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this race is a prophecy

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As part of their court (read, sheriff) ordained reparations to the Beacon Hills community at large, Stiles and Scott had been signed up for the charity committee at school. This meant that on the days where they weren’t at practice they were busy making posters, or running bake sales or taking ticket stubs for the charity concert. It was a pretty effective way of preventing them from getting involved in too much werewolf shenanigans as well, although Scott still had to run off from time to time to take care of, quote: alpha business.

Stiles was just in the ‘grin and bear it’ frame of mind, because yeah last year he was possessed and nearly died, and kind of killed a few people and he was enjoying how quiet things had been since then.

One day he was loading a box of flyers for the summer fun run he’d just copied into the back of his jeep when Derek Hale pulled up in his stupid shiny Camaro.

“Hey,” he said, calling over to Stiles. When Stiles just kept loading the flyers and not turning around he hissed, “Don’t ignore me Stiles!”

“Argh, what?” Stiles said, slamming the trunk door on the jeep.

“Just a heads up,” Derek said. “There’s a sorceress in town. Thought you should know.”

And then he just drove off.

“What an asshole,” Stiles said, to the empty parking lot.

 

---

Stiles’ dad had paid Danny to put a safesearch thing on his computer that even Stiles couldn’t get through, so when he tried to unleash a little google-fu on the whole Sorceress thing, all he got was links to disney fanfiction. When he got into school the next morning he had to help Scott put fun run banners up so they discussed it then.

“That was all he said?” Scott was balancing on the chair, tilted so it stood on two legs. Stiles was just hovering, wringing his hands. “Just, sorceress, thought you should know? He’s so annoying.”

“Preach,” Stiles said, jerking when Scott swung his center of gravity over to one side and the chair rolled onto one leg. He pinned up the middle section of the banner. If someone were to walk in, Stiles would struggle to explain Scott’s preternatural agility and strength, but then the number of folks at Beacon High who didn’t know Scott was a werewolf was really dwindling. “Dude could you not?”

“How does he even know about this sorceress anyway?” Scott asked, then he dropped down, the chair falling onto four legs with a clatter. “Wait- that must be the smell!”

“Smell? This is a smell thing? Why is it always a smell thing?” Stiles grimaced and Scott smacked him on the shoulder. He shoved the chair along. There was still like, a foot of banner to hang.

“There’s been a weird smell,” he said, fumbling about for more thumb tacks. “Like, kind of metallic, and only at night. I just thought maybe it was the weather or something.”

“The weather doesn’t smell,” Stiles said. He watched as Scott finished with the banner, then nearly fell over scrambling out of the way when Scott jumped down.

“Uh, actually,” Scott rubbed the back of his neck. “It kinda does? Rain is kind of- it has a smell. You can smell it coming. And thunder too.”

Stiles just shook his head. Three years now, and the werewolf thing was just getting weirder. There were no limits to the depths of weird shit that could befall Stiles Stilinski, evidently.

“I know what we can do,” he said, because a kernel of a plan was forming. “About the sorceress thing.”

--

“Okay I checked,” Allison said, slamming her book bag down on the library table. Scott started to talk, but she flashed him a look that made him swallow whatever he was going to say. Stiles patted his arm. “Turns out the sorceress thing is a big deal.”

“So it’s not just like, fluffy, happy and totally harmless? Aww man!” Stiles was getting better at ducking, but this time Allison’s hunter reflexes were too quick.

“Don’t hit him,” Scott said, which earned him a glare.

“A sorceress,” Allison said, clearly interested in a change of subject, “is a witch who has ascended,” she pulled out a sheath of printouts from somewhere, the bestiary maybe. “According to Lydia who- by the way you need to call her and say thank you, she was up all night translating - the sorceress has like, astronomical power. Power that comes along once every century. The bestiary says a sorceress can ‘turn daylight into the pitch black of night, and reign down a plague upon a whole city.’”

There was a pause at that which Stiles would generously call contemplative.

“Maybe she’s a nice sorceress?” Stiles finally managed. Allison ignored him.

“Anyway, it says they are so powerful that their magic can be sensed from miles around, so I guess that’s why you smell something,” Allison shrugged and pushed the papers over the table. “So there’s your answer. Super magical witch, possibly going to bring plague upon us all.”

“Ugh, I thought we were so done with this stuff,” Stiles said. “It’s senior year. I am taking too many AP classes for this crap again.”

“If you take my advice,” Allison said, getting up and shoving her chair under the table, “Which you won’t but whatever, you’ll just not get involved. If the sorceress gets up to something bad, I can guarantee we’ll deal with it.”

Stiles waited until she was totally out of the library before he whispered, “She’s scary now. It’s kind of hot.”

Scott just looked a bit like he’d been punched in the balls.

---

The next day, an honest to god circus rolled up into Beacon Hills. It set up camp on the scrubby field next to the gas station, and started erecting striped tents and fairground rides and stuff. Stiles watched while his dad was pumping gas, and saw what he was pretty sure was a lion being pulled about on a leash by a little girl.

“Is that even legal?” he asked, when his dad dropped back into the car.

“They have a permit,” he said. Stiles pressed his forehead against the glass. Maybe they had like, four-boobed women or something like that. He wanted to go. “It’s the first time there’s been a circus here since I was a boy though,” the sheriff added. “I took your mom to one on a date. We rode the big wheel.”

He had a kind of sweet, wistful tone to his voice, and it made Stiles sad and happy all at the same time. It was cool that they could talk more about his mom nowadays.

“Did it work?” Stiles asked, as they pulled away and the circus disappeared in the rear mirror. “The big wheel thing?”

“Absolutely,” his dad laughed. “Girls love that stuff.”

---

Stiles found Lydia and Allison on the bleachers, with their lunch. It was a really nice day, actually. The lacrosse field smelled like freshly cut grass, Lydia had little shorts on, and she was stretching her bare legs out in the sun.

“Hey gorgeous ladies,” Stiles said, and it was a testament to the unifying power of freaky supernatural experiences that neither of them yelled at him to fuck off. He took a seat beside them. “I have a totally awesome idea for something we could do at the weekend.”

“Does it involve the sorceress?” Lydia said. “Because I am not into that. I am taking too many AP classes to get involved with any more of your supernatural stuff.”

Allison grimaced.

“Uh, no. Scott got some really good advice about that that he is totally going to follow,” Stiles said; lied actually because Scott had disappeared with vaguely wolfy things to do, and Stiles was pretty sure they involved tracking down the sorceress and getting into trouble. Stiles hadn’t asked because well, the scar on his side hurt, and he’d only just started sleeping properly again, and sometimes, when it was quiet and dark, he still felt like he wasn’t alone inside his own head.

Allison and Lydia were looking at him expectantly.

“Uh, just the circus. I thought maybe we could go. Get cotton candy, throw shit at coconuts, do normal teenager stuff for a change.”

“Ooh,” Lydia sat right up. “I love it! I have the cutest outfit and since you’ve been moping all summer-” that was directed at Allison who did look kind of contrite. “I haven’t had a chance to wear it.”

“You see that is a total coincidence, as I also have a cute outfit that-oww!” Stiles was close enough to the end of the bleachers that when Lydia smacked him with her handbag he just tumbled right off.

---

Of course, Stiles couldn’t have anything good happening in his life without the wolf squad turning up and pooping his party. He was just booting up Skyrim after a seriously epic homework session, trying to keep on top of his calculus, when Scott fell face first through the window.

“You know ‘no Scott after 9pm’ isn’t nullified by you coming in through the window,” Stiles said. The ‘no Scott after 9pm’ rule had been instituted in an attempt to prevent Stiles from being possessed by an evil demon again.  It was a rule that Stiles was behind, in principle, but he got the feeling that if he was going to be possessed again, whatever was doing the possessing wouldn’t be too picky about the time, or whether Scott was around.

“Sorry man, but I was just at a pack meeting-”

“Pack meeting? Oh my god, do you light a bonfire and talk about your feelings? Does Derek make snacks?”

“Shut up,” Scott pelted a pillow from Stiles’ own bed at his head, and onscreen the dragonborn accidentally rode off a cliff on his horse.

“Thanks man, now I’m dead,” Stiles said. Scott didn’t seem to care.

“So we have some issues,” Scott said. “This sorceress thing is ongoing and weird. Do you have any idea why she’d only be doing her thing at night?”

“Do I?” Stiles said, confused.

“I dunno, haven’t you been researching this?” Scott seemed completely puzzled by the idea that Stiles might have not been doing his usual thing of scouring the internet. To be honest, Stiles was puzzled too. Usually he was all over this kind of thing, even since- he was you know, violently de-possessed.  Something about the whole sorceress thing though, it just made his skin itch, he didn’t really want to know.

“Dude you know I can’t, my internet is totally blocked off. Plus I’m trying to keep a low profile so my dad doesn’t ground me forever.” Stiles shrugged, but he turned off his PS3 off anyway. “What does Derek think?”

“Derek thinks she’s trying to shield her power during the day. He says that sorceresses can be dangerous because people come from all over to try and steal their power.”

“Well maybe she just wants a normal life. You know? Maybe you guys should just leave her alone.” Stiles sighed and dropped down onto his bed face first. It smelled musty and comforting and safe.

“What’s up with you?” Scott said, but he didn’t sound too mad. “You’ve been totally off the boil ever since Derek told you about the sorceress. Normally you’d be super into hunting her down.”

“I don’t knowww,” Stiles whined. “Hey, do you want to come to that circus with me and Lydia and Allison on Saturday?” Scott made a noise that was best described as uncertain. Stiles just kept going.

“I mean, I know it’s all super awkward with Allison, but maybe you know, you guys could be friends? You could even bring Kira. Don’t pretend you haven’t been hanging out with her.”

“Dude,” Scott said, but didn’t continue, because Kira still occupied that nebulous outsider position and ever since last year she always walked round Stiles in the corridors at school and sometimes even hid behind lockers to avoid him. He assumed that she felt bad about the time she electrocuted a demon out of him.

---

Scott did come, and he did bring Kira. It was awkward for all of 2 minutes, until she fell over a trash can and Stiles couldn’t really hate her, because she was too cute to hate. Even Allison was charmed. Stiles could tell by the way her dimple kept appearing now and then when Kira was particularly goofy.

“Do you think there are clowns here?” Stiles asked. He was riding a fluffy pink cloud of joy, because Lydia Martin, girl of his dreams was currently holding his elbow. To be honest, Gerard Argent could have turned up along with Peter Hale and a legion of Kanima, and Stiles would still be in a good mood.

“Probably, it is a circus after all,” she said. “Are you scared of clowns?”

“Moderately,” Stiles looked around. He couldn’t see any. Maybe he was safe. Allison and Kira were standing watching Scott measure his strength with a mallet which didn’t look like it had been werewolf tested.

“I want cotton candy,” Lydia said, sounding a little bored. She looked at Stiles expectantly for a moment, then he realized that she wanted him to get her cotton candy.

“Your wish is my command,” he said, and nearly fell over himself to get over to the stall.  It wasn’t until he was over there, and everyone else was distracted by Allison winning a giant stuffed animal on the air rifle range, that Derek Hale appeared at the side of the stall. The first thing Stiles thought was how weird it was to see him adjacent to so much fluffy pastel colored sugar.

“You look like shit,” Derek said, which wow, what a charmer. “Are you sleeping?”

“I sleep amazingly,” Stiles said, because he had been. No more Nogitsune style nightmares, just complete and utter oblivion. “Did you just come to insult me while I’m having a good day?”

“No,” Derek leaned over, way too far into Stiles’ personal space bubble. He smelled like aftershave and coffee and grumpy asshole. “I came here to warn you that the circus is in town for the sorceress.”

“So?” Stiles handed over a ten dollar bill and ouch, got back his cotton candy and less than two bucks in change.

So, it means that this place is full of shady people. The kind of people who wouldn’t think twice about capturing say a werewolf or his kitsune girlfriend and keeping them prisoners as part of the freak show.” Derek hissed, between his ridiculous, big white werewolf teeth.

“I pretty sure they broke up,” Stiles whispered. “So this place is dangerous for all you magical werepeople. Why don’t you tell him that?”

“I am,” Derek said, darkly, and slunk off into the stalls before Stiles could say anything else. Asshole.

---

“I’m pretty sure he’s being overdramatic,” Scott said, while they were in line for the big wheel. He looked a bit freaked out, because Allison and Kira were getting on like a house on fire. Stiles could have told him to expect that; it took a special kind of lady to put up with his wolfy bullshit. They had a lot in common.

“Derek is often overdramatic,” Stiles conceded. “But you know, just keep your nose peeled for trouble or something.”

Scott might have answered, but Stiles wasn’t really listening, because Lydia had grabbed his elbow again and was dragging him into the carriage, and just like that the two of them were squashed up together on the big wheel, alone.

“This might be the happiest day of my life,” Stiles said, honestly, and to his surprise, Lydia smiled at that.

“You’re cute,” she said, reaching over to tweak his nose.

It was pretty cool, actually, to be up so high on a nice summer evening. At the top, the carriage slowed to a crawl, and Stiles could see most of Beacon Hills, even the distant gleam of the high school. The sky was big and painted a pretty porcelain blue color, going golden at the horizon where the sun was beginning to set. The air smelled like fried food and burnt sugar and grass. Lydia leaned over the little barrier holding them in and laughed when the carriage swung back and forth.

“This was a good idea,” she said. “Occasionally you do have good ideas.”

“Hey, I often have good ideas,” Stiles said, grinning. Lydia’s smile seemed to concede the point.

“So I know you’re trying to avoid it, and I understand why, but I was reading up on this sorceress thing,” she said. Their carriage was still paused at the top, and it was just them and the glorious view. Scott was two cars down, wedged between Kira and Allison looking profoundly uncomfortable.

“I’m not avoiding it per se,” Stiles began, then sighed. “Yeah okay, I’m avoiding it. It’s just that, it’s the start of senior year, I had such a chill summer, I was kind of hoping everything had settled down.”

“Me too,” Lydia said, making an adorable little downturned face. “Still, the sorceress thing is happening, so I did some research. You know that a sorceress can be anyone- a witch, a normal person, whatever, and one day something happens and bam,” Lydia clapped her hands together, flashing her turquoise nails, “-she’s ascended. Suddenly she has like, enough power to destroy whole cities.”

“So it could be anyone?” Stiles looked at the view with sudden trepidation. “Someone who was already in Beacon Hills?”

“Yeah. And sorceresses aren’t necessarily bad, some have been great people, leaders, priestesses. It’s just what happens when they turn up that is bad.”

At that moment, Stiles was having a really hard time believing that Lydia wasn’t the sorceress herself. The sunset lit up her eyes and made them honey colored, and sparkled in her hair. She looked otherworldly, but then she was. Not because she was a sorceress, because she was Lydia Martin.

“What happens when they turn up?” Stiles asked, distracted. The look Lydia gave in response was dark.

“War,” she said. Stiles’ phone chose that moment to go off in his pocket. It was Scott, two texts in quick succession.

Dude the sorceress is here, this place stinks of magic all of a sudden

also i think the big wheel is broken

That was when Stiles realized that they’d been sitting up there for about fifteen minutes.

---

It took a while, but they got the wheel going again, and when they got to the bottom Scott said that the magic smell was gone.

“It was really, really strong,” he said, still sniffing around in a way that totally wasn’t suspicious. What it actually looked like was creepy. It said so much about how institutionalized they all were to all this werewolf stuff, Stiles thought, that the human contingent were just standing around letting him sniff stuff.

“Felt like static in the air,” Kira agreed. She tugged nervously at the zipper on the front of her hoodie. “Whoever she was, she was here. Then all of a sudden- gone.”

Stiles rubbed at his face. He was tired, his lovely romantic date with Lydia had been totally ruined, and he was totally broke from all the overpriced food and rides and stuff. He kind of wanted to go and sleep.

“Okay,” he said finally, wearily, “how much do you think I’ll have to pay Danny to take the safesearch thing off my computer?”

---

The answer was, nothing. Danny did it for free, or at least for no monetary charge. He did ask Stiles for Derek’s number, but Stiles point blank refused, because there was an unholy coupling if there ever was one.

“He’s straight anyway,” Stiles said, more in the hope it was true than anything else. “I’ve totally seen him macking on women, multiple times.”

Danny smirked, and all he said was “Not the vibe I got.”  Stiles did not ask any further, to preserve his own mental wellbeing.

Even with the restrictions on his internet access gone, and two days worth of Adderall, consumed in somewhat less than two days, Stiles was finding it hard to get anything concrete on sorceresses. They were just one of those supernatural things, like vampires, where there was so much bullshit that the water was kind of muddied. It was hard to tell what was real and what was total rubbish.

“Did your bestiary say anything about immortality?” Stiles asked Allison on Monday, under his breath, because Mr. Wilson was on the prowl.

“No,” she whispered. “We couldn’t translate it all though, some of it was in ancient greek.”

“That is... wow, Lydia doesn’t know greek?”

“Believe me,” Allison said, with rolled eyes, “She’s learning now.”

Wilson drifted past, looking pointedly at Stiles and in a panic he tossed a spoonful of something into his beaker. It began to fizz. When it inevitably exploded, Stiles earned his first detention of the new semester.

---

That night, Stiles stayed up late trying to make sense of all the nonsense Allison had given them. Half translated ancient latin and greek wasn’t really his forte, and in the end he fell asleep fully clothed, on top of the piles of notes and photocopied pages.

He woke up, later, standing on the back step. It was still dark out, and it was clear enough to see the stars, a thick band of brighter night sky, the milky way stretching up from the horizon. The moon was almost new, just a sliver of light. The air smelled fresh, like the forest and clean, damp earth. For a while Stiles just stood there, in a trance.

He was cold. He was just in his shorts and nothing else, bare chested and barefoot. How the hell had he got down to the door?

“Stiles?” His dad was in the kitchen, looking about as confused as he was.

“Huh?” Stiles turned around, and wrapped his arms around his bare chest. “I don’t really know what happened.”

“You were sleepwalking, son,” His dad came over, and he had the plaid blanket from the sofa in his hands. He wrapped it around Stiles really slowly, carefully, like he was made of glass or something even more fragile, and liable to crumble into dust. “It happens sometimes, even before-” he stopped, because it didn’t need to really be said that Stiles’ last adventures into sleepwalking had not been great.

“It did?” Stiles walked inside the kitchen and his dad pulled the door shut.

“Yeah,” his dad puffed out a little laugh and settled the blanket a little better around Stiles’ shoulders. “When you were little you used to come tramping down the stairs and wander into the kitchen and your mother and I would have to coax you back upstairs. You never remembered any of it.”

Stiles went back upstairs, but even in bed, his feet were cold, and his mind felt like it was fizzing, full of energy and focus that had nowhere to go. He couldn’t get back to sleep.

---

The next day, the charity committee made Scott and Stiles manage the book donation exchange at the library. It was a pretty boring job where you sat behind a desk and took donated books, and gave people stickers to thank them for their donation. Not many people dropped by with a book, so they spent most of their time discussing the sorceress and all the progress they had not made identifying her.

“We tried following the scent of the magic last night,” Scott said, which explained why he looked so tired. Stiles had spent the whole of history poking Scott in the head when he fell asleep. “It’s just all over the town. We were just running around in circles.”

“Lydia said it could be anyone,” Stiles said. A kid came up and tried to toss his apple core in the donation bin, “Oi! You- hey pick that up, don’t throw trash in there!”

He glared, until the kid picked the apple up and backed away.

“Little punk,” he muttered. Scott was doodling. It looked like it might be love hearts, but Scott was way too bad at drawing to tell. He had handwriting that pre-schoolers would be embarrassed of.

“Hey what is up with your love life by the way?” Stiles whispered. “Like are you dating Kira?”

“No?” Scott said, like he wasn’t sure.

“Are you dating Allison?”

“No?” Again, uncertainty.

“Maybe you’re the sorceress,” Stiles grumbles. “Really it’s the only way to explain your appeal to so many girls.”

In hindsight, roughhousing behind the book donation stand wasn’t the best thing to get up to. They ended up having to spend an extra hour after they were supposed to be there, just clearing up.

---

On Wednesday of that week, Mr. Burrell, who took Stiles’ AP Calculus class in what would generously be described as the most boring drone ever, called in sick and was replaced by a substitute teacher who caused kind of a thrill across the school.

“She’s so tall,” Lydia whispered, once they were settled at their desk. Tall was not the word Stiles would use. Blistering hot, maybe. She had black hair, slicked to her head in a ponytail, and lips painted bright red. She was wearing a decidedly un-math-teacher-like outfit of leather bomber and skinny jeans, and every time she walked across the board, her heels clicked on the ground.

“Stilinski,” she said, startling Stiles out of his little reverie. She had tattoos for fuck’s sake. All the way down her skinny forearms. Her nails were painted metallic black, and her fingers were covered in silver rings. “Stilinski?”

“Uh, that’s me,” Stiles said, raising a shaky hand.

“You wanna come up here and write down the characteristic polynomial for this one?”

Stiles stared blankly at the board. Right, differential equations. He could do that.

---

“Don’t like her,” Scott said, although his experience of Miss. Patterson was pretty limited since he hadn’t made AP math and was still working his way through, like finding roots of polynomials and shit. “She smells weird.”

“Everything smells weird to you,” Stiles said, annoyed because Scott was being an ass about his new favourite teacher.

“She does smell weird,” Isaac said. “She smells like things teachers shouldn’t smell like.”

“That is so-” Stiles cut himself off in frustration. “What do you think teachers should smell like?”
Allison smacked her tray down beside him, making a racket.

“Well they shouldn’t smell like gun oil,” she said. She looked irritated. When everyone looked at her like she was crazy she said, “What? I have a nose too!”

“Gun oil!” Scott said, shooting straight up in his seat. “That’s what it was! Oh, wait  - that’s not cool.”

“Look,” Stiles looked at Lydia, hoping for support. She just crossed her arms. “Look, maybe she’s a teacher who enjoys recreational gun stuff. I mean, Allison probably smells like gun oil-”

Allison shrugged, because yeah even she knew that was a fair point.

“It’s probably totally innocent.” As he said it though, Stiles knew already that he was going to be proved wrong.

---

The next day was lacrosse practice, a.k.a Scott and Stiles’ only break from the charity stuff. Really, practice for Stiles had become a bit of a spectator sport, just watching Scott and Isaac go at it, and trying his best not to get beaten to a pulp when it was his turn. It was fun, he liked to play, but that evening something was just up. From the moment he put the helmet on, Stiles felt like his head was buzzing, his grip was weak in his gloves, his feet felt further away than usual.

When it was Stiles’ turn in goal, one second he was staring at the whites of Isaac’s eyes, the next he was flat on his back in the dirt, half the team crouched over him.

“Dude,” Scott said. “You okay?”

“Stilinski!” There was Coach, gum rolling around in his mouth, looking like Stiles’  constitution was an affront to his morals. “Did you faint or something?”

“Nah, fell over on purpose,” Stiles said, managing to push up with a grimace until he was sitting. “Of course I fainted.” He dragged his helmet off. His skin felt hot, but his body felt cold. It was not a pleasant combination.

“You look pale, man,” Danny said, from over Coach’s shoulder.

“Sit this one out,” Finstock said, in a way that sounded like he was mad, but really meant he was worried. Coach had been worse at hiding his affection since he took an arrow to the gut. He gave Stiles a great big slap on his back once he was standing, strong enough that it almost made Stiles’ knees buckle a second time.

It wasn’t until he was sitting on the bleachers, resisting the urge to barf that Stiles spotted Miss. Patterson, heading into the boys locker room, looking shifty as all hell.

---

“So now there is potential for her to be like, a sexual predator,” Scott said, once everyone else had gone and they had the locker room to themselves. “I knew she was creepy.”

“Come on man, help me search,” Stiles said. “She must have been doing something in here.”

Scott’s heart was clearly not in it, but he did help a bit, lifting discarded towels and peering behind the lockers. Stiles wasn’t really sure how, but he just knew that she’d done something, changed something about the room.

“Can’t you smell anything?” he asked, irritated.

“Sort of? This is a pretty stinky room though.” Scott made a face and Stiles sympathized with that. The locker room stank, even to his non-wolfy nose, of stale sweat and socks and BO.

In the end it was just chance really. Stiles saw the edge of something dark peeking out from under one of the lockers. It only took Scott a casual shift of his shoulders to move it out of the way and underneath-

“Well, that’s weird,” Stiles said. It was a symbol, a sigil or something, scrawled on the poured concrete floor with what looked like charcoal. A little pile of silvery dust sat in the very center. It looked - like magic.

“Extremely weird,” Scott just stared at it. “It smells bad, a bit magical too. I think that’s actually silver.”

Stiles took out his camera phone, snapped a picture. Then he reached out a hand.

“Don’t touch it!” Scott said. “Oh my god it could do anything!”

Stiles ignored him, because although it was very creepy, and obviously some kind of dodgy magical stuff, he didn’t really feel threatened by it. It didn’t feel like it could do him any harm. It didn’t feel like it had felt when the Nogitsune was taking him over thread by thread.

Under his palm, the dark lines felt a little warm, the silver a little too cold. He scrubbed it away, and the sensation disappeared.

“Huh,” he said, feeling the hair on the back of his arms prickle. He had goosebumps.

“Weird smell is gone,” Scott said, looking at Stiles as if he was the weird one. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said. Weirdly, he did feel way better.

---

“She’s a hunter,” Deaton said, when they took the symbol to him. “Not like the Argents, she doesn’t hunt to protect people.”

Stiles hopped up onto one of the side cabinets, then slid off when that earned him a glare from Deaton. Derek had deigned to show up as well, and was standing in the corner saying nothing, like the lurky, creeptastic stalker he really was.

“So why does she hunt then?” Scott asked.

“She’s like a big game hunter,” Deaton said, sounding concerned. That worried Stiles. Usually Deaton was chill about things that would make normal people have a nervous breakdown. If he was freaking out, then things were bad. “She does it for the status, bagging the big prey. There’s a whole community of them- usually when one shows up, another isn’t far behind. They’ll be after the sorceress.”

“This sorceress,” Derek bit out, sounding pissed off. “Any chance you know who she is?”

“I have made my own enquiries,” Deaton said. “But it appears that during the day at least, she is shrouded in powerful magic that preserves her identity. At night- she is more vulnerable, although I haven’t been able to track her.”

“So no, then,” Derek grumbled. Scott glared at him, and surprisingly, he backed down, slinking against the wall.

“If she’s innocent- we have to do something to protect her,” Scott said, and that- that was exactly why Stiles had been so reluctant at the start of all this, because this was what Scott did, he got all involved in stuff because he was a really good person. Actually it was why Stiles loved him so much.

“This sigil,” Deaton went back to the photo on Stiles’ phone. “It’s a bit like an alarm. It registers whether anyone with magic is nearby. Your hunter must believe the sorceress is a pupil at the school.”

“She probably put one in the girls locker room too,” Scott said, slowly. Deaton shrugged, as if to say likely.

“So how do we find this sorceress then,” Stiles said, feeling pretty tired. “If she’s all protected by magic during the day. She or he, I guess it can be a dude too?”

Deaton nodded. “If the sorceress or sorcerer is at the high school, you are right, it’s very likely that they are an innocent who recently ascended. I would look for things like absences, strange behaviour, all following a big, life-changing event. Generally ascension is triggered by a shock, or a dramatic change in circumstances.”

“And then what?” Derek said, from the corner. Scott answered instead of Deaton.

“And then we protect her. All these people trying to hunt her down- we send them all running.”

---

That Saturday was the Fun Run, which Stiles and Scott were not only flyering for, but also taking part in, dressed as a lion and a penguin. The penguin suit had the least mobility, so of course that was the one Stiles was dressed up in.

“This is the best thing I have seen all semester,” Lydia said, taking way too many photographs with her cellphone. “Warm enough in there, Stiles?”

He just glared at her, because the penguin suit was made entirely of fleece, and it was a beautiful warm September morning. Stiles felt like he was going to die, and he hadn’t even put the head on yet.

“Can you even run in it?” Kira asked, and Stiles gave a little demonstration, shuffling on the spot.

“So here’s the scoop,” Scott said, jogging up with Allison, looking way too cool in his lion outfit. He had the head tucked under one arm. “I’ve been asking around and there aren’t many people who had a big change in the summer. Lucy Wells, she’s a sophomore, her mom died in a car accident in June, and she’s had a lot of time off school-”

“Not unusual,” Stiles said, scrubbing at the sweat on his neck. When he looked back, they were all standing there, Isaac, Lydia, Scott and Kira, looking guilty. Allison had a hard look in her eyes, but when Stiles looked at her, she turned away, squinting at the horizon instead.

“I mean, doesn’t mean it’s not her,” he said. “She been acting strange when she is in school?”

“Ben- he’s her friend, he says she’s just depressed,” Isaac said. “Nothing weird other than that.”

“Being depressed when your mom dies isn’t weird,” Stiles said, a bit more darkly than he really intended. He felt his face going hot, so he put the penguin head on before anyone could say anything else. Scott, thank fuck, decided to change the topic of conversation.

“You ladies going to wish us luck?” he said, and that earned him a kiss on each cheek from Allison and Kira. Lydia stepped up to Stiles. He could only just see her really, through the stupid penguin eyeholes. She planted a kiss right on the tip of his beak.

“Don’t die,” she said, seriously.

“Totally,” Stiles said. It was pretty much all he could manage.

---

Miss Patterson was in the crowd at the start line, looking just like she had in class, only Stiles found the leather and tattoos to be creepy and suspicious now rather than hot. She was scanning the runners, the crowd too, with the same careful eyes that reminded Stiles of Chris Argent. He was there too, but he was looking straight at Miss. Patterson. Stiles nudged Scott.

“Hunter on hunter action in the making?” He whispered. Scott shrugged.

“Derek’s here,” Scott mumbled. They were at the front of the group of runners, which was a joke because Stiles was gonna just fall over as soon as the starter pistol went. “He’s following some guy from the circus.”

“Another hunter?” Stiles said.

“Mmm hmm,” Scott waggled the lion head in assent.

“Do not faint,” Stiles whispered, to himself. So what if every werewolf within a mile radius could hear him. “Do not faint, do not faint.”

The starter pistol went, and the race started.

---

It was only five miles, but they were the worst five miles of Stiles’ life. He managed to hike the penguin suit up enough so he could jog, but the head kept slipping down and blocking his vision, so he’d have to stop and set it right.  Scott of course, just powered off like running in a lion suit was easy, probably because everything physical was easy for Scott now.

After about mile two, Stiles’ chest began to burn, and his legs felt pretty wobbly, and sweat was pouring off his head, into his eyes. It was horrible, and he was suddenly really glad he’d guilt tripped so many of his friends into donating, because at least this little trip into hell was raising over five hundred bucks for a good cause.

“Don’t faint, don’t faint,” He kept saying, in time with every wobbly step. Everyone else was way ahead, it was just him on the road, the forest on one side, tract houses on the other. “Don’t faint, don’t faint.”

The run took a looping route from the school, around some houses, past a stretch of undeveloped land, and back down to the school track where the finish line was. There were stewards dotted along the route, but for a lot of the race, Stiles was alone. Somewhere between where the houses ended, and the scrubland began, he got the distinct sensation he was being watched. He rounded a corner and there was Derek, standing in the shade of the forest line, looking like a total creeper. Stiles jogged to a stop.

“What, you wanted a front row seat for my pain and agony?” Stiles said, dragging off the head off his costume.

Derek didn’t say anything but he did toss Stiles a water bottle. It was still cool, like it was fresh from the refrigerator. Stiles drank it so quickly he felt kind of sick afterwards. He poured the dregs over his head. Derek was looking at him with a weird expression on his face.

“I could hear you,” he said, “don’t faint, don’t faint, is that something you do all the time?”

“No only after I’ve recently fainted,” Stiles snapped. He looked at the penguin head. Even though there was a perfect pink lipstick mark on the beak from where Lydia had kissed it, he was reluctant to put it back on.

“You fainted?” Derek made a face, as if to say is there no limit to your human weakness.

“I gotta run,” Stiles said, and in maybe the most surreal moment of his life so far - and Stiles had a surreal life in general, Derek helped him put the penguin head back on. He even patted him on the top of his big penguin skull.

“Don’t faint!” he shouted, as Stiles jogged off again.

---

In the end, Stiles did not faint. He finished, albeit like forty minutes after everyone else, but no-one commented on that, and Isaac even brought him a freezer pop. His dad just kept introducing him to everyone as “My son! The penguin!”

Somewhere in the whole mortifying mess, Stiles spotted Miss. Patterson. She was standing with a man who looked like he was in his forties and a younger girl, honey blond hair, nervous posture. Stiles recognized the girl. It was Lucy Wells.

---

“What I want to know is why Isaac couldn’t come with you,” Stiles said, sinking further down into the Camaro’s seat. Once he had got home, after the emergency “pack meeting” which was what Scott continued to call it to everyone’s embarrassment, Stiles had just come clean to his dad about the whole sorceress thing. His dad had been surprisingly chill with the idea of Stiles staking out Lucy Wells’ house. Obviously the exile from all things supernatural was over. Stiles the werewolf investigator had been reborn inside a penguin suit.

Unfortunately, Scott had bagsied Miss. Patterson’s apartment, because he didn’t have a car and he could sit across the road in the diner opposite. So Stiles had to go with Derek, and sit in his stupid glossy muscle car, with it’s stupidly comfortable seats.

“Isaac’s following the guy from the circus,” Derek said. “Also I gave you the choice of staying with Scott and you couldn’t because you’re barred from going to that diner. Don’t even-” Derek cut in dangerously, when Stiles opened his mouth. “I don’t want to hear the story.”

Stiles made a grumbly noise, but settled back into his seat. The Wells family had a one floor ranch style house and Lucy’s bedroom was at the front, so they could see her sitting at her desk. She looked like she was doing homework. She had a poster of a horse on her wall. It was mind-numbingly boring.

“So you could smell if she was magical right?” Stiles said. Derek just shifted in a way Stiles assumed meant yes.

“And you can hear and smell if someone is coming,” Stiles continued. Another little affirmative shift from Derek.

“Cool,” Stiles said. He was basically redundant then, in this situation. However, he could engage in a little bit of his favourite hobby, which was irritating the bejesus out of Derek.

“So the smell thing,” Stiles said. “Like is it all the time or can you switch it off? Because all the time would have to be soo gross. Scott says he can smell weird things too, like he told me once that Allison smelled sad. Do emotions even have scents? How does that work?”

Derek grunted, which Stiles decided meant, please Stiles do go on.

“Also is that not kind of invasive then, like you go around smelling what people feel like all the time. Maybe sometimes a guy just wants to feel sad without anyone knowing, you know? What does sad even smell like?”

“It smells bad,” Derek said, interrupting the flow. “Sad people smell kind of like, abandoned places, like old dust, or damp. I don’t know. Fear smells sour, like vinegar.  She-” Derek nodded to Lucy, who was still at her homework. “She smells sad, but she doesn’t smell afraid.”

“You don’t think it’s her,” Stiles said, realising. Derek shrugged.

“If it is her, she doesn’t know.”

“Maybe she only does magic in her sleep,” Stiles said slowly. “Like sleepwalking.”

“Mm,” Derek said, and it wasn’t a no. They sat in silence for a while.

“What does happiness smell like?” Stiles asked, eventually. Derek seemed to think about it for a long time.

“Good things, fresh grass, clean air,” he grimaced. “You’re asking me to describe something that’s kind of impossible to describe.”

“It’s cool that you’re trying though,” Stiles said. He sunk down into the seat and kept his eyes on Lucy Wells. It was warm in the car, it smelled like seat cleaner and laundry detergent. Stiles’ eyes were heavy. At some point, eventually, he fell asleep.

---

Stiles woke up in the middle of the street. He was just standing there, feet either side of the center line, looking straight down the road at the horizon. The sky was big above, but the glow of streetlights were intruding, overpowering the natural light. Stiles had his hands up in front of him, but he wasn’t sure why.

“Stiles,” it was Derek, standing by the Camaro. Stiles hadn’t walked much further than a hundred yards. “Hey, what the hell are you doing?”

“Sleepwalking,” Stiles said quietly, still feeling almost like he was in a dream. One by one, all the streetlights went out. Without them, the rim of the milky way was visible, wreathed in stars. Derek appeared at his elbow, looking kind of worried.

“Sleepwalking? You still do that?”

“Yeah,” Stiles looked down from the stars, and his head began to clear. “Woah, did I just get out of the car and walk down the road?”

“Yeah,” Derek was frowning. “And I can smell the sorceress now, the magic is back.”

They both looked over to Lucy Wells’ window. The lights were off, she was sleeping.

---

“So you think it’s her,” Scott said the next day, when they went for another “pack meeting” at cuppa joes, which was a coffee place that Scott had gone mental for ever since Kira took him there. Stiles wasn’t convinced, but they did have a cup size called GIGANTOR and it lived up to its name, so that was something.

“Pretty certain,” Stiles said. Derek had bowed out, because sitting around in a hip little coffee place with teenagers was not his style. Or possibly because it would make him look like a sexual predator. Allison and Kira were busy shopping. Their burgeoning friendship was awesome, just for how uncomfortable it made Scott.

“Well that’s a concern, since circus guy has a ton of buddies with guns and creepy black vans,” Isaac said. “Pretty sure he’s gonna try and kidnap her.”

“Well I found something even worse,” Lydia said, putting an old book down on the middle of the table. She flicked through the pages until she found what she wanted, not exactly being careful about jostling the cups. Stiles grabbed his gigantor latte and clutched it to his chest.

“Is that greek?” Scott asked, tilting his head sideways. Lydia didn’t bother answering.

“The blood of a sorceress,” she said, following the lines on the book as she read. “Is the most potent of all of her attributes. Augusto- I think that’s some old wizard dude,” she interjected. “Augusto discovered that a ritual on the equal night could transform the blood of the sorceress, every drop, in order to give man eternal life.” Lydia tapped the page at a very unpleasant drawing that suggested how to collect said blood. Every drop.

“Sorceresses come along once every century right?” Isaac said. “So people probably wait their whole life for the chance to hunt one down and-” he gestured to the picture, and Lydia slammed the book shut.

“We can’t let that happen,” Scott said.

Stiles though about Lucy Wells, thought about how he knew exactly how shitty her life was at the moment, thought about how she did not deserve any of the crap that was happening to her, let alone the magical stuff.

“So we don’t,” he said finally, and it felt like a promise.

---

Stiles found Lucy in the library. It was lunch, and everyone else was in the cafeteria, but Stiles remembered how he’d felt when his mom died, how he’d taken his lunch and hidden behind a dumpster at elementary school just so he didn’t have to deal with being around other people. It wasn’t hard to track her down.

She looked up as he sat down, and he could read it all, from the chewed edge of her lips to the way her eyes were red raw around the edges. She had the cuffs of her hoodie pulled over her fingers. She wanted to escape the world; Stiles knew how that felt.

“Hey, Lucy. I know you don’t really know me - I’m Stiles.”

“Your dad is the sheriff,” she said, slowly. “You hang around with Lydia Martin.”

“Yeah, uh sometimes,” Stiles said, ignoring the little spike of pleasure he felt at that. “Uh, I heard about your mom, I wanted to say- if you want to talk. It happened to me, when I was younger, and back then I remember feeling like- but also having no-one to really talk to because the only other person was my dad and he was already-” Stiles stopped, because Lucy’s eyes were filling up with tears already, and the sight of it kind of made him want to cry too.

“O-oh,” She said, slowly, then looked at her hands. “Thanks.”

“Do you want to talk about it?” Stiles asked, gently. She didn’t answer for a long time. Eventually, when she did, her voice sounded a little more steady.

“I don’t know yet,” she said. “I don’t know what to talk about.”

“Whatever you want,” Stiles said. “Just start, and see what happens.”

---

Stiles had a strategy meeting with the charity committee after school, which Scott totally abandoned him at. When he was finally done, Derek’s camaro was lingering in the parking lot. When he approached the car, Derek dropped the window.

“I found something, get your car and follow me,” he said. Then he paused, looking at Stiles’ face, strangely.

“What?” Stiles said. In lieu of answering, Derek just rolled the window up. They drove up to the preserve, then Derek took a track in north of the old Hale house, along and then up into a part of the preserve that Stiles didn’t really know very well. They parked at the bottom of a steep embankment.

“Try and stay quiet,” Derek said, as they struck out, up the hill. For once, Stiles didn’t have much trouble following his instruction. They walked for a while over mulchy ground, until they reached the top. There was a little section of cliff, bare stone and scattered boulders. Derek led Stiles right up to it. On the rock face, on the flattest stretch, someone had painted a great big seven pointed star in white paint.

“What is it?” Stiles murmured, reaching out to touch it. The paint wasn’t tacky, but it was definitely fresh. Stiles looked back, and there was Beacon hills, stretched out below. This was a vantage point.

“It’s basically a gang sign,” Derek said. “Someone’s marking their territory. They’re saying that they got here first, and the sorcerer is theirs.”

“Is it the circus guys?” Stiles said. He could see the circus from where he was standing, the rides glittering as they spun and caught the waning sunlight. Derek shook his head.

“Did some digging, they’re mercenaries, working for one of the big hunter families from the east coast. The circus is just a cover. This thing-” Derek tapped the star. “This is done by someone with magic. One of the old covens maybe.”

“Yay, more magic. Just what we needed.” Stiles kicked a branch on the ground, then decided he was going to take a seat. The trek up the hill had taken it out of him. After a minute, Derek sat down beside him.

“Are you okay?” he said, after shifting about quite a bit. It sounded like it was hard for him to ask the question. The words seemed squeezed out from a difficult place.

“Yeah sure,” Stiles answered, even though he knew Derek could totally tell if he was lying.

“You smell like sadness,” Derek said after another pause. Stiles sighed, and looked up at the sky.

“It’s because I am sad,” he breathed, and thankfully, Derek left it at that.

---

They took turns keeping watch on Lucy’s house, but for the rest of the week, nothing happened. Stiles had a really sinking feeling that the interested parties were waiting for something specific, but even with his internet back and Lydia’s ancient greek skills on the case, they couldn’t really work out what.

“What do you think she’s doing?” Stiles asked Derek, one night when they were taking the first watch. “You know when she does her magic at night?”

“Maybe she’s changing her dreams,” Derek said. Lucy’s light had been off for half an hour, but no magic smell yet. Stiles was ready to drop off though. Their shift was almost over. “Did you have bad dreams after your mom died?” he asked.

Stiles kept staring out the window, at Lucy’s room.

“Yeah,” he said, finally.

“Would you have done something,” Derek asked, “to stop the dreams, if you could have?”

Stiles didn’t need to say anything, they both knew the answer to that one. That night, once Derek dropped him off at home, Stiles sat outside his dad’s bedroom and listened to him breathing. When he woke up, it was dawn and he was lying on the back porch, covered in dew.

---

“What we need is a special occasion,” Nancy Morton was the head of the charity committee and the reason why Stiles tried not to miss any meetings. She was terrifying. She was on the girls athletic team, and had earned the nickname ‘Strongarm’ for her heroic javelin throws. “The fun run was a hit, we should capitalise on that by doing another event.”

“A dance?” Joe suggested. “Everyone loves a dance, we could even have a theme or something.”

“Stilinski!” Nancy shouted. Stiles jerked right up in his seat. He may have been dozing just a little. Scott’s chair, as per usual, was empty. “Go grab that calendar.”

He did as he was told. Stiles was finding that he just didn’t have the energy to argue with anything anymore. He was hanging out with Lucy at lunch, talking about whatever she wanted to talk about, and it seemed to be helping her, but it just made him feel rotten. Especially because so far she had shown no indication of being a sorceress at all. Plus, he kept walking out into his backyard while he slept, or wandering halfway down the street and waking up with Mrs. Purves staring at him through her lace curtains.

“Right, let’s see what’s on in September.”

“Today is liberation day for East Timor,” Joe said, unhelpfully. Nancy sniffed, which was a clear indication of how she felt about that.

“What about the autumn equinox? That’s soon,” he added. Nancy rolled her eyes.

“Too soon, Joe,” she said. “We have to organise a whole event. We need like, two weeks.”

“Wait-” Stiles could feel something, a niggling itch in the back of his head. There was something he could almost remember, something relevant. “What did you say about the Equinox?”

“It’s in like, two days,” Nancy waggled the calendar at him. “Not really very helpful for a dance.”

“No, totally, I get that,” Stiles grabbed his bag. “I gotta go.”

---

Stiles headed to Scott’s first, and that was kind of his downfall. The ten minute car journey from school to Scott’s house was a route that he had driven like, a million times over the years, and his mind always sank into a kind of autopilot when he drove it. It was probably that, and maybe how tired he was, that stopped him from seeing the black van on his tail until it was too late. Stiles tried to lose them, but his car was a piece of crap, and there was just no way.They picked the quiet stretch of road, forest on either side, to ram the back of the Jeep. The first time, Stiles managed to keep it on the road, whipping the wheel round until he had straightened up again. It was early evening. The road was quiet. The next ram had more force behind it.

The Jeep careened off to one side, and Stiles tried his best but he couldn’t stop it this time from jackknifing right off the road and into the forest embankment. It crashed into a tree with force hard enough to smack his face right into the wheel. Stiles felt his nose crunch, felt a spurt of hot blood and pain, the jerk of the seat belt cutting into his neck, the thump of his legs slamming into the center console. The engine shuddered and cut out, and for a minute, Stiles couldn’t really see, his vision was all narrowed down to a pinprick and unfocused. Then he came back to himself. Every part of his body hurt.

There was a man at the jeep door, with an assault rifle. The rifle was pointed at Stiles’ head.

“You’re coming with us,” the man said. Stiles wasn’t really in a position to argue.

---

They threw him in the back of one of the vans and drove around for a while. Stiles tried to keep track, but he was pretty sure they were taking a confusing route just to put him off. Eventually he gave up, and just concentrated on not getting more injured as he rattled around in the back of the van.

He wasn’t quite sure what their plan was. Maybe they were sending a message. If the equinox was when the creepy eternal life blood ritual thing was due to happen, then they probably needed the pack out of commission so they could attack Lucy. Stiles being the weakest human of the bunch, was a nice easy target for some leverage.

It was logical, but it didn’t exactly make him feel happy. They’d taken his cellphone and chucked it in the mess they’d left of the Jeep. Stiles was pretty sure that the Scott would figure out quickly that something was up, but the multiple bad guys in town might make working out where Stiles was more complicated. He groaned, and grabbed his head in his hands. His nose hurt. His right knee hurt, his neck hurt. This always seemed to happen to him.

“Next time I’m quitting for good,” he told the inside of the van. “No more penguin renaissance for Stiles. I am definitely, definitely quitting next time.”

If he said it enough, maybe it would squash the terrified little voice that was telling him that maybe, this time, there wouldn’t be a next time.

---

They took him to somewhere in the woods. It was a clearing, a big deserted space, and they marched Stiles out into the middle, and stuck him in a cage. It was an honest to god metal animal cage, with bars and everything, and a loop on the bottom that they chained his legs too. His hands they just bound with zip ties. Whoever these guys were, they were super professional. They looked like soldiers, all in black, with body armour, and eyes that looked right through you. They had absolutely no time for a chat.

“What’s the play then,” Stiles asked the one who had been left standing by the cage. “You gonna keep me here so my friends leave the girl alone?” No response.

“You guys are not very social,” he said. “You’re kind of like those guards, you know in London, the ones with the big fuzzy hats. You know, those hats are made of bear skin. Where do they get the bear skin from, huh? There aren’t any bears in England. Do they like, go over to Canada and kill bears for their fancy hats? How are the Canadians okay with that?”

The guard shifted his weight slightly to one side.

“You’d look cute in a bearskin hat,” Stiles said, although he was kind of losing heart a bit. “Are we going to be out here for a while? I’m cold.”

Nothing. The other guys were standing around by the vans, talking too quietly for Stiles to hear. One of them was clearly the leader, and it took a while squinting, before Stiles recognized him from the circus.

“Oi! You!” Stiles shouted, not getting a response. “You sold me eight dollar cotton candy. That’s a goddamned rip off! It wasn’t even nice cotton candy.”

He sunk back down into the cage, and tried to find a position that was not agonising.

“You guys are going to look so lame, when all my friends come and rescue me,” he said. The guard beside him remained silent, no-one said anything. Above, the sun was sinking, and the forest was beginning to grow dark. Stiles tried to remind himself, that as leverage, he would probably have to be alive. It wasn’t a heartening thought.

---

The others came at nightfall. Stiles had kind of fallen into a doze, having run out of stupid things to say, and run out of the energy to say them. He woke up with a start, knocking his head against the bars of the cage. There were more people in the clearing now, standing on the outside edge, where the trees began. They stood in darkness, and it was impossible to see them properly. The only light came from the moon, and the ever present arc of the milky way. The leader of the circus mercenary dudes, the cotton candy guy, was standing in front of Stiles, arms behind his back, feet spread.

“Welcome,” he said, and around the clearing, people stepped forward.

There were three of them. One of them was Miss. Patterson, standing alone, moonlight picking out the shiny white edges of her teeth. Beside her stood a guy Stiles vaguely, vaguely recognized, dressed like he was about to go larping. He was wearing robes, and over them a kind of embroidered tabard, emblazoned with an intricate, seven-pointed star. Of course, coven. Stiles grimaced. He had no idea what was going on.

The third person was Deaton. He was standing there with the coldest look in his eye, his face as still as if it were carved out of stone. Stiles shifted, tried to catch his eye, but he wasn’t looking. He had a knife in his belt and the cruel edge of it glittered as he walked forward.

“Here’s how this is going to go,” cotton candy said, as the three of them approached. “We have something each of you want rather a lot.  Who gets it, is whoever offers the highest financial incentive. Payment will be made immediately using secure bank transfer,” He nodded back to the second van, which Stiles presumed was set up with computers and stuff. “I’ll make the final decision on the winning bid, and the product will only be released into your custody once the payment has been made.”

“I understand there is a pressing time limit here, for some of you,” cotton candy said, and the coven guy bared his teeth in an unpleasant and forced smile. “So I would suggest you co-operate. We have this clearing surrounded, and believe me, when I say we have the means to dispose of all of you easily.”

“How do we know it’s the real deal?” Deaton said, looking down at Stiles like he was an object, rather than a person. Stiles wanted to say something, but that fizzing, fluttering instinct in his head, in his throat, stopped him.

“He’s the real deal all right,” Miss. Patterson said. “I’ve been watching him for weeks. He cut through my tracking runes like they were nothing.”

Stiles realized, distantly, separately almost, that they were talking about him.

“Aww no,” he said, his voice sounding far away. “You think I’m the sorceress. Sorcerer.”

“Don’t speak,” cotton candy said. Then he turned to Deaton. “You would like to inspect him? Approach the cage. Bear in mind however, that your competition seems to be happy to take part without you.”

Deaton walked right up to the cage, and crouched down beside it. His face, when he looked at Stiles was completely neutral, without a hint of recognition.

“Are you a sorcerer?” Deaton asked, and Stiles grimaced.

“Uh, no I really am not,” he said. “I am just an ordinary dude. Not a hint of magic. Nada.”

Deaton stared at him for a while. Then he leaned closer, his lips barely moving.

“It would be a shame for you if you weren’t,” he said, barely making any sound at all. Then he stood, and strode away from the cage. Stiles watched him, and wondered why he felt like all his blood was bubbling in his veins all of a sudden. At least, he supposed, if they killed him, Lucy Wells would be safe.

“I am convinced,” Deaton said.

“Very well,” cotton candy said. “Then if you are ready, we will begin the auction”

---

It proceeded pretty much like any other auction. The bidding started at $800,000 which Stiles found kind of gratifying, but only for the briefest of moments, before he remembered that they were bidding over who got to ritually murder him. The coven guy, he had a cellphone which he had to check every time he made a bid. Miss. Patterson and Deaton seemed to be in it for themselves.

Stiles was hoping that Deaton was going to buy Stiles to save his life, although that wasn’t immediately clear from his demeanor. It seemed a waste certainly to murder someone you’d spent so long helping out. One thing Stiles knew though was although Deaton had a pretty nice job and dressed well, he definitely didn’t have the sums of money that were being thrown around. So if he was trying to save Stiles, his bluff was going to be called as soon as they went over to the computer to pay.

“Three and a half million,” the coven guy said, after consulting his phone. He hadn’t even broken into a sweat.

There was a pause then Miss. Patterson said, sounding bored, “Three seventy five,” she was counting time obviously, hoping to bid them out slow and steady. Deaton seemed to consider it. He shook his head.

“Four million,” coven said. When Stiles really thought about it, they were bidding for the chance at eternal life. They didn’t know that Stiles was a dud. When you looked at it that way, four million seemed like a pretty low price.

“Four and a half,” Deaton said, slowly. He was the slowest to bid, the most cautious. At first Stiles had been sure it was because he didn’t have the money. Now Stiles was beginning to think that he was just drawing it out, for whatever reason. He kept glancing at the cage, expectant. If he thought Stiles was going to burst out of it breathing fireballs, then he was shit out of luck.

“Five,” Miss. Patterson cut in. She was beginning to sound annoyed. Coven began discussing on the phone.

“Any further bids, after five million?” cotton candy said. Deaton was just looking straight at Stiles, still expectant. Stiles flexed his hands against the zip ties, tried to tamp down the anxiety that was singing through what felt like every single one of his nerve endings. He felt as high as a kite, like one-too-many-adderall, in-a-shitload-of-trouble high.

Coven guy finished his conversation and said, “Seven million.”

“Aww fuck this,” Miss. Patterson said. “Let’s lay it all out. Eighteen mill, three hundred thousand. Either of you pussies got the green to beat that?”

Coven glared, began muttering into his phone, but from the desperate look in his eyes, it was clear he was outbid. Stiles looked at Deaton, but his face was a mask. This was it. If Miss. Patterson won, Stiles had a very strong feeling that his remaining days on earth wouldn’t be fun. There was a hard edge to her gaze that suggested she liked to play with her food.

“Nineteen million dollars,” Deaton said, quietly. He looked over at her, and Stiles expected her to get angry, but instead she just laughed.

“How fucking convenient,” she said. “Okay, let’s see if your nineteen million does the job then, Doctor.”

“Final bid at nineteen million, any further bids?” cotton candy asked. Miss. Patterson turned away. The empty air was his answer. Stiles felt like all his blood was in his face. This was it- there was no way Deaton had nineteen million, it didn’t look like any werewolves were going to leap to his aide - Stiles felt the finality of it rush over him like a too slow wave, crawling up from his toes, through his chest, to his throat.

“Don’t faint, don’t faint,” he said, and squeezed his eyes shut. “Don’t faint.”

“Just enter your sort code here,” cotton candy was saying. Stiles heard the click of buttons, the shifting noise of Miss. Patterson pacing on the far side of the clearing. Then he heard more than that. He heard the trees, and the sky, and the hoarse in and out and in and out of his own breath. Stiles did not want to die. Why couldn’t he do something about it?

In that moment, he couldn’t think of a single reason why not. All of a sudden all that nervous energy, the endless thrum in his blood, coalesced into a single point and Stiles let it go, all in a rush. It felt like a punch of hot air around him, and he heard a sound like a crack of thunder. When he opened his eyes, the cage was gone.

Well it wasn’t gone, it was in like a hundred pieces scattered around the clearing, around the edge of the crater actually, the crater that had formed around Stiles and was filled with smouldering earth and debris. Tiny flames licked at his feet and he stamped them out. The chain around his ankles was gone, Stiles suspected it had been vaporized. Miss. Patterson and the guy from the coven were on their backs, hacking at the smoke. One of the black vans was overturned. Deaton was standing beside the other one. Cotton candy was on the ground next to him, with the silver-handled knife sticking out of his chest.

“Finally!” Deaton shouted. All of a sudden, the clearing exploded in noise.

It was gunshots mostly, and Stiles dropped to his belly, covering his ears. People - circus mercenaries, probably, were pumping the whole clearing full of lead. Stiles felt the bullets hissing past him, but to be honest, they didn’t seem like they were going very fast. After a moment, he rolled over and he just felt frustration bubble out of him. What he wanted was for all the shooting to stop. He just wanted it all to stop.

It did. Every bullet in the air, all at once, froze and dropped out of the air together. For a second it was like it was raining ammunition. Stiles staggered to his feet. The smoke was clearing, and he could see the coven guy at the far side of the clearing, hunched over. Miss. Patterson was gone.

“Stiles!” it was Scott, and Stiles was so grateful to hear his voice, his eyes went all hot and watery. “Holy fuck, holy fuck!” Scott said, as he bolted over, grabbing Stiles by the shoulders. “I thought you were dead!”

His voice was thick with his fangs, and his eyes glowed red, and Stiles knew what the clearing must smell like, magic, and sour like Derek had said, with vinegary fear.

“Boys,” Deaton called from the remaining van, “Watch out!”

It was the coven guy, the warlock. Stiles may have resisted the urge to breath fireballs, but clearly that was his thing. Scott was quick though, lunging out of the way and dragging Stiles with him.

“Hoo boy,” Stiles said, from where they were wedged, behind a contorted hunk of the cage he had exploded. “That was-” he cringed as another fireball rocketed past, showering them sparks. “That was close.”

“The pack’s here,” Scott said. “Don’t worry we’ve got you.”

“Deaton?”

“He was going to provide a distraction. I didn’t realise the distraction would be you.”

Stiles grimaced, he felt it again, just endless bubbling just under the surface, something he recognized now. Magic, desperate to get out.

“Just let me-” he hunched around, and the next fireball that came, Stiles smacked his palms together mid-air and it was extinguished. Just like that. “Hey,” he said, beginning to feel for the first time in a while that he was under control. “Hey that’s pretty cool.”

The warlock clearly did not think so.  He sent another fireball coming, and once again, Stiles made it disintegrate. The next time, he was ready.

“Batter up,” Stiles said, and countered the oncoming fireball with a flaming bat. The hit connected with an audible crack, and the ball thundered back towards its caster at twice the speed. When it hit, he was consumed by flames.

“Derek!” Scott barked, but he didn’t have to. Derek and Isaac were already on it, descending on the warlock and finishing what Stiles had started. He heaved in a breath, braced his hands on his knees. There was a moment of hush, and Stiles heard his own heart, rabbiting too fast inside his ribcage.Then Scott dragged him up.

“Gotta go,” he said. “Not safe here.”

---

What he meant was they had to trudge through the forest on foot, because the pack had come on foot. Or paw. Stiles wondered which one it was. He felt weird, like he was floating somewhat separately from his body. His nose hurt, vaguely. His knee hurt vaguely.

“You are totally magical,” Isaac said, from where he was stalking along side. “You stink of magic. How did we not see that?”

Up ahead, Derek made a really grumpy noise, but kept walking. Scott was quiet too.

“I didn’t know,” Stiles said eventually, because he was pretty sure he knew what that was about. Deaton, of course had disappeared somewhere in all the fireballs, so he wasn’t around to back Stiles up. His heartbeat would do the job for him though.

“I figured you didn’t,” Scott said. “It makes me mad to think about how we were running around all summer and you were in so much danger.”

“Eh,” Stiles shrugged. He had absolutely no idea where they were. He supposed the pack were just like, following a scent or something. “Where are the girls?”

“Outside Lucy’s house,” Scott said. “We kind of thought you were a distraction.”

“But you came anyway,” Stiles wondered. Derek snorted.

“Of course,” he said looking back. He was still all beta, his eyes glittering blue underneath his gathered brow. He looked mad.

“Yeah okay,” Stiles said under his breath, and decided to keep his thoughts to himself. He rubbed his nose, gingerly, and drying blood came away in flakes. It felt tender, too soft. His knee was just a knot of pain from where it slammed into the car. Just when the walk was beginning to get really tedious, the Camaro appeared from between the trees.

“Aw I’m so happy to see your stupid car,” Stiles said. He was sure Derek was turning around to deliver a witty retort, but before he could get there, a crossbow bolt smacked into his shoulder and knocked him back. If it had been an ordinary bolt, he would have been up the next second, but this was really not an ordinary bolt. It had silver head the size of a clenched fist and it crackled with electricity. Derek dropped like a sack of bricks.

“Shit-” and that was all Scott managed to say before he got the same treatment. Stiles tried to stop the shot that was headed for Isaac, stretching out one hand and trying to recreate that giddy feeling of will, but it was too quick, and suddenly he was the last man standing, alone in the dark of the forest. The only sound was the buzzing of the crossbow bolts, and the restless twitch of Scott’s fingers on the ground.

Miss. Patterson stepped out from between the trees, and Stiles didn’t think, he just jerked his arms up. The roots underneath her rose up, tearing through the soft damp earth, but she danced past them easily, closing the space between them in three long steps.

“Nu-uh,” she said, sweetly. Her hand came up and smacked Stiles on the forehead, between his eyes. Her palm was there for barely a moment, but it felt like she had pressed a red hot poker against his skin. The pain was excruciating, and Stiles howled, his legs buckling. The skin on his face began to crawl, like his muscles were spasming underneath, and the feeling spread, until it felt like his legs and arms had turned into water and Stiles wasn’t able to stand anymore. He tried to stay conscious, reaching for it desperately like he tried to reach for his newfound magic.

He couldn’t grab hold of either. Stiles passed out.

---

Waking up inside a cage was getting pretty old. This time though, the cage seemed to be indoors, so things were at least warmer. Plus, Stiles wasn’t alone. There was someone else in the cage with him. It took him a long time to sit up; it felt like every single one of his muscles had been put through the wringer, but when he did, he saw that his companion in captivity was Scott. Scott was passed out, face up, but when Stiles leaned over him he shifted and made a mumbling noise, so he wasn’t dead.

Beyond the cage, they were in a bare, utilitarian room, with poured concrete walls and exposed pipes. Moonlight was creeping in through a row of squat, wire-covered windows, set at the very top of the walls. If Stiles was going to guess he’d say they were in the basement of some kind of industrial building. The room was empty, except for a table. It was not an ordinary, eat your dinner kind of a table.

“Ugh,” Scott groaned and pushed up on his elbows. The cage was small enough that there wasn’t really much in the way of personal space. “Stiles?”

“That’s my name,” Stiles said, sounding weak even to his ears. “Don’t wear it out.”

“Where are we?” Scott rubbed the back of his head, then his shoulder where he’d been hit by the crossbow bolt. “Is that an operating table?”

It wasn’t an operating table. Stiles knew what kind of table it was, he’d seen it on TV. Stainless steel with a rim around the edge, and a sloped surface. Sloped into a funnel at one end, for all the blood to drain into.

“What’s with your face?” Scott said, obviously not too interested in the table. He pushed up and grabbed Stiles’ face with both hands, pushing both thumbs against his forehead. He dragged Stiles around until he was in the light.

“It’s my face, dude,” Stiles said. “What’s so different about it?”

“You’ve got something drawn on your forehead,” Scott- oh gross, Scott licked his finger and scrubbed at the skin between Stiles’ eyebrows.

“Hey!” Stiles pushed him away. “Hey, that’s gross, don’t lick me.” He reached up to touch the mark himself, and an involuntary shiver ran through his fingers and down his arms. Whatever was on his forehead was more than just a mark. It was magic, it felt like a brand, like the skin was raised, scarred.

“It’s called the wall,” someone said, from the darkest corner of the room. It was Miss. Patterson, and she stood, stepping out into the moonlight and standing in front of the table. “It’s stopping you from using the considerable well of power that you would normally have access to.”

“No magic,” she added, for clarity. She enunciated like she was talking to a child, her dark red lips folding around the words carefully.

“Why the hell are you doing this?” Scott growled. His eyes glimmered red in the dim light, and that heartened Stiles. Obviously Miss. Patterson had underestimated Scott if she had brought him along. Scott might look like what happened if a puppy mated a tween boy-bander, but he was actually kind of formidable nowadays.

She just smiled, and said nothing, looking straight at Stiles. Her expression, dark eyes glittering, mouth pulled tight into a smile full of teeth was explanation enough. This was a conquest for her.

“At first I thought the big one was the Alpha,” she said. “But then I discovered it was you,” she walked over until she was within arms length of the cage. “I’ve killed a lot of Alphas in my time, but never a true Alpha. That’s a novelty,” she moved to the cage door and lifted the padlock. Stiles stepped back, watching as Scott's shoulders hunched, his arms grew tense and his claws grew.

“So I brought you along. A twofer. Also I thought perhaps if I killed you, it would encourage Stiles to behave himself,” she said, shrugging. It was a challenge. She wasn’t afraid of Scott, she wanted to make an example of him. She wanted to fight, and put on a show.

The cage door fell open, and Scott lunged out, diving for her with claws outstretched. She dodged with a sidestep, drawing a sword as she did, short and curved with a glittering edge. Scott’s claws skittered on the concrete floor.

“Behind!” Stiles shouted, because Miss. Patterson was fast, faster really than should be humanly possible. She was already lunging for Scott with the blade before he had managed to straighten. Luckily, Scott was fully wolfed out, and he shouldered past and grabbed the lapels of her jacket, hurling her across the room with a roar. She crashed into the table, denting the metal and driving it back against the wall. Scott was on her before she had managed to get further up than her knees, and they struggled.

It was brutal, and Stiles could see that Miss. Patterson was a match for Scott even though he was all Alpha’d out. They were busy fighting, the cage door was open, and Stiles had been enough of these sticky werewolf situations now to know when he should be sneaking about thinking about a plan B. He went for the cage door, hoping to slip through, but instead there was a pain like he’d been cracked around the head with a baseball bat, and a bright flash of light. Stiles blinked and he was on the other side of the cage, bruised from smacking against the bars.

“Stiles?” Scott yelped, turning away from Miss. Patterson for a split second. That was all it took for her to get her sword right through his belly, slicing up through to the back of his hoodie. Stiles felt his stomach roll and a sour taste come up at the back of his throat. Blood slipped out from between Scott’s fingers, and onto the floor. It looked black in the dim light.

“The wall,” Miss Patterson said, breathing heavily. She left her sword where it was, and shoved Scott to the side. He kind of tipped over, dropping to his knees and then onto his side. Stiles could see his ribcage rising and falling too fast, and blood coming out from between his lips. “You can’t go anywhere. You can’t do anything.”

The mark on Stiles’ forehead stung. He pushed himself up, bit by bit, feeling every cell in his body complain. He managed to stand, to take the few steps across the cage to the door.

“You might be a sorcerer,” she said, brushing herself down. She looked rather worse for wear, with a cut above her eyebrow and four gashes across the front of her grey T-shirt from a slash of Scott’s claws. “But you’re new, you lack control. You lack the will.”

And well, fuck that. Because Stiles had survived watching his Mom die, watching her own brain drag her slowly into darkness. He’d grown up on TV dinners he cooked himself, and gone weeks sometimes without seeing his dad; letting himself into the house with his own key, getting himself up for school. He’d handled his best friend becoming a supernatural being, all the colossal piles of shit that had tumbled onto him after that. He’d fought off demonic possession, nearly destroyed the ones he loved and come out the other side still able to rock raspberry colored chinos and crack a joke. The one thing he had in spades, if he had nothing else was the will.

“Funny,” he said, because standing there, he knew, he absolutely knew that there was nothing that could keep him in the cage. “Because I broke your spell before.”

Then he reached up a fingertip, and he felt the mark on his forehead unravel, felt the fragile threads of magical power that held it together dissolve. In that moment, whatever power she had, felt insignificant in comparison to his own; like a teaspoon of water compared to the pacific ocean. He walked out of the cage, lifted both hands in the air, and Miss. Patterson rose with them. He had her- he could feel her struggling against the weight of his power. She was trying to speak, but she couldn’t force the words out, only strangled gasps. It wouldn’t take long, Stiles knew.

Then the front of her chest exploded with blood, her body spasmed and stilled. The shock of it made Stiles lose his grip and the magic leaked out of the room. Allison was standing by the door, holding a gun. Her face was set in determination, and behind her were Kira and Lydia. Lydia had a baseball bat, Kira had a fistful of lightning.

“Oh thank fucking fuck,” Stiles said, and sunk to his knees.

---

It turned out that after a while sitting outside Lucy’s house, Lydia had got bored and had decided to list other candidates for sorceress. She, Kira and Allison had put together using only boredom and their vastly superior intellects, what the wolf pack had been unable to do, and realized that they should have been looking out for Stiles all along.

They had found Isaac and Derek, trussed up in the preserve, followed Miss. Patterson’s gun oil scent to an abandoned warehouse a few blocks down from where Derek used to chill in that abandoned rail depot. The rest was history. So now everything was cool, except Stiles had a broken nose, and an aching knee, and Scott still had a dirty great hole in his stomach from being run through and Derek was glaring at Stiles from his little plastic hospital chair in the ER like he had murdered someone.

“What is your problem, man?” Stiles asked eventually. Mrs. McCall was currently dealing with Scott’s gaping hole issue, so Stiles’ poor nose and other injuries were having to wait. “Why are you scowling like that? Are you mad?”

Derek just kept glaring.

“Listen I have had a shitty enough night without you glaring,” Stiles said, sinking down in his chair. “Can you not just switch off the broody asshole thing for five minutes.”

“You’re a sorcerer,” Derek said, slowly. He was still glaring. “An almighty magical being who comes into being only once a century. And you’re telling me you didn’t notice at all.”

Stiles dropped his head into his hands, and pressed the base of his palms into his eye sockets. He breathed in through his nose and let it out in one long breath. He could feel the magic still, like a simmer underneath his skin. It wasn’t so urgent, so panicked anymore, but it was still there.

“I didn’t have a fucking clue,” he mumbled, keeping his eyes covered. “I still can’t believe it.”

“Stiles,” Thank god, the conversation was interrupted by his dad, who stormed into the ER like a man possessed. He was red in the face and furious, and there was something about that that just tipped Stiles over the edge. He was cold, and tired, and everything hurt, and he was fucking magical and he had never asked for any of it. His dad took one look at him and grabbed him into a hug, shoving his face roughly against the front of his uniform jacket, letting him hide the tears there.

---

As well as having to get his nose set,  Stiles had also torn some kind of ligament or something in his knee, so he had to wear a support bandage and use crutches for the rest of the month. He also couldn’t drive even if the Jeep hadn’t been in the shop, which meant riding the bus in and out of school. His dad, thankfully seemed cool with the sorcerer thing and wasn’t grounding Stiles any more than he was restricted by his leg injury.

“So can you fly and stuff?” Kira quizzed him, at lunch. They had cleared a spot on the bench opposite so Stiles could prop his bum leg up, and he was feeling kinda loved. Even Isaac was being nice.

“I don’t know,” he said, because since he’d escaped Stiles had not really tried his magic out again. He’d stopped sleepwalking, but only because every time he stood up, the pain from his knee woke him. “Maybe? I made a baseball bat out of fire.”

“That was cool,” Scott said around a mouthful of mac and cheese. “Also when you made that cage explode.”

“And all the bullets just froze in the air,” Isaac added. “That was some matrix shit right there.”

“It was just kind of instinct,” Stiles said. Across the cafeteria he saw Lucy Wells, head bowed, clutching her schoolbag. She glanced over, eyes flickering to meet his for a moment. He put down his milk carton. “I gotta go. See you in math,” that was directed at Lydia.

Stiles found Lucy in the library, in the same spot they usually sat and talked in. She looked wrecked, like she’d been up all night crying, her eyes red-rimmed. Stiles sat down next to her, carefully arranging his knee under the table. He knew he probably looked a fright, with the fading remnants of two black eyes and a whole host of little cuts and scrapes from the Jeep crash.

“Hey,” he said. She just looked at the table and pursed her lips. She looked wobbly, and Stiles knew that feeling. He reached out and took her hands in his. They didn’t say anything, but they didn’t need to. Stiles could feel Lucy’s sadness inside her like a constant ache, and he recognized it. He wasn’t sure how, but somehow, he felt like maybe while he was holding her hand, she could feel that- feel how they were together in their grief. She wasn’t alone, and neither was he. His fingertips tingled on her palm. The restless bubble of magic under his skin settled.

Eventually Lucy seemed to unwind, and all the tension sunk out of her narrow shoulders. She looked up, and it was like the first time she had actually seen Stiles all lunch break.

“Hey, wow you look awful,” she said, then laughed, weak but honest. Stiles laughed too, because he could hardly argue with that.

---

That evening, after another excruciating charity committee planning session, where Stiles was nominated to be in charge of ice at the upcoming fall dance, Derek’s camaro was lingering in the parking lot.

“I’m your ride,” he said out of the window, like there was no choice in the matter. Stiles climbed in. “Are you hungry?” Derek asked, as they pulled away.

“Always,” Stiles said, and shoved the car seat back so he could stretch his leg out. Derek drove in silence, but there was nothing unusual about that. Derek took him to a pizza place he sometimes went to with Scott and they sat in a booth near the back. Stiles fiddled with his napkin and wondered what exactly was going on.

“Sorry,” Derek said finally. “Sorry I was a dick about the magic thing.”

Stiles was completely thrown. It was the first time he had ever heard Derek apologise for anything, and although he sounded sincere, he was still glowering, like the admission was more Stiles’ fault than anything.

“I thought you knew, and you were keeping it a secret.” he said. “I get it now, you weren’t.”

“Yeah obviously,” Stiles grumbled, although his pizza turned up and cheered him up a little. “Seriously, if I had known I would have been using the magic for my own nefarious purposes, like wooing Lydia or something.”

Wooing,” Derek said, with a grimace. “What are you?”

“I am Stiles,” was the only appropriate response to that question. “Who you are treating to dinner, so quit being such a butt. Apology accepted.”

Derek was looking at him with an expression that Stiles had never really seen before, measuring and hard to read. He was re-evaluating.

“You smell different,” he said, like that was a totally cool thing to say over a jumbo pepperoni. This was Stiles’ life now, being smelled by werewolves while he was trying to eat.

“Not sad?” Stiles said, lifting a slice up and shoving it in his mouth. He wasn’t sure whether Derek had known that his dad was pulling a night shift, or whether it was just a happy coincidence.

“Not sad,” Derek said. He ate for a while, chewing mechanically, staring at Stiles. It was creepy. “Not exactly happy either.”

“Well shit,” Stiles said. “Not sad, but not exactly happy. Isn’t that life.”

Completely out of the blue, Derek burst into laughter, putting down the pizza and turning his face to the side, like he was embarrassed to be seen expressing positive emotions. Stiles stared at him like he’d grown an extra head. It would have been less weird if he had grown an extra head.

“Dude,” Stiles said. “You are weirder than I am. Quit smelling me and get me another soda.”

And Derek, against all expectations, did.

---

That night, in bed, Stiles stretched out on top of his covers, and felt all the magic inside, licking at the edges of him, desperate to get out. It was more familiar now, but still frightening. Good frightening though; not the bone deep, desperate fear that he had felt at the Nogitsune, but more like flickering, uncertain anticipation. He focused on that feeling, making his skin tingle all over, and the hairs rise on the back of his arms.

Stiles took two, slow, steadying breaths. He was floating a foot above his mattress.

“This is so cool,” he said. There was no-one else around to see, but that didn’t matter because Stiles could absolutely, one-hundred percent fucking fly.