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With These Hands

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Stiles' hands don't shake when he kills Theo. They're steady as he slits his throat, watching impassively as the blood drains onto the nemeton's stump, soaking into the dry, jagged rings.

His hands don't shake when he presses them against the blood-soaked stump, murmuring in a dead language he only knows because of the nogitsune. Magic flows from him, charging his words, his blood sacrifice. It seeps into the nemeton, cleansing and healing it, purging decades of misuse and abuse.

His hands don't shake as they call up the earth, revitalized from the magic he just poured into the nemeton, to swallow up the body he'd kicked to the ground, dragging it deep under the forest floor.

Before he leaves the clearing, he pulls a bottle of water from his backpack, washing Theo's blood from his hands. They don't shake then either.

Stiles' hands shake when he kills for the first time. He's only seven and it's an accident. He'd wandered too far away from the swings at the park, following a hopping crow that had a big stick in its mouth.

The crow ends up flying up into the trees when Stiles is deep in the wooded area that borders the park, and that's when Stiles notices the man. He doesn't understand what he's doing, but he understands the woman screaming against the duct tape over her mouth, how she's beating at his chest with tears in her eyes.

Stiles freezes. He knows he should get his dad, he's a deputy and can arrest him and help the woman. But what if it's too late? He's hesitated too long and the man notices him.

Stiles tries to run when the man pulls out a knife, but he trips over a tree root only a dozen feet away and when he rolls over, the man is standing above him. Stiles screams, throwing his hands out in front of him, sure that he's about to die.

He doesn't, though. There's an odd thudding feeling, like when a plane had gone supersonic at the airshow last year, followed by a scream. When Stiles opens his eyes, the man is ten feet away at the base of a tree, his neck bent at a truly terrible angle.

Stiles looks down at his hands, warm and a bit tingly, shaking violently.

Stiles is eleven and his hands shake as he kills his mother.

He knows she's dying. His dad doesn't try to hide it as much as he just doesn't talk about it, but Stiles is smart. He reads the chart the nurse leaves on the bedside table one day, writing down the words he doesn't know to look up later. After that, he knows.

She's not really his mom anymore, he thinks, not with how she treats him now. She throws things at him, even now that she's confined to her hospital bed. She screams, calls him names, says he's trying to kill her.

She has periods when she's better, brief windows when the treatment they try works for a little while, before eventually failing. It's during one of those lucid moments that she takes his hand and grips it tight. She tells him she hurts, that she's scared. She begs him to end it.

There's a tingling when their hands meet, one he recognizes and he looks at her with wide, scared eyes. He tries to pull away, but her grip is too tight. For the first time he has a bit of proof that his...his magic came from her. Her magic compels him to promise her, to end her pain.

His mom’s grip is painful, little bones in his hand grinding together as she squeezes. She demands he promise, makes him agree, and he does, because her magic urges him to and he can’t stand the pain any longer.

He doesn’t think he’ll actually have to do it, but there’s a tug deep in him, and he knows somehow that his mom’s magic is going to make him. She tied up the promise in magic, and he has no choice but to raise his hands, tears streaming down his face. He tries to close his hands, to keep the rush he associates with his magic in check, but it reacts on its own, flowing from him as he desperately tries to stop it.

His mom gasps in bed, hands scrabbling at her throat as her breath is stolen. Stiles sobs, unable to control his magic until the light leaves his mom’s eyes, her dead body going still on the bed. What he hadn’t expected was for her power to go to him, for his magic to suck the life out of her and give it to him. He can feel her stolen power rushing through his veins and it’s only then that he can lower his arms as he stares at his dead mother’s face.

His hands don’t stop shaking until well after the doctors declare her dead.

Stiles’ hands barely shake when he kills Mr. Lahey. He hadn’t been looking for him, not really. He’d been poking around as he tends to, looking for anything that can help him figure out who the kanima is or who its master is, when his path had taken him to the graveyard. He’d heard what Lahey had said to Isaac, had seen what he’d done, and had decided then. It’s impulsive and not how he usually operates, but he sees red, livid in a way that nearly frightens him.

There’s no control in his life right now. Nothing he can do to save the people he cares about, nothing he can do to protect others because he doesn’t know what’s happening, doesn’t know who to stop and hurt and bleed. But he knows this, knows Isaac is hurting and even if they aren’t friends, Stiles still won’t accept that.

Lahey ends up at a bar, drinking until late in the night. Stiles is patient, waiting for him in the alley next to the bar. He doesn’t hesitate, doesn’t waver in his decision. The world would be a better place without Mr. Lahey in it and Stiles is ready to make that a reality.

A little wisp of magic and Lahey trips on the sidewalk out the bar, rolling a bit into the mouth of the alley. No one is watching. A flick of the wrist and Lahey is dragged down the alley, an invisible force scraping his body against the concrete. He shouts in pain and fear, but no one hears him, the music from the bar too loud.

Stiles has been working on his magical control, on being able to do more for longer, but he’d already spent a long time earlier levitating shit around his room, so he’s running on low, his hands shaking when he raises them in front of Lahey’s pathetic, writhing body. He ignores his whimpers, his cries of help, and brings his hands down fast in the air in front of him.

Lahey shrieks, long claw marks gouging into his chest, blood and other things leaking from him. Stiles makes it look like an animal savaged him, that he was in the wrong place drunk at the wrong time. When he walks down the alley, leaving his bloody handiwork behind, Lahey’s heart has stopped beating, his lungs flooded with blood. Stiles doesn’t regret it, even when his hands are shaking for the next five hours as his magic tries to build back up.

Stiles’ hands don’t shake when he kills Gerard, but his body does. He’s covered in bruises, he’s pretty sure his ribs are cracked, and the way his head is pounding is pretty concerning.

It’s a bit embarrassing to be honest, to have been jumped by a group of hunters as conspicuous as Gerard’s. He hadn’t seen them, his magic hadn’t had time to react to the threat, and he’d been knocked out from behind. And once he was in the Argent basement, well, they had sigils everywhere dampening magic. Not that he thinks they knew about him, no, this is just their generic torture basement. Nothing to do but take the beating.

He’d licked his wounds for a couple of days, waiting until he could move easier, and more importantly, until he found where Gerard’s hiding after his showdown with Derek and the kanima. He hadn’t gone far, staying in Beacon County in a shitty vacation rental on the lake. Probably thought it would be easier to hide what he’s doing away from the city. Makes it easier for Stiles, too.

“I can’t believe I thought you were human,” Gerard spits, blood and black goo dribbling from his mouth.

Stiles laughs, and it’s cruel even to his own ears. “Yeah, I can’t believe that either.”

There are only four of Gerard’s hunters left after dealing with the kanima and Derek. Well, there were. Now there are four corpses littered around the rental cabin, their bodies twisted and deformed in ways that would make even Kate Argent sick. Gerard, weakened and broken, had tried to crawl away, but a wave of Stiles’ hand and the bones in his legs shattered, so he got to watch as Stiles killed his men, inch by slow, gruesome inch.

With the others dead, Stiles can focus on Gerard. He pulls up his rage, his humiliation and pain and helplessness and uses it, fuels his magic’s fire. He holds his hand out, palm open, and slowly closes it. Gerard screams, high and hysterical. Stiles’ magic is squeezing around Gerard, slowly crushing his body. Blood vessels burst, bones crack and splinter, like he’s being compressed from all sides.

It’s a gruesome sight, blood and black wolfsbane poisoning oozing from his body, his eyes bursting in his sockets, his throat crushed so he can’t even scream. He dies slowly, and it’s still too good for him.

Stiles’ vision blackens at the edges, energy draining from him. He knows he’s stronger than he should be, that absorbing his mother’s magic when he was a child makes him more powerful, but he still has limits, and he’s been ignoring them, too focused on making Gerard suffer. He pulls back the magic, keeping himself conscious, which is fine, the damage is done. Gerard is dying no matter what.

He watches, vindictive grin on his face as Gerard dies a slow, agonizing death. It’s taken nearly all he has so he really isn’t sure what he’s going to do about the bodies now as he stumbles out of the cabin. His magic is all but depleted and he’s so, so tired, and that’s what he blames when he looks up and sees Peter casually leaning against a tree. He startles so badly that he nearly falls, heart racing.

This...this is not good. He doesn’t have a plan for if Peter found out. It makes sense, he knew newly-resurrected Peter would probably want to end Gerard, but he didn’t think he’d run into him. Stupid, in hindsight.

Stiles is just staring, for once can’t think of a single damn thing to say. Peter’s smirking, enjoying it way too much, but then he sees Stiles stagger, having to brace himself against the cabin. His face does something complicated that Stiles can’t really decipher, but then it’s back to the usual smarmy mask.

“I knew there was something about you,” Peter says, eyes gleaming.

“I bet you say that to all the boys,” Stiles says.

“Only the ones I like,” Peter says. He looks at him thoughtfully, and Stiles doesn’t know if he’ll like what’s on his mind. “I’ve been kicking myself for biting Scott instead of you since it happened. But now I think it’s probably for the best. You’d have seen me dead that very week.”

“Probably,” Stiles says. He’s really not up to clever banter right now. He’s exhausted, hurt, and probably ten minutes from passing out for the next twelve hours. He simply doesn’t have the energy for whatever game Peter’s playing. “Look, I have a fire to set and a nap to take, so if we could do this later, I’d appreciate it.”

Peter doesn’t say anything, just gives him another long, indecipherable look. Stiles is getting irritated, contemplating if he can summon enough energy to blow Peter up, or if he’d just give himself a nosebleed, when Peter says, “My car is a few miles south. Can you walk that or do you need help?”

“I - what?” Stiles asks.

Peter sighs, like Stiles is being particularly difficult. “I have to deal with the mess first. Can you walk or do I need to carry you?” Peter asks.

Stiles just stares for another second, trying to make sure he's not having an auditory hallucination, before slowly saying, "I can walk."

"Good. I'll deal with this, go wait for me there," Peter says, turning and walking into the cabin, completely expecting to be obeyed.

Stiles stands there for a good long moment before turning south and heading toward Peter's car. His Jeep is much farther away, and Stiles...he's curious about what Peter wants.

The thing is, he may actually not be able to walk the whole way. His energy is going fast, making him stumble and trip more than usual. He sits down at the base of a tree for a breather, trying to get his breath back, and closes his eyes.

When he wakes up, he's tucked in his bed, his phone charging on his nightstand. He has a moment of disoriented confusion before he sits up straight in bed, memories of the night before trickling back in.

He fumbles for his phone, his screen telling him it's nearly 2:00 pm the next day. His head is spinning; had Peter Hale tucked him in? He doesn't know what that means, doesn't know what Peter fucking Hale wants, but then he sees the text from his dad. The text telling him there was a fire out in unincorporated Beacon County. Three vacation cabins burned to cinders.

Stiles...Stiles doesn't know what to do with any of this. All he knows is he needs to watch Peter.

Stiles' hands are steady when he kills Aiden and Ethan. He doesn't care that they're dating Lydia and Danny, respectively. In fact, that just makes it a perk.

He's starting small, so to speak. They're the weakest in the alpha pack, but there are two of them. If he can take them out at the same time, he can probably deal with Kali or Ennis solo.

He'd been pretty ambivalent about Derek for a while, but recently they've been friendlier. Maybe not friends, but not enemies. Shoving a pipe through his back, pinning him to the ground? Unacceptable. They might not always agree, but there's a respect there, and Derek is really the only one besides Stiles who seems to give a damn about protecting this stupid town.

Stiles would go after the alpha pack regardless, but that had sped his plan along.

He knows about the darach, even though Deaton is still hanging the information out in front of Scott like a carrot on a stick. And listening to Peter and Derek explain about the alpha pack gives Stiles an idea about how to deal with whoever the dark druid is.

It takes some creative Googling and some liberation of old magic books, but Stiles has the information he needs and the ritual ready. When he kills the alpha twins, he takes their supernatural energy into himself, just like they'd done when they killed their pack. Just like he'd done when he'd killed his mom.

His magic swells within him, growing and swirling and ready. If he adds Ennis and Kali, maybe Deucalion, he can blast the darach into the stratosphere.

The only hiccup is Peter. Peter who Stiles is 100% sure is going to try to kill one of them to take the alpha mantle. He's pragmatic, may take out Ennis or Kali because they're easier targets, but he also has an ego that would enjoy taking it from the alpha of alphas. It's tricky and he doesn't like having to maneuver around Peter, especially when Peter is probably trying to maneuver around him.

The thing is, Stiles is pragmatic too. That's why he's here, knocking on Peter's door instead of sitting in his economics class. When Peter opens the door, he doesn't look at all surprised to see Stiles, which is a bit irritating.

"I didn't realize you had the school day off," Peter says.

"Like you give two shits about truancy," Stiles says. "I have a proposition. Are you letting me in or am I talking out here, letting any of your nice neighbors hear your big furry secret?"

"Always so dramatic," Peter says, stepping aside to let Stiles in.

"I'd be offended, but you're the biggest drama queen in Beacon Hills so you're probably just irritated to have competition," Stiles says, breezing by and walking straight into Peter's living room. The big wall of windows is expected, even if the decor isn't as cold and modern as he'd thought. Huh.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" Peter asks when Stiles has been circling the room for longer than is polite, peeking at every bookshelf, at every picture and piece of art.

"I have an offer," Stiles says, turning back to Peter who's looking unbothered by having Stiles in his home.

"I'm not sure you have anything I want," Peter says, and if it were anyone lying that well, he might believe it, but he's seen Peter's hungry eyes on him, waiting to see him slip, waiting to see his magic and bloodlust rear its head.

"Cute," Stiles says. "You help me kill Kali and Ennis, and I help you with Deucalion."

Peter, for once, doesn't have anything witty and irritating to say. It's always fun to shock Peter into silence, but Stiles actually needs an answer here.

"I'm serious. I can do it alone, but not if I'm always looking over my shoulder for you to come in all fangs and claws to ruin it," Stiles says.

"And you think I'd need your help to kill Deucalion?" Peter asks, a sneer on his lips.

Stiles shrugs. "Probably not, but my help dramatically improves your chances," he says. "Plus, you won't be worried about me swinging in and stealing your kill."

Peter looks at him for a long moment, which is dumb because they both know he's been itching for this moment.

"Why do you want Kali and Ennis?" Peter asks. Damn. Stiles sighs.

"Impaling Derek was rude. Fucking with Scott and the rest of us is rude. Plus, I don't want to have to deal with their trail of bodies," Stiles says.

"Hmm," Peter says, circling Stiles slowly. The back of his neck itches when Peter lingers behind him, but Stiles doesn't give him the satisfaction of turning, just waits until Peter's in front of him again. "That's all true, of course, you've really gotten the hang of lying to werewolves, but it's not the whole truth, is it?"

Stiles glares. "Do we have a deal or not?"

"Of course we do," Peter says, holding out his hand. Stiles sighs and takes it, half expecting the bite of claws instead of a handshake. He lets a bit of his magic bleed through, tingling over Peter's skin, a tad less painful than a taser. Peter's eyes widen, but he looks positively delighted, the freak. "I've so looked forward to working with you," Peter says, his voice a low rumble.

Fucking weirdo.

Kali dies first, pinned to a tree deep in the preserve where Peter had lured her, right into Stiles’ trap of wolfsbane and mistletoe. Stiles doesn’t give her the chance to scream or threaten him. He impales her with a sharpened holly branch straight through the throat, hoping she likes the mirroring of what she did to Derek.

The holly does what it should, channelling all that alpha energy into Stiles. His magic swirls around it, seeping into it, changing it until it’s his, absorbed cleanly. Stiles sighs, opening his eyes to see Peter watching intently. Stiles wonders what he’d seen, what his wolf senses had told him, but not enough to ask.

Ennis runs on emotion and it’s not hard to get him to come after Stiles. Well, once he leaves Kali’s severed head for him to find. He follows the false scent trail laid by Stiles’ magic right to the shitty abandoned train station that even Derek ditched.

Ennis is smarter than he looks and when he finds himself on his knees, surrounded by mountain ash with his body frozen by magic, he tries to bargain. “I can tell you who the darach is,” he says confidently, sure that his trump card will spare his life. Kudos to him for knowing what Stiles is interested in, but too little too late.

“Oh, that? I already know it’s Jennifer Blake,” Stiles says, waving a dismissive hand. Ennis pales. “What, did you think I wouldn’t feel it? She’s oozing tainted magic. It feels like worms on my skin.”

“No, wait - “

Stiles doesn’t wait. The same holly branch that went through Kali’s throat goes straight through Ennis’ skull. He drops to the ground, bleeding all over Stiles’ mountain ash and mistletoe circle, but Stiles barely sees it, staggering under the weight of what he’s absorbed from Ennis. It’s more than Kali, a rush of magic and energy he hadn’t expected. Maybe Ennis’ pack was bigger and that’s how he has so much in him, but it doesn’t really matter.

What matters is that Stiles doesn’t need Deucalion. He’d wondered about that, if the four alphas would be enough. They are. He’s practically bursting at the seams with raw, untamed magic. It takes everything he knows, every tidbit pulled from every obscure reference he could find to control it, to bind it inside him and make it his own.

When he opens his eyes, Peter’s staring. “Your eyes,” he says.

Stiles frowns. “What about them?”

“They’re black.”

Stiles startles at that. He can’t...he isn’t that powerful…

Peter misinterprets his silence and says, “Don’t worry. If you were corrupted they’d be white like a darach’s.”

“I know,” Stiles says, shaking his head. “I just...I shouldn’t be strong enough for them to do that.”

Peter hums like he disagrees, but doesn’t say anything else as they dispose of Ennis’ body.

“Can you really feel Blake?” Peter asks when they’re leaving the train depot.

“Yeah. I doubt she even knows she’s doing it, honestly,” Stiles says. “She’s just that fucked up.”

“You really are something, aren’t you?” Peter says. “Will you take her magic, too?”

Stiles looks over. He’d expected Peter would figure it out easily, what he’d done to Ennis and Kali. He’d be disappointed if he didn’t.

“No,” Stiles says. “Hers is tainted, way more tainted than even the alpha pack. I don’t need that in me.”

“Good,” Peter says. “I’d hate to have to put you down, Stiles.”

Stiles grins, and he knows it’s very much like one Peter has. “It certainly would be interesting to see you try.”

It’s a week later that they take Deucalion. They’d let him sweat it out, suddenly packless, enemies all around him. They want him at his most desperate, his most afraid. Peter’d warned Stiles that a panicked animal is a dangerous one. Stiles knows that. It’s also when he’s most likely to make a mistake and surprisingly, he doesn’t want Peter to die.

Deucalion is stronger than the others, but he’s still not stronger than mistletoe and mountain ash. It moves with Stiles’ magic, covering Deucalion’s arms and legs, pinning him to the ground in a crude mimicry of a crucified Jesus. Fitting, for the so-called demon wolf.

He’s snarling, barking threats and rage. Personally, Stiles would just kill him and get it over with, but Peter enjoys the drama, enjoys stalking around Deucalion in circles, driving that fear and panic and rage higher and higher. And he’d had the nerve to call Stiles dramatic, honestly.

When Deucalion dies, Stiles’ magic is ready. If there’s even a hint that Peter can’t take it, that the alpha spark will drive him back to insanity, Stiles will end it right here. He’ll be buried in the ravine with Deucalion and Stiles will have one less problem on his hands.

Peter...seems fine. He takes a deep breath and when he opens his eyes, they’re alpha red, but without the haze of madness he’d had last time. Stiles sighs, letting his magic settle back under his skin. He’s half expecting Peter to leave. Their deal is done, there’s no reason to risk himself anymore, but he’s stalking forward, getting alarming close to Stiles’ personal bubble.

“Let me be there when you take the darach,” Peter says, his voice a deep, wolf’s rumble. His hands run down Stiles’ arms, fingers wrapping around his wrists. “Let me watch.”

“Are you secretly a voyeur?” Stiles asks, but it comes out rougher than he’d intended.

“Not usually, but there seems to be plenty of exceptions for you,” Peter says. “Let me come with you.”

Stiles swallows hard. He nods. He says nothing about the warm strand he can feel in the back of his mind, one that if he traces it, he thinks will lead him to Peter.

Jennifer (Julia) isn’t expecting him. Scott and Derek, maybe Peter, but she’s shocked when Peter flashes his eyes, alpha red. She’s even more shocked when Stiles appears at his side out of nowhere, his camouflage melting away.

“Lovely night,” Stiles says conversationally, as if he and Peter aren’t ambushing her deep in the preserve while she hunts for the nemeton.


“Me.” Stiles confirms with a slight smile. He knows he’s underestimated, that no one expects much of him. It used to bother him, especially from his dad, but he recognizes the advantage in that now. Now, he likes being overlooked.

Except...except Peter always seems to see him.

“You don’t understand,” Jennifer says. “I had to. They deserve to die for what they did to me.”

“Probably,” Stiles agrees easily.

“You can’t take them on without me. You need me!” Jennifer says. Stiles can feel the power in her rising, probably preparing to curse him into oblivion.

“I’m not onboard with the method or the madness. Plus, we’ve already killed them all, so I wonder, what would I need you for?” Stiles asks, cocking his head to the side.

Jennifer looks stricken and a second later she lashes out, a rush of tainted magic flying toward him. She’s strong, much stronger than she should be, but so is Stiles. He waves away her curse, blowing up the tree to his left instead of him and Peter.

Jennifer looks scared, and there’s a vindictive part of Stiles that loves it. He wants her scared. He wants her regretting ever stepping foot into Beacon Hills. He wants her panicked and fearful and hopeless. He wants her to realize that taking his father was her biggest mistake.

Stiles pulls up the magic inside him, shaping it, making it sharp and deadly and imbuing it with pain. Because she’s going to die and it won’t be easy. Before Jennifer can gather her magic again, Stiles flings his at her, hitting her straight on like a lance through the chest. She falls to the ground, eyes shocked, then the screaming starts.

He knows what she’s feeling. Fire burning at her skin, her bones shattering, her blood boiling in her veins. He knows, he watches, and he feels no remorse.

Stiles’ hands were steady as each member of the alpha pack had fallen and they’re steady now as Jennifer gasps her last breath.

Stiles’ hands don’t shake when he kills the rogue omega that runs through Beacon Hills, nor when he kills the rogue hunters that follow. He watches unconcerned when Peter decapitates a witch that’s looking for a werewolf to chain to her side, and again when he kills the witch’s brother when he comes for revenge.

Scott doesn’t know. Stiles isn’t sure how, not when threats just disappear. He’s naive, content to believe the lie that it’s his reputation that keeps Beacon Hills safe, happy to buy the story of the true alpha told to him by Deaton.

When Alan Deaton dies, it’s by both Stiles and Peter’s hands. Peter kills him for failing the Hale pack, for his protection falling when they needed it most. Stiles kills him for manipulating Scott, for implanting a stolen, twisted alpha spark in his best friend and using him like a marionette.

He uses his magic to dissolve his body into a pile of ash, watching as the garden where they bury the ashes bursts forth with flowers in full bloom. Interesting.

His hands are steady, one held tightly in Peter’s.

The nogitsune doesn’t know what it’s getting into with Stiles. It sees the weakest link in a broken pack. It sees a feeble human, an easy target. It thinks it’ll be easy to take Stiles’ body for a ride, to kill his way to Noshiko. It takes only a handful of seconds for it to realize it had horribly miscalculated.

Stiles is home alone, doing some research on wards, when he feels something slam into him followed by a rush of rage aggression hatred. There’s overwhelming pressure from all sides, then Stiles is standing in a bright, empty white room, and it only takes a few disorienting moments before he figures out he’s trapped in his own mind.

There’s panic trying to claw at his throat, and he realizes it’s not just his. He spins and notices the little flaws in the room, and the more he notices them, the more they grow. There are cracks in the white veneer, cracks that grow into chasms. Stiles wraps his magic around himself and thrusts outward, attacking all the places where the lie is crumbling. He doesn’t know what’s happening, doesn’t know what’s trying to take control of him, but he knows this is a fight he can’t afford to lose.

His magic crashes against the cracks in this manufactured reality, forcing them wider until it’s crumbling away, leaving him face to face with a huge, black fox with more tails than he can count in the middle of the preserve. This isn’t the real preserve either, but he can tell this is the real face of what he’s fighting. It’s radiating that rage and hatred, but Stiles can clearly feel its fear, its panic at realizing it may have bitten off more than it can chew.

Stiles doesn’t wait for it to gather itself, doesn’t wait for it to attack him. He throws everything he has at it, every protection spell he can think of, every offensive hex, throws his raw magic with the enraged demand of, “Get the fuck out!”

The fox is snarling, gnashing its teeth, but it can’t actually charge at him, held in place by the bombardment. Stiles can feel it weakening, can feel his magic beating it down until its hold on him gives, the fox hissing and whining as it disappears to nothing.

As it breaks down, Stiles can feel more of it than its anger and fear, right into its being. He sees its memories, sees Kira’s mother and the word traitor hisses through him, sees places he’s never been, hears languages he doesn’t know. It’s a nogitsune, something Stiles hasn’t even heard of before, but he suddenly knows it as surely as he knows his own name. It came to possess him, to take him, and it is terrified that Stiles is successfully fighting back, has turned its power on itself and is inside its head now.

Stiles doesn’t want any of its magic, doesn’t want any bit of that in him, but his magic doesn’t seem to care. His magic latches onto that spark, that bright spot of power and draws, pulling and draining as the nogitsune tries to flee, his magic and memories flowing into Stiles.

It scares Stiles more than anything that’s happened so far and he wrenches away, forcing the connection to break. He’s surrounded by blackness, can hear nothing but his own racing heartbeat, then he’s on his knees in his room. There’s the dark, transparent outline of a fox disintegrating before his eyes until there’s nothing where it stood but a fat black fly, twitching on the ground with broken wings. Stiles grabs his closest shoe and bludgeons the damn thing to death. He’ll have to bury it in the preserve with so many wards on it that it’ll be untouchable to anything short of god.

There’s...too much. He’s remembering places he’s never been, killing things and people he’s never met, words falling from his lips in languages he’s never heard. He remembers hating and loving it, enjoying the chaos and pain surrounding him. He barely manages to grab the trash to lean over before he pukes.

He dials Peter with hands shaking so violently he nearly calls the wrong number twice.

Stiles’ hands shake when he kills Kate Argent, this time for good, but it’s with rage. Peter’s back at his apartment, knocked out and encircled in mountain ash. Kate fucking Argent had cursed him with a book on magic so obscure that even Stiles hadn’t known about it. Stiles had to knock Peter out and trap him to keep him from attacking on behalf of Kate. Stiles hasn’t known rage like this in years.

Kate Argent is in the sewers where she belongs, hiding out the one place she could find that would cover her own stench. Stiles doesn’t appreciate having to trudge down here to find her, but he supposes it’ll make body disposal easy, so at least there’s that.

He doesn’t know what Kate wants, he’s assuming something to do with Derek because she’s still just as fucked up as before, but it really doesn’t matter. He’d have killed her regardless, something like her too dangerous to be allowed to live, but she’d made a critical mistake in going after Peter.

Stiles knows she’s something, she has to be to still be alive, to have done what she did to Derek, to control the berserkers. He’s prepared with his mix of mountain ash and mistletoe, the mixture practically bleeding with his magic. It’s easy to find her, easy to track her route because even though she was a hunter and knows how to cover her steps from human and werewolf eyes, she’s never dealt with something like Stiles.

He doesn’t give her a chance to speak, his mountain ash mix slithering through the air to wrap around her throat, squeezing viciously. Her berserkers are snarling, pinned to the wall by Stiles’ sheer force of will. She falls to her knees, hands scrabbling at her throat, only to come away red and burned when they come into contact with the mountain ash strangling and burning her.

Her eyes are wide with fear, with the realization that she made a grave miscalculation. Good. Stiles wants that to be her last lingering memory. She opens her mouth, to beg or bargain, he doesn’t care, but no sound comes out, her breath stolen, face turning redder and redder.

Stiles crouches down in front of her, making sure she can see his eyes, pure black and full of rage. “Did you think you could take him from me?” Stiles hisses. Comprehension dawns on her face, and Kate realizes exactly what her mistake was right before her heart gives out, her lifeless body falling at his feet.

Her death ends the magic she’d used to control the berserkers, which Stiles had counted on, hoping it would mean her curse on Peter would end, too. What he hadn’t counted on is when the bone armor falls to the ground, turned to dust and ash, that it would reveal Boyd and Erica. Bruised and broken and dirty, but somehow alive.

Stiles stares for a good long moment before rushing forward. Erica and Boyd are struggling to stand, their clothes nothing but torn rags. They’re disoriented and confused, but they recognize Stiles, know that he’s their safest bet.

“Stiles, what…” Erica starts, stopping with a ragged breath at the sight of Kate’s dead body. So they’d been at least somewhat aware, god.

“One sec,” Stiles says, standing. He turns toward Kate’s body and lashes out with his magic one last time, her body burning with blue fire and is nothing but a blackened husk in mere moments, something that comes easy to him since banishing the nogitsune from his body. Stiles, satisfied that she’s truly dead and never coming back, kicks her body into the river of sewage before turning back to the two of them, now standing. “Can you walk?”

They nod, and Stiles leads them out of the sewer. He takes them with him to Peter’s apartment because he really has no other choice. He needs to make sure the curse on Peter is broken and he needs to figure out what the fuck is going on with Boyd and Erica.

Peter’s pacing frantically in the mountain ash circle when Stiles walks in the front door, stopping dead with raw relief on his face when he sees it’s Stiles. The relief turns to alarm and confusion when he sees Boyd and Erica behind Stiles, huddling close together.

“You’re you again,” Stiles says, shoulders sagging. He can feel it, just like he could feel the curse surrounding Peter. He could have broken it if he’d needed to, but it would have taken a lot more time and could have hurt Peter in ways Stiles couldn’t fix. He’s thankful breaking Kate broke her grip. “Thank fuck.”

“What happened?” Peter asks as Stiles waves away the mountain ash line, crowding close as soon as he can. He runs his hands over Stiles’ arms, his chest, throat, face, looking for any injuries. There are none to find.

“Kate Argent’s dead. For good this time,” Stiles says. He points over his shoulder with his thumb. “They’re kind of a side effect of that.”

Peter glances back at Erica and Boyd, looking like they have no idea what the hell to do with this, but even more like they’re afraid of being sent away. Peter sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“Bathroom is down the hall and to the right. Clean up. We’ll get food and clothes for you,” Peter says.

Their shoulders slump in relief and after a glance at Stiles, they do as they’re told, murmuring their thanks as they hurry down the hall. Peter waits until they hear the shower turn on to turn to Stiles and ask, “What the fuck?”

“Kate resurrected them, far as I can tell,” Stiles says. “Probably partly practicing for something bigger, probably partly to torture Derek even more.”

“And it’s really them?” Peter asks. “Not something...else?”

“It’s them. There’s some serious black magic that brought them back,” Stiles murmurs, not wanting to be overheard. “I’m not sure what it’ll do to them, or if the price was paid by Kate since they were enslaved by her.”

Peter looks down the hall, a small frown on his face.

“We’ll watch them,” Peter says eventually. “We don’t have to do anything now.”

Stiles nods. He’s shocked to realize that he doesn’t want to kill them. Anything that’s been a threat these last few years he’s put down with no remorse, but Boyd and Erica...they’re an unknown, and Stiles doesn’t want to kill them. He wants them to be okay, he wants to have saved someone for once, instead of showing up to find bodies.

“What about you?” Stiles asks, reaching out, unsure if Peter wants to be touched right now. He was violated in a truly awful way, with magic full of hate. And Stiles, well, he has magic and hate in spades...But Peter takes his hand, threading their fingers together and holding tightly. Stiles sags in relief, something hard and fearful releasing.

“I’,” Peter says. “I...fuck, it was terrible. I wanted to kill you. I wanted to do anything she told me to do, and killing you was fifth on the list.”

Stiles swallows hard, ignoring the hot prick of tears threatening to gather. “Only fifth? God, please tell me I rank above Derek at least.”

Peter doesn’t smile. His grip on Stiles’ hand tightens, his eyes flashing red. “I can’t...I won’t lose you,” Peter says. His voice is ragged, rough in a way Stiles hasn’t heard. The pack bond between them, the one neither of them has acknowledged is pulsing brightly.

Stiles swallows hard, nodding. “I killed her for hurting you,” he says, voice a growl. “I killed her for thinking she could have you.”

Peter sighs, leaning in until his forehead is resting against Stiles’. Stiles wishes he had comfort to give, could promise that he would find a way to make sure nothing ever touches Peter’s mind like that again, but it’s not a promise he could keep. He just leans into Peter, eyes on where his hands are tangled with Peter’s, both shaking.



“Next time you murder someone, please make sure they’re actually dead.”

It’s not Stiles that kills the fucked up ghoul that comes to town, but he would have if he’d been given the opportunity. It wasn’t undead like how Peter’s undead (or Erica and Boyd, now that he thinks of it). There was flesh rotting off its body, no beating heart or breathing lungs, but it was still intelligent, still killing people and very aware of it.

He helps Peter bury it, whispering his magic over the grave to make sure nothing will raise it again. Boyd offers to help, but Peter asks him to check on Kira instead. The ghoul had gotten very close, almost taking a chunk out of her torso before Peter had tackled it to the ground, ripping it to pieces. Boyd agrees. He doesn’t like the way Scott deals with things, doesn’t like how now that he’s back with Allison, he dismisses Kira nearly entirely, as if she isn’t a part of his pack. And Boyd isn’t exactly shy about his disdain.

“Boyd would make a good second,” Stiles says as they walk back through the trees toward where Peter parked.

“He’s not my beta,” Peter says.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “He might as well be. Erica, too. They spend more time with us at your place than they do at home,” Stiles says.

“No, you spend more time at my apartment than you do at home,” Peter says.

Stiles raises an eyebrow. “Do you want me to leave?” he asks.


“Okay, then.”

Stiles doesn’t push. He knows Peter’s a smart man, he knows he’s noticed how they function like a pack, how Erica and Boyd turn to him for guidance, how they trust him and Stiles in a way they hadn’t trusted Derek. If Peter’s pretending it’s not real, Stiles is going to let him work it out for himself. He’s not a damn therapist.

It’s also true that Stiles is at Peter’s more than his own house. The sheriff is busy and since the nogitsune attack, Stiles isn’t always comfortable alone in his room, like the lingering stench of it just won’t fade, despite the dozen cleansings he’s performed. Peter’s It’s like locking himself away in Peter’s apartment is locking the rest of the world out, his own little port in the shit storm that’s his life.

Peter’s presence is a comfort, and isn’t that a weird sentence. Peter keeps him grounded, keeps him sane when he feels his magic bubbling beneath his skin, more raw now with the portion of the nogitsune’s power sitting inside him. Peter’s touches represent safety and an ally, and if they’ll work their shit out, pack.

A week later, Stiles breaks the neck of a serial killer that thought killing while passing through Beacon Hills was acceptable. Stiles had been at the station with his dad for dinner when the call came in and recognized the nasty details from a trail of murders down from Oregon he and his dad have been watching. The sheriff is busy coordinating with the officers at the crime scene that he doesn’t notice Stiles leaving.

Stiles calls Peter as soon as he’s in his car, tells him to meet him at the corner of Main Street and 23rd Avenue. Peter agrees easily, recognizing the tone in Stiles’ voice, and is waiting for him when he pulls up.

The woman was killed in an alley a few blocks away. Peter rolls his eyes and bitches about being treated like a bloodhound, but he does what Stiles asks. He’s able to catch a few scents that stand out from others, and only one that is tinged with the rage needed for what the killer had done.

He and Stiles follow the trail until they get to a shitty motel on the edge of town. Stiles uses his magic to pick the lock, which is really handy because he’s garbage at doing it by hand, and they sneak in. The man’s sleeping on top of the cheap motel bedspread and still has the victim’s blood on his hands.

He’s awake for only a second when Stiles breaks his neck, and that’s just because Stiles wants him afraid when he dies.

It takes less than ten minutes to erase any trace that they’d been there, then Peter and Stiles are gone, driving back toward Beacon Hills.

“Boyd would be a good second,” Peter says out of nowhere. “I’d rather it be you, but you’re...different.”

Stiles stiffens a bit, not sure he likes where this is going. “How?” he asks. Peter, hearing his tone of voice, reaches across the console and laces their fingers together, rubbing his thumb over the back of his hand.

“Nothing bad,” Peter says. “You killed four alphas, darling. If you were a werewolf, you’d be an alpha four times over.”

“So?” Stiles asks.

“So, what if you’re an alpha?” Peter says.

“An alpha what? Alpha witch?”

“They look to you like an alpha as much as they do the same with me,” Peter says, ignoring Stiles’ question. “You helped them spin their disappearance to their parents and the police. You saved them from Kate.”

“So, what, we’re both the alphas for two undead beta werewolves?” Stiles asks, throwing all the skepticism he can into the words, but Peter just shrugs, like he can feel the thread connecting them pulsing brightly in acknowledgement.

“The ‘alpha’ isn’t the weirdest part of that sentence, darling,” Peter says.

Stiles’ hands are steady when he kills the coven of witches that comes for Peter, Erica, and Boyd. Apparently a pack that includes three undead werewolves (because make no mistake, Erica and Boyd are theirs now) is highly valuable for plenty of nasty things a dark coven could do with their blood and bodies.

They hadn’t been expecting Stiles, though. He had burst into the house they were renting (renting, did they think Stiles wouldn’t find them?!) to find Erica, Boyd, and Peter all tied down with wolfsbane in the middle of the living room floor, eyes flashing as they struggle to free themselves.

There are three dark witches, two men and a woman, and by glancing at the chalk symbols drawn in a circle around Erica, Boyd, and Peter, they were meant as sacrifices. One werewolf for each witch. Stiles isn’t 100% sure what the ritual is because as soon as he comes in, he’s blasting the shit out of the sigils surrounding them, the floor cracking under the force.

There are screams as the men and the woman throw their magic at him, only to have it rebound toward them. One curse bounces back to the original spellcaster, the man dissolving into nothing but a withered husk. The woman simply explodes. The last man, seeing what happened to the others, tries to beg on his knees, though Stiles can feel the magic building in him for an attack. He dies with his eyes bleeding, hands scrabbling at his throat as Stiles’ magic chokes the life out of him.

The instant the witches are dead, Stiles is ripping the wolfsbane ropes off of his pack, throwing them as far away as possible. Boyd and Erica struggle into a sitting position, bracing each other as they try to get their strength back. Peter jerks upwards, staggering to his feet just to stumble into Stiles’ arms. Stiles holds him tightly, running a hand up and down his trembling back. He’s not sure how much of it is residual effects from the wolfsbane and how much is rage and fear.

“Are you hurt?” Stiles asks, his magic curling over Peter’s skin, searching for anything that shouldn’t be there.

Peter shakes his head. “No,” he says, slowly pulling away until he’s standing on his own. “Check them.” He nods his head to Erica and Boyd.

Stiles nods and steps up to where Erica and Boyd are leaning against the wall, breathing quickly. He crouches down in front of them, holding a hand out to each. They set their hands in his, used to his magic by now and not flinching when it rolls over them, checking for anything tainting them.

He’s done this...a lot. At first just after Kate, constantly checking them for anything that might be a side effect of the whole resurrection thing, or, not that he told them this, any kind of magical booby trap they may be carrying. But as his knowledge of magic grew, he started doing this whenever they had any kind of conflict. Cranky vampire in town? Magic wellness check. Rogue hunters? Magic feel-up. The whole ghoul thing? So many wandering magic fingers.

Boyd and Erica seem okay, just weak, so Peter ends up helping Boyd out of the house, Stiles helping Erica, because they need to make tracks before the cops show up. It’s late enough that Peter’s neighbors aren’t around, so they don’t run into anyone but Mrs. Anderson in the elevator, whose eyesight isn’t the best, so they don’t have to explain any odd marks and bruises.

Kira’s waiting in Peter’s apartment when they get there, pacing anxiously. She’d wanted to come with Stiles, but her kitsune abilities are on the fritz lately and she was far enough that she wouldn’t have gotten there in time anyway.

She’s been spending a lot of time with Peter, Stiles, Boyd, and Erica lately, ever since the ghoul incident. She’d hesitantly told Stiles that she doesn’t really feel safe with Scott’s pack anymore, almost like she was embarrassed by that. Stiles had carefully tried not to trash Scott but had told her her fears are valid, and she’s welcome.

At first Peter had been careful about his interactions with her, like he hadn’t wanted to seem like he was trying to influence her to leave Scott’s pack, but he’s always made it clear she’s wanted here. He’s brought her books about kitsunes and put her in touch with a kitsune he knows once she said she thinks her mother is hiding things about her heritage from her.

Kira helps Boyd with Erica, who is having a bit of a harder time shaking the wolfsbane since one of the witches had wrapped some around her throat just to see Boyd and Peter roar. She fetches a healing salve Stiles made and keeps in Peter’s bathroom and passes it to Boyd, hovering behind him and biting her lip while he applies it to the abrasions around Erica’s throat.

Erica, lying on the couch, rolls her eyes fondly and catches Kira’s wrist, yanking her closer until she’s sitting on the plush rug near Erica’s head. “Just sit with me, it’s fine,” Erica says, but her hand is tight in Kira’s when Boyd’s gentle fingers apply the salve to her neck.

Stiles retreats to the kitchen where Peter’s observing the rest of them over the chicken he’s slicing. He’d been horrified when Stiles started coming over with cooked chickens from Costco, saying he’ll cook if they need food, but had grudgingly admitted that with how much they all eat and how often there’s a crisis, having a quick option that isn’t fried is good. He still scrunches his nose at times though, because he is still Peter.

“You can use the shower if you need it,” Peter says when Stiles sidles up next to him. “Boyd won’t be leaving Erica for a while and she won’t be standing for a bit.”

Stiles nods but doesn’t go just yet. He nudges Peter with his elbow, which always makes his eye twitch before he says, “I’m holding a knife, Stiles.”

Stiles shrugs. “You okay?” he asks, nudging him with his elbow again. Peter sighs and puts the knife down, turning to face Stiles.

“I’m fine. The wolfsbane is already out of my system and this is hardly the top of my list of psychological traumas,” Peter says.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Well your attitude is still here so you must be fine,” he says. “I’m gonna wash up.”

Peter acknowledges him with a nod and a kiss to the temple. “Don’t dawdle, I doubt they’ll leave food for you.”

Stiles very nearly kills the banshee he runs into at the gas station. The only reason he doesn’t is he’s aware of just how many cameras are pointing at him. He’s used to the feeling of Lydia, of a slight tingle of death and scent of ozone that radiates from her. This is something different. The woman reeks of death so much that Stiles’ stomach rolls. She feels like a million maggots crawling under his skin.

Stiles isn’t exactly an expert in banshees. He’s only met Lydia and has read a good deal, though Peter has a journal of an early 20th century banshee that Stiles keeps meaning to read. So no, not an expert, but he knows that this is wrong.

These days, Stiles always has a magical shield up. The nogitsune taught him a few very brutal lessons and he isn’t willing to have his guard down. He hasn’t quite mastered how to give off no whiff of magic, so when her head whips around, her eyes locking on him, he knows she can feel him. The look she’s giving him isn’t exactly kind. Fuck.

Any other time he would laugh. A banshee at a Shell station filling up a Kia Rio? Hilarious. Feeling the oppressive air of a rotting banshee around him? Less hilarious. They stare at each other across the parking lot for a long time, only breaking when a truck pulls up next to her, breaking their sightlines.

The maggoty feeling fades, and a moment later the Rio is speeding away, toward downtown Beacon Hills. Stiles shakes himself out of it and gets in his Jeep, but there’s no way he can follow her, she’s well ahead of him.

“Shit,” Stiles hisses. He calls Peter and as soon as he answers, says, “I’m dialing Lydia, hold on.”

”What’s wrong?” Peter asks immediately at his tone.

“Wait,” Stiles says absently, tapping the icon to threeway call Lydia.

”This better be good, I’m in the middle of - “

“There’s a banshee,” Stiles says, interrupting. As soon as he has the phone on speaker, he starts his Jeep and heads toward Lydia’s. “She feels wrong, someone’s spitting on my grave.”

”Where?” Peter asks.

“She just left the Shell station on 12th,” Stiles says. “Lydia, I’m coming to get you, we’ll look into it more at Peter’s.”

”Okay,” Lydia says, and it really shows how freaked out she is that she’s not even putting up a token protest. They’ve yet to meet a banshee that isn’t insane, which Stiles is sure isn’t fair to the banshee population overall. A lot of whack jobs are just drawn to Beacon Hills.

”I’ll see what I can find out from Satomi, see if she passed through there,” Peter says.

“Good, we’ll be there soon,” Stiles says.

It’s only a few minutes later that Stiles is pulling into Lydia’s driveway. She’s out of the front door a second later, as poised as ever, but Stiles can see the clench of her jaw. Stiles pulls away as soon as she’s inside.

Lydia hasn’t been to Peter’s before, and how much to trust her is something Peter and Stiles have gone back and forth on. They agree that while Lydia isn’t a fan of Peter (though the animosity has lessened somewhat once she realized just how insane Peter truly was when he bit her), she’s pragmatic. She’s disagreed with Scott on enough decisions that Stiles is sure she’ll understand that what he and Peter are doing is keeping them all alive. Peter isn’t quite ready to make that leap in trusting her yet.

But he hadn’t objected when Stiles said he’s taking her to Peter’s apartment. That’s something at least. Stiles hopes Lydia isn’t foolish enough to do something dangerous with that information.

Peter’s sitting on the couch when they walk in, talking on the phone. Stiles waves and locks the door behind them, dragging his finger down the carved runes on the edge of the doorframe. There’s the familiar pulse of the wards raising, strong enough that nothing has a chance in hell at getting through without being let in.

“They just walked in. I’ll call you back,” Peter says, standing as he hangs up. “Boyd and Erica are at her house. They’re ready if we need them. I told Kira to stay inside and alert.”

“Good. Anything from Satomi?” Stiles asks.

“Nothing passed through her territory,” Peter says. His lip curls as he adds, “She knows nothing would dare cross her territory lines.” The ‘unlike Scott’s’ goes unsaid.

“What about your territory lines?” Lydia asks.

Stiles stills behind her where he’s texting Kira. Peter’s poker face is truly impressive. His lip twists in a sneer as he says, “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Hale land is currently in the fumbling butterfingers of Scott McCall.”

“Do you think I haven’t noticed you’re an alpha again? Please,” Lydia says. She turns to Stiles, whose poker face is apparently way worse than Peter’s. “And you.

“Me?” Stiles asks, clearing his throat when his voice squeaks a bit. “What about me?”

“Don’t even try it,” Lydia says. “You are something. You just happen to find Erica and Boyd? And Kate? And suddenly you can read Japanese? And not to mention you feel like…” Stiles swallows hard, feeling like a pinned insect under her stare. Lydia sighs, looking uncomfortable like she tends to whenever something related to banshees comes up that she doesn’t really understand. “You feel like you’ve sent death many souls.”

There’s an uncomfortable silence following that statement, Stiles fighting not to shift under her and Peter’s stares. If it were almost anyone else, he’d make a snarky joke or a rude remark, but he owes Lydia a bit more at this point. They’ve been through enough that it feels wrong to lie to her.

“I’m...something,” he admits. “Not entirely sure what.”

Lydia’s glare softens a bit and she nods. “Well. We’ll come back to that. Now, what are we doing about the banshee?”

Thankfully, Peter takes the out, handing Lydia the banshee diary, giving her a brief overview of what he knows about where it came from. Stiles takes a few deep breaths, willing his racing heartbeat to slow. There’s a few online forums for the supernatural community that Stiles is involved in, so he pushes his uneasiness to the side and pulls out his laptop, hoping someone has some banshee knowledge.

An hour and a half later, a druid in Canada has some cryptic words about banshees being ‘ethereal, otherworldly creatures steeped with ancient wisdom’ (god, Stiles thought Deaton was bad), and a werewolf in Paris apparently met a mad banshee once, but no one really knows what to make of Stiles describing the maggoty feeling she gave off. Lydia hasn’t found anything particularly useful for their current situation in the diary, though she looks fascinated as she reads. Peter’s been on the phone on and off, but he doesn’t seem to be getting very far either. Stiles is about to suggest maybe checking out cemeteries, because that tracks, when he gets a call from his dad.

”I don’t suppose you’d know why a woman broke into the county morgue an hour ago and stole the body of a child?” the sheriff asks.

“Holy shit,” Stiles says. “Uh, yeah I might. Let me call you back.” Stiles hangs up and turns to Lydia and Peter. “Some woman stole a kid’s body from the morgue an hour ago.”

“Why would a banshee need a dead body?” Lydia asks, frowning. “She could be…” Lydia trails off, looking off to the side like she’s listening to something neither of them can hear.

“Lydia?” Stiles asks slowly, taking a few steps toward her. A moment later, a low snarl rumbles from Peter, his eyes flashing and claws lengthening. “Peter, what?”

“She’s here,” Lydia says, drifting over to the window, peering through the shade. Stiles looks over her shoulder and can’t see anything, but he believes her and Peter. “She wants me to go down there.”

“Stay here, we’ll go,” Stiles says.

Lydia looks over at him. “By yourselves?”

“Better than her coming here and making a mess in front of Peter’s neighbors,” Stiles says.

“I refuse to lose my security deposit, so let’s make it snappy,” Peter says.

“I’m coming with you,” Lydia says.

“What? No, you don’t - “

“I’m coming,” Lydia says, interrupting Stiles. “And Peter’s right, we want to do this away from others so you better hurry up.”

Stiles isn’t an idiot, he knows that she’s afraid, and as much as he’d love her to stay up here so he and Peter can do what they do best in peace, it’s not like he can tie to her the chair. Well...he could, but he’s not going to. He has a few boundaries left, okay?

Peter’s apartment building backs up to a wooded area. It’s not the preserve, but close enough, and that’s where the banshee is. She’s barely out of sight from the parking lot and really, Peter probably would have killed her for the idiocy of that alone. Stiles whispers a concealment charm as they walk into the trees, making sure that they’ll be overlooked if anyone is walking by.

As soon as they’re close, the feeling of maggots under his skin is back and Stiles fights not to shudder. Lydia inhales sharply between him and Peter, and Stiles wonders if what she’s feeling is similar. The banshee is kneeling next to the little boy’s body she’d stolen, symbols painted on his pallid skin. Stiles recognizes a few, but most are new to him and he has no idea what they’re supposed to mean.

About now is usually when they get a villain monologue, but this woman barely glances up to acknowledge that they’ve arrived. Peter opens his mouth, probably to say something rude, but the woman slams her palm against the chest of the dead boy, right over a glistening symbol that Stiles doesn’t know. Lydia gasps, falling to her knees between Stiles and Peter, hand over her mouth like she’s trying not to scream.

And that’s quite enough of that. Stiles doesn’t care what the banshee’s trying to accomplish, doesn’t care what the weird symbols are. He cares that what she’s doing is hurting Lydia and that’s enough for him. He doesn’t know how the banshee reacts to magic so he goes with the tried and true method. Stiles pulls out his knife (the gun is in his Jeep, damn it) right when Peter unsheathes his claws.

They run at her together, which seems to surprise her. Stiles briefly wonders if she’d expected them to stay with Lydia, or if she really is mad enough to not even consider them. His knife sinks into her chest and he doesn’t care about the why, just as long as she stops. Peter digs his claws into her throat, tearing it out and spraying blood, which Stiles does not appreciate covering his face, thanks.

Lydia takes a deep, rattling breath behind them, like she can finally breathe again. Stiles leaves Peter to make sure the banshee is dead and goes to Lydia, wiping the blood off his face as best he can as he goes. Her hand is on her chest, her eyes on the dead banshee until Stiles is in front of her.

“You okay?” Stiles asks, relieved when her gaze is clear and her eyes focus easily on him. “Whatever she did, is it over?”

“Yeah,” Lydia says. “It died with her.”

Stiles exhales in relief. “Okay, come on, Peter will deal with this.”

Lydia goes easily, which is just so out of character that it’s alarming. He sits her on the couch with a fluffy blanket before washing his face and changing his shirt. Guess he and Peter have another batch of clothes to burn. He texts Boyd, Erica, and Kira that the banshee is taken care of before heading back to the living room.

Lydia’s quiet, looking down at the fuzzy white blanket in her lap. Stiles doesn’t try to force her to talk, or ask her if she knows what the banshee was doing, even though he’s dying to know if she knows.

“Scott would have tried to talk to her. He’d have let her go,” Lydia eventually says.

Stiles winces a bit. “Yeah, he probably would have.”

“She wouldn’t have stopped. She’d have been back,” Lydia says. “And if it weren’t for me it’d be for another banshee.”

“Do you know what she was trying to do?” Stiles asks.

Lydia shakes her head. “Maybe necromancy? She was trying to do something with the boy’s soul, and she needed another banshee to help,” Lydia says. “But I don’t know what. It’s not like I have a working relationship with a banshee mentor.”

“She’s gone,” Stiles says, though he knows that’s not particularly helpful. “Peter will make sure she’s never found.”

“Good,” Lydia says. She looks contemplative for a moment. “I won’t ever accept Peter as my alpha. Or anyone as my alpha, honestly.”

Stiles nods. “Yeah, I know,” he says.

“Can I be like...a pack friend?” Lydia asks. Stiles can’t help the laugh that slips out at that, and a second later she’s joining him. She leans against his shoulder, giggling until her cheeks are tinged red. She sits back up, her expression much lighter than earlier, which makes something in Stiles unclench with relief.

“Pack friend,” Stiles says with a grin. “Not ally, but friend?”

“Allies are pure business,” Lydia says with a shrug. “But you’re my friend. And I want to be close to you and your pack. Even if you’re co-leading with Peter.”

“I’m not - we aren’t…” Stiles starts, then groans, clearing his throat. “We kind of...accidentally made a pack? We’ve barely even talked about it really…”

“All right, well, you probably should,” Lydia says. “Sooner or later, Derek’s going to notice Peter’s an alpha. His relationship with Scott may not be roses, but he might tell him when he figures it out.”

Stiles sighs. “Yeah, I know. I just...this was not the plan,” he says.

“Oh?” Lydia asks. “You mean the goal wasn’t to adopt two resurrected werewolves and a kitsune while you and Peter were busy taking care of any threat that came through Beacon Hills? Color me shocked.”

“Threats? Pfft. No idea what you’re talking about,” Stiles says, not even trying to sound convincing.

“Uh huh.”

Lydia stays in Peter’s spare bedroom that night, which is not something Stiles ever thought he’d say. Stiles drags his finger down the wards, whispers protection into the air, before climbing into bed next to Peter. Peter wraps his arm around him, pressing a kiss to the top of his head.

That part is...relatively new. He and Peter have spent a large amount of time together, and not only when they’re elbow-deep in the blood and guts of whatever is trying to kill them that week. They also have dinner most nights, go on road trips to buy magical paraphernalia, host group homework nights for Erica, Boyd, and Kira…

“Did we get married and adopt three teenagers when I wasn’t looking?” Stiles asks. “Should we be on Teen Mom?”

“I wouldn’t go that far,” Peter says.

“You got Kira her own fairy kitsune godmother!” Stiles says.

Peter grimaces. “I strongly suggest you never let Mariko hear you call her that.”

Stiles sighs. “My life was a lot easier before werewolves,” he says.

“Was it?” Peter asks. “Or were you a budding serial killer with no direction in life?”

Stiles glares. “I feel like that’s a lot like the pot calling the kettle black, but we probably shouldn’t argue with our step-daughter sleeping over,” Stiles says.

“Lydia is not our step-daughter. How would we both have the same step-daughter?” Peter says. “Stiles, this is how a pack works. We take care of each other. We just happen to have two of which isn’t a werewolf. And a kitsune. And a pack-adjacent banshee.”

“Right, just like a normal pack,” Stiles says with an eye roll, but he’s pleased. Peter spent a good amount of time pretending Boyd, Erica, and Kira aren’t his, that he doesn’t have a pack. Which Stiles thinks is dumb, because what’s the point of being an alpha without having a pack?

“The Hale pack had a pack-adjacent dryad for a while,” Peter says.

“Shut up, you did not,” Stiles says, elbowing Peter’s side, making him grunt.

“We did, before she moved back to Greece,” Peter says.

“You’re such a liar, I hate you so much,” Stiles grumbles, settling against Peter. Peter just laughs.

A boy claiming to be Theo Raeken comes to Beacon Hills in the middle of a freak storm, full of smiles in his attempt to charm Kira and Scott. Scott doesn’t think it’s important to tell Stiles, but Kira does, texting him as soon as she has reception again.

The sheriff has called Stiles paranoid a lot throughout his life, which seems a bit rude considering how often Stiles is right (okay, maybe not about the lunch lady in kindergarten, but still), but he knows he’s not being paranoid after one conversation with “Theo”. It’s not their friend from when they were younger, he’d put his life savings on that. Stiles doesn’t know what his intentions are, but he knows they don’t bode well for him and the people he cares about.

Scott doesn’t believe him about Theo, but Peter does. So do Boyd, Erica, Lydia, and Kira. He has a feeling Chris might agree with him, but is trying to put on a neutral face to stay in Scott’s good graces, which is annoying but Stiles understands. He thinks Derek, who’s been getting closer with Kira lately, believes her when she said Theo made her uncomfortable, because the patrols he runs have become more often and cover all their homes more than usual.

Stiles isn’t interested in waiting to be a victim. He doesn’t know what Theo wants, but he knows it involves him, and, well, it’s not exactly his first time being bait. Plus, he can kill two birds with one stone. The nemeton has been calling to him, hungry and restless, and he’s smart enough to know that he wants to keep the nemeton happy.

It’s almost embarrassing how easy it is for Stiles to lure Theo into the preserve, though at this point he supposes he does have years of experience at luring bad guys, intentionally or not. Peter’s not exactly a fan of him doing it, but he knows these days Stiles is very much a magical powerhouse and fully capable and handling himself against Theo. He still follows, though. Not shocking.

Theo at least doesn’t try to beg. That gets boring. He tries to convince Stiles he needs him, which is still irritating.

“You don’t know what’s coming for you,” Theo says, holding out a hand in front of him as if to ward off a blow. “You need what I know.”

Stiles sighs, letting his eyes bleed black. Theo jerks backwards, stumbling over a gnarled root as he tries to back away while keeping Stiles in his sight. It won’t help, but sometimes Stiles gets in a very ‘Peter’ mood and wants to enjoy the drama.

“I really won’t,” Stiles says.

Theo keeps trying, keep throwing bits of information at Stiles, as if he would be foolish enough to believe anything from the guy committing baby’s first identity theft.

The nemeton can’t always be found when someone is looking for it, but it and Stiles are of one mind tonight, and when Stiles kicks Theo through a thicket of bushes, they emerge into the nemeton’s clearing. The air is charged with magic, with the nemeton’s eagerness. He wonders what Theo feels. Sometimes Peter can feel things like this and sometimes he can’t. He wonders if Theo can feel his death coming.

A casual wave of the hand and Theo is flying backward, a sickening crunch when his back hits the nemeton’s stump. Stiles grabs him by the throat, dragging him fully onto the nemeton. Theo’s eyes are wide and fearful but he doesn’t have time for begging. Stiles draws his knife, slitting his throat.

The blood drains onto the nemeton’s stump, the rings filling with dark red. Stiles presses his hands against the blood-soaked stump, murmuring a ritual he’s never done, but knows because the nogitsune knew it. The nemeton has suffered for years in agony, partly due to the nogitsune itself, so it’s almost poetic that its knowledge is what’s helping Stiles cleanse it and bring it back to power.

Stiles kicks Theo’s body off the stump, every inch of him thrumming with the energy and magic that’s flowing through the clearing. He can feel a magical tie to the nemeton now, different from what he has with Peter and the rest of the pack, but definitely there. It’s sated and satisfied, the corruption purged from it with the sacrifice of Theo’s life.

It’s easy to call up the earth, revitalized from the magic he just poured into the nemeton, to swallow up Theo’s body, dragging it deep under the forest floor. Another body his dad will never find. Stiles washes Theo’s blood from his hands as he leaves the clearing, knowing how much Peter sneers at messes that he didn’t make.

Peter falls into step with him after a minute or so. Stiles threads their fingers together, grinning when the tingle of magic trickles over Peter’s skin, making him twitch. Finding out Peter Hale is ticklish on the backs of his hands is something that Stiles considers a high accomplishment.

“If Theo’s desperate attempts at saving his life can be believed, the next big bads are called the dread doctors,” Stiles says, letting Peter help him over the small creek running through the preserve.

“Terrible name. No style whatsoever,” Peter says.

“I know, it’s embarrassing,” Stiles says. “So, we should probably look into that.”

“Probably. Though if they chose Theo as their avatar, I don’t have high hopes for their competency,” Peter says.

“God, they probably don’t even have doctorates,” Stiles says with a groan. Peter laughs.

It’s flippant, but neither of them are stupid. They take threats seriously, no matter how ridiculous they sound. They’re going to head home, probably eat dinner, and research the dread doctors. Then they’re going to take care of it, like they always do.