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An easier way to say goodbye (is to do it face to face)

Chapter Text

Stiles brought his bat down on the second to last pixie, just seconds before the last one got caught in the spell Lydia had put between two trees, bursting into flames and sparkling dust. Huffing and puffing, the two looked at one another, silently checking that the other was okay before picking up their things and heading towards the clearing the pack agreed to meet in. Slowly but surely, all of the pack members all slunk out of the shadows towards the cars. Stiles slammed the jeep door and waited for any passengers before starting the engine and driving towards town.

"Stiles," Scott started, reaching over to put his hand, still covered in the bluish greenish blood of the pixies, on the human's shoulder, "are you-"
"Don't. Don't fucking touch me right now, Scott. I swear to god, if you fucking touch me or ask me if I'm okay or anything like that I will stop this car and you can walk. You screwed up, Scott. You screwed up big time, and if Deaton and Lydia hadn't found that spell, more people would have died because you decided that your plan was the right one, without discussing it with your pack." Slamming on the brakes at the light, he turned to the alpha, his knuckles turning white with how tightly his hands were clenched around the steering wheel. He glanced in the back, to where Liam and Mason were staring between the two of them, before sighing and turning back to the road. "We're done here. I'm dropping you three off and I'm going home. If any of you call me in the next few days I will personally feed you a mixture of wolfsbane, mountain ash and kanima venom. The only person I'll have any mercy on right now is Lydia. And that's because she literally saved the day. The rest of you can fuck off until the at least the end of the month."

The rest of the drive passed in silence. Liam and Mason both sheepishly thanked Stiles when they climbed out, with Scott holding himself stiffly from Stiles' outburst until he pulled up in front of the McCall residence. He turned off the engine and rested his head on the top of his steering wheel, taking a shaky breath.
"Stiles, what the fuck was-"
"Get out."
"Dude, what?"
"Get. The fuck. Out. Of. My. Car." Stiles turned to level Scott with a glare, "You are the last person who gets to give me any shit right now, Scott. I have stood by you since the beginning. When you decided to put your girlfriend first, I accepted it. When you decided working with hunters without telling anyone - psychotic hunters who torture and kill werewolves for fun, I might add - I never said anything. Not after Derek ran in to save you from your ex's mother, meaning we had to break the circle trapping the kanima. Not after I was kidnapped and had the crap beaten out of me by an old man." Stiles scrubbed a hand over his face, "I know it's partially my fault that you're a werewolf, Scott, but you freezing me out like this is bullshit. Somewhere around the time you became an alpha, you stopped talking to people. The only person remotely worthwhile who you've asked for help from recently was Deaton. You have literally turned to people you haven't seen in years and people who have literally tried to kill you in the past before you asked members of your pack. So fuck off until you've figured out if you actually want me in this pack, because at this point I'm actually more than happy to just leave you to it and straight up just leave."
"Whatever, dude. You're acting really weird. I've apologised about all of that shit, and I don't know why you're suddenly bringing it all up now. Call me when you get your head out of your ass." Scott slammed the door behind him, stomping up to the front door before Melissa swung the door open and ushered him in. She waved at Stiles and he shook his head in return. Nodding gently, she closed the front door.

Taking a few more deep breaths, Stiles calmed himself down enough that he trusted himself to drive home without incident, counting his fingers and telling himself that he was in charge of his own body. Turning the key in the ignition, he couldn't get the engine to turn over. After several tries, stiles hopped out of the car to see if there was a problem with the engine he could patch up enough to get him home. Walking around the car, he felt a strange tingling in his fingers.
He was standing in front of the jeep, staring down into the engine with the hood up when his surroundings lit up. Distantly, he heard the front door slam open, and Melissa screaming before everything went white and silent.

***

Melissa started moving as soon as the light through her curtains changed from the usual streetlights to a blinding white which lit up her room brighter that daytime. Sprinting to the front door, she swung it open to see Stiles enveloped in the light, and it only getting brighter. She screamed for Scott and could hear him thudding down the stairs, but by the time he got there it was too late. The light had faded back to normal. And Stiles was gone.

Three weeks later, the town was still looking for any sign of Stiles, while his friends and classmates sat in their caps and gowns for graduation, a joyous event turned bittersweet by the reminder that even someone like the son of the local sheriff could disappear without a trace.
Two and a half years after Stiles' disappearance, Sheriff John Stilinski married Natalie Martin.

Thirty two months, two weeks, and three days after Stiles disappeared, a giant ball of light appeared over a lake near Seattle, returning four thousand and four hundred people who had disappeared at various points in history.

Chapter Text

Lydia had watched the meteorite-turned-possible-spaceship story unfold on the news from the relative safety of her mom and stepdad's living room.

It had started out as an informative, albeit dull, story about a meteorite, or a comet, which was going to light up the sky, when it suddenly changed course unexpectedly and started heading directly towards Seattle. With the size of it, it was expected to wipe out a huge portion of the planet, as well as the vast majority of the population. People across the globe were panicking, but Lydia felt inexplicably calm.
She didn't feel a scream building up and choking her from the inside out; she didn't sense anyone who was going to die in the next few days. If anything, it felt like the complete opposite of how it felt when someone died, and it felt like this story on the news was significantly involved somehow, which compelled her to watch, the remote control clutched in her hand so no one would change the channel, even though she was alone in the house with Prada.

Lydia watched as the news changed from terror over a meteorite coming in towards a lake in Washington, to shock and wonder about the sudden appearance of thousands of people where the meteorite would have hit. Thousands of people, all looking lost and confused, very few wearing clothes similar to one another.
She waited to see if there would be any interviews with the people, but the news was shut off shortly after government officials started to arrive.
Sighing, Lydia scratched Prada behind the ears before walking to the kitchen. Walking through the dining room, she paused to look at some of the pictures from the wedding.

John was the perfect match for her mom, and despite the heartbreak he suffered daily over Stiles, or maybe even because of it, he deserved to be happy.
The wedding had been a quiet, somber affair, with very few people in attendance. There had been many tears shed, both happy and sad, by everyone there.
Lydia had agreed to house sit while they were on their honeymoon. She had chosen to stay in Beacon Hills after high school, mostly so that if any news came in about Stiles she would be one of the first to find out. She hadn't had much contact with any of the McCall pack, but she would occasionally chat with the younger Hales, and with Jackson and Danny. Seeing the Hales at the wedding had only been slightly surprising, but finding out that they'd both been considering moving back to California, only a few towns over from Beacon Hills, had truly been unexpected.

Every so often Cora, Derek, or both would come in to Beacon Hills and meet with Lydia for coffee. Sometimes she would be working in the coffee shop, sometimes she would have the time to sit with them and catch up on what was happening in each others' lives.

On one memorable occasion one summer, Scott had walked into the coffee shop while the Hales were sitting at a table and Lydia was bussing another. He ordered his drink and, as if ignorant or oblivious to the hostile atmosphere, he sat in one of the seats near the window.

To say that things had been tense ever since Stiles had vanished from outside of the McCall house was to put things mildly.

***

About two weeks after the people had appeared in Washington, Lydia was enjoying her day off, one of her last before the happy couple returned from their honeymoon, when the phone began to ring.
Reaching over from her place by the kitchen sink, Lydia balanced the phone on her shoulder and continued peeling potatoes while she answered.
"Hello, Stilinski residence, this is Lydia Martin speaking."
"Hello, ma'am, does a Sheriff John Stilinski live at this address?"
"Yes, he does, but I'm afraid he's not here right now. Can I take a message and he can get back to you in," Lydia leant on the phone and checked the calendar on the nearby wall, "about a week?"
"Ma'am, this is highly sensitive information, and unless you're family in some way, I'm going to need to speak with him directly."
Lydia huffed, a regular problem being brought up over the phone after a tough week making her feel a little snappy, "Does being his stepdaughter count at all? I'm afraid his only living relative is his son, who is even less likely to come to the line than he is, considering how he's missing and all. And John and my mother are on their honeymoon, hopefully actually having a good time and getting their minds off of all the sadness here."

A short silence followed, before the man on the other end cleared his throat awkwardly, "Actually, ma'am, his son is the reason I'm calling."
The peeler and the potato both slipped out of Lydia's hands, landing noisily in the sink, and all of the fight draining out of her, "What?" she asked, stumbling away from the sink and lowering herself into the nearest chair. "What do you mean? I don't... Stiles is the reason- how?"
"Ma'am, I'm calling from Homeland Security. Recently in Washington, forty four hundred people appeared by a lake, I'm not sure how aware you are of that?"
"I saw it on the news, I watched it happen on the news. But what does that have to do with- wait. Was Stiles, was he there? Was he-"
"Yes ma'am. Stiles, you called him? That's a lot easier than what's written here. But Stiles was one of the 4400 returnees. We've kept him under observation for the past two weeks, and would like to keep in touch in the future about him, but overall Stiles is healthy. Since he was one of the most recent to have disappeared, we assumed he would still have family in the area. Would you be able to fetch him at any point in the next week or so?"
"Absolutely. If you can send me and address and some directions, I will be there as soon as I can." Lydia gave both her email address and her cell phone number, thanking the man on the other end profusely before ending the call, her heart pounding in her chest.

Lydia spent the rest of her day on the phone begging for the week off, threatening to quit when her boss wouldn't hear her out. Hanging up, and still unsure if she had the time off or not, Lydia started calling Derek, asking if he could watch Prada for the next few days while she went to Seattle. She didn't give a reason for her sudden road trip, unwilling to raise anyone else's hopes in case it was a hoax.

The next morning, Derek arrived bright and early, wrapping her into a gentle hug when she opened the door. They wished each other well, and she carried her duffle bag to the jeep she had been driving ever since Stiles disappeared, selling parts of her old car to pay for any repairs needed on the jeep.

Waving one last farewell, Lydia started the engine and drove, following the route laid out by the GPS, certainty about the call being real growing with every mile she drove.

Chapter Text

Lydia pulled up at the address she was given, staring out at the building ahead of her. She took a few moments to calm herself, wipe the tears from her eyes and reapply her makeup, before she climbed out of the jeep and made her way to the entrance.
There was only a slight wobble in her step as she walked.

Fifteen forms and countless questions later, Lydia was sitting in a sparsely furnished room, trying hard not to hyperventilate. She squeezed her eyes shut as she heard the door in front of her click open, a sudden fear and worry washing over her.

"Lyds? Lydia, is that you?"
Lydia collapsed against the wall, her knees suddenly weak under her, and looked up at Stiles with a sob. She stared at him with tears in her eyes, quiet gasps escaping as she nodded before stumbling towards him and wrapping her arms around him. They held on to each other for a long stretch of time until they were both ready to let go. Pulling away, Lydia wiped the tears from her face before leading Stiles out of the building, signing a few more documents and leaving contact details on her way out, Stiles saying goodbye to some of the others who were leaving, ducking down to hug a little girl and shaking hands with a few of the men.
When he turned back to her, Lydia held out her hand towards him, and they walked to the jeep together.

***

After Stiles finally got over his excitement over seeing the jeep waiting in the parking lot, Lydia wrangled him into the passenger seat and started their ride home. She drove, leaving the radio playing quietly while she waited for Stiles to regain his bearings, decide which question he wants to ask first. Every once in a while, she'd look over at him, both to check he was doing okay and to confirm that he was actually there.

He looked exactly the same as he had three years ago. The scrapes from that last fight with the pixies still fairly prominent, although healing up nicely. The pixie blood mostly washed out of his clothes, reminding her "You don't have a change of clothes, do you?" When he shook his head, she nodded to herself, making a plan before taping her GPS to change course to the nearest Walmart. "Alright. We're going to pick up some clothes for you, have a quick lunch, and then get back on the road. We'll stay in a motel for the night and grab some dinner in whatever town we land in. It's a long drive back to Beacon Hills, and only one of us has a valid license."
She filled the silence with random chatter until they got to the store, throwing the jeep into park and dragging Stiles in behind her.

She pulled him along beside her, grabbing clothes off of racks and checking them against him before either putting them back or tossing them in her basket. Once she had a few shirts and some clean jeans and underwear, she had Stiles grab some toiletries before they wandered over to pick up some food before checking out.

***

The two of them sat side by side on one of the motel beds, eating some of the sandwiches they had picked up at the little store attached to the gas station just outside of Grants Pass, Oregon. Lydia watched as Stiles picked at his, before sighing and putting hers down, "Out with it. You've been quiet all day and it's starting to worry me. I get that it's a lot to take in, Stiles. Nearly three years have passed since anybody last saw you. But you need to talk about it. You-"
"My dad."
Lydia blinked, the words taking her by surprise, "Huh? Your dad? What about him?"
Stiles lowered his sandwich and looked up at her, worry lines creasing his forehead and a stubborn set to his jaw, "Lyds, they told me they'd be calling my dad. They tried the house line, and couldn't get through. They tried the station and then they got a new number, and I... Lydia, has something happened to my dad? Is the pack okay? Is there still a pack? Why were you the one to pick me up? Why-"
Lydia wrapped her arms around him, her food lying forgotten in her haste to comfort her friend. She held him as he cried softly, the stress from the sudden change to every single aspect of his life catching up with him.
"Stiles, it's okay. Your dad, he's fine. He's actually... Well, he's on his honeymoon." Lydia puffed out a laugh at stiles, the shock evident on his face, "Do you know how I found out you'd gone missing? Scott still hasn't told me, y'know," she gently pushed him up and started to clear up their mess, "I found out because your dad told me. Melissa called him when it happened, and it came through just after I got home to find him making out with my mom in our living room."
"Dude. I did not need that image."
"If I had to suffer through watching your dad sheepishly pulling his hand out from under my mom's shirt, and my mom covering her mouth and neck, because I came home a little earlier than they expected and they had been making out on the couch like teenagers, then you can have those images floating in your head, too."

Stiles snorted and pulled a face, "Dude, Lyds, c'mon, no..."
"Yeah. It was really awkward. Especially since I ended up with a very good idea of how hung your dad is."
Stiles groaned and buried his face in a pillow, "Can we skip this part? Please. I get it. No more."
"Pfft. I couldn't talk about this to anyone for three years, you're the only one who would understand the kind of horror I went through. But I guess it can wait for later." She sat back down, leaning against the wall, "But yeah. Turns out your dad and my mom had been dating for a while at that point. Your dad moved in with my mom when I got my apartment two years ago, and they got married about three months ago. He's going to be so happy to see you, Stiles. He's only going to be back from the honeymoon next week, so we can call him up tomorrow and let him know. Ease him into the idea that you're back." She reached over and took his hand in hers, "We're going to be okay, Stiles. You're going to be okay. It'll be tough to adjust for a little while, but you'll have me, your dad, my mom, and there's plenty of others who'll want to see you and will be around to help."
"Hmm," Stiles lay back, his head on Lydia's shoulder, "I hope you're right. This whole thing, it's. It's fucking terrifying, I mean - someone, or something, literally snatched me up from directly under an alpha werewolf's nose, and returned me three years later, with only maybe a few seconds passing for me. And I'm one of the lucky ones! There's one little girl there, Maia, she vanished in '46. She should be a grandma, Lyds, but she's only eight years old! There were people who left families behind. One woman was getting ready for her wedding, and there's a guy who was taken from his barracks in Vietnam during the war. But after everything else that I went through, and this on top of it, how in the hell am I supposed to be okay?"

Lydia wrapped her arms around Stiles, who in turn curled into her with tears brimming his eyes, "I don't know how, Stiles. But I know you will. Call it... Banshee's intuition. Now, get some sleep," she said, as she shuffled them both down the bed until they were both lying comfortably, "we've still got a long drive ahead of us tomorrow, and there's going to be a lot of excitement when we get there. I won't let go of you. You're not disappearing on us. Not again. Never again."

Chapter Text

Derek woke up two days after Lydia left, to a text saying she would be back that afternoon. Also that she had someone she had picked up in Seattle, so would he mind preparing a lunch for them? Derek had rolled his eyes at this; Lydia had been trying to get Derek to cook a meal for her ever since she found out he had worked in restaurants as a line cook and as a low level chef in the past.

He looked at Prada, curled up and still asleep on his chest, and scratched her gently behind the ear and under the chin until she woke up. "C'mon, little one, it's time for us to get up," he ran his hand over the little dog's back, cupping her in his palm as he gently got up so she stayed cuddled against his chest as he sat up in the bed, "your momma is going to be back today, and I'm sure she's looking forward to seeing you just as much as she wants me to cook for her."
He lowered Prada to the ground, chuckling when, once her paws were on the ground and he had let go, the little dog flopped onto her side before rolling over and sprinting out of the room. Derek swung his legs over the edge of the bed, unplugging his phone and scrolling through some of the photos he had saved on it. He looked at some of the pictures he and Cora had taken when they did their road trip across the country a few years ago.
Cora had been the one to convince him to come back, although she agreed that staying in Beacon Hills wasn't good for either of them. She had basically shoved him all the way there two years ago, telling him he needed to talk, that he was being stupid about things. She convinced him that he deserved to be happy, and that even if things didn't work out, he could still find happiness in California. It took about a week before Scott had approached either of the Hales for being on the territory, and another two weeks before Lydia had met with them and told them that Stiles had disappeared from outside the alpha's house nearly a year ago at that point.
Cora had comforted him as he mourned the loss of his friend, reminding him that if Lydia hadn't screamed for him, then Stiles was probably still alive somewhere. That he could still come back home.

He sighed and hoisted himself off of the bed, wandering downstairs in his underwear to feed Prada and make a quick breakfast for himself. He let the dog out the back to run around the yard for a little while as he ate, and sent a reply to Lydia to see if she or her guest would mind if he invited Cora to join them for lunch, and if there were any foods he needed to avoid. He watched Prada sprint and tumble all over the yard while he waited for a reply, and sent a message to Cora to invite her when he got the go ahead from Lydia. He left the door open as he checked what was in the kitchen, before asking Cora to pick up meats and vegetables to grill while he made a couple of marinades.

At eleven, Derek was relaxing and catching some sun when he heard Cora start calling for him by the front door. Prada bolted for the front door, excited to see the Hale which spoiled her every time without fail.
Cora had desperately wanted a dog when they were children, and practically adopted Prada as her own when she first laid eyes on her. Derek was fairly certain that the only reason Lydia asked him to look after Prada instead of Cora was because Cora wouldn't have given the dog back afterwards. As it stands, Derek now isn't going to be able to let Cora leave until after Lydia gets back, just in case she tries anything again.

Opening the front door for his sister, Derek stumbled back as two bags of groceries were shoved into his arms and his imp of a sibling darted past him to seize and cuddle the tiny ball of fluff barking at them. She nuzzled Prada and baby-talked in the way she usually did, before she stood, Prada cradled in her arms. She followed Derek into the kitchen, smelling content like she always did around dogs, and plopped herself into one of the chairs to watch and "help" her brother.
Derek unpacked the bags, pulling out marbled steaks and chicken breasts from the first, and bell peppers, onions, zucchini and carrots from the other, "Nothing for a salad, Cor? Thought you were getting into all that healthy eating crap."
Cora shrugged, "Figured since we're eating at the Stilinski-Martin place, there'd be plenty of it here already. Besides, you hate leafy veggies, and Lydia will only willingly eat a salad if it involves fruit and chocolate, and I'm okay to miss one healthy meal if it means I get your chilli marinade steak and roasted mixed veg. But you're right, I do need to head back to the store - I forgot to grab anything for dessert. I'll just-"
"The dog stays here, or your keys stay here. You're not taking both."
"What? Come on, Derek. It's not like I'm actually going to..." Cora paused and looked down at the dog in her lap, "Okay, yeah, you're right. I'll leave my keys and take Fuzzball here for a walk to the store."
Derek nodded and held out his hand, leg blocking the cupboard where the leash was kept. Cora huffed and slammed her keys into his hand, huffing and grumbling as he stepped out of the way.

Derek stuck the meat into the marinades, letting them soak up flavours before he would cook them when everybody arrived. He diced up all of the vegetables, and threw in some peeled garlic cloves. He tossed the vegetable mix in olive oil and salt, sprinkling dried herbs and pepper in before tossing the mixture gently. He threw together a quick and basic green salad, before throwing vegetables onto a baking tray and putting them into the oven.
Nodding to himself, he checked the time. Since it was already have past one, he shot a text to Cora to be quick to get back, or else the vegetables would burn while he was in the shower.

As he stepped under the spray, he heard Cora come back in the front door.

***

Cora had only been back for fifteen minutes, sitting on the couch and playing with Prada and keeping her nose on the vegetables in the oven, when she heard the jeep rumbling down the street. Her grin grew bigger as the jeep pulled into the drive. But when the jeep doors clicked open she froze, head snapping up to stare towards the door, a familiar heartbeat and scent she wasn't expecting making her body move towards the door before she even had a chance to think about it.
She threw the front door open and whined before throwing herself at Stiles. She could hear Derek behind her, shutting the water off and crashing out of the bathroom towards the stairs. She felt Stiles stiffen in her arms, so she pulled back slightly to see if he was okay, only to find him staring into the house towards the stairs. Where Derek stood frozen at the top... Only wearing a towel.

Snickering, she called out, "Hey, Der? Might want to throw some clothes on. Preferably before lunch starts to burn? We're all hungry, big bro."

Derek blinked, before turning, only to lose his balance and reach out, letting go of his towel.

Chapter Text

For how shit life had been for Stiles in the past few years, whether you counted the three where he literally did not exist or not, he was still very thankful for the many good things he had going for him.
He has a father who loves him, enough so that he literally dove head first into the bargaining stage of grieving and has been eating nothing but healthy food for three years.
He now has a sister, who is one of the most incredible people in his life. Although she is a deeply flawed individual if she thinks he's going to let her claim to be the older sibling in their relationship.
His best friend for years never actively made any attempt to full on murder him, despite being turned into a werewolf because Stiles couldn't leave well enough alone.
Even though he has had the shit beaten out of him, and had literally died at least once, Stiles has very few permanent scars or injuries to show for any of this, which is nothing short of miraculous at this point.
He has spent the past few years of his memorable life surrounded by the most gorgeous people in the world, and they were there willingly.
The way he figured out he wasn't quite straight was because a hot girl kissed him and then asked him if he liked boys. The first thing that has gone through his head had been "Oh, shit. I like boys, too." He got to make out with two guys without any of the pack noticing that night.
Gay guys found him attractive. Very much so.

But most importantly at this moment in time, Stiles was incredibly thankful for the fact Derek's towel had slipped out of his grip and hit the floor, and he can see the whole of his ass, and a tiny bit of dick. It's tight, and firm, and if Stiles were a little closer and had a quarter he would test if it could bounce.
He was still deciding if he was grateful about the distance when Derek bolted upstairs and Cora herded Stiles and Lydia into the kitchen, the girls laughing about all of this.

***

Derek got dressed faster than he had ever done in his life. Or at least he would have, if he hadn't tripped getting into his underwear, gotten stuck in his jeans and put his shirt on the wrong way round. Twice.
Finally decent, he made his way to the kitchen where the girls were fussing over Stiles, who didn't look like he had aged much, if at all, since the time he vanished.

He pulled the steaks and chicken out of the fridges and pulled the vegetable tray out of the oven. As he did final preparations on and cooked the meats, he listened to Stiles and Lydia discuss both sides of what had happened over the past years. Talking about all of the things that had happened in his absence, and both of the girls answering any questions Stiles had.
When everything was done, he placed the food on the table Cora had set. They talked very little as they ate, the occasional grunts and moans and giggles being the main silence breakers.
Cora side-eyed him the entire time.

After lunch, Lydia did the dishes, shooing Stiles and the Hales out into the yard with Prada. Cora curled up on one of the loungers by the pool, pulling her phone out and tapping the screen a few times. She hummed along to the tune her phone started to beep out before it started buzzing, "Holy shit. Lydia! Lydia, there's a Haunter and a Jynx out here! And a Vulpix, oh my god."
Stiles walked over to where Cora was focused on her phone, waving it back and forth to find the Pokemon her phone had picked up, "What are you talking about?" He peeked over her shoulder as she stopped, the little figure clear on her screen, "Holy shit, that's a Pokemon. There's a - What the hell," he raised his voice so Lydia would hear him as she came out the kitchen, "Lyds, why didn't you tell me about this, this is amazing!"
Lydia walked closer, pulling her phone out and opening the app next to Stiles, "I have literally only known you were back for four days, and have only seen you for the past two. At what point did I get the chance to discuss the new games and apps you'd missed in that time? Besides," Lydia flicked her finger along her screen, pausing to watch the Jynx be caught, "your phone is running on an old software and I don't think that the model can handle the necessary software."
Stiles shrugged, looking between the two screens, "Fine. I'll look into getting a new phone. I'll see if Scott is free any time soon so you don't have to babysit me the whole time," at Cora and Lydia's simultaneous inhale he looked up between the two of them, and looked back towards Derek with a slight frown beginning to form, "What? Did Scott...? I thought he'd be okay since he's an alpha, but-"
Derek was the one to cut him off with, "He's not dead, Stiles. It's just that none of us are exactly on speaking terms with him. Lydia was the one to tell us about you about two months after it happened, weeks after Scott had a couple of chances. Since you disappeared his pack has dwindled, but he refuses to see it. We tried to help him, all of us, but he pushed us away."
"Yeah, I wasn't sure how to tell you. Scott, he... He's not the same guy you remember, Stiles. He doesn't think past what he wants and how things will affect him. He's so self-involved at times that he can't see how his actions affect the people around him. Not even Melissa can get through to him anymore."
Cora grumbled her disagreement before adding, "He's not that different to what I remember from when I first met him. If anything, I like him more now because he's not bothering to hide he fact that he's a dick. But hey, maybe you can get through his thick skull that he actually needs to talk to people if he wants them to willingly work with him. At least when you acted like an asshole you meant well, and weren't doing anything that was purposely going to kill or seriously fuck up your ally." She stopped and looked at Stiles, who had turned to face her completely, and was staring a little at her outburst.

Cora looked sheepish, and before Stiles could say anything to comfort or reassure her he found himself with a face full of hair and a werewolf's face buried in his neck. In his peripheral vision, he saw Derek stumble back a step or two, and he peeked up at him to confirm that this was really happening, leading him to wrap his arms carefully around the body he now had in his arms.

He felt tears of shock begin to well up in his eyes, and he shook his head, unable to think of anything he could say that would make this situation feel any less surreal.
That's when the arms which had been thrown around him tightened, and the werewolf whose face was currently becoming one with his collarbone pulled away enough so he could hear her whisper "Please don't
cry, Batman."

Chapter Text

Stiles stood there, staring through the mass of blonde hair, tears dripping down his cheeks onto the scalp of the girl in his arms. He looked up at Cora, who was frozen in place and staring at him. Turning back towards Derek, he looked like someone had just sucker punched him. Lydia stepped forward and placed her hand on Stiles' free shoulder. Quietly, she made the suggestion, "Maybe we should go inside. I'll see if I can get in touch with Deaton and see if he can tell us about what's going on," she smiled softly, her eyes meeting the brown ones peeking through the blonde hair, "but it's good to see you, Erica. We've missed you."

Erica sat on the floor in front of Stiles, one arm curled around his leg and the other playing with Prada. Lydia had managed to get through to Deaton on her third attempt, and he was on his way to see if there was a magical reason for the blonde's sudden appearance.
Derek came through from the kitchen, carrying a tray with glasses of iced tea and followed by Cora balancing bowls and spoons on top of tubs of ice cream. Erica perked up where she sat, eyes focused on the ice cream, "Please tell me that one of those is mint chocolate chip, please."
Cora blinked, and put her load on the coffee table before checking the labels, "Um, we've got raspberry swirl, Neapolitan, and yup, bottom one here is mint chocolate chip."
Erica whooped, "Fuck yes! Gimme!"
Stiles snorted, "Favourite of yours, I'm guessing?"
The blonde paused and shrugged, "I wouldn't know. I've never tried it before," seeing the expressions on all of the faces around her she elaborated, "My mom read somewhere, I'm not even sure if it was an official thing or just one of those 'it happened to my friend's sister's husband's cousin's nephew's yadda yadda' stories, but somewhere along the line she got it into her head that all of the additives and colourants and flavourings and whatever else would trigger my seizures, so I was never allowed to have anything but vanilla or plain chocolate."
The others watched her scoop generous amounts of each into her bowl before digging in and moaning, "Oh good god that is tasty. I'm actually heartbroken that I had to die before I could try this."
Lydia turned to look at her, "Wait, so you...?"
Erica levelled her with a look far less threatening than she had hoped, since she had a spoon hanging out her mouth, "Look, I know that I ended up being really hot, but nobody was exactly racing to ask me on a cutesy ice cream date. And I couldn't exactly just pick some up and eat it at home, not without my mom freaking out about it."
"That's not what I meant. It's just- you remember being dead?"

Erica looked down, "I remember all of it. I remember being dead. I remember dying. I remember being afraid, and running away, and being captured," she turned to look at Derek, fresh tears beginning to well up in her eyes, "I remember that I owe you a lifetime of apologies. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I never should have run like I did. You were doing the best you could in a really shit situation, and I'm so sorry that I made it worse."
Derek put his bowl down and slid to the floor next to her, "You have nothing to be sorry for, Erica. I was a terrible alpha, it's no wonder you and Boyd decided to leave when you did."
"No, we were wrong. We should have stayed with you. You deserved a pack, and we took that away from you. Yeah, you could have been a better leader, I'm not gonna deny that any time soon, but you didn't exactly have anyone around to show you the ropes."
Lydia sat down in Derek's vacated seat, holding her own bowl on her knee, "Look, you're both right. All things considered, Derek did an incredible job, but he could have been far better if he had had proper training. However, you and Boyd running, especially when you did, didn't help anything about the situation. But, we can't do anything to change the past. We can only move forward. Learn from our mistakes and make the best of the mess we left behind. Now, both of you can quit your moping and eat your ice cream. Afterward we can do that big puppy pile thing you wolves like to do so much."

Cora was the first to finish, leaving her bowl on the table as she darted upstairs. There was some clattering and some banging, before she reappeared armed with what looked like almost all of the blankets from the bedrooms. She dropped them on the floor before sprinting back upstairs, coming back with a pile of pillows. Curious, Stiles got up and joined Cora where she was arranging the pillows into a giant nest, covering it in blankets. Once she finished she grabbed Stiles by the arm and yanked him into the pile and curled herself half on top of him. It took Stiles a moment, but he shortly relaxed into the feeling of having someone lying with him like that. Of course, as soon as he accepted that this was happening, he felt the bedding pile shift behind him and a warm body slot itself in behind him. He stiffened, earning himself a punch to the chest from Cora before a muscular arm reached over him and bopped her on the head, then dropped directly down and staying draped over Stiles, a pleased rumble making his chest feel like it was rattling.

Lydia wandered over, gently crawling in behind Cora, "Deaton is going to be here later, so we don't have too much time, but a good cuddle is always beneficial," she yawned.
Derek curled himself further around Stiles, one leg slipping over both of his, when he looked up to see Erica watching with an unsure expression from the couch. He raised his arm to sleepily wave her over, "You can join, you know. We're not going to throw a fit about it. Besides," he dropped his arm back across Stiles, who had drifted off, and smiled softly down at him before turning an equally gentle smile to Erica, "regardless of how permanent this is, I still consider you as pack. And if it is only temporary, you deserve a decent goodbye this time around."
Erica came closer, crawling over all of the others until her feet were tangled with Lydia's and her head was resting on Derek's shoulder, "I don't know how this happened," she whispered once she had made herself comfortable, "but I'm glad it did. I've wanted to apologise to you ever since I left. I am happy that I'm here, but I'm not sure if I want it to be permanent," she quietly admitted, as she fell asleep on the shoulder of the former alpha, who had drifted off almost as soon as Erica had draped herself across him and the others.

Chapter Text

Deaton arrived fairly late in the evening, waking up the wolves when he knocked on the door. Derek sent Cora to go let him in while he woke up Lydia and Stiles, making sure everyone was up and on their feet and able to join Deaton and Cora in the kitchen.

As they entered, Deaton looked up, seeking a little surprised to see both Stiles and Erica walk to the room., but saying nothing immediately on the subject. He placed his bag on the counter, opening it to retrieve his glasses and a few vials. He turned back to the group, cleaning his glasses and putting them on, "Lydia, you mentioned on the phone that you have some concerns. I think I have some idea of what they might be, but would you mind elaborating, just to be certain?"

Lydia tilted her head and indicated towards Erica, "Sorry for being blunt, but dead people randomly popping into existence in someone's backyard tends to be a need for concern, regardless of banshee heritage."

Deaton hummed, stepping towards the blonde. "Yes, I suppose that is something to be concerned about. Have you felt anything strange here in the past few days that would account for this?"

Lydia shook her head, "I haven't been here for a few days. I had to fetch Stiles from Seattle, and Erica showed up an hour or two after we got back. But even while we've been back, I haven't felt anything out of the ordinary."

Deaton nodded, checking Erica's pulse and temperature with a slight frown. "Well, despite being dead for about five years, you seem to be in near perfect health. It's possible that the Nemeton is behind your sudden return, but I can't say for certain until I speak with Alpha McCall and find out if it had activated again."

"Wait, why would Scott know but not you?" Stiles looked between Deaton and Lydia, "Lydia said he went to college a few counties over, so wouldn't he need to rely on someone in town to find or? And besides - I thought you were his emissary? Shouldn't you be able to feel this sort of thing?"

Deaton shrugged a shoulder, "That would be the case in most packs, however I haven't served as emissary for the McCall pack in over a year. I'm not sure who, or even if, Alpha McCall has as his emissary now. And since the Nemeton is technically part of his territory, he'd be the one to know if there is any activity from it, regardless of where he is."

"So, basically, we have no way to know if the Nemeton is awake unless Scott treks us or the shit his the fan again." Lydia sighed and rubbed at her temples, "Well, hopefully he'll be a little more willing to open up to you, Stiles."

Stiles looked at the redhead and snorted, "He wasn't exactly open with me before, Lyds. It was mostly either me coming up with a plan and trying to male sure everyone knew what was happening, or Scott running off with his own plan and the rest of us flying blind and trying not to die. I don't know how things'll be any different now."

Derek looked between the two humans and the banshee and sighed, "So do we have any explanation for Erica appearing, or just a few maybes and possibilities?"

Deaton stepped away and put his glasses back in his bag, "The best explanation I can give right now is it's either a slow acting resurrection spell not dissimilar to the one used to bring Peter back a few years ago, or it's a side effect of the Nemeton beginning to wake up. I won't be able to tell you for certain for a few more days."

Erica twitched, and brought one hand up to rest on her opposite hip, "Do we have any idea how permanent this is going to be? Am I back for good, or just for a little while?"

"Unfortunately, there's no way to tell," Deaton turned to Stiles, "How are your injuries? I believe it's been less than a month for you since the battle with the pixies, and I recall Lydia mentioning that you took the brunt of the attacks from them that night."

Stiles blinked and looked down at his arms and torso, "Well, I mean, it was mostly scratches that have healed up pretty well, but a couple of the little bastards got under my shirt and bit me. The military guys patched me up, but I wouldn't mind if you took a look just in case. Y'know, because magic," he added, throwing in jazz hands to emphasise his point. Deaton nodded and shooed the others out of the kitchen, opening the vials he had placed on the counter earlier and asking Stiles to close the kitchen door behind the others.

***

Half an hour later, Stiles and Deaton stepped out of the kitchen, with Stiles holding a bowl of a brownish-green paste he was to apply to the pixie bites every morning. The two humans shook hands, and Deaton bid everyone farewell as he walked towards the front door, with one final reminder to contact him if they needed his help or advice for anything. Erica looked up from where she had sat on the floor, her arms holding her knees to her chest. Stiles slid down to sit next to her, wrapping one arm around her shoulders and pulling her into his chest. They sat there in silence until Cora came inside, "Hey, are either of you hungry? We're thinking we might order some pizza for dinner, if you want in."

Stiles looked at Erica, before nodding and helping her up, "Yeah, pizza sounds good. Count us in."

***

The five of them sat outside, watching the clouds and stars as they enjoyed their food. Putting her last slice back in the box half-eaten, Erica sighed and looked between her friends. She smiled and looked back up at the sky through the slight sheen of tears in her eyes, "I always wondered what it would be like to have a pack that wasn't being actively hunted and slaughtered. This is even better than you described, Derek," she turned back to look at the others, her face glowing, "This really is wonderful, and I'm so glad I got to experience it." The others could do nothing but watch as the glow spread across her body, lighting up the entire yard with a golden light. It grew stronger and warmer, until soon they could barely look at her, "So it wasn't permanent, after all, huh?" Erica's voice was growing faint, with an ethereal echo making it reverberate through the night sky, "Well, I guess this is goodbye. I'm glad I got a chance to say it in person. I love you guys, but I hope that it's a long time until we see each other again."

The light faded, leaving a sparkling cloud of glitter in its wake. Stiles looked to where Erica had been sitting, and said quietly, "Goodbye, Catwoman. We'll miss you, too."