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This Is My Kingdom Come

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It had been uncertain, when Genim Stilinski had been born, how long he’d live for.

The doctors and specialists had called it a defect of the vascular system in the brain. The blood vessels hadn’t developed and grown properly, causing there to be a lack of oxygen in areas that sorely needed it. And, at the time, there were no procedures that could help him. They’d told the mother that there was very little chance her son would make it past his first birthday. She’d told her husband that hope was slim, but that they wouldn’t give up.

She and her son were discharged from the hospital two after the birth. The doctors warned them they’d have to fight for him – his movements were slower than a usual newborn’s, development took longer, he slept more. Long after when a baby usually can begin to focus their eyesight, Genim was still seemingly blind. His mother extended her maternity leave, when his father returned to work, in order to care for him. She cried for him, prayed for him, and damn did she fight for him.

Genim Stilinski was just over the ten month marker when the young body couldn’t sustain the difficulties any longer, and his brain stopped working on a higher cognitive level.

The next morning – February 14th, 1997 – someone else woke up, opened their eyes, and focused on the world.

*

He couldn’t remember his name. Probably something pretentious and chic sounding, but not too long. No, something short and sweet and befitting the youngest brother of an old, upper-class and high-society family.

What he did remember was that his eldest brother had been a jackass, gambling drunk who’d thrown away their old, old heritage by the ripe old age of 17, putting the threat of debtor’s prison over the family’s head and putting him at a crossroad, making deals with the devil. Fortune was restored, and his soul was condemned in one simple conversation, with a promise of ten sweet years.

Two days later, his brother’s ‘swanky’ new hansom had cut him down as said elder brother returned from his belov’d whore house, and his soul had started its long turn on the spits of hell.

Ah, isn’t dark humor a be-a-utiful thing.

He remembered all that... vaguely. Anything substantial, any memories of thoughts and sensations had been burnt off his skin – or what passed for his skin, in the afterlife. The injustice of it, that stayed with him. They liked things like injustice in the pit.

He learned quickly, whoever he was, whatever he was, picking up tips to survival wherever and however he could. It’s best to nod. It’s best to be submissive. It’s best to show support for the biggest cheese there. It’s best to give up hope on going Up There again. And it’s best if you’re the one holding the sharp-edged objects.

Sometimes, he... regrets it? Feels a pang of guilt? Something like that. One of those types of things. Anyway... yes, he regrets being so quick to become the torturer rather than the tortured. Like he should have been stronger, but then he realizes – there’s nothing to be strong for. Killed by the brother whose reputation he’d saved, and left to have the skin burnt from his bones for eternity – what purpose is there, for being the better man?

Each time he has to pick up a knife, he reminds himself of that.

Two hundred years – and it doesn’t help, not once.

But that doesn’t mean he’s strong enough to stop.

And then, near the turn of the millennium there’s plotting and scheming like never before, a welcome mat being laid out for the cloven-hoofed one himself, and they’re calling for ranks and soldiers and spies.

He doesn’t care to fight, he lets it pass, tries to ignore it because it can’t mean anything good, and there’s still enough in him that remembers the charitable houses on the backstreets of London, the care of a community and he’s not ready, quite yet, to see it burn. He doesn’t, he tells himself, want to fight in this war. It can go over his head.

But then, one of them – one of the big men, with the yellow eyes and the grin that doesn’t stop, he calls for volunteers. Men to serve, to be on the side that’s winning. Men to lie in wait, in hiding, until the world is ripe for the plucking and plundering and pillaging.

He has a word for it, a word that makes it sound so easy – sleepers.

Sleepers, to wait for years, decades, Up There.

And this yellow-eyed one, Azazel, wants the newbies, the ones who remember humans and human interaction well enough to be able to blend in, to not be noticed or draw attention, who have enough human in them to be able to wait in hiding for their feast of blood.

And it sounds so simple, so peaceful, but most of all, it sounds like a second chance at humanity.

Decades – he can take the decades. He’s owed a decade, after all.

He signs up.

They’re released in the country and homes of the rich and famous, and the others steal the bodies of teenagers, of middle-aged men, of billionaires, of actors, of royalty, of anyone they can find – they’ve been given a free pass to treat themselves, drown themselves in expenses and luxury, and they take it.

But in the Colonies, the far, exotic, new side of the colonies, a state called California and a town called Beacon Hills, he finds something that... makes the human in him, the human that’s clung on all these centuries, feel a spark of strength again. Morality, that hasn’t reared its head for a long time, starts to whisper at him again.

It’s a fragile, dying body without a mind, and a mother curled up around it, with tears staining her cheeks.

Well, if it’s a second chance that I’m after – I might as well do it properly.

*

“Mom! Mom! He likes the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! He’s my best friend, Mom!” he yelled as he ran from school, tugging the best friend after him.

His mom beamed at him from where she was waiting by the car, and said, laughing, “That’s nice, Stiles, sweetie. What’s your best friend’s name?”

The question confused him for a second. Name? Had he asked? He had – his best friend had answered. He’d said – he’d said – he spun back to the boy behind him and asked, “Best friend, what’s your name?”

“Uh, Scott,” his best friend Scott replied, eyes wide and looking funny. It made Stiles laugh to see him so confused, like when Stiles had asked him why he had sat beneath that tree, because that tree had a bee’s nest in it (the bees hadn’t liked being fed honey, even though his dad had told him they liked honey. Stiles would have to tell his dad this, so he knew and didn’t get stung.)

“His name’s Scott!” he yelled to his mom, spinning back around. “And he’s coming to see the squirrels in our garden!”

His mom nodded a bit, before saying, “Scott, is it? Scott, is your mom Nurse McCall? Does she work at the hospital?”

“Um... yes?” best friend Scott said carefully, eyes still wide and bemused. Bee-mused. Stiles had liked that word, he’d learned it from his dad’s friend a few days earlier.

“Does she know you’re coming to play with Stiles tonight?”

“Yes?”

His mom grinned, and Stiles knew that meant she was happy, so he grinned back, jumping and pulling his best friend Scott towards the car. “Well, I guess I can’t stop you, then! But no climbing in the tree, okay, Stiles? Stiles, no climbing again!”

“Yes, Mom!”

But it was okay, he decided later, when Scott cut his knee falling from the first branch of the tree – he hadn’t listened to Stiles, Stiles had said that branch wasn’t strong enough to hold him – because Mom had said Scott’s mom was a nurse so she’d patch him up and make him okay.

When he fell out of the tree – another branch had broken and Scott had laughed at him, but in a nice way – he didn’t worry so much about his cut. He didn’t know why... he just knew he didn’t have to.

*

Stiles didn’t quite know what the envelope meant, but he knew it was important. It had been sitting on the side, untouched, waiting until Dad got back from work. Mom hadn’t even touched it. When he’d asked about it, she’d ruffled his hair and smiled, telling him it was nothing to worry about. “Just a formality, is all,” she’d promised, before letting him eat the brownie mix from the bowl, a mix he’d help to make. A big man now, she’d said he had to mix it all up for her. It had hurt his arm, but, curled up in a corner of the couch and steadily licking his way to the center of the bowl (work your way inwards, he’d figured out, and you don’t get mix all over your face), the pain had been worth it.

The door clicked open and shut, and in a flash Stiles had set down the bowl, jumped off the sofa and ran out into the hall. His dad was hanging his jacket on the coat hooks and kicking off his shoes (in the same way Mom kept telling Stiles off for doing, but she never told off Dad), and he laughed when Stiles went dashing up to him. “Hey buddy, where’s the fire?” he asked, grinning down at him.

“Can we open the envelope? Mom’s not letting me and I know it’s about me, and the brownies were good but I swear, the envelope was watching me and I know it doesn’t have eyes, but it was—

“Envelope?” his dad had echoed, laughter turning into a frown. There were footsteps, and Stiles spun around at the same his dad looked up, to see his mom enter the hallway from the kitchen, carrying the envelope itself.

“Just the confirmation,” she said, and his dad sighed, stepping around Stiles to take it from her. He opened it without any trouble, as if he was opening a normal envelope, but Stiles couldn’t breathe. He wanted to know.

And his parents were looking at it, and muttering, and reading it, but not saying anything loud enough for him to hear. He knew it would be rude if he went over to them and listened in – not that that stopped him at school, but he wouldn’t do that to his mom and dad – so instead, he stayed where he was and asked, “What is it?” He didn’t want to sound nervous, as he was a big man who cooked brownies now, but he still did, somehow.

They both looked at him, then at each other, and then his dad said, finally, “You remember those tests you did a while back? With the shapes and stuff, in the white office?” Stiles nodded – it had been fun, “Well, that test showed that your brain works slightly differently from other people. It’s faster.”

“I’m clever. I know that,” he said, and his mom laughed. That made him grin.

“It’s, uh, it’s a bit different than that,” his dad said, smiling too. “It’s called ADHD. It means you can’t focus as easily, either. You know how you talk a lot and daydream and can’t do one thing for too long? It’s all that.”

He had to think about it for a second. It was a lot of stuff to think about. He didn’t know what to ask first. “What’s ADHD mean?” he asked eventually.

“Attention deficit hyperactive disorder,” his mom told him.

He only knew what two of those words meant. “Disorder? Isn’t – isn’t that a bad thing?”

“No, sweetie,” his mom had said without a pause, stepping forwards and pulling him into a hug. He wrapped his arms around her waist and held on. “No, not at all, it’s a way of describing you. It’s just who you are. It’s not bad at all.”

But there was more to it than that, an uneasiness that was twisting his stomach and making it hurt. “I’m sorry I’ve got a disorder,” he said, the words muffled by the jumper Mom was wearing. “I’m sorry I’m not the son you want.”

All of a sudden, he was being pushed away from his mom, being held in place by her hands on his shoulders as she crouched down until she was the same height as him. “Stiles,” she said, face serious and unsmiling. “Listen to me. We love you, for everything you are, intelligent, clever, messy, clumsy, disordered and all. You understand that, okay? Get that into your little brain, and let it stick there.”

A hand ruffled his hair, and he knew it was Dad. “You’re a nutjob, kiddo, but you’re our nutjob,” he said, with that slight lift in his voice that made Stiles know he was happy.

He kept looking at his mom, not blinking, because he knew that meant things were serious. And he nodded. She smiled and hugged him, and then his dad was hugging them too, and everything felt happy again.

“Mom?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“D’you think the brownies will be ready yet?”

*

Integrated Studies was the most boring subject they’d been made to take after joining middle school. That the current subject was ‘religion and beliefs’ did nothing to make it more fascinating. Three weeks and four lessons in, Stiles was already planning ways to permanently get himself out of the lesson. Religious sensitivity? Against his moralities? Chronic allergy to Mrs. Madderson?

Behind him, he could already hear Scott snoring quietly. Fury settling onto his face and making him chew the inside of his cheeks, he ripped a sheet out of his book as quietly as he could, and scribbled onto it, WAKE UP POO-FACE, IF I’M SUFFERING THROUGH THIS SO ARE YOU, before scrunching it up, and peering over his shoulder long enough to aim and throw the paper wad straight into Scott’s slightly open mouth.

The sound of his friend choking made him grin.

“McCall! Anything the problem?”

“Uhh... uh – um, no, nothing, nothing, Miss!”

He shoved his fist against his mouth to stop himself laughing. The kick Scott sent to his chair leg only made it harder to stop.

“Good! Then you can hand out the new textbooks for me!”

He physically had to swallow the laughter now. Scott punched him as he walked past, and made sure he got the really nasty book, but he thought it was worth it.

“Turn to page 4, children and start to read in silence the first few paragraphs on the Christian view of where our souls go when we die...”

She kept talking, but Stiles wasn’t listening. Because after turning to the page, he felt a darkness cover his eyes, turning them black from corner to corner, as he saw the elaborated illustrations of his kindred souls. The sensation was new, but not entirely terrifying.

On page 5 was a drawing of hell, of horned devils and demons.

Age 10, Stiles saw it, and thought that’s what I am, as if he’d known it all along.

*

It was days like this when he wished he’d never left hell. There weren’t many of those moments – hadn’t been many of those moments – but there would be, after – now she – now she was gone –

There were uncles and distant relatives and friends of the family looking for him, but he was good at hiding in shadows. He’d never really needed to, before, but as one black-clad stranger after another searched through the room to offer meaningless words in place of her, he was grateful he’d taken the time to practice, if only to help with sneaking out of the house to go off with Scott.

Scott was here somewhere, with his mom.

Stiles gasped, struggling to get air inside his lungs. The world was clouded with tears, and as he strove to breathe he wiped the water away with the base of his palm, shaking as he tried to stop himself falling apart.

He’d be dying from the pain, he thought, if he wasn’t dead already.

Another man in a suit, and a weeping fat woman clenching a black scarf in her hand, were scanning the room. Desperate not to be seen, desperate not to have to speak to anyone, to have to pretend, he stopped breathing, sinking back against the crease between the floor and the wall, hands covering his mouth. He could feel the darkness covering his eyes, as the shadows hid him from their sad, dry, human eyes. When they moved on, to the next room, to the free bar most likely, he let himself breathe out, his hands shaking as they fell back into his lap.

Why was he even here? He’d gone to the funeral, he’d paid his respects, he’d let her go and sat there as they lowered the coffin, what more did he need to do? It wasn’t like any of it was actually going to help! All it did, any of it, the picking of the coffin and the date and the poems to be read out, the buying of the black suit, of having his dad help with his tie, being driven to the cemetery in his dad’s cruiser rather than the family car she’d always driven, it just made everything worse, knowing she wasn’t here anymore! What was the point of all this?!

The show, the spectacle, the selfish spectators needing to see the family being strong so they could continue with their lives.

Well fuck them. What did it matter about them? He was the one suffering here; he was the one who had to spend each day without her! Why did they have to do anything for them, why couldn’t they all just leave him alone?! She’d been his mother... couldn’t there just be silence, so he could try and remember every single memory he’d ever be able to have with her, and just lose himself in them...

But the first memory that came to mind was how she’d looked as she bled out, trapped by the roof of the car.

She hadn’t said anything, the paramedics had told him, not about her wounds. As soon as they’d arrived, she’d yelled at them to help him, to get him out of the car and into the ambulance. I’m fine, she’d told them, my son, my son, him first, then me.

So the paramedics had wasted time saving the boy who couldn’t die, as she’d died without a word.

He should have stayed in hell. She wouldn’t even have been in the car if he hadn’t left hell.

But it was too late now. He didn’t have a soul to trade for hers, anymore.

At least – at least, he knew, she would be in heaven. Dad would get to see her again.

He wouldn’t.

He wouldn’t – he couldn’t – he’d never –

He couldn’t silence himself this time, couldn’t stop the sob that tore itself from his chest, and the tears came too fast for him to catch them. With a sound akin to a scream, he clenched at his sides, curling in on himself, and stopped trying to fight it. He could feel the stitches in his cuts tear, the skin pulling and arteries breaking open, blood seeping into the pristine white material of his shirt, but he didn’t care, ignored it all, as a stronger pain ripped him apart.

“Hey... there you are...”

A hand slid onto his shoulder, firm and comforting, and his dad slid down to crouch beside him. Stiles tried to turn to him to see him, his face, needing to see him and not feel so lost, but he couldn’t see anything through the tears filling his eyes, just a blur. But he could feel him, his hand, his warmth, and that was enough to make him let go of the last ounce of strength he’d desperately been clinging to.

He fell onto his dad, crying loudly, hands grabbing at the suit jacket he was wearing, pressing his face and eyes into the fabric. Arms held him there, rocking him slowly as his dad shushed him gently. “Come on,” he said eventually, voice familiar and quiet as he whispered into Stiles’ ear, “I think it’s time to go, don’t you?”

Stiles nodded against his chest, his grip tightening in silent thanks, as he was still sobbing too hard to speak.

“Okay. Hold on tight, kiddo.”

His dad slipped an arm under Stiles’ legs, and when he rose to his feet he brought Stiles with him, holding him against his chest like he’d used to, when Stiles would graze his knee or hurt his ankle after falling.

He’s not little anymore, he’s twelve, and isn’t meant to need help when he falls over.

He didn’t care. He buried his face against his dad and ignored everyone who’s probably watching as the widower carries his son from the wake.

His dad carried him to the car, and had to ask him if he could stand. Stiles swallowed and nodded, and let himself be set down, waiting patiently as his dad unlocked the car and opened the door for him.

On the journey back home, Stiles didn’t cry. He’d run out of tears.

His dad did.

And when they got home, Stiles wished he could carry him into the house. He couldn’t, but he did what he could. He held his dad’s hand, led him into the living room, turned the TV on to a game, and then curled up beside him on the couch.

*

“You’re what?!”

“It’s not for sure!” Scott said hurriedly, the volume of his voice shifting constantly as he, presumably, moved the phone closer and further from his face.

“So, just—” Stiles began, before pausing and rubbing his face with his free hand. “Just – what did the principal say, exactly, again? And remember this whole conversation we had, about using phones, y’know, how you’ve got to hold them next to your mouth—”

“Yeah, yeah. And, apparently, he told Mom that... uh, something like how the grades I was getting in my subjects made it seem like it would be good for me to be held back a year.”

“No!” Stiles yelled, pulling a face and waving a hand, even though he knew Scott couldn’t see him. Unlike some, he did know how phones worked. “No, dude, not acceptable! So definitely not acceptable! You are not making me go to high school alone, I would die. Die. You know, become dead.”

“Well it doesn’t look like I have much choice!”

Scott had been his best friend for years. Near a decade. So much so that Stiles didn’t even know how to make new friends anymore, how to be normal long enough for someone to start to like him enough to put up with his madness – and that’s not even talking about any well-hidden black-eyed madness, just... him madness.

It was almost the same for Scott, he knew. The kid was just too... hey, who even knew what Scott was. But, even though he’d been coming to terms with his low IQ since he’d figured out what ‘stupid’ meant, Stiles knew his friend’s pride would still be stinging from the very idea of being held back.

So. That was it, then.

“Yes, you do,” Stiles said, sitting upright in his chair and thinking, hard. “So, what, you’ve still got... what, six exams left?”

“Yeah, but I’d have to ace them—”

“Then that’s what you’ll do. You got your textbooks with you?”

“All but chemistry – why, what—”

“That’s fine, I’ve got that, I can bring mine. You’ve got pens, notepads, I’ll bring markers and more paper, we’re gonna need lots of paper—”

“Stiles – Stiles what are you talking about?”

Stiles pushed himself off his chair, grabbing his hoodie with one hand and striding towards the door. “Me? I’m gonna tutor you so hard you’d wished you’d never popped out of your mom.”

“One: Stiles, that is so gross. Two, Stiles – please god no I’ll be fine—”

“See you in ten, Scott!” Stiles yelled, before turning off the phone and cutting Scott’s desperate protests short. Chuckling, he chucked the phone onto the bed and pulled the door shut behind him.

A second later, he flung the door open again, dashing over his desk to grab his keys, the markers and paper pad he’d mentioned, and the phone that he’d originally gotten from downstairs, before running back out again.

*

The Sheriff said a vacant 'hi' to his deputy on desk duty as he entered the office. He tried not to yawn whilst praying to whatever God might be listening that the coffee machine was actually working this morning. Alone in the house that morning, he'd overslept without Stiles' tripping down the stairs to wake him up.

"Morning, Sheriff," his deputy said, handing him a wad of papers and notices that had probably built up overnight. He groaned, and almost immediately groaned harder when his deputy grinned. "That's nothing," she said, "We've got a pair of delinquents in the cells that you might want to go check out first. If they've woken up yet."

A horrible feeling settling in, he dropped the notes back on the desk and immediately stepped around the desk to head towards the cells. The moment he was in the door, he stopped still and swore. "Fuck. Why am I even still surprised?"

Stiles scampered off the bed, kicking Scott where he lay asleep on the floor and making him jerk awake, snorting and mumbling. "Oh, uh, hey, Dad! Mind, uh, bailing us out?"

Wordlessly, the sheriff turned around and walked out.

"Oh, okay... see you later, then! Heh... See, I told you we should have called your Mom..."

*

So, Scott got bitten by a werewolf. That happened.

And he’d come into school the next morning, with wafts of wet dog pouring off him like damn waves of demon repellent, and it was all Stiles could do not to shiver and just let off a stream of swear words and nice, fun rant about how someone, either up there or down below was out to get him because seriously? He had to share classes with this thing? He had to hang out with this smell? And yes, yes he did, because Scott, poor, sweet, oblivious Scott would sooner die without him, and he was still Stiles’ best friend, even if he now... was slightly... odour-ly challenged.  

After the initial horror, shock, and humor of realizing that Scott had lost his humanity, to a dog, a slight hint of fear had started to settle in. If he, Stiles, could see it – ha, see it? He could barely ignore it – on Scott, then could Scott see – him?

But no fear. Scott had ambled straight up to him, saying he’d been bitten by a wolf.

There aren’t even any wolves in California, Scott, god, bless you, how do you still exist? Seriously, it’s ridiculous...

So apparently, ‘good’ luck was something that still existed.

By being very, very careful to only inhale through his mouth, Stiles managed to make it through the corridor beside his best friend and the aura of dog that now surrounded him. As he passed Lydia Martin’s locker, he stuck his nose out and sniffed frantically, desperately trying to get her perfume stuck in his nose, because he felt like he had fur stuck up there. Wet fur.

Scott was looking at him weirdly when Stiles spun back around. “What?” With no immediate forthcoming answer, save for a snort of humor, Stiles continued, “Wow, you’re actually judging me for that. You haven’t gotten used to this, yet? Me, stalker. Her, crush. It’s a careful balance, I’ve got street cred to maintain, an image—”

Scott was smiling. Keep smiling, dude. You’re the source of my unending agony right now. Sure.  Enjoy the moment.

Finally entering the classroom and taking their seats, Stiles couldn’t help but smile with pride when he managed to sit still, and not nudge his chair as far away from Scott as possible. Hey, perhaps he was actually getting used to the smell! Great! Okay, so, thinking practically here, before Scott either a) impaled himself on his own claws, or b) impaled someone else on his claws – preferably not Stiles, though Mr. Harris wouldn’t be too bad an option... He’d have to find enough evidence of werewolfliness to convince Scott before the next full moon which was ... far, far too soon... ‘cause if he stated they were real without evidence, Scott would think he was nuts... nuts-er. More nuts? Whichever.

“Pst! Hey, Stiles!”

Stiles jerked his head up, brain snapping out of the torrent of game plans it was currently drawing up. “You still say ‘pst’?” he asked, “You realize we’re not actually in a gangster movie, right?”

Scott frowned, then shook his head. “Nevermind. Are you wearing aftershave, or Axe or something?”

“...What?”

“You kinda smell of rotten eggs slightly.”

Stiles stared at him, jaw falling open.

Blinking, and backtracking rapidly, Scott hurried to say, “But, but in a nice way?”

Stiles didn’t deign that with a reply.

Sulphur and brimstone. Of course.

Fucking werewolves.

*

Ex-zork – uh, eks-orsizamus tee – ah for fuck’s sake!” Stiles yelled, hands slamming onto the side of the computer. “How the fuck do you—”

“Soft ‘c’, and a short ‘e’ in te.”

With a screech that hurt even his ears (and he’d long given up denying the pathetic sounds he made), Stiles spun the chair around as quickly as possible, flailing and reaching for something that could be considered blunt and heavy enough to be lethal. Unfortunately, nothing presented itself, and Stiles ended up having his own highly fragile, bared, kung-fu shaped hands as his only defense against Beacon Hill’s official stalker, Derek Hale. “Dude, stop with the home invasion! My dad is the sheriff! He has guns! You’re a fucking fugitive!  Scott’s fault, by the way, totally not mine. And I swear if you do that unannounced ‘interrupting my private conversation’ thing one more time, you’re going to give me a heart-attack! Also – how the fuck do you know where I live?!

Derek didn’t say anything, but remained leaning against the wall, arms crossed, eyes narrowed as he tried to read the computer screen over Stiles’ shoulder. “You’re aware exorcisms don’t work on werewolves, right? We’re shapeshifters, not demons.”

He sounded amused, the bastard. “I’m aware,” Stiles replied, trying (and failing quite impressively) not to sound too haughty. “It’s – I’m practicing my Latin.”

Derek’s narrowed eyes turned from the screen to Stiles. “Beacon Hills offers Latin to sophomores?”

“I – it’s – it’s a hobby!” Stiles protested indignantly. Why the hell am I defending this… just change the topic! Quick!

“You’re aware Latin isn’t spoken anymore—”

“Okay, Big Bad Wolf, you’ve made your point, I’m a weird person – now, is there a reason you’re here?” Stiles cut in, swiftly minimizing the page he’d been on and spinning the chair back around. “Unless it’s just to practice your brooding skills, which, let me tell you, not needed—”

“Last night,” Derek said, speaking loudly over Stiles, forcing him to shut up.

Stiles blinked, fear and confusion shooting through him. “Um, last night?” he asked, and, wow, that was an impressive number of octaves for his voice to rise. “What happened last night? I didn’t even see you last night—”

“The full moon, idiot!” Derek was yelling now, standing free of the wall and actually stepping towards Stiles. Stiles swallowed. “If you and Scott insist on dealing with the full moon alone, could you, do you think, at least manage to deal with it competently? If I hadn’t been watching, Jackson would be your friend’s chew-toy by now.”

Now this was all entirely unfair. “Hey, hey, we – well, I, at least, because I can’t speak for Scott – thought you were dead. That – alpha… thing… it gutted you in front of me! Not pleasant! Nice to see you’re alive, by the way, and not… wolf jam, but we thought we had to deal with the full moon alone. Okay? And I’d cuffed him to the fucking radiator! How was I to know he’d bust out?!”

“Cuffs?” Derek echoed, eyebrows raised in disbelief. “Stiles, we had spiked chains for the youngsters! Cuffs wouldn’t begin to be enough!”

“And you don’t think, if I bought spiked chains, my dad might hear of it? Everyone knows who I am, Derek, I’m the sheriff’s kid, handcuffs I can get away with, hard-core bondage? Not so much!”

Oh god I just called it bondage, no hush he probably won’t have realized

An eyebrow fell, leaving just the one up, questioning Stiles’ choice of words.

Oh, well… worse things happen at sea. He still blushed. Traitorous body…

“Next time,” Derek said, each word carefully enunciated and accompanied by a stab of Derek’s finger. “Find chains, without spikes if you must, and lock him down hard. Even better? Find. Me.”

Stiles didn’t say anything. Couldn’t. Because, although it was starting to occur to him that Derek’s help might not be so much of a bad thing, he knew it wasn’t his decision – it was Scott’s, god help them all.

“You might be good at research, Stiles,” Derek continued, taking the silence to mean that he needed to convince him, “but I’ve got experience. And I’m offering to help.”

“Yeah, okay, I’ll pass on the message,” Stiles said, nodding. He met Derek’s eyes, and when the werewolf nodded back, he knew the message was received, that Derek understood what he meant, exactly. Moment over, Stiles let normal service resume. “Now are you gonna stand around my room, looking broody all day, or…? ‘Cause, y’know, I’m busy; things to do, hobbies,” he said, waving a hand back over his shoulder at the computer.

Derek growled, and Stiles shrunk into his chair, spinning it back around to the screen and clicking the webpage with the exorcisms back open. Ignoring Derek as much as he was capable of, he reconsidered the Latin.  

Soft ‘c’, short ‘e’ … As Derek swung himself out of the window, and onto the roof, Stiles muttered, “Exorcizamus te—

His throat closed up, lungs stopped moving, heart stuttered, and every single nerve in his body felt like it was being pulled and twisted out of his skin. The world turned pitch black momentarily, as the darkness was dragged across his eyes, harder than he’d ever felt it before. Choking to a stop, Stiles pressed a hand to his throat, gasping, trying desperately to breathe through the holy force pressing down on him. The words juddered to a stop, and slowly, he was able to relax again.

Yeah. That worked. That exorcism was the real deal.

He’d woken up in a sweat, two nights previous, with the victorious screaming of demons echoing through his head. He didn’t know if it was a call to arms, if it was defeat, if it was the end of it – but he knew something had changed. His place here wasn’t stable, not anymore.

But he wasn’t going to fight. He knew that. He couldn’t do anything that would harm a single member of mankind, any more that he could walk downstairs right then, and shove a kitchen knife into his father’s heart. If a demon came to fetch him, he was going to make sure that they went down with him. He couldn’t risk leaving it in Beacon Hills. No way.

And now? Now, he was armed.

There was knocking on his door. “Stiles?” he heard his dad ask, swiftly followed by the creaking of his bedroom door’s hinges.

Hands flailing and brain spacing out, he slammed at the mouse until the window closed, before forcing a smile onto his face and turning to face his dad, just relaxing on the chair, casually, relaxed, s’all cool.

His dad stopped before he’d even started to talk, mouth open, eyes moving from Stiles’ ridiculously fake ‘chilling’ position, to the blank monitor screen, and then to the heavens.

And Stiles realized exactly what it now looked like. “Oh – uh – I wasn’t watching porn,” he said, shrugging nonchalantly. Then it occurred to him that would be exactly what he’d say, if he had been.

“Uh-huh,” his dad said, clearly not believing a word that came out of his mouth, and utterly avoiding his eyes as he made his swift exit. “Just came to ask about dinner, but – never mind.”

“No – I wasn’t watching porn!” Stiles yelled after him, half rising from his chair in his desperation to get the message across – but the door had already shut. Undeterred, Stiles spun the chair around again, still muttering, “I wasn’t watching—”

A sound, horribly akin to a low chuckle, reached his ears, and a shadow moved across his window that looked horribly like a werewolf jumping from his roof down into the back garden.

“I wasn’t… fuck.”

*

By the time he’d hit his 17th birthday, he’d sorted his life out.

It came down to this:

His name was Stiles Stilinski. He was the son of the Sheriff and his wife, deceased, and his best friend was Scott McCall, an ex-asthmatic werewolf with a nurse mother and an absent father. He was the cleverest in his class, after the strawberry blonde he had a crush on, and he had been diagnosed with ADHD at the age of seven. On full moons, he ran around and cooked for the local pack of werewolves. And he was a demon changeling.

And yeah, there were some other complications and twists and plot twists (and certain people who apparently didn’t know how to use a front door) but that was, essentially, it. Weird life – damned weird – but he enjoyed it. Some of the most. Bordering on most of the time.

And he’d been enjoying it for the last fifteen minutes, driving with Chiddy Bang playing loudly and an open bag of hot curly fries open on the passenger seat, but then some nice creepy people in huge Land Rovers with tinted windows (and really, now, where’s the need to black out windows on a Land Rover?) had just decided to crash the party, and remind him that there’s a proverbial axe, and very real gun, by his head.

Not that it’d do much. But it’s the principle of the thing, and he likes his body without bullet holes, thankyouverymuch. Besides, the very same axe was over the heads of his friends, and, werewolf healing powers or not, he knew they wouldn’t be quite so unharmed if the hunters decided they meant business. 

And Stiles wasn’t sure if that made him scared, or furious.

For a second or two, he entertained the idea of driving straight into the barrier the Argents had created using their cars, but something told him his poor jeep might come off the worst. With an internal sigh, he swallowed his mouthful of fries and pulled his car to a stop. Handbrake, out of gear, and lock the car doors.

Stiles breathed out, forced his shoulders to relax, and settled in for what was probably going to be a really quite unnerving and possibly quite awkward conversation.

It wasn’t long before Chris Argent emerged from the shadows, crossbow firmly tucked under one arm and a strongman on each elbow. Stiles gave him a cheery wave, grinning with his lips pressed closed as he tried so hard to keep his eyes the plain, human brown, rather than the blackness that was threatening to cover them. If there was anyone he needed to hide his not-so-humanness from, it was the Argents.

He kept his gaze fixed on Chris Argent as he made his way around the car, right to Stiles’ side, and tapped on the window with the point of the arrow still loaded in his crossbow. He was smiling. Stiles hated it when the psychopaths smiled. He’d seen the movies. He knew what it meant.

But then, he was a demon, and he hadn’t yet barfed up pea soup. So that was something.

Still feeling like it was one heck of a bad idea, he started to wind down the window. “Hey, Mr. Argent!” he called, waving again, eyes hurting and jaw clenched from the strain of staying determinedly normal, smiling like this was entirely expected, being roadblocked by your best friend’s girlfriend’s dad and wannabe murderer of your... acquaintance, and best friend’s alpha. “Henchman one, henchman two,” he continued, nodding to the two strongmen. If this was the movie he was slowly story-boarding in his head, they’d be the first redshirts he’d have disemboweled...

Ick.

Let’s try to avoid the horror movie ending to this meeting...

“Stiles. Nice to see you.”

“Pleasure. As always. Always nice... meeting you in a darkened forest... blocking... the road... So, doing anything fun this weekend? It’s gonna be good weather for a picnic, I’ve heard.”

The smiles widened. Stiles tensed, eyes fixing back on the arrow point and preparing to come up with an excuse as to why he’d still managed to drive backwards really fast with an arrow in his shoulder. Or neck. Or forehead... “Very funny, Stiles,” Chris Argent chuckled, causing Stiles to freak that little bit more. “Shouldn’t you be heading home? Like you said, it’s getting dark.”

“Uh, yeah, I’m trying to,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes and gesturing towards the cars blocking the road. As his gaze turned skywards, he lost control for a second, and blackness flashed between his eyelids. By the time he looked back down to the hunters, though, he had it back under control, all the more so after the small burst of relief from the pent up rage and fear. “But, in case it had slipped your attention, there’s something kind of in my way?”

Chris Argent turned to look over his shoulder, eyebrows rising as if he’d only just seen how his car and two others were right across the road. “Perhaps,” he said, turning back with a still scarily impassive and slightly smiling face, “it might be more prudent to take another road back. You said it yourself, dark woods aren’t the safest place to be, especially alone and in...” he paused, scanning the blue jeep, before continuing, “such an old car.”

Oh hell no, he did NOT just insult my jeep. “First off, my car is fine, thank you very much,” Stiles had to point out, priorities be fucked, “Second, I never said that, just heavily implied it, and third – congratulations, that was a full three and half minutes before you tried to threaten me away from my friends. Must be a new record. I’m sure you’re so proud. But believe it or not, I do actually know how dangerous Hale and Co. is, going to school and hanging out with them for over a year kinda gives you a bit of an insight. So, as much as your thinly veiled threats are much appreciated, haha not, I would really appreciate it if you would move your illegally parked vehicles so I can get out of your slowly graying hair.”

It was a genuine pleasure to see Chris Argent grind his teeth in response to something Stiles had said. “Kid—”

“You can stop waving that crossbow about, it’s really not going to do anything,” Stiles cut in, now starting to feel bored. Seriously, how often was he going to be put through this circus... once you got passed the pointy objects and the threatening psycho smiles, it was all the same. I’ve met worse men than you in the Pit, Stiles wanted to tell him, you’re a small fry trying to puff up your chest, and it’s really not working.

For a good long minute, Chris Argent met his gaze, holding it steadily. Stiles met it evenly, still trying to fight the urge to show Chris Argent a touch of black. Just a flash. Eventually, he shrugged, and Stiles let his breath out between his teeth. “Okay, kid. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

Your warnings don’t count for shit. Stiles didn’t acknowledge the favor, turning away from the Argents to start his car back up again, easing her into first gear as the center car moved off the road, leaving him a decent gap to get by. But he couldn’t just go, leaving an Argent with the last word. “Soon, Chris, you’re going to take all this too far,” he muttered, releasing the handbrake, and refusing to look at where the human hunters were probably laughing at him, at the jumped-up, over confident teenager, “I promise you, when you do, all the arrows and all the muscle cars in the world won’t be able to do a thing to help you.”

He heard someone laugh, deep and guttural. He pressed down on the accelerator, leaving before he did something he’d regret.

*

“Yo, homies!”

Five sets of glowing eyes turned to look at him. Scott half waved, before looking down at the map spread out on the floor between them all. Erica winked, Isaac grinned, and Boyd smirked. All pretty standard.

Derek stared at him impassively, blinked twice, then, too, looked back down at the map that was, apparently, more important than the arrival of Stiles Stilinski, the brains behind everything this sorry pack did. “You’re late,” the Alpha muttered out.

“Yeaaah, well, traffic. Whatcha gonna do?” Stiles sighed, walking around the gaggle of teenagers to the one empty space of floor left, between Scott and Big Boss Alpha himself. It wasn’t technically a lie, and when he wasn’t called out on it, he assumed he’d gotten away with it. “So, what’s the mystery today, gang?” he asked, shimmying into place, squeezing onto the floor between Scott’s knobby knees and elbows and the huge yard of personal space and death glares that perpetually surrounded Derek.

“Isaac thinks the Argents are back on the move again,” Derek muttered, eyes flickering over the map, darting between the pins shoved into place. “I know they’ve always got an eye here – that’s old news – but he thinks he saw one of their team in a car, here—

“I don’t think, I know,” Isaac protested, glaring, hands pressed down onto the floor and eyes gleaming, ever so slightly. “He had that stench about him – silver and gunpowder and monkshood. And he was sitting there, on the side of the street, for a solid half an hour.”

“Did he see you?” Erica asked.

Isaac shook his head. “I was in the grocery store.”

“You hid in the groceries, you mean?” Erica corrected, smirking.

“Okay, okay, kids, everyone – just simmer down, everyone knows family fight night is Thursday.” Stiles had to half yell to get himself heard over the growling. “Okay, assuming Isaac was right—”

“I am right—”

“I never said you weren’t! Okay, so he is right – better? Okay? Good – which means...” he wafted his hands at Derek, motioning him to finish the sentence.

“Trouble.”

Stiles waited for him to elaborate, but he didn’t. He just sat there, staring down at the map, brooding, and being all-round unhelpful. “...Okay,” Stiles said eventually, giving in, “so, what do we – hold up, where’s Jackson?” He knew it had been too quiet. The latest addition to the pack, the recently de-scaled kanima-turned-fluffy-werewolf, was missing from the group circle.

“Lydia,” the rest of the pack chorused.

Biting back a curse, Stiles rolled his eyes. “Aw, seriously? Is he ever gonna bother showing his perfectly quaffed furry self to our little soirées?”

“I’m working on it,” Derek muttered.

“No! No,” Stiles yelled, waving a finger at him, only to pull it back and shove it safely under an armpit when Derek glared it. “No, you’re not going to ‘work’ on it.”

“Why not?” Derek asked, turning his head his head to look at Stiles with far too much sass and a perfected bitchface. Stiles felt some pride at that, knowing he’d been the cause of all the practice for it.

“Because you’ll kill him! Almost to death!”

“How do you even – ugh, either way, I’m the alpha here, Stiles. Not you.”

Erica was giggling again, and Stiles could feel Scott’s grin like an itch on the back of his neck. Mommy and Daddy are fighting again, Isaac had told Erica the other day, when Stiles had started to berate Derek for making them sit on splintered and ashy floor. But he was going to be the bigger man, ignore the names, and be the one who actually bothered about his health, thank you very much. And the psychological torture Derek was no doubt trying to inflict on Jackson. “Yes, but I’m also the Sheriff’s son, and trust me when I say that your methods of ‘working on’ something is child abuse. Just – send him a threatening text, or something, or – wait, wait, can we buy him a collar? Like, with ‘property of the Hale pack, if found, return to the burnt house on the hill’ written on it? And a bell? Can we get him a bell?”

He was still talking, but no one else was listening. Usually, this wasn’t a discouragement, but something in the way they’d all frozen, and were staring in the same direction told him their lack of attention was due to something more than lack of care about his persistent babbling.

“What?” he asked, nervousness starting to settle in. “What’re you looking at?”

When he didn’t get a reply, nothing but a flicker of Derek’s eyes across to his, and a shushing motion with his hands, Stiles closed his eyes and used his... other senses.

Out the front of the house, in the trees... something bright, things bright – souls, human, five – no, six, six humans... spreading out.

Ah, shit this can’t be good.

His eyes flashed open, darting between the five werewolves around him, hoping one of them would actually bother to tell the human (okay, almost human) something a bit more, something, preferably reassuring. “Um,” he whispered, eyes moving between Scott and Derek, “what’s—”

A flash of fear shot across Derek’s face, before his features twisted into those of the wolf side of him. He half rose, eyes wide, and yelled, “Get down!”

Not needing to be told twice, Stiles threw himself to the floor, hands reaching behind his neck, curling in as tight as he could – just in time to avoid the rain of bullets that went flying over his head, slamming through the old walls, sending splinters flying.

Something fell on him, and for a second he thought the house was collapsing around them, trapping them, suffocating and crushing them and he opened his mouth to yell to the others, to check they were okay – but then he felt the warmth, the hands holding his shoulders down, the hot breath by his ear, and the familiar canine scent. “Scott?”

Keep – down,” came the growled reply. Not Scott. Derek.

Indignant, and his pride starting to puff out its chest, Stiles tilted his head up and hissed back, “I’m not stupid, you don’t actually have to hold me down—”

Derek growled, head falling and pressing against his hands where they were pushing against Stiles’ back as a bullet shot past only inches away from his ear.

“You’re only making yourself a higher target!” Stiles continued to hiss, but he didn’t try to push Derek off. He knew it would be stupid.

“And you’re only human!” Derek hissed back.

...Awkward.

And – no, hold up—Derek wasn’t holding him down. He was shielding him. Derek I-will-rip-your-throat-out-with-my-teeth was protecting him. Him. Stiles. The hyperactive liability to his superhuman pack.

When he really didn’t have to.

But Stiles couldn’t tell him that. So he waited, the sound of the bullets becoming monotonous, consistent, fear only spiking when one came too close to hitting skin. “We can’t stay here, we’ve got to get them out,” Stiles muttered, hoping Derek would hear him over the splintering and gunshots.

There was a pause, and he opened his mouth to repeat the comment louder, before Derek eventually nodded. He reached across Stiles to shove Scott. “Get Stiles out of here,” he yelled to him, finally getting off Stiles and pushing him towards Scott. “Isaac, find Jackson – I don’t care who he’s with or what he’s doing, stay with him, make sure he’s safe. Erica, Boyd – run.”

“And you?” Scott asked.

Stiles could have answered for him. Situations like this, Derek seemed to think he only had one option. “I’m going to get you some time,” he said.

Without a pause, without their usually bitchy comments or picky arguments, the pack all nodded, clawed hands pressed to the floor, ready to up and run when given a signal. Scott was tightening his hand around Stiles’ wrist, slowly moving to position himself between his friend and the hunters. I can’t let him get hurt in my place. In return, Stiles got ready to pull Scott level with him.

He met Scott’s gaze, and when his wolfed-out friend nodded forwards and mouthed, “Out the back,” Stiles nodded back.

Go!”

Used to waiting on the blow of a whistle, Scott, Stiles and Isaac were up and running before the word had fully left Derek’s mouth. For a second or two, as they left the house, splinters falling from their clothes and blood dripping from grazed hands, the three ran in line together. Once they were out into the forest, Isaac looked across at them, and nodded, before running off to the right.

The gunfire had stopped.

“Aww, that can’t be good,” Stiles muttered, trying to look back over his shoulder – Erica, Boyd, Derek, what had –

But Scott was tugging on his wrist, dragging him forwards.

“Come on! We’ve gotta go!”

Stiles managed to see something – one of the two muscle men who’d held him up, minute earlier.

The Argents hadn’t been trying to stop him, or keep him out. They’d been getting ready to keep them all in. But don’t say I didn’t warn you, Chris had said.

Fuck—

“Stiles, run!”

He tried to move, stumbling backwards for a second or two, eyes stuck on the rifle the man was carrying, before he finally managed to turn, get his feet right, flat, moving, and ran.

Scott was ahead of him, sprinting flat out without the worry of exhaustion that ordinary humans had.

And, sure, yeah, usually Stiles kept up that pretence of wearing out, running on adrenaline, but – the barrel pointed in his direction was kind of an incentive to run.

It didn’t matter. Stiles might know the woods better than the Argent, might be a fast runner, might even be able to see in the dark better than him, but the Argents had good aim, and in the masking blackness of the night he couldn’t have looked any different than Isaac, or Scott. The hunter probably just saw two werewolf kids, and he shot at them.

The first bullet slammed into the tree just to the left of Stiles, causing him to yelp and nearly trip over the tree root he was trying to jump over, and Scott to look back over his shoulder. He met Stiles’ gaze, mouth open and eyes wide with shock, before turning and running.

“I can’t run that fast you insensitive bag of fur—”

The second bullet, because Stiles’ life was just that great, sliced a deep line across his stomach as he turned sideways to dodge a tree.

He lost his footing, falling over a log and slamming into a tree, and hand moving on reflex to clutch at his stomach. He swore under his breath when he felt the blood pouring between his fingers. Thinking fast, and watching as Scott’s back vanished further into the distance – for once Stiles was grateful his best friend was an unobservant dick – he tugged at the strip of his top that was hanging from the front by a few blood-drenched threads, pulling it off, and using it as a sponge against his wound. Scott couldn’t see how much he was bleeding; he’d never be able to explain it away. He’d just have to hope that the skin had started to heal over by the time they got somewhere safe enough to stop running...

Speaking of stopping running...

Stiles pushed himself off the tree, shaking out one hand and grimacing at the blood splatters flying from it, covering the tree. The Argents would think they’d hit a werewolf, going by the amount of blood... no human could survive such blood loss.

Then it’s really a damn good thing I’m not entirely human.

He forced himself to walk, then jog, then flat out run again, ignoring the blood still seeping from his stomach, the tearing of skin as his torso twisted when he swung his arms to move faster. Knowing that no one could see him, he let the darkness fall over his eyes, the strength of the Pit fill him, helping him see, helping him run, helping him stop the blood from falling away quite so fast.

Damn, if I moved like this on the pitch... move over, Jackson, Stilinski coming through...

He could see the road now, could just about make out Scott running back and forth under the glare of the streetlights. He slowed down, blinked, and used the remains of his top to wipe away any droplets of blood that had seeped out. Slowing to a walk, he zipped up his hoodie to hide the wound before yelling, “Scott! Here! I’m here, I’m okay, it’s fine...” out of breath, out of breath...

“Stiles!” Scott ran towards him, at his side in seconds, reaching out to touch him, grab his shoulder, his hand – Stiles winced at the exact same moment Scott realized what he was smelling. “Is that – oh my god you’re bleeding—

“Eh, a bullet scratched my side, that’s all,” he lied, shrugging casually. “I’m fine.”

“Let me have a look, I’ll just check—”

He was moving his hand to the zipper on Stiles’ hoodie, wanting to see the wound for himself. Oh, no. No, no, not happening. “Just check what? You’re a vet’s assistant, Scott, not a doctor – if it needs your help, then I’m in a lot more trouble than a bullet could cause.”

That stung Scott, Stiles could tell, but he forced himself to believe it was for the best as Scott nodded, not meeting his eyes, and stepped back. “Sure, of course.”

“And besides, I was wounded way back there,” Stiles continued, shoving a thumb over his shoulder. “And I ran here, remember? I think that if I was going to bleed to death, I would have done so by now.” Go with it go with it please please go with it...

Scott was nodding more, accepting his logic, as he always had. “D’you think we lost them? Have you heard from the others? Are they safe?”

“Oh, yeah, I had a quick chat with Derek as I slalomed the trees  back there – no, dumbass, I haven’t heard from the others,” Stiles said, and fear of both being shot again, that the others had been shot, and of being found out to be hellspawn were probably making him slightly snappier than he had any reason to be, but he couldn’t really care. “I was kinda hoping you’d have heard from them, whilst standing here, waiting, with nothing to do, possibly have called one of them—”

“My phone must have fallen out of my pocket,” Scott muttered, hands absently patting his pockets, and Stiles wanted to strangle him. You don’t just lose your phone, and you don’t let it fall out of your pocket when running for your life, that’s just survival 101!

“We can’t just leave them, what if they’re wounded, or bleeding to death, or being wolf-napped, and we’re just sitting at home dotting the last i’s on out homework? Not cool, man!”

Scott licked his lips, and nodded. “I’ll go back and see,” he said, turning to look back into the forest.

Implication clear: human people go home. Once again, Stiles felt protests bursting to be spoken at the tip of his tongue – he could hide better in the shadows, move quieter, see just as well... but Scott can’t know. Fuck. 16 years, and this shit was finally starting to get old.

You had to go and become a werewolf, didn’t you...

“I’ll cover for you,” Stiles said eventually, and when Scott looked sharply across at him, stunned and ready to argue, he expanded, exasperated, “With your mom, God. Oh – and my jeep—” he pulled his keys from his pocket, chucking them across to Scott. “Once all the blood and bullet-dodging stuff’s all finished, mind driving her back to mine? Kinda gonna need my ride to school, or Dad—”

“Got it,” Scott cut in, shoving the keys into his pocket. “You okay to walk back?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said, grinning and beginning to do lunges, flinging his arms back and forth in mock stretches, “I’ll jog. The exercise’ll probably do me good. I mean, it’s not like I just sprinted a good mile or so...”

Scott laughed, waving once before running off, taking only three strides before he fell forwards into the weird wolf-springing-bunny-hop running the werewolves all seemed to do.

“And don’t drop my keys!” Stiles yelled after him. He didn’t get a response, and hadn’t expected one – he just waited until Scott was entirely out of sight, before hesitantly opening his hoodie enough to get a look at the wound.

It was still bleeding, slightly, thin droplets of blood trickling from the torn flesh – that still hadn’t started to heal. Stiles had to swallow twice to stop himself throwing up – there was a reason he hadn’t wanted to saw Derek’s arm off. And you’d think this nice new environment of persistent fresh corpses would have upped his tolerance for gore, but apparently not.

Mind you, he had no evidence that it wasn’t just his gore that grossed him out. It’s not often you got to stare, fully conscious, at your own ripped open stomach.

He retched, raising his head and pressing a hand to his throat. “Oh this is wrong. This is so very very wrong this is – egh,” he gagged again, bending double, forcing himself to take deep breaths. “Home,” he breathed, “home, and bandages, and sleep, and tomorrow it’ll be fine and I won’t have to even think about it...”

Plan figured out, he zipped the hoodie back up again, picked a direction, and started to jog.

*

His dad was in by the time he got back, already changed and on the couch with a beer. “Where’ve you been?” he yelled as soon as Stiles pulled the door closed.

In the bright, clear light of indoors, the smudges of red on Stiles’ skin were even clearer, screaming ‘failed psycho!’ to the world – and it wasn’t just that; his skin was almost perfectly white, no veins showing, no tint of pink. He had no blood. He was running on demonic power alone. “Uh, Scott’s,” Stiles called back, eyes transfixed on the back of his hands, fear starting to tug strings. “Uh... chemistry project... tired now... think I’ll go get some sleep...”

“You’ve eaten, then?”

“‘Course,” Stiles lied, absently rubbing at a smudge of blood with his thumb. It didn’t budge. “His mom cooked—”

“Jesus, Stiles, you’re so pale!”

He hadn’t even heard his father move, let alone walk to the hallway. He jerked his head up to see him standing in the doorway to the living room, beer bottle hanging loosely in his hands as he stared, opened mouthed, at his son.

Stiles’ first reaction was to hide his hands behind his back, to edge away slowly and get out of sight – but it was too late now, and it’d just make his dad suspicious. “Am I? Eh, must be exhaustion,” he sighed, slumping slightly, putting a hand out to lean against the wall as he kicked off the Converses he was wearing. As his dad stared at his hands – how could he ignore them, the faded red covered from the tips of his fingers to halfway down his forearm – he forced himself to say, nonchalantly, “Food coloring. Harris just loves thinking up ways to torment us, I swear...” He didn’t wait for his dad to say anything else, hoped he wouldn’t, as he pushed himself away from the wall and started to walk straight to the stairs, straight to bed.

“Stiles, are you sure you’re ok—”

“I’m fine – just let me get to sleep, yeah?” he pushed past, ignoring the hand his dad offered even though he wanted nothing more than to take it, let his dad just hold him until he felt better – human – again. He took the stairs two at a time, and headed straight for the bathroom. He flung the door open and was by the cupboard in two strides, flicking it open with one hand and grabbing the first aid kit they always kept there with the other.

He didn’t stand in front of the mirror, even though it would probably have been better to see the wound, but instead perched on the edge of the bath, holding the kit under one arm as he carefully unzipped the hoodie. Some of the material had started to stick to the wound, blood soaking into it, but thankfully the material was so dark you couldn’t tell.

Gonna have to throw it away. I swear, Derek’s gonna have to start paying me an  expenses fee at this rate...

He wasn’t sure if, even with the added demon strength, the body would be able to fight off infection or if he’d just be moving around in a rotting body ad infinitum, so he pulled the bottle of antiseptic out of the kit first, effectively drenching a pad in the stuff and then rubbing it over the edges of the cut. He had no idea if this was actually going to do anything, and he was really wishing he’d taken that first aid course Scott had gone on. When the cut looked... wet enough? Yeah, no, that was probably fine, he started to pull out bandages and tape, bandaging up the cut the best he could.

He had a feeling that, in an ordinary situation, the cut would probably need stitches. Yeah, haha, no. He wasn’t going to stab himself any more than he had to, thanks.

When he finished, he grabbed his hoodie and stood up, stretching a bit to test the sticking power of the tape, and risked a look in the mirror.

He looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie. Hands still drenched in red, skin about the same color as the magnolia walls, and stomach a patchwork of blood and alcohol stained bandages. Nice. Handsome as ever, Stilinski.

It took him longer to clean his hands than it had to patch himself up. By the time he’d finished, he could hear his dad in the kitchen, packing up and ready to come upstairs. Kicking the first aid kit closed and chucking it into the cupboard – as quiet as he always was – he grabbed his hoodie and crept across the landing into the safety of his room. He turned off the light, and waiting just behind the door, listening as his dad walked by... shut the door to his room.

Breathing out in relief, Stiles threw his hoodie onto the back of his chair and flopped back onto his bed. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket, flipping it unlocked and holding it above his head as he checked for messages. Two. The first, utterly predictably, from Scott.

Evry1 fine – Isaac dsn’t want 2 c Jackson evr again n Derek is pissed @ Argents n Peter bt no casualties – u wer prob worst off

Stiles snorted. More than you know... He sent a quick reply back, thanks for the update, be good to my poor jeep, etc.

The second text, completely unbelievably, was from Derek.

‘Cause, well, Stiles knew in theory that Derek had a cell phone, and that Derek had demanded they all gave him their numbers, but – the idea that he actually used it just seemed like picturing a grandma wearing an Ice watch, or a gold sequined mini skirt... okay, not quite that bad, but... near that. It made more sense for him to communicate in smoke signals, or sending woodland animals out with notes tied around their necks, or something.

But – no, this seriously was a text from Derek Hale.

Scott told me that you went home, wounded. Thought I’d tell you the update myself. Boyd got shot in the leg, but as it was a normal bullet he’s fine. I suspect it’s due to Peter’s return that Chris is ignoring the treaty, so I will be speaking to him tomorrow. Do NOT push yourself if you have bloodloss. Yes, I think you’re that stupid. And I WILL ground you.

Okay, forget text. Essay. Yeah, essay was more accurate.

Stiles had to re-read it about three times, to try and make sense of what, exactly, had just happened to him. Okay, that Derek would want to pass on the details himself made sense – especially when comparing this text to Scott’s – but why text? Why not just ambush him through the window? Maybe he was trying to be... normal?

Deciding he didn’t have enough data, Stiles shoved that theory aside.

Boyd would be fine. He ate bullets for breakfast.

Peter... wouldn’t be as fine, if Derek had his way. But Peter was more of a snake than Jackson, he’d survive. And Stiles, somehow, never could find it in himself to protect Peter from Derek’s over-controlling tendencies as he did with the others.

As for pushing himself – ha! Yeah, right. As he was technically dead from bloodloss, working out wasn’t exactly high on his agenda. For that matter – no way could he get changed for lacrosse practice like this, not with Scott and Isaac pestering him to make sure it was okay. They were almost as bad as Derek, when it came to being protective to the wee human in the pack.

It took him a minute to even decide if he was going to reply or not. Eventually, he just typed out, you’re not my real dad, grinning as he clicked ‘send’.

Chucking his phone onto his bedside table, he shimmied out of the bloodied jeans, kicked them off the bed and slid under the duvet.

*

“Dude! You’re so lucky you got to go home last night, Derek was on the warpath. I mean, it wasn’t like anyone got hurt – we found a shit ton of blood in the woods, but Boyd says he didn’t go near there and none of the rest of us got hurt, so it must have been a hunter, but Derek’s still gone after Peter today

Stiles let the words wash over him, as he pulled books out of his bag and shoved them into his locker. Some small part of him wept for the really quite beautiful organization system he’d set up his first day. It had lasted for about two classes, before speed, homework, and Reese’s cups wrappers had ruined it all.

“—I don’t want to be near either of them for, like, a day after Derek finally gets his hands on him. He looked like he wanted to kill him. Again!”

“Well it is kinda all Peter’s fault,” Stiles had to grudgingly admit, throwing the chemistry textbook in and fist-pumping when a whole chunk of it bent backwards and creased. “We had that kinda don’t-bad-touch-my-guys-and-I-won’t-bad-touch-your-guys peace... thing... between Derek and Chris for a while, before Peter started parading around again. Peter did kill Kate. Like, in front of Allison. You think Chris should be happy about that?”

“Allison’s over it—”

“Wow, you really are just as dense a boyfriend as you are as a best friend,” Stiles said, smirking at Scott’s affronted snort. “Allison might be saying she’s over it, but you don’t get over seeing someone you care about bleed to death right in front of you. And even if she has – yeah, well dads can be strangely protective about their kids, who’da thought?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Scott muttered, biting his lip as he thought.

Stiles rolled his eyes. Screw politeness, it was Scott. If he couldn’t deal, he’d have left long ago. “Oh, stop angsting in front of me, I’m getting heartburn just looking at you. And besides, that’s Greenberg’s locker you’re leaning on.” He grinned as Scott jumped up from it, glaring at the blue metal like he expected it to lick him. “Well, whilst you’re sorting out your girly feelings, me and my manliness are going to go to the men’s changing rooms and talk man stuff to coach.” At the bemused, and slightly horrified look on Scott’s face, Stiles elaborated with a sigh, “I’ve gotta explain that I can’t go to practice today.” Sometimes, he just felt that Scott didn’t appreciate his eloquence.

“Why?”

“Um, possibly because I got shot last night?” Stiles hissed. C+ for interrogation, but D- for attention, Scott.

“Oh, shit, yeah – are you okay?”

Okay, and an A+ for genuinely caring. “I’m fine, I just don’t want to faint from bloodloss when chucking a ball at a goal opens it back up again.”

“Okay,” Scott said, nodding, and that was that. “I’m gonna go find Allison and head to homeroom a bit early,” he said, pushing his schoolbag higher up his shoulder. “See you there, yeah?”

“Mm-hm.”

Scott waved over his back as he jogged off, probably already trying to pinpoint the sound of his girlfriend’s heart amidst the entire student body. Starting to plan in his head exactly what he’d say to Finstock, Stiles shut his locker and spun the dial until it was at zero.

He ran into Isaac in the corridor, who stopped him to check he was okay, moving a hand as if to raise Stiles’ shirt to check the wound, just as Scott had – but the instant Stiles brought up Jackson’s name, the kid started to groan, waving Stiles by without another word.

Oh, Jackson, you and your libido. Always so reliable, you bastard.

This early in the morning, the changing rooms were entirely empty, not so much as a single bag hanging anywhere. “Uh, Coach?” Stiles called, peering around the lockers and making his way to where Coach’s office was, at the back of the changing rooms. “It’s Stilinski – I was, uh, wondering if I could possibly be excused from practice this afternoon-”

His eyes returned from where they’d been looking into the far corner, by the showers, back to Coach Finstock’s office to suddenly see him standing there, in the doorway. “Stilinski,” he said slowly, lips sliding into his trademark sideways grin, “So it’s Stilinski now, is it? Wow, that name’s almost cute.

Stiles’ hands grabbed at the bag straps on his shoulder, fingers looping beneath them, nails digging into the fabric. “You’re not Coach Finstock.”

“Wow, Stilinski,” the thing in the Coach said, stepping forwards. Stiles stepped back, slowly removing the extra weight of his bag from his back. He had a feeling that soon it’d just be getting in his way. “That takes a lot more intelligence to figure out than I’d expected from a worm like you,” the thing was saying, still grinning. He brought an arm out from behind his back, fist clenched tight around a lacrosse stick.

“What can I say, high school does wonders for your IQ,” Stiles rushed out. “And you’d think possessing the Coach would give you better technique, your grip on that stick is appalling, you’re not going to be able to catch anything holding it like that.”

“Oh, really?” the thing laughed, the usual goofy laugh of the Coach twisted and making Stiles feel sick with fear. He could feel the attack coming, any second now... “Perhaps. But I, personally, think it’s still good enough to catch you.”

It was such a cliché, Stiles saw the move coming a mile off, dodging just in time to avoid the head of the lacrosse stick slamming into the side of his head. He flung his bag off his back and ran forwards, around the side of the demon in his Coach. He wasn’t quite so lucky with the backswing, though. Just as he turned to face the demon, crouched and trying to be ready, the stick slammed into his side, causing it to crack and sending him flying into a row of lockers. They fell over like skittles beneath him.

As the tape on the bandages covering his wound ripped away, and the newly formed scabs tore apart, he couldn’t stop himself cursing with pain, one hand instinctively pressing to it, trying in vain to hold the bandages in place.

From the blood that came away on his fingers, through his shirt (not joking about expenses, Derek), he’d guess it was too late.

“D’aww, that looks painful, ickle Stilinski,” the demon tutted, swinging the cracked stick in one hand, head tilted to one side with mock pity. “You need to learn to take better care of your meatsuits. How old is that thing you’re wearing, anyway – sixteen? Seventeen? You must have jumped that bag of flesh when it was, what, a year old?”

“Ten months,” Stiles bit back, spitting out a lump of blood he’d drawn from his lip as he’d hit the lockers.

“A baby? Bless! But it’s time to come home now, ickle Stilinski. Daddy needs new playthings.”

Stiles wasn’t surprised. He’d figured there could only be one reason for a demon to arrive in Beacon Hills. He’d stopped listening for any calls to war the instant he’d remembered why he was up here, because if he knew anything it was that he wasn’t going to do a damn thing to help bring Lucifer to earth. If he had the choice, he’d do the exact opposite. “Sorry,” he said, pushing himself to his feet, shaking blood off his hand just like he had the night before. “You’re not gonna take me back to the Pit. Azazael can go to Disneyland for all I care, he’s not getting my help in this. I’d rather die.”

“Die? Why, I do so love making wishes come true.” The demon laughed, stepping forwards only slightly slower than Stiles was trying to back away. It didn’t matter, anyway – the only place Stiles could back away to was the corner. He was trapped.

Behind the demon, the door to the changing rooms slid open, completely silently. One clawed hand curled around the edge of it, and one glowing golden eye blinked in the gap.

Just when you think things can’t get any worse...

“Why, didn’t you get the memo, ickle Stilinski?” the demon was saying, laughing as it swung the lacrosse stick at Stiles again, the tip passing inches from his chest. Stiles kept his eyes on him, not daring to look at Scott. Let him just think it’s a fight between two enemies – a monster and a traitor – for God’s sake stay out of this, Scott, you’re beyond not being ready to deal with a full-strength demon – “Azazel’s dead. No, we’ve got a new king in the pit – and he’d really love a word with all of ol’ Yellow Eye’s faithful followers...” the Coach’s lopsided grin fell to a smirk, and a coating of red covered his eyes.

Behind him, Scott had stepped into the changing room, fangs bared and claws outstretched. Fuck.

“King? Sorry, man, wrong country – we’re all anarchists here,” Stiles replied through gritted teeth. He needed to tell Scott to get out, without even showing he was there

The lacrosse stick stopped moving, and the demon laughed. “You think I’m deaf, kid?” he asked, and all hope fell away from Stiles like lead. “If I couldn’t hear his footsteps, I’d be able to smell him.”

Scott sprang, claws aimed at the demon’s throat.

Stiles closed his eyes against the sight. He knew Scott wasn’t fast enough. He was just a werewolf, and a beta at that.

“Stiles—”

Instinct – near a decade of having the reflex ingrained into him – opened his eyes at the sound of Scott’s pleading. He was on his knees in the center of the room with the demon standing tall and unharmed behind him, still smiling, red eyes still burning, hand curled around Scott’s throat. The demon raised one hand lazily, and the door slammed shut.

He could see it in Scott’s eyes, the moment he realized how out of his depth he was. Supernatural strength he’d fought against before – but the unknown force that had shut the door was beyond him.

Stupid, stupid Scott, why couldn’t you have forgotten about me and stayed with Allison...

“Leave him alone, he’s got nothing—”

“To do with this? Please. He’s here looking for you, isn’t he?” The demon leaned forwards, sniffing Scott with exaggeration, before pretending to retch. “Ugh! What a barbaric stench. And there I was, just thinking you’d got a nice pet dog to go with your nice white picket fence. No – you’ve got yourself a pack of trained werewolves! Do they roll over for you? Have you trained them properly, or do they still piddle on the carpet?”

He couldn’t even look at Scott. “Please,” he begged, spreading his arms out and stepping forwards, away from the lockers lying smashed open on the floor around him. “Please. Kill me. Take me back to the Pit – whichever. Anything. Just let him go. You weren’t sent after him.”

“No, but you can never have too many fur coats.”

Please.” It was all he could hope for that the demon would rather follow the orders he’d been given, than waste time on something as small as a beta wolf. If he’d thought he could still pray to God, he would have.

Apparently someone, somewhere, was listening. The demon cocked his head to the side, grinning, before releasing Scott’s neck with a flourish. “See? Surrender wasn’t so hard, was it?”

Stiles didn’t answer. He didn’t move as the demon stepped around Scott, moving forwards to where Stiles waited –

Four steps away, and Stiles swung his left hand in, focusing on every instinct and everything he’d taught himself as he moved books back and forth in his room. It worked – with a gasp of fury, or disbelief, the demon flew into the row of lockers to his left, bending doors and snapping a few off their hinges.

“You bitch—”

“Leave,” Stiles tried to command, hoping his voice didn’t sound as uncertain as he felt. “I’ve done my research. Trust me. You can find anything on Google if you type the right thing in. You think I wasn’t prepared for something like this? I’ve been waiting over a decade for one of you bastards to try something! I’d learned seven exorcisms by heart before I was even ten. If you don’t leave that body, me, and my friend alone right now, I swear, I’ll send you straight back to hell.”

The demon laughed. He wasn’t taking him seriously, Stiles knew it. He wouldn’t, in its place. “Exorcism?” it chuckled, wiping blood from its face and lying there, quite comfortable, against the tangle of lockers. “Bitch, as much as you like to dream that you’re just a meatsuit like the rest of them, an exorcism will drag you back down as much as it will me.”

“You sure about that? ‘Cause I’m not,” Stiles said. And he’d won then, he could see it, the sudden slackness of its face. If there’s anything a demon fears most, it’s being forced back onto the very racks it takes so much delight tying people to. “And it’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

“You wouldn’t—”

Google, you’ve never let me down before – “Exorcizamus te—” The moment the Latin left his lips, he felt the shadows cover his eyes, the darkness, and hook pulling at his gut.

At his feet, the demon writhed, the red eyes narrowing at him. “You wouldn’t—

“Omnis immundus spiritus—”

It spat at his feet, scowling one last time before throwing back his head and opening his mouth. Black smoke poured out, billowing through the room, rising to the ceiling and passing through it, out of sight.

The release of the exorcism was like twenty hits of weed – his head felt light, chest open, and his hands were shaking. The blackness fell from his eyes easily, the final step in being able to believe he wasn’t under threat anymore. “Jesus that was close,” he breathed, sagging against the locker right by what was now, finally, Coach’s head, and Coach’s head alone. Speaking of...

He looked down at the coach by his feet. “Eesh, he doesn’t look so good,” he said, crouching down beside the prone body of Finstock. “I think he’s okay, though – he’s probably just unconscious.” He pressed two fingers to Coach’s neck, feeling for a pulse – he found it, eventually, but it was weak. “Yeah, he’s unconscious. I think he’s gonna be fine – if we get him into his chair, hopefully he’ll think it was all just a dream, or, or something, because what human would believe that just happened, right?” Forcing the grin to stay in place, he finally turned to look at Scott. He hadn’t moved from where the demon had forced him to his knees, and was staring at Stiles. For the first time in years, Stiles couldn’t have said what his best friend was thinking. “Right?”

Scott didn’t say anything. He didn’t look like he could. And finally, Stiles could piece together the expression on his best friend’s face. It had taken him this long, because he’d never seen it aimed at him before, ever.

It was sheer terror.

Not terror at what Stiles had done, Stiles knew that. Scott himself did worse things almost daily, now. He’d seen Stiles Molotov Peter.

The only thing he was terrified about was of how Stiles had either lied to him, betrayed him, or was lost to him. He was scared of what Stiles was.

“Jesus,” Stiles breathed, strength sagging from him. Almost without thought, slid to the floor, sitting almost exactly opposite Scott. “You can’t be scared of me, man,” he begged, holding his head in his hands. If it fell apart now – if he lost all this – “You’re my best friend, man, you’ve been my best friend for years – I can’t have you scared at me, I can’t. Please.” But Scott wasn’t saying anything, wasn’t moving – “I owe you the truth, I owe you so much I know that, but I need you to trust me. If you don’t, then no one...” What could he say, how could he get through to him...

Perhaps he couldn’t. There was blood on Scott’s neck, bruises forming quicker than they were healing because of Stiles’ silence. Stiles was a demon. Friends and family weren’t part of the package deal. Perhaps this was it...

“No. No. Scott, you know me, for God’s sake I know you do – you’ve seen me fall into pools drunk, I can’t run ten feet without tripping over something, I can’t be dangerous! Hey – hey, remember when you dared me to inhale those ridiculous fumes in the chemistry room? And in practice afterwards, I was so convinced I had the ball that I kept running around like a, a demented chicken, trying to throw it to Jackson and Matt? And—and you still think I’m dangerous?”

Scott blinked. And, slowly, he relaxed, shoulders falling forwards and a hand rising to rub his neck. “It wasn’t Jackson and Matt – it was Greenberg.”

Stiles’ mouth fell open. “Seriously? Why didn’t you tell me – oh gods—

As Scott stared at him blankly, eyes unwavering and wary, Stiles sighed out and rubbed his face. Priorities. Right. Damn, I need more Aderall for this shit... “Sorry. Yeah. An explanation. But – just promise me, you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt. Whatever I say, just – don’t jump to conclusions, okay? I need you to trust me, when I say I’m really, really not dangerous.”

“Not dangerous? You used Coach to knock over a row of lockers with nothing but a wave of your hand—

“Not dangerous to you,” Stiles amended hurriedly, “Or my dad, or Allison, or Derek, or – or anyone good, okay? And that wasn’t Coach, you must know that.”

Scott’s eyes flickered across to where Finstock was sprawled, before darting back to watch Stiles. He still wasn’t ready to move, Stiles realized with a pang of guilt. “It was... something like me.”

“You’re not human.”

“No.” There wasn’t any point denying it anymore.

He waited as Scott lowered his eyes slightly, thinking it through. Eventually he nodded. “How... not human, are you?”

“There’s a scale?” Scott narrowed his eyes, and Stiles raised his hands, wincing. “Okay, sorry, stupid question. Um... just slightly less human than you. I guess you could say I’ve deteriorated, rather than been transformed. Kind of... lost my humanity, instead of having it morphed into part-wolf.” He was procrastinating, he knew, avoiding the name, the real description of why he wasn’t human. Scott knew it too, he could see it in how Scott was watching him nervously, suspiciously – but with slightly more hope than before. “I... ahh, I have no idea how to... Okay. Well, for starters, that blood, the shit ton of blood you found in the woods after last night?”

Scott nodded slowly.

“That was mine. The bullet, it sliced a line across my stomach, pretty much cutting it open. By the time I got home, if I was human, I would have bled to death.” He was doing this on purpose, trying to show Scott the benefits of his lack of humanity, not wanting to throw him into the deep end. It was his one chance.

And at the horror on Scott’s face – horror that he’d almost lost Stiles completely – he was hoping that the slight manipulation of the facts was working in his favor.

“And the first day you came to school, all werewolfed up after Peter bit you? You asked if I was wearing bodyspray or something, because I smelt of rotten eggs, in, quote, ‘a nice way’?”

“You still do,” Scott muttered, wrinkling his nose, and a hand rising to waft at the air in front of him. “What – d’you have to sleep in garbage or something?”

“What? No! What the hell do you think I am, a goblin or something?” Stiles yelled, disgusted. “Dude, no, I do not sleep in rotten eggs. No. No. I just... smell like them. That smell? That’s what my lot smell like.” Okay, perhaps not a benefit, but better than any other facts he could say... and, hopefully, he’d be able to make Scott laugh with this one. He usually could, if he wanted to.

The disgust and pity on Scott’s face was doing nothing for his ego. “You smell like rotten eggs?” he echoed, sounding very... off-put.

“Oh, yeah, nice, rub it in, thanks,” Stiles muttered, wriggling his shoulders and crossing his arms, affronted. He didn’t miss the slight twist to Scott’s lips, how he slid to a more comfortable position. “And it’s brimstone, I’ll have you know,” he corrected, trying to sound as dignified as he could.

“I’ll try to remember that in the future,” Scott said, and yeah, he was definitely smiling now.

Thank you,” Stiles replied, “the courtesies never hurt anyone.”

“Yeah, but if I forget them you might fling me into a locker or something,” Scott chuckled. Stiles shrugged, utterly immodestly.

He didn’t let an awkward silence settle into place, before saying, “So – we good? You okay?”

“I guess.” Scott smiled at him, meeting his eyes without fear for the first time since he’d opened the door. “But – you still haven’t told me what you are.”

Crap. “That’s ‘cause I’ve been avoiding it,” Stiles admitted. “Uh – we’ve, uh, ha – had a bit of bad press,” he confessed, nodding to Finstock. “Just—”

“It’s okay, Stiles. I promise, I’ll still see you as you. Okay?” And he looked sincere, naïvely honest, in a way only Scott ever could. “Like you said – you’re my best friend. I’ll trust you.”

He’d asked Scott to trust him – the most he could do was trust him in return. He licked his lips, looking down to the floor, before he finally started speaking. “Just over 100 human years ago, I sold my soul to save my family from destitution. When I died, I went to hell.”

Scott gasped, but Stiles ignored him.

“And I became a demon.”

*

Crowley checked his watch, and shuffled his bum about on the boot of the car. There were reasons he liked punctuality.

But he liked being dramatic more.

He’d been waiting since sunrise, having no idea when the two tall streaks of daddy-issues and pent-up rage were planning on leaving, and also having had barely enough patience when his messenger boy had returned to him, empty handed, to not simply barge in there and tip them out of their bug-ridden beds.

But he’d decided for a little drama, and a bit of decorum.

He wanted to do this right, after all. He needed the waste of smoke back where he could control it, and, as it seemed his own bounty hunters weren’t up for the job...

The motel door clicked open, finally, and the two men emerged nattering away about the benefits of ice cream versus whipped cream on pudding. How fascinating travelling with them must be. Sometimes, Crowley really wondered how much trauma that angel of theirs really had gone through...

“As important as I’m sure your discussion is, boys,” Crowley said loudly, cutting into their babble and smiling widely as their attention turned to him, “I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut it short. I thought you might want to know – I’ve found a little job you might like...”