A Circle Unbroken
The first day of their sophomore year Stiles is eager and terrified. Both, at the same time. He hasn't felt so anxious about a first day of school since starting 4th grade… for the second time. Truth is, Lydia isn't the only one to ever skip a year, Stiles did too, early on in Elementary; and then he had to repeat a year with how often he'd leave classes or simply never attend, while his mom was in the hospital, and in the months following the funeral. Back then the panic attacks had been so bad at the thought of losing his dad like he lost his mom… he couldn't go more than a couple of hours without knowing where he was, seeing him, hearing his voice, anything. It got better, eventually; but still, there's a reason why he has the police scanner.
Things have been a lot better since he told his dad the truth, and the fact that the man believed him… Stiles isn't sure if it's the fact that he hasn't lied as much to him yet this time around, or if finding his son in the aftermath of a nightmare/panic attack combo somehow forced Noah to re-evaluate what he was willing to believe and what he wasn't.
Another benefit is that, with his dad knowing, Lydia and Stiles can meet at his house. They also have ordered more than enough herbs to be ready for what they know is coming, and some things they don't know, just in case. One of the first things they did was get wolfsbane, several different versions, and in seeds. Stiles spent the last week of summer planting his own version of a herb garden, with the various wolfsbane varieties, as well as other plants like mistletoe, foxglove, vervain, and a few others. A little bit of magic was enough to make sure the plants will grow well and faster than what's natural. The sooner they can all be armed, the better (considering all the things that keep changing…).
Classes begin and, as always, Stiles is sitting beside Scott. The last weekend of the summer break was hard on him as he kept claiming he felt just fine, but Melissa was just too scared after his most recent stay in the hospital and wouldn't let him do much. Stiles knows Scott is upset by it all and, when Allison enters the classroom, decides that might be the best way to cheer him up.
"Quick, offer her a pen." He whispers to his friend.
"What?" Scott is clearly confused.
"She's a new student, new students are always forgetting things like pens, and pencils and the like." Stiles excuses.
From the other side of the room he can almost hear Lydia scoff, but doesn't pay attention to it. He just waits while Scott keeps trying to process what he just heard, until they both hear the new girl cursing under her breath about forgetting then pen. And then there's Scott offering her one, before anyone else can think of it.
Stiles just smiles. At lunch the popular girls invite Allison to eat with them, and she in turn invites Scott to go with her. Scott doesn't even look at Stiles, or so much as mention him as he follows. Not like he wasn't expecting it, but being pushed aside so easily still hurts.
Erica sits beside him a few minutes later, tray in hand, and immediately picks up on what's going on; she clearly doesn't like it:
"Isn't he supposed to be your best friend?" She asked, with as little tact as usual.
Stiles just shrugs. There really is no good answer to that.
The true blow-up doesn't come until Friday though when, halfway through lunch, Lydia jumps to her feet and begins ranting at half the table in such a mix of languages Stiles is sure most people only understand one word in three (he's fortunate to understand two of every three…). Then, to top it all off, she picks up her tray and in a very dignified manner marches across the room before dropping it across from Stiles and sitting there.
"What the hell?!" Erica cries out, clearly not having expected that.
"I'm tired of pretending to be someone I'm not." Lydia states very formally.
"What? Like you aren't a snob and a socialité and…" Erica begins enlisting.
"Oh no, I am that, and proud of it." Lydia replies easily. "But I'm not dumb, and I'm tired of pretending I am. All my classes are AP, I'm taking online studies for college credits and can probably speak more languages than the language professors in this school, yet people would rather see me as the dumb, pretty girlfriend of a jock than who I really am! I'm tired of it."
Stiles cannot help himself, he bursts into laughter. Especially as the warning bell for their next class rings right then, as if serving to mark an end to her speech/tirade.
All three of them get on their feet to leave and Stiles just cannot hold back:
"That was precious Lyds, just precious." He announces as he tries to control his laughter.
"Lyds?" Erica repeats. "Just how well do you two know each other?"
It was one thing for her to realize they knew each other that day in the hospital, but aside from that day and a trip to the mall where Lydia recommended her the best clothes for her, Erica didn't spend much time with the redhead, had no idea how close the two really were.
"Well enough." Lydia replies evenly.
"She's not the only one taking only AP classes." Stiles points out calmly. "Most people don't realize it because of my ADHD… but I'm a bit of a genius myself."
"You're more than just a 'bit' of a genius Stiles, and now that you're on the new medication I'm sure people will begin to see that." Lydia states.
It's the excuse they're giving, for the fact that he no longer flails like he used to (though his mind still goes too fast and in every direction possible at the same time). Not like they can explain that finally channeling his magic properly means he no longer needs to take Aderall.
Stiles wishes they could find a cure for Erica too. But epilepsy is very different from 'trapped magic' (considering that Stiles never really had ADHD) or asthma; and Lydia doesn't dare try something when she might end up killing Erica, rather than helping her. Also, while neither of them might have said it with all their words, they still hope that things will remain enough the same that Erica might have a chance at getting the Bite. Until then the two will be there for her and make sure to do their best to help her.
"Why pretend?" Erica finally asks Lydia.
"Because for my whole life my mom lead me to believe that a woman needed to marry well in order to be happy." Lydia explains, even as they make their way to class. "And I'm intelligent enough to know that most of the guys she'd consider 'good matches' would never want a genius for a girlfriend, much less a wife. Someone who proved to be better than them… so I pretended to be less than I am. I still kept my grades, of course, but didn't make it obvious, and never spoke about my online courses."
"What changed?" Erica wants to know.
"I realized how much the things my mother wanted me to believe are nothing more than a lie. She's not happy, her marriage ended in divorce, and her supposedly perfect match turned out to be a bastard who's been cheating on her practically since the day they married. So I decided I'd rather find my own happiness than try to build myself a fairy-tale I don't even believe in."
"So you don't believe in love then?"
"Oh no, I do. Very much. I just don't believe I need it to be happy. That I need a man to be happy. Not saying it wouldn't be great to find love. But unless it's someone who can take me as I am, the real me and not the person I've had to pretend to be all this time, then I'm not interested."
Stiles is quite sure he's not the only one thinking about that night, about a key held up by a girl trembling in fear and yet still standing tall; and the boy who fell, only to rise again. All things done out of love…
"What about you Stiles?" Erica turns to him then. "Do you believe in love?"
He cannot help but think about it then: the ghost of a kiss, tainted by blood, tears and the slightest trace of poison, as lives and the world itself came to an end…
"I don't know." He admits quietly. "I'd like to believe anything's possible."
He doesn't know. Doesn't know if that connection, or at least the potential for it, still exists. Doesn't even know if he'll ever meet Derek, considering how things keep changing. Perhaps he'll arrive to Beacon Hills earlier; or maybe he never will… the sorcerer honestly has no idea which option terrifies him more.
It takes until Sunday morning for Noah to realize things are off with his son, again. Though, to be fair, he had several night shifts and didn't get the chance to see his son much more than for breakfast most days, so there's that.
"Where's Scott?" Noah eventually asks.
"Lost in Allison-world." Stiles deadpans, focusing all his attention on his pancakes.
"Son…?" Noah is honestly worried.
"It's okay dad, I… it hurts, but it's not the first time." Stiles shrugs, somewhat self-deprecating. "I was kind of expecting it actually. Scott and Allison have this whole Romeo-and-Juliet true-love kind of thing… it's amazing. I'm happy they've found each other in this timeline too. And Scott's not a werewolf, and Lydia and I will do our best to make sure he never turns, so that's sure to help them too!"
"And what about you?" Noah insists.
"Like I said, it hurts. Scott was the closest thing I had to a brother for a long time but… well, this has happened before. Him forgetting about me now doesn't hurt as much as it did back then. I think… I think a part of me knew already this would happen. So I enjoyed the summer we had together, and now I can let him go and move on. Also, it's not like I'm alone or anything. I have Lyds, and Catwoman, and who knows? Maybe we'll find a way to add Boyd, maybe even Issac one day… and of course I've got you."
"Very well. And hey, what about that other girl you told me about? Malia?"
"Malia…" Stiles sighs. "She must still be a coyote at this time. Honestly, much as I might want to help her I wouldn't have the first idea how to do it."
"Couldn't you do it with your magic?"
"I… I don't know."
He really doesn't. The first time around it was Scott's True-Alpha howl that forced Malia back into human form. And even then… Malia had expressed her desire to have stayed a coyote more than once, and for a while there Stiles wondered if maybe it'd been a mistake, forcing her to live as a human when it wasn't her choice. But perhaps he could find her and ask her? No idea if she'll even be able to understand him, being a coyote and all, but he supposes he can try…
It takes Stiles two months to track down Malia. And he's quite sure that the last two weeks she was purposefully avoiding him. He doesn't understand at first why she finally came out from her hiding spots and faced him, but chooses not to focus on that, and instead concentrates on what he needs to say to her.
"Hey Malia…" He greets her, crouching, but staying back enough that she won't feel intimidated by him. "My name is Stiles. I know you're not really a coyote, or at least, not just a coyote. I know you've been through a lot, awful things, you've lost your family, and I'm very sorry about that. But if you decide to take a chance, to be human again, I promise to do my very best to be there for you, always. I'd love it if you'd join my family. It's just me and my dad, but I promise we'd take really good care of you, and we have some very good friends, and they could be your friends too." He shakes his head to himself. "It's your choice in the end. I know you became coyote because you couldn't handle being human; the thoughts, the feelings… and it probably won't be easy, if you choose to shift. I'm sure of that, in fact. But I promise you won't be alone. You'll never be alone again."
Several seconds pass, and then there's a shift. Stiles lets out an omph as he falls back on his butt, a brunette girl suddenly on his lap, holding tightly onto him, face buried in his neck. A very naked girl… though that particular thought is derailed with the first word to come out of her mouth:
It's only later on. After they're back at the Stilinski home and he's managed to convince her to take a bath (he helps at her insistence, though he makes sure to be entirely professional… he's actually learned a few things, helping the nurses during the summer). They get her dressed in a set of clothes Erica left her, but Malia insists on holding onto Stiles's plaid shirt.
"Pack…" Is all the explanation she gives.
"You went to see Peter today, didn't you?" Lydia offers when they're all in the kitchen and he still doesn't understand it.
"Yeah…" And then Stiles gets it.
He was with Peter, and he's Malia's dad… even if she doesn't know it, not really, she knows the scent is important, it's family or, from her point of view, pack.
At least they have a plan in place. They wait a couple of days, until she's more used to talking again, and doing things by herself; and then Stiles and Noah take her to the station, where they tell one of the deputies, Tara, a story about Stiles finding Malia in the woods when he was out for his daily jog. Malia plays the part of the girl who escaped her kidnappers recently. Trauma is a good excuse for her not to remember a lot of stuff other than having spent years moving from place to place, never in any cities, always away from people; and then she took a chance and ended running through the woods, where Stiles found her. The best part? Strictly speaking, it's all true, of course the interpretation the deputies (and eventually the town) give to her story is very different from reality, but that's alright.
The only hiccup comes when Child Services tries to take her away (something to be expected since she has no family left, legally). Malia throws a tantrum then, refusing to leave Stiles's side (though she's at least careful enough not to hurt anyone or reveal her inhuman strength). The sheriff offers to look after her until a more permanent arrangement can be made. He's sure Tara already suspects he'll end up adopting the girl, and there's nothing wrong with that; the Stilinskis are model citizens, and not just because Noah is the Sheriff, and everyone in town likes them. So they already know there will be no trouble when the talk of fostering and adoption eventually comes up. Malia's just happy she gets to stay with the pack.
The next time Stiles goes visit Peter (he can only go once, sometimes twice a week, since starting school), Malia rushes straight to him. She can sense their connection, even if the human side cannot fully understand it. The family she remembers are the Tates, even learning that she was adopted and that Peter Hale is her biological dad, those words don't have much meaning for her. The scent… that's what cinches it.
The moment she touches Peter's hand… something happens none of them were expecting. Stiles is the first to feel it (though later on Lydia and his dad confirm they felt it too, to lesser degrees): the pack bond snapping into place. Stiles has no idea how that's even possible, how they can possibly be a pack when none of them is an alpha, Peter is the only wolf, and he's not even awake! And yet… he's happy, he has a pack again; that makes him very happy indeed.
The most shocking moment for them all is perhaps one morning in early November, during lunch-hour when, for no apparent reason at all, Jackson takes his lunch tray, goes for their table and sits beside Lydia, across from Erica, Stiles and Malia (who isn't taking classes with them just yet, but instead is being taught personally by teachers who volunteered to help her catch up so she might join the class on the next term).
"What the…?" Erica and Stiles are equally shocked by the jock's arrival.
Lydia says not a word, but through the pack bonds Stiles can sense her anxiety. She likes Jackson being there, but isn't sure he's there for the right reasons.
Jackson doesn't say a word though, just eats his lunch in silence.
The scene repeats the next day, and the next, throughout the whole week. The following Monday he makes a comment about some project Harris gave them, then about Finstock's craziness. It's so gradual no one seems to quite notice when they begin replying to his comments, when it goes from isolated comments to actual conversations, even jokes.
It's less of a surprise when Danny joins then near the end of the month. He doesn't sit with them all the time, sometimes choosing to sit with the other members of the lacrosse team, or his current boyfriend. Jackson however, consistently sits with them, beside Lydia.
"Why are you doing this?" Lydia finally asks one day.
At first Jackson doesn't answer, and Stiles wonders if he's about to say or do something stupid. If he hurts Lydia Stiles is going to…
"What you said months ago, about being tired of having to pretend to be someone you're not." Jackson finally speaks. "I didn't want to admit it at first, but that was me too. My whole life has been what my parents have wanted it to be, my dad especially. He wanted me to play sports, because it's what was expected of me; just like he expects me to be a lawyer and work for him. Like I don't have enough having to follow his every order at home, he expects me to end up doing the same when I'm finally grown up. But I did it, because I thought I had to, because I was… I didn't want to give him a reason not to want me anymore."
Erica scoffs, she probably means to do so quietly, but everyone at the table hears her.
"This isn't exactly any of your business, but since you're here." Jackson snarks. "I'm adopted. I found out when I was ten. My parents never intended to tell me, but I accidentally found my original birth certificate, it was all there. Ever since then I've had this feeling, like I have to prove myself, otherwise…"
"They'll send you away." Stiles murmurs quietly. "Like if you don't try hard enough they may one day decide you aren't worth it, they won't want you anymore."
"Y...yes, exactly." It's clear Jackson's surprised by how well Stiles understands it.
"My mom died of fronto-temporal dementia." Stiles summarizes. "It's really complicated, but the main point here is that she got really bad before dying. She effectively went insane, kept claiming all sorts of things, had hallucinations, delusions, believed the world was out to get her. One of the last times I saw her conscious… she claimed I was a monster, that I was the one killing her, that it was my fault she was dying…"
Stiles's voice begins to break and he clamps his mouth shut. Erica and Malia, on either side of him are holding him tight, discreetly enough so as not to call anyone else's attention.
He didn't need to tell them that, but if Jackson was going to be pack… it felt right. Also, he cannot help but remember that day, a couple of weeks after he went back to school, when that one boy said something hurtful regarding how his mom died so she could get away from him because she couldn't stand him… Jackson hit the boy so hard he broke his nose. Neither of them ever talked about it, but Stiles never forgot it either. Just like he never forgot that Jackson became a douche when he was around ten…
"I know that we began dating because it's what our parents wanted, because we each are what the others consider the 'right sort of person'." Jackson is almost making air quotes as he says that. "But I do like you Lydia. Not just for the girl you pretended to be." He smirks at her a little. "I always knew there was more to you, you know? The way you always finish all tests first, even if you wait to hand it over until others have done so. Your papers are always far better written than anyone else's. And when you're mad… you tend to curse in at least four different languages, one which I'm sure is Latin and another I've never heard in my life, and trust me, I did my best to look it up!" He shakes his head. "So, Lydia Martin, will you give me a chance?"
"What kind of chance?" She asks.
It's quite clear she's beyond shocked by Jackson's words, by how well he knows her. And yet she's still Lydia Martin and refuses to give in so easily, no matter how much a part of her might really want to.
"Be my date for the Winter Formal." He half-asks.
"Yes." Lydia answers before she's quite conscious of what she's doing, but that's alright, she's choosing to go with her instincts.
On the other side of the table Stiles smiles. Jackson might not be his favorite person, but he's willing to deal with him for Lyds. If he's her true match… she deserves that love. Stiles knows that Lydia never expected to find it; not after the way things went for her the first time around. With Jackson, Aiden, and even Stiles himself… they gave it an honest try, and he doesn't regret that, he never will. He also knows they just weren't right for each other, they work better as friends, as family, than they ever did as a couple.
Jackson (and Erica) have just left the lunchroom (the two of them have a class, while the rest of them have free period), when Lydia looks straight at Stiles.
"I don't have anything to wear!" She cries out.
Stiles cannot help himself, he laughs.
"Shut up Stilinski!" She half snaps at him. "I wasn't planning on going to the freaking dance!"
It's pointless really, because no matter how much she might glare at him, he just cannot stop laughing, He knows he'll pay for it, she'll probably force him to take her to the mall and make him carry all her bags (and he's certain she'll end up buying a lot more than a dress), but that's okay, he'll endure it. It's worth it after having actually seen Lydia Martin flustered about a high-school dance of all things!
The dance is good, nice. Lydia arrives in a beautiful ivory colored dress, on Jackson's arm. Scott is there too, with Allison, but while he does look a tad shocked, especially when seeing Stiles enter with a girl on each arm (though he, Erica and Malia are there strictly as friends and they all know it), he doesn't dare say anything about it.
Stiles even has a chance to dance with Lydia for a single song. And while he can hear some of the jocks trying to provoke Jackson with comments about the 'geek trying to take his girl', Jackson just snorts at them:
"If Lydia wanted Stilinski, she'd be dating him, she wants me, so she's dating me, period." He says in his most deadpan voice.
Stiles actually chuckles at that. It really is that simple. He wasn't expecting the other boy to get it, but it seems that Jackson has matured more than Stiles ever expected him to. The funny part is that Stiles never intended for any of that, it was all Jackson's own doing. Harsh as it might seem, the jock simply wasn't a priority of Stiles's, or even Lydia's. Aside from that time he and Ethan dropped by to help them deal with the Anuk-Ite, Monroe and her people, and later on when they heard about the awful fire that had claimed so many lives in London… they hadn't been in much contact with him. Though, thinking back on it, Stiles also remembers once thinking how illogical it all was, that Lydia's love saved Jackson, and then he left. Of course it wasn't up to him, he'd to do what his parents wanted but… he's come to wonder if maybe they could have done something to change that. If maybe those two were meant to be and if they'd just tried a little harder to help them… how much would things have changed?
One only needed to look at Malia. The first time around she was forced to become human, and she fought it, tooth and nail (and claw), even after being sent to Eichen House. Even after she conceded, a part of her remained more… wild. This time around there's still that wildness in her, but it's contained, controlled; Malia's capable of being feral, but she willingly acts like a human, and she's happy enough. She's happy to be Noah Stilinski's foster daughter, as good as Stiles's sister, to have found a pack in Lydia, Erica and even Jackson (even if the latter two still don't know a lot), as they all wait for Peter to wake up.
There's actually been change on that front, as Jennifer told them. She's the nurse in the Long Care ward and seems to have a soft spot for Peter, precisely because he seemed to have no one before Stiles, and later on the rest of the group, took it upon themselves to be there for him. Jennifer told them (in confidence) that his latest EKG had showed improved brain activity, and she was quite sure his scars looked less red and angry than they had in the past. Lydia has theorized that the creation of the pack bonds, with Malia's visit may have given his healing the boost it needed to go beyond just keeping him alive.
Perhaps the only downside of the whole night comes when the night is coming to an end and Scott finally gets the guts to approach Stiles as he and his group are leaving.
"Why are you hanging out with them?" He demands, rather than asks.
"What…?" Stiles is honestly taken by surprise.
"Why did you come to the dance with all of them? Especially Jackson of all people!" Scott demands in what he probably feels is righteous anger and hurt. "You didn't even tell me you had a date for the dance. Less of all two!"
"Malia and Erica are not my dates, they're my friends, we all came together as friends." Stiles clarified. "Jackson and Lydia came as a date, as is their right. Lydia is my friend, and she's dating Jackson, I'm not about to snub her simply because Jackson and I have had difficulties in the past. As for why I didn't tell you..." His eyes narrow. "When did you ask me?"
"What?" That one takes Scott by surprise.
"Tell me Scott, when did you ask me if I was even coming to the dance?" He doesn't even wait for an answer, there's no point. "Or I'll make it easier for you: when was the last time you said more than two words to me, on any topic that wasn't homework? I'll tell you when, the first day of classes, when I suggested to you that you offer Allison a pen. That was the last time we spoke. Then you followed her to lunch, didn't even turn to look at me."
No one says anything to that, not really, though Scott's spluttering in disbelief and Allison is staring in a mix of shock and concern.
"It's okay Allison, I don't blame you." He assures her. "Scott likes you, you like him, and that's great. I don't blame either of you for focusing on the other, that's just fine. However," his eyes are practically boring a hole into Scott. "that does not give you the right to make demands of me. It was your choice to ignore me the last few months, not mine. You never answered my texts, never took my calls. And eventually I stopped trying because much as I might consider you a friend and the closest thing I have to a brother, I still have some pride Scott and I will not beg for your attention. I have no need, or desire, to do that."
"You don't… I don't…" Scott really doesn't seem to know what to say.
"It's his loss." Jackson states, derisively.
Sitting with them had had on impact on his standing. At first some of the other jocks saw it as him making a play, then when they tried making veiled comments, only to have Jackson stop them in their tracks… they tried to put him down, only for Jackson to reinforce his place, show them that regardless of whose table he might sit at for lunch, he was still Jackson Whittemore, and no one was going to insult him or those he considers his friends (which somehow had come to include Stiles and Erica, two people most of the school considered close to pariahs until then… same as Scott, until his lack of asthma and dating a pretty girl allowed him to join the popular crowd himself).
"Don't forget the party at my house." Lydia reminds them, as Jackson goes to close the door to his Porsche.
"Sure, we'll be there." Erica calls in return, even as she and Malia climb into Stiles's jeep.
They all know Lydia called that out just loudly enough intentionally. Everyone in the school knows Lydia Martin's parties are the best, she used to invite all the popular people, until the day she decided to stop hiding herself. Most of the school might have thought she was the one losing, surrendering her status as 'queen of the school'; but truth is she doesn't miss it. She's still a genius, still beautiful, has a great fashion sense, and now she's sure that the people she surrounds herself with are there because they want to be, because they accept her, rather than just because they're hoping to gain something from being in her company.
Scott doesn't say anything else. Stiles isn't sure if that's a good thing or not, if he might have managed to reach him this time, make Scott truly think about what he's been doing, the way he's been treating Stiles… or if it will all be pointless again. Only time will tell. If he's honest with himself, Stiles just cannot bring himself to care anymore. Scott isn't pack, and Stiles would rather focus on those who are: pack… family.
Peter wakes up the day after Christmas. It's only for a few minutes the first time, and he only manages to take a look around, meet Stiles's eyes and say a single word:
"Pack?" Even that one word carries a load of meaning and emotion.
"We're here." Stiles nods seriously.
Peter nods, very slightly, before closing his eyes again and relaxing. Malia, who ran to him, pretty much climbing onto his bed and curling against him, keeps holding him until Jennifer drops by and informs them that Peter's just asleep. No longer in a coma. It'll take him a while to be able to stay awake for more than a few minutes at a time, but he's in his road to recovery now, something that seemed next to impossible just half a year earlier.
The sad part is that no one at the hospital has a number they can call, to inform Peter's family of his recovery. They've never been given a number; and while they've let the teenagers hang around thus far, it's not technically legal.
It's Noah who comes up with the plan. Malia makes a huge deal in the middle of the hospital about remembering Peter's scent, believing that he's family. The nurses, feeling for the man who's miraculously awoken yet has no one there for him, are willing to ignore a few norms and make a simple paternity test, which immediately shows that Peter is, in fact, Malia's father. Since Peter cannot be responsible for himself for the time being, and Malia is Noah's foster child, the sheriff takes the opportunity to take responsibility for Peter as well.
"You have an interesting pack, sheriff." Peter tells him softly days later, when he's finally awake enough to hold a conversation, and has the chance to speak with the other man in private.
"That I do." Noah agrees. "Call me Noah, please. Though, you should know I'm not…"
"A wolf?" Peter finishes for him with an easy nod. "I know. Nor is your son, nor any of the teenagers he hangs out with, not even my child…"
That part still leaves him breathless, especially the fact that he cannot actually remember her, and he knows only one person can be to blame for that, and it hurts to think about her like that. A part of him is still grieving Talia, along with his fiance, and the rest of their family, and to then think that he lost family even before that, and his own sister was responsible…
"Malia is a wonderful girl, and she cares for you very much." Noah tells him.
"She doesn't know me." Peter practically scoffs.
"She knows you're her father, and that's enough for her, for now." The sheriff replies. "You'll get the chance to know each other. When the hospital says you're well enough, you're coming with us, to our place. Stiles and the others are fixing our guest-room for you."
"What about Laura? And Derek?" Peter wants to know.
"We don't know." Noah admits. "We know the live in New York, but have no way of contacting them. According to Jennifer, your nurse, Laura comes once or twice a year. The last time she came was late May, so they have no way of knowing for sure when she might drop by next."
Peter nods. He still has clashing feelings regarding his niece and nephew, their abandonment of him; especially his alpha's abandonment of him. At the same time, the fact that Noah and Stiles are being so accommodating, doing everything they can to help him, to make him feel welcome, accepted… there is a reason he refers to them as his pack. He's beginning to suspect that even without actual wolves or an alpha, he might belong to a new pack now.
Peter leaves the hospital at the end of January. Still mostly faking his difficulty walking as, since first waking up and officially acknowledging the pack, his healing has improved. His scars are also lessening. Which they've half-excused with a story about herb-poultices and alternative methods Stiles and Lydia have been researching.
Malia is officially Noah's daughter. While Noah offered Peter to help him adopt her, the were insisted that she'd be safer with him. Even then, it was Malia's own idea to make her name: Malia Stilinski-Hale, acknowledging both men as her fathers.
When the adoption goes through, just two days after Peter is discharged from the hospital, Erica insists on celebrating. Stiles takes great joy in cooking for them, and then they all slip to the ice-rink after-hours. Jackson insisting that he can convince the boy working there to let them in. Stiles doesn't fully understand the significance of that until he sees just who Jackson is slipping some cash to: Boyd. Though, surprisingly enough, it's Erica who invites the shy boy to join them in the ice.
"What?" She asks when Stiles questions her about it. "You were looking at him!"
"I was looking at him?" Stiles doesn't understand.
"Yeah, the same way you looked at me that day in the hospital, or at Jackson after he made his whole speech about wanting to be with Lydia." Erica explains. "You get this look in your eyes, like you've just decided they're going to join us, and that's that." She shrugs. "So I decided I'd skip a few steps. You know, your whole awkward approach, his shy reply, the dancing around, and jump straight into getting him to actually join the group."
She's smiling wide, so proud of herself, and Stiles can only laugh, that's Erica alright. Epileptic human or healthy were, she'll never truly change, and he loves that.
She's also the one who actually gets off the table, marches straight to the corner where Boyd is sitting, alone, and pulls him to them, explaining on the way how he's their friend now and no longer allowed to be alone. Boyd says nothing, just follows her, all the while staring at her like she's the most precious thing in the world, like she… like she's the moon itself. Stiles swallows, because that look in his eyes, it reminds him painfully of another pair of eyes, staring at him, just for a moment, a heartbeat… his very last…
It's until the end of the week, as they're leaving the school following the first lacrosse practice (Jackson insisted that they all should join, and since Stiles has actually been running and doing katas, he's in good enough condition for it not to have been as awful an idea as it was the first time around… Scott is part of the team too, though he hasn't approached Stiles since the Winter Formal), that Stiles realizes why he feels like something's been missing: Derek hasn't arrived to Beacon Hills.
For that matter, neither has Laura. Which probably wouldn't be surprising since, despite whatever excuse Deaton might have used to lure the Argents into town, there are no wild werewolves around. Peter spent his first full moon since getting out of the hospital, on Wednesday, enjoying a run around the far side of the preserve, on the other side of BH itself. So, no Laura, no Derek… Stiles and Lydia officially have no idea what the hell is going to happen next!
It's Noah's idea to reopen the investigation into the Hale Fire this time around. Stiles is quite sure that he's doing it in order to not only make justice, but to make sure Peter won't be going after them as soon as he's well enough. It shouldn't be hard, Stiles solved the whole thing almost single handed the first time around. Except back then he was doing the work after things had already happened. Taking the victims' names and researching them until he found how they were all connected. It's harder to get proof, to justify looking up those people when nothing has happened to bring them to the authorities' attention yet.
Mr. Myers is easy enough. Noah was never comfortable with how quickly that investigation was closed and had no problem re-opening it and sending it to someone else to confirm his suspicions that there were things either missing, badly investigated or even outright falsified in that report. Stiles has suggested to his dad that he bring in all known arsonists in the county and interrogate them regarding the case, and what they were doing back then, but the sheriff still sees that as an abuse of power. So Stiles tries to find another way to justify it, because while his dad might accept the whole 'I know this because of time-travel', it's not exactly a legal reason.
Lydia and Stiles have taken to meeting in the one place they're relatively certain they won't be interrupted: the cellar underneath the dead Nemeton's roots. There's still enough magic in the place to conceal them from unwanted eyes and ears, and enough to keep the Nogitsune, still in its fly-form and inside a thoroughly reinforced glass jar, secure. In fact, one of the first things Stiles did with his new power was move the jar deeper into the earth and among the roots, to ensure even the one who first put it there wouldn't be able to find it or access it. The last thing they need is the nogitsune messing up their lives… again.
"No new ideas yet?" Lydia inquires.
They're talking about the arson investigation of course. She's preparing a paper that will help the Sheriff bring Harris in. Bad as they might have once felt about the man being sacrificed, he still never paid for his part in the deaths of the Hales, and he ought to. Also, he's a crappy teacher and even Lydia's eager to get rid of him.
"None." Stiles admits, running a hand through his growing hair. "I don't want to risk revealing we time-traveled to anyone else. And we know that won't fly, legally speaking. But Peter will not be patient forever…"
"He's already shown more patience and restraint than I ever expected him to." Lydia admits.
Stiles nods several times, before stopping and pressing fingers to his temples. He still has an awful migraine from that morning.
"Again?" Lydia asks, more softly.
"He keeps trying and trying." Stiles nods with an exhausted sigh, eyes tight as he waits for the wave of pain to pass. "I've no idea what the hell he's doing exactly, other than seeking the power that used to be in the Nemeton, and trying to claim it for himself. One thing's for sure though, if there were any power left for him to tap into, the whole town would have been beyond corrupted already. He's even managed to affect the traces left in the Hale House."
"That's not the kind of power he can draw from." Lydia points out.
"No, it's not. But he's still touching it, continuously. I've no idea what that might do long term, especially considering the imprint in that place…"
"You think he might end up affecting the Hales indirectly."
"I've no idea. I mean, they're connected to it, because of what happened, all the bonds that were broken there, all the blood spilled, their blood. It may not be the kind of power Deaton can draw from, but he might still be able to affect it somehow. I don't like that."
"It was your choice not to face him directly."
"It's too risky. Doing that would mean revealing ourselves outright and if we fail… we aren't ready for that yet."
"Then maybe we should go check out the house for the time being. There might be something we can do to make sure he can do nothing to it."
Stiles nodded, it's the best plan they have, he'll go with it.
They drop by the old Hale House the very next day to get an idea for the place, the kind of energies in it. Lydia picks up on them better than Stiles, which is normal with her being a Banshee, her connection to death, the Other Side and all that. They still have to wait for the next New Moon on May 3rd to do the ritual that should shield the place from whatever Deaton (or anyone else) might try to do.
Noah doesn't have a shift that night, but the teens manage to convince him that they'll be alright. Stiles promises to keep his cellphone on him at all times. Also, he has a new weapon-of-sorts. A tattoo behind one shoulder, a triskele. What makes it special is that the whole tattoo is inlaid with mountain ash, spelled in such a way to stay on him, except when he needs it, then it'll go to his hand and work like any mountain ash (it'll also go back to him afterwards).
"Any news on the case front?" Lydia asks as they're setting up things.
"Not much." Stiles admits. "We got Matthews, the guy from the video store. He was actually arrested for a completely different matter, but dad managed to trick him into admitting his involvement with the Hale fire. His lawyer is currently trying to negotiate some sort of deal in exchange of the names of the others involved."
"But you already know the other people involved, it cannot be that hard to get them." Lydia points out, clearly not liking the idea.
"The other arsonists, yeah, they'll be easy enough." Stiles nods. "Even Harris, once dad gets at least one person to agree with the conclusions you outlined in that 'consultant report'. I know you don't like the idea of anyone going free, neither do I. But if Matthews is capable of giving us Kate…? Lets be honest here, whatever we might do, whatever articles and new investigations we might focus on, it'll be next to impossible to pin the whole thing on Kate, unless someone else involves her. And if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not put that kind of burden on Derek."
"Not that we could, even if we wanted to. We've no idea how to even locate him."
"There's that, yes. In any case, all I want is to finally get Kate behind bars. She needs to pay for all the people she killed that day."
"Yeah, she does."
Conversation finished, sky fully dark, with no moon and only the stars to give them light, it's time for the teenagers to get to work. The ritual itself isn't hard, though it certainly is lengthy. Lydia and Stiles take turn circling the remains of the house with one element at a time, and then mountain ash, creating a circle of protection. Then they call for the stars as their witnesses, and even the moon. Even though it's the new moon, it works, since they're precisely asking for the house to be protected, occluded, much as the moon is in that moment. They can both feel the exact moment it takes. They're also sure if Deaton hasn't realized it yet he certainly will when he next tries to call on any sort of power (that almost makes Stiles cackle in glee, actually).
It's a week later that things go completely nuts. It starts with Laura's arrival to town. At first Stiles thinks she's finally arrived to check on Peter, and warns everyone to be ready when the hospital sends her to their place. Except she doesn't go, not to the Stilinski home, and not to the hospital. Lydia suggests it might be connected to the arson investigation; which has gotten more intense, Matthews's lawyers are still trying to get a good deal, though Noah refuses to let him get off scot free, not when his actions (and everyone else involved) resulted in the awful deaths of eight people, three of them children. Harris… for some reason no one can quite comprehend suddenly grew a conscience and confessed to his involvement, though he couldn't give them the name of the woman as he apparently never bothered to learn it.
As it happens, that's not the reason either, or in any case, Laura never drops by the station, at all.
"She's here for another reason." Stiles states soberly.
She and Stiles are just leaving the school after working together on a project for one of their online college courses.
"Yeah, no shit Sherlock." Lydia curses, which is most unusual in her.
Stiles knows the whole thing is getting on her last nerve. Even Jackson revealing himself in the parking lot, waiting to take her home, doesn't improve her mood much (though she does smile at him, so he knows her anger is not directed at him). And then Stiles senses something's off.
"Fuck!" he curses as he realizes what's wrong. "Lyds!"
He barely manages to push Lydia to one side before jumping on the opposite direction before a 5' 7" tall figure rushes with enough force it actually dents the passenger door of Stiles's jeep as it slams into it.
"Run Lydia!" Stiles yells at the redhead, at the same time he pulls out a small blade from his sneakers and slashes at the were to pull her attention onto him.
Her… because that's Laura Hale, in full alpha form, and she's angry… She growls at him, pretty much stalking him, fangs bared, eyes flashing red, and he hasn't the slightest idea what the hell's wrong with her.
"Laura!" He yells even as he backs away, blade in hand. "Focus! I'm not your enemy. Why the hell are you attacking me?!"
He gets no answer, the she-wolf seems to be too far gone. Stiles does very little; he really, really doesn't want to hurt Derek's sister. He knows how much the loss of her hurt him, and while he'll never stop believing that she wasn't a good alpha, that she didn't help Derek the way he needed and deserved to be helped… she's still his alpha, and his sister, and Stiles doesn't want to be the one to take her from him this time around.
Stiles is so conflicted by all the thoughts that he misses a step, falling backwards in a sprawl on the sidewalk.
The alpha crouches low, probably preparing to leap at him; but before she can there's the screech of breaks, tires squealing and an agate gray Porsche slams into her side with enough force to throw her several feet.
"Stilinski!" Jackson yells over the roar of his own engine even as he switches into gear. "Get in the car! Now!"
Lydia, being very cooperative, has already slipped into the back of the car. Not much space there, but still. Stiles doesn't ask any questions, he throws himself into the car, barely closing the door when they're already rushing out of the school parking lot, tires squealing as they take the curve a bit too fast. Not that any of them really care, all they want is to get away from the crazy alpha werewolf.
"One of you better explain to me what the hell that was!" Jackson demands once they've put a decent amount of space between them and the wolf.
"That was a werewolf." Stiles answered in his most deadpan tone, still somewhat breathless.
Lydia just rolls her eyes, knowing Jackson isn't going to be satisfied with just that. Of course she's right. She herself is a bit restless though. She managed to call on just enough power to reinforce the Porsche as they hit the alpha, but she had to do it all so fast… it wasn't easy on her. Even with her boost magic just doesn't come as easily to her as it comes to Stiles (then again, she doubts anyone can do magic with the ease Stiles does…).
"It's a bit of a long story Jackson." Lydia admits. "I promise we'll tell you just… you gotta promise not to interrupt."
Jackson swallows, probably suspecting that whatever might be coming, it's going to change everything. But he has a feeling he needs to know, that it'll be the only way he can keep Lydia… and if there's one thing he'll never do that's let go of her of his own will so… he nods.
Lydia never thought about sharing their story with anyone, especially where it came to the time travel. She wasn't like Stiles, who loves his dad so much it pained him to lie to the man… then again, when they first traveled to the past, Lydia never expected to end up with Jackson. She spent years convincing herself that what they had was nothing more than a teenage romance, young love. That regardless of the miracle that was his return after being a kanima, and Peter's whole spiel about 'the power of love'… theirs hadn't been that awesome. After all, he left, and she dated other people, right? Except none of those ever felt right, none, nothing and no one had been able to fill that emptiness in her heart… until the day Jackson went and sat beside her, on their lunch-table, until he gave that whole speech, before practically the whole school… until he chose her…
She makes up her mind then, to tell him. Not just about werewolves, banshees, magic and the supernatural in general… but also the truth about her, about her past, about the time that was and will never be again.
They stay there, by the side of the road, for hours. Lydia handles most of the telling, but Stiles is there to clarify a few things, and to help when she has a hard time relating something. He's surprised when she decides to tell Jackson about his leaving, what she knew about his life in London, about his relationship with Ethan…
"We need to begin planning." Jackson announces once it was all said and done.
"What…?" Lydia clearly doesn't understand.
"There's no way I'm leaving for London, or anywhere else in the summer, so the two of you are going to help me find some way to stay here because I…"
He doesn't get to finish his tirade, he cannot, when suddenly Lydia is all over him, holding him tight and so close to crying… she's nothing like the Lydia Martin they both know and yet… Stiles understands. He's quite sure he wouldn't be much better if… if a certain someone ever made that kind of declaration regarding him. Because what Jackson just said… he might not have actually said the words: I love you, but they were just as good. He made his choice, he isn't leaving, not Beacon Hills, and not Lydia, not then, not ever.
The house is dark when Jackson and Lydia drop Stiles off, but he doesn't pay much mind to it. It's late, and thus not surprising that the others would have already gone to sleep. At least that's what he thinks until he actually enters the house and the first thing he sees is Malia's terrified eyes staring straight at him. She cannot even scream, due to the cloth secured around her head, blocking her mouth, and she's tied tightly to one of the dining room chairs. The truly terrifying part is that she's not the only one, his dad is right beside her, equally tied and gagged, with the addition of blood mating his temple. Stiles has no doubt that fought… and lost.
"Come in, come in little boy." A sickly sweet voice calls to him in a sing-song tone. "Tired of playing detective for the day?"
Stiles feels almost sick instantly, he recognizes that voice: Kate Argent.
"Wa… who are you?" He asks, purposefully letting the fear he feels deep down tint his voice. "What do you want?"
"I want to know how you know the things you do." She responds standing, like a predator, from the couch where she'd been sprawled, mostly hidden in shadows. "Tell me little red, are you friends with the big bad wolf?"
"I… I have no idea what…" Stiles begins.
"Hale!" She snarls, getting into his personal space. "You must know someone! How else would you know about the fire? Why do you even care about a bunch of dogs that got put down?!"
There's a glint in her eyes, it shows everyone that looks that she's crazy, completely demented. Stiles knows it's a bad idea to provoke her and yet… and yet hearing her talking about the Hale fire, about all who died so callously, like the truly were animals… he cannot stand it.
"You're the only animal here." He retorts. "A monster."
"They're the monsters!" Kate replies. "Abominations that shouldn't exist. And we'll make sure they don't! We'll kill them. Every single one of them!"
"What about the innocents?" He demands. "The ones who haven't hurt anyone? What about the children?! There were children in that house!"
"Monsters! All of them! They deserved to die! I burned them all! I destroyed them like I'll destroy all the abominations in this world… as well as everyone who gets in my way…"
He knows exactly what that means. Stiles tries to think of something to do, some way to fight back. But the terror at seeing his dad and sister as they are in that moment has touched him so deeply he has no idea what to do in that moment. Also, he's still pretty much crashing after the adrenaline rush Laura's unexpected attack (and the following harrowing talk to Jackson) caused. He cannot even think about doing anything.
There's a howl then, loud and deep. Stiles remembers Peter. The man who has trouble sleeping and has made a habit of taking long walks in the middle of the night to pass the time; excusing his lack of sleep saying he's slept enough for a lifetime, all those years in a coma. Also, it's the full moon, so of course he'd have been out. Stiles hadn't even thought to wonder where he might be, when he only found Malia and his dad tied up.
Peter enters the house through the back door, and while Kate is gathering her wits (she clearly wasn't expecting a wolf to actually make an appearance) he goes straight for her. Kate gets a set of deep (but not deep enough) scratches on her stomach as she half rushes, half stumbles away from Stiles. Who takes the opportunity to rush to his dad's side and then pulls out his concealed knife (the very same he wielded to protect himself from Laura earlier… and he cannot believe it's been less than three hours since then!) and gets to work on the zip-ties keeping him in place.
"I'll kill you!" Kate screeches. "All of you!"
The moment he's free Noah practically throws himself off the chair before pretty much dragging himself across the floor and to the little safe concealed behind several pictures on a small table. It's where he keeps his emergency gun.
Stiles is halfway through cutting (or more like sawing through) Malia's ropes (Kate clearly knew she was a were, as she'd used ropes infused with wolfsbane… not quite as badly for Malia, since she was a coyote rather than a wolf, but she still was the daughter of a werewolf, so she wasn't completely immune either) when suddenly a lot happens very fast:
Noah shoots at Kate a couple of times, nicking her on her right leg with the first one, but completely missing with the second. Kate slashes at Peter, cutting him on the face, right across most of the scars that still remain from the fire. Is about to stab him in the neck when the bullet burning the side of her leg (though it never actually penetrates) and Peter's instinctive retreat saves his life. She reacts by turning to Noah, pointing a gun of her own at him.
"Drop it!" She yells at him.
"No." Noah refuses.
And then Kate, who's beyond crazy but not stupid, turns the gun towards Peter.
"Noah, run." Peter gasps through the pain caused by the cut on his face (the knife was clearly infused with wolfsbane). "Take the kids and run."
"No one's going anywhere." Kate snarls.
Not wanting her to point the gun at one of his children, Noah drops the gun and stands, hands raised in a motion of surrender. Kate waves her gun then, wanting him to get closer. He does, even as he keeps trying to think of something he might do.
"Why did you have to go digging into my business?" She asks Noah in an almost conversational tone, like they're having an easy talk, rather than fighting for their lives.
"Because justice must be served and you deserve to pay for your crimes." Noah answers with absolute honesty.
"Don't you know? I'm beyond mere human laws. I serve a higher purpose by hunting and killing down the monsters." It's clear she's completely insane.
It's also clear she doesn't plan on letting any of them live past tonight…
"Too bad you had to get involved sheriff, now you'll have to die too." She says, easy as anything, as she pulls the trigger.
Peter is moving before she has even finished the motion. It all happens so fast that it takes everyone else a couple of seconds to realize that Peter just took a bullet to the gut for Noah… a bullet that would have hit the man's chest… killing him instantly.
"Dad!" Malia and Stiles scream practically in unison.
Malia snarls, shifting fully into a coyote for the first time since choosing to be human again, throwing herself at Kate and using her paws to scratch at her face. Kate screeches, waving the gun wildly and shooting at least twice, miraculously missing everyone, before managing to catch Malia's tail and pulling on it to throw the coyote violently against a wall. Where she shifts back, naked and unconscious.
"Malia!" Noah cries out.
Peter is in too much pain to do even that.
Kate raises her gun again, and Stiles reacts instinctively. He didn't quite notice when he picked up his dad's gun, but in that moment he simply aims and fires at Kate, the first bullet hits her flank, calling her attention, but not really doing much harm in the grand scheme of things; the second though… that one hits low on the right side of her chest. Stiles knows enough about biology to understand that though he didn't manage to hit the heart, he's certainly hit something important… the blood that begins dripping from the edge of Kate's mouth even as she coughs and pants reveals what it was exactly: a lung.
The loud sound of sirens breaks the tension, even as Stiles lets himself fall to his knees, his dad's gun still in hand. Someone's called the police, and probably (hopefully) an ambulance as well. Stiles nods to himself and stays where he is, waiting.
Stiles refuses to let the paramedics administer anything until everyone's at the hospital and Melissa promises she and Rona will oversee things personally. Then he simply blacks out, the exhaustion he was keeping at bay by sheer force of will finally overtaking him.
He wakes up the next morning to Lydia sitting on a chair beside his bed.
"Sh…" She shushes him the moment she sees him tense. "Everything's alright. Everyone's just fine. Malia was just knocked out for a little while, she insisted on staying because you were all here, and the nurses got her a bed, but she's just fine. Peter's on a bed, has been complaining about having to keep from healing too quickly in order to avoid suspicion, and your dad is currently in the cafeteria, I managed to convince him to get some lunch and he's also probably answering some questions from his deputies. Jackson is keeping an eye on him for us."
She makes a pause to make sure Stiles is conscious enough to understand everything, then goes on with the rest.
"Kate Argent is dead. According to what Peter, Noah and even Malia already explained, she broke into your home last night and took your dad and sister hostage. She somehow found out that the sheriff was close to finding the person behind the burning of the Hale house… or more precisely, that she was the person responsible. Her death is being ruled self-defense, though no one's actually said who shot her…"
"Me…" Stiles's voice is a bit rough, but he pushes on. "I shot her. With my dad's gun. She said she was going to kill us all, had already shot Peter… while actually trying to shoot my dad. She threw Malia aside like she was a rag-doll… I had to do something!"
"I know Stiles, I know you did." Lydia murmurs at him, embracing him tightly. "You did what you had to do to protect your family, your pack. There's nothing wrong with that."
It's not the first time he (either of them really) kills to protect those they love; but while she's quite pragmatic about it… she knows its harder for Stiles. Most see him as having rather… flexible morals, she knows; but while he can be very understanding about the necessity of killing, and has little trouble accepting it from others, he still has a very hard time when pushed to do it himself. She saw it with Donovan, and when that hunter that tried to kill Scott… and she's quite sure that Scott's own reaction both those times has something to do with it. Scott can be so self-righteous, insisting on seeing the world in black and white, insisting on keeping his hands clean… well, there's a reason why he died, while they survived, crass as it might sound.
"Now what?" Stiles inquires after getting himself under control.
"Now we get out of this hospital and… we move on, I suppose." Lydia offers with a shrug.
Truth is, she doesn't know either. Things are going nothing like they did the first time around, they simply have no way to prepare for what might be coming anymore. Doesn't mean they're about to give up though… they'll never give up.
"Any news about Laura?" He asks, almost as an after thought.
"None." Lydia shakes her head. "Though I can only hope she won't be attacking us again. I still have no idea what the hell was wrong with her last night."
Stiles just shakes his head. He doesn't know either. There was the full moon of course, but Laura is supposed to be an alpha, she shouldn't be losing control so easily. And if she didn't lose control, if she attacked him intentionally, why?
As it happens, and though neither of them could have known it in that moment, Laura wouldn't be attacking them again. It would have been hard for her to do so when she was no longer alive, her body cut in two parts, for others to eventually find. It would seem the more some things changed, the more others stayed the same…