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Passed Pawns

Chapter Text

Stiles held back the urge to whoop in victory. Well, mostly. But he’d kept it quite enough not to clue in the searchers, he thought. “All right! Victory to team Stiles’N’Scott. C’mon, we gotta get around the search line.”

Scott was huffing and puffing behind him, but obviously felt okay enough to banter. “When did you get first name rights, huh? And I don’t know, maybe we should go back? That was really close and I just can’t get grounded. Mom would--”

“Dude, where’s your sense of adventure? We can’t stop now.”

Stiles didn’t dare stop either, because the little rise they’d ducked--well, tripped-- down behind wouldn’t stop the searchers from noticing them for long. But he still kept half an ear listening for wheezing, even as he trotted along in the dark, because looking out for Scott, man that was his sacred, brotherly duty.

“All we gotta do is keep going this way for about--” Stiles bit the tip of his tongue to focus on the numbers in his head. He had a very good idea how many searchers Dad had been able to call out from Beacon Hills and the local State Police, give or take a couple, and given how far apart they were supposed to be on a search line... “--150 yards or so. Way less if we can run fast enough and just go parallel to the line.”

Stiles waved the flashlight in that direction to demonstrate as he talked, trusting Scott to keep up with his brain. Scott was awesome like that. Then he jerked the light back. What the--

It couldn’t be, and Stiles was just ready to tell himself that he’d imagined the reddish glint in the dark when the very edge of the beam caught against it again. It was moving, and oh shit, shadows didn’t move like that and--

He yelped when something touched his back. Scott grunted, whatever he’d been trying to say cut off, and Stiles would apologized for backing right into him later. Right now there was something alive and big in exactly the direction they’d been trying to go, and try as he might he couldn’t get the light to shine on more than a glint of red and a moving shadow and holy hell, now he couldn’t get even that and--

Was it a deer? Did deer eyes glow red in light? He didn’t think so. It was huge; was it a bear? Did bear eyes glow red? Stiles just had no idea.

“You know what? You’re totally right. This is stupid and we need to get back to the jeep right now.”

Backing away was really awesome. Where was it? C’mon-- It was so close to the full moon; why wasn’t there more light? Damn clouds. Stiles needed to know where it was--

When Scott didn’t move, Stiles flailed blindly until he snagged hoodie and pulled. He wasn’t freaking out. He was just being cautious. Okay, so he was freaking out a little. Scott stumbled, but at least had the sense to not resist the pull. Oh god, he’d lost it. Where the hell was it?

Suddenly this wasn’t an adventure; it was a horror movie. Stiles kicked himself. Two mostly defenseless teenagers hiking out into the woods in the middle of an overcast night, looking for half a body? In what universe wasn’t that a slasher film set up in the making? Stupid--

“Okay, man, we’re giving me the flashlight. What’s got you so spooked all of a sudden?”

Scott was warm and calm, an arm casually draped around Stiles’ shoulders in a way that felt very nice, and he was almost grateful to give up the flashlight to his friend. Scott's hands were steadier, sweeping the beam over tree trunks and bushes. And wouldn’t you know, nothing but a few stubborn leaves and bare branches. Maybe he’d imagined--

Up on the slope they’d just come down, there was a glint of red. A moving shadow. Heading right towards them.

Stiles didn’t scream in terror. The squeak that did come out was only a million times less manly.

Scott’s eyes were wide and scared in the dark. “That wasn’t a deer. No way. What--”

The thoughts that had been bouncing around the back of his brain and that he’d been trying so hard not to think took advantage and came flooding out of his mouth.

“There was half a body. I heard something about bite marks. What if the rest got eaten?!”

Neither of them moved. Stiles bit his lip to stop the silly thought forcing its way through the fear, and the hysterical laughter that tried to follow. Just, they were clutching at each other, so really stupidly close, and it was like the moment before the big kiss scene in a movie, not that Stiles wanted to kiss Scott but-- But oh god, it was bad enough to die a virgin, but to die without even a single kiss, ev--

A branch snapped with a crack louder than a gunshot in the dark, and a bush, so much closer suddenly rustled.

Stiles could hear Scott’s gulping swallow in the sudden absolute silence. His voice creaked, high and tense, too quiet to even be called a whisper. “Running now?”

Like a cork popping out of a champaign bottle, Stiles’ breath whooshed out. “Yeah.”

They ran. There was thudding and cracking brush behind them for a moment, then nothing.

And Stiles kept a handful of Scott’s hoodie, because like hell was he going to let them get split up. He was genre savvy enough to know that splitting up was begging for a messy death. Did being boys make that messy death more or less likely? Virgins? Did those things cancel each other out or...? That was it; Stiles was so brushing up on horror cliches as soon as he got home. He was going to be prepared next time.

And hopefully not stupid enough to walk right into a horror movie set up ever again.

A wheeze and a tug slowed him up. Scott’s asthma. Damn--

But he wouldn’t couldn’t leave Scott, no matter how much he wanted to run. Or rush the inhaler-taking, any more than Scott always did, anyway.

Stiles bounced from foot to foot, Scott’s hoodie gripped so tightly his fingers ached and breath coming in gulping, uneven pulls against his will.

The deep shadows and murky gloom, with only the occasional glitter of moonlight sneaking through the trees and clouds had turned familiar forest into a strange, alien place, and with a sickening lurch, Stiles realized he had no fucking clue where in the preserve they were. Had they run straight? Turned?

All he could remember was a blur of branches, bushes and trunks as they scrambled up and down the slopes. How far had they even run?

Lost in the woods with a man-eating, red-glowy-eyed thing. Oh god--

Panic started to claw up his stomach and throat.

...No. No. Focus. Or not focus. Think about... Think about--

Dad’s deputies had better not be sneaking him fast food again. Stiles would so give them a lecture if they did, older and technically adults in a position of authority or not. Speaking of authority, he’d bet that Coach wouldn’t even give either of them a chance to do anything at practice tomorrow, and damn, Scott really would be crushed if he didn’t make first line. Stiles should totally do something special to cheer Scott up after. Maybe buy him a new game-- Oh shit, his subscription was expiring. He needed to get on that ton--

“Stiles, you with me?”

Breathing was easier, even if the fear wasn’t completely gone. Score one for his attention span being like a hummingbird on crack! And that that hadn’t even been close to a full-blown panic attack. Yet.

“Just nipping a panic attack in the bud.” And he had. Stiles still felt shaky, but getting out of the woods seemed much more achievable. Almost easy. Even if he didn’t know exactly where they were, he knew that this section of the preserve was practically ringed with jogging trails and service roads. Find one of them and getting out would be a breeze.

Scott started shaking the inhaler for another puff, laughing breathlessly. “We totally just scared the shit out of ourselves, didn’t we?”

And that had to be. Jumping at shadows and letting their imaginations run away with them. There couldn’t be a red-glowy-eyed thing stalking them, right? ...Right?

Stiles grinned, or tried to. “What’re you talking about? We so marched right through the woods like the stone-cold badasses we are.”

“We even pulled some sick secret agent moves to sneak past your dad’s deputies.”

“Exactly. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.”

Scott’s grin went sly. “And we didn’t scream like girls even once.”

That felt better. Stiles gave Scott a little shove. “My eep was one hundred percent manly, dude.”

“You keep telling yourself that, man.”

“I will, thanks.” Stiles couldn’t help a glance around, just in case. No big, fast moving shadows or red-glowy eyes. Still. “Take your puff. Let’s get back to the jeep.”

Scott dutifully puffed. “Do you know which way?”

“Not... exactly. I think it’s that way.” Stiles waved a hand in the direction he thought was right, and then scrambled to assuage Scott’s doubtful look.

“And even if it isn’t, we’ll run into the main road that cuts through the preserve, or one of the trails. Follow either of those and we’ll circle right back to the jeep.”

“I really did want to be rested up for practice tomorrow, you know.”

Scott looked like a kicked puppy and Stiles felt like the jackass doing the kicking. “Look, I’m sorry. This was a terrible idea, and trust me, nobody regrets this more than me right now.”

“That’s okay. I forg--”

A sudden crash cut Scott off. It was followed by heavy thudding, snapping branches and an animal bellow, all getting closer, very, very fast.

Stiles turned to the heavy brush growing innocently a few yards away, just in time for the first deer to come bounding through it. Right at them.

He might have yelped, but it was lost in all the chaos and noise. The first deer passed by so close that it knocked Stiles over. Or maybe he tripped trying to scramble back out of the way.

Either way, floating through his head was a thought scarier than being trampled. Deer didn’t run toward humans, not unless they were fleeing something much nastier.

Like maybe the huge red-glowy-eyed shadow that had been stalking them.

Then just like that the stampede was ov--

One last deer came staggering out of the brush like a drunk. Stiles tried to move, but it was too late and the animal stumbled over his leg with a burst of searing pain before going down hard. Most of it thudded down onto the leaves instead of Stiles, but holy hell were his shins going to be black and blue later. Stiles got a good look at a rolling eye, completely rimmed in white, before the deer managed to get back up and went staggering away.

There was something hot and wet creating a shadow on his jeans. Oh damn, it wasn’t deer piss, was it?

In the shaking light of his cell, the wet spot was black and his fingertips came away stained red. Oh shit, shit, blood was somehow worse--

“Stiles! I dropped my inhaler; Mom is going to kill me--”

Somehow, Scott’s panic over a completely mundane and safe crisis gave Stiles focus. He sat up as Scott pawed through the leaves.

“Don’t just search by feel; pull out the flashlight, dude.”

Scott’s guilty look made Stiles laugh a little. There was a voice in the back of his brain still gibbering in panic about the blood but it was so very second to finding that inhaler. Scott’s mom might not actually kill him, but the grounding he’d get would probably make him wish for it.

“I can’t believe you lost the flashlight, but I forgive you, buddy. Phones out! Maybe we’ll find the flashlight too.”

His right shin--the one the deer had tripped over--screamed at him when he stood, but Stiles didn’t think it was broken. Not completely broken, anyway, but damn it hurt so much... Still, finding the inhaler was more important.

Scott stuck so close that their shoulders were rubbing, but finding the inhaler was more important than the questions that brought up.

The hair on the back of his neck suddenly stood up and prickled. But finding the inhaler was more important--

Wait. The light from his stupid phone screen made everything washed out and did a number on color, but there was something pale and capped with dark poking out of the leaves.

“Scott, I think I--” Stiles pulled back from his grab for it with a yelp. What the-- Oh shit.

Now that the leaves covering it had been disturbed, he could see that it was a hand. A hand attached to a girl. A naked girl, and the added light from Scott’s phone made the details pop. Naked half-a-girl ending in a dark mass--guts, those were guts--with dark marks like slashes and spots and god that dark ring looked like teeth-marks--

Naked girl with staring eyes and open mouth--my what sharp teeth you have-- and-- And-- Her fingers ended in claws, and that’s what had hurt him. Her claws and fingertips were almost black in the phone’s light--blood--and rivulets were trailing down the rest of them. On both hands, and there was something important about that fact but blood-guts-dead girl-guts--

Scott screamed first but Stiles wasn’t far behind as they scrambled back as one. Stiles couldn’t tear his eyes away, even as he started to tri--

The ground dropped out from underneath completely and Stiles was looking for a moment at a glimpse of the nearly full moon peaking through the reaching fingers of bare branches and cloud cover. Pretty.

His foot snagged and his fall was brought up short with a jerk and a pressure like a bear trap around his ankle. White hot pain exploded from his already agonized leg and the ground finished knocking the wind right out of him. Stiles had to scream anyway, but not much sound came out.

Then his foot was suddenly free and he rolled backwards head over heels. When the movement stopped, Stiles could only curl around his leg as pain assaulted him in waves. Tears pushed past his eyelids and--

And Scott was groaning nearby. Scott!

Stiles opened his eyes, panting through his mouth and trying not to be sick. It hurt. God, it hurt. How were they going to make it back now?

“Scott. My leg-- God, it hurts. I think-- I think it’s broken.”

Scott’s voice floated back at him out of the dark--so much darker down here. The pines, of course, blocking what light got through the clouds--but Stiles missed what was said. He saw it. In the deep, deep shadow a little way up the hill there was a pair of red lights, glittering like rubies--and god, what was happening to his brain to think that?--suddenly glowing down at him. They blinked out and returned. Eyes. The red-glowy-eyed thing.

Stiles wanted so desperately to back away, but the pain flared and he only got a few inches. He couldn’t look away.

A pinprick shaft of moonlight caught it. Stiles saw a fleeting glimpse of white, white sharp teeth and fur. It was coming closer, taking its time meandering down the steep hill.

“Scott. Oh my god. Scott. The eyes-- The teeth-- It’s here. Scott-- The girl. I think--”

A sound came from it and cut Stiles off. It was a weird growl-whine that would fit a playful puppy so much better than a huge shadow. Stiles couldn’t make out any details--what even was it; it made no sense-- but it was so big. So close.

It had been eating the girl. He as sure of it. And now it was coming after him for dessert. He was going to die. His leg. He couldn’t run. He--

But Scott could.

Stiles found his voice again. “Scott. Run. Run now. I’ll distract-- Run!!

It moved. So fast. Stiles tried to get up and hobble, but only managed a crawl--god, his leg hurt so much.

His phone skittered over the leaves ahead of him and landed screen up, still glowing softly. At least he hadn’t dropped it up there. If he could just get to it and call--

Jagged lines of fiery pain blossomed over his back and sides as his jacket and shirt just tore. Then a weight, hot and alive, settled on him. Stiles cried out, fear and pain tearing up his throat. He felt dizzy, like he might pass out. At least he wouldn’t feel the end...

It went still suddenly, so heavy on top of him. Stiles couldn’t stop the little helpless sounds escaping his mouth. His arms burned and shook from the strain, but he didn’t dare move. Maybe if he was still, it wouldn’t--

It stank like fresh, wet meat, and its breath was so hot against his neck. It whined, high and insistent.

The whine sounded excited and Stiles wasn’t sure how he knew that, but now it was huffing his neck, sniffing and panting with its ...muzzle? pressed tight against his nape.

It’s weight settled harder, almost pushing Stiles forward and he locked his elbows to stay still. Don’t move. Don’t move. He swayed forward anyway and winced. Don’t move--

There were cold, hard pinpricks of pressure against his neck and shoulder. Teeth. This was it--

Pain.

But the pain just kept going and going, and Stiles opened his eyes. His phone was so close--

The weight rocked him forward again and echoing pain lit along his waist and hip. His jeans-- The air felt cold against his thighs, but it was so hot on top of him. Why was he still alive?

The weight rocked him forward again.

The teeth unclenched and wet, so wet-- Tongue. It was licking the bite, his neck, shoulder, cheek--

The weight rocked him forward again.

A high, thin sound he barely recognized as him escaped when his broken leg was jostled and oh god--

The weight rocked him forward again.

Suddenly the pain, all of it, seemed to just drain away, to settle into an ache just hovering at the edges of his mind. Stiles moaned in relief, arms collapsing from the pleasant shock. He was on knees and elbows now, and it was still heavy, so heavy, on his back. He could feel fur now, rough and wiry rubbing against him, from where his shirt had rode up and his pants had been--

The weight rocked him forward.

Hot, wet, hard, and definitely not furry, dragging over his ass, his thigh--

The weight rocked--

--Leaving something wet and chill where it cooled so fast against his skin--

--rocked--

It was humping him.

Oh god. No, no no.

His heart was suddenly booming in his ears and his stomach rolled. Oh god. An animal was trying to--

Stiles felt like he couldn’t breathe. He had to get away.

He got maybe a foot before those teeth clamped down on the back of his neck. The pain was so sharp and sudden, compared to the soft, fuzzy ache the rest had become. Stiles cried as it settled over him again, hot, heavy and rocking faster, harder now. No escape. He was going to be--

“No. Please. Stop. Let me go. Let me go. Stop. Don’t--”

It made a sound Stiles had never heard an animal--dog? bear? but it was just too big--make. Soft and... and crooning, rumbling low, right down his spine. Felt almost good, but fuck no. No.

A soft touch ghosted down his side, and it stilled instead of keeping up the wild rocking. There was sudden pressure--

No! Stiles squirmed, in spite of the teeth, and the gentle touch suddenly went hard. Grasping, digging into his hip on one side and his upper thigh on the other. There were pinpricks of sharp pain and intense pressure as its paws wrapped around Stiles like--

Hands. (Her hands had had claws.)

Stiles couldn’t move anymore. NonoNOnopleasestopnonopleasepleasestopplease!

“Stiles!”

Scott! It was hard to look with the teeth digging into his neck but Scott had a thick branch. Brave Scott. Stupid Scott.

It was off him in an instant. Stiles tried to yell a warning but his voice choked. So he tried to grab at...whatever it was to stop it, stall it, but it was too strong and he ended up with a clump of hairs in his fingers.

It was on Scott then, shrugging off the hit from the branch like it was nothing and then getting on its hind legs and batting it away, right out of Scott’s hands. Scott went down with a yelp and then there was a sound of tearing cloth. It wasn’t going to--was it?

He-- He had to help. His phone! The faded feeling of the pain was starting to go away and a thousand hurts were getting worse with each breath but he had to save Scott--

Stiles nearly sobbed with relief when his fingers--but not the ones holding the hairs. Evidence-- closed around his phone. Dad would help--

“Stiles, this had better be important.”

At the sound of Dad’s voice, Stiles was suddenly sobbing, barely able to gulp air in between. Scott cried out in pain, high, sharp and way closer--

“Stiles?” Dad sounded so worried. “Talk to me. What happened?”

He could hear it panting, harsh and fast. Scott let out a sobbing groan, practically against Stiles’ ear. It was all but standing over them, blocking the faint moonlight sneaking through the clouds and pines, inky black like a living nightmare. But it wasn’t touching Scott anymore. It had just dragged him over to lie next to Stiles. Why?

“Stiles!”

“Daddy--” He could smell the raw meat of its breath again. Oh god.

“Dad. It hurts. God. It bit me. It was eating her. Daddy--”

“Stiles, breathe. I need you to stay with me. Where. Are. You?”

“The woods.” What was it doing? What--

Hot breath against his hip. It was circling around to finish what it started--

“It’s here. It’s here. Please, god no. No, no, no. Please stop. Make it stop--”

Dad was yelling at people on the other end now. Any minute it would pull Stiles back up to his knees and--

He should turn the phone off, he realized. Dad shouldn’t have to hear his son get-- But he couldn’t. Dad’s voice-- He just couldn’t. He felt cold... except for the hot breath blowing--harsh, in and out, in, out--against the small of his back.

Scott was close, so close, and Stiles knew that Scott was terrified. He was whispering now, so quiet, breathing--wheezing--so fast.

“--Think it’s hurt. It fell and it’s having trouble getting back up.”

It stepped over them again and they both yelped in fear. It just growl-whined and Stiles could feel one of its legs pressed against his back.

It was shaking now. It suddenly looked...exhausted, head hanging down, like--

Then it was going, gone. It was moving slowly now, like it had to gather strength for each step, into the shadows, until even the glow from its eyes was gone. It kept looking back. Why?

Maybe Scott was right. The girl’s fingers had ended in bloody claws. Adrenalin could push people way past their limits but when the crash afterwards came...

But it was gone. It felt like something that had been crushed inside his chest was finally released. It was gone. Dad would come. They were alive. He felt almost giddy from sheer relief.

Stiles looked at Scott, lit up by the phone between their faces. Scott smiled: Stiles smiled back. So what if they were weak and shaky smiles? They were going to be okay.

Then Dad’s voice came back from the background murmur of sound, crisp and clean.

“Boys, are you still with me? We’re tracking your phone now. We’ll be there soon. Promise.”

“Hurry, Dad.” Stiles just wanted to bury his face in Dad’s shoulder so bad.

“You sound like you’ve calmed down some. That’s good, son. Feel up to telling me what happened now?”

He could do that. He could. Stiles started, but it was Scott that told most of it. He was hurting all over now. Again. It made focusing on the story harder.

And Stiles was glad Scott had taken over. When Scott got to the part where it had attacked them, Stiles could still feel its breath on him. Its weight. Its--

Suddenly there were voices, rapidly getting louder. Stiles was so glad for the interruption to the story. Part of him felt so ashamed and scared of what Dad would think when he found out.

And light! It hurt, after the darkness. Someone was shouting about finding them and Dad’s voice was full of relief.

“I’m hanging up now. Hold tight; I’ll be right there.”

True to his word, Dad was coming up to them, almost as soon as the call ended. For the first time since he’d seen the red eyes, Stiles felt safe.

“Dad!”

“Stiles!” Hold st-- god, you’re bleeding bad. Where are you hurt?”

Stiles didn’t feel like fighting the command but couldn’t really answer the question; he just hurt all over, really. But Dad was here--

The howl made everyone stop and look up. Stiles knew what it was, and couldn’t hold back a whimper as he cringed. It was still out there. Waiting.

...And a small, tiny part of his brain had wanted to yell back. I’m here!

One of the deputies now filing in around Dad shuddered. “Was that a wolf?”

It wasn’t a wolf. Not a normal one. Stiles had to tell them-- “That’s it. The thing that attacked us. That was it howling and it wants us-- Don’t let it take us, Dad. Please.”

That reminded him of the hairs still clenched in his hand. He held it out. “I got... I pulled out some hairs. Evidence.”

Dad very carefully pulled out an evidence bag and collected the hairs. “Good boy. Even... I have such a brave, smart son.”

Stiles, now relieved of one burden, felt like he was freezing. He wanted to curl up in his bed. “Dad, please. Let’s just go home now. I want to go home. Take me home.”

“I wish I could, but you need to be checked out at the hospital first. Both of you.”

Dad’s breath hitched. “Thank god you’re not hurt worse.”

Stiles felt a surge of guilt. “I’m sorry. It was stupid and-- I’m sorry! I’m sorry--”

“Shhh. Later. Right now, hospital.” Dad paused. “God, Stiles, it all but tore your clothes off--”

Scott took a deep breath and struggled to sit. In the light of all the flashlights, his side was a bloody mess, and his shirt and hoodie were in tatters. He hissed through his teeth and put his hand to his side.

Dad looked calmer suddenly; he must have decided on a plan. “Scott, can you walk, son?”

When Scott nodded, Dad continued. “Good. We’ll take my squad car. It’ll be quicker than waiting for an ambulance to get all the way out here. We’ll cover up those bites with the gauze in the first aid kit so you two don’t bleed more. Okay. Stiles, hold on. I’m going to pick you up, all right? And don’t complain. It doesn’t look like you’re still bleeding too heavily but that’s a lot--”

Before Stiles could mention his leg, Dad’s arms carefully wound around him. He screamed as he was picked up, leg dangling awkwardly and the pain-- Stiles welcomed the blackness creeping into his vision.

Chapter Text

Stiles blinked awake to bright lights. Hospital. Explained why the pain was dull, throbbing ache instead of screaming agony. Good old painkillers. Not nearly enough, but, complaining not-- Voices.

Dad was standing at the end of the bed and he looked so pale. So was Scott’s mom--Stiles remembered Scott saying something about her having night shift this week.

“--believe I have to ask this, Melissa. He’s my son. But I... I need a rape kit done for him.”

Scott’s mom put her hand to her mouth for a moment. “Oh. John, I thought it was an animal--”

Dad’s voice punched through the air, so loud. “An animal doesn’t--”

Scott’s mom tried to shush him and Dad rubbed his face. He looked so tired.

“An animal doesn’t do the things Scott described tonight. An animal doesn’t move a body when the police are closing in on the location. Or slice off clothing to bare skin before attacking or-- And an animal doesn’t-- Oh my god, an animal doesn’t leave hand-shaped bruises on my son’s hips.”

That waver in Dad’s voice. He was about to cry. Stiles couldn’t--

“Dad.”

Dad was at his side in an instant. “I’m here, buddy. I’m here. You’re safe.”

But Dad wasn’t touching him, keeping his distance, and even if somewhere in his brain Stiles understood--couldn’t risk it, if they were doing a rape kit, because just a little contamination and a rapist could go free on a technicality--it hurt.

The words tumbled out before he could stop them. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I didn’t-- Don’t hate me. I--”

Dad and Scott’s mom both were talking over each other, saying the same things. It’s okay. Why would we hate you? It was so much white noise, and Stiles felt so, so sick.

“I didn’t-- I didn’t fight.” And that was the kicker, wasn’t it? He had been so scared that he’d held so still and just let it-- It didn’t matter that he’d tried to get away later; too little, too late. If only he’d gotten an elbow in or turned or something-- Gone for the eyes, the nose--

“Stiles.” Scott’s mom, using her mom voice (tm), and looking so fierce.

Stiles had to listen. Kids were, like, conditioned to listen to the mom voice (tm).

She had gloves on, but the touch, brushing along the fuzz of his buzz-cut felt nice. Soothing. She had to know how much he liked it; maybe Scott had told her. Scott so used it against him sometimes.

“I want you to listen to me, even if you can’t believe it right now. We don’t blame you for anything that happened with that... whatever it was.” She paused, and her smile was a little crooked. “Going into the woods, well, that was stupid, but we honestly should have expected you two to go running right into trouble, given the chance. But answer some questions for me, okay?”

“Was it bigger? Stronger? Faster?”

Stiles had to nod at each one. His throat felt tight and he was sure his heart was going a mile a minute.

“Were you scared?”

The sob came out against his will, and her gloved hand reached down to clasp his. Followed by Dad’s gripping his other hand, also in a glove, but it helped. It really did.

“Freezing is a response to fear, especially when you know you can’t fight back just yet. It’s smart to wait for a chance.”

“But--”

Dad cut in. “Hey. You know what to do with a bear if it goes after you, right?”

The change in topic helped more than it should have. Stiles managed to get his tongue to work around the clay feeling and sour taste--he could still smell wet, fresh meat. No he couldn’t--and say something.

“Yeah, you go still and play dead--but it wasn’t a bear.”

“And did you know that?”

He shook his head. He understood what they were staying, but it didn’t make him feel better. Much. Stiles guessed not being on the verge of panicking counted as a plus.

He couldn’t let this beat him, even if he felt--Nope. Not letting it. Stiles pulled in a breath. He really didn’t want to think about it at all but...

“Will doing the kit help you catch it?”

“The more evidence we can get, the more we can put this sick son of a bitch away for.” Dad had his teeth almost bared, and the pressure of his grip increased for a moment.

“Then do it. Just... maybe, some music or something. I--” He didn’t want to think while they went over his body with a fine toothed comb. Pretty much literally.

Scott’s mom smiled. “We can arrange that.”

Stiles had to ask. He didn’t think he could if-- “Could you maybe do it, M--Mrs. McCall? I don’t think... Someone else touching me. I mean.”

He was babbling and making no sense, and he’d also almost called her--

She looked surprised but nodded. “I can do that for you.” Then she glanced at Dad and they held a look for a long moment. “John, maybe you should--”

“No! Please stay. Dad, I--” God fucking damn it, he was such a mess. Why couldn’t he just--

“I’ll stay.”

Scott’s mom took a deep breath. “And I’ll be back with that music for you. Hold tight.”

Stiles focused on counting his breaths while she disappeared. Anything to keep from thinking about--

One, two, three, four...

He must have zonked out because he was blinking back into awareness at a noise when Scott’s mom came in with a little stereo and... and what he knew was the kit. She smiled at him as she put the music on. It wasn’t his favorite station, but it was good enough.

Stiles tried to relax and focus on the words in the song, not the swabs and scrapings that he knew she had to take. The click of the camera was easily lost in the drumbeat. Why did digital cameras even click, anyway? They didn’t have shutters to open and close like film cameras did. It was like completely pointless to add in the noise--

A sting snapped him out of his thoughts and he jerked. What? Oh, she was working on re-bandaging the bites and scratches while she went through the kit. Not a bad idea, actually. Stiles didn’t pretend to not watch how the bandages went into the kit--there might be cells or--or saliva.

Except she was working top down and it was getting harder and harder not squirm or tense. He knew it had to be done, but--

He could still feel it pushing--

“Stiles, this is a hard question, but I need to know. Did it... penetrate you?” She bit her lip so hard it went white.

His breath caught at the question and turned to ice in his chest. Stiles could feel it so clearly again, the pressure forcing him still, the wet--

The sickening sensation crawling up his spine made his stomach roll.

Dad’s fingers carefully pried his own loose, and Stiles realized suddenly how much his grip on his own arms had been hurting. Without saying anything, Dad just started wiping the blood that his nails had drawn away.

They needed to know, though, and Stiles knew that. He forced air in through his nose, even though it burned down his throat. Oh, it burned.

“It didn’t... get in. It-- It got really close. If Scott hadn’t--”

Suddenly his mouth was full of spit and the burning increased tenfold.

Scott’s mom was holding up the wastebasket before Stiles even really realized what was happening, and just in time. The first spasm of his stomach caught him by surprise and it hurt, burned, as Stiles heaved up what felt like every meal he’d ever eaten.

When the retching finally stopped, Dad’s hands were warm against his sides, supporting him, and Scott’s mom was stroking his hair again. It didn’t do much to help the shaky, hot feeling, or dry the embarrassing wetness on his cheeks, but Stiles was glad for it anyway.

While he was gasping in the aftermath, Scott’s mom disappeared for a moment and came back with some water in two cups.

“Rinse and spit first, then take a sip or two. Slowly.”

It helped get rid of the worst of the taste and ease the burning in his throat. Stiles just wanted to curl up and sleep.

But the rest of the kit couldn't’ be put off forever. Scott’s mom put her gloved hand on the blanket that had been settled over his lap. “I need to do the rest now.”

Stiles suddenly felt freezing cold, then so hot, and his eyes stung again. But this had to be done. So he screwed up his hands into the sheets, closed his eyes and nodded.

His clothes had already been bagged and tagged, so he was all but naked--in only a flimsy hospital gown that had gotten bunched up around his waist anyway--under the sheet and the cool air against skin made him jump.

Scott’s mom gasped. “Oh, Stiles, honey--”

Stiles opened his eyes and instantly regretted it. The bunched gown was hiding his dick, at least, but the cuts over his hip--it had sliced his jeans and boxers right off in one move--and-- And-- And--

They were such a deep red it was almost purple and stood out like neon against his skin. Four clear lines, each ending in bloody scabs, then a space and another fainter red bruise. Just from the ache, Stiles knew there were other lines curling around and up behind where he couldn’t see.

Handprints. They really were. He had fucking handprints on him. He hadn’t imagined-- (Her hands had had claws.)

“Stiles. Honey. Sweetheart-- You’re hyperventilating.”

“Son. Breathe with us--”

They were breathing in sync--and didn’t that make a part of him almost giddy-- nice and slow.

Stiles took a breath and let it back out when they did. Then another, and another, and another.

When his heartbeat wasn’t a freight train in his ears anymore, Stiles asked the question bouncing around in his head. “What the fuck attacked me?”

“Language, young man.” There was the mom voice (tm) again, and Stiles sheepishly ducked his head.

Dad just shook his head, expression betraying that he had no idea, but he spoke with authority anyway. “Some sicko in a fursuit, maybe. But we’ll catch him, I promise you.”

But the way it had moved, and the teeth and-- A guy in a costume just didn’t make sense. But the hands-- What had clawed hands, sharp, sharp teeth, howled and attacked nubile teenage boys--?

An answer popped into his head suddenly and it was so funny and ludicrous that he laughed out loud until his sides hurt.

And maybe worried the hell out of both of them for a minute.

Through gulps of air and lingering attacks of giggles, which weren’t remotely hysterical, really, Stiles tried to explain.

“Dad, Mom-- I just-- I realized.” He had to stop for a moment to breathe and Scott’s mom had an odd look on her face.

“It’s like, crazy obvious! A werewolf. Oh my god. You’ve got to get silver bullets. Do they even make those? And um, we totally need to werewolf proof the basement in case I get furry--”

Stiles curled his fingers like claws and grrr’d before collapsing into laughter again. It was just so funny. Crazy. Impossible. Dad suddenly hugged him and he was laughing and crying at the same time and...

The weird low-high didn’t last long and Stiles felt bulldozed when it passed. He’d also snotted all over Dad’s shoulder, which, hi there abject mortification, you were not missed at all.

When he pulled back, Dad smiled and ruffled his hair. As much as his hair could be ruffled, but whatever, it still felt really nice.

“I’ve decided that the consequences of you two sneaking into the woods will be taking the personal safety course that the department offers.”

“And when you’ve healed, maybe a couple of weeks of self-defense class,” Scott’s mom added, and her grin was totally impish.

Stiles felt like he was missing Something, with a capital S even, but he just couldn’t grasp it. His brain felt like mush. But hearing that felt like a warm rush. Hell yeah, if he could learn self-defense, nobody would be able to cow him into just taking it ever again. And okay, maybe he could still be overpowered, ‘cause there was always somebody bigger and meaner, but at least he’d go down fighting. Yeah. It felt good.

And Stiles knew why Dad had picked that punishment instead of an actual one. Sure, he and Scott would have to make their lives fit around the classes, and that could end up a real pain, but it was definitely a ‘you got yourselves into serious trouble with that stunt, but the consequences were bad enough, so we’re teaching you how to do better next time’ punishment.

There had been a few others like that and it felt good to reminisce, so he did.

“Yeah. Let’s do it. This is so like the time me and Scott wanted to try rock climbing but you forbade us to, and what happened because we did anyway.”

“Roll towards me, buddy.” Dad grabbed his hand, with a wistful smile. “I remember that. You two little hooligans decided to sneak out to the preserve and try it on your own at the bottom of lookout point instead of listening.”

Stiles rolled, and tried to ignore the touch against his back. He threw himself into the memories so he didn’t have to think about Scott’s mom finishing the kit.

“Yeah, we were impatient, okay? And stupid. Totally unprepared, so naturally we both ended up falling multiple times. I scraped up my knees and got that hairline fracture in my wrist, remember?”

“I do. And Scott got himself some pretty nasty cuts and had an asthma attack.”

“God, that was a bad one, too. Scary as hell. And we ended up getting back home just before you were supposed to get off work, so like little idiots we tried to play doctor on ourselves real fast so you guys wouldn’t find out.”

Stiles couldn’t help shaking his head at his younger self. Having a nurse for a mom so didn’t qualify either of them for taking care of injuries.

“I still can’t believe you managed to hide a broken wrist from us for as long as you did.” Dad was smiling as he shook his head along with Stiles.

“Well,” Stiles drawled, trying hard not to flinch as Scott’s mom moved his leg, “you underestimate what a good motivator fear of parental disfavor can be. But that infection Scott ended up with, man, that scared us more.”

“It was good you two came clean when you did,” Scott’s mom added, “but it would have been better if you’d told us immediately of course. And almost done with this part, Stiles. Try not to tense up, okay?”

Easier said than done, with the warning, but Dad gripped his hand tightly. “Remember that fit you threw about being signed up for the first aid and CPR class?”

“Of course. It was the first week of summer vacation and we had plans.”

He would have said more, but his own hissed breath cut him off, as a swab rubbed over his inner thigh. Samples. They needed all the samples they could get. Hold still--

Dad squeezed again. “Good job. You’re doing great, son. And do you still think that class was a lame and useless waste of time?”

Stiles knew that Dad knew the answer, but he was still so grateful for more distraction.

“Hell no. It got me that completely sweet summer job lifeguarding at the community pool. I get to be the Guardian of Summer Fun and bask in the company of hot girls in the latest swimwear.”

And if maybe, while watching Danny play daddy-duck to his little siblings, Stiles had been curious a time or two or seven, nobody but Scott needed to know.

Dad laughed. “Are you really that shallow? Teenagers.”

“Boys, you mean,” Scott’s mom added.

It was perfectly timed, because the burst of irritation helped him not focus, too much, on the touch... there.

“I am not shallow, Dad. Not completely. Making sure the little snot-faced devils stay alive and happy is totally rewarding on its own. I saved that kid, last August! The EMT even commended me on handing the situation exactly right. And if I play my cards right, I should get a chance to lifeguard at UC Beacon’s pool soon.”

He could have kept the rant up, would have, even, but it was getting so hard to talk around the touches--the memories of it rubbing and smearing... smearing stuff on his skin.

A second later the touches stopped and Scott’s mom heaved out a sigh. “All done with the hard part. Thank you, Stiles. You were so very brave. Just the knees down left now.”

Stiles felt almost like he’d pass out from sheer relief. Scott’s mom helped him back over and the rest passed by in a blink. Made sense; his pants had still been around his calves.

He wouldn’t get any of his clothes back, he knew--and not that they’d been salvageable at all, with the slicing--but he was going to miss his shoes. He’d liked that pair.

But mourning for his clothes would have to come later, because there was still his leg to deal with. Stiles didn’t protest as he was bundled into a wheelchair and sent for an x-ray. Scott was sitting right outside in the hall, and someone had obviously donated some scrubs to replace the ruined shirt and hoodie. Looked good on him.

But Scott looked wrecked, all pale and worried with his fluffy hair an absolute mess, and judging from his position, from a few too many times running his hands through it in nerves.

Stiles couldn’t let him mope. “Hey there, younger nurse McCall, looking good!”

Scott’s face lit up for a moment before the worried puppy face was back. “How are you?”

“Well, if you have to ask, you can help me not fall and crack my skull when I try to shower with a cast later.” Stiles was sure he was failing pretty hard at the smiling and being happy thing, and there was a sudden need as his skin crawled with a feeling of being filthy.

“And I need a shower like yesterday.

Scott’s mom, steering the wheelchair, laughed. “A shower will have to wait for a couple days, I’m afraid. Those bandages will need to stay on for a while, so you’ll need to wash up with a cloth instead.”

Oh damn. It made sense, but Stiles really wished it didn’t. Stiles pushed the feelings down and tried to smile. He could handle it.

“Okay, fine. You’re on sponge-bath duty then.”

Scott’s poleaxed expression was worth it. “Dude.

“But Sco--ott...” Stiles singsonged, and his puppy face wasn’t nearly as effective as Scott’s, but it was a known weakness Scott had, so it balanced out.

Predictably, Scott crumpled and glowered completely ineffectively. “You so owe me.”

“We’ll work it out.”

“Boys.” Scott’s mom was still laughing. “Rib each other later. Let’s get that leg fixed up so you can go home and rest.”

Dad spoke up, a little stiffly, like he had bad news. “About that. I really need to get back out there as soon as I can. Can you manage at home alone?”

“I get off shift soon. I can drive Stiles home.”

He really really didn’t want to be home alone right now. Like, at all. “Actually, can I sleepover with Scott instead?”

Dad actually looked relieved and Scot’s mom nodded.

In a flash Scott was up and gave him a fist bump. “All right. Sleepover!”

“With actual sleeping,” Scott’s mom chided, but it was ruined by her smile.

“I’ll drive you both to school tomorrow and we can stop at the Stilinksi’s on the way to pick up your school things.”

In response to the plan, Dad nodded at Scott’s mom and then leaned over to press a kiss to Stiles’ forehead like he hadn’t done in... a very long while. It felt really awesome.

“Stay safe. I’ve got your keys so I’ll have one of my deputies drive your jeep home. I’m guessing you parked at the same entrance you always use?” When Stiles nodded in response, Dad plowed on. “I’ll stop by to pick you both up after school.”

“After practice. Even though I’m kinda screwed on the playing part, I still want to cheer Scott on.”

“After practice it will be then. Alright. I’m off.” Dad sounded reluctant, but after a long hesitation, started to turn.

To everyone’s surprise, except maybe Scott’s mom, she hugged Dad hard for a second.

“You catch this guy, okay? You catch him and you put him away for a long, long time.”

Dad hugged back awkwardly but Stiles could tell he liked it. “I won’t stop until I do.”

And with that, the moment was over. Dad walked off, back straight and tall, and Scott’s mom started pushing the chair again. God, Stiles felt so tired.

But not too tired not to grin when Scott pulled out a very abused five and handed it over. He’d so called it, oh yeah.

Scott’s mom leaned over and pointedly raised an eyebrow. “Do I even want to know?”

Stiles looked at Scott; Scott looked back. They both laughed in unison. “Nope!”

She just shook her head and laughed as the chair rolled along, and Stiles settled back to endure the probably more familiar than it should be tedium of x-rays and getting a cast.

There were a few stares and looks on the way, but Stiles had been to the hospital often enough to know it was almost as bad a rumor bed as high school. It felt kind of sickening, knowing people knew, but he did his best to ignore the looks. Except the one nurse he glimpsed down a side hall, who he swore was glaring at him with actual hate on her face, and like, bared teeth. But when he whipped his head around for a second look, she wasn’t even there. Maybe he was imagining things. Whatever. It was x-ray time.

He ended up drifting in and out of a doze during the process, and didn’t really wake up enough to focus on anything until they got to the McCall place. The promise of getting clean woke him back up and Stiles didn’t stop until he managed to get himself into Scott’s cramped little bathroom. Scott’s mom followed them with a weird plastic stool thing with like, handles, and more holes than seat.

“Shower seat,” she explained, while rapping knuckles gently on his forehead, “so you can sit on it to wash and hopefully not crack that skull of yours on top of the rest.”

The shower seat turned out to be pretty useful. Stiles was able to prop his casted leg up on the edge of the tub and with a little squirming get the cloth everywhere that wasn’t covered by bandages. And if he scrubbed himself twice, hard, until the soap turned pink from the cuts that had been too shallow to bandage, well, that was his business.

Except that he had needed a little help from Scott to get back out of the tub, and of course Scott noticed.

Stiles tried to be nonchalant and just shrugged as he used some tissues to stop the bleeding. “I needed to make sure I was clean.”

Maybe wisely, Scott didn’t argue, and once Stiles was bundled up in a spare pair of Scott’s sleep pants and hobbling to bed, he did feel better.

Scott held up the covers, inviting him in, and it was a little awkward with the cast but Stiles managed. Scott just wrapped an arm around him without question when Stiles cuddled close, and it was good. But the comfortable silence didn’t last.

“Are you okay? Really?”

Stiles didn’t really know how to answer that. Was he? No, definitely not. His stupid brain was still trying to remind him of what happened at every turn. But he felt safe now, and Dad would catch whatever had attacked them.

“I will be.”

“If you need anything...”

Duh.”

And that was that. Was it his imagination or did Scott smell better and stronger than usual...

Chapter Text

Stiles blinked awake, half convinced the earth was moving, well, more than usual. It took him a minute to realize he was sprawled out over Scott.

Nothing particularly new, really, thought they’d been sharing a bed during sleepovers less often lately. It was one thing to cuddle up as kids, but another to wake up with your best friend’s morning wood saying hello by poking you in the hip. Or other places.

A chuckle from the doorway made Stiles turn his head, and from the way Scott’s mom was grinning, Stiles was sure there was a new entry for the ‘Scott and Stiles sleep like puppies’ photo collection.

She clapped her hands and Scott jerked beneath him.

“Up, boys! I’ve got breakfast started and don’t forget, we’ve got to stop and get Stiles’ things first. So move it.”

Scott groaned. “Five more minutes, Mom.”

That got a snort of laughter. “I have zero sympathy for you. Up! And Stiles, I put the morning dose of your pain killers on Scott’s nightstand.”

Like that, she was gone. And oh yeah, there was definitely a new photo going to be uploaded to the collection.

Stiles rolled over and eyed the pills and crutches warily. The painkillers he’d gotten at the hospital had definitely worn off by now, but he didn’t hurt as much as he would have expected. He also really had to piss and so not looking forward to hobbling to the bathroom.

Scott sat up beside him and rubbed his eyes and stretched sleepily. Someday Scott would have a girlfriend who would probably coo over him every day because nobody had the right to be that adorable first thing in the morning. Why didn’t Stiles explode from sap-ery overload again?

“Man, I really need to piss.”

“Oh hell no you don’t, dude!”

“Race you!”

Oh right. Scott was also evil. Stiles struggled to reach his crutches while Scott dashed, laughing all the way, into the bathroom.

By the time Stiles reached the bathroom door, he could hear the shower running, and more than that, the sounds of skin on skin and hitched breath. Really clearly too. Huh, maybe the walls were way thinner than he remembered.

Normally, Stiles wouldn’t begrudge Scott the time honored tradition of rubbing one off in the morning shower --hell, he was practically conditioned to get horny as soon as the water was running over him--but. Exhibit A: Scott being evil. And he still really needed to piss.

“A pox on you, bathroom stealing ass! That was so not fair. That is it; I’m telling your mom how you hide your porn stash!”

As revenge, as petty as it was, Stiles made sure to yell loud enough to be heard downstairs. Scott’s half-panicked stutter from the bathroom and his mom’s laughing from downstairs was enough to fulfill vengeance for his poor, aching bladder so Stiles hobbled off to the master bathroom, which was normally a teenage boy free zone. For good reason, because it was full of all of the woman of the house’s implements of self-torture.

And, okay, it wasn’t that bad, and Stiles had to admit that he appreciated the results of the female beauty regimen--really appreciated when it came to the Goddess of the school, oh Lydia--but the thought of all the plucking and waxing and--- It made Stiles cringe.

And today, the smell. Cloyingly sweet, a cacophony of different scents so strong it was like a punch in the nose. There was a ... bouquet of chemical-y scents underlying it all that Stiles could almost taste, and if it wasn’t for that, and how strong it was, Stiles thought it might have smelled almost nice. Way too busy, but... well, something that caused the faintest of good feelings.

Stiles finished his business as quickly as he could, trying to breathe through his mouth, and then all but staggered back down the hall to Scott’s room.

To adequately express his angst over his way too sensitive nose this fine morning, Stiles let himself flop on Scott’s bed. The smells in the sheets were so much better.

He recognized the scent of Scott’s deodorant, but oof! Every scent seemed amplified today. It wasn’t as bad as the bathroom though, maybe because it was complimenting the other scents and not viciously battling for some kind of smell supremacy.

There was also a nice, sharp and kind of pleasantly musky scent all over the sheets. Stiles didn’t remember any of Scott’s products having that scent, but still, the back of his brain was rolling around happily and chanting ‘smells like Scott!’

Stiles kind of wanted to roll around too, and wrap the scents around himself like a warm, fluffy blanket, which was totally a ridiculous thought so he just sniffed deeply again.

That sniff brought a smoother musky scent, different from the first one, but somehow even more familiar for some-- On a whim, Stiles stuck his nose into the crook of his elbow and took another deep sniff. There it was, way stronger against his own skin. He was smelling himself. Whoa, trippy. Somehow, overnight he’d grown a super-sleuth nose or something because he swore he hadn’t been able to smell things things last night.

“Stiles, do I want to know why you’re sniffing my sheets?”

Stiles blinked up at Scott, who was currently shrugging on a shirt. The explanation, well, he wasn’t sure he believed it yet, so he tried to play it cool. “Dude, your mom’s bathroom reeks. In the too much of a good thing ends up being a very bad thing kind of way, of course. But I needed to smell something else for a minute to clear my nose.”

Oh, the look on Scott’s face. Stiles totally failed to duck the shirt flung at him, he was laughing so hard. The shirt smelled like Scott, which was nice.

“If you popped a boner smelling my mom’s perfume, I so, so, so didn’t need to know. Ew, man.”

“Ewww, no!” Stiles pulled on the shirt; he kind of didn’t have any clothes here right now and the smell made him feel contented and safe.

Then he turned his best apologetic smile on Scott’s mom, and how he’d known she was there when he’d been looking in the other direction, he had no fucking clue. “Not that you aren’t an incredibly attractive older woman, but--”

You’re like a second mom to me. And somehow that didn’t feel like something he could admit out loud just yet. So Stiles ended up stammering nonsense and he just knew he’d gone red.

She laughed, bright and gentle. “I think I get it. You two almost ready for breakfast?”

After a pause she tipped her head ever so faintly. “And what’s all this about smells?”

Stiles still wasn’t sure-- Oh hell, why not? If she didn’t believe, she didn’t believe. He rubbed his nose. “It’s like everything is way more intense. I walked into your bathroom and it was like getting a whole bottle of perfume dumped over my head. It was suffocating.”

“Hypersensitivity to smell, hmm. Any other symptoms? Headache? Are other senses effected?”

Did hearing Scott in the shower earlier count? Stiles wasn’t sure. “No headache or anything and I haven’t really noticed?”

Scott’s mom nodded. “Well, keep an eye on it. If it gets worse or there are any sudden changes, tell me, okay? It’s probably nothing, but...”

“Right-o! Keeping an eye on it.”

And Stiles could cross his eyes at will, and it felt good to hear them both laugh at his antics. Still laughing, Scott’s mom ordered them downstairs for breakfast, and as Scott passed by, Stiles noticed something.

Scott smelled mostly of himself, soap, and body spray, and maybe also a little bit of come. And almost not at all like Stiles, which sent the sudden new weird part in the back of his brain that had been rolling happily smelling Scott before, and at wearing Scott’s shirt, into hysterics.

So before he was really aware of doing it, Stiles had latched onto Scott.

Which justifiably freaked Scott out a little, from his hesitant tone. “Stiles?”

Um, um, bullshit excuse, c’mon!

Right. “Dude, I have a cast and crutches. I demand you carry me down those evil stairs. It’ll be good practice for lacrosse.”

“And how will it help me with lacrosse again?”

“I’m still working on that part.”

“Then you can handled those evil stairs by yourself.” Scott smirked. “Think of it as practice for school.”

So Stiles got revenge by blowing a wet raspberry against Scott’s neck, and now that Scott smelled like him, the weird new part of his brain was all rolling around happily again and he could make himself let go.

“Keep that up and I won’t catch you when you trip.” But Scott still grabbed the crutches from where they’d fallen and held them out like a peace offering.

And as expected, getting down the stairs took for-fucking-ever. And he almost tripped. Twice. Stupid crutches.

On the upside, though, once they got down, there was an awesome hot breakfast waiting. With bacon. Oh bacon baby. Come to papa. The sacrifices Stiles made for Dad, seriously.

He was starving and so was Scott, from the way he was shoveling eggs away.

Scott’s mom watched them devour everything with a vaguely amused and horrified expression, especially when there was nothing but empty plates and Stiles, at least, was looking around hopefully for more. Especially bacon. Stiles might even have licked the plate to make sure he’d gotten every last taste. Just a little tiny bit.

Scott just belched, loudly, as he started loading dishes into the dishwasher. “Wow, Mom, that was awesome. Thanks.”

“What are you two, ravenous wolves? Manners!” But her smile belied the gentle scolding.

With a mumbled apology, Scott started the machine, and Stiles added a hearty thanks for the food. But he was a little distracted. What she’d said reminded him of the howl last night.

“You know, it’s weird. That howl last night sounded like a wolf, but there aren’t any in California. For like sixty years or something.”

There was a moment of silence where they all exchanged uncertain looks, but Scott’s mom shook her head, grabbed her keys and started for the door.

“Theorizing in the car or we’ll be late. We still have to stop at your place to get your school things.”

So they piled into the car, with only a little trouble on Stiles’ side, and he spent the drive chewing on his lip and trying to put the pieces together. Nothing really made sense. Nothing real, anyway. Stiles just kept smacking up against the werewolf theory, and that was just a joke, it couldn’t be an actual thing, right?

He was so lost in his swirling thoughts that he almost missed the car come to a stop. His jeep was in the drive, as promised, and Stiles reached in to pull the keys out, even if it would be a while before he could drive again. Stupid broken leg.

Also, stupid stairs, stupid crutches and stupid cast. Getting up to his room was a chore, and Scott’s sleep pants kept snagging on the cast when he tried to take them off.

Also, fuck boxers for the day; Stiles was just too tired to struggle with them and jeans both.

Actually, if it wasn’t for nakedness being frowned on, Stiles would have said fuck jeans too. So not looking forward to getting the jeans over his cast. In fact... In the closet he had and old, old, old second hand pair he’d picked up for the super nerd theme day for spirit week last year--which was stupid, but Coach had insisted the entire team participate--that were all but bell bottoms. Vintage. Also too big and too long, so he’d look ridiculous as hell, but they’d fit over the cast without trouble.

Closet it was.

Just... as he pulled out the jeans, leaning precariously on the crutches, he caught sight of himself in the mirror tacked up inside the closet door. Naked from the waist down, vulnerable and pale, but splayed across his thigh in deep purple black was the bruise. The handprint.

Suddenly he could feel it again. The incredible pressure, the heat, the weight pressing him down-- It only lasted a second, but for that second Stiles was back in the woods, on his knees, helpless and crying as his virginity was stolen.

If he hadn’t been so, so tense and fighting it. If Scott hadn’t interrupted exactly when he had--

Heart suddenly racing, Stiles swayed, feeling so sick and dizzy. The crutches fell and he managed to hop far enough to collapse on the bed and curl up. Then all he could do was try to breathe and shake apart.

“Hey, man, what’s taking so.. Shit. Mom!”

A second later, Scott was kneeling in front of him and working a hand through one of Stiles, squeezing tight.

It helped, it did, but did nothing to slow his racing heart. Stiles was really super close to a full-on panic attack and he knew it.

He could hear running footsteps up the stairs and then Scott’s mom burst into the room. She immediately sat by his head and fingers brushed over his hair.

“Can you try to breathe with Scott for me?”

Scott took a deep, slow breath and Stiles tried, but his own breath was shaky, kept hitching, and he couldn’t wait long enough to take another. So close. Too close.

Scott’s mom ran her fingers through his hair again. “Let’s all try together. I’ll count. In. One, two, three..”

Her voice dropped into a gentle rise and fall, almost like a lullaby, and Stiles tried so hard to focus on that over the thunder of his heartbeat in his ears and to breathe in time with the slightly exaggerated whooshes as they took slow measured breaths.

For a few desperate repetitions Stiles tried and failed to break the fear’s hold, but then he heard it, like a slow, steady drumbeat.

Stiles latched onto the sound, even counting out the rhythm in his head and slowly, oh so slowly, his breathing got easier and the frantic beat of his heart slowed. As the panic faded, he even became aware of another drumbeat, slightly faster than the first but still steady. They sounded nice together. Safe.

It wasn’t until his own heartbeat had calmed and evened out that Stiles realized what he was actually hearing. Their heartbeats. Scott’s and his mom’s.

The new part in his brain was curled up, radiating contentment and feelings of safety and belonging through the rest of him. The whole hearing heartbeats thing all of a sudden was kind of freaky, way freaky, and maybe a little cool at the same time, but feeling calm and safe? Totally worth it.

Scott’s mom was still stroking his hair, but she’d stopped counting. When Stiles moved his head to look around, she smiled down at him.

“Better?”

Stiles might have pushed his head against her hand a little. But only a little. “Yeah.”

“Can you tell me what happened?”

And Stiles really didn’t want to answer her question, but she was a professional, so he steeled himself.

“I saw the bruises in the mirror and I was ... back there, for a second.” Well, that was easier than last night. Slightly.

He saw Scott’s eyes flick down a second before Scott reached out. Too late to warn him off. The touch was gentle and didn’t even make the bruise twinge, but even the thought of being touched there made Stiles flinch back. Hard.

Scott’s expression fell and he looked so incredibly guilty that Stiles’ heart suddenly hurt.

Scott then hissed a breath through his teeth. “Oh god; it’s true. I”m so sorry. It all happened so damn fast. I couldn’t--”

God damn it, Scott. Stiles so didn’t need a round of the blame game right now.

“Hey. Hey. You saved me, okay. Sure, in a perfect world, you would have had a convenient rifle in your packet to whip out and frag the heck out of it before it could hurt either of us, but--”

Scott’s mom was suddenly laughing and hiding it really badly, and when they looked up she gave them a contrite and bemused smile.

“A convenient rifle? In a pocket?”

“Videogame logic. Don’t think about it too hard.”

Then Stiles took a deep breath and continued. “Anyway. You... It-- He didn’t get inside And... Oh god.”

Somehow, thinking of... his attacker as a person who had wanted to fuck him--to force him--and had understood and completely disregarded his pleas to stop made it worse. Stiles could feel the burn crawling up his throat and he really, really didn’t want to throw up that awesome breakfast. He must have said that out loud because Scott’s mom was leaning down, tone soft but businesslike.

“Take shallow breaths and think of something else. Scott. Trashcan.”

Scott disappeared from in front of him and a second later reappeared with his trash can.

Stiles was fighting the feeling as hard as he could, doing as instructed and-- His stomach was doing barrel rolls.

He was going to lose it, and nothing was working. In desperation, Stiles tried to find Scott’s heartbeat again and when he did, he also got a blast of that sharp, pleasant musk that was Scott filling his nose.

Almost. Just... a little more.

Scott gulped when Stiles mentally--probably--said fuck it and just buried his face in Scott’s chest.

The rolling eased, and Stiles relaxed. “Thank god--”

Because his luck was awful, his stomach gave one last heave and up came breakfast. All of it into the trashcan, at least.

“Dude, gross.”

Or maybe, only most of it. Shit. Stiles moaned in mortification and from the awful feeling in his throat and stomach.

And the smell. It made him heave again but nothing more came up. His tongue felt thick and slimy, and he’d just puked on Scott and--

“Sorry. You can borrow one of my shirts. I--Ugh.”

The taste was so awful and his throat and mouth still felt like fire. While he was mentally bemoaning throwing up twice in two days, a cup appeared in front of him. Huh, he hadn’t even realized Scott’s mom had gotten up, but-- With a murmur, more of a grunt to be honest, of thanks he rinsed out his mouth and took a few swallows.

While he did, he kept half an eye on Scott, who had stripped out of the vomit splattered shirt and was pawing through Stiles’ dresser. He might have been watching Scott a little too closely, because a piece of clothing dumping into his lap surprised him.

Scott’s mom cleared her throat pointedly, and wha-- Stiles suddenly realized his state of dress and felt himself blushing like crazy.

Right. Boxers. Putting them on, like, yesterday. Getting them over the cast and up to his knees was actually pretty easy.

Getting to his feet while keeping them from slipping back down and trying to balance on one foot at the same time? Not so much. Stiles wobbled dangerously and two hands came up to his shoulders to keep him from falling.

That was worth the brightest smile he could manage for both of them.

Then Scott held up one of his favorite pairs of jeans. “If we want to make first period we’d better hurry. Sit.”

So Stiles sat and Scott kneeled in front of him to work the pants over the cast--still stupid. This really sucked, and embarrassment aside, it was a perfect opportunity for a joke. He’d have made it in an instant before, but right now Stiles kind of didn’t want to make off-color jokes anymore. Ever. What if it set him off? Probably not, because his brain came up with the opportunity in the first place, but...

Even the thought was making Stiles uncomfortable. Then the moment was gone anyway as Scott stood up and held out a hand. Getting jeans on the rest of the way was a little awkward, but he managed without incident or too much embarrassed babbling about how amazing the inner ear and human sense of balance was to even allow bipedal movement, much less standing on one leg.

“You know the weirdest facts, dude.”

Stiles grinned and shrugged as he pulled on one of his button ups over Scott’s shirt--and they hadn’t noticed so Stiles wasn’t bringing it up--and got his backpack, at least it was already packed, situated. He was ready.

Or mostly ready. But screw it, he could just carry the jacket now; not taking the backpack off again when he’d only just gotten the straps so that they’d be comfortable with the crutches. Nevermind that he’d have to take it off in the car... His life sucked, and why was he smelling mint? Huh. Weird, but later. Moving out now.

Scott’s mom kept throwing worried looks at them as they all trooped back through the house and to the car--verdict on stairs: evil forever--and finally when they were buckled in, she spoke up.

“Sitles, if you’re not feeling up to it, you can stay home today. You can hang out at our place until my shift starts. Don’t worry about your father. He and I discussed it before you got up.”

Part of Stiles wanted to jump at the chance to hide away from the world for a while. But that was exactly the problem.

“I can’t. I have to do this.” He stumbled to a stop, attempts at explaining getting all tangled in his head. Finally he gritted out something just to say it. “It’s hiding. Like, I don’t go and he wins. I can’t let him beat me.”

“I understand,” she started slowly, “but promise us, if you get overwhelmed you’ll at least go to the nurse or contact one of us.”

Stiles bit his lip, but yeah. He needed to do this and not just try. And hey, if maybe his definition of overwhelmed didn’t quite match up to hers, it wouldn’t exactly be lying, right?

“Okay. I promise.”

From Scott’s look, Scott knew what was going through Stiles’ head, but Scott thankfully kept his mouth shut. And maybe having his very own, usually too adorable to hurt, guard puppy all day would be a good thing.

The rest of the drive passed in silence. Or, at least, without talking. Stiles was definitely hearing all kinds of things more insistently and way louder than usual now. It was so weird to hear people in other cars just talking and once, a baby somewhere Stiles couldn’t see started screaming abruptly and Stiles couldn’t help looking around to spot it.

Scott was looking around too, and it might have just been a coincidence, but Stiles felt better at even a ‘might be going through this too.’

Stiles wanted to ask but he didn’t dare try in front of Scott’s mom. She might insist they get checked out at the hospital instead of going to school. And today needed to be a normal day. Needed to.

Chapter Text

They ended up being late, but not too late, and the car pulled to a stop just as the last bell for homeroom started ringing. Homeroom was really an exercise in stupidity on the school’s part, because it served no real purpose, but for some reason the school had never gotten rid of it, even if on any given day, like half the student body skipped even showing up to their assigned homerooms. Most, granted, just went to camp out in their first classroom of the day, but the rest goofed around outside or in the halls.

Speaking of, the real jocks--no benchwarmers allowed, naturally--were clustered in the yard, casually tossing and kicking around balls of every description while they caught up after winter break and mostly just blew off homeroom for the coolness factor.

Stiles braced himself as he opened the door and a dozen interested and various levels of hostile looks were turned their way. This day was going to be fun-fun-fun! With an extra helping of fun.

As he struggled to get himself and the crutches out of the car without flailing too ungracefully, and hopefully in one piece, he heard Jackson. Oh great. The king of jocks had his usual ‘anything you can do, I can do better’ tone, and an extra dripping of scorn and disgust just for that extra kick. Damn, he hated Jackson. And not just for going out with Lydia.

“Look who still needs his mommy to drive him to school.”

Never mind that at least half of the sophomore class hadn’t even turned sixteen yet, and half of those who had hadn’t even gotten their junior licenses. Jackson was just being an asshole to be an asshole. Stiles wanted to remark about not being able to drive with a cast on his right leg but he didn’t want to bring attention to it.

And Scott had it. He could hear the eye-roll in Scott’s tone. “Says the guy who’s been sixteen for what, two weeks? Getting ahead of yourself there, Mr still technically has only a learner’s permit.”

It was too nice though, and just like Scott to pull his punches. Stiles just had to lay on a little more bite. “Yeah, Jackson, not everybody has to compensate for things quite as hard as you do.”

Jackson looked surprised and pissed that they’d stood up to him, all at the same time. Stiles even saw his nostrils flair as he took half a step forward, apparently beyond words. It looked like a bull pawing the ground before a charge, which was hilarious.

Stiles laughed, and didn’t care that he sounded just like Lydia’s clique when they got mean. It felt good, to fight, to hurt, and Stiles so wasn’t ready to listen to the rest of his brain and think about the consequences. Or the voice in his head saying that he was the one compensating and detailing exactly why he felt the need to act a super bitch and lash out. He just wanted to dig his metaphorical claws deeper.

“Gonna charge me for bruising your fragile ego? Bring it on bull-y boy. Ole!”

Jackson was completely red-faced now, and was probably only Danny holding on that kept him from actually attacking. Stiles felt powerful watching the effect only a few words had. For an asshole, Jackson had awfully thin skin.

Of course, most people would back down before the jock king and not even dare.

Then there was a light touch to his shoulder--teeth digging in oh god--and Stiles yelped. Okay, it was more like a small scream, and how fucking embarrassing. As a bonus, in his flinch away he upset his balance and nearly face-planted. If Scott hadn’t reached out to steady him, he definitely would have.

Scott’s mom had gotten out of the car without him noticing and while she looked apologetic, she also looked really disappointed. Which, yeah, ow. Worse than the embarrassment.

“Jackson didn’t do this to you, Stiles.”

God, he hoped she’d spoken quietly enough that no one in the jock-group heard, but with his ears so newly sensitive it was hard to judge how quiet things were anymore. And he so heard the ‘apologize or else’ in her tone, and okay, he sort of had been gunning for a beating as it was and apologizing might help nip that in the bud. Maybe.

And Scott’s mom would be proud of him for being the bigger man.

“Oof. Okay, you’re right. Jackson didn’t do anything to me.” Today, he added silently. But apology.

“Look, Jackson, I’m being a total dick this morning. I’m sorry.”

He wasn’t being completely sincere, and everybody probably knew it, but Jackson still looked shocked. There was a really awkward silence before Scott started guiding him to the school.

Scott’s mom just watched them go with a worried look and Stiles resolved to be better behaved the rest of the day, no matter the urge. Because it was the right thing to do and not because that look hurt, really.

As they walked, hobbled in his case, up the sidewalk to the entrance, Stiles’ ears acted up again. He heard Danny suddenly, as if the other boy was standing right next to him.

“Whoa, what was that? Stilinski looks like shit. I wonder what happened?”

Someone else who sounded familiar but that Stiles couldn’t come up with a name for started laughing. “That’s so gay. Who cares about a couple of sissy nerds? Probably--what? They’re wearing each other’s clothes!”

“You’re really saying that? Asshole!”

There was a reason Stiles loved Danny. Too bad he was best friends with Jackson, though.

And okay, in hindsight, wearing these shirts was asking for the clothes sharing to be noticed, but he didn’t think Scott had even realized. He hadn’t until attention had been brought to it, but Stiles was in Scott’s shirt from the championship last year. Coach had gotten them personalized for everyone, he’d been so pleased, so even the benchwarmers got one. He had “McCall” emblazoned across his chest right now.

And Scott, well, Scott was in one of his favorite shirts, but he didn’t mind because he knew Scott would take good care of it. Thing was, it was his vintage Tomb Raider shirt that he’d lucked into getting signed during his first, and hopefully not only, convention earlier this summer. The animator for the series had been so thrilled that he’d recognized her name that she’d personalized it. So Scott was in his name too.

Really obvious. The weird new part of his brain liked it though, and Stiles would deal with whatever shit he got for it, because the feeling of rightness and belonging made the lingering fear and helplessness fade.

Mostly. And okay, his jumpiness was not going to be near the only problem. Stairs, still so evil, and Stiles was going to be screwed for making it to classes on time, because the only elevator in the entire school was tucked so far out of the way it was practically useless. Even with the headstart that homeroom provided, he and Scott were barely on time for English. And that was only with the front steps in the way. But maybe it would be easier tackling stairs with railings to lean on.

Yeah, right. What a great start to second half of the year this was going to be.

And of course, they didn’t get the good seats, or even the okay ones. Not that the window seats in the back corner were technically bad, per se, but they were the furthest from the door and for Stiles, windows tended to be a death knell for his attention span.

Then to make things even worse, the teacher started right in on the murder. For a horrible moment, Stiles thought the man would continue and he’d be outed next. Just a casual ‘oh and the murderer r--assaulted a couple of boys too’ and it would be all over.

But the teacher dived into the syllabus instead --and why some teachers liked to split the year up like college he’d never know-- and Scott leaned forward to ask in a quiet whisper if he was okay. His heart was racing but he found Scott’s heartbeat again and... Well, Stiles really hoped he wouldn’t become dependent, but it worked.

He spent the next however many minutes distracted, completely and totally distracted. Teenagers smelled, which was technically old news, but with his nose so sensitive, oh my god. All the different perfumes and colognes and body sprays were giving him a headache, and the alcohol most used as a medium for the fragrance just made things so much worse. Like, he could still smell the stink from when he’d run afoul of Jackson in the hall a few minutes ago and the asshole brushed past with a shove as they finally made it to the classroom. It was so, ew, gross. Dank, almost rotted smelling musk and a burn from alcohol. Stiles already knew Jackson’s choice in cologne was kind of tragically bad, but it was a thousand times worse with super nose. He was also resolutely ignoring that the scent under it, which must have been Jackson himself, had been kind of nice. Yeah. Way ignoring that. Totally.

And he was randomly hearing things, like Mr. Harris lecturing in the room upstairs, and some girl outside having a phone conversation with her mom.

But! One good thing. After Scott immediately offered the new girl--hot as hell, and she seemed sweet--a pen without even being prompted, and with no way to know but having been able to hear that phone-call, Stiles knew he wasn’t alone with the crazy sensitive senses thing.

So, the rest of first period passed with Scott making calf-eyes at the new girl and Stiles trying and mostly failing to pay attention to Kafka. Which was a shame, because he liked Kafka.

Second period, well, Stiles had AP American history and Scott didn’t. At least he’d gotten leave to head up to his classroom early so he wasn’t (horribly) late, but by the time he’d settled into a seat, Stiles was twitchy as hell. Okay, new weird... instincts or whatever really didn’t like being so far away from Scott. Hopefully that would calm down fast, because he had a weird urge to shout until Scott shouted back and just, no.

On the other hand, Lydia. She had the class too, only two sophomores to be in it, and just being in her presence was nice, and since his nose had been going nuts he’d been kind of a little desperately looking forward to basking in the way her designer perfumes always made her smell like a little Lydia-accented piece of heaven. He unabashedly loved her perfumes, and the little whiffs he could catch whenever she walked by. It made her completely ignoring his existence worth it. So surely with his new nose, it would be so much better, right? It was only the overload from so many different ones all competing that made it awful, right?

Except it wasn’t. Must be a new perfume, because over an actually really nice, softly ...glowing was the only way he could describe it, smell, was an awful, awful smell of plastic-y sugar and baby powder mixed with alcohol. Cloying and nasty. Ugh. Okay. Maybe perfume was never a good thing. Perfume bad.

At least Lydia looked as gorgeous as ever. The sunlight through the window turned the perfect curls of her hair to soft, molten gold with copper and rose overtones, and her skin was porcelain perfection. Stiles could write sonnets to her skin. Well, maybe not, because he sucked at anything resembling poetry, but the point remained! The jewel tone blue of her shirt was somehow the exactly right color to make her hair shine even brighter, and the skirt. With the thigh-high stockings showing just that thin slice of-- And if anyone caught him staring, word would get out to Jackson and then Stiles would be toast. Needless to say, Stiles didn’t absorb much in second period either.

Third was math, and he rejoined Scott. Lydia, Danny, and new girl were also in the class. Danny shot Stiles a very confusing but kind of nice worried look that Stiles was not thinking about until later.

Math was actually okay, because it felt like he was getting a better handle on dealing with all the distracting sounds and smells. Well, until his traitorous ears suddenly tapped him right into the rumor mill near the end of class.

Out in the hall two girls were hissing a ‘did you hear’ routine, and after a confused moment not having a clue what they were talking about, it hit him. They were talking about him. Not in so many words, but the attack on them had made the news, along with half of Jane Doe. Of course it had, and they were hissing back and forth enough details to know that murderer was wanted for assault and sexual assault on two minors. It made his heart start to race.

That was enough to catch Scott’s attention. Stiles focused on breathing and when Scott reached between their desks to twine their fingers together and squeeze, well, nobody would notice right?

Except Danny was looking right at them. At least Jackson had math in a different period. Danny probably wouldn’t say anything. He was on the ball like that, most of the time.

Then the bell rang and they were out of there. Study hall, lunch, study hall, then only two more periods. Stiles could do this.

Ten minutes later, Stiles was cringing in his seat. He couldn’t do this. He couldn’t. All around him, the only thing anyone was talking about was the news. Wild stories, rumors about what they thought they knew had happened, wondering who’d been-- been...

He just wanted to go somewhere quiet and rest. His head was starting to hurt from all the noise. But he couldn’t run out without attracting attention. Stiles thanked nerd invisibleness, because he was sure that that was the only reason someone hadn’t figured it out.

All he could do was bury his head in his arms to at least try to block out all the smells. With his arms out of his sleeves and his nose buried in skin, practically all he could really smell was himself, even if smells from the desk and outside kept intruding. Still, it was better.

Then Scott was leaning over the desk too, with a soft, concerned hey. It was closer than they usually let themselves be in school, because hey, self-preservation and they weren’t stupid, but Stiles was so glad for it today. Especially when Scott pressed his forearm against Stiles’ and leaned his chin against it.

Now he could smell himself and Scott, and it helped take the edge off. Didn’t do much for how he couldn’t hide the flinch when someone said r--that word behind him, but, it took enough off.

“Remember what you promised.”

Oh yeah. Overwhelmed. Well. “I do. I’m not overwhelmed; I just wish people would stop... the damn gossip you know?”

Halfway through, Stiles noticed the girl in the row over looking at them, and probably listening in so he tried to not reveal that he was one of the “minors.”

Scott nodded, and Stiles could see the little tick that betrayed Scott was also way not okay with it. Probably more in a protect-my-friend way than a freaked the fuck out and trying not to remember way, but. It made Stiles feel less alone.

“I’m not surprised? I mean, you said it yourself, pretty much everybody complains that nothing interesting ever happens in this town.”

“You know how much I regret saying that.”

“Totally. Me too. And yeah, not surprised, but somebody died and ... and other people were attacked, and I swear some people are like, getting off on talking about it. And that, that’s tacky.”

That was so Scott. Stiles smiled, bumped their foreheads together. “I would have used stronger words, but so with you on that.”

More people were staring and Stiles felt like they could see right through him. See the bite marks and the bruises. Like they knew.

But one of the boys watching, a freshman, Stiles thought, rolled his eyes. “Ew. Get a room. Don’t do that shit in public.”

People thinking that instead was a-okay in Stiles’ book. Definitely a set-back for his ten-year plan, or any other chance of dating a girl, maybe, and probably unfair to Scott, who was so into new girl--

“I didn’t catch her name.” At Scott’s confused brow-crinkle, Stiles laughed a little. “The one you’re so completely obviously smitten with? Who still has your favorite pen, and don’t think I didn’t catch that, dude.”

“Oh.” Scott had the grace to blush and duck his head, but the dopey smile split his face. “Her name is Allison Argent. And it’s not my favorite pen, it’s my lucky one.”

“Same difference, dude, same difference!” The ribbing felt natural, and Stiles could zero in his focus to Scott, mostly, and forget about the gossip.

After that, it was easy to listen to Scott gush, and really, he was just the cutest little puppy with his crush. Like, give him puppy ears and a tail and nobody would be immune to the need to d’awww. And if maybe he learned more about Allison’s hair and eyes and lips than he ever needed to know, that was okay. Scott had listened to him gush about Lydia before; Stiles was just returning the favor.

And bonus, they were able to while away the study hall like that. And then Stiles’ stomach thundered out a growl so loud, Stiles was sure people in the next room heard when the bell for lunch rang.

The only thing on his mind was food until they got seated and Stiles dug in like, well, maybe ravenous wolves had been an apt description this morning.

He ate everything remotely edible on his tray which was basically every crumb of what the school passed off as food, and Scott laughed the whole time, but not without inhaling most of his own food. Then Scott handed over the brownie he’d picked up for himself, even hough Stiles would bet he really wanted it.

“Oh Scott, have I told you today that I love you? Brownie!” In a second it was gone, and Stiles wished second helpings were allowed, but he’d only had enough cash for one lunch, and usually the food was pretty worthless anyway.

“Huh, I guess what they say about being hungry making things taste better is true.” Stiles said that while licking melted chocolate chip from the brownie off his fingers. He was still so hungry; it was unfair.

“I don’t know; the desserts are usually pretty good.” Scott laughed, and his tone was wry.

“Anyway--”

And there went his ears again, though he probably could have heard the talking without, if not the actual words, because it was only the table behind them. The popular table, because lunch room nomads that he and Scott were, today the open table they’d wandered to had been right next to the one that Lydia and her clique and Jackson’s jocks had chosen to reign from. Only somewhat accidental on Stiles’ part, because hey, free lunch room, and maybe if he fluttered around at the very edges of Lydia’s chosen territory often enough, she’d notice him.

It was Lydia speaking, and her voice was sharp and commanding. “I have heard enough. As of now I’m declaring a moratorium on any discussion of the murder.”

“Then what are we supposed to talk about?” A girl’s voice whined. Stiles couldn’t put a name to the voice, but it was nigglingly familiar.

“Something that isn’t so gauche and morbid, obviously.” Lydia snapped back tartly.

One of the other girls at the table, and Stiles recognized her as Lydia’s clique, but as a senior he didn’t know her personally, spoke up. He thought her name was Amy, though.

“I think it’s very important to talk about. There’s a guy out there that’s attacking girls. Two of them were raped and they only found half of the other one. They were our age! They could even be in this room right now. And until he’s caught, no girl in this school is safe. Because it’s uncomfortable, doesn’t mean we should ignore it.”

Stiles couldn’t help the flinches as Amy was talking, or the conflicted feeling. On one hand, there was a boatload of relief, because if everyone was looking for a girl, no one would look at him. On the other hand, everybody assuming that only a girl could be... attacked like that--Stiles wasn’t sure what to label the feeling but it was awful.

Scott’s shoulder bumped into his and Stiles felt the feeling lift just a bit. Scott’s smile and knowing Scott had his back helped.

He had to risk it. “You can hear it too, huh.”

“Yeah. That girl is stupid”

Back at the popular table, Stiles could hear Danny in the middle of talking. “--are you assuming it was girls? The news story only said minors, names withheld for their protection. It could have been boys too.”

“Oh please, like that ever really happens.”

“Sexual assault can happen to anyone, Amy, and misconceptions like that make it so much harder for guys to come forward when it happens to them.” Danny’s voice was tight and not at all his usual cheer. He sounded pissed.

Stiles couldn’t help the little, pleased laugh. “Good old Danny. Remind me to do something special for him sometime. He’s awesome.”

“And he’s right too.”

Then Stiles heard Lydia, and everything inside him froze. Stiles could hear the certainty in her voice and for once he was wishing she’d decided to hide behind the shallow, image obsessed, ditzy mask for this conversation. The real her was too perceptive for anyone’s good, except maybe hers.

“You know who it is, don’t you.”

If I did, I wouldn’t tell anyone. I respect people’s privacy.”

Amy again. “What? You know? Don’t hold out on us!”

Stiles could feel his heart racing and a building unease in his stomach. He so didn’t want to lose his lunch too.

So he almost jumped when Scott nudged his shoulder again, he was so focused on the other table. “Come on. You need some air, so let’s just blow the last study period.”

“What’s this, Mr. McCall? Suggesting playing hooky? The horror!”

Scott just laughed and Stiles was more glad than he could put into words for the distraction. Scott was an awesome friend. He was so awesome that he even dropped off both of their trays on the way out.

As they tromped out into the hall, Stiles heard some other girl at the table whisper, but very badly. “Are those two like together or something?”

And a second later, Danny. “Why is everyone looking at me? It’s not like being gay gives me some kind of magical couple radar.”

Oh, if they only knew. Stiles and Scott both laughed all the way down the hall, and Stiles was more than happy to let Scott lead them out to the lacrosse field. Of course. It was deserted at this time of day, so they finally had peace, if not quiet. Stiles clamored onto the second tier of the bleachers and stretched out. This was good. For a few minutes Stiles just stared at the bright blue sky and just let his mind blank. Well, sort of.

There were plenty of sounds. Nature sounds this time, like the wind rustling through pines and the few stubborn leaves that hadn’t clued into the fact that it was winter yet, and birds and squirrels and other animals. Behind those, more faintly, were the sounds of traffic and people. He could smell a half dozen different plant-y and earthy smells, along with all kinds of... animals. The smells made Stiles itch to run and explore. To put a sight and name to each one.

They also made him ravenously hungry again and he so wasn’t thinking about that.

Instead he tried to distract himself. It was time they really talked about what the hell was up with their senses.

“So, just to have this all out there in actual words, your senses are all crazy sensitive too, right?

Scott hummed for a few seconds before talking. “Yeah. I heard Allison talking with her mom this morning like she was sitting right next to me. And I can hear whenever you start getting overwhelmed because your heart ramps up like a racing engine. And, you know, what just happened in the lunch room.”

“So hearing, definite check. What about smells?”

“Uh, yeah, but only like the last half hour or so? It’s getting stronger the longer it goes. There are so many; it hits like a truck. But I can definitely smell that you’ve got some mint mojito gum on you. Pocket, maybe?”

Oh, right. That minty smell from his jacket this morning. With so many other things vying for his nose’s attention Stiles had forgotten about it. Now that he’d been reminded again though, definitely left pocket.

“Well, that’s been through the wash at least a dozen times. Ew. So smell’s a check too.”

The gum, or what was left of it, was a nasty little lump inside of mangled paper. The smell was kind of faint, even to his new nose, and since Stiles had no reason to keep it...

It landed in the trashcan situated against the other side of the second set of team benches with a clatter that sounded loud to his ears. The trash can that was several yards away. Stiles hadn’t actually expected to make the throw.

“Whoa.”

“Something you’re not telling me?” Scott elbowed him a little. “Gonna try out for basketball?”

“Please. Basketball hasn’t been worth squat since the Hale years.”

And Stiles could feel Scott’s befuddled look somehow, even if he couldn’t see it. Okay, he could do story time.

“So, both my dad and mom used to really like college basketball. UC Beacon never had a great team, but they used to support the team anyway by going to home games. And to Beacon high games too. It was their special thing, you know? But after she died, you know what happened with my dad. I just wanted him to smile again, just for a few minutes, and I had this crazy idea that I should be filling her shoes. Like an eight year old really could, but I was trying so hard. So I learned about basketball for his sake, and begged him to take me to games. Just Beacon high games, because those were free and money was tight after, but because of that I know more about basketball in Beacon Hills than anyone really needs to know.”

“That doesn’t explain these Hale years of yours at all,” Scott drawled.

“Oh, right. Well, when I was taking Dad to games after Mom passed, the head coach of the team was P--” Paul? No. It had a t in it. Patrick? No, “Peter, that’s it. Peter Hale. Dad told me he was one of the best coaches Beacon high had ever had and that he’d been one of the best players too, in high school, and when he went to UC Beacon. Dad got really excited about it, and kept saying that he was teaching them right about the mental game, not just handling the ball, and that when the younger players at the time got more experience, we’d have a chance at state champions, for basketball and lacrosse both, not just lacrosse like usual.”

“Well, I don’t think we’ve even been to the state championship for basketball that I remember so what-- Oh. Fuck.” Scott’s face had a faintly horrified sorrow going on.

“Yeah, the Hale fire happened and only two of them, I’m pretty sure, lived. I remember one of them, Derek, had been playing in the games I watched. He was good, but got the hell out of town after the fire. And it was like the team took a nosedive and didn’t even try anymore. Not even the pep squad can rustle up enthusiasm for their chances now.”

“I remember when the fire happened.” Scot’s voice was soft and sad. “Mom had been on duty that night and some of them lived long enough to make it to the hospital. She pulled me into her lap and just rocked me for a long time after she got home.”

“Yeah.” Stiles could remember how shaken Dad had been, and how confused and angry that the sheriff at the time wasn’t pursuing it. So he might have snuck looks at the files Dad had technically not been allowed to bring home. Only to help! And god, the pictures and descriptions and--

But Dad had been right. Nothing made sense; even as a ten year old, he could tell. The fire had mostly been in the back of the house where all the bedrooms had been, but there had still been piles of ash around all the windows and doors in the front, and every lock had been melted. From the heat of the blaze, the official report had said, but if that was true, Stiles was sure there should have been more damage to the wood. All but one of the bodies had been in the basement, which had made sense because there had been a tunnel. But there was more ash and signs of fire in the entrance to the tunnel, and the stairs to the basement had somehow gone up in flames, trapping everyone down there.

The pictures, taken after the fire had been put out, didn’t show any real reason why the entrance to the tunnel had been on fire, or why the wine rack had caught and the bottles exploded, fueling a secondary blaze with the alcohol, and impaling everything and everyone in the room with glass shards. He’d had nightmares for days after, especially about the windows. They were too small for people to get out of, but they’d tried to dig through the concrete frames to make them bigger, and the report said there had been shattered nails embedded in the concrete and that chunks had actually been torn away.

Dad had been sickened and plagued by the case too, and something about it had made him stop reaching for the whiskey bottle at the ends of his shifts and reach for Stiles instead. Dad had confessed one night into his hair while hugging him almost tight enough to hurt, that the adults had all been found wrapped around the kids, trying to shield them from the flames, heat, and glass with their bodies. It might have been enough if help had arrived quicker, but with the stairs burnt out, and no one knowing where the hell the tunnel came out, they’d had to break through the floor after the fire was out and lower paramedics down.

Only three had been breathing on the scene, and Stiles knew that one had been a three year old girl, and that they’d died in the hospital.

Thinking about it, even now, and how the insurance investigator had declared it accidental--oh how upset Dad had been--and that had been that, made Stiles shudder. All those people, those little kids, dying like that...

Time to think something happier. Um.

“So, anyway. Super-senses confirmed. We totally just got bitten and started developing superpowers. Quick, what are we picking for our secret identities?”

Lame, but Scott laughed and looked relieved anyway. “So what, we got bitten by a radioactive wolf-thing? Not as cool as a spider.”

“Better than the going theory of getting bitten by a werewolf.”

“Werewolf, seriously? Actually... Maybe we should call Mom. What if we’ve caught some weird disease and our senses are going crazy from an adrenaline rush before we die?”

Even Scott’s rising worry was kind of adorable, and Stiles tipped his head to the side until their skulls knocked together.

“Don’t worry. I don’t think adrenaline quite works like this.” Stiles chewed on his lip, watching and hearing a bird flap its way by overhead. “But we should call your mom after school, just in case.”

“Why not now?”

Why not? Because she’d make them come home and Stiles had a feeling Scott would agree with her and he had to make it through today. But actually saying that to Scott was out.

“Um...”

“You just don’t want to come home early.”

Stiles winced. “You got me. But I have to do this. I can’t give up now.”

Scott turned, Stiles could feel it, along with the tickle of a sigh against his ear. “I’ll stand by you, unless she says it’s like, life-threatening serious. How about that?”

That was probably the best he’d get so Stiles just huffed, loudly.

Scott took it as the yes it was and lifted his bag. Stiles could hear everything inside it moving around as Scott fished blindly in the front pocket for his phone.

And continued fishing. Huh. Well, they could use Stiles’ if Scott had left his somewhere. But when he reached into the pocket he always kept his phone in, he felt nothing. Wait.

“Dude, did you get your phone back last night?”

“No. Shit.”

Well that explained that. “Don’t worry. Dad probably took our phones in just in case there was evidence on them. He’ll give them back as soon as he can.”

At least Stiles hoped so. He really didn’t have the cash for a brand new phone, even if his summer job paid really well and being a part-time janitor at the station--and nobody could yell favoritism because he was better than the past three janitors combined and the deputies all trusted him--helped him eek through the school-year.

“No. You don’t understand.” Scott’s heart started going faster. “I didn’t get my inhaler back either. If I have an attack--”

Stiles rolled over and draped an arm across Scott’s chest in an awkward hug. “Relax. You haven’t needed it all day. Which, okay, is unusual, now that I think about it. But you can last for three more hours and then we can ask Dad about it when he picks us up.”

Whatever Scott might have said in response was interrupted by a familiar voice. “What the hell are you two clowns up to? Heck. I meant heck. Anyway! You’re not supposed to be out here.”

Coach Finstock. Of course. Stiles groaned and Scott started to say something but got cut off before getting past the ‘coach’.

“Don’t even make excuses. I know exactly what you’re up to.” Coach marched right up to them, looking as intense and slightly off kilter as usual. “I bet you little exhibitionists think it’s just great, getting up to hanky-panky under the bleachers.”

Stiles twitched, suddenly feeling way less than comfortable with the conversation and Scott made another game attempt at interrupting. “Coach, we weren’t even under--”

“Details! I know a seductive little whisper in the ear when I see one. Well, the joke’s on you clowns. If I find any used condoms under here, you two are picking them up!”

While both of them were still gaping, Coach disappeared underneath the bleachers and Stiles tried very hard not to hear the muttering. Epic failure, but screaming The Song That Never Ends inside his head at least kept most of the words from impacting on his brain.

“Aren’t you lucky sons of a gun. All clear.” Coach said that while leaning forward to peer at them from between the bleachers.

He was suddenly right there and Stiles had distracted himself thoroughly enough that he was completely surprised. He yelped and flailed, managing to knock himself off of the bleacher he’d been lying on and bang is cast. And scrape his stomach too, by the feel of it.

Coach came around the bleachers at the same time that Scott started fussing with concern. The fussing was nice, really, but Coach and--

“I’m fine! Really!”

Stiles didn’t dare look but he heard Coach shuffling awkwardly.

“Didn’t mean to scare you, uh... you. You okay? To be honest you look like you tangled with a wild-- oh damn.”

What Stiles would have called silence before today stretched and it was so far from silence. Scott’s heart was going fast and hard, and the other heartbeat--Coach’s--wasn’t exactly steady. He could hear the popping of joints and the working of a throat--nervous swallows and fidgeting.

“God, you’re one of the kids... Aren’t you?”

Coach knew. Coach fucking knew and--couldn’t look. Wouldn’t look. Oh god, Stiles just wanted to disappear. He buried his face in his sleeve and the cold--surprisingly smelly--metal and tried to keep his breathing steady. Dimly he felt Scott gently tug his shirts down over his back again.

Finally Coach cleared his throat. “Good on you for coming forward so the cops can catch this sleazeball. That takes guts, uh...”

“Stilinksi.”

“Stilinski, that’s it. What you did takes a spine of steel, so props to you. And if any of the ignorant brats give you flack for it, turn them into me and I’ll set them straight.”

Coach was.... Stiles had to look at Scott, because he wasn’t sure he’d heard right. Scott looked surprised but happy. So. Wow...

Stiles had never expected a reaction like that and it made him feel, well, he wasn’t entirely sure, but definitely a warm feeling. It was so much better than he’d hoped. Someone who wasn’t family thought he was badass, even though--

Maybe if people told him he was brave enough times, Stiles would start feeling it. Right now, though, he needed to turn and face Coach, because he had to be brave enough to face someone who didn’t think badly of him.

“Hey, uh, Coach. Yeah. Thanks.”

“No problem.” Coach was grinning, and leaned over like he was going to give Stiles a manly clap on the shoulder. He stopped short suddenly at exactly the same time Stiles flinched back. It felt pathetic, but touching, so not okay just yet. For a moment they all held very still, but then Coach cleared his throat again.

“Well, you two aren’t supposed to be out here, so back inside. If your study hall teacher asks where you were, just say you were talking to me about lacrosse this season.”

Coach started walking away, apparently satisfied with the way the conversation had gone, and Stiles suddenly didn’t actually want to play the rebellious teenager. So back inside it would have to be. After sharing a look, Scott grabbed his bag without being asked and they started trooping back to the school. But two hobbles in a thought hit Stiles right between the eyes.

“Coach, what about lacrosse?”

Coach made a confused sound and turned around to look at him. “What about it? Until you get that cast off and a doctor clears you to play, you’re stuck in the bleachers, Stilinski. Maybe you’ll get lucky and heal fast enough to be back before the end of the regular season. But whatever, I expect you on the team next season! You are just a sophomore, right?”

“But Coach--” Logically, Stiles knew Coach was right, but it was still weirdly disappointing not even to have a spot on the bench next to Scott.

“You want to be part of the team that much, huh? That gets me, right here, Stilinski. It really does.” Coach patted his chest. “Maybe... I’ll think about it; talk to me before practice.”

Huh. Well, Stiles hadn’t expected anything at all, so that was actually awesome. Unexpected, but still cool.

Chapter Text

The good feeling lasted until they got into the school. Stiles checked his schedule again, hoping so hard he’d forgotten it after winter recess, and god damn, he really did have study hall with Harris. Without Scott. Well, fuck.

Harris’s whole body went smug when Stiles hobbled through the door. He was only ten minutes late, damn it!

“So good of you to finally join us, Mr. Stilinski. I assume that you believe your... injury gives you an excuse to fragrantly ignore the concept of punctuality? That is most definitely not the case. In fact...”

The smug bastard had victory and sarcasm gushing from his tone.

Harris looked like he was savoring the dramatic pause, but the tall, dark and gorgeous woman--Stiles was pretty sure she was the French teacher-- cleared her throat delicately. “I’m sure Mr. Stilinski didn’t intend to arrive late.”

Aha, chance! “No, I didn’t. I was talking to Coach Finstock about lacrosse. I really didn’t mean to show up late.”

And he hadn’t, because he’d meant not to show up at all. So, it was technically completely true.

Harris didn’t look so pleased anymore. “And why would you need that? The conclusion is obvious.”

Stiles barely held back a grin, and mostly managed not to rock back and forth in his glee at getting one over on Harris. “Well, even if I can’t play, I wanted to do something for the team. He said he’d think about it.”

Harris’s lips went thin and white, but elegant French teacher didn’t give him a chance to lash out. She stepped forward and held out her hand to shake.

“Marin Morrell. I’m the school counselor.”

Stiles managed not to completely embarrass himself as he reached out to shake her hand. At least he caught his crutch before it clattered on somebody. She smelled... herb-y, like fresh crushed leaves and spices.

“I thought you were the French teacher.”

She laughed, light and quiet. “That too, but I’m not here as a French teacher. I was hoping we could get a chance to talk in my office...”

There was a little pause as she looked down at the folder in her other hand and her lips stuttered through a silent attempt at something before she apparently gave up.

Stiles was conflicted. On one hand, it was obvious why the school counselor wanted to talk with him suddenly and so much do not want. On the other hand, escaping Harris, who was starting to turn interesting colors, seemed like a very good idea. The conflict lasted all of two seconds, because he could deflect her, but he was pretty sure Harris was already cooking up a way to get revenge.

“Lead on, Ms. Morrell. Just not too fast, or I won’t be able to keep up. And call me Stiles. Even my dad has only pronounced my actual name correctly, like twice. Ever.”

Stiles was sure her picture would be right beside ‘knowing smile’ if he opened up the dictionary, and he was also sure that he was completely failing at not seeming smug for getting out of Harris’s grasp. Oh, he was gonna pay for this later.

Behind them, Harris sneered. “I will be talking with Coach Finstock about this, rest assured.”

Stiles didn’t feel worried about that; Coach had his back in his own wacky way. He actually managed to feel content on the way to the counselor’s office. And almost all the way inside it too. But then the reality of what he was going to face started hitting and his heart tripped unevenly. Stiles had to grip the crutches hard as he sat down so he wouldn’t fidget like an actual crazy person. He suddenly couldn’t meet her eyes so he busied himself with looking around the room. And maybe he couldn’t sit still after all so he stood back up to do it.

Hobbling around in the tiny space probably made him seem... He didn’t know. Nothing good. Stiles felt so aware of the bandages on his neck, could still feel the chill and pain of teeth and the weight and heat if he wasn’t careful. It was so close, like it was waiting for him to let his guard down and eat him up.

Nice...complete absence of any meaningful decorations except for bog standard counselor office tripe, and Stiles had been in enough offices to know, but there was a framed diploma almost hidden on the far wall--oooh, yeah. Ms. Morrell was definitely qualified to be a school counselor. More than.

“So I see a Masters in behavioral psychology and graduating summa cum laude. Impressive. Why are you teaching high school French?”

Yeah, he was so stalling, deflecting, distracting, but she was letting him get away with it. Her posture was prim and her smile was relaxed. “Why does anyone devote their lives to teaching the next generation?”

Easy to guess what the expected answers were, but he had to push a little. “Are we counting Mr. Harris in that?”

Ms. Morrell actually laughed, and Stiles decided he liked her, at least in hypothetical situations that didn’t involve impending discussions of what happened to him last night.

“Fair point. But we are a little short on time. Your father called this morning--”

She was up and pulling the over chair so he could collapse into it when he went cold and the world tipped, while his heart suddenly made a bid for escaping his chest.

Her dark eyes were so intense as she continued, but her tone barely changed. “He did not give a reason why, but he did request that you get a chance to speak with me.”

His mouth was dry and his voice rasped out pathetically. Way to go, Stiles. “But you know.”

Her voice stayed steady, almost gentle, as she moved back to her seat behind her desk. “I could make an educated guess, but I will not assume. It will be your choice to tell me or not.”

“And if I don’t want to tell you?” What the hell had happened to deflecting this from the topic at all? Stiles scrambled for a way to change the topic but came up with nothing and held his breath while he waited for her answer.

“If you want to talk to someone else instead of me, I will happily make recommendations of other colleagues in the Beacon Hills area. I can also give you information on support groups for anything you might want assistance with, from dealing with difficult events to dealing with anger and aggression.”

“If I don’t want to talk to anyone?”

“My professional recommendation is that you speak with someone, but it is entirely your choice what you do with it.” She leaned back, and Stiles got a sense of a stalking cat, content to wait for the chance to pounce.

So he had to push more. “Why should I bare my soul to someone who has the power to drug me up or lock me away and make everybody believe it’s for my own good?”

She was still for what felt like far too long and Stiles couldn’t keep still at all. He felt like an open book, telling her everything no matter what he did, and he didn’t like it at all.

“It’s difficult, to willingly expose the parts of yourself that are wounded, bruised, or even broken. That takes a supreme amount of trust in someone else.” She tilted her head, hair almost falling into her face; Stiles spared a thought to wonder if she straightened it or if it was naturally so perfect. “It’s even more difficult to give that trust to someone who you’ve just met.”

“Trust needs to be earned.” He snapped it, biting the words out. Defensive, afraid.

And Ms. Morrell saw it. He felt transparent. She brought her hands up, fingers steepled, only the very tips and her perfectly manicured nails touching. Slowly, so slowly, she threaded her fingers together. Stiles couldn’t look away.

“And that takes time. I know that I’m willing to put that time in, but both sides must be willing to work together. There’s a give and take.”

“Yeah, sure. But you don’t know that I’ve been through this before. I give and you medicate. No thanks.”

It wasn’t fair to her and most of the medical and mental health profession and Stiles knew it, but he could be jaded and cynical on medications if he wanted to be. Came from being stuck on pill after pill since basically the age of four. Adderall was the most recent in a long line and it helped a lot, sure, but it wasn’t enough on its own and well, maybe if someone had shown him the other ways of coping when it was all beginning... Managing his ADHD was so much more than a pill and he was honestly still learning how. It didn’t help that the Adderall hadn’t been working like usual since he’d shot up like six inches practically overnight and he’d been guessing on how much to take to get it to work. And not always guessing right, which meant he really should go to the doctor sooner rather than later, but it was hard as hell to get an appointment without waiting six or ten months.

But, right, she was talking again.

“Medication can be helpful, but I believe it should be a last resort in most cases.” Her smile was almost not there, and Stiles wanted to call her a liar but she met his eyes, was still and calm and he could hear her heartbeat. It was steady. “And there are very, very few reasons to commit someone to an institution against their will.”

“I want to believe you. I do. But we’re butting heads against that trust thing, again. I can believe you’re not actively out to get me, I guess. But how do I know you will take me seriously, and you know, actually listen?”

“I could assure you, but as you’ve said ‘that trust thing.’ But I am listening, and what I’m hearing under the words is that you do want to talk. You want someone you can trust to help you recover from what’s been hurt.”

She... wasn’t wrong, but hearing her say it made him tense. “I have people I can talk to.”

“That have the training and knowledge to help you recover and come out stronger?” Something in her eyes told Stiles she heard more than she was telling ‘underneath’ the words.

“You have a point. But what if you don’t? I mean, what if what’s... happened is something you’ve never dealt with? Ever.” Push, push, push. If he couldn’t deflect, he’d make her so annoyed she gave up. Stiles couldn’t sit still, and for lack of anything better to do, started tightening the screws on the crutches.

And loosening them, and tightening them again.

Her smile was small and fleeting, and then she went deadly serious. “I’ve dealt with more than you can ever imagine. I think you can tell I’m not lying now, can’t you? You’re an intelligent boy; I can see you assess and weigh every word. And even if it is something new, I can research, and reach out to those who can guide me.”

Push, push, push. “Yeah? Well I was--” Say it, just fucking say it, “raped and bitten by a werewolf last night.”

Stiles swallowed as his stomach rolled hard, once. But it settled enough that he didn’t think he was going to throw up. The glow of getting her pushed the sickness away, and of finally saying it. He’d been raped. There. Admitted it. (Didn’t matter if the bastard hadn’t gotten in.) He’d owned it. Gotten up and called out Voldemort right to his snake-face.

His fingers hurt, and the distant world came forward again. He was panting hard through gritted, bared teeth, like he’d run a mile at a sprint, and white-knuckling the crutches.

And she was sitting there, quiet, a little frown like a glaze over her mouth--she did have a very pretty mouth, Stiles couldn’t help thinking--and her hands hidden behind the desk. It looked like she might be clasping them in her lap but the herb-y smell was stronger, laced with smoke.

He could hear the clock--clocks, and they weren’t even in sync and god damn it was going to drive him crazy--ticking away and it felt like the last steps up to the hangman’s noose. He really shouldn’t have said that; she’d think he was actually crazy. He wasn’t sure he wasn’t actually crazy. Werewolves couldn’t be real, and yet...

She wasn’t saying anything; why wasn’t she saying anything?

“Well? How’s that for you? Dealt with that one before?” C’mon, say something.

“Not that precise combination, no.” There was something careful, on edge, in the way she spoke, like she was taking extra care with her words. But she was still so calm and unruffled. Her eyes were trained on what Stiles knew was the bandages peeking out from his shirt.

Stiles didn’t get it. “Wait, you believe me? Or don’t you?”

“Right now, Stiles, I’m listening to you. You have reasons for what you said and how you said it. Do you want me to say that’s impossible because werewolves don’t exist?”

Yes! No. “I don’t know. Maybe I was just testing you to see your reactions.”

She wasn’t buying it; Stiles could feel it. He wasn’t going to get out of this one. Damn, open mouth, insert foot.

Then she laughed. “Oh, that is certainly one of your reasons, Stiles, but not the only one. Now--”

The bell for class rang. Ms. Morrell actually scowled at the wall for a moment, then sighed. “I shouldn’t keep you from your classes. Do you want to come back to continue our discussion?”

No. Yes. God, even the thought was scary, but she could help, with the recovery. He knew that; just... “Yeah, I guess. When?”

“How about last study hall period on Friday?”

“I’m good for that. So until Friday.” And maybe he’d be less all over the place on Friday. Stiles stood, and she gestured him out with a smile and a not-quite verbal goodbye. The smoky smell made his nose itch, like standing next to a fire that had just gone out.

He didn’t make it to class on time, but Scott had saved him a seat, and gave him worried looks until Stiles reached forward and gave a shoulder squeeze and a smile. His mind was still mostly on the conversation with Ms. Morrell, but nothing exciting happened, and he even managed a few notes.

Last period was chemistry with Harris and Stiles had to actively suppress the urge to strangle the man. Harris was such an utter bastard, but he’d promised himself he’d behave. Stiles made fists under the table until he was sure his palms would be bloody instead. The pain actually helped, if only a tiny bit.

At least with the urge to commit violence. His nose was still crazy, and there was something seriously...wrong with the girl who was sitting in the back. Her smell was bitter and medicine-y, and... sick. He was pretty sure it was sick. Or maybe just hospital.

When it was time to do the experiment for the class, Stiles stopped by her table, ostensibly while getting what they needed from the supply closet. He very vaguely remembered seeing her around classes before. ...Erica? Yeah, he thought that was her name, but he’d never really paid attention to her before, and now her scent demanded it. Something was definitely wrong and getting wronger. He could almost hear and feel it too, now that he was focusing on her with all his senses.

“Hey, are you okay?”

She stared at him with wide eyes, heart jumping in her chest. “What?”

“You...” Stiles couldn’t talk about her smell, “you don’t look okay. You kind of look like you’re about to drop.”

She twitched twice, making nervous abrupt glances between him and Harris. “How...”

“If you’re worried, I can distract him. Make a break for the nurse.”

“But--” Instead of continuing though, she put her hand to her mouth and swallowed, drawing in a shaky breath. “Okay.”

Stiles winked. “Time to work the Stilinski magic.”

And it was so easy to make sure his crutches caught on a stool. A couple hops and a spectacular, if he did say so himself, wipe-out later, Stiles was the center of everyone’s attention. Most people laughed in the mean way and called him a klutz, and Harris was furious, but Stiles saw Erica dash out of the room from the corner of his eye. Mission accomplished. He hoped the nurse could help whatever was wrong with her.

Why he’d felt the urge to help her, he wasn’t entirely sure, just, that smell. The way she’d felt to him. A feeling so much like how he’d felt before Mom--

Knowing she was okay made the lecture from Harris passable. Better, that Harris couldn’t prove he’d done it on purpose and they didn’t have time to do whatever experiment it was. Stiles so didn’t want to handle chemicals with his nose so crazy and the rest of the class all looked pretty pleased too.

Danny even came up to him on the way out. “Good going, Stilinski. One less homework assignment for us!”

The playful punch to the shoulder missed completely because Stiles flinched, heart in his throat, and would have fallen if Scott hadn’t been behind him to catch him when he lost his balance.

“You okay?” Danny’s eyes were narrowed, and he sounded sincerely concerned.

Stiles had to deal with enough people finding out already so he just waved the other boy off, and Danny, thankfully, let it go.

On the way down to the locker-room, Scott gave him a look. Oh he’d so inherited that from his mom. “What was that in class with... that was Erica, right?”

“Couldn’t you smell her? She was really sick.”

That made Scott twist his face up in vaguely guilty concern. “She smelled like medicine, yeah, but you’re sure?”

Stiles tried to hobble faster, because he wanted to get down there in time to talk to Coach. “I’m positive.”

“Cool. I hope she’s okay.” And that was that. Stiles knew he’d done the right thing, because Scott definitely approved.

Coach was yelling at everybody as they changed, and actually called out when Stiles hobbled in. Stiles resolutely ignored the comment from Jackson about no gimps in the locker room and went up to Coach.

And got papers shoved into his chest. Coach looked ridiculously pleased with himself. “So if you want to help, I figured I could use an assistant to help with the paperwork and other annoying but necessary details.”

Coach had complained about having to maintain the roster all last year, and had gotten people not on first line confused at least three times. Yeah, Stiles figured he could definitely do this. “Sure thing, Coach! Do I get a whistle?”

“Heck no, you little upstart! This whistle is a sacred charge. You’re not anywhere near ready to get your paws on it yet.”

Stiles was grinning, feeling like he was on top of the world for the first time all day. Maybe this would be an actually cool lacrosse season. Sure, he’d rather actually play which would have been more likely if hell froze over, but having even a little power as Coach’s assistant? He could so deal with that. Beat chilling on the bench any day.

“I heard that yet.”

“You did not. Get reading! I expect you up to date on the team by next practice. And the rest of you idiots, why the hell aren’t you already on the field? This isn’t a day at the salon, ladies!”

It was a pain in the ass to juggle all the paperwork, and after a minute Stiles just gave in and went through the arduous process of getting his backpack off to stuff it in. By the time he got out to the field, everyone was milling around and Coach had finished taking the names of the freshmen joining for this season, and confirming all the returning players. He’d probably be doing that for Coach soon enough.

Stiles made his way to the bleachers, where Lydia and Allison were sitting. Of course, Lydia had snapped her up. Beautiful people herded together. He could hear them even over the distance and the buzz of a dozen people having loud conversations. Huh, Lydia was having a party, but lovely Allison was begging off? Family night could be real, but it could just as easily be an excuse. He’d have to mention it to Scott later.

But Allison saw him and waved, and hey, Stiles wasn’t going to turn her down, even if he wasn’t exactly sure why she had even noticed him. It was a chance to be closer to Lydia after all. He almost regretted it because bleachers sucked more than stairs, but he plopped his butt down next to her and smiled.

“Hi there. I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I’m--”

“Stiles. I know. Scott and I talked a little during the last study hall when I returned his pen.” Allison’s smile was pure sweetness, and so was her scent. Whatever her perfume was, it reminded Stiles of a fizzy citrus drink, and actually didn’t hardly smell like chemicals at all. And no alcohol scent, which meant it wasn’t a spray. Or at least that it didn’t use alcohol as the medium. It was worlds nicer than any perfume he’d smelled all day.

Oh yes, Scott could definitely keep this one. Stiles was going to work double duty as the best wingman ever.

“Excellent. Well, it’s definitely a pleasure, Allison. Anyone who has earned the right to Scott’s lucky pen is tops in my book. And A plus choice on the perfume, by the way. It’s awesome and not overpowering at all, and it’s not alcohol based at all is it? And for the love of god somebody shut me up before I ramble on too much.”

Okay, yeah. Awful first impression, but her eyes were crinkled up as she laughed and she looked adorable. Match made in heaven, right there, her and Scott. He shipped it already.

“No, it’s a perfume oil. Spray perfumes with alcohol in them tend to irritate my skin.” Allison leaned closer, eyes shining. “I’m impressed that you could tell.”

“Well!” Stiles couldn’t keep still, and busied his hands by pulling out the papers Coach had given him. Wow, rosters, play-by-plays of past games, hand-written notes on strategy in a ‘secret’ --oh Coach--playbook. A lot to get through!

“I have a very sensitive nose, and I might have spent a couple weeks learning as much about the art of perfumery as I could in middle-school. And by might, I mean I definitely did, because when I need to know something, I need to know everything!”

Lydia was looking him over like he’d seen her look over a math problem she was going to crush under her designer heels because it wasn’t even worth her time. Stiles gave her his best smile, which was probably as spastic as the rest of him, but if she was looking at him, she was thinking about him, and that was a win.

“Interesting.” The way she said it implied she thought anything but. “That’s an unusual subject to dive into.”

“Hey, I had aspirations of making a world-famous perfume at the time. Didn’t pan out, but I was eleven, and my dad forbade me from actually trying.”

He’d wanted to make a perfect scent for Lydia, who’d just started showing up to school wearing perfumes at the time, and it was probably for the best that Dad had stopped that plan in its infancy. He’d already blown his allowance on some oils to try mixing, and had gone around smelling everything he could for days, and that focus on how things smelled had stuck with him, even before his nose had gone nuts, so, actually, now he probably could make an awesome perfume.

Allison looked interested; Lydia looked bored. Or annoyed. It could be either one, really. That glint in her eye usually spelled bad things for somebody. On the other hand, noticing him!

“So, if you’re an expert, Stiles, I’m sure you can tell me what my new perfume is.” She even held out her wrist imperiously.

Uh-oh. Why had Stiles even brought it up? Stiles wanted to take her hand in his, but yeah, no, not chancing that. He leaned closer for show.

“I’m not going to guess the brand, because there are like a dozen it could be, but there’s no way it doesn’t have an alcohol for the solvent and medium. Mass produced, not natural, annnnd...”

Stiles closed his eyes and focused on the scent wafting off of Lydia. It was still awful. But the saccharine note was probably supposed to be honey. He remembered from his devouring of everything he could that baby powder fragrance were usually something like a floral and vanilla, so that was a safe bet. The plastic-y scent, hell if Stiles knew.

“Vanilla and honey, with floral top-notes. I’m going to throw out jasmine there as a possibility. Maybe iris? Whatever it is, it’s waging war with your body chemistry. The scent is all...blurry and comes off more cheap baby powder and sweet’n’low than a nice perfume.”

When he opened his eyes again Lydia looked surprised and insulted, and Allison looked incredibly impressed.

Lydia recovered with a superior sniff. “Never trust a boy to understand the finer complexities of perfumes.”

Allison held her hand out. “Let me smell.”

When Lydia begrudgingly offered her wrist, Allison sniffed and grimaced. “I think Stiles might be right. It’s faint, but I swear I smell sticky plastic too. It’s okay, but it really doesn’t smell that good.”

Wow, Stiles had never seen Lydia look off balance. “Jackson said I smelled amazing this morning.”

“No offense, but Jackson doesn’t bat an eye at eau de locker room; do you really want to trust his nose?”

Lydia humphed and Stiles felt bad for her. It wasn’t her fault that her boyfriend was an uncultured jock who couldn’t smell to save his life. “It’s probably just that the scent isn’t reacting well to your body chemistry. Ph and your natural skin oils can drastically change how a perfume smells on you, you know. In mass produced scents they try to minimize that, but... And all your other perfumes smell nice! Especially the one with the hint of cinnamon, and olibanum. Never gotten close enough to get more than that, but that one is heaven whenever you walk by in the hall wearing it--”

God damn, Stiles knew he was blushing and bit his lip so he’d stop talking and digging his grave deeper.

On the other hand, Lydia had just brightened considerably. “You’re talking about Arabian Nights. Maybe you do have a sliver of good taste.

“Arabian Nights? I’ve never heard of that perfume before.” Allison was definitely interested in the conversation, leaning forward, eyes bright and intent.

“Of course not. It was an exclusive limited edition.” Lydia radiated smug pleasure. “They only did a run of one thousand and one bottles and my mother brought me one as an early birthday present. Some of the proceeds went to charities, of course. I just wish I had more, because I’d wear it almost every day; it’s my favorite, even if Jackson complains about it.”

Another chance to get in a cheap shot at Jackson? He’d take it! “Further evidence that Jackson is a neanderthal when it comes to fragrance. As if there was ever any doubt with mr. stinky ferret.”

And probably sharing that little private nickname with the girlfriend of the jock king of the school was social suicide, but Jackson’s bad choices in cologne had been kicking him in the nose every time they even were in the room within ten minutes of each other all day. Not that he’d ever smelled good ever (still ignoring the nice smell under the awful cologne), but super nose made it so much worse.

Allison burst into giggles and Lydia raised one achingly perfect eyebrow.

“What. Don’t tell me you think he smells good.”

Lydia pursed her lips. “Jackson always smells... manly.”

Stiles had to laugh at that one, and Allison’s giggles came back.

“If that’s not code for ‘smells awful but I don’t know how to tell him without threatening his masculinity’ I’ll eat my hat. Not that I have a hat to eat, so it’s a good thing that I’m right. I bet you think he smells much better fresh out of the shower, right? A lot of popular soaps and body washes are bright and fresh, or aquatics, and both of those would probably compliment his natural scent pretty nicely. Lighter woody scents too, I think. Maybe amber, but that’s iffier. And if someone could strong-arm him into a crisp scent with a good lavender top note, anyone with a nose would probably swoon. But no, he has to wear that heavy dark musk. I can’t even tell if there are other notes, it’s so strong and animal. It completely overwhelms him and ends up dank, musty, and honestly close to skunk.”

Aw, shit. Stiles’ new nose when paired with his inability to keep his mouth shut definitely made this new power a blessed with suck situation. Why oh why had he gotten a sniff of Jackson and realized his odious personality and bad cologne choices masked a surprisingly nice natural scent?

Also regretting ever realizing how fascinating smells and perfumes were. His little research jag was coming back to bite him, because it had stuck with him so strongly. Well, honestly, all of his research jags had the potential to knock him on his ass, but Stiles doubted he’d ever get a chance to horribly embarrass himself with some of them. How often would it really be possible to end up sabotaging himself by going on a tangent and sharing all he knew about circumcision? That one was totally not really his fault. It had been an offshoot of a need to know about different types of body modification that had grown out of an interest in tattoos. Which were absolutely fascinating--

“So...” Lydia had taken advantage of his moment of self-flagellation and distraction and now was perched on his other side, sandwiching--oh god, bad time to think about sexy sandwiches--him between the two girls.

“Anything you’d like to share regarding your true feelings for my boyfriend? Should I be telling you to stay away from my man?”

Stiles had to snort. “Oh please, like I’d stand a chance against you, even if I was interested. Which I am definitely not. Universes of not! His cologne isn’t the only thing that reeks about him. It’s just that smells are a big thing for me. I can’t help but notice.”

Allison looked at him and there was a little furrow right between her eyebrows that probably anyone would want to soothe away. “Why aren’t you interested?”

Wow. One hell of a loaded question right there. With Lydia present, he couldn’t give his usual answer. But he couldn’t disappoint and say ‘no comment’ to that face. God help him if Allison and Scott ever teamed up against him.

“You mean besides the fact that Jackson has been a raging asshole to pretty much everyone since forever? Why, m’lady, mine heart doth belong to another.”

Overdramatic faux Shakespeare that really wasn’t even close, complete with hand over his chest was always worth a laugh, in Stiles’ opinion.

Lydia rolled her eyes. “You butchered your syntax there.”

“That’s why it’s funny.”

But Allison was looking at his chest, and dare he think it, she looked kind of disappointed.

It took Stiles longer than it should have to realize why, but he was excusing it. He’d had a long twenty-four hours.

“Not Scott! We’re brothers; the only way I’d become a Stilinski-McCall is of our parents ever realize how awesome they could be for each other and get married.”

“Mmm-hm.” Lydia was smirking and that was so not fair.

“There is a completely reasonable explanation for the shirts! There were shenanigans--” The whistle blowing hurt so much and was so unexpected that Stiles yelped and put his hands to his ears. “Damn it, Coach, most of the team are right there next to you! Or Mr. Ref. whatever.”

Then Stiles realized who was in goal. He stood up, wobbling more than a little, and because he was in the stands as an observer, and no one else would, and why the hell not? he cheered at the top of his lungs. “Go Scott! Make that first line, buddy!”

He almost fell over into Lydia, and she stood up to avoid getting squashed and grabbed his elbow. The only reason he didn’t flinch was surprise, and his skin still crawled a little where she touched. But not enough that he had to pull away. Also, Scott!

Who had just stopped one shot, and another. Stiles hollered again.

Then another successful save. Something was off. Sure, they’d practiced together as much as they could--as much as Scott could talk him into--but...

Stiles just kept cheering, because weirdness later. Scott was playing an iron defense against first line. But the papers from Coach were getting in the way and Stiles had never been the most coordinated, so he nearly face-planted trying to put them down. Then Allison, the sweetheart, came to his rescue, and now Stiles could go for a full spastic arm-waving cheer.

Scott, against all odds, made another really impressive save and Allison decided to join in the cheering, by clapping along. Lydia was the holdout on their little section of the bleachers. She was smiling, but it wasn’t at all nice. Then she spoke and Stiles knew why.

“Jackson is next up.”

Yup, that was really not good at all, and even from here Stiles could hear how pissed Jackson was at the “upstart” for daring to be really good, and at him and Allison for daring to cheer for someone who wasn’t Jackson. This was going to end in tears, and possibly not metaphorically either. Jackson’s glare in their direction as he got ready for his shot was almost literally venomous.

And when he took the shot, well, Stiles wasn’t an expert by any means but he could tell how amazing a shot it was. He’d bet money that Danny, who was their best goalie, would have real trouble making a save against it.

Scott snagged the ball in his net at the last second, and made it look pretty effortless on top of it. Oh boy, so many alarm bells. They really were getting superpowers, and no one in their right mind would really believe hard work had made Scott this good, when last season he couldn’t make it through passing drills without reaching for his inhaler.

But Scott was looking their way, and even if it was stupid reckless, Stiles would never throw less than one hundred percent of his support behind Scott. So he whooped and whistled, waving his arms and jumping up and down as well as he could on one leg. Beside him Allison was doing a similar, if slightly more reserved, routine. Lydia maybe even jumped up and down once too, but Stiles thought she was cheering for Jackson. Possibly. His attention was all on Scott, anyway.

And what could go wrong, would; Stiles had always known that. He was still surprised when Allison bumped into him--or him into her, whichever. He stumbled, hands out, and teetered to the side. Lydia caught him, and any other day he would have been not at all secretly thrilled, but the touch. His skin crawled. Worse, as he stumbled more, one of her hands flailed and then dug in like claws into his shoulder, while the other pushed against his side--teeth, cold compared to the heat, and claws digging, tearing--

Stiles could almost feel her breathing, they were so close. Couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe--

“Don’t touch. Let go. Letgoleggo--”

Lydia let go. Coach was yelling at the team to get in position for drills in the distance. Stiles went down like a stone. Don’t let him win. Don’t. Don’t.

Breathe. One, two, three--

Scott was there. So close. They were breathing the same air. Coach was blowing the whistle.

“Breathe with me, Stiles. Listen.”

Heartbeat. Breathe-- Don’t let him win. One, two, three--

The grip on his insides eased and the next breath was a little easier. A little easier. A little easier. He was getting control more quickly this time, Stiles thought.

When his heartbeat stabilized, Scott pulled back and Stiles felt awful suddenly. He was making Scott miss practice.

“Go play. I’ll be okay.” When Scott hesitated, Stiles gave him a little shove. “You won’t make first line if you skip the rest of practice.”

“Coach knows.”

“Patience is definitely not one of his virtues. Go.”

Scott gave his ‘you win, for now’ sigh and trotted back over to where Coach had the rest of the team running drills, collecting his scattered gear as he went.

Then Stiles arranged himself so he was sitting semi-normally instead of collapsed in a heap, surprised that he wasn’t hurting more. The claw marks--couldn’t be anything else--down his side, back, and hip and the bite to the back of his neck actually hurt way more than the deeper bite, or his leg. Weird.

Incredibly embarrassing too, so Stiles just wasn’t going to look. Nope. He was going to sit, curled on himself with his head in his hands. That was an excellent plan.

“I should have realized sooner.” Lydia’s voice intruded, sounding slow and almost dreamy. Bemused and thoughtful. “The evidence was all there. The day after an attack like that, you show up bandaged and on crutches. Then you were twitchier in history than you’ve been all year and you’ve freaked out any time someone who isn’t your friend touches you. And getting called to the counselor's during the last study period, of course. Danny must have figured it out before lunch.”

She let out a little huff, sounding annoyed, and Stiles heard Allison shifting around. There must have been a questioning look exchanged because Lydia started speaking again.

“Did you hear or read the news this morning?”

“About the murder and the attacks, you mean?” Allison paused, “It was awful to hear about, and my dad wanted me on a complete curfew, at home unless I was at school, and never going anywhere without a chaperone. But Mom and I talked him down to just not being out after dark and regular check ins when I’m out.”

Then Allison took an abrupt breath, but Lydia was talking. “Family night, was it?”

“It’s embarrassing! No one else’s dad is being this overprotective. I just...” She trailed off.

His stomach was unsettled again and all Stiles really wanted to do was run away and hide. But he had to start facing this.

It was so hard to sit up that Stiles almost shook with the effort. He wiped his sweating palms on his jeans and ended up hugging himself to try to stop the feeling that he was coming apart.

“Your dad is just trying to keep you safe. No one should have to go through...what I did last night.”

And no, Stiles couldn’t just say that and not at least try to keep a lid on it. He rounded on Lydia, who was definitely the bigger risk, on account of all the girls and jocks that orbited around her.

“And you, tell nobody. I really don’t need this getting out.”

Lydia tilted her head, expression unreadable. “Not even trying to deny it?”

Stiles had to scoff right back. “Please. Like you’d believe it? I’m not going to insult your intelligence. I know that you play dumb and shallow for your douche bag of a boyfriend, but I also know that if you really wanted to, you could be in college right now.”

That was enough to make Lydia lean back and blink at him, completely startled. Then she smiled, and Stiles felt like he should be swooning, but there was just a little trickle of warmth instead of an ‘omg a goddess just smiled at me; I’m in heaven.’

“If you can see that, you know how useless it will be to try and stop the story from getting out.”

True. It would be all over the school by the end of the week, at latest. But Stiles shrugged. “Can you blame me for wanting to put off the inevitable mocking and harassment for as long as possible?”

“I suppose not.”

He was just going to take that as agreement not to tell, but Allison had been worryingly quiet since she’d lost the steam of her last sentence. Stiles glanced over and saw her, eyes downcast and hands clenched together, worrying at her lip.

“Allison?”

She wrung her fingers. “I don’t know what to say. I’m sorry just seems so--”

“So don’t say anything. Focus on trying to stay safe instead. H--He’s still out there, and I don’t think this is anywhere close to over.”

Allison gave him a small, grateful smile in return and then Lydia demanded his attention again. For the first time in...ever, Stiles wished she wasn’t so close.

Her eyes were bright, and her voice crisp. “Do the police have any leads?”

Stiles knew he really shouldn’t gossip about an open case. It helped that for once, he was actually uncomfortable with the subject. “What makes you think I would know?”

Lydia just gave him a flat, disbelieving look.

“Just because my dad is the sheriff--” The look amped up to a look and Stiles quailed a little under it. “And besides, telling what the police know could help this guy evade capture if any of the facts get out, you know?”

“You have a point.” And score one for Allison, because Lydia capitulated to a sigh.

Really past time to change the subject, but Stiles couldn’t think of anything. So he fell back on begging.

“Comfort level really not great right now. Could we talk about something else? Anything.”

“Anything?” Suddenly, Stiles regretted everything ever, because Lydia looked like the cat gotten into the cream. “So how did you know Erica was going to have a seizure?”

“A seizure? Shit. Is she okay?” Had that been the wrong smell slash feeling?

“She got to the nurse before it started so she was well taken care of and when I checked in, she’d been taken to the hospital to get checked out.”

Stiles wondered if Lydia realized that things like that made the fact that she had a heart under the bitch queen in danger of getting out, but she was narrowing her eyes at him and he had to gulp.

“You didn’t even know Erica was epileptic, did you?”

Yup. Busted. “No. I didn’t even really know Erica. My social circle and hers kind of never crossed.”

Lydia rolled her eyes at him. “Your social circle is just you and your friend.”

“Exactly.”

“Still haven’t answered the question.”

Damn. So much for distraction. “Well, when I saw her in class today, she looked really sick, and I’m not a monster so when I noticed, I had to try to help.”

But Lydia so wasn’t buying that, no way in hell, and Stiles thought he might know why even before she opened her perfectly lip-glossed mouth.

“She’s always looked like that, and I think you know that you can’t see a seizure about to start.”

Yeah, he thought so. Shit. Um... “I really don’t know how I knew.”

True enough, because he didn’t really know why he’d gotten super nose, or how smelling sickness even worked. Then an idea hit. It had felt wrong too.

“I... Well, honestly, something felt wrong. Wrong and getting wronger, and yes I know wronger isn’t a word. I can abuse the English language if I feel like it. I just, I felt something like that when my mom started getting sick, so...”

He’d felt the same wrongness again the whole day before she’d died, and even skipped school to sneak into the hospital to spend as much time as he could by her side. He might not have been there at all if he hadn’t had the feeling, so he was grateful. So not sharing that, though. That was private. That and Dad had discounted the feeling as coincidence and regular old worry, when he was pretty sure it hadn’t been. What it was hadn’t mattered though, because he’d never had the feeling again until today when he’d focused on Erica.

Lydia didn’t look satisfied with the explanation. “So you’re saying you’re psychic or something?”

“I’m saying I have no clue. But I’m glad it happened, because a seizure in front of high-school students is a recipe for bullying.”

“You never saw that awful video, did you?”

“What video?”

Lydia shook her head. “How you could notice me and miss that... Inside your head must be a special place.”

Now this was a better topic. Stiles laughed. “You have no idea. Honestly, ADHD sucks.”

She tipped her head and Stiles saw interest glimmering in her eyes. “There’s more to you than there is on the surface, isn’t there.”

“I have many layers! Like an onion.” Come on, it was the perfect opportunity to make that reference.

And it was appreciated, at least by Allison, though Stiles thought he saw a smile tugging on the corner of Lydia’s mouth. But of course, the moment was ruined. Looked like Coach was going to put the freshmen through their paces with a rotating scrimmage. Everyone who could be was on the field, and Stiles knew Coach would be making people switch position every few minutes.

Danny jogged past, but stopped in front of them. “Heads up. I don’t know whatever the hell you did, Lydia, but Jackson is livid.”

Stiles was pretty sure Danny knew exactly why Jackson was livid. He had a guess too. Lydia might not have been outright cheering for Scott like he and Allison had, but she hadn’t exactly been cheering madly for Jackson. And not making a shot against a nobody probably had impaled his pride on top of it.

“Does he think Lydia was cheering for Scott too? No way, she was supporting Jackson all the way. Probably. You were, right?”

It was hard to tell in the gear, but Stiles thought Danny was giving him a look. What was with all the looks, lately?

“I’m pretty sure it was the hug, but with Jackson it’s hard to tell.”

Lydia took her turn to scoff. “Hug, what hug? Honestly, if Jackson can’t tell I was keeping Stiles from falling on me, he needs his vision checked. Tell Jackson that for me, would you?”

“Hell no. I’m staying out of this one. You’re on your own, Lydia.” Then Danny was jogging away.

Stiles had to sit and blink at the world for a moment. “Jackson is jealous of me? What the hell.”

“Astonishing, isn’t it?” Lydia gave a theatric sigh. “Jackson is so high maintenance sometimes.”

And Stiles had to try. He’d probably regret it later, but when had that ever stopped him? “What do you even see in him?”

“Do you have to ask?”

“I mean besides being incredibly good looking and captain of the winning lacrosse team.”

“Well,” Lydia drawled, and oh yeah, regretting it starting now. “He might be stubborn, but in the bedroom he is very willing to please and eager to take instruction.”

Ugh, the images. They burned! “Regretting asking so much right now, you don’t even know. I think I need to take steel wool to my brain.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I think you might secretly enjoy it. Just remember that Jackson is mine.” And Lydia smiled sweetly, but there was a hint of steel in her voice.

Nope. Nope. “Jackson is so not my type. Not in any universe.”

There was a moment of silence where they both looked at him and Stiles had the feeling they were expecting elaboration. Another beat and he was sure of it. Well, maybe he could be vague enough that they wouldn’t figure out his type was Lydia.

“Why do I have to tell you guys my type? This is so not fair.” But he’d do it anyway to keep talking to Lydia. “Really not fair. Really. Oh fine. Like, the biggest thing is intelligence. Someone who can’t keep up with me isn’t going to be able to handle me. Knowing what to expect with my ADHD is pretty much required. That’s never going to go away and I’m well aware that’ll be a deal-breaker for most everybody. And, no taking crap from anybody. Even me. So, a strong personality and you know, a soft side too. I guess, even if I do rebellious teenager a lot, totally prerogative, my family’s approval is important too. If my dad and Scott and his mom all went hell no at somebody, I don’t think I’d go after them.”

“Someone has high standards.” Lydia’s expression was superior and Stiles had a feeling he’d given himself away. “But I notice no physical descriptions in there.”

Stiles cringed. “Okay, yes, being hot would be a plus. A really, really big plus. I can be shallow; I admit it. But I’m not stupid enough to only judge a book by the cover.”

Allison was looking back and forth between him and Lydia, really not at all subtle. Yeah, he’d been stupidly obvious, hadn’t he? Lydia, on the other hand, was just smirking.

“You’ve left out one very important thing.”

“What?” Stiles didn’t want to go more detailed. That would leave no doubt.

“Boy or girl, obviously.”

Oh wait, he could use this. Obfuscate a bit. And it wasn’t untrue, even if it was moot, because Lydia was the goddess of his heart. The fact that his face heated up at even thinking of admitting it helped.

“Oh. Um. Well. I might be a little... curious. Curious is a good word.” Stiles didn’t try very hard to stop the glance at Danny, because, yeah, Danny had been a big part of the curiosity. He was still blaming the pool for opening his eyes, because watching Danny with his kid siblings had been pretty awesome. There were parents who could take lessons from Danny, seriously. And okay, Danny fit several of his other criteria too.

Allison just looked a little lost, but Lydia was putting the cheshire cat to shame.

“Do you have a crush on Danny; is that it?”

“It’s not a crush! Just curiosity. A little bit. And if you’d watched Danny shepherding his little siblings to the pool all summer, I’d bet you’d be a little curious too!”

“And you just happened to be at the pool ‘all summer’ to witness this.” Lydia was just too elegant to be allowed, and she had the perfect arch tone down pat.

“Yeah, because I lifeguard there. They frown on not showing up to work, you know.”

Wow, he’d seen Lydia surprised twice in one day. “You’re a lifeguard?”

Stiles grinned. “Fully certified and everything. I am the official Guardian of Summer Fun. Or one of them, anyway.”

Usually nobody got the reference, but he thought Allison might have, from the way she smiled. And Lydia looked thoughtful, and dare he hope, impressed.

“Layers, was it? I may just have to let you fill out the application for second best friend. My mother gets nervous when I throw pool parties in the summer.” Was she joking? Stiles couldn’t tell.

“Second best friend? Is there seriously an application to be your friend.” Stiles didn’t even bother going through with phrasing the second part as a question. With as many girls as tried to court Lydia’s favor, he couldn’t even say he was surprised. Well, he’d be surprised if there was an actual physical application, but not much.

“Of course. Allison is my new best friend, and I can’t let just anyone be my friend. I do have an image to maintain.” Lydia looked him up and down thoughtfully. “But you definitely need to work on your wardrobe if you want to apply. Knowing about perfumes and having actual taste in fragrances is a point in your favor, though.”

A chance, however slim, to be Lydia’s friend? Hell, he’d take it! It was a good step forward for the ten year plan. Media had taught Stiles that friendships could so turn to love, usually realized after a series of hilarious or dramatic events, but Stiles could handle that. And it wasn’t like movies and television would lie to him. Okay, they totally would, but he’d hold onto that hope for now.

Even if the ten year plan blew up in his face, he’d have the closure of total failure. On top of that, option B in the total failure column, that is the forming of a platonic bosom companionship instead, actually didn’t seem like a bad way to fail. Stiles was pretty sure that if that did happen, hypothetical future him wouldn’t even consider it a failure at all.

So Stiles smiled, trying not to look dopey. “I like it! But I might need a little advice on the wardrobe. I have not even begun trying to unravel the mysteries of fashion.”

“I do love a boy who knows when to bow to my superior fashion sense. You’ll need to be chaperoned at first, of course, to save all of our eyes from further... hideousness.” Lydia’s smile was downright wolfish as she looked him up and down.

Stiles suddenly felt like Little Red Riding-hood. He gulped, imagining trooping around the mall for hours and hours, trying on thing after thing after-- After last night, it didn’t seem so horrible in comparison, actually, but still not his first choice for an afternoon.

“I am so going to regret asking you for fashion advice forever, aren’t I?”

“Don’t worry. A little pain is necessary to achieve visual perfection. Or as close as you can come,” Lydia nearly singsonged, “And we’ll have fun.”

She and Allison exchanged a smile that sent a--not entirely unpleasant--shudder down his spine.

He had to protest for his manly pride’s, shut up, he had some, sake anyway. “Oh my god, what have I done? I’ve created a monster.”

“Retail therapy is the best therapy,” Lydia quipped, and from her expression, she was already putting together a plan of attack. A trip to the mall with her could be nothing less.

“Not for my poor wallet.” But if Lydia wanted it, he’d do it. She had him whipped and didn’t even know it. Maybe he could dip into the ‘Lydia’s Birthday Gift’ fund. He hadn’t even delivered last year’s gift on account of not being invited and not having a not incredibly creepy way to give it. The downsides of pining for someone from a distance.

But at the back of his brain there was something demanding his attention. Stiles closed his eyes and tipped his head to listen. There was a heartbeat approaching the field and... and a scent. He realized what had caught his attention at the exact second a very familiar voice made the whole exercise moot.

Chapter Text

“What trouble are you getting into now?”

Dad! Stiles forgot about the cast for a half second and ended up basically nosediving out of the bleachers. Something in his head urged him to duck a shoulder at the last second and, well, it probably didn’t look very graceful, but the roll kept him from pain. Mostly.

So the back of his neck twinged and his back and side wailed, but Stiles wobbled to his feet, managed two hops and crashed into Dad’s chest.

Dad grunted, and Stiles felt bad for a split second. Then he got the full force of Dad’s scent--safe, warm, home--and melted into a puddle of Stiles-goo. He would have been on the ground if his hands hadn’t latched on with a death grip to Dad’s uniform without permission and Dad had hugged him back tightly. Even so, it was a near thing.

“Hey. I’m here. Had a bad day?” Dad was using the soft, soft voice he used when Stiles had panic attacks.

Stiles didn’t want to move, pretty much ever, but his lower back was starting to complain about the weird sprawl-lean he had going on so he had to pull back. A hop or two let him straighten without letting go and he mashed his face into Dad’s shoulder with a little groan. All the answer Dad was getting just yet.

Dad gave a sigh, but he was chuckling a little at the same time so it sounded kind of weird. Nice though. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

But Dad also cupped the back of his scull, fingers dragging over the buzzed fuzz under his ear and nothing else mattered. This was bliss. Safe. Home.

Tension Stiles hadn’t even realized had been tightening him up like a spring about to snap just drained away. He felt relaxed, loose, and huffed out a contented sigh.

“It looks like you’re making new friends.” Dad’s comment was casual, but he sounded pleased at the same time. It made Stiles simply glow.

However, not lifting his head. Nope. So the yes came out more like a ‘mmmph.’

Dad’s thumb brushed down over the side of his head and just the tip pressed against the edge of his jaw. The pressure was lighter than the brush of a butterfly’s wing but Stiles obeyed the gentle command anyway and lifted his head up.

“Use your words.”

Stiles huffed, but the little reference made him smile. “Okay. That’s a yes. Probably! I mean, nothing in stone yet, but new friends is a possibility. There are some nascent friend feelings starting to grow. Or so I’m hoping.”

“Well, are you going to introduce me?” Dad’s smile was a little crooked, like he was so very well aware this would lead to embarrassment for Stiles, but was doing it anyway.

Stiles managed not to wobble too much when he finally disengaged and turned around. Missing the hug already, but it was probably the best not to incite even more mocking. “Okay, Dad. This is Lydia Martin. Lydia, this is my dad.”

Dad’s smile went more crooked as he cut in. “Oh, so this is the future valedictorian of your class. Nice to meet you!”

“Da--ad!” But Dad knew all about his feelings and could have done so much worse, so it was only worth a little whining.

“What?” Dad laughed. “Did you think I’d forget our last conversation about your grades?”

“But I get straight As!”

“We both know you could do better. It would be hard for you, I know that, but I’m a father; I want my son to be the best he can be.”

Dad was definitely up to something but Stiles couldn’t figure out his game. He had that look, the cant of his mouth and ever so slight crinkle around his eyes, that meant he thought he was being sneaky and getting away with something, but Stiles could find zero reason for him to bring up their last grades talk to Lydia of all people.

At least he wasn’t telling the reason Stiles had given for not trying too hard to do even better. Lydia deserved valedictorian in his opinion, and he was happy coming second to her. And if that came out, the game was so up.

Lydia looked confused too. “I will be, of course, but wonder how you know. Grades are confidential.”

That narrowed eyed look she ended the sentence with was very not good. Stiles hadn’t even done anything wrong! This time.

“One, I know how smart you are. Only other sophomore who’s taking AP classes, hello, of course you’d have to be really, really smart to have tested out of the pre-reqs. Two, I know what my own grades are. Three, I know that my grades rank second in our class.”

He carefully counted the reasons off on his fingers, and didn’t mention that he know he and Lydia were first and second in the entire school right now, because he’d actually had to wheedle and out-talk the academic counselor into letting that slip, when he technically wasn’t supposed to know.

“Wait, you’re the number two? One mystery solved.” Lydia looked impressed again, with a bit of calculating thrown in.

“What can I say? Layers!” Stiles was doing his best not to beam. Or panic. Panic was definitely up there, and Dad had this little grin, and suddenly Stiles knew. Dad was trying in his own clumsy dad-ish way to help Stiles get the girl. Sweet, if it didn’t backfire horribly.

In fact, he was going to change the subject quick before any of them got any ideas, including himself. “But introductions are not done! Dad, this is Allison Argent. Allison, this is my dad; he’s the sheriff.”

As if the uniform didn’t give it away, but Allison didn’t call him on stating the obvious and got up and all polite and composed shook Dad’s hand. Miss maturity, right there. Dad seemed pleased with her initiative.

“Chris Argent’s daughter? He stopped by the station today and mentioned you.”

Her dad had stopped by the station to talk to Dad? Huh. “He did?”

Stiles glanced at Allison, looking for an explanation, and she ducked her head with a little blush. “I’m not surprised. My dad works as an arms distributor for law enforcement. But he talked about me?”

Well that explained that. Stiles didn’t think the department needed anything though. It wasn’t like Beacon Hills was--used to be--a hotbed of crime that needed any special weapons.

Dad smiled at her gently. “He did. He’s very concerned about our current case and your safety. I can’t say I blame him, even if I couldn’t accept his help. Maybe if it had been an animal, but what we’ve got is a manhunt.”

Allison looked like she was fighting back embarrassment. “I’m sorry. My dad gets a little overprotective. He really offered...?”

“I had to turn him down twice. I understand a father’s need to protect, but he didn’t seem to get that we didn’t have an animal attack on our hands. It’s the damn paper’s fault for sensationalizing things. But tell your father not to worry. We’ve got every man and woman out looking for leads on this sicko. We’ll catch him and put him away for what he’s done.”

Dad looked at him and his scent... Was that what sadness and worry and fury smelled like? Stiles couldn’t describe it in words, but he could see the emotions flickering through Dad, so it must be. And that was that, he buried his face in Dad’s shoulder again. Not because seeing Dad hurting for him and so determined to protect him made him tear up.

Okay, so that was it a little bit. But Dad needed comfort too. The moment went on long enough that Lydia felt the need to clear her throat awkwardly. Whoops, how embarrassing, but Stiles couldn’t regret it.

Dad pulled back first and smiled. “Get me your stuff; I’ll take it to the car. It looks like practice is winding down, I think, so you and Scott can meet me there after he changes and I’ll drive you two home.”

“Crutches suck and I hate them forever,” Stiles muttered by way of answer as he untangled and reached over for his bag. Allison was helpful and held out the papers from Coach to be stuffed in.

Dad was watching with an interested expression. “What are those?”

“From Coach. I wanted to be involved even though I can’t play so he made me his assistant.”

That got a hair ruffle. “I figured you’d find a way. Good job; I’m sure he’ll think you’re invaluable.”

“And probably annoying!” Most teachers did, even the ones that understood that he needed people to have extra patience with him. But the team was starting to break up and head to the locker room in clumps, so Dad had been right, and Stiles wanted to catch up with Scott a bit before the drive home. So he handed over his bag and totally didn’t duck his head into the hair ruffle a little.

Dad gave him a small smile, nodded at the girls, and then took off, leaving Stiles to set himself down on the bottom row. Not climbing them again just yet. Nope.

A second later Scott trotted over, stopping to give him a quick one-armed hug before his attention got claimed by Allison. He blushed and swayed and fiddled with his stick for nearly a full minute before talking. Oh Scott.

“So, uh, thanks. You know, for the cheering. It was really inspiring.”

Allison actually squirmed, smiling and tucking her hair behind her ear. And nope. Stiles wasn’t going to let them doe-eye at each other. It was just too sickeningly sweet, and he kind of wanted to go home and then--drag Scott into--bed and a nap.

“What am I, chopped liver? Actually, don’t answer that.” And they both looked so guilty that he couldn’t just let it sit. “Carry on with your mutual adoration session. I give it my stamp of approval.”

They both threw him half-terrified looks. It was a match made in heaven. Stiles winked at both of them, and Scott got enough of his nerve back to eye roll in response.

And behold, the return of the shy fidgeting at each other. Stiles so wanted to make a nature documentary crack. Like, it was on the tip of his tongue.

Finally Allison broke the silence. “Um. You’re welcome! Just. Stiles is right; he did do most of it. And. You were... You were really great out there. I mean, I’ve never, but you were really good. That was good playing, right?”

She was babbling so nervous and awkward and it made Stiles want to d’aww at her. And also maybe roll his eyes and pretend to gag a little. They deserved each other.

Lydia interrupted. “While I don’t want to put a damper on this heartbreaking first attempt at flirting, I’m sure you boys don’t want to keep the sheriff waiting. And Allison, I must get a closer look at your wardrobe! You’re inviting me over.”

Allison was blushing too much to really protest as Lydia perfunctorily dragged her off and Stiles grinned at Scott, who was staring after them with a faintly lost expression.

“So! Lydia is throwing a party on Friday and Allison totally digs you. Obviously you should invite her to go with you.” He paused for a moment, wondering if he should mention the father situation. “But you might have to ask her dad for special permission; he’s apparently really concerned about her safety.”

“Dude, really?”

“Dude. Really.” Stiles grinned at Scott’s expression as they turned towards the building, walking at Stiles’ hobbling pace.

It meant most of the team had changed and gone by the time they arrived, which, good for Stiles. The fewer encounters, the better. Stiles plunked himself down on a bench as Scott pulled off his jersey and wrinkled his nose.

“So, do I reek? I think I might reek.”

Technically, yes, Stiles thought he might. It was strong to super nose, anyway. But not bad. Salty sweat, deodorant gone stale, and Scott’s pleasant musk wafting up through dirt and hints of other people. He kind of embarrassedly wanted to bury his nose against Scott’s sweaty skin and breathe him in. Yeah, no. Not giving into that urge!

“It’s not a bad reek?”

“That’s it; I’m gonna rinse off.”

As Scott trotted over to the showers, Stiles called after him. “Don’t take too long! Dad’s waiting.”

Someone was close; Stiles could hear his breathing and heart, but the odiferous, still air of the locker room confused the scent. Stiles didn’t know who it was until Jackson stepped out from behind the other row of lockers.

Distantly, from the doorway, he heard Danny call out. “Jackson, where did you go? Come on! Jackson?”

“Jackson.” Stiles stood up and snagged his crutches, aware that Scott’s heartbeat had picked up just from that. Good. If Jackson got stupid, Scott could back him up. He tried for a drawl but wasn’t sure he managed. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

Jackson, of course, was still visibly pissed off. But his scent didn’t smell angry the way Dad’s had. It smelled... Stiles couldn’t put a name to it.

“I don’t know what your game is, Stilinski, but Lydia is out of your league. And she’s mine.”

Could it be insecurity? Jackson would have a complex under the perfect jock-king facade. Not that Stiles hadn’t always guessed, but it was nice to have confirmation. He bit his lip to not laugh. Really didn’t need to egg Jackson on right now.

“I’m touched that you think I’m an actual threat to your relationship. But you’re wrong. If anyone belongs to anyone in your relationship, you belong to her. So not the other way around, dude, sorry.”

Okay, maybe he couldn’t help but do it a little. But only a little! And of course it would bite him in the ass. Jackson started crowding him and Stiles just... He couldn’t stand his ground with even the thought of touching Jackson making his skin crawl. Backing up on crutches was awkward and he lost one when his back bumped into the lockers. The clatter made him flinch.

Jackson was all the way up in his space, smirking and boxing him in with hands braced on either side of his head. Stiles felt his heart start racing and his breath caught.

Scott’s voice sounded from the showers, worry dripping from the tone. “Stiles? You okay?”

Jackson’s smirk got vicious, widening until Stiles could practically count all his teeth. Stiles couldn’t let him win. Couldn’t let him win.

His voice was shaky. Damn it. “I can handle this asshole! You just finish up in there.”

The tone was butter-soft, and almost gentle, but Jackson himself radiated smug threat. “I’m only going to say this once. You stay away from Lydia.”

“Lydia is her own person, jackass. She can choose who she wants to be friends with! Now back the hell off.”

“Cute. You think she’d even want to be friends with a pathetic little twerp like you? You’re quaking in fear of me. I’m worth three of you.”

“No you’re not. And it’s not you I’m afraid of. Now back off!” The words were braver than Stiles felt right now. Memories were clawing at the edges of his brain and he needed Jackson out of his space like forty seconds ago. Stiles dropped the other crutch and shoved at Jackson.

Jackson actually rocked back an inch or two, and the smile dropped into a surprised grimace.

“You don’t get to tell me what to do.” Suddenly fingers clamped down hard on the back of his neck. “Now, listen clo--”

The desperate, panicked, pained noise didn’t sound like it could have come from his throat. Teeth, teeth, in the back of his neck, holding him down-- No, don’t let him win-- Stiles managed in the flailing to shove the heel of his hand in Jackson’s face. He mostly missed the nose, but there was still a little bit of crunch, and Jackson nearly yowled.

The world titled. Jackson was stumbling back but not letting go and--

His breath was knocked from him as the bench came up hard under his ribs. Jackson’s fingers tightened again and Stiles clawed desperately, kicking out with his good leg. His cheek was pressed to wood and Jackson was so fucking close--weight pressing him down, heat and--and grabbing his arm to twist--

“You little bitch--”

Something wet dripped into his mouth and Jackson’s breath stank. Blood; he could taste blood. Stiles bucked with all his strength but he had no leverage.

“--going to fucki--”

Something snapped inside. No, no, NO! Stiles reached his free hand back with the vague thought that he needed to go for the eyes. His fingertips found hair, then his nails caught and he squeezed as hard as he could. Jackson yelped; the pressure eased--

Get away. Get awayawayaway--

There was a hideously loud clang and suddenly Scott was there. Stiles latched on and they tumbled. They ended up on their sides on the floor, and nothing mattered but getting his face into Scott’s still kind of wet neck and breathing. Safe, needed to be safe--

There was a sharp, sour scent in the air, and Scott smelled of fury. Sharp pinpricks dug in where Scott was holding him and Stiles swore he heard an actual growl.

“Touch Stiles again and I’m going to--”

Yeah, no, Scott couldn’t kill Jackson--but oh, didn’t Stiles want him to, rip Jackson apart with Scott and--and Stiles just... The fear hadn’t owned him this time, and that thought, combined with Scott’s scent and heartbeat drumming in his ears, helped him find a place of calm. Not unafraid, not yet, but enough so that he could try to calm Scott down in return. The growl was so not a good thing.

Scott let out a muffled half-protest as Stiles pulled him closer, but breath puffed against his shoulder and then Scott started to relax. The pinpricks went away, and as Scott relaxed, Stiles felt the fear ease. They both just breathed for a few seconds.

Behind them, Stiles heard Jackson groaning, and it brought back exactly where they were. Yeah, lying on the floor probably wasn’t a good idea. After a couple false starts Stiles managed to sit up and Scott followed. They were practically in each other’s laps, and still on the floor, but Stiles couldn’t bring himself to care enough to get up further.

Scott mumbled against his temple. “You okay?”

“Been better.” Stiles was becoming aware that they were so not without an audience right now, and twisted his head to look without lifting it from Scott’s shoulder.

Danny was closest, mouth in a tight line and hands in fists, but behind him were a couple of other team members Stiles didn’t know well.

He could see Jackson against the other row of lockers, sprawled on the floor with blood smeared under his nose and over his cheek and...

And pooling on the back of his neck? What? Also, Stiles had to be imagining things because of the angle, but the lockers above him looked a little dented. As Stiles watched, Jackson tried to get his hands under him and curled up with a hiss, grabbing his shoulder.

It made the still simmering urge to rip Jackson apart--and when the fuck had Stiles grown violent urges?!--dribble away to nothing. He almost felt bad for Jackson. Almost.

“What the hell happened here?!” Suddenly Coach was shouldering his way through the gathered boys, and made his way to Jackson’s side.

Shit.

Stiles saw the little smirk Jackson threw him as Coached helped him sit up. The pained groan had to be at least partly for show, and the waver in Jackson’s voice definitely was.

“I don’t know, Coach. We were talking and they just...attacked me.”

“Cut the fucking shit, Jackson. You had him pinned to the bench!” Wow, Stiles had never heard Danny sound so angry.

Jackson looked hurt for a split second, then spitting mad. “He shoved me first! I was defending myself.”

“And I heard you taunting him about being afraid of you, and him asking you to back off before he shoved you.” Danny was looking less angry now and more disappointed and...sad?

Also, wow, was Danny actually taking his side over Jackson’s? Was he dreaming? Stiles owed Danny like, whatever he wanted forever.

Coach turned to look at Stiles. “What’s your side?”

Stiles took a breath. If he was careful, he might not get into huge trouble. “I’m not going to lie; I could have been more diplomatic about telling him hell no, but I’m not going to let anybody bully me into avoiding someone else. Lydia is her own person; she can hang out with me if she wants to! But yeah, when he didn’t back off after I told him, twice, I did shove him.”

Coach heaved a sigh and rubbed his temples. “Teenagers! Alright, this is how it’s going to go. Stilinski! You apologize for shoving Whittemore. And you,” Coach turned to Jackson, with more than a little heat in his voice, “you’re getting a week’s worth of daily detentions with me after practice.”

“But Coach--!”

“You want off the team? I can do that instead.”

Jackson bristled, teeth bared. “You need me. I’m team captain!”

Coach’s heart sped up, and Stiles somehow knew the man had to be bluffing, but his expression was utterly serious for once. “Not that much. Detention or off the team; your choice.”

For a second, Stiles thought Jackson was going to call the bluff, but he dropped his head. “Fine.”

“Good!” Coach relaxed and stood, then faced the rest of the gathered teenagers, the number of which seemed to be growing. “Listen up, every single one of you idiots. I do not tolerate bullying. Period. There’s boys being boys, and that’s what makes boys become men, but the second it goes too far and becomes tormenting, you can bet I will come down so hard on the perpetrator's ass that his mommy will feel it. Got it?”

When only Stiles, Danny, and Scott echoed him, Coach barked out the words again to an intimidated chorus in return.

“That settled, let’s get you to the nurse, Whittemore. Those scratches look nasty.”

He held out his hand, but Jackson shook off the help, muttering under his breath and not meeting anyone’s look. One of the other boys, who had been second string (one step up from benchwarmer, but not much) all last season turned a glare on Stiles.

“What a girl. You panic and cried at a little touch and now you’ve almost gotten our captain kicked off the team! Pathetic.”

That was it. Stiles just-- Stiles had had enough. He was brave! He was brave enough to show this dick what an ignorant asshole he really was! “I’m not pathetic! You want to know why I panicked?! Huh? Fine! I was raped last night, okay! I have a damn good reason to be a mess! The bastard held me down by the fucking neck and-- ... Shit.”

Why. Why. Why. It wasn’t like Stiles hadn’t known in the back of his brain even as he’d said it that it was a bad idea and now his eyes were stinging and his cheeks were wet and a bunch of asshole jocks were watching and oh, hell. Scott laced their fingers together, and it helped, but he’d just ruined any hope of not being prime topic for the rumor mill forever.

For a second, Stiles swore Jackson’s expression looked guilty, but it was gone so fast that he couldn’t be sure, and then the other asshole was running his mouth again and Stiles was seriously reconsidering violence for like the third time today. He recognized the voice from this morning now.

“That’s just proof. I bet you were asking for it--”

That was when Danny rounded on him and punched him with a solid right straight to the jaw.

“Good one, Danny.” Coach was grinning, but the expression turned furious when he looked down at the asshole holding his jaw. “You! You’re off the team. Permanently. Now get the hell out before I have you suspended on top of it. Not even Greenburg is that much of an ignorant shit!”

The rest of the gathered teammates practically fled as the newly off the team asshole sullenly stalked out, leaving only him, Scott, Danny, Coach, ...and Jackson.

Stiles was never going to seriously disrespect Coach again. He was a little weird, definitely, but twice today, he’d proven himself a pretty damn awesome human being. And Danny, well.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Danny, but you’re totally my hero right now.”

Danny laughed a little as Stiles struggled to his feet. “Definitely won’t, man. But why did you even come in today? I mean, I’m sure you could have gotten an excuse for a day or two off.”

“I couldn’t let that bastard win.”

“Giving yourself time to heal isn’t letting him win.”

“I know, but it felt like it anyway.”

“Fair enough.” Danny held out his fist for a bump, and smiled when Stiles tapped knuckles with him. “But just so we’re clear, you’re still an annoying motormouth with no filter and no sense of propriety.”

“Like there was ever any doubt-- Oh god, Scott, please put on clothes.”

Okay, rapid change in subject totally warranted, because Scott was only in boxers and barely that and Stiles had just noticed. And, well, everyone else would have seen the bandages--it was obvious Scott had tried and failed to keep them dry, so ew, they’d need to be changed--and the red angry lines of scabs of the slashes that hadn’t been deep enough for bandages over his chest and back. Stiles felt a brief moment of panic on Scott’s behalf. They’d know about Scott too. But Scott just blushed and ran his hand through his damp hair before disappearing back into the showers.

Leaving Stiles alone with Coach, Jackson, and Danny. And he needed to apologize. New record, twice in one day! He cleared his throat and fidgeted.

“Okay, so. I know violence is never good for not escalating things, so... I’m sorry for shoving you, Jackson.”

Managed to actually feel it this time, if only out of gratitude for Coach. And maybe a little because he remembered that split second of a guilty look. If Jackson felt sorry, maybe he wasn’t a complete asshole. Just like, ninety percent asshole.

Jackson looked surprised again, and then awkwardly looked away. He reached up to rub his neck, and Stiles knew that gesture for the self-conscious embarrassment it was, then hissed. His fingers came away bloody.

“And okay, maybe also a little sorry for making you bleed. I didn’t mean to hurt you; I know you’re not that bastard.”

“Um. Okay. Yeah.” Jackson was not looking at him and that was the least articulate Stiles ever remembered hearing him. Finally Jackson licked his lips and gave a jerky nod. “I know.”

Danny rolled his eyes. “This is going so well. C’mon Jackson; the nurse should look at that. See you, Stiles.”

As they walked off, Coach looked at him. “You good, Stilinski?”

“Aside from my social life being dead, and the inevitable harassment? Peachy.” Stiles had to scrub at his face to get off the nasty feeling of dried salty trails. “My own fault for telling the world.”

Coach shrugged. “Things might end up better than you’re expecting. If I catch anyone, I’ll set them straight.”

The but hung between them. Still, Stiles was grateful. “I get it. Even teachers aren’t omnipresent. Thanks though. I don’t... I wasn’t expecting anyone to... you know.”

“I don’t like bullies.” Coach shrugged again, with a distant look on his face, then snapped back. “I still expect you have all that down by next practice, Stilinski! You don’t get to slack off this season.”

“Yes sir, Coach!” Stiles was totally going to get him a real present, instead of a prank, next Mischief Night. Okay, maybe a prank and a gift.

Scott came back, fully dressed this time, as Coach walked out. Stiles immediately started for the exit, desperate to get out of the room.

Halfway out, Scott made a little noise. “I think the ones on your neck are bleeding again. The bandages are getting kind of red.”

“Damn. Dad’s so gonna notice.”

“And he’s not going to notice the blood on your fingers?”

At Scott’s comment, Stiles looked down and... oh wow, that was more blood than he’d expected, drying on his fingertips and caked under and all around his nails. “The hell?”

“Don’t look at me; I’m still stumped on how you possibly could have scratched Jackson that deeply. It looked almost like punctures in the back of his neck.”

Her hands had had claws. The punctures on his hip and thigh at the fingertips of the handprints. The pinpricks when Scott had--know what? Stiles was not thinking about this now. What he was going to do was detour down the hall and try to wash the blood off his fingers. The drinking fountain wasn’t the best place, but he didn’t want to head back into the locker room and the closest bathroom was all the way down the hall.

He got to the fountain and took a few swallows, washing out the lingering taste of blood before attending to his hand. As he ran his fingertips under the water, almost fascinated at it turning red and washing away, he heard Danny again. Stupid super ears.

On the other hand, Danny and Jackson were at the end of the hall, so it wasn’t that surprising. They were strolling slowly, Jackson continually putting a hand to the back of his neck and visibly wincing.

“--But I’m not the one you should be apologizing to and you know it.”

Jackson just grunted and Danny sighed heavily. “Going to be like that, huh? Well, I can’t make you but could you at least think about it? And please, tell me you weren’t actually jealous.”

Jackson was mumbling and it was kind of hard to make out what he was saying. “She hugged him.”

“Seriously? I swore I wouldn’t get in the middle of this. You are so lucky I consider you my best friend, you know that? You’d better be grateful.”

There was a pause as they turned the corner, then Danny started talking again. Stiles felt a little guilty for listening in now. A little.

“Look, Stiles is a spaz and a total klutz on dry land and he’s down to one good leg today. I believe it when they say he fell and she caught him. Besides that, we both witnessed the last time some guy hit on her. She shut him down so fast you could almost literally see his head spin. And if she was actually interested in another guy, she wouldn’t pussyfoot around with flirting behind your back. She’d dump you in a heartbeat, probably publicly, before going to the other guy, telling him he was her new boyfriend starting immediately and then demanding his complete adoration. Unless she was getting you back for cheating or flirting with some other girl. You haven’t, have you?”

“Of course not!”

“Then you have nothing to worry about on the Lydia front.”

Danny’s voice was getting fainter, and Stiles gave up listening. He also made a mental note not to flirt with Lydia until the plan was further along. Or ever. Ever was sounding like the more sensible and sane option. Depressing.

On the other hand, his actual not metaphorical hand looked like it was as clean as a drinking fountain and rubbing could get it. Stiles could still smell the blood, though, and it made him feel uneasy.

Pretty much as one, and without needing to talk it over, he and Scott turned to the exit. Stiles took comfort in that. At least their friendship was still rock solid.

He made it halfway to the door before he had to bring it up. “So, Scott, unbiased opinion time. Do you think I should make the goal of the ten year plan a deep abiding, and completely platonic friendship?”

Scott turned his head and looked behind them, in the direction Danny and Jackson had disappeared to, and then turned back with the sheepish grin he usually wore when he knew he was going to get in trouble but wasn’t going to stop what he was doing. “You’re not going to be mad when I answer?”

“Promise.”

“Okay. Honestly? Yeah, I kinda do. One, she’s with Jackson and do you really want a repeat of today? Ever? Two, you’re missing out, and without the benefits of going steady. You’ve never even been kissed.”

Stiles had to cut in. “Like you... have. Oh my god, you totally made out with Maxie on Halloween! I knew you were holding out on me. You dog. How was it?”

“Pretty good? It was just a pity kiss, but it was nice. She tasted like peaches, and held my face to demonstrate how not to knock noses and only laughed a little, after.” Scott just got redder and redder. It was cute.

Stiles couldn’t help pouting as Scott paused to hold the door open for them.

“Dude. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Because she made me promise not to.”

And that line was worth several raised eyebrows. “So what was this just now?”

“I didn’t tell you; you figured it out on your own!”

“Ooh, nice one.” Stiles laughed. Semantics were awesome. They shared a fist bump before starting to walk again.

Scott shifted his backpack and scuffed his sneakers along the ground. “Anyway, I’m not saying you shouldn’t jump at the chance if she should ever break up with Jackson and ask you out. But, until then I think you should be open about exploring other options. I mean, you were like eight when you decided you loved her. You didn’t even know about sex.”

“Well, actually--”

“I don’t even want to know.”

“I was a precocious, curious kid spending most of my free time in the hospital, okay. Educational materials everywhere.”

Scott rolled his eyes and side-stepped to bump their shoulders together. Then he grimaced when Stiles stumbled.

“I’m just saying, eight year olds, definitely not experts at romance. I know, I know. It’s just, seeing you with your heart set on her and her not even knowing you exist--”

“She talked to me today! You saw!”

And?”

“She said she might,” Stiles stopped moving long enough to do some air quotes, “let me apply for second best friend.”

And Scott just smiled. Stiles gave him thirty seconds to bask in the ‘I did good’ before speaking up.

“So when did you become Dr. Phill?”

“Last time I got grounded, I might have gotten bored to death enough to look through Mom’s books and magazines.”

Scott paused and gave a theatric shudder. “Never again.”

Chapter Text

They both laughed all the way to where Dad was waiting. With his cruiser and an audience. But Dad, and the rest hardly mattered.

When they got closer, Dad looked them over and frowned. “What kept you? And when did your bandages start bleeding through?”

Stiles didn’t feel up to even trying to spin it, so he just blurted out the truth.

“First, Coach has it handled, okay? But Jackson got jealous and tried to intimidate me. I freaked because he was too close and shoved him. That pissed him off and he grabbed my neck. Then I panicked and scratched him when I was trying to get away.”

“Oh, Stiles...” There was a little thread of disappointment, but mostly worry in Dad’s home and it got him a hug. Stiles wasn’t complaining, and buried his face against Dad’s shoulder.

The feeling of calm that washed over him was so, so welcome. Then Dad spoke again and it wasn’t quite enough because Stiles knew that tone. That tone said Dad was going to take matters into his own hands if he wasn’t satisfied with what he heard.

“You said your coach has it handled?”

Stiles took a breath and nodded against Dad’s shoulder, and because Dad just stayed still and waited, finally gave in and explained. “Yeah. I had to apologize for the shoving and Jackson got a week of detention.”

He felt Dad stiffen, heard the indrawn breath, and could smell Dad filling with righteous, protective anger. Shit. Diffusion, quick.

“It’s okay! Really. I think Jackson actually felt kind of sorry, and then Coach kicked the guy who said I was asking for it right off the team.”

Dad responded to the note of panic winding into his voice by hugging tighter. “I can’t help it; I want to protect my son. But if you say your coach has it handled, I’ll let it be.”

Only a dumbass would miss the unsaid ‘for now’ hanging at the end, but Dad leaned back and cupped Stiles’ jaw to look him in the eye.

“But don’t you dare believe what that kid said. He was wrong. Nothing, you hear, nothing ever could be ‘asking for it.’ I don’t care if you were running naked through the woods, anyone who says that phrase about anyone who’s assaulted is an ignorant piece of bigoted scum.”

Stiles could only nod. He knew that, of course, but hearing it helped.

Then Dad broke the tension with a crooked smile. “But, young man, if I ever do hear about you running naked anywhere, you’re grounded until graduation.”

Laughing helped too, and Stiles just had to continue the joking. “But Dad, what about my ambition to be a world-famous streaker? You’re crushing my dreams!”

They all shared a moment of laughter, but then Dad gestured both of them to the cruiser. “We need to stop by the station first, for your official statements. We should have taken them last night, but...”

That was enough to kill the urge to talk and they spent the whole ride to the station sitting in tense silence.

But Stiles was worrying too much, because Dad had Tara, Deputy Graeme, take their statements, and she knew kids and had a gentleness about her that made it easier to talk. It helped that Stiles knew her pretty well, from all the times she’d helped him buckle down and actually finish his math homework instead of getting horribly distracted.

They were allowed to stay together too, which was unorthodox but not bad, and it helped settle Stiles’ nerves so much. Stiles held Scott’s hand while he spoke, and Scott squeezed tightly while he talked about how their attacker had gone after Stiles. Tara asked questions, good ones, and helped Scott pull out more details that he hadn’t remembered in the initial story. The more details the better.

Then it was Stiles’ turn, and it was like slogging up a hill with a hurricane blowing down on him. But with Dad and Scott holding his hands and a couple breaks to catch his breath, Stiles managed to get through it all. There were a few tear tracks at the end, and Stiles felt hoarse and exhausted, but his voice had stayed sure.

Next, it was his turn to answer the laser-guided questions to bring out the details that had gotten lost in the telling. With Tara’s help and a map that had been marked with the advance of the line, where they’d been found and where both halves of the body had been, at least before the killer had moved the other half right out from under the searchers’ noses, Stiles was able to put together the path they’d taken with reasonable surety. He was also able to point out the approximate location of every spot where they’d seen the killer before he’d cornered them. Stiles was sure he could do better if they could actually go back and walk the woods in daylight, but wasn’t sure how to suggest it. Or if Dad would even believe the ‘I think I could smell the exact trail we took.’ So he stayed quiet on that, and Dad sent out the command to have the K-9 unit go out and do a search with a copy of the map they’d put together, and the hairs Stiles had managed to grab for a scent.

Then Tara asked about his fall, and something had always seemed off when he’d thought back to it, but now Stiles was sure he was missing something, and he even had an idea of how to figure it out.

“Can I see the pictures? Of my leg, and my pants.”

Dad shot him a worried look but complied with only a brief hesitation, and sure enough, there was a ring of bruises around his ankle and calf. Even holes in the pants, though only scratches on his skin. He had his suspicions now, but he couldn’t be sure. Time for some experimenting!

“Dad? Weird question. Scott, could you stand up? Now Dad, grab his right ankle. I need to see something.”

There was a lot of weird looks and eyebrows raised on everybody’s account, but Dad finally bent down and complied. With the pictures to compare to how Dad’s fingers curled around Scott’s ankle, he was suddenly absolutely positive. His stomach twisted with a strange mix of glee and sick while he shoved the pictures under Dad’s nose.

“Look! Look at these. Look where your fingers end, and where the cuts were on me. And hell, look at the bruise. It was him. He grabbed me; that’s what I felt. He was there before we went over the edge.”

He was on a roll. Things were suddenly clicking into place to make a horrifying picture. He jabbed his fingers at the map and couldn’t at all keep his hands still as he talked.

“Here, we saw him in our path. Here, when we started going the other way, he showed up between us and the search line, blocking our way back. Here, we heard him from this direction, which of course made us run the other way that led straight here. And here! Here was where he startled the deer after us, and don’t tell me he wasn’t behind that. You’ve got the report of a mauled deer found this morning with the other files and the slash-marks on us and it match, don’t they?”

Stiles had to breathe eventually, and would have paced if he’d had both legs in working order. Instead he scrubbed his hands over his head a few times before continuing. Dad finally sighed and nodded in response to his question about the deer and Stiles was off again like a rocket.

“And we’d have been stupid to go toward whatever freaked the deer out, so even if it wasn’t entirely conscious on our parts, we were drifting in the opposite direction while we looked for Scott’s inhaler, which not so coincidentally, led us practically right to the other half of the body. Once is an incident, twice is a coincidence, three times is a pattern. He was herding us. I’m right, aren’t I?”

Stiles knew he was, but right now he needed Dad to say it. That acknowledgement was something he craved more than... more than pretty much anything right now.

Dad gave him a long look, expression grim. “I was worried something like that was the case when Scott filled us in last night. There just wasn’t enough proof.”

Stiles finally found the calm to sit back down and looked over the map again. “So what’s so important about this spot? Why take us so far before attacking?”

Actually, the main road through the preserve curved really close to where they’d had been. Maybe a hundred yards at most. And there was another road that came close from the other direction but dead-ended suddenly. Stiles didn’t know what that one was. The map told him that he’d driven by the turn off plenty of times, and he remembered a chained off dirt path that was overgrown and hardly counted as a road, but what was it for?

Asking never hurt! “What’s this one?”

Dad leaned over to get a closer look at the map. He was squinting and Stiles made a mental note to check and see if he was due for an eye-exam soon. Then he straightened up. “That’s the private road to the Hale house.”

He gestured to a whole area of the map that definitely included the parts where both the body had been found and they’d been attacked in. “All of this used to be theirs, but they ceded the land to the county several years back before the fire on the condition that it always be part of the preserve and never be developed. The property line of what they kept would have been about here, but due to neglect the county possessed the rest last year.”

Dad’s finger trailed awfully close to where they’d been attacked, and their eyes met over the map. Stiles nodded and Dad scrubbed over his face with his hands.

“God damn. Two stretches of road that close, one on what was until recently abandoned private property, and both could be used to park a vehicle. The private road is a little farther, but no one would ever think to look up there, as long as the chain was put back after passing through. A vehicle could be parked up there for hours, days and not be spotted--” Dad stood up so abruptly that the chair squealed against the floor.

“I want you two to talk with our sketch artist. I know it was dark, but try your best. We need everything we can.”

Then Dad was marching out and Stiles figured he wouldn’t be seeing Dad again tonight unless he spoke up. One of the Deputies would probably get tasked with taking them home.

“Dad, wait. Before you go, when will we get our phones back? And Scott’s inhaler.”

“Oh. Right.” Dad turned around, but he was clearly distracted. “Tara, I think the lab was done with the boys’ phones? If there wasn’t anything found it should be safe to return them once the boys are done with the sketch artist.”

“What about my inhaler? If I don’t find it, Mom will--” Scott sounded so worried.

Dad winced. “We didn’t find it, Scott. I’m sorry.”

That was enough to make Scott put his head in his hands. “Oh, man. I’m screwed.”

There was an awkward silence, and then Dad stepped forward to clasp a reassuring hand on Scott’s shoulder. “Your mother will understand, and the search today might find it. You never know.”

Scott was so not convinced, Stiles could tell, but he heaved a sigh and managed a little smile.

And, well, after all that had happened, Stiles couldn’t let Dad go without a hug. And a warning.

“I expect you home to sleep tonight. No arguing! You need rest, and don’t even try to tell me you slept even a wink last night.”

Dad had the grace to look sheepish and Tara laughed.

Her eyes were sparkling with mirth and her smile was bright as she teased. “You’ve got a keeper there! He takes such good care of you now that you won’t even have to worry when you get older. He’ll still be taking the best care of you even when you’re an old man dozing in your rocking chair on the porch.”

Stiles had to laugh and tease back. It was practically required. “And he will be living that long because none of his deputies would ever think of facilitating breaking his diet. Right?”

Both Dad and Tara cringed and looked guilty, so Stiles made the universal ‘I’ve got my eyes on you’ gesture. Tara just laughed at him and responded with an obviously faked shudder. Well, couldn’t win them all.

Dad finally shook his head and it tasted like victory. “I’ll be seeing you tonight then. Tara, you’ll make sure the boys get home all right?”

Tara didn’t even have to nod before Dad was leaving with a satisfied and determined expression. A minute later, the sketch artist came in and in with her came a whole lot of awkward.

Stiles knew what it looked like, but it was what he’d seen, and felt. Scott kept apologizing for it sounding farfetched, and they’d even resorted to pulling out the photos of their injuries as additional references. Stiles had to dig his nails into his palms again and again not to bolt, but finally they had sketches done.

And somebody had to acknowledge the pink elephant in the room.

“So we’re all seeing and recognizing the like classic wolf-man look, right? Right out of Hollywood, even.”

Except the drawings didn’t capture it completely. It looked exactly like something Hollywood would makeup and latex together, not the feral, viscerally other creature that Stiles remembered getting glimpses of, feeling, but couldn’t seem to put into the right words.

“Could it be a costume?” Tara finally asked.

“Do you know of any costume claws or fangs capable of slicing and dicing?” And now that he’d asked the question, he needed to know. Was there such a thing? Could it really be some psycho in a scarily detailed werewolf suit? Stiles just had to know.

When he asked for a computer a few seconds later Tara reluctantly let him and Scott back into Dad’s office. Nobody even tried to pretend that he couldn’t guess any password Dad could come up with anymore. The usual defense was just to keep him out of the office.

So under Tara’s watchful eye, Stiles went after Google with his usual fervor. Maybe a half hour later, give or take, and after a mind-boggling amount of Google searches, shitty amateur websites, forum posts, and Youtube videos, Stiles had his answer. He also knew more about people who thought (or wished) they were real life vampires or werewolves than he’d ever thought he’d want to know. If more than a few URLs got scribbled on notepaper for later, well, Scott knew him too well, and Tara had the sense not to bring it up.

But to be sure, Stiles pressed play on the last video again and watched the homemade--metal, he was pretty sure, but shitty recording was not helping--claws slice through leather and into a side of venison. On the third try, and after switching hands because the guy apparently sprained his finger on the first one. The teeth had been harder to find pictorial evidence for but there had been enough anecdotes on one vampire forum to support the possibility. Apparently there were people who got off on biting others and sucking on the wounds. And who got off on being bitten like that. Facts he would have been much happier never knowing, number three thousand and something.

To delay some more, because come on, Stiles pulled up notepad and copy and pasted the relevant URLs into it for Dad to look at later. Then he closed all the tabs he’d pulled up, cleared out the history--just a completely innocent habit, really!--and locked the computer.

With nothing else to busy himself with, all Stiles could do was sit back and drag his hands down his face. That was when Scott spoke up for the first time in several minutes.

“So it probably was a psycho in a costume.” Scott sounded so relieved.

And Stiles wished he could feel that way, but the other facts, like their crazy senses, Scott’s new amazing skills, and the way the bastard had moved made it impossible to just accept that explanation. He needed to do more research. Just, not right now.

He wanted to curl up and sleep the rest of the day away, but he didn’t have to ask to know that Scott would want to go out and search for his inhaler before his work shift.

So that was that. Scott could drive his jeep over and then drop him back off home after. Or if that failed, maybe they could sweet-talk the vet into letting Stiles hang out for a few hours. Stiles finally opened his eyes and reached for his crutches. Time to blow this joint.

“Hey, Tara? I think we’ve done all we can here, so can we get our phones back? You can drive us both to my house.”

Scott echoed that, and they ended up piling into her personal car after waiting for like fifteen minutes for her to wrangle their phones out of police custody. Stiles almost dozed off on the drive, and when he opened his eyes again, she granted them both a long look and a sad smile.

“You boys look like you could both use a nap, so why don’t you do that. I won’t tell if you won’t.” She winked, “And if you need anything, I’ll be manning front desk the rest of the night. Just please don’t call Dispatch directly again. You know it’s not for that.”

Stiles gave her his usual smile and nod, and with a genuine thank you for the ride, flailed his way out of her car and hobbled inside. He collapsed on the couch and spent a few seconds just breathing. The combined scents of himself and Dad were all over, and with Scott’s wafting over him too, it was like a happy switch got flipped in his brain. Home. Safe.

When Scott sat down next to him, Stiles was wrapped around his friend before his brain caught up with his body. Impressive, considering that it was usually way in the other direction. He snuffled at Scott’s neck and shoulder for some unexplainable reason but unable to actually talk himself out of it this time, and the part in his brain that seemed to be handling all these new pieces of information and reactions was ridiculously pleased that Scott did the same thing back.

“So, weird new urges, check?”

“Um, well, you smell like me and... I don’t really know how to explain. Home, I guess? I really, really like it for some reason.”

Stiles just hummed for a minute, not sure how to put things in words either. “Same here. Dad and your mom too, but there’s something... a little different about how they smell to me? I don’t--Ugh. Weird new urges!”

He wished he did have the words. It was just...different. Somehow. Like one of those find the differences pictures, and is was frustrating that he couldn’t find a way to spot and point out the tiny differences.

“I...” Scott paused, and Stiles could almost feel the befuddled expression, even if Scott was mostly speaking into his shoulder still. “I think I get it. It’s ... different for Mom and your dad too. But--” He huffed. “Weird.”

There was nothing really left to say so they spent another couple minutes wrapped around each other like limpets, then Scott cleared his throat.

“Can I borrow your jeep for a few?”

“Going to look for your inhaler?” When Scott nodded at the completely unnecessary question, Stiles sat up. “Sure. Let’s get going.”

Scott scrunched up his face in puppy-eyed worry. “Are you sure? I mean, you don’t have to go...”

“I need to face it, dude. I’m not going to be afraid of a place. I refuse.”

“I get that. Just, what if the memories--”

Stiles cut Scott off, and immediately felt bad for it. Scott was just trying to be a good friend.

“I need to face it! Look! I know, but you’ll be there to help me, so I’m not afraid to go.”

Scott was still clearly worried, and Stiles was grateful, he was, but he couldn’t hide. If memories swamped him again, he’d just have to deal.

But Scott sighed and nodded, and Stiles was so relieved that he gave Scott a hug, then handed over his keys.

“You’d better take care of my baby, or you’re footing the bill.” And if he wasn’t apologizing for his outburst in so many words, Stiles was sure Scott understood.

Scott just rolled his eyes, but his smile was sincere. Apology accepted. So of course, they walked out of the house trading shoves. Well, Scott shoved, and Stiles retaliated by smacking Scott’s ankles with his crutches. Gently, of course.

And the ride was quiet, except for Stiles occasionally giving Scott shit for how he was driving. The jeep was his baby, okay? He was also maybe trying to stave off the mounting nerves. They ended up parking in the same spot as last night, because Stiles wanted to test out the capabilities of super nose, and not at all to work up his courage for facing the spot where they’d been attacked. Not even a little bit.

Turned out, tramping through the woods on crutches was a bad idea. One so bad it was hilarious, not that Stiles was exactly laughing. Scott was, a little, though, so it counted. On the other hand, when Stiles focused, leaned over and sniffed with his eyes closed, he could smell both of them as a neon sign lit on an otherwise dark street.

So he could follow their trail, just actually doing it today wasn’t in the cards. It was daylight this time, and Stiles had the map fresh in his mind, so he figured that they could take some shortcuts.

He set off and Scott let him set the pace. Two embarrassing slides down slopes on his ass later, Stiles crossed their trail again.

And his--

The smell hit Stiles like a hammer. It was an incredibly pungent, almost spicy, musk that was overwhelmingly not human. Except it was. It both was and it wasn’t and wasn’t that confusing as fuck?

It was sour, reeking of old decaying sweat, something almost like wet dog, and both rancid and fresh blood and fury. There was a deep wrongness in it, so very different from the wrongness he’d smelled on Erica, but still somehow a little similar. So much stronger, though. Fear bubbled up in him and made him choke.

Closing his eyes against the feelings just made it even more oppressive--weight, heat pressing him down--so Stiles snapped his eyes open again immediately with a gasp. Scott was next to him, tense and shaking his head over and over, as a tiny, helpless whine escaped from clenched teeth. It took a second for Stiles to realize what was off with the tree in front of him. It was oozing, too much like blood, sap from four parallel slashes right through the bark. Looked like bear, but Stiles knew it had been him.

The scariest part wasn’t the scent or the fear or the memories, but how the new back part of his brain felt about the scent. There was a pull, as if the new part of him recognized something about the scent and wanted it. Stiles didn’t know why or how and it felt like a betrayal.

For an endless moment, the scent had him trapped, unable to move, but then Scott was digging fingers into the meat of his upper arm and it broke whatever the spell over him was. They scrambled and tumbled down the slope and landed together in a sprawl.

Stiles just stared blankly at the blue sky through the bare trees for... he didn’t know how long. Deep breaths cleared the scent and most of the pull away, and Scott’s scent helped ease the fear.

Scott was the first to speak. “What... the hell?”

Stiles licked his lips, but that didn’t help the dry, ashy feeling, and finally set up. There was a faint ache building behind his eyes and the dry feeling scaled all the way down his throat. “You felt it too?”

“I felt... Something. Like, I don’t know, a pull?”

They looked at each other and Stiles saw the lost feeling in him echoed in Scott’s expression. Suddenly he didn’t want to, couldn’t, stay still. “C’mon, let’s get out of here and find your inhaler.”

Scott nodded, eyes distant, and scrambled up to retrieve his crutches. For a few minutes after, they trudge on in silence, but Stiles had never been one who could really do the comfortable silence thing, not for long. Besides, this one was far from comfortable. Needed a happy topic to distract, stat.

Stiles could only think of one, and it’d probably work better for Scott than for him, but details. “So are you gonna ask her?”

“What? Who?”

Oh Scott. Stiles decided to be nice this time and elaborate. “Are you going to ask Allison to Lydia’s party?”

“Oh!” Scott suddenly had a sweet little smile as they edged down a gentle slope. “Maybe if I get the chance. You said something about her dad though.”

They should be getting close to where the deer had stampeded, so Stiles started craning his neck to find the spot while he talked.

“Well yeah, but you’re an upstanding guy. If you ask nicely and make sure he knows that you’re responsibly putting her safety first, I”m sure he’ll make an exception for you. No one can say no to your pleading puppy face. Except maybe your mom, but she’s got a built up immunity.”

“Or,” Scott muttered glumly with a little shudder running through him, “he’d come to the door with a gun and threaten me or something.”

Stiles couldn’t help it. Really. “Allison did mention her dad dealt with weapons. He probably does have a lot of guns.”

“Not helping!”

“What do you mean, I’m preparing--Look!” Ribbing Scott so fell second to seeing the police tape stretched between the trees. Stiles privately thought it was a little silly to tape a scene off in the woods. Like wild animals would respect it, really.

But with the goal in sight, Stiles managed to coax a little more speed out of his hobbling and as he got closer, he took a few deep sniffs. Hopefully, he’d be able to pinpoint exactly where they’d been standing when the deer had surprised them. He did vaguely recognize that stand of brush, because there were certainly a lot of broken branches in there. Good place to start!

With those two points of reference guiding him... Stiles did have to stop for a minute, because it was harder without numbers, but he could figure--

There! By that tree! Grinning, Stiles pushed forward and sure enough, a scent that was blood but didn’t scream human to his brain, along with his own scent, wafted up at him from the ground. He could actually see drops of blood on the leaves and why the hell was he suddenly hungry again?

But whatever. Stiles pushed aside the feeling of his stomach trying to gnaw on his spine and leaned his crutches agains the tree. He then waved his hands around in the mostly appropriate directions while he explained their plan of attack to Scott.

“You take that side, over to the tape. I’ll take this one, from the tree.”

Scott glowered at him, not very effectively either, and crossed his arms. “That’s a lot more ground for me to cover.”

With an eye roll, Stiles lifted his leg and wiggled his toes, just peaking out of the gauze lining the inside of his cast. “So should we divide the work by area, or by the time it’ll take to get it done?”

“All right. Fine. You win.” Scott stayed still for another couple seconds, probably as protest, and then bent down to start searching.

Stiles watched a little longer, and weird, Scott wasn’t making use of his new nose, not really. Seemed like the obvious thing to do though. Whatever. Maybe Scott’s nose hadn’t fully woken up.

Time to search! And, yeah, cast was still really stupid. Had he thought that in the past hour? Because it bore repeating. Repeatedly.

He had to get down on hands and knees to search and this area had obviously received rain more recently, or had poor drainage, because immediately his jeans got damp.

But Stiles was not going to be deterred! He had an inhaler to hopefully find, and he was definitely going to take advantage of his new super nose to do it. The inhaler would probably smell like medicine and plastic, right? So that was what he should focus on. With that in mind, Stiles sniffed and looked and sniffed some more. And dragged his hands through the leaves for good measure.

He crawled out about as far as he thought possible for a wayward inhaler to bounce, and started a sweep back and forth, making sure to cover every foot of ground. He smelled plenty of deer--came across kind of...gamey, maybe? It was hard to describe. And he so wasn’t focusing on how it made him hungry--and himself, and Scott, and him, which Stiles shuffled past as quickly as possible to avoid being overwhelmed again.

Stiles was just about to give up, because he was running out of ground to search, when he caught a faint whiff of plastic and something that might be medicine. He shuffled, and shuffled again, and yes! He could smell it. Definitely the inhaler...had been in the leaves once, because pawing through them brought up a big fat nothing. But he could smell it, clear as day, so it had been there! And that meant... well, it should still be nearby, right?

Crunching leaves announced that Scott was coming up behind him. Stiles just accepted the crutches without even looking back, because really, Scott had it handled. He was an awesome friend.

“So! The inhaler was here for a while. Now it’s not. Which, well, it probably moved somewhere, or was moved by something else, inanimate object and all. So we’ve confirmed it’s definitely not up here.”

There was another scent right at the edges of what he could smell that was trying to demand his attention, but Stiles wasn’t having it. Not important. So! Inhaler. The facts really only left one place it could be, unless something had actually come along and picked it up before running off with it. Were inhalers shiny enough to attract crows?

Scott edged towards the top of the slope. “Down there, you think?”

“Down there. Question is, how am I getting down there without breaking my other leg?”

Because, yeah, no. That was a not a slope Stiles wanted to try even with two working legs, much less sliding down it on his ass. Parts of it had fallen away, leaving an almost ninety degree drop in a couple places, and the rest didn’t look too stable. Actually, seeing it in daylight made Stiles realize he was lucky he’d only broken his leg. Maybe getting his ankle grabbed had been a good thing, stopping his momentum from the initial trip. Whichever, the verdict was ouch!

“Um.” Scott was looking around, rocking back and forth on his feet, “What about that way?”

That way did slope downward, but it was nice and gentle and looked manageable on the crutches, and the worst that could happen is it would dead end somehow and they’d have to waste time turning back.

“Okay! Let’s find out.”

After a few minutes of trooping, Scott’s suggestion paid off indeed. Stiles hadn’t even had to slide down anywhere, though he did manage to get his foot kind of wet in the stream-bed they’d had to follow for a couple yards. Squishy shoe, yuck.

“Remind me to make my next pair of sneakers waterproof, will you? And now that we’re all the way down, go west, young man!”

At Scott’s blank look, Stiles shook his head. Teenagers these days. So okay, technically he was also one, but details. “Or go right. You know, whatever.”

Or go nowhere because there was a guy right there. Stiles hadn’t heard him, or smelled him, and he was so surprised that his senses had failed him that he couldn’t even manage a yelp. The guy must be, like, a ninja or something.

“Hey you! W-- This is private property.” The guy’s scowl--and why did he seem familiar?--was practically murder, and something made him jerk and snap his mouth shut on what he was about to say.

The guy was wrong about the property part but there were hands threateningly shoved in pockets--big enough to hide a small pistol too--and the hair on the back of Stiles’ neck was suddenly standing up like a line of soldiers in front of a drill sergeant. Ooh, nice one; he’d have to remember that for some better time. Anyway, Stiles was not going to argue with scary and vaguely familiar dude.

“Sorry, dude, we didn’t know.”

The guy took a step forward, and another, and Stiles saw the guy’s nostrils flare. A muscle, well tendon, in his throat twitched under the skin and he spoke again, words bit out like they tasted bad but a little less, rwarrr go die, maybe. “What are you doing here?”

Then the wind shifted and the guy’s scent. A little musky, a little leather--maybe the coat--and so sharp and astringent it burned. Kind of familiar but from where? And all kinds of alarm bells suddenly went off in the back of his head at it. Danger, Stiles Stilinski! Danger! Danger!

What the danger was, he just... It was subtle, but there was something different about the dude’s scent. And listening to his instincts, even if Stiles had only had them a few hours, seemed like a very good idea.

While Stiles was still reeling from the scent, Scott stammered about looking for his inhaler. Except, he didn’t even get to the mentioning of what they were looking for part before the dude flicked the inhaler right out of his pocket and at Scott’s face. It was so fast that Stiles almost missed it.

“You found it, now get out.” Wow, that was like an actual growl in dude’s tone. Hostile and borderline aggressive at the very least. Dude must have a little thunder cloud over his head from the pinched, stormy expression he was wearing. Did this guy ever smile? It would do wonders for his look. He’d probably actually look his age--Stiles was guessing somewhere in the twenties, but he looked a lot older right now--instead of like prematurely ancient--

Oh shit. It clicked. This guy wasn’t an actual stranger, not really, even if the last time Stiles had seen him had been like seven years ago or so. It had been trying to picture him in a smile and younger that had done it. Take the years and the scowl off, and bam. The familiarity made all the sense in the world now. So did the insistence on the private property thing. This was a Hale. Derek Hale.

An angry, scowl-y Derek Hale suddenly back in town after years away, and showing up only a few yards from a crime scene with the inhaler that had gone missing actually at the scene. Oh shit.

“Scott. We should go.” Stiles congratulated himself on his voice staying kind of steady, even if his heart was suddenly pounding and he was getting a whiff of sour from his own scent. Fear.

And in spite of the fear he’d stepped between Scott and Derek without even realizing. Okay. Weird. Great time to suddenly get some overactive protective instincts. Really.

Derek’s eyebrows practically met over his nose and his expression went slightly less scowl-y. Slightly. Not that confused frustration was much better. Derek’s nostrils flared again and suddenly Stiles was sure Derek had super powers too. Super senses, anyway. And that made it all the more important to get the hell out of there, like last week.

Stiles was about to say it again when he heard Scott stepping back, and a whisper of agreement he wouldn’t have heard just yesterday along with it. Good! Leaving was very good. But he couldn’t turn his back on Derek just yet, so Stiles ended up shuffling awkwardly sideways until he finally saw Derek turn around and march the other way.

Thank god. Stiles breathed out in relief and felt some of the tension ease away.

Then Scott spoke up, sounding completely lost. “Dude, what was that?”

Had Scott really not noticed? Stiles flailed a little, nearly knocking himself on his ass. “What was that? What was that? Dude! That was Derek Hale. You know, family died in a fire, hasn’t been back to Beacon Hills in like six years, Derek Hale. Derek Hale, who suddenly shows up in the middle of the woods, very close to a crime scene! Who’s actually been snooping around said clearly marked crime scene in the past eighteen hours. Who took something from a crime scene in the past eighteen hours.”

Had it really been almost a full day? It felt like only a few hours.

“Oh. Oh. Do you think...?” At least Scott was catching on now, almost stumbling in his hurry to look over his shoulder.

Stiles blood froze. Yeah, it had already occurred to him, but actually thinking ‘Derek Hale might be the murderer and our attacker’ in so many words was scary as hell. He wasn’t exactly sure either. Derek hadn’t smelled like him.

“It’s mostly circumstantial, really? Derek didn’t smell like him,” Stiles elaborated for Scott’s benefit, wrinkling his nose. “and visiting a crime scene, and maybe even taking something from it doesn’t mean he actually did it. Sure is suspicious as hell though, so try not to touch the inhaler too much. Dad’s probably going to need to confiscate it as evidence. Sorry.”

At the very least Derek might be looking at an obstruction charge, for interfering with an active crime scene. Stiles didn’t feel particularly sympathetic about it. Well, maybe if Derek had pulled a Scott and had bumbled onto the scene completely accidentally and then picked up the inhaler just trying to be a good Samaritan and return it, he’d feel it a little bit. But really, the odds of somebody that grumpy pulling a Scott, ever, were really slim. And Stiles’ hair had been all bristly and there was something about Derek’s scent. So he felt safe saying, no sympathy here.

“Well, if it’s taken as evidence Mom probably won’t ground me. Probably.” Scott was moving lightly, relaxed, at least until the second after he said the last word.

Scott stiffening up caught his attention and it took all of half a second to figure out why. He could see the police tape from here. He wanted to run, but fought the feeling and made himself walk forward instead. Step by step, with his heart tripping in his chest. Scott was making little upset and concerned noises that weren’t quite words beside him.

When they reached the tape, Stiles’ heart was practically bruising the inside of his ribs. Stiles breathed, reaching for calm and not quite finding it. He could smell him, but now with something almost...sweet in the scent that only made the pull feel stronger, like a hook and chain wound around his sternum and yanking.

He could also smell his own fear, so sour and sharp it almost physically hurt, and his pain, and his blood. The same with Scott. Pain, and fear, and blood. And something else he couldn’t put words to, but still made him feel warm. He clung to that warmth, and added in the feeling he got from Dad’s scent when he found it, then each of the other deputies as he recognized them. Tara, Rich, Bill-- He kept clinging and adding until the scents were wrapped around is brain in a blanket of familiarity and belonging. It didn’t kill the terror, not even remotely, but it stood between him and the fear, and managed to take the edge off.

So he was afraid, but he could still function. The memories were there but they weren’t taking him over, not as long as he could focus on Scott beside him and the good scents. So Stiles could look over everything, observe, and put together clues.

He had to turn to Scott, grin splitting his face. “I’m doing it. It’s there and it hurts but it’s not beating me!”

Scott smiled back, so bright it was blinding, and put an arm around his shoulders. “I’m so glad to hear that.”

The feeling of joy and accomplishment helped control the fear even more, and like hell was he going to let the opportunity pass. There had to be a clue! Of course, he wasn’t going to risk going past the tape--he wasn’t that crazy, okay, or that bored, or desperate--but Stiles could use his eyes and nose.

There wasn’t much to smell that he hadn’t already smelled, really, but squinting let him pick out the blood on the ground. His and Scott’s. That was where they’d been laying on the ground at the end. That’s where the bastard had dragged Scott over to him, for some reason, then stood over them, and then just...left.

“We’re definitely missing something.”

Scott just gave him a confused look. “Huh?”

“No, listen. This guy... why leave witnesses? He actually tore the first girl in half. There was, what, maybe ten or fifteen minutes--” Actually, he could check his phone and see how long the call to Dad had been.

“No, okay, more like eight then. But the point is, he had enough time to finish the job. Maybe not including the ripping in half part, but a cut throat will totally bleed out in a matter of a couple minutes, and the cutting can be over and done in seconds. And if he didn’t have the strength to get those claws deep enough to reach the carotid, he was definitely heavy enough that he probably could have smothered us without any effort on his part. Pressure on the throat or face, or even the chest, will cut of air and the brain will go belly up without the oxygen after maybe three or four minutes. So that’s a little too long one by one, but, like knees on the throat, or face down and just lying on the back of the head. We were close enough together for it. So, why not?”

“Sometimes you scare me, Stiles. How do you even know this?”

“Dude, Dad’s the sheriff. Do you know how many suicides and suspicious deaths we get each year? Actually, a disturbing amount for the size of Beacon Hills. Anyway, you know that when I get curious about something I have to research it to death before I can let it go, unless something even shinier distracts me.” Stiles paused for a second. “Pun really not intended.”

Scott shook his head, lip gone white between his teeth. Then he sighed. “But I do think you’re right. I thought we were going to die, but we’re actually not badly hurt.”

He took a sharp breath. “Physically anyway. I mean, even the kinda short claws in that video got deep. And I’ve been there when Dr. Deaton has treated dogs that got into fights, and the amount of damage they had just...”

“I don’t know.” Scott punctuated that with a shrug. “We know the claws and teeth could kill, but we got away with only some cuts and scratches. And a couple pretty clean looking bites, considering. Yours was only really bad with the bleeding because of where it was, you know? It was almost like most of the damage wasn’t really... intentional, I guess. Like if you’re cutting a bagel in your hand and accidentally press too hard right at the last part and cut your palm.”

Stiles considered that. It... Yeah. It was possible, but so hard to say with any kind of sureness.

“So let’s say you’re right. Creepy psycho who might be in a werewolf-suit didn’t actually want to kill us, or slice and dice us. He only wanted to give us one bite each and... rape me. Then what? And that still leaves the why.”

It didn’t get much easier to say it out loud, that’s for sure, and Stiles had to take a couple breaths, focusing on the scent-blanket, not to start freaking.

But even as Stiles said the little hypothesis, he had a stomach turning theory growing out of it forming in his head. So psycho might be a real werewolf--so hoping not--or just in a costume and crazy enough to believe he was an actual werewolf, but whichever case, Stiles’ werewolf knowledge, as limited and pop-culture based as it was, said bitten by a werewolf equals new werewolf. Ergo, psycho could have wanted them alive and...wolfy, like him. And Stiles remembered how often psycho had looked back at them as he’d practically limped away, and then psycho had howled and didn’t wolves howl to call to their packs? Shit.

Scott was looking at him all wide-eyed. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

“I’m thinking that if our little hypothesis is right, he might have been planning on kidnapping, and like, brainwashing us into being a happy wolfy family. Or something. But we clued the police into what he was trying and they were already in the woods with tracking dogs.”

“So if he’d tried to drag us away, he’d have gotten caught.”

It was only a theory and based on some really shaky assumptions, but Stiles felt in his gut that they’d stumbled onto the right track, if not the actual answer. “Basically, yeah. He was probably hoping that the police would be distracted by us and not start tracking him down until we’d been taken care of.”

God damn. “Which is exactly what happened.”

Stiles hissed under his breath. Whatever the reason, he had run, and if he had wanted to get away, he’d head straight to where he’d have an escape planned, right? Or he could have totally been creepy evil mastermind and known they were watching and gone the wrong way as a misdirection, but that had to be less likely. It had to be.

And psycho had gone through some trees-- Stiles turned on the crutches to look. There. “Since I was facing this way, I saw him go through those trees there, approximately that way.”

“Isn’t that toward the old Hale property your dad was talking about?”

And up came the Hales again. Stiles smiled, but it felt grim, more like a grimace. “Yeah, exactly. We need to tell Dad, and also get the hell out of here like yesterday. Who the hell knows where Derek went.”

And that was suddenly more extremely worrying than ever.

Scott looked around. “It’ll take a long time for you to make it back all the way uphill with the crutches. Isn’t the main road just over there?”

Stiles nodded, considering the not quite spoken suggestion. “So, split up and you run for the jeep and I wait it out on the road? We can do that.”

Not that he wanted to, at all, but it would be faster, and he had his phone to call Dad or Tara at the station, just in case. He nodded to himself. They could do this. Still it was so hard not to call out to Scott after the quick hug, as he watched his friend racing--hell, when did he get so fast?--the other way.

But staying still wasn’t doing him any favors, so Stiles set off too. It wasn’t long to the road at all, and there was zero chance of getting lost. To distract himself from visions of his own grisly demise, Stiles focused on all the things he needed to research as soon as possible. The list was growing by the minute, it seemed, but right on the top was everything werewolf-y, and he should really raid the library on top of the internet. After that, probably everything about actual real wolves too, just to round out his knowledge. Then everything he could get his hands on about the Hales too. Something was up. Or he was being paranoid, but Stiles preferred to think the former.

It wasn’t like there wouldn’t be a ton of information that was public record. Maybe deeds and census information, and the library had at least twenty years of yearbooks for Beacon High and UC Beacon both. There might even be things like marriage, birth, and death records that he could get to without breaking major laws. If nothing else, there were obituaries and all the stories the paper had run about the fire. And Stiles had no idea if any of that would be enough to give him an ‘aha!’ moment about whatever it was about Derek that had him so on edge, but research first and step two later.

The smell of asphalt made his nose wrinkle before he saw the road. Everything smelled especially wet out here and the ground beside the pavement was a muddy mess. Stiles wished he could dare to stand on the pavement, but he knew better. Half the turns were blind and the people around here liked to drive faster than they should. Dad got called out to three accidents a year on this road on average, and Stiles wasn’t going to be one of them.

He couldn’t help fidgeting as he waited. Not liking being alone, no way. Not that Stiles had ever been good at sitting and waiting and he was halfway through talking himself into walking up the road to meet Scott when the hair on the back of his neck stood up again.

Stiles gripped the crutches so hard they creaked in protest, trying to looking around without seeming like he was looking. He couldn’t see anything, but not surprising. Couldn’t smell anything different either, but when he strained his ears, he thought he could faintly hear a heartbeat.

Stiles turned to look in the direction the breeze was blowing towards and sure enough, there was a grumpy Derek just standing there, all but completely hidden behind some brush and young pines. He wasn’t going to take this anymore! His heart racing all the time couldn’t be good for his health.

“Dude! I’m not on private property now! What the hell are you following me for?”

At least surprise was a different look from murderous scowl. It didn’t last long and then the scowl was back in place before Derek even started stalking towards the road. Stalking, how apt.

“Where is he?”

Stiles felt like he couldn’t catch his breath. His heart hurt in his chest, and boy, now did he ever regret splitting up with Scott. Oh look, a new challenger for a spot on Stiles’ Bad Decisions Top Ten Greatest Hits list.

He was so not going to let this guy scare him. Even if he was feeling seriously unsafe right now. “He ran ahead to get our jeep. He should be back any second now.”

Stiles hoped so, at least, because Derek wasn’t at all deterred. In fact, he looked kind of exasperated. Maybe. The scowl just kind of looked annoyed at the world to begin with, so it was hard to determine degree accurately. “What did you see last night?”

Oh shit. Stiles was not going to panic. He refused. Where the hell was Scott?

But no, he could do this, even if Scott wasn’t here. He could play the annoying smartass and run delay tactic circles around people twice his age in his sleep. All he had to do was not let on about his fear and racing heart. Though, if Derek did have super senses he already knew.

“Well, mostly the insides of my eyelids. You know, because I’m not some creature of the night and was sleeping like a normal person?”

Was that a tick? It looked like a tick. Stiles would feel more accomplished at giving Derek a tick in his jaw if he wasn’t feeling more scared. But the longer he could stall, the more time Scott had to get to the jeep.

Derek came closer, gritting the words out like bullets. “When you were in the woods. What did you see in the woods?”

Stalling still a go! He could totally work this; Derek was leaving openings all over. “Now we’re getting somewhere! See, this is a problem people have with communicating with people who can’t read minds. Never assume the other person knows what you’re asking. You need to be precise in what you say. Leave no room for misinterpretation.”

“Just stop stalling and tell me!”

Was that a flash of bared teeth? Oh god, please come soon, Scott. Stiles took a couple of breaths and swallowed down the rising panic. It was so hard not to fidget right out of his skin.

“Okay, fine. But patience is a virtue, you know.” Stiles theatrically cleared his throat before continuing, “Because you’re rushing I’m probably going to botch the presentation. So this is all your fault. Anyway! ‘What I saw in the woods last night’ an audio essay by Stiles Stilinski--”

Derek was definitely going from scowly to actually pissed off. Damn it, why wasn’t Scott here yet?

“So, um, I saw lots of trees, and most of them didn’t have leaves, winter and all, except the pines. But that’s not quite right! Conifer would be more appropriate. Because there are pines, and firs and spruces and even the sequoia is a conifer! But by pines, I mean, a lot of pines though. Over fifteen species of pine alone native to the state. Not all fifteen right here, but that’s a lot of pine trees! Oh! Did you know the wood in most pencils is made from the Incense Cedar? It’s native to California, and that’s why pencils smell so nice. It’s one of the species of conifer; I bet you could find one in the preserve if you looked. And did you know why most of them have needles or scale-leaves? The structure of the needles, makes it possible to--”

Derek just stared at him at first, probably too dumbfounded by his first real Stiles original tangent to do anything else. Then the scowl came back en force, with more than a hint of teeth. He came forward so fast, barreling into Stiles’ space and it looked like he was planning a collar grab.

Except Stiles wasn’t there. He wished he could say it was because of a fast and graceful dodge, but in reality he’d freaked at the lunge and ended up slipping in the mud. One crutch went clattering away, and Stiles was left practically helpless to defend himself.

He’d gone down so hard that it was the impact that stole his breath at first, but through the fear was one thought. Hell no, he wasn’t going to just take it this time. His heart was roaring in his ears so loud that Stiles couldn’t hear what Derek was saying. It was so weird to see Derek’s mouth move but not hear the words.

He just... He had to make Derek hurt. Make him back off. There was a high-pitched noise in his ears, as Stiles jabbed the crutch as hard as he could at Derek’s balls. Fighting dirty totally warranted because it couldn’t happen again. Derek wasn’t allowed to touch. Stiles couldn’t let it happen again. Couldn’t!

Derek shifted and the crutch hit his thigh instead, but the grunt was progress. That was when Stiles realized the noise in his ears was himself, gasping out denials and no, over and over. He tried to hit Derek again and this time the crutch was snagged and the crosspiece at the top was jammed into his shoulder.

Everything went fuzzy, and through the haze, Stiles heard a scream. He just needed away and heaved and twisted as hard as he could. Awayawayaway. There was a crack and the pressure went away in an instant.

When Stiles could think again, Derek was a few feet away--wait, Stiles was the one a few feet away, and kind of in the road, which was bad, but space.

Derek was on his knees, holding the right one and groaning. But his stare was still laser-focused. “Just tell me what you saw when you were b-attacked. Did you see who it was?”

Phone. Phone. Couldn’t let Derek see! Distract him!

Be brave. Be sarcastic. “Why don’t you wait until the police release my description, asshole. They’re going to, you know, so that people can turn in tips to catch him, and since I told them everything, I really don’t need to cooperate with your private little interrogation. Who do you think you are, anyway?”

Come on. Unlock-- Unlock--

Derek actually reeled back and it looked like he might have even gone pale, a little. “How could you? That’s so reckless-- Don’t you know the risks to everyone? You can’t trust the police! Your family should--”

Yes. Hopefully he’d hit the right speed-dial. Now, speaker...

And what the hell was Derek even talking about? Who did he think he was? Seriously!

“Newsflash. You’re the outsider to this town now.” Come on. Come on. Pick up-- “The department is my family, asshole! My dad’s the sheriff, and I’m turning your ass in, right the fuck now.”

“Beacon Hills Sheriff's Department. Deputy Graeme speaking.”

Stiles would be lying if seeing Derek’s jaw drop for a second wasn’t satisfying, but not as satisfying as him taking few steps back, favoring one leg.

“Tara! Thank god. First, if I disappear or turn up dead, tell Dad I’m sorry. And arrest Derek Hale! He’s following me and behaving threateningly and demanding information about the case!”

Stiles knew he sounded a little, or a lot, panicked, and he hoped Tara could decipher his rushed explanation.

“Stiles, calm down,” Tara was speaking slow and steady, “Where are you?”

“On the main road through the preserve, up by--”

Derek snarled and was it Stiles’ imagination or did he see a flash of sharper than usual teeth? Please let it be his imagination.

“I can’t believe you! Risking everything-- Don’t think knowing a few deputies will protect you from what’s coming now that you’ve put a target on yourself! Everyone is going to come after you now.”

Then Derek was running and Stiles just... couldn’t hold himself up anymore. “Tara, please tell me you heard that.”

“I heard enough.” Stiles could picture her stricken expression, just from her voice, and there was rustling in the background. “I’ll send a deputy to pick you up. Now, where exactly on the road are you?”

Stiles’ reply was cut off by the rumble of an engine. A familiar engine. Stiles swore he could hear the gears protest as his baby tore around the corner, way too fast, and then slammed to a stop, breaks screaming in protest. Scott was so paying for that!

“Stiles!” Scott was running full out towards him. “Stiles. Are you okay? I felt--”

Thank god. Well, that solved one problem. “Tara, don’t worry about sending anybody. Scott’s here; you can probably hear him. He’ll bring us right to the station.”

“Just come as quickly as you can, then.”

“We will, as soon as I can get into the jeep. We won’t even stop for clean clothes, which would be really nice. I’m all muddy. Yuck!”

He hung up then, maybe a little rudely, but Scott had stopped hovering and hauled him up. They were moving towards the jeep, sort of, but Stiles just burrowed against Scott until his face was against skin and shook as the fear he’d kind of held at bay swamped him all at once.

Scott was growling again. “It was him, wasn’t it? I’ll kill--”

The shaking was winding down fast, at least. And no. “Shhh. No. Dad will take care of it. No blood on your hands, okay?”

Because Stiles could suddenly believe that Scott was capable of it, even if Scott was usually sweetness itself. Because he could feel it too. Hunt Derek down. Drive him out or end him. Rip him apart.

It was more fucking terrifying than the memories. The only thing stopping him was a different urge. One to take Scott away to somewhere safe and just... Stiles wasn’t sure.

It took Scott a minute or two to stop growling. Or maybe, not really, but it felt like it. Stiles just wanted to hide in Scott’s shoulder some more, but he’d told Tara they’d come right away. So, time to go.

“Come on. Help me to the jeep, and then could you grab my crutches? Try not to touch the lower halves. Fingerprints.”

Stiles could clearly see Derek’s hands wrapped around his crutch in his mind’s eye. If they were lucky, it’d be a match to fingerprints that were hopefully still on the inhaler.

Scott didn’t say much at first, so subdued as he supported Stiles’ hops. “I’m sorry...”

“Dude, no. We didn’t know he’d follow me. I agreed to the plan, and you got to the jeep and came as quickly as you could right?”

“Yeah, but...”

“No buts. You did good. But you better call Dr. Deaton and tell him you might be late. I don’t know how long it will take at the station and we need to give statements right away.” Stiles paused, “And if he’s okay with it, I don’t want to be alone right now. I’ll be quiet and do homework in a corner or something.”

Scott was still obviously upset and feeling guilty, but he nodded absently at Stiles and walked over to where the crutches were. He was on his phone a few steps in and Stiles heard him start explaining the situation awkwardly, but there were more important things to deal with than listening in. Like his pristine--ish, okay, but he tried-- seat and his mud-splattered clothes. He had a ratty old blanket for emergencies in the back that should do, but the real question was getting to it without getting any mud on the seat in the process.

Maybe if he could wiggle his arm back, between the seat and the side of the jeep...

Chapter Text

Stiles had the blanket almost in reach, just barely catching on his fingertips with each wriggle. Just a little more--

Of course, Scott had to come back at that exact moment and ruin things by reaching back and plopping the blanket on the passenger seat with a shy little smile.

He was grateful, he was! “I totally had that!”

Well, mostly. Especially that he could crawl into the seat and let gravity do its stuff. He felt shaky and nervous, like something bad was coming, watching, and if he didn’t catch it, it would hurt him so much worse. It was exhausting, and being safe in the jeep with Scott didn’t make it all that much easier.

But a little bit was apparently enough for Stiles to doze off in his seat and he jerked awake when Scott put the jeep into park at the station.

Tara was waiting at the front door, which he’d kind of expected, but with Dad. Definitely not expected.

Dad looked tired and a little freaked out, underneath the stern disapproving glare. “What were you two thinking?”

“I needed to face it--”

Scott stepped in front of him, shoulders drawn up and eyes downcast, effectively putting an end to his explanation. “It was my fault. I insisted that we had to go back and look for my inhaler. They’re so expensive and Mom--”

“We stayed outside the tape!” Stiles interjected, “and I insisted on coming along, because my jeep, and I had to face the fear. Don’t you see? I had to.”

Dad shot Stiles, both of them, really, an unimpressed look. “And how did that work out for you?”

“I did it, Dad! The fear was there but I stood at the spot and kept my cool. I didn’t panic or--”

At the exact same time, Scott was blurting out words too. “We found it. Just, um, Derek Hale had it. Stiles told me to try not to touch--”

They both shut up in an instant when Dad held up his hand. “All right. In the back, both of you. Let’s get the statements taken before I figure out what to do with you.”

The promise of punishment wasn’t entirely unexpected, but Stiles kind of wished Dad would call it off. On the other hand, parental right, and he probably did deserve it. So he didn’t protest as they all walked back.

And the whole office was buzzing. Looked like a couple of teams had come back with progress on the case. It was almost too much to make sense of, but Stiles was curious so he persevered.

He got snatches here and there. Something about rope and flowers and a spiral from one corner. What? And another deputy had found a car parked off to the side at the end of the Hale private road.

There were a cluster of three deputies talking around a desk as they passed through. Bill was one of them, looking more than a little disturbed. “I swear, I saw it! For just a split second there was a wolf in that hole--”

“That’s not possible. You’re letting the werewolf thing get to you. Werewolves aren’t real; this is just a nut in a costume. Don’t tell me you believe-- Oh hey, Sheriff, um...”

Dad had gone back out and put a hand on Bill’s shoulder, staring down the other deputy--some new guy transferred from the state police that Stiles didn’t know yet--with a crooked smile. “Don’t be so hard on us locals. This is getting to everyone. I’m not afraid to admit that I thought I saw claws on her for a second myself.”

New guy muttered an apology and Dad came back, but Stiles kept his ears trained on the room. The guy had sounded...weird, just for scoffing at something that wasn’t real. Like he was trying too hard or something. As Dad passed through the door again, Stiles saw the other guy walking towards the break room and pulling out a phone.

It was hard to hear because the guy was practically whispering. “Yeah. We might have a problem. No, another problem on top of that one. They’re getting too close. The first victim was-- Yes. Yes sir. No, I still don’t have clearance to pull the case file and they’re protective and shut down when I try to fish for names of the two kids. I missed when the kids were brought in earlier for statements. I’ll try sir. I’ll give a more complete report later. Out.”

Oh shit, Stiles wished he could hear the other half of the conversation. Something was so, so off with that guy. Derek’s words came pounding back into his skull. Who was this sir? Why were they so intent on getting his and Scott’s names? Was this someone else besides the psycho after him? Was Derek right?

Stiles turned and met Scott’s eyes, wide and almost afraid. As one they turned to Dad, and even if it revealed his senses Stiles had to bring it up. “One: I really don’t like that new guy. Two: wolf and claws? What?”

Dad just pressed his lips into a line, eyes narrowed.

That was worth an eye-roll. Really? “Dad, you know me, and also, this particular case directly involves me. I will ply Bill with cran-orange muffins if I have to.”

“We really need to have a talk about you trying to get involved in cases. And the meaning of confidential.” But Dad sighed as he sat down and rubbed his temples. “But I do know you, and even if I trust Bill not to cave just for muffins, I don’t want you trying to compromise him. Just this once, and you never, ever go back to the scenes without a deputy, you understand? And that includes the Hale house.”

“The Hale house?” This was news, and not good on the Derek front.

“Yes, the Hale house. We found the other half of the body buried there in a shallow grave, along with a woman’s clothes inside and evidence of someone squatting there. There was also a car registered in the names of Laura and Derek Hale that we found after the dogs lost the scent on the Hale private road.”

“And?” Because Stiles knew Dad. There was more and he was determined to know; his safety might depend on it.

“You already know. Bill thought he saw a wolf in the grave for a second, and I thought I saw claws on the girl. It was just a trick of the light.”

“Were her hands and fingers all bloody?” Stiles shivered, remembering what he’d seen. Bloody claws and rivulets running down fingers.

“Stiles--”

“No, Dad, you don’t understand. I thought I was seeing things because it was dark.”

That made Dad straighten up. “What do you mean?”

“I didn’t say anything because I thought it wasn’t real but I saw claws on her too. Bloody ones. And we told you that we thought the psycho was hurt, right?”

“So you’re saying Laura Hale was one of these werewolf...cultists too?” Dad looked very concerned. “Then, where did the claws go, if that’s true?”

Stiles wanted to say that he was getting more and more sure that it wasn’t fake werewolves, but real ones even if he really, really, really wanted it to be fake ones, but he didn’t know how to put it into words. “I don’t know. I just... I saw it too, okay? Wait. Laura Hale?!

Dad bit off what Stiles was sure was a swear. “Just preliminary. One hundred present positive identification hasn’t come through yet. We’re still waiting on dental.”

Stiles didn’t have to wonder at all. “But you recognized her, just like I recognized Derek.”

“Essentially.” Dad sighed, expression heavy with old grief. “I was the one who drew the short straw when it came to telling them about the fire. They already knew something was wrong, but-- Well. Let’s get to your statements. What’s this about Derek Hale?”

Stiles and Scott knew the deal now, and it went smoother this time. Dad got more and more upset as Stiles talked about things, and by the time Stiles got to the part with how Derek had pinned him with the crutch, Dad was gripping the armrests of his chair so hard his knuckles were white and he had a little snarl twisting his mouth.

Stiles tried to get through it without mentioning the scents or sounds, but he’d always been a terrible liar, and at the end Dad fixed him with a look.

“What are you hiding?”

“I-- Shit.” Stiles tried desperately to think of something that would work as a cover but drew a humongous blank. Truth it was. “I’m not hiding anything, exactly? Just... I don’t think anyone would believe me. I’m still, well, I’m not sure I believe me.”

Well, no, he did believe the senses were real, after today, but it was a good way to segue into the conversation.

“Tell me anyway; I don’t think you could top seeing a wolf or disappearing claws.”

That was that. Stiles took a deep breath to steady himself. “Okay, so, I’m not sure if you have talked to Scott’s mom; we told her this morning. Or she figured out something was up this morning and. Whichever. Well, about my sense of smell, anyway! I didn’t know the rest yet. Actually, we should have called her but we didn’t have our phones and then I forgot.”

“Stiles?” Dad said, one corner of his mouth twisting up, “get back on track for me?”

Stiles ducked his head, but at least Dad was being gentle about it. Could anybody blame him for wanted to dodge a bit? “So, when she heard about it, she called it hypersensitivity. Me, and then Scott later, have started to hear and smell things we shouldn’t be able to. Like...”

He knew he had to do something to prove it to Dad, so Stiles took a deep sniff, looking for a smell that he wouldn’t be able to guess from any other clue. Hard going, because there wasn’t much to smell that wasn’t visible. On the other hand, he smelled something that made him scowl at Dad.

Dad, you snuck a cherry-filled donut earlier! I hope you’re proud of yourself, because I’m so taking that out of your treat bank.”

With a startled look on his face, Dad brushed his hands over his uniform, but he’d left no visible evidence. There was only the hint of powdered sugar, and oily dough, and saccharine cherry flavor scent on his hands and his breath. Dad didn’t even like cherry.

“What? How did you-- I don’t believe it.”

“Like I said. But yeah, I found where the inhaler had been by smell and I found Derek watching me because I heard him. I didn’t smell him then because he was downwind. Actually, both times he came at us from downwind. Weird.”

For almost a full minute the room was just full of staring as Dad and Tara obviously tried to process the new information, then Dad groaned and ran his hands over his head.

“I can’t put this in the report; I’ll be laughed right off the force. But I believe you’re not lying, so if you can smell that acutely now, did you... uh, recognize Derek’s scent?”

“What do... oh.” Stiles grimaced at the floor, but at least Dad hadn’t pronounced it was completely impossible, end of story, even if the statement had wiggle room of the ‘I believe you believe, even if it isn’t actually real’ variety.

“No, Derek didn’t smell like him, but there was still something off about his scent, and with the way he was acting, he made me all nervous and all my hair stand on end.”

Dad considered that for a minute then nodded to himself. “Well, I still want him brought in as a person of interest, and you two, stay out of the preserve. As far as I’m concerned, no one is safe there right now. Now, what did Melissa tell you two about this hypersensitivity?”

Scott took the ball and ran with it this time. “She said that she didn’t think it was serious at the time, but to call her if anything changed.”

Stiles added his two cents quickly. “But we didn’t have our phones at the time and after everything...”

Dad held up his hand and they both went quiet. A moment later he had the phone to his ear and Stiles winced and squirmed the whole time Dad relayed the afternoon’s events to Scott’s mom.

He could hear her on the other end but the phone speaker made her sound tinny and distorted so it was hard to understand what she was saying. Dad would relay anything important, anyway, and a wiped out exhaustion was hitting him hard again all of the sudden, so Stiles leaned against Scott’s shoulder...

Dad’s hand on his shoulder made him jerk awake to an apologetic smile. “Hey. Sorry for waking you up, but we had to confiscate your crutches for evidence. Melissa just got off shift and she agreed to bring over another pair and some clean clothes. Then, Scott tells me you’re going to be helping out with him at the animal clinic, right? That’s good, but after that, I expect you to come right home, understand?”

“I understand! Rozumiem! Ich verstehe!” Stiles completely ignored Scott’s little mutter of ‘show off’ and rolled right on. “But is Scott’s mom bringing my laptop for when I get remanded to a corner and told not to touch anything? For homework.”

“For looking up everything you can about anything related to people who think they’re werewolves, you mean.”

“And homework!” And homework was his lowest priority, but he’d at least finish off what was due tomorrow morning done.

Dad shook his head, laughing. “Then aren’t you lucky I thought of asking for your laptop and backpack. But let’s head out. Melissa should be here in a few minutes.”

“Is that new guy from the state police still out there? Then no, I’m staying in here.”

“Stiles?” Then understanding flashed across Dad’s face. “Is this about the hypersensitivity?”

“Yeah. It was hard to hear, but earlier, he was on his phone and I overheard him say something about a problem and not being able to make somebody tell him our names. After all that’s happened today, I’m entitled to be a little paranoid, okay?”

Dad nodded. “Well, I’ll keep a closer eye on him. I don’t like how he’s been acting with my deputies to begin with. But right now, he’s out investigating a hotel room that was taken out in Laura Hale’s name a week and a half ago.”

“Okay then!” Stiles stood up, but realized something. “Great. But how am I going anywhere without crutches?”

He could probably walk on the cast, his leg didn’t hurt at all right now, but doctors tended to frown on that. Actually, the no pain was really unusual, because he’d missed his afternoon dose of the painkillers entirely and Stiles couldn’t remember taking the morning one either. Weird, but later. Figuring out how to walk now.

Scott and Dad had his back, and a suggestion and a couple minutes of experimenting later, Stiles hopped out to meet Scott’s mom, with Scott supporting him with an arm wrapped around his waist. Not elegant or fast, but then, neither were the crutches.

Scott’s mom gave him a hug in greeting, hell yeah good safe feeling, but then smacked both of them upside the head. She was a weird combination of worried and furious.

“Don’t you ever do something that stupid again because of your inhaler.”

She followed that up with more hugs for both of them. “Did you really think I’d be mad?”

“The last time--” Scott flinched when she smacked him again, but even Stiles could tell it was too gentle to even hurt.

She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms. “The last time you were horsing around and dropped it down the storm drain. The time before you possibly lost it in the river, but it certainly didn’t come back from that little camping trip. And don’t think for a second I don’t know what you two were really up to with that trip. And the time before that, you let Stiles take it apart and run experiments to see how it worked.”

“I didn’t mean to break it! Also, nine years old.” Even after all this time, Stiles felt the need to reiterate those two facts.

Scott’s mom shot him a look that was equal parts exasperated and fond. “The point is, those other times were all because you were careless with your inhaler. This time... well, I’m just grateful you both made it out alive. Besides, I saw how your hoodie was shredded and I know you keep your inhaler in the front pouch.”

And she had a point. Dad had had a point. And even if it was the deer and not the shredding, it wasn’t lost because Scott was carelessly trying to juggle it this time. Scott hung his head and Stiles fidgeted under the weight of their looks.

Scott’s mom was first to break the silence and thrust a bag and then a pair of crutches at Stiles’ chest. “Here. Go change. I’ve got your laptop and backpack in my car.”

And well, Stiles didn’t want Scott to be horribly late to work, so he hobbled his way through a quick trip to the bathroom. Hurray for handicap bars; Stiles didn’t even fall on his face while pulling up his pants. The biggest problem was that the new clothes didn’t smell like Scott, only laundry soap that drowned out the smell of Scott on his skin, and that made him twitchy and the back of his brain wail unhappily.

Dad was waiting when he hobbled back out and got a big hug. The addition of Dad’s scent helped the wailing a little bit, and Stiles felt much less twitchy, so a couple of heartfelt ‘see you laters’ had Stiles on his way out the door. Scott and his mom were loading Scott’s bike into the jeep.

The wailing got even louder with Scott so close, and Stiles found himself struggling mightily not to give in to the urges. And losing.

Scott leaned back into the almost-tackle, though, a little pleased hum sounding in his throat. So Stiles let it go and huffed against Scott’s neck, breathing him in nice and deep, and maybe rubbed his cheek over Scott’s shoulder a little. Or a lot.

Of course, Scott’s mom was right there and looked at them with her eyebrows drawn together and head tilted.

Scott just shrugged at her. “Don’t ask. We don’t know either.”

She gave them a crooked smile, but confusion still reigned. “I’m asking anyway. Are you two...together?”

Stiles had to laugh a little. “Nope! I just plan on living vicariously through Scott’s romantic exploits until the thought of touching people who aren’t family doesn’t make my skin crawl anymore.”

Distraction! And it worked, because now there was a look probably directed at Scott, but hard to say for sure, wrapped up in each other as they seldom were outside of waking up in the morning after a sleep-over. That... was probably going to change from now on.

“That implies there are romantic exploits going on.”

Scott started fidgeting and went a brilliant red, mostly along his neck and the tips of his ears. As he stammered, Stiles hummed a little... noise, that he guessed the back of his brain now thought was soothing, and wrapped an arm around Scott’s waist.

All of this without input from his conscious mind. If the back of his brain was going to start hijacking him like this regularly he and the back of his brain needed to have words. But this wasn’t so bad, and Scott did relax, going almost limp against him. So! Back to the topic at hand.

“Scott wants to ask a girl to go to Lydia’s party on Friday.”

“Do I get to meet this girl at some point?”

The sputtering Scott had started into when Stiles had made the proclamation got louder and...sputtery-er.

Stiles patted Scott’s shoulder, and turned the motion into a slide to get more of Scott on his clothes. “What that means is that Scott needs to get up the courage to talk to her for more than a few seconds first.”

She laughed. “Fair enough. Now try to explain why you’re cuddling in public.”

Well, she already knew about super nose from this morning. Stiles rested his chin on Scott’s shoulder as he tried to find words that made sense. “Well, uh, we think it has to do with the hypersensitivity, maybe. Scott got it too, later in the day, and I know we were supposed to call but no phones. Anyway! Scott smells like, really good to me. Calming and safe and home and happiness, you know? You and Dad too, just different somehow, and really don’t ask for that one because I seriously can’t put it into words. So, when I have Scott’s smell on me I feel less scared and twitchy and the new clothes were Scott-smell free so! Cuddling.”

Scott nodded along with the explanation. “Yeah, that, pretty much. And when Stiles smells like me, uh. Yeah. It’s good? And I like it when I smell like him too.”

There was silence for a moment, then she put a hand to her temples. “Part of me thinks I should be looking for the hidden cameras, but I don’t think you two would be that crass.”

“We’re not kidding. I’m sure we’d be freaking out more, if not for the psycho who might be in a werewolf suit. But yeah, freaking about about crazy senses and weird urges is so back burner.”

Scott’s mom just stared at them a little longer and then shook herself. “We’re talking about this later, but now I need to process and you need to hurry to the clinic. It won’t look good if you’re too late.”

They broke apart, and Scott’s mom clicked her tongue at them before pulling first Scott and the Stiles into another hug. Stiles didn’t even try to hide breathing in her scent--at least whatever perfume she’d been wearing had faded a little--and rubbing his cheek against her shoulder. Something about the scent underneath the perfume created a pull in him, amidst the feelings of warmth and home and safety. All Stiles could figure out was that it was a different kind of pull than the psycho’s scent started.

She gave them a ‘be safe’ complete with mom voice (tm) and walked back into the station. She and Dad were probably going to talk, and it would probably be about how to punish them for the latest stunt, but somehow even that made Stiles feel good and giddy. He really hoped them getting together someday went beyond idle teenage boy family-fantasies.

They didn’t bother talking as Scott sped--and so not taking responsibility if they got caught--to the animal clinic. Going in the back door--always looked except for a key Scott had a copy of--made Stiles feel special.

Then he immediately felt like a puppy who’d had an accident on the rug. The vet was a pretty big guy and was staring down at them from right inside the door with a mildly disapproving look that still managed to hit like a ton of bricks.

His scent hit hard too, mostly covered with animals and fear and pain, and a hundred different kinds of wrong that Stiles figured was different sicknesses. Under that was warm skin and soap with a faint hint of powdery smelling plants. And the same smoky smell that Ms. Morrell had, for some reason.

The back of Stiles’ brain did not like all those hurt, sick smells, but couldn’t seem to decide between make them better and run the hell away. So he froze.

Dr. Deaton was talking and it finally penetrated his brain. His tone was soft and smooth, and suddenly Stiles understood one reason this man was considered such a good vet. Something about his voice was perfectly soothing.

Except for the words. “Scott. I think you forgot an important detail about your friend. I’m glad he wants to volunteer but crutches kind of limit what he could do to help out.”

Scott cringed a little. Stiles to the rescue! Maybe. “I know I’m a little awkward right now, but I’m determined, and if there’s nothing I can do, just point me at a corner and I’ll be quiet as a mouse.”

Dr. Deaton’s gaze flicked over them, perfectly calm and measured. “Somehow, I don’t think the real reason you’re here is to volunteer.”

Stiles was about to protest that he was definitely there to volunteer--because he was now that he knew he was; it counted!--but Scott cringed even more and looked guilty. Well, so much for that.

“I think you should tell me the real reason.” Dr. Deaton crossed his arms, all you shall not pass. He’d make a good Gandalf, actually; he had the right air about him.

On the other hand, oh hell. But he’d managed it twice today without going into a complete panic, so he could tell someone again. Just maybe not in so many words. “I just, um, was attacked last night and my dad is at the station working on it. And I can’t... I mean, alone is really, really not good right now, and hanging around Scott makes me feel safe. And volunteering will look good for college applications and help out an unsung hero of Beacon Hills.”

The frown that had been deepening on Dr. Deaton’s face twitched up into a brief smile. “You’re laying it on a bit thick.”

Stiles would have appreciated making the vet smile more if the crawling discomfort at telling a total stranger--that he had no way of begging, bribing or blackmailing into silence--hadn’t wracked him with shudders.

But Scott had his back, pressing against him and looping an arm around the bottom of his ribs. Having Scott there, scent more immediate for being so close, helped a little, and when Scott tipped his head so his chin hooked over Stiles’ shoulder and his nose brushed right under Stiles’ ear, it got even better.

The ‘I’ve got you’ was breath more than actual words, and Stiles’ eyes fluttered shut, but only for a second. Couldn’t feel safe, not with Dr. Deaton so close. But he didn’t need to have his eyes all the way open so maybe that was why he saw it.

Through his lashes, Stiles could see that Dr. Deaton was surprised or maybe worried. His eyes had widened a little, and he’d leaned just a fraction of an inch back. And his mouth had fallen open, as if Dr. Deaton had forgotten to keep it closed.

But when Stiles opened his eyes all the way for a better look, all of it was replaced by a perfectly bland and placid expression. Curious and curiouser. Maybe Dr. Deaton had never seen platonic necking before, because Stiles could admit that was...pretty much what this scent exchange thing they had going was. It actually made Stiles feel a little self-conscious, but not enough to pull away from Scott.

“So. Yeah. Like I said, Scott helps me not freak out and go into panic attacks so much.”

“I can see that,” Tone as dry as a desert, and Dr. Deaton’s expression warmed from bland to faintly amused, “but if you are going to stay, I’ll need to ask you two not to do that in front of the patients. It’s not very professional.”

“What? So do dogs and cats get in on the judging now?” Stiles was pretty sure Dr. Deaton meant the people who paid him, not the animals, but he had to ask just to be a little shit.

And he got the most subtle eye-roll of all time in response. It was like barely visible. “I’ve found that the owners are my patients as much, if not more so, than their pets.”

“Right! Well, we can hold off on the cuddling, can’t we, Scott?” Actually, Stiles really wasn’t sure, but he’d try to get allowed to stay. Scott gave an enthusiastic nod and the breaking apart was so not what he really wanted but, well, sign of faith.

Dr. Deaton looked them over for a few moments, heaved a sigh, and then gestured for them to follow. On the way out to the front, he went over Scott’s duties for the afternoon, and then gave Stiles another look-over. “I don’t suppose you’re good with computers?”

“Me? I’m no hacker extraordinaire but I can hold my own with basic computer stuff. And I catch on quick! So long as I can actually pay attention to the whole lesson, anyway.”

That got a thoughtful noise from the vet. “Well, if you can catch on, it will save Scott and myself from going back and forth to check in patients and take payment.”

“Sounds like things I can probably learn to do! It’s just programs right?” Stiles could so do things like that.

So began a lesson in the systems the vet office used. It wasn’t as easy as Stiles would have thought. The system was a complicated database that had everything on each patient and the client information. The system for taking payments was simple in comparison. But after a few dry runs, Stiles got the hang of it and was helping a little old lady get her itty bitty dog signed in. After that he was left alone by Dr. Deaton, and Scott disappeared in back to help.

Stiles got to his homework, including the lacrosse stuff, in between chatting with the human patients--which, yeah, he could see where Dr. Deaton was coming from; some of them were neurotic about their pets--answering the phone and taking payments. It didn’t take as long as he would have expected, given the distractions. On the other hand, managed distractions were something that helped Stiles focus--give his brain a break every few minutes to control unplanned mental wanderings.

Then. Werewolves. Google. Wikipedia. Link after link after link. He desperately wanted to print things out but could only copy and past the important URLs into a document to print later. There were anecdotes. There were lists of books, some obviously more serious about things than others. Stories of (were)wolf attacks. The wolves of Paris, the beast of Gevaudan, wolves of Ansbach, Sarlat, Soissons...

Pictures. Way too many sexualized ones with big obviously male werewolves, grasping or crouching over women. They turned his stomach, especially the ones where the posing-- Too close to home. And with shaky fingers Stiles tried to type out a search for werewolves and rape, but, no. Not tonight. He didn’t think he could handle it.

So real wolves was next on his list, and that was so much easier to deal with. Wolves were kind of really interesting. Actually very interesting, and Stiles almost forgot about what he was supposed to be doing. One dude had to clear his throat twice to get Stiles’ attention and get signed in.

But there were videos of wolves playing and being a pack, and articles about behavior and pack structure. So many things he hadn’t known before, like serial monogamy and how wolves only denned when the pups were about to be born, and the mother’s mate wasn’t even allowed in, but brought food to the entrance. How packs were families, and the hierarchy he’d thought he’d known wasn’t really real, except like in zoos. Figures, humans creating pecking orders that weren’t really there. But he read about alphas, betas and omegas anyway--and clicked back hard on a few weird fiction stories, what the fuck?--because werewolf stuff had mentioned those words a few times.

Stiles exhausted his online sources pretty quickly, but made sure to write out a list of books that he’d maybe be able to find at the library about werewolves and real wolves.

The flow of patients was dying down, and Stiles knew from Scott’s description, that the clinic had appointment hours, and then a little bit of time later for any emergencies that couldn’t be squeezed in otherwise. A check into the system showed him that he’d just signed in the last scheduled patient, and he shuddered at the procedure. She was putting her cute little dog to sleep. The scent from the dog, though, so, so, so wrong. Not just sick, Stiles thought, dying.

Stiles looked up at the woman, who he thought worked at the local bank, cradling the thin, so thin, dog in her lap. “Oh man, I’m... I’m sorry.”

“It’s for the best. With the cancer, he’s suffering so--” Her voice broke and she muffled a sob with her free hand.

Stiles was hobbling out into the waiting room through the propped open gate before he could think better of it. He dropped his crutches as he tried to get closer to the dog, which whined pitifully in the woman’s lap, eyes dull and staring. The dog did look like he was in a lot of pain, and Stiles wished so hard he could help.

What could he do? Big fat nothing. “I’m sorry. I wish I could... I don’t know, do something.”

The woman was still very upset, and Stiles didn’t look too long at the wetness on her cheeks, but she smiled a thin, sad smile that was painful to look at. “Norbert always liked to be scratched behind the ears.”

Norbert was an awful-- Yeah, bad time to even think that. But if Norbert liked scratches behind the ears, scratches behind the ears Stiles would give. He just wished he could do more for the poor thing.

The pain when he touched the dog was so unexpected that he gasped, losing his balance and landing in an awkward sprawl. It felt like ants made of lava and sickness crawling up into him and lighting his bones on fire. And--

What the holy fuck?!

The veins on the back of his hand looked black, sick and unnatural. The black seemed to be moving under his skin, and the pain got worse as he watched it, until the shaking of his hand broke the contact. Then Norbert was licking his hand and wagging his little tail. His eyes were still cloudy, but so much more alive than before.

The woman was staring down at Stiles, looking shocked and confused, but was immediately distracted by the clearing of a throat behind him.

Stiles jumped, so caught up in the dog and the fading pain that he hadn’t noticed Dr. Deaton coming out. The vet smiled down at him, smile and eyes brighter than Stiles had seen all day.

“I think Norbert would thank you for trying to help, if he had the words. It takes a rare spirit of compassion to reach out and try to give comfort in the final moments.” Dr. Deaton lifted his gaze. “Now, I’m afraid it’s time, Nancy. Come on back with Norbert.”

Stiles was still on the floor as the woman, Nancy, picked her dog up. The dog gave a little bark and Stiles turned himself to watch the dog go. He maybe even felt a little choked up himself, and the pain still echoed in his bones.

Dr. Deaton stood by to let Nancy walk through, and something about his look made Stiles think the man had seen the black, but he just told Stiles to close the gate on his way back to the reception desk.

Numbly, Stiles did as told, and really, there was a lot more research he could do. He could start on the Hales, or he could look up some of the other terms he’d seen in his search for werewolves. Wolfsbane, silver bullets, and other things like that.

Hales first, Stiles decided. The fire came up the most, and Stiles reread the articles, even though he remembered pretty well. Not much new there. Thirteen Hales living in the home, two survivors that hadn’t been at home that night, ten dead--Wait.

Stiles dug a little more, fingers flying. Oh hell, not everyone in the house had died. The article from a few months after mentioned beloved basketball coach Peter Hale had been what should have been fatally burned but miraculously survived the burns, only to fall into a coma from brain damage that he wasn’t expected to ever wake from.

What had happened to him? And if he’d lived, why was he still in Beacon Hills when Stiles knew that the other Hales had cut and run as soon as the funerals were done? Stiles typed in a few more parameters, feeling cold in his bones. Leaving family behind, even with no hope... what the hell. He hoped there was an explanation, but no, just another political piece from a few years ago, mentioning the expense went to take care of long-term patients with no family support and calling out Peter Hale--listed as in a persistent vegetative state, but stable and off life-support--as the most egregious example. A counter article that came up next countered that the rest of the family’s life-insurance policies paid for his bills.

Stiles went to the hospital website. There was a little well-wishes board for the long-term patients, or well, the families, mostly, that people could post little notes and pictures to, that he’d used a lot when Mom had been dying. All the long-term and terminal patients were listed. Sure enough, there was one for Peter Hale, but his section was achingly empty. Listed as catatonic though. Huh. That was an improvement, wasn’t it?

Coma, vegetative state, catatonia... It sounded almost like he was getting better, but very slowly. Stiles looked down at his hand, still feeling the achy-sick feeling in his bones, though only a whisper now.

Forget the Hales, he needed to look that up. Typing feeling someone’s pain brought up some very interesting articles, but nothing Stiles could really relate to as far as the experience he’d just had.

Stiles was pondering how to word another search when Scott came out, with a sad smile.

And no one was in the office, so no one would know if they shared a little hug. It made Stiles feel so much better, like the last whisper of pain went away. Scott tucked Stiles’ head under his chin, arms loose over his chest.

“I heard about what happened with Norbert. Sweet of you to try to help him feel better.”

“Norbert, really?” But Stiles didn’t hear Nancy or Dr. Deaton close--just some soft crying that made his heart clench--so he had to bring it up. “I think Dr. Deaton saw, but like, dude, my hand turned black. Well, not all black, kind of like black was going up my veins, and I felt so much pain. Then Norbert was acting better somehow. Did he mention that?”

“No, definitely not. Is that what you’re...? Maybe try, um taking pain instead of feeling? Norbert was acting better than he has in months. Still really sick, obviously, but he wagged his tail at me.”

Stiles nudged his head back against Scott, feeling like he was getting somewhere. “Good idea.”

A few tabs later, he’d read about a lot of psychic and paranormal believers talking about feeling and healing pain and illness. “So, like, new superpower, paranormal empathy?”

“Could be. I mean, you felt something with Erica too, right?”

“I think I like super-lacrosse skills better,” Stiles grumbled, but the door suddenly opened and they both scrambled to not be caught cuddling. In the scramble to not cuddle, Stiles totally missed closing down his laptop, and when Dr. Deaton came through, Stiles just knew he saw the page, and hell, probably the other open tabs. Great, Dr. Deaton was probably thinking that he was some paranormal nut now. What with the werwolves and psychic phenomena and...and the Hale fire. Well, maybe he wasn’t a speed reader.

And maybe he was distracted by Nancy, clutching a blanket to her chest and walking out with a tear-streaked face. Stiles knew what was in that blanket. Oh god. Poor dog. But she smiled at him and Stiles tried to smile back.

The silence after she walked out the door was oppressive, and Stiles was about ready to spill about everything just for some relief, when there was a sudden jingling from Dr. Deaton’s pocket. He pulled out a cell phone and sighed at it.

“I have to take this. Scott, why don’t you start taking the dogs on their evening walks? Stiles, man the desk.”

Not hard to do! And maybe it was abuse of powers, but Stiles was curious, okay, so he tried to focus on what Dr. Deaton was saying as he walked into the other room again behind Scott.

A few pleasantries later, Stiles heard Dr. Deaton’s voice grow colder. “Yes, I read it this morning. I don’t know what you expect me to do.”

Stiles wished he could hear the other end of the conversation. He thought the other voice was a little high-pitched--woman, maybe?--but that was all he could make out.

“Well, you seem to have things well in hand--” A pause. “You know very well why I am no longer a part of that. And we both know why you stayed.”

Dr. Deaton laughed, but there was no humor in it. “It’s not about balance; it never was. At least be honest with yourself. And the answer is still no.”

There was a thump, like a hand against metal. Dr. Deaton’s voice was tight and strained now. “What? Of course he’d figure it out, but I can’t believe-- Don’t you dare tell me he isn’t feral now. He has been a menace ever since--”

He cut off with a hiss. “Of course I won’t throw him to the wolves or deny sanctuary, but it stops at that. This is your mess, especially if he’s coming; I’m not involved. You didn’t truly expect different, did you?”

There was another pause, then a sigh from Dr. Deaton. “That went well.”

No, no it hadn’t. Because Stiles might be paranoid as hell, but that was not a good conversation. Okay, maybe he was jumping to conclusions, but what else could Dr. Deaton have read about, really?

The tinkle of the bell pulled Stiles out of his thoughts. Must be an emergency, so--

The greeting died in his throat. The musk, spicy and hot, so much like him. Every hair stood on end, and Stiles so pushed the wheeled chair as far back as he could with his good leg.

The woman was gorgeous, tall and dark skinned and wow, but the look in her eyes made Stiles want to run and never stop. She took a deep breath and sashayed closer, voice like honey and velvet and scary as hell. Or maybe it was the way she licked her lips.

“Well, that wasn’t hard. I had a hunch the good doctor might be sheltering you, cutie. I almost didn’t believe it was true.”

Each step made her hips sway, and her back had just enough arch to perfectly put the cleavage peaking out of her tight shirt on display. She walked like sex--or how Stiles imagined sex might be like--and like Lady Death.

Stiles swallowed and swallowed again, heart pounding and palms sweating. Couldn’t look her in the face, or chest or lower-- She wasn’t wearing shoes. A chance to get her the hell out.

“O--Okay, one! First, this is a vet clinic and this time of day is reserved for emergencies and I so don’t see a sick dog or cat with you. And two, no shoes no service. So I’m gonna-- You should leave.”

“Why would you want that? Oh, you’re so cute I could just eat you up. I’m tempted to just claim you myself so why don’t we get to know each other better, mm?” Her laughter made his stomach roll and she was taking slow, hip-cocking steps towards the gate, eyes almost glowing, and her lips still moist from where she’d licked them again. Oh god, she really was going to eat him, wasn’t she? Like literally.

She was at the gate and Stiles was about ready to scream for help when suddenly she stopped and frowned. Her hand was an inch, less than, away from the gate, ready to pull it open, and there was nothing in her way but she just stopped.

And Dr. Deaton and Scott both burst through the other door. Scott was on him in a second, and Stiles managed to get to his feet in time to meet the hug. Much, much better. With Scott here, Stiles could push the fear he felt at this creepy bitch down.

Her expression was a snarl for a quick second, then back to the lascivious smile. Yeah, no, Stiles just-- Well, he had to be between her and Scott because, because-- Because. Stupid back of his brain.

Dr. Deaton hardly gave them a glance, focused on creepy bitch. His voice was calm and steady, and so was his heart. “My employee is correct; you have no business here. So I will have to ask you to leave.”

She ignored Dr. Deaton completely, her smile growing wider and mocking. “Oh, I see now. You’ve got a brand new puppy. No wonder you got snappy! Don’t worry, cutie; I won’t hurt him. Why don’t both of you come with me?”

“Yeah, hell no. Why don’t you leave?” Stiles felt the snarl on his face, and oh he did not like how she was threatening Scott. Okay, not in so many words, but the threat was there; he could feel it. Violent urges back like whoa. “So get the hell out.”

Then, finally, she looked at Dr. Deaton, lip curled. “You can’t keep them in this building forever, you know. What Duke wants, he gets.”

“Be that as it may be, I insist that you leave.” Wow, some kind of steel in Dr. Deaton, but Stiles still didn’t know what the hell to make of him.

She looked them all over, assessing and bold, then shrugged. “It’s too soon to make any real moves yet, anyway. Not with the cutie right in the middle of that anxiously protective stage.” A wink. “But I’ll be seeing you around, cutie--By the way, what is your name? I shouldn’t keep calling you that since we’re going to be getting to know each other so well soon.”

“My name is... Gullible, if you think I’d ever fall for a line like that. Get the hell out, now.” Stiles just wanted to rip her smirk right off her face. Or sit down with his head between his knees until the sickness and fear subsided. Either or.

She walked out laughing, like she was getting exactly what she wanted. Dr. Deaton went forward, put up the closed sign, and watched out the door for what felt like ages before he finally spoke up.

“You two need to leave right now. She’ll be expecting you to wait and give her time to sneak back to follow you, so this is your best chance. I can take care of the rest of the clinic tonight.”

That made Stiles uncomfortable, in the he was missing something important way. “Do you know her or something?”

“Let’s just say... I know her type. Now go.”

Normally, Stiles would have protested on principle, but yeah, Dr. Deaton was making him uncomfortable too. Getting home it was. He didn’t have to look at Scott to know Scott didn’t mind, and he didn’t breathe easier until they were in his jeep.

“What was that?”

“I wish I knew, Scott. I so wish I knew.”

They drove the rest of the way in silence, and Stiles was glad, because there was so much he needed to remember. He had to tell Dad.

Scott only hesitated when he had his bike and helmet ready to go. “Are you...? I could stay.”

Stiles wanted so bad to say yes, but, if he relied on Scott all the time... Besides. “Dude, I’m due for some serious nightmares tonight. You need your sleep for lacrosse tomorrow; you want to make it past the scrimmages and get first line, right?”

Scott agreed reluctantly, but kept looking back as he pedaled away, at least until he almost ran into a light post.

With that, Stiles hobbled inside and right into Dad’s arms. He was so glad Dad had heard his jeep and come to the door, because he so needed the comfort. They just stood in silence for who knows how long, then Dad finally pulled back a little.

“I’m guessing the clinic didn’t go so well?”

“No. Yes, I mean the clinic was fine, but there was this creepy bitch and she--” Stiles shuddered. “Do you think the psycho could have had accomplices?”

Dad frowned and pulled back further. “Sit down and tell me what happened.”

So Stiles did, curling up more and more on himself as he described the creepy bitch and what had happened. At the end Dad pulled him into a hug, and didn’t protest when Stiles curled onto his lap. Hands stroked up and down his back and brushed over the fuzz of his hair and finally the tension started leaving again. It was only when he was calm that Dad spoke up.

“I don’t know what to make of this woman or this Duke guy she mentioned, but I’ll send a deputy to talk to the vet tomorrow. We’ll look into it, and post some deputies to watch the school too. We’ll keep you and your friends safe from all these creeps; don’t worry. But right now, what I think you need most is a good night’s sleep.”

Stiles didn’t want to worry, but he did anyway as he went through the motions of getting ready for bed, cursing the cast and crutches all the way. Dad got ready too, at least, so good. Dad needed sleep too; he looked exhausted.

And then, well, Stiles couldn’t hold back, standing in the doorway to the master bedroom before he could think better of it. “Dad... I know, um, but just for tonight?”

He hadn’t crawled into bed with Dad since Mom had died, but... tonight he needed it so bad. Comfort, closeness.

Dad just beckoned him closer with a smile. “I get it. C’mere.”

Stiles did as told and got a kiss to the forehead and tucked under Dad’s chin. Surrounded by safe scents of Dad and home, and the warmth, he closed his eyes and tried to forget...

Chapter Text

Dad? Scott? Mom? Dad?! Where-- No, no, no. Had to find... Scott! Dad, please. Scot, where-- Had to find Scott! Smell him, so close. Call Scott. Scott. Scott, Scott--!

Stiles jerked awake, breathing hard and with a pounding heart. He immediately buried his face in the skin right in front of his nose and breathed deep to relax. Scott’s scent-- Wait. Wait.

“Scott?”

Scott wrinkled his nose, grumbling sleepily, and rolled over on top of Stiles--not uncomfortable, except how the hell had they...?--then blearily blinked down. “Stiles, how did you get in my... bed?”

Stiles understood the confusion perfectly, because so not a bed under his back. And so not a ceiling. Rock and dirt and-- “Where the hell are we?”

Scott scrambled back and managed to bang his head on the stone overhead, unleashing little streams of dry soil down on both of them. He cursed, hands to his head, and Stiles felt sorry, but there were important things, like wriggling so he could peak out and see what the faint predawn light could tell him about their situation.

And good news and bad news. He recognized that stream tumbling down those rocks right outside. And he recognized that stream as being literally miles from home.

“Dude, I think this is where we used to play Indiana Jones all the time, remember?”

“What, really?” Scott punctuated his surprise by scrambling so much more effectively out into the light, two working legs and all, and gasping. “Whoa, really! You’re right. This is our cave and everything!”

With a little flailing on Stiles’ part, Scott helped them both fully out into the cold dawn air. It really was the “cave”, though calling it a cave was being really generous to anyone but an overly imaginative six-year old’s adventure fantasies. It was actually more of a shallow depression into the hillside, and protected from being washed away by rain and weather by a stone overhang at the entrance that had been carved into by the stream once upon a time, before the course had changed to tumble down the rocky slope nearby instead. It was actually fairly well protected from the elements, with the stone backbone of the hill shunting the rainwater away, and the hill itself protecting it from the prevailing winds.

And something had been digging into the hillside at the back of the depression to make it deeper, by the looks of things. Recently.

While Stiles had been studying the hill, Scott had apparently found something very interesting between them. He was looking down, utterly confused, and Stiles finally followed his gaze to-- What the hell?

“Please tell me I didn’t actually sleepwalk miles into the woods last night, and sleep-excavate part of the hill on top of it.”

“Okay. You haven’t been sleepwalking and--” Scott whined in protest as Stiles shoved filthy hands into his face.

Stiles was getting more and more awake by the minute and this was getting less and less of a good thing with every passing second. And it hadn’t been a good thing to begin with. “Dad will panic if he wakes up and finds me gone!”

Among other things. Stiles wanted to pace, but the cast was heavy and itchy on his leg. “We need to get to a phone right away.”

“If I remember right, there’s houses like, maybe half a mile that way. But I’m rinsing the dirt off first.” Scott rubbed at the dirt smeared across his nose with a half-hearted glare.

It wasn’t a bad idea, because even if Stiles was desperate to get in contact with Dad, he was still aware of how he must look. He could just imagine walking out of the woods, looking like a filthy madman and ending up with doors slammed in his face instead of access to a phone. If Scott was right, and Stiles was sure he was, the neighborhood was the rich one that Lydia and Jackson and a few of the other super affluent families lived in. They would so not be appreciative of dirt inside their homes.

But the water was cold. Stiles barely held back a yelp as he rinsed, and Scott who liked to sleep shirtless even in winter had chattering teeth. Early mornings at this time of year sucked.

“So.”

“So!” Stiles hugged himself for a second against the chill that was trying to settle into his bones, and then slung an arm around Scott’s shoulders. Mm, warm. Also, necessary for getting out of here.

Scott grumbled some more, but only a little, and they set off. They got maybe thirty-forty feet before the smell hit them.

It was him, scent so thick, hot and spicy, that Stiles choked on it. The sheer, overwhelming wrongness was still there, and today Stiles could put a name to pain, and a hell of a lot of it. So was fury, and those three scents drowned out almost everything else. But under them, struggling valiantly to the surface was that faint sweetness, along with bitter smells and wet fur. And blood, cloying and metallic, in a mix of both old and fresh.

The pull was as present as ever, and while the rest of Stiles’ brain was freaking the hell out, the new instincts at the back of his brain were quite contented with the state of affairs. Like his scent was supposed to be there.

Scott was visibly struggling against the pull, and Stiles was trying equally hard to ignore the back of his brain and not start screaming both. He was partly failing, because he was pretty sure the litany of ‘no please’ was him.

Stiles was going to blame the actual screaming on the fucking mountain lion instead.

It was dead, not that it helped. Very dead, with the hind paws jammed between the branches of a young oak and all but decapitated. The back of the neck, right at the base of the skull was torn to shreds, and the front was neatly cut, which was probably the reason that the trunk and the ground were completely soaked with blood. The other reason was that the belly was slit open, all the way to the ribs, and yep, the inside was empty.

Stiles recognized the heart, what was probably the liver, and a pair of something else that might maybe be the kidneys, laid out neatly on a flat rock that had probably not been in that spot before. He had a hunch that the freshly turned up earth a few yards away was where the rest of the organs were. And, well, he was kind of glad that he didn’t have to see fresh guts again, but... why?

His scent was all over. The psycho had done this and left the mountain lion hanging for them to stumble into.

What a sick fuck. Stiles felt like he was going to throw up, except. He didn’t. Or, part of him didn’t. Something about the smell and the fact that it was him, and the display, made him ravenously hungry. Know what? Stiles was blaming that on forgetting to eat dinner last night.

Scott was gaping like a fish beside him. “Dude. That-- The psycho left it for us, didn’t he? Like some kind of... Godfather thing or something?”

Stiles... didn’t know. Something didn’t feel right about that assumption. “Somehow, a wild mountain lion lacks the emotional impact of a favorite horse. But I could see intimidation of the ‘Hi there, I just fragged an apex predator; guess what I could do to you’ kind. Maybe.”

That didn’t feel right either, but Stiles just couldn’t wrap his head around things with his brain and his instincts, old and new, pulling him in a dozen different directions.

Scott shook his head. “So creepy. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Yeah-- Wait.” Stiles didn’t like staying any longer than he had to, but even with his brain fried like it was, he had to make an attempt to gather more clues. They’d make more sense when he could sit down and do some pondering later, he hoped.

“What was he doing last night? What else? Is this it, or are there more surprises? We need to know, because I don’t smell him on either of us, but he was clearly here last night with us. Why? Scout around; see where his scent leads. I’ll stay--”

The growl cut him off. Scott’s eyes were practically glowing. Actually glowing, a warm golden yellow color. “No. Not leaving you.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Shit! Stiles twisted to curl Scott into a full hug. “Hey. I’m here. Nope. No leaving. Bad suggestion. I’m right here.”

The growl stopped and Scott practically head-butted Stiles in his haste to rub their cheeks together. “Do it together.”

“Yes. Definitely together.” Stiles rubbed his cheek against Scott in return, biting his lip. Should he say?

...Maybe it was better to save the freaking out until they were out of the woods. Yeah. That was a good plan.

And Scott’s eyes were back to their usual warm brown anyway, though he was breathing hard. Scott shook his head then blinked rapidly a few times.

“So, uh, what exactly were we supposed to be doing again?”

“Tracking the psycho to see if we can find any clues to what the hell happened last night.” And so what if he’d promised Dad he wouldn’t be in the woods again? It wasn’t like ending up here was his fault. Probably. He didn’t remember anything, so it was probably sleepwalking, even if he’d never gotten this far before.

Ten minutes or five--or who the hell knew; they didn’t have watches--later, Stiles had a sinking feeling. The scent was really, really thick and heavy, like the psycho had gone over the same path again and again and again. Or like he’d spent time rolling around to spread his scent, and rubbing against every single tree and bush. The trail was most concentrated, about ten yards from their little “cave” and not a single whiff of scent any closer than that, anywhere. There were a couple heavily scented trails that went away from the main path, but each one they tried following spiraled around into a dead end not far from the main trail, so they gave up on that pretty quickly to save time. And a few much fainter trails, but Stiles didn’t even suggest following those. They didn’t seem as...important. There were also trees that had been slashed at regular intervals, and leaf litter that had been dug up in spots as visual signs of the boundary, and these only reinforced the idea starting to percolate in Stiles’ head.

It was confirmed when they crossed over the stream for the third time and started down the other side of the little rise, and... Yeah, there was the mountain lion several yards away. The psycho had made a ring around where they’d been sleeping. Like--

“Oh my god, he was marking territory. Or patrolling. But like, the only thing he didn’t do was piss on a tr--never mind.”

But it was the heavy blood scent competing with the acrid urine that really caught Stiles’ attention. And when Stiles stopped, he picked up another scent on the tree, under both of those. The creepy bitch!

Stiles dragged Scott over for a closer look, and sniff. So maybe he was getting used to the psycho’s scent, because it didn’t make him nearly as uncomfortable as the creepy bitch’s scent did. Not that was much of an improvement, because feeling nervous and seriously unsafe regardless, but!

The damage, all outside the line, he noticed, was horrendous. The ground was torn up, furrows reaching all the way down into dark, damp earth, and the brush was trampled. There were snapped saplings, pines with sheared off branches, and even one with the trunk snapped right off at waist level. That one was bloody, with the shattered ends completely red, and drips trailing down the trunk. It didn’t have the wrong smell to it, so Stiles was pretty sure it was the creepy bitch’s blood. A part of him was really glad for that.

All the evidence pointed to psycho and creepy bitch having had a knock-down, drag-out, brutal in the ‘how did anyone walk away from that’ way fight. Holy hell.

Scott whistled, low and impressed, beside him. “Wow, it looks like collateral damage from a superhero movie. But who do you think won?”

Stiles had no real clue, and he was ignoring the part of him that was smugly insisting that of course the psycho had won.

“Well! None of her scent got past his little line. Best case scenario, neither one won, and they were both too hurt to do anything but limp away and lick their wounds. Worst case scenario, they called a truce and walked off to plan diabolical things to do to us together later. Honestly, I think the real answer is more complicated than that, but beats me.”

Scott wrinkled his nose. “Is it bad that I kind of hope the psycho won?”

“If it is, we’re both bad together.” There was going to be no analyzing of why Stiles felt that way. No siree. “Let’s get out of here.”

They walked as fast as Stiles could hop, and Stiles pointedly didn’t detour to investigate the gunpowder smell he caught a whiff of. Probably someone hunting or practicing their shooting, right? The psycho didn’t have a gun.

He picked up the pace, because his leg didn’t hurt at all and no one was around to scold him for putting any weight on the cast.

Scott was right about the houses, as Stiles knew he would be. In fact, after hopping along a fence or two, they stumbled right into a nicely appointed back yard.

An occupied back yard, with a sweet canopied patio. And because Stiles hadn’t been hideously embarrassed enough in the past two days, the person in question was Danny, right in the middle of what looked like a morning workout. One of Danny’s little brothers was doing the spotting, and started staring as soon as Stiles and Scott staggered into the short grass.

The little brother got nudged inside by a very confused and annoyed looking Danny, complete with hair-ruffle--d’awwwww--who wiped his face off and then hit them with a judgmental look. “I really shouldn’t ask, guys, but this will be good. So explain what the hell you’re doing in my back yard at, oh, seven-ish in the morning.”

“Glad to know that you feel you can count on us for entertainment, but this morning is going to be disappointing, because that’s the question we’re in the middle of asking ourselves! Going theory is sleepwalking.”

And Danny was starting to look seriously annoyed, so Stiles sped up the explanation. “Actually, that’s probably exactly what happened, because after the last couple days I’d be surprised if I hadn’t started sleepwalking again. The last time I really did it bad was when my mom was sick, and especially right after she died, almost every night for a couple months. Dad found me one time all the way over on the next block, curled up on some poor confused guy’s welcome mat. We had to start tying my ankle to the bed post, and it was months before I could be trusted to actually wake up in bed every morning again.”

“Okay, I guess I can sort of buy that.” Danny was still so not impressed, but the annoyance softened quite a bit. “But what about him?”

Scott looked at Stiles; Stiles looked back. Yeah, they had nothing. So Stiles shrugged. “We don’t have a clue. All we know is that we’ll both owe you everything forever if you let us borrow a phone for like a minute. Five minutes tops, depending on how much I get yelled at.”

Danny stared them down for a minute and then gave a long-suffering sigh as he crossed to the cluttered patio table. “My cell is in this mess somewhere. And if you really are sleepwalking all the way out here, you might want to start tying up that ankle again. There was one hell of a commotion in the woods last night. My baby sister was terrified.”

“Commotion?” Stiles so didn’t want to know, but he had to ask. Also, so ignoring the intense amounts of doubt dripping from Danny’s tone.

Danny shrugged, finally picking his phone out of the mess and unlocking it. “Yeah, there was a lot of howling. Either some really freaky coyotes or wild dogs, maybe. And I swear I heard some gunshots around like two.”

They both stiffened and Scott hissed in a breath. His voice quivered, just a tiny bit as he spoke. “Did it sound like a wolf?”

“The second one did, I guess? The first one I heard sounded like one of those Youtube videos that people post all the time of puppies trying and failing to howl.”

When Danny held out the phone, Stiles took it and even remembered the thank you, but distraction! “What’s this! A secret weakness for cute animal videos?”

Stiles had to laugh a little, but to show he didn’t mean it in a cruel way, he added. “We should totally compare our favorites.”

Danny shook his head but he was laughing right along. “I like the funny ones, but the cute ones sneak in sometimes.”

And really, that was all the delaying Stiles could afford so he punched in the house number. Please be still asleep. Please. But, of course, it rang and rang, and then the answering machine picked up. Stiles swore at the sound of his voice and hung up.

There were intrigued looks, and it was worth explaining. “That means Dad is awake, knows I’m missing and is probably panicking. Dispatch it is!”

Scott frowned. “But I thought--”

“Yeah, I know but I don’t have the front desk, Dad’s cell, Dad’s office direct line, or the public switchboard memorized. They’re saved in my phone and I always have-- What? Okay, fine maybe I should really memorize the super important numbers since the universe has taken a liking to stranding me without my phone lately.”

Heaven help him if Danny ever realized the power of a disappointed look combined with semi-shirtlessness--that thin, tight tank so didn’t count as a real shirt--at least over Stiles. Though Stiles was also blaming the capitulation on that memorizing numbers on Scott’s sad-puppy look of disappointment, which, to be fair was also really up there in oh my god, I’m crying uncle, levels of power.

Anyway! Musing aside; time to suffer the wrath of whichever deputy was on duty. And Stiles was in luck; Bill answered.

“Bill! Listen--”

“Stiles, how many times have we told you--”

“No, listen. I’m sorry for calling dispatch but I woke up in the woods and Dad isn’t home. And the psycho was out in the woods with me. He left me a fucking present! And by present I mean a kind of decapitated and definitely mutilated mountain lion right next to where I woke up and I’m justifiably panicked right now and Dad must be panicked too because I was gone and dammit, Bill, I don’t have my phone and I don’t have Dad’s cell or the station front desk number memorized and I swear I won’t do it again unless it’s a real emergency, and this totally counts and--”

The line crackled and suddenly Dad’s voice was on the other end. “Stiles, take a breath for me. Tell me what happened later. Where are you?

“At the Mahealani’s place. Danny let me use his phone. Dad, I’m sorry. I must have been sleepwalking again; I didn’t mean--” For some reason, imagining Dad not knowing where he was and being upset made Stiles really, really upset.

“Hey. Hey. Shh. It’s okay. I know you didn’t, son. You can’t help when you sleepwalk. Just stay put. We’ll be there in ten.” Dad was using the soft, soft voice again.

“Don’t speed too much.” Because the last thing Stiles needed was Dad or one of the deputies having a traffic accident on the way.

Dad just grunted and hung up abruptly. Not blaming, nope, because Dad was obviously so very worried and, hey, ten minutes! Stiles could manage ten minutes.

Ten minutes standing awkwardly around in Danny’s back yard in his sorry excuse for pajamas. Stiles was so taking it back. Speed a lot, Dad.

Stiles handed the phone back to Danny, who looked like he was physically holding himself back from blurting out curious questions. And bonus, or not, they’d acquired an audience of the littler Mahealanis, who were peaking out the patio doors, and not really concealing themselves well at all with the curtains. D- on stealth!

Stiles smiled at them and waved. Predictably they reacted hilariously to being spotted. One of the kids, probably a sister, squealed and the curtains snapped all the way shut. Adorable round faces peeked back out less than five seconds later.

Danny had that unique expression that somehow combined mortification--usually on someone else’s behalf--and exasperation on his face, and dragged a hand over his eyes to complete the look.

At least it was funny enough to push back the embarrassment a little. Stiles couldn’t hold back the grin anymore. “You might as well just tell the flock that they’re welcome to come out and gawk in person. You know they all want to.”

Danny rolled his eyes. “Not birds. Or bird-kids either!”

This exchange was familiar and comforting. “Still totally not convinced on that, dude.”

“I’m still blaming you for Sarah wanting to change her name to Maximum.” Though Danny grumbled that, the corner of his mouth was twitching up again and again.

“Hey!” Stiles held his hands up, laughing. “She was the one who introduced me to those, not the other way around!”

Speaking of. “Morning, bird-kid.”

Sarah, the little imp, grinned right back, toast hanging out of the corner of her mouth. She at least had the manners to take it out before speaking. Mostly. “Hey yourself, fur-face.”

“Hey! I thought I at least merited honorary bird-kid status.” Stiles put on an affronted look, but was a little uncomfortable. Sure, it was just a reference to a story, but well, hitting a little close this morning.

Sarah glanced at her older brother, and they totally had the same smile. Well, technically, they’d both inherited the same smile-genes or whatever. “Maybe in the future. Someday. For now you maybe make it to pet talking-dog.”

“Didn’t he grow wings? I can deal with that.” Stiles was just a little, or a lot, distracted by his nose yet again, though. Sarah smelled different from Danny. There was a very faint pine-y scent about her that he didn’t think was a perfume, but Danny had always smelled a little salty to new super nose, and today was no different. More pronounced without his usual cologne covering it up though!

Danny interrupted. “What is it with you two and those books? They were awful!”

Stiles shrugged. Danny obviously wasn’t of the enjoying movies and books specifically because they were so horrible they were hilarious sect. On the other hand, everybody had limits; maybe Danny’s were a little higher. He teased anyway. “But that’s like, half of the fun of reading them! And knowing they’re awful is basically admitting to reading them.”

“Exhibit A, who I share a house with.” Danny emphasized that by pointing at Sarah, but the other ducklings had apparently decided that Sarah’s entrance meant they could wander out safely, and Danny was suddenly surrounded by siblings.

Actually they all were, and Stiles endured the curious looks from the two boys and giggles from the girls with grace and dignity.

Which meant he blushed and flailed and stuttered horribly, but for him that counted as dignity!

Most of them were poking and prodding for more details about why Stiles and Scott were outside in winter in really not suitable clothes--if Dad didn’t arrive soon Stiles was going to start worrying about frost-bite, so okay, it wasn’t that bad, but brr!--and glass doors were so not soundproof so a few details, like ‘mountain lion’ and ‘psycho’ had gotten overheard.

Yeah, so much no. Stiles was not going to be responsible for giving kids nightmares, or letting any of them out of their mostly crime-free innocent bubbles. He could pretend they lived in crime-free, completely innocent and age-appropriate bubbles, okay. So he crossed his arms, and nearly fell, but whatever.

“Nope! No details from me. Pry them from your parents, or the news, or the rumor mill if you’re that interested. I’m not taking the blame for this one!”

Danny jerked his chin at Sarah, and she ushered the other siblings back into the house, even grabbing her other older brother, who’d been spotting Danny earlier, by the ponytail to drag him when he didn’t go willingly. That was why Sarah was the other awesomest Mahealani sibling.

She missed one, but the littlest Mahealani was cuter than a duck in a puddle and definitely in an innocent bubble, and Stiles could never say no to such a cute face. And besides, she was half-hiding behind Danny, with one little hand clenched on the hem of his shorts, and peaking out with wide-eyes. Adorable!

So Stiles had very fond memories of watching Danny teaching her to swim over the summer, okay. Another reason Danny was awesome; he reached down without even having to look and put a comforting hand on top of her head, all the while shooting Stiles a look.

Stiles interpreted this particular one as ‘scar my baby sister for life and they will never find the body.’ So he put on his best lifeguard smile and waved a little. “Sorry for interrupting your morning, Rosie.”

Little Rosie made a confused face at him, but edged out from behind Danny a little. Then she looked up at her brother, and yeah, she tended to be a quiet one, Stiles remembered, but Danny understood, apparently.

“Remember the pool, Rosie? You’ve met Stiles before.”

And just like that, her face lit up. “Summer Jack!”

She was so cute that Stiles couldn’t bring himself to correct her. Besides, references! “Guardian of Summer Fun, that’s me! Been good for your big brother?”

Rosie trotted a couple steps closer, eyes wide and face drawn up like she was telling a secret. “Did you save the puppy from the Big Bad Wolf? He was so big and mean and scary. The puppy was scared and lonely. Like this.”

Had she seen the psycho? Just the thought made Stiles’ heart stop. The heart stopping continued as she threw her head back and howled. Yeah, she sounded like a puppy, but shivers went up and down his spine.

At least Danny looked equally startled at the howl and dropped to his knees. Rosie cuddled against him, and then peaked out at Stiles again.

“Uh, well, we’re working on it. Don’t worry; the Big Bad Wolf will get caught. My dad’s on it and he’s the sheriff, you know. It’s his job to catch the bad guys.” That seemed to reassure her, so Stiles turned a look of his own on Danny. “Danny? Did she...? Dude.”

“I told you she was terrified. She paced in front of the windows for the longest time before we could get her to calm down. She was going on about the puppy last night too.”

Well, if she had seen the psycho through a window, at least she hadn’t wandered outside. The thought of the psycho getting anywhere near one of Stiles’ regular charges, even if only at the pool, made him feel sicker than he had since the last time he’d almost thrown up from the memories.

“My dad is going to catch this guy. He’s going to slam his-- uh, behind behind bars.” Stiles wasn’t sure if he was reassuring Danny or reassuring himself, and whoops, no swearing around little ears!

Danny nodded, but he was more focused on scooping Rosie up and cradling her close. “You two; stay put. C’mon Rosie, let’s get you some breakfast.”

Then Danny was gone, and Stiles was going to interpret stay put as stay in the back lawn because he needed to sit down. And if Danny got annoyed, Stiles was going to pull the injured card on him.

With a chance to lean against Scott, the remaining minutes passed pretty decently, but Stiles was groaning in mortification way before the cruisers plural pulled to a stop out front. Were the sirens and lights really necessary?

A minute later, Dad, Bill, Danny’s parents and Danny plus a clinging with a deathgrip Rosie walked back out to the patio. Stiles did not like the cold look in Mr. Mahealani’s eyes; they looked almost as black as night. And Mrs. Mahealani had the same pine smell that Sarah did, only... darker. Yeah, he wasn’t going to try to put a better word to the actual difference. Darker worked!

Neither of them looked happy, but he guessed he kind of deserved it. Or Dad did. “Mrs. and Mr. Mahealani, I swear I didn’t get Danny into any trouble! Okay, so he might count as a witness, but that’s not trouble! That’s being a hero. Seeing justice done, and all.”

Well, at least Rosie was buying it. The parents were super unimpressed, and now Stiles knew exactly where Danny got his looks from. Dad wasn’t having it either, muttering something to the effect of shut up and stop digging yourself deeper before marching over and pulling Stiles into a hug. Hugs were great, and Stiles didn’t know why he’d ever wanted to stop doing them in front of other people. So, he totally did, but not caring about social suicide right now, no way.

“I’m so sorry, Dad. I--”

“Hey. It’s my fault. We got a lead on--on our suspect at around one this morning and I had to leave. I thought you’d sleep through until morning, since you were already asleep.” Dad squeezed tight and then stepped back, all business.

Stiles really wanted to ask for the results of the lead, but knew better. Scott on the other hand...

“Did you find--ow, hey!”

Stiles nudged his shoulder against Scott in apology but Scott just glared and rubbed the back of his head some more.

Dad shook his head, and Stiles was glad not to be the one embarrassing Dad this time. “All right, give me the brief version; you’ll have to repeat it all later anyway so might as well save time. Mr. and Mrs. Mahealani? We can take it from here, but Stiles indicated we might need to ask your son a few questions if that’s fine with you?”

Mrs. Mahealani had the arch tone down almost as well as Lydia did. “If you’re talking about the howling and the gunshots, we all heard them, Sheriff. We’re not deaf.”

Dad turned to Bill. “Take the family’s statements then, would you? I’ll deal with the boys.”

Bill turned on his mega-watt friendly smile that put people at ease and tried to usher the family out, but Danny finally got Rosie to detach and reattach on their dad and came closer instead of going towards the house. When his parents both tried to stare him down, Danny shrugged. “I’m not going to get in trouble, but I am involved, and I think I deserve to hear about what was happening out in the woods last night.”

That got shrugs from both parents, but Mr. Mahealani was sterner. “Careless words will get you into trouble; remember that.”

Danny laughed. “I know, I know! Words have power etcetera etcetera.”

Dad turned his attention back to Stiles at that moment and Stiles decided it was time to spill. “So, the really short version! We woke up at our “cave,” you know, the place we used to play Indiana Jones at all the time when we were really little? Anyway there was a very dead mountain lion hanging from a tree and not far away there was what looked like the aftermath of a real nasty fight or something. And--”

Stiles didn’t want to say he’d smelled it with Danny so close. “Can I have a piece of paper? And a pen!”

Dad rubbed his forehead but pulled out pen and a bitty notepad. “And by your “cave” do you mean the spot on Hale land that you and Scott trespassed on regularly when you were six and no less than three Hales brought you back home on so many different occasions?”

Stiles remembered that, and had to speak up. “Mrs. Hale eventually said it was okay!”

“No, Talia eventually just gave up on trying to keep you away.”

So maybe that had actually been what happened. Stiles hadn’t liked her as much as her husband, who always cleaned them up and gave them treats before making sure they got home safe. But he did remember the last time they were made to go home, and overhearing Mrs. Hale and a young guy who called her sister talking. The guy had said something about sparks, like maybe he thought Stiles was going to set the forest on fire. So not true! Stiles had always been very careful with fire.

But enough wandering through memories. Stiles finished his drawing and wrote ‘scent trail’ on the top of the page, before showing it to Dad. “So this is where we woke up. And around here there were places where trees were scratched up and the ground was disturbed at regular intervals. We followed these two branches, and they were exactly the same, so I’m going to assume that this one is too. And here was where the mountain lion was. And here was where the fight was.”

It was not the best drawing, and crooked and so very not to scale, so he hoped Dad would get the picture. Dad got something because his eyes went wide. “Do you know what you just drew?”

“Uh, not really?”

“It’s a symbol called a Triskelion.” Dad leaned in to whisper, though Danny probably overheard. “Derek Hale has this exact thing tattooed on his back.”

Oh shit. Oh shit. That was... that was so not a coincidence. Not that Stiles knew what it meant, but!

Dad went to his radio. “Okay, we’ve got something. I want a full team out here pronto to process this.”

The radio crackled and the deputy responded with an affirmative, and then Dad turned to Danny. “Did you see anything, or did you just hear things?”

“I’m not sure what I saw, but Rosie and I both did. Just, Rosie is so little.” Danny looked towards the house, clearly worried.

Dad sighed. “All right. I want you to come to the station with us and give a full statement. Maybe speak with our sketch artist. Come on, all three of you. No time to waste.”

Danny groaned. “I’m going to be late for school.”

“Sorry, kid. But this could save other people from getting attacked.” Dad was firm in ushering them around the house, and stopped only to pass part of the paper Stiles had made the drawing on to Bill, with a quick run-down about what Stiles had said about it. Stiles hoped that leaving out the scent-trail part wouldn’t hurt the case for the investigating deputies.

This was going to be a long morning, that was for sure, and hopefully Danny would forgive him for interrupting his day.

Chapter Text

“Think of it this way, Danny. You get to ride in the Sheriff’s car with all the cool toys and without being in trouble!”

Stiles got three variations on ‘not helping’ in return and was tempted to stick out his tongue just to be a little shit. Why not? He felt safe and secure, surrounded by Dad’s and Scott’s scents, and safely surrounded by all the metal and leather of the car itself. He kind of wanted to curl up and nap, or maybe wrestle with Scott a bit, but of course, safety first, so he was buckled securely into the back beside Scott.

He was only regretting letting Danny take the front a little bit. “Hey, I let you have shotgun. That is a rare and special privilege.”

Really. Only a little bit! So fine, Stiles was feeling a little bit possessive of Dad right now, at least in regards to other people being closer than he was, and who weren’t Scott or Scott’s mom. He had a theory about that, actually. He wouldn’t know for sure until it happened, but if Danny ever got to ‘needed to smell like me and me smell like him’ stage, the new instincts would be okay with him being so close to Dad in a closed space. Probably. That was the theory, anyway.

Dad sighed and interrupted his thoughts. “Stiles, how about a round of the quiet game?”

“You know that I stopped falling for that when I was like, five, right?” That was mostly for Danny’s benefit, really. Dad already knew, but Stiles had a little bit of pride, okay.

And, also, it made Dad laugh, which was still the best sound ever. “But you still like winning. This time, if you win, I won’t complain about my diet for a week.”

“Or sneak?”

“Or sneak.”

That worked. “‘kay, what’s the task then?”

Danny shot him a confused look and Stiles just shrugged. Dad knew that Stiles needed a task to distract him to have even a tiny chance of winning. It just wouldn’t be fair otherwise. Danny’d figure it out quick.

There was a quiet moment while Dad thought it over, tapping his thumbs on the steering wheel. “Calculate squares. I want you to find the first seven digit one.”

“Hmm...” Seven digits? That would be... “One million. That’s one thousand squared.”

Stiles.” Dad gave him a dark look, while Danny actually twisted to peer back at Stiles in surprise.

“What? That one was way too easy, okay.” Technically just coming up with the answer instead of calculating each one until he reached the answer was cheating and totally defeated the purpose, but still! Too easy.

“Eight then.”

“Roger!” And Stiles closed his eyes to do it properly. One, four, nine, sixteen, twenty five, thirty six...

Stiles had reached thirty five thousand two hundred twenty five by the time they pulled into the station lot, and he hadn’t made a peep, even when he’d gotten a little distracted from the calculating. The game was his!

Dad just shook his head with a smile when Stiles bounced in his seat--Dad not complaining or sneaking was a big deal and totally worth a victory squirm--and then told them all to stay put. He disappeared into the station and then came out a couple minutes later to wave them inside. They were ushered back to one of the interview rooms by Tara, who gestured all three of them inside with an apology.

“Sorry. We’re really crowded in here this morning. Do you three mind?”

When they’d all given the okay, or just shrugged, as the case actually was, she sat them down and turned to Danny first.

“Let’s start with you. First just tell me in your own words what happened, and then I’ll ask a few questions.”

Danny was quiet for a minute before he started talking. “It was about ten, or quarter after, one when my sister woke me up. She’d had a nightmare and was trying to get out the patio doors, and going on and on about a scared puppy we needed to rescue. That was when I heard the howling for myself. It did sound like a puppy trying to howl for the first time, all high and wavering. Hearing it made Rosie frantic. We heard the howling again a couple minutes later and by then everyone in the house was awake, either from that or Rosie’s crying. We all heard the second...one howling, and that one sounded like an actual wolf, if a really creepy one. I swear, it made the windows rattle, but I was probably imagining things.”

Danny rubbed his hands over his head. “There were no more howls for like an hour or so? The next one didn’t really sound like a howl though. It was like... I don’t even know. I’d recognized it if I heard it again, but whatever it was, it was scary as hell. Like, icewater down my spine just from hearing it. It was a little after two; I remember because I was in the kitchen trying to get Rosie to take a little warm milk and go back to bed and I saw the microwave clock. She ran right back to the patio doors, and that was about when I heard the first gunshot. Maybe five-ten minutes later? It was followed by some more shots clustered together. I’m not sure how long after; I was distracted by trying to keep Rosie from getting outside. There was one last shot, a long time after the others. We saw it for the first time a few minutes later. It cut across the corner of our lawn, moving incredibly fast. I thought it was an animal at first, but it didn’t move quite right. It was on all fours, and that’s pretty much all I can tell you. It was moving too fast.”

Stiles jumped on the moment of silence to interrupt. “Tara. The sketches; where are they?”

She gave him a little glare in return, but Stiles could tell it was a halfhearted one. And as one of the senior deputies assigned to the case, she had access to the files, so it only took a couple minutes before she could produce the sketches that the sketch artist had drawn up yesterday.

Stiles pawed through the drawings until he found the rough sketches of him on all fours. The back and legs didn’t look quite right, but--

“Was it like this?”

Danny studied the picture for a minute, face pinched. “Sort of. The legs look wrong, but... Yeah, it’s really close.”

The confirmation made Stiles shudder, but Tara’s stare made him keep quiet. She adjusted her notes.

“You said that was the first time?”

“Yeah. There were some shouts, human voices, in the woods and heading away from us, and maybe five or ten minutes later we saw it--him cutting back across some back lawns. He was in the shadow of the trees but when he got to ours he stopped and... He stood up and looked at Rosie and me. His eyes were glowing red. It sounds crazy, but that’s what I saw.”

Danny stopped and reached into the pile of drawings to pull out the Hollywood werewolf looking one. “He looked like that, except more real somehow. Creepy and strange and... I don’t know. Then Rosie screamed and hid behind me and when I looked up again he’d disappeared. Probably back into the woods.”

Tara clasped her hands under her chin. “During the times between the howls, did you hear anything else at all, even normal forest noises?”

Danny closed his eyes for a long couple of minutes. “I heard a very loud crack, like a branch breaking, and a mountain lion screaming once. The mountain lion was during the long quiet period, and the branch between the weird not-howl and the first gunshot.”

Tara asked a couple more questions, but Stiles wasn’t paying any attention. The image of him being so close to Rosie and Danny and staring at them was scary as hell.

“Stiles!”

Stiles blinked into focus with everyone staring at him. Whoops. At the questioning looks, he tried to shrug it off. Total failure. Because he couldn’t leave it alone. “So, Danny, you ever need any help with Rosie--” Or yourself, he didn’t say, because so easy to take that wrong-- “or your other siblings, just ask. I’ll protect them with my life. Especially from the psycho since it’s kind of my fault he was at your place last night.”

Danny blinked hard a couple times and then smiled. He reached out like he wanted to grab Stiles’ shoulder, but changed his mind at the last minute and held out his fist for a bump.

When Stiles obliged, Danny’s smile broadened. “First, don’t blame yourself for anything that psycho does. Second, you’re a pretty good guy, but you might end up regretting that promise.”

Tara cleared her throat. “Next, you two.”

With Tara’s permission they went over things together, adding anything that seemed important. Stiles added more than Scott and redrew the symbol Dad had called a Triskelion. This one was much better than the first, at least.

Danny stayed quiet until they were done. “So you’re saying that the mountain lion was partially butchered?”

When they all looked at him in surprise, Danny shrugged. “My mom really likes wild rabbit, and sometimes I get dragged into helping her prepare her catches.”

“Wait, so your whole family isn’t vegetarian?” This was news to Stiles, who couldn’t remember Danny ever not refusing a burger, or eating pretty much anything but the salad-bar at school.

“I’m not--” Danny wrinkled his nose. “I eat fish and eggs and milk. That’s not remotely vegetarian.”

“Actually, I think you’re thinking vegan. Eggs and milk are definitely included in some vegetarian diets! Actually, fish too, sort of, though people like constantly argue about whether it counts as real vegetarianism or semi-vegetarianism or not at all. Which, well, I don’t really get the people who say it’s actual vegetarianism, because fish, but semi-vegetarian makes sense to me. And it’s probably one of the healthier diets out there that isn’t like, total vegetarian.” So Stiles liked sharing the fruits of his explorations, and he’d dug into the subject when he’d been researching healthy diets, and supposedly healthy diets, for Dad when his health had taken a down turn.

Danny looked surprised. “Huh, really? I didn’t know that. I definitely don’t eat like I do because it’s semi-vegetarian or whatever.”

Tara put on her most abused expression and threw her hands up. Stiles couldn’t help grinning. She knew what was coming, even if Danny hadn’t realized yet.

“So why do you do it?”

Danny glared and Stiles grinned harder. Finally Danny sighed. “You’re going to pester me forever until I answer, aren’t you?”

“You forgot ‘until my curiosity is satisfied’ but basically!”

“Well, it’s a really, really old tradition in some Hawaiian families. Bachelors aren’t supposed to eat any meat that comes from birds or land animals.”

“Okay! Why?”

Danny rolled his eyes. “You are worse than a little kid. It’s from an even older superstition, that if a boy eats meat from land animals he’ll develop an insatiable hunger and turn into a man-eating shark. Or just become a cannibal. One of the two. Supposedly, the bonds of marriage put a leash on that appetite before it really forms so that it doesn’t happen. Anyway, it’s no skin off my back to follow that diet and it makes my dad happy.”

Okay, next free day Stiles was totally looking into Hawaiian superstitions. Stiles absently nodded at the ‘stay here’ from Tara and tossed another question at Danny. “So, what? Your mom and sisters can eat whatever they want? Rude.”

Danny went droll. “Women apparently posses the mysterious and godly power called self-control. According to legend, they’re more likely to turn into dragons anyway. And my sisters mostly eat the way me and my brothers do, and don’t rub it in our faces when they don’t.”

Ooh, shiny. Stiles just had to know more. “Like, fire breathing, giant flying scaly beasts, dragons?”

“No, more like weather controlling, lizard-y water dragons.” Danny laughed at Stiles’ expression. “Most of the time they’re considered benevolent protectors, unless you piss them off.”

“Hell hath no fury like a lady dragon scorned?”

“Pretty much exactly, yeah.”

Stiles had more questions but Dad Stalled the conversation by coming in. He looked grim, but managed a brief smile for Danny. “Thanks for coming in and giving a statement. We have what we need for now, so you’re good to go. Just stop by the front and leave a contact number on your way out in case something else comes up.”

Dad sat down heavily after that proclamation and leaned forward on his elbows with eyes closed for a second or three. Then he opened his eyes up again and fixed Stiles and Scott with a piercing look. “Now, you two...”

He trailed off and they all turned to look at Danny. From the lost and confused expressions on Dad’s and Scott’s faces, they were wondering what the hell was up just as much as Stiles.

“Uh, you know you can go now, right?” Because, yeah, awkward silence was so not fun.

Danny gave them all a look that radiated stubbornness. “He’s about to give you an update about the case, right?”

There was a pause as Danny glanced at Dad. “Right, sir? And this guy was staring at my baby sister last night. Like hell am I leaving without all the facts.”

Dad’s expression tightened with a bit of frustration, but he leaned back and made a thoughtful noise. Working on a diplomatic “no” probably.

Stiles wasn’t going to wait for that. “Dude, one! From his attacks on--on me it is probably more likely he was staring at you. I get wanting to protect Rosie. Hell, I want to protect her and I’m not even her brother. But--”

Danny’s eyes went so cold and dark that Stiles lost his voice for a second as the other boy leaned closer. Stiles was hit by the scent of salt again.

“I get that he went after some lady, and then you and Scott, but even if he’s going after me next, Rosie is with me so often that she’s in danger too. The more I know, the better I can protect myself and my family. How close are you guys to catching him? Do you have suspects? Possible haunts? What was that about Derek Hale earlier? I just want anything besides who the hell knows if it’s accurate stuff in the papers and werewolf drawings, which, yeah, are scarily accurate for how he looks in the dark, but...”

Dad groaned and was probably swearing in his head. “You know I could lose my job for this? It could compromise the case. And that goes for all three of you.”

Danny looked completely unapologetic and Stiles only felt a little guilty. Oh well, Scott looked guilty enough for all three of them.

“Dad, I’m pretty sure if Danny doesn’t get the facts he needs here, he’d resort to finding stuff out in highly illegal ways that’ll be even more likely to compromise the investigation.” Stiles completely ignored Danny’s glare and plowed on. “And I’m helping!”

“Not as much as you think, kiddo.” But Dad was giving him a fond smile. “You’ve got good instincts and you’re as smart as a whip, I’ll give you that. But, you’re missing the training and experience to really help. Still, helping even a little bit is an accomplishment.”

Stiles basked in the compliment, savoring it too much to bother talking while Dad looked each of them over in turn. After a moment of silence, Dad raised a finger at them.

“Not a word, any of you. It really could compromise the investigation. And don’t expect everything; this is need to know. But I understand protecting your family, so for you...”

Dad shuffled a couple papers from the file. “This is what we have about the attacks. They’ve all happened on or very near the old Hale property. The same goes for any sightings, and everything happened so far at night or right around sunset. The best way to protect yourself, Danny, is to follow the curfew I’m going to try setting up today, and never be alone if you can. You already know about the costume, so there’s the other big thing.”

“What about a suspect? You were talking about Derek Hale; is it him?” Danny was startlingly perceptive sometimes, and like a dog with a bone.

“Not a suspect; he’s a person of interest.” Dad wasn’t having it, but Danny wasn’t quailing under his look, so Dad elaborated. Probably because he knew Stiles would pester for details too. “He’s got an airtight alibi for the murder and the attack on the boys, and we were chasing him pretty much all night before he ran out of places to run to. He’s definitely not the sicko in the suit, but right now we’re holding him on a few minor things.”

“Resisting arrest?” Stiles also knew about the tampering with evidence just from the inhaler, but he had a little filter. A little one!

Dad nodded. “Whittemore wants to throw the book at him, but we haven’t made a final decision on the charges, if any.”

There was something tugging at Stiles’ thoughts though. Like, they were missing something. Wolves ran in packs. There was Derek’s comment about family, and Laura’s claws, and possible actual wolf-shape. “Wait. This psycho thinks he’s a werewolf, and real wolves run in packs that are basically families. So logically, he’s probably not working alone. Who’s his accomplice?”

Stiles ran through the options and came up with nothing. “Not Derek, probably, because Derek and Laura were actual family, and they came here together, and besides, the psycho killed her. I mean, you said something about a hotel room and them sharing a car, right?”

“Yeah. Seems like they came here together for some reason. Maybe to visit the other survivor, or finally get him moved somewhere closer to where they live now?” There was something in Dad’s voice, maybe a little sadness mixed with wishful thinking. Like Dad wanted that to be the reason but wasn’t sure it was.

Okay! Stiles rubbed his hands together. “So, I’m pretty sure Laura was one of these werewolf cultist people, on account of the claws, and the way Derek was acting all snarly and going on about family yesterday at me, I’d bet actual money he is. Also he really wanted to know about the psycho, and if I was a...well, anybody, and someone had killed my sister I’d so want to hunt him down and make sure he ended up--”

Well, part of him was screeching ‘very very dead’ but that was not an acceptable answer, “put away forever. And Derek obviously has some trust issues going on with the police so! Anyway, psycho killed Laura, and he’s been all around Hale land. What if this guy is basically trying to do a take over of their ‘territory’ or whatever, and killed Laura when she came after him for trespassing. And now he’s after Derek, who’s all alone now and the last thing between him and claiming Hale property as his.”

Stiles was feeling very proud of his admittedly kind of out there theory until Danny butted in. “How does this explain the attack on you?”

“Well, I was getting to that.” Stiles grimaced. “Yesterday, me and Scott were bouncing around the idea that the psycho’s original plan for us was kidnapping and then stockholm syndrome-ing slash brainwashing us into being a happy werewolf cultist family. The implications of which nobody is allowed to bring up right now. I’m trying very hard to pretend they don’t exist. Anyway, psycho either is alone and needs an accomplice, or wants a bigger family, so he’s after me and Scott to fill that need, and getting that ‘territory.’ And because Derek is now all alone, and he’s figured out that I was so not on board with the psycho’s ideas from the fact that I’m trying to get his ass in jail for them, Derek is probably all after us to be not alone, and for help defending his territory. Or his family’s old territory. Whatever.”

Stiles took a deep breath. “I’m not sure how the creepy bitch fits into this, really, but we do know that she’s not alone either, because of her talking about that Duke guy, and she was also going on about claiming me for herself, which totally creepy! Anyway, she was fighting the psycho last night, so she might not be in it for the territory, but her, or this Duke, want me and possibly Scott. By the way, I’m really sick of suddenly being popular in all the wrong ways. How do I go back to being invisible to everybody?”

Dad broke the silence that reigned after that. “That’s... well, that’s something all right. I’m with you on the part where Derek wants at this sicko for killing Laura. Those were literally the only words we’ve gotten out of him since we brought him in. The rest... Well, it’s creative, but you’re getting a little too into the whole werewolf aspect. You’ve got to remember that these are people, not wolves, we’re dealing with.”

Stiles deflated, but Dad gave him a smile and a squeeze on the shoulder. “Anyway, son, I’m going to call the sketch artist in so you and Scott can give descriptions of this ‘creepy bitch’ of yours. If there is any concrete evidence of her being in the woods last night, I want to be ready to find her and bring her in.”

“And you,” Dad turned to Danny with a stern voice, “should get to school. I don’t want the owner of Beacon Hills Martial Arts Academy breathing down my neck for being an accessory to her soon skipping out on school.”

Oh! “I wonder if I could go there for my punishment.”

Dad smiled. “I think that’s a great plan. She’s one of the best and volunteers to help with the department’s safety course too. Don’t forget you have to take that too.”

Danny looked completely lost. “What’s this about?”

Well, Stiles could elaborate! “So, on account of going out into the woods in the middle of the night being a Bad Decision, capitals definitely necessary, my punishment is bettering myself by taking the department’s safety course, and some self-defense classes.”

“Me too.” Scott piped up, and Stiles had to lean over and give him a cuddle so he wouldn’t feel left out. That was totally his story and he was sticking to it.

“My mom could definitely help with the self-defense classes.” Danny smiled. “But you might want to wait until you’re out of that cast. Her classes definitely aren’t a joke, and she believes in weeding out the people who are just taking them out of boredom or to look cool.”

Stiles nodded, feeling the seriousness under the light tone. He was definitely serious about learning to protect himself. “Definitely not for those reasons. I never want to feel that helpless again. But on a lighter note, Danny, you never told me you have an official Scary Mom.”

Danny shook his head as Scott and Stiles listened, wide-eyed and eager. Okay, Scott was wide-eyed and Stiles was eager.

“You have no idea, man. And since the next thing out of your mouth will probably be questions, know how the academy teaches lots of different styles? My mom has either already studied and advanced far enough to be nationally recognized to teach them, or she’s working on learning. She’s been neck-deep in the martial arts ever since she was a little kid and she’s scary dedicated.”

“Okay, never mind Scary Mom, Scariest Mom.” Scott gave the proclamation with a firm nod, and Stiles nodded his hearty agreement. Holy shit.

Dad was smiling at them, laughing softly at their antics. “Chat later. You, school. You two, stay put.”

Danny went suddenly reluctant, but he stood up and held out his fist. “See you at school?”

Stiles and Scott bumped knuckles with him and Scott added onto that with a grin. “Definitely. As soon as we’re done with the sketch artist.”

As soon as Danny was out of the room, Dad leaned forward. “Right. When you two are done with practice today, Melissa and I want you at the hospital to test out this hypersensitivity of yours. We can’t even think of using it as evidence without proof, and while the trail is definitely also scratched out visually, we don’t have any evidence right now who was fighting this sicko last night. The blood will probably yield DNA, but without anything to compare it to, it’s not much of a clue. But after this morning, I want statements for this lady’s behavior last night. Just a second.”

With that, Dad got up to bellow orders into the hallway and came back to sit down and take their statements. Dad was just as good at it as Tara, and halfway through, the sketch artist came in. When they were done giving the statements Dad hung around while they worked with her. Stiles had a sneaking suspicion it was because Dad was a lot more worried than he wanted anyone to know. Whatever the case, Dad’s presence made Stiles feel safe. Too bad Dad couldn’t tag along at school.

It was easier to give the artist what she needed too. Together, he and Scott were able to give her enough descriptions that she was able to draw up a really good portrait of creepy bitch’s face. And when they were done with that part, they went ahead and described all they could remember about the rest of her. Smooth sailing, at least until they got to her feet and Scott dropped a bomb Stiles had missed.

“Yeah, she was totally barefoot and her toenails were painted black and really long. Like, they almost looked like claws.”

Stiles really hadn’t picked up on that. To be fair, he’d been freaking out hard over her scent and distracted. But dude, Scott was right. Wracking his memory pulled up an image of dark toenails, so he’d bet actual money on Scott being right about the length and the claw-ness.

“Scott, man, thank you for catching that. I think it’s safe to say that creepy bitch is definitely another werewolf cultist.”

Or actual werewolf, which Stiles was almost ninety percent sure of now, which, scary as hell to think about. So avoidance!

Dad started shaking his head but if he was about to say something, it was interrupted by Bill coming in.

“Our ballistics guy just finished with analyzing the casings we found on the scent. Take a look at that calibre. If it’s legal, it’s only barely.”

Dad hissed in a breath as he looked at the report. “Legal, but you aren’t going to find many people who own a gun that takes them. That kind of high-powered rifle is just a step below military. Same with the hand-gun calibre casings that were found. Bill, get me a list of who owns these in Beacon County. We’ll start with the legal ones, and go on from there.”

As Dad talked he scribbled several things down on a piece of paper and handed it over to Bill, who whistled as he read it.

“That’s some list. But I can tell you one name that’s on it already, and right in Beacon Hills. Know how that Argent guy came in yesterday to file his personal weapons with the county after his move? I got stuck with doing it, and he has at least two of these registered in his name, if not more.”

“God damn it--” Dad bit off the rest. “Bill get someone else working on that list. Have Tara get Judge Collins up to get a warrant to look at Argent’s weapons, and you get right over to his house and ask him to come in and answer some questions. If he’s smart, he’ll cooperate, and if he refuses, we’ll ask a little more forcefully with a warrant in our hands. If one of his weapons was fired last night, we’ll definitely find it.”

Stiles and Scott stared at each other for a full minute after Bill walked out. Then Scott blurted out what Stiles was sure they were both thinking.

“Allison’s dad? Do you really think he’s--?”

“Playing vigilante?” Dad sighed heavily. “Yes, I think he might be. He was talking yesterday about a hobby in big game hunting and trying to convince me that I needed his help to catch this guy. Going on and on about it like we were after a rabid animal that needed putting down instead of a human criminal.”

That made Stiles squirm with discomfort. Werewolves. Rabid animals. Put down. Bitten and changing. Maybe it was time to stop avoiding the werewolves were real theory that wasn’t a theory at all anymore. He really didn’t want to think about it, like at all, but Stiles knew that avoiding things never worked in the long run.

Just, one question for Dad first. His mouth suddenly went dry. “Did you... get anything back on the kit yet? Or the hairs I grabbed?”

For a few moments Dad just shuffled through the papers in the file. Then he looked up. “Nothing conclusive. There was confirmed DNA, but everything the lab tried to run has come back contaminated with canine DNA. This says... seventy percent chance the canine DNA is wolf. They won’t be able to get anything usable unless they get an uncontaminated sample to test. And the hair came back as wolf, or if not, high percentage wolf-dog.”

Stiles felt Scott’s arms wind around him and realized he’d started trembling sometime during Dad’s explanation. Why did it have to be like this? Why couldn’t it have come back as fake fur and human DNA?

“Stiles?” Dad had come around the table and joined in the hug. “This is only a little setback. We will catch him.”

“That’s not--” Stiles subsided to breathe for a minute and let Dad’s and Scott’s scent wash over him.

When the shaking went away, Stiles tried to summon up the courage to admit it out loud. “Dad? What if I told you, I’m like ninety precent sure this psycho and Laura and Derek and the creepy bitch aren’t cultists or crazies who just think they’re werewolves?”

“You’re about to tell me you think they’re actual real life turn furry on the full moon werewolves, aren’t you?”

Stiles hung his head, feeling a surge of embarrassment when Dad said it like that. Dad didn’t believe. Didn’t want to believe was probably more accurate. Stiles got it, he did, because hell, everything he thought he knew felt shaky right now. Just...

Dad hugged him, tucking Stiles’ head under his chin. “I’m not going to dismiss it. But let’s search some more for a scientific explanation before jumping to the supernatural one, okay?”

Dad had said scientific but he’d really meant logical, reasonable, mundane and normal. It stung, but Stiles wasn’t going to get anywhere by pushing things. He’d just have to do more research on his own.

A hand rubbed through his hair. “You two should probably get dressed and head to school too.”

Stiles couldn’t deny that, but a big part of him that wasn’t just the new instincts wanted to hang around with Dad all day. The station felt familiar. Safe He was trying to come up with a reason when he saw it and, lightbulb!

“Can I talk to Derek? I want to ask him what that symbol means.” Stiles tapped the drawing he’d made.

Dad paled and his mouth drew into a tight line. For a second Stiles thought Dad would deny it completely, but Dad shrugged and sighed. “I won’t let you in the room with him, but I’ll let you watch from the observation room while I ask him. How about that?”

There were microphones on the table so people in the observation rooms could clearly hear what was going on in the interview rooms without being seen or heard inside. It worked! He could test out a theory about Derek. Prove to himself that super-hearing was a thing for everybody who was probably a werewolf.

When Stiles nodded, Dad snagged the drawing and guided them into the observation room. It was narrow and dim, with some chairs and equipment to record the interviews--not too many interrogations in Beacon Hills.

In the room on the left, Derek was sitting all alone, handcuffed to the table by one wrist. His head was down and his shoulders slumped. He looked miserable.

Scott frowned at Derek through the one-way glass. “He looks so... lost. Too bad he doesn’t have anybody to give him a hug.”

And maybe that was the new instincts talking, but Stiles had to agree. He was pretty sure he didn’t want to be the one giving the hug, but yeah, Derek would probably be so much better with a close friend to give him hugs, like he had Scott.

He couldn’t help but smile. “You would think that, you big softy.”

Scott didn’t get a chance to rib Stiles back for feeling the same--because of course Scott knew; he was Scott--because Derek stiffened and then straightened up and glared right at them. They both gaped back. One point to the theory. It sure looked like Derek had heard.

Dad was already out the door with a quick ‘don’t touch anything’ and a second later appeared walking into the room with Derek. It was weird to hear Dad’s voice doubled from the speaker, and with super-ears, and kind of awful because they were just slightly out of sync and the speaker made Dad sound weird and tinny.

Derek didn’t say anything in response to the question, going as far as turning his head away and pulling back as far as the handcuff let him.

Fine, be that way! Time to put the experiment into full swing. Stiles kept his voice on the softer side of conversational, and the room wasn’t soundproofed, but Stiles knew it was made to keep the conversations in here from being overheard. Derek shouldn’t be able to hear them, not with normal ears.

“So! I know you can hear me, Derek.”

Derek twitched but didn’t look. Dad asked about the drawing again.

“You know, I think you should answer Dad’s questions. There’s this little thing called communicating and if you’d done it right yesterday we might not even be here right now.”

More twitching, and Derek shot them a dark look. Stiles swore he heard a little growl. So he continued.

“I mean, not practically stalking me and cornering me alone, oh, and not pinning me down, the day after that psycho held me down and raped me would have been good too--”

Scott hugged him, hard, and Stiles took a moment to try to collect himself. His heart was still hammering in his chest when he could bare to look into the room again.

Derek was curled in on himself. One arm was wrapped around his ribs, and the other as close to his body as the handcuffs allowed. Even his legs under the table were drawn up towards his chest. A pang of something went through Stiles at the sight and was joined by guilt when Dad shot a sad, knowing look at the glass.

“My son wanted to talk to you about what happened, but I didn’t think it was a good idea just yet. All I want to know right now is what this symbol means. Can you give me that, at least?”

Again, Derek said nothing, but Stiles thought he saw the muscles in Derek’s throat jump.

Stiles swallowed hard too. “I might be willing to forgive. I mean, you just lost your sister to this psycho and I know you’re not the one who hurt me. Okay, I’m definitely willing to forgive. Just, you need to use words, dude. We can’t help you if you don’t help us.”

At the same time, Dad was talking. “What happened to you, Derek? I remember you as a kid, smiling and maybe a bit too cocky. Living and breathing basketball and following his uncle around like a puppy. I liked that kid.”

Somewhere in all that was something that worked. Derek didn’t uncurl but he looked towards the glass. “It’s a variant of the Triskele. We used to use it almost like a family symbol. So it means, meant, us. The Hales.”

Stiles focused on the part of that that could tell him more. It was a variant of a symbol, and symbols meant things. “Okay, so what does a Triskele usually mean?”

Dad echoed his question before Stiles had gotten half-through. Derek clenched his jaw and leaned forward, touching his fingers to the spirals.

“It means a lot of different things, different groups of threes. This one means...” There was a long pause as Derek’s eyes flicked between Dad and them again and again, “leader, follower, outcast.”

Derek took a deep breath and sent a piercing look towards them, almost like he could see them through the glass. Maybe he could and Stiles just hadn’t developed super-eyes yet. His fingers curved around the circle in the center. “Heart.”

Stiles could tell Dad was smiling, even if his back was turned. “Thank you, Derek. Now, do you have any idea why someone would basically draw this on the ground around someone?”

Derek’s expression clouded and he tipped his head to the side. “What do you mean?”

“While you were leading us on a merry chase last night, somehow my son ended up sleepwalking to a spot where he used to like to play all the time. You might know where I’m talking about. It’s a lone hill with a little depression he used to call his cave on Hale land, right near one of the larger streams that runs through the forest. This was essentially scratched around the whole area when he woke up this morning.”

Derek’s eyes went wide. “You mean, near the edge of the property along Live Oak Place?”

“So you do remember it. Your parents and uncle dragged him away from it enough times. Stubborn kid. But this worries me, because why there? Why was this drawn around him?”

Derek nodded at what Dad was saying, but it was obvious that all his attention was on Stiles. It looked like he’d had some kind of realization, but he wasn’t sharing.

Dad waited quietly, and Derek composed himself before refocusing and leaning forward, intense and not actually scowling for once. “This is strange, but I need to talk with your son’s mother right away.”

Stiles gasped and Dad when stiff. When Dad spoke a few thundering heartbeats later, his voice was low and broken. “You’re a few years too late. She passed a long time ago.”

At least Derek had the grace to mumble an apology, eyes down and shoulders slumped again. Finally he looked up again. “I don’t really know. There was a tradition, and the Triskele was supposed to be protective, especially at the old burial ground like that.”

Dad asked about the tradition at the same times Stiles gulped out. “Burial ground?”

That made Derek smirk at the glass, just a little. “The first Hales who ever came to the area are buried there. The hill is actually more like a tomb, and the tradition is that new Hales were to be taken there to be... introduced to the family. That’s all I know; my uncle was... in charge of the family history and all the details and he’s, well...”

The silence was so very awkward, and Stiles was really glad he’d not gotten very deep into the hill because oh my god, he did not want to dig up actual bones, intentionally or on accident. After a couple minutes Dad stood up and nodded down at Derek.

“Thank you for answering. I’ll send someone in to get you to your cell so you can rest. We’ll give you an update as soon as we know more about this guy, and if charges are going to be filed against you.”

Derek hissed. “I was honoring her; she’s my sister--!”

“I know that.” Dad’s voice had a rough edge, like he was feeling sad. “But you still walked into an active crime-scene and stole a body. You could have ruined valuable evidence to help catch the sicko who murdered her.”

Derek just slumped and Dad finally walked out. He stuck his head into the observation room to tell them to head to school, but someone called his name and he rushed off. Stiles looked at Scott and Scott looked back.

Derek’s voice startled them out of it. “We need to talk.”

Yeah, they did. Stiles rubbed his eyes. “Then start talking.”

“Not here.” Derek leaned forward, voice so soft that Stiles had to strain to hear it, and he didn’t think the microphone even picked it up. “You have to get me out of here.”

Oh god, seriously? Actually, that deserved repeating. “Seriously? And how do you expect me to do that, Mr. Body Thief?”

“Talk your... father into dropping the charges and releasing me. You have to; we’re brothers.” Derek sounded like he really believed that.

Stiles just had to blink. Because, what? “Yeah, no. Accidentally sleeping on a grave aside, I’m not at all related to you.”

But Scott was looking at him with faintly pleading eyes. Ack, puppy-face struck again!

And, well. “I’ll see what I can do, but you broke the law, dude. I make no promises.”

And if Stiles stayed longer, he’d talk himself into actually breaking Derek out right now, because, damn it, he needed to know. He jerked his head at Scott, but as they were about at the door, someone walked into the interview room. Two people.

The young deputy stopped short and actually groaned. “My apologies, Mr. Hale, Mr. Argent. We’re a little busy this morning, and pressed for space. Take a seat, Mr. Argent; the Sheriff will be in as soon as he can. Mr. Hale, I’ll get someone to escort you out right away.”
And she walked right back out, closing the door behind her and leaving... Allison’s possibly vigilante dad in with probable werewolf Derek. This would either be awful or hilarious.

Derek had a snarl on his face. “Hunter.”

Stiles couldn’t see the other man’s front at all, but he swore the man was standing so stiffly that his spine was about to snap. His voice was cold and sharp, like a knife.

“Hale.”

Mr. Argent sat down, moving slowly, almost like he was afraid he’d break. Or maybe that Derek would snap and lunge across the table and rip his throat out or something.

Stiles did not like the man’s smug tone when he spoke up. “Already made yourself a suspect? I’m not sure whether to be impressed by them catching you or not.”

“I buried my sister’s body.” Derek was glaring daggers, and his hands were clenched in white-knuckled fists as far out of sight as the handcuff allowed. Then he smirked. “Blew your cover, didn’t you? The weapons you have might be legal, but going after children and families isn’t.”

“We hunt those who hunt us. I’m doing those so called children a favor by going after the feral targeting them, but he’s not the only threat. This town is about to become a minefield for those kids and death for anyone caught in the crossfire and you know it. I can protect them if someone tells me who they are.”

Nope. Stiles didn’t like this guy. So trustworthy. How could anyone at all think he had anything but their best interests at heart?

Derek was growling and Stiles was sure his eyes were bright blue for a second. “Use them as bait to trap and kill the rest of us or cage them and experiment on them, you mean.”

“No! I would never. I follow the code.” When Mr. Argent leaned forward, Stiles could see his face, and he actually looked sincere. If only his words weren’t skeevy central. “These kids are innocent until proven monsters, and if they’ve been living here this long without incident, I doubt they’re killers. I will protect them, but we’re running out of time!”

“No.” And Derek was suddenly smiling, and okay, wow, that was somehow worse than the monsters talk. “You’re running out of time. The full moon is tomorrow, Argent. Will you actually face up to the fact that we’re not the monsters you say we are instead of taking the coward’s way out?”

“It’s not--” Mr. Argent hissed.

“Boys, I thought I--Hell, who put them together?” Dad was standing in the doorway, and Stiles was so startled he missed the rest.

On the other hand, what he’d heard was... Yeah, werewolves were definitely a thing, and he and Scott were possibly going to become raving, bloodthirsty monsters tomorrow night. Oh shit. Oh shit.

In the interview room, Derek lunged at Mr. Argent, who stood up quickly... and then almost fell. He grabbed at his shoulder, listing oddly to the left. Stiles saw that he was putting most of his weight on one leg. Huh, weird.

“Stay put.” Dad shut the door on them and marched into the room. It was a mess, and two more deputies had to be called in to hold Derek still so he could be cuffed. He kept trying to get at Mr. Argent, but he didn’t look all that angry. Just kind of sad.

After Derek had been marched away, Stiles watched Mr. Argent sit back down and peel aside the collar of his shirt to reveal bloody looking bandages. He looked like he was mostly just making sure they hadn’t bled through the shirt though.

Stiles wondered whether he should tell Dad. He probably-- Oh. Those were teethmarks on Mr. Argent’s calf. Teethmarks that looked a lot like the spot where Scott had been bitten, and probably Stiles too, but he hadn’t exactly looked at the spots in a mirror.

Stiles heard Mr. Argent take a deep, ragged breath and watched him bury his face in his hands. He was shaking, Stiles realized, and looked a lot like Stiles felt about the whole thing. It made Derek’s comment about the coward’s way out seem so much more sinister. Definitely telling Dad.

Deciding that peeking into the hall was an acceptable risk, Stiles hobbled over, and sure enough, Dad was coming back, looking flustered and upset. He only paused when he saw Stiles.

“You two, school. Now. No arguments this time.” Dad didn’t say it out loud, but Stiles heard the please loud and clear.

He wasn’t going to argue, but! “Okay. Just, Dad? I think Mr. Argent was out in the woods last night. I’m pretty sure I saw... a bite mark on his leg. You know, like us, and--”

Dad nodded. “I’ll take care of it. Just, I can’t have you here with everything that’s happening.”

“I get it, I do. Stay safe, Dad.” Stiles launched himself forward to give Dad a tight hug, and then slung his arm over Scott’s shoulder so he could walk.

He couldn’t wait to get out of the stupid cast.

When they were out of the chaos of the station, Scott turned a stricken look on him. “Stiles, please tell me werewolves aren’t actually real.”

“I wish I could, buddy. I really do.” All Stiles could do was press closer to Scott, who relaxed for a moment then stiffened up again.

“What do we do?”

“There’s got to be cures, right? We research. But for now, we do our best to be normal high school students.” Easier said than done, and Stiles had a feeling it would come around to bite him in the ass.

Chapter Text

After standing around like idiots for a few minutes, Scott disappeared inside to ask for a ride. Deputy Gutierrez was the one who ended up getting tasked with that chore and didn’t look too happy about it. He’d joined the department only eight months ago, so Stiles didn’t know him that well. And today, he was just so grumpy about being asked to ‘babysit the Sheriff’s hyperactive kid’, his words, that, yeah getting to know him wasn’t going to start happening. So the drive home was silent and awkward as hell. At least Gutierrez brightened when he found out he didn’t have to bring Scott somewhere else.

Since the arrangement with the jeep and Scott’s bike had worked really well last night, they silently agreed to do it again. Besides, Stiles knew he and Scott needed to try to have a talk about what the hell they were supposed to do tomorrow night. He didn’t know if they’d get to it, but, well, they had to try. Because the internet hadn’t given Stiles much hope regarding him and Scott turning into at least moderately cuddly and tame wolves instead of wild, savage beasts thirsting for human blood and flesh. He was pretty sure Twilight was completely inaccurate source material.

When they finally got up to Stiles’ room, Stiles flopped onto his bed and stared at the ceiling, hoping his thoughts would stop swirling madly and settling into some kind of thing that at least approached order.

Didn’t work, of course, and when Scott settled next to him, Stiles sat back up. He didn’t want to go to school but Dad would be disappointed if he skipped, so Stiles would have to suck it up and deal with showering with the cast, and possibly the bandages. Speaking of...

“Scott, that bandage is gross. How many times did you manage to soak it yesterday? Not to mention sweat and dirt. I don’t think washing off in the stream is going to cut it. How about you take it off and shower here while I figure out what to do with the cast? Then I’ll shower and we can re-bandage each other.”

Because yeah, even if Scott’s mom had said they needed to stay for a couple days, Stiles just didn’t want to deal with trying to wash around them again. She’d probably never know if they did a good job re-bandaging, right?

Scott nodded at him and immediately started picking the bandage plastered across his side. “Works for me.”

Stiles managed to watch him for what must have been a full minute before he lost all patience and just ripped the whole thing off. When Scott yelped and glared, he shrugged. “You know what they say about bandaids.”

“Bandaids don’t pull off quite so much...hair?” Scott trailed off, staring at himself.

Stiles stared too, not quite believing his eyes, and then one-upped the staring by reaching out to touch and make sure. Old, dried blood flaked off under his fingertips and muscle jumped at the touch, but there was only soft, smooth skin instead of bloody scabs and teeth marks gouging into flesh. Without the scabs, there was literally no sign that Scott had been bitten and bleeding just two nights ago. Not even any angry bruises left behind.

“Dude. New werewolf superpower?”

Scott just shrugged and started pealing off the other bandages. Stiles hesitated for a moment and then with a mental what the hell, started working on his own.

Under the bandages on Scott was delicate looking new skin, slightly pinker than the rest and looking like a freshly healed scrape usually did before finally disappearing entirely. The only difference were in the few spots Scott had needed stitches. There, around the pink skin where the slashes had healed up, the stitches stretched tight, and were surrounded by irritated and angry red.

What Stiles could see of his own injuries looked the same. The bruises were completely gone, along with the more shallow cuts. The rest were all fresh newly-healed looking skin, or irritated spots around stitches. Stiles tugged on one and winced when it stung, and then on a whim grabbed for his scissors.

The cut stitch pulled free with a brief, almost warm, flash of pain and Stiles watched in amazement as the redness was gone in a blink and the tiny holes disappeared in a matter of a couple seconds. It was the same with each other stitch he pulled out of both of them.

Now stitch and bandage free, Scott ran his hands over himself with a look of awe. “This is so awesome. We’re like Wolverine!”

“Well, not completely, but this explains why you haven’t needed your inhaler for the past couple days either.” Stiles laughed along with Scott, feeling pretty good.

Weird, but good.

...Mostly good. Just, somehow, not having injuries anymore--Stiles didn’t know. Before, at least, he could have pointed to the wounds and been all ‘He hurt me’ but now--

Scott almost headbutted him, scrambling to get closer and winding arms around Stiles. Stiles let a breath explode out against Scott’s neck, feeling his heart suddenly ramp up to racing in his ears.

God damn, when was he going to get control of himself? Stiles hated feeling like any little thing could send him into the grip of gut tearing fear and...whatever.

He focused on forcing the feelings away with the help of Scott’s scent and steady heart. At least it passed almost as quickly as it came and Stiles swatted at Scott to break the mood when he could breathe steady again.

“My new... wolf-y side, I guess, likes the way you smell right now, but the rest of the school won’t. Go get clean, dude. You can borrow a shirt and some sweats for the ride to your house.”

Scott pulled back just enough to give Stiles a searching look, and what he saw must have been satisfying, because he got up and started towards the door.

Feeling lighter, Stiles called after him. “Don’t you dare use all the hot water either!”

Scott just laughed, and Stiles resolved to go use the downstairs bathroom to give him a nice, rude and cold awakening.

He never made it, and ended up bracing himself on a chair in the kitchen and twisting around to saw at his cast with a steak knife. So not the best cutting tool, but Stiles put all his strength into it and---

Sliced into his own calf when the cast finally gave way. He yelled, eyes tearing up and scrambled to get a towel. A slightly scary amount of blood welled up, but after a moment under the towel the pain faded away and sure enough, when Stiles peeked, there was only some smeared blood and a patch of shiny new skin that was already fading to invisible right before his eyes to testify to what had happened. Whoa. Maybe the Wolverine comparison had been right after all.

Some determined sawing and few more cuts later, Stiles had the cast cut into two pieces and gingerly put his weight on his leg. Not even a twinge, and aside from some stiffness in his ankle, it felt strong and healthy.

The only thing for it was to bound up the stairs. He narrowly avoided crashing into a be-towelled Scott who was crossing the hall, but it didn’t matter. “Look Scott, no cast!”

Scott caught him when he teetered, balance upset by the sudden stop, and Stiles turned the momentum into a spin in his exuberance. Scott laughed with him. “Great! How did you get it off?”

“I completely ruined one of our steak knives and left damning bloodstains on one of our dishtowels but no cast! I can shower now.”

And that reminder that he could shower was enough to send Stiles trotting right into the bathroom without another word, Scott’s laughter floating along behind him. The water was heavenly and Stiles spent a minute or two just standing under the spray before he got around to washing. Stiles scrubbed himself down from head to two twice, and regretfully decided he had to change to something else. Or maybe he could make his own soap and shampoo with the same scent but less overpowering and chemical-ly. He resolved to research the topic, because he didn’t want to give up the comfort and good memories of using Mom’s old favorite shampoo and body wash gave him.

He ended up spending a long time after washing just standing under the water until the scent faded to bearable, and the water started getting cold.

After toweling off, Stiles wandered into his bedroom, and when he spied Scott, half-dressed and sprawled on his bed, he just had to pounce. Scott yelped and tried to retaliate with tickling. It made Stiles squirm and laugh as he went for a noogie. Scott growled between his own attacks of laughter and tried to reverse the pin so of course they ended up tumbling to the floor.

In the frenzied wrestling match that followed, they both managed to whack body parts into furniture, and at some point Stiles lost the towel, but he ended up pinning Scott, so he counted it as a win.

Scott’s eyes were glowing again, brilliant yellow-gold, and his teeth looked sharper than they should be as he squirmed under Stiles, and there was a high pitched little growl vibrating in the air. With a start, Stiles realized the little growls were him, but then Scott tipped his head back a little and Stiles nipped at Scott’s exposed throat before he could think better of it.

Scott went pliant and Stiles felt a surge of contentment so strong that it left him limp over Scott and all but blissed out for a few seconds.

He kind of wanted to stay like that, but they did have to get to school some time this morning, so Stiles pulled away. A current of air moving over his ass reminded him of his current bare naked state but he didn’t feel embarrassed. Maybe if he’d popped a boner but-- ...He hadn’t actually since that night; was that normal?

Scott’s cheek bumped against his. “You okay?”

“I think he broke me. I haven’t...you know,” Stiles grimaced and waved a hand at his waist, “since. Not even in the shower.”

Scott’s brow furrowed but then he jerked back with a little breathy ‘oh’ and followed it up with a shrug. “I don’t think I would either? I mean... He raped you. You could ask Mom about it if you’re worried.”

Stiles whined and flailed and yanked the towel over his crotch and it still wasn’t enough to convey the horror of that suggestion.

At least Scott had the grace to look sheepish. “Well, you could. But I’d wait a few days before worrying. Maybe it is just some stress or PSTD thing that will go away on it’s own as you recover.”

Yeah, okay, Stiles could work with that, but for now he needed to get dressed and find his other sh--wait. “Shit, Scott, if we go in today without my cast and sans all the bandages, people will know something is up.”

Scott stiffened. “Oh man, you’re right? What do we do?”

What should they do? People probably wouldn’t believe it, or at least, probably only the wrong people would and they already had the psycho and creepy bitch and some kind of vigilante werewolf hunting group--led by the Dad of the girl Scott liked, wasn’t that just rich?--after them so... No, they had to hide.

“Well, we can just put bandages on where they were before and hope that nobody was looking at you too closely in the locker room yesterday.” Some of the scratches hadn’t been covered, and no sign of them now, but more bandages would be more suspicious than fewer.

“But what about the cast?”

That... That was a problem. Stiles could think of a few different ways he could attach the two parts back together, but they would be really obvious. He could technically stretch a sock over it, but Stiles didn’t think he had socks tall or stretchy enough to cover all the damage he’d done. That and stretched out sock wouldn’t hide anything at all, really. Stiles needed something that could wrap around the cast, and also be flexible and not see-through...

If he could just find something that wold work, a little duct tape and velcro would--

“I’ve got it! Scott, could you go down and grab the cast for me?”

As Scott obediently trooped downstairs, Stiles dug through his closet, only pausing for a second to yank on a pair of boxers.

Lo and behold, after a bit of digging, he found the box he’d been looking for. Jackpot!

He was just pulling the box out when Scott came back in with the sorry looking cast. Stiles had to spend a minute cleaning off the blood where he could and trimming the frayed padding on the inside with his scissors, but that down, duct tape really did fix everything. A little creative taping had the one piece swinging like it was on hinges and on the other side, Stiles attached some more duct tape and some self-adhesive velcro strips. It wouldn’t hold up to hard use but his leg fit into it okay and comfortably enough, and he could put it on and off. Win!

It looked like and absolute, obviously broken and put back together, piece of shit, but Stiles had a plan for that.

He started pulling the rolls of brightly colored and patterned duct tape out of the box, and laid them out on the floor to see what he still had.

Scott leaned in, grinning. “You still have all that extra duct tape?”

Stiles grinned back, remembering all the work they’d put into the costumes. “Well, yeah. Why waste perfectly good duct tape? Besides, my dress was wrecked by the end of the night. I needed something to remember it by.”

“I’m positive Mom and your dad have lots of pictures.” Scott was laughing at him, but it felt good.

Stiles just shrugged at him. “Pictures just aren’t the same. I still say we out-shined the rest of the costumes there; we should have won the contest.”

“If it helps, you’re still the only duct tape chic prom queen for me.”

Stiles stuck his tongue out at Scott. So what if it was childish? “Only because I lost the coin toss. You should just admit it; you do have the better legs for it.”

“Well, I wasn’t going to shave them.” Scott wiggled closer and hooked his chin over Stiles’ shoulder.

It felt nice and Stiles relaxed into it while he pulled a bright yellow roll of duct tape out of the pile. They also had hot-rod red. “You thinking what I’m thinking?”

Scott hummed and then picked up the dark blue. He held it next to the yellow. “i’m thinking X-Men.”

Stiles grabbed the red. “I’m thinking Avengers. New super-healing aside, I’m so not a Wolverine.”

“Well...” Scott thought about it for a minute. “I guess it works.”
“Good. Now get over here and hold while I tape.” Stiles tried not to mourn the loss of Scott’s warmth as he started pulling out a length of tape.

With Scott steadying the cast and holding strips of tape, the whole project went pretty quickly. The end result wasn’t as awesome as the suit, gown, and accessories for their costumes had been but it was bright, flashy, and covered up the cast just right.

After that it was a matter of minutes to slap some gauze and tape on the correct patches of skin and the Stiles found himself staring at his clothes, remembering what Lydia had said yesterday. Maybe if he could put something together that would impress her... Or, honestly, disappoint a little less.

“I’m despairing here. I don’t think I own anything... wait.”

Stiles took a moment to try to noogie Scott who danced away while enjoying a laugh at his dilemma. But he was a man with a plan, and there just might be something salvageable in his closet. With all the reverence the garment deserved, Stiles pulled out the Good Shirt. Or the clone of the Good Shirt, because he’d grown out of the original that Mom had bought him on their last day together before she’d gone into the hospital for that final time. The shirt was a simple button up, plain enough to work nice under a suit jacket and tie, but this version had a very subtle almost pattern because the threads of warp and weft were slightly different colors. Overall it was peach--Mom had told him he looked good in peach, and even if it was probably a bully magnet color, Stiles was never giving up the Good Shirt--but sometimes it looked more pale red, or looked more golden, depending on the light. It was usually a very special occasions only shirt, but Stiles figured embarking on a friendship with Lydia counted.

Like hell was he going to wear good slacks with it, though, so Stiles poked through his jeans and settled on his palest blue pair. They weren’t as roomy as he liked his jeans, but in the way of all awkward gifts from distant relatives, Stiles hadn’t been able to get rid of them, and technically they did fit pretty well. Snugly, but they fit.

After wiggling them on over the cast--and it was already itching again--Stiles dug out one of his Episode One shirts. It was tie-dyed with a sandy color and sky blue that almost matched the shirt and pants. Over that went the Good Shirt, top two buttons undone, and with everything tucked in and belted, Stiles admitted that he looked...older maybe. More put together and less of spaz, probably. The cast cover looked flashy and out of place but whatever.

Stiles made quick work of his shoe and packing his backpack--laptop included today.

Scott was already fully dressed and waiting with a small, knowing smile on his face.

“What?”

“Nothing.”

“Jerk.” But Stiles said it fondly. Whatever Scott was thinking, it’d come out soon enough and he had stairs to tackle.

It was still awkward and slow, but now that he knew he could put his whole weight on the leg, it went easier.

Scott still had that smile on when they piled into the jeep, and the whole way to the McCall house Stiles drummed his fingers on his legs, trying to keep up with his racing thoughts.

They were turning into werewolves, no doubt about that now. So, probably, was Mr. Argent, who was some kind of hunter and vigilante. And it looked like he and Derek might know each other. Or know of.

If, and it was a big if, they found a cure, Stiles doubted they’d manage it before tomorrow night, which meant they’d both go all wolf-y and probably crazy and homicidal and no. That was a bad, bad end scenario. How the hell did you werewolf-proof anywhere? How strong would they be? How crazed and violent? Would the psycho come knocking if they didn’t go to wherever he was? So many questions and not nearly enough time.

The jeep pulling to a stop barely caught Stiles’ attention and he nodded dumbly at Scott’s suggestion that he stay put while Scott got his stuff.

They really needed help, but who? The only not-actively hostile werewolf Stiles knew of, and the not-actively-hostile part wasn’t one hundred percent, was Derek, who was in jail right now. And if he was still there tomorrow night, oh hell, Stiles hoped the cell could hold him.

Mr. Argent seemed to know his... Yeah, no.

There was something up with Dr. Deaton, but the phone call didn’t make Stiles confident of getting any actual help, even if he really was in the know.

Dad didn’t believe, Scott’s mom didn’t know and probably would have the same reaction. Hell, the only person that hadn’t even blinked at the w-word had been Ms. Morrell, and Stiles didn’t know...

Well, what was the worst that could happen? Okay, so Stiles could think of a lot of different worsts, but did he have a choice? He had to trust someone, and at least she seemed to want to help him.

So that was that; Stiles would do a little fishing and see what Ms. Morrell knew. Shouldn’t be too hard.

Stiles nodded to himself as Scott reappeared and loaded his bike and bag. Scott slipped into the seat, smile slightly dimmed. “School ho?”

So Stiles tapped his phone. Ugh, even if they left now and sped, they’d show up in the middle of second period. That was just begging for attention. “You know what? I don’t want to walk in during the middle of a class and get stared at. To the library; we’ve got books to check out!”

Scott nodded. “Library ho!”

On the drive, Stiles pulled up the book list he’d compiled yesterday and split it up by section. He then carefully emptied his backpack so he could carry the books in and out. Crutches sucked, and sucked worse when he didn’t actually need them for anything but not, like, getting sent to a lab for experiments because of miraculous healing powers.

He handed half the list to Scott and ambled into the library with the quickest hobble he could manage, ready to wave at the librarian on duty. It was Mrs. Ito today, which was cool, because she’d been able to help him find esoteric information while he was on research jags before. She was stern and strict, and apparently really old, but didn’t quite look it. Maybe she dyed her hair, because her face did have a lot of fine wrinkles. She raised one eyebrow at him and then shook her head with a disappointed sigh. Stiles just shrugged back and smiled instead of stopping to wave.

He headed back into the stacks, knowing exactly where to find the books on mythology. There were a lot of books here, and some were really old and had other things inside the covers instead of the library cards. Donations, Stiles knew. He stuffed the backpack full of the books on his list and added a few others that looked promising, then headed back out.

On the way back to the checkout desk, the self-help section caught his eye. There probably wouldn’t be a ‘how to werewolf for dummies’ but taking a quick look couldn’t hurt. After a scan of the shelves, Stiles added a couple books whose titles promised help dealing with anger and aggression. If nothing else, maybe he could sneak them into Jackson’s locker for a laugh.

Scott joined him with an armload of books on the way to the desk, and this time they both got the eyebrow raise. It was probably more books than got checked out for a whole day, most of the time. Okay, maybe that was exaggerating a little.

Stiles tried to grin to disarm the judging. “When I get curious I have to know everything.

Mrs. Ito’s smile made her wrinkles stand out more, but unlike some old people Stiles knew, her hands didn’t shake or tremble as she checked out the books with speed and efficiency other librarians must envy. “You know what they say about curiosity and cats.”

“Uh-huh, and satisfaction brings them back.”

That made her laugh, but she slowed down suddenly, and Stiles watched her read over the title of the first self-help book at least twice. When she was finished with the books she looked up and met Stiles’ eyes, holding him there with her gaze like a pin through a butterfly until his heart sped up and Stiles just had to look away for his own sanity.

For an old lady, she was scary intense. And also leaning down to rummage through her purse. What?

That question was answered a second later when she put a small book on top of Stiles’ pile. It was leather and old looking, but didn’t have a title on it anywhere. When Stiles flipped it open, it wasn’t printed so much as written, in tiny but neat cursive letters. Mostly in English, at least.

“This might help with the anger and aggression.”

Stiles just stared at her for a few seconds, and he knew his mouth had to be hanging open, but he couldn’t help it. “This isn’t a library book.”

Way to state the obvious, but she didn’t call him out on it. She just smiled again. “When you’ve finished, you know where to find me. And if you forget, I know where you will be.”

“Um, well! Okay. Uh. Thanks? Yeah, that’s really nice of you. So definitely. Like. Thank you.” Kind of mortified by his own falling all over himself, Stiles rushed him and Scott out of the library without looking back or waiting for a response.

Most of the books got piled into the back seat, but Stiles kept the little nameless book with him. A quick flip through the pages showed mostly writing, but also a few hand-drawn pictures. Interesting. Might as well check it out on the drive to school. It was small enough that it shouldn’t take long to go through.

The first page was completely empty except for a single line of text and a drawing of a circle with three comma-shaped things swirled inside it.

Three things cannot be long hidden; the sun, the moon, and the truth.

Well now, wasn’t that just a little bit ominous, considering. Stiles tried to shake off the shudders and tucked the little book away in his backpack because suddenly he wasn’t sure he wanted to read the rest right now. Then he busied himself by putting all his school things back in order. And he’d totally planned to do the homework for his afternoon classes during the study halls today, but whoops, that probably wasn’t happening. He had to talk to Ms. Morrell, and he didn’t think just one study hall would cut it.

But no time for more worrying. They were at school finally, and Scott kept pace with him until they hit the second floor. The bell rang and the hall flooded with kids just as they got off the last step. Then Scott took a couple quick steps so that he was just a little bit in front, almost protective.

Danny, Jackson, and Lydia all shared the third period class with him and Scott. Allison too, if the group walking down the hall was any indication. Allison looked upset, and Lydia was walking close to her and hissing cutting remarks at all comers from the looks of it. The boys were flanking the girls and completing the image of a superstar, agent and a pair of bodyguards. So, okay, Stiles would have cast Lydia as the superstar and Allison as the agent, but it worked the other way too.

Lydia was the first to notice them. Her eyes raked over Stiles and she huffed. “So you two weren’t skipping completely. Danny showed up in the middle of first period; what happened to you two?”

Stiles shrugged. “We had to give another statement after Danny left. Besides, ever showered in a cast? It sucks, let me tell you, but I didn’t think anyone would appreciate me doing a wild-man impression in school today. Also, stairs, root of all evil, etcetera. And then we had to detour to Scott’s house to pick up all his things.

Scott was busy shooting sad puppy looks at Allison, like he wanted her to tell him why she was upset and Stiles wanted to ask too, except he was pretty sure it had something to do with Dad bringing her dad in this morning.

But at least the explanation seemed to mollify Lydia somewhat, and her gaze turned into a completely different kind of judgmental. She looked him up and down like he was prize--not even that, dubious, maybe--horseflesh, and cocked her hip and twirled a finger in her hair.

“Trying to impress me? You did clean up semi-decently. Maybe you do have potential, but what is that monstrosity on your cast?”

That got everyone else’s attention, and Stiles fought not to wither under their looks. Danny’s eyes flicked up and down and then back up slow, like they had the first time Danny had seen Stiles lifeguarding, but this time he wasn’t looking completely bemused, and gave Stiles a slow smile.

Stiles felt his cheeks warm, and his stomach flip in a kind of nice way--wonderful change from all the nausea recently--and failed in the attempt not to fidget. He almost kicked Scott for the knowing smile coming back. Almost.

Then Allison’s sadness broke and she laughed a little. “Iron Man?”

Yes. Stiles gave a fistpump to the air, and totally dropped his crutch, but who cared. “A prize for the lady! I like you. Scott, can we keep her?”

Scott’s eyes went wide and he flapped his hands a little in desperate panic, and it was hilarious. Stiles got what the charades communicated, of course. ‘Why? How could you? Oh my god now she’ll hate me. Why?’

Revenge for the smile was sweet, and Allison looked kind of charmed anyway. Danny was laughing a little, and actually stooped down to retrieve the crutch, which, whoops, there went his skin betraying him again.

Lydia was all cat that ate the canary and patted Jackson’s arm in a conciliatory gesture that Stiles was sure he’d understand if... Okay, he had no idea what was going on. But Jackson hadn’t said anything, and wasn’t looking at Stiles at all. There was a sort-of matching bandage splayed across the back of his neck, and he looked pale, with dark smudges under his eyes. Like he hadn’t slept at all, probably, and part of Stiles felt smug, and part felt a little guilty. Ugh. Conflicting emotions sucked.

While Stiles was trying to figure out Lydia and Jackson, Scott apparently got enough of himself together to make actual words. “We should, I mean-- Class!”

Not the most coherent words, but still words, and just about everybody agreed that class should be a thing they attended. So that was how Stiles ended up sitting in the back and fidgeting. Not only were the new wolf-y senses still distracting as hell, but all his thoughts and fears kept intruding and Stiles missed every single thing the teacher said. He also couldn’t keep still, like there was a live-wire in his skin, sparking and spitting.

He was distracting the other students and he knew it but!

Finally the teacher rounded on him, stalking up the isle to stand in front of his desk. “Stiles, did you take your Adderall this morning?”

Stiles gaped at her like a fish for a minute and then had to shake his head. “Uh, no, totally forgot.”

She heaved a sigh at him. “Go down to the nurse; he should have a bottle for your afternoon dose, right? Take your meds and rest there for a while. I’m sure one of your friends will lend you their notes since you’ve obviously missed everything today.”

And, well, Stiles would be embarrassed, even if it kind of happened at least once a month, but a chance to get out and do something? He could do that. He packed up his stuff and left the room, wondering if he should actually try taking the Adderall. Well, it wouldn’t hurt, right? And the nurse’s office was near the counselor’s office, so he could take out two birds with one stone and maybe even make time to finish his homework.

Which wouldn’t happen if he stayed this wired, but Stiles kind of hoped the Adderall would actually work.

When he got to the nurse’s office, Stiles got a stern look and a cup of water and a familiar bottle shoved at him before he could say anything, and he ducked out with a ‘thanks’ before the nurse could do anything else.

Ms. Morrell wasn’t in like he’d hoped, but she taught French too, so it had been kind of a long shot to begin with, so Stiles camped in one of the chairs outside to wait and tried not to fidget. He really wanted to pace, or move, or something--run, hunt, eat and oh god, he’d forgotten to eat again, hadn’t he?

Not helping. So not helping. Desperate for some kind of distraction, Stiles pulled open the little nameless book again and tried to read.

He wasn’t absorbing much, reading the same words over and over and over, but Stiles wasn’t completely lost. This book was at least semi-religious, but...

Ten minutes later, which Stiles only knew because he’d pulled out his laptop and gotten himself into the school’s wi-fi, Stiles had figured out the book was pretty heavily Buddhist, with a little bit of other things here and there. There was talk about meditation, focus and control, and those things had an appeal! Having an anchor, whatever that was, got a mention too, but Stiles didn’t know what to make of that section, probably because he’d given up on finishing it after reading the same sentence six times. Dealing with anger, aggression, fear and other emotions the book called ‘potentially harmful’ was a big thing. Lust also got a mention, not as actively harmful, but as something that opened the door for the bad things if someone wasn’t vigilant.

Stiles was sure it would make more sense if he wasn’t so all over the place, but in theory, he liked the ideas. Hell, if this worked even a little, it’d help with his ADHD too.

So why not? The book laid out a basic technique right from the start, involving repeating a simple phrase--the author obviously liked the sun, moon, truth one--helping calm and focus, so Stiles decided it wouldn’t hurt to try.

He felt ridiculous, and found himself losing rhythm and getting frustrated and making things worse. Stiles almost threw the book against the wall, grinding teeth that felt too big for his mouth and digging his nails into the plastic arm of the chair.

This was--! This was him failing, was what it was. Come on, Stiles. He could do this! He could.

Maybe he was going about this wrong. One of his therapists had taught him breathing exercises which mostly worked for panic attacks and kind of maybe almost worked other times, at least until he got distracted, so maybe if he combined the two.

Stiles took a deep breath, and let it out again. On the second try, he mouthed the words, giving them oomph when he put breath behind them. Then he did it again. He could hear his heartbeat, hear the air moving through his lungs, the slick sounds of his tongue and throat working around the words, even when they didn’t have air to make a sound. The little saying itself had a rhythm to it, and Stiles adjusted it so it fit his heart and breathing and...

Okay, maybe it could work. He was starting to feel more... there, inside his own body, instead of pulled in a million different directions like usual. Even the ring of the class bell didn’t startle him out of it; Stiles considered that a huge success.

His concentration broke a second later with a combination of heartbeat and scent coming closer so quickly that it felt like he didn’t have enough time to react. Stiles blinked up at Ms. Morrell, feeling as startled as she looked. He managed a nervous laugh and wiped his palms on his jeans. “So, I don’t think I can wait until tomorrow. You free now?”

She got herself composed in record time and nodded. “I don’t have anyone with an appointment to come in this study all. Come in.”

Stiles quickly shoved the book and his laptop into his backpack and hobbled towards her door. He felt his nerves ramp up with each step towards her office. He managed to get inside the door before peeking out nervously. Nobody anywhere near, though his ears had already told him that. Habit, he guessed.

“Take a seat, Stiles. What can I help you with?”

“I don’t even know if you can, I mean--” Stiles slumped in the chair and started fiddling with the zipper on his backpack. “So I’ll just. Okay, here’s the thing--”

She was waiting patiently, but now that he was actually here it was so hard to just say it. Come on.

“Werewolves: real or not?”

Well that was a start, wasn’t it? Stiles watched her, eyes and ears and nose all trained on her. Her heart didn’t change, or her expression, but she was so quiet and still and-- Ugh!

Finally she shifted, leaning close with her hands palm down on the desk. “Real.”

The breath just exploded out of him and Stiles slumped in his seat, having to stare at the ceiling for a minute to try to get his thoughts in order. He felt too self-conscious to try the little chant again, but he controlled his breathing, counting in his head. And maybe out loud a little. When Stiles felt like his heart wasn’t going to go running on any marathons any time soon, he tried again.

“So! Well. Wait, how do you know? I know how I found out but-- You’re not a werewolf too are you?”

She tipped her head to the side, and while her expression hardly changed, her scent flooded with something Stiles knew was sadness at the very least, and was probably raw grief. “No, I’m not a werewolf. A long time ago, I was very close to the alpha of a pack that lived about forty minutes south of Beacon Hills.”

“I’m sorry.” He didn’t know why he’d said it, because it wasn’t like she’d said the werewolf was dead or anything, but the past tense was a pretty good indicator that at least ‘close’ didn’t count anymore. “So, alpha? Is that a thing? I know it’s an obsolete descriptor for the breeding pair of a real wolf pack, but there wasn’t much on werewolves that I’d call a concrete source, if you know what I mean. I have no idea what is true or just legend and myth.”

Ms. Morrell leaned back a little, crossing her legs and resting her clasped hands on her knee. She looked more comfortable now. “Yes, an alpha is a ‘thing’ as you called it. The alpha is stronger and faster than other werewolves, and usually leads the pack. Not always, but usually. An alpha’s bite is also the only bite that can turn a human into a werewolf. Except for a one in a million chance that’s so rare it might as well not exist.”

“What.” Now that had Stiles’ attention. Was there a chance that he wasn’t going to be all wolf-y tomorrow night? Way too slim, because he was definitely changing, but... “How do you know a werewolf is an alpha?”

“When they shift, their eyes glow pure red.” She paused, dark eyes focused on the bandages. “You don’t need those, do you? Or the cast. Stiles, remember what I said about give and take? If you want me to help you, you need to tell me what happened that night.”

His heart started speeding up just at the thought. Damn, he wished Scott was here. “I don’t-- It’s so hard to think about, much less...”

“I know. Take your time. You can take as many breaks as you need.”

She could help him. She could help Scott. Stiles didn’t want to go wild and hurt anyone. “Well, it started off with a Bad Decision. I overheard my dad talking about the body they’d found, and how they were looking for the rest and I don’t know, I thought it’d be cool or interesting, or maybe make me some kind of hero. So I got my friend to come with me and we went looking for the body.”

Stiles kept on talking, and at first it wasn’t so bad. The psycho--alpha--stalking and herding them towards the Hale property wasn’t actually so hard to talk about. He had to take his first break when he got to finding Laura’s body though, feeling sick and sad at describing how she’d been so brutally torn apart.

Then once he’d gotten his breath back, he’d had to go on. By the time he got to the psycho--alpha... psycho alpha on top of him, humping him, Stiles knew he was whimpering and crying in between the words. His stomach was rolling and he wished so hard Scott was here. But he pushed on, because if he stopped now he knew he wouldn’t be able to start again.

And then, well, he got to Dad finding them, and the hard part was over. It was like a dam broke, and Stiles ended up going on about how his senses were changing, and the dog, and the creepy bitch--but not the phone call, because who knew if Dr. Deaton was like a mob boss or something, and okay maybe going that far was ridiculous, but!--and then waking up this morning in the woods, with the mountain lion and Triskele, and the signs of the fight and the gunpowder.

Ms. Morrell sat quiet during the story, and Stiles only noticed any kind of reaction when he’d mentioned the creepy bitch. The sharp hiss of breath had broken through the mess of his own emotions and heartbeat. And when he was done, Stiles was shaking and sniffling, throat hurting like he’d been shouting. She got up and came back with a cold bottle of water for him, which Stiles accepted and gulped down with more thirst than he’d thought possible.

There was a short time that Stiles didn’t know how long where the office was quiet, then finally she spoke up. “Thank you for telling me, Stiles. That took a lot of courage. Now... I assume you have more questions?”

“Yeah, I need to know everything.” When she just sat there waiting Stiles grimaced and ground his teeth in frustration. “I guess, first I need to know if... The full moon is tomorrow night. Am I going to hurt people?”

She nodded. “If you don’t take precautions, yes, you might. There is a grain of truth to the legends about crazed bloodlust and violence. Your new instincts will also be at a peak, and that usually complicates matters. But there is hope; it’s possible to learn to control the bloodlust and eventually, the shift itself.”

Stiles had to lean forward, feeling like he was nearly vibrating out of his skin in eagerness. “How? Please tell me you know.”

“It’s called an anchor. I couldn’t tell you details, because it’s different for each werewolf, but simply put, it’s something that ties you to your human side, and helps you find inner calm and peace. Meditation techniques also work, I’ve heard. But...” She sighed, looking sad, but not exactly smelling it. Stiles could smell the smokey scent again and it made him want to sneeze.

“But what?”

“But, on the first full moon, without a caring, competent, present alpha and a full pack to help, it’s highly unlikely you’ll succeed. You might have a better chance than most new wolves, but your nameless friend...”

It sent chills down his spine. On the other hand, he wasn’t going to let her get away without explaining why he might have a better chance than Scott. Stiles knew he could get mean and vindictive when pushed hard enough, and Scott wouldn’t hurt a fly. “What do you mean I might have a chance?”

Ms. Morrell considered him for a moment and then shrugged. “What you described with the dog is very uncommon. Not the events themselves, but few werewolves could pull the pain from another without at least knowing that it was possible, and usually only after being coached through it by someone the first time. Even fewer of those who could would be able to do it less than a full day after receiving the Bite. It’s a sign that you may have a rare gift, and if you do, werwolves with that gift tend to be more...even tempered, even at their wildest.”

Okay, so black-vein thingy was normal, but doing it so quickly wasn’t. Good to know. But Stiles had a feeling Ms. Morrell was holding back on him. “Gift? What gift?”

She narrowed her eyes at him, but started talking. “The gift, among other things, includes the gift of healing. Any werewolf can take another’s pain, but one with the gift can even take poison, and quicken healing, to an extent. Sharing a strong bond with such a werewolf can share the benefits of that even-tempered nature. According to old werwolf folk-stories my alpha told me once, an alpha claiming and bonding with such a werwolf would be enough to heal and bring the alpha out of even a hopelessly feral state and back to humanity. And also make that alpha quite a bit more powerful.”

Wait. Wait. “So I’m like, werwolf anti-psychotics and steroids all rolled up into one?”

Stiles did not like that, not at all. Not one bit. Even if maybe it did kind of explain why he was suddenly the wrong kind of popular. “What kind of bonding and claiming are we even talking about here?”

Her mouth tightened to a thin line. “I think you’ve already guessed, but those folk-stories usually had a strong romantic bent. And even if you don’t have the gift, the alpha who bit you, and the pack the ‘creepy bitch’ belongs to both think you do. You need to be incredibly careful, Stiles.”

The bell rang, but Stiles ignored it. “Okay, yeah, I get that. Shit, this means they’re probably going to come after me tomorrow night, aren’t they? When I have the least control over myself. I need to know--”

She held up her hand and shook her head. “That’s enough for today, Stiles. What we’ve already talked about has given you enough to think about. Tonight you need to focus on finding yourself a secure place to spend the full moon.”

Stiles had so much more he needed to know, and the flash of sheer, hot anger at being dismissed like that made him growl.

Actually growl, and the shock of that made Stiles jerk back. Oh shit, he couldn’t lose control here. Stiles closed his hands into fists and tried breathing, and when that didn’t push down the urge to lunge at her and pin her and--hurt her--make her talk, he desperately added the little saying. It was so much harder without Scott around.

But slowly, slowly, Stiles was able to push it back, and as he slumped in the chair, breathing like he had just run a mile, he noticed the smokey smell was stronger than ever.

Ms. Morrell was sitting up straight and tense, but she looked vaguely surprised, or maybe impressed. Stiles ducked his head and managed an apology, sort of, and that made her smile. “It’s fine. I do understand how trapped and frustrated you must feel. That’s why we’re stopping for today. Focus on the most important thing, getting through your first full moon safe, and with everyone around you unhurt. We’ll have time to talk tomorrow too.”

Stiles was glad she wasn’t running screaming. Or pulling out the silver bullets; that seemed more her style. “Do you think a jail cell would work?”

“It would probably hold you physically, but it wouldn’t keep you quiet.” She left the implications unsaid, and then turned to some papers on her desk.

Stiles could take a hint, so he got up, thoughts whirling in his head. How the hell were he and Scott going to make it through tomorrow night?

He really, really wished he knew.

Chapter Text

Stiles arrived n the cafeteria late, but on the bright side the food line had dwindled. Scott waved him over right when Stiles crossed the threshold, and surprise--or not at all-- Scott was seated next to Allison, right near the head of Lydia’s table. There was also a suspiciously open seat across from Scott and next to Danny. And some sour faces, probably from the usual members of Lydia’s court that had been displaced from their seats of honor.

Stiles wasn’t going to say no to a chance to be near Lydia and Danny, especially since Scott was already there. The rest of the tables’ occupants, well, he could tolerate them for today.

As he was hobbling along when a familiar sick and medicine-y smell hit him. Erica. She smelled much better today, though, even if she looked a little worse for the wear. Stiles stopped next to her and gave her a smile. “Hey Erica! Feeling better today?”

She looked at him like he’d grown a second head and was about to eat her, but Stiles wasn’t too deterred by that. When she finally nodded back, Stiles grinned bigger. “Glad to hear it; I was a little worried yesterday.”

But Scott was waving again, so Stiles couldn’t bear to stay and chat for too long. “Anyway, the food line calls, so I’d better hurry if I want a chance to eat. See you in chemistry!”

Erica just nodded again he gave her another smile over his shoulder as he went. He got to what was obviously his reserved seat and basked in the pleased smile from Scott, who had probably heard the whole thing with Erica. Danny and Allison shot him smiles too, while Lydia was looking thoughtful and everyone else was in full judgement mode. Stiles ignored the judging and started struggling out of his backpack so at least he didn’t have to deal with that while trying to get food.

Scott was doing worried look number four. “You didn’t show up for study hall.”

“Yeah, sorry. I was talking with Ms. Morrell about... you know. Stuff. It went over into the study hall.”

“Oh, okay.” Scott took that explanation happily and stood up, holding out his hand. “Give me your lunch money. I’ll save you the walk.”

The silence that followed Scott’s departure was awkward. Allison still looked really upset, and Danny was focusing single-mindedly on his salad. And Jackson was keeping up with the routine of not looking at Stiles at all. He was staring at his lunch tray and slowly mauling it into a less identifiable than usual mess with his fork.

Lydia finally broke the silence. “So, Erica Reyes?”

“She had me worried yesterday. I was checking in.” Stiles shrugged, not seeing any reason to bring up the full events. And even if Lydia was judging, which it didn’t sound like but she was a master of keeping up appearances and subterfuge, not even she could keep him from associating with whoever he wanted to.

One of the boys at the table made a face. “You actually care about the seizure freak? She wets herself, you know.”

“Wow, you must know so much about epilepsy. I bow down to the expert.” Stiles rolled his eyes. Dude was so on his shit list forever.

At least the dude was aware enough to realize he was being mocked, but not enough to have a snappy comeback ready. Stiles wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction of listening even if he did. He turned to Danny instead. “Hey, man, how’s Rosie? Was she doing better when you went home to get your stuff?”

Danny shrugged. “A little, yeah, but she’ll probably be clingy for a while. She was really upset last night. She keeps asking about you though.”

Awww. Stiles was touched. “Tell her thanks, and that I’m doing good!”

“Will do.”

They shared a fist bump and Stiles was pleased to see that the jerk had deflated after being summarily ignored. And that Scott was returning with a tray of food.

Stiles dug in like he was starving, which he was, and didn’t care that he was making a scene. When he finished, Stiles felt much better. More settled. Huh, maybe being well fed helped keep the wolfyness more manageable?

He finished off with a good stretch, hearing Scott asking Allison again why she was upset.

Allison sighed, again, and this time met Stiles’ eyes. “I called my mom again during study hall and my dad still hasn’t come home from the station. I don’t even know why he’s there in the first place.”

Clever girl. Allison knew exactly where to look for answers. Stiles debated playing dumb for the audience for a minute but Scott was using his strongest sad puppy face. “I make no promises but I might be able to get something on that. Just not here.”

Stiles turned around, startling the wanna-be eavesdroppers at the next table. “Too many prying ears, if you know what I mean.”

Lydia broke the pall that followed that by standing up and twitching her clothing back into perfection. “Well, I for one, could use some air. It’s so stuffy in here.”

To Stiles’ surprise, her disdainful look didn’t settle on him as she swept out. A word had Jackson scurrying to follow at her heels while Stiles and Scott shared confused looks with Danny and Allison. Lydia’s voice floated over the crowd, and that got them moving.

Because if the queen of the school requested his presence? Stiles would go, no question.

They ended up on the lacrosse field after a brief stop to get the girls’ coats--and Stiles knew he’d forgotten something this...okay, no, he totally hadn’t even realized until now--and clustered around the bleachers with him and Jackson valiantly failing to pretend they weren’t cold.

Lydia started them off with an imperious look at Stiles. “Well?”

When did you become one of the need to know--Stiles almost asked it, but bit his tongue at the last second and dialed Dad’s cell instead.

Dad picked up immediately. “Stiles? What’s wrong.”

Not even a question, which said something about his propensity for trouble and Stiles didn’t want Dad worrying. “Nothing! Nothing with me, anyway. But I’ve got Allison Argent with me here and she’s really worried about her dad. Can you tell me anything?”

Stiles--”

“Dad, please? Scott is totally counting on you too.”

Scott sputtered in the background and Dad grumbled. “If this is only about looking good for a girl...”

“Dad, we’re teenagers! What isn’t about making us look good for our crushes?” Stiles took a breath and pulled out the big guns. “I’m also a little worried about you know what.”

Dad sighed and Stiles knew he’d won at least a partial answer. “Give me a minute.”

There was some rustling and the sound of a door shade rattling against the glass as it shut, and then the creak of well-worn chair settling under Dad’s weight. “Argent’s injuries have been taken care of. Officially, the fourth victim will be listed as another minor, which I don’t like, but...”

Dad sighed again. “His cooperation hinged on that, even with criminal charges hanging over his head. That fact is unofficial too, by the way.”

“Okay, and?”

“You are too nosy.” There was the creak of the chair again and Dad heaved a breath like he wanted to crawl into bed. “Officially, Argent and his family are under protection because he discovered sensitive information on the case and retribution is feared. He’s in protective custody at the station until at least Saturday, when he agreed to turn over the name of the shooter. Tell Allison that she can expect a deputy stationed outside her house for a while.”

He knew he shouldn’t, but Stiles had to know. “And unofficially?”

“It was Argent’s gun, but he didn’t fire it. He agreed full cooperation, including the name in return for no official charges, the protection, and the part about the minor, once he found out one of the bullets was pulled out of a tree only a couple yards from the Mahealani’s patio. He’s very concerned about retribution against his wife and daughter, but he’s also a witness to your ‘creepy bitch’ being at the scene last night. It’s a complete mess, and Whittemore is spitting bullets over it, but because our number of psychopaths just doubled, and his testimony is the only link so far, we had to agree.”

“Holy shit.” Stiles swallowed. “But thanks Dad. And you get home for at least a few hours for a nap, okay? You’ve been working almost twelve hours straight again.”

He could hear the warmth in Dad’s tone. “I’m only giving in because I want to. And you, stay safe, you hear me?”

“I hear you. I promise. You stay safe too. And I love you, Dad.”

Dad echoed that and then the line went dead and Stiles flopped back with a heavy sigh. A minute later a circle of curious faces blocked out the sky above him. Jackson’s was noticeably missing.

Stiles groaned. This was going to be fun. “Okay, first. All of you swear that you don’t breathe a word to anyone. Not even parents. Nobody.

He got positive responses from everyone. ...Except Jackson. When Stiles picked himself up to look in Jackson’s direction, Lydia glared at him until he said ‘fine.’

Well that would have to be enough. “Okay, officially, Allison, your whole family is under department protection. Expect a deputy stationed at your house for a while. And your dad is staying at the station in protective custody for a couple days because he’s really worried you or your mom will get caught in the crossfire when someone gets all revenge-y on him for the information he gave my dad.”

Allison wrung her hands in her lap, looking at Stiles with frightened, sad eyes. When Scott scooted closer, she leaned against him a little, which whoa wolfy instincts didn’t like very much, but Stiles was able to keep it mostly under wraps. His palms would probably be smeared with blood later but the hurt helped clear his head.

Lydia was sliding closer too and pulled Allison into a one-armed hug for a minute, leaving one hand on Allison’s shoulder. Her eyes were bright and calculating. “And unofficially?”

Oh boy, how was he going to spin this? Easy parts first. “Unofficially, at least for now, there was a fourth victim last night. And the lady I’ve dubbed the creepy bitch might be a copy-cat. Or an accomplice. She’s as into the werewolf cultist stuff as the psycho and your dad had information about her and about the dude shooting a gun off last night. Hence the protective custody.”

Stiles took a deep breath and looked at Danny. “Also unofficially, the shooter was shooting off towards Live Oak Place. My dad found a bullet lodged in a tree really close to your patio.”

He didn’t need to say what would have happened if the bullet’s path had been even a little different. High calibre bullets could travel miles, and Stiles was pretty sure Danny knew that.

He went paler than Stiles had thought possible, then his eyes went so cold that they glittered like black ice. “Your dad better catch this guy before I do or I will end up actually killing him. Putting Rosie in danger like that...”

Whoa, whoa. Stiles held his hands up. “I know how you feel, but let’s not start talking murder just yet. My dad has it handled and all these creeps will get what’s coming to them. What we need to do is keep ourselves and each other safe. We can watch out for each other in school. And after school, we can try to stay out of trouble. Which, with some of us might actually be physically impossible, but the point is to try.”

Lydia smirked. “By some of us, you mean just you, right?”

Stiles shrugged, just happy that everyone seemed to be relaxing. Except Jackson, but he didn’t count. “Official trouble magnet, that’s me!”

Danny stretched out, looking carefully at Stiles. “So how do you suggest we go about this?”

Stiles had to think about it for a minute. “Well, first we all need to stay out of the preserve, and I’ll be tying my ankle to the bedpost again, looks like. And I’m not talking about driving through; that should still be okay, but if you can take another route, do it. Also, we should be careful about going anywhere alone, especially early morning, or at night, or around nightfall. And when my Dad does get that curfew put in place, we should all follow it.”

There were several overlapping protests and Stiles got the feeling. He did! Well, before the psycho, Stiles probably would have protested the loudest.

Scott lifted his chin. “I agree with Stiles. The victim list is growing and most of us have been young, so high school students are at greatest risk.”

Allison turned a sharp look on Scott. “You...were attacked too?”

“Shit.” Scott took a deep breath, looking nervous. “Yeah, I was with Stiles that night. Worse didn’t happen to me because the psycho was ignoring me to go after Stiles until I found a branch big enough and hit him. Then he got me.”

The guilt was so thick that Stiles could almost smell it. Actually he could and it was clingy like dry-rot. So he scrambled awkwardly until he could hug Scott. “Don’t go blaming yourself again. You getting that branch and going after him saved us both from worse.”

Danny had his head tipped forward, looking them over. “I thought so.” Then he turned a hard look on Lydia. “I agree with them. Sorry, Lydia, but I won’t make it to your party.”

Well that did not please Lydia, but her expression only changed to a small, almost attractive frown. “Why not? Are you implying a party of mine wouldn’t be safe?”

Danny was quiet and thoughtful for a minute. “I know you’d do everything possible to keep it safe but you live on Live Oak Place just like I do. Your back yard faces the forest where this has all has been happening, just like mine. And this psycho ran across my back yard. Twice. Not to mention the shooter and the bullet.”

Lydia’s lips pressed into a tight line, then she pursed them. “So you actually saw him?”

“Werewolf costume and all.” Danny looked around at each of them and was Stiles imagining things or did his look linger on Stiles for a minute?

“He stopped and stared at me and Rosie for a minute. I’d rather be overcautious than get attacked or worse, get one of my siblings attacked.”

Jackson had been really quiet all day, but now he spoke up and there was a hint of tremble in his voice. Jackson did have feelings! “You think he’s going to... target you next?”

He was white as a sheet, one arm held close and straight to his side--the one he’d grabbed yesterday, Stiles noticed--and the other arm wrapped around his ribs. Stiles also saw a fine tremor all through him, like he was trying so hard to hold still that all the tension made him shake. Lydia noticed too, and Jackson flinched under her touch before he leaned into it.

Danny was clearly worried to, but refrained from leaning over to touch, stopping the motion almost before it started. He rocked back, licked his lips and finally nodded. “I’m worried he will. Me or Rosie.”

“I have an idea!” Stiles was mostly just saying things to break the horrible mood that had descended. “Why not move the party until Saturday afternoon? Daylight, so less risk! And no going against the curfew, and since every attack so far has been more or less between sunset and sunrise, we should be safe enough if we stay in our houses. But, you might want to do something about those patio doors, Danny, just saying.”

There were a couple beats of silence while everyone considered that, and then Lydia tossed her hair over her shoulder. “Well, it would be the responsible solution if that curfew is put in place. I’ll think about it.”

“What the--”

They all turned to see Coach, staring at them with mouth hanging open and one finger raised in the air. Before they could say anything Coach turned smartly on his heel and walked away. “I don’t want to know. I wasn’t even here. No defacing school property!”

It was like a dam broke and they were all laughing. It felt good. Stiles wanted to stay like this forever.

Jackson wasn’t laughing. Okay, something was way off with him. Stiles only barely paid attention to the rest of the conversation, except when Allison asked Scott to Lydia’s party, as long as it did happen on Saturday. Stiles made sure to pat Scott on the back and give him a hearty congratulations.

In the wake of that, Danny brought up the time so they all got up to go inside. Scott was all but prancing around Allison, flush with the deepest puppy crush Stiles had ever seen and yeah, still... not jealous so much as-- As Allison was technically an unknown still especially as the daughter of a hunter, and therefor a potential threat to Scott. And he needed to protect Scott from all the bad things. So. Yeah. Stiles wasn’t going to be all harsh on them because of new instincts so he let himself fall back a bit.

To his surprise, Jackson was lagging behind too, and Stiles felt a rush of nerves.

Finally Jackson spoke up when they were almost to the entrance to the locker rooms. Within earshot of the people inside if he needed to yell, at least. There was something about Jackson’s voice though, that made Stiles listen when Jackson asked him to stop for a minute.

Stiles tried not to let his fear win. “Make it quick. I don’t want to be late for class.”

The smile felt as fake as hell on his face, and Jackson wasn’t even trying. He looked...raw. Without the smug snake look, there was something missing.

It was probably more than a minute before Jackson spoke, and he didn’t look at Stiles once. Instead his gaze darted around nervously. But finally he took a deep breath. “I’m sorry.”

Okay, of all the things Stiles might have expected, an apology wasn’t one. It was so far down the list it wasn’t even on the list anymore. “Okay.”

And he really should say more than that. Stiles did some fidgeting himself. “I mean, I can’t be all ‘I forgive everything, now let’s be BFFs and go frolicking together through the school.’ but I can respect you for manning up and apologizing. So long as you don’t get all jealous and possessive over me being friends with Lydia again.”

Someday Stiles had to take a good hard look at why it was so easy to just...give up the romantic designs on her and focus on friendship instead, but today was not that day.

“She set me straight.” There was the weirdest expression Jackson’s face for a second and then the awkward avoidance started up again.

It hit like a truck. “You have something else to say. Out with it.”

Jackson rocked back as if the words had been a slap, and a bit of his usual disdain and annoyance at the world showed through, but then it was like shutters fell over his eyes and his expression got distant and troubled again. Silence fell between them and just as Stiles started fidgeting, Jackson blurted out a question that made him freeze.

“He held you down-- It wasn’t hands; it was teeth. He bit the back of your neck, didn’t he?”

Stiles gaped. “How--what? Nobody knows that!”

Nobody that would have told Jackson, anyway. It might be possible to guess, Stiles supposed, but...

“I--” Jackson rubbed his eyes, but kept the one arm tight against his side. The dark smudges stood out against his too pale skin at this distance, kind of bleeding into a bruise across his nose.

“Dreams. Nightmares every time I drifted off last night. I was... I was in the woods and my leg hurt. It wasn’t some guy in a suit! He wasn’t human and he-- He was on top of me and he bit down on my neck and crushed my hips and he-- He--”

Stiles could smell the fear and revulsion rolling off Jackson and hear how fast the other boy’s heart was pounding. Oh god, it was like Jackson had gotten inside his head and relived his memories and--

Jackson made a pretty good growl for someone who wasn’t wolf-y. “What did you do to me?”

“I didn’t do anything! Not unless scratching your neck gave you my memories or something! I’m so sorry you had nightmares about it; I wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but I don’t know why.”

Stiles took deep gulping breaths, feeling like his skin was about to burst open and--

And Scott was between him and Jackson, so Stiles pounced. It was better with his face buried in Scott’s shoulder. With the help of counting breaths, Stiles felt a little bit of calm wash over him. Enough to more or less face the world, at least.

Jackson yelped, and Stiles looked up to see him turn and sag into Danny’s hug. Danny mouthed ‘what the hell’ at him over Jackson’s shoulder and all Stiles could do in return was mouth back ‘I have no idea.’

Lydia and Allison moved into his field of vision a moment later. Lydia crossed her arms, eying them all dubiously. “As touching as this synchronized soothing session is, we don’t have the time. What’s going on with you two?”

Jackson stepped back from where he’d been curled into Danny’s shoulder and focused on straightening his clothes one handed. Repeatedly, and with an intensity that someone with OCD couldn’t match.

Danny was looking at Jackson, expression turned incredibly worried, and shot Stiles a look that he was going to interpret as ‘explain. Now.

“Okay! Um, well, Jackson just told me he was having nightmares last night and they were freakishly close to what happened to me the night the psycho attacked me.”

At Jackson’s murderous look, Stiles just shrugged. “Your best friend and girlfriend aren’t going to think less of you for a couple nightmares. If you think image is more important than support from your friends, you really need to get your priorities straight.”

Danny rubbed his temples. “Good lucking convincing Jackson of that, man.” He sounded like he had experience, but he barreled on. “And how close is ‘freakishly’?”

“Any more and I’d be flashing back, close.” Stiles needed to do something with his hands so he started fussing with his shirt cuffs. “LIke, Jackson described things that only Scott, my Dad, and Officer Graeme should know. So maybe someone could put parts of it together, but I don’t think anyone has? Like I said, freaky.”

“No kidding.” Danny shook his head and turned a soft, sad look on Jackson. “And no wonder you’ve been so out of it today. Talk about nightmare fuel.”

Lydia’s narrowed eyed look made Stiles worry that he was in deep trouble for upsetting Jackson but all she did was casually mention that the bell for class had just rung.

It turned into a scramble to get to class. Stiles, and Scott, who kept to Stiles’ pace, ended up being a little late, but the teacher’s glare dissolved on seeing the crutches.

Stiles’ thoughts were scattered and it took counting his breathing and even resorted to saying the little phrase, which was definitely growing on him, under his breath to put a leash on them. He missed everything while doing that, and had to keep part of his mind focused on not slipping into the scattered and distracted mode but... It wasn’t so bad. Stiles was sure he actually managed to absorb more than usual, even with only half his attention, and on a whole he knew he was less fidgety than usual. So the little book wasn’t just useful for werewolfy control!

Still, by the time the end of the last class rolled around, Stiles was fidgeting like a fiend, even with the counting and the phrase. Which was only slightly worse than the rest of the class, honestly. Last class of the day must suck for teachers. Scott was in a different class last period, so Stiles hobbled through the halls to his locker alone. It was hard to navigate the press of people, and to his surprise Lydia was there waiting, bag in hand and already in her stylish coat--red today, to match the socks and shoes, and Stiles was so not going to think of Red Riding Hood references--and giving Stiles a look of keen interest. He just hoped it wasn’t the kind of interest reserved for a soon to be dissected frog in biology.

She flashed him a smile that looked sweet, but had the same feeling as watching a shark swimming closer. “So, what’s your opinion on Jackson’s dreams and how he got them?”

Well, at least Stiles wouldn’t be lying when he said he had no clue. “I wish I knew. I really do. I wouldn’t even wish this on Harris and he’s twice the asshole Jackson is on a nice day. All I know is that when Jackson grabbed the back of my neck yesterday and forced me down, I flashed back. Maybe some kind of traumatic touch telepathy?”

Lydia rolled her eyes. “We don’t live in a science fiction movie, Stiles.”

“Comic is probably more accurate there!”

She rolled her eyes again and settled her hand on his elbow, and it only made Stiles feel a little uncomfortable today. Progress! Well, technically more than a little, but not enough to flinch or panic. So he was totally counting it as progress.

“Walk me to the field, would you.”

That was so not a request and Stiles started hobbling. “If you don’t mind me slowing you down, who am I to say no?”

Exactly.” Lydia had on her patented ‘queen of all I survey’ smile as she strolled along next to him.

It sparked stares and whispers, some curious about the nobody who had Lydia’s attention and others jealous. Stiles could almost feel his social status rising. Sad thing was, Stiles didn’t know if he wanted the attention right now. Or the infighting.

Allison joined them a minute later and they all walked the rest of the way together. Stiles liked it, social status aside. He had Lydia’s company and Allison was growing on him fast, even if he was still unsure if she was safe. The only thing missing was Scott, but Stiles knew he would have rushed to the locker room to get ready.

They were outside when Lydia hummed and started up conversation. “So you were talking about Jackson’s scent and cologne yesterday. Do you think you could find one that works better?”

“And stinks less?” Stiles put some actual thought into it. Even this he’d do for Lydia. “Well, finding scents that theoretically work is no problem. The tricky part is convincing him to try them on and then getting enough sniffs in to find out which of them work best on him. And I guess, getting him to give up his current abomination.”

“Leave the last part to me. I’m sure I can convince him.” Lydia flashed a dangerously sexy smile and flipped her hair. “What I need is ideas to start with.”

“That I can do! Might take a while, but I will scour note lists for your nose’s sake.” And Stiles’ nose too. It’d be a relief to be free of Jackson’s vile musk. “Oh! Allison, could you give me the company that makes yours? Perfume oils are definitely something I want to look into for him. The less alcohol I smell, the better.”

Allison grinned and promised, but they had gotten to the field and Coach pounced, pulling Stiles away from the girls. After enduring a ruthless quiz and proving that he had read the materials Coach had given him yesterday, Stiles was put to doing roll. Not bad, and it helped him get acquainted with the team better. Halfway through, he got to a name he hadn’t seen before. It took a few seconds to spot “Lahey” on a jersey, and when he did, Stiles smelled blood and pain on the kid. He didn’t see any obvious injury, though. It was concerning, but could be from a thousand different things, so Stiles just resolved to keep an eye--well, nose--on the kid from now on.

Scott smiled and waved when Stiles got to McCall, and the rest went smoothly, until he got to the last name.

Stiles took a longer look and a sniff. Nope. Jackson was missing. “Coach, I can’t find Jackson.”

Coach nodded at him and then turned and bellowed. “Anybody seen Whittemore?”

There were several unsure ‘I think so’s and then Danny jogged up from where he’d already started warming up in goal. “I left him in the locker room. Want me to see what’s up?”

“Get back in goal, Danny. I’m not going to wait on whatever teenage crisis is keeping him. So come on ladies! We’re warming up with shots on goal, then laps!” Coach clapped his hands and blew his whistle. “Not you, Greenburg! Extra laps! Get going!”

As the rest of the team scrambled to obey, Coach turned to Stiles. “Go and tell Whittemore to get his ass out here and stop sulking.”

Stiles wanted to say that that was a hugely bad idea but Coach was already ignoring him and walking out on the field to yell at the teem. Well! Stiles was blaming Coach if anything happened.

In the locker room, Stiles could hear a single heartbeat, a little fast and unsteady, and he inched forward quietly. If Jackson was in an...embarrassing position, Stiles was just going to sneak back out, because, no.

But Jackson was just sitting on the bench and not crying or anything. So he was shirtless, but it could be worse. Why he was just sitting there and staring at his gear instead of putting it on, Stiles had no idea. His one shoulder, the one he’d been keeping all straight and close to his body, was mottled with bruises, and as Stiles watched, Jackson gritted his teeth and tried to lift that arm above his head. Halfway, he stopped, curling on himself with a hiss.

Oh. Oh. Suddenly the unnatural way Jackson had been moving regarding that arm made so much sense. Stiles wasn’t feeling guilty. Nope.

So okay, he was, a little. Stiles hobbled forward quietly, biting his tongue. Well, no point in stalling. Out with it. “Coach was looking for you.”

Jackson whirled around, Smelling almost afraid but looking pissed. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“He told me to find you, duh.” Stiles came closer and spotted a sling, half fallen out of Jackson’s bag. “How bad is the shoulder?”

“None of your business.”

Stiles didn’t move. Jackson glared back. The silence stretched and stretched.

Finally Jackson turned around so his back was to Stiles. “A sprain, but the swelling is bad, even after icing. And the doctor refused to do anything but tell me to take aspirin, which does fuckall.”

“How long did the doctor give you?” Sprain was better than bruised bone or dislocation, at least.

“Too long.” Jackson sounded incredibly bitter but his scent was full of fear. Why?

A few beats of silence later, the realization settled into his stomach like a bout of flu. Jackson was afraid of losing his place on the team. Stiles had an idea how important it was to him. Jackson had stayed after practice for who knew how long every practice last year, and crowed when he’d finally beaten out that senior for captain.

“If you don’t do anything boneheaded and reckless, you’ll probably be back to playing by our first real game. The game next week is still considered pre-season, even if it isn’t a scrimmage. It’s not like you broke a bone and will probably be out all season.”

Jackson turned his head and glanced down with a snort, but his scent was still sour. “Like your little friend McCall isn’t buttering up Coach right this minute.”

Stiles just blinked at him for a minute. Really? Was Jackson afraid of Scott taking his position on the team...like he had last season. Okay, so it was a possibility, but only if Scott kept using super wolf powers and Stiles was going to put a stop to that, hopefully. And it was ridiculous to put so much weight on something everyone would forget once Jackson got to college and into real competitive lacrosse.

“Good god, for a guy so smart and good looking and athletically gifted, you are insecure as fuck.” Stiles rolled his eyes. He didn’t miss Jackson’s wordless snarl, but he was past the point of caring. Why was he doing this? Oh right, because Lydia liked this asshole and as her friend instead of a competitor for her romantic affections it was kind of friend duty to make sure she wasn’t burned by love. Or something like that.

That was what he was telling himself. “Look, as much as it pains me to say it, Scott is a cute puppy. He’s good, and even has a chance at first line now that his asthma is under control and he can probably make it through a game without ending up in an ambulance, but he needs a lot of experience before he can grow into the kind of charismatic leader you can be when you’re not sulking. I don’t like you because you’re a smug asshole, but I watched all our games from the bench last year, and you really pulled through and got the team going a few times. Better than Coach’s cribbed speeches from awful movies, anyway.”

Jackson smirked, but his scent hadn’t changed. Not convinced.

Stiles was never going to forgive himself for pep-talking the asshole jock king of the school, but he was an asset to the team and Stiles wanted to win. Still what he was telling himself.

“Asshole! Okay, look at it this way, then. Lacrosse is a team sport. Stop thinking of Scott as a threat to you and instead as an ally against our real enemies. He’s a weapon you can use to help you crush all our opponents this year. Seriously, with you and Scott and Peters as our attackers, and the returning midfielders from last year, and a couple solid defenders to replace the seniors that have left, and of course Danny on goal, we’ll have the championship in the bag. But only if you learn to be a real team player instead of just pretending and not let petty jealousy get in the way.”

Jackson looked at him like he’d grown two heads. “When the hell did you become such an expert on lacrosse? You just chilled on the bench last season.”

Stiles shrugged. “Coach made me his assistant; I’m taking the job seriously.”

He was still not liking playing nice with Jackson, but Jackson was the best offensive player they’d had in Beacon Hills in years. Scott’s wolfy superpowers could definitely out-power and outrun Jackson’s mere human extraordinariness, but after the full moon, top priority was teaching Scott to be... stealth-wolf or whatever. Toning it down so that creepy bitches and hunters and who knew what else didn’t figure out what they were was very important to their continued lives and health. Cool powers were cool, but not if they got them killed.

And it wasn’t like Stiles was feeling horribly guilty about the shoulder and the nightmares. Nope! He kind of itched to make that pain scent go away for even a minute though.

Jackson’s look was a little unsure, but the smug was definitely taking over. “So what brought this on? I would have figured you’d try to sabotage me.”

“Team sport, jackass.” Stiles fought the urge to pace, and made sure Jackson saw the eye-roll. “I want Beacon High to own the championship this year. And Coach, for no reason I can understand, likes you enough to put up with your shit. And Lydia, in the only lapse of judgement I’ve ever seen her make, actually likes you and wants to keep you as a boyfriend. Besides, Danny would hate me if I sabotaged you. So this behavior right now? So not worthy of either of them.”

Jackson’s eyes narrowed and he looked like he was about to reach for Stiles but subsided with a badly hidden wince.

“What’s your real game, Stilinski?”

“I already told you--” Stiles cut off a squawk as Jackson suddenly got in his face. Oh god, not a repeat of yesterday.

“And I’m calling bullshit. What do you really want from me?” Jackson’s voice had gone soft and low, words slippery and sweet like syrup. His eyes dropped and then traveled back up, slow and intent, as a smirk blossomed on his face.

Danny’s look had made Stiles feel kind of nice. Appreciated. But Jackson’s made Stiles feel used. Probably because Stiles knew Jackson didn’t mean it and was just doing it to get what he wanted out of Stiles.

So Stiles spat out the words. “Answer isn’t changing, Jackass. Now get the hell out of my space. After the nightmares, you should know fucking better.”

That got a reaction. The fear scent ticked up like whoa, and Jackson actually backed up, looking uncertain and off balance.

Thank god. Stiles let out the breath he didn’t even realize he’d been hold in a rush.

Jackson sat down again, one shoulder stiff and the other slumped in what might have been defeat but there was a hateful look in his eye. “So, what, you’re going to tell Coach all about this?”

He could, but... He didn’t want to. Jackson had backed off this time. “No. What you’re going to tell Coach is that you’ve got a sprain and can’t play for a little while, because you want to be healed when you come back, and not risk an injury that’d take you out of lacrosse forever. You’re also going to put on that sling that the doctor obviously insisted on and not be an idiot about your health for image reasons. You want to confess anything besides that? Be my guest.”

What a change! Jackson looked dumbstruck, and after a minute actually started obeying. He numbly started struggling into his shirt and Stiles heard the bit off whine in Jackson’s throat, and damn it, he did feel bad. Jackson hadn’t buttoned up the shirt yet, and the bruises were still glaring at him from beneath the fabric.

And, well, Stiles had always been the king of Bad Decisions. “I might be able to help. With the pain, I mean.”

Stiles licked his lips. “But I’ll have to touch.”

The suspicious look was echoed by Jackson’s scent, above the scent of pain and lingering...not quite fear anymore. Unease, maybe. “Why the hell would you do that?”

Because wolfy instincts didn’t like pain and sick smells, and there was that urge to make it better or get the hell away. Also guilt. But Stiles didn’t think Jackson was ready to hear about werewolves being real, so... Aha!

“To be completely honest, I don’t feel bad about the shoulder much at all, but I do feel guilty about the dreams. So I figure, if I help you with the pain a bit, it’ll make us even.”

Jackson’s smile was far from nice. “That’s the most believable thing you’ve said all day.”

Funny how the farthest from the full truth was the one that the asshole believed. “Whatever. Turn around. I need to use some pressure so don’t flinch.”

Another really not true thing, but Stiles was thinking ahead to a possibly believable excuse. He hadn’t researched deep enough to claim to be able to do it, but Stiles did remember that acupuncture and other kinds of massage were supposed to help with pain.

When Jackson finally turned, Stiles pressed his fingers to a few spots he remembered from his research and pressed very lightly. He didn’t dare press harder, and was hoping that only a tiny bit of skin contact was needed.

“This will probably not last long, and it might not work at all. I’m not exactly an expert.”

And for a minute Stiles thought it wouldn’t work, and he felt embarrassed and strangely sad that he couldn’t help--

It kicked in suddenly, making Stiles gasp as pain slithered under his skin to settle, bright and hot, in his shoulder. Ow.

Stiles jerked back, hiding the rapidly fading black on his hand inside his sleeve. Jackson turned around a split second later, wide-eyed, and of course followed up by rolling his shoulder. Idiot.

“I said it’d help with the pain; not heal it. You still need to be careful about moving it unless you want to injure it worse.” Stiles could see that Jackson wasn’t really listening. Fine. Whatever.

“Okay, I’m done. Dress and head out; I don’t want to miss any more of practice.” Stiles did the best turn on his heel that he could with crutches--needed to research the shortest believable time for a bone to heal, stat--and started out. When he turned to look back, Jackson was actually putting the sling on the arm. Maybe he’d listened after all.

As soon as Stiles was back on the field, Coach shouted directions at him. No time to think about what had happened to Jackson while taking notes on the players that Coach had assigned him.

With Coach watching half and Stiles watching the rest, it was easier to pay attention to skills and weaknesses, and Stiles got a lot of notes. Lahey might make a promising defender if he got over whatever made him flinch when another player charged him. He was fast and agile, and had good field awareness otherwise.

At some point, he wasn’t sure when, Jackson had come up and ended up beside Stiles. It was almost companionable, a silence broken only by lacrosse related suggestions and questions.

Practice wound down eventually and Stiles was just starting to relax when Jackson said it. “Your little magic touch is fading. Can you do it again?”

Shit. Stiles busied himself in his notes. Could he? He really didn’t know how this pain thing worked at all. “Theoretically, but if you want longer and better, maybe you should go to a professional, not a kid armed only with wikipedia and Google.”

“Scared, Stilinski?”

“Of permanently injuring you and the following lawsuit? Hell yeah. Don’t think I don’t know that your dad is a lawyer even if civil lawsuits aren’t his specialty.” Sass and snark were good defenses, right?

Jackson looked at him sidelong. “What’s to stop me from doing that now if you don’t help?”

“Oh, I don’t know, maybe your aspirations to make a big splash in the sports world? If you’re permanently injured, couldn’t play lacrosse ever again, could you? Besides, there’s always counter-suits for making fraudulent claims.” Stiles had him. He hoped.

It made Jackson stop for a minute, at least. “How do you know you haven’t hurt me already?”

“Because it’s unlikely? But the more times I do it, the more risk.” Please believe that. Please. Stiles didn’t think he could get away with hiding the actual magic touch very long if he did do it again.

“Bullshit--”

“Stilinski!”

Saved by the Coach! Stiles rushed as quick as his crutches could carry him over to where Coach was spreading out notes on the benches, and ignored the ‘not over’ from Jackson. He spread out his own notes and quickly got into debating the strengths and weaknesses of different players. The pleased gleam in Coach’s eye when they were done made Stiles feel warm. “You’ve got a good eye and a head for strategy. I wasn’t sold on you actually being helpful, Stilinski, but let me tell you, I have a feeling that this is the place on the team for you.”

Stiles was a little disappointed on not being able to play still, but Coach’s compliment made him feel all floaty and good as he made his way to the jeep after Coach’s kind of abrupt dismissal. Scott came rushing out a little while later, shirt still clinging wetly to his chest.

And, well, he had to say it.

“I think I did something stupid--”

They both stared at each other, shocked at the accidental stereo effect. Then Stiles swallowed.

“What did you do--”

This time they broke into laughter and it made Stiles feel better.

While Scott was still chuckling he took a deep breath. “You first.”

“Well, I kind of made two really good, like probably impossible even for Jackson, shots. And front flipped over two defenders and their sticks.”

Shit. “Way to get attention, buddy. No wonder Coach was gushing about you. But I was just as bad. You know what happened with the dog? It makes pain better and I kind of felt guilty and did it for Jackson and now he’s trying to blackmail me into keeping doing it.”

Scott looked at him, worry and disappointment mingling. “Looks like we both screwed up.”

Stiles gnawed on his lip and fidgeted while Scott put the jeep into gear. “Yeah, well, we can probably teach you not to be such a show off while still being good. I have no idea how to get Jackson off my back.”

Scott seemed kind of unconcerned, considering. “It’ll come to you. Maybe you just need to not think about it for a while. Besides, we have to go face Mom and get tested.”

Oh, right. So Scott’s mom and Dad would know exactly how good their senses had gotten. Stiles felt a shudder go through him, thinking about the potential fallout. Would Scott’s mom take it okay, or freak? “What should we do about that?”

“What do you mean?” Scott didn’t glance over, focused on the road, but his hands tightened on the wheel.

“Will she believe us? The ‘we’re werewolves’ bomb is kind of huge. And if she does, will she be okay with it, or will she be terrified, and like call the Men in Black, or whatever the real US paranormal and extraterrestrial hush hush and research unit is, on us?”

The thought of Scott’s mom being terrified of them was almost as awful as the thought of going wild and hurting people.

Scott ducked his head for a moment and then jerked back up as the car behind blew its horn. Oops, green light. When they were moving again, Scott started in slowly.

“Well, she already knows about the senses. Maybe we can ease her into it? If we asked, she wouldn’t tell anyone, and then we could show her the healing. And later, the super reflexes.”

“And the pain thing I can do.” Yeah, easing her into it might help. Stiles hoped, anyway. “Okay, yeah. We’ll get her used to the symptoms before explaining the cause.”

Having a plan, even if it wasn’t the best, made Stiles feel better, and he was able to crutch into the hospital beside Scott with his head high.

Chapter Text

They had to wait a while at the nurse’s station for Scott’s mom to come out and then she took them back to a little room with a booth in it and a pair of chairs and equipment. Stiles volunteered to go first and ended up inside the booth, listening to a pair of headphones and then pushing a button when he heard beeps. It was way too easy. Boring, even. In fact, he almost messed up because his attention drifted from the boredom, not the fact that he couldn’t hear the beeps.

Scott’s mom gave him a slightly wondering look as he came out, and then it was Scott’s turn. Stiles settled in to wait and watched as her face went from wondering to frank disbelief by the time Scott was done.

So Stiles gave her a questioning look which was quickly joined by Scott, and she just stared at them before pulling her hair down and then putting it back up. Stiles was willing to wait patiently and got rewarded.

“These results... They don’t make any sense, but the machine was calibrated properly. I double-checked.”

Stiles leaned over, closer to the print outs. They were mostly Greek to him, at least without a key. “How don’t they make sense?”

Scott’s mom tapped the print out. “These are yours. We tested all these frequencies at each of these amplitudes. And Stiles, these--” She pulled out another print out, this one with labels. “This one shows the average human results, with an average canine for comparison.”

It didn't take much more than a glance to tell why she was confused. “And my results look way more like the dog’s than the human’s. Scott’s too.”

“That’s not the only thing. Scott, you remember when fell down the stairs and got that bad concussion?”

Scott nodded. “Right before my dad left for good, yeah.”

She took a deep breath. “Besides the concussion, there was minor damage to your left ear. It resulted in extremely minor hearing loss at the highest frequencies, but this test doesn’t show that at all. The loss wouldn’t have been truly noticeable otherwise but a test like this should have shown the loss and there’s no sign of any damage; if anything, only improvement on all counts.”

Scott blinked at thin air for a couple seconds. “I never realized. So I healed that too?”

That got an eyebrow raise. “Too?”

So much for breaking it to her slowly. Stiles pulled up his shirt and yanked off one of the bandages there. It would be easier to hide than one of the visible bandages. “We weren’t sure how to tell you, because it’s kind of impossible, but...”

She reached out and her fingers brushed over Stiles’ skin. There wasn’t even the fresh pink skin anymore to show where he’d been hurt. The word was no more than a breath. “Impossible...”

Scott pulled his big bandage off too, wincing a little. “And I haven’t needed my inhaler even once since, not even during practice.”

Scott’s mom was staring at them like she’d seen a ghost. No, more like she’d seen an angel. “Incredible. How...? And your leg too, Stiles?”

Stiles nodded. “But I had to keep the cast, because becoming a guinea pig in some lab somewhere, hell no. And we’re still not sure how it works, just that it does and apparently came with the super senses.”

For a few seconds, maybe a minute, Scott’s mom just sat there, blinking rapidly and not looking at anything in particular. then she straightened up and gave them the Mom Look (tm). “What aren’t you telling me? Don’t look like that. I know my boys.”

That made Stiles feel so warm. “Um, well, healing aside, Scott is suddenly super fast and strong and ace at lacrosse?”

Another raised eyebrow. She really did know them and Stiles squirmed under the look.

“And, uh,” Stiles took a deep breath and caught a hint of pain off Scott’s mom. “Well, I can smell pain on you, and sickness on people too. I knew yesterday that something was wrong with a girl in my class, Erica, before her seizure even started. Scott doesn’t seem to pick up on it very well; we think my nose is stronger.”

“Reyes? There’s anecdotes of dogs that can predict seizures, but Stiles, do you realize--”

Scott cut her off. “Pain. Mom, you’re hurt?”

“Just a headache; I’ll be fine. And a couple bruises. One of our patients was disoriented and got violent earlier.” She smiled but Stiles could smell that the pain was bad. Maybe like migraine bad.

He looked at Scott, who was already nodding and gesturing. “Do the thing.”

“What thing?” She looked a little wary, or maybe like she was judging them for not spilling everything.

Stiles ignored the look and held his hand out to a bruise he could see peeking out from under her sleeve. “Can I?”

When she nodded, slow and unsure, Stiles pressed his fingertips to the bruise and focused on wanting to make the pain go away. It was like trying to grasp a bubble, but Stiles remembered the feeling now, and when he found it again, it was like taking a breath after being under water. The rush of pain came quicker and easier. His arm hurt as black slid along under his skin, and then the pain settled, mostly in his head and a few other places, and Stiles had to blink against tears. And he’d thought Jackson was hurting. But it faded quickly, leaving only a tense humming under his skin and behind his eyes.

That faded too, and Stiles felt a little tired, but pleased, and when he looked up Scott’s mom was gaping at him.

She touched her temples and then shook her head. “The pain is almost gone and your arm. That black-- What was that?”

“I don’t know if it has an official name or anything, just that I can do it, and maybe Scott can learn to do it too someday.”

That made Scott perk up, eager. “Who told you that?”

“Ms. Morrell, the school counselor. She knows way more than she lets on but it’s hard to get her to say anything.”

“What else aren’t you telling?” Whoops, Scott’s mom had on her serious business face. “Does Ms. Morrell know why this changes are happening?”

Well shit. Stiles hunched up, preparing for more gentle disbelief. “Well, yeah. So do we. Just, Dad didn’t believe us when I tried to tell him this morning. You know the joke I made about werewolves? It’s not a joke anymore.”

Scott’s mom opened her mouth, closed it, and opened it again. Then she finally cleared her throat. “You’re... not kidding. You actually seriously believe...”

“Yeah.” Scott nodded. “But we’re looking for a cure! Stiles will find it and then I’ll be normal again, I swear.”

If it exists.” Which Stiles had totally forgotten to ask Ms. Morrell. “And maybe we’re wrong. There’s a slim chance. Tomorrow night will be the confirmation. And if there isn’t a cure, well, the healing thing is a nice perk. And the senses are cool...”

“I don’t...” Scott’s mom rubbed her face and wrung her hands, then stood up and paced around the room, hugging herself and occasionally shifting to put her hands on her hips. Finally she stopped and looked at them. “I don’t know what to say. What I’ve seen today... I don’t. I really hope you boys are wrong. But we have tests to finish now. Come on.”

They followed her. How could they not? Stiles got the part with hoping the conclusion was wrong. He’d spent over a day hoping that himself. But he was jerked from his thoughts when they walked right out of the building and towards Beacons Crossing Home, the long-term care center slash nursing home that was kitty-corner to the main hospital. Most of the staff had shifts in both places, so the closeness was convenient. But why were they going there? More than that, why were they heading out back to the center’s gardens?

Not that the gardens weren’t nice; they were very well appointed and the little isolated grove of trees was just enough to catch an eight year old’s attention with promises of wilderness and adventure without straying too far. Not that it ever really got rid of the crushing despair that Stiles had felt then, feeling Mom slipping away from him day by day, and watching other people slowly sicken and die too. But it was a distraction, and Stiles remembered it well.

Scott was the one who didn’t last before giving in and asking. “Where are we going? What about your shift?”

She laughed a little. “My shift ended about when you two arrived, though I’m picking up another one starting in a couple hours. Also, we weren’t sure how to really test the sense of smell for increased acuity. Decreased, yes, but something like you’re reporting isn’t common at all. But then John had an idea. We’re going to meet Deputy Jameson.”

Deputy Jameson, or JJ, was on the County’s K-9 unit, and worked with Sadie, who was the friendliest German Shepherd Stiles had ever met. Off duty, anyway. When she had her “uniform” on, she became a very different dog. JJ waved when they rounded the last corner into the most secluded portion of the garden, and Sadie’s tail went wild. She didn’t move from her place at her person’s--technically handler, but whatever--feet, but wag any harder and her tail would fall right off.

“So I hear you guys want to see if your noses match up to Sadie’s here.” JJ was grinning, like this was all a huge joke, and not serious at all.

They both looked at Scott’s mom, who shrugged. “We thought it would at least prove that your sense of smell was better than the human norm.”

Well, they would find out that much. Stiles was kind of curious about how strong his nose actually was, but that could wait until they figured out a good method. “Okay, I’m game, so long as it isn’t a race. I’m at a real disadvantage here.”

JJ laughed. “Don’t worry; we’ll take that into account.”

“Good. So how do we test a nose?”

JJ explained that they would be doing simplified tasks like Sadie might encounter on the field. Puppy training exercises, basically. A fully trained dog like Sadie would have much harder tasks to practice with, but these were designed to see if a dog could at least manage the very basics. Stiles knew that like most dogs in the department, Sadie was trained in multiple tasks, and could scent for drugs and contraband, as well as manage basic tracking of people. She lost a little effectiveness in not having a specialty, and nothing could beat a bloodhound for sheer smelling power, or a fully trained cadaver dog that could even scent up a corpse under running water, but Sadie was more than enough in a department like theirs.

The first task that JJ explained was finding ‘contraband,’ probably meaning marijuana or cocaine, in a collection of small duffels and backpacks. More complicated tests would have lots of other distracting smells, but JJ explained that these bags were mostly empty, but that a couple might have had the target inside them recently as decoys.

Sadie’s pile was laid out on the ground and she whined, eager to get started. She was off like a shot at JJ’s signal, and didn’t even bother sniffing the sample before making a beeline straight for the bags. In a matter of a few seconds, she was giving her signal for a find, and when the bag she signaled at turned up a plastic baggie inside, JJ gave her a treat and praise.

Then it was Stiles’ turn. He took a couple sniffs of the fabric square which had been doused in the target scent--it smelled like JJ, but also something sharp and planty, so Stiles guessed marijuana-- and then hobbled over to his set of bags. At least they were arranged on a picnic table so he wouldn’t have to bend down too much.

Stiles could smell the same scent right away, but the bags were all so close together that it was hard to pinpoint the smell. Leaning over and sniffing narrowed it down to a cluster of bags on one side of the pile, but damn. They were practically on top of each other. Stiles was sure it was one of these three, but he wasn’t sure how to narrow it down, unless--

“Hey, JJ, can I move them?”

And JJ was chatting with Scott’s mom and not even paying attention at all. He didn’t even make any sign of hearing the question, though Scott’s mom glanced over with a questioning look before JJ tried to grab her attention again. It was like JJ was expecting Stiles to give up or fail. Well, fine! He’d show JJ that he could do it like Sadie. He just had to get closer, that’s all. Stiles practically stuck his face into the bags, smelling JJ again strongly, but also several other people that he recognized as deputies, and the other K-9 dogs. But the plant smell was there, just not--

Okay, it wasn’t in the bag on top. He’d narrowed it down! So was it right, or left? Stiles sniffed again, putting all his focus into the scent and-- Left! It was stronger from the left!

Feeling like he was walking on air, Stiles snagged the bag he was sure was the target and hobbled over to drop it at JJ’s feet. “Got any people friendly treats, JJ?”

JJ laughed at that, but his mouth dropped open when he opened the bag and right there was the little plastic baggie with the scent-soaked cloth sealed inside. On top of the shock was suspicion. “Holy shit. You didn’t just open all the bags and look, did you?”

Sadie, on the other hand, whuffled at him and wagged her tail. Stiles thought she was proud of him, at least. He gave her an ear-scratch as thanks and she leaned into it with a tongue-lolling doggie grin.

Scott’s mom turned a look dripping motherly disapproval on JJ. “If you hadn’t been trying so hard to flirt with me, you’d have seen Stiles just...sniffing. That does sound weird to say, doesn’t it?”

So that was the reason for the uncertain and slightly grossed out look on Scott’s face. Stiles sidled up to him until their shoulders brushed. That got a smile, and the smile got bigger when Stiles rolled his eyes at JJ’s poor attempts at making excuses. Dude was so outclassed.

JJ eventually got himself back together, and put Scott through his paces. Scott, unlike Stiles, just hovered over the bags for the longest time, almost swaying.

His voice had a hint of a whine in it. “How do you do it; the smell is like everywhere.”

“Close your eyes and breathe deep. Focus on finding where the smell is strongest.” Stiles groaned at his own instructions; it was a lot easier doing than walking someone through it.

But after some more encouragements and waffling, Scott did manage to get the correct bag. On the second try, after grabbing one of the ones JJ explained was a decoy first. Not bad though!

JJ accepted the correct bag, forehead wrinkled. “Well, I’ll accept that you did it somehow Stiles, but I’m not convinced that your friend found the right one out of anything but blind luck.”

Stiles shrugged. “Scott isn’t as scent-focused as me, I think. When this all started, scents were the first thing I picked up on, but for Scott it was sounds, and he didn’t start noticing scents until hours later.”

JJ nodded. “I can see that. Not every dog can be trained for scent-work. They just don’t have the right temperament, even if they have the nose for it. There was another test, but I’ve seen enough to convince me that there’s something going on here, so if you don’t want to...”

Stiles could beg off, but he wanted to prove himself, and if the test was tracking a scent-trail like he hoped it was, Scott would probably do better at that too. “Will you pay attention this time?”

“Wild horses couldn’t keep me from watching this time.” JJ’s eyes were bright and interested now, so Stiles could believe it.

“Then let’s get this show on the road. How does this one work?” If it was tracking a trail, Stiles was going to be really slow, especially if it was faint, but he’d prove that he could do it.

JJ nodded and pulled out a bag with another piece of cloth. “Okay, watch Sadie.”

He presented the cloth to Sadie with a command, and Stiles watched as she eagerly sniffed it. With another command, they were off, Sadie sniffing and trotting, and JJ following behind. Sadie wandered seemingly aimlessly for a minute, but then barked and took off like she was laser-guided.

The little path she led them on twisted and turned through the little patch of trees, but she didn’t lose the scent once, and stopped and signaled at a little ball wrapped in fabric and dangling from a string and half hidden beneath a bush. She got another treat and more praise.

When they were back out in the garden, JJ pulled out another bag and handled it to Scott. “You first. It’ll be easier the less we’re traipsing around back there, so, get to it. You’ve got to find the trail first, then follow it to the target.”

Scott obviously felt ridiculous, getting down on hands and knees to sniff, but unlike Sadie, he had a human brain behind his nose, and just basically shuffled along the edge of the trees until he found it.

Stiles knew the moment Scott found the trail, because he turned back to Stiles, beaming and so proud of himself. “Good job! Now just follow it to the end; I bet you’ll get there in no time.”

Scott was still grinning as he took off through the trees, weaving through them. Except it wasn’t as easy as Sadie had made it look, because Scott lost the trail twice, and had to wander around until he found it again, but after what felt like forever, he lifted his head, sniffed, and then dashed to a young tree and reached up to grab the ball out of the branches with triumphant shout.

JJ was looking really impressed, but he smirked. “Now technically, you failed, because you didn’t follow the trail for that last distance. It loops around the pine there before going to the end. But fuck, I’ve never seen a human able to follow the trail at all, and you definitely mostly followed it. Holy-- I don’t even.”

Stiles was almost vibrating as they went back out to the start. This would be hard with the crutches, but he knew he could do it. He took a sniff of the target JJ gave him and--

“Dude, this is my dad!”

JJ looked a little surprised and then laughed. “Yeah, the Sheriff is one of our regular volunteers for training runs. He can be a sneaky-- uh a sneaky character. It’s a good challenge for the dogs.”

Dad’s scent filled him with calm, and it was so easy to focus. Dad. Stiles hobbled to the edge of the trees, breathing deep and searching for hints of Dad’s scent. He leaned down a little, but crutches sucked and-- Of course he’d end up on his face. Well, hands and knees.

Stiles glared at the laughing trio. “No one finds out about this. Especially not at the station!”

And really, he was already on the ground and it’d probably be faster this way. Feeling embarrassed, Stiles moved forward on hands and knees, and his nose’s proximity to the ground brought all their scents to the fore. Apparently Sadie had been tracking one of the other K-9 agents and Scott had been tracking Joseph, who’d transferred out two weeks ago. The going away bash had been fun, and Stiles knew Joseph was getting a step up in life, but it was still hard to say goodbye.

Then he smelled it. Dad. It was kind of faint and faded, but! Dad! That smell was just like, the best, except for maybe Scott. And it wasn’t hard to follow now that he’d found it, even if the trails crossing it were slightly distracting. Even when the scent wasn’t on the ground or against trees and bushes. What was awkward was moving basically on all threes because he had to pretend for JJ that the cast was a necessary thing.

He got pretty good at it, though, if he did say so! And when Stiles had the ball cuddled to his chest he just had to grin up at the other three, knowing that he was probably dirt smeared but not caring. If Dad ever got lost, Stiles could find him, and that was an awesome feeling.

Sadie was apparently off duty now, out of her uniform and everything, so she took it as permission to act like the puppy she secretly was. She ran up panting and pranced around Stiles, licking at his face and wagging her tail. She rolled on her back and how could Stiles do anything but give her belly rubs?

JJ was staring a little, Stiles’ crutches in hand, and then gave Sadie a command. Like that she was off Stiles and at her person’s feet, the very picture of canine happiness.

Scott was next, and caught Stiles in a hug that conveniently scooped him up, and Stiles hummed into Scott’s neck, smelling and hearing and feeling how pleased Scott was that they’d both passed the test. Scott’s mom was laughing behind her hand, but it was okay. She was happy too and that was also awesome.

“Congratulations. You didn’t lose the trail even once.” JJ shot Stiles another slightly awed look, and Stiles figured he didn’t realize Stiles was looking so, whatever. And Stiles really hoped that JJ knowing didn’t end up biting them in the ass later.

That worry made him a little cool and distracted when JJ said goodbye and went off to report the results to Dad. Wouldn’t Dad be impressed that Stiles had the potential to be as good at tracking as his K-9 team?

Also, his jeans were a mess, and Stiles sat down at the picnic table to try to brush them off.

Scott’s mom laughed. “I think it’s hopeless, Stiles. Those have been worked in good.”

She came closer and they both pulled her into a hug on some unspoken signal that Stiles felt more than anything else. It startled her, but then her scent softened and she hugged them both back tight.

“What’s this for, mm?”

Scott shrugged, and mumbled into her neck. “You deserve more hugs. No hugs is stupid.”

“Well you got over that phase quick!” Her laugh was warm and she gripped them tighter. “Now, what’s next?”

Stiles settled himself down on the bench to think about it. “Well, Scott has work in like--” A check to his phone, “a half-hour, so we should be going soon.”

But the vet’s office was maybe ten minutes away in traffic, so there was plenty of time. Why not relax for a moment? The garden was as nice as he remembered it. He used to wheel Mom out here whenever he could before she got too sick to leave her room--

Peter Hale was somewhere in the building, possibly a werewolf, and definitely catatonic. And alone which actually made Stiles feel sick with dread. New wolfy instincts thought that alone was the very worst thing that could happen to anybody.

And why had Laura and Derek left? And if he was a werewolf, with awesome healing, why was he still like this six years later? Granted, what Stiles had read seemed to show glacially slow improvement, which honestly shouldn’t be happening, but--

“Right now, we need to do some investigating though. Since we’re here.”

Scott tipped his head in a questioning expression and his mom raised her eyebrow. He didn’t need actual words to know explanations were wanted.

“Okay, so we’re pretty sure the Hales were all wolfy, and you saw the healing, so why is Peter Hale still in there? Also, it seems like everything is coming back to the Hales. First victim is Laura, all the attacks have occurred so close to the Hale property, hell, I sleepwalked to a spot that apparently was their private graveyard. Which, kind of creepy! Anyway, visiting him won’t hurt, because he probably hasn’t had anybody and that’s just sad.”

“You boys can’t just go waltzing into the facility and into a patient’s room. Maybe if it was visiting hours... No. No.” Scott’s mom even held up her hands and shook her head for emphasis.

Stiles wasn’t doing well at holding the expectant, pleading look, but Scott had always been a natural. Her stern glare didn’t even deter him.

But Stiles had always been best at talking. “It’s just a quick look. If there’s something we need to look into more we’ll come back during visiting hours.”

And maybe he would anyway, because dude, alone had to suck, even if Peter wasn’t even aware of it.

“Just a quick look. I can’t believe I’ve let you talk me into this...” But, from the smile tugging at the corner of her mouth, Stiles figured at least the thing about visiting had struck a chord. He’d heard her get all sad about patients who had no visitors before.

It was almost ridiculously easy to get in, partly because the nurse who was supposed to be at the station was snoring softly. Scott’s mom paused to wake the poor guy up and they headed on, guided by the fact that she’d known the room number from her last stint in long-term care.

The room was, like, depressingly bare of any kind of personalized touch. There was only a man sitting in a wheelchair about two feet from the turned down hospital bed. It wasn’t even possible to see outside, because the blinds on the windows were firmly shut.

Stiles heard Scott’s mom walking up behind them as he stood in the door and took in the scent. Close, sick, and oh god, the amount of pain in it. Under everything else was a bitter odor that actually had his eyes watering.

Part of him balked at going in, and part of him pretty much couldn’t resist, but Scott’s mom cleared her throat behind him as he walked up to the man in the chair.

“Be careful. He’s... There’s a warning here that he’s been having active episodes recently.”

That was good, right? Scott practically echoed the question.

Scott’s mom just sighed. “Not really. He’s been acting out what appear to be memories, and from verbal cues mostly of the fire, and one of the first shift nurses ended up with scratches down her face when she got too close during one. He’s shown no awareness outside of the actions and conversations he’s repeating.”

The windows had been clawed at by family members trying to get out. A shudder went through Stiles at the memory, helped along by gouges along one of the walls. And when he rounded the chair, the scars. All down his face and neck, and on his exposed hands, looking shiny and angry.

But the worse part was the completely blank stare and the utterly still way he was just...sitting. Stiles could hardly see the man breathing, and his heart kind of hurt. He vaguely remembered this guy out on the side of the basketball court, alive and lively, trading jokes and cutting remarks easily. And now here this... shell.

The pain scent beat at him, and Stiles had to do something. “Anybody home? I mean, I know you’re not really, I guess. Just, I want to try something, but I have to touch, is that okay?”

No response, but of course there wouldn’t be. Maybe he’d been stupid even to ask. So there was only actually doing what he was trying to do.

Stiles put his hand over the still hand lying on the armrest--ignoring the sudden urge to jerk back--and reached for the want to help and the soap bubble feeling.

A thousand knives were driven through his arm, and then the rest of him lit on fire. It wasn’t just little black rivers up his arm, but a flood, turning his whole hand black and diseased looking.

There was a high pitched noise, and distantly a new pain flared up in Stiles’ knees. This pain wasn’t settling like it had before, but burning through him, burning him up, and maybe he’d made the Final Bad Decision--

The man in the chair bowed up, spine looking like it would snap, and then shook. A strangled, wounded sound came out of his suddenly open mouth past fangs, as claws dug into the arm rest.

Pressure around his chest, and the contact broke and oh god. Scott’s voice was in his ear, panicked, and Peter’s shaking stilled, as the man collapsed in the chair. Where before he’d been sitting almost like he was awake, now he looked practically boneless and unconscious, head lolling back in a painful looking way.

It took all of Stiles’ strength, fighting against the pain burning him up from inside, to turn enough so he that wasn’t violently sick all over the man’s sprawled knees, and the vomit that came up from his painfully clenching stomach was laced with black.

The bitter smell was now a taste in his mouth, and it made his stomach seize even more, but nothing came out except a few more dribbles of the sick looking black goop. Even after the seizing stopped, Stiles could only sit and tremble and try to breathe. Some of the pain had gone away, like it had before, but he still felt like there was fire or acid right beneath his skin.

He was barely aware of Scott holding him tight as Scott’s mom came over and started checking him over. She looked so worried... He had to--

“I’m...” His throat was so raw. “I’m okay. I made a mess.”

“I’ll clean it up, sweetie. What happened?” She touched his face and then pulled out a paper towel and started wiping at his cheeks. It came away black.

“I don’t-- I feel the pain, when I do the thing.” Stiles looked down at his hands, pale and shaking. At least Peter looked better. Like he was asleep instead of a doll, but damn that position looked uncomfortable.

“Usually, goes away quick, but this time-- Maybe I overdid it. Yeah.” Stiles tried to wipe his mouth but missed and let his hand flop back.

“Okay. Here’s what we’ll do.” Scott’s mom was in full nurse mode. “I’ll clean this up. Scott, you take Stiles into the bathroom and help him rinse his mouth and clean up a bit. And Stiles, don’t do ‘the thing’ again until we figure what it does to you, okay?”

“Okay.”

Stiles didn’t protest as Scott just bodily lifted him--bridal carry, haha--and went into the bathroom. It was getting easier not by inches, but by like micrometers, but it was getting easier. The burn didn’t go away, but it was easier to take. He didn’t protest when Scott stared cupping water and washing his face down for him either.

He sucked up water and spit it back out, feeling even better when the taste--And of course, he’d throw up again, more black splattering against the white sink. Then Scott’s mom called, and Stiles had to support himself. He felt shaky, but splashing water seemed to help, even if it got his shirt wet--oh damn, he hadn’t... had he?

Thankfully the Good Shirt, while a little dirty, didn’t have anything that looked like stains. Good. Great.

Stiles decided he was as cleaned up as he was going to get, and walked out, off balance and awkward even without the cast. He leaned against the doorjamb and watched Scott’s mom pull the thin hospital sheet up over Peter. Laying out on the bed like that, Peter looked peacefully asleep, like he’d wake up normally any minute. His scent was better, Stiles realized, because now the sick and bitterness was mostly clinging to Stiles instead, and the pain scent was so much dimmer. He smelled warm and almost sweet, without all the awful clouding it. Something jangled in the back of Stiles’ head but it was drowned out by a flush of contentment from his wolfy instincts. Apparently they were pleased to have helped Peter out and made the sick go away.

Scott’s mom came over when she noticed him and put a hand to his forehead. She clucked her tongue. “You’re hot. Fever warm.”

Her palm and wrist came back clammy, and the bitter smell clung to the damp. Stiles wrinkled his nose. “Wash your hand; whatever the bitter smell I’m smelling is, I think that’s why I feel like shit. And Scott, could you get my crutches? I don’t think I can manage myself and them right now. Let’s get out of here.”

Scott’s mom moved behind him and he heard water, and Scott went over to where the crutches had fallen near the chair. Stiles took a couple wobbly steps into the room and suddenly fear scent washed over him like a rolling thunderhead. Wide-eyed, he looked around trying to figure out who was--

Peter was siting up in the bed, eyes unseeing but face scrunched up in worry. The scars pulled, making the expression weird and lopsided. His mouth opened and what came out hardly counted as a voice. Half the words were so croaked Stiles had to guess what they were, and the rest were creaky and weak and--

“Talia, how could you. Morgan--” There was silence, almost like someone else should be filling it. Like he was rehearsing lines in a play on his own. “I don’t care! Morgan shouldn’t have--”

“Morgan!” Somehow Peter was out of the bed and moving. If he’d been healthy and whole, Stiles knew he would have crossed the room in a flash, but his legs moved stiffly and Stiles could see the tremble.

So he should have had time to easily get out of the way, but his own body was betraying him and Stiles was just so dumbstruck that Peter was in his face before he could even put together that the man was coming right for him. One arm clamped around Stiles’ back, but the other clenched on empty air, like an inch above Stiles’ head. Peter’s face was so close and Stiles’ heart was racing. No, no, no--

“Morgan, please don’t ever scare me like that again.”

Scott was snarling, and Stiles could feel him grabbing for Peter’s arm and pulling, but he might as well have been trying to pull the building down for all the good it did. Stiles felt Scott lose his grip and there was a dull thud a second later. Peter’s hand came down, still clutching at nothing, but knuckles brushing over the back of Stiles’ skull.

“That arrow wasn’t meant for you. Protect us your way, not ours.”

No, please, please-- The burning eased, just a little, and Peter went quiet. Almost slack.

Scott’s mom pulled on his arm and he moved like he was made of soft clay. Stiles buried his face in her shoulder and shook, breathing and counting until the fear faded and his heart slowed.

When he could finally look again, Peter’s face was blank, eyes staring at nothing, and for some reason holding the exact position, arms up like he was about to embrace someone.

With a loud explosion of breath, Scott’s mom went to Peter again and gently took his wrists and elbows. There was no resistance to her, and his hands and arms stayed where she put them.

“Scott, get his chair. I’m not wrestling him back into bed again.”

A few second later, he was back in the chair like when Stiles had first come into the room, and it was even creepier now that Stiles had seen him up and moving. “What-- He’s like a doll.”

She huffed in response. “Waxy flexibility. It’s one of the hallmarks of his kind of catatonia. The ‘active episodes’ are far more unusual.”

“Creepy,” was Scott’s pronouncement, and Stiles agreed, but he felt so tired.

“Let’s get out of here.” He wanted to go home and sleep, but at the same time, he didn’t, feeling like his skin would crawl off if he was alone.

Nobody argued, and they were almost out the door when a new smell hit Stiles. Blood. He turned to look, and it was just a little spot, pooling through the thin pajama pants where the robe had been pushed aside, but nobody should be bleeding in a hospital, right? Not, like, in long-term care. Scott’s mom turned to look too and hissed in a breath.

“I’ll tell the nurse on duty. I don’t-- I’ll make up some kind of excuse. Come on.”

So they walked. Well, Scott half-carried him. And when they got to the nurse’s station, Stiles was impressed. The story Scott’s mom spun was actually pretty believable, and it helped that it was pretty close to the truth. The excuse that visiting hours for non-family was during school hours for them was gold.

The fact that Stiles and Scott might get drafted into visiting Peter more often, well, they’d cross that bridge when they came to it.

When they were back at the Jeep, Scott’s mom felt his forehead again. “You still feel feverish, and you look so pale. I want you to go right home and--”

“Like Dad will be home, and you’re going back on shift soon. I can’t-- Alone is bad. I can nap in the jeep at the vet’s if I need to.” Stiles tried to be firm, but he was so tired his voice cracked.

“Stiles...” But Scott’s mom only trailed off sadly. “Alright, but if you start to feel worse, call one of us, okay?”

“I will, I promise.”

And that was that. Scott kept giving him worried glances on the drive, like so much that they almost went off the road, so it was a good thing that it was a short drive. When they pulled into the parking lot, Scott reached out and put a hand to his cheek, only to pull back like it burned a second later.

“Okay, what the hell? Touching you right now feels like... almost like that time I got poison ivy one summer.”

Stiles nodded. “Yeah, because I think whatever the bitter smell was is making me feel so bad and run a fever or whatever. Hopefully it goes away fast, because I hurt all over, like I’ve been burned. Wipe your hand off and wash it as soon as you can.”

“Right.” Scott did as told, looking at Stiles out of the corner of his eye. “So what do you think about Peter?”

Oof. Tough question. “Creeped out and... mostly kind of sad? Can you imagine being like that? Trapped inside your head for who knows how long? And in so much pain.”

Scott shuddered hard. “I can’t, like at all. But... He was doing the thing too. The black lines didn’t go past his knuckles, but when he was holding you, he did the thing.”

“Yeah, I felt that. I guess he must have done it to this Morgan in the memory?” Stiles would have to think about it, but right now, he felt too tired and scattered to do much of anything. “But let’s get inside. You don’t want to be late, dude.”

They were a little early, and like yesterday, Dr. Deaton appeared almost as soon as they got through the back door.

He was wearing a little smile as he approached them. “If you keep showing up, I might have to start...paying--”

Dr. Deaton took another step closer, concern coloring his usual calm expression. “Stiles, are you all right? You don’t look well.”

“I’m fine, just had a hard day.” Stiles didn’t feel the need to say everything. It’s not like the guy would be able to help, right? Even if he did know about werewolves.

“Stiles.” And there was some almost parental disappointment in there. Not a bad try. “I may not be a doctor for humans, but I recognize poor health when I see it.”

Oh fine. “I don’t know; I hope it’s nothing. It came on suddenly and I have a little fever, I guess.”

“Is that why you’re shaking?”

He was? Shit, he was. “Um. I’m also pretty tired, so that might have something to do with it.”

Dr. Deaton was quiet for a moment, then turned serious. “I need you to answer me seriously. Have you touched any strange plants lately?”

The way his eyes were dragging down to the dirt spots on his knees was pretty telling. Stiles shrugged. “We were out doing a thing with one of the K-9 officers and her person out behind the long-term care center earlier, but it’s kind of the middle of winter. Not many plants that aren’t evergreens alive.”

“True enough. I only ask because your condition looks suspiciously like Aconite poisoning.” There was no way Dr. Deaton wasn’t saying that to get a reaction.

Well, he got it, because Stiles hadn’t gone in depth, but he’d read enough to know what Aconite really was, and that pretty much every source had said ‘very bad for werewolves.’ “Aconite as in wolfsbane, Aconite?”

“Wolfsbane?! Isn’t that--” Scott blurted, looking toward Stiles with wide eyes.

“A serious poison, if eaten or acquired through enough skin contact. It effects the nervous system, and can cause anything from weakness and tremor to paralysis, seizures and hallucination and all the way to complete nervous system failure. Thankfully rumors of its toxicity are based mostly on a few rare species where even a passing touch to bare skin can cause serious poisoning and death, but a trace amount can still make you sick for several days, unless the sample was properly treated first, the way medicinal Aconite is.”

Dr. Deaton certainly sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and it matched what Stiles had already read.

Scott was gaping. “Why use a poison as medicine?”

“It has its uses, but the treatment process is long and involved, so it’s actually quite uncommon. And many medicines become toxic if not in small, tightly controlled doses.” Dr. Deaton leaned in a little. “Now, Stiles, do you feel a tingling or burning sensation anywhere? Have you been nauseous?”

Well, he was a doctor, even if it wasn’t for people, and he looked concerned. Why not answer. “All over, and yeah, I threw up a couple times after it started.”

Dr. Deaton nodded and moved back to an exam room without so much as another word. A moment later his voice floated back to them. “Come in here, please.”

When they got inside, Dr. Deaton was at a counter beneath a locked cabinet that was now unlocked. There were a lot of jars with plants and things in them. He was pouring water from a small, decorated pitcher into a glass bowl that was sitting over a lit bunsen burner.

He pulled down several of the jars as they got closer, and Stiles wanted to sit down, but there were symbols on the jars, and the bowl, and even the mortar and pestle and Stiles wanted to remember them.

As Dr. Deaton started grinding up things in the mortar, he started talking. “Normally, I would suggest that you visit a hospital, but I know that there they could only treat the symptoms. This is an old, old remedy that should help purge the wolfsbane from your body. I give it to my patients when they’ve accidentally encountered wolfsbane.”

“Okay. Remedy; got it. Now what is it?” Stiles wasn’t about to ingest strange plants when he was already possibly poisoned.

“Essentially, it’s tea. I’m afraid there isn’t anything I can do to improve the flavor; it’s rather delicate.”

As Stiles was about to complain that that wasn’t an answer, Dr. Deaton lit part of the ground up mixture on fire, and it burned bright before hissing out and leaving ash behind. The ash got added to the rest.

Okay, no. “Dude! Strange plants and ashes? That’s not tea. And I’m not drinking it.”

“Stiles,” Dr. Deaton added the mixture to an old, chipped mug that said “Veterinarian by day, ninja by night” and added a couple leaves to the now boiling water. “I don’t know the kind of wolfsbane you encountered, and most kinds will kill a werewolf in a matter of hours if not treated. I’m afraid this is our best option right now.”

Stiles’ mouth snapped shut on his next complaint. Well, that answered the question of if he knew. “So, uh, okay, you are apparently in on the whole werewolves are real club, but how did you know I was?”

“The fact that you two were so enthusiastically scent-marking each other from the moment you entered the clinic was my first clue.” That oh so dry tone was back as Dr. Deaton carefully poured the water into the cup and started stirring. “But what you did with Norbert and that alpha removed all doubt.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll drink your tea, but if it kills me I will so come back from the grave and haunt you.” Stiles had to ask. “Wait, are zombies real? Ghosts?”

“Perhaps not as the modern imagination paints them, but yes.” Dr. Deaton turned. “Now, Scott, how are you feeling? It’s important to know if you’ve encountered the wolfsbane too.”

“I touched Stiles and my hand burned a little, but it stopped after I wiped my hand off.” Scott was rocking on his heels, obviously wanted to hug but not daring to.

“Take one sip then, just in case. It’s not likely that you got enough to worry about, but I won’t risk an emergency.”

When handed the cup, Scott blew on it to cool it down a little and took a sip. And immediately made the most disgusted face Stiles had seen in a long while. From the little smile on Dr. Deaton’s face as he started cleaning up and putting things back, he knew full well how awful it was.

The cup was handed to Stiles, and it was definitely too hot to drink down fast. “Do I have to drink it hot? Also, can touching a werewolf that’s been poisoned poison you too?”

“I’ve been told it tastes much better hot. That or the burned tongue helps subdue the flavor.” Dr. Deaton was as close to grinning as Stiles had seen him, but then went thoughtful. “That depends. Some werewolves have better defenses, and their bodies will try to purge the poison. Sweat is one of those ways, and yes touching the poisoned sweat can cause secondary poisoning.”

“What about... doing the thing, like I did with Norbert?” Stiles cradled the cup, liking the warmth but it smelled too awful and he was lacking the courage to start sipping.

“That--” Dr. Deaton frowned, “Is that how you think it happened, Stiles?”

“That’s when I started feeling really sick, yeah. He just smelled so much like pain and sick that I had to try.” Stiles wrinkled his nose and took a sip. Oh god it really was awful.

Dr. Deaton was rigid, his voice gone short and clipped. “Who is this werewolf?”

Should he? Well, what worse could be done to Peter, really? “Uh, Peter Hale? In the long term care facility. I went to visit him today because-- I had reasons.”

“I won’t ask for them, but...” Dr. Deaton actually looked at a loss for words. “If he’s been or is being poisoned with wolfsbane--”

“You need to go give him this tea, right?” Stiles managed another swallow and it burned his tongue. And--oh fuck it, the burn at least took away the taste. He managed to gulp the rest down, cringing at the burning and coughing and sputtering, so at least that was done.

“I may need to, but if you’ve done what I think you may have, that won’t be necessary.” Dr. Deaton turned away to clean the cup.

It reminded Stiles of what Ms. Morrell had said. “This gift thing, drawing out poison or whatever.”

“Yes, among other things.” Dr. Deaton held up a hand, not letting Stiles get out the question. “Now, if the tea works like it should, you need to head to the bathroom, unless you’d like to clean the floors?”

Scott frowned. “What? Why?”

The smile was back, and Stiles suddenly hated that smile. “The tea is a purgative. It draws out and binds the wolfsbane so that it can be ejected from the body safely. Usually through vomiting and sweating, so if you want to take off your shirt, please lock the door. I’d recommend rinsing off the sweat as it gathers to speed up the process.”

Stiles gaped and tried to glower, but oh god, the prospect of throwing up was so not fun. “I think I might hate you.”

But, yeah, he was feeling nauseous again. Damn it. So Stiles turned towards the little bathroom, making sure Scott and Dr. Deaton heard his miserable moans.

Dr. Deaton just called out pleasantly, “Don’t forget to drink a little, if you can, to avoid dehydration.”

Stiles definitely hated Dr. Deaton with the passion of a million fiery suns.

Chapter Text

Final verdict? Stiles hated Dr. Deaton. And also wolfsbane. But mostly Dr. Deaton’s evil tea.

But he hadn’t vomited in... a while at least, and the super gross sweating had finally slowed down. So that was a plus. Still with the hating, though. He would get revenge. Someday!

Of course, not right now, because he was sitting bare ass naked on the floor in the little bathroom in the vet’s office, and choking on the bitter smell that was so thick he could almost see it.

Stiles wanted to open the door, like really bad, but the nasty sweat was still beading on his skin, and he so didn’t want to wear home sweaty clothes and re-poison himself. Hell fucking no. So he was stuck until it stopped.

Stiles wetted down another paper town and rubbed it over his skin. It felt really good, even if it didn’t last, and by now he kind of had a whole pile of paper towels now overflowing the waste basket. But his toss didn’t miss this time, and he wasn’t shaking anymore either. That was a good sign, right?

Deciding that the floor was just not remotely dignified, Stiles set himself on the toilet. And shivered, because the cold tile and porcelain didn’t feel like heaven anymore. That, well, Stiles had no idea if it was a good sign or a bad one. Good he hoped--

The knock on the door sent his thoughts skittering to a halt. Stiles couldn’t smell anything but the awful sweat, and the door muffled the heartbeat, but it did sound familiar. So he guessed.

“Scott?”

“Not quite.”

That...Dad? “Dad!”

It was like a pendulum. Confusion, joy, confusion, joy... “Why are you here?”

Dad chuckled, but Stiles could practically hear the concerned look on his face. “First, I got a call from Melissa, saying, well, a lot of things. Then the station got a report of a possible abuse case at Beacons Crossing Home, with surprise surprise, you three named as the ones who discovered it and made the report. Then I get a call from Scott, saying that you’d been poisoned and I needed to come home from work to take care of you because you’d never get in any rest hanging around the vet’s office all evening. Busy night?”

“You could say that.” Stiles frowned. Dilemma! He wanted to see Dad, hug Dad, but he was naked and gross and probably still poisonous.

“So, going to come out? Or are we going to talk through the door?”

“So not decent right now, Dad. I don’t want to give Dr. Deaton’s patients heart attacks.”

“I’ll come in then.” The door knob turned with a click and the door slowly opened. Had he forgot to lock it? Oops.

Dad stepped inside while Stiles squawked. “Dad! I’m naked and gross!”

He laughed, and his uniform had that dull look that meant he’d probably been wearing it way too long and hadn’t been home for a nap and a change of clothes yet. “I survived that incident where you managed to get your diaper off and--”

“No, Dad, no!” Stiles couldn’t even begin to adequately express his horror. “I’m lucky enough not to actually remember that; please don’t share the gruesome details ever again.”

Dad stopped laughing abruptly. “Stiles, your-- you--”

He reached back to press against the back of his own neck, and Stiles put the confusion together. He’d taken off all of his bandages because, well, ewww. Soaked with poison sweat, yeah, not happening. “Scott’s mom didn’t mention that?”

“She said something about you two healing miraculously fast but--” Dad reached out and ran his fingers over the spot where the deeper bite had been, like he expected the skin to split and start bleeding under his fingertips.

Stiles was so glad that Dad’s touch didn’t make him uncomfortable like most people’s did. He wanted to lean into it but, wolfsbane. “Dad, you’d better wash your hand right now. You really don’t want to ever deal with Dr. Deaton’s evil tea.”

So Dad wasn’t a werewolf so he was safe, Stiles was like ninety nine percent sure, but just to be one hundred percent!

Dad frowned at him, but obediently went to the sink. “Shouldn’t you be in the hospital instead of drinking...tea? I’m sure he’s an excellent vet, but--”

And Stiles was just... going to cut Dad off. “I’m pretty sure Dr. Deaton is secretly a werewolf doctor and he’s just working undercover as a vet. No, don’t say anything yet. I know it’s really hard to believe, but the psycho turned me into a werewolf, and now I’ve got wolfsbane poisoning. I have to admit, the tea was so incredibly awful, but I’m feeling so much better now so.”

Dad looked so lost. “I get-- It’s hard. You’re still my baby boy, no matter how big and independent you get, and now-- How about we get you home and comfortable and talk about it in the morning? I need some time to process.”

“We can do that, but...” Stiles lifted his arm, already damp with bitter--if less so now--smelling sweat again. “I’m still all gross.”

“We can stick your clothes right in the wash, and I guess I’ll... ask Dr. Deaton if there’s anything else we need to do about the poisoning. There’s a couple other things I want to talk to him about anyway.”

Stiles wanted to go home so bad, especially if Dad was staying the night. Dr. Deaton would tell him if he could leave, right? He’d probably be happy to have his bathroom back. So!

“You go ask if it’s okay for us to go home then. I’ll try to wash up again.”

As Dad slipped back out, Stiles did just that, wiping himself down twice over with wet towels and then again with dry ones. He was kind of dry by the end, if still feeling sticky and unclean.

Just as he was wondering if he should go ahead and dress, he heard Dad come back. He didn’t need to hear the words themselves, either, just the relief and happiness in the tone was enough of an answer.

So Stiles pulled on his shirt and jeans and boxers, but the Good Shirt was staying away from poison, and the hell with even pretending with the cast. They could sneak out the back. It felt a little weird walking around with one shoe, but, whatever.

Dr Deaton was standing outside with Dad and Scott, and holding a small bag in his hands.

Stiles figured he probably should apologize, just to be polite. “Sorry about the mess. And what’s that?”

“Don’t worry about it, and about your question, well. Most of the wolfsbane should be purged from your system now, but I would suggest a hot bath to draw out any that’s left, followed by a thorough shower. And this is a mixture of lavender and sage, and you’re welcome to add it to the bath, if you’d like it.”

Huh, more remedies? “What do those do?”

“Most people enjoy the smell and find it soothing.” Dr. Deaton was laughing inside, Stiles could tell.

Dad was amused too, but Stiles was going to let that slide, because it meant Dad was happy. Scott, however, got a glare for his laughter as Stiles took the little bag. Why not? A bath sounded awesome, and those both did smell good, from experience. In fact.

“Dad, let’s go home.”

After thanking Dr. Deaton, Dad led the way out the back. Stiles couldn’t help the sigh of relief as he sank into the seat, and fought the urge to curl against Dad. One, driving. Two, Stiles didn’t want to risk Dad getting poisoned.

As they pulled out of the back lot, Stiles thought he saw a glint of red in the side mirror for a second, but when he turned to look, nothing. Rolling down the window and sniffing the breeze didn’t catch anything either, and his ears only turned up the noises of the stray cats digging through the dumpsters after the rats that treated the place like a diner. At Dad’s concerned look, Stiles shrugged. “I’m getting paranoid. I thought I saw some red, but nothing’s there.”

Dad gave him a long look, but nodded. “If you’re sure.”

“I’m sure.”

After that, it was a quiet ride, and when they pulled into the drive, Dad smiled. “Go up and take that bath; I’ll get us some food. Any preferences?”

Stiles didn’t even have to think about it. “I think we both deserve a treat.”

Dad beamed “I won’t argue with that. Shake too?”

“Yeah, but better make mine vanilla. I think I need to grill Dr. Deaton on anything else that might be a surprise werewolf poison sometime soon. With my luck, chocolate is just as bad as wolfsbane.” Stiles didn’t think so, because brownies but, with the sickness and tiredness still aching in his bones, he was so not even going to take a negligible risk.

“Good plan. Now get upstairs; I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Stiles did as told and the hot bath felt amazing. The lavender and sage did smell nice and soothing, and it felt like all the tension and discomfort was being pulled out right through his skin. The wolfsbane was being pulled out too, and when the steam rising gently from the surface of the water started to smell kind of bitter and awful under the herbs, Stiles drained the tub. He stood up and yep, the shower felt good too.

He scrubbed until he didn’t smell anything bitter when he stuck his nose against his skin, and then rinsed until the water went cold, because, yeah, they needed to invest in unscented products. Or at least less strongly scented ones.

The door creaked downstairs while Stiles was vegetating in a towel--so glad he wasn’t sweating like crazy anymore--and Stiles took it as a sign he should be getting downstairs.

Wrapped up in an old shirt that he totally hadn’t stolen from Dad--except that was a lie--and his comfiest sleep pants, Stiles padded downstairs, suppressing a yawn or three.

But the smell woke him up and suddenly he was totally starving. The bacon cheeseburgers and curly fries had never smelled so good. “Oh my god, it smells like heaven down here!”

Dad laughed as he held out the bag. “So, getting you a triple was a good decision.”

Stiles was already busy tearing into the burger and could only give a mouth-full mumble of happy nonsense in Dad’s direction.

They migrated to the table and ate, Stiles happily describing how they’d passed JJ’s tests in between bites. Being able to track Dad’s scent was still a super big deal, in his opinion. Dad mostly just listened, and didn’t complain once about his side salad or his small size fries. Good Dad!

When they were done, Stiles was feeling happy and safe and sleepy, but it was totally too early for bed still, so he resisted and fidgeted.

Dad obviously caught on. “Want to watch something?”

Excellent. “Yeah, that sounds awesome.”

“All right. You go find something to watch while I get out of this.” Dad plucked at his dingy uniform.

Stiles nodded and wandered to the living room couch, pulling up the channel guide while he stretched himself out. He was about ready to give up and raid the movie collection when he stumbled on a documentary about Dire Wolves. No sense in denying his curiosity! Interest completely captured.

Dad raised an eyebrow at the topic but settled down on the couch, lifting an arm for Stiles to curl close.

It was pretty good for a documentary, even if Dad probably would have rather watched something else. In fact, Stiles had a feeling Dad was watching him instead of the program. He caught him at it a couple times, but mostly, the show had his attention.

It was one part bad, and repetitive, computer animation, one part scientists guessing, and three parts actual paleontology and science. Stiles was caught up in it, even the bad parts, and felt validated at some of the things he saw. One scientist started talking about injuries and held up some bones that were awful, including fused leg bones and skulls that were badly crushed and mangled.

Broken and healed after the injuries too. The wolves packs had stayed with them and nursed them back to health. Who knew how long the wolves had lived with skull and probably brain injuries, but Stiles felt that way about Scott and Dad and Scott’s mom. It was obviously a wolf thing and a werewolf thing--and maybe a human thing too, he guessed, but it was so much stronger now--but family, pack, stayed together and protected and took care of each other, no matter what.

So, he was going to go visit Peter again, because his pack had left him to rot. Probably no touching or the pain thing, like ever again, but even if Peter was catatonic and reliving memories and Stiles really didn’t know him at all, Peter still deserved somebody. If Stiles had to be that somebody, so be it. He’d drag Scott along too, so he wouldn’t have to do it alone.

But in his musing, he’d missed the end of the show. Also because Dad had given up the ghost and was now snoring. And, nope, not leaving Dad to get a crick in the neck from the couch.

After thinking about it for a minute, Stiles decided to try to carry Dad upstairs. Scott had picked him up and carried him no problem, and theoretically Stiles would be stronger too, right? At worst, his failure would just wake Dad up.

But he didn’t. Fail, that is. It was Awkward with a capital A, but Stiles was able to get Dad upstairs without dropping him or knocking either of them against the walls or bannister.

Turned out, what woke Dad up was trying to deposit him in his bed. Mostly because Stiles sort of lost his balance and half dropped Dad on the mattress.

Dad grumbled and blinked awake. “How did I...?”

“You were asleep; I was trying not to wake you.” Stiles wasn’t pouting at his failure at that, really.

The confusion softened and brightened into a smile. “Not bad, kiddo, considering that I weigh more than you do. Anyway, now I can brush my teeth.”

Stiles huffed, but Dad was right. He wasn’t about to admit it-- What was that? It had sounded like knocking, but very quiet. Stiles having to strain to hear with super ears quiet. He tipped his head, frowning and listening, trying to hear it again.

“What are you hearing?”

“I swear I heard knocking on the door.” Had he locked it? “I don’t remember if I locked it so... I’ll take care of it; you stay up here and get some sleep.”

Stiles turned and padded down the stairs, shooting a glare over his shoulder when Dad started trailing behind him, gun in his hands. That was totally the opposite of what Dad should be doing, and stealing sleep right out from under him. But that concern faded when the knocking came again, still so quiet he had to strain to hear.

Another glance back showed Dad with his head tilted and concern on his face. He still couldn’t hear, but was trying, and obviously coming to some not good conclusions.

Well, Stiles was only going down to lock the door! Werewolves weren’t that strong, were they? Or, well, hopefully not that smart either to just go for windows, but, worst scenarios later.

Stiles was still nervous and fidgety as he crossed into the dining room on the way to the door, suddenly glad Dad was behind him and slipping into the kitchen. He could watch and listen mostly covertly from there. Not that it would count for much if it was a werewolf at the door, because super ears, but! Dad’s heartbeat was strong and steady and that was more of a comfort than anything.

The knocking came again, and downstairs it was loud enough for Dad to hear, from the hiss of breath from the kitchen. As Stiles walked closer, he could see a shadow through the decorative curtains covering the thin window beside the door. Big and probably male. Through the almost sheer fabric, there was a flickering red just barely seen in the darkened porch.

Not just a werewolf. An alpha, and maybe even him. The faint smell coming from the draft around the door--probably should get that fixed--didn’t smell like him at least. Not that it made Stiles feel much better.

Definitely locking the door! Except when Stiles reached for the lock, a voice made him freeze. Male, no question, but it was a soft croon, like-- Honestly it sounded like the tone most people used when talking to a puppy or maybe a scared little kid. Kind of insulting, where it wasn’t terrifying as hell.

The guy crooned again. “Don’t be afraid; I won’t hurt an innocent foil. Come out, and I’ll help you.”

Hell fucking no. Stiles darted forward to turn the lock and throw the deadbolt for good measure.

“No way in hell, Big Bad Wolf. I’m not some innocent lamb you can trick into opening the door by pretending to be Grandma.” Stiles was so mixing his fairytales, and now that he’d said it he remembered it was goats, not sheep, but whatever.

That got a loud growl from the other side of the door and the wood shook.

“You don’t understand. Deucalion will ruin you. He’ll force you to go against your nature and leave you drenched in blood. I won’t let that happen; let me in.”

That name... Duke? Same guy? Maybe. Still, yeah no. “Chilling! Still not unlocking the door.”

The doorknob was suddenly gone. Explained the horrific, terrible rending noise, at least. It was followed by a boom and the wood around the deadbolt cracked. Well, shit.

Stiles broke past the fear rooting him to the spot and started backing the hell away. Scrambling back in terror, anyway. He heard Dad cursing in the kitchen, and the sound of metal clacking against metal, but the sound was lost in another boom and more cracking in the wood.

A second later the deadbolt, some of the door and even part of the frame bounced right to Stiles’ feet and then silence.

The door hinges were well oiled, that was for sure, and Stiles wondered if slowing down time was a werewolf power. For those dramatic moments. Because, it seemed like forever for the ruined door to swing open.

Filling up the whole door was a monster of a man. Big and rough and built, and standing like a wrestler about to step into the ring. Step into the ring with every confidence of winning.

Did Stiles say oh shit already? Because oh shit.

He was fast as all hell too. Stiles tripped over himself trying to get farther away, and the guy was right there above him, with glowing red eyes and clawed hands almost gently cupping the back of his neck.

Weight, heat, teeth in his neck, holding him down to--

The touch disappeared and Stiles was back inside his own skin again, heart beating like a frightened bird against his ribs. How had he gotten curled up on his side?

The guy was still hovering, so close that Stiles was drowning in spice and fury and...grief? His mouth was too full of teeth when he spoke. “I’ll rip that alpha’s dick off for hurting you.”

Okay, this guy was weird. Back and forth and what the hell was his intention? But Stiles would tackle that later, because right now getting away was more important. Of course, he was scooting on his ass, because the guy was even in the way of standing up, and the guy had no trouble following.

Time to say something. “Right now, you’re hurting me, asshole!”

That made the guy frown, and the hairy look that had come over him suddenly faded away to just glowing eyes and teeth. It made him look more human, but not any less scary.

“I’m saving you. I’ll break from Deucalion. You can make me whole again; when you’re ready we’ll bond and start a real pack together--”

The gunshot was deafening and blood splattered on Stiles’ face. The second shot was easier to handle, because Stiles was expecting it.

Dad was standing behind them, gun in one hand, and a snarl to rival the werewolf’s on his face. “Get out of my house. You think I wouldn’t remember you? You couldn’t get away with roughing up the nurses back then, and like hell am I letting you kidnap my son!”

The guy’s face contorted in something like confusion and he sniffed, then sniffed again. “Your son? You’re human! He can’t possibly be yours. You don’t even know that normal bullets are useless against me.”

He paused a moment to dig into his own shoulder and drop a bullet then another to clatter on the floor. “I’m healed already.”

The scary thing was that he was, but Dad’s heart was still steady, even in the face of that. He fired twice more--why one handed?--and the guy collapsed. “I have a full clip, and I’m betting kneecaps take longer to heal, if you can even get the bullets out.”

Stiles took his chance to scamper to Dad’s side. The guy swiped for Stiles’ legs, but hindered by the bullets in his leg, wasn’t fast enough this time. Thank god.

“Dad?”

Dad gave him a distracted smile, but his eyes never wavered from the guy, who was now digging around in his knees for the bullets. The gun remained perfectly steady. “It’s okay, Stiles. No one threatens my boy.”

The guy staggered to his feet. His lower legs were a gory mess, but healing as they watched. Then the gun went off again, and again the guy went down, this time with a snarl that was close to a roar. Wasn’t that more of a big cat thing? The guy looked up, flashing a fang-filled grin and licked his lips. He was closer, and everybody in the room knew that only five bullets were left.

“You can’t stop me.”

“I don’t need to.” Dad wasn’t afraid. Not very afraid, anyway. What fear there was was lost under warmth and safety and...confidence. It dawned on Stiles that Dad had a plan, and that everything was going accordingly. Or backup on the way. Or both.

The guy went very still at that, face twisted and all hairy and super creepy again. God damn, Stiles hoped he wouldn’t look that bad all wolfy. Then he roared so loud that Stiles’ ears rang.

And Dad flinched, just a little bit.

The guy was on Dad in that split second. Stiles fell. The gun went off. Dad cried out and the guy grunted. Silence.

Shit, shit, shit!. “Dad? Dad?”

The guy was sprawled out on top of Dad, and neither of them were moving. Oh no. God, no--

The guy moved suddenly, jerking his head up, mouth and chin wet and red. Teeth snaggy and stained as he twisted his head awkwardly to flash that gory grin at Stiles.

NO!

The crack of the gunshots was muffled when they came again, and the guy’s body actually jerked upward with them. Suddenly there was a whirlwind of movement and Dad--oh god, the blood--kicked and struggled his way out from under the guy’s bulk.

The guy just snarled wordlessly as Dad half crawled, half crab-walked back, and clawed fingers flashed out.

The wounded, terrified noises that followed were all Stiles. No, please, not Dad, no--

The guy’s arm gave out and he rolled to his back, coughing up blood all over his chest. With suddenly clawless hands, he pulled at his shirt and then yanked.

The little paring knife looked ridiculous and insignificant in the guy’s huge hands, but the guy’s spicy scent soured with fear as the knife clattered to the floor.

“Wolfsbane--” He coughed again, spine arching and a groaning-growl escaping clenched teeth.

Dad wasn’t moving. There was bright blood across his throat and under his neck. No, no, NO!

A hand snagged his wrist, and surprise cut off his pleading. Stiles was dragged bodily over the guy like he weighed nothing at all. He tried, he did. He yelled and squirmed and only got a bloody hand over his mouth for his trouble, and another arm like a steel band, clamped right over his ass.

“Draw out the wolfsbane. Hurry! It won’t advance as quickly in you, and I know where an Emissary--” The guy was cut off by his own groan as Stiles tried to struggle in spite of the grip.

He was going to rip the bastard’s eyes out. His fingers ended in claws now. Huh. Well! Now he could. He could ripkillprotectkillkillkill--

The air rushed from his lungs as the weight--heavy heat, rocking him forward-- crushed him and fear froze him in place again. His wrists ached from a crushing grip.

“Off. Get off me! Get off--”

“Shh. Stop struggling. Just draw out the wolfsbane before it’s too late. I’ll take you somewhere safe; I promise.”

No! Stiles struggled harder, not caring how much it hurt. Get away. Help Dad. Get away, get away getawayaway--

The roar right in his face made him go still against his will. To his embarrassment he trembled and whined.

The guy shushed him again, but then snarled, hot and angry. “Listen, boy, you will do as I say--”

“Hands in the air! Move off him and keep your hands where I can see them!” Bill? Bill!

The weight left him, but the guy turned and crouched, clawed hands splayed wide and snarling at the deputies in the ruined doorway. The bullets--

Stiles had to--

Oh god, Dad--

The guy was going to hurt Bill and Tara and Spencer!

Had to--

The knife!

Stiles scrambled for the knife and jammed it as deep as he could into the back of the guy’s thigh.

The guy actually screamed as he turned, but Stiles was the one feeling the pain as Tara and Bill and Spencer yelled and rushed--

For some strange reason he felt so... so weightless...

The crack vibrated right through him, but strangely distant.

Wha...t?

Chapter Text

Okay, ow? Definitely ow. Stiles groaned. His head hurt and his back hurt and his chest especially hurt.

He tried to open his eyes and Tara’s face floated right there, blurry and kind of not connected to anything else. Like maybe watching the world through a blacked out window or something. There were blank spots of blackness everywhere, at least, and it made everything really dark.

“Stiles, don’t try to move. Can you do that for me? You might have a spinal injury so stay still. If you do, we’ll find some treat or something, okay?”

It all came back in a rush and Stiles whined in his throat, trying to work his way around words that wouldn’t come. Who cared? Dad was-- Dad was--

Tara shushed him, fingers darting out of the nothingness and somehow clearing it away like magic, opening up his eyes to more light. The light kind of hurt. His head was pounding.

“Your father is fine. He’s lost some blood, but Bill is putting his EMT training to good use. He’s in good hands, I swear. Just lie still for us, okay? Your father will be back on his feet in no time.”

Stiles liked Tara, he did, but Dad. He had to know. Words were words, and people could be wrong and not even know it. It hurt to sit up, and Stiles ended up gasping and panting, head swimming. Bits of wood and plaster and who knew what else tumbled off him like an avalanche. Explained why his vision had been weird; he’d been all but buried. Essentially his current state was ow fuck!, but Dad!

“I can move. No spinal injury at least?” He sounded like a frog, and now that he was managing to talk, damn, was his throat and mouth dry and scratchy and tasting like dust and dirt. The pain came and went in waves, especially down low in his back, and another awful spot near his shoulder blade. What the hell? Why wasn’t he healing? Stiles twisted as much as the pain would allow--

Oh god, a sharp piece of shattered wood was sticking out of his back. Probably another in the other spot.

“Oh my god, please pull it out. Please--”

When Tara looked like she was going to protest, Stiles tried to reach around himself to do it instead. “Get it out--”

Tara put up her hands. “All right! Just! Don’t move too much. Stay still. Bill! I need your help--”

Good. Good. Bill would help. Stiles did his best to stay still, but the pain was so not helping, even if his head was clearing a little now, thankfully.

When Bill came over he protested what Tara wanted to do, but Stiles tried to do it for himself again and he caved too. Jackpot. The first one came free with a burst of relief so sharp he might have moaned a little, and the shattered wood was tipped with a few inches too many of wet, sticky blood. The other one, higher on his shoulder, caught and pulled and hurt more, coming free, but the relief was just as good when it slid out of him.

Bill immediately pulled up Stiles’ shirt and started wiping at and putting pressure on the spots, but stopped and swore. When Stiles opened his eyes again, they were both gaping at him. Well, looked like the secret was out.

“Healing instantly huh? So, uh, Bill? Tara? You know that werewolf cultist thing? Not actually cultists. You really did see a wolf in that grave, Bill. Don’t ask me how she was changing back and forth even after death, but there you have it! And uh, the sketches never look quiet right, because the artist is trying to draw humans in costumes and they’re actually changing their limbs and growing claws and fangs and... yeah.”

They were both still staring and Stiles squirmed uncomfortably. “And being a werewolf comes with the nifty benefit of super healing, as long as nothing is actually inside the wound. Or wolfsbane. Wolfsbane is bad.”

Tara shook her head. “If I hadn’t seen the glowing eyes, or the suspect get up from a shot that should have killed him, or that monster throw you through a wall with my own eyes...”

“So what do we do?” asked Bill.

“I’m guessing you called the paramedics?” Stiles bit his lip, looking down at his chest, which wasn’t healing and feeling better with the rest of him. It was still a bloody, bleeding mess.

“Well, for some reason these lovely gifts from creeper number three aren’t healing, but if I’m not bandaged and properly casted when people start showing up, at least somebody will get suspicious. And I really don’t want to end up an experimental subject in some top secret lab somewhere. Can you help?”

They reluctantly agreed, and just in time, with their help, Stiles was in bandages and his cast and cast cover. A towel was shoved under the shirt to soak the still sluggishly bleeding mess because the paramedics and hospital staff would be messing with it soon enough. During the whole thing, Stiles obediently sat still, putting pressure on some of Dad’s wounds and babbling at him to try to keep him awake. It worked, mostly, and every time Dad pulled in a labored breath--even with the wheezing and coughing and bubbling sounds inside--something in Stiles wept with joy and relief. Dad was still alive. Everything would be okay.

The paramedics were a lot more concerned with Dad, which was natural, considering his injuries, but Stiles wrangled a spot on the ambulance anyway. Mostly out of sheer stubbornness and pleading, and also possibly being more than a little hysterical. Well, not really--mostly--but Stiles was willing to play up the panic to stay near Dad.

By the time they were zooming down the streets, Dad was awake enough to give Stiles a weak smile and a squeeze to his hand. And who cared if someone saw. Stiles was going to do the thing.

Right now.

Okay, right now!

Or... not. Which, worrying! But it felt like hitting a glass wall right before grabbing onto the bubble feeling and a rising wave of exhaustion each time. Maybe he was too tired and hurt? Had to be kind of okay himself before he could help others? Seemed solid.

Stiles was going to believe that over losing the power. And because he couldn’t help supernaturally, he fussed and fretted over Dad instead, until one of the paramedics turned a steely-eyed stare on him and ordered him point blank to sit down, shut up, and not to touch anything or they’d sedate him. Which, yeah, Stiles couldn’t sleep. Not until Dad was okay again.

So Stiles did his best to stay quiet, staring at the temporary bandages putting a stop, mostly, to the bleeding. The messiest were over Dad’s face and neck, but his shoulder was in shreds, and his right arm and chest and stomach had all been hurt too. At least the side of his neck had been mostly slash-free, and his trachea hadn’t been sliced open--in immediately deadly ways at least, though there were at least two probable puncture points. One of the paramedics had assured him that it could be fixed completely. Dad was having less trouble breathing now that they’d stuck a tube into the front of his throat at least, but that meant he couldn’t talk.

Ironically, what worried him the most was the glimpse he’d had of Dad’s arm, and what he was pretty sure was a circle of punctures. If Dad had been bitten--

Stiles held back a whine at the thought, and spent the rest of the time worrying about it until he was essentially shoved into Scott’s mom’s care.

After that, things were a blur of worrying about Dad and getting patched up and then Tara coming in to take his statement. Stiles did his best to repeat what the guy had said word for word. At some point Scott showed up with a shirt and they huddled together with regular check ins by Scott’s mom until Dad was finally wheeled out the OR and upstairs to a room.

Dad was so pale when they were finally allowed into the room, but he was sitting up and awkwardly pecking out messages on a laptop somebody had brought in. In between trying to move more than he should and getting scolded by the nurse. There were big, bulky bandages over his cheek and under his chin on the left side, and more across the front of his throat. There was another bandage on the top of his shoulder, peeking out from the flimsy hospital gown, and Stiles knew that there were more hidden across his arm, chest and stomach under the fabric. But Dad would live; that was the important part.

There were several deputies, Tara and Bill included, arrayed around the room like it was a royal court, and Dad was the king. It made Stiles laugh a little, but at least it wasn’t a French court...

The deputies made room for him and Scott without prompting, and Stiles resisted, he did, for about two seconds before he said fuck it to himself, and to the nervous indignation of the nurse constantly scolding Dad, just clambered--awkwardly, stupid cast--up into the bed. He was being so careful not to jostle Dad, really! But nothing was going to stop him until he was curled safely against Dad’s side, with constant reassurance that Dad was alive and getting better. The wolfy instincts were in full agreement with this plan.

Dad’s left, unhurt, arm went around his back as soon as he was there, and squeezed tight for a moment, and Dad kept on with orders and questions to the deputies without pausing. It was weird to hear the tap tap of keys instead of Dad’s voice. Bill was reading the screen out loud for everybody’s benefit.

Stiles half paid attention to the flow of conversation, in between listening to Dad’s lungs and heart. Guy was apparently called Ennis, whether or not it was his name or a nickname unknown, and he’d caused problems in Beacon Hills before right after some guy had been found shot with an arrow and then cut in half. That case had gone cold due to no good evidence, and Dad wanted every one of the files related to that case pulled, along with any other unsolved cases or animal attacks from the same period.

Dad also organized a search and sent out a call to have that curfew initiated despite protests before dismissing all the deputies except Tara and Bill. Scott and his mom hung around as well, but a thought hit Stiles like a truck.

“Where’s Spencer?”

“She’s getting treated for at least two broken ribs and a moderate concussion.” Scott’s mom sighed, “her prognosis looks good from what I was able to see, but she’ll probably be out of work for a while.”

There was a moment of silence after that before Dad tapped on his keyboard. The words trailed across the screen, and Bill didn’t bother to read them out loud this time. Everyone was close enough to see. “So about what you two saw tonight”

Bill grinned. “Trying to break the werewolf news to us? Stiles already did. I can’t say I completely believe it yet, but I’m working on it.”

Dad smiled and then winced, hand going to his cheek before returning to the laptop. “I know. Believe me, I know. But my son somehow completely healed from a mauling and tracked as well as one of our dogs today. It’s definitely something we are completely unprepared for.”

“So what do we do, Sheriff?” Just like Tara to get right to the point.

Dad’s arm around Stiles tightened a little as he pecked away at the keys with a single finger. “For the general public, we’ll keep on like we have been. A bunch of nuts who think they’re werewolves are running around wild and attacking people. For the press, release a statement saying that a male suspect, who may or may not be the first suspect, went after the first victim at home tonight, and multiple officers were wounded in the resulting confrontation. The suspect escaped, injured, and everyone else involved is expected to make a full recovery. For the department, I’m taking a couple”

Scott’s mom interrupted that with a cough that sounded suspiciously like ‘weeks.’

“days off to recover, whether I like it or not, and you two will be co-acting-sheriffs until I’m ready to return to work.”

Tara smiled. “I’m guessing we’ll be expected to shoo you back home at least a time or five?”

Everyone smiled, at least before Bill asked his next question, drumming his fingers on his knee. “What about Hale? We can’t hold him much longer without charges.”

“No charges, but make sure he knows he can’t leave town yet. And, can you two swing it so that you’ll be the only ones at the station tomorrow night?” Dad’s hand hovered over the keys a while longer, like he wanted to say more.

Tara sighed. “We can initiate a massive patrol, full moon and werewolf cultists as a reason, which would keep most deputies out most of the night, but that’s probably the best we can do.”

“As long as you can keep them out of the holding cells, we’ll have to make it work.” When the others looked at Dad expectantly, he started typing again. “Can you think of a more private and secure place to contain four possible werewolves transforming and, hell, we’ve all seen the movies.”

Bill winced, and Tara shook her head. Then she looked up. “Four, sir? Hale too?”

“Somehow, I don’t think Hale will need to be contained, but” Dad took a deep breath and his hand trembled as he pecked out the letters. “the bastard bit me tonight. I can’t take a chance. I’m also worried these sickos will try going after my son again so it’s as much to protect him from them, as the populace from us. If I could think of somewhere safer, I’d suggest it, but I’m coming up with nothing.”

Stiles didn’t lift his head from Dad’s chest, but he had to speak up. “I don’t think Derek will need it. He probably has the control thing mastered. It’s possible, something about an anchor to tie you to your humanity, but I guess it’s really unlikely to manage it on the first full moon. There’s a book I got, and I totally need to find a way to make copies without breaking the spine so I can return it, that talks about anchors and meditation techniques. And I can’t say for sure, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was pretty much written with new werewolves in mind, which-- The healing would explain why somebody crazy old wouldn’t look crazy old, wouldn’t it? Oh my god, I think Mrs. Ito is a werewolf.”

That was enough to get Stiles stared at, but Dad’s fingers trailed up his back and scratched at the fuzz on his neck, so he honestly didn’t care too much. His other hand tapped at the laptop some more.

“Who told you this? Dr. Deaton?”

“Uh, no, actually. Ms. Morrell, the counselor, apparently knew an alpha werewolf once. If you want to talk with her, be my guest, because she’s stingy with the sharing of facts. Like they’re a precious commodity that she needs to carefully ration out.”

Dad let out what would have been a bark of laughter, but coughed and groaned instead. When Stiles was done fretting, Dad snagged the computer from where it had fallen against the safety rails.

“Why am I not surprised both of them know?”

“I don’t know, why aren’t you?” Scott’s mom had settled herself on the other unoccupied bed just a few feet away, and her feet were swinging lightly. Beside her Scott was looking overwhelmed.

“They are” Dad paused in the slow typing for a minute, “some kind of family. Maybe siblings; I never got the details. Criminal Justice and pre-veterinary or however it’s called, didn’t cross paths much. I know the family moved down from Canada at some point prior to Dr. Deaton’s enrollment at UC Beacon.”

 

Bill raised an eyebrow. “So should we...?”

“They haven’t done anything wrong,” was the typed reply, “but I’ll want to talk to them both eventually. Right now, we’re running out of time so let’s just focus on getting this town through to tomorrow morning without anyone getting attacked.”

Dad looked so tired and overwhelmed, and Stiles wished so hard that he could help, but the glass wall was still there when he tried the thing, so he couldn’t even help Dad feel better. What good was a special gift that everybody apparently wanted him for if he couldn’t even use it?

Suddenly there were hands on his shoulders, and Scott’s mom was using a soft, soothing voice. “Relax, sweetie, what’s wrong?”

“Dad’s hurt because of me and probably going to become a werewolf and I can’t even-- I can’t! Just... Not even the pain thing.”

Dad squeezed tight, and she did too, and he heard what was probably Scott coming closer. “What did I say about not trying that again until we know what it does to you?”

“Maybe I could do it. You said something about others being able to learn how, right?” Good old Scott. Best friend.

Scott’s mom protested, but Stiles needed to help Dad feel better. They’d given him the good stuff, but it obviously wasn’t enough. “Yeah. Sure. I don’t know if I can teach you, um. Well, here’s what I know. You have to want it. Want to help, want to take the pain away. There’s like a feeling... I don’t know, it’s really fragile, like if you touch it too hard it’ll pop like a soap bubble. But when you get ahold of it right, the pain will go right into you. Oh and touching, touching has to happen.”

“I’ll try.” Scott put a hand over Dad’s, still resting on Stiles’ shoulder, and ignored another worried protest from his mom. Stiles watched him breathe, watched his face contort. The clock ticked on the wall.

“You’re trying to hard. You’ll like, break the bubble.”

Scott tried hard to relax; Stiles could feel it. He tried not to feel disappointed either, because it obviously wasn’t working. But he held still, not wanting to upset Scott.

The silence was just getting awkward when Scott gasped and tensed. Careening up his arm were veiny lines of black. He was doing it! Go Scott! Dad tensed too, but then went boneless on the bed. The underlying pain in his scent was replaced with contentment.

Then Scott pulled away with a little moan, and wobbled. His mom caught him and clucked her tongue in concern, but Scott’s smile, as wobbly as he was, was so bright. He was so happy to have done it. He got ushered into the other bed and curled up in it, content to let her fuss.

“You stay here until my shift is over; there shouldn’t be another patient put in this room any time soon, I hope. Then we’ll--”

Nope. Nope. “We don’t know how that guy found me and Dad. We’re all staying here tonight. Together. It’s safer.”

Stiles was not going to let anyone argue this. Even Tara got grumbled unhappily at when she mentioned the possibility of a deputy put on watch at the McCall house.

Scott agreed, of course, but his mom was unsure, and Bill was siding with Tara. Finally Dad, looking sleepy, spoke up. Or typed up.

“I agree with Stiles. The boys obviously feel more comfortable together, and would worry if you were home alone, Melissa. It won’t hurt to camp out here for just one night.”

She threw up her arms, looking exasperated, but smelling kind of amused and happy. “Fine. I’ve been overruled! I’ll endure one of the pull-out chairs just for tonight if it makes you feel better.”

“It’ll be tight, but you can share the bed.” Scott was looking sheepish, but Stiles had a feeling that he wanted the comfort of having her close as much as Stiles was so not going to let Dad out of his sight at night for a while.

“Great idea; we can push the beds together. It’ll be a like a big sleepover.” Stiles was completely immune to the scandalized looks from the deputies, or the actually exasperated protest from Scott’s mom. It was a great idea, okay.

Bill, looking awkward now, mumbled something about getting to work, and Tara followed him out, but not before winking at Stiles. Figured. She probably knew about his and Scott’s wishing for their parents to get together.

Feeling up to standing again, Scott followed the suggestion of pushing the beds together, and even though there was a gap, declared it comfortable enough. Even though it wasn’t horribly late yet, Scott yawned and was out like a light as soon as his head re-hit the pillow. It felt so good to have Scott and Dad both so close, but something was missing, and even though Dad was out minutes after Scott, Stiles couldn’t do more than doze off for a few minutes at a time until Scott’s mom came back.

She huffed at seeing him still awake. “You’re really worried about me too, aren’t you?”

“Yeah. You're family. Scott’s my brother and--” Stiles had to take a deep breath. Hopefully it wouldn’t scare her. “you’re like my second mom. Even before Mom died, that’s what you were. I know you and Mom and Dad used to joke that it took all three of you to parent us, but you’re even more important to me, and Dad, now that she’s gone.”

Her face tightened, like she might be about to cry, but she smelled happy. “Oh sweetie. I love you too.”

Then she awkwardly slid into the other skinny hospital bed next to Scott, who snuffled happily in his sleep, and put her arm over both of them. It was nice, especially when Dad’s hand slid down Stiles’ shoulder to cover hers. Dad smiled at her, and tipped his head down to kiss Stiles’ forehead, before drifting off again almost immediately. Her hand squeezed Dad’s and then she closed her eyes too.

This was good. This was what family should be. And yeah, Stiles missed Mom so much, but if she was watching from heaven, he thought she would probably approve. Stiles smiled to himself and let his eyes drift closed.

...Mm, warm. Sweet and spicy and Scott and Dad and Scott’s mom and blood and-- Stiles blinked into the dark, world painted in shades of red and gray. Scott snuffled into his shoulder in sleep and Stiles watched a large hand, furry and fingers tipped with long claws trailing through Scott’s fluffy hair. Claw tips almost tickled against Stiles’ scalp and he breathed out and in. Spice and musk, sweet, so sweet, with so much fury and pain and sick burning behind it. Glowing red eyes stared down at him, and Stiles reached up, claws digging into fur--but not flesh, oh no--and pulling. He got an amused huff in response, and the wet of tongue and breath over his face. He planted kisses and licks along fur and teeth like he should, so happy--wrong, this was wrong, what was he--

--fingers so small in his own, and her little bare feet made no sound as Rosie walked through ash and glass and shattered wood. “We’re puppies but Mommy and Daddy and Danny are big and strong and they’ll protect us from the Big Bad Wolves. Promise!”

There were roots and dirt falling around him like rain and smoke burning his nose. “Where are we?”

“We’re dreaming!” Rosie smiled up at him and Stiles was going to protect her forever, especially from the flickering red light--

--so full he didn’t want to move, blood and fat still fresh and delicious on his tongue and between his teeth, but he had a job to do! There was extra, and Stiles knew just where to take it. But it was too heavy to drag all on his own and hell if he knew where the others were, so he got his teeth around a chunk and pulled and growled and pulled until it came free and he fell, paws going everywhere.

Didn’t matter; he had his prize, still so fresh and hot, dripping blood into his fur as he ran. The bright sun turned cold and frosty, and grass and rocks turned to fire-blackened bones and grimacing skulls, but Stiles wasn’t going to turn away. The wolf in the center was still alive, fur burned off and shivering in the cold, and Stiles dropped his present in front of a dry, bloody muzzle, whining. The wolf didn’t move, so he nudged and shoved until he was wrapped around the scarred wolf and put the present closer again.

The other wolf opened blue eyes and licked at Stiles’ muzzle--

“--we won the championship! Stiles, we did it!” Scott laughed and actually bodily picked Stiles up to swing him around. Their face-masks knocked together and somehow they’d lost their sticks and Allison was laughing and running toward them from the direction of the bleachers in a pretty white dress. Still in the bleachers Dad and Scott’s mom were wrapped around each other, cheering and clapping in between their own more private celebration.

The roar of the ecstatic crowd was coming from everywhere and nowhere and the rest of the team was...somewhere?

“Summer Jack!” Rosie held up her arms and Stiles scooped her up, spinning her around like Scott had just spun him around. She laughed, so bright and happy.

Stiles laughed too, but something... “Where’s Danny?”

She giggled and rubbed her nose against his bare shoulder. “He only dreams inside his own head, silly!”

Something prickled down his spine like ice, and he couldn’t see Scott or Allison or Dad or Scott’s mom anymore. Stiles started walking, charcoal crunching under his bare feet. “Don’t we all?”

“Nuh-uh.”

“Well if I’m not dreaming inside my own head, who’s head am I dreaming in?”

Flames, stinking like bitter wolfsbane, roared up around them--

--the blanket settled under his chin and Dad smiled down, looking so young, without the wrinkles and stress weighing him down. Mom laughed, arms wrapped around Dad’s ribs, and her chin stretched up to rest on his shoulder. “He’s going to be our little terror someday.”

“Then what is he now?” Dad kissed her, soft and sad, years settling on him again.

“Perfect.” Mom kissed him back, threading their fingers together and then pulling back, his wedding ring pinched between her knuckles. “And you can’t mourn me forever. I can’t stay, and I want to see you two happy before the last of me leaves.”

“Claudia--” Soft, broken, tears in his eyes, as Dad reached for her and his hands passed right through.

“Mom--” Stiles didn’t... Mom was dead, but a finger touched his lips, soft and warm as she shushed him--

--barking, as the little wolf pup bounded up to him and leaped for his arms. Stiles caught her and tipped his head back to howl when she did.

Then Rosie ducked her head into his shoulder and shook, little fingers digging into his arms. She stank of fear.

“Rosie, shh, it’s okay. I’m here; I’ll protect you.”

She shook her head hard. “The biggest and baddest wolf wants to gobble up even the moon and the sun and he can see us when we dream. We need to hide--”

--felt warm, and he liked the arms around him. Stiles dragged his hands over scarred skin, feeling the hitch of breath against his shoulder. “Hey, it’s okay.”

“Not alone. Thank you...” The words were soft and slurred.

Stiles turned, lifting Peter’s ruined chin. “No one deserves to be alone, dude. I’m just glad I got you out of your head.”

The laugh was croaking and broken, and Peter nipped at his chin. When his eyes opened, flames danced in them. “Oh Stiles, you never got me out.”

Heat blistered his back--

--twirled, water from the lake splashing up her knees. “We can ask great, great, great, great grandmom for help! She can make it rain so hard that nobody can see or smell, and thunder and lightning and wind, so that even the bad wolves have to run away and hide.”

“That’s a lot of greats; are you sure she’s still around?” Stiles waded in, the water soaking his fur.

“She’s in the water now.” Rosie pounced, worrying his ear between her teeth, “And she always protects family, even if I’m a puppy like you.”

Stiles turned the tables and lifted her up with one arm, tickling mercilessly with his free hand. She squealed and kicked at his stomach with bare toes. Stiles wagged his tail happily and something... “Hey Rosie, if I’m not dreaming in my own head, who’s head am I dreaming in?”

Rosie frowned, and pointed over his shoulder. “His, mostly.”

Stiles turned, not surprised to see Peter, so still and staring blankly at nothing from his chair as flames started licking--

--blocking the light in the doorway, wild and so not human. The growl made Stiles shudder and whine but he couldn’t move, as the alpha dropped to all fours and paced into the hospital room.

At the foot of the bed he stood up again, light glinting off bright, sharp teeth in a short muzzle. He growl-whined and Stiles heard the words hidden in it this time.

“So proud of you, making such a strong pack for me, and binding us all together.” The alpha moved, claws making shivery sounds against the metal safety rails, and stopped to pick up Dad’s limp arm. “Experience and fortitude, and a respect for rules and order. His position will be so helpful to us.”

Stiles cried as teeth dug into Dad’s arm and the blood welled up. The alpha didn’t stop, circling again, and huge, clawed hand rucking up Scott’s mom’s scrubs. “Compassion, wisdom, and she’s quite beautiful, don’t you think?”

She didn’t wake up when he lowered his head and bit into her side. Stiles couldn’t move.

The alpha’s claws made ticking sounds on the headboard, then silence as they soothed over Scott’s skin, and Scott nuzzled into the touch in his sleep. “And this one... Well, we can’t always pick winners, now can we? I’m sure we can teach him something useful together.”

The alpha was above him, hovering, growl so soft Stiles could barely hear. “And you, healing me so well. Shh, I moved too quickly, and I must apologize. I wasn’t myself that night. But now, no more fear. No more pain. Shh.”

Stiles wanted to scream and cry as the weight settled over him like a warm blanket, but the pain in his chest lifted in a flash of relief so intense it was almost--

--screaming coming from everywhere, as smoke and ash clogged the air and fire. Fire. Fire.

Peter was in the hospital chair in the middle so, so still. Blood dripped from the window sills. Bodies writhed in flames.

Laughter.

Stiles staggered to the window feeling like his skin was melting. A woman, blond bombshell in leather, was outside with a gun. The bars on the window were bent, broken, but he couldn’t get out far enough to kill her. Blood poured from his fingertips.

She laughed louder. “How rich. ‘Oh please, please save the children. They’re human! They did nothing!’ Humans raised by wolves aren’t fit to be around humans. I’m doing the world a favor, getting rid of all of you. Hey, do you think? Poor widdle Derek, with his pack gone-- They say omegas made so traumatically usually curl up in a little ball and die. What, no answer? Well this is getting boring. Let’s spice it up a little, shall we?”

Something tiny flew from her hand and bounced through the bars. The glass of it shattered. The wine rack exploded.

Stiles screamed--

He flailed, feeling a flair of pain in his neck and a little metal ping. Voices sprang up, shushing, familiar-- Scott, Scott’s mom. Dad’s arm squeezed tight.

There was groan and the sound of running footsteps, but Stiles was feeling fire and teeth and--

“Stiles, breathe with me, okay? You just had a nightmare.” Scott’s mom started breathing deep and slow. Scott and Dad joined her.

Stiles counted, trying to keep the rhythm. There was no psycho alpha here. No fire and laughing. No blood and bite-marks. Just a dream.

Just a dream.

Just a dream.

Just... Why did his neck hurt?

Stiles reached up, and a piece of metal came free with a surge of relief when he tugged. It was long and thin and holl-- “Why the hell was there a broken needle in my neck?”

Scott’s mom swore long and loud and she never, ever swore like that. At least around them. She clambered off the bed, and a minute later came up with the rest of the hypodermic, needle part snapped off, and plastic cracked. Whatever was in it wasn’t in it anymore. She flicked on the lights, to his and Scott’s protests, and a second after that came up with an empty vial that liquid medicines were kept in.

And she went white. Dead white. “This is a powerful anesthetic. It would have sent you into cardiac arrest and-- Oh my god.”

Oh my god was right. Somebody who wasn’t a werewolf had just tried to kill him. Oh my god.

Chapter Text

The hospital room was full with deputies within twenty minutes or so. Stiles wasn’t completely sure, because he was wobbly and half-asleep for a while, but eventually he got clear headed again. He figured it was because some of the whatever the drug was had gotten in him before the needle broke off.

He lost most of the investigating to the wobbly nowhere-ness though, which was unfortunate. Hopefully Dad would fill him in. Stiles had to know what they’d found, because bad enough that the werewolves were after him!

Stiles refused point blank to move from Dad’s side, and Scott refused to leave him, and Scott’s mom hovered, worried about them all, so they were all there when Tara came around with the initial report for Dad. She made vague protests about their presence, but didn’t try to kick them out. Which was good! What wasn’t good was the report itself. Like, no good news at all.

There were no fingerprints, aside from where Scott’s mom had picked them up, on the needle or the bottle, and only blurry images on the hospital surveillance. It showed a woman, dressed in dark scrubs. She had longish darkish hair that could have been almost any color except pale blond, because pixel-ly grayscale was useless, but her face was never, ever in view. To top all the problems off, the cameras lost her in one of the kind of frequent blind-spots in the surveillance and the deputies looking at the tapes still hadn’t found her again, anywhere, like she’d disappeared into thin air.

It was almost like--Stiles turned to tell Dad his suspicion, but found Dad typing out the exact same thing with the laptop because he was still under ‘don’t talk’ orders. Stiles frowned at Dad figuring it out first, but on the other hand, knowing Dad thought it was very likely to be hospital staff too eased the sting away.

The final result of the talk was that because Dad wouldn’t be released until afternoon at earliest, a deputy would be posted outside the room, and another sent to watch the school. Of course when school came up, the topic Stiles had been dreading for at least the past ten minutes popped up too. Actually going to school.

He just... Stiles hadn’t done any of his homework, for one, and he didn’t think he’d get away with it twice. And, just Dad. The idea of leaving Dad alone was a bucketful of no. A whole pool full of no.

So Stiles answered the question with a desperate shake of the head and curled closer to Dad. “I can’t. Not today. Not with Dad hurt and-- Yeah, I just can’t go.”

Scott looked like he was going to volunteer to stay too, but his mom knew him as well as Stiles, because she crossed her arms and mom voice’d (tm) at him. “You, young man, are going to school. John doesn’t need the both of you hovering. No arguments.”

That got a pout, but Scott didn’t even try protesting. And he’d be safe at school, right? Especially with deputies on watch and everybody around him. Stiles didn’t think any of the werewolves would show themselves at school. It’d be asking to get caught. He hoped.

So that was that. Scott would be safe and Stiles would watch over Dad and keep him safe. He could even do all his homework and research the cure and-- Actually!

“Could you pick up my homework and stuff? Actually, I hope you know where my backpack is, because I don’t have a clue right now.”

“All your stuff and the crutches are in the jeep. I can bring them up for you!” Before anybody could respond to that, Scott was rushing out of the room.

He came back with Stiles’ school things, all the books they’d checked out, and the crutches. It was a miracle he hadn’t dropped anything or crashed into anyone on the way back up.

Scott’s mom pounced on Scott almost as soon as he came back in, saying she’d take him home so he could get to school on time. Then she turned to Dad, and smoothed her hands over her scrubs. “Should I clear out the guest room?”

Stiles could smell the embarrassment rolling off Dad, even though the corner of his mouth kept tipping up. He ducked his head and focused on the laptop screen to hide it. “It’s very kind of you to offer but--”

Dad was not going to sabotage his chances! “But nothing! Our door is trash, the bad guys know where we live, and we have nowhere else to go. We’re grateful for a place to stay that isn’t, like, a crappy hotel full of bugs. Thank you so much for letting us stay.”

That got a glare, mixed with hefty mortification, but Stiles wasn’t going to let that drag him down. They were all going to live together for a little while! It felt awesome.

Scott’s mom smiled at Dad, her expression full of commiseration, and reached out to give Dad a squeeze on his unhurt shoulder before ushering Scott out with a promise to have the guest room ready by nightfall.

Left alone with all his books and wide awake now, Stiles got to researching. He had the whole second bed, and some of Dad’s even, covered with books and papers in minutes, and chattered at Dad about what he’d already learned. Well, until Dad dozed off again. Stiles tried to be quiet after that, and focus on finding actual possible cures. There... wasn’t much. Most of them were as crazy as the possible ways to become a werewolf. Drink water out of a wolf’s footprint, really?

Worse, there were so many so-called cures involving wolfsbane. Stiles flinched at each one, remembering the burn in his skin. Yeah, if death counted as a cure, maybe. So not even thinking of trying any of those.

Not trying to hunt down a priest for an exorcism either. Even if it wasn’t like the movie, yeah, that was not happening. Stiles could imagine explaining to a priest that ‘hey, suddenly werewolf, can you fix me?’ and getting committed. Or the priest actually believing, and he didn’t know which would be worse.

There was only one that Stiles read about that didn’t seem awful from the get go. He still doubted it would work, but at least it wouldn’t hurt. It involved having people, the more the better, according to one version, recite a person’s full “Christian” name three times while tapping or anointing them on the forehead with a staff or wand. Or silver knife with a certain wood for the handle. Stiles was ignoring the version that mentioned caning or stabbing with said wand or knife.

The sources all argued about the wand or knife handle, though. One said it had to be as close to live as possible, as in, like freshly clipped from the tree. Another said it had to be cured, carved and polished. One source said rowan, another oak, and a third got freakishly specific, down to how big the tree it came from had to be, and on which day it had to be blessed by a druid.

Crazy, but the best he had right now, so Stiles dutifully copied down every variation into his list of questions, which was now getting very long. Like, pages, and he had no idea if he’d find the time to ask Ms. Morrell, especially since he was skipping school today.

Stiles was just pondering going to school just to ask some of the questions he had when the nurse came in with the little slip for Dad to check off his choices for the day’s meals. While Dad frowned at the different offerings--at least hospital food was healthy!--the nurse put a slip in front of Stiles with a wink.

Stiles blinked up at the guy, who shrugged. “You’re on your own for lunch, but I can help you out for breakfast, since you’re obviously camping out for the duration.”

Oh! Stiles mumbled thanks and started ticking off choices, only grumbling when Dad vetoed his choice of coffee.

The nurse left a minute later to go get the food and Dad took a moment to survey the chaos left in the wake of Stiles’ researching.

He smiled and carefully lifted his arm so as not to jostle the injuries, to ruffle Stiles’ hair. He ignored the computer to actually talk, and his voice came out too soft and a little raspy, but Dad only winced a little. “Learn anything interesting?”

“I’ve mostly been looking for possible cures.” Stiles watched with a pang in his chest as Dad lifted his hand to his shoulder, where Stiles knew the teeth marks were. He hoped so hard that the cure might work.

“I found one that didn’t make me go ‘oh my god, why’ right away, and maybe it’ll work for you and Scott.”

There was a slight narrowing in Dad’s eyes, so small that Stiles almost missed it, and Dad tipped his head a little. “Why not you? Do you want to stay...?”

Did he? “I don’t-- I mean, the senses and the healing are nice, but I’m reading all about the bloodlust and the rage and-- And I don’t want to be like that. But the cure thing I found requires people to say your name three times.”

That made Dad laugh until he was gasping and grabbing at his throat. With a rueful sigh, he pulled the laptop close again. “I refuse to believe you, curious kid that your are, never investigated my first initial.”

That made Stiles blink. Sure, he’d known that Dad went by his middle name, and had vague memories of Mom and Grandad calling Dad-- Calling Dad... well, something else sometimes, but he’d never really thought about what it could mean. Dad was Dad. Not John, or Sheriff Stilinski. Just Dad.

“Oh. Oh.” Stiles let the new knowledge percolate through his brain. Huh, that actually made a kind of sense. But wait-- “Hey, if you know my pain, how the hell did I end up with Joachim for a middle name?”

Dad grinned back, but looked a little chagrinned at the same time. “Could YOU win an argument with your grandmother?”

Stiles shuddered. Grandma was one scary lady. He was still half-convinced she was a witch, like in the actual spells and magic way. Which seemed so much more plausible now that werewolves were an actual real thing. “Okay, I’ll give you that one. And, I like Stiles a lot. It fits.”

“It does. You were always the clever one, making ways to get over the things in your way.” Dad leaned over while typing that and pressed another kiss to the top of Stiles’ head.

It was good, great even. And from the slow footsteps and delicious smell getting closer, breakfast was on the way. Stiles’ stomach rumbled at the thought.

As the steps got closer, Dad tipped his head towards the door, like he was listening for something. Stiles was pretty sure normal ears wouldn’t be able to hear the people walking back and forth down the hallway. Was Dad’s hearing starting to sharpen?

But the nurse walked into the room before he could ask, and Stiles didn’t want to say anything in front of other people so he took his meal instead, mumbling thanks, and well, then the question could wait until after food.

Stiles finished way before Dad, definitely not enough, but he was feeling better with something in his stomach. Dad wasn’t looking better though, wincing and touching his cheek with practically every bite. Dad didn’t even take a second bite of the toast, pushing it away with a forlorn look, but the oatmeal looked like it wasn’t giving him quite as much trouble.

A second later, Dad caught him watching and pushed the toast over. Why not? Waste not, after all!

Stiles ended up eating most of Dad’s breakfast in the end, and he’d have felt more guilty if he didn’t know Dad would be healing up completely and able to eat whatever he wanted in a day or so.

After that, Dad asked about Mrs. Ito’s book so Stiles handed it over. As Dad read, Stiles went back to his research, feeling awesome as he cuddled next to Dad. Best way to spend a morning.

Literally, because lunch rolled around before Stiles even realized it, and the nurse came in with Dad’s food. Which, of course, made Stiles suddenly ravenously hungry, but he only had like, a dollar in change or so in his backpack. Well, maybe it was enough for a bag of chips or a candy bar at the vending machine.

Except Dad could read him like a book, and as soon as Stiles got up, started typing. “Go to the cafeteria, not a vending machine. Have them put it on my bill, if they need to, but I want you to get a full meal of real food in you.”

Stiles figured it wouldn’t work, but he knew Dad wouldn’t be satisfied until he tried. And who knew, maybe it would work out, somehow, so he shot Dad a crooked smile and a sigh, and headed out to go down to cafeteria.

And he regretted it in like, twenty seconds. Having to pretend to need the crutches again was awkward and full of suck. He felt slow and clumsy, and more than a little embarrassed when the cold floor reminded him that he was barefoot and in a pair of sleep pants and a t-shirt. On the other hand, compared to all the patients wandering or being wheeled around in hospital gowns, he was pretty well off. He got a couple of looks anyway, but it was nothing Stiles could change, so everybody would just have to deal.

There was one thing he could change, though. Stiles turned a little bit of a glare on the deputy, who was totally failing at stealthily trailing him.

The deputy in question, Robert, was probably too old to be phased by a glaring teenager, and just shrugged and smiled blandly back. “Sheriff’s orders.”

Stiles wasn’t going to just meekly accept that. He upped his glare to a scowl as they got into the elevator. “Who’s making sure Dad is safe?”

“You were the one the perp this morning went after, and I talked with the nurses about watching over him.”

There was a second’s pause as Robert stepped to the side to let a guy in dark glasses and swinging a red and white cane in front of him in with them. Then he continued. “Look at it like this, Stiles. The quicker you get your lunch, the quicker we both can get back to watching over your father.”

Stiles sighed. He’d lost this one and both of them knew it so there was no point in arguing more. He fidgeted instead, probably driving maybe-blind guy up the wall, but the ride would be over in a minute so tough.

It felt like the longest minute ever and as soon as the elevator opened onto the right floor, Stiles burst out into the hallway like a shot. Or, really, he hobbled out and had to make a hurried apology for whacking the probably blind guy with his crutches. Robert just shook his head and offered another apology to the guy on Stiles’ behalf as he exited more slowly.

“Excuse me.”

Stiles turned to look at probably blind guy, who was standing in the elevator, cane stretched out to stop the door. Was the guy mad? He didn’t look it, and Stiles couldn’t get anything from his weirdly faint scent. Which, damn, he was getting so dependent on wolfy senses, wasn’t he?

“Yeah? Look, I really am sorry about hitting you--”

The guy laughed. Even his laugh had a kind of accent. “It’s not that at all. I was just wondering if you could assist me with something.”

Better than the guy being mad, though Stiles suspected there was totally going to be blackmail involved. He was feeling uneasy. What could the guy want, anyway? “If it’s something I can actually do, sure.”

The guy stepped forward finally, cane sweeping across the floor in gentle arcs in front of him. “Excellent. It’s just a simple thing, really. I’ve become hopelessly turned around and I need a little guidance. I’m not even sure if this is the correct floor, to be honest.”

“Directions? I can do that, easy! Where are you trying to go?” Stiles let himself laugh, feeling silly for feeling uneasy about this guy. What had he been expecting, for the guy to ask for his first born?

“Ah, there’s the difficulty.” The guy twisted his cane between his hands, looking a little sheepish. Almost. “I’ve been given what I’m sure have been wonderful directions twice, but...”

The guy trailed off, tapping his dark glasses and Stiles felt a rush of shame. Right. People wouldn’t really think ‘oh, this guy can’t just look up and see the signs’ when they gave directions, would they?

“I guess I can lead you then. Where to?”

“Thank you.” The guy was lit up with a smile that looked sweet, but something in the very way back of Stiles’ brain wailed in a tiny voice before going quiet.

Like something was wrong, but this was just a random guy asking for help and being grateful for getting it.

...Wasn’t he?

The hand suddenly falling on his shoulder felt like a lead weight and Stiles only just avoided jumping and yelling out in fear. His heart jumped and started racing, but the guy was still smiling that innocent, almost blissful smile like nothing was wrong. The guy didn’t know that Stiles had been attacked, or that touch made his skin crawl. He didn’t need to feel guilty about doing something he probably had to do a lot when people helped him. So Stiles held back from snapping at the guy to stop touching.

He couldn’t move. It was like pressure closing in on all sides--No, breathe. In and out.

“Right. I need to tell you where to, don’t I? I hope it’s not too far out of your way, but I was going to the cafeteria for a bite while I waited on some very important news.”

“Huh! Would you look at that; that’s where we were headed.” Stiles let the relief wash away the crawling skin and feelings of fear. The cafeteria was only like, a dozen steps down the hall. No problem. Over in seconds.

Well, more than that, probably, but they reached the entrance with no problem, and Stiles made a beeline for where the food was. “Here we are. There’s trays to the front, maybe like a foot or three? Sorry, I’m not very good at this. Anyway! It’s buffet-style, so just grab what you want, and there’s staff behind there who can help.”

The guy stepped forward, hand coming out slowly, and Stiles watched as he moved it until it encountered the set of bars for people to set the trays on. A second later the guy had a tray in front of him and tipped his head towards Stiles. “Tell me what’s here and what you want. I think I can manage a tray for both of us as thanks. It make it easier for you with those crutches of yours.”

He really didn’t want-- “Uh, well, I was only gonna get something small...”

The guy laughed. “Nonsense. Consider it my treat. I insist.”

“You really don’t have to. I can just--” Stiles was cut off when his stomach rumbled so loud he was pretty sure Robert could hear, even a few feet behind him.

“That settles it! My treat it will be. Now, what do we have to choose from?” The guy’s smile was still there but there was steel under the accent.

And the quicker he ate, the quicker he got back to Dad. Arguing would take time, and the guy was just being nice. What harm could it do? With a sigh, Stiles started describing the options for the guy.

A few questions and answers later, the tray was overfull, and the guy paid cash at the register, smiling beatifically all the while. Stiles let the guy crowd close on the way to the table, and if the guy sat too close too, well, he couldn’t see, right? It was probably hard for him to judge things like that.

...Right?

Stiles was just... going to eat fast, make excuses and get the hell away. Then he’d never have to see the guy again.

“Slow down a little. You’re acting like I’ll steal it.” The guy had his head tilted toward Stiles like he was listening, and was still laughing around almost dainty bites. He was even wiping his mouth after every few bites, probably all proper and good manners. “I won’t, I promise.”

Stiles reminded himself that the guy couldn’t see, and probably didn’t realize how close he’d come when he’d leaned in to whisper that like a secret. “Growing boy, irrepressible appetite and all that!”

The guy laughed again and turned in his chair. With a start, Stiles realized the guy was finished with all his food, and that he’d gotten Stiles a fuckload of food. Geez, awkward much? His heart skittered and jumped, and Stiles felt nervous again. The guy just sat still though, smiling, and with his head tilted toward Stiles all listening pose.

It would be rude to waste it, even if Stiles was feeling a little stuffed by the time he finished with the fries. There was only a tasty looking cookie left, double chocolate chunk, by the looks of things, but Stiles had to slow down and breathe between bites. He was going to go up and take a nap after this. Oof.

When he got to the last bite, Stiles was feeling good, nerves having drained away while he ate. He’d get back to Dad in a minute and that made him feel even better. “So, wow, thanks. That was really generous; you really didn’t have to. Yeah, thank you, seriously, but I have to go now.”

The guy smiled as Stiles started to get up, but there was sudden pressure around his elbow, and when Stiles looked down, the guy’s hand was clamped tight on him. How?

“One more thing, if I may? This might be a little forward of me, but I admit I’ve been dying of curiosity. Do you mind if I take a look at you?”

Huh? “What? I don’t...”

The hand traveled up to his arm, touch light and fleeting. Stiles was glad, because touch was still very much not something he wanted from friends, not to mention a virtual stranger. “I ‘see,’ as it were, with my hands. It won’t hurt and if you start to feel uncomfortable, all you have to do is say stop.”

Stop. Could he say stop now? “I get it; I just... I don’t know?”

“Feeling awkward? I understand perfectly.” The guy sighed, heavy and disappointed, and his fingers skimmed over the table until they encountered the wrapper the cookie had been in. It crinkled as fingertips explored over it and Stiles felt kind of guilty. This guy had spent a pretty penny when he didn’t have to, and was only asking for something small in return.

God damn. Stiles threw a glance over his shoulder, to where Robert was watching from a table away, with a frown on his face. If something happened, Robert could back him up.

“I guess you can. Just, if I say stop, you’ll stop?”

“Of course.” The guy was fucking purring, all pleased and syrupy, and his smile showed too many teeth.

Stiles was about to take it back when palms cupped his cheeks and he had to fight not to bite. Shit, he couldn’t be going all claw-y and-- Breathe. Count. Chant the saying in his head--

He dug his fingertips into his thighs, squeezing his eyes shut and closing out the image of the guy in front of him, smiling like he was having a blast. Pain flared in little hot, sharp points in his legs, and pushed back the urge to bite and snap and growl.

Fingers brushed over his skull, sliding down his temples and along his ears as thumbs traced over his eyebrows. Then nose, mouth, chin--

For one jagged, terrifying moment, his throat was completely ringed by hands, thumbs pressing down over his adam’s apple, and then it was all gone, and Stiles pulled in a breath in a desperate gasp.

The guy’s smile was still there when he opened his eyes, head tilted forward toward Stiles. His glasses reflected Stiles’ face back; he looked terrified.

And the guy couldn’t see it. “What a handsome young man you are. You must have to beat the girls away with a stick.”

It was so ridiculous that Stiles had to laugh. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Robert sitting back down, still frowning, now with full on confusion. “Like, the opposite! I’m lucky if they even realize I exist.”

A touch of something, offended maybe?, dripped into the guy’s tone. “Well, I suppose having working eyes doesn’t mean they can truly see, after all. Their loss.”

Stiles pushed out another laugh, feeling almost dizzy, chest tight and heart pounding. “Yeah, well, I really have to--”

“Just one more little favor?” The guy leaned back, pulling a longish box out of his pocket. “I had this gift made for someone I’m visiting today, and while I’ve been told it meets the requirements I laid out, well-- I’m not even sure it’s the right color. Could you give me your opinion, Stiles?”

Yeah, nop--the box tumbled onto the tray. Damn it. “Last thing. Then I really have to go. Like, really really. What color is it supposed to be?”

As he opened the box, the guy hmm’d. “The stones are supposed to be red, but not polished to a shine, and the pearls should be white or pale cream, without too much reddish or grayish tone.”

Stiles blinked down, and yep, good description. The bracelet, because that’s what it was, was surprisingly heavy for its size, with two strands of pearls surrounded by red stones, making the whole thing pretty thick. Holy-- just the pearls alone must have cost hundreds. “Yeah, that describes it pretty well. The stones are dark, deep red, almost like blood, and the pearls are nice and white.”

“Excellent.” The guy was smiling again, and Stiles wanted to shrink back. “It must be perfect, of course. Something rare and beautiful for someone truly priceless. But... It’s so difficult to get a good look in the box. May I see it?”

Stiles stared at him for a minute, sure, and really hoping he was wrong, what the guy was asking. “Like...”

“If you don’t mind. In situ, if you will.”

“Just to be clear, you want me to put it on.” His skin was crawling already, and Stiles was really tempted to throw the bracelet in the guy’s face and run. But he sat still. “You don’t even know me. You aren’t worried I’ll take it and run? I mean, it looks hideously expensive.”

The guy laughed. “Not in the least. I know you’re an honorable young man.”

Dude. You don’t even know--” Wait, he’d just said it hadn’t he? Where had he even heard it; Stiles didn’t remember telling him. “I don’t even know your name.”

“I’d be delighted to tell you,” Fingers skittered over the table, feeling out the box and Stiles was suddenly reminded of spiders. The guy’s smile was back to a soft curve instead of a teeth-baring grin. The pearls slid through his fingers as he picked up the bracelet. The stones clinked together, and it sounded like rattling chains.

Okay, technically it didn’t, but Stiles really wanted to get away and back to Dad right now and all of this was holding him up.

“Just one more little favor first?”

“Fine.” Stiles thrust his hand out, and turned his head away. Let the guy flail blindly for a minute trying to find it.

Except that didn’t happen. Almost immediately the cool stones settled around his wrist, blanketed by warmth, the guy’s hands feeling almost hot compared to the stones. Thumbs rubbed over the stone and his skin and Stiles just--

He yanked his hand back, fumbled with the bracelet and swore when the clasp wouldn’t come free.

“Stiles?” The guy was finally frowning, head tilted and hands hanging in the air. “I couldn’t help but notice that you flinch every time we touch. Did something...? Is it something to do with the crutches?”

“Yeah. I was kind of attacked.” Stiles gritted his teeth, wanting the bracelet off, so he could get out of here. The nerves were back, and he still couldn’t figure out how the guy knew his name.

“I’m so sorry.” The guy sounded sincere, but... But, something. “You know, if you’d like some help, I have two companions who are very efficient at defending themselves. I’m sure they would be delighted to teach you.”

“What’s the catch?” He was seconds away from breaking the damn bracelet, and didn’t care that he was kind of growling. At least not literally, not yet.

“The simple pleasure of your company. For me, at least. For the others, you’d have to ask them.” The guy was all but caressing his cane, and nope.

“Says the guy who’s been dodging telling me his name for the last five minutes.” Maybe not quite five, but whatever, Stiles was getting out of there, now that the tricky clasp was finally undone--broken but screw that--and the bracelet in the guy’s lap. He remembered now. Robert had been talking when he’d gotten in the elevator, about lunch and--oh fuck. Stiles had walked right into this, hadn’t he?

The guy had been playing him from the start like a super creep! “Thanks but no thanks, Mr. I-thought-he-was-eighteen-officer-I-swear.”

The crutches were not cooperating, and maybe insulting the guy was a bad idea. Robert had picked up on Stiles’ distress and was getting up to come over, at least.

The guy snorted a dry laugh. “Just like teenagers to assume everyone is just as impatient as they are. Waiting can be its own reward.”

Bracelet carefully tucked into the box again, the guy stood up. “But I suppose you’ll still demand your instant gratification. Very well.”

Suddenly Stiles had no space, and breath puffed against his neck. “To you? Duke.”

Duke. The creepy bitch’s Duke. Probably Deucalion too. Oh shit. His heart pounded, the world grew small and tight. Robert was yelling. He couldn’t breathe.

He couldn’t breathe. He’d let Duke touch him, and oh god, now he could smell it. Spice and musk and wrong--

He couldn’t breathe--

Chapter Text

God no--Duke was--No, no, no--here--Someone screaming--Daddy--

“Stiles!”

Dad! Dad. Dad’s smell. Dad’s voice, cracked and rough. Warm pressure on his shoulder--

“I’m here, son. You’re safe.” Whispering now and coughing a little, but Dad. “I’m here. Breathe with me, okay.”

Breathing. He could do that. In, out, in, out, in...

“That’s it. That’s good. You’re doing so good.”

He was making Dad happy. That was good. Really nice. Stiles hummed as he breathed out, feeling light and floaty. The fear tried to claw back into his chest again, but slipped away without him even really trying, like that one video he’d watched with the crazy dudes trying to catch greased pigs...

Wait.

Stiles heaved his eyes open, feeling like someone had sewn magnets inside the lids to hold them shut, and tried to lift his head up. Epic fail, and maybe there were magnets inside his skull too. The thought made him giggle, or try to, but his mouth felt stuffed full with cotton and Stiles wasn’t sure if anything came out.

“Shh, it’s okay.” Dad’s voice again, and the warmth traveled up to cup the back of his skull and lift.

Something bumped against his mouth and he lipped at it, having too much trouble keeping his eyes open to get a good look, and wondering what it was. Cool, kind of hard, but squishy when he bit at it. Hmm. Stiles swallowed against the dry cotton and--

Oh! Realization hit and Stiles sucked greedily--straw! And with straws came drinks--and if he hadn’t been busy swallowing down the delicious, cold water, he’d have moaned in relief to have the dry feeling finally chased away.

Dad was talking again. Stiles tried to focus on the words.

“--panic attack, a bad one. I think they gave you a little too much, because you were out like a light when they brought you back up. But you’re okay now.”

Dad sounded more like he was trying to convince himself of that than anything else, and when Stiles tried to put memories to the explanation, he found hazy and confusing jumbles instead. He let the straw free and sagged back into the palm still supporting his head.

“How bad?” He had to know. Especially with werewolf complications.

There was a sigh and then a hiss of breath from Dad.

“Robert said that once he got over to you and the blind guy--how did that guy set you off, anyway?--you were shaking and hyperventilating and that it was like you didn’t even recognize him. You somehow got yourself wedged underneath a table and you started crying and calling for me and Scott.”

Stiles winced; that was a bad one. Usually he wasn’t so far gone he didn’t even recognize people. Geez. Dad sounded so sad and concerned though, and Stiles forestalled more questions to roll over and give him a hug.

Except he didn’t because his wrists were tied down to the bed. Oh shit. “I hurt someone, didn’t I? How--” he swallowed, “--how serious?”

Stiles didn’t need to have his eyes open to tell that Dad had gone stiff. When Dad finally spoke again after too long silent, it was slow and precise, like when he had to deliver bad news.

“Nothing too serious. You were trying to get away from anybody that came close, not lash out. You only started struggling once you ended up in the corner. There were some scratches, and one of the nurses’ aids is going to have one hell of a shiner tomorrow, but nothing that couldn’t be easily treated. But... They were very concerned about what your mental state would be when you woke back up.”

Dad wasn’t saying it out loud, but it hung there like a great big, growling, well, wolf. Stiles had... gone, and in place of his reasonably rational self, become exactly like a cornered wild animal, caught in a trap and lashing out in terror at people trying to help and hurting himself worse. Unable to recognize friend from foe. No wonder he was in restraints right now.

“Damn. I--” Stiles felt his heart pick up, and an uncomfortable itch under his skin. Dad’s scent helped, but Stiles was suddenly acutely aware of the restraints, close and stifling, around his wrists.

“Can we take them off? I really can’t--”

Dad was already pressing the call button--Stiles heard the clicking of it--and Stiles thanked everything when the nurse who showed up only asked some questions before letting him go. Probably because Dad was glaring the whole time, but details.

Stiles knew he should get back to work researching or something, but he couldn’t even think about doing anything but curling up against Dad’s side. Dad wrapped an arm around him and Stiles was so grateful for the closeness grounding him.

The happy silence only lasted a couple of minutes. Dad’s voice was raspy and wet after he cleared his throat. “What happened? I need to know what brought it on so bad. You haven’t... It’s been so long since you had one so severe.”

Stiles cringed. Unspoken was ‘not sure you’ve ever had one so severe’ and he really didn’t want to talk about it. But he had to. At least he’d learned his lesson. No more good Samaritan Stiles. Nope. Or at least he’d cut off the helping way earlier.

“The blind guy... He was a super creep, but he was, like, subtle about it. I let him guilt me into letting him buy me food and touch me and that bracelet. I felt something off, but harmless blind dude needing help, right? And just, it was like every time I was thinking of running for it, he had some convenient thing to say or do to remind me and--ugh. Except he’s not blind. He can’t be, because he’s a werewolf. He told me to call him Duke. Like the creepy bitch called him. He’s this Deucalion; I’m positive. And I let him put his scent on me and--”

Stiles could feel the panic coming back, rolling in like a tide. He could still smell the Duke guy--

Dad rolled over, wrapping both arms around Stiles and tucking Stiles right under his chin. Stiles smelled cotton and antiseptic and pain and blood. But Dad too, even if his scent was getting a little bit... Stiles didn’t know. Musky. But that smelled right on Dad. The calm and relaxed and concern radiating off Dad helped. Each slow breath pushed the panic away and Stiles closed his eyes to focus on the scents and the sounds of Dad’s heart better, listening with half an ear as Dad called Robert in and relayed what Stiles had said about the guy. Duke. Deucalion. Whatever.

He knew he should pay attention to the orders but Dad was so warm...

He blinked awake to gentle prodding at his shoulder, feeling much more alert.

Dad smiled down at him, smelling better, like he was healing by the minute. Stiles guessed he was. “We’ve got some visitors. Thought you might want to be awake for it.”

There were heartbeats, plural, nearby, but when Stiles looked, at first he only saw Scott in the doorway.

Confusing, but Scott. Stiles sat up, not even bothering to dampen down the grin.

Scott grinned back as he came forward, and Danny appeared like magic over Scott’s shoulder. They both smelled faintly of diluted sweat and dirt and of freshly applied deodorant. Straight from lacrosse practice then.

There was a hissed ‘come on’ from the hall but Stiles had much more immediate things to pay attention to. Like Scott, being awesome like usual, and the fact that Danny had actually come to visit him and Dad in the hospital. Warm fuzzy territory right there.

Scott hugged him after dropping a full backpack on the floor, while Danny looked on, fully amused.

And Stiles might have felt self-conscious, but wolfy instincts were demanding and besides, Stiles wanted it too. He buried his face in Scott’s shoulder, so glad he’d rub off the nasty scent of the Duke guy and smell like Scott and Dad again. He heard Scott sniff and a sub-vocal rumble before Scott’s cheek rubbed against his. Apparently Scott agreed.

Scott beamed when he finally pulled back. “We got all your homework. You so owe me for the classes we don’t share.”

He said that with all the ferocity of a yawning puppy and Stiles tried not to give in to the urge to ruffle Scott’s hair. Dad gave in, looking bemused at his own actions, and Scott squawked in embarrassment before continuing on.

“Allison wanted to come, but I guess her aunt’s current project ended early so she’s coming to Beacon Hills to visit today. So Allison had to go right home and make sure the guest-room was ready.”

Stiles was kind of glad, actually, but felt a stab of guilt at being happy at Scott being less than happy. He still shipped them, really, just... What if she was like her dad and totally down with the hunting and presumably killing of werewolves? Then a distraction arrived and that didn’t matter.

It came in the form of Lydia, sweeping into the room like she owned it, dressed in a pleated skirt and matching shoes that glittered almost like jewels. In her goddess glow of perfection, Stiles felt shabby and totally gave into the urge to pull the sheet up to his chin.

Lydia pursed her lips for a moment, then rolled her eyes at him, and possibly Scott. Stiles shrank under the weight of her judgement, but her attention was back to the door in an instant. Stiles almost groaned as Jackson skulked in like a condemned man on his way to the gallows. He had his arm properly in the sling today, and for a split second looked at Stiles, face stripped naked with... Stiles had to be wrong, but it looked like want. It was gone and replaced with Jackson’s usual disdain before he could blink, so yeah, another point down for the imagining things column. What the hell could Jackson even want of him or his anyway?

Jackson edged into the room like he’d rather be anywhere else, including the dentist, and Dad frowned at him. It was small and professional, but Dad’s scent went almost incandescent with anger and protectiveness, so Stiles reached out and grabbed Dad’s hand. No claws, if Dad was even far along enough for claws, was a very good thing.

“It’s okay, Dad. He apologized.”

That made Dad relax a little, and the anger drained out enough that Stiles stopped worrying about it. Still, he couldn’t resist a chance to cuddle closer, sighing in bliss as the weight of Dad’s arm settled around him.

Scott apparently couldn’t resist either, and an awkward scramble later, warmth and good safe scents surrounded Stiles on all sides. Scott went pliant and all blissful smiles, and when Stiles looked, he spied Dad’s fingers curling around the side of Scott’s neck.

A creak informed him that Danny had claimed the chair, face lit up in a dimpled, knowing smile that Stiles swore--to himself--time and again was just plain unfair. Who could do anything but cater to a smile like that, seriously? “Looks comfy.”

Stiles ducked his head, and chance gave him a glimpse of Jackson wearing that wanting look again, so maybe it wasn’t entirely a case of imagining things. But, of course, Lydia stole the show. She wasn’t made not to, really.

She twirled her hair around her fingers, cocked her hip, hmm’d, and then hopped onto the bed in one graceful move. Scott’s protest when she swatted at his foot was ignored, and Scott gave in to let her have room free of chances to get sneaker dirt on her pretty clothes. That accomplished, she crossed her legs, tossed her hair and then twisted to lean on her hand and smile at them, lips flashing with just the right amount of gloss.

Scott audibly swallowed, and Stiles couldn’t help squirming, because, hello, gorgeous, even if he wasn’t trying to woo her anymore. Across the room, Jackson’s heart picked up and his scent went hot and sour with what Stiles thought might be a weird kind of anxiety. Only Danny and Dad were completely unimpressed.

Lydia completely ignored Jackson to focus on Stiles. “Because of the new curfew I have graciously decided to move the party to tomorrow afternoon at my family’s lake house. Scott, of course, has already been invited by Allison, but you will be there too, won’t you?”

Her voice was sweet but her smile was deviousness itself. When Stiles nodded dumbly, she beamed and cooed at him.

“Good! It will be a chance to vet your mingling skills, and see what areas you need improvement in.” Her smile widened as Stiles’ heart plummeted. Was she going to try to change everything about him?

Danny stretched out, resting his ankle on his knee, and Stiles just knew he was rolling his eyes. “Keep that up and I’m pretty sure he’ll ditch you like everyone else who actually has a spine. He’s not your Ken-doll.”

Lydia was still smiling, but her scent soured just a tiny bit. “And who would that be?”

“You don’t see me being your gay wingman, do you, Lydia-darling?” The way Danny mockingly drawled that out made Stiles laugh a little, which got a smile from Danny in return.

With a subtle little twitch and scent gone even more sour, Lydia turned all her attention to Danny. Her smile was still there but a little strained. “Whatever would I need a wingman for, Danny-dear?”

“Isn’t that what you’re trying to remodel Stiles into?” Danny tossed out casually, but everybody went stiff.

Dad sent Stiles a look that said they’d be talking later, and Scott had his eyebrows crunched together. Jackson growled a shut up at Danny, and Lydia looked like she was about to spear Danny on her heels. They weren’t big ones, but Stiles would bet she was determined enough to make it work.

Danny was completely unaffected and there was something calculating in his eyes behind the smile. “Oh please, guys. Where the hell would you two be if I didn’t call you out sometimes when you’re being too much of an arrogant asshole and you too much of a conniving bitch? That’s what friends are for. You two have so many sycophants hanging on your every word that I swear you’d forget to be human if it wasn’t for a few painful reminders sometimes.”

And Stiles was going to take the reigns of this before he ended up the damsel in distress. Not that he minded Danny sticking up for him. It felt kind of nice in a weird way. Hell, being on Danny’s radar as something other than annoying was awesome. But he could stand up for himself. Even to Lydia. Really. Really!

Okay, so maybe where Lydia was concerned, he needed a kick in the ass to start up with it. Danny was right; becoming Lydia’s yes-man was not what he really wanted here.

“Gotta say, Danny’s right. I signed on to be friends with the real Lydia, not the bitch queen of the school. Hey, I like the offer for the fashion help. I know I’m hopeless there, and dressing nicer sometimes can only go awesome for me. But! I’ve never been good at conforming. And obedience, actually, even if you are a goddess. Just ask my dad. So vetting’s cool, if that’s what you want to do. Just don’t expect me to bother putting on a mask just to be popular. The real Stiles is here to stay and if people don’t like me, their loss.”

There were a few beats of very uncomfortable silence, and then Lydia sat up straighter. Was that respect in her eyes? “I suppose the real you will be acceptable, as long as you don’t intentionally sabotage my social life.”

“Why would I even want to do that? Popular is your scene. You’ll get some flack for me, and we both know it, but I think you wouldn’t have even taken the chance talking with me if you didn’t think you could handle it.” Stiles was a little confused about why she had, now that he thought of it, but, she had, so reasons didn’t matter so much.

Lydia made a thoughtful noise that was too musical to be considered a mere hum. “If you were too well put together, I’m sure people would get the wrong idea and, girls would try to steal Jackson away from me, and we can’t have that. And I’m sure we can find a way to spin things in a positive light for me. Maybe charity.”

Dad made a subvocal grumble that Stiles was pretty sure only him and Scott heard, and he squeezed Dad’s hand again. Danny shook his head at Lydia, but Jackson relaxed some more.

Well, the charity thing stung a little, and was probably what had upset Dad, and the other thing was kind of idiotic in Stiles’ opinion, but it was good that Lydia wasn’t going to stick to her guns on completely remaking Stiles from personality up. Though, he still hoped he got a little bit of fashion advice. He wasn’t particularly attached to his current clothes beyond that they were comfy, and maybe remaking himself a little bit would... help.

So Stiles sat up straighter. “Besides, you can’t spend your time on me; we’ve got our secret project to work on! I haven’t gotten started yet, on account of--” Stiles waved his hand at himself and Dad, “but I’ll try to have some done by the party!”

Lydia’s smile was back, and her scent had gone wonderful with happiness--she was wearing Arabian Nights or whatever today too, and while the alcohol was a little overpowering in it, the notes of the actual perfume were really nice on her-- and flipped her hair.

“Excellent, but speaking of you being in the hospital--”

There was a knock and one of the doctors came in without waiting at all, effectively cutting Lydia off. He glanced around the room, confused, and then took a step back. “If this is a bad time...”

Stiles perked up. “If this is about getting out of here, it’s so not a bad time.”

The doctor blinked and then nodded. Stiles couldn’t hold back his whoop of joy.

Dad cleared his throat. “Kids, why don’t you...”

He trailed off when the doctor glared at him, so Stiles picked it up. “What my dad isn’t being allowed to say right now, is that there’s going to be boring paperwork, and then hopefully dressing in actual clothes, so if you don’t want to witness nakedness and doctor-talk, you’d better head out!”

Jackson was out the door before Stiles even got halfway through, and Lydia huffed, obviously annoyed at getting interrupted, but followed, heels clicking merrily. Danny gave Dad a nod, and Stiles a grin before sauntering out at a slower pace.

And Scott didn’t move. Stiles didn’t want him to, but the doctor looked like he wasn’t going to start until everyone else was out so Stiles nudged him. “You too; we’ll be out as soon as we can, dude.”

Scott, looking every bit the sad puppy, slouched his way out the door, and then the doctor finally stepped forward, brandishing papers.

Hell yeah, they were getting out of here! Stiles hoped.