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In Blood, In Release

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He hopes that after they manage to finally defeat the Nogitsune, it will start to get better.

Stiles plays a divine move and lets himself wish it's over. He feels a sharp sting in his arm and a ripping pain through his chest, unsure of whether he's just imagining it because he sees it happen. Sees Scott bite into the arm of his double, sees Kira plunge a sword through its chest. The Nogitsune flails, caught off guard and angered about the events occurring, but knowing it has been defeated.

Stiles watches his own body fall to its knees. The Nogistune wears his face with pride, splitting the two of them being the move that almost destroyed everything he loved. Lydia tightens her hold over him like he's about to keel over, and Stiles knows that's not exactly a longshot. His knees feel as week as the Nogitsune's look and he knows the mirror of his body on the Nogitsune's isn't just the same in the face, but also how ill they both look. Kira is standing above it, sword grasped tightly. Scott, fangs still extended, stares at the back of the Nogitsune. Stiles hopes and prays with everything he has that this is the end, that this is finally it.

He watches the fly buzz around aimlessly as it exits its mouth and flies beside them, around the corridor. Isaac appears, catching it and shutting it in its own prison. There's a moment of silence, of shock or relief Stiles doesn't know. All he knows is it's gone - it's actually gone.

His attention is drawn back to the Nogitsune on the floor, jittering and jolting like it's having some sort of seizure. The face, his face, cracks before him. The sickly ashen colour turning grey and reminding Stiles of the remnants of a campfire. The cracks are black, snaking all over it, before the Nogitsune finally falls to the ground, face first in the school corridor. As soon as its face makes contact with the linoleum it crumbles to dust, disappearing like it was never there. Like Stiles has just entered a darkened room and his shadow has disappeared.

Then the dizziness hits him and his vision swims. His eyes focus in and out like he's trying to look through a microscope and get it to focus on the slide beneath the lens. His body starts to feel shaky and then, much like he watched with the Nogitsune, his knees collapse beneath him. He feels himself tilting to the side and for a second he doesn't mind the thought that he could die too. Then he feels nothing.

Awareness comes back to him slowly, almost painfully. Except, strangely, he's feeling nothing but peace right now. The pain that followed him around since he and the Nogitsune split has reduced to nothingness. He almost misses it; the pain was the reminder that he was real, that he wasn't dreaming and that everything crazy that has happened has actually happened.

He opens his eyes and sees the worried faces of his friends; Lydia, Scott, Kira, Isaac, he knows he's safe. He's on the floor and... he fainted. That was all he did. But they're okay. They defeated the Nogitsune, they trapped it and they're all okay. He allows himself a breath of relief.

But it doesn't get better.

He stumbles up from his position on the floor, almost tripping over his own feet in his haste to rush out after Lydia. Moments before, he watched as Lydia ran through the corridor and tore through the doors. She didn't say anything, didn't mutter a single sound, but Stiles knew that look on her face - a look he never wanted to see. He leaves his friends in the corridor, knowing they would follow despite the lack of explanation from either Lydia or Stiles, and fumbles his way out of the school after her.

He sees her lone figure standing there, her posture is off - completely distraught and wrong from the ordinary Lydia he's used to. It doesn't take him long to see what she's staring at. Down the steps, on the tarmac, is something that hits Stiles so painfully in the chest he wants to vomit from the impact. Chris Argent is stood sorrowfully (and to add salt in the wound Stiles is suddenly bombarded with the painful memory that they aren't all alright, that Allison definitely isn't alright by the fault of Stiles) by Ethan and Derek and Ethan is holding Aiden. Ethan is holding his twin brother, who's bleeding black blood from his chest, mouth dripping the same substance.

He holds Lydia tightly, echoing how she held him earlier when he was too weak to stand upright. He doesn't want her to be alone, doesn't even want her to see Aiden like that, but he knows she has seen it, she felt it. She felt the death of Allison and Aiden, and Stiles gets the urge to push Lydia away from his tainted mind and body, the person who is responsible for both of the deaths. For all of them. But Lydia clings on tightly and Stiles hopes she doesn't realise how much he's also drawing comfort from the embrace.

Behind him, he hears the school doors clang open as Isaac, Kira and Scott stumble across the scene too. He's not a wolf and he's definitely not the Nogitsune anymore, but he can almost smell the devastation. Losing yet another person in this God-forsaken town, after they just lost Allison and nearly lost the others that the Nogitsune had conquered. He almost wishes they lost him too. It's no less than he deserves, after all.

The guilt stabs at him as he sees Argent and Derek back away to give Ethan some space, and Derek turns to climb up the stairs and approach them. Stiles glances up at him and Derek tells them all how Aiden died fighting the Oni, how he risked his life to destroy one of them, how he died one of the good guys.

Lydia cries harder. Stiles feels his insides churn. Aiden wasn't a horrible werewolf who stole his Alpha powers and couldn't be redeemed. Stiles can't escape the truth now; he was lead astray and managed turned it around with Ethan, proved himself as a valuable beta for Scott, and it ended up getting him killed.

Stiles holds Lydia tightly but all he feels is cold and alone.

And it doesn't get better.

Stiles doesn't return to school straight away. He uses the excuse that he's not feeling too good, saying that his immune system was compromised before they defeated the Nogitsune and he must have picked up a bug. It isn't that hard to fake with his father because he looks really tired, so the Sheriff just accepts it and tells him to make sure he gets some rest. He knows he looks tired - he hasn't slept in the two days since he watched his mirror image disappear in front of him. Hasn't allowed himself too because he's scared he will find that they never defeated it at all, that it still haunts him in his dreams.

He learns through a text from Scott that Chris and Isaac both packed up and left. He ignores the gnawing guilt that he caused that decision and instead focuses on breathing steadily in and out.

Scott forces him to go round after the first day he misses school though, promising they'll watch Star Wars. Stiles doesn't have the energy to care and wants nothing more than just curling up under his covers and letting his mind think about other things, but he knows how selfish he's being. Scott lost Allison, he probably needs the company and support of his best friend.

So he manages to make it to Scott's house and weakly greet him. Scott remarks on how bad he looks and Stiles says the same lie he told his father. If Scott listened closely and heard the lie, he gave no indication of it. He leads him upstairs instead and smiles at him (Stiles tries to smile back but he can feel his face aching from the fakeness of it) and then Stiles sees why. Stood there, almost bouncing on her heels with what looks to be excitement, is Malia.

She remarks on his strange scent, which Stiles just brushes off and puts it down to illness, and Malia seems satisfied enough that she turns her attention back to Scott. Stiles sits on the edge of Scott's bed and observes him trying to teach Malia to get her claws out. And when she finally manages it, he clings onto the memory of the moment because it makes something stir within him. Something akin to happiness or joy or simple relief that everything and everyone is slowly recovering and getting back to normal.

But it doesn't last long. Stiles doesn't let the feeling last long within him and he hates himself for even letting himself feel something good when all he's done is cause pain and chaos for other people. He's caused injury and death and grief for all those left. He's faced a kanima and it's masters, he's faced a dark druid and watched as a sacrifice after sacrifice turned up and still, he hates himself more than all those things. Hates himself because he was too weak to stop it, too human to do anything about it.

And it still doesn't get better.

He stands and stares at his wall, unrecognisable behind the myriad of reports and pictures and newspapers and frantically scribbled notes, beneath the red string that screams unsolved and the haunting ghost that all of it represents.

Slowly, he steps up closer to it. He brings his fingers to rest upon one of the strings, remembering cutting this one after the incident at the power station. He glances over at his bed, knowing this string like many others on his wall, once were knotted in the handle of scissors that he plunged into his mattress the night before he could have died of hyperthermia.

His fingers gently grab the string and pull, and he watches it come away from the wall. It's almost satisfying and he pulls harder, letting it slip to the ground as it disconnects from his wall.

He closes his eyes for a moment, breathing deeply. When he opens his eyes again, he takes one last look at the wall and starts pulling.

He has no care for these documents anymore. They're not evidence, they're reminders and physical nightmares. Some rip in his haste and he lets the individual pieces flutter gently to his carpet. He pulls more and more from the wall, revealing more of it as he goes and realising how long it's been since he's seen the wall for what it actually is.

Behind him, he hears his father and reassures him that all he's doing is clearing his head. He's not losing his mind again, he's not being taken over by a supernatural creature hellbent on destroying everything around him.

Once he's done with his walls and ignoring the leftover destruction on his floor, he moves over to the chess board. He remembers moving the pieces without consciously doing so and he studies the board. Derek is soon to be in checkmate and he huffs a laugh, remembering what came about after this particular game. The Notistune is nothing if not ingenious.

With an uncoordinated swipe, the chess prices fall to the ground, some sticky notes falling off and becoming just more paper covering his floor. The carpet muffles the klunk of the chess pieces hitting it but Stiles can imagine the sound and it reverberates inside his head.

He gets to work clearing all the paper and string into a black bin bag and then packs away the chess set. He hopes this is it, the end, the thing that marks everything finally getting better.

But it doesn't get better. It only gets worse.