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a good fever

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The floor was up. Or rather, Stiles was on the ceiling. He was pressed against it on his back, still tangled up in his comforter. He even had his pillow tucked under his head, it was just that his head was resting on the ceiling instead of the mattress. He felt feverish, filled to the brim with energy that had the kinetic feel of rapidly boiling water. When he breathed out, the air in front of him sparkled briefly with little chasing threads of light. It was magical energy literally overflowing from his body, escaping into the particles of the air.

“Fucking hell,” he said, huffing out a few more breaths of excess magic. He managed, with some difficulty, to extract his arms from inside his duvet, and shoved away from the ceiling. Slowly, he drifted down, until he was close enough to grab the back of his desk chair. That was how his dad found him, floundering around the room in mid-air, dragging the desk chair around behind him. His alarm was going off, and it was pretty obvious Stiles was going to be late for school.

“Oh for g- Stiles!” His dad said, exasperated. “This has got to stop.”


“I can’t help it!” Stiles managed to float over to the door, and his dad helped him down by grabbing his hand and tugging until gravity decided to do its job again. “It just happens!”

“So find a way to stop it happening,” his dad said it the same grim way he promised doom and destruction if Stiles didn’t tidy his room. “Or one day you’re gonna float out that window, and I’ll have to call the fire service to retrieve you from a goddamned tree.”

 

---

 

Stiles kept it together for most of the rest of the morning, but in fourth period, his focus met a real challenge in Mr. Burrell, the world’s least compelling math teacher. Outside, Stiles could see leaves shifting over the asphalt of the parking lot, picked up by the wind, tossed around and then gathering in drifts by the fence. Fall reminded him of his mom, and the way she had always paid him five bucks to rake the yard, and then let him dive bomb the great big pile of leaves afterwards.

There was a time, not too long after she died, when Stiles had made the decision to just act like he was okay. Back then, he told himself he was doing it for his dad. Recently Stiles had realized his motivations had been selfish too. In the process of pretending he was okay, Stiles had got mixed up and forgotten what was real and what was pretend. He had just got on with it, and life had become easier.

Sometimes though, he saw dead leaves blowing about outside, and the pretend Stiles cracked apart, and he realized that underneath he still wasn’t okay.

“Stiles,” it was Lydia, one chair over, and she sounded frightened. He looked over at her, and her cheeks were wet with tears. The whole classroom was silent. Mr. Burrell had stopped talking, his chalk was frozen halfway through the curve of an integral. He was crying too. Everyone was. Melancholy hung in the air as thick as smog. Stiles’ skin was tingling.

He hadn’t realized he could do this. The concept of it was so frightening, that Stiles felt his heart ratchet in his chest, and the atmosphere grew tight with fear. Then the bell rang and all the tension drained out of the room, just like that. Stiles grabbed his bag and ran.

 

---

 

Allison found him. After the incident in math, Stiles had retreated to the trampled patch of dead grass behind the bleachers and spent most of his lunch break trying not to have a panic attack and or destroy school property with his uncontrollable sorcerer powers. Allison came just before the bell, and sat down next to him and didn’t say anything for a while.

“Did Lydia tell you to come?” Stiles said, eventually. He had found that if he looked at his feet, he could just about keep a lid on everything. His sneakers, so familiar, scuffed at the toe and laced-up lopsided, were a comforting tether to reality.

“She might have mentioned something,” Allison said. Stiles glanced up at her. Her lips were pursed, and she looked concerned. “Are you okay?”

Stiles laughed. “Not in the slightest bit,” he said. “I feel like I’m about to explode. All the time.

Allison looked around. It was maybe five minutes before period 5 was due to start, and they had Economics next. The lacrosse field was deserted, mostly because it was kind of a blustery day, and everyone was staying indoors.

“There’s no-one around,” she said. “Let some out.”

Stiles shook his head, squared his shoulders and stood up. There was no explaining that if he started just, letting things out, he was kind of afraid that it wouldn’t stop. Since everything happened and he came into this power, Stiles had been having nightmares of his magic forcing itself out by splitting his skin, burning through his physical body and leaving him ash.

“Nah,” he said, drawing in a long, shaky, breath. “We have Econ. Finstock will kick my ass if I’m late.”

---

 

Allison wasn’t going to let it go, and neither was Lydia, or Scott. No-one was, in fact. The final straw definitely came when Stiles walked down on Sunday morning to find his dad, Scott and Chris Argent sitting around the table, like they were staging some kind of intervention.

“What is this?” Stiles said, kind of wishing he wasn’t wearing his boba fett pajama pants.

“It wasn’t my idea,” Scott said, apologetic. “But you turned the Lacrosse pitch orange-”

“That was-” Stiles began, but he didn’t really have any counter to that. For a few hours the Lacrosse field had indeed been orange. It may or may not have been his overdramatic reaction to Aiden trashing the Mets.

“The levitating, at night?” his dad said, raising his eyebrows.

“I have something that might help,” Mr. Argent said, looking at Stiles in a very unsettling way. It was like he hadn’t yet decided whether Stiles was ally or prey. He placed something on the table; a book, because of course the Argent’s had some kind of leather bound ancient literature on how to solve a problem like Stiles Stilinski.

“It’s a Grimoire,” Argent said, pressing one hand down on the cover. “A spell book. We found it in Gerard’s storage unit, after he- retired.”

Stiles let that one pass in lieu of grabbing the book and taking a look. It had most of the expected features of an ancient magical grimoire; eerily soft leather cover, thick parchment pages, a smell like the dank corner of an abandoned house. It did however, seem to be written in english, which was awesome.

“‘A Treatise in the Crafts and Practice of Magyk,’” Stiles read from the title page, putting on a british accent. “This is so cool.”

“Dr. Deaton said he would help you,” his dad said, looking down at the grimoire like it was a puzzle that needed solving. Stiles felt kind of guilty then, at how much shit his dad had to deal with now, because of werewolves and magic and stuff. Here he was on his day off, staging a magical intervention with a guy who hunted things for a living, and Scott, the world’s most unique alpha werewolf.

“I’ll get on it,” Stiles said, overwhelmed. “Yeah, right. I’ll sort it out.”

 

---

 

The thing was, Stiles had already been going to see Deaton, twice a week, after charity committee and lacrosse and the extra study sessions he was doing to prep for his college applications. So far they had made exactly no progress in helping Stiles control the wellspring of magical power inside, although they had managed to light a lot of candles and levitate a lot of objects. The grimoire added a new dimension.

“This is interesting,” Deaton said, when Stiles presented it. He spent a while just inspecting the cover, so long in fact, that Stiles got kind of worried.

“What are you doing?” he asked, twisting the cuff of his hoodie around his fingers. “Hey do you think it’s human skin?”

Deaton didn’t answer immediately, still looking at the book. Then, finally, he shook his head, slowly.

“It’s calf skin,” he said, touching it with his fingertips. He still didn’t seem certain. “No, definitely calf skin.”

He opened the grimoire and spent a while touching the pages, and Stiles couldn’t do anything but fidget while he did.

“Interesting,” Deaton said finally, in a smooth and measured way. “It looks like quite a few pages have been ripped out of this book.”


Stiles had noticed that too, and he had a theory.


“I think Mr. Argent tore out all the dangerous spells,” Stiles said. “You know like, murder curses and super explosion incantations.” 


Deaton lifted up the book and displayed an illustration of something that looked remarkably like a super explosion. He raised an eyebrow and Stiles made grabby hands at the book. When Deaton handed it over Stiles realized that the spell was indeed one for summoning a roaring inferno.

“So cool,” Stiles whispered. “Wait, so if the dangerous stuff is still there, then what was taken out?”

Deaton shrugged, and reached over the flip to the first page, “There's a lot in here I’m not familiar with, but at least I know where we can start.”

The first chapter of the book was all about glyph magic, which was something Deaton knew a little bit about, so he helped Stiles draw a symbol on the door in chalk, and press a thread of magic into it. Once he was done, the office door wouldn’t open. Like, at all.

“Guys?” Scott called from the other side. “Hey, why’d you lock the door?”

“We didn’t,” Deaton called, and Stiles rolled around laughing for half an hour while Scott tried to get it open.

 

---

 

Glyphs were cool. They were a kind of magic Stiles had never really considered before, because they required forethought and care, rather than like, waving your hand and making things explode. Stiles found a glyph designed to keep your hearth warm, and doodled it under his chair in homeroom with a sharpie. Now, with a whisper of magic he had a heated seat. Of course when the crew found out, they all wanted one.

“This is amazing,” Lydia said, slumped down in her seat. Outside it was blustery, with frequent bursts of icy rain. The warm seat was definitely season appropriate. “I am officially on board with the magic.”

“It’s kind of hurtful that you weren’t before,” Stiles murmured. Wind blew a spatter of rain against the window. Isaac looked like he was almost asleep. Kira was definitely asleep.

“You’re still all-” Scott was hunched over the back of his chair, and he waved his hands around chaotically. He meant that Stiles was still overflowing with fizzing, uncontrollable power, and he was right. The glyphs were cool, but they weren’t exactly helpful. The main issue had been that, although the book was in english, it was ye olde english, and also hand written in tiny, spidery handwriting, so Stiles had begun typing up the spells one by one. It was laborious, and so far he hadn’t found anything like a spell to help you stop accidentally casting spells.

“Yeah, still all-” Stiles shrugged and mimicked Scott's hand gesture. That morning he’d woken up on the ceiling again, and on the way into school he was pretty sure he’d accidentally turned all the lights green in frustration at all the traffic on the road. Stiles knew Scott could smell it, the metallic stink of magic, clinging to everything.

“I’ll figure it out,” he said, really hoping that he would. “Meanwhile, I found a glyph that helps you grip your sword better. I was thinking of putting it on my lacrosse stick.”

 

---

 

Stiles made it half way home before he had to pull over. His head was pounding, and he had a cold sweat from all the effort it was taking to not just let magic spew out of his mouth right onto the dashboard. He hadn’t turned anything weird colors at school, he hadn’t made any teachers cry, or levitated even a little bit. He was fit to burst.

He was pulled up right at the side of the preserve, the Jeep angled in where the pavement met the scrubby embankment. Stiles didn’t think too hard about the impulse, he just got out of the car and began walking into the woods. It was cold, kind of foggy and damp, but Stiles felt hot under his skin. He kept walking for a while, maybe ten minutes, and finally stopped, in a clearing. The ground between the trees was strewn with pine needles and dead leaves, trampled into mulch. Stiles crouched down and pressed his palms to the earth.



He could feel the magic of the forest, a steady, soothing thing. It was ancient, measured and boundless. Stiles drew in a shaky breath, and let go.

Magic rushed like it was coming out from every pore. Stiles could see it around him, pale gold and sparking like it was shooting along his nerve endings and out into the air. It got brighter and brighter, sinking into the earth, sucked up greedily by the roots of the trees, nourishing the forest, feeding it. Stiles squeezed his eyes shut, and was just carried off by the current of it, overwhelmed by the feeling of relief, the sweet release of it.

When he opened his eyes, it was darker out. He was flat on his back on the ground, and for now at least, all the magic was gone. Stiles felt calm inside.

“You’re awake,” someone said, over to his left. It was Derek Hale, leaning against one of the trees. He looked pissed off.

“Huh?” Stiles pushed himself up. The clearing looked like someone had thrown a can of bright green paint all over it. Soft green moss carpeted the ground, scattered with delicate white flowers. Little green saplings were reaching up everywhere, leaves unfurling in the moonlight. Everything was full of life. The air smelled fresh, verdant. “Yikes, I did this?”

“Mm-hm,” Derek said. “I saw your car by the road and followed your scent here. It wasn’t hard, since it stank of magic like you were summoning a legion of demons or something.”



“I was just unloading,” Stiles said, irritated. He rubbed his face. He felt a lot better, but it wasn’t exactly a permanent fix. The magic would be back.

“You were lying on the ground glowing,” Derek barked, looking furious. “Anyone could have found you and-” he didn’t finish.

“Shit,” Stiles realized suddenly just how much time had passed. “My dad is going to kill me.”

“He called,” Derek said, darkly. “I said you were with me, practicing your magic.” His tone said you’re a fucking idiot.

“I owe you, dude,” Stiles said, standing, and grimacing at how stiff he was. He was lightheaded too, and nearly dropped again, stumbling forward and straight into the brick wall that doubled as Derek’s chest.

“Argh,” Stiles said. “Are you made of stone or something?”

“No I just work out,” Derek snipped, and grabbed Stiles at the top of his arms, hauling him up until he was standing. Stiles really looked at his face then and realized that Derek wasn’t just a bit angry, or his usual level of ambient grumpy. He was absolutely furious. He looked about ready to spit fire.

“Are you fucking crazy?” he bellowed, right in Stiles’ face. “You could have been killed! You were completely defenseless- you were just lying on the fucking forest floor, I-” He stopped, shoved Stiles away and stalked off to the other side of the clearing, turning away.

“How are you such an idiot?” he said, finally. It sounded like a rhetorical question. Stiles couldn’t see Derek’s face, but he could picture exactly the impassive, weary expression on it.

“Yeah I’m with you, big man,” Stiles said, finally. “Uh, so which way was my car again?”



Derek made a frustrated noise, a hiss through his teeth. He strode off into the forest and Stiles jogged after him. It wasn’t far back to the road, and they walked in silence. Derek’s shoulders were hunched up at his ears. He waited until Stiles was back in the jeep then leaned in the window, his claws curling around the door.



“You cannot do this again,” he said. His voice sounded flat, but Stiles knew he was still furious. “If you need to do... whatever it was you were doing, then take Scott with you. Do not go out into the preserve on your own.”

“Oh fuck you,” Stiles said, starting up the engine. “I’m not some defenseless little baby, okay?”

“Promise me,” Derek said, almost yelling. His claws were in danger of puncturing the paintwork.

“Fine,” Stiles said. He watched Derek uncurl his fingers, take a step back, then he drove off, fuming.

 

---

 

“There’s nothing in it,” Stiles said, slamming the grimoire down on the table. Lydia looked at it like it was a severed hand. She had a mouthful of salad halfway up to her mouth.

“That’s not true,” Allison said, “there are tons of useful spells in it.”

“You know what I mean,” Stiles grumbled, slumping into his seat. “There’s nothing about control. Glyphs, awesome, incantations, super cool, potions- kind of scary, but nothing to help me not be a freak who spews magic over everything.”

Belatedly, Stiles realized he was talking a bit too loud. A girl two tables over was giving him a really weird look over her chicken burger. Stiles waved.

“There must be,” Allison said, turning the book around and flicking it open. She fluttered through a few pages then nodded, flipping it so Stiles could see. “Look, here. ‘In the last part of this volume are writ the forms of control, for taming the vast magyks of supernatural beings.’ Sounds like what you need to me.”

“I’m not a supernatural being,” Stiles grumbled, just as Scott dropped into the seat next to him. Scott patted his shoulder as he sat.

“Of course you aren’t buddy,” he said. Across from them, Isaac sat down too, smirking.

“Anyway, that section of the book is missing. I guess your dad didn’t actually want me to be able to control my magic,” Stiles said. Allison frowned, but she was halfway through a mouthful of pasta and she was way too civilized to talk with her mouth full. Isaac had no such qualms.

“Hey man, her dad didn’t touch the book. The pages were missing when he found it,” he paused, and glanced at Scott as if he had said something he wasn’t supposed to. Stiles didn’t miss the little head tilt Scott made, as if to say I’ll allow it. How had they not seen before, how much of a natural Alpha Scott was? He led from within, like he was made to do it. The polar opposite of Derek, who was brittle and furious, and compensated by shouting and acting like a giant butthole.

“Why do you look so grumpy?” Lydia said, putting down her juice box and tapping the grimoire with one nail. “At least you know a spell exists. Now you just have to find those missing pages.”

“How exactly am I going to do that?” Stiles said, slamming the book shut and shoving it back into his bag.

“Why don’t you go ask the guy who owned it before?” Kira asked. Everyone at the table fell silent. Stiles looked at Allison. She wasn’t chewing anymore.

No,” she said. “Absolutely not.”

 

---

 

Scott wouldn’t stop wringing his hands. Stiles wanted to grab them, hold them still and remind him that Allison wasn’t actually still going out with him. Still, Scott was one of those people who cared a lot what others thought of him regardless, and that was why Stiles loved him so much.

“We should not be here,” Scott said. They were pulled up outside the private care home, at the very back of the parking lot where the jeep wouldn’t be seen from the road. “If Allison finds out, if her dad finds out-”

“Oh shush,” Stiles said. “No-one needs to find out. We’ll just nip in, ask the old bastard, nip out again.”

“He isn’t just going to give you what you want,” Scott said, darkly. “You know that right?”

Stiles knew that. Still, since he’d last seen Gerard Argent he’d been through a few experiences, things that had left him with harder edges. He’d promise Gerard whatever he wanted, but Stiles wouldn’t be fulfilling any of those promises.

“Yeah, yeah,” Stiles said, pushing open the car door. Outside it was wet and windy. “Come on let’s get this over with.”

It was pretty easy to get into Gerard’s room. It wasn’t exactly a high security place, they just claimed to be his nephews and were ushered right in. Stiles felt a sour taste in his throat at how comfortable it was, how easy it would be for Gerard to just stand up and walk out, if he recovered.

Then Stiles saw him, and realized how unlikely that would be. He was a sagging, fragile version of what he had been before. He sat in his wheelchair with a bowed spine, and his skin was paper white, threaded with black veins. Every breath came with a wheeze, and his lips were wet with black muck, like molasses. His eyes though, were as sharp and bright as ever, and he smiled when he saw them, baring black teeth.

“Well if it isn’t it the true alpha and his pet sorcerer,” he said, scrubbing at his mouth with a grimy handkerchief. “To what do I owe this honor?”

“The grimoire,” Stiles said. “I know it used to be yours.”

Gerard didn’t answer right away, instead wiping at his mouth, then uncurling in his chair and placing his shaking hands on the arm rests. He was in a lot of pain, Stiles could tell, but he didn’t want to show it. He wanted to be the one with all the cards in his hand.

“Do you know how much a sorcerer is worth?” he said finally. Stiles didn’t answer. He had come uncomfortably close to finding out. “Your eyes can be used to see the past or the future. Your bones, ground into dust can give anyone magical power.”

Gerard hacked out a mouthful of black ooze, and smiled up at Stiles before he continued.

“Your blood of course, every drop of it, supposedly can be used to bring eternal life. Whether or not that is true, it still has incredible properties. Incredible healing properties.”

Stiles felt Scott tensing up, but held a hand out to stop him before he could say anything. He shook his head slowly.

“You won’t be getting any of my blood,” he said. “My blood isn’t on the table here. Maybe you could think a bit harder about what might be on the table.”

Gerard’s eyes narrowed, hardened. He had realized that he wasn’t dealing with the same Stiles Stilinski he had dragged into a basement and smacked about. He just breathed, for a long, measured moment. His breath rattled in his chest, and his shoulders spasmed like he was holding in a wracking cough.

“I want a cure,” he said finally. “Nothing less.”

“No way!” Scott barked, and Stiles glanced back at him, shook his head slowly. Scott had a mouthful of too-big teeth and his eyes were red. He uncurled his hands and made a visible attempt to calm himself down.

“I don’t know if a cure exists,” Stiles said. “If I were to describe my power right now, I would say it was limitless.”


He stepped closer, spoke a little more softly, tried to remember exactly how rotten and helpless Gerard had made him feel.

“But you don’t really have any other options, do you? Who else is going to come and help you now?” Stiles could remember that desperate, terrified feeling, he could feel it lurking, just behind all the patter and the front, close to consuming him again. He let it fill the air in the hospital room, let it soak out with all the power he had bubbling under his skin. He saw Gerard’s face quiver. “You’re forgotten in this place, left to rot. Who knows whether I can help you or not. Who knows whether I will.”

Stiles stopped, drew in a long slow breath. He was a hair’s breadth from losing control. He held it in, because more than anything else he was angry. This was revenge.

“I sold the pages,” Gerard said. His voice was fragile, trapped by his wheezing breath. “I sold them to a hunter in San Francisco. Not a family guy, a glory hound. His name was Wallace.”

Stiles watched as black liquid, like pitch, beaded at the corner of Gerard’s eye. The air in the room felt dense.

“Do you have his number?” Stiles said, and his voice sounded weird in his mouth, like something else was speaking out from inside him. Gerard nodded.

 

---

 


Scott was silent the whole way back in the car. Stiles kept his eyes on the road, but he could feel the way Scott kept looking at him, and then looking away. It was late, the roads were devoid of traffic, but the whole journey felt agonizingly long. Way too long.

“Look-” Stiles began once they were pulled up outside Scott’s place. He couldn’t continue.

“Dude,” Scott said, then scrubbed at his hair. “Dude. It’s not like I haven’t seen you use your magic before or whatever,” he trailed off.

They both stared out at the damp asphalt in front of the jeep and not at each other. It was more awkward than the time that Stiles had confessed to having a wet dream about Nicolas Cage. It was that awkward. Stiles hadn’t even thought things could be that awkward.

“You know your eyes glow, right?” Scott said finally, and some of the tension leaked out of the car. “Not like werewolf glow, different.”

“I didn’t,” Stiles said, surprised. He’d never really thought to look in the mirror. “What color? Does it look badass?”

“I dunno, kinda glowy?” Scott said, then looked over at Stiles. They just looked at each other for a beat, and then burst into laughter. Stiles had to drop his head onto the steering wheel and squeeze his eyes shut he was laughing so hard.

“Kinda - glowy-” he wheezed. “Aw man that’s classic.”

 

---

 

When Stiles got home that night, Derek Hale was literally sitting on his porch. His Dad was still at work which was probably a blessing, because it was creepy how co-operative the two of them were now. Stiles didn’t hate the fact that Derek was there as much as he might have done once upon a time. This was New Derek after all, who occasionally apologized when he was an asshole, seemed to care whether Stiles died, and bought him pizza that one time.

“Yo,” he said, stomping up the steps past Derek and unlocking the door. Derek followed him in. He carefully scraped his boots on the welcome mat which gave Stiles a moment of cognitive dissonance.

“You’ve been up to something,” Derek said, poking around Stiles’ hall, like that was cool. He touched a picture frame; Stiles in Pre-K holding his papier-mâché millennium falcon above his head. “I smelled the magic.”

“Crap,” Stiles said. He should have thought of that. Derek’s spooky nose for magic was going to be his undoing. “Just a bit of recre- oh okay, don’t look at me like that. I went to visit Gerard. With Scott.”

Derek glared, then shook his head. He stepped away from the photograph of little Stiles and his papier-mâché masterpiece.

“Did you find anything?” he said, and he wasn’t mad, which was weird, but not unwelcome. Stiles walked through to the kitchen and dumped his school bag. Derek followed. There was a casserole in the fridge that could be re-heated, although Stiles didn’t feel hungry. He felt giddy.

“He sold the missing pages of the grimoire, to a hunter in San Francisco,” Stiles said, in front of the open fridge. “Do you want some casserole?” he asked. When he looked round, Derek was staring at him with an expression like are you fucking high?

“Hey,” Stiles grumbled. “It’s nice casserole dude, I made it.”

To his total surprise, Derek just nodded. So now Stiles had to heat up the casserole and go about finding plates and cutlery and stuff while Derek sat at his kitchen table and frowned.

“A hunter,” he said, while Stiles switched the oven on and stuck the foil-wrapped casserole inside. “Why would he sell specific pages of it to a hunter?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles said, dropping to sit opposite Derek and flinching when their feet knocked together under the table. “Gerard said he was a glory hunter, like that woman who came after me. I know where to find him.”

“You want to go,” Derek said, flatly. “No way Stiles. There’s no way you’re going to San Francisco to find some hunter who will probably murder you the minute he figures out who you are.”

“I’m going,” Stiles said. Derek’s face contorted.


“Are you fucking crazy?” he shouted. “There is no way I’m letting you do that!”

“You don’t let me do anything,” Stiles exploded, and all the dishes and cutlery rattled on the table. He flattened his hands and took a deep breath. Derek was looking at him with the kind of broody intensity only he could manage. Stiles wanted to tell him to use his words, but he couldn’t, so he just sat there and looked at his hands.

“Your eyes glow, you know,” Derek said, kind of sullenly. “When you do your magic.”

“I am aware,” Stiles said. Then just because it one of the few things he actually could do with some measure of control, he magicked one of the forks in the air, and made it spin. Derek glanced at the fork, then went back to staring at Stiles’ face.

“Stop it,” he said finally, and Stiles dropped the fork. The oven beeped. The casserole was ready.

They sat and ate in silence, and Stiles wondered what he had done to deserve this torture. Why had he even let Derek in the house? He wanted to go back in time and smack his past self around the head.


“What if you come with me?” he said. “We could tell my dad. Do it totally legit. A totally legit operation to go and get some pages of the grimoire so I can stop waking up floating next to my ceiling.”

“You float?” Derek said, around a mouthful of casserole. For someone who had been so skeptical about the food, he certainly seemed to be enjoying it. “That’s weird.”

“You’re weird,” Stiles mumbled, pushing his food around on the plate. They ate for a while, Derek finished his casserole and helped himself to seconds. Then he watched Stiles eat. Finally he spoke.

“If your dad agrees, I’ll go with you,” he said. “Just promise me that if he says no you won’t just sneak off with Scott anyway.”

“All I do nowadays is make you promises,” Stiles grumbled. Then, when Derek glared at him again, he sighed. “Yeah okay. I promise.”

 

---

 


Stiles waited a few days before he presented the plan to his dad. Mostly it was because he was scared. It wasn’t just that he was worried that his Dad wouldn’t agree to the plan, it was more the fear of hurting him again- making him worry like had before. Getting him tangled up in even more supernatural crap. After a few days of him bouncing nervously about the house like a newly magical pinball, Stiles knew his dad suspected something.

“Explain,” he said, grabbing Stiles by the scruff of his jacket and guiding him over to the living room. “Something’s up, more than the usual crap, so let’s just get it over with.”

So Stiles explained. As he did, his dad’s face settled into an impassive scowl, his forehead creasing and his shoulders hunched tighter and tighter. By the time Stiles was done, he just looked weary.


“I see,” he said finally. “Well that’s not happening.”

“Hey, I’m almost eighteen,” Stiles said. “Plus Derek said he’d go with. Like a really big, beefy, grumpy chaperone.”

His dad did not look impressed with that.

“A werewolf and a sorcerer going to meet up with a hunter who specifically tracks down prey just for the thrill of it?” he said. “How do you get such good grades? That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”

“So what do I do then?” Stiles hated the way his surge of frustration made energy buzz under his skin. He hated the way he was always two seconds away from totally losing control. “This guy has the spells I need. I have to sort this out Dad- I’m so fucking tired of being a total freak- I just want one normal day where no stupid magical shit happens - I don’t want to wake up and find a great big fucking crater where the house used to be, or find out I somehow hurt you because I couldn’t control my fucking magic!

Stiles could feel the hairs on his arms standing up, and a crackle of static in the air. He was just so furious and frustrated, and totally fucking terrified. His dad ducked his head, then stepped over, pressed a hand down, heavy on the back of Stiles’ neck, and dragged him against his chest. It wasn’t just a hug. It felt kind of like his dad was holding him together, preventing him from flying apart.

“Sorry,” Stiles said finally, mumbling it into the front of his Dad’s uniform jacket. The air grew cooler, and calm.

“Don’t apologize,” his Dad squeezed once, and let him go. “For god’s sake, whatever you do, don’t apologize. The magic stuff, that’s part of you, always has been. We just didn’t know it yet. So let’s sort it out.”

He huffed out a long sigh, rubbed at his nose and then shrugged his shoulders, decided.

“I have a plan.”

 

---

 

So that was how Stiles ended up going on a trip to San Francisco with Chris Argent, Derek Hale and his dad.

 

---

 

“So are we like, the dream team?” Stiles said, peering out the window of the car at Wallace’s apartment. It was a Saturday afternoon, and San Francisco was colder than a polar bear’s nads, and wet too. The rain was pattering on the roof of Argent’s ridiculous SUV. It was so enormous it made Derek look like a child in the back.

“A Sheriff, a hunter, a sorcerer and a werewolf,” Stiles continued, when no-one responded. “Sounds like it could be a pretty good sitcom.”

Derek’s eyes were closed. Stiles knew he wasn’t asleep. In the front, Argent was peering up at the apartment through a long lens. Stiles’ Dad had his hands on the wheel and was drumming his fingers, staring out at the street.

“Here he comes,” Argent said, still looking at the apartment block. A guy walked out, he looked like he was in his fifties, dressed like he was still a badass, in stonewashed jeans and a leather jacket. He had a scar on his face, slicing in fat and pink under his left eye. Definitely the right guy.

“You know the deal,” Stiles’ dad said, leaning over to give Stiles his very serious business look. “Wait here, use the radio if you see anyone go into the building. Derek will be at the door.”

“Do not come in after us,” Argent said, delivering a twin serious business look. Stiles lifted up his radio.

“Got it,” he said. They all waited until Wallace had turned the corner and was no longer on the same street, and then Argent and the Sheriff hopped out and jogged across the road to the building. Derek waited until they were inside, then left the car too, flashing Stiles a look that was difficult to read. Knowing Derek it was probably a warning not to be an idiot. That was going to be harder than usual because Stiles was excited. He was finding it a struggle not to do things like turn the upholstery pink or levitate his empty Starbucks cup and make it float around the car.

Derek strolled over to the apartment block and took up a position on the street nearby. He didn’t have a radio, but then he didn’t need one. He had superhuman hearing.

“You look like a rent boy,” Stiles said, because he kind of did. He wasn’t wearing a jacket, which was freaky because it was so damn wet and cold. All he had on was a navy blue T-shirt, one that was kind of tight over all those muscles that he had. His jeans were tight too. The overall effect when he leaned casually back against the building was pretty suggestive.

“Seriously dude,” Stiles said, “You’re going to attract some unwanted attention.”

Derek’s head turned, ever so slightly, so he could shoot a glare across to the car. Stiles was determined to torment him a little bit more, but the radio hissed.

“We’re inside the apartment,” Argent said. “Any sign of him downstairs?”

“Negative,” Stiles said. “What’s his place like? Does he have tons of guns everywhere like you do? Over.”

Chris, unsurprisingly didn’t respond. Stiles had made it really clear to his dad though, that he wanted regular updates on their status inside the apartment, so he was gratified when a few minutes later, the radio hissed, and his dad said,

“Christ, there’s a lot of booby traps. Don’t worry son, Chris is on the case.”

Stiles hunched into his seat and tried not to think about what would happen if Argent missed one.

“You’re not saying over, over.” Stiles said, in lieu of anything meaningful.

“This guy has a genuine bearskin rug over, over.” his dad said. “Really big bear-oh, not a bear. Really? Aw that’s not nice. Over.”

“Do you get bear shape shifters?” Stiles murmured, looking over at Derek. “Bear werewolves? Bearwolves? Werebears?”

Every so slightly, still lounging up against the wall, with his eyes still fixed on the end of the street, Derek nodded. Stiles had to resist the urge to bounce with glee.

“That’s so fucking cool, werebears, why couldn’t you have been one of those?” That earned him another glare. For a while after that, they waited in silence. Eventually the radio flickered.


“Okay son, seems like this guy has a lot of books and papers, so we’re going to sort through. Over,” his dad sounded pretty calm, and so far everything was going smoothly, so Stiles just knew something was going to go wrong. When he looked back over at Derek, he wasn’t on his own.

A guy had appeared, looked like he was in his twenties, wrapped up in a grey wool coat with a bright red scarf. He had windblown hair and an expressive smiling face, and he was absolutely, one hundred percent, chatting Derek up.

“Oh my god,” Stiles said, and saw Derek’s eyes flicker his way, “you have an admirer.”

The thing was, Derek wasn’t using his normal charm level, which was -5, rude as fuck. He was actually smiling, conversing, not standing with his arms crossed over his chest like a suit of armor. He wasn’t pulling that megawatt fake smile that Stiles had seen before either, just a normal human smile. It looked like a normal human conversation.

“Are you flirting?” Stiles said. “Hey you’re on look out- stop flirting!”

Derek just ignored him. After what looked like a really nice little conversation, the guy strode off- not without giving Derek his number. Stiles was about to comment on that, when his dad checked in again.

“Okay we’ve found some kind of vault, Chris is working on the lock at the moment- wait, what the hell is that?” There was a crackle of static, and then an eerie, inhuman growl. Stiles heard a crash, the sound of someone shouting, and then the radio went dead.

“Derek-” Stiles said, but he’d already gone, the front door of the apartment block slamming shut behind him.

“Dad,” Stiles said, squeezing the radio in his hands. “Dad? Come on answer me!” All he got in response was static. Seconds crawled past with only static. Stiles tried to look through Chris’ telescope, and saw nothing at the windows. He couldn’t bear it, he couldn’t stand sitting there doing nothing, while his Dad could be dying, injured or something worse than that. Stiles glanced once back down the deserted street. Wallace might be out the whole day. He made his decision.

Stiles scrambled out of the car and bolted across the road. Inside, the apartment block was clean and well appointed, with marble floors and a set of brass fronted letterboxes. Stiles didn’t even bother calling the elevator, he just busted up the stairs as fast as he could. He stumbled on the steps, and very quickly got out of breath, but he was fizzing, and it was the magic that dragged him up to the fifth floor, where the door to Wallace’s apartment was ajar. He could hear more of that awful growling coming from inside, and the crash of breaking furniture.

It was Derek, Derek was all wolfed-out, fighting something that Stiles had never seen before, something truly horrifying. Stiles had seen a lot of nasty shit, since Scott was bitten that day in the woods, but nothing quite like this.

It was huge, twice as tall as Derek, easily, and build like a bull, with giant muscled shoulders and leathery skin. It had huge forearms, and paws full of hooked claws, and as Stiles watched, it lifted Derek up and tossed him to the far side of the room like he was a rag doll. Derek wobbled and struggled to stand up again.

The worst thing was the creature’s face. It had a flat, almost human face, which looked wrong on its animal body. Its features were never the same from one moment to the next, constantly shifting and changing, in a way that made Stiles’ stomach turn. Two black horns sprouted from its crown. Stiles couldn’t see his dad or Chris anywhere.

“Oi,” Stiles shouted, not even thinking, “Hey asshole! Over here!”

The creature swung round to look at him. It tilted its creepy face, a too-human gesture, then started walking towards Stiles. Its huge claws clicked on the stone floor. Belatedly, Stiles wondered if he could even kill it.

The magic knew what to do. Stiles lifted his hands and white light like a too hot flame gathered in his palms, rolling and furling and becoming soccer ball sized. Arcs of static burst out from the surface of it, and Stiles felt all his hair beginning to stand on end. He was pouring everything he could into it, and white flames were licking at his hands. When the creature was like, ten paces away, Stiles hefted the ball of white flame and pitched it overhand, so fast it turned into a streak of fire, a spear that impaled the creature right at its throat.

Once in chemistry, Harris had heated up a ball of nickel until it was red hot, and dropped it into a cup of cold water. The sound the hot metal had made when it hit the water was something that Stiles remembered perfectly, a shrieking whistle, followed by the roaring sound of water flash boiling. That was the noise the spear of white fire made when it hit the creature. The beast froze, then made an awful howl, as its flesh bubbled and burned away, disintegrating down to black bone and then to ash. The whole transformation seemed to take minutes. Stiles couldn’t look away.

Derek had dropped to his hands and knees, panting harshly. Over on the far side of the room, Stiles saw his father and Chris, standing in the doorway of another room. Chris had his gun drawn, and he hadn’t quite put it away yet.

“Stiles,” his dad said, and Stiles realized he was still full up to the brim with the licking, white fire. It was a greedy kind of magic, it wanted to consume. Stiles closed his eyes and forced it down the best he could. “Son, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m cool,” Stiles looked over at Derek. His stupid navy blue T-shirt was ripped up, but the scratches underneath were already healing. “Please tell me you found something worth all this-” Stiles gestured to the pile of dust that was what remained of the creature.

Chris Argent nodded, and held something up. A ring binder. When he flipped it open, Stiles could see pages from the grimoire, suspended in plastic pockets. Jackpot.

“We have a problem,” Derek said. He had pushed himself up onto his feet and was looking back at the door to the apartment. “I can hear Wallace, he’s waiting for the elevator downstairs.”

“Okay time to go,” Stiles said, running over to snatch the folder then herding his dad and Chris to the door. Derek hung back, just enough to pull the apartment door closed and then they hurried down the stairs. Stiles heard the elevator doors ping just as they hit the first landing.

“Well that was fun,” Stiles said as they burst out the front of the apartment block. They were about to cross the street, when Stiles spotted the CCTV camera on the corner of the building, trained right at the entrance.

“Go start the car,” he said, handing Derek the binder. “I’ll not be long.”

 

---

 

Back in the car, Stiles felt completely drained. He wanted to read the grimoire pages they had stolen, but looking at the words in a moving vehicle made him feel sick. He closed his eyes and dropped his head back against the giant seat.

“What the hell was that?” his dad said, once they were a few blocks away.

“It was a behemoth,” Chris said, sounding grim. “A demon from hell. It’s expressly forbidden for any hunter to summon something like that.”

“At least we know why he had the grimoire pages,” Derek said. Stiles opened his eyes and glanced over, and it was like Derek read his mind, because he offered an explanation right away. “The pages he took were about controlling powerful creatures. There was probably stuff in there about summoning and binding demons.”

“And Gerard just sold him them to him,” Chris said, between gritted teeth. No-one wanted to say anything after that. They were speeding out of San Francisco as quick as they could, but it was Saturday, and the traffic was shitty. Stiles sunk further down in his seat until he couldn’t see out the window. Eventually, he slept.

 

---

 

Back in Beacon Hills, Stiles spread the missing grimoire pages out onto the kitchen table. He could hear his dad pacing in the next room, but he ignored it, trying instead to put all the pages back in order. It wasn’t particularly easy, since they weren’t numbered. The spells and rituals were complicated, most covering more than one page, so it was like trying to put a jigsaw puzzle together, matching the start of one ritual with the correct ending. It was giving Stiles a headache.

His dad came in just as he had started knocking his forehead against the table.

“That’s not going to help,” he said, and dropped into the seat opposite Stiles. He sighed, a deep weary sigh that felt like it went down to rattle the foundations of the house. Stiles didn’t look up from where he was still sitting with his head against the wood table top.

“I called my guy in San Francisco. He says that Wallace reported a break in, but they don’t have many leads. Apparently something happened to all the security footage from the CCTV cameras. You wouldn’t know anything about that?”

Stiles waved his arm around, but didn’t sit up.


“Chris says he has to report Wallace to some kind of hunter council. So maybe he’ll be held accountable for what he did,” Stiles’ dad dropped his hand, palm down onto the back of Stiles’ head and scrubbed at his hair, affectionately.

“You know I’m not mad at you, right?” he said, and Stiles couldn’t say anything, couldn’t move. He bit his lips together and squeezed his eyes shut.

“I don’t think I could be more proud of you,” his dad said. “You’ve been handed a lot of shit in your life, and you’ve dealt with it better than most adults I know. So don’t think I’m mad, or scared of you or anything. I don’t care about anything else, as long as you’re happy.”

“Dad,” Stiles mumbled, still with his head on the table, because he’d cried already in the last two days, and it was getting kind of embarrassing.

“I love you, kiddo,” his dad said, and fucking hell, that just wasn’t fair.

“Waah,” Stiles managed, and didn’t sit up until the tears were mostly gone. He had to wipe his snotty nose on a dishcloth.

 

---

 

By the end of school on Monday, Stiles knew what he needed, and that was Lydia Martin. He ditched Scott at charity committee and caught her just as she was leaving the library, with a stack of philosophy textbooks.

“I know that look,” she said. “I’m not going to get much studying done tonight, am I?”

Stiles clasped his hands together, pleading, “I need you,” he said, and it came out a bit over the top and desperate, but that just seemed to please her.

“Of course you do,” she sniffed. “Everyone does.”

Her room was pretty much the same as Stiles remembered it, flowery, filled with expensive things. She kicked off her boots, dumped her textbooks then dropped onto her bed with a puff of flowery perfume and a cascade of strawberry blonde hair. Stiles was distracted.

“Come on then,” she said, stretched out with her eyes closed. “Get the grimoire stuff out.” He fumbled to comply.

Once they got going it wasn’t so weird. Stiles found it easy nowadays to just do friendly stuff with Lydia, and not sit and stare at her face like a weirdo, or you know, avoid staring at other places like a creeper. They’d been through a lot of shit, the two of them, nowadays that meant that they could lie on her bed and sort through stacks of old vellum pages and it wasn’t weird.

“I can’t believe you killed a demon,” she said, trying to fit together the torn edges of two of the pages. “Like, are you sure you need this control spell? Sounds like you’re beginning to get a handle on it yourself.”

Stiles shrugged. He didn’t really know how explain how it felt, to have the magic buzzing inside him the whole time. He was just so anxious, like he was a heartbeat away from setting the curtains on fire the whole time. It was too much for his overstretched willpower.

“Only under extreme duress,” he said. “On a normal day I do things like turn stuff weird colors or accidentally teleport outside when I’m having a shower.”

Yeah, that had been a good one. Mrs. Bell next door was never going to look him in the eyes again.

“Oh my god,” Lydia said, and laughed. “I hope you at least had a sponge or something to cover your modesty.”

Stiles had not had a sponge or something.

“Anyway, I think this might be the start of your spell,” she said, holding out a page between two manicured finger tips. “‘An inscription for the channelling of great magyks,’” she read aloud. “‘So that a sorcerer may master the depths of his powers.’”

“This just looks like a recipe,” Stiles said. It had a list of herbs and other fiddly magic stuff, and then a long screed about how to cook them up properly. “Is it a potion?”

Lydia shrugged and pulled over another stack of pages. “Hey why’d you take Derek to San Francisco?”

“I thought having a werewolf along would be a good idea,” Stiles said. It totally had been, because werewolf senses were awesome. “But Dad wouldn’t let me invite Scott for some reason. So I had to take Mr. Grumpathon instead.”

“Probably because Scott is a minor and you two always get into trouble?” Lydia said, then rolled away giggling when Stiles tossed a biro at her head. “Seriously, Derek isn’t actually a bad guy, you know that right? He’s been helping Scott with the pack.”

“That reminds me,” Stiles pushed himself up onto his elbows and dropped his voice to a conspiratorial level. “A guy totally chatted Derek up while we were staking out Wallace’s apartment. Like a smiley, friendly conversation that ended up with an amicable exchange of numbers.”

Lydia didn’t seem as surprised by that as Stiles would have expected, instead looking kind of uninterested. “So?” she said.

“Well Derek’s thing is tragic heterosexual love affairs, right?” Stiles grumbled, wondering why her lack of reaction made him feel so irritated. “Why would he let himself get chatted up by some dude? He’s not exactly the most friendly person in the world.”

“He’s not completely unfriendly. He bought you pizza that one time,” Lydia had turned her attention back to the paper, obviously a bit bored of talking about Derek.

“I guess,” Stiles said, and thought about how Derek had eaten two helpings of his heated up casserole the other day, how he’d come on a road trip to San Francisco and got himself tossed around by a behemoth for his troubles.

“We’ll have to tell Danny,” Lydia said finally, with a wicked little smile. “He’d be all over that.”

“Ugh, no way, I don’t want to know,” Stiles flipped a page over smoothed his fingers over the handwritten ink. “Wait a minute.”

It was a continuation of the instructions on the first page Lydia had given him. Instructions for producing ink. Instructions for preparing ink, and then finally instructions for ritually tattooing said ink.

“Oh no,” he said, and a shiver crawled its way across his skin. There was a picture, an intricate glyph covered in a thousand tiny embellishments and details, more complex than any of the designs Stiles had used before. More complex and about a hundred times bigger.

“ ‘The Circle of Power,’ ” Lydia read from over his shoulder. Her hair curled soft against Stiles’ neck, and he could smell her strawberry shampoo. It didn’t really comfort him that much. “Oh okay wow, so it needs to be a tattoo. ‘a sorcerer will know no rest from the fury of his magyck until he wears this mark.’ Well at least it looks cool.”

“I can’t do that!” Stiles exploded. “I can’t stand needles! I totally fainted when Scott got his tattoo done.”

“Aww, don’t be a total baby,” Lydia shoved at Stiles until he was rolled over on his back and then sat down on top of him, both palms on his chest. Her expression was playful, but kind of thoughtful too, and Stiles took her wrists, as gently as he could. His heart was rabbiting in his chest, but it was a weird feeling. He didn’t know what to do with his face.

“How’d you get so-” she trailed off, thoughtfully. Her hands were still pressed up against Stiles’ chest. He was acutely aware of how normal his chest was compared to like, Jackson or Aiden or some other werewolf who had giant pecs and a 24 pack.

“I dunno,” Stiles let her wrists go, pushed up on his elbows until he was right up in her space, and there was only just breathing room between them. Soft curls of Lydia’s hair were lying against her cheek, and it was really easy to push them back, and just leave his hand there, palm at her jaw. Her eyes went hooded, her mouth opened.

They kissed. It was an actual, real 100% legitimate kiss with tongue and everything. No-one was having a panic attack. There was no mind control involved. Both parties were non-possessed and consenting. It was nice.

It was nice. Stiles pulled back. They looked at each other.

“That was nice,” Stiles said, but he didn’t even sound sure to himself. Lydia was biting her lip.

“It wasn’t bad?” she offered. Then, she began to laugh, and Stiles kind of had to laugh with her, because it was absolutely hilarious, he’d finally kissed the girl of his dreams, and his response had been that was nice. When they were done, and they had red faces and all the grimoire pages were crumpled, Lydia gave Stiles a hug, and that was better than nice. It felt right.

 

---

 

“Why did you all have to sit on that side of the booth,” Stiles said, prodding the ice at the bottom of his soda cup grumpily. “It makes it look like I’m diseased or something.”

Scott made an innocent face, Allison looked out of the window. Kira, bless her heart, just looked confused. The three of them were wedged into one side of the diner booth, so close that they had to be all pressed up together.

“I thought Isaac was coming,” Kira said, like Stiles wasn’t a fourth wheel on the world’s weirdest threesome-date.

“Ugh, whatever,” Stiles said. “You need to help me figure out how I can get tattooed with this big magical circle thing, preferably without any needles, because I hate needles.”

“Tattooing involves needles,” Scott said. “You can’t really avoid it. It’s not even that bad, though, you get used to it.”

“You don’t get an input,” Stiles snapped. “You were tattooed by blow torch. I had to hold your unconscious body still while Derek tattooed your seared flesh. That was a defining moment of trauma that I can never escape. Don’t speak.”

Scott decided to eat his fries instead. It didn’t stop him from giving Stiles one of those kicked puppy looks while he chewed.

“The problem isn’t the needles,” Allison said, jostling Scott a bit to poke at the grimoire pages, which were in a plastic folder next to Stiles’ burger. It was after eight, and he was aching from Lacrosse practice, and aching from holding his magic in all day. It was definitely getting harder. Stiles was considering going into the woods and dumping out a load of magic like he had before. “The problem is finding a tattoo artist who is a. Good enough to execute this super complex design, and b. Won’t care that you’re underage and want to use some kind of magic ink brewed up out of leaves and iron filings.”

“I can’t imagine there’s a big overlap between talented and disreputable,” Kira filled in, shrugging. Scott raised a hand.

“Can I speak now?” he said. “I know someone who is pretty good with a tattoo gun, and won’t care about the creepy ink.”

He waggled his eyebrows, but it took Stiles two mouthfuls of burger before he got it.

“Aww no,” he said. “No, no, no, no.”

 

---

 

Stiles had hoped that Deaton would completely reject the plan, and that would get him off the hook, but as ever, Deaton was totally impossible to predict, and seemed to think it was a fabulous idea.

“This should work,” he said, reading the grimoire pages. “I can brew the ink easily here, I have the supplies, and from what I know about glyphs this one should have the intended effect. Can you execute the design?”

Derek was frowning at it. He turned the grimoire sheet in his hands and pursed his lips. He looked at Stiles, frowned even more, then finally nodded. It was like a thousand word response played out just with his eyebrows. Stiles couldn’t even begin to decipher what he was thinking.

“Yeah,” he said. “Where?”

“I dunno man, somewhere hygienic,” Stiles said, looking around the vet surgery. Maybe Deaton could set them up in one of the treatment rooms or something.

“No- the tattoo,” Derek said, irritated. “Where do you want it?”

Stiles shrugged. He hadn’t even thought about that, and the spell hadn’t really specified. Best bet was somewhere easy to hide, and part of him wanted to say on his butt, just to annoy Derek.

“I don’t know man- how big will it have to be?”

Derek held up his hands, and okay, wow- really big.

“What the fuck! Why does it have to be so huge? I can’t do that- that’s way too big,” Stiles grabbed his face and dropped into one of the stools trying to stop the rushing panic in his head.

“Any smaller and I can’t get the detail in,” Derek said. “I’m assuming the detail is important, you know, for the magic.” Personally, Stiles thought the sarcasm was uncalled for.

“Well the only places big enough would be my chest or my back,” Stiles grumbled finally. “Any opinion, oh wise tattoo master?”

“Chest would be harder to hide. Back is more painful,” Derek said, and he was looking at Stiles with that expression like your puny constitution can’t handle it, and Stiles had a headache, and he really, really didn’t want Derek to win this time. So he said something really stupid.

“Whatever man, I can handle some pain,” Stiles said. “I want it on my back.”

 

---

 

“It’s going to hurt so bad,” Isaac said, the next day at lunch. He was enjoying the whole thing, the smarmy fucker. “You know it’s over the ribs at the back, and your shoulder blades, it’s so much more painful on bone.”

“How do you even know that?” Lydia asked. “You don’t have a tattoo.”

That shut him up, but he kept smirking, sucking on the straw in his milk carton and generally being a dickhead. Stiles hated him, but in an affectionate way, like Isaac was their pet asshole.

“You get used to it,” Scott said. “Plus, it’s worth it if it will stop you accidentally flying and stuff. That thing this morning was freaky.”

He was referring to the fact that Stiles had gone invisible for a whole ten minutes during chemistry, causing everyone in the immediate area to freak out. It had also earned him a detention, which was great.

“I just hope he does it quick,” Stiles said, looking down at his goulash and grimacing. He had no appetite. He’d told his dad that morning. He’d been surprisingly cool with the idea. Stiles couldn’t rely on him anymore to get outraged now he knew about magic and stuff, it was a nightmare.

“You’ll be fine,” Kira nudged Stiles’ tray, making his jello cup wobble. “How bad can it be? You can totally handle it.”

 

---

 

Stiles really couldn’t handle it, but not for the reasons he had predicted.

It had all started out well enough. Since Stiles had last been around Derek had kitted out his loft with a bit more furniture; a dining set and a flatscreen, a vintage record player and a set of leather recliners. He even had books and stuff lying around, like he actually partook in recreational activities that weren’t brooding.

He had a little table set up with all of Deaton’s jars of brewed up ink and a tattoo gun, and there was one of those paper hygiene sheets over one of the recliners and it was tilted right back. Derek stood with his arms crossed, glaring, like he was annoyed to have been caught preparing.

“You gonna play some mood music,” Stiles said, trying not to act like he hadn’t been nervously sweating through all his layers the whole drive over. “Light some candles?”

Derek glared at him, then gestured to the recliner. “Take your shirt off and lie down,” he said, and Stiles tugged at his collar, way more nervous than he should be. It was only Derek.

“Wow, you really have a way with the words. Is that how you get all your lady friends naked?”

That earned him a new intensity of glare. Stiles suspected it could blister paint. He took off his jacket, and his hoodie, then hesitated before pulling off his T-shirt. It was pretty warm in the loft, but he shivered anyway, crossing his arms over his bare chest. Derek wasn’t even looking, he was over in his stupid little open plan kitchen getting something from one of the cabinets. Stiles got on the recliner as quick as he could. It was pretty comfortable actually, and he turned his head on the squishy cushion to look out of the windows at the rain.

Stiles heard Derek come over and drop down onto a stool. He didn’t say anything for so long that Stiles had to turn his head to look. Derek was looking at him with the weirdest expression.

“What’s the problem?” Stiles asked, feeling more self-conscious than he ever had before.

“Nothing,” Derek seemed to shake himself, then reached over to Stiles’ back. He started cleaning it with an antiseptic wipe so cold it made Stiles squirm on the seat.

“Ugh, man, warn a guy,” he grumbled. Derek just sniffed, making sure that every inch of Stiles’ back was clean, then took a fucking age to put some rubber gloves on, and then finally, the tattoo gun began to buzz.

“I have to freehand it,” he said. “That’s what the spell says.”

“So?” Stiles grumbled into the cushion.

“So, I could make a mistake and then it could go totally wrong. Do you really want to do this?”

“I trust you,” Stiles said, meaning to be quick and dismissive. It came out kind of solemn. “So just, get the fuck on with it man, because the longer you drag this out, the more likely I am to barf on your new recliner. Okay?”

“Okay,” Derek said. The buzzing drew closer, and Stiles heard the sound of the needle going into the little pot of weird magical ink, and then Derek pressed a hand to Stiles’ back. His palms were warm, and the rubber gloves felt weird. “Okay, I’m gonna start. This will hurt. Just - try not to think about it. Think about something else.”

“Affirmative,” Stiles said, and tried to think about nice things, like his Mom’s meatloaf, or the way Lydia’s hair smelled, how soft it had been when he touched it. Unfortunately he didn’t possess a good memory strong enough to deal with how it felt when the needle first touched his skin.

It did hurt. It hurt like someone was burying a needle into his skin and dragging it, a thick, savory ache. But after the hurt came something else- the ingredients in the ink reacting to his magic, inhaling it like deep breath of sparkling gold and making his skin tingle and flush. It didn’t feel bad. It felt like about as far from bad as a sensation could possibly be. Stiles realized he had made a weird noise, and cringed in embarrassment.

“You okay?” Derek said. The needle hesitated, and Stiles tried not to feel disappointed that the sensation stopped with it.

“Yeah sure. Doesn’t hurt at all man. Don’t know what all the fuss was - argh,” he stopped, biting his lips together instead of making any more incriminating sounds. The needle kept moving on his skin, and Derek’s free hand came after, swiping at the excess ink with incredible care. Stiles squeezed his eyes shut.

With each little stroke, Stiles felt a pulse of euphoria, a pleasure that bone deep. It was like all his magic had been in the wrong place, and the glyph was putting it right, bit by bit. Stiles realized he was breathing heavily, he couldn’t help himself. He was as hard as a fucking rock, and his dick was digging uncomfortably into the recliner seat. He just kept his eyes closed and hoped Derek didn’t notice.

There was no way that Derek hadn’t noticed. To his credit, he didn’t say anything, just kept tattooing away, hand steady, occasionally pausing to top up the ink. It felt like he was working from the top of Stiles’ spine, down almost all the way to his lower back. It was slow work. Stiles kind of went into a trance, listening to the rain, and the needle. After a long time, Derek stopped, turned the tattoo gun off.

“Need a break,” he said, rather curtly and strode off before Stiles could even turn to look at him.

“Holy shit,” Stiles said, to the empty room. Derek had gone outside, left the loft door open. Carefully, Stiles sat up. His back felt tender, but he already felt like he had more control. It was like some of the constant white noise in the back of his head was gone. Derek didn’t have a mirror, so he had to peer at his wobbly reflection in the window, craning over his shoulder. About half of the glyph was done, and it looked amazing.

When Derek didn’t immediately return, Stiles got his phone out of his hoodie and perched on the recliner. He sent Scott a text.

This is extremely weird

He got a reply almost instantly.

duh your getting a tattoo from derek. does it rly hurt?

Stiles didn’t know what to say. He tugged at his hair and scrubbed the sweat from his face. At least little Stiles had retired to half mast. He couldn’t help but press the heel of his palm against his crotch for a second, dragging in a long, shaky breath.

uh not really kind of the exact fucking opposite, magic is fucking weird. Think I traumatized derek

Scott was his bro, Stiles had shared far more embarrassing things than this with Scott.

DO U HAVE A TATTOO BONER

Scott’s reply arrived just as Derek reappeared at the door, looking like he’d gone for a run in the rain. He glared at Stiles like this was all totally his fault, which yeah, okay, maybe it was, then strode off into the bathroom. Stiles heard him banging doors and stuff in there.

REPLY this is amazing is derek all embarrassed????

Stiles threw his cellphone back at his hoodie and dropped back down onto the recliner. He could do this. He just had to hold it together for another shift, and then they would be over, and it wasn’t like he saw Derek much anyway. They could go back to the occasional bit of sniping at each other and never talk of this ever again.

“Okay,” Derek said, coming back into the room. He looked like he’d toweled his hair dry and changed his T-shirt. He sat back down on the stool. “Look, just fucking- stay still and try to control yourself.”

“Hey,” Stiles jerked his head up. “I am controlling myself okay? You don’t know what this feels like dude- it’s unbearable.”

“That is not the impression I am getting,” Derek said sourly, cleaning up Stiles’ back again. The wipe stung over the new ink. Even that felt kind of good. Stiles grimaced.

“No man- it feels like-” Stiles made a strangled noise when Derek grabbed the back of his neck and shoved his face against the chair.

“Don’t. Talk.” Derek said, from between his teeth. “Just - lie still and shut the fuck up.”

So Stiles’ stayed still and tried not to do anything to indicate how amazing it felt when the needle touched his skin. The pain was still there, but somehow that was just adding to it, like it was all part of this one sharp sensation, making Stiles’ nerves all jangle together. He just couldn’t deal with it- he needed a distraction- something to stop him from jizzing all over Derek’s new furniture.

“So-uh, what happened with your date, from San Francisco?” he asked, and his voice was pitched too high. Derek paused.

“What do you mean?”

“The guy, with the scarf, the one who chatted you up. You know - when you were standing there like a rent boy. Did you give him a call?” Stiles shifted his hips as carefully as he could, squirming. He was beyond uncomfortable.

“No,” Derek said, after a long silence. The needle kept moving while he spoke, so he obviously wasn’t too mad. “I didn’t.”

“How come?” Stiles grimaced as Derek drew what felt like a spiral over one of the nubs of his spine. “Not your type?”

“Hmm,” Derek said, which was neither confirmation nor denial. “Why? Was he yours?”

Stiles had to think about that. It was difficult, what with all the other sensory input he was dealing with.

“Right now, your tattoo gun is my type,” he said finally, and Derek made a noise. Styles realized, a bit belatedly that it was a bitten in laugh. “Hey, you do have a sense of humor.”

“It’s the only way to deal with this situation,” Derek said, swiping way the excess ink and starting in on the skin over Stiles’ ribs. The pain was sharper, but the tingle of magic seemed sweeter as a result. Stiles pressed his hot face against the recliner and tried not to move. “You’re lying there like-” Derek didn’t elaborate.

“Lying there like what?” Stiles mumbled, wetting his lips. He might have imagined the way the tattoo gun wobbled at that.

“Like- a - purring cat or something. Stop humping my chair, control yourself,” Derek made an exasperated noise. “You have no shame.”

“Dude, I have shame,” Stiles said. “I’m just struggling to feel it right now. If you were in my position you would be the same, so get off your high horse.”

Derek made a grumpy noise, but he obviously wasn’t in the mood to argue, and just went back to tattooing in silence. Stiles’ skin was hot, and ached like a bruise. He was all sweaty and he didn’t even really have it in him to be embarrassed anymore.

“Almost done,” Derek said. He sounded relieved. “It looks good,” he added, in a softer kind of tone. New Derek, making an appearance. Stiles smiled.

“I know man, the first half looked awesome. Even if it doesn’t help with the magic, at least I’ll look like a badass,” Stiles sighed, gripping the edge of the chair with his fingers and squeezing.


“Pretty sure it’s going to help with the magic,” Derek said. His voice was careful, like he was concentrating really hard. “Since it’s glowing as I draw it.”

“So cool,” Stiles mumbled. They fell into silence, and the needled buzzed. The rain hissed against the skylight. Stiles felt like every part of him was warm, his head was thick with pleasure and his face was hot. Finally, Derek paused.

“Last line,” he said, carefully. His free hand was braced carefully on Stiles’ side. He was cautious, extra careful. Stiles felt it coming, a shiver from his toes to the crown of his head. He felt the glyph as it was complete, locking into place over his spine, every inch of it white hot for a moment, and then cool again. The sensation made the breath catch in his throat, and Derek had to hold him down again, with a hand on his nape. Stiles panted.

Then, abruptly, everything went back to normal. Stiles had almost forgotten what it had felt like to be normal, to not have a ocean of power buzzing under his skin. He felt like himself for the first time since that night in the forest, when it had all begun. The pleasure was gone, all that was left was the ache of the tattoo on his back.

“Can I sit up?” Stiles said. Derek still had his hand on Stiles’ neck.

“Yeah. Just let me get something to cover it up,” he strode off. Stiles sat up, peeled himself off the paper sheet and scrubbed at his sweaty face again. Derek returned with a pile of sterilized pads and tape and very carefully covered up Stiles’ back. Stiles looked over his shoulders at the far wall, and tried to think of something to say.

“So that was kind of cringetastic,” he said. “Lucky for you I am really accomplished at recovering from awkward situations.”

Derek looked up at him, and then his lips twitched into an almost smile, and he shook his head.

“You’re a pervy little freak,” he said in a way that made it sound suspiciously like a compliment.

“Yeah man,” Stiles said. The bandages were done, so he hopped off the chair. He had narrowly avoided coming in his pants, so that was something to be thankful for. If the whole process had lasted much longer, it would have been an inevitability.

“Go on then,” Derek said. “Try something.” he grinned, that dangerous baddass grin he had, the one that showed a ton of teeth, like a shark. Stiles loved it.

Stiles went out into the middle of the loft, pushed aside Derek’s couch and his coffee table with an easy one-handed gesture. He needed space for this. He raised his hands, palm up and two great flaming legs formed, flickering blue around the edges. When he pushed his hands out, a barrel chest and beefy arms grew out, and then a helmeted head. A fiery giant with glittering eyes stood in front of him. It was so metal.

“Behold!” Stiles yelled, and the fire avatar raised its arms and roared. “The terrifying fire infernal!”

“Are you going burn my apartment down?” Derek said, sounding a bit panicked. Stiles dispelled the infernal with a waved hand. The fire hadn’t even singed the wood floorboards.

“You’re no fun,” he said, but he didn’t have it in him to be too pissed off. Stiles was giddy, flushed with the knowledge that he could do whatever he wanted, he could pull on the power as easily as breathing and dispel it just as quick.

“This is so awesome,” he said, floating up into the air, and doing a little somersault, just because he could. “This is the best thing ever.”

“Good,” Derek said. “At least it was worth it - get down.”

“You are a pretty awesome tattoo artist,” Stiles said, affectionately. He dropped back down onto the ground, and grabbed his T-shirt. “Sorry I was all weird. It just felt really, really good. Don’t take it personally.”

“I won’t,” Derek said. He was just standing there, watching Stiles get dressed. He was still wearing the rubber gloves, all stained with ink. The sleeves of his henley were rolled up and his bare forearms looked amazing. He was an attractive man, Stiles had known this for some time, objectively. Now he was an attractive man who had almost made Stiles jizz in his pants.

“Well. Huh,” Stiles said. He had an excited feeling in his throat, he wasn’t sure why. “So thanks for that. I owe you a pizza.”

“Why a pizza?” Derek finally stripped off his gloves.

“Because- pizza, it’s what we do,” Stiles said. “You know, we are pizza bros now.”

There was an awkward moment where they hung at the door, Derek holding it open with one ink-flecked forearm, looking tired and soft around the edges of his eyes and his mouth, where he was normally hard and severe. Stiles looked at him, and couldn’t seem to drag his eyes away.

“Are we having a moment?” he asked. Derek reached out and touched him on the cheek, just beside his mouth. Just that- and only for a second. Then he withdrew his hand.

“No,” he said. “Go home Stilinski.”

Stiles did.

 

---

 

He met Scott at Cuppa Joe’s, before school the next morning. They had a lot to talk about, and Stiles wanted to do it over a gigantor latte. Girls were banned, this was bro-time, but Scott had been stretching the definition of bro-time for a while, so Stiles was glad when he turned up and Kira and Allison weren’t around.

“Show me,” Scott said, eagerly, dropping into a squishy armchair. Stiles obliged, turning around and shoving his layers up until Scott could see the tattoo. Derek had advised he leave the bandage on overnight, and maybe it was just the magic, but when Stiles peeled it off the next morning, the whole thing had been pretty much perfectly healed.

“Oooh, so cool,” Scott said. He touched it with one fingertip and Stiles squirmed. The magic was in there, and it was kind of sensitive. “Does that feel weird?”

“Sort of,” Stiles dragged down his shirt and jacket and turned to give his coffee the attention it deserved. “Hey remember when you first turned into a werewolf and your love life picked up like zero to sixty?”

“Mmmm,” Scott said darkly. He was clearly still dealing with the confusing aftermath of all that excessive love life. “Why? Wait, is your love life picking up? Is this is about how you got a tattoo boner for Derek?”

“No. Maybe? I don’t know. First I kissed Lydia-”

“What?” Scott nearly choked on his hot chocolate. “You kissed Lydia?”

“Then Derek touched my face in an extremely weird way. Like a nice weird way, like maybe he was trying physical affection, I don’t think it’s something he’s very accomplished at.”

“He touched your face,” Scott looked traumatized. “Does the tattoo work though?”

Stiles clicked his fingers and a few marshmallows appeared, plopping into Scott’s mug. He looked down at them and his face cracked into the biggest smile.

“So wait,” Scott said, once he’d enjoyed the marshmallows. “You kissed Lydia? When did this happen?”

“The other day, while we were checking out the grimoire. I mean it was nice-”

“You’re going to say ‘but’. In what universe do you say ‘but’ about kissing Lydia Martin?” Scott asked, incredulous.

Stiles just shrugged and hid behind his latte. It was big, but not quite big enough for that. He couldn’t really avoid Scott’s sharp look, and he couldn’t really tell what it meant. That was frightening. Scott was usually an open book.

“You know I’ve been working with Derek on pack stuff, right? He’s pretty cool, you know, behind all the sarcasm.” Scott said.

Stiles felt his face go hot at that and he took a big mouthful of coffee. “I know,” he said finally, irritated. “I know he’s not actually a giant asshole. He’s just too easy to wind up, that’s all.”

“I’m just saying, if he’s into you, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

“He’s not into me,” Stiles said, but he wasn’t sure. “I’m not into him either. It was just one inappropriate magic boner.”

He was even less sure about that.

 

---

 

The rest of the week was blissfully, blissfully normal. Stiles served out his detention, he ate crappy cafeteria lunches, spent some time in the library studying for his calculus quiz. He went everywhere with a spring in his step, and jerked off like three times thinking about getting tattooed by Derek. Of course, it was all too good to be true.

“Hey pops,” Stiles dumped his bag by the door and sloped through to the kitchen. His dad had a rare night off, and there was an oven pizza and a pre-recorded baseball game with their name on it. Stiles was embracing his new found normality. He’d made it a whole day without turning anything weird colors, floating or accidentally going invisible. Life was good. Life was good, and the hunter, Wallace was standing in his kitchen with a knife pressed against his Dad’s throat.

“Don’t move,” Wallace said. “You have something that belongs to me.”


“Hey, don’t hurt him,” Stiles said, but his voice sounded weak even to his own ears. “He doesn’t have anything to do with it.”

“You shouldn’t have got him involved then,” Wallace grimaced, and pressed the knife harder against the Sheriff’s neck. A ribbon of blood trickled down his throat.

“Son-” he started to say but Wallace shook him.

“Silence!” he barked. “The pages, where are they?”

They were in Stiles’ school bag, but he knew the minute he gave them over, his dad was dead. It wasn’t going to happen. He raised his hands, palm up, shook his head nervously.

“You have ten seconds to tell me where they are,” Wallace said, “Then I cut your daddy’s throat.”

“With that knife?” Stiles said, his voice wobbling. The grimoire was cool, full of magic spells and glyphs and shit, but Stiles knew the essential form of magic now. It was all about intention, and about will. If he wanted something bad enough, the magic knew what to do. The tattoo felt hot on his back and he dropped his eyes to the ground, so Wallace wouldn’t seem them glow.

The knife dissolved into sand in Wallace’s palm. Stiles’ dad didn’t hesitate, he burst free and knocked him back with a sucker punch. Wallace hit the deck. By the time he recovered he was looking down the barrel of the sheriff’s service firearm.

“Don’t even think about it,” Stiles said. He waved a hand and suddenly Wallace was strapped to the cupboard door with handcuffs and gagged for good measure.

“Whoops,” he said. His dad just grinned.

 

---

 

So apparently if you summon demons, you sometimes leave a personal doorway open to hell or something. To stop it from you know- consuming your soul or whatever, you have to keep casting protective spells, the sort of spells that were on those grimoire pages Stiles had stolen. Stiles wasn’t exactly sympathetic because the idiot shouldn’t have summoned a demon in the first place.


This was also the attitude of the hunter’s council. A representative in a sharp suit turned up with Chris Argent in tow, and mysteriously escorted Wallace away from the holding cells at the sheriff’s station with an ambiguous court order and a hard look. And that was it.

Scott sent Stiles a text message that Friday, after he had taken a father approved sick-day from school. They had spent the day having a proper father-son bonding time, watching that baseball game, and then a ton of disaster movies. Stiles had even let his dad have more than three slices of a meat feast pizza. All sorts of miracles were going down in the Stilinski household.

pack meeting tomorrow at Cuppa Joes, 11am no excuses

So, Stiles got up early and went for a run, then took a shower and spent ten minutes trying to get a good look at the tattoo. It was fucking badass- covering most of his back, and so intricate he couldn’t quite believe that Derek had managed to do the whole thing without a single mistake. He was kind of amazing, in a grumpy, sexually confusing way.


Stiles killed some time murdering guards in Skyrim then drove down to Cuppa Joes, where Isaac and Derek were already sitting, looking kind of awkward. Between them, they probably didn’t possess enough conversation skills to get a good chat going. Stiles got his usual, then asked for an extra shot of espresso, because he was going to need it if he had to deal with both Hale and Lahey, sourpuss twins extraordinaire on his Saturday morning.

“Yo,” Stiles said, debating a bit over the seating, then dropping onto the couch next to Derek. He’d take a hit for the team, he was in a good mood. Derek smelled nice, like whatever his shampoo was, and a bit like his car. It was weird that Stiles noticed. “What’s the meeting about, do you guys know?”

Isaac shrugged, and went back to glowering at his coffee cup.

“I heard you had a visitor,” Derek said. He had his arm stretched out along the back of the couch, basically behind Stiles but whatever. Stiles was cool with that. “Your dad said you turned his knife into dust?”

“Why do you talk so much to my dad now?” Stiles grumbled. “Yes, yes, it was all really dramatic. Thankfully I used my rad new sorcerer powers to save the day.”

“So it works,” Derek said, and his hand kind of twitched, like he wanted to pat Stiles’ back, but didn’t. “You’re in control.”

“Totally,” Stiles smiled. “Thanks for that.”

Isaac made a retching noise at his coffee cup, but they were saved any further dramatics by the arrival of Scott and Allison. Lydia was next, and then Kira, who had a biro line on her face. They were just eating muffins and drinking gigantor coffees, and it was quite nice. Lydia was talking about how Aiden kept texting her pictures of all the baking he was doing, which was weird, and Allison had found a new sports store that stocked the right kind of fiberglass frame for one of her hybrid bows, and Scott’s mom had managed to book thanksgiving and christmas shifts off this year, so he was pretty hyped.

“What was the meeting about anyway?” Stiles said to Scott, when they were on round two for coffees and Isaac was mid-rant about some guy in his Drama class who kept mispronouncing the names of characters in Twelfth Night.

“Eh? No- no reason. Just wanted to hang out,” Scott said, and Stiles finally got it then. At the start of the summer they’d all been in pieces after the Nogitsune, no-one more than Stiles, and now here they were in cheesy coffee house, hanging out like a normal group of people, for no reason other than that weirdly, they enjoyed each other’s company.

Derek’s arm had slipped off the back of the sofa and his palm was on the top of Stiles’ back between his shoulder blades. He just left it there, a warm weight through Stiles’ hoodie and Stiles let him, because against all odds, it didn’t feel weird. It just felt normal.