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9/10ths of the Law

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9/10ths of the Law

You know those kids you see on the news sometimes, the ones the doctors never thought would make it? Newborns that went fifteen minutes before breathing, babies never showed a heartbeat until all of a sudden they did? Everyone calls it a miracle. A gift from God.

Right idea. Wrong team, but right idea.

The demon couldn't imagine why no one else had thought of this. Babies were easy.

Newborns easiest.

Their souls were weak, fragile little things, easy to shove aside and break, every demon's dream. Done right, it would be a place to grow up and wreak havoc, completely unnoticed by hunters or angels. After all, there was no personality to change, no soul to fight. Just a perfect little meatsuit, waiting to be put on.

It was his luck that the wind had blown him to Beacon Hills. Trouble was brewing out in the heartland, everyone knew it, and every demon with a lick of sense was finding a place to settle in and keep their head down. Beacon Hills was just that kind of place, tiny and pathetic, stuck in the middle of nowhere and small enough that it had a county sheriff instead of local police. The hospital wards were quiet, serene places for loving recovery or peaceful death. Angels didn't tread there, because there was nothing worth their time.

The baby was a boy, with some damned awful name already picked out by his parents months earlier. He watched as the boy was born, as the doctor's face went pale and the nurses rushed to try and help. Saw the father's joy turn to pain, the mother's to worry when they realized something was wrong. Any attempts to revive the baby would be useless. Maybe if they tried hard, they'd keep it going for a few days, but not for very long. Like so many stillborns, there was nothing there—no spark, no life, no soul. Just a body that wouldn't even take a breath on its own.

So he did it instead, slipping in gently while the doctors were trying to clear the baby's airways. He took that first breath, made the heart beat free of his mother for the first time, screamed at the cold slap of air. Skin warmed and blood pumped, and for a glorious second he realized that this was what it felt like to be alive again.

It had been centuries since he'd been a child. Lucky for him, there'd be time to learn.

No one told him he would lose himself.

He noticed it first when he was learning to walk. That was, when he was pretending to learn to walk. If he'd wanted to he could have waltzed; the body's lack of coordination didn't make a difference. But someone would have heard about a waltzing baby in Fuck Nowhere, California. So he pretended, wobbling on chubby legs while his mother held out her hands, calling to him sweetly.

She was beautiful, with thick brown hair and soft dark eyes. Her hands had pink painted fingernails, a glitter coating flashing on them as she coaxed him over. "Come on. Come to Mommy."

Still weaving back and forth, he pushed to his feet, deciding that this time he would do it for her. One step, arms out for balance, and then another, and his mother's face lit up. He gurgled, holding out his hands—

And was brought low. Something caught his foot; maybe he hadn't lifted it high enough, or maybe there'd been a hidden dip in the floor. Whatever it was, he stumbled and fell forward. Pain flashed through his knees and palms where the carpet scraped them. It was nothing compared to torments he'd suffered before, which meant that there was even less explanation for what happened next.

He burst into tears.

Immediately his mother scooped him up, cooing and checking him over for injuries. There weren't any, just a slight sting from a carpet burn. Even with that, he couldn't stop crying, couldn't stop clinging to her as if there were anything in the world that could actually hurt him.

It took his mother forever to soothe him, to kiss his tears away. By then, he was already considering leaving the body. It was too much, too engrossing. In a normal body, it was just fun and games, a meatsuit to be used and abused and abandoned at need. He hadn't signed up for letting the body control him.

But just as he'd decided that he'd do it that night, he'd abandon ship after he was laid down for bed, his mother squeezed him in her arms and kissed his forehead.

"I love you."

The next morning, he was still there.

The problem with playing human was that he was the only one playing.

When he was ten, his mother got sick. Permanently sick. He could see it in her. It shined in the way her soul loosened its grip on her body, long before she even started showing symptoms. It was a slow burn, not the sort of thing that anyone could fight. Not cancer, not anything that could be burned out of her. Her body just started to give up, no matter what they did to try and keep her. His father tried—God, how he tried, working extra hours to afford her treatments, making himself sick with effort and tears and denial. But humans were fragile, and disease was relentless.

Stiles—that was his name by then, a name he chose that was more real than the one he'd been wearing for centuries, and definitely not the one on the birth certificate—was fourteen when the disease finally finished its course. He stood guard in her room when it happened, holding her left hand while his father slept curled up next to her on the narrow hospital bed.

Over the years, other demons had appeared in Beacon Hills, wandering souls looking for an easy mark. The burning of the Hale house had been a tempting sign for them, a hint of something more. He'd run most of them off, but there were always one or two. Demons like them hung out in the long-term care facility, waiting for the next flat line. They'd jump in and take over, leaving a stranger where someone's family had stood.

That wasn't going to happen to his mother.

He stayed there when the heart monitor slowed, watching the corner where the latest visitor to Beacon Hills floated, waiting. Human eyes couldn't see the cloud, but Stiles occasionally remembered that he wasn't human, though sometimes it took effort. There was no direct communication when they were in separate planes of existence, but Stiles did his best to project MINE. His mother, his family, his life; no one was going to wear his mother's face but her.

Whoever it was seemed to get the message. They didn't make a move, not even when the quiet beep beep turned into the sharp peal of life coming to its close.

When it was over and Stiles was left one parent short, holding his father as they wheeled what used to be his mother away, the demon finally moved. It swept past, giving Stiles only one brief shiver of sensation and, maybe, a thought.


He should have seen the werewolf thing coming.

Stiles had figured out about the Hale pack fairly early, enough that he was able to avoid being noticed in turn. Supernatural beings in a small town tended to pay attention to little details, and it was worth the effort not to be called out. They weren't like any werewolves he'd seen before—he was more used to the heart-eating sort. A few scraps of satisfied curiosity weren't worth the chance that they knew how to perform an exorcism.

When he'd been ten and the Hale house had burned down, he'd actually been sad. It had been nice, not being the only monster in town.

But then life went on. The fire turned to ashes, and then to ruins and a taste of sulfur, and Stiles got on with someone else's life.

Right up until the whole thing blew up in his face.

Right up until Derek Hale was in his face, hot and feral behind the bars of a police cruiser, the embodiment of everything humanity liked to pretend it left behind. Scott was a puppy down to his bones, harmless no matter how many fangs and claws he got. As long as Stiles fed and walked him and maybe tossed a ball now and then he'd be fine. But Derek was something else, something dangerous, like the taste of poison on the tip of his tongue.

The only people who knew anything about what was going on were the Argents, and Stiles had enough shit with hunters on his plate already, what with the Winchester mess and all. And while he was flailing around, Scott was getting into trouble and Derek was trouble and people were dying and his father was in danger because Stiles couldn't even protect a single fucking town.

For the first time in centuries, Stiles didn't know what to do.

So he did his best. He used what few favors he had left, pulled strings so hard that they broke in order to keep Beacon Hills safe, to make the lucky coincidences stay lucky. He fought, and bled, and took wounds that no human body should have survived. It was only dumb luck that no one noticed them enough to question. He tore at the world until he found a hole, a nook just big enough for his friends and family to survive in.

Maybe it was pathetic, but they were his, and he wasn't going to give them up yet.

It took Stiles ages to realize he couldn't leave the body. It wasn't even a big thing, he'd just wanted to stretch himself out, listen in on a few conversations, and watch Derek in the shower. The body wouldn't even have had time to get cold. But when he tried his heart jerked and his head spun and nothing happened. The body had sunk its claws into him good and firm, and he wasn't going anywhere.

That probably should have scared him more than it did.

And then there were the things that no one should ever have to go through, no matter how demonic they were.

"You mean you don't get Werewolves Monthly?" Stiles asked, running his fingers through his short-cropped hair. "Shame on you for not subscribing. You should see the centerfold for July. Rowr."


"Sorry, I don't know." Stiles shrugged and flopped back in his computer chair. "Centuries of knowledge at my fingertips, a whole world wide web to dig through, and no one has documented werewolf mating habits. You're on your own."

His friend—his best friend, his only friend, the one teenager in Beacon Hills apparently too stupid to not realize on some level that Stiles was bad news—sprawled across his bed, looking like nothing so much as an oversized lapdog. One that had just been kicked, by the way his eyes went huge and sad. It gave Stiles the worst urge to scratch his ears. "But you're good at this stuff."

"Go ask Derek."

"He told me to ask my mother."

Sometimes Stiles really wondered how humanity had ended up as Daddy's favorites. "Look, let me explain. I have three main resources. The internet," he gestured to his laptop with grace Vanna White would have envied, and received a nod in return. "The library." A stack of books was Exhibit B, which Scott dutifully acknowledged. "And whatever hunter's records I can get my hands on." This was a small stack of hand-written note books, some of them bound in leather and others just college-ruled spiral bound. Stiles had never told Scott how he'd gotten them, and he didn't plan to. I remembered where I buried some bodies didn't seem like it would go over well. "Only that. Do you see the problem?"

The blank look in Scott's big brown eyes said everything. Stiles let out a loud sigh, because it was that or kill something, and Peter Hale had been enough falling off the wagon for one decade. "It's porn, myths, and a freaking spotter's guide. Not exactly going to give you the nitty-gritty of what's going on every time you want to wolfy up to Allison's heart."

And then, damn it, Scott's expression went distant and fuzzy and Stiles knew it wasn't Allison's heart he was thinking about.

Scott was just lucky Stiles liked him. He'd eviscerated people for less annoying things than vomiting their hormones all over.

Sometimes being a teenager just wasn't fucking worth it.

The backpack hit the floor as Derek slammed Stiles up against a wall.

"Oh holy God—" Stiles babbled, bringing up his forearms to protect his face. The front door was hanging open for anyone to see and call the cops, and Stiles did not want to have to lie to his dad any more. They'd already had a lifetime of that, and he was already pushing it with the werewolf stuff as it was. "Dude, I just got home, can you at least let me shut the door before attacking me?"

Using his foot, Derek reached out and nudged the door closed. He didn't let go of Stiles for a second. His claws were out, teeth bared and fists clenched in what had been a perfectly good vintage band shirt, but was now a mess of holes.

Stiles lost more shirts that way.

Derek's eyes had turned red, not like a crossroads demon, but like an alpha werewolf about to chew someone up and shit them out. Even though Stiles knew he'd be fine and the worst thing Derek could do would make the body a pain in the ass to clean up, he still whimpered.

"What the hell—" Stiles clenched his eyes closed. "What do you want?"

"I want to know what you've done to me," Derek snarled, leaning in close. In spite of everything, all the terror and the knowledge and the whole possessed by a demon thing, the body's dick twitched. Because if there was one thing to be said about seventeen year-old boys, it was that there was no situation too weird to develop a hard-on.

"I'm half your size and a quarter your muscle mass," Stiles said, lowering his arms to give Derek his best are you shitting me expression. "What could I do to you? Get stuck in your teeth and cause a cavity? "

Something like uncertainty made Derek draw back, giving Stiles enough space that he could breathe again. Not that he needed to, but it was a good habit to stay in. "I saw what you did with the mountain ash," Derek said, and his voice was still that low, sultry growl that was going to kill Stiles from blue balls one day. "And what you did with Jackson. You always smell strange and you know more than anyone could from Google and a third-rate library. And now I can't stop thinking about you." The fist tightened, and what little space Derek had gifted him with vanished like a puff of smoke. "I can hear your heartbeat half-way across town, and your scent is everywhere. What. Did. You. Do?"

Stiles couldn't help it. He laughed in Derek's face.

Unexpectedly, it wasn't met with swift and painful retaliation. Instead, Derek dropped him like he'd suddenly turned into a cobra and was on the other side of the room before Stiles finished collapsing to the floor. He let himself, sagging down against the wall and curling up to laugh into his knees. It wouldn't stop, giggles bubbling up inside him like champagne. There was no turning them off, no switch he could flip. The body had him in its grip and he wasn't doing anything but what it wanted, and what it wanted was to laugh until he was red in the face and Derek finally got it together enough to claw his balls off.

All the things Stiles was hiding, and Derek still managed to get so far off course he was rivaling Columbus.

"What's so funny?" Derek demanded from behind the safety of the couch.

"You," Stiles gasped, resting his face in his hands. Breathing was hard. It had never been hard before, not like this. "I do a couple of parlor tricks and have a knack for the internet, and you think I cast some sort of love spell on you?"

"Jackson wasn't a parlor trick."

"No, that was basic psychology." Air started to come easier as the giggles faded. He could still feel them, buried somewhere inside his chest, waiting to be set off again. Just in case they were, he stayed down on the ground. "The kanima happens when something keeps a werewolf from turning, right? And Jackson didn't finish because he was too fucked in the head—didn't know who he was or where he belonged. So I gave him that and poof, no more kanima."

Derek's silence had gone on for a little too long. Stiles looked up to see Derek staring at him with a freaked out expression. "You mean that... when you attacked him..."

Annoyance had started to replace the bubbly feeling. Stiles was a little sorry to feel it go, but he used the opportunity to stand. "That wasn't an attack. It was a hug. They soothe the savage beast, you know." It had been a little embarrassing, the way he'd tackled the were-snake-lizard-thing like some kid in an anime, but Stiles was a big believer in whatever got the job done. If it hadn't worked, he'd had a machete strapped to his back as a backup plan. "Now can we please get back to the part where you've been stalking me in your mind?"

Faint enough that it probably wouldn't have shown in poor lighting, Derek flushed.

"...Or not in your mind. Really, dude? You know my dad's the sheriff, right?"

"Shut up, Stilinski."

Sashaying wasn't something Stiles had done in a while—his last female meatsuit had been in the seventeen hundreds, and it usually wasn't worth the effort on a man. Still, he called up on old tricks as he stepped around the arm of the couch, meager male hips swinging. This time it was Derek backed against the wall, face turning red as Stiles cornered him.

"Would it be that bad a thing, for you to like me?" he asked, leaning up into Derek's personal space. The body was never going to be very tall, but a little lift at the toes was enough. "It's that unbelievable, that you think magic had to cause it?"


"Ouch. That hurts." It was also a lie. Werewolves weren't the only people who could hear heartbeats. He slipped his arms around Derek's neck. "Come on, admit it. You like me."

"No." Never before had Derek's face been such a shining example of the word frowny, and there were a lot of contenders for that title. It made Stiles want to hook his fingers in the corners of Derek's mouth and force him to smile.

"Come on," Stiles wheedled, touching the tips of their noses together. "Not even a little?"

Derek swallowed, nostrils flaring and eyes wide. "Not even."

Liar, liar, pants on fire. Leaning in, Stiles brushed their lips together. "Okay," he murmured, watching as the red faded from Derek's eyes. "Then tell me to stop and I will."

Derek never said stop.

Sometimes Stiles thought about tracking down Crowley and begging for a chance at Kate. With any luck, she was down in hell where she belonged, but there were a lot of extra tortures Stiles thought he could add to her daily routine. Some of the newer demons were unimaginative schmucks, and she deserved better.

Derek hadn't been with anyone since her. He'd been sixteen, with a crush strong enough to break through steel doors and a hard-on to match, and she'd used that like her own version of a meatsuit. Then she'd laughed and come back to try it again.

Words weren't how Stiles found out. Derek wasn't good at them. What he was good at were touches and silence, moments when what he didn't say had more information than what he did. Stiles put it together, the way Derek went still whenever the name Argent came up, how determined he was that Scott and Allison would end in disaster, the way he buried his face in Stile's throat the few times they fell asleep together. The one time Stiles mentioned her name, the look of complete betrayal in Derek's eyes had been enough to keep him from ever doing it again.

And people thought demons only came from hell.

Nothing good could ever last forever, and no secret stayed hidden.

"Werewolves all over this freaky ass town, but it always comes back to fucking demons." To their left, Dean Winchester had a shotgun loaded with wolfsbane and rock salt, and was toting a bag of water balloons that Stiles didn't doubt were blessed. On the right, Sam had a gun and his sweet self, and that terrified Stiles more than the gun.

"What the hell are you talking about?" Derek growled. He hadn't gone full alpha, but Stiles could hear his bones grinding, feel the prick of claws against his skin where Derek had him shoved back.

The partial pack was huddled together on Derek's front porch, trapped between the two. They could have gone inside, but then they'd have been boxed in even more than they were. It would have been Kate all over again. Derek and Erica tried to keep Stiles behind them, while Scott and Boyd watched the flanks. Just then, Stiles would have given anything for the rest of them, for Jackson and Isaac and even Lydia, who would never find her grace if Stiles had anything to say about it, but they were in town. Even if Derek howled they wouldn’t get there in time.

Four werewolves and a demon should have been able to take on a pair of hunters, but they'd gotten weak. They were too close, too worried about others getting hurt to even save themselves. It froze them all, made them unable to act.

"Don't tell me you don't know," Dean mocked. His shotgun wavered an inch, but not enough to take it out of the threat zone. "You think we haven't been watching you?"

Derek growled his denial, so absolutely certain that it was like a prayer, but the rest of the pack moved in closer. Stiles closed his eyes and leaned forward, touching his forehead to Derek's shoulder. He wanted to remember this—the smell of dead leaves and ash, limed with blood and sex and fur and everything that made the pack what it was.

Then he straightened up and let himself shine through. His eyes filmed over, coloring everything in shadows. "I've got this."

"Shut up, Sti—"

He shoved Derek out of the way, with more strength than he'd ever let the body use in front of the others. Derek was so surprised that he stumbled into Erica, who barely kept her own balance. Stiles didn't look back as he stepped down the porch steps. The expressions on the Winchester's faces were pictures—he didn't want to see what the ones behind him would look like.

"Alright," he heard himself say, glib and casual, as if the body's heart weren't beating a thousand times a second and sweat wasn't dripping down his temple. "You've got me. Let the wolves go. They're good kids, they don't deserve this. Not guilty of anything."

"They hang out with you," Sam accused, and that was one step too far.

"Well, aren't you the little hypocrite," Stiles hissed. With himself out in the open, he could see everything that people couldn't. The way Dean was an eviscerated husk of a person, the flayed remainder of Sam's soul. Hell left its marks like a bad tattoo artist. "I might have spent the last seventeen years holed up in this town, but don't think I haven't heard all about you and your little adventures. Nothing travels like gossip."

Sam raised his hand and Dean's finger tightened on the trigger.

Stiles just shoved his hands into his pockets. "Go ahead. Do it." If he could just goad them a little more... "Come on; don't tell me you've gone soft now. How're you going to bone your brother like that?"

Dean's finger finished squeezing just as something slammed into Stiles from behind. He went down, flailing, to land face-first in the dirt with a hundred and eighty three pounds of growling werewolf on his back. For a moment Stiles was frozen, but he couldn't smell the sickness that came from wolfsbane, or even a hint of blood. Missed.

Once reassured, he rolled over and flung Derek off, putting enough power behind it to get him all the way back to the porch. Old dry wood splintered when Derek crashed into it, sprawled and broken. Boyd scrambled to help him. Erica, good soldier that she was, stayed crouched in front, claws ready.

"I said I've got this!" Stiles snapped at them, pushing up into a sitting position. The other wolves took a step back, reeking of fear and confusion, but it was the one in the ruined remains of the porch steps that he wanted to see. "If you get your stupid werewolf ass killed, I can't fix it, because you won't be going anywhere I can reach."

Derek groaned and opened his eyes, lifting up on his elbows. Then he stared.

Stiles stared back, making sure to give Derek a good, long look. "Yeah, that's right. So stay." Then he stood up, brushing the leaves off his ass. Not that it was worth it; the minute Sammy-boy got his mojo going the body would be down for the count anyway, but it was a habit at this point.

"This is the most fucked up thing I've seen since that lamia playing Little House on the Prairie." Dean had apparently decided that entertainment trumped murder. He'd lowered his gun, and was watching Stiles with an expression that would have been better suited for someone with taste trying to read Fifty Shades of Grey. "How long have you been in that kid?"

"Long enough." Stiles shoved his hands into his pockets, looking between the two rogue hunters. The body's stupid heart wouldn't slow down, and breathing was getting hard again. It was everything he could do to keep his cool. "Are we going to do this or not? If I'm going to climb back out of Hell, I'd like to get an early start."

"You're protecting them." Sam sounded stunned.

Stiles wanted to grab his hair and groan, and would have if he'd had enough hair to grab, because this was not getting the job done. "Why do I have to have the two dumbest hunters on the continent to deal with?" he demanded of the uncaring sky. "Yes, I'm protecting them, so shut up and fucking do it already."

"Why don't you just leave?" Dean demanded, still dragging things out. "Just pull your vanishing act, if you're so eager to go?"

"None of your damned business." It was starting to be too much, rage and hurt and sheer terror at leaving everyone alone and them being glad for it bubbling up. His eyes burned with tears, and wasn't that the definition of pathetic, a demon crying? He tried to look angry, but he was in the body of an extra-adorable seventeen year old dork. There was only so much he could do. "Who does a guy have to kill to get exorcised around here?"

The Winchesters shared a look, but it was Dean who said, "Christ, you've gone native."

And just like that, it was over. The Winchesters just turned and walked away. Stiles let his eyes turn back to brown as they left, waiting to make sure they were actually going and not tricking him into leaving the pack unguarded. He gave them until he heard the sounds of an engine starting, and tires on dead leaves fading away into the distance.

Before leaving, he turned to take a look at the pack where they were still huddled together. They were his family—the one he'd built for himself, the one he'd picked, just the same way he'd picked his parents—and their fear was so thick that he could choke on it.

Stiles managed a small smile, a twist of the lips that wasn't nearly enough to convey anything real. "Sorry, guys."

Then he slipped away, vanishing in the blink of an eye.

Hell isn't other people.

Hell is having no one at all.

Stiles couldn't leave his father.

It was dumb loyalty, but he couldn't. With two rogue hunters still poking around town, having Stiles nearby was asking for it. All it would take would be the Winchesters remembering that the only good demon was a dead demon and his father would be up to his neck in trouble. That was if the usual werewolf shenanigans didn't kill him first.

But the man had lost everything when his wife died. If Stiles just walked out, it would devastate him. There was no explaining, no reasoning with that sort of grief, and Stiles didn't want to meet his father down in hell because of a suicide.

So Stiles smiled and made dinner and went to school, where Scott avoided him and Allison was carrying a bag that looked suspiciously bow-shaped. When his father asked what was wrong, because the man never missed anything, Stiles said that he and Scott had a fight. It was technically true, after all. That landed him on the couch with a cup of cocoa and his dad's arm around his shoulder while some awful comedy blared from the TV.

His dad didn't say anything when Stiles knuckled tears away.

A week after the Winchester Incident, Stiles got home from grocery shopping to find a familiar shape lurking in the living room, yellow eyes catching the glare from the streetlamp outside.

Stiles rolled his eyes and shut the door with a foot. "Giving you a key wasn't blanket permission to be a creeper." Resolutely not looking at Scott, he hefted his bags and headed for the kitchen. Asshole werewolf former friends weren't worth letting the milk get warm. "Unless you've brushed up on your Latin or you have Lydia hiding in a closet somewhere, you can't hurt me."

Scott slouched after him, shoulders hunched and head low. "Your dad talked to my mom."

"Great for him."

"He said you've been moping. Wanted to talk her into talking to me."

The gallon of skim milk hit the counter loudly, mostly masking Stiles' snort. "It's an act, dumbass. Demons don't mope."

"You do." Scott hovered in the entryway to the kitchen, looking like he might turn tail and run at any second. "I've talked to Sam and Dean."

For just a second, shadows slipped over Stiles' vision before he blinked them away. "Only you would be dumb enough to go talk to a pair of guys who had you in their sights a few days ago," he sighed, rubbing his forehead. The headache was all in his—ha—head, but it still sucked. "What do you want, Scott?"

Big yellow puppy eyes could have stricken Lucifer himself with a desperate need for something fluffy to cuddle. "I want to talk to Stiles," Scott said after a minute. "They said he could still be in there somewhere."

Stiles laughed, just once, and kept putting away his purchases. He'd doubled up on the non-perishables, to minimize the need to go back to the store. For some reason, being around so many people hadn't been as fun as it used to be. "Then they said wrong. No one's in here but little old me."

"So he's dead." Scott actually whimpered.

It was the straw that broke the demon's back. "He never existed!" Twisting around, Stiles slammed a pickle jar against the counter so hard that it cracked, pickle juice leaking through to trickle on the floor. Scott stumbled back when black slithered over Stiles' eyes. "The baby was stillborn, okay? I've been in here for seventeen years, and at this rate I'll be in for another seventy because I can't even get myself fucking exorcised by the Winchesters, the guys who took down Lucifer. I can't discorporate, I can't die, and I can't leave because then my dad will do something stupid and it would be my fault." He took a long, shuddering breath to steel himself."I'm Stiles, and I always have been. So whatever you want to say, you have to say it to me."

Sometimes Scott amazed him. He straightened up, jaw tightening and eyes fading away from beta-yellow. "We miss you."

The pickle jar slipped from his grasp, shattering on the kitchen tile. Stiles flinched back from it instinctively, body overriding rider again.

Scott took the opening, leaping over the scattering glass and wrapping his arms around Stiles' shoulders. "I'm sorry," he whispered, clutching Stiles like he might pull a vanishing act again. "We miss you, I miss you—"


"Shut up!" Werewolf claws clenched in his shirt, scraping skin. "I don't care what you are, you're my friend and you're pack. That's all that matters."

Stiles buried his face in Scott's shoulder, surprised by the way he could suddenly breathe again. None of it was how a demon should act, but he didn't have much choice. Fuck the haters. "Yeah, a demon in the pack. I'm sure big Alpha Derek's going to love that."

Smug bastard that he was, Scott patted Stiles' shoulder. "You might be surprised."

Over the next week, the whole pack approached Stiles to ask stupid questions and extend the proverbial olive branch. Lydia sat beside him in Economics. Isaac gave him a shoulder punch and a, "I knew you weren't a bad guy, Stilinski." Jackson even sat with him at lunch, which no amount of pack bonding had ever made happen before, not even after Stiles had saved his ass from being a were-lizard for the rest of his life.

It continued for the whole week before things settled back to normal, leaving only Derek still on the outs. None of the others mentioned him, but they were clearly still seeing him daily. They didn't act like wolves without an alpha, at least, so Stiles wasn't responsible for breaking up the pack. That would have killed him more than anything else.

The pack was home, protection and love and family all wrapped up in one burrito that reeked of wet dog and somehow managed to fit eight people on a California King. Even a demon could appreciate that.

"He's never going to forgive me."

Allison leaned over to bump her shoulder to Stiles'. They were sprawled out on the school lawn, enjoying the sunshine while it lasted. She and Stiles were already tangled together from the knees down, with Scott using her lap as a pillow and Lydia playing with her hair from behind. Fully human though she was, Allison had adjusted to the pack's touchy-feely-ness with an ease that surprised everyone.

"Give him time. He still loves you."

Never had four words made a demon's stomach drop so fast.

True to Allison's prediction, the lack of communication didn't last forever. If there was one thing Derek couldn't do, it was leave loose threads alone. Stiles should have seen that coming. But just like he hadn't anticipated the Winchesters, he apparently also sucked at anticipating Derek.

On one of the first honestly chilly nights of the year he showed up in Stiles' window, the way he had sometimes when Stiles' father was working and the neighbors were still awake. Stiles took one look and then pointedly closed his laptop, turning around to face the lurker with his arms crossed.

They stared.

And stared.

And stared.

Derek still wasn't good with words. It might have been a staring contest, Alpha exerting his authority sort of thing, but there wasn't any challenge in his expression. He had on one of his form-fitting t-shirts and a pair of jeans that hugged every line of his long legs. Under other circumstances, Stiles would have had a very pointed double-take, but he didn't dare look away from Derek's eyes.

He hadn't realized how annoying Derek's long, pointed silences were until they were aimed at him. Usually he'd been able to talk until he got a reaction, even if that reaction was to tell him to shut up. But he wasn't going to break that time. He was going to be patient and make Derek move first.

Ten minutes, it turned out, was the length of Stiles' patience. "If you're going to play Big Bad Wolf, I need to get my red hoodie out. You're letting in a draft. I'm going to catch pneumonia at this rate."

Derek didn't blink, but he did reach behind him to shut the window. "I thought demons couldn't catch pneumonia."

"Sure we can. We just can't die from it. It still sucks being sick."

Whatever the trick was, it finally made Derek look away. Stiles should have felt like he'd scored a point, but instead he just felt tired.

"Look, just—just say what you came here for and go." Drawing himself up, Stiles put on his best Stoic Expression. It wasn't easy. The body emoted too well—actually keeping his face still took more effort than not. But there was no way he was going to let Derek see his reaction when he kicked him out of the pack. For added punch, he let his eyes go dark again. The less human, the better. He had pride. A little of it, tucked somewhere in his shoe, like a rock he couldn't quite get out, rubbing holes in his skin with every step.

Maybe that metaphor went a little far.

Derek still didn't look at him, instead finding the dirty laundry basket in the corner of the room fascinating. "You really are him," he said softly. "I thought for sure you'd been lying to Scott, but... You're Stiles."

"Maybe." Arms still crossed, Stiles leaned back, crossing his ankle over his knee. "Maybe I did lie to Scott. Maybe the real Stiles is in here screaming his head off, while I lead you all into a trap."

"You wouldn't." The absolute certainty in Derek's voice was actually kind of insulting.

"Hello, demon here! Fiend from Hell!" he snapped, flinging his arms wide to encompass all the evil he was theoretically capable of. "How would you know?"

"I spoke with the Winchesters."

"You spoke with... You idiot!" Rage colored the shadows across Stiles vision. He sat up so fast his foot stomped the floor, making the pictures on the walls shudder. "What the hell is it with werewolves and no self-preservation instinct? Do you want to be shot full of wolfsbane? Between you and Scott, I..." Stiles' rant trailed off. He could only see a little bit of the corner of Derek's mouth, but it was smiling. And his heartbeat had skipped. "You lying bastard."

Derek turned to meet his eyes, grin wide and shit-eating, the kind of grin that made Stiles' heart bounce like a school girl playing hopscotch. "That's how I know. If you were going to betray me, you wouldn't have gotten angry."

Not us, not the pack. Me. Stiles swallowed hard. "I could have been faking," he tried, voice hoarse. It was a bad shot from the beginning, so he wasn't surprised when Derek shook his head.

"No, you weren't." The sound of jeans scraping as Derek pushed up off the wall was enough to turn the lump in Stiles' throat to an army of poltergeists in his stomach. "I've got one question, though."

Leaning back in his chair, Stiles laced his fingers behind his head and put on the best display of nonchalance he could. His eyes went back to brown as he finally let himself eye Derek from head to toe. "Shoot."

"Can demons love?"

Air whooshed out of his traitor lungs. "You don't lowball, do you?"

Derek settled on his lap, straddling Stiles' thighs. It was low enough that there was no real pressure against Stiles' erection, which ought to have been against the law for a man with legs like Derek's. They'd never done that before, mostly because Derek was huge and Stiles wasn't. Someone must have told him that as long as it was a demon in the body, it didn't make a difference. "Answer the question, Stilinski."

"I don't know." Stiles licked his lips nervously, hands settling on Derek's thighs. They were like steel. Delicious, warm steel. "There's not exactly an owner's manual in here. Demons..." He grinned, tilting his head back to keep eye contact. "Demons are pretty damned possessive, though."

Hot breath washed over Stiles' skin as Derek chuckled, then brushed their lips together. "I think I can live with that."