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Written in the Scars

Chapter Text

[Art by the amazing frogsandboxes aka Fearful_little_thing.  Go look at their other art, it's fantastic!]

Huge thanks to eeyore9990 for the beta!  Go read her amazing stuff!

Your friends. Your family. Everyone who ever meant something to you. We're going to destroy all of them, Stiles. One.  By. One.

Stiles jolted awake on a shuddering breath, frantically flailing himself free of the tangled and sweaty bedsheets.  He bit his lips to keep from screaming on the exhale, forcing himself to take measured breaths in and out of his nose.  

One.  Two. Three.  Four. Five.

One.  Two. Three.  Four. Five.

He counted each finger, his pulse pounding loudly, the occasional shiver racking his body.

One...By.  One.

He shook his head in automatic denial, pinching each finger firmly as he counted, trying to drown out the echo of the nogitsune’s words.

When he finally felt steady enough he stood up, making his way to the bathroom, only staggering a little.  He turned the shower on and stripped efficiently, keeping his eyes straight ahead.

The shower was steaming but it seemed to barely register.  Stiles still felt frozen to his core, only distantly aware of the pounding of water against his numb skin.

He toweled himself off roughly and then tied the towel around his waist, leaning over the sink to splash cold water on his face.  

He braced both hands on the bathroom counter, staring at the steamed-up mirror.  It made his stomach roil, but he had to see.

With a shaking hand, he reached out and wiped a wide stripe across the mirror.  

The face that looked back at him was his own, but also not.

Stiles stared into eyes that were just a little lighter than even the day before, looking almost beta-gold in the harsh lighting.  His nose was just a little less uptilted, the moles on his face not quite where they used to be. The scar on the bottom of his chin from when he fell off the swings in third grade was just gone.  He seemed a little bit taller, his shoulders a little bit wider.

With trembling fingers Stiles folded his left ear forward, craning his neck.  A wheezing breath escaped him, his legs suddenly feeling weak with relief. 

The mark of the Oni was still there, the one that meant self.

Stiles was still himself.  For now.

Your friends. Your family. Everyone who ever meant something to you. We're going to destroy all of them, Stiles. One.  By. One.

The nogitsune’s words echoed in Stiles’ head again, and he grimaced.  It wasn’t just that the nogitsune had threatened everyone Stiles loved.

It was that he had said we.

Stiles was already dressed and nursing his second cup of coffee by the time his dad stumbled downstairs.  He grunted at Stiles as he poured himself a cup.

Usually he would sit next to Stiles as he drank his morning coffee.  Maybe even put a hand on his shoulder, or pull him into a sideways hug on the way out the door.

Stiles remembered that physical contact, yearned for it with a sharp hunger that seemed almost violent.  But his dad kept his distance, gulping his coffee while leaning against the kitchen counter, about as far away from Stiles as he could get.  

The mug clattered into the sink and his dad was out the door with just a wave.

Stiles took another sip of hot coffee, but it didn’t touch the chill inside him.

The jeep made a grinding noise and then the engine sputtered out halfway down the driveway.  Stiles knocked his head against the steering wheel, cursing. It was tempting to take it as a sign, to just stay inside again today, but Stiles had a mission.  He slung his backpack over his shoulder and started walking.

Stiles rested his temple against the glass of the bus window, watching the whole lot of nothing out the window.  The bus passed under an underpass and he flinched as in the moment of darkness he suddenly saw his reflection, eerie golden eyes staring back at him.

The bus filled up, stop after stop.  Eventually a few people were standing in the aisle.  Stiles pretended not to notice that the seat next to him remained empty.

It was Malia who had finally told him to his face, brutally honest as always.

“Something about you is just wrong,” she had said bluntly.  “I don’t know what it is. It makes me not want to be around you.”

Stiles had just stared at her.

“I’m sorry,” she had said, already backing away.

The bus juddered to a stop, jolting Stiles from the memory.  He snagged his backpack and made his way down the aisle.

It wasn’t that people shrank away from him, nothing that obvious.  It didn’t seem to be anything conscious on their part. But as Stiles crossed the street and made his way across the campus the people just seemed to naturally part around him, leaving him alone in an invisible bubble of space.

He pushed open the doors to the University library, distantly appreciating the beautiful arched windows and expansive skylights.  He handed the student working the reception desk his driver’s license and signed the register. He clipped the visitor’s badge to his shirt pocket as he walked through the main concourse, heading toward a second set of stairs at the back.  Stiles had hoped to attend this University someday, had been imagining it since middle school. It all seemed so distant now.

A sense of foreshortened future.  Yet another symptom of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Stiles knew.  More proof that naming things didn’t really help make them any better.

The woman at the front desk of the Rare Books room squinted suspiciously at Stiles’ visitor’s badge for entirely too long, but ultimately handed over a pair of white cotton gloves and let him through.  

Stiles wasted no time finding his way to the proper section.  He slipped a small volume from the shelf and brought it to his table, starting up his laptop and pulling up his research document.  He cracked open the volume, painstakingly making his way through the spidery handwritten text, looking for answers.

Stiles had been told what had happened.  That the nogitsune had thrown up a pile of bandages, and Stiles had crawled out of the floor, covered in them, distracting everyone while the nogitsune had taken Lydia.  And later, when Scott bit the nogitsune at the school, that body, Stiles’ real body, had cracked to pieces and then tumbled into dust right in front of him.

So what did that mean Stiles was now?

The librarian kicked Stiles out on the dot of 5 p.m., and he caught the bus home.  He avoided his reflection in the window, pulling his phone from his pocket instead.  He had turned the ringer off while he was in the library, but he turned it back on now.  

No missed calls.  No messages.

He opened up his Messages app, and looked down the row.  Every most recent message was outgoing.

To Scotty:  Hey, bro, want to hang out?

To Queen Lydia:  Let me know if you want to get together.

To Sourwolf:  Hey, man, drop me a line, let me know you’re okay.

It was understandable that everyone retreated into themselves, or at least that’s what Stiles liked to tell himself.

Better to think that than to think that maybe they were just retreating away from Stiles.

And really, who could blame them if they were?  He was the one who let the nogitsune in, who had cracked open the door in his mind that let the malevolent spirit inhabit his body.  Allison and Scott both did the ritual too, but it was defenseless, human Stiles — always the weakest link — that the nogitsune had chosen.  And so it was Stiles who had twisted the sword in Scott’s gut, who had thrown Derek across his own loft, who had terrorized Lydia.  Stiles couldn’t even look in the mirror without seeing the nogitsune’s smirking face, he could only imagine what his friends saw.

Stiles sighed, and switched over to try to level up in Unicorn Dash.

By the time he got home, his dad was already there.

“Jeep busted again?” he asked, and Stiles grunted an acknowledgement.  

“I’m off tomorrow.  We can take a look at it together.”

Stiles lifted his head in surprise.  “Really? That’d be great.”

Stiles’ dad took a step closer.  “I know I’ve been working a lot lately.  It’s just — you know, the station —” His hand strayed automatically to his side, where Stiles knew the gash from the Oni’s sword was still healing.

Stiles felt the sick squirm of guilt in his belly.  Yes, he knew. The sheriff’s station that the Oni, under the nogitsune’s control, had decimated.  Along with the hospital, and the animal clinic. Not just Allison and Aiden, but twenty-three innocent people, in total, dead at his hands.

“I’ll go get dinner on,” Stiles said, slipping through the doorway to the kitchen, afraid of seeing silent accusation on his dad’s face.

Stiles played with his salad, using his fork to nudge the craisins around.

“You’re not very hungry,” his dad remarked.  “Big lunch?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said automatically, but the question gave him pause.  Now that he thought of it, he hadn’t eaten lunch at all, had he? He couldn’t have — there was no food allowed in the Rare Books room — and he hadn’t left, anxious to make the most of one of only seven allowable days under his Visitor’s pass.

Come to think of it, he hadn’t had breakfast either.  Coffee this morning was the last thing he remembered consuming, and yet he didn’t feel hungry or thirsty at all.  Yet another sensation that was blunted. Deadened.  Stiles apparently didn’t need to eat as much as he used to, maybe didn’t even need to eat at all.  So what did that make him?

He looked down at his salad and realized he had absent-mindedly arranged the craisins into a triskele.  The sight of it made him angry, and he stabbed his fork into the center, shoving a bite of spinach and craisins in his mouth, choking it down.

Derek and Peter had fucked off somewhere without even telling anyone.  There were no Hales in Beacon Hills any more, no reason that Stiles would ever see a triskele again.  They had left Stiles to deal with this alone.

Or maybe they hadn’t.  They had a deeper knowledge of the supernatural.  Maybe they knew that whatever they had left behind in Beacon Hills, it wasn’t Stiles.

What was he?

Stiles found his fingers straying to the mark of the Oni behind his left ear, tracing the slightly roughened skin of the scar.  He had always been cursed with an exceptional memory. He remembered exactly what Noshiko had said after the Oni had marked him.

“Am I me?” Stiles had asked.

“More you than the nogitsune,” Noshiko had replied.

She could have just said yes, but she didn’t.  Her words seemed to play on an infinite loop in Stiles’ head.

More you than the nogitsune.

But that meant not entirely him.  And that was then.  What was he now?

Stiles pushed open the door to the animal clinic, hoping that Scott wasn’t working there today.

Was Scott even working there at all anymore?  Stiles didn’t know.

Deaton seemed to be alone, and to his credit he showed no fear when he looked up and saw Stiles standing there.

“Hey.”  Stiles waved awkwardly.  The Oni had almost killed Deaton too, he knew.  Was there anyone in this town he could look in the eye?

“Stiles,” Deaton returned evenly.  “Come on back.”

And maybe it was Stiles’ guilty conscience, but was that a note of challenge in Deaton’s voice?

Stiles approached cautiously, knowing the balustrade of the gate was made of mountain ash.

He reached out, expecting to be thrown back, and was more surprised than relieved when he easily pushed the gate open and passed through.

“Have a seat,” Deaton said, gesturing to a chair.  He leaned up against the exam table, crossing his arms, his eyes seeming to take in every detail of Stiles’ changed appearance.

Stiles sat, fidgeting under Deaton’s scrutiny.  Well, no point beating around the bush.

“You see it, right?” he asked.  “That I’m different now.”

Deaton nodded, calm as ever.  “Don’t forget — I was there, Stiles.  When you split yourself from the nogitsune.”

"Split myself,” Stiles repeated bitterly.  “That’s a tactful way to say that I’m — that this body — is something the nogitsune vomited up.”

Deaton raised his eyebrows, cryptic as ever.

“So what am I?”  The words burst out without forethought.  “Am I — am I dead?  Or, or — dying?  I barely sleep, I don’t seem to need to eat.  I make people’s skin crawl.”

Stiles pushed up the sleeve of his plaid, showing Deaton the cut on his forearm.  “I got this two weeks ago.” The cut wasn’t bleeding, but it wasn’t healing either.  It was just...there. A livid slash in Stiles’ skin. “What — what does it mean?”

Deaton’s gaze inspected the cut, but he made no move to pull Stiles’ arm closer, as might have been natural.  So careful not to touch.

Stiles felt the frustration and rage bubbling up inside him.  “You don’t have any answers,” he said, shoving himself to his feet.

“No, I don’t,” Deaton said, stopping Stiles in his tracks at the doorway.  Stiles looked back, and for once Deaton seemed a little less carefully guarded than usual, his eyebrows scrunched in concern.  “You’re different, anyone can see that, but as for what you are — that remains to be determined.”

Stiles looked up at the ceiling, blinking back tears.  He had known, of course he had, but somehow hearing it from Deaton made it all that much more real.  “Great,” he said.

He met Deaton’s eyes again.  “And if it turns out I’m something else?  Something — something evil?”

Deaton nodded.  “Then I’ll put you down,” he said quietly.

Stiles swallowed.  “Thanks.” His mind was in turmoil, but he managed a jerky nod, and then pushed open the door to the clinic, stepping out into the harsh sunlight.