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Ouroboros

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It took Stiles several moments to figure out exactly what was going on, confusion only surpassed by sheer surprise that he was still alive. He was still in the woods, but they were different. Not just the light and the fact that Derek was standing somewhere different, but the fact that Scott was there. And so were about a dozen small creatures flying around and trying to claw them into little bits. Stiles looked at the wand in his hand and knew exactly where he was. More importantly, he knew when he was. He was back at the moment when he’d first picked up the wand. Only this time, he knew that the wand was his.

"Adam?" Derek asked.

Stiles looked him in the eye and smiled, “It’s me.”

Scott was standing only a few metres away, slashing at the creatures that swarmed at his head. Buzzers, Stiles now knew they were called. They were a type of fairy, basically humanoid but small and covered in fur. Bookworm had called them pests and said that they were easily scared off by fire. Well, Stiles had a spell for that now.

He aimed his wand at the largest of the creatures, which was hovering just above Scott’s head, and he summoned his will. He’d lit a candle a hundred times. This was the same thing, only this time he was protecting someone he cared about.

The symbols on his wand started to glow, starting with the ring of protection signs: a druidic rune, a shield, and a sheriff’s star.

“Burn,” Stiles said.

What emerged from the end of the wand wasn't a little spark of flame enough to scare off a fairy pest. What emerged was a stream of white-hot fire that spread out until it was nearly a metre wide when it engulfed the fairy. The little creature basically vaporised and the rest of its swarm vanished almost at once, just disappearing into the air in a panic.

But the stream of fire had been wide enough to hit Scott, even though he’d dropped to the ground right away. He rolled now on the earth, and batted a hand at his smouldering shirt. Above him, branches were blazing. A collection of burning leaves fell right on top of Scott.

“Crap!” Stiles said. He needed to do something. Panic rose inside him and he needed to put this right somehow. Water. He needed water.

He could call up the elements. He’d done it before at one of the magic workshops. He focused, thinking of the tattoo on his chest, the pentagram with the representations of the elements. He channelled his will into it, called on his magic, feeling the warm glow inside as he did so.

“Water,” he said.

What followed was not what Stiles had expected either. A torrent of water shot up from the ground, like someone had turned an entire ocean into a fountain. It rose up into the air well above the tree tops and then came crashing down all at once. It hit Scott, knocking him down from where he’d been getting to his feet, and then the whole load of water splashed out the woods. Stiles was nearly knocked on his ass by a wall of water that came up to his waist.

The level dropped rapidly as the water spread and soon Stiles was standing in the middle of a soggy, and fairly singed in places, patch of woodland. Scott was in front of him, soaking wet and with visible burns showing along his arm and shoulder, where his shirt had been completely burned away. Stiles hurried over to him.

“Scott?” he asked.

Scott leapt to his feet, claws out and eyes glaring red. He looked at Stiles, looked at the wand still in Stiles’ hand, and then looked into Stiles’ eyes.

“What are you?” Scott asked.

“Scott, it’s me.”

Stiles raised his hands in what was supposed to be a placating gesture, but he was still holding the wand and Scott seemed to be rather nervous about that. Scott grabbed Stiles painfully by the wrist, steering that arm so that the wand was pointed away from them both. Scott looked furious and scared at the same time, glaring into Stiles’ face from inches away.

“What are you really?” Scott asked. His grip tightened on Stiles’ wrist. Stiles gave a hiss of pain.

Then Derek was there, sticking his claws into Scott’s arm and raking through the flesh. Scott gave an angry yowl of pain, but he let go and Stiles had his bruised wrist to himself again. Derek stood between them, blue eyes blazing and claws red with Scott’s blood. Stiles put a hand on Derek’s arm to stop him before he did something to really hurt Scott.

“Don’t touch him,” Derek said.

“Derek, stop,” Scott said. “Something went into him, some sort of energy. That’s not Stiles.”

“It’s me, I promise,” Stiles said. “I’m sorry about the whole setting-you-on-fire thing. That was entirely accidental. I mean, not entirely because I wanted to shoot fire at the buzzers, but I didn’t expect it to come out quite so… enthusiastically.”

“Stiles can’t shoot fire,” Scott pointed out.

“I believe the word you’re looking for is ‘couldn’t,’” Stiles said.

Derek gave a little snort of laughter and then suddenly he was ignoring Scott. He turned to Stiles, grabbed him by the back of the neck and pulled him into a kiss. So much was contained in that one kiss. There was fear and joy and passion, all rolled up into it. Derek’s hand still cupped his neck and the other hand crept up the back of Stiles’ shirt. Stiles worked his free hand round Derek’s back and pulled him in closer, pressing their chests together so that he could feel Derek’s warmth melting into his own. Stiles kissed back, delighted to be here with Derek, delighted that he wasn’t dead, delighted that Derek still wanted him, even after everything that had happened.

Wait. Had everything happened?

Stiles broke the kiss, a little breathless. He still held on to Derek though; he had no intention of letting go.

“Did anything change?” Stiles asked.

“How am I supposed to know what’s changed?” Derek asked. It was a fair question, since he couldn’t remember Stile’s original timeline.

“The nemeton,” Stiles said, “did we wake it up?”

“Yes. I’m sorry. I thought when your dad was taken that if I didn’t help you find it, I’d stop what you were trying to stop, but that didn’t help.”

Because Stiles had performed the ritual in order to find the nemeton. Stiles remembered talking to Derek about it afterwards. He remembered Derek talking about how he was trying to keep a promise to someone he’d lost. At the time, he’d assumed he was talking about his mom or another family member. Now he knew otherwise. Derek had been talking about him. Derek had refused to help precisely because he thought it was what Stiles really wanted. In trying to change events, Derek had shaped them.

Stiles was standing exactly where he’d been before his trip back in time.

“It all happened the same,” he said. “Allison and Aidan?”

“Dead.”

“Nothing’s changed. Nothing at all.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek said, and Stiles didn’t know why he was apologising. This was all because of Stiles, because he’d been too secretive. He’d thought he was being clever, making sure not to give away too much, but all it meant was that Derek had to face events blind. Every bad thing that had happened in Beacon Hills since the night of Scott’s bite could be traced back to Stiles’ stupid decision to keep secrets.

That thought sparked another one and Stiles looked round, “Where’s Scott?”

There were tracks through the exceptionally muddy ground. He must have left while Stiles and Derek were kissing. He was probably seriously weirded out by this situation. Stiles wasn’t sure which would be stranger for Scott, seeing Stiles shoot fire from a magic wand or seeing him make out with Derek. After all, he and Derek had never exactly gotten on in this time.

Stiles turned back to Derek, “Why the hell were you always so grumpy with me if you knew who I was all along?”

Derek was still holding onto Stiles, but his hand had shifted from the neck to rest of Stiles’ shoulder. He looked a little guilty now, looking way but never releasing his hold.

“At first, I thought it would keep you safe if you stayed away from me. Then later, when I worked out you weren’t going anywhere, I tried, but you never believed me when I said I cared about you.”

Stiles thought about it, looking back over old interactions in a new light, “If you’re talking about that time at the distillery, you never actually said you cared about me. You said I was an idiot.”

“You are an idiot. An exceptionally smart, intuitive idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.”

“I thought you just put up with me.”

“I do put up with you.”

Derek leaned in for another kiss. Stiles let him. For those moments when he’d felt himself fading away, he’d thought he’d never experience this again. He was going to enjoy this. Besides, he was probably the last person to judge someone for mistaken judgements.

“I love you, Adam. I was so scared I wouldn’t be with you again.”

“I was right here all along.”

“Yeah, but you hated me.”

“Derek, I have never hated you. OK, maybe a little at the beginning but you were ridiculously grumpy. And scary. Really, really scary.”

Derek tilted his head and nuzzled at Stiles’ neck, “I’m still scary.”

Stiles leaned his head and let out a moan as Derek’s lips and stubble brushed against the side of his neck. He brought his free hand up to work through Derek’s hair. He was already half-hard in his pants, ready for whatever Derek might have in mind.

Derek started walking forwards, still never breaking contact, and so Stiles had to stumble backwards, clinging onto Derek to stay upright. He back hit a tree trunk and then Derek was there, pressed against him, practically grinding against him. Derek’s hands were moving up and down Stiles’ arms, while Stiles grabbed Derek’s ass and pulled him in closer.

“Oh god, Derek,” Stiles breathed.

Then his brain took control from his cock for a minute.

“No,” he said. Derek kept kissing at the side of Stiles’ neck, nibbling a little on his earlobe. Stiles bit down another groan. “Derek, stop.”

Derek stopped. He took a tiny step back, keeping his hands on Stiles’ arms. He looked Stiles in the eye, looking puzzled and hurt and maybe even a little scared.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“We’re not having sex in the middle of the woods where we just fought off a bunch of fairies.”

“Oh,” said Derek. “Why not?”

“Well for one thing, as far as everyone in this time is concerned I’m underage and my dad really will shoot you. For another, I don’t particularly want to get arrested for indecent exposure if a jogger comes by. And finally, it’s really, really muddy.”

Derek looked down. He seemed to notice the mud for the first time.

“I really need to figure out what happened here with my magic,” Stiles said. “The fire spell shouldn’t have been that dramatic, even if it got a boost because I was trying to use it to protect someone. And the water thing? That definitely shouldn’t have been like that. I need to figure out what’s going on before I hurt someone who doesn’t have supernatural healing abilities. And I need to straighten things out with Scott and probably grovel for forgiveness.” He paused. “And I want to see my dad. I know it’s crazy because logically I know he’s fine, but I haven’t seen him in months and I just…”

“You need to see him before you can accept that he’s safe,” Derek finished, nodding an understanding. “Alright, so what order do you want to do all that in?”

“I should check the magic thing. The book had a chapter on protection from magical effects, so I can probably use that to stop myself accidentally blowing up Beacon Hills while I figure that out.” He stopped, suddenly aware that he didn’t have a clue where that book was. He was used to it being always at hand.

“The book’s safe,” Derek said. “It’s back in my loft in a hiding place.”

They started walking together between the trees, Derek clinging onto Stiles’ hand like he was afraid to let go.

“There are other things we need to talk about,” Derek said, “important things about Laura and about something that just happened to me today, but we’ll probably need Scott there as well so we can talk about them once we’ve convinced him you’re not evil.”

Derek sounded really serious about this. It seemed the list of things they needed to do before they could have sex kept getting longer. They were reaching the edge of the woods now and Stiles could see his jeep, with Derek’s car parked behind it.

“How about,” Stiles suggested, “you go get the book while I see my dad. Then we’ll call Scott and get him to meet at my place while we sort this mess out and talk about whatever you’ve got to talk about.”

“I don’t want to let you out of my sight,” Derek said. “You might disappear again.”

Stiles kissed him, gently this time, and briefly.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “Besides, the quicker we do all this, the sooner we get to have sex.”

Derek was getting into his car a second later. Stiles grinned, biting down laughter at Derek’s excited reaction, then he got into his jeep and started the thing up. It was astonishing that he still had his keys, but he appeared to have everything that had been on him when Scott had dragged him out of bed to fight fairies. There was a key difference though, and Stiles pulled off his torn jacket to check. He now had his tattoos: the pentagram on his chest, the shield on the back of his left wrist, the self kanji on his neck. He couldn’t easily see it, but he presumably had the triskele in the middle of his back as well. And he had his wand and magic. No wonder Scott had been freaked out.

He drove quickly back to his house, trying to remember if his dad would be there. He couldn’t even remember what day of the week it was. On the day of the time travel accident, he hadn’t really paid attention to what his dad was doing because it had never occurred to him that he might be stuck in another time for several months. Now he had to fight to remember. He thought that it might be a Sunday, in which case his dad would probably be at home. There weren’t any major cases on at the moment, so he guessed his dad would be watching some sporting event on the TV.

Sure enough, when he got to the house, he spotted his dad’s car parked out front. It was possible that his dad might have popped round to a neighbour’s house, but unlikely. Stiles parked his jeep, picked up his jacket and wand, and headed into the house.

“Dad?” he called out.

“In here,” his dad called from the kitchen.

Stiles walked through into the kitchen, only for someone to grab him, lift him off the ground and hurl him across the room. He dropped what he was carrying, hearing the wand hit the tiled floor with a loud clatter, and then he hit the floor a painful moment later.

He tried to roll with the movement, getting awkwardly into a crouching position in time to see his dad pouring a handful of black dust to close a mountain ash circle around him.

Chapter Text

Stiles was in the middle of a mountain ash circle in the dining area just off the kitchen. Someone, presumably Scott, had moved the table out of the way to make space on the floor. And now Scott was standing there, next to Stiles’ dad. This wasn’t how Stiles had wanted this to go. The fact that they’d thought they needed mountain ash said a lot about what they thought was going on and now his dad was looking at him with a mixture of distress and terror.

“Dad, it’s OK,” Stiles said. “I’m me.”

He took a step towards his dad. Even with Stiles still inside the circle, his dad took an automatic step back. He looked down at Stiles’ wrist.

“My son doesn’t have tattoos,” he said.

“OK. I can see why this would be really confusing, but I can prove that I’m me. And then I’ll explain everything.” Stiles took a step forward, crossing the ash barrier without disturbing it. “See?”

His dad took another step away. Scott had his claws out.

“We’ve seen creatures that can cross a barrier,” Scott said. “I’ve done it myself.”

“Yeah, but it takes you time and effort, and it brings down the barrier. I can play hopscotch over that line.”

Stiles stepped back and forth a couple of times, just to prove his point. His dad exchanged a glance with Scott.

“Maybe I didn’t make the barrier right,” his dad said.

Scott took a few cautious steps, skirting around Stiles, until he was next to the barrier. He raised a hand and pressed it against empty air, blue energy shining where Scott touched the magical boundary above the ash line.

“See,” Stiles said again. “I’m still human.”

"Or you could be something else,” Scott said, “hiding inside Stiles and using his humanness to get past the ash.”

Stiles could understand Scott being cautious after the whole mess with the nogitsune but he wasn’t sure how he could prove he was himself. He really wished Derek were here to vouch for him.

“I’m me, Scott. Completely me.”

“So why did Derek call you Adam?”

“Because I’m Adam too.”

“So you’re someone called Adam possessing Stiles?”

“No. It’s not like that. That came out completely wrong. God, I’m going about this all wrong. We need to start from the top.”

“How about you start,” Scott suggested, “with why you set me on fire?”

Stiles opened and shut his mouth a couple of times, trying to think how to explain this without sounding dangerously out of control. In the end, he decided that out of control was better than evil, so he went with the truth.

“I was aiming at the buzzers that were attacking you. I wasn’t expecting the spell to be that powerful. Before now, fire spells have always been difficult and it’s taken a few minutes of hard concentration to even light a candle. Hitting you with the spell was entirely accidental. And I put the fires out.”

“You dropped a lake’s worth of water on me in one go.”

Stiles cringed at the anger in Scott’s voice. He wasn’t going to live this own any time soon.

“That was more powerful than I expected too,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“Even if I accept that you setting me on fire was an accident,” Scott said, still in his clawed state, “there is the little problem of the fact you can now do magic, have tattoos that weren’t there an hour ago, and I have no idea what you did to Derek but he clearly wasn’t acting like himself.”

That was actually a little hurtful, that Scott would think Derek wouldn’t be interested in kissing him unless he was under a spell, but maybe Stiles could understand it. After all, before the time travel mess, he had thought Derek didn’t like him much most of the time.

“Time travel,” Stiles said.

Scott gave him a confused look for several seconds before echoing, “Time travel?”

"Yes. When I picked up the wand in the wood, I got zapped back in time. Somehow. I’m still not entirely sure how it happened.”

“That is the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard.”

“Precisely,” said Stiles. “If I was making this up, don’t you think I’d pick something a little easier to believe? I’ll prove it. Let me show you the wand.”

He looked about for the wand and saw that it had rolled to the corner of the room. The second he saw it, thinking about picking it up, the thing flew up from the ground. It hit him in the chest with enough force that, surprised as he was, he fell flat on his ass.

Scott moved the instant the wand did, putting himself between Stiles and his dad. His eyes were showing red and the claws were clear. Stiles just looked at him as he picked himself up, holding the wand gently.

“I think I’m more of a danger to myself than anyone else right now,” Stiles told Scott. “I need to figure out what’s happening with my magic, but it’s OK. Derek’s gone to get my magic book.”

“You… have a magic book?” his dad asked.

“Yeah. It’s a book of protective spells and I’m going to seriously kick Derek’s ass about the fact he didn’t give it to me because it would have been really useful in fighting kanimas and alphas and everything.”

Stiles took a step towards the other two. Scott was still standing protectively in front of Stiles’ dad. Stiles tried not to feel hurt by that and focused on the fact that it meant Scott would protect his dad from real threats too. Stiles held the wand in the middle, making sure it wasn’t pointed at anyone. He turned it slowly in his hands to show the various carvings as he talked.

“Look at the carvings,” Stiles said. “These three show what the purpose of the wand is. In this case, it’s protection. A shield, a sheriff’s star and this one is druidic rune of protection. These three symbols are about me, marking me as the owner of the wand. S for Stiles, A for Adam, which is the fake name I was using, and the kanji for self. And look.” He turned his head, showing the same mark inked into his skin just behind the ear. “I got this as part of a protection spell. I don’t think it’s possible for anyone to possess me while I’ve got this. At least, I hope not.”

He focused back on the wand. “The final symbols are about the source of power. I’ve got the moon on there because everything seems to be about the lunar cycle, and this one is supposed to look like a book, because I do the research. See? This wand is about me, me as Stiles, and it’s about protecting people. It’s not evil and neither am I.”

“And that symbol?” his dad asked. He pointed at the one which Stiles hadn’t explained, a loop with a little lump at one point on it.

“I’m not actually sure what that symbol is,” Stiles admitted.

"I thought you said this thing was all about you?” Scott asked. He was still looking extremely suspicious, but the truth was that Stiles hadn’t really been sure what he’d been doing when he’d carved that mark on the wand. He didn’t know what it was meant to represent, but only that it was a key part of the wand now.

“Look, it's complicated, OK?” Stiles said.

“Real complicated,” Scott said, suspicion still filling his voice. “Like whatever you did to Derek?”

“I didn’t do anything to Derek. Well, that’s not quite true; I did a lot of things to Derek. But not magic things. Well, maybe twice there was magic involved but the first time was an accident and the second time was entirely consensual.” Stiles saw the way his dad was looking at him and quickly added, “But the age difference wasn’t nearly so noticeable when I was in the past and I’d been there a few months so chronologically I’d have been over eighteen, and this is really not the way I wanted to break the news to you.”

“You?” said his dad, looking shocked and angry in equal measure. “You and Derek? Derek Hale?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said. “And it’s kinda, pretty, really, extremely serious.”

“You’re damn right it’s serious!”

“Dad, please don’t shoot my boyfriend.”

His dad looked furious, but Scott put out a hand, resting it on his shoulder. Scott was still glaring at Stiles, but the hostility there was of a very different flavour.

“I think he’s just trying to distract us,” Scott said. “He’s saying things he knows will get a response out of you. Think about it: if any of this were true, wouldn’t Derek have told us?”

“It is true! All of it.” It was painful to see such suspicion on the faces of people he cared about. He’d seen his dad looking at him with anger and suspicion before, during the whole mess with the kanima when Stiles had been hiding secrets from him, but it hadn’t felt like this. This wasn’t how Stiles had pictured the reunion with his family.

“If you went back in time, then Derek would have known about what was going to happen and warned us,” Scott said. “That didn’t happen.”

Stiles dragged a hand through his hair, trying to think how to explain this in a way that would make them understand. He needed Derek to get back here, though if Scott thought Derek was under a spell, it might not help. Things were supposed to get simpler when he was in his own time.

Stiles tried to think of a new way to open, to start the explanation so that they would get it this time.

“I think we’re dealing with a fixed-time loop,” Stiles said. “I didn’t tell them everything. I told Derek and Laura some stuff hoping it would keep Laura from getting killed but she came here anyway. And I told Derek not to let us wake up the nemeton, which meant he refused to help us find it, so we had to do the ritual with Deaton. By trying to make things happen differently, we made them happen in exactly the same way. I tried to make things better! I even told Derek to kill me if I got possessed by the nogitsune and he and I are going to have a long chat about why he didn’t go through with that.”

“It’s because he’s in love with you,” his dad said.

Scott looked at him sharply, “Don’t tell me you’re buying this?”

“I don’t know. He sounds like Stiles.”

“The nogitsune could sound like Stiles sometimes,” Scott pointed out.

It looked like the argument was going to start all over again when there came a knock on the front door and someone let themselves in without waiting to be invited. Stiles turned to look, hoping it would be Derek so they could sort this whole mess out. It wasn’t. It was Noshiko, walking in with a sword strapped across her back.

“Sheriff, I’m going to need your help,” she said. She looked at Scott and Stiles. “Oh good, you’re here. That will save time.”

“What’s wrong?” Stiles’ dad asked. Neither he nor Scott were looking away from Stiles for long.

“I need your help finding someone,” she said. “Somewhere in Beacon Hills is a sorcerer of near-infinite power but all I have is a name: Adam.”

There was a moment of frozen shock.

“Erm,” asked Stiles, “when you say ‘near-infinite power’ what exactly do you mean?”

Noshiko looked at him. She looked down at the wand in his hand. Stiles’ dad and Scott were back to looking at him with fear and suspicion.

“It’s you,” Noshiko said, “isn’t it?”

Stiles panicked. Noshiko had been the one advocating his death when he’d been possessed and now she’d turned up with a sword to find him. He needed to get out of here. He needed to get away until he could find a way to convince everyone that he wasn’t evil.

There was still a load of mountain ash on the floor. Stiles acted on pure instinct, the need to protect himself driving his will and the magic. With a sweeping gesture from the wand, the mountain ash rose into the air and became a swirling tornado of black powder. It whirled around Scott and Noshiko, fast-moving specks of ash forming a barrier around them. Scott tried to step through it, but was pushed back by the ash racing round in the air in tight circles.

Stiles turned to run.

“Stiles!” His dad grabbed his wrist.

Stiles sent a tiny burst of magic into the tattoo there, the shield mark. The force of the forming shield was enough to knock his dad back, literally forcing him away from Stiles and throwing him across the room.

“I’m sorry,” Stiles said. He ran.

“Stiles!” his dad yelled.

“Adam, wait!” Noshiko yelled with him.

Adam was out the door and down to his jeep in moments. He didn’t know how long it would take for Scott to break through that barrier, or for his dad to come running after him. He just started the jeep up and got moving. He needed to get away. He needed to get somewhere safe. He needed to find Derek.

Derek had gone back to the loft, so that seemed like the sensible place to start. Stiles floored the gas pedal and drove, making the trip in record time and thankfully without drawing the attention of any of his dad’s deputies. He ran up to the loft, hoping that Derek would still be there; he hadn’t spotted Derek’s car going the other direction but that was no guarantee.

He was a little breathless when he stumbled into the loft, still clutching his wand.

“Derek?” he called.

“You just missed him,” Peter replied. Peter was sitting on the couch, flipping through a book. “He took something from a hidey-hole and then left.”

Stiles looked round. It looked like there had been a fight here. Some of the furniture was out of place, a couple of the chairs fallen. Peter didn’t look bothered enough to start tidying them up. There were even dark splatters on the floor that might have been blood.

“What happened here?” Stiles asked.

“I don’t know,” Peter answered. “Something to do with the Argents. Derek said it was important, but only about half-way down his list of very important things that were going on.”

Which made a certain amount of sense. Derek had said that something important had just happened to him but that it could wait until they’d talked things through with Scott. Right now, Stiles needed to get Derek back here. He reached automatically for his phone, which wasn’t there, because he’d been in too much of a hurry to pick it up when Scott had dragged him into the woods for fairy-hunting.

“Have you got a phone I could borrow?” Stiles asked.

“It’s over there.” Peter pointed idly towards the table by the big windows.

Stiles went over and saw the phone lying along a set of keys and a wallet. He ignored the rest and, shifting the wand into his other hand, just picked up the phone. The back was sticky with something.

It took a second for recognition to set in then he dropped the phone, wiping his hand on his jeans to try and get the stuff off.

“What the hell?” he asked.

Peter stood, slowly, as though he had all the time in the world. Stiles started to run for the door, but his legs were already going weak. He reached the door and fumbled with the handle and then Peter was behind him. Peter grabbed him by the shoulder and yanked him backwards. Stiles fell, legs not responding properly, and landed on his back in the middle of Derek’s floor. The wand clattered out of his grip as he just couldn’t hold on properly.

“What are you doing?” Stiles asked.

“Something I’ve waited to do for a long time,” Peter answered, “Adam.”

Stiles raised his left arm, aiming the shield tattoo in Peter’s direction, but just holding up his arm was difficult, never mind focusing the power for the magic. The tattoo glowed momentarily silver, but then his arm dropped down onto him, the spell light fading with his ability to move.

“That’s a nice trick,” Peter said, lifting Stiles’ limp arm to get a better look at the tattoo. “A nice way to make sure you’ll always have your protection amulet. It can’t be stolen or given away or used by someone else.”

“Yeah,” said Stiles, “so when the kanima venom wears off, I will kick your ass.”

“We can’t have that. Which leaves me in a rather tricky situation. How am I supposed to rid you of your protective spells?” He held Stiles’ arm with one hand. The other hand, he held up into Stiles’ field of vision and extended his fingers into claws.

“I really do wish there was another way to do this,” Peter said. Then he slashed his claws through the shield tattoo.

Chapter Text

When Derek reached the Stilinski house, he found chaos in the kitchen. Scott and Noshiko were standing in the middle of a whirling mass of black dust, moved as though by a powerful wind. Even from the doorway, Derek could tell it was mountain ash and Scott didn’t seem to be having much luck breaking through it. The sheriff was there and he could stick his hands into the dust, but he didn’t seem able to disrupt it. This wasn’t a normal mountain ash barrier. This was something more powerful, something that looked almost alive.

“What the hell happened here?” Derek asked. “Where’s Stiles?”

“Stiles or Adam?” the sheriff asked. He looked furious. Derek wondered if Stiles had said that they were an item. It was probably a good thing that the sheriff didn’t have wolfsbane bullets for his gun.

“Stiles is Adam,” Derek replied.

“So are you going to give us this crazy time-travel story too?” Scott asked. “Because how the hell can you explain this?” He gestured to the wall of black dust swirling around him and Noshiko. He then turned to Noshiko, “And what did you mean when you called him a sorcerer?”

“There is a… person I know,” Noshiko said. “Over the years, she has been an advisor, a guide, an ally, sometimes even something close to a friend. I owe her a great debt. When the nemeton awakened, she knew I would be coming here and she chose to call in that debt. She told me to wait until she contacted me and then to find someone called Adam and give him something.”

“Give him what?” Scott asked.

“A book and a letter.”

Something clicked inside Derek’s mind, “You’re talking about Bookworm.”

“Who?” asked Scott.

“A creature who deserves more awe and respect than a name like that invokes,” said Noshiko, looking at Derek with what might have been disapproval.

"She's a dragon,” Derek said, since Scott still looked bewildered, “who hoards books and seems to be worryingly interested in Adam… Stiles.”

“She told me to protect him with my life,” Noshiko said.

"Protect Stiles or protect Adam?" Scott asked.

“They’re the same person,” Derek insisted.

“Assuming we believe this ridiculous story about time travel.”

Derek looked at the sheriff, “You know it’s true. You’ve seen his driving license.”

A puzzled look came over the sheriff’s face, remembrance and understanding slowly finding their way into his expression. He nodded. When Derek had been arrested for his sister’s murder, the police had found Adam’s things in his possession, including Adam’s passport and driver’s license. There had been enough superficial differences in appearance and small enough photos that the sheriff hadn’t connected Adam to Stiles at the time. Now he seemed to accept it.

“You could also ask Kira,” Derek said to Scott. “She met Adam in New York. He’s the one who suggested she read about bardo.”

Even Noshiko looked surprised at that. Scott still didn’t look completely convinced.

“OK, assuming that all this is true,” Scott said, “and Stiles really is a super-powerful time-travelling sorcerer, why the hell would this Bookworm person need to send someone to protect him?”

"Because he has power that a lot of others will want to have,” Noshiko said.

“And because he’s still figuring out how to use his magic,” Derek added. “He set you on fire this morning.” Seeing Stiles in the woods today had been scary; he’d had raw power but no control. It had been worse than seeing the effects of the new moon spell when none of them had known what was going on. At least then, no one had been hurt.

“Where is he?” Derek asked.

“When Noshiko came in,” the sheriff answered, “he did this and ran out.”

He gestured at the swirling storm of mountain ash that didn’t show any sign of slowing down. A million specks of dust formed an-ever moving wall.

“Do you know how to stop this?” Scott asked. Derek shook his head. He’d not seen anything like this, even when Adam had experimented with magic in New York.

“Maybe we could interrupt the dust somehow,” the sheriff suggested. He went to one of the cupboards and pulled out a large mixing bowl, which he held sideways into the ash barrier. The dust that hit the bowl couldn’t go through it, and so started collecting in a little black puddle at the bottom of the bowl. The rest of the dust was moving fast enough that more and more of it was hitting the bowl and the barrier quickly started to thin.

“I’m going to go find Stiles,” Derek said. He couldn’t have gone far. In fact, since the plan was to meet up with Derek, he’d probably gone to the loft.

“I’ll call him,” the sheriff said, “and tell him that no one’s going to try and kill him.”

He still held the bowl in the dust flow, but with his other hand he fumbled until he found the right pocket and pulled out his phone. He used one hand to bring up the number and call.

A moment later, Derek and Scott looked upwards as they heard the chirping ringtone coming from somewhere upstairs. Of course Stiles didn’t have his phone. He hadn’t had a phone in New York, so he wouldn’t have one on him now.

"Derek, wait," Scott called. The barrier was almost gone now. Just a few bits of dust were whizzing around, managing to miss the bowl every time. Scott held his hands out to the wall of mountain ash, pressing against what remained of the barrier. Blue light glowed around his hands and he half-shifted from the effort. It was like when Scott had fought Jennifer, but it seemed to take a lot more effort this time, perhaps because the barrier was in constant motion, perhaps because he was coming into physical contact with the bits of ash dust that were still flying around.

Then he burst through in a flash of light and the remaining dust rained down onto the floor, spell and barrier broken. Scott slumped forward, obviously strained from the effort.

Derek gave Scott a long look then said, “He really is Stiles and if you try to hurt him again, I will break every bone in your body.”

Then the whole group headed out. The sheriff insisted on taking his car on the grounds that he could use the siren and make it a bit faster. That meant that Derek ended up in the back seat with Scott, while Noshiko got shotgun. Scott kept giving Derek looks that were both worried and angry. Derek just wanted to find Adam as soon as possible. He hoped he was right about Adam going to his place.

“So,” Scott said after a lengthy silence, “time travel?”

“Yes,” Derek said.

“Which means you knew who Stiles was when you first met us in the woods?”

“Yes.”

“Did you know who I was?”

“Yes. Adam told me about how his friend got bitten by a dangerous alpha. When I lost him, almost his last words were telling me to protect you.”

“Almost his last words?” Scott echoed.

“He told me protect you. He told me to stop you guys waking the nemeton, which I tried and failed. He told me to kill him if the nemeton awakened, which I couldn’t bring myself to do. Then he started to warn me about Peter but vanished before he could finish.”

“Vanished?”

“Faded out of existence. I thought he was dead. I thought he’d changed the timeline somehow and I’d lost him forever.”

“So why didn't you tell us?” Scott asked.

“You didn’t believe me when I told you I didn’t murder my sister. Would either of you really have believed me if I said that a future version of Stiles had travelled back in time and become my boyfriend? Stiles would have hit me with a baseball bat.”

“But you’ve had plenty of opportunities to tell us.”

“To what end? I didn’t know enough about the future to be helpful, I didn’t know if things had changed to make what little I did know irrelevant, and it would have meant admitting to you that I’d been lying since the beginning, which really wouldn’t have helped build trust.”

“Maybe building trust wouldn’t be an issue if you hadn’t lied to us since the beginning,” Scott said.

They were glaring at each other now. The sheriff glanced at them in the mirror.

“Boys,” he said, “do you want me to turn this car around?”

It was an empty threat and they knew it; the sheriff wanted to find his son as much as the rest of them. Still, Scott and Derek back into silence for a short while.

It was Noshiko who broke the silence next.

“You met Kira while Stiles was Adam?” she asked.

“Briefly,” Derek answered.

Scott gave him a sideways look, “That was how you knew what she was when you met her at my house?”

Derek nodded, “He told me.”

“Seems like he could have told you a lot that would have been more useful,” Scott muttered.

Derek had been thinking that over and over every day since Adam had left him. He knew why Adam hadn’t though; Adam had thought he was sticking around. He’d thought he’d be there to help them through the difficult times, to tell them what they needed to know when they needed to know it. He hadn’t realised that he’d be leaving Derek to face it all alone.

He was saved from having to answer by arriving at the apartment. Derek left the car the second the sheriff stopped and he hurried upstairs. He smelled blood before he was even half-way there. He increased his pace, hoping desperately that it was just from the fight earlier.

He flung the door open. Stiles’ wand was lying in the middle of the room. There were blood splatters on the floor around it.

“Adam?” he called out. “Stiles?”

No response. He listened, but heard no sign of a presence other than the three hurrying up the stairs to the apartment. Derek found himself shaking. Not again. He couldn’t lose Adam again.

“Stiles,” the sheriff was yelling now too, but there was no answer. Derek just stared at the wand on the floor.

“He was here,” Derek said. “He must have been. Someone hurt him and took him.”

What if it was Kate? What if she’d come back as a zombie somehow and dragged Stiles off to make a meal out of his brain?

Derek had been here only recently to pick up the book and this place had been empty. How could Adam have come here and been taken so quickly? It had to have been planned, but who the hell could do that?

“Why is this still here?” the sheriff asked, going over to the wand. He didn’t touch it or try to pick it up, presumably because he was in police mode and didn’t want to disturb evidence.

“It’s made of mountain ash,” Derek said. “If whoever hurt Stiles was a werewolf or another supernatural type, they wouldn’t be able to pick it up, either to take it or hide it.”

"Can you track him?" the sheriff asked.

“We can try,” Derek answered. “It depends on whether someone took him in a car.”

“Who do you think could have done it?”

Derek would like to say that the number of people with access to his apartment was a limited list, but he’d been attacked in here too often to believe that. So the next question to answer was who would have done it. To most of the supernatural elements of Beacon Hills, Stiles was seen as the harmless one, the human in the pack of wolves. There were few people who knew what he was capable of.

Derek looked across at the table by the window, noticing a phone sitting there. Peter’s phone. Curious, he went over and took a look, seeing it lying there next to a sticky patch. He didn’t reach out to touch it; he thought he already knew what that was.

“Peter,” he said.

“Why would Peter take Stiles?” Scott asked.

Derek remembered all the conversations he’d had with his uncle where the subject of Stiles had come up. Peter had talked about liking Stiles. He’d advocated protecting him when he was possessed by the nogitsune. He’d always had an interest in Stiles, particularly asking Derek whether he knew yet about Adam.

“Peter doesn’t want Stiles,” Derek said. “He wants Adam.”

***

Bookworm didn’t drive. It wasn’t a skill that had ever really been necessary. If she wanted to travel long distances, she had wings. For short distances, she had feet. The problem was that she couldn’t easily carry two dozen boxes filled with books and about the same number of sealed containers which held her more precious texts. So she was now loading the boxes into the back of a rented van with Amelia agreeing to be her driver.

Bookworm didn't like the fact that she now owed someone else a favour. She much preferred it when it worked the other way around. Knowing that others owed her a debt gave her a measure of power that went beyond magic. Still, she could make a very good guess as to what Amelia would ask in return, so Bookworm accepted this.

It would take a long time to get there. Too long. She stacked her books in the back of the van, making sure that the boxes were secured so that they wouldn’t fall and get damaged, aching at every wasted moment. She needed to get to Beacon Hills and quickly but she couldn’t leave her books behind. If that meant going at the pace of a human, who would require such mundane necessities as food and sleep, then that was what she must do.

She just had to hope Adam would still be there when she arrived.

Chapter Text

“I think I’m still bleeding,” Stiles complained. “You clearly want me alive or you wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of coating your phone in kanima venom, which I have to admit was a good trick because it meant I was poisoning myself, though I have to wonder how you knew that I’d want a phone. But anyway, back to the point, which was that you probably don’t want me bleeding to death in your car before we get to wherever we’re going.”

Peter sighed, “Deaton had the right idea. I should have brought duct tape.”

“I’m just saying that some bandages on my chest probably wouldn’t go amiss.” Stiles couldn’t move yet, but he could at least complain. He had to do something to get back at Peter for this whole kidnapping thing. It was the most effectual thing he could do as revenge right now. Besides, complaining was something to do other than thinking about the fact that his chest and wrist hurt like hell and that Peter could do just about anything he wanted right now and there wasn’t a damn thing Stiles could do to stop it.

He wasn’t actually sure what Peter wanted. So far, all Peter had done was slash the tattoos on Stiles’ chest and wrist. He’d left the one on the side of his head and the pack mark on his back. The park mark wasn’t magical, but the self kanji was. Presumably, this meant Peter wasn’t interested in possessing him, at least not in that sense of the word.

Then he’d stuck Stiles in the passenger seat of his car and was driving them somewhere. They were still within Beacon Hills, but not a part of town Stiles was particularly familiar with. The fact that he hadn’t bothered with tying Stiles up or otherwise restraining him suggested that this would be a short trip, otherwise he might have been concerned about the venom wearing off.

“At least when the Argents kidnapped me, they just beat me up,” Stiles went on. “There was very little actual blood involved.”

“There will be more blood involved if you don’t shut up,” Peter said.

Stiles fell silent, but he was thinking about the last time he’d been kidnapped. He’d managed to get Derek’s attention with a howl inside his head. The Hale siblings had heard it, but the hunters hadn’t. Maybe he could try to reach Derek now.

Stiles closed his eyes. He thought about Derek, thought about the way they’d been in the woods, thought about all those times in that little apartment in New York. He thought about get the pack mark, about feeling the ink lines of the triskele being drawn onto his back. He even thought about Laura, about the way she’d fussed over him with Derek when he’d been ill. All memories that whispered through his mind with the meaning of pack. He held those thoughts, and remembered all the werewolf howls he’d ever heard, remembered the way the noise seemed to shake the building, remembered the way the sound seemed to bore into his core.

He called up that sound in his mind, fed his magic into it, and thought out the howl.

Peter hit him in the side of the head so hard that Stiles fell sideways against the car door. His head hit the window. For a moment, he sat dazed and still paralysed, all thoughts of the howl knocked from his head by the blow.

“Did you really think I wouldn’t hear that?” Peter asked. “You forget, I’m pack too.”

Stiles was still slumped uncomfortably against the car window. He didn’t have the strength to push himself back into a proper sitting position. He couldn’t even turn to glare at Peter.

“You murdered Laura,” Stiles said, “and you’re going to kill me. You’re not exactly the poster boy for pack bonding.”

Peter grabbed hold of Stiles’ arm and pulled him back until Stiles was sitting in the car seat again. It probably had less about making Stiles comfortable and more to do with making sure no one noticed the car with the weird guy pressed against the window.

“I’m not going to kill you,” Peter said. “I like you.”

“Is that meant to be reassuring?” Stiles asked. “Because it comes off rather more like a creepy stalker.”

“Don’t worry, Adam. You’re not my type. Besides, poor Derek would be heart-broken, don’t you think?”

“Like you actually care about that. If I were you, I’d be more worried about the fact that he will rip you into little pieces when he finds out you’ve hurt me. Then he will set the little pieces on fire and flush the ashes down the toilet so that you can’t try your back-from-the-dead trick again or if you did try you’d end up in a billion little pieces floating around the sewer.”

“You paint a very vivid picture,” Peter said, calmly. He pulled the car onto a ramp leading to an underground parking lot.

"Where are we?" Stiles asked.

“My place. You know, in over a year since I’ve come back to life, no one has once dropped by to visit me. It’s hurtful.”

“Maybe it’s because you’re a murdering, kidnapping psychopath,” Stiles suggested.

Peter parked the car, turned off the engine and climbed out. Stiles hoped against distant hope that someone would come down to their car and he could call for help, but the place was half-empty. Peter came round to the passenger door and opened it, unbuckling the seatbelt and then lifting Stiles out of the car. His shoulder dug uncomfortably into Stiles’ stomach and Stiles’ head hung limply down.

It was a short walk to an elevator, which Peter stepped into. Stiles had a view of the floor, which seemed clean and well-kept, but couldn’t see a lot else.

“This is ridiculous,” he complained.

“Nearly there,” Peter said.

Stiles watched a dribble of red drip onto the elevator floor. His chest was throbbing and this position wasn’t helping at all.

“I’m still bleeding.”

“It’s alright,” Peter said. “My cleaner is excellent at getting bloodstains out of the carpet.”

***

“Why would Peter take Stiles?” Scott asked. “And how the hell would he know about this whole Adam thing?”

“I said some stuff when I thought he was comatose,” Derek admitted, “and I know Laura said something to him. He heard enough that he figured out who Stiles was but I don’t know why he’d want to take him.”

“Do you know where he’d want to take him?” the sheriff asked.

Derek shook his head, “It depends on what exactly he wants to do and I have no idea. All I know is that he has always been interested in Stiles. He actually offered Stiles the bite, and I mean offered. He gave Stiles the chance to say no and actually listened when he said it.”

He addressed that last part to Scott, who understood the significance. Peter had picked a random teenager because he wanted a new pack and gave him no say in whether he’d wanted it or not. The fact that Peter had given Stiles a choice implied a level of respect that he offered to no one else. Derek didn’t know whether that should make the current situation more or less worrying.

“Are you sure it was Peter?” the sheriff asked.

“Pretty sure,” Derek answered.

“Right. I’ll go back to the car and get on the radio, put out an APB for Peter’s description. You, start thinking of places Peter would go.”

The sheriff left quickly. He wasn’t in uniform today, so he didn’t have his radio on him.

“I’m going to call Ethan and Danny,” Scott said, “and Lydia. We need to get everyone in on this.”

Derek looked down at the blood patches on the floor, knowing that not all of them came from Adam. There had been enough secrets and all they’d done was screw things up more.

“Before you do that,” Derek said, “there’s something else going on. I don’t think it’s connected to this but I don’t know for sure. I think Kate Argent is back from the dead.”

“What?! When?”

“I saw her earlier today. I was going to tell you at once, but then,” Derek gestured at the blood patches on the floor.

“What happened?” Scott asked. He looked furious but was keeping control of his wolf side.

“There were a couple of hunters that Peter and I had run into before. They kept asking about the she-wolf and I thought they meant Cora. Then there was smoke and Kate was there. It was a bit like a dream, but she shot me and the injury was definitely real. And she transformed into something like a werewolf, but bluish in colour and with these markings on her face. I passed out and when I came to she was gone.”

Scott stared at him in confusion. Noshiko’s expression held puzzlement, but it was more like someone trying to work out a crossword clue, like she could see pieces but not how they fit.

"How is that even possible?" Scott asked.

“I don’t know. It shouldn’t be possible. Peter was only able to come back because of the amulet.”

“Wait, what amulet?”

Derek reached under his shirt for the cord and pulled the amulet out, letting Scott see it. It felt strange to wear it openly after so long keeping it concealed.

“Adam made it for Laura,” Derek said. “It’s a protective charm that taps into the connection of the pack. Somehow it was able to preserve Peter’s spirit when he died and allow him to come back.”

“A spirit trap,” Noshiko said. Derek had almost forgotten she was there, he was so focused on Scott. Now he looked at her, more than a little confused that she seemed to know what was going on. She gave a little nod of understanding.

“What do you know about it?” Derek asked.

“The book the dragon gave me to give to Adam talks about spirit traps,” she said. “It talks about how to restore a soul trapped inside.”

Derek touched the amulet gently. Laura’s soul was still caught inside. When Derek had asked Bookworm for a way to save her, she’d refused, yet here she was offering it to Adam apparently for free. Maybe Derek had been wrong about her. Maybe she really did want to help.

“So Kate might have come back in the same way?” Scott asked.

“No,” Derek said. “There was no spirit trap for her, and the ritual to bring back Peter took a lot of power and precise timing. Kate coming back just shouldn’t be possible.”

Scott was still glaring at him.

“How the hell could you wait to tell us this?” he demanded.

“It only happened this morning. I was going to tell you and Adam and the sheriff all together, but you had to go and scare Adam right into a trap.”

“Don’t you dare blame this on me! All you’ve done is lie and keep secrets since the day I met you. How the hell am I supposed to believe a word you say now?”

Scott was right in front of Derek now, glowering in his face. Despite his anger, his eyes weren’t changed; Derek was suddenly aware of how much more control Scott had now than he used to. If Scott snapped and attacked him now, it wouldn’t be the wolf going out of control. It would be Scott, deciding that Derek deserved it.

“This is not productive,” Noshiko said, stepping up to them, trying to put herself between them. Derek took a step back. It was a submissive gesture, accepting the authority of the alpha.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” Derek said. “I thought I was doing the right thing but it kept turning out to be the wrong thing.”

Scott drew in a frustrated sigh. “We’ll talk about your lies later. First we need to find Peter. Do you know where he goes when he’s not here?”

“I don’t even know where he lives. I know he’s got an apartment but I’ve never seen it.”

“OK. Well we’ll start with trying to find a scent then, the fresh blood might help.”

They headed down to the street and Derek kept thinking about all Adam had learned to do in New York. When he’d been kidnapped there, he’d called out to the pack for help. He had skills now, and tools like the protective tattoos. It was worrying that he hadn’t been able to use them. Derek couldn’t help the terror that came from that thought. If Adam were able, he would call the pack. So why wasn’t he? Was he too hurt?

Was he already dead?

Chapter Text

“Ow,” Stiles complained, when Peter dumped him onto the floor. He was lying in a crumpled heap on a cream carpet. He was almost doubled over, his face pressed against the carpet pile, his legs a tangle beneath him. He thought movement was coming back. He thought he could wiggle his toes. He’d only touched the venom, he hadn’t ingested or been cut with it, so it was wearing off quicker than it otherwise might. Still, that didn’t give him much hope of escape against Peter.

Peter left him in his heap for a moment and went into another room. He returned shortly carrying some heavy lengths of chain and a sheet. He crouched down in Stiles’ field of vision and extended his claws.

“Don’t you think you’ve sliced me open enough?” Stiles asked.

Peter gave him a cold smile. Then he used a claw to cut a strip from the sheet. He nudged Stiles’ shoulder, rolling him over onto his side, and then picked up Stiles’ left arm. He wrapped the strip of cloth tightly around the bleeding claw marks, pressing painfully against the wounds. The weird thing was that Peter didn’t seem to be enjoying Stiles’ pain, he was just bandaging the wound as though it was a chore that needed dealing with.

“Do you have any painkillers?” Stiles asked.

“I’ve never had much need for them,” Peter answered. He tugged the cloth strip tight and Stiles flinched in pain, his fingers clenching up automatically. Peter saw. He met Stiles’ eyes.

“Don’t even think about it,” Peter said. “This is going to hurt enough without you doing anything stupid.”

He picked up the chains, which were the same sturdy type that Derek used to chain up out of control pack members on a full moon, strong enough to hold a full werewolf. Stiles didn’t stand a chance, even though he was rapidly regaining control of his ability to move. Peter fastened a cuff around each of Stiles’ wrists, the left cuff pressing too tightly against the rough bandages he’d just applied. Stiles had to bite down to prevent a cry of pain escaping.

Then Peter moved away again, heading somewhere else in the apartment. Stiles was able to push himself up into a sitting position, looking in surprise at the length of chain that stretched between his wrists; more than a metre in length. He looked around at the room he was in, seeing a pleasantly furnished home. Nothing was particularly expensive, but it was all smart and nicely kept, from the polished coffee table to the neat couch. It looked like a show home; there were no traces of dirt or signs that anyone actually inhabited this place. The only thing spoiling the impression was the pattern of blood splatters staining the carpet.

Peter returned, carrying a stepladder, which he carried over to where Stiles was sitting. Stiles looked up.

“Why do you have a large hook in your ceiling?” he asked.

“The previous owner hung a chandelier there,” Peter answered. He grabbed the length of chain.

Stiles threw a punch, mostly so that he could say that he tried. He didn’t expect it to do any good and, sure enough, Peter caught him by the manacled wrist. He raised an eyebrow.

“Really?” Peter asked.

“Worth a shot.”

Peter shook his head in a disappointed fashion and then started climbing the stepladder, still holding on to the chain. Stiles was forced to raise his arms, and then forced to struggle upright, because otherwise the pain in his injured wrist was unbearable. Peter moved slowly, giving Stiles time to get into a standing position on his still-wobbly legs. Stiles had to hold on to the chain with his right hand just to stay upright. Once Stiles was standing, Peter hung the chain over the sturdy hook in the ceiling.

Stiles stood there, pain flaring through his wrist and chest, struggling to get his legs to support his weight. His hands were held above his head but, thankfully, there was enough length to the chain that he didn’t have any weight on his injured wrist. Even so, the movement and position made his injuries wake up and scream for attention. Stiles had to fight not to cry. He didn’t want Peter to see him cry.

He thought about trying to call for Derek again. He had to do something and his protective spells were gone. But Peter would hear the call. He was still part of the Hale pack, so he could cut off the cry for help before Stiles had a chance to be heard.

A thought prodded at the back of his mind. He remembered how Scott had called out to him in the nogitsune’s dreamscape. Scott had called to him as part of his pack. Peter might be part of the Hale pack but he had never been part of Scott’s. Stiles closed his eyes, slumping forwards as though in pain. He thought about that fox dream, about the way Scott had called to him. He filled his mind with thoughts of Scott, of the way they were together, of talking Scott out of suicide at the motel, of playing lacrosse or video games, of a million conversations, a million shared jokes, million smiles and a million pains. Stiles held those in his mind and tried to touch the core of his magic.

He exhaled a slow, shaking breath, but in his mind, he howled. All his thoughts were of Scott as he filled him mind with that imagined sound, reaching out across the distances between them.

Pain slashed down through his chest.

Stiles gave a cry and flinched away, accidentally yanking his wrists against the cuff as he did so. He bit down a pained sob. For a moment, he thought that Peter had heard the howl and this was punishment for it, but it seemed different this time. Peter cut shallow lines across Stiles’ chest, marring even more the tattoo inked there. Then he took hold of Stiles’ shoulder, leaning him forwards, and he held a bowl under the wounds.

Blood fell in steady drips into the bowl, a little puddle of red rapidly growing. A few missed the bowl, dropping into crimson flowers on the cream carpet.

“It feels undramatic to be doing it like this,” Peter said. “I should be using a silver cup under the light of the full moon. A kitchen bowl just lacks flair.”

“You could always stop,” Stiles said between gasps of pain, “and try again later. I can wait.”

“Unfortunately, there are forces at work that won’t.”

There was rather a lot of blood in the bowl now. Stiles wondered how much blood he’d lost altogether, how much was decorating Derek’s place and the car and the route up here. He wondered if the shakiness of his legs was from more than just the kanima venom. How much more blood could he afford to lose?

Peter stepped away, the bowl half-full. More splatters of red dropped to the carpet. Peter set the bowl aside and picked up the sheet, cutting more strips of cloth.

“Seriously?” Stiles asked.

“I’m not doing any of this because I want to hurt you,” Peter said. “I’ve told you: I like you.”

“You’ve got a funny way of showing it.”

Peter wrapped the strips around Stiles’ chest. He didn’t seem to care that the ruins of his t-shirt were still there, caught between wound and makeshift bandage. It hurt, the pressure against the many cuts, but Stiles knew that this might actually save his life. It made no sense. Why the hell was Peter doing all this?

Peter tied off the ends of cloth, leaving Stiles’ chest wrapped in layers of tight bandaging. Every breath pushed against cloth, adding a new layer to the pain that filled him. Peter finished off and went back to the bowl of blood.

“Please tell me you aren’t going to drink that,” Stiles said. “Please say you didn’t come back from the dead as some sort of were-vampire.”

“Technically, the ‘were’ part comes from the Latin word meaning man, so the correct term would probably be more like ‘vampirewolf’.”

“Well it’s difficult to remember etymology when I’m bleeding to death,” Stiles said.

“Don’t be melodramatic. You’re not dying.”

Peter extended the claws on his right hand. Instinctively, Stiles took a tiny step back, as much as the chains would allow, but Peter wasn’t looking at him this time. Peter drew a claw along the length of his own forearm. He then angled the cut over the bowl and watched his blood pour down to mingle with Stiles’.

“Now that’s just gross,” Stiles said.

“The oldest magics all seem to come back to blood,” Peter said. The bowl was nearly full to the brim with blood now. Peter withdrew his arm, the deep gash visibly healing. He wiped the remainder of the blood of his arm with a scrap of leftover sheet from the bandages.

Peter lifted the bowl and dipped his fingers into it, stirring gently. Stiles looked away, thinking fainting or vomiting would be sure to come soon. The smell of blood was over-powering now. Maybe he should let himself vomit. It probably wouldn’t help whatever messed up ritual Peter was planning.

Peter moved around Stiles, drawing a circle on the carpet with the mixed blood. He dipped his fingers again and again, drawing the line in sticky red until there was a closed circle. There was still plenty of blood in the bowl and Peter used it to draw symbols around the circle. There was a crescent moon right in front of Stiles. Then Peter moved round the circle and Stiles turned to watch, seeing Peter draw a collection of lines that looked vaguely like an open book. That’s when he realised: Peter was drawing the symbols from Stiles’ wand that represented the source of Stiles’ magic. Peter moved round the circle again and drew another symbol. This one was a loop, but with a lump on it. When Peter drew it, it looked there was a Pacman on the loop, mouth open to take a bite.

“What are you trying to do?” Stiles asked.

“An old ritual,” Peter said.

He stepped into the circle. Stiles tried to step away, but the chains were solid. He tried jerking the chains, hoping to shake them loose from the hook, but Peter grabbed him by his uninjured arm, leaving sticky finger marks in blood on Stiles’ skin.

“Don’t,” Peter said. Stiles kicked him on the shin. It had almost no effect. Peter looked down at his leg, then back up at Stiles’ face, with something close to disappointment on his expression.

“Now that was just rude,” Peter said.

“You’re insane,” Stiles said.

“You’re only saying that because you’re in a lot of pain.”

“Well whose fault is that?!”

Peter let go of Stiles’ arm and dipped his little finger in the blood bowl. He then brought his hand up to Stiles’ face. Stiles tried once again to back away.

“Hold still,” Peter said, and touched the bloody digit to Stiles’ forehead. Stiles tried to squirm away and earn a backhanded blow for his troubles. While he stood there, dazed from the impact, Peter finished drawing lines in blood on Stiles’ face.

“Derek will kill you,” Stiles said, “if I don’t kill you first.”

“He might try, but after today, I really don’t think he’ll have much success.”

Peter walked out of the circle to set down the bowl, which was nearly empty now. Then he returned to Stiles, standing inside the circle with him. Peter reached up with both hands, taking hold of Stiles’ and linking their fingers together. He closed his eyes and leaned his head forward, face going into a blank look of concentration. Peter was trying to do magic.

Stiles didn’t know exactly what Peter was planning but anything involving this much blood couldn’t be good. One thing he did know though was that big spells required a lot of concentration. While Peter tried to achieve a state of perfect meditation in order to cast his spell, Stiles started singing.

“I know a song that will get on your nerves,” he said. “Get on your nerves. Get on your nerves. I know a song that will get on your nerves and it goes just like this.”

Peter opened his eyes and gave him a cold glare, “Really, Stiles?”

Stiles grinned at him, and continued, “Second verse, same as the first, but a little bit louder and a little bit worse. I know a song that will get on your nerves. Get on your nerves.”

Peter hit him in the chest. Agony burst through his torso, fire raging along the cuts and through to his core. Stiles’ was winded, unable to breathe for a second because even breathing was too painful. The fire was a part of him, taking over him. He fell forward, legs unable to hold him for a moment, and a secondary fire burst from his wrist and sent streams of lava down his arm.

While Stiles tried to think of anything but the torment, Peter reclaimed his grip of Stiles’ hands and closed his eyes again. Stiles just wheezed painfully as Peter built up his focus.

Peter started murmuring words that might have been Latin. Around them, the circle began to glow a deep red, the light pulsing, brighter and darker, like it had a heartbeat. The light flowed out to the symbols and Stiles felt a warmth at his forehead. He suspected that whatever symbol Peter had drawn there was glowing as well.

Inside him, he felt the soft touch of his magic. He tried to call on it, tried to do something useful, but he didn’t know how to disrupt this spell. He didn’t even know what Peter was trying to do.

Peter opened his eyes and locked his gaze with Stiles’. His eyes were shining a pale blue, but Stiles thought he could see red behind them, blood red, pulsing like the light of the circle. Stiles couldn’t look away. He couldn’t blink. He could just stare into the depths of those eyes.

The stream of Latin words stopped and there was a moment of silence where all Stiles could do was hope that it was over, hope that Peter had failed at whatever magic he was attempting. Then Peter opened his mouth and said one thing more, a stream of syllables that no one ever said, that no one was supposed to know. He even managed to get the pronunciation almost right.

Peter said his true name.

Chapter Text

The little group were clustered around the sheriff’s car, discussing ways to track Peter down. The scent trail of Stiles’ blood had ended at a parking space, so presumably Peter had taken him from here by car. It was unlikely that there were any witnesses to the abduction; Derek had chosen this place because of a lack of neighbours.

The sheriff was having his deputies look through official channels, but it would be difficult as Peter was still wanted in connection to Kate Argent’s murder, as well as all the rest, so it was extremely unlikely that he would have used his real name. Peter’s apartment could be anywhere in town and Derek didn’t even know where to start.

“Did you hear that?” Scott asked, turning to look into the distance.

“Hear what?” Derek asked. The sheriff and Noshiko were looking at them.

“I thought I heard a howl.”

“It’s him,” Derek said. “It’s Stiles.”

“But Stiles can’t howl.”

“He did it before, in New York. When he was in trouble, he used his magic to call out to me and Laura. It sounded like a howl to us. Which way?”

Scott looked around, then pointed, “That way.”

They all piled back into the sheriff’s car, with Scott taking the front passenger seat this time so that he could point the way. He sat there with his face screwed up, trying to feel for the source of the howl.

Derek just sat in the back, feeling useless, and wondering why Scott had heard the howl but he hadn’t. Back in New York, both he and Laura had heard the howl. They’d both been pack. Now, when Stiles needed help, he’d called out but only Scott had heard it. Did that mean he thought of Scott as pack more than Derek?

Derek knew that Stiles and Scott were close, but Stiles had accepted his mark. He’d chosen to join his pack, indelibly. Derek should have been the one he called to. Derek should have been the one he trusted to help.

Derek watched Scott give directions to the sheriff and tried to hold the rage and pain in check. He needed to remain in control of himself if he was to be of any help to Stiles.

Once they’d crossed the town, it was harder for Scott to pinpoint the direction. After the sheriff had driven round the same block twice, Scott was forced to admit defeat.

“It’s somewhere near here,” Scott said, “but that’s all I’ve got.”

The sheriff pulled the car over. His knuckles were white where he gripped the steering wheel and the stink of his fear was horrendous inside the closed environment of the car. Derek was glad to get out, to breathe in some clearer air.

Air scented with blood.

Derek glanced at Scott, who nodded. He’d smelled it too.

The two werewolves ran towards the source of the smell, Noshiko and the sheriff hurrying behind them. Derek knew the blood had come from Stiles. The scent reached inside him with a burning certainty that made him want to rip someone apart with his claws. They reached an underground parking lot beneath an apartment block and saw a few red spots that left a trail over to an elevator.

“He’s here somewhere,” Derek said.

The sheriff came running in, a little breathless, and holding his phone to his ear.

“Thanks, Parrish,” he said, hanging up. He looked at the others, “There’s an apartment on the fifth floor that was rented at about the right time by a man matching Peter’s description.”

The four of them piled into the elevator, where more blood splatters showed that Stiles had been this way. Derek was actually rather concerned that Peter hadn’t bothered with hiding his trail. He didn’t seem to care that the pack was hunting for Adam, and him.

When the elevator door opened, Derek didn’t have to try in order to follow the scent of blood. This place stank of it. He went to the nearest door and just kicked it in, stepping into a large living around and seeing Adam lying in the middle of a mess of blood.

Rational thought departed. Derek leapt across the room to Adam’s side, seeing nothing but the blood and motionless body. He touched a hand to Adam’s cheek, finding it cold and clammy, but with a flutter of life beneath it. Adam’s skin was pale, almost white, but there was still a heartbeat. He was still breathing. Only when he heard that was Derek able to breathe again.

“Adam?” he said. “Adam, can you hear me? Stiles?”

“Is he?” the sheriff stopped in the doorway. He looked as pale as Adam.

“He’s alive,” Derek said.

The sheriff had his phone out a heartbeat later, calling for an ambulance. Derek looked closer at Adam, seeing the bandages wrapped around his chest and wrist. He had no idea how bad the injuries were under that. Derek wanted to hug Adam to him, to try and warm him with his body, but he didn’t dare move him. All he could do was kneel on the floor beside him, hand touching Adam’s cheek, the other Adam’s arm. He tried to draw out pain, but there wasn’t any there to draw. Adam wasn’t feeling anything right now.

“What the hell happened here?” Scott asked.

Derek forced himself to look away from Adam’s face, to see the rest of the room. He saw the circle of blood, the symbols there. He saw bloody marks decorating Adam’s skin. He saw that someone had placed a cushion under Adam’s head to give him a pillow. Who the hell attacked someone, left him like this and then gave him a pillow?

Noshiko walked slowly around the circle.

“I’ve seen something like this before,” she said. “Someone has connected to his power.”

“What do you mean?” Derek asked.

“There are spells and rituals that will let a person draw power out of another magic-worker and use it for themselves. We won’t know for sure until Adam awakes, but I suspect this was a ritual to steal his magic.”

Scott and Derek stared at her, both a little overwhelmed by the implications of this. It was Scott who broke the silence first.

“Are you telling me that Peter is walking around with not only his werewolf abilities but also the ability to set people on fire with magic?”

“If the ritual worked,” she said, “then yes.”

Derek didn’t want to think about the implications of that. Peter had been dangerous enough as a werewolf. It made sense though. Peter had always been interested in Stiles, asking if he knew about Adam yet, persuading Derek away from his plan to kill him when he became possessed. Peter wanted Stiles alive and it seemed this might be why.

The sheriff returned to the room, quickly taking charge.

“The ambulance is on the way,” he said. “Derek, Scott, I need you to go through this building floor by floor to try and pick up Peter’s scent. If he’s still here, we need to find him, or find a trail that will lead us to him.”

“I’m not leaving Adam,” Derek said.

“Derek, the ambulance will be here soon. You can’t help him. You need to focus on finding Peter.”

Derek glared up at him. His hands hadn’t left Adam’s skin. It would take a force more powerful than a mere sheriff to drag him from Adam’s side.

“I’ve lost him once,” Derek said. “I’m not going to leave him now until I know that he’s safe.”

“I will watch over him,” Noshiko said. “I swore to protect him with my life and the best way you can help him now is to find the person who took his magic.”

“I won’t leave him,” Derek snarled.

“Derek!” the sheriff snapped. “He’s my son. Do you really think you can help him now in some way that I can’t? No? Then get out there and start looking for the person who did this to him, because you really don’t want to be here when the rest of the police force starts showing up and documenting this as a crime scene. You too, Scott. You don’t want to be found here. Look for Peter’s trail and then get out of sight.”

The sheriff kept glaring at Derek. The worst thing was that he was probably right. Derek couldn’t do anything for Adam. He couldn’t even draw pain from him. He’d decided it would take a more powerful force to make him leave, but the sheriff was Adam’s father. That was a pretty powerful force. Derek managed to get to his feet. He followed Scott from the apartment.

“I’ll go down, you go up,” Scott said. Derek nodded. He still wasn’t really thinking, but maybe this was better. Maybe it was better to have something to do, something to look for, rather than just sitting in that room that stank of blood, watching Adam’s pale face failing to show signs of life.

***

“Something’s wrong,” Bookworm said.

From the driving seat, Amelia gave her a quick sideways glance, “I think we’re doing pretty well, considering.”

They’d just about made it out of the city, after what felt like forever crawling between junctions. Bookworm had itched at the slowness of it all, thinking about how she could have taken to the air and just flown there faster, but she didn’t want to leave her books behind, even with someone like Amelia.

Now she felt some taint in the flow of power. She had been reaching out along the currents, trying to close the distance in spirit even as she closed it physically. She had tried to stretch out and touch the new, shining Beacon that Adam’s power had made. Now that power felt wrong, in some way that was hard to identify. It was like a trace of foul odour that tainted something sweet, her magical senses identifying it only as something that wasn’t quite right.

“Something’s happened to Adam,” Bookworm said.

“What do you mean?”

Bookworm shook her head, trying to clear it, trying to reach out. It was difficult, surrounded by this bulk of metal, moving along over the invisible flows of the currents. Somewhere out there, on the opposite side of the country, Adam was being reborn into his power but now something wasn’t right.

“We have to get there fast,” was all she could say.

“Unless you’ve got some magical way of teleporting us there,” Amelia said, “we’re still looking at three or four days of driving.”

Bookworm stared out the windows at these blocks of moving metal that humans were confined to, restricted to manageable speeds by mechanics and safety requirements. It was infuriating to be forced to go so slowly.

She felt the whispering of her books in the van behind them, but even they couldn’t calm her now.

Chapter Text

Derek sat in the waiting room of the hospital because no one would let him go further. Apparently, he wasn’t family. He couldn’t tell them that he was pack and that mattered more. He wasn’t even sure he was pack. Stiles had called Scott.

Derek was trying to keep things straight in his head, having thought of Adam and Stiles as being essentially different people for so long. Now they were both in there and he couldn’t help thinking that while Adam would have called him first, Stiles would always go to Scott. He had Adam back, but he wasn’t sure it he actually had him. What if Derek had changed too much? What if Adam was angry that he hadn’t listened? What if Adam was Stiles again, and Stiles didn’t like him? What if the guy lying in a bed beyond those doors decided he didn’t want to be with Derek after all?

And what if he died, before Derek could know the answer?

Derek leaned forwards over his knees, staring at the floor, and tried to listen for a sign of Adam. This place was too busy, too full of people, too noisy with strange sounds. There were so many voices that it was impossible to filter them out. He knew that if he heard Adam talking, he’d be able to focus in on it in a heartbeat, but instead he just heard all the others, complaining about symptoms or the food or the hardness of the mattress. He heard bleeps and bangs and weird machine noises. He heard scrapes and footsteps and doors slamming and keys on a computer and a million other things. He heard sobs and friends offering sympathy and even laughter. A whole chorus of noises existed beyond the doors of the waiting room, but he couldn’t find any that spoke of Adam.

“Hey, Derek,” a voice said. Derek sat up sharply, seeing the sheriff walking across the waiting room. He was in uniform again, which somehow seemed right.

“Any sign of Peter?” Derek asked. He knew he should be out there looking for him, he ought to be helping track down the monster who’d hurt Adam, but he couldn’t bring himself to leave right now. Not until he’d seen Adam with his own eyes and made sure he was alright.

“No, but Scott’s still looking and my deputies are keeping watch. Any word on Stiles?”

“They won’t let me see him. I’m not family.”

The sheriff shifted his weight slightly, looking away from Derek, looking back. He dragged a hand through his hair as he considered the situation. Derek had seen Adam do the exact same gesture from time to time. The sheriff sighed.

“Stiles said that you two were... together,” he said.

Derek glanced towards the closed door that led into the rest of the hospital. “We were. In New York. I don’t know what we are now.”

“Well, he said it was serious.”

That statement caused a small flare of hope inside Derek. He was terrified that Adam might not be interested in him now, after how badly he’d screwed up, yet Adam had told his dad that they were serious. He wouldn’t have done that unless he considered him and Derek to still be a thing. Derek’s heart fluttered at the thought.

“I invited him into my pack. For a born werewolf, it doesn’t get any more serious than that.”

The sheriff sighed again. He thought for several seconds, staring towards those closed doors.

“Then I guess you’re coming with me,” he said.

Derek stood. The sheriff put his arm round Derek’s shoulders as they walked towards the doors at the back of the waiting room. It was a friendly, welcoming gesture. Then the sheriff leaned in, conspiratorially close.

“If you break my son’s heart or hurt him in any way, I will string you up by your testicles in the middle of the woods and leave you for dead.” The sheriff smiled at him. He patted his hand against Derek’s shoulder and then stepped away, opening the door and holding it for Derek to go through. He smiled as Derek passed him. Derek had rarely seen a smile look so much like a threat on someone who didn’t have fangs.

It was probably the best reaction he could have hoped for really, given that the sheriff had just found out that a werewolf and former fugitive had been sleeping with his only son.

Derek followed the sheriff along hospital corridors until they reached a small room. Inside, Adam lay in a narrow bed. He was pale and still, but he was alive. Derek drew in a long, slow breath, filled with the stink of antiseptics and cleaning fluids, but under it all was Adam’s scent. Derek crossed the room to the bedside. Adam’s hand lay above the covers, a drip poking through the skin and into a vein. Derek avoided the plastic tube, but lifted the hand, linking his fingers with Adam’s.

Adam didn’t react. Not so much as a flutter of an eyelid. He just lay there. Derek wasn’t used to seeing Adam so still. Normally, he would shift or fidget or something. Even asleep, he didn’t seem able to keep from moving. Now, he was as still and cold as a statue.

“I need you to come back to me, OK?” Derek said quietly. “I can’t lose you twice.”

He lifted the hand to his lips, placing a soft kiss on the back of Adam’s wrist. Adam didn’t react.

“Come on, kiddo,” the sheriff said. “I know you don’t do what I tell you, but you might as well listen to your boyfriend.”

Still, nothing changed. Adam just lay there. The sheriff went to the other side of the bed, pulling a chair up to the bedside and sitting down in it. He shifted the covers until he found Adam’s other hand and took hold of that. There were bandages around the wrist, clean white cloths covering the skin, but Derek couldn’t help but notice the placement. Derek reached for the top of Adam’s hospital gown, pulling it out to look beneath and check on the other bandages. It hadn’t been clear back in Peter’s apartment exactly where the injuries were because the makeshift bandages had covered just about everything. Derek needed to check now.

“Hey,” the sheriff said. “I let you in here but you better not be undressing my son in a public hospital. I don’t care about time travel, as far as the law is concerned, he’s seventeen years old.”

“I need to check something,” Derek said.

There was a neat square of bandaging taped to Adam’s chest, above his heart.

“Peter slashed his tattoos,” Derek said.

“Why would he do that?”

“They were magic. They were like amulets that he couldn’t take off to protect him and to let him draw power for his spells. Peter kept him from using them. How the hell did Peter even know about them?”

“I’m more interested in knowing how he knew to be waiting in your place with kanima venom.”

That was also a good question. Derek looked down at Adam. There were so many questions here, all around Peter and how much he knew. Derek knew he knew that Stiles was Adam, that he’d gone back in time to warn them about Laura’s death. Derek had talked about that much himself. He didn’t know how much else Laura had said, but there was a lot here that didn’t add up. The timing was too perfect. There couldn’t have been a very long window between Derek leaving the loft and Adam arriving, but it had been long enough for Peter to set up an ambush. Peter had been far too well prepared for this. And now Adam was injured and defenceless.

Derek let go of Adam’s hand and reached for the collar of his shirt. His fingers found the cord of the amulet and he lifted it over his head. The sheriff watched as Derek lifted Adam’s head enough to slide the cord over it so that he was wearing the amulet.

Derek wasn’t sure it would do much good, if Adam wasn’t consciously focusing on it, but it had to be better than nothing. After all, it had protected him against Jennifer’s magic without him intentionally using it.

“What will that do?” the sheriff asked.

“Probably nothing.”

Derek sat down on the edge of the bed and took hold of Adam’s hand again. The skin was too cold. It was as though someone had sapped the warmth out of him. Derek held the hand between both of his, trying to pass on some of his own warmth.

“What did I miss?” the sheriff asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Those months he was with you in the past, learning magic and getting tattooed and joining your pack. I feel like I’ve missed such a lot.”

So Derek started talking. He told stories about New York, like how Adam had taken a job in a magic shop and accidentally started a coven. He told the sheriff about taking Adam to eat at the organic soup place, and how Adam had threatened to kidnap the chef on the theory that even the sheriff would eat vegetables if they tasted like that soup. The sheriff gave a faint laugh at that. Derek talked about Thanksgiving and Christmas, and how Laura always cooked too much food, and how Adam had used the laptop to look up the photos his younger self was uploading to Facebook.

“He missed you,” Derek said. “Especially around the holidays.”

“It sounds like you took care of him for me.”

“We tried. Laura got him to take self-defence lessons. And you should have seen how she fussed over him when he was ill.”

A soft voice broke into the conversation.

“Please,” Adam said. “Like you were any better. You fussed like a mother hen.”

“Stiles?” the sheriff asked, leaning towards the bed. Derek stood, moving towards the head of the bed, but he didn’t let go of Adam’s hand. Adam’s fingers moved against his and his eyes opened.

“Hi, Dad,” Adam murmured.

“You had us all really worried, kiddo,” the sheriff said. Adam managed a weak smile at him, then he gave another smile at Derek.

“Please tell me Peter’s a shredded pile of blood and bones,” he said.

“Not yet,” Derek answered, “but we’ll make him pay.”

His voice came out sounded choked. He hadn’t realised he was crying until that point. His cheeks were wet but he was grinning like a loon. Adam was alive and awake and wanting retribution. Derek felt like he might start laughing; there was just so much he was feeling that he didn’t know how to let those feelings out.

“Derek,” Adam said. “Either let me have my hand back or scratch the itch on my nose.”

And then Derek really did start laughing.

***

Peter’s scent had been in the air around the apartment block, but faint. Scott suspected he was just picking up the inevitable traces left by the fact that he lived here and so came in and out of the building often. Scott hadn’t managed to pick up anything particularly strong or recent outside of the parking lot. Most likely, Peter had driven away from the apartment.

Now Scott was searching the streets of Beacon Hills, as night rapidly closed in, wishing they had a better idea of where Peter was likely to be hiding. He just didn’t know where Peter went when he wasn’t lurking around Derek’s place. Scott couldn't go back into Peter's apartment and look for clues because the cops still had the place on lock-down as a crime scene. So Scott was stuck with roaming the streets in an attempt at an organised search pattern, sniffing the air and trying to catch a scent. At this rate, it would take forever to find Peter, assuming he was even in Beacon Hills anymore.

Scott had called Ethan, asking him to join in the hunt when he got back from his trip. He’d also called Lydia and warned her, but she said she hadn’t been hearing anything weird, which presumably meant that people weren’t about to start dying. Scott tried to hold on to that thought.

It was getting darker now and Scott wondered how much longer he should keep going with this pointless search. Maybe they should wait until they could get into Peter’s apartment and try to find something which would indicate a hideout for him.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when his phone started ringing. He swore under his breath and fumbled to get his phone out of his pocket, spotting Derek’s name on the screen.

“Yes?” he asked.

“He’s woken up,” Derek said.

“Is he alright?”

“He’s shaken up but the doctor’s think he’ll be OK. We’re waiting to test whether he’s got his magic until he’s a little stronger.”

“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

“Any luck with Peter?”

“None whatsoever. Any ideas where he’d go?”

“None whatsoever,” Derek echoed.

Scott ended the call and then looked around, trying to figure out where exactly he was. He’d been walking through the town trying to find a scent, but he hadn’t been paying a huge amount of attention to where he was going, other than keeping his search in a fairly regular pattern. Now he was in a narrow street between office buildings that were shut up for the night. He was unlikely to get a cab here and his bike was back at Stiles’ place.

He pulled his phone back out to get a map app and figure out which direction he needed to walk to either get to the hospital or Stiles’ house. Failing that, he could find someone who would be willing to give him a lift.

A twang of bowstring rang in his ears and sharp pain burst from his shoulder. He looked down, seeing a crossbow bolt sticking out. He turned, seeing a figure in black walking out of the darkness. The night breeze carrying with it a familiar scent. An impossible scent. Scott peered at the figure, who slowly stalked towards him, holding a crossbow in one hand and twirling a ring dagger around the figures of the other.

“Allison?” Scott asked. He must be dreaming. There was no way in hell that this could possibly be real. Allison was dead. He’d held her in his arms as she’d died and yet here she was, walking out of the night as though nothing had happened.

“Did you miss me?” she asked.

“How?” Scott asked. His brain wasn’t functioning enough to follow up that word with the rest of the question. That word seemed to sum up the situation well enough.

“It’s OK. I’m here now,” she said.

“Are you a ghost?”

She smiled at him, “Could a ghost do this?”

She leaned forward and kissed him on the lips. It felt warm and real and like so many kisses before, reaching deep inside to stir up feelings that should be dead and buried. Scott gave in to bewilderment and relaxed into the kiss. It was almost enough to let him put the pain of his shoulder out of his mind. Almost enough to stop him wondering how this could be. Allison was here and she was kissing him, so what else could matter?

Then she stabbed him in the stomach.

Scott staggered back a step, hot pain blazing in his stomach, confusion filling his mind. He looked down, seeing the blood dropping onto the pavement. Allison reached out to him, taking hold of the crossbow bolt that still pierced his shoulder. She wrenched it free with a ripping of flesh and a spray of blood.

Scott let out a gasp of pain, collapsing to his knees. Blood dripped down from the twin injuries. He looked up at Allison.

“Why?” he asked.

Somewhere behind him came a blare of sirens. Allison looked past Scott, her face lit by flashing lights. Scott glanced round and saw the cop car pulling up. He looked back at Allison, but she was gone. There was no trace of her except for the pains in his stomach and shoulder, and the blood seeping out between his grasping fingers.

“Are you alright? It’s Scott, isn’t it?” Deputy Parrish came out of the cop car, hurrying over to Scott and looking down at the blood, the wounds still weeping crimson.

Scott knew there were ways for a werewolf to prevent injuries healing but it wasn’t a skill he’d ever learned. Up until this point, he’d always been keen that injuries stop hurting as quickly as possible. So now he couldn’t do anything to prevent rapid healing.

“It’s fine,” he said, hurrying to stand. “Just a prank gone wrong.”

“Don’t try to move,” Parrish said. “Let me look.”

He put a hand on Scott’s shoulder, peeling back the damaged shirt to reveal the hole where the crossbow bolt had pierced him. Parrish stared, eyes widening in surprise as Scott felt the pain fading. Scott could almost feel his insides shifting, muscles and tendons knitting back together.

“Oh,” Parrish said. He looked Scott directly in the eye. “I take it I shouldn’t file an official report about this?”

“Please don’t.” The pain of the shoulder was almost gone now, his stomach feeling better by the moment.

“I’m still going to tell the sheriff,” Parrish said.

“That’s OK.”

Parrish seemed surprisingly calm for a man who was watching someone rapidly heal right in front of him. Yes, he’d been caught off-guard by the healing, but he didn’t look shocked or scared or confused in the way Scott would have expected, in the way Scott would have been if he hadn’t known about the supernatural world.

“You seem remarkably un-freaked out,” Scott said.

Parrish just smiled, “I’ve seen weirder. You going to be OK?”

“I’ll be fine. Did you see where she went?”

“Where who went?”

Scott wondered if he should try to explain, but how the hell could he explain that a dead werewolf hunter had just shot and stabbed him? It didn’t make any sense even to him.

“Never mind,” Scott said.

“Can I give you a lift anywhere?”

“The hospital.”

“I thought you said you were fine?”

“I will be. It’s just the Stiles is awake and I want to go see him.”

Parrish looked Scott up and down as they walked to the police car.

“You should probably change your shirt first,” he said, “or they’ll try to stitch you up when you get to the hospital.”

Scott looked down, seeing the blood staining his clothes, the holes where the bolt and dagger had gone through. Whether or not Allison had been real, the wounds undoubtedly had been.

Chapter Text

The pack, and a few others, gathered in Stiles’ room once visiting hours in the hospital officially opened for the day. Stiles still felt exhausted and filled with a dull sort of ache. He felt like the time he’d used magic to over-exert himself jogging and ended up completely drained. Only now he was a little woozy on painkillers to add to the effect.

Derek was sitting beside his bed, of course. Stiles didn’t think he’d let go of his hand all night. His dad was on the other side. The others gathered around the bed: Scott, of course, and Melissa, Lydia, Kira, Ethan and Danny, even Noshiko. Their strange pack all crowded into the little room.

“We need you to try something,” Derek said. He nodded to Danny, who had a bag with him. He reached inside and pulled out a familiar length of wood: Stiles’ wand. He must have been sent to fetch it because the rest of the pack wouldn’t have been able to pick up the mountain ash. He held it out to Stiles, who took it gratefully.

The wood felt cold in his hand. He was used to the familiar tingle, the warmth that promised magic. He frowned.

“Do something with it,” Derek said. “Make it light up or something.”

Making the symbols light up was the simplest piece of magic Stiles knew. It didn’t require a spell. It didn’t even really require thought anymore. He wasn’t sure how it worked, it just did. He wanted light and light happened, a silver glow around the carved lines. At least, that was how it was meant to work. Today, he focused, he pictured what he wanted to happen, and still the carved lines were dark. Around him, his friends and family gathered, watching as he did nothing.

It was horrendously embarrassing. Here was Derek trying to get him to show what he could do but nothing was working. He lowered the wand and gave Derek an apologetic look. Under other circumstances, he might have made a joke about performance anxiety, but it didn’t feel right.

“Maybe it’s because I’m tired,” he said.

Derek squeezed his hand a little.

“Peter stole your magic,” Derek said. And suddenly the ritual made sense. The symbols, matching the ones on the wand, the mingling of blood. Peter had even known his true name, even if he’d managed to mess up the pronunciation a bit. Stiles felt violated. Peter had reached inside him and yanked out something that was a part of him. And now Peter was walking around with that warm, tingly magic and using it for some evil plot.

Stiles thought he might be sick.

“I’m going to kill him,” Stiles said.

“Not if I get to him first,” Derek said. Stiles gave him a smile. Death threats had never been more romantic.

“There are other things we need to talk about,” Scott said. “We need to track down Peter and figure out how to get Stiles’ magic out of him. But that’s not our only problem. I saw Allison last night. She shot me, stabbed me and then disappeared.”

“I saw Kate,” Derek said. “She shot me with a shotgun.”

“Should I be getting my deputies to be on the look out for zombies now?” Stiles’ dad asked.

"We need brambles,” Stiles said.

“What?” about three people said at once.

“Apparently, in England, a century or two ago, people used to plant brambles in churchyards to stop the bodies climbing out of the graves,” he said. “Brambles are a zombie deterrent.”

It was a piece of information he’d come across while researching the wood he should use to make his wand. It was a piece of research he’d hoped he’d never have to use, but at least he could still contribute to this conversation, with or without magic. Since he apparently couldn’t kill zombies with magic fire anymore, this would have to do.

“I don’t think she was a zombie,” Scott said. “She didn’t look like a zombie. She looked like... well... Allison. Up until the moment she stabbed me. And I don’t think Parrish could see her.”

“Parrish was there?” Stiles’ dad asked.

“Yeah, and you may want to talk to him about the supernatural stuff. He saw me healing and barely looked surprised.”

“Well, we fought off an army of oni together. That sort of thing makes you question what’s normal anymore, but I’ll talk to him.”

“Kate didn’t look like a zombie either,” Derek said, “and she transformed into a werewolf. Sort of.”

The zombie conversations went back and forth for a bit. Poor Danny looked completely lost, staring around silently as the others debated what should be done about zombie hunters coming back and shooting the pack. Stiles just hoped Allison’s mom didn’t come back. She’d been scary enough while she was still alive. Stiles was feeling wiped out from his contributions and zoned out after a bit. He wanted to sleep. He wanted to wake up and feel normal again, not like someone had drained his batteries all the way down to the red.

Derek squeezed his hand and asked quietly, “Are you OK?”

The rest of the room fell silent. Suddenly everyone was staring at him.

“I’m just tired,” he said.

“Right, that’s it!” his dad said. “Out! Everyone out! The boy needs his sleep. This is a hospital room not a war room.” He started herding people to the door. “You too, Hale. Go hunt down zombie hunters and psychotic magical werewolves or something. Stiles needs his rest.”

“I’ve sworn to protect him,” Noshiko said, standing her ground.

“You can protect him from outside. Out.”

Derek leaned over the bed and kissed Stiles on the forehead, then let himself by ushered from the room. Stiles managed to raise a hand to wave at him when Derek paused at the door to look back. Then only his dad was left in the room. He returned to the bed and gave what was probably meant to be a reassuring smile.

“Get some rest,” he said. “Let us deal with zombies and werewolves for a bit.”

“If you see Peter,” Stiles said, “shoot him in the head.”

“Deal.”

His dad took hold of the edge of the bed covers, lifting them up to tuck around Stiles’ chest. Stiles smiled at that.

“You haven’t tucked me in for forever,” he said, already feeling sleep beginning to creep up on him.

“Well, you didn’t make it easy. You kept kicking the covers off in protest against bed time.”

His dad patted him on the shoulder and then headed for the door, turning out the lights on his way out. Stiles shut his eyes and let darkness swallow him.

***

“You can’t keep out of trouble can you?” a voice asked, while Stiles drifted somewhere in the haze between sleep and waking. He wasn’t sure if he was still dreaming because he was aware enough to know that he couldn’t be hearing that voice.

“I guess those self-defence lessons I paid for didn’t do any good,” she continued.

Stiles forced his eyes open. He was still tired and the room was dark, but he could just about make out the shape of a woman standing beside his bed. She smiled down at him.

“Laura?” Stiles asked. “But you’re dead.”

“And we know whose fault that is, don’t we?”

“Peter’s.”

“And who didn’t warn me about Peter? One word, that’s all it would have taken. If you’d just told me his name, I wouldn’t have run straight into his trap.”

Stiles wished he could deny it, but he’d been thinking that thought since he’d found her body in the woods. He could have changed everything if he’d just been less secretive. He’d thought he was being so clever, but all he’d done was screw up and it had cost Laura her life.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

“You killed me, Stiles. You might as well have cut me in two yourself.”

She reached out, placing a hand over his mouth and nose. Stiles struggled. He got his hands around her wrist and tugged, trying to pull her hand away, trying to make a gap for some air, but she was too strong and he was too weak. He tugged helplessly, but she just smiled down at him, as he wondered how long it would take before the oxygen deprivation took hold. Minutes?

This wasn’t Laura. It couldn’t be Laura. Aside from the fairly major fact that Laura was dead, Stiles couldn’t believe that the person who’d made him warm milk after nightmares and read her childhood favourite book to her brother could possibly smile as she murdered someone.

Stiles kicked and thrashed beneath the covers, but on his best day he was no match for werewolf strength. He needed to get her off. He needed to do something, but he couldn’t even call for help.

Could he call for pack? He could do the mind-howl thing again, but would anyone be close enough to rescue him? He had to try. It was only thing that he had left to try. He thought of all those pack feelings, the family moments with Laura and Derek. He thought of the real Laura, of the way she’d always been kind to him, of the way she’d looked out for him.

There was a flash of silver light. The amulet around his neck flared, the pack sign glowing suddenly.

Laura stumbled back from the bed like she’d been stung and Stiles drew a welcome breath. She looked at him in surprise. Stiles was probably just as surprised, but he gasped some air into his lungs. He guessed there was still some power left in the amulet after all. In the silver light it cast, Laura’s face looked almost blue.

“Take that, you zombie bitch!” Stiles said.

The door opened and the room lights flicked on. Stiles blinked, momentarily blinded. When he could see again, Laura was gone and Noshiko stood in the doorway.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“Did you see her?” Stiles asked.

“Who?”

“Laura.”

Noshiko looked around the room, checking the corners, but there was nowhere for anyone to hide. There was no one else here. The amulet was dark now. Stiles might have been convinced it was all a dream apart from the soreness around his jaw, faint pains that indicated the forming of bruises from where her fingers had dug in.

“Call Derek,” Stiles said, “and my dad and the others.”

Stiles lay back and closed his eyes, enjoying the sensation of air going in and out of his lungs.

So there had been three attacks now. That was enough to start working out a pattern. Three dead people, each attacking someone but in a fairly ineffective way. Laura, or whoever it had been, could have killed him in his sleep. Allison had apparently shot Scott in the shoulder and Kate had shot Derek and then just left him. If any of them had been actually interested in killing them, they would be dead right now. Stiles felt like someone was trying to play with him, and using Laura’s face which was just sick and twisted. The anger at that was nearly enough to drown out the exhaustion.

He was absolutely certain it couldn't actually be Laura. He couldn’t believe for a second that she would attack someone in a hospital bed. So what did he know for sure? Someone or something, was impersonating dead people. He would have thought it was impersonating loved ones, except that Derek had hated Kate, so she didn’t fit that pattern. Strong emotions though, there was definitely a strong emotional connection in each case. The dead person seemed to vanish whenever someone else showed up, so this seemed to be a one-on-one targeting.

He wondered if Derek would have seen Laura had he been here. He’d already seen one apparition.

The room door opened with force, hitting the wall with a thump, and then Derek was beside the bed. He looked a little breathless, like he’d run here. He grabbed hold of Stiles’ hand.

“Are you alright?” Derek asked. “There was an attack?”

“It looked like Laura,” Stiles said, and explained what had happened.

“Laura wouldn’t do that,” Derek said. “Kate shooting me, that I can believe. Even Allison shooting Scott, well, she’s done it before. But not Laura. She wouldn’t.”

“I know,” Stiles said. He squeezed Derek’s hand. “Besides, she called me Stiles. I don’t think Laura ever called me Stiles. Not even once. Whatever it was, it wasn’t her.”

“Then what the hell are we dealing with?”

“I don’t know, but I think I’d better start hitting the research. As soon as I get out of here.”

“Not until you’re feeling better,” Derek said. “You just sleep. I’ll watch over you.”

Stiles reached up and touched the amulet around his neck. He felt the warm tingle at the tip of his fingers, the familiar touch of his power.

“You’re not the only one,” he said. “There’s still power in this.”

Derek managed a smile, “The real Laura is keeping an eye on both of us.”

Chapter Text

“I can walk, you know,” Stiles said, as his dad and Derek fussed around him while he climbed out of the car. He’d been discharged from the hospital, his injuries all dealt with. The cuts had been shallow and were not life-threatening, though he’d been given some goo to apply regularly to keep them from getting infected. His tiredness was attributed to a combination of shock, blood loss and a side-effect of the painkillers.

Now he headed into the house, pushing away the hands that tried to support him. He could do this by himself. He’d lived most of his life without magic, he could do so again. He didn’t need people hovering around like he was a toddler about to stumble.

Stiles made it into the house and as far as the couch. He didn’t think he could handle the stairs right now, so he just sat down and glared defiantly at Derek, daring him to say anything. Derek just came and sat down beside him on the couch. His dad hovered in the doorway.

“I have to go to work,” his dad said. “Noshiko will be keeping watch outside. If you see any dead people, call me. Love you.”

“Love you too, Dad.”

He started to leave, but then stuck his head round the door again to add, “And no sex.”

“Dad!”

“I mean it. You’re still in recovery. You need rest. No sex.”

He left, for real that time. Stiles exchanged a look with Derek and then started laughing. It was hard to believe he was now in a situation where his dad was forbidding him to have sex with Derek Hale. Stiles was feeling too tired to probably be capable of sex, but the situation was still absurd.

“You want something to eat or drink?” Derek asked. “I could make soup.”

Stiles was about to protest that soup was not the magic cure for all human ailments, but actually soup sounded really good. He was feeling hungry and drain.

“Yeah, OK,” he said. “Soup’s good.”

“OK. I’ll be right back.” Derek kissed him on the forehead and left for the kitchen. Stiles leaned back on the couch and closed his eyes. He’d actually dosed off when Derek returned a few minutes later with a steaming bowl of chicken soup. It was warmed up out of a tin, nowhere near the quality of the soup place in New York, but Stiles had a steaming hot werewolf making him steaming hot soup. He wasn’t going to complain.

“Thanks,” he said and took the bowl. He slowly ate his way through the soup, while Derek loomed nearby in full mother hen mode. Stiles hated feeling to weak. He hated feeling like the helpless one. He’d thought this was over when he started learning magic.

He finished the soup and leaned forward to put the bowl down on the coffee table, but Derek was there in an instant, taking the bowl from his fingers.

“Damn it, Derek, I don’t need help putting a bowl down.”

“I’m just trying to help.”

Stiles wanted to scream. He wanted to scream at Derek because he was here and Peter wasn’t. He knew that Derek was trying to do the right thing. He was trying to be helpful and supportive. It was just that right now, Stiles felt like some stupid fairy tale princess that needed to be rescued from the monsters. He wanted to be able to take care of himself. He wanted to be the strong one for once. Instead, he was sitting on the couch because he didn’t feel strong enough to walk up the god damn stairs.

“Just stop smothering me, Derek.”

“I’m trying to help you. That’s all I’ve ever tried to do.”

“Well maybe I need to do some things by myself.”

“Or maybe you’d rather call Scott to help you?” Derek spat out Scott’s name as though it was an insult. He sounded angry, at least as angry as Stiles felt, though Stiles wasn’t sure why.

“What are you talking about?” Stiles asked.

“I’m talking about the fact you called him when Peter had you. We’re supposed to be pack, but he’s the one who heard your howl.”

Stiles looked at Derek in confusion for a moment, before things clicked in his head. Derek hadn’t heard his attempt to call the Hale pack because Peter must have cut him off too soon. He looked hurt, seriously hurt, by that. Stiles hadn’t thought how that would look from Derek’s side, to realise that a supposed pack member had called out to another pack instead.

“I tried to call you,” Stiles said. “Peter heard it. He’s still a Hale and he realised what I was doing.”

“Really?” Derek asked.

“Yes, really. I called you first. I will always call you first. We’re pack. Now and always.” He held out a hand towards Derek, who stepped towards him and took it. Stiles gave a feeble tug, but Derek responded to it, coming closer and sitting down on the couch beside him. Stiles leaned against Derek’s side and Derek draped an arm around his shoulders, pulling him close.

“Speaking of pack,” Stiles went on, “I’ve been reading the book Noshiko brought me, about spirit traps and resurrection spells and stuff.”

“Do you think you can repeat the ritual that Peter did to come back?”

“It wouldn’t work. He’d only been dead a couple of months and he still had a body to come back to. Even if Laura hadn’t been cut in two, she’s been decaying for far too long. There’s a different ritual that could bring her back, but it requires a lot more.”

“How much more?”

“There’s something the book calls an emotional storm: basically lots of people feeling things really strongly, strong enough to reach into the afterlife, which I guess explains the spiked punch when Lydia brought Peter back. Then there’s got to be a lot of power fuelling it, and certain ritual words and symbols and stuff. But most of all, there’s got to be blood.”

“Peter made me bleed when he came back. He used that to power it.”

“Not enough,” Stiles said. “For the spell to work, someone has to die.”

Stiles didn't say what had been in Bookworm's letter. Noshiko apparently owed a life to Bookworm and Bookworm had passed that debt on to Stiles. All Stiles had to do was ask, and Noshiko would offer herself as sacrifice to bring Laura back. Stiles wouldn’t say anything about that. He wouldn’t even think anything about that because it was too twisted.

“I can think of someone I’d like to see die,” Derek said. “I want to watch Peter bleed out on the cold ground for what he did to you.”

“Is it weird that that sounded almost romantic?”

Derek gave a snort of laughter, “Yes.”

Stiles chuckled. He leaned against Derek and closed his eyes. He was safe and warm and full of soup, in the arms of someone he loved.

“No you don’t,” Derek said. “You are not going to sleep down here.”

“Try me.”

“No. If you’re going to sleep, it’s going to be in your bed.”

Derek turned round to face Stiles on the couch, shifting his arm so that it went under Stiles’. His other arm, he slid under Stiles’ knees. Then he stood, lifting Stiles bridal style. Stiles leaned into Derek’s chest.

“Is my big, strong werewolf carrying me to my bed?”

“Yes, but only to sleep.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, trying to make it sound disappointed, even if he was too tired to do anything anyway.

“We’re not having sex,” Derek said. “Your dad would castrate me.” He carried Stiles to the foot of the stairs and started climbing up them, turning his body so that there was no risk of Stiles hitting his head on the wall.

“I wonder if those grow back on a werewolf,” Stiles said. It would be an interesting test of werewolf healing. It seemed though that Derek had no sense of scientific curiosity.

“We are not testing it out,” Derek insisted, and carried Stiles into the bedroom.

Derek actually laid Stiles on the bed. Stiles couldn’t help but think of morning after the New Year party, when he’d woken up in Derek’s bed. Derek had been all chivalrous and tucked him in when he’d been drunk. Now Derek pulled the covers over him and kissed him on the forehead. Stiles was struggling to keep his eyes open, but there were things that needed to be said, important things.

“Sorry I’ve been all grumpy,” Stiles said. He’d been sniping and snapping at Derek all day, yelling at him for just trying to be nice.

“It’s OK.”

“It’s not. You’re sweet and cuddly and fussy and soupy and...”

“Soupy?” Derek asked, laughter in his voice.

Stiles snuggled beneath the covers, eyes closed, feeling the world slip away.

“You make me soup when I’m ill. You’re soupy.”

Derek gave a little laugh, “I love you.”

“Love you, soupy.”

***

When Stiles woke up, Derek had gone. He’d left a note on the pillow, saying that he’d gone to help with the hunt for Peter. He’d left a granola bar and some juice on the bedside table, so that Stiles could have something when he woke up if he felt unable to make it downstairs. It was sweet, in a fussy, over-protective way. Stiles was feeling a lot better now; each long sleep brought him closer to the way he’d felt when he was normal, but food couldn’t hurt. He had his snack and made it over to the window, looking out and seeing Noshiko standing guard outside. She was probably the only reason Derek felt it safe to leave Stiles alone.

Stiles sat back down on the end of his bed. This was so frustrating. He’d been able to make a mini-blizzard and shoot fire at people. Now the only bit of magic he had left was in a necklace he’d made for someone else. He probably wouldn’t have enough magic to do the tracking spell.

He flopped backwards onto the bed.

He sat up.

He looked around for his stuff, the bag that Derek had kept safe for him. He had the book of protection spells and a few miscellaneous pieces to help with spells and rituals. Among them was the piece of quartz crystal. It could be used for a lot of things: for channelling energy, as a representation of the moon, or as a focus point. Today, for Stiles, the thing that mattered was the focus point. It could be used in a tracking spell to point towards a targeted person. But did it have to be a person?

Everyone was running around trying to find Peter, but there was something else he had now. He had Stiles’ magic, something that was fundamentally a part of Stiles. Stiles might not have much energy for anything, but finding his magic shouldn’t take much power.

He went to his desk and found a piece of paper and pen. He’d done this before, more than once, and the spell hadn’t let him down then. If there was even the tiniest spark of magic left in him, he would make this work now.

He drew the pentagram, an echo of the ruined one on his chest, marking the points with a representation of each element. He used a letter for each one, and a crescent for the moon at the top. He placed the crystal in the middle of it all, tied to a length of string, and he thought about his magic. He thought about the way it felt, the warm power filling him up. He thought about the way he’d felt, almost high from it, during the new moon rituals. He thought about the thrill the first time he’d made something happen, the excitement when he’d closed a mountain ash barrier around a club. He held those feelings, willed himself to feel them again, and opened his eyes.

The crystal lay inert in the middle of the pentagram.

“Damn it,” he muttered, flopping forwards over his desk. He forehead thumped against the wood and there was a tiny clacking sound as the amulet fell away from his neck and hit the desk.

Stiles sat up again. He lifted the amulet from around his neck. This thing still had power. More importantly, it still had a part of his power. Maybe he could borrow that, just for a little while. He laid the amulet down so that the wooden disc was touching the crystal.

“Please,” he begged the amulet. “Just a little bit of power. Please, please, please. I need to find Peter. I need to do something useful. I need this. Please.”

He thought about his magic, the way the amulet had lit up when he’d made it, the way it had shone again in Laura’s hands, the way it had shielded him from the thing that wore her face. He had to make this work.

He closed his eyes and tried again, tried to focus on the power he was seeking. When he opened his eyes, there was a faint silver light pulsing through the pack symbol on the amulet. The same light gleamed faintly inside the crystal. It was weak, barely visible in the daylight of his room, but it was there. It was real.

Stiles gave a laugh. He almost didn’t believe his eyes. He’d done something. He’d made it work. Peter had drained him of everything, but he still had the brains to make use of what he had. He laughed again, and then he picked up the amulet and crystal, dangling them both from string and cord.

They swung out slightly sideways. Stiles grinned. Peter was in that direction, his stolen power with him.

Stiles stood up. Then his common sense caught up with him. He set both amulet and crystal down for a few moments while he fished around for his phone. He called up Derek’s number. And got the answerphone. He stared at the crystal, wondering if there was a limit to how long this spell would last. How much power was this spell using? How much power was left? How much power would be needed to keep Laura’s spirit safe inside that thing? Stiles didn’t know the answers to any of those questions, but didn’t dare waste this opportunity.

“Derek,” he said to the voicemail, “you wanted me to call you first so this is me calling you first. I’m about to do something incredibly, stupidly dangerous, so you probably should come join me before I get myself killed. I’ve figured out how to track Peter so you’d better get your ass back here so we can go after him or I’ll just have to go after him by myself.”

He hung up, grabbed the crystal-amulet combo, and started for the stairs. He needed to prove he could handle himself and he’d start by getting downstairs without needing to be carried. He made it as far as the top step when Derek rang back.

“If you even think about going after Peter alone, I’ll kill you myself.” Derek managed to sound angry and afraid and loving all at once. Stiles chuckled at the sound.

“You’d better come help me then,” he said. And he started to descent the stairs, ready to take on the bastard who’d stolen his magic.

Chapter Text

“This is a really bad idea,” Derek said for about the thousandth time. “You’re not up for this.”

“I’m not going to fight him,” Stiles said. “That’s what you’re here for.”

The two of them were in Derek’s car, trying to follow the glowing crystal, which was still tugging sideways on the piece of string, drawing them towards the preserve. Peter was somewhere out there.

“You shouldn’t be out of bed,” Derek said.

“I’m fine. I haven’t fallen asleep in over an hour.”

“You should at least stay in the car. We’ll get the preserve and I’ll go in the direction the crystal points until I can pick up his scent.”

“Well that’s a stupid plan,” Stiles said. “What if he moves? What if he doubles back? What if he finds me all along while you’re heading straight into the woods? We’re going after him together.”

They were driving along the edge of the preserve now, the crystal pulling off to the side. Derek gave Stiles the death glare eyebrows as he parked up, but he couldn’t refute the argument. Stiles wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, but Peter had stolen a part of him, so he damn well wasn’t going to be left behind when Derek confronted him. Derek glared at him and Stiles returned the glare calmly.

“Do you even have a plan for if we find him?” Derek asked. “I saw you shoot magical fire and I’ve no desire to see that up front.”

“The plans sort of... a work in progress.”

“Meaning you have no idea what you’re going to do.”

Stiles had done this before, gone charging into dangerous situations without a plan. Sometimes it worked. They’d stopped the nogitsune after all. Sometimes it ended up with him in trouble and his best friend bitten by a werewolf, so he wasn’t sure looking back on his personal history would show this tendency in the best light. Still, he had to do this. He had to try to find Peter and he’d figure out what happened next when they got there.

“You know what they say,” Stiles said. “No plan survives first contact with the enemy anyway.”

Derek glared at him a little longer.

“Your dad’s going to kill me,” Derek said, killing the engine and getting out of the car. Stiles climbed out on his side, managing to stand upright without any dizziness, wooziness or lights like sparkling glitter in the edges of his vision. This was progress.

“We’re going to fight a psychotic werewolf who now possesses magical powers,” Stiles said, “and you’re scared of my dad?”

“Aren’t you?”

Stiles gave a mocking laugh, “Please. I have been running rings around my dad since pre-school.”

He started walking into the woods, following the line of the string, with the crystal and amulet still tugging out like metal drawn towards a magnet. Derek hurried to Stiles’ side. He put an arm around Stiles, probably to catch him if he should stumble or faint. Stiles was determined not to. He wanted to argue that he didn’t need babying, but, on the other hand, he had Derek’s arm around him. He might not be up for sex right now, but he’d take what he could get.

“We could call Scott,” Derek suggested, “and get the rest of the pack here. We should have let Noshiko see us leave.”

“Call him if you want,” Stiles replied, “but we’re still going in. I don’t know how long the spell will last. I’m running on fumes, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

Derek sighed, and reached into his pocket. He had to stop walking because he was texting Scott instead of calling. Probably scared of what Scott might say when he found out that Stiles was in the process of tracking Peter down. Stiles was actually quite glad of the break, leaning against a tree and focusing on breathing in and out. It was ridiculous that he was starting to feel tired. They’d barely walked five hundred yards into the woods.

“Adam, are you sure you’re up for this?” Derek was looking at him like he was afraid he’d break again. Stiles closed his eyes so he didn’t have to see that look on his face.

“Stiles,” he said quietly.

“What?”

“Adam was the guy who could shoot fire and cast spells and who maybe stood a chance in this supernatural world. I’m just Stiles again. Plain, useless Stiles.”

Derek walked back to him. He put his hand around Stiles’ fist, the one that held the crystal and amulet. Derek lifted them up so that the crystal hung between them, still giving off a faint light. Derek looked him in the eye.

“You’re doing magic right now, Adam.”

Stiles straightened up, stepping away from the tree. He started walking again. He wasn’t going to have this conversation. Not now. It didn’t really matter anyway. It was just a name and it wasn’t like either of the names was on anything official.

Stiles stopped. Derek was there again at his side, asking if anything was wrong.

“Does Peter have a middle name?” Stiles asked.

“Stephen, I think. Why?”

“Peter Stephen Hale,” Stiles said, testing out the syllables. “He used my name, my real name, as part of the ritual to steal my powers. I just figured that if I knew his name, maybe I could... I don’t know... undo it?”

He didn’t know if he could. He didn’t think he could handle the blood loss of trying to duplicate the ritual Peter had done, even if he stood a chance of chaining Peter up to do it. He had something though and at least Peter’s name was easier to pronounce than his own. A thought stirred in the back of his mind.

There had to be another way to do it. Someone had drained his power back in New York, tapping into his magic somehow. There hadn’t been any blood involved that time, so there must be a way. He just needed to figure this out. The book had talked about the importance of the true name but from the context of protection, rather than an instruction guide on how to steal power from someone else. Still, it might be enough.

“We need to get Peter to use the magic,” Stiles said. “You know, without getting us turned into crispy-fried people.”

“Do you think you’ll be able to use that to get your powers back?”

“I don’t know. Maybe. I have to try.” Because he couldn’t go on like this. The tiredness was fading but the sense of uselessness wasn’t going anywhere. He needed to get his magic back.

“Does this mean we have a plan now?” Derek asked.

“Maybe the start of one.”

They walked a little further into the woods. Stiles was feeling the tiredness set in, like he’d just done a ten mile hike rather than this short stroll. He knew he was walking more slowly than Derek could, more slowly than he normally would, it just felt like every step was an effort. Maybe Derek was right. Maybe he wasn’t ready for this. It was just so frustrating to be feeling like this all the time.

Derek put a hand on his shoulder, pulling him to a halt. Stiles started to ask what was going on, but Derek shook his head, listening to something. A moment later, Derek leaned down to Stiles’ ear and whispered.

“I hear Peter.”

Stiles returned the whisper, as quietly as he could, trusting Derek’s werewolf hearing to pick it up, “What’s he doing?”

“Arguing with someone. I can’t hear the other person.” Derek’s eyes went a little wider in surprise as whatever it was he was hearing.

“What?” Stiles whispered.

“He said, ‘You’re not her, you dead bitch.’ I think he’s seeing someone like we did.”

“Maybe we’ll get lucky,” Stiles said. “Maybe the dead person will stab him for us.”

They inched forwards, Stiles trying to be as silent as possible. It seemed woods were impossible to walk quietly through. There were leaves to rustle and twigs to crack and small stones to skitter away from a misplaced step. Hopefully Peter would be distracted enough by the dead person that he wouldn’t notice, or would just dismiss the sounds as ordinary woodland noises.

After a bit, Stiles heard something. It wasn’t words. It was a cry of pain, somewhere between a grunt and a scream. Stiles smiled a bitter smile that Peter would be letting out a cry like that after all the pain he’d put him through. He’d never thought of himself as the sort of person who’d be pleased to hear someone else getting hurt but he couldn’t help it.

Derek sped up the pace a little and Stiles tried to keep up, walking a little way behind. He couldn’t quite keep up; the tiredness was a deep seated ache again. Up ahead, Derek must have seen Peter because he moved into a run. Stiles tried to run, but his body was just not cooperating again. Then Derek came flying backwards through the air and smashed into a tree with a sickening crack that might have been the tree or it might have been a bone. Stiles hurried over to him, getting to his side as Derek picked himself up.

“Are you OK?” Stiles asked.

“I’ll heal.” Derek started forwards again, Stiles a few steps behind him. Peter was standing the middle of a clearing. He stared at the two of them.

“Did you see her?” Peter asked.

“I just see you,” Derek said, “and I intend to do something about that.”

“Derek, I know you’re angry, but there are bigger issues at stake.”

Derek charged at Peter again. Peter raised a hand and an invisible force sent Derek flying. He smashed into the ground just in front of Stiles, rolling to a stop against Stiles’ legs. Peter didn’t seem about to follow up with anything. He just stood there in the middle of the clearing.

“We don’t have to fight, Derek,” Peter said. “There are other things we need to worry about, other forces far more dangerous than me. Really, I’m just doing what’s best for everyone.”

“You put my boyfriend in the hospital,” Derek snarled. He leapt into another attack, which Peter brushed aside like he was swatting a fly. Derek was doing what Stiles had asked, deliberately goading Peter into using magic, but Stiles burned with anger that Peter should be using his magic like that. His magic was supposed to be about protection, not about hurting people, especially not about hurting pack. When Derek hit the ground again, Stiles started forward. His wasn’t some wild charge because he didn’t have the energy for that. He simply walked towards Peter.

Peter raised an eyebrow at him, “Really? I expect stupid charges in certain pain from my nephew but I thought you were smarter than that.”

“You stole my magic, Peter Stephen Hale,” Stiles said.

Peter laughed, “Am I supposed to be worried that you know my name?”

Derek tried again to attack Peter, leaping at him from behind this time. Peter flicked his hand and Derek spun away through the air. Peter didn’t once take his eyes away from Stiles. Stiles didn’t look away either, which is why he caught the faint grimace on Peter’s face when he worked magic.

“Peter Stephen Hale,” Stiles said again, carefully enunciating each syllable.

He hung the amulet around his neck again, but kept hold of the string for the crystal. He held it out in front of him. The crystal was still tugging towards Peter, more strongly now that they were closer. Peter’s eyes flicked down towards it and, for a fraction of a second, Stiles thought he saw worry on Peter’s face. Stiles closed his eyes for a minute, focusing. He hoped it looked like he was trying a spell but all he was doing was trying to keep his heart rate steady. Bluffing a werewolf wasn’t an easy trick.

He opened his eyes, met Peter’s gaze, and smiled.

“Give him hell, Derek,” Stiles said.

Derek shot Stiles a slightly confused look, but he must have figured that Stiles had a plan, so he kept doing what he’d been doing, running headlong into a magical force. Peter sent him flying again and Stiles winced in sympathy as he heard the impact. He still didn’t look away from Peter. He really hoped he knew what he was doing.

“How long do you intend to keep this up?” Peter asked.

“As long as it takes, Peter Stephen Hale.”

Stiles took another, slightly shaky, step forward. Peter took a step back. He actually took a step back. Stiles gave a smile that was part triumph. There was only about two metres distance between them now, the crystal stretching away to close that gap.

Peter moved suddenly, spinning round, hand stretched out and down. An invisible force gouged a line into the dirt, a circle forming around him. Peter muttered something under his breath, the words of a spell, and a blood red light glowed around the circle. Peter’s face was creased with pain for a moment, but he stood triumphant in the middle of his spell circle. Stiles didn’t let that stop him; he stepped forwards. The crystal stopped mid-air above the circle, pressed against an invisible wall. Its silvery light grew a little brighter.

Stiles took another step, reaching out to touch Peter’s barrier.

“Be careful,” Derek said.

Stiles pressed his palm against the barrier. He wondered if this was what it felt like for the werewolves when they faced a mountain ash barrier. His palm felt as though it were pressing against something solid, but it was warm, pulsing like a living thing. It felt familiar, the warm tingle of his magic against his skin. It was his magic. It belonged to him. Stiles felt that certainty burn inside him and he felt a little stronger.

In all his reading about magic, everything pointed to will being the most important part. There were words and rituals and tools, but it all came down to will. The spell caster had to have the will to make the magic happen. Well Stiles had plenty right now. He wanted his magic back with every fibre of his being and he was going to get it.

“Peter Stephen Hale,” he said again, slowly, and he felt the tingle of power running up his arm. He grinned. “Peter Stephen Hale.”

He knew he wasn't imagining the look of pain on Peter’s face, or the slight fear.

Peter tried to get control back, tried to say Stiles’ name, but he stumbled over the syllables. Everyone did. This was a battle Stiles knew he could win. He felt stronger every second, his hand pressed against the wall of power that was fed by his own magic, forged from the heart of his own being. Peter had made a connection between them with his spell, no doubt intending to drain Stiles of all his magic, but he’d screwed up. One tiny little detail. And now Stiles could tap into the same connection and draw his power back.

Someone had done this to him once, created a channel of energy to him using an active spell. Someone had drained him of his power, but it hadn’t hurt like this. Not for him. He had a theory as to why.

“Stop,” Peter said. “You need me. You can’t fight her without me.”

“I’ll manage, Peter Stephen Hale. As soon as I get my magic back.”

“How do you do this? How do you stop it burning?” The pain on his face was plain now. The more effort he put in to resisting this, the more he tried to draw on the magic, the more it hurt him.

“It never burned me,” Stiles said. “You think you know magic, Peter Stephen Hale, but you still have things to learn. You can substitute ritual implements and still make a spell work, but a name is different. You’ve got to get that right, Peter Stephen Hale.”

“What?” Peter said.

Stiles let his grin grow wider, “You pronounced my name wrong.”

Peter’s concentration shattered. Stiles felt it in a backlash of power that nearly knocked him off his feet. The light around the circle vanished. Even the piece of crystal changed direction so fast that it hit Stiles in the face.

Then Stiles was standing there in the middle of the woods, Derek coming to stand at his side, and Peter collapsed onto the ground. Derek was transformed, claws and fangs out ready for blood. He gave a snarl and started towards Peter. Peter flung up his hand but there was no magic force this time.

“You can’t kill me,” Peter said. “You still need me. Seen any dead women lately?”

Derek hesitated, looming over Peter.

“What did you do?” Derek asked.

“I didn’t do anything. Why does everyone assume that whenever something bad happens it’s my fault?”

“Because it usually is.”

“Look, I’m trying help here.”

Derek reached down and grabbed Peter round the throat. His claws were still out, cutting into the side of Peter’s neck. Stiles wondered how close they were to major arteries. If they killed Peter now, they wouldn’t be able to use him to bring Laura back.

“You put Adam in the hospital,” Derek snarled. “I should rip your throat here and now.”

“Derek,” Stiles said. “You know we can’t kill him now.”

“Listen to him, Derek. He’s the smart one. Wait. What do you mean, ‘now’?”

All the anger of the last few days was here, waiting to be put to use and some part of Stiles was revelling in seeing Peter like this. But he had to think about Laura. She had died at Peter’s hands and deserved the vengeance of the pack.

“Derek,” Stiles said, “do you still have chains?”

“Of course.”

“Go get them. I’ll keep an eye on Peter.”

Derek let go of his hold on Peter and stepped back, returning to Stiles’ side.

“Are you sure you can handle him?” Derek asked.

Stiles felt alive with power. He felt stronger than he’d ever felt in his life. Magic was singing through his veins again, ready to be used. Stiles didn’t have his wand with him, but that was probably for the best. It wasn’t like he was planning on using protective magic.

Stiles thought about the magic Peter had cast, the invisible forces moving people around. Maybe the same force could be used to hold someone still. Stiles summoned up the magic, picturing what he wanted to happen. He held out a hand towards Peter and watched Peter slam flat onto the ground, struggling as though pressed down by an enormous weight.

“I can handle him until you get back,” Stiles said. “I’m feeling much better now.”

He watched Peter writhe on the ground. Now it was his turn to feel helpless.

“You look a little scary right now,” Derek said.

“Oh shoot. I was aiming for a lot scary,” Stiles said. “Go get the chains. Peter and I are going to have a nice chat.”

Chapter Text

Stiles’ chest was itching. The multiple cuts there were itching like crazy so that he wanted to tear off the bandages and scratch until he clawed his own skin off. He knew that wasn’t a good idea though. His wounds needed to heal. Instead, he would focus his energy on torturing Peter for information.

Peter was lying on his back on the dirt, held down by an invisible force. Stiles needed to maintain his concentration to keep that force there. He hadn’t cast a spell or used a ritual, so that magic would only hold as long as Stiles was focused on channelling magic into it. He couldn’t let himself be distracted by itches or by Peter being insufferable.

“I want you to tell me everything,” Stiles said.

“Well, the universe started in a big explosion called the Big Bang,” Peter said, “although some physicists have other theories that-“

Stiles imagined that invisible force as a great weight of pressure crushing down onto Peter. Peter grimaced and cut short his sarcastic answer.

“Do I look like I’m in a mood for jokes?” Stiles asked.

“You could stand to have a bit of laugh and loosen up.”

He grimaced in pain again as Stiles increased the weight pressing down on him. Stiles should probably do something dramatic, or set something on fire, but he didn’t want to try casting two spells at once. He’d settle for crushing Peter like a bug.

“I could have killed you,” Peter said. “I could have slit your throat when I was done with the ritual and kept your magic for good. Instead, I let you live. I left you where Derek was bound to find you.”

“Is that supposed to make me feel better about the fact you slit me open and stole my magic?”

“Well, yes.”

“Well it doesn’t,” Stiles said. He eased up on the pressure a little bit anyway. He needed Peter alive and able to talk. Peter had stopped writhing and straining against the force that held him. Instead, he just looked up at Stiles. His face betrayed little emotion.

“I was only doing what’s necessary,” Peter said.

“Necessary? Do you know what it feels like to have your power yanked out of you?”

“Yes, actually. My nephew also yanked out a large chunk of my throat at the same time. I’m not the monster here, Stiles.”

“You’re talking about the dead people?”

“I can’t fight them with claws and teeth. They’re apparitions. They’re starting to take physical form but they’re not physically real. I needed a different way of fighting them. I needed magic.”

“You could have just said you needed my help,” Stiles pointed out.

“You would never have helped me.”

“These things shot Derek, stabbed Scott and tried to smother me. I might have been willing to help before you decided to slice me open.”

Peter did actually look worried but, knowing Peter, it might be an act.

“They’re getting stronger,” Peter said.

“Are you going to cut to the chase and tell me what they are? Or should I start crushing you again?”

“It started weeks ago, when you did your wake up trick with the tree,” Peter said. Naturally. Every terrible thing seemed to be tied to the nemeton waking up, so why should this be any different? Stiles said nothing; he waited for Peter to continue.

“I started seeing someone, a person I’d lost. She started appearing at random times and talking about her death, saying that it was my fault she’d died. That I’d killed her.”

“Did you kill her?” Stiles asked.

“I don’t know. Talia stole those memories from me. All I know is that this ghost of her kept showing up but she would disappear whenever anyone else got close. Even when I left Beacon Hills with Derek and Cora, she kept turning up. I tried to fight her but that just ended up with me falling into a trap set by some hunters down in Mexico. That’s when it got weird.”

“You’re a werewolf who’s come back from the dead,” Stiles pointed out, “I think it’s a little late to say things got weird.”

“The hunters saw her,” Peter went on, “but I don’t think they saw who I saw. They kept talking about the she-wolf. The person I saw was never anything but human. Derek thought that they were talking about Cora but I think they saw someone else, someone who scared them enough that they came chasing after her. She’s getting strong, showing herself to more people, manifesting physically so that she can hurt people rather than just talking to them. She’s powerful now.”

“And you stole my magic in order to fight whatever’s behind this?”

“Exactly. I’m not the enemy here. The only people I’ve killed have been the people who murdered my family and left me to burn.”

Peter sounded so sincere. He somehow managed to make it sound like he was the one being victimised. Maybe that was how he was able to sleep at night, by twisting things round inside his head until he genuinely believed he wasn’t evil. Stiles wasn’t going to be convinced. A memory remained clear in his mind of a woman’s body shoved into the trunk of your car.

“What about your nurse?” Stiles asked.

“Oh yeah,” Peter said, suddenly remembering her.

That made Stiles feel physically sick. Not only had he murdered that poor woman in cold blood, but he’d actually forgotten about it. It had slipped his mind like some inconsequential thing. A woman’s life, a woman who’d helped him, and Peter didn’t even remember it until Stiles mentioned her. Plus there was whoever was haunting him, her fate lost in stolen memories. Plus, Peter had been more than willing to get Scott to kill him, Lydia, Allison and Jackson when he’d trapped them in the school. No matter how Peter pleaded that he was on the side of good, Stiles wasn’t going to believe it.

“How do we kill this thing?” Stiles asked.

“I don’t know.”

Stiles increased the pressure of his spell. He heard a crack that might have been Peter’s rib.

“I’ve been tortured by scarier things than you, kid,” Peter said, between gasps of pain. “You really think you’re going to get me to talk?”

“I think you’ll talk,” Stiles said, “because you’re not getting my powers again. That means you’re going to need us to kill this thing before it kills you. So how do we kill it?”

He eased up on the pressure again, not enough to let Peter move, but enough so that he would be able to breathe without an impossible weight pressing down on his rib cage.

“I don’t know! I shot it with magic fire and it just destroyed the apparition. She came back.”

“You know more than you’re letting on. You always know. You knew I would be heading over to Derek’s place and needing a phone, for Christ’s sake! How did you know that?”

Peter didn’t answer. Stiles increased the pressure on the spell and still Peter didn’t answer. Stiles needed to do something. There had to be some other form of pressure he could use. He picked up a fallen branch that ended in a bunch of smaller offshoot branches tipped with dried leaves. He paused for a moment, making sure he didn’t lose the pressure spell. Then he diverted a little corner of his mind to the branch.

“Burn,” he said quietly.

The dried leaves blazed up so quickly and brightly that they basically disintegrated into ash. Stiles took a surprised step back, holding the branch as far away from his body as he could. The little twiggy ends of the branches, where the leaves had been only moments ago, were now burning. He didn’t have to focus on the spell. He’d lit the fire with magic but now this was a very real fire, burning in a perfectly natural way.

He carried the burning branch over to Peter and set it down. The burning tips were on the ground, but the main length of the branch he rested over Peter’s stomach. Peter was still unable to move, but his eyes were peering sideways, straining to see the burning ends of the branch.

“How do you feel about fire, Peter?” Stiles asked.

“I’ll heal,” Peter said. “I healed before.”

“Yeah, you did. It only took you, what? Six years? But you’ve had practice. Maybe it’ll only take you five years this time to recover from being burned alive. Then again, there aren’t any alpha relatives who’ll walk into your waiting claws this time. Maybe it will take longer. Ten years? Twenty? Trapped inside your own body, your skin ruined and scarred, your mind so lost that everyone thinks you’re a vegetable.”

Peter could withstand pain. He could withstand electricity and blood and even having fingers cut off, but this fear was something real. There was no way he could fake this sort of fear, but there was anger in him too. He glared up at Stiles, furious to have his weakness seen.

“The cameras in your house!” Peter said. “Your father installed cameras and I hacked the system, got into an audio feed.”

“You’ve been spying on us?”

“Keeping watch.” Peter was still trying to see the burning branch. The little flames were creeping up the twigs towards the main branch.

“You were spying on us.”

“Yes! OK. I was spying. I wanted to keep an eye on what you lot were up to. I felt it when you came back so I got into the camera feed and heard what happened between you, Scott and your dad.”

“What do you mean, you felt it?”

“Please move the branch?”

“What do you mean?”

“Magic like that causes ripples and you arriving from the past was a pretty major event. I expect people felt it halfway around the world. I knew about you from what Derek and Laura said and so I knew what the event had to be. Now move the branch!”

Stiles reached down and picked up the branch. He did move it, bringing the burning end close to Peter’s face, before he tossed it aside, careful that it would land on bare earth rather than on something that might catch light and set the whole preserve on fire.

“How long have you been planning on stealing my magic?” Stiles asked. Peter didn’t answer. “You had that spell all worked out. You’ve been planning it for a while.”

“I knew I had to stop these apparitions.”

“Oh come on, Peter! For the first time in your life, just tell the truth about something. How long?”

“From the moment Laura first told me about you and I realised what you were. You know this was all your fault, don’t you? She told me about the werewolf that was going to kill her and I knew it had to be me. So I had to do it. I had to close the loop otherwise who knows what terrible thing might have been caused by the paradox. I had to do what you said I would do.”

“I didn’t make you kill Laura.”

“Oh yes you did. Everything had to happen the way you told her it would. You’re ouroboros.”

***

Derek had brought the chains with him in case they found Peter but he hadn’t expected events to turn out quite as they had. He hurried back to his car, anxious not to leave Stiles a moment longer than necessary. He wasn’t even sure if he was concerned about Stiles getting hurt, or about what Stiles might do to Peter. The look on his face had been scary. Stiles shouldn’t look that hard, that angry, that dangerous. With that expression on his face, Derek was actually worried Stiles might kill Peter and then he wouldn’t be Stiles or Adam anymore. Neither Stiles nor Adam was a killer.

Even in his own head, he was still getting muddled between Stiles and Adam. He’d been getting used to thinking of them as almost being separate people but now they were one and the same. Sometimes, he would do something that was completely Adam, but other times he’d be thoroughly Stiles. Even in his thoughts, Derek wasn’t sure which person to think of him as.

He reached his car, opening up the trunk and pulling on the lengths of chain. Before he could run back into the woods though, he heard the roar of an approaching motorbike engine. Scott drove up, with Kira sitting behind him on the bike.

“Where’s Stiles?” Scott demanded, getting off the bike. He was glaring at Derek and looking about a second away from breaking out in claws and fangs.

“Probably torturing Peter,” Derek answered calmly.

“What?”

“We found him. Stiles got his magic back and now he’s torturing Peter for information.”

Derek hefted the chains and started walking into the woods, following his own scent along the route they’d taken earlier. Scott and Kira hurried to follow him.

“What the hell possessed you to go after Peter alone?” Scott asked. He still looked furious.

“Stiles figured out how to track him.” Derek decided to use the name Stiles for the sake of convenience. However muddled his own thoughts were, everyone here knew him as Stiles so it was simpler that way.

“He’s been out of hospital less than a day and you thought it a good idea to let him hunt down the guy who put him there?”

Derek stopped walking and turned to give Scott a look because words could not express how stupid he was being about this right now. When had Stiles ever listened to anyone telling him to stay out of something? When had anyone had to let him get involved in something dangerous? He would complain and be terrified, but then charge in anyway.

Derek turned back to the trail and started walking, but Scott hurried to keep up with him, still angry.

“I thought you were done with hiding things,” Scott said.

“I didn’t hide anything,” Derek said. “I told you where we were.”

After you came out here with Stiles when he’s been barely awake for two days. How could you let him do something like this?”

“I don’t make his decisions for him. I’m his boyfriend, not his owner. Stiles decided he wanted to track Peter down; I tried to talk him out of it or get him to try it later. He wouldn’t listen. What did you expect me to do? Do you want me to chain him up in his bedroom to keep him from doing something stupid?”

Derek had stopped walking again now and was glaring at Scott. He raised a questioning eyebrow when Scott didn’t answer.

“You two are idiots,” Kira said. Derek had almost forgotten she was there. It seemed Scott had too. They both turned to look at her now. She was standing, sword strapped across her back, arms folded, watching them like she was equal parts amused and disappointed.

“This is not about Stiles,” she said, “or Adam or whatever the hell his name is today.”

She pushed between the two of them and then started walking through the woods, leading the way along the trail Derek and Stiles had left earlier. Derek shared a confused look with Scott and then they hurried after her.

“What do you mean?” Scott asked.

“If this was actually about Stiles, you wouldn’t be arguing like this when you’re supposed to be going to find him,” Kira said, glancing back at them but continuing walking. “This is a territory thing. Scott, you think of Stiles as your pack, your territory, just plain yours, and it’s pissing you off that Derek is making decisions and doing things that affect Stiles without running them past you first. You’re acting like Stiles is your favourite toy and your pissed that Derek is playing with him without your permission.”

Derek bit down on the urge to laugh. Scott’s expression was priceless. He looked confused and angry and hurt and very surprised. He spluttered indignantly for a moment.

“I’m not… Stiles isn’t my toy. I’m not like that.”

Scott gave Derek another quick glare and then hurried after Kira. Derek started walking along behind them, biting down on a grin. A moment later, he wondered if kitsune did have psychic powers because Kira called out, “And you can stop smirking back there, Derek. Scott’s still right that the two of you coming out here alone was stupid.”

No one said very much on the rest of the walk and soon Derek picked up Stiles’ voice in the distance. From the sound of things, he was still in control of the situation. Worries that Derek hadn’t even realised were there drifted away once Derek heard that voice.

“Do you want me to set you on fire, Peter?” Stiles was asking. “I can get that branch back. I just need you alive. Burned and catatonic is fine by me.”

Derek heard Peter’s reply: “If you were going to burn me, you would have done it before. You don’t have it in you.”

“This is not the time to test me,” Stiles said.

“I’m not going to tell you anything else.”

“Tell me what an ‘ouroboros’ is.”

“If you don’t know what you are, there’s not much I can do to help you,” Peter said.

“Oh that’s it.”

Derek couldn’t see them yet through the trees but he quickened his pace. He wasn’t sure exactly what was going on, but he was pretty sure Peter was trying to make Stiles angry and Stiles was playing right into his hands. Derek dropped the chains and broke into a run.

He saw the clearing. Stiles was bending to pick up a long branch. Peter was lying on the ground as he had been when Derek had left. Then Peter moved. He strained up from the ground and reached out towards Stiles, claws extending.

Derek charged into the clearing, grabbing Peter’s arm and landing on top of him, pinning him down. Derek snarled into Peter’s face. Stiles spun round in surprise, flailing and nearly tripping over the branch as he saw what was happening. Then his face took on a look of concentration and Peter stopped moving.

“Sorry,” Stiles said. “I lost my concentration on the spell for a moment.”

“I’ve got him,” Derek said.

Scott and Kira emerged from the trees holding the chains. It was time to get Peter secured with something a little more permanent than magic.

***

They got Peter thoroughly secured in chains. They cuffed his ankles and wrists, then wrapped his limbs round in the heavy chains, locked in place with sturdy padlocks. It should be enough to hold even a werewolf. Plus, Derek had more chains at his place, so they decided to take Peter there and make sure he definitely couldn’t get away. Scott and Derek were now dragging him through the woods towards the car to take him there, while Stiles and Kira walked along beside.

“And then what?” Scott asked. “We can’t just keep him locked up forever?”

“They’re planning on killing me,” Peter said. “They’ve all but admitted it. Are you really going to allow that to happen, Scott? Are you going to let your friends kill me in cold blood?”

“It’s what you deserve,” Derek said.

“Aren’t you the one always saying that we’re werewolves not killers?”

Stiles wasn’t sure he could take this. He knew what they needed to do in order to bring Laura back and logically it made sense. Peter had killed her. He’d already had a second chance at life and it hadn’t made him a better person. He’d proved how far he was willing to go for his own gain and he was likely to try again at stealing his magic. Peter’s death for Laura’s life was a small price to pay, but even so, Stiles wasn’t sure he could bring himself to kill Peter.

He told himself that he’d already done it. He’d helped in the fight against Peter the first time. Just because Derek had been the one to strike the final blow didn’t stop him being an accomplice. It was just that that time, his friends’ lives had been in danger. He’d been there to save people. He could tell himself that this time would be to save Laura but it wasn’t the same at all. Killing someone in a magical ritual was a lot different from helping kill someone in a fight.

“I suppose it will make you fit in with the rest of the pack, Stiles,” Peter continued. “After all, I killed a member of the pack. Derek killed a member of the pack. Now you’ll kill me and you really will be a true Hale.”

“Can we gag him?” Stiles asked.

“You wanted me to talk only a few minutes ago,” Peter said.

“Yeah, I wanted you to talk about something useful. Like maybe telling me want ouroboros means.”

“It’s a snake eating its own tail,” Kira said.

Stiles stopped walking to look at her.

“You know what I’m talking about?”

She shrugged and smiled, “I read a lot of books about mythology and ancient cultures. The ouroboros symbol is a snake or dragon eating its own tail to form a circle. Occasionally there will be two snakes, eating the tail of the other. The word is Greek but the symbol has been showing up since Ancient Egypt. It’s usually a sign of the cycle of life and death, or death and rebirth, or something which is born out of its own destruction, like a phoenix. Sometimes it’s just used to represent events coming full circle, but alchemists would sometimes use it to represent immortality.”

“Wow,” said Scott. “That’s a lot of meaning for one word.”

He was looking at her with the goofy grin that usually meant he was thinking about sex. It seemed Scotty boy was turned on by his girlfriend talking history. Stiles was more concerned with the symbol she’d described: a snake eating its own tail to form a circle. He thought about the symbol carved into his wand: a circle with a little lump on it. That lump could be the snake’s head as it was eating itself. It fit with what had happened to him as well; he’d come full circle. But how could he have carved the symbol on his wand without ever knowing what it meant? And why had Peter used that word as though it had some huge, super-important meaning?

Their little group reached the road and their vehicles. Derek opened up the trunk of his car.

“Now that’s a little undignified,” Peter complained. “At least I let Stiles ride up front.”

Derek lifted Peter up, chains and all, and dumped him into the trunk. He slammed the trunk shut over him with more force than was strictly necessary. He then turned to Scott.

“Follow close behind,” Derek said, “in case he tries anything.”

Derek and Stiles went in Derek’s car, with Kira and Scott following on the bike. Once they were off and moving, Stiles risked a grin at Derek.

“You know,” he said, “I’m feeling much better now. Once we get Peter secure, we can pick up from where we left off in the woods when I arrived back.”

Derek kept staring ahead at the road but he shifted slightly in the seat and swallowed noticeably. Stiles grinned.

“Secure my psychopathic uncle,” Derek said, “have sex, stop powerful apparitions of dead people, bring my sister back from the dead.”

“Have sex again,” Stiles added.

Derek gave a laugh, “And then figure out how to keep your dad from murdering me.”

“Oh that’s easy,” Stiles said. “I’ll just start crying. I’ve got him wrapped around my little finger.”

He waggled his little finger at Derek. Derek gave another laugh.

“You’re a lot less grumpy when you’ve got magic,” Derek said.

“Is that why you’re so grumpy all the time?” Stiles asked. “You’ve not got magic.”

Derek turned towards Stiles and snapped his teeth towards him, as though intending to bite his finger off. Then he had to look back at the road again, so Stiles reached over, waggling his finger against Derek’s neck. Derek squirmed ticklishly and the car swerved across the road. Derek whacked Stiles’ hand away.

“Watch it,” Derek said. Stiles laughed.

When they reached Derek’s place, Stiles, Scott and Kira kept watch to make sure that no one saw while Derek carried Peter upstairs. Halfway up, the werewolves hesitated.

“Someone’s in there,” Derek said quietly. He quietly set Peter down at the top of the stairs and he positioned himself in front of Stiles as he went to the door of his apartment. Stiles wasn’t sure what to expect: hunters, ghosts, or even just his dad angry that he hadn’t been at home. Derek flung the door open to reveal someone completely unexpected.

“Hello, Adam,” she said.

“Bookworm?!”

Chapter Text

Stiles was stuck staring in confusion at Bookworm so that he didn’t actually notice Amelia until she threw her arms around him in a hug. Once he worked out what was going on, he hugged her back. She looked just the same, smiling at him in her usual way, but she seemed completely out of place here.

“We were so worried about you when you vanished,” she said.

Scott cleared his throat pointedly. Stiles extracted himself from the hug.

“Scott, Kira,” he said, “this is Amelia. She was one of the owners of the shop I worked in when I was in New York and she can work magic. This is Bookworm. She’s a dragon who can read stuff about people’s souls when she reads stuff that they’ve read.”

“Did Noshiko give you the book?” Bookworm asked.

“Yes,” said Stiles, and then remembered Peter still out on the stairs and reminded Derek who went out to fetch him.

Scott gave him an odd look, “How does a book remind you about Peter?”

“It’s complicated,” Stiles said, then turned back to Bookworm. “What the hell are you doing here?”

“We felt your return. You have probably realised that your access to power has increased significantly. I came to offer you my assistance in controlling your new abilities.”

“In exchange for what?” asked Derek, who had returned and was dragging the chained Peter across the room to a pillar where he could be further restrained.

“Why must you assume that my motivations are driven by self-interest?” Bookworm asked. Derek narrowed his eyes at her. Even Stiles thought that was a suspicious skirting of the question.

“You sound like Peter,” Derek said.

“Who?” Bookworm asked.

“Me,” Peter said, “and I find it highly offensive that you use a comparison to me as an insult.”

“Well I find your presence highly offensive,” Derek said, “so we’re even.”

He left Peter against the pillar and walked out of the room, presumably to go and find more chains. Stiles focused back on Bookworm. Derek was right that she would be asking for something and Stiles thought he was getting the hang of his powers now. Certainly, he’d managed to hold Peter trapped and threaten him without setting half of Beacon Hills on fire. It might be useful to hear what she had to say, particularly on the subject of ouroboros and what that actually meant in relation to him, but he had to be careful he didn’t owe her too much.

“The usual fee?” Stiles asked. “You help me and I give you one of my books?”

“In a way,” Bookworm replied, “but I want a specific book. I want your bestiary.”

“I don’t have a bestiary,” Stiles said. “Well, I’ve got a copy of the Argent bestiary on my computer if you speak archaic Latin, which you probably do now that I think about it. I can give you a copy of that file.”

Bookworm shook her head, smiling and even laughing slightly. Stiles fell silent.

“I don’t want a hunter’s bestiary,” she said. “Hunters care about killing those that aren’t like them. Their books are filled with hatred and death and instructions of how to murder creatures that have committed no crime other than being born or transformed into something other than human. What I want is a book written by someone seeking to understand, someone who would befriend a kitsune, and save a kanima, and mate a werewolf. How many hunters could describe the ritual of pack marking? You could provide insights no hunter ever could. You will write down, by hand, everything you have learned about werewolves, kitsune, buzzers, and every other creature you have encountered or will encounter. What else you do with the book, I don’t care. You can type it up, make copies, sell it on Amazon if that’s what you want to do, but I will have the original when you die. That’s my price.”

Stiles stared in silence for a moment. Everyone else present, Peter included, seemed to be staring at him waiting to see what he would say. He’d thought more than once about the possibility of collating all the things he’d learned about werewolves and the like, but he hadn’t considered actually writing a book on it. It made a strange sort of sense, particularly given that they might face a huge amount of strange things here in Beacon Hills, for him to record all the things he was learning. And as deals went, it wasn’t bad. He would still get to use the knowledge and Bookworm would only get the book when he died, so he could make use of it until then. He would add to her store of knowledge with everything he learned over the course of his life, but there wasn’t really a downside for him or his friends.

He had to be careful though. Laura didn’t trust Bookworm and serpent-type creatures weren’t generally portrayed favourably in mythology. If he agreed too hastily, there could be consequences later.

“I have conditions,” Stiles said at last. Bookworm titled her head questioningly, inviting him to continue.

“First,” Stiles said, “I want you to swear that you will never use any of the knowledge I give you to hurt my pack, my family, my friends, or my friends’ families.”

Bookworm considered, before adding a condition of her own, “If we define family as anyone connected by blood within five generations. All humans are related if you go back enough generations.”

Stiles couldn’t really argue with that. He didn’t even know who his great-great-grandparents had been, so five generations was enough to count as family. It would protect the people he loved here and now.

“OK, agreed. My second condition is that you help us with Laura. I’ve got the book, but if we need other help, you’ll give it.”

Stiles did his best to ignore Scott, who was looking seriously confused. Stiles wasn’t sure how much Derek had told Scott about Laura and the amulet, but they hadn’t told Scott about the plan to sacrifice Peter to bring her back. Stiles just focused on Bookworm for now, and saw her nod in agreement to this new condition.

“My third condition,” Stiles went on, “is that you help us with a current problem. You give us any information you have or can find to help stop something that’s been attacking us. No additional costs.”

“Agreed,” Bookworm said.

Stiles held out his hand. Bookworm held hers out too, but the hand changed as she extended it. Fingers lengthened into claws, scales rose up out of skin. The rest of her retained the human appearance, but Stiles shook a dragon’s claw in his hand.

“We swear to abide by the terms of this agreement,” Bookworm said.

“We swear,” Stiles echoed. He felt a warmth in his palm, a tingle of magic that passed between them, sealing this contract. There was a moment of silence, which was broken when Peter started chuckling quietly.

“What?” Stiles asked, letting go of Bookworm’s hand and turning to him.

“I just want to congratulate you on such a precise and loophole-free contract,” Peter said.

Derek had returned at some point during the negotiation with Bookworm. He went over to Peter now and started applying the other chains, beginning with wrapping a loop of chain around Peter’s neck to hold him to the pillar. Peter’s laughter was cut off as he was forced to wriggle back as far as the chains allowed in order to avoid being strangled.

“What’s your current problem?” Bookworm asked Stiles.

“We’ve been seeing dead people,” Stiles said. Scott rolled his eyes at the reference. Bookworm either didn’t notice or chose to simply take the statement seriously.

“Spirits, visions, physical manifestations, or animated corpses?” she asked.

“Physical manifestations,” Stiles said, “we think.”

He explained what was going on, describing what they’d seen with Kate, Allison and Laura, and summing up what Peter had told him about what he’d experienced, the timings of it and how the hunters had seen something. The others all listened with interest to what he’d got out of Peter. When he finished, Bookworm looked thoughtful.

“Peter said it started shortly after we woke the nemeton,” Stiles said. “Could something have come through or woken up like the nogitsune did?”

“It’s possible,” Bookworm said. “Awakening the nemeton will have weakened the boundaries between this place and the fairy realms. Something could have come through, as the buzzers did. Many fairy creatures enjoy playing tricks and have magic of illusions, so one of them could be responsible. However, I have another theory. You say this started with him?” She gestured towards Peter.

“Yes,” Stiles answered.

“The manifested figures have all been female and all people to whom you were once close?”

“Yes,” Stiles answered. Derek cleared his throat. Stiles shot him a look to silence him, “She might have been a psychopathic murderer, but you were close to Kate.”

Bookworm ignored this little exchange. She turned inside to Peter.

“Have you killed any witches recently?” she asked.

There was a long silence. Stiles instantly thought of Jennifer and the fact that her body had never been found. The timing would fit with that. Peter didn’t answer the question. That might have a little to do with the fact that he was being half-strangled by the chain around his neck, but was more likely to do with him just being uncooperative.

“Why do you ask about witches?” Stiles asked.

“At various points in history,” Bookworm said, “people have believe witches to be in league with the devil and have hanged or otherwise executed them. Some witches would, in their last moments, cast a final spell: a death curse. The curse would attach to the person they most believe was responsible for their death, usually the person who accused them of witchcraft, but sometimes the executioner or someone who officiated a trial. That person would start seeing visions of a lost loved one, who would find ways to blame the target for their death. In about half of the documented cases, the target would commit suicide from guilt and grief. In the other cases, the vengeance spirit would grow stronger, feeding on the emotions of its victim, until it could take a physical form and directly attack the target. It would then start to seek out other targets, other people that the witch felt were connected to her death. The pattern would fit here, starting with one person and spreading to the rest of you. It would also fit because in all cases I’ve heard of involving a curse like this, the targets have been male and the spirit manifestations have been female.”

“Does this mean I’m not going to be attacked by dead people?” Kira asked. “That’s good to know.”

“You weren’t here when the Darach got killed,” Stiles said. “This vengeance spell wouldn’t attack you anyway.”

“The hunters weren’t here either,” Derek pointed out. “If they saw something, this ‘she-wolf’ they were worried about, then that means they’re targeted, but they had nothing to do with Jennifer or her death.”

Well there went that theory. There was still the fairy theory.

“If someone would loosen these chains,” Peter said, “I might be able to offer some input.”

“How about,” Stiles said to him, “you give us your input and I won’t set fire to your shoes.”

Peter just smiled up at him. Maybe Peter thought he wasn’t likely to torture him while everyone was watching.

“Derek,” Stiles said, “please find a bucket and fill it up with water. And have you got something non-flammable we can put under Peter’s legs? As Bookworm said, my powers are a little stronger than I’m used to and I don’t want to burn down your apartment.”

Derek headed towards another part of the apartment, walking past Scott as he did so. Scott halted him with a hand and whispered something. Derek’s only response was a glare and shove Scott out of the way with more force than strictly necessary. Stiles tried to ignore the two of them and glared instead at Peter.

“Are you going to tell us what you know about the hunters?” Stiles asked, as Derek returned with a mop bucket filled with water. Derek then headed into the kitchen area and grabbed a ceramic chopping board. He came back to place it under Peter’s feet.

Peter was still staring at Stiles, probably trying to decide if he was bluffing. Stiles also wasn’t sure if he could do it. A large part of him wanted to. After everything Peter had done, he wanted to see Peter burn. But setting fire to someone while they were helpless and in chains was a very different thing to throwing a Molotov cocktail at a monster who was attacking his friends.

Stiles crouched down in front of Peter. He closed his eyes and felt for the warmth of magic inside him. He pictured the fire on Peter’s feet, flames at the tips of his shoes. Little flames. He focused on their size: little yellow flames like birthday candles. Not too hot. Not too powerful. The key here was control not power.

“Burn,” he whispered.

Twin flames burst around the leather of Peter’s shoes, hotter and larger than Stiles had intended but not by too much. Peter still thrashed as though his legs had been thrust into an inferno.

“Stop it! Put it out!” he yelled.

Stiles threw the bucket of water over him. The flames died in a quiet sizzle of smoke. Peter glared at Stiles with undiluted hatred. Stiles gave him a smile.

“I’ve seen those hunters somewhere before,” Peter said. “I can’t be sure, but there were a lot of hunters involved in Gerard’s ambush of the packs, when Jennifer or Julia or whatever she was calling herself first got burned. Gerard called in hunters from all over, so it’s possible they were part of that fight. Maybe she blamed them somewhat for everything that happened.”

“That might be enough,” Bookworm said.

“OK,” said Scott, “so the Darach caused this vengeance spell and now it’s attacking anyone remotely connected to her death. That means we can’t end this by stopping the person behind it because she’s already dead. So how do we stop it?”

“That is a very good question,” Bookworm said. “In the stories I have read, when the target kills himself early on that ends the spell.”

“So we just need to kill Peter?” Derek asked, sounding rather cheerful.

“No,” Bookworm said. “Once the spirits start manifesting to other people, that isn’t enough to stop it. The spell will continuing attacking the other targets.”

“Then how do we stop it?” Stiles asked.

Bookworm didn’t answer.

Chapter Text

There was an awkward silence that filled the loft. Somehow they were back in their usual state of facing something deadly and not knowing how to fight it. Stiles had hoped that Bookworm would give them some great insight into how to stop this vengeance spirit. Presumably there must be a way, unless the stories she’d apparently read were written by those counting the dead bodies of those the spell targeted.

The silence was interrupted by a ringtone. Stiles jumped violently. He grabbed at his pocket and pulled out his phone, wincing when he saw the name on the screen.

“Oh crap,” he muttered. Then he hit the button to answer it. “Hi, Dad.”

He had to move the phone away from his ear to avoid being deafened when his dad yelled, “Where the hell are you?”

“Derek’s place.”

“Stiles, do you realise how worried I was when you weren’t here? You’re supposed to be resting.”

“I’m feeling much better. We’ve captured Peter, I’ve got my magic back and we’re making progress on the whole dead people issue. Oh, and I haven’t had sex with Derek.” Derek glared at him. “What? I haven’t.”

“Come home right now.”

“We’ve got some stuff we still need to talk about here,” Stiles said.

“Now!”

His dad hung up without waiting for a reply. Stiles was left holding his phone and trying to ignore the way his friends were smirking at him. For all that he was glad to be back home with his family, he’d enjoyed the independence he’d had in New York, he just hadn’t realised it at the time.

“I guess I should go appease my dad,” he said. “We’re going to need another pack meeting but in the meantime, I’ll start researching how to stop a curse.” He turned to Bookworm, “Do you… no, never mind.”

“What?” she asked.

“I was going to ask if you had any books about curses but I guess they’re all in New York.”

“Actually…”

A few minutes later, Stiles was standing at the back of a van, staring at piles of boxes. She hadn’t packed up the entire shop, but there were still impressive quantities of books stacked in the back of the van. Bookworm moved among them now, running her hands over the sides of the boxes, as though scanning the books through the cardboard somehow. Stiles had seen the way she read; maybe she was.

Derek and Amelia stood beside Stiles. Kira and Scott had been left upstairs to guard Peter. Amelia had decided to stick with the people she knew. Even so, she looked a little pale and kept giving Stiles nervous looks. He guessed seeing him set fire to someone’s shoes had been a bit more violence than she’d been expecting.

“Things can get dangerous around here,” Stiles warned her now.

“That guy upstairs?” she asked. “The one you were torturing?”

“He’s a killer,” Stiles explained. “He murdered Laura and a whole bunch of other people.”

“Including the witch you think cast the curse?” she asked.

“So it would seem. In his defence though in that case, the person he killed had also killed loads of people as human sacrifices to increase her power.” He drew a breath. “Lots of people get killed around here. You might want to go home while you’re still alive.”

She swallowed nervously, eyes fixed on Bookworm, and said, “Not yet.”

“I don’t suppose you know anything useful about curses that would help us now?”

“Sorry. I’ve generally steered clear of curses in my magic work. I’ve got a few basic spells for protection against negative energy and attacks, but I don’t think they’ll be enough to deal with dead people attacking you.”

Inside the van, Bookwork had apparently found what she was looking for. She started shifting boxes, lifting them from one pile and carefully balancing them on the top of equally towering stacks. Stiles considered offering to help, but she seemed to know exactly what she was aiming for, extracting a box that had been about half-way down one of the piles. She used a claw to cut through the tape that held that box shut and started carefully lifting books out until she found the one she was after. She that book out towards Stiles, who took it.

It was an old hardback, thick and heavy, filled with pages that were incredibly thin and printed in a small text. There appeared to be no woodcuts or diagrams, just dense paragraphs, as though the author had wanted to cram extra words into every available space. This was not going to be light reading. The title page declared the book to be a Treatise on Malicious Magicks and the Negation of Their Influence.

“Thanks,” Stiles said.

“Come on,” Derek said. “I’ll drive you home before your dad kills us both.”

***

Derek drove them back quickly, hoping to reduce the wrath of the sheriff. Beside him, Stiles was flicking through the first pages of the book. Bookworm hadn’t asked for anything else in exchange for the loan, so this presumably counted as her fulfilling her obligation to help with the dead people. Derek wasn’t sure if a curse was better or worse than Kate’s ghost.

He parked up outside the Stilinski house and then hesitated. The sheriff was in there had Derek was well aware that he was not particularly happy to learn who Stiles had chosen to be with. The sheriff had been pleasant enough at the hospital, but he would probably be worse than Scott in blaming Derek for Stiles’ having run straight into a dangerous situation. Again.

“You can’t cower in the car,” Stiles said.

Derek gave him a quick glare, “I’m not cowering.”

“Good. Then you’re coming in with me.”

Derek followed Stiles into the house. The sheriff was waiting by the door; he must have heard the car pull up. Derek expected shouting or threats of violence or recriminations for Stiles’ having left the safety of the house. Instead, the sheriff pulled Stiles into a hug and just held him for several long seconds.

“I’m OK, Dad,” Stiles said. “Really, I’m fine.”

The sheriff showed no indication that he would be letting go of the hug anytime soon. He had his fists clenched into the back of Stiles’ shirt and his head in his son’s shoulder. Stiles patted at his dad’s back in a vague attempt at comfort.

“Dad!” Stiles said. “I’m fine. Really. You can let go now.”

The sheriff did let go of the hug and take a step back, but he kept a hand on Stiles’ shoulder. Stiles looked thoroughly bewildered by this reception. Then the sheriff spoke.

“I saw your mom.”

“What?” Stiles asked. “Are you OK? Did she attack you?”

“She just talked to me. She said that I should have been there when she died. She said I was a terrible father for letting you get caught up with monsters and magic.”

“It wasn’t her,” Stiles said.

“But what if it was?”

“It wasn’t. What we’ve been seeing is part of a curse the Darach cast when she died. They’re manifestations intended to drive people to suicide by stirring up feelings of guilt and grief. It wasn’t Mom’s spirit.”

“You’re sure?”

Stiles hugged his dad again. Derek stood watching, feeling more than a little left out. Even when he’d had Laura, they hadn’t been this tactile. He felt a strange burst of jealousy at the way these two could so easily offer each other comfort in this way.

“It wasn’t her,” Stiles said. “I’m certain of it. The death curse theory is one that seems to fit, but we have some work to do figuring out how to undo it.”

“How did you figure this out?”

“Someone we knew in New York has turned up to help,” Stiles said, “and Peter was surprisingly helpful once I got my magic back from him… and threatened to set him on fire.”

Derek decided, in the interest of tact, not to point out that Stiles had done more than threaten to set Peter on fire. He tried not to think about the question Scott had asked him, back in the loft: was he sure that Stiles wasn’t evil? He’d seen Stiles make blustering threats he couldn’t possibly carry out, but it was another thing entirely to watch him calmly make threats and follow through with them, demonstrating his willingness to hurt another person to get what he wanted. Derek told himself that the person in question was Peter, so it was understandable, but he still wasn’t comfortable with seeing Stiles in that position.

Stiles sat down with his dad and explained what they’d learned so far, summing up both Peter’s story and Bookworm’s theory about the curse. The sheriff listened with surprising calm until Stiles had finished, then he rubbed his hand over his face.

“This job used to be simple,” he said. “All I had to worry about was some rogue animal clawing people to death and my son ignoring curfews. Now I have to worry about a dead witch who cast a curse meaning I’m going to be taunted by my late wife into killing myself.”

“We’ll figure out a way to defend against the curse,” Stiles promised. “In the meantime, just remember that it’s not real and don’t let her talk you into doing anything stupid.”

“You’re giving me advice about not doing anything stupid?” the sheriff asked.

“At least you know it’s advice coming from a knowledgeable source.”

Derek bit down a laugh at that, but enough of a sound emerged that the sheriff looked at him. There was irritation on his face and Derek wasn’t sure if it was due to him laughing at Stiles’ self-deprecation or just because he was there, watching what had been a Stilinski family moment. Derek felt suddenly very out of place.

“I should get back,” he said.

“No,” Stiles said. “You can help me with the research.”

“Research?” he echoed.

“Yes. I need to look into ways to block curses.”

Derek heard the faint flutter of an increased heart rate and was momentarily puzzled, since Stiles had said he would investigate that back at the loft and seemed completely honest about it then. Derek remembered the conversation they’d had before Bookworm’s unexpected arrival. There was another item on their to-do list before stopping the manifestations of dead people.

“If you think you need my help,” Derek said.

“We’ll be up in my room,” Stiles told his dad, grabbing Derek by the hand and towing him towards the door.

“No sex,” the sheriff called out.

“Dad!”

“I mean it. You’re legally seventeen. No sex. Promise?”

Stiles made a frustrated noise. “Fine! OK. No sex. I promise.”

“Derek?” the sheriff prompted.

Derek glanced at Stiles. He really, really didn’t want to make this promise but neither did he want the sheriff to shoot him or ban him from the house or whatever else he might decide to do if Derek didn’t comply.

“I promise,” Derek said. The sheriff gave a calm nod.

Stiles still had hold of Derek’s hand and now he took him from the room, hurrying up the stairs. Inside the bedroom, Stiles broke contact long enough to put Bookworm’s book carefully down on the desk, while Derek shut the door. Then Stiles was in front of Derek, kissing him fully, catching Derek off-guard enough so that he took a surprised step back. Derek ended up pressed against the bedroom door, Stiles’ chest warm against his own, returning the kiss enthusiastically.

Stiles broke the kiss, only to attack Derek’s neck with a serious of kisses and nuzzles that sent Derek’s blood heading to his groin. He let out a faint moan and tried to retain some grip on his self-control before he resorted to tearing off Stiles’ clothes and taking him against the bedroom door.

“We promised your dad no sex,” he said.

Stiles placed another kiss on a sensitive spot on Derek’s neck. “What I have in mind,” another kiss, “doesn’t technically,” another kiss, “count as sex.”

“Technically?” Derek asked.

Stiles took a step back, grinning wickedly.

“Technically,” he said. No one word should sound quite that delicious.

Stiles took Derek's hands in his and backed across the room, drawing Derek after him, until they reached the bed. Derek let Stiles lead, since he clearly had a firm idea of what was going to happen here. Stiles pushed Derek against the bed, and then pushed down on his shoulders until Derek was sitting on the edge of the bed. Stiles was still grinning that wicked grin as he leaned down to kiss Derek again.

Derek closed his eyes and opened his mouth for the kiss, working one hand up Stiles’ back and the other into Stiles’ hair. The kiss was fierce, hungry, as though Stiles wanted to devour him from the inside out. A moment later, Derek opened his eyes in surprise, when he felt Stiles’ hands at his fly, easing down the zipper and carefully reaching inside.

“Your dad,” Derek began.

“You’ll just have to be quiet, won’t you?”

Then Stiles dropped to his knees in front of Derek, easing out his erection. Derek didn’t think he’d ever been so hard in his life. Somehow, the danger factor, the need to keep quiet, to keep this hidden, magnified his desire. He was fully erect even before Stiles eased his wet and ready mouth over the end.

Derek swallowed a moan, biting his lower lip from the effort to keep quiet. Stiles moved back and forth, mouth over the end of the erection. Derek clenched his hands around the bedcovers, leaning backwards and closing his eyes, losing himself to the sensation. He thrust his hips in steady rhythm with Stiles’ mouth, fighting down on every urge to moan aloud. When he came, he bit his lip hard enough that he tasted blood.

Panting in the aftermath, he looked down at Stiles, who was still kneeling at his feet, breathing heavily as well, a faint trickle of white coming out of mouth. Derek reached out to wipe off the errant cum.

“Are you OK?” he asked.

Stiles licked the cum of Derek’s fingers and gave a little laugh.

“I think I might need new pants,” he said. Derek returned the laugh with a quiet chuckle of his own at the thought that Stiles might have cum in his pants.

Derek stood, helping Stiles to his feet as well, and they kissed again. It was less urgent this time, but Derek tasted the salty tang of himself in Stiles’ mouth.

A sound from outside the bedroom door made him move quickly, breaking the kiss and pushing Stiles away. Derek went to the desk and hit the button to power up the computer. Stiles started to ask what was going on, but a moment later, the door opened without so much as a knock of announcement. The sheriff came in, carrying a plate of sandwiches. He looked with suspicion at the two of them, and at the rumpled bedcovers. Stiles’ face was a perfect mask of innocence.

“I thought you boys might like some food,” the sheriff said.

“Thanks, Dad,” Stiles said, taking the plate from him, “but we really should get on with this research.”

“You do that,” the sheriff said. He left the room, but he made a point of leaving the bedroom door open.

Once he was gone, Stiles gave Derek an embarrassed grin and whispered, “Your fly’s still undone.”

Chapter Text

Stiles was up to his neck in research again. He enjoyed research and considered himself good at it, but there was a lot of information. He skim read the book Bookworm had loan him, while Derek hunted the internet for useful-looking websites and printed them out, occasionally adding search parameters based on the things Stiles was reading about.

The book in excruciating detail about different types of curse spells, some minor, some major, some targeting specific people, some focused on a place or event, some more broad. The author described different classes of curses. One class of curses he called Finality Curses, which were generally the nastiest sort. A magic-user would essentially pour the entirety of their magical energy, their life force and every power they could draw in, and use it to fuel the spell. Their power was limited by the capabilities of the caster, but they tended to be more deadly than anything that same caster could manage in life. The book actually described the same curse Bookworm had, usually cast by witches who felt they had been wronged. It did seem to fit with what they were experiencing. Unfortunately, the book didn’t include a counter-spell.

There was a section on purification rites that could be used to counter minor curses. The author spent about three chapters documenting different rites from around the world, sometimes in rather patronising and racist language as he described the ‘primitive rituals’ of certain cultures. Then he went into a rather more useful analysis, looking for similarities and patterns, hoping to find a common core, distilling down the elements, getting rid of the unnecessary embellishments and finding the true heart of the spell.

It seemed water was important. A huge number of rituals included ritual bathing or running water. The author went off on a two-page tangent on using water to disrupt spells. Stiles skimmed past a lot of that or he’d still be reading this book at the end of time.

There followed at section on herbs. Lots of rituals included burning herbs or incense. Cue another tangent about the parallels with invoking the element of air. Stiles skimmed again. It seemed different people used different herbs, but that was mostly to do with what grew locally. There were lots of herbs which were used in purification rituals, sometimes drunk as tea, sometimes smoked, sometimes just burned for incense. Stiles made a list for Derek to look up to see if they could get hold of any.

“And you might want to check with my dad to make sure they’re legal,” he said.

Stiles wasn’t sure a purification ritual would be enough, given that the book seemed to imply they worked for minor curses, but he could try. Maybe if they used everything from every ritual the cumulative effect would be enough. He didn’t have any other real ideas.

A lot of curses had escape clauses or loopholes built into them, ways that someone effected could break the spell. Sometimes if a curse was set as a punishment for a crime, then making amends or apologising would be enough to break it. Other escape clauses could be varied and generally defined by the caster, so it was almost impossible to guess what they might be, or even if they existed. Stiles doubted that Jennifer would have included a way out in her curse. The book even said that finality curses tended not to have these. They were generally vicious, violent and difficult to undo, which wasn’t what he wanted to read.

There came a tap on the bedroom door and his head poked his head round.

“Any progress?” he asked. Stiles was sitting on the floor, the book open on his lap, surrounded by scribbled pages of notes, while Derek added to the snow of paper from the computer.

“I planning to try a purification ritual on everyone involved and keeping my fingers crossed,” Stiles said. “No idea if it will work.”

“Well, keep trying. I’ve got to get back to work. I’ll be keeping my own fingers crossed that it doesn’t have to do with all this.” He gestured at the paper chaos.

“What’s happened?” Stiles asked.

At one time, his dad would have told him to get lost, with more or less politeness depending on how many times Stiles had asked. At one time, his dad would point out that he shouldn’t be sharing police information with a teenager. Stiles used to have to pry and wheedle and resort to eavesdropping his dad’s phone calls to get information on active investigations. Now, his dad barely hesitated before explaining.

“The staff found a body in a motel outside of town. Looks like suicide.”

Stiles exchanged a look with Derek.

“One of the hunters?” he asked. After all, this curse supposedly made its victims commit suicide.

“Do you want me to take a look at the body,” Derek asked, “and see if I recognise him?”

“I don’t think it would be a good idea for a former fugitive to be hanging around a crime scene without a good reason, do you?”

“You said it’s a motel?” Stiles said. “Maybe me and Derek were thinking of getting a room and just happened to see all the commotion?”

His dad glared at him, “Do you want me to have to arrest your boyfriend for statutory rape?”

“Oh yeah,” said Stiles. “Maybe not then.”

His dad sighed, “I’ll bring you the crime scene photos. You can see if you recognise anything.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

His dad walked out, shaking his head and muttering, “I can’t believe I let you talk me into these things.”

Stiles turned his attention back to the book, starting to read a passage about using crystals to channel cleansing energy, when his dad yelled up the stairs, “And no sex!”

***

They had another pack meeting that evening, in Derek’s loft this time. Peter was still chained to the pillar. Everyone was there, including Deaton since the meeting was after closing time at the clinic. Noshiko was there too, greeting Bookworm like an old friend, and attaching herself to Stiles’ side. She seemed angry about having been ditched earlier and was determined to play the role of bodyguard to the fullest now. Stiles’ dad was the last to arrive, coming directly from the motel where the dead guy had been found.

Stiles started with a round of introductions for the benefit of Bookworm and Amelia. He pointed out them all, giving their names and species, ending up with, “and this is Danny, Ethan’s boyfriend, and human as far as we know.”

“What do you mean, ‘as far as we know’?” Danny asked.

“Well we thought Lydia was human until she started being immune to werewolf bites and finding dead bodies all over the place.”

“I’m human,” Danny insisted.

“That’s what I thought,” Kira said.

Stiles’ dad interrupted before they got derailed: “Dead body pictures!”

He didn’t have the official photos; those would be processed in the police station. Instead, he had some photos of the motel room and the man’s face that he’d taken on his phone. He handed the phone round now. Derek was the first to look.

“That’s one of the hunters,” said Derek. “The one who kept talking about the she-wolf.”

“All the indications so far point to suicide,” Stiles’ dad went on. “He hanged himself on the light fitting in the model room.”

“That fits with the theory then,” Stiles said, looking at Bookworm, “if the curse drives people to suicide.”

The pictures weren’t particularly gruesome compared to some that Stiles had become familiar with in recent years. There was no blood, just a man’s pale face and marks around his neck from where the rope had gone. Still it was enough for Danny to grimace and say, “All this seemed fun when I was just eavesdropping on you guys in chem.”

Scott ignored him and turned to Stiles, “Have we got a plan yet for stopping the curse?”

“Sort of,” Stiles said. “There are a load of purification rituals that can undo the effects of minor curses, so I figured we try everything and hope it works.”

Everyone was staring at him, looking as doubtful as Stiles felt. It was Amelia who first voiced the doubts. She looked to Bookworm and asked, “Is that even possible?”

“If you were to try it, I’d say it wouldn’t stand a chance,” Bookworm said, “but with Adam... it’s worth trying.”

“Because I’m ouroboros,” Stiles said. Bookworm nodded. “Whatever the hell that means.”

“It means you have access to an ever-renewing well of energy,” she said. “If you learn to channel it, you have potentially limitless power.”

“When we first met, you said I didn’t have the power to do a time travel spell. How the hell could I now have limitless power?”

Bookworm looked around the room, taking in the curious faces of Stiles’ friends and family. Stiles kept his eyes locked on her face. He wanted answers. After all this time and all that the happened, all the secrecy, he wasn’t going to leave thing until she’d answered this question. He hadn’t forgotten that he’d first carved the ouroboros symbol on his wand after he’d fainted in her store. It was entirely possible that she’d done something to him then and he had a right to know what.

“Are you sure you want to discuss this now?” she asked. Stiles could practically feel everyone staring at him.

“These people are my friends,” Stiles said. “The last time there was power in me, they’re the reason that I didn’t wipe out the entire town as a prank. I’m OK with them knowing whatever power is in me now.”

Bookworm gave a slow nod before saying, “When we first met, your power was a tiny spark inside you, barely noticeable to any with talent. Since that point, it grew steadily with your practice and training.” Here Bookworm glanced at Amelia. “When you returned to your starting point, you created a closed loop in time, the ouroboros. This created a cycle that your essence could travel through, multiplying itself into infinity. The ouroboros is a delicate piece of magic that can unleash incredible power. Few have ever managed to complete the spell successfully. Many have died trying to achieve this. Yet you managed to by accident. In all my life, I have only heard of one person who has ever done such a thing.”

“And who would that be.”

“Merlin.”

***

Stilles pulled into the parking lot of the sheriff’s station. They were going to try the mass purification spell on everyone the curse had affected. The problem with that was that the hunters had been affected. One of them was dead, but there was still the other one to deal with. Someone, they needed to persuade him to come with them and try the spell.

His dad had called the guy to the sheriff’s station to answer some questions about the death and now Stiles was here to corner him when he came out. He had his wand and a bunch of stuff for a binding spell if logic and reason failed to get the guy to come with him. Scott, Ethan and Noshiko would be lurking nearby to try violence if magic didn’t work. They would get the guy back to the loft and try the purification spell on everyone.

Hopefully it would work. If it didn’t, Stiles didn’t exactly have a back-up plan.

He parked the jeep and got out, going round to the passenger side and opening up the door. There were shopping bags on the seat, filled with the various items he would need for the spell tonight. Some more unusual items had been shipped overnight from the shop in New York by Neil, but Stiles had salt and herbs and silver, even a fresh apple. He also had items he might need for the binding spell if he needed to get the hunter with him by magic, including a ball of twine and a Ken doll to act as simulacrum. He’d even shoved his wand into one of the bags and he rummaged for it now. This hunter might be dangerous so he was going in there armed.

“Hi, Stiles.”

The voice surprised him and Stiles spun round, dislodging one of the bags from the seat. It hit the ground and then everything in it seemed to magically gain the ability to roll. Jars and twine and everything rolled away in about a hundred different directions. Even his wand seemed to join in the fun.

“Crap,” Stiles muttered.

Parrish gave a sheepish apology and quickly bent to help Stiles gather up stuff.

“I didn’t mean to startle you,” he said.

“It’s OK. My bad.”

“Your dad is just doing an interview,” Parrish said. “He should be done in a few minutes. You cooking him dinner or something?”

Parrish had made a pile of herb jars in the crook of an arm, while Stiles reached under the jeep for the apple. Thankfully the spell shouldn’t be affected by the fact it was now bruised and battered.

“Something like that,” Stiles said.

Parrish crouched again to pick up the magic wand, which had rolled towards him. Stiles stood in frozen fear when Parrish’s fingers stopped just shy of touching the wood. Parrish gave a puzzled frown, appearing to be genuinely confused as to why his hand just wouldn’t make contact. Then Stiles shook himself out of his surprise. He hurried over, bent, and grabbed the handle of the wand. He and Parrish both stood. Parrish was still giving the wand confused looks, but he didn’t seem like he was about to attack Stiles or anything.

“What is that?” Parrish asked.

Stiles went back to his jeep and put the stuff back into the bag, but he kept hold of the wand. Parrish came to his side, dropping the herb jars into the bag as thought nothing was wrong. He would have looked the same as always, except for the way his eyes kept flicking to the wand.

“It’s a magic wand,” Stiles said. He watched for a reaction. Parrish seemed to look almost relieved.

“I guess it isn’t meant to be picked up by just anyone?” Parrish asked.

“Something like that.”

“Well, I’ll see you around, Stiles.” He turned to leave.

“Wait,” Stiles called. “You didn’t seem surprised when I said magic? Most people would tell me not to be so ridiculous.”

Parrish shrugged, “I’ve seen a lot of weird things, especially since coming to Beacon Hills. I’ve learned to keep an open mind.”

“What’s your particular brand of weirdness?” Stiles asked. It seemed more polite than asking him what manner of monster he was. Parrish just gave him another puzzled look, as though trying to understand the question. When at last he answered, Stiles wasn’t sure what to make of it.

“I suffer from anaemia,” he said at last. “My body can’t absorb iron right.”

He headed across the parking lot to one of the cop cars and got in. This time, Stiles didn’t say anything to stop him. He had other issues to deal with right now, like the hunter walking out of the police station. He’d worry about what kind of creature Parrish was once they’d dealt with vengeance curse ghosts. Stiles kept tight hold of the wand but left everything else in the jeep and went over to the hunter, who was a big guy with a sort of goatee style beard. According to Derek, a whole group of hunters had attacked him, but most of them had been guns-for-hire. Peter had talked about two who’d apparently seen the ghost. One was now dead; this was the other.

“Can I talk to you?” Stiles said.

The hunter looked him up and down, then asked, “What the fuck do you want?”

“It’s about that,” Stiles dropped his voice, “she-wolf.”

The hunter gave him a hard stare. He then glanced back towards the police station. Stiles could practically see the cogs moving behind his eyes, working out the dangers of beating a kid up right in front of a building full of cops.

“What do you know about it?” the hunter asked.

“You’ve been seeing someone who should be dead. She’s been talking to you about how it’s your fault she’s dead and you can’t seem to shake her ghost and that’s why your friend killed himself. The thing is, I can’t picture a big tough hunter getting all upset over some wolf, so I figure maybe she was one of you. Got a little up close and personal with a werewolf’s fangs and you decided that she deserved to be put down like a rabid animal but there was always a little part of you that wondered if you were doing the right thing. How am I doing so far?”

The man grabbed Stiles by the front of his shirt, balled up fists lifting Stiles up onto his toes. The hunter glared into his face. Stiles, perfectly calmly, looked behind the guy to the door of the sheriff station.

“You want to do this here?” Stiles asked. The man slowly let go. Stiles straightened his shirt.

“Who the fuck are you?” the hunter asked.

“You’re not the only one who’s been seeing ghosts. I can make them go away.”

“Why the hell would I need help from some punk kid?”

“This thing will keep coming after you until you kill yourself or it gets enough physical strength to do it for you. It’s a vengeance curse and it’s spreading. At least seven people have been affected so far and it will keep going until we’re all dead. Unless we stop it.”

“A curse?” the hunter laughed. “What kind of idiot do you think I am?”

“I probably shouldn’t answer that question because I’m rather attached to my teeth.”

“There are creatures out there,” the hunter said, “animals and subspecies, but that doesn’t make it magic. So you can take your curse and shove it, because I deal with things that are real.”

The hunter shoved past Stiles, barging his shoulder out of the way, which was entirely unnecessary because there was plenty of room. Stiles just sighed and gave up on the concept of reason. He walked back to his jeep and grabbed the doll and twine from the mess. Bookworm had given him the binding spell, promising that it was a more effective long-term solution than the spell he’d used on Peter in the woods.

Stiles started wrapping the twine around the doll’s legs. Across the parking lot, the hunter fell flat on his face, swearing and confused about the fact his legs were now pinned together.

Chapter Text

“You guys should take up kidnapping professionally.”

“Shut up, Peter.”

Scott carried their hunter prisoner into Derek’s loft, with Stiles and Noshiko following behind. Stiles had managed to stop the hunter complaining by sticking a little piece of tape over the mouth of the doll. Stiles had to resist the urge to do stupid things to the doll just to prank the hunter. He just kept quoting Spiderman in his head and ignoring the temptation to misuse the power he now had over the guy. Scott dumped the guy down next to Peter and Stiles set the doll carefully on the table. The hunter made some unintelligible, but obviously angry, noises while glaring daggers at Stiles.

“This is for your own good, you know,” Stiles said. “Why is it that the people we kidnap are never grateful?”

“You could try kidnapping my nephew,” Peter suggested. “He’d probably enjoy it.”

“Shut up or I’ll gag you with Derek’s dirty socks.”

Stiles left the two prisoners while he went to prepare for the ritual. He started with the herbs, using Derek’s kitchen utensils to mix together concoctions. Some were for tea, some for burning, some for sprinkling during the ritual. He was about half-way through when Amelia arrived back from the post office with a large box. One of the first things she pulled out of the box was a very familiar jar with a calligraphy label written in silver ink.

“The moon blessed water?” Stiles said.

“Neil’s sent all he had left of the batch you made.”

“What is this stuff?” Scott asked, lifting another of jars from the box and peering at it.

“Holy water,” Stiles said. “I can make more at the full moon if we ever need to fight vampires.”

“We’re not going to be fighting vampires.”

“You say that now but with our track record in this town, we need to be prepared. Oh, and by the way, Deputy Parrish isn’t human.”

“What?” Scott demanded. “What is he then? He’s definitely not a werewolf.”

“Haven’t figured that out yet. All I know is that I dropped my wand and he couldn’t pick it up. I figure I’ll just give my dad a heads up and leave it at that for now. One problem at a time. We’ll worry about Parrish after we deal with the vengeance ghosts.”

Scott stared at him for a moment, then sighed: “Sometimes I hate our lives.”

***

They had to wait until Stiles’ dad was finished with work, so Stiles had time to prepare everything. By the time everyone was gathered in Derek’s loft, he had bowls of herb mixtures, and a long line of items spread across the table ready to be used, along with detailed notes about what to do. He’d had Bookworm check his notes, which she’d read with glee, and she’d agreed that each part of the ritual would work as a purification spell, but she still had doubts about whether this would work on such a powerful curse.

Stiles was nervous. He’d never done a spell this powerful before, at least not on purpose. Now he would be doing magic in front of basically all his friends, plus a couple of enemies thrown in for good measure, and he couldn’t help the fear that this would all be a horrendous flop. He’d been nervous when he’d led a workshop at the magic shop but then the worst that would happen was that people would laugh at him. If he screwed this up, there would be vengeance ghosts going around hurting people and trying to get them to kill themselves. He wasn’t sure he was up for this. He was used to being the guy in the background while the werewolves and hunters executed the plans. He didn’t want to be the one everyone was relying on.

He stood at the table by the big windows, going through his notes for about the hundredth time, when someone came up to him from behind, wrapping strong arms around his waist. Stiles leaned back against Derek’s chest and closed his eyes.

“What if this doesn’t work?” Stiles asked.

“Then we’ll get a new plan,” Derek answered. Stiles felt a kiss against the side of his head. He let Derek’s warmth envelop him and tried to calm the racing of his heart. It didn’t matter that his friends could see him. It didn’t matter that his dad might walk in at any moment and see them like this. It felt right to be held by Derek. The world might be going to hell but this one thing seemed to be working.

He ran his eyes over the items on the table. There had been a few other items in the package from the magic shop that he’d discretely pocketed. He didn’t think anyone had noticed, except Amelia and Bookworm. The others here wouldn’t know enough about magic to know what he was planning on using them for. A small, jade carving of a person weighed heavily in his pocket with the implications of what it could mean, and what he would have to do to make the spell work. A life for a life was a fair price, all things considered, but he wasn’t sure he had it in him to kill even Peter.

Either way, he had to wait until after they’d completed this spell. Peter was at the heart of this vengeance curse and Stiles had no idea what killing him would do to the others affected. He wasn’t going to take the chance until this spell was broken.

Scott came over to join Derek and Stiles at the table. He didn’t say anything about the way the two of them were standing. Derek made no move to let go of Stiles.

“I’ve just been on the phone to Chris in France,” Scott said, and Stiles wondered at what point they’d got on first name terms with him. Before or after Allison?

“Any sign of vengeance ghosts?” Derek asked.

“None. Apparently he and Isaac haven’t seen anything weird except for a ghoul living in the Paris sewers.”

“Ew,” Stiles said, more than a little grateful that their monster-hunting exploits had never taken them into sewers.

“I guess this curse needs physical proximity to spread,” Scott said.

"We hope," Stiles commented. Hope was all they had right now; there was still so much they didn’t know about this curse.

Scott went over to where the hunter was lying on the floor next to Peter. He was mostly being ignored, the binding spell keeping him held motionless, though his eyes flickered angrily from person to person, speaking volumes of his fury. Scott crouched down in the man’s eye line, then looked to Stiles.

“Can you take the spell off just his mouth?” Scott asked.

Stiles extracted himself from Derek’s arms, went to the doll and peeled off the piece of tape from the doll’s mouth. The hunter tested out his regained vocal abilities by swearing at him. Scott just waited until he ran out of steam. When the hunter finally seemed to have used up his entire repertoire of swearwords, Scott started to talk.

“We can undo the binding spell,” Scott said, “so you can participate in the ritual, but only if you agree to cooperate.”

“Cooperate with a werewolf?” the hunter said. He spat that last word with venom, as though it were as much an insult as all the swearwords he’d been throwing around moments earlier.

“This pack has worked with hunters before,” Scott said. “We’re not dangerous, we’re not killers, but there are things out there that are. We’ve teamed up with hunters to stop those things. All we’re asking now is that you cooperate while we do this cleansing ritual. Hopefully that will get rid of this spell and we’ll all stop seeing dead people. Then you’ll be free to go. You can go back to wherever you came from and no one needs to get hurt.”

“Does this mean you’ll let me out of my chains?” Peter asked.

“No,” Scott and Derek said together.

“So you’ll trust a hunter more than you’ll trust me?”

“Yes,” Derek said.

“Are you forgetting that he and his friends tortured us?” Peter asked.

Derek came and stood where he could smirk down at Peter.

“I haven’t forgotten a thing,” he said. “He and his friends tortured me and threatened to kill me… and I’d still rather trust him than you. You might want to think about why that is.”

Peter turned his head as much as he was able, given the chain that was still around his neck, and he looked up at Scott. He didn’t seem particularly upset by Derek’s statement.

“You really should undo these chains,” Peter told Scott. “These two are still planning to kill me.”

Stiles felt the little jade carving like a lead weight in his pocket. It felt huge and obvious, like everyone here must be able to see it and see what it meant. A jade carving to represent the person being brought back, whose body no longer existed for the resurrection spell. A representation of Laura, in the same way that the Ken doll was acting as a representation of the hunter for the binding spell.

Scott didn’t ask Derek and Stiles about their plans. Stiles wasn’t sure if it was because Scott didn’t believe they would commit murder, or because he was afraid that they would and he didn’t want to ask in case his fears were confirmed, because then he’d have to decide whose side to take. Instead, Scott just ignored Peter and focused back on the hunter.

“Will you cooperate?” Scott asked.

“Bear in mind,” Derek said, “if you try anything stupid, there will be three werewolves ready to fight you, a couple of kitsune who are pretty lethal with their katanas, plus Stiles.”

Scott gave Stiles a quick grin, adding, “And he’s set fire to two people in the past few days, so you should watch out for him.”

“Only one of those was deliberate,” Stiles said.

“You shouldn’t say that like it’s a good thing,” Scott said, and patted Stiles on the shoulder.

The hunter was looking up at them with a mixture of disbelief and anger. Stiles could sympathise. It was hard to believe that their mob was a force to be reckoned with in Beacon Hills.

“I’ll cooperate with your spell,” the hunter said. He’d at least stopped arguing that magic wasn’t real. Stiles picked up the doll and untied the string. He felt the familiar tingle of magic through his fingertips as he touched the core of the spell and he let the energy release. On the floor, the hunter began slowly moving his limbs, getting life back into them. He kept his eyes on the werewolves standing over him, as though expecting sudden violence, but kept his movements slow, non-provoking, as he got to his feet.

When Stiles’ dad joined them in the loft, still dressed in his sheriff’s uniform, the hunter stared at him with undisguised surprise. He gave a look towards Peter when the sheriff didn’t make the slightest move to deal with a guy chained to a pillar in the middle of the room.

“Are we ready to start?” Stiles’ dad asked.

“Just waiting on you,” Stiles said. “Everyone who’s been seeing dead people, go stand near Peter.”

“Anyone who feels inclined to make Sixth Sense jokes,” his dad said, “remember that I have a gun.”

That got a faint chuckle that did little to dispel the tense atmosphere as Derek, Scott, Stiles’ dad and the hunter went to stand near to Peter. Stiles could feel everyone watching him with tense expectation. Even the people who weren’t about to get a spell cast on them looked nervous. They shuffled to the edge of the room where they wouldn’t get in the way but where they would have a good view of everything that went down. Even Amelia looked tense. About the only person who seemed calm about all this was Bookworm.

Stiles went to the table to get the first of his items: a large bowl nearly half-filled with the moon blessed water. It wasn’t very much for this many of them, but they were about half a month away from him being able to make more. He took the bowl over to the group and set it down between them. He took out his wand and held it over the bowl. He closed his eyes and reached for that core of magic inside. When he opened his eyes again, the three symbols of his power were glowing faintly silver.

“I call upon the ancient spirits,” Stiles said, “to bless and purify this water that it may bless and purify our souls and bodies.” He touched the tip of the wand to the surface of the water and the silver light flowed down the wood until the water was glowing faintly. Stiles lifted the wand from the bowl and with the damp end, drew a pentagram around the bowl. He left a very slightly damp line on the floor that glowed silver with the light of his magic. He tried to ignore Lydia saying quietly that she’d get him to do the lighting at her next party. He had to focus on the spell.

“I call upon the elements to grant power to this spell,” he continued. “I call upon the moon. Light your blessings upon us. Especially, I call upon the element of water. Cleanse us through your power.”

The pentagram glowed brighter for a second, then the magic lights faded. Stiles set down his wand and dipped his hands into the bowl. He washed them in the water, more symbolically than in a serious expectation of being cleaner. Then he leant over the bowl and splashed the water into his face.

He picked up his wand and stepped back, gesturing Derek forward. One by one, the others washed their hands and splashed their faces. When it came to Peter’s turn, Stiles carried the bowl over to him and, with Scott’s help, dipped his hands and splashed his face for him. Stiles was tempted to just empty the bowl over Peter and claim it was because Peter clearly needed the most cleansing. He didn’t though. He just took the bowl back to the table and collected his next item: a tea pot with a mixture of herbs stewed in it.

The liquid was cold now, but he wasn’t sure it would have been any better hot. He poured a generous helping into a mug. It came out a murky brown colour. He had to check his notes to make sure he got the invocation right for this one.

“In the name of the ancient powers, we ask that be purified. In the name of the spirits of magic, we ask that we be purified. In the name of our ancestors, we ask that we be purified. Three times we ask. Three powers we implore. By the power of three times three, so mote it be.”

He lifted the mug to his lips, tried not to breathe in the smell of it, and swallowed a quick mouthful. The aftertaste clung bitter to his tongue and he wondered about downing the remaining moon-blessed water in an effort to rid himself of the taste. Instead, he just offered the mug to Derek, who sniffed it doubtfully, made a face, and then drank.

“Will it ruin the spell if I throw up?” Scott asked, after his mouthful.

“Yes,” Stiles said. “Please don’t.”

They all, with various faces of disgust, drank the foul concoction. Stiles wished he’d left this bit until last because now he’d have to continue the rest of the rituals with that taste lingering in his mouth.

He set down the remains of the tea and picked up a bundle of sage and a few other herbs. The bundle was about as long as his hand and looked like an over-sized spliff. Stiles lit the end with a match because he didn’t want to risk setting the entire thing alight with an over-powered spell. Stiles carried it back to the little group and wafted the smoke over them all.

“Are you sure that’s legal?” his dad asked.

“It’s mostly sage,” Stiles answered.

“It’s not the ‘mostly’ I’m worried about. It’s whatever else is mixed in with it.”

“Priorities, Dad. We’ve got killer vengeance spirits to deal with.”

His dad narrowed his eyes, “Meaning it’s not all legal.”

Stiles didn’t answer that. At least this way his dad would be able to claim that no one had told him he was inhaling the second-hand smoke of illegal substances. Besides, it wasn’t like it was something the average drug dealer would be pedalling.

“We all come from the earth,” Stiles said, still wafting the smoke and fighting the urge to start coughing. “To the earth we will return. In memory of that cycle, we breathe in the earth’s offering.” Scott was coughing a bit. At least he didn’t have asthma anymore or this would be a nightmare for him. “With earth and air together, we ask the cleansing of our spirits.”

Stiles extinguished the herb bundle before they all choked or they set off a smoke alarm. This place didn’t have an extractor fan, so they would be forced to do the rest of the rituals breathing in the smoke. Maybe that would help it work, giving it more time to do its cleansing. So far, there had been some pretty lights but he didn’t feel any less cursed.

He picked up a handful of crystals, giving a small piece to each of the people who he was casting the spell on. He even bent down to put a piece into Peter’s hand. He kept one piece for himself. Then he set a larger piece of crystal on the floor between them and picked up his wand. He gestured for the others to stand or, in Peter’s case, sit in a circle around the large crystal. Then he aimed his wand at it and called up the core of magic.

“Spirits of magic, shed light on our darkness,” Stiles said. “Banish the shadows that have infected our lives. Cast out the evil that threatens us.”

Light burst from his wand and hit the large crystal, which took on a bright, white glow that left an afterglow on his eyelids when he blinked. A moment later, lines of light shot from the crystal towards their little pieces, the lines hanging there in the air like a glowing spider web. Each little piece gained a glow of its own and split the light into rainbow fractions. Bright colours shone onto their skin.

Across the room, Lydia started to complain that the angles of the crystals weren’t right for the prism effect they were seeing. Danny hushed her.

“Spirits of magic,” Stiles continued, “illuminate our spirits. Drive out the darkness that infects us.”

The light intensified to blinding levels and Stiles was forced to close his eyes. He could still see the brightness on the other side of his eyelids. He felt the crystal pulsing with magic in his hand. Then a moment later, it was gone, light and sense of magic vanished in the same instance. Stiles risked opening his eyes and saw the others blinking or rubbing hands over their eyes.

“Sorry, guys,” Stiles said. “That was more intense than I was expecting.”

“You didn’t set anyone on fire this time,” Scott said, “so I call it a win.”

“You’re never going to let me live that down, are you?”

“No.”

Stiles gathered up the crystals and put them down on the table. He was wondering how he would tell if the spell worked. Something magical had definitely happened but he had no way of knowing if they’d actually cleansed the curse or just given their spirits a bit of a polish. He supposed they’d have to just wait and see if they saw any dead people.

“Nearly there,” he announced to all those gathered. He picked up a bowl filled with a herb mixture, a different one from the tea. There was mountain ash in this mixture, so he’d have to be careful to clean it up properly afterwards.

He positioned everyone in a circle.

“You’re going to need to hold his hands,” Stiles warned his dad and Scott, who’d ended up on either side of Peter. They crouched down so that they could take his chained hands, and then reach up to take the hands of the people standing on the other side. Stiles took handfuls of the herb mixed and poured it out, forming a circle just inside the circle of people. Then he took more and formed a second circle around the outside, until they were standing between two rings of herbs. Stiles finished the outer ring and then set down the bowl and his wand; he’d need both his hands free for this one.

He returned to the circle, taking a place between Scott and Derek, taking their hands. They formed an unbroken ring of people. Stiles called up the warm power inside him and sent it through those connecting hands, reaching out to touch them with his magic. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Derek smiling in recognition.

“A darkness has touched our spirits,” Stiles said, feeling that flow of magic. “We cast that darkness out. Within this circle we are bound together, safe and protected from the evil that threatens us. We join together and by the power of the circle we banish this evil power.”

Around them, the smoke from the earlier sage burning was moving. It was flowing as though blown by invisible winds, gathering in tufts and flurries until all the smoke was gathered in the central circle. Once the smoke was inside the circle, it didn’t leave again, it was held there as though inside an invisible column.

“Is that supposed to happen?” Amelia asked.

Stiles didn’t know. There had been nothing in the materials to prepare him for this. The smoke seemed to be thickening. He could no longer see his dad on the other side of the circle. He tried to fight down the urge to panic. What the hell was he supposed to do now?

A familiar voice drifted out of the smoke.

“Is your magic not working as you expect it to?” Laura’s voice asked, mocking in her tone. “Maybe you should try singing to it.”

Chapter Text

“Allison?” Scott asked, staring into the smoke. Stiles looked round, seeing surprise and confusion on everyone’s faces. He guessed whatever they were hearing was different from what he heard because Laura hadn’t sounded a thing like Allison.

“Bookworm,” Stiles called out, “any ideas?”

“Don’t break the circle,” she answered. “While the circle holds, it is trapped.”

“And then what?” Stiles asked.

“Always asking for help, aren’t you, Stiles?” Laura’s voice asked from inside the smoke. “You can’t do anything for yourself. You’re just a little boy, waving a stick around and pretending it’s a magic wand.”

Stiles felt Derek’s hand tighten around his. The grip was painful. Derek was glaring into the smoke, nearly trembling with rage and hurt. Whatever he was hearing must be bad.

“You’re not her,” Derek snarled into the smoke.

Scott was crying. Across the circle, Stiles could hear his dad saying, “Don’t. Please don’t.” He was practically begging.

“You’re making them hurt,” Laura’s voice said. “You brought them here. You made claims about being able to help them but you’re just inflicting this suffering on them. All of this is your fault. Like everything else.”

Stiles tried not to listen. He tried to think of a way to end this, but Laura’s voice kept speaking, taunting him with truth.

“It was your fault Scott got bitten; you’re the one who dragged him out into the woods. It’s your fault I died; you refused to tell me who killed me. It’s your fault they all died: Erica, Boyd, Allison, Aidan. You could have saved them all with just a few words of warning. All that blood is on your hands.”

He knew this was what the spell did. It stirred up feelings of guilt. But he also that every word she was saying was true. He was to blame for everyone who’d died, including those people the kanima killed, or the nogitsune. Every single person who’d died over the past couple of years had done so because he’d not told Derek and Laura the whole truth. And now more people were going to die and that was his fault too, because he’d not warned Derek about Jennifer being the Darach.

“It’s all your fault, Stiles. The world would be better off without you in it.” Laura’s words continued, laying the blame firming on his shoulders. Her accusations floated out of the swirling smoke.

He was vaguely aware of Derek and Scott beside him, crying at whatever words they were hearing, but all his thoughts were on Laura’s words. His cheeks were wet with tears and he knew that the world would be better off if he just jumped off the roof of this building. Derek would find someone better for him and no one else would die.

Splashes of wetness hit his arm. He blinked smoky confusion from his thoughts and saw a wave of water flying through the air across the circle, hitting the smoke.

Laura’s voice dissolved into a scream of rage and pain.

Stiles could think again. He looked round and saw Amelia standing there, an empty bowl in her hands. She’d thrown the moon-blessed water onto the smoke.

They still stood, hands joined, in the circle around the smoke, but with the others of the group crowded round. They’d been trying to get their attention and now were looking with mixtures of relief and confusion that mirrored how Stiles felt. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been standing there, listening to Laura’s voice, but it could have been hours.

“Thank god,” Lydia said. “I thought I’d have to scream to get your attention.”

“Good thinking,” Stiles told Amelia. She was still staring into the middle of the circle.

“I don’t think it’s over yet,” she said.

The smoke was solidifying. It was coming together in black clumps that merged and flowed into each other like dark clay moulding itself. The solid shape was growing, drawing in the smoke and forming into a person-shaped shadow. Stiles could feel sweat on his palms and he wasn’t sure if it came from him or from the others. The thing in the inner circle moved. It had no face but Stiles could swear it was looking at them. Stiles flinched away when its non-face turned to him.

“Don’t break the circle!” Bookworm screamed.

Stiles’ hands tightened around Scott’s and Derek’s, as though their grips might come apart of their own free will. The dark shape was still growing, person-sized now as well as person-shaped, and it seemed to be gaining definition. What had just been a mass of blackness was showing signs of facial features and hair and individual fingers. There were even clothes forming about it. The colour was shifting too, with black becoming deep blue around the face, hair starting to show through brown. Stiles stifled a sob as he realised who the thing looked like, at least to him.

“Laura?” Derek whispered. Maybe this time it wasn’t looking like something different to different people.

“Is everyone else seeing the same?” Stiles asked.

“Well I can’t see through your eyes to know what you’re seeing,” Peter said, managing a sarcastic tone even in these circumstances, “but that looks like Laura.”

“Yeah,” Scott agreed.

Stiles turned his head for confirmation from those who hadn’t been affected by the spell. Bookworm nodded.

“It’s taking physical form,” Bookworm said. “No doubt it has taken its form as a manifestation of your sense of guilt because your magic is fuelling the spell.”

“Well how do we stop it?” Stiles asked.

“Once it is fully manifested,” Bookworm said, “it will be at its most powerful but it will also be vulnerable. A physical form can be destroyed and as long as the circle holds, it will be trapped.”

The thing looked humanoid now. It looked like Laura in its shape, but the skin was blue, with dark marks on the face. Her teeth were extended like fangs, but she was neither werewolf nor human. She snarled around at the people in the circle, but remained trapped within the ring of herbs.

“Screw this,” the hunter muttered. He let go of the hands he was holding, pulling a knife from some hidden sheath.

“No!” Bookworm yelled, other voices joining in the protest.

The hunter stepped forward, bringing his arm across the line of herbs to stab the creature in the chest. The creature gave a yowl of pain, but grabbed the hunter by the wrist. He crumpled to the ground, whimpering and softly sobbing.

What followed was pure chaos. The thing was out of the circle now and the ring of people dissolved. Derek was the first to attack, slashing with claws, only to fall to the ground as soon as his claws cut its flesh. Scott fell a moment later, his own attack ending in the same whimpering manner.

“Don’t let it touch your skin,” Bookworm yelled above the noise.

Noshiko and Kira leapt into the attack, their katanas letting them keep some distance from the thing’s flesh. The creature reacted with obvious pain when the swords sliced into it, but it didn’t seem to be slowing down and the wounds were visibly healing as soon as they were dealt. The creature moved in a blur of limbs between the two kitsune, dodging the swords until it could brush a finger against skin.

Noshiko collapsed, falling into a foetal position and sobbing. The distraction was enough to slow Kira down, and the creature dodged around her blade to place a hand onto her face.

Deafening gunshots rang through the loft. The creature staggered backwards, dark blood bursting from a wound in its chest. Stiles’ dad was there with his gun, firing again. The creature gave a scream that was part pain and part blood-chilling fury. As another bullet ripped a hole through its shoulder, it ran across the loft, tossing aside Ethan who tried to block its path. The creature slammed into Stiles’ dad, knocking him down. He collapsed into a sobbing heap.

“Dad!” Stiles screamed.

He reached out a hand towards the table. His wand flew into his grip, blazing with crimson light. The creature paused in its rampage and, for a moment, Stiles thought he saw fear in its eyes. All Stiles could think was that this thing had hurt his dad, his boyfriend and his friends.

“Burn,” he said.

The fire that erupted from the wand was blazingly bright, a spear of flame shooting across the room.

The creature ran. The blazing attack caught it a glancing blow that was still enough for clothes and hair to burst into fire. It kept running, smashing through the windows in a shower of glittering shards. It continued over the balcony and plummeted into the night.

Stiles turned and ran after it, hopping over the jagged shards of glass that still clung to the window frame, and out onto the balcony. He looked down over the edge, seeing the street below. There was no sign of the creature.

Back inside the loft a silent stillness reigned, broken by the faint sobbing noises that came from those the creature had touched. Stiles walked over to his dad and crouched down beside him. His dad was curled in on himself, crying quietly. He didn’t seem to see Stiles. The rest were much the same, apparently unaware of their surroundings, giving themselves over to tears.

“What’s wrong with them?” Danny asked. He was crouching over Ethan, who was slumped unseeing, hugging his arms around his chest and rocking back and forth as he cried.

“This creature can tap into feelings of guilt and grief,” Bookworm said, “and use them as a weapon. She has caused an overwhelming sensation of these emotion, enough to essentially cripple them.”

“Can you help them?” Stiles asked.

Bookworm crouched down over Derek. She placed a hand on his forehead and closed her eyes, tilting her head as though listening to something. After a few moments, she opened her eyes again and met Stiles’ gaze. She gave a short nod.

“Yes,” she said, “but it will take some time and she is feeding on their pain. The more people she does this to, the more dangerous she will become.”

“So half our pack are essentially unconscious, there’s a guilt monster running around that can knock people out with a touch, and it’s only going to get more powerful?” Stiles summed up the situation and looked around the room at all the people he would usually be relying on to make a plan.

His dad, Scott and Derek were all crying wrecks. The kitsune were down. Bookworm was the only person who could help bring these people back. Even Ethan was out. Stiles would have accepted help from the hunter right now, but he was down too.

The only ones left were Bookworm, Amelia, Danny and Lydia. Oh, and Peter, who’d been trapped by his chains and unable to join in the fight. Stiles gradually became aware that everyone was looking at him, as though expecting him to come up with a plan.

He took a deep breath to try and calm his shaken nerves. It didn’t work. And everyone was still looking at him.

“Bookworm,” he said, “what do you need in order to help them?”

She looked at the table, “I should have the items I need here, but I will require a human spell caster.”

“Amelia, I guess that’s you,” Stiles said. “We need to find this creature. Lydia, are you hearing anything?”

She shook her head, “Just crying. It’s like a waterfall. So many tears.”

She looked pale and shaken, staring around at the people scattered across the loft’s floor. Stiles hoped this meant that people weren’t about to die, but people getting overwhelmed with pure grief wasn’t a much better fate.

“Maybe we can use this,” Stiles said. “We need to track this thing down. If you can hear its victims, maybe we can use that to work out where it is if it attacks anyone else.”

“You might want to try thinking of a plan with a few less ‘maybes’,” Lydia said, but she didn’t seem about to offer any better suggestions.

“Danny,” Stiles continued, “can you hack into the town’s security cameras?”

“I can try,” Danny said, “but a lot of those are private security systems on closed circuits, so I can’t just get into every security camera in town to look for a blue monster.”

“Just do what you can. Lydia, you’re with me.”

“May I make another suggestion?” asked Peter. “This may be a time to put aside differences. Let me out of these chains and I’ll help you fight this thing.”

“Not a chance in hell,” Stiles said. He turned to Bookworm, “If he tries to escape, chop his feet off.”

Stiles grabbed a piece of crystal from the collection on the table. If Lydia’s gift didn’t help, maybe he could try an ordinary tracking spell. He dipped the crystal in one of the blood splatters on the loft floor so that he’d have something to help focus the spell on the creature. There was quite a lot of blood left by the bullet wounds, as almost an after thought, Stiles went back to where his dad was lying.

“Sorry about this,” he muttered to his dad, then he picked up his dad’s fallen gun. He handed the gun to Lydia. He took a firm hold of his wand, tucked the blood-drenched crystal into his pocket, and started for the door.

“You’re really going to fight a creature who can do all this,” Peter said, “with only a banshee for back up?”

“Not exactly,” Stiles said. “There’s one more person I can ask for help.”

Chapter Text

Stiles took his jeep to the sheriff’s station and parked out front. Lydia had spent the ride listening to the sounds only she could hear, but she wasn’t picking up anything else from the blue guilt monster. Stiles had to hope that was a good thing because it might mean that no one was going to die any time soon. He left her in the car and hurried inside, smiling a greeting at the deputy on the front desk.

“Your dad’s taken off for the night,” she said.

“Yeah, I know,” Stiles said. “I was hoping to talk to Deputy Parrish.”

“Why?”

Stiles tried a smile, “It’s kind of private. Is he around?”

The deputy was looking at him with deep suspicion. It was really hurtful that this would be their default response to such a simple request. It wasn’t like he’d ever done anything really bad. Just copying keys to the station, reading confidential files, being caught next to an empty cell and an unconscious deputy after a breakout, and stealing a police vehicle. Stiles readjusted his thoughts. He was probably lucky they didn’t arrest him just for walking in here.

“Maybe you could talk to me,” the deputy on the desk suggested.

“It’s not a matter of police work,” Stiles said. “It’s personal. It needs to be him. Is he on duty tonight? Please?”

He hoped pleading and looking desperate would yield a better response. She was still looking at him suspiciously. Stiles decided that in the interest of the greater good he would have to surrender his self-image and open himself up to station gossip. He dreaded to think what sort of wild rumours would spring up about this.

“Look,” he said, “I really can’t talk to my dad about this and my friends would mock me from here to the next ice age and, no offence, but I really need a guy’s input on this. Please will you let me talk to Deputy Parrish?”

“He’s out on patrol,” she said. “He should be around the edge of the nature preserve now. I could give him a call and ask him to come back to the station.”

“No, it’s OK. I’ll head out there now and meet him halfway.”

The deputy looked a little surprised but she said nothing, no doubt imagining all the things that might be wrong with him that couldn’t wait long enough for Parrish to get back here. Stiles left the station and hurried back to his jeep. Lydia was inside checking her phone.

“Danny says he’s not got anywhere yet with the cameras.”

“Have you heard anything yet?”

“The crying’s quieter away from the loft but I can still hear it.”

“Nothing else?”

“Sorry,” she said. “I could try screaming but I don’t think it’s going to help.”

Stiles sighed. He wished that Lydia’s gift came with an on button but it seemed they’d have to make do with what they could get. Hopefully Parrish would be able to help them. Stiles still had no idea what kind of creature Parrish was but he’d been here for months now and he had always been a good deputy, according to Stiles’ dad. Stiles had never seen him be anything but a nice guy and a good cop. Stiles had to trust that he wasn’t some powerful evil monster playing the long game.

He drove towards the preserve, heading down the dark roads and tapping his fingers nervously against the steering wheel as he drove. He was fighting against an urge to panic with every passing moment. He was doing something but he couldn’t help feeling that it was like running on a treadmill, all movement and no actual progress. He was acting without any knowledge of how to find the creature or how to stop it when he did. He knew it was effected by physical attacks so he just had to hope he would be able to hurt it enough. At least a physical thing could be killed more easily than a manifestation of guilt and it had seemed scared by his fire, so he could just try shooting more flames at the thing.

When he spotted a cop car approaching from the opposite direction, he flashed his headlights and pulled over. He grabbed his wand and climbed out. Lydia got out on the passenger side. If she still had the gun, it was hidden somewhere underneath her designer jacket. Deputy Parrish climbed out of the cop car. In the light from their respective headlights, it looked like he was trying not to smirk.

“I hear you have a… personal issue you want advice on,” he said.

“There’s a blue guilt monster running around Beacon Hills,” Stiles said, “with the ability to render people catatonic with grief just by touching them.”

Parrish blinked at him for a few seconds.

“Have you been doing acid?” he asked at last.

“Parrish, we don’t have time to mess around. We know you’re not human.”

Parrish looked bewildered and more than a little angry, saying, “I’m as human as the next person.”

Lydia said, “You should be careful who you’re standing next to before you make a statement like that.”

Parrish looked at her, doing a slight double take before turning back to Stiles.

“Just get to the point, Stiles. I’ve got a job to do here; I don’t have time for you to play jokes. Have you really got a problem you want help with or are you just messing me around?”

“I’m serious,” Stiles said. “There’s a guilt monster we need to stop.”

“I should arrest you for wasting police time,” Parrish said, “and, trust me, your father will hear about this.”

“My dad’s already been got by this thing.”

Parrish turned back to his car. Stiles tried to think of a way to stop him leaving but it was Lydia who stepped in.

“You’re like me,” she said to Parrish.

“What?” asked Stiles. “A banshee?”

“No, idiot. Banshees are always female.” She turned back to Parrish, who’d paused by his car door, “You really believe you’re human, don’t you?”

“That’s because I am!”

This wasn’t going according to plan at all. Stiles hadn’t considered that Parrish might not be aware that he was whatever the hell he was. He had to do something now to stop Parrish leaving and blabbing to the entire station about how crazy Stiles had sounded. Stiles hurried forward, closing the gap and standing by the car door so Parrish couldn’t open it without physically moving him. He held out his wand.

“If you’re really human then grab hold of my wand.” His brain caught up with his mouth. “That sounded really bad, didn’t it?”

Parrish managed a grin despite his annoyance, “Pretty bad.” He looked at the wand Stiles was holding out. “I thought people other than you couldn’t touch that?”

“Only I can use it,” Stiles said, “but other people can touch it, if they’re human. It’s made of mountain ash wood, which is used as protection against supernatural forces, so you can’t touch it if you’re a werewolf or dragon or kitsune or a whole long list of other things. The list of creatures that can’t handle mountain ash takes up about two whole pages in my magic book. So touch the wand if you’re human.”

Parrish reached out. His hand stopped just shy of touching the wood. His fingers hovered just a little from the carved surface. Parrish was staring, a wondering look replacing the annoyance that had been there before.

“Rowan wood,” he murmured.

“What?” Stiles asked.

“Rowan is a common name, along with mountain ash, for trees in the Sorbus family,” Lydia said.

Parrish stared at the wand for a moment longer, then appeared to shake himself. He shoved Stiles aside so he could get to the car door.

“This is nonsense,” he said.

“You saw Scott heal,” Stiles said. “He said you saw him. You can’t tell me that that’s normal.”

“I saw something weird but that doesn’t mean that I’m a… a freak.”

“I never said freak. I said not human. Most of the people I count as friends these days aren’t human. Hell, I’m dating a werewolf. Look, Parrish, you know this stuff is real. You saw Scott heal. I mentioned having a magic wand and you didn’t even blink. There is a creature out there that needs stopping and we need help finding it.”

“What do you expect me to do?” Parrish asked.

“I don’t know. I was working on the assumption that you were familiar with all this supernatural stuff and maybe that you’d have abilities to help us find this thing.”

“What kind of abilities?”

“Well the werewolves have heightened hearing and smell. Kira can do this funky lightning thing.”

“And I find dead bodies,” Lydia asked. “I really drew the short straw in the supernatural abilities pick.”

“I can’t do anything like that,” Parrish said. That was disappointing, but it had taken Lydia a while to work out her abilities so maybe it would take Parrish the same. Unfortunately, they didn’t have the time to wait for that to happen. This creature was out there and could be causing more trouble. He guessed he’d have to try the tracking spell. He wasn’t sure how well it would work giving that he didn’t personally know this creature, but it was better than nothing.

“I guess I’ll try my abilities then,” Stiles said. He reached into his pocket and grabbed what he could find. The piece of crystal was there, sticky with the creature’s blood. The jade figure had been smeared with blood too but he could clean it later. He shoved that back into his pocket and focused on the crystal. He needed to tie a thread around it and he hadn’t thought that far ahead back in the loft; he’d been too panicked to think clearly. After a moment’s worry, he lifted the amulet from round his neck and looped the cord around the crystal, tying it off.

“What are you doing?” Parrish asked.

“Magic,” Stiles replied. He went to the edge of the road. They were by the preserve here, so the roads were bounded by dirt. He used the end of his wand to scratch a pentagram into the earth. He placed the crystal in the middle. His chest started itching maddeningly, at the point where Peter had slashed through his tattoo, but he focused on calling up the elements in his mind in order to power the spell. He focused on the creature he wanted to find, on the way it had looked, the way it had made him feel, the things it had done to them.

The crystal took on a faint glow, a little hint of light that was barely visible in the darkness. Stiles picked it up, holding the amulet in his hand and letting the crystal hang freely. When Stiles held it aloft, the crystal swung uncertainly, swaying in different directions as though pulled by various forces. Parrish was staring at the moving crystal.

“I take it that’s not good,” said Lydia.

“No. The crystal should point the direction to the creature.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Parrish said. “What does this thing look like?”

Stiles gave a description, with Lydia contributing at times, talking about the human shape, the blue face, the markings. Parrish nodded. He listened carefully, no longer arguing that supernatural creatures weren’t real. When Stiles and Lydia were done, Parrish climbed into the car and reached for the radio.

“What are you doing?” Stiles asked. “You can’t put out an ABP for a blue monster.”

Parrish just grinned. He got on the radio to the station and explained that a group of kids were starting Halloween pranks a few months early. Stiles had heard about it but didn’t want to be the one known for ratting out the other kids to the cops, which was why he’d been so hesitant to talk at the station. Parrish asked if anyone had reported anything strange or any sign of a girl in blue stage make-up.

“We have had some reports like that,” the deputy said. Parrish grinned and took the details.

“Nice,” Stiles said, when Parrish got off the radio. Apparently a few different people had reported a weirdo in blue make-up. At least, that was what had been written down. Those making the reports had claimed everything from aliens to demons.

Parrish pulled out a map and marked the siting locations. Stiles put a finger down on the location of Derek’s loft. The locations made a roughly straight line across town, heading in the direction of the preserve, but the woods were a big place. Stiles frowned, looking closer at the map.

“I know where it’s heading,” he said.

They left the jeep, taking Parrish’s car instead, skirting the edge of the preserve and then turning onto a dirt road that lead up to a ruined house in the middle of the woods.

“It’s heading to the old Hale house?” Parrish asked.

“I think so,” Stiles said.

“But why?”

“I don’t know. Maybe something to do with the fact it took Laura Hale’s shape.”

"Why would it look like Laura Hale?” Parrish asked.

“Because it’s an embodiment of guilt and grief and because it’s my fault that Laura died, so it looks like her to me, and I was the one doing magic when this thing took physical form.”

Parrish looked no less puzzled. “I know I wasn’t here during that whole Hale case, but I thought that it was her uncle that killed her.”

“Yeah, it was uncle that murdered her but I knew that he was going to murder her and didn’t warn her, so it’s my fault too.”

“How could you know?”

Stiles opened his mouth to launch into a full explanation of time travel and loops and ouroboros. He closed his mouth again. Parrish was bewildered enough as it was and still trying to come to terms with the fact that he might not be a human being. There was only so much Stiles could dump on him at once.

“It’s complicated,” Stiles settled for.

He wasn’t actually sure why a guilt monster would choose the Hale house. It had taken Laura’s shape because of him, at least that was the theory they were going with, so why would it pick a place more associated with Derek?

Parrish pulled the car to a halt in front of the ruined house and then got out to let Lydia out of the back. She gave the ruins an uneasy look. No doubt this was a place filled with bad associations for her. Stiles climbed from the passenger seat, holding his wand tightly and looking around for some sign of the creature. He pulled out the piece of crystal and hung it down from the string. It was still moving, swinging round in circles, starting narrowly but growing larger.

A spiral. It was swinging in a spiral.

“What do we do now?” Parrish asked.

Stiles walked around the edge of the property, looking for a patch of dirt that, by now, looked like every other patch of dirt. Derek had reburied the body once he had been cleared of the murder charges. Enough time had passed that the place was no longer obvious, the ground packed down around it. The only thing that showed the grave were the flowers. Little purple blooms of wolfsbane grew around the gravesite, the flowers showing the faint hints of the spiral pattern in which they’d been planted.

Stiles stood over the grave, staring at the last resting place of Laura Hale. Why would she bring him back here? Why would she make him see this? The answer came in a surge of emotions, threatening to bring tears to his eyes. This site was the evidence of his guilt. Laura’s grave, where he’d had the chance to tell Derek everything and not done it. This grave was the symbol of all he’d failed to achieve. The vengeance spiral could be aimed against him. No wonder it had chosen a shape from his mind; he’d done much worthy of revenge.

He felt warmth bloom on the side of his neck, just behind his ear. Silver light shone in the clearing and Stiles realised that Lydia was standing beside him, her fingers touching the tattoo of the self kanji he had there.

“She’s trying to get into your head,” Lydia said. “Don’t listen to her.”

“Listen to what?” Parrish asked.

“Lydia can hear stuff no one else can,” Stiles explained. That didn’t do anything to get rid of the worried expression on Parish’s face.

Stiles looked around the clearing, seeing the old house, the trees, Lydia and Parrish standing nervously nearby. The glowing tattoo on his neck shone an eerie light to the otherwise dark night. He couldn’t hear anything now or see any sign of the creature. Not that he’d noticed he was hearing it before. He was really starting to hate things that could mess with his thoughts.

“Can you tell where it is?” Stiles asked Lydia.

“I can hear whispers but it’s like they’re echoing around,” she said. “I can’t tell what direction it’s coming from. She could be anywhere.”

That seemed a comment designed to be the cue for a gruesome attack. Stiles looked around, expending a blue guilt monster to leap out of the shadows at them. There was nothing. He could hear nothing but the wind in the trees. There wasn’t even the normal night noise of birds and animals moving through the undergrowth. It felt like the house was completely deserted, just them and the creature that had lured them here.

“Does anyone else feel like we’ve just walked into a trap?” Stiles asked.

“This was your plan,” Lydia pointed out.

“Well you should know better by now than to let me come up with the plan.”

Something burst out of the earth. A hand shot from the soil and grabbed Lydia’s ankle. She screamed.

Stiles nearly dropped his wand as he tried to cover his ears to protect them from the shriek that seemed to cut through to his core. Lydia kept screaming, but she kicked at the arm, yanking her leg free.

Another hand burst from the dirt in the middle of the spiral of wolfsbane. Stiles stared, frozen, watching a female form clawing her way out of the ground. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t possible. He reached into his pocket and closed his fist around the jade figure there, clenching it into a fist along with the protection amulet he still held. He hadn’t done the spell yet or made the sacrifice.

But as she clawed her body further out of the earth, Stiles got a look at her face. It was Laura.

Chapter Text

Stiles pressed a hand against the tattoo on his neck, feeling the magic tingling through his skin. Whatever he was seeing now wasn’t some projection inside his head, but that didn’t mean it was real. The creature had looked like Laura before. Stiles tightened his grip on his wand and kept it aimed towards Laura, watching her drag her legs out of the grave. She was naked, smears of dirt covering otherwise bare skin, but Stiles kept his eyes locked on her face.

She blinked up at him from the ground, confused. She looked around, seeing where she was, before turning back to him.

“Adam?” she asked. “What happened?”

“How do I know you’re really her?” Stiles asked. This could be another trick. He wanted it to be real. He wanted it so badly that the sensation was nearly painful, but all he could think of was the way the thing in the hospital room had looked at him with Laura’s face.

“What are you talking about?” Laura asked.

“She touched my leg,” Lydia said, “and it didn’t affect me like the others.”

“Doesn’t mean anything,” Stiles said. “Remember the kanima test?”

Stiles wasn’t sure if there was a way he could test this, short of letting Laura touch him and seeing if he turned into a gibbering puddle of guilty feelings. It just made no sense. The resurrection spell required power and a sacrificial victim and stuff like that. There had been none of that. And why the hell would a being manifested out of a need for revenge do something to bring back someone from the dead? This had to be a trick.

Laura got to her feet, wrapping her arms around herself in a meagre attempt at concealment of her nakedness. She looked just like Laura, albeit more confused than Laura had ever looked. If it was her, that would be understandable.

“What happened?” she asked again. “Where’s Peter?”

She took a step towards him. Stiles stepped back, tightening his grip on the wand. This had to be a trick. The best thing to do would be to blast her with fire, to destroy her once and for all. But Stiles couldn’t form the word for that spell. That tiny possibility in the back of his mind still lingered. He couldn’t kill her if there was even the slightest chance that she was really Laura. He’d already killed her once.

“Is Derek with you?” Laura asked.

“What is going on?” Parrish asked.

“What do you see?” Stiles asked.

“A naked woman, which I normally wouldn’t mind, but watching someone climb out of the ground is weird even by my standards. Is she the creature we’ve been looking for?”

“I don’t know. Lydia, can you tell?”

“I still hear the crying noise,” Lydia said, “but I can’t tell where it’s coming from. I can’t tell if it’s her or not.”

“What are you talking about?” Laura asked.

It couldn’t really be Laura. There was no way she could really be Laura. But Stiles wanted her to be. He’d rarely wanted anything so much in his life.

“We can’t just stand here all night,” Parrish said. He came up beside Stiles and put a hand on his arm.

In the blink of an eye, everything changed. Stiles was still standing by the old Hale house with Parrish and Lydia. He was still staring at a naked woman covered in dirt, but it wasn’t the same woman. It was Jennifer Blake, the Darach, the one who’d caused all this in the first place. In that instant, with the touch of Parrish’s skin against his, the illusion shattered and Stiles knew what he must do.

“Lydia, scream,” Stiles said.

“What?” she asked.

But Stiles staring down the length of his wand at the fake-Laura, burning with anger and hatred and the need to make things right.

“Burn,” he said.

Lydia screamed as the wand blazed red and a line of living fire shot from the end, engulfing Jennifer in an inferno. She writhed in the flames, screaming in agony, but couldn’t seem to break away from it.

In his other hand, Stiles clutched the protective amulet to the jade figure, which was already marked with blood. Overheard, the dark sky was empty of the moon. Around him, the sound of Lydia’s scream tore between the living and the dead. Stiles stared at the burning, dying Jennifer and added his own whisper to the noise.

“Terra, ad carnem. Aquis lacrimarum, ad vivum sanguinem. Mortem, ad vitam.”

The spell needed a sacrifice and this creature had taken physical form now. The spell needed correct timing and this was the night of the new moon. It needed power. Stiles felt the itching of his chest turn to the warmth of magic, the tattooed symbol there reforming and letting him draw on the power of the elements, of the moon, of his own looped past. He drew it all together, power raging through him, and he felt the jade figure in his hand pulse as though with a heartbeat.

The weight of the jade figure grew enormously, dragging him down. He collapsed onto his knees, hand pressed over the little piece of jade. His other arm remained raise, aiming the wand at the Jennifer-creature. The line of fire had become a rope of energy, glowing like the sun, binding around the burning body and drawing back to him. Stiles could feel the pulsing energy flowing down that line of power, through his wand and out through his other hand.

The jade statue shifted beneath his hand, growing, taking shape and substance. Cold, hard jade became warm, soft flesh. The Jennifer creature was burning away to nothing, flesh becoming ash, her body crumbling to the dirt, while below Stiles’ hand, surrounded by a green glow from the jade and the shining silver of the amulet, a human body grew from infant to adulthood in a matter of minutes, a woman taking shape.

Stiles wasn’t in control of the magic now. It was all he could do to keep from being shaken apart by the energy surging through him. He was just a conduit of power.

The lights vanished and the magic with it. Stiles was left drained, flopping forwards in exhaustion, wand arm dropping to the ground. There was nothing left now of the figure that had been Jennifer, the shape taken from the revenge spell, but lying behind him, warm beneath the touch of his hand, was another person.

“Get your hand off my breast or I will detach it from your wrist,” she said. Stiles snatched his hand back.

“Crap. Sorry.”

It was such a Hale thing to say that there was no doubt this time that this was the real Laura. She was lying on the ground, looking bewildered but more than a little angry. Of course her reaction to finding herself naked in the woods would be anger. Stiles felt stupid for thinking, even for a moment, that the other Laura could have been her. As Laura pushed herself into a sitting position, he flung his arms around her in a tight hug.

“Adam, I’m naked,” she said. “Get the hell off me, get me some clothes and tell me what the hell is going on.”

Stiles scrambled away from her and got to his feet. She stood too, staring at Parrish and Lydia in confusion.

“Are we setting this one on fire too?” Parrish asked.

“No,” Stiles said. “This is Laura Hale.”

“Are you sure it’s really her?” Lydia asked.

Laura was glaring at Parrish. “Stop staring at me if you want to keep your eyes,” she said.

Stiles grinned, “Pretty damn sure.”

Parrish looked away, staring at the pile of ash that had been a human-shaped vengeance spell a few minutes ago. Lydia took off her jacket and held it out to Laura. Laura took it with a quiet thanks, pulling it around herself. A moment later, she frowned and reached into the pocket.

“Why is there a gun in here?” she asked.

“Evil, shape-shifting vengeance monster,” Stiles said. “I’ll explain later.”

“Explain now. What the hell is going on? Where’s Peter? Where’s Derek? Why the hell am I naked?”

“You were murdered by Peter. Sorry, by the way. Peter’s chained up at Derek’s place. Derek is unconscious at his place, thanks to the vengeance monster thing. And I just brought you back from the dead and apparently the spell doesn’t include clothes.”

Laura hugged the jacket tighter. “I guess I missed a lot.”

“I’ll explain the whole thing on the way to Derek’s place,” Stiles promised.

“Are we sure the other zombie thing is dead though?” Parrish asked.

Stiles pulled out the crystal and held it up by the amulet cord. The crystal hung still. The only motion came from the night wind. There was no mystic pull to any strange creatures. Stiles took that as a good sign. The thing had taken physical form which meant it could be killed, and killing it was what was needed for a resurrection spell. The pieces had fit together. He’d known it would work when he’d realised that the thing was actually trying to reform Jennifer, using the emotional storm caused by the creature’s attacks. If he’d fallen for the illusion, he would no doubt have been the sacrifice, but instead he’d turned it around on her.

The only thing he wasn’t sure about was why Parrish touching his arm had been enough to break the illusion it had been casting of being Laura.

***

They were sitting in Parrish’s car. He’d found a blanket in the trunk which Laura had wrapped around her and now Stiles was giving him directions to Derek’s place in between telling them the short version of everything that had happened over the past few years. Laura and Parrish were both looking more than a little confused, but Laura seemed to be handling it better than Parrish was.

“Does your dad know about all this?” he asked.

“Pretty much,” Stiles said.

“Does Agent McCall?”

“No way.”

“But his son’s a werewolf.”

“Yeah.”

“And you just brought someone back from the dead?”

“Yeah.”

“And it’s not the first time you’ve brought someone back from the dead?”

“Technically, it’s the first time I’ve brought someone back from the dead, but it’s not the first time that someone has been brought back. Lydia kind of did the last one.”

“But I was being possessed from beyond the grave at the time,” she said, “so it’s really not my fault.”

Parrish nodded quietly for a minute and then said, “I need a drink.”

“That’s pretty much what my dad said,” Stiles said.

Lydia had been texting with Danny since they’d got back to the car. Apparently Bookworm had managed to do something to wake the others up. According to the texts, only Lydia’s replies that Stiles was safe were keeping Derek from rampaging out looking for him. He actually used the word rampage.

“That’s sweet,” Stiles said. “Don’t tell him about Laura.”

“Why not?” Lydia and Laura asked together.

“I want to see Derek’s face when he finds out you’re alive,” he explained. There had been so much bad that they’d live through, he wanted to see Derek’s reaction to something so unbelievably good. Stiles couldn’t stop grinning. He was feeling utterly spent after that spell in the woods, but he didn’t think he’d ever been happier. He’d finally done something right.

They reached the loft and Stiles motioned for Laura to stay quiet. If she spoke, Derek might hear her voice and that would spoil the surprise. Stiles led the way inside, Laura right behind him. She was doing surprisingly well given that Stiles had told her she’d been dead for a couple of years, but she looked excited to see Derek.

When Stiles opened the door there was a moment of stunned silence, then Derek launched himself across the room. Claws out, he slashed at Laura. She twisted out of the way. Werewolf reflexes kicked in and she managed to grab his arms, twist him round and throw him to the floor, all without losing the blanket the was tied around her.

“What the hell, Derek?” she asked.

Stiles suddenly realised that this surprise wasn’t such a great idea given that there had been a shape-shifting monster wandering around looking like Laura only a few hours earlier. Stiles put himself between Laura and Derek.

“It’s her,” Stiles said. “It’s actually really her.”

Derek got back to his feet, suspicious glances shooting between Stiles and Laura. But there was hope on his face too.

“How?” he asked.

“I think this revenge curse thing was part of a spell to bring Jennifer back, using the storm of emotional energy like Lydia’s drugged punch. I kind of hijacked the spell and then killed the curse monster as the sacrifice to bring Laura back.” Stiles went to Derek, placing a hand on his arm.

“It’s her,” Stiles said. “It’s really her.”

Derek launched himself at Laura again, but this time he flung his arms around her, hugging her tightly. His faced was screwed up, fighting the tears that were no doubt welling up. Stiles grinned, watching this mutual picture of siblings reunited with the pleasure of knowing that he’d arranged this. His magic had been what had made this possible.

It couldn’t last though. Once Derek was done with the ridiculously long hug, he whacked Laura on the arm and started yelling.

“Why the hell would you leave us behind and come back here alone?” Derek demanded. “You knew that your life was in danger and you knew that we could help so why did you leave us? You stupid, stubborn, obstinate, pig-headed, rash, senseless...”

He went on for some time. The others in the loft were watching with various levels of amusement. Stiles took the opportunity to hunt out his dad, who was looking back to normal now, though his eyes were red from the earlier crying. Stiles hugged his dad and felt warm arms return the hug. They held each other for a long time, relieved beyond words that each other was safe. When they finally let go of the hug, Derek was just wrapping up his yelling with the tautological, “Moronic moron.”

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Laura said.

“That’s basically our motto around here,” Scott said. “Hi. Scott McCall.”

He offered a hand to Laura, who took it. She glanced towards Stiles.

“Adam’s friend? The one who got bitten?”

“That’s right.”

Stiles introduced her round the rest of the room. When he got to Bookworm, he didn’t need to give names. Laura just glared.

“So you’re still here,” Laura said, “interfering with Adam.”

“I’ve been helping him out at his request,” Bookworm said. “And he knows the cost.”

“It’s OK,” Stiles said. “She’s told me what she wants and she’s even promised not to hurt any of my friends or family.”

Across the room, Peter started chuckling quietly. Stiles had been doing his best to ignore him. This was a wonderful day: he’d saved his friends, reunited his boyfriend with his sister and generally been a hero. He wasn’t going to let Peter spoil that.

“What?” he asked.

Peter smiled, “Technically you made her promise not to use the knowledge you give her to hurt your friends. She could still hurt you and yours by any other means.”

Stiles thought back over the deal that he’d made with Bookworm and he swore. Peter was right. Stiles had tried to keep everyone safe, but he’d left a huge, gaping void in his wording that Bookworm could exploit. He looked over at Bookworm now but she just gave a reassuring smile.

“Relax,” she said. “What reason would I have to hurt them?”

But she wasn’t saying that she wouldn’t hurt them, not really. Stiles felt the first hint of tarnish on this beautiful, shining moment. Of course, Peter had to contribute to that tarnish by asking, “Does this mean you’re no longer planning on murdering me?”

“Shut up, Peter,” Stiles and Derek said together.

Chapter Text

It seemed there were some of Cora’s old clothes in the loft which would be a close enough fit for Laura. She went into the bathroom to change and spent the entire time yelling through the door at Stiles for not telling her sooner that her little sister was still alive. When she emerged, she seemed to be done with yelling for now and said she was going to cook breakfast for everyone. That was until she looked at the contents of Derek’s cupboards.

“You let him live like this?” she asked Stiles.

“How is this my fault?” Stiles asked.

“You’re his boyfriend. You should be looking after him.”

“OK, as far as this timeline is concerned, I’ve been his boyfriend for less than a week. Besides, Derek’s a grown man. He can take care of himself.”

“No he can’t,” Laura said.

Derek looked like he wanted the floor to swallow him.

“Could you two please stop talking about me like I’m not here?” he asked.

Laura and Stiles looked at each other, shared a grin, and said together, “No.”

Derek just shook his head as the two of them laughed. It was good to have Laura back. Seeing her fuss about the kitchen just seemed right somehow, even if it was a kitchen she’d never been in before.

Noshiko volunteered to go out to the store, which should be opening soon, to get supplies for breakfast. In the meantime, there were still lots of things to discuss. Laura needed to be caught up on everything that had happened and Stiles had only been able to give short summaries in the car. Plus, Stiles had a few questions of his own that needed answering.

“I don’t get why the illusion broke when Parrish touched my arm,” Stiles said.

“Yeah,” Parrish added, “I’d quite like to know what’s going on with me too.”

Bookworm looked at him for a while before asking, “Did you see the illusion of Laura?”

“No. I saw a naked woman but it was a different woman.”

“It was Jennifer, being resurrected presumably as she was before the injuries,” Stiles said. He supposed that if someone could come back from being dead and decayed, then there was no reason that the injuries she’d had in life wouldn’t vanish too. Bookworm just nodded. She looked back at Parrish.

“Have you got a notepad?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Write something that means something to you. A poem, a nursery rhyme your mom used to sing, it doesn’t matter, just make sure it’s something that you have an emotional connection to.”

“OK.” Parrish seemed bewildered by the request but he’d been bewildered pretty much non-stop since Stiles had approached him. Now he took a notepad and pen out of his pocket and started writing. Stiles wondered how much more Bookworm got out of writing than she got out of something read.

Parrish didn’t take long. He handed over a slip of paper to Bookworm, who read it in her usual fashion, with all her senses. She sniffed at the piece of paper, she ran her fingers over the text and she drank it in with her eyes. After a minute, she closed her eyes, still touching the page, reaching out with some magical ability, drawing in something deep from the words. Then she opened her eyes, smiled, and nodded.

“You’re a changeling,” she said. For some reason, she glanced at Amelia as soon as she’d said it.

“You mean,” Stiles said, “like fairies?”

“Yes. It would explain why the glamour didn’t work on him. Fairies are adept with illusionary magic and so they are generally difficult to fool with it.”

“Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called a fairy,” Parrish said, “but I think the other guy meant something different by it.”

“There are different races of fairies,” Bookworm said, “as many as there are species of animals in this realm. Some of the more powerful ones will take humans, usually children. It’s not always done maliciously. Sometimes a child is sickly or suffering, and they will take it back to their realms to care for it. Sometimes it will be done to punish the parents. Other times, their reasoning is beyond our interpretation. Whatever their reasoning, it is a fact that these fairies will interbreed with humans. Sometimes a child is born in their realms that is more human than fairy and they choose to bring it back, to give it to a family in this world.”

“If they would take children who are completely human,” Stiles asked, “why would they get rid of a baby that’s only mostly human?”

"It's not necessarily that they’re getting rid of it. These creatures aren’t evil in the usual sense. It may be that they’re thinking of the child’s well-being. They may think the child will fare better in the human world than their own.”

“So you’re saying,” said Parrish, “that my parents aren’t my parents? That I’m some half-breed that was given to them when I was a baby?”

“Essentially, yes.”

Parrish had been astonishingly calm about rapid healing, people clawing their way out of the grave and everything he’d seen this night, but that seemed to be the clincher for him. He went over to Derek’s couch and sank down onto it, face several shades paler. He sank his head between his knees, taking deep breaths and generally looking like his entire world was crumbling down around him. Stiles watched his reaction, wishing for something to say that would make things alright for him. Parrish was a good guy, but Stiles had no idea how to help him with this.

Fortunately, there was someone who did. Kira went and took the seat next to him on the couch, putting a comforting hand on Parrish’s shoulder.

“It’s OK,” she said.

“How is any of this OK?” Parrish asked. “My entire life is a lie.”

“No, it’s not. Trust me, I have some experience in discovering that you’re not who you think you are and that your family aren’t who you think they are. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this. But no matter what you’ve learned, it doesn’t change the past. It doesn’t undo anything you’ve done or been. It doesn’t stop you being you. It doesn’t mean you’re any different a person from the person you were yesterday, it just means that you know yourself a little better.”

Parrish looked round at her and saw her smile. Stiles guessed it would take a little more than a few words to make him feel normal, but they would set him on the right track.

***

They still had to deal with Peter. When everyone else went off to their homes after breakfast, Laura asked Stiles to stay. This was a pack matter and he was pack. Everyone else left, even Stiles’ dad, who said he was going to try and get an hour or two’s sleep before heading into the station. Parrish had gone with Bookworm to learn more about who he really was.

Even Noshiko had gone, after Stiles had explained that there was no way in hell he was going to ask of her what the letter promised. Laura was alive now anyway, but he wanted her to know that even if a sacrifice were needed, he wouldn’t have asked Noshiko to die. Bookworm had passed the debt to Stiles and now Stiles released Noshiko from it. The look of gratitude was sickening. OK, it made sense that someone would look thankful when being told they weren’t going to die, but Noshiko looked at Stiles like he’d given her a great gift, instead of just saying that he wasn’t going to murder her. He didn’t think he’d done anything that deserved gratitude there. The fact that he couldn’t kill Noshiko was a simple matter.

Dealing with Peter was not.

“You could just let me go,” Peter said. “I’ve already been killed for my crimes once and now everyone’s alive again, it would seem petty for you to punish me for a murder that’s been undone.”

“So you’re saying I should just forget about the fact you murdered me?” Laura asked.

“And that you tortured Adam,” Derek added.

“Torture is such a strong word.”

“Would you prefer mutilate?” Derek asked.

“We could hand him over to the police,” Stiles said. “There’s enough evidence from all the other murders.”

Even as he said it, he knew the idea was full of problems. He didn’t think a prison designed to hold humans could hold Peter for long. Besides, an arrest would mean a trial and it was possible that evidence around werewolves and the supernatural would crop up. They couldn’t risk that.

They stood in silence a little longer, staring down at the chained Peter. For a guy whose life or death was being discussed, he seemed remarkably calm. Presumably, he didn’t think they’d go through with it. Stiles wasn’t sure they could either. OK, so Derek had killed Peter once before but the circumstances had been different and Derek hadn’t even tried to kill him since he’d come back from the dead. Derek was probably the only one here who might kill Peter, but even he seemed to have difficulty with the idea of just killing him while he was chained up like this.

“Maybe there’s a way to magically restrain him,” Laura said. “Is there a spell that would prevent him from killing people?”

She looked to Stiles. Stiles just shrugged. He hadn’t come across a spell like that but he’d barely scratched the surface of what magic could do. If a curse could be used to resurrect the dead, maybe it was possible. But Derek shook his head.

“He’d find a loophole,” Derek said. “If we make it so he magically can’t hurt people, he’ll start hiring killers or something.”

“Why do you assume I’m going to start killing people?” Peter asked.

“Because you kill people,” said Stiles.

“I got revenge for my family’s slaughter.”

“And what about your nurse? You murdered her because she was no longer useful to you. That’s not the act of a righteous warrior of justice. That was the act of a psychopath.”

“You’ve been willing to forgive the twins for their actions. Surely I deserve a little leniency. After all, I’m family.”

Stiles decided not to dignify that with an answer. He was thinking about the deal he’d made with Bookworm. When he’d shaken hands with that, he’d felt magic in the act. He didn’t think he’d be able to break that deal if he’d tried.

“There may be a way,” he said. “If we make him take an oath, a magical oath, not to hurt people or let people be hurt or cause people to be hurt, then we could set him free. We could hit him with a Clockwork Orange and make sure he won’t hurt people ever again.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” said Laura.

“We just need to make sure that the oath is checked by someone better at spotting loopholes than me.”

Derek gave a frustrated sigh, “You mean Bookworm.”

“Yeah. Sorry.”

Laura sighed. It was exactly the same sound Derek had just made.

“Fine,” she said, “but I still don’t trust her.”

So they called Bookworm back to the loft. She arrived minutes later and found the three of them standing around the chained Peter.

“We want to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone again,” Stiles said. “Is there a spell or oath or something that we can use to make him incapable of violence? One that he can’t wriggle out of or find a loophole for?”

She smiled, “There’s a very simple way to keep him from hurting anyone.”

“Brilliant.”

Bookworm shifted. Scales flowed up over skin. Her face distorted, mouth extending into a snout full of sharp teeth. Fingers twisted into claws. More claws poked through her shoes. Her hair faded into her head. Wings erupted from her back, tearing out through her clothes. Seconds after it had begun, she stood there in dragon form, a creature fearsome and powerful.

She leapt at Peter, wings unfurling to help with balance. Peter barely had a moment to let out a cry of shock before she ripped his throat out with her jaws. Her claws tore at his chest, ripping through skin and muscle, ripping through his rib cage as easily as they did the chains that bound him. She buried her snout into his chest, yanking out his heart at the swallowing it whole. Then she dove her snout into his torso again, devouring Peter from the inside.

“Holy crap!” Stiles yelled. He thought he was going to be sick.

“What the hell?” Laura yelled.

Bookworm stood up from the body, shifting back as quickly as she’d changed. Moments later, she stood before them in human form again, with only the tears in her shoes and clothes to mark what she’d been. That and the blood. It was smeared around her mouth and over her hands. She smiled cheerfully and her teeth showed red behind her gums.

“He won’t hurt anyone again,” Bookworm said.

“We were looking for a non-lethal option,” Stiles said.

“You didn’t say that.”

“I think it was implied pretty frigging clearly! How could you just kill him like that?”

“He hurt you,” Bookworm said, as if that was the only answer that could ever be needed.

Chapter Text

“So I’ve got a psychopathic guard dragon,” Stiles said.

“Looks that way,” Derek agreed. They were walking round a stationery store buying supplies for Stiles to start writing his bestiary, while Laura was next door getting some new clothes since all her old stuff had been donated after she’d died. Derek was acting as Stiles’ packhorse, holding folders and file dividers and packets of paper.

“I mean, I’d rather have a killer dragon that wants to protect me than a killer dragon that wants to hurt me, but I can’t help be worried that she’ll see me get tackled in lacrosse practice and decide to eat someone’s lungs.”

They had been talking about killing Peter, but it was a different matter entirely to just rip him to pieces and eat him while he was chained up and helpless. Knowing that Bookworm meant well didn’t help him feel better about this. She was dangerous. If she got it into her head to kill someone else, Stiles didn’t think he could stop her. And she would be sticking around for a while. She and Amelia had just signed a lease on a shop in town. Amelia and Neil would be moving the magic shop to Beacon Hills, and Bookworm would have a section in that shop for her books.

“Maybe you could let her know that hurting other people on your behalf upsets you and that she shouldn’t do it anymore,” Derek suggested.

“I will do, but it seems a bit hypocritical for me to complain about her killing Peter when we were talking about killing Peter. Given that we’d actually been planning it, it doesn’t really give me the moral high ground.”

Derek leaned in and said quietly, “Maybe we should have this conversation at a lower volume.”

Stiles looked round. A man was standing by the display of printer paper, staring at them and looking worried. Given that Derek had once been on the run from the police for murder, he probably had a reason to be concerned about being overheard. Stiles gave the man a reassuring smile.

“We’re talking about Dungeons and Dragons,” Stiles told him. “One of the people in the group killed off someone’s character last night and he’s upset about it. No one actually died.”

Stiles turned back to Derek and kept talking. If the guy continued to eavesdrop, he would probably just be more convinced that Stiles was talking about a game.

“A dragon is more powerful than any of us, even if I do have super wizard powers now,” Stiles said, “and I’m not sure if there is a way to stop her. So it’s not like we can dictate what she does. The best we can do is make suggestions about acceptable behaviour.”

“Top of that list being ‘don’t kill people’,” Derek said.

“Precisely.” Stiles considered for a moment. “We might need to define ‘people’.”

Derek looked over his shoulder again. The other guy had gone. Derek leaned close again.

“How did you think of that?” he asked.

“How do you think Scott and I got away with talking about werewolf stuff at school for so long?”

“Given that Danny now knows everything, I’d say you didn’t.”

Stiles decided against arguing with that. He still wasn’t sure at what point Danny had realised the truth, but given that he sat near them in many classes it was hardly that surprising. Stiles settled for grapping a packet of index cards and adding it to the growing pile of stuff in Derek’s arms, then he headed towards the displays of pens.

“Do you really need all this stuff?” Derek asked, as Stiles balanced a box of pens on top of the pile.

“Absolutely,” Stiles said. “Bookworm has insisted the book needs to be handwritten, but given how frequently new weird stuff shows up, that means it’s going to be constantly needing adding to. So rather than having a fixed book, I’ve decided to go for a filing approach, with loose sheets organised so I can stick new notes in as and when. But the different sections are going to need to reference each other,” he added a mixed packet of coloured pens to the collection, “so I’m going to need a way of linking them together. I’m thinking different colours for different types of supernatural creatures so I’m going to need… ooh… glitter!”

Stiles picked up a packet of brightly coloured sparkle pens that apparently had glittery ink. He grabbed all the possible colours and balanced them carefully on the mound of stuff Derek held. That got the desired result. Derek laughed.

“This is going to be the first bestiary written in glitter pens,” Derek said.

“Which means it will be the best bestiary ever written,” Stiles replied. He towed Derek towards the registers to pay.

Stiles had been thinking about how to start writing his bestiary and had settled on this as the most sensible plan for a document that was likely to be updated every few days, judging by the tendency for every weird thing to show up in Beacon Hills. It would fulfil his obligation to Bookworm while giving them a useful reference document to work with moving forwards.

Stiles paid for his purchases and bagged them all up, then they went next door to where Laura was still going through the store.

“This could take some time,” she said. She had to replace her entire wardrobe, so it was hardly surprising that it would be a major endeavour. She was gathering up collections of t-shirts, shirts and other tops to try on, handing a pile to Derek to carry through to the changing rooms.

“While you’re doing that,” Stiles said, “I’ll go talk to Bookworm.”

“Are you sure it’s a good idea to go alone?” Laura asked.

“I’m pretty certain she’s not going to hurt me,” Stiles said, “given that she ate the heart of the last guy who did. I’m just going to talk with her.”

“Still, be careful,” Laura said.

“I will be. Besides, I’ve got this.” Stiles raised his arm to show his wrist tattoo. His wrist looked weird now. The cuts showed where Peter had clawed him, but the skin immediately beneath the inked lines seemed to have healed itself. Stiles wasn’t entirely sure how it had happened, but the tattoo on his chest was much the same. The tattoo had healed from the attack even though the skin immediately next to it was still scabbed and sore. How it had happened was less significant than the fact his magical tattoos appeared to be working at full strength again.

He also had his jacket on with the wand tucked into the inside pocket. It was a warm day and the jacket unnecessary, but he was grateful for the reassuring weight of the wood. He didn’t think he was going to be in danger from Bookworm, but he was still nervous about seeking her out specifically to argue with her.

“Don’t make any deals with her,” Laura said.

“Given the massive loophole I left in my last deal regarding not killing family, I think I’ll take an army of lawyers before I make any more deals with her,” Stiles said. Laura nodded her acceptance of this.

Stiles left Derek with her while she continued her shopping, but not before Derek gave him a quick kiss in the middle of the shop and then whispered in his ear, “Traitor.” Laura grinned and summoned Derek towards the changing rooms.

***

The new magic shop was currently a boarded up building near the centre of town. It had been an independent bookshop that had died in the wake of Amazon’s uprising, so it seemed appropriate that it would have a bookshop element to it again. Stiles walked in and found Amelia and Bookworm dividing up the space between them and debating what sort of books Bookworm should sell. In her old shop, Bookworm had accepted second hand books on any subject under the sun, but Amelia felt that the new shop should maintain cohesion by having her focus on themes of magic. When Stiles entered, it seemed like the argument had been in full flow for some time but they stopped when they saw him.

“So you’re definitely sticking around then?” Stiles asked.

“I get the feeling we’ll do a lot of business in this town,” Amelia said. She glanced at Bookworm. “And I’ve got another reason to stay.”

Stiles gave them a puzzled frown, wondering what on earth they could be talking about. A thought surfaced but he squashed that down because it would be too weird.

“I owe Amelia a debt,” Bookworm said, “for driving me here. I promised her my aid on a personal situation and I think Beacon Hills will be a better place to investigate than others. I think your friend Parrish may be interested in the outcome too.”

“Are you going to stop talking in riddles and actually explain?” Stiles asked.

“I got into magic when I was a kid,” Amelia said, “when my sister disappeared. I thought she’d been taken by fairies but of course no one else believed me. I drove Bookworm here in exchange for her help in finding out what really happened.”

“And we know there’s been a portal between this world and the fairy realms somewhere near here,” Bookworm said, “so this is as good a place as any to start the search. And it will give me a chance to keep my bargain with you.”

“The bargain where you’ll help me learn to use my new powers?”

“Exactly.”

“Does this help include telling Noshiko to let me kill her as a sacrifice to bring Laura back from the dead?”

Bookworm gave a cold smile, “It seems that piece of help was unnecessary. You found another sacrifice.”

Stiles glared at her, anger rising at the detriment of common sense. Bookworm had made an innocent person promise to give her life at Stiles’ whim. She’d chosen to play games with other people’s lives, using them as pawns in whatever schemes she was playing and she seemed to assume that Stiles would have done the same. That hurt because it seemed to carry with it an implied assumption that he could be a killer.

Amelia looked between the two of them and quickly made a muttered and undefined excuse. She slipped out of the shop and left Stiles standing before Bookworm, surrounded by dust and empty shelves in this shell of a shop.

“Don’t you get it?” Stiles asked. “I never would have asked Noshiko to die. I don’t care if you owed you a life debt and came willingly, you can’t just pick and choose who lives and dies. Killing one person to save another isn’t right. I killed Jennifer’s curse monster but Jennifer was already dead. Killing Noshiko would have been completely different. Even to save Laura, I wouldn’t have done it. I’m not sure I could have killed Peter to save Laura, even after everything he did. There’s a line and I’m not going to cross it.”

Bookworm’s smile widened, a hint of laughter escaping her lips.

“Good answer,” she said.

“What?”

“Your wand is inscribed with protection marks. As long as you use that wand, you will never be more powerful than when you are defending innocent people, but you’ve had a taste of something else. The power inside you can be shaped as you will it, into a shield or into a weapon. If you had chosen to accept Noshiko’s sacrifice, you would be showing a willingness to abuse the power that fate has given you for your own ends, setting aside the noble ideals behind that wand.”

“So it was a test?”

Bookworm nodded, “One you passed.”

“But you still killed Peter.”

“Yes.”

“So how is that any different?”

“Peter was a killer. He would not have hesitated to hurt you again to further his own ends. Killing him was an act of protection.”

Stiles wanted to argue that it was still murder, but it was hard to. She made a good point about Peter. He’d been fretting about how to deal with Peter, how to keep him from hurting people again, and Bookworm’s solution would definitely stop people.

“Does this mean you’ll kill other people?” Stiles asked.

“Almost certainly.”

She sounded perfectly calm about it. She didn’t even hesitate with her answer or pause to consider that there might be another way. She was perfectly happy to kill.

“I don’t want you killing people,” Stiles said. “Not for me.”

“How much do you know about dragons?” Bookworm asked.

“Not a lot. I mean, I watched How To Train Your Dragon, but I’m pretty sure that wasn’t a documentary.”

“Stories change over time. New authors add their own elements. Facts get merged with fiction and legends shift away from their core truth but at the heart of the old stories, dragons are guardians. We protect our hoards, we protect treasures and we protect people.”

“You mean like fairy tales of dragons guarding princesses in towers?”

“Exactly,” she said.

“So I’m your princess?” Stiles asked. “That came out wrong.”

“So long as you use that wand, so long as the purpose behind your magic is protection, I will protect you from harm. That may mean that I do things you don’t approve of. I will be your guardian but that doesn’t mean I will be your servant. I will follow my own judgement in matters of when to kill.”

“Do I have any say in this matter at all?”

“In a way,” Bookworm said. “So long as you use that wand, I will be your guardian but if you change it, if you choose to have another driving force behind your power, then I may change my mind. If you choose to use the power you have been granted for selfish or destructive ends, then I will cease to be your protector.”

Stiles nodded, “So if I start using magic to kill people, you’ll leave me?”

“Not exactly.” She crossed the empty shop towards him, still giving a faint smile. “If you start abusing the power you now have, I will destroy you.” And she leaned forward, whispering something in his ear. Every syllable was correct, the stress and inflection perfect as she said his full name, his true name.

She stepped back from him and smiled that cold smile. Stiles swallowed, suddenly scared. Peter had nearly destroyed him with his name mispronounced. There was no knowing what Bookworm might be capable of with it correct.

Her smile warmed slightly, and she said, “Relax, Adam. Stick to your initial purpose and you will never have a reason to fear me.”

Chapter Text

Stiles woke to the sound of clattering pans drifting up from downstairs. The moment of annoyance at being disturbed quickly vanished as he became aware of an arm draped over him and a warm body pressed against him from behind and lips laying soft kisses against his neck.

“Did you seriously sneak into my bed while I was sleeping?” Stiles asked.

Derek nuzzled at his neck, “My bed was lonely.”

“My dad will shoot you.”

“Your dad’s at work.”

“Then who the hell is in the kitchen downstairs?”

“Laura. She doesn’t like my kitchen.” Derek kissed the back of Stiles’ head. “She’s making us breakfast.”

Derek's hand was worming its way under the covers, working down Stiles’ chest. Stiles shifted a foot back, finding Derek’s leg. He worked his foot up and down Derek’s calf.

“So is this what it’s like to have a pack?” Stiles asked. “Hales breaking into my house while I’m asleep?”

“Are you objecting?” Derek asked. He sounded genuinely worried about that. His roving hand stilled. Stiles reached his own hand beneath the covers to find Derek’s, squeezing it gently.

“I don’t mind,” Stiles said, “but we might need to warn my dad what to expect.”

“I don’t think your dad should expect this,” Derek said. He gave a little laugh into Stiles’ ear.

His hand found the hem of the t-shirt Stiles had worn to bed. He started easing it up. Stiles arched his back off the bed to make it easier and then raised his shoulders and lifted his arms free of the covers so that Derek could yank the t-shirt off. Only then did Stiles turn to look at Derek, and kiss him on the lips.

“I keep thinking,” Stiles said, “of everything we could have done differently. If I’d told you everything right at the start, maybe people wouldn’t have died. If you’d told me about me being Adam, maybe we could have come together sooner. All the things we could have made better.”

Derek silenced him with another kiss, then said, “We can’t change the past. Even with time travel, it seems. I’m just glad I got you back. When you disappeared in the forest, I thought I’d lost you forever, my Adam.”

“You found me again.”

“I’ve missed you.”

They kissed on the lips, then Derek tossed the covers aside, working his hands and lips down Stiles’ chest. Stiles lay back on the bed, reaching out to slide his hands through Derek’s hair, while Derek slid Stiles’ sweatpants down over his hips.

Hot lips wrapped around Stiles’ cock, bring rapid stiffness. Derek ran his tongue up the length and Stiles shuddered.

“No,” Stiles said.

Derek sat up sharply, concern in his eyes, “No?”

“Not this,” Stiles said. “I want you inside me.”

Derek pulled away from Stiles’ groin and Stiles elbowed his way across the bed. He reached into a drawer of the bedside cabinet and pulled out a tube of lube. He tossed it to Derek and then rolled onto his stomach.

It felt like a lifetime since they’d last been together. In many ways, it had been a lifetime. That apartment in New York was a long time ago and a long way away. The person lying with him now was a little more broken than that young man Stiles had fallen for in New York, but he was still Derek. They were both a little broken, but together they felt whole. Together, the broken pieces fit and made something new.

Derek slid a finger inside and Stiles felt the gentle stretch. He thrust his hips a little, driven back against that roving finger.

“More,” he said.

He felt the second finger slide inside and he grunted into the pillow.

“I’ve missed this,” Derek murmured. “All those nights watching you being a mouthy son of a bitch, and I kept thinking that I wanted to flip you over and make you mine.”

Stiles couldn’t help a laugh. All those times he’d caught Derek staring at him, he’d thought Derek had been plotting his murder. He never would have imagined he wanted this.

“Make me yours now,” Stiles said.

“You’re already mine,” Derek said.

Stiles felt a hand on his back, tracing the swirls of the tattoo. It was a soft touch, but it reached into him in a way that went beyond the physical. He felt Derek’s fingers move inside him and he felt the touch against the marks that proved him indelibly Derek’s.

He was hard against the mattress. He was close to the edge, but he didn’t want to come too soon.

“Inside me,” Stiles groaned. “Now.”

“So demanding,” Derek said, with a laugh that sounded almost like a growl. He slid his fingers free and a moment later, Stiles felt a hard thickness pressing against his opening. Derek thrust in slowly and Stiles thrust his hips up off the mattress to meet the movement. They met together, skin against skin, sweat against sweat.

It took moments before Stiles shot his load onto the sheets and, moments later, Derek came with a low cry, filling Stiles up completely.

***

When they made it down to the kitchen, the food was on the table, going a little cold. Laura was sitting there, her plate nearly empty as she finished up. She raised an eyebrow at them.

“No need to look so smug,” she said. “Your food’s getting cold.”

Stiles took a seat, biting down on the urge to make a joke about needing to keep up his energy. There were times for making jokes about actually having a sex life but, from Laura’s serious expression, he guessed this wasn’t one of them. He started eating, distracted slightly when he noticed a foot on the back of his calf. He glanced sideways and caught Derek grinning at him.

Laura sighed, “Can you two stop flirting for five minutes?”

“No,” Stiles said, shooting her a grin as well.

She rolled her eyes and then pushed on regardless.

“I’ve called Cora,” she said. “Once she stopped screaming, she decided that she’s coming back to Beacon Hills. Three werewolves and a human isn’t much of a pack, but it’s still a pack and there are some issues we need to discuss. Like territory.”

“Territory?” Stiles asked.

“Your friend Scott might not have a traditional pack but he unmistakably has a pack. He’s claimed Beacon Hills for his territory. Beacon Hills is historically Hale territory and I don’t intend to walk away and find somewhere else. This is a situation that usually ends up with violence, often death.”

“You’re not starting a turf war with Scott,” Stiles said. He put his fork down, folding his arms and glaring across the table at Laura. He remembered how messy things had got with Derek when he had been trying to recruit Scott into his new pack. Derek hadn’t wanted to leave another werewolf in his territory who wasn’t one of his. That had escalated to violence ridiculously quickly.

“I don’t want to,” she said. “So we need to work out a peaceful way to share the territory.”

“How about we all just say ‘let’s be friends’?” Stiles suggested. “Why does it have to be complicated?”

“Well there’s another complication,” she said, “but in this case I think it might actually simplify things. You.”

“You do realise you’re talking in riddles, right?”

“You’re still part of Scott’s pack,” Derek said. “When Peter captured you, you howled and he heard you. You joined our pack, but you never left his.”

They were looking at him like this was some big, important revelation but Stiles couldn’t quite see the relevance. Maybe it was because he hadn’t been born to this like these two. Maybe it was a sign that his brain was still upstairs in bed.

“There have been occasions,” Laura explained, “where small packs will merge. They’ll agree to share a territory and effectively join together. It’s never that simple where you have two alphas together, because there will sometimes be arguments about who has the authority is times of crisis, but for the most part it eliminates any need for conflict between the two packs.”

“Great,” said Stiles. “Let’s do that then.”

“It’s not that simple,” Derek said quietly.

“Of course not,” Stiles muttered.

Laura continued, “A pack joining is a formal agreement, usually symbolised by one werewolf joining one pack through a mating with one of its members, but without relinquishing membership of his or her former pack. That person is then a member of the new pack, but still a member of their old one.”

“A mating ritual?” Stiles asked. “Like a marriage? Did you just propose to me on Derek’s behalf?”

“You’re most of the way there already,” she said. “You’ve joined our pack. You and Derek are an item. This just makes it official.”

Stiles looked at Derek, who just shrugged. This was not remotely romantic. Stiles had never exactly been a poster boy for romance, and he definitely didn’t expect roses and diamonds from Derek, but he’d expect a marriage proposal to be more than his future mate’s sister talking about it like it was a business agreement. It wasn’t even Derek asking him!

“No,” Stiles said quietly. His voice shook a little as he said it. In the silence that followed, he wasn’t sure he’d actually said it out loud. Stiles looked at the table, because he didn’t want to look up and see what expressions were on Derek and Laura’s faces.

“No?” Derek asked. His voice shook too. Beneath the table, Stiles felt Derek’s leg move away from his own. He hadn’t even really noticed they’d been touching until the touch was gone. Stiles swallowed around the lump in his throat and tried to hold back his tears.

Stiles forced himself to look up at Laura, “I’m not going to go through with a marriage or mating ritual or whatever you want to call it just because it makes your life easier or lets you have a territory agreement or whatever. Find some other way to work things out with Scott.”

Stiles stood. His feet caught around the leg of his chair as he pushed away from the table. He grabbed the back of the chair to stay upright, shaking off Derek’s hand when he reached out to catch him. Without meeting Derek’s eye, Stiles started from the room.

“Adam, wait,” Derek said. He caught Stiles by the wrist. Stiles still didn’t look at him. He stayed staring towards the door, even though his arm was held out behind him, trapped in Derek’s hold. He tugged on his arm but Derek’s fingers remained locked, firmly but not tightly, around his wrist.

“Let go,” Stiles said.

“This isn’t about territory,” Derek said, “not to me.”

Stiles stopped tugging. He turned slightly towards Derek.

“I want this,” Derek said. “Yes, it will help things for the pack but I want this for us. I love you.”

Stiles looked him in the eye then, seeing the sincerity there. There was a mess of emotions on Derek’s face, more than he usually showed. Fear and sorrow were warring for space behind those eyes. He looked outright terrified of what Stiles might say.

“I love you,” Stiles said. The words were an automatic echo but he meant them. He loved Derek. After those months in New York, he couldn’t imagine his life without Derek in it. There was a flutter of fear deep inside him now because this was a serious thing. Even ignoring the issues of territory and pack merging, he was basically promising forever.

“I just…” Stiles started. “I love you, I do. I just don’t want to do something like this just because it’s a convenient solution to a problem.”

Derek stood. He closed the distance between them. His hand slipped down from Stiles’ wrist to clasp his hand. When he stood close enough that Stiles could feel the warmth of his breath, he stopped and looked Stiles in the eye.

“Whatever this is for the pack,” he said, “for me this is about you and me, together. I love you, Adam Stiles Stilinski, and I want to be with you.”

Stiles ignored the fluttering of butterflies in his stomach and he said, “Yes.”

***

The ceremony was a simple affair. Laura officiated on the grounds that Scott hadn’t even heard of the ceremony before. Even she had to look up the details because it was a long time since she’d witnessed something like this.

They held the ritual in the woods under the light of a full moon. Derek stood in a clearing and tugged at his tie, which was an unfamiliar tightness around his neck. He hated the thing but even he had to agree that today deserved something other than jeans, so he stood there in the new suit and the hated tie, waiting beneath the trees with Laura and Cora.

Scott’s pack walked through the trees together, humans and werewolves and all the others. Scott led the procession, with Adam walking a step behind. After them came the sheriff, Lydia, Ethan and the rest. It was somehow solemn and joyful at the same time. Adam was grinning but even he wasn’t saying anything to break the silence.

The two packs met beneath the trees. Adam came to stand in front of Derek. Derek gave him a terrified grin. His stomach was churning with anticipation and a part of him couldn’t quite believe this was really happening. He was terrified that he’d wake up and find that Adam was gone and he was alone again.

“Take each other’s hands,” Laura said, once the packs had gathered in a circle around them.

Derek reached out, grasping Stiles’ hands in his own. Palms slick with anxious sweat met and Derek wondered if Stiles had the same fear he did, that irrational terror that things couldn’t be this good.

“Tonight,” Laura said, “we stand to join these packs through the mating of two of our own: my brother Derek Hale, and Adam Stiles Stilinski, wizard of Scott’s McCall’s pack.”

Derek saw Adam’s grin widen at that sentence. He wasn’t sure if it was because of what was happening or because he’d been officially referred to as a wizard.

“Derek, do you accept this union?”

“Yes,” Derek said.

“Adam, do you accept this union?”

“I do,” Stiles said. Then he gave an embarrassed laugh. “I mean, yes.”

A chuckle rippled round the watchers. Even Laura grinned in amusement. Laura lifted a piece of cord, looping it around both their wrists. She tied a loose knot, binding their joined hands together.

“With this cord,” she recited, “I bind you together, through good and bad, for the rest of your lives. May you shield each other from harm, guide each other through difficulties and stand firm by each other’s side through adversity and joy.”

She rested her hand over their joined hands. Derek felt something. A faint tingle ran through the cord, dancing into his body where the cord touched his skin. It was magic, a subtle energy binding them together tighter than any cord. From the widening of Adam’s eyes, he felt it too. Adam leaned forward and kissed Derek on the lips.

“You’re supposed to wait until I tell you,” Laura complained. Around them, the joined packs laughed as Derek lost himself in the kiss.