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Never At Hand

Chapter Text

One of Stiles’ earliest memories is peering around the doorway to the kitchen and watching his mother do the dishes without her hands. And because Stiles was clumsy from his very first step, the peering quickly turned into tripping over his own shoelace.

“What are you doing honey?” Warm hands picked him up and held him close, soothed his scraped knee with a murmur and a cool tingle. “All better?”

Stiles nodded into his mother’s neck.

“Want to help me do the dishes?” She waited for him to pull back a bit, then wriggled her fingers at his face. “It’s all in the hands, remember that. Now, point at the sink and repeat after me. Lavabit.

“Laffabid,” Stiles said, and pointed intently, feeling the traces of a tingle wriggle its way out of his heart and down his arm where it jumped out of his fingertips. He giggled when the dishes began their dance again, dipping themselves into sudsy water to get scrubbed before spinning under the running tap.

“Good boy, very good.” She beamed at him. “I knew you’d take after my side of the family.”

~~~

Stiles enjoyed his first day of school for about an hour. Then he worked out that his mother wasn’t there, and she wasn’t coming back, and he was alone with all of these strange people who wouldn’t let him have the blocks to himself and a boy who kept pushing him and Stiles just wanted to go home so he shut his eyes very tight and thought of the kitchen where his mother would be, reading in a puddle of sunshine, and waggled his fingers in just the right way. “Domum,” he enunciated clearly.

The familiar tingles worked their way out of his heart, strong with his want, and then there was a sudden jerk to the right and he knew he was home from the smell of the herbs growing in pots along the windowsill.

“What on earth!” He opened his eyes and there was his mother, looking at him in astonishment. But then her eyes narrowed and Stiles shrank back against the kitchen counter he was perched on. “Did you magic yourself home?”

“You said to use that word if I ever got lost!” he protested.

“Oh honey.” She stood and crossed to him, wrapping him up in her arms. “You weren’t lost. You were at school.” She stroked his hair. “Did you get scared?”

“No!” She waited. Finally, Stiles broke and mumbled, “He kept pushing me.”

“Who kept pushing you?”

“Jackson. And he took all my blocks. He didn’t want to share at all!”

“If that happens again, just go to Ms Koch, okay? Look at me sweety.” Stiles pulled back and looked up at her. “This is very important. Did anyone see you? When you used magic?”

Stiles thought carefully, then shook his head. “I was in the pillow fort.”

She flashed him a small smile. “Do you want a juice box? I need to make a quick phone call.”

He leaned against her legs, slurping at his grape juice, while she made her call. He wasn’t going to let her out of his sight just yet.

“Yes, he made his way home. I think he got a lift from one of the deputies, they all know him pretty well. No of course I don’t blame you, he’s like a monkey sometimes. Mm, I think that’s best. I’ll bring him back tomorrow and we can try again. I might stay for a while, until he’s a bit more comfortable. Alright. I’m just about to have a talk with him, hopefully this won’t happen again. See you tomorrow morning.”

That night, after Stiles was tucked up in bed, they had The Discussion.

“You can’t do that again. I taught you that word for emergencies, and school is absolutely not an emergency. But more importantly, you can’t let anyone see you do magic. It’s a special thing, a you-and-me thing, do you understand?”

Stiles shook his head.

His mother sighed. “Not very many people can do this. And when something isn’t known, when it isn’t familiar, it’s frightening. Do you want people to be afraid of you?”

“No,” he said quietly.

“You can only do magic when no one can see you. It’s a secret that only you, me, and Daddy know about.”

“And Baba.”

“And your babaane,” she agreed with a soft smile. “Can you promise me? That you’ll be a big boy and do your best to keep this a secret?”

Stiles nodded earnestly.

“That’s my Genim,” she said, and kissed him goodnight.

~~

In the second week of third grade Stiles decided he was in love with Lydia Martin. She smelled like flowers and her hair was the color of the sunrise and she drew butterflies in every art class and was the fastest at counting and always had delicious cookies for lunch that she would sometimes share and when she laughed Stiles couldn’t help but laugh as well.

But most of all, whenever he touched her his magic would bleed out of his heart and race down to his fingertips, sparking between them like static electricity.

~~~

As he got older, doing magic became less about following his mother around and more about actual lessons. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday he would sit at the kitchen table and try not to sneeze over the old books.

“Sometimes you might not know what the word you need is,” his mother explained. “And you might not have time to find it, or even know where to look it up. But that’s okay. A lot of doing magic is about intent. It will only work properly if you’re clear on what you want. Using words just helps give shape to your desire. But if you want something strong enough you can just will it to happen.”

Stiles spent the practical part of that day’s lesson glaring at a candle and silently wishing it would catch flame.

“Visualise it,” his mom coached. “Focus your mind on what you want to happen.”

Which was all well and good for her to say, but Stiles was very very bad at focussing his mind on anything at all let alone something as silly as lighting a candle especially considering that there was sunshine streaming through the window and the room was perfectly bright enough. Still, he could do this. He had to do this. His mom was watching him with quiet expectation, and he wasn’t going to let her down.

He imagined lighting the candle with a match, and then taking the match away so that he was lighting the candle with empty fingers. Nothing. Okay, so fire. Red and warm and wavering in front of his eyes with every gust of nearby breath. He wanted that, that sound of wood crackling as fire ate through it, ate it up, leaving nothing but cooling ash behind. Except smaller, not a campfire, he reminded himself, just one single flame the size of his thumbnail, that was all he needed.

Maybe if they had thick curtains over the windows that they could pull closed this would be easier to do. He glanced up and out the window over the sink just in time to see a bird swoop low, and wouldn’t it be neat if he could use magic to fly one day, he wondered if there was a word for flight in one of the big books that he wasn’t allowed to touch on his own yet. Just because they were old and crumbly didn’t mean he was going to destroy them, his mother should have more trust in him. That thing with the cookie crumbs had totally been an accident and not on purpose so it shouldn’t count at all.

“I can’t do it.” He crossed his arms in self-disgust. “I’m not good enough.”

“Don’t be silly,” she admonished. “This takes practice. You’ll get it eventually. Juice box?”

“Juice can’t fix everything,” he said glumly, but took the box from her. Apple, yum.

She laughed and stuck a straw in her own drink, sitting across from him. “When did you get so jaded? I think that’s enough practice for today. Want to watch half an hour of TV? I think that spider show is on now.”

“Mooom, it’s Spiderman. You make it sound like some creepy spider movie.”

Two weeks later, Stiles managed to wordlessly light a candle at dinnertime. His mother cheered, and his father smiled uncertainly.

“Well done, son,” he said, and then in a low aside added, “This is good, right? He’s not going to start lighting things on fire just for the fun of it?”

“Dad!” Stiles protested. “I’m not a bad guy! I’m like a superhero!!”

His dad relaxed marginally. “That’s right buddy. And with great power?”

“Comes great responsibility,” Stiles said solemnly.

~~~

The teachers at school finally decided that Stiles was more than just hyperactive, and after a series of tests he was diagnosed with ADHD and prescribed Adderall. It helped, a lot. For one thing, he was less likely to get distracted halfway through math class and try to convince everyone that it was finger painting time. For another, he got better at focussing long enough to do silent magic with his mom. But sometimes he calmed down too much, and that familiar warm tingle in his heart that he’d had as long as he could remember would fade out of reach. And he would be exactly what the drugs wanted him to be - completely normal.

He hated it.

~~~

Scott burst into Stiles’ room uninvited, and Stiles froze, arms outstretched like he was in the middle of conducting an orchestra. Which, in a way he was.

Scott blinked at the sheet hanging in midair over Stiles’ bed, waiting for directions.

“Hey dude,” Stiles said with forced casualness. He dropped his hands and around the room several things clattered to the floor. Maybe he could just act like nothing was going on and Scott would believe him. “What’s up?”

“I. You.” Scott shook his head and pinned Stiles with a glare. “That happened. Don’t try to act like it didn’t. Explain.”

Stiles shifted uncomfortably from side to side. “I don’t know what you’re talking about?” he tried. But this was Scott, who might not have been the sharpest kid in class but was like a dog with a bone sometimes. He wasn’t going to let this go. And because he was a bastard and knew Stiles, Scott just looked at him, waiting. It only took two and a half minutes of silence to break him, and he blurted, “Okay fine, so I’ve got magic. Can we not make a big deal out of this?”

“Magic. Right. Okay.” He sounded sort of faint, so Stiles helpfully waved a chair over to him with a flick of his fingers and a murmured motus. Scott’s eyes widened even further. It looked kind of painful, actually. “I thought you trusted me,” he whined, and sat. “I thought we were best friends. I told you about the thing with the magazines and the rabbit! Why wouldn’t you tell me about this?”

“I do trust you!” Stiles resisted the urge to wrap Scott up in a big hug - he’d gotten strange about hugs when they’d started sixth grade. “You’re my best friend, I wanted you to know, but Mom said I couldn’t tell anyone and that if I did people would be scared of us and I don’t want you to be scared of me.”

Scott frowned. “Why would I be scared of you? Magic is awesome. Are you like Harry Potter? Wait, why aren’t you at a special magic school?”

“That’s fiction, dumbass.” Stiles flopped down on his bed, not even trying to hide his wide grin. Scott knew. He didn’t have to try and keep this a secret anymore. Scott knew, and he wasn’t running away and leaving Stiles friendless and alone. “Mom teaches me how to do things, but there’s not a Hogwarts or whatever. There’s just us. Or, well, there might be others, but there’s nothing official. Mom says you have to stay quiet.”

“The government might try to experiment on you if they found out,” Scott agreed, very seriously. “Or use you for evil.”

“Exactly! So you can’t tell anyone, okay? Wait, we should make a blood oath.”

“Ew, gross,” Scott said, but he let Stiles prick his thumb with a needle and said all the right words when they pressed their hands together tightly.

~~~

Stiles was literally vibrating in his chair, watching as the seconds ticked slowly by on the giant clock above the whiteboard.

Scott coughed, and flicked a note over the small gap between their desks. In crabby handwriting, he had written:

Did you forget to take your meds at lunch?

Glancing up to check that Mr Patman was suitably distracted by drawing a diagram of a cell on the board, Stiles jotted down his reply.

Didn’t forget. Just didn’t take them. Gonna need the power. Wait till after school. It’s gonna be awesome.

Instead of getting excited, Scott cast a dubious look over at Stiles after reading the response. Which was entirely unfair, in Stiles’ opinion. That thing with the action figures had been all Scott’s idea, and sure, Darth Vader had been a little aggressive and teamed up with Megatron, but the GI Joe’s had been really helpful and by the time the magic had worked itself out and everything was lifeless plastic again they’d managed to put out most of the fires. Besides, Ms McCall had totally bought the story about manufacturer defects and had even written a strongly worded letter to the toy company about checking the wiring on their battery operated toys.

Whatever, Scott would see. This was going to be amazing.

That afternoon Stiles lead Scott out into the woods that surrounded the North side of the school. Scott, because he was going through a boring phase, was super whiny about it.

“Where are we going Stiles? There’s all sorts of gross bugs out here. Can’t we just go home?”

“No. We need the privacy. Mom doesn’t know I found the word and if she finds out then she’s going to say that I can’t use it but if she doesn’t know then I’m not breaking any rules so it’s fine!”

Scott frowned. “I don’t think it works like that.”

With a roll of his eyes, Stiles rounded on Scott impatiently. “Look, do you want to fly or not?”

That got Scott’s attention. “You finally found it?”

“It was in of the really really old books,” Stiles said, and pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket and handed it over. “I photocopied it, but it’s kind of hard to read.”

“To float, to lift, to free from the Earth,” Scott read aloud, then cleared his throat and said with a deep voice, “Orior fugere.” He looked disappointed when nothing happened, just like always.

“Sorry dude,” Stiles said sympathetically, and grabbed the paper back. “Gotta have the magic fingers.”

“Sure sure.” And that was another reason why Scott made such a good best friend, Stiles reflected while reading the very short description one last time. Scott treated the magic like he treated the fact that Stiles was double jointed. He’d try the moves out, but didn’t mind that he couldn’t do them too.

“Okay, let’s do this. You wanna go first? Silly question, of course you don’t.” Stiles folded the paper up and tucked it away before concentrating on the warm tingling in his heart. He spread his fingers out and braced himself as if he was using his arms to push away from the ground. Careful with his enunciation, he said “Orior fugere.

Almost immediately the magic boiled out of his heart and out through his fingers, running along his skin like a net until it covered his whole body. And then, Stiles began to rise, drifting upwards like a balloon.

“Dude, that’s awesome! Quick, do me!”

Orior fugere,” Stiles said, pointing at Scott, who whooped as he began to rise as well.

“How do we steer?” Scott flapped his arms, but nothing happened.

Stiles bumped into a tree branch and grabbed on. “Maybe try bouncing off things?” he suggested, before pushing himself away from the tree towards Scott, gently spinning through the air.

“It’s like bumper cars with people.” Scott grinned and reached out to snag Stiles when he got close. “Push off on the count of three.”

“This must be what astronauts feel like.” Stiles let himself flip over so he was upside down, the forest floor slowly receding above him. Scott flipped over too but kept on going, spinning head over heels again and again. “Do astronauts get vertigo? Because I think I’m starting to get airsick. Not from flying, from watching you. How many somersaults have you done in a row?”

“Oh god I’ve lost count. I can’t get it to stop.” Scott reached out wildly and snatched at Stiles’ arm.

“Hey!” Stiles pulled away and suddenly they were ricocheting through the trees, chasing each other like they were trapped in some sort of demented pinball game.

They finally stopped when Scott was dangerously close to having an asthma attack from laughing too hard, hanging on to the top of a tree like they were in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and had magical tree-walking fighting abilities. Which, thanks to Stiles, they sort of did.

Then Scott, who could never just be happy, had to ruin everything by asking, “So, what are the words to get down?”

Burping didn’t work, because, as Scott kept pointing out every time Stiles tried it, “This isn’t Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, god, I can’t believe you didn’t think to look up how to get down!”

“You didn’t think of it either!” Next he tried crawling down the tree, but it was like his body knew exactly how far away from the ground it wanted to be and wouldn’t let him get any closer.

“Yes but I’m not the one with superpowers here! I don’t get special lessons about how to tap into the mystical energy of the Earth.” Scott was getting better at the whole sarcasm thing.

“You make it sound like we dance around naked in the woods on full moons,” Stiles muttered, eyeing the roof of the school that was just visible over the tops of the trees. “You know, this never would have happened if our parents would just give us cell phones already.”

“I really don’t think they’re going to see it that way.”

“Okay, I’ve got an idea. Why just need to get a message to my Mom, right? And then she can come find us and get us down. Or maybe she can tell me what to do, I don’t know, it depends on what sort of energy it was. Sometimes only the person who cast a spell can end it but I think because this --”

“How are we going to do that?” Scott interrupted. “Throw a message in a bottle onto the lacrosse field and hope someone finds it?”

Stiles perked up. “Do you have a bottle? Because I’m gonna have to pee soon and --”

“No! Stiles! Focus! Can’t you just like, think us down? You’re getting better at the whole silent magic thing, right?”

“Well, yeah. But there’s kind of a difference between wanting the floors to mop themselves and convincing our bodies to obey gravity again. Plus if I get it wrong we might splat onto the ground and I really think there’s got to be a better way of getting down than that. Look, we just need to fly over to the school and get onto the roof. I think it’s about the right height so that it’ll look like we’re standing instead of floating. Then we’ll get whoever sees us to call the Sheriff’s department, Dad will come find us, he’ll get Mom and bam! We’re back walking on ground again!”

“You are going to get into so much trouble,” Scott muttered, but pushed off of his tree towards the school.

“I was taking initiative! Applying myself to independent studies! It’ll be fine.”

After that, Stiles’ mom started locking up the books when it wasn’t lesson time, and Stiles began teaching himself how to pick locks.

Chapter Text

Looking back on those days between the phone call and the funeral, Stiles mostly remembers walking around in a daze. He ate a lot of casseroles, and it seemed like there was always someone in the kitchen. A neighbour. One of Dad’s deputies. One of the the fluttery women who worked with Mom at the Public Library. Had worked with her.

Scott was around a lot, too, and would happily run interference between Stiles and any of the people who looked at him with sympathy in their eyes and try to say things like, “I know it hurts now dear, but it’ll get better with time.”

Which, okay, was probably true, but wasn’t actually a helpful statement whatsoever.

On the day the truck driver who’d side-swiped his mom’s car had shown up, tupperware box full of fresh cookies in hand, Scott dragged Stiles into the privacy of the back garden so he could throw things around with his mind until he exhausted himself and slumped to the ground.

“Want me to get your grandma?” Scott asked, hand warm against Stiles’ neck as he sucked in great bellows of air. Stiles nodded, and wiped his tears away. Scott just handed over a pocket-sized packet of tissues and slipped away quietly.

“Oh sevgili, you will hurt yourself if you do this.”

“I didn’t do it on purpose, Baba.” Stiles didn’t bother to look up at his grandmother - he knew what he’d see. She’d always looked old to him, but now she looked positively ancient with sorrow.

“I, uh, thought it would be better if he broke a few branches. Instead of the furniture, I mean.” Stiles did look up then, so he could see Scott hovering awkwardly just over Baba’s shoulder.

“It was good choice. Now, I need for you to get me jug of milk, cinnamon stick, vanilla pod and honey. I must realign energies.”

Scott rocketed back inside, and Stiles, curious despite himself, asked “What’re you going to use all that for?” As far as he knew, realigning magical energy involved a lot of tedious meditation and sitting around. Stiles wasn’t very good at it, actually, but he’d never actually used so much power in so short a time before so could usually get by with just waiting for his magical batteries to recharge. Or whatever it was that they did.

“To get rid of your friend. He is helpful, but some things are just for family. Now, you are feeling tired, yes?” She waited for Stiles to nod. “Like insides have been scraped out with cheese grater.”

“Uh, I guess.”

“You burned out. Leila told me you do not want to be still, so we fix this another way. Lie down. Get comfortable.”

Stiles looked at the grass he was kneeling in. “We could go up to my bedroom,” he suggested.

“Too far.” Baba pushed on his shoulder impatiently until he gave in and lay flat on the ground. “Now look up and think only of blue.”

Stiles obeyed, focussing on the cloudless sky above him. It was a nice sort of blue - sort of like a swimming pool. He kind of just wanted to fall up into it and swim away. Maybe to a beach somewhere isolated, where he didn’t have to deal with anyone else. Especially not stupid but remorseful truckers who had just been trying to avoid hitting a deer.

He blinked, suddenly feeling a wash of tingling spread out from where his Baba’s hand rested on his stomach. It was like healing magic, but with a sharper edge. Everywhere it touched he felt soothed, the sharp emptiness in his bones filling until he felt like himself again.

“Better?” Baba murmured, stroking his forehead. Stiles let his eyes fall shut and, just for a minute, pretended that those were his mother's fingers.

“Yup.” Stiles pushed her hands away and sat up. “Thanks, Baba. You’ll have to teach me that trick someday. Very handy.”

She smiled sadly at him. “It does not work when you are alone, svegilli. You must have another to do it.”

“Doesn’t mean it’s not worth knowing.” Stiles stood, and brushed the dirt off his legs while he surveyed what was left of the garden. “Man, I totally hulked out. Gotta work on my control I guess.”

“You’re fourteen, Genim. You’re allowed to lose control sometimes.”

~~~

“What are you doing?”

Stiles nearly fell, but saved himself with a well-placed flail that let him snag hold of the top of the ladder.

“Jesus Dad, give a guy some warning why don’t you? What, are you training for the ninja Olympics?” Stiles frowned down at his father, who had his Sheriff Face on and was looking at the bathroom like it was a crime scene and he was hunting for evidence.

Stiles glanced around. There were still suds dripping from the ceiling, but at least he’d managed to clean up the giant splatters of shampoo and bright green body wash off the walls before his dad had gotten home. It had looked a lot like a really cool modern painting, so maybe he should have taken some photos to put up online or take into his art teacher for praise.

Sheriff Stilinski sighed, and looked up at his son with a very familiar expression of exasperation. “Is this a,” he wiggled his fingers, “thing?”

“A thing?” Stiles redoubled his efforts at scrubbing the giant mounds of fluffy bubbles off the ceiling. What the hell had he done to make them so sticky. “You’re going to have to be a bit more specific, father mine. Because I was thinking that this was actually a stuff. Stuffs? Why does it work to say things but not stuffs? That doesn’t make any sense at all. Grammar, you have failed me yet again. Really, whoever came up with the English language was awfully sloppy.”

“Stiles.” And oh, there was the Sheriff Voice to go with the Sheriff Face. “What happened?”

“I was showering, and you know how I kind of like to help things along so I get done faster? Well, I uh,” he hesitated, not wanting to say ‘remembered Mom teaching me words to help scrub my hair and it hurt so much that I couldn’t breathe and then I kind of blanked out and when I came back the bathroom was like this’ because as awesome as his Dad was, he wasn’t always as comfortable with the whole magic thing as he pretended to be. So Stiles just said, “Got distracted. Won’t happen again.”

“Really?”

“Is that doubt I’m hearing? You wound me. Deeply. Besides, I figure I should probably get used to doing things the boring way if I’m going to be trying out for the lacrosse team next year. Scott could handle it if I forget and start busting some sweet moves but I dunno about everyone else.”

“Is that why you’re cleaning this up by hand?”

“Absolutely,” Stiles agreed, because that sounded a lot better than the truth, which was that he’d tried to magic the bathroom clean and just ended up making it worse. It seemed like every time he reached for that tingle in his heart he couldn’t help but think of his Mom, which lead to all sorts of strange things happening. Much easier just to do things the old fashioned way. Just for now.

~~~

Dr Knuckey hummed to himself as he took Stiles’ blood pressure, the same six notes as always. In the five years that Stiles had been seeing him, there had never once been a variation in the tune. That was determination. Bordering on obsessive compulsive behavior, probably.

“Well, that’s looking alright.” Dr Knuckey opened up the cuff, freeing Stiles’ arm. “Now, your father mentioned that you’re going through your medication a bit faster than usual. Are you having trouble concentrating at your current dose?”

Stiles shifted uncomfortably. He couldn’t really tell his very non-magical Doctor that the Adderall helped subdue the tingle of magic burning in his heart. It had been a comforting warmth, once, but now it just felt a lot like acid eating away at his chest. “It’s, you know. Puberty? Changing hormones and all that. I’m sure I’ll settle down when I get older.”

“I see. Well, I can write you a stronger prescription if you like. But I don’t approve of self medicating, young man. If you feel that the Adderall isn’t being as effective as it should be, you call me up and we’ll sort something out, alright?” He scribbled a note and handed it to Stiles who hopped to his feet and headed for the door, well versed in the routine. “Give that to the receptionist and she’ll sort you out. And Stiles,” he waited for Stiles to glance back before continuing. “If you ever want to just talk, I’m here for you.”

Stiles forced a laugh. “You know me Doc, I always want to talk. I’ll see you in three months.”

~~~

“So, sixteen, the big one-six. In three days, you’re going to be able to have sex legally, Scott. If we were in Scotland you could even get married.”

“Which would be great, if there was anyone willing to have sex with me,” Scott said glumly, poking at his lunch. He’d opted for the ravioli, which Stiles could have told him would be a bad decision. When it came to school lunches, always opt for the fried products, that was Stiles’ personal philosophy and it hadn’t served him wrong yet.

Stiles grinned evilly. “Well, there’s always the Man Maker.”

Scott blanched. “Oh god, Mrs Rodriguez? No. A thousand times no. One, she’s ancient. Two, if even half the rumors are true then she’s had sex with enough people to catch like every disease ever. Three times over. Do you know what genital herpes looks like?”

“No, thank god, because I don’t have a medical professional for a parent.” Stiles stuffed another handful of fries in his mouth.

“And crime scene photos on the kitchen table are so much better.” Scott abandoned his gloopy pile of overcooked pasta and looked longingly at Stiles’ tray.

“Do not pull the puppy dog eyes on me man. It’s all vegetables all the time at my house right now. I need my daily dose of trans fats. Next time, get your own delicious treats.” Stiles pulled his food closer, and before Scott could get really stuck into his pout asked, “So you know what you want to do yet?”

Scott immediately brightened. “Yeah actually. I was thinking maybe we could, uh.” He glanced around to make sure no one would overhear them, which, hello, wasn’t really a concern considering there was no one else at their table. Still, because Scott just could not do subtle no matter how much Stiles tried to coach him he leaned in close to make it super obvious to anyone who might look in their direction that he was talking about Something Secret. “We should go flying. You know.” And here he waggled his fingers in an exaggerated fashion.

Stiles rolled his eyes. When had this become the universal signal for magic? It made Scott look like he was imitating a bunch of worms with his hands. Which, okay, gross. He pushed the rest of his meal across the table to Scott, appetite suddenly gone. “That didn’t end so well last time.”

“Well, we were twelve. And this time you’ll know how to get us down, right? It’ll be cool. We haven’t done anything like that in a while.”

“That’s because if we’re not at school, we’re at lacrosse practice. And if we’re not at lacrosse practice, we’re practicing lacrosse on our own. Sometimes we do homework. But, considering how much time we spend on this sport, you’d think Coach’d let us off the bench already.” Stiles scowled across the cafeteria, focussed on the table where Lydia was holding court with Jackson. “What does he have that I don’t,” he muttered.

Scott didn’t even have to turn to know who Stiles was talking about. “Coordination?” he suggested. “A ridiculous amount of money? The title of team Captain?”

“And the IQ of a rock. Oh hey, speaking of rocks. That new action movie is coming out. We should get your mom to take us to the midnight premiere of it for your birthday. That’d be awesome.

“What does that have to do with rocks?”

Stiles waved a hand dismissively. “There’s a meteor or something. But more importantly, the actors are going to be at the premiere, which means we could meet Summer Glau! It’s a whole promotional thing. I don’t remember all the details because my brain kind of went offline when I saw the picture of her in the body suit.”

“Oh wow, do you think she’ll wear it? For promotional purposes I mean.”

“Only one way to find out.” Stiles grinned. “We should take a camera. Two cameras. Maybe more. Just in case. And a wig so we can go up to her more than once. Or a moustache! And then she’ll be like ‘Oh good sir, how do you get your moustache to be so virile and manly? I must have you!’ and then she’ll take me home with her and I’ll be her live in sex slave.”

“Except you don’t turn sixteen for another two months. So if anyone’s going home with Summer Glau it’s me.”

Chapter Text

Stiles hadn’t looked at his mother’s books in years. Literally years. Baba had tsked at him on her last visit, telling him that he was going to regret abandoning his training, and she was probably right (because she was always right) but that hadn’t been enough of a push for Stiles to unpack them from their special chest. Apparently, all he’d needed to get over the ache he felt every time he looked at those books and remembered his mother patiently teaching him was time. Oh, and Scott turning into a werewolf. That helped put things in perspective.

When he’d made that crack in the woods about lycanthropy, he hadn’t really believed Scott’s claims of new supernatural abilities. But between the wolf hairs the Sheriff’s team had found on the body, and Scott’s performance at lacrosse Stiles’ brain had gone into overdrive, clicking all the pieces together like he was Lydia Martin solving some complicated math equation. Except that instead of a neat number, he was ending up with “werewolf”. Which, if every movie ever made was even marginally right, could potentially be a Very Bad Thing.

While the internet was awesome, google-ing “lycanthropy” gave Stiles a lot of junk information that he could tell right away was probably made up by some crazy person with a tinfoil hat. Hopefully. Also, there was a surprisingly large amount of werewolf porn, which, wow, that looked painful. He needed more information.

So, his mom’s books. When he finally dredged up the courage to start going through them he was pleased to discover that they had a lot less porn in them than the internet. More porn than he’d expected though. There were at least three books that his mother had kept well out of his sight, and damn, he was going to have to try that particular phrase out if he ever got around to having sex with someone he could tell about the magic. Except that would require not getting eaten by Scott first, so Stiles reluctantly set those books aside.

The only problem was that there wasn’t enough information - no handy-dandy “so your best friend is suddenly a werewolf” pamphlet to help Stiles out in his time of need. Actually, there might be a market in that. He could write a whole bunch of “Congratulations! You are now a supernatural being!” self-help books. Because if werewolves were real then all the other crazy shit that his mom’s books talked about which he’d always remained healthily skeptical about (magic was one thing, but fallen angels and manticores were an entirely different league of bizarre) might be more possible than he’d been willing to accept. And people with new freaky abilities and potential hair-trigger tempers really needed some more guidance than what Stiles was finding.

History of Lycanthropy, which he’d had high hopes for, was particularly disappointing. There were just no facts. Everything was “In the tavern there was a man who spoke of a being with the head of a wolf and the body of a man” and “I have been told that these creatures have three rows of teeth” and “In the northern villages they say that a child born on the night of a full moon will eat only human flesh.”

The books were great when it came to magic. Each word was meticulously documented and explored, with notations in different handwritings adding information. But the lore was just that - lore. He might as well have been reading a collection of fairy tales. Only the fact that he recognised some of the handwriting as belonging to a particularly industrious ancestor who had been right about pretty much everything else stopped Stiles from dismissing what he read completely. Even so, there were no citations or statistics or any of the other things that Stiles relied on to turn the strange into something known.

Obviously, the only solution was experimentation. Practical research from which Stiles would be able to draw his own conclusions and solutions, until this whole lycanthropy thing became Scott’s new asthma - a biological quirk that was understood and most important of all, safe.

But Stiles had forgotten that Scott was an idiot. An idiot in love, or at the very least, lust, and he insisted on going to that damned party with Allison. Which meant that Stiles would have to go too. Because he was not about to lose his best friend just because he’d joined Stiles in the “you’re not quite human” line and was too fucking stubborn to take the necessary precautions.

~~~

Ordinarily, Stiles would have been thrilled to be at a party on a Friday night. There were drinks and Lydia and pretty much everyone else from school crammed into the house. He squirmed his way through the crowd, waving at a couple of the less dick-ish guys from lacrosse but not bothering to stop for a chat. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find Scott anywhere. He ducked out the front door to double check the patio before swinging into the back garden when he saw Derek Hale making his way around the house.

“Hey,” Stiles called out, hopping down off the porch and catching up quickly. “Aren’t you a little old for this party?” He immediately regretted calling attention to himself when Derek focussed a glare on him.

“You’re Scott McCall’s friend,” he said.

“Sometimes,” Stiles agreed. “Sometimes he’s a dick though, and I’m just the guy who follows after him trying to fix his mistakes. Speaking of which, have you seen him? He, uh. Left something important at my house.”

Derek raised an eyebrow. “Why do you think I would know where he is?” The way he kept staring was really disconcerting, as if he was cataloguing Stiles’ every movement.

Stiles shrugged. “Dunno, just, you seem to be looking for someone, I’m looking for someone, I guess I thought we could look together? Two heads are better than one and all that.”

“I don’t need your help.”

Stiles held up his hands in what he hoped was a placating gesture. “Got it. You’re a lone wolf.”

“What?” Derek took a step towards Stiles, who fought the urge to retreat. This guy had a serious fuck-off aura around him, and Stiles wondered if he might be able to actually feel it if he hadn’t taken his full dose of Adderall that afternoon. And then he wondered how long it had been since he’d actually wanted to feel anything with his special abilities.

“You know, you’ve got the whole mystery man vibe thing going on, rolling into your old town with nothing more than the jacket on your back and the wind in your hair. Well, you might have brought other things, I don’t know, but it doesn’t really fit the stereotype you’re leaning towards. Actually, if you got some cowboy boots you could totally pull off the lone cowboy look. And maybe a stetson. Do you have a stetson? Add a couple of guns and you’re not just a cowboy, you’re a gunslinger which is a lot cooler than being a cowboy in my opinion, because seriously, who wants to lasso cows?” Stiles trailed off. “Sorry, I got sidetracked. What were we talking about?”

Derek cocked his head, eyes never leaving Stiles’ face. “You,” he said slowly, “are a little odd.”

Stiles snorted. “Says the creepy older guy loitering at an underage party. Seriously, what are you doing here?”

Before Derek could respond a screech filled the air, and Stiles whirled around, mind instantly leaping to ‘Oh fuck Scott ate someone’. Except there was nothing but some drunk girl shouting at another drunk girl while a small crowd formed to egg them on. When Stiles turned back, Derek had vanished. “So you’re a ninja cowboy lone gunslinger,” he told the empty air.

He finally found Scott, just in time to see him lose his shit and hurry out of the party. So maybe Scott didn’t have the survival skills of a lemming. More like one of those turtles which plodded along unsuspectingly until an eagle swooped down and picked it up for lunch. Stiles followed Scott out of the house just in time to see him speed away, which was actually more points in the ‘Scott’s a dumbass’ column. The guy could barely walk in a straight line, but somehow he thought driving was a good idea. Stiles was nearly at his jeep when someone snagged his arm and pulled him around.

“Stiles!” Allison looked worried, but un-mauled, which was a good start. “Do you know what’s wrong with Scott? He kind of just took off.”

“He had some bad chicken for lunch today. I’m just going to go make sure he’s okay, but I’m sure he is. He probably didn’t want to ruin your date by throwing up all over you.” Stiles glanced back towards the house. “Do you, uh, want me to drop you off on my way or something?”

She smiled at him, and okay, maybe Stiles could get what Scott saw in her. “No it’s okay. I’ve got a ride.” She waved down the road to where Derek was leaning against a shiny looking sports car. Was that a Camero? How the hell did a nineteen year old, who wasn’t Jackson Whittemore, afford a Camaro. Insurance payout, maybe? “Tell him to call me, okay?”

“Right,” Stiles said, shooting Derek a confused look. Ordinarily he might ask some sort of follow-up question, maybe make sure that Derek was on the up-and-up and just being neighbourly because as the Sheriff’s son he knew just how many girls got abducted at night, but he didn’t have time for that right now. Time was passing and Scott was probably off wolfing out somewhere and Stiles needed to get to his side and help in any way he could, so he just waved at Derek and told Allison, “See you Monday.”

Later, Stiles remembered the whole lone wolf conversation, and wanted to bang his head against a wall.

~~~

Stiles met his father’s frown with a raised eyebrow, and sighed. “Out with it,” he said, putting the lasagne on the table and sitting down. It was Tuesday night, Family Dinner night - even if they sometimes had to do it in the cruiser, Stiles couldn’t remember the last time they’d missed eating together on a Tuesday. “What’s bothering you so much that you’re hovering awkwardly around and shooting me concerned looks all the time.” He hesitated, then added, “Except please don’t bother if you’re going to bring up the whole sex thing again. Because seriously, between health class at school, Scott’s mom and her diagrams, and that time you wanted me to practice putting condoms on cucumbers, I think we’ve covered everything we need to cover.” He dug into the lasagne. Not bad, considering it was just a frozen one he’d popped in the oven for forty minutes.

“Is this your way of telling me you’re sexually active?” Sheriff Stilinski asked, sounding vaguely horrified.

“What? No! I’m very unsexually active. Is it possible to be negatively active? Wait, that would be a eunuch, wouldn’t it. I’m not a eunuch either. I’m just an ordinary sixteen year old virgin with no dating prospects on the horizon whatsoever.” Stiles looked mournfully at his dinner.

“Well I’m glad that’s cleared up, but it’s not actually what I wanted to talk to you about. I noticed that you’re not taking as much Adderall as you usually do.”

Stiles stared at his father, bemused. “Are you spying on my pills, Dad?”

Sheriff Stilinski rolled his eyes. “You do know that I fill your prescriptions, right?” He squinted across the table. “Or did you think the Adderal fairy just magically dropped a new bottle in your bathroom once a month?”

“Yes, in fact,” Stiles said seriously. “And now my young heart has been forever blackened - the world is no longer the wonderful place that I once thought it was. Obviously, the solution to this is for you to buy me a new computer. Or maybe a pony. One of this miniature ones that are the size of a dog! Although I would settle for a full-sized pony in a pinch, I guess.”

“You’re not getting a pony, Stiles.”

“Oh well, guess it’ll have to be a new computer then,” Stiles said in his most innocent tone of voice.

“Guess again,” Sheriff Stilinski said. He smiled fondly, before narrowing his eyes and putting on a Serious Face. “Stiles. Is there anything I need to know about?”

So many things, Stiles thought. “You’re going to have to be a bit more specific, Daddy-o. Also, don’t think I haven’t noticed you’re not eating your salad. Do you know how difficult it is to peel cucumbers? I peeled my thumb! Don’t worry, I didn’t get skin in there.”

“How considerate. And, don’t think I haven’t noticed you avoiding the subject.” He put his knife and fork down and fixed Stiles with a steady look. “Why are you messing with your dosage again? I thought you and Dr Knuckey had agreed on your current level.”

Stiles took his time chewing his bite as he tried to think what he could safely tell his dad. As cool as he was about the whole magic thing, Stiles didn’t think his father would be overly skeptical about werewolves. Well, certainly not if Scott gave him a demonstration.

What Stiles wanted to say was, “Scott wolfed out on me the other day and stalked me through the locker room after lacrosse and I thought having access to my magic might actually be more helpful than emotionally crippling at this stage so I’m trying to find that balance between losing touch with the tingles and being able to concentrate in class and it’s a huge pain in the ass, oh and don’t worry if you hear some strange noises coming from my room later that’s just me practicing this nifty set of binding words I found, I’m sort of out of practice and keep overdoing it but I’ll get it, it’s just a matter of time.”

But Stiles kept coming back to the same conclusion that he’d arrived at every single day since this whole mess with Scott’s insane Alpha had started, which was that telling his father what was going on meant putting him in danger. People had already died.

If Stiles lost his father, the only people he’d have left would be his Baba and Scott.

So Stiles just shrugged and said, “I haven’t felt as twitchy lately, I guess. Thought I might see how I go with a lower dose. Dr Knuckey always said that the amount I was on should only be temporary.”

“Hmm.” Stiles did his best to act like he wasn’t hiding anything, although he suspected it probably just seemed like he had indigestion or something going on the look his father was giving him. Hey, at least it wasn’t suspicion. “Alright. Just, be careful okay? There are some nasty side effects to coming off of drugs like that too quickly.”

Now it was Stiles’ turn to roll his eyes. “I know, Dad. I went to all the same doctor’s appointments as you did, read all the same pamphlets. And I am being careful. Really.” He stabbed at a slice of cucumber. “I just, don’t think I need it anymore. Things aren’t as bad as they used to be, you know?”

For a long moment, Sheriff Stilinski got that look in his eye which meant he was thinking about those months after the car accident. Then he smiled and said, “I know. So, what’s happening with Scott? I haven’t seen him in a while.”

Grateful for the change in topic, Stiles launched into describing just how sickening Scott could be while mooning over his new girlfriend.

Chapter Text

“So, are you shivering because you’re cold? Or because your body’s going into shock? Because I gotta say, if you’re not cold I really want to open a window. No offence, but you stink.” Stiles flinched away from the glare Derek shot him. “Right,” he muttered, and shifted in his seat to put as much space between them as he could. He loved his jeep, really, but right now he was wishing he had a bigger car. “Good to know that the evil glare is the last thing to go when you’re being poisoned by a magic bullet.”

“It’s not magic,” Derek said through gritted teeth. “It’s just a chemical. And when Scott finds out what it is, I’ll know how to fix it.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “I know it’s not magic.” Because if it was, the he would have been able to feel it like a cheese grater across his nerves. Dark magic had a painful buzz to it, and Stiles couldn’t understand why anyone would actually seek it out when it felt so terrible. “It’s an expression. Sort of how like ‘you smell like death’ is an expression, except in this case it’s actually true. Seriously, did you try and treat that wound at all? Or did you just decide that antiseptic wasn’t manly enough. Wolfy enough?”

“The less I mess with it the better.” Derek closed his eyes and slumped deeper into the passenger seat. Stiles was never going to get the smell out of the upholstery.

He flicked his phone awake. Still nothing from Scott. “Ten bucks says he got distracted and is making out with Allison,” Stiles muttered.

Derek sighed, and wow, it was strange to hear him do anything that wasn’t 100% grumpy. Because Derek was, Stiles had decided, a genuinely grumpy person. Which, okay, maybe he was entitled to be, what with the whole family-lost-to-a-fire thing and a-rogue-Alpha-killed-my-one-remaining-family-member thing and the you-told-your-father-I-was-the-one-that-killed-my-sister thing.

“To be fair, that was before, when we still thought you were the one behind everything and has anyone told you that you need to work on your communication skills?” Stiles snapped his mouth shut when he realised that he’d just finished that train of thought out loud.

Derek cracked open an eye. “What are you talking about.”

“Nothing, don’t worry about it,” Stiles said quickly. “Why don’t you um, take a nap?”

“I would, but you keep talking.” There was the growl again, and was it strange that Stiles actually found its reappearance sort of reassuring? He hadn’t known Derek long at all, but seeing him weak like this was, well, disconcerting to say the least. Derek was supposed to be mysterious and broody and strangely good looking with an aura of barely contained violent strength, not pale and sweating while he waited for death or Scott, whichever came first (so, most likely death) in Stiles’ passenger seat.

And where was Stiles in all this? Waiting in the driver’s seat of a car parked on the side of the road. He itched to be doing something, anything other than just sitting around like some useless sidekick.

If anything, Scott was his useless sidekick - Wolf Boy to his Magic Man. Stiles frowned at Derek, who didn’t frown back. But that was because his eyes were closed again, not because Derek had suddenly developed a sunny disposition. Maybe Stiles could do something. He’d gotten so used to his magic being out of reach that he’d forgotten that he had his own set of skills that could help.

Voluntas valetudo,” he murmured, and flicked his fingers at Derek, his magic leaping eagerly across the small distance between them.

Instantly, Derek’s eyes snapped open and he jolted up. “What?” He slanted a hard look at Stiles. “What did you just do?”

“Go back to sleep,” Stiles said absently, squinting at the fuzzy glow that surrounded Derek like a full body halo. “You really, really need it.”

Stiles had never been particularly good at healing magic, not like his mother, who could reach out and pluck pain away with a twist of her wrist. But he’d learned how to see a person’s energies, how to read the glow like a road map to the body and practiced until he could dutifully identify a developing cold from indigestion from cancer.

He’d never been able to get away with faking a sick day when his mom had still been alive.

Even as out of practice as he was, Stiles could see that Derek didn’t have much time left. The energies around the bullet wound roiled, stained black by the poison. There were tendrils snaking up the arm and stretching towards the heart like an insidious root system. Stiles reached out and hovered his hand over a thick coil of dark energy that pulsed around Derek’s shoulder.

Derek shied away and growled. “Stiles. Tell me what you’re doing.”

“If my mom was here, she could probably have you fixed up in five minutes,” Stiles said. He wrapped his fingers around the coil, ignoring the heat that blistered against his palm. “But she’s not, and who knows what Scott’s doing, and you’re running out of time. So I’m going to try this and hope I don’t make things worse, okay?”

“That doesn’t actually tell me anything.” Derek wrapped his uninjured hand around Stiles wrist. The contrast between the coolness of his healthy energy and the fire of the poison made Stiles’ insides clench. “You’re acting really strange right now, and I’m the one who’s dying here.” He squinted at Stiles, a rare look of uncertainty flashing across his face. “Or is this a hallucination?”

“Sure,” Stiles said agreeably. “Go with that.” And then, before Derek could say anything else, he tugged.

Derek howled, his grip tightening until swore Stiles could feel his wrist bones grind together. He grit his teeth against the pain, reached out with his other hand and pulled again. The poison twitched and bucked against Stiles’ fingers, a rope of living pain. Derek spasmed, his whole body shuddering as Stiles worked to rip the toxins away and Stiles wondered if he wasn’t doing more harm than good. But he couldn’t stop now, in this inbetween stage, so he doubled his efforts. Derek howled again before collapsing into unconsciousness.

With a final twist of his wrist, Stiles snapped the coil free. It immediately curled in on itself when it was out of Derek’s energy field. Stiles quickly rolled down the window and flung the dark bundle out into the street, before turning to study Derek closely.

Now that they were disconnected from their source, the thinner roots that stretched across Derek’s chest were shrivelling away. But the energies around the bullet still seethed with toxin and already a new thick band started making its way up Derek’s arm.

Stiles didn’t think he had it in him to pull that darkness away. All he’d done was knock Derek out by overloading him with pain, exhaust himself, and buy them a bit more time.

It was all down to Scott now.

~~~

Derek climbed through Stiles’ window a few days later.

“You know, I really don’t think we’re close enough for you to be treating that like your personal door,” Stiles remarked, glancing up from his Econ textbook. It was hard to reconcile this version of Derek looming by the window with the guy who’d begged Stiles to saw his arm off.

“Your mom worked at the public library.”

Stiles blinked at the nonsequitur. “Yes? Why, you looking for career advice? Gotta say dude, don’t really see you as a librarian kind of guy.” He frowned, picturing Derek in chunky glasses and snapping a ruler against the palm of his hand. “Okay, I take it back. You could totally menace people into being quiet.”

Derek huffed impatiently. “No. You told me that your mom could have fixed me in five minutes. But your mom wasn’t a doctor.”

Stiles had assumed that Derek wouldn’t be able to remember what had happened. Fucking werewolves and their fucking super senses, which apparently stretched to amazing memories. “She wasn’t,” he agreed, concentrating on staying calm.

Which was a little hard to do considering Derek was advancing on him like he was prey.

“And then, you did something. You didn’t even touch me but it hurt. When I woke up it felt like the infection wasn’t as bad as it had been before.”

“If you say so.” Stiles turned back to his textbook, avoiding eye contact. “I’m not hearing a question in there though. I’ve got a test to study for, so if you could get to the point?”

Derek growled and spun Stiles’ chair around, bending over to meet Stiles’ eyes. “What did you do?”

“What do you think I did?” Stiles deflected. It probably would have been easier to just tell Derek everything, but Stiles had never actually said the words “I have magic” to someone who didn’t already know. Besides, this was Stiles’ biggest secret, his only secret, really, and Derek was ... Well, he was Derek. Grumpy werewolf with communication issues and a heartbreaking backstory that would make any Hollywood writer swoon. And, okay, if Stiles was honest with himself, Derek was growing on him, sort of like a slowly forming water stain, and there was the added bonus that Derek was obviously very good at keeping supernatural secrets so it wasn’t like magic would be some great mind whammy.

But even Scott had only found out by accident.

Plus, it was kind of entertaining winding Derek up like this.

“If I knew,” Derek said with exaggerated patience, “then I wouldn’t be in here, asking you, would I.”

“I dunno. Maybe you like my bedroom? I chose the paint color, you know.” Stiles grinned sunnily up at the increasingly dour wolf.

Stiles,” Derek growled. “What aren’t you telling me.”

Oh, this was going to be fun.

“So many things,” Stiles said with a melancholy sigh. “You told me I talked too much, remember? And then you threw me against a wall. So I’ve been working on not telling you everything. I would have thought you’d be happy about that. But now that I know it’s bothering you, I’m happy to share more about myself. For instance, did you know that I’m allergic to ink? Seriously. Can’t write on my hand or I give myself hives. It makes cheating on tests really hard. That’s actually how I found out about the allergy - I had a reaction during my vocab test in fourth grade. I’ve always wondered what what would happen if I ever got a tattoo. Would I get used to it? Or would I just scratch and scratch until I dug all the ink out? Dad’s made me promise not to get one though, and he said that if I did he’d stop eating vegetables, so I’ll never know. But considering how indecisive I am, that’s probably a good thing. I mean, what if I changed my mind the day after I got one? What would I do then? Speaking of which, what’s your tattoo mean?”

He looked expectantly at Derek, who was looking a little glazed-over. Well, that was better than the rage-y face that he’d had on earlier.

A car door slammed outside, and Stiles could hear his dad whistling some classic rock song through the open window.

“Derek? You should probably head out before my dad sees you.”

Derek shook himself, and shot a glare at Stiles. “You’re going to tell me. Whatever is going on, what it has to do with your mother, I want to know.”

“And I want to know what your tattoo means, so when you feel like getting together and exchanging stories give me a buzz. We’ll do lunch.” Stiles leaned back in his chair and raised an eyebrow. The front door had just slammed shut, and there was no way that Derek could have missed it if Stiles could hear it. “The first thing he does when he gets home is check on me. You have about a minute.”

Derek snarled, and really, how had no one guessed the werewolf thing just from his day to day interactions, and was out the window a mere twenty seconds before Sheriff Stilinski opened the bedroom door.

Chapter Text

Not for the first time, Stiles wished he was better at thinking plans all the way through. He hadn’t really known what to expect when Scott had howled to summon the Alpha to the school, but in retrospect they should have brought some guns or wolfsbane or something. They’d brought Derek, though, and been cocky enough to think he’d be able to take on whoever showed up.

Clearly, the Alpha, whoever the bastard was, was a lot smarter than they’d expected him to be. Certainly smart enough that it was only a matter of time till their hideout in the science lab was breached. The wall of windows was basically an invitation. But the only ways out were back into the main part of school that they’d just run from, or through the locked doorway that led to the roof.

“Stiles can unlock it,” Scott said firmly. “Right Stiles?”

Stiles shifted as everyone focused on him. “Probably?”

“Wait, you can pick locks?” Jackson asked, incredulous. “But your dad --”

“Would be very disappointed, yes, but I think he’ll get over it this time. Does anyone have like, a bobby pin? Some sort of wire?” A quick scrounge through Mr Harris’ one unlocked desk drawer turned up a box full of paper clips, and Stiles picked the two largest ones, twisting them straight. He crouched in front of the door, before glancing up at the others who were just sort of watching him. “Don’t you guys have something better to do? You’re giving me a complex. Seriously, find some weapons or something.”

Scott grabbed Harris’ whippy pointer from the blackboard and waved it around hopefully. Stiles sighed and tuned out, focussing on the lock. If they couldn’t find something more useful then they’d have to resort to magic and claws, which would just raise all sorts of difficult questions. Even more than naming Derek a psychopathic murdering stalker had.

The familiar tone of Lydia saying something brilliant caught his attention, and he glanced up in time to hear her say “molotov cocktails” and then launch into a description of how to make the damn things. Stiles shook his head when she tried to cover and say that she’d read it in Cosmo, which, just. Argh. Seriously. It wasn’t like she had magic or lycanthropy or douchebaggery-ness (like Jackson) as her special skill. She was just smart. That wasn’t worth hiding.

One of the paper clips snapped, nicking Stiles’ thumb. He frowned and loosened his grip on what he still had left. He was out of practice, and this was taking too long. Checking to make sure the others were wrapped up in mixing chemicals into flasks, Stiles pressed his hand to the lock and focussed on the warm weight in his chest that he’d gotten used to once more.

Aperire”, he whispered, trying to send the tingles out through his fingertips and into the lock. Nothing happened. Could magic be sullen? Was this payback for the years of ignoring it? Stiles frowned. Personifying his magic was probably a bad idea – down that road lay madness and deciding on a name and bribing his magic with treats for cuddles.

He closed his eyes and focussed on the memory of Derek being speared through the back by sharp claws. The terror that had been simmering around the edges of his mind boiled over, and his chest tightened. Not now, he thought firmly. He was not going to let himself have a panic attack now. Instead, he took that fear and pushed it at his magic. It was if a dam broke inside of him, and the band of steel across his chest melted down to flow out his fingertips, springing the lock.

Before Stiles could stand, Scott was crowding him against the door, sniffing him. “Dude, what are you doing,” Stiles hissed, shoving at Scott uselessly. Luckily, the others seemed to be focussed on the final steps of making their bombs and hadn’t noticed Scott mildly wolfing out.

Scott frowned. “What did you just do?”

“Uh, picked the lock. What do you think I did? Will you back up? Personal space, man.”

“There’s this new smell,” Scott said, ignoring Stiles entirely and taking another deep breath. “It just popped up out of nowhere. Except, I think you kind of have this smell all the time. It’s just a lot stronger all of a sudden.”

Well, that was interesting. “I, uh, didn’t exactly pick the lock the normal way.” He rolled his eyes when Scott just looked at him, confused, and added in a whisper that only Scott would be able to hear, “I used my magic.”

“Seriously?” Stiles wondered if he should feel insulted about the shocked look. “You’re doing that again?”

Stiles scowled. “Yes.”

Thankfully, Scott didn’t push. Instead, he just nodded and finally stepped back. “Magic must have its own smell.”

If they’d been anywhere else, Stiles would have asked what, exactly, magic smelled like. Scott was mostly useless at translating his new wolfy abilities into words, telling Stiles that he smelled “You know, like how a clear sunny day in the middle of a cold winter feels like,” so would probably say that magic smelled like glitter or sunbeams. The light spilling in the wall of windows was a constant reminder of just how vulnerable they were, though, so instead he called out to the others, “You nearly done? I got the door open.”

Lydia hammered a cork into a flask. “There were only enough supplies for two. Who’s got the best aim?”

“Like you even have to ask,” Jackson said, and snagged both of the glass flasks.

“Give one to Scott, too.” Stiles ignored the scowl Jackson shot him - he had nothing on the angry faces that Derek could pull off. “In case we get separated,” he added, so he wouldn’t have to think about the fact that he wouldn’t be seeing Derek scowl ever again. Jackson huffed and handed a flask over begrudgingly.

“I’ll go first,” Scott said, and opened the door slowly, peering around it like the Alpha might have been lurking in the emergency stairwell the whole time. He was followed closely by Allison, then Stiles, with Lydia and Jackson bringing up the rear. Stiles felt like he was part of the Scooby Doo team. Give Jackson a scarf and he’d be a perfect Fred. Lydia and Daphne were both redheads so that casting decision was self-evident. Stiles thought he could pull off Velma pretty well, what with his awesome research-fu, but he had a feeling that Allison would object to being Shaggy. Plus, his best friend was of the canine persuasion at least one night out of every month, so he had to give her that.

He was distracted from thinking about Velma and Scooby making out like Scott and Allison sometimes did when they stopped at the top of the stairs.

“What’s the holdup?” Jackson hissed, crowding the others until they were clustered on the top two steps.

“If we open that door, the fire alarm will go off. He’ll know where we are.” Scott gestured at a bright red warning, and Stiles couldn’t believe they’d forgotten about that minor detail.

“So? Stilinski can pick it again, right?”

Stiles pushed to the front of the group and ran a finger over the door’s handle. “There’s not actually a lock to pick,” he said slowly. “The only way to get the door open without the alarm going off is to use a swipe card and disengage the emergency system.” He waved at the small sensor to the left of the door. “Scott and I found that out last year when we tried to cut Geography by hiding on the roof.” Not to mention the flying incident.

“So what now?” Lydia demanded, fear bleeding into her voice.

Scott leaned in close to Stiles. “You can’t just -” he broke off his quiet question and gestured vaguely at the sensor. At least he hadn’t wiggled his fingers. Seriously, they needed a codeword or something. One that was better than “guitar”, which they’d used in seventh grade. The band teacher had overheard Stiles bitching about not being able to hang out with Scott one weekend because of his “guitar practice” and immediately drafted him into the school band. Stiles had actually had to learn guitar to avoid any awkward questions. Luckily, Ms Holly had gotten quickly fed up with Stiles’ habit of trying to play solos when he got bored during class and kicked him out. Making an effort to tell Stiles that he had real talent and should keep up his lessons but that he would do better in a more independent environment, or course, because she was just that kind of teacher. She still asked him how his music was going every time they passed each other in the halls.

Stiles shook his head. “I don’t know what to use. And I could just, uh, force it,” he said lamely, “but I can’t guarantee that it would work. You know how unpredictable that can be.”

“Okay,” Scott said, and Stiles felt his stomach drop. Scott was wearing his determined expression, the one he’d used when he’d had to come clean to his mom about flooding the bathroom that time they’d decided to play pirates and Stiles had gotten a bit carried away. “The janitor has a swipe card.”

“What?” Allison pushed Stiles aside and latched onto Scott’s arm. “You can’t be serious! We have no idea where Derek is.”

Scott flinched minutely at the name. “We don’t have any other choice. This is more defensible than the classroom anyways. There’re no windows for him to come in through. You guys will be fine. Jackson can throw his molotov cocktail down the stairs if you hear anyone coming. Just, make sure it’s not me, okay?” He gently pried himself away from Allison’s grip and took a few steps before looking up and catching Stiles’ eye. “If I’m not back in ten minutes, just go out, okay? I’ll distract the - I’ll distract Derek.” He was gone before anyone could respond.

Allison sank down onto the top stair and slumped back against the door, her whole posture shouting defeat. “I can’t believe he just left us here. He’s going to get killed.”

Stiles shifted awkwardly. “Look, out of all of us, he’s got the best chance of doing this.”

“And why is that, Stilinski?” Jackson leaned into Stiles’ space like he could get Stiles to spill the beans on Scott’s secret steroid addiction, or whatever Jackson’s latest theory was.

Stiles just looked back, unimpressed. “Because he’s fast, of course. Faster than any of us. You’ve seen him run during Lacrosse practice.”

Allison buried her face in her hands, and Lydia sat down next to her, wrapping a comforting arm around her shoulders. Ignoring Jackson entirely and trying not to eavesdrop on the quiet conversation between the girls, Stiles settled a few steps down. The wait for Scott to get back, the Alpha to find and kill them, or for the very slim possibility of his Dad showing up, guns blazing, was going to make for a very long ten minutes.

Chapter Text

"He's alive," Stiles said the moment Scott finally answered his phone. "He's alive and we, well, you mainly, set my dad after him. Again."

"What?" Scott's voice was still muzzy. Stiles paced a tight circle in the empty space at the foot of his bed, practically vibrating with nervous energy. He couldn’t understand how Scott had managed to fall asleep at a time like this.

"Derek's alive," he said slowly, just in case Scott's brain hadn't come all the way online yet. "And my dad is looking for him right now."

"Oh." Scott cleared his throat. "Um. Are you sure he's alive? He got hit pretty hard. Just because his car was gone doesn’t m-"

"His body was also missing," Stiles interrupted impatiently. "So unless you're about to suggest that the Alpha stuffed Derek into the trunk and then drove off into the sunset or something, Derek is alive and probably still healing. We have to find him before my dad does."

There was the rustling sound of Scott sitting up. "It's gonna have to wait till morning. Mom's totally freaked out about this whole thing and she's been checking on me every twenty minutes. There's no way I'm going to be able to sneak out till she goes to work and I don't think she'll be very understanding of me coming over to your house to hang out considering it's-- fuck, it's three in the morning Stiles."

"Fine. I'll find him on my own. Dad won't notice if I head out since he's, you know, out co-ordinating the manhunt."

"Dude, I get it." Scott's voice was as sharp as it ever got, which was to say, hardly at all. Still, Stiles knew him well enough to be able to hear the irritation. "Pinning this on Derek was a dick move. But I didn't see you coming up with any alternatives."

Stiles slumped into his desk chair and began swivelling from side to side, thinking about his dad's face when they'd tried to sell him the story they'd told Jackson, Lydia and Allison. "I don't think he actually bought it. He had that look. But he's going to have to try and find Derek anyways, because that's where the evidence is pointing right now."

"Maybe we should just tell him the truth?"

"No," Stiles said shortly. "Not until it's safe. Tell me where to look for Derek."

"How the hell should I know? And if you tell me to use my wolfy-senses I will punch you in the face. Through the phone. Best guess I have is his house."

"He's not there, and they've already set up a watch in case he shows up."

"I can't believe your dad lets you have a police scanner," Scott muttered.

"He tried taking it away, but I just called up dispatch and asked them what was going on. And when they hung up on me I called back. Again and again and again until Dad gave in." Stiles stopped mid-swivel, his eye catching the corner of the ornately decorated chest that housed his mother's books, mostly hidden under a pile of dirty clothes. "I have an idea."

Scott groaned. "Do you know what happened the last time you had an idea? I got turned into a werewolf. Just, wait for me, okay? I'll, I dunno, I'll sniff him out or something."

"You know that's not going to happen, buddy," Stiles said cheerfully. He stood and crossed to the chest, tucking the phone into the nook of his neck so he could push the laundry out of the way. "I'll let you know if I find him, okay."

"No! Not okay! Stiles, if you go out and get yourself killed I'm going to tell your Dad everything."

Stiles flipped the chest open and dug for the large journal that he could remember mentioning something about locating lost items. It was as good a place to start as any. "Relax, the Alpha won't kill me. It wants you to do that, remember? The most dangerous thing out there is Derek, and I don’t think he wants to murder me nearly as much as he did a week ago.”

“I’m telling your Dad if you get maimed, too,” Scott said, sounding resigned. "Will you at least text me if you leave your house? Let me know where you're going? So I know where to start looking if you disappear."

"Sure," Stiles said absently, flipping through the journal. The entry had been on the left page, towards the top, and there had been a drawing of a - There it was. "Talk to you later." He hung up before Scott could reply, reading the short description of how to find misplaced possessions. Scribbled in the margin was a comprehensive explanation of how to apply the same word to people instead. With a few modifications, this could actually work.

The first thing he needed was a map, which was easy enough. Every few years the Sheriff's department would update all their maps, and the old ones were free to anyone who wanted them. Hopefully Derek hadn’t gone too far, because rolled up in the garage was a map that showed all of Beacon Hills and its surrounding woodland. Unfurled, the map was so large that it hung off either side of Stiles' bed.

The second thing he needed was something that would show him where to go, imbued with part of himself for more accuracy. Stiles nicked his thumb with a kitchen knife and squeezed a few drops of blood into a small bowl of water. He slapped a colourful Band-Aid on the cut, taking the time to write on the kitchen whiteboard that they were nearly out again.

The final component was where things got difficult. He needed "an item for focussing upon which resonates with the energy of the one you search for." The more beloved the object the better it would work, but Stiles didn't have anything like that.

What Stiles did have was the sense memory of reaching into Derek's aura, which had burned itself into his brain. It wasn't something that he had a lot of experience with - he'd looked but not touched during lessons with his mother, and it wasn't like he walked around with access to people's auras all the time. They only manifested when he looked at the world sideways through the filter of his magic.

Stiles concentrated on what he'd experienced when Derek had wrapped his hand around Stiles' wrist, a coolness thrumming with restrained power, like the crisp feel that filled the air just before a lightning strike. There had also been the hint of something that Stiles couldn't quite understand, almost like the taste of nutmeg on the back of his tongue, strange but comforting even as Stiles had struggled against the taint of the poison.

Fixing that jumble of sensations firmly in his mind, Stiles dipped his right hand into the bloody water. Then, moving quickly enough that he wouldn't drip anything onto the carpet, he flicked his wet fingers at the map, clearly enunciating "Reperio Derek."

Magic poured obediently out of his heart, racing out of his fingers and into the liquid. It glided straight towards the map in one large glob, not even splashing when it hit the paper. The small pink stain was in the middle of nowhere, part of the untouched wilds of the protected forest north of town. When Stiles pulled up the location on Google Maps he saw that a service road now snaked through the area, branching off of the main highway that lead out of Beacon Hills.

He pulled his phone out of his pocket on his way out of the front door, texting Scott the coordinates and writing, Think I have a lead, I’ll let you know if it pans out or not.

this isnt a crime show u dont sound cool was Scott’s almost instantaneous response.

Whatever, I always sound cool. Also you text like a ten year old. Stiles tucked the phone away and started his car, ignoring the buzz of another incoming message. Scott could wait. Derek probably couldn’t.

~~~
Derek hadn’t so much parked his car as abandoned it at the end of the narrow dirt road. The door was wide open, and the interior cabin light illuminated a scene that would have made Quentin Tarentino proud. There were smeared bloody handprints on the steering wheel and the inside of the door, and a puddle of congealing blood in the driver’s seat. Derek probably didn’t have any blood left, mystical superpowers or not. As much as Stiles tried to avoid the worst of the mess when he reached to pull the keys out of the ignition, the keys themselves were coated with tacky blood. Grimacing, Stiles locked the car and shoved the keys into his pocket, wiping most of the slick stickiness onto his jeans.

On the twenty minute drive out of town, Stiles had wondered what he would do if Derek had moved on. He hadn’t thought to bring even a small map, and he didn’t think that the magic would interact with the GPS on his phone very well. There were blood splatters leading away from the car like a grisly trail of breadcrumbs though, so not only would Derek be easy to follow, he also probably hadn’t gone very far. Hopefully. Except he’d made it this far so who knew what Derek’s endgame was. Maybe he was following some sort of primal animal instinct, heading out into the forest to lick his wounds instead of getting help like a normal person.

Stiles shouldered the backpack he’d dug out from the back of his jeep and followed the path into the trees. This whole situation was becoming more and more like the plot from a crappy B-grade horror movie where he was the minor hero about to get slaughtered in an ironically hilarious yet totally gruesome manner. Stiles tried not to think what the soundtrack to his death might be.

He found Derek no more than ten paces from the road, slumped in the hollow between two large tree roots.

Chapter Text

“Derek?” He approached slowly, not wanting to get a face full of claws. When there was no response, Stiles crouched down and reached out to touch Derek’s shoulder gently.

Derek groaned, and cracked an eye open. “Stiles?” He struggled to sit up straight, but collapsed quickly back into the cradle of the tree. There had been this kid in middle school with a thing for wooden puppets, and Jackson had cut some of the strings just before the talent show. Derek looked a lot like one of those dolls.

“Hey dude,” Stiles said, in what he hoped was a calming tone of voice. He slung the backpack onto the ground between them and began unpacking it, pulling out band aids, gauze, and distilled water before he found a glow stick. “Looks like you could use a hand.”

Derek coughed his throat clear. “How did you find me?”

“Drove until I saw your car.” It was technically the truth, after all. Stiles snapped the glow stick and shook it until the chemicals had mixed completely. In the pale green neon light he could see that Derek’s front had hardly healed, the wounds glistening as if they were fresh. Where the Alpha had dug its claws into Derek’s back would probably be worse. Stiles took a deep breath to steady his roiling stomach. “Hope you’re not too attached to that shirt, because I’m going to have to cut it off.”

Derek just grunted, so Stiles fished a pair of scissors out of the side pocket where all the sharp objects were stored before grabbing Derek's sleeve and cutting along the seam up the shoulder to his neck. He gently peeled the fabric away, stopping when he reached a spot where dried blood had fused cloth to skin, then snipped away the loose bits of shirt carefully.

“This is really gross,” Stiles muttered, leaving a wide margin around a particularly deep looking hole. He’d done a good job so far of avoiding looking too closely at the injuries, but something shiny and white caught his eye. “Oh god, that’s bone. I can see your bone.” He swallowed, hard, against a sudden rush of bile.

Derek pushed Stiles away. “Leave it.” Before the idiot could try standing again, Stiles shot a hand out.

“Stay still,” he ordered. Instantly, Derek’s face transformed.

Stiles froze. He had purposefully aimed high, not wanting to aggravate any of the sensitive skin around Derek’s wounds. Except that this meant his fingers and thumb were splayed either side of Derek’s neck, following the lines of his clavicles, palm nestled in the hollow between.

The ucipital mapilary, Stiles thought inanely, remembering Hitchcock on Saturday nights, curled up between his parents on the couch and munching on homemade caramel popcorn. He could never get popcorn to taste as good as his mom’s, no matter how many batches he made. Of course, both Scott and his dad refused to eat caramel popcorn ever again after the Night of Twenty Seven Bowls, so Stiles hadn’t had much opportunity to try out new variations lately.

A soft rumble tugged Stiles back to the moment, and he realized he’d zoned out with his hand wrapped lightly around the base of Derek’s neck.

Derek, who was pretty fucking unimpressed, going by the fuzzy hair, glowing eyes and fangs. Plus, there was the way that Derek was digging clawed hands into the dirt at his sides, as if physically restraining himself from reaching out to Stiles. Probably to do some serious disembowelling. They could have matching injuries. Except Stiles wouldn’t heal up nice and neat after a few days. No, Stiles would be dead on the forest floor, victim of good intentions gone horribly astray.

“Um,” Stiles said intelligently. He pulled his hand away slowly, not trying to make any sudden movements. He had the vague feeling that he should roll and show his belly or something to diffuse the situation, but Stiles had never been very good at just backing down. Instead, Stiles watched Derek warily, flexing his fingers in an effort to stop the pinprick feel of the magic that had surged to where they’d touched.

Derek just continued to stare at Stiles, a strange expression on his face. It wasn’t exactly the rage-y glare that Stiles had come to know and, well, not love, but certainly expect.

“Derek?” Stiles hesitantly waved a hand in front of Derek’s still glowing eyes, which seemed to pull him out of his stupor. Derek took a deep breath, and on the exhale his features melted from wolf into human. “I’m not going to apologise for stopping you from standing,” Stiles told him. “Because the last thing you need to do right now is spread your blood around the forest some more just because I got a little grossed out for a second.”

“I’ll stay,” Derek said curtly.

“Right.” Stiles watched him warily, half-expecting Derek to transform again.

Derek rolled his eyes, and said, “The wolf is closer to the surface when I’m injured.”

“So, uh, what does that mean, exactly?” Stiles hovered, not quite in Derek’s personal space. “Because if you maim me while I’m trying to help you then –“

“It’s harder to maintain control.” Derek closed his eyes and leaned back, like that was some sort of explanation. “It won’t happen again.”

“Are you worried about me hurting you?” Stiles guessed. Derek snorted. “Right, I forgot, you don’t feel pain. So what is it, you’re fighting the urge to kill me?” Maybe Scott had been right, after all. Maybe Stiles telling Derek to stay put had just been too much for his werewolf sensibilities to take.

He wasn’t going to think about how he’d held Derek in place, or the way he could still feel the pulse of Derek’s heartbeat resonating in his magic.

Derek snorted again, and then almost seemed to smile. With his eyes closed and head tilted back to rest against the tree like that he almost looked approachable. If you ignored the holes in his chest and the dried blood around his mouth, that is.

“The last thing I’m going to do is kill you, Stiles.” Derek’s voice was soft, quiet enough that Stiles was pretty sure he hadn’t heard correctly. Louder, he added in an almost lecture-like voice, “I’m injured. The part of me that’s a wolf is more likely to respond to things I wouldn’t normally react to. Most of all, it wants to come out and make there’s not a threat.” He opened his eyes enough to fix Stiles with a hooded look. “Not you. Just –“ he gestured around them.

“Just the dark and creepy forest that the Alpha could be prowling around in right now? Well, wolf away if it makes you feel better I guess. But, no threatening to rip my throat out while I’m trying to help you, okay?”

Derek grunted. Stiles decided that probably meant yes. It had worked the last time, after all. “So, why haven’t you healed yet?” Stiles asked, leaning forward again to resume cutting.

“I have, but the internal stuff gets taken care of first. Plus, it always takes longer when the damage is from an Alpha.”

Stiles uncapped the distilled water and drizzled it carefully over the open wounds on Derek’s chest, flushing out the dirt and soaking the scraps of fabric that hadn’t come away easily, ignoring the way Derek’s muscles jumped at the cold. “But this isn’t like the aconite poisoning thing, right? So, cleaning the cuts should help.”

“Sure.”

Stiles tried to pin Derek with the disappointed look he used when he caught his dad eating potato chips, but Derek had shut his eyes again. “So why haven’t you cleaned them yet?” he demanded, turning back to his task.

“Too weak to do it on my own, and I don’t have anyone to go to anymore,” Derek said, and his matter of fact tone of voice made Stiles’ stomach ache.

Stiles cleared his throat awkwardly. “Next time this happens, not that I’m saying that there’s going to be a next time, because that would be pretty bad luck, but if it does happen again then you should come find me. I’ll help, if I can.” He could feel the sudden heat of Derek’s gaze, but refused to look up from the delicate task of peeling away the wet scraps of t-shirt. “I need to add some gloves to the kit, you’re probably going to get an infection from me doing this with my bare hands.”

“Unlikely. I’m immune to most things.” There was a long silence while Stiles worked at a particularly stubborn bit of what looked like tree bark. Then, Derek asked, “Why do you have all this stuff anyways?”

Stiles blinked. Derek asking a civil question was pretty much unheard of as far as Stiles knew. In fact, pretty much all of their interactions so far had involved Derek outright demanding information like he had some undisputed right to know anything he wanted just because he could grow fangs on command.

He tugged a bit harder than intended on the bark and Derek flinched minutely. “Stiles? What’s with the giant first aid kit?”

Oh. Well. Stiles could totally talk enough to be a distraction. “A couple of years ago there was this girl who everyone though had like, run away or something. But what actually happened is she drove her car into a ravine and got trapped. They found her after eight days, still alive. We had this huge thing about her at school, it was supposed to be inspirational or whatever. Like, ‘look what humans can do, yay!’ But, I just got kind of paranoid about getting stranded somewhere and needing emergency supplies.” Stiles twisted open the bottle of antiseptic, and Derek made a face.

“I told you, I won’t get an infection.” Derek was sort of craning his head back awkwardly and, oh, right.

“It smells that bad to you?” Stiles asked, but didn’t wait for a response. He put the bottle away and grabbed some bandages and a pack of surgical tape instead. “Anyways, I got kind of carried away, but Ms McCall was able to get a lot of stuff from the hospital and didn’t even look at me like I was too crazy. So now there are survival kits in my car, Dad’s car, Scott’s mom’s car, and I’ve got a couple of spares at my place. Just, in case.” Stiles taped the final piece of gauze into place and leaned back on his heels to assess his handiwork. He reached out to gently smooth away a stray crease in one of the pieces of tape. “I need to do your back now.”

Derek sighed, as if he was doing Stiles a favour or something, and shifted around until he was leaning with his side against the tree. Stiles scooted forward so he could reach Derek’s back, the angle awkwardly close enough that he could feel Derek’s body heat.

“Have you used any of them before now?”

“What?” Stiles asked, pausing from cutting Derek’s shirt off so that he could crane around to hear better.

“The kits. Have you used them before?”

“Oh.” Stiles got back to work, snipping carefully. “Not really. Before you showed up our lives were kind of boring. Plus, Scott’s Mom usually takes care of all of the medical stuff. But I’m guessing you don’t want to drive over to her place, and even if you did I only just got the nearly-dead smell out of the Jeep from last time, so, you’re not getting in there until I’m done cleaning you up.”

“Who says I’m getting in your car at all?”

“Dude, have you seen yours? It looks like you exploded a watermelon in there. But a watermelon filled with blood, not a normal watermelon. Plus, even if the inside of your car didn’t look like a scene out of Day of the Dead my Dad’ll already have an APB out on your car.”

Derek twisted around, and Stiles yelped, pulling the scissors back quickly. “Why is your Dad looking for my car?”

“Uh,” Stiles said, which going by the way that Derek’s eyes had started to do that glowing thing again was probably not the right response. “Didn’t I tell you? Scott kind of maybe told everyone that you were the person who was responsible for the whole school thing? So, um, now you’re wanted for murdering the Janitor and stuff. Not that they’ve found him yet, but they will.” Stiles was actually proud of how his voice hadn’t shaken at all, considering he was once again face to face with a wolfed out Derek. Except, this time he was close enough to feel Derek’s every exhale.

He should probably be more terrified than he actually was. Maybe he was becoming immune to Derek’s glares? Plus, there was the whole The last thing I’m going to do is kill you statement from earlier still banging around the back of Stiles’ head. If he’d heard right. And if Derek hadn’t actually meant something like, “you know, the last thing after I finish torturing you for funzies.”

“This is the second time you’ve told the cops I was a murderer,” Derek growled.

“Okay, one, it was Scott, not me. I was just sort of there. And two, technically my dad’s not a cop. He’s a Sheriff, and everyone who works for him are deputies, which means….” Stiles trailed off. “Look, it was a shitty thing to do, but how else were we going to explain things? It’s not like we could just tell the truth.”

“You could have told them it was some random! You didn’t have to name me.”

“You kidnapped Doc Deaton!” Stiles exclaimed. “You were already going to be a person of interest! “

Derek snarled, and reached out to pull Stiles closer, hand fisting in his shirt. “You’re ruining my life.”

“Hey!” Stiles struggled against the grip until his shirt started to rip, then fixed Derek with a glare of his own. “You can’t pin this on me, on either of us. Did we kill your sister? Or any of those other people? Was it my teeth that turned Scott? No. So don’t act like this is anyone’s fault but the Alpha’s. I’m not blaming you for this shit storm, am I?” Stiles held up a finger when Derek opened his mouth and talked faster. “That was different, we didn’t know the full story yet and you were still being all cryptic about everything. Hell, you’re still too cryptic about everything, but whatever. Between watching you get speared in the back, the Alpha stalking me through the school, Scott nearly killing me himself because the Alpha told him to, and then Scott moping at me because Allison dumped him, this has really not been the best night, okay. I had to combine forces with Jackson. But I am out here, trying to help you, God knows why, maybe I’m just a masochist or something. So calm the fuck down already, because you’re not the only one who’s in this.”

Derek let go of Stiles’ shirt. “Scott tried to kill you?”

“Seriously, that’s what you decide to focus on?” Derek growled, and Stiles sighed. “Yes, Scott tried to kill me. It wasn’t the first time and it probably won’t be the last, I don’t know if you’ve noticed but he’s really not that good at the whole self-control thing yet. Apparently the Alpha wants him to take out his old pack himself or something.”

Derek was frowning again, but at least it wasn’t directed at Stiles, and he’d reverted back to being fully human again. “That’s an old way to strengthen the ties between a new unruly Beta and the Alpha,” he said slowly. “It’s not really done much anymore though.”

“Jesus, I would hope not.” Stiles waved the scissors at Derek. “Can I get back to, you know, cleaning your wounds? Or are you going to growl at me some more about stupid things?”

Derek turned back around. “That tells us something about the Alpha. This isn’t just some new wolf, hopped up on power. He knows things, things beyond what his instincts are telling him.”

“Okay?”

Derek sighed, like Stiles was being deliberately stupid or something. “It means that whoever the Alpha is, they were probably born a wolf, or lived in an established pack for a while.”

“So, does that give you a better idea of who it could be?” Stiles swapped from the scissors to the water.

“Not really. There’re a couple of larger packs not too far away, but they’d be here, tracking down their rogue pack mate if it was one of them. And other than the Alpha and Scott, I haven’t scented any other werewolves around. Plus, they wouldn’t come here. It’s been Hale territory for too long.”

“What, even though you guys haven’t been here?”

“There’s more to territory than just being somewhere.” Derek was silent for a moment, and then said, “It’s hard to explain.”

“I’m starting to think that everything to do with being a werewolf is,” Stiles muttered. “We should get you a dictionary. You can work on your words.”

“Hilarious. Look, think of it like your family home. You don’t need to actively be living there for it to be home to you – it just is. But, everyone else knows it, too.”

Stiles cleared his throat. “Speaking of homes. You realise that you’re not actually going to be able to go back to yours for a while, right?” Derek tensed under Stiles’ hands, but at least he didn’t turn around again. “There’ll be people watching it. And your picture’s probably been circulated to all of the hotels and motels in the area by now. It’s okay though, I’ve got a plan. You’re going to stay with me until we figure this all out; Dad will never think to look for you under his very own roof. It’s brilliant. Hey! Stop groaning like that!”

Chapter Text

Stiles was a genius. Not in a specific field, like Lydia and her math. More like a jack-of-all-trade genius.

No really, he had the aptitude tests to prove it.

Okay, it’s not like his Dad had actually let him see what the scores were, but there had been some muttering and suspicious looks and lectures about making sure to “use your intellect to help the world otherwise you’ll end up like Lex Luthor, is that really what you want Stiles?”

Stiles just thought it was cool that his Dad always tried to teach him life lessons by using superheroes.

But hiding Derek in his house was going to be one of those ideas that he’d fondly remember for years to come, he just knew it.

Derek walked like a sleepy zombie into Stiles’ room and flopped onto the bed, recoiling when he realised that it was covered with a giant map.

“What the hell?”

“Stop crinkling my map, dude. It was very helpful in finding you and deserves better treatment than that.” Stiles tugged the spare cot out from under his bed, positioning it at the angle he knew from experience made it invisible from the doorway. Luckily, it was still made up from the last time Scott had stayed over. “And get off my bed.”

Derek sniffed suspiciously. “Why is your blood on this?”

“Seriously? There’s like, a drop. You can smell that?” Stiles crinkled his nose. “Must suck to be around girls when they’ve got their periods.” He flapped his hand at Derek. “Stop glaring at me. It’s a logical extrapolation. Now, off the bed.”

“I’m not a dog,” Derek grumbled, but he rolled smoothly off of the bed to land on the cot. “If I wasn’t so tired, I’d rip your throat out.”

“With your teeth, I know.” Stiles started the arduous process of rolling up the map. “The more you say it, the less I believe it. Take your shoes off too, what are you, some sort of animal? No, don’t answer that. But I’m not doing the laundry if you get mud on everything. Hey, you know how you’re always threatening to like, eat me or whatever. Does that make you a cannibal? Except I guess we’re not really the same species are we, so you’re more a carnivore with interesting tastes. Oh my god, when you have sex, you’re totally having cross-species sex. Unless you only date other werewolves? That seems like an unnecessarily small dating pool though.”

He glanced over at Derek, who seemed to have fallen asleep. Stiles resisted the urge to administer the poke test and went to put the map away. By the time he got back, Derek had helped himself to one of Stiles’ pillows, which was kind of a dick move. Stiles didn’t wake Derek up and demand the pillow back though. They were seriously comfy pillows, probably better than the ones he’d snagged from the guest room on his way past, and Derek had fallen asleep wrapped around the damn thing. It was probably covered in drool anyways.

Not that Derek seemed to actually drool. He didn’t even snore, like Scott did. Well, had, before the werewolf thing had taken away the asthma. Stiles assumed the snoring had cleared up too. They hadn’t actually had time for one of their bro-weekends since this whole thing had begun.

But Derek just sort of… lay there, bundled up in a blanket like a werewolf burrito, his face mushed into the stolen pillow. It was disgustingly endearing.

“I’m expecting hilarious creases on your face in the morning,” Stiles told Derek.

Derek snuffled in response, burying his face deeper into the pillow.

“Here’s hoping you’re not faking it this time,” Stiles muttered, and then waved his hand at Derek. “Voluntas valetudo.”

His magic poured out of him, jumping over to Derek like some sort of excited puppy. And no, he wasn’t personifying his magic. Really. Maybe animal-ising it a little.

He’d always thought ‘Frank’ would be a good pet name.

Unlike the last time Stiles had down this, the aura surrounding Derek was mostly a clean and vibrant white. There was a small amount of mottled discoloration hanging around the wounds that was fading away even as Stiles watched. So, Derek had been right about not getting an infection, at least.

Stiles’ hands twitched with the urge to reach out and touch. He wanted to taste that not quite nutmeg flavour on the back of his tongue, to feel the coolness of restrained power under his hands. Touching Derek’s energies when he was nearly whole and well, instead of on the edge of death, would probably feel like holding onto a barely tamed lightning bolt.

For once, Stiles managed to control his impulses. He could just imagine how strange it would be if Derek woke up with Stiles hovering over him, hands mere inches from his cocooned body. Even if Derek didn’t immediately claw Stiles’ face off for being a creeper, all sorts of inconvenient questions would be raised.

So Stiles dismissed his magic with a finger flick and climbed into bed, feeling very proud of his self-control.

~~~

“When I am ruler of the United States of Stilinskia, my first decree is going to be that all weekends should be three days long. Sleeping in on a Friday is awesome.”

Stiles’ Dad glanced up from his muesli and watched as Stiles pulled his own bowl down from the cupboard. “I’m so glad that the school being an ongoing crime scene is giving you legislative ideas. It’s nice to know that some good is coming out of this whole mess.”

“So, I take it you didn’t have any luck last night?” Stiles asked, avoiding his father’s eyes in favour of pouring cereal. It wasn’t that he felt guilty about intentionally sending his father on a wild goose chase so much as... he felt horribly cringe inducingly ashamed by it. “What time did you come home?”

“About six. And no. No sign of Hale anywhere and still no clues as to what happened with the Janitor’s body. Stiles.” There was a long pause, and Stiles finally looked up to meet his dad’s most intense Sheriff Face. “Is there anything else you want to tell me about what went on last night?”

“Nope. There is absolutely nothing else I want to tell you.” Even a werewolf wouldn’t have been able to accuse Stiles of lying in that moment.

“Fine. I’ll probably be late again tonight, but I want you to stay in, okay? I’ll be calling to check on you.”

Stiles glanced at the clock on the wall and frowned at his father, who had pushed himself up from the table and was dropping his bowl in the sink. “You’re going in already? It’s not even noon yet. There’s no way you got enough sleep.”

“We’re trying to process the crime scene as quickly as possible. Wouldn’t want you to have too many days off. I’ll sneak a nap in the office this afternoon.”

“You better,” Stiles said, using his best serious voice. Not quite as impressive as the Sheriff Voice, but he liked to think it got the job done. “Because if I find out that you’ve spent all day drinking coffee I’m going to be very disappointed. You know what the doctor said about caffeine.”

Apparently, Stiles still needed to work on the serious voice though, because his dad just laughed and smiled fondly. “I promise, I won’t have more than the medically prescribed dosage. I’ll see you later, son.”

~~~
Stiles opened his bedroom door and nearly dropped the carefully balanced bowl and two glasses. Derek, it seemed, had gotten bored of waiting for Stiles to bring him breakfast, and had started working out. Shirtless.

Which made sense, considering the only clothes Derek had right now were the jeans he’d been wearing in the forest, and a change of clothes that they’d grabbed from the back of Derek’s car the night before.

Stiles cleared his throat, and headed for his desk, manoeuvring around Derek. “So, you’re feeling better I take it?” He glanced back and inspected Derek’s wounds. The bandages were off and he could see how every sit up pulled at the thick scabs. It was kind of gross, but nothing at all compared to what the open cuts had looked like.

Derek grunted and rolled to his feet, reaching for his shirt. The bastard wasn’t even breathing hard. Stiles held the bowl out. “I brought you muesli. Um. I’ve noticed that Scott’s eating a lot more meat now so you’d probably prefer protein or something, like bacon, because who doesn’t love bacon, seriously, but Dad’s not really supposed to be eating that stuff so I just don’t buy it. It’d be unfair if I made bacon and didn’t share it. There are like, eggs, though, so you could just –“

“Stiles,” Derek interrupted, lips twitching slightly as he took the bowl. “This is fine. Thank you.”

“Oh.” Had Derek ever said thank you before? Well, presumably in his life he had, but Stiles had never heard those two words directed at him before. He picked up the glasses and handed them over as well. “Milk. And orange juice. We’ve got grapefruit, too, but orange seemed like the safer option. People are always really divided about grapefruit juice.”

Derek nodded seriously as he took the glasses, managing to juggle everything disgustingly gracefully as he moved over to sit cross-legged on Stiles’ bed. “It’s a hot button topic, for sure. Of course, tomato juice is where things start to get really contentious. Is it a mixer? A breakfast drink? Or is it actually just soup that’s gotten cold?”

“You just told a joke.” Stiles flopped down on his desk chair, gaping at Derek, who was looking calmly back, lips still doing that twitchy thing. “Oh god, did you hit your head at some point last night too? You have a concussion, don’t you.”

“A concussion would have healed by now.” Derek poured the milk into the bowl and leaned forward to set the glass on the floor. “But it’s nice to know that you think that I have to be brain damaged to have a sense of humour.”

“Oh I’m sorry,” Stiles huffed. “I must have missed the fact that you’re actually a stand-up comedian all the time because I was distracted by all the glaring and snarling.”

Derek shrugged, studying the muesli intently. “Haven’t had much to joke about lately.”

Stiles shifted uncomfortably in his chair. Was this a moment? Stressful situations were supposed to bring people closer together, right? Break down barriers and all that. And Stiles couldn’t think of a more stressful situation than the ones they’d been facing lately. So maybe this was a moment. Or maybe this was because he’d bandaged up Derek and brought him home only to confine the werewolf to his bedroom. He’d Stockholm Syndrome-d Derek into having a sense of humour.

“You’re not allowed to fall in love with me,” Stiles blurted out, wincing when Derek immediately choked on his cereal.

What?” Derek demanded when he could finally talk again.

Stiles flapped a hand uselessly, wishing he could somehow pull back those stupid stupid words. “That Florence Nightengale effect. Because I’m helping you heal and stuff.” He trailed off and watched Derek uncertainly. Derek, who was staring at Stiles with a very familiar look on his face. It was the you’re a crazy person look.

Derek stood abruptly, and it was almost like Stiles could see the walls coming back up in the stiffness of Derek’s posture, the coldness of his glare. “You’ve got your terminology wrong. I’m going to go eat in the kitchen. Your dad’s not likely to come back any time soon, right?”

Stiles shook his head mutely. So much for the moment.

Chapter Text

Stiles spent the rest of Friday playing WoW and watching youtube videos. He tried to work out how many subscribers he might get if he were to make a channel of his own, except the most interesting things in his life were werewolves and his magic, neither of which he could actually talk about to potentially millions of online fans. Even if it would make him enough money to buy his own island. And a neighbouring one for Scott, because Scott would probably whine if he didn’t get an island of his own. But Stiles wasn’t paying for Scott to have a bevy of luau girls, because the whole moping about Allison thing was getting old, fast, and it hadn’t even been twenty four hours yet. Scott would probably just say that the luau girls didn’t look enough like Allison and then launch into yet another treatise on her beautiful brown eyes.

That was okay, Stiles would keep all the luau girls for himself. And maybe get a cabana boy or two. Just. For a little bit of variation. So what if the cabana boys were a recent addition to the island fantasy. Stiles had always known that he was probably a one on the Kinsey scale. If he was only just beginning to realise that maybe he was actually a two, or even a three, then that was fine. Really. It indicated personal growth. It had nothing at all to do with the broody werewolf who was currently living in Stiles’ bedroom.

He also spent a lot of time avoiding Derek. Or maybe Derek was avoiding Stiles. Normally Stiles was perfectly happy with talking through any awkward moment, but he wasn’t exactly sure what terrible non-sequitur insane thing might burst out next, and he really didn’t need to piss off Derek any more than he had already by intimating that someone like Derek could ever be interested in someone like Stiles, so … he just sort of kept his mouth shut instead.

They were actually managing the avoiding thing pretty well, considering they were both confined to one room. Well, Stiles wasn’t, but he wasn’t exactly comfortable leaving Derek alone any more than he had to. All of his stuff was in there. Besides, there was something kind of fascinating about Derek helping himself to one of Stiles’ Terry Pratchett books, sprawling out on the rollaway bed to read and idly message someone on his phone.

Not that Stiles was watching out of the corner of his eye or anything.

Who did Derek even have to send messages to, anyways? Okay fine, supposedly he’d had a life in the six years between the Hale fire and now, one where he hadn’t scowled at everyone within a five mile radius.

Stiles kind of desperately wanted to ask about it, this whole other life that Derek had outside of Beacon Hills, but that would defeat the purpose of the strained silence routine they were both doing so well, so he badgered Scott with questions instead.

no he never sed antyhing 2 me. what if i got her jewlry girls like jewlry rite

You’d make a terrible spy. Your information gathering skills are non-existent. Also I don’t think she dumped you because she wanted sparkly things

she didnt dump me its a break

On Saturday, Stiles headed into the Sheriff’s department for lunch. He actually spent most of the time eavesdropping on dispatch – Derek had gone to clean up his car and Stiles wasn’t about to let his good work go to waste just because Derek wanted to get all that blood out of the leather.

“Stiles, as delicious as this salad is, is there something else you’d rather be doing? I could have just gotten lunch from across the street.”

Stiles whipped his head around so that he was looking at his dad, instead of staring down the hall outside his office. “You already eat there most days, and don’t think I don’t know about the extra gravy, me and Ralph are like this.” He crossed his fingers. “Besides, I’m hurt, father mine! This is some serious father-son bonding happening right here and you doubt my intentions?”

All he got in return was a raised eyebrow.

Stiles picked up a paperclip from the desk and began bending it into a new shape. “So, uh, how’s the clean-up going?”

“We’re nearly done. Should have the last of it sorted out tomorrow so the school can reopen on Monday. Is this about your exam? Because I told you, I’m not slowing down a criminal investigation just so you can have more time to study.”

“Yes,” Stiles said, tossing the star he’d just made onto the desk. “I am absolutely distracted because of the exam. I’m pretty sure that asking us to cram right after a traumatic experience is psychologically damaging. You should look into that.”

“Except if you’d started studying when you found out about the exam, then you wouldn’t have to cram, would you.”

Stiles frowned at his father. “It’s times like this that you lose cool points, just so you know.”

By Sunday, Stiles was willing to admit that there might have been one or two flaws in his brilliant hide-a-fugitive-right-under-the-Sheriff’s-nose plan. Not because they were in any danger of getting caught, but because Derek was just always there, lurking quietly at the edges of Stiles’ space. Somehow, Derek managed to be extremely distracting even when he wasn’t doing anything more than reading on the other side of the room. Stiles hadn’t gotten any studying done at all. At least Derek had stopped helping himself to Stiles’ bookshelf, having brought back a duffle bag packed with books from his car cleaning adventure. Who knew werewolves could be so literary.

“What’re you reading the dictionary for?” Stiles asked when Derek pulled a particularly thick hardcover out.

“I’m not.” Derek held up the book so that Stiles could see the cover.

Environmental Law, Policy and Economics,” Stiles read aloud. “Sounds … fun?”

Derek rolled his eyes and flipped open the book. “It’s coursework. You start bitching every time I try to leave, so I might as well get something done.”

“I do not bitch!” Derek raised an eyebrow, and why was it that everyone on the planet could do that except Stiles? Whenever Stiles tried to do that he looked like his forehead was having a seizure. “I just think it’s stupid for you to go running around when the entire Sherriff’s department is looking for you. At least wait till it’s down to like, sixty per cent of them or something. Besides, if you get caught and my dad finds out I’ve been letting you hide out here? There isn’t a military school harsh enough for him to send me to. He’d probably start his own military school just so he could punish me enough. There would be three hours of yelling about being an idiot and breaking laws each morning, followed by a brief break where I would get to watch other people eat delicious things, followed by more yelling. And then, at the end of each day, there would be a solid hour of Disappointed Looking.” Stiles frowned, and Derek, who had ducked his head down to start reading, glanced up. “Wait. Coursework?”

Derek snorted and looked back down. “Yes. It’s a thing you do when you don’t want to fail all your classes. Surely you’ve heard of it? Not that I’ve seen you actually do any studying all weekend for more than ten minutes straight.”

“I study! Sometimes. I have a really good memory. A good memory. Well, I have a memory anyways, sometimes I just wing it but it hasn’t failed me yet. So, um, you’re in college?”

“Yes Stiles. I’m in college,” Derek said in a singsong voice. “I go to NYU, I’m doing environmental studies, and I’ve got extensions on all my assignments for compassionate reasons but I’ve still got to actually hand them in at some point. Is there anything else you’d like to know? My social security number?”

“Oh no, I already know that,” Stiles said, brain still stuck on the idea of Derek in a lecture hall, Derek hunched over textbooks cramming for exams in the library, Derek taking an exam, Derek doing something with his life that didn’t involve menacing teenagers and lurking in the shadows.

“What.”

“What what?” Stiles asked.

“Why do you know my social security number Stiles.” Derek looked like he was going to chip a tooth, he was clenching his jaw so hard.

“Because I have your police record? And all of the paperwork about you know, the fire. Stuff. It’s in there. Holy shit, are you doing deep cleansing breaths?” Stiles leaned forward so he could better see Derek’s nostrils flare when he drew in a breath through his nose and exhaled through his mouth.

“It’s not working very well,” Derek grit out, opening his eyes to reveal glowing blue. “Do you really have no concept of privacy at all?”

“Of course I do!” Stiles crossed his arms and leaned back in his chair. “It’s not like I share that stuff with other people. I just like to know things is all.”

“Stiles. The only reason I’m not ripping your spine out through your mouth right now is because I already have enough trouble with the police right now. Because of you, by the way. You need to stop prying into my life. I’m not your new project. You’re involved in this mess because you’re friends with Scott, but if you keep digging into things like this you’re going to attract the wrong sort of attention to you and you don’t want that.” Derek’s eyes had faded back to their human green, but his gaze was just as intense.

Stiles’s computer beeped at him, and he spun away. It was Scott, again, who really needed to turn his brain off and stop thinking about Allison for five minutes. Stiles could sympathise with that – he wanted to turn his brain off right now too, because it was currently coming up with crazy thoughts like is this Derek trying to be protective?

Actually, wait, brilliant idea! And Stiles knew of one sure-fire way to kill a few brain cells off. A million breakup movies couldn’t be wrong.

“If you say so Derek, but I think I’m pretty in this anyways, and understanding what’s happened can only help,” Stiles said, typing out a quick message to Scott before closing his laptop and standing. “I’m going to head over to Scott’s. Dude needs to get his mind off of things. But if my dad asks, we’re studying.” He frowned. “Wait, why am I telling you that, you’re not going to talk to my dad. I’ll text him.”

“Stiles!” Derek said, but Stiles was already out the door. “I’m serious about this!”

“I’m sure you are!” Stiles called back, already trying to figure out how he was going to smuggle a bottle of his Dad’s Jack Daniels out of the liquor cabinet without him noticing.

~~~

Stiles was spinning. Or maybe it was the room, spinning around Stiles. Whatever it was, it should stop, because it was making Stiles light headed and want to throw up. Which. Gross. Throw up was really gross. One time, Stiles got so sick he threw up through his nose. It was like everything in his stomach was clawing its way out of his body at once. He’s amazed it didn’t come out of his eyes as well.

“Stiles? Why are you bleeding.”

Stiles cracked an eye open. He didn’t actually remember closing them. It wasn’t fair if his eyelids were turning against him. His body shouldn’t be allowed to mutiny like that.

“Heeeeeey Derek!” Stiles grinned up at the looming shadow by the window. “You should stop moving side to side like that. You might fall. You think you won’t, because you’re you, and you never fall, but then what if the floor moves? Like that wall did. The wall moved Derek. And then it bit my hand.” He held up his hand to show Derek.

“Are you drunk?”

“No! Maybe? Okay just a little bit. But Scott was so sad and it was kind of getting annoying because what does he even have to be sad about, at least he’s had a relationship and done the whole lovey dovey thing unlike some of us who have to do our pining from afar. Except apparently he can’t get drunk anymore which is really disappointing. Very uncool side effect of being a werewolf.”

Suddenly, Derek caught Stiles’ hand, stopping him from waving it around anymore, which was a bit unfair because Stiles liked the way it felt when he moved his arm, sort of like slicing through jelly. But Derek’s hands were really warm, so that was nice too. Except suddenly his magic started fizzing in his stomach, which was kind of distracting. Derek let go, leaving Stiles’ hand cold. He burrowed it under a pillow.

“We can get drunk. It just takes more. A lot more.”

“I bet you win all the drinking competitions at NYU. Your staff would be huge.”

“My… staff?” Derek sounded like he might be choking on something, and Stiles peered up at him concern. It was kind of hard to see Derek’s face though, because of the whole no-lights thing, but he didn’t look like he was about to suffocate from his own tongue, so whatever.

“Yeah, you know. Your wizard’s staff. You drink a can of beer, then tape another one on top, then drink that, then tape another one on top of that and on and on and on and then whoever’s got the tallest staff at the end of the night wins! They’re the best wizard.”

“Right. How do you even know about this stuff? You’re sixteen.”

“I’m very mature for my age. Also. I have the internet. The interwobbles. Interweebles! I would interweb forever if I could.” Stiles sat up quickly, remembering the empty room Scott had pushed him into, and poked Derek’s shoulder. Well, he tried to, but Derek was doing that dancing side to side thing again so Stiles just sort of reached out and held him in place. With the top half of his body.

It wasn’t a hug. At all.

“Where were you?” Stiles asked, squeezing tight when Derek tensed like he was going to pull away or something. “I thought maybe you left or something. But you’re back. That’s good. You can’t get arrested if you’re back.”

“I went for a run.” Derek did something impossible with his arms and suddenly Stiles was lying down again. Lying down was comfortable though, so Stiles wasn’t going to complain.

“Running is good. I guess. People seem to like running, anyways. I’m not a huge fan of running. Especially because lately I always seem to be running from something. Like Scott. I almost ran from Scott tonight he was being such a douchebag to those dudes. But they did steal our bottle of Jack so. Hey! I’m like Ke$ha! Before I leave brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack, cuz when I leave for the night I aint coming back!”

“Don’t sing. Or. Whatever it is you’re trying to do.”

Stiles ignored Derek. Derek had no rhythm in his soul. Stiles could fix that! He took a deep breath, and belted out as loud as he could, “Tick tock! On the clock! But the party don’t stop no! No ooooh oooh oh oommmph.”

Why the hell were Derek’s hands so warm? Had he stuck them in the oven or something?

“Are you howling? Is that a howl? Because it’s worse than Scott’s. And that’s saying something.” Stiles tried to tell Derek how wrong he was, but Derek was still in the way. “If I move my hand, are you going to sing again?”

Stiles shook his head as much as he could under the heavy weight of Derek’s hand.

“Good.” And suddenly Stiles was free again! “Tell me what you meant about Scott.”

“Man, you should have seen it! Scott totally hulked out. Or maybe he Hyde’d out. Because you know he’s usually kind of dopey and soft spoken and not at all a genius scientist who experiments with gamma radiation? I could see him drinking someone else’s chemistry experiment though. Except Jekyll was a scientist too I think. Or maybe just a doctor? Whatever, he was mean and Scott doesn’t do mean very well.”

“It’s the full moon tomorrow. Do you think he’ll have worked things out with Allison by then?”

“No way, dude. She hasn’t spoken to him at all.”

Derek sighed, and weirdly managed to make it sound like an angry sigh. “I’m going to have to keep an eye on him then. He’s been using her as his emotional anchor and now he doesn’t have her anymore. I told him she made him weak.”

“Love doesn’t make you weak!” Stiles protested, and then stopped, because he couldn’t think of anything to add to that that didn’t sound like it came out of a Hallmark card.

“But relying on other people does,” Derek replied, and his face was doing that super grumpy scowl thing. He wasn’t looking at Stiles though, so he didn’t notice Stiles’ hand until it was already pushing at his cheek. “What the hell are you doing?”

“Ow, Derek, too hard,” Stiles whined, and tugged a little. “I think you’re grinding my bones together. I would not make good bread.” Derek loosened his grip slightly but didn’t let go, which got in the way of the plan. That’s okay. Stiles was the master of plans. He could come up with new plans on the fly. Fly like a G6. He blinked at Derek, who had a strange expression on his face. Still not a happy one though. “I think I’m a little bit slizzard,” Stiles said seriously.

“A little bit what?” Derek shifted forward, like he was looking Stiles over for another injury, letting go of Stiles’ hand in the process. Success! Stiles reached out again and was already poking at the side of Derek’s mouth before he was caught again. “Stiles. Explain.”

Maybe Derek should run for Sheriff one day. His Sheriff Voice was almost as good as Stiles’ dads’.

“You frown too much. You’re not Frowny McFrowningson, you’re Derek! You should smile more Derek. Or at all. Do you even know how to smile? I mean I’ve seen you do that snorting and lip twitchy thing where you’re laughing at me and then there’s the smirky thing but I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen you smile. Here, I’ll show you, it’s not that hard.” Stiles beamed up at Derek, who looked back with another unreadable expression. Stupid Derek with his stupid face.

“I know how to smile.” Derek pushed Stiles away and stood. “You should sleep.”

“Probably,” Stiles agreed. “I have school tomorrow. And an exam. That I totally studied for. It’s multiple choice though so how hard can it be? Mr Harris’ wrong options are usually pretty obvious.” Derek was taking off his shirt again. He seemed to do that a lot. Oh. And there went his shoes, and his jeans, until Derek was standing in just his boxers.

Stiles was only watching because he was suddenly too tired to move his head. Also, his magic was doing that fizzy thing again and it felt a lot like heartburn. Nice heartburn.

“Are you going to throw up in the night?” Derek asked, pulling the spare mattress back out.

“Nope. Stilinski’s don’t throw up. Also we have amazing non-hangover abilities. Well, I do. I think it’s because I’m magic.” Which, fuck, hadn’t actually been what he wanted to say at all. But it was hard to think about anything else right now, what with the way his magic was almost boiling under his skin, wanting to reach out and do something. Stiles wasn’t quite sure what that something was though, so he clenched his fists together to stop his fingers from twitching on their own.

Luckily, Derek just huffed. Wait, was that a laugh? Had Stiles just made Derek laugh? Trust Derek to laugh like a dog laughed. “I’m sure you are, Stiles. Now shut up and sleep.”

“Your bedside manner is atrocious,” Stiles said, but he was smiling too much for it to sound serious. He’d made Derek huff-laugh! By telling him the actual truth, but, whatever. It still counted! And then Derek was right there, leaning in over Stiles, so close that Stiles could smell the forest still on Derek’s skin from the run. Or maybe Derek always smelled like the forest. Stiles had the sudden urge to start keeping a Scents-Of-Derek spread sheet to find out.

Just as suddenly, Derek was gone, already lying down on his mattress. Stiles rolled over to squint at him. “You really need to stop stealing my pillow.”

“You have others.”

“Yeah, but, it’s kind of weird. What’s wrong with the ones from the guest room?”

“They smell dusty.”

“Oh.” Stiles squirmed under his blankets until he was comfortable, wishing he’d taken his jeans off but not wanting to stand up. The room would start doing that spinning thing again and it had only just settled down. “Wait, don’t my pillows smell like me though?”

A beat, then, “It’s better than dust.”

“If you say so.” Stiles punched his pillow into the right shape, thinking about Scott, who was so grumpy because it was the full moon tomorrow, and Derek, who was so… Derek. All the time. “You still awake?”

“I’m trying really hard not to be, but it’s kind of hard when you keep talking.”

“Relying on other people doesn’t make you weak, Derek,” Stiles told the ceiling. “It makes you human.”

Derek didn’t reply for a long time. Long enough that Stiles was almost asleep when he heard Derek say, “But I’m not human.”

Chapter Text

When Stiles opened his front door the morning after the full moon, Scott was waiting, leaning against his jeep.

“I’m sorry,” Scott said, and held out a jumbo packet of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Stiles crossed his arms.

“I was an asshole. I totally fucked you over. I shouldn’t have kissed Lydia. I am so so sorry.”

Stiles sighed. He really couldn’t hold out against the puppy-eyes for much longer. “Whatever. She kissed you, I guess. What were you supposed to do, push her off? It’s Lydia Martin. No one can resist her.”

If anything, Scott looked more miserable. “I should have been able to. She’s the only girl you ever talk about. And. She’s not Allison. Stiles, I’m-”

“You’re sorry. Yeah dude, I know.” Stiles held his hand out for the chocolate. “You’re driving us to school though. I’m not actually awake enough to treat my baby with the love she deserves. This is me sleepwalking. Between your escaping to terrorize the countryside, Dad finding another body, and Derek crawling back in my window at stupid o’clock this morning, I got hardly any sleep last night.”

“I am sorry, Stiles,” Scott said as they climbed into the jeep.

“It’s fine. We’ll figure out something better for next month. Lock you up sooner, so you don’t have a chance to turn into a raging douchenozzle.”

“We might not have to.”

“Why not?” If Scott said that he had a plan to get Allison back before the next full month, Stiles was going to have to seriously look into his latest theory that being in love had completely fried all of Scott’s brain cells.

“Last night, Derek told me that there might be a cure.”

“Seriously?” Stiles’ mind raced through all the lore that he’d read. There had been plenty of curses mentioned, but nothing that had stood out as being particularly viable. Sure, decapitation would ‘cure’ lycanthropy, but Stiles kind of wanted to keep Scott around a little bit longer. For one thing, he knew that real apologies came with snacks. “What is it?”

“I have to kill the one that bit me. I have to kill the Alpha.”

“Jesus.” Stiles hesitated. “Do you think you could actually do that? Kill someone?”

“I have to, Stiles. I almost hurt Allison last night. I almost hurt you last night. And it’s not the first time I’ve nearly slipped up. I can’t do this anymore. I don’t want to deal with this supernatural crap. I just want to be a normal human again.”

Stiles swallowed against the sudden lump in his throat. “Scott. You know that I’m not a normal human, right? I mean, you remember that? You’re always going to have to deal with ‘this supernatural crap’.”

“That’s different. You’re not dangerous.”

The laugh ripped free, hollow enough that Scott looked over in concern. “Seriously? Do you remember anything about what happened after my mom died? I ripped up the whole backyard. I lost control. If I’d ever had a panic attack at school I could have –“

Stiles clamped his mouth shut, and glared out the window.

"I thought you just missed her," Scott said softly after a few minutes of tense silence.

“I did. I do.” Stiles took a deep breath. He could talk about this. He could. Just because he never had before, didn’t mean that he couldn’t do it now. “And it still hurts, a little bit, because every time I do magic it makes me think of her. But more than that I –“ He cleared his throat and tried again. “I stopped trusting myself. And I knew that if I ever fucked up again, there wouldn’t be anyone to help get us off the school roof or stop my hair from changing colours every five minutes. I mean, Baba could, obviously, but she lives on the other side of the country so that’s not very helpful. Plus, you know, she’s old. It’s not like she’ll be around to clean my messes up forever. It was just easier not to make any.”

“But you’re doing stuff now.”

Stiles shrugged uncomfortably. “Dude. I wasn’t going to let you go through this on your own. Besides. You learn to control it, Scott. Because that’s all you can do, eventually. I’m not saying it’s easy-- it’s not-- being the only one who can do the things you can do. Well, I guess you’ve got Derek to talk to. But this is just me, muddling through on my own. And if I can figure out how to manage things, then you can too.”

“And I will, if this doesn’t work,” Scott said. “I promise. But. This is a chance to change things back to the way they were. And I’m sorry that you can’t have that too, but I have to try.”

Stiles sighed, and ripped open the chocolate. “Of course you do. And I’ll help, you know I will. Just, no getting rid of all the weird things in your life, okay?”

Scott punched Stiles in the shoulder, hard enough that Stiles knew he'd have a bruise there later. Fucking werewolves. "Never."

“Good. Now, let’s talk about something else, because it’s not even 8 AM yet and we’ve already gone through our manly emotional talking quota for the week. Did I tell you that Derek goes to college?!

~~~

“Dad, can you get that?” Stiles called out when the house phone rang just as he was putting the final touches on a sandwich. “My hands are covered in cheese.”

He heard his father pick up the extension in the study, and moved to wash his hands. There was only one person who still used the house number to try and get in touch with the Stilinski’s, which meant that any minute–

“Stiles, it’s Shaheen!”

On cue, Stiles picked up the kitchen extension. “Heeeey Baba.”

Sevgili! You are home! It is miracle!”

“Sorry, Baba. I’ve been pretty busy lately.”

“I’ve got something I’ve got to take care of Stiles’ big game tonight, so I’ll let you guys catch up,” Stiles’ father said, the sounds of him picking up some papers coming over the phone clearly.

“Big game?”

“He’s going to be playing first line.”

“It means that I’m actually going to be on the field for once,” Stiles explained for his grandmother. “Instead of sitting on the bench like usual.”

“Wonderful! You must be proud of him.”

“Very proud,” Stiles’ dad agreed.

“You should call more often Baba,” Stiles said. “He saves all the compliments for when you’re listening.”

“Well, if I ever saw you anymore I’d tell you myself.” Stiles winced, glad his father was still in the study. “Anyways, I’d better go. I’ll see you next month Shaheen.”

Stiles waited for his dad to hang up, and then said, “Sorry about that.”

“Apologise to him, not me. Is natural for child to be independent at your age, but difficult for parent to watch.”

“You totally spend all your time reading fortune cookies or something, don’t you,” Stiles muttered. “So what’s new with you?”

Stiles’ grandmother launched into the latest exploits of her senior’s roller derby league, and Stiles made agreeing noises in all the right spots while he made a final sandwich.

“Since when do you eat pickles?” Stiles’ father asked, peering over Stiles’ shoulder at his handiwork.

Stiles made a face that he hoped said I’d tell you but I’m on the phone and don’t want to be rude rather than through the judicious application of trial and error I have learned that the fugitive in my bedroom likes pickles. It must have worked, because Stiles got an understanding nod and a goodbye wave.

“Of course, is hard to find replacement for next month, but Elaine’s hip should recover from surgery in time for match so I can still visit.”

“Wait,” Stiles said. “Why are you coming to visit? Not that it won’t be great to see you, it’s always great to see you, but, it’s not like… Christmas or something next month is it?”

“Your father not tell you? I come to help with your training.”

What?

“He said you look at your mother’s books again. You bring her chest out of garage?”

“Well, yeah. But.” But Stiles hadn’t known that his father had actually noticed. “Why didn’t he say anything?”

“He did. To me. He does not know how to talk about this, sevgili. He worries. About your safety.”

“I’m being careful,” Stiles protested.

“I believe. You know what feels like to go too far – you won’t do that again unless you have to. And you care too much about others to put them in any danger. But is hard for someone outside to understand. You can do so much, and to him it looks like is so easy.”

“But it’s not,” Stiles said, thinking about how he still couldn’t get any of the binding words to work properly.

She laughed. “Concentration has never been your strength, and so much of this is concentration. When I come, I help you find your focus again.”

“Oh my god, you’re going to make me meditate, aren’t you.”

“For hours and hours,” she agreed. “To make up for all the years you did not.” She didn’t ask him what had changed his mind about his magic, why he was reaching for it again when for so long he had pushed it away. Instead, she said, “You should practice your foundations again, if you are having difficulties.”

He groaned. “They’re so boring, but yes, fine, I will. Concentration and control.”

“And practice your Turkish. I am too old to speak English all the time.”

You’re a slave driver,” he said in perfect Turkish. It was one of the first phrases he’d had his mom teach him.

It wasn’t until after they’d said their goodbyes and he was carrying the plate of sandwiches upstairs that Stiles remembered that Derek had werewolf hearing. What if he’d been eavesdropping? He tried to remember if they’d ever actually said the word magic. Maybe it would be good if Derek found out this way, though. It was getting harder and harder to keep the magic a secret, and Stiles was getting tired of making his bed by hand every morning.

Derek was reading another Terry Pratchett book when Stiles opened his bedroom door, sprawled out on Stiles’ bed. He barely acknowledged Stiles until Stiles shoved a plate with a sandwich under his nose. So, probably not eavesdropping then.

“Any news on the necklace?” Derek asked, sitting up and biting into the sandwich.

“No thanks necessary,” Stiles said, sitting at his desk. “Really, it was my pleasure.”

Derek grunted, which was probably as close to “This is delicious and thank you for not putting any tomatoes on it this time so I don’t have to pick them off” as Stiles was going to get.

“Scott’s still working on getting his hands on it. But there’s something else we can try.” Stiles bit into his sandwich and spoke around the bite, ignoring the look of disgust that flashed across Derek’s face. “The night we were trapped at the school, Scott sent a text to Allison asking her to meet him there.”

“So?”

“So, it wasn’t Scott.”

“Can you find out who sent it?”

“No, not me. But I know someone who can. Danny’s coming over later so we can work on our chemistry project and he’ll be able to track the information down. He’s got mad hacking skills.”

“And you know this how?”

“I looked up his arrest report. Obviously.”

“Obviously,” Derek repeated, a funny expression on his face. “You really have no sense of privacy, do you?”

Stiles shrugged. “I can’t help it if my dad’s the Sheriff and if sometimes I find out things that other people don’t. And really, you shouldn’t be complaining. The more information I have, the more likely we are to figure things out. If you’d told us about the stuff your sister found before, when Allison and Scott were still dating, it would have been a lot easier to get hold of this necklace. Hey, what do you think it means, that the symbol your sister found is the same one that’s on Allison’s family heirloom thing?”

“The Argents are hunters,” Derek said shortly, pushing his empty plate up the bed. He stood abruptly, pulling his t-shirt off and tossing it to the side. The first time this had happened Stiles had flailed and covered his eyes, sure that Derek had spontaneously decided he was allergic to all of his clothes. Now, he just rolled his chair backwards a bit so Derek would have more room for his ridiculous workout routine.

“Right, but. This is proof, isn’t it? That it was one of them? Like, maybe your sister was getting too close to pinning the fire on them and they – Wait, that doesn’t work, because it’s not like any of the Argents would be an Alpha.”

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Derek dropped to the floor and began a punishing set of push-ups.

Stiles frowned. He got that Derek had all sorts of manpain tied up in this situation, because, hello, his entire family being slaughtered was kind of a big deal. But if they were going to get to the bottom of this whole tangled mess and figure out why Laura Hale had had to die, who the Alpha actually was, and how to kill it then they were going to have to work on getting Derek to communicate more than he already was. Except every time Stiles tried to talk to Derek about anything to do with actual leads, Derek would strip down and start working out.

“Holy shit,” Stiles exclaimed, certain things about Derek slotting together in his brain as one side of the Rubik’s cube that was Derek’s personality clicked into a single colour. “You’re totally a stresserciser!”

“A what?”

“Someone who exercises when they’re stressed. Jesus. No wonder you’ve got all that going on.” Stiles gestured at the magnificence that was Derek’s muscles. “I knew it had to be more than just werewolfyness.”

“That isn’t a word.” The bastard wasn’t even out of breath. If Stiles had been the one doing a million push-ups an hour he wouldn’t be able to do more than pant by this point. Scott would have had an asthma attack by now. Well, not anymore. Except, if Scott did manage to kill the Alpha and lost his new wolf themed superpowers, would he get his asthma back?

Speaking of Scott. Or, well, thinking of him anyways.

“Is it true?”

“Is what true,” Derek asked, the faux-patient tone doing nothing to disguise his irritation.

But this had been bothering Stiles all week, niggling the back of his brain like a puzzle piece that didn’t quite fit.

“That if Scott kills the Alpha that bit him, he’ll cancel out the bite and he’ll be human again.”

“That’s what the stories say.”

Stiles snorted. “The stories also say that werewolves are all women who have lost their babies, and the reason they howl at the moon is because they’re howling their grief. I’m pretty sure that we can prove that one wrong, unless you have a hidden uterus you’d like to tell me about.”

“That’s a pretty obscure legend, how did you hear about it?” Derek had actually paused mid push-up to stare at Stiles, his forehead furrowed.

Stiles shrugged. It had been in one of the older family journals, but revealing them would mean revealing the rest of the books. “My research-fu is amazing. I’ve got a black-belt and everything. Answer the question.”

Derek actually sighed. “Don’t know,” he muttered, as if admitting uncertainty caused him physical pain. He rolled onto his back and began a set of sit ups.

“Because here’s what I’ve pieced together so far. Tell me if I’m way off the mark.” Stiles didn’t wait for Derek to respond, just barrelled on. “If someone who’s not a wolf, like a hunter, kills an Alpha, the Alpha-ness passes on to the next available candidate in the pack. Same goes for natural disasters and whatnot. If your uncle wasn’t, well, what he is, then he would have become the next Alpha after the fire. But he was too damaged, so it went to Laura because she was the most senior able bodied pack member left. If she’d been killed by a hunter, you would have become Alpha next, but, because it was another wolf that killed her, they become the new Alpha.”

“Stiles,” Derek said, sounding more tired than irritated, but Stiles couldn’t see his face to be sure. “What’s your point?”

“I just want to know. If Scott’s the one who takes out the Alpha, what’s the probability that it backfires and he winds up with the Alpha mojo?”

Derek’s answer, when it finally came, was quiet. “I don’t know.”

Stiles was quiet for a while as well, watching as Derek finished his sit-ups, then rolled over to start on the push-ups again.

Finally, Stiles said, “Derek.” He waited until Derek paused and looked up, their eyes meeting. “I don’t think Scott can handle being an Alpha. He has enough trouble with the stuff he’s already got.”

“I know,” Derek said, and it should have been funny, that serious expression paired with the way that Derek was holding himself, parallel to the ground, but it really wasn’t.

The moment stretched, something almost tangible sparking in the air between them. Stiles’ magic thrummed in his chest like a second heartbeat, and he wondered if Derek could hear the rhythm of it, if that was why Derek was looking at Stiles like Stiles might have the answer to a question that hadn’t even been asked yet.

All Stiles knew, though, was that he would rather kill the Alpha himself than hand Scott a new and even more difficult situation to deal with.

Stiles broke first, cutting his eyes away from Derek’s and clearing his throat. “I mean, he’s failing art for god’s sake. Who fails art? Also, he was planning on making a giant sculpture of Allison’s left elbow as an ode to their love for his final project, which, awkward. Apparently it’s got a dimple on it that her right one doesn’t? Whatever, this is stuff I shouldn’t know, but that does that stop him from talking about it? No. It doesn’t. So now he’s going to have to, I don’t know, take a cast of her elbow while she’s asleep or something if he wants to pass the class. You should probably give him some tips on how to be a creepy stalker. Except he would probably start humming the Mission Impossible theme song half way through and ruin any stealthiness he might have accidentally pulled off.”

Derek grunted, like he’d never had a theme song running through his head in rhythm to his actions, and carried on with his workout like they hadn’t just had some sort of strange moment. They seemed to be having a lot of those lately, and Stiles wasn’t entirely sure why.

Whatever, Stiles knew the truth. Everyone had an internal monologue at one point or another, just like everyone had an internal soundtrack. Derek was probably doing his push-ups to the rhythm of a particularly gruelling leitmotif right now, too cool to pull a Stiles or Scott and start humming it.

Or maybe the only thing going through Derek’s head was a repetitive I think I can I think I can I think I can. Stiles had never managed to have as much single minded intensity about anything that Derek had about working out. Which was probably why Stiles looked like a stiff wind could blow him away while Derek looked like he’d gotten lost on the way to a GQ cover shoot. He just had so many muscles, in places that Stiles hadn’t even known you could get them.

The ones across Derek’s back were particularly distracting; the black swirls of his tattoo standing out like an invitation against tanned skin. Stiles knew firsthand what strength Derek had, but now he wondered what it would be like to touch Derek when he wasn’t angry or dying, to feel all that strength coiled under warm skin, to run his hands over the back and trace muscles with his fingertips and that tattoo with his tongue…

Derek was staring at him, paused mid-push up, a smirk twisting the corner of his lips.

Stiles started back, nonplussed until he remembered that Derek was a fucking werewolf, a born one who probably didn’t need a boost from the full moon to be able to sniff out things like arousal.

“What!” Stiles exclaimed, and threw a pen at Derek’s stupid face. “It’s not my fault! I’m a teenage boy, okay! Rock formations have been known to turn me on. And I swear I’m not exaggerating, there’s this thing at Cedar Point that looks exactly like Lydia. Except, you know, made out of rocks and without hair. Derek, I can get turned on by a bald, well-shaped boulder, do not think you’re special, okay?” Stiles snapped his mouth shut – he was not flustered. He just didn’t want Derek to get the wrong Idea.

Derek pushed himself to standing in one fluid move, and sat at the foot of Stiles’ bed. He leaned back on his hands, stomach muscles rippling as he did so. Stiles snapped his gaze back up to meet Derek’s eyes.

The bastard didn’t even have the decency to pretend to be out of breath, even though he’d been working out long enough to build up a faint sheen of sweat. “I hate you,” Stiles said seriously.

For a second, Derek looked almost surprised, his eyes flicking down to Stiles’ chest. Then that smug look was back. “No, you don’t.”

“I should,” Stiles grumbled. “You make my life very complicated and you’re very irritating and have very poor communication skills.”

Derek did that huffing thing which was his equivalent of a laugh, and asked, “Lydia’s the redhead, right? Isn’t she dating that Wittemore kid?”

“Not right now. It’s only a matter of time before she realised how amazing I am and falls for me.”

Derek frowned. “But why?”

Stiles tried to ignore the way his insides twisted and said, “Hey, I know I’m not captain, co-captain, whatever, of the lacrosse team, and I’m not rich and I haven’t been scouted by a modelling agency or any of that stuff, but I’ve got good qualities too! I’m nice! And I can research! And I’m double jointed!” He tried to think of something else.

“Stiles,” Derek growled. “Why are you interested in her?”

Stiles gaped. “Seriously? She’s Lydia.” He flapped a hand uselessly, as if that might convey what he needed it to. “She’s brilliant, she’s going to win crazy awards by pioneering some sort of mathematical theorem. And she’s got this really dry sense of humour. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that she’s gorgeous.” Or that my magic likes her, he added to himself.

“So, that’s what’s important to you? Brains, a sense of humour, good looks?”

This had to be the most bizarre conversation he’d ever had, and that included the one he’d had to have with his Dad that time he’d dreamed his stuffed animal collection alive and woken to the aftermath of a plushy massacre. And shit, maybe that was why his Dad talked to Baba instead of Stiles. His Dad was afraid of him and the fuzzy holocaust that he was capable of creating in his sleep.

“Isn’t that what everyone wants?” Stiles asked, trying not to think about how he was totally the Voldemort of toy town.

Derek was watching him intently. “Sure. But there’s other stuff too. You could want someone who could look after you. Keep you safe.”

Stiles shrugged. “I’d like to think we’d look after each other. I know you think I’m useless but I can keep myself safe.”

Derek grunted, frustration twisting his features. Before he could say anything, Stiles’ phone chirruped obnoxiously and Derek asked in disbelief, “Is that Britney Spears?”

“Yup! I believe in personalised ringtones. You probably don’t want to know what yours is,” Stiles said cheerfully. “Put your shirt back on, that’ll be Danny saying he’s on his way over.”

~~~
Stiles’ forehead was still throbbing from where Derek had slammed it against the Jeep steering wheel. Which had been a total overreaction, really. So Stiles had pimped out Derek’s shirtless body to get Danny’s help. It had worked, hadn’t it? Danny had gladly tracked down the sender of phantom text message and all it had cost them was a five minute floorshow of Derek trying on Stiles’ too tight shirts.

Besides, Derek hadn’t minded when Stiles had been ogling him during those damn push-ups. In fact, he’d just sort of smirked, so maybe that was it. Stiles’ affections were once again laughable, while Danny’s were actually worth getting worked up over. It was like Lydia and Jackson all over again.

Whatever. Stiles wasn’t going to waste any more time thinking about it. There was a very slim chance that he could track down Ms McCall’s computer and figure out who had used it and still be able to get to the game with enough time to start. Except that required actually finding someone in this godforsaken hospital to talk to. What, had everybody taken the night off or something?

Shakira started singing Darling it’s no joke, this is lycanthropy from Stiles’ pocket. He dug his phone out and asked, “Anyone ever told you you’re really impatient?”

“You’re taking too long.”

“It’s been like five minutes. There’s no sign of Scott’s mom. I’m pretty sure Ms McCall is at the game.”

“Did you check the break room?”

“I said I can’t find her,” Stiles said, peering around a corner. He got why Derek had to stay out in the car – wanted fugitives couldn’t exactly wander around hospitals – but Derek had some serious control issues he needed to work through. Stiles knew how to look for someone without having his every move micromanaged, thanks.

“Then ask for Jennifer, she’s been looking after my uncle.”

Stiles turned into Peter Hale’s room, seeing a made bed and no sign of the brain-dead man. “Yeah, well, he’s not here either.”

“What?”

“He’s not here, he’s gone, Derek.”

Derek sucked in a breath. “Stiles, get out of there right now! It’s him! He’s the Alpha! Get out!”

Stiles stepped back from the doorway, fingers numb with a sudden rush of fear, and a slight movement to his right caught his eye.

Lurking in the shadows in a leather jacket, like it was some sort of Hale family trait, was Peter.

“You must be Stiles,” he said.

His words were like a starting gun, snapping Stiles out of his daze and causing his magic to stutter to life, replacing the numbness in his extremities with a burning tingle. He turned to run, but in his way was a little redheaded nurse. Jennifer, he remembered, his panicking brain throwing the information at him like it might actually help.

“What are you doing here?” she asked. “Visiting hours are over.”

“You!” Stiles stumbled back, piecing everything together. “And him.” He looked over his shoulder at Peter, who had stepped forwards out of the shadows far enough to reveal the scar tissue twisting the right half of his face. “You’re the one who.” She had sent the text message, using Ms McCall’s computer to throw off any suspicions. She had been working with Peter this whole time. Peter Hale, Derek’s last remaining family member, who was supposed to be nonresponsive but had in fact been killing people all across town. Had killed his own niece, even. “And he’s the. Oh my god, I’m gonna die.”

Suddenly, Derek was there, elbowing Nurse Jennifer in the face.

“That’s not nice, she’s my nurse,” Peter said.

“She’s a psychotic bitch helping you kill people,” Derek retorted. “Get out of the way.”

Stiles dropped.

“You think I killed Laura on purpose?” Peter asked, advancing slowly on his nephew. Stiles tried to blend into the wall as best as he could, wishing he knew a word to make himself invisible. “My own family?”

Derek snarled, teeth long and eyes glowing, and launched himself at Peter, hopping up on a wall to avoid trampling Stiles. Peter caught Derek, slamming him into a wall before flinging him across the hall.

Stiles took advantage of the distraction and scrabbled away. He needed to get to cover, he needed to call someone, to tell them that the serial killing werewolf was here and oh god he nearly crawled straight onto Nurse Jennifer. He ducked behind the nurse’s station, trying to be as still as possible.

He could still hear Peter though, talking to Derek in a creepily even tone, like he was discussing the weather or something. “My mind, my personality, were literally burned out of me. I was being driven by pure instinct.”

Stiles thumbed at his phone, fingers shaking from adrenaline and the pent up magic boiling under his skin, listening as Derek snarled, “You want forgiveness?

There was no one he could call, Stiles realised. What would his father be able to do? What would Scott be able to do? And even if he’d wanted to call in the hunters, he didn’t have their number. Scott could tell them, but they would probably figure out that Scott was a werewolf too.

Stiles and Derek would just have to handle this themselves.

“I want understanding,” Peter said. There was a thud of flesh on flesh loud enough that Stiles could hear it and Derek went flying past Stiles’ hiding spot. Stiles took a deep breath, straining to hear the sound of Peter’s footsteps over the deafening beat of his own heart. “Do you have any idea what it was like for me during those years? Slowly healing cell by cell, even more slowly coming back to consciousness? Yes, becoming an Alpha, taking that form, pushed me over a plateau in the healing process. I can’t help that.”

When Peter had passed Stiles’ hiding spot, Stiles leaned out. Derek caught his eye and somehow managed to scowl even more, flicking his hand to the side as if to say Run, you idiot!

Stiles shook his head at Derek, then looked frantically around for something that he could use as a weapon. He probably had one chance to do something, and only because Peter had dismissed him as not being a threat. The second he revealed that he could fight back, he’d be in trouble. He wasn’t confident enough with the binding magic to use that, not when he knew that the moment he revealed himself Peter would be all over him.

Derek launched himself at Peter again, but Peter dodged each hit easily.

Combat magic was out, too. As much as Stiles would love to hurl a wave of energy at Peter while shouting “Hadouken!” he didn’t actually know how. He could maybe set Peter’s hair on fire, but that would hit Derek too and anything that was strong enough to damage Peter would probably kill Derek, if the way Peter was treating Derek’s punches like mosquito bites was any indication of his strength.

Peter caught Derek’s fist and squeezed it. Stiles could hear bones breaking as Derek was forced to the ground.

“I tried to tell you what was happening,” Peter said, and he sounded almost earnest. “I tried to warn you.”

Behind Derek was a row of ugly green chairs. Stiles took a deep breath, and stood. It was now or never.

Peter was already turning to Stiles, a grin stretching wide across his face and a glint in his eye that seemed to say, “Oh, you want to play too, do you?”

Stiles lifted a hand and pointed at the chairs. “Motus! he shouted, pushing all of his magic out through his fingertips and willing as hard as he could.

Instantly, the chairs flung themselves at Peter, smacking into him and knocking him away from Derek.

Derek wasted no time, launching himself at Stiles the second he was free. A clawed hand latched onto Stiles’ arm, the clutch just short of painful as Stiles was dragged backwards through a set of doors, down a hall and around a corner.

“What was that?” Derek hissed, slamming Stiles against a wall. It was familiar, except for how it wasn’t. Derek wasn’t glaring at Stiles. Instead, he was sort of hiding Stiles’ body beneath his own as he peered around the corner they’d just turned.

“Surprise?” Stiles said weakly. “Magic is real?”

And there was the glare.

“You need to get out of here, you should have run before.” Derek stepped back. “I’ll hold him off as long as I can.”

Stiles grabbed Derek when he started to turn away. “Not happening.” He rolled his eyes when Derek started to growl. “I think we just proved I can take care of myself. I’m not leaving you to the wolves. Well, wolf. You know what I mean!”

Derek’s eyes were narrow. “Why haven’t you done this before? Like the night at the school?”

“Hello? Super-secret ability here! Emphasis on the secret? It’s for like, emergencies only. Besides, as if I was going to do something in front of Jackson! And, uh,” he added, a little flustered by Derek’s impassive face. “I’m a little bit rusty.”

Derek opened his mouth, no doubt to say something like, “No seriously, leave me to my doom, you puny human,” when Peter spoke instead.

“Speaking of rusty.” Both Stiles and Derek whipped their heads around to meet Peter’s sardonic stare. “I never would have gotten this close before. You’re getting lazy, my boy.” He pinned Stiles with a look. “And aren’t you an interesting one.”

Chapter Text

“Let him go,” Derek rumbled, voice gravelly with wolf as he moved between Peter and Stiles. “He’s not a part of this.”

Peter smirked. “Didn’t you hear, Derek? He doesn’t want to go. Besides, I think he is a part of this. He’s the best friend, after all. Pack by choice. And now, I find out that he’s so much more than that.”

“I’m not your pack,” Stiles snarled, stepping forwards so that he was standing side by side with Derek. Derek’s hand shot out, wrapping around Stiles’ wrist, as if to stop him from getting any closer to Peter. Which, of course he wouldn’t. Stiles wasn’t suicidal. But he also wasn’t some sort of damsel in distress, willing to hide behind Derek’s broad shoulders.

“No, you’re not,” Peter said, his eyes darting between Derek and Stiles. “But you could be. And with you, it wouldn’t even take a bite, would it. You have your own ways of tying people to you.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Stiles said honestly. “But you should leave. It’s only a matter of time till someone comes looking for the missing patient.”

“So feisty.” Peter grinned broadly. “I like it. You act like I can’t hear your heart trying to beat its way out of your chest.”

Stiles snorted. “Seriously dude? You’re trying to intimidate me with the fact that I’m scared of you? Of course I’m scared of you. You’re a fucking serial killer.”

“Is that what you think of me? Really? Derek, you as well?” Peter managed to look almost sad. “I’m hurt. You like superheroes, don’t you, Stiles? You strike me as the type who would. Think of me as a vigilante. I haven’t hurt anyone who didn’t deserve it.

“Like Laura?” Derek’s voice was almost unrecognisable. “Did she deserve it?”

“Laura was a mistake, Derek, I told you.” Peter took a step forward, and Stiles resisted the urge to take a matching one back. “I wasn’t in my right mind. I would never have hurt her deliberately. She was my pack, my family. And we’re family, too, Derek, you know that. You can feel it, can’t you? The pull, calling you to me?” Another step. Stiles could feel Derek’s hold on his wrist loosening. “Aren’t you tired of being all alone? Of being an Omega?”

“Uh, hi?” Stiles gave a little wave with his free hand, twisting the other one so that it was him holding onto Derek’s wrist now. His grip was tight enough that he could feel Derek’s heartbeat pulsing against his fingers, slower than Stiles’ own jackrabbit fast tempo. “Standing right here? Derek’s obviously not alone. And I realise I’m a bit out of the loop on werewolf terminology but I gotta tell you, unless Derek has been getting up to some very interesting things while I’ve been at school, he is not an Omega. Like. As far as I know he’s not getting laid at all, and I really can’t see Derek letting people beat him up.”

Peter chuckled, and took another step forward. No, not a step, Stiles realised. Peter was herding them, stalking them like prey. “Oh, Stiles. We’re not animals. An Omega is a werewolf without a pack. Together, we’re strong. But alone…. Well, an Omega is just someone that hasn’t been killed yet, really. They’re weak. They’re prey. Scott doesn’t know the difference, because he’s never felt the bond of a true pack. He thinks that having his human friends is enough. But Derek knows just what he’s missing out on.”

Stiles felt Derek twitch minutely. “Uh, I feel like I should point out that when the options are being an Omega or having a psychopath like you for an Alpha, Derek and Scott are both better off on their own,” Stiles said, tightening his grip on Derek because, no. Just, no.

Stiles had not put all that work into keeping Derek alive, had not hidden him in Stiles’ bedroom, had not made sandwiches and double sized casseroles and told his dad that he’d started drinking his coffee black just so Peter could pull some sort of mind whammy by reminding Derek that he didn’t have a huge family of werewolves to roll with anymore. Oh, and whose fault was it that Derek didn’t even have his sister anymore? Peter’s, that’s whose.

So. No. Not happening, Peter.

“Are you secretly psychic, as well? Or perhaps you’re just opinionated. Why don’t we let them decide what they want, hmm? Derek?”

“Stiles is right,” Derek said. “I’m not helping you kill people.”

“I’m starting to think you’re not listening to me at all,” Peter said, rolling his eyes. “For the last time, I don’t want to kill everyone. Just the ones who burned our family alive and left me in a hospital for six years. But maybe you just need a little bit of time to think things over. To remember what it’s like to be part of a pack. To have that extra strength.”

In the span of a breath, Peter crossed the final few feet between them and wrenched Stiles away from Derek with a tug that sent Stiles sprawling to the floor. Derek reacted immediately, claws reaching out to swipe at Peter, but Peter kicked out and sent Derek flying into the wall, hard enough that Derek’s breath whooshed out of him, plaster cracking around the point of impact. Stiles struggled to his knees, raising his hands while he reached for his magic, but before he could do more than twitch his fingers Peter was there, crushing Stiles’ two hands in one of his own.

Peter smiled down at Stiles mockingly. “Besides, what are your other options? You should know, you can’t beat me.”

“Oh my god, really?” Stiles said, twisting in an effort to get free. Peter squeezed, and Stiles stopped moving when he felt his knuckles begin to grind together painfully. “That’s the argument you’re going with? The one that makes you sound mad with power? You’re really not projecting a healthy persona here.”

Peter laughed. “You really don’t know when to quit, do you? Besides, this?” Peter gestured to the scarred side of his face with his free hand. “Purely aesthetic, I assure you. Watch.”

Before Stiles’ eyes, Peter’s skin began to heal, the scars stretching until all that was left was smooth skin.

“I was thinking more about your mental health, actually,” Stiles said. He could feel his magic simmering underneath his skin, surging ineffectively against Peter’s grip from Stiles’ desire to do something, anything to get away. Everything that came to his scrambling brain required him to be able to use his hands, though.

Derek had managed to catch his breath, and launched himself at Peter, but Peter batted him away with insulting ease, not even letting go of his grip on Stiles.

“You know, Stiles,” Peter said thoughtfully, reaching down to caress Stiles’ cheek, “maybe what you need is to see things from my perspective.” Stiles tried to turn his head away from Peter, trying not to think about the fact that he was literally on his knees, face being cupped in what felt like an unbearably intimate gesture. Peter just used Stiles’ movement to slide his hand around to rest lightly on the back of Stiles’ neck, fingers stroking at the nape of Stiles’ hair. “I have so much to do, you see, and it would be easier if you were all on my side. So, I’m going to give you a little time to think things over. But trust me on this, I won’t be so patient.”

The only warning Stiles got was a slight tensing in Peter’s arm. Then, blades were slicing into the back of Stiles’ neck, digging until they hit bone.

~~~

They herded the children into the corner, as far from the fire as possible, but the heat of it was everywhere - solid and tasting of smoke and pushing away all the air in the basement. It clawed its way down his throat and made itself at home in his lungs like a greedy squatter.

Marta screamed, and he hated it, hated hearing her beautiful songbird voice filled with so much fear, but everyone was screaming then, howls chorusing together when something exploded and sparks filled the basement like bright confetti.

He tried to reach through the flames, to get to the door and try again, but the fire leaped onto him gleefully and began to eat his clothes away, not stopping when it reached his skin but biting in with a thousand searing mouths.

He fell to the ground, scrubbing at the oozing burns hard as he could to get the dead skin off. He just needed to give his healing a chance to work and he would be fine, they would all be fine. But it wasn’t working fast enough, the fire had grown and was attacking again, squirming blistering tentacles into his body all the way down to his bone.

His hands felt it first, a blissful stillness. They wouldn’t move, but that was alright because they weren’t hurting anymore, either. It spread quickly, crawling up his arms and chest and face and then he couldn’t move at all except to close his eyes against the bright yellow and orange and white.

He listened for the others, straining to catch even just one heartbeat, but his ears had gone numb, too, so he turned inwards, looking for the place in his soul where the pack played. Every birth and every bight made their orchestra grow, added depth to their symphony.

The space inside of him that had always been filled with a swelling masterpiece was brimming with discordant chaos. The steady guiding drumbeat of the Alpha and her mate were out of step and losing strength. The strings were frantic as they tried to protect the jumble of brassy horns and tinkly, young chimes that were the children.

Marta went first, her viola falling quiet, so quiet, followed quickly the others until all that was left were the echoes of his own cello tones, the French horn of Derek and trumpet of Laura wailing mournfully into the new silence.

He felt Laura change, heard her sound deepen and grow until she was the baseline of their new, diminished pack. He wanted to reach out, to coax the others into song so that they would fill the echoing emptiness, just the three of them, they could do it, but he couldn’t move, couldn’t speak, couldn’t even think, couldn’t do anything but listen.

Listen as the only two remaining instruments grew distant, too far away to hear properly, no matter how hard he strained.

And then it was just him, playing alone into the quiet. He was out of tune and couldn’t find a rhythm and his melody was broken and incomplete.

But then there was the moon. The moon had always had its own music, a guest performer that visited their orchestra once a month. So he listened for it, let it fill the silence, fill him up to the brim with its music because he couldn’t make his own anymore, couldn’t hear his own pack playing, would never hear them again.

When he heard the Alpha drums again, they were wrong, so wrong, so he reached out to stop them, to make them his. He would set the new tempo and fill up the orchestra again. They would make a new symphony, a stronger one, and he would never have to hear the silence again.

~~~

When Stiles came back to himself he was tucked into the passenger’s side of the jeep. He rolled his head so he could see Derek, tense behind the driving wheel. Stiles flinched when the movement twinged his neck. For an instant, he could almost hear the screams again.

“Where’re we going?” Stiles asked, wincing at the soreness of his throat. Well, that answered the question of whether he’d joined in with all the screaming. He reached up and prodded gently at the gauze that Derek had used to bandage him up, probably while Stiles had been experiencing Peter’s paralysis.

“Don’t pick at that. We need to warn Scott. He’s not picking up his phone.”

Stiles sighed and dropped his hand. “No surprise there.”

Derek took a corner too sharply, and Stiles whimpered when the turn pulled him against his seatbelt. His whole body felt leaden, muscles sore from being tensed for too long. But worse than that, everything that Peter had shared seemed to rush back whenever Stiles pulled at the still sensitive cuts on the back of his neck.

“Sorry,” Derek said, and Stiles blinked away the feeling of flames climbing his arms his face to see Derek watching him. On someone else, that look would probably be concern. On Derek, it just looked like indigestion.

“At least pretend to treat my baby with the respect she deserves,” Stiles said, because he didn’t think It’s not your fault or No, I’m sorry, Jesus, they were so much more than just your family or How do you deal with all the silence? would go over very well. At least being bone tired enough that his brain was running at half speed meant that his brain-to-mouth filter could kick in.

The school was quiet when they arrived. No teams struggling over a tie breaker, no fans hanging around, no teammates hanging out in the parking lot commiserating loss, and most importantly, no cars from the sheriff’s department cordoning off the area.

For the few minutes that it took to get from the parking lot to the locker room tiles let himself feel hope. Maybe Peter hadn’t come looking for Scott. Maybe he had, but Scott had already left, and gone somewhere well-lit and heavily populated.

Maybe Scot was safe.

Derek, who had been keeping pace with Stiles’ slow, pained shuffle, snapped a head up, hearing something that Stiles couldn’t. With a snarl, Derek dashed off into the darkness.

“Fuckity fuck fuck,” Stiles said through gritted teeth, ignoring as best he could how every jolt of his neck brought back Peter’s memories to break into his own, much slower, run. Soon enough, he heard what Derek had.

It was Scott, screams fading into howls that echoed the ones that Stiles had already heard. He caught up with Derek in the locker room, kneeling next to a convulsing Scott.

“He’s already gone,” Derek said, when he caught the way Stiles was peering around a bank of lockers.

“He mind-whammied Scott, too?” Stiles knelt on Scott’s other side, careful to stay far enough away that Scott couldn’t catch him with a clawed hand. “How long did it last for me?”

“Just over half an hour.” Derek took a heavy sniff of the locker room, which, Stiles hadn’t thought about how horrible a boy’s locker room must smell to super sensitive noses. “Peter left about ten minutes ago.”

Stiles flinched when Scott whimpered and started to still. It was harder to listen to than the screams or howls. Especially because Stiles could guess what Scott was experiencing – the growing silence.

He couldn’t just sit there while Scott went through this, not if there was a chance that Stiles could actually help. Sure, Peter was the one who was going around shoving his memories into other people, but it was Stiles’ fault that Scott was even this position at all.

It would always be Stiles’ fault that Scott had been in the woods that night, stumbling right into Peter’s path like some sort of sacrificial lamb.

He cleared his throat, and concentrated on the warmth sitting inside his chest. “I might be able to speed things up, if you can get him onto his side? I need to see his neck.”

“Nothing I tried with you helped,” Derek said, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s a magic thing, okay?” Stiles fought the urge to stick his tongue out when Derek continued to look sceptical. “Oh my god, just do it. What’s the worst that could happen.”

Derek’s face seemed to imply that all sorts of terrible things could happen, actually, but he rolled Scott onto his side, holding him still when Stiles shuffled closer on his knees. There were four deep cuts on the back of Scott’s neck, lining up neatly between the nape of Scott’s hair and the top nob of his spine. Stiles wondered if his own cuts looked so surgically precise, or if Scott’s werewolf healing had already kicked in and started tidying things up.

Voluntas valetudo,” he said, flicking his fingers just so. His magic was slow to respond. It felt just as tired as the rest of his body did, but the jerking nerves of having just missed Peter helped push things along and the aura of Scott’s energy stuttered into visibility.

He’d been expecting to find something like what he’d seen when Derek had been shot by that wolfs-bane infused bullet – tendrils of poising spreading out from the cuts that Peter had made. Instead, Scott’s energy was a pure, clean white, except for the area around his neck, where the Scott’s healthy aura was marred by a whirlpool of pale yellow. Stiles looked closer and saw that Scott’s energy was pulsating slightly, in beat with Scott’s heartbeat, while the yellow energy was throbbing at a different speed.

Well, shit.

What Peter had done wasn’t magic the way that Stiles understood magic to work, but this looked a lot like one of the curses that he’d read about. While Peter hadn’t wrapped his energy up in a ball of intentions to force his victim to love or hate or fight on command, he’d definitely done something similar, somehow breaking off a part of himself and leaving it behind to get absorbed by Scott’s energy. By Stiles’ energy.

Which meant that Stiles couldn’t just tug the offending energy away like the infection that it was. Scott was already making space for it, and if Stiles wasn’t careful he could hurt Scott more by ripping a hole in Scott’s aura.

“Okay,” Stiles said, taking a deep steadying breath. “I can totally do this.”

The trick with this sort of thing, he remembered reading, was to encourage the person’s own energy to turn against the incursion, to work against it so that when Stiles took what Peter had left away, Scott was ready to fill in the empty space left behind.

Stiles brushed his fingers against the edge of Scott’s energy aura around Scott’s leg, far away from the site. He’d almost expected Scott to have the barely restrained lightning feel that Derek did. After all, they were both werewolves. Instead, Scott’s energy was warm and welcome, like dipping his fingers into a warm bath.

Once he had the feel of Scott firmly in mind, he moved his touch up to Scott’s neck. He ignored the bristling static he could feel where Scott’s energies trying to absorb Peter’s input. He pushed against the confusion, sending the feeling of Scott’s healthy energies straight into the site.

“See,” he murmured to the energy, “This is what you’re supposed to feel like.” He pushed the feeling into Scott’s neck, backing it up with a jolt of himself to promote growth. “Like this.”

Scott’s whimpers faded as his energy picked up on the prompt and began rejecting Peter’s influence. When enough had been pushed back that Stiles was sure he wouldn’t do any damage he plucked at the yellowish ball of energy, ignoring its staticky sharpness he could. When the fuzzy ball was free he tossed it to the side. Disconnected, it would fade away fast enough on its own.

He inspected Scott’s neck. All that was left was the shadowed marks of the cuts, which Scott’s werewolf healing was taking care of fast enough on his own. Part of Stiles wanted to heal the cuts as well, do everything he could to make Scott clean and whole and well again with no lingering signs of Peter, but he could feel the cheese grater scrape of having used too much magic starting to form, so he flicked his wrist and slumped back against a bank of lockers as Scott’s aura faded from sight.

As if on cue, Scott groaned, pushing away from Derek and sitting up.

“Welcome back,” Stiles said, smiling brightly at Scott. “I see you’re all caught up on the latest episode of As the Werewolf Turns. Plot twist! The feral Alpha was Derek’s paralysed and supposedly brain dead uncle all along! Next week, we discover that Coach Finstock is actually Scott’s grandson, sent back in a time travel experiment gone wrong, and that the Argents are just a misunderstood folk band!”

Derek stared at Stiles. “What,” he said.

Scott rubbed at his neck and stared at Stiles too, but he was pulling off less of a My eyebrows could kill you if you don’t start making sense look and more of a My eyebrows are cute little caterpillars, observe how the scrunch up in adorable confusion look. Stiles choked back a giggle.

“Stiles,” Scott said slowly, “You’re acting a little bit… manic? I can smell blood, did Peter get you too? Are you okay?”

Well, Stiles had to laugh at that. Laugh, choke back a sob of despair, whatever, totally the same thing. “Of course I’m not okay! Christ, Scott. The guy who’s been going around ripping people apart doesn’t give a shit about being discovered anymore. So, he’s just gonna be waltzing around town doing god knows what in broad daylight now. Oh, and let’s not forget the fact that he just Vulcan mind melded with both of us, and got his grubby little fingerprints all over our brains. And now, part of me actually sympathises with the bastard, because every time I move my neck and the cuts sting, it’s like I’m right there again, getting my face burnt off. Except it’s his face. His face, on my head.”

Scott looked horrified. “What? I don’t have that.”

“Of course you don’t. I took him away from you with my spirit fingers.” Stiles held out his hands and wiggled them in that way that everyone always did when they wanted to talk about his magic and thought they were being subtle. “Or, well, the bit that he left behind. So you just have your memories of what he showed you. Whereas I’ve still got the full digital experience, HD and surround sound all the way. You could enter the inside of my head into the Cannes film festival.”

Scott glanced over at Derek and leaned forward so that he could hiss, “Wait, Derek knows about the ma—about you now?”

Derek rolled his eyes, then said impatiently, “Just get rid of whatever Peter left you with, then.”

Like it was that simple. Stiles squeezed his eyes shut so he wouldn’t keep thinking about punching Derek in his stupid you idiot face. He’d probably fall over before the punch connected, anyways. “I can’t. It doesn’t work like that. You can’t heal yourself. Mom always had to take away my colds.” He scrubbed at his face, then added softly into the darkness behind his hands, “God, I wish she was here. She’d know what to do.”

Because there was a little bit of Peter in him, slowly getting absorbed into himself, and oh god, what if he started acting like Peter now. Peter hadn’t pushed any intentions into Scott, and probably hadn’t when he’d worked his mind mojo on Stiles either, had just left a bundle of his memories behind like a care package that he thought would make Stiles sympathise with him, and the worst thing was that it did. The empty silence inside Peter was a hundred times worse than the space Stiles’ mom had left behind her.

Sure, right now he still thought Peter was an insane murderer, but what if it was only a matter of time until Peter’s thought processes infected Stiles. And then Stiles would throw himself completely behind Peter’s quest for vengeance, might even go kill a few people himself if it would give some satisfaction to the burning desire for revenge that peter had left behind.

“Stiles?” Scott said.

And then he would get caught, probably by his own father, and wouldn’t that just kill his Dad. His poor Dad, who he’d been lying to constantly, who kept giving Stiles these looks, like he knew Stiles was lying but didn’t know how to fix it.

“Fuck, Stiles,” Derek said.

But that wasn’t the only thing they weren’t talking about. His dad also knew that Stiles had started using his magic again but hadn’t brought it up because – because what? Because he didn’t know how to talk about it? Or because he was afraid of Stiles? Of what Stiles would do if pushed too hard. Or if he lost control.

“What’s wrong with him?” Scott asked. “Is this because of what Peter did?”

His dad was so disgusted by Stiles that he’d called Baba to talk about him. They’d probably talked about all the things that Stiles could do wrong, all the ways that Stiles could hurt people. And they didn’t even know about the whole werewolf thing, about how a psychopath had infected Stiles’ brain.

“It’s a delayed panic attack,” Derek said, and he sounded a lot closer, maybe, it was hard to be sure because there was a rushing sound in Stiles’ ears, but he didn’t open his eyes to check because he couldn’t breathe against the tightness in his chest. Except that meant that he was sitting in darkness, like the dark emptiness that filled Peter up to the brim. Peter, who had had his nerve endings burned out of him so that everywhere the fire touched was completely numb. Numb like how Stiles’ fingers were going numb, and oh god, this was the start, wasn’t it. He wasn’t just going to act like Peter, he was going to turn into him.

“Stiles, can I touch you?” Derek asked, and Stiles nodded as best he could, because sure, Derek could touch him. Stiles wouldn’t be able to feel it, not with his skin burnt off, but Derek should be able to do whatever he wanted. Because Derek had that emptiness in him, too, and somehow he’d managed to not lose his mind to the silence. There was a pressure around Stiles’ shoulders, and Stiles fought back a wave of vertigo as he was manhandled away from the hard lockers until he was leaning against something more forgiving and warm. At least he could still feel that. Stiles wasn’t gone yet.

“Okay,” Derek said, his voice quiet and close and steady and calm. Derek wasn’t often calm, he was mostly angry, but he was calm now, and Stiles wanted to take his voice and make a blanket out of it to hide under. “I’m going to take your hand now, and you’re going to squeeze.”

“No,” Stiles said, trying to pull away from Derek’s grip, because Peter had squeezed, squeezed hard enough to break Derek’s hand and then, later, had held Stiles in place and crushed Stiles’ magic into compliance.

His magic which was roiling inside of him, completely useless now that Peter was gone. God, what was the point in having magic when it couldn’t help him when he needed it to, when all it did was scare his father and get in the way and stutter against Derek the way that it was now, flashes of heat bursting out of his fingers and into Derek’s hands which were wrapped loosely around Stiles’.

“Yes,” Derek said, still calm as he wormed his fingers into Stiles’ clenched fists and pried them apart. “You can’t hurt me, Stiles. Just focus on squeezing as hard as you can.”

“Fine,” Stiles snarled, and gave in, opening his eyes so he could see Derek’s stupid hand, twisting so he was the one in charge of the grip and squeezing with all of his strength.

“Good,” Derek said. “Keep doing that. Can you hear my breathing?” Stiles nodded, most of his concentration on crushing Derek’s hand. “I want you to try and match your breaths to mine. In, two. Out, two.”

Stiles breathed.

“In, two, three. Out, two, three.”

The vice around Stiles’ chest was loosening.

“In, two, three, four. Out, two, three, four.”

Stiles blinked his eyes open, not knowing when he’d even shut them again. Somehow, he’d ended up in Derek’s lap, back resting against Derek’s chest which rose and fell slightly with every steady breath. Scott was hovering not too far away.

“Hey,” Stiles croaked, and tried to smile. “Where’s an inhaler when you need one, right?”

Scott smiled back uncertainly. “You okay?”

Stiles took another deep breath, matching it to Derek’s as best he could. He could still feel the jittery after effects of the panic attack coursing through him, but, “I will be,” he said honestly.

Scott flicked his eyes down, and Stiles followed the look to where he and Derek were basically holding hands now that Stiles had relaxed. Stiles thought about letting go, but Derek wasn’t making any movements like he wanted to push Stiles away and, honestly, it was helping having someone right there.

“How did you know what to do?” Scott asked, looking over Stiles’ shoulder at Derek.

“My brother,” Derek said, as if that was an answer.

Stiles knew who Derek was talking about though. “Marcus, the little piccolo,” he said dreamily. “So fluttery. He’ll probably grow into a flute when he gains better control of his wolf, but he’ll always be one of the woodwinds.” Derek’s hand tensed against Stiles’, and Stiles sucked in a breath when he was hit by the realisation that those hadn’t been his words. Those hadn’t been his thoughts. He looked at Scott, who was looking suitably freaked out. “Well, that’s creepy. What’s with all the musical instruments?”

“Peter was a composer,” Derek said quietly. “He always said that the pack felt like, well –“

“An orchestra,” Stiles finished for him.

“How long is this going to last?” Scott asked.

Derek’s frustrated sigh was a whoosh against Stiles’ neck. “I don’t know.”

“What? How can you not know?” Scott’s voice was shrill. “You’re the one who’s supposed to be teaching me all this stuff, right? Doesn’t that require you knowing about it?

“I know more than you do,” Derek snarled, his arms tightening around Stiles, fingers twitching. Stiles flinched away from the anger he could feel in Derek’s muscles, and almost immediately Derek’s body relaxed, his thumb rubbing against the back of Stiles’ hand in what was probably supposed to be a soothing way but was really just exceedingly distracting. “I was only thirteen when the fire — when it happened. Laura was eighteen. She knew more than me, but there was a lot of stuff we hadn’t been told yet. Stuff that wasn’t as important as learning how to control our wolves.”

“That’s just great.”

“Scott,” Stiles said. “There’s a rule. Only one of us is allowed to panic at a time, and it’s still my turn. Besides, it’ll be fine, right? I’ll just try not to, you know, move my head at all until the cuts close. That won’t be suspicious or anything. But there’s only so much information that Peter could have left behind.”

“I don’t know how to take away what Peter did to you,” Derek said slowly, and Stiles shifted so that he could actually see Derek’s face. Except that that meant that he wasn’t just sitting in Derek’s lap, but being cradled. For a fleeting moment Stiles thought about being embarrassed, but Derek didn’t seem to mind, just adjusted his arms around Stiles and went right back to the thumb stroking thing, and Stiles was honestly too tired to do more than take the comfort. Maybe this was a wolf thing. Scott had been more tactile since being turned, after all. “I can help with the pain though.”

Derek lifted a hand and cupped it around the back of Stiles’ neck, freezing when Stiles flinched away from the touch. “Stiles?” he said warily.

“Sorry,” Stiles said, forcing his muscles to relax back into Derek’s embrace. “Just, uh, Peter sort of did something similar.”

Derek growled, his chest rumbling against Stiles. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Yeah, I know. That would be the ultimate bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you joke, right? Because who would harbor your fugitive ass if I wasn’t around. Just, uh, go slow?”

Derek nodded, eyes locked onto Stiles’ as he moved his hand slowly into Stiles’ personal space and pressed it against his neck. “I didn’t want to do this before,” Derek said with a conversational tone, like they were talking about groceries or something. Except Derek had surprisingly strong opinions on certain types of vegetables, so that didn’t really work. The weather? “Because I wasn’t sure what it might do while you were out of it. But we can help heal others, a little bit.”

With Derek’s words, something surged out of Stiles. There was a tingle reminiscent of his magic, and then…

Stiles rolled his neck around, feeling nothing more than a residual ache in his muscles. The sharp pain of pulled cuts was gone. And best of all, no memories.

“That’s awesome,” Stiles said.

“So awesome,” Scott agreed. “Why haven’t you taught me how to do that yet?”

“Because we’ve been focussing on your control.” Derek peeled the gauze away from Stiles’ neck, and ran his fingers lightly over the smooth skin underneath. “The cuts are gone,” he said, and Stiles shivered at whatever it was that made Derek’s voice drop like that. Exhaustion, probably.

“So, what now?” Scott asked. The way he was watching Derek and Stiles, like he was right on the cusp of realising something, gave Stiles the surge of energy he needed to pull away from Derek’s warmth and stand. He didn’t need Scott finding out about Stiles’ burgeoning crush on Derek – the idiot would probably accidentally say something and then things would be unbearable awkward and Stiles would have to deal with two relationships built entirely on pining. Except it would be so much more difficult with Derek considering Derek was still living in Stiles’ bedroom.

Stiles forced his brain away from the growing problem that was his feelings for Derek, focussing instead on not falling over when he got to his feet. He was getting really good at not thinking about Derek like that, actually. Maybe he could just sublimate the crush until it went away entirely?

“Well,” Stiles said, “Peter wants give us time to think things over about joining him on the dark side, right? In that case, I’m going home and sleeping for at least a year. We can figure out what to do next tomorrow.”

~~~

Derek drove Stiles home, pulling over a block away so that Stiles could take over for the final stretch. “I’ll see you at the house,” Derek said, then vanished into the night like some sort of wolf ninja.

Not even a minute after he pulled into his driveway, Stiles’ father was pulling open the front door and crossing the space to the jeep in angry strides. “Stiles, where the hell have you –“ He cut himself off when Stiles opened his door. “What happened?”

Stiles slid out of the driver’s seat, and wobbled slightly, leaning into his father’s steadying hand. On the drive home any residual adrenaline that Stiles might have had coursing through his system had completely deserted him, leaving him completely wrung out. His arms felt like wet noodles. “Hey, Dad. Sorry I worried you. I, uh, may have had a little bit of a panic attack on the way to the game tonight,” he said sheepishly, aiming for the tone he’d have if he really had just panicked over the pressure of playing first line.

His dad wrapped his arm around Stiles, and guided Stiles to the house. “You should have called me.”

Stiles fished his phone out of his pocket and held it up, showing off the cracked screen. It had probably happened sometime during the fit that Peter had caused, but that just helped with his story. “I kind of lost control.” When Stiles felt his father tense, he added quickly, “No one saw, though! I was alone.”

“How are you feeling now?” Inside the house, Stiles was guided into the living room, and they paused in front of the bookshelf with all their DVD’s.

“Tired. Really, really tired.”

“Hmm. What are you in the mood for?”

The African Queen,” Stiles said, relaxing into the ritual.

“Robert Morley, Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. Good choice.” His dad pulled the DVD off the shelf and handed it over, then steered Stiles to the stairs. “You go up to bed and get settled. I’ll bring you some hot chocolate, and we’ll talk tomorrow, okay?”

“Thanks, Dad,” Stiles said, pulling his dad into a loose hug. “I love you most of all.”

“Love you too, kiddo,” his dad said gruffly.