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Stiles runs full-tilt, blindly pushing branches out of his way and trying not to stumble over the uneven forest floor. The last thing he needs after the last few shitty months is to brain himself in the woods while escaping what he can only describe as a massive black fox. Made of smoke.

He really hates his life right now, but shit , if he doesn’t run faster this won’t be his life for long.

Stiles can feel the thing catching up on him, shivers at the touch of what’s more dark aura than actual breath across the back of his neck. He’s beginning to think that it could have gotten him anytime it wanted to and is just toying with him – though running still feels much more viable than stopping to chat with what he suspects is literal evil – when he glimpses flashes of red and blue light through the thinning trees at the edge of the preserve.

He has just enough time to blindly hope it’s literally any officer other than his father, mentally kick himself for wishing them into danger they don’t even know exists, and shout an incoherent warning before he breaks through the tree line. Where he finds himself staring into his dad’s face, because of course he is. And a quick scan of the area reveals no werewolves, because of course they aren’t here when he needs them. His life . He starts to grab for his dad before he’s even had the opportunity to catch his breath, pulling him by the arm as hard as he can. The sheriff, to his credit, starts running before he starts questioning. But it doesn’t help.

Nothing ever helps.

Stiles can’t think, literally can’t breathe, as he watches the smoky black creature engulf his dad. He tries to dive headfirst into the danger, to pull him out or force the monster off or do anything but stand there and watch people get hurt, can’t do that again, not again , but he’s powerless and the creature seems to shake with laughter at Stiles’ attempts at heroism, and he can’t think, can’t breathe, just can’t.

And then he jumps up, heart in his throat and breath frozen in his lungs, and thinks it was just a dream, thank god it was a dream. Stiles often thinks he might be the only person who can appreciate nightmares because at least half the shit he sees in them hasn’t happened in the real world. A sinister voice in the back of his head adds a not yet to the end of that, and he shoves it down and away by sheer force of will. He flops back down onto his mattress, shaking with leftover terror and unshed tears and the crushing weight of guilt that never seems to let him go. Eventually, he stumbles out of bed and peels off his pajamas – which are plastered to his body with their usual film of fear-induced cold sweat – before changing and trudging across the hall to the bathroom, where he splashes water on his face and avoids the hollow look in his own eyes.


 

The sheriff pulls out a notepad and adds another tally next to nightmares . Stiles may never talk about the problems he’s been having lately, but John didn’t get his job by being an idiot. He sees things people don’t want him to see. Hell, sometimes he sees things he’d rather not see at all. But this is his kid, and it tears at his heart more than anything to see him in pain and not be able to help. There isn’t anything in the Parenting section of the bookstore on what do when your son has been possessed by a demon and has to work through the guilt while somehow being the voice of reason in a pack of mostly teenaged werewolves. At this point, the sheriff would write one himself if he had the first clue what he was supposed to do here.

Stiles doesn’t scream himself awake from his nightmares anymore, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t still having them. Not when he stumbles into the kitchen for coffee in the early morning light, and certainly not when he stares at his dad for just a moment too long. Not with that stare full of exhaustion and relief all wrapped up into one look that makes the sheriff want to just get up and pull the kid into his arms and protect him from the world. But he knows he can’t do that, can’t keep his kid out of danger or help him sleep well or even make him smile most days – his real smile, not the warped clone of it he drags up now as he makes them both coffee and wishes his dad a good day at work on his way out the door.

The sheriff sighs and leans back against the kitchen counter as he hears the front door close. He considers for a moment before adding a row in his notepad labeled loss of appetite and puts a tally next to that as well. That had been one of his suspicions – in fact, the hollowing of Stiles’ cheeks and the gauntness of his face are what had prompted the notebook in the first place – but the kid had always at least feigned an interest in breakfast. He hadn’t even brought up his usual complaint at the greasy food. Whatever this is, it seems to be getting worse, not better.


 

Stiles is pretty sure he didn’t do anything to deserve the jumbled mess of tragedy and death that is his life. At least, on a good day he can acknowledge that not everything that went down the past few months is his fault. He figures Peter would have set something in motion even without Stiles stumbling into the woods; more likely than not, Stiles and his friends would have ended up in the piles of bodies the supernatural left in its wake as collateral damage. At the beginning of this whole paranormal drama, Stiles tried to blame everything on some past life version of himself who earned this Stiles-incarnate the worst luck. He didn’t even believe in any of that, just needed someone to be a scapegoat, preferably someone he couldn’t actually get killed out of misplaced rage. But the nogitsune... Well, it’s hard not to take blame for crimes committed with his own hands.

And yeah, okay, he was possessed; he didn’t have control of his actions; he didn’t ask for any of this; he would never have done those things if he could have stopped it. Save the speeches, because he’s heard them all before. And they all make perfect sense. Except for the part where they don’t. At least, not when he saw himself do it. Not when he and Lydia tracked down every piece of evidence linking him to the nogitsune’s crimes, and he watched every security tape he could get his hands on. Obviously that was a terrible choice for someone who, months later, would still feel his chest constrict at the very thought of not being in control of his body. Lydia had known as much, had sworn she could get rid of everything with his dad just keeping his back turned and “forgetting” to lock some doors in the station, but Stiles couldn’t let her do it alone. He had to see. He had to know. If that reincarnation thing is real, Stiles is pretty sure he was the cat that curiosity killed.

So now that the threat itself is gone, he just sort of goes through the motions, hopes that acting normal will make it real, that acting like he’s okay will make it hurt less. But as it turns out, pretending not to have nightmares doesn’t do anything for the bags under his eyes. Pretending not to remember the blood and gore wrought by his own hands doesn’t make dad’s undercooked breakfast sausages any more appetizing. Pretending can only work for so long – he knows this – but he’s just so tired. And what other option is there?

On the plus side, or the less-negative side, no one is really trying to fix him or make him talk about his feelings or whatever anymore. His dad had suggested therapy, but he’d either have to lie to a normal human therapist or talk to Morrell – and he didn’t trust her as far as he could throw her. And the demon took its supernatural strength with it, so that’s that. The pack still tosses him concerned looks now and then, Boyd and Erica in particular, but they still have their own shit to work through. He knows that better than anyone. Kira and Malia mostly keep to themselves, have been doing so since the events of the nogitsune. Peter continues to lurk creepily, but at least he’s been mostly non-threatening. As for Scott, well, he spends more time trying to be Allison’s legs than he does even thinking about Stiles. Derek just looks sort of constipated at him, and Isaac looks like the kicked-puppy version of Derek most days. Stiles recognizes that that’s their way of saying “I’m worried but don’t have the emotional capacity to start a conversation with you,” and he appreciates it for what it is. Jackson and Lydia just keep being Jackson and Lydia, and he appreciates that too. He doesn’t need anyone to hold his hand through this.

He’s fine. Or he’s as fine as he can be, all things considered.

He really doesn’t want anyone’s pity, especially not after what he’s done, so he edges away from their comforting touches and kind words when they’re offered, deflecting both with half-hearted jokes and grins that even he knows don’t fit quite right on his face anymore. He wonders sometimes if the nogitsune actually changed him somehow, took away one of those face muscles you need to smile. He could have listed them all, once upon a time. Now his brain is too full of myths and lore, of blood and gore. But he’s made it this far, so he’ll be fine. He has to be.


 

The sheriff isn’t good at heart-to-hearts, but if there’s ever been a time to learn… Actually, that would have been right after Claudia, but better late than never. He knows Stiles, so he gets all the alcohol out of sight, makes it clear he hasn’t been drinking, even cleans up a bit before he takes up residence at the kitchen table and waits for his son to get home. Ambush probably isn’t the best way to start, but he doesn’t think he could get the kid into this conversation any other way.

Stiles comes in, mumbles a quick, “Hey dad,” before turning towards the stairs. He doesn’t even seem to notice that the place is less of a mess than usual, which is not a good sign.

“Hey, I think it’s about time we had a talk about how you’re doing. I know this whole thing’s been hard for you but–”

Stiles runs a nervous hand through his hair. “Dad, I get that you’re trying to help, but I’m fine. You don’t need to go full ‘Troubled Teen Intervention’ on me.”

John’s face crumples a little at that. He was really hoping to get more than a brush-off out of this. Maybe he should have read those teen intervention books instead of flipping through a couple and deciding they were a load of crap; he’s pretty sure his bases are covered with the neutral territory and staying calm anyway. He imagines the next chapters to be something about expressing concern and making motivational speeches. So he takes a deep breath and gives it a shot, motioning for Stiles to sit with him, which he does with reluctance.

“I’m worried about you.” He raises a hand to preempt Stiles’ protest before continuing. “I know you’ve heard that too many times from too many people, but it bears repeating.” He catches Stiles’ gaze and holds it before saying, “I’m worried about you because I care about you, and I can see you hurting, and I need you to let me help you. I don’t know what the hell I can do to help, but I do know I can’t let you go through it alone. Not when I can see what it’s doing to you.”

Stiles bites at his lip for a moment, inspects the wood grain of the table for a moment. Finally, he looks up and says, “It’s not doing anything to me. Not anymore.”

“Jesus, Stiles, not the monster. The– The stress and the anxiety, the paranoia and the not eating, the nightmares and, more than any of that, the pretending to be okay. It’s okay not to be okay. You’re a kid, you don’t have to protect me from your problems.”

“Paranoia?”

“Really? That’s what you got out of that?” Stiles keeps looking at him, his eyes glossy but his face determined. “Look, I kept a list. And when we go anywhere – grocery store, gas station, wherever – you look around like you’re afraid someone’s going to jump out and attack you. After what you’ve been through, I get it, I just–”

“Accuse.”

“What?”

“I think they’re going to accuse me, not attack me. The people in town I mean.” Stiles’ voice speeds up as he goes on. “Some of them have to have seen me, and they’re bound to recognize me or put the pieces together or figure out what I did eventually, and when they do I don’t know what I’ll do and I don’t have a plan for that yet and then they’ll know you helped me get rid of evidence and you’ll lose your job again and everything will fall apart because I wasn’t strong enough .” His breaths come heavily and he refuses to lift his eyes from the table.

The sheriff gets up and puts a hand on Stiles’ back, trying to soothe him. “Hey, hey, listen to me: We will figure this out. And we’ll do it together. For now, we need to focus on the problems at hand, on what we can fix. We’ll worry about the town later.” With a smile he adds, “Witnesses are notoriously unreliable anyway.”

Stiles stiffens his spine but still doesn’t raise his head. “That’s the thing, dad, there isn’t anything here you can fix.” He waves a hand that seems to encompass everything: the town’s problems, the supernatural in general, and especially Stiles himself.

“Not true. I can make you eat, help you work through the nightmares like I used to, remind you that most people in town aren’t thinking about much more than what they’re having for dinner when they’re at the supermarket. That doesn’t fix the main problem; I get that. But you can’t fix everything. Sometimes things just happen, and you can’t make them any better.” He inhales shakily and tries to lighten his tone. “I even looked through some touchy-feely books for you, and one of them said, ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going.’ I think maybe that applies here more than anything else. We’ll get through this, son. You’re not going through hell alone, not on my watch.”

Stiles forces a tight smile and leans back into his dad’s touch. “I guess you’re right. Thanks, dad.” He gets up and hugs his father, but all the while his dad’s words echo in his head.

You can’t fix everything. Sometimes things just happen, and you can’t make them any better. True enough, but not for this. This didn’t ‘just happen,’ so maybe he can fix it. Maybe he can make things better.


 

The idea of making things better clings to Stiles, gives him this strange feeling that’s either inspiration or desperation. Whichever it is, he holds on to it with both hands, refuses to let go of it because it’s the only thing he’s been motivated to do in weeks if not months. This isn’t just pretending; this is a purpose. If Stiles can undo even a fraction of what he did, if he can stop it from happening again… He can’t say he’ll suddenly be better. He knows better than that. But he will have done some good, and that’s about all he can hope for right now. Maybe it’ll ease his aching conscience just a bit, and maybe it won’t. But he has to try, because he has to do something.

So he dives headfirst into research. And then realizes he has no idea what he’s actually looking for. Turns out finding some mystical way of making things better is a bit too non-specific of a Google search. He blames his sleep-deprived mind and tries to organize his thinking. Eventually, Stiles settles on writing down all the terrible things that have happened in town recently. He puts each on a sticky note along the bottom of his bedroom wall. Then he gets more and identifies the cause of each problem: werewolf, hunter, nogitsune . Those he lines up just above their effects, linking them with string to show commonalities. Werewolf and hunter have some overlap and did their fair share of damage. Stiles tries not to let his stomach flip at seeing the damage dealt by the nogitsune laid out so plainly before him. He is not successful.

When he returns to his bedroom, still feeling a bit queasy and unbalanced, Stiles returns to work. He tries to identify any causes higher than those he listed, like pack dynamics for the wolves and crazy family for the hunters. And then he gets to the nogitsune, and it clicks. Deaton said it himself, didn’t he? Beacon Hills might as well have its very own Hellmouth. The source of power that draws creatures from far and wide, that leads to nothing but chaos, that Stiles might just be able to make better : The Nemeton.

This leads Stiles into a research spiral in which he learns more about the ancient sources of power in general than he ever thought he would. He just sort of skims over the Wikipedia entry about Celtic sacred spaces because nemeta (turns out that’s the plural of nemeton, fun fact) are all over the place. Also, sacred spaces. Sacred is about the last word he would use for it.

From there he ends up at Druid practices, then to the rituals nemeta were used for, until eventually he finds something about cursed nemeta; the websites claim they absorb and then radiate negative energy. But the more specific the information gets, the harder it is to fact check. Nobody cites their sources anymore, and Stiles has a moment of odd sympathy for his English teachers. At a certain point, he hits a wall; he knows what the problem with the Nemeton is, and a couple people in forums even make vague mention of a cleansing ritual for cursed nemeta. That’s what he needs. It has to be. They swear it will purify the Nemeton, or cleanse its aura, or make it a force for good. Stiles is fine with any of those options, but he can’t find the specifics of the ritual anywhere.

Eventually, he ends up on the forum again, leaving comments asking if anyone knows what he has to do or where he can find out. But they aren’t really active forums; the most recent post aside from his on this thread was over a year ago. He just crosses his fingers and tries to sleep, hoping that someone had notifications set up for their secret Druid account.

The next morning, he wakes to his usual cold sweat and racing heart, but thankfully he has no memory of whatever dream (or memory) his brain came up with this time. He goes to the computer and sees that one person has responded to his questions. Turns out not all Druids are like Deaton, then; these guys might actually want to be useful. He reads the comment and immediately strikes that thought. It says simply, “Sorry, don’t know the ritual. Let me know if you find it!” Honestly, Stiles isn’t sure why he expected better. He might as well be trying to get homework help off of Yahoo Answers.

He continues his search elsewhere for a while, but comes up with nothing. After a while, he gets dressed and heads out for the weekly pack meeting. Usually a couple people won’t show up and just text excuses instead, but Stiles always comes by because he wants to know what’s going on in the town. He needs to know. Considering threats are minimal at the moment while pack drama is still high, no one bothers to Alpha-voice everyone else into showing up.

Today, Stiles is barely through the door of Derek’s loft before Scott comes barrelling forward and pushes him back out into the hall. “Dude!” Scott calls quietly as he closes the door behind the two of them, “I know you come to all the meetings and everything but can you maybe skip this one?” At Stiles’ quizzical look, Scott looks up and then half-smiles. “Allison’s coming.”

And there it is. At the mere mention of Allison, Stiles’ gut twists like the knife he once plunged into Scott’s stomach. Very helpful memory, thank you, Brain. With effort, he forces his breathing to remain steady. And he tries not to think too hard about the fact that his best friend doesn’t want him around his girlfriend. “That’s great, man. I’m glad she’s feeling up to it. I guess I’ll just... go?”

Scott puts a hand on his shoulder and says, “It’s not your fault, I just think it might be hard for her to see you so soon, you know?”

Stiles does know. In fact, a part of him is pissed that Scott seems to think it wouldn’t be hard for Stiles to see her right now, too. But he shoves that anger down and away. He doesn’t deserve to be angry. He isn’t the one who’s hurt. Speaking of which, “The elevator’s broken.”

“What?” Scott looks at it, as though he didn’t even know there was an elevator in this building. Ever since his asthma got the werewolf treatment, Scott seems to have forgotten that other, Stiles-type, people don’t typically enjoy running up the stairs. And some people literally can’t run up a flight of stairs. Or walk. And while Stiles takes a moment to let guilt consume him, Scott just shrugs. “I’ll help her up.”

Stiles is fairly certain Allison will hate that, but he doesn’t have the energy to argue about it now. He nods and waves goodbye to Scott as he heads toward the staircase, reminding himself that he’s fine. Everything is fine.

Once outside the loft, Stiles finds himself flanked by Isaac, Erica, and Boyd, who are all laden with pizzas. Erica tosses hers on top of Boyd’s stack and throws an arm around Stiles, turning him back towards the loft. “Where are you going? Boyd made us go get the food early for once. No way we’re late already.”

“No, you’re on time, I just have to go home.” Erica raises an eyebrow at that, and seriously? Is the eyebrow thing part of their wolf training? Stiles swallows and focuses on her eyebrow to avoid the rest of her face. “Allison will be here soon.”

It’s Isaac who responds, “Yeah, exactly. And she needs us. All of us.”

“I really don’t think I’m the person she wants to see right now.”

“That’s bullshit!” Erica growls. “She knows how much you hate what happened and she knows it wasn’t your fault and to anyone who says it was–” She extends her claws.

Stiles steps back at the same time that Boyd puts a hand on her shoulder, still juggling pizza boxes in the other. She glares at him for a minute, but Boyd shoots a meaningful look at Stiles and then back to her. She sighs angrily. “Fine. But I’m texting him updates!” She turns to Stiles then, opening the top box Isaac is holding and shoving pizza at Stiles. “And you’re eating a slice of this!”

Stiles smiles at her and reaches for it. “Thank you.” Erica dodges his hand and gets it into his mouth. Stiles just rolls his eyes and chews. Isaac pats his arm as he goes by, and Boyd nods once. Stiles heads home alone and deliberately doesn’t think about Allison or stairs or unexpected kindnesses.

He sheepishly returns his dad’s smile and glance at the half-eaten slice of pizza still in his hand as he crosses the living room to go upstairs. The sheriff doesn’t need to know that it took him most of the drive home to get through that much.

Upstairs, he checks on the forums again and is surprised to see yet another response. These online Druids are much chattier than he expected. The response is a spell written in Latin, and he sets to work translating immediately. With a couple Adderall and no sleep, he manages to have a working translation of the spell by morning. It seems mostly like a recipe: gather the ingredients, follow some steps on the night of the new moon, and boom no more cursed nemeton. There’s also some comment about needing a special light to get the spell started in the darkness, and he isn’t quite sure what that means. He also has no idea where to find half the ingredients. Does that mean literal dragon scales? Are dragons a thing? Helpful Internet Druid replies by morning: “We just have the books. No one here knows how to use them anymore ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ .” So much for being helpful.

Stiles can only think of one person who might be able to tell him if the spell will even work, let alone help him figure out how to do it. The problem is that his trust for Deaton is only slightly higher than his trust for strangers on the internet who use shrug emoticons and Latin in the same message thread. He figures he has nothing to lose by talking to the guy, so he splashes some water on his face to wake himself up and heads down to the vet’s office, spell in hand.

“Stiles.” Deaton greets him without looking up and with no question as to why he’s there. Stiles kind of hates this guy.

“Hey, so, completely hypothetical question, but what do you know about cleansing rituals?” Smooth.

Deaton raises his eyes to meet Stiles’ now, and, without a word, he holds out a hand for the paper Stiles brought in with him. Stiles just gives it to him without complaint; even if Deaton decides to destroy it or something, Stiles took a picture of it with his phone before he left home. And emailed it to himself. Has he mentioned he doesn’t trust Deaton? Because he doesn’t. He just needs his Druid knowledge right now, not his creepy, cryptic advice.

But Deaton doesn’t do anything suspicious, just reads over the Latin and Stiles’ translation, nodding as he goes. “This is a spell for cleansing the darkness from the Nemeton,” he states.

“I am aware of that.”

“Why do you want to do this?” Deaton asks.

“Because someone has to stop it. And I need to do something.”

Deaton regards Stiles for a moment before asking, “Where did you get this?”

“I have my sources.” He doesn’t think ‘online Druid forum’ is exactly the answer Deaton is looking for. He’s not even sure Deaton uses the internet; the guy is such an annoying enigma. “So will it work?”

“The spell looks legitimate, and given the right materials with the ritual performed properly, I suppose it would work, yes.”

“Awesome, so where do I get the ‘special light’ it says I need? And you wouldn’t happen to have any dragon scales around here would you?” He scans Deaton’s shelves curiously.

“I think you will find the light when you need it. As to the rest, no, but I can tell you where to get them.” With that, he writes an address on the back of the spell and wishes Stiles luck. “Not everything that is broken can be mended,” he adds.

“This can.” Stiles drives to the address Deaton gave him, which turns out to be a dilapidated building in the warehouse district. He knocks on the door hesitantly but receives no answer, so he pushes on the door and finds it unlocked. Inside, the smell of dust hangs heavy in the stale air, but the place itself is surprisingly organized. He finds a catalog of the room’s contents on a large table in the center with a list of both items and their locations by aisle of shelving. It’s like a supernatural grocery store. With no employees. He quickly goes through and grabs what he needs; it doesn’t seem like a place he wants to hang out. He has to trust the catalog of what’s what – apparently dragon scales are just plants with scaly stems – and notices a box marked PAYMENT just inside the doorway on his way out. In what he sincerely hopes is red Sharpie, someone has scrawled “Honor System” beneath the label. Stiles reaches into his wallet and puts all the cash he has into the box. It’s not much, but the honor of putting it all in there has to count for something, right? He double-checks his pockets, finds a mint in there, and puts that down before leaving too.

At home, he stashes the ingredients in his closet and checks his phone to see when the next new moon is. Two days . In two days, he can finally accomplish something. In two days, things might start to get better.

They certainly can’t get any worse.

Chapter Text

Things get better for all of five minutes. Then they get much, much worse.

Stiles manages to pull off the spell, combining ingredients and chanting Latin under the complete darkness of the new moon. He figures out about halfway through that he is the light Deaton promised he’d find when he needed it – his fingertips start to glow as he keeps reading, and rays of light seem to connect him to the tree. As he flexes his fingers in surprise, the branches of the Nemeton bend with the motion of his hands, and for a moment he sees a flash of green foliage covering the tree. It’s like Stiles and the tree are connected for a moment, and he feels as though the tree is grateful. He finishes the spell, and the light connecting his spark to the tree fades with the cadence of his voice.

Stiles just stands there for a moment, dumbstruck that the spell really worked. This was real magic, not just making a handful of mountain ash go a little farther than it should. This was real, cleansing magic that would benefit the whole town for years to come, and he did it. He takes a moment to just revel in the feeling of doing something right, of fixing something, and then looks up at the Nemeton again to – Is that a new bud? He stares, starting forward and reaching for the small white blossom that he swears wasn’t there before the spell. A tingling starts in the tips of his fingers as he reaches forward, and when he’s within a few inches of the bud Stiles is sent sprawling backward before falling to the ground. “Rude,” he says, dusting himself off. “I thought we were cool now,” he adds, glaring at the tree weakly. It doesn’t apologize, but in the few seconds he was on the ground before righting himself, the bud has opened into a full-blown flower. He smiles, feeling that the new life in the tree is there because of him. He did that. He made something better, and he figures the tree is just trying to protect itself from getting magically turned back into some angry, cursed beacon of evil again. He heads back to his Jeep, feeling the relief of his accomplishment buoying his spirits like nothing else has in months.

And that should be it, right? Stiles did the thing he needed to do, and he knows it worked. He felt it work. But now he feels… something else.

Over the course of the next few days, Stiles tries harder than ever to act normal. He thinks he’s entitled to some normalcy now that he cleansed the Nemeton. It was the cause of so many problems, and now it won’t be, because he fixed it. Everything is better. So why isn’t Stiles?

It’s not like Stiles thought he would finish the spell and his life would suddenly be perfect. He knew it wouldn’t fix anything that had already happened, but he thought it would at least clear his conscience a little. And it did, for a while. He could at least mentally point to the Nemeton and think that something in his world was better because of him. Not worse, injured, or dead like so many others. Better. He got to clear his wall, with its lists of the town dangers and lists of the dead or injured, and it felt like triumph.

But then the nightmares get worse. The night he completed the spell, he fell into bed and dreamed he was being chased. It was pretty much his standard nightmare, except that every time he turned his head a new creature joined the fray. Wolves, demons, anything his brain could conjure up from experience and supernatural readings. By the time he thrashed himself awake, he was being chased by everyone in his pack. Everyone but Allison, because apparently his brain felt the need to remind him that she wouldn’t be chasing anyone any time soon.

The panic of that dream, of having to run from his friends like that, had stayed with him all day in a way his nightmares usually didn’t. He kept getting flashes of it throughout the day and could never quite shake off the unsettled feeling in his gut.

And things only get worse from there. As much as Stiles reminds himself that the dreams are just that, dreams and nothing more, he starts finding himself looking over his shoulder in his waking hours. He had done that for a while after the nogitsune out of paranoia that something else would catch him off guard the way it had, and it had taken everything in him to stop doing it the first time. Because his friends are all basically predators, and they notice that level of prey-like behavior. Now, he can’t seem to stop himself. And, like before, the wolves take notice. They start asking if he’s okay and flanking him like they’re his bodyguards. Again.

This is exactly what he hadn’t wanted. He’s being watched and worried about and he knows the pack has better things to do, has their own problems to work through that he’s sure need more attention than his. He tries so hard to stop himself from looking like he’s on the defensive, like he’s just waiting for something to pounce at any moment, but he can’t do it. Even his dad notices, and there’s no wolfy instincts there to blame the observation on. At least the sheriff doesn’t glue himself to Stiles’ side like some of the wolves have taken to doing when they see him looking wary. Instead, he says the constant vigilance is “only natural” after what he’s been through. Stiles figures that’s technically true, but it doesn’t make him hate it any less.

Maybe now that he has gotten rid of the biggest threat to the town, his nightmares and wariness are just a manifestation of him waiting for the other shoe to drop. He guesses that because it’s been so long since things have been this calm, his brain is stuck in a kind of red alert. And even if it keeps him from enjoying the peace, he at least gets to comfort himself with the reminder that things aren’t actually falling apart, no matter what twisted images his mind manages to throw at him in dreams. His nightmares can never be as bad as his real life was not too long ago, and waking up – while jarring and painful every time – is a relief for once. Because things aren’t that bad, not anymore. Not without the Nemeton’s dark powers drawing evils from far and wide to the town.

Of course, knowing things are better and believing it are two different things. Which is why Stiles still finds himself looking over his shoulder and recoiling at seemingly random moments when he remembers flashes of his dreams.

A few days later, he gets a text from Derek that simply reads Scott’s house, so he just assumes that means the pack meeting has been moved from Derek’s loft. No one has told him for sure that Allison’s going to be there, but based on the location he assumes she will. Getting into Scott’s living room will be much easier for her than getting into Derek’s apartment must have been. Stiles mentally preps himself for seeing her, for being reminded of what he did to her. As he approaches Scott’s door, he’s ambushed just like he was that day in the loft.

“Hey, so Allison’s already here and she knows you’re coming and she said she’s fine with it.” The words are out of Scott’s mouth before Stiles has fully registered that he’s being dragged away from the door. “I just wanted you to know, because I know you feel bad, but she’s getting better and she forgives you.” Scott beams like he’s done Stiles a favor for telling him this, but he feels his stomach turn at the words.

She forgives him. She forgives him because he did that to her . His hands. He squeezes his eyes shut tight for a second, claps Scott on the shoulder, and murmurs his thanks. He looks behind himself twice as he follows Scott into the house.

Once inside, Stiles’ eyes go directly to Allison, seated in her chair next to the couch. Stiles had promised himself that he wouldn’t stare. He knows Allison – knows pity is the last thing she would want right now. But it doesn’t stop the knot from forming in his throat at seeing her sitting there because she’s in a wheelchair and it could be years before she walks again and Stiles did that to her. Allison was the best fighter of them all, human or not, and Stiles took that away from her. He wouldn’t blame her if she never looked at him again.

“Hi, Stiles.” Allison looks up at him almost shyly as he comes farther into the room, and why would she do that? How can she smile at him like this is okay? “I missed you at the last meeting.”

Confused, Stiles meets her eyes and then turns to glance at Scott, who gives the tiniest shake of his head. Oh. Somehow knowing Scott doesn’t want Stiles around Allison is even worse than if she were afraid of him. Stiles clears his throat roughly and responds, “I, uh, I missed you too. Sorry I couldn’t be there.”

“No need to apologize,” she says, waving a hand as if to clear the air between them. The way she says it, looking into his eyes and with an authoritative tone to her voice, leaves no room for argument.

“If we’re all done being awkward now,” Erica interrupts brightly, looking between the two of them, “I smell food!” Stiles sees her throw a glare in Scott’s direction before she heads to the front door and flings it open, revealing a Derek laden with Chinese take-out containers.

The majority of the pack swarms to the kitchen after Derek in search of food. This leaves Stiles, Scott, and Allison in the living room listening to the clanking of plates and shuffling of too many bodies in a small space as everyone grabs their meals. Stiles just stands awkwardly, unsure of whether it’s better to stay here and try to talk to Allison or to just give up and grab food for the sake of something to do. He’s about ready to just wander away from both groups of people, maybe go to the bathroom and rethink his life, when Allison interrupts his meandering thoughts.

“Are you okay?” She sounds so genuine, and her head is tilted with a little wrinkle between her eyebrows. Stiles has to take a moment to process that Allison is asking him how he’s doing. When he stares dumbly at her, unable to form words over his surprise, she goes on. “It’s just, you didn’t come visit, and I wanted to make sure you were handling things…” She trails off.

“Sorry. Again.” Stiles takes a steadying breath before continuing. “I wasn’t sure if you would want to see me after what I– After what happened. How are you… handling things?” He flinches a bit at his own stumbling words, and it’s Scott who fills the silence he leaves.

“Stiles! You can’t just–” He sounds distressed, like Stiles has just offered to make everyone a nice wholesome wolfsbane smoothie.

“I’m fine , Stiles, thank you for asking,” Allison interjects carefully, now staring at Scott in obvious frustration. “I’ve actually gotten most of the feeling back in my legs already, and the doctors say I’m improving with the physical therapy. I should be back on my feet again in no time.” She beams, then, proud of herself for enduring what Stiles is sure has been a brutal recovery.

“I still think your physical therapist is making you do too much,” Scott says.

Allison flat out glares at him. “He’s doing his job, and I’m making progress. Sometimes progress hurts, Scott, but that doesn’t make it bad.”

Scott shifts from foot to foot uncomfortably; he seems to know he said something wrong to Allison but has no idea why she’s upset. Instead of following up on it, he asks, “Can I get you something to eat?” At her nod, he heads off to the kitchen, the picture of a puppy playing fetch.

Stiles coughs to cut the tension he can feel building in the air and simply says, “I’m glad you’re doing better. When I first– Well, when what happened happened , all I could think was that you might not–” He stops, clenching his fists at his sides and looking up at the ceiling to keep the moisture building in his eyes from falling.

“Well whatever you thought I might not do,” Allison says, smiling softly and forcing him to meet her eyes, “I did, or I am doing, or I will do. So you can stop worrying about me.”

It’s the strangest thing to be forgiven, or, as it seems, to not even be blamed in the first place for what Stiles thinks might be the worst thing he’s ever done. He feels sort of light and airy for a moment, but the sensation is broken by a sudden flashback of a strange, demonic creature chasing him through the woods. Weird. He dreamed that one, like, two nights ago.

He hears a flurry of motion from the kitchen when he manages to collect himself, and he recognizes the sound of shattered glass being swept up. He’s cleaned up his fair share of supernatural attack aftermaths to know just about any debris-related noises. At least this is just someone dropping a plate. Probably Lydia, as he doubts any of the wolves could even drop something without catching it on instinct. Sure enough, Lydia comes out of the kitchen moments later, brushing bits of fried rice off her dress, and sits primly on the couch. She eyes Stiles for a moment before switching her gaze to Allison. “Scott is extremely determined to feed you,” she says with exasperation.

Allison rolls her eyes. “Scott is determined to help. Constantly.”

Stiles feels like he’s missed some sort of development here, but he’s got a general sense of it already. He decides to at least try to defend Scott. “Come on, he’s like his mom. He just wants to make everyone better. The world is all sunshine and rainbows for him; he thinks if he just tries hard enough all the bad stuff will go away, because good things happen to good people. Scott thinks the world is fair.”

“And that’s sweet,” says Allison.

At the same time, Lydia says, “But it’s not.”

Before any more can be said, Scott himself comes barrelling out of the kitchen doorway. “I didn’t know what you wanted so I grabbed a little of everything. And I told everyone not to take the last of anything in case you needed more.” He puts a heaping plate of food into her lap and hands her a fork.

Lydia rolls her eyes. “She’s in a wheelchair, not starving to death.”

Isaac files into the room next and says, around a mouthful of beef and broccoli, “Why didn’t you give her chopsticks? Her hands still work.”

Allison sighs dramatically and looks at everyone in the room in turn. “She also has a voice that still works,” she says, “And she can speak for herself.”

Isaac gives her an apologetic smile, and Scott rubs the back of his neck, muttering something about how he was just trying to help. Allison pretends not to hear him, and the room quiets down until Jackson makes his way in, carrying a plate for Lydia and one for himself.

Just as Stiles is preparing to head to the kitchen himself, knowing it’s better to just grab food rather than be grilled about why he isn’t eating, the rest of the pack files back into the room. Kira and Malia sit on the floor to the right of Allison’s chair, Derek takes the armchair across the room, and Erica takes the final spot on the couch. Boyd comes in last, wordlessly putting a plate of food nearly as full as Allison’s into Stiles’ hands before perching on the armrest next to Erica.

“Uh, thanks?” Stiles manages over the surprise. He and Boyd don’t talk much; well, Boyd doesn’t talk much in general so at least it’s not, like, a Stiles-specific thing, but still. He’s not used to people trying to feed him, except for his dad the past few days.

Boyd nods in response and focuses on eating his own food. Derek looks between the two of them, a crease of confusion marring his brow for a moment before he, too, resumes eating.

The pack seems barely able to hold a conversation with everyone gathered together like this; the past is too fraught with painful memories and the future too uncertain as most of them are seniors now and reluctant to talk about their plans. Stiles just doesn’t have the energy to fill the silence as he usually would. The barely-there discussion in the room dies down as everyone instead focuses on picking at their food. Or devouring it, in the case of the shifters. Malia clears her own plate in record time and then reaches over to snatch an egg roll from Allison’s. Allison laughs at that, pushing her plate more into Malia’s reach.

Scott, however, reacts differently. His eyes go alpha-red and he growls in the back of his throat as though Malia has presented a threat. She meets his eyes and bites the egg roll in half defiantly. Allison reaches out to put a hand on Scott’s shoulder, but he gets in Malia’s face anyway.

“You can’t do that!” And he’s shouting now. Great. “Allison needs to eat so she can heal! She’s not like us; it’s already going to take so long, so how can you just take her food like that?!”

“Scott–” Allison starts.

“No, it’s not right! It’s not fair that everyone’s okay now and you’re still not and now Malia’s acting like she doesn’t even care about–”

“That’s enough,” Allison says, and there’s an edge to her voice that stops Scott in his tracks. “First of all, I’m just as okay as everyone else in this room is. I can’t walk, but I bet some of them can’t sleep at night, or can’t eat, or can’t let their guards down.” She looks pointedly at Lydia, Stiles, and Derek respectively. Scott doesn’t even notice. “You just can’t see what’s wrong with the rest of them.”

“More like he doesn’t care,” Malia adds, flexing and retracting her claws in agitation.

“Malia, that’s not fair,” Kira says. “Scott’s just worried about Allison the most. People are like that when they’re in love.” She forces a small smile, but Stiles can see that it still hurts her to say the words so bluntly.

“Yeah!” Scott says, in a tone that might as well involve sticking his tongue out at Malia. “You just wouldn’t get it because you’ve only ever dated Stiles, and it’s not like you guys were in love.”

Malia digs her claws into Scott’s carpet in what Stiles thinks is a remarkable display of self-control for her.

“Derek?” Lydia questions, deliberately changing the topic, “Is there any important pack news we needed to get out of this meeting?”

“Not really,” he replies. “Things have been pretty quiet lately, and there are still another two weeks until the full moon. I just wanted to get everyone together to–”

Jackson interrupts him. “And we all appreciate your attempt at pack togetherness, but can we get out of here before McCall pisses everyone off even more?”

Derek sighs at the same time Scott interjects, “Wait, what did I do? I didn’t even say anything to Jackson!”

“You don’t need to say anything to piss people off,” Erica says warningly.

“Okay,” Derek runs a hand over his face tiredly. “I get it. Pack meeting dismissed.”

“Finally,” Malia says. “ And I’m taking the food.” She swipes the plate off Allison’s lap, adds leftovers from the kitchen to it, and starts to leave the house. “You’re coming with me,” she says to Kira. “You’ll never make it through the winter if you don’t start eating more.”

“Hey, wait!” Scott calls. “That’s my mom’s–”

Kira pauses on her way out the door, turning to Scott. “I’ll make sure your mom gets her plate back, Scott.” She waves and follows after Malia.

“At least someone is still being nice,” Scott says to himself.

“Don’t let it go to your head,” Erica snaps, “Kira’s nice to everyone.” She pulls Boyd up behind her and goes to leave, but he stops her with a hand on her shoulder and inclines his head in Stiles’ direction. She turns to him and asks, “Do you want to go for a run with us? It’s great anger management.”

Stiles looks at her quizzically. “What? I drove here, I’m not just gonna leave the Jeep. And anyway, I’m not even angry about anything.” Erica looks at him sadly, like that was the wrong answer, but she just nods and heads out with Boyd.

“What would you be angry about?” Scott asks. “What were they even angry about?”

Stiles shrugs and walks to the front door. “That time of the moon?” He ventures with an attempt at a smile.

“No, Derek just said that’s two weeks away.”

Stiles facepalms and looks over Scott’s shoulder to Derek. He’s shrugging back into his leather jacket, face pinched like someone kicked his puppy. Stiles guesses that’s not entirely off base. In the past couple months, someone has kicked all of his puppies in one way or another. “Look, Scott, I’m just going to go. It looks like you need to talk to Allison anyway.”

Scott’s eyes light up the way they always do at the mere mention of Allison’s name. “Okay! And thanks, man, for being so cool with her. You barely made her uncomfortable or anything.”

For a brief moment, Stiles is sure he sees a flash of red eyes behind Scott, but by the time he refocuses there’s nothing there. Not even Derek. He must have gone out the back so he wouldn’t have to have any more conversations than necessary for the day. “No problem,” Stiles answers haltingly. “And tell Allison… Never mind. Just, have a good talk.”

In the driver’s seat of the Jeep, Stiles pulls out his phone and brings up his text thread with Allison. He hasn’t texted her at all since the message the Nogitsune used to lure her out the night it attacked her. He hasn’t even been able to look at it until now. He shudders and deletes all the old messages without reading them. Quickly, he texts “thank you” and hits send, shoving his phone in his pocket before pulling out of Scott’s driveway.


 

A minute or so after Scott closes the door behind Stiles, Allison feels her phone vibrate in her pocket. She pulls it out and is surprised to see a text from Stiles. Sure, she thought their mini-reunion had gone okay, but she hadn’t really expected him to reach out. And now she has no idea how to respond to his thanks without somehow making him feel guilty. As much as Allison doesn’t blame Stiles for what happened to her at all , she knows it’s going to be a sore spot for him for years. Eventually, she settles on a heart emoji and sends it. At least that won’t do any harm.

Scott comes barreling back into the room then, beaming and wrapping her up in a hug. “You were so brave!”

Allison takes his wrists in her hands, pulling out of the hug but still holding on gently. “What was brave about that, exactly?”

With a sheepish look, Scott replies, “You know, with Stiles. You haven’t really seen him since he did… what he did. And you didn’t even flinch!”

She drops Scott’s hands now. “Scott,” she begins, “We both know Stiles isn’t the one who did that, and I really hope you aren’t making him feel like he’s the one to blame.”

“I know that! And he knows, too. I just mean, like, it was his body, and it looked like him, so that must have still been scary for you. And you were so brave.” He ends with a look that might as well include a swoon.

“It’s fair to say that I’ve done a lot of brave things in my life, but being a friend to Stiles is not one of them.”

“I know, and I didn’t mean to make you mad or anything. I just meant–”

“I know exactly what you meant, so let me make this clear for you.” She holds his eyes for a moment before continuing. “That was not Stiles. I didn’t think for a moment that it was Stiles. The look in its eyes when it attacked me… Stiles could never look like that. And I’m the one who believed the text and went ahead before the rest of you could get there; you don’t get to blame Stiles for that. You don’t get to blame Stiles for this .” She gestures at her legs.

“That’s not what I meant! It’s just, I’ve heard you having nightmares sometimes…”

“Those aren’t about Stiles. Look, my dad’s coming to get me soon; I’m going to go wait out front.” She makes her way to the door.

“Oh, okay,” Scott is more subdued as he walks Allison to the door. He knows when he’s been dismissed, this time. “I love you.”

Allison gives him a small smile and a peck on the lips before she rolls to the end of the driveway to wait for her dad. She thinks about her nightmares: how there are more about her mom than the nogitsune anyway, and how Stiles’ face may still feature in some nogitsune dreams, but Scott doesn’t need to know that. Stiles is her friend, and the nogitsune is gone. She’s okay.


 

That night, Derek finds himself on the roof of Stiles’ house without having planned to go there. This is getting to be a disturbing habit with him. He isn’t sure what his plan is here, but he can’t just let Stiles blame himself. He certainly can’t let Scott keep piling on the guilt like he did today. He’ll need to have a talk with Scott about how good alphas treat their pack members. Not that Derek knows much about how to be an alpha himself, but he’s trying.

He sits and listens to the sound of Stiles’ heartbeat for a moment, enjoying the steady rhythm as opposed to the frantic beat he hears far too often. Reminding himself why he’s here, he swings down and lands deftly on the windowsill, tapping three times on Stiles’ bedroom window.

Stiles squints into the darkness at him, unlatches the window, and breaks a line of mountain ash before stepping back to allow Derek into the room.

“You didn’t need to do that,” Derek says, indicating the mountain ash and trying for humor, “I knock now.”

“But you aren’t here to tell me you learned basic social etiquette,” Stiles says tiredly, “So what do you need?”

Derek isn’t used to being so completely brushed off by Stiles, certainly not when there aren’t any obvious dangers lurking. “Are you okay?” It’s not what he meant to ask, but Derek figures it’s better than nothing.

Stiles eyes him and flops into his desk chair. “Fine. Totally up for whatever you need me to do. Research? Translating? Comedic relief?” He mimes juggling before turning to his laptop.

“Will you stop?” It comes out more growly than Derek intended, and Stiles turns back to him sharply, so he focuses on breathing for a second before he continues. “I just wanted you to know that–”

“What?” Stiles sounds impatient now.

“She didn’t smell scared. Or uncomfortable.”

“What?” Now Stiles just sounds confused.

“Allison. I heard what Scott said to you, so–”

Stiles switches back to angry. “Okay, two things. One: Stop smelling people. It’s weird. And two: Just because you can hear other people’s conversations doesn’t mean you should. Eavesdropping is discouraged among those of us who weren’t raised by wolves.”

Derek’s eyes go red at the allusion to his family, as Stiles knew they would, and he heads for the window. “I’m trying to help you,” he manages to grumble on his way out.

“I’m fine,” he hears behind him, and he isn’t sure if Stiles is talking to Derek or to himself. He senses the mountain ash line seal closed as he leaves.

Derek heads into the woods, and after a short run he calls for his betas, who appear together but immediately smell his frustration and tense up. Except for Erica, who still seems to think being a werewolf makes her indestructible. Instead of backing away, she takes a whiff of the air and smirks. “Did Stiles reject you? I know the feeling. I can get you ice cream and put on The Notebook if you want.” She’s within easy clawing distance of Derek by the time she’s done speaking.

Derek chooses, with difficulty, to ignore the barb because he’s supposed to be the adult here. He can do this. “Something’s wrong with him,” he explains.

“No shit,” Erica says flatly. “Something’s wrong with all of us.” She motions to the group of them: herself, Boyd, Isaac, Jackson, and Derek. She notices Peter lurking in a dense thicket of trees to the side and adds, “Some more than others.”

“I’m serious.”

“So am I. How could there not be something wrong with him? You don’t get beaten and tortured by a psycho and possessed by a demon and just come out of it like nothing ever–”

What?” Derek’s voice is closer to a roar than a growl now.

“I’m sorry, did you forget about the demon possession or...?”

“Not that. The… the beaten and tortured part.”

Boyd steps in before Erica’s temper can make matters worse. “When Gerard captured us, he got Stiles too.”

The betas watch as Derek processes that information, thinking back to when Boyd and Erica had first gotten back to him. Even with their healing, they had still been injured. Derek had done what he could to help them heal, but he can’t imagine what that process must have been like for a human. Isaac seems to be having similar thoughts, but he knows all too well how drawn out the process of healing injuries as a human can be.

Moments later, the betas’ heads all whip up at the smell of blood, looking for a threat on instinct. Instead, they find rivulets running down from Derek’s hands, where he’s made tightly clenched fists with his claws extended into his palms. He radiates fury. “Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

“When did you want us to tell you?” Erica shouts. “During the Darach? Or the nogitsune? Which disaster would have been a better time for you? Excuse us for trying to keep you from worrying about one more thing when you already think it’s your job to protect this whole town!”

“Stiles is part of the town! He’s part of Scott’s pack, so I should be protecting him, too!”

“Stilinski would be pissed if you wasted your time on him when you could be saving other people,” Jackson says, stepping forward.

Derek glares at him. “Protecting Stiles is not a waste of time.”

Jackson seems to physically bite back a response and instead storms across the clearing.

“We were protecting him.” Boyd makes the statement with finality, and Derek can sense his loyalty despite the calm tone.

Erica, however, contradicts him with a scoff. “We didn’t protect him, though, did we? He needed us to protect him from that thing, and we didn’t.”

Derek can’t even begin to process what he’s just learned about Stiles, about the depth of his commitment to protecting the pack. But one thing he knows for certain. He looks around at his betas and says, “He still needs you.”

“What he needs is to get out of Scott’s pack,” Isaac says.

“What? Why?”

Isaac looks a bit uncomfortable, but he goes on, determined. “We all heard what Scott said before they came into the house. He might as well be saying it was his fault. Stiles is annoying on a good day, but he doesn’t deserve that.”

Derek frowns. “I see your point, but how are we supposed to get him into our pack? Scott is his best friend.”

“We could seduce him over to our side,” Erica drawls. “We are the prettier pack.”

Derek rolls his eyes, but before he can say anything, Jackson tosses in a mocking, “You couldn’t get him when you were human, and you definitely won’t get him away from McCall now.”

Erica shifts and lunges in his direction, laughing when he flinches away slightly.

Derek roars in frustration, and they both cower instinctively before straightening up, looking sheepish. “We need an actual plan. And we’re not seducing him,” he says to Erica preemptively. She pouts.

“I don’t know,” Peter says, meandering into the group from his place in the shadows. “I could definitely get on board with Erica’s plan.”

“Ugh,” Erica says, shuddering, “I retract my plan.”

“Maybe,” Derek suggests, deciding not to think about Peter’s offer ever again , “We can convince Scott to merge packs now. We’ve been on good terms lately, and I think the pack bond would be the best way to make sure Stiles is okay.”

“Are you kidding me? Isaac literally just said Scott is doing the worst thing possible for him and you want us to join his pack ?”

“It’s not joining his pack; we’d be merging the two, leading together–”

Jackson interrupts with a scoff. “Please, you couldn’t co-captain with McCall any more than I could.”

“What else am I supposed to do? We can’t get him away from Scott; he’s too loyal.”

Most of the pack looks some combination of exhausted and frustrated, while Peter continues to look conniving. Derek chooses not to question that, for his own sanity.

“Just keep an eye on him,” he says. “And let me know if anything changes.”

“On it, boss,” Erica says sarcastically, giving Derek a wave on her way out of the clearing.

As the other betas file out behind her, Derek turns to face Peter. “I know you didn’t just come out here because I called. What are you up to?”

“What, I can’t support my nephew while he’s playing alpha?”

“I am the alpha,” Derek answers automatically, unable to stop his eyes from flashing.

“You focus on worrying about your pack, Alpha ,” Peter leers. “I’ll keep an eye on the rest.”

Instead of following that instruction, Derek does what he always does and worries about everything.


 

Stiles knows the spell worked. If seeing the changes to the Nemeton hadn’t been proof enough, he could feel the difference. When he finished that spell, something had changed. Something had slotted into place precisely where it belonged, and the clearing where the tree stood had been at peace.

Stiles, however, cannot say the same for himself. His peace of mind has been gradually degrading since he cleansed the tree. While no new threats had popped up in town, the attacks from his own mind had grown more frequent. Not only was he having nightmares of the nogitsune, but now he sometimes finds himself – while awake – staring into the faces of monsters.

Not werewolves. Monsters.

Case in point, Isaac invites himself over to Stiles’ house to watch the new Star Wars movie – though Stiles suspects someone from the pack put him up to it, considering Isaac hasn’t seen any of the series because he had the world’s worst childhood. Then, halfway through the film, he changes. He doesn’t shift, no, shifting into standard beta form would be too easy. As Stiles glances over to see if Isaac is still interested in the movie, he doesn’t so much shift as go from being Isaac in one instant to this disgusting, four-horned demon-thing the next moment. It’s... startling, to say the least. So you can’t really blame Stiles for flinching back into the couch in his horror. And maybe shrieking. Just a little.

But in the time it takes him to start freaking out, Isaac is himself again. No more skeletal hands or exposed muscles or hulking black wings. Just worried puppy dog eyes telling him to breathe.

“Stiles? Hey, are you okay?” Isaac sounds frantic. “Is this a panic attack – what do you need me to do?”

“It’s okay,” Stiles gasps out. He tells himself this is just fear, or residual anxiety trying to find an outlet. A really inconvenient outlet. He breathes in deeply again and reminds himself that, whatever he just saw, it wasn’t real. Isaac is here. He’s safe. “I’m okay.”

Isaac looks skeptical. “If you, I don’t know, want to talk about it or–“

“No! Nope, definitely don’t need to talk about it. I’m good. Let’s go with pretending that never happened.”

“Stiles...” Isaac starts.

“I get enough of being the token human when we’re in actual battles. I don’t need to keep being the weak one while we’re safe, okay?”

Isaac looks like he wants to argue, but he eventually drops his eyes and nods. “We don’t think you’re weak; it’s braver to fight when you can’t heal. I would know.”

Stiles’ eyes widen at the allusion to Isaac’s dad. It’s one of many things they don’t talk about in the pack, like Derek’s family and Stiles’ mom.

“And we are, you know,” Isaac goes on.

“What?”

“Safe.” He explains. “Sometimes it helps to hear it.” Isaac shrugs, and they both turn back to the movie, but neither are really watching anymore.

Stiles obsesses over what he’s seen. It’s the second time this week, and he can’t quite figure out where his brain is even coming up with the specifics. That thing Isaac turned into isn’t even a creature he has read about in the bestiary. At least, he’s pretty sure he never read about it.

When Isaac leaves for the day, he searches for it online. Apparently his brain decided he needed to be acquainted with the Sumerian demon Asag. Stiles didn’t even know that was a thing! Asag isn’t the kind of face you just forget.

The fact that this problem, whatever it is, seems to be based on something real terrifies Stiles. He kind of hates that it probably isn’t just his brain trying to deal with everything that happened. That would be normal. Stiles can’t remember the last time he had the luxury of having a problem usually relegated to normal people, that is, people who don’t know about the supernatural. His problems are always something straight out of a horror movie. At this point, he might be okay if things in his life were a little more Saw and a little less The Conjuring.


 

Honestly, Lydia hates being a banshee. She appreciates knowing about the supernatural rather than being another clueless townsperson, but, given the choice, she would have chosen just about any other power. Banshee powers don’t give her super strength, or healing, or any other particularly useful skill. No, she can find dead bodies. While screaming. It’s done wonders for her social life.

Some days, Lydia thinks she would have taken the bite by now if her other power wasn’t being inconveniently immune. She’s sure she could still find bodies using heightened senses and her own higher intellect if need be. And she knows she would be able to control the shift. She manages to control most people while barely batting an eye, and controlling herself is even easier than that. She does it all the time: doesn’t show weakness, fear, or anger unless it’s strategic. But being a banshee? She can’t control that. She doesn’t get to control where or when she is when a vision strikes.

And now, it’s beginning to feel like it did when she was first coming into her powers. It started with nightmares, which she wrote off and ignored. Nightmares don’t mean anything.

Until they do. Like when she has them while awake, because that’s not a nightmare. That’s her powers informing her of something. Warning her.

She doesn’t know what, exactly, she should be looking out for. She had seen a flash of something in Scott’s kitchen at the last pack meeting, just a brief flash and a stab of fear before it was gone. Her visions had never been like that before, and she had to know more about it. But in all her research, she still hasn’t come across anything concrete.

Now, seated at Jackson’s unnecessarily large dining room table, Lydia sees something else, and this time it’s clearly in focus. The thing is demonic, looks like it was lifted directly out of a bestiary somewhere, but not one she’s seen. She struggles to steady her breathing, taking mental notes of the creature’s characteristics until it fades out of her vision.

“Lydia?” When she fully comes back to herself, Lydia finds Jackson leaning over her chair, looking worried. “What did you see?”

“I don’t know yet,” she says, pulling out her phone.

“What? I thought it was always something specific, like a face or a location or –“

“I don’t have time for this,” Lydia snaps, getting up and striding away, her focus still on her phone. Jackson follows behind her but doesn’t interrupt again. Or rather, he tries to interrupt but is silenced by Lydia until he gives up. Within minutes, her searching reveals that she saw a demon known as Asag, but that still doesn’t tell her why. She needs to know why.

Jackson, peering over her shoulder at the image on her screen, questions, “Is that it? Is that thing coming here?”

Lydia doesn’t answer, because she doesn’t know. And she might hate not knowing even more than she hates being a banshee.


 

Derek looks up from where he’s been doing pushups in the middle of the loft to see Peter come sauntering into the room. He smells like the forest, and, more recently, like Deaton’s clinic. Already suspicious, he asks, “What are you up to?”

“Finding the cause of your next problem.”

Derek eyes narrow, and he strides over to Peter. “What problem?”

“You should really keep a closer watch on your territory,” Peter sneers.

“Peter...” Derek warns.

He sighs, “You have no idea what’s happening, do you?”

“I know you’ve been alone in the woods, and I know you’ve been to see Deaton. And I know that doesn’t mean anything good, so tell me what you’ve been doing.” Derek grits out the final words, barely controlling his temper at Peter’s non-answers.

“It’s like you gained nothing by becoming the alpha. You should be able to sense a change this big. You should feel it.” Peter somehow manages to sound both condescending and disappointed at the same time. “You would have noticed if you didn’t spend all your time brooding and worrying about teenagers’ feelings.”

Derek clenches a fist but manages not to respond to Peter’s barb. “I noticed something was different, but I didn’t know what.” Derek thought maybe the change was just him, that he was feeling relief. He thought this was the calm of things getting better. But of course the change is real, and external, and probably dangerous. Because this is his life. He looks back to Peter. “What is it?”

“The energy in the forest has changed. I don’t know how you missed it, considering how much of your time you spend lurking in the woods.”

“Changed how?” Derek prompts.

“It feels positive,” Peter answers, spitting the word out like it leaves a foul taste in his mouth.

“Okay,” Derek begins. “How is that a bad thing?”

Peter looks at him like he can’t even fathom Derek’s level of ignorance. “How is it a bad thing that a wellspring of evil has suddenly and inexplicably evaporated?” He mocks, “No, you’re right, this is cause for celebration. I’ll send out the invitations.”

Derek sighs with exasperation. “You’re not helping.”

“I’m just trying to throw you a bone here; it’s not my problem that you won’t play fetch.”

The dog jokes from Stiles are bad enough, but coming from Peter, who is also a born wolf, it irritates Derek even further. Plus, it’s different with Stiles. Derek knows Peter is just trying to get under his skin, and he hates that it’s working. “Why even tell me about this if you aren’t going to help?”

“Because I thought you might like to get a head start for once, instead of waiting until this new evil has you by the throat before you even realize it exists? A gesture of kindness,” he answers simply. “So do me a favor, Alpha , and be useful to your pack for once.”

Derek ignores the jab. “Do you know what did it?”

“Would I be here, gracing you with my presence, if I did?”

“You would be if you needed something from me,” Derek snarks.

“Fair point. But, despite the fact that I actually have internet and am capable of doing research without the help of a hyperactive teenaged boy, the information I’ve gathered so far isn’t exactly…concrete.” He shrugs.

“So you’ve got nothing,” Derek deadpans. “What did Deaton say?”

“What he always says.” Peter’s lips curl in distaste. “The balance must be maintained; powerful magic is at work here; et cetera, et cetera.” He waves an arm as though dismissing all of Deaton’s comments.

“But if Deaton says the balance has to be maintained, doesn’t that mean whatever this is will balance itself out? Naturally?”

Peter rolls his eyes. “The food chain is natural, Derek. That doesn’t mean you'll want your pet human to end up as a chew toy when this thing sorts itself out, does it?”

Derek takes an involuntary step forward, as though ready to run headfirst into the danger already. Peter stops him with a raised hand.

“What exactly are you planning to fight right now?”

“Whatever did it. It has to fix the Nemeton before–” Derek pauses, and Peter shakes his head.

“Before what? You don’t know what’s coming, or what caused it, but you might be able to find out if you took a moment to think instead of trying to martyr yourself at every opportunity.”

“What are you hiding?” Derek asks with suspicion.

“Why does everyone always assume I’m hiding something?” Peter questions innocently.

“Because you always are.”

Peter shrugs in half-acknowledgement. “It takes powerful magic to remove the kind of evil that was in that forest, and even more powerful magic to leave the good energy in place.”

“Wouldn’t we know if someone that powerful were in town?”

Peter mock applauds. “Give the boy a medal! Yes, we should have sensed it the moment it crossed into pack territory.” In his best faux-teacher voice, he asks,  “And what does that tell us?”

“That whatever cured the nemeton is using magic to conceal itself from us.”

“And what do we know about people who hide their intentions?”

“That we can’t trust them,” Derek answers flatly, looking at Peter meaningfully.

Peter holds a hand to his chest in mock affront, “And here I am trying to help my pack.” His tone becomes serious again as he says, “Instead of accusing your own pack, you should be figuring out what outside force has brought its magic to Beacon Hills, and why.”

Derek gives a slight nod of agreement. “Do you have any ideas?”

“Derek,” Peter smirks, “I always have ideas. Just none I care to share with the class.” With that, he pushes off from the pillar and exits the loft.

Derek lets him go, knows better than to try to get more information out of Peter than he’s willing to give. That always ends poorly. Once, when he was a kid, Derek had pestered Peter about whether or not he had a girlfriend. Somehow, that had ended in Derek running from a swarm of bees and diving into icy lake water. He still doesn’t know if Peter was dating anyone. Derek is fairly certain that badgering Peter now won’t end in the mostly harmless pranks it used to. He certainly isn’t willing to test it.

But he also doesn’t know what to do with the vague information Peter has given him. He supposes he could talk to Deaton himself, but he’s not a fan of the guy any more than Peter is. He takes a moment to be annoyed that Peter was right before pulling out his phone and messaging his pack of teenagers, one of whom he knows will be able to help even if the rest can’t. Time for a pack meeting.

Chapter Text

Chapter Three: Key Moments

Halfway through lacrosse practice, Stiles is cradling the ball and trying to find someone to pass to when he looks across the field at Jackson and sees something again. He’s really starting to empathize with Lydia and the whole ‘having inexplicable visions’ thing. It gets old fast. This time, in place of the familiar face that should be heading towards him, he sees what would be an ordinary elderly man, if it had eyes. The face is humanoid enough, with a nose and mouth and ears, but in place of eyes there is an expanse of pale, smooth flesh. As the creature comes forward, running at an impossible speed and reaching out for him, Stiles thinks he glimpses a wide-open eye in the palm of its hand. He is shocked back into reality when Jackson body checks him and manages to scoop the ball up and head the other way in one fell swoop. He vaguely registers Finstock yelling at Jackson for the move as Scott comes over to offer him a hand up.

“Are you hurt?” Scott asks worriedly. “Your heart is pounding.”

Stiles pretends to check himself for injuries, patting down his torso and bending his knees. “Nah, I’m good,” he says. “He just got the jump on me. Werewolves are cheaters,” he jokes weakly.

Scott laughs and heads off to rejoin the game, and Stiles takes a moment to catch his breath before following after him.

He waits until he’s gotten home and done some research before he starts properly freaking out. It takes what might be the simplest monster-related Google search of his life to figure out what the thing was. Supernatural creature with no eyes returns ‘Tenome’ within the first five searches, and yup, that was definitely an eye on its hand. So this is apparently a thing now. Stiles decides to test his luck and tries searching hallucinating supernatural creatures and a few other variations of it before giving up. Of course he can’t just find out the cause of his sudden ability to know that random monsters exist by seeing them on his friends’ faces, because that would be too easy. He eventually puts his head down on his desk and tries to think about how to explain this to the pack, or if he even should. It’s not necessarily dangerous yet.

A few minutes later, it occurs to Stiles that he’s kind of just sitting around brooding instead of making a plan, and he’s not Derek, so that’s not okay. He pulls out a pad of paper and sketches the things he’s seen so far, labeling them with the names he got online and the names of the people he saw them on. He doesn’t find any patterns immediately, and the internet has been completely unhelpful for this.

In the middle of trying to figure out his hallucination situation, Stiles receives a text from Derek and feels his heart leap into his throat. It’s not that different from the usual: Pack meeting in the loft at 5. As is typical of Derek, it gets straight to the point and also conveys basically no information. He’s proven himself to be even worse at texting than he is at conversation. It’s like pulling teeth, or more accurately, fangs, to get complete sentences out of the guy. Honestly, Stiles was surprised the first time Derek responded to one of his texts. Especially considering the text was Does garlic actually work to keep vampires away? Stiles had been in the middle of a cheesy monster movie marathon, and now that his life pretty much is one, he felt entitled to ask a few questions. Derek had responded with a simple, No, but it was still something. Weirdly excited about it, Stiles had followed up with Wait are vampires even real? Derek never answered that one, but Stiles had still felt accomplished. He thinks he might be the only one who texts Derek in non-emergency situations.

But this text is different from the norm, because at the end of it Derek has added the words Be there. From Derek, it may as well be a call for help, because everyone – well, maybe not everyone, but Stiles at least – knows that Derek doesn’t put anything into pack-wide messages unless he thinks it’s important. And meeting announcements always go to everyone.

Stiles also knows Derek sends the same message to everyone because he’s the one who taught him how to do that in the first place. It was funny at first, like Derek was some senior citizen trying to adapt to new technology. But then Stiles realized he hadn’t had much need for a phone in years, as Laura would have been literally his only contact. That just made Stiles work even harder to get Derek on the group messaging bandwagon, and it worked. Because now he can text the whole pack whenever he wants. To be fair, he only ever texts them for pack meetings or to give Stiles one-word answers to his questions, but still. The pack message has never deviated in anything other than time or location. Derek has never specifically told everyone to show up. Unless he did it to meet about the nogitsune, but Stiles wouldn’t have gotten that text. At least that means this meeting isn’t about him. They still don’t know.

He tries to push down the rising tide of anxiety, to quell his thoughts that this has to be some new enemy on a path to destroy them, but why else would Derek need everyone to meet? Stiles is surprised, though, because normally Derek shows up in advance to ask Stiles to do some research for him before he tries to give information to the pack. He considers the possibility that maybe Derek doesn’t think Stiles is up to it, but dismisses that out of hand. Derek hasn’t treated Stiles any differently since the nogitsune at all; in fact, now that he thinks about it, Scott is really the only one who has.

And that’s it; it has to be about Scott. Stiles realizes for the first time that he’s been thinking of it as the pack for what seems like forever now, but they still aren’t a unified pack. Not according to whatever werewolf laws and rituals make that decision, anyway. Derek must be calling everyone together to make the pack merge official; they’ve been working together well enough lately that it makes sense. All the mutual life-saving was bound to form a bond between the packs eventually. Stiles is glad that he finally won’t have to act like he’s more loyal to one alpha than the other. He’s just considered the whole band of supernaturals one big group for a while now. They’re basically the meddling kids fighting monsters in Scooby Doo. Except with real monsters and way more violence, so not quite the stuff of Saturday morning cartoons.

Secure in the deduction that this meeting will be one of unity rather than disaster, Stiles grabs his hoodie and his keys and heads downstairs. He tries not to think too much about what he’s been seeing for now and resolves to talk to Lydia if he can get her alone at the loft. He is wildly unprepared for having everyone know that his brain is maybe not the sanest place (again), but he knows that Lydia, out of everyone, will understand. And really, he doesn’t think the rest of the pack would be able to help anyway. He and Lydia are the ones who come up with all the solutions; they’re always the brains of the operation. And Stiles doesn’t think the pack’s muscle will be necessary to get him to stop seeing things, or to help him learn to deal with seeing things, if this is a permanent thing. He takes guilty comfort in the fact that he hasn’t started screaming in public places. Being not-a-banshee isn’t the best bright side in the world, but at this point Stiles will take what he can get.


 

Derek finishes cooking, ignoring Peter’s earlier comments about how spaghetti doesn’t qualify as “providing for your pack” by the time Stiles arrives at the loft. Scott and Allison are already here, Scott seated on Derek’s couch with Allison in her chair beside it. Derek notices Stiles automatically move toward Scott, but at a look from him he moves off to the side. Allison glances between the two of them and rolls her eyes. Derek takes a stack of plates from the cupboard less than gently.

“Hi, Stiles,” Allison says, elbowing Scott in the least subtle manner possible. She radiates irritation, but it hasn’t quite crossed into anger yet. Derek, however, is angry for her. She doesn’t need protection from Stiles.

Stiles smiles at her, moving to Derek’s side and piling food onto plates. “Hey, how you feeling?” Stiles asks over his shoulder, busying himself to avoid the disapproval he senses from Scott and his own twinge of guilt at seeing Allison in the chair.

“I’m good,” she answers. Her lips quirk up at the corners, and Derek can see Allison resisting the urge to make a crack about her legs still being mostly useless. She’s been spending too much time with Malia. But she controls herself now, knows not to say something like that around Stiles. Most other pack members have gotten comfortable making jokes about the state of her legs lately, with the exception of Scott and Boyd. To be fair, Boyd doesn’t joke about much of anything. And Scott is still sensitive about it because, well, because he’s Scott. Even Derek has been known to crack the occasional smile at Malia’s brutal honesty or Erica’s sarcasm. Cutting a sideways glance at Scott, Allison decides not to push for more conversation with Stiles right now. She doesn’t want to create any more tension between the two of them than necessary.

Derek looks between Stiles and Allison, nodding slightly to himself at how much less anxiety he can smell in the air than the last time they were in the same room. He tries to hand Stiles one of the plates he had just fixed, but Stiles shakes his head and moves away from the counter, hovering in the middle of the room for a moment. Before Derek can question the reaction or, more likely, just put a plate in his hands and glare him into eating, Lydia and Jackson stride into the room. Stiles immediately looks at Lydia and begins tapping at his phone, heading in her direction.

Derek hears Lydia’s phone vibrate around the same time Stiles gets up to her, and he raises an eyebrow suspiciously. Scott takes no notice, and Jackson doesn’t seem to care. Lydia pulls out her phone, scans the message, and looks at Stiles quizzically. She types out a response and puts her phone back in her bag before settling on the couch with Jackson. Derek looks to Stiles, whose phone must be on silent, as he reads the response from Lydia. His expression doesn’t change, and he returns his phone to his pocket.

By the time the rest of the pack has filed into the loft, Derek has mostly put the messages out of his head. After the last time he had tried to intervene in Stiles’ life directly, he has learned to at least make an attempt to respect privacy. And it’s not like it’s Peter; he trusts Stiles and Lydia. And speaking of Peter…

“Alpha,” Peter greets, giving Derek an exaggerated salute as he comes down the stairs once everyone has gathered in the living area. The dramatic entrance isn’t lost on Derek, and he hears Stiles snort derisively from across the room. “I attend this meeting in response to your call.” The formality of the statement strikes Derek, throws him off balance more than an outright insult would have. He has to swallow against the feeling of wrongness that rises in him at being the alpha presiding over a pack meeting. He knows Peter is just trying to get into his head, but his position feels suddenly real in a way it hasn’t until now.

He must freeze for a moment too long, because by the time Peter has finished his dramatic descent down the stairs, Stiles is brushing past Derek on his way to the kitchen. He picks up a plate and says, in a faux-formal tone, “I attend this meeting for the free food.”

The tension breaks as quickly as it had arisen, Stiles shoveling a big bite of spaghetti into his mouth and motioning for Derek to begin.

“I wanted you all here because,” he starts, glancing at Stiles, who nods approvingly. “Don’t panic,” he interrupts himself. He could kick himself as soon as the words are out, every heartbeat in the room but Peter’s picking up speed.

Stiles puts his plate down abruptly, muttering something to himself about never getting to have a pack meeting without the threat of imminent doom.

“Derek?” Allison prompts.

“Something happened to the nemeton.”


 

Stiles means to tell everyone that he is the thing happened to the nemeton, but they all get so focused so quickly. And if this meeting wasn’t about merging the packs, this completely non-lethal puzzle might just be the catalyst that gets them all to realize that they’re better together. It definitely can’t do any harm. Stiles figures he’ll give it a couple of days at least before he comes clean. The pack could use the extra bonding time over something that’s not actually a threat for once.

He only half listens as Derek fumbles his way through an explanation of why the nemeton being better might not be a good thing. He pretty much stops listening by the time Peter cuts in with a snide remark about Derek not knowing a nemeton from a nematode.

Before long, they start dividing responsibilities. “Peter will be reaching out to some of his contacts for information,” Derek explains. “Erica, Boyd, Isaac, Jackson and I will be patrolling the woods for unfamiliar scents or other traces of whoever did this.”

“What about us?” Scott asks, gesturing at his pack.

“The three of you,” he says, motioning to Kira, Malia, and Scott, “Just keep an eye out. I want Allison to help Stiles and Lydia research why someone would cleanse the nemeton.”

Malia groans. “I want to be in the search; I haven’t had a good chase since I got this form back!”

Scott speaks over her, saying, “I don’t think that’s a good idea…”

“Why not?” Malia questions, her voice edging on threatening.

Scott looks at her, surprised. “What? No, you can do the search thing; I mean Allison.”

“Oh, well that doesn’t matter to me then,” she nods, sitting further back in her seat.

Allison cuts in sharply. “Why isn’t that a good idea, Scott? I have access to all of the Argent files. They need me on this.”

He looks back at her, eyes wide. Everyone knows what he means, but he seems, for once, unwilling to blurt what he’s thinking.

Derek interrupts then, conceding, “It’s up to you what you do,” he says, looking at the four of them, “You and your alpha.” He looks to Scott meaningfully, but Scott doesn’t seem to even register the gaze. Instead, he is looking between Stiles and Allison with concern.

Even Stiles, with his completely human senses, can feel the frustration rolling off of Allison in waves. She physically turns her body away from Scott, towards Derek, as she announces, “I’ll be helping Lydia and Stiles with the research.”

Stiles watches as the ghost of a smile crosses Derek’s face before he returns to his normally stoic expression. “Thank you,” he says to Allison.

“No problem.”

Scott looks around imploringly again, as though shocked no one else can see the problem here, but he finds himself alone.

Division of labor sorted, everyone starts to gather around the door to the loft, ready to head out. As they make their way there, Stiles looks across to Malia and sees her with her hair aflame, her teeth elongated, and giant bat wings protruding from her back. He stumbles back out of surprise and yelps as he catches his left foot on something hard, tumbling to the ground.

“Whoa, you scared me!” Allison laughs, backing her chair away to give him room to stand back up from where he tripped over it. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” he mumbles, running his hand through his hair and looking back at Malia, who is herself again. She raises an eyebrow at him and he shrugs in answer, shaking his head as though to clear it. Kira gives him a hand up from the floor.

“The food’s gone, and so am I,” Malia announces, dragging Kira behind her by the wrist. “You should really work on your balance,” she calls to Stiles on her way out the door. Kira waves with her free hand and calls goodbye as she exits.

“What she said,” Erica declares, heading into the hall with Boyd by her side. “We’ll meet you at the usual spot to patrol tomorrow, Derek!”

Lydia and Jackson follow behind them, Lydia giving Stiles a look on her way out. She knows the aftermath of a vision when she sees one. And she’s certainly seen Stiles make a fool of himself enough times to know that what just happened is not his standard variety of clumsy. He knows they’ll be talking about this later.

“Is your dad on his way yet?” Scott asks Allison. Stiles knows it kills him that he can’t drive her anywhere at the moment. The chair doesn’t quite fit in his mom’s car, even folded, and he definitely isn’t getting her on his bike any time soon.

“He’s already downstairs actually; I texted him when we all decided what we were doing, figured the meeting was about over.”

“You’re so smart,” he coos, and Stiles will never get over how Scott can view something as simple as basic common sense as remarkable when it comes from Allison. His mind drifts off for a moment as he wonders what Scott would do if Allison ever farted around him. He would probably think it smelled like roses, and that’s just wrong. Still, he has to stifle a laugh at the mental image.

Around the time Stiles returns from that train of thought, he sees Scott waving as Allison rolls out. “You’re not walking her?” He questions. Scott never misses an opportunity to keep breathing the same air as Allison if he can help it.

Scott closes the door behind him and approaches Stiles, pulling him to the corner of the loft in the shadow of the staircase. “I told her to go ahead, because I need to talk to you.”

“Okay dude, what’s up?” But Stiles knows. Scott is maybe the least subtle person he’s ever met.

“I think you should let Allison and Lydia research by themselves.”

There it is. Something bitter and hurt in Stiles makes him ask, “Why?”

Scott stares at him. “How can you not know why?” He sounds almost angry, and no, Scott does not get to be the angry one here. He doesn’t.

“No, Scott, tell me why. Tell me why I can’t be researcher. I don’t know if you know this, but research? Kind of my thing.” Stiles can feel his own irritation rising by the moment. He won’t let Scott off this easy. He wants him to say it.

“And you’re great at it!” Scott agrees, “But Allison said she wants to do it, and you can’t both be there.”

“Really? Because she seemed fine with it two minutes ago.”

“Didn’t you hear her?” Scott’s voice is approaching a roar now. “You scared her!”

Stiles instinctively takes a step back, but his voice maintains its strength. “What are you talking about?”

“When you fell! You didn’t see her, but she flinched, Stiles, and she even said you scared her! I can’t believe you would get that close to her and not be more careful,” Scott scolds.

And that just twists something in Stiles, a knife he had almost forgotten was still there. Because this is Scott, who is supposed to be on his side, be his best friend. And he, what? Thinks Stiles fell because he didn’t care about Allison’s space? He hadn’t even asked if Stiles was okay, or looked at him , now that he thinks about it. Everyone had sort of brushed it off as Stiles being Stiles, and that was fine, but. This is decidedly not fine. “She said we were okay,” Stiles says, and his voice just comes out sounding tired now.

“Of course she did,” Scott answers. “Allison doesn’t want you to feel bad, because she’s nice. And I know she doesn’t seem afraid, but I’m her boyfriend; I know her better than anyone.”

Stiles seriously doubts that’s true, but he elects not to protest.

“I just think it would be best for everyone if you let us handle this one without you. Maybe take a break for a while?”

“Take a break from what, researching?” Stiles asks sardonically.

Scott shakes his head. “From all this supernatural stuff. It’ll be good for you.”

Stiles suppresses the urge to shout that, no , that would not be good for him; it would be good for Scott. Not even Allison, because she honestly seems okay. It’s just Scott.

Stiles thinks about Scott’s suggestion, thinks about how he’s heard that being away from a pack member is like losing a limb and wonders how Scott could even consider asking one of his pack members to “take a break.”

“How long?”

“As long as she needs,” Scott replies without pause.

That could be forever, Stiles thinks. It’s not about Allison anymore. It’s about the fact that Scott would cut off his first pack member, his best friend , without so much as a second thought. “Well, what if you never think she’s ready?” He questions. “Are you just going to kick me out of the pack?”

Scott pauses, as though the idea of things never being okay with Stiles and Allison had yet to cross his mind. And that would be funny, if he wasn’t the only one insisting things weren’t okay with Stiles and Allison now. Well, Scott and the quiet whispers of guilt in the back of Stiles’ mind. Scott makes a sort of constipated expression, which Stiles recognizes as his thinking face. And this should not require the thinking face. This should be simple. Just a no, you’ll always be my pack or a we’ll figure something out. But apparently Stiles isn’t even worth that in Scott’s eyes.

Scott just stands there, thinking about it , and Stiles snaps. He honestly can’t believe that Scott would do this to him. At the same time, he isn’t surprised at all. He feels drained by the realization that he isn’t a priority to Scott anymore, maybe never was if he can get dropped with so little thought. He clenches a fist at the memory of everything he’s done for Scott, of how many times he’s risked everything – his grades, his relationship with his dad, his life – to keep Scott safe. And for what? He doesn’t need parades in his honor, or even thank you notes. He just needs to know that he matters. And apparently he doesn’t.

Scott looks up abruptly, and Stiles assumes he smells absolutely pissed. Because he is. “It’s not like –” Scott starts, reaching out to Stiles.

Stiles slaps his hand away. “Don’t.”

“Stiles, you have to understand. When you love someone, you want to do what’s best for them and –”

“And what? We’ve known each other for years. We’re like brothers, and you’re saying you don’t love me? It doesn’t matter to you whether or not I’m around?”

“Of course it does! But I don’t love you the way I love Allison.” Scott sounds apologetic, but his tone doesn’t change the meaning of his words.

Thank God , Stiles thinks. He’s fairly certain he would hate being the object of the borderline-creepy fervor with which Scott loves Allison. He gets a whole new appreciation for Lydia at that, and a whole new distaste for Scott. “I get it,” he spits. “You made your choice.”

Scott moves forward, grabbing Stiles’ arm and shaking, “That’s not what I said! I –”

“Get. Out.” Derek steps forward, and great, he was lurking around for this whole thing.

Scott’s eyes flash. “You’re not my alpha.”

Derek’s glow red in response. “My loft, my territory.”

Scott’s hand tightens on Stiles’ arm. “My pack.”

“No,” Stiles says, more than done with this conversation. “I’m not.”

Scott blinks and his hand goes slack, face shocked like Stiles has just punched him. “Stiles…”

“Out,” Derek repeats.

Scott looks ready to protest further, but at a soft, tired please from Stiles, he goes.

Stiles slumps onto Derek’s couch, exhausted. He puts his head in his heads and hopes he doesn’t look as pathetic as he feels. A moment later, he feels the couch dip as Derek takes a seat on the other end. Neither of them say anything.

It’s Peter who breaks the silence. “Well, that was interesting. If you’re in the market for a new pack, I happen to know an alpha you’d be perfect for.” His voice is practically a purr by the end of that sentence, and Stiles does his best not to react.

“Peter,” Derek warns.

“What? I’m just being welcoming. It’s more support than you’re offering,” he adds.

Stiles picks his head up out of his hands just enough to shoot a glare at Peter, who holds his hands up in mock surrender and heads back up the stairs. “No one ever appreciates my kindness.”

When Peter is fully out of sight, Derek turns to Stiles. He looks more sad than angry, and Stiles realizes with a jolt that he must be thinking about how it feels to lose your pack. “I want you to have something,” he says suddenly, getting up and opening a kitchen drawer. He returns and places a small metal object in Stiles’ hand.

“Is this key my new pack?” Stiles jokes weakly.

“It’s the key to the loft.” Derek says seriously. “All the pack members have one.” He meets Stiles’ eyes and closes his fingers around the key where it rests loosely in his palm. “There’s always a place for you in my pack, if you need it. If you want it.”

Stiles doesn’t know how to respond to that, so he simply clutches the key and nods his thanks. He’s still reeling from the fight with Scott; they haven’t had a disagreement like that since… Stiles can’t remember it ever being like that. Not without at least a bro hug or plans to talk later or something. His chest feels constricted, a sensation more of grief than panic or anger building now. He should still be mad. He knows he should still be mad. But it’s a lot easier to be mad at Scott when he’s here to yell at. Now he just feels sort of hollow and achy. So he sits there, holding the key and not saying anything because he isn’t quite ready to leave the loft and be alone yet.

The next thing he knows, Derek is… hugging him? And holy crap, when did this become his life? Okay, so it’s not so much a hug as Derek leaning in his general direction and awkwardly patting him on the back, but still. Stiles knows a thing or two about hugs; he’s a great hugger. And this is at least meant to be a hug. He pats Derek’s arm, afraid that properly returning the attempted embrace will spook him.

When Derek seems to have had enough of voluntarily letting someone into his personal space, he pulls back and looks like he has no idea what to do now. Stiles, king of awkward silences that he is, jokes, “Who taught you how to hug, Peter? That might have been weirder than the time he almost bit me. Less scary though.” He tacks on the last sentence when Derek frowns.

“What?”

“Is this news to you?” Stiles laughs, “I would think you know that displays of affection are not one of your strong points. Unlike all your literal strong points,” he says, waving a hand in front of Derek’s face.

“When did Peter try to bite you?” Derek asks, completely ignoring Stiles’ attempts to lighten the mood.

“Uh, forever ago? He said I would make a better wolf than Scott, but he gave me a choice. I said no.” Stiles shrugs.

Derek seems simultaneously pleased and angry. He opens and then closes his mouth, trying to sort his thoughts. Eventually, he settles on, “You would, you know.”

“I would what?”

“Make a better wolf than Scott.” Derek says it like there’s no question in his mind as to the truth of that fact.

Stiles looks at him, head cocked to the side. “Maybe,” he starts, “but I don’t want that. And I definitely didn’t want Peter as my alpha.” He shudders at the thought.

“I’m not asking if you want the bite, Stiles,” Derek explains. “I just want you to know that you would be better at it than Scott.”

“Oh. Okay.” Stiles says, unsure of what the point of that was if Derek isn’t trying to recruit another superpowered beta. “Thanks?”

Derek senses Stiles’ confusion and adds, “You’re better at a lot of things than Scott. Most things.”

“Except for running and fighting and hearing and smelling and –” Stiles lists.

Derek stops him. “You’re better at what matters.”

“Pretty sure skills that prevent me from being murdered matter.”

“You’re a better person. And that matters more than whether or not you have claws.”

Stiles is taken aback by that, a compliment given so freely by Derek, that he doesn’t know what to do with it. Then a thought strikes him. “But Scott is a true alpha. That means he has to be a good person, doesn’t it?”

Derek clenches his jaw at that. “It should.”

“I don’t think you get to decide that whatever mystical forces are in charge of your werewolf magic made the wrong choice. He’s a good person. The universe said so.”

“Maybe,” Derek allows. “But that doesn’t mean he’s perfect.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Obviously. What perfect person would kick me out of their pack?”

Derek smiles. “They wouldn’t.”

Stiles abruptly realizes how close he and Derek still are to each other, bodies angled towards one another and knees almost touching. He forces himself to get up now, to not overstay his welcome here. And, truth be told, he is feeling much better. At least someone appreciates him. “Okay, I think this is probably the most you’ve talked about feelings in, like, ever, so I’m just gonna go before all the emotions give you a headache.”

Derek is the one to roll his eyes now, but he doesn’t say anything about how Stiles is the only thing that could ever give him a headache, so Stiles counts that as a win. At the door, he turns back to Derek, wants to thank him somehow, for the loft key and for trying to make him feel better, but Derek has already turned away, standing by the big windows and looking out.

Stiles slides the key into his front pocket and whispers thank you on his way out the door, knowing Derek will hear him. He looks back before the door swings closed, and the tense line of Derek’s shoulders seems to have relaxed some. He thinks that maybe being in Derek’s pack will be an improvement from how things have been. At least they save each other, as opposed to Stiles constantly throwing himself at danger for Scott and only getting saved as an afterthought.

On his way home, he pushes the thought of Scott from his mind. He’ll deal with that later, because now that he’s got his head on straight again, he knows what his priorities are. And having an idiot for a (former?) best friend is not one of them.

The hallucinations are. Maybe they are visions; he still isn’t sure. Whatever they are, they’re definitely still a thing, and he needs to figure out why. He racks his brain on the way home, tries to figure out why him or why those specific creatures or why anything really, but he comes up short. Once home, he searches for the creature with fire hair and bat wings he had seen Malia turn into. And turns out that’s real, too.

He’s certain he hasn’t read anything about empusa, because Greek mythology has ranked pretty low on the Beacon Hills radar so far. It’s been very Gothic horror centered, he thinks. Along with a surprising amount of Japanese mythology come to life that seemed to arrive at the same time as Kira, because of course evil followed literally one of the nicest people ever when she moved to town. Regardless, the fact that his visions are of things that he can now be one hundred percent sure he never read about, or even heard of in passing, in this case, is concerning.

Because it can’t just be hallucinations now, can it? Not when he looks these things up and they actually exist, at least in legends. He tamps down on the panic, reminds himself that he’s still in control of his body, still mostly in control of his brain. This isn’t like last time. This isn’t the nogitsune. But it is something. It has to be, and that’s worrying. He hopes Lydia will be able to help.


 

When Stiles leaves the loft, Derek isn’t sure what to do with himself. Stiles may have been joking, but he was right about that being the most emotionally fraught conversation he’s had in years. Most of his pack interactions, even after tragedy, have involved instincts more than words. Instinct is easier. You can’t say the wrong thing when your wolf takes control.

The last time Derek had tried to comfort someone, really tried and not just gone through the motions, it was with Laura. He’d been in no place to do it, and they both knew that, but she had been so strong for so long, and one day it got to be too much. Derek thinks that’s part of the reason she came back; sure, they had heard things about a wolf in their territory, but Laura had missed home. She had missed her family. Derek had a bad feeling about her leaving, had told her so repeatedly, but she had just looked at him sadly. He knew full well that she thought his wariness was because he so thoroughly associated the land with the loss of their family, and maybe she was right. But that didn’t change the fact that she would have been better off if she had listened to him. She would be alive.

Despite everything in him that warned about the dangers of Beacon Hills, she had gone anyway. He tried to tell her, and she hadn’t listened. And then he lost her, too. That’s what he gets for relying on his words.

He thinks Laura would be disappointed in him. She wouldn’t say it, never had when she was alive even though he knows she should have, but the feeling is still there. Laura understood people in a way Derek never had. She would have mocked him endlessly for that attempt at comfort, had she lived to see it. He can hear her, just like she had in middle school, hissing into his ear to Just go for it, idiot. But he finds it even harder to get close to people now than he did back then. Hugs and kindness? Never really in his repertoire. And being isolated for so long had not helped him learn those skills.

These days, Derek is grateful for his little pack, for having people who can keep him grounded when his bones still itch to get out of this town and away from its memories. He knows better than to think that’s an instinct. It’s cowardice, and if there’s one thing his pack of teenagers has taught him, it’s stubbornness. Stubbornness in the face of dangers, of fears, of the unknown. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, sinking his claws into the earth and staying here, because he feels like he’s been running most of his life.

Peter pulls him out of his reverie by stepping out of the shadows and clearing his throat. He’s dramatically twirling the stem of a wine glass between his fingertips; he may not be able to get drunk, but he can still appreciate the aesthetic. “Well, you two had quite the Hallmark moment there, didn’t you?”

“What are you talking about?” Derek regrets the question almost as soon as it’s out of his mouth; if there’s one thing he should have learned from Stiles (and the internet), it’s Don’t feed the trolls. Responding to Peter when he gets like this just energizes him.

“Recruiting humans now? You’re going soft, despite your complete lack of basic social skills.” Peter notes.

Derek snorts, annoyed, and flashes his alpha eyes for the sake of ending this conversation without giving Peter any more opportunities to insult him. “Just drop it,” he states.

Peter’s mouth closes but immediately lifts into a smirk as he releases his hold on the wine glass, letting it spill across the floor and shatter into tiny shards. “You should be more careful with those,” Peter says, flashing his own eyes at Derek.

Derek groans and goes off in search of something to pick up the glass with. He should know by now not to try to win with Peter. He’s not sure it’s possible.


 

The next day, Lydia appears at Stiles’ door at eight in the morning. “When did it start?” She asks, getting straight to the point.

“Texting? It started in like the late 90’s but didn’t really take off until the 2000’s when the technology became more affordable and robust. Anyway, it’s a great way to let people know when you’re going to show up at their house. You know, in advance, so they aren’t in a day-old shirt with probably drool,” he smells the offending stain, “no, that’s toothpaste, on it when you arrive.” He swings the door open wider and steps aside to let her in, running a hand through his mussed hair. Something about Lydia always makes him want to look at least mildly presentable.

She waits him out, and when his ramble winds down simply asks, “Are you done?”

He nods and leads her to the dining table, where they both take a seat. He fiddles with a napkin and answers, “It’s been a couple weeks.”

“And you didn’t tell me about this because..?”

“Because I thought it wasn’t real! Well, obviously it’s not real, because Malia isn’t a weird bat creature. She’s a weird coyote creature.”

“You should back up three steps. So far all I have from you is a text that says Talking Without Wolves and a follow-up with the word hallucinations. So, questions,” she ticks them off on her fingers as she speaks. “Is Malia the only one you’ve seen like that? Is the bat the only creature you’ve seen? And, again, why didn’t you tell me before?

Stiles goes with answering in order for the sake of simplicity. And for the sake of not further irritating Lydia. “No, it’s been a couple other pack members as well.” He holds up his second finger to indicate he’s moved to the next question. “No, it’s been different every time. But they’re real. I checked.” He puts up a third finger, “And, again, I didn’t think it was a real problem. Not, like, a supernatural problem. I thought I just had the world’s weirdest PTSD or something. I would rather have that.”

“Wouldn’t we all,” Lydia agrees. “Okay, what have you already found out about what could have caused this?”

“Basically nothing.”

Her eyes narrow, “Did you do anything, touch anything, breathe in anything unusual?”

“No, I mean it’s not like I go around playing with Ouija boards. I get enough of that stuff without trying to find it. This time it found me.”

“Find any bodies yet? Gone off screaming in the woods?” Lydia asks caustically.

“What?”

“Look, you came to me because I’m the resident expert in visions, but I still don’t fully understand my banshee powers. And if you haven’t been screaming your lungs out and waking up naked in the woods, you’re not like me. Either you’re something else, or you’re being affected by something else.”

“Which is what we need to figure out.”

“And why aren’t you telling the rest of the pack about this?” Lydia questions, though she knows the answer to this. She wouldn’t tell the pack if she were in his place.

“Things didn’t end well last time I wasn’t in control of my brain. I don’t want a repeat of all the panic and sadness if this turns out not to be something world-destroying.”

She looks him in the eyes and asks the question she knows he wants to hear least of all: “What if it is?”

“It’s not.” He tries to sound confident, but there’s a quaver in his voice he can’t quite shake. They both choose to ignore it.

Lydia breathes deeply and stands up. “Show me.”

“Show you?”

She rolls her eyes. “Everything you have. Notes, research, whatever you’ve been doing this whole time when you thought you had to deal with it alone. Which you don’t .”

Stiles nods and motions for her to follow him upstairs. He pulls out his list of hallucinations and the research he’s done on them, organized chronologically with margin notes trying to link each creature to the person he saw it on. He wasn’t being self-deprecating when he said he had basically nothing. There may be a hundred pages of printed materials and hastily scribbled notes around the room, but he hasn’t been able to draw any useful conclusions from it all.

Lydia sits on the edge of his bed and picks up a stack of pages, her eyes moving quickly as she scans the material. She raises an eyebrow. “You tried to link the creatures to the people you hallucinated based on personality traits?”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t feel right.”

She scoffs. “Of course not, you’re just letting your brain create patterns with no information. This is like finding shapes in the clouds. Actually,” she notes with a tilt of her head, “This is more like horoscopes.”

“Okay, I’ll bite. How so?”

“You’re going with broad enough personality traits that they could apply to just about anyone. If Cosmo says cancers are loyal, it’s bound to be true, because everyone thinks they’re loyal. Just because Malia is fierce and predatory doesn’t mean she’s like the empusa. Half the people you know are actual predators.”

“I know,” Stiles responds, “But I don’t have anything to go off of here. All I get is creatures superimposed on my friends like super realistic CGI. What am I supposed to research here?”

“We have to get more specific than this,” she responds, tossing his notes down. “Do you know what causes you to have the visions in the first place?”

“Not really, just that I mostly have them when I’m around pack members.”

“Okay, so it’s safe to say there’s some magical influence there, even if we don’t know what exactly it is. What are you doing when you have them?”

“Anything. I mean, if I’m around the pack, I’m usually just standing there or talking to them or something. I noticed the supernatural influence thing already, but that’s all I got.”

Lydia thinks for a moment. “Okay, maybe we’re going about this the wrong way. Our brains naturally look for patterns in everything, but what if there isn’t one? This isn’t PTSD, so it’s not like we can just identify your triggers.”

“It would be a little more helpful to find something I can do to stop it,” Stiles snarks.

“Preaching to the choir,” she snaps.

“Sorry.”

Lydia tucks a stray piece of hair behind her ear and sighs. “Look, I get it. You want to stop seeing things, but my point is that maybe you can’t. So maybe we should be figuring out what this all means and how you can deal with it.”

“Seems like it doesn’t mean death, because we’re all still alive, so that’s a plus,” Stile jokes weakly.

“We need more information if we’re going to figure this out, so we’re going to the loft.”

“You’re going to make me have visions until you figure this out, aren’t you?”

She smiles. “Of course I am.” On their way out to the car, Lydia continues questioning Stiles on what exactly he’s seen and when, as she hadn’t bothered to go through all of his notes. If they had yielded no results for Stiles, she knows better than to waste her time when she could be gathering her own data.

“The first thing I saw was just in my living room, on Isaac. It was this huge monster with horns and messed up skin and–” Stiles rambles.

Lydia stops him with a look. “What was it called?”

“I hadn’t ever even heard of it before; that’s when I knew something was up. It was Asag, a –”

“Sumerian demon,” she finishes for him.

Stiles gapes at her. “Have you memorized all of the world’s bestiaries or something?” Just when he thought she couldn’t get any smarter, she pulls eidetic memory on him?

She opens her car door and sits, motioning for him to get in and shaking her head. “No. I saw it, too.”

“What? When?”

“I got a flash of something at the pack meeting, but I didn’t see it clearly until I had another vision at home. That’s when I figured out what it was; I just wanted to make sure it was related before I brought it up.”

“Wait, was that when you dropped the plate? I saw something then too!”

“The same demon?”

“I don’t know, it was just a flash, like you said. Gone before I could really think about it. That’s when I was still hoping for PTSD.”

Lydia reaches across the seat and pats his arm. “Don’t worry, I’m sure you have that too.”

Stiles groans and throws his head back. “Helpful.”

Lydia starts driving then, thinking and looking to Stiles every few minutes. She gets Stiles to tell her in more detail about everything else he’s seen, but none of his other visions are familiar to her yet. After his story, Lydia observes, “They’re getting better.”

“Yeah,” Stiles deadpans. “They’re great. It’s a party in my brain, and all the species are invited.” He does jazz hands to emphasize his point.

She continues looking at the road and doesn’t even acknowledge his statement. “The visions are better,” she repeats. “Clearer. Based on your descriptions, you can make out more details now than you could at the beginning, and they’re lasting longer as well.”

“I guess,” Stiles concedes.

“And I know.” Lydia declares, stopping the car. “Come on, wouldn’t want to be late.”

Stiles stares after her before getting out of his seat and following as she saunters away. “Late for what?”

“You’ll see,” she says, opening the door and heading upstairs with a smirk.

When Stiles catches up to her, still wary, the first thing to attract his attention through the open loft door is a brightly colored banner that reads WELCOME HOME in glaring metallic letters. He smiles stupidly for a moment at the way HOME has been hastily scrawled out and replaced with To The Pack!!! To be honest, with his pack, he thinks he should be grateful it appears to be marker rather than crayon. He wouldn’t put it past Scott and Malia, at least. But, oh, he realizes with a jolt: They aren’t his pack anymore. That’s what this means. The haphazardly placed balloons and trays of snacks are welcoming him to his new pack, but it feels more like saying goodbye to his old one.

Lydia chooses not to see his internal struggle, instead eyeing the banner distastefully and saying, “Obviously I couldn’t do the decorating because I had to get you here, but they tried.”

Stiles smiles weakly and is just about to question why Lydia didn’t just call all the boys incapable when Erica rushes in, a bright grin on her face and marker all over her hands. Boyd follows behind her, marker covering him as well, but Stiles has a feeling Erica’s behind all the mayhem here. Sure enough, Jackson comes in a moment later muttering something about “never letting her near writing utensils again” and scrubbing at his arm with a washcloth. Stiles notices Isaac in a corner, and, like Boyd, he seems to have accepted his fate. At least those two are mostly covered in what seems to be Erica’s name in different fonts. Jackson wasn’t so lucky.

“He wouldn’t let me draw on him,” Erica explains when she catches Stiles craning his neck to get a closer look. “And if you’re gonna be a dick, well…” She motions at where Jackson is still wiping at his arms, and when he sees the outline more clearly, Stiles laughs. Actually laughs.

There’s an odd silence for a moment where everyone, Stiles included, processes that. Most of them hadn’t even fully registered the difference between Stiles’ real laugh and what they’ve been hearing lately, but suddenly the contrast is evident. He hadn’t rolled on the floor or anything so dramatic; it was barely more than a chuckle, but something about it just felt real like it hadn’t for a long time.

Erica takes a moment to assess the situation and breaks the silence when she realizes no one else will. “If I’d known that was all it takes, I would have started drawing on Jackson ages ago.”

Isaac laughs and even Boyd cracks a smile. Jackson still has a frown in place, but at a look from Lydia says, “If that’s what it takes to keep the smell of Sad out of the air, I guess it’s worth it.” When Erica starts moving towards him, he amends, “Worth it the one time! And never again.”

Erica pouts. “You’re no fun.”

“Speaking of no fun,” Peter cuts in, and seriously when did he even get here? “Here comes your new alpha.”

Derek descends the staircase and Stiles doesn’t know if there’s some pack protocol he doesn’t know about or something that comes with joining a new pack, so he just sort of waits to see what happens. Derek stops beside Stiles and looks into his eyes, asking simply, “Would you like to join my pack?”

Stiles blinks at him, because wow this is so anticlimactic. “Yes?” He answers.

“Okay.” And with that, Derek keeps walking, going to get a glass of water from the kitchen. He doesn’t turn or say anything else, and Stiles stares after him, lost.

“Should I, like, feel a pack bond forming or something? Suddenly be extra connected to all of you? Anything?”

“You’re human,” Derek replies from his position leaning against the countertop.

Stiles narrows his eyes in annoyance. No one has ever properly explained to him how being a human pack member works – not from the human perspective at least. And a part of Stiles always thought maybe Scott had done the pack thing wrong in the first place, that he was missing out on something other humans in a pack could feel.

“What my nephew means, in his own Neanderthalic way,” Peter cuts in, “Is that the bond is different for humans. You can’t feel us, but we feel you.” He gives an inappropriate eyebrow waggle at the end of his explanation that leaves Stiles feeling vaguely gross.

“Sometimes human pack members can feel danger or strong emotions from the pack, but it’s rare based on what I’ve read from the Argent library,” Lydia adds, pretending Peter hasn’t spoken. “I get a general sense, but it’s most likely due to my banshee powers.”

“Oh,” Stiles answers. “What do you feel that’s different?” He asks, directing the question to the wolves.

“It’s kind of the same,” Erica shrugs, “Just stronger. Like my Stiles-senses kicked up a notch.”

“Most of us have thought of you as pack for a while now,” Boyd adds.

“You smell kind of different,” Isaac muses.

“Less atrocious,” Jackson chimes in.

Stiles takes a moment to process all of that. “So joining the pack, what? Made me smell like a better dinner option?”

“Only to some of us,” Peter murmurs to himself.

Derek cuts his eyes at Peter sharply and facepalms, turning back to Stiles. “No, Stiles, you smell like Pack. It’s a good thing; it means we’ll protect you on instinct.”

Stiles nods in acknowledgement, and the group settles into chatter with a lot of Scott-bashing from Erica mixed into the general conversation. He tries not to think too much about how he had to leave his first pack to have this.

At one point, Jackson says that it’s now Stiles’ job to go fetch snacks for everyone from the kitchen, to which Stiles – despite the fact that he generally has no problem fetching food for everyone when not in a lazy slump – responds indignantly, “It’s my party!”

“Yeah, but you’re the runt of the litter now, aren’t you?” Jackson mocks.

“No, I think that’s still you,” Lydia says sweetly, patting his shoulder.

Jackson just grumbles at that and somehow Isaac is the one who ends up grabbing chips and popcorn for everyone, but Stiles still feels vaguely accomplished.

Later, sitting on the couch with Erica and Boyd, Stiles wonders aloud, “So how long have you guys been thinking of me as pack before this anyway?” He interrupts himself with another thought, “Wait! Does this mean I get actual conversations from you now, Boyd? Are we on that level?” He makes an awkward gesture that’s supposed to look like a secret handshake but ends up looking more like flailing.

Boyd shrugs in answer, and Stiles sighs. “Okay… Oh! Better question, are there any pack secrets I get to be let in on now that I’m official? Like, are there secret meetings you’ve been having without us this whole time?”

“I almost forgot,” Derek replies, and everyone turns to look at him. “We have a meeting on the shores of Beacon Lake to discuss our new treaty with the fey next Wednesday.”

Stiles’ jaw drops. “Fairies are a thing? Are they the Disney kind or the Grimm kind? Nevermind, there’s no way they’re the Disney kind. I should probably start learning their weaknesses now.”

“I’d start with vampires if I were you,” Peter adds. “The garlic and sunlight folklore doesn’t hold up.”

Stiles looks at him, flabbergasted, before Erica clarifies: “We have a meeting with a group of them passing through our territory tomorrow.”

Stiles is uncharacteristically dumbstruck by this information. How can there have been this much going on without him knowing? He looks around the room, and the first thing he notices is Jackson and Lydia looking at him like he’s an idiot, which… Yup. “Hilarious,” he drawls.

Lydia looks at him, the tiniest hint of pity in her eyes, “Vampires, Stiles? Really?”

“What?” He exclaims. “Werewolves!” He says, pointing at them each in turn.

“Exactly,” Lydia explains. “If popular culture has taught you anything, doubtful as that is, it’s that werewolves and vampires wouldn’t be having a friendly meeting.”

“They manage to sort of get along in Twilight, ” he says, instantly regretting the use of that particular example.

Jackson barks out a laugh, and Erica defends Stiles. “It’s okay, he’s just sad because Bella would never love him.”

“I sometimes wonder how anyone does,” Lydia adds somberly.

Jackson splutters out an incoherent response while Stiles laughs. “This is the beginning of a beautiful pack.”

“Um, we were beautiful before you got here,” Erica disputes.

“Doesn’t hurt though, does he?” Peter asks the question in a general sense, but he looks at Derek for a response.

Derek looks more likely to leap out the loft window than respond to that, so Stiles rubs the back of his neck and answers Erica instead – he certainly isn’t going to deal with Peter’s comment right now. “Sorry if I’m ruining your whole Broody Beauty aesthetic or whatever you call this look.”

Isaac steps forward at that and pats him on the shoulder, smiling. “Don’t worry about it; you’ll get your leather jacket on the next full moon.”

Stiles laughs in surprise.

As the night is winding down, snack bowls depleted and conversations run dry, Stiles’ phone beeps with a text notification. He pulls it out, expecting a message from his dad asking where he is, but instead sees a message from Scott: we should tlk about what happned. lax field after school tmrw?

Before he even has time to consider a reply, Erica has snatched the phone from his hands and is reading. “No!” She declares. “No take-backs. And who still texts like this? Is he twelve?”

“Erica,” Derek groans. At a side eye from her he adds, “Boundaries.”

She scoffs, tossing her hair behind her. “There are no boundaries between Catwoman and Batman.”

Stiles cuts in, holding out a hand, “Can I have my phone back now? I left my utility belt at home.”

“Fine,” she grumbles. “But you don’t get to go back to his pack. We’re better than him.”

Stiles cracks a smile and taps the side of his phone case, thinking. “I still have to go hear him out.”

“Why?” She manages to draw the word out as a whine.

Stiles shrugs. “Friendship,” he answers, lacking any better explanation. He taps out a quick Okay, see you there and slips his phone back into his pocket. By the time he’s heading down to his Jeep, his phone has gone off again, a simple smiley face followed by far too many exclamation points in response from Scott. Stiles pockets his phone again and heads home, wondering what he’ll say to Scott tomorrow if he notices his smell has changed.

Chapter Text

Stiles had started to get annoyed after about fifteen minutes of waiting around. After thirty, he had moved from standing in the field with his lacrosse gear to sitting on the sidelines. Fifteen minutes after that, he began to consider the possibility that Scott had actually forgotten they were supposed to meet out here. Now, fully an hour after the final bell, Stiles is livid.

How could Scott have forgotten they were supposed to meet up? Scott’s the one who asked Stiles to come out here in the first place! He had tried to speak with Stiles earlier in the day, to which Stiles had shaken his head and replied “I’ll see you later.”

Stiles had tried to text Scott about half an hour into waiting, nevermind that phones work both ways and any considerate person would have texted him first. His phone remained stubbornly silent in his pocket, subject to his occasional glares. Stiles refuses to call on principle, but he continues to wait out of loyalty, however misplaced it may be.

You don’t just abandon your best friend.

Maybe Stiles doesn’t have a best friend. He considers the thought, knows it should make him sad and is sure it will later, but in this moment he feels only anger. He clutches his lacrosse stick in his hands and glares out at the field. In the same moment, he hears someone approaching him from the locker room. He turns, fully prepared to yell at Scott, to find a uniformed Danny eyeing him in confusion.

“Stiles?” Danny asks. “What are you still doing out here?”

“Practicing,” Stiles answers, holding up his stick. He feels like waiting for Scott would be too pathetic of an answer at this point. He imagines this is what being stood up must be like, for people who spend their spare time dating and not being possessed.

“You’re doing a great job,” Danny says, motioning at Stiles’ position seated on the bench. “Excellent bench-warming practice. Coach will definitely keep you there at this rate.”

“Practice makes perfect,” Stiles replies with mock cheer.

“Come on, I was just going to run some drills, but I’ll practice with you,” Danny offers.

“Nah, I think I’ll just head home.”

“Oh, all done with practice?” Danny starts sarcastically, but at a glare from Stiles he takes on a kinder tone. “Get up, you look like you need to blow off some steam anyway. You shoot, I’ll take the goal.”

Stiles nods and follows Danny onto the field. True to his word, Danny takes up a position in the goal and motions for Stiles to start. He cradles the ball and begins running forward, hurling the ball towards the goal.

Danny blocks it with relative ease but gives a slight sound of surprise at the force with which it was thrown. “You’ve got a pretty good arm,” he comments.

Stiles shrugs, “For a bench-warmer maybe.”

“No, really. You should practice more. Get back on first line.”

Stiles scoffs and catches the ball as Danny lobs it back to him. “That’s not gonna happen.”

Danny frowns. “Why not?”

“So many reasons,” Stiles begins, but as he’s speaking and raising his stick in the air, he sees Asag again. The ball drops out of his net as he stumbles back in surprise, and Asag begins to advance toward him.

The demon looks much the same as when Stiles first saw him, with four grotesque horns and flesh that somehow seems both freshly rended and hard as stone. His serpentine tongue hangs from his mouth, and this time he carries a mace in his hand. He quickens his approach as Stiles shuffles backwards, and Stiles has just enough time to think oh crap before it’s caught up with him. As the creature extends one clawed hand out towards him, the mace still in the other hand at its side, Stiles grips the handle of his lacrosse stick with both hands and swings .

As he turns to run, the demon seemingly slowed down by his hit, he takes a moment to hope Danny was right about him having a good arm, and… Oh.

Danny.

Stiles turns around, a hand over his eyes because whether certain death or injured friend, he’s not feeling up to looking at it right now. At the sound of a groan, a distinctly human groan, he forces himself to move his hand. Instant regret.

Danny is sprawled on his back, his face upturned as he holds onto one leg, drawing it in towards his abdomen and cradling it in pain. It’s certainly not the most gruesome sight Stiles has ever seen, but knowing that he had done that himself, while not under the control of any supernatural creatures, sends a spike of fear through Stiles. What if this is what his life will be like now? If he doesn’t find a way to get his visions under control, he’ll never know when it’s okay to protect himself from actual threats and when he’s endangering his friends.

Stiles takes a steadying breath and forces himself to focus on one problem at a time. He rushes to Danny’s side and crouches down beside him, realizing as he does so that he still has his lacrosse stick in a death grip. Looking down at it, he notices droplets of blood on the handle where he’s picked at the end cap of the stick, exposing jagged metal shards. He throws it to the ground and wipes his hands on his shirt reflexively. Stiles really should have listened to Finstock when he told him to quit doing that. Of course, the coach just found it annoying, but turns out those things can be dangerous . He’ll keep that in mind if he ever needs a weapon for something far more lethal than Danny. Which would be basically anything, Stiles realizes with yet another stab of guilt.

Focusing his attention on Danny once more, Stiles leans over him to ask if he’s okay, and to his surprise, Danny looks annoyed now. “This is why people used to ignore you, Stilinski.”

“Because I bludgeoned them with lacrosse sticks?”

Danny glares weakly. “It was mostly because you were kind of a spaz, and then we thought it would be a good idea to put a stick in your hands.”

“I just want to point out,” Stiles says, “That there’s a really obvious joke there, and I’ve chosen not to make it.”

Danny thumps his head back on the ground from where he’s leaned up to look into Stiles’ eyes. “Just help me up,” he groans.

“Let me look at your leg first.” Stiles scoots down, prodding gently at the injury and finding a relatively small gash, some blood still seeping out sluggishly and blending with the red of Danny’s uniform.

“Maybe tell me what you were looking at before, while you’re at it.”

“What?”

“Come on, Stiles. You swung at me like I was charging you with a battle axe.”

Stiles flounders. “Uh, there was a spider on your leg?”

“A spider,” Danny repeats, unimpressed.

“Yup,” Stiles confirms. “Giant spider. I probably saved your life.”

“Of course you did,” Danny says, sitting up on his own now. He moves to stand and flinches a bit. “Give me a hand.”

Stiles gets to his feet and offers a hand to Danny, pulling him up and supporting some of his weight as he favors his good leg. “Let’s go get you patched up.”

As he’s moving them away from the field, heading back to the locker room where he knows Finstock keeps a basic first aid kit, Danny lets out a startled gasp of pain and his knee buckles, forcing Stiles to support him more heavily. At that moment, Jackson bursts onto the field, eyes glowing. Lydia follows behind him, assessing the situation.

“What happened to him?” Jackson demands. He seems unsure of what to do, not sensing any obvious threats or unfamiliar scents.

“I’m okay,” Danny says, at the same time Stiles blurts, “I did.”

Jackson rounds on him, and Stiles shrinks back as he feels Jackson’s wolf boiling just beneath the surface. “You’re so luck you’re pa–” Jackson cuts himself off, looking at Danny. “Pretty much Lydia’s best friend,” he revises, looking like he’s just taken a bite out of a lemon. “Or I’d tear you to shreds.”

Danny arches an eyebrow, watching the three of them with interest through his pain. “Nice to know you care,” he manages to grit out.

Jackson ignores that and moves Stiles out of the way, supporting Danny himself and moving him in the direction of the locker room with far more strength and speed than Stiles could have.

Stiles and Lydia trail a step behind them. “Did you see –” Stiles starts.

“Yes,” Lydia answers. “I saw it so clearly, right here, getting ready to attack you. But after our last conversation, I didn’t trust it. Not when we’ve both been seeing things that aren’t there.”

“Then why come at all?”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “Because if it were real this time you might have died? Being valedictorian is no fun without a little competition,” she says matter-of-factly.

“So, what? You brought Jackson here in case I was in mortal peril?”

“Something like that. At this point, I don’t feel like I can trust my visions, which hasn’t been an issue for me in a long time. The banshee screams have a very high accuracy when it comes to finding bloodied corpses.”

As if on cue, Danny shouts and collapses more heavily against Jackson, the two of them only a few yards from the locker room. “What’s wrong with him?” Jackson calls. “It just got worse all of a sudden!” In that moment, Stiles notices black veins traveling up Jackson’s arm where he’s holding onto Danny’s shoulder. To Stiles’ surprise, Jackson seems to have had both the foresight and the control not to take all of Danny’s pain and arouse suspicion.

Stiles moves in closer and sees that Danny’s lower leg has begun to swell up, looking far larger than its normal size and beginning to change color. “That’s not good,” he states.

“What is the point of you if you’re not going to be useful?” Jackson snarls.

“We need to get him to a hospital,” Lydia interjects. “He has compartment syndrome.”

“What is that?” Jackson asks, simultaneously throwing Danny over his shoulder in a fireman's carry and starting toward his car.

“An injury which any tool who works out too much should be aware of?” Stiles quips.

“You do realize I could carry Danny with one hand and still strangle you with this one, right?” Jackson asks, flexing his claws in Stiles’ direction, just outside Danny’s field of view.

“You do realize my leg feels like it’s going to explode while you two argue about this, right?” Danny grumbles, his leg thumping painfully with each step Jackson takes.

“See what you did, Stilinski?”

“Can we all stop asking questions we don’t want answered now,” Lydia barks. It is decidedly not a question, and both Jackson and Stiles give slight nods without conscious thought.

By the time they get Danny settled in the back of Jackson’s car, his leg is no longer bleeding but the swelling looks worse than ever. Lydia gets in the driver’s seat, giving Jackson an excuse to sit in back with Danny and keep taking his pain, which leaves Stiles in the passenger’s seat.

“Hurry, Lydia,” Stiles prompts.

“And here I was planning to take the scenic route and follow all traffic laws, you know, for the health and safety of my passengers,” she snarks. “But I suppose I could hurry, since you insist.” She peels out of the parking lot, taking what has become a far too familiar route to the hospital.

As Lydia barrels down the streets of Beacon Hills, Stiles stares out the windshield and focuses on his breathing. A panic attack would not help this situation. Just when he thinks he’s gotten himself calmed down, Jackson barks, “Stilinski!”

Stiles turns around in his seat to peer into the rear of the car. Danny’s face has gone ashen with pain, and Jackson’s veins are still black where he’s now holding onto Danny’s ankle. His calf has swollen up even more since the last time Stiles looked at it, so Stiles takes one more breath and says, “I need a knife.”

Jackson gapes at him. “ What?

Danny doesn’t look thrilled about the situation either, but he gives a jerky nod.

“We have to relieve the pressure,” Stiles explains. “It’s the only way to prevent permanent damage.”

Jackson looks to Lydia, meeting her gaze in the rearview mirror. “He’s in more danger the longer you wait,” she acknowledges. “And we’re still ten minutes from the hospital.”

“So,” Stiles says, holding out his hand. “Anyone have a knife?”

“Nail file?” Lydia offers.

“Too dull,” Stiles counters.

At another groan from Danny, Jackson seems to make a decision and holds his own hand out. “Claw?”

Stiles’ eyes widen, and he asks, “Wow, where did you get that incredible prosthetic claw ?”

“Oh my god,” Danny mutters, exasperated. “Can we please stop pretending you’re not all werewolves and cut my leg open now?”

Stiles glances to Lydia, and even she looks surprised by that remark, but neither of them comment.

“You knew? ” Jackson asks, shocked.

“Later,” Stiles interrupts. “Right now, claw.” He grabs Jackson’s index finger and positions it over the front of Danny’s calf.

“Hands off,” Jackson gripes, waving Stiles away. “I got this.”

“Not if you cut the wrong spot and sever a tendon, or, like, gouge a claw mark into his bones.”

Stiles looks to Danny for some response to that, but he seems barely conscious, suddenly barely aware they’re speaking at all. He grabs Jackson’s hand again and says, “You’re a tool.” At an indignant sound from Jackson he clarifies, “No, literally. I’m using your claw but I don’t want you to add any pressure, okay? We’re trying not to hurt him.”

Jackson nods his consent, and Stiles is grateful to him for not pointing out the fact that Stiles is the one who hurt Danny in the first place.

Stiles returns the claw to where he had first positioned it, applying steady pressure and dragging it down the swollen leg. Danny inhales sharply but says nothing, and Stiles steadies himself, continuing. He slices carefully, focusing on where the swelling is the worst and making sure he cuts through the membrane preventing the muscle from swelling up fully.

At the first glimpse of swollen muscle pushing its way past the membrane, Stiles nearly gags. He releases Jackson’s hand, job done.

The amount of pressure that had been in the leg prevented it from bleeding too much; loss of blood flow is exactly the problem this was meant to solve. So now that the pressure has been relieved some, blood rushes back in, flooding the wound.

“Crap,” Stiles mutters, and before he has time to say more, Jackson is reaching behind him, tearing at packaging with his free hand and shoving something soft into Stiles’ grasp.

Stiles looks down and doesn’t even question the pad in his hand, just puts it cottony-side down on the gash in Danny’s leg and hopes for the best.

As it turns out, it’s super absorbent.

By the time they reach the hospital, Danny is coherent again and they manage to get him inside with minimal difficulty. The ER doctors watch Stiles and Jackson warily, the two of them having a fair amount of Danny’s blood on their hands and clothes. One doctor calls the makeshift surgery “Not bad,” and her mouth quirks up at their choice of gauze for the wound. “What did you use for the incision?” She wonders.

“Nail file,” Stiles answers, not missing a beat.

She laughs. “Seems like you had very specific supplies, but you made it work. Very Macgyver of you.” She points in the direction of the biohazard bin where they saw her throw away the makeshift bandage.

“It was also scented,” Lydia adds.

“And expensive,” Jackson notes.

The doctor laughs. “I've got to get back to my other patients,” she says, “But you three really helped your friend.” She walks away, and Stiles turns to Jackson with a grin.

“Wait. Does Lydia make you buy those for her?” The image of Jackson in a feminine hygiene aisle amuses him far too much.

“She also lets me do other things,” Jackson responds.

“Not for long, if you keep talking,” Lydia cuts in. She rolls her eyes at Stiles, “Plus, you would go shopping for me in a heartbeat, and I don’t let you do anything.”

“That is because you are a goddess who walks among us,” Stiles says automatically. “And we are but your humble servants,” he bows dramatically.

Jackson hauls him up by the back of his collar, apparently done with this game. “Now that he’s asleep, how about you tell me what exactly you did to Danny and why I shouldn’t put you in a hospital bed too?”

“Because that would keep me in the hospital, and you probably don’t want me around him,” he says, agitated. “I’m dangerous.”

Lydia sighs dramatically, beginning to walk away. “While you two sort out your testosterone levels, I’m going to go check on Danny, see if his nurse has any updates.”

Jackson lets her go, frowning at Stiles in confusion. He didn’t hear a lie at the end of Stiles’ last sentence. “What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Nothing.”

Jackson hears that lie. “Just tell me what happened,” he sighs. “I don’t have time for this.”

“We were practicing,” Stiles says. “And I hit him with my stick. Didn’t mean to.”

Jackson can tell that Stiles is withholding part of the story, but his senses tell him not to push Stiles too far right now. Instead, he says, “I hope you mean your lacrosse stick.”

Stiles breathes a sigh of relief, off the hook for now, and chuckles. “I already made that joke.”


 

As Lydia strides away, she pulls out her phone and texts Derek to come to the hospital. She knows Stiles won’t like it, but the pack needs to know what’s going on with him. Derek, at least, should be aware that Danny knows about the wolves.

Heading downstairs to grab coffee and wait for Derek, she wonders how long Danny knew. A part of her is almost envious of him for figuring it out on his own, but it’s been quite some time now. She’s honestly more shocked by the rest of the town’s ongoing ignorance than she is about Danny’s awareness.

The one good thing to come of this all, she thinks, is that Jackson won’t have to lie to his best friend anymore. Considering the type of person he is, she was surprised he managed to keep it a secret for as long as he did. Jackson is not a fan of hiding his talents.

Sipping her frankly disgusting hospital coffee, Lydia spots Derek enter the cafeteria and make a beeline for her.

“What happened? Are you okay?”

She pushes her unfinished coffee in his direction, and he blinks at it before taking it in his hands. “Danny got hurt.”

Derek frowns. “Where? And do you know what it was?”

“It was Stiles,” Lydia starts, and before Derek can interrupt she goes on. “But before you panic, this isn’t the nogitsune.”

“Then what is it?” Derek questions, putting the cup down, appetite gone.

“So far all we know is that we’ve been having visions, and they’re what caused this,” Lydia explains.

“Wait, you’ve both been having visions?” Derek’s brow wrinkles in confusion.

“When Stiles first told me what was going on, I noticed we were having some of the same visions. One of his first was of this demon, Asag. Today, I saw it again on the lacrosse field, but Stiles saw it in place of Danny. He thought he was defending himself.”

“Is he okay?”

“Danny will be fine,” Lydia says carefully.

“And Stiles?” Derek prompts.

Lydia drums her fingers on the table, deciding what to say. “He doesn’t know why he’s having the visions; at first he thought he was just losing it. But he’s not,” she clarifies. “I’ve been seeing the same things.” She looks ready to challenge him should he doubt either of their sanity.

“I believe you,” Derek says simply. “But why would your visions have changed like this? And why would Stiles be having visions at all?”

“We’re still working on that,” Lydia answers, still unwilling to say that she has no idea.

“What were you two doing when you started sharing visions?” Derek asks, his tone carefully neutral.

Lydia regards Derek curiously. “What are you suggesting?”

He shrugs, frowning slightly, but doesn’t elaborate.

“We haven’t picked up some sort of magical STI, if that’s what you meant.”

Derek huffs, annoyed. “I meant that you’re friends, and bonding can sometimes lead to a psychic connection.”

Lydia looks incredibly doubtful. “As sure as I am that that’s true,” she concedes, “We haven’t become soulmates since the last time you checked in, so I don’t think that’s what happened here.”

“But something did happen,” Derek points out, the tense line of his shoulders relaxing slightly before bunching up again as he considers the unknown threat.

“Obviously,” Lydia snarks.

“So we need to find out what it was, or if it’s dangerous.”

“And we will,” she confirms. “But first, there’s one more thing.”

“Of course there is,” Derek says, bracing himself for more bad news. Considering everything about his past, he thinks it’s a fair assumption.

“Sometime within the next day or two,” Lydia states, “Jackson is going to tell you to let Danny into the pack.”

“Why would I do that? I barely let Jackson into the pack.”

The corner of Lydia’s mouth quirks up at Derek’s last comment, but she doesn’t respond to it. “Danny knows about werewolves. He isn’t clear on the details, because he said something about ‘all of us’ being wolves, but he knows something.”

“From what you just told me,” Derek says with resignation, “Jackson and Danny are the least of our problems.”


 

Before Stiles can even process what’s happening, Scott comes barreling into the waiting room where he’s sitting with Jackson. “Stiles!” Scott shouts as he approaches. “Are you okay? My mom said she thought she saw you but she was slammed with patients, so she texted me to find out what was up and then you didn’t answer your phone and…” Scott trails off as he gets closer to the pair of them.

“We’re okay, Scott,” Stiles says. “Just a lacrosse accident.”

Scott seems not to hear him, approaching with a puzzled look and leaning into Stiles’ personal bubble.

“What are you–” Stiles begins.

Scott’s nose wrinkles and he leans in even further, sniffing the side of Stiles’ neck. “You smell bad,” he says, his voice uncertain.

“Not as bad as usual,” Jackson interrupts.

Scott looks between the two of them. “He smells like you. Why does he smell like you?” He turns to Stiles. “Why do you smell like him?” He’s beginning to look agitated now.

“Um.” Stiles answers eloquently.

“That’s our pack scent,” Jackson announces, as though it gives him great pleasure to burst Scott’s bubble of willful ignorance.

Scott directs his attention back to Stiles. “You can’t do that.”

“I kind of already did,” Stiles says with half a shrug.

Scott’s eyes go red immediately, and he hauls Stiles to his feet. “You were serious about not being in my pack anymore?” It feels more like an accusation than a question.

“As serious as you were about kicking me out,” he snaps back.

“But I didn’t do that!”

“Not yet,” Stiles says.

Scott steps forward, once more encroaching upon Stiles’ space, and moves as if to grab him.

At the same time, Jackson plants himself firmly between the other two, glaring at Scott coldly. “He’s not your pack anymore.”

“You don’t even like him!” Scott yells.

“Of course not,” Jackson huffs. “But he’s pack.”

“How can you be pack when you’re not even friends?”

“Wow,” Jackson says. “You must be an even worse alpha than you are a captain, if you think that’s how this works.”

“What are you talking about?” Scott asks, genuinely confused.

“Scott,” Stiles says, sidestepping Jackson. “Pack is, like, safety in numbers. Jackson could hate me and still protect me, instinctively.”

“But it’s not a pack if the people in it don’t like each other,” Scott insists.

“That’s not how packs work,” Stiles sighs. “And at least they want me in their pack.”

Scott jerks back as if he’s been slapped. “I–”

“You made a decision,” Stiles says, stopping him. “So did I.”

Scott gapes at him.

“You can go now,” Jackson sneers, waving a hand dismissively.

Scott huffs, affronted, and storms off as quickly as he came.

Stiles blinks after him and turns to Jackson. “He didn’t even ask why we were in the hospital.”

“So?”

“So someone could have been dying!” He flails his arms wildly.

Jackson looks to the ceiling as though praying for patience. “No one is dying,” he consoles half-heartedly.

“But Scott didn’t know that! The number of people that died when I was the–”

Jackson groans. “Don’t.”

“Don’t what?” Stiles asks, puzzled.

“Don’t act all guilty to try and make me pity you.”

Stiles scoffs. “I didn’t know you were capable of pity.”

“I’m not,” Jackson snaps. “Which is why you should know better than to ask for it.”

“I didn’t ask for anything!”

“There are only three reasons people talk about death,” Jackson says, counting them off on his fingers. “1. Fear; 2. Memories; 3. Pity.”

Stiles isn’t looking at Jackson anymore, seemingly lost in thought. Finally, he just says, “Maybe I wanted to share my memories of the fear.”

“Sit,” Jackson commands, “And shut up, because I’ll only say this once.”

“Not a great way to start a dialogue,” Stiles criticizes, but he sits anyway. “Isn’t your dad a lawyer?”

“This isn’t a dialogue,” Jackson warns. “And this, ” he says, flexing his claws, “Doesn’t happen in courtrooms.”

“Ugh, just say whatever you wanted to say.”

“You need to stop,” Jackson says, and his tone is oddly sincere.

“But I’m not doing anything?” Stiles answers, unsure what he means.

“Stop talking about it like it’s something you did. You aren’t the nogitsune.”

“But I was,” Stiles says, resigned to having this discussion with Jackson of all people. “I was the nogitsune, and it killed people. Ergo: I killed people.”

“So then do you think it’s my fault the kanima killed people?” Jackson asks, one eyebrow arched defiantly in a move he must have learned from Lydia.

“I get where you’re going with this,” Stiles says, running a hand through his hair in agitation. “But you were being controlled, by someone outside of you. This was me; it was in my head.” He can’t believe he has to explain this to Jackson of all people; if there was one pack member he thought he wouldn’t have to have this conversation with, it was Jackson. Or maybe Boyd, because he doesn’t have many conversations to begin with.

“Do you think it’s Derek’s fault his family died?” Jackson asks bluntly, ignoring Stiles’ comments and ensuing thoughtful silence entirely..

Stiles takes a moment to respond, his mouth open in shock. “What? No, of course not. That was Kate.”

“But she got into his head and used it against him.”

Stiles frowns. “That’s not the same. At all.”

“I’m not here to fix your problems, Stilinski. But I’m telling you this, just this once: You didn’t kill those people. So unless you want to blame me for everything the kanima did, you don’t get to take credit for the nogitsune’s work. Either we’re all murderers, or none of us are.”

Stiles is silent for another moment, considering that. “What if I did?” he asks.

“What if you did what?”

“What if I blamed you for what the kanima did?”

Jackson tilts his head at him, curious. “Do you?”

Stiles sighs. “No.”

“Exactly,” Jackson says with certainty, ignoring the thrill of relief he feels at hearing the truth in that one simple word.

“Sentimental statements aside, Peter is still a murderer.”

“You’re not wrong there,” Jackson acknowledges.

“And Derek also killed Peter that one time,” Stiles points out.

“I guess.”

“But you didn’t kill anyone,” Stiles muses.

“No,” Jackson says, looking at Stiles intently, “I didn’t.”

Stiles gapes, unsure where to go from here. He eventually settles on lightening the mood instead of continuing this uncomfortable sincerity. “I finally get what Lydia sees in you,” he says, feigning a swoon. “You’re so sweet under all the layers of absolute douchebag.”

Jackson smirks. “I told you I was everyone’s type.”

Stiles chuckles and begins to move down the hallway. “Of course you are. I’m gonna go check on Danny, and then I have to head home. Meeting my dad for dinner.”

“I really don’t care what you’re doing,” Jackson says.

“But you do,” Stiles teases. “You value my friendship.”

“I value my Porsche,” Jackson says, “At approximately $40,000.”

“Good luck getting those bloodstains out of it,” Stiles quips. “I bet they’ll really hurt the value.”

“Please,” Jackson mocks, “That was the devalued price.”

Stiles shakes his head, giving up on the conversation as it devolves into normal Jackson territory. He heads to Danny’s room and thinks about how odd it was to have a heart-to-heart with the guy. If it weren’t for the whole “true love overcoming evil” incident with the kanima, Stiles may never have known Jackson even had a heart.


 

Before Derek even has a chance to go upstairs and check on Stiles and Danny, he feels himself go on alert at powerful emotions from another alpha. He knows it has to be Scott, especially given how often he’s around because his mom works here, but his senses still put him on edge, prepared for danger. Sure enough, Scott comes barreling around a corner looking furious.

When he notices Derek standing there, Scott’s eyes flash red on instinct, his rage temporarily edging past his control.

Derek moves into a side hall where there are fewer people. “What are you doing?”

Scott follows him off to the side but maintains his distance, breathing air that doesn’t yet stink of Derek to calm himself down. When he feels more in control, he levels Derek with a look. “You stole Stiles.”

“You made him feel like he wasn’t welcome in your pack,” Derek scolds.

“But he’s still not your pack, ” Scott fires back.

“Stiles gets to choose whose pack he’s in, Scott.” Derek explains, deciding to teach Scott instead of just snapping at him this time. “An alpha can’t just claim unwilling people as their pack members, not if they want a stable pack. You should learn from Peter’s mistakes,” he adds wryly.

“You don’t get to tell my how to run my pack! You’re not my alpha,” Scott declares, moving in closer to Derek this time. “You weren’t even supposed to be alpha at all, were you? Not like I was.”

Derek glares. “Maybe not, but if you’re what a true alpha should be, I think I’ll stick to what I’m doing.”

“You don’t know what you’re doing any more than I do, and you’ve been a werewolf forever!” Scott accuses.

Derek is just preparing to physically silence Scott, because he really shouldn’t be yelling about wolves in the middle of the hospital, when the sheriff comes rushing up to them.

“Okay,” Sheriff intervenes, “Let’s break this up so we don’t have a scene in here. Of any kind,” he adds, making a fang-like gesture with his hands that is very reminiscent of Stiles.

Scott nods, automatically obeying the sheriff after years of seeing him as a primary authority figure.

Derek is slower to respond, but he gathers himself and pulls a face he hopes is apologetic before turning to go.

John claps him on the shoulder as he passes, holding on and waiting for an explanation.

Derek frowns. “Scott’s mad at me.”

“I gathered that,” the sheriff replies, waiting for more information. “What about Stiles?”

Deciding between lying to the sheriff and telling him the truth, Derek settles on what he hopes is the safer route. “He joined my pack.”

John’s eyes narrow in anger. “You bit him?”

“No,” Derek answers honestly, “I wouldn’t do that. He joined as a human.”

“Okay,” John says simply.

Derek is surprised by this response, to say the least. “Okay?”

John shrugs. “I’ll trust his judgment on this one.”

“Scott can be a bit intense, as alpha,” Derek says carefully.

The sheriff snorts. “He’s not the only one.” At Derek’s defensive look, he adds, “It’s okay, son. I know you mean well.”

“So does Scott,” Derek admits, momentarily thrown by the term of endearment.

“And that right there is why Stiles went with your pack.” Derek looks uncertain of what to say, so John gives him an out. “You head out; I’ll handle things here.”

As Derek leaves, the sheriff pulls out his phone, rereading the text from Melissa that led him here. He shakes his head and goes up to the nurses’ station.

“There you are,” Melissa calls when she spots him, pulling her hair up into a messy bun and reaching for gloves.

“You didn’t give me anything to go off of other than kids are hiding something ,” he responds, quoting her text directly. “Figured my best bet was to head straight to the source, and my shift was about over anyway.”

Melissa pulls on her gloves and flips through a file, confirming something before grabbing medical equipment John can’t quite identify. “So, any idea what our sons are up to now?”

John wants to tell her everything, but he also doesn’t want to stress her out at work. It could be nothing, but his gut tells him this is something more serious. “I’ll get back to you on that,” he says instead, evading her question. Her lie-detection skills could rival those of a werewolf when she gets suspicious.

A voice on the intercom calls for Nurse McCall to assist with a code blue and she hurries off, tossing a “Keep me updated!” over her shoulder as she leaves.

The sheriff waves her off and goes in search of Stiles, certain based on what he overheard between Scott and Derek that his kid is around here somewhere. He hopes it isn’t too big of a mess that led him here this time.


 

Lydia goes back to find Jackson after she’s given Derek all the information he needs, and she isn’t surprised to find him alone. “What did you do to Stiles?” She asks, exasperated already.

Jackson looks affronted, then shrugs. “I told him the truth. He left. End of story.”

“Right,” Lydia drawls, disbelieving. She does not have time for this. “You need to keep an eye on him.”

“Why would I do that?” Jackson questions, looking for all the world like she’s asked him to crawl into a sewer.

“Because I have things to do,” she declares. “And while I solve everyone’s problems, you need to make sure Stiles doesn’t get himself killed.”

Jackson groans but agrees, with reluctance. “Fine.”

“First,” Lydia adds, “You need to drive me home so I can get started on my research. Stiles will be safe here as long as Derek’s around anyway.”

“Why would Derek be here?”

She looks at him like he’s a particularly slow child. “Because I called him. Now let’s go.”


 

Stiles spots his dad coming down the hall of the hospital at the same time the sheriff sees him, so he has no time to hide. He also thinks that he has no alibi, because crap Danny’s family is going to press charges aren’t they? He knows Danny wouldn’t, but parents get pretty angry when you injure their kids. Middle school Stiles had caused more than enough injuries with his general flailing to be made very aware of this fact.

“It was an accident!” Stiles blurts on reflex, before his dad has even fully caught up to him.

“I’m sure it was,” his dad answers, crossing his arms. “Now exactly what accident are we talking about here?”

Stiles breathes out a sigh of relief. “None! Nope, no accidents here. Everything I do is completely purposeful.” His dad interrupts before he gets the chance to try combining purposeful and accidental into one word. Purposidental? Acciful? He’s kind of glad his dad cut him off.

“Why are you in the hospital, son?”

“Why are you in the hospital, dad ?” Stiles asks, perfectly mimicking his serious tone.

“I heard my kid was here and wanted to take him out to dinner,” the sheriff says drily. “Your turn.”

“I wanted to bring Ms. McCall a snack?” Stiles tries.

“Oh?” John asks, both eyebrows raised and tone mocking. “What did you bring her?”

“Nothing,” Stiles admits. “But I wanted to bring her something, and it’s the thought that counts, right?”

“I give up,” his dad says, throwing his hands in the air in surrender.

Stiles is taken aback but chooses not to question this. Small victories.

“Let’s go,” the sheriff instructs. “We need to talk.”

There go those small victories, Stiles thinks.

By the time they’ve gotten to dinner, a small Italian place they almost never visit, Stiles has worried himself halfway into a fit.

He’s always had an overactive imagination, and his mind runs through every possible thing that would make his dad take him out to talk. He starts at the hospital, and his dad, and he fights against allowing his brain to go down that path.

Then he goes to distant relatives, or more deaths at the station from an unknown source, even some sort of natural disaster on a path of destruction towards Beacon Hills. All of his scenarios involve death or maiming of some kind, because why would they not? This is his life.

The one option he doesn’t consider is finances. No one takes you out to eat to tell you they have no money. But that’s what the sheriff is doing now. “Listen, Stiles, I know how much you love the house, and I get what it means to you, but we just can’t afford it anymore.”

“What?” Stiles chokes on a bite of pasta, tears springing to his eyes on reflex as he regains his breath, wheezing.

The sheriff waits out his coughing fit before going on, a grimace on his face. “I’ve tried so hard to keep up with the bills, but my salary just isn’t cutting it with everything I owe.” He doesn’t mention Stiles’ bouts in the hospital, but Stiles still has the sinking feeling this is his fault.

“I could get a job,” Stiles offers. He can’t lose the house. He can’t . It holds too many memories, of his mother baking and flicking flour in his hair, of her pushing him on the small backyard swing they had before Stiles managed to break it, of everything she did when she was healthy. Without the house, the only place he can go to properly envision her is the hospital, and that’s not the image he wants.

“No, Stiles, you can’t.” Johns says, frown lines deepening.

“I can,” Stiles argues. “My grades are still great and I’ve been handling the supernatural. I think I can handle a normal human job. Ooh, or maybe I could be, like, a magician’s assistant or something. A real magician.” He thinks maybe his spark powers could be practical for once.

“That’s not what I meant,” John clarifies, ignoring the tangent. “It wouldn’t be enough. The bank is taking the house.”

“They can’t do that! They have to give you notice and a chance to refinance and…” Stiles is panicking now.

“They did,” his dad sighs, putting a hand on his arm from across the small table. “But it wasn’t enough.”

“Why didn’t you tell me before? I could have helped!” Stiles’ voice edges between anger and sorrow in a way that breaks John’s heart.

“I didn’t want to worry you, with everything you’ve had going on. But now I have to, because there’s nothing else I can do.” He looks so apologetic that Stiles can’t hold on to the fledgling anger that had been building in him.

“It’s not your fault, Dad,” he consoles.

John doesn’t reply to that, just stares down at his now cold food and nods to indicate that he’s heard.

“It’ll be fine,” Stiles says, speaking to both his dad and himself at this point. “You’ll see.”

The sheriff ruffles Stiles’ hair affectionately. “You’re a good kid.”

Stiles meets his eyes. “People tell me I get that from my dad.”

John smiles, “Do they?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says with a playful smirk, “But witnesses are notoriously unreliable.”

John nods sagely. “That explains why you never remembered who ate all the cookies when you were five.”

“I know I caught the thief once, but he got away, and I could never remember what he looked like,” he says, forcing a smile past the ache of realizing that’s yet another memory he will soon be pulled away from.


 

At home that night, Stiles throws himself into bed, clutching an old photo of his mother to his chest, and can’t quite shake the wellspring of anxiety building in him. He has to move out of the house he grew up in. Worse than that, his dad has to move because of him, and his dad just doesn’t deserve this. He shouldn’t have to lose his house, with all his happiest memories, just because Stiles’ life sucks. It’s like his terrible luck is contagious and he’s infecting everyone around.

And on the topic of everyone around him, he attacked Danny. If he had gotten him in the head with that swing, there’s no telling how much damage he would have done. Even with the calf injury, compartment syndrome could have cause permanent damage to the muscles, and Danny doesn’t deserve the misfortune of being in proximity to Stiles any more than his dad does.

Try as he might to avoid it, Stiles can’t help but think back to the nogitsune. When it went on its rampage, tormenting or killing everything in its path, Stiles had been trapped in his own mind. There was nothing he could do to stop it. Now, there is no nogitsune. It’s just him, but there’s still nothing he can do to stop this. Nothing he can do to make this better.

As he contemplates the hopelessness of his situation, he rubs absently at a bruise on his leg that he doesn’t remember getting. Out of the corner of his eye, he thinks he sees a pattern on it, and that’s definitely not normal. Looking more closely, he discovers that it looks more like his veins themselves have bruised. There’s a spiderweb of blue-black veins on his thigh, and great. That’s just what he needs right now.

In such a short span of time, he’s lost Scott, his house, and now apparently his mind. Because Danny isn’t a demon and veins don’t look like that. He scrubs his hands over his face repeatedly, trying to clear the image, but it won’t go away. It lingers there, mocking him.

As if the universe knows he needs someone vaguely nurturing to confide in, it sends him Jackson. Because the universe hates him.

Rapping on his bedroom window, looking angry already, Jackson calls, “Break the mountain ash line!”

Stiles grumbles incoherently to himself before answering. “No thanks!”

“Let me in, Stilinski,” Jackson says, impatience growing.

Why ?” Stiles whines, drawing the word out.

“Because I didn’t punch you when you maimed Danny today?”

“That’s not exactly encouraging,” Stiles counters, but he wraps his blankets around himself and shuffles to the window, setting the photo of his mom off to the side and breaking the seal of mountain ash to let Jackson in.

As Jackson shoves his way in, clearly unwilling to wait for Stiles to lift the window himself, he brushes up against something and hears a soft thud as something falls to the floor.

He turns around to see Stiles bent over a rectangle of popsicle sticks, muttering “ no, no, no ” to himself. The floor is reminiscent of a crime scene, with absurd amounts of red and green glitter in the place of blood. Jackson lifts an eyebrow at the sight. Stiles should be thanking him, really. He did him a favor; that thing is hideous.

But Stiles doesn’t get up, just stays huddled there, and Jackson doesn’t know what to do in this scenario. Lydia had said to keep an eye on him, but she hadn’t told him what to do if he started freaking out like this. “Calm down, it’s not like someone died,” he offers.

Stiles begins to hyperventilate then, and Jackson thinks maybe that wasn’t the right thing to say. He snatches the now mangled mess of popsicle sticks, glitter, and plastic gems from Stiles’ hands, frowning down at it. Turning it over, he sees a torn photo of a woman crouched down next to a young Stiles, who beams into the camera. That’s not good.

“Hey,” Jackson starts, in the most soothing voice he can muster, “It’s okay. I’ll buy you a new one.”

But that sets Stiles off further, his brain immediately filling in everything else that will be new in his life soon. The original frame, like his house, is lost to him now. Both will be replaced but will never be as precious as they once were. His dad wouldn’t need a new house, Stiles thinks, if he hadn’t gotten so involved in the supernatural.

But he had to stay involved, for Scott. Scott needed him.

Or he had, until now.

Because now Scott is lost to him, too. And he wouldn’t be if he hadn’t become a werewolf in the first place, but that was Stiles’ fault too, wasn’t it?

He was the one who just had to go looking for a body in the woods, the one who always had to know what was happening and who had the bright ideas that nearly got people killed, and who had all but killed people himself at this point.

Everything builds up so quickly in Stiles, his mind spinning out of control and his breath coming out in heaves until it feels like it stops altogether. He’s so overloaded with blind panic that it takes him a few moments to realize that Jackson is shaking him.

Slowly, the room swims back into focus; he hadn’t even realized how blurry everything was until it started to become clear again. When he feels like his breathing is more fully under his control, he sees Jackson holding the picture frame he had made his mom in kindergarten. He grabs it back, tracing a finger over the tear in it, remembering how upset he had been when it ripped. He had been trying to shove it into the too-small frame, and somehow ended up tearing the thing halfway down her face. Stiles had nearly cried, thinking he ruined Christmas, but his dad said his mom would love the gift anyway, because he made it.

His dad was right. She had kept it on her nightstand for years, and beside her hospital bed after that. She said the rip was a reminder to her that she wasn’t perfect, and that everyone should have to remember that sometimes. Stiles had smiled brightly and said she was perfect. Because he was five, and things were perfect.

She hadn’t been sick then.

He hadn’t ruined the rest of his life yet.

He hadn’t cost his dad his job, or racked up crazy medical bills, or committed mass murder, or lost his best friend, or any of the other countless things he had done since then.

Jackson is prepared now, feels Stiles losing himself to the panic yet again, and gets in his face, slapping his cheek lightly. “What do you need? How do you stop this?” He asks, sounding unusually concerned.

For some reason, his concern irks Stiles. This is Jackson , after all. He should be off being a dick somewhere, not trying to fix Stiles after breaking his mother’s frame.

Also, Jackson has literally done nothing helpful. “Lydia kissed me once; that helped,” Stiles manages to gasp out as his breath returns.

“Yeah, well I’m not kissing you,” Jackson says with mild disgust.

Stiles takes a fraction of a second to process that before, “Really? I just had a panic attack and your biggest concern is not kissing me? People can die from those, you know.” The distraction of being annoyed with Jackson gets his breath about as well as the kiss did, if he’s being honest. But still, it’s the principle of the thing.

Jackson gives a half-hearted shrug. “Still not worth it.” The silence reigns for a minute before Jackson thinks to ask, “Wait, when did Lydia kiss you?”

“Oh my god,” Stiles complains. “Priorities! She was trying to make me not die.

Jackson rolls his eyes. “You didn’t die this time either, did you?” He says it like he has personally accomplished something in the Keeping Stiles Alive Department.

“True,” Stiles allows, “But Lydia is much better at this than you.”

“Whatever,” Jackson says with another shrug. “You lived.”

“Aww, you care that I lived,” Stiles coos, panic now fully receded.

“Lydia would be pissed if I let you die,” Jackson says, stone-faced.

“Just admit it, Jackson,” Stiles goads. “We totally had a bonding moment in the hospital, and now this.” He gestures around them before adding, “I think we’re officially bros.”

Jackson looks even more disgusted than he did at the idea of the kiss. “I will never be your bro.

Stiles puts a hand over his heart dramatically. “But this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” he frowns.

“It’s really not,” Jackson denies.

“Oh, I get it,” Stiles says. “You don’t want to ruin your whole I don’t care about anyone image. I get it.” He leans in closer to Jackson and lowers his voice to a conspiratorial whisper, “We can be secret bros.”

Jackson stares at him blankly in response, his lips still curled in annoyance.

Stiles waits him out, and when Jackson still says nothing, decides, “Yup! Secret bros, starting now.”

Jackson seems fully committed to ignoring everything he says, so Stiles adds, “It’s okay, I can keep a secret.”

This time, Jackson groans and flops down on Stiles’ bed, a hand over his face like he’s hoping Stiles will have disappeared by the next time he looks.

No such luck.

Chapter Text

The next morning, the sheriff lets Lydia in and she heads directly up to Stiles’ room, where she finds Jackson curled up on the floor and Stiles sprawled across the bed. She raises an eyebrow at the mess of glitter along one wall but decides not to ask.

After snapping pictures of the two with her phone, because you never know when you might need them, Lydia pokes them both awake.

Stiles is alert instantly, looking around as if expecting an attack before forcibly relaxing his muscles. Lydia gives him space, focusing instead on getting Jackson to sit up. His senses have completely dismissed her presence, instinctively knowing that she isn’t a threat to him.

Lydia sighs heavily before walking over to Stiles’ bedroom window, where she picks up a tiny bit of mountain ash between her fingertips without breaking the line. She walks over to Jackson and blows the dust at him.

He startles awake with a sneeze, and wow, how did Stiles never think of that? As sleepover pranks go, it’s right up there with putting a hand in warm water. Jackson sits up fully, rubbing at his face and glaring at Lydia, apparently not unused to this particular form of wake up call.

Lydia sits at the desk chair beside Jackson, rubbing a smudge of ash off of his shoulder with her thumb. “Good morning,” she says, pleased with herself.

Jackson continues his glare but leans into her touch, and Stiles just looks at her expectantly. Early morning visits from Lydia are never social calls.

She seems to know instantly what he’s thinking and answers the unspoken question. “You have to tell them. All of them.” She looks pointedly at Jackson, still giving Stiles the option of not saying anything for now.

“Tell us what?” Jackson demands, looking suspiciously between the two of them.

“Nothing,” Stiles answers quickly. To Lydia, he adds, “Are you sure?”

“It’s getting dangerous,” she says, nodding. “Plus I already told Derek.”

“I thought you were going to let me decide!” Stiles throws his arms up in exasperation.

Lydia inspects a nail and shrugs one shoulder. “That was when I thought you would make the right choice.”

“I might have,” Stiles grumbles defiantly.

Lydia shrugs again. “You took too long.”

Stiles gives up, counting this as yet another battle with Lydia that he will never win. “What did you tell him?” He asks, wondering how worried he should be about Derek throwing himself into mortal peril sometime soon. He tends to do that when he thinks there’s danger afoot.

“Everything,” Lydia states simply.

“Great,” Stiles groans. “And what did he say?”

Jackson interrupts now, and Stiles is surprised his patience held out even this long. “What are you two talking about?” He looks quite irritated to be out of the loop.

Lydia pretends he hasn’t spoken, answering Stiles’ question instead. “Not much. He doesn’t know what it is, either.” She considers for a moment before adding, “He’s mostly just worried about you.”

“That makes two of us,” Stiles replies.

Jackson growls with irritation, and Lydia chides, “Use your words.”

Stiles barks out a surprised laugh and Jackson grits his teeth. “Tell me what you’re talking about.”

“What’s the magic word?” Stiles taunts in a sing-song voice.

“‘Please don’t kill me?’” Jackson offers as a possibility.

“That’s more than one word,” Stiles responds, disappointed. “I guess you’ll have to wait and find out with the rest of the pack.”

Lydia’s eyes sparkle with amusement. To Stiles, she says “Packs,” to clarify that they should both be there. To Jackson, she offers a smile which he takes to mean “Good job.”

“I guess I have to call a pack meeting now, don’t I?” Stiles asks, pulling out his phone.

“Already did that, too,” Lydia responds, holding her phone aloft.

Stiles flops back down onto his bed. “You were never going to give me a choice.”

Lydia looks at him unapologetically. “It’s for the best.”

He can’t argue with her there. “Is Scott’s pack coming?” Stiles questions, still feeling odd and out of place about not being a part of that group.

“I texted Allison,” Lydia says, and Stiles nods. Scott will be there.


 

Stiles gets to the loft early because he doesn’t want to end up having any more awkward conversations alone with Scott. At least this way, Derek will be around. Not that he does much to reduce the awkward factor, but still.

When he arrives, Derek greets him with a worried look and approaches quickly. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He questions, and there goes his plan to avoid awkward conversation.

“Hey, Derek,” Stiles greets. “Nice to see you too.”

“Stiles,” Derek starts, annoyed.

Stiles sighs, already tired, “Look, can this just wait until the meeting so I don’t have to say this ten times?”

Derek observes him closely, always caught off guard when Stiles goes out of his way to avoid talking. Of course, by this point he’s noticed that Stiles puts effort into filling silences with relatively meaningless chatter. Finally, Derek decides that Stiles must be worse than he looks if he won’t even do that much. He nods his agreement, and Stiles breathes a sigh of relief.

They go on like that for a few minutes, Derek staring out the loft windows and Stiles seated on the end of the couch, before the rest of the pack starts trickling in. Erica, Boyd, and Isaac all arrive together, Erica complaining about the last-minute notice for this meeting. “I could have had things to do!” She complains.

Isaac scoffs, “What things?”

Erica punches him in the arm in response.

“Pack is more important than your social life,” Derek scolds from his place by the window.

“I’m here, aren’t I?” She responds drily, throwing herself into the seat beside Stiles. Boyd takes the remaining seat next to her.

Isaac, absently rubbing his arm even though she hadn’t hit him hard enough to hurt, sits on the floor in front of them. Stiles watches them all move around until they’re comfortable; Erica shoves Boyd to the side until she can sit with her legs crossed on the couch, and Isaac leans back with his elbows propping him up.

No one says much to Stiles other than a basic greeting, and Stiles wonders what emotion they smell off of him right now. Actually, he reconsiders, he should be wondering what Lydia told them. But he doesn’t ask, wanting to get everything over with at once.

Lydia, Jackson, Allison, Scott, Kira, and Malia all arrive at the same time, leaving Stiles even more curious as to what exactly Lydia’s planning here.

His question is answered by Malia almost immediately. “Okay,” she declares, clearly agitated. “I waited until we got here, and I’ll even let him talk before I maul him.” She rounds on Scott then, demanding, “Why doesn’t Stiles feel like pack anymore?”

“He didn’t want to be in our pack anymore,” Scott answers, looking for all the world like Stiles has betrayed him.

Malia scoffs, not even considering that a possibility. “What did you do?” She accuses.

“Stiles?” Allison questions hesitantly, looking at him.

He just shakes his head in response, hoping she’ll understand that it wasn’t about her, but he’s really not feeling like getting into this with Scott again. He has other things to do.

Scott, however, takes Malia’s question personally. “I didn’t do anything!” He declares, “Stiles just made a choice!”

“Because you gave him an ultimatum,” Derek interrupts in a low voice.

Malia’s fangs descend instantly, and Kira grabs her arm to hold her in place.

Allison turns to Scott, pieces beginning to fall into place in her mind.

Meanwhile, Erica, Boyd, and Isaac just watch the show. Stiles is in their pack, and that’s good enough for them. Erica considers getting popcorn, but she doesn’t want to miss anything.

“You can’t do that,” Allison says, “without consulting the pack.” She doesn’t ask what the ultimatum was, because she isn’t ready to deal with that just yet.

“But I’m the alpha,” Scott defends weakly.

“Not for long,” Malia murmurs threateningly, and Kira’s hold on her tightens.

“It’s been a minute,” Lydia says to Malia, holding her phone timer out for the group to see. “Your time is up. Now, for the matter at hand.”

At those words, Peter descends the staircase. “Are you done being teenagers now?” He questions with distaste.

“If you had a problem with it,” Lydia says sweetly, “You wouldn’t have stood there eavesdropping for the past sixty-four seconds.”

“There was nothing good on TV,” Peter responds. Stiles arches an eyebrow at that, because he would be shocked if this loft even had a TV.

“Stiles?” Lydia prompts, back to ignoring Peter. “Want to get everyone caught up?”

“Not really,” he says, looking away.

“Stiles has been having visions,” Derek states bluntly.

“Dude!” Stiles scolds, “Not cool.”

Derek raises both eyebrows at the response. He thought he was helping.

“Like, Lydia visions?” Isaac questions.

“Because I think we have enough dead body detectors already,” Erica adds.

“And I thought we had enough werewolves in leather,” Lydia quips, “And yet, here you are.”

Stiles looks to Isaac, the only one who seems to be taking this even remotely seriously, and answers, “No, not like Lydia. At least, no dead bodies yet.”

“So what are you seeing?” Kira asks gently, one hand still around Malia’s wrist.

“Demons that aren’t really there?” Stiles tries.

“What does that mean?” Scott asks.

“It means he’s seeing demons,” Lydia says slowly. “But the demons aren’t there.”

Allison speaks before Scott can even process Lydia’s response. “Which demons?”

“So far: Asag, a tenome, and Empusa. Asag’s shown up twice already, and caused a minor problem.” Lydia responds.

“Wait,” Jackson cuts in. “What does a demon have to do with Danny?”

“Probably nothing,” Lydia consoles. “Wrong place, wrong time.”

“What about Danny?” Kira asks.

“He turned into Asag,” Stiles begins before correcting himself. “I mean, I saw him as Asag. And he was coming at me, so I protected myself. Except it was Danny.”

There’s concern in Kira’s voice now. “Is he okay?”

“He may have had to go to the hospital,” Stiles says sheepishly. “But he seems fine now.”

It’s Isaac who interrupts next. “Why didn’t you say anything about this before?”

Derek watches Stiles more intently. This is the question he wants answered most.

Stiles starts to respond, wants to say that he thought it was PTSD or something, that he didn’t even think it was real , let alone a problem until Danny. But before he can, Scott answers for him.

“Because of the nogitsune,” Scott says. For a moment, Stiles thinks that maybe Scott understands what he was going to say, but then he goes on to say, “It must not have left.”

Stiles feels his heart leap into his throat at just the thought of that, can’t believe Scott would even suggest it so casually. He feels the edges of panic creeping in, along with a solid helping of anger, and focuses all of his energy on his breathing. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Jackson edge closer to him before turning on Scott instead.

“You’re an idiot,” he drawls, keeping his own anger just beneath the surface for now. “This is nothing like that.”

“It’s a demon,” Scott says, like they’re all missing the obvious. “It can’t just be a coincidence.”

Erica stands up, visibly enraged, and Stiles shakes his head at her, his breathing more under control now. He looks to Scott. “I was thinking, maybe it just activated something in my spark powers? Like my magic woke up because it felt threatened?” He knows it’s a weak connection between the nogitsune and what’s happening now, but it’s all he has.

Scott doesn’t buy it. “Then why didn’t it save you the first time? Just because you can make a mountain ash line doesn’t mean you have actual magic.”

“Scott!” Allison yells. He immediately looks at her, concerned at her tone of voice and seeming to forget about Stiles entirely. He looks confused by the anger on her face.

“It makes sense,” he says softly. “If he had real magic, it wouldn’t have gotten him in the first place.”

“It wasn’t his fault,” Allison says firmly, looking at Stiles.

“I never said it was!” Scott whines.

“But that’s what you mean,” Allison adds, almost sadly. “Look at him, Scott,” she says, motioning to Stiles. “How can you still think he’s dangerous? He’s Stiles.

Stiles waves his most non-threatening wave, forcing a smile.

“He looked like Stiles then, too,” Scott says. “But he was dangerous.”

Stiles shrinks back from Scott, and Derek starts forward.

“This is why you didn’t want me working with their pack,” Allison says, done with Scott’s attitude.

“And I was right!” Scott says, not even denying it.

“Out,” Derek orders, speaking directly to Scott.

“Fine,” Scott answers, ready to be out of this conversation. He turns to his pack. “Let’s go.”

Malia digs her heels in, looking at Scott defiantly and not going anywhere. Kira shrugs helplessly, still refusing to let go of Malia when she can practically feel her anger.

“Allison?” Scott questions. She hasn’t moved either.

“I’m not going with you,” she says, arms crossed.

“You have to,” Scott replies, his tone authoritative.

“I really don’t.” She shoots him a glare, her own tone furious now.

Scott’s eyes bleed red, and he moves in a flash, grabbing the handles of her wheelchair and pushing her in the direction of the door. Derek’s pack looks on in shock, and Erica mutters a surprised “Holy shit.” Scott seems to have finally snapped.

Allison jabs Scott hard in the side with an elbow and says coldly, “If you do this, I will be out of your pack immediately. You’re on thin ice as it is.”

Scott remembers himself then, knows better than to try and make decisions for Allison. He nods, takes a step back, and gives her an apologetic look before leaving the loft.

Upon Scott’s exit, the tension in the room is palpable. Stiles isn’t quite sure where to go from here.

“Can I quit his pack too?” Malia blurts as soon as Scott has left the room. She knows he can still hear her, and that’s kind of the point.

“Not right now,” Derek says. “You two should go keep an eye on him. He’ll be unstable with this much friction within the pack.”

Malia is clearly about to protest again, and it’s Lydia who speaks up this time. “Right now, you three are the only pack members Scott has,” she says, pointing at Allison, Kira, and Malia.

“I really don’t care,” Malia states.

“You will when he goes around biting new wolves and we have to deal with them,” Lydia explains. “Without at least three pack members, an alpha feels compelled to turn new wolves.”

Lydia looks pointedly at Peter, who leers and says, “I could have controlled myself, but where’s the fun in that?”

Lydia rolls her eyes and disregards him. “Scott’s a teenager. He has even less self control than him,” she jerks a thumb in Peter’s direction again.

“Why is this my problem?” Malia grumbles.

“Because we’re still his pack,” Kira answers.

“That’s the problem I’m trying to solve!” Malia retorts.

Kira frowns at her. “I know how you feel, but he still needs pack. Even if it’s just to help protect the town from another rogue alpha.”

“It doesn’t have to be us,” Malia says, still annoyed.

“Right now, I think it does,” Kira says, sparing a glance at Allison and Stiles. “Please?” She adds.

Malia deflates just a little. “I don’t even know why you care about him. Didn’t you hear what he said?”

Kira nods, looking down. “Yeah,” she responds, “and I don’t agree with him. But he thinks he’s doing the right thing.”

“Well he’s wrong,” Malia states.

“Come on,” Kira says, pulling her towards the door. “And don’t hit him,” she adds.

Malia looks even further irritated at that, but she reluctantly follows Kira out anyway.

“We’ll keep you updated,” Lydia calls after them.

“We’ll keep Scott contained,” Malia returns, an edge of malice to her voice.

“She means we’ll keep you updated too,” Kira clarifies.

Malia pouts. “That wasn’t what I meant.” Kira just smiles and leads her into the hallway.

Once the door has swung shut behind them, Lydia gets the meeting back on track. “So,” she begins, “Any useful thoughts on this?”

The pack seems to give a collective shrug at the question. No one has any ideas, but they all make it clear they don’t agree with Scott.

Allison, in particular, looks unhappy and worried. As soon as she can, she gets Stiles alone to make sure he’s okay. It isn’t difficult given that all the wolves are either trying to come up with a solution (Lydia, Derek, Isaac, and Boyd), or talking about how terrible of an alpha Scott is (everyone else). Stiles doesn’t contribute to either discussion, so Allison manages to corner him.

“Hi,” she starts, not quite sure on where to go with this conversation yet.

“It’s fine,” Stiles flaps a hand through the air to wave her off, the response becoming a reflex at this point.

“It’s not,” Allison says seriously. “What he did is not fine, and I swear I didn’t know–” As she speaks, she reaches across the space between them and grabs Stiles’ upper arm, forcing him to look at her more fully.

“Allison,” Stiles stops her, covering her hand with his own. “I’m really okay. And of course you didn’t know,” he reassures her, giving her hand a light squeeze before letting it go.

She smiles before her face goes almost sorrowful. “I can’t believe he said that to you.”

Stiles tilts his head at her curiously. “How do you know what he said?”

“I guess I don’t,” she allows. “But I assume it was something about how I was too fragile to be in a pack with you?”

Stiles huffs out an amused breath. “Please,” he says. “Even Scott knows not to call you fragile.”

“I’m not so sure about that lately,” she answers, looking down as she speaks.

“You’re not fragile,” Stiles objects.

She laughs. “I know that. I meant I’m not sure that Scott knows that.”

“Oh,” Stiles says. “You might be right about that.”

“So what did he say?” She asks.

His face goes apologetic. “Basically that we couldn’t both be in the same pack, like you thought.”

“I was totally fine with it,” she says, her voice hard. “And not like when you say are but I know you aren’t. I was actually fine . And he ruined it.”

Stiles frowns. “What are you going to do?”

“We’re going to have a talk,” Allison announces.

Stiles takes a second to be glad he isn’t on the other end of that discussion.

Isaac, by coincidence or supernatural eavesdropping, enters their conversation at just that moment. “I could drive you home?” He offers to Allison. “In case you don’t want your dad grilling you about the pack meeting yet.”

“That would be great,” she says, flashing a relieved smile.

“Okay,” he says, hesitating. “Hold on one second.” He ducks behind the couch for a second, reaches under it, and glances over his shoulder to check that Derek is still doing dishes in the kitchen. He grabs a leather jacket and shoves it at Stiles. “Told you we’d get you one at the next meeting,” he grins.

Stiles looks at the jacket suspiciously. “That might have been the least subtle hand-off of stolen goods in history.”

Isaac feigns offense. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“So you’re saying this is just an extra leather jacket you had lying around, that’s also like three sizes too big for me?” He raises an eyebrow.

“Exactly,” Isaac says. “It’s the pack uniform; we have lots of them. Just none in human sizes.”

“Sorry I didn’t get the memo about the ridiculous muscle requirements,” Stiles says, humoring him. “In my defense, you’re still pretty human-looking for a wolf.”

Isaac allows his face to shift and asks, around his teeth, “Still too human?”

“Still super non-threatening,” Stiles counters. “You mostly look like a douche now. Been spending too much time with Jackson?”

At the sound of his name, Jackson’s head whips around and he narrows his eyes at Stiles.

Isaac laughs. “That’s our cue to go,” he says to Allison, who has just been watching the exchange with amusement, relieved that Stiles seems to be doing okay in his new pack.

Stiles leaves shortly thereafter, making excuses about his dad waiting for him at home. In reality, he just doesn’t want to hear what the others have to say about Scott. He also doesn’t have much to add to the group working on the demons in his visions. Exhausted, he clutches the jacket in one hand and heads out the door, following Jackson and Lydia.

The second they’re out, Erica hisses, “I can’t believe Isaac did it!”

Boyd levels a sly look at her, the hint of a smile on his face. “He’s probably more scared of you than he is of his alpha.”

Erica grins wolfishly, “As he should be.” For maximum effect, she flashes her eyes as she speaks.

Peter cuts in then, smirking. “I’m rather impressed. A collar may have been more appropriate, but I suppose his jacket will have to do.”

Boyd manages to keep a straight face, and Erica looks somewhere between interested and disgusted. But she decides it’s best not to ask Peter questions she doesn’t want his answers to.


 

Once Allison is situated in the pack SUV, Isaac folds her wheelchair and puts it in the back, then goes around to the front and starts the car.

“Thanks for driving me,” Allison says.

“No problem.” He starts on the path to her house, the ensuing silence becoming mildly uncomfortable.

“Okay,” Allison says to disrupt the quiet. “We need to talk about what happened, you know, with us.”

Or we could pretend it never happened,” Isaac suggests as an alternative.

“I know it’s weird,” she acknowledges, “But we just need to clear the air.” She puts her left arm on the back of his seat, using it to lever herself towards him.

Isaac bites his lip and glances at her before returning his eyes to the road. “It’s not that big a deal anymore.”

“Isaac,” Allison sighs, moving her hand closer to him. As she does so, she sees him tighten his hands on the wheel and forces her next words out in a rush. “We were dating, I thought I was dying, and I told Scott I loved him.”

“I was there,” Isaac says. “I remember.” He keeps his eyes on the road ahead and goes to turn up the volume on the car stereo.

Allison removes her hand from his seat and turns the radio off entirely, so Isaac has to resign himself to having this conversation.

“Look, I get it, okay?” Isaac says. “I was just a rebound.”

“That’s not–,” Allison starts.

“I didn’t mean it in a bad way,” Isaac interrupts gently. “We both just needed someone, and it worked for a while, but it wouldn’t have worked forever.”

Allison offers him a small smile. “It still must have sucked though.”

“It did suck,” he agrees before shrugging. “But we work better as friends.”

“And we still are?” Allison asks, an edge of hopefulness evident in her voice.

Isaac holds her gaze more steadily than he has since their conversation started. “Definitely,” he agrees.

There’s silence in the car for a beat, comfortable this time instead of tinged with awkwardness as it was before. Eventually, Allison says, “Promise me you’ll keep an eye on Stiles? Changing packs after everything that happened can’t be easy for him.”

He nods. “We already are, and some of us are about to turn it up a notch,” he adds mischievously.

Allison’s smile is soft but confused, and as she’s about to ask what he means by that, she sees Isaac go rigid in his seat. He’s staring ahead, his hands gripping the steering wheel tightly again. She turns forward to look and sees, of course, Scott standing in her driveway.

“I’ll tell you later,” Isaac says, opening the door and heading to the trunk for her wheelchair. He does his best to ignore Scott, but the alpha shoves his way into Isaac’s space, scenting the air angrily. Their combined scent from the car ride must be making him possessive.

Scott wrenches the chair from Isaac’s hands and demands, “What are you doing here?”

Isaac looks at the chair, at Allison, and then back to Scott slowly. Then he does it again. “Uhh?” He’s not sure what answer Scott’s looking for here.

This seems to make Scott even angrier, but from her seat Allison calls, “Scott! Give me my chair,” which reminds him that he’s left her stranded up there while being a literal alpha male. He brings the wheelchair to her, and she allows him to help her into it just to save the argument for something more important.

By the time Allison is seated in her chair, Isaac has begun to inch back towards the driver’s door of the SUV. “So…” He starts, looking only at Allison. “Should I go or?”

She waves him off. “Go ahead, I’ve got this.” Pointedly, she adds, “See you later.”

Isaac smiles and nods, leaving Scott and Allison alone.

Before he can get a chance to pull out his puppy dog eyes and beg forgiveness, Allison rips off the Band-Aid. “I think we need to take a break.”

“A break from what?” Scott asks. At an exasperated look from Allison, he says, “You’re breaking up with me?”

Allison sighs. “We need to take a break,” she reiterates.

“Is this because of Stiles?” Scott blurts. Before she can respond either way, he continues. “Because it’s not safe. I know you think it is, but it’s not. Remember last time Stiles was possessed? Before he even attacked you? The nogitsune was so good that none of us knew.” His voice goes higher and more frantic as he continues, edging closer to Allison as he goes on, willing her to understand. “And then when he stabbed me, it was like…” He falters. “I just should have known , you know? I was his best friend, and I couldn’t tell he wasn’t himself .”

Allison frowns, wheeling closer to him and patting his arm sympathetically. “I get it. None of us knew, and that’s terrifying, but you have to trust that he’s back to normal now.”

“But how do you know the nogitsune’s really gone if I couldn’t even tell it was there in the first place? It was just so good at being Stiles.” Scott adds worriedly. “It’s not safe.”

“What do you want to do, lock him up somewhere until we can prove it’s him somehow? That’s not fair to Stiles.” She drops her hands back into her lap.

“But what if it isn’t really him? What if this is just another trap?”

“We can’t afford to live like that,” she answers softly. “Maybe you can, but I can’t. Not with everything else we’re constantly up against.”

“You could still be wrong,” Scott says, his voice low.

“We might all be wrong,” Allison says, her expression sorrowful. “With our lives, we might all be possessed. But right now, we just have to hope for the best. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

“Why can’t we do that together?” Scott whines, honing back in on their relationship.

“Because I need to know you can do it on your own,” Allison says, moving up her driveway, “for your friend, your brother , and not just for me.”

At that moment, another SUV pulls up, and Chris Argent steps out of it, eyeing Scott with his standard level of mild suspicion. “Everything okay here?” He asks, noting the tension in the air and the unusual distance between the two.

Scott slumps where he stands and answers, “Yeah, everything’s okay.”

“He was just about to leave,” Allison adds, looking at Scott apologetically.

Scott nods and leans in to give her a hug, which she returns before heading inside. He watches her go and waves goodbye to Chris, walking back towards his own house.


 

Derek walks out of the kitchen, everything from the pack meeting thoroughly cleaned up, and sees Erica sprawled half on top of Boyd on the couch. “What are you two still doing here?” He asks.

“Trying to get rid of your pack members now too?” Peter comments from his position on Derek’s armchair, flipping through an old text.

“You should take him with you when you leave,” Derek adds dryly, addressing Erica.

Erica scoffs. “Who were we supposed to leave with? Isaac took Allison home in the SUV, and the meeting was awkward enough without joining those two in a confined space. Kira’s babysitting Malia, and Jackson took Lydia home to do more research without,” she gestures in Peter’s direction, “ that around.”

“I am a joy to be around,” Peter remarks, not looking up from his book.

Derek drags a hand down his face and breathes deeply. “What about Stiles?”

Erica shrugs. “Stiles just smelled sad.” She smirks, “You should go check up on him.”

Derek seems to consider, then says, “Last time I did that it didn’t work out so well.”

“You weren’t his alpha before,” Peter looks up at Derek now, tone serious. “So unless you want to be like Scott…” He adds, trailing off meaningfully.

Derek groans. “He doesn’t want me checking up on him like that anymore.”

“I could go make sure he’s okay, if you prefer,” Peter offers, leering.

Derek is fully prepared to ignore Peter until he sees the man stand up and take a half a step towards the door. At that point, Derek immediately grabs his keys off the counter and heads for the door himself. “No, you’re right. It’s my responsibility as alpha.”

When the door closes behind him and the other wolves can sense that he’s out of hearing range, Erica bursts out laughing. “Oh my god, I would kill to see his reaction when he gets there and finds his jacket. I hope he’s wearing it.”

“He will be,” Boyd says.

“Interesting,” Peter comments, looking up from his book with an inquisitive glance. “Care to share your thoughts with the class?”

“Not really,” Boyd replies.

“You’ll tell me later,” Erica announces.

Boyd nods sagely, and Peter sighs, getting up with his book still in hand. “No respect for pack elders.” He closes his book, leaving it on the couch, and heads out of the loft.


 

Derek finds himself outside of Stiles’ window seriously considering just going back home. Stiles had literally told Derek not to pry into his life with his superpowers, and Derek had listened for once. He had avoided smelling or hearing much more than the obvious, busying himself in the kitchen during much of the socializing that happened after the pack meeting.

The rest of the pack, however, had not stopped sniffing out drama wherever they could find it, and Derek certainly wasn’t going to let Peter check up on anyone . Especially not one as weighed down with emotional baggage as Stiles is right now. Decision made, he steels himself for both sadness and aggravation before tapping on Stiles’ window.

Stiles stumbles to the window, hair mussed and voice groggy as he opens it. “What do you need?” He asks, stifling a yawn.

“I…” Derek isn’t sure how to start without letting Stiles know Erica thought he ‘smelled sad.’ He takes a breath while gathering his thoughts and winds up coughing in surprise. Stiles doesn’t smell particularly sad, but he does smell different. “Let me in,” he rasps, voice rougher than he intended.

Stiles looks mildly concerned at the coughing, breaking the mountain ash line with little protest beyond mumbling “bossy” under his breath.

As he climbs through the window and plants himself in Stiles’ desk chair, Derek’s brain finally catches up to his eyes. Stiles is wearing his jacket.

Why is Stiles wearing his jacket?

“Why are you wearing my jacket?” The question erupts from him before he can even think about it. The combined Derek-Stiles smell that particular fashion choice creates is equal parts disconcerting and comforting. He doesn’t like it.

Stiles gapes at him before saying, “I thought it was Boyd’s.”

That confuses Derek even more. “Why would you be wearing Boyd’s jacket?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles answers. “Why does anybody wear anything? I mean, nudity is technically our natural state, but who wants to see that? Though I guess it depends on the person.”

Stiles’ train of thought having gone completely off track, Derek just interrupts with, “Stiles.” He snaps his fingers in front of Stiles’ face to regain his attention.

“Oh,” Stiles says, remembering the original question. “I figured it was, like, a weird pack initiation or really boring prank or something?”

“Even if that were true, why would it involve my jacket?” Derek asks, incredulous. He’s still distracted by the smell but resists the urge to rip his jacket away from Stiles. He also resists the (somewhat stronger) urge to wrap him in it more snugly.

“I thought it was Boyd’s!” Stiles defends.

“Okay, why would it involve Boyd’s jacket?” Derek asks instead.

“Ask Isaac,” Stiles answers with a shrug.

Now Derek is really lost. “I thought you thought it was Boyd’s?”

“Well, yeah,” Stiles says, as if it’s obvious. “Isaac gave it to me, but I figured it was Boyd’s based on both the size and the assumption that your betas wouldn’t steal from you.”

Derek scoffs but says nothing.

“I think maybe your pack isn’t as scared of you as they should be,” Stiles muses, “if they’re just giving your stuff away without permission.”

“They don’t need to be afraid of me,” Derek says, standing. “They just need to respect me.”

“Do you think they do?” Stiles wonders.

“Your guess is as good as mine,” Derek answers flatly.

“Uh, my guess is way better than yours,” Stiles replies, holding his left hand at the height of his abdomen and his right as high in the air as he can get it. He then jumps just a little to make the comparison of their guessing ability all the sharper. Derek’s lips twitch in amusement before Stiles goes on.  “And they do, just so you know.” He adds. “Jacket-thievery aside.”

Derek nods, grateful for the reassurance, but doesn’t comment on it. “Why are you wearing it if you thought this was a prank, anyway?” Derek questions, getting back to the matter at hand.

“It’s not like they were going to put itching powder in it,” Stiles says. “Their noses couldn’t take it. Plus,” he adds, “I was cold. And it’s comfy.”

“It’s also mine,” Derek says, finally holding his hand out for it.

“Nope,” Stiles says firmly, flopping backwards onto his bed and scooting up to lean against his headboard. “It was a gift. No take-backs.”

“It was a gift from someone who doesn’t own it!” Derek points out, annoyed now.

“Not my fault,” Stiles shrugs.

“Take it off,” Derek demands.

“At least buy me dinner first,” Stiles quips, eyebrows wiggling suggestively.

For some reason, Derek finds this even more irritating, so he moves forward to wrestle Stiles out of the jacket himself. The smell is making him foggy, and he hates it.

“Stop!” Stiles exclaims, and it’s both a sudden hitch in his breathing as well as the protest itself that forces Derek to jerk his hands back as though burned.

Derek moves a step farther from the bed, eyeing Stiles warily. “Are you okay?” He can’t stop himself from asking, even though he knows he should just be angry. Something about Stiles feels oddly fragile right now, though he isn’t quite sure what.

Stiles stays silent, collecting himself, looking like he’s physically pulling himself together, before he nods firmly. “Great,” he says.

“Why are you really wearing that?” Derek asks, still unsure what’s going on here. He shifts to sit at the corner of the bed, watching Stiles carefully.

“I really was just cold,” Stiles begins, but at a look from Derek he goes on. “I don’t know why I kept wearing it, but it was nice. Like, soft and sort of comforting? I thought maybe it was a pack bond thing, like maybe being closer to the pack scent was helping.”

Derek has no idea how to address any of that, so he saves it for later. Instead, he pursues the line of questioning he was here for in the first place. “What did you need it to help with?”

Stiles narrows his eyes at the change in subject. “Why did you come here tonight?”

“You first,” Derek says, waving a hand to indicate Stiles has the floor.

“This isn’t high school debate team,” Stiles snaps. “Why are you here?”

“I was worried about you,” Derek answers, opting to leave Erica out of this.

“I told you to stop smelling me,” Stiles reminds him, tone angry. “Personal boundaries,” he says, waving a hand in the space between them.

Derek elects not to mention that this may actually be an unusual amount of personal space, considering how some of their other angry conversations went. At least no one’s head has made contact with a steering wheel. They’re learning.

Stiles gives up on awaiting a response, instead filling the silence himself. “It doesn’t even matter if you smell me or whatever, because you still don’t know anything.” He rants, “You still have to come here and ask what’s wrong and try to have these emotionally fraught discussions when we all know you have the emotional capacity of a goldfish.

Derek is actually a little bit taken aback by that insult. Not because of the words so much as because Stiles’ heartbeat had not changed. “I’m still your alpha,” he says lamely. “If something’s bothering you, I need to know.”

Stiles laughs. “ If something’s bothering me? I’m sorry, have you not been here? Even aside from the whole ‘possession and murder’ thing, I’ve now started seeing demons, and I hurt Danny. Oh, and I lost my best friend.” His breath catches in his throat, but he forces out, “And now I’m losing my house, too.” He just needs to say it, to get it out of his head and into the world so he can acknowledge that this is something that’s going to happen, whether he’s ready for it or not.

Derek, contrary to popular belief, does have some emotional ability. He quickly realizes that Stiles is more upset about the house right now than anything else. “What happened?” He asks.

“Which part?” Stiles asks wearily.

“The house,” he clarifies.

“Money,” Stiles sighs, slumping down now. “Or lack thereof.”

“Sorry,” Derek says, not knowing what to say in this situation.

Stiles shakes his head, dismissing the apology. “I’m keeping the jacket,” he declares. “Because everything is terrible and I would at least like to be comfortable while the world falls down around me.”

Stiles flinches back as Derek reaches to straighten the jacket on him. “For now,” he allows, zipping it up to just under Stiles’ chin.

“Good,” Stiles answers, feeling his face heat for reasons unknown. He keeps talking and pretends nothing has happened, “Because if you tried to take it I may have had to rip your throat out with my teeth.” He shudders. “And that would probably be really inefficient. And also gross.”

Derek ignores the poorly delivered threat, instead saying, “I’m meeting with Danny tomorrow morning. You should come with me.”

Stiles cocks his head, caught off guard by the invitation. “Why?”

“Now that he knows about us, I’m going to invite him into the pack and make sure he won’t say anything. He needs someone human around so he can feel safe, someone he trusts.”

“Danny doesn’t trust me,” Stiles says, looking down.

“Jackson says he does,” Derek states, “and I need someone I trust, too.”

Stiles just blinks at him for a moment, taken aback. “Okay,” he agrees. Feeling like his response is inadequate given the seriousness of Derek’s words, he adds, “Just for the record, I trust you too. You’re getting better.”

Derek’s eyes widen the slightest bit, enough that Stiles can see his surprise for a fraction of a second before his expression settles back into its usual calm. Derek doesn’t say anything else, or ask what he means by that, because he understands in a way that Scott never had. Stiles smiles, feeling a little better even though his situation hasn’t changed at all. Maybe he just needed to tell someone how much everything sucks to make it all bearable.


 

At the mere mention of Stiles’ spark powers in the pack meeting, Peter’s brain had started working in overdrive. Summoning demons as powerful as those Stiles and Lydia had been seeing would take some pretty serious magical ability.

Cleansing the nemeton would have taken even more magical ability than that, and Peter is almost disappointed with himself for not seeing the connection before. Almost , but not quite, because he’s somehow still the only one who picked up on what Stiles had said about his magic. The rest of the group had been distracted by hating Scott, but Peter can multitask.

Throughout the meeting, he goes through the motions of what he would normally do; to be fair, this mostly involves standing off to the side and making the occasional snide remark, but still. The vast majority of his considerable brainpower goes towards the issue at hand. Of course, that’s not to say that he doesn’t have time to fuel the fire of Erica’s rage for Scott or to prod Derek into visiting Stiles. There’s always time for sowing the seed of discord.

Shockingly, it’s remembering what Deaton told him that makes everything finally snap into place. Cleansing the nemeton would have thrown the natural balance out of order, and the one thing that useless druid always said was that the balance must be maintained. He wonders with suspicion just how much Deaton knows, and why he’s hiding it.

Since the nemeton was cleansed, Peter has been certain of one thing: A powerful magician had performed the ritual. Now, he considers the possibility that they weren’t masking their powers as he had initially assumed. At least, not on purpose. Because there’s only one person with magical ability in town who would have any reason to want the nemeton cleansed in the first place.

Peter goes straight to the nemeton after leaving the loft that day and begins investigating. There isn’t much to go off of anymore, but a spot a few feet away from the tree holds an odd buzz of electricity. He knows the spellcaster must have stood here for the majority of the cleansing, given the feeling of power that remains.

All the wolves assigned to search the woods had gravitated here, but none had picked up a suspicious scent or a trail to follow. There just wasn’t anything to go off of.

It makes sense now, when Peter inhales deeply and catches the edges of Stiles’ scent. None of them, himself included, had bothered to parse the familiar scents in the woods. They were on high alert for strangers , for someone coming into their territory and threatening them with their power.

But that’s not what it was, he knows now. Stiles had never been assigned to watch duty in the forest. His smell shouldn’t be here at all, so why is it?

There’s only one possible explanation, and he can’t wait to see how this plays out. The rancid odor of sulfur he notices creeping into the woods promises to make this whole situation all the more interesting.

Chapter Text

Stiles wakes up early the next morning, gets dressed and heads downstairs so he can meet Derek at the hospital. But Derek, in his classic, mildly creepy way, is already lurking outside Stiles’ house in the Camaro. Stiles rolls his eyes at the unnecessary precaution but gets into the passenger seat of the car anyway.

“Pretty sure I could have driven to the hospital without trying to run over any demonic pedestrians you know,” Stiles remarks as he buckles his seatbelt.

“But this way you can be 100 percent sure,” Derek responds with a hint of a smile, resisting the odd urge to ruffle Stiles’ hair. He’s wearing the leather jacket again, and their scents are so intermingled now that Derek is instinctively drawn closer to him.

“Which is why I’m letting you drive,” Stiles allows, not even noticing that Derek has shifted in his seat so that their legs are an inch closer together. “But also this is less effort and free gas mileage,” he adds. “Mostly that.”

Derek wants to make a comment about how he could get Stiles to pay for gas if he wanted him to, joking threats his go-to interaction with Stiles at this point, but he bites his tongue. Given their last conversation, he’s fairly certain reminding Stiles about the money situation in any way would not be the best idea. Instead, they lapse into companionable silence for the rest of the journey to the hospital.

Once parked, Stiles looks to Derek curiously. “Are you going to give him the bite?”

Derek shrugs. “Jackson wants me to, but it depends on how this goes.”

“What if he doesn’t want it?” Stiles questions, thinking as much of himself as Danny.

Derek responds to the unspoken question, turning to face Stiles more fully in the small space of the car. “I would never give the bite to someone who didn’t agree to it,” he says. “I’m not like Peter.”

Stiles is relieved by Derek’s answer; he already knew it, but it’s still nice to hear. “Thank god for that,” he responds, a laugh in his voice. “Another Peter is the last thing the world needs. We’re already on our second one.”

Derek shakes his head because he has no response to that. Instead, he opens his door and heads into the hospital, Stiles close on his heels.

None of the staff stop either of them to ask who they’re here to see or if they need any help, which Stiles is used to since most people in town know him anyway. He is a little surprised no one questions that he’s here with former murder suspect Derek Hale . That’s the sort of thing that usually worries people, especially when the sheriff’s kid is involved.

In fact, Stiles notices, it’s like the doctors and nurses don’t notice them at all. Everyone is bustling around in more of a hurry than usual, but as far as he can tell there hasn’t been any sort of medical catastrophe. There was one kid with a broken wrist, but other than that the patients looked mostly okay. He resolves to track Mrs. McCall down later and see if there’s anything he should know about, but for now he stays focused on Danny.

When they get up to Danny’s room, Stiles can feel Derek’s demeanor shift beside him. He looks the same – vaguely grumpy and annoyed with the world – but he feels closed off suddenly. He nudges Derek as they knock on the door. “Relax,” he says. “It’s Danny.

As Danny calls, “Come in,” with a tired voice, Stiles realizes his reassurance wasn’t particularly... reassuring. Not to Derek, who barely knows Danny and has major trust issues. This is going to be fun.

Danny looks unsurprised to see them, and his lack of reaction gets under Derek’s skin more than any of the myriad emotional responses would have. He can handle fear, anger, even excitement at the prospect of superhuman powers, but the calm resolve on Danny’s face is unnerving. “So now you know,” Derek says flatly.

Danny scoffs. “I’ve known for months.”

Jackson had mentioned this to Derek, thought it would persuade him to trust Danny, but it just made him suspicious. “Why keep our secret?” He needs to know what Danny plans to get out of this.

“Because I’m not a fan of Eichen House?” Danny answers. “Only crazy people think werewolves are real,” he explains. “Well, crazy people and werewolves,” he amends, eyeing Derek and Stiles.

Derek raises an amused, skeptical eyebrow. “You think Stiles is one of us?”

“Hey!” Stiles exclaims. “I’m sort of one of you,” he pouts.

Danny looks between the two of them with understanding. “That makes way more sense,” he says.

“What does?” Derek queries.

“Why Stiles doesn’t seem like a wolf but is still always involved.” He shrugs and looks to Stiles, “Honestly, I’m impressed. And also really hoping he isn’t actually your cousin.”

Derek looks vaguely confused, and gets even more so when Stiles flushes and flails in Danny’s general direction. “That’s not–” Stiles starts, flustered. “Not a thing! Not even a little bit of a thing. Also not cousins, just so we’re all clear on that.” He tries to rid himself of his blush through sheer force of will.

“Why not?” Danny wonders, eyeing Derek, who is somehow still not on the same page.

“Uh, genetics?” Stiles answers.

Danny rolls his eyes. “Not the cousin thing, the ‘not a thing’ thing.”

“Also genetics,” Stiles says, waving a hand to encapsulate all of Derek and then himself.

“Then what’s up with the jacket?” Danny finally asks, looking more to Derek now.

“He was cold,” Derek answers simply.

Just when he thought he had gotten his blush under control, Stiles feels his face heat again. At Danny’s smug look, he blurts, “Still not what you think!”

“If you say so,” Danny replies, looking from Derek to Stiles again.

“Speaking of saying things,” Stiles transitions, desperate to change the topic, “Derek wanted to say things to you. Derek?” He motions him forward as if Derek has a speech to make, and Derek takes another step toward Danny before speaking. He looks to Stiles questioningly, as though to make sure he’s okay, and Stiles waves him off as quickly as he can. Danny just looks amused.

“If you want the bite, you’ll have to prove you can keep the pack secret first,” Derek begins.

“I’ve already been keeping it secret,” Danny sighs. “We’ve been over this.”

“And,” Derek continues, ignoring the fact that Danny has spoken at all, “If you can’t keep our secret– “ He shifts and flashes red eyes at Danny.

Behind him, Stiles holds his hands up as pseudo-claws and makes a mock growly face. At Danny’s chuckle, Derek turns around and catches him with his “claws” still raised. Stiles slowly lowers his arms and puts his hands behind his back, attempting to look innocent.

“Stiles, this is serious,” Derek groans.

“What are you going to do,” Stiles questions, “put him in the hospital?” He gestures around the room to emphasize his point.

“You realize I’m still here, right?” Danny interrupts.

“And Derek wants you to know that he could keep you here ,” Stiles says, face mock serious and voice as low as he can make it on the last words.

Derek pinches the bridge of his nose in annoyance. “Stiles…”

“As much fun as this is to watch,” Danny interjects again, “I’m not going to tell anyone about you.”

“I’m still not giving you the bite until you prove you can be trusted,” Derek reiterates.

“I don’t remember asking for it,” Danny says flatly.

“Then why would you keep our secret?” Derek can’t help but seek an ulterior motive.

Stiles throws an arm over Danny’s shoulders, stopping him before he can snark out a response. “Derek just doesn’t understand the power of friendship,” he explains with a smile, ignoring Derek’s look of disapproval.

“Maybe he just needs some private tutoring,” Danny smirks.

Stiles leaps away from Danny and rambles, “Okay! I think we’re all good here. Derek, you good? Great. Danny, you’re in the pack now.” He rushes out his words, pointedly not looking at Danny’s wiggling eyebrows.

“He isn’t in the pack until I invite him and he accepts,” Derek gripes.

“So do that,” Stiles complains.

Derek looks to the ceiling for patience before turning back to Danny. “Do you want to join our pack?”

“Sure,” Danny says.

“This is so anticlimactic!” Stiles throws his hands in the air. “Aren’t we supposed to get, like, rites of passage or something?”

Derek huffs an amused breath. “You never would have gotten in if we did.”

“Rude,” Stiles says. He hones his focus back in on Danny. “Welcome to the club. And sorry about the whole,” he motions at Danny’s leg, “you know. Do you need anything before we go?”

“I could use some water,” Danny answers. “Try not to bludgeon it on your way back.”

Derek’s lips quirk up in a smirk, and Stiles pokes him in the side. “See? He’ll fit right in.”

Derek elects to pretend he didn’t hear Stiles, instead pulling out his phone to text Jackson and Lydia to come to the hospital and get Danny up to speed on everything he needs to know. He stays in the room while Stiles goes off in search of water, feeling like he needs proximity to establish the fledgling pack bond.

Having spent more than enough time roaming hospital hallways in his life to know his way around, Stiles heads straight for the nearest nurses’ station to grab some water. As he’s filling a paper cup from the water cooler, he spins around and runs straight into Mrs. McCall. Somehow, he manages to only slosh water onto his hands, rather than spill it all over her scrubs. Mentally congratulating himself for that, it takes him a second to notice her haggard appearance.

She looks frazzled, as though she’s doing too many things at once, and there are bags under her eyes. Even more telling, it takes her a full second to realize it’s Stiles who ran into her. Usually she can sense him from a mile away, her Stiles-sense as keen as a werewolf nose.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asks, concern evident in his voice.

“Fine,” she says automatically, then reconsiders. “Actually, you know what? I’m not great. We just got a fourth case of Sickness this week.”

Stiles blinks at her in confusion. “You know you work at a hospital, right?”

“Ha ha,” Melissa responds. “No, we’re just calling it Sickness for now because no one knows exactly what it is. This thing comes on like the flu, but as far as we can tell it’s not contagious. It also isn’t responding to any of our treatments and the patients are getting steadily worse. At this point, it’s either call in the CDC or find out if there’s,” she looks around, “ something else going on.”

“I don’t know if supernatural illness is even a thing,” Stiles admits, scratching his head.

“But it could be?” Melissa asks.

Stiles rubs a tired hand over his face. “Knowing Beacon Hills, it probably is. Let me know if anything changes, and I’ll see what I can find out on my end.”

As he turns to leave, Melissa grabs his arm to stop him. “I know I’ve been busy,” she says, “but I haven’t seen you around the house much lately. Is everything okay?”

Stiles gives her a sad look, having almost forgotten that losing Scott might mean losing her too. He knows Melissa is too good of a person to cut him out like that, but if he and Scott aren’t brothers anymore, he’s not so sure he gets to keep his pseudo-mom. He doesn’t know how to answer her, so he puts his hand on hers and shakes his head sadly. “Things could be better,” he admits.

Melissa looks at him, her frown deepening. “Is there anything I can do?”

Stiles shakes his head again. “I’ll get back to you on that, too,” he answers, moving back towards Danny’s room, water in hand.

Back in the room, Derek instantly looks at Stiles, a crease of worry forming between his brows. “Stiles?” he asks.

“Got your water, completely uninjured,” Stiles directs to Danny, holding it out.

“That makes one of us,” Danny says, laughter in his eyes.

Stiles smiles back at him but doesn’t respond, thoughts still on the things he lost.

Derek cuts in then, suddenly announcing, “We need to go.”

Danny seems unfazed by the sudden exit, but Stiles looks at him curiously. “Why?”

“Pack business,” Derek says.

“Not to harp on this too much,” Danny says, “but I’m in the pack now.”

Trusted pack business,” Derek clarifies.

Danny rolls his eyes. “Sure it is,” he says, looking at Stiles with one eyebrow raised suggestively.

Stiles sputters but doesn’t manage to form any coherent words, face flaming red again.

“We’re going,” Derek says, one hand on Stiles’ shoulder to turn him towards the door.

“Welcome to the pack!” Stiles calls behind him as he allows Derek to steer him out.

“I feel so welcomed,” Danny remarks dryly.

Stiles just sort of shrugs at him, “You might be the pack member who got the most cordial welcome, actually.”

Derek cuts an unimpressed look at Stiles. “You literally got a party.”

“That doesn’t count,” Stiles says. “It was a pity party.”

“There’s just no pleasing you, is there?” Derek comments.

“I’m sure you’ll find a way,” Danny says suggestively.

Stiles uses every bit of self-restraint he has not to react to that, especially considering Derek still has his hand on his shoulder, the warmth of his body just noticeable along the line of Stiles’ back. Honestly, it’s a miracle Derek still hasn’t caught on to all of Danny’s innuendo, but Stiles isn’t going to look that gift horse in the mouth. Having stopped at the door, Stiles turns back around, breaking Derek’s hold on him to reassure the newest pack member. “He’s not that bad once you get past all the–” he makes fangs with his index fingers again, knowing Derek doesn’t typically make the best first impressions. Or second, or third.

Danny laughs. “You’re the expert.”

Derek, apparently tired of waiting, puts a hand on the small of Stiles’ back, shoving him forward and fully into the hallway. He lets the door to Danny’s room swing shut behind him without another word, though he does shoot the new pack member one final threatening look as the door closes.

“So what’s the top secret pack business?” Stiles prods, once the two of them are alone and on their way back to the Camaro.

“What’s wrong now?” Derek asks instead, not answering his question.

Stiles makes an exasperated sound. “There is no pack business, is there?”

“You are pack business,” Derek says.

“No, I’m Stiles ,” he says, pointing a finger at his own chest and speaking slowly, the beginnings of irritation already present in his voice.

“Stiles–” Derek starts.

“Very good,” Stiles interrupts. He pokes a finger at Derek now, “And you’re Derek. Try it with me, De-rek .”

Derek grabs his wrist, shoving his hand away. “Tell me what happened.” He doesn’t mention that Stiles smells even sadder now than he did before, but Stiles manages to infer that himself. Derek isn’t exactly the most subtle of people.

“This conversation isn’t happening without curly fries,” Stiles declares. “And ice cream. Your treat.”

“That sounds very nice of me,” Derek deadpans, opening the car door and waiting for Stiles to get in and fasten his seatbelt before starting the engine.

“Uncharacteristically nice,” Stiles acknowledges. “Almost like it’s the only way you could get me to have this discussion with you.”

Derek extends a claw, “I have other ways.”

Stiles completely ignores him, has been immune to Derek’s empty threats for far too long now. “The best curly fries are at this diner four blocks down,” he says. “Get there before six and it’s two baskets for ten bucks.”

“I don’t want curly fries,” Derek says, following Stiles’ directions anyway and not even pretending to follow through on his ‘other ways’ of making Stiles talk.

“Who said anything about you?” Stiles asks. “I’m having a ‘two baskets of curly fries’ kind of week.”

Derek doesn’t comment, just heads to the diner and sets up at a table, letting Stiles deal with placing the order and anything else resembling human interaction.

“You still have to get something,” Stiles gripes, motioning at Derek after the waitress has taken Stiles’ order and walked away.

“I don’t want anything,” Derek says.

Stiles flags the waitress down, “He says he’ll have a…” He trails off and looks at Derek, his head tilted. “What was it again?”

Derek sighs as the waitress looks at him expectantly. “Burger,” he grunts out.

“And how would you like that cooked?” She asks pleasantly, notepad in hand.

“Rare,” Derek answers.

“Coming right up,” she says, going to put the order in.

“You’re such a cliche,” Stiles says as soon as she’s gone again.

“What?” Derek looks at him uncomprehendingly.

“Rare meat,” Stiles says by way of explanation.

“Well what did you want me to get?” Derek inquires, frustrated.

“Something better?” Stiles offers. “Or at least properly cooked.”

In the next instant, he sees Derek’s lips forming a response but hears nothing. Nothing from Derek, and nothing from anywhere else. Background conversations in the diner die out all at once, the coffee pot stops its steady dripping, and the hum of the AC goes mute. The silence is jarring enough, but it is then broken by a low, menacing voice calling out his name. It doesn’t say “Stiles,” either. It says his real name, and somehow that’s all the more scary. He chokes on his next inhale, unable to breathe over the raw panic that he is now apparently able to hear the things he’s been seeing. It’s the only explanation for this.

Distantly, Stiles is aware of Derek calling his name as sound floods back into the world. He registers a hand cupping the side of his face, sees Derek mouthing the word “breathe” at him, but it all feels fuzzy and dream-like. He registers that Derek has moved to his side of the booth, his body physically blocking Stiles off from the rest of the diner. He still isn’t getting enough air, but the voice is gone now; it had said his name and departed as quickly as it came, which leaves him wondering if he had made the whole thing up.

But this can’t be a coincidence, and hearing demonic voices on top of having visions of them can only mean danger. Which is a fact that really isn’t helping with his panic attack.

The longer he goes without hearing the voice again, however, the smoother his breathing becomes. He manages to wrestle his lungs back into submission, and Derek pulls him to his feet as soon as he senses the improvement.

Standing shakily, Stiles looks around to realize that just about everyone in the diner has turned to stare at him. Everyone with the exception of a young mother at a corner table by the door, who is hunched worriedly over her coughing son. The child hacks and wheezes, and Stiles empathizes with that inability to breathe so much right now.

“Let’s go,” Derek urges, nudging Stiles toward the door. He leaves enough money on the table to cover their bill even though they haven’t even gotten their food.

Stiles nods and allows Derek to lead him out, his legs still feeling shaky and weak. As he passes the mother and son, the woman says, “I think he’s coming down with something,” into her phone, her voice laced with worry.

Unwilling to believe in coincidence at this point, Stiles thinks back to his conversation with Melissa, convinced that the child will end up in the hospital if they don’t find out what’s going on. This has to be something supernatural. It has to all be connected somehow.

In the car, Derek opens his mouth to speak on two separate occasions before stopping himself. Finally, he settles on asking, “What happened?”

“Remember how I’ve been seeing things?” Stiles prompts, holding up one finger.

Derek shoots him a look as if to say How could I forget and nods.

“Well, now I’m hearing things, too.” Stiles puts up a second finger to join the first.

Derek’s brow furrows. “What things?”

Stiles shrugs, turning to look out the window instead of meeting Derek’s gaze. “Demon things?” He guesses. “Definitely not human.”

“Did it hurt?” Derek asks, looking more closely at Stiles’ ear. “Is that why you–”

“Lost my ability to breathe?” Stiles finishes for him. “No, it didn’t. It was just super creepy. And also I was, like, deaf to everything except for the voice while it spoke.”

This does little to ease Derek’s worry. “What did it say?”

“My name,” Stiles answers. He pauses, then decides to go all in. “My full name.”

Derek’s eyes widen. “We need to have a pack meeting,” he says decisively.

“We just had one,” Stiles protests. “And anyway, what are we going to report? That I was hallucinating things and now I’m hallucinating slightly different things?”

“They aren’t hallucinations,” Derek corrects, forcing Stiles to meet his eyes.

“Visions, whatever you want to call them,” Stiles replies. “The point is I don’t know anything new, so a pack meeting won’t change anything. I don’t want to freak everyone out over nothing.”

“You don’t know that this is nothing,” Derek states.

“You don’t know that it isn’t ,” Stiles returns.

Derek glares at Stiles, and Stiles stares right back, neither willing to concede. Finally, Derek offers, “You have to call me if it happens again. And let me know what you find out when you research tonight.”

“Who says I’m researching tonight?” Stiles begins, but at a disbelieving look from Derek he amends, “Okay, so obviously I’m doing that, but not because you told me to.”

“Because I don’t need to tell you to,” Derek admits. “But I do need to tell you not to hide what you find out.”

“I would have told you,” Stiles says. Derek lifts an eyebrow, so he adds, “Eventually.”

“This is serious, Stiles.” Derek looks at him carefully.

Stiles sighs. “I know, I get it, I’ll keep you updated.” He leans his forehead against the passenger window. “Can you just take me home now?”

Derek nods and exits the diner, following the familiar roads to the Stilinski home. Once there, he stops Stiles as he goes to open the door, one hand squeezing his upper arm gently. “Keep me posted.”

“I will,” Stiles agrees, hopping out of the car and leaving Derek’s hand hanging in mid-air for a fraction of a second before he reels it in. “Thanks for the ride.”

Derek doesn’t respond, but he sits in the car until he sees Stiles safely in the house before pulling away.

In the house, Stiles is surprised to find his dad at home. “Hey, I thought you were working late tonight,” he greets.

“Came home early because things were quiet at the station and I can do this paperwork at home anyway,” the sheriff explains, rubbing his temples.

Stiles nods his acknowledgement, walking upstairs after checking to see that his dad ate dinner and seeing a sandwich wrapper on the kitchen counter. At least he hadn’t gone out for pizza.

Beginning his research on the demonic voice while still feeling the after-effects of his panic attack proves to be a bad idea. Stiles finds himself reliving memories of the nogitsune, remembering what it was like to talk to it while trapped within his own mind. The voice he heard today sounded so different, so primal that he can’t help but wonder if it came from something even more ancient and unhinged. Overcome with anxiety and unable to focus, Stiles minimizes his research and pulls up his Netflix queue instead, watching old episodes of Psych until he feels himself beginning to nod off. Normal human criminals would be such a relief.

One moment, Stiles is drawing parallels between his own life and the TV show (because he would be a great fake psychic), and the next he’s in the forest. The demonic voice calls to him again, repeating his name with an eerie rumble that shakes him to the core. From between the trees, Stiles sees eyes watching and clawed hands reaching out for him.

Forcing his way past thorny brambles and gnarled tree roots, Stiles sprints in the opposite direction as quickly as he can. The eyes glow blood-red and follow him no matter how far he runs. By the time he reaches a small clearing, he is panting with exhaustion and bleeding from several scratches he received during his trek through the forest. Turning around to see how far away his pursuers are, Stiles finds himself alone.

The tree line he had just broken through is now disturbingly still and encased in a haze of darkness. Where there was once glowing eyes and deadly claws, there is now black nothingness between the trees. Shuddering, Stiles backs away from the tree line.

On his second step back, he collides with something solid. Biting back a shout, he spins to face his newest enemy and finds a wall of solid rock. The clearing was empty before; he’s sure of it. But now, the rock face mocks him, immobile, while he questions his memory. Just as he’s beginning to doubt himself, the rocks shift with a groan.

What seemed like a wall of rock morphs into a mostly amorphous being, comprised of a torso and limbs formed with jagged edges which fit snugly together. Stiles assumes it’s a demon of some sort based on context rather than any concrete knowledge. He might also take a moment amidst his inner panic to be amused by his use of the phrase “concrete knowledge” in this situation. While he admires his own wit, the rock monster begins a slow trudge away from Stiles, towards the far end of the clearing.

“Follow,” he hears, the sound reverberating around him. It’s the same voice he heard earlier, and he instinctively knows the rocks aren’t the ones talking. This voice seems to come from above and beneath and around him all at once. If the idea weren’t so deplorable, he may have thought the voice also came from inside him. But this is different, he reminds himself. This isn’t the nogitsune.

The rocks continue their slow departure, and the voice keeps urging Stiles to join them. He feels strangely compelled to listen, his feet moving forward as if of their own accord. He stops himself, just to be sure he can , and an angry hiss assaults his ears. Once certain that he could choose not to follow, Stiles trots after the rocks. He’s curious.

The slow-speed chase reminds Stiles of when he was a kid frightened of the vacuum’s roar. He had been determined to find out what was happening, poking and prodding at it while his mom took a phone call until he inadvertently turned it on with the hose attachment stuck on his leg. He had wailed, and his mom had chuckled as she soothed his leg, telling him to be more careful. “Curiosity killed the cat,” she chastised gently. Stiles had teared up again at the thought of anything killing a cat. He wasn’t used to death yet.

Letting his inquisitive nature get the better of him yet again, Stiles stumbles after the rock demon as it thumps its way across the clearing and then through the thick underbrush that precedes the trees.

Suddenly, his foot catches on a mess of roots and vines, sending him tumbling forward. He forces himself up as quickly as he can, feeling warm hands gripping his shoulders tightly and instinctively fighting them off.

“Stiles!” A voice shouts, and in his blind panic it takes Stiles a moment to realize it’s his dad.

He looks around blearily, and the rock monster is gone now. Come to think of it, so is the clearing. And the forest. He makes a low sound of disorientation and grips his dad’s hands where they now rest on his upper arms.

“What are you doing out here, kid?” His dad’s voice comes out soft, like he doesn’t want to spook Stiles any more than he already is.

“I…” Stiles glances around again, realizing he is in his own backyard and taking time to think about what this might mean. “I don’t know,” he answers honestly.

The sheriff ventures a guess. “Nightmare?”

Stiles nods, shifting out of his dad’s grip and getting to his feet. He wraps his arms around his midsection, shivering in the cool night air. “It felt so real,” he admits.

John makes a sympathetic face and stands up as well. He returns one hand to Stiles’ shoulder, trying to ground him to the present with physical contact. “Let’s go inside,” he urges. “You’ll give yourself a cold if you stay out here like this.”

“Yeah, okay,” Stiles consents, not fully listening but following his dad into the kitchen regardless. Once there, the hand on his shoulder gently pushes him into a chair.

“I’m making us coffee,” the sheriff says, “and then you’re going back to sleep.” As Stiles opens his mouth to question the logic of that plan, John rolls his eyes and adds, “It’s decaf. But you need something warm after you were out there for who knows how long.”

“Fine, but you have to use the artificial sweetener,” Stiles says.

“This is what I get for trying to be a considerate parent,” John replies, stifling a cough. “Where did I go wrong with you?” He adds jokingly.

Stiles recognizes the jest for what it is, but he also takes note of the tense line of his dad’s shoulders. John doesn’t mention it, but Stiles knows he’s thinking about the last time he found Stiles sleepwalking. This hasn’t happened to him since the nogitsune, so maybe they should both be glad he only made it to the backyard. Plus, the death count for this whole debacle is still at an impressive zero.

Stiles watches his dad go about the motions of making coffee, but at the sound of another cough, he freezes. He rubs the sleep out of his eyes and watches his dad carefully, remembering the child at the diner and the people at the hospital Melissa had mentioned to him. Suddenly, he knows what’s happening without thought; it’s not a suspicion but a certainty. “You need to go to the hospital,” he demands hurriedly.

“It’s just a cough,” John protests, washing his hands and returning to the coffee pot as though nothing has happened.

“No,” Stiles says. “You have to go to the hospital. Right now.” He jumps up from the table and starts manhandling his father in the direction of the front door.

“It’s a cold !” John gripes, shrugging out of Stiles’ grip. “Everybody gets sick this time of year.”

“That’s not what it is,” Stiles states, the seriousness of his tone finally getting through to the sheriff, who frowns at the worry on Stiles’ face.

“What am I missing here?” John asks.

“I’ll tell you on the way,” Stiles answers, grabbing his keys.

John sighs and follows Stiles out the door and into the Jeep. “I’m waiting,” he prompts.

Stiles doesn’t respond, drumming his fingers against the steering wheel in his anxiety.

The sheriff manages to hold back his questions for the rest of the ride, not wanting to push Stiles too far when he’s in this state. He doesn’t even comment on the speed limit as Stiles blatantly ignores it.

Once they’re in the hospital, however, John can no longer bite his tongue. “Stiles, what’s going on?” He demands, just as another coughing fit strikes him. Stiles pales and puts a hand on his back, craning his head to see through the crowded hospital.

Spotting a mess of familiar hair, Stiles calls, “Melissa!”

She either hears him or sees his familiarly wild arm-waving from across the room and jogs over to them. By the time she gets there, the sheriff is no longer coughing. “Did you find anything out?”

Stiles shakes his head. “Dad is getting sick.”

Melissa’s eyes widen, but before she can respond, John interjects. “Will someone please tell me what’s going on here?” He looks to Melissa for answers this time.

“There’s something going around,” she starts, not quite knowing how to address this. “It looks a lot like the flu, at first.” She looks away.

“And then?” The sheriff prods, beginning to understand where this is going.

“Then it gets worse,” Melissa admits. “And nothing we’ve done is making it any better, as far as we can tell.”

“So, what?” John asks. “We having a superbug outbreak here? With emphasis on the super ?”

Stiles wrings his hands but still doesn’t answer, letting Mrs. McCall handle this herself. “Looks like it,” she says.

“And now I’ve caught it,” the sheriff surmises.

“We don’t know that yet,” Melissa says, looking at Stiles to console him. “But we should get you checked out just to make sure.”

Stiles paces the room with worry as Melissa checks the sheriff’s blood pressure, performing her work competently and with great patience for Stiles’ restless energy.

John, however, tries to coax his son into at least sitting down. “You’ll give us all whiplash if you keep walking up and down the room like that,” he says, but the jibe is broken by a stronger fit of coughing.

Stiles sits automatically, plopping himself into the uncomfortable hospital chair for fear of somehow making his dad worse by upsetting him in any way. When his mom was sick, he managed to keep silent for hours on the rare occasion she fell into a restful sleep, so sitting still shouldn’t be a problem now.

It’s harder than he expected though, sitting there while Melissa takes his dad’s pulse and shoves a thermometer under his tongue. By the time she starts listening to his lungs on her stethoscope, Stiles is drumming his fingers on the armrests rapidly, about to vibrate out of his skin. He watches Melissa expectantly, waiting for news of his dad’s health to show on her face.

Mrs. McCall manages to keep an impressive poker face until she’s satisfied with her findings, at which point she straightens up and goes about tidying the room automatically. Stiles grabs for the clipboard she had been taking notes on, but she slaps it out of his hands lightly. “You won’t find what you’re looking for there,” she says gently, brushing the back of his hand with her fingers soothingly as she takes the paperwork from him.

“Does he…” Stiles can’t quite get the question out, but he doesn’t need to. He shifts closer to his dad on reflex as Melissa frowns at him.

“It looks like the beginning of it, yes,” Melissa admits, hating to be the bearer of bad news. This family has gotten enough bad news in this hospital for a lifetime.

Stiles’ face falls, his posture seeming to shrink as he withdraws into himself. His dad reaches out and squeezes his wrist, trying to muster up enough reassurance for the both of them. “What should I expect here?” He asks Melissa.

“It’s not as bad as you’re thinking,” she consoles, meeting both of their eyes in turn to be sure they’re listening. “After a while, everyone’s health has just sort of stagnated,” she explains.

“How bad?” Stiles asks immediately, one hand gripping the armrest of his chair tighter.

“Stiles,” the sheriff starts, not wanting his somewhat overprotective son to hear details of a problem he may not be able to solve.

“How sick will he get?” Stiles demands, ignoring his dad’s words while still leaning his body closer to him.

“Bedridden,” Melissa answers softly, pushing a stray curl behind her ear. “They aren’t in pain, but they get too weak to move.”

“This isn’t exactly comforting,” Stiles bites out, the image of another parent trapped in the hospital for an unknown length of time more than he can take right now.

“But it is,” Melissa says. At Stiles’ disbelieving look, she says, “They’re here.” More softly, she adds, “They’re all still alive.”

“So what now?” John prompts, wanting to move them on to more practical matters before Stiles can worry himself any further.

“We have to admit you,” Melissa says. “We’re keeping a close eye on everyone who comes in with this, in case anything changes.” She grimaces at the way Stiles flinches in response to the end of her sentence.

The sheriff nods his understanding. “Can’t say I like it,” he grumbles, “but you’re the expert here.”

Despite the situation, Mrs. McCall cracks a smile at the compliment.

Barely processing anything beyond the idea of another hospital stay, Stiles announces, “I’m staying here with you.”

“No, you’re not,” John states simply. At Stiles’ defiant look, he explains himself with a gentler tone. “You have school tomorrow, and you sitting here watching me get sicker all night isn’t going to do either of us any good. I already let you skip today to visit Danny, and we both know you always have quizzes on Fridays.”

Plus, Stiles thinks, he missed his morning classes for the pack meeting yesterday, but the sheriff doesn’t need to know that. Stiles is about to protest anyway when Melissa adds, “He’ll get more rest knowing you’re safe at home.”

The sheriff shoots Melissa a grateful look, and Stiles knows they’re just trying to get him out of the hospital, but he also can’t take the chance of Melissa being right. The last thing he wants is to somehow make his dad worse . “Okay,” he says, voice coming out as little more than a hoarse whisper.

His dad reels him in for a hug before shoving him toward the exit. “Go. I’ll be fine.”

Stiles looks down, wringing his hands. “See you tomorrow.” He says the words like a mantra, as though he has to wish them into being true. He gestures for Melissa to follow him into the hall.

When the door closes behind them, Stiles rounds on Melissa and says, “If anything changes…”

“You’ll be the first to know,” she assures. She pulls Stiles into her arms for a hug, squeezing as she promises, “I’ll take care of him for you.”

Stiles nods against her, knows he can trust Melissa more than just about anyone else in the world. As comforted as he can be, he heads home.


 

That same night, Derek is woken from a restless slumber by an unexpected phone call. He’s instantly wide awake, because late-night phone calls never mean anything good. “Who is this?” He barks into the phone, not recognizing the number but already pulling on a shirt in case he needs to leave.

“Sheriff Stilinski,” the familiar voice responds, still commanding respect even while sounding considerably exhausted.

“What can I do for you?” He automatically shifts his tone into one of politeness, knowing the sheriff isn’t someone he wants upset with him. “Wait,” he interrupts himself. “How did you get this number?” Derek can’t imagine Stiles willingly giving up any information he considers pack specific, even if only to his dad.

Derek can almost physically hear the sheriff roll his eyes at the question. “I didn’t get my job by being stupid,” he says. “I can get just about any number I want down at the station, and yours is no exception.”

Derek manages not to ask why the sheriff would even want his number, instead refocusing on his original question. “Did you need something from me?”

“Yeah,” the sheriff sighs. “Keep an eye on Stiles for me.”

“Of course,” Derek responds, just stopping himself from adding “I always do.” He has a feeling that wouldn’t go over well. Then a thought occurs to him. “Where are you?” He can’t quite make out the quiet sounds in the background of the phone call.

“The hospital,” John answers. “So Stiles will be more anxious than usual, and I need someone to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.”

“Are you okay?” Derek asks, allowing just a hint of concern to creep into his voice.

“I’ll be fine,” John answers. “Just can’t say the same for my kid at the moment, which is where you come in.”

“I would think you’d call Scott for something like this,” Derek admits, shocked the sheriff would come to him instead. Still, he relaxes slightly now that he knows there isn’t any immediate danger.

“I’m a dad,” John says. “I know who has my son’s best interests at heart.”

Derek has no idea what to say to that, but he can’t really argue with it, so he makes a vague sound of agreement before exchanging goodbyes with the sheriff.


 

The next morning, Stiles drags himself to school fueled by coffee and sheer willpower. He had gotten no sleep the previous night, with his dad’s illness and nightmares that led to probably-supernatural sleepwalking on his mind.

In Mr. Harris’ class, Stiles fights his tiredness as hard as he can, but ionic bonds are not his top priority at the moment. Seeing him beginning to nod off, Mr. Harris, kind soul that he is, shoots Stiles a dark look and asks him a question. Well, Stiles assumes he asked a question based on the look on his face and the fact that his peers all turn to him expectantly. All he hears, however, is the same demonic voice from the diner, except this time it doesn’t say anything he recognizes. Instead of his name, or telling him to follow as it did in his dreams, the deep rumble comes out as nonsense syllables that Stiles can’t decipher. His breath catches in his throat, and he feels his heartbeat kick up a notch in panic.

Isaac, who sits two rows over from him, is at Stiles’ side in a flash, face creased with worry. He mouths words that Stiles assumes amount to “Are you okay?” But Isaac’s voice comes out as the same gibberish Stiles heard from Mr. Harris.

Stiles looks up at Mr. Harris then, face desperate, and finds the teacher glaring at both Stiles and Isaac now. “I have to go,” Stiles manages to get out, and his words sound normal to him at least, so he hopes he is understood.

Mr. Harris makes an arcing gesture with his arms that Stiles has come to recognize as extended detention time, but he doesn’t have time to plead his case. He rushes from the room, seeing his classmates whisper about him as he does so, but nothing makes sense. Everything around him sounds deeply sinister, and he has to get away from whatever this is, so he runs.

About halfway down the hall, Stiles realizes that Isaac is following him, staying a pace or two behind. Close on Isaac’s heels, Allison wheels behind. He takes a moment to hope they won’t get in too much trouble with Mr. Harris before he turns around, appreciating the quiet of the empty hallway while he can.

Isaac and Allison approach him slowly once he stops running, Isaac’s hands held out in a placating gesture.

“What happened?” Allison asks, and the pure relief of hearing her voice as it should be nearly causes Stiles to collapse. On instinct, Isaac rushes to his side to support him, slinging one of Stiles’ arms over his own shoulders.

Stiles, eyes wide, doesn’t know how to explain this without scaring them. He doesn’t know how to think about it without scaring himself . The nogitsune made it so he couldn’t read, and now whatever this is can stop him from hearing. He thinks it wouldn’t be too much to ask just to have full control of his senses for once. The wolves get super-senses, and Stiles can’t even have his hearing without a demon coming in to ruin it.

“I think my brain might be demon catnip?” Stiles ventures, giving up on even trying to fully explain what’s happening.

“I’m texting Lydia,” Allison says, pulling out her phone and sending a quick text.

“Why?” Isaac asks, looking puzzled. “He seems almost okay now.”

Allison pats his arm with condescension. “Lydia is the only one who ever fully knows what’s going on in there,” she says, gesturing at Stiles’ head. “He needs her here.”

“I’m okay,” Stiles says, reassuring himself as much as them.

“You’re not,” Allison says.

Before Stiles can respond, Isaac shrugs a shoulder, jostling Stiles’ arm along with it. “Your heart is still pounding,” he says.

Lydia comes bustling down the hall immediately, so Stiles doesn’t even bother to reply, knowing he’ll have to repeat everything when she gets to them anyway.

“Start from the beginning,” Lydia demands as soon as she reaches the group.

“Did you just walk out of class?” Isaac marvels.

Lydia looks at him like he’s an idiot. “I don’t need to be in class to get an A. I’d be much more worried about you walking out.”

Isaac shrugs again, leaning his head in Stiles’ direction. “Emergency,” he says.

Turning back to Stiles, Lydia asks, “What did you see?”

“Hear,” Stiles corrects.

Lydia absorbs this information and revises, “What did it say?”

“Nothing,” Stiles answers. “At least, nothing I could understand. It was just strings of random sounds in the same creepy voice as before. And I still couldn’t hear anyone else.”

Lydia eyes him with suspicion. “How many times has this happened before?”

Stiles goes to take a reflexive half-step back, but Isaac is still at his side preventing him from going anywhere. “What do you mean?”

Lydia puts a hand on her hip. “You said it was the same as before,” she reminds him. “You ‘ still ’ couldn’t hear anyone. So, when else did this happen?”

“It was different last time,” Stiles clarifies.

“Stiles!” Allison scolds. “If something’s wrong, you should tell us about it so we can help.”

“I didn’t think it was a thing,” he defends, flailing his arms for emphasis. “Or, I thought it was the same as the thing with the visions.” He wonders if that was even comprehensible, but everyone seems to be following his vague explanations.

“So it’s not the same?” Isaac guesses.

Stiles steps away from him now, looking at each member of the group. “It feels...worse, somehow. Like, with the visions at least I can still see everything else around me. With this, I hear the voice and that’s it. I can see people talking to me, but everything sounds wrong. ” He shudders, just thinking about the experience making him uncomfortable.

“You still didn’t tell us about the other times,” Lydia reminds him.

“It was only once,” Stiles corrects. “I was in that diner by the hospital, with Derek. And it said my name.”

“When you say your name,” Lydia asks, giving Isaac a pointed look when he raises a brow at the Derek-related part of Stiles’ explanation. Isaac mimes zipping his lips, but Stiles doesn’t even notice him as Lydia continues, holding Stiles’ gaze, “Do you mean…”

“My name,” he confirms, and she nods.

Allison and Isaac exchange a look, feeling mildly left out of the loop, but Lydia clarifies for them. “He means his real name.” Lydia doesn’t break eye contact with Stiles. “We need to have another pack meeting. Today.”

Stiles throws his head back and groans. “Now you sound like Derek.”

Lydia arches a brow. “I’ll take that as a compliment to Derek.”

“What’s the point of a pack meeting when we don’t know what’s happening?” Stiles complains.

“When does this pack ever know what’s happening before our meetings?” Lydia counters. “You and I are the only ones who ever know anything to begin with.”

“You forgot Peter,” Stiles points out.

“I chose to ignore Peter,” Lydia clarifies, folding her arms, “as I do whenever possible.”

“If you’re having a pack meeting today,” Allison interjects, “I’m coming too.”

Isaac opens his mouth to speak, but he’s again cut off before getting a word out.

“Scott and I are on a break,” Allison says, glaring. “So if I want to go to a meeting with another pack and make sure my friend is okay, that’s what I’m going to do.” She looks about a second away from challenging him to try and stop her.

Isaac nods, impressed by her ferocity. “See you there.”


 

Everyone heads to the loft right after school, though Stiles texts Melissa about thirty times to make sure his dad is still okay before agreeing to the pack meeting.

Before everyone has settled down to talk, Malia comes barrelling into the room, dragging an apologetic Kira behind her. “Why are you meeting without us?”

“It’s a pack meeting,” Derek says.

“We’re part of a pack,” Malia defends.

Isaac rolls his eyes. “You know what he meant.”

“I know something’s going on and you aren’t telling us about it,” Malia declares, shooting daggers at everyone in the room but Kira.

“How did you even know we were meeting today?” Derek sighs.

Malia scoffs. “They all left school together and went the same way.”

“She would have followed you even if I hadn’t driven her,” Kira shrugs, giving them all a half-smile.

“Kira said you wouldn’t be as mad if she came with me,” Malia explains, settling down into a vacant space on the couch and pulling Kira onto her lap.

“That’s not what I said!” Kira defends, raising her hands defensively.

“It’s what you meant,” Malia says, not understanding why Kira would look so flustered about this. She’s way better at dealing with people than Malia is. It’s not like this is a secret.

Stiles looks increasingly amused as this exchange goes on, and Derek eventually waves an arm to stop them. “You can stay,” he concedes.

“I was going to stay anyway,” Malia says.

“Thank you,” Kira says at the same time, lightly elbowing Malia in the side.

Done with their display, Derek gestures to Stiles. “Lydia said you have something to tell us.”

“That sounds way more promising than what I actually have,” Stiles defers.

“Which is?” Derek prompts.

“Demonic voices, sleepwalking, nightmares,” Stiles begins, just listing his recent problems as they pop into his head. “Oh, and also my dad’s in the hospital with a probably-supernatural illness that’s going to leave him bedridden.” He waves his arms to indicate that this is just what he expects of his life at this point.

“One thing at a time,” Derek says gently, moving closer to Stiles as though to console him. “Was the voice different from last time?”

Kira looks surprised. “Last time?”

“I heard something say my name when I was at the diner,” Stiles tells her. Turning back to Derek, he says, “It was the same voice, but this time I couldn’t tell what it was saying. It just made all these sounds that weren’t quite words.”

Derek frowns, deciding to put a pin in that discussion and go through Stiles’ list in order. “Sleepwalking and nightmares?”

“Like before,” Stiles says, wrapping his arms around himself self-consciously at the thought of what had happened with the nogitsune. “Something was calling to me, and next thing I knew my dad was waking me up in the backyard.”

Everyone is watching Stiles with worry in their eyes, and Allison reaches forward to put a hand on his arm. “We’ll figure this out,” she assures him.

Stiles smiles at her gratefully and tries to believe her. Then he turns back to the rest of the group, “And I don’t know if this is related to all the demon things or not,” he prefaces, “but there’s something weird happening at the hospital. People keep coming in with the flu, only that’s not what it is because they aren’t getting better.” He swallows past a lump in his throat. “My dad is there now, too.”

Allison gives his arm a sympathetic squeeze. “It’s not your fault,” she says without preamble. At Stiles’ look, she adds, “Just because these things are happening to you doesn’t mean you caused them.”

Stiles looks away from her, unable to respond at the moment.

Erica saves him from having to reply by offering up her own opinion. “We just need to figure out what’s doing all of this and kill it,” she says simply, snapping her fingers. “Problem solved.”

“If it’s even all the same thing,” Stiles says with defeat.

“Of course it is,” Erica responds. “You’re cute and all, but how many things do you expect to be after you at the same time?” She questions with a quirk of her lips.

“That’s enough,” Derek cuts in, sounding annoyed.

“He’s right,” Lydia agrees, taking charge. “We need to go over everything we know, see how it all fits together.”

“We know demons either really like me or really hate me,” Stiles offers.

“Not helping,” Lydia says. “Do you know who you’ve been hearing?”

“Pretty sure it’s a demon based on the visions, but that’s all I’ve got,” Stiles replies, shrugging.

“Did you see anything in your nightmare that might help us figure it out?” She looks like she’s using all of her patience in keeping her questions civil when Stiles gives her nothing to work with.

“Woods, glowing eyes, clearing, rock monsters,” Stiles says, just naming everything he saw.

“Asag would fit the bill for that last one,” Lydia says, voice trailing off as she thinks back to her research. “He did have an army of rock demons in everything I read.”

Stiles’ eyes widen, everything falling into place with that one reminder from Lydia. He had been so distracted with thoughts of everything he had seen that he missed the obvious connection. “It is all related!” He announces, finally beginning to understand what might be happening.

The whole pack sees the second everything clicks for Stiles, and they wait for him to explain. As soon as he opens his mouth, though, the world goes silent and he hears Asag call his name again.

Even more surprising than the voice is seeing Kira, Erica, Boyd, Lydia, and Peter all turn towards the door at the same moment he hears it. The demon repeats his name twice more before normal sound resumes, and Stiles spins to face Kira, Erica, and Boyd, who are looking at the door in confusion, ready for battle but with nothing to fight. Malia looks even more confused, having heard nothing, but stands even more aggressively than the rest of the group, positioning herself in front of Kira and preparing for anything that might come at them.

“You heard it too!” Stiles shouts, happy to have some proof that he isn’t crazy.

They nod, and Peter just says, “Interesting,” from where he stands along the far wall of the room.

“What happened?” Derek demands, pacing the room in agitation, “What did you all hear?”

“Stiles’ real name,” Peter answers. “Also a demon, but I have my priorities.” He smirks.

Lydia looks at him dubiously. “As if you could even pronounce it.”

“Oh, I can,” Peter assures her, “but I’ll keep that between me and Stiles for now.”

Stiles smacks his head into the wall behind him. The last thing he needs is for Peter to somehow be getting information on him from a literal demon. Lydia glares at Peter and pulls out her phone; a moment later, Stiles feels his own cell vibrate with a text. Sighing, he pulls it out and finds a text from Lydia with his name, spelled perfectly. He groans and deletes it immediately.

“Focus!” Derek commands, looking at the three of them with obvious irritation.

“You didn’t hear it?” Stiles questions, wanting to confirm his suspicion.

“I just heard your heart rate spike again,” Derek answers.

“Wait,” Erica interjects. “What about my heart? It was racing too.” Derek ignores her and waits for Stiles to elaborate on what happened.

“It was the same as in the diner,” Stiles nods.

“Why did they hear it when I couldn’t?” Derek asks, feeling like he’s failed somehow.

Lydia answers for him. “Demons can primarily be heard by those who are more open or psychic, and I’m a banshee. I assume Peter could hear it because he’s literally the living dead.” Peter nods his acknowledgement of that fact as Lydia continues. “And Kira’s family has known about demons for ages; it’s in her blood.” She shrugs. “Not sure about those two,” she gestures to Erica and Boyd.

“My mom got super into Santeria when she was pregnant with me,” Erica says. “I grew up knowing about all the rituals and stuff.”

Lydia motions at Boyd, wanting him to explain as well. “My grandma believes in spirits,” he says succinctly. No one bothers to try to get more information out of him, but Erica looks curious.

“In other news,” Stiles interrupts cheerily, “Still not crazy!” He beams at the pack like this is the greatest thing to ever happen.

“We never thought you were,” Derek sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose.

“But now we know, ” Stiles adds.

“It sounded like you knew something more important than this a second ago,” Derek reminds him.

“Lydia was right,” Stiles says, serious again.

“I always am,” Lydia asserts.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “ Anyway, ” he says, darting a look of fond annoyance at Lydia before turning back to Derek. “It’s Asag. He’s doing all of this: The voices, the sleepwalking, even the sickness.”

Chapter Text

The remainder of the pack meeting is spent rehashing what Stiles knows, making sure everyone is on the same page. He explains the situation at the hospital in detail and the fact that he read somewhere about Asag causing sickness, but he was pretty sure Asag couldn’t be in town without them knowing about it.

“I mean,” Stiles explains, “Melissa said it was like a normal flu, only stronger, and their skin looked perfectly normal.”

At puzzled glances from the group, Lydia adds, “Asag was known to cause boils on the skin.”

“Right,” Stiles says, waving an arm for emphasis. “So I didn’t think it could be him until now.”

“But Asag’s presence only affected animal life, marine specifically,” Lydia clarifies, raising an eyebrow at Stiles. “He would boil rivers and kill the fish.” She waits for him to add more information, tapping her food impatiently.

“I thought so too,” Stiles says, “but then I was reading this old Persian text I found online, and when I ran it through Google translate it sounded like he could actually affect everyone, not just the fish. There was this whole group of people–”

Peter cuts him off, nodding. “There was a sudden decline amongst the Gutian people of the Zagros Mountains circa 2120 BCE.” He ignores Erica muttering BCE in a faux-English accent and goes on, “They were thought to have been ejected, but the records hinted at some sort of plague starting in the area.”

“Asag,” Isaac breathes.

“The timeline fits,” Lydia acknowledges, nodding her head.

“Okay,” Jackson says, “and this helps us how, exactly?”

Lydia rolls her eyes. “ Because it means Asag isn’t here. Not yet at least. He’s still only in Stiles’ head,” she explains, giving him a soft smile at the reference to anything else dwelling in his mind.

Kira raises a tentative hand. “But, we heard it too,” she says.

“Yeah,” Jackson asserts, “And people are getting sick, like they were in the Zurg Mountains. So maybe Asag is just in disguise.”

“Zagros,” Stiles, Lydia, and Peter all say simultaneously. Stiles and Lydia frown at Peter in disgust while he smirks.

“Whatever,” Jackson says. “The point was that it could be hiding.”

“No,” Peter says, pushing off from the wall he’s been leaning against and crossing the room towards Jackson, “it can’t be.”

“How do you know?” Jackson asks with defiance, jutting his chin out at Peter.

“One,” Peter starts, “Asag is strong enough that he wouldn’t ever need to disguise himself.” His tone of voice leaves the word moron strongly implied as he continues. “And two, it’s doubtful that Asag’s signature burning-flesh routine would go unnoticed by an entire town of people. The sound of the painful deaths would be noticeable.” He scowls off into the distance. “Not that Beacon Hills had a problem with its last bout of screams and burnt flesh.”

The reference to his family doesn’t go unnoticed by Derek, who looks into the distance, face a mask of guilt and sorrow. A moment later, he quietly murmurs, “Peter,” to keep his uncle in the here and now. They can’t afford to have him dwelling on the past now, not with his penchant for homicide. Peter growls at Derek lowly but seems to pull himself together.

Sensing the mounting tension, Stiles steps between the two. “So all we know for sure,” he says, tone calming, “is that Asag still isn’t here but is probably causing the sickness somehow.”

“He must get power from it,” Lydia surmises. “He’ll use that to make the jump.”

Allison tilts her head. “Jump?”

Surprisingly, it’s Boyd who answers this time. “He needs power to move from his dimension into ours,” he says, looking to Lydia for confirmation. “The mace must have banished him somewhere .”

Lydia nods again, impressed. In contrast, Jackson scoffs like this whole thing could have been solved ages ago, but Stiles and Lydia (mostly Lydia) silence him with identical glares.

“So, what does he want?” Kira asks, once everyone understands the gist of what they’re dealing with.

“Probably chaos and/or death,” Stiles answers, shrugging. “The usual.”

Derek puts his head in his hands, exasperated. “How do we stop him?”

“Great question,” Stiles congratulates, pinning an imaginary ribbon to Derek’s shirt sleeve.

“You have no idea,” Derek concludes, looking at Stiles with mild annoyance but allowing him to continue fiddling with the shirt regardless. Isaac gives him a pointed look, which Derek ignores, and Erica looks on with amusement.

“I never said that,” Stiles denies, dropping his hands but remaining at Derek’s side.

“Can we just go find it and kill it?” Malia offers, standing up and stretching as if preparing for a chase.

“We probably don’t want to find it at all,” Stiles answers, carefully articulating his next words. “Is boiling skin ringing any bells for you? We just had this conversation.”

Malia tosses her hair. “We heal,” she reminds him, eyes glowing blue.

Peter shakes his head. “You may heal, but you’ll still feel everything. And trust me, my dear,” he says, going to put a hand on her shoulder before she shrugs it off, “the feeling of being burned alive is less than ideal.”

Stiles grudgingly agrees with that point. Turning back to Malia, he says, “So if you know how to kill ancient demons with near unlimited power, some of which are made of rocks, then be my guest,” Stiles allows, waving her toward the door.

“I’ll be back when it’s dead,” Malia says, ignoring his sarcasm and heading for the entryway.

Kira grabs her by the arm before she has a chance to even turn the handle. “He wasn’t being serious, Malia.”

Malia scoffs. “I know that, but it doesn’t mean I can’t still fight it.”

Lydia looks from Malia to Derek. “The whole punch first, ask questions later thing must be a family trait. I never knew martyrdom could be genetic.”

“She certainly didn’t get that from me,” Peter interrupts, tilting his head toward Malia. “Or her mother,” he adds, considering.

“I didn’t get anything from you,” Malia says with a flat look.

“Other than my good looks, you mean,” Peter adds.

Malia growls and stomps toward the door.

“At least wait until we have a plan,” Kira says, dragging her back over to the couch. Malia goes reluctantly.

“Did you read anything useful about how to fight this?” Isaac asks, looking to Stiles for answers.

Lydia is the one who responds. “Asag was vanquished with an enchanted mace,” she notes, remembering her reading.

“Great,” Stiles comments. “I’m sure we can find one of those just sitting around Beacon Hills.”

“You found an ancient Sumerian demon readily enough,” Peter says, watching Stiles in a way that makes him feel like he’s under a microscope.

Before Stiles can come up with an appropriate reply about the demon being the one who found him in the first place, his phone vibrates in his pocket. Checking it out of reflex, he sees Melissa’s name on the lock screen and feels his heart plummet in his chest.

He punches in his PIN and opens the text, where Melissa has said bluntly, First death due to the Sickness. Will keep you updated. As Stiles is reading this message, he receives another which reads, Take deep breaths. Your dad is fine.

Hands shaking, Stiles puts his phone back into his pocket, can’t even think of how to reply now. He distantly observes that the whole pack is suddenly much closer to him than they were a minute ago, Derek practically plastered to his back, their faces all awash with worry.

“Stiles?” Allison prompts. “What is it?”

At a loss, Stiles just pulls his phone back out and tosses it to her, screen still lit with the message thread pulled up.

Allison’s eyes widen as she reads, and then she repeats the message aloud when Malia half throws herself into the chair trying to see. Stiles can see everyone in the room tense up, and he feels the blood draining from his face at the possibility that whatever this is has now become deadly.

“It must be gaining power,” Lydia begins, voice wary. “This is sounding more and more like a summoning.” She seems to consult her mental notes before going on, knowing how much trouble Asag will be if he manages to cross over into their world. She recalls seeing a crude image of the enchanted mace that killed Asag during his first incarnation and makes a mental note to look that up later.

At the same moment that Lydia refreshes her memory on summonings while pulling out her laptop to find more information on the mace, Derek turns his head toward the door sharply. The other supernatural pack members almost immediately do the same, all sensing something powerful in their territory. Senses on high alert, they shift on instinct and flank the humans in the room.

“What am I missing?” Stiles asks, knowing they can sense something but unable to feel it himself.

“Intruders,” Derek growls out, at the door already. “Kira, stay here with Lydia and Stiles. The rest of you, with me.” He doesn’t even flash his eyes, but everyone follows without protest for once.

As Erica rushes past Stiles on her way out, he gets another vision, this time seeing her as a much taller woman with flowing ebony hair and a tattered black gown hanging off of pale, almost pointed shoulders. He flinches away out of reflex before remembering himself, having nearly forgotten that the visions are their own problem separate from Asag.

By the time he comes back to himself, the pack has left the loft. Stiles runs to the window, flinging it open as the others pass by on the street below and calling, “You can’t fight rocks!” They disregard him, rushing headlong into the danger as though he hasn’t spoken. Before he closes the window, Stiles notices an elderly woman walking her dog. She looks perturbed by his outburst, so he adds, “The Rock is really strong,” for optimal clarification before closing the window. He cringes at his own attempt to be inconspicuous, and Kira shakes with the effort of holding in her laughter. Stiles groans, “You try coming up with something better than The Rock,” he challenges.

Kira smiles, “I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Allison rolls in from the kitchen having only heard Stiles’ initial shout. “Are you sure it’s the rock demons?

“If they’re anything like the ones in my dreams, and I have a feeling they are,” Stiles confirms, “then yes.”

“They can’t claw the rocks to death,” Allison allows, nodding sagely. “But I can help out if I need to.” She reaches under her chair and pulls out a small crossbow and a quiver of short arrows. “Arrows won’t be much more effective than their claws, but it’s better than nothing.”

At Stiles’ disbelieving look, Lydia snarks, “Would you rather be out there scratching rocks with the rest of the pack?”

Stiles huffs an amused breath. “Not particularly.”

Allison laughs. “I may be in a wheelchair, but it doesn’t make me any less of a fighter.”

Stiles can’t argue with that logic.


 

Running through the forest to the outskirts of his territory, Derek feels the familiar rush of adrenaline fueled by fear that has become all too common in his life. He pushes past branches and forces his legs to carry him faster, feeling his pack (and Malia) following close on his heels. None of them can quite match his speed, but they follow his trail easily enough.

Once he gets within sight of the boundary line, Derek grinds to a halt at the sight before him. Just as Stiles described, there stand three beings made entirely of rocks. Their form is mostly amorphous, non-specific in all but the appendages that propel them forward and those that swing at the terrain surrounding them. They have no defined heads, eyes, or any noticeable weak point that he can see.

Derek doesn’t so much as begin his attack before he is once again distracted by something approaching from his left. He pivots that way, arms raised defensively, before realizing the aggressive energy he sensed is coming from Scott, his eyes blazing alpha red.

“What’s going on?” Scott yells, barreling toward Derek. “I sensed something was off, so I called my pack but no one answered and…” He spots Malia break through the trees with Boyd and Erica, Jackson and Isaac bringing up the rear, and his voice trails off. He looks to Derek angrily.

“Not the time!” Derek calls, lunging at one of the creatures when it becomes clear that they are set on their path, not even acknowledging the territorial pack before them. He takes a swipe at the demon, and his claws scrape against it ineffectively, barely leaving a scratch. It doesn’t even push him away, just walks straight forward.

“Is one of these Asag?” Jackson yells, noticing that the demon walking in the center of the three is slightly taller than the others.

Erica shoves him at the center one on her way into the thick of the fray. “Is your skin boiling?” She asks Jackson as she passes, “Because if not, then no , none of these boulders is Asag!” Jackson scowls but follows her lead, flanking the center demon along with her.

Malia takes a more direct approach, going for a full body tackle at the one closest to her despite the fact that it’s about twice her size. She has at least some effect, as it stumbles further to the left and brushes her off of its torso, sending her flying into a nearby tree.

This spectacle distracts Scott, who still seems confused at seeing a member of his pack here at all. As Scott watches Malia’s attack, the third rock demon plows through him where he stands looking dumbstruck, the collision of its leg with his body sending him straight down and knocking the wind out of him. Derek hears a few snaps that he suspects are Scott’s ribs, and he lunges for the creature again.

From where Erica and Jackson have been having their own difficulties even slowing the thing down, she huffs a frustrated breath. “We’re going to need an actual plan at some point,” she calls, “because I just broke a nail!” Scott moans in pain from his position curled up on the forest floor.

Boyd agrees with Erica, dusting himself off as he stands from where he’s been thrown back by the rock monster he and Isaac were focusing on. “They’re not even fighting back,” he says.

“It’s like they think the pack isn’t a threat,” Isaac continues for him.

“No,” Peter clarifies, standing under the canopy of a nearby tree and watching the rest of the pack’s fruitless attacks. “They just have other plans.”

Derek, unlike Peter, has been attempting to multitask this whole time, alternately throwing himself in the path of the rocks and trying to understand their movements. The only thing he can see for certain is that they are moving steadily in a specific direction, never veering off course no matter how many obstacles are thrown in their way. He wonders what could be there that the creatures are so set on reaching when it clicks. “Stiles,” he mutters.

At the mention of Stiles, everyone’s head whips toward Derek and a look of understanding washes over their faces. That is, everyone other than Peter, who seems to have already fit those particular puzzle pieces together. “Yes, he does keep things interesting, doesn’t he?” Peter comments nonchalantly, as if there isn’t a battle taking place before him.

Derek shakes his head and barks, “Just help us fight them!”

Peter stays rooted to his spot under the tree, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. “You can’t fight rocks,” he quotes mockingly.

“Just slow them down until we think of something,” Derek commands, eyes bleeding red now.

“Can you at least try something other than throwing yourself at a rock?” Peter drawls, reluctantly moving toward the fight, his steps deliberately slow.

An idea occurs to Derek at that. “Get into groups of three!” He orders. “Push the rock demons together. We’ll move them back until we figure out how to fight them.”

Erica, Boyd, and Isaac pair up, heading for the demon on the right. Malia, Jackson, and the newly-healed Scott take the one on the left. That leaves the center for Derek and Peter to tackle alone, but with Derek’s alpha strength, they manage to push the rocks back.

This goes on for a few minutes, but the creatures never seem to tire or lose their motivation. “How long do you plan to keep this up?” Erica asks, grunting as her group shoves at their rock again.

“Just hold on,” Derek grunts, getting up from his most recent collision and preparing for another charge.

As Scott, Jackson, and Malia lunge at their designated rock monster again, Scott makes a sound of surprise. “We’re hurting it!” He exclaims triumphantly, picking a fallen rock up off the floor. Sure enough, the demon is missing a large chunk of its side now, but is somehow still holding itself together.

“Don’t give yourself so much credit,” Peter snarks. “It takes a lot of power to keep these things going. Their power source must be dwindling down, making them weaker.”

“About time,” Erica says, aiming a kick at the bottom of a demon, sending rocks flying and throwing the whole thing off balance.

The creatures sound like they’re groaning, and Derek realizes it’s the sound of the rocks pressing together as they struggle to maintain their shapes. One by one, they begin to crumble into rubble, leaving a cloud of dust and a pile of seemingly innocuous rocks in their wake.

The group gathers around, not sure what to do with this development. Malia, Jackson, and Isaac continue to growl the rocks into submission. Scott remains in his fighting stance, looking confused but determined. Peter, who has shifted farther away from the rest of the group, kicks at another rock curiously. Derek eyes the whole situation, naturally wary of anything ending well for him, and waits for the other shoe to drop.

Boyd, always the stoic member of the group, snickers under his breath. The rest of the pack looks up from the rocks to where Boyd and Erica are standing. Erica glances from Boyd to the scene before her and bursts out laughing, knowing exactly what Boyd is laughing at.

Suppressing his own smile, Derek wonders what Stiles would say if he found them all standing here growling at a pile of rocks. He can’t think of an applicable dog joke here; that’s more Stiles’ territory.

Refocusing on the matter at hand, Derek motions for the pack to separate the pieces of the rock demons, for safety’s sake. “Get them all a good distance away,” he instructs, “and bury them.” With that, he turns back in the direction of the loft.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Erica questions, kicking rocks off in every direction to find and bury later.

“To check on Stiles,” he answers. “If these things showed up here, there might be something else on the way.”

Seemingly satisfied with that response, Erica sighs and keeps working. “If nothing killed or maimed him, you should make him come help us,” she complains. “He is the one they were here for.”

Derek doesn’t acknowledge that comment, instead waving a hand at her and following the same path the rocks attempted to take to the loft. Doing a final sweep of the area, he notices that Peter is nowhere to be seen, which isn’t surprising but also can’t be a good sign.


 

At the sound of movement outside the door to the loft, Stiles tenses and Allison’s grip tightens on her bow. Kira moves to stand in front of them both. When the door swings open, it’s Peter who enters, clothes rumpled and smeared with dirt.

“Where is everyone?” Stiles questions, craning his head to see past Peter as they all realize there isn’t any immediate danger.

“Out playing with rocks,” Peter remarks casually, walking past the three of them.

Stiles clenches his jaw, “And you just left them there?” He accuses, anger rising. He moves toward Peter angrily, aware he isn’t a threat to the werewolf but furious enough not to care right now. Peter stops walking to regard him with a raised eyebrow.

Kira draws her sword, uncertain of Stiles’ plans but willing to support him regardless. She wasn’t around for Peter’s supporting role as evil mastermind, but she knows the stories well enough to have a healthy suspicion of the former alpha.

In the same moment, Allison fires an arrow into the wall inches from Peter’s left ear. “Oops,” she says innocently, shrugging one shoulder. “Where did you say the rest of the pack was again?” Her expression is one of steely determination.

Peter sighs. “Stop being so dramatic,” he answers. “They’re just on cleanup duty. And,” he adds, giving Stiles a look, “I’m not the one you should be concerned about at the moment.”

“What are you talking about?” Allison demands, keeping a trained eye on Peter as he plucks the arrow from the wall and crosses the room, seating himself in the armchair.

He ignores her question, instead twirling the arrow in his hands. “You should be careful with these,” he says. “Wouldn’t want another mistake to cost you an arm now, would you?”

Allison narrows her eyes, but before she can respond, Kira moves in front of her, sword drawn. “From what I heard, things didn’t end well for you the last time you two fought.”

Peter raises another dubious eyebrow, surprised that Kira responded to him at all.

In the next instant, a flush interrupts the tension. Lydia comes strolling in from the restroom shortly thereafter, observing the room before settling her eyes on Peter. “Stop,” she says, eyeing him.

“Stop what?” He questions, feigning innocence as to what he’s being accused of this time.

Lydia rolls her eyes. “Everything, being you, breathing,” she offers, listing his options. “Take your pick.”

Peter narrows his eyes at her. “Most elder pack members wouldn’t tolerate such insolence,” he replies. “Be grateful for my kindness.” He doesn’t mention the fact that the pack structure is in a state of flux anyway; what they don’t know won’t hurt him.

“I would be more grateful for your absence,” Lydia snaps back.

“No respect for pack hierarchy,” Peter grumbles, already heading upstairs and away from their teen angst. He can feel Stiles worrying about the other pack members, and the thick tang of emotion in the air irks him.

Stiles watches him go upstairs, fists clenched at his sides in pent-up frustration. He checks his phone on impulse, paces the room, anything to avoid sitting still and wondering what’s taking everyone else so long. If everyone is okay and the battle is over, as Peter implied, they should be back by now.

“Why aren’t they back yet?” He wonders aloud, unable to stop his thoughts from spilling out of his mouth.

“I’m sure they’re fine,” Kira reassures him.

“That’s not what I asked,” Stiles says, still tense.

“Stiles,” Allison warns lowly, not appreciating his tone. Kira isn’t the one he should be frustrated with.

“Sorry,” Stiles murmurs, eyes downcast.

Kira shakes her head and smiles at him. “It’s okay. I get it.”

“What did Peter say?” Lydia asks, assuming it won’t be anything helpful but still wanting to know what she missed.

“That they would be here soon,” Stiles answers, running his hands through his hair.

“And that they were playing with rocks,” Allison recalls, thinking.

Lydia considers this. “If he’s telling the truth,” she remarks, not needing to remind them that he isn’t one to be trusted, “then they might just be getting rid of the bodies.”

Stiles stops pacing. “That makes sense,” he allows. “Peter would abandon them to do all the dirty work alone.”

“At least he helped kill the demons,” Lydia says, knowing Peter is listening to them from upstairs and trying to get him to offer up more information.

Stiles scoffs. “He probably just did that for fun.”

Allison gives a nod of agreement, and Lydia waits, but Peter doesn’t say anything. The group settles into a sullen silence, waiting for the others to return. Allison spends her time fiddling with her crossbow before reattaching it to the hooks hidden under her chair. Kira swings her sword in long, lazy arcs in front of her, the motions relaxing. Lydia taps away at her phone, seeing what she can discover about their newest foes.

Stiles, for his part, continues to walk up and down the room. He has no weapons to organize or skills to practice, and he’s too full of jittery energy to research. He needs to see his friends to believe that they’re safe.

What seems like an eternity later, the loft door opens to reveal the rest of the pack. Malia storms in ahead of everyone, leaning grumpily on Kira’s shoulder the moment she enters, and Scott brings up the rear.

Stiles throws himself onto the couch now, his nervousness mostly gone but leaving him exhausted. His rest is short-lived however, as Scott sniffs the air in the room and his face morphs into fury.

“What are you all doing here?” He demands, looking from Malia to Allison and Kira.

“You didn’t tell him?” Kira asks, craning her neck to look into Malia’s face.

“He only asked why I was there,” Malia says. “And I told him.”

“You said you were defending the pack!” Scott exclaims.

“I never said which one,” Malia shrugs.

Scott turns his stony expression on Derek now, not even two feet into the loft before he starts accusing Derek. “You can’t keep stealing my pack members!”

Derek runs a tired hand over his face. “I’m not,” he says, already annoyed with this conversation.

Scott shoves his way into Derek’s personal space, poking an accusatory finger into his chest. “Yes, you are. You think just because you’re older you should be everyone’s alpha,” Scott claims, eyes glowing red. “But you’re not my alpha, and you’re not theirs.”

Derek’s face closes off, his eyes blazing with very human anger, no hint of his wolf in sight. He puts one hand on Scott’s shoulder and forces him back a step before speaking. “Alphas don’t control every aspect of their pack’s lives,” he begins, “so you don’t get to tell them that they can’t be here.”

Scott glares. “The only reason they’d be here is if you’re tricking them into joining your pack somehow.”

Derek snaps, but for once in his life it’s purely verbal. “They were here because we had a meeting about Stiles!” He yells, done with Scott’s attitude and his accusations. “And if you cared about your best friend at all, you would know that. Your pack wanted to know what was going on, because they’re decent people . So you can either deal with things as they are or get the hell out, because we have more important things to worry about than your feelings.” He breathes heavily, rant over, and meets Scott’s shocked stare.

Stiles glances between Derek and Scott, not believing that they managed to get through that without an injury. Looking around, he sees that Peter has appeared at the top of the stairs, looking almost impressed. Lydia’s expression is similar, though Stiles would never tell her that. Everyone else in the room looks just as surprised as Stiles feels.

Not only did Derek refrain from maiming Scott in his anger, but he had actually managed to express himself properly. With words. Maybe the pen is mightier than the sword after all, because Scott stares at Derek, speechless.

Collecting himself after a minute, Scott’s next words come out quiet, almost sad. “I’m not worried about my feelings. I’m worried about my pack.” He allows his eyes to settle on Kira, Malia, and Allison, his gaze pausing on Stiles for a fraction of a second.

“Then act like it,” Derek commands. “You can’t keep acting like a child and expect them to treat you like a leader.” His expression makes it clear that he speaks from experience.

“I never asked for this,” Scott bites out, voice low.

“Neither did I,” Derek reminds him, tone softening but stance remaining firm.

“Scott, we should go,” Allison says gently. She would rather stay and make sure Stiles is okay, but at this point it feels like Scott might need his pack more than Stiles needs her protection. He has his own pack for that now.

Scott nods, unwilling or unable to argue with her. He follows her to the door then turns back to Kira and Malia, frowning. “If you want to stay...” he tries, voice trailing off.

“We’re coming,” Kira says, standing and pulling Malia up along with her. At the first hint of protest from Malia, Kira gives her a stern look. Malia huffs an irritated breath but follows Kira out the door, behind Scott and Allison.

“Don’t die,” Malia says to the room at large on her way out.

“I appreciate your concern,” Peter responds with a smirk.

Malia glares at him. “I hope the rocks come back for you.”

Peter eyes Stiles. “I’m not the one they’re after.”

“Wait, what?” Scott asks, abruptly turning back around and re-entering the room. He had somehow managed to be completely oblivious to Derek’s realization during the fight, engrossed in his own battle. “Why would they want Stiles?”

Stiles groans. “Why is it always me?”

“Good question,” Peter purrs, looking Stiles over from head to toe.

Stiles shudders, definitely not thinking about the implications of Peter looking at him like that. “Gross,” he mutters.

Peter lifts an eyebrow. “That’s not what I usually hear. Most people lose the ability to form any words other than my name.” He speaks to Stiles, but his eyes are on Derek, watching for a reaction.

Derek instinctively steps between the two of them, growling at Peter quietly. Peter holds his hands up in mock surrender, eyes laughing, and steps off to the side.

“Well that’s a mental image,” Erica says, eyes flitting between Peter and Stiles.

“It’s really not,” Stiles replies, squirming uncomfortably and edging farther away from Peter.

“Not yet,” Peter adds, winking lasciviously.

“And we’re back to gross, ” Jackson says, wrinkling his nose in disgust.

Stiles moves so that he’s fully hidden from view, huddled behind Derek’s back. He can feel it as Derek tenses up with anger, muscles bunching beneath his shirt.

Lydia flings a handful of mountain ash at Peter, who sneezes and moves away out of reflex. The other wolves also step back, but they aren’t even slightly offended by her using the ash in the loft. Peter tends to warrant more extreme measures. Job done, Lydia looks back to Stiles, who has stepped back into view and is watching Peter warily. “You should stay here until we know more about what’s going on,” Lydia says. She very unsubtly hands him a pouch of mountain ash, eyeing Peter, who has moved to the foot of the stairs.

“You’re staying until we know you’re safe, ” Derek corrects.

“I need to go check on my dad,” Stiles complains, following Lydia’s lead and choosing to pretend Peter doesn’t exist. “How do you know those things are after me anyway?”

“They were coming straight for you,” Malia says.

“They know what they want,” Erica adds, leering at Stiles to decrease the worry lines forming on his face.

Stiles rolls his eyes at them now. “You realize I’m not the only person in town, right? They could have been after literally anyone.”

“They weren’t,” Derek says. “They were on a straight path, and I followed it after we downed them. It led directly to the loft.”

“Maybe they wanted Lydia,” Stiles offers weakly. “She had the visions too.”

Lydia smacks him on the arm. “Nice try, but this all started with you.”

Stiles sinks lower on the couch. “What about my dad?”

“Call him,” Lydia says as though the answer is obvious.

“He’ll just say he’s okay,” Stiles mutters, thinking again about his text from Melissa now that he knows the pack is safe.

“You’re in a room full of lie detectors,” Jackson points out with condescension.

“I can’t let him stay there alone,” Stiles admits softly, looking down.

Derek watches this exchange in silence, then moves to the door. “I’ll make sure your dad is okay,” he says to Stiles. Then, looking to Scott, he asks, “Can you call Deaton and have him meet us here? We might need his help.”

A bit less hostile at being asked instead of ordered, Scott nods. “Okay,” he replies. “We’ll go get him.” He motions to Kira and Malia again, who follow him out for the second time.

When the door closes behind Scott’s pack, Stiles tilts his head back and takes a deep, steadying breath. He tries not to think too hard about the fact that, once again, he’s found himself in the crosshairs of a demon.

“Thank you,” Stiles whispers to Derek, who still stands near the door.

Derek knows Stiles is talking more about his dad than his own safety, but he’s determined to keep them both from harm. He looks Stiles in the eye on his way out and tilts his head in acknowledgement.

“The rest of you,” Derek calls over his shoulder to the remainder of the pack, “take turns patrolling and make sure Stiles is safe.” He hovers, hand on the door, still not quite ready to leave his pack so soon after a battle.

It’s Isaac who breaks the silence this time. “So, do you think this is another virgin sacrifice thing?”

Erica laughs. “Have you met Malia?”

“Oh my god,” Stiles grumbles. “Can we not have this conversation right now? Or, like, ever?”

Lydia pats his shoulder. “At least we know you’re mostly safe from darachs now.”

Jackson leans in and mutters to Lydia, “That’s only if he did it right.” She rolls her eyes and ignores him.

“Speaking of safety,” Peter smirks, never missing an opportunity to add to Stiles’ mortification. “I hope you used protection. I’m not quite ready to be a grandfather yet.”

Erica scoffs, turning and leaning over the back of the couch to look at Peter. “You’re barely a father,” she criticizes. “Plus, I have a feeling Stiles is like a Boy Scout. Always prepared, just in case.” She grins at Stiles.

“Maybe I should just let the demons kill me,” Stiles says to the ceiling.

“I feel like this is my fault somehow,” Isaac chimes in, amused.

“Because it is your fault,” Stiles says, blushing slightly at the whole pack talking about his sex life. He pointedly avoids making eye contact with anyone.

“In Isaac’s defense,” Erica adds, “I’d say it’s at least fifty percent Malia’s fault.”

Derek’s voice comes out as an angry rumble. “ Focus .”

Stiles, startled that Derek is even still here given how much effort he had put into looking at nothing and no one in the room, jerks his head in the alpha’s direction automatically. The second their eyes meet, he feels his blush deepen.

Isaac looks vaguely apologetic, and everyone else puts effort into suppressing their smiles. Only Boyd has any real success at this, the rest of them still clearly moments away from laughter. Peter doesn’t even attempt to hide his grin at the display.

“I’m going to check on your dad,” Derek says to Stiles, finally moving into the hall.

Stiles can’t even muster up a response between his gratitude and lingering embarrassment.

Patrol ,” Derek reminds the rest of the pack sternly.

The wolves nod their understanding, and Derek exits the loft.


 

Derek heads to the hospital immediately, senses on high alert in anticipation of any other threats. He gets there without any problems, and his phone remains silent, so he assumes everything is okay at the loft. He has to resist the urge to check in with his pack.

Inside, Derek follows the faint smell of Stiles and the sheriff up to the correct room. He manages to find his way there without having to speak to any hospital staff, but the smell of sick in the building is considerably stronger than the last time he was here.

On his way up a flight of stairs, Derek distantly hears the steady beep of a pulse monitor going flat. The sound is followed by a flurry of shouts and the shuffle of moving bodies on the floor beneath him.

Derek forces himself to tune out the noise and focus on the smell of Stilinski he can just barely sense. Once he reaches the floor where the scent is most strongly concentrated, he pushes the stairwell door open and moves into the hallway.

Blinking at the sudden transition from the relative darkness of the stairs to the bright fluorescent lighting of the hallway, Derek looks around. No one seems to register his entrance, but he spots Melissa further down the hall and ducks behind a pillar. He can only deal with one parent at a time.

Another machine blares warning beeps, and Melissa joins a swarm of nurses heading to the source of the sound. Sighing, Derek suppresses the urge to leave the crowded hospital and return to the quiet of his loft.

His nose tells him that the sheriff is on the other end of the hall, away from the crowd, and he forces himself to go that way. Once he’s outside the correct door, Derek lifts a hand to knock.

“Come in,” the sheriff’s voice calls with forced strength. Derek can hear the slight wince that accompanies the words.

Turning the doorknob, Derek enters the room and finds the sheriff sitting up in bed, looking considerably worse for wear. He waits for the other man to speak first.

“Mr. Hale,” John begins. “You were supposed to be keeping an eye on my kid, not on me.” His voice is weaker now, as though he can’t be bothered to force himself to sound healthier than he is around Derek.

Derek offers him a small smile. “Stiles wanted me to check on you,” he says.

The sheriff’s face falls, knowing that Stiles sending someone else to the hospital in his place can only mean one thing. “Is he okay?” He asks, voice dripping with concern.

“He’s fine,” Derek assures. At a suspicious look from the sheriff, he adds, “He would have come himself, but we wouldn’t let him.”

John shakes his head, hating that he’s stuck here while the kids deal with who knows what. “Why’s that?”

“I’m trying to protect him,” Derek says, voice automatically defensive due to years of having been perceived as on the wrong end of the law.

“I know you are,” the sheriff says calmly. “I meant, from what? What’s he gotten himself into now?”

“We don’t know yet,” Derek says, tension draining from his shoulders at the sheriff’s trust in him.

“But you have an idea,” John prompts.

Derek sighs, “Demons.” He braces himself for anger or fear, but he’s hit instead with a wave of grief for which he was unprepared.

“He can’t ever catch a break, can he?” John looks up, jaw clenched, and his mannerisms are so reminiscent of Stiles that it throws Derek off for a second.

Powering through both the emotions in the air and the surge of protectiveness in his chest, Derek says, “I won’t let anything happen to him.” He keeps his face carefully blank out of habit.

The sheriff inclines his head at Derek. “See that you don’t,” he instructs, knowing that Derek doesn’t need the reminder but guessing that an honest ‘thank you’ would make him uncomfortable.

“I’ll let him know how you’re doing,” Derek says, already on his way out the door.

“You’ll tell him I’m the picture of health,” John counters.

Derek turns back to him, face dubious. “He already knows you’re sick.”

“And if he’s already in danger, he doesn’t need to know anything else that’ll distract him from his own safety,” the sheriff responds. “I know a patient passed away already,” he goes on, coughing into his hand. “Kind of hard to ignore with all the scrambling from the hospital staff. They must have taken ten vials of my blood for testing at this point, but I’d like to keep Stiles from knowing this is life-threatening if I can.”

Derek frowns, remembering the text Stiles received at the loft.

John sighs, “Melissa already got to him, didn’t she?”

“Afraid so,” Derek confirms, face bordering on apologetic.

After a beat of silence, the sheriff looks Derek in the eyes and says, “Eight days.” At Derek’s questioning look, John continues. “That’s how long the first patient lasted before he died. And if it’s the same for all of us…” He trails off, allowing Derek to fill in the blanks himself.

Derek grits his teeth and assures, “You’ll be fine.” You have to be, he thinks.

“Just don’t mention the time limit to Stiles,” John says. “The last thing I need is him feeling responsible if you kids don’t figure this thing out.” He gives a steady look to emphasize that Derek shouldn’t feel responsible either.

“We’ll figure it out,” Derek reiterates.

“But in case you don’t,” the sheriff adds, waving a hand to block Derek’s protest, “I need you to make sure he takes care of himself. I don’t think Stiles could handle that grief alone.” He thinks back to what Stiles was like after they lost Claudia, remembering how hard it was to get through that even with some family support. John needs to know that Stiles will be okay when he’s gone.

Derek stares, not mentally prepared for the responsibility the sheriff has just given him but also unwilling to deny him this request. He would have kept taking care of Stiles even without the prompting, but the sheriff is right to be worried. As much as Derek doesn’t want to lie about John’s health, he knows that Stiles would go to any lengths necessary to be with his dad if he had the faintest idea that he was getting worse. If there’s one thing Stiles has proven to Derek over the years, it’s that the safety of others always comes before his own. “Okay,” Derek says.

“Don’t worry,” the sheriff says, trying to lighten the mood. “You can always tell him I threatened you with wolfsbane bullets if he finds out you were lying. He’d believe that.” John pauses, pretending to think. “I have a couple in my bag, if you need to make the story real.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Derek answers, shaking his head and heading out the door.

“Don’t say I didn’t offer!” The sheriff calls after him, coughing heavily between the words.

Derek can’t help but smile slightly at his antics, but his brow remains creased with worry as he exits the hospital. The smell of the illness had permeated the room, nearly choking Derek with the way it had so fully entwined itself into the sheriff’s scent. It went far beyond the way a cold or the flu would make someone smell vaguely off; instead, it weaved itself into the core of his scent, as though corrupting him from the inside.

As he gets back into the Camaro, Derek receives a text from Scott. Deaton agreed 2 c Stiles , it says. Suppressing his natural irritation at Scott’s text shorthand, Derek types out, Okay, bring him to the loft. As soon as the message is sent, Derek guns it back to the loft. He might need Deaton’s knowledge, but he still doesn’t trust the man nearly as far as he can throw him.


 

“Scott says he’ll be here with Deaton any minute,” Isaac announces, putting his phone back in his pocket.

Boyd tilts his head, listening to something the rest of them can’t quite hear yet. “Derek’s back.”

The rest of the pack listens closely, but it’s another few seconds before they recognize the sound of the Camaro. Stiles and Lydia, with their human hearing, wait impatiently for Derek to climb the stairs. “How’s my dad?” Stiles demands, rising from his spot on the couch the moment the door opens.

Derek glances around, as though making sure Deaton hasn’t arrived yet. “He’s okay,” he answers, guiding Stiles back to couch and pushing on his shoulder until he sits back down next to Lydia and Jackson.

“I’m gonna need more details than that,” Stiles says, waving his hands dangerously close to Jackson’s face as he sits down.

“He’s still sick,” Derek elaborates, hoping Stiles won’t see through his facade, “but he’s going to be fine. He doesn’t want you to worry.” Derek notices Lydia giving him a suspicious side-eye and resolves to tell her what’s going on the next time they’re alone. She needs to know how serious the threat of the Sickness is.

“That’s the worst thing he could say to get me not to worry!” Stiles gripes. “Now I think he’s hiding something. Is he hiding something?” He narrows his eyes at Derek, searching for a lie.

Derek puts on his usual stoic face, looking Stiles in the eyes. “Why would I lie about this?” He asks.

“But that’s not an answer!” Stiles accuses. “You’re doing that politician thing, where you answer a question with another question.” He points a suspicious finger at Derek.

Lydia stands up, sidling beside Stiles and directing her question to Derek. As she does so, Erica takes advantage of the available couch space, pulling Boyd along with her. “Is Sheriff Stilinski going to be okay?” Lydia asks the question directly, making it clear that only a yes or no answer will be acceptable. But, Derek notices, she keeps it just vague enough that he can answer based on what he thinks will happen.

“He’ll be fine,” Derek says again, not breaking eye contact with Stiles.

Despite his suspicions, Stiles allows some of the stiffness in his muscles to relax at the answer. He feels like Lydia is on his side, and he trusts Derek, so that will have to do for now. He still vows to go see his dad for himself as soon as he can get out of the loft. Trust can only console him so much after all.

Before Stiles can open his mouth to ask an impulsive follow-up question, Derek interrupts. “Deaton’s almost here,” he announces.

Stiles raises a dubious eyebrow. “Is he really, or is this an elaborate attempt to throw me off your lying trail?”

Boyd looks up. “No, I can hear him too.”

“Fine,” Stiles concedes, “I believe Boyd.”

Derek considers feigning affront to that, just to dissipate some of the tension in the room, but he still feels vaguely guilty about withholding the truth from Stiles, even if it is for his own good.

Allison wheels her way over to where Stiles is standing, leaning up to rest a hand on his shoulder. “Everything will be okay,” she says, face somber, “We’ll make sure of it.” Stiles looks uncertain but nods anyway.

By the time Deaton gets upstairs, the rest of the pack has reassembled in the living room. Kira, Scott, and Malia trail up the stairs after the vet, Scott still looking surly.

“Scott tells me you need my expertise?” Deaton begins.

Lydia jumps in, taking it upon herself to summarize the situation. She knows that whatever information Deaton got from Scott will have been either wrong or incomplete, so she starts with the visions and goes on chronologically from there.

As she speaks, Stiles watches Deaton, seeing what, if anything, gets a reaction out of him. That proves to be mostly boring, as the vet/emissary/Druid remains as enigmatic as ever. From there, Stiles’ brain wanders off to considering which of three titles Deaton feels the most affinity to. Is he even the type of person who would have a preference?

“What do you identify as?” Stiles asks, not even realizing he’s said the words out loud until he notices everyone in the room is staring at him. Derek looks completely exasperated, while almost everyone else seems either amused or agitated at the interruption. Deaton, for his part, regards Stiles curiously.

“Beg pardon?” He sounds almost interested in the question, and Stiles isn’t one to turn down free information, so he decides to just go for it.

“Like, job titles. Are you a vet or an emissary or a Druid or some weird combination of the three, or what?” Stiles allows the words to flow freely, his brain appreciating the break from life or death scenarios.

“I usually just go by Deaton,” he answers, face as serious as ever.

“Oh, you don’t like labels,” Stiles nods. “I get that.”

Erica raises an eyebrow at him but bites her tongue at a stern look from Derek. Scott whips his head around to stare at Stiles, feeling like he’s missed something here. Jackson looks at Scott like he’s an idiot, which isn’t much different from his usual look. The rest of the room just disregards Stiles’ comments as unsurprising and/or uninteresting.

“Anyway,” Lydia says, clearing her throat delicately and returning the focus of the room to herself. “As I was saying, we got rid of what must have been Asag’s minions, but our research indicates that he’s also causing the Sickness somehow. We need to know how to stop him.” The before it’s too late goes without saying.

“Well,” Deaton begins, seeming to mentally catalogue this information before replying. “Asag is a mountain-based demon, so I’d have to agree that Isaac’s virgin sacrifice guess is misjudged.”

“Stiles isn’t a virgin,” Malia says from her spot on the floor. “Couldn’t you smell that?”

“Oh my god,” Stiles mutters, burying his head in his hands.

“Not like that,” Malia continues, rolling her eyes. “You can smell it when two people are as close as we were. It’s the same smell Erica and Boyd have all the time, like their scents are so mixed to together it’s hard to tell them apart.”

“We’ve noticed,” Jackson interjects at the same time Kira softly says, “Malia,” with a hand on her arm.

“What?” Malia asks. “You’re not a virgin either.”

Kira blushes profusely at Malia’s bluntness. “That wasn’t the point,” she hisses, eyes pleading with Malia to stay quiet now.

“Fine,” Malia grumbles, responding to Kira’s unspoken request out loud.

“Why is this still happening?” Stiles asks into his palms, embarrassed on both his and Kira’s behalf now.

“I was just trying to help,” Isaac says, holding his hands up and backing out of the conversation.

“You were so helpful,” Stiles snarks, face remaining flushed. He’s glad he was too zoned out to hear Lydia recap the conversation about his own virginity. Score one for ADHD.

“We did all learn a lot,” Erica grins.

Stiles buries his reddening face back in his hands, not prepared to deal with this again, but it’s Deaton who refocuses the group this time. “Instead of fertility,” Deaton says, “Asag is primarily concerned with war and destruction.”

“So he’s like literally everything else that’s come through Beacon Hills,” Stiles says flatly, raising his head and unimpressed with Deaton’s near constant ability to tell them things they already know.

Scott frowns at Stiles and is about to defend his boss when Peter chimes in. “Agreed. We didn’t bring you here for validation; we brought you to be useful.” He manages to make the statement sound both annoyed and threatening, but Deaton doesn’t react at all. He just maintains his frustratingly placid demeanor and waits to be sure everyone is done interrupting before he continues.

“So far,” he says, “this sounds a lot like a summoning.”

Lydia nods her agreement. “I thought so as well, but it’s not like Stiles and I are going around summoning demons in our free time.”

“What free time?” Stiles scoffs from his place beside Lydia, who waves a hand in his direction to emphasize her point.

“Which makes it more likely an ascension,” Deaton clarifies.

Jackson groans. “Then why didn’t you just say that in the first place?” He stands up, automatically assuming an aggressive posture in his frustration.

Erica nods her agreement but remains seated, spreading out more comfortably in the space he vacated on the couch. “Seriously. Why can’t you ever tell us what we need to know up front?”

Scott feels the need to intervene now, standing slightly in front of Deaton as though the pack poses a threat to him. “Stop it,” he says firmly. “Deaton’s here as a favor, and you guys are being really ungrateful.”

“We can’t be ungrateful if he hasn’t given us anything,” Malia is quick to point out. “He’s really just taking up space here,” she adds, glancing around the crowded loft with a pointed look.

Malia ,” Kira interrupts sharply, giving the other girl a disapproving frown. Malia sighs but doesn’t say anything else.

Deaton simply waits until everyone has finished complaining, returning their attention to him in the hopes that he has at least something useful to offer. He doesn’t bother to address Jackson’s question, just plows ahead as though no one has spoken. “The steps are essentially the same: Hearing voices, contact through dreams, and luring the target. All we’re missing is consent from the summoner and a possible sacrifice before the portal opens.”

“I do not consent!” Stiles declares firmly, raising a hand as though answering a question in class. He feels like this is a very important point to make.

“So you did summon Asag,” Peter drawls, treating Stiles’ comment as a confession.

“No,” Stiles says slowly, “but just in case, I want to make it very clear that I do not consent. At all. Not even a little bit of consent.”

“Unless you don’t know you consented,” Peter points out. “You may have started the process unintentionally.” He watches Stiles carefully, thinking of the nemeton and wondering when Stiles will bring up the cleansing.

“Is that possible?” Allison asks, concern evident in her voice.

Stiles looks to Allison before staring at Peter levelly. “That’s not how consent works,” he explains, feeling oddly like he’s teaching a health class but compelled to say it nonetheless.

Peter’s eyes widen the smallest amount, a hint of pleasant surprise on his face that that’s where Stiles chose to steer this conversation. At a red-eyed look from Derek, though, he scowls sullenly but doesn’t respond. Scott looks between the three of them in angry confusion, feeling like he’s missing something.

“Deaton,” Derek says, “What were you saying about a portal?” He eyes Peter again before glaring at the rest of the pack to make sure they’re staying on task.

“Right,” Deaton starts, refocusing. “Most ancient demons, especially those as powerful as Asag, were vanquished centuries ago. The myths and monsters of fiction were very much real a few hundred years in the past, but magicians managed to eradicate them. Those who weren’t killed were sent elsewhere.” At a quizzical look from Isaac, he adds, “Alternate dimensions. Asag must need something from Stiles to open the portal.”

“What would it need from Stiles?” Derek asks, looking a combination of confused and concerned. There’s also a hint of accusation in his tone, as though he’s wondering what Stiles did to get himself in trouble this time.

“Glad to know how much you appreciate my value,” Stiles says sarcastically. “Also, I did nothing. I am the victim here.” He flails his arms at Derek, making it clear he caught Derek’s underlying meaning and is less than pleased with it.

Derek rolls his eyes at the dramatics. “You know what I mean.”

“That I’m weak?” Stiles prods, eyebrows raised in challenge.

“That you need to be more careful because you’re human ,” Derek elaborates, extending his claws as though Stiles needs reminding that he’s in a room full of people with literal superpowers.

As Stiles grumbles at the display, Deaton forces the conversation back to the topic at hand. “That’s not quite true,” he says, giving the words plenty of time to sink in.

What isn’t true?” Erica exclaims, done with playing the guessing game.

“Stiles is human,” Deaton concedes, once again ignoring the outburst, “but he’s also a Spark.”

“Tell us something we don’t know,” Stiles implores, throwing his hands in the air. “What does the Spark thing have to do with this?”

“Asag may be trying to use your powers to open the portal,” Deaton says calmly. “And you can’t let that happen.”

“How could Asag use Stiles’ powers?” Jackson questions sarcastically. “Is Asag making the jump with a ring of mountain ash?”

Derek ignores Jackson’s insult and Stiles’ ensuing sound of indignation to focus on the second half of Deaton’s sentence. “What happens if Asag gets through?” He asks warily, already preparing for their worst case scenario.

“It would be in our best interests to see that he doesn’t,” Deaton answers, clearly dodging the question. “His entrance to this dimension would tip the balance between good and evil in favor of the latter, perhaps irrevocably.”

“So Stiles just won’t consent to the demon,” Erica says. “Problem solved.”

Deaton shakes his head at this. “I’m afraid it’s not that simple. Asag is a powerful demon, and he’s sure to use any means necessary to convince Stiles.” He looks from Erica to Stiles. “No, our best bet is to prevent matters from reaching that point.”

Jackson glares at Deaton. “All you’ve told us is that the demon is a problem, not how to solve it.”

Stiles nods in agreement. “Also, we already knew the demon was bad. That’s kind of implied by the fact that it’s a demon.” At that comment, he and Jackson share a look of exasperation at Deaton’s enigmatic style of speaking. Jackson looks away first, and Stiles bites back a smile, knowing a secret bro moment when he has one.

“Originally, Asag was defeated by an enchanted weapon,” Deaton explains, ignoring the frustration in the air. The room seems more willing to listen now that he’s offering new information, but Lydia holds out her phone and cuts him off.

“Sharur,” she says, pointing at an image on the screen as she shows it to the group. “The talking mace.”

“Wait!” Stiles yells, grabbing the phone out of her hand and inspecting the crude drawing more closely. It’s hard to tell for sure, but he’s past the point of considering coincidences. “Asag had that in my vision,” he says.

“Then it would seem that the ascension has already begun,” Deaton concludes.

“But how is he doing any of this if he was banished to some other dimension?” Isaac asks, plucking the phone from Stiles’ hands to look at the image himself before passing it to Allison, who then shows it to Malia and the others.

“He must have found a way to reverse the effects,” Deaton says, thinking. “Creating a ripple between his world and ours could easily have taken thousands of years.” He moves to the door. “I need to consult with my sources,” he says. “Let me know if anything changes, and I’ll contact you if I find anything.”

“Well that was a waste of time,” Jackson states as soon as the door shuts behind Deaton, throwing himself back onto the couch and shoving Erica’s legs out of the way in one fluid motion.

Erica grumbles and kicks at him but pulls her legs back just enough to let him perch on the end of the couch. Derek shakes his head at them. “We need to patrol the forest,” he says to his pack, “to make sure no more of those things pop up and head into town.”

Scott rises, saying, “I can take the east side of town,” he offers. “Everything from the hardware store to Elm Street.”

“That’s south,” Lydia sighs as Jackson barks out a laugh.

“Whatever,” Scott says. “And Allison can ask her dad if he has any more information on Asag,” he offers, looking at Allison hesitantly. She gives him a small smile of acquiescence.

As everyone forces themselves up and in the direction of the door, Derek puts his hand on Erica’s shoulder. “You should stay here with Stiles,” he instructs.

“Why?” Erica complains. She doesn’t mind being stuck with Stiles, but she could use another good fight at the moment.

Derek raises an eyebrow meaningfully. “Because you’re more likely to lose control at the moment, and we can’t risk that happening anywhere near town.”

Noticing Kira’s puzzled look, Malia speaks up. “She gets like this whenever the full moon is during her period.”

“So clearly leaving me in a room alone with Stiles won’t lead to any problems if I get angry,” Erica notes.

“I didn’t even do anything!” Stiles defends.

Yet ,” Malia says, clearly implying that Stiles shouldn’t test his luck. “She isn’t used to controlling herself during this time because she isn’t a born shifter.”

“You get just as aggressive as I do,” Erica accuses.

Malia gives her a flat look, standing up. “I’m always like that.” Stiles is honestly a little impressed she’s willing to admit what they were all thinking.

Scott finally speaks from where he had been standing to the side looking vaguely uncomfortable during this exchange. “I have something that might help with your control,” he offers to Erica, trying to get back into the pack’s good graces. “It’s this weird tea Deaton gave me when I was having trouble.”

“Oh, was it your time of the month too?” Jackson asks reflexively. He immediately regrets it at a look from Lydia.

Scott chooses to demonstrate his control by not responding to that, instead saying, “I could go get some for you, if you want?”

“Sure,” Erica answers. “Whatever gets me out of here so I can go turn some more rocks into dust.”

“Okay,” Scott agrees. “I’ll bring it back for you before I start patrolling.” Erica nods her thanks, and Scott heads out.

“The rest of you should start your patrols now, too,” Derek instructs. “Allison and Kira, see if your parents have more information than Deaton did.” At his words, everyone but Lydia, Stiles, Peter, and Erica leave the room to get started. They were all getting sick of sitting around anyway.

Lydia turns to Stiles now. “What other demons have you seen?” She asks, sliding her laptop back into its sleeve and gathering her belongings.

“Asag, a tenome, Empusa, and what I’m pretty sure was a sidhe, but I haven’t gotten to look the last one up yet,” Stiles answers automatically, listing them all in chronological order. “Why?”

“Because if Asag is coming,” Lydia explains, “we have to be prepared for the possibility that the others are, too.”

Great , Stiles thinks. Because what he really needs in his life right now is more supernatural threats. “We wouldn’t want Asag to get lonely, would we?” Stiles snarks, imagining everything he’s seen in his visions teaming up against them.

“At least it keeps things interesting,” Lydia consoles, patting Stiles on the shoulder as she exits the room. Stiles thinks back to a time when he was so bored with his life that he had to go searching for a dead body in the woods just to spice things up. Past Stiles was an idiot .

 

Chapter Text

Just as Lydia enters the hallway outside the loft, bag slung over her shoulder and phone in her hands as she jots down notes about the creatures Stiles mentioned, Derek’s voice stops her. “Wait,” he says, pushing off from the wall where he had been biding his time as she finished her chat with Stiles.

Lydia looks at Derek expectantly. He’s not one to initiate conversation for the sake of social interaction, so she tilts her head and waits for him to go on.

“It’s about Stiles’ dad,” he says haltingly, looking back to the loft door as if afraid Stiles will come bursting out at any moment.

Lydia sighs deeply at his mannerisms but puts a hand on his arm, gently shoving him further down the hall and out of human earshot. “What about Sheriff Stilinski?” She opens a new note in her phone, knowing she won’t forget any of this but still appreciating the visual display of information.

Derek begins again, “The Sheriff says that we’re working with limited time.”

Lydia doesn’t let her expression change, just taps at her phone and asks, “How long?”

“Eight days,” Derek answers, looking down. “From when the patient was admitted until he died.”

Lydia processes this, “So we have a week, plus the time between when the patient started having symptoms and when he was admitted to the hospital.” She knows the sheriff was admitted at the onset of his symptoms thanks to Stiles’ watchful eye, but the first patient wouldn’t have been so vigilant. “We’ll need to get into his files to see when the symptoms began,” she muses.

Derek nods. “The sheriff didn’t want me to tell Stiles, but you needed to know how serious this is.” He meets her eyes with an unwavering look.

She doesn’t blink, simply straightens the hem of her dress and moves to the elevator. “I’ll keep you updated,” Lydia says, sensing many nights of sleepless researching ahead of her. She makes a mental note to fill Danny in as soon as possible; they should have let him in the pack ages ago and put his computer skills to use, but better late than never.


 

After his conversation with Lydia, instead of joining the pack patrolling the perimeter, Derek goes back inside. He needs to make sure Stiles is okay, knows all too well how difficult it is to sit still with a family member in the hospital.

Of course, in Derek’s case that person was Peter, who maybe should have stayed there longer, but the feeling still rings true. As he suspected, the room is positively saturated in the smell of Stiles’ anxiety; Erica has disappeared upstairs somewhere, Peter is lurking in his usual corner, and Stiles is fidgeting on the couch.

Derek sits beside him, waiting until Stiles has slowed his nervous movements and turned to face him before speaking. “Do you need anything?” He looks at a spot just above Stiles’ left shoulder as he speaks, but he hopes his proximity is at least somewhat calming.

“I need my dad to not be in the hospital and a demon to not be on its way to kill us all,” Stiles responds. “Thanks for asking.”

Derek releases a sigh of frustration. This is exactly why he never tries to comfort people. “I meant from your house,” he clarifies, forcing his instinctive anger down. “Because you might be here for a while.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, blinking at Derek. “That’s, yeah, thanks.”

Derek stares at Stiles, who stares at Derek in confusion until Derek rolls his eyes and prompts, “What do you need?”

Stiles flushes, not even realizing he hadn’t asked Derek for anything. The offer itself was surprising enough, and now he has to be capable of rational thought? “I guess like my laptop, my charger, a change of clothes,” Stiles says, reading his emergency items off a mental list. “The clothes are already in a duffel on the top shelf of my closet actually,” he remembers. At an odd look from Derek, he defends, “What? You never know when you’ll have to go into hiding.” He gestures in a way that’s meant to encapsulate his current situation before going on. “Oh, and there’s a first aid kit in my bathroom; you should bring that just in case,” he adds.

Derek nods along with Stiles’ list, filing the information away, but interrupts at the mention of a first aid kit. “I have one here,” he says.

Stiles’ eyebrows shoot up. “Why would you need one?” he asks automatically, thinking of super healing. Derek points at Stiles’ bruised elbow, where he had banged it into a wall last week, and raises one of his own eyebrows in return. “Well now I feel like an idiot,” Stiles says.

“You are one,” Derek answers, getting up from the couch now. He strides to the door and pulls it open. “I’ll drop your stuff off here before I start my patrol,” he says, looking at Stiles over his shoulder.

“Thanks,” Stiles responds. “I’ll try not to destroy your place while you’re gone,” he offers in salutation.

Derek huffs an amused breath, shaking his head, and takes off at a run in the direction of the Stilinski residence. Once there, he gathers the items Stiles requested and, after a moment of consideration, adds a familiar leather jacket to the growing bundle of Stiles’ belongings in his hands.


Scott climbs directly to the top floor of the loft when he gets back, going straight into Isaac’s room to find Erica. She’s punch a pillow into submission as she settles it behind her back, laptop blaring music Scott doesn’t recognize. “I brought the tea,” he says, holding the bag up as a peace offering. For some reason, he’s always felt like Erica didn’t like him.

“Good job,” Erica replies, holding a hand out for it. She takes the bag and immediately opens the container inside, smelling the leaves. Her nose wrinkles, and she sneezes at the strange aroma. “What is that?” She grabs for a piece of paper which has Deaton’s loopy handwriting scrawled on it, skimming the instructions for how to brew the tea.

“It really helped me with my control,” Scott explains. “You take it once a week for a month, and after that just once every two weeks. It works best if you take it around the full moon.”

Erica cuts him off, waving the paper around. “I can read, you know,” she says.

“Yeah, but it’s complicated,” Scott responds. “It’s super hard to make, and I forgot to take it a few times. Deaton and my mom had to keep reminding me.” He rubs the back of his neck. “But, once I started taking it often enough, I was in, like, total control after three months. I don’t even have to take it anymore,” he announces with pride. “So you can have the rest if you want it.”

“Thanks,” Erica says, gripping the tea and offering Scott a smile. He’s trying to be nice; plus, she already got Stiles into her pack, so it’s not like Scott is a problem anymore.

Scott takes the appreciation for the dismissal that it is, and he beams when Erica smiles at him. “See you later,” he calls, off to begin his own patrol now.

After he leaves, Erica takes another ten minutes to lay in bed and be annoyed that she’s stuck here before forcing herself to her feet. She huffs and shuffles down the stairs to the kitchen, grabbing a mug at random from the cabinets and filling it with water. She shoves the mug in the microwave and waits for it to boil, consulting the instructions on the tea.

It says to use half a teaspoon per cup, but after measuring it out Erica decides that isn’t nearly enough to do the job right. Instead, she dumps some extra into the tea strainer without measuring, assuming it’ll work faster if it’s stronger. The microwave beeps, and Erica pulls out the mug, pouring it over the strainer and into the teapot, leaving it to steep.

While her tea steeps, Erica pokes at the loose leaves in the bag, trying to figure out what they all are. No matter how much she sniffs and prods the leaves, she can’t identify any of the plants. They definitely don’t grow around Beacon Hills.

A few minutes later, while drinking her first cup of tea, Erica smiles at the memory of Stiles giving Derek the teapot. He had strolled in, grin firmly in place, and declared it a housewarming present. Get it? Warming? Because tea? He had slapped Derek on the arm lightly, but Derek ignored the pun, refusing to crack a smile. Sighing, Stiles had muttered, This is why you need the tea , and set out to make a batch. Erica had caught Derek giving the tiniest smile at Stiles’ back while he busied himself with the business of measuring and brewing, and they all enjoyed the comforting heat of the tea as they drank it that night.

Now, Erica looks across the room to where Stiles and Peter are having some sort of silent stand off, and she feels her grip on the mug tighten. As much as she loves battles for the sake of releasing years of pent-up frustration, Erica has to admit that those quiet, peaceful moments have their charm as well. She hates what the nogitsune did to Stiles. No fight is worth that, no matter how cathartic. Abruptly, she downs the rest of her tea and goes to make another cup. There’s no way she’ll sit on the sidelines when her pack needs her.


Peter keeps an eye on Stiles throughout the pack meeting, waiting for him to give any sign that he cleansed the nemeton. Interestingly, he doesn’t seem to have even made the connection between the cleansing and Asag’s impending ascension.

Eventually, Stiles glares up at him after the majority of the pack has gone off on patrol. “I can feel you staring at me,” he accuses, snapping Derek’s laptop shut.

“I’m curious,” Peter says as he crosses the room to where Stiles is sitting on the couch. He perches on the armrest, maintaining the high ground.

Stiles throws his head back against the couch and glares. “Well go be curious somewhere else.”

Deciding to cut through all the unnecessary banter, Peter does a quick check to make sure Erica isn’t listening in, takes note of her terrible taste in music, and forges ahead. “So when you cleansed the nemeton,” he begins, enjoying Stiles’ full-body flinch of surprise, “what did you do with the negative energy inside it?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stiles tries.

Peter doesn’t need to hear his heart to recognize the lie, so he tries a different tack. “Your magical ability is greater than I gave you credit for,” he acknowledges. “In fact, it’s probably a good thing I didn’t give you the bite or you would never have reached your magical potential.”

“But also I didn’t want the bite,” Stiles says, trying to derail the conversation.

“You should be thanking me for giving you the option,” Peter concludes firmly before refocusing. “As I was saying, cleansing rituals of that magnitude can take a lot out of inexperienced practitioners. I’m impressed.”

Stiles sighs, no longer bothering with the facade of pretending not to understand Peter. “What do you want?”

Peter gives a sly smile at getting the conversation back on track. “To know what you did with the nemeton’s evil.”

“Uh, cleansed it ?” Stiles says, looking at Peter blankly. “That was the whole point.”

Raising an eyebrow, Peter leans in towards Stiles, who leans back. “So you think all the negative energy just, what, disappeared?” He leans forward just a touch more, enjoying Stiles’ discomfort.

“I guess,” Stiles answers, looking wary now.

“All right then,” Peter says, standing up and brushing invisible lint off of his clothes. “As long as you guess it’s all gone.” He takes a half step away.

“Deaton looked over the spell,” Stiles grumps defensively, finally investing in getting whatever information Peter has to offer. “He didn’t say anything was missing.”

“And you trust Deaton now?” Peter asks, eyeing Stiles as he fidgets under the scrutiny, knowing full well that Stiles cares for the emissary about as much as he does.

“More than I trust you,” Stiles remarks, tone clipped.

Peter chooses not to take the bait, redirecting instead. “The visions you’ve been having have to be related to the nemeton,” he says, patronizing. “The nemeton was a beacon to evil, and Asag showing up right after you ‘cleansed’ it should have tipped you off to that fact,” Peter concludes. Honestly, he’s disappointed in Stiles for not putting all the pieces together sooner; he considers the possibility that being in a pack with Scott as the alpha somehow contaminated Stiles’ intelligence. He knows that isn’t how pack bonds work, but still. Stiles is smarter than this, and Peter isn’t one to take trauma as an excuse for ignorance.

Stiles’ scent goes sad then, his face falling with the realization that the one thing he had done to help ended up making everything worse. He forces his breath to remain steady in front of Peter, refusing to give him the satisfaction of knowing how rattled he is, but his quickening heart betrays him. He breaks eye contact with Peter, staring instead at a random claw mark on the wall and blinking away the building moisture.

Peter sees Stiles’ fists clench in frustration, trembling where they rest on his lap, and shakes his head. Stiles really should have known better. “You can’t learn magic without a mentor,” he chides, stepping closer to close some of the space between them. “Of course something went wrong; you may as well have been performing brain surgery on your first day of med school.”

Stiles looks back up, eyes narrowed suspiciously. “Where are you going with this?”

“You have potential,” Peter admits, voice serious, “but you need the proper training to hone your talents.”

Making a face of distaste, Stiles sighs again. “I’d rather not be Deaton’s apprentice or whatever. People that compulsively vague should never be let anywhere near the teaching profession,” he says. “I’d rather take my chances and wing it with what I find online.”

“Who said anything about Deaton?” Peter questions, raising an eyebrow. “No, as soon as we fix your mess we’ll be starting our own sessions.”

Stiles blanches, getting up and moving another step away from Peter. “What? No,” he refuses. “You can’t even do magic!”

Peter rolls his eyes. “I was brought back from the dead,” he reminds Stiles. “And werewolves are magical creatures. Admittedly, I can’t channel the magic, but I know plenty of it.”

“Great,” Stiles groans, hating that Peter has a valid point. “So you’re going to be my Snape? Because I’m really more a McGonagall fan to be honest.”

“Will your father hear about this?” Peter mocks, voice simpering.

Stiles gapes, because what? There is no way he’s Draco Malfoy in this scenario. “Draco was a villain for most of the books!”

“You were the villain for a while there, too,” Peter reminds him unnecessarily.

“I was possessed!” Stiles defends, too busy being annoyed at Peter calling him Draco to adopt his usual level of self-flagellation about the nogitsune.

“Malfoy was effectively brainwashed,” Peter points out, and Stiles snaps his mouth closed. He stares wide-eyed at Peter, at a loss for words.

Erica comes barrelling downstairs then, holding a bag of odd-smelling leaves, and Peter lets his offer hang in the air between them.

When Erica disappears into the kitchen, Stiles rubs a tired hand over his face and knows he’s going to give in and learn from Snape after all. He figures Peter is better than the other options, which are Deaton and internet strangers. Barely better, but still.

Stiles and Peter continue to sit there in silence as Erica makes a racket in the kitchen, both of them knowing that the training sessions are all but inevitable. Stiles for one is too curious to let an opportunity like this pass him by; one of the many things he would never admit to having in common with Peter is a thirst for knowledge. Whatever information Peter has could prove invaluable to the health and safety of the pack, and Stiles feels like he owes it to them to learn. He owes it to himself, too, he thinks. After all, Scott had said that Stiles could have stopped the nogitsune if his magic was stronger, and he still hasn’t been able to get the words out of his head.

For his part, Peter smirks knowingly at Stiles’ decision-making face. Stiles would have made a great wolf; Peter has no doubt about that, but having a strong Spark in the pack adds far more to their strength than another beta would have. And if putting himself in charge of Stiles’ training means he’ll get to keep an eye on the Spark and irritate his alpha in the process, well. That’s just an added bonus.

By the time Erica makes her way back upstairs, Peter is leaning on the far wall and Stiles has slumped back into the couch. “When are you planning to tell the rest of the pack about all this?” Peter questions. “Or,” his eyebrows wiggle suggestively and his voice goes down an octave, “did you want this to be our little secret?”

Stiles represses the urge to physically shake off his discomfort, and that may be the most difficult thing he’s done all day. “I’ll tell them as soon as I can,” he answers before reconsidering. “As soon as we get the rock demons taken care of. I like tackling my problems one at a time.”

“Speaking of problems,” Peter segues, murmuring too quietly for Stiles to hear, “and things you should tackle…”

At that moment, Derek comes jogging up the stairs and into the loft. Stiles looks between Peter and Derek quizzically, getting even more confused when Peter smells the air and smirks to himself.

Derek doesn’t even say anything, just drops Stiles’ duffel in front of him and places his laptop on the coffee table. “I got everything you asked for,” he grunts out, turning to leave.

Not bothering to look in the bag, Stiles asks, “Did you bring my charger?”

Derek rolls his eyes, reaches into an outer pocket of the duffel, and pulls out the cord. He shoves it into Stiles’ outstretched hand and eyes him expectantly.

“Thank you,” Stiles says.

“I’ll be back in a few hours,” Derek replies over his shoulder, shaking his head and going right back out the door to start his patrol.

Peter watches this exchange in amused silence. After Derek leaves, his scent lingers, emanating not just from the loft in general but from inside the duffel as well. Neither the fact that Derek had entered and exited the room in record time, nor the unique features of the duffel’s scent are lost on Peter. The mixed air of the bag smells oddly content in a way Derek hasn’t in years, which leaves Peter’s nose twitching in interest and his eyes rolling in irritation at his nephew’s continued ignorance.

“So, are we done here?” Stiles asks shortly, cutting into Peter’s thoughts and motioning between the two of them.

“For now,” Peter allows. He turns to the stairs then looks over his shoulder and smirks. “I look forward to our lessons, Szczyrz.” He enjoys every moment of Stiles’ surprised sputtering after him as he continues upstairs.


Stiles loves his pack. He really does, appreciates all of them except for maybe Peter, and therefore shouldn’t be nearly as annoyed as he is about being stuck in the loft. But it’s been nearly twenty-four hours now and he’s going absolutely stir-crazy with sitting here trying to entertain himself while everyone else goes out on patrol in rotations.

It’s about three in the morning, because sleep schedules haven’t been a thing in his life ever since werewolves became a recurring theme. To be fair, he wasn’t much for sleep before that either, what with the ADHD and the panic attacks. Regardless, he rolls over and rubs his eyes groggily, because while he hadn’t actually been sleeping, he did have the decency to pretend to be relaxed on the Hale couch.

He flips onto his stomach, propping himself up on his elbows and looking for the source of the sound that had woken him. As his eyes adjust to the dark, he can just make out the shape of Erica hurrying through the room, Peter following behind her at a more leisurely pace.

“What’s going on?” Stiles calls to them, but Erica is already at the door, yelling for Peter to, “Just go already !”

Ignoring her direction, Peter turns to Stiles to answer. “Derek got stuck–” he starts.

“If you say ‘between a rock and a hard place,’ I swear to god,” Stiles warns, interrupting him.

“I wasn’t planning to,” Peter replies, amused, “but that is accurate.” He leaves then, offering no more details.

At Stiles’ irritated look, Erica adds, “Derek called. He said there are more of them this time, so he wanted Peter to come help out.” She looks put out that she wasn’t included in the invitation, stuck here on Stiles Watch instead.

“Why did he call you?” Stiles wonders, because it’s obvious from her tone that Erica spoke to Derek, but there would be no reason for him to call her unless, “Peter didn’t answer his phone, did he?”

Erica laughs. “He did, actually. Derek just didn’t trust him to go help without me literally shoving him out the door.” She moves to sit beside Stiles on the couch, leaning her back against the armrest and folding her legs under her body.

“They’re going to be fine,” Stiles says, knowing how much Erica hates to be out of the action and therefore unable to do anything about it.

“I know that,” she responds, scooting further down and nestling into the couch cushions. She pokes him with her foot, a silent thanks for the reassurance she would never verbalize.

Stiles settles down for a tense night of waiting for news from the remainder of the pack. He forces himself to remain calm, not to recognize each passing moment as another that his pack faces danger because of him, but it’s nearly impossible. When he feels his breathing quicken, he pushes himself up and starts for the bathroom, taking his duffel bag with him.

Erica stops him with a hand on his arm, her voice soft, “Where are you going?” Knowing she can hear his heart rate, Stiles doesn’t lie, just runs a tired hand through his hair.

“I need a minute to breathe,” he says honestly, “and shower.” Erica nods her understanding before releasing him.

In the bathroom, Stiles shuts the door behind him and then leans heavily against it, taking in slow, deliberate lungfuls of air. He pulls off his shirt, which at this point is soaked in nervous sweat from more than a day of wear, and tosses it onto the floor to be dealt with later.

He stops then, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes at what he sees on his torso. Another spider webbed pattern has appeared on the skin just below his navel, half of it nearly hidden in the thatch of hair that trails down and disappears below his jeans. The rest of it stands out in stark contrast to his pale skin, the inky black of the marking radiating all the way out to cover a good portion of his left side.

Stiles takes another careful breath, willing Erica not to be paying attention to the sound of his heart. Finding himself in luck, he manages to regulate his breathing before looking away from the odd markings.

He trails a finger over the area absently as he meets his own worried eyes in the mirror, grimacing at the rough, bumpy feeling of the pattern. Stiles shudders and finishes undressing quickly, stepping into the shower and turning the water up extra hot in an effort to force his muscles into a state of relaxation. He may spend a counterproductive amount of time ineffectively scrubbing at the patterns on his thigh and abdomen, but the heat of the shower is at least mildly relaxing nonetheless.

Stepping out, Stiles towels off and grabs clothes out of his bag at random, pulling them on without looking at the marks on his skin. Seeking a shirt, his hand touches something cold and slippery-soft, and Stiles realizes Derek had added his leather jacket to the bag. He rubs the material between his fingers, silently thanking Derek for bringing it, before moving on to a graphic tee and pulling it on over his head.

As he slides the shirt on, Stiles could swear he sees a flash of something else moving behind him in the foggy mirror. He whips around, hands held out in a defensive position, but there’s nothing there. Turning back to the mirror, Stiles sees it again.

He recognizes what a ridiculously cliche horror movie scenario this is, but he reaches forward and wipes away the condensation from the glass anyway. If he’s going to get murdered by Bloody Mary right now, he feels like he at least deserves to see .

But it isn’t a ghost that Stiles finds in the mirror. It’s a series of images, starting with his dad and cycling through members of the pack at random, all looking gravely wounded. The sheriff kneels on the forest floor, holding a hand over his heart as blood trickles out between his fingers. Isaac’s eyes gape, and a tree branch protrudes from his side, black ooze dripping from his mouth sluggishly. The images flicker past, moving faster and faster before settling on Derek’s pained face.

The alpha throws himself, beaten and bleeding, in front of his pack as an absolute mountain of a monster approaches. Without so much as breaking its stride, the creature reaches out and crushes him before advancing towards the rest of the pack. Stiles feels his stomach heave at the grizzly sight, and he leans forward, grasping at the sides of the sink for support.

It feels like he had been locked into the world of the mirror for ages, but Stiles realizes little more than ten seconds can have passed when he hears Erica’s muffled voice coming through the bathroom door. “I let it go the first time,” she yells as though she has been doing so this whole time, “but your heart is going crazy again, so I’m coming in there in five seconds if you don’t talk to me!” She counts out the time from her side of the door, and gives a final warning before approaching. “That’s it,” she calls, “so it’s not my fault if you’re naked in there!” Stiles hears the sound of her testing the door knob, probably making sure it’s locked so she has a valid reason for kicking the door down, and manages to get his voice in proper working order.

“I’m not naked,” he responds. “But also you don’t need to come in.” He tries to sound as convincing as possible, but he recognizes the raspy edge to his own voice.

“It sounds like I do,” Erica counters, jiggling the handle again, but with slightly less urgency now that Stiles is at least responding to her queries.

On his side of the door, Stiles tilts his head back and closes his eyes, willing the images out of his mind. Just as he’s beginning to regain control, Asag’s voice creeps into the room.

“You can stop this,” it says, gravelly voice booming and drowning out all other sounds. “You know what you need to do,” it instructs, pitched low and menacing.

“Stiles!” Erica shouts, slamming a shoulder into the door and forcing her way into the bathroom. She looks around for the source of the voice frantically, shoving Stiles into the corner next to where he dropped his bag.

“Follow,” the voice continues, and it repeats the word in a sinister echo.

Erica spins around the room, sniffing the air and scanning the walls for any sign of a physical threat but finding none. By the time she looks back to Stiles, he has a fist full of mountain ash held out to her.

Barely taking time to believe it will work, Stiles blows the ash at Erica and crosses his fingers. This plan can go one of two ways: either Erica is stuck here while Stiles goes off to deal with Asag, or Erica inhales a bunch of mountain ash and pummels Stiles into the ground. Come to think of it, the latter option is all but inevitable at this point.

To his benefit, Stiles doesn’t have to worry about that particular problem just yet, because the mountain ash forms a perfect semicircle around Erica, trapping her against the far wall of the bathroom. Her eyes flash angrily. “Don’t!” She yells, voice furious at the thought of Stiles following Asag’s orders.

“I have to,” he says apologetically, hurrying out the door, emergency duffel bag in hand. He keeps a wide berth of Erica despite knowing that she can’t get past the ash line, wincing as she throws herself at it again and again in her anger.

Once downstairs, he fishes his spare key out of the bag and hops into the Jeep, starting up the engine and impulsively starting in the direction of the preserve. By the time he’s up to full speed, which admittedly isn’t that impressive in his battered vehicle, Stiles is shaky with nerves. His situation isn’t helped when he feels a sudden weight on his hand, jerking the steering wheel sharply to the left and causing the Jeep to spin out.

Gasping, Stiles presses back into the driver’s seat, away from the odd sensation, but the grip returns, on his wrist this time, and shoves his hands back onto the steering wheel. He regains control of the car, panting, and rests his hands gingerly on the steering wheel again. It’s like an icy hand is guiding him on his way, and he follows it, reminding himself this is for the good of the pack. He has to stop whatever it is he started with the cleansing ritual.

About ten minutes later, Stiles finds himself on the edge of the forest that borders the eastern edge of Beacon Hills, literally as far from the Hale house as he can be without leaving town. Steeling himself because of fucking course Asag would lead him as far away from pack territory as possible, Stiles parks the Jeep and takes a deep breath before heading out into the dense tree line.

The phantom hand has released its hold on him now, and Stiles stumbles over tree roots as he makes his way further into the forest with no guidance. Abruptly, he comes upon a clearing with rock pillars arranged in a circle around what appears to be a large stone table.

Four hunched over rock shapes act as the legs, holding up a smooth, flat stone that forms the breadth of the tabletop. The whole thing gives off a human sacrifice vibe that Stiles is not pleased with, and he takes an instinctive step back.

He grunts as he bumps into a stone wall behind him, then turns around warily because that definitely wasn’t there a moment ago. Stiles is then confronted on three sides by what he can only describe as suits of armor chiseled from rocks. Their shapes are crude and jagged, but there is a strongly humanoid bent to the design, like they were made for human battle.

“Nope,” Stiles says, trying to sidestep the one in front of him only to get jostled back into place by the one on his right. Then, all three begin to step forward, herding him to the table in the center of the clearing. He decides to conserve his energy and resist fighting for now, but he does drag his feet all the way there, just for the sake of being an inconvenience to whatever weird demon schedule they’re working off of here.


Back at the loft, Erica wrestles fruitlessly at the barrier created by the mountain ash, pressing against it with all the force she can muster. She spends a solid two minutes fighting against the seal and spewing colorful profanities before giving in and calling Derek.

“What is it?” Derek grunts, clearly in the middle of a battle but still concerned enough about the rest of his pack to answer his phone.

“Stiles ran off,” Erica admits, bracing herself for his anger and preparing her own defense.

What? ” Derek roars, equal parts furious and concerned.

“He had mountain ash!” Erica defends, rushing her words out before Derek can interrupt. “I would have gotten him back already otherwise. But I think the demon showed him something bad, because it asked him to follow and he did.”

“Do you know where it wanted him to go?” Derek asks between breaths, either dodging or dealing blows on his end of the conversation based on his ragged breathing.

“I would have started with that if I did,” Erica snaps.

“You need to go after him,” Derek instructs. “We have our hands full here.” Erica hears as he slams into the ground, the phone emitting static sounds as it slides out of his hand before he pulls it back.

“I would love to,” Erica explains, “but mountain ash . I’m not Scott; turns out I can’t just power through it.” She slams her body so hard into the barrier that she ricochets off of it, smashing into the bathroom wall at her back, which thuds loudly.

“What was that?” Derek demands, voice taking on an edge of worry past his frustration.

Erica turns and looks at the wall behind her, a smile curving across her lips as she sees the crack her body left in the drywall. “My way out,” she answers. “You’re going to need a new wall,” she warns, hanging up so her hands are free to do maximum damage.


The sheriff notices the moment the progression of his illness stagnates, his coughing fits appearing at relatively predictable intervals and his lethargy taking over much of his higher functioning. Melissa hovers around, looking worried and offering to help however she can, and Stiles remains nowhere to be seen.

This is better than the alternative, John thinks, imagining the look on Stiles’ face if he were to see his father in his current, weakened state. As a child, Stiles had already been a bit of a caretaker, trying to bring his mom soup or medicine whenever she got a cold, long before she was diagnosed. Claudia’s death had only enhanced that trait, making it both more prominent and more heartbreaking in its desperation. Whatever Stiles is off doing now, his father takes comfort in the fact that he isn’t moping around the hospital. As long as he’s safe, any other option is preferable to this.

“Are you sure you don’t need any more water?” Melissa asks again, reaching for his half-full glass.

John sighs with resignation. “I’m good for now,” he says. “But if you could get me a phone in here, that’d be great.”

“I already tried calling Stiles,” Melissa admits. “He didn’t pick up.”

The sheriff raises an unsurprised eyebrow at that, and she smiles sheepishly back at him. “He’s with the pack; they’d contact us if they needed anything,” he dismisses. “No, I have some business I need to take care of by tomorrow.”

“The only thing you should be taking care of right now is yourself,” Melissa scolds.

John rolls his eyes. “You sound like my son.”

She laughs, “You mean he sounds like a mom.”

“That too,” the sheriff says fondly. “Now about that phone…”

Melissa shakes her head at him but reaches into the pocket of her scrubs, pulling out her cell and handing it to the sheriff.

John punches in numbers, and as he hears it begin to ring on the other end, a sudden coughing fit strikes him. Melissa takes the phone away and puts his water back in his hand, politely asking the person on the other end of the line to wait just one moment.

“Beacon Hills Credit Union,” the woman on the phone repeats, apparently not hearing Melissa’s request. She holds the phone out to John questioningly.

“Tell them you’re calling on my behalf,” he croaks out, voice strained and almost inaudible.

“I’m calling on behalf of Sheriff Stilinski,” Melissa repeats obligingly.

After having the sheriff confirm that Melissa is allowed to speak for him, the woman asks them to hold as they transfer the call.

With the hold music playing on speakerphone, Melissa sits patiently and waits for the sheriff to explain. “We’re losing the house,” he says softly, his voice now pained from more than just the Sickness.

“John,” she says sadly, patting the back of his hand. He shakes his head and doesn’t meet her eyes.

“After everything he’s been through, I hate that Stiles has to lose his home now too,” he whispers.

“You know as well as I do that his home is wherever you are,” Melissa scolds gently, forcing the sheriff to look at her. He gives her a sad smile just as the hold music comes to a stop.

“Sheriff Stilinski? This is Monica from Beacon Hills Credit Union. I understand you wanted to discuss your account with us?” Her voice is warm and professional, and something about the friendly tone makes John feel worse about not being able to pay his bills.

“Mrs. McCall here is going to speak for me,” the sheriff rasps, grabbing at a notepad and jotting down what he has to say so that he won’t further strain his voice.

“Okay, whenever you’re ready,” Monica replies politely.

“All right,” Melissa begins, scanning through the sheriff’s notes. “John says his payment is going to be late this month because of an unexpected illness.” The sheriff underlines something and Melissa adds, “Late again . Look, I work at the hospital; I can get you whatever you need to confirm that he can’t be going in to work right now. He’s lucky I even let him make this call in his state.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your health, Sheriff,” Monica says, her tone genuine. “But I have some news that might help lift your spirits at least.”

The sheriff frowns in confusion and Melissa encourages, “And that would be?”

“The Stilinski mortgage has been paid in full,” Monica announces cheerily.

John gapes, grabbing for the phone, but Melissa shushes him and asks, “When did this happen? Who was it?”

“It was three days ago,” Monica answers. “But the donor requested to remain anonymous.”

Melissa’s brow furrows. “Why wouldn’t you tell John about this before? He deserved to know, instead of worrying himself sick,” she says, looking to where he lays in stunned silence on the hospital bed. “Sicker,” she corrects.

“Another request from the donor,” Monica apologizes.

John grabs for his pen again, writing hastily. Melissa scans his words and says, “The sheriff needs to know who it was, so he can repay them one day, or at least thank them.”

“Sorry, Mr. Stilinski,” Monica replies. “We respect the privacy of our clients here, so I’m not at liberty to give you that information.”

Melissa rolls her eyes at what the sheriff writes next but speaks anyway. “John would like me to remind you that he’s the sheriff and he’ll find out eventually.”

When Monica answers, there’s a smile in her voice. “And I can’t stop him from doing that, but I also can’t go against the wishes of another customer. Mr. Stilinski, your loan account is closed and the deed to the house is all yours. Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

The sheriff shakes his head, still reeling, so Melissa simply says, “No, thank you.” Monica wishes them a nice day and ends the call. “Well,” Melissa hums, turning to John, “that’s one less thing to worry about.”


Stiles makes it to the sacrificial table, rocks demons close on his heels to make sure he doesn’t veer off course. As he moves, he questions the rocks shoving him along. “Where’s the pack?” He asks, glancing around the area suspiciously. “You said you would let them go if I followed you.”

Asag’s voice responds, rumbling, “They’re preoccupied.”

It offers no other information, and Stiles flushes with anger. “I need to know that they’re safe!” He turns around and goes to head back into the thicket of trees, determined to prevent his vision from coming true in any way he can, but the rock creatures block his way, turning him back towards the table. He sighs and follows, trying to think of another way out. When he reaches one of the pillars holding up the stone slab, a rocky hand prods him forward with a shove to the middle of his back.

“I’m going,” he grumbles, leaning forward and beginning to climb the pillar slowly. As he gets his left foot up to a relatively flat segment of rock, that section of pillar begins to shift underneath him. He yelps and just manages to maintain his balance, arms outstretched and knees locked in place. He awkwardly adjusts his weight as the thing raises him higher off the ground, unceremoniously dumping him on top of the table when he reaches its level.

Stiles regains control of his shaky limbs and climbs to his feet, using his new vantage point to peer around the clearing. He can see further into the tree line from up here, but nothing seems to be happening at first.

Then, very slowly, motion in the forest begins to catch his eye. Rocks, not even assembled in the shape of a creature like the others, just ordinary rocks, start levitating towards the clearing. Most of them are about the size of a fist, and as they approach, they split into smaller pieces with a deafening crack.

Stiles stumbles back and away at the approach of the now razor sharp pieces of stone that come barreling towards him, but he realizes with a jolt that they’re coming from all directions. He ducks down, using his arms to cover his head, and hisses as one rock slices across his forearm.

The moment Stiles’ blood hits the stone slab, the whole clearing begins to glow. Realizing this, he leans down and tries to wipe it up in an effort to undo whatever’s happening, but as he touches his hand to the rock, a whole pile of them converge on his wrist, pinning it down. He struggles against the binding, but pulling against it just cuts into his arm, and the other rocks continue their assault.

Eventually, the combination of pain and blood loss has him laying flat on his stomach across the table, and the stones create more manacles, one for his other hand and two for his legs. He continues attempting to pull free, but to no avail, and the clearing glows more brightly as more of his blood soaks into the stones.

Soon, the entire area has taken on a yellow-orange aura, and the smell of sulfur permeates the air. Stiles wretches at the scent and then gasps as a new wave of pain hits him, this time internal rather than from a superficial wound. It’s like his insides are on fire, like his blood is boiling beneath his skin, turning to gas and attempting to escape the confines of his flesh. The pressure builds in his head until his eyes are about ready to pop out of his skull, and he writhes at the pain of the heat still swirling inside him.

The rocks stop their attacks now, apparently content to let Stiles burn himself out, but he barely even notices as the clearing settles into an abrupt silence.

Just as the pain becomes so unbearable that Stiles nearly passes out, he hears a familiar roar off in the distance. But the sound is too far away, he thinks, as his eyes flutter closed and he feels his consciousness slipping.

In fact, everything sounds so far away now, like it’s all moving away from him, or he’s falling into a soundless void where nothing can follow.

He barely registers the second roar before he’s stopped thinking entirely.


Shortly after his phone call with Erica, as Derek and his pack are beginning to feel worn down from their ongoing fight, the creatures start to fall apart again. However, instead of turning into piles of rubble as they did before, the individual pieces separate and float in place for a second before zooming off to the east.

“Don’t let them out of your sight!” Derek orders, running at full speed to keep up with the swarm of rocks. As he chases them, he notices that previously inert rocks are joining the procession; ones which were nowhere near their fight are also picking themselves up and heading in the same direction.

“What’s happening?” Isaac asks, catching up to Derek and looking at the quarry swimming through the air above them.

“I don’t know, but I guarantee it has something to do with Stiles,” Derek says, grunting as one of the rocks pelts him in the side of the head on its way by. He takes an angry swipe at it, but his claws do little more than propel it forward faster.

“Very impressive,” Peter mocks from just behind Derek. “And brilliant deductive reasoning, as per usual.”

Derek ignores his uncle, glancing behind him to find Scott approaching quickly from the right. “Is Stiles doing this?” Scott asks, perplexed.

“Yes,” Peter answers, voice dripping with sarcasm. “He conjured up these rocks as part of our training montage.”

Scott pushes past Peter as though he hasn’t spoken, looking to Derek for answers.

“I meant that they’re after Stiles, not obeying him,” Derek explains, barely containing his frustration at Scott’s inability to keep up with the conversation.

“But why?” Scott asks, dodging out of the way of more rocks and hopping over a tree root. Derek and Boyd exchange a look, both thoroughly done with Scott’s ignorance.

“How about we save him first and then figure that out?” Isaac calls, finally catching up to them from where he had been lagging behind, still healing from a deep gash in his leg.

“Who cares why?” Malia counters. “We just have to kill the thing trying to kill us.”

Derek shakes his head at the way she reverts back to her feral mindset when confronted with an enemy. She and Isaac do have a point, though. “We need to get rid of Asag before he can get to Stiles,” Derek says, directing his words to the pack as a whole.

“How are we supposed to get rid of a demon that powerful?” Jackson questions, face pinched with annoyance and, try as he might to hide it, just a tinge of worry.

“That’s what Lydia and Danny are working on right now,” Derek replies, unwilling to admit that he doesn’t have a plan for the interim.

“And Allison,” Scott adds, sounding almost offended that Derek failed to mention her.

No one responds to that, refocusing on the chase instead. Before long, the smell of pack blood reaches their noses, and they pick up speed as the adrenaline carries them forward.

In the middle of a large clearing, a ring of whirling stones surrounds the central area. Erica, panting and bleeding, tries to throw herself into the tiny spaces between the rocks, but she is flung back and thumps against a nearby tree. She looks up from her place on the ground, sees Derek, and shouts, “He’s in there!”

Derek faces the rock wall again, and sure enough Stiles’ scent is barely identifiable past the swirling vortex of air created by the rocks’ rapid motion. Like Erica, he tries to break through the barricade by getting a running start but is unceremoniously flung back. On his next attempt, he grabs onto a rock with each hand while bounding forward and attempts to pry them apart as they spin, but this plan ends much the same as the first.

Erica sits up from where she’s been watching, dusting herself off. “Already tried that,” she says. “Got any better ideas?” She turns to the rest of the pack, only to see them preoccupied with the three armored demons.

Boyd and Isaac grapple with one together, shoving it back as much as they can while it attempts to push forward. Jackson and Malia do much the same with another, just barely restraining it as it approaches the spiral of rocks. Scott, for his part, is grappling with the final demon on his own; Erica rushes forward to help him as he begins to lose his footing, no match for its raw power on his own.

Meanwhile, Peter observes the sky above Stiles, allowing the sounds of fighting to blend into the background as he curiously watches the glowing light seep from the edges of the clearing, gathering in the center. Overhead, the light twirls until it becomes a luminous cloud, first in the shape of a circle and then expanding into an enormous sphere.

At an alpha roar from Derek, Peter is forced to tune back in. He tears his eyes away from the threat, which goes against every instinct, and looks to Derek with impatience. “My phone!” Derek commands, throwing it to Peter while still trying to find a way through the torrent of rocks keeping Stiles in the circle.

Peter huffs but catches the phone anyway, curiosity winning over the urge to disobey for the sake of being a pain. “Alpha Hale’s phone, former Alpha Hale speaking,” he answers.

“Asag has the mace!” Lydia rushes out, knowing they don’t have time for Peter’s games right now. “He somehow took it with him when he was banished, and now he’s using it to get back here.”

“You can’t let him set foot on the ground,” Danny adds, “or he’ll be restored to full power.”

“How do I stop it?” Derek shouts the question from where he’s still attempting to free Stiles.

“That’s a work in progress,” Danny admits.

“Just get the mace away from him and then hold him back for as long as you can,” Lydia instructs. “We’ll contact you when we have more.”

Peter shrugs and hangs up. “The only one who can stop this is currently in a cage made of sentient rocks,” he tells Derek.

Derek doesn’t have time to question Peter, because the second he’s finished speaking Kira comes bursting through the tree line panting, her kitsune powers no match for werewolf speed. She takes in the scene, hones in on where Derek remains hunched next to the swirling rocks, and takes a running leap towards them with her katana held out before her.

On impact, the sword makes a screeching sound akin to nails on a chalkboard, and it clears a small path in between the rocks. “Go!” Kira yells, motioning for Derek to take advantage of the space. He waits until the timing is right, because the rocks continue to spin, then bounds forward and manages to crash through the opening, landing with a thud beside Stiles’ prone form.

Derek winces at the sight of Stiles’ many cuts and bruises, laying a hand on his arm and beginning to leech the pain while calling for him to wake up. “Stiles? Are you okay?” He shakes his shoulder gently, afraid of injuring him further but also sensing that Peter must be right about Stiles being the only one who can stop this. He is the one in the center of it all.

“The mace!” Scott’s voice rises above all the other noise, and Derek looks up to see the mace beginning to protrude from the edges of the glowing sphere above him. He leaps up, hand closing painfully around the spiked end of it, and pulls. The mace doesn’t move, and Derek hangs on the end of it, dangling by one arm three feet above the slab where Stiles lies still.

“Don’t look at it!” Erica reminds him, remembering that Lydia said something about the sight of Asag causing people to boil alive.

On impulse, Derek closes his eyes but doesn’t let go of the mace, forcefully wrenching it out of the demon’s grasp with a strangled shout. He guesses it must be weak from the power needed to create a portal between worlds in the first place, but doesn’t have the energy to think of much more as he slams onto the ground beside Stiles.

With a pained groan, Stiles begins to wake up then, straining against his manacles. “Stiles!” Derek calls, but he receives no response. When Stiles tilts his head to the side, Derek sees blood seeping out from behind his closed eyes. Then, without warning, Stiles’ eyes open and emit a blinding white light. “Stiles?” Derek says again, softer this time.

Stiles looks in Derek’s direction but doesn’t seem to see him, instead tilting his head further up until his pupil-less eyes focus in on the portal. His brows pinch, his eyes narrow, and he wrenches his wrists free of their shackles in one solid motion, his whole body beginning to glow now.

Holding his hands out to his sides and rising to his knees, Stiles continues to stare blindly at the sphere before slamming his hands closed and then making a fast, complicated series of gestures that Derek, even with his werewolf vision, can’t quite follow. With a hideous roar and a suctioning sound, the rocks begin to recede, sealing themselves closed over where the portal had been. They rush up and into the shape of the sphere, its light fading as gray stone takes its place.

Derek thinks for a moment that the rocks will follow Asag back into his world, but he realizes with a jolt that they are simply floating, directly above where he sits beside Stiles, who is still bound to the rock by the ankles.

Whatever power Stiles had just channeled has already receded, as he is once again unconscious. Derek tugs at the rocks holding him in place, but they seem to have fused with the base. He heaves a sigh of defeat and covers Stiles’ body with his own, letting the falling rocks send him into an almost peaceful darkness.

Chapter Text

Stiles wakes up to a sharp pain lancing through his heart. He staggers up, hand to his chest, only to find that he’s surrounded by a void of white nothingness. Disoriented, he stumbles forward and falls a solid four feet, his breath forcibly expelled from his lungs as he slams into the ground.

Getting painfully back to his feet, hand still clenched over his heart where the pain hasn’t abated in the slightest, Stiles looks behind him to find the stone table he had been strapped to only moments before. He squints, taking in his surroundings once more, and realizes that the whole area feels eerily reminiscent of the room he, Scott, and Allison had ended up in when they sacrificed themselves to the nemeton.

Now that he knows he isn’t actually awake, but rather in some in-between state, Stiles moves forward again in an effort to put some distance between himself and the stone slab that had landed him here in the first place. He inches forward, each step tentative on the harsh white surface, when he comes upon a single puddle of blood dripping slowly from the ceiling.

Moving closer to investigate, Stiles stares at the viscous liquid for a moment before holding his palm out to catch a droplet of blood and poking at it with his index finger, because what else is there to do? His hand comes away warm and sticky, but no worse for wear.

As he goes to examine the source, craning his neck to look more closely at the ceiling, however, Stiles begins to have visions clearer than anything else he has seen. Asag stampedes through the most populated areas of Beacon Hills, his hideous laugh rumbling through the air as the town’s residents scream in fear of him. Before they can get more than a few feet away, Asag sends his minions rampaging through the city, where they simply tap people on the shoulder and watch as they turn to stone, only their eyes still moving within their earthly prison.

Next, he gets a flash of a prehistoric mountain town, huts hastily scrambled together out of available resources and people sitting around a campfire as some sort of animal roasts on a spit. Asag strolls through the village casually swinging his mace this way and that, not even stopping to look when it catches on the hair of a passing woman and wrenches her neck into an unnatural position. Try as they might to turn tail and run, the villagers cannot avoid the sight of Asag entirely, and their skin erupts into boils that bring them slow, painful deaths.

Those who escape Asag’s violence themselves are haunted by his memory, and his mere presence causes all the water in the area to evaporate instantaneously. Stiles watches the weeks pass by as though on fast forward and the last remaining survivors dwindle down to one, a combination of sickness and dehydration wiping out even the strongest warriors.

A short, stocky woman is the one who remains after all the others have perished. She forces herself to her feet, eyes closed as light blazes behind her lids, and brings her hands together. Her fingers tangle and weave intricate patterns through the air, and energy shimmers off of her in waves as this happens. Asag bellows with rage, but tendrils of the woman’s magic hold him in place. As Stiles watches, he realizes that this spell must be what vanquished the demon centuries ago.

“Slow down!” He shouts on impulse, trying to memorize the witch’s movements. But she doesn’t hear him, apparently just a projection rather than a spirit, and she fades away as Asag is sucked into a portal to another world, mace in hand.

“He used the mace to break out,” Stiles mutters to himself in realization. He glances around, but the room has gone bright white again, and the droplets of blood have disappeared. All that remains is the stone table that must have brought him here.

Grumbling, Stiles tries to recreate the woman’s hand motions, but he’s too full of nerves to concentrate properly on his own movements. Flailing has always been more his style than this level of practiced, deliberate movement. He grits his teeth in frustration, because why is he even doing this? It’s not like somehow figuring out the motions for the spell will get him out of this creepy white room.

Regardless, Stiles keeps trying because he has nothing better to do here, and he isn’t about to get back on that table if he can avoid it. He’s trying so hard to visualize the mage from the village that it takes him a moment to realize she has appeared in the room before him. Stiles jumps in a combination of fear and surprise. “Warn a guy!” He pants, out of breath.

The mage doesn’t speak, just shakes her head at him and repeats the motions of the spell. She watches Stiles expectantly until he attempts to repeat the pattern.

When he’s failed another three times, the mage finally steps forward and places her own callused hands over his, bending his fingers into the appropriate positions, making sure the angle of his joints is just right. She steps back and motions for Stiles to mimic the position by himself.

Paying more attention to his hands than he has at literally any other point in his life, Stiles focuses all of his mental energy into getting the correct shape. Once there, the rest of the motions flow with relative ease, the pattern somehow instinctive to him. The mage smiles softly and vanishes.

Before Stiles can wonder where she’s gone or fist pump in celebration of his accomplishment, his pain returns with a jolt and recedes just as quickly, the shock leaving him sprawled on the ground. As his eyes drift closed, he appreciates that at least this time there isn’t a swirling vortex of doom above him, but a warm weight instead.


 

Derek lies perfectly still, unwilling to move any more than absolutely necessary until he’s felt his bones knit themselves back together. He listens to the commotion as the pack members clamber over to him, casting aside the rocks that fell on top of him when Stiles sent Asag back through the portal.

Remembering Stiles, Derek holds his breath, listening carefully for the soft sound of Stiles’ breathing and the thump of his heartbeat. He lets out a relieved sigh upon confirming that both seem relatively similar to Stiles’ sleeping pattern, then tries not to think about the fact that he’s familiar with the sound of Stiles’ unconscious heart rate. It’s not Derek’s fault he has a good sensory memory.

Once healed enough, Derek braces himself on his forearms, lifting his weight off of Stiles and giving him room to breathe more freely. He feels the rocks shift further, many of them falling off the table entirely, as he moves beneath them. “Derek?” Isaac calls, voice still laced with concern despite the fact that Derek is now moving around of his own volition. He wonders how long he was knocked out but elects not to ask.

“We’re okay,” Derek answers, trying to move further up but unable to for fear that the rocks will fall onto Stiles’ prone form. “Just clear up the rest of the rubble so we can get out of here.” He shifts his body so there’s a fraction of an inch between the two of them, jostling his arm forward far enough that he can pat Stiles on the cheek. Derek keeps at this for a few moments, getting increasingly worried the more time passes.

“Wha?” Stiles slurs, trying to bat Derek’s hand away from his face but unable to move, his limbs weighed down by a combination of Derek and the remaining rocks.

“Are you okay?” Derek asks, pressing closer to Stiles again and bracing his arms over his head as the pack’s efforts to dig them out causes a small avalanche of rubble to rain down.

Feeling Derek’s weight shift along his back, Stiles’ muddled mind takes a moment to wonder if the pleasant warmth along his spine signals one of those dreams, but the shooting pain coursing through his body tells him that this must just be his life. Because of course it is.

Upon smelling a wave of arousal followed closely by another tinged with embarrassment, Derek does his best to give Stiles space, but his options are severely limited by their positioning. “How much longer?” He calls up to the rest of the pack, who don’t even sound like they’re moving anymore.

“Maybe we should just leave them down there,” Derek hears Jackson suggest under his breath, too low for Stiles to discern.

“We really don’t need to see that,” Isaac agrees quietly.

I do,” Erica proclaims, and Derek can imagine her waving her arm as though volunteering. He groans and wills them to get back to work , but he refrains from commenting because he doesn’t want to make the situation any worse for Stiles than necessary.

“Stiles?” Scott calls down to them then, voice laced with concern. “Are you uncomfortable?” Derek wants to slam his head into the nearest wall, but unfortunately his only options are either Stiles or jagged stone, so he remains still.

“Uh, I’m under a pile of rocks, so yeah, not exactly the Hilton down here,” Stiles answers, confused.

“Not that kind of uncomfor–” Scott starts, but he’s cut off with an oomph as someone smacks him into silence.

“Stop ruining our fun,” Erica complains.

“You mean their fun,” Malia corrects, laughter in her voice.

“Guys, come on,” Scott interrupts.

“Well now you’re sending mixed messages,” Peter adds snidely, and Erica cackles.

Getting the gist of their previous conversation now, Stiles attempts to bury himself further into the debris in an effort to escape his mortification. Face burning, he grumbles, “Your pack is useless.”

Derek huffs a laugh into Stiles’ neck at that. “You are my pack,” he points out.

“But I’m different,” Stiles jokes, trying to turn his head so they’re more in position for actual conversation, but somehow he manages to dislodge a small rock in the process. As it whacks him on the side of the head, Stiles can feel Derek’s chest rumbling with suppressed mirth.

“You’re different all right,” Derek agrees, tone smug even as he leeches the pain from Stiles’ new wound.

“That’s one way of putting it,” Peter murmurs, and by this point Derek has had enough.

“Keep working,” he orders, eyes glowing alpha red even though no one can see his face at the moment, considering it’s nearly buried in Stiles’ shoulder blade.

When the sound of movement resumes, Derek sighs and allows himself to breathe, preparing for a long wait. Stiles cuts into his thoughts with an awkward, “So this is happening.”

Derek isn’t having it, immediately snapping, “What did you think you were doing, coming here by yourself?” He clenches his hands into fists, reminding himself that he isn’t in the best place to lash out right now,

“Oh, so you can throw yourself into danger whenever you want, but I can’t?” Stiles counters, tensing up at the double standard.

“We had it under control,” Derek defends.

“You didn’t see it,” Stiles says quietly, remembering his vision. “Asag was going to kill all of you. For a second there, I thought maybe he already did.” At a hitch in his breath, Derek moves a hand to the small of Stiles’ back, but Stiles shrugs away and goes on. “And then he said I could stop it if I went with him, so I did.” He speaks like his self-sacrifice is a foregone conclusion.

“But we were fine, Stiles,” Derek responds, less angry after hearing the desperation in Stiles’ voice. He understands the protective impulse, but the fact remains and he has to say it, “You’re only human.”

“I had to help,” Stiles reiterates.

Derek sighs again, not wanting to have this argument when he can feel the rest of the pack listening in and waiting for some sort of gossip. “How did you do that, anyway?” He asks.

“Remind me what I did again,” Stiles requests with hesitation.

Derek gapes. “You don’t remember?”

“I just want to make sure we remember the same thing,” Stiles responds.

If Derek had the room for it, he would cross his arms at the obvious deflection. “Tell me what you remember, then,” he challenges, practically growling in his ear.

“I wouldn’t want to influence your memory though,” Stiles starts. Feeling Derek’s muscles bunch in irritation, he breathes out and says, “Okay, I remember the portal, and I’m pretty sure I did some magic unless I was hallucinating that part.”

“You definitely did some magic,” Derek confirms. “I just want to know where you learned it.”

“So, you know my visions?” Feeling Derek’s nod, Stiles continues. “I had another one, after I passed out here. I saw Asag go on this whole rampage, just killing and maiming everyone around him for the fun of it. I could feel it, even, how he enjoyed the pain.” Stiles shudders. “He doesn’t feed off of it or anything, I think it just amuses him. But anyway, let’s all be glad he’s out of the picture again because dealing with that guy would have sucked . The last thing we need is another demon anywhere near my head,” Stiles goes on, babbling now to fill the silence.

“Stiles,” Derek says, “Focus. Where did you learn how to get rid of him?”

“In my vision, I saw the magician who banished Asag the first time, and she taught me the spell. It was this weird, like, mystical vision quest thing, but once I started to get the motions down everything else was instinctive.” His voice picks up speed as he relives the memory, thinking about every possibility at once. “I don’t think I could do that spell again even if I tried. Maybe magic is a situation thing? Like you only know what you need to survive.” He stops to ponder this.

“It doesn’t matter now, because you’ll never be in that situation again,” Derek interrupts. “You never should have been here in the first place,” he reiterates, unwilling to let Stiles distract him with talk of the visions.

“But the spell worked, right?” Stiles asks for confirmation.

“It did,” Derek concedes.

“Then Stiles saved the day,” he congratulates himself.

“By running after a demon with literally no plan for how to fight it,” Derek says flatly.

“Which makes my victory even more impressive,” Stiles acknowledges, as though he’s accepting high praise rather than being criticized.

As he’s about to protest, Derek feels relief on his aching spine as the last of the heavy rocks is removed from his back. Rather than continuing to argue while plastered together, he gathers Stiles in his arms and moves to shift both of them to their feet at once, but a strangled cry from Stiles halts him mid-motion. Looking down at where their legs have shifted, he sees that Stiles is bound at the ankles to the rock surface beneath them. Hackles instantly rising at seeing a member of his pack immobilized in this way, Derek growls and swipes at the manacles.

Stiles flinches on instinct, but to his surprise the shackles fall away with little protest, weakened by the rocks that had fallen on them and now severed fully by Derek’s claws digging into their weak points. Derek tests Stiles’ ankles with his fingertips, ensuring that the chafing wounds there are only superficial before pushing through the remaining debris with his back as he stands, keeping Stiles out of the way.

The moment they’re on their feet, Derek turns Stiles around, looking him over from head to toe to check out his injuries. Relatively convinced that he should be okay, Derek moves to unlatch his fingers from Stiles’ upper arms, realizing he’s been gripping them tightly since the pair got up.

When Derek releases his hold, Stiles sways on his feet and nearly falls, feet unsteady on the assorted stones and pebbles that now litter the table. He would have landed on the same pile of rocks if Derek had any sense of personal space, but as it is, Derek grabs onto him before he can go far. He hoists Stiles into his arms again and jumps off of the stone table, gently laying Stiles in a clean space of the clearing.

Having set Stiles down, Derek crouches before him to look at his wounds, but Erica barges in before he can do anything else. She slaps him on the back of the head without prelude.

“Ow!” Stiles exclaims, rubbing his sore head and meeting her fiery gaze. “I thought that tea was supposed to make you less violent,” he complains.

“No, it gives me control,” Erica says, anger coming off of her in waves. “I can’t believe you did that!”

“I had to,” Stiles sighs. “Coming here was the only way to stop Asag.”

“Not that,” Erica replies dismissively. “You locked me up,” she adds, voice low.

Stiles’ eyes widen. He knows more than anyone how much Erica hates being trapped, after Gerard, but he wasn’t thinking about that at the time. “You would have died,” he whispers, the reality sitting bone deep. “If I hadn’t done it, he would have killed you.”

“Maybe I would have let you come if you’d just talked to me!” Erica shouts, stepping closer to Stiles and forcing him closer to Derek in the process. “I could have come with you as backup.” She throws herself on the ground beside him, still annoyed but less furious now.

Stiles rolls his eyes at her. “You never would have let me come out here and you know it,” he accuses.

Erica shrugs with a half-smile. “True, but that’s just because I prefer you alive.”

Stiles grins back at her, as the full danger of his situation finally sinks in. “That’s how I prefer all of you,” he says seriously, glancing around at the assorted supernaturals in the clearing. “Thanks for getting me out of there.”

“You’re pack,” Isaac says, like it’s just that simple, and it occurs to Stiles that maybe it is.

“You’ve done the same for us,” Boyd agrees, wiping dirt and blood from his brow.

Stiles smiles. “So I guess we’re even?” He means it as a joke, something to break the severity of the moment, but he feels Derek tense up again, realizing with a start that they’re still pressed together.

Stiles goes to scramble away, and Derek refrains from pulling him back in, but just barely. The urge to feel his heartbeat is especially strong this soon after a threat. “It’s not about being even,” Derek says, pushing past the awkwardness. “It’s about keeping the pack safe.”

“And we are,” Stiles agrees, leaning back on his aching arms. “Go team,” he adds, twirling a finger in the air victoriously even as his voice drips with exhaustion.

We’re all fine,” Derek says, gesturing at everyone but Stiles. “ You’re going to the hospital.”

“Good plan,” Stiles replies. “I need to check on my dad.”

“I think he meant you need to be checked out,” Kira corrects, looking at Stiles’ various cuts and bruises worriedly.

Stiles flaps a hand to dismiss her concern, doing a poor job of hiding the wince that accompanies it as the motion pulls on a freshly-scabbed cut. “I’m fine,” he claims.

Malia marches forward and pokes him in the side with the toe of her shoe. At the way he flinches and curls in on himself, she puts her hands on her hips. “You would still say you were fine if you were dying.” She tilts her head. “You don’t smell like you’re dying, but you are weak. And frail.” She kicks at his shin for confirmation of her suspicions, then nods. “You would have been cannibalized by now in the wild.”

Stiles groans. “Thank you for that,” he deadpans. “Very helpful.”

Malia shrugs, and Jackson snickers. “Go to the hospital before you catch your death out here in the cold,” he mocks.

Stiles glares. “It’s like 80 degrees!”

“And your fragile human body can’t take it,” Jackson confirms.

“You’re just worried about me because we’re bros,” Stiles accuses, raising an eyebrow. Jackson glares at him, but there isn’t any real heat behind it. In fact, Derek smells just a tinge of embarrassment and has to suppress a smile at the fledgling friendship.

Scott suddenly reenters the conversation from where he was off to the side texting Allison updates, eyes wide. “You’re bros with Jackson now?”

“I’d say casual acquaintances at best,” Jackson refutes. “Maybe allies on a good day.” Scott’s jaw drops and he looks at Stiles with shock, because even he knows that’s high praise coming from Jackson.

“Oh my god, Scott, how is this your main concern right now?” Stiles slaps a hand to his forehead reflexively and regrets it as he discovers he’s developing a bruise there too.

“But you already said you’re okay,” Scott responds with hesitation, feeling wrong-footed but not sure why.

“We don’t have time for this,” Derek cuts in, irritated. “Stiles, you’re going to the hospital.”

“I already said I want to go,” Stiles reminds him.

“You’re at least letting Mrs. McCall look at your wounds,” Derek orders. Face softening, he holds a hand out to Stiles. “Can you stand?”

“Of course I can stand,” Stiles scoffs, ignoring Derek’s hand and shoving himself to his feet. He sways a bit with the effort, taking in his tattered clothes and assorted patches of dried blood from where the rocks cut into his flesh, but he manages to stay upright. “I look like I got into a fight with a lawnmower,” he declares. “And the lawnmower won.”

“But you actually sent a demon into an alternate dimension,” Erica comforts. “Too bad everyone is way more likely to believe the lawnmower story than that.” She pats his shoulder in faux sympathy.

He pouts at her and starts walking, pushing through his aches. “Let’s just go.”

“Wrong way,” Erica singsongs, turning and heading in the opposite direction.

Stiles grumbles and follows her, feeling the rest of the pack close on his heels. “In my defense, I probably have a concussion.” At the comment, Derek takes a step in his direction, looking concerned again, but Stiles waves him off. “It’s not that bad,” he assures Derek. Then, looking around, he groans. “Someone please tell me the mace went back into the portal with Asag, because otherwise the fact that both it and Peter are suspiciously absent from this clearing is going to give me an aneurysm.” He rubs his sore head for emphasis.

“Peter definitely took it,” Boyd confirms. “I saw it fall out of the portal.”

“PETER,” Derek bellows, alpha voice out in full force. “Bring the mace back to us, right now.”

Grudgingly, Peter reappears, mace swinging idly by his side. He shoots an annoyed glare at Stiles. “Concussions usually impair cognition,” he complains, almost accusatory.

Stiles smirks. “It doesn’t take that much brain power to be suspicious of you.”

Derek steps between the two, ignoring their banter, and takes the mace out of Peter’s hand. “We’ll figure out what to do with this tomorrow,” he says. Looking irritated with himself for even suggesting it, he adds, “We’ll have to ask Deaton about it.” Stiles nods his agreement, but his grim expression makes it clear that he’s about as excited about the prospect as Derek is.

Behind him, Stiles could swear he hears Scott drilling Jackson about his brand new broship with Stiles, but he’s too tired to focus on even that potentially hilarious conversation as he trudges through the forest. At one point, he stumbles to the side, catching his foot on uneven ground, but a strong hand grips his arm and sets him right before he can react on his own.

Looking around, Stiles finds Derek hovering to his side, arm still lingering in the air as though Stiles might need it again at any moment. “Thanks,” he mutters.

Derek doesn’t respond, just nods and continues to follow a step behind Stiles as they make their way out of the woods.


 

By the time they get to the hospital, Stiles is in considerably less pain, though he knows that has more to do with his werewolf pain relievers than any actual sign of good health. Still, he strolls in through the front doors and makes a beeline for the elevators, aiming for his dad’s room.

Derek stops him with a firm grip on his shoulder. “You’re going to see Mrs. McCall,” he directs, turning Stiles towards the nearest nurses’ station instead. Stiles sighs dramatically but allows himself to be guided there, knowing when to pick his battles.

Melissa meets them there, clearly having gotten the necessary information from Scott on their journey here, considering her face doesn’t show overt surprise at Stiles’ condition. “Let’s go, boys,” she redirects, ushering them into a nearby exam room. Derek and Scott follow Stiles in, everyone else having gone home to wash up and sleep off their remaining weariness from the fight. “Care to tell me exactly how you got all these?” She asks Stiles, dabbing antiseptic into his wounds but not really expecting an answer.

“Rock slide,” he answers, which, to be fair, is not all that far from the truth. Rocks were involved in the process, anyway.

“Uh huh,” she hums, humoring him even as she eyes Derek and Scott, clearly judging them both for not doing a better job of protecting him. “Lucky for you, your ‘rock slide’ doesn’t seem to have broken anything. You’re going to have some nasty bruises for a while, but none of the cuts look too deep. Somehow they didn’t even make it through that new jacket of yours,” she adds, eyebrow cocked suggestively at this ongoing development in Stiles’ wardrobe.

Stiles coughs to hide how uncomfortable he is with her implication, especially when the object of said implication is standing right across the room, expression confused at the noticeable change in Stiles’ heart rate.

“How’s my dad?” Stiles asks, because that’s why he came here in the first place. Also, he may be trying to get her to focus on literally anything else at the moment to avoid this turning into yet another in his long list of embarrassing memories.

Melissa perks up at the question. “Better! They’re all getting better, actually. It was the strangest thing, weirdly sudden.” She eyes the three of them suspiciously. “What did you do?”

“Nothing bad,” Scott defends on instinct, hands raised.

Derek rolls his eyes at Scott’s behavior. “We got rid of the source.”

“Which was rocks?” Melissa infers.

“More or less,” Derek answers unhelpfully.

“But my dad’s okay now?” Stiles asks, needing the reassurance.

Melissa turns back to him with a wide smile. “He is,” she promises. “We’re keeping everyone another night for observation, but their vitals are all fine now. Not a weakness, cough, or breathing problem in sight.”

“I’m going up to see him,” Stiles says, not asking for permission but simply setting off for his dad’s room. Derek, sensing that Mrs. McCall would like to grill Scott for more details in private, excuses himself to call the pack from the parking lot.

“I’ll wait for you out front and give you a ride home,” Derek offers, which reminds Stils that they left the Jeep out by the woods. He agrees, only half-listening as he heads to the elevator, needing to see his father’s improved health for himself.

The bustle of the hospital is lost on Stiles, who darts between spaces in the crowded hallways to his dad’s room in record time. Bursting in, he expects to find his father still in bed at least, maybe flipping through a book and looking healthy, but no. The sheriff is fully dressed, looking for all the world like he’d march out right now if the doctors let him.

Stiles can’t blame him for the sentiment, but he also still has the urge to shove him into a chair and force him to rest. Instead, he barrels into the room and wraps his dad in a tight hug, putting all of his worry and relief into his grip.

“Hey, son,” the sheriff greets, and the renewed vigor in his voice buoys Stiles even further.

“Dad,” Stiles answers, releasing him from the hug now and taking a step back. “You’re okay,” he says, mostly to himself.

“Wish I could say the same about you,” the sheriff says, touching the bruise on Stiles’ head and looking at the blood stains soaking through his clothes in places with a trained eye.

Stiles shrugs off his worry. “You should see the other guy,” he jokes.

“Is the other guy even a little bit human?” John asks wearily, running a hand down his face.

“Only if you equate humans with pure evil,” Stiles replies, “but that seems a little cynical for you.”

“What was it then?” The sheriff asks, because he needs to know, regardless of how ridiculous his explanation would sound to the CDC or the FBI or whatever other three-letter government agency decides to show up next.

“Asag,” Stiles says simply. At his dad’s uncomprehending look, he tacks on, “Rock demon.”

“Of course,” John replies, shaking his head.

Stiles smiles, but his amusement vanishes when he sees a pile of official-looking documents resting on the sheriff’s bedside table. “What’s all this?” He asks, heart sinking as he remembers the house.

“It’s about the bank,” John begins, not quite knowing where to begin with this unusually cheery bit of news.

Stiles feels dread pool in his stomach, and he sits heavily on the edge of the bed, trying to prepare himself for the possibility of losing the house before he’s even had a chance to say goodbye. “Yeah?” He prompts, voice smaller than he would like.

“I got a phone call, and they said someone bought it,” the sheriff explains.

“What?” Stiles exclaims, jumping to his feet in outrage. “They can’t put it on the market without giving you notice!”

John stops him with a hand on his shoulder. “No, Stiles, they bought it for us .” At Stiles’ dumbfounded look, he goes on. “Someone paid off the remainder of the mortgage,” he explains. “And the second mortgage I took out on the house when you were sick. But they left the deed in my name.”

Stiles stares, mouth agape, as he tries to process this. He only knows one person with the money, one person with the means and motivation to do this. Said person also happens to be the only one other than Stiles, his dad, and the credit union to even know they were going to lose the house in the first place.

Only one person in Stiles’ life could lack the social skills to so much as mention the literally life-changing act of kindness he had performed.

John interrupts his thoughts. “This wouldn’t happen to have anything to do with your sudden interest in leather, would it?”

“I have to go,” Stiles says apologetically, hugging his dad again and rushing out the door.


 

Outside, Derek stands guard beside the Camaro, unwilling to leave the mace alone in the trunk for any longer than absolutely necessary. He trusts Stiles’ mountain ash line encircling the weapon, but he can also sense the raw power it emits, which makes him paranoid that other supernaturals (such as Peter) may come to seek it out.

Derek pulls up his group messages to the pack and lets everyone know that the sheriff is doing better and Stiles was given a relatively clean bill of health, both of which are met with an annoying slew of happy emoji and exclamation points. He’s pretty sure the pack doesn’t even like emoji that much and are just doing it to irritate him, and it’s working. Something about the tiny smiling faces is just disturbing. Electing to ignore the pack’s shenanigans, as that’s usually the path of least resistance with them, Derek gives basic instructions regarding the cleanup of their most recent battle ground. That gets him a combination of frowny and angry faces, so he shoves his phone into his pocket and leans against the side of the car, waiting for Stiles to finish up in the hospital.

Shutting his eyes against the glare of the rising sun, Derek doesn’t see so much as smell Stiles approaching him, his scent wafting before him like pine needles after a rainstorm. Derek opens his eyes to the sight of Stiles running directly at him, expression unreadable and heart pounding.

The alpha doesn’t have time to parse the happy cinnamon scents from the lingering vinegar of pain, because before he can process much of anything Stiles throws himself into Derek’s chest, face first.

Derek braces against the impact, thoroughly shocked because this is an uncommon greeting for him, to say the least. Stiles has his face buried in the crook of Derek’s neck now, and his arms are wrapped around his sides, pulling their torsos together with what would be crushing force to the average human.

This is how hugs are supposed to work, just so you know,” Stiles mumbles into Derek’s shoulder.

Derek reaches a hand up and tentatively pats Stiles’ back. “What–” He starts to ask, but Stiles cuts him off before he can get another word out.

“Don’t pretend you don’t know,” he says, pulling back to look into Derek’s face as he speaks. “I’m not even mad,” he continues. “Like, usually if someone does something for me and I think it’s too much, which this absolutely is , I’d at least be mad.”

Derek grimaces, because he didn’t want Stiles to know it was him, to feel like he was trying to buy his loyalty to the pack, but he waits for Stiles to say more, which he does without fail.

“But I’m not. Because that’s my home and I didn’t realize how much I needed it until I realized I might not have it anymore,” Stiles says, voice strangled with the weight of his words. He forces himself to go on, rushing his words. “I would never have asked you, or anyone really, for that kind of money, but I’m not going to stand here and pretend I don’t want it just to be polite.” He runs a frazzled hand through his hair. “I honestly don’t think I could give it back now even if you wanted me to,” he finishes, eyes glossy.

“I don’t want you to,” Derek responds, voice gentle. “I know what it’s like to lose a home,” he explains, because Stiles deserves to know his motivations. “I wasn’t going to let that happen to you when I had the means to stop it.”

Stiles swipes a hand over his eyes, not quite crying but needing to rub away the excess moisture to avoid reaching that point. “Thank you,” he says with sincerity, looking directly into Derek’s eyes.

In that moment, Derek realizes two things. One: Stiles still has his hands wrapped loosely around his waist. Two: Stiles’ eyes are a ridiculous shade of golden brown that, when stared into directly, feel like they can flay him to the core.

Everything stops for a second, because Derek can’t remember the last time someone thanked him, let alone with so much genuineness in their touch and warmth in their gaze.

He looks back at Stiles, and he feels his heart plummet with realization, because this isn’t pack bonding or friendly banter or anything else he and Stiles have had before. This is markedly different, and Derek is not prepared for it. He’s caught off guard, though he slowly becomes aware he shouldn’t be; he and Stiles have shared so many little moments with one another by this point that, were they just about any other people on the planet, they would have recognized it as flirting.

But no, Derek is socially stunted by trauma, and Stiles is a literal teenager , and this is a terrible idea that Derek needs to shut down immediately. He steps out of the hug, usual gracefulness lost in a sea of stumbling and furious blushing.

Stiles, completely unaware of Derek’s inner turmoil, secretly thinks it’s adorable that one hug threw the guy for such a loop. He files that information away for later but chooses not to tease him, because Derek just saved his house, so biting his tongue right now is really the least he can do in return. Still, he might as well ask, for the sake of social niceties. “Is there anything I can do to repay you?”

Derek averts his eyes, stepping back to put even more space between them. “I didn’t do it because I wanted something in return.”

“I know that,” Stiles says, his face broadcasting sincerity. “Thank you. Again.” He smiles and rubs the back of his neck, not sure what else he can say.

“When is your dad getting out?” Derek asks, guiding the conversation to a topic that feels safer for him.

“Not until tomorrow,” Stiles replies, looking back at the hospital with distaste. “They’re keeping everyone who had the Sickness for another twenty-four hours of observation, and it’s not like I can go in and tell all the doctors they’re magically better.” He shrugs at the protocol, but his face betrays his overwhelming relief that his dad got better at all.

“Let’s go back to the loft then,” Derek suggests. “You should stay with the pack in case anything else turns up.”

“Okay,” Stiles says, stifling a yawn, “but I’m just warning you that I’m going to crash, like, immediately. It’s been a long day, and now the house on top of everything else… I’m at least two of the seven dwarves right now. I’m Sleepy-Happy.”

Derek rolls his eyes, opening the passenger side door for Stiles. “Get in the car, Stiles.”

“You’re Grumpy, obviously,” Stiles mumbles, eyes sinking closed almost as soon as he throws himself onto the soft upholstery of the Camaro.

Derek bites back a smile at the comment. He has a reputation to uphold, even if Stiles is too tired to see him right now. Thinking about his reputation sends Derek down another, much less cheery path. The pack is going to know about his feelings the second he and Stiles get into the loft, if they don’t know already.

He groans, because the members with the strongest bond to him definitely know something has changed, even if they don’t yet know what.  Derek wouldn’t be surprised if Boyd was aware before he noticed this development himself, and Peter is guaranteed to be an absolute nightmare.

Maybe Derek should drop Stiles off at the loft and camp in the woods for a while, clear his head before he does anything stupid.

Beside him, Stiles mutters something unintelligible in his sleep, and the sight of him so relaxed and unguarded causes something warm to unfurl in Derek’s chest.

By the time he pulls up to the loft, he’s almost convinced himself to turn around on three separate occasions, but eventually he has to admit that there’s no point. Sooner or later, the pack is going to know. Accepting the inevitable, Derek parks before waking Stiles from his slumber, pulling out his phone and sending a single message without context. Not a word , it reads.

Next, he shoves his phone into his pocket and calls out to Stiles. “We’re here,” he adds, touching his shoulder lightly. Stiles stirs, rubbing sleep from his eyes.

“What did I miss?” Stiles asks, squinting against the early morning light.

Derek shrugs. “The sun rose. I drove us here,” he answers, keeping his voice as monotone as possible.

“Wow,” Stiles says, voice laced with false excitement. “Fascinating. Did you also happen to exhale carbon dioxide while I was sleeping?”

“I did, actually,” Derek responds, going along with Stiles because he figures he might as well at this point.

“I miss all the good stuff,” Stiles complains, smiling widely at the fact that Derek has chosen to humor him at all.

“I’m sure it’ll happen again some day,” Derek promises, getting out of the car and waiting for Stiles to join him before heading to the elevator and up to his floor.

Derek steels himself for snide comments from the pack, but what he gets instead is a bunch of scrunched up noses and confused looks from everyone but Boyd and Peter. Those two, as expected, are eyeing him knowingly. Boyd seems impassive, his poker face as inscrutable as ever, but Peter positively leers, and his amused expression (combined with knowledge of the fact that the hug left Derek smelling very much like he and Stiles had spent some quality time together) is enough to make Derek blush.

At his embarrassment, Erica develops a devious smile. “Oh my god,” she squeals, looking like her head might explode with excitement.

Isaac shoves her to keep her quiet, not actually wanting to put Stiles and Derek on the spot if they aren’t ready for it. He has enough pity to allow them that, and Derek gives him an appreciative nod in response.

“I’m too tired for whatever this is,” Stiles announces, gauging the room and deciding that whatever weird pack thing is going on right now is inherently less important than sleep. “You need to make room on the couch, because I will not be functioning until morning.”

“It is morning,” Isaac reminds him.

“Ugh, fine, just let me sleep ,” Stiles grumbles, trying to squeeze himself into the space between Jackson and Erica on the couch.

“You can take my bed,” Derek offers, feeling his ears burn as the words leave his mouth.

Unsurprisingly, it’s Jackson who says, just quietly enough that Stiles can’t catch the words, “Of course he can.” Then he wiggles his eyebrows in a way that is irritatingly, intentionally similar to Stiles’ particular brand of ribbing.

Derek directs a low growl at Jackson, whose only response is to smirk. Turning back to where he left Stiles, Derek finds him already starting up the stairs. “I feel like I haven’t slept in forever,” Stiles says to the room at large as he continues up to Derek’s room. “I’m so glad there’s no school today.”

The rest of the pack offers their agreement and waits for the sound of Derek’s bedroom door shutting softly behind Stiles before rounding on Derek, expressions a mix of incredulity and amusement. “Not a word,” Derek reminds them, voice stern. “We can talk tomorrow, after everyone has rested and healed.”

“No one’s getting any rest with Stiles in your bed,” Erica teases, evil grin firmly in place.

Derek shoots her a glare. “I’ll sleep on the couch.”

“Then where will I sleep?” Erica responds.

“At your own house?” Isaac offers, cracking a smile that shows his dimples.

“Solid plan,” Erica agrees. “I’ll take your bed, and you can sleep on the floor. I’m not about to miss a second of whatever’s going on here,” she declares, motioning from Derek to the floor above, where they can all hear Stiles’ relaxed heart rate. Isaac groans but knows better than to argue with her on this.

“I’ll be back in a few hours,” Boyd says, giving her a peck on the lips and heading for the door.

Erica pouts. “Where’s the fun in that?”

“Sleep,” he answers, smiling at her.

“You should all go home,” Derek tries, and everyone but Erica nods their agreement, more interested in getting their rest than seeing new emotional drama unfold. Peter and Isaac also remain, but they actually live here, so Erica is the only one Derek continues to watch expectantly.

“You let Stiles stay,” she complains. “So unless you want to explain why you’re only okay with him sleeping here…” Her voice trails off suggestively and Derek groans.

“Just go upstairs,” he says, resigned.

Erica beams and drags Isaac up with her, no doubt determined to turn this into a gossipy slumber party of two. Isaac shrugs at Derek but follows her up, eyes sparkling with mischief that Derek elects to ignore for now. He has bigger problems.

Derek sinks heavily into the couch, hands clenched together in his lap. He has to sort through the jumbled mess that is his mind, get his priorities back in order so that pack safety will always come before everything else.

It takes some time, but eventually Derek manages to relax and convince himself that he can deal with this. He isn’t the same naive teenager he was the first time he fell in love.

Not that he’s in love with Stiles. He’s just having emotions. Unnamed emotions.

Regardless of what exactly his feelings are, Derek takes comfort in knowing that Stiles is unlike any of the other people he’s been interested in. Stiles wouldn’t manipulate him into murder, at any rate. It’s an odd thing to be calmed by, but Derek’s life has been far from normal for so long that this feels almost right.

He settles into the couch, kicking his feet up and leaning his head back against the armrest, staring at the ceiling contemplatively. As he’s about to drift off to sleep, listening to the soft sounds of Stiles’ heart and Isaac and Erica’s hushed whispers, a shadow passes over his eyes. Derek opens his eyes and squints to find Peter looming over him, his smirk already in place.

“So it seems we both have some news to share about our favorite Stilinski,” Peter says, enigmatic.

“I have nothing to share with you,” Derek replies, voice low with annoyance.

“Nothing I don’t already know,” Peter acknowledges. “So, as usual, I’m the only one with any real information.” He waits for Derek to ask for it, knowing he won’t be able to resist news that might impact his pack.

Derek sighs, sick of this game but well aware that Peter won’t leave until he plays. “What about Stiles?”

“The whole time we were looking for the magic user who cleansed the nemeton,” Peter begins, enjoying the puzzlement on Derek’s face, “It was Stiles.”

Derek huffs out another breath. “Of course it was.” Stiles is the catalyst behind so many things in town that Derek shouldn’t be surprised at this point. Somehow, though, Stiles never ceases to amaze.


 

When Stiles rolls out of Derek’s bed a few hours later, pancakes are the only thing on his mind. He marches into the bathroom, relieves himself, adjusts his clothes, runs fingers through his bedhead, and then goes straight to the kitchen to get started on midday breakfast.

Derek looks up from his place draped across the couch as Stiles walks by, but he averts his eyes rather than offering a greeting of any kind. “Good morning to you, too,” Stiles says.

“It’s one in the afternoon,” Derek corrects, picking a book up off the coffee table and flipping through it.

“Details,” Stiles dismisses. “I’m making pancakes,” he calls over his shoulder as he opens the refrigerator and starts pulling out the necessary ingredients.

“However many you were planning to make, double it,” Derek advises. “Everyone is on their way back here to discuss our next steps.”

“And they’re hungry like the wolf?” Stiles can’t help but question with a smile pulling at his lips.

Derek grumbles something under his breath that Stiles doesn’t catch, so he chooses to think it’s appreciation for his incredible sense of humor and sets to work whisking eggs for his batter. Shortly later, Derek comes wandering into the kitchen and stands off to the side, watching Stiles work.

“You could at least do the dishes,” Stiles comments, trying to get Derek out of his corner and into some semblance of normal human interaction. Derek sighs but steps forward, standing at the sink and beginning to rinse out the mixing bowls Stiles has finished with.

“Peter told me about the nemeton,” Derek says without preamble.

Stiles blanches. “I would have told you about that myself,” he promises. “But then everything with Asag happened, and also I may have thought I was going crazy because of the hallucinations at first.” He rushes the words out, afraid Derek will think he was withholding the information for nefarious purposes if he doesn’t explain quickly enough.

“Tell me about it now,” Derek suggests, watching Stiles flip pancakes from the corner of his eye.

“Can I just wait until everyone’s here so I don’t have to repeat the story a thousand times?” Stiles asks, voice exhausted and eyes fixed on the stove.

“Okay,” Derek says softly, sympathetic.

Stiles smiles and cuts off a piece of pancake with the end of his spatula, spearing it with a nearby fork and holding it out to Derek. “A token of my gratitude,” he declares.

Derek stares at the bite of pancake held out before him, the ridiculousness of his situation setting in more than ever. It occurs to him that Stiles has been a sort of unofficial pack mom even before technically joining the Hale pack; he’s the one who fusses over wounds and schoolwork, making sure everyone is okay when Derek just makes sure they’re alive. The realization makes Stiles’ offer of food to the alpha a little too reminiscent of mating rituals for his comfort, but he opens his mouth and takes the bite anyway, because what harm could it do? He’s the only one here who knows what it could mean with the right intent, and he feels like he might as well take what he can get for once. Stiles grins as Derek hums his approval around the fork, and the two of them go on working side-by-side in companionable silence.

As Stiles is pulling his last pancake off the griddle, he hears the loft door open and the rest of the pack spills in. He doesn’t miss the fact that they all show up exactly when there’s nothing left in the kitchen for them to do (other than eat), but he’s in a good mood from his nap, so he chooses not to call them out on it.

When they move back to the living room to eat, Derek sits in his armchair and watches as his pack shifts over to make room for Stiles on the couch, leaving Jackson, Boyd, and Isaac all on the floor. Malia starts to comment, no doubt something about Stiles being promoted within the ranks while she was gone, but Lydia elbows her in the ribs over the arm of the couch and shushes her. Derek sees Lydia mouth the word later at Malia before she agrees to be silent.

Stiles, thankfully, notices none of this, focusing only on his own breakfast as he thinks about what he’s going to say to the pack with regards to the spell he performed on the nemeton. Derek, however, looks at Peter with suspicion, because the bitten wolves shouldn’t even know proper pack etiquette unless he told them. Peter catches his eye across the room and leers.

Before Derek can do anything in response, Stiles is clearing his throat to speak. “So, I have something to tell you guys,” he starts, looking nervous.

“We already know,” Jackson interrupts, looking between Derek and Stiles meaningfully.

Derek growls at Jackson while Lydia turns to Malia. “Could you smack him for me? The super strength makes you a more effective punishment.” Before she has even finished speaking, Malia slaps Jackson upside the head. Stiles frowns at them all in confusion.

Erica laughs from her place in the kitchen, where she’s gone to make another cup of tea. She comes strolling back into the room so she won’t miss any more amusement, pouring her hot water over the tea leaves in the strainer.

“What are you doing?” Scott asks, craning his neck curiously to get a better look at the strainer.

“She’s making tea,” Stiles answers for her. “That’s how tea works,” he says, gesturing at the whole process.

“You drank the leaves, didn’t you?” Erica asks Scott, voice making it clear both that he’s an idiot and that she isn’t even the slightest bit surprised by this information.

Scott is preparing to defend himself when Derek flashes alpha eyes at his pack, forcing them to stop interrupting and let Stiles speak, which he does. By the time he’s finished explaining what he did to the nemeton, the majority of the room’s occupants are looking at him in shock.

Again, it’s Jackson who breaks the silence following the void left by Stiles’ finished story. “Honestly, all I can think about right now is how terrible her tea smells,” he says, looking at Erica.

Stiles looks to the rest of the pack, waiting for their response, but they just go on eating. “Well,” he says with finality, “I guess that’s settled, then.”

Malia speaks with her voice muffled by a mouthful of food. “We’ll deal with that after we eat,” she clarifies, eyes scarcely leaving her plate.

Jackson glares at Erica’s tea as though it has personally offended him, knocking into the mug in her hands and sloshing some of the hot liquid over her hands in the process. “How can you even eat with that smell ?”

“My magical tea can smell as awful as it wants, as long as it works,” Erica counters, taking a long sip and blowing the steam directly at Jackson when she finishes.

“Sounds like you could use some more of it, then,” he sneers, wrinkling his nose.

“I will literally bite your head off,” she threatens, baring her teeth at Jackson.

“Who knew bloodlust was a symptom of PMS?” He questions sardonically.

Lydia glares at Jackson with disapproval, but she doesn’t have time to scold him before Erica rounds on Jackson, face shifted and eyes bleeding alpha red.

Chapter Text

“Well,” Peter says, raising an eyebrow at Erica’s red eyes. “That’s not suspicious at all.” He moves to the table from where he had been standing beside the coffee pot, sniffing the air curiously.

“What the hell?” Erica exclaims, putting down the mug and looking down at herself as though she can see the change but finding nothing to explain her sudden rush of alpha power.

“Dude,” Scott starts, voice laced with wonder, “you’re a true alpha, too?”

“As it turns out,” Peter explains, sounding like a late-night ad for weight loss pills, “we can all be true alphas. You just need to believe hard enough, and brew strong enough.”

“What?” Scott looks just as confused as ever.

“It’s the tea, Scott,” Lydia sighs, motioning at Erica’s mug. She, Stiles, and Peter were the first ones to make the connection, but everyone else has caught up by now, knowing what this means for Scott. They wait for him to put the last remaining pieces together, but he just turns to Allison for reassurance, looking pitiful.

“If only Deaton had shared this little nugget of wisdom with me instead,” Peter muses, picking up Erica’s mug and bringing it to his face. “Things could have gone so differently.”

Lydia nudges Jackson’s ankle with her foot, and he leans across the table in a flash at her suggestion. As he goes to rip the mug from Peter’s hands, Jackson finds his own power used against him as Peter puts up no resistance. The tea goes flying out of the cup, spilling all over the floor, much to Derek’s chagrin.

Stiles shakes his head at Peter’s obvious response to the magical power tea. “Pretty sure that’s exactly why Deaton made sure to keep it from you,” he remarks, taking a mental inventory of how much tea there is and where, because this is bound to be a problem if he isn’t vigilant.

“But why do it at all?” Kira questions.

“That’s what we’re going to find out,” Derek says, standing and going for the door, one hand on Erica’s arm to settle her urge for physical proximity, remembering how strong his own had been when he first became an alpha. Without much of a pack to speak of, it had ended in him accosting teenagers, but Erica isn’t alone. Understanding without having to be told, Boyd moves to her side and Isaac rests a hand between her shoulderblades.

Erica relaxes some due to the lingering pack bond, but she knows it won’t last long if these new powers make her seek out betas. “Do you actually expect Deaton to give us a straight answer?” Erica asks, following Derek but not getting her hopes up for this excursion.

“He will,” Derek answers, thinking about all the problems having two alphas in Beacon Hills has caused. Just the memory of negotiating pack territory, Hale land , with Scott, still fills him with anger. “Deaton will explain this clearly and eloquently, for once in his life, or I’ll rip his throat out.” There is an edge to the words that Derek’s threats usually lack.

Scott, who has been sitting in stunned silence since Lydia spoke, forces himself back into the conversation now. “You’re right,” he says. “Not about ripping his throat out, obviously, but we should go ask Deaton to explain.” He looks to Allison beside him, as though for confirmation of his plan, and gets a small nod in response before turning back to Derek. “Maybe it’s not what we think,” Scott tries, barreling on despite dubious looks from just about everyone else in the room. “Maybe my true alpha thing, like, spread to Erica somehow?”

“Of course,” Peter deadpans, wiping tea off of his hands and onto Derek’s new placemats. “Because True Alpha is actually the newest STD sweeping the nation, infecting the youths.”

Scott looks rebuked, but his face remains set in a stubborn scowl. “Deaton must have had a reason,” he says.

“Yeah,” Jackson scoffs, getting up and crossing the room to stand between Stiles and Erica, “to distract us with all the alpha drama so he can keep controlling everything without getting his own hands dirty.”

Stiles looks at Jackson with approval. “Exactly,” he agrees. “I knew there was a reason I never trusted the guy.”

“Because he’s a dick?” Jackson offers.

Stiles grins. “You’re a dick and I trust you way more than I’d ever trust Deaton.”

Jackson rolls his eyes. “That’s like saying you’d rather walk on nails than glass.”

“Please,” Stiles huffs, “you’re all bark and no bite.” He gives Jackson a playful shove with his shoulder, which Jackson returns, intentionally not holding back his strength. Stiles stumbles back a little, and Derek growls at Jackson under his breath, glaring.

Jackson looks from Derek to Stiles and rolls his eyes. “Sorry, mom,” he quips, lips curling up at the way the tips of Derek’s ears go red.

Stiles’ expression in one of bewilderment, but he figures Jackson is just trying to get a rise out of him, so he doesn’t react. “But seriously,” he says, turning back to Erica, “what if this is permanent? Will we need to split up the pack again?” He looks to Derek with concern at the latter question.

“I get Erica!” Malia announces, as though choosing her alpha is like calling shotgun on a road trip. At a hurt look from Scott, she shrugs. “Erica’s fun.”

Erica shoots Malia a predatory grin. “Hell yeah I am,” she agrees.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” Stiles interrupts, trying not to be too amused by Malia’s approach to pack dynamics. “Do you feel compelled to turn a ragtag group of teenagers into your betas?” He directs the question to Erica but still enjoys the slight twitch of annoyance he catches from Derek in his periphery.

Erica takes a second to consider her impulses. They don’t feel any more dangerous than usual. “Not really,” she answers.

“Not yet,” Peter interjects.

“Helpful,” Isaac comments.

Derek opens the door and gestures everyone out. “We’re getting answers. Now.”


 

Stiles leads the way into Deaton’s office, walking past all the vet’s wards without difficulty. As he notices mountain ash lines and suspicious runes, he smudges them all with the toe of his shoe, finally making it all the way to the rowan gate separating the main office area from the back. This he simply lifts and allows everyone to pass through.

As if on cue, Deaton emerges from the back room, wiping his hands on a washcloth and approaching the group with his usual inscrutable look. “Scott, Derek,” he greets. “What brings your packs here today?”

Derek doesn’t respond, just lunges forward and slams Deaton into the wall. Deaton, for his part, doesn’t display any outward signs of fear, just raises his brows in surprise. “What did you do?” Derek growls.

“I’m afraid I’ll need more to go on than that,” Deaton answers, voice still calm.

Erica flashes her now red eyes at him and throws the bag of tea in his face, where it bounces off before collapsing into a heap on the floor. Deaton looks down at it slowly, then back up to Erica’s eyes and finally to Scott.

One look from Deaton tells Scott all he needs to know, finally allowing the truth of his situation to sink in. “I’m not a true alpha?” His voice comes out sad and small, puppy face out in full force.

Deaton hesitates for a beat. “You’re more of an artificial alpha,” he admits, which only makes Derek’s grip on him tighten.

Stiles appears at Derek’s side, placing a hand on his bicep. “Don’t kill him or anything,” he instructs. “We came here for an explanation.” He waves a hand at Deaton, wanting him to get on with it already. Derek nods and turns his alpha eyes on Deaton, glaring until he starts to explain.

“True alphas are something of a myth,” the Druid says. “A fairy tale told to the children of a wolf pack, really, to keep them in line. The basic idea is that anyone can have the power of an alpha, and all they have to do is be worthy.”

“Okay, so you turned Scott into, what, a mall Santa? He’s just filling in until the big guy gets back from the North Pole?” Stiles is beginning to see where this is going, and he isn’t about to let it go. “Tell us what exactly your tea did to them,” he demands, pointing at Scott and Erica.

Deaton gives a slight nod. “The magic of the tea changes a beta’s chemical make up.”

“But what’s the point?” Stiles asks, reminding himself that punching Deaton won’t actually solve anything, satisfying as it might sound.

“To control the pack population in Beacon Hills,” he states simply, refusing to let the pack’s heavy handed tactics rattle him.

“Pack population,” Peter says skeptically, forcing himself to the front of the group, murder in his eyes, “has never been a problem in Beacon Hills. Or have you forgotten the fire that almost left this territory with no pack at all?” Stiles watches Peter carefully as he speaks, and though his eyes remain their steady human color, Stiles notices Peter’s claws descend slowly, ready to maul.

Derek must see the same thing, because he loosens his hold on the emissary to step into Peter’s warpath, still growling at Deaton to just get on with it already.

“The Hale pack was strong and established,” Deaton allows, “but their renown made them vulnerable, and ultimately it was their undoing.”

Derek steps forward at that, and Peter’s eyes go ice blue. Stiles puts a hand on Derek’s forearm, stopping him, and Lydia shakes her head almost imperceptibly at Peter, but it’s reminder enough that they still need Deaton alive and capable of speech. For now.

“That’s some pretty serious victim-blaming,” Stiles says, voice hard. “Also a great attempt to distract us from the fact that you’re going around turning people into alphas .” He jabs a finger at Deaton’s chest in accusation.

“I was doing what was right for the territory, as Druids have done for centuries,” Deaton replies, and his calm tone only serves to irritate everyone further.

“What does that even mean ?” Erica snaps, moving in Deaton’s direction herself now.

Deaton allows for a suitably dramatic pause before answering. “Derek was never meant to be an alpha,” he begins.

“Hey!” Stiles interrupts. “He got way better,” he says, leaning his side against Derek in solidarity for a second.

“Perhaps,” Deaton admits, tilting his head to meet Derek’s eyes. “But the fact remains that you were always meant to be a beta, not an alpha. In Talia’s absence, Laura was the one who should have taken on that role.”

“She did,” Derek snarls, and Stiles grips his arm harder, grounding him in the here and now so he won’t snap at Deaton.

“What does this have to do with Scott?” Kira asks in an attempt to diffuse the tension mounting in the room.

“My first impressions of Derek as an alpha,” Deaton explains, “were underwhelming, to say the least. His leadership skills didn’t seem to improve much beyond that point in the ensuing weeks, either.” He doesn’t even look vaguely apologetic as he speaks, which infuriates Stiles.

Derek averts his eyes from everyone, and Stiles can’t even speak past the haze of rage. Because at least Derek had tried to do what was right, which was more than could be said of most people thrown into positions of power like that.

Before Stiles can even form a coherent defense of Derek, Isaac does it for him. “You could have helped him,” Isaac cuts in sharply, shaking with the frustration he feels over the pack bond. “Instead of watching him fail, you could have actually done something.”

“Yeah,” Erica agrees. “What did you expect him to do? You literally just said he wasn’t supposed to be alpha, and then you were surprised he didn’t figure it out on his own? That’s bullshit.”

“What happened wasn’t his fault,” Boyd summarizes, his stare cold.

Derek glances back up, his face passive but lacking the weariness it had carried at Deaton’s words. Stiles can’t bite his tongue any longer. “You didn’t give him enough time,” he says. “It’s like getting a new job, but no one trained him. That’s not how life works.” The mention of training reminds Stiles of Peter’s words with regards to his own magic, and he hates knowing Peter is right. Derek shouldn’t have had to be an alpha without guidance, and Stiles shouldn’t do it with his magic either. Still, the prospect of having Peter as a teacher leads Stiles to understand why Derek never went to Deaton for help. There are just some people you don’t want to find yourself indebted to.

Lydia has been assessing this situation carefully, and now she narrows her eyes at Deaton. “As emissary to the Hale pack,” she begins carefully, “aren’t you required to give advice to the alpha?”

“Instead of pumping a teenager full of steroids and hoping for the best,” Peter adds with venom.

“I’m not emissary to the Hale pack,” Deaton says. At the confused looks that gets him, he goes on. “I haven’t been acting as emissary since Talia died.”

“Shocking,” Jackson says flatly.

Deaton ignores this comment, continuing. “With the balance thrown into disarray, my responsibilities as a Druid came before those of emissary. Ultimately, my duty is to the territory itself, not to the pack that resides within it.”

“So you’d rather keep the balance than keep people alive?” Stiles accuses, glaring at Deaton and offended on Derek’s behalf.

“We all have our parts to play,” Deaton says in response, and Stiles has to refrain himself from screaming at the man to just talk like a normal human for once in his life.

“What was Scott’s part?” Derek asks, still looking angry but also somewhat resigned to the fact that Deaton will never think him a worthy alpha. On most days, he still isn’t sure of that himself.

“To restore the balance,” Deaton answers. “Scott was the best option, not only because he was trusting and amicable, but because I knew him before he was bitten and had access to him through work.”

“That sounds really predatory,” Stiles points out.

“And not in the fun way,” Erica clarifies.

“It also doesn’t help with the fact that he’s a terrible leader,” Jackson throws in.

Deaton gives Jackson the slightest tilt of his head in response, as though acknowledging the truth of his statement. “That fact of the matter is that everyone being bitten was a teenager,” he says, looking pointedly at Peter, who shrugs, and Derek, who maintains his stony expression. “I thought they would be more likely to listen to Scott than an unknown adult,” he adds, glancing at Derek again.

“That’s rich, coming from the least trustworthy adult I know,” Stiles comments. “And I know Peter ,” he adds, pointing a finger for emphasis. Peter looks rather pleased to be included.

“Still,” Deaton goes on, pretending not to notice the jab at his character, “I hoped you would flock to Scott’s leadership, and that Derek would accept a position as second-in-command, as was his destiny.”

Malia makes a sound of contempt. “Scott isn’t a leader.”

“Hey!” Scott exclaims, genuinely offended despite the fact that they now have irrefutable proof he was never meant to be leading them in the first place.

“That’s not true, Malia,” Erica corrects. At a grateful smile from Scott, she smirks. “We just like Derek better.”

Scott makes a face like a kicked puppy, and Erica laughs.

“This dynamic is not unlike the one I initially planned for,” Deaton observes. “But you chose to follow Derek instead.” He looks curious, but he is unwilling to ask the group for their motivations.

Jackson saves him the trouble by sneering, “Why would we go with the one with the least experience? I’d rather have someone who knows what they’re doing.”

“Ew,” Stiles says, feeling like he’s learned far too much about Jackson from that simple statement. Lydia raises an eyebrow and tamps down a smile.

“Regardless,” Deaton finishes, not giving their exchange a moment’s notice, “that’s why I gave the tea to Scott, rather than continuing to support Derek after his mistakes.”

“Where did you even get that stuff?” Stiles questions, because if there’s tea out there that can turn any wolf into an alpha at any moment, he’s pretty sure they should be aware of it.

“How many other packs have you poisoned with this true alpha myth?” Peter asks, coming to his own conclusions about the Druid emissaries so prevalent in pack hierarchy now.

“That’s a long and complicated history you’re asking me to unravel,” he responds.

“Give us the CliffsNotes,” Stiles orders.

Deaton straightens out his shirt from where Derek had gripped it before explaining. “For centuries, Druids were the only ones making sure the scales didn’t tip too heavily in either direction, maintaining the natural order of things. Sometimes that had to be done through unnatural means, as with the true alpha myth. We only seek to stabilize and maintain the pack population.”

Peter mutters something about domesticated animals under his breath, and the rest of the pack looks just as irritated by this explanation as he is.

“This doesn’t tell us where you get the tea,” Stiles prompts. “Though maybe it’s not the best time to tell us,” he reconsiders, looking across to Peter.

“I can’t tell you that,” Deaton replies. “We only resort to this particular magic when an alpha is deemed unfit for their role, and it’s one of the best-kept secrets in the supernatural community.”

“So you told a bunch of teenagers about it,” Peter summarizes.

“You would have found out,” he answers, looking from Peter to Stiles and Lydia, any of whom could have put the pieces together individually, never mind what they can accomplish working together.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t just help Derek instead,” Isaac interrupts. “This seems like way more of a hassle,” he says, gesturing at their current situation.

“He thought I couldn’t do it,” Derek concludes, quiet. His eyes are downcast, and the room can practically feel him reliving his failures.

“He was wrong,” Stiles says, hand going back to Derek’s shoulder on instinct.

“About you and about McCall,” Jackson adds, somehow managing to be both sincere and rude in the same breath.

“Perhaps,” Deaton allows, rounding on Scott now. “You were never supposed to share that tea, with anyone. I told you it was specifically designed for your chemical make-up, so that–”

“So no one would know the truth?” Scott finishes for him, finally beginning to understand just how much he doesn’t know about his boss.

Deaton doesn’t even have the decency to look apologetic, so Scott flashes alpha red eyes at him, face full of hurt. “Do you even know what I’ve been through? All the fights I’ve had with Derek, angry with him because he was another alpha encroaching on my territory when all along I was the phony? Do you realize how many times I disregarded Derek’s opinion when he disagreed with me just because I was the True Alpha?” His voice gets louder and louder as he goes on, reaching a frantic pace by the end of his rant. Derek can sense how genuine he is and smell the salt in the air as Scott’s eyes become teary.

Allison puts a tentative hand on Scott’s arm, and he looks down to give her a watery smile. “Sorry,” he says, collecting himself and looking first at Stiles, and then Derek. “I’m really sorry.” He faces Deaton next, saying, “You’re going to fix this.”

“That includes me, just so we’re clear,” Erica chimes in, flashing her red eyes again for emphasis.

“Of course,” Deaton responds. “This was never my intention; I meant only to do what was right.”

Peter glares. “But you don’t actually care what’s right, do you? Not as long as everything is in balance,” he sneers.

“What did you even think would happen?” Lydia asks, still unwilling to buy into Deaton’s story. “You’d known Scott for years from his work in your office; you should have better judgment, considering your lines of work.”

“I had to work with what I was given,” Deaton answers, not bothering to defend Scott’s supposed leadership skills.

Stiles, who has been silent and listening closely to all of Deaton’s poor attempts to justify his own actions, thinks about that last statement. Deaton doesn’t seem the type to work with what he’s given without considering his options, so he must really not have believed in Derek. This upsets Stiles more than it probably should, considering he’s well aware of Derek’s track record when it comes to decision-making.

But that isn’t why the expression sticks out to him. No, it’s more about the fact that Stiles also had to work with what he was given, when he set out to perform the cleansing ritual. And as it turns out, that may not always be the best course of action.

Peter’s right. What happened with Asag, what’s still happening with the visions, must all be connected to the spell. And if Peter is right, then Deaton must have known this could happen. “Nemeton,” he hisses, furious, exchanging a look with Peter and not bothering to form a coherent sentence. Deaton knows what he did.

“Stiles?” Derek asks, concern in his voice at the frenetic beat of Stiles’ heart.

“I came to you for help ,” Stiles accuses, not taking his eyes off of Deaton as he speaks. “You looked at the ritual yourself, and you said it was fine! You saw everything, and we came to you again about Asag. You must have known. You must have.” He’s practically shaking with rage by the time he finishes speaking.

Deaton absorbs all of this information in silence, waiting calmly for Stiles to finish before responding, tone passive. “You asked if the spell seemed accurate, and I said it was,” he answers.

“But you didn’t say it would cause any of this!” Stiles shouts.

“Honestly,” Deaton admits, tilting his head at Stiles and raising his eyebrows in a calculating manner. “I didn’t expect you to successfully complete the spell. I’m genuinely surprised that you were able to cleanse the nemeton without any traditional magic training.”

Stiles sputters, because Deaton somehow managed to insult him while still sounding like a pretentious douche. He has no words.

Derek steps forward now, voice low and menacing. “So what you’re telling me is that Stiles came to you with incredibly potent magic, and you sent him on his way without so much as a warning to back off because you thought he wasn’t powerful enough to complete the spell successfully? What would have happened if the spell backfired and lashed out against him? Did you even mention that possibility to Stiles?” Derek’s voice gets louder and louder as he talks, eyes flashing when he sees Stiles’s pale face, evidence enough that Deaton told him nothing of the potential dangers.

Try as he might, Derek can’t quite push that thought aside. The idea that Stiles could have lost his life to some magical accident while working in secret to protect the pack; it’s too much. Not only would Derek have been ignorant of Stiles’ actions and unable to protect him, but he would have remained in the dark about his feelings for Stiles as well. And maybe that would be better in a way, to lose something without ever knowing what it could have been, but he wouldn’t trade this knowledge for anything, no matter how uncomfortable and awkward it makes him. There’s something so peacefully normal about being teased about his feelings by a pack who cares about him that it barely matters how oblivious Stiles remains. Not as long as he’s alive.

Still, Derek can’t help but think about all the things he didn’t know about his previous entanglements. His efforts to be happy have a terrible track record of ending in death and destruction, so it must be in everyone’s best interests for him to push this down and lock it away with the rest of his innumerable shortcomings.

In response to Derek’s concern, the rest of the pack has unconsciously inched closer to Stiles, which isn’t too much of a problem until Stiles and Derek both notice Peter encroaching upon their space.

That’s the last strike for Derek, seeing his formerly dead and murderous uncle move in to protect Stiles when his own supposed emissary couldn’t be bothered to show a shred of concern. He pulls back, readying to strike Deaton just to release some of his pent up anger lest it all rush out in an uncontrolled shift.

To his surprise, Malia rushes past Derek before he has a chance to so much as lay a claw on the vet, slamming him forcefully into the wall. She digs her claws into the meat of his shoulder, relishing the spike of pain and the scent of blood she gets in response.

As Malia holds Deaton in place, Stiles comes forward, face twisted in fury. “I could have died,” he summarizes, cold, “and you were just humoring me?” He clenches his fists at his sides, and Malia digs her claws further into Deaton’s shoulder, channelling Stiles’ anger. “Asag put my dad in the hospital; he could have died! And I’ve been seeing things that aren’t there, thinking I’m going fucking crazy again, and you couldn’t be bothered to tell me what was happening?” His voice edges on hysterics by the end, words full of frustration and pent-up fear. “You pretentious bag of dicks!” Stiles exclaims. “You could have gotten the whole town killed, and I feel like that’s the sort of thing that would ‘upset the balance,’” he bites out.

Stiles moves closer to Deaton as he speaks, not quite sure if he plans to hit him or shake some sense into him, but either way he doesn’t get far before Derek is pulling him back.

Derek, for his part, can’t help but to keep himself planted firmly between Stiles and Deaton, his wolf howling to keep his mate away from the threat. He twists his body, pushing Stiles behind him and out of the way even as Stiles continues to lean around him, firing off angry words and gestures in Deaton’s direction even as he allows Derek to move him.

“I can’t believe anyone ever let you be their emissary,” Stiles calls from behind Derek’s back, pressing forward and feeling the hem of his shirt ride up with his motions.

Jackson catches a glimpse of the pale flesh of Stiles’ side and steps forward. “What the hell?” He questions, grabbing Stiles away from Derek.

Stiles groans. “Can I maybe get you all to stop using your super strength on me? It’s kind of rude.” He tries to shove Jackson’s hands away from him.

Derek, who was fully prepared to go alpha in order to get Jackson’s hands off of Stiles, catches sight of Stiles’ marred flesh. His protests die in his throat as Jackson rucks Stiles’ shirt up higher to reveal an intricate pattern of spiderweb shaped markings making their way across Stiles’ torso, some veins seeming to throb with the weight of the darkness they hold.

“What’s wrong with him?” Scott asks, taking an instinctive step forward and then back, as though unsure if it’s more important to help or to get out of the danger zone.

“Wait,” Stiles says, momentarily perplexed. “You can actually see these?” He wraps an arm around his abdomen, fingers trailing one of the webbed markings at his side.

“You thought it was another hallucination, like the visions,” Derek concludes.

Stiles nods. “Nothing else was real, so I figured,” he shrugs. “I don’t know. Why should this be?”

Deaton steps out of a shadow, and Stiles seriously considers asking if he did light magic to manage that, because the guy has barely moved this whole time. “I feared something like this might happen,” Deaton says, and Stiles abruptly loses all interest in talking to him.

Malia snarls and rips her claws from Deaton’s shoulder, fully prepared to rake them across his throat at this point. Scott shoves her back, getting in a protective stance before Deaton and flashing his eyes to get her to stand down.

Much to Scott’s surprise, she doesn’t obey him, just bares her teeth and grapples with him until she’s nearly able to reach Deaton again. Scott goes slack-jawed, completely thrown by the fact that one of his betas is so blatantly disregarding his alpha-infused command.

Derek steps in then, calling for Malia to move off of Deaton and flashing his own red eyes at her. Malia grumbles but forces her claws to retreat, dropping her grip on Deaton’s shirt and stepping away, her face filled with contempt.

Peter grins at Malia’s violence, the expression only intensifying when she ignores her own alpha’s commands. “I’m so proud,” he says, holding a hand over his heart–or at least the space where his heart would be if he had one.

Malia stomps past him, still irritated, and moves beside Kira, pressing their arms together and leaning her head on her shoulder, tired now. She maintains the energy needed to glare, alternating the look between Deaton and Peter.

“Why didn’t she stop when I told her to?” Scott wonders aloud, looking around the room for answers.

“My inner coyote knows you’re a fraud,” Malia spits. “It feels betrayed.”

“But it’s not my fault,” Scott complains, gesturing at Deaton as if to point out the true culprit with a pout. “But I’m still your alpha, aren’t I?”

“Not for long,” Peter answers, his eyes alight with amusement at Scott’s ‘true alpha’ plight.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Scott asks, looking from Peter to Malia warily.

“My spawn and I aren’t big fans of obeying pack hierarchy, as a general rule,” he explains, smirking at both Malia and Scott. “I’m sure Derek would be more than happy to fill you in on his own difficulties with regards to holding on to his alpha status.” He lifts a challenging eyebrow at Derek, who glares.

“Derek?” Scott queries, face filled with confusion.

“For a pack to stay together, the betas need to either submit to the alpha willingly or be forced to submit through fear,” Derek explains, sounding tired.

“Obviously I don’t fall into either category,” Peter clarifies, making sure the room knows how laughable the idea of his willing submission is. “Which brings us to the strongest way to cement pack bonds: Blood relation. Derek here gets to keep me in his pack on nothing more than winning the genetic lottery.”

“Lucky me,” Derek deadpans.

“What does this have to do with Malia?” Scott asks, still not fully understanding.

“Peter is my biological father,” she says, pointing from Peter to her cousin, “and he’s in Derek’s pack.”

“But you agreed to be in my pack,” Scott states, like saying the words will keep her loyal to him despite his lack of alpha ability.

“An alpha should show strength and superiority,” Peter says with obvious condescension, stepping closer to Malia. “And you have neither. Now that Malia’s inner coyote knows that for a fact, your bond is weakening by the minute.”

Scott’s face drops, his hands hanging limply at his sides as he considers this. “It doesn’t feel any different to me,” he says.

“You were never able to fully tap into the pack bond,” Derek reminds him.

“Scott?” Kira interrupts gently, placing a careful hand on his wrist. When he turns to her, she meets his eyes and says, “I can feel the bond weakening, just like Peter said.”

Scott’s eyes widen. “You too?” He spins to face Allison, face pleading.

Allison shrugs in response. “I could never feel the pack bond in the first place,” she admits. “Humans usually can’t.”

Scott seems simultaneously relieved and saddened by this information, but he simply nods in response, trying not to dwell on it too much.

Mostly ignoring Scott’s dilemma, Derek crosses the room to Stiles and crouches to take a closer look at his stomach and side. As he does so, his hand brushes softly against the sensitive skin there, sending a shiver through Stiles even as he’s thrown into the midst of a vision.

Stiles, who at the first touch had looked down at Derek, fully prepared to offer some snarky comment about personal space or buying him dinner first (he hadn’t quite decided), gasps instead. He clenches his eyes shut to drown out the flashes of violence he sees; creatures he recognizes from research as wendigos plague Beacon Hills, rending flesh from bone of innocent townspeople.

Even though Stiles knows this is just a vision, having had more than enough of them to be familiar with their basic format by this point, he can’t help but react to the gruesome scene. He stumbles back, on the verge of hyperventilating, and finds himself bumping into a solid chest and strong arms.

He turns into the arms steadying him automatically, burying his face in the soft fabric of an overpriced shirt and expensive cologne. Too late, he recognizes that he’s sought comfort from Jackson of all people in his blind panic, but he’s not quite prepared to move away yet. He may be human, but his instincts still tell him that pack is safe, and he needs that sense of safety right now.

“It was just Derek,” Jackson offers awkwardly, hands poised as if to pat Stiles’ back but not quite making contact. “You’re okay,” he adds, unsure of what else to say in this situation.

Derek looks on, feeling like somehow he’s the one who caused Stiles to be in this state despite knowing it was just a vision. He frowns and steps away, letting Jackson fumble through the motions of calming Stiles from his panic, wanting to avoid somehow making things worse with his presence.

Lydia appears at Derek’s side then, watching him expectantly. “It was a vision,” she says, matter-of-fact, waiting for the crease between Derek’s eyebrows to smooth out before moving to Stiles. Once there, she presses a hand to either side of his face, turning his head and forcing him to meet her eyes. “Focus, Stiles,” she instructs. “Tell us what you saw.”

Once Lydia has forcibly raised his gaze, Stiles’ eyes automatically seek out Derek, making sure the alpha looks like himself and not a gateway to their bloody, wendigo-infested future. Feeling lost but somehow comforted by Derek’s usual stoic look, Stiles whispers, “Wendigo.”

Brow furrowed, Derek puts a tentative hand on Stiles’ shoulder but turns to Deaton for an explanation. “We got rid of Asag,” he says. “Why is this still happening?”

“Asag wasn’t the cause of the visions,” Deaton tells them. “He was merely a symptom.”

“A symptom of what ?” Derek growls, claws extending in his frustration with Deaton’s half-answers.

“I noticed something about the spell Stiles brought to  me,” he begins.

“You told me it was right!” Stiles shouts, throwing his hands in the air.

“And it was,” Deaton says. “But it was incomplete.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles groans. “What is it with you and technicalities? You knew it was missing something, and you let me do it anyway because I didn’t ask you the right question?” His voice gets angrier and he stalks towards Deaton, trying (and failing) to push past Derek and get at the Druid.

“Tell us what was wrong so we can fix it,” Derek orders, holding Stiles behind him while getting in Deaton’s face.

Deaton nods sagely, like telling them how to fix the problem has been his goal this whole time. “The spell Stiles found didn’t mention that the spellcaster needs a container for the negative magical energy, presumably because it was meant to be used by experienced magicians who would never think to perform it without one.”

“Well excuse me for missing my admission letter to Hogwarts,” Stiles mutters, even more annoyed now that Deaton is belittling him for doing powerful magic without any actual training. He feels like everyone should at least be mildly impressed, but instead they mostly seem judgmental.

“Why didn’t you just tell him?” Erica demands of Deaton, eyes going red again.

“I didn’t expect it to be a problem,” he answers, “as I assumed Stiles’ magic wasn’t powerful enough for him to successfully carry out the spell.”

Stiles scoffs, honestly kind of offended before a thought occurs to him. “Wait!” He interjects, “You sent me to the magic grocery store to get everything I needed. Why would you do that if you thought I was going to fail?”

Allison, who has been sitting off to the side and observing the conversation, answers for Deaton, her voice quiet but firm. “Because he wanted to see what would happen if you pulled it off.” She looks to the side, drawing upon memories of what she’s learned from the Argents’ files. “Everything I’ve read says the same thing about Druids, that they have to gauge any and all potential threats in their designated area so they can maintain the balance. They need to be in tune with anything and anyone linked to the supernatural, so they can make the right decisions,” she explains. “Apparently, that includes Stiles.”

Erica, full of near-homicidal rage again, has to consciously stop herself from lashing out against Deaton. “So, what? Stiles was just a tool for you to figure out where he fit? He was your puppet?” She spits the words, outraged that Deaton would treat Stiles as anything less than a friend and valuable asset to them all.

Stiles whimpers involuntarily at Erica’s words, the implications far too reminiscent of his time with the nogitsune for his liking.

Deaton calmly absorbs Allison’s words and Erica’s ire, waiting for them to finish before explaining himself. “As Allison said,” he begins, “it is my responsibility as a Druid to ensure–”

Growling, Derek interrupts Deaton. “I don’t care what you were trying to do, or why,” he hisses. “Just tell us what’s going on with Stiles and how we can fix it.”

As the pack grows collectively more impatient with Deaton, Stiles looks across the room to Peter, remembering their conversation about where the evil from the nemeton went. Stiles’ eyes widen as he realizes what happened when he performed the spell.

Peter glares at Deaton when he begins to speak, silencing him before saying, “Stiles never found out he needed a magical vessel to store the nemeton’s darkness.”

At a searching look from Derek, Stiles fills in the blanks for the rest of the pack. “It used me,” he whispers, clearing his throat to regain his voice. “It had nowhere else to go, so it used me.” He looks down, scuffing his shoe against the ground in defeat. “I should have known better,” he says. “I can’t believe I was stupid enough to think I could actually fix anything in this town,” he goes on, forcing a laugh.

Most of the pack gives Stiles worried looks at that; Jackson, in contrast, slaps him upside the head without so much as making eye contact. Stiles makes a surprised sound and glares at him.

Lydia nods at Jackson in approval, having been about to do the same thing herself. “This isn’t your fault,” she says. “It’s his.” She points an accusatory finger at Deaton.

“What does that mean, though?” Kira asks, once again trying to get everyone back on track so they’ll stop fighting. “What did the nemeton do to Stiles?”

“It infused him with it’s negative energy,” Deaton answers, still refusing to acknowledge the pack’s anger with him. “All the nemeton’s dark power flowed into Stiles, as he was the only magical vessel available when he forced it from the tree.”

“So he’s possessed again?” Scott questions, fear and pity competing as the primary emotions on his face.

Malia slaps Scott on the back of the head now, not because she knows that he’s wrong but because she senses the immediate spike of terror and dread that his question sends through Stiles.

Deaton shakes his head. “No, the energy isn’t so much a conscious entity as a wellspring of power that needs to be stored within something even more powerful than itself.”

“But Stiles isn’t stronger than the nemeton,” Lydia observes.

“And therein lies the problem,” Deaton agrees. “With so much darkness concentrated inside of him, Stiles is effectively rotting from the inside out. His spark is the only reason he’s survived it this long, and it can’t combat power of this magnitude for long.”

“That’s why Asag was after Stiles,” Lydia realizes. “Not for his spark, like Deaton wanted us to think, but for the raw power Stiles drained from the nemeton.”

Deaton nods, hesitating for a moment before continuing. “As I said, the energy doesn’t possess consciousness, but it does call out to the supernatural, acting as source of power waiting to be utilized. It’s this energy that led to our town being called Beacon Hills in the first place, because the power has been here for centuries, though it wasn’t always evil.” He looks around to make sure the pack is paying attention, which of course they are . “All signs indicate that a coven tapped into its power to perform black magic, and their ill intent seeped into the very heart of the tree, making its energy eternally dark.”

“Can we skip the history lesson and get to the part where you tell me how to avoid dying?” Stiles interjects, voice taking on a manic edge.

Deaton takes no notice of Stiles’ interruption, moving forward with his explanation. “Now that it’s been removed from the nemeton, the energy has even more freedom to call out to supernatural creatures that can access its power. It would seem that Stiles’ spark, acting off of his own unconscious will, has been trying and failing to hold back the darkness. Once that became too much, it resorted to the visions to warn him of upcoming threats.” Looking at Stiles with a look bordering on awe, he summarizes, “Your magic is trying to protect you. I’m impressed it’s lasted this long without the nemeton’s energy overpowering it.”

Derek hones in on the implications of Deaton’s last words immediately. “What happens if it comes to that? If Stiles’ magic can’t fight it anymore?” He glances to Stiles, concern in his eyes.

“When that time comes,” Deaton clarifies, “the power will consume him fully, leaving pure negative energy in its wake. Stiles will simply cease to be, and the energy will find another magical host, repeating the cycle until its power has been exhausted.”

Stiles swallows. “How long do I have until then?”

Deaton looks at him now, face almost apologetic. “I don’t know,” he answers. “This is an unprecedented situation, but I can say that if you start seeing more of those webs on your skin, well, let’s say they aren’t a good sign. Those markings are the physical manifestation of the darkness beginning to consume you. However, I’m sure I can get more information if I contact some of my–”

Derek growls at Deaton, encroaching further upon his space. “No,” he barks. “You’re done here. You’re going to give us what we need to fix Scott and Erica, and then you’re leaving this territory. For good.” He glares, steeling himself for pushback from the pack, but even Scott doesn’t smell particularly disapproving.

Deaton stares at Derek in silence before speaking. “It would be unwise,” he advises, “for your pack to remain in a territory without a practiced magician, especially a territory as volatile as Beacon Hills.”

Without missing a beat, Derek says, “We have Stiles, and he’s been more helpful to us than you have ever been.”

“Stiles isn’t properly trained for such a responsibility,” Deaton points out. “He’ll need to be mentored before he can take on that role, though I suppose I could–”

This time, it’s Peter who cuts Deaton off mid-sentence. He steps forward, placing a hand on Stiles’ shoulder and smirking at Deaton. “Sorry, but that position has already been filled,” he jeers.

Derek turns to Peter, surprised, and stares him down before nodding. At this point, even Peter feels like a more reliable option than Deaton. At least they know what to expect of Peter.

Scott clenches his fists, not defending Deaton but still nowhere near ready to trust Peter after everything he’s put them through. “Why should we let you anywhere near Stiles and magic ?” He spits the last word like it’s a curse.

Peter tightens his grip on Stiles, curling his fingers around his shoulder more firmly. “I’ve always been invested in Stiles,” he replies coldly, “which is far more than you can say.”

Scott’s glare darkens but he turns to Stiles, trying to communicate his concerns through telepathy rather than risk Peter negating whatever he chooses to say.

Stiles meets his gaze before finally shrugging off Peter’s hand and giving Scott an unreadable look. “Better the devil you know,” he says. “Peter may be a creep, but he’s pack, and you trust pack, no matter what. Besides,” he adds, trying to lighten the mood, “when was the last time he actively tried to murder any of us?”

“Last Tuesday,” Peter answers, to which Stiles scoffs and waves him off.

“He’s obviously crazy,” Stiles admits, “and homicidal. But he’s been way less nefarious since he came back from the dead, and you have to give pack a chance to atone for their mistakes, right?” He cocks his head at Scott and shrugs. “So, yeah, I guess I do trust him with this.”

Derek senses that Peter is genuinely pleased with Stiles’ approval, though he knows his uncle would never deign to admit it. Instead, Peter just offers Stiles a predatory grin and returns his hand to his shoulder.

Stiles’ defense of Peter reminds Scott of his conversation with Allison, when he had admitted to still not fully trusting Stiles even after they vanquished the nogitsune. She had told him he was being unfair to Stiles, that he should have trusted him, not just as pack but as family. Seeing Stiles so willing to give Peter another chance makes Scott feel like he’s failed his best friend. Allison rolls to his side, knowing where his thoughts are headed, and squeezes his hand. Scott looks at Allison while replying to Stiles, saying, “Yeah, man, I get it.” Allison smiles at Scott, knowing he’s finally beginning to understand his mistakes.

Turning back towards Stiles, Scott scratches the back of his head sheepishly. “So, I was kind of a terrible alpha, huh?”

Stiles accepts the statement as the apology it is and has to hold himself back from hugging it out, because, despite everything, he’s really missed Scott. “I mean,” he offers, trying to soothe Scott without quite letting him off the hook, “You could have gone totally power hungry and bitten an asthmatic kid in the woods. So, like, it definitely could have been worse.” He gives Scott a small smile.

Scott returns the smile, and Peter shrugs even as his lips quirk up at the corners, because it’s not like Stiles is wrong.

Rounding on Deaton now, Scott marches up to him, nudging Derek out of the way. Derek allows himself to be moved and takes a single step back. “Please tell me there’s a cure for this alpha thing,” Scott pleads.

Deaton nods. “It will take me about three days to gather the necessary ingredients.”

Scott looks ready to agree, but Derek growls, “Twenty-four hours.”

Sighing at the demand, Deaton just nods again before returning to Scott. “You’ll be an omega,” he warns. “Unless you join Derek’s pack.”

Derek tenses up, remembering Scott’s reluctance to work with him, let alone join the pack. Scott forces a smile and says, “Yeah, I know.” Looking to Derek, he adds, “But we’ll figure it out. You know, the non-artificial way.”

“He means naturally,” Lydia mutters, one hand going to her head in disbelief.

Scott’s cheeks redden at Lydia’s correction, because he was honestly trying to be clever there. Lydia rolls her eyes in Stiles and Allison’s direction, sharing a fond look with them before asking the question they’ve all been unable to answer for ages now. “How did this moron ever get into AP bio?”

Chapter Text

“I suppose that settles that, then,” Deaton says. “If you’ll excuse me, it would appear I have some ingredients to track down within the next twenty-four hours,” he adds, looking to Derek archly.

“Keep an eye on him,” Derek instructs Isaac and Boyd, having absolutely no faith in Deaton’s trustworthiness now, if he ever did.

Isaac nods in response to the order, but Boyd asks, “How would we know if he messes with the cure somehow? We don’t know anything about potions.” He gives Derek a disbelieving look, as if to ask if he really forgot there’s only two people in the pack with any magical knowledge at all, and he and Isaac are definitely not among them.

“Because,” Peter answers, steamrolling over Derek’s attempt to respond, “Deaton will explain everything he’s doing, which you will write down and forward to me.” He looks at Deaton, threat clear in his expression, before returning to Boyd. “You will also photograph every ingredient, along with his description, and text it to me.” At Boyd’s raised eyebrow, he adds, “That way someone who knows what they’re doing can make sure no one’s going to keel over and die as a result of his suspicious liquids.”

“What if you’re the one who’s trying to poison us?” Isaac questions, more for the sake of riling Peter up than for any actual suspicion of him.

“Fair point,” Peter smirks. “But your other options are to trust that,” he adds, pointing to Deaton, “or accept that as an alpha,” he gestures to Erica this time, who is looking at her red eyes in a reflective picture frame on Deaton’s wall. Erica spins around, flips Peter off, and goes back to her alpha eyes, all in the span of a second.

Isaac laughs. “Fine, but then why can’t you just go with Deaton yourself, since you know so much about this stuff?”

“Priorities,” Peter answers. “While you’re on babysitting duty, I’ll be contacting my own sources to find a cure for that one,” he says, hooking a thumb over his shoulder at Stiles.

Boyd nods now, accepting Peter’s reasoning. He and Isaac move to either side of Deaton like prison guards, and Derek can’t help but smile at their desire to what’s best for the pack. “Come on,” he says, ushering everyone else out of the vet’s office, leaving Deaton, Isaac, and Boyd inside.

The second they’re out of Deaton’s sight and situated in the parking lot outside, Malia rushes to Stiles’ side, pulling his shirt up to get a closer look at the spiderweb patterns herself. Stiles sighs dramatically as he’s jerked to a stop, accepting that the pack manhandling him is apparently a thing now, trying to focus on annoyance with that instead of the fact that the markings are effectively a roadmap to his death.

Much like Peter, Malia’s eyes don’t flash when she catches sight of Stiles’ dark veins, but he feels her claws extend, scraping across his skin before she forces herself to retract them. Voice low, Malia threatens, “If you die, I’ll kill him.” Her words are laced with certainty, a promise more than a threat, “And Kira won’t be able to stop me.”

Kira, who had followed along with Malia silently, speaks up now, an unusual edge of steel in her tone. “No need,” she says, icy. “I’ll help you hide the body if it comes to that.”

Erica snorts with amusement, unable to take a potentially murderous Kira seriously. “Get in line,” she adds. “Because I’m calling dibs, as an alpha.”

Malia doesn’t so much as look at Erica, eyes still trained on Stiles and hands frozen in place where they grip the hem of his shirt. Stiles looks at her before glancing over her shoulder to where Derek stands, tense and still as he watches them.

Clearing his throat, Stiles grips Malia’s wrist and lowers her hands, allowing his shirt to fall back into place. “I’ll do my best to stay alive,” he vows. “It happens to be my very favorite state of being.” Looking to Peter, he throws in, “Plus, I feel like the whole zombie thing is really played out at this point.”

Ignoring his levity, Malia replies, “You have to live, because other than Kira, you’re the only person I care about.”

Overwhelmed with the emotion of that statement, Stiles doesn’t respond, just meets her eyes and nods. He’s always had certain misgivings about the depths of Malia’s feelings, considering how rushed their short relationship had been before it became too much for him, but he’s touched to know she still cares for him so much. He recognizes that pack probably shouldn’t have favorites, but still.

As if reading his mind, Jackson cuts in sarcastically, “The rest of us really appreciate the sentiment,” he says, waving a hand to encompass the rest of the group. Stiles has to bite back a smile at seeing the way Jackson is already referring to Malia as pack.

Stiles chuckles but maintains his focus on Malia. “I love you, too,” he says sincerely, because he does. He loves everyone in the ragtag team of misfits that is his pack.

At that, Malia sticks her tongue out at Jackson before flinging an arm over Stiles’ shoulders. “You should get Kira to love you too,” she suggests, making no attempt to mask her meaning, because at the very least it’ll annoy Derek, and that’s always fun. It’s in moments like this that she’s most certain Peter is her father.

As she predicted, Derek growls under his breath, and Stiles swears he can see a claw begin to protrude from his fingertip before it relents as quickly as it came.

To everyone’s surprise, Kira speaks up then. “I do love Stiles,” she says. “I could be persuaded, maybe,” she says, flushing slightly with the words.

Stiles blushes furiously, because he never agreed to this. This feels like the sort of thing a person would remember agreeing to. Also he really needs the pack to stop talking about his sex life, because this is getting ridiculous. Like, they all know he was with Malia at this point, but he never even thought of Kira like that; she’s more of the adorable little sister type. His brain short circuits just thinking about the possibility.

Stiles shakes his head to clear it as Derek makes another low, angry sound, and Erica wrinkles her nose. Stiles sees Peter whisper something, just low enough that only the wolves can hear him, and looks on in confusion as Derek and Scott frown while the others snicker.

“It’s moments like these I’m glad I don’t have a werewolf nose,” Lydia observes, looking to Malia, who seems lost in thought.

Stiles decides it would be better for his sanity if he didn’t dwell on the precise nature of those thoughts. Especially not while surrounded by werewolf noses, as Lydia so helpfully reminded him.

Malia mutters something about “the only reason he’d reject us” to Kira, which Stiles catches just the tail end of, seeing Malia look to Derek pointedly. Her lack of subtlety somehow still manages to be charming.

Catching Scott’s confused look, Stiles is just about to ask what Malia means by that, wondering why he and Scott seem to be the only ones out of the loop here, before Derek hurriedly moves the conversation forward.

“We need more information,” Derek begins. To Scott and Allison, he says, “Go to Chris; see what he can give you on the cleansing ritual and magical containers.”

“You can borrow my car,” Kira tells Scott, tossing him the keys. “That way you don’t have to wait for Chris to come get you; Allison’s chair will fit in my trunk.”

Scott nods his thanks, and he and Allison set off to the Argent house.

“We’re going back to the loft with you,” Malia says to Derek, vaguely indicating everyone but clearly focusing on Stiles and Kira.

“We’re going to get Danny,” Lydia announces, heading to Jackson’s car and not even looking to see if he’s following her. He does follow, though, looking rather pleased to finally include Danny in some official pack business.

“You’re replacing me as your research buddy?” Stiles asks, feigning offense. “I’m not even dead yet.”

Lydia rolls her eyes, spinning on her heels to face him. “My new ‘research buddy’ and I are going to make sure that doesn’t happen any time soon. We told him the truth; might as well make his skills useful.” To Derek, she says, “It’s about time he visited the loft anyway. We’ll bring him back with us.”

She wasn’t asking for permission, but Derek nods his consent anyway. Lydia smiles and tows Jackson away with her.

Stiles, Derek, Erica, Malia, and Kira all pile into the SUV then, Peter opting to run back to the loft rather than sit in a car filled with teenagers.

“Should we be concerned about that?” Stiles asks, motioning at Peter’s retreating back.

“I think he actually wants to help you,” Derek says, voice hesitant but oddly trusting.

“That’s still concerning,” Stiles adds, though Derek’s reassurance is nice to have. He doesn’t expect Peter to try to kill any of them or anything, at least not anytime soon, but it’s still unusual to see him so ready and willing to assist.


 

Once in the loft, Stiles sees Derek steering Erica off to the side. “I can help you adjust to the alpha power until we can get this figured out,” he suggests, careful not to phrase his offer as an order, knowing how strongly new alphas react to such treatment.

“Okay, good,” Erica says, “because I didn’t want to say anything in front of Deaton but I kind of really want to maim someone right now.” She shakes her head as if to clear it, and Stiles sees her eyes flash before she regains control.

“Oh, more than usual?” Stiles interrupts, because it’s Erica . He can’t help it.

To his surprise, she snarls at him, fangs bared, and wow. That’s not a good sign. Derek steps between the two of them automatically and waves Kira and Malia over to him while he gives Stiles a judgmental look. “You two should stay close by,” he instructs. “Proximity to the pack helps.” To Stiles, he adds, with his most judgmental eyebrows, “You should try not to provoke untrained alphas.”

Stiles shrugs. “You never seriously injured me when I provoked you .”

Derek slaps a hand over his face. “Can you at least try not to throw yourself into danger right now?”

“If you insist,” Stiles sighs, flopping down on the couch. “But this is way less fun.”

“So I’m in your pack?” Malia asks, wanting the clarification even as she feels the pack bond strengthening.

“By blood,” Derek answers. “Unless you reject the bond, it will be cemented within the hour.”

“I’d rather be a beta in your pack than a dead omega,” Malia says, which is as much of an endorsement as Derek expected.

“What about me?” Kira asks then. She felt her bond with Scott weaken, but it’s felt more like an untethered rope since, not snapping into place with Derek’s pack as Malia’s did.

“Erica, do you think of Kira as pack?” Derek redirects, drawing everyone’s attention to the way Erica’s face has relaxed from having them all around her in a safe place. She nods, fangs retreating and claws receding. Kira positively beams at them all.

“I should call my mom,” Kira says. “She might know where we can get a magical container to store the negative energy.” She steps off to the side politely, still within arm’s reach and earshot of Erica.

Stiles listens to Kira’s side of the conversation, which mostly consists of Kira explaining the problem, defending Stiles for his good intentions, and then making various affirmative noises as her mom talks.

He smiles at their interaction before slapping a hand to his forehead, remembering he left his phone up in Derek’s room when he fell asleep. “I have to call my dad,” he says by way of explanation, and Derek just waves him off, barely meeting his eyes. Stiles furrows his brows as he gets up and trudges toward the stairs, mind wandering from the odd interaction with Malia to Derek’s reactions. It felt too much like everyone knew something he didn’t, and Stiles hates that feeling. There’s something here; he’s sure of it, but he just doesn’t know what it is yet.

Before he can think much more on the topic, Peter comes in through the loft door and goes straight upstairs, paying the rest of them no mind. He mutters something about needing to go back to his own apartment for the rest of his books before he can get in touch with his contacts. Stiles, doing his best not to be suspicious of Peter’s willingness to help, follows him upstairs and veers off into Derek’s room for his phone.

He finds it charging on the nightstand, hazily remembering having plugged it in before he fell asleep. Rubbing a weary hand over his face, Stiles sits on Derek’s bed and unlocks his phone, finding one missed call from his dad already waiting for him. Thumbing through the rest of his notifications, he finds a text from his dad as well, reading So should I be thanking Derek with beer and burgers? Stiles is legitimately confused by this, because so much has happened in the last few days that he almost forgot Derek paid for their house . That gesture is still so overwhelming that Stiles has to set it aside right now, returning to his phone instead.

There, he also finds two texts from Scott. We shld ttly hang out, the first reads, and Stiles finds himself smiling at the terrible text speak for once. We need 2 tlk but when ur not dying , the second says, and Stiles laughs darkly at that, because it’s a little too accurate right now. But also, he thinks, when are any of them not in danger of dying at this point?

He puts the phone face down on the nightstand, laying back on Derek’s bed and focusing on his breathing. It takes him a minute to gather his thoughts, contemplating the fact that his body is apparently past its “Sell by” date. Expiration is imminent, and he’s not prepared for this.

Forcing himself to look around the room and think about anything else , Stiles notices the lack of decor, which is very Derek, and then takes in the unmade bed he fell into, which isn’t. Derek usually keeps the loft weirdly tidy, considering it’s most often occupied by teenaged werewolves. It takes him longer than it should to remember that he’s the one who left the bed so messy in the first place, having abandoned it with the covers all askew in his hurry to make food for everyone when he woke up.

Settling down on the bed more fully and nesting into the blankets, Stiles stares up at the ceiling and mentally thanks the universe for the existence of this one private space in the loft. He loves that he can relax here, that no one, pack or otherwise, is allowed in Derek’s room because it serves as his sanctuary from the rest of them. Stiles blinks once then, slowly, and thinks about that.

Derek uses this room as his safe space, where he can come to escape his unruly supernatural teenagers when they get to be too much. No one goes in Derek’s room. Well, except for maybe when he invites a woman over for sexy times, and Stiles isn’t going to think about that while he’s laying in Derek’s bed.

His brain speeds up then, thoughts sparking and careening off in all directions at once, because he’s in Derek’s bed . Honestly, Stiles isn’t sure if anyone gets into Derek’s bed, what with how territorial he can be, especially with the one area he tries to keep to himself.

But that begs the question: Why is Stiles allowed in here? Why would he be the one exception to Derek’s rule? He sits back up, looking at the bed as he thinks, one hand clutching the duvet for support.

Literally no one comes in here, except maybe people Derek has feelings for. Serious, usually tragic, feelings. And there’s no way Stiles falls into that category.

He stops to consider how readily Derek offered up his bed then, that Stiles had just fallen into it without thinking and returned for his phone just as casually. Derek hadn’t so much as warned him not to touch anything either time, letting him flow in and out of his space freely. The room must absolutely reek of Stiles by now, and Derek has to know that.

There’s no way he let Stiles up here without knowing it would tarnish the pure Derek scent of the room. It won’t even smell like pack, Stiles knows, because there’s apparently a noticeable difference between the smell of a specific pack member and that of the pack as a whole. The scents don’t blend properly until there are at least three pack members in the same area, which means the room won’t smell like pack, it will just smell like Stiles, at least according to a book Stiles found in one of Derek’s boxes.

And that’s another thing, which Stiles had thought was kind of weird at the time anyway. Derek had readily agreed to let Stiles paw through boxes of books salvaged from the Hale house, as well as even more he found in storage, and Stiles hadn’t even wanted to do it at first. He was terrified they still held the smell of Derek’s family, and he couldn’t bear to overwrite their scents, but Derek had insisted. He said the scent was gone, that the information the texts contained was more valuable than sentiment anyway, but still Stiles had hesitated. It wasn’t until Derek physically put a book in his hands that Stiles relented.

Feeling like maybe this all does mean something after all, Stiles tries to think of other times he’s been treated differently from the rest of the pack. It doesn’t take him long to arrive at the exchange he had with Malia and Kira in the parking lot, how Derek had looked even grumpier than usual for some reason. Then Malia had said something about the only reason Stiles would reject her, which he had been too exhausted to parse at the time, but…

Malia had looked at Derek when she spoke. And then he had changed the subject, Stiles’ weary mind too lethargic to even realize Derek was trying to derail the conversation for some reason.

Jackson had called him mom. And he had looked at the two of them like he knew something Stiles didn’t, his usual cockiness irritating Stiles enough that he almost instantly disregarded the look as so much like pre-wolf, pre-bro Jackson that he tuned it out.

Stiles thinks of Peter then, and something clenches in the pit of his stomach, because Peter has really turned up the creepy factor lately. But, now that Stiles is thinking about it, he almost always does that around Derek, and Peter lives to annoy. He’s pretty sure Derek even full-on growled at Peter at one point, which he had just assumed was standard Protective Derek, only what if it wasn’t?

His mind cycles back to the hospital, to the hug he shared with Derek after he found out about the house. Derek had returned the embrace after a few seconds, but then he had gotten all embarrassed and awkward, blushing and stepping away. Stiles had let it go then, assuming Derek wasn’t comfortable with the proximity or the emotions or something.

But what if he was wrong?

Maybe Derek felt too comfortable.

The second he’s thought it, memories start flooding in, crashing over one another like waves that Stiles can scarcely follow. Derek, answering Stiles’ calls and returning his texts more often than any other pack member. Derek: humoring him and saving his life and getting saved in return time after time. Just, Derek.

This is crazy, though. He has to be crazy. Only, he’s not. Stiles and Derek have always had a different dynamic than the rest of the pack, from the very beginning. The fact that it might actually mean something shakes Stiles to his core.

Another memory pushes its way to the surface then, Derek’s body warm and firm against Stiles as he lay pressed into the surface of Asag’s rock table. He flushes, chest constricting as he relives the feeling of Derek’s warm breath puffing against his ear when he spoke. You’re different, all right.

Stiles feels his heart begin to beat a frantic rhythm against his chest as the possibility that this is an actual thing sinks in.

In that moment, the door to the bedroom swings in, Derek hovering in the entryway looking worried. “Stiles?” He asks, looking around the room as though for a threat before focusing the force of his attention on where Stiles sits perched on his bed.

The look on Derek’s face is gut-wrenchingly familiar, one he hasn’t seen in years. It’s the same look he remembers from when he was a kid, the same look his dad sent his mom a thousand times. Stiles’ heart clenches again, almost painful, as he meets Derek’s eyes.

“Are you okay?” Derek’s voice is laced with obvious concern, and he reaches a hand out for Stiles, ready to steady him or offer anything else he might need.

Stiles feels like he might pass out from the shock of this moment, and he doesn’t know what to say. The words most prevalent in his mind right now are the ones that come out:

“Oh my god.”


 

As they cross the parking lot of the vet’s office, Scott watches Allison wheel along beside him and tries to absorb everything he’s learned over the past few hours. They arrive at Kira’s Prius, which Scott had asked her to pick everyone up in that morning because his mom took the car to work and he couldn’t exactly collect the pack on his bike. He opens the passenger side door to help Allison in, putting her wheelchair into the trunk and slamming it closed with slightly more force than necessary, agitated.

Inside, the hatchback still carries the scent of pack, which fills Scott with a sort of grief for which he was unprepared, followed by a surge of anger. He chooses to blame the latter emotion on whatever Deaton did to him, because, now that he thinks about it, he feels like he was much more laid back before he became a true alpha.

Sensing Scott’s upset, Allison looks across to him when he’s stopped at a red light, drumming his fingers impatiently on the steering wheel. “It’ll be okay,” she says, touching the back of his hand lightly.

Scott glances at her before returning his gaze to the road, frown deepening as he speaks. “How is it going to be okay when everything I thought I knew for the last two years was a lie? Everything, ” he breathes. “How is Derek supposed to accept me back into his pack when all I did was fight him on every single decision he made?” The words come out in a rush, every feeling he had been bottling up in Deaton’s office spilling out now that he’s alone with Allison.

He doesn’t wait for Allison to respond before going on, a harsh laugh prefacing his next words. “I betrayed Derek,” he admits. “To Gerard , of all people. He must hate me so much.” Scott forces his left hand to let go of the steering wheel before the strength of his grip can cause damage, flexing his fingers and making himself take another calming breath before speaking again. “I’m such a hypocrite . I’ve been so terrible to them, to Stiles, when all this time I was the one who…” He breaks off then, risking a glance at Allison, who seems sympathetic but remains quiet, waiting for him to finish his thought.

Finally, Scott continues. “How could Derek, or any of them really, want me in their pack after what happened? I mean, do I even want to be in his pack? I never wanted any of this.” He’s silent for another beat before he adds, voice almost a whisper, “I really messed up with Stiles, didn’t I? Even Jackson has been a better friend than me,” he admits. “My mom would be so mad.”

Allison waits for a few seconds, just to be sure Scott has gotten everything off of his chest before she responds. “Yeah,” she agrees, “you did mess up with Stiles.” At Scott’s flinch, she goes on. “But that doesn’t mean you can’t make things right. After all, he still accepted Peter as pack despite everything.”

Scott exhales a breath he didn’t realize he had been holding, muscles draining of some tension at Allison’s reassurance. He spent so long not even thinking about Stiles that, now that he is, it’s like the weight of his failures is hitting him harder. If not for Allison, he isn’t sure he would have let himself believe Stiles still might forgive him.

“That doesn’t mean Stiles will just let it go right away,” Allison warns. “He has the right to withhold his forgiveness for as long as he wants, after the way you treated him.” She waits for Scott to nod his understanding before asking her next question, voice tentative. “Do you still think Stiles is possessed?”

Scott hesitates before answering, training his eyes on the road while he thinks. “There’s a part of me that will always wonder, you know? Like, it was this danger signal that made me not want to be around him at all before, but now it’s more… I don’t know. In the back of my head? Like my brain’s just telling me I have to be careful around him, the way it is with Peter now.” He scratches along his hairline, looking back to Allison now that he’s gotten everything out in the open.

She nods, accepting Scott’s response as the improvement that it is, noticeably better than the last time she had asked him about Stiles. She reminds herself that it isn’t her job to heal Scott’s wounds, to make him work things out with Stiles when the two of them have so much baggage between them now. Instead, she decides to alleviate Scott’s worries about Derek and the other pack members first. “You know,” Allison begins, “Derek has always wanted you in his pack. He’s been trying to make up for the fact that Peter bit you in the first place, to make things right after how you were forced into all this. Being accepted into the pack isn’t the issue.” She meets Scott’s eyes before carefully stating, “It’s whether or not you can be in a pack with Stiles that is.”

Looking almost confused, Scott tilts his head, considering. “Yeah, I can make it work with Stiles. I mean, I want to, you know? But it makes sense that Derek wouldn’t accept me if I were going to cause problems in his pack.”

Allison rolls her eyes and smiles at him, dimples out in full force with amusement because Scott was kind of missing her point entirely, but at least he was trying.

Scott, for his part, doesn’t understand the reason for Allison’s smile but beams back at her anyway, feeling considerably better about his situation. “It’ll work itself out?” He asks, tone hopeful.

“It always does,” she says, with another, smaller smile.

The pair then lapses into a silence that lasts the remainder of the ride to the Argent house. When he’s put the car into park, Scott shifts in his seat to face Allison before saying, almost casually, “We’re not getting back together, are we.” He meant it to be a question, but it comes out much more as a statement, because they both know the answer.

Allison bites her lip and turns to look up at her house for the sake of having something else to focus on. “No,” she admits, “we’re not.” Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Scott nod in acknowledgement.

While Allison is trying to think of what to say to make him feel better, Scott surprises Allison by speaking up first. “Do you remember when you said that I had to learn how to move past all the stuff that happened on my own, for me and not because of anyone else?” He waits, making sure he has Allison’s attention before going on. “Well, I think I need to learn how to do a lot of things on my own, like how to be a good friend.” Smiling sheepishly, he adds, “And how not to be so overprotective of the people I love.”

Allison offers him a soft smile at that. “I get it,” she says. “I think I need to relearn a few things, too. Ever since I found out about all the supernatural stuff, I feel like I let myself rely on certain people too much when things got hard, like with Kate.” She shudders at the memory of what she had been like then, the person Kate could have turned her into. “For a while there, it was like I forgot I even had a life outside of you, you know?”

Scott just gapes at her, eyes wide, because he had always thought he was the only one so swept along in the force of their love that the whole world ceased to be.

Allison rolls her eyes before making another admission. “Lydia had to drag me to the mall and lecture me for a solid half-hour before I even realized there were other people who still cared about me, not just you. And then, when we broke up…” She trails off.

Scott can’t help but tense up, his alpha possessiveness getting the better of him as he finishes her thought: “Isaac.”

She nods. “I don’t know; it’s like I couldn’t be alone. Not the way my dad is now,” Allison says, her voice both sorrowful and relieved at finally being able to have this conversation. For Scott’s benefit, she adds, “The thing with Isaac was a nice distraction, but I know he’d agree with me that focusing on ourselves is the best thing we could do right now.

Nodding his agreement, Scott moves to get out of the car. “We should go inside before your dad gets suspicious of me again,” he says lightheartedly as he grabs her wheelchair and brings it over.

Allison grins at that, letting Scott shift her into her chair with tenderness. Reaching out a hand and giving her his most charming look, Scott asks, “Friends?”

“Friends,” Allison agrees, squeezing his hand.


 

Derek’s hand is on Stiles’ arm. Derek’s hand is on his arm, and Derek has potential feelings for him, and he’s just staring into his eyes like an idiot, because what? How is this his life?

Stiles can’t get his mouth to work just yet, still unable to form words at the very thought of having missed something like this. He’s supposed to be the observant one! Lydia knows everything, and Stiles sees everything; he’s like his dad that way, always knowing when someone’s behavior is suspicious or changed. But somehow he missed this, if this is even a thing and he’s not just hallucinating in a brand new way, because he feels like he should consider that possibility as well.

But if this is real, Stiles wonders, what does it mean for them? For the pack?

Derek steps even closer to Stiles, encroaching upon his personal space (as he always does, Stiles thinks belatedly) and squeezing his arm. At the sensation, Stiles’ already rapid heart rate kicks up another notch and he nearly chokes on his next inhale, coughing abruptly. Because he is a smooth, sexy individual.

“Stiles, breathe,” Derek instructs, his voice anxious.

When Derek speaks, Stiles can hear shuffling as the rest of the pack begins to ascend the stairs, hearing the worry in their alpha’s tone and the uptick of Stiles’ heart. Thinking about the betas makes Stiles remember something else he read, about pack dynamics. He can’t risk trying to talk to Derek about this unless he’s sure , and now he knows exactly how to find out without asking directly, possibly making a fool of himself and ruining his hard-won camaraderie with Derek in the process.

“Derek and I need to talk,” Stiles says, aiming for an assertive tone but landing somewhere between disbelief and hesitance instead. “Everyone else: Get out of hearing distance,” Stiles finishes lamely, eyes widening when Derek tenses at the command and looks at him with dread clear on his face.

Forcing himself to look away from Derek, Stiles focuses his attention on the rest of the pack, needing to see if they’ll follow his orders even though every nerve ending in his body is telling him that they will. Although he had been expecting it, at least a little, Stiles still finds himself shocked when Erica cackles and yells, “Finally!”

“My offer from earlier still stands,” Malia calls out, voice getting distant as she heads to the door. “Not with Derek, but when he ruins everything and you dump him,” she finishes.

During this whole process, Stiles’ breath is caught in his chest. He barely registers the pack’s teasing, because this confirms his suspicions. Betas only obey direct orders from three people: the alpha, the alpha’s second in case of emergency, and the alpha’s mate. Just then, Peter casually strolls by the open bedroom door on his way to the staircase, laptop in hand, and wow . Peter is obeying him. That’s all the proof he needs, really. Also, he thinks, he could get used to this.

Peter pauses in the doorway, lips curled up in amusement. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” he says, clearly enjoying Derek’s discomfort. Stiles feels his face heat up, because that statement leaves room for basically anything, and his brain immediately takes a detour into territory that does not feel appropriate for a relationship that hasn’t even started. Especially considering the proximity of werewolf noses that can smell all the things.

Turning his flushed face away from Peter, Stiles looks back to Derek, only to see that the tips of his ears have gone red. He’s also glaring a hole into Peter’s face, and his embarrassment is so adorable that Stiles doesn’t know what to do with himself. It’s in this moment that he fully commits to the fact that this is real, and reciprocated. Like, Stiles obviously wants the D (the Derek, but also the other D), because who in their right mind wouldn’t? And Derek can definitely have the S (all the Sex).

Something in Stiles’ scent must change as his thoughts go off on that tangent, because Derek looks at him with his nose scrunched up, at a loss for words. From downstairs, Erica encourages, “ Get it! And call us when it’s safe to come back.”

As he descends the stairs, Peter calls one final suggestion over his shoulder. “Do try to refrain yourselves from leaving the loft smelling like a brothel.”

Stiles definitely needs to put a time limit on his next pack order, because they all stuck around way too long. An awkward silence descends on them then, Derek looking rather stricken but unwilling to flat out run from the situation, and Stiles waiting for the betas to get far enough away before he tries to make Derek talk.

A short time later, Derek clears his throat uncomfortably before speaking. “They’re gone,” he says, motioning with his chin to Stiles’ cocked ears, where he had been straining to hear any remaining signs of the pack.

Stiles nods his thanks, refocusing his attention on Derek before taking a step back, breaking Derek’s hold on him for the moment. They need to have a serious discussion, Stiles tells himself, so he does his best not to be distracted by Derek’s muscles and face and eyes and…

Derek is very distracting, okay?

Stiles shakes his head to clear it before he finds his voice. He makes the mistake of meeting Derek’s unyielding stare as he’s about to speak, and the pressure causes him to fidget and blurt, “So, when were you going to tell me we liked each other?” It’s not great, but Stiles figures he could have done much worse there, so he’ll take it.

His patience allows him to wait all of half a second before Derek’s silence becomes too much. Also, Stiles realizes, Derek’s face is doing that thing it always does when Derek decides to be a ridiculous martyr who doesn’t deserve happiness. His lips are pressed together, and his eyes are cast down in a combination of guilt and self-pity, and Stiles will not stand for this.

Flailing his arms, Stiles exclaims, “Oh my god! You totally weren’t going to tell me, were you?”

Derek’s face twists in uncomfortable acknowledgement of Stiles’ words, but he makes no move to deny the accusation. “Stiles, listen,” he begins, preparing to lay out the myriad reasons they can’t be together.

“No,” Stiles says, because he has a decent idea of what Derek is about to say, and he is not having it. “I don’t know if this is about the age thing or the suddenly into dudes thing,” he admits, “but let me tell you this: Neither of those is a problem for me. Like, at all.” He meets Derek’s gaze, defiance in his eyes as he goes on, “Unless they’re a problem for you, which I doubt, because you let me sleep in your alpha den .” Stiles’ voice gets almost frantic as he goes on, gesturing at the still unmade bed that he knows must be absolutely drenched in his sweat. He sees Derek’s nostrils flare as he motions to it, and it makes him feel oddly accomplished. After another second of silence, Stiles unleashes another barrage of questions. “How long have you liked me? How long has the pack known? Oh my god, was I the last to know? I repeat, why didn’t you tell me? How did Erica not tell me?”

Derek blinks at him, still silent, but Stiles forces himself to stop talking and waits Derek out, needing answers.

When Stiles has demonstrated that he’s willing to listen now, rather than talking over Derek, the alpha finally responds to some of his questions. “The pack realized before I did,” he admits, voice soft.

Stiles raises an eyebrow at this. “And by ‘the pack,’ I assume you mean Peter?”

“He’s been unbearable,” Derek agrees with a groan.

Stiles cracks a fond smile at this, at the thought of Derek being teased by a family member, like a normal person instead of a perpetually mopey werewolf. It’s an improvement, even if Peter had to be the one to do it. He motions for Derek to go on, prompting, “What about you?”

“It wasn’t until that day outside the hospital,” Derek explains, running a hand through his hair, “that I realized I, you know, felt this way. About you.”

Stiles steps closer to Derek again, because his admission somehow makes the distance between them feel more like miles than inches. “Okay,” he says quietly, taking a second to process. “Skip to the part where you decided not to tell me ,” he adds, voice harder. “Because, like, if you thought this wouldn’t be reciprocated, let me tell you that I am one hundred percent on board with this. Never in the course of human history has someone been this willing to board a ship,” he adds for emphasis. “Especially since we’ve kind of been flirting since disaster numero uno . Might as well follow up on it, right?”

Derek’s eyes go alpha red for a second, his wolf pleased at the easy acceptance before his human side attempts to regains control. He puts a hand over his face, taking a deep, steadying breath. Unfortunately, that turns out to be the opposite of helpful, because Stiles’ scent is all over the room, and Stiles himself is still right there , smelling even more warm and inviting than usual. He also happens to be one push away from falling into the bed that currently holds both of their scents, but Derek redirects his attention away from that thought quickly. Instead, he answers Stiles’ questions. “I’m the alpha,” he starts, and at Stiles instinctive eye roll in response to that statement, he pushes forward. “I didn’t want to put you in an uncomfortable position.”

“Pretty sure I’d be fine with any of the positions,” Stiles says before he can stop himself.

At the interruption, Derek looks rather pained but manages to continue speaking as though nothing happened. “As the alpha,” he repeats, “I had to make sure you didn’t feel obligated to be with me.” Stiles shoots him an incredulous look, and the rest of his explanation comes out in a rush. “You’re a teenager. Even when I could smell your arousal,” he says, trying not to linger either on the scent which is still in the room now or on Stiles’ slight grimace at the mention of how it has kind of always been there, “I couldn’t be sure it was because of me, or because of an emotional connection. And I wasn’t going to take advantage of it.”

The unspoken comparison to what Kate had done doesn’t go unnoticed by Stiles, and he steps further into Derek’s space. “You,” he says, poking a finger into his chest, “are nothing like Kate.” He lets that sink in before going on. “And even if you were, we both know I would have wolfsbaned your ass the second you tried anything sketchy. Then, between me and Lydia, no one would have ever found the body.” He gives Derek a toothy grin and shrugs. “So, you don’t really need to protect my honor or anything. Kind of got that covered.”

Derek places his hands on Stiles’ shoulders, pushing him back gently. At Stiles’ confused, almost hurt, look, Derek simply says, “This is a bad idea.”

In response to Derek’s words, Stiles clenches his jaw in frustration, because why? “I’ll have you know I’m the king of good ideas,” he asserts. Then, remembering his attempt to cleanse the nemeton, amends, “Usually. And this ,” he says, gesturing between like it’s the most natural thing in the world, because it is, “is a great idea. Maybe the best idea to ever happen. I should not need to convince you of the awesomeness that is this idea.”

Derek drops his eyes to the floor again. “It’s not that,” he starts, but Stiles cuts him off.

“Wait, is it actually the dude thing?” He asks, disappointed. “Are your wolfy bits telling you that you need someone who can give you cubs or something? Because, I mean, I am kind of magic or whatever, but my human bits are all still very much of the male variety, so that would suck.” He frowns before throwing in, “And way to be biologically homophobic,” as an afterthought.

Derek sputters for a minute before barking out a surprised laugh, because only Stiles would somehow come to that conclusion. “Your ‘human bits’ are fine,” he assures Stiles, and they both blush at the obvious implications behind that. “Werewolves don’t actually care that much about reproduction,” he explains for the sake of having something else to focus on for a moment. “Because we can always turn people, and when I say pack is like family, I mean that literally. Pack bonds are just as strong as genetic ones,” he says. “Sometimes stronger.”

Some of the tension drains from Stiles’ shoulders at the reassurance that his biology, at least, won’t be a problem for them.

Derek continues, though, and his next words bring Stiles’ tension back with an angry vengeance. “It’s not because you’re a guy that this is bad idea,” he reiterates. “It’s because of me. Sometimes I think I must be cursed,” he admits, voice barely a whisper. “I mean, you’ve seen what happens when I’m in a relationship. What happens to the people I’m with.” He looks away, face drawn.

Not about to let Derek get away with this particular form of self-flagellation, Stiles snaps his fingers right in Derek’s face to get his attention, but at the reserved look Derek gives him he has to dial his frustration down a notch. Derek feels strongly about this, Stiles knows, and considering his past, with his first love dying and his next, well, being Kate

This isn’t going to be easy. “Okay,” he begins delicately, “so your track record has been less than stellar, but you’re not cursed. Relationships always fail until one of them doesn’t, right?” He flushes, hurrying on, “Not that I’m saying I’m, like, the one , or anything, but I already know you and I’m not evil and I kind of really want this?” He doesn’t mean for his pep talk to Derek to turn into a somewhat needy ramble, but there’s no going back now. “You don’t get to avoid me because you think this will put me in danger. We’re always in danger,” he finishes, chest heaving from the force of his words.

Stiles watches Derek expectantly, but Derek just stares back at him for an uncomfortably long time. Finally, he manages to say while looking at a spot just to the left of Stiles’ shoulder, “Even if you’re right, being with an alpha, mated to an alpha, comes with its own dangers and responsibilities that–”

“No,” Stiles interrupts, hand making a cutting motion through the air. “I reject that excuse. Your argument is invalid,” he says, locking eyes with Derek. “Because I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I fall quick and deep. Lydia was it for me, for years , and that was pretty much all in my head to begin with. This?” He asks, entwining his fingers with Derek’s and getting sidetracked by how soft the skin is (because werewolves don’t get calluses) and the fact that Derek doesn’t pull away. “This is real , and reciprocated, and I can’t just shove it away and hope it fades. That’s not how I work.”

Stiles waits for a response from Derek, but he gets nothing other than a slight squeeze from the hand he’s holding. “Seriously,” he asks, looking down at their joined hands, “what’s your plan here? To just be alone forever? Ignoring both of our feelings? Because that’s a total dick move. Like, I’m finally in mutual like with someone and you’re just going to avoid me forever? That sucks.”

When Derek fails to respond again, Stiles can find only one other thing to say. “You deserve to be happy.” He doesn’t know if he’s overstepped some imaginary boundary here or not, but he has the distinct impression that Derek needs to hear this, that someone should be reminding Derek every day until he believes it. And Stiles is more than happy to volunteer as tribute.

Derek is aware that he’s been decidedly too still and quiet during Stiles’ speech, but he honestly doesn’t know what to do here. Is he protecting Stiles, or just punishing himself? Just as he can feel his brain kick into gear, Stiles grabs his hand and it’s like coherent thought flies out the window at the contact, because this isn’t like the innumerable times the two of them have touched before. No one is in danger of imminent death, or paralyzed, or being slammed into a steering wheel. The touch is gentle, tentative even, and Derek can’t help but to return it.

Stiles said Derek deserves to be happy, and that hits Derek at his core, knocking the breath out of him. He closes his eyes and takes in a deep lungful of air, trying to decide if he agrees with Stiles or not. What would his family think?

But that’s not even a question, Derek knows. His mom wouldn’t put up with the self-pity for more than thirty seconds, and Laura would be making kissy faces in the background. She would have loved Erica; Derek’s lips curl up at the mental image. Even Peter basically gave Derek and Stiles his blessing. Having finally sorted his thoughts out, Derek returns his gaze to Stiles, who is fidgeting from foot to foot, looking between their hands and Derek’s face anxiously. “Okay,” Derek says.

“Okay?” Stiles parrots back, voice awash with relief at not having to create a five year plan for convincing Derek to date him. At least this one would have had a chance, unlike his plan with Lydia, but still. This is better.

Derek nods and repeats, “Okay. Yeah, we can give this a try.” He runs a hand through his hair, not sure if he’s made the right choice but feeling much better about this than he would have with the alternative. The thousand-watt grin Stiles sends him in response is enough to make his answer feel worth it.

Stiles continues to beam at Derek, taking a second to just bask in the fact that he has this, has Derek . He lets his mind run off on tangents of possible futures and happily ever afters, because, at heart, Stiles is kind of a sap. But he’s pretty sure Derek is, too, so they’ll be okay. They’ll be secretly romantic dorks together.

Seeing Stiles begin to fidget after some time, Derek gives him an amused look. “What now?”

“Where’s my kiss?” Stiles blurts before he can stop himself, not that he particularly wants to stop himself, because he does feel sort of like this is an ideal kiss moment if ever there was one. “Like, we pretty much just admitted our undying love for each other, and every romantic movie I’ve ever seen has totally led me to believe that–”

Stiles’ words are cut off abruptly by Derek’s lips on his own, and he’s never been happier to be interrupted, because for one shining second in his life, it’s like everything is perfect. The world narrows down until it’s just the two of them, monotonous darkness broken by the bright spark of light produced from the juncture of their lips.

Derek’s mouth is soft and warm and, most importantly, still pressed against Stiles’. He knows his own lips are chapped and bitten, but Derek doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, pressing closer against Stiles, letting go of his hand to wrap an arm around his waist and hold him close.

Groaning, Stiles throws his own arms around Derek’s back now that he knows additional physical contact has Derek’s seal of approval. Based on the low growl of appreciation he gets when his hands bunch in the fabric of Derek’s shirt, Stiles considers this particular action to be in the clear.

Definitely for science, to see if it’s okay and not simply because he needs it like he needs air, Stiles opens his mouth a tiny bit against Derek’s and darts his tongue out against the seam of his lips, tracing the line and giving Derek a small nip.

With a groan, Derek pulls Stiles impossibly closer, parting his own lips as though he were just waiting for Stiles to make the first move, which, Stiles realizes with the three functioning brain cells he has available right now, he probably was, the gentlewolf.

The next minute is lost in a flurry of lips and tongues and hands that neither Stiles nor Derek make any move to slow down. In fact, Stiles finds himself being spun and then pulled into Derek’s lap on the bed, which is just fine by him.

He adjusts to the new position, returning his hands to where they had been wrapped in Derek’s hair and allowing Derek to continue roaming his own hands over Stiles’ back and sides. Unconsciously, Stiles bares his neck at Derek, which elicits a full-throated growl that may or may not go directly to Stiles’ dick.

As though on instinct, Derek dives for Stiles’ neck, nipping at the skin there and causing Stiles to whimper in a way that, had it not felt so good, he might have been embarrassed by. As it is, though, he bares his neck even more, encouraging Derek to keep going. Derek obliges. With great enthusiasm.

Eventually, Stiles’ neck gets tired, so he pushes at Derek’s shoulders, tipping him back until he lands flat on his back, Stiles bracing his arms on either side of Derek with their faces close enough to share breath.

Derek leans up to bite at Stiles’ neck again, and Stiles grabs onto either side of his face, aligning their mouths for another kiss. Panting, Stiles grins at Derek before laying on top of him unceremoniously, unwilling to move away just yet. “Told you this was a great idea,” he mumbles.

In response, Derek smiles against Stiles’ skin but says nothing, because what is there to say?

“Nope, none of that,” Stiles chides. “Now that we’re a thing, I get access to all the smiles; no more hiding them.” He pulls back to put another inch of space between them, just enough that he can see Derek’s face.

Derek smiles back up at him, and it just might be the greatest thing he’s ever seen.

Chapter Text

By the time Derek cocks his head to the side and stops kissing Stiles, his jaw is legitimately starting to ache, but in the best possible way. This ache is far superior to anything he gets following lacrosse practice or the occasional run to relieve his nervous energy, and maybe that’s why he whines low in his throat at the loss of contact and chases Derek’s mouth with his own.

Okay, so it’s also hormones, but Stiles is a literal teenager. He’s earned this one indulgence over the past few hellish years of his life. And, with any luck, this will be an indulgence he can partake in for a long time to come.

“Stiles,” Derek mutters, giving Stiles one last peck before pulling back fully and sitting up, dragging Stiles along with him.

“No,” Stiles protests, making grabby hands in the space between the two of them. “More.”

Derek chuckles. “I would,” he responds, “but…” He lets the commotion coming from downstairs speak for him as the loft door slams closed and voices begin to float up the stairs.

“Zip it up!” Jackson shouts as he stomps into the loft, clearly making as much noise as possible to avoid seeing any of what Derek and Stiles have been doing in his absence. The honeysuckle scent of romance and lust tells him more than he needs to know. “There’s no way Stilinski isn’t done yet,” he adds mockingly, which is followed by the sound of Lydia smacking him on the back of the head.

Stiles buries his face in his hands, blushing and leaning against Derek’s side. “Everyone’s going to know the second they get within sniffing distance, aren’t they,” he says into his hands, not a question at all.

“Yes,” Derek smirks, sounding rather pleased with himself. He gathers Stiles in his arms and rubs the scruff of his facial hair along Stiles’ neck and jawline.

Stiles closes his eyes and hums in pleasure, because, as it turns out, beard burn is a lot more pleasant than he anticipated. When Derek switches sides and does the same thing again, however, Stiles’ vast werewolf knowledge catches up with his lust-addled brain. “Wait,” he complains, “you’re making it worse on purpose!” He gives Derek a gentle shove away from him but grabs onto a hand even as Derek willingly leans out of his space.

Smiling, Derek brings the hand up to his face and does the same thing, nuzzling into it. “I’m making it better,” he corrects.

At that, Stiles melts just a little, grinning up at Derek. “Are all alphas this territorial?” He wonders aloud. Then, because he has ADHD and he’s thinking about werewolves and territory, he follows up with, “Um, this is the only variety of ‘marking your territory’ you’re going with, right? Like, I don’t have to start mentally preparing for showers of the golden variety?” Before Derek even has a chance to respond, Stiles is running through contingency plans in his mind.

A bark of laughter erupts from downstairs and Stiles looks up to the sky, silently asking the gods why they hate him. “What are the chances that was completely unrelated to my question?”

“Zero,” Derek answers, standing from the bed and shaking his head at Stiles. “Now come on.”

Shaking his head to clear it of mental imagery and residual shame, Stiles follows Derek down the stairs to where Danny, Lydia, and Jackson are all seated around the kitchen table. Lydia and Danny are both on their laptops, focus clearly more on their research than anything else. Jackson, meanwhile, is pointedly crinkling his nose at Stiles and Derek, a book propped open in front of him that he probably couldn’t name if asked.

When Stiles and Derek lean next to each other at the kitchen counter, Danny glances up from his laptop and smirks. “What happened to genetics?” He asks, motioning between the two.

Stiles, waggling his eyebrows meaningfully, answers, “I have them.”

Danny laughs at that, noting the fond look in Derek’s eyes and the way he hovers at Stiles’ elbow as he moves to grab his own laptop and sit across from Danny at the table. Derek ends up standing directly behind Stiles’ chair, one hand placed on the back of the chair, lightly pressed against Stiles’ shoulder to maintain contact.

“So, did you guys find anything?” Stiles questions, though he knows Lydia would have told them by now if she had. Mostly, he’s trying to get everyone to stop sneaking not-so-furtive glances at him and Derek. The whole thing feels new enough that he kind of wishes he could keep it to himself, at least for a little while.

Instead, he distracts himself with research, pulling up all his usual sources of supernatural miscellany and searching for anything he can find on cleansings.

With a frustrated sound, Lydia tosses her hair and says, “Between everything I read on my phone on the way here and the research I just did, there’s nothing about a specific magical container to hold the dark energy.” She glares at her laptop like it’s betrayed her.

“So how are we supposed to know where to get one?” Jackson interrupts, impatient.

Lydia turns her glare on him now. “I’m saying there isn’t one.

Jackson looks taken aback by that. “You can’t fix Stilinski?” Stiles feels his pulse quicken at Jackson’s conclusion, Derek’s hand moving to rest fully on his shoulder and squeezing.

Rolling her eyes, Lydia speaks to Jackson slowly, enunciating each word to be sure he understands. “There isn’t a container,” she repeats. “So we have to make one.”

Lydia’s explanation drains much of the tension from the room. Finally, Stiles meets her eyes and asks, “How?”

Pointing at Stiles, Lydia turns to Jackson. “See? He asks the right questions.” Returning her attention to Stiles, she says, “We still have to figure that out.”

Stiles nods and goes back to Google, wishing DIY magical storage containers were a thing. On the bright side, if anyone ever needs a duct tape wallet, he’s got them covered. Why are those even coming up in his search? People will tag their posts with literally anything they can think of these days, and it’s ruining his search parameters.

Eventually, Stiles’ stomach growls, reminding him that he needs sustenance to survive, not just magic boxes. He stands, fully prepared to rifle through Derek’s kitchen until he comes up with something edible, maybe even cook for the rest of them while he’s at it, but Derek’s hands go to both of his shoulders now, pushing him back down into the chair. “I’ll get it,” Derek says, voice pitched low.

Stiles shrugs, because who is he to turn down effort-free food? “Providing for your mate?” He can’t help but tease as Derek starts taking things out of the fridge. To his surprise, the tips of Derek’s ears go red again before he ducks back down, hidden behind the refrigerator door.

“Wow,” Jackson laughs. “No time at all, and Stilinski’s already got you whipped.”

Danny raises a judgmental eyebrow at Jackson. “Stiles must have learned from watching whatever Lydia did with you, then,” he quips.

Jackson attempts to sputter out a response as Erica, Malia, and Kira walk into the loft. Erica and Kira grin widely at Stiles as they enter the room, Erica adding a suggestive eyebrow wiggle and pointed look at Derek’s back while he finishes making Stiles a sandwich.

Stiles smiles back at them, still too pleased to be bothered by Erica’s antics. To be fair, he had done the same thing quite a few times when she and Boyd got back together after the fallout with Gerard, so the retaliation is deserved.

Malia sniffs the air, nods, and then ignores the obvious emotional change in favor of making a beeline for Stiles’ sandwich when Derek places it on the table. She’s just about to grab it when Jackson swipes it out from under her, leaving her hand to smash into the empty plate, cracking it.

Fully prepared to fight Jackson for ownership of his celebratory new relationship food, Stiles goes to lunge at him only to find the sandwich placed in his hand instead. He looks at Jackson, puzzled, but then his stomach grumbles again and he shrugs, taking a big bite of ham and cheesy goodness.

Derek gives Jackson’s shoulder a quick squeeze in appreciation for his heroics, and, though he doesn’t say anything, Stiles sees him preen at the approval from his alpha.

Erica smirks at Jackson, “You’re mommy’s little helper, aren’t you?” She coos as she moves to stand beside Stiles, who just keeps eating.

Lydia scoffs and looks up at Erica. “You’re just jealous you aren’t mommy’s favorite anymore,” she says.

Erica turns to Stiles, pouting, and he ignores her, opting to take an even bigger bite of his sandwich instead. He mumbles something that sounds vaguely like, “Can’t talk. Mouth full,” while pointing at his face.

“But mom ,” Erica whines, breaking out her most annoying teenager voice for dramatic effect.

Malia rejoins the conversation then, plopping down a plate laden with two sandwiches piled significantly higher than Stiles’ was. She shoves one at Kira and, once satisfied that she’s going to eat, starts to devour her own.

“Did you find anything?” Derek asks the three of them, hoping they can be at least mildly productive for a few minutes.

Kira hesitates, wiping her mouth delicately and putting her food back down on the plate. “I talked to my mom,” she starts, “and she thinks the nogitsune might have helped prepare you for this.” At Stiles dubious look, she explains, “Not that it was good, but it did strengthen your spark and make it more aware of invaders. She says that’s probably why you were able to contain the energy for so long, because your spark kind of trained for it with the nogitsune. Your magic learned some self-defense.” Kira finishes speaking, checking Stiles’ reaction to be sure she hasn’t upset him by bringing up the nogitsune, especially considering her mom made it seem like the whole debacle had been a blessing in disguise. She even mentioned something about fate, but Kira refuses to accept that anything about that situation was destiny.

“That doesn’t tell us how long his spark can keep it from killing him,” Malia points out, because nothing her mom told them was actually helpful, not that she’ll be saying that to Kira anytime soon. Even Malia has her limits.

There’s an underlying tension to Malia’s words that Stiles tries not to think too hard about, because he’s not going to let this thing kill him, even if blind stubbornness is all he has going for him at the moment.

Silence takes over the table before Derek brushes his hand up and down Stiles’ arm, gripping the spot just above his elbow firmly. As though reading Stiles’ mind, he says, “Stiles will be fine. We’ll figure it out.” His voice leaves no room for doubt, an unspoken no matter what it takes backing up his words.

Stiles places his hand over Derek’s where it rests on his arm, releasing a breath he didn’t even know he was holding. At the same time, the majority of the pack cocks their heads to the side slightly and, for the others’ benefit, Erica says, “Scott and Allison are back.”

A minute later, Scott knocks on the loft door and calls, “Um, I’m here?” His voice is laced with confusion as he goes on to say, “Erica texted me to let you guys know when I was coming in so I wouldn’t see anyone else coming?” Allison giggles behind him as he swings the door open, and Scott gets the familiar feeling that she understands something he doesn’t.

Peter appears behind them out of nowhere, making both Scott and Allison jump as he pushes past them into the doorway, immediately seeking out Erica and saying, “Classy.”

Derek and Stiles shoot almost identical glares at Erica, though Derek’s has more eyebrow where Stiles’ contains reluctant amusement. She shrugs at this in response. “I was just trying to help,” she defends, laughter barely hidden behind the words.

“Sure you were,” Jackson says, face contorted in disgust at the mental image he gets from her text to Scott.

When he and Allison finally make it past the threshold of the loft, Scott is immediately hit with the mingled scents of Derek and Stiles, and he freezes in place, just staring at them. Instantly on edge, he begins to stalk toward Derek with a righteous fury burning in his eyes.

Stiles, of course, knows exactly what Scott is thinking and hops out of his chair, stepping between Scott and Derek, holding his hands up. He starts rambling, “Full consent was given! Like, all of the consent with none of the alpha mind control powers.” Derek whines behind him at the mere mention of that possibility, and Stiles reaches a hand out to him automatically, lacing his fingers with Derek’s even as he continues babbling to Scott. “See? So much consent. I had to peer-pressure him into going through with this.” He pauses for breath to look into Scott’s eyes. “So, are we good here?”

Scott pauses, anger still simmering beneath the surface, but he looks down at where Stiles is still holding on to Derek’s hand like a lifeline, and his face softens just a little. “Are you sure?” He asks, tone maintaining some of his worry.

Jackson snorts from his position standing off to the side of all their drama. “Have you smelled him? He’s extremely sure.” He scrunches his nose like Stiles is a particularly foul dumpster to emphasize his point.

Scott looks from Stiles to Derek and back again, noticing the way they both lean into each other’s space unthinkingly, Derek’s gaze softer than he’s ever seen it. He returns his focus to Stiles, whose own stare is determined, and allows his stance to relax, resting his arms calmly at his sides and blurting out, “But Derek ? He’s kind of old, dude. And Malia’s cousin! Like, do you just have a weird thing for the Hales?” His eyes widen dramatically. “Oh my god, are you going to end up with Peter next? Because I don’t think I could handle that.” He looks like he’s hurt his brain by even thinking about it.

Peter, who has been piling a table high with research, comments, “He should be so lucky,” without even looking up from his work. Stiles shudders at the thought, and he feels Derek’s hold on him tighten instinctively.

“I’d still watch that,” Erica remarks with a leer.

Scott’s eyes get impossibly wider as he rounds on her. “You watched them ?” He points to Stiles and Derek, aghast.

“What? No, Scott, oh my god,” Stiles responds, blushing furiously. “She’s just being Erica, ignore her.” He scowls at Erica and waves her off, to which she grins and leans back in her chair, thoroughly amused.

When Scott looks like he’s about to continue his interrogation, Allison wheels forward and stops him. “We should focus on more important things right now,” she says calmly. “Stiles can choose to be with whoever he wants, and it’s not like it’s that surprising,” she adds.

Surprised, Scott meets her eyes. “You knew?”

“Everyone knew,” Malia responds.

“We knew before they did,” Erica clarifies, rolling her eyes at the memory of Stiles and Derek’s ignorance.

Scott gapes at everyone, and, without missing a beat, Danny glances up from his laptop to say, “I’ve known since Derek was Miguel.”

Of course, no one but he, Stiles, and Derek, have any idea what Danny is talking about, so Scott at least doesn’t feel as left out when he sees everyone’s confused looks. He does notice as Stiles scratches his head sheepishly in response to Danny while Derek raises a single eyebrow.

With Scott still apparently unable to get over this new development, Allison sighs and sends a worried look in Stiles’ direction. “After we talked to my dad and looked through some of the Argent files, we still didn’t find anything about the magical container,” she starts, feeling even worse about Stiles’ face falling in response to this, because she hasn’t gotten to the bad news yet. “We did find something about the nemeton’s magic, though. Proximity to the supernatural makes it stronger, speeds it up,” she explains.

Scott, who has finally tuned back into the conversation and remembered why they came here in the first place, instructs, “We have to get away from Stiles.”

Letting out a frustrated groan, Stiles grumbles, “ Dude, ” like Scott has betrayed him.

Allison nods for confirmation, going on with her explanation. “To buy him some time, we should. The nemeton’s magic calls out to the supernatural. It’s been reacting to it, and those spiderwebs on you have probably been showing up more and more when you spend time with us.”

Derek makes a wounded noise, dropping Stiles’ hand as though it burned him and moving as far away as he can before Stiles can react. “No, hey, this is not your fault,” he says, cornering Derek against the kitchen counters and placing one hand on either side of his face. “You didn’t know.” To himself, Stiles thinks that he wouldn’t trade those moments in Derek’s room for a reduction in his spiderwebs anyway, because worth it.

Resting his hands on Stiles’ for a fraction of a second, Derek breathes in before separating them again, stepping away. “But we know now,” he says sadly. “So until this is fixed, the pack is going to stay away from you.” He frowns, hesitating, before adding, “Except for Danny. He’s human, so he can stay with you as your connection to the pack.”

Allison wheels over to Stiles’ side, including herself as a human pack member. “So will I,” she announces. “Scott and I talked about this on the way over here.”

Derek nods his agreement, leaving the kitchen. “I’ll get Stiles’ stuff from my room,” he says, picking Stiles’ keys up from the coffee table and turning back to toss them to Stiles. “The sooner you get away from the pack, the better,” he adds before turning around and heading up the stairs to get the rest of Stiles’ belongings.

Stiles clutches the keys to his chest, looking at Derek’s retreating back and muttering, “Well this blows.”

Danny claps a hand to his shoulder and says, “Not yet, but with any luck, it will soon.”


 

Stiles allows himself to sulk for much of the drive back to his house, mentally cursing the universe for offering Derek up on a plate and then effectively making him severely allergic to all things supernatural. He has the worst luck.

Danny cuts into Stiles’ thoughts as he pulls into the Stilinski driveway. “What do you guys know about the packs in the area?” He asks. “Lydia told me there are some druid databases on them, so I’ll be hacking into those as soon as we get in, but I figured I should at least make sure you don’t have any connections that can get us access legally.” He doesn’t seem even mildly disturbed by discussing this in the sheriff’s driveway, because Danny knows how to make sure nothing can be traced back to him.

“We don’t,” Stiles answers. “Shockingly, Derek isn’t big on inter-pack relations,” he criticizes, smiling fondly.

Danny gives him a judgmental look at the sappy grin on his face before getting out of the Jeep and going to the trunk for Allison’s wheelchair. He sets it up and gets her settled while Stiles grabs their laptops and opens the front door.

Holding up a USB, Allison says, “I’ll be combing through my family’s files to see if I can find anything else on dark nemetons.” She looks at Stiles guiltily before continuing, “We need to be prepared for dealing with all the negative energy, for the worst case scenario.”

Stiles looks over his shoulder at her as he pushes the door open, expression stoic. “I get it,” he says with a look of approval. “I’d prefer that evil not roam the earth, even if it does kill me first. Though I do like the option where I live and we defeat the dark side,” he tacks on, for the sake of clarity.

Allison smiles at him, “So do I.”

“Great,” Stiles agrees. “Let’s aim for that one then.” He closes and locks the door behind them on reflex, tossing his keys on the kitchen counter and setting their laptops up on the dining room table. Once settled in front of his own screen, he says, “I’ll check with the active druid forums, see if they know anything useful.”

Danny laughs, because of course Stiles somehow found druids online who are actually willing to talk to him.

Everyone becomes engrossed in their independent research then, the dining room table soon piling high with the notes Stiles and Allison jot down, Danny preferring to keep his on a virtual notepad. Skype is open on the background of all three of their computers, and Stiles has to stop himself from opening it up to check on the rest of the pack, remembering that he’s the one in danger of dying here.

After a few minutes of silent typing and note-taking, Stiles looks up sharply when he hears his dad coming down the stairs, clearly having just awoken from a nap. “Dad, what are you doing home? The hospital said they needed to monitor you for at least twenty-four hours,” he glares from his dad to the clock on the microwave pointedly. “It has not been twenty-four hours.”

John rolls his eyes at Stiles’ lecture, coming into the room and glancing over their work table. “I am still the sheriff,” he reminds his son. “I was able to pull some strings and get them to release me early. Parrish should be here soon,” he says, checking his watch.

“Parrish is letting you go back to work the day you get out of the hospital?” Stiles demands, preparing a full lecture for the deputy already.

The sheriff gives him a knowing look and says, “He didn’t even let me drive myself here, just dropped me off, told me to sleep, and took the squad car with him back to the station because he didn’t trust me not to go anywhere.” He shakes his head at the overprotectiveness, despite the fact that Parrish had been completely right. “Somehow he managed to do all that without even trying to get my gun off me,” John says, patting his hip holster smugly.

“Of course not,” Stiles replies with a scoff. “Parrish is smart, not suicidal.”

Ignoring him, the sheriff starts picking at the materials on the table, reading random notes, brow creased in confusion at the obscure references and supernatural verbiage. “What is all this?” He asks. Then, getting a better look at Danny, he follows up with, “Are you okay?”

Danny seems almost to not understand what the sheriff is talking about until he looks down at the bandages still wrapped around his calf from his run-in with Stiles in the lacrosse field. “Evening, sheriff,” Danny says, not answering any of his questions. Allison leans towards the sheriff and waves, not wanting to interrupt but also unwilling to just ignore his presence.

Something must show on Stiles’ face at his dad’s questions, because the sheriff immediately pulls out a chair at the head of the table and slumps into it. “Okay, lay it on me,” he says, motioning to indicate that he’s prepared for whatever it is they’ve gotten themselves into this time.

Stiles looks to Allison and Danny for help, but both of them hide behind their laptops, pretending to be too invested in their research to pay attention to the conversation literally happening right in front of them , the traitors.

Sighing, Stiles runs a hand through his hair and makes a mental list of all the things he needs to tell his dad: that he’s dying, that Scott isn’t really an alpha, that he and Derek are a thing now. It seems like a lot to throw at one person all at once, but he knows he has to do it. After everything hit the fan last time, he and his dad had made a strict No More Secrets agreement, and Stiles isn’t about to break his dad’s trust now, not when he feels like he’s just earned it back. Instead, he takes a steadying breath and begins speaking at a breakneck pace.

“So yeah, I may have done magic, like, actual, big magic to fix the nemeton and make it less evil, which I kind of did? Without training? So I’m kind of a Harry Potter level badass, except not exactly, because it turns out I drained the evil properly, just not into a magical container, which is bullshit because the spell said nothing about needing a container, so then it kind of used me? Except, like, my body isn't equipped to deal with centuries-old evil so I may now have an expiration date. Like, a literal, nearby expiration date, not the usual ‘we’re all in a constant state of mortal decay,’ kind. More like maybe a few days? Give or take? Like, it could be more but I doubt it because, you know, it’s Beacon Hills. So, in summary: I’m dying and also sort of dating Derek, oh and also Scott isn’t a true alpha! Deaton made it all up and basically roofied him so he’d take over the Hale pack territory, except then we found out because Scott accidentally roofied Erica with the same stuff. So, now we’re trying to figure out how to make me not die and then eventually figure out the new pack dynamics.” As he’s speaking, Stiles becomes aware of just how much has changed recently, and even he’s a little floored by it, so he can’t imagine his dad is going to take everything too well. He gulps.

John gapes for a minute before parsing Stiles’ words enough to ask, “Since when have you and Derek been dating?” He narrows his eyes in anger, hand automatically returning to his gun as he inspects Stiles for bruises and says, “Wait, is that what happened with the house?”

What ?” Stiles must have misheard, because there’s no way his dad just suggested that. Also: “How is me dating Derek the only thing you got out of that? Like, I literally just said I was dying.”

“Just answer the question, Stiles,” the sheriff instructs, feeling like Stiles is putting far too much effort into diverting the conversation, which only makes him want to pursue it all the more.

“Okay, two things then. One: I’m flattered that you think I’d be worth the cost of a house if someone wanted to pay me for sex. Two: No , I didn’t sell my body to Derek to pay off the mortgage, I mean, Jesus , dad.” Stiles’ face goes red as he glances over to Allison and Danny, who both look about ready to burst with laughter but are doing everything they can to avoid calling attention to themselves.

Anyway ,” Stiles continues, “Derek did that out of the goodness of his emotionally stunted heart, because a pack member needed help. He didn’t even know he liked me like that at the time. I definitely didn’t know. Like, I never even knew I was attractive to gay guys.” He takes a dramatic pause to glare at Danny for not filling him on that critical piece of information, and also to avoid having to look his dad in the eye while talking about his barely-existent dating life. Stiles intensifies his glare at Danny when he sees how he’s buried his face in his laptop, nose practically pressed to the keyboard. Danny’s shoulders shake with repressed laughter even as he tries to physically shrink away from everything Stiles and his dad are saying, and Stiles writes him off as completely useless right now.

Returning to his dad, Stiles backtracks on his last statement. “Not that Derek is gay,” he corrects, because this feels important. “Like, he’s been with plenty of women.” The sheriff makes a face at that, and, realizing how his comment sounded, Stiles quickly amends, “Like four! He’s been with like four women. Not that it would be a problem if he’d been with more people, because slut shaming is bad. But, just so you know, I’m pretty sure it’s only, like, four. Derek doesn’t like many people.”

John stays quiet throughout Stiles’ attempt to explain himself, enjoying his discomfort. Once he’s sure that Stiles is finished, he speaks. “You suddenly dating Derek is honestly the most surprising piece of information you just gave me, considering you manage to find yourself in a life or death situation every other week. So, we’ll get back to that,” he says, grimacing at the way his son’s life hangs in the balance so often that it has become commonplace.

“Scott not being a real alpha is more believable than me landing a guy like Derek?” Stiles asks, feigning offense. “I’ll have you know I’m a catch.”

The sheriff shakes his head at Stiles’ obvious attempt to divert his attention. “That one threw me for a loop; I’ll admit it. However ,” he continues, “it’s of more concern to me that my barely-legal son is dating a twenty-four year old murder suspect.” He gives Stiles the familiar look that means he’s questioning all of his son’s life choices.

Former murder suspect,” Stiles defends, indignant. “Totally cleared of all suspicion. By your police department.” He points a finger at his dad to emphasize the credibility behind Derek’s innocence.

As a car horn sounds outside, Stiles releases an audible sigh of relief at not having to finish this conversation anytime soon. John claps him on the shoulder and grabs his jacket on the way out, opening the door to meet Parrish at the car. “We’ll talk about this later,” he promises, looking at Stiles sternly. “So you get out of whatever mess you’re in, and then we’ll have a chat. Might even invite Derek.”

Stiles sighs, “Sounds great,” and closes the door behind his dad.

As soon as the sheriff’s car rumbles out of the driveway, Danny lets out the laugh he’s been containing. “I never said you weren’t attractive to gay guys,” he tells Stiles. “I mean, you obviously are.” He shoots him a dimpled grin, which Allison mirrors.

“For the right price, apparently,” Allison feels the need to add, grin widening. Stiles groans and bangs his head on the table.

“I never had to have the awkward dating conversation with my dad when I was with Malia,” Stiles admits. “Let the record show that I am not a fan.”

“Noted,” Danny says as he types actual research notes into his files.

Allison leans over to pat Stiles on the arm. “I get your dad’s concerns,” she says. “It’s completely different than when you started dating Malia.”

“Yeah,” Danny agrees. “Not only are you dating a guy, but he’s also an alpha werewolf and a few years older than you. At least one of those is bound to raise a red flag for your dad. Everything about your relationship will be a little bit different than what you’re used to, you know,” he muses. “Especially the sex.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Dude, every relationship is different, no matter what. And, I don’t know, I think Malia was demanding enough to be an alpha.” Realizing what he’s just said, Stiles’ blush returns in full force, because he’s pretty sure Danny and Allison do not need to know this.

Danny smirks. “I get it. That’s how it was with Ethan, too. I thought he was just taking the alpha title too seriously, but maybe it’s a werewolf thing?”

“I don’t know,” Allison hums, tapping a pen to her lips as she thinks. “Scott and Isaac were both… enthusiastic, but it’s not like they really took charge. That was usually me.” She blushes slightly but shrugs off the embarrassment.

Stiles stares at her, because he really did not expect to be learning this about Allison today. Though, now that he’s thinking about it, he feels like he shouldn’t be surprised. Scott and Isaac aren’t exactly the type to be in control of anything. Which really should have tipped them off about Scott’s “true alpha” status ages ago.

Danny looks at Allison, considering. “I can see that,” he replies, filling the silence left as Stiles keeps his own thoughts on the subject to himself. “Scott’s pretty eager to please, and that’s the kind of thing that usually transfers over to the bedroom.”

“Yes, please share all of your bedroom wisdom with me, because that’s what we should be doing right now,” Stiles deadpans. Mostly, he just doesn’t want to keep thinking about Allison and Scott together. He’s a visual thinker, and it’s getting to be a bit much.

“How about you share what you’ve learned instead?” Danny teases, wiggling his eyebrows. “How far have you and Derek even gotten? Because, to be honest, Miguel starred in my fantasies for months after I met him, and that was without all the juicy details.” When Stiles just gapes at him in response, Danny turns to face Stiles more fully and encourages, “Come on, share with the class while we’re out of werewolf hearing and your dad isn’t around.”

“I’ve only gotten slightly farther with him than you have,” Stiles laments. At Danny’s incredulous look, he goes on, “We literally found out we liked each other today.”

Shocked, Danny says, “I thought you were just saying that so your dad wouldn’t have to arrest him!”

“No, dude, it’s the truth; I swear.” Danny waits Stiles out, because there’s no way he and Derek got together without doing something. Eventually, Stiles offers, “We kissed, and it was awesome, but that’s really it.”

“Oh,” Danny says, disappointed. “Well, that’s unfortunate.”

Stiles makes an indignant sound. “This isn’t a sex contest!”

“Good, because you’re no competition,” Danny responds without missing a beat. Allison laughs, hands still poised over her keyboard even though she’s been ignoring her research and listening to their exchange this whole time.

“Okay, you’re the sexpert here,” Stiles concedes. “So, is there anything I should know about mating with an alpha?” To smooth the awkwardness of his question, he jokes, “Like, is knotting a thing? Because the internet has set very specific expectations.”

There’s a long pause where no one says anything, and Stiles forces a laugh into the silence, because they have to be fucking with him. Right?

“Well…” Allison begins.

At the same time, Danny just says, “Yes.”

“Not always,” Allison contradicts. “It must be an alpha thing, because Isaac never, you know…”

Swelled up in you? ” Stiles asks, panicking slightly. He had purposefully gone with the most outrageous option from his werewolf forums (other than the literal bestiality) and now knots are a thing he has to be legitimately concerned about? Stiles has the weirdest life. “Are you joking?” He has to ask, just to make sure.

“Nope,” Danny answers, a pleased smile curling across his lips.

Allison’s smile is one of sympathy, bless her. “Scott freaked out the first time it happened. He tried to push me away, and well,” she says, wincing at the memory. “Let’s just say it was a painful experience for the both of us.”

Stiles frowns in sympathy even as his traitorous brain offers up the image of Allison and Scott tied together at the crotch, which he really does not need in his life.

“That wasn’t my experience at all ,” Danny teases, not even remotely surprised to hear about Scott’s incompetence.

“He figured it out eventually,” Allison defends mildly, and Stiles assumes that, as with so many other things in their relationship, Allison had figured it out for him.

“Yeah, well, Ethan knew exactly what he was doing,” Danny continues, looking wistful. “Kind of ruined me for normal human sex forever.”

Stiles blanches, because he’s getting very different reports from Danny and Allison here, but maybe it’s just about how long someone’s been an alpha. “So Ethan at least warned you the first time?”

Danny laughs. “More than that. He made sure I was fully prepared. In every way , if you know what I mean.” He thrusts the first three fingers of his right hand through the air obscenely, and somehow Stiles is the one who ends up blushing while Danny overshares.

Seeing the lingering worry in Stiles’ eyes, Danny assures, “Don’t worry; I’m sure Derek will make sure you’re comfortable, especially since you haven’t even been with a guy before.”

“Agreed,” Allison says. “And if he does hurt you, just let us know and we’ll set him straight.”

“Well,” Danny cuts in, “not too straight, because that kind of defeats the purpose.”

Stiles slaps a hand to his face in mortification. “What makes you think I would tell either of you? I’m slowly dying of embarrassment right now, and nothing’s even happened yet.”

Danny scoffs. “Quit being such a baby. He’ll be stuck in you for, like, twenty minutes at most. You’ll be fine.”

At that, a thought occurs to Stiles. “Hey! Why are we assuming I’m going to be the bottom, anyway? I could be a top.”

Danny gives Stiles a once-over, looking at him carefully from head to toe. “Sure you could,” he says skeptically.

“That’s not fair,” Allison interjects, laughter in her voice. Stiles is about to give her a grateful smile when she goes on. “You can definitely bottom from the top.”

“Oh my god,” Stiles mutters, running a frustrated hand through his hair. His friends are the actual worst.

At Stiles’ scowl, Danny catches his eye and says seriously, “Don’t worry, you’ll like bottoming more anyway. I have a sixth sense for these things.”

Voice dripping with incredulity, Stiles responds, “That is an incredibly specific gaydar. Also, the least useful superpower ever.”

“Wouldn’t the knots be the most useless superpower?” Allison questions.

“Not if you use them right,” Danny leers, smirking at Stiles. “You’ll see.”

Stiles frowns, gaze drifting from Danny back to Allison with suspicion as he puts his pen down on the table. “Is this because I’m the twink in our relationship?”

“Sounds to me like you’re projecting,” Allison says, smiling brightly.

Just then, Stiles’ computer sounds with an incoming Skype request. He sees Erica’s face flash across his screen and hits the green icon to accept her call, hoping the rest of the pack has managed to accomplish more than they did. He admits it’s a low bar at the moment, but he mentally places all blame on Allison and Danny.

When Erica’s video loads properly, Stiles sees that she’s wolfed out in her beta form, eyes shining their familiar bright yellow rather than alpha red. Before Stiles can even react to this, she reaches out of frame and drags a nauseous looking Scott into view, shaking him until he flashes his eyes as well. Scott’s eyes blaze yellow onscreen, before he lurches out of the shot, sounding pained.

“Deaton actually did something useful!” Erica announces cheerfully. “We still have some general alpha urges left, but he said they should all be gone within a few hours.”

Isaac pops into frame behind her, rolling his eyes. “I don’t know why he said it would take him three days. He had all the supplies he needed in the clinic. It only took a couple hours.”

Offscreen, Peter’s voice trails in as he says, “Of course it didn’t take long. Destroying things is far easier than creating them.” No one questions this, because they all know Peter speaks from experience. “Deaton most likely requested the extra time to report to whoever he got to help him turn Scott into an alpha in the first place.”

Erica interrupts Peter’s explanation to complain, “All he did was inject us with this purple liquid that Peter took forever to analyze.”

Peter’s voice floats back in, perfectly impassive as he says, “Next time I’ll be sure not to do a thing when you’re potentially about to be poisoned.”

Erica makes a face at Peter before Derek appears beside her, gently nudging her out of the way. “We haven’t found anything on the magical container,” he says before Stiles can ask. “How are things on your end?”

Danny, Allison, and Stiles all go quiet, because all they’ve done is gossip about who they’ve done and the fact that knots are a thing, which isn’t particularly helpful to their current predicament. “Um…” Stiles stalls, not ( Knot? His ridiculous brain offers, but no, not ) knowing what to say.

As a flush is beginning to cross Stiles’ face, Danny speaks up. “We’ve got nothing so far,” he says, cutting his eyes to Stiles as he says, “knot a thing.”

Allison, because she’s secretly as terrible a person as the rest of them beneath her adorably dimpled facade, adds, “Yeah, we all got a little tied up here. Had to explain everything that’s been going on the sheriff, since he was knot in the loop.”

Stiles stifles a nervous laugh behind his hand, and Derek and Erica look at him in confusion. “Okay,” Derek says slowly. “Well, keep working on it. Don’t let anything else distract you; we need to figure this out,” he finishes, staring intently at Stiles as though he’s dying before his very eyes. Which, while technically true, seems a little melodramatic. It’s not like he can see the progress of Stiles’ impending death. He glances down to make sure no more spiderwebs have appeared on his body, just to be sure, and nope, Derek’s just being a worrier.

“Yup, no more distractions,” Stiles confirms. “Knot a problem,” he tacks on, because he feels like he’s earned this one. At Allison’s giggle, he adds, “We’ll get right on top of things.”

Under his breath but undoubtedly still audible to the wolves, Danny murmurs, “You’ll try anyway.”

“Right,” Derek says, hesitating like he wants to say something more to Stiles, who feels his breath catch in his throat and meets Derek’s eyes on the computer screen. Seeming to lose his nerve at the last moment, Derek lifts one hand in a silent goodbye and ends the call.

Stiles blinks dumbly at his laptop for a second, feeling oddly bereft, before he snaps himself out of it and smiles tightly at Allison and Danny. “Let’s get to work,” he says, Derek’s hesitance reminding him of exactly how much he has at stake her. “You know, so I don’t die.


 

While the rest of the pack is being characteristically unhelpful, Lydia and Peter have sequestered themselves to the loft’s kitchen table, sternly warning everyone around them to stay away unless they plan on joining in the research. That was hours ago, and shortly after their announcement, Kira and Malia had headed back to Mrs. Yukimura to see if they could get any more information from her.

Everyone else in the loft hovers around Erica and Scott, keeping an eye on them just in case something goes wrong following Deaton’s alpha-reversal injection. Erica’s beta bond with the pack had instantaneously reformed when her eyes returned to their usual yellow, her connections so everyone snapping back into place like they had never been severed.

Erica, Boyd, and Jackson thumb through a massive stack of books which Peter and Lydia had deemed useless but instructed them to search on the off chance that they had missed something. Derek and Isaac stand on either side of where Scott has himself propped up against the wall, leaning like he can barely keep himself upright. The flipping of pages and the occasional uncomfortable groan from Scott are the only things that can be heard in the room until Scott sits up suddenly, a high-pitched whine escaping his throat.

Isaac jumps back instinctively, for some reason expecting Scott to throw up when he moves so suddenly, but Derek leans in and places a hand on his shoulder. “Are you okay? Deaton said the withdrawal shouldn’t last more than a few hours, even with the larger dosage you had to take,” Derek says, keeping his voice low in case Scott’s hearing is still sensitive.

“I’m fine,” Scott manages to gasp out, eyes wide. He doesn’t look at anyone in the loft when he says, “I felt the bond break. I’m officially not an alpha anymore.” He looks unhinged now that he can’t feel the rest of his pack, and Derek knows that feeling all too well, despite how different the circumstances are. Scott doesn’t look either particularly happy or sad at his change in pack status, and Derek understands that apathy, too. He sighs, not sure what he can do to make this easier on Scott, pitying him even though he’s not entirely sure Scott has earned his sympathy.

The rest of the pack members in the room tense up, knowing that Scott’s only option now is to request re-entry into Derek’s pack as a beta. They try not to seem too invested in the drama, but Erica has her head cocked quite obviously, and even Boyd’s gaze slides their way in the ensuing silence after Scott’s words.

Scott meets Derek’s eyes and clenches his jaw, then eyes the rest of the pack, sees them watching him back, and closes his eyes, breathing in deeply. The last thing he needs is for them to pile on if Derek rejects him.

Sighing, Derek says, “Follow me,” and exits the loft, not even looking back to make sure Scott is behind him, because they both know he has no other option.

The walk out to the edge of the forest is quiet and tense, both Derek and Scott trying to decide what they need to say to make this go as smoothly as possible. Eventually, Scott loses patience and blurts, “I guess I have to join your pack now,” immediately regretting it when his words are met with stony silence from Derek. “I mean,” he amends, “ can I join your pack?” His eyes drift to the treeline, and he kicks the toe of his shoe through the dirt, looking for all the world like he would rather be anywhere else.

Shaking his head, Derek softly asks, “Do you want to be in my pack?”

Confused at the question, Scott replies, “Well, yeah, I mean, I don’t want to be an omega. But also it’s not like I can ask my mom to move so I can find another pack somewhere.” He hesitates, knowing he should make Derek feel like he isn’t just joining his pack as a last resort, but he doesn’t know what to say, so he waits for the alpha to respond.

“You do realize you’d have to submit to me,” Derek asks, crossing his arms. “Fully? That means you can’t argue with me about decisions I make for the good of the pack or just go off and do your own thing. You can come to me with any concerns you have, but ultimately you’ll have to follow my orders when the pack is in danger. And the fact that you used to be an alpha doesn’t get you a higher ranking in the hierarchy,” Derek finishes. “Boyd is already my head beta, so you’d be submitting to him as well.”

Scott looks down from Derek’s eyes, unconsciously falling into his role as a beta even as his muscles tense with irritation at the commands. “I know,” he acknowledges sullenly, “but you still can’t tell me what to do all the time.”

Derek sighs. “I’m not interested in controlling your life, Scott. But when it comes to pack safety, you have to listen to me. If you don’t think you can do that, you can’t be in the pack at all.” Scott looks like he’s about to protest, so Derek holds up a hand and explains. “If you don’t follow my alpha commands, my instinct would be to kick you out of the pack, which I wouldn’t be able to do because I would feel responsible for you.” That kind of conflict strains the entire pack bond, and I’ll do whatever it takes to keep it as strong as possible, even if it means not letting you into the pack.” As he speaks, Derek’s mind drifts to Stiles and Allison, and he hopes that Scott doesn’t force him to make that choice.

Scott takes a second to think about Derek’s words, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “I understand,” he says. “I’ll try not to be a bother to the pack,” he confirms, eyes downcast and face mired in shadow and guilt.

“It’s not about being a bother,” Derek clarifies. “It’s about making sure we can all work as a unit. Having a stable pack dynamic can mean the difference between life and death in a fight.”

Scott bites his lip and nods. “Okay,” he says again, quietly.

Derek’s voice goes tense again as he adds, “You have to accept Stiles, too.”

“I already told Stiles I was okay with you two being together,” he grumbles, making a face like the very idea of it still grosses him out.

“Not that,” Derek says. “You need to trust him, as both a pack member and, now, as your alpha’s mate. If you can’t past whatever it is that’s been affecting the two of you, and end up doing something that puts him in danger, I won’t be responsible for my actions. Neither will the rest of the pack, for that matter.” His eyes flash red in warning.

Scott, much to his consternation, finds that he wants Derek to understand his side of things, so he tries to explain. “I just… didn’t feel like I could trust him anymore, after the nogitsune.” Derek looks at him with puzzlement but reserves judgment, so Scott goes on, “It’s just, I couldn’t tell that he wasn’t himself then. So ever since, whenever he’s around I can’t help but think maybe we’re all being tricked again.”

Every muscle in Derek’s body goes taut at Scott’s words, not with anger but with innate anxiety brought on by the very thought of Stiles not being himself, of the precious moments they had shared not being genuine. He forces the worry down and motions for Scott to go on.

“I talked to Allison about this,” Scott says in response to Derek’s prompting. “And I don’t know if that doubt will ever go away, not completely, sort of like how I’m always going to be at least a little suspicious of Peter, but I’m trying.” He takes a steadying breath. “I know I messed up,” he admits, “but Stiles was… is my brother, and I’m going to make this right to him. And to you.”

Derek’s brow furrows. “To me?”

“You know,” Scott prompts, but Derek just stares at him, confused. “About Gerard.” At Derek’s look of realization, Scott flinches. “I probably could have handled that better,” he admits.

Derek raises an eyebrow, his whole face saying no shit, though he manages to refrain from saying so aloud. “What’s done is done,” Derek concedes, willing to put it behind him for the sake of the pack. At Scott’s look of relief he warns, “But if you ever try something like that on another member of the pack, even if you think it’s the right thing to do, you’re done. You’ll be out of the pack immediately.”

“I won’t,” Scott says, his heart beating steady and true. “I promise.”

“Okay,” Derek responds, nodding.

“So I’m in the pack?” Scott asks.

Shrugging, Derek says, “As long as it’s okay with the rest of the pack, yes.”

Scott gives Derek a small smile and they head back to the loft in a slightly less awkward silence than that of their walk out to the woods.

Once inside, the pack gathers around Scott and Derek without even attempting to hide their curiosity. Derek notes the absence of Lydia and Peter but chooses not to call them into the room, knowing better than to interrupt their research. “Scott wants to join the pack,” Derek announces officially. “All in favor?” He realizes how awkward the unnecessary formality is the moment the words leave his mouth, but, shockingly, no one calls him out on it. He does see Erica’s lips twitch up in half a smirk, but Boyd nudges her and she sighs in response, forcing herself to maintain her composure.

“Do we even have a choice here?” Jackson asks, impatient. “You know Stilinski wants us to let him in.”

“There’s always a choice when it comes to pack membership,” Derek emphasizes, because he needs them to take this seriously.

“Yeah, sure, let the idiot back in the pack,” Jackson says.

Boyd and Isaac give their approval, and Boyd texts Kira, who responds almost immediately that she and Malia are both fine with Scott joining the pack, which Erica scoffs at, because there’s no way Kira actually asked Malia about that, but it’s good enough for Derek. Pack membership is based on the alpha’s opinion and majority rule anyway, which is why he’s okay with letting Lydia and Peter sit out this vote.

He gives Erica an inquiring look, and she stares Scott down, making him squirm uncomfortably before she offers a begrudging, “Okay, fine. Let him in.”

“What about Allison?” Scott asks. “I know Malia joined the pack already, and Kira said she would as soon as I stopped being an alpha, but Allison’s human, so…” He looks at Derek uncertainly.

“I’ll invite her to join the next time I see her,” Derek tells Scott. To the rest of the pack, he asks, “Any objections?”

Everyone shakes their heads and Erica scoffs. “Of course not, we like Allison,” she says.

Scott ignores the significant look Erica sends him, too relieved at having everything settled to be upset by her comment. He knows he has a lot to do before Erica will trust him again, if she ever will, but he wants to try.

Peter appears from the kitchen then. “I found our container,” he declares, throwing a Chinese takeout box down on the coffee table in front of the group.

They all stare at in stunned silence before Scott pipes up, “I knew there was no way you could fold those into shape without some sort of magic!”

“Are we sure we want him in the pack?” Jackson questions, sneering at Scott, who’s still staring at the box with an awed look on his face.

Isaac responds, “Too late now,” and shrugs.

Lydia bursts into the room then, a book in one hand and her open laptop balanced on the other. “It doesn’t matter what the container is,” she says, setting both items on the table for the group to see, “as long as the magic is done right. We just need to cast a binding spell that will seal the negative energy to whatever container we choose.” Lydia looks pleased with herself despite being slightly frayed around the edges from having no sleep throughout her research binge. Spending all that time with Peter certainly hadn’t helped matters, but at least she has their solution now.

Pleased, Derek smiles at her. “So you found the spell?”

Lydia hesitates, because her solution is not necessarily one that Derek will appreciate.

Peter answers for her. “It’s not as easy as it seems,” he informs them. “Stiles will have to perform the spell without any of us around, otherwise it would try to bind us along with the negative energy. It doesn’t make much distinction between different supernatural entities. And Stiles will be completely drained after he finishes the spell,” Peter says.

“Drained?” Derek questions.

Lydia waves Peter off now and explains, “The energy has fused with both Stiles’ body and his spark, so when he expels the magic through the spell, it’s going to severely weaken him.”

Looking conflicted, Derek asks, “How bad will it be?”

“It’s nothing that won’t come back in due time,” Peter reassures. “On a related note, how do you feel about dating a quadriplegic?” At the shocked looks he receives, Peter explains, “Purging the energy will leave Stiles almost entirely immobile for a while. A long while.”

Derek’s eyes widen, and the rest of the pack openly gapes at Peter’s words. “Are you sure there’s no other way?” he asks, just to be certain.

“None that we could find and pull off before it’s too late,” Lydia says. “We’re already cutting it close with this one.”

Derek nods his understanding. “But Stiles will be okay?” Derek confirms. “Afterwards?”

“If he survives the spell,” Peter states.

Derek does his best not to think about the possibility of losing Stiles to the spell, of losing Stiles to anything , really. Not when he’s only just gotten him. Derek forces himself into a state of relative calm, mentally preparing himself to tell Stiles what they’ve found.

Chapter Text

Stiles has been staring at this screen for so long that he’s beginning to feel like clawing his eyes out. It’s been hours, and they’ve made no progress, not even with Stiles leaving questions in every forum he can find and Danny running search programs that only he fully understands. Allison hasn’t had any better luck with the Argent files, finding plenty of interesting information about all manner of creatures but nothing useful about Stiles’ current predicament. She rubs her forehead, feeling a headache coming on, and looks to Danny, who has apparently decided to let his programs do all the work for him and is now tapping incessantly at his phone.

“Ugh,” Stiles groans, rubbing at his dry eyes for what feels like the millionth time, “this is the worst .” He’s not even particularly hungry, but he considers offering to make everyone food just so he can feel at least mildly productive. As he’s about to give in to the urge to procrastinate, his Skype window chimes with an incoming call. “Thank god,” he mutters, answering the call without hesitation.

Lydia appears on the screen, clearly the one who placed the call as she’s front and center. Peter stands behind her and to her left, with Derek hovering off to her right. Looking more closely, Stiles can just make out Erica’s hair on the far left side of the frame, and Scott’s shoes from wherever he’s sitting on the floor. Stiles assumes the rest of the pack is around as well, but he can’t see them all.

“Please tell me you found something,” Stiles pleads by way of greeting. “Anything.” The fruitless research had grated on his nerves more than he’s willing to admit; in the past, he had always dug something up within a couple hours, and still being empty-handed after this long feels like a monumental failure. He’s supposed to be the researcher of the group, and with no new information to preoccupy him, his brain had drifted to less pleasant territory. Namely, the fact that he might actually die if he doesn’t solve this. Which, hey, no pressure. Thanks, brain.

Not only would he be dead, his psyche reminds him, but he’d be dead without ever having so much as a movie date with Derek. He wouldn’t get to order popcorn with too much butter just because the chemical smell of it annoys werewolf noses, or slurp his drink loudly during a dramatic scene, or do that really lame yawn-stretch thing middle schoolers all talk about to get their arms around each other. And, okay, maybe most of his Derek-related date fantasies have centered around being at least mildly annoying, but Stiles feels like that’s an accurate representation of their relationship. He loves seeing Derek respond to the mess of a human that is Stiles Stilinski, always has, always will.

Stiles tunes back in to the fact that he’s in the middle of a video chat when Lydia clears her throat pointedly, obviously realizing that he went off on a side quest in his head. Peter, however, speaks before Lydia can respond to Stiles’ request for information. “We were just phoning in to say hello, now that you mention it,” Peter drawls, deadpan.

Lydia pretends he hasn’t spoken at all, focusing on Stiles instead. She summarizes what they’ve found, that the spell can cleanse the dark energy from Stiles and bind it to another container. She doesn’t give Stiles to be happy about having a solution before diving into the many dangers of the spell itself.

“Okay, so let me get this straight,” Stiles says when Lydia is finished. “My options are A) Dying,” Derek rumbles with a quiet growl behind Erica as Stiles says this, “B) Doing the spell wrong and dying faster,” Derek’s growl grows in volume now, “or C) Doing the spell right and then basically being a vegetable for a few months?” When Lydia nods the affirmative, Stiles sighs, “Great. Then the last one, obviously.” Derek’s growl has stopped now, but he still looks pained, and Stiles tries to meet his eyes through the screen. Derek averts his gaze, looking at the ground.

“I’ll send you the spell,” Peter says. “But you’ll need to perform it without any supernatural creatures nearby, otherwise you run the risk of either binding them too or starting another possession.”

“No matter what,” Lydia reassures, “the nemeton’s energy will be contained. The first spell you’ll have to perform looks simple enough; you’ll basically be putting a magical lock on whatever container we choose and tossing a little extra magic in it as a lure for the energy. The binding spell will force the magic to look for a host, and we’re giving it one. The second spell is where you might have a problem; it gathers all of the energy within you and throws it at the container, which is going to be difficult to control while it’s draining you of your strength. At this point, you’re the only thing we still have to worry about.” Lydia graces Stiles with a mildly worried look.

“Speaking of which,” Peter warns, “keep away from the nemeton as well, to prevent it from becoming infected again.” He shoots Stiles a pointed look, considering Stiles going near the nemeton is what started this whole debacle in the first place.

“Wasn’t planning to go visit anytime soon,” Stiles agrees. “How do we know this spell will work, anyway?” He feels like he needs to question it, since he’s putting his mobility (at best) and his life (at worst) on the line here.

“Peter confirmed its validity with some of his… sources,” Lydia says, making the final word sound about as sketchy as possible.

“Way to inspire confidence,” Stiles replies.

Lydia shrugs, “He didn’t poison Scott or Erica when he had the chance, and this spell is our only viable option at this point regardless.”

“So this is definitely happening then,” Stiles says, resigning himself to his single, terrible option. “At least make sure someone comes to get my body before it gets mauled by actual wild animals, since I apparently get to die alone in the middle of the woods if I mess up.” His sounds more annoyed than scared at this.

“I’ll be there with you, in case anything happens,” Allison volunteers. “They said you would have to be away from the supernatural, and that doesn’t include me.” Stiles smiles, knowing he couldn’t get her to stay away even if he wanted to, and he really doesn’t.

“Same here,” Danny says. “I’m super human. Not superhuman, just, you know, the closest thing to a regular human in this group. So I’ll be there, too.” He grins at Stiles, dimple and all.

“Awesome,” Stiles says. “You two can start my wake immediately if I die,” he suggests, getting distracted. “Why do they call it a wake anyway? I’d be very much not awake at that point.”

“Stiles,” Derek groans, voice soft and face pinched.

“Sorry,” Stiles mutters, snapping back into reality.

Peter pulls a face at the two of them. “The spell isn’t going to kill him,” Peter says with an eye roll. “Stiles banished Asag a few days ago; he’s clearly qualified to perform this far more basic magic as long as he doesn’t overthink it or lose control.”

“I overthink everything!” Stiles interrupts. “It’s kind of, like, my signature move. Also, literally no control. That’s one of the primary problems with ADHD. Which I have, in case you forgot.” He flails his arms as he speaks, unintentionally proving his point by bashing the back of his hand into the laptop screen and sending it toppling sideways. As he positions it so the rest of the pack can see his face again, he gives Peter an I told you so look.

“Use whatever tactic you had for maintaining control with Asag,” Peter replies, having no patience for Stiles’ excuses.

“But I don’t even know what I did,” Stiles argues. “I was mostly unconscious.”

Peter shrugs. “Then I guess you’ll die.” When Stiles just gapes and Derek takes an angry step forward, Peter continues, “I guess we’ll need to find someone else with magical abilities and a hint of intelligence. Perhaps a trained orangutan?”

“Derek, don’t bother,” Stiles sighs when he sees the alpha’s eyes flash in response to Peter’s comments. “As much as I appreciate that you’re willing to let an ape replace me,” Stiles sighs at Peter, “I guess I just have to do the spell and hope I don’t die.”

Peter looks behind him at Derek, then back to Stiles on the monitor and exhales an annoyed breath. “We’ve already established that you’ll probably just be paralyzed for a few months, so you can both stop with the theatrics and get to work. We still need to locate all the necessary ingredients.

“Oh, is it a bunch of super weird and obscure stuff that should be impossible to find?” Stiles asks, enthusiastic.

“You seem oddly pleased about this,” Peter replies with a raised eyebrow.

“Because I know exactly where to go,” Stiles answers, getting an odd deja-vu like feeling when he explains his previous adventure in the weird supernatural grocery store to the group. “It was super creepy, but it had, like, everything I needed. Also, it was way more organized than I would have expected. I wonder if OCD is a common thing for magicians,” he muses.


 

Following a brief explanation at the confusion of the pack, Stiles leads Allison and Danny to the Jeep. As he approaches the warehouse district, the area becomes increasingly dilapidated, nearly overrun with a web of graffiti.

“Where exactly are we going?” Danny questions, eyeing the neighborhood skeptically when Stiles pulls into what appears to be a vacant lot.

“Don’t worry,” Stiles reassures him as he puts the car in park. “I know it looks sketchy, but it’s way nicer inside.” He gets out and walks towards the front entrance, glancing behind him to find that Danny is now standing beside the Jeep but neither he nor Allison have made any move to follow. “Come on,” Stiles calls, “this is the place.” He gestures to the door impatiently, but Allison and Danny just stare in confusion.

“Stiles?” Allison says slowly, “There’s nothing there.”

Frowning, Stiles looks at the building behind him, hulking and hideous as it’s always been, and he’s fairly certain he wouldn’t hallucinate this. He can’t have hallucinated it, considering it’s where he got the ingredients he needed to cleanse the nemeton in the first place.

He puts his hand on the door, and it feels solid beneath his palm. Anxiously, he turns the handle and pushes it open, peering into the building without going in. He turns back to Danny and Allison, waving them over. The two of them eye Stiles warily but approach regardless, Danny having finally helped Allison settle into her wheelchair.

“Finally,” Stiles sighs when they’re only a step or two behind him. He makes his way into the building, taking a few strides forward before once again realizing that he’s alone. He goes back outside, calling “It’s really not as bad as it looks,” before he registers the shock on their faces and stops, puzzled.

“You just… disappeared,” Danny breathes. Beside him, Allison’s eyes are wide.

“The building must have some sort of glamour over it,” she says. “Like something out of a fairy tale.” Interested, she rolls her chair forward and then stops abruptly, face twisting in exertion. “I can’t get any closer,” she says, clearly disappointed.

“Let me try,” Danny offers, stepping forward and seeming to smash into a glass door, bouncing back in a way that Stiles can’t help but laugh at. Danny scowls at him in response. “Why are you the only one who can see it?” he complains.

“Maybe it’s another spark thing?” Stiles guesses, scratching the back of his head.

“Wait,” Danny says, grabbing the cuff of Stiles’ shirtsleeve where it rode up slightly as he touched his hair. He pushes the sleeve up further to discover that more spiderwebs have begun to appear. “If this place really is magic,” he worries, “then being here is speeding up the effects of the negative energy. You need to hurry.” He gestures at what he assumes to be the entrance, though it just looks like more vacant lot to him, and says, “We’ll wait here,” as though it’s his own choice and not the only option.

Stiles nods and runs into the store. A second later, he stumbles out in a rush, appearing before them again with no warning. “I almost forgot,” he pants, holding a hand out to Danny. “Give me a twenty. Actually,” he reconsiders, “just give me everything you’ve got.”

Danny doesn’t so much as twitch, raising an eyebrow at Stiles, who has apparently turned into the world’s least intimidating mugger. “Why?” His voice is equal parts curiosity and confusion.

“There aren’t exactly cashiers in there,” Stiles explains. “It’s more like a magical honor system, and there’s no way I’m shortchanging it. Like, the sign is super creepy and possibly written in blood, which is a thing I don’t want to deal with at the moment. I gave it everything I had last time, and it let me live. So, in an effort to repeat those results,” he concludes, “wallet, please.”

At Stiles’ grabby hands, Danny sighs and reaches into his pocket, fishing out his wallet a few other assorted items before handing them over.

“If you’re worried about it that much,” Allison cuts in, “you should grab my purse from the car, too. Just in case.” Stiles nods and runs to the car and back, handing her purse off and waiting for her to pull out whatever she has.

Between the two of them, they come up with $106.69, two faded Starburst wrappers, a hair tie, half a pack of gum, and five condoms (only two of which belong to Danny, who smirks at Allison when she blushes and pulls out her three). Stiles feels like he hasn’t contributed much this time, but it’s not his fault he hasn’t made any money since giving everything he had to the store last time, so he hopes this will do. He sifts through their pile of payment and shrugs.

“Oh, wait,” Allison says. She fumbles through her mostly empty purse again and comes up with birth control and a tampon, adding them to Stiles’ haul. “Do you think this is enough?” She asks, concerned.

“I mean, I could take your wheelchair,” Stiles jokes, “but that seems like a little much.” Allison smiles brightly at that, because Stiles has never made light of her disability, and she couldn’t be happier to hear him doing so now, pleased with his progress.

“Just go get your ingredients,” Danny urges Stiles, seeing another spiderweb begin to weave its way up his arm.

“Right,” Stiles agrees, hurrying back into the warehouse with only one glance at Allison and Danny over his shoulder before the door closes behind him. He throws everything into the same basket he had paid in last time before he begins to rush around, looking for the things he needs.

One aisle over from the dragon scales, he hears a loud thump as something hits the floor, and it’s not like he can just not investigate the strange sounds in a magical building. When he rounds the corner, he finds a thick, leather-bound book sitting primly in the middle of the floor. He walks over to it carefully, looking but not touching, and glances around to see where it came from, but it doesn’t have any clear home. The aisle is teeming with all sorts of dried plants, not another text in sight.

Squinting at the cover, Stiles sees that the title is inscribed in unrecognizable runes. Assuming it’s not going to make him die much faster than he already is, he shrugs and picks up the book. When he straightens back up, he finds that he can’t open it; both covers and all the pages seem firmly held together, not letting him so much as glance at the writing within. Still, the book is oddly light despite its heavy appearance, and it produces a warm feeling in his chest. Something tells him that this place wants him to take the book, so tucks it under his arm and resumes searching for the starwort he needs.

When he finally gathers everything into one bundle, book under one arm and spell ingredients shoved together under the other, Stiles trudges back to the front of the warehouse. He glances at the basket on his way out, noticing that it’s empty and takes a moment to be weirdly pleased that this building seems to approve of him.

Once back outside, Stiles finds himself pinwheeling his arms to stop from barrelling directly into Danny, who’s standing right on the edge of the invisible barrier. He lurches to the side, barely avoiding a collision.

“Okay, we’ll see you then,” Stiles hears Allison saying into her phone, voice tense as she glances up to him and hangs up. “My dad,” she explains. “He’s going to meet us in the forest for the spell.” She raises an eyebrow at the book Stiles clutches in his hands along with an assortment of ingredients but doesn’t question it, having other concerns at the moment.

Stiles nods his assent, figuring having another human around can’t hurt while he’s out doing potentially life-threatening magic in the middle of the woods. Allison keeps cutting concerned looks at Stiles, and he’s beginning fidget with nerves by the time they’re all settled back into the Jeep, at which point Allison immediately calls Lydia, telling her that they’ll be doing the spell tonight, as soon as possible.

With a sinking feeling, Stiles checks his reflection in the rearview mirror to confirm his suspicions, finding that the spiderwebs have now spread to his neck, visibly twining their way over the majority of his body now. He steels himself as he starts the car, giving the magical store a parting look as he drives away. Apparently, ten minutes in the building were more powerful than the near-continuous presence of a pack of were-creatures and a banshee, and he’s more glad than ever that the place approves of him for whatever reason.


 

It’s late evening when the three of them make it out to the preserve, and they make slow progress while trying to clear a path for Allison’s wheelchair through the underbrush. This seems like the sort of situation where werewolves would be particularly useful, Stiles thinks, hauling a particularly cumbersome branch out of the walking trail as Danny helps Allison push her way further into the forest.

By the time they arrive at a clearing with which Stiles is vaguely familiar, having spent a full moon lounging around with the pack nipping at his heels (literally, in Erica’s case) during a rare peaceful month, he’s wiping sweat from his brow. The exhaustion pulling at his muscles transforms into a cold anger when his eyes, re-adjusting to the low glow of twilight, process that there are two figures waiting for them.

He stomps up to Chris Argent, barely processing it as Allison and Danny follow behind him, offering quiet greetings of their own. “Why would you make him come out here?” Stiles demands, gesturing at where his father stands, arms crossed.

“Why wouldn’t I be here for my kid?” The sheriff replies, eyeing Stiles with a mixture of frustration and sad resignation.

Stiles forces himself to ignore the way his heart clenches at the question, because he knows he can’t answer that question. He has a feeling So you won’t have to watch me die won’t exactly be the most welcome of responses, so he keeps that particular comment to himself. Instead, he looks between John and Chris, changing the topic. “I didn’t see the cruiser anywhere,” he observes, remembering the SUV being not too far from where he left the Jeep. “Did you two ride here together? Because that feels like the beginning of a cliche buddy-cop movie, and I’m not sure how I feel about that.”

The sheriff rolls his eyes, too familiar with Stiles’ diversionary tactics to be thrown off track that easily. “I have to get my intel from someone,” he explains, “since my own son still refuses to keep me in the loop.”

“I told you what was going on!” Stiles protests, throwing his hands in the air.

John reaches out and catches him by the wrist, frowning at the webbed patterns gracing his skin. Chris had warned him after Allison’s phone call, but he still has to close his eyes briefly at the markings and the trouble they’re sure to bring. “Not all of it,” he sighs.

“Sorry,” Stiles murmurs, deflating. In his defense, he had told his dad basically everything he knew at the time, but he also wasn’t about to call him out to the woods for the spell itself, not with the threat of failure still looming over his head.

In his peripheral vision, Stiles sees Chris shift uncomfortably, noticing for the first time the briefcase the older hunter has clasped in one hand. It’s mostly unmarred black surface reminds Stiles a little too clearly of mob movies, and he gets a distinct mental image of an Argent packing it full of weapons, blood money, or some combination of the two. He shudders.

At Stiles’ attention, Chris hefts the briefcase up higher in acknowledgement. “Allison and Lydia said any container would do, so I figured this was a decent option,” he says.

The sheriff eyes the briefcase, and Stiles can feel him coming to the same dark conclusions about it, probably with even more certainty considering his actual law enforcement experience as opposed to movie-based deductions. Like Stiles, however, John elects not to voice his suspicions. He has more important things to worry about.

“Okay, cool,” Stiles begins, forcing a calm into his voice which he doesn’t feel. “So, all I have to do is follow these instructions,” he says, holding up his phone with the detailed information from Lydia and Peter on it, “put some binding runes on that,” he motions at the potentially-criminal briefcase, “and then do the spell. Easy.” He tries for a confident smile, but based on the worry lines that appear on his dad’s brow, he must not succeed.

“No, you don’t,” the sheriff says, putting a hand on Stiles’ shoulder to keep him still. “You aren’t doing that spell until Melissa is done with her shift, which,” he checks his watch, “won’t be for another two hours.”

Stiles pales, because as much as he loves Melissa, he’s fairly certain she won’t be able to do anything to help if something goes wrong. It’s not like he’ll be in a battle or anything, this is magic. “Dad...” he starts.

“There’s no reason not to have a nurse around, just in case,” his dad says firmly. “Better safe than sorry.” And Stiles can’t really argue with that, knows he would do the same if their positions were reversed, so he bites his tongue. “You can go ahead and get everything set up,” the sheriff allows when he sees that Stiles isn’t going to argue any further. “That way you’re ready when she gets here.”

Nodding, Stiles sets to work, forming a foul-smelling paste from some barely-identifiable ingredients in the mortar and pestle the magic warehouse had provided him and smearing it across the briefcase in intricate patterns. He consults his phone repeatedly throughout the process, triple-checking his work as he goes, because he’s not about to let a poorly drawn rune be the thing that costs him his life. He feels like he’s earned a better cause of death than poor penmanship, at the very least.

When the area is prepared, briefcase marked on every side and sitting in the middle of an elaborate circle of mountain ash mixed with dried pig’s blood and powdered yarrow root, Stiles steps away, checks everything over again in comparison to the notes and images Lydia and Peter has sent, and nods to himself, finished.

Suddenly cold, he wraps his arms around himself, wishing for Derek’s jacket, and goes to lean against a nearby tree away from the group, trying not to question every life choice that has brought him here. Of course, because he’s Stiles, avoiding thinking about life ends with him thinking about the afterlife, whether or not it even exists and what it’s like and whether or not that means he’ll get to see his mom again. He clenches his eyes shut and makes a valiant effort to stop thinking entirely, but he can’t .

He senses as someone approaches him and doesn’t have to open his eyes to know it’s his dad. When his father’s hand closes on his shoulder and gives a reassuring squeeze, Stiles finally meets his eyes. John wears a small smile, trying to be supportive despite everything, and Stiles has to avert his gaze immediately or risk getting overly emotional before he’s even said his piece.

“If this doesn’t work,” Stiles begins, holding a hand up to stop his dad before he can interrupt, “you have to promise me you’ll be okay.” He can’t quite bring himself to say the words “If I die” to his father so bluntly, but he knows the meaning gets across, can see it in the way John’s face crumples ever so slightly.

The sheriff hesitates. “Stiles…”

Stiles shakes his head, because this is important and he’s not about to get talked out of having this conversation. He needs to know his loved ones will be okay, even if he isn’t. “Promise me,” he reiterates. Then, considering, he adds, “Take care of Derek too,” knowing his dad only made it through his mom’s death because Stiles needed him, and maybe Derek can fill that role in some small way. “Don’t let him do anything stupid,” he goes on, thinking back to the many terrible decisions Derek has made out of fury and grief. “Actually, both of you,” he amends. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

“Oh, like a spell that might kill us?” John manages to choke out, doing his best to lighten the mood even as his hand grips Stiles’ shoulder more tightly, desperately.

Stiles scoffs. “Like you have that type of magic,” he says, dredging up a smirk.

“Are you sure this is the only way?” His dad asks, voice taut with worry he can’t suppress any longer. At Stiles’ affirmative nod, he releases a breath. “I hate that you always end up in these situations,” he admits, because it seems like his son is always throwing himself into any danger that rears its head, no matter the risk. Before Stiles can protest, he continues, “I understand why you do it, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.”

“Yeah,” Stiles replies faintly, remembering countless nights of fear that his dad wouldn’t come home from work, never fully understanding why anyone would do what the sheriff did every day until he found himself with a pack to protect and the means to do it. Now, he understands all too well, a selfish part of him wishing he didn’t.

John pulls Stiles into a tight hug, knowing they’ve both said everything they can but still unwilling to part with his son any sooner than he has to. Eventually, though, Stiles’ phone beeps with a video call, and he extricates himself from his dad’s embrace to answer it.

On the screen, he can just barely make out the rest of the pack hovering behind Kira and Malia, who are clearly the ones who placed the call. “Hey, Stiles,” Kira greets, voice subdued. “We wanted to wish you luck,” she says, “and remind you to be careful. You’re too good to let the dark energy get the better of you, so just… don’t rush it.”

Malia tilts the phone in Kira’s hand so that their faces block out the rest of the pack members. “If you die, Deaton dies,” she reminds him, eyes narrowed.

“I know I should be morally opposed to that,” Stiles responds, “but it’s not like I’d be around to stop you.” He shrugs before addressing Kira, “Make sure she doesn’t pull a full-on Peter if this goes south.”

Kira nods her agreement, unable to form a response, and hands the phone off to Lydia, who does her best to look nonchalant as she says, “I’ve already started researching ways to speed up the healing process after the spell.” Stiles manages a smile at that, not missing how her plans leave no room for the possibility of a failure on his part.

Erica grabs the phone next, her voice steely with determination. “Batman never dies,” she says.

Stiles’ smile becomes more genuine then. “And Batman would hate to disappoint his Catwoman,” he replies.

“Good,” she confirms before passing him off to Boyd, who looks at Stiles for a second before simply stating, “We’re here.” It’s oddly grounding for Stiles, to be reminded in the most basic of terms that he has friends and family who care about him this much. He nods a silent thanks to Boyd before the phone exchanges hands again.

It’s Isaac who appears next, and he looks unsure of what to say, before going with “Erica will be unbearable if anything goes wrong, so I’m going to need you to haunt her at least.”

Stiles chuckles. “If you think death would keep me from annoying the shit out of all of you, you’re in for a surprise,” he promises.

Jackson barks out a laugh that comes out sounding vaguely strangled before he appears on Stiles’ screen, going quiet. “I’ll be beyond pissed if you die on me now,” he says.

“Not planning on it,” Stiles says, adding “Secret bro,” in a whisper. Jackson rolls his eyes, but Stiles sees the way the corner of his mouth quirks up at the term.

Next, Scott’s face comes into view, his eyes teary and voice laden with regret. “I’m so sorry, Stiles,” he says. “I promise I’ll be a better friend, just, please be okay.” He sniffles, and the kicked puppy expression is almost too much for Stiles.

Before he can respond to Scott, Peter appears behind him, not even taking the phone but speaking through the mask of Scott’s emotions. “Things will be far too dull without you around,” he says. “And you and I both know it’s in everyone else’s best interests that I not be bored.” Stiles wonders if his death would really be enough to throw Peter back into a homicidal spiral, but at the very least he realizes it would be a convenient enough excuse.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he says, watching as Peter pries the phone from Scott’s fingers now, walking a short distance, to where Stiles assumes Derek is sulking in a corner. He considers the fact that, usually, the pack is thrown into these life or death scenarios with so little warning that no one gets the chance to say goodbye.

He should be grateful for this opportunity, Stiles reminds himself, even as the lump in his throat grows when Peter thrusts the phone into Derek’s hand and Stiles gets a glimpse of the alpha’s face.

Derek looks, for lack of a better word, terrible . His face is etched with concern, his eyes creased in preemptive sorrow on Stiles’ behalf, and his hair mussed far beyond the point of being charming. Stiles finds himself charmed anyway, heart aching with warmth at the physical reminder of how much Derek cares. “Hey,” Stiles says, not sure what else he’s supposed to say to his maybe-boyfriend, definitely-alpha when he’s going off to his possible death.

As though reading his mind, Derek orders, “You can’t die.” Then, realizing how gruffly the words came out, he softens. “I just found you,” he murmurs, eyes darting around uncomfortably as he considers his next words before lapsing back into silence. He opens his mouth to speak one more time before shaking his head and settling on “I wish I could be there for you. With you.”

Stiles knows Derek must be thinking about how he wasn’t there when his family died, and he’s overcome with the inexplicable urge to hold Derek’s hand. All he wants in the world right now is to give him a reassuring squeeze, but he can’t . Glancing behind him, Stiles sees that his dad and the other humans are giving him a wide enough berth that he can at least tell himself he has some privacy, so he breathes deeply and rips off the Band-Aid. “I love you,” he blurts, hanging up the phone with shaking hands.

He sinks to the ground then, sitting cross-legged and trying to collect himself, unwilling to so much as look up at the others in the clearing with him. Dimly, he realizes he should at least be putting up a stronger front for them, but he just told Derek he loved him, which will piss him off if Stiles lives.

And if he dies… Well, that might just crush Derek, might make him think that he really is cursed after all, and Stiles refuses to be responsible for that. He won’t.

Phone clenched tightly in one hand, he forces himself back to his feet, swiping the back of the other hand across his eyes and shooting his dad a grateful look as he approaches, placing a steadying arm around Stiles’ shoulders.

From her place beside Chris, Allison says, “Melissa should be here any minute,” with a quiet voice, and the reminder that he still has a task to perform is just what Stiles needs. He gathers himself and goes through the motions of checking that his preparations for the spell are still intact, the familiar process soothing now.

When Melissa appears at the edge of the clearing, face pinched with worry, carrying a first aid kit in one hand and a heavy duty flashlight in the other, she rushes to Stiles and the sheriff the moment she sees them. She wraps her arms around them both, the corner of the first aid kit digging painfully into Stiles’ shoulder blade, and then pulls back with a deep frown.

“I can’t believe Scott didn’t tell me about any of this,” she says, voice halfway to threatening. “That you didn’t tell me either,” she adds, just to make sure Stiles knows he isn’t getting off the hook either. She tugs on his ear in a way he remembers her doing when he and Scott were being particularly annoying as kids before stating, “You need to make it through this spell in one piece, or, so help me god, I’ll find a way to make you regret it.”

For some reason, this makes Stiles imagine Erica turning into Mrs. McCall in the future, and he can’t help but smile at the thought. Aggressive caring is becoming a theme with them.

Allison wheels her way up to Stiles then, knowing that she doesn’t have much longer before he does the spell, now that Mrs. McCall has arrived. Her eyes are brimming with unshed tears, and Stiles isn’t sure he can keep up this level of emotional openness, so he speaks before she does, inclining his head at her wheelchair. “I wonder if they have that in bed form,” he jokes, “since apparently I won’t be able to use my arms or legs after this.” And that’s if all goes well, he doesn’t need to remind her.

“If they don’t yet, the pack will make you one,” Allison promises. Then, grinning, she goes on, “And after you pull off the spell, we can be disability buddies.” There’s a tentative optimism to her words, and Stiles leans down to wrap her in a grateful hug.

When he straightens, he finds Danny looking at him sadly. “I just joined the pack,” Danny reminds him, “so do me a favor and don’t die before you can fully appreciate your newfound attractiveness to gay guys. I need details.” He throws on a cocky smirk for good measure.

Knot if I can help it,” Stiles returns, offering a tentative fist out for Danny to bump.

“No way I’m letting that be the last thing you say to me,” Danny says, giving a dramatic eyeroll and pulling Stiles into yet another hug.

When he steps back, Stiles turns slowly back to the circle he made around the briefcase, taking a few calming breaths before he begins to walk towards it. On the edge of the ash line, he dashes back to his dad and engulfs him in another hug, murmuring “love you” into his shoulder. The sheriff pats his back and says the same, giving Stiles one last searching look before releasing him. Stiles locks eyes with everyone else again, getting tight smiles from everyone and an encouraging nod from Chris Argent before he finally returns to the circle, stepping into it.

Outside of the circle, the rest of the group has gathered around the sheriff, unconsciously flanking him in case of any problems. Melissa and Allison each grip one hand, and Chris rests another on his shoulder. Danny has his phone out, having sent a video call to Jackson so the rest of the pack can see what’s happening.

Clearing his mind, Stiles focuses on the foreign words of the spell, making sure he forms them all perfectly, the sounds rolling off of his tongue and hanging in the air around him.

Nothing happens.

“Everything okay?” The sheriff asks, trying to take a step forward but being held back by the rest of the group.

Stiles nods, closing his eyes as he reminds himself to focus, trying to calm his mind even further. He feels like something is missing, but he can’t quite place it. Suddenly, it’s like he’s been dropped into the white room again, which he hasn’t seen since the incident with Asag.

The same magician stands in the center of the space, surrounded by others dressed in clothing from various locations and eras, many of which Stiles doesn’t recognize. The familiar magician steps forward with a small smile, taking Stiles’ hands in hers and forming them into shapes again, these different from the last and even more complex.

Stiles lets the feeling overtake him, allowing his body to memorize the movement without putting much conscious thought into it, opening his eyes and repeating the spell while using his hands to direct the magic. He can feel the power swirling within him now, recognizes that his motions are shaping it into just the right form, keeping him safe from his own spell.

As the words leave his lips, Stiles feels a breeze begin to pick up around him, swirling within the confines of his circle but not affecting the trees or anything else outside of it. He squints against the assault of the wind and sees the briefcase slam open, the runes on it beginning to glow. Minutes pass, and the symbols go from their initially blinding white to a dimmer gray before slowly becoming entirely black as the nemeton’s dark energy is absorbed.

Lowering his eyes, Stiles realizes that he has also begun to glow, emanating a blue so bright it’s edging on white, like a concentrated flame. He can feel the magic within him fighting to take control, and the sensation is so similar to the nogitsune’s takeover that he starts to panic, air catching in his throat with every inhale.

While Stiles is distracted by remembering how to breathe, the magic takes advantage of his distraction to launch another attack, fighting even harder against Stiles for control. He feels the motion of his hands becoming faster and faster, spinning out of control and jerking the rest of his body around with the force.

From what seems like a great distance, he hears his dad scream for him, voice muffled by the air still swirling around him and by his own inner turmoil. Managing to force his head up through sheer force of will, Stiles takes in the devastated faces of everyone who came here to support him, and the sight bolsters his resolve. He grits his teeth and refuses to let the magic find another foothold, doing everything in his power to push it back.

Just when he’s sure he must be making progress, he looks down again and finds that the spiderwebs have spread even further, engulfing his arms and inking their way towards his fingertips, leaving almost none of his skin unmarred. The rest of his body continues to glow blue-white, and he catches himself fading in and out, no longer seeming quite solid. He remembers the warnings, that he might become pure magical energy, and the reality that this might really be it for him starts to sink in.

Fear clawing its way through him, Stiles’ thoughts race from his dad to Derek to Scott and how they never really got to fix things, and all he can think is how incredibly sorry he is, because, despite all his thoughts and preparations to the contrary, Stiles doesn’t think he can do this. He gasps in lungfuls of air, but his body doesn’t quite process them, and he grows lightheaded. He’s known death was a possibility, sure, but it always was with him, and he had clung to the idea that this would be like all his other near-death experiences. Only, it isn’t. This feels real, and he isn’t sure what to do at this point. Half the time, he’s the one saving the others, and he dimly registers that, no matter how much they may want to, no one else can save him now.

Then you’ll have to save yourself this time , a voice in his head says, and if Stiles had any control of his body at the moment he would have frozen at that, because it’s his mom . He hasn’t heard her voice in years, had almost convinced himself that he wouldn’t recognize it now, but there’s no denying it. He’s hearing his mom, and god, he must really be dying after all.

No, you’re not, the voice answers him. You can do this, Szczyrz. You have to fight it. And Stiles realizes he has no way of knowing whether this is just a hallucination or actually his mom’s spirit talking to him, but either way he refuses to let her down.

He resumes concentrating on getting control of the spell, the wind whipping around him even faster now, buffeting his dad back every time he or anyone else tries to approach the circle. Finally, he finishes chanting the spell, and his hands slow to a stop. He falls to his knees with the force of the power draining from him, dimly registering the magic oozing from his hands into the briefcase through a wave of nauseating pain.

As the magic continues its flight from Stiles to its new vessel, an ache begins in his hands, quickly building from a dull throbbing to a sharpness which he imagines to be something like having his fingernails ripped from his body one by one. In the next instant, it’s as though his insides are being ripped out through his fingertips, his entire body doubling over with the pain as he lurches forward and heaves up a black bile, gripping at the forest floor for support. The coarse dirt digging into his palms reassures him until he sees that his hands are still not entirely corporeal, and he retches again, body going numb with the pain.

The last thing he sees is his dad being held back by Chris Argent, his face filled with anguish. He doesn’t have time to so much as mouth an apology for failing him before he’s unconscious.


 

An obnoxious beeping assaults Stiles’ senses, and he takes a moment to wonder whether he actually managed to make it through the spell alive or is trapped in some sort of incredibly annoying purgatory. He tries to turn onto his side and search for the noise, only to find that he can’t move. With an enormous effort, he manages to open his eyes, finding himself staring up into florescent lights and without the energy to shut his eyes again.

He’s pretty sure this development means he’s alive, which is nice, but also he’s apparently only capable of moving his eyelids at the moment, which sucks.

Stiles tries to speak, but his voice doesn’t seem to be working, a hollow sound coming out that he barely recognizes as his own. It must be enough to alert someone, though, because a moment later his dad’s face appears above him, worried but smiling. Stiles continues to stare, unblinking because he can’t move , until his eyes water and his dad seems to realize what’s happening. He breathes Stiles’ name in relief while reaching out a hand, gently closing his eyelids and telling him to go back to sleep.

The next time Stiles wakes up, he finds his head has lolled to the side, allowing him a better view of the hospital room he finds himself in. Thankfully, he seems to have control of his facial muscles now at least, and being able to blink at will is more of a relief than it should be. He squints into the room, finding two chairs at his bedside, his dad clutching a cup of coffee in his hands and Derek slumped over asleep beside him. “Dad?” he manages, voice coming out thick and raspy.

Instantly, the sheriff snaps out of whatever reverie he had been in, eyes locking on Stiles’ own and filling with emotion. “Hey,” he whispers, setting down his cup and brushing stray hair out of Stiles’ face. “How you feeling?”

“Not dead,” Stiles croaks out, trying to clear his throat but finding his mouth dry and his tongue barely cooperative.

As if suddenly remembering that Stiles can’t move, John grabs a glass of water off of the bedside table, holding it out to Stiles’ lips with a straw. Stiles drinks gratefully, keeping his sips slow and controlled to avoid overwhelming his senses. The last thing he needs is to send himself into a coughing fit and have Derek wake up thinking he’s on the brink of death again.

That thought causes his gaze to snap back to Derek’s sleeping form, his expression smooth and oddly peaceful in his slumber. Which doesn’t seem very Derek of him at all. “How hasn’t he woken up yet?” Stiles wonders aloud, keeping his voice low so as not to disturb him even as his suspicions grow.

“Lydia and Peter may have mixed some wolfsbane and sedatives into his coffee,” the sheriff admits, not looking nearly as guilty as he should. “He was being ridiculous,” John continues, “not leaving, barely eating, refusing to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time. Didn’t give us much of a choice, and you did tell me to look after him.” He shrugs his shoulders, unapologetic.

Stiles furrows his brow at this, face still feeling a bit numb but mobile enough for him to be expressive now. “How long was I out?”

John runs a tired hand through his hair as he answers, “A little over three weeks since the spell, six days since you opened your eyes last.” He doesn’t say that it’s been exactly twenty-four days since the spell, or that he wrote down the exact date and time Stiles opened his eyes, using it as a reminder that progress was being made in the intervening days.

“Sorry,” Stiles says, knowing how hard this all must have been on his dad.

“Don’t be,” John responds. “You did what you had to do, and you’re still here. That’s all I need.”

“Okay,” Stiles answers, voice barely above a whisper. He takes another sip of water from the straw and clears his throat. “Where’s the rest of the pack?”

“Home sleeping, hopefully,” John responds, motioning at his watch. “It’s almost one in the morning.”

“Shouldn’t you two be asleep, too?” Stiles scolds, but the weakness in his voice and his complete inability to move anything other than his face undercuts his words.

John shakes his head, because of course Stiles would come out of a coma and immediately start worrying about other people’s health. “You should be glad we got the rest of them to leave; they’ve all been coming over after school every day. Lydia tested out so she could be here during the day as well, though if you ask her she was just bored with no competition at school.” His tone goes fond as he continues, “Pretty sure she’s been sticking around to make sure Derek and I don’t kill each other while we sit here waiting for you to get up, not that it’s been a problem at all.”

Stiles can’t hold back his smile at that. “So you approve now, and we don’t need to have that really uncomfortable talk you wanted?”

The sheriff looks at Derek’s sleeping face for a moment before directing his attention back to Stiles. “After you finished the spell and the circle let us in,” he begins quietly, “Melissa checked your pulse.” He pauses, as though reliving the moment before making himself go on. “There wasn’t one, and I could hear Derek howl from across town.” He smoothes the covers down over Stiles and finishes, “He’s barely let anyone in here since you were admitted, other than pack and some supernatural doctor Peter contacted for you. Apparently he used to help out, before the fire.”

Stiles takes a minute to process all of that, Derek’s sorrow and his Dad’s approval and Peter’s decision to be helpful all happening over the span of a few weeks but revealed to Stiles in seconds. He lets his eyes wander over the hospital room as he thinks, noting the mess of food wrappers and coffee cups littering the table and a bundle of half-deflated Get Well Soon balloons sitting in a corner.

His dad, realizing that Stiles is trying to have a better look at his surroundings despite being unable to move on his own, reaches forward, gathering Stiles in his arms and repositioning him so he’s sitting up in bed, leaning back on his pillows for support. “Ugh,” Stiles grumbles as his dad sits him and rests his hands at his sides, “I feel like a doll.”

“Dolls have more color in their cheeks than you do,” John comments mildly, fluffing a pillow and seeing Stiles’ gaze drift over to a stack of books and binders on a table at the foot of his bed. “Gifts from Lydia,” he says by way of explanation. “All the study guides you’ll need to test out of high school like she did, seeing as you won’t be able to actually go in anytime soon.”

“Mom talked to me,” Stiles blurts, unable to even think about school with the memory of his mother’s voice still weighing on him. At his dad’s surprised look, he explains, “When I was doing the spell, I heard her. That’s why I survived. Because of mom.” He speaks softly, afraid his dad will think he’s crazy or react poorly to the news, because they don’t talk about her much. Despite the fact that it’s been years since they lost her, the wound still feels fresh.

“No,” the sheriff says, putting a hand on one of Stiles’, “it worked because our son in incredible, and your mom knows that.”

Just then, Derek begins to stir, and Stiles’ breath catches in his throat. He can just barely see motion out of his peripheral vision, his head angled to face straight ahead now rather than to the side where Derek’s chair is, but he hears a low growl from Derek, probably in response to being drugged into taking a much needed nap.

The sheriff looks between the two of them, expression soft, before reaching out a hand and gently turning Stiles’ head to face Derek. At the movement, Derek’s eyes lock onto Stiles’ in shock, his anger melting away into relief.

“I’m going to go tell the doctor you woke up,” John excuses himself, motioning to the door as Derek leans forward to lay a hand on Stiles’ forearm. “I’ll call the rest of the pack and let them know you woke up as well,” he adds. “I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t wake them up to come see you, despite the fact that visiting hours ended at eight.”

Stiles elects not to point out the fact that it’s well past eight and he currently has two visitors. When the door closes softly behind his dad, he smiles at Derek. “Hi,” he says.

Derek sighs in relief. “You’re okay,” he breathes, more like he’s reassuring himself than anything else.

“So are you,” Stiles says, and he would pat his hand or lace their fingers together if he could. “What happened to the nemeton’s energy?” He asks, fairly certain of the answer but still needing to hear it spoken aloud.

“The spell worked,” Derek answers with a smile. “You did it.” He takes Stiles’ hand in his own, tracing patterns along the backs of his knuckles as Stiles revels in the fact that he finally managed to do something right. The dark energy won’t be constantly calling evil to Beacon Hills, and any and all future disasters can be blamed on coincidence. “We had Chris put the briefcase where no one can find it; he swore he knew where no one would get to it but didn’t give us any more information. Argent family secrets,” he summarizes, looking put upon but accepting.

“And you trust him?” Stiles asks, surprised.

“It was right after the spell,” Derek explains. “I was distracted.” Stiles really hates that he can’t reach out to Derek himself right now, tries to force his hands to twitch at the very least, but nothing happens. Derek continues, filling the silence, “Allison said the nemeton’s power won’t be a problem anymore, and I decided to trust her,” he says. “She’s pack now.”

“That’s good,” Stiles responds, proud that Derek has begun to overcome some of his completely justifiable Argent-related trust issues. He shifts his eyes away from Derek uncomfortably, remembering their last phone call before he performed the spell and wondering how long it will be before Derek brings it up. Half of him hopes Derek is just emotionally inept enough to pretend the whole thing never happened.

As if reading his mind – or, more likely, smelling the abrupt change in his emotions – Derek’s hand closes more tightly on Stiles’. “You hung up,” he seethes, either unwilling or unable to repeat the words that preceded that particular action. “You told me how you felt, and then you hung up on me. What if you had died?” His voice goes impossibly quiet with his next words. “You did die.”

“I know,” Stiles apologizes, “but that’s why I had to say it. Like, I couldn’t risk dying knowing I hadn’t said it, which I realize is super shitty of me because I didn’t even let you say anything back, not that you have to say anything back, or at all, if you don’t want to.” His apology quickly becomes a ramble that Derek stops by resting a gentle hand on the side of Stiles’ face, tilting his head slightly.

“I wanted to say it back,” he whispers, tracing a thumb along the line of Stiles’ jaw.

Stiles beams. “Oh. That’s good.” He nods, “Because I kind of would have been crushed if you didn’t, which is maybe part of why I hung up on you. Also, I was on a time limit because I was magically dying, but mostly it was the feelings thing to be honest.” He smiles bashfully.

At the mention of magic, Derek’s eyes darken. “I know you said you would train with Peter after all this, but I would be more comfortable if you just kept away from magic entirely.”

Stiles frowns, considering that. “I don’t think I can,” he admits. “The magic is, like, part of me. I can feel it, even now, when I can barely feel anything at all. I can’t even move, but I can feel the magic under the surface, just barely.”

Nodding, Derek’s face fills with regret as he says, “I know what you mean. After my family… I tried to ignore my wolf instincts for a while.” He pauses, “For months, really, but it made me weak and just about unable to function. Eventually, Laura convinced me that I had to accept myself, and things got better for a while.”

Stunned to hear Derek talk about Laura so openly, Stiles gapes for a moment before saying, “She sounds smart.”

Derek nods again. “She was. She would have liked you,” he adds, running an unthinking hand through Stiles’ messy hair.

“Um,” Stiles says, biting his lip nervously, “I feel like you want to kiss me?” He winces at his own words, and Derek’s hand stills. “Not what I meant,” he amends, wishing he could grab Derek’s hand and return it to his head. “I mean, I want to kiss you , but I kind of can’t right now, but also I don’t want you to kiss me if you don’t want to, but you keep touching me so I thought maybe the feeling was mutual? But now you’re just staring at me like I belong in Eichen House, so I’m going to stop talking now.” As he speaks, his eyes dart around the room nervously.

“Stiles,” Derek says, one hand going to each of Stiles’ cheeks, “the feeling is mutual.” He leans in and presses a peck to Stiles’ lips, not sure what’s allowed with Stiles in this state.

Making an impatient sound in the back of his throat, Stiles opens his mouth to the kiss, pushing his lips and tongue forward because they’re the only thing he can move properly.

Derek pulls back just slightly, and Stiles catches the look on his face before he clears it. “What is it?” He asks, confused, before he realizes, “Oh my god, I have three weeks’ worth of morning breath! Why would you kiss me right now?” He groans.

“Because I love you,” Derek answers, his eyes widening when he realizes what he said, the words slipping out of their own accord.

Stiles can’t stop the grin that spreads across his face at that, and he wants to wrap his arms around Derek, wants to do so much , but he can’t do any of it. “But is this okay?” He looks down at his feet and then back up quickly, trying to encapsulate his body with his gaze. “I probably won’t be able to get it up, or, like, get up at all for a long time. It’s not fair, making you wait around because I can’t do anything,” he concludes, voice sad.

Derek raises a mildly irritated eyebrow. “You can’t possibly think I care about that.”

“Oh,” Stiles says, eyes downcast. “Right, of course you don’t, sorry.” He must reek of humiliation now.

Derek rolls his eyes. “That’s not what I meant,” he asserts, looking at Stiles carefully. “I care about that because I care about you . But you’re my first priority. The rest will be a bonus, when we get there.”


 

The next few minutes pass in comfortable silence, and Stiles is about ready to drift back to sleep when Derek stiffens beside him, looking to the door. “Brace yourself,” he instructs, a smile in his voice.

“I literally can’t do that,” Stiles replies as the door to his room bursts open and the pack comes pouring in. Malia and Erica throw themselves onto the foot of his bed immediately, everyone else keeping a more respectful distance while telling him how glad they are to see him awake. Behind the pack, Stiles spots the sheriff and a man who must be the supernatural doctor, hanging back and letting them have their moment.

“Deaton’s still alive,” Malia announces, pouting.

“Because I’m still alive,” Stiles reminds her.

“I wanted to kill him anyway,” she grumbles, and Kira comes up beside her, shaking her head.

“Isaac, Boyd, and Erica escorted him out of Beacon Hills about a week after the spell, when we were sure he couldn’t do anything to help you,” Kira explains to Stiles.

“Chemistry with Mr. Harris has been hell without you there,” Danny says, in lieu of actually telling Stiles he missed him.

Stiles laughs. “Chemistry with Mr. Harris is always hell.”

Erica scoots even closer to Stiles, ignoring Derek’s warning growl and planting a smacking wet kiss on his cheek. “Batman never dies,” she repeats, pleased.

Stiles smiles at the sentiment but can’t help grimacing at the fact that there is now drool on his face and he can’t move to wipe it off. Boyd chuckles and wipes it off for him. Grinning, Stiles looks at Boyd and says, “You’re my second favorite werewolf.”

Boyd’s eyes crinkle in amusement as he responds, “You’re my favorite human.”

“Mine too,” Malia agrees.

Isaac helps Allison make her way through the crowd to Stiles’ bedside then, where she grips one of his hands firmly between her own. “I’m glad you’re finally awake,” she says sincerely. “It was really scary, seeing what happened to you during the spell.” Danny nods his assent.

“Just about gave me a heart attack,” the sheriff agrees.

Meeting Allison’s eyes, Stiles says, “I couldn’t leave my disability buddy hanging, could I?”

Allison returns his grin, shaking her head at him. “No, you couldn’t. And when you start physical therapy, I’ll be there to help!”

“Thanks,” Stiles responds before looking at Isaac, who perches on the corner of the bed and looks at Stiles with his most distressed puppy-dog eyes. Turning his gaze back to Derek, Stiles says, “I need you to hug him for me, like right now. Because I physically cannot.”

Isaac doesn’t have time to react before he’s being pulled backwards at an awkward angle, landing half collapsed against Derek’s chest, who puts his arms around him loosely. He tries not to let anything show, but even Stiles can see how pleased he is by the affection, so the wolves must all know as well.

“Awww,” Stiles coos at the sight, unable to help himself.

A second later, Derek releases Isaac and turns back to Stiles. “Happy?” He asks, eyebrows raised. Oddly enough, Stiles is.

He hasn’t even had time to parse his happiness before Lydia comes forward, phone out, and starts planning aloud how she’s going to balance his study sessions with his magic lessons, so that he can do both without any scheduling difficulties. She seems to have the whole thing planned already, just going over it all with Stiles so he’ll feel included in his own life plans.

“Hold on,” Stiles complains. “I can’t even move right now. How about we hold off on all of that until I can at least wiggle a toe?”

Peter appears behind Lydia then. “How else do you plan to occupy your time while you lay here immobile? Might as well start reading up on the basics so you aren’t entirely inept when it’s time for our lessons to start.”

Kira interrupts hesitantly, “Maybe we should let Stiles have a week to rest before you start giving him homework?”

Stiles looks at her with gratitude, but it’s Jackson who responds with a glare at Peter. “Seriously, I’d be homicidal if I woke up in the hospital and the first thing anyone gave me was something to read.”

“Some people like reading,” Lydia teases, she and Stiles the only ones who weren’t shocked into silence by his defense.

“Whatever,” Jackson barks. “You’re all being super annoying and he’s barely alive.” When the rest of the pack remains quiet, staring at Jackson, he yells, “Get over yourselves,” in his most intimidating voice before looking directly at Stiles for the first time. “Glad you’re not dead,” he says.

The tilt of his head is just enough that Stiles can see Lydia reach for Jackson’s hand as she bites back a smile. He goes to thank Jackson when Jackson steps back quickly, pulling Lydia with him and pointing a finger first at Stiles and then at Derek. “No hugs!” He orders. Stiles lets out a chuckle, because his secret bro knows him too well.

Speaking of bros, Scott takes a tentative step forward, wringing his hands nervously. “Can I talk to you?” He asks, “Alone?”

“No,” Malia answers for him.

Erica plants herself between Scott and Stiles, “We stay. Anything you have to say can be said in front of the pack.”

Malia nods, crossing her arms. “We’ll find out whatever it is anyway.”

“Just for the record,” Stiles interrupts, “I’d be nodding right now if I were capable of it, because they’re right.” Malia reaches an arm out and nods Stiles’ head for him until Derek bats her hand away, growling. Stiles just rolls his eyes at them both before looking back to Scott.

At the same time, Stiles and Scott both blurt out, “Sorry.”

“What are you sorry for?” Malia asks Stiles, shooting a glare at Scott like he forced Stiles to say it.

They both ignore her, and Scott fumbles to explain his own apology instead. “I was such a bad friend,” he admits.

“Yeah, no shit,” Erica interrupts.

“Guys!” Stiles shouts. “We’ve got this.”

Scott sighs, scratching at the back of his head. “I wasn’t there for you, and I feel like I just keep messing up but I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t even know how to explain it,” he laments.

Stiles cuts him off. “It’s okay,” he says. “Well, not okay, not yet, but…”

“We’ll work on it?” Scott finishes hopefully.

“Of course we will,” Stiles responds. “We’re brothers.”

Scott positively beams at Stiles, pleased to be given another chance, and Malia jerks him away from the hospital bed. “You’re done now,” she says, and he stumbles back, knocking something to the floor with a heavy thud.

“What is this?” Scott asks, bending down to pick up the fallen object.

Grabbing the book from his hands, Malia mocks, “I spent most of my childhood in the woods and even I can read.” Then, glancing down at the title, she frowns in confusion.

“Ha!” Scott says triumphantly, seeing that she’s just as lost as he was. They set out to bickering in a way that seems mostly good-natured, and Stiles lets his eyes drift across the room, seeing everyone chatting away with one another. Even his dad is engaged in a conversation with the doctor, Melissa, and Chris, who appeared out of nowhere again, and the sight makes him so happy that things went right for once.

Derek moves to the other side of the bed, gripping Stiles’ hand firmly and staring at him intently. “I think things might be okay now,” he whispers, almost afraid to speak the words aloud. Stiles smiles up at him realizing how huge it is for Derek to show even the slightest hint of hope for the future. He’s getting sleepy again, but his mind feels clearer and more settled than it has in ages.

As Stiles is about to ask Derek to kiss him again, regardless of the whole pack being around as audience, Lydia waves something in front of his face to get his attention. “Do you know what this is? It’s not one of the books I brought in, and I don’t recognize the language,” she admits with narrowed eyes.

“Then it’s obviously garbage,” Erica says, “if it’s written in gibberish even you can’t read.”

Stiles, however, gapes at the book, recognizing it as the one he got from the magic warehouse, remembering how it had seemed impossible to decipher at the time. Now, however, the writing all appears to be in English, even it’s still indecipherable to everyone else in the room.

“Stiles?” Derek asks, peering at the book curiously now too. Stiles doesn’t respond, running his gaze along the cover as he reads the title.

“It’s a magic book,” Stiles explains, awe evident in his voice. “The store gave it to me.” His words gain excitement as he continues. “I couldn’t read it then, but I can now!”

Lydia pulls the book back, squinting her eyes at it in an effort to make sense of the words. Failing that, she tries to pry open the covers again but finds that she can’t. When Jackson comes over to help her, Stiles panics and shouts, “Wait! Don’t break it.”

Peter steps closer to investigate. “What does it say?” He asks, curiosity peaked.

“It’s called A Spark’s Guide ,” Stiles tells them. “Under that, it just says ‘Open.’” At the last word, the book opens itself to the first page and flies into Stiles’ stomach, jostling him so that his head rolls forward and lands on Derek’s shoulder. Derek straightens the book and adjusts Stiles so that he can read the words on the page more comfortably.

Congratulations, the first page reads. The first step to handling magic of any caliber is to have a clear mind and a steady hold on your emotions, skills which you will practice and deepen throughout this book in order to gain access to additional information. Each chapter becomes increasingly complex, requiring more control from the user.

Of course, what you decide to do with your magic is up to you. Sparks have an ability most magicians envy, an innate ability to call upon magic from within, rather than simply control it through outside sources. It is the author’s sincerest hope that the knowledge contained in this book will ignite your spark.

Stiles laughs at the words, unable to help himself. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Derek craning his neck to get a better view of the page, as though the angle is what’s preventing him from being able to read it. “What does it say?” Derek asks, turning Stiles’ head so he can face him when he talks.

Stiles, eyes glistening and smile so wide it’s beginning to hurt his cheeks, responds, “It says I’m magic.”

Derek smiles softly, eyes warm, and replies, “I could have told you that.”

Stiles looks between Derek’s eyes and his lips, hoping Derek will get the message without him having to ask. Derek does, leaning down to kiss Stiles as half the pack coos behind them and the other half pretends to vomit at the cuteness.

“Quick, somebody take a picture of Mommy and Daddy,” Erica squeals, patting Boyd’s pocket to grab his phone out of his pocket and do it herself.

Distantly, Stiles hears his dad thank the universe that Stiles has no other option beyond keeping it PG in his current state, and Melissa lets out a peal of laughter. “Doesn’t matter now,” she jokes, “since the rest of the pack seems to have become your grandkids.”

Jackson holds Lydia’s hand in the air. “Doesn’t that make this incest?” He questions, only to be silenced by Lydia’s other hand colliding with the back of his head.

“Dude, that’s so weird,” Scott calls out to Stiles. “You’re my age!”

“And you’re an idiot,” Peter informs him.

Stiles feels something loosen in his chest at the sounds of the pack around him, making a sound of frustration at being unable to tilt his head and deepen the kiss with Derek.

Derek, because he always knows what Stiles needs, does it for him, smiling against his lips. Stiles decides to let him get away with keeping the smile to himself, just this once.

Chapter Text

One year and three months later

Stiles throws the blankets off of himself and rolls to his feet, stretching his arms above his head and rolling his shoulders. He still hasn’t quite gotten over how nice it is to be able to move freely, to not have to worry about whether or not his body will respond in exactly the way he wants it to. He shuffles his way into the bathroom and splashes water onto his face before heading downstairs, feeling rushed even though he knows there isn’t a time limit on this, that whoever Derek sends to pick him up today will wait patiently for his recently-disabled self to get to the car.

When he gets down to the kitchen, Stiles finds that his dad has attempted to make breakfast in the form of turkey bacon and toast, so he grabs the majority of the bacon, throws some toast on a plate, and downs a glass of orange juice in a flurry. These days, he feels a little like he’s constantly shaking out of his skin, like his body needs to release all the nervous energy it couldn’t when he was effectively bedridden. The first time his fingers had regained their ability to move, he had spent the next three days straight tapping on every available surface, pack members included.

Now, he throws himself into the chair across the table from his dad, digging into his food around a muffled “good morning,” met only by the sheriff’s raised eyebrows.

“Just because you got the all clear doesn’t mean you have to flail around first chance you get,” John warns, watching with wary eyes as Stiles tilts his chair back onto two legs.

“Are you doubting the credibility of my supremely overpaid supernatural doctor? Because I’m pretty sure the people writing his checks would not be pleased to hear that,” Stiles jokes, adding additional flails to his words just because he can.

“And by ‘people’ do you mean your boyfriend and his uncle, the murderer?” The sheriff raises a judgmental eyebrow, but Stiles rolls his own eyes in response, because they’ve been over this before.

“My super attractive, clandestinely rich boyfriend, yes. Also, the murderer is teaching me magic today, so maybe don’t say things that’ll piss him off in case he’s creepily eavesdropping in the bushes or something. Which, if you are, that’s weird and I’m telling Derek to put you in another time out!” He sends the last statement out the window, just in case, remembering the first time he had asked Derek to put Malia in a corner and everyone’s absolute delight when she had grudgingly gone. Because that’s what happens when you steal the alpha mate’s pizza.

“I’m still not sure that’s the best idea,” the sheriff admits, eyeing Stiles.

“Time out is a great idea,” Stiles argues. “Wolves are too dependent on corporal punishment when it’s the pack separation that really makes them think about their life choices.”

John puts his head in his hands, groaning. “I meant you letting a formerly-crazed psychopath teach you how to do magic may not be the best idea.”

“Emphasis on the formerly crazed,” Stiles clarifies. “Besides, there’s no one else here who can do it, and I kind of need to practice. Even Peter acknowledges that all the books he’s thrown at me don’t cut it without practical experience.”

“Just because you’re right doesn’t mean I have to like it,” John sighs.

Stiles reaches across the table and pats the back of his hand. “That’s definitely the subtitle of your memoir.”

“I prefer you doing homework on the seasonal influences of hormone magic or taking pop quizzes on rune design,” the sheriff says, parroting back some of Stiles’ complaints from recent assignments. “You should at least try to take it easy, considering you could barely walk a few months ago.”

“I have been taking it easy,” Stiles whines. “It’s been over a year since I was in a serious life or death situation.”

The sheriff raises a dubious eyebrow. “Are you trying to tell me the goat thing wasn’t life-threatening? Because I remember that very differently, and you could barely move at the time, let alone defend yourself.”

“Okay, two things,” Stiles says, raising a finger. “One: It was Zlatorog ; don’t be speciesist. And two: it was just trying not to get sacrificed by that super creepy coven of witches; it’s not my fault it thought everyone with magic was out to get it.”

“Not the point, Stiles,” John says with a sigh.

“It kind of is, though,” Stiles responds patiently. “Because I was the only one who could get Zlatorog home, and, like you said, I couldn’t even move. I can’t be a part of the pack and not do my part to defend it.” His voice goes firm at the end, willing his dad to understand.

The sheriff nods. “I get it,” he says. “Still don’t like you constantly sticking your neck out for everyone, but I get it.”

Stiles grins. “Pretty sure you have yourself to blame for that particular character flaw of mine, Sheriff.

John reaches across the table and ruffles Stiles’ hair. “As mistakes go, that one’s not too bad.”

Stiles ducks away from his hand and returns to his toast, shoving one final buttery bite into his mouth when he hears his phone chirp. He reads the incoming message and grimaces. “Apparently I should be warned that Lydia is almost here and not in a good mood,” he summarizes from Jackson’s text.

“She tried again, didn’t she,” his dad surmises, and it’s a statement rather than a question.

Laughing, Stiles makes for the door. “Lydia Martin is not a quitter,” he agrees, going out front to wait for her.

The moment she pulls into the driveway, Lydia’s scowl tells Stiles all he needs to know. “Still not my fault,” he defends immediately, settling into the passenger’s seat.

“It let me see it!” Lydia complains as Stiles raises a surprised eyebrow. “Why would it do that if it wasn’t going to let me in at some point?” She grips the wheel tighter in her frustration. “I’ve tried appealing to it with everything : clothes, jewelry, food, and still nothing, even when I made Jackson buy it a car.”

Stiles has to bite back his laugh at that, because at this point he’s pretty sure the magical store doesn’t even care what you bring it. It seems like it cares more about first impressions or something, because ever since Lydia confidently marched up to its entrance and demanded to be admitted, it’s been messing with her. He seriously considers telling her this before she goes on, but his curiosity gets the better of him. “What happened today?”

“It wasn’t doing anything,” Lydia grumbles, “so I told it to take Jackson.” She seems about as close to shame as Lydia Martin ever gets.

“Why would you think it would want Jackson if it didn’t take a car?” Stiles questions, biting the inside of his cheek to conceal his amusement. He knows where this is going.

Lydia glares at him before saying, “Sentimental value.”

Her glare is Stiles’ breaking point, and he can’t help but laugh at her frustration now. “It knew you weren’t seriously offering him,” he clarifies, for the sake of at least pretending to be helpful.

“Of course it knew,” she scoffs, “but the offer was enough for it to let me see what it looks like, so now I know there’s a chance. I just have to find the right offering.”

Stiles really wants to tell her that his magic senses are all screaming that the store will never be a fan of Lydia, but she looks so determined that he can’t make himself do it. He’s pretty sure it only showed itself to keep her interested, because the store is possibly sentient and kind of a dick.

“Next time you go, I’m coming with you,” Lydia says in a tone that brooks no argument.

“Sure,” Stiles agrees. “But I’m not sure that’ll help. I mean, I haven’t been able to get anyone else in, or even able to see it.”

“We’re still trying again,” Lydia commands, “because I’ve shopped in Paris and Milan, so no way there’s a store in Beacon Hills I don’t have access to.”

“Pretty sure high society rules don’t apply to magical buildings,” Stiles can’t help but point out.

“No, but favoritism does,” Lydia rebuffs. “Since it gave you that first spark book without you even asking for it, and then it mailed you that one about healing runes last month.” She frowns at the memory, because the whole process still doesn’t quite make sense. It hadn’t just magically appeared in his mailbox; no, their regular mailman had delivered it to the door. The whole thing made Derek so suspicious he’d gone around clandestinely sniffing the guy for days before he let Stiles near the book.

Remembering that book makes Stiles smile to himself a little, despite Lydia’s indignant expression. He had read about magical healing in the spark book but still couldn’t stay on his feet for long, so he’d sent Erica and Boyd with his favorite red sweater and a couple of his favorite sleep shirts (all stolen from Derek) with a note listing ingredients for a healing potion he thought would help Allison. Erica had apparently walked right into an invisible wall, growled at it for a solid two minutes, and then left the box there, loudly complaining to Boyd the whole time. Stiles had rolled his eyes at their misadventure and assumed his favorite articles of clothing were all lost for nothing until the mail came the next day, bearing a package containing only a book on healing runes, all of which were far stronger than any of the potions he had seen in his spark book. Scrawled on an inside flap of the box in suspiciously blood-red writing was Thank you for your purchase. Please come again. Which was probably related to Derek’s suspicion of the book, now that Stiles thinks about it.

Eventually, they make it to the loft, Lydia still determined to get Stiles to take her to the magic building again so she can convince it to let her in. In the parking lot, the two of them see Peter and Derek arguing fervently, the rest of the pack looking on in mild amusement. Stiles may not be able to hear the argument, but he figures it’s a fair assumption that it has to do with his lessons, especially given how much Peter’s smirk widens the moment Lydia’s car is in sight. Derek looks torn between going to greet Stiles and punching Peter, but he manages to hold his ground without doing either, which is a pretty solid display of self control for him.

The other pack members mostly ignore Stiles in favor of continuing to watch Derek argue with Peter, with the exception of Jackson and Allison, who approach. Jackson instinctively goes to Lydia’s side, and Allison leans on one crutch while waving the other in greeting.

Stiles smiles, absently checking on the condition of the healing runes he had added to her crutches; apparently, putting runes directly on a person’s body is more likely to interfere with their natural healing than help it, so he opted for the safe route just this once. The book said they would add strength to Allison’s legs until they faded out, and Stiles is pleased to see that they are significantly duller than last time he saw them. “How are you holding up?” He asks, partly to be sure and partly because he can’t help it, considering she’s constantly holding herself up.

Allison laughs, glancing down at her crutches and back up to Stiles’ face. “My physical therapist thinks I got a miracle or something, I’ve been healing so fast,” she explains, twirling one crutch at her side just because she can. “Dad’s pretty happy about it too,” she adds with an eyeroll, “because he needs me to get caught up on all the Argent fighting styles now that I’ve gone through our files more thoroughly.”

“He does realize you’re technically the leader of the family, right?” Stiles asks.

Allison raises an eyebrow at Stiles. “You want to tell him that?”

“Nope,” Stiles answers quickly, raising his hands in surrender. “I’m good.”

“That’s what I thought,” she replies.

Stiles rubs the back of his head, making a face at Derek and Peter still going at it. “So how’s the new hunter code going,” he asks, for the sake of having something else to focus on.

“Pretty good,” Allison says, following his gaze. “My dad’s been trying to get me to spend every free moment on it though, so I’m honestly glad he and the sheriff formed their weird parental alliance. Keeps him off my case,” she shrugs.

“Yeah,” Jackson scoffs. “Alliance is definitely one word for it.”

Stiles does his level best not to think about the implications of that as Lydia hums thoughtfully and says, “I wonder if Melissa is involved.”

Stiles and Allison give Lydia nearly identical looks of horror. “I would love to talk about literally anything else right now,” Stiles offers hopefully.

“Agreed,” Allison confirms, shuddering.

Derek must sense Stiles’ sudden distress, though he has no way of knowing that Lydia’s super inappropriate imagination is the cause of it, because he appears at Stiles’ side in a flash. “Are you sure you’re up for this?” He asks the question in a low voice, disregarding the fact that nearly everyone around can hear him perfectly regardless. Stiles appreciates the sense of pseudo-privacy the voice affords him, even though he doesn’t need it.

“It’s just magic,” he offers, leaning into Derek’s space.

Derek pecks him on the lips. “That’s not nearly as comforting as you seem to think it is,” he replies, pulling back slightly. They’ve managed to tone down the kissing in front of the pack over the past year, to Erica’s disappointment and everyone else’s relief.

Stiles smiles into Derek’s neck. “I thought it would be more comforting than saying ‘It’s just Peter.’”

“Good point,” Derek agrees, brow still furrowed slightly.

Stiles smoothes a finger along the worried lines of Derek’s face. “Come on,” he cajoles, ”I’ll be fine.”

“You always say that,” Derek says, grabbing Stiles’ hand.

“And I always am ,” Stiles responds, barreling on before Derek can question the validity of that. “Now go finish the den with the rest of the cubs,” he jokes, shoving Derek at the remaining pack members. “When I’m done with my magic lessons, I want the surprise to blow my mind.” He makes an explosion motion with his hands, and Derek can’t help but crack a smile at it.

Four months after the spell, Derek had casually mentioned the gardens of the old Hale house, grumbling while he put away groceries and complaining that the store-bought produce always smelled too artificial. Stiles, still unable to walk and half-asleep on the couch, had suggested that Derek do some replanting if it was such a big problem. Derek’s ensuing silence caused Stiles to still, watching him nervously, afraid he had overstepped his bounds and gone too far in telling Derek how to honor his family’s memory.

Instead, Derek had continued putting his purchases in the fridge, back to Stiles, and quietly muttered something about rebuilding on the property, maybe even turning the loft into apartments for the pack, and Stiles… Well, Stiles had been caught off guard, to say the least, but the fact that Derek was thinking about the future, looking forward to something and making plans, however tentative, was not lost on Stiles, who encouraged him to follow through.

So, dipping into his apparently vast fortunes, Derek had hired the best contractors in Beacon Hills. Surprisingly, Jackson turned out to have an eye for architecture and interior design, so he ended up helping with the planning while Derek gave final approval on his choices. Peter, of course, took it upon himself to make sure the whole place would have a certain elegance and not, as he put it, look like “a hovel designed by troubled youths.” Rolling his eyes at that, Stiles had pointed out that the designs of a crazed middle-aged man wouldn’t be much better, but Derek let Peter help regardless.

Over the past few months, the place has come along nicely. Now, the finished touches have been placed on the interior, plumbing and electricity connected, and all it needs is decor beyond their major items of furniture. Lydia had taken one look at the bare walls of the rooms, declared it unacceptable, and planned today’s group shopping spree. To be honest, Stiles is kind of glad his magic session with Peter overlaps her plans so he doesn’t have to spend the day lugging around picture frames, house plants, and area rugs.

When Lydia has wrangled the rest of the pack into their respective vehicles, insisting they’ll need all available trunk space if they plan on having the house even halfway decent, Peter gestures to the passenger seat of his own car, raising an amused eyebrow when Stiles hesitates before getting in.

Stiles scowls at him. “ So many ‘stranger danger’ warning signals going off in my head right now,” he mumbles, climbing into the car anyway.

Peter slams the door shut behind Stiles, moving around the car and getting behind the wheel in one fluid motion. Smirking, he looks Stiles in the eyes as he says, “Then you’ll love where I’m taking you for our first lesson.”

“If it’s, like, a creepy abandoned church you’re using to start a cult or something, I’m wolfsbaning your ass and calling Derek,” Stiles warns.

“So dramatic,” Peter leers, a grin pulling at the corner of his mouth. “But no, I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for the surprise.”

The surprise , as it turns out, is on the outskirts of town, in an empty warehouse that smells vaguely of damp wood and motor oil. There are no other buildings in sight, Stiles notices.

“What do you think?” Peter prompts, face awash with amusement as Stiles takes in his surroundings.

“Are you teaching me magic or making a horror movie?” Stiles asks in response.

“Depending on how this goes, I could easily do both,” Peter replies, opening a large padlock on the door and leading Stiles through the dimly lit entrance, where he finds an almost empty room lit by a single, bare bulb hanging from the ceiling.

“Comforting,” Stiles mutters, taking in the table centered just beneath the light, piled high with plastic cups and other small objects.

“You should be thanking me,” Peter points out. At Stiles’ raised eyebrow, he explains, “I bought this place just for our lessons, so you wouldn’t set anything important on fire when you inevitably fail to rein in your spark.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” Stiles deadpans. Then, despite the hideousness of the building and the annoyance that is Peter Hale, Stiles is hit with the reminder that magic is not only real but also a thing he has . He bounces on the balls of his feet and goes to the table, squinting at the various objects and trying to determine what’s special about them. “Come on, Professor Lockhart, teach me something!”

Peter sneers at the comparison. “The villains in that series were all simpering fools.”

“Oh, you mean because they got taken down by a bunch of teenagers?” Stiles goads, smirking at Peter.

“And because they then failed to effectively resurrect themselves,” Peter comments.

Stiles waves his hands in dismissal of the subject. “Fine, whatever, you’re a slightly smarter, less racist Voldemort. Can we do some magic now?”

Instead of responding, Peter moves forward and sets up three plastic cups in the middle of the table, rims almost, but not quite, touching. “Tip over the one in the middle,” Peter instructs, “ only the one in the middle. And don’t touch anything,” he adds as an afterthought, knowing Stiles will look for loopholes eventually.

Stiles gapes, because seriously ? How is this his magic lesson? He figures this must be, like, the equivalent of a bellwork assignment and sighs, directing his attention to the cup, telling it to fall. He feels sort of like Matilda, until he remembers that he had tried telekinesis as a kid, and it never worked out for him at the time.

Thirty minutes later, his results haven’t changed in the slightest. He’s tried everything, varying from shouting at the cup, both in his head and out loud, to sort of shoving his mental energy at it. The thing hasn’t so much as wobbled, and Stiles is about ready to tear his hair out. Meanwhile, Peter is luxuriating in a nearby chair, enjoying Stiles’ struggle. Because Peter is the worst teacher ever.

“Pretty sure teaching is supposed to involve some form of actual instruction,” Stiles complains for what feels like the millionth time.

Peter rolls his eyes, as he has been doing every time Stiles asks for help. “I told you what to do.”

“But you didn’t tell me how! ” Stiles explodes, suddenly furious at the building, at Peter, at the freaking cup that refuses to move no matter what he does.

At least, it hadn’t moved, not until Stiles’ frustration finally escaped. Now, all three cups erupt as quickly as Stiles’ temper, plastic bursting open as though they were filled with explosives. Stiles nearly jumps out of his skin at the sound, covering his head automatically in case of any falling debris. Eventually, he glances warily back at the table to see that Peter’s chair has rolled back a bit with the shockwave of… whatever that was.

Before he has the chance to feel accomplished, because at least he had made something happen that time, Peter is standing and replacing the cups with three identical ones, putting them in the exact same position. “The one in the middle,” he reminds Stiles, returning to his seat.

Stiles groans dramatically. “Why can’t I just blow everything up instead?”

“Why don’t guns fire in three hundred sixty degrees?” Peter counters, and Stiles sighs because, okay, that’s a fair point. He needs to be able to direct his power with precision, he gets that, but it doesn’t make this exercise suck any less.

Over the next two hours, Stiles manages to make all three of the cups wiggle back and forth slightly, but none of them fall over. At one point, the one in the middle turns from red to blue, which Peter then replaces with another red one before motioning for Stiles to continue. Finally, Stiles manages to get all three cups to fall over, without anything else happening. He whoops in accomplishment, only to have Peter rebuke him immediately. “I said to only move the middle one.”

“Why can’t I do this?” Stiles yells, grabbing the blue cup off the corner of the table and hurling it across the room. “I handled literal evil and Asag’s portal and now I can’t even knock down a cheap plastic cup!”

“Those were life or death situations,” Peter explains, voice dripping with judgment at Stiles’ outburst. “Your spark took over to save your life, and now you need to learn how to control your magic without it being a last resort.”

“It’s worked out pretty well so far,” Stiles grumbles, sulky.

Peter raises an eyebrow. “Perhaps, but it won’t always be your life that’s in danger,” he points out.

Stiles scowls, because he hates it when Peter’s right. “Okay, fine, but you’re not helping! You said you would teach me, and you’ve just been sitting there watching me fail.”

Peter shrugs. “I wanted to see what you could accomplish on your own,” he says, looking pointedly at the shattered pieces of one cup before glancing at the blue one across the room.

“Oh my god,” Stiles groans. “Just teach me something useful; you sound like Deaton!”

Peter glares at the comparison but finally offers an actual suggestion. “Use a hand motion to guide your power,” he says. “It will help you channel your energy.”

Stiles nods and takes in a deep breath before trying it. Nothing happens, and he glares at Peter expectantly.

“Stop picturing the cup in motion,” Peter instructs. “Imagine that it’s already on the floor and try again.”

Stiles does as he’s told. “You’re a terrible teacher,” he announces when the cup doesn’t budge.

Concentrate, ” Peter says, narrowing his eyes.

“I am!” Stiles snaps. “This isn’t easy, you know? It’s not like I can just think something and make it–” As he’s picturing the cup face down on the floor amidst all the dust and detritus, he hears a soft pop .

In amazement, he glances down to see that the red cup from the middle of the table has appeared by his feet, not so much fallen as teleported, but Peter seems to be okay with it, judging by his smirk. “Apparently it is that easy,” he goads, “and you’re just a slow learner.” Before Stiles has time to respond, Peter’s voice turns serious again. “Do the same with the one on the right, then the left.”

Stiles focuses, gesturing with his hand while visualizing where he wants each to go, and he manages to arrange them on the floor almost the same way they were on the table minutes ago. He gives a shout of excitement and pumps his fist in the air.

“Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Peter interjects. The two of them spend the next couple hours honing Stiles’ focus, knocking things down and setting them upright again without unintentional teleportation. Eventually, Stiles perfects that skill and Peter lets him return to having things pop in and out of their relative positions, though they quickly discover that Stiles can’t move anything bigger than a pillow or weighing more than a few pounds.

“What’s the point of this if I can’t use it to, like, throw enemies into walls?” Stiles whines, frustrated by his limitations.

“Smaller objects give you subtlety,” Peter says, “which can always come in handy.” At Stiles’ dubious look, he sighs. “If you’re that bored, we can try something different.” He points at the chair he had been sitting in earlier, one of only a few items in the room Stiles can’t move with precision and goes on, “Try moving a few things at once; consider it target practice.”

Stiles takes a moment to concentrate, closing his eyes and seeking a connection to every small object in the room. He holds his hands out to his side loosely and then flicks his wrists forward, creating a mental image of exactly what he wants to happen.

When he opens his eyes, Peter is covered in cups, nuts and bolts, and a few ping pong balls. The items all cling to him, and the rush Stiles gets from being so attuned to his power is more heady than anything he’s ever felt. His skin positively vibrates with the control, the raw potential of his power, and he has a moment of wondering if this is what wolfing out is like for the other pack members.

Thoughts of the pack lead to thoughts of Derek, and Stiles’ hyped up mind quickly veers off course, thrilled with the prospect of showing his newfound abilities to Derek. He won’t be a useless liability in fights anymore, despite Derek’s constant insistence that he isn’t one now . No, Stiles has always been keenly aware of his shortcomings, but now his magic thrums with endless possibilities.

The magic continues pounding through his veins, and Stiles can feel it reaching out, though he doesn’t know for what. In the next moment, he laughs out loud because he can sense the pack , Lydia’s irritation and Erica’s amusement and Derek’s fondness, and he never knew how much he was missing by not being able to feel the pack bond. It’s like an extra layer of security in his mind, like the pack shares power, pools their strength so everyone is protected. He explores further, takes a second to notice that Peter actually feels impressed with him despite some irritation, that the rest of the pack exudes a sense of contentment, and then he returns his focus to Derek, trying to pick out what exactly he’s feeling. But his thoughts derail again at having feeling and Derek in the same sentence. Feeling Derek would be great right about now.

While Stiles’ mind continues wandering down thirty different Derek-related tangents, Peter finishes picking all the objects off of himself, kicking a few across the room for good measure, then taking a deep breath to prevent himself from wringing Stiles’ smug little neck.

He regrets the breath the moment it hits his senses; Stiles smells far too amped up for comfort, ready to either expend all his energy in a battle or climb someone like a tree, and Peter isn’t interested in either option. The first because Stiles wouldn’t be enough of a challenge so early in his training, and the second because Peter has better things (and people) to do than teenagers.

Really, Peter should have considered this possibility, knowing how many magic users get a high off of their power, and of course Stiles would immediately channel his own into nauseating lust. Somehow Stiles manages to remain largely oblivious to his state, expending as much energy as he can by bouncing on the balls of his feet and sending the occasional ping pong ball flying across the room. Peter approaches him warily, one hand raised in front of himself as a precaution. “We should get you to Derek,” he says.

“Okay,” Stiles agrees readily, mind still racing but honing in on Derek and yes . Stiles always wants to see Derek. Derek should always be part of his plans, especially healthy and smiling, or scowling because Stiles loves the little furrow between his eyebrows, or dressed in that one henley that fits him too tight across the shoulders and chest, or naked because he’s beautiful . Why does Derek even own clothes? He’s doing the world a disservice.

Peter prods Stiles forward, getting him walking out of the warehouse, and Stiles pauses for a moment, because as much as he wants to see Derek, he also wants to stay here and keep playing with his magic. Maybe he can show Derek his magic. Now that he’s healed and magic, maybe Derek will finally have sex with him. Stiles bets their sex would be magical.

“Please refrain from thinking,” Peter makes a face of distaste and hauls Stiles to the car faster, “ whatever it is you’re thinking.”

“Derek,” is all Stiles says in response, sighing dreamily. Peter runs an irritated hand through his hair and shoves Stiles into the backseat, rolling down his windows to minimize the scent before he starts driving, staying well above the speed limit. No matter how pleasant the scent of Stiles and his magic is, he really doesn’t need this particular variety anywhere near his nostrils right now. He makes a mental note to teach Stiles how to mask his scent in the future, so he won’t be so easy to track and target.

They get to the preserve in record time, pulling up outside of the newly rebuilt Hale house. Peter notices that only Derek’s car remains, presumably because the rest of the pack knew he wanted to show Stiles around the house on his own. Peter just finds it incredibly convenient, opening Stiles’ door and letting him hop out. The moment the car door is open, the front door of the house slams open as well, Derek rushing forward with a look of fury in his eyes. “Why does Stiles smell like that?” He demands, looking at Peter accusingly. “What kind of magic were you doing ?”

In response, Peter shoves Stiles at Derek, and the two reflexively wrap their arms around each other, Derek cautiously and Stiles hungrily. Peter rolls his eyes. “Sex magic doesn’t exist,” he says. Then, gesturing at himself, he adds, “And honestly, do I look like I would need it?” Honestly, all he wants is to get far out of sensory range before the pair’s hug develops any further. Packs are meant to be close, but there are some things they should really keep to themselves. As Stiles distracts Derek with his mouth, Peter leaps back into his car and peels away. Stiles doesn’t even notice.

Derek returns Stiles’ kisses gently before pulling back, putting one hand on Stiles’ chest to get some space between them. “Stiles, calm down,” he says. “What happened?”

“You know what’s a great way to calm down? Orgasms.” Stiles offers instead of an explanation, flinging himself at Derek again, dodging his outstretched arm and pressing their bodies together from head to toe.

Pulling away again, Derek frowns and puts one hand on the side of Stiles’ face. “Come inside,” he says quietly, leading the way.

“I’ll come anywhere you want,” Stiles agrees, practically plastered to Derek’s back as he follows him in.

“Please relax,” Derek whispers, looking nervously around the newly decorated living room as assorted knick knacks rock back and forth on their shelves with the intensity of Stiles’ magic.

It’s Derek’s tone that finally brings Stiles down, because it sounds so pleading , and Stiles gets the sickening feeling that he’s forcing himself on Derek, which he would never do. He also realizes what his magic is doing to the room, and he wouldn’t want to ruin the new house, which, he notices, looks really nice. He takes a deep breath, holding it in his lungs for three long seconds before he can physically feel himself calm. “Sorry,” he says, meeting Derek’s eyes. He still feels jittery, but more able to contain himself now. “I’m okay now,” he promises. “I’m just gonna,” he reaches for Derek’s hand, holding onto it but no longer throwing himself at him, “yeah, you should give me a tour of the house now.”

Smiling, Derek nods and gives Stiles’ hand a squeeze before guiding him through the parts of the house he knows Stiles will actually care about, namely the kitchen and the library. Stiles fawns over the kitchen appliances and gapes at the bookshelves built into the library, keeping his fingers entwined with Derek’s all the while. Upstairs, Derek points out all the doors where other pack members have now officially claimed their rooms (“ No, Stiles, claiming does not mean they peed in them,” he says, exasperated.) but leaves the tour of individual rooms up to their owners.

Finally, Derek leads Stiles into his own room, which is sparsely decorated with a bed, nightstand, and dresser all made of dark wood. There are no photos hanging on the wall the way they are throughout the rest of the house, and Stiles pauses to take in the blankness. “This is just sad,” he decides. “You need to get Lydia to do something about this room.”

Derek is silent for a long beat before he softly says, “I was hoping you would help me with it.” At that, Stiles finally lets go of Derek’s hand, instead opting to gather him in his arms and pull him into a kiss. He can feel Derek smiling into the kiss before he asks, “So is that a yes?”

Stiles separates their lips just long enough to breathe a quiet “Yes” against Derek’s mouth. “Speaking of things I’m saying yes to,” he adds a minute later, looking pointedly from Derek to the bed and wiggling his eyebrows suggestively, “I’m fully healed and no longer high on magic. Still super into all of this though.” He waves a hand to encompass Derek’s everything .

Derek rumbles a sound of approval but takes a step back to put some distance between himself and Stiles, and Stiles is about to call him out on the mixed signals before Derek starts to fumble out an explanation. “I need to tell you something first,” Derek says, sitting on the edge of the bed, “and then you can decide whether you still want to do this.”

Seeing exactly where this conversation is going, Stiles decides to do what any good boyfriend would by making Derek muddle through the explanation of every awkward detail he already knows. He widens his eyes and asks, “What is it?”

Derek runs a worried hand through his hair and motions for Stiles to sit beside him, which he does. “It’s about my,” Derek begins, clearing his throat and gesturing at his lap.

“What?” Stiles prompts. “Do you have a massive dick or something, because I’m super okay with that, just so we’re clear.” He can barely contain his laughter, but Derek’s so wrapped up in his own head that he doesn’t notice, and Stiles’ heart doesn’t betray any lies, because he still hasn’t told any.

“Of course not,” Derek snaps, flustered, and Stiles can see the moment the implications of the hasty answer sink in, because he goes still.

Stiles can’t hold back his grin as he asks, “So, small then? Because it’s not about the size of the boat; it’s the motion of the ocean.”

Derek gapes at that and seems unable to contain himself as he blurts, “Knots!” He then immediately regrets it and tries to backpedal. “When alphas have a particularly strong connection to the person they’re sleeping with, there’s kind of a shift, but it only affects…” He trails off uncomfortably, and Stiles figures he’s made Derek suffer enough at this point.

“I know,” he admits, rubbing the back of his head apologetically as Derek’s surprise morphs into irritation. “I did my research, and I know what I’m getting into. Or, I guess, what’s getting into me . Still okay with it,” he reassures Derek.

“You don’t have to,” Derek offers, making an awkward hand gesture that Stiles assumes means he’s willing to bottom. “I’m fine with either.”

Stiles smiles, because he appreciates that Derek doesn’t want to pressure him into taking the knot, and the idea of being inside Derek produces some truly delightful mental images, but he’s not sure he wants that today. He remembers the conversation with Danny, about how the gaydar said Stiles would like bottoming, and he thinks about what the knot would be like, after. He would stay connected to Derek, in every possible way, and thought causes his heart to beat faster in his chest.

“Stiles?” Derek asks, no doubt picking up on both his heart rate and spiking arousal. He reaches a tentative hand forward, but Stiles climbs onto the bed instead.

Being the mature, sexually responsible adult that he is, Stiles gets onto one knee on the bed, facing Derek as though he’s about to propose. “Derek,” he begins, tone serious, “would you do me the honor of knotting me?” Instead of presenting a ring, he makes a circle with his thumb and forefinger before putting his other index finger through the hole a few times.

Derek just stares at him for a minute, processing the fact that this is the person he’s choosing to spend the foreseeable future with, and it doesn’t take him long to come to the conclusion that he’s not going to regret a second of it. “You do realize you’re presenting yourself to me, right?” He raises an eyebrow in mild judgment.

“That’s kind of the goal,” Stiles nods, holding his arms out to Derek. “Now come here.”

Grinning, Derek does as he’s told (for once) and climbs onto the bed beside Stiles, putting one hand on the side of his face and wrapping the other arm around his waist. He pulls their abdomens flush together and leans down to nuzzle into the side of Stiles’ neck.

Stiles lets out a sigh at the familiar feeling of Derek’s stubble against his skin and tilts his head the other way, giving Derek access to the other side of his neck so he can do the same. He knows this is about scenting and, to a lesser extent, possession, but it’s one of many things Stiles has been surprised to discover he’s actually really into. He leans forward and presses an open-mouthed kiss to Derek’s jugular, and Derek rumbles pleasantly beside him; Stiles loves how unguarded Derek is with him, so he nips at the skin playfully and, rather than pushing him away, Derek pulls Stiles impossibly closer.

They remain like that for a few long, perfect minutes before their motions start to become more heated. Stiles, in his flurry to rid himself of clothes as quickly as possible, because clothes are evil barriers between the two of them and he will not stand for it , somehow manages to smack Derek in the face with his elbow.

Rolling his eyes, Derek leans back for a minute and peels off his own clothes until he’s only wearing his boxers, not quite willing to be fully nude until Stiles is at least halfway there. Stiles takes in Derek’s physical perfection, every inch of taut, muscled skin on display before him, and gulps. He glances down at himself and feels the need to say, “In my defense, I could barely move for over a year.”

“Stiles,” Derek breathes, reaching up and holding both of his hands in his own. Stiles makes a face that’s a little nervous and a lot turned on at the tone of Derek’s voice, so Derek reaches to the hem of his shirt for him. “Let me help,” he says with a smile in his voice.

“Oh my god, yes, help, you should definitely do that,” Stiles rambles as Derek pushes the shirt up and over Stiles’ head, running his hands over every inch of bare skin as he reveals it. Stiles lets out a breathy moan as Derek mouths at the skin low on his abdomen before moving his hands to the fly of his jeans. Derek casts one final questioning look at Stiles, who gives an enthusiastic nod, before peeling down both the pants and Stiles’ underwear in the same motion.

Stiles sighs and throws his head back as his dick springs free of its constraints, already straining against his stomach and beaded with moisture at the tip. Derek, as though magnetized, buries his face in the heady concentration of Stiles’ scent at the base, nuzzling against the skin as Stiles gasps above him.

When Derek finally pulls back, Stiles lets out an involuntary sound of disappointment which quickly transforms into a moan as Derek wraps a hand around him. Derek wastes no time, licking his palm to reduce the friction before moving his hand faster, leaning down to kiss the tip of Stiles’ dick and lap at the precum there as his hand continues to move.

Even through the haze of pleasure, Stiles realizes what Derek’s goal is here, and he manages to gasp out, “Thank god, because this would have ended way too fast,” while panting, craning his neck to watch as Derek finally takes Stiles more fully into his mouth.

Stiles does his best not to thrust up into Derek, because he’s capable of polite self control, but Derek ends up reaching a hand underneath him, cupping his ass, and pulling him even closer. Stiles takes it for the invitation it is and presses slightly farther into Derek’s mouth, groaning loudly when Derek hums in the back of his throat and sends vibrations through him.

It’s barely two minutes later when Stiles can feel his orgasm building, his limited endurance reaching its breaking point at the wet heat of Derek’s mouth wrapped around him. “Derek,” he warns, making a half-hearted effort to push him away while he has the opportunity.

As expected, because wolves , Derek disregards Stiles’ warning, planting his mouth on the head and pumping his fist up and down a few more times before Stiles spills into his mouth. Stiles, in his post-orgasm haze, barely processes it at Derek swallows around him and starts stroking Stiles’ thighs soothingly. He takes a mental picture of this moment, of Derek still crouched between his legs, looking far too satisfied considering it really isn’t that difficult to get an eighteen-year-old off, with a tiny bit of Stiles’ semen at the corner of his mouth, looking like he’s just walked off a porn set. Just when he thinks his mind is starting to clear, when he can feel all of his limbs again and is capable of thought, Derek’s tongue darts out to lick his lips.

“You’re killing me,” Stiles groans, throwing his head back because he’s not sure he can process this much sexy in one go.

Derek chuckles and clambers up the bed then, coming to rest beside Stiles and pulling him into a gentle kiss. Stiles positively melts against him, halfway between pulling away at the taste of himself on Derek’s tongue and pressing further into it. The latter impulse wins, especially when Derek makes an appreciative sound and licks his way into Stiles’ mouth. They continue to kiss, exploring hands roaming all over each other as they do so, until Stiles drags himself down the bed, ending with his face inches from Derek’s crotch. At the affirmative from Derek, he removes the boxers covering his erection and takes a second to just look.

Derek is hard, and bigger than Stiles anticipated sans knot, and Stiles needs that dick in his mouth, like, yesterday. He dives down with enthusiasm, glancing up to see Derek’s hooded eyes watching him encouragingly, and licks one long line up the prominent veins from base to tip. Derek practically purrs, sounds rumbling forth from his chest as Stiles sinks down, taking Derek’s entire length into his mouth in one motion.

And then he gags, pulling off and coughing, face heating up in embarrassment. “Stiles,” Derek says, meeting his eyes again. “It’s okay; take your time.”

“But I practiced!” Stiles objects, thinking back to the rather impressive collection of dildos he’s ordered online and tested out in preparation for this moment. “I should be able to do this.”

Derek’s eyes flash at the visual his brain helpfully supplies. “You can,” he encourages, “just take it slow.”

“We’ve taken everything slow,” Stiles whines, because he knows he doesn’t have any reason to rush things now, but he wants to feel capable, not to look as inexperienced as he is. He and Derek haven’t talked too much about Derek’s sexual exploits, but it turns out there were far more than the four Stiles assumed originally. It had been sort of a revolving door for Derek, while he was in New York with Laura. All he needed at the time was a warm body, to feel loved, and Stiles knows that’s not what this is, that he could be absolutely terrible in bed and it would still mean more to Derek than anyone else has, but that only makes him want to be better.

Because Derek deserves to feel as loved as he is.

Stiles breathes deeply before ducking his head back down. As much enthusiasm as he has for this particular situation, he reminds himself that Derek appreciates romance. Plus, it’s not like stopping to savor his first blowjob-giving experience is a problem for Stiles, he just wants to be good at it.

Judging by the deep rumbles of pleasure Derek makes when Stiles takes him in his mouth the second time, he has no reason to be worried. The warm weight of Derek against his tongue is grounding, and Stiles takes his descent down the shaft more slowly this time, wary of his gag reflex. When he’s about halfway to the base, he decides to play it safe for now and use his hand for the rest, copying some of the same motions Derek had just used on him and swirling his tongue around curiously. It doesn’t take long for Stiles to catch onto Derek’s particularly sensitive areas, listening for the tell tale hitch in his breath or the small sounds of pleasure he makes, and Stiles’ jaw is just beginning to ache when Derek runs a hand through his hair, pushing him gently away.

Stiles looks up at Derek, mouth still swollen and slicked with moisture, and Derek looks wrecked, hair in disarray and eyes practically glazed with pleasure. “Told you I’ve been practicing,” he smirks, pressing one final kiss to the head of Derek’s cock before shifting positions.

Derek’s breath leaves his lungs in a whoosh as Stiles turns around and gets on all fours, his abdomen hovering over Derek’s and his head again inches away from Derek’s crotch. Of course, this leaves his ass pretty much directly in Derek’s face, and, to Stiles’ shock and eternal amusement, Derek’s knot begins to swell up.

“Oh my god,” Stiles can’t help but laugh as the gland enlarges. “This is a thing for you, isn’t it? Me presenting myself? You’re such a wolf.”

“I am,” Derek agrees, leaning forward and taking a playful bite of Stiles’ ass. Stiles squeals and wiggles forward on reflex, just as Derek brings his hands up to grip his hips, locking him in place. “Don’t go anywhere,” Derek breathes, leaning forward so his warm breath wafts across Stiles’ hole, sending shivers down his spine.

“Are you–” Stiles begins, but he doesn’t have the opportunity to finish the question before Derek’s hands are spreading him open to gain access and his tongue is swirling around Stiles’ entrance, probing gently at the ring of muscle it encounters. As Stiles gasps, burrowing his face into the meat of Derek’s thigh and arching his back higher, Derek licks his way inside, working his tongue around curiously.

“This is so unsanitary,” Stiles manages to murmur, and he’s left chilly as Derek pulls away. When he whips his head around, Derek smirks and wipes his mouth off on the back of his hand. “Nope,” Stiles announces, because this is serious business . “Gimme your head,” he instructs, reaching behind his back to Derek, who obliges while clearly trying to contain his laughter. “Werewolves can’t get sick, so it doesn’t matter,” Stiles declares, pulling Derek’s head forward until his nose is practically buried in Stiles.

Derek does laugh now, can’t help it, and he rests his cheek on Stiles’ cheek as he gets his chuckles back under control. Stiles, for his part, can’t help but feeling a little embarrassed at the whole situation, but he also really likes it. He knew sex with Derek would be great, because Derek, but it’s never been this fun for him before. There’s lust and love and everything else he could need, but the added dash of absolute ridiculousness is exactly what Stiles didn’t even know he needed.

When Derek regains his composure, he wastes no time disturbing Stiles’ train of thought, diving back in tongue first and working Stiles open with an almost annoying amount of patience, which ends in Stiles trying to push his hips farther back again. Derek takes that as his cue to lean back, and he just looks at Stiles for a moment, his eyes wide and mouth panting, his position still absolutely screaming for Derek to enter him.

“Come on,” Stiles encourages, whining at the loss of contact. He sticks a finger in his mouth to moisten it and then reaches back, fingering himself.

Derek groans at the sight, which would be the stuff of fantasies if his own fingers were involved. He fumbles under his pillow for a second, his hand reappearing momentarily with a bottle of lube, nearly one-third of which is gone. At Stiles’ raised eyebrow from where he’s looking over his shoulder, finger still firmly in place and wiggling, Derek defends, “You have no idea how hard it’s been, especially the past few days while we were waiting to hear if you were healed up yet.”

Stiles stares at the lube for another moment before cutting his eyes back to Derek’s penis, which he licks again before teasing, “I think I know exactly how hard it was.”

Rather than reply to that terrible pun, Derek chooses to uncap the lube, dribbling some over Stiles’ finger without warming it up just so he can hear Stiles’ intake of breath at the coolness. Stiles immediately starts moving his hand faster for the sake of friction, and Derek doesn’t waste any more time before coating his own fingers in lube, probing forward to join Stiles’ with one of his own.

Stiles gasps at the new sensation, adjusting to the added pressure before pressing back against it. When, a few thrusts later, he feels Derek tap another finger against his rim, Stiles removes his own and leans forward on his hands, giving Derek all the access he could possibly need. In response, Derek adds his next finger and returns his tongue in the same motion, pressing in, swirling and thrusting until Stiles feels heat pooling in his stomach and stars exploding behind his eyes. “Prostate,” he huffs with his first controlled breath, almost rolling his eyes at himself for the unnecessary statement. He tells himself this is excusable, because all the blood in his body seems to have made a rush straight for his dick.

Derek doesn’t respond to Stiles’ outburst, rubbing one hand gently along his side before adding another lubed finger, making for a total of three. He twists and stretches them, preparing Stiles carefully and brushing his prostate occasionally to minimize discomfort. Stiles groans and alternates between pushing back onto Derek’s fingers and lurching forward in an effort to get pressure on his dick.

“Just mount me already, Jesus!” Stiles orders, when the waiting has begun to be too much.

Derek rumbles low in his chest, flipping them around almost before Stiles realizes what’s happening. Not that he has a problem with the new position, though, especially considering he finds himself straddling Derek’s stomach, who has gotten them resituated facing each other again in the same movement.

Alpha speed and strength are just as hot as Stiles always knew they would be. Also convenient. “Are you ready?” Derek asks, and Stiles responds by aligning his hips directly over Derek’s straining erection.

“Are you?” Stiles returns, thighs beginning to burn with the strain of hovering just above Derek.

“Wait,” Derek says, grabbing Stiles and pulling him forward so he’s just sort of sitting on Derek’s abs. “Do you want to use a condom?”

Stiles rolls his eyes, because Derek’s concern is adorable, but also he just really wants to do this, so he shakes his head fondly. “No, Derek, I’ve done my research. I always do my research.” He knows that Derek can’t catch anything, and therefore can’t transmit anything, and they’re both guys so… “Wait, just making sure, but you don’t, like, have magic jizz that can make me pregnant, right?”

Derek squints up at Stiles like he’s not sure what to make of that particular question. “Of course not,” he answers, furrowing his brow.

“Perfect,” Stiles replies. “Then let’s do this.” And with that, he realigns his hips and begins to sink down onto Derek’s cock.

He’s about halfway down, thighs aching with the strain of holding himself steady and insides clenching at the intrusion, when Stiles realizes that Derek’s knot is still partially swollen. He forces his muscles to relax, leaning his hands forward to rest against Derek’s chest as he takes a deep breath. “Are you okay?” Derek asks, voice tight with arousal tinged with worry.

“Yeah,” Stiles answers. “Just figuring out how to deal with this whole,” he swirls his hips in a small circle, “situation here.”

Derek’s breath escapes in a hiss, but he forces himself to remain still. “We can stop,” he offers. “If this is too much for you, we can try again another time, or another way.”

“Nope,” Stiles replies, reaching for the lube and adding another generous coating to his fingers before reaching back to where he and Derek are connected, trying to smooth his progress. “This is happening right now.” With that, he pulls up just slightly before forcing his hips down the rest of the way, past the knot until Derek is firmly seated within him.

Derek and Stiles both gasp at the sensation, and Stiles has to remind himself to relax, pushing past the throb of pain. He’s barely registered it past the overwhelming feeling of fullness when Derek’s hand strokes against his side, soothing. Stiles blinks down at Derek only to see thin black veins traveling up his arm.

“Hey, cut it out,” Stiles orders, batting Derek’s hand away. At the puzzled look he gets in response, Stiles flushes. “I want to feel everything.”

“Okay,” Derek says, and his voice comes out a reverent whisper that Stiles needs to hear more of in his life, possibly forever.

As the dull pain fades into the back of his mind, Stiles becomes distinctly aware of the fact that he’s literally riding Derek, that they’re both slicked with sweat and sprawled on the bed like one of Stiles’ wet dreams come to life. He shifts his hips slightly, testing the feeling. There’s a bit of a burn to the motion, but it’s a good burn, and Derek’s muffled sound of pleasure encourages Stiles to lift his hips a bit higher before thrusting back down.

At that, Derek lets out a moan that might be the best thing Stiles has ever heard in his life. They lock eyes as Stiles repeats the motion, entwining his fingers with Derek’s as he tries to increase the speed of his movements. Derek’s left hand digs into the side of Stiles’ hips as he meets him halfway with his own shallow thrusts, managing to push farther in than Stiles’ motions did on their own.

Before long, they’ve changed positions, Stiles on his back now with Derek on top of him. Stiles has a vague recollection of saying something about how the werewolf should be the one doing the athletics, but he’s having trouble thinking through the haze of Derek in his brain. Derek, who has lifted one of Stiles’ legs and is grasping it as he pistons his hips, brushing Stiles’ prostate with every rapid thrust, is making more noise than Stiles expected.

The whole process, really, has become a rather loud production. Between Derek’s groans and Stiles’ moans and the slap slap clap clap of their flesh colliding, it’s beginning to sound like a porn set. A super hot porn set with incredibly good acting, but still.

“We’re going to need to have this room soundproofed,” Stiles manages to get out between breathy pants as he grasps Derek’s shoulders, constantly trying to pull the two of them closer together. Now that he’s gotten a taste of Derek, metaphorically and literally, he knows he’s going to want a lot more of it. Still, Stiles would rather the rest of the pack not overhear their more intimate of moments.

“Can’t,” Derek grunts, not pausing in his motions even as his eyes flash alpha red. “Need to hear the betas, just in case.”

And, okay, Stiles can’t blame Derek for being protective of his little werewolf cubs, because it’s kind of ridiculously adorable. “Okay then,” he agrees, “but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still going to be doing this, because this is possibly the best thing to do. You’re the best thing to do. I want to do you forever.” Halfway through, Stiles realizes he’s rambling, and that he’s forgotten what he was originally talking about, and that Derek’s hand is on his dick. It’s with the final realization that he comes messily between their abdomens, muffling a shout into Derek’s neck.

Derek rolls them so they’re on their sides, still facing each other with Derek holding one of Stiles’ legs hiked over his hip, and as Stiles’ mind clears from his orgasm, he realizes that Derek’s knot has now fully swollen within him, must have done so while he was distracted by his own pleasure. He pushes his hips back against Derek, just because he can, and enjoys the warm breath that ghosts against his collarbone, the warm spurt he feels inside him less familiar but interesting, something he could get used to. Danny’s gayday was totally right about him, apparently. Not that he isn’t going to take Derek up on that offer of switching the instant he’s feeling less exhausted.

Closing his eyes, Stiles just feels happy in a way he can’t remember being in years, if he’s honest with himself. Judging by the lazy circles he’s tracing along Stiles’ abdomen and the almost purring sound he’s making, Derek must be feeling similarly.

Derek nuzzles into the crook of Stiles’ neck, nosing at his cheek and then nipping at his ear, and Stiles can’t move away from the almost ticklish sensation. He’s gotten too used to the feeling of being unable to move over the past year, but somehow it doesn’t bother him now. Not with Derek.

He wants to stay by Derek’s side forever, like this, surrounding him, in him, any way he can have him.

Sensing Stiles’ satisfaction, Derek rumbles contentedly. “All good?” He asks the question with just a hint of smugness that Stiles honestly can’t begrudge him.

“Perfect,” Stiles replies, squeezing the ring of muscle around Derek just to hear his moan. Even when the pack starts to trickle into the house, making a loud spectacle of their entrance with exaggerated gagging at the smell in the air, Stiles doesn’t feel any differently. If anything, it cements the idea that he could spend eternity just like this.

As he drifts to sleep, Derek still firmly buried within him, Stiles thinks that he and Derek will be tied together for far longer than twenty minutes if he has anything to say about it.