly from up the staircase where he stood. With one move he jumped down the stairs and landed directly in front of Stiles.

Smooth motherfucker, Stiles thought inwardly.

“Do you greet all your guests like this or am I just that special?” was what came out of his mouth. Derek meanwhile had this look on his face that he only ever regarded Stiles with, this mixture of murderous rage and constipation that only his eyebrows could pull off.

“What. Do. You. Want?” Derek repeated again. Apparently, patience wasn’t really something the other werewolf had in spades.

“Just because you live like a caveman doesn’t mean you must behave like one,” Stiles couldn’t help himself but saying and did he imagined it, or did Derek just low-key growl at him?

“Look,” Stiles continued before Derek decided that ripping Stiles’ throat out with his teeth was the preferable outcome of this encounter. “I need your help with something. Something important. A matter of life and death.”

“What do you need my help with?” Derek asked. Stiles took a deep breath.

“This,” he said and let his eyes flash red.                                    

Chapter Text

i. memory one: the present

The words left Stiles mouth and for a moment it seemed like they had no impact on reality. As if they simply bounced off it, shrugged off by the fabric of existence because they weren’t worth the notice. They hung in limbo, a thin strand connecting Stiles with Derek and the former wondered how the older werewolf would react to the announcement that Stiles had stolen his birth right, his family legacy when he had shown nothing but contempt for it.

“How?” It was such a small word and yet it encompassed so many nuances, conveyed so many questions. Stiles drew in a deep breath.

“Before the big showdown,” Stiles began and somehow the words felt wrong in his head, because showdown was just the wrong word for it; it implied a great battle between the forces of good and evil, black and white, but yesterday there had been nothing but shades of grey. “Peter forced me to locate Scott. He bit me and it must´ve taken, because I´m still here, y`know? And then when I killed him with the Molotov cocktail…” He let the rest of the sentence hanging in the air, allowing Derek to come to his own conclusions.

The Hale wolf´s face remained impassive, his green eyes still staring at Stiles intensely.

“I didn’t mean to,” Stiles defended himself, because he felt like he was judged under Derek´s heavy stare. “I needed to save my friends and…and I wasn’t even turned completely, so how should I have known that whatever magic mojo is at play here would give the Alphahood to me?” Stiles waved about with his arms to emphasise these – in his opinion at least – well-made points.

“And what do you want from me now?” Derek asked. Stiles was slowly starting to freak out a little bit, because he had never seen Derek this unemotional. It was disconnecting and he wondered if something in Derek had broken completely when he was forced to watch the last member of his family die in a most gruesome way. If the realisation of his loneliness had sucked out what was left of his humanity.

“I need you to help me,” Stiles pleaded. “Scott barely managed to get through this whole turning thing and that only because I helped him, but he didn’t have to deal with so much at once.” Stiles knew that it wasn’t fair to his best friend; after all, while Scott had only been a beta upon turning he also had had to deal with a crazy Alpha and great lack of important knowledge while Stiles suffered under neither. But he needed to bring his point across and Scott wasn’t here, anyway. “I don’t want the next weeks to be full of me barely able to control myself and having one close encounter with the Argents after another.” Stiles sighed. “I don´t want to scrap by like Scott. For better or worse, this is something I have to live with it now.” Stiles was breathing heavily at the end of his explanation, but he needed Derek to understand. There was no one else who had the ability to help him.

“What do you think I can do?” Derek wanted to know, his arms folded, his posture defensive, as if he was expecting Stiles to attack him.

“You´ve been a werewolf your whole life,” Stiles replied, “You´ve never known anything else. It´s not just the practical side of things, but also everything else: the traditions, the lore, the rituals. Being a werewolf must be more than just turning furry once a month, I don’t believe anything else.”

Silence. Then, “Alright.”

“Wait, what?” Stiles floundered. “No Eyebrows of Doom, no threatening of bodily harm to my defenceless self?”

“You aren’t that defenceless anymore, are you?” Wow, eyebrows shouldn’t be able to project such a broad spectrum of sarcasm. “Be her tomorrow at ten.” Before Stiles could say anything, Derek had already turned his back to him and was walking back towards the Hale house.

“But what should I do till then?” Stiles shouted after him.

“Don’t try to kill anyone!” Derek shouted back. Stiles just rolled his eyes at the werewolf, but then turned around and made his way back towards Roscoe.

“Not killing anyone,” he mumbled to himself. “Shouldn’t be that difficult.” He shouldn’t have said it, because right in this moment, he jolted against a tree branch lying on the ground, covered by leaves, and – werewolf reflexes or not – fell straight on his face.

“Ow.”

 

ii. memory two: ghost house

Derek listened to the sound of Stiles’ jeep slowly fading away until he couldn’t hear it anymore, which meant that the boy was well past the boundaries of the Preserve. He closed his eyes and leaned back against the wall, taking in deep and controlled breaths. The cold of the concrete at his back was slowly seeping through the thin fabric of his shirt, but it didn’t bother Derek. He slung his arms around his knees and leaned his forehead on them, just focusing on listening. He could hear the wind whistling through the cracks in walls, could hear the rustling of the leaves and some animals – probably mice – scurrying underneath the floorboards. He could hear birds – those that hadn’t left for warmer regions – tweeting in the trees that surrounded the clearing on which the Hale house stood. With some effort, he could even hear the joggers that threaded some of the still used paths of the Preserve, breathing heavily as they pushed their bodies to the edge of exhaustion.

There were things Derek didn’t hear, though.

He didn’t hear his mother humming along to some song in her head as she cooked them the only dish she could do without burning anything (“Maybe I can´t cook, but that doesn’t mean that I´m not allowed to like it.”). He didn’t hear the soundtrack of High School Musical booming through Cora´s closed door on the highest volume, driving everyone in the house up the walls, didn’t hear Vanessa Hudgen´s voice lamenting the end of her fleeting High School romance. He didn’t hear Laura´s carefree laughter as she stood at the edge of the clearing, talking to her friends on the phone, because that was the only place where the rest of the family couldn’t hear what the person on the other side was saying. He didn’t hear the clank of his father´s tools as he worked on another piece of furniture for their living room, his hand steady and his expression concentrated as he shaped another piece of wood into something that would one day be part of their home.

Instead there was only this infernal silence that penetrated the whole house, covering it like shroud, squeezing the life out of it.

Derek opened his eyes and stared at the wall opposite of him. The grey of the concrete was blotched with dark stains, cracks covering it like a giant spider web. At its edges, there were still some remains of the wallpaper that had covered the room before the fire, now yellowed and barely recognisable as such. The glass in the window was still unbroken, having survived the fire as well as the neglect that followed. It was covered by a thick sheen of dust that scattered the sunlight shining through it like a prism, making spots of sunlight dance through the room.

This had been Derek´s room.

The wallpaper had been blue once. Not blue like the sea, but blue like the sky on a sunny summer day; a gentle and calming blue that soothed you while you were lying on your bed and freaking out about the boy from your basketball team whom you kissed after training.

There had been stars on the ceiling that would glow in the dark. Derek had glued them there with his father when he had been seven, a chaotic and messy endeavour. But ever since then Derek had fallen asleep to a night sky that reminded him that his father was watching over him even if he was on the other side of the country for business.

A shelf full of books had stood on the wall against which Derek was sitting now. It had been filled with all kinds of book, but mainly science fiction because one day Derek had wanted to discover space like the heroes in the books did. Now the only thing left of his dreams, the books and the shelf were a few charred case boards littering the ground.

Originally, Derek had planned to leave Beacon Hills the moment he had found Laura. But then Laura had been killed, someone else taken her power and this kid – Scott McCall – had been bitten. Derek´s offer of help had been genuine then, the only way he knew how to reach out. He had never been good at expressing himself, at opening up about his emotion, something his sisters had always ridiculed him for. He tried to reach out, because the lone wolf dies while the pack survives, but McCall hadn’t taken his offer, mainly because of suspicions Stiles had instilled in him.

Derek had been tempted to just outright refuse Stiles’ request for help when he had come to him. Twice Stiles had taken away any chance at getting his pack back, first when he fanned the suspicion in Scott´s mind and second when he had taken the Alpha powers, even if only by accident. But then Stiles had told him that he wanted more than just physically being a werewolf. He wanted more than the strength, the super-hearing and the healing factor. He wanted the lore, the traditions and the rituals – he wanted to truly be a werewolf – and Derek remembered that he was the last Hale and that all these things would die with him if he didn’t pass them on. And maybe Stiles wasn’t the ideal candidate for that, but the Hales had weathered the witch burnings, the journey over the Atlantic and the dangers of the New World, a civil, two world and one cold war and Derek wouldn’t be the one to let their name die in a fire that he had caused.

So, maybe Stiles wasn’t what he would have chosen, but it was better than nothing and so Derek had agreed to help him.

Their lore would survive, even if their name wouldn’t.

His legs were slowly going numb, so Derek stood up, flexing his shoulders to shake off the cold. There wasn’t any door left, so he could just step outside into the hallway. A few sunrays were streaming through the holes in the ceiling, but otherwise it laid in a half-darkness, a few particles of dust floating in the air the only things that moved. His parent´s bedroom had been at the end of the hallway, the door hanging askew on its hinges now, the main bathroom on the right. Laura´s room right next to his and Cora´s opposite of him. Once a month, all three Hale siblings had arranged themselves at the wall and their parents would draw a line on it to indicate how tall they were growing. Laura had been always the biggest.

The walls had been full of pictures of their family trips to all corners of the US and even beyond. Derek still remembered their last trip, on which he hadn’t even wanted to go, because he had wanted to spend the time with Kate instead. It made him want to throw up. You could still see the shape of the picture of all of them standing in front of the Eiffel Tower if you looked closely enough, but the outline was the only thing that was left of it.

The fire had erased it all. Made it like his parents and his sisters had never existed. Derek was the only who one still remembered them and when he would die one day, so would his family for the last time.

Ashes and memories. That was his life now. 

 

iii. memory three: ducks and roses

It was one of these rare days when the sheriff came home to a silent house. Stiles was still out and about and so when he opened the door he wasn’t greeted by his flailing and chatting son, but by companionable silence instead. Usually Stiles would greet him with whatever new subject he had taken his fancy now – John still remembered the history of circumcision, much to his dismay – rushing down the stairs and talking so fast that John could barely make out what he was saying. Stiles would also crunch up his face in this adorable way when he noticed that John had eaten something ‘unhealthy’, instantly lecturing him of the danger of unsaturated fats for his blood pressure.

This kind of greeting had become rarer and rarer over the last few weeks.

It was difficult with Stiles sometimes. John loved his son, he truly did, but he sometimes felt like he didn’t have the same connection to him as his wife had had. Maybe it was because they both had developed so differently after her death: John had turned to the bottle and work, drowning his sorrow in other people´s problems and Stiles – well, Stiles had become independent. John regretted how things had turned out, that he was unable to tear down the invisible veil between him and his son that had sprung up after Claudia´s death. He didn’t doubt that Stiles loved him and he didn’t doubt that Stiles knew that John loved him in return, but even if their relationship was something others envied them of, once upon a time it had been even closer.

But in recent times it had turned worse. John knew that Stiles was keeping something from him, something big with all the sneaking around and appearing at every crime scene in town. He knew that Stiles was lying to him and he knew that Stiles knew. He had given his son so many opportunities to come clean, but Stiles had led them all pass by and so the divide between them had grown wider and wider until there was nothing left to be said between them, an uncomfortable atmosphere surrounding them whenever they spoke to each other.

John walked towards one of the shelves in the living room, filled with cook books and guidebooks, which neither he nor Stiles had ever touched. He pushed them aside and took out the item that he had hidden behind there. He blew some air over its dust covered surface, freeing the red cover of the grey sheen covering it. He turned around, the object still in his hand, and walked towards the couch where he sat down with a heavy sigh.

The photo album was lying on his lap, daring him to open it and let his gaze wander over its content. John let his hands hover over the rough felt binding, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to open the book yet. Usually he only did so after at least half a bottle of vodka. John didn’t know how much time passed – it could have been only seconds or two hours, but in the silence of his living room it didn’t matter – but when he finally opened the album on its first page and read the dedication on it, he couldn’t breathe for a short moment.

For my two ducklings,

To always remember me by

During the times when you miss me the most.

Claudia had started the album when the first diagnosis of her terminal illness had come in. Page by page, she had put their lives on paper for a time when she wouldn’t be with them anymore. The first picture was of a tooth-spaced Stiles smiling in the camera, wearing only his swimming trunks with printed with yellow ducks all over it. Stiles had had this strange obsession with ducks back then, one which had only lessened slightly since then, John was sure. In the picture´s background he could see the wading pool (also with ducks) which they had bought for Stiles’ birthday, right next to Claudia´s roses. Oh, she had loved them, breeding all kinds of those flowers in so many colours, their fragrance filling the whole neighbourhood during hot and humid summer days. Stiles was the one who tended to them now every spring, because John couldn’t bring himself to do it, not without feeling like his heart was torn apart (“They´re alive,” Stile said as she stood in hallway in his gardening gear, “and sometimes they make me feel like she still is as well.”).

John turned the page and even though he knew the pictures by heart now, had turned the pages a thousand times already, his breath still faltered when he saw his dead wife smile back at him from the page. He let his finger wander over the photo, over the freckles and dimples that were so much like Stiles (so much that seeing his son had made his heart twinge in pain, making him hate himself even more, hating himself for hating his son´s smile, because his smile was hers), the playful smile, the coy gleam in her brown eyes and her brown eyes that had always looked like Claudia had walked straight through a hurricane.

“You´d know what to do,” John mumbled, his fingers tracing the laughing lines on Claudia´s face. “What to say.” He sighed. “He´s so much like you; the wit, the sarcasm and the heart that wants to take in everyone and shelter them. He wants to take on the world with the same enthusiasm as you had and I believe that he could. But he´s withdrawn from me and I don’t know how to bridge the gulf between us. I need you, Claudia, I really, really do…” He wanted to say more, but he couldn’t, the words just wouldn’t pass over his lips. It felt like he was suffocating, getting lost in the memories of happier times when his family had been still hole.

Now half of it could only be found on the pictures trapped between these pages.

 

iv. memory four: colonel teddy

The casket his sister would be burned in was white. No engravings, no golden handles, nothing. Just white wood to symbolise the purity of the person within.

Chris laughed, a hollow and bitter sound. There were many things Kate had been in the end, but pure was definitely not one of them. Once, maybe, but not after what his father had done to her. They would cremate her, like it was the Argent´s tradition as there were too many creatures out there that fed on corpses – ghouls, strigas or skinwalkers, to name only a few. Besides, fire was a purifier and maybe it would cleanse Kate´s soul of some of the evils she had committed in her life, even if Chris doubted it very much. Some atrocities you just couldn’t atone for and even in her last moments Kate hadn’t regretted what she had done.

Chris wondered, when he had lost his sister to the monster she had become. Had it always lurked behind her sweet smiles and her earnest eyes? Just brought to the surface by someone else, someone who didn’t care about little girls whose biggest dream was to win the Pulitzer one day. Or had it been instilled, added to something that had been innocent before.

“It´s not your fault.” Chris didn’t turn around, didn’t lift his hand from the smooth and cold surface of the casket, didn’t show any reaction to his wife´s words. He could sense Victoria standing just a few meters behind him, this sixth sense that every hunter had, this spatial awareness without which you couldn’t survive their harsh world.

“How would you know?” he asked, his voice subdued, but in the empty chapel it carried over anyway. The lifeless eyes of countless saints and angels were staring down on them and if Chris was of the more superstitious type of person he would have felt like there was some sort of disapproval in their heavy stares, but he wasn’t and so he just chalked it up to the cold air. “You weren’t there. Neither was I.” There was a moment of silence between. A car passed by the church, its light shining through the windows, illuminating the rows of wooden benches, reflecting on the golden decoration before it all fell back into darkness again.

“You should have seen her,” Chris continued. “The bloodlust, the crazy gleam in her eyes, the vitriol she spewed. That wasn’t my sister, it was a completely different person.”

“The job does that sometimes,” Victoria remarked. “We´ve both seen it too many times.” Chris knew what she meant: There were the hunters that completely let go of their humanity, consumed by the unquenchable desire to kill anything not human, not caring for the Code or actual guild. Most of them had come to know about the supernatural through violence and death, searching for revenge and reparation.

“But you know that I´ve never liked your sister,” Victoria added. “I´ve always felt like there was something off with her.”

“You told me often enough,” Chris replied. “But she wasn’t like that her whole life.” He looked at the bouquets that were piled up next to the casket, condolences from all prominent hunter clans of Northern America and even some from the Old World. None from acquaintances or friends. She didn’t do friends; Kate had once told him. There was only family and everyone else.

Chris kneeled down and rummaged through his bag until he found what he was looking for: A small and worn teddy who was staring at him with only one button eye because the other had gotten lost long ago, a red fly around his neck and all kind of stitches covering his small body.

“Colonel Bear,” Chris whispered. He remembered well when he had given it to Kate. He had been twelve, his sister six and ever since their father had let her in on the secrets of their family business (too early, in Chris’ opinion, Kate was still so small and fragile, stills so curious and innocent. The world´s vitiation could wait a few years, but no one would listen to him) she had been unable to sleep.

“What if a monster comes for me?” she had asked him, her blue eyes wide open in fear as she clung to the covers of her bed. “What if they wanna eat me?” Their father hadn’t been understanding of Kate´s fear.

“She´ll live through it,” he had remarked offhandedly when Chris had brought it up. “Argents are steal and steel is forged with fire.” So Chris had taken his meagre allowances and bought the teddy, even though it meant that he wouldn’t be able to afford the book he desperately coveted, but that hadn’t mattered.

“This is Colonel Bear,” he had told Kate when she had been about to go to bed. “He visited the Bear Fighting Academy where he learned to fight all kind of monsters that go after little girls and when he finished it, he was given you as his assignment. He´ll never leave you out of his sight and he´ll fight every monster that dares to hide under your bed or in your closet. He´ll keep you safe.”

“He will?” Kate had asked unsure as she took the teddy from Chris.

“Hmm. He was the best of his class,” Chris had said. Since then Kate never had a night of pitiful sleep ever again. Chris had found the bear in Kate´s belongings when he had gone through them to bring her affairs in order.

It was quite fitting, Chris supposed, that Colonel Bear would follow his charge to wherever she was going now.

Hell, probably.

Chris placed the teddy atop the casket so that he had the church´s entrance in his field of vision, then – with one last glance at the picture of a smiling Kate next to it – he turned around and walked back to Victoria and out of the curch.

Colonel Bear kept guarding Kate.

Chapter Text

i. revelation one: strength

“Where are you going, son?” Stiles turned around to where his dad was sitting at the kitchen table, cup of coffee in one hand and newspaper in the other. He eyed Stiles critically, as if he was about to arrest Stiles if he didn’t like what Stiles answer would be.

What did it say about the state of their relationship, that Stiles very well believed that his father would?

“Gonna meet Scott in town,” Stiles answered with an easy smile on his lips – at least he hoped that it was. He couldn’t remember the last time he had genuinely smiled, without the fear of being murdered (eaten, torn apart, forgotten) lurking behind. He hoped that his father wouldn’t notice the difference. Besides, even if he suspected something, Scott would cover for him, like they always did for each other.

Before his father could say anything, Stiles was already out of the house and walking towards Roscoe. The mention of Scott´s name had made something shift in Stiles; a molten mass of guilt churning in his stomach. He hadn’t told his best friend that he was now a werewolf as well, an Alpha as well, to top everything. Before (before werewolves had become reality, before Hunters, before having to chain his best friend lest he would kill Stiles in some bloody haze) he would have told Scott everything, would have gone straight to the other´s house, climbed through the window (“A dead body?” “No, a body of water.”) and told Scott every single detail, while the boy would listen with wide eyes.

But not now. Even though Scott despised becoming a werewolf he had gladly taken all the benefits that came with it and had installed himself in the popular crowd, going after Allison and becoming co-captain of the lacrosse team. Stiles had hung on to him, trying to preserve their friendship – their brotherhood – but Scott had run faster (literally and figuratively) than Stiles could catch up on and somewhere along the way he had been left in the dust.

Stiles knew that it was unfair. Scott hadn’t just decided out of malice to leave Stiles behind and get himself some new friends, but neither had he resisted the lure of the popularity that his new powers had brought him. The ordeals they had lived through since Scott´s turning had just changed them and shifted both Scott´s and Stiles’ priorities. And they just did no longer align.

Maybe blaming Scott was easier than admitting that people changed.

His mother had changed, too. As had his father. Change only brought loneliness to Stiles.

But Stiles also knew that he had to figure this out for himself before he went to Scott. Scott was great and intelligent when he applied himself, but all too often he let emotions and his morals overrule his common sense and his rational thinking. And if Stiles was honest, he just didn’t want to hear another ‘Werewolves are evil, woe is me, I want to be human again’ spiel with the accompanying pity.

He turned the ignition on, making Roscoe spring to life with a satisfying buzzing and rolled out of their driveway. The way to the preserve didn’t take long – by now Stiles knew it by heart – and ten minutes later Roscoe rolled over the gravel driveway that led up to the Hale mansion.

The sun was shining, making the charred remains of the structure looking even blacker than usual, but there was also signs of life amidst the broken-down façade. Flowers that bloomed between the cracks of the floorboards, vines that wound around the now freestanding wood beams and all kinds of rodents hushing from shadow to shadow.

Stiles wondered if they had already devoured what the fire had left of the Hales. Then he shook his head, banishing that morbid thought from his mind.

He didn’t call for Derek. The werewolf must have heard him driving up to the house from miles away, but for additional emphasis Stiles slammed Roscoe´s door extra hard, the sound tearing through the silence like a bullet.

“You´re here.” Stiles nearly fell over his own feet when he tried to turn around to where the voice was coming from. Derek was standing at the edge of the clearing, half-hidden amidst the foliage and staring at him like he couldn’t believe that Stiles had truly come.

“I said I would, didn’t I?” Stiles replied, still trying to catch his breath. “Ready to be the werewolf Yoda to my Padawan self?” Derek´s whole face crunched up in an adorable expression of confusion and Stiles had to hold himself back from laughing out loud.

“You haven’t seen Star Wars?” Stiles exclaimed. “Dude, where´s your pop culture education?”

“Don´t call me ‘Dude’,” Derek snapped back. He walked past Stiles without bothering to look back. “Coming?” he called after he had walked around the corner of the house, vanishing from Stiles’ field of vision. Stiles ran after him, this time managing to not fall over his own feet.

It was quite surprising that for all the times Stiles and Scott had been at the Hale mansion, they had never been on this side of the house. Maybe because every time they had been here, they had been chased away by someone…or something. There was a big terrace, now slowly being retaken by nature, but Stiles imagined that quite a few barbecues had been thrown there under the open sky. A few meters away there was a set of swings that had turned brown from rust and years of neglect. Every now and then a slight breeze would move them, accompanied with a protesting squeak from the rusty chains. A sandbox was right next to the swing, but the sand had long been replaced by rotten leaves, grass and other plants. The last thing Stiles noticed was a large greenhouse at the edge of the garden. Most of its windows were broken, their shards littering the ground around the house, and those that had survived the fire and the following years of neglect were covered under thick layers of grime and dust.

All in all, it was quite a depressing sight, even more so than the front of the house and Stiles wondered why Derek was still living here.

“Catch!” Derek threw something at him and faster than Stiles’ rational part of his brain could understand, he caught what Derek had thrown at him mid-air.

A twig. A fucking twig.

“What am I supposed to do with a twig?” Stiles voiced his scepticism. Derek just raised his eyebrows and for a split-second Stiles thought he saw something akin to amusement flash behind his green eyes.

“It´s an exercise for bitten wolves,” Derek started to explain. “It´s rather difficult for them to adjust to their new strength. You hold the twig between your thumb and your forefinger and then you slowly apply more pressure until you think the twig is about to break.”

“Well, that´s easy,” Stiles boasted. He squeezed…and before he could even blink the twig shattered and he was showered in splinters.

“Is it?” Derek jeered. Stiles glared at him, but it lacked heat, because he had never seen Derek this relaxed; to be honest, though, most of the time he had seen Derek in the past was in life or death situations, so that wasn’t that high of a benchmark.

“Next one.” Derek threw him another twig. Stiles just sighed.

 

ii. revelation two: loneliness

“Next time we won´t pay for the car repairs,” David told Jackson with a seriousness to his voice that he only used in order to try to assert some form of authority over Jackson. “You should know better than to drive your Porsche over dirt tracks.”

“Yes, dad,” Jackson replied without any emotion. He only called him ‘Dad’ because David would make a fuss about it otherwise. He just wanted his keys back and then to go to his room and lock the world out.

With a sigh, David put the keys down on the kitchen counter, obviously having recognised that it was no use to talk to Jackson when he was in a mood. Jackson snatched the keys and then he was making his ways upstairs, deliberately not looking at the pictures showcasing his family (he sneered inwardly) that were hanging along the staircase. It was all lies, anyway.

He locked the door behind him and took in a deep breath. He let the silence of his room wash over him like a soothing blanket. Jackson threw his car keys on his desk and then he just let himself fall back on his bed.

As he stared at the ceiling, Jackson could hear his parents talk faintly downstairs. There may be only a wooden door between them, but there was much more that separated them. He couldn’t remember the last time they had talked – real, true words, unmasked, unguarded – or the last time he had sought them out for advice or just reassurances like any child would. Probably before he had learned that he wasn’t really their child, but an adopted status symbol instead.

Sometimes, when he and Lydia had fought again and Danny wasn’t speaking to him because he had done something ‘asshole-ish’, Jackson laid there and wished that he could just go to his mother and have her hug him and promise that everything would turn alright. But for that she needed to love him, and that wasn’t really the case, was it?

That was why he hated Stilinski and McCall so much: Even though they had neither the money he had, nor the popularity, nor his athletic abilities, they had something that Jackson was denied: The genuine care and affection of their parents – or at least of half of it. Every time Jackson saw the Sheriff striding through the hallways with purpose to his every step because Stilinski had done something again with obvious worry in his eyes or the nurse McCall volunteering at the nurse office with a warm smile on his face, something would churn in Jackson´s stomach and there would be a sour taste on his tongue.

His mother would never volunteer for anything that wouldn’t bring some positive publicity and the only time his father would come to school was when he thought Jackson´s grade weren’t what he expected from his ‘son’.

Jackson had never felt more humiliated like when McCall had suddenly turned out to be quite good at lacrosse and made ‘Co-Captain’. Just thinking about the word made hot rage surge through Jackson and for the first few days after it he had been ready to just smash McCall’s head against his locker. Repeatedly.

“Don´t act so petulant,” Lydia had just chided him while doing her nails. “Physical violence is so plebeian and brutish. You just need to show everyone that you´re still the best.”  

There was something going on with McCall and Stilinski, of that Jackson was absolutely sure of. Whenever something had happened in the last months it was always those two right in the middle of it.

And then Lydia had gotten hurt and Stilinski had commanded his Porsche. Something was going on and Jackson would find out what, because he would never allow Stilinski and McCall to have something he couldn’t have.

They already had enough of it.   

 

iii. revelation three: history

If Derek wasn’t so emotionally challenged, he would probably lie on the ground, laughing himself silly at him, Stiles thought as he stared at the forty-second twig with murderous intent. But Derek was Derek, so he just stood there, a few meters besides Stiles and threw him new twigs whenever he managed to shatter another. The ground was littered by the forty-one failed attempts that had come before the current twigs.

With a loud crunch, the twig Stiles was holding broke under his fingers. Stiles let out a frustrated scream and hurtled the two pieces across the clearing. They vanished amidst the trees, but Stiles managed to hear them tearing through the foliage until they landed on the ground.

“I can´t do any more of this,” Stiles admitted. “I might go on a rampage through town if I have to see another twig in my entire life.” Too late he noticed that this wasn’t the most sensitive thing to say to the man whose uncle, who Stiles had also killed, had done the same only a few weeks previously. But Derek gave no sign that he had taken what Stiles had said as insult.

“You weren´t meant to manage it on one day, anyway,” Derek told him. “Most of the people I knew were only able to do it after a few days.”

“So, I´m not some epic failure on my first day already?” Stiles asked hopefully. Derek just shook his head. “No, Stiles you aren’t.”

“I´m so relieved to hear that,” Stiles replied, clutching his heart in a dramatic gesture.

“Listen,” Stiles continued. “Can I ask you a question?” Derek raised an eyebrow.

“What do you wanna know?”

“Where do werewolves come from?” Stiles asked. “There are so many contradictory sources on the internet.” Derek looked at him intensely, then he turned around and walked towards the house, obviously expecting Stiles to follow him – what the boy did, not that he had any choice on the matter, not if he wanted some answers.

They made their way towards the kitchen. Stiles imagined that once it must have been a warm and welcoming room, directly connected to the living room. There was a counter right in the middle of the room, big enough to prepare food for a whole army, which was probably a lot like caring for a family consisting of werewolves. Some stools had survived the fire, two on which Derek and Stiles sat down.

“What did you read on the internet?” Derek asked.

“Well,” Stiles began, nervously fidgeting with his fingers. “Some sources say that werewolves are the descendants of Romulus and Remus who received their power from the milk they were nursed on as children. Others state that you´re the offspring of unions between Fenrir and mortal women, which is pretty disgusting to think about, to be honest. I mean, he´s supposed to be really big.” Stiles shuddered. “The most popular tale, though, is that werewolves are descendants of Lycaon, that Greek king who served Zeus his own son at a feast and was turned into a wolf as punishment.”

“You certainly did your research,” Derek remarked. “To be honest, amongst us werewolves no one knows either. Each thesis has its followers, which can make some gatherings really bothersome.”

“So, they´re like religions for you?” Stiles clarified.

“For us,” Derek corrected him. “You´re one of us now.”

“Sorry,” Stiles mumbled. “That´ll take some time till I can wrap my head around it.” Derek nodded.

“You´re right, for some of us it´s a kind of religion,” Derek answered his question. “There are also some werewolves who believe that there´s a scientific explanation for the existence of the supernatural.”

“What did your pack believe?” Stiles asked. For a moment, he wondered if he had overstepped some invisible boundary and Derek would throw him out.

“I don’t believe in anything,” Derek replied after a while. “But my parents believed that we were guardians picked by Gaia herself to protect and nourish the territory that we were given by Her. All the other theories have this theme of lycanthropy as some kind of curse, but my parents never believed that being a werewolf was something to be ashamed of.”

“That’s a nice outlook,” Stiles agreed. For a moment, there was only silence between them as each of them followed their own train of thoughts.

“I should probably head back,” Stiles said after a while. “Dad´s gonna get suspicious otherwise.” Derek just grunted in agreement as Stiles hopped from the stool and made his way towards the door. On the threshold Stiles turned around and as he saw Derek sitting there in the ruined kitchen, surrounded by nothing but blackened walls and broken down cabinets, he came to a decision.

“What are you gonna do now?” Stiles asked hesitantly.

“What do you mean?” Derek wanted to know.

“You aren’t seriously spending your time here?” Stiles waved his hands around to properly bring his point across. “This house is a mausoleum. You have neither electricity nor flowing water and it must get cold at night. Do you even have a bed?” Derek just shrugged.

“Wait, so you´re gonna spend the whole night with cold canned soup and nothing to sleep on?” Stiles asked appalled.

“Not different to all the other nights since I came back,” Derek replied with a shrug, oblivious to Stiles growing horror.

“No, that just won´t do,” Stiles retorted. “You´re coming with me. Dad´s cooking and knowing him it´s something with a lot of meat, even though he shouldn’t eat it at all. There´ll be enough to feed a third person.” And then, with strength that he was surprised he had, he took Derek by his arm and dragged him out of the house and towards Roscoe.

Derek didn’t resist. Maybe he, too, was sick of living in the ruins of his childhood.

 

iv. revelation four: foe

The air was hot and moist, filled with wanton moans as the two men on the bed withed on the bed in pleasure. The sweat on their skins glistened underneath the yellow light, their bodies moved to an underlying rhythm, completely at sync as if some unseen puppeteer was stringing them along from above.

Ethan could smell his partner´s arousal that clung to his very skin, could feel his blood pounding underneath his skin, his heart´s erratic beat as he was taken from one high to another. Ethan always liked his partners experienced, annoyed by fumbling and stuttering virgins who didn’t know what to do with a cock even when you slapped them with it. But this human obviously knew what he was doing, because Ethan couldn’t remember the last time he had fucked someone that good.

“Harder!” the human underneath commanded, raising his ass to meet every of Ethan´s thrusts. Ethan happily obliged, pistoling himself forward until his balls slapped against the other´s thighs. The human (Ethan hadn’t bothered to get to know his name, he never did) clenched around his cock, making Ethan´s eyes flash red from the onslaught of sensations.

That was why he always insisted on taking them from behind. Not that many of them complained.

He could feel himself getting closer and closer to completion and from the laboured breath coming from the man underneath him, he wasn’t far from it either. Ethan bend down, his chest touching the other man´s back.

“You´re gonna cum only on my say,” he whispered in the man´s ear, nibbling at its lobe with his human teeth. The man shuddered underneath him and his breath hitched as he met Ethan for another thrust.

“Now!” The man´s movement sputtered and then he came all over the bedsheet. The sudden clenching of his ass around Ethan´s cock sent the werewolf over the edge as well, emptying himself in the other man.

For a short moment, they held their position, then they both sagged down on the mattress, taking deep breaths as both of them came down from the high of the endorphins that cursed through their bodies. Ethan wasn’t one for snuggling and such, but even he could enjoy the atmosphere after an especially successful bout of sex.

Which of course, didn’t last that long.

“Get up!” The door banged open and Aiden barged through it, throwing pants and t-shirt at Ethan.

“Fuck off!” Ethan snarled at his brother, not bothering to catch the clothes he had thrown at him.

“There´s two of you?” the human asked, not bothering to cover himself, grinning at Ethan. “He´s up for some fun, too?”

“Deuc´s calling,” Aiden told Ethan, ignoring what the human had said. “I´ll wait outside.” Ethan sighed, but then he sat up and began to put on his clothes.

“Your sugar daddy calling?” the human asked from where he was lying on the bed. Ethan snorted. Deucalion was many things but certainly not that.

He stood up and without bothering to look back, he left the room and walked along the hallway until he exited the building in front of which Aiden was already waiting for him, sitting on his motorcycle. His brother held his helmet up to him. Ethan snatched it out of his hand and went over to his own bike and soon after both of them were racing over the desolated streets of the non-descript town they were currently living in.

Deucalion was living in an upscale part of the town – which was really just three streets where the houses had three stories instead of two and a pool in their gardens – because the leader of the Alpha Pack required certain luxuries. Ethan didn’t know (and didn’t care) where Kali and Ennis were staying, but they were probably already there.

He was proven right when the first thing he saw after they entered the house was Kali standing there, without shoes, her blackened nails scratching over the expensive parquet. Ennis was lurking near her, his statue as imposing as always.

Yet, Ethan thought, his fellow Alpha was nothing against Deucalion. The blind Alpha was sitting on the couch, sipping on some cup of tea, his cane leaning against the sofa right next to him. Out of all of them he looked the most harmless, yet there was something intangible about him that made Ethan´s wolf raise its hackles and trying to back out. It was like an aura of malice that hung around the blind Alpha, the unspoken threat of something horrible happening to you if you didn’t follow his orders. Ethan knew that his brother was feeling the same, even though they had never talked about it (Blindness strengthened your remaining sentences, after all and who knew when Deucalion was listening in on them).

Sometimes Ethan wondered why they were still staying with Deucalion when he felt so unnatural and made all their instincts scream at them to flee, but then Ethan remembered that they had no one else. Deucalion had been the one who had saved them from their old pack where they had been nothing but punching bags for everyone else.

They owed him to stay with him. At least that was what Ethan told himself when Deucalion was in one of his moods again and he wasn’t sure if he would come out of their encounter unscathed.

“You are here,” Deucalion greeted them, angling his head to the side as if he was trying to listen to something. Ethan knew that it was all show, though: Deucalion could trace you even while he sat there, unmoving like a statue cut from marble. “Now we can finally start.” Ethan was glad that no one commented on the obvious smell of sex that must still cling to him. He wouldn’t have heard the end of it.

“What´s this about, Deuc?” Kali asked, wrapping her arm around Ennis’ shoulder. “Got us some new Alpha to go after?” Again, Ethan was glad that he had learned long ago to supress showing any kind of emotional reaction to the wolves around them. No hitching breath, not spike in his heartbeat, no sweat. You had needed it in order to survive their old pack. And this one. Because no way he could show the disgust and fear he felt towards Kali. Her glee at the thought of eradicating another pack, of taking another Alpha´s powers. Ethan knew that he and Aiden were guilty of the same crimes as she, but at least they didn’t do it for enjoyment like Kali did. Both Aiden and he knew how it felt to be weak and the day Deucalion had freed them, they had promised themselves to never be that weak again.

Sometimes Ethan even believed what he was telling himself.

“Yes, I have,” Deucalion replied evenly. “It seems that after years of abandonment, a new Alpha has taken the territory of Beacon Hills.” He grinned, the first show of emotions since Ethan and his brother had entered the room. “Let´s test if he´s though enough for the job.”

His grin turned more savage and somehow Ethan had this feeling that this was about more than just swooping in and taking some new Alpha´s power. Looking at Deucalion, he imagined that it must be more personal to the Alpha than he let on.

Ethan wasn’t here to think, though. So, to Beacon Hills it was now.

Chapter Text

i. feeling one: trepidation

The ride back to Stiles’ house was only a little bit awkward. Unlike his usual self, Stiles didn’t try to fill the silence with inane chatter. That was mainly because inwardly he was totally flipping out: Inviting Derek had been a spur of the moment thing, because seeing the older man standing in the ruin of his childhood home, totally alone and forgotten, had pulled a string in Stiles and without thinking he had blurred out the invitation. But now, as they were driving home, Stiles had to think about how he would sell this to his father.

As far as the Sheriff was aware, Derek was the guy his own son and his best friend had accused of murder, only for him to turn out innocent in the end. Not really what you thought of when you had 'start of a beautiful friendship' in mind. So, how should Stiles explain to him that he had invited said former murder suspect home for dinner?

Not that Stiles regretted it, that wasn’t it. Even though there was enough reason for there to be bad blood between them – starting with the aforementioned murder accusation to the fact that Stiles had killed Derek´s uncle and usurped his family´s power – Derek had helped him with his newfound werewolfdom (not really a word, but it sounded cool in Stiles' head). Hell, even before the big showdown, Derek had tried to help them, only that Derek´s lack of communication abilities and Stiles’ and Scott's mistrust had prevented any of this to come to fruition.

Stiles didn’t say it out loud (he liked his head where it was, after all) but underneath Derek´s grumpy and abrasive behaviour there must still be the lonely boy who had lost his whole family at sixteen. Stiles knew the pain of losing a loved one, so he couldn’t just turn his back on another person suffering the same fate as him.

Maybe it would be awkward with his father, but the short glimmer of hope that had flashed through Derek´s eyes when Stiles had spoken the words was well worth it.

Definitely. 

"I hope you like meat," Stiles babbled. "Because when I allow my dad to cook he uses a lot of it."

"I´m a werewolf," Derek scoffed. "Of course I eat meat."

"Don´t know," Stiles shrugged. "You could be a vegetarian werewolf. Wouldn’t be the weirdest thing after vegetarian vampires." Of course, the Twilight reference flew straight over Derek´s head. What else had Stiles expected?

"Why did you say 'allow'?" Derek asked. "Isn´t your father the one to cook?"

"No," Stiles replied. "He´s working a lot and gets called to crime scenes very often, so it´s either take-out or me cooking. I´ve built up quite the varied palette." It was easier to blame his father´s working hours for Stiles' culinary skills instead of the fact that after his mother´s death, his father had been such a wreck that Stiles would have starved if he hadn´t learned to cook for himself. At first it had been take-out and badly burnt mac'n'cheese, but after a lot of trial and error, Stiles had managed to provide for himself. And when his father had managed to pull himself out of the bottle, it had already become normal for Stiles to cook and it had stayed that way until today. "You should see my mouse au chocolate. It´s literally to die for." By now they had made it halfway to Stiles' home. "I don´t make it very often, though, because it´s got too much sugar and fat. Not good for the heart, you know?"

"I don´t think you´re old enough to worry about the condition of your heart," Derek pointed out. "And anyway, it´s a moot point now."

"Not my heart," Stiles replied. "My dad´s. I have to look out for his cholesterol." Derek didn’t reply anything to that, so they spent the rest of the drive in amicable silence – which was very difficult for Stiles, but he didn’t want to scare Derek away before they had even started.

When they had reached Stiles’ home, he powered down Roscoe´s engine and turned towards Derek: “You better stay here until I tell my dad that you´re gonna eat with us, lest he shoots you or something.” And before Derek could even reply, Stiles was already out of the car and walking towards the front door.

His father was in the kitchen, readying whatever he had prepared for the evening´s meal.

“Heyah, father dearest,” Stiles exclaimed and he could already see his father´s suspicion, because Stiles was never so cheerful if he didn’t want something.

“Hello, Stiles,” his father replied more reserved, probably steeling himself for whatever Stiles would spring upon him, what, to be honest, was a totally reasonable thing to do.

“You remember Derek Hale?” Stiles began. “The guy Scott and I accused of murder? Wrongly, as it turned out.” His father just nodded. “Well, I met him today and invited him for dinner, as kind of apology for getting him thrown into a cell for a night.” It spoke of the volume of Stiles’ antics up to this day that the only thing this announcement managed was to make his father let out a resigned sign.

“Of course, you did,” the Sheriff sighed.

“He´s got no one here,” Stiles told his father, nearly whispering, fearing that Derek would hear him even from outside. “He could use a few friendly faces.” He could see his father´s expression softening.

“Then bring him in.” Stiles practically jumped out of the house and even though he didn’t want to admit it, he was a little bit surprised that Derek was still in the car and had not taken off.

“Come on!” Stiles exclaimed, pulling the door. “Food´s awaiting.”

He pulled Derek into the house, where his father was already waiting. What ensued now was some kind of western stand-off where both the Sheriff and Derek were standing only a few meters apart, appraising each other, neither making a move. Stiles’ father appeared to be calm and collected while Stiles could hear Derek´s heart beat like crazy. But just when the tension seemed to become unbearable, his father cracked a smile.

“I hope you like meatloaf, son,” he said and patted Derek on the back. “Because I cooked way too much.”

“You always do,” Stiles remarked as his father led Derek towards the table. “And Melissa is always happy to get Tupperware full of it.”

“Don´t sass me like that or you won´t get anything to eat,” his father mock-threatened. Stiles clutched his heart as if he had been shot.

“Oh, how dare you!” he exclaimed high-pitched. “You would buy yourself my compliance with the thread of starvation?” A short glance to Derek showed him that the werewolf was avidly watching the verbal sparring match while simultaneously doing nothing that could get him pulled into it.

“I´ll use everything I have against you,” the Sheriff replied. “And every jury in this country would side with me. Now, why don´t you help me set the table?”

“I could help,” Derek offered timidly.

“No,” the Sheriff declined. “You´re a guest here and guests don´t set the table.”

“Scott does,” Stiles mumbled but a dark glower from his dad sent him going.  

 

ii. feeling two: (be)longing

Derek didn’t say much during dinner. The food was good, way better than what he had over the last few days and definitely better than anything he or Laura could have made. Cooking had never been a talent either of them had inherited from their parents. Instead he was content to just watch the Stilinskis in their natural habitat.

There was a certain easiness surrounding them, one you could only find in families that went through much together and knew that they could rely on each other. The Sheriff may roll his eyes at Stiles and may take some of the things Stiles said or did not seriously, but underneath it all was fondness and love that showed itself in every gesture and every gaze. They moved like a well-oiled machine, the comebacks and snarky banter coming automatically without much thought. Maybe there dynamic was a little bit off the norm – with Stiles looking more after his father than the other way around – but which family acted like they came straight out of a picturesque 50ies advert?

Derek´s family had been like that, too. Sometimes his parents had been so in sync that it was difficult to spot where one began and the other ended. They had known every flaw, every quirk, every weird habit of the other and had loved them even more for it. When Derek had looked at his parents when he was younger he had seen what he wanted to have eventually as well. He had looked at them and had seen love so unconditionally that for his young mind it had seemed as if there was no force in this universe that could tear his parents apart (only that he had done it).

And they had always made sure that Derek and his sisters knew that they, too, were loved so much. Derek had been a late-bloomer and for some time it had even been doubtful if he was a werewolf at all, for he had never shown any outward sign of it, but even then, when self-doubt and self-deprecation tore at his mind, he had always known that his parents loved him.

But it hadn’t been only his parents: Even though Laura was quite a few years older than him and even though they didn’t have much in common (Laura was the fire to Derek´s ice, the extrovert to his shyness) she always had had his back. Hell, she beat up the kids who bullied him for his big front teeth and even when her parents had practically grounded her and taken away all her privileges, she hadn’t bowed down, had outright refused to apologise.

Well, she did apologise to Derek later, for not having done something earlier.   

And then there was Cora, the fiercest of them all, with fire in every step and a tongue so sharp that it even put Uncle Peter in his place. Out of all of his family members, Derek had been the closest to his little sister. Very fast he had been dissuaded from the notion that she needed protection, because Cora didn’t need protection from anyone or anything, and once that had been cleared up, Cora had been the best friend once could have wished for.

Looking at the Stilinskis, Derek was reminded of all the things he once had had and it sent a pang of longing through his heart, so heavy that he felt like he was drowning.   

“Say, Derek,” the Sheriff turned to him and under his gaze Derek felt like fifteen again, when his own dad had caught him and Paige kissing in the summer house. “Now that you´ve been cleared, what are your plans?” Stiles tried to feign disinterest by playing with his food, but Derek had caught him straightening his posture; an all too human gesture to better listen in.

“Before…before coming back I studied architecture at Columbia,” Derek began and by now Stiles couldn’t hide his obvious curiosity. “I´m only missing a few credits for my degree. I thought, that maybe I could finish here at the community college and then…I really don’t know.” The Sheriff looked at him with approval and even though Derek barely knew the man, it somehow lifted a weight off his chest. It wasn’t even a lie; Derek really did plan to continue his studies, but until the Sheriff had asked it had been in the realm of ‘somewhere in the distant future’, but now that he was staying here anyway, he could as well finish with his degree and make something out of himself.

“If you plan on living here, where are you staying then?” came the next question.

“Ehm, I´m still looking,” Derek replied. “I´m currently living at the motel next to the Interstate.” No matter what Stiles thought and what Derek had implied, he didn’t really live in the burnt down husk of his former home. He spent much of his time there, walking its hallways, because like an addict he needed the pain, didn’t know how to live – couldn’t live – without it constantly squeezing on his mind. It was the only place where the memories of his family were still alive, where he could still hear their laughter, feel their presence, even though they would never return to him.

Derek was the only ghost stalking the house. Everyone else had already moved on.  

“Oh my god, we can totally go apartment hunting!” Stiles suddenly exclaimed. “Like, I want to see what Beacon Hills got to offer for the rich and beautiful. I don’t think you´re much of a homely kind of guy. Industrial loft would be the right thing for you, sleek and modern, with a lot of chrome and straight lines. Nothing playful, nothing fancy. Bragging through understatement.”

“Well, you´re on your own, son,” the Sheriff smirked.

Derek, though, was saved from actually answering by the phone ringing.

“Excuse me.” The Sheriff stood up and walked to the kitchen. Neither Derek nor Stiles talked as they both wanted to listen in to the call.

‘Sorry to call you, Sheriff, but we´ve got a call from the hospital,’ the deputy on the other end of the line said. ‘Lydia Martin has vanished.’ Stiles sucked in a deep breath.

“What do you mean ‘vanished’?” the Sheriff demanded to know.

‘I´m just telling you what they told me,’ was the reply. ‘The nurse went to her room to look after her only to find it empty. Guess is that she woke up, disoriented by the drugs and walked out or something.’

“Call everyone in,” the Sheriff instructed. “We have a weak and vulnerable girl on the street, heaven knows who´s gonna take advantage of her if we don’t find her first.” Then he hung up.

When the Sheriff came back, his face was set in an expression of utter seriousness.

“The hospital called,” he told them. “Lydia has vanished.”

 

iii. feeling three: confusion

There were voices in her head.

Lydia didn’t know what they were saying; couldn’t quite make out the words, but the faint whispering echoed through her mind, made her unable to sleep or to find peace as she stared at the white ceiling of the hospital room she was in. The door was closed, but she could still hear the nurses and patients talking, shouting and crying outside while her room itself was suffused in silence. The monitors beside her bed beeped rhythmically, lines jumping up and down on the screen.

Lydia knew that she couldn’t stay here. The voices were urging her to leave, to go where they wanted her to be and even though Lydia didn’t understand what they were saying, she knew somehow that she had to follow them. She couldn’t say why, couldn’t give a single reason, but amidst all the upheaval and uncertainty that had invaded her life in recent times, this was one thing she was sure of.

She was well aware that she shouldn’t just pull the IV out of her skin (she had even written a whole paper about Hollywood´s unrealistic portrayal of medical procedures), but it was something that prevented her from following the voices, so it had to go. Luckily, she was wearing a hospital gown, because Lydia wasn’t sure if she would have taken the time to put something on. 

She opened the door and walked down the hallway, evading other patients and nurses alike who didn’t even bother stopping her, too busy with other issues. All the sounds around her were muffled somehow, as if she was wrapped in cotton.

She didn’t know where she was going, only that the voices urged her to go on and so she did. Through the entrance door, Lydia walked the streets of the town she had lived in since her childhood and yet no one noticed her, the girl with the strawberry blonde hair and the hospital gown walking barefoot through the streets. There was no hesitation in her steps, no misstep. She could feel it tug at her navel, this need to be at the place to which the voices were leading her. Everything around her blurred and when it sharpened again, she found herself standing in an abandoned hallway of her school. Blue moonlight streamed through the windows, while an aura of solitude and loneliness hung all over the hallway. Not a single sign of movement – of life – and Lydia wondered why the voices had brought her here.

Then, suddenly, like ghosts, figures rose from the ground, glowing in eerie blue, at first unrecognisable, but slowly Lydia could make out features on the figures’ faces. She gasped as she recognised herself and Stiles Stilinski, grasping each other as they slowly backed away from something. There was panic on both of their faces as they looked at the other end of the hallway. Slowly, Lydia turned around in order to see what had both of these apparitions so afraid. There, only a few meters away from them, a doubleganger of Stilinski stood, his face a mask of furry and hate so fierce that Lydia involuntarily took a few steps back in order to put more distance between herself and the figure.

She nearly screamed when they suddenly started to move.

‘Divine move!’ the doppelganger screamed, voice full of hate and scorn. ‘Divine move. You think you have any moves at all? You can kill the Oni. But me? Me? I'm a thousand years old. You can't kill me!’

‘But we can change you,’ the ghost-Lydia spoke, much more confident than she looked.

‘What?’ the doppelganger asked confused, stopping his advance for the moment. 

‘You forgot about the scroll. The Shugendo scroll,’ Stiles replied. ‘Change the host. You can't be a fox and a wolf.’ When he finished speaking, Scott McCall suddenly appeared from behind and bit – bit! – the doppelganger Stiles who let out a scream so high-pitched that it felt to Lydia as if her brain was exploding. She sank to the ground, head clutched between her hands and just prayed for everything to end. Just when she believed that she couldn’t endure it anymore, the apparitions exploded in a shower of blue sparks. The scream abated and again the hallway laid in front of her just as abandoned as it had been before.

Still shaking, Lydia pulled herself from the ground, looking around for any sights of the ghosts’ return, but only silence greeted her. Yet, Lydia knew that this wasn’t the end: The voices were back and they wanted her to move on, and so she did.

They took her out of downtown, away from hospital, school and police station until she found herself standing in an empty and abandoned storehouse. Dust clung to every surface while the moon shone through the shattered remains of the windows and dipped everything into its blue light.

Like before in the hallway of the school, ghostly figures rose from the ground, this time more than before, who remained where they came into existence, unmoving and undead. Standing on the side was Scott McCall, next to him Allison´s father – Chris, Lydia thought. Lying on the ground were the Lahey boy and an older man, Lydia recognising him as Derek Hale from the town gossip. What made her cover her mouth in horror was the lizard-like creature in the middle of the set-up that held Allison up by the throat while an old man Lydia couldn’t recognise stood next to it, grinning manically. Like in bad movies, the figures flickered every once in a while, and then they started to move.

‘It was the night outside the hospital, wasn't it,’ the old man spoke, ‘when I threatened your mother. I knew I saw something in your eyes. You could just smell it, couldn't you?’

‘He's dying,’ the ghost-Isaac whispered in understanding.

‘I am.’ The man confirmed. ‘I have been for a while now. Unfortunately, science doesn't have a cure for cancer yet. But the supernatural does.’

‘You monster!’ Allison´s dad shouted in disgust. 

‘Not yet,’ the old man jeered. He made a hand gesture towards the lizard monster, which continued to tighten its grip around Allison’s throat.

‘What are you doing?’ she screamed in panic. 

‘You'll kill her too?’ Chris Argent asked and even though he was barely visible, Lydia could make out the fear and the horror in his eyes as he watched the old man slowly squeezing the life out of his daughter.

‘When it comes to survival, I'd kill my own son!’ the man hissed.  He beckoned to McCall who moved forward to Hale, who was still lying on the ground.

‘Scott, don't,’ he pleaded with the teen. ‘You know that he's gonna kill me right after. He'll be an Alpha.’ 

‘That's true,’ the old man shrugged. ‘But I think he already knows that, don't you, Scott? He knows that the ultimate prize is Allison. Do this small task for me, and they can be together. You are the only piece that doesn't fit, Derek. And in case you haven't learned yet, there is just no competing with young love.’

‘Scott, don't! Don't!’ Derek shouted. Lydia´s heart nearly broke at the betrayal and hurt in the man´s voice and even though she didn’t know what was going on, she cursed McCall for inflicting such on another human being. McCall hauled Hale up and pulled him towards the older man who looked at Hale with a sick sort of glee that made Lydia want to throw up. As if he was handling an animal, McCall forced Hale´s mouth open.

I'm sorry.’ It was a lie, Lydia could feel it. ‘But I have to.’

The old man kneeled down next to the still unmoving man and stretched out his arm. Before Lydia could understand what was happening, he impaled himself on Hale´s teeth. Then, removing his arm from the other´s mouth, he stood up again and held his bleeding arm up in some sick show of triumph. Lydia wanted to turn around and flee, but something held her in place and didn’t allow her to avert her gaze from the scene in front of her. Like a movie, it played out in front of her and there was nothing she could do but watch.

‘What? What is this? What did you do?’ the old man roared. Lydia couldn’t see what was wrong, everything was only in shades of blue, but the man had started to bleed from his eyes and nose; a grotesque caricature of a monster. 

‘Everyone said Gerard always had a plan. I had a plan too,’ McCall announced. 

‘No! No!’ the old man shouted in denial. 

‘You dropped this.’ McCall pulled something out of his pants and displayed it on the palm of his hand: Pills, quite a few of them. He tilted his hand sideward and let the pills fall to the ground: Mid-air they suddenly turned into ash, slowly carried away by the slight breeze that blew through the compound. 

‘Mountain ash!’ the old man howled.

‘Why didn't you tell me?’ Hale asked, his voice so full of betrayal and hurt that it sent a twinge through Lydia´s heart. The man looked completely devastated, devoid of anything but pain and yet McCall didn’t seem to notice.

‘Because you might be an Alpha, but you're not mine,’ he replied and there was venom in his voice that Lydia hadn’t though the gentle and kind McCall capable of. 

‘Kill them! Kill them all!’ the old man screamed in rage, crawling on the ground, face contorted into a mask of furry and agony. The lizard let Allison fall to the ground and began to advance towards McCall when all of a sudden the wall behind it exploded into a shower or debris. Even though she knew it wasn’t real, Lydia covered her face for protection. When she looked up again, she saw Stilinski´s jeep halfway stuck in the wall, the lizard sprayed in front of it.

‘Did I get him?’ Stilinski shouted from where he was sitting on the driver´s seat. ‘Whoa!’ The door on the passenger side opened and another version of Lydia jumped out of the car, looking distraught and immediately making a b-line for the lizard which was pulling itself from the ground by now.

‘Jackson! Jackson!’ The ghost-Lydia held something in her hand, a pendant of a sort, which she held in front of her like a protective shield. The lizard pounced at her, but when he saw the pendant, he paused as if he had come under a spell. It looked at the pendant as if it knew it, as if it remembered it of something and carefully the ghost-Lydia took step after step towards the monster until she stood in front of it, clutching the pendant like a lifeline.

It was a key, Lydia noticed. Slowly, ghost-Lydia lowered the key onto the lizard´s clawed hand. The monster looked at her and its gaze was full of love and adoration that Lydia hadn’t though the thing capable of. It grew smaller, its scales began to fade away and its tail began to vanish: Out of the skin of the monster, a human rose. And Lydia knew that human, knew him intimately: It was Jackson. 

Then Hale suddenly appeared behind Jackson and rammed his clawed hand in Jackson´s back.

Both Lydia´s screamed.

She ran towards the place where Jackson laid, but even as she ran the scene already began to dissolve like the one before, exploding into millions of blue sparks, so when Lydia finally reached her boyfriend there was nothing but emptiness again.

And relentlessly the voices drove her on. She just wanted it to end, wanted them to leave her alone, but they kept her going, kept forcing her to walk on, even though Lydia had lost all sense of orientation by now. She just trudged forward through the maze of streets and back alleys, many of which Lydia didn’t even know of until now.

By now Lydia expected the apparitions to rise from the ground. This time it was Allison and McCall surrounded by hooded figures, their only recognisable features masks of grotesque expressions. For a few moments all of them were caught in the moment, but then they started moving.

Allison turned around. Lydia could hear a scream. Then the hooded figure ran its sword right through Allison´s stomach. For a short moment, time stopped and nothing happened. Allison looked down on the sword protruding from her body, while the vast emptiness behind the mask stared back. Then it pulled its sword back and like a puppet which strings had been cut, Allison fell to the ground.

‘Allison!’ McCall and Lydia screamed simultaneously. ‘Allison!’ McCall scoped her up from the ground and cradled his girlfriend in his arms, his face contorted in grief and pain. Lydia kneeled next to him, tried to touch Allison, but her hand went straight through her best friend´s silhouette.

‘Did you find her? Is she okay? Is Lydia safe?’ Allison asked, coughing up blood. 

‘She's okay,’ McCall told her. ‘I can't. I can't take your pain.’

‘It's because it doesn't hurt,’ Allison whispered. She tried to lift her arm, tried to cup McCall´s cheek with it in order to reassure him, but she didn’t have the strength anymore.

‘No!’ McCall sobbed.

‘It's okay,’ Allison whispered, her peaceful expression a stark contrast to the blood that was slowly soaking her clothes and seeping on the ground. ‘It's perfect. I'm in the arms of my first love. The first person I ever loved. The person I'll always love. I love you. Scott. Scott McCall.’ By now tears were freely flowing down Lydia´s face, falling to the ground and shattering like precious glass. She didn’t know what this moment was – or when – but it was undeniable precious and important.

‘Don't, please, don't,’ McCall cried. ‘Allison don't, please.’

‘You have to tell my dad. Tell him...’ Lydia never got to know what Allison wanted Scott to tell her father because she was never able to finish the sentence. One last time she coughed up blood and then the light in her eyes left her, her gaze becoming vacant. Again, Lydia wanted to reach out, but underneath her fingertips the scene dissolved and she found herself alone in the back alley, the voices pressuring her to leave.

Imagines flashed before her eyes: Doppelganger Stiles advancing towards her, opening his mouth only to release a swarm of fireflies. Jackson standing in front of her, smiling as his shirt was soaked in blood. Allison lying on the ground in a pool of blood, coughing and wheezing as she took her last breaths. A man wearing a doctor´s overall hovering over her with a drill in his right hand. A man with a third eye on his forehead. Derek Hale lying in some kind of sarcophagus. Three people wearing masks, flickering in and out of her field of vision, tubes and wires covering their whole bodies. Figures on horses, without faces, whips in their hands as they rampaged through Beacon Hills and took its inhabitants with them.

The scenes could have passed her by within seconds or hours, Lydia wouldn’t know. Time had lost its meaning as had space. There was only the voices and the visions; when one ended the other began and there was no escaping it. She turned around and around and around, but wherever she looked she only saw people dying, monster spawning from the ground, blood and gore.

Lydia sank to the ground. She covered her ears with her hands, closed her eyes and then…

…she screamed. And like glass the illusions shattered, the monsters went away and the people stopped dying. When Lydia opened her eyes again she was surrounded by trees. Above her she could see the moon in all of its glory and the stars surrounding it. Wind wafted through her hair, tousling it and carrying with it the smell of pines and grass. And in front of her stood a house.

She knew the building. Every citizen of Beacon Hills knew or knew of the burnt-out Hale house and the people that had found their death within its wall as it had burned down around them. Personally, Lydia had never been there as she found the dares which entailed going near the house that her peers always engaged in especially tasteless. As she looked upon the ruin, she couldn’t help but feel the hostility that oozed from the house. Everything felt tainted, blackened by the tragedy that had occurred here.

But the house wasn’t the only thing waiting in front of her. A lone figure stood on the front porch, surrounded by black smoke that curled around it like it was a living thing. Red eyes shone from within the smoke, full of malice and glee. The figure lifted its hand.

“Come to me, Lydia!”

 

iv. feeling four: worry

They managed to get to the hospital after the Sheriff and his deputies had already left. It smelled horrible, the stench of disinfectant hurting his nose and the lingering aroma of blood and pus making Stiles want to vomit. Then there were the sounds: Doctors and nurses giving orders, the beeping of machinery, the crying of children, the rattling and coughing of sick patients. It made Stiles head hurt and he had to pause for a moment, just to centre himself. He wrangled with the instinct to just run away and leave this misery behind. This wasn’t natural. He didn’t belong.

“Concentrate,” Derek said next to him, barely above a whisper, but Stiles could hear it anyway. Persuading Derek that they needed to come here had been difficult, but Stiles had managed it by pointing out that Lydia had been bitten by Peter and that they could very well have a newly-turned werewolf running around in Beacon Hills and the last thing they needed now was for Stiles’ father to find her. Derek had relented, albeit grudgingly. “We need to get to her room. From there we can follow her trail.”

“It´s on the first floor,” Stiles replied, having already visited Lydia once before. It spoke volumes to the flurry of activities around them that not a single hospital employee noticed them and demanded to know what they were doing here. Not that Stiles was not glad for it, but it also spoke volumes of the non-existent security protocol. If he had more malevolent motives, Stiles could have done so much bad without anyone noticing. And it was just one person that was missing!

The ping of the elevator notified them that they had reached first floor. There was notably less going on here than on the ground floor; you could even believe that it was a complete different world you had entered. The only nurse visible on the floor was hidden behind the computer screen, probably playing Farmville, while a lone old woman was walking along the hallway, stopping every now and then, wincing in pain, only to continue walking again. An empty bed stood on the right side of the hallway, right next to the elevator doors.

Determined, Stiles walked on, Derek following behind him. The door to the room where Lydia had been in was barred by police tape. Stiles ignored it – perks of being the Sheriff’s son in a small town – and opened the door, beckoning for Derek to follow him.

The room was dead silent. No kidding, it felt like Stiles was standing in a graveyard and it made the hairs on the back of his hands stand up. Somehow, one window was open, the curtains drifting back and forth. The bed was unmade, probably having been left exactly like Lydia had left it.

“So,” Stiles began, turning back towards Derek, “what now?”

“Now you search for her scent and follow it,” Derek replied.

“Great!” Stiles exclaimed sarcastically. “Any more helpful tips? Like, you know, actual tips how that works exactly?” Derek was too controlled to allow himself to slip, but Stiles bet that the older werewolf was desperate to just roll his eyes at Stiles.

“You already know her scent,” Derek began to explain. “Even though human noses are weaker than ours, you´ve been around her often enough that you subconsciously know how she smells. Just concentrate, take in a deep breath and let your instincts guide you.” Stiles wanted to remark something sarcastic, but time was ticking and while Derek´s teachings left some accuracy to be desired, they were still helpful.

So, Stiles closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He could smell the cheap laundry detergent the hospital used, the still lingering smell of vanilla pudding and peas (a disgusting combination, probably part of the last meal Lydia had), a few stray scents that the wind had brought in from outside.

But then his mind grasped something that definitely belonged to Lydia: Chanel No. 5. And once he had identified that one particular part of Lydia´s scent, it was easy to grasp the rest of it; the underlying smell of the shampoo she used (strawberry), the chemical scent of her cosmetics.

Stiles opened his eyes. “I have it.”

“Then what are you waiting for?” Derek challenged him. Stiles shot him a grin and then he took off. Now that he knew what to look – or rather smell – for, it was easy to follow the trail. Like a glowing line on the ground, he followed the path Lydia had walked on. It led them out of the hospital towards the school. Why Lydia had come here, Stiles couldn’t fathom, but she had stayed here only short anyway, continuing her way towards an abandoned factory building at the edge of downtown and then again, a back alley near school.

“What was she doing here?” Stiles asked no one in particular.

Derek just shrugged and then they were already moving again, this time towards the Preserve. It was as if Lydia knew exactly where she was going, for her path cut straight through the forest.

“It´s leading to your house,” Stiles finally noticed. Derek didn’t say anything. They entered the clearing atop which the Hale house stood. Nothing indicated that a fight had happened here a few days before, but the door that laid on the ground a few meters away from its frame, where Peter had thrown it out of its hinges.

“What happened with…with the Alpha?” Stiles asked. He called the monster ‘Alpha’ on purpose, for it dehumanized the being that had once been Derek´s uncle and maybe then the pain any mention of him would inflict on Derek wouldn’t be as vast.

“I buried him under the house,” Derek replied. “It´s what he´d have wanted. To be with the family.” Stiles swallowed. Of course, the house had burned down with the Hales still in it, so they all never received a proper burial.

He didn’t know what a werewolf burial would be like.

“She´s in there,” Derek interrupted his train of thought. They made their way up the stairs on the veranda and then entered the house. Stiles had never in the house, even though it had stood there for a big part of his life, but it had always felt sacrilegious to him to profane a place where so many people had died by using it as some kind of prop for his and Scott make-beliefs. Somehow, it was town´s consensus that the Hale mansion should be left alone and with it the ghosts of the Hales that still haunted it.

The entrance area they entered was dominated by a big staircase that led up to the first floor of the building. To the left was a wide opening that led to what Stiles assumed had to be the living room, while a door on the right led to the kitchen. At the end of the hallway another door led to the backyard which Stiles could see through the shattered glass that had once been a central feature of said door. Lydia´s scent hung heavy in the air now, a sure sign that she was in there somewhere.

There was no need to search for long, though: Kneeling on the ground, hair dishevelled, dried tears on her face and only wearing a hospital gown, they found her, not moving and staring listlessly at the wall in front of her.

“Lydia!” Stiles exclaimed and rushed towards her. Her skin was so cold under his fingertips. She didn’t respond. “Lydia.” He tried again, but there was no reply.

“We need to get her out of here,” Stiles said, turning back to Derek. “We need to get her back to the hospital before my Dad gets here.”

“Then pick her up and let´s go,” Derek replied.

“Ehm, I´m 147 pounds of skinny bones and sarcasm, how the hell am I to carry her all the way back?” Derek starred at him like Stiles had completely lost his mind.

“You´re a werewolf,” he pointed out and his voice had this world-weary resignation to it which only prolonged exposure to Stiles could inflict upon people.

“Ah, yeah,” Stiles replied embarrassed. “That should do it.” He grabbed Lydia, trying very hard not to grope her at unappropriated places (which was really difficult when the person you needed to carry didn’t react at all), but finally he thought he could lift her from the ground.

But when he tried to move Lydia, she let out an ear-piercing wail. Derek and Stiles stumbled back, clutching their heads with their hands as Lydia´s scream drilled through their skull. Everything else was drowned out, pushed back, and there was only the pain that wrecked through Stiles mind like nothing else he had ever felt before. There was something warm flowing over his hand and when he moved it in front of his face he saw that it was covered in blood. He was bleeding from his ears and when Stiles looked back to Derek, he saw that the other werewolf was bleeding as well.

But just as it seemed that Stiles couldn’t take the pain anymore, Lydia´s wailing crescendo suddenly abated and the girl sank to the ground, unconscious.

“What the fuck was that?” Stiles spit out. He could taste blood on his tongue.

“I don’t know,” Derek admitted. “But she´s definitely no werewolf.”

“Yeah, but neither is she human,” Stiles retorted. Carefully, he walked towards Lydia, but the girl didn’t rouse, so he picked her up, this time without screaming.

“Let´s take her back.”

Chapter Text

i. location one : the hospital

They must have made quite a picture: Stiles carrying Lydia bridal-style, striding through the sliding doors of the hospital, the girl limp in his arms, his face pale and blotchy (they had managed to clean the blood off with some tissue Stiles had found in his car), Derek following behind him, not looking any less imposing with his gloomy stare that he directed at anyone who wanted to block their way. They probably looked like they had come straight out of a horror movie, just having escaped whatever monster had toyed with them.

Stiles’ dad was leaning on the reception counter, whispering animatedly with Melissa McCall on the other side who was typing on the computer while listening to the Sheriff. When his dad looked up and saw them approaching, his eyes widened in shock and surprise before it was replaced by an all too familiar expression of resigned weariness.

“You found her?” his father stated the obvious. Behind him, Melissa shouted for some nurses to get them a bed, so that they could put Lydia down. Stiles just nodded.

“I guess I was expecting too much when I wanted you to stay at home while I do the work I was actually elected to do?” Stiles’ father asked. “And how did you manage to make Derek help you?”

“I didn’t think I could keep Stiles from doing something, so I accompanied him, because it´s still better than leaving him alone,” Derek explained nonchalantly. Maybe it was just imagination, but Stiles was sure he saw his dad and Derek sharing a bonding expression that conveyed their exasperation about Stiles and his habits.

Before Stiles could say anything, the nurses finally arrived with a bed and he was able to lay Lydia down on it. Amidst the white sheets, her skin looked even paler, making her look as if she was made of candle wax; a doll so delicate that it would break under anyone´s touch.

“We´ll take care of her,” Melissa assured him, squeezing his shoulder in what was supposed to be an encouraging gesture, but Stiles couldn’t really shake off the feeling that there wasn’t much that school medicine could do to help whatever supernatural quagmire he had gotten Lydia into. So, he just nodded and hoped that Melissa would leave it at that.

As doors of the elevator closed behind the bed that carried Lydia, the Sheriff turned back towards his wayward son and levelled his best disappointed parent stare at Stiles which made him swallow subconsciously. That gaze never meant something good.

“I´m too exhausted to deal with you now,” his dad said. Stiles instantly felt bad for making his dad feel this way, for adding another burden on his shoulder. He wanted to speak up, to confess, so that his dad would know that he hadn’t failed, that it wasn’t his fault, but the moment passed without Stiles uttering a single word. Shame filled his mind.

“Apparently, Derek is more likely to do what I tell you,” his dad continued turning towards the older werewolf, “so I´m asking you to take my son home and make sure he stays there.” He sighed. “I´m terribly sorry. You shouldn’t have to deal with this.”

“It´s fine,” Derek assured the Sheriff. Stiles’ dad sent him a pained smile, turned towards Stiles and ruffled his hair as if he was some unruly child (which he was, but that´s totally beside the point!). Then he turned around and joined two of his deputies who were waiting for him at the end of the hallway.

“Your father really worries about you,” Derek broke the silence that hung between them as Stiles drove the jeep back to his home. Due to the darkness outside he couldn’t quite make out Derek´s features, but every time they passed by a street light his face was illuminated by the faint yellow glow that flashed through the car before it sank back into darkness again and Stiles saw that Derek looked at him with an undecipherable expression.

“He shouldn’t,” Stiles mumbled. “I can take care of myself.”

“Does he know that?” Derek wanted to know. Stiles didn’t reply, instead shaking his head as answer. “Maybe you should tell him then?” Stiles let out a bark of laughter.

“Yeah, I should definitely tell him all about what goes bump in the night,” he spoke, his grip on the steering wheel tightening. “And also confess that I´m a werewolf now. That´s sure to lessen his worry, don’t you think?” He shook his head. “No, he´s safer not knowing.”

“Ignorance isn’t always a bliss,” Derek remarked. It was stated factually, no judgement whatsoever in his voice, and yet Stiles still felt like he was judged and found wanting. Derek looked like he wanted to say something but then thought it better to keep his mouth shut, for which Stiles was thankful because with all this shit going down he didn’t know if he could deal with having a decision questioned of which he himself wasn’t all that sure of either. So they spent the rest of the drive in silence.

“You´ll manage to get to wherever you´re spending the night?” Stiles asked as he switched Roscoe´s engine off. “I could still drop you off.”

“I´ll manage,” Derek replied, opening the car door and exiting the vehicle. “Just stay put. I don´t want your father after me.” Stiles grinned.

“Are you afraid of my dad?” he exclaimed. Derek sent him a flat glare.

“You so are!” Stiles crooned. With one last suffering sigh, Derek turned around and then he had already taken off into the night, leaving a laughing Stiles on the steps of his home.

 

ii. location two: the cemetery

The moon was shining from above, illuminating the scenery underneath him in silvery light that dipped everything into some kind of mysterious atmosphere, as if you had come straight into one of those cliché fantasy novels where everything important happens under the light of the silver goddess. Headstones rose from the ground, some straight and some already tilted over by the elements and passing of time. The newer ones where still unblemished, no speck of dirt, no moss and no cracks to which ivy clang to. The names of the deceased they marked was still legible, one last mark of the dead in the world of the living while rain and storm had smoothed over the names of others on the older tombstones.

Near the rear end of the cemetery, where the well-kept lawn met the untamed wilderness of the Beacon Hills Preserve, in the next-to-last row, Isaac sat in the backhoe and cursed Kate Argent for dying. Every normal teenager would be at home right now, either sleeping or pretending to be, while he had dig up the Argent woman´s grave in the middle of the night. Usually he dug up graves during the day, but the Argents wanted their former family member to be buried as soon as possible and thanks to a ‘generous donation’ to the administration they had sent out Isaac, so that the funeral could happen tomorrow.

At least working here meant that he wasn’t forced to be at home. He pulled up his hand and touched the right side of his face, wincing as they pain spread from where his hand touched the skin. He didn’t know what had set off his father (there were too many triggers; too many to always look out for), but he remembered something about the dishes not being clean enough and being ungrateful for the food that his father put on the table for both of them. In the end, it didn’t really matter, anyway, because the results were always the same: Strike after strike, mixed with vitriol so hateful that it sometimes hurt even worse than the physical punishment.

So maybe digging up graves in the middle of the night wasn’t that bad after all.

Isaac was about to continue digging, when he heard a noise – or at least he thought he had heard something. A twig cracking, leaves rustling and the sound of footsteps on the grass. He killed the engine, listening intensely, and – yeah – there was something.

“Hello?!” Isaac called out. “Is there someone?” No reply. “Jackson, I swear to you, if that´s your idea of a joke, then I´m gonna replace all of your skincare with lube!” Again, no reply forthcoming. Huffing angrily, Isaac exited the bagger and walked towards the grave, ready to give whoever was there a piece of his mind. The thought that this could be someone dangerous crossed his mind for split second, but was then disregarded, because this was Beacon Hills and the most dangerous thing to happen here was the Sheriff´s kid driving while on a sugar high. So, no, Isaac didn’t really worry.

That changed rapidly, though, when a man suddenly appeared in front of Isaac. He was only able to catch a short glimpse of the other – torn, blotted clothes; matted hair, unkempt beard – before the man was growling at him.

“What the fuck?!” Isaac exclaimed. He took a few steps back, trying to get as much distance between him and the weirdo as possible, but his last step met no solid ground and before Isaac could even react, he was falling into the grave.

He could feel the cold, damp earth underneath his fingertips. The only light coming from the moon above. Only two meters in the ground and it was so much colder here, moist even.

“Help!” Isaac shouted. “Help!” But there was no help forthcoming, instead there was a metallic groan and Isaac could see the backhoe tilting sideward.

“No, no, no!” he shouted but it was to no avail. With one last groan, the bagger fell over and blocked the opening of the grave. Suddenly everything was dark; he wasn’t even able to see his own hand in front of him.

Memories flashed in front of him.

Screams. Rage. Pain. Stairs that led downward.

Isaac felt like he was suffocating. His breath went faster and faster but no air seemed to reach his lungs.

An empty room. Bare concrete walls. A single lightbulb at the ceiling.

There was something pressing him down. The pressure grew bigger and bigger until Isaac felt like he was about to explode. He took his head between his knees and just tried to breath.

A single refrigerator. Its door opened. Chains on the ground next to it. Panic. Suddenly walls everywhere. The door closed.

Darkness.

“Hey!” A voice pierced through the fog that beclouded Isaac´s mind. “Hey!”

Isaac looked up. The backhoe had been pushed aside, he could see the sky again. There was a man leaning over the edge of the pit, offering Isaac his hand. Still shaking, Isaac stood up, brushing the dirt off his clothes and took the help the stranger offered. With one strong pull, he helped Isaac out of the grave, steadying him when he was about to lose his balance again.

“You´re alright?” the man asked. Isaac just nodded.

“Thanks,” he mumbled.

“Pretty morbid,” the stranger remarked. “Being buried alive in a grave you dug up yourself.” Isaac didn’t say anything; he didn’t think that the occurrence was remarkable or funny in any shape or form.

“You shouldn’t be out here alone so late at night,” the stranger told him. He stared at Isaac and suddenly Isaac remembered that the right half of his face was all black and blue. But the stranger couldn’t possibly notice, could he? It was dark after all. Yet before Isaac could say anything, the man had already vanished. Feeling an odd mixture of despair and relief, Isaac turned around.

He still needed to finish that grave.

 

iii. location three: the school

When Stiles entered the classroom he instantly noticed that nearly half of the class was missing: Scott (probably with Allison), Lydia (still unresponsive), Jackson (don’t know, don’t care) and Allison (probably because her aunt had been killed only a few days prior). With a heavy sigh, because that meant that he had to suffer through Shakespeare and Co. without the support of his best friend, Stiles banged his bag on his table and sat down, staring at the clock hanging over the door, watching the movement of the second hand.

Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

Stiles hadn’t been sure if he should go to school after only a few superficial training lessons with Derek (Scott´s difficulties the first time around still fresh in his mind), but he just couldn’t stand it anymore, being cooped up at home with his dad watching him like a hawk every time they were in the same room. Ditching school would have only made him even more suspicious and besides, Stiles really believed that he could manage to make it through the day without biting anyone´s head off. He had experience in controlling his emotions, in not letting Harrison´s cutting remarks getting through to him, in not allowing Jackson´s childish taunts rose his anger.

Stiles could feel the wolf within, looming underneath his skin, filling every gap in his mind. It was assuring to Stiles, feeling the strength of his other half coiling in his muscles, having the knowledge that nothing that walked the halls of the school could get at him. The wolf was ready, but Stiles also instinctively knew that he wouldn’t rise to the surface without Stiles prompting him to do so.

He wondered how Scott had managed it; making it through the day while constantly fighting his inner wolf. The edge he must have always been on, between his human self and the unbridled anger of his wolf. It showed Scott´s stubbornness and his iron will, though, Stiles supposed, even though it was directed at the wrong subject.

Thinking about Scott made Stiles aware that he had kept putting off talking to his best friend about all that happened to him. About his new fury problem. About being an Alpha now. Stiles knew – even if Scott could be intentionally dense sometimes – he would notice that something was off with Stiles the moment they met. And he could just imagine the look of hurt and betrayal that would flash over Scott´s face if he found out in the school hallway in-between lessons. No, Stiles had to tell him in person, in a controlled environment.

So, going to the McCall´s it was before continuing with Derek where they had left off the last time. Stiles sure as hell hoped that they wouldn’t continue holding twigs between his fingers.

He was interrupted in his thoughts by the door opening. To everyone´s surprise, though, it wasn’t their usual English teacher that entered, bringing with him his usual atmosphere of boredom and tears, but an attractive looking woman. She had brown hair, slightly curled, that fell down till her midriff, brown eyes that shone with enthusiasm and her lips were curled into a slight smile. Wearing a beige blouse with some kind of pattern consisting of black half-circles and a black pencil skirt, the woman walked towards the desk at the front and placed her bag on it. Turning towards the class, her smile broadened.

“Hello class,” she smiled. “My name´s Jennifer Blake and I´m your new English teacher.”

 

iv.  location four: the McCall house

To Stiles the McCall house always had a homely atmosphere to it. It already started when you looked at it from the outside: Neither Ms McCall nor Scott had any talent at gardening, so there weren´t any well-sculptured hedges and rare flowers that needed some special care because there weren´t suited for Californian climate, but rather a meadow full of all kinds of wild flowers. The neighbours, of course, weren´t enthused about the McCall’s breaking out of the neighbourhood´s uniform layout, but due to her job, Melissa was a well-respected member of the community, so they refrained from doing anything else but nagging under their breaths. 

The house itself was painted in a creamy white with green shutters and a path of white gravel led from the street towards the front door, where wooden letters nailed on it, all in different colours, proclaimed this to be the home of the McCall’s. Stiles and Scott had crafted them when they had been in kindergarten and ever since then they had stayed on the door, only the fading of the colour as sign of the passing of time. 

Ever since Stiles and Scott had become friends, Stiles had never bothered with knocking, always storming in instead, as he knew that the door would always be open to him. And yet, right now here he stood, on the doormat with the grinning sun on it, hand hovering above the door knob, afraid of actually entering the house he had long considered to be a second home to him. But now that confrontation with Scott was inevitable, Stiles clung to every change at delayal he could get. 

Stiles didn’t believe that Scott would end their friendship over the werewolf matter. They were in too deep, were too entangled in things beyond most humans' perception for that to happen. And for all of Scott´s fault (and Stiles knew many of them, as did Scott know many of his) you couldn’t say that lack of loyalty was one of them. Scott had stayed by him through all the adversity of Elementary, Middle and High School and never – not even once – had he complained or left Stiles. With such a strong bond of friendship between them, Stiles didn’t (couldn’t) believe that Scott would turn his back on him over some matter Stiles had had no control over.

But there was also the fact that Scott hated his existence as werewolf. Stiles didn’t know why Scott felt so negatively towards something that had offered him so much: He no longer suffered the Asthma attacks that had restricted his life so much, that had prevented him from being successful at Lacrosse; he had gotten the recognition and the girl, the strength and the power, but all he could see were the drawbacks. Maybe it was because for all of Scott´s qualities, he didn’t like taking on responsibility.

"Are you ever planning on coming in?" Suddenly torn from his thoughts, Stiles looked up and saw Melissa looking at him from the opened kitchen window next to the door. "We don’t bite." Stiles had to suppress a hysterical laugh at the irony of that statement.

"Nah," Stiles drawled. "I really like your doormat. I think I´ll camp here for the rest of the week and get to know it closer." Somehow Melissa was able to convey her bemused exasperation with just one crooked eyebrow. Stiles grinned at her and knowing that he couldn’t stall anymore, now that he had been discovered. So, he opened the door and entered the house.

The McCall’s living room had a homely feeling to it. The couch was worn and covered in all kind of stains, for which Scott and Stiles were nearly always responsible for; the shelves were covered with books and magazines which Melissa always bought with the intention to read them one day, but she never managed it due to her stressful workdays. There were pictures all over the room, showing Scott (and sometimes Stiles) during all of their development stages. Mr Call was deliberate absent on all of them.

Stiles had many memories that were connected to this room. He had spent many nights on this couch, wrapped in blankets while he had stayed with the McCalls when his dad had needed to bring his mother to the hospital again. Had slurped hot cacao and eaten marshmallows while Melissa had rubbed soothing circles on his back in an attempt to chase the fear and the loneliness away. Sometimes it had worked, sometimes not.

"Scott is in his room," Melissa told him, leaning against the doorframe that led to the kitchen. There was worry in her eyes, a certain seriousness that all mothers displayed when they noticed something off with their children. "Has something happened between the two of you? You haven´t been around as often as you used to." Dread constricted Stiles' throat and for a split second he felt like he was falling into a bottomless abyss.

"It´s nothing," Stiles lied and it tore his heart apart that he needed to lie to the woman he considered family. "It´s just...school, you know? And now that Scott´s first line and got a girlfriend, he´s got other things going on in his life." Melissa just nodded, taking in what Stiles had said. Fleeing – because that was what it was – Stiles took the stairs and made his way towards Scott´s room.

The nearer he came towards Scott´s room, the stronger the smells became: Unwashed clothes, more or less fresh pizza, the aftershave Scott used every now and then, and above everything else the smell of predator. Stiles could feel the wolf within slowly rousing from his slumber, rising to the forefront of his mind. He had entered territory of another, not belonging to him, and while he instinctively knew that Scott was no real threat to him – barely keeping his status as beta while Stiles was an Alpha in sync with his inner wolf – he was still an intruder, even though it was Stiles coming to his house.

Stiles squashed all those urges ruthlessly. He had no time for an animalistic pissing contest; he needed to talk to Scott with a clear head.

He knocked. The one time where he hadn´t and had subsequently got an eye full of Scott jerking himself off to some weird lesbian porn had been enough to firmly instil that instinct in him.

"Yeah?!" Came Scott´s muffled reply from behind the door. Steeling himself, Stiles took one last breath and entered. Scott was lounging on the bed, staring at the ceiling, probably thinking about Allison. When he looked up at Stiles, a smile spread over his face.

"Stiles!" He exclaimed and threw himself at his friend. Stiles instinctively bared his teeth, which made Scott recoil in horror.

"Man, what´s wrong with you?" He shouted.

"Sorry," Stiles apologised. "I just...I just couldn’t help it."

"Why would you snarl at me?" Scott demanded to know.

"That´s what I came here to talk with you about," Stiles replied. "The night Peter..."

"Who?" Scott asked in confusion.

"The Alpha," Stiles corrected himself. "The night he was killed, he...he bit me." Scott´s eyes widened in horror. "It took and when I threw the Molotov cocktail at him; whatever power decides who´s getting the Alpha power, gave it to me." He looked at Scott and allowed his eyes to flash red.

Time seemed to stop for a moment, silence descended upon them. You could have heard a pin dropping on the ground (which Scott and Stiles as werewolves could have heard anyway). Scott just stood there, so many emotions flashing behind his brown eyes: fury, hurt, betrayal, regret and finally something like acceptance.

"So, that´s how it is now, isn´t it?"

Stiles nodded. "Yeah."

"Guess nothing´s gonna change then," Scott commented. "You were always the one leading, anyway.” There were no words able to properly describe the relief that cursed through Stiles’ body at that statement. Maybe he had hoped that Scott would be understanding, wouldn’t let his emotion overrule his logic, but hearing the words spoken out loud did wonders for the state of Stiles’ mind. He felt a little bit ashamed that he did Scott such a disservice by having believed that the other wouldn’t understand, but the last few weeks had first and foremost taught Stiles that he didn’t know people as well as he had believed.

“You´re taking this better than I expected,” Stiles admitted.

“Well, after all this shit went down I had some time for self-reflection.”

“Woah, big words there, Scottie.” Scott sent him a withering glare.

“Anyway, I thought about that I sometimes let my emotion get the best of me,” he continued. “I don’t think that all of my actions were wrong, but that I would have been served better sometimes if I had stopped for a moment and listened.”

“And I should believe your intuition more,” Stiles admitted.

“See,” Scott grinned, “we both have things to work on.” Stiles laughed, too, and right now in this moment everything felt like it would turn out alright.

Chapter Text

i. sin one: wrath

The door opened silently, allowing Jennifer to enter her apartment.

It wasn’t homecoming. That implied that there was an actual home to come to, not this soulless apartment at the edge of town which she only used to sleep. She hadn’t known a home for years, couldn’t even remember what made an apartment a home. Was there sound instead of the familiar silence that welcomed her as she closed the door behind her and threw the keys into the bowl that stood on the cupboard? Was it a feeling of warmth and welcoming instead of the unmoving air and coldness that seeped from the walls and blanketed her like snow on the streets in winter? Was it warm light shining from the living room, instead of the cold light of the street lamps shining through the windows, casting everything in half-shadows and darkness? Was it the smell of food instead of dust?

Jennifer didn’t know. Didn’t care to remember. Home was for people that were whole. For people with families, for people that loved and lived. Jennifer did none of it. She walked through the hallways, past the kitchen she never used and the living room she rarely entered. Between the doors that led to those two rooms there hung a mirror on the wall, having been installed there by the people that had lived here before her.

She hated the mirror with the passion of thousand burning suns. She hated the face that would stare back at her: the brown curls that framed unblemished white skin, blue eyes that sometimes twinkled as if they knew a secret that no one else knew, the thin red lips that curved into a seductive smile whenever she laughed, the petite nose and the high cheekbones. She hated all of it because she knew that it wasn’t her. She hated it because all of it was an illusion, because she didn’t know who she really was, how she really had looked.

Jennifer had lost herself. Somewhere between Kali attempting to kill her and her resurrection, she had lost the woman she had been – her emotions, her desires, her hopes and her dreams. All that remained were her memories and that all-consuming desire for revenge. To look Kali into her eyes as they widened with fear and terror, as her spirit was crushed by the inevitability of her death and have her experience the same fear, the same panic, the same pain, the same hurt that Jennifer had felt when Kali had slashed her skin open again and again.

Jennifer let go of the magic that kept the illusion alive, that anchored the false skin on her like a sticky film of oil (always wrong, always false, never true, a lie, a lie, a lie). The creature staring back at her from the mirror was a grotesque caricature of a human being, its skin crinkly and yellow like old parchment, her head bald and covered in angry red scars that even time could not heal. Eyes of a sickly white like purulence and a mouth framed by black lips and full of fangs that bared themselves to the onlooker whenever she attempted the mockery of a smile.

This was what Kali had reduced her to. This sad and broken mockery of life that held not a single drop of beauty. No one would look at her and see something worth being cherished, worth being kind to – worth being loved. No, everyone would see a monster that needed to put down; everyone would hate her, be disgusted and avert their gazes.

Jennifer didn’t want it any different. That is what she told herself every time she stood in front of the mirror and threatened to shatter like glass; when she walked past a stranger who would smile at her, not knowing the monster that hid behind her beautiful crafted façade; when she laid in her bed at night, phantom pains wracking her body and just wished for all of this to end; when she saw the students at school under the spell of their first love, reminding her that once upon a time that had been Kali and her, that she would never experience it again.

Love and compassion hadn’t saved her when she was bleeding out on the forest floor, the stars and the moon the only witnesses as she laid there in her last throes. Love and compassion hadn’t been enough to stay Kali´s claws as she stood there above Jennifer, maniac glint in her eyes, high on the power she just had received. Love and compassion hadn’t given Jennifer the power to come back and exert her revenge.

No, hate and wrath were what was driving her on now. An insatiable fire that burned in her chest and which she fed with all the fantasies of death and destructions she could conjure in her mind. Jennifer was burning and one day she would burn up, but as long as it was after her revenge she didn’t care. She didn’t care beyond that single point in the future, that one fixture that had kept her going through it all.

Even more than Kali she hated Deucalion. Hated the man for dripping his poison – his false promises of power and strength – into Kali´s heart until it reached her heart and took root in her mind. She hated him for being the depraved, loathsome monster he was and for being the reason Jennifer was now the same. She hated him for destroying his life and she feared him for being able to do so in the first place. And she loathed herself for feeling that fear.

That was why she was here now, in Beacon Hills, a small, non-descript town she would have never bothered to visit before. Her scrying had shown that Deucalion and his pack of Alphas were planning on setting their camp here. Jennifer had wasted no time, had packed her things and arrived before them, establishing herself as harmless English teacher at the local High School. She knew the history of the supernatural around her, about the Hale clan whose benevolent hand had steered the town until it all burned down around them. About the Nemeton that lurked somewhere in the vicinity of the town and just waited to be re-awoken, it´s vile and cruel energy leaking even into the heart of Beacon Hills. Jennifer could feel the ley lines that crossed underneath the steel and concrete, could feel them thrumming, full of energy, welcoming her as if she was an old friend they had waited for all this time.

Beacon Hills had woken from the sleep it had fallen in after the Hales had either died or left. Jennifer knew that the main branch of the Argents lived in the town as did the last surviving Hale; she had seen them in the waters, living their insignificant lives, scurrying around not noticing the dark clouds that drew nearer and nearer with every day. She had noticed the two boys in her class, had seen the wolves underneath their skins. One a scrappy, near feral thing, barely kept in check by the boy´s will who had looked at her with hate and fear in its yellows eyes, baring its fangs at her but unable to attack because its other half wouldn’t – couldn’t – listen. The other wolf a majestic white beast with red eyes that appraised her with cool calculation, not bothered by her presence in the least because it knew of its place as apex predator. An Alpha.

Jennifer wondered if the boy would notice her or if he wouldn’t as his wolf didn’t see her as danger (not yet). She asked herself if she should warn the boy (only a few years younger than she had been when she died, eyes still inquisitive, still full of curiosity, skin still pure and unblemished) that the Alpha Pack was coming for him, ready to either break or take him, but she hadn’t. She couldn’t allow herself to become invested, to form connections that Deucalion and his ilk would break like glass. So, she watched him and mourned him for he was already dead, even if he didn’t know it yet. Even if he survived the Alpha Pack.

Maybe she would light a candle for him after she was finished with Kali.

A candle for him and a candle for herself.

 

ii. sin two: envy

Scott watched as Stiles retracted his claws, forced his face to change between the monstrous visage of the werewolf and his human face all the while Hale stood in front of him and talked him through it. Maybe Scott wasn’t as observant as Stiles could be, but even he noticed that there was a certain comradery between the two of them – a softness in the way Hale spoke and moved – that hadn’t been there when Hale had tried to reach out to Scott. Maybe it was because Stiles was an Alpha and Scott wasn’t, or maybe because they had kind of accused Hale of being the murderer of his own sister.

Yeah, that definitely would sour any relationship.

Scott hadn’t been that enthused when Stiles had rung him out of bed and told him that they were going to the old Hale house where Hale would train them and tell them stuff about being werewolves. Scott didn’t really care much about the latter, because he just wanted to control this curse and didn’t want to know about history or other stuff. When he had told that Stiles, the other had just rolled his eyes and continued to drag him towards the Preserve. Scott doubted that Hale would be happy to have Stiles drag him along to their training, but Stiles had told him that it had been Hales idea that he should come, too, because they couldn’t really have Scott running around, unable to control himself, not with only a fragile peace hanging between them and the Argents.

Scott wanted to protest: He had been able to control himself quite well and the Argents weren’t that bad. Allison was sweet and kind and wouldn’t hurt a soul. She had just been deceived by her aunt and Scott couldn’t really fault her for that. If Stiles was to ask him for help, he would agree without asking any questions, too, and Stiles wouldn’t fault Scott for it. So, Allison wasn’t really to blame. Victoria was scary as hell and Scott didn’t really know her that well, but Chris was just a man who wanted to protect his family.

He didn’t tell that Stiles, though, because Scott didn’t think that his friend wanted to hear that right now. When they had arrived at the clearing in front of the Hale house, Hale had already been waiting for them, standing there arms crossed, that familiar scowl on his face. He had run Scott through some exercises to get a handle on how far advanced Scott: He could control his shift (thanks to what Stiles had taught him) when he was in a calm and controlled environment, but he had difficulties when he couldn’t control his emotions and in fine-tuning his strength. So, while Hale assisted Stiles with his shift, Scott stood there, doing breathing exercises and trying not to break the twig he was holding between his fingers.

Watching Stiles and Hale interact and seeing the easiness with which Stiles took to this new weirdness made something dark coil in his stomach. He and Stiles had been best friends since kindergarten – ‘brother from a different mother’ – but Scott was keenly aware of how he always stood in Stiles’ shadow. Maybe Scott possessed kindness and stubbornness and generally ‘was like Captain America’ (according to Stiles), but if Scott was Captain America, then Stiles was like Tony Stark: smart, good with words, suave and unbothered by other´s opinion of him. Spending his time in summer school because of his bad grades more often than not, Scott had often wished that he was more like Stiles.

Don’t get him wrong, Scott wasn’t jealous of Stiles all the time, or even enough to make himself notice, but every now and then Scott wished there was something he was better at than Stiles.

So, when he had been turned into a werewolf there had been a small part of him that relished in finally having something that Stiles didn’t possess. Scott tried to silence that part of his mind, because he hated being a werewolf and the conditions it forced upon him, but he couldn’t help but feel that satisfaction when he did something he previously couldn’t have done and saw the expression of awe and admiration on Stiles’ face. Scott knew that it was wrong, that he shouldn’t feel that way, but he couldn’t help it.

“You´re better at this than Stiles.” Scott nearly fell over when Hale suddenly spoke up from beside him. The twig in his hand broke. “This is your third, isn’t it? Stiles already had a whole heap of broken twigs in front of him by now.”

“Hey!” Stiles mock-protested. “Don´t undermine my Alpha authority in front of Scott.” Hale just raised one eyebrow at Stiles which somehow managed to convey utter exasperation and indulgence.

“If you don´t want your ‘authority’ undermined, I´d suggest you take a page out of Scott´s book and control your strength better,” Hale remarked. Maybe Scott should revaluate his opinion on the older werewolf.

“Whatever,” Stiles brushed him off. “Next time I´ll totally be in control of myself.” Both Scott and Hale snorted.

“You can barely control what comes out of your mouth,” Scott joked. Stiles put his hand on his chest as if he had been shot and let out a painful wailing.

“Et tu, Scott?!” he exclaimed. “Who can I trust when I can´t even trust my brother from another mother?” Against his will a smile snuck on Scott´s face at Stiles’ antics.

“Hey, Scottie, wanna grab some Pizza on the way home?” Stiles asked. “I´m starving. I think I could literally eat a whole cow.”

“You have to ask?” Scott exclaimed incredulously. Maybe he had some issues, but Stiles was his best friend and didn’t deserve them. Scott could deal with them on his own.     

 

iii. sin three: lust

Lydia had been awake for four hours, thirty-six minutes and fourteen seconds when the door to her hospital room opened and Stiles Stilinski entered. The boy looked fatigued, his eyes framed by dark circles while his skin was even more pale than usual, but that didn’t diminish the smile he flashed at her when he noticed her looking at him.

“Hi Lydia,” he waved at her. Lydia didn’t reply anything, pursing her lips instead and looking at Stilinski expectantly. She didn’t act like this just to be cruel or dismissive, but because she really didn’t know what the other wanted. She didn’t know Stilinski that well; they could barely be described as acquaintances. They went to the same school, had a few classes together, nothing more.

Lydia was aware that Stilinski was obsessed with her – or at least pretended to be – which only made her avoid him even more. He didn’t even know her, and yet he had professed his love to her several times which she found beyond creepy. She was a living, breathing human being and Stilinski hadn’t even bothered to get to know her before he started objectifying her. To him she was not a human being but a concept he could cling to, a conquest so to speak, and because of that she showed him the cold shoulder whenever he was in the near vicinity of her.

Some girl – Heather, Lydia thought her name was – had once angrily demanded to know from Lydia why she would string Stiles along if she wasn’t interested in him anyway, to which Lydia replied back that she didn’t owe Stilinski anything, lest of all giving him the time of the day, just because he thought he was in love with her. No wonder women still had to fight to be treated as equals if even they themselves thought that they should give boys a chance just for being nice.

Courtesy should be the standard, not the exception.

In a moment of weakness Lydia had agreed to be Stilinski´s date for the prom, even though she had known the moment she said yes that it was a mistake. But Jackson had left her and had poisoned everyone else against her and Allison had asked her to take Stilinski to the prom as favour and so she had agreed. Maybe she had hoped that it would end his obsession with her, that he would finally realise that they weren’t really meant to be together, that she didn’t really want them to, but apparently it hadn’t. Maybe she had hoped that this one evening of socialising with each other would humanise her enough in Stilinski´s eyes so that he would finally accept her choices, that he would recognise that he was feeling for her (what he thought he was feeling for her) wasn’t real, but – again – apparently it hadn’t.

For a split-second Lydia wondered how long it would take the nurses to get to her if she called them in case Stilinski started to confess his love to her again.

“I wanted to ask how you were feeling?” Stilinski told her after an awkward moment of silence between them. “You had us all pretty shocked.”

“I´m fine,” Lydia replied curtly.

“That´s good,” Stilinski mumbled. “Really good. I´m glad. Did they tell you how you’ve been found?”

“They told me that it´s been you and Derek Hale,” Lydia answered.

“Yeah, the police didn’t really know where to look,” Stilinski told her with pride colouring his voice, his whole posture straightening. “Seems to be a running theme with us; first at the prom and now this. Hope it won´t happen the next time.” He smiled at her.

“What makes you think there´ll be a next time?” Lydia wanted to know in icy tone.

“Well, we did go to the prom together,” Stilinski pointed out, face crunched up in confusion. “To be honest, going to prom together comes much later in my 10 Years Plan, but I can rearrange and adjust the whole thing…”

“Let me make this clear to you, Stilinski, even though I doubt it´ll keep,” Lydia interrupted him in mid-semtence. “I don’t like you. Not a bit. You think I owe you for ‘saving’ me? Well, newsflash for you: I don´t. Quite the opposite, the fact that you knew exactly where to look for me when my friends and the police didn’t, creeps me out far more than it creates any kind of gratitude.” Stilinski opened his mouth to say something, but Lydia didn’t allow it, instead continuing to talk over him. “Even though you barely know me, you have never just accepted that I don’t want to have anything to do with you. ‘No means No’ seems to be a concept that you apparently have repeatedly failed to grasp, even though we´ve been taught it since kindergarten. Again and again you ignored my wishes of being just left alone and instead put your own desires above my autonomy with ‘grand, romantic’ gestures that in context are just creepy because they invalidate me and reduce me to nothing but an object for you to project your desires and fantasies on.”

If she had been her normal self – not laid up in a hospital, still emotionally and physically weak from her ordeals, she would have just continued to ignore the other boy in the hopes that he would get the silent hints, but right now she didn’t have the strength to go through with it and just the thought of another three years of evading Stilinski in the hallways made her sick, so everything just spilled out.

She took a deep breath and continued. “You´re probably telling yourself that you know my ‘real self’ and that if I only saw yours, I´d see that we belong together to which I can only reply: How. Dare. You. How dare you implying that you, a boy who barely knows me and who has never taken the effort to get to know me, knows me better than my friends, my family or even myself? How dare you taking away my agency and claim that you know what´s the best for me, which in your opinion is you, an average, unremarkable white boy? Just because you´re nice – whatever the hell that means – and male doesn’t mean I owe you anything. Even if I hook up with Greenberg, it´s still my choice and it´s not false or wrong or misguided, just because it isn’t you!”

She had to grasp for air at the end of her rant, but she just couldn’t stop, because for once Lydia had the hope that she would get through Stilinski´s delusion and finally put him to rights. She didn’t care that his expression looked like she was gutting him alive, didn’t care that his eyes started to get wet, because for long enough he hadn’t cared about what she wanted either.

“So, take whatever pride you may feel for being the one who found me and leave,” she finished. “And if I ever, against all odds, decide that being with you is the thing I´ve always wanted, it´ll be I who decides that and it´ll be I to let you know.”

After that, Stilinski bolted out of the room like a deer that was fleeing from the wolf. Lydia rest her head against the pillow, closed her eyes and let out a deep breath. She couldn’t wait to get out of the hospital and have her life back.

 

iv. sin four: pride

The town of Beacon Hills stretched before him, nestled between the forest and the Preserve, its lights waging a hopeless war against the darkness of the night. Few stars shone on the horizon, the city itself a glowing point amidst the black forms of the trees. Every now and then two moving lights on the street would connote a car transporting its owner to their cosy home. Everyone was sleeping, seeking protection against the ills of the world behind walls of wood and concrete, secure in the knowledge that nothing could get at them while they were hidden behind their own four walls.

Deucalion bared his teeth in a sad mockery of a smile as he contemplated the sheep of Beacon Hills that didn’t even know the danger that was coming their way. Was the new Alpha amongst them, sleeping soundly in his bed or did he notice the change in the air, the smell of danger, the whisper of change in the rustling of the leaves?

It didn’t matter, anyway, Deucalion supposed. In all of his years building and leading the Alpha Pack there hadn’t been a single being – human, werewolf or else – that had been able to stand against their combined powers. All of them had fallen to their – to his – might and this new Alpha wouldn’t be any different. Deucalion had spent years to hone his abilities, to accumulate power never wielded by a single person before, had foraged beyond anything anyone had ever hoped to achieve. No newly-minted Alpha would be able to defy him, not for long at least.

“Something´s wrong with this town.” Kali appeared from behind the tree line, stopping a short distance behind him as she rightfully should. “There´s too much power thrumming underneath my feet. It doesn’t want us here.” Deucalion had to supress the urge to scoff at Kali´s superstitious nonsense. She was a woman of loose morale and great strength, but those characteristics also made her susceptible to fairy tales and other imaginary absurdities.

“The only power in this town is the new Alpha and us,” Deucalion replied. “And ours is far greater. There´s nothing to fear for us here.” Kali didn’t say anything, her gaze instead sweeping over the town in front of him.

“Collect the others,” Deucalion ordered. “It´s time to settle down.”

 

Chapter Text

i. colour one: green

The sign outside wasn’t working. Every few seconds the neon tubes would start to flicker until they started to work properly again after a while only for the whole spectacle to start anew. Through the window of his room the flickering light would create the illusion of being right in the middle of a thunderstorm before it had calmed down again. The green light would illuminate the walls in a disgusting shade of brown, blending together with the faded colour they were painted in, as if this was some set of a bad slasher horror movie.

There was a desk directly underneath the window, made of cheap chipboard, its finish scratched off by the many guests that had spent their night in the room underneath the neon sign. ‘Dylan was here’, a dick, a swastika that someone had tried to cross out, but mostly just random lines. If you sat at the desk on the chair with the pillow that once had been green but was now stained with coffee, fat and many other kind of substances, and if you parted the once white but now yellowed curtains with the horrible floral pattern, you could see the whole parking lot.

There weren’t many cars around: A beaten-up pick-up truck, that had once been grey but was now eroded by rust. A bible verse was proudly affixed to the rear panel, probably something about good things coming to those who worked hard. Or maybe something about the coming of the Apocalypse. You never knew. The other three cars were a Toyota Prius, a Hyundai Santa Fe and a Ford, its model unrecognisable from the window.

Every now and then a rodent would scurry over the asphalt, appearing from the shadows of the cars and disappearing on the other side in the grass. Sometimes one of the animals would stop halfway on its track, lift his head and look around as if it expected to be attacked at any given moment. Their gaze would linger on the window of the room underneath the neon sign as if they could sense that someone was watching them from there, but then they would continue their way.

Light still shone from behind the windows of the reception at the gateway of the parking lot. A hastily drawn sign told the interested customer that only cash would be accepted as mode of payment while another informed the guests that the snack machine was broken and if you wanted anything you would have to ask the personnel. From the window, you could barely make out the reception desk behind the smudged windows. A grumpy, pimpled teenager sat behind it, his blond hair sticking in every direction, as he browsed through the porn magazine that he had amateurishly hidden behind a cooking magazine. Probably from his mother, because it was doubtful that the boy would be interested in ‘7 Ways To Cut Onions Without Crying’. But who knew, stranger things had happened.

There was a second neon sign above the reception, this one working. The tubes were bent in the shape of the name of the motel: Beacon Motel. Not very original, but the guests that came here in the middle of the night because they had underestimated the distance to the next ‘real’ town probably didn’t care about the name. It was cheap, it was clean and honestly, that was all a motel had to be. No one expected untold luxuries in the rooms or a pianist playing in the lounge for the guests’ entertainment.

Derek sighed as he turned around, averting his gaze from the window and looking back into the room. His laptop was laying on the bed, its screen showing the pause screen of Brooklyn Ninety-Nine while a notification informed him that he had received a new mail. His phone was lying right next to it, its screen black because Derek didn’t receive that many calls or messages nowadays. In front of the bed, his bag still laid unopened. He hadn’t bothered to put his clothes in the closet. This was just the place he came back to sleep, nothing more and nothing less.

Spluttering out some last coughs, the air conditioner died down. It did that every now and then; the only solution was to pull the plug and wait for a few minutes before switching it on again. Not that the old and rickety machine did any good: The air was stall and much too warm, even when it worked, leaving Derek with no choice but to walk around in nothing but boxer shorts and low hanging sweatpants. At least the water pressure was decent and the room had hot water for more than thirty seconds.

It wasn’t as if this was the only accommodation Derek could afford. He had inherited all of his family´s wealth plus the insurance payments (‘blood money’ a voice in his head whispered), but Beacon Hills wasn’t much of a tourist hotspot, so there was only this motel and one on the other side of town, which was even worse. Besides, Derek wasn’t willing to spend much money on a bed with four walls around it. He could make do with what he had now.

He sat down on the edge of the bed, starring at the wall opposite of him. Once a cross must have hung there, but all what was left of it was the faint impression if it on the brown wallpaper. Maybe one of the guests hadn’t wanted Jesus to watch them sleep – or whatever they had done in this room.

Derek let himself fall back on the bed, his field of vision now filled with the white ceiling. He wondered how the coffee stain had gotten up there, but then decided that he didn’t want to know.

Outside the green neon sign continued to flicker, casting the room in twilight.

It was kind of sad how everyone thought that he was living in the ruin of the house he had grown up in. Stiles and Scott had thought so, even the Sheriff and also…Kate. What impression must they have gotten from him to assume such? That of a broken, grieving man that couldn’t let go of his past and decided to torture himself with it even while he slept by staying within the same four walls where his whole family had been murdered?

Maybe Derek was broken, but he wasn’t that pathetic. Maybe he hadn’t quite found closure, but he had built himself a life in New York, had had friends and acquaintances, even finished college and had been looking for jobs when the call had come that Laura had been murdered. He wasn’t some sad caricature of a man, he had a life to which he intended to get back to once his affairs in Beacon Hills had been put back in order. So, everyone assuming that he would live in the burnt husk of a house grated on his nerves.

Thinking about getting his affairs in order inevitably let to thinking about the Alpha that he planned to hand the territory over once Derek had trained him up enough. Stiles may be easy to distract, annoying, exuberant and he did talk too much, but underneath Derek saw the potential for the boy to become a great Alpha. He was resourceful, methodical, intelligent and above all, he was loyal. He listened to Derek when he told the younger werewolf about their races’ lore and tradition. He wasn’t just interested in the physical aspect of the transformation – the strength, the healing, the enhanced senses – but also in the spiritual part of their existence and even though Derek neither showed nor said it, he was glad that Stiles wasn’t like Scott.

Maybe it was unfair to the boy, but after all that had happened, Derek wasn’t really in a charitable mood. When Stiles had suggested bringing Scott along, Derek had barely been able to conceal his disdain for the idea, but in the end, he had relented, because – as Siles had rightly pointed out – they couldn’t leave Scott without training or supervision, lest he would bring down the Argents on them again. And no matter if Derek wanted to admit or not, putting the things in Beacon Hills right again also involved teaching Scott McCall enough so that he would survive the next years.

So, colour Derek surprised, when Scott had actually shown aptitude to the whole exercises he had put them through; to some even more than Stiles. Apparently, if he wasn’t set on the idea that Derek was a murderer and distracted by the love of his life, then the beta wolf could actually listen. Seeing Stiles and Scott together – bantering and rough housing – had kindled hope in Derek that those two would be able to build the foundation for a healthy pack.

It wasn’t perfect: Scott still wasn’t interested in anything beyond the control of the physical aspects of his new nature while Stiles had impulse control issues and fluctuated between being too confident or being too timid, but Derek was pretty sure that with time those things would straighten themselves out. And when that had happened, he could finally go back to New York and leave Beacon Hills behind.

Outside the green neon sign continued to flicker.

 

ii. colour two: purple

Her parents were fighting again. The door to her room was closed, but that didn’t stop the muffled sounds from reaching her ears, didn’t stop her from hearing her father banging his hand on the dining table or noticing her mother´s deprecating snorts. They tried to keep it quiet, but Allison had been taught how to listen and observe ever since she could remember, and so no matter what they did, she would always notice: Her mother´s lips set in a thin line, her eyes spitting fire and brimstone; her father´s tense shoulders, the way he would gnash his teeth when her mother uttered a sniping remark.

Allison didn’t even know why they were still fighting. What had happened couldn’t be turned back, so blaming the other and fighting over what-if´s and what could have been´s didn’t change that. Sometimes Allison just wanted to scream at her parents – “Look, I´m here! I´m your daughter and I´m terrified! I´m here!” – but she never dared to. Instead she kept her head down, stayed her tongue and escaped to her room as fast as she could.

Allison felt so small and insignificant – like that one time when her cousins had laughed at her new favourite dress – but her parents wouldn’t notice. Her aunt had turned out to be psychopath hell-bent on eradicating a whole family and her parents hadn’t noticed. Allison had seen a man burned to death in front of her eyes, and yet her parents didn’t notice how she woke up grasping for air every night after the burning man had haunted her nightmares, his gurgling screams echoing in her head even while she doused herself with cold water.

Monsters were real, but the real terror was this crushing loneliness that had settled in her bones, that chilled her every night no matter under how many blankets she hid herself. She lived in a house with two other people, but to Allison it felt like she was living alone.

As she sat at her desk, Allison regarded the clothes she had laid out for tomorrow. The sweater had been a gift from Kate, made from real Kashmir, so smooth that it felt like she was wearing nothing but a thin layer of cloth. It was purple, a colour Allison had been a big fan of when she had been nine, but right now she could imagine nothing uglier. And yet, she couldn’t get rid of the sweater, didn’t even want to. It was one of the few connections to the memory of her aunt that weren’t tainted by what she had done. When Allison wore that sweater, she didn’t think about the lunatic expression on Kate´s face as her throat was torn to pieces or her spitting abuse at the boy she loved, but about the woman that had been the first to treat Allison like a woman instead of a child; about the woman that had always given her the answers she sought instead of the reassurances her parents though she needed.

Right now, Allison needed to feel invincible. And if that meant wearing the purple sweater like an amour, then so be it. Because at the moment there was no one but herself she could rely on.

Even though he was human, Stiles was deeply ensnared in whatever was going on. Besides, they had never interacted much anyway, Allison preferring the company of Scott. Lydia was still in the hospital, the time of her return still unknown. And Scott…Allison didn’t know how she felt about the boy she had fallen so deeply in love with.

It had been all so perfect until the very end. Moving to a new town, instantly falling in love with a cute boy, who rose through the ranks of the school´s sports team until he even made Co-Captain, being asked to the prom by said boy. A whirlwind romance that not even Hollywood could have dreamt up. Oh, how Allison ached for those simpler times, when her only worry was not to get too distracted by Scott. But her romance movie had suddenly turned into a horror trip – including finding out that her love had been part of a hidden world she hadn’t known about – and no matter what she tried to do, Allison would never be able to unsee it.

She had written Scott that she wanted him to keep his distance until she had sorted through the maelstrom of conflicting feelings that held a tight grip on her mind, but in moments like these she wished that he would just ignore her. That he would climb through the window and profess his love to her like he had done so many times before, sweeping her off her feet and killing all those doubts that nibbled at the back of her mind. But when Allison looked out of the window, she saw nothing but the empty street.

She should have never gone with Aunt Kate.

Allison was torn out of her thoughts by a knock at her door. Seconds later it opened and her mother stepped in.

“Allison?”

“What is it?” Allison asked, too tired to put much emotion in the words. “Are you and dad finished with fighting?” Her mother pursed her lips, but instead of saying something, she sat down next to Allison.

“Your father and I only want what´s best for you,” she said. “We just tend to disagree often on what that is exactly.”

“The truth, maybe?” Allison scoffed. There was a flash of hurt in her mother´s eyes, but it vanished as fast as it had come. Her mother had always been good at concealing her emotions. “How about that?”

“We never intended for you to find out like that,” her mother tried to assuage her.

“You never meant for me to find out at all,” Allison interrupted. “You would have happily continued to lie to my face, all the while this family continues to slaughter innocent families.”

“You don´t understand.”

“Then help me understand, mom,” Allison exclaimed, one last cry for help.

“One day, when you have children yourself, you´ll understand,” her mother replied, extinguishing the last shreds of hope Allison had nurtured till then. “I just came to tell you that your grandfather will stay a while after your aunt´s funeral. He´ll help us to bring our affairs back in order.” For a moment, it looked like she wanted to touch Allison, to hug her like in old times, but when Allison didn’t say anything – just averting her gaze – she sighed and stood up.

Allison waited until her mother had closed the door behind before she allowed the tears to fall.

 

iii. colour three: blue

Before Roscoe had passed on to Stiles, he had been his mother´s car.

His mother had told him the story often enough: His dad had wanted them to have a family car, a boring, bland van, probably in grey or black, possessing no individuality whatsoever, but when they had been at the car dealer, one look at the baby blue, beaten up jeep and his mother had been gone. His father had put up a valiant resistance and brought forth one reasonable argument after another –  mileage, safety features, upgradability – but Claudia Stilinski would have none of it.

“It´s blue and it´s got individuality,” was all that she said and being the loving man he was, John Stilinski had put the money on the table and the jeep had become theirs. Stiles had inherited the love for the jeep from his mother: The baby blue contraption had been a big part of his early life, delivering him to kindergarten and school in the morning and collecting him again in the afternoon. To him the baby blue hue meant safety, warmth and homecoming and was forever associated with his mother. The way she whooped whenever they drove through a puddle, how she could never stop to play with the radio controls because no station was playing the music she was in the mood in for or how she had always stashed a supply of Reese´s in the glove compartment that she would hand Stiles whenever his father wasn’t present to look at them disapprovingly.

That was also the reason why Stiles didn’t drive Roscoe for nearly a year after his mother´s death. Even the notion of getting behind the steering wheel – to sit where she once sat – had felt like a sacrilege and just the thought of changing radio stations without his mother´s constant complaints had been able to make him feel sick. As long as he didn’t touch Roscoe the car was a mausoleum for his mother – a monument to her person. But the moment Stiles would start driving Roscoe, she would fade until she had vanished from this part of his life as well.

It had taken Stiles quite a while to acknowledge that his mother would stay with him irrespective of him driving the car or not. When one of her favourite song was played on the radio or when he ate a Reese´s in the car he would think of her with that all too familiar ache in his heart, but when he saw the baby blue colour now, he saw again the reliability and security it had offered his family for years.

And right now, he was sitting in the car on an empty Taco Bell parking lot, shoving Doritos down his throat as he tried to keep back the tears. Greenberg had looked so confused behind the window of the drive through as he handed Stiles his order and wished him a good night. But honestly, this was the only place in Beacon Hills where you could get cheap fast food in the middle of the night and Stiles needed to drown his sorrow in artificial flavour and Pepsi.

He couldn’t quite recall how he had made it out of the hospital and drove here, which he would never do again, because, honestly, driving around in a state of emotional distress was fucking terrifying. He let out a dry laugh between bites when he thought about what a pathetic cliché he was right now; sitting in his car on an empty Taco Bell parking lot while crying over the rejection of the girl of his dreams.

Tumblr probably had a meme about that.

Lydia´s words had cut deep in more than one way. Stiles had always seen himself as a ‘live and let live’ person, as someone who didn’t hold on to the old gender roles and who treated everyone – from man to woman and everything in-between – the same, with no regard to how society told him he should treat them. He had seen himself as progressive and liberal, and yet Lydia´s words had robbed him of that illusion, throwing into his face all those things that he had claimed he would never do. He had perpetuated the very same stereotypes he had always sworn he would never uphold, because they were toxic, oppressive and damaging.

Stiles had acted like all those boys he always scoffed at when he read about their behaviour online and hadn’t even noticed.

When it came down to it, it had been about egoism.

He was in love with Lydia, so he had to get her attention. She was the love of his life, so he had to make her notice him and show her that he was what´s best for her. He was of the opinion that Jackson wasn’t the right one for her. It made him sad that she chose to ignore him, so she was soulless and mean and all those other words he had used to describe her when he had complained about her to Scott because she ignored his feelings.

Not once had he spent a though about Lydia´s feelings on the matter.

She had told him several times that she didn’t care for his advances, but it had just strengthened his resolve to show her that his feelings were genuine and that she just had to give him a chance. He had ignored her wishes and by doing so had reduced her to an object without an agenda of her own, just a plaything for his desires.

With her words Lydia had destroyed how Stiles saw himself and that hurt.

And even though intellectually he could recognise the wrongness of his behaviour, emotionally it still hurt like hell to be rejected by the girl of your dreams. Sitting there and hearing Lydia spitting fire and brimstone at him, Stiles had been able to feel how his heart had been shattered bit by bit by bit. It had felt like someone had put a machine gun to his chest and emptied a complete magazine into him.

Just thinking about it – recalling the disgust that had shone in Lydia´s eyes and the disdain that had oozed from her voice – made the first tears roll down his cheek.

He had never intended to hurt Lydia, to make her feel unsafe. He had just wanted someone he could love and someone who would love him back, but no one at their school would give ‘crazy, spastic’ Stilinski a chance, so he had thought that Lydia, with her hidden intelligence and kindness, would recognise all the love and kindness he had to share and maybe even reciprocate.

Stiles had just wanted to love and it hurt so much to realise that he couldn’t even get that right.

So, he continued crying and eating on the empty Taco Bell parking lot.

 

iv. colour four: red  

The girl had cried for her mother in her last moments. Now she laid there, eyes starring unseeing into the distance, her mouth opened to one last cry and her throat cut; the blood flowing freely down and staining her floral-patterned dress.

Seeing her true face was a reason to be terrified, Jennifer supposed as she cleaned her dagger with a piece of cloth that she subsequently incinerated with a small release of her magic. To think that you still had your whole life in front of you only for it to be taken by a monster from your most hellish nightmares.

Jennifer did feel pity for the girl; pity and remorse. She shouldn’t have died. Needn’t have to, if Kali had never started this whole circle of violence. She should have gone to college, fall in love with an unremarkable boy, have her unremarkable house and 2,5 children until she died of old age surrounded by a haggle of grandchildren.

But Jennifer had taken that chance from her and for that she felt remorse.

Yet, she could also feel this new power surge through her and it made her feel better; knowing that unlike her old pack´s death, the girl´s death wouldn’t be in vain. She would live on in the energy that now cursed through her body. She would be an instrument for Jennifer´s justice and that thought made it easier for her to bear.

One down, fourteen still to go.

Chapter Text

i. animal one: crow

School was dragging. It felt as if someone had slowed time, the movement of the second hand on the clock hanging above the door slower than it should be, the air stale and warm, making the teenagers in the room yearn for a refreshing breeze. Through the windows they could look upon the parking lot, full of cars but empty of people; the cars gleaming underneath the sunlight like a sea of precious stones.

Well, nearly every car except for one, but Stiles thought that Roscoe´s character surely made up for the lack of shine. A Toyota Prius just didn’t have that little extra that his baby possessed.

In front of the students Ms Blake continued to read out of some Shakespearean work (Stile was pretty sure that it was Hamlet, but he had long given up on following), one hand doing grandiose gestures to emphasise what she was reading out loud from the small book that she held in the other. A few kids in the first row where furiously scribbling in their notebooks, what Stiles didn’t really know, because who the fuck took notes of a Shakespeare reading? One seat to his left Stiles could practically feel Scott making puppy eyes at Allison who sat in front of him. If it wasn’t the heat, then the barely contained teenage angst that scintillated between them would have definitely made the lesson unbearable for Stiles.

Honestly, Stiles felt kind of torn on the whole Scallison issue (and yeah, that was how he called it in his head because ‘Scott and Allison’ was such a mouthful): On one hand he really wanted to see his brother in all but blood happy and content and Scott definitely had been when he had been together with Allison, but on the other, ever since their break-up (‘Pause,’ Scott would remind him. ‘We´re pausing our relationship until we know where we stand.’) Scott was more focused on the supernatural side of things and made good progress on his training. And maybe it made Stiles a bad friend, but he kind of liked that he had gotten his old, pre-Allison friend back.

Now, if he could only get Scott and Derek to stop trying to out-do each other in a barely concealed alpha male posturing contest his life would be a little bit closer to the right side of his ‘apocalypse to barely managing’ scale which he used to measure his life ever since he had become a werewolf.

Stiles mood soured when he took in the empty seat next to Jackson. Lydia wouldn’t come back to school this week at last and it suited Stiles just fine because it meant that he didn’t have to face her and all what her appearance brought with it. As long as she wasn’t there to remind him of her tongue lashing he could live in his perfect world of illusions where said event never happened.

Stiles had always been a fan of ignoring a problem until it went away on its own. Even though a small voice in his head whispered that this problem wouldn’t and that he should do some soul searching instead.

Maybe he would do that, but not during Shakespeare.

Up front Ms Blake had finished her rendition of Hamlet (By now Stiles was pretty sure that it was Hamlet, like 80 percent or something).

“What kind of a King is Claudius?” she wanted to know as she shut the book. “What evidence shows the kind of monarch he is and the kind of man he is? Is this his appearance, or is it his true character?” She het let her gaze wander over the class, expecting someone to lift their hand, but all she received where bored or panicked expressions. Taking pity on the poor teacher, Stiles lifted his hand. Relief shining in her eyes, Ms Blake called him up.

“The character Claudius is both the major antagonist of the piece and complex,” Stiles started. “He is the villain of the piece, as he admits to himself but he´s also pretty self-aware and remorse he shows for his actions complicates his villain status, much like Macbeth…” Man, was he glad that he had the wits to read up on the play before the lesson.

He had a few more lines prepared, but Mike from second row interrupted him.

“Woah, look at that cloud!” he exclaimed and pointed out of the window. And indeed, when Stiles followed with his gaze to where Mike was pointing at there was an enormous black cloud that hovered on the horizon.

“That´s weird,” Stacy commented. “Usually clouds don’t appear like that.”

“Is it growing bigger?” Allison asked, uneasiness evident in her voice.

“No,” Stiles replied, realisation dawning on him. “It´s not growing bigger. It´s getting closer.” By now the ‘cloud’ or whatever the hell it was, had doubled in size and was closing in faster and faster.

“Down!” Ms Blake screamed. “Everyone down! Down!” A mad scrambling ensured as everyone dived for cover. Stiles hid under his table, Scott under the one right next to him while Allison covered behind Ms Blake´s desk.

And then the cloud reached them.

Girls and boys alike screamed when the whole window front shattered into thousands of shards, showering the whole room with its sharp projectiles. Stiles covered his ears, trying to keep them out, but then the screeching started. It tore through his skull like a gun shot, as if the gates of Hell had opened up to release its screaming hordes of demons upon Earth. It was a sound of fear and unimaginable terror that it had Stiles bit on his tongue so hard that he could taste blood.

And then the cadavers started to drop.

At first Stiles thought it was some piece of clothing, but he recoiled when he recognised that it was a crow, its neck bent in an unnatural angle, its beak still open in a scream that could no longer be heard while its fathomless black eyes stared lifelessly at Stiles.

Around them crows were dropping like flies, flying against the wall and blackboard again and again until their necks finally snapped. There were blood stains on the wall – ugly red blobs on the white wallpaper – teenagers around him were whimpering as they witnessed the mindless destruction around them, and feathers floating through the air, gentle and silent, a stark contrast to the mayhem around them.

Stiles could feel his wolf rising to the surface of his mind, ready to take over and defend themselves, but the lack of an obvious culprit stayed his hands for they were in a room full of students. He could feel it, though, the power charging up underneath his skin, like electricity that was flowing through his whole body.

“Dude,” Scott whispered furiously. “Your eyes…they´re glowing.” The other boy looked around in panic, but the people around them had better things to do than watch them.

Stiles took a deep breath, trying to slow down his heart that was beating so fast that it felt like it was about to explode in his chest. He closed his eyes and concentrated on his breathing – in and out, in and out – until the noise around him faded into the background and the only sound was the furious beating of his heart.

When he opened his eyes again and looked at Scott the other boy nodded at him.

By now the screeching of the crows had hushed, mainly because by now the floor was littered with dozens of lifeless cadavers, an eerie sight that made Stiles feel sick. A few of the birds still lived, barely clinging to their lives, their beaks opening and closing, but no sound coming out of them, like fish gaping on land. The whole ground was covered with corpse and feathers, as if some bizarre battle had occurred in the room and now they were witnessing the carnage left by it.

Stacy stood up, ran towards the trash can and threw up in it and from the expression of his fellow students there seemed to be quite a few that looked like they would follow her suit.

“Please leave the room and gather in the hallway,” Ms Blake, visibly shaken, her skin pale, her eyes wide with fear, said as she stood up, brushing imaginary dirt off her skirt. “No one leaves the school without permission, is that clear?” Everyone nodded demurely and hushed out of the room, while Ms Blake stayed behind and took in the carnage that her classroom had become.

This day couldn’t become any worse.

 

ii. animal two: spider

Did feeling more pity for the crows she had killed than for the girl whose throat she had slit make her a monster, Jennifer wondered as she looked upon the destructions she had wrought. Underneath her skin she could feel the power that the crows´ death had given her. It wasn’t much compared to the death of the girl, for not even a murder of crow could compare to the might of an innocent human soul, but it was another step forward on her path to revenge.

For a short moment she had feared that the boy Alpha had discovered her when his eyes had started to blaze red; that he had felt the threads of power she had woven into the crows´ minds, but it had just been the panic that had made his inner wolf act up.

She would have been ready to put him down, then and there. Even his Alpha powers wouldn’t have protected him from the magic she had readied in order to unleash it upon the boy should it prove necessary. She hadn’t wanted to, though. She still saw the boy as kindred spirit – both of them either having suffered or going to suffer through Deucalion´s attention – and she didn’t want to be the one to snuff out his light. Deucalion would be the one to do that, but she would be the one to take revenge.

To be honest, she would rather have sacrificed the crows somewhere else, but the panic and fear that had oozed from the children were another power boost she could use. Besides, young minds were much more resilient than they were given credit for, so they would be fine in a few days.

A small spark of life caught her attention. Jennifer looked down on her desk where a spider was hushing over the wood in a desperate attempt to reach cover. Disgust welling up, Jennifer send a small spark of magic towards the creature, which caused it to go up in flames.

A satisfied smirk curling on her face, Jennifer put back on the mask of a concerned and worried teacher. She had distressed students to calm down, after all.

 

iii. animal three: rat

Lydia´s return home was a sober affair. Her father didn’t speak much, his hands gripping the steering wheel of the car as if the world would end if he just let go a little bit. Her mother was sitting next to him, her lips pressed into a thin line while every now and then she would steal a worried glance at Lydia, as if she would vanish every minute. Lydia didn’t know if she should scream at the overbearing protectiveness or be touched by it. So, she decided to ignore it, instead she gazed out of the car´s windows, watching the unremarkable houses of Beacon Hill pass her by.

It would figure that the first time her parents were in the same room again after their separation was because of a parents-teacher conference the first and for their daughter being attacked the second time. Quality family bonding time.

She wasn’t allowed to go back to school for at least another few days. The doctors hadn’t been happy to let her go at all, but all of their tests had indicated that – physically at least – there was nothing wrong with her, so they had just ordered her parents to watch her for any signs of a mental break-down.

Lydia had wanted to scoff at that. She didn’t do break-downs.

Yet, she couldn’t quite shake off that feeling that she was being watched. Every now and then she could feel this tingle at the back of her neck, but when she turned around there would be nothing. Sometimes it felt as if there was something crawling underneath her skin, like thousands of insects eating her from within, but when she touched her skin it was as unblemished as it always had been.

It was disconcerting, but Lydia just pressed her lips together and forced the feelings to go away. She didn’t have time for that.

“Your father will be staying with us until you can go back to school,” her mother said, breaking the suffocating silence that hung over them like a thundercloud. “We don´t want you to be alone while you recover.”

“I still think it´s completely unnecessary,” Lydia replied. “It´s not like I´m suicidal. I´m recovering from physical wounds, there´s nothing to be concerned about, except declining standards in my Netflix queue the longer I have nothing to do.”

“We´d still feel better if one of us was with you,” her father spoke.

“If you say so,” Lydia replied. ‘As long as it makes you feel better about yourself.’ She didn’t voice that last thought out loud, though, for she knew how fragile the peace between her parents was. One unguarded word could very well spark another row between them.

There wasn’t really bad blood between them. They were just…opinionated and didn’t shy away from voicing their opinions. And sadly, a marriage couldn’t survive two people that didn’t do compromises. Lydia had made peace with that long ago.

The rest of the drive was spent in silence, only interrupted by her father cursing one red light and her mother sighing every now and then as if she was contemplating world peace or other such pressing matters, like how to get red wine stains out of white blouses.

When Lydia finally closed the door of her room (only after assuring her parents that she didn’t need to lay down on the couch or wanted to drink some ‘calming’ green tea), she, too, let out a sigh of relief and let herself fall on her bed, staring at the white ceiling.

Something had changed. Not physically; no, her walls were still painted in the same shade of purple, her carpet, too, and the white butterflies above her bed still reflected the sunlight streaming through her window at the same angles. Her bed hadn’t been touched since she had gone to prom, the nail polish and her make-up utensils were still strewn all over the silver bedside tables.

Yet, it didn’t feel the same. Where once before Lydia had felt safe and secure, she now only felt restlessness, as if she didn’t belong here anymore. The purple, once soothing and warm, now felt oppressing and overwhelming, making it feel as if the room was smaller than it actually was.

Lydia sat up and, throwing her legs over the edge of the bed and stared at her reflection in the mirror of her wardrobe. Most of the bruising and other wounds of the flesh had vanished already, leaving behind tender pink skin. She still looked the same – from the tips of her strawberry-red hair to the full lips and high cheek-bones.

It was the eyes, she decided after a while. They were no longer bright and full of innocence, like they had been before prom, when Lydia´s world still had been harmless, boring and bland. A new heaviness had settled behind the green colour, a secret knowledge that her world wasn’t boring and bland. She tried to smile, but movement didn’t reach her eyes; it was just a sad mockery of joy and happiness.

There was more to the attack than what everyone had told her, of that Lydia was sure. She didn’t remember much, but she was certain that she hadn’t been attacked by a feral mountain lion. What an abstruse explanation. Unfortunately, the only other person present when the attack happened had been Stilinski and Lydia was pretty sure that she had burnt down all bridges there.

He knew something, though, of that she was sure. After all, he did want to tell her something before she started to verbally flay him.

Letting out a frustrated huff, Lydia threw herself back on the bed. The stress of the previous days finally catching up on her, she fell asleep soon after.

Lydia didn’t know how much time had passed, but when she woke up again she wasn’t in her room anymore. She could hear the splashing sound of water and when she turned around she could see that she was standing in front of the local pool, its water glowing blue from the lights that were embedded in its foundation. On the other side of the pool, the neon lights above the changing rooms were flickering, but otherwise the scenery was subsumed in complete calmness.

Lydia clutched her arms around her chest as shivers wrecked her body. It may be still summer, but the nights were cold nevertheless and she was wearing nothing more than the light summer dress she had fallen asleep in. Gravel had dug into the soles of her feet, causing an uncomfortable itch.

Lydia swallowed, trying to keep the panic at bay that was rising. She was so afraid; she didn’t know how she had gotten here, didn’t know what had made her sleepwalk nearly one-and-a-half miles through the streets of Beacon Hills. She didn’t know if it would happen again, didn’t know if anyone was watching her, didn’t know who was responsible.

She needed to get back home and forget that all this had ever happened. Her parents mustn’t know that she had snuck out while sleepwalking; they would never let her leave the house again if they did. But just as she was about to turn around and walk back, she noticed a figure leaning against the high seat on which the pool attendant usually sat.

“Hello?!” Lydia stage-whispered. Hesitantly she took a few steps forward.

“Hello!?” she repeated, a little bit louder this time. Something wasn’t right; the person – a girl, Lydia was dimly aware – didn’t answer, didn’t even react in the slightest to Lydia´s shouts. She just continued to stare onto the water of the pool.

Not daring to get closer, Lydia walked a wide circle around the girl until she could look her straight in the face.

And that was when Lydia finally saw why the girl wasn’t answering. Soaking her white nightgown, her throat had been cut, an expression of confusion and fear etched on her face, as if she still couldn’t comprehend what had happened to her. And on the edge of the pool of blood, two rats lapping up the red liquid.

Lydia screamed.

 

iv. animal four: wolf

The scream shot through Stiles’ mind and tore him out of his sleep immediately. Without consciously doing it, his claws and fangs extended, his senses sharpening for the wolf within was as panicked as he was. There was nothing in his room, though, that warranted such an action: Papers and clothes were strewn all over the room, various pieces of newspapers and printed web-articles were pinned to the wall and all kinds of dirty dishes on his desk.

There was no danger and yet Stiles couldn’t just close his eyes and go back to sleep. That scream had to have come from somewhere and from the feeling of it, Stiles would bet his collection of tortillas that looked a little bit like Jesus that it had been something supernatural. And unfortunately, anything even remotely magical fell under his purview these days. So, with a heavy sigh Stiles ran his fingers through his hair, stood up and picked up a pair of pants and a shirt from the ground.

He was struggling with getting into his jeans (apparently putting on muscle mass did make you fatter, too) when his phone rang. Diving for it, Stiles took a short moment to take in the to him unknown number before he accepted the call.

“Who´s there?” he asked.

“Stilinski?”

“Lydia?” Stiles jaw dropped and he nearly fell off the bed in surprise. Of all people that could have called him, even Jackson had been higher on his list than Lydia. After their fight Stiles had honestly thought that the girl would never talk to him again. “Are you alright?”

“I didn’t know who to call,” Lydia whispered frantically. “I didn’t know who to call, but you´re somehow involved in all of this and I just need someone who won´t ask stupid question.” She sobbed. “I need someone to help me. I didn’t do it, I just found her and I don’t know what to do…”

“Lydia, stop,” Stiles interrupted her. “Where are you?”

“The public pool,” she answered.

“What are you doing at the poll at –“ Stiles glanced at his digital clock. “- three in the morning?”

“I don´t know!” Lydia hissed. “I just fell asleep and then I woke up here and there´s this corpse…”

“Wait, what?” Stiles exclaimed. “You found a corpse?!”

“Just come!” Lydia pleaded and then she had hung up. Bewildered, Stiles stared at his phone before he typed in the next number.

“Why are you calling me at 3am in the morning?” Derek´s voice sounded even more grumpy over the phone than it did in person.

“You remember Lydia, do you?” Stiles started blabbering. “The girl we found in your burnt down house who – upon us finding her – made us bleed from the ears with her screams?” Even though Derek was on the other end of the town, Stiles could practically feel him glowering at Stiles through the phone.

“What about her?” Derek asked.

“She just called me and told me that she found a corpse at the local pool,” Stiles relayed what she had told him.

“Then she should call the police instead of you,” Derek pointed out. Which – yeah – was the obvious choice, but Stiles kind of resented having his competence questioned like that.  

“Yeah, well, it´s probably something supernatural, so maybe we should take a look before we call my dad?” Stiles suggested.

“Fine,” Derek relented. “I´ll be there in ten minutes.” And then he, too, just hung up on Stiles.

“Woah, rude.”

 

v. animal five: human

The night sky was clear. Thousands of stars shone from the firmament, like a sea of precious diamonds. Only a few lonely clouds made their way across the sky, lonesome travellers on their way to God only knows where. The light of the moon and stars cast the trees of the Beacon Hill Preserve in a silver glow that made them appear as if they were part of a fairy tale, instead of belonging to the earthly plane of existence. Silence hung heavy over the area, naught a sound disrupting the calm and quiet. A picture that could have come straight out of a children’s tale; a beautiful haunted forest in which the princess would find her hero and save the day.

But then a gun shot rang through the air, destroying the picturesque peace and slicing through the silence like a hot knife through butter. Crows could be heard cawing in the distance and then there was – first barely audible, but slowly getting louder – the sound of footsteps on the foliage. Someone was running through the forest, their breathing fast and irregular, their heart beating so fast that it rang through the silence like canon shots. From one moment to the next, the air was charged with fear and terror. Something was coming.

Suddenly a man broke through the shrubbery, not caring of the thorns and branches that tore into his already shabby clothing, not feeling the thin lines of blood they drew over his exposed skin. There was a maniac glint in his eyes, full of panic, hurt and also a little rage. He moved with an inhuman grace that seemed so alien on a person who looked like he had spent the better part of his life living under a bridge, but it was there, nevertheless.

A second shot rang through the air. A loud thud and then the man was falling to the ground, hissing in pain. He tried to get back on his feet, but it seemed that he was no longer in control of his movements and so he just flailed and wailed on the ground.

Around him the undergrowth parted and gave way to a group of men wearing nothing but black, military-style clothing. Machine guns were holstered over their backs while electricity crackled around the black rods that each of them were holding in their hands.

All but one of the men were wearing black ski masks. The one man who did regard the man lying on the ground with nothing but disgust and hate in his eyes.

“You're not from here, are you? Are you?!” he questioned, his voice forceful and full of malice.

“No. No,” the man on the ground stammered.  “I came..I came looking for the Alpha. I heard he was here. That's all. Look, I didn't do anything. I didn't hurt anyone. No one living. He wasn't, I swear.”

“Gentlemen! Take a look at a rare sight. You wanna tell them what we've caught?” the older man exclaimed, extending his arms as if he was presenting something marvellous to an enraptured audience. It was a sickening spectacle.

“An Omega,” on the masked men answered.

“The lone wolf! Possibly kicked out of his own pack,” the old man spoke, glee obvious in his voice. He revelled in the other man´s suffering, in his sorry state. “Or the survivor of a pack that was hunted down. Maybe even murdered. And possibly alone by his own choice. Certainly not a wise choice. Because, as I am about to demonstrate, an Omega rarely survives on his own.” He nodded towards one of the men who stepped forward and handed him a long object, wrapped in black cloth. Carefully, the old man unwrapped whatever laid underneath it and uncovered a sword, its blade shimmering underneath the faint moon light.

“Sir, but he hasn’t broken the Code,” one man objected, hesitation evident in his voice.

“Not when they murder my daughter!” the old man spit, his voice filled with venom and hate. “No code. Not anymore. From now on, these things are just bodies waiting to be cut in half. Are you listening? Because I don't care if they're wounded and weak. Or seemingly harmless - begging for their life with the promise that they will never, ever hurt anyone. Or some desperate, lost soul with no idea what they're getting into. We find them. We kill them. We kill them all!” The last words were screamed with a vehemence that the man who had voiced his objection quivered in fear. Then, in one long-drawn arc, the sword soared through the air and was brought down on the werewolf, cutting him in half.

“One down, hundreds still to go.”

The night sky was clear. Thousands of stars shone from the firmament, like a sea of precious diamonds. Nobody would ever know that they had just witnessed the start of a war.

Chapter Text

i. liquid one: blood

The girl didn’t look dead.

Not a single strand of her honey-blonde hair was out of place, lining her delicate face like a frame woven from gold. In her blue eyes the lights of the pool were reflected like the stars on the wide ocean, a never repeating pattern that made them appear as if there was still a soul shining from behind them, locked in the body that would no longer obey. Her skin was pale – unnaturally so – and stood in stark contrast to her orange freckles that covered her cheeks and nose like star constellation on the night sky. Her thin lips were blue, as if she had just laid down because she felt cold and just had never woken up.

She didn’t look dead. She looked like she had just sat down to watch the lights dance over the water in the pool and didn’t have the strength to get up again. She looked as if she hadn’t minded dying, maybe even welcomed it.

But that was only her face. The blood covering the rest of her body told another story.

It stemmed from an ugly cut marring her otherwise unblemished throat. It had been cut and like an animal led to its slaughter, the girl had bleed out on the stone tiles that surrounded the pool with naught but the stars and the lights as companions while her life had flowed out of her, a river of red that trickled away through the cracks in the ground.

Her face spoke of serenity, but her body spoke of predation.

Stiles wondered what she had felt while she was dying. Fear? Pain? Calmness? Had she even been aware of what was to come or had she clung to the hope that someone would come and save her until there had been no blood left for her weak and frail hurt to pump through her body? Had she accepted the inevitability of her demise or had she fought until the very end?

Those question would forever be left unanswered, maybe haunting them in their nightmares along the way.

“Why did you call me?” Stiles asked again. “And not the police?” He was so tired, so goddamn tired. He felt like he was running ever since that night he went out into the woods with Scott and hadn’t stopped yet. One mystery after another, each more gruesome than the one before. Maybe it was a little bit unfair to Lydia, but she should have called the police instead of him. Maybe he was ‘somehow involved’ in all of this, but that didn’t mean that it should be the responsibility of a barely seventeen-year-old boy to look at the corpse of his peers.

But when he turned his head and saw Derek standing next to Lydia, one hand on her shoulder in what was supposed to be a calming gesture, staring at Stiles like he was supposed to know what was going on, he realised that maybe he would never be that clueless teenager again. This town was his responsibility now; that was the duty becoming Alpha had thrusted upon him. And maybe with time his hands would turn as red as his eyes already were.

Stiles didn’t think that being Alpha would be about peacefully upholding the law.

“I´m not stupid,” Lydia finally said.

“I never claimed you were,” Stiles agreed like you would agree with an upset child to calm it down.

“There´s something going on in this town and ever since the prom I´m unwilling part of whatever it is,” Lydia spoke. “The doctors tell me that it´s just trauma and imagination, but I don´t believe them. I´m not some frail, little girl that builds herself fictive worlds to escape real world.” She clenched her hands into fists. “And you were there: Whenever something happened you were there. I haven´t forgotten that night at the school. Humans don´t slash open rows of lockers and wild animals wouldn’t even enter human settlements.”

For the first time in that night Stiles truly looked at Lydia – the dishevelled strawberry-blonde hair, the tearstained face which she had tried to wipe away before they arrived, the rosé nightgown covered in dirt stains and her sore feet – and wondered what she truly felt.

Lydia was used to knowing – to be aware, to understand – but all of her skills and knowledge was falling short now and that scared her. He could see it her fraught posture, in the way her gaze flickered over her surroundings, trying to make sense of it. She was scared and despite vocally stating differently, she doubted her own senses. Stiles knew how that felt and could sympathise with it, but that didn’t change how Lydia had lashed out and hurt him where he was most vulnerable: His own sense of worth.

But he also knew that in some aspects, Lydia and he were so much alike that they could be the sides of the same coin. Like he, Lydia had caught a glance of something that was hidden, that wasn’t supposed to be discovered by ordinary humans (though, the question remained if Lydia was still that ordinary anymore) and she wouldn’t – couldn’t – let go of it until she had uncovered everything there was to know.

Lydia would be his spectre, whether Stiles wanted it or not, haunting him until she found out what she needed. All that was left to Stiles was to decide if he should fight her all along the way until one of them would give in or if he should make her an ally that would have his back while he more or less stumbled through the path laid out in front of him.

But that wasn’t something he could just decide on a whim. He had Derek and Scott to consider. He couldn’t just make a decision and force them to comply. Maybe the old Alpha would have, but Stiles didn’t want to be Peter Hale.

“Maybe you´re right,” he spoke. “But right now is neither the time nor the place for that conversation. I have others to consider.” Lydia pursed her lips in displeasure.

“But you will think about it?” she asked. Stiles nodded.

“Well, if that´s the best I can hope for then I´ll accept it,” Lydia agreed. “But don´t think you can string me along forever, Stilinski.”

“Maybe you should think about using my name if you want something from me,” Stiles pointed out.

“We don´t have time for this,” Derek interrupted. “Sooner or later someone´s gonna come looking why the lights are on or even worse, call the police.” He walked over to Stiles and crouched down next to him.

“Do you smell it?” he asked, loud enough so that Stiles could pick it up but not loud enough for Lydia to understand.

“Smell what?” Stiles wanted to know. When they had first arrived the stench of chlorine had been so overpowering that Stiles had nearly gagged, but by now he could just blend it out, even though every now and then a breeze would flare up and bring with it a new wave of the smell.

He took in another deep breath: Again, there was the smell of chlorine, but also the metallic odour of the girl´s blood. Yet those weren’t the only smells Stiles could make out: There was something else, something unnatural. It crept up Stiles nose and clung to it like oil, so disgusting that he had to supress a shudder. It smelled like the mould Stiles sometimes found in their house, like rotten food and decaying animal corpses.

It was a smell that shouldn’t be here.

“What´s that?” he asked Derek with wide eyes.

“I don´t know,” the older werewolf admitted. “But whatever it is, it´s not natural. It´s not human.”

“Do you think it´s a danger to my dad?” Stiles wanted to know.

“It already killed someone, so it would be a lie to claim that it´s not,” Derek spoke. “But you can´t keep this from your father, Stiles. We can´t just dispose of someone´s corpse.” Stiles knew that Derek was right, but that didn’t mean that he had to feel good about it.

“What are you talking about?” Lydia exclaimed from behind them. Both werewolves stood up and turned back to her.

“You still haven’t told us how you found her,” Stiles remarked, for now ignoring her question.

“I don´t know,” Lydia replied. “My parents brought me home. I feel asleep in my room and when I woke up I was here at the pool and found the body.” She swallowed. “I remember my dream, though. I felt this urge, this need, to walk here. There was something that wanted me here, something that led me to this place.” Stiles shared a glance with Derek but otherwise they didn’t say anything.

“So, this is what we´re gonna do now,” Stiles told Lydia. “We´re gonna drive you home and you´ll act as if nothing happened. Derek and I will then call the police from a phone booth and give them an anonymous tip about the body. They´re required by law to follow up on it, so they´ll definitely find her.”

“You want us to just go?” Lydia repeated incredulously.

“We can´t be here when the police come,” Stiles reminded her. “What are you going to say when they ask you how you found the body? That a dream told you were it was? And what if they want to know why you called me first instead of the police, like any innocent citizen would? What if they ask us why we waited so long to call them?” Lydia kept silent, but she was obviously aware that what Stiles was telling her were the hard truths. “Derek already was the suspect of a murder case, so it won´t do him any good if he´s found at another crime scene. And I´m on thin ice with my dad, too.” Stiles shook his head. “No, it´s the best if none of us was found here.”  

“Alright,” Lydia finally relented. She sent one last glance at the dead girl, full of emotions Stiles couldn’t wholly decipher, and then she turned around and walked towards Roscoe who was standing on the empty parking lot of the pool.

“I don´t like this, Derek,” Stiles said to the older man while they followed her. “I already felt out of my depth before and now there´s some monster running around killing people.”

“You and Scott managed to take down Peter,” Derek replied and Stiles wondered if it was real or just his imagination when he saw a small hint of grief flashing through Derek´s eyes before it was gone again. “Whatever this is, you´ll stop that, too. And I´ll help you.”

And somehow that managed to calm Stiles down when everything else had failed.

 

ii. liquid two: wine

Chris had never liked wine.  

It played well into the image that many people, even in their small hunter community, had of him: The coarse, ungraceful male scion of the Argent family who wasn’t good with words or politics but who had somehow managed to marry a woman of culture and taste. So, him favouring beer over wine just confirmed whatever notions others held of him.

Kate had always been the ‘better’ Argent: Her deadliness hidden under layers of grace, eloquence and beauty. With a few words she had been able to play even the most experienced man and her bright smile and innocent eyes had concealed the calculating and scheming mind that laid underneath.

Kate was the brain and Chris the brawn.

As Chris watched his father sip from the red his wife had offered him from their extensive wine collection (that she alone was responsible for, because to Chris a nine Dollar wine from Walmart tasted the same as a four hundred Dollar wine from Europe) he wondered if just being the second best had maybe saved him from suffering Kate´s fate.

Chris wasn’t stupid. As smart and resourceful Kate had been, she still would have needed help to kill all of the Hales. She needed the weapons, the wolfbane, the hunters to control the perimeter and Chris still held a high enough opinion of his colleagues to hope that not all of them would break the Code like Kate had.

She hadn’t been alone in this, but Chris just didn’t know who had backed her.

“Your wife´s taste in wine is truly exceptional,” his father remarked as he took another sip from the glass. “I hadn’t had such a good one in ages.”

“Victoria prides herself in her taste,” Chris replied diplomatically. Gerard just hummed nonchalantly.

“Why are you here, father?” Chris asked. It had always been ‘father’ or ‘sir’. Only Kate had been allowed to call him ‘Dad’ and that only until she started training.

“I´m here for my new job, of course,” Gerard replied, his grin bereft of humour. “I´m the new principal of Beacon Hills High School.” Chris didn’t even bat an eye when he heard his father´s announcement. Gerard´s influence reached wide and deep, so that he was able to install himself as principal despite lacking the needed credentials didn’t surprise him.

“To what end?” he wanted to know.

“Because somewhere in this towns are the mutts responsible for my daughter´s death,” Gerard grinded out. “And I will discover who they are and make them pay for it.”

“I told you what Kate did,” Chris reminded his father.

“Lies and slander!” Gerard exclaimed. “And to think that my own flesh and blood would take the words of a deranged werewolf and his breed over his own.” Chris didn’t bother to mention that Kate had practically admitted her deed before she had been killed. He knew that his father wouldn’t believe him, wouldn’t want to believe him. His Kate could do nothing wrong.

Again, Chris was glad that he hadn’t told his father about the McCall boy. The boy may be a werewolf and a danger to himself and others, but as long as he kept away from his Allison and didn’t harm anyone, the boy could live his life unchallenged by any Argent hunters. No minor deserved his father´s attention.

“Why do you think posing as principal would help you flush them out?” Chris asked, genuinely curious. “The only known werewolf in this town has long since finished school.”

“I know there´s a new Alpha,” Gerard replied. “And I know that it isn´t the Hale boy. There´s at least one other werewolf running around this town, having inherited the mad Alpha´s power. We know that those beasts tend to go after children and teenagers because they´re likelier to survive the Bite.” He took another sip from his wine. “So, yes, I´m sure: Whoever this new werewolf is, I´ll find him at the school.

Besides,” his father added. “I want to spend time with my granddaughter.”

 

iii. liquid three: semen

“Faster!” Jackson commanded, burying his head into the pillow underneath him. Danny happily obliged, his pace becoming even faster and harder as he thrust into Jackson from behind. Jackson was sure that he would receive bruises on his hips where Danny was gripping him so hard as if he believed Jackson would flee otherwise.

If Lydia wasn’t in the hospital she would notice. Her eyes would narrow at the blue spots, her immaculate fingers would thrum on the table top and her lips would thin in displeasure but when they were alone again fury would blaze in her green eyes and she would cover up all of the bruises with ones caused by herself.

It was a game between them. Determining who could hurt the other the most, who was the first to drive the other away permanently. Lydia used cutting remarks, hurtful observation she flung at him when they were alone, charming his parents like he never could and Jackson – well, he used Danny. To show Lydia that she didn’t own him, that she didn’t control him, no matter what everyone else thought.

They were made for each other: Lydia, who didn’t really know who she was, hiding herself behind dozens of personas, so that no one would know her real self, could find out her weaknesses and her true desires; Lydia who played and manipulated the people around her so that her greatest fear had become to suddenly find herself as the one being manipulated and Jackson who didn’t really know who he was either, because his adoptive parents had taken that chance away from him; who always had to be the best at everything because if he wasn’t, well, what kept his parents from abandoning him then? Apart the two of them were lost, drifting aimlessly in a world that didn’t want them, but together they could keep themselves anchored. Being together hurt like swallowing broken glass, but being apart hurt even more.

Pleasure was rolling through his body like ocean waves. Heat cursing through his veins, coiling in his stomach, repelling all those other bothersome feelings that usually swirled in his mind. His cock hung aching between his legs, leaking pre-cum onto his pristine bedsheets. Jackson knew, one touch and he would be done. Maybe Lydia would notice that someone else had made him scream in his bed, had made Jackson twist in his sheets.

Probably not. She had been in a coma, after all and was now at home, recovering. She hadn’t even bothered to call him since she had woken up.

She always knew how to hurt Jackson the most.

Danny bent forwards, slinging both of his arms around Jackson as he pressed his chest against the other´s back. Jackson could feel Danny´s breath ghosting over his neck, could feel his heart pounding against his back and feel their sweat rolling down his back.

“Does she make you feel like this?” Danny whispered into his ear. “Make you scream like this?” He emphasised it by hitting Jackson´s prostate with each consecutive thrust, making pleasure explode in Jackson´s whole body. “Make you cum like this?” Danny´s hands found Jackson´s nipples and then he was tweaking them. Jackson let out a hoarse scream and then he was coming, shooting his sperm all over the bed. The clenching of his ass sent Danny over the edge as well, the man slipping out of Jackson and stroking himself to completion, coming all over Jackson´s back.

Both of them collapsed onto the mattress. The smell of come, sweat and sex penetrated the air and for a while nothing but their laboured breaths could be heard in the room.

“We can´t do this anymore,” Danny said after a while. “It´s only destroying you. Destroying us both. And it isn’t healthy, anyway, you using me as coping mechanism for whatever is going on with you and Lydia.” Jackson didn’t reply anything. Danny always said the same after they had done the deed. He always wanted them to stop because he thought that Lydia didn’t know and that she would be broken if she ever found out. That it would destroy the friendship between the two of them, but unlike Danny Jackson knew that Lydia liked the other because – not despite – the fact that he sometimes slept with her boyfriend. 

Sometimes Jackson felt bad for turning Danny into the cliché of the gay boy yearning for his best friend who was in a relationship with a girl, fooling himself into believing that one day they could have the happy relationship he wished for. Sometimes Danny would smile at him and Jackson´s heart would shatter, a burning shame welling up in his gut. But the alternative was letting Danny go and allow him to find happiness with someone else. Someone who wasn’t Jackson. Everyone was always leaving him (his own parents the first but not the last). Jackson couldn’t bear the thought of Danny leaving him, too, for someone else. And if he had to use sex and empty promises of a future together to keep his only friend at his side than Jackson would swallow the shame and the disgust and go through with it.

He couldn’t be alone.

When Jackson didn’t say anything, Danny stood up and began to collect his clothes which had been thrown all over the room.

“Will you still be there?” Jackson asked just as Danny was standing in the doorway, about to leave. The other boy turned around and the expression on his face was one that Jackson couldn’t quite decipher.

“We´ll find out, I suppose,” Danny replied.

“Guess that´s only fair,” Jackson said more to himself than to Danny. Then the other was gone and Jackson was alone again.

 

iv. liquid four: tears

Heather didn’t know where she was.

The last thing she remembered was going to bed after an exhausting day of school and other activities. She had been looking forward to the next day, though, because she had finally decided that she would be brave and ask Stiles Stilinski out on a date.

She always had had a crush on the other boy, but over the last few days – she couldn’t exactly pinpoint when – he had become even more mesmerising. Heather found herself unable to properly express it when she tried to speak about it with her best friend Lily, but Stiles seemed to have developed a new kind of self-confidence that shrouded him like an aura and it had made him even more appealing to her than before. And she just knew that she needed to make a move before the other girls (or God forbid, that harpy Lydia Martin) noticed and took her Stiles away from her.

Heather had closed her eyes to the thought of finally being able to get the boy of her dreams, but when she opened them again it was to a nightmare. Some dark presence had taken control of her mind, had forced her to gaze at terrible things before it had made her walk out of her room, down the stairs and onto the streets. She couldn’t remember much more, only this sense of helplessness and despair, and when she woke up from the nightmare she had found herself in this old cellar, the cold gnawing at her bones like a hungry dog.

“Hello?!” she shouted. “Is there someone?” No reply but silence.

“Please!” Heather sobbed. “Please!” Tears were running down her cheeks and she hated herself for it. Hated herself for how weak and helpless she was, but fear made the flow of tears continue. She could taste them on her lips, the salty tang that clung to them like an oily film.

“Don´t cry, little girl.” Startled, Heather looked up to see a woman standing on the stairwell that led up to the massive iron door that separated the cellar from the rest of the world. “There is no need to be afraid.” She stepped into the light that streamed through the small window near the ceiling, the only source of illumination in the little room.

Heather let out a terrified scream when she saw the terrible disfigured face the woman was sporting. There was not a single strand of hair on her head, instead nearly all of it was covered in ugly black scars that revealed the purulent flesh underneath. Its – because that was no woman, that was a monster – lips were black and when it opened them instead of human teeth there were only sharp fangs, made to tear and rip.

“Please, don´t hurt me,” Heather whimpered.

“Oh, no,” the monster spoke. “I won´t hurt you. I´ll make you stronger, you see. Together with the others, we´ll be strong enough that even Deucalion won´t stand a chance against us.” It came nearer and Heather couldn’t help but whimper when its cold fingers grasped her chin and forced her to look up at its milky white eyes. “We only have to wait until tomorrow night until the next step can be done.

You should feel honoured, Heather, because it will be your sacrifice that will help me cleanse the world of a terrible evil.”