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Daybreak

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The polished cement flooring he was seated on was cold to the touch, seeping through his pants and chilling his skin. A metal handle was digging into his back from the cabinet that served as his back-rest. The operating room of the veterinary clinic was dark save for one warm lamp flicked on in the corner. A hand appeared in his vision, holding out an almost-empty bottle of something dark and strong, for him to take. Stiles took the bottle and fed the pulsing flames in his belly and smoke clouding his mind with a few more swallows. As he lowered his hand once more, the vet sat beside him on the floor huffed a humorless laugh. 

 

"You know . . . as an adult, I should feel pretty ashamed to be giving a seventeen-year-old alcohol. You're not even legally an adult, much less legal to drink." Despite his words, Deaton made no moves to take the bottle back—not after Stiles had spent the last hour helping him drain it. Stiles smiled, but it felt ugly and twisted on his lips, more a sneer than anything. 

 

"I think it's safe to say my future isn't exactly in danger from a few drinks." His voice was rough and scratched as it rumbled from his sore throat. Stiles' gaze dropped to his black dress pants and black button-down shirt—his matching black tie and jacket having long since been discarded in favor of rolled sleeves and an unbuttoned collar. Deaton's attire was just as morbidly telling of where they had spent their day. 

 

Kira.  

 

She wasn't someone that either of them had been particularly close to, and her funeral certainly hadn't been the hardest they had to attend, but she had been the last of them and that was something neither of them could swallow without help. God, everything was so fucked. It had all seemed just fine in the beginning—sure it was a nightmare and the danger had always felt very real at the time—but none of them had to bathe in the very grim reality that, in a split second their lives could end. That was it for them. 

 

No do-over's, no second chances, no player-respawn, nothing. 

 

They weren't nearly as durable or invincible as they liked to think. They had thought that as long as they tried hard enough, or wanted it badly enough, that they could do anything. But none of that was true. They were just incredibly lucky kids who somehow survived as long as they had when the world was throwing everything it could at them to take them down. They were like machines made of folded paper, thinking they were steel, only one harsh gale away from falling apart. 

 

And once they had lost one of their own, it just didn't seem to stop. The Alpha pack had claimed Erica and Boyd. The absence of the chatty blonde and stoic giant had nearly broken them. Because, when they were no longer growling masks of bravado and clenched teeth and dry insults, when they were still . . . when they were cold, unresponsive, and eyes closed as if they were asleep . . . everyone was reminded that these weren't just werewolves, they were two sixteen-year-old kids from broken or struggling homes that had just wanted to be a part of something. 

 

Then the Nogitsune had rolled in on purple storm clouds and pulled their already crumbling walls from the very foundations. It had turned their own fears and insecurities into weapons to hurt them. It had made them paranoid to listen to their own thoughts or trust their eyes and ears. In the end, it took Allison with it as well and that really did break them. They were already stumbling, but the loss of the tenacious and kind-hearted huntress had truly swept their feet out from under them and left them open and vulnerable on their backs for what came next. 

 

The Dead Pool.  

 

Compared to what they had faced before, it should not have affected them so much. However, they were too tired to think, too defeated to fight, and too lost to really unite. They were able to fend off the assassins' attempts the first few times, seeking reward no matter the cost. That is, until a virus swept through Beacon Hills that seemed rather fatal to the wolves. It didn't only affect them, Satomi lost a few wolves to the virus as well. Isaac was the only one from their pack to succumb to the illness, but that didn't matter much in the end. The virus left the wolves weak and the non-wolves—like Lydia—unprotected. The assassins gladly swept in and took advantage of their vulnerability. 

 

One by one they were picked off. 

 

Even the Sheriff, Stiles thought bitterly, remembering how his father hadn't been able to stand as kid after kid was killed in the town he was meant to protect. Eventually, the man wound up venturing out, half in a bottle, and going straight to where one of the assassins was residing to try to take them on and end things once and for all. . . Instead, his throat was slashed in a dirty motel parking lot and Stiles had to see the earth opened up next to his mother's grave with a gleaming new granite headstone to be her neighbor indefinitely. 

 

Somehow, Stiles found himself sleeping in the back office of the veterinary clinic instead of going home after that, eventually turning into him crashing at Deaton’s small apartment. He never wanted to know the true silence of being the only one to live there anymore. He never knew how long he could make his body go on without sleep until that first week after his dad passed. 

 

After that, it became a blur of freshly upturned dirt, sleep-deprived detectives questioning him on his connection to the recent victims, pitying gazes from the townspeople, and weeping family members. They had thought Kira, at least, would be safe with the protection of her mother. The Yukimura family had made arrangements to leave California right after the last funeral, but it apparently hadn't been quickly enough. 

 

And so, here Stiles and Deaton sat. . . In the dark clinic, sharing a bottle of Whiskey and occasionally sharing memories—hazy from time, faded in spots and far too saturated in color and joy to have been an accurate depiction of the past but still so much better than the silence. Stiles mainly talked about all the dumb shit he and Scott used to do when they were younger and hadn't felt the punishing hands of death. Deaton talked more than Stiles had ever heard him speak, about his time with the Hale Pack before the fire. 

 

It was strange because no one who had really known the pack while it was still alive and thriving had ever said more than a few vague details when they needed to. Derek had kept every little thread of information about his former pack close to his chest like it was the only thing keeping him alive—and maybe it was. Peter seemed to cope by pretending anything that had happened before him waking up in Beacon Hills Memorial just hadn't existed. 

 

And Deaton, Deaton had been so tight-lipped about literally everything pertaining to the supernatural world that Stiles had just sort of assumed that Deaton had always been that way and had been just as distant with the Hale Pack. With every story he shared on that cold hard floor, though, it seemed less and less like the truth. 

 

Deaton spoke of the Hales like they had been his family, more so than any person he shared blood with. He told Stiles that he had practically lived with the Hales with how much time he spent at the main house and how often he shared a meal with them. He spoke of days dripping in sunlight and the saccharine honey that seemed to permeate the air. In his tales, it never seemed to rain, every injury came with a new invaluable lesson, and every wolf was the hero of their own exciting story. From his words, he painted pack as something so much more than a couple of people hastily bound together in the mutual need to survive each day. 

 

It brought a new ache into Stiles' chest, one that dulled the sharpness of his grief, an ache to have memories of these days as well so he could reminisce on them and have known the people held so dear to Deaton's heart. 

 

It was almost surreal, the way Deaton had lost his entire pack, being one of the only to survive, and how Stiles now was in the exact same spot as him. Even the roles they had played in their packs were similar. Not that Stiles had been his pack's official emissary or anything, but that had more to do with their situation and circumstance. If it had been a normal pack and not a loose group of broken teenagers and even more broken adults, then there would have been a more solid structure to the pack instead of just 'Alpha' and 'the rest I guess.' 

 

Either way, now it was truly just him and Deaton. 

 

Deaton had fallen silent after telling Stiles about a woman from the old Hale pack that he had cared for and had wanted to pursue, if he had ever scrounged up the courage, that is. Stiles allowed the silence to hang in the air for a few minutes as Deaton slowly pulled himself out of bittersweet memories of a woman who might have become his mate if circumstances had been different. However, he knew not to let Deaton be alone with his own thoughts for too long, as he wouldn't wish the same on himself. 

 

"There . . ." Stiles swallowed and looked down at the bottle in his grasp as he slowly swirled the amber liquid inside. "There's really nothing left. For me. Everyone is . . . gone, and it feels like I haven't thought of tomorrow in years." His words rang in the air like a gunshot, he took another heavy drink. "I would trade every last breath I take to just have another shot—not even a guarantee, just a chance to make thinks right and bring back even one of them." 

 

Deaton remained silent as he spoke, and Stiles knew he was breaking an unspoken rule between them. They didn't voice their 'what if's because regret and obsessing over the past wouldn't bring them any closer to moving forward—which was the only way either of them would survive. Stiles knew that fantasizing about an impossibility such as that would only hurt him more in the end, but he really couldn't help it. He was drunk and tired and more vulnerable than he'd ever felt before and it was the perfect time for such thoughts to take advantage of him. 

 

Stiles waited for Deaton to inevitably bring him back to earth, to tell him that nothing good would come from thinking like that. Because, that was what he did for Stiles. Ever since things really turned to crap, Deaton had been the unmovable stone in the raging river. He had been Stiles' unexpected lifeline whenever he felt himself drifting away. Before, Stiles couldn't be in the same room as the man without wanting to throttle him, but. . . 

 

Alan Deaton was not the most warm and comforting person, but he knew almost exactly what Stiles was going through and he helped Stiles to fortify his walls when he felt like he was crumbling. It was a tough love, and it was the only reason he wasn't comatose in his own misery. 

 

"Is there really nothing tying you here? Nothing left to pull you forward?" The question caught Stiles off guard. He turned to look at the man beside him to see him scrutinizing him with startlingly sober eyes. His dark eyes were hard and piercing, but there was also a reluctance to his expression. Stiles didn't know what could possibly be going through the other man's head—whether he was gaging Stiles' mental stability right then or not—but for some reason, Stiles didn't hesitate to speak his mind. 

 

If Deaton was trying to discern if this was a cry for help from Stiles, then, well . . . maybe it was. Stiles trusted Deaton more than he did himself right then, and maybe handing over a bit of control would help him. Maybe he was a little too drunk, or maybe not drunk enough. 

 

"Yes. My entire pack is dead. My father is dead. My mother is dead. The brother who was closer than blood is dead. I can't close my eyes without seeing their faces, I can't listen to the ringing of silence without their voices echoing in my ears, I can't wake up without a brief moment where I've forgotten and everything seems okay before it's ripped away from me again. I'm seventeen and have almost as many dead loved ones as years I've been alive. I can't sit in a classroom without having a fucking panic attack because I know how many seats are now empty. I can't be around normal humans because they don't know and I feel sick to my stomach at how unfair that is. At any given moment I feel like I'm going to feel a bullet tearing through the back of my skull or claws ripping through my throat." By then, Stiles' breathing had picked up and he was practically heaving as his voice got louder and his words more desperate to be understood. 

 

"What could possibly be left for me!? I don't fit into this world anymore, Deaton! I have been broken and remolded to fight with my very last breath, I have been forced to learn every last dirty and horrible secret in this world and now that knowledge is poisoning me, I learned to always be aware and afraid in order to survive but now that the danger is supposedly over, I can't shut this shit off. There is nothing left for me to fight for, nothing left for me to protect and I can't even run away from this horrible place because they're still dead and I will never be able to forget or ignore that. So, tell me, Deaton, what exactly is supposed the be 'leading me forward?'" Stiles finished harshly, his anger not really directed at the vet—which they both knew—but at everything as a whole. 

 

Deaton sighed, averted his gaze to look at the cabinets across the room, grabbed the bottle from Stiles' grasp and took a long swig. He thought that was the end of the conversation between them and had settled back into the silence. However, a few long moments later, Deaton cut through the dead air with words spoken just barely above a whisper. 

 

"If you really have nothing left here to cherish or look after . . . then . . . there might be a way." It was said so quietly, but it left Stiles' ears ringing anyways as he jolted where he sat and looked back at the older man, not yet daring to let himself process the words. 

 

"What?"  

 

Deaton shook his head, as if waring with himself quietly. Eventually, the vet met his burning stare again. 

 

"From the oaths I took as a Druid, I should not be even speaking of this—and I will probably face the consequences in the afterlife—but . . . most times, the world we live in seems far worse than any punishment I could face after this life. I must reiterate, this is not something I recommend or approve of. However, you have a right to choose your own path and you should know, there is a way to change things. It will come at a price, though, and it will not be cheap." Deaton gave his final warning, even though he knew from the hardening steel of Stiles' expression that the young man would not heed his advice. 

 

"Tell me." Stiles demanded, feeling a fire in his gut that had nothing to do with the alcohol. 

 

"I know of a very old, very dangerous piece of magic that could—theoretically—send a person back in time. It is forbidden magic for Druids and is only meant to be used in the gravest situations when forbidden magic has already caused so much damage and discourse that it can't be allowed to continue with the repercussions. It does not cross dimensions or bring someone to another reality, so once that person leaves their own time, all that has happened between then and where they go back to is unmade, unwoven to be reformed with the new addition of that person and any changes to the timeline they make." Deaton watched carefully to make sure Stiles was understanding the exact meaning of his words. Stiles was nothing if not incredibly clever and intelligent, though. 

 

"All of this, all of the people here, all of the events—good or bad—will be undone as if they never happened." Stiles nodded as he spoke, his stomach dropping like a stone just at the thought of everything dissolving and the only proof of their existence being his own memories. Don't get him wrong, most of the time since Scott was bitten in the woods was hell, but there were also so many good moments that he didn't want to lose. 

 

"That isn't all, in order to circumvent a paradox, the younger 'you' would cease to exist. Stiles Stilinski will have never been born to John and Claudia Stilinski. Time is only flexible enough for you to appear from nowhere, it cannot hold two diverging timelines in one without turning into a loop and preventing you from ever being able to make a change to the timeline and keeping you stuck forever in a constant chain of events. It's necessary, but I won't lie to you and say it will be easy. If you were to go through with it, you wouldn't be getting your old life back. Your friends and family won’t know you. It isn't a 'do-over' as much as it is you getting the opportunity to nudge the timeline just enough to change the outcome and maybe prevent a few people from dying. 

 

"As you mentioned before, this won't be a guarantee, it's just a chance to change things. There's no telling how the timeline will play out once you start changing things. Stiles . . . this won't be a fix, even if you go back, even if you go to a time before their deaths, the memories will still be very real to you and you will still need to bare that burden. I would rather you stay here, with me, and we both move on from this, because if you go back, you go back alone and I won't be able to help you from here as this me will no longer exist. 

 

"The life you got back to, the people you go back to, will not be the same and it will not be what you're looking for. . . So, Stiles, what do you say we chalk this up to a rough night with a little too much to drink, get some much-needed sleep, and maybe in the morning we can look for the greasiest food in town to cure one hell of a hangover?" Deaton asked, expression soft and slightly pleading. 

 

The thought of going back in time and seeing the people who were his entire world not even recognize him was honestly gut-wrenching. Depending on how far back he was sent, Scott and the rest of the pack would only be kids. At best, he might be able to put himself in the role of a cool older kid that was more like a brother than a friend, but he honestly didn't know if he could handle growing close to them knowing that he had seen several of them die with his own eyes and had attended every one of their funerals. He would feel like just his proximity was tainting them or leading them closer to that bleak future. 

 

Honestly, there were many drawbacks to going back and it would probably do Stiles no favors in healing him. There were so many reasons not to, but the one reason to go back seemed to overshadow it all. If he went back, he could potentially save all of them. He had no idea what kind of life he would lead, if he would have any sort of future or if he would be just as inept as he feels now, he didn't know if his appearance would cause suspicion and worry enough for the people he was trying to help to turn on him. 

 

In short, he was trading his past, present, and future for people who were already dead without the guarantee that they would stay alive. 

 

And yet . . . the decision still felt worryingly easy. 

 

Even though Deaton couldn't come with him. Even though it meant leaving his last friend in the world to go to an uncertain place where he had no allies, no backup, no pack to catch him if he fell, not even family to support him in his darkest hour. Even with all of that, Stiles barely hesitated. 

 

"I'll do it." 

 

Stiles had never seen the stoic veterinarian look so somber. 

 

                    

 

The rest of the night was spent pouring over books so old they were practically dust already, planning out the logistics of everything, deciding how far to send him back, and what to do when he got there. 

 

Stiles' first thought was to go back to the night he and Scott went walking around the preserve and Scott was bitten. Since, for Stiles, that was where things took a hard-left turn. Thankfully, Deaton was quick to remind Stiles that things went sour long before then and if they were going to do this, they only had one shot at it so they were going to do things right. 

 

After some debate, they settled on sending Stiles back to prevent Paige's untimely demise. It was after the girl's death that Kate had managed to dig her claws into the impressionable young Derek, which led to the death of his entire pack, which led to a crazy Peter, which led to him killing Laura and biting Scott and so on. 

 

Just as day was breaking through the windows of the clinic, Deaton had finished preparing everything they would need and explaining to Stiles exactly what was going to happen and giving him plenty of opportunity to back out, but Stiles never wavered or second-guessed his decision. They had both since lost any sort of unsteadiness or incoordination from the whiskey. 

 

They had talked a bit about what Stiles should bring with him—even though they didn’t really know if he could even take anything with him. Since Stiles had pretty much been living out of the bag he already had stashed at the clinic, he figured that would be enough. He also took a minute to change out of his black dress clothes and into a comfortable pair of jeans and a jacket. 

 

All the preparations took far less time than he'd imagined when Deaton had spoken about how complicated the magic was. They probably could have finished it all a lot sooner, but he could feel Deaton's reluctance rolling off of him in waves as he meticulously dragged out each step. Stiles didn’t comment on it. 

 

At eight in the morning, the pair ventured out of the clinic and immediately set out into the woods. In case Stiles was transported back to the same spot in the past, it was probably best for him to not suddenly appear in the middle of the unsuspecting vet's clinic and give the man a heart attack. Deaton had asked Stiles before they left if there was anything he needed or wanted to do before they did this. Stiles thought briefly of going to the local cemetery to say goodbye, but the very thought rolled his stomach—he had spent far too much time there recently to find any sort of peace from visiting. No, if he was going to say goodbye, he would do so quietly, in his own mind. 

 

They were silent as they walked. Both consumed by their own thoughts. 

 

Stiles numbly realized, if this worked, he wouldn’t see the sun set that day for many years. He would be in his twenties—twenty-seven if his half-assed mental math was correct—by then. 

 

Deaton stopped walking, tugging Stiles from his hazy mind before he ran into the older man. Taking in his surroundings, Stiles realized that they weren’t actually that deep in the woods and had walked slightly parallel to the road he knew ran through the trees a quarter mile to his left. He also noticed that they were about another quarter mile away from the old ruins of the Hale house if he kept going straight. It gave him equal opportunity to either go straight to the Hale pack, or find the road and head into town first. 

 

Stiles knew he was leaning more towards the former option, feeling a low tugging in his gut to see the wolves alive and well and be around a pack again—even if he technically wasn’t a part of it. 

 

That was the thing the wolves from his old pack never seemed to fully grasp; Stiles wasn’t a were so he didn’t feel the pack bond the way they did, but he had felt it and drew strength from just as much as any of them had. They felt it like a physical thing—a glossy ribbon woven between their ribs that connected them to everyone else, drawn taut so they could feel the little vibrations like the two tin cans and a string he and Scott used to play 'telephone' as kids. 

 

For Stiles, it pooled warmly under his diaphragm and was a little trickier to read but still affected him. Every time he had been away from them for too long, it tightened the muscles between his ribs and bloomed into a fearsome ache in his chest. If someone was hurt or distressed, Stiles felt physically ill and shaky. When someone was overjoyed, it soared through his veins like some kind of drug. And when someone died . . . it felt like his body completely shut down, unbearable stabbing pain like hot knives in his gut, vomiting, dangerously high fevers, such a horrible, deep, radiating agony in his bones that nearly left him bedridden for days. 

 

It hadn’t been anything like that in the beginning, with Erica and Boyd. It progressively got worse as time went on though. He had asked Deaton about it eventually, when Scott had gotten in a nasty fight and Stiles had nearly fainted in the middle of the supermarket without even knowing his friend had been fighting. Deaton had explained that it was a mix of things: Stiles' developing spark mostly, adding on top of that the loss of previous pack members putting a heavy strain on the bond and making it effect them all more fiercely, and lastly, Stiles' own desperation to protect the pack pushing him past what should be possible. 

 

And now that all of his pack bonds were gone, Stiles felt utterly untethered and the pain under his ribs was a constant. If there were any other supernatural creatures left in town, he probably would have sought them out already if only to form one measly little bond. Deaton was a Druid, and they had grown close, but Deaton's bonds would be almost exactly like Stiles' own and it wouldn’t be enough after a while. 

 

Stiles blinked, refocusing on what he was doing with his hands as he helped Deaton to create a fairly rudimentary ritual circle in a mixture of salts and herbs on the forest floor. When it was done, Stiles stepping into the cleared center, careful to not disrupt any of the markings. 

 

He looked up from his feet once he was sure he was standing directly in the center. Deaton was watching him, expression stony. Stiles could now recognize that it meant that the vet was feeling too much and didn’t know what to do with it all except push it down. 

 

“I’ll make things right, I swear.” Stiles vowed. His hard, whiskey colored eyes conveying every ounce of sincerity he could muster in that moment. Deaton shook his head, not breaking eye-contact. 

 

“Stay safe, Stiles.” Deaton rebuffed, it sounding more like a warning than well-wishes. Deaton lifted a pocket knife to his overstretched palm and slashed through the caramel flash unceremoniously. Thick scarlet immediately welled up and began to drip on the mottled white and green-flecked markings on the ground. The droplets caught the morning sun and shown like crimson fireflies as they fell. 

 

Stiles felt all the blood drain from his face and limbs like he had just begun the drop of a steep rollercoaster and he knew it was already happening and he only had moments left. 

 

With his and Deaton’s gazes still locked, Stiles did his best to pull up his most impish, most 'Stiles-esque' grin as he could. And for a moment, he felt more like his old-self than he has in many months. 

 

“Down the rabbit hole we go.” Stiles snarked with a vivid gleam in his eyes and he had just caught the barest hint of a growing smile on Deaton's lips when the man before him suddenly started to move again, only in reverse to his previous actions. Stiles watched in a mix of fascination and uneasiness as Deaton drew the blade up over his palm and the red gash disappeared. With each passing second it got faster and faster, the marks at his feet were sucked back up into their containers and he watched as Deaton worked—alone. The 'him' that he knew had been there just seconds ago was already gone, erased from time as it moved in reverse and was unmade. 

 

In a flash, Deaton was disappearing back through the trees and the sun overhead was dropping back over the horizon. Stiles' stomach was in his shoes and he swayed as day came and went again and again, getting faster and faster. 

 

Entire seasons passed in less than a minute and he watched plants around him spring back to life and then shrink into nothing in the dark soil. He could see the trees growing ever so slightly in reverse. 

 

He could feel the years shaved away as his stomach flipped and his body trembled. Just as Stiles was beginning to fear that Deaton had made a mistake and sent him back too far and he might be stuck going backwards forever until everything was unmade, the frantic reverse around him seemed to gradually slow. The darkness around him slowly lifted and lightened as dawn broke and the morning bloomed over the forest until the sun was directly overhead and creeping its way along the sky. 

 

Finally, Stiles felt himself released from the oppressive weight of whatever magic had been used to send him back and he took his first, deep breath since the whole thing had started. He stumbled a bit out of his rigid stance from the sudden head rush that washed over him. 

 

Looking around curiously, Stiles noted that his surroundings were still familiar. The foliage was definitely different and the trees looked slightly off from before—but they were still in the same places and the dips and swells of the terrain were pretty much the same. It was a comforting thought, if not because it reminded Stiles that this was still Beacon Hills, his home, then it comforted him simply because it meant he would still know his way around these woods. 

 

At that thought, Stiles knew that there was no use in waiting any longer. He had a wolf pack to see. 

 

                     

 

Stepping out from the tree line, Stiles realized that the Hale house was far larger than its charred ruins had suggested in his own time. The main house—which, in and of itself seemed big enough to comfortably house a family of ten, and the part that had stubbornly survived the fire enough to leave behind the burnt husk he remembered—had clearly been remodeled and expanded upon in the last two decades. It was at least two levels up from the ground with what looked to be a sizable attic above the 'main house.' Painted a soft grey-brown that made the monstrosity of a home not stand out so harshly against the tall trees surrounding the property. 

 

There were also other things that seemed to have been lost by the time Stiles first wandered onto Hale land with Scott. Such as the edges of a large and flourishing garden he could see peeking out from around the back of the house, full of vegetables and fruits hanging from thick bushes or tall trees. He could also spot areas littered with children's toys, an abandoned bike, a small shed just beyond the tree line, and a few other miscellaneous items or tools or areas that just looked so . . . domestic that it made Stiles' gut ache. 

 

Shaking his head and forcing his gaze to lock on to the snow-white front door, Stiles put one foot in front of the other and began to cross the large open area. He had not even set foot on the porch steps when the door opened and out stepped a wolf Stiles didn't recognize—a fact he was thankful for in that moment—who was staring him down with a deep frown. Instinctively, Stiles' walls rose higher and he returned the stern look, showing that he would not be cowed by an unfamiliar wolf. 

 

This was not his pack, this was a pack that had been around for generations and he knew that pack hierarchies would be more respected and rigid here—it kept the peace, especially with a pack bigger than a few people, and settled peoples' internal wolves and their instincts enough to not be constantly fighting each other and themselves to try to reach the top and challenge the Alpha. These were things Deaton had told him in the dead of night when Stiles had awoken from what little sleep he managed to catch, screaming, and the ex-emissary had just spoke of anything to fill the silence, not even sure if Stiles was listening as he faced the wall, back leaning against the side of the bed or couch—where ever he had managed to crash at the time. 

 

Stiles blinked and the memory was gone. Either way, it was enough for him to know that he would not show submission to any wolf except the Alpha until his position was made clear (whether he was in the pack or an outsider) otherwise he would automatically be pushed down to the lowest point of the hierarchy and would have a hell of a time getting anyone to listen to or respect him. 

 

"I'm here to see your Alpha." Stiles stated in a curt, stilted tone. It felt like it had been years since he'd even talked to anyone who wasn't Deaton or what remained of his pack. The words felt odd on his tongue. The wolf continued to watch him for a few more beats, maybe trying to determine if he was a threat or not, before jerking his head in a short nod and stepping back while pulling the door open for him. 

 

Stiles approached the waiting wolf, his body rigid with every inch of him on high alert. He knew, objectively, that these wolves would follow a sort of code-of-conduct and not just randomly pounce on him. However, it seemed that the past few years—the past few months—had done more damage than he realized and it caused him to be as tense as if he had a gun pressed to his temple even when his brief glimpse of the large living area he got while the other wolf led him deeper into the house, he spotted more discarded toys and a few abandoned coloring books. 

 

With how on edge he was, Stiles immediately picked up on how quiet and eerily empty the house seemed as they waked up a large dark wood stained staircase to a balcony overlooking the entryway. They had probably noticed his presence before he'd even left the woods and had already moved all the children and wolves who didn't fight to a safer location. 

 

The wolf escorted him over to a thick wooden door that was a few steps away from the balcony overlooking the front door. Stiles didn't allow himself to dwell on the fact that he was about to meet Talia Hale, the respected Alpha and even more cherished mother. Instead, he kept his mind and face completely blank as he followed the man into the room that appeared to be an office at first glance. What caught him off guard, though, was the fact that it wasn't just Talia, but also what seemed to be every adult wolf from the pack. Which, was not just a handful as Stiles had predicted, but over a dozen wolves, all staring him down as if ready to jump him at a moment's notice. Just how big was the Hale Pack? 

 

Stiles had little trouble closing himself off and keeping his expression blank as he glanced at the other wolves briefly before turning his gaze to settle on the woman standing directly across from him, with the other wolves lining the edges of the room. The man who had escorted him left him at the back of the room and immediately found a place close to Talia's side. 

 

Talia herself cut an impressive image. She was tall, with long silky black hair, dark almond-shaped eyes, a sharp bone-structure, a subtle strength to her build and slight curve of muscles that bespoke of power and skill, lightly muscled arms crossed over her chest. Her dark gaze bore into Stiles as if she could separate flesh from bone with just her eyes alone. Perhaps it could. Stiles could feel the presence of the Alpha pressing down on him like a clawed hand on the back of his neck. Yet, he kept his head held high, his only show of submission was the purposeful lowering of his eyes after a few moments to convey he was not here for a fight. The Alpha didn't relax a single muscle, neither did he, but it seemed to get his message across clearly enough as she broke the silence. 

 

"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" Her voice was rougher than he imagined but seemed to suit her rather well. Stiles raised his eyes to meet hers again, his message delivered and done with. 

 

"My name is Stiles. I've come only to inform you that I will be staying in Beacon Hills for the foreseeable future. Beacon Hills is part of your territory and I don't want any trouble by settling here without coming to warn you first." It wasn't a request. He knew that Talia technically had the authority and power to force him out of Beacon Hills, but that was usually only done when that person was deemed an immediate or dangerous threat to the pack, which he was more likely to be labeled as if he settled in town without seeing them first. 

 

"Any pack affiliations?" Talia asked in a hard tone. Stiles' stomach clenched at the question, but he knew he had to answer her. She needed to be assured that he wouldn't be leading another pack onto her territory and possibly causing a fight over the land. Clenching his jaw, he otherwise did not react outwardly. 

 

"No. No affiliations, no bonds, just me." Talia hardly blinked, but Stiles caught movement in his peripheral that told him several of the wolves were exchanging looks. After all, he was a full spark and they sought out pack bonds just as much as any omega wolf would—just without the going-rabid part. 

 

"You're a spark." Talia stated, not a question but a clarification. She seemed to be thinking along the same lines of everyone else in the room. 

 

"Yes." Was all Stiles offered. He was not about to share every little bloody detail about how he had a pack, and then lost it. They can come to their own conclusions about him, that would stay private for as long as he can manage. 

 

Talia didn't seem impressed by his lack of information, and let it be known by the silence that followed his curt reply as she continued to scrutinize him. 

 

However, the silence didn't last long. A very familiar voice broke the silence with a simple, soft-spoken question. 

 

"How old are you?" Stiles didn't have to turn to know the emissary stood off to his right, almost hidden amongst the wolves. Stiles was careful not to react as he finally did look at Deaton. The man who had very quickly come to be a father-figure to Stiles after his own had passed, looked decades younger. It wasn't really his physical age, more that there was a gentle innocence to his face that the spark had never seen before. 

 

Digesting the man's question, Stiles felt a flare of anxiety in his chest. He didn't want to outright admit to being a minor, because he did not need 'adult intervention' if they saw him as some runaway kid or something. He also couldn't outright lie and tell them a false age since they would hear it in his pulse right away, and he knew he still looked pretty young, despite his dark circles and guarded expression. So, he would have to settle on a lesser evil, even if what he was about to say left it pretty clear what his answer was. 

 

"I can handle myself just fine." He said instead, voice hard and unyielding as he leveled the emissary with a cold look that made it clear he didn't appreciate nor welcome the probing. Deaton looked a little lost as for how he should reply, but Stiles didn't give him the chance, turning back to Talia. Talia was watching him much like before, but now there was a faint hint of thoughtfulness to her face as she glanced at Deaton for a moment and then back at him, considering what had been said. Stiles stood as still as possible as he tracked her gaze slipping to the straps of his backpack looping his shoulders, to his worn sneakers, and the back up to his closed-off whiskey colored eyes. 

 

He knew she wasn't the only one assessing his appearance, all the other stares pressing in on him like a physical touch and setting his already tense nerves all the way to the cliff's edge. Stiles felt caged and had to reign in rigid control over his body to keep himself from lashing out on instinct. Before, he had been almost eager to finally be around wolves again. Clearly, he had overestimated his endurance for being surrounded by so many supernatural creatures because, right then, all his body was interpreting their presence as was 'THREAT' from every corner of his mind. 

 

If he ended up around so many wolves for too long in the future, he knew he would end up getting in fights. Make no mistake, he might be human, but Stiles and the rest of his pack had decided pretty early on that he needed to be able to defend himself against werewolves and any other creature that came after them, at least for long enough until someone else could help him. Well, it turns out that, as awkward as Stiles seemed most of the time, he had a knack for fighting. Not the organized, precise martial arts that Allison had tried to teach him in the beginning. No, he excelled far more in the gritty, brutal, going all out by the skin of his teeth kind of fighting. What had started as self-defense lessons had turned into rough scrapes and fights with the wolves until he became confident in his ability to defend himself. 

 

It was probably the only reason he survived out of everyone. He was underestimated for being a human, but he could defend himself when someone tried to use him to get to the others. 

 

Point was, Stiles could hold his own in a fight and if those wolves who he caught looking at him like they had a right to know his whole life story continued to look like that in the future, he wasn't confident in how well he could restrain himself. 

 

"Do you have a place to stay?" Talia's voice brought Stiles' full attention back to her and his irritation faded as he processed her words. Once again, paranoid he was one slip away from having Child Protective Services called on his ass, Stiles toed the line. 

 

"I'm resourceful." Was all he said, careful not to grit his teeth when he spoke, but it was a near thing and he could tell by the flicker of amusement in Talia's dark eyes that it had not gone unseen. 

 

"Do you have a family, Stiles?" Talia asked, some of the harshness of her posture draining away. Stiles silence hung thickly in the atmosphere. She took that as an answer. "Friends?" More silence. 

 

Stiles wasn't sure how to react. On one hand, her questions were going down a path that told Stiles she was starting to see him as more of a runaway kid than an adult, which put him at risk of being handed over to the police to deal with—something Stiles really couldn't handle right then. On the other hand, Talia seemed to be seeing him as less of a threat the more pitiful his situation appeared to her. No family, no friends, no pack, just a backpack and steel in his gaze. 

 

Finally, Talia nodded as she seemed to have decided something quietly. Everyone in the room was utterly still as they waited. A few curious stares remained on Stiles, the wariest of them didn't waver their gazes from him either, but the rest looked to Talia in trepidation. They sensed whatever their Alpha was going to say and didn't seem very happy about it, which forced Stiles to lock his muscles up to keep from doing something stupid—like making a break for the nearest exit. 

 

"Well, Stiles. If you understand that this land is my territory, then you must also know that it is mine to protect." Stiles' ears rang and his gut twisted, palms becoming sweaty as he anticipated some sort of attack. 

 

He'd been wrong. Talia saw him as too much of a threat. Maybe she could tell he used to run with wolves and thought he was secretly bringing another pack into the territory. Or maybe she thought he had turned against his nature as a spark and had become a hunter, planning to take down her pack. Either way, Stiles felt like he was moments away from meeting his fate and joining his lost pack. 

 

Except he couldn't even do that anymore. Stiles felt the blood drain from his face as he finally saw a consequence to his actions he wasn't sure he could deal with. For months, the only thing keeping him going was the fact that he knew his most precious loved ones were waiting for him on the other side and if anything ever happened he would finally get to rest with them. But now? He'd fucked it all up! He'd undone all of their deaths, erased himself from their lives so that even when they passed in this life they would no longer be there to reunite with him. He hadn't just given up his past, present, and future . . . he'd given up his very peace after death! 

 

All those funerals. All that time carefully planning out resting places and arrangements. All those nights spent secretly huddled over a grave and whispering to the pack he'd lost. All of it meant nothing. It was real—that he couldn't argue—every death had been real and would follow him for the remainder of his—probably—short life. But now he would be the only one to bare that weight. 

 

The gale winds of his own mind never registered on his skin, and Stiles did his best to pay attention and stand tall before the Alpha. If this was his end, he would bare the pride of his old, dead pack on his shoulders and face it with dignity. He would much rather it be at the hand of someone who he had always been told was just and respected, than some dirty unknown creature in the woods or a bloodthirsty hunter. When Stiles spoke, he was proud to know his voice was strong and unafraid. 

 

"I understand, Alpha Hale. My deepest apologies for entering your private home without permission. You seem to have a large and flourishing pack here and I know you only do as you must." It was the most he'd said all at once since his initial introduction, and he was already feeling a bit strained from having to speak up so much. He quietly mused over a time when he knew it was everyone's goal to get him to pipe down, he wondered what they would think of him now. . . 

 

It took a moment for the meaning of Stiles' words to get through to the Alpha, her confused frown morphing into a flash of surprise before finally settling on a firmness that came easily to her features. 

 

"We are not going to hurt you, Stiles. You misunderstand, I said before that it is my duty to protect this territory, which includes all those who reside here. If you are looking to live in Beacon Hills, then that would include you." Something softened in her eyes as she sighed and shifted her weight. 

 

"This is not an official invitation into the pack, as we still know very little about you and that might not even be what you want but . . . you're young, and you're alone, and as a spark, you need to be around the supernatural to, at the very least, keep yourself from becoming ill. We have plenty of space and resources here to house you until you decide to either join us or move on to another pack. You seem strong, and I feel we could benefit from your company, if only for a little while. 

 

"However, keep in mind that you will be watched. You seem like a good kid, Stiles, but I must protect my pack before anything else, so we will be keeping eyes on you until we feel you can be trusted. There are quite a few pups in this pack and I'm sure you understand we will not tolerate any of them being hurt." She spoke sternly, trying to get her point across without wanting to spook the already rigid teenager. 

 

Stiles couldn't comprehend what was happening. They were . . . telling him to stay?! Why? 

 

"Why?" The question pierced through the air and for a moment, Stiles thought he had been the one to say it, but then he saw Talia's sharp gaze shoot to one of the other wolves off to his left. Stiles turned just as a wolf stepped forward with purpose, addressing his Alpha. He was nearly a head taller than Stiles, had maybe a decade on him, and corded with enough muscle to register him as an immediate threat in Stiles' mind. He had short cropped black hair, startlingly pale skin, coal-black eyes, and a jagged pink scar that ran a shallow valley from the bridge of his straight nose, over the hollow of his cheek, and to the hard corner of his jaw. 

 

He would have looked handsome to Stiles if it weren't for the harsh scar that had probably been painful when he'd gotten it, and the look in his eyes that Stiles immediately recognized. It was a look he saw in his pack members near the very end, one that he didn't doubt others had seen in him. This man had ghosts, had scars that lined the inside of his ribs where no one could see, he knew well what it was like to spent what felt like an eternity fighting within an inch of his life. Also, considering how quickly werewolves healed, the scar on his face was either something done by an Alpha, or he was a turned wolf and it had happened before the bite and had been too deep to be healed completely by the bite. As Stiles couldn't see Talia as one to punish her own pack so harshly and with physical violence, then that would mean he was from another pack if it was a wound from an Alpha. 

 

So far, this wolf who had just spoken up against his Alpha for her decision to welcome Stiles into their home, was the most like him out of everyone, it seemed. Because of that, Stiles felt both wary and relieved. Relieved, because he felt like he could understand and predict this wolf better than the others. Even if his 'prediction' was that this one would be the most resistant to Stiles staying. After all, he would be the exact same way—and had been in the past with his own pack—if their roles were reversed. 

 

"This could be a trap. We know nothing about him, he could be a hunter or sent from another pack to take us down. He even said so himself, he's fine on his own, he doesn't need our help. Look, I'm not saying we kill him or anything, I just don't think he should stay here." The wolf argued, and Stiles couldn't help but agree with him. He never asked for a place in their pack, he never asked for their help. He'd only planned on coming back to do a little guiding from the shadows too keep everything from falling apart. Prevent Paige's death? Easy, he just has to tail the girl and stop her from getting bitten in the first place. After that, he had no other plans. He only saw his future as far as him making sure to change the flow of the timeline enough to save a few people. 

 

"Mark." Talia's tone was dripping with warning. He was challenging her decision, and while, that was something she usually welcomed in her pack to keep her on the right path, right now they were in the middle of a meeting with someone who was technically an outsider. Her instincts warred with her on the public challenge and she had to fight it down because she knew it was not a challenge for her position as Alpha. He just wanted to keep them safe. Taking a breath, she spoke. 

 

"I understand your concerns, but we are more than capable of protecting the rest of the pack until we know he can be trusted. He is not even a wolf and he clearly has no pack bonds. He may not have asked for our help—he may not even want it—but that doesn't mean he doesn't need it. You know what being an omega can do to a wolf; as a spark, it is different but the end results can be the same." Death. She didn't say it, but they all knew what she was speaking of. Stiles knew, he just hadn't really put any weight on that fact. There were more important things than what might happen weeks, or months from now. 

 

Stiles looked at the other wolf—Mark—and saw his jaw clench at her words. He had been an omega, then. 

 

"This pack has always offered asylum to those in need, and we will continue to do so. If it truly concerns you so much, then you can be the one to watch him. If he is able to convince you of all people of his character, then that will be enough for me." Talia's words rang with finality. She was putting the stubborn wolf in charge of watching Stiles not only as a caution, but because she knew that if the spark ever did decide to join her pack, Mark would be the first to object. If this Stiles, can prove himself to the most stubborn of them, then he is more than worthy of being a part of her pack. 

 

Stiles watched silently as Mark's full lips tightened into a hard line and his frame seemed to clench with mounting frustration. He would not speak up again, though, as that would mean a true challenge to Talia. Mark turned to look at Stiles once, black eyes locking on him as if waiting for him to make a move, before stepping back to his original spot near the wall. His eyes never leaving Stiles for a moment and he knew they wouldn't until Stiles was off their property. If he stayed, he knew Mark would do as Talia suggested and take up the mantel of guarding Stiles, if only to make sure he couldn't try anything. Mark wouldn't hesitate because of Stiles' age or human status, he would do what was necessary to protect the pack and for that he held a little bit of respect for the man. 

 

When he looked back over to the Alpha, she was watching him with a soft mixture of triumph and relief in her expression. She felt she had won the argument and things were settled. Except, Stiles had never expressed ant inclination to wanting to stay. 

 

"I appreciate your concern, Alpha Hale, but it was unnecessary. I didn't come here looking for help, I only wished to make my presence known so there wouldn't be any problems in the future. If you do not plan on making me leave Beacon Hills, then all I ask is for some quiet." He broached carefully, remaining respectful, but hopefully firm in his resolve. Talia looked bewildered. 

 

"Do you not understand what you are, and what will happen to you if you leave? You're a spark, Stiles, you can't just be around humans or else your health—your life will be in danger." She explained hastily. Stiles just blinked. 

 

"I know." His voice wasn't tight, it wasn't pained or grave, it was just . . . blank. His calmness seemed to unnerve some of the wolves around the room, but he didn't look to see what might be flittering through their expressions as they shifted and turned to mutter something to the person next to them. For a while, Talia didn't seem to know what to say to that. It was someone else who spoke up, instead. 

 

"Stiles." He turned and tried to remain neutral when meeting Deaton's gaze. "I know you just want to be alone and this might all be quite overwhelming to you. You seem to be very independent and none of us are planning to take that away from you. We aren't doing this so you'll join the pack or give us something in return. We are only offering you a place to sleep tonight. And if, tomorrow, you feel comfortable enough, we would like you to stay again. This isn't a commitment, you can take it one day at a time and decide later what you want to do. You are not the first we've opened our home to, and if you decide in the end you wish to leave, then you wouldn't be the first in that either. How about you go get cleaned up, get something to eat, sleep, and then think about what it is that you want. Okay?" His voice was smooth and calming and so horribly familiar. 

 

Stiles felt himself crumbling even as he tried to pull up reasons to refuse. It ran the risk of him running into his own pack—before they were his pack—but he ran the same risk by going into town. In fact, he'd probably see a lot more people he used to know in town than amongst the wolf pack that had been almost completely wiped out before he knew any of them. Plus, there were two specific people in town he knew he couldn't bear to see any time soon. If the year was right, then it was still a year until Claudia Stilinski was discovered to have the degenerative disease and began counting her remaining days. 

 

If he stayed, he wouldn't have to see them yet. If he stayed, he'd also have a slightly better shot of being there to prevent Paige's demise. There wasn't a good reason for him not to stay and as they've assured him, this wasn't a commitment. That last statement didn't feel true even in his thoughts. 

 

Stiles turned to the Alpha and with a soft sigh, he bobbed his head in a singular nod. The pleased look from earlier returned and the Alpha dismissed the other wolves. The only ones to remain in the room after a few moments was Talia, Stiles, and Mark who seemed to have already begun his watch. Talia sent the man an unimpressed look but seemed to decide it wasn't worth another argument as she turned her attention back to Stiles. When the Alpha approached him, Stiles realized she was a few inches taller than him, he noted curiously. 

 

"I'm glad you decided to stay Stiles, at least, for now. How about I show you around a bit and we can find a room for you." She offered, her rough voice dampened by her soft smile. Stiles just dipped his head in a nod and stepped beside her when she left the room. Stiles could practically feel Mark following them a few paces behind, watching his every move. 

 

Talia began to show him around the huge home as if he was a welcomed guest instead of the refugee he felt like. They started on the ground floor, Talia absently mentioning a basement that was mostly just storage. The ground floor was mostly living space, amenities like the kitchen, a make-shift infirmary, a few rooms that belonged to the few elders of the pack so that they didn't have to constantly use the stairs, a playroom for the pups, as well as a room Talia said was used for teaching the children. She mentioned something vague about them homeschooling their children while they still had little control over their wolves. Stiles was curious but he remained quiet. 

 

The second floor was mostly bedrooms with the occasional office or sitting room—which, the sitting room looked like it had been decorated and furnished by teenagers as it was mostly mismatched couches, chairs, pillows and even a bean-bag or two with a clunky computer in the corner sat at a desk. Actually, most of the bedrooms were in the connected expansions to the house, with only three on that floor a part of the original structure. 

 

Talia pointed to one door next to the office they'd been in earlier and told him that the room belonged to her and her husband—Frank—who he would meet later. One of the other two rooms belonged to her second, Greg, who was the same wolf that escorted Stiles into the house when he arrived. The last belonged to her daughter, Laura, who was next in line to take over as Alpha—which he knew already. 

 

Talia made sure to show him each available guest bedroom, avid on him deciding for himself where he would like to stay. They had quite a few open rooms, as Talia had said she was always hopeful for expanding the pack. She was in the process of showing him one room, which overlooked the back yard—the garden he saw a bit of earlier was much larger than he'd anticipated—when she spoke up to ask about something that had nothing to do with their little 'tour.' 

 

"It is quite strange for a spark to develop fully without a pack, did you have someone teach you how to do it on your own?" Her tone was light, curious as she watched him looking out the window, Mark stationed stoically in the doorway with his thick muscular arms crossed over his broad chest. Solid, like a mountain. 

 

"I had a pack." Stiles answered without really thinking, but the thought of pretending they hadn't existed felt even worse than whatever questions might follow that statement. He saw Mark tense in the doorway, but his attention didn't linger on the man. Talia's brows jumped up on her smooth forehead. 

 

"Oh? Then--" 

 

"Talia." Mark interrupted before she could ask what Stiles knew she wanted to know—'then why aren't you with them?' Mark gave her a meaningful look when she turned to him. Mark's dark eyes then shifted to Stiles. "They're gone?" The implication of his words was clear. Stiles felt a little grateful that Mark seemed to understand the situation and wouldn't be coaxing out the agonizing truth under the impression of amicable curiosity. 

 

"Yeah. They've found rest." Was all he said, turning away again so he didn't see the dawning horror on the Alpha's face. He brushed off her apologies with a gentle shake of his head. Wishing to change the subject, Stiles asked what had been circling around in his head ever since she started showing him guest rooms. 

 

"Do you have any . . . any rooms away from the others?" He spoke tentatively. At Talia's pursed lips, Stiles elaborated. "Sometimes I sleep quite . . . fitfully, and I'd rather not wake anyone up in the middle of the night." Stiles implied, knowing that any sleep he did catch would not be restful. Talia's eyes flicked down to the dark purple shadows under his eyes for a second. 

 

"I'm not sure if—the attic maybe? It was converted into an extra room before the expansions, it still has a bed and everything, but no one really stays up there anymore. It can get quite drafty, the cubs avoid it because some think it's haunted, and the older wolves don't really like it because it's further away from the rest of the pack. We have wolves that live in town, of course, but the ones that live here prefer to stay close—especially the ones with children. I don't know how comfortable it'll be, especially with winter nights, but I can take you up to see it?" 

 

Stiles nodded gratefully, following Talia out and back towards the central structure of the house. Mark followed a little further back than before, appearing to be slightly distracted by something. As they walked, Stiles picked up on the sounds of movement and very muffled voices throughout the house. The other wolves must have come out or come back from where they were whisked off to when he arrived. He could even hear the high-whines of a child trying to manipulate someone into giving them something. 

 

The narrow stairs leading up to the attic were tucked away behind a door between a linen closet and a bathroom. The stairs were bare, worn wood but thankfully they didn't groan or creak as they ascended save for the very first step—as if it had been stood on over and over again but they had always changed their mind before reaching the second step. Probably the kids. Brats. 

 

The attic was quite large, completely open with a surprising number of windows nestled into the slanted walls. The air was pretty stale and stagnant from the lack of use making Stiles' nose burn and itch, but that could be fixed with just opening a window. The air was surprisingly warm, heated by the hot beams of sunlight streaming through the windows and illuminating the lazily drifting dust motes that fell like burning snow. On one end of the room, Stiles could see a few stacks of boxes that were shoved haphazardly in the corner—probably more storage. On the other end sat a double bed and a few pieces of dusty furniture. 

 

"If you wanted to stay up here we'd obviously have to change out the bedding and wipe things down a little, but otherwise, what do you think?" 

 

Stiles looked around the room once more before nodding. It would work just fine. 

 

Talia seemed to be getting used to his non-verbal responses. Talia gladly left and came back with an armful of bedding and a few rags to wipe everything down. Stiles quickly offered to do it but was waved off by the bright Alpha and reluctantly was only allowed to help her. Mark only threw open a window to help, and then proceeded to lean against it until they were done. 

 

"I'll leave you to get settled then, Stiles. Lunch should be ready at noon so try to come down some time around then." Talia was already walking down the stairs when she stopped and turned to Stiles once more. "I never caught your last name before. . ." She trailed off, prompting him to answer. Making a split decision—his existence may have been erased, but the Stilinski name hadn't. 

 

"Actually, Stiles is my last name, I just go by it since my first name is a little . . . tricky." 

 

"Oh? Try me." Talia challenged lightly, a smile curving her lips. 

 

"Meiczyslaw." He deadpanned, watching the slight wince on Talia's face as she silently tried to copy his name before giving up and shaking her head. 

 

"Stiles it is!" And with that, she left. 

 

Mark followed her a moment later, but Stiles knew he wasn't going far and would probably wait for him by the door at the bottom of the stairs, his watch having officially begun. Stiles was just thankful he would have at least a bit of privacy, even though Mark was probably keenly listening to his movements right then. 

 

Stiles plopped down on the bed and pulled his backpack around into his lap. The majority of the bag was full of a weeks' worth of clothes that he had just been washing and cycling through lately. Other than that, he had a few toiletries, whatever cash he and Deaton could scrape together last minute, and his phone along with his charger. 

 

It was a long shot to see if the device still worked after the jump through time. Stiles was surprised when it flicked on without any problem. He knew he couldn’t call anyone with it—his phone didn’t actually exist yet and he definitely didn’t have a service provider for it. However, his phone was technically a miniature computer with the capabilities of providing its own internet connection via WiFi. Hopefully, that would still work. 

 

It was almost painfully slow, but by some miracle, it worked. First things first, Stiles looked up the current date—since the magic to send him back was not an exact science and it wasn’t as if Stiles could ask someone here about the day, month, and year without coming off as insane. 

 

December 5 th  2003.  

 

Oh.  

 

If what Deaton told Stiles was accurate, Derek and Paige hadn’t even met yet. She moved here from New Mexico in the spring. On top of that, Kate and Gerard's reign of terror wouldn’t move to town for over a year from now. 

 

Stiles dropped his phone into his lap with a sigh. Well . . . on one hand, this made Stiles' job of keeping Paige alive a whole lot easier. All he had to do was keep Derek and Paige from ever getting together in the first place. As impossible as it seemed to keep reckless, hormonal teens away from each other, it would be worlds harder to get between them if they had already latched on. He just needed to make sure the teen-wolf-brat kept it in his pants for the next half-year. Stiles groaned inwardly at the prospect of making himself the chief of the abstinence-patrol. 

 

On the other hand, besides his job becoming a little more straight-forward, what the hell was Stiles supposed to do in the meantime?! It would be a while until he even needed to think about interfering. What would he do until then? 

 

Stiles' tired gaze shifted over to the stairs, replaying Talia's invitation to eat lunch before she left. Stiles huffed an exhale between his parted lips and levered himself off the bed. He didn’t exactly wish to see anyone else, but he couldn’t exactly starve himself in his borrowed room for the next few months. Instead of unpacking his bag, Stiles just slid it under his bed. He didn’t know when he might have to leave at a moment’s notice. He also slid his phone into his pocket instead of his bag, in case a wolf got a little too curious for their own good and went snooping. 

 

After all, he was the outsider. 

 

Stiles zipped up his hoody and shoved his hands in his pockets as he descended the steps. As he had expected, Mark was waiting right outside the door to the stairs, a prominent glare on his face as he stood rigidly, for all intents and purposes looking like a prison guard ready to escort a criminal. Thankfully though, if there was one thing he could appreciate about the man, it was that he was just as reluctant to speak as Stiles was. 

 

Unlike when Talia had given him a tour earlier, Mark now made a point of walking only a step behind Stiles. Looming like a shadow over him. It made his skin itch and it was completely impossible to relax—which he supposed was the point. 

 

Stiles did his best to remember the layout of the house in order to take the most direct route to the kitchen so as not to take any unnecessary detours and give Mark a reason to doubt his intentions. He would eat, and then he would retreat to his new room. He wasn’t interested in exploring. He wasn't curious about the house or its residents. He rather be a shadow that haunts the attic than try to carve out a space for himself amongst these strangers. 

 

Which is why Stiles nearly turned right back around when he reached the joined kitchen and dining room and found it to be bustling with wolves. When he turned, he was met with the wide chest of a wolf filling the doorway behind him and preventing any sort of retreat. Mark raised one dark brow at him and made it quite clear that Stiles was meant to stay and eat. Sighing, Stiles found an open seat at the table and plopped down, ignoring the sudden quiet and the feeling of so many eyes on him as he began to eat. 

 

Most of the wolves he recognized at a glance from the meeting earlier. They watched him with open wariness, distrust, or even disdain as he ate. A handful of other adult wolves that had not been in attendance to the meeting sent him plenty of curious looks, but kept their distance based on the tension in the room. Lastly, there were about six young wolves of varying age under 13 that seemed eager to get to know the newcomer. However, the pups were all kept from making any moves towards him or trying to spark up a conversation with him by their overprotective parents. One woman even went so far as to pull her cub into her lap because he was closer to Stiles than she was and she didn't like not being able to properly protect her child if something were to happen. 

 

The company wasn't welcoming, but then again, neither was Stiles. He diligently ate his food under such heavy scrutiny, but the aura rolling off of him was as unfriendly as possible. In other circumstances, if Stiles had been younger and hadn't gone through the things he had—if Stiles hadn't changed so much—then he would probably be blabbing away, chattering his way past people's defenses the way he was infamous for. But now . . . it was just easier to keep them away than try to fake his way through it. 

 

Stiles noticed Mark getting himself some food as well, but the wolf never let his guard down—if anything, Stiles being around the pack made him ten times tenser—twitching and his gaze flickering over to him whenever Stiles so much as shifted. It was clearly only a matter of time before Mark blew his lid and attacked Stiles over the smallest misstep. If Talia had put Mark in charge of watching him and had intended on Stiles relaxing or going without getting hurt—or killed—then she had way too much faith in the wolf. 

 

Stiles might not know everything there was to know about the supernatural world, but he knew a whole lot about people like Mark. Mark puts a lot of faith in his wolf and acts more like an actual wolf than a man. Mark won't settle down until he and Stiles have fought and one of them submitted. It sounded weird and primitive, but in a strange way, it made sense if you took a step back to look at the situation. Mark wasn't born into this pack, it had probably taken him a long time to figure out where he stood within the pack and what his unspoken 'ranking' was. So, when you throw in a strange face that you knew nothing about and could potentially be dangerous, Mark didn't know where he stood with Stiles and he needed to sort it out—and soon. 

 

If Mark won the little battle of sorts, then he would feel confident in knowing he was stronger and more capable than Stiles and could put him in his place if he did something wrong. If Stiles won, then Mark's wolf would just have to accept that Stiles was above him and if Stiles did something Mark didn't like, it wouldn't be Mark's place to punish him, it would be the job of someone above them both. It was a system that wasn't enforced in most packs—this one included, at least not to that extent—and being of 'lower rank' wouldn't really stop someone from speaking out against a misdeed, but Mark relied more on his instincts as a wolf and he would honor that system enough for them to not be at each other's throats every second. 

 

That being said, Stiles sure as hell wasn't going to make the first move. It may be inevitable and necessary, but him attacking first would be a quick way getting the whole pack to turn on him and either kick him out or kill him. For now, he would just endure and wait it out. He doubted Mark would wait long.