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Apathetic Dreamboats and Having Dilemmas

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“You have to focus, Stiles.”

A broad landscape of black stretches before him, but where he knows he should see nothing, he instead sees strange blocks of light, flitting tiny specters. They vary different colors of the spectrum. He wills them away, repeatedly, watching them dissolve into wisps of nothing, but it seems like mere moments of triumph before a new one appears again. He’s left constantly battling the anxious beating of his own heart, feeling like he is coming up short at every turn, a twisted and sick kind of failure. Even as he tries to pull himself back he knows he’s losing his concentration, teeth gritting with the force of it.

“Focus.”

Stiles opens his eyes. The lights of the vet clinic have been dimmed for him, but it’s still day time, so even what little light that creeps in comes off as blinding. He hadn’t even realized how long he’d been trying to do this. He sits up quickly, rubbing his hands over his eyes to give himself a moment’s reprieve from looking at Deaton and his monotonous voice and his judgmental frown. But he has to face it all eventually. “You know, saying it over and over again doesn’t really help any. I really hate it when people say that to me.”

Yes, that face right there is all judgment, exactly like expected. Deaton walks away from the examination table Stiles had been laid out on, moving to put away one of his five billion jars filled with who the hell knows what. “I was not attempting to badger you, Stiles. Simply reminding.”

“Yeah, well...” There isn’t really an end to that sentence. Stiles swings his feet over the side of the table and pushes himself off, landing squarely on the ground.

“Are we done now?”

Deaton’s question has a hint of surprise to it, and Stiles tries not to be disappointed in himself. “I’m just having trouble paying attention today. I mean, more trouble than usual.”

“Did you take your medicine this morning?”

“Yes, but that’s not a ‘be all, end all’ for symptoms, okay? It’s not like one dose of Adderall means I’m cured of ADHD for the day.” Deaton looks particularly perturbed this time, and it makes Stiles’s skin crawl. “What?”

Stiles can always tell when Deaton is going to say something he won’t like because the guy will keep his hands busy, constantly in motion as if to take away from the blow. It’s the same this time, the veterinarian taking up a cloth from his counter and folding it meticulously, smoothing out the creases. “Maybe we should stop trying for a little while. Give you a break from all of this.”

“What?” His first instinct is to feel like Deaton is giving up, even though that’s not what the guy stated. “You said I had it in me… some kind of spark, something. You said if we worked at it, it’ll come out. That I could learn to protect myself.”

“I know I did.” The towel is going to disintegrate if he smooths it too much longer. “Determining if someone has it in them to be a true druid is not an exact science. Between your ability to manipulate mountain ash, and to live through the nogitsune… all signs pointed towards you having the potential for immense abilities.”

“And now, what? You think I’m just useless?”

“I didn’t say that. Perhaps your abilities don’t quite exist, or maybe they do in different forms. Or perhaps your inability to concentrate and pull together any of the depths inside of you is more of an indicator of your immaturity.” Stiles’s jaw drops and Deaton continues his speech without missing a beat. “In other words, you’re too young. I told you that may be a problem when we started this three months ago, Stiles. Seventeen is still an infant in the world of werewolves and kitsunes.”

Apparently there is something Stiles dislikes even more than being told to focus, and that’s him being told he’s too young. He’s not too young, he can promise that. If he’s old enough to have his heart broken, be paralyzed, be tossed unconscious into a dumpster, watch people be murdered, be possessed, hear his own voice call for the death of people he considers friends… he’s old enough to do whatever and whoever he wants.

Okay, he may have gotten off track with the ‘whoever’ but the point still stands. He shakes his head, biting back as much disappointment as he can in his response. “Listen, with those strange scents all over the preserve, we’ve been running ourselves ragged. I’m literally leaving here to go meet Scott and Derek so we can keep trying to figure out what’s going on, okay? I just have a lot on my mind, that’s why.”

Deaton doesn’t seem convinced. “That certainly explains right now, but you have never made a bit of headway with my method. Not since we’ve started.”

“Yeah, well, there’s sort of a lot on my mind. I was possessed by a demon?”

“Inhabited by a kitsune.”

Possessed by a demon. Like, full on Exorcist. I don’t know if you remember that or not. I tortured my friends, alienated my dad, basically ruined everything? It’s kind of hard to just move past that.” The anger is real, and visceral, and he reigns it in. Because this isn’t getting him anywhere, if the look on Deaton’s face is anything to go by. Losing his anger deflates him, his shoulders slumping. “Fine, a break. That’s fine! A break. I’ll get this situation solved, and then we’ll try again. Deal?”

He almost looks like he won’t agree, but whatever thoughts are going on behind his calculating eyes aren’t spoken. Stiles is pretty sure they rarely ever are. “You shouldn’t be leaving. The concoction I gave you to help you access your abilities hasn’t worn off yet.”

It’s not a yes to trying again, but it’s not a flat out no, either. Somehow that doesn’t make Stiles feel better. He gives a small laugh. “Does it really actually do anything other than make me smell like the bottom of a tree?” Deaton watches him for a long, nerve racking moment, before nodding towards the door. It rubs Stiles wrong, like a distinct dismissal, and he talks over his shoulder as he swings out the door. “I promise not to get pulled over for Saging and Driving!”

——

Even after fifteen minutes of driving, Stiles is still worked up over the whole exchange, and he blames his distracted mental state for why he almost plows over the child in front of him. In all honesty, he’s on a back highway surrounded by trees. Why would he have expected anyone to be walking in the road? Let alone a kid that couldn’t have been more than four or five. He lets out a pretty impressive string of curses as he swerves out of the way, but the cop’s son in him makes him pull over onto the small grass shoulder soon after, getting out.

“Hey! Get out of the road!” The kid, a girl with black hair, turns some pretty impressive green eyes on him while also apparently not listening to him at all, standing right in the middle of the lanes. He sighs and starts the trek back towards her. When he’s a few feet away from her, she takes a step backwards as if to run away, and he holds up his hands. “No, nope, none of that. I’m cool, okay? But you’re literally on a curve on a road that’s like… I mean, we’re talking speed limit forty, but no one really goes forty, you know what I mean?”

The words don’t really seem to help, but she’s not running away either, which is a success. He sighs and crouches down, trying to get to eye level and seem a little less intimidating. Which, ha! Imagine him, with all his friends, being intimidating. “Listen, I’m just trying to help. What’s your name? My name is Stiles. You live around here? I can help you get back home where you’ll be safe.” She watches him carefully, seemingly very distracted by him, but never actually speaks.

It has been almost a minute of standing in the road now, and even though the route to the Hale House isn’t very active, he’s starting to feel antsy about just sitting here. He pulls out his phone, slowly as not to spook her, and calls his dad.

“What is it, Stiles? I’m on patrol. Did you all find something?”

Having his dad be aware of werewolves and kitsunes and the things that go bump in the night is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, he gets man power and the ability to not worry about as many investigations into the dangerous situations. On the other, he has yet another person on his ass about things. Whether or not his father is handling his sanity over Stiles being this deep into supernatural crap, or if his dad is in more or less danger knowing, is yet to be determined. “Uh, no. On my way to Derek’s place I almost ran over this little girl standing in the middle of the highway, out by the old quarry. She won’t talk to me or come with me. I don’t know what to do about it?”

“Huh. How old?”

“I don’t know, she's four or five?” The little girl’s eyebrows raise. “She doesn’t seem too happy with that assessment though.”

“Okay, well, I’m on Elm. I can be over on Highway 60 in about five minutes. Just keep her calm and we’ll figure it out when I get there. Sound good?”

Stiles is nodding along, but before he can answer, he hears it. “Shit.” He thanks his overly active mind for once, because he doesn’t question himself. The wheels of the truck must have slipped off the side of the road, just for a moment, to make all that ruckus, and if it hadn’t happened then Stiles and this little girl might have been shit out of luck. As it is, Stiles drops his phone at the skid of tires on gravel and dirt, grabbing her by the waist before she can step away and throwing them both to the empty lane. He somehow manages to spin them so that he lands on his shoulder on the asphalt, her on top of him safely, and the truck barrels around the corner and through, barely missing them.

The fall hurts like a bitch, and he’s in the middle of both hating his life and feeling righteous disgust at the sight of the truck flying away like the driver never noticed them, when the little girl fights free of him and runs away into the woods. “Hey! Wait!” He tries to get up, only to realize he definitely bruised his kneecap on his way down. The moving and rustling of the weeds and bushes in the woods fades off and he groans, bending over to catch his breath and make sure he’s not seriously injured. Pale and skinny and defenseless - that means falls on hard floors are something to worry about.

The rustling starts up again almost immediately after it had stopped and he has a moment of hope that she had turned around, but then he realizes it’s coming from behind him, on the opposite side of the road. He turns, remembering the strange smell that Scott and Derek had said they found and realizing that there might be more dangers than cars to face while standing out here alone. He starts to back up towards his Jeep, getting out of the road in the process, but it’s no dark creature of the night (afternoon?) that pops out.

The girl is definitely older, probably a preteen, and could almost be identical to the young one that had just run away — pale skin, dark hair, and wild green eyes looking everywhere. She sniffs heavily, and it sends off warning bells in his head, reminding him of something not quite human. Her eyes narrow in on him quickly, as if she knew he was there, and she comes forward.

“Hey, wait, I’m just—“

“I saw what you did.”

Wait, what? He glances at the woods she came out of, and while they weren’t overly dense, he’s still surprised she could see him. Was she watching them? “You did?”

“Yes. You saved my sister.”

“Your sister? Listen, she ran that way. You gotta talk to her about standing in the middle of the road.”

“I know where she went. I just wanted to thank you before I followed her.” He raises his eyebrows as she steps closer, not sure why she has to be all up in his personal space to thank him, but before he can open his mouth to bring that completely valid point up, she’s smelling deeply again. Whatever he smells like, which he’s guessing is mostly teenage boy, Old Spice, tree rot, and fear, seems to make her happy. “And I know just how to do it. Here’s my gift.”

He means to protest, he does. But by the time she places her index finger to his forehead, he’s already asleep.

——

As far as dreams go, Stiles has had a lot of weird ones. But never like this.

It feels surprisingly realistic as it all plays out. Everything is black, until suddenly it’s not. He’s surrounded by so many colors he can barely comprehend them, and they form a beautiful scene around him. He’s standing in the middle of the woods alone, leaves falling down to the ground around him, brilliant displays of hues the likes of which Californians are rarely exposed to in the fall. Other than the sound of the leaves falling, everything is quiet, hushed. He walks forward, feet moving of their own volition, and his eyes wander over the beauty of the surroundings. As if by teleportation, or magic, or some other freakish cause, he crosses passed a tree and groups of people appear behind it. They are blurred, visually messy, but standing tall in front of him.

He recognizes Erica first. Her hair is wild and wavy as ever, her lips parted sensually and shiny pink, but her clothes are baggy and comfortable like before she ever transformed. Next to her is Lydia, who is looking at him with narrowed eyes. His spine prickles, feeling every ounce of judgement under her stare, his mouth dry. Allison is there too, looking exactly like she had when she first moved to town, smiling at him. It makes him so uncomfortable to feel her approval that he tears his eyes away. He lands on Scott, standing tall with tears in his eyes, as if he’s unable to control them but not letting it hurt him if he can help it. Not much of a better sight than any of the others, but at least Scott has Kira wrapped around his arm, comforting him even though he’s clearly not asking.

Standing formidably among the blurry faces and bodies is his father, but his father’s eyes aren’t looking at him. They stare behind him and even in his calm, dreaming state he can feel his heart rate increase, discomfort sewn into his cells as he realizes someone is behind him. He turns, trying to move quickly but unable to do anything but gradually twist. He’s faced with leather, cool and dark in front of him. He looks up, and staring down at him is Derek Hale, his eyebrow raised inquisitively. Derek’s hands reach up and grip Stiles’s biceps, as if to ground him, but now Stiles has a heart that is beating rapidly for entirely different reasons. He’s so close he could count Derek’s stubble hairs, breathe in his scent, reach inside him and feel his soul. What? He glances up, wondering if Derek could feel Stiles’s soul, or if he would want to, but instead he can only see his own reflection in Derek’s sunglasses. Pale skin, chapped lips, messy hair, and shadowed eyes. He suddenly knows he’s the nogitsune, and that there’s nothing he can do about it.

——

Stiles’s scream wakes him. He’s flailing, legs kicking at his blankets and arms reaching out for anything they can grab. He feels a pulse of energy, as if his own body is exploding from the inside out. He’s momentarily aware of everything around him. He’s in his bedroom, he perceives there are people in the living room and kitchen, he can feel the world around him, he knows so much. Painfully. He knows it because an extension of himself is stretching out from him, thinning him as it’s claws reach as far as they can stretch. It’s panic, confusion, fear, and energy that is bursting from his fingertips, and every bit of it is outside of his control.

“Stiles! It’s okay!”

Scott.

Stiles’s eyes stay closed, but just hearing Scott’s voice seems to be calming, breaths coming so much easier. Where briefly he felt alone and isolated, overwhelmed, arms are suddenly around him, holding him still and centering him. Finally he feels like he’s whole, as if his body won’t break apart at the smallest provocation, and his eyelids part. It’s bright as all hell in this room — which is somehow his bedroom, someplace he does not remember coming home to recently.

He squints up at Scott, and his best friend looks dishevelled, terrified. Stiles swallows, licking dry lips and trying to blink away the tears he had dreamed were in Scott’s eyes. “Hey.”

“Hey, man. What the hell was that?”

“What was what?”

“When you woke up! It was like a shock wave or something. How did you do that? Did you mean to do it?” Stiles is painfully aware of the strange circumstances, of the weird sensations as he woke up. But Scott’s words make no sense, and it must have been clear on his face, because Scott gestures to the room around them. Stiles notices then the papers on the floor, the chair knocked over, the side table that is against the far wall.

“Did I do that?”

“That’s what I wanted to know.”

The stomping up the stairs is thundering suddenly, and he knows who it’ll be before the door even opens. As if this isn’t too much already, Stiles prepares for the fifth degree, and every question he would have no answer for. He hears his dad ask if he’s okay and looks up. “I’m fine, dad.”

“Okay… what was that? I don’t know what I just felt, or if that’s normal in your world, but it’s definitely not normal in mine.”

Scott shakes his head and answers for Stiles, which is weird. “He doesn't know.”

“What the hell happened, kid? You called me about some child in the road, I heard squealing tires, and then I found you laying in the grass unconscious with your Jeep door open.” Lydia walks in behind his dad, which is a surprise, and Scott’s phone is ringing. The conversation is short and not so sweet, Scott sounding as freaked out as he is, and Deaton is brought up before it’s over.

“Derek says he felt it from outside. He’s going to get Deaton.” Stiles covers his face, scrubbing at his cheeks. Images from Stiles’s dream flash behind his eyelids. Why does Derek have to be here right now? “He’ll be able to get Deaton back quickly and help.”

Help with what? Stiles racks his brain to remember what happened before he woke up. “There was a kid! And then a truck came flying out of nowhere and almost plowed us over. I managed to throw us both to the side, but then she ran off into the woods. I thought I’d just drive off and lick my wounds, but her sister showed up.” His dad asks about his wounds in alarm and he holds up his hand. “Once again, I’m fine. I just landed on my knee and shoulder, and…”

Stiles reaches down to cup his knee, but doesn’t feel any pain, just a regular old knee. He turns his head and pulls his neckline down, but his shoulder is fine. Confusion is increasing in him as if it’s being fed into him, pouring over his brain. “But I guess that’s fine too.” The image of the sister touching his forehead pops up into his mind, just adding to him being completely lost.

“Wait, what did the sister do?” Scott seems to be asking in a panic, and Stiles opens his mouth, before closing it, having trouble following the conversation.

Lydia inserts herself into the conversation, her voice thready and weak. “The sister did something? Is that why you’ve been asleep for a day?”

“I never said… wait, a day? Like, a full day?!”

“Yeah, kid, a full day. Deaton’s only been gone a few hours. Hell, the only reason you’re not at the hospital right now is because Scott said he smelled something on you.”

Stiles swings his legs off the bed, sitting up on his own, but his whole world tilts. Derek is probably halfway to the clinic. Why does he feel that? He wants Derek to stay the hell away, but he knows he’s gone, and there is something strangely desperate to the knowledge, unsettling. He feels like he could topple over. Scott is supporting him again suddenly, and he’s not sure why, but maybe he had started to fall. His breaths can’t seem to stay in his lungs, the drags of air shorter. The thinness seems to increase, perhaps never having disappeared in the first place, just satiated for a moment. It pulled at him, trying to dig out parts of him that he doesn’t know how to give, and he can barely think straight.

“Let’s just tone all of this down a bit, huh?” Lydia’s voice is a bit weak, and there’s nothing to tone down, since no one had been speaking. Stiles turns to her quickly, eyes catching how she has her hand placed on her chest.

And then the strangest thing happens. He hears his father ask about what’s wrong with Lydia, and he turns to him to look, but the words are happening while his dad’s mouth isn’t moving. The words are clear as day in Stiles’s mind, but his dad didn’t say them. Stiles has a moment of wondering if he’s just having a delayed reaction, but Scott is saying some reassuring nonsense, and he can see his mouth move perfectly.

“Dad?” His father looks at him, his brain at some sort of standstill, choosing to not comprehend any of this for it's own good. “Not to be cliche or anything, but... think of a number between 1 and 100.”

“What?”

“Just do it.”

It’s so painfully obvious. Eighteen, his own age, the word heard bright and loud, inflected with the most intense frustration that they aren’t figuring out if Stiles is okay instead of playing games. Stiles shoots up to his feet, hands flying to his head, which mostly ends with him falling back to his original spot weakly. “Holy shit, eighteen.” At least it wasn't sixty-nine. The small laugh comes from next to him, and he turns his head around quickly, away from his father’s alarm to take in the tiny sign of a crooked smile on Scott’s lips. Stiles’s finger points in a dramatic fling he doesn’t even mean to do, jaw dropping. “You can read my mind!”

“What? No I can’t.” Stiles lets his arm drop, thinking the number sixty-nine over, over, over. Scott, the poor sap actually thinks it’s funny for a split second before it sinks in. “I can read your mind! Why can I read your mind?!”

“I don’t know! Why can I read his mind?” Stiles gestures widely at his dad, who crosses his arms.

“Hey, I never said you could read my mind.”

“It’s not like I’m doing it on purpose!” Stiles sorts through his brain to try to remember something, but those two girls are the only thing he can remember. Why did she touch his forehead? He feels panicked, like he can’t stop his brain in it’s urgency.

“Stop! Stop, just stop, okay?” Lydia’s voice is shrill and loud, and it’s shocking enough that Stiles does stop, almost holding his breath in his need to be still for her. Her hands cover her ears as she looks down at the ground, her breathing fast. A horrible memory of her screech in the tunnels months ago, when he could see the echoes of his possessed self mentally torture her, rings through his mind, and he feels such utter pain with the memory. In moments her eyes meet his sharply, as if she knows. “Stiles… I know this is a lot. But I need us to handle this calmly. I believe I’m feeling your feelings, like some sort of… emotional feedback. It’s playing havoc on my heart. I’m scared, and hurt, and I don’t even know why, alright?”

“Well, I can read minds, so that’s not too far of a stretch.” Right. Controlling his emotions. He’s never been able to do that in his eighteen years of life, but there is always a first for everything. Emotions may be turbulently under a modicum of control, but his mind is not, jumping from thing to thing. Sometimes he likes to imagine his brain works similarly to his evidence boards, images and scenes tied together with multi colored strings. But right now there are too many strings and way too many colors. He has to settle on one thing, and one thing only.

He closes his eyes, fingers gripping into the bed sheets. It reminds him of the way Derek had gripped his biceps in his dream, and that does calm him, for some strange reason. He can hear his father’s voice and shakes his head, as if the movement would possibly help dislodge the insanity of the situation. “I need all three of you to leave. And send Deaton up when he gets here.”

——

“Focus, Stiles.”

Oh, how Stiles hated that. The fact that he had told Deaton this just a day before, a day that felt like mere hours to him, just made it so much worse. But he tries to exhale his frustration, eyes trained on the popcorn bubbling of his bedroom ceiling. When he feels more centered, something that is almost impossible to fully achieve, he lets his lids slide closed. But just like every time they’ve tried before he sees a cacophony of colors, no matter how many times he tries to only see a blank slate.

“I’m telling you, it’s the same. If anything, it’s worse.”

Deaton is humming, which to him is a satisfactory answer. It doesn’t mean that to literally anybody else in the world, Stiles especially. The colors behind his eyes are bright and violent, paired with stripes of lines bending and pulling away from him.

“Tell me, Stiles… what exactly do you see?”

“Colors, like I said. I can’t stop them.”

“Talk to me about them. Talk to me about everything you see.”

“It’s like splashes of color.” Stiles huffs in frustration, because no, that’s not right. “Like it’s a pool of black, and drops of color are falling into it. They spread and disappear, and then another comes, and another. And there are so many of them now, and there are super pale yellow lines stretching through the black and going where I can’t see them.”

There is only silence, and Stiles almost opens his eyes until Deaton’s calm voice speaks again. “How many lines?”

“Uh… four.”

“Open your eyes for a moment.” Stiles does, and turns to lean on his elbow unsteadily so he can face the emissary that seems to be doing a piss poor job of helping him. At least this time he gets to be on his bed instead of an examination table, though he won’t exactly be extending any warm welcomes to invade his bedroom in the future. His dad’s voice filters in the back of his mind, and he tries to block it out. “I may have been coming at this in the wrong way. So, we’re going to try something different.”

“Alright, shoot.”

“Instead of clearing your mind, I want you to encourage these colors and the way they seem to be sinking into the blackness, your consciousness. And more importantly, I want you to try and reach out to those lines, see if you have any sort of correlation, or ability to interact with them.”

It is hard to keep from blatantly glaring after being told to do the exact opposite of what he had been trying to do for months. He does manage to bite back any comments, and when he tries again, it takes a few tries to actually be able to let go, as if his own brain is questioning his actions. He keeps pulling his punches, hesitating to give in, like some sort of punishment is waiting for him. But the more he gives in, the more the expanse of what he can only assume is a slate of his brain gets filled with colors, the more prominent the lines are to him.

He reaches out for them. They do seem almost tangible for him, something solid within the recesses of his own mind, and this is all uncharted territory. Instinctively he grasps the lines, thinking of them less like lines and more as strings, ropes to guide him. He is not grasping with fingers or hands, but he still feels like he’s managing the action. And when he touches them they shoot what he can only call an impression through every inch of him. Fire, perfume, wax. Earth, sweat, sunshine. Metal, ink, glass. Blood, tree bark, leather.

He knows these things, and he also doesn’t. There is a resonance with them, something that bounces through his mind to try and find its counterpoint, its end. It’s the same sort of reverberation that tore away from him as he woke up, that knew who was in the living room below them, how anxiously they were waiting. He reaches out to them again, desperate to understand.

“Stiles. You need to stop now. Pull it back. Center yourself.”

He opens his eyes, only to find his hand held above him, a movement he hadn’t planned. “I felt them. They felt so real.”

“What did they feel like?”

“Like… magic.”

——

Walking down the stairs, Stiles steels himself for any onslaught that could be waiting for him. His dad’s voice is like a thrum in the back of his head, but he’s done well with tuning him out with a little distance. The closer they are, the harder it feels, which means it’s probably the same with Scott hearing Stiles’s own internal diatribe. Lydia seems fine, her cool mask of indifference back in place, something he rarely sees fully intact since losing Allison and Aiden. Scott is on his feet, clearly prepared the second Stiles’s bedroom door opened. “Is he okay?”

“Physically? He’s fine.” Deaton, pulling the cagey crap again. Stiles rolls his eyes, and goes to plop down on the couch. “Mentally, a little ruffled, but nothing we probably can’t reverse.”

His dad’s concern ramps up about five notches, and Stiles starts talking to head off any further Scott inquiries. “First things first -- Derek.” He says the man’s name much louder than necessary, and he has his reasons. Mostly because of blood, tree bark, and leather. One of those strings could only be one person he’s connected to, and he has a hunch he knows who. He can tell Derek is close, and when the front door opens and Derek walks inside the confirmation is both terrifying and self soothing.

“What, you’re connected to him?” Scott asks.

“Yep.” The disgruntled unease is obvious from Derek, even if he’s only crossing the room to stand in the far corner. His face is blank, and Stiles narrows his eyes. He doesn’t look the slightest bit surprised. “Can you tell? As a born wolf?”

“Being a born wolf has nothing to do with it.” That doesn’t answer his question, but okay. He’ll take it as a yes. Which means, in the same way that his connection to his dad and Scott are opposites, so are Derek and Lydia.

“Wait, you can feel Derek’s emotions?” Scott sounds downright scandalized, and Stiles points at him accusingly.

“Dude, bro code. Just because you can read my mind doesn’t mean you can comment on everything I think. I gotta keep some kind of dignity.”

“Can we focus here?” His dad’s underlying thought of that being difficult for Stiles is obvious in the background of the words, and Stiles frowns at him. His dad turns to Deaton. “What do we have to do to fix this?”

Deaton walks through the room, clearly deep in thought, and his calm, mock intelligence pisses Stiles off. Enough to make Lydia tell him to pull himself together under her breath, earning her a glare too. Whatever. He’ll glare at all of them. They probably all deserve it. “I had Stiles explain the incident to me, and combining his recall with what you all have been chasing through the preserve… I think we may actually be dealing with the fae.”

“The fae… as in, fairies?!”

Behind his own words, his father’s very inwardly vocal annoyance at this new mention of a supernatural creature is almost strong enough to overpower Deaton’s explanation. “Yes. They are not frequently seen creatures. Some lore is true for them, a lot of it is misleading. But there is one thing that is certain about them.”

“They give gifts.” Lydia finishes, clearly aware of the lore, because she is clearly aware of everything and loves to be perfect. Apparently that was an emotion that she could feel enough to spare him a withering glance. “I’m not sure this is much of a gift, though lore often portrays them as tricksters, does it not?”

“Actually, I believe the fairy in question did give him a gift. He potentially saved her sister from harm when he pulled her out of the way of the truck.” That’s my boy. His dad’s voice rings through, and it feels really good to hear. He even feels impressed with himself, and when the thought crosses his mind that Derek might be the one actually feeling it, it sets off a whole new slew of emotions that he’s not sure he wants Lydia to experience. “Rather than gifting Stiles with these connections he has, the fae gifted him with magic. Perhaps she even knew he was searching for whether or not he had his own abilities, and wanted to make it possible for him.”

“I thought you said my son already had some magical abilities.”

“I do! I mean, I did!”

“That was in the process of being determined.” The statement is as crushing as when Deaton said it before, and Stiles grips his hands together to hold his tongue. He ignores Scott side eyeing him. “But now, Stiles has a full scope of magical abilities that he did not have before and no capability to control them. You all were in close proximity when he woke up, and got caught up in the backlash.”

“Is this going to hurt him?” Derek finally speaks up, uncertain curiosity, and Stiles swallows down any reaction to Derek caring. Of course he cares. They get along now, a bit. Derek is basically a new wolf now that he’s a beta. Though he’s still surly, private, tall, and powerful. All kinds of awkwardly good stuff. Awkward for him, not Derek.

“No, not necessarily.”

“Hardly convenient though. I don’t exactly intend to spend my life feeling a teenage boy’s emotions, understood?”

His dad follows Lydia’s words, and Stiles has to check to make sure his mouth is moving. “Which brings me back to my original question… What do we have to do to fix this? Reverse it, cancel it, go back to normal?”

“Our best bet would be to catch the fairy in question.”

Scott sighs, shaking his head. “That’s what we’ve been trying to do. It’s not easy. It’s like they are there one minute, gone the next. They don’t even seem to have a path they are taking, just running through the woods at random.”

“Yes, but knowing what they are is a benefit on our side. There must be tricks. And then we can find a way to get things back to normal, for everyone.”

Which needs to happen, and he doesn’t need Derek’s probably forced apathy, his father’s worried thoughts, or Lydia’s bitchface to know that. What the hell is he supposed to do? It’s all been easy now, but what if his dad thinks about something that a normal human male thinks about that dads never should? Or he finds out Derek is secretly delighted over puppies and flowers, and it ruins his entire image of the guy? Or Lydia feels some of the reactions he has to Derek and his stupid leather jacket? Stiles doesn’t know if popping a boner is an emotion, but knowing his luck, it probably is.

“Why would you pop a—?”

“Scott, for all that is holy, shut your goddamn mouth.”

——

Books detailing the ways of the fae are brought to the Stilinski abode promptly, only to be taken away again by Lydia. As much as Stiles wanted to assist her with the research process, she said feeling everything he felt was far too annoying for her to properly concentrate, and she was the better researcher of the two of them. It is a statement that is absolutely untrue, because researching is only moderately affected by attention span. Forty percent affected, at best. And just because Lydia is in the know now, and Stiles had a stint of mental and physical torture by kitsune, does not mean she can just swoop in and steal his place. These are all valid points he brought up, which are all ignored.

His dad has to go to work, but apparently there is some sort of irrational fear that Stiles should be monitored. Stiles scoffs at the idea, and it’s Derek of all people, rife with annoyance, that shoots him down.

“The fae are tricky. I know that, and I’ve never even met one. This gift of hers could have any sort of side effects.”

“Are you always this annoyed by me anytime you have to be around me?” Derek chose not to answer Stiles prying into his emotions, which doesn’t surprise Stiles, and with Scott and his dad on Derek’s side there is little wiggle room. Thankfully the night ends with Derek gone, and just Scott spending the night like old times. Video games are ruined, Stiles unable to resist giving himself away in every mission through his own thoughts. He tried to do his own research, but Scott didn’t see the point and wanted Stiles to ‘rest’, as if he’s a nineteenth century Victoran woman found on a fainting couch. They eventually settled on a movie or five, but even then Stiles got pinched for thinking too loudly too often to count and as soon as the first touches of exhaustion were seeping through he happily gave in.

It wasn’t until the lights were off and Scott was all bundled up in blankets on the floor, looking like a nestled dog and not appreciating the comparison in Stiles’s mind, that Scott spoke up. Stiles would have welcomed the distraction, it becoming increasingly obvious how much he can feel the distance between himself and the people he’s tethered to when they are away, if it wasn’t for the subject matter. His voice is awkward, hesitating through every word, and Stiles winces into the dark. “So… Derek. You… and Derek.”

“No.”

“No?”

“No.”

He gets a blessed amount of silence, but he knows his brain is probably shooting out way too many thoughts straight down Scott's brand new telepathy highway, so it never would have lasted. “Dude, I would never judge you.”

“There’s nothing to judge. Nothing is happening.”

“But you want it to.”

“No.” How stupid is he? He can’t lie to someone that can literally read his mind. It’s as if Wolverine told Professor X his name was Jasmine Whittaker the Third. No go. He rubs his face, groaning into his hands. “I don’t know, man. I wasn’t going to talk to you about this.”

“I know it’s probably sooner than you planned, but we can--”

“No, Scott, I wasn’t going to talk to you about this. Period. Ever. It’s just some weird, persisting, awkward crush thing. It’ll be over eventually, and then the world can move on and go back to normal.”

He sort of wished he could feel Scott’s emotions, or read his mind. Silence was murder. “What caused it to change in the first place?”

“I don’t know. I guess he’s just… less of a dick nowadays. Since he’s gotten all at peace with his shit. He’s like Derek on therapy. He feels like he’s in control.”

“Is that all it takes for you to have a crush on someone? For them to be less of a dick to you?”

“No! God, it’s just… nothing. Because Derek is straight, and six years older than us, and straight, and also moderately hates me. And also straight.”

“So were you. Well, kind of. You didn’t show too many signs.”

Stiles gets up on his elbow, affronted on his own behalf since no one else is there to help. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“I mean… aren’t you still friends with that Drag Queen from The Jungle on facebook?”

“Sapphire travels the world! I do it for the pictures, man! And she’s not even gay, gay. When she’s off stage she dresses in button ups and her wife and her run a cannery.” Scott gives him a very confused look, and Stiles is certain that not even his thoughts could translate what he means. Maybe he doesn’t know. Or, “I don’t even know if I’m gay, anyways.”

Sapphire shared a lot of stuff about pansexuality and bisexuality. Maybe that was him. Because he definitely lost his virginity to a girl, even if it was in very strange psychiatric circumstances. There was no way to ignore his former obsessive infatuation with Lydia, even if there was way too much baggage on that train now. Derek wasn’t even that good of a guy! He was still barely a talker, and clearly allergic to smiles. He was just… less allergic to them than he used to be. And didn’t get violent, because he didn’t seem to have as much anger. He’s stable, genuine. It doesn’t hurt that he ditched the sexy car full of shitty memories, but kept the beard and the leather jacket. He was still ripped, with biceps as wide as Stiles’s head. And sometimes when he was moving around his shirt would ride up and Stiles could see his happy trail that--

“Dude!”

“You know, if you slept on the couch downstairs, you would 100% hear it if someone tried to kidnap me, or I tried to leave.”

“Deal.”

——

“In Old French romance, a faie or fee was a woman skilled in magic, and who knew the power and virtue of words, stones, and herbs. But the Germanic fey definition touched more on doomed, or accursed.” Lydia says the words to the room like she’d studied the fair folk for years and was working on a dissertation, not a hint of hesitation in her knowledge. “They’ve been attributed to being elementals, fallen angels, demons, spirits of the air, any number of things. But most modern bestiaries touch on them being their own creation, separate from all others. A group of hidden creatures that survive on their own rules and guidelines of secrecy.”

“Why are they running around here making the preserve smell like those annoying red flowers?” Malia showed up today, rarely a consistent soul, and so did Kira. His dad had a town to protect, and technically the clinic is supposed to stay open, so Deaton was gone as well. With the two new people, Stiles found himself wondering if it was possible for him to accidentally explode his magic everywhere again, and he was having trouble shaking the feeling ever since. He can’t stop looking at his hands, like electricity or wisps of color are going to start flowing from his fingertips without his control.

“Poppies. You’re talking about poppies. And I have no clue why they are here, because the fae are rarely open about their intentions. With anyone. However, I would hazard a guess it has something to do with the nemeton.”

Stiles’s head shoots up, eyebrows high. “Wait, what? I thought the Nemeton was dead. I thought it died with…”

Lydia is watching him closely, and he tries to reign in his emotions so she can speak carefully. Any mention of that damn tree seems to send him reeling, and he takes in a breath, a wash of calm collection coming to him surprisingly easy so he can concentrate. “The Nemeton is a world center. It can never die, just go dormant. And fae are one with nature, creatures of the magical currents to run through the land.”

“It makes sense.” Derek speaks before Stiles can, his mouth open and ready but not quick enough. “But is there anything in the readings that indicates we should be concerned? Would they want to use the Nemeton, or are they just drawn to it?”

Stiles remembers the girls, seemingly unbothered by the world around them, like they were playing some sort of twisted game of hide and seek in the woods. Scott must have picked up on his thoughts. “They run around aimlessly. Stiles saying it’s two young girls actually makes sense.”

“Stiles said it’s two young girls?” Kira asks, and Stiles wonders how much Scott told her about the day before.

“Yes. Black hair, green eyes. One has a penchant for standing in the middle of the road. Both have the ability to stare until your skin is crawling.” And apparently curse you, or give you gifts. He’s not even settled on that yet. He squeezes his fingers, somehow self calming again and pulling back from the panic brink.

“As I said, their intentions are their own. They don’t react on base instincts like wolves, but are rather like five hundred year old children chasing whatever makes them happy at that moment.”

“Why don’t we just ground them? That’s what my mom and dad used to do.” Malia seems to think it’s a very helpful idea.

“We’re not their parents, Malia, we’re just some guy who got messed with, and his friends.”

“Stiles, attitude check. We may not be able to ground them, but we may be able to put them in the corner.” Honestly, Stiles can’t help but be creeped out by the friendship between Malia and Lydia, but he may be biased. “I think if we can get the proper supplies, we could create a trap for them.”

Kira is ever diplomatic, her lips twisted to the side as she thinks. “Do we want to risk making them our enemies? Trapping sounds so wild.”

“Do we have any other options?”

Stiles can admit that there are probably some holes in Derek’s logic there, but he can’t come up with a single other answer with all the intensity inside his head.

——

Being with Lydia alone is something that doesn’t happen often anymore.

It used to happen. Not when they were kids and he annoyed her. Not when they were just entering high school, and he was painfully obsessed with the idea of her. But after she found out she was a banshee, when she knew he was the only non-were member of this insane world, it was almost as if she flocked to him. He was the guy she would hang out with some nights, a person she wasn’t against talking to in the hallway. Coming to him for comfort from all the supernatural hell wasn’t such a strange idea to her. And then he was possessed and things got complicated. For him, and a lot of other people.

Still, she walks in his room as if it hasn’t been four or five months since she dared, lays out maps of the preserve and containers of mountain ash and sets to work with him on a plan. Rowan tree is something that is inherent to the fae, and Lydia is leaning far towards no muss, no fuss. They are going to catch a fairy the same way they do a wolf. They don’t need to hurt them, just stay out of their path once they are trapped, and convince them that taking this curse back is in their best interest. As long as the fae can’t touch them, then it won’t be a problem. The trick comes down to just how big of a net they need to cast, and every time his mind starts to wander to anything other than the task at hand, she seems to just talk louder.

“I don’t see any way around it, Stiles. Multiple rings of ash. We close them one by one until they are secluded enough for us to be able to speak to them. This way the chances of us cornering them, even with their random patterns, is still fairly high.” The idea does make a modicum of sense, but Stiles’s head shakes on instinct. “What? Why do you feel like I just told you the fae only obey strippers in gold thongs?”

“Stop feeling my emotions.” It sounds like a demand, but it’s an exasperated plea to the heavens more than anything.

“Oh, how I wish I could.”

“You don’t see any problem with the logic of me making mountain ash circles? With the way this thing she did is affecting what little magic I may have had? I barely managed to manipulate mountain ash the first time I had to, and now?”

Lydia lets out a put-upon sigh. He winces away from the noise. She is far more easily aggravated now than she ever had been before, and he knows it’s not just because she’s being exposed to the full brunt of his personality for the first time in months. It’s because she’s being exposed to his mind, a place even he can barely put up with. “Derek needs to become your new buddy for all conversations. I can’t keep up with you like this.”

Stiles looks up from the maps, bewildered. “What does Derek have to do with it?”

“What, you didn’t notice?” The question hangs in the air, and Stiles raises his eyebrows when she leaves him to wait for too long, lost. “Every time you got overwhelmed when the pack was talking earlier I could just feel the wash of calm that came over you, even from this side of the connection. Derek was basically emotion dosing you.”

Stiles opens his mouth to tell her she’s being ridiculous, but it occurs to him a moment before he can speak that maybe it’s not. At the time it came to him so easily, the climb down from every panic, that it felt second nature. He’d been a wreck since the moment this happened, emotional, unable to keep up with every avenue of thought and emotion he’s supposed to be keeping safe and separated from all viewing eyes and thoughts. But earlier, the chaos had slowed every time it picked up. “No.”

“Yes.”

He narrows his eyes, shaking his head. “Why would he do that? How would he even know I…” Needed it? Desperately? “...wasn’t feeling calm?”

“Do I look like a werewolf? I have no idea. But you need to pull it together, because your Hale Guru isn’t here, and I need you to do this. Deaton can’t put himself on the opposite side of the fae for no good reason, and technically they are not an enemy of the pack or the territory, so he has no stance. You have to be the one to do it.”

Knowing he is the one who has to do it, because he’s the only other one capable of doing it, does not help. At all. In fact, he’d wager it makes things worse, the feeling of being trapped into it even stronger. But he hears her, he knows after everything that happened she shouldn’t have to be subjected to his fears. He’s never been able to control himself before today, but he promises her he’ll try to pull it together, as well as try the ash. She doesn’t try to hide her disbelief at the first part (fair), but she does seem to believe he’s capable of trapping a fairy, for some reason.

——

Stiles hadn’t been allowed to finish his junior year. They were very apologetic, but without the proper excuses from doctors, the amount of school days he missed (almost a month, when his recovery was all said and done) made it so he was no longer qualified for the credits he was going for. They told him he could make up the spring semester at summer school, but until then he was out of luck. He can remember having little to no reaction, and then throwing his pencil cup through his bedroom window when he got home. But there wasn’t anything he could do, and his dad spun it as a blessing. This meant he could rest. He nodded and agreed, even though every inch of himself begged for something different, anything different as an answer.

Which led him to now, a few months down the line, when his friends still have a couple of weeks left of school and can’t just sit in the preserve all day and night waiting for a fairy. Malia tries, begging for any excuse to escape the school she had at one point been excited to start again, but Lydia is strict with her. His dad comes out when he’s off work, but too often his thoughts will go towards food, or Stiles getting possessed, or bundling Stiles up and running away, or wondering how Stiles got himself into this damn mess and every time Stiles shies away, terrified of his dad’s potential honest opinions that don’t get voiced.

By powers of deduction, that leaves his day time escapades paired with Derek Hale.

It’s not so bad. When he first realized it, he was a bit troubled at the thought. And by a bit troubled, he means he mostly flipped out enough to give Scott a migraine and leave Malia confused as all hell. His insistence that he does not need a chaperone falls, once again, on deaf ears. He brings it up again to Derek the first time they stand on Fairy Watch, and even he has an excuse. “I don’t think you’re in danger from them, or that they want anything to do with you. But just because you’re magic doesn’t make you a werewolf. I’ll be able to hear them coming, and I’ll also keep you from doing anything stupid.”

Damn his semi-insulting logic. All in all, however, it’s not terrible. Hearing his dad’s thoughts — no bueno. Lydia feeling his emotions — beyond embarrassing. Scott hearing his thoughts — a version of torture. Out of the four options, this one he's subject to the least amount of awkwardness. He tried to keep his physical distance the best he could at first, but the night came and they ended up in Derek’s SUV in the end, the windows cracked for better listening. Even that close, Derek’s emotions just weren’t that bad to feel. If anything, the main thing he felt was a centered determined attitude, which he could feel bleed into himself.

No matter how focused he was, talking was not something he could resist eventually, especially after his phone started to die. “So, question.”

Derek turns his head, raising his eyebrows. “What?”

“Out of all of us, you’re the only one who has spent his whole life involved in the supernatural world, except maybe Deaton - which, who the hell knows what that guy’s story is. So, what’s your opinion on this stuff? Have you ever picked up on anything about fairies before?”

Derek turns away to look out the driver’s side window again, and for a second Stiles concentrates on the feelings he gets from Derek’s side of the connection, briefly guilty, like he’s invading his privacy, even if there is nothing really to feel. But there aren’t any strong emotions. He doesn’t know what ‘I refuse to answer’ would feel like, but eventually Derek does respond. “Not really. I’ve never seen one. Peter used to talk about them, warn us.”

“And of course he’s never around when we want him to be.” Surprisingly enough, that does cause a blow of air from Derek’s nose, and Stiles picks up on a laugh over the line, even if it doesn’t actually arrive out loud. Derek thinks he is funny. “What did he warn you about? That they’ll curse you to have all your thoughts heard by your best friend?”

“Is that what you think this is? A curse?”

“Well, what would you call it? I thought out of anyone you’d agree with me, all your emotions laid bare. Though, I’m starting to think you might have gone to South America and come back as a robot.”

Those hazel eyes are on him again, and the feeling of being unimpressed is obvious. “A robot? Really?” Stiles tries to rival his eyebrow game, hopefully making it clear that he stands by what he says, and no amount of werewolf posturing in a freaking Toyota is going to change that. “I think you have enough on your plate.”

Stiles waits for more words to come, but of course, they don’t. “So, what? You turned your emotions off?”

Annoyance? No, not quite. But something close. Aggravation, maybe. “Nobody can turn them off, Stiles. I’m just attempting to be a bit more in control when I’m around you.”

“Control? From the same guy who almost panic made me cut his arm off? From the guy who once slammed my head against a steering wheel?”

“Yeah, well, you deserved the steering wheel thing.” Stiles remembers Danny’s eyes on Derek, and how angry Derek looked as he pretended to not speak English. That may be a fair, if a bit dramatic, assessment, but he’ll never admit that to him. “Besides, maybe you wouldn’t be so concerned with emotions if you weren’t trying to pick up on them all night. And yes, I can tell.”

Well, that’s embarrassing. “It’s sort of hard to resist, man. And how is me trying you out any different than you calm dosing me?”

“Don’t call me ‘man’. And what are you talking about?”

“You know exactly what I’m talking about. Lydia even picked up on it, you kept shooting me with zen lasers.”

“You’ve got to stop with the robot words.”

“But you know you were doing it?”

“Obviously.” The stare down comes again, and now that’s annoyance he’s feeling down the connection. Almost as if Derek’s control he talks about is slipping, and Stiles feels oddly proud that he’s able to get under his skin. “I’m a werewolf, Stiles. That means I can smell all of the anxiety and…” He pauses, apprehensive of what word to use. “I can tell you are a lot more out of control now, than you were a few days ago.”

Stiles can feel his face scrunch up in confusion. “Was I out of control at all a few days ago?” Derek doesn’t answer, and Stiles is glad because he realizes he may not want to know. He knows he’s been a bit emotionally messy for awhile, but he sort of forgot that it may have been more obvious to werewolves. Honestly, it’s a wonder Derek doesn’t realize Stiles has had a strange tangle of emotions directed towards him in particular. Unless he does already. Which… holy shit.

“Names.” Stiles’s anxiety is interrupted, not by zen lasers, but by Derek’s voice. “Peter talked a lot about them only liking natural things, pure and unfiltered, and he also warned us never to give a fairy our name. They don’t want anything to do with humans, or even half humans, but if they do you need to make sure they don’t know your name.”

“Um… think that counts for nicknames?”

The look Derek gives him makes Stiles very grateful there isn’t a steering wheel in front of him, robot or no.

——

A week later, Derek says his name to try to stop him, but Stiles storms into the vet’s office without pause. The entry way is open and unsealed, and he realizes why when he walks in to find Scott and Lydia talking to Deaton. Clearly, it’s late enough in the afternoon that school is out. Stiles tosses the jar of what’s left of the mountain ash onto the exam table, but doesn’t get a chance to say a word, Derek beating him to it. “The ash did nothing. They ran right through it.”

Deaton picks the jar up, turning it in his hands, and Scott rushes to close the exam room door behind all of them.

“I thought we were sure that Rowan affected them.” He asks Lydia, who is frowning, looking annoyed at the confusion more than anything.

“I was. I mean, I am. It says it clearly. It did nothing?”

“Nothing. Zilch. Nada. Oh, except now they know we are trying to catch them, which is great, really. I love that.”

“What did they say? Are they mad?” Lydia’s mind is clearly running overtime, the gears practically obvious behind her eyes.

“Nothing. They did and said nothing. Derek heard them coming, I closed the circles, and they ran right through it. It’s like they are on a marathon run, or something. They ran right past us. The older one looked at me like I was a freak, completely confused why she was seeing me again, and then they were gone. They didn’t even notice the ash.”

“And you’re sure you made the circles successfully?”

Stiles turns towards Deaton, throwing a hand up. “Listen, if you want to do it next time, feel free. I did the best I could.”

“He made them successfully. I felt them seal.” Having Derek back him up so publicly makes him take a step back. Derek just felt so certain, and when Stiles watches his face he looks sure of his words. Which is nice. Definitely nice.

Lydia snaps her fingers in Stiles’s face and he realizes he lost the train of thought. He apologizes on reflex because who knows what she was feeling from him. The last few days on and off at Derek’s side have messed with his head. The ‘sorry’ makes her roll her eyes. “We’ll just have to go back to the beginning and research again. Start from scratch, find new resources.”

Deaton nods along. “I have to stay impartial, but I can reach out to a few of my sources, see if they have ever dealt with something like this. The likelihood is slim, but we could get lucky.”

“And I will continue to be miserable. Really, great. Awesome.”

——

Babysitting duty gets more annoying and complicated the longer they go with it.

First part of the weekend brings Scott and Kira.

“You could teach me to play Call of Duty?”

Kira’s optimism is peeking through again, even as she’s sitting cross legged on Stiles’ somewhat dirty floor. To be fair, Stiles is also on the floor, arms over his eyes, ever aware of his own dramatics even as he’s achieving them. Only Scott is spread out on the bed, being entirely unhelpful and useless. “Yeah, let’s do that! It’ll be fun!”

“You two go ahead. I’m just going to lay here and waste away.”

It’s a silence afterward that could potentially be awkward, if Stiles bothered moving his arm and looking at either of them. Eventually, as Stiles could have figured, Kira speaks again. “It’s not so bad Stiles. We’ll figure it out.” That does get him to look at her, but her eyes widen at the annoyed look on his face. “I mean… it could be worse! At least Derek’s not here?”

“Why would that matter?” The thought barely crosses his mind that Scott may have told her when Scott is trying to sputter out an excuse. Stiles imagines launching himself onto the bed, wailing on Scott in revenge like they did when they were pre-teens and he found out Scott drank the last soda. But now Scott is a werewolf and Stiles... isn’t the kid he was back then. But those thoughts just get him a puppy dog look of sadness that Stiles doesn’t know how to handle. “Dude, why are you even here? I don’t need two people watching me. Why do I need anyone watching me? The fairy looked me in the damn eyes and didn’t try to kidnap me, I’m clearly not going to magically explode, and to be honest I could use some private Stiles time.”

The words and tone erase the puppy dog look pretty quick, replaced much more with hurt and some other emotion that Stiles can’t quite figure out. Because they aren’t who they were before, and Stiles doesn’t know him like he did before. Deep down, he knows Scott knows it, too. “Knowing that they know you were trying to stop them means you have to be watched more than ever, Stiles. We don’t know what they want here, so we can’t predict what they’ll do.”

Lydia handles babysitting the next day, and she seems to agree with Scott. Which is honestly a shame, because Stiles has always thought she was the smartest of them all. Instead of listening to him complain, she wants to focus on research, making camp in his living room. She doesn’t even let him turn on the television, or any music, demanding full concentration. Which is something he’s never enjoyed committing to even when he was fully interested in the subject. Focus is a fickle thing, apparently a person’s own well being isn’t even a good enough reason to get it to cooperate.

“Finding anything?” He asks, when her request for silence gets to be too much.

“No. The internet is full of colorful and childish anecdotes, none of which have any sort of bearing or indication of actual knowledge. One article says they abhor the sound of bells, but only if they are bells created by humans. This one says you can lure a fairy with baked goods. Another says that the author’s life goal is to find a fairy circle and essentially sacrifice themselves to the fae, which sounds like a horrible career decision, but that’s just me.”

“Oh, well, I’ll just pop to the store and grab some Oreos and a cat collar and we’ll be all set.”

“No, you’re not leaving the house.”

Stiles glares at her, since he was clearly joking, but she’s not paying him any attention. He tries to distract himself, popping into the kitchen to figure out what he and his dad will eat the next day, doing some laundry, and just about anything else that could pop up into his mind. But eventually he’s stuck next to her on the couch again. “I’m guessing this insane amount of dedication towards tedious subjects is why you’re at the top of your class. And why it’s a Sunday but you have no homework to do.”

Lydia never looks up from her computer, clicking away as if his words haven’t distracted her for a moment. “As if we even have any homework. We only have a week left of school. We’re basically coasting at this point, except for an Economy exam, and everyone knows Finstock takes his questions straight from the book.” Stiles frowns, rubbing a smudge off his phone screen, and his own emotional turmoil is enough to get her to look up. “What?”

“What, what? I didn’t say anything.”

“No, but you felt it. Explain.”

“I’m just thinking… at least you’re in school. I wish I could have gone back.”

The laptop lid closes, and it makes him look up. “You know, Stiles, some of us would have loved to have gotten the semester off. To have parents who understood, to get time to grieve and recover. I lost my best friend and my boyfriend, all within a few days. I’m lucky I made it this far.”

His instinct is to yell. It’s like a hair trigger that he has to swallow down. ‘You don’t think I know that?’ He wants to say. But no, yelling isn't right. She doesn’t deserve to be yelled at for expressing herself. He’s just an ugly, bizarre ball of anger and grief and she doesn’t need to be caught up in it. None of these people do. “I’m going to take a nap.”

She is at the bottom of the stairs and apologizes before he can disappear, and he hates himself. He hates that she apologizes for being insensitive to his schooling, when that’s not why he’s upset. He hates that she apologizes at all, so easily, and a bit desperately, because that’s not who she is. But he seems to pull the desperate out in people.

By the time he has a full Monday with Derek in his home, it’s too much.

The guy brings him a breakfast sandwich. He vaguely remembers mentioning them on one of their car rendezvous experiences, but Derek actually buys him one and hands it to him. He sits in Stiles’s kitchen downstairs, with a book that has no title, and leaves Stiles alone. But Stiles feels on edge, anxious and wild, like there’s a vibration under his skin he can’t control. Those little tethers he felt to everyone feel even tighter now, like chains trying to break his metaphorical skin.

“Why do you think one is chasing the other?” He finally asks, coming into the room and unable to keep his thoughts to himself any longer. Derek never told him to keep to himself. Yet, Stiles still feels like he’s breaking some sort of rule by talking to him. It may be a rule he’s imposed in his own head.

“Chasing?”

“Yeah. Think about it. That older one is always at least twenty feet back. And that’s what happened when I found them… the younger one almost got brained by my car, but as soon as she was gone the older one popped up and messed me up. As if she’d been trailing behind and saw me save her, otherwise why wouldn’t she have done it herself?”

Derek slides his bookmark into the pages of what he’s reading, closing it as he thinks. “You’re right, it does look like that. But it doesn’t make any sense. It’s been weeks of them doing this. Why?”

“Well, what are weeks to a fairy? Lydia said they potentially lived for hundreds of years. We don’t know if they sleep or eat or do anything like humans do. We know nothing.”

“Why do you think they are doing it?”

He had this little spark of interest, and it all but died with that question. Honestly? He has no idea. He can’t read Latin, so old tomes are a joke to him. Lydia already told him the internet is a crock when it comes to the fae. All he knows is what he’s seen, and that’s not much. “I don’t know. Never mind.” Derek seems to hesitate, and Stiles hates the fact that Derek can’t even feel his emotions, yet somehow knows what he is thinking too. It seems so painfully obvious now that Derek must know. He has to know how Stiles feels, and for the last few months he’s just been... humoring Stiles. Or pitying. Freaking werewolves. “Why are you even here, Derek? It’s a night shift. I’m pretty sure Scott can sleep here and still be able to go to school.”

“I was just offering to help.”

“Get in good with the alpha? Get some alpha points? What do they call it with werewolves, some perks with ol’ red eyes?”

“I’m not doing this to help Scott.”

“Well, you’re not doing it to help me.” That laughs that comes out of his mouth is sad, and he hates it. He hates hearing it so much. But it’s practically word vomit, nasty emotions and self hatred pouring from him without his control. “You barely even tolerate me, Derek. That’s always been true, and it is now. Every step of the way, the entire time we’ve known each other, I’ve been a pain in your ass.”

Ignoring all the feelings coming from Derek’s side — confusion, annoyance, aggravation — is easy, because Stiles feels the same way about himself. “Listen, it’s not like I’m crossing any lines. I’m just trying to be here.”

“Well, don’t. I don’t need you pandering to me. I’m a big boy. I can handle myself.”

He goes to bed, and he has no idea if Derek actually stays the night. He’s not awoken by fairies in the morning, so he’s got that going for him at least.

The next night his dad is off, and Stiles gets a break. His dad sleeps most of the day which works in Stiles's favor. He leaves the house while no one is awake to see, going by the grocery store and grabbing some stuff with the family debit card. They don’t even really need anything in the house, but Stiles is stir crazy. Luckily, his father notices the extra food and even acknowledges the fact that Stiles left in his head, but never comments on it out loud.

He makes homemade pizza. Not exactly healthy, but healthier than ordering in. He even throws a bag of salad in a bowl, though he doubts his dad is going to eat it. His dad asks questions, and Stiles answers. Sometimes the questions are out loud, other times they are in Stiles’s head, and if Stiles doesn’t watch his mouth he can’t really tell the difference. His dad worries about him, too much, and it stresses him out.

At least he’s finally sleeping.

“I’ve been sleeping fine, dad. Other than staying up late freaking out about everything.”

“No, I know. You’re doing much better.” Stiles can’t pick up images from his dad’s head, but it’s almost as if he can. The thoughts that run through his mind without any control pull up images of Stiles’s own shadowed eyes in the mirror after days of not sleeping, and he can hear the screams he had after his nightmares.

“Can you think of something else?” He sets his crust down, perfectly framing the personal pizza that’s middle is now gone, and runs a hand over his face.

“Sorry, kid, I’m not trying to make this difficult for you.”

“I know you’re not. No one is.” And yet. Maybe he’s making it difficult for himself. “Can you tell me about work or something?”

“I spent all night catching up on paperwork. I can’t wait for Janice to get back to town. I don’t mind filling in, but I was hoping as Sheriff the third shift would be a thing of the past.” At least during the day I can take overflow calls, instead of just reviewing reports.

“Any interesting reports? Claims of two little girls running marathons through the preserve?”

“No, surprisingly enough, they’ve either kept to themselves or just not been suspicious enough to field any calls. It’s been fairly boring this weekend. A shoplifter over at the market, but it was just a kid wanting a treat.” Stolen treats are all the rage this weekend.

“All the rage? Did someone else steal something?” His dad pauses, sighs, and gives him a not so flattering glance. I can’t seem to help what I think. “Sorry. I can’t help it either.”

“It’s nothing. A lady over on Krohn Street keeps saying her neighbor is stealing her pies.” And cookies, and cakes, and everything else under the sun, right off her windowsill.

“She cools things on her windowsill? What is this, the 1950’s?”

“That’s what I thought. Deputy Howard told her to keep her stuff inside, and she has no proof her neighbor did it. She’s convinced, though. It’s like the devil is next door or something.”

Stiles wishes he could say he was paying attention, but for once he’s lost the thread for a good reason. “I gotta go upstairs.” He’s almost gone before he yells over his shoulder. “Eat your salad!” His dad's thoughts and words strike him just perfectly. He never knows when his brain will get that hint of inspiration, but he chases it the entire night. He loses himself down a wormhole of personal blogs and websites covered in animated glitter and little girls with translucent white wings. Lydia is right in saying there is a lot of bullshit spread out there, with almost no basis. But he knows there’s some truth to it the moment he sees a writer talk about never giving a fairy his name.

The next day, he has a plan. Everybody is surprisingly open to it, bar some judgement, but he thinks it probably has more to do with them having no other ideas than actually seeing his genius. But once he thinks it, it makes so much sense. First, is the Rowan. It was Derek that brought that clued him in to their mistake. Fairies are things of nature, not things of human altering. They don’t need charred and magic infused ash, they need the actual Rowan trees. Significant tree trunks are clearly not something they can plant in a circle quickly, but finding some Rowan bark is a bit easier with the proper connections. He brings up the idea of bells on the outer edge of the preserve, but Lydia has quite a lot more to say about the idea of using baked goods to lure them in instead. He thinks she eventually stops complaining because she’s looking forward to proving him wrong. He can respect that level of pettiness. Scott and his mom are the only ones with any experience of baking from scratch, and the day they receive the Rowan bark is the same day Melissa arrives with three dozen traditional cinnamon cookies and the plan is in place.

——

Scott and Malia skip school, only a few days left of the semester, all because Stiles is heavily betting that the cookies bring the fairies to them much quicker this time than before. And with Kira and Lydia ringing bells and playing loud music on opposite ends of the preserve, he’s right. Within a few hours of him avoiding Scott’s mind reading, Derek’s emotion feeling, and his father’s loud thoughts, Derek is pushing off the hood of his car. “Here they come.”

The youngest one breaks into the clearing first, and even though Stiles knows she’s not a werewolf, the way she sniffs the air is almost perfectly animal. She zeroes in on the plates, barreling forward with glee. Her sister follows her, and Stiles hopes that in her eagerness she won’t notice the circle of bark they are running into. It’s large enough he’s hoping it won’t be obvious, but supernatural creatures are never simple. They just get lucky enough. The older one runs inside and Stiles darts forward, putting down the two off kilter large pieces to seal the circle.

Malia lets out a whoop of success, which is a bit awkward given the circumstances, but the fairies clearly noticed as soon as the circle is closed, heads coming up. The young one is sitting on the ground, her face already stuffed, but the older one turns to him and walks over to face him.

That bark better hold, dammit.

“Why did you help me? Do you want another gift or something?”

“Huh?” That’s not the sort of response he’d been expecting at all.

“You helped me catch my sister. That silly center tree has been driving her wild for weeks, she’s too young to fight it. Why did you help me?”

Stiles stands, knowing she’s talking about the Nemeton. Of course she is. It drives all of the supernatural creatures crazy, how would fairies be any different? Derek and Scott are standing behind him already, back up that he’s realizing he may not need. “You’re not mad I trapped you?”

“No… should I be?” There’s an edge to her confusion now, and she crosses her arms over her chest, staring up at him. “I’d like to remind you that there are things you’ve told my sister about yourself that can be used to our advantage.”

What the hell is she talking about? Stiles winces when he thinks about telling her his name, and Scott’s hand comes out to curl around his bicep. “Listen, I’m going to let you free. That’s not what this is about. I just need your help. I need you to take back what you did to me.”

Where she had started to seem open to what he’s saying, her mouth drops open in outrage. “What? You don’t like my gift? That’s very insulting!”

“No, no! I’m not trying to insult you, I promise. I’m so… uh… appreciative. Really! But I just wasn’t meant to have this much ability at my fingertips. That wasn’t meant for me. And I don’t know how to control it.”

“Not meant for you? But it’s yours!”

Stiles resists throwing his arms up, knowing she’s probably older than his great-great grandpa, but feeling a lot like he’s arguing with a child. “Yeah, it’s mine because you gave it to me!”

“You silly humans. You always think you know so much! I can’t give someone magic!” Scott starts to speak and Stiles holds up a hand, not only because he wants to hear what she has to say but because he’s worried the guy will somehow, someway tell the fairy his name. “I smelled the herbs on you, and knew you were trying to find yours. So, I helped! Now you have all your own magic!”

Stiles looks at his father, standing on the opposite side of the Rowan circle with Malia, and is at a loss. Apparently, he’s just an incompetent and overpowered freak, and he’s getting the same thoughts from his father, in much nicer terms. Scott tugs on his arm, and to his credit, doesn’t say Stiles’s name. “But if it’s mine, then why can’t I control it?”

“What happened? Are you hurting anybody?”

“Well… no. I guess I’m not.” The girl has no answer but to shrug, and then they are interrupted by the younger one coming next to her sister’s side, wrapping arms around the older’s arm. Her face is covered in crumbs, and Stiles has a feeling if he looked over the plates would be empty. “She’s done running?”

“The Rowan seal is helping her concentrate. Which means it’s time to let us go.” The words are firm for someone who appears so young, threatening something hidden beneath. Something he knows from experience is strong. “If you want me to steal your magic away from you as a thank you, then I cannot comply.”

Stiles looks first at Scott, and then to Derek, who gives him no kind of opinion other than a raised eyebrow and an underlying thrumming of edginess. “No, if you want to thank me, then please leave. Take your sister and avoid the Nemeton like a plague. It causes bad, terrible things. You have to stay away.”

If she’s surprised that he wants her to protect her sister and herself, she doesn’t show it beyond a small twist of her mouth. “Very well. We will leave, as planned, and we will not return. We will also tell any other fae we should pass that your center tree is a thing of mania, and nothing to be toyed with.”

Stiles nods to his father, and two sheets of bark are removed. Then, the fairies are gone.

——

He’s only alone in the driver's seat of his car for ten minutes before Deaton walks up. He knocks on the hood once, but even the forced politeness aggravates Stiles because he had told his dad he needed to be by himself for a bit, and he knows his dad well enough to feel safe in the assumption the message had been passed along. But the window rolls down, and Stiles is left face to face with Deaton.

“Scott told me what happened.”

“And?”

“And… I wanted to apologize.”

That is unexpected. Stiles hadn’t even realized how tense he was until his own surprise had him melting back against the seat, eyebrows up. “For what?”

Deaton seems to toy with his words, but for once his hands stay in his pockets, no fidgeting or mindless activity to distract anyone. “Magic is a fickle thing. It journeys from person to person as its own entity, strong and yet also, in its own way, vulnerable. I taught you the way I had been taught, because the way my magic works for me, it could not survive any other way. But the last couple of weeks, as well as the fairy’s words as they were repeated to me, have given me pause to reconsider my point of view.”

Stiles bites back a retort on his tongue, Deaton’s lack of faith in him before all this started still bitter. The words strike a curious chord in him. Where before the idea of ‘magic’ was foreign and interesting, now it’s something he can feel. He can feel that Derek is on the other side of town. He can feel his father in the kitchen. It is a living thing, and the concept of comparing what he feels to something anyone else could feel seems preposterous. This is his.

“If there is one lesson we never reached that I regret, it is this, Stiles: All magic is yours. It is inherent to you, to your very soul. It is connected to the Earth, gifted by the world itself, but it survives in your own body and life power. Only you can understand how to control your own power, or why what magic that has been gifted to you is doing the things it’s doing.”

“What do you mean why? I thought magic was all ceremony and incantations. Shouldn’t we always know why?”

“Magic is ceremony and incantations, fueled all by intentions. The connections you made with these people, Stiles, happened for a reason. But the only person who can figure out the justification is you.”

Stiles follows the thread of logic, but there seems to be no end. “And if I figure out the reason, then I’ll know how to fix it?”

Deaton shrugs, an unsure movement Stiles didn’t think he was capable of using. “Perhaps. Doesn’t it seem like the first step either way?”

——

“Lydia.”

“...Stiles.”

He is starting to regret choosing his room to do this in. It just seemed like the easiest place. He’d been in here all night, mulling over Deaton’s words, and doing the sort of self exploration and critique that he could never handle well. And now it came to this, the only reasonable next step he could come up with after everything else. It came down to Lydia Martin sitting prim in his computer chair, and Stiles still having absolutely nothing to say. He takes a second to take a good look at her, in a way he maybe tried to avoid in the last few months. She looked good. The lines of stress and fear have edged away. Where she used to pile on her makeup and combine it with fancier updos, she had really fallen into her stride with natural colors and hair flowing down her shoulders. He has somehow missed the transition, but he liked it either way. She still likes those dark colors of lipstick though, and it shows as her lips purse in judgement.

“As fun as it is to sit here and feel your anxiety, is there a reason you called me here?”

“Right. Reasons. Justifications. Cause and effect…” He takes in a deep breath, letting it out slowly, and lets himself talk through his thoughts. That’s a very dangerous practice. “Deaton has this idea that my magic did this for a reason. I’m trying to follow this idea until I reach a solution.”

“Alright, I’m with you so far.”

“So, if I were to connect the dots, then that means I wanted you to feel my emotions. Feel what I feel.”

Lydia’s arms cross over her stomach, her face not showing how unsure she is nearly as much as her voice. “What is it that you feel, Stiles?” She sounds borderline terrified, like he’s about to ruin everything, and holy crap does he know why. Of course he knows why. And in mere moments it’s so painfully clear what he wants her to understand. He has no clue if telling her this will mean a damn thing in the long run, or have any effect on this connection stuck between them, but he knows it’s time to lay it all out on the line either way.

“Lydia… I fell in love with you, like, the moment I met you. You’re beautiful, and smart, and when I look at you right now I see someone who can take on the world and be the only one left standing. I used to be convinced that I would marry you one day and that would be my happily ever after. I had this ten year plan in place, and I was so sure.”

Her unease is still there, but it’s also tainted with an eye roll. “You seriously thought ten years is all you would have to commit to doing?”

“I was eight, okay? It felt like a good idea at the time.” She is only slightly amused. “But that’s not the point. The point is that you never even noticed me. You had no interest in me at all, and… and that’s not the point either. It wasn’t until all of this werewolf crap showed up, and we both got dragged kicking and screaming into this mess, that I finally saw you for more than just this girl I fell in love with. You’re so much more than that. You’re… I just need you to know, I get it, and I’m not trying to…”

“Stiles?” He’s struggling with his words, and it’s having the exact opposite effect of what he wants, freaking her out further. He reaches out his hand, and despite his own floundering, she places her palm in his, only a bit hesitant.

“Getting to the place we were was one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. You are such a great friend, and of course I still think you’re smart and you’re beautiful and you’re everything a dream girl should be, but I need you to know that our friendship is so ridiculously important to me.”

The tension in her shoulders is fading now, and he can feel himself relaxing as well. “I value our friendship so much, Stiles.”

“I know I’ve been weird lately, and I’m sorry. But with Aiden and Allison and…”

“And someone with your face kidnapping me and torturing me?” Ouch. But she’s giving him a small little smile, and it’s touched with sadness, but he’s pretty sure all their smiles have been for a while.

“Yeah. And that. But I want you to know that I’m so sorry, about all of it, and I just really, really don’t want to lose us being friends.”

“And neither do I. And on top of that, I know you aren’t implying that I would be holding my kidnapping against you.” He ducks his head, but this time she’s gripping his hand back. “Stiles, I know that wasn’t you okay? I haven’t held any of this against you. When I look at you, I only see you. My friend.”

He knew that. Of course he knew that. Except for all the ways that he didn’t. He smiles, and it’s genuine, knowing that she really, honestly understands where he’s coming from.

“And guess what?” He looks up, not expecting the sheer force of the smirk on her face. “I can’t feel any of your emotions.”

“Wait, seriously? This worked?” He’s kind of offended at the simplicity, and he knows his tone shows it. It seems impossible that this entire time he could have fixed things with just a bit of honesty, but maybe it's not so strange, since he had also been fighting the idea that it was even his magic in the first place. His confusion at the fickle nature of his magic fades when the implication truly sets in. “Oh, God. I’m going to have to do this three more times, aren’t I?”

——

“Alright, to save myself some torture, we’re having a two-for-one special on emotions.”

His father and Scott are sitting across from him at the kitchen table, both looking more apprehensive the longer he drags this out. It’s not that they don’t know how much they mean to him. How could they not? His father is the only family he has that’s worth a damn, and Scott is practically his brother. But every thought coming from his father is uncomfortable, not sure what is about to be expressed, and Stiles is probably mirroring the same stuff right through to Scott. Maybe it wasn’t a great idea to do this with them together.

“It’s okay, Stiles, like a bandaid, just get it over with.”

There’s Scott, hearing his existential crisis, and being endlessly supportive. “Alright. Cool. Bandaid. Listen, there are just a couple things that I feel like I should say to you both, and if I say them, then I’m hoping that maybe this connection thing will end.” If it worked with Lydia, no matter how intense, there’s no reason why it wouldn’t work now.

“Coming out cancelled your connection to Lydia?”

“What!?” Stiles whips his head around fast enough to hurt, and then he’s throwing the closest thing to him (a salt shaker) at Scott’s head. “I’m not coming out, you dillweed.”

Why does Scott think my son is gay? Is my son gay?

Scott dodges it, because of stupid werewolf reflexes, but he does look appropriately embarrassed. “Oh, sorry. You just seem so nervous, I assumed…”

“Yeah, made an ass out of you and me, and everything!” He turns to his dad quickly, holding up a hand. “That’s not what this conversation is! Don’t start! I can only handle one big thing at a time right now.”

“Is that a big kind of conversation we’re going to have in the future?”

“That’s not what I meant, Jesus! I just want to know if either of you hate me!”

What?! “What?!”

The deep groaning cry of frustration that Stiles lets out is practically animal, and he covers his face with his hands to gather his composure. Yep. Definitely a terrible idea to do this with both of them at once. When he finally removes his hands, he points directly at Scott. “You.”

Scott points to himself as well. “Me?”

“Yes, you. I woke up, and you could hear what I was thinking. Which means, I want you to know what I’m thinking. Which means… I’m thinking…” He thinks over everything that’s happened in the last year, all the death, destruction, torture, chaos. Scott seems to wince away from the blur of words in his head. “That. I’m thinking of all this shit that went down, and I’m thinking about how it was my fault.”

“Why would you think it was your fault, Stiles?”

“Because I let him in.” When it came down to it, Stiles did. Malia’s life had been on the line, and Stiles saw no other alternative, but maybe if he had done things differently he would have been able to hold the Nogistune off. Maybe if he’d kept to himself, the Nogitsune never would have gotten leverage. Maybe if he’d never gone to Eichen House then he would have had the strength to fight. “I fought him, and I fought him, and I fought him, Scott. But eventually I gave up, and now Allison is dead. And that’s on me.”

“Okay…” Scott’s puppy eyes are flicking back and forth, a panic that always sets in when he hears Allison’s name. “Maybe that’s true. Not that it’s on you, but that you had to give up.”

“Yeah. I did.”

“But that doesn’t mean I blame you, or that I hate you. I could never hate you, Stiles. You’re my best friend. And because you’re my best friend I know you well enough to know that you did everything you possibly could to prevent all of this. Hell, I saw with my own eyes how hard you fought, and a lot more people would have been dead if you hadn’t been fighting him the whole time.”

Stiles’s knuckle gently raps on the wooden table, still trying to work things out in his head. “Maybe that’s why I wanted you to hear my thoughts. Because I wanted you to see for yourself. I wanted you to know that I wasn’t lying when I said that I, I don’t know… did my best, you know?”

The smile that breaks out on Scott’s face is huge, and it manages to make Stiles feel just that tiny bit better, as it somehow always does. “Man… I didn’t need to hear your thoughts to know that.”

“Oh. Okay. Cool. But still,” if Stiles is going in, he might as well go all in. “I want to say I’m sorry, for Allison, and everything.”

“Okay. Then, I’ll say I’m sorry that it happened to you, and I couldn’t stop it.”

“I didn’t expect you to be able to stop it. That’s not something you have to apologize for.”

“Neither is your thing, but I have to listen to you, so.”

Okay, then. “Wow. I can’t believe I just got played by my best friend. Fair enough.” That seems like all he can come up with, and he turns to his dad. His dad beats him to the metaphorical punch.

“Why the hell do you think I hate you?”

Stiles sighs, shaking his head. “Not hate, hate. Just… I guess I wanted to hear your thoughts. Which could mean all kinds of stuff.” He remembers seeing stuff through his eyes that were him, but not him. And a scene of his father handcuffing him and the metal breaking into pieces is one of the first that jumps to his mind. “Listen, dad, you literally just found out that supernatural creatures were real, and within weeks your son basically was one. You were freaked out, which is totally understandable, and then things went from zero to one hundred real fast. And now?”

Now you’re gay?

“Dad! Move on from the gay thing!”

“Sorry, kid, I’m a little confused! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m accepting, but I’m confused.”

“No, now I’m magic. I’m something else. I saw the way you looked at me in the clearing when she said this magic was mine. It’s the same way you looked at me when I was… when I wasn’t me. Like I was freaking you out.”

“Well, yeah, kid! You are freaking me out!” His dad says it with a hint of humor, but the words hurt. It must show on his face, or maybe the suddenly quiet Scott can tell and kicked his dad under the table or something. “Stiles, c’mon. I thought the one thing I could have taught you over the years is that you’re my son, above all else. Nothing is going to get in the way of that.”

“Yeah, you said that when I was eight and broke mom’s vase, not when I’m sixteen and hiding the murder of your deputies.”

Oh. “Okay, well, then I’ll say it now. You’re my son, Stiles, and nothing — Absolutely nothing is going to get in the way of that. Do I want you lying to me about stuff that’s that big? No. Do I want you to run around with werewolves and handle magical crap? Also no, that wouldn’t have been my first choice. But it’s already happened, and I know you well enough to know you’re not going to run away from it now.”

His dad’s right. He’s chest deep in supernatural goop, and there’s no escaping. A large part of him doesn’t even want to escape. Maybe he did, right after Scott killed the Nogistune. But that’s got to be a normal reaction to being possessed, to hitchhike your way across America and change your name to Kyle. Now that he knows he has some sort of ability to fight this stuff, some kind of weapon at his disposal, it doesn’t seem so scary anymore. “You really don’t care?”

“No, kid. Nothing you could say here at this table could change that. Or any conversations or supernatural insanity or magical revelations going forward. It's me and you, kid. Always has been, always will be.”

Hearing good things from Lydia and Scott had been therapeutic, yet they can’t compare to the relief that washes over him after hearing his dad. As a proper Sheriff should, he speaks with conviction and a confidence that Stiles wishes he himself could always possess. “Thanks, dad.” But as if he jinxes himself, his dad is suddenly staring at him hard, eyebrows down and looking unsure. Stiles rolls his eyes. “Are you thinking about the gay thing again?”

“Well, you’re kind of avoiding the question.”

Stiles struggles to figure out what the hell he’s supposed to say to that, not near ready to talk about stuff he doesn’t even understand yet, when he realizes what he's doing about his dad's thoughts — guessing. He jumps once in his seat, scooting the wooden legs back. “I’m guessing! I don’t know what you’re thinking! I’m just guessing!” It’s his dad’s turn to show clear relief, and Stiles thanks whatever God is smiling down on him that he never had a chance to hear anything traumatizing. “Why didn’t it work for you, Scott? What the hell did I miss?”

“Oh, it did work. I just didn’t want to interrupt.”

“I’m gonna kill you.”

——

Stiles had half expected Derek to move out of the loft after everything that happened when he was alpha. Sell the whole complex and move on. But Derek had proved him wrong, coming back to work on the individual apartments, potentially getting them ready for tenants, Stiles has to assume. That’s exactly where Stiles finds him, sweaty and covered in dust from broken brick and wall, tools all around him. He has a feeling all those bare muscles aren't going to make a serious conversation any easier. “Why don’t you just hire people to do this stuff?”

He’s sure Derek heard him coming, but he never looks up until Stiles starts to speak, pulling a pen from behind his ear and setting it on the pallet in front of him. “I will, for some of the more complicated stuff. But there’s no point in risking human safety for the demolition. I can handle that.”

“How very noble of you.”

“What do you want, Stiles?” He picks up a hand towel off of a pile, wiping his fingers as he walks closer to him. Stiles can almost feel nervousness from the connection, and he remembers the way he blew up the last time they talked. “Did you figure out how to stop this?”

“Yeah. Sort of. First off, I wanted to say sorry for being a dick to you the last time we talked. I know you were just trying to help. I just had a lot on my plate, and you were the scapegoat. Which means you deserve an apology. So. Sorry.” The delay tactics aren’t working. Strangely enough, he still has to say what he’s meant to say. Funny, that. Derek nods at the apology but says nothing else to interrupt him. “As for this connection, with the help of Deaton, I figured out that I made these connections for specific reasons.”

He hesitates continuing for too long, and Derek prompts him. “And those were?”

The nerves jump under his skin like lightning, so similar to the magic that sparked alive in his veins, and he looks away from Derek, walking aimlessly around the empty space. “Well, I wanted Lydia to know my emotions, because I wanted her to understand that I wasn’t trying to chase her anymore and I didn’t want to lose her as a friend. Very after school special. I wanted Scott to read my thoughts, because I wanted him to understand what happened with the Nogistune from my point of view. I wanted to read my dad’s thoughts because I wanted to know… I don’t know, if he thought I was a horrid freak of nature or something.”

“I assume they all told you how completely ridiculous you are?”

“In so many words.” Stiles has come full circle now, and has no choice but to face Derek’s ridiculous scruff and judgmental eyes. He doesn’t think the anticipation in his brain is only coming from him. “Which leaves you. And I wanted to feel your emotions, because… you seem to handle this stuff easily. You used to not be able to work through it well, and now you do. And it's still a complete mystery to me what the hell happened to make that possible, but I want to be able to roll with these punches and come out stronger and better on the other side. I wanted to know how your minds works, how you managed it. And in a way, I also wanted to know how you feel about me... well, that’s pretty self explanatory.” Derek’s eyebrows raise in wait, but Stiles would have known it wasn’t an actual innocent expression even without the humor coming down the line. “You’re going to make me say it, aren’t you?”

“From what you’re saying, I don’t think it’ll work unless you do.”

Stiles throws his hands out and gives up. “Fine! I have a huge, horny, school boy crush on you! Sex dreams and doodles in a little pink notebook, the whole nine yards. Mr. Stilinski-Hale, at your service.”

He’s laying it on stupidly thick. But his dramatic act actually pulls a chuckle from Derek’s lips, a sound that does inappropriate things to Stiles’s insides. “Really? A hyphen?”

“Okay, so maybe I don’t want to get married. But there you go, I said it and now you know.”

“Yes. You’ve said it. And I already know.”

“Yeah, and I figured that out all on my own too. But don’t worry, just because my magic seems to desperately be grabbing at it, I’m not actually betting on anything happening, and I don’t need you to explain your own feelings.”

Derek’s nodding along, the towel leaving his now overly clean hands and being tossed over his shoulder. “Good. Because you’re seventeen.”

“Right. Plus everything else.” Nothing else is said, as if Derek doesn’t know what else is supposed to be inserted into the pause, and Stiles panic juggles his own thoughts for a second. “I mean, that’s not the only reason.”

“Yeah. There’s another one - I’m twenty three.”

“Okay, I get that, but I turn eighteen in two months. So, that’s a non-issue.”

Derek rolls his eyes. “How is that a non-issue? It still makes me five and a half years older than you.”

“So? My parents were seven years apart. What difference does that make once you’re legal?” Derek’s face makes it very clear that he finds fault in Stiles’s logic, but Stiles can’t feel a thing through the connection. Not that the connection is in any way his focus right now. Suddenly he has a much more important thing to focus on. “Wait, are you seriously saying that there is no reason why you and I couldn’t get freaky deaky other than the fact that I’m not eighteen yet?”

“Well, the fact that you’re almost six years younger than me and the fact that you just used the term ‘freaky deaky’.”

“No other reason? At all?”

There’s the classic Hale frustration face, and Stiles’s cheeks hurt with how big he’s grinning. “Did your not-a-real confession work? Or not?”

“Yeah. It did. And that means I’m going to go.” Derek nods theatrically, as if Stiles was slow on the pick up. “I’m going to go, before you change your mind about those reasons, and you and I… we’re going to revisit this conversation in two months.”

“Joy.” It’s pure sarcasm, but Stiles turns around before Derek can say anything else about it. Derek’s voice does stop him before he walks out the door, though, and Stiles turns at the frame. “Now that this magic thing is fixed, what’s next? Are you going to keep your lessons with Deaton, pursue this further? Or did it scare you off?”

Derek honestly looks like he’s not sure what Stiles’s answer is going to be, but Stiles feels more sure of himself now than he has in years. “With Deaton? No. But I’ll keep learning, my way. Let’s face it, I have ADHD. Doing what teachers tell me has never been my strong suit.”

 

 


fin