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I must become lionhearted

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Stiles came awake with a shout, limbs flailing as he flung himself upright. He was panting for breath like he’d been doing suicides at lacrosse practice, and he ran a shaky hand over his hair, trying to find a way to calm his racing heart.

It was the fourth day -- night -- that he’d woke up screaming from nightmares he really couldn’t remember. By the time his terror had faded enough for solid thought, all the details had already slipped away, leaving him with nothing but vague impressions of monsters, violence and terror. Given his life over the last few months, the nightmares weren’t surprising but these felt different. Stiles couldn’t explain exactly how, but they did.

Whatever was causing them, it was a bang-up way to start his summer vacation, he decided sourly. He’d survived werewolves, kanimas and evil, elderly psychos and everything was finally starting to calm down in Beacon Hills. So, of course, there were freaking nightmares to make sure Stiles still didn’t get a good night’s sleep.

Stiles threw himself back down on the bed but sleep refused to return, despite the fact that it was way too early to be up on a day of summer vacation. With a sigh, Stiles eventually gave in and headed downstairs where he could hear his dad moving around in the kitchen, thus proving exactly how too-early it was if his dad hadn’t left for his day shift yet.

“Morning, kiddo,” the Sheriff said, surprise in his voice when he turned to see Stiles. “Up all night?”

“Something like that,” he grumbled as he reached around his dad to grab a bowl for cereal.

“You and Scott got any plans? Productive ones, I mean?” the Sheriff added.

Stiles shrugged. “Might go practice some lacrosse, I don’t know. It’s barely summer. I’m really ready for a string of non-productive days.”

The Sheriff looked at him over the rim of his coffee cup, a patently paternal look of judgement. Stiles sighed. “Don’t forget the new rules,” his dad warned.

Stiles’s shoulders hunched a little. “Yeah, yeah, I remember.” He waved his free hand while the other poured Captain Crunch into his bowl. “No more gallivanting around or kidnapping people or getting protective orders sworn against me. I got it.”

His dad frowned. “I feel like I’ve been very lenient considering some of the stunts you pulled this spring,” he said. “Watch that attitude, son.”

Since his dad didn’t know half of the stuff he’d been up to, Stiles decided to nod agreeably and focus on shoveling cereal into his mouth to forestall any more ‘attitude.’ His dad’s stern expression melted a little and he patted Stiles on the shoulder on his way out the door. “At least don’t spend the entire day playing video games, okay?”

Stiles didn’t bother with a reply, mostly because he didn’t know what he was going to do for the day. It was too early to even think about texting Scott and, like always, Scott remained the extent of his immediate social circle. And the strange expansion he’d had thanks to werewolf shenanigans was hardly worth note -- even if he’d had a masochistic desire to hang out with any of them, they weren’t exactly available. No one had seen Boyd and Erica since the night of Gerard’s attack and the rest of the pack seemed to be laying low, which currently included Jackson, or so Isaac had told Scott. And Allison had been shipped off to France for the summer, while Lydia was currently visiting relatives in New York.

So...Stiles had Scott, like always.

Still jittery from the dream he couldn’t remember, Stiles decided to try and organize all of the supernatural-related research he currently had stuffed in a box under his bed and half the day passed in a daze, as he tried to make sense of half of what he’d printed off the internet over the last few months. A lot of it was from when Scott had first been bitten, so it had either been proven incorrect or was now something he knew well enough that he didn’t need a piece of paper to remind him. After a few hours, Stiles was pretty disgusted with most of it and decided it could be trashed, although he needed a better disposal system than dumping it into his own trashcan. He was contemplating a midnight bonfire in the Preserve as he stuffed it all back under his bed.

His dad called around lunch time and asked if Stiles wanted to pick something up and come have lunch with him at the station; Stiles assumed his dad was feeling guilty about his sharp words from that morning, no matter how truthful they were. He gladly agreed, exchanging his ratty sweatpants for jeans before he headed out to one of his and his dad’s favorite diners to pick up their usual order.

That, Stiles would reflect later, was when things started to get weird.

He was standing at the register while he waited for the server manning the lunch counter to bag up his to-go cartons when he glanced around the diner. The diner looked like always -- shiny red booths and laminate tables, full of people at the lunch time rush. He recognized a lot of the faces he saw and those he skipped over from long familiarity. There was a woman, though, he’d never seen before, young and dressed in a suit and sharp heels that, for some reason, made him think “lawyer.” He watched her slide out of her seat and move to leave, his curiosity born primarily out of boredom. That was, until she glanced back toward him, and her face morphed right before his very eyes.

For a second instead of the attractive woman he had seen sitting at the booth, there was some kind of -- monster -- looking back at him, sunken eyes and decaying flesh and gaping, cavernous mouth with pointed teeth. It -- she? -- seemed to snarl when it noticed Stiles’s attention and Stiles jumped, startled. His flailing arm knocked into a napkin dispenser and he hurried to stop it from toppling to the floor. Once he had saved it, he looked back, only to see that the woman was gone, taking whatever he had seen with her.

Stiles was still trying to make sense of it when he heard his name being called. “Stiles? You okay?”

He turned quickly back toward the cash register where his food was waiting and Cindy, the server, was waiting to take his payment. “Yeah, yeah, of course,” he said, fumbling for his wallet. “That woman that just left, do you know her?”

“She works at a law firm near the Courthouse, has for about a year now,” Cindy asked. “Why?”

Stiles shrugged, not even sure how to answer.

“Don’t you think she’s a little older for you?” Cindy teased. “Don’t think Daddy would approve of you having a sugar mama.”

His lip curled in feigned disgust. “Real cute.”

Cindy laughed as she counted out his change. “I thought you were in the middle of your bad boy phase, anyway.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Stiles said, fake dignity impugned. He silently wanted to murder whichever deputy had blabbed to Cindy about his Jackson-related legal trouble.

Cindy raised an unimpressed eyebrow at his sad evasion. He didn’t know why he even tried; she’d known him since before his mom had died, which meant too well to fall for his crap. She leaned against the counter before she answered, voice pitched low like she was going to impart a secret. “Don’t think I haven’t seen you around town a time or two with Mr. Tall, Dark and Broody, him with the hot rod and the leather jacket.”

Stiles -- well, squawked in indignation. “I never!” he said, even as he felt color creeping up his neck. It was bad enough that he’d been seen with Derek Hale, period, let alone that Cindy drew the complete wrong conclusion.

She just rolled her eyes. “Calm down, Stiles, I’m not about to rat you out,” she said.

“There’s nothing to rat out, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said, grabbing his food. “Later!”

Cindy’s laugh followed him out of the diner and, honestly, Stiles couldn’t decide what bothered him more, the strange double-vision of the woman with the monster’s face or the implication that he was -- dating? -- their resident jackass alpha werewolf.

Stiles decided to fall back on the old standby: ignore both problems until they went away.

His mood sank further when he reached the station and saw the serious set of his father’s features.

“What?” he asked as he flung himself down in the empty chair at his dad’s desk. “I’m innocent, I swear.”

The Sheriff rolled his eyes, even as he reached for the food. “For once,” he said. Then he sighed. “I’ve got some sad news, I’m afraid.”

Stiles tried to stop himself from running through every nightmare scenario between his “Oh?” and when his father started speaking. He had to busy himself with opening his container of burger and fries to keep his hands steady.

“Remember your Aunt Marta? On your mom’s side?” his dad asked.

Stiles paused shaking his ketchup packet. “Mom’s cousin, right? They grew up together,” he said. “It’s not like I’ve seen her since the funeral.”

The Sheriff nodded. “I got a call today from a friend of hers,” he explained. “She...had the same thing that got your mom.”

Stiles noted the past tense and knew that a person only got rid of what had killed his mom one way -- and that was by dying. “Shit.”

“Yeah,” his dad agreed. He rubbed at the bridge of his nose. “There’s not going to be a funeral or anything. She was cremated today. But she left some family things that he’s sent on to us. Well, you. Since you’re all that’s left.”

“Last Gajos standing,” Stiles deadpanned. “Go me.”

The Sheriff grimaced but he didn’t bother to chastise Stiles for his earlier expletive or gallows humor. Stiles appreciated the leeway because, frankly, his life was at a point where he earned the use of those things, even if his dad didn’t know the half of it. “Sorry, kid,” was what the Sheriff settled on after the silence stretched out between them. “It’s a lousy distinction.”

Stiles didn’t argue because it was true.

Lunch was a strained affair after that and Stiles was glad to go home once he finished eating, especially since he got a text from Scott saying that he was done at the vet for the day and wanted to come over. They spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening playing video games so that, by the time the Sheriff got home for dinner, Stiles felt more like himself, like a normal teenage boy, and less like someone who hung with werewolves and was haunted by death. He even managed to throw together a salad that his dad ate most of, which was a win all around. By the time Stiles crawled into bed to watch Netflix until he passed out, he’d put most of the weirdness of the day behind him.

He woke up screaming from another nightmare about four hours later, his terror so loud and palpable that it woke his dad up with him. He still couldn’t remember what he dreamed of that scared so badly but the fear followed him to wakefulness, even with his dad at his side, soothing away the building panic attack before it could get too far. His dad assumed it was a nightmare about his mom, brought on by the news of Marta’s death, and Stiles almost wished it had been, so then he’d have been able to make sense of it. Instead, he was left with aimless dread and a million questions he had no idea how to answer about what was going on in his subconscious.

The next day, a huge package arrived on their porch, postmarked for one Mieczyslaw Stilinski from Marta Gajos. Inside was a massive trunk, almost what Stiles wanted to call a chest, with heavy iron fittings and an intimidating-looking lock. A padded letter arrived the same day and it contained an intricate-looking key that fit said lock.

And that was when things started to get even weirder.

**

“We can go through it when I get home tonight,” his dad said once they had deposited the chest in Stiles’s room, both a little out of breath from the endeavor. It had been like carrying bricks.

“Naw, it’s fine,” Stiles said, his fingers twisting in the chain that held the key, now looped around his neck like a necklace. “I think I want to do it alone, you know? No offense, Dad.”

His dad gave his shoulder a squeeze. “None taken. But you call me if you need me, okay? Even if it’s just….stuff. Okay?”

“Okay,” Stiles agreed. “Now get out of here before you’re late. You’re the boss, you’re supposed to be a good example.”

The Sheriff snorted but gave him another quick shoulder-squeeze before he was out of the door. Stiles waited until he heard the front door slam before he sank to the floor in front of the chest, studying it in the sudden quiet. It looked ancient and impenetrable without the key around Stiles’s neck. He had no idea why Marta would choose to send whatever she had in that particular chest unless it was part of what she’d wanted him to have, a family heirloom in and of itself.

Stiles knew that his level of anticipation was over the top for what was probably a box of photos and knick knacks but his gut said something more than that was waiting for him. He took the chain from around his neck and fitted the key into the lock. It turned with a click and the lock fell open.

Stiles lifted the lid and peered inside. His first look was disappointing.

The contents of the chest was hidden under a velvety-looking cloth thrown over everything but, on top of the cloth, was waiting a letter, the plain white envelope addressed to him and his god-forsaken real name. He opened it and unfolded the paper within until lines of spidery black writing were revealed. He started reading.

My dear Mieczyslaw, the letter began, I apologize that I can’t do this in person but it’s safer if I don’t. Let me tell you why: because fairy tales aren’t just stories. Monsters are real and they are hiding where you least expect them. And I have to warn you because Claudia didn’t get the chance.

Stiles almost dropped the letter after those few lines. Six months ago, he would’ve blamed Marta’s words on the dementia that eventually killed her but Stiles knew she was right -- monsters were real. He had seen his fair share already. Marta sounded like she had, too, and his Mom, as well. His heart was hammering away in his chest at the implications.

He read on.

More than warn you, I have to prepare you for what’s to come. You come from a distinguished line, one called to protect the innocents from the monsters they can’t see. You can see them -- you’ll soon be able to see what others can’t and you’ll inherit the gifts of our family that were mine until now. I know it sounds like the fantasies of a dying woman but when it comes to you, you’ll know. And you’ll need everything that we've sent to you.

“Holy shit,” Stiles muttered aloud. It sounded like...it sounded like the Gajoses had been a family of hunters, like the Argents. Protecting innocents? See what others couldn’t? It sounded like it might’ve even been their version of the Argent Code -- hopefully one they followed better than the Argents had.

He continued to read.

I know it must be frightening as you come into your power but, above all, trust yourself. Your instincts will guide you. I’m sorry that this burden will come to you without proper preparation but you’re all that’s left of us. I know you’ll make all of us, including your mother, proud.

The letter ended with Marta’s simple signature and Stiles let it fall to the floor, still in shock. Out of all the strange coincidences in the world, could it be that he’d stumbled upon the supernatural by accident when it would’ve be exposed to him all along?

And what, he wondered, had Marta meant about coming into some kind of power? It sounded vaguely magical but it wasn’t like the Argents had any particular skills outside of the normal human realm, unless one counted the higher-than-normal incidence of psychopathy in Allison’s particular branch. But she made it sound like...something. Stiles didn’t know what but something.

Suddenly, he remembered the strange double-vision he had had of the pretty lawyer from the diner. He would see what others wouldn’t, Marta wrote, and no one had seemed to notice the woman’s ghoulish face.

It was all too fantastic to really wrap his head around, even with his recent background in the supernatural. Stiles put the question of powers behind him and decided to delve into the tools that Marta had sent along.

He pulled away the cloth to reveal a ton of books that looked as ancient as the chest. He pulled volume after volume, caressing the spines, flipping through the pages. It looked like Marta had sent him the hard copy of the Gajos version of the Argent bestiary, except several of the books were, thankfully, in English. Some weren’t, and they seemed to run the gamut of European languages: German, French, Latin and definitely several were in Polish. Stiles finally just set them all aside to see what else waited in the chest.

Beneath the books were weapons, medieval-looking and probably too dangerous for Stiles’s clumsy, untrained hands to handle. There were knives and maces and...maybe a crossbow? There were also a crate inside the chest, packed with cotton, that held glass bottles, some holding liquid and others herbs and powders, like something Deaton would pull out in a pinch.

Stiles closed the chest with a bang. He was suddenly pretty overwhelmed by everything the chest meant. The biggest thing that was swallowing up his thoughts was the fact that his mom would’ve known -- about the supernatural, about werewolves. If she had been there, he might’ve already known himself, even before Scott was bitten. He missed her with a renewed fierceness when he thought about what it might’ve meant to have her support during everything that had happened in recent months. He always missed her, of course, but this was a sharp new sting to that old ache.

Stiles also realized that he couldn’t let his dad know what was really in the chest. For one, his dad would immediately assume that it was part of Marta’s dementia and he’d probably just take it all away from him. Stiles definitely didn’t want that, especially not until he understood everything Marta had implied in her letter. He hated that it was another necessary lie that he’d have to feed his father.

He looked through the collection of books, pulling them all out of the chest, until he found one that had “Werewolves” stamped into the spine and then he laid the velvet cloth down to hide the weapons. He hid the English books beneath the foreign language ones, since his dad didn’t speak a lick of anything outside of conversational Spanish, so that he could hopefully pass off Marta’s gift as a bunch of musty old books that wouldn’t interest the Sheriff in the slightest. Stiles tucked Marta’s letter into the werewolf book and hid that volume under his bed for later reading.

The day was barely half-over and Stiles didn’t know what to do with himself. He was buzzing with everything he had learned and his concentration was shot from the jumble of excitement-anxiety-fear it had swirled up inside of him. It wasn’t like he was going to be able to distract himself with video games or porn; Marta’s revelations had been too huge for that.

Stiles needed to share.

SCOTT. COME OVER ASAP. he texted, using all-caps to impress upon his lackadaisical friend that he meant business. IMPORTANT SHIT TO SHOW YOU.

Because Scott was still the best, even when his Allison-induced stupidity made Stiles want to think otherwise, it took less than fifteen minutes for Stiles to get a ‘omw’ text in reply. Stiles hurried downstairs where he hovered by the door, the anticipation killing him. He couldn’t wait to be able to tell someone about everything, to share the influx of ideas and theories now floating around in his brain. He knew Scott probably wouldn’t care about a lot of it but he’d listen anyway. Thus was the beauty of their friendship.

Stiles had migrated to waiting in the living room when he finally heard Scott’s feet outside the door and then the front door was opening and he could hear Scott’s voice. “Stiles, man,” he was saying as he stepped inside. “What has got you all wound up this early?”

“You won’t believe me until I show you!” he said as he met Scott in the doorway and that was when several things seem to happen at once. Scott turned to Stiles and Stiles watched in horrible fascination as Scott’s face did that thing that the lawyer’s had where there was a double-vision effect. Scott’s face flashed into something that vaguely looked like his wolfed-out face but was actually a little more wolfy, a little more of a complete change from something human to something animal. It only lasted a few seconds and it went away as soon as Stiles blinked, the face in front of him back to the familiar slopes and curves of Scott’s human one.

But that was not the most surprising thing because in those seconds when their eyes had met, Scott flinched, a full-body reaction that saw him slam himself away from Stiles like he thought his friend might hurt him. Stiles noticed that Scott’s hands had turned to claws and then he was actually wolfed out, golden eyes and all. When Stiles took a concerned step forward, Scott actually growled.

“Scott! What the hell is wrong with you?” Stiles said

Scott was breathing hard, like he still had asthma, but the gold was fading from his eyes and his claws were slowly retracting. “Stiles,” he said once the fangs were gone. “I’m sorry I -- it’s just -- your face.”

Stiles touched fingers to his nose. “What’s wrong with my face?”

Scott shook his head. “It’s just -- when I looked at you, for a minute, it was like -- I just knew you were going to hurt me.”

“That’s ridiculous!” Stiles said, even as he was replaying the words of Marta’s letter. “I would never!”

“I know!” Scott replied. “And it’s passed now and I know you’d never but it...I was startled and it just happened. Like, what the hell, you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” Stiles sighed. “Funnily enough, that is kind of why I called you.”

“Yeah?” Scott asked. “What’s up?”

“Like I said, I need to show you,” he said. “Follow me.”

Given the speed at which Stiles could talk, it didn’t take long for him to explain everything while Scott looked through the contents of the chest. Once he was finished speaking, Stiles stopped pacing and looked down at his friend. “Well?” he demanded.

“It’s kind of badass,” Scott said immediately because he was the best friend ever. “I mean, that minute earlier sucked but it’s cool that you’ve got this history.”

“You’re not afraid of me or weirded out?” Stiles asked. “Because, you know, the hunters of our acquaintance have been pretty iffy and, well, my face scared the shit out of you before?”

“I know I can trust you, Stiles,” Scott said. “So no, not afraid or weirded out.” He paused. “Although…”

“Although…?” Stiles prompted.

“Maybe we should talk to Deaton?” he suggested. “Like you said, the Argents don’t have the face thing and your aunt mentioned powers. He might know more.”

Stiles thought about the terrible moment when it looked like Scott was actually afraid of him and how his friend still couldn’t quite articulate what it was about Stiles’s face that had set him off. He thought again about the double-vision thing.

“Okay,” he agreed. “To Deaton’s, we go.”

**

Deaton was actually busy with customers since it was the middle of the day, so Scott and Stiles camped out in one of the back rooms until he had a break in appointments. He offered a smile in apology as he entered -- that is, until his gaze landed on Stiles’s face.

The vet stilled, like a man scared of being attacked by a wild animal, and Stiles watched as something green and verdant -- the impression of vines and earth and sun -- seemed to shimmer in his eyes before they settled to their usual dark color. “Well,” he began, closing the door behind him. “I was going to ask what you brought you boys here but I think I know.”

“Yeah, that,” Stiles said with a grimace. “Scott had a reaction, too. We thought you might know something about why.”

“I think I can help with that,” he said. “I’m going to assume that you’ve had a recent death in the family?”

Stiles nodded. “My mom’s cousin, Marta. She was the last of my mom’s family.”

“Other than you,” Deaton said.

“Yeah, except for me.” He leaned back against the cabinets that lined one side of the room. “She sent me a trunk of stuff -- books and knives and potions, I think. She wrote a letter but it wasn’t very specific. There was something about powers? If I hadn’t started seeing weird stuff, I would’ve just thought that my mom’s family were hunters like the Argents.”

“Most hunter families are like the Argents, just humans who have gathered information and skill,” Deaton said. “But others...are a bit more.”

“So you do know what’s up with Stiles,” Scott said, a statement.
“He’s a much rarer breed, but yes,” Deaton admitted. His gaze steadied on Stiles, studying. “I knew you had a spark of something in you. Maybe not magic but something. Now I see that I was right.”

“But I just got it, whatever it is,” Stiles said.

Deaton shook his head. “You didn’t get full powers until your cousin died but some of what you inherited you were born with. Your curiosity, your ability and compulsion to solve puzzles, riddles. Your interest in law enforcement, too. You probably have very good instincts, a ‘gut’ feeling about people.”

“Like how I just knew Matt was evil,” Stiles said, nodding.

“You were joking when you said that,” Scott said.

Stiles rolled his eyes. “I totally wasn’t, it was just that no one would listen to me and, oops, look who turned out to be right?”

“The point is,” Deaton continued, cutting off the argument. “The spark I saw in you was part of that. Now you’ve just gotten all of the power instead part of it. Think of it like the werewolf alpha power that’s passed from wolf to wolf.”

“So now I’m, like, alpha hunter?” Stiles asked with a snort.

“The German word for what you are is Grimm,” Deaton told him. “Given your family’s national heritage, Gniew might be the more apt term.”

“Is that Polish?” Stiles asked. “Because the only Polish I know is profanity and how to say good night.”

Deaton gave him a look that said he was unimpressed with Stiles’s witticisms. Scott was shaking his head, which meant the same thing.

“Okay, okay,” he said, holding his hands up for mercy. “So, Doc, can you exposition me? Give me the 4-1-1 about what I can expect?”

“You’ve probably dealt with most of it already,” Deaton said. “You’ve seen true faces, I assume, and you know that the supernatural will recognize you in return. Have you had visions? Or strange dreams?”

“Nightmares every night this week,” he admitted. “Last night was the worst.”

“That was probably the power transfer. I’ve heard it can be rough.” Deaton looked as if he wanted to say more but they all heard the bell on the front door chime. The vet turned to Scott. “I know you’re not working, but if you could get them settled, I’ll finish up with Stiles.”

Scott nodded and went off to do as the vet asked. Deaton turned to Stiles. “I can tell you this: you might not realize it yet but the power you have now will need fine-tuning. You’re going to have to think about training.”

“Okay,” Stiles said with a nod. “I can do...training. I guess.”

“You also need to be careful, in a way you haven’t before,” he said. “Before now, unless someone connected you with Scott or Derek or werewolves in general, you could be passed over by a supernatural being. But just as you can see them, they can see you now.”

“Why did I scare Scott?” he wanted to know. “He couldn’t explain.”

“Some have described it as seeing an infinite darkness looking back at them from your eyes but I think it’s different for different beings. Just know that they can and you won’t necessarily make friends when they do.”

“Great, another target on my back,” Stiles mused. “It wasn’t enough to be the one squishy human around.”

Deaton offered him a small smile. “There’s more I’d like to tell you, but I don’t have time now. If you want to come back after I close up?”

Stiles sighed because it wasn’t like he really had a choice. “See you then,” he said. “Thanks, Dr. Deaton.”

The vet offered him a nod before he left Stiles alone with his thoughts, which had yet to stop racing since he had opened Marta’s letter earlier that day. After werewolves, magical hunter blood wasn’t that hard to accept, except where it applied to him, Stiles Stilinski. Nothing about him really spoke much to being destined to be a great slayer of evil supernatural beings, which was probably why Deaton said he’d need to train. The thought didn’t delight. He had a feeling that no amount of destiny was really going to make it easier for him.

He and Scott left Deaton’s and Stiles remembered to shoot off a quick text to his dad that he was going to hang with Scott for the rest of the day. It was a good cover for when he went back to Deaton’s after 5 and, with the chest locked and key around Stiles’s neck, his secret was safe for the moment. He did spend the day with Scott, although they decided not to focus on supernatural weirdness. Instead, Scott told Stiles about his determination to study all summer in preparation for junior year and Stiles definitely wanted to help, so they ended up at the local bookstore, going through stacks of used paperbacks, looking for titles from the reading list Stiles pulled up on his phone.

They left with two bulging plastic shopping bags of cheap books with plans to share them as needed between them. Scott was telling Stiles all about the SAT vocabulary prep page he had bookmarked on his computer as they headed to Stiles’s Jeep, parked half-way across the strip mall parking lot, when Stiles felt something like a pins-and-needles awareness creep up his spine. He stopped walking and turned sharply, searching around for the source of the feeling.

He was surprised when his eyes landed on Jackson and Isaac standing near Jackson’s car, parked near the hardware store. The pair was an incongruous sight, despite their shared douchey propensity for unnecessary scarves, but Stiles knew from Scott that Jackson was getting his Werewolf 101 education from Derek. What really surprised Stiles -- although it would have to stop surprising him soon, he supposed -- was the way the two young werewolves were staring back at him.

Stiles narrowed his eyes and Jackson’s face slipped first, flashing him a second of his true, wolfy face and the lapse seemed to ripple to Isaac a second later. It was still fascinating to see and Stiles held his gaze on him, even as he watched Jackson’s eyes widen when he noticed that Stiles was still watching. Something made Stiles take a few steps toward them and he watched as they both flinched at the action: Jackson reared back until his shoulders hit his car and Isaac’s shoulders hunched a little before he looked back to challenge Stiles’s interest with fanged teeth bared.

That drew a low grow from Scott, still at Stiles’s side, reminding Stiles that they were having a weird stand-off in a busy mall parking lot, still far enough away from each other that the werewolves would need to shout before Stiles could hear them. He laid a hand on Scott’s shoulder and jostled him out of his staring contest with Isaac. “Come on,” he said, grabbing his friend by the neck and directing him toward his Jeep like he was a misbehaving puppy. “That was weird, let’s just go.”

“Sure,” Scott said, letting himself be steered. “I guess it was more of your new stuff, huh?”

“Yeah,” Stiles agreed. “It’s gonna take some getting used to.”

Scott set the bag of books down in the back as he climbed in. “But you have to admit, after years of his crap, it was kind of cool that you could intimidate Jackson with a look.”

Stiles slid the keys into the ignition but didn’t start the Jeep, thinking back. “I’ll concede that,” he said. “Is this what you felt like when your werewolf powers kicked in?”

Scott shrugged. “I was more excited that I could play lacrosse and Allison liked me but yeah, a little.”

“Well you’ve always been a kinder, gentler soul than I, Scotty,” Stiles pointed out, a philosophical lilt to his words. “Me, I’ve got a mean streak a mile wide.”

“I don’t know about that,” Scott said.

Stiles started the car. “I do, buddy,” he said. “I do.”

Stiles had always been aware that he was a little more ruthless than his heart-of-gold friend and had just chalked it up to the fundamental differences in their personalities but he wondered if that difference had something to do with the “infinite darkness” that now lived in his eyes. Stiles wasn’t an evil person or even a bad one but he had seen during the last six months where Scott had struggled to deal with the death portion of their supernatural adventures, Stiles had less so.

Scott wanted to save everyone and believed it could be done while Stiles...sometimes he had found himself a little more down with Derek’s modus operandi of teeth-and-claws now, questions later. He wouldn’t have let the guy kill Lydia or anyone he really cared about but if death had been the only way to stop Jackson? Stiles couldn’t imagine that he would’ve cried all that much over the dude’s dead body. And he definitely hoped that Gerard Argent was rotting wherever he was.

It was more reflection to add to the pile of thoughts already cluttering up Stiles’s mind and he resigned himself to a few more sleepless nights, even without the specter of nightmares. Just like with werewolves, these new revelations were rewriting everything Stiles knew, except it wasn’t just reality under assault, it was the reality of his own self. And even if he was just a spastic teenager with a love-hate relationship with danger, Stiles had never really questioned himself before in the midst of it all. But now he had to, making him all the more eager for whatever he could learn from Deaton. More than most, Stiles knew he needed to understand before he could accept.

He knew one thing, though: his hopes for a boring summer were already thoroughly dashed.

**

Derek could sense the betas’ agitation before they had even gotten halfway up the stairs to the loft. He paused where he had been sweeping up the dust and debris scattered across the floor, trying to bring a vague semblance of habitability to the space. He didn’t need much and the loft had fit the bill: more secure and easily defensible than any of his other choices and far enough away from other residential areas that he felt like he had some level of solitude within his own walls.

Peter, sitting on the iron stairs, looked up as Jackson and Isaac’s footsteps grew closer and he glanced at Derek, as if he, too, could sense distress coming from the teenagers. A moment later, the door slid open and the two boys were there, both carrying the goods from the hardware store he’d sent them after.

With only a few weeks of actual training between them, Derek was less able to read Jackson’s expression but he recognized the stricken one on Isaac’s face. “What?” he demanded, letting the handle of the industrial broom drop from his hold. “What happened?”

The boys exchanged a look and Derek steeled himself for news about the Alpha Pack. They had been quiet since the warning painted on the door of the Hale House but Derek had been trying to prepare for whatever they would bring. He still didn’t know where Boyd and Erica were and he didn’t plan to lose any more of his pack if he could help it.

Out of everything Derek might’ve expected to hear, what Isaac said wasn’t it. “We saw Scott and Stiles at the store.”

Derek let his confusion cover the fact that he was startled to hear Stiles’s name for the first time in weeks. Isaac had spoke of Scott since they saw each other when they helped at the vet but Derek had been careful to keep his distance both from them. Especially Stiles, who he technically had no reason to see. He was just Scott’s annoying human friend, no matter what he had done for Derek since they had met. “So?” he prompted when Jackson and Isaac shared a look between them, like neither wanted to continue.

It was Jackson who let out a disgusted noise and broke off his staring contest with Isaac. “There’s something wrong with Stilinski,” he spit out. “I don’t know what but…”

“He’s not right,” Isaac continued. “He’s not...Stiles.”

Derek tried to pretend like he didn’t feel something leaden in his stomach at his betas’ words, didn’t feel something wrong crawling up his spine.

“Huh,” Peter said from his roost on the stairs, reminding everyone of his presence. “That could mean any number of terrible and terrifying things.”

“Tell me,” Derek ordered. “Everything.”

As Derek listened, he tried to ignore the wolf crying in the back of his head, the annoying voice that told him that if he didn’t want to lose any more of his pack, that he meant he couldn’t lose Stiles.

**

“This is a terrible idea,” Stiles said under his breath for what was probably the twentieth time since he had climbed in his Jeep that morning. “This is the terriblest idea.”

The night before he had met with Deaton for a few hours and got the gist of what Deaton thought he needed to do in order to get a handle on his newfound abilities. The powers Marta had mentioned hadn’t just included the true-face thing he had already experienced or, apparently, visions to help guide him. No, there was always physical abilities as well.

“You’re saying that I’m a superhero now?” Stiles had asked dubiously when Deaton had mentioned enhanced strength, speed, improved reflexes and quicker healing.

“Not quite,” Deaton had answered with a small smile. “But you aren’t quite as ‘squishy’ as you were before.”

The point he had been trying to make was that none of it would do Stiles much good if he didn’t get training to put it to good use. And who did Deaton suggest would be the ideal candidate to train up a fledgling Grimm?

Chris freaking Argent, of course.

Which was why Stiles had gotten up that morning, ignored the warning bells in his head, and driven over to the apartment building that the Argents had moved to after Gerard had disappeared. Stiles was glad he wouldn’t have to return to the house where he’d been dragged and beaten a month before.

Still, it didn’t mean he wanted to go to Chris Argent for help.

Finally the elevator reached the Argents’ floor and Stiles knocked on the door with all the happiness of a man facing an execution. Deaton hadn’t exactly told him how to get Argent to agree to train him, other than by telling him the truth but Stiles wasn’t sure how much traction that would get him. It wasn’t like Scott -- and, by extension, he -- didn’t have a complicated relationship with the Argent family.

It was after his second knock that the door opened and there stood Mr. Argent, surprise evident on his face. “Stiles,” he said in that deep, rumbling way he had. “I thought you’d be aware that Allison is gone for the summer.”

“I am,” he said. “I’m here to talk to you.”

Argent raised an eyebrow but made no move to let him in.

“Deaton told me to come to you,” Stiles said. “I need help and it’s not really a conversation I want to have in the hall, you know?”

Argent backed up and let Stiles enter the apartment. It was nice, he noticed, and didn’t seem to have room or privacy where Argent could string up teenagers and torture them. That alone made it an improvement over their old house.

“After recent events, I thought it would be best for me and my daughter if I got out of the business, so to speak,” Argent said. “I’m not sure why Alan sent you to me for help.”

Stiles took a deep breath and hoped he wasn’t going to regret this. “My mom’s cousin died recently,” he said.

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

Stiles shook his head. “I didn’t really know her but she sent me stuff because I’m basically the last one still alive on that side of my family.” Stiles’s fingers worried at the hem of his T-shirt. “Do you know what a Grimm is?”

Argent’s eyes widened in surprise. “Are you saying that you…?”

“Have you ever heard of Marta Gajos?” Stiles asked.

The surprise on Argent’s face became shock. “Marta Gajos was your mother’s cousin?”

Stiles nodded.

Argent finally sat down and Stiles copied him, collapsing into a nearby chair. “I worked with her once, years ago,” he finally said. “Grimms...we Argents primarily concern ourselves with werewolves, but Grimms, like your cousin...there are things you can’t even begin to imagine and that’s what they often deal with. But even before that incidence, I knew of her by reputation.”

“Yeah, so she died and now I’m this Grimm thing,” Stiles said. “Deaton said I need to train if I want to be able to do what she could with these ‘powers’ or whatever. And if I’m some kind of magical hunter, we figured that you’d be the best person to teach me what to do with it.”

“I hardly think you’re suddenly going to become a werewolf hunter, Stiles,” Argent said dryly. “I don’t think your loyalties are that divided.”

“No, you’re right but my family’s motto seems to be more about protecting innocents than murdering werewolves,” Stiles replied. “And I know enough about how you guys go after wolves, thanks. What I’m talking about is learning how to fight, to use the chest full of crazy weapons Marta sent me. Even if I wanted Scott to teach me that, he couldn’t. He doesn’t fight like a human and that’s what I am, no matter whatever kind of supernatural power-up I have.”

Argent gave him a long, searching look. It was interesting how relieved Stiles was to be faced with someone who wasn’t suddenly flinching if they looked too long into his eyes. Stiles held Argent’s gaze. “You’re serious?”

“Absolutely,” he said. “If you’re out of the business, it looks like I’m all the hunter Beacon Hills has left.”

“Hopefully it won’t need me or you,” Argent said.

“Because we’re that lucky,” Stiles said.

Argent almost smiled.

“Look, I’m not like your family or probably even Marta. I’m not going to go looking for trouble. But if it comes here, I want to be able to help. In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m kind of the brains around here.”

“Well, you do choose to associate with teenage werewolves,” Agent said. “Hardly surprising that you have the most sense among them.”

“Anyway,” Stiles said. “What do you say?”

“I’ve always admired your bravery even when I thought it doubled as stupidity,” Argent said after a minute.

“Thanks?”

“What I mean is...yes, I’ll help you.” Argent pointed a finger at him. “But you have to take this seriously. Don’t waste my time.”

“I wouldn’t waste mine,” Stiles said.

“I’ll call you in a few days once I’ve got an idea of how I want to do this.”

“None of the kidnapping, surprise attack stunts you pulled on Allison,” Stiles warned. “I won’t like it and my dad will take it seriously.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” he said.

Stiles stood, wiping his sweaty palms down the thighs of his jeans. “So, yeah, that was it. Thanks.”

Stiles called Scott, who was at Deaton’s for work, once he was on the road home to let him know the good news, if it could be called that. Stiles still wasn’t sure if he was ready to put himself in the hands of any Argent for anything but at least Chris Argent had proven to be the least crazy of the Argent adults he had met. The fact that he wanted to leave hunting behind entirely only made him more sane in Stiles’s opinion. He wondered if Allison shared her father’s opinion or if that was part of the reason she was off to Europe for the summer.

After his meeting with Argent, Stiles stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few things and did the ‘true face’ thing twice more on random people he passed. One looked like a hamster or something and it scurried away post-haste when it saw Stiles and another, a woman, looked feathered and didn’t even seem to notice Stiles at all. Stiles was beginning to realize how much more there was to the supernatural world of Beacon Hills than werewolves and their associated issues but at least these other beings seemed to keep to themselves.

Stiles’s world was growing weirder every day.

Once he was home and certain that his dad was snoring peacefully in his room in preparation for covering the night shift, Stiles used the key he still wore around his neck to unlock Marta’s chest. He didn’t know why but he wanted to touch everything again, run his fingers over the old blades of the knives, down the age-worn spines of the books, across the cool glass of the unknown liquids housed within. He knew he couldn’t but it was like he wanted to absorb the knowledge through the tips of his fingers.

He had dinner with his dad before the Sheriff left for his shift, then Stiles settled on his bed with his computer and Marta’s werewolf book. He started at the beginning of the book, skipping over the random paragraphs in languages he didn’t read. It looked less like a book, he realized, and more like a compendium of information left by past Grimms on the subject of werewolves. There was no real rhyme or reason to the way the information was organized.

The drawings were badass, though.

Stiles pushed the book aside to run downstairs for a soda. When he came back up the stairs, he couldn’t help but notice that the bedroom light was off, where it hadn’t been before. Sure, the bulb could’ve decided to die while he’d been downstairs but it seemed unlikely. His steps slowed and he wished he had grabbed the aluminum baseball bat his dad kept near the front door. Part of him wanted to run from whatever might be waiting in his room but another part said he could face it. That second part was probably what Chris Argent considered stupidity.

Stiles had barely reached the door to push it open when a hand -- clawed, definitely werewolfy -- had a hold of him, dragging him into the room and throwing him up against in the wall. In the dark, Stiles struggled to see his attacker but that didn’t stop him from lashing out, arms and legs, trying to free himself from whoever’s hold. Through some stroke of magically-inherited luck, Stiles’s elbow slammed into the werewolf’s snout and Stiles was free. He heard a grunt of pain even as he scrambled for the light switch, which he managed to turn on right before he was grabbed again, pinned against the now-closed door by a heavy arm laid across his collarbone.

Once his eyes adjusted to the light, Stiles found himself nose-to-nose with the true face of a werewolf, far more actual wolf than the three he’d seen already. Dark fur and red eyes and, somehow, a sadness deeper than Stiles knew he usually wore on his beautiful, human features.

“Derek,” he whispered as everything came into sharp focus -- Derek’s usual face, his bloodied nose, the fact that he could feel the sting in his elbow that had caused the injury that was already healing before his eyes. The fact that he had managed to hit, to hurt Derek at all.

“...Stiles.”

The werewolf had always been a man of few words.

**

Derek had been disturbed by his betas’ report about Stiles, but not so much that he hadn’t decided to wait until he could catch Stiles home alone without his father in the house. He watched until the Sheriff left and let himself in through the window of Stiles’s room when the boy ran downstairs. He flicked off the lights to give himself an advantage, since he didn’t know what exactly he would be facing.

As Peter had said, a report of Stiles “not being Stiles” could mean a number of things, none of which were good, especially since he had smelled the fear that both his betas had felt faced with whatever Stiles currently was. Something about Stiles -- skinny, defenseless Stiles -- had scared Isaac and Jackson. It was worrisome, to say the least.

But for all the things Derek had feared, what he actually saw once he came face-to-face with Stiles had never even entered his mind.

Derek’s breaths were quick and his nose still throbbed from where Stiles -- Stiles -- had managed to jab him with his elbow, a fact that had surprised him enough that he had dropped his hold. But now Derek had Stiles pinned against the wall, subdued, and he could look into Stiles’s eyes and he understood exactly why his betas had come to the loft confused and scared.

It started with the black hole that now existed in Stiles’s eyes.

Behind the color -- the same amber brown they had always been -- there was a depth, a darkness that reflected back at Derek everything that Derek knew of himself and the world. It was intense, penetrating; it held a wisdom beyond all their ages, held magic that sent shivers up Derek’s spine. It chilled him even though he knew he’d never be able to find the words to explain why. It was like looking into the yawning infinity of space.

It was looking into the eyes of a Grimm.

“Derek,” he heard Stiles say and he could only answer with “Stiles,” not knowing exactly what else to say faced with the tectonic shifting of his reality. Stiles was a Grimm, the thing that was basically a supernatural creature’s version of a boogeyman, the thing they grew up to fear even more than hunters like the Argents. Because Grimms were magic on top of ruthless and they could see down into your truest soul.

Which meant Stiles could see down into Derek’s.

Before he realized it, Derek had jerked away from Stiles, releasing him from his hold.

“Thanks,” Stiles said as he took a deep breath, like Derek’s grip had deprived him of air. “What was with the rough handling anyway?”

Derek had to concentrate to answer, his instincts still running high and agitated -- still trying to reconcile Stiles with Grimm. “Isaac and Jackson said that there was something wrong with you.”

“So you came to check on me?” He sounded delighted.

“To kill you, if need be,” he clarified.

Stiles frowned. “Just when I think our friendship has evolved past idle threats.”

“It wasn’t idle,” Derek said. “They made it sound like you were possessed. Sometimes that’s the only way to deal with situations like those.”

“Possession? Like demonic possession? That’s a thing I have to worry about, too? Great,” Stiles said. He glanced up sharply, catching Derek’s eyes. Derek had to work hard not to react, still unused to the darkness he saw in their depths. “You know I’m not possessed, right?”

“I realize that,” Derek agreed. “You’re Grimm.”

“Well, you’re pretty dire yourself, sourwolf, but I try not to judge. Much.” The humor faded. “So you know I am.”

Derek let out a mirthless mockery of a laugh. “Yeah, Stiles, I do. I grew up on stories about your kind.”

“What kind of stories?”

“You’re our version of the Big Bad Wolf.”

Stiles winced. “Yikes, that’s some bad press, right there.” Derek hadn’t even realized that he was avoiding Stiles’s gaze again until he noticed how hard Stiles was trying to catch his. Derek let their eyes meet and, finally, he could see Stiles there instead of just Grimm, could see the different kind of intensity that was Stiles’s alone. Derek was never quite sure what that tangle of earnestness and frankness meant when Stiles looked at him like that. He’d tried more than once to catch the scent that went with it but he could never discern anything outside of Stiles’s unique scent overlaid with the usual jumble of lust-restlessness-medication that followed him everywhere. “Derek, man, you have to know that nothing’s changed, right? It’s not like I’m suddenly your enemy.”

“Then why do you smell like Chris Argent?” Derek asked.

“Because Deaton said I needed someone to teach me how to defend myself and Argent is the only person I know who would have any idea on how to use half of the weapons that Marta sent me.” Stiles shook his head. “Look, I can tell this is freaking you out but this is happening to me. I am way beyond freaked out whenever I let myself think about it too hard.” He let out a sigh as he sank down to sit on the edge of his bed. “I mean, shit, I actually landed an effective jab on you. That’s enough to blow my mind.”

“I was surprised, not hurt,” he said. “You’re hardly a threat.”

“Exactly!” Stiles agreed, complete with flailing arms. “Just because my cousin died and all I got was this lousy double-vision thing and a trunk full of books and weapons doesn’t change that. Right?”

Derek could hear the entreaty in Stiles’s voice. “Right,” he finally said and watched as the tension bled from Stiles’s shoulders. “Nothing’s changed.”

“Good,” Stiles said. “Great, even.”

Derek headed for the window.

“Hey, you’re leaving? Just like that?”

“I just came to make sure we didn’t have another situation like the kanima on our hands,” he said. “I have, we don’t, so, yes, now I’m leaving. Goodbye, Stiles.”

Derek didn’t wait for the kid’s reply even though he could hear it as he was walking toward the street. “Oh, so all I have to do to get you to check in is gain weird magical hunting powers. Fan-freaking-tastic.”

Derek wasn’t sure what the words meant, so he ignored them. He was still busy dealing with the fact that Stiles had become a Grimm. That Stiles was now something else, something different than what Derek had come to know him as. Derek didn’t appreciate change or unknown mixing around with the things he had already sorted and dealt with. Stiles had already had a bad habit of escaping the boxes where Derek’s mind put him -- nuisance, sidekick, enemy, ally, something-else-to-be-ignored -- but now he had run amok of it all. Derek didn’t know what to think.

When he reached the loft, the only person still there was Peter and his uncle was waiting for a report with baited breath.

“So,” he began by way of greeting when Derek walked in. “I don’t see any blood so I’m assuming you didn’t have to murder your favorite little human?”

Derek ignored the jab about Stiles being his favorite. “He’s not possessed. He’s a Grimm.”

Even Peter couldn't keep up his feigned boredom at that. “Our little Stiles is a Grimm? That’s...way more interesting than anything I had thought of.”

“He mentioned a Marta,” Derek told him. “Sound familiar?”

“There was a Marta Gajos some years ago that was said to be a Grimm,” Peter admitted. “Could very well be her.”

“That’s why Jackson and Isaac were afraid of him,” Derek said.

Peter was watching him with his pale, assessing eyes. “Are you saying you weren’t when you saw him?”

Derek closed his eyes, remembering. “It wasn’t fear, exactly, but it wasn’t pleasant.”

“I look forward to my next meeting with him,” Peter said. “I’ve never faced a Grimm before.”

Derek snorted. “No telling what he’ll see if he looks at your true face.”

Peter waved a hand, accepting Derek’s words. “It would’ve made an interesting case study had he accepted the bite when I offered.”

Derek felt himself go cold. “You did what?”

Peter rolled his eyes like he was over Derek’s growling questions. “It was a lifetime ago now, quite literally. But he helped me find you when Kate Argent had you and I offered. He declined.” Somehow Stiles had probably rambled about a million useless words in Derek’s hearing since then but that had never come up. When he glanced back at Peter, he was watching Derek with a quirked eyebrow. “I wonder what he’d say if you were the alpha with the teeth on his wrist? Not that it would matter. Grimms are immune to the bite.”

“Why are you still here?” Derek wanted to know. “As you’ve said more than once, you have a much nicer apartment waiting for you.”

“We were so close when you were younger, Derek,” Peter said. “Don’t you miss it?”

“Since you murdered Laura, tried to kill me and came back from the dead? Not really.”

“Now, now,” Peter chided. “No need to be so rude.”

Derek rolled his eyes and resisted the urge to slit Peter’s throat -- again. He settled for growling, deep and low. His uncle stood up, hands raised in mock surrender. “Fine,” Peter said. “I’ll leave you to your brooding. But at least Stiles has turned out to be of some use.”

Derek hated himself even as he asked, “What do you mean?”

Peter’s smile was smug and chilly. “Well if anything is going to distract the Alpha Pack from us, it’s going to be the presence of a new and wholly unprepared Grimm. At least he’ll have bought us some time while they track him down and gut him.”

Derek was rooted to the spot by Peter’s words, which allowed his uncle to lean in close as he passed. “It’s a pity,” he whispered in Derek’s ear. “I think I’ll miss him.”

The heavy sound of the loft door closing echoed around him but it still wasn’t as heavy as the sound of his beating heart at the thought of losing Stiles to the Alpha Pack.