“Not again.” The whisper is so quiet, so despondent, and disbelieving that Peter almost sympathises with the young alpha who utters it. It’s Isaac that shifts over toward the door, effectively blocking the only exit. Peter watches as the others grow wary and tense, slipping into a savage kind of stillness. He looks back at Stiles who, to his surprise, is looking up at him curiously. Peter hasn’t created any distance between them, something he can tell both confuses and delights Stiles. He looks deep into those warm, grateful eyes, and knows that it isn’t an ancient, or spiteful being that blinks back.
“Those previously afflicted are more likely to be possessed a second time,” Tsuru explains, nonchalant. His voice is smooth, deep, and so sure. Either he doesn’t expect the fox to attack yet, or is confident that it wouldn’t matter if it did. “Who was the victim of the nogitsune?” Tsuru notices the narrowed attention of the pack, and his moss green eyes zone in on Stiles, before the young man can even speak.
“That would be me.” Stiles shifts, sitting on the edge of the settee, before moving to stand. It looks as if he’s simply struggling with the effort it takes. A movement that would be telegraphed as lazy indifference to anyone else, but Peter can tell that the young man is trying his best not to make any unexpected movements. “What do I need to do?”
“Stand still for the moment.” The priest approaches Stiles, and Peter shifts a little toward them, bristling at the disappearing distance. “This is going to be uncomfortable, but it’s preferable to being whipped with a branch of camellias.” Stiles chuckles, and the priest himself seems a little less stern for just a moment.
Tsuru moves to place his briefcase upon the coffee table, and opens it carefully. He pulls out a new pair of white, latex gloves from an open box of fifty. The priest removes his jacket, before rolling up the ink black sleeves of his dress shirt. He makes quick work of putting on the gloves, and suddenly looked the part of a trusted, family doctor.
Peter peers into the briefcase. There are a number of blank, loose papers, a fountain pen, a cloth-bound notebook. All items one might expect to see within a briefcase. There is also a number of items one wouldn’t. A jar of salt, a mirror, a string of jade stones, and a short, slender blade. Peter tenses upon seeing the last item. Tsuru turns to Stiles with a black, velvet bag. He reaches in, retrieving a small, shining coin. It’s an oval shape, with a square hole at its centre, and two cranes that dance around the edges. He holds it up for Stiles to see.
“Foxes are silver-tongued, and as it happens, silver is their weakness. Say aah.” Stiles opens his mouth, and the priest places the coin on his tongue. “Don’t swallow.”
“Howh does’is whork?” Stiles speaks around the coin in his mouth, and the priest’s lips thin.
“If you are possessed by a fox, then it will be so unsettled by the weight of the coin holding down it’s tongue that it’ll be compelled to speak." A telling silence follows, and even as it sighs, the rain fails to wash it away.
“Oh,” Stiles shifts from foot to foot. “Oohps.” It’s not so much the defence offered that surprises Peter, but who offers it.
“Yeah, but when does Stiles ever stop talking?” Isaac growls from the doorway, and the members in the pack all seem to shrug and nod in agreement. The priest looks around interestedly, before turning back to Stiles. “Well, don’t speak until I say.” Stiles nods in acknowledgement. “I’ll need to repeat the process with everyone here.”
One by one the members of the pack are cleared of suspicion, as Stiles remains silent. When it comes to Peter’s turn, he raises an unimpressed eyebrow. Impressively, Tsuru matches it. Peter just plucks the coin from the man’s fingers, and puts it on his tongue himself. Peter has never felt uncomfortable in silence, but the metal is cool and heavy. His own silver tongue turned to lead, he can’t help wanting to speak. Finally, after even Peter has removed his coin, Tsuru returns to Stiles and allows him to also.
“Gross,” Stiles says, pulling the spit-slick coin from his lips. It shines more, glistening wet as it is. He swallows, holding the coin out, Tsuru grimaces, and looks down to hide it, pretending to straighten his tie.
“You can keep it. It’ll protect you from another possession.” Stiles wipes the coin off on his jeans.
“So, no one is possessed?” Scott asks, clearly relieved, but Tsuru shakes his head.
“There is a fox,” he insists. “Everyone here has encountered it. Is there anyone else that you have all met within the last day?” Murmurs arise amongst the group.
“Yeah, there must be a few.” Scott confirms, and Peter realises something strange. He hasn’t seen anyone outside of the pack in twenty-four hours. He looks over to where his nephew is lounging in an armchair, luckily, he hadn’t confided his loneliness at lunch.
“I must leave,” Tsuru says packing up his briefcase. He walks over to the door, and Isaac moves aside. “I will continue with the purification ritual, which will help to balance the energies here. When I return, please each have a list of names of who you have met.” The man gives a short bow, before holding the door open for Kira, who goes to show him out.
“Seems like a nice, human guy.” Stiles hums to no one, as the pack falls into ideal chatter and conspiracies alike. Stiles looks at Peter and smirks. “Catch.”
He tosses something at him, and Peter swipes it from the air in a steel, closed fist. He opens his palm to see that it’s Stiles’ coin. When he looks back up, Stiles is wandering over to perch by the window. He takes out his pipe, already packed, and retrieves a single match from his shirt pocket. When he breathes out his first ashy breath, shaking and falling back against the wall in relief, Peter looks deep into the young man’s sundrenched eyes. The rain seems to fall silent, as if pulled to earth by its own silver-laced weight. This time, he can’t be sure that it’s only Stiles who stares back.