"You're talking about the show Bewitched?"
Stiles is incredulous, and he can also tell that Deaton knows he's incredulous and doesn't care. Stiles really wishes he could learn that kind of zen-like acceptance for things he can't change.
"Sometimes books, movies and yes, television shows get it right. Mostly by accident and sometimes despite themselves."
"But, twitchy noses and interchangeable husbands?"
"That part not so much, no," Deaton agrees. He's leaning over a pile of something Stiles is trying hard not to look at because he's pretty sure tiny bones are involved and he doesn't want to know what they're from. "Hand me the mortar and pestle."
"You making bread?" Stiles asks and when Deaton just raises an eyebrow, "Y'know, like the giants. Grind your bones to make... never mind. You were saying that Bewitched is accurate in its accounts of witch craft?"
"I wasn't saying that, I was saying that they were correct about one particular facet," Deaton sighs.
"That whoever dealt it-"
"Is that sentence going to end in a fart joke?"
"Roger that. So, witch curses. The only way to reverse it is to get the witch to take it back, is basically what it boils down to?"
"Yes, exactly," Deaton agrees. He's grinding whatever was in the pile now and the steady ruh ruh ruh of it makes Stiles' eyelids droop. He really has to get more sleep and quit sneaking out to hang out with grumpy werewolves. His dad mentioned something about a sleep disorder the other day and Stiles supposes he can understand his thinking since as far as his dad's concerned Stiles clocks about eight to nine hours a night and yawns his way through the day regardless.
"Man, I miss summer," Stiles laments. Sneaking back into his house at four in the morning and then being able to bury himself under his comforter till midday and not have anyone the wiser was bliss.
"I wish I could be more help."
"So, okay, but-" Stiles says because he recognizes when Deaton is trying to dismiss him and he has more questions.
"I really thought when I told you that Scott wasn't here that you'd go somewhere else," Deaton says pointedly.
"I was bored and I thought Scott had a shift. If he doesn't and he's not home then the wolves are off doing wolf-ish things without me." Stiles really tries not to feel rejected, because he knows he's human and sometimes there are things he can't do with the pack, but he can't help it. Stiles thought he would get more of Scott now that he and Allison weren't together but if anything he seems to get less.
"Well, you might as well make yourself useful," Deaton says, herding Stiles into a back room with a wall of cages. The smell of animal is a little potent and Stiles wonders, with Scott's advanced nose, how he can handle it. Scott complains if Stiles goes two days without a shower. It's the right of every teenage boy to stew in their own juices on a weekend but apparently, being buddies with werewolves negates that option.
"Don't you have paid and unpaid werewolf labor for this stuff?" Stiles complains as Deaton hands him a broom.
"There's always work that needs doing here," Deaton says and with a grin he adds, "Remember that the next time you're bored and deciding where to go."
"Fine, whatever," Stiles grumbles.
"Look, sweep up and then you can let the three cats out of the bottom cages and play with them for a while. They need the stimulus and I can't take them out as often as I'd like."
"Are they sick?" Stiles asks, taking a step away from the cages.
"No, those are my adoption cages. The two little ones have only been here a few weeks but I've had Weatherwax for six months."
"What's wrong with Weatherwax?" Stiles asks, leaning over so he can peer into the cage Deaton had indicated. A brawny tortoiseshell cat stares back at him with a kind of unnerving regard. She's small but solid and is sitting in an ungainly sprawl.
"She's got big paws and one of her eyes is damaged. People don't believe me when I assure them she isn't getting any bigger when they look at her feet and even though the eye is discolored from a bout of cat flu when she was a kitten, her vision is fine. I guess they see future medical expense when they look at her."
Deaton leaves him to it and Stiles sweeps the floors and then opens the three cages as directed, tracking down a box of toys first and scattering balls and fluffy mice around. The two smaller short-term residents tumble out immediately. Weatherwax is a little more reticent, taking the time to delicately sniff the air and glare about before she emerges.
Stiles immediately makes a grab for her because she looks like she stumbles out of the cage, but then he realizes that that's the way she moves. She's got a kind of splay-legged, drunken stagger, like the usual graceful cat-muscles didn't develop properly for her. Stiles can sympathize, feeling more than a little like an uncoordinated dolt around the majority of his supernaturally blessed friends.
"Hey little dude, I know what you-" Stiles starts to say as he reaches down to rub her head and she whips around and bites him, so fast he doesn't have time to react.
"Ow, hey!" Stiles says, pulling his hand back and looking at his finger, blood welling at the tip. "Ugh, fine. Message received," he adds, stepping away from her and suspecting that maybe there was another reason she hasn't been adopted yet.
Weatherwax follows him.
"Uh, Deaton?" Stiles calls, because the drunken stagger becomes a predatory stalk when it has a direction and Stiles is starting to think he might have survived werewolves, kanima and a homicidal douchebag named Matt only to be done in by a small, determined cat.
Weatherwax backs Stiles into a corner and Stiles is contemplating leaping over her and making a run for it, no matter how less than manly that option might be, but then she kind of leans forward and head butts his leg, purrs thick in the air.
"No, I'm not falling for it," Stiles says, glaring down at her. She head butts his shin again as if to say, c'mon, it was just a joke, I'm harmless really. "Nuh-uh. You just want me down there to claw my face off."
Weatherwax sits back in the weird gangly sprawl of hers and tilts her head up, blinking sleepily. Stiles reaches down, fingers curled into his palm to protect them from kitty teeth and tentatively rubs her under the chin with a knuckle. Weatherwax's purrs increase and she looks ecstatic, rubbing herself on Stiles, mostly patting herself on his fist.
"Okay, I get it. You were just asserting dominance. I can relate to that. I do know Derek," Stiles says and Weatherwax chirrups at him, an insanely cute noise of agreement. Stiles hunkers all the way down and Weatherwax immediately puts her two overlarge front paws on his knee and reaches up so she can sniff at his chin.
"Well, that's a little surprising to say the least," Deaton says from the doorway.
"I'm wounded. I will be suing for compensation," Stiles says, holding up his bloodied finger and Deaton gives him a strange look. "I'm... kidding?"
"I'll get you some stuff," Deaton says, starting to turn.
"Nah, it's not that bad," Stiles says. "All my shots are up to date. My dad's a little fanatical about that stuff."
"I meant her stuff," Deaton says, raising an eyebrow at Weatherwax who's now flopped onto her side and has paws curled around Stiles's sneaker.
"I've never seen Weatherwax be friendly to anyone. I was starting to think I wouldn't be able to place her but she likes you."
"That doesn't... I'm not adopting a cat. My dad-"
"She's cooped up for most of the day. I can only let her out for an hour or so in the morning. You would be doing me a huge favor."
Stiles hesitates, because Deaton owing him a favor would be a massive advantage. He might be able to demand a straight answer or two the next time they have a crisis. But, "No, seriously. I'm not allowed so much as a fish. My dad thinks we'd have our very own pet cemetery because I get... distracted."
"Stiles, you're nearly an adult and cats are not like fish. She'll let you know if you've forgotten to feed her. Very insistently and often."
"Still, I can't. Really," Stiles says. He's scritching Weatherwax's belly and she seems to be enjoying the hell out of it, contorting herself almost gymnastically to present more tummy to Stiles' ministrations.
He can't let that sway him.
Deaton lets out a huff and then says, "Alright, consider it temporary until I can find a permanent home for her."
"I see what you're doing," Stiles says, narrowing his eyes. "You think if I take her home I'll get attached."
"I promise to double my efforts to find someone to take her and if I can't in say, another month, I have somewhere I can take her for them to try."
Stiles is still dubious, but he supposes of all the pets he could have, a cat would be safest. She'd remind him if he forgot to feed her and she wouldn't need to be walked or attended to like a dog. From what he understands, most cats treat their humans like inconvenient housemates to only be granted grudging affection, mostly around meal times.
"Alright, fine. A month and that's it," he huffs.
"They didn't invite me either," Derek says from Stiles' desk chair, looking unbothered. He and Scott had arrived in need of Stiles' research skills and when Stiles had asked where Scott had been the previous afternoon while Stiles was being guilted into adopting a small fur-person, Scott had admitted that he, Erica, Boyd and Isaac were not actually in mortal peril like Stiles had assumed.
They were at the movies.
"I still can't believe Deaton talked you into taking Weatherwax," Scott says, trying to change the subject. Stiles knows he's not in the werewolf club when it comes to the more physical aspects but he's perfectly capable of stuffing his face with popcorn and sitting on his ass for two hours.
"Tell me you didn't see the new Black Widow movie," Stiles says and when Scott's face pinches up Stiles throws up his hands. "Scott!"
"I'm sorry. We were going to go for a run but Boyd had a couple of free passes."
"Can we focus?" Derek asks, snapping his fingers in a completely infuriating way. Stiles is cross-legged on the bed and has Weatherwax sacked out across his lap. She grumbles when he moves and he slumps back. Derek wrinkles his nose.
"You'd better not be about to say that the cat smells or something," Stiles says, feeling protective. She's dropped one large paw over her face like she can dismiss the werewolves encroaching on her space if she can't see them and Stiles wishes he could do the same.
"She's fine," Derek says with a noticeable effort. He's always more agreeable when he wants something.
"Okay, well, open my laptop and go to the wizarding wiki bookmark."
"That's an actual thing?" Scott asks, blinking.
"About eighty-five percent of the stuff on there is crap but they bury the real stuff in the misinformation. You just have to know how to read between the lines."
"How do you know all this?" Scott asks, looking impressed.
"Apparently I have a lot of free time," Stiles says, narrowing his eyes.
"Dude, I'm sor-"
"Taylor Swift is playing. Make it stop," Derek says when the first tinny notes of a song start up from Stiles' laptop.
"Just mute it. That's another way they deter tourists from the site."
"Taylor Swift?" Scott asks, even though his face is a little confused.
"Nah, it's a spell in the code of the site. You hear whatever you'd find most annoying. That has a lot of people clicking away pretty quickly."
Derek pulls a begrudgingly impressed face as he clicks and the music cuts off abruptly. He's got his serious face of concentration on, but his brows are furrowed and Stiles knows he's having trouble finding what he's looking for. Stiles scoops Weatherwax up and deposits her on the bed and then moves over to Derek, leaning over his shoulder.
"Not exactly, but maybe an offshoot? I don't think they're actually the traditional Furies but you tend to get a lot of hybrids on the supernatural side. Makes sense with the deaths," Derek says as Scott takes Stiles' place on the bed and reaches out a hand for Weatherwax. She swipes at him before rolling over so her back is to him. He looks hilariously hurt by this spurning and Stiles tries to resist the urge to feel a tiny measure of satisfaction that at least the cat likes him best.
"So, they got attracted to town by that one guy who ran over those two kids two months ago?" Stiles says, poking Derek who gives him an impatient look before rolling his eyes and giving up the chair. Stiles sits and tries to keep his breathing calm as Derek leans over him, warm and entitled. Derek's pretty good about ignoring Stiles' involuntary and mostly inappropriate reactions to his proximity and Stiles is eternally grateful.
"Yes. Unfortunately it looks like once they're in a place, they'll keep killing indiscriminately until they're banished," Derek agrees. He's got one hand on the back of Stiles' chair and the other next to Stiles' elbow and Stiles tries to ignore how much he likes feeling caged in by Derek.
"It's not really indiscriminate," Scott pipes up.
"I checked my dad's records last night when you texted. We're lucky he's still doing that thing where he brings boxes home and glares at them. The second victim, Steve Farmer, had a couple of unpaid parking tickets and got busted shoplifting a candy bar when he was fifteen. Not exactly a crime kingpin," Stiles says.
"He might have been into worse stuff," Derek says but when Stiles cranes around to look at him, he frowns.
"I asked my dad already and he didn't think so."
"Did your dad ask-?" Derek starts to say, face suddenly going tense.
"If it was our kind of problem? Yeah. I told him I wasn't sure. He didn't exactly buy it but he's not calling me on it yet."
Stiles' dad knowing about the whole werewolf thing is both terrifying and helpful in turns. Stiles no longer has to lie quite as much, but he also tends to resist bringing his dad into anything supernatural because of the risk. His dad isn't exactly the type to be sidelined, so it's a delicate balancing act of misinformation and misdirection. As soon as his dad gets a whiff that Stiles knows more than he's letting on, he switches into subtle interrogation mode and Stiles has to be super careful about what he lets on.
Weatherwax was helpful in that regard the night before. Her presence and the fact that her introduction to his dad was in the form of his dad finding her curled up asleep in the back of the dishwasher meant that they had something else to talk about. The handful of mysterious deaths over the last few weeks and the fact that Stiles and the wolves had moved into research mode had been on the back-burner. Stiles had asked a few questions over dinner and his father's eyes had gotten that tell-tale gleam, but then Weatherwax had jumped up onto the dining table and knocked everything flying and that had been the end of it.
Basically, Stiles had allowed the earlier lap-sitting because Weatherwax deserved a reward for serving as a handy distraction.
"There's stuff here on how to summon them but nothing about banishing them. I'll check a few forums but it might take me a little while," Stiles says.
"Fine. Scott, can you ask Deaton if he knows anything?" Derek asks, standing upright.
"Sure," Scott agrees readily.
"Okay, patrol tonight. I'll call the others," Derek says and Scott nods and heads for Stiles' window. Stiles catches Derek by the elbow before he can follow.
"Who am I with?" he asks.
"Stiles," Derek sighs and Stiles punches him in the arm.
"Seriously, don't bench me. I get enough of that in my life. I'll hang back, be eyes only I swear. You're just looking for the Furies but we might not even find them."
"If you say dangerous I'll punch you again, somewhere that it'll actually hurt," Stiles threatens.
"Fine, but you're with me," Derek relents.
"Good. Pick me up in two hours. My dad will be home and snoring by then."
"Should I throw rocks at your window?"
"Ass," Stiles huffs, standing and herding Derek towards his window. Before Derek steps out, he pauses.
"Uh, that movie?"
"What about it?" Stiles says. He'd almost forgotten with their special brand of peril on the horizon.
"I mean... I could... we could..."
"What dude? Spit it out," Stiles says.
Derek's face does this clench thing that Stiles sees every now and again but is one expression he doesn't know the meaning of yet and then Derek shakes his head. "Forget it, was stupid," he huffs and is out the window.
"Just keep on getting odder. It's a good look on you," Stiles calls out the window after him.
It's a delicate balancing act.
"It's a dark, smelly alley. Nothing ever happens in a dark, smelly alley despite what television tries to tell you. Remember how I got kidnapped in the middle of a Lacrosse field in a crowd instead."
"All the more reason not to tempt fate," Derek says, eying said alley with his brows pulled down. He was going to leave Stiles in the car at the end of the alley and do a sweep himself but Stiles had never in his life been a stay in the car kinda guy. He'd gotten out as soon as Derek had reached the mouth of the alley and Derek had turned on him, exasperated.
"Look, it's just asking for trouble leaving me alone. Haven't you ever watched a horror movie?"
"Fine," Derek says, through his clenched teeth so, bingo.
"What do Furies look like anyway?" Stiles asks as they make their way carefully down the narrow stretch of street. Derek is tense, fairly bristling for action at Stiles' side, one hand gripping the bottom of Stiles' jacket like he needs to be tethered or he's going to just run off. "Oh hey, look at-" he says, darting forward and only jerking to a halt when Derek's arm goes taut.
So, possibly Derek was right not to trust him.
Derek keeps tugging until Stiles is all the way behind him, body tense and a low growl starting up deep in his chest. Stiles knows that growl, it's Derek's on-alert growl which means he's heard something, or smelled something. Stiles stays perfectly still, pressing his lips together so Derek can concentrate. The Derek-bothering stops the moment something real happens.
Derek whips around suddenly, so hard and with his grip still on Stiles that he nearly yanks Stiles right off his feet. "What-?" Stiles starts to protest but then there are two figures barreling at them from the other side of the alley. Derek doesn't lose the tenseness even when Stiles can see it's Isaac and Erica.
He watches in blank surprise as the two werewolves streak past them without stopping. Erica only sparing a moment to turn and yell, "Run, you idiots!" as she blows by.
That's when Stiles hears it, a low-grade rumble that could almost be described as a snarl if it didn't sound so gritty. Derek uses his grip in Stiles' jacket to propel Stiles forward in the direction Isaac and Erica were going and he almost collides with Isaac who's stopped dead.
"Dammit," Isaac groans as what looks like a ragged section of shadow breaks away from the wall at the end of the alley and slumps towards them.
Stiles cranes around to see Derek facing the other direction, wolfed out and with a similar shadowy form advancing on him. Stiles swallows hard when he realizes they're trapped, Erica and Isaac shuffling into him, both letting out indignant snarling.
Derek takes the three or four steps backwards required to close the small circle of wolves around Stiles but from what he's looking at, he's not sure that claws and strength will do it. He can see the night sky through the shambling figures, the lights from the street beyond. If the Furies are insubstantial they're screwed because Stiles is pretty damn sure you can't fight smoke.
On Derek's side of the alley, the figure lets out what sounds like a belch and dirty green smoke pours from it. Stiles immediately claps a hand over his mouth, knowing it won't do much good.
"Up the wall," Derek barks, toeing out of his boots. Stiles is confused why for a moment, up until Erica grumbles about her pedicure as she kicks her boots free and then digs into the wet brick with her toes, creating a foot hold for herself. Isaac's also got his sneakers off and he's punching into the wall with feet and hands.
"That's... not going to work for me," Stiles says. There's a fire escape they're aiming for but they're having to scale the wall because it ends two floors above ground which can't be up to code, Stiles thinks with an internal scowl. He's so going to report somebody for this.
"Stiles, backpack time," Derek says, presenting his back and Stiles rolls his eyes.
"You're not funny," he grumbles as he wraps arms around Derek's neck and jumps, letting Derek catch his legs and position them against his hips before he lets go. Stiles clings desperately as Derek moves to the base of the wall and starts the laborious job of scaling it, Erica and Isaac craning over their shoulders to check the Furies' position and on Stiles and Derek's progress. Isaac reaches the fire escape first, pulls himself up and immediately reaches down to Erica to hoist her to the first intact platform. They then both strain down for Derek but he's only halfway, made slow by Stiles' weight.
"Where's a radioactive spider bite when you need it?" Stiles huffs.
Derek stops, and Stiles is about to demand why the hell he would, when he looks down, always a mistake, and sees one of the shadows has stretched up an insubstantial limb and Derek's ankle and the foot beneath are completely encased in darkness. He's yanking at the trapped leg, but it's not moving.
Stiles looks back up, sees both Isaac and Erica with glowing eyes, looking like they're going to pitch themselves head-first at whatever is holding Derek, when something hits Stiles from the side, knocking him free of Derek.
He yelps, expecting a jarring impact when his fragile, human body hits the ground but he lands encased in something soft and warm. Before he can figure out just what, he's being unceremoniously dumped onto the road and there's what can only be described as a giant, four-legged, shaggy beast standing over him, squinting in the darkness.
"Oh craaaaap," Stiles breathes, freezing. The thing huffs a warm breath that blows his hair back and then leaps away, straight at the shadow that's now engulfed Derek to the waist. Stiles expects the new monster to go straight through the roiling mass, but the creature's extended claws snag on the shadow and drag it off Derek and down.
The Fury screeches, the sound so outside of Stiles' experience that he wants to put his hands over his ears to block it out. He doesn't, instead pushing up on shaky legs and tottering over to Derek who'd jumped clear of the wall when he'd been freed. The second Fury leaps toward the creature and its brethren, also screeching but more in what sounds like outrage than pain.
There is an ugly-looking scuffle and a blur of fur, smoke and teeth rolls out of the mouth of the alley and disappears.
"One crisis at a time. Isn't there some kind of rule that says we only have to deal with one crisis at a time?" Stiles grumbles, kind of hovering and patting at the air around Derek who's gotten as far as rising onto his haunches before he pauses for a breather. "Monster of the week, not monsters, plural."
"Do we have to go after all of them?" Isaac asks, landing neatly by Stiles' side and grabbing Derek under the armpits to force him the rest of the way to his feet. Erica drops down a few seconds later, pushing her hair back and squinting the way the monsters, plural, ugh, went.
"I mean, it's bad enough the Furies were a tag-team. Just what the hell was that other thing?" Stiles demands, hugging arms around himself. He's got gooseflesh chasing up and down his whole body from how close he came to having his face eaten off.
"How are you not dead, Stilinski?" Erica observes, echoing Stiles' thoughts.
"I didn't like the look of that smoke," Derek says, patting himself down like he's checking he still has all his limbs. It's a valid concern, considering one of the Furies was basically halfway through ingesting him when it was interrupted. He looks at Stiles. "You think you could find more on these things?"
"Sure, I'll just Google Furies and battle cat," Stiles scoffs. Probably given enough time he could find more useful information on what they're dealing with, but it seems like time is something they might be out of if they're suddenly getting monsters in value packs.
"Deaton?" Isaac proposes, eyes ticking nervously towards the opposite end of the alley and back.
Derek sighs, rubbing a hand over his face but then nods in a resigned way. "Yeah, Deaton," he agrees.
"And keep Stiles well away from them."
"Hey!" Stiles isn't really pleased with the way this whole discussion is panning out. Derek, on the other hand, looks way too happy.
"If you think that's best," he says, sliding Stiles a smug little smirk.
"I'm in the room. You could talk about me like I'm here or, hey, novel idea, talk to me," Stiles complains. "Why do I have to stay away from the Furies?"
"Because you're so squishy?" Erica says, darting in to pinch Stiles' cheek, and not the face one. Stiles slaps her hands away and dances sideways, out of her reach. Scott and Isaac had met them at Deaton's, towing Allison, Boyd and Lydia with them and now all of them were looking at Stiles.
"Allison and Lydia are as squishy as me," Stiles protests.
"It's not a remark on your fragility, Stiles," Deaton says, ever patient.
"What is it, then?"
"I think Derek's right in that these aren't the traditional Furies but they definitely share some of the same characteristics. One important facet of the Fury is its ability to... affect the magically inclined."
"The greatest threat to a Fury is a witch. They're really the only ones that can banish a Fury once they're summoned. In turn, a Fury can affect a witch. If a witch were to inhale the Fury's poisonous gas, it would open a portal of unexpressed anger within the witch. He or she would become an unfocused weapon, destroying anything in their path."
"That sounds bad," Scott says, reaching out a hand to grip Stiles' shoulder.
"I'm not a witch, though," Stiles argues.
"You have potential. Lydia is immune to magical influence and Allison is protected by birthright."
"Really?" Allison says, frowning.
"Argents carry a certain something, passed from generation to generation. They're... resistant is probably the best way to describe it. It's in your blood as much as Lydia's immunity is in her."
"Neat," Allison says, dimpling at Scott who actually high-fives her and Stiles rolls his eyes so hard his whole head gets in on it.
"This is unbelievable," he huffs.
"It's not like you aren't used to being benched," Isaac says.
"Not helpful," Scott says.
"Wasn't trying to be," Isaac snaps back
"You're not benched, Stiles. You'll need to be the one to banish these creatures."
"Oh," Stiles says and then pokes his tongue out at Isaac. "So, what you're saying is I'm integral."
"What he's saying is that you're the pack equivalent of the waterboy," Isaac snorts and Stiles launches himself at Isaac, superior werewolf strength be damned. It's moot though, because Derek catches him around the waist and marches him out of the back of the clinic, Stiles kicking at his shins the entire way.
"Ow, quit it," Derek says, dropping Stiles as soon as they're outside.
"I think I've had enough manhandling for one day," Stiles sniffs, tugging his shirt and hoodie back into place with a few annoyed yanks.
"If you would stop reacting to him, he'd stop, y'know," Derek says.
"I can't help it. Our whole relationship is based on mutual poke-age." Stiles pulls a face when Derek's eyebrows climb his forehead. "Wow, that came out sounding far dirtier than I meant it to."
"I know you don't believe it, but you are important," Derek says, suddenly looking anywhere but at Stiles. He's actually scuffing his feet which is ridiculous amounts of adorable.
"It's okay. I don't need a pep talk to reconcile myself with being sidelined."
"That's not what-"
"Hey, Derek! Think maybe we should get back out there?" Erica calls, poking her head out the clinic door.
"I should see what I need to do, too," Stiles says, jerking his chin in Erica's direction. Derek steps aside, but before Stiles can slide all the way past him, Derek catches him by the elbow.
"You're important to... to the pack," Derek insists.
"Yeah, big guy, I got it. I'm fine. I haven't cried into my pillow about something anyone's said to me since I was eight."
"Want me to arrange for Isaac to have a little accident?" Erica offers, waggling her eyebrows.
"That's so sweet," Stiles says, putting his hand to his chest and grinning. He hears Derek make an exasperated-sounding huff behind him and figures it's because Derek's about done with having to coddle Stiles as much as he does.
Stiles can't blame him.
Stiles has a Skype window open and Scott on the line. He's back in his room after having been loaded up with ingredients and instructions by Deaton. At the moment he's dropping stuff into a bowl and crushing it. Weatherwax is helping in the way all cats do, by basically sitting on exactly the instruction page he needs at any given moment or poking a curious paw in the bowl whenever he leaves it unattended for more than two seconds.
"You have to blend all the stuff in a specific order and time it exactly. There's six hours between each stage."
"Ugh, that bites," Scott observes and then he snorts a laugh.
"Weatherwax just totally stole the ham out of your sandwich."
"What? Aw, dammit," Stiles groans. Weatherwax was apparently a surgeon in a former life. The sandwich looks completely intact, lettuce, tomato and cheese all still in place but the ham is indeed disappearing into Weatherwax's pleased-looking face.
"You keeping her?"
"I don't know. Deaton said he'd have someone to take her in a few weeks."
Weatherwax, obviously displeased with being ignored, insinuates herself between Stiles' computer monitor and keyboard, flops onto her side and then uses all four overlarge feet to push Stiles' keyboard into his lap. "You're not helping your case there, buddy," Stiles says. She just blinks at him sleepily and lets out a loud sigh.
"You think..." Scott looks down and away, the move he makes when he's halfway through a question he's not sure he should be asking.
"What?" Stiles presses.
"Just, the magic stuff? Do you think that's actually a thing?"
"I think I was able to make the mountain ash trick work just the once. None of you better ever bite me because I think I've ingested more of the stuff than is healthy trying to do that tricky up-in-the-air maneuver. I've been attempting to float pencils with my mind and nada."
"Deaton seems to believe it."
"He's big on belief," Stiles says. Weatherwax has dropped to the floor now and is chewing on one of his discarded sneaker laces. Stiles pushes her away gently with the side of his socked foot. She seems to take that as an invitation for a game and clamps both paws around his toes, digging her claws in. "Ow, no, bad cat!"
"I believe in you too," Scott says, grinning and Stiles rolls his eyes.
Someone clears their throat behind him and Stiles isn't sure what it indicates about his life that he's not even that surprised. "Gotta go, got a visitor," he says and hangs up, turning around in his chair to see Derek hovering in his bedroom doorway. "Did dad let you in?"
"On his way out, yes," Derek says.
"Wow dude, way to show growth, using a door like a real boy and everything."
"Stiles," Derek huffs.
"You can't rush me with this stuff," he says, waving a hand at the bowl and pages of Deaton's notes. "There's a schedule-"
"I'm not here to bug you," Derek says. "I came to tell your dad what was happening."
"Oh, okay. I hadn't really gotten around to it yet."
"I know you're still trying to protect him from this stuff, but the Furies' main targets are criminals, petty or otherwise. That puts this firmly in your dad's wheelhouse."
"I guess," Stiles relents. His first instinct is to always gloss over the facts of the latest supernatural baddie they're dealing with, even though his dad's now in the know more or less. Derek has a point and Stiles can't really be too annoyed with the reveal.
"He agreed with me that someone should be with you while you're working on the spell."
"I don't need a babysitter."
"I know that," Derek says, looking exasperated.
"That's what it always comes down to. Stiles is so fucking fragile-"
"Stiles! I didn't come here to argue with you. The Furies might be able to sense what you're doing so it's just a precaution. If you like, I can call Boyd and he can come and hang out if I annoy you so much."
"You don't annoy me," Stiles says, turning back to his computer. "I've got about four hours before I can do the next bit so I was going to work on my history paper. You can go watch TV downstairs if you like."
"Can I borrow a book?" Derek asks, after swinging his arms back and forth like a kid for a few moments.
"Sure, go nuts," Stiles invites, still turned to his computer. There's the quiet sounds of Derek running fingers along his bookshelf, pulling out and then pushing back a few volumes before he seems to settle for something and then there's the quiet flump of Derek throwing himself onto Stiles' bed. "Boots," Stiles says without bothering to look and twin thumps of two boots being scraped off and then hitting the floor make him smile.
He and Derek had been getting to a comfortable place in their relationship built on hard-won mutual respect and more than a few life-threatening situations. Lately though, awkwardness has started to creep back in and Stiles isn't sure why. He's been nursing an on-off crush on Derek for a while now and it never seemed to be an issue before, but maybe he's been less careful about hiding it lately, making Derek uncomfortable. He'd hate to think that was the reason for the tension between them but he's starting to have his suspicions.
"Hi," Derek says and Stiles frowns, but when he turns around, he sees the greeting was for Weatherwax. She's standing on Derek's chest, glaring at him.
"Dude, just push her off," Stiles says.
"She's fine. Animals that aren't used to me usually steer clear, that's all."
"She doesn't really have great self-preservation instincts. She keeps getting under my dad's feet."
"There's still something..." Derek's staring back at the cat, his expression partially confused, part contemplative.
Weatherwax reaches out a paw and boops his nose.
Derek lets out a startled laugh and rubs his nose off on the end of his sleeve. Stiles is so struck by the sight of Derek honest-to-god-laughing that for a moment he doesn't notice Weatherwax arch and jump away as Derek comes off the bed, growling.
"What? Oh god, what?" Stiles demands, thinking maybe his assertions that he didn't need protecting were premature. The sound of breaking glass downstairs has Derek darting across the room and grabbing a fistful of Stiles' t-shirt.
"Out the window, now!" he barks.
"What? no! I have to-" Stiles says, making a desperate grab for the Fury-banishing detritus but Derek just pushes him in the direction of the window.
"I can't just jump off the roof, I'll break like, everything," Stiles protests as Derek turns back towards his doorway, growling. Derek tenses for a moment before he darts across the room and out Stiles' window onto the roof and then gestures impatiently.
"C'mon them. I'll go first and catch you."
"Oh this is not happening," Stiles complains. He's in bare feet and pajama pants and apparently fleeing for his life from smoke monsters that want to drive him insane. He's halfway out his window when he remembers the damn cat.
"What are you doing?" Derek demands, already standing at the edge of the roof outside Stiles' window.
"Gotta get Weatherwax," Stiles says. Derek makes a grab for him but Stiles is already back inside the room and hunkered down under his desk where he could've sworn Weatherwax had gone after freaking out. He comes up empty handed and with a nightmarish, roiling figure of smoke and tattered flesh between him and escape.
There's a low growl and at first Stiles thinks it's Derek, but the Fury shifts sideways and Stiles can see his cat, snarling and hissing. She's also shuddering and growing until she's the size of a small horse, inky dark and basically the second creature from the alley the first time they'd come into contact with the Furies.
"Oh my god," Stiles squeaks, making a dive for the window now that the Fury is distracted by Weatherwax swiping at it and yowling. A hand grabs the back of Stiles' shirt and he's unceremoniously yanked through, tucked under Derek's arm like a football which is a feat in itself because they're of a size lately, and then they're on the ground.
"Jeep, go!" Derek yells. Stiles gets his wobbly legs under him and manages a few steps before he's down on his knees again. Something detaches from the trees, the other Fury, and Stiles is able to, through probably a good deal of luck and mostly flailing, to get back on his feet and over to the jeep. He paws desperately for the hideaway key under his front wheel well, gets the door open and the jeep thankfully roars to life on the first try.
Derek drops down into the passenger seat as Stiles slams his foot down on the accelerator. For a horrifying second, the jeep's tires spin uselessly before suddenly finding purchase and the jeep shoots forward, straight through one of the Furies.
It's insubstantial but Stiles still feels the sensation of a tattered, moist, fleshy curtain being dragged over his entire body before they're clear and taking the corner at the end of his street too fast.
"What the hell was... where the frak did...did you see my cat?" Stiles babbles almost hysterically.
"Stiles!" Derek barks, reaching a hand across to put to the back of Stiles' neck and squeeze hard. They're a few blocks away from his house when Stiles pulls the jeep over so he can lean his head against the steering wheel and just breath for a moment. Derek leaves his hand on Stiles' nape and while it might not be good for his heart rate, it's nice regardless.
"Dude, what?" Stiles manages, hoping that one word conveys the hundreds of questions he has about the whole situation. He and Derek stare at each other for a moment before they both break out into brittle laughter, relief and leftover adrenalin making them giddy. "Where should we go?"
"I don't know whether they tracked you or just found you by process of elimination. We should probably head somewhere unfamiliar just in case."
"So, no vet clinic, police station or school?" Stiles ticks off on his fingers. "I'm not risking anyone else's houses, but I need to finish the banishment spell."
"I have an idea," Derek says and Stiles groans.
"If it involves the word abandoned, I'm not sure I'm going to like it."
"Well, I guess we can say it's a step up from the rail car," Stiles says and Derek cuffs him over the back of the head and dumps Stiles' emergency bag on the floor.
Stiles really needs to look at his life choices since they necessitate him having an emergency bag in the jeep.
"I better call my dad. He'll be heading home soon."
"I'll call Isaac and get him to go over to yours to get the spell components."
"It's better if Lydia does it. She'll know what she's dealing with and how to handle it. I don't want to have to start from scratch," Stiles says, pulling out his phone. It already has six missed calls and a bunch of texts that he mustn't have heard while fleeing for his life and then freaking out afterwards. He supposes there was a bit of a commotion and that the neighbors would have called his dad. "Get Isaac and Scott to go with her though," Stiles adds as he dials.
"Stiles! What the hell-?"
"I'm okay, dad," Stiles interrupts his father's panicked yell.
"Mrs. Dennings says she saw you dragged out of your bedroom window. That's not okay!" Stiles sees Derek wince and move away to make his own calls.
"I wasn't dragged. Or, well, I was but that was Derek saving me," Stiles says.
"It's a little hard to explain."
"I asked you about this," the Sheriff says and Stiles hates the way his sounds so weary. His dad knows about the supernatural stuff now, but he also knows that sometimes Stiles is still lying to him. He probably understands why but it doesn't make it any easier to accept.
"I have to work a spell. It'll take three days and the... creatures that are after me will be gone when I finish. I'll have a werewolf protection detail but I need to do this."
"Whatever was after you was killing-"
"Yes," Stiles interrupts to confirm quickly. "I'm okay, though. I swear."
"You are far from okay, kid. You keep taking these things on yourself and you're just... you're not..." Stiles listens to his dad breathing raggedly for a moment. He looks up and Derek is back, watching him.
"I'm just a human," Stiles says quietly and something flits across Derek's features, his whole face tightening. "But this is something only I can do."
"You're not going to tell me where you are, are you?"
"I'll be back in three days."
"We're going to talk about this then, all of this," his dad says and then gruffly, "Put Derek on the phone."
Derek's already got his hand out when Stiles looks up at him. "Yes, sir. Yes, I understand. No, I can't either. Yes, of course," he says and Stiles really wishes he had the werewolf hearing thing so he wasn't stuck listening to only one side of the conversation. Especially when Derek says, "If that happens, Sheriff, I can assure you now that I would be dead already."
Derek hands the phone back then and Stiles remembers something important after he hears his dad say I love you. "Oh, um, if you see Weatherwax, maybe steer clear."
"The cat, Stiles? What's wrong with the cat?"
"Scott also got this from Deaton," Allison says, handing a pouch over to Stiles. "If the Furies are tracking you, it should mask you."
"Something that would have been handy to have before I got a house call," Stiles grumbles and Allison pats his shoulder sympathetically.
"Scott's gone to plant one on your dad, just in case," she says and Stiles smiles back at her, grateful.
"So, creepy sleepover?" Lydia says, crinkling her nose as she surveys the place.
"You guys don't have to-" Stiles starts to say but everyone overrides him with dismissive noises. Isaac disappears outside, comes back in with an armload of sleeping bags and a cooler. Stiles accepts the soda Isaac hands him with a nod.
"Might as well help since I'm here," Lydia says, pushing her sleeves up. "Tell me what we need to do for the next part of the spell."
"I think even sans werewolves, you would have found a way to get into trouble," Derek says, moving closer. Stiles would normally call Derek on his hovering, but it's kind of nice at the moment to feel watched over. Scott had texted to report that Boyd and Erica were shadowing his dad discreetly and Scott was running interference with his mom and Chris so the three of them didn't band together and hunt them down.
"Yeah, probably," Stiles says and then twists, the small of his back and his shoulders aching from being hunched over. He didn't hear Derek move closer still, but suddenly there are strong hands on his back, landing directly on the sorest places and sweeping outwards. "Oh, duuuuuude," Stiles practically slurs as the pain starts to liquify and then leak away.
"I'm sorry you get stuck with stuff like this. You didn't ask for it," Derek says, hands moving to the base of Stiles' spine. He hesitates for a moment, before he pushes Stiles' t-shirt and hoodie up a little and then warm hands are pressing against the places Stiles is aching the most, kneading gently.
"I kinda did," Stiles says, letting his head drop forward. He should probably join the others in the puppy pile since he's in a waiting phase of the spell but Derek's hands are making him feel so good that he doesn't think he could move if he tried.
Scott is taking to being a werewolf like he was made for it, but the fact remains that, if given a choice, he wouldn't be.
"Well, I was the one who was all like, let's go see a dead body, Scott," Stiles grunts. Stiles grimaces when Derek's hands stop moving, because the dead body was Laura and he always manages to forget that when he's talking about it, probably because it's easier to not think of it that way. Derek's started to talk about her more and Stiles really tries to divorce what he and Scott saw at the bottom of the hastily dug grave from the woman Derek tells stories about with longing and affection in his voice.
"Stiles," Derek says, hands finally migrating back up to his shoulders and pressing down, like he's trying to force his words to be understood with touch. "None of this is your fault."
"Peter would have bitten someone that night. It might've been someone that couldn't handle it, someone that hurt themselves or others. Someone that didn't have an annoying best friend who would take it in stride and lob lacrosse balls at his junk until he learned control."
"I wasn't aiming specifically for his junk. It was just a happy accident a time or two."
"You saved countless lives and you don't even realize it, do you? If Peter had someone that had joined with him..."
"Well, when you put it like that, I am pretty awesome," Stiles says and he's meaning to be funny, but Derek moves around until he's hunkered in front of Stiles, palms resting on Stiles' knees.
"You are," Derek says and leans up and-
"Ugh, Isaac! Get your foot out of my face," Lydia complains and Stiles flails backwards, only managing to not fall completely off the crate he was perched on because Derek grabs the front of his shirt. As soon as Stiles is balanced, Derek lets him go and rises, stepping away.
"You should get some sleep. I'll wake you when it's time," Derek says gruffly, tilting his chin towards the sleeping bags.
"Niiiiiiice demonic, shapechanging kitty," Stiles croons shakily. He lifts his head enough that he can see Derek perched on the overturned crate he'd been using with a book on his knee and looking unfussed about Stiles' peril. "Uh, little help?"
"You're perfectly safe," Derek says, not even bothering to look up. Stiles had gone to sleep wedged between Isaac and Allison but now it seemed everyone had abandoned him to his fate of kitten death.
"Says you," Stiles squeaks. Weatherwax opens one sleepy eye, yawns for all she's worth and then stretches and seems to go back to sleep.
"Stiles, it's okay. She's a Familiar. I called Deaton when she turned up."
"Of course he knew," Derek says, finally tearing himself away from whatever he's reading long enough to give Stiles an impassive look. Stiles can't argue. It makes sense that Deaton was perfectly aware what he was sending Stiles home with. Stiles often wonders if Deaton has some kind of supernatural blog or tumblr, something called stuff I do to unknowing teenagers just for giggles. "Familiars choose who they bond with. Weatherwax chose you. Deaton had thought that maybe she wouldn't choose anyone because she didn't take to any of the other witches-"
"Other witches? I'm not a witch, Derek."
"You've got to have something if a Familiar chooses you. I feel better knowing there's someone else protecting you."
"You feel better? Well, bully for you but can you maybe get her off me before she turns into a giant monster cat of doom?"
"She won't do that unless you're threatened."
"I feel threatened."
"Just shoo her off like you normally would."
"She could eat me."
"Stiles," Derek says, sounding exasperated, but he also comes over with a plate in hand, the remnants of a sandwich resting on it. He puts it down about a foot away from Stiles and Weatherwax does that languid, unbothered lift and stretch thing that cats are so good at, taking her time about moving off Stiles until she's finally sniffing delicately at the plate.
Stiles scoots away as soon as he's free and Weatherwax looks back at him. She'd be raising an unimpressed eyebrow at him if she had any, he just knows it. "Yeah, shut up," he says to her and she seemingly dismisses him to demolish the remains of the sandwich.
"What's the timer say?" Stiles asks, rubbing at his eyes and then stretching his neck out. The pile of cushions and sleeping bags on the floor had started out comfortable, but he'd obviously moved around enough that he'd ended up on bare floorboards and now his body was protesting about that fact.
"Another twenty minutes," Derek says. He motions behind him and Stiles can see that the components for the next part of the spell are already set up, Lydia obviously having been busy while he was dead to the world.
"Where are the others?"
"Food run. Isaac said something about needing an Icee or he was going to expire."
"Scott check in?"
"Yep, and we let Argent know what was going on. He's checking with his contacts to see if there's anything we can use to slow the Furies down if they get to us before the spell's finished."
"Has been calling every half hour. Erica and Boyd are still shadowing him but I got the very distinct impression that he's aware and he's just humoring us by letting them follow him."
"I should call him," Stiles says, getting up. He pushes his fists into the small of his back and groans at the crack. "Hey, what did you say to him before?"
"Before when?" Derek asks, ducking his face.
Stiles furrows his brows, drops his voice into a gruff, Derek-grumble. "If that happens, Sheriff, I can assure you now that I would be dead already."
"I don't sound like that."
"Not the point."
"He just... he said that he would kill me if anything happened to you. I was just explaining how the point was moot."
"Look, I get you're into the self-sacrifice thing because you think you deserve-"
"That isn't why."
Derek's looking steadily at Stiles now, face set and mouth a grim little line, like he's bracing himself for something. And oh, oh, Stiles thinks, shocked. Derek is bracing himself for rejection, like that's even possible.
"You're an idiot," Stiles blurts.
"Thanks," Derek says flatly.
"No! No, I mean that... is this you declaring something?"
"Stiles, it's fine. I feel like enough of an idiot as it is carrying this particular torch around."
"There's a torch?"
"You know that."
"I don't! I wasn't aware there was torch-age. If I'd known-"
"I try to bring it up all the time. You change the subject or make a joke. I can take a hint... eventually."
"What?" Stiles says, goggling at Derek. "When did you bring it up, ever?"
"I tried to ask you out to the movies only last week."
"Yes!" Derek says, sounding exasperated. He opens his mouth to say something else but Stiles holds a hand up, mentally rewinding, trying to find the point where he missed a huge, honking opening like that one.
"Wait, you mean after Scott-?"
"That was you asking me out on a date? Or trying to?"
"That was... terrible," Stiles says and Derek's cheeks flush a lovely, hectic red.
"This is all really hilarious for you, isn't it?"
"It is, but not because of why you think. I've had a fear boner for you since I can remember, and it turned into a regular boner a while back, when you turned out to be about as scary as a bunny."
"I'm scary," Derek says, petulant and Stiles just wants to laugh and also maybe hug him until Derek's frown turns well and truly upside down.
"You're truly frightening, you're a big scary-"
"You can stop doing that, like, forever."
"Anyway, speaking of boners-"
"I've changed my mind. Forget I said anything."
The timer chooses that moment to ring and Derek looks relieved. Stiles trots over to smack a hand on it to silence it, then detours on his way to his spell components to wrap his arms around Derek's neck and smack a loud, wet kiss on his cheek. Derek's stubble is surprisingly soft and non-scratchy and Stiles takes a moment to rub his nose against the hollow just under Derek's cheekbone. Derek makes a low, growly pleased noise that Stiles is sure he'll deny later but for right now, Derek's arms have come around Stiles' waist and he's hugging back.
It's nice, which is why, of course, the Furies choose that moment to burst through a wall.
Derek roars, shifts and moves to dart forward but Stiles catches his elbow. "Stiles!" he barks around his teeth.
"Incorporeal, remember? At least to you! I propose retreating."
The second Fury at that moment chooses to coalesce into existence right in front of Stiles when he turns, belching the sickly green smoke from somewhere in the vicinity of where a mouth would be if the Fury had one. Derek's second, "Stiles!" is a lot more horrified and he's smacking a hand over Stiles' nose and mouth but it's too late.
Stiles has breathed in and...
"How many times do I have to tell people I'm not a witch!" Stiles yells after he rips Derek's hand off, feeling furious. The ingredient bowl for the spell is right by his hip and Stiles reaches into it, pulls out a handful of the gritty half-done components and tosses them right in the Fury's smoke-hole.
The Fury screeches, pawing at itself with insubstantial claws and then seems to fold in on itself, smaller and smaller and smaller until it winks completely out of existence. Stiles gapes at where the Fury was for a second before Derek's shaking him from behind and turning him around, indicating how Weatherwax seems to be losing her fight with the other Fury.
"Do that again!" Derek yells.
"I have no idea what I did that time," Stiles yells back but Derek is putting the bowl in his hands and shuffling him forward. Weatherwax is being pinned by the Fury, whole body lashing furiously and even though she's currently not exactly her bad-eyed, odd little fuzzy self, she's still Weatherwax and Stiles sees red.
With a snarl the werewolves would be proud of, he steps forward, scraping the bowl to get the dregs of the mashed ingredients and with a closed fist around them, punches into the roiling mass of the Fury's body. It feels ice cold wherever it's touching his skin, but it reels away almost immediately, convulsing and screeching the same way its other half had before also collapsing into itself.
The sudden silence is almost deafening and Stiles watches in mute disbelief as Weatherwax shrinks down until she's a small, ill-formed cat again lying on her side and panting. His anger ebbs away with the last wisps of the Furies and Stiles gives Derek a contrite look and says, "Okay, maybe just the tiniest bit of a witch."
Derek puts hands on Stiles' shoulders and shakes him gently, this time looking proud and pleased. Stiles hunkers down to scoop Weatherwax up and she flops over his arms, looking exhausted. Derek picks up one of her overlarge front paws, rubbing it between his fingers and she bats lazily at him with the other one, managing to catch the skin of the back of his hand and draw blood.
"Heh, don't touch the paws, man," Stiles chortles.
"Son of a-" Derek grumbles as Stiles says, "Witch? Don't pretend you haven't been dying to say that."
"I'm not going to argue with her," his dad says in his defense when Stiles busts them like that the first time, but he's also rubbing steady fingers under her chin so Stiles thinks he's probably not too worried about it.
Derek turns up at his door the Friday after everything has gone down, wearing a dark blue shirt and black jeans, looking like maybe he'd been wrestled down and his hair and possibly eyebrows combed. Stiles laughs as soon as he opens the door and then smiles when Derek lets him rub hands over his head to spike his hair back up.
"We shouldn't have told anyone," Derek grumbles. "They're all so annoying."
"You mean pleased," Stiles corrects, tugging Derek back down the walk to his Toyota. "Isaac just keeps texting me increasingly ecstatic looking emoticons and Boyd gave me an actual thumbs up yesterday."
"They think I'll go easy on them if I'm..." Derek leaves the rest of the sentence unspoken but Stiles could take a few guesses. "How'd Scott take it?"
"He's happy if I'm happy, or at least that's what he says even if he looked completely constipated while saying it." Stiles takes a chance and links hands with Derek, if only for the few more seconds it'll take to get down to the car and is immensely chuffed when Derek just curls his arm so it drags Stiles closer into the curve of his body. "Plus, he said that you would be drinking a wolfsbane daiquiri if you hurt my precious little heart."
"Erica said they'll never find the body if you hurt mine," Derek says, looking a little awed that someone would be protective of him.
"Aw, equal opportunity threatening. I like it," Stiles says, jumping up into the cab of Derek's car when he opens the door, only relinquishing his hold on Derek when he's situated.
Derek seems reluctant to leave Stiles' side and drops light hands on Stiles' thigh, picking at the material of his jeans as he says, "Did Deaton explain why just half the spell worked?"
"You know Deaton, never gives a straight answer. Basically he said that magic was sometimes more about the intention than the preparation."
"You sure you want to do this?"
"Go on a date with you? Of course," Stiles says, furrowing his brows at Derek's tucked chin.
"I mean the whole thing. I'm a lot to... take."
"I'm going to misunderstand what you're saying in the dirtiest way possible and reassure you with that it'll be more about the preparation than the-"
"Y'know what I mean," Derek interrupts before Stiles can get too graphic, but his head has come up and he's biting back a smile.
"Some people could say the same about me."
"You? You're easy."
"We'll see, depends how this date goes," Stiles says, waggling his eyebrows.
"You're also incorrigible."
"That I agree with."
“What was supposed to be so special about a full moon? It was only a big circle of light. And the dark of the moon was only darkness. But halfway between the two, when the moon was between the worlds of light and dark, when even the moon lived on the edge...maybe then a witch could believe in the moon.”
― Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad