"Daddy died of a broken heart." A little boy shares.
He can't be more than five or six. He has amber eyes like his mother that reflect wisdom and sadness. Two things that always seem to go hand in hand. His striped blue and white shirt is too long and he loses his hands in it, legs kicking on the hospital chair like they would if he were on a swing.
There's another boy, sitting next to him, just as solemn. He's frowning a little, his clothes second hand or worn extremely hard. His brown-black hair is too long and hangs in his eyes. The bruise on the side of his face blue and purple, partially hidden. A suspicious mind wonders if that is why is hair is long, or simply the result of parent's busy schedule.
"Daddy loved Mommy too much." Another little boy shares.
This is how Stiles and Scott meet each other for the first time. It won't be for years that anyone thinks to ask how much Stiles or Scott understood about their parents and how the boys came to live with the Owens sisters. The sad truth is, the boys knew exactly how they came to live with the 'aunts.'
Stiles' dad never recovered from his wife's death. She died in the summer, before their son was to be enlisted in kindergarten and he died the week after Stiles started school, his service gun blowing his brains out.
Unfortunately, Stiles would take the bus home. He would open his front door, and go to his dad's bedroom where Deputy Stilinski's partner later finds them both two days later when no one hears from either of them.
Scott's dad had been a mean drunk and convinced his pretty wife was running around behind his back. He beat his wife to death, her son trying to defend her when his fingers wrapped around her throat and made her eyes bugs out. Scott got the bruise on his cheek and a father locked away for murder for his troubles.
It was a mystery then and continues to be a mystery now why the Owens sisters adopted the two boys.
(What also continues to be a mystery is what Frances and Bridget Owens were doing in small town Beacon Hills, California. The locals spent weeks digging for information before Frances mentions off hand something about their nieces taking over their family home. Bridget, "Jet, please," she smiles tightly every time, only ever makes vague comments about having a calling. Bobby Finstock took this to mean the two spinsters were once nuns and wanted to continue their good work. Giving the two sisters, much to their amusement, a trustworthy reputation in town. Dr. Deaton, the local vet, took it as a threat and tried getting the construction of their two story cottage in the woods delayed and get the sisters to leave. Unfortunately for the vet, he came down with several embarrassing ailments before deceasing his attempts.)
"I always wanted kids." Frances says to the social worker. She shrugs and blows out cigarette smoke. "Fate was always a bitch before now."
"Boys will be a challenge." Jet confides to the social worker. "Girls run in our family."
On the word of an FBI agent, Beacon Hills Social Services approves the adoptions.
"In this house we have chocolate cake for breakfast. We never bother with silly things like brushing our teeth or bedtimes." Frances says leading the boys into the cottage.
The home is covered in ivy all the way to the thatched roof. A white fence keeps an escaping garden contained near to the house. The cottage itself is deep blue like the sky with a warm wood trim and shutters.
"I know it may not seem like it now," Jet says softly as she leads the two boys inside. "But you will be happy again."
The two little boys clutch their already clasped hands tight and enter the cottage.
Their childhood is a bizarre one full of spells, chocolate and dancing under the full moon.
Jet and Frances learned their lessons with the girls.
They teach their charges how to identify lavender, mint, rosemary, comfrey, aconite, chamomile, basil, allspice, angelica, flax seed, jasmine, lemon grass, vervain and others all on sight and make it seem like a normal thing. It's impossible to treat magic like it is normal, but they can make the boys feel normal for being able to use it. Jet is very careful not to make the boys feel like Sally did when she was young, and invites all the children touched by magic to birthday and slumber parties. Frances teaches the boys how to cast their first spell, one to keep the toads from the gardens. She can't stand the sight of them. Bastard.
"I don't think teaching them it's appropriate to redirect the toads to the highway." Jet says pointedly to her sister.
Frances scoffs and takes another drag of her constantly smoking cigarette. "By the end of the week the boys will know how to banish and bind evil."
Frances and Jet worked from home.
If you needed protection, a nudge in love, an easy way to sleep or to take the pains and aches away, you went to the Owens' backdoor, through the garden and knock three times and they'll let you in and provide you with a cure.
Some habits are easier to break than others.
Sally calls once a week to give them hell about it. Gilly calls to compare notes.
There's a woman -- it's always a woman, isn't it? always someone in love and hurting -- Stiles and Scott spy on that is manic. Jet's mouth pinches and can all too easily remember two little girls hiding on the staircase. The woman is crying and sobbing, her face red and ugly with tears, holding a picture tight to her chest. She keeps saying over and over, "I love him, I love him, he needs to see it, needs to leave her, I love him. You need to make him love me."
A heartbroken woman always asks for the same thing, unfortunately.
"It won't be what you want." Jet warns gently.
"I don't care." The woman cries. "Please, help me."
"Take the money, Jet." Frances echoes herself from years ago.
Frances takes a dove from the cage by the herb storeroom and brings it to the woman, the bird struggling in her hands. Her fingers are long used to containing the struggling bird, so it is easy to split her attention. Stiles is watching with bright amber eyes, and Scott is biting his lip with watery eyes. She smiles grimly at them. Jet brings the grimoire from the kitchen where Scott and Stiles had been looking through it earlier. She follows Frances' eyes and smiles at the boys sadly. Love is will always ruin innocence.
"Make your wish." Jet says, handling the woman the emerald topped pin. "But be careful what you wish for."
"I want him to want me. Want me more than anything else. I want him to love me more than else and leave her." The woman takes the pin and stabs the bird in the breast, the bird's movements stilling at once.
"Be careful what you wish for." Frances repeats too late, remembering another woman making the same wish decades ago and everyone after that. If only their hearts would listen to the magic she cast they'd never lose them.
This time, when the woman leaves with too much gratitude, Jet sits the boys down and Frances whips up hot chocolate with whip cream and a decadent chocolate cake.
"Why did you do that?" Stiles asks first. "It's not going to come out right."
"We can only do as we're asked." Jet explains. "Our gift isn't just ours. It belongs to anyone who asks with need in their hearts."
"We can warn them." Frances says. "But they don't listen."
Scott nibbles his lip. "A love like that is going to be a curse. It's going to hurt her."
"That's--that's wrong." Stiles says, aghast. "How could you-- why do we have to?"
"Free will is something all things in this world respects, Stiles." Jet says. "We're just the conducts for the magic to enact someone's will."
"The money is a nice touch too." Frances says frankly. "Love kills everyone eventually."
Stiles flinches, remembering all too well how he came to live with the Owens sisters. Frances stares at him with wise eyes. Jet winces but says nothing to gentle the blow or rebuke her sister. Scott slams his fists on the table. "Love shouldn't be like that."
Frances takes a bite of her cake. "Let me tell you a story about the Owens family curse."
The boys are horrified but not surprised. Sally calls thirty minutes later, "Let me speak to them. You two are horrible at this."
Gillian calls as soon as Sally hangs up. "You are all bitter hags, put them on."
"Newly wed and now she thinks she knows everything." Frances sneers.
The boys don't cast any spells under the cover of night and fear. At least not like Sally and Gillian did.
The woman comes back two months later, the boys doing homework and dipping strawberries into chocolate as a snack. See, Sally? They could provide balanced meals. Stiles' attention is split between his math homework, Scott's math homework and the grimoire. He's picking on it so quickly...
The woman breaks the rules. She comes in the middle of the afternoon, opening the backdoor so hard the glass panes crack when it hits the wall.
"Aunt Frances!" Scott shouts.
The woman is crazed. Eyes wild and red and if possible she looks worse than before. "You need to fix this! Fix it! I didn't want this!" She lunges for the spell book and Scott pushes away from the table and pulls Stiles from his chair and scrambles them backwards, away from the hysteric woman and spell book she's desperately flipping through.
Frances and Jet appear silently, Frances motioning the boys to stand behind him. She had hoped they'd be spared this part of the cycle. Fate really is a bitch. Frances hopes to meet her one day so she can feel all the pain she's caused her family over the centuries.
"You got what you wished for." Jet says quietly.
"He never leaves me alone! He took off the bathroom door! Please, you've got to stop him. When I tell him no when he wants to have sex, he still does it. He's taking everything away from me!" She crying in earnest now, but Jet and Frances have long been immune to the face of despair and regret.
Women learned how to handle the blood that gets on their clothing at a young age. Owens women even sooner.
"We thought that's what you wanted."
"We told you to be careful for what you wish for."
Stiles and Scott are eleven. They may not cast any magic like Gillian and Sally did, but they still take vows. Vows that shape their teen and adult years.
"I never want to fall in love." Stiles whispers into their hug.
"I want to love someone right." Scott whispers back. “I don’t want to be like that.”
Frances and Jet share a look. That night, they get drunk on margaritas. The boys asleep. The girls are on speaker phone, slurring their words as well. "That's it though, right? Everyone has to find out for themselves. What's better, being alone or heartbroken?"
"Where do we go wrong?" Jet asks as the conversation lulls.
Frances is passed out on the table, tequila by her head. When Jet closes her eyes, she can see Gillian in a similar position, a hill of limes touching her nose. Sally is breathing softly on the other line, wiping the condensation on her glass with her thumb.
"I protected my girls. Kept it all from them. The love spells and the heartbreak." Sally says, her voice echoing over the speaker phone and right in her ear as if Sally was sitting next to her. "Kylie fell in love with her chemistry teacher senior year. He broke her heart when he married Gilly." Jet closes her eyes in shared pain and regret. "Antonia finds the most broken man she can and loves him as much as I loved her father. The first one overdosed. The second one cheater on her. The third one beat her. But she keeps trying, head over heels every time."
"Did you take care of it?" Jet asks because a witch thinks of revenge first and then her grief.
"Of course." Sally says. "'A man only hits an Owens woman once.' But you're missing the point. I didn't prepare them. You guys, your methods are brutal and sometimes cruel, but we all know from a young age what to expect." She breathes out gustily, Jet can just see her blowing gray streaked hair from her face. "And that's not a bad thing. To love and to be loved hurts."
Their teenage years are full of pranks, bullies and magic. Stiles' gift is stronger than Scott's and spends all the hours Scott spends catching up, he uses to be creative. Scott can light a candle with his breath; Stiles can create a ping pong ball of fire with his.
"Don't worry about it." Gilly laughs over the phone when Scott shares his frustrations with her. "Our talented siblings pay for it in other ways. Could Stiles' convince Tiffany Aching to date him?"
"No," Scott grins widely because Stiles is too much like the aunts -- too touched by magic -- for the girls to want. Scott is cute, cuddly and just different enough. "I guess it's an even trade."
Gilly laughs again. "Sally and Stiles would agree too. Fate only gives us what we can handle."
The boys remain close, so close that the night they graduated, when a boy from their class and his sister whistle sharply, and Scott goes and throws out his duffel bag, Stiles only watches with amusement and sadness. "So you're leaving? Seriously?"
"I can't stand it here anymore, Stiles." Scott says. "Everyone knows us here, about our parents, the aunts. I need something new."
"But enough to leave with Lily? You love her that much?" Stiles asks.
He can't see the two together forever. Scott always had the dream of a passionate love that will shred the world to pieces to surround with a white picket fence. From what Stiles knows, and he stopped asking for details at fifteen, Lily and her brother were fun. Not forever love but 'God, I love twins!' type of love.
"What's love got to do with it? Her and Luke are taking me to Washington." Scott shrugs, an impish smile on his face. At seeing Stiles' frown, Scott rolls his eyes. "Neither of them are The One, but I do love them today and for me that’s enough."
"But what about Aunt Frances and Aunt Jet? Me?" Stiles asks, scared for the first time in twelve years he's going to be alone. For as long as he can remember, him and Scott have walked side by side. Stiles can handle anything Fate throws at him except for loneliness.
"Dude, nothing will ever change that. I'm your brother." Scott bites his lip for a moment. "Where's my boline?"
Stiles shifts through the junk on Scott's desk, looking for the white handled knife before triumphantly waving it at Scott. "I still think it's creepy you kept it." Stiles says, handing the knife over.
"Why?" Scott asks, accepting the knife.
"Because Wilhelmina promised to cut your heart out with it?"
"She didn't mean it." Scott shrugs. "She's much happier with Cooper like I said she would be."
Scott slices his palm open and hands the knife back to Stiles expectantly. Taking the boline back, Stiles slices his own palm to match Scott's. "My blood." Scott says and holds his hand up. "My blood." Stiles repeats and their hands clasp. "Our blood." They say together.
All their years of growing up, they've heard about the power of blood magic.
It's enough of a promise for Stiles to watch Scott leave through the window, and to join the aunts at the dining room table where three margaritas wait.
It's enough when Stiles only hears from Scott due to postcards, letters, payphones and motels phones too. They have a matching red beaded scars on their palms. They keep conversations short and amusing. Stiles hears about a different boy or girl every time. Scott hears about how Stiles is sending the coven the aunts decided to take over into 'how did he do it?" fits.
Otherwise, life remains the same in Beacon Hills.
Stiles devotes his time to weeding and pruning the gardens, going to community college and learning the aunts' business.
It’s a good existence.
Stiles can’t really complain. At the farmer’s market, Mrs. Brown gives him a discount on strawberries for keeping the rabbits out of her garden, while Mr. MacDonald always has a set of eggs ready free of charge for keeping out the foxes. He goes to the festivals with Aunt Frances and Aunt Jet, dancing under the moon, getting drunk off magic and Anne’s homemade wine recipe. He goes to community college in his spare time, trying to fill all his hours with computers, paper and books.
If he’s a little lonely, well, there's worse things.
Everyone has someone.
Aunt Frances has Aunt Jet. Sally has Gary. Gillian has Ben. Scott has Jessica, wait, Jonathan?, someone. Stiles has no one and he's seeing couples everywhere. Stiles doesn't want to fall in love. He's still of the opinion it hurts too much to risk it. Love, real, true love just isn't meant for him. He doesn’t want it. He didn’t ever want to imagine being so in love with someone he’d abandon his family for, the kind that poisoned you inside out when that other person wasn’t around. He just wants a little companionship. Fuck, Stiles would settle for having Scott back home. Just for a little while.
Stiles is starting to consider getting a cat.
It’s been two years since Scott left little Beacon Hills behind, and Stiles is signing for his shipment of rowan branches that he’s been waiting six weeks for because eBay is a liar. He’s giving the delivery guy the stink eye while he’s at it, because Stiles is nearly always home unlike the aunts who like to terrorize the town on long walks and somehow, they guy has managed to come to the house twice when no one was home. While some people in this town were wonderfully enlightened, others were superstitious assholes.
(The vet, Deaton? He is definitely forever on Stiles' shit list. Stiles doesn't know what the guy is exactly besides an asshat with a gift for magic that continuously tries banishing his family. Banishings were annoying. Stiles has bought moving boxes twice this year alone because of them.)
The delivery man smiles nervously and Stiles watches him walk briskly back to his truck, crossing himself. It makes Stiles wants to be cruel to the man. Maybe tell him about the truth of his wife's visits to her "sister." It isn’t fair. It’s a feeling he has to choke down sometimes, especially with Scott gone. Scott always hated feeling this way. Like he was less of a human being simply because he could use magic.
“You’re going to turn into a bitter shrew.” Frances says, sounding delighted by the prospect. “You should come with us to town.”
“It’s been awhile since you been in.” Jet agrees, side eyeing him. “Mrs. MacDonald constantly asks about you.”
“She probably thinks you’ve sacrificed my nubile young body for eternal youth.” Stiles grins after a heavy moment of playing with the package and missing people fiercely. “I should go so she doesn’t call the cops on you guys.”
“Don't tempt me.” Frances hisses playfully. "My joints have been aching as of late."
“You can meet the new neighbors.” Jet says, pointedly ignoring Frances.
“We have neighbors?” Stiles frowns. "Not living in that tear down?"
The closest house to the cottage is all the way up the road. They can’t even see the house it's so far away. Too many trees and the like in the way. Like the fence. Stiles had a distant memory of it from when he was younger. He and Scott had been exploring the woods and stumbled upon it. It had been a manor with stained stones and ivy growing over the doors and windows. The manor was large and fit for a family of twelve to keep secrets in. No matter how hard Stiles and Scott tried, they had never been able to enter the house. The ivy stopping them, or the doors being swollen with water and refusing to budge, it was always something.
“We told you. Old houses are like that.” Jet scolds lightly. “The house has simply been waiting for its owners to return.”
“The Hales?” Stiles asks incredulous. “They’re back?”
“Of course.” Frances says. “A family like that can't stay away from the land long. Talia’s brother and her oldest. The daughter, Laura, is a baker.” She hums in delight. “Her tiramisu is heaven sent. She started working at Jo’s last week.”
“And you didn’t bring any home?” Stiles asks betrayed.
“Only people who have left the manor in the last three weeks get tiramisu.” Frances smirks.
Jet laughs lightly. “Peter decided to come back for research on a book he’s writing. I suppose, Laura was homesick enough to keep him company."
"Homesick?" Stiles frowns. For as long as he'd been aware of the manor up the street, it'd been empty. No signs of life whatsoever.
"The entire Hale family used to live there before you and Scott came to live with us." Jet explains after she and Frances share a look. "It's best I tell you now. Peter was in love with Scott's mom." She sighs sadly. "When she died, Peter...didn't do so well. Then some of the town tried to burn the manor down."
Frances continues for her sister, "Talia did what she had to for her family."
"But the land remembers." Jet says. "The land always remembers. The ones responsible, their luck dried up. Misfortune followed the families around until they all left."
Stiles whistles. That took incredible powerful magic. "The house was in the family for generations, huh?" Family homes were always a force to be reckon with. It explained why Scott and he never managed to elbow their way into the depleted manor. They must have had the devil's luck to have been able to get as close to the manor as they did without being gravelly injured. If his family was forced from the manor, the manor would keep its doors closed and curse anyone who stepped on the land, malicious intentions or not. Magic played favorites and to banish users from their haven was always asking for trouble.
"Wow. Now I need to meet these people." Stiles thinks for a second before casting his adoptive family a suspicious glare. "You guys tricked me."
"Yes." Frances agrees. "Yes we did. We were sure you'd be out of the house of your own power a week ago. We figured strangers would prod your ass out of the house."
Jet simply smiles.
Beacon Hills is a small town of organic farmers, old and new wealth and Joe Average. A lot of the homes are large and impressive from an era not even the oldest woman in town remembers. The modern homes are fashionable, but everyone knows it only takes one glance at the manor homes dotted around the outskirts of town to see unimpressive they were. Like small towns, gossip is often the best --and most valuable -- currency, and if there was one thing Stiles can do extremely well, it's talk.
He trades stories with Mrs. MacDonald that he can use to charm his way pass the grandmotherly and newly married types alike. He soon learns everything he possible can about the Hales.
"They're like, well, your, this is awkward." Mary giggles, her face red. "They're like you. Different."
"They always were odd." Mrs. Renner says. "Always with the nature retreats."
"They were freaks." Mr. Thornsburg says. "That blasted woman, she let her children run around howling at the moon like a bunch of animals. I said good riddance when they left."
"My shop took a hit when they left." Mr. Tripe says sadly. "That family could eat their body weights in red meat."
"Now, you want to hear a modern day Romeo and Juliet story?" Mrs. Lovett asks. "You ask anyone about Chris Argent and Laura Hale."
"Argent was a stupid kid. He was twenty-two and couldn't keep his eyes off the girl. Laura. She was fifteen.
Only a bad man would keep an eye on a girl that young." Mr. Brady glares at a distant memory.
"Chris Argent and Laura Hale? Good God, I haven't thought of those two in years." Granny Smithers exclaims. "Tragic pair. Chris fell in love with her and was being a good boy about it. Kept his distance. Laura would watch him back." She chuckles. "It was a lot of pining." She sombers quickly. "Too much pining for all the heartbreak. Chris' daddy found out and well, Gerard led the mob to burn the Hale place down. Chris tried stopping him of course. Poor boy was probably the only thing that stood between the Hales and death. But the Hales still left and the Argents followed."
"Argents?" Jeremy asks with a high eyebrow. "They were a bad sort. Beacon Hills was glad to see them gone. Especially your aunts. Chris' younger sister? Kathy? Katherine? Katy? She would go by your place and vandalize it."
Stiles has so many stories crammed in his head in that short afternoon. By the time he reaches the bakery Frances swears Laura Hale worked at, he's feeling a little dazed. It surprises him visibly when he sees a smiling woman wearing a name tag calling her Laura. After hearing the stories of how her crush on Chris Argent nearly led to her house being set on fire because of someone's overprotective dad, he expected a miserable and gloomy woman. Possible even a spinster like Aunt Frances. Laura Hale, instead, is a beautiful woman with light blue eyes and dark hair and freckles across her nose who had a laugh that makes Stiles want to smile every time he hears it.
He manages not to make a dumbass of himself and leaves the bakery with a chocolate croissant -- the tiramisu all gone by eleven a.m. -- to make his way home. For all that he's heard about the Hales, even Peter and how he'd been in love with Melissa McCall nee Diaz since they met in middle school, he's heard nothing of any of the other Hales. What he can't figure out is if Peter and Laura are magic too.
The curiosity burns new life into him.
"A preparation of Fate." Jet says.
"Fate just wants to make me her bitch." Stiles accuses.
"Most likely," Frances mutters.
He makes friends with Laura and her uncle. Builds a life out of bothering Laura at working and bothering Peter at his house. He still doesn't know how magic they are. He does know Peter thinks he's odd. The glances he's caught Peter angling at him always make him shift nervously like he did something wrong. Laura is no better, constantly laughing at him like she knows a secret about him. He likes them despite it. They even invite him and the aunts over. It's nice being treated normal even if no one is.
His budding new life is disrupted by his old life.
He goes to sleep after one of the esbat festivals the aunts hosted. His body is warm and relaxed and at three a.m., sleep sounds like a wonderful idea. The best he's ever had. He face plants in bed. The smell of their detergent and fabric softener hastening him to sleep.
Stiles wakes up screaming.
He's thrashing against his bed. His blood is on fire. Like fire ants are eating him away cell by cell. Later, the aunts tell him they had to hold him down. Get the hang rope their ancestor Maria broke to save her life and begin the Owens family line to control his wild movements before he hurt himself.
He wakes up as the sun touches the horizon, blood pouring from his nose and an injury on his side.
Aunt Jet is clearing his face as he pants. He can't breathe. The blood is slick and choking him. The crushing terror that something is wrong with Scott.
"We have to see to your injuries first." Jet says quietly. "Then you can go to him."
They cut his shirt after an aborted attempt to lift his arms has him yelping. Frances wetting his shirt where the blood has caked. Pieces of his shirt still stick to his injury and Stiles gasps when Frances tugs the material free. There's a huge bite in his side. As large as a hand span.
"Jet," Frances hisses, sounding for once in her life afraid. "The bite of the beast."
"Oh, Scott, what have you gotten yourself into?" Jet asks softly.
That's what Stiles intends to find out.
Stiles has postcards and letters from Washington to Florida to Maryland to Arizona. Scott's only pattern is he doesn't like to be in the same place for any longer than a few weeks. Stiles knows better than to look in any of the cities Scott has been to previously. Stiles knows better than to think too hard where Scott is.
Scott is yelling for him as loudly as possible.
He packs a bag and throws it into the back of his Jeep. Mr. Madgrail sold it to him at a discount when he turned sixteen. "It used to belong to your mother." He grunted when Stiles kept trying to give the more. "It was never mine, just no one knew what to do with it. You're paying me for maintenance and space is all."
The aunts watch him leave and he keeps glancing in the rearview mirror until they disappear.
Stiles has never left Beacon Hills before, yet he knows the roads and places like he's traveled them before. Scott's fault. He knows which towns to stop in. The gas stations to avoid. The places with the best food. The motels that will charge him double because he's been driving for hours and needs to stop. It freaks him out a little. Never has information bled between them like this before. Stiles wonders if it goes both ways.
He arrives at a motel in New York.
The front desk lets him after some cajoling and a fifty. Scott never picked his motels because they were high on security, but because they were cheap. And sketchy. Scott really had a taste for those. Aunt Jet placed the blame on Gillian for some odd reason. The key unlocks the door the attendant swears Scott checked into two days ago and never checked out of, but when he opens the door, no one is inside.
Scott's stuff is spread out, like he'd been staying in the room. There's Chinese takeout on the dresser. The TV is on. His clothes are pouring out of his duffel bag. The bed rumpled. The bathroom lights are on too. If Stiles didn't know better, he'd say Scott just stepped out for ice.
Stiles did not drive all the way from California to New York to give up now. If magic lead him here, then there was something here for Stiles to find that would help him find Scott. Magic wouldn't give the answer; he had to find it. He begins sifting through Scott's things.
Stiles finds a lot of shit, but what's noticeable is what he doesn't find. He doesn't find Scott's wallet or his grimoire. Before Stiles would have guessed Scott left thinking he was going to come back at some point. Now, Stiles is confident Scott got out quick but prepared. He was being chased.
There's a handful of defining moments in a man's life. The moment where if anything had gone slightly different, entire destinies would change. If Stiles' had been thinking a little more clearly, he would have closed the motel room door as he searched. Or if he hadn't argued with the front desk and bribed him sooner, he would have been out of Scott's room quicker. But no. Stiles left the door open in his haste to check on Scott. He's here.
Someone enters the hotel room behind him. The hairs on the back of his neck prickling. Shit. Stiles puts the shirt he picked, thinking maybe he'd try scrying with it down. His heart is starting to hammer. It's between calm beat one and jackhammer beat two when Stiles is tackled to the bed.
Stiles grunts and flails, trying to find something besides dirty clothes to defend himself with. The person on top of him is stronger and despite how Stiles wiggles and bucks, the person keeps out of range of Stiles elbows. He almost has a hand around a pillow to surprise his attacker with before his hands are wrenched behind his back. He yelps, "Son of a bitch!"
His attacker growls. Subsonic and heart stopping. That isn't a human growl. Stiles doesn't think humans have the vocal chords to growl like that. Stiles stills. "Bite of the beast," Aunt Frances had said. What kind of beast? Stiles thinks he knows the answer -- "Remember, aconite, holly, mistletoe and mountain ash are for protection." Aunt Jet said, giving him a satchel of each. -- because witches aren't the only ones that can be from legend and real. Other things must exist too.
"Where is he?" His attacker snarls in his ear.
Oh good. His attacker is a dude. Stiles didn't want to assume. It mollifies his ego a little bit to know. Not that women couldn't be seven types of awesome because dude, his aunts and cousins, but Stiles wasn't a too shabby muscled guy himself. He should be able to protect himself. It's nice knowing against a supernatural creature he'd lose. Nice ego check.
"Fuck you." Stiles wheezes. "What the hell did you do to him? Werewolf?"
The werewolf on top of him tenses and breathes heavily on the back of Stiles' neck. It feels weird. Moisture on the back of his neck on top of his fear sweat. Stiles does his best to think of brave and strong smells because he's pretty sure the werewolf pinning him to Scott's bed isn't doing so because he likes Stiles' body wash. He's so tense, he jumps not expecting to feel a tongue like along his hair line and no. Just worlds of no. Stiles bucks again and tries throwing them off the edge of the bed. His success is minimal. His werewolf attacker stops licking his neck, but he also pushes Stiles harder into the bed. Stiles is going to die from getting mattress up his nose.
"What are you?" The voice is curious. "You're not a hunter."
"Let go!" Stiles says to be contrary. "What did you do with Scott?"
"How do you know him?" The werewolf asks. His voice is surprisingly mellow. Not at all the deep throated roughness from before. Maybe werewolves really did have different vocal chords.
"He's my brother!" Stiles says.
There's a second pause and then the body removes himself. Stiles jerks away from the bed and thumps to the floor. No way is he letting himself get caught pinned to squishiness again. He's pushing off the floor when he hears, "You're Stiles?" The werewolf sounds surprised.
"He told you--" Stiles' words get stuck in his throat when he sees the werewolf for the first time.
Stiles grows lupines in the garden. Red, blue, purple, yellow, white and pink petal lupines that look miniature pine trees, pointed at the top and flaring at the bottom. He can't say why he likes them so much. He went to Jo's when he was fifteen to pick up the aunts' order of belladonna ("Never know when it'll be handy," Gillian smirked once.) seeds and saw seedlings. Barely little shoots of green peaking from the dirt. Stiles bought all of them with the allowance he'd been saving for the new Xbox game. He grows them outside the fenced in garden. There's so many, passerbyers can rarely tell there's a fence to begin with.
He thinks he knows why, and it breaks his heart.
The werewolf stands as tall and proud as any of his lupines. The air catches in Stiles' throat. His hair is dark and his skin is tan. There's stubble on his cheeks and bold eyebrows. What is making it hard for Stiles to breath is the werewolf's eyes. They're glowing blue, as blue, no, exactly the same blue, as his bitter blue lupines. Stiles reaches a shaky hand for the bed. He needs something to hold on to. His world-- Stiles can see the werewolf's secondary eye color, his human eye color, hovering beneath the blue and it's spring grass green. The color he sees at the base of his lupine flowers when the sun hits them just right. He chokes, spots floating in his vision and he can't breathe.
As alluring as the werewolf is, as gorgeous and fucking lovely -- he already compared the guy to flowers, lovely shouldn't hurt -- he is, Stiles wants no part of it.
How long as Fate been planning on throwing this guy in his path? How long has Stiles already loved him without knowing him? That shouldn't be possible. Things like this did not happen to normal people. Normal people got to pick who they loved if they wanted to and Stiles never wanted to.
The werewolf steps forward in concern. "Hey, breathe. I'm not going to hurt you." His voice is all gruff, hiding concern underneath it. Stiles tries to laugh but there isn't enough air in his lungs. You already have, he doesn't say. You've hurt me in the worst way possible.
Stiles eventually controls his panic attack.
I never had a chance. No one does.
"You okay?" The werewolf asks.
"I'm fine." Stiles says. The werewolf frowns. "You know Scott?" Stiles adds quickly when the werewolf looks ready to call bullshit.
The werewolf's frown deepens but allows the misdirection. "Yes. He's part of my pack."
"Huh?" Stiles sputters. "How did that happen? He was bitten like five days ago!"
"We've been traveling together for awhile." The werewolf says and Stiles' stomach twists. Of course. Scott always did have a talent for getting attractive people to want him. Why would the person who's been haunting Stiles' life be any different? Briefly, Stiles hates his brother. Hates him with every cell of his body before the anger flares out. ("There will come a time when he makes you so mad, you'll want him to suffer in his own mess." Sally shares. "That's when he needs you the most.") "I've been helping him." The werewolf's face grimaces. "Not good enough though. He still got bit."
"What?" Stiles asks.
The werewolf sits on the bed next to Stiles and shares the past six months of Scott's life with him. How Scott met and shacked up with a man named Deucalion. "An alpha of alphas," the werewolf described. How life with Deucalion started like a dream and turned into a nightmare every month. The werewolf explains how his alpha sent a beta named Isaac to check out the rumors of a Deucalion hunting humans in his territory. How Deucalion planned on using Scott's magic and Isaac contacted him and got Scott out. How Deucalion and his pack of alphas have been hunting them for weeks before---
Before Scott got bit.
"How did he hide this from us? From me?" Stiles whispers. He should have felt Scott's terror. The horror of what was happening to him.
"He didn't want you to find out." The werewolf says. "He was afraid of what would happen to you."
"What would happen to me?" Stiles laughs, feeling bitter and helpless. "What about him? He ended up some alpha dick's rent boy and then got turned into a werewolf!"
The werewolf growls, pinning Stiles with a blue glare. "He wanted to keep you safe. As far as Deucalion knows, Scott’s an orphan. Scott didn't want anyone to know about you, your aunts or your cousins. Deucalion has put this much effort in catching one witch, what do you think he'd do for a coven?" Stiles freezes. "He was doing his best to protect his family. He was stupid about it, but he tried."
Stiles thinks about what would have happened if a werewolf intent on taking advantage of one witch was lead to seven more. From the sounds of it, this guy was extremely bad news. He can't imagine what Deucalion would have done to his cousins Kylie and Antonia. Could Sally and Gillian fight off a pack of werewolves? Specters were one thing; werewolves were another.
"I have to find him." Stiles says. His lips feel numb. Everything feels a little numb now that he's paying attention.
He stands up, fishing his keys out of his pocket, ready to peel out of here and go where magic tells him to. He stops with his hand in his pocket with a too warm hand on his wrist. "I'm coming with you. Deucalion won't give up. "
Stiles searches the werewolf. His eyes are sun-grass green again. Stiles would be lying if he said back up didn't sound like a good idea. Stiles would be stupid if he went hunting for Scott alone. For all he knew, Scott was bait. Bait for this werewolf or if they suspect Scott was hiding something, Stiles didn't know, but it didn't matter. Finding nothing but determination and resolve in the werewolf, Stiles nods shortly.
"Fine." He pauses, a foot out the motel door and the werewolf a few steps behind him. "We're taking my Jeep. Oh and, what's your name?"
The werewolf frowns at him, retrieving a cell phone from his jacket pocket. "My name is Derek." He presses some buttons and brings the phone to his ear. Stiles is already hurrying towards his Jeep. Scott needs him. So he only catches the last part of the conversation, "-ra, I need you to pick up my car."
As far as road trip companions go, Derek is okay.
Stiles would say nice, but Derek isn't really nice.
Derek is too practical for nice. Stiles is reminded of Lancelot, strangely enough. He's a good man. Honest and full of greatness waiting to burst forth. But there's something lurking underneath all the gallantry. Something not-dark and not-light but nonetheless hungry. It makes Stiles nervous, like he should be holding his breath.
Derek pays gas. Stiles pays food. They split the motel bills.
There's a few places they miss Scott and Isaac by a day or two. Even more places where they miss Deucalion’s lackeys by a few hours. Derek takes these very controlled breaths through his nose -- "Scenting," Derek explains. -- and sometimes hurries Stiles to a motel to hide behind a locked door and mess of smells. "They don't know what you smell like yet. But they know me."
Small Town, United States are all the same. There's the bland motels with the tired desk never looking too hard at their faces or IDs just their license plates. There's the diner on every main street with menus that should be restricted to their specials. There's even kooky old women in every town that go out of their way to greet Stiles. They once checked into a motel where the desk had an airlock bag waiting for them with two wildly colorful afghans inside. Barely three hours later, Derek caught the scent of one of Deucalion’s alphas and they were shivering in the Jeep under the blankets as the rain fell around them seven hours later.
"You're backtracking." Derek says three days in.
Stiles sighs, rubbing his eyes. "Scott's backtracking. I don't know what he's doing. We lost too much time taking that detour in Vermont."
Derek is silent for a few minutes, staring out the window. There's been a steady drizzle where ever they go. Stiles would think it's magic but he doesn't want Derek to think he's a conspiracy theorist. Bad enough crazy werewolves could be after them. He doesn't need to get Derek all worked up about the magic. What would Derek do? Growl at the air?
He doesn't know how to say, I'm tired and homesick; or, I just want to find Scott and go home. I want to forget all this happened like a bad dream. I can't find them because Scott is being strangely evasive and it's giving him a headache to constantly be listening to the magic. He doesn't know how to say anything, so he says nothing at all.
"You aren't alone." Derek says.
Surprised, Stiles flicks a glance at him before returning his eyes to the road. Today the magic says go south and he swears to all things sacred if Scott is in New York again, he's going to fly back to sunny, smoky California. They've driven through parts of New York three times already. Derek is very pointedly not looking at him. Maybe he subscribes to real men don't have feelings train of thought?
"Of course not," Stiles says easily.
Derek looks at him. He can feel those eyes on him. Piercing through him and demanding Stiles look at him because he has something to say. It's making Stiles twitch. His fingers are literally twitching against the steering wheel in a helpless gesture to claw his way out of the abyss that is this conversation.
"You don't believe that." Derek says quietly. Rather than wait for Stiles to bluster his way through that, Derek adds. "Pull over."
"What? No." Stiles splutters.
"You've been driving non-stop today. You need to sleep." Derek says.
"I'm fine." Stiles says.
What Derek does next throws Stiles a little. The werewolf taps quickly. Four or so steady beats on his knee followed by two fast ones before going back to the steady. "You decided to try using Morse code instead?" Stiles raises an eyebrow.
"That's what your heart sounds like when you lie." Derek says.
"You can hear my heartbeat?" He doesn't quite shriek but it's close. "How good are your senses?"
"Very good." Derek says. "Now pull over."
Derek's growl resounds in the Jeep. It shakes things inside of Stiles loose like his self-preservation. The hairs on the back of his neck are sticking up again. His hands are sweaty and Stiles can hear his heart thudding too loud in his ears. If it's loud to Stiles then--
"I'm pulling over! No reason to go all werewolf on me." Stiles sulks.
The rain dampens them both. Derek sliding into the driver seat with a quiet determination. Stiles sits in the passenger seat with a slight pout. If Derek was the type of man to smile freely, he probably would be. As it is, he's a little too smug. Stiles doesn't even want to think about Derek's facial expressions when he wakes up a few hours later, forehead gone cold from leaning against it so heavily. It was probably a filthy smirk. The bastard.
Stiles does his best not to like Derek.
Or get to know him.
It's just, they've been driving together for too many hours. Not always can they get a good radio station. Stiles hates silence. He always has every since he spent two very quiet days alone in his dad's room. Stiles has to fill the silence somehow and sometimes tells jittery stories about his childhood involving Scott comes out. Like how Scott once broke his arm twice to impress Tara Rosenberg. Or how Stiles got kicked off the debate team for verbally assaulting another student. It all just comes out. Word vomit. It's a medical illness he's been meaning to look into.
But then something glorious happens when Stiles' brain is still buzzing but can't find anything else to say. Derek starts to talk back. Quiet stories about Scott and Isaac's antics. ("They seriously thought it be a good idea to have a supernatural lacrosse league?" Stiles laughs incredulously.) Of how Scott recently planned an impromptu wedding for two women with no time or family with the desire to tangle their lives together. ("He always did love happy endings." Stiles says fondly. "When my cousin Gillian got married he--")
It just keeps happening. Words flowing out of Stiles until he's talking about the aunts. Usually he can't tell people how the aunts taught him to keep mint on the windowsill to keep bugs out in August every day of the year (because the spirit of August can be any month as long as nature feels it). People give him strange looks. But Derek smiles, a twitch of his mouth and happiness around his eyes that makes him look even more--more of everything Stiles wants to avoid-- and recounts what it was like to run with his family under the moon. The types of games they'd play special on full moon nights.
(Full moon nights, they both agree, are sacred. Both of their families have traditions that to outsiders are too fucking weird to accept, but they each get. Derek gets Stiles' family enjoys dancing naked that night, drinking and eating and celebrating life. Stiles gets the mock wrestling tournaments and camping trips with s'mores and the puppy piles -- Stiles' word, not Derek's. It's nice to share these kinds of stories with someone who isn't related to him. Sure, they understand because they were there, but it wasn't the same. This was displaying yourself for someone else, opening the door to your true self when you say, "I always loved the flower garlands.")
After Derek forces Stiles to give up his driver's seat in Vermont, he starts to fit in all the places of Stiles' life he didn't realize were Derek shaped.
Stiles looks around and Derek is there. His feet go where Stiles' don't underneath the diner tables. Their bodies always lean and tilt into each others' orbits. Stiles remembers Scott walking on his left whenever they walked side by side, yet Stiles would always angle his body right. It's nerve wracking. All the empty slots in his life are suddenly filled in by Derek -- how long has he been waiting for Derek? -- and it's hard, and he tries, to hate Derek.
It becomes impossible when the full moon occurs, a month since Scott was bitten, and they're sitting on the Jeep's hood at a rest stop.
The moon is luminous. Shining -- apologizing for the ache Stiles feels for his family -- on them with enough light to form blankets if only Stiles could gather the light in his hands. Derek basks in it next to him. Face tilted upwards and his eyes closed, breathing deeply. The warmth of Derek's body is leaking into Stiles' and Stiles can't look away.
Silver light turns Derek's face into an art lesson of shadows and over exposure. Stiles wants to touch his eyelashes. Feel the sweep of them against his thumb. Drags his thumbs down from his eyes to his cheeks, touching those cheekbones and dipping into the hollows until he knows the other's face better than his own. Brush the bottom of his lip with the tip of his thumb to feel the difference between rough skin and soft lips. It forces Stiles to close his eyes and breathe hard.
Stiles would rip his heart out and throw it if he thought he could stop falling in love with Derek.
(He has a suspicion, however, Derek would run for it and catch it with his teeth just to swallow it whole in order to keep it forever. And Stiles is terrified. Lancelot was kind of a bastard too, loving Guinevere how he did. Look what happened to them. Tragedy. The end of an era.)
He ignores it instead because Scott is out there and needs him.
(Derek understands. Stiles can tell. It's in the way Derek's hands linger when he hands Stiles things and takes them away or when he touches him to redirect him because Derek never looks at him when he steals touches. Derek is looking for his people too. He understands family and responsibility and when it is not the time. It makes Stiles feel more stupid.)
Stiles is marking all the places they've been with a motel pen. Scott isn't stupid. Not how Derek thinks. Scott can be dumb, but if he's jumping towns like this, he must have a destination on mind. He knows Stiles is right behind him. He has to. Why else would Scott's magic be yelling for him?
The magic is leading them closer to the east coast. They've been in Maryland, seemingly driving in circles. Like Scott and Isaac can't make up their minds where they want to be found. Then Stiles sees the pattern.
His heart stops in disbelief.
"You stupid bastard." Stiles says.
Scott is going to Maria's Island. He's circling the town the ferry operates out of. He must be running to the town from where ever he's shaking up to do recon. Learn the ferry's schedule and see who's there.
He barely unlocks his phone before Sally is calling him.
"We know," Sally says. "We'll be ready. Get here quickly."
"'Kay," Stiles says and is so relieved, he thumps his head off his map.
"What?" Derek asks, raising his eyebrows and frowning.
Stiles sighs and scrubs his eyes. He's pretty sure there's wet ink on his forehead. "Scott is taking his ex-sugar daddy to meet the family." Derek frowns harder. It makes Stiles a little gleeful. The aunts were right, he's suicidal. "They're preparing the welcome to the family party."
Derek's eyes are green. Stiles misses his garden. He looks thoughtful almost-- no. Crafty is Stiles' look. Derek can't have it. He can have silent and strong. Stiles has had dibs on crafty since he was seven and pranked his second grade teacher. "Remember how I said you aren't alone?"
"Yeeees," Because that was weeks ago.
"My pack wants to be there, so do some allies." Derek says simply. "I just need an address."
Stiles is awful. He doesn't even have to think before he's rattling Sally's address off. He's going to have to have a stern talk with himself for telling a stranger where the Owens linchpin is, no matter how devastatingly handsome, because this is how terrible things start.
With love, trust and faith.
Stiles doesn't pussyfoot like Scott is and gets Derek on the first ferry to Maria's Island available.
Sally issued an order, and well, Sally is terrifying. She's a total mom. A pillar of strength and fierceness that the Maria's Island community leans on in times of strife. She called the aunts once, only sound a tiny bit nervous, asking about countering other witches. A week later, the entire community was buzzing about Gideon Shaw and his dead body in the salty bluffs. Stiles isn't going to disobey her.
Derek gets sick on the ferry.
It makes Stiles smirk for all of ten seconds because the werewolf is so white he feels obligated to comfort him. It's obvious to anyone, Derek is barely holding on to his stomach. Stiles can be an asshole, but he has lines. Somewhere. Derek puts his head in Stiles' lap, holding tightly on to the bottom of Stiles' many jackets and sweaters. Stiles isn't much of a comforter. He laughs at Scott when he's hung-over and annoys the aunts when they sniffle. He hesitantly drops a hand in Derek's hair and scratches his scalp, petting him. Derek must not mind it. All he does is press his nose harder against Stiles' stomach, so he must be doing something right. Derek has never been exactly subtle in letting Stiles know when he's displeased.
It takes a few minutes off the ferry for Derek to regain any color and be steady on his feet.
(He doesn't let go of Stiles and Stiles doesn't shake him off. This is another moment in his life where everything can change. He doesn't want to face it alone. Being alone is worse.)
They walk to the Owens' ancestral home is uneventful if cold.
Maria's Island is a port town.
They have fishing, a cannery and old blood. A lot of the residents of Maria's Islands stay because their families were the original settlers, not because they want to. Gillian had been an oddity, running away from home to explore the rest of the U.S. The Owens' familial home is on the other side of the island, which isn't saying much. The island couldn't be any bigger than Beacon Hills.
It does mean for the entirety of their walk, they get the biting wind off the sea.
Stiles is relieved when he sees the house.
It's huge and magical. It's little wonder the Owens have been shunned for being witches if generation after generation they've lived in this house that stands with the shimmer of magic in its wooden boards. The garden is sprawling. Eating at the sidewalk winding towards the house and taming the edge of the woods brushing against the house. Stiles can even see the pale glass of the greenhouse countless Owens have kept stocked for close to three centuries. The constant beat of waves against the cliffs Frances always spoke of in wistful tones adding to the mystery of the house.
He feels like he's home, staring at the house.
He leads Derek to the front door and without prompting, Stiles opens it so they can make their way inside.
"Stiles is here!" Kylie shouts.
"And he brought the werewolf!" Antonia voice accompanies her sister's.
The two women are in front of the stairs, like they've been waiting for Stiles and his guest to show up all morning. Stiles wouldn't actually put it past them. Even though the two women were a few years older than him, they kept their girlish curiosity and glee. Stiles blames it on their limited contact with the aunts. Anyone raised with them wasn't enthusiastically curious, they were wary and cautious. Like Halloween, Kylie had long orange hair and Antonia had long black hair. Another trait each sister of the Owens family line carried. One was the pumpkins on the porches and the other the famed hissing black cat.
"About damn time," Gillian says cheerfully. "At the rate you two were going, I thought the Argents would get here first."
"Argents?" Stiles asks in surprise. Maybe the last name was more common than he assumed.
Gillian smiles impishly. "Gary is collecting the aunts. They flew." Stiles has to restrain himself from making the obvious broomstick joke. "And Ben is smuggling the other Hale werewolves on to the island."
Argent, Stiles could accept and forget. But Hale too? Hale werewolves? That couldn't be a coincidence. Derek--
Stiles didn't actually know his last name.
"Sally is trying to get Scott here now." Gillian continues.
Derek is staring at Stiles as Gillian continues to update them on the party list and who is going to arrive when. Now that he knows to look for it, Stiles can see the cheekbones he has in common with Peter. The strange multi colored eyes he shares with Laura. He always knew Peter and Laura were magic. Could feel it in the air around them and how comfortable they felt. He just never imagined they'd be werewolves. Magic gave Derek away to Stiles in seconds. Why not the others?
"I told you," Derek's eyes intense. "You aren't alone."
He pushes those thoughts away because they have a party to get ready for.
"We're in the attic?" Stiles asks.
Gillian smiles, inspecting Derek. "If I was fifteen years younger..." She turns her smile to Stiles instead. "Yes. Hopefully there will be enough room for everyone. It's been driving Sally crazy."
Stiles nods jerkily and begins to climb the stairs. Derek seconds behind him. He's unnerved by Gillian and the thought makes Stiles smile again, slightly. Derek was so out of his depth surrounded by witches and their ways. "Oh, Mr. Wolf?" Stiles freezes with his foot hovering over a step. "The lupines don't do you justice."
Stiles brings his foot down heavily with a blush. "Stop it." He mutters to Gillian who laughs.
He tries his best to hurry up the stairs, but he can still hear Kylie and Antonia. "That's why Stiles planted the flowers?"
"That's so romantic!"
"Just like mom! 'A love even time will lie down and be still for!'"
If his human ears can catch their conversation then Derek's...Stiles ears burn the entire way upstairs. Derek's shadow behind him amused and curious in equal measures.
By evening, the house is buzzing.
Everything of value is hidden away. The portraits removed from the walls. Broomsticks crossed all around the property as the entire town lends what little support they can. The furniture is pushed against the walls, sheets spread over the new leather couch set.
The Owens' women add their charms. Little symbols drawn on the doors and window seals with chalk. The werewolves that look so like Derek use paint and draw a spiral on the windows until every window glows with a faint purple. The Argents stick fancy solar light things in the ground that are supposed to give off a soft whine that will coral the werewolves and give every human a wreath of wolfsbane flowers.
Stiles loses Derek in the hustle and bustle.
He sees a regal woman in a loose robe that all the werewolves defer to. She's a handsome woman. In another life, she would have made a queen. But the woman isn't the only one he sees. There's Laura in a leather jacket and black tight clothes, her hair pinned back in a braid. She's still smiling like she does in the bakery, but at her side is a man with silver-gold hair and trustworthy face and a rifle on his back. He looks a good deal older than her and it's just a story. Beacon Hills gossip.
Laura Hale and Chris Argent.
Peter Hale is standing in a shadowed corner. Observing everything with keen eyes and a dark smile. Like a man that's lost too much and doesn't care about losing anymore. Outside of Beacon Hills, Peter scares him. In their town, he was warm and safe to approach. Now he seems all the more brittle.
The aunts keep him busy.
They have him making open circles and circles of mountain ash and digging out the rowan switches and mistletoe decorations from winter.
And making everyone drinks. At this rate, he'll make an amazing bartender.
Scott finally comes home just as Stiles gets the blender going for the witches' favorite brew. Stiles lets go of the ancient blender, forgetting what that entails for everyone, and launches himself at Scott who's already shaking and tearing up.
"Shit. Shit." Scott breathes out heavily. "You're okay."
"I'm okay?" Stiles manages. The top bursts off the blender and everyone in the kitchen makes sounds of protest and outrage. "You're so stupid. Me and you, Scott, you promised. You go, I go."
"I know." Scott whispers, holding him tightly. "I just met someone and suddenly, that didn't seem like such a good idea." Scott sneaks a look at Derek who is hovering by the kitchen entrance to observe the commotion.
Stiles follows his gaze and only hesitates for a second because fuck that noise. "You're my brother." He says firmly. Derek will be something, is something, but Stiles was Scott's first. Derek will understand that. Because that's what Pack is.
"Thanks," Scott says back a little broken, squeezing Stiles again.
Sally shoos them out of the kitchen, Scott clinging close.
Stiles catches Derek's eyes and holds them as he steers Scott away. He wasn't lying when he said Scott would always be first. Scott was there right after Dad--
Scott has been a constant in his life every since they met at the hospital.
Social Services and the hospital--
Beacon Hills didn't know what to do with two orphans. They shared a hospital room for a week. Sleeping in the same bed, holding each other tight as they both missed their parents. Those first few night, the tears and sobs. Then, the aunts whisked them from the hospital, setting them on an adventure.
That was the thing, wasn't it, but Derek.
Their gaze breaks when Scott shuffles them into the next room.
"I'm sorry," Scott mumbles into his neck. "So sorry -- I'm stupid."
"Shut up," Stiles says firmly. "No, no you aren't."
"Stiles-- everything has been really hard these past few months." Scott says and begins to cry.
His tears are hot and sticky against Stiles' neck. Fine trembles making Scott shake in Stiles' arms as he begins to explain. Stiles sits and listens because none of it matters. Derek already told him everything. Nothing could make him turn Scott away.
"It's okay," Stiles attempts to soothe his brother.
Scott tells him about meeting Deucalion at a party. How the man was educated and polite and charming. "He's the type of the guy who changes things, Stiles." Scott whispers. "He sees the things he wants and he takes them." Like you, Stiles mentally fills. He tells the story of a boy meeting a man. A man who didn't have a single weakness despite his blind eyes. "He's a werewolf." Scott shrugs. "I couldn't even tell at first." This man became more and more obsessed with the boy until their friendship turned into more. They fell in love. At least the boy did. The boy finally turned into a man in the presence of werewolves.
"Isaac is a good guy. You'd like him." Scott says. "He's the curly haired one with the wife-- Her name is Allison. She's an Argent too. Like the guy Laura Hale's with, um, do you know them?"
"We've heard about them in Beacon Hills." Stiles says. "Star-crossed lovers?"
Scott tells the story of his new friends. How Isaac and his wife were investigating Deucalion and his pack at Talia Hale's insistence. "The Argents are werewolf hunters. They have a code about werewolves and supernatural stuff that hurts humans." Scott says. Deucalion never gave away that he suspected his friend's wavering trust and kept the two close, including close to Scott. "We became friends. Best friends. We are all the same age." Scott shrugs again, still despondent. Deucalion didn't give away a lot of the things he knew like the fact he kept a banshee locked away in his New York City penthouse.
"I met her." Scott says. "I-- You would like her. When Duke -- Deucalion -- started, you know, we became friends. Really good friends. He'd lock us up together." Like a jealous dragon, Stiles thinks a little dazed about Scott describing his lover imprisoning him, Deucalion collects beautiful and interesting things and hoards them.
A few weeks as Deucalion’s guest, no one seeing Scott except for social gatherings where he was never let out of Deucalion’s range of senses, Isaac contacted the Hales. Talia's answer was to send Derek.
"I knew as soon as I met him that you and him--" Scott smiles, the tears making his eyes spark all the more. "He reminded me of your lupines."
Scott explains how Derek spent a week observing routines and buildings. "He was allowed wherever. He was allowed to talk to me because, well, you don't say no the Hales without looking shadier than fuck." Derek, Isaac, Allison and another werewolf broke Scott and Lydia out that night, the same night Scott got bitten.
"I asked about Lydia." Scott says gruffly. "She's in a private hospital. Derek's uncle saved her life. It's a good thing she's a banshee or she would have turned too."
"Tell me about Lydia," Stiles requests, hoping to take Scott's mind away from dark places.
The way Scott says her name--
"She reminds me of Tinkerbell." Scott admits.
"From Peter Pan?" Stiles asks incredulously.
"Yeah," Scott grins finally. "Petite spitfire with major attitude. Except Lydia is a redhead."
Stiles snorts before thinking about his adoptive brother. Scott's problem has never been commitment. Scott was all too willing to commit. Over and over if he had to. Scott's problem came from finding someone who would let him be him. Stiles always believed the love story between Lancelot and Guinevere to be beautiful and tragic, that Guinevere and Lancelot truly loved one another. Scott always believed in the love story between Arthur and Guinevere. A noble partnership based on making each other better and making their kingdom strong. Not any woman (or man, Scott searched extensively) could be a queen (or king) and human.
"I love her." Scott says, hushed. "I've only known her for a few weeks but-- Something about her. My magic used to draw me to her. There was times I'd close my eyes and open them next to her. Now my wolf, my instincts, are telling me to find her and never let anything hurt her again."
He says the last part so fiercely, Stiles can't help but smile stupidly. "You sound like you love her."
They spend the night in the conservatory, trading stories about the past few years. Catching each other up. Teasing each other. The sounds of witches preparing for battle with the aid of a blender and tequila in their ears like the best type of lullaby. The sound of werewolves sharing boasts of their previous fights followed by the thumps of reenactments. The sounds of hunters cleaning their guns and baiting both witch and werewolf in drink and boast. All the sounds of war.
Derek finds him in the garden.
Today is the day.
The very air is humming with anticipation and all that is left is the wait.
Everyone doing one last thing, just in case. Scott's in the attic calling Lydia. Laura and Chris sitting on the porch, leaning on each other like now they've found each other again they can't go without supporting one another. Isaac and Allison are by the cliffs, sparring. Stiles' opinion of the feminine hunter hitting the roof when he sees the way she handles herself against her barely holding back husband. The aunts are arguing every argument they've had to death. Sally and Gary closing her shop up for the day. Gillian hidden away with her husband in the house's many rooms; giggles emanating from the bedroom like mood music. Kylie and Antonia were badgering the hunters and other werewolves. Last Stiles saw, Antonia was really hitting it off with a werewolf named Cora and Kylie was flirting with all the hunters, silvering hair and not.
Stiles would have been more surprised if Derek didn't seek him out, is what he's saying.
Derek sits next to him on the stone bench added to the garden as Sally and Gillian got older. The bench is in the heart of the garden. Surrounded by things Sally loved to surround herself with. Lavender, daises, mint, and the other favorites. Stiles is despairing over his garden because magic gardens are magic. Give them an hour and they'll try growing over the house.
"Tell me about the lupines." Derek demands softly.
Derek is the sunshine seeping into his bones, making Stiles feel like he could glow outwards if he tried hard enough. Being this close is like breathing it in. His guts are shiny bright every second his body sits so near from all the glitter-magic that is Derek Hale. He's reminded of the night of the full moon when they were bathed in moonlight. Temptation so close, scant inches away and they both let it slide by. If Derek felt, feels, a fraction of the push Stiles does to just merge their bodies like Plato's humans, he should know about how the flowers stole and set aside Stiles' love just for Derek at the age fifteen.
"I never wanted to love anyone." Stiles starts with. He flexes his fingers, hearing the bones crack. Derek catches a hand to hold between two of his own. Stiles twitches, staring at their hands now resting on Derek's knee.
There's something about that image.
His hand embraced between two of Derek's on top of blue jeans.
So he tells him about the lupines.
"I've been waiting my whole life for you." Stiles ends with.
That's creepy, isn't it?
Humans on the whole liked the idea of free will. Choosing who they fall in love with a huge aspect of the aforementioned free will stuff. People generally didn't like knowing their whole lives are drawn and colored out; Fate simply waiting for them to put the puzzle pieces together.
"Laura would tell me about you." Derek says suddenly after Stiles has run out of words. "All her stories about Beacon Hills were about you. 'Stiles helped clear out the house.' 'Stiles picked lime green for the bathroom.' 'Peter scared Stiles into a tree and now he's stuck.'" He almost a smiles but it's a little too rueful. "She'd always be harping at me, 'he smells just like you, Der. Come home and scent him. The land claims him like it would one of us.'" Derek is looking very intently at the lavender to Stiles' right. "Then I meet Scott who wouldn't shut up about you. Stiles this and Stiles that. I felt like I knew you before we ever met." Derek finally meets his eyes.
"I loved you before I ever met you." Derek admits.
Stiles clutches Derek's hand so tightly, his knuckles turn white and he must be hurting Derek, but Derek says nothing and clutches back.
Maybe Aunt Frances is wrong and Fate isn't heartless to the plight of humans. Maybe Fate was holding the puzzle box, shouting advice as loudly as possible. And sometimes, humans hear it. Sally heard it as a little girl when she made her true love spell. Stiles heard it when he saw his first lupines. Derek heard it when people kept telling him, "Stiles."
They don't kiss.
It's a promise to one another.
If they survive tonight.
Derek strokes Stiles' knuckles, fingers and every line of his hands. Stiles resists blushing. Vulcans suddenly made so much more sense. Derek's fingertips...
Stiles trails the bones in Derek's wrists with tingling fingers.
The land remembers. Woe and misfortune falls on all that hurts the family that the land has been nurturing for centuries.
Stiles stands by Scott and they're flanked on one side by Aunt Frances and Aunt Jet and on the other side flanked by Sally and Gillian. Behind them stand Kylie and Antonia. Owens by blood or by magic, either way, still Owens in all the ways that matter. The werewolves make a loose circle behind them. Close enough to keep the pack of alpha werewolves from tearing into witch flesh like theater snacks during the previews. Behind the werewolves, closer to the house are the hunters carefully placed with their guns, crossbows and bows at the ready.
Deucalion meets Scott directly.
Something things Stiles can always be there for, but he understands this fight between Deucalion and Scott isn't his and he sets his eyes on the men and women behind the alpha of alphas.
There's a petite dark skinned woman wearing more fear than smugness. Aunt Frances hisses, "Druids," in such disgust it makes the woman flinch. The other woman, wearing her confidence like armor, bounces on the balls of bare feet like seconds keep her from springing forward. Kali, he remembers Scott naming the female alpha. Next to Kali is a werewolf with hair thinning on the top and an angry face. Stiles doesn't even think he means his face to be angry, it just is. Russian might be in the man's genetics. There's twin men Stiles' age, hanging on the fringes of Deucalion’s pack, almost like they can sense the magic waiting to fall like a hammer.
From Scott's stories and the Hales' accounts, Stiles can maybe take the druid. If he tackles her and binds her hands before she can use her brand of magic. Aunt Jet's explanation of druids didn't really stick just her mutters of, "Not very practical, is it?" The aunts can take the twins blindfolded. Those guys look ready to run as it is. Not that Stiles blames them. The aunts are terrifying if you pay attention. He's positive Kali will be another body lost in the Pacific surf once Sally and Gillian are through with her, even if they have to resort to a hair pulling fight and attempts to claw eyes out. No one messes with an Owens. No one. The perpetually angry werewolf Stiles is hoping the Hales and hunters can handle because he's easily three Stileses.
But the Deucalion’s pack never worried him.
An alpha of alphas.
Someone that's already hurt Scott.
"Leave," Scott says firmly.
"You aren't wanted here." Laura echoes.
"Off you go," Chris Argent mocks, the gun action ching-ching and making Stiles jump. Kali smiles a toothy grin.
"Come one, Duke." Kali prods. "Bring your bitch to heel already."
"Honey, your first lesson about witches?" Gilliam says cockily. "We do revenge like no one else."
"It's true." Sally quips. "We bring our enemies back from the dead to kill twice sometimes."
Stiles smiles fiercely as the twins look more uncertain. Peter from somewhere behind him chuckles. Peter did have kind of a morbid sense of humor. In another life, Peter probably would have been all over Sally.
"Don't forget how we kill our husbands." Aunt Frances adds.
"It was an accident." Aunt Jet hisses to her.
"It was fate." The family says together.
"I have a family, Duke." Scott says quiet. "Please go and leave me alone."
Just because Deucalion can't see doesn't mean his face doesn't still reveal how he feels. His glasses jump on his cheeks as some violent expression takes over. Near crazed and Stiles blinks twice before deciding Deucalion’s skin most definitely turned grey-blue before flashing to smooth peach.
"Oh, Scott," Deucalion touches Scott's cheek. "You're just the tip of the iceberg. I want your coven."
Kali and the balding werewolf (which is a strange sight with how much hair is suddenly taking over his face) take Deucalion’s words as some sort of go and rush towards the gathering. The twins hesitating behind them.
Stiles doesn't let himself hesitate and tackles the druid. Scott growls behind him, and he hopes that means he hit Deucalion and didn't die in the past few seconds. He knocks some powder out of her hands that immediately goes up his nose, making him need to sneeze. He pins her only through pure will because his nose, damn everything.
"Tie the witch!" Kylie shouts gleefully behind him.
Snarls and growls follow her declaration. The sounds of arrows and bolts hitting flesh heavy in his ears. At the corner of his eye, he sees Kylie and Antonia approach with rope from Maria's noose. As good as any titanium alloy handcuffs for another magical being.
"Your brother has been looking for you." Antonia says reproachfully as she helps her sister tie the druid's hands.
A loud growl accompanies Laura grabbing Angry Russian before he pounces on Stiles or the girls'. Stiles is mildly impressed with the ease she grabs and throws him like a dirty dishtowel. Two bullets enter Angry Russian's body in quick succession before two Hale werewolves jump the downed werewolf.
Stiles and his cousins quickly move to bind his hands too with the cords of Maria’s noose twisted with dried wolfsbane rope the hunters carry around in lengths of miles than yards.
Kali screeches, "Cunt!"
Sally's and Gillian's hands are clasped, blood dripping between their palms and flowing to the dirt. Their eyes are closed and they're chanting, but what Stiles doesn't know because it sounds like a swarm of buzzes. Kali isn't moving, however. Trapped in a bubble of some sort. The brooms! They trapped Kali in a magic circle? That was fucking inspired.
Laura and a couple more wolves, including Derek, tackle her and struggle to hold her in place so the hunters can use their hybrid rope too.
The aunts have the twins sitting like frightened children lost in the mall at their feet. Aunt Jet smiling beauteous. A smile that means they are being told the moral of the story. Stiles would have sympathy for them if their alpha wasn't turning into a rabid bat.
Deucalion is just standing there. Very threatening in Scott's space. His cane tapping the ground once and then twice. "Well done," he says.
"Because we want your approval." Stiles bites.
"You'd make me so powerful." Deucalion says wistfully. "A god among monsters."
"Uh, forces of good. I doubt anyone here excluding your posse would switch sides, you ego-maniac." Stiles says.
Deucalion thankfully ignores him.
Gillian is smirking wickedly at him and Aunt Frances is looking at him in delight liked she can't believe he had the nerve. Or the death wish.
"What? We're all thinking it." Stiles hisses to general horrified looks accompanied by the awed expressions and their grimaces.
Derek appears seemingly from nowhere to slap a hand over his mouth. "Shhhh. Christ, you have a death wish."
"Despite what you think, Scott, none of it was a lie. I love you dearly." Deucalion sways close to Scott, leaning in for a kiss. He gets close, extremely close, hovering over Scott's mouth before Stiles' brother can do anything. Scott leans that little bit more, a whisper of a kiss before touching their foreheads together. "I've seen what happens when people love too much, and you're going to kill me with it."
Scot steps back and is intercede by Talia Hale and Chris Argent. The two family leaders moving quickly to detain a crushed looking Deucalion.
"Is he really surprised or is he faking it?" Stiles can't help but ask because Scott spent months trying to get away from him.
"Love," Aunt Frances says scornfully.
"Love," Aunt Jet agrees, sighing.
Stiles grimaces, and rest a hand on Scott's shoulder. Like Gillian, Scott believed in falling in love as frequently as he could. If Scott stayed with Deucalion for as long as did, he felt something. He called the werewolf Duke.
"What I can't get over is how easy that was." Isaac says, breaking the awkwardness brought to life by the aunts who lived for strange and abnormal.
"You puts your roots somewhere and love the land and let it feed off your magic and life, the land will defend you." Peter says absently, still admiring Sally from afar. "The Owens have been here centuries. If this showdown had occurred anywhere else, it would have ended quite differently."
The Hales create an honor guard to deliver Duke and his people to the authorities. Derek going with them. Nothing more than hand against his cheek before he disappeared. Stiles goes home. Scott goes to New York to rescue his banshee.
It's startling, how easily Stiles' in Beacon Hills goes back to normal.
It would be twilight if the roll of clouds and thunder didn't darken the sky. No sun and no moon sinks into the earth, instead it's the light of both, hovering in the air. The rainstorm from the afternoon lingering like a child proud of her accomplishments. Water made the plants droop, heavy with moisture. Some of the flowers in the garden broken from being too full and refusing to give way until they absolutely must. The loose soil keeping Stiles' plants rooted is squishy mud. Some plants uprooted. A big mess.
Stiles sighs and ignores the mud and starts clearing the garden. He could wait until the sun came out, but lately it was one thing or another in Beacon Hills. Little things that are going to make him go white early.
The cottage doors jam on him. Windows stick. He trips over suddenly uneven floorboards. Gets locked out when no one in the cottage caries a key because the door is never locked. The cottage is out to get him, putting him in a dark mood. The only thing he had left for him was his garden and now it's a stew of water, soil and broken green stuff.
"The house knows." Jet says quietly behind him.
She's helping him go through the plants that can be saved and those that can't. The bottom of her skirt browning with mud and her shoes sticking and wide brim hat to keep smatterings of water out of her face.
"Knows what?" He asks.
"That you're leaving." Jet says matter of fact.
"That I'm what?" Stiles demands.
He's never thought about leaving the cottage, ever. Some kids wanted independence, he wanted the comfort of family. Now the house is kicking him out like a fed up parent.
"Leaving," Jet repeats, she eyes him from beneath the brim of her hat, her eyebrow raised. "I know I didn't raise a fool."
"Where am I going then?" Stiles demands.
The week of frustration making his temper fray. The loss of his garden just one trouble heaped on to another. He doesn't know how much more loss he can handle. He lost his parents, Scott, Derek, the cottage and now his garden. He's tired.
"That's not fair!" Stiles snaps.
"Oh sweetie, life isn't fair, just eventful." Aunt Frances calls from the porch, beckoning for her sister.
"I'm sure you'll figure it out." Jet nods, looking pass his shoulder. "I'll be in the house."
Stiles turns around and comes face to face with a damp Derek.
The werewolf is standing slightly hunched, shyly almost, except for how his eyes beckon.
He can't resist.
He slams into Derek. He's been waiting, waiting, waiting all this time. The moment was never right before, despite the entire world pushing and prodding. "Take the jump," Fate has been chanting. They've been marked by the moon and by the sun and now---
Derek lands in the mud. The wet dirt going up to his ears and clinging to his hair. Stiles grunts. His knees wet from point of impact. He fits his mouth over Derek's, finally, finally, finally, and it's best. His hands slap the ground on either side of Derek's head to keep his balance, the dirt squelching between his fingers.
Kissing Derek is radiant. Worth every tear he will cry in the future, and he knows there will be many because tears are about caring. The taste of Derek's mouth is savory. Stiles attempts pressing himself even closer, aligning their bodies chest to chest, stomach to stomach. Stiles pull away, a little breathless. Derek's taste lingers in his mouth, and he's willing to face ever fear he's every had about love as long as Derek is next to him.
The werewolf's hands slide up his shirt, slick. His hands fall away, too slippery, and he hooks hands in Stiles' belt loops before deciding that's not enough. Derek flips them over, Stiles landing on his back with a grunt.
Stiles laughs, mud falling on his face from Derek's hair and Derek laughs with him.
Worth the wait.
And Fate breathes with them, "Finally."
"The Hale house has recognized you as one of ours since you were child." Peter says from the porch.
Stiles doesn't pauses in his weeding. Peter just says things. He used to do it before Stiles had been in the know about the Hales. Just never so blatantly obvious before. Next to him, Derek rolls his eyes. He's carrying the wicker basket Stiles uses to contain the weeds to later transport to the compost in his lap. Derek has tried his hand, but as careful as he is with humans, he doesn't have a light enough hand for little plants.
"We could smell Derek on you." Peter continues. "We knew he was yours from the day we met you. I'm surprised Laura didn't call you demanding you take the next flight."
"She tried." Derek says. "I was busy."
Stiles nudges Derek over, smiling.
The day the cottage official kicked him out, and Derek helped Stiles pick up the boxes from the edge of the property. "How did they get there?" Derek asked, mystified.
"Magic." Stiles answered unironically. To the house, he shouted, "I'll call!"
The same day, all over the Hale property, a sea of bright blue lupines began to grow.