They were in a flower-filled clearing in the middle of the Preserve. Because that was where you hid cursed werewolves apparently. Scott was laying in the middle of it, his eyes closed, still as death except for the slight rise and fall of his chest. So there was that.
“He was going to talk to that witch, right?” Stiles asked no one in particular.
“Yeah,” Boyd said.
“Do we know why he’s surrounded by roses? Is he supposed to be Sleeping Beauty?” Stiles looked around, but no one answered. “Because I’m getting a distinct Sleeping Beauty vibe here.”
Erica shrugged. “Your guess is as good as ours.”
“Weren’t Allison and Isaac with him? There’s no trace of them.” Boyd tilted his head, as if that would help him hear better.
“If I was putting a Sleeping Beauty curse on someone, I’d make sure any candidates for True Love’s Kiss were far away,” Lydia said.
“Of course you would.” Erica rolled her eyes. “So we wait until they turn up and see if kissing works?”
“Why wait?” Stiles said. “I’ll just kiss him.”
“I know you and Scott are True Bros, but I hardly think-“
“You think I’m just talking out of my ass? I’ve been doing a lot of reading. I don’t think you need some kind of mystical ‘True Love’ to break this kind of curse. Just honest affection. And Scott and I are True Bros, just like you said. So that should be enough.”
“What if it isn’t?” Erica asked.
“Then we wait for Allison and Isaac. Me giving it a try isn’t going to hurt him.” Stiles picked his way through the roses, gaining several scratches for his trouble.
“You should probably wait for Allison or Isaac anyway.” Boyd was frowning, though it was hard to tell if it due to the situation or because that was his face.
Stiles waved a dismissive hand. “Who knows how long that’s going to take? What if they’re in trouble? Anyway, Scott and I worked this out years ago. If either of us ever needs a curse-breaking kiss, the other will step up. If there aren’t any True Loves around, of course. Or girlfriends. Or boyfriends. Or fuck buddies. Or-“
“You discussed this? Years ago? Why would that even come up?” Erica asked, incredulous.
“It was one of those hypothetical situation discussions. We worked out a lot of potentially awkward shit. Like getting married if we’re both single by the time we’re forty.” Stiles yelped when a particularly sharp thorn caught the back of his hand.
“Don’t most people make pacts like that to get married at thirty?” Lydia asked.
“We’re late bloomers, we thought we should give it a little more time.” Stiles stumbled, luckily landing next to Scott and not on top of him. “I hope this works,” he muttered, and gave Scott a big smacking kiss, the kind that toddlers give their parents.
Scott blinked, dazed, then smiled up at him and said, “Please tell me nobody kissed me.”
“Iron Man reference, yesss! And I so kissed you. No one else will ever be able to compare.” Stiles helped Scott to his feet, noticing that the roses had disappeared. Sweet! He’d celebrate being right later. They still had to find Allison and Isaac, after all.
Stiles used to dream of kissing Lydia, but never like this.
“The Sleeping Beauty curse is messed up. What’s wrong with this witch?” he muttered. “And where are the roses? Scott gets pretty flowers and Lydia gets thorns straight out of the Forbidden Forest?”
“Were there thorns in the-“
“Not the point, Isaac!” Stiles threw his hands up in the air and started pacing. “Why is she even doing this? What’s she getting out of it? We broke the spell on Scott-“
“Yeah, thanks for that,” Isaac said sarcastically.
“Scott didn’t care, so shut up. What I’m saying is, it doesn’t make sense to use the same curse on another member of the pack when it didn’t work the first time.”
Isaac shrugged. “Why do witches do anything?”
Stiles shook his head. “There’s always a motive. It may not make sense to us, but she’s got one.”
“Does that really matter right now?”
“God, you are a terrible detective.”
“I’m not a-“
“Fine,” Stiles said loudly. “Let’s just concentrate on getting Lydia out of there.”
Unlike Scott, Lydia was not laid out in a forest meadow surrounded by roses. Instead, she was in a shallow cave – little more than a large hole in the side of a steeply sloping hill – with black vines covered in very sharp, pointy thorns blocking the opening.
“Should we try to get Jackson here?”
“That’s a wonderful idea. Let’s leave Lydia in a hole in the ground until Jackson flies here from fucking London. You know what, I’m going to tell her you said that.”
“He is her True Love.”
“Look, if there was no other way, of course we’d call Jackson. I’d be the first one on the damn phone. But we know there is another way and I happen to think that the sooner we wake her up, the better. Okay?”
“Okay.” Isaac paused. “Are you sure this isn’t because you want to kiss her?”
Stiles glared. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that, because otherwise I’ll have to listen to my best friend pissing and moaning about his bald fucking boyfriend until the end of time. Got it?”
Isaac rolled his eyes. “Got it. Get to work, Galahad.”
“Oh, you’re not out of this yet, wolf-boy. Help me with these things.”
They pulled at the vines. Isaac’s claws were surprisingly unhelpful, but his cuts healed almost immediately. Stiles wasn’t so lucky. Finally, Stiles had Isaac lift some of the vines out of the way while he wriggled on the ground through the tiny opening. With his legs still hanging out, he pushed forward, getting just close enough to give Lydia a kiss on the side of her mouth.
Lydia woke up, the thorns vanished, and Isaac fell on top of him.
“Hey, Lyds,” Stiles gasped.
“Really?” Lydia said, looking around. “Fine. Help me out of here.”
“Your wish is my command. I’ll get right on that,” he replied, still trapped under Isaac.
“Why me?” Stiles groaned as he pushed through a tangle of thorns that surrounded the stone ledge where Isaac lay unmoving. “I don’t even like Isaac. Shit.” His complaining did no good; no one was paying attention, being occupied with the witch that had cursed Isaac in the first place. That left Stiles to do the deed. The deed he very much did not wish to do. It probably wouldn’t even work. If pushed, he might admit to liking Isaac a very little bit. Surely not enough to break a curse.
“Oh, god, Allison is going to kill me. Scott’ll won’t mind me kissing their boyfriend, but Allison is going to shoot me full of arrows,” he muttered. What was it with witches and caves? Weren’t they supposed to live in gingerbread houses in the woods?
“I will kill you if you don’t move your ass,” Scott yelled. He ducked under a swipe from one of the witch’s conjured creatures.
“Fine, let’s trade. I’ll fight and you kiss your boyfriend.”
“Stiles, just do it!” Allison chimed in. Maybe she wouldn’t kill him after all.
Stiles finally broke through the thorns. He leaned over, bracing his hands on either side of Isaac’s shoulders, and planted one right on his lips.
Isaac’s eyes flew open and Stiles jerked back. Shit, Isaac was going to kill him. Isaac jumped up, but instead of going after Stiles, he leapt at the creature that was running at them now that the vines had vanished. Killing postponed, then.
Stiles slumped against the stone ledge, trying to calm his racing heart. Around him, the tide of battle had turned, the creatures dissolving into dust and black smoke as they hit the floor, leaving the witch undefended.
The witch looked at the approaching wolves, with their rumbling growls and extended claws, and abruptly disappeared. The indistinct light that had been filling the cave went with her.
“And don’t come back,” Stiles said weakly. “Oh, hey, the kiss worked. I guess I like Isaac more than I thought. Shit, it’s dark.”
If three’s a pattern, what’s four? Stiles wondered. Forget warrants, four was a conspiracy. Why was the world – or this witch, at least – conspiring to curse the pack and why was Stiles the one who ended up having to break the curse? Every time? And why this particular curse? Stiles was sure it was part of some nefarious supernatural organ harvesting scheme, no matter what Scott had to say about it. Why did only evil witches come to Beacon Hills? Where were all the good witches?
And where was the rest of the pack? He’d texted them at least an hour ago. He checked his phone. Okay, it was more like ten minutes ago aaaand the text was undelivered, because he had no fucking reception. Which was probably why the witch hadn’t taken it away. He shouldn’t have expected to have any reception in a fucking cave. Seriously, witches and caves, what was the appeal? And who knew there were so many caves in the Preserve? There had to be a survey map somewhere that showed them all. He should probably get a copy of that, just in case.
“Okay, Erica,” he told his sleeping packmate. “I don’t know if or when the witch is coming back, and backup is going to take a little longer than I thought. Not that a couple of badasses like us need backup, right? I’m just going to uh, free myself from this not at all Hansel and Gretel looking cage – oh Jesus does she want to fatten me up and eat me? – and get through the fucking vines full of thorns – again – and give you a very platonic curse-breaking kiss – promise you won’t slip me any tongue, okay? – and we will get the fuck out of here. Sound like a plan?” Silence. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. Good talk.”
The cage was impervious to Stiles’ attempts at magic, but helpless before his lock-picking skills. He got the door open fairly quickly. The thorny vines were standard – what did it say about his life that evil-looking plants with thorns the size of dinner knives that practically screamed for his blood were standard? – and he made it through with only a minimal sacrifice of blood on his part. He couldn’t remember if he’d bought new band aids for his first aid kit yet.
He kissed Erica, just a light press of his lips on hers, and she threw her arms around him, pulling him down on top of her.
“No tongue, we agreed!” he yelped, turning his head to the side. She kissed his cheek.
“Thanks, Batman,” she said and let him go.
Stiles stood up, straightened his shirt, then offered a hand to help her sit up. “No problem, Catwoman.”
“This is fine. It’s fine. Might as well go for the whole set. How is this my life that I need to establish with more than one person that kissing is okay in curse-breaking circumstances? And why haven’t I done it yet? I should have known.”
The pack stood frozen in place, watching him as he circled the barrier that separated Boyd from the rest of them. They couldn’t speak, but their eyes told him to hurry the fuck up.
“I guess she got tired of thorny vines. And why is it always the Sleeping Beauty thing? Doesn’t this witch know any other curses? What about, I don’t know, toads and frogs every time someone speaks? That’s a good one. We could revitalize endangered amphibious populations before breaking that one. I read a cool story just like that online. Though Boyd would have to step up on the speech-making. Okay, I got it.”
Stiles drew a rune on the invisible barrier, causing it to collapse. The air shimmered in its wake; Stiles waited for the residual magic to dissipate before approaching Boyd. He’d learned that precaution the hard way.
“At least it’s not a cave this time,” he remarked. Not that a dilapidated cabin was much better. Stiles was going to petition the city council to have all abandoned buildings in the Preserve demolished, in the interests of public safety.
Stiles knelt at Boyd’s side. “Here we go, buddy,” he whispered. “I know you’d rather have Erica doing this, and believe me, so would I. Not that I find you unkissable, but you’re taken and your girlfriend is going to give me so much shit for this. For years.” Stiles bent over and gave him a quick kiss.
Boyd’s eyes blinked open. Stiles clapped him on the shoulder. “Shake it off, buddy. I need your help un-statuifying our wolfy friends.”
Stiles stood in the middle of Derek’s loft. It was dark and empty.
“This isn’t foreboding at all,” he muttered. He turned in a circle. Everything looked the same, just… empty. “Derek?” he called.
Derek should be here. He was supposed to be here. Stiles tried to remember that last time he’d seen him. Surely it hadn’t been that long…
Scott laying in a field, surrounded by roses. No, Derek hadn’t been there, only Boyd, Erica, and Lydia. But surely afterward… Stiles couldn’t remember.
Lydia, stuck in a hole in the ground. It had just been him and Isaac that time. Had he seen Derek then?
Isaac laying on a stone ledge in a cave. The whole pack had been there, fighting the witch and her summoned creatures. But Stiles can’t remember Derek in that fight at all. The others, yes, especially Scott and Allison, but not Derek.
Erica on the floor of another cave, Stiles trapped in a cage. He’d gotten them both out of that one, all by himself, and why can’t he remember talking to Derek after that?
Boyd in the cabin, the rest of the pack frozen in place. That had just happened, he remembered it clearly. Unfreezing each member of the pack, one by one, but not Derek.
Why hadn’t he noticed?
The sudden conviction that Derek was in trouble swept through him and Stiles ran, towards the spiral staircase. He didn’t know what drove him there, only that it felt right. He hurried up the stairs, calling Derek’s name as he went.
He climbed and climbed, long past the time it should have taken him to reach the top. He looked down – the floor of the loft was far below him. The top was just as far away. Stiles kept climbing; he had no choice now. He had to save Derek.
Stiles didn’t know how long it took him to reach the top, but he finally did. He was no longer in Derek’s loft. In front of him there was a door. He turned in a complete circle; the staircase was gone. There was only the door.
“Guess there’s only one way to go.” He pushed the door open and stepped through.
He was in a hospital room. His dad was sitting in the chair beside the bed. Stiles was afraid to look at the figure on the bed; what if it was his mom? He wanted to see her again, desperately, but not as she had been just before her death. He remembered that very well.
“We’ve all tried,” Scott said from behind him.
Stiles whirled around. The pack was there – Scott, Allison, Isaac, Lydia, Boyd, and Erica. Everyone except Derek.
“I was going to try next,” Allison said. “But we aren’t too hopeful.”
“Try what?” Stiles asked, but they didn’t seem to hear him. The terrible feeling that something was wrong grew stronger. Was that Derek laying there? But then why was his dad here?
Stiles approached the bed.
“Stiles had a theory that whole True Love’s Kiss thing was just a poetical device or something, and that anyone who loved the person, however they loved the person, could break a curse like this with a kiss.” Scott told his dad. “It was just a theory, and at the time it was all fictional anyway.”
“It’s a pretty good theory,” Stiles said, still not looking at the person on the bed. “It worked on all of you, didn’t it?” Nobody responded. “Didn’t it?”
“But you’ve all tried and it hasn’t worked,” his dad said, his voice heavy. “Where’s Derek? Does he have any suggestions?”
“He’s talking to Deaton. The witch’s spell explicitly said True Love’s Kiss was required to break the curse, but we thought Deaton might know a counterspell.” Lydia’s voice trailed off as Derek entered the room.
“Anything?” Scott asked. Derek shook his head.
“If this isn’t Derek,” Stiles mumbled, “then who…” He finally looked at the head of the bed, and found himself staring at his own sleeping face.
“We need to find his True Love,” Scott said firmly.
“What?” Stiles said. “What is this? What’s going on?” He looked around the room. Why couldn’t they hear him?
“No we don’t,” Derek said. He strode forward, stopping at the side of the bed, right next to where Stiles was standing. He leaned down. “Time to wake up, sleeping beauty,” he whispered, and kissed Stiles gently on the lips.
Stiles opened his eyes. Derek’s face was inches above his for a moment before he moved away quickly.
His mouth was dry, that was the next thing he noticed. Yuck. “Is this where I say buy me dinner first, big guy?” he croaked. Derek shook his head and grabbed Stiles’ hand.
“Stiles, thank god,” his dad said. “You’ve been in a coma for a week.”
“A week?” He tried to clear his throat, and his dad fed him an ice chip.
“There was a witch,” Scott began.
“Yeah, and she kept putting that Sleeping Beauty curse on the pack, one by one,” Stiles interrupted. “I mean, I managed to wake you guys up each time, like right away. Why the big delay waking me up?”
“What are you talking about?” Erica said. “You’re the only one who got hit by the witch’s curse.”
“Excuse me?” Stiles said, his voice going squeaky.
“We’ve been trying to wake you up over the past week,” Lydia told him “but it seems True Love’s Kiss means exactly that.”
“That’s such bullshit,” Stiles complained, sucking on another ice chip. “What does True Love even mean? It’s too vague, open to interpretation.”
“Deaton said intent matters,” Derek said. “The witch meant romantic love, so it had to be a kiss of romantic love.”
“Ugh, fine. I still say it’s bullshit.” Stiles picked at the blanket covering him. “Wait, so that means I what, fucking dreamed that I fought through giant bloodthirsty thorns and saved all of you?”
Isaac snorted. “I’d say in your dreams, but it literally was.”
“Shut up, wolf-boy,” Stiles grumbled half-heartedly.
“I have a question,” his dad said. “Since when have you and Derek been dating?”
Stiles eyes widened in realization. True Love’s Kiss. Romantic love. That meant... He looked at Derek. “Well, Dad, I-“
“We haven’t,” Derek said. “I never… We never…” He shrugged helplessly.
“We are now,” Stiles said firmly. “Just think, Dad, you have definitive proof of how much he loves me. We’re soulmates. Fated. We’re each other’s happily ever after. It’s twoo wuv…”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Can we bring that witch back to life to curse him again?”
“Looking for another reason to kiss me, huh?”
“You wish,” Derek replied.
Unnoticed, the rest of the pack and the Sheriff filed out of the room.
“This is going to be worse than the pining,” Boyd said. “I didn’t think anything could be worse than that.”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
“We’re doomed,” Scott sighed.