Title: Earthbound Misfit
Author: Claire Watson
Fandom: Teen Wolf
Genre: Pre-Relationship, Time Travel
Relationship(s): Derek Hale/Stiles Stilinski
Content Rating: R
Warnings: Major Character Death, Violence-Canon Level, Discussion-Murder, Discussion-Genocide
Word Count: 62,600
Summary: When Stiles agreed to be drowned in order to save his dad from the Darach, he didn’t expect to survive. He was okay with that, knowing that Scott would survive and would save his dad for him. He didn’t expect to be met by an older version of himself. Other Stiles made some shocking disclosures about their heritage and then persuaded Stiles to undertake what seemed like an impossible task in order to save everything he loved.
Formatting Note: Translations are provided for words not clearly defined or translated in the narrative. If you encounter an underlined word or phrase, hovering over it will give you more information.
The water was cold, so cold. Stiles concentrated on saving his dad, on the fact that he would give anything, everything, to find him before the darach sacrificed him.
Lydia’s hands were firm on his shoulders as she pushed him under.
As the darkness closed over him, Stiles felt a momentary panic that this wasn’t going to work, that he was going to purposefully drown himself for nothing.
Then, there was light.
Still in his tub, he opened his eyes to the sight of a bright, white, empty room.
Almost empty. Scott and Allison were there, in their own tubs, looking just as surprised as he was.
No one spoke, only the sounds of their breathing and the gentle ripple of water breaking the silence. They hurriedly got out of the freezing water, wet clothes clinging to their skin.
The moment Stiles’ second foot touched the floor, the white surroundings warped and darkened, pulling in on itself. He spun on the spot, alarmed to see that Scott and Allison had vanished, along with all three tubs.
“Scott!” His voice didn’t echo the way he expected it to, sucked away from him like he was shouting in an anechoic chamber.
There was no answer.
The room finished shrinking, and the colour warping started to slow. Stiles stood there, dripping, glad that at least he wasn’t cold anymore.
The wall directly in front of him started to shimmer until it resolved into a menacing figure, staring at him from the other side. Stiles tensed up. Was he going to have to fight his way out? He wasn’t a werewolf, like Scott, or even a hunter, like Allison. He was standing there in his bare feet, with dripping clothes, not even his trusty baseball bat at his side. If this came down to a fight, he was screwed.
The dude in the wall rolled his eyes in a strangely familiar gesture. Familiar enough for Stiles to risk stepping closer.
It was him. The image looking back at him was him.
Stiles cocked his head to one side. Well. A him from the future, maybe. This scarred, scruffy-bearded version of Stiles with the long, wine red hair, was obviously either from an alternate reality or the future or something. “Wow,” he said aloud. “That’s some crazy hair, alternate, scarred me.”
The possibility occurred to him that he could be looking at someone or something that had assumed his form for some reason, but he discarded it immediately. All his instincts were screaming at him that this was him, and that he meant himself no harm. If there was anything that the last year had taught him, it was that he should listen to his instincts. When he ignored them, he ended up leaving his friend in the woods to get bitten or missing out on a chance to persuade Erica and Boyd that running never solved anything.
“Glad to see that I wasn’t a complete idiot,” Other Stiles said. So, he was from the future, then. Although that didn’t explain the hair.
Stiles gave himself a shake. He didn’t have time for this. “Are you going to help me find my dad?”
“I could,” Other Stiles admitted. “Attunement spells are rather basic, and since you’re his only child, you’d have no trouble locating him. There’s not much point, though.”
Stiles’ heart thumped. “He’s already dead? But we sacrificed ourselves. That should—”
Other Stiles waved his hand in a dismissive gesture. “Oh, your ritual—the one that Deaton so helpfully provided for you—was enough to save him today.” He grimaced. “Quite enough. But that isn’t going to help him next month; or next year.”
Stiles frowned. Behind Other Stiles, blurred images appeared. A man he knew instinctively to be his dad, in full uniform, was confronting a faceless figure. The faceless figure pulled a gun. There was no sound, but the kick-back and the impact were obvious. A shadowy version of Stiles appeared just in time to catch his father as he stumbled, guiding him to the ground. Shadowy Stiles lifted his hand, raining lightning down on the figure with the gun. It illuminated everyone within the scene clearly; then, the whole thing faded.
Stiles’ heart was thumping faster. “Who killed him?”
“That’s not important.”
“What?!” Stiles clenched his hands into fists. “How can you say that?”
“It wasn’t the first time he was shot,” Other Stiles explained. “Nor, technically, the worst. The only thing that made it more special than the others was that that was the shot which killed him.”
“I knew that knowing about all of this would get him killed!”
Other Stiles shook his head. His hair moved with the motion, lifting off his face to reveal further disfigurement, a latticework of deep, angry-looking scars. “No. Knowing about the supernatural—learning about what was really going on in this town—kept him alive far longer than ignorance would have.”
Stiles frowned, starting to grow impatient. That made no sense. “Look, you clearly came here for a reason. Why don’t you just get on with it?”
Other Stiles sighed. “You’re right; this space between moments isn’t going to last forever.” When Other Stiles spoke, the scars twisted and stretched. They looked painful, and Stiles couldn’t stop staring at them, wondering how they were caused.
He eventually tore his gaze away and focused on Other Stiles’ eyes. At least they were the same eyes he saw in the mirror each day, which was small comfort in this weird situation. “I’m all ears, dude.”
Other Stiles rocked back on his heels slightly. “So. This sacrifice that you and the other two are doing, it released a lot of power. You could even call it a tsunami of power. Some of it—a truly minuscule amount—went into the location spell, allowing you to find your father. The rest…some of it was gathered by a splinter group of fae. A distinctly larger portion of it was soaked up by the remains of the nemeton itself. This set off a chain reaction that caught the attention of every being in the world with any sensitivity whatsoever. Most of it was lost, it just—” Other Stiles wiggled his fingers, raising his hands upwards and outwards, “—drifted outwards into the world.”
Stiles folded his arms. “A tsunami of power. From me. Yeah, pull the other one. I’m the boring human sidekick.” He eyed the version of himself in front of him. “If you are me, then you managed to get some awesome power-up that no one bothered to supply me with.”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes. Wow, was that what he looked like when he did it? “We have the same genetics,” he said pointedly. “It wasn’t a power-up so much as a release, an unlocking. And even then, we couldn’t go with merely unlocking it, could we? No, for our very first ritual we went the willing virgin sacrifice route.”
Stiles felt his face grow red. “Virginity is a social construct; it has no inherent value!” he argued defensively.
“No inherent societal value except for what you give it, no,” Other Stiles agreed. “Magical value, however… Where do you think the idea first originated from?”
Stiles shrugged. “As a way for men to control and dominate women?”
Other Stiles cocked his head to one side consideringly. “Men certainly did use it for that. But like a lot of everyday traditions and ideas, this one had its roots in magic. A lot has been warped and twisted by time and interpretation, of course. A man’s virginity is no more or less powerful than a woman’s, for starters.” He grimaced. “And then there’s the sensationalism that’s been built up around it. A sacrifice doesn’t need to be a huge production to be effective.”
“You mean, the way I thought that virginal sacrifices always involved blood?” Stiles’ imagination conjured images of altars and scantily clad young men and women, dark knives glinting with blood, descending towards their heaving naked chests.
Other Stiles laughed and pointed finger guns at him. “Yes! Like that. You can use blood, if you want. It wouldn’t have stopped you from achieving your purpose, although it wouldn’t have added anything that the ritual didn’t already have. Blood is often a factor in other ritualistic sacrifices; the unwilling type.” His expression darkened as his hair seemed to lighten. It was almost glowing. “The darach, for instance. Her sacrifices were so obscene, so antithetical to natural methods of power raising, that blood was the only medium open to her. Living blood will always provide power, although it’s not the best conductor. A lot of potential gets lost in transition.”
Stiles shook his head. “You’ve lost me. I thought blood was the ultimate sacrifice?”
“In order for a sacrifice to draw power…” Other Stiles gave himself a shake. “No. We don’t have time for a lecture on magical theory right now. Just take my word for it that an unwilling blood sacrifice is a stupid, wasteful way to raise power. A properly done sex ritual will get much better results.”
Stiles felt his eyes grow round. “There are sex rituals?”
“Yes, which is why virginity is so prized. They…no.” Other Stiles made a sharp chopping motion with his hand. “Later. Right now, we’re talking about the current situation. The bit where you sacrificed your life in a ritual. A shoddily put-together ritual that made no effort to apply limiters or channel any overflow into safe avenues. Even his anchoring precautions were rubbish.”
“Deaton said that our anchors would be enough to draw us back.”
“They are,” Other Stiles agreed. “It’s fae magic 101, something all fae understand and practice. If you ensure you have an appropriate tether before committing your whole self to a ritual, it’s easier to return. You doubted it, though, when you went under. You thought you were going to die, but that it was okay because Scott—with his werewolf constitution—would survive, and he would save your dad.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows and folded his arms, silently daring this future version of himself to make something of it.
Other Stiles ignored him. “The ritual you three agreed to was, on an ordinary day and with ordinary participants, somewhat like turning on a firehose to get a cup of water. Yes, it works, but it’s hardly the most efficient way to achieve your goal.”
Oh my god, did he always waffle so much? Stiles owed his friends so many apologies. “What was out of the ordinary this time?” he prompted, hoping to move things along a little faster.
“Your presence, you nong! It introduced a bunch of other stuff to an already overpowered ritual! The elements that really made a difference start with the fact that this was your first ritual, meaning that there was a huge build-up of power to release.” Other Stiles started ticking items off on his fingers. “After that, there’s your age, your virginity—although those two are paired together—the lack of coercion. Finally, your willingness and intent to sacrifice your life to achieve your goal.”
“Why does the fact that it was my first ritual matter?”
“Because rituals are the primary method that fae use to stabilise their magic. A ritual involves what they call ‘opening the gates,’ which are like inherent magical breakers or dams that hold back the power produced by their cores. In the fae realm, these rituals are held as a matter of course. It’s just part of life. Eat, sleep, ritual magic at festivals. If they didn’t do them regularly, they’d explode. But we’re only half fae.”
Stiles blinked. “I’m sorry, we’re what now?”
Other Stiles waved a hand. “It’s a long story, not really germane to the discussion. I’ll explain more later. Short version? Mom was basically a changeling, a fully fae baby given to a human family to raise. Because of some bullshit fae political issues where neither House would allow the other to have access to her, her magic was removed. They stripped her of her core when she was born, then arranged for her to be exchanged with a recently deceased human baby. Then, both Houses sent watchers to make sure that the other side wasn’t reneging on the deal.”
Half a dozen questions instantly leapt into Stiles’ mind. He blurted out the first one. “Why didn’t they just kill her?”
“Because taking an innocent life leaves a stain on a being’s soul and magic that can’t be hidden and invalidates a whole lot of—no.” Other Stiles glared at him. “Can you just let me say what I need to say? We can’t hang out in this moment indefinitely, you know. Our window will close if we don’t use it, and it’s a one-time-only opportunity.”
Stiles mimed zipping his mouth closed.
“Contrary to what most literature will tell you, fae don’t find humans sexually appealing at all. To them, we’re like faded 2D representations of boringness. The majority of us are fixed into one shape all our lives, and we’re not even aware enough of our own limitations to care. Fae occasionally find humans useful, but most of the time, they’d prefer to pretend we don’t exist. Best I can tell, the two fae making the decisions, the ones who were negotiating the peace treaty, expected mom to feel the same way.” Other Stiles scoffed. “If they put any thought into it at all, that is. In my experience, the older fae get, the more egocentric and frivolous they become. Wise Elders, my ass.”
Stiles nodded his agreement. That sounded like a stupid assumption to make.
“Both groups watching her soon got bored. Babies don’t do much, after all. There was a little posturing, some threats and so on, but eventually, they started talking. Before long, they agreed that, since their primary mission was to ensure the other side didn’t do anything hinky, they’d be essentially fulfilling the same function if they warded her to alert them of any fae interference and just watched each other.
“That way, they could go off and do fun fae things with a clear conscience.” Other Stiles cocked his head to one side. “I suppose it could be considered a triumph of negotiation and diplomacy between Houses. Meanwhile, Mom grew up, moved around, met Dad, got married, and had a baby.”
Stiles braced himself for what was coming next. He knew what the next big thing in his family history was, after all.
Other Stiles sighed and scrubbed his hand over his face. “The thing is, that what happened with Mom…what they did to her had never happened before. Oh, there had been fae stripped of their core once or twice. It’s considered a fate worse than death, and only enacted on those guilty of the worst treason. No one had done any investigation into the possible results of a fae growing up without their magic. Basically, they expected her to age faster than normal fae, and she did. They didn’t expect her brain to essentially eat itself while trying to find something that wasn’t there. I’m not sure that they would have cared, even if they had known.”
Stiles’ breath caught in his throat. His mom’s death was still a sore topic. To discover that it resulted from something done to her, rather than a freak of genetics…he wanted to find whoever had made that choice and have a long discussion with them.
Other Stiles was probably thinking the same thing, going by the dark, distant expression on his face. He blinked, and his gaze focused on Stiles again. “You and me? We’re half fae. Our core was never taken from us, but our human side was dominant. Humans are connected to the earth in a way the fae aren’t—possibly because we evolved here, no one is sure, and there are too many disparate theories to recount—so a build-up of power isn’t going to kill us the way it would a full-blooded fae.
“Until our gates opened, the power our core produced was locked tightly away and just kept piling up, becoming denser and denser. It might have stayed that way if we’d never become involved with the supernatural, but doing that ritual smashed the lock. All the power that had built up over our life came flooding out like a tsunami, amplified by those factors I’ve already mentioned. It’s the kind of power that’s usually only seen once or twice a millennium, and if it had been properly directed, it could have been used to achieve otherwise impossible things.”
He leaned forward. “Do you get it now? We used up a monstrous amount of power to activate one measly location spell! Fuck the firehose analogy; it was like smashing the Hoover Dam to get to a teaspoon of water! It was igniting Yellowstone because it was getting chilly and it was too much bother getting a jacket!” Other Stiles was breathing hard, his face flushed. His hair had brightened to the point of glowing. He looked fearsome, wild, powerful, and full of rage. Stiles swallowed hard.
Other Stiles leaned back and visibly settled himself, his hair gradually darkening back to its original wine red. “On top of everything else, the eruption of magic acted like a beacon. Even after most of it had dissipated, it left a residue behind, a sort of heat-radiation. Anyone, anything, with the slightest amount of magical sensitivity could feel it. The nice things, the things that make the supernatural world a delight? They all stayed home; since it would be rude to just turn up without an invitation. The not so nice things…well, it was like someone had mentioned that there was a pile of fresh pie, and they were all gluttons, wanting as much as they could get.”
“Oh, it gets better,” Other Stiles laughed bitterly. “The undirected power surge seriously rattled the fae realm. By the time the fae regrouped and traced the upheaval back to its source, it was too late. The supernatural world had already been exposed—in the worst possible way—by a group of extremist hunters pushing for the eradication of any part-humans, or anyone else they deemed ‘non-pure.’
“Ordinary people had panicked, battle lines had been drawn, and World War Three was already kicking off. Literally. All you need is one idiot with a nuke, and then you get a chain reaction. One by one, the governments of the earth fell. It was like dominoes.”
Behind Other Stiles, the landscape changed. Four figures strode through the swirling dust, smoke, and flame. The front one was an armoured behemoth; the two flanking it were sick and wasted-looking; at the back glided a hooded figure, holding a scythe with an ominously gleaming blade.
“The four horsemen,” Stiles said, feeling sick. The figure at the back, the one shrouded in black, the one that couldn’t be anyone other than Death, turned its head. Stiles could feel invisible eyes boring into him. What the…
Other Stiles gave an amused cough. “Horsepersons of the apocalypse. Turns out that Death identifies as female.”
Death nodded even as the image faded out.
Stiles shuddered. “That’s not creepy at all.”
Other Stiles shrugged. “Death is everywhere. You get used to it, eventually.” He smiled smugly. “She sort-of likes me.” His smile faded. “Which turns out kind of lucky for us. This wouldn’t be possible without backing. Or, not backing precisely, more…tacit agreement.”
Stiles processed that for a moment. “You persuaded Death to look the other way while you broke the laws of…what, nature?”
Other Stiles smirked. “More like time and space. What can I say? I spin a convincing argument.”
“One I have yet to hear,” Stiles pointed out. “So far, there’s just been an interesting but non-relevant info-dump and a lot of complaining.”
Other Stiles flared his nostrils. “Wow, I was an incredibly annoying asshole. Okay, I’ll try to give you the short-short version.” He held up a hand, even as Stiles opened his mouth. “Aht! I don’t want to listen to any stupid jokes about who might be wearing short-shorts, either. To break it down…the world has gone to shit. With me?”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “Yes, I’ve managed to pick that much up.”
“I’ve worked out what needs to happen, as well as not happen, in order to prevent this specific brand of world-endage.”
“I await your wisdom with bated breath.” Watching as Other Stiles’ nostrils flared again, Stiles wondered if that was a habit he’d already acquired that he wasn’t aware of, or if it was something he’d picked up in the intervening years. It wasn’t attractive.
“The most pressing issue is changing how your magic is released,” Other Stiles explained. “That solves most of our problem. I mean, there’s still a lot of badness that could happen—it’s not like we’re de-nuclearising the planet, or anything—but we’re removing half of the catalyst for this particular apocalypse, which is all we can really do.”
“Hate to burst your bubble,” Stiles said sarcastically, “but it’s a bit late to go changing this ritual. I’ve already made the sacrifice. Secondly, if the release of my magic is one half, what’s the other?”
“The other half is the corruption of the nemeton,” Other Stiles said, looking deadly serious. “The darach…I never was sure just how much she knew about what she was doing. Her five-fold knot—it’s the kind of black magic that stains the earth around it for hundreds, even thousands, of miles. It raises power, but the power itself is antagonistic to the wielder and hardly ever works the way they intend. The energy of the earth isn’t automatically sapient, exactly, but it does have a sort of awareness, and that awareness gets greater the more of it is smashed together.”
“Like the geth,” Stiles suggested.
Other Stiles smiled. It was the first proper smile Stiles had seen from him, and it completely transformed his face. “I’d forgotten about that old computer game. Yes, a bit like the geth. Of course, the geth voluntarily connect to create gestalt entities, but magic—or the energy of the earth which magic users command, or entreat, when performing magical rituals—prefers to exist separately. Like a bunch of fuel cells sitting idle…until someone ignites them.”
Stiles winced. That was a very vivid metaphor.
Other Stiles nodded. “Just so. And that energy doesn’t like being perverted. What the darach did here, is currently doing here? Eventually, even without our magical outburst, the end would have come. She started an unstable chain reaction; all we did was pile more instability on top. It sped things up, making the inevitable crash happen much sooner.”
“Why are you wasting time talking to me then?” Stiles asked impatiently. “Why are you here at all? Why not go back to where your interference can do some fucking good? That way, Dad would never have been kidnapped! We could have kept him out of it!”
Other Stiles shook his head. “He was always going to be involved; it was only a matter of time. In his case, sooner is better. You think he doesn’t know that something is seriously wrong with you? Right now, he’s blaming himself, inching closer and closer to the bottle. Is that what you really want? Without you, he has nothing to keep him fighting.”
Stiles wanted to refute that, protest what Other Stiles was saying. There was a ring of truth to his words, though, and some of the doubts that Stiles had been feeling wouldn’t let him ignore it. In the end, he said nothing, just folded his arms across his chest and lifted his chin.
Other Stiles sighed. “As for the rest…there are several problems with your suggestion. The biggest one is that I can’t. It’s taken everything we—that’s me and the remainder of both royal Houses of fae—had, just to get me back this far; to intercept you in this space between moments. The magic required to reach a precise moment like this is immense. Two seconds later, it would be too late to gather the magic. One second earlier, your magical gates were shut so tight it wouldn’t have worked. In a way, we were lucky that the explosion of power from this sacrifice was so great. It meant that my group had an obvious target to aim for.
“The awakening of my magic, the release of that dam; it opened me up in a way that I never had been before. I became a recognisable magical entity, visible to anyone or anything that knew how to look. That visibility, combined with the fact that I’m essentially travelling back along my own timeline, meant that my team was able to get a lot more distance than we normally would have. Even then, it was a long shot, but it was the only thing any of us could come up with that had a chance of succeeding.” He shrugged. “I’m a bit of a freak, as far as power levels go, but the magic I’ll need to get back to even a second before my power was unlocked, to before I had a magical trail that I can coast down? I don’t have that kind of power anymore. Nobody in my time does.”
“Are you telling me it’s hopeless then?”
“No,” Other Stiles said, rolling his eyes again. Man, he did that a lot. “Do you think I’d bother with all of this if it were hopeless? It’s not. But it will mean…” he hesitated and then squared his shoulders. “I need to take over your body.”
“It won’t be permanent! If you let me take over your body, then I’ll be able to use the power you just released, that huge tsunami of power that I told you about, and punch us both back—probably about six months or so—to before the darach even came to town. I didn’t have the magic to get that far; you do. You don’t have the skill or experience to wield it, nor the knowledge of what needs to be done when we get there, but I do. It makes perfect sense.”
“Why are you even asking me? Why didn’t you just overwhelm me, take it the power, and go?”
Other Stiles sighed. “Even if I was inclined to disregard your right to consent, which I’m not, directed magic is a product of mind and body united. Or body and soul, if you prefer. I might have been you in the past—which will give me a great advantage when wielding your power—but I’m not anymore. The only way your power will yield to me easily enough that I’ll be able to achieve the deftness that this operation needs, is with your willing co-operation.”
Stiles tried to think of sensible questions to ask. The one about whether he had enough power to ignite a sun probably wasn’t germane to the issue at hand. “What happens when we get back there? And why the hell are we only going back six months? Why not a little earlier, to before Scott was even bitten? Or before the Hale fire?” Before Mom died, he thought. He didn’t say it. Watching her die again…he couldn’t do it. Not even for the chance to see her again.
“Time travel is hugely expensive,” Other Stiles explained. “It took every scrap that every fae still alive could scrape together to get me back this far. We did our best to calculate the outcome of taking this path, and the consensus is that we can probably make it seven months at the outside. That’s the optimistic outlook. Six is far more likely, and we can almost certainly do five.
“As to what happens when we get there… First, we have to convince the Stiles of back then to allow us to use his body, the same way that I’m convincing you. Second, you and he… Your memories and experiences are close enough that the two of you should be able to merge together without noticeable trauma.”
“You want me to take over his body?” Stiles yelped. Gross!
“No!” Other Stiles objected. “Well, not really. I mean, yes, but no. It will be his body, and he will still feel like it’s him, but he’ll get your memories of the last six months. You’ll still feel like it’s you, though. You’ll feel like each other. It will be a proper merger.”
Stiles considered that for a moment. That didn’t sound too bad. “What about you?”
Other Stiles shook his head. “It’s theoretically possible, although inadvisable. We may have the same beginnings, but I’ve undergone too many changes, been through too much. Having my memories would undoubtedly be useful from a purely technical aspect, but the trauma attached to feeling as though you’d lived them would be counterproductive to achieving what we need to achieve. Also, I don’t belong in this time. I had to negotiate…” He closed his eyes briefly. “Part of the bargain I made includes my death when my task is complete; if the task itself hasn’t already killed me.” Other Stiles hesitated. “And…you should know…you and younger Stiles…”
Stiles swallowed. “We’re gonna die too, aren’t we?”
“Not necessarily!” Other Stiles winced. “But possibly? Probably. This kind of magic…it’s never been done before. From this point onwards, we’re mostly winging it. Oh, there’s a plan, but it wasn’t like any of this stuff could be tested. Until now, time travel on this scale has been a thought exercise. Death is on our side, but we have to be careful, give Her enough plausible deniability, or there’s going to be no way that She can pretend to be unaware of what’s going on, and She will have to act.”
Stiles stared at his hands. “But we’ll have fixed that future.”
“Yes. I am 70 per cent certain that the plan, as it stands, will stop the future I existed in from coming to pass. And there’s always a possibility that you’ll survive.”
Stiles took a deep breath. “You said that without me, Dad wouldn’t make it.”
Other Stiles shook his head. “He wouldn’t make it if you died, and he was left thinking he’d failed as a parent. You die saving the world? You make it clear that you expect him to go on? He’ll live for that.”
Stiles nodded. It made a certain amount of sense. Any chance was better than the certainty of losing his dad that he was facing right now. “So, seven months at the outside. That’s, what, January? February? Can we go back to before Scott’s even bitten?”
“No. My people checked and double-checked; even our best estimates won’t get us that far.”
“There was a lot happening back then,” Stiles muttered, trying to remember the approximate date that Derek had killed his uncle to become the alpha. If they couldn’t stop Scott from being bitten, then maybe they could skip having to deal with Peter all over again. That had been terrifying. Although, with hindsight… perhaps not as terrifying as what had happened afterwards. He brightened. “We could stop Derek from biting Jackson! Undo that whole kanima mess! Can we go there? It was the same night as the winter formal, which is always mid-February.”
Other Stiles shrugged. “Why not? I’ll aim for there, but I can’t guarantee anything. It may surprise you to hear this, but I’m not actually an expert at this sort of magic.”
“You shock me,” Stiles replied. He squared his shoulders. “Alright then. What are we waiting for?”
Other Stiles hesitated. “It’s going to hurt. I’ll be effectively ripping your mind, your essence, from your body and then shoving it through a barrier that won’t want to give.”
“Drowning wasn’t exactly a walk in the park either, you know. But thanks for the warning.”
Some of the tension that Other Stiles had been carrying fell away. “Put your palm against mine. Whatever happens, don’t move it until it’s over.”
“How will I know when it’s over?”
Other Stiles gave a mirthless laugh. “You’ll know. Now hurry up. Our time is running out.”
Stiles did as instructed, aligning his hand with the one Other Stiles raised on the other side. Other Stiles took a deep breath. His eyes glowed like they were lit from within for a moment before he screamed, a sound so full of pain that Stiles immediately had second thoughts. The possibility of being able to save his dad kept him where he was, even as Other Stiles’ form went indistinct and wavy, leaving a faded representation of a screaming man. In moments, even that disappeared, along with the sound.
Stiles’ hand tingled for a second before pain engulfed him.
It felt like nothing he’d ever experienced. It was more pain than he’d ever imagined existing. It made the electrical shock that he received when he’d tried to free Erica and Boyd feel like a tickle in comparison, the pain in his lungs from drowning an inconvenient spasm. Then the pain grew so great he could no longer think.
When the pain finally ebbed to the point where he could think again, Stiles felt surrounded by pressure, like his whole being was being squeezed. Eventually, that sensation stopped, and he found himself facing yet another Stiles. This one had freshly buzzed hair and was wearing a t-shirt that Stiles had lost to werewolf claws. Other Stiles was there too, although he looked slightly less solid, less real, than before.
Younger Stiles stood there with his mouth open, looking like an idiot. “It’s finally happened,” he said, eyes popping out of his head. “Werewolves have driven me insane, and I’m talking to myself.” He blinked and looked to Stiles’ right. “Two of myselves. And can I say, that’s some crazy hair, weird-scarred-me.”
Stiles couldn’t stop his laugh, although he waved away his younger self’s interrogative eyebrows. “You had to be there.”
Other Stiles sighed. “Are you finished? Can we get on with this?” He turned to Younger Stiles. “Tell me what was happening before you saw us. Are you still dealing with the alpha that bit Scott?”
“Peter?” Younger Stiles looked surprised. “No, we took care of him ages ago. Right now, we’re trying to get proof that Matt is the kanima’s master. We convinced my dad to take us to the station to look at the evidence. We just pulled up outside.”
Stiles’ disappointment that they wouldn’t be able to prevent Jackson from becoming the kanima was overridden by the realisation that they would be able to save the deputies that had died the same night as Matt. He turned to Other Stiles. “It’s the night that Gerard killed Matt and took control of Jackson.”
Other Stiles’ expression was calculating. “We can work with that, I think. It might mean working some loopholes, but…hmm. First, we need to explain to our younger self just what’s going on.”
This time, Stiles was less involved in the conversation and could sit back a bit and evaluate things while Other Stiles delivered his spiel to Younger Stiles. It didn’t help as much as he’d hoped it would. The whole thing was still nuts.
Younger Stiles listened avidly, eyes wide and trained on Other Stiles, except for the few occasions when his gaze strayed towards Stiles.
“Okay,” Younger Stiles said when Other Stiles wound down. “This has been…different. I’ve never actually had a hallucination before. I’m not sure whether I should feel cheated or thrilled. I mean, this is not what I expected a mental break to be like, but on the other hand, this is some crazy, whacked-out shit my brain has thought up.”
Stiles nodded in agreement. “Dude. This is the craziest shit I’ve ever heard, and I researched the kanima.” Other Stiles rolled his eyes. He was looking slightly less desperate, which made Stiles suspicious. “Why aren’t you hurrying the conversation along, like you did the one you had with me?”
Other Stiles shrugged. “We don’t have quite the same constraints as we had back there. We’ve got considerably more time up our sleeves.”
“Wait.” Younger Stiles said. “Are you telling me that you’re not going to leave unless I agree to go along with your crazy plan?”
“No! At least, I don’t think so.” Stiles assured him. He frowned at Other Stiles. “He has a choice, right? You never said anything about us hanging around here forever.”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes. “Yes, you have a choice. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t keep us here long enough to wait you out. We’re in a bubble outside time right now, and that bubble won’t last indefinitely. It’s just that back then, we were being hurried along by the sacrificial ritual you’d just completed; also by the necessity of taking hold of the power it released before Deaton could get his hands on it.” He said ‘Deaton’ like it was a curse word.
Younger Stiles narrowed his eyes. “What do you have against Deaton? As far as I know, he hasn’t steered us wrong.” He wrinkled his nose. “Scott trusts him.”
Other Stiles scoffed. “He hasn’t steered you right, either. Deaton isn’t who he’s made himself out to be, and he’s spent the entirety of his time in Beacon Hills weaving webs of misdirection and uncertainty. You know he used to work with Talia Hale, right? He was acting as the Hale Pack emissary when Katie-Kiddie-Touch turned up. He’s a magic wielder, and fire is one of the easiest things to ward against, yet the Hale house went up like dry kindling.”
Stiles shifted. That had crossed his mind recently, but there hadn’t been time to think things through. He’d put it to one side for later.
“He’s what? An emissary?” Younger Stiles blinked. “Well, maybe he made a mistake. No-one’s perfect, you know.”
Other Stiles raised his eyebrows. “Remember when Scott was bitten? Remember how close he came to going off the rails, the lengths you had to go to to make sure he didn’t hurt himself or others? Remember how panicked you were at having to fly blind?” He leaned forward. “You think a magic-user who had been an emissary of werewolves didn’t know the signs? Why did he let the two of you struggle through it alone?”
Stiles’ jaw dropped. Oh. My. God. Why had he never thought of that? Of course Deaton should have been able to help Scott. So why hadn’t he?
Other Stiles turned his gaze from Younger Stiles to Stiles. “That ritual I interrupted, remember when I said that it was like turning on a firehose to get a cup of water? Any magic-user of Deaton’s age and experience knows that. So why do it?”
Stiles gulped. Shit.
“He was counting on your inexperience,” Other Stiles hammered his point home. “He wanted to draw from the excess of power. He probably didn’t mean for things to happen quite as they did; I mean, he was quite firm in his assurances to you that you were only going to be mostly dead, not dead, dead. If you’d believed him, then the power released would have lost a lot of its desperate strength. It’s also unlikely that he factored your virginity into things.”
Younger Stiles was frowning at Stiles now. “You really expected to die? And you went through with it?”
Stiles shrugged. “Dad had been kidnapped, and I thought it was the only way to find him before he was brutally sacrificed. I figured that if one of us wasn’t going to make it back, it would be me. After all, I’m obviously no werewolf, and I’m not from some ancient hunting dynasty either. But Scott would still have saved him, so…”
Younger Stiles nodded understandingly.
Together they turned to look at Other Stiles, who grimaced. “Okay, now that’s creepy. Stop it.”
Stiles grinned. “So, Deaton isn’t the benevolent figure he pretends to be,” he said to get the conversation moving again. “What is he, then?”
“He’s from a seditious sect of fae that wants to raise a third House and take power, ruling over both realms.”
Younger Stiles blinked. “Are we supposed to understand that?”
Other Stiles sighed. “Fae history is long, storied, and nuanced. Most of it isn’t relevant right now, but here are the basics. For the last several millennia, there have been two primary Houses of fae, the light and the dark.” He smirked. “Fun fact, based on information I found in some of the earliest histories, they originally got those dramatic sounding names based on the preferred colour of their ceremonial robes.”
Younger Stiles looked as incredulous as Stiles felt. “That’s ridiculous.”
Other Stiles shrugged. “The fae frequently make choices that I think are ridiculous. Interestingly, over several thousand years, their magic has evolved differently, so now you can actually tell them apart. Not by how they look, they can shape change at will, but by how their magic manifests.
“Now, Mom was a…let’s just call her an anomaly. She was conceived when two fae, both highly placed in opposite royal Houses, got frisky at a diplomatic Imbolc gathering. It would have been nothing but a titillating scandal, if it hadn’t resulted in a…pregnancy, for want of a better word. New life. Politically, it was a big deal because of how it merged two rather rare and potent bloodlines. Don’t ask me to explain it; it comes down to the use—or the ability to use—some unique and exceedingly powerful magical artefacts, one of the few things they take seriously. Neither House was willing to let the other House have access to such a potentially powerful child. At one point, both sides were preparing for war.”
Stiles grimaced. “Ugh, politics.”
“Eventually, the Houses came to an agreement whereby they would send the child into the world, yadda, yadda. Anyway, Deaton and his ‘sister’ are members of a splinter sect of fae, looking to set themselves up as a third, supreme House. To do that, they need to be able to dominate the other two Houses magically. Their biggest stumbling block has been that the other two Houses have access to centuries of built-up magic stores locked away, along with the aforementioned artefacts which can be used to channel those stores.”
“That was why he wanted my magic,” Stiles realised.
“Exactly. That burst of magic was pure, was connected to both the light and the dark, and would have been perfect for Deaton’s purposes. I’m sure he didn’t mean to end the world.”
“It all just seems so crazy.” Younger Stiles turned to Stiles. “Are you sure you believe him about Deaton? I mean, the guy might not have been all rah-rah cheerleader, and his secretive manner gets up my nose, but I’ve never known him to do anyone harm, have you?”
“Well, yes,” Stiles said, remembering how the whole kanima situation had ended. “He didn’t get his hands dirty, mind you, but he was the mastermind behind the plan.”
Other Stiles raised his eyebrows at Younger Stiles. “His plan for Scott to poison Gerard, with the intent to set him up for long-term torture. Their plan also involved incapacitating Derek and forcing him to give the bite to a man who is arguably his worst enemy.”
Younger Stiles gaped. “What?”
Stiles sighed. “Even at this moment, Scott—at Deaton’s suggestion—is secretly working with Gerard. Oh, he’s going to double-cross him in the end, but there’s a lot of collateral damage first. Unless we can stop it.” He turned to Other Stiles. “We can stop it, right? The deputies killed at the station?”
Other Stiles nodded slowly. “We have to balance their lives out,” he warned. “Five people—including Matt—died that night. If we want to continue our plan, then Death needs to be able to turn a blind eye. That means an equal number of deaths need to happen.”
Stiles screwed his eyes shut as he processed that.
“What are you talking about?” Younger Stiles asked sharply. “What deputies killed at the station?”
Stiles opened his eyes again. “Gerard lured Matt and the kanima to the station,” he explained. “Then arranged for Allison and Chris to join him in assaulting it. Gerard killed Matt, gaining control of the kanima, but in the process, four deputies died. It was…” He shook his dead. “Scott was involved somehow; it’s the only thing that makes sense. He never admitted it, though, so I’m unsure of how much he knew about what was going on.”
Younger Stiles shook his head. “No. He wouldn’t. Scott would never do that!”
“Scott would,” Other Stiles replied. “Scott did.” He eyed Stiles. “Have you figured out what has to happen if you want to save them?”
Stiles nodded. “If it’s a straight swap…there were a bunch of hunters at the station that night. Killers, who signed up to an illegal militia, Gerard’s people. Who knows how many innocent lives they’ve taken? We’ll just…give Death some of them.”
Younger Stiles looked like he wanted to object. Other Stiles nodded. “That’s what I figured.”
“Then why make me say it?”
“You know why I made you say it.”
Younger Stiles looked horrified. “You’re talking about cold-blooded murder!”
“I want to exchange the lives of four voluntary followers of Gerard Argent—people who signed up to walk on the wild side and who are guilty of atrocities of their own—for those of four good people who only died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Stiles took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. “Yes, I suppose it’s murder by proxy. But it’s a bargain I’m willing to make.”
Younger Stiles looked conflicted. “Who died?”
Stiles shook his head. “Does it matter? They died because they were unimportant to a sick and twisted old man intent on pursuing a vendetta against a family who had done him no wrong. They died because that man, having discovered his own mortality, was actively trying to become the thing that he’d hunted all his life, a thing he despised, because he couldn’t face his own death.”
Younger Stiles frowned. “You said that Matt killed them, not Gerard.”
“Gerard chose the station as the confrontation ground,” Other Stiles interrupted. “Between them, he and Scott lured Matt there so that Gerard would be ready for him.”
“Scott wouldn’t do that,” Younger Stiles insisted again.
“Scott was the one who told Gerard who the kanima’s master was,” Other Stiles returned. “A week and a half from now, Gerard and his goons abducted me after the championship game. Allison and Chris had already abducted Erica and Boyd; they were strung up in the basement like slabs of beef.”
Younger Stiles flinched.
“I tried to let them down and was fried by the electrical current that he was pumping through them.” Other Stiles took up the narrative, tone as dispassionate as if he were reciting a list of facts. In a way, he was. For him, it must have been something so far enough in the past that it no longer tore at him. “Gerard was thoughtful enough to explain the need for my presence. See, he likes having a backup plan, does Gerard. I was taken as insurance in case Scott tried to back out of the deal he made. As motivation, or maybe incentive. I didn’t turn out to be very useful, though.”
Stiles could feel the echoes of the shame he’d felt in that moment, the realisation that no one took him seriously enough to consider him even the slightest threat. A feeling that had been compounded by Scott’s complete lack of interest in where he’d been and what had happened to rough him up so badly. Admittedly, it had been a busy night, but they were supposed to be brothers.
Younger Stiles’ eyes flicked rapidly between them. “Scott didn’t save you, did he?”
Stiles scoffed. “Scott was barely aware I went missing; he probably never even noticed my injuries. He was all wrapped up in Allison. Poor, broken-hearted Allison, who’d lost her mother.”
“Oh yes. When Derek rescued Scott—you remember, from when Victoria had him cornered and confused at the rave with that airborne wolfsbane stuff she had—Derek accidentally bit her while he was hallucinating. By now, Victoria has already killed herself, because everyone knows that becoming a werewolf is a fate literally worse than death. Thanks to Scott’s lies, Gerard’s lies, her parents’ lies, and, I don’t know, just standard Argent prejudice, Allison began a vendetta against Derek.”
“But Allison isn’t like the rest of her family.” Younger Stiles sounded less sure of himself than before.
Other Stiles raised his eyebrows. “You remember when Kate captured Derek and kept him prisoner in his own burnt down house? Dear, sweet, wonderful Allison was invited to a torture session by her aunt. That was more than a week before the whole showdown with Peter. That entire week, Derek was being tortured, and Allison knew about it. She chose to do nothing. Except cry a bit because the whole thing was just so upsetting.” He tilted his head slightly. “Oh yeah, she also did some target practice. Nothing says ‘empathy’ and ‘not a psycho’ like ignoring torture.”
Stiles blinked. If that was true, several things that had seemed off about that time period made perfect sense. “How could you even know that?”
“Seeing into the past is hella easy, compared to seeing into the future,” Other Stiles explained, “with an added bonus that, when you’re looking backwards, you can trust what you see to be the truth.”
“Why would she…” Younger Stiles looked genuinely distressed. Stiles could relate. It had been a shock, learning the dark sides of his friends. The worst part of it all wasn’t the actions that they’d taken—Stiles knew that sometimes hard choices needed to be made, and a choice made in the moment might later prove to have been misguided or unnecessary—it was the lack of any kind of remorse. Or even any proper acknowledgement that they’d done wrong.
Other Stiles sighed. “It’s easier to understand when you realise that Allison is bred from a long line of psychopaths. Hell, for all we know, bred from two lines of psychopaths. Despite the historical precedent—where Derek Hale lost almost his entire family and then endured repeated torture without retaliation—she was instantly willing to believe that he was the aggressor. She immediately geared up and went out to kill him. It was only days before she was voluntarily participating in torture against his underage associates to hurt him. Torture. Premeditated torture, even.”
Stiles winced. The torture had been the deal-breaker for him; he couldn’t see Younger Stiles reacting any better.
Younger Stiles’ face went blank. “What do you need me to do?”
Other Stiles leaned forward. “If you allow it, Stiles here will merge his consciousness with yours. For him, it will be like being in a younger body; for you, it will be like gaining memories of things that would happen in the next few months. You would go from being two people to being one person.”
Younger Stiles looked undecided. “I won’t just be overwritten and cease to exist?”
Other Stiles shook his head. “No. It’s a true merger. I’ve already explained to Stiles why I’ll be remaining separate, and why I didn’t just come straight to you. I promise, there was no other way I could see to change things. At least, no way that stood any chance of lasting success.”
Younger Stiles stared at them both for several moments that seemed to stretch out into eternity. “Okay.”
Stiles squinted at him suspiciously. “What? Just like that? You don’t have any more questions for us?”
“Not really,” Younger Stiles answered. “My gut is telling me that this is…right. Best. I don’t quite know how to explain it. Also, I figure if he’s…” he gestured towards Other Stiles, “…already managed to convince you, then going over all that stuff again would just be a waste of time. I’ve already decided, we might as well get on with it.”
“Oh my god, I’ve got the preservation instincts of a suicidally depressed turkey,” Stiles muttered.
Younger Stiles rolled his eyes. “If we’re going to do this, can we hurry up and do it? The more we delay it, the more nervous I’m going to get.”
Other Stiles nodded. “You two, join hands. Now, close your eyes and repeat after me…”
Stiles did as he was told. “One times one equals one. One into one goes once.” It sounded pretty stupid as spells go, but Stiles wasn’t a wizard or a sorcerer; what did he know? He continued. “Two hands, one brain. Two bodies, one being. One being, one body. One times one equals one. One into—”
There was a brief flash of pain, but nothing like earlier. Stiles opened his eyes and glared at Other Stiles. “That hurt!”
Other Stiles shrugged unrepentantly. “No pain, no gain.”
Stiles belatedly noticed that Younger Stiles had disappeared. “Has it happened?”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes.
Stiles ran a hand down over his chest before lifting it to stare at his palm. The two tiny scars he had from where Scott accidentally clawed him last month were missing. “I thought you said we were going to merge. I still feel like me.”
“You’re him, and he’s you. The only difference between you was some memories and a single conversation,” Other Stiles reminded him. “Remember the conversation we just had?”
Stiles blinked. Wow. Remembering something from two perspectives simultaneously made him feel slightly motion sick. “Well, it looked like it worked. What do we do now?”
Other Stiles smiled. It did not look friendly. “Now, you stand back and let me drive for a while. Once we’ve taken care of things at the station, we can sit down and discuss the way forward.”
Stiles frowned. “I know that it’s what needs to happen, but…this is all going to be a big shock to my dad. I know you love him too, but…”
“But we both know that we’re a sarcastic little shit at the best of times,” Other Stiles finished for him. “I’ll do my best not to destroy your relationships while I’m in control. I can’t promise not to, because in the end, getting stuff done is the priority. But I’ll do what I can.”
“I guess that’ll have to do,” Stiles sighed. “It’s going to suck having to watch this without being able to do anything.”
“You’ll still be able to talk to me,” Other Stiles comforted. “I might not be able to answer right away, but I’ll be listening.”
Stiles sighed again. That would just have to do.
When their eyes opened, Stiles, his dad, and Scott had just pulled up to the station. There were only ten or fifteen minutes until Matt and the kanima would be arriving. If Other Stiles wanted to change the fate of the station staff, he’d better get a move on.
It was weird, having someone else in control of his body. To have his eyes open and his gaze make a swift sweep of the surroundings without any direction from him.
“I hope we’re not boring you, Stiles,” Noah said with mild sarcasm. Stiles felt relief flood through him. His dad was safe; his dad was alive. For that alone, this time travel shit was worth everything.
On top of his own relief, he could feel Other Stiles’ riotous emotions. He was somewhat prepared for the grief/joy/longing that looking at his dad invoked, but the strength of the disgusted/angry/repulsed feelings directed at Scott was a bit of a surprise.
What the fuck, dude? Stiles said. Only, he didn’t. He wasn’t in control of his body. He was talking inside his own head, to himself from the future. This whole thing was so ridiculous he was still half expecting to wake up at any moment.
“Just tired, I guess,” Other Stiles said in answer to Noah’s comment. “Hey, Scott, you know what to look for in the hospital footage, right? Why don’t you two go on inside? I’ll just hang here and get some fresh air until I feel better.”
Noah turned back, concerned. “Is something wrong?”
“I just want to take a moment to myself,” Other Stiles assured him. “I’ll join you soon.”
What are you doing?
Noah hesitated before nodding. “See you in five then?”
“Sure thing, Daddio.” As soon as the doors had closed behind them, Other Stiles pulled Stiles’ phone out of his pocket and started tapping out a number from memory. “I know you have questions, but please stop distracting me,” he said aloud. “All you’re achieving is delay, and time is short. If you shut up and pay attention, you’ll get your answers.” As he finished speaking, he pressed ‘call’. It rang twice on the other end before it was picked up.
If Stiles had control of his body, his mouth would be open in shock. What? Why the hell are you calling Harris?
Other Stiles ignored him again. “Myslon, it’s Stiles Stilinski. I’m at the sheriff’s station. As the representative of thefae tasked with my surveillance, I require your presence. A situation has come up that I need your help with. If you ignore me, or take longer than five minutes to get here, I’ll approach Jasteri with an offer of alliance.” He ended the call and immediately began tapping out another number while talking under his breath. “If you want to save the deputies, I don’t have time to coddle you. Shut. Up.”
Stiles subsided, fuming. What an asshole.
“Jasteri, it’s Stiles Stilinski,” Other Stiles said briskly. “As the representative of thefae tasked with my surveillance, I require your presence at the station within the next three minutes. If you ignore me or take too long, I’ll approach Myslon with an offer of alliance.” He ended that call and got out of the car. “They should be here shortly.”
Stiles didn’t bother replying. His mind was going a mile a minute. If Adrian Harris and Tara Graeme were fae from opposing factions…how long had they been in Beacon Hills? Why were they even there? Were they only there to spy on him?
When Harris—or Myslon or whatever—arrived, he looked angrier than Stiles had ever seen him.
Other Stiles didn’t even give Harris a chance to open his mouth. “I need everyone in the station, aside from Scott and my dad, put to sleep for the next hour.”
Harris narrowed his eyes, his face lengthening slightly. “Who are you? You’re not Stilinski!” His hands grew dark and changed shape until they looked a lot more like claws.
Tara Graeme approached from the other direction. Her usual smile was absent, and her hands had also morphed, webbing together and thinning out. They’d started to glow. “I don’t know who or what you are, but if you’ve harmed either Stiles or his father, you will writhe in torment before I kill you!”
Stiles was touched.
Other Stiles rolled his eyes. “By moon and the tree, the sun and the stone; by the sky and river, the blood and the bone.” He did something complicated with his hands and leaned forward slightly. “—”
“Fine,” Harris snapped, nostrils flaring, otherworldliness subsiding. “But my orders preclude me from doing what you ask. I am forbidden to interfere with mortal law enforcement.” He didn’t sound the slightest bit sorry about it.
“Wait,” Tara interrupted, speaking to Harris rather than Stiles. “Even if he is from the gentry, I want assurances that Stiles is okay.”
“I’m fine,” Other Stiles said impatiently. “And so is the Stiles from this time period. He’s watching this right now, actually. I’ve not harmed him in any way, and he willingly gave me control when he understood what I needed to do. He has been altered slightly, but that was unavoidable, considering the type of time travel involved. Is that enough for you? If the two of you want to help me prevent a cataclysm that disrupted the realms so much that it destroyed the courts and the, then you need to do what I say, now. There is no time.”
Harris sneered. “I don’t take commands from you, Stilinski, if that’s really who you are. Personally, I doubt it.”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes then cupped his hands together, concentrating. Almost immediately, Stiles felt a weird, painful pull from his spine. The pulling feeling moved to his hands, where a glowing ball of soft blue light appeared.
Other Stiles started speaking through gritted teeth. “My name is Mieczyslaw Stilinski, known through my teenage years as Stiles. I’m from a future where the fae realm ruptured, and the rahl-kest crumbled. What was left of the people were dying when I came back.” The pain was growing worse. Stiles really hoped that this wasn’t going to last much longer. “If there had been time, I would have presented my explanations before calling you into action. Right now, lives are on the line, and I’m in a hurry.”
Tara’s eyes were wide as she stared at the light Stiles was holding. “Tell me something false.”
“The sky and the earth can be exchanged without consequence.” The glowing ball lost its colour, becoming a lifeless looking grey blob. Other Stiles opened his hands, and the ball dispersed into the air. The pain ebbed away, and Stiles relaxed. That had not been fun.
Harris and Tara exchanged glances. Harris nodded, and Tara turned back to Stiles. “What do you need?”
“A kanima will be arriving any minute now,” Other Stiles stated in a business-like tone, although Stiles could feel his relief that they’d stopped fighting him. “Last time around, Matt Daehler, the kanima’s master, used it to slaughter the deputies inside the station. They were purposeless killings, and I want their lives saved.”
“You’re going to disrupt the balance,” Harris warned.
“Don’t concern yourself about the balance; I’ve got that figured out,” Other Stiles replied.
“It’s your funeral,” Harris shrugged. “What do you suggest we do?”
“Just make sure everyone inside is out of harm’s way. It would also be good if they don’t know what’s going on here tonight. My dad and Scott McCall are in there too, but leave them be. We’re going to need them later.”
Harris shook his head but raised his hands again. He mumbled something under his breath and then flicked his fingers, which remained human-looking the entire time. Was that claw thing an intimidation tactic, then? On someone who ran with werewolves? Sloppy. “Done. Was that all?”
“No. Stiles—the one whose body this is—has a functioning fae core, but has yet to break his gates for the first time.” Harris and Tara both took a step back. Wow. Going by their apprehensive expressions, that was as significant as Other Stiles had said it was. Stiles didn’t know whether he should be comforted or scared by that realisation.
Other Stiles was still talking. “I intend to do that soon. I’ll use the power that’s been building up over his life to do what needs to be done to ensure the realms remain stable. In the meantime, I’m limited to the most basic of earth magic. If you want more answers, there’ll be time for discussion later. For now, at least one of you needs to stay with me; there are some long-standing enchantments I’d like broken and some diversion webs to be cast. There’s also a possibility I’ll need to direct a piece of power manipulation through one of you.” He tilted his head to one side as he looked at them. “Your covers haven’t been blown. If you want it to stay that way, you should shift forms. Chop-chop, time is wasting.”
Leaving them to follow or not, Other Stiles made his way inside to where Scott and Noah were looking through hospital camera footage.
Noah looked up. “Feeling better?”
Other Stiles smiled. “Yep. Fine and dandy.” Scott paused the screen. Stiles wanted to see what had caught his attention, but Other Stiles was more interested in watching Scott, who straightened up and frowned at the door Stiles had just come through.
If Stiles hadn’t known that it was Harris and Tara following him, he would never have recognised them. They’d each chosen forms markedly different to the ones they’d been wearing minutes ago; although, Harris was still a supercilious looking dude who looked like he really needed some sun, and Tara was still a kind-eyed woman.
Noah glanced at Scott before facing the newcomers. “Excuse me, this isn’t a public area.”
“They’re with me,” Other Stiles said, most of his attention still on Scott. “They have skills that will be useful.”
Noah frowned. “You can’t just ask random people for help. This is a criminal investigation!”
“They’re not ‘random people,’ and I need them so we can keep everyone in here safe from the kanima.”
Noah blinked. “The…what?”
Other Stiles was still watching Scott, which meant that Stiles got a full view of how he slightly ducked his head and hunched his shoulders. A neon sign to those who knew him that Scott was feeling guilty. Well, I guess that it’s not just a theory anymore. Scott knew that Matt and the kanima were coming to the station. Which also meant that Scott had deliberately lied to him about the deputies’ deaths. Stiles felt sick. How many more lies were there?
“Kanima,” Other Stiles said, finally looking away from Scott. “It’s a lizard-monster with paralytic venom in its claws. It seeks out someone wanting revenge; they become the master, and the kanima becomes the master’s tool. Currently, Matt Daehler is the master, which means he’s telling it what to attack. Gerard Argent wants to be the kanima’s master, so he’s baited a trap for Matt. Both groups are due here soon.”
Noah’s frown was concerned. “Stiles…are you still feeling unwell?” He reached out to check Stiles’ forehead.
Other Stiles closed his eyes and savoured the touch for a moment before shaking it off. “I’m fine. I know this sounds crazy, but I swear that it’s not. It’s part of something big, something that has been kept from you for too long. Remember when you caught me looking for Laura Hale’s body? Scott was with me that night. He was attacked, bitten by a werewolf. Scott, show him.”
Scott flinched, then slowly shook his head. “I, uh, don’t know what you’re talking about, dude.” It was one of the most unconvincing denials Stiles had ever seen him make. Despite that, he wasn’t surprised when Noah took Scott’s words at face value, focusing on Stiles and looking more worried than ever.
Harris gave a start of surprise. “What the hell is that?” He rounded on Tara. “Did you do that?”
Tara shook her head. “It’s way above my capabilities. I thought it was yours, so I’ve never looked too closely at it. I’d also never seen it being triggered before. It’s clever, but not helpful right now.” She raised her hand and flicked her fingers at Noah. There was a brief sound, like glass shattering.
Noah blinked and then screwed up his nose as if he’d just caught a whiff of something awful. “What was—” He broke off and gave his head a shake. After a swift glance at Stiles, he frowned at Scott. “Scott? You’re a werewolf?”
“That’s a dick move, dude,” Scott snapped, glaring at Stiles.
Other Stiles shrugged. “You’re the one conspiring with a serial killer to bring a murder-lizard here. I don’t owe you anything.”
“You owe me everything! You’re the only reason I’m even like this!” Scott wolfed out and snarled, his eyes flashing yellow. “If it wasn’t for you, Allison and I could be together!”
If Stiles were in control of his body, he probably would have stepped back, tried to placate Scott. After all, he was right. This was all Stiles’ fault.
Other Stiles just rolled his eyes, unmoved. “You were weedy and asthmatic, permanently assigned to the bench and not particularly bright. You think Princess Allison would have given you the time of day if you didn’t have all your new werewolf powers? Please.” Wow. Stiles had never thought of it like that. Allison wasn’t that shallow, was she? Or was she? It wasn’t like Stiles had any way to tell, not that it really mattered.
“She would have! We were meant to be together!”
Noah moved so that he was standing between them. “Alright, I think it’s time for us all to calm down a bit. Stiles, we are going to be talking about this later. Scott? I want you to put your teeth away.” He waited until Scott’s face had resumed its human visage. Then he turned to look at Stiles. “You said a serial killer is on the way here?”
“Technically, at least two serial killers,” Other Stiles responded. “Matt Daehler, who’s responsible for the recent deaths, and Gerard Argent, who’s been killing people for most of his life. Matt is bringing his pet kanima with him, but Gerard will have a bunch of his gun-toting goons. Most of them are serial killers too.”
Scott crossed his arms. “Have you been spying on me? Have you hacked my computer or bugged my phone? How could you know that?”
Other Stiles scoffed. “Dude, your computer login and password are still probably ‘Allison.’ I wouldn’t need to hack your computer; I could just log in and look.”
“Later, I’ll want to hear more about how and why Scott is inviting serial killers anywhere, let alone the station,” Noah interrupted. “Right now, I’m more concerned with the size of this ‘murder-lizard’ you’re expecting. Also, these gunmen.”
“The lizard is a little larger than Jackson Whittemore,” Other Stiles replied. “Don’t ask me where the extra mass comes from. You’d think it would be smaller, since his body would have to convert resources into producing the scales and the venom. I wonder if Jackson wakes up really hungry? It’s got to have a substantial metabolic cost, all that transformation. Although, given that the kanima is a magical creature, maybe it draws energy from ambient magical energy?”
Noah blinked. “Wait, Jackson Whittemore is this kanima? That’s why you locked him in the police van?”
“He doesn’t remember his transformations,” Other Stiles explained. “Which kind of makes sense; he’s not in control of himself. We tried to tell him. My thought was that, in the short term, if he just agreed to be locked up before going to sleep, then at least there wouldn’t be any more deaths while we tried to un-kanima him.”
Noah raised his eyebrows. “You can do that? Is it a curse or something?” He glanced over to Scott, who was still scowling.
Other Stiles snorted. “More like a mental issue. All we have to do is get him to accept himself, and he’ll turn back into a werewolf.”
“Turn back into…Jackson’s a werewolf? I thought you said he was a lizard?”
“Jackson wanted to be a werewolf,” Other Stiles corrected. “He saw Scott strutting his werewolf stuff and wanted some super-strength and super-speed too. Unfortunately, his deeply rooted insecurity over being abandoned as a baby and then adopted meant that it didn’t work out the way he’d intended it to.” He paused. “You know, you’re taking this a lot better than I thought you would.”
Noah pinched the bridge of his nose. “I’m not entirely sure this isn’t some fever dream. The only reason I’m not having a meltdown is that there’s no time. But later? You and I are going to have a long talk about the secrets you’ve been keeping, kiddo. I want some honest answers, for once.”
Stiles felt all the guilt his father had no doubt intended him to feel, but Other Stiles didn’t seem concerned. “That cat has been well and truly let out of the bag. There’s no point in trying to hide anymore.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Noah promised. He blinked. “Hang on, is Lydia Martin a werewolf too?”
“Lydia was bitten by the same werewolf who bit Scott,” Other Stiles confirmed. “She didn’t turn because she was already a supernatural creature. She just hadn’t…woken up that side of herself yet.”
“What about you? No urge to howl at the moon that I should be aware of?”
Other Stiles shook his head. “Peter offered, but I declined.”
“What? When?” Scott asked, shock breaking him out of his sulk.
“Back when we were searching for where Kate was holding Derek,” Other Stiles said offhandedly. “I was tempted, but when I considered the possibility that I would die rather than turn…no. Not to mention that taking the bite would have meant being tied to Crazy Uncle Peter, which, worlds of no.”
“Hang on, you’re talking about Peter Hale, the long-term coma patient who disappeared from the burns unit? You’re saying that he was the one who attacked Lydia Martin?”
“Yeah, and he also bit Scott in the Preserve the night that Laura Hale’s body was found.”
“That was months ago,” Noah said slowly. “I’m still not clear about why you thought it was a good idea to keep all this a secret from me.”
“I thought that if you knew, you’d be in more danger,” Other Stiles admitted. He glared at Scott. “That was before Scotty here decided that it was fine and dandy to shove you right into the line of fire regardless.”
“Gerard promised he’d be fine!” Scott protested. “He said we’d all be fine! He wants to stop the kanima just as much as we do, and this is the only method he would agree to! It’s going to keep everyone alive!”
Other Stiles scoffed. “You’re a naïve fool if you believe anything that a serial-killing mass-murderer tells you. Gerard Argent isn’t interested in saving any life but his own. All you would have achieved tonight is both Jackson’s enslavement—by someone far, far worse than Matt—and the deaths of four people who had nothing to do with any of this.”
Scott’s eyes flashed gold. “How can you say that? Matt’s killed people. Ordinary humans! If he remains the kanima’s master, he’s just going to kill a lot more!”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes. “I don’t deny that Matt is a bad person, but have you looked into the Argent family’s kill count at all? They’re hardly in a position to be throwing stones.”
“The Argents protect the world from supernatural threats,” Scott insisted. “If it weren’t for them, and others like them, werewolves and other supernaturals would have taken over by now. You’ve seen the way Derek’s tried to build his pack since he became the alpha. He’s power-hungry; just admit it!” Scott sounded convinced of his rightness. There wasn’t even the slightest glimmer of uncertainty there; he thought siding with Gerard Argent, even temporarily, was the right choice. It was awful.
Other Stiles rolled his eyes in disgust. “That is the stupidest justification for second-degree murder that I’ve ever heard. You think that Gerard Argent will use Jackson to…what? Bring peace and prosperity to all? No. He wants an obedient killer at his beck and call, one that can’t be identified and is almost impossible to kill. Gerard doesn’t care about any promises he made to you. He doesn’t give a damn—I mean really care—about anything or anyone but himself.”
In the silence that followed, Stiles could hear the outer door to the station open.
Other Stiles turned to Harris and Tara. “That’s Matt and his pet. I know that your magic won’t touch the kanima, but Matt doesn’t have any protections. If you put him to sleep fast enough, then Jackson should revert to his human form. Then we won’t have to deal with a near invulnerable lizard-monster.”
Harris smirked and snapped his fingers. “Done.”
Scott frowned at him, sniffing cautiously. “You sound and smell familiar.”
Noah wrinkled his nose. “You can smell people now? That’s got to be…unpleasant.” Scott looked offended.
“Not as much as you’d think,” Other Stiles replied. “I did a bit of investigation into it. It turns out that part of the transformation from human to werewolf includes significant restructuring of the brain. I worked up a theory that the increased receptors make the emotional connection that most humans have to bad smells no longer a benefit, and so that’s one of the things that gets overwritten.”
Harris and Tara both looked interested at that. Stiles could relate. He was interested too. There were a bunch of questions he wanted to ask, but Other Stiles was already moving.
“You should probably grab the workout gear you keep in the car,” he said over his shoulder to Noah, “since Jackson is going to wake up bare-assed naked.”
Other Stiles was right; Jackson was naked. He was also awake, terrified, and doing his best to cover his fear with a layer of epic-pissed-off-ness.
“What have you done to me this time, Stilinski?” he snarled. “When I tell my father, you’re going to prison! Or maybe the nut-house; because this is sick!”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes. “Look, Malfoy, you were the one blackmailing Derek to get him to bite you. This?” He made a gesture at Jackson’s nudity. “Would never have happened if you’d given him a choice in the matter.”
“Here you go, Mr Whittemore.” Noah handed Jackson a pair of tracksuit pants and a t-shirt. “Get these on. You know, your entrance to the station tonight is going to be on all of the security footage. I’d be happy to show you, so you can see what really happened.”
“Fine.” Jackson snatched the clothes and put them on. Stiles noticed resentfully that even wearing old clothes that were too big for him, Jackson Whittemore was unfairly attractive.
“What should we do with this one?” Tara asked, prodding Matt with her toe.
“We can stash him out of sight for the moment,” Other Stiles sighed. “We can’t just let him wake up; he’d immediately have a kanima at his disposal that he’s shown no compunction about using. On the other hand, killing him seems excessive. Once Jackson is sorted out, Matt won’t be a threat anymore.”
Noah frowned and opened his mouth, but Scott spoke up before he could say anything.
“What? We can’t kill him! What is wrong with you?” Scott’s eyes flashed yellow again.
Other Stiles stared at him. “You do know that the only reason Gerard wanted Matt here tonight was so that he could kill him, right?”
“We’re better than that, Stiles! Or at least, I thought we were. Maybe only I’m better than that. I’m not sure I even know who you are anymore!”
Other Stiles didn’t dignify that with a reply. Stiles’ non-existent mouth was wide open. Did Scott really not take any responsibility for helping to lure someone in so that another person could kill them?
“Oh my god, I can believe how stupid you are, McCall,” Jackson sneered. “If you lead someone to their death with full knowledge that they’re going to be murdered, that makes you an accessory, you dip-shit. As far as the courts are concerned, it’s almost as bad as murder.”
“I didn’t have a choice!” Scott defended himself. “He threatened to hurt my mom!”
“There’s always a choice,” Noah replied, sounding as sick as Stiles was starting to feel. “Assisting a killer is just as morally reprehensible as doing the killing yourself, Scott.”
Scott’s mouth dropped open. “I can’t believe this! Didn’t you just hear Stiles suggest killing him? Why aren’t you jumping all over him for his ‘morally reprehensible’ choices?”
“No one is killing anyone,” Noah said sternly. “Stiles and I are going to be talking about this at length later, but surely you can see…” He scrubbed his hand over his face. “Scott… Stiles talked about killing someone, yes, and killing people as a first resort is always wrong. It’s certainly not a choice someone his age should be making. On the other hand, you’ll notice that he thought it through and decided against it. He knows it’s wrong. He was taking responsibility for the action he was considering, not deflecting or diverting the blame. You…take no ownership of your actions here tonight at all. Or their repercussions. That is what is concerning me.”
Scott folded his arms across his chest and stuck his jaw out stubbornly. “I refuse to be held at fault when I’m the one who refuses to kill. This whole mess is all Stiles’ fault anyway.”
“You weren’t this gung-ho against killing back when we were trying to get rid of Peter,” Other Stiles pointed out. “In fact, I distinctly remember you ranting at Derek for stealing your kill from you.”
“That was different! Killing Peter was going to turn me human! Derek knew that, but he was too focused on becoming the alpha to care about what his actions could mean for me!”
Harris looked riveted. “This is fascinating. I never realised he was a deluded egomaniac, but now that I know, I can’t unsee it.” He spoke quietly, but if it was loud enough for Stiles to hear, then it was plenty loud enough for the werewolf in the room.
Scott turned eagerly towards him. “You can see it too? Derek’s completely obsessed with power! Why else would he turn a bunch of teenagers!”
“Right,” Other Stiles said dryly. “That was totally Derek’s motivation.” He rolled his eyes. “Derek wanted power at any cost, which is why he chose people for whom the bite could make a difference. Like the abuse sufferer, the epileptic, the loner. Totally all about the power. Not even a smidgeon of helping people in there.”
Noah sighed. “I wish you wouldn’t use sarcasm all the time, Stiles.”
Other Stiles shrugged. “What can I say? It’s my first language. Don’t pretend you’re not fluent in it yourself.”
Tara ducked her head, but not fast enough to hide her smile.
“This is a serious discussion, and sometimes sarcasm is taken literally.” Noah didn’t look at Scott, but Stiles, for one, knew exactly who he was talking about.
Huh. Stiles had always thought that Scott understood his sarcasm. Maybe that had been a naïve assumption, going by what had been revealed here tonight.
“Do you have a plan for Mr Daehler yet?” Harris asked impatiently. “Are we going to be standing around here all night?”
“He’s purposefully killed people,” Other Stiles mused. “His murder weapon was a bit unorthodox, and maybe the first couple of deaths, he didn’t know what was going on. But later? He knew exactly what he was doing. If we hadn’t stopped him tonight, he would have ordered his lizard-minion to kill every deputy in the building. That’s four people who had nothing to do with his ‘vendetta,’ or whatever he wants to call it, dead just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Noah shook his head. “Proving that in a court of law is going to be hard.”
Other Stiles nodded. “And, despite being a ginormous douchebag, Jackson isn’t accountable. He doesn’t even remember what he did.”
“Jackson still isn’t certain that this whole thing isn’t a load of crap,” Jackson said. “I’ve yet to see any of this ‘proof’ that you say that you have. Even if you’ve got video footage, I know all about how that stuff can be faked.”
Other Stiles glanced over at Tara. “I have an idea of how to get this sorted out quickly, but I don’t have the—” he waggled his fingers at her, “—resources yet. Would you be willing to help me? It’s a memory share, and it’ll take about twice the amount you’d use for a standard portal.”
“I think I can spare that,” Tara responded. She stepped forward and linked fingers with Other Stiles before closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.
Stiles could feel a sort of prickly warmth flowing into him from Tara’s hand. Other Stiles took a deep breath of his own and beckoned to Jackson with the other one. “Here. I’ll show you something that should help you.”
“What are you doing?” Jackson asked. There was an undercurrent of uncertainty in his tone and expression that revealed how much this business freaked him out. Despite his expressed scepticism, he moved closer. “What are you going to show me?”
“The reason that you’re a kanima is that you lack identity,” Other Stiles explained, reaching out and laying his free hand on Jackson’s chest. “This will answer some of the questions that have been bothering you.” He closed his eyes, blocking Stiles’ view of what was going on. When his eyes opened again, Jackson was staring at him, eyes wide, with none of his usual defences up.
Stiles had been present for Jackson’s transformation from kanima to werewolf once before; back then, he’d thought it was the power of Lydia’s love that did the trick. Stiles was a bit annoyed when Other Stiles turned out to be right that Lydia didn’t really have anything to do with it. Other Stiles was kind of irritating.
“Is that true?” Jackson demanded. “Is that what really happened?”
Other Stiles nodded, dropping Tara’s hand. “They chose you, Jackson. They fell in love with you, and they chose you, even though you didn’t fit with their carefully crafted plans.” He leaned forward, close enough for them to share breath, and looked deep into Jackson’s eyes. “They’re doing the best that they can. Your parents feel like they’re always on the back foot with you because they didn’t do the preparation that they felt was necessary. But they do love you.”
Jackson staggered back and then sank into one of the lobby chairs. “I never thought…why didn’t they tell me?”
“Some people just aren’t that great at communicating,” Other Stiles pointed out. “You picked up your dislike for emotionalism honestly, at least.”
“Don’t front, Godzilla. If emotions were paintings, you’d be Picasso’s Guernica, and you frequently use violence to express your feelings.”
Jackson looked both flattered and offended.
Noah raised his eyebrows. “Since when have you been interested in Surrealism?”
Other Stiles shrugged, turning to Tara. “Did you know that Pablo Picasso was adopted by a band of dusero? Isaac once had an infestation that kept trying to steal his scarves, so I had to read up on them.”
Tara laughed. “That makes sense.”
Scott frowned heavily in the direction of the doorway. “What is he doing here?”
“He who?” Noah asked.
“Derek,” Scott said with a rumbling growl. As it trailed off, Stiles heard the distinctive sound of the Camaro approaching.
That’s right. Derek had been at the station that night, although Stiles never did find out why. Wasn’t that the night that Peter had been resurrected? It had been a busy night.
Derek strode through the doors, his whole demeanour vastly different to what Stiles had become used to. This was a Derek who hadn’t been betrayed by someone who had agreed to be pack, a Derek whose small band of misfits was still all alive and well. A Derek that hadn’t been used against his will to bite Gerard, to kill Boyd. Stiles hadn’t realised just how much those things had altered Derek, weighed him down. This Derek had confidence; he had hope.
Other Stiles’ heart rate went into overdrive, and Derek’s attention immediately turned their way. He tilted his head, flared his nostrils, then strode forward and pushed Other Stiles up against the wall. “You’re not Stiles. What are you? What have you done with him? How long have you possessed him?”
Stiles had grown used to the reaction Derek’s presence caused him. The low-level arousal mixed with embarrassment—because Scott had explained that werewolves could smell that, oh my god—had become familiar. Other Stiles apparently didn’t ‘suffer’ quite the same way. Or he did, but he wasn’t in the least bit embarrassed by it. “Down, boy,” he said, voice turning throaty and suggestive. Derek released him, stepping back immediately. Other Stiles laughed.
“Oh my god, how did I not see it before?” Noah sounded devastated. “How…what happened to Stiles?” He turned on Harris and Tara. “You! You came in with him! What the hell is going on!”
“Relax, Dad,” Other Stiles said. “I’ll be here two, maybe three days tops. Even if I wanted to stay longer, I wouldn’t be able to.” He did a thumbs-up, fist-bump combo sign in his father’s direction, but kept his gaze on Derek. “Hey, Sourwolf, pay close attention to my respiration and chemosignals. I’m Stiles from the future. I’ve come back in time to un-fuck the mess that Scott, the Argents, Deaton, and others, have made. Included in my goals is: helping you, helping your pack, and keeping my dad alive.” He made a sweeping gesture towards Jackson, who was still sitting with his head in his hands. “For my first trick, I de-kanima’d Jackson. Oh, and hey, surprise! It’s a new teenage cousin!”
Derek’s brows drew together. “What.” He released Stiles and stepped back.
“Bet you didn’t know that Peter had a nearly-grown son running around. Hell, from what I’ve managed to piece together, Peter didn’t know. He’s going to be so thrilled!”
“Isn’t Peter the crazy dude we set on fire?” Jackson demanded. “The one who attacked me? That’s who my biological father is?”
Derek’s frown deepened. “Knowing that Peter is his biological father is all it took to undo the kanima?”
“No, accepting the truth about his place in his adoptive parents’ lives undid the kanima,” Other Stiles replied. “Discovering he’s got blood relatives nearby was just a bonus.” He wrinkled his nose. “If you can call discovering that Peter sired you a bonus.”
“Wait,” Scott interjected. “If Jackson is Peter’s son, why couldn’t Derek smell it earlier? Don’t families smell alike?”
Derek stared at him. “Families smell the same because they scent mark each other. Individuals might share similar base smells, but then so could anyone.” His attention turned to Stiles. “Fine. I believe you, for now.”
“He’s telling the truth, sir,” Tara assured Noah. “As far as I can tell, he is Stiles from the future.”
Noah’s eyes widened. “Tara? Tara Graeme? I knew your voice was familiar! How do you look so different!” His eyes narrowed again. “What was that finger flick thing that you did earlier? I’ve been feeling different ever since.”
Tara arched an eyebrow. “Not different bad, I hope?” She gave her head a shake, allowing her features to melt back into the ones that Stiles was more familiar with. “Sorry about that, sir. I had hoped to hide my identity for longer. I’m part of a…task force, so to speak. I’ll be happy to explain myself to you later, when things aren’t quite as pressing.”
“I’ll hold you to that,” Noah promised. “Whatever you did, it’s like…my mind was foggy before, but only a bit. It was so faint that I hadn’t even noticed it. It felt like cobwebs muffling the world were blown away; suddenly, things are much sharper.”
Tara winced. “Sorry, sir. I’d seen the spell work there before, but it had always been dormant, so I left it alone. In fact, until I saw it activate, I didn’t know what it did. It was a clever little net of webs; a bit of misdirection—or perhaps diversion would be a better term—and enhancement all at once, with a nifty proximity layer threaded throughout. The top layer, the one visible when not activated, seemed purely cosmetic.”
That caught Other Stiles’ attention. “I wondered if there was something like that at work. I don’t suppose you traced the caster?”
Tara shook her head. “It was disguised.” She glanced at Harris. “Until tonight, I thought it was yours. Did you catch who did it?”
“No. Which tells its own tale,” Harris pointed out. “Only a master-level mage could have achieved such delicate spellwork without signing their name all over it.”
Noah rested his hands on his hips and frowned at his deputy. “I’d like a bit more detail about what this spell was doing to me, if you don’t mind.”
Tara cleared her throat, glancing at Harris. “I’m not the best one to answer that question. Unlike my colleague, I was never much good at spells.”
Harris preened. “I was one of the youngest masters in recent history; although my colleague here has a knack with unravelling them that I lack,” he allowed. “We would be a good field team, if this posting could ever be reclassified.”
Noah stared at Harris challengingly. “Well?”
“It’s hard to explain,” Harris said. “There are concepts that this language cannot express…any answer I give you will be incomplete and untidy.”
Noah raised his eyebrows. “I’ll do my best to cope.”
“The spell was something we call a net, which is generally made up of multiple webs. A web is…like a magical computer program, I suppose. It was layered on top of your mind, with most of the webs activated by certain interactions with your son,” Harris explained. “When your parental…let’s call it anxiety, concern, worry…reached certain levels, and other conditions were met, there was a re-route. The target for those feelings was shifted.”
Noah closed his eyes and sighed. “To Scott.” He opened his eyes again, looking devastated. He turned to Stiles. “Ah, kiddo. I’m so sorry.”
Stiles felt like he’d been punched in the gut. He’d taken his father’s increasing preference for Scott as proof that he wasn’t loveable, that there was something wrong with him. That Scott must be right, must be good, because Stiles’ father was the best man that Stiles knew, and he clearly thought so…
“Not your fault,” Other Stiles said, voice rough with the unshed tears he was holding back. “Both of us understand, Dad. Neither of us blames you.”
“This kind of magic is insidious,” Harris went on. “A web layered through the mind will eventually be neutralised by the mind’s own defences—provided it’s been tied off and isn’t being constantly reinforced—the same way a body will eject foreign matter. But layered on top, and only activating occasionally…” He shrugged. “It’s harder to notice that there’s something wrong because all of the minor concerns would be treated normally. Things like eating, sleeping, assigning chores…that would have gone on as usual. The first few times a redirect activated, you probably even noticed something wasn’t quite right. But if you don’t have the tools to tell what was going on, then…”
Tara sighed. “Over time, that sort of suggestion can work as a form of brainwashing.”
Noah started to look angry. “You knew there was magic on me, and you let it just stay there?”
“When I saw spells on you, I thought my counterpart must have needed them for something,” Tara said apologetically. “Until I saw it in action, I only saw the top layer of the weave, the enhancement bit. That’s generally considered harmless self-promotion.”
“It’s considered harmless amongst people who can recognise it,” Harris pointed out. He was using the same ‘I can’t believe I have to try and teach these idiots’ tone he used in class. Stiles waited for Scott to notice, to realise who Harris really was. If Scott noticed, he gave no indication of it. “For a human analogy, it would be like walking around wearing make-up. It might cover some skin blemishes, but everyone can see that you’re wearing make-up, so it’s not considered deceptive.”
“What do you mean, tied off?” Noah asked.
“If you think of it like a spider web, one that’s been tied off is a closed system, something that exists separate from you,” Tara explained. “Most tied off webs are constructed in such a way as to draw power from ambient magic, thus making them an efficient tool. They could conceivably continue functioning until the caster’s death, at which time all non-ritual workings fade. The problem with a tied-off web is that the caster loses contact with it. It can no longer be adjusted, and if something happens to it—”
“Such as someone dispersing it,” Other Stiles interjected with a wiggle of his fingers.
“Yes, or if a magical upheaval disrupts it, the caster has no way of knowing without physically looking at it. When a web hasn’t been tied off, the caster keeps a line of magic connected to it. Like a spider connected to its web, the caster is informed about what’s happening. But that connection is magically taxing, a constant drain on the caster. Too many untied webs at once, and a magic-user can exhaust themselves. Possibly to death.”
“What are you all talking about?” Scott asked, sounding baffled. “Why is no one worried about Stiles claiming to be a time traveller? A time-traveller who has already talked about killing people!”
“Someone cast a spell on the sheriff, a spell that makes him ignore his son and love you instead,” Derek informed him, scowling. “Stiles being a time-traveller is concerning, yes, but he’s already proved that his intentions are good. Right now, I’m more worried that we have a secret spellcaster around, one with enough skill that they can cast undetectable spells on other people. I was always taught that glamours could only be self-applied and that they failed if the wearer lost consciousness.”
Harris shrugged. “That’s probably true of human mages. The spell on the sheriff was cast by one of the people.”
“What people? We only have your word for it that it wasn’t your work to start with,” Scott accused.
“It wasn’t him,” Other Stiles said, having exerted that iron control again and now acting like his whole world hadn’t been rocked. For once, Stiles was glad Other Stiles was operating his body. It meant that he could have a quiet meltdown without the embarrassment of Derek, Jackson, and Harris witnessing it. “Aside from the strict rules he’s under and the lack of anything even resembling motivation, if it was him, then it would have dispersed when he died. It didn’t.”
Harris’ mouth dropped open. “Died? When!?”
Other Stiles shrugged. “We’re still in March now, right? So, it was less than six months from now. A darach sacrificed you both,” he gestured at Harris and Tara, “as part of a five-fold knot. She wanted to awaken the remains of the Beacon Hills nemeton, to use its power in a revenge plot against a bunch of alpha werewolves who liked to call themselves an Alpha Pack.”
Derek looked interested. “An Alpha Pack? Really?”
“They weren’t a real Alpha Pack,” Other Stiles informed him. “Just a group of power-hungry werewolves held in thrall to a cult of personality. Their leader, Deucalion, apparently went insane after Gerard lured him in by pretending to want peace talks, only to subsequently attack and permanently blind him.”
Tara looked sick. “Argent permanently blinded an alpha werewolf? How? And why? What would be the purpose of such a thing?”
“Don’t ask me to explain the thought processes of Argents,” Other Stiles replied. “At a guess, normal torture wasn’t doing it for him anymore.”
“Torture?” Noah asked sharply. “What do you mean, torture?”
“Oh, one of the fun aspects of the Argent family is this neat hobby they have, where they like to capture and torture werewolves,” Other Stiles said offhandedly. “Derek here could give you a first-hand account, if you asked him nicely enough.”
“Not all the Argents,” Scott objected. “Allison isn’t like the rest of her family!”
“Oh, please.” Other Stiles rolled his eyes. “All Allison needed was a tiny push, and she was out stalking and shooting underage werewolves and bringing them back for her grandfather to torture. That grandfather is the acting Principal of the school that those teenagers went to, by the way. Oh, and hey, fun fact; you know how Gerard just happened to have a job at the school waiting for him? Wanna know how that came about? Chris and Victoria captured and tortured Principal Thomas so that there would be an opening.”
“I’ve heard a lot of accusations, but I haven’t seen much proof,” Scott pointed out.
“I’m from the future,” Other Stiles said slowly, like Scott was an idiot. Stiles didn’t blame him. “I don’t have any proof that you would accept, only knowledge. If you want to ignore my warnings about the man—who, oh yeah, has already threatened your mother’s life—and disregard my information about his torture-happy, psycho family, then that’s on you.”
“I know Stiles’ tells,” Derek put in. “He’s telling the truth.”
“What he believes to be the truth,” Scott argued. “He might just be insane. Or maybe he’s learned to lie better in the future.”
Other Stiles shrugged. “If I’m insane—or lying—and nothing I say has any bearing on reality, then Gerard, Allison, Chris, and a pile of their hunter minions won’t be turning up to bag themselves a kanima.” He cocked his head slightly. “Huh, I never thought to question why they didn’t grab Derek, as well. I guess their restraints might not be capable of holding an alpha werewolf long-term. Or maybe Gerard thought that Allison might kill him too early or something. But then, since his end goal was to get Derek to bite him, why wait? What did that achieve?”
Derek’s eyebrows were at murder level four. “He wants the bite? And he thinks that I’ll give it to him?”
“Gerard’s got an advanced form of cancer,” Other Stiles informed him. “Modern medicine failed, so he went looking for another solution. He wasn’t going to ask your permission about the bite, either. That’s one of the things he wants a kanima for, so that you’ll be paralysed and unable to resist. The fun part? In my timeline, Scott physically held your teeth to Gerard’s arm until they penetrated.”
Hearing it spelt out like that was awful. Stiles had never really thought about how much like rape it had been when Scott had held Derek and forced him to bite Gerard.
“That’s disgusting,” Jackson said, sounding as horrified as Stiles felt. “I take it consent isn’t high on your list of priorities, McCall!”
“What? I didn’t rape anyone!” Scott objected, offended. “And I told you, I had to save my mom!”
Other Stiles shook his head. “There’s no point trying to explain it. I never could get Scott to realise the gravity of what he’d done. In his mind, the fact that Peter turned him into a werewolf made anything he did to Derek okay.”
Jackson grimaced and moved closer to Derek. Stiles didn’t know if it was a conscious thing or if he was reacting to the visible distress Derek was in.
Tara’s brow creased, and she pursed her lips. “I take it Argent’s plan was to kill Mr Hale and take the alpha spark for himself?”
“Yep,” Other Stiles confirmed. “Scotty here switched out Gerard’s cancer meds for copies filled with mountain ash, so instead of going all ‘Grr, arg,’ Gerard collapsed in a black-goo-vomiting mess instead.”
Noah raised an eyebrow. “I thought that Gerard and Scott were working together?”
“They sort of are,” Other Stiles confirmed. “Both of them were really working for themselves, and they both intended to screw each other over. Keep in mind that Gerard’s not the only one who’s been whispering in Scotty’s ear. Scott’s other accomplice probably thought that if Derek ‘happened’ to be here and was killed, then there would be one less thing to worry about. Or maybe he just thought it would be funny to throw a spanner into Gerard’s plans, I don’t know. Deaton never sat down and explained his motivations to anyone, so I have a lot of supposition going on there.”
Scott gaped at him. “How did you…if you know what the plan is, why are you acting like I’m doing something wrong? It’s a good plan! It will work! Are you just pissed off because it’s not your plan?”
Other Stiles opened his mouth to respond when his attention was diverted by Derek’s head lifting suddenly.
Derek’s eyes glimmered red for a moment, and he tensed up. “Looks like we’ve got company. Three SUV’s, multiple heartbeats. More than nine, not more than twelve.”
Other Stiles curled his lip. “Gerard, Allison, and their band of gun-toting, murderous thugs. Right on time.” He sent a scornful look Scott’s way. “Still don’t believe I’m from the future?”
Scott folded his arms, set his jaw, and refused to answer.
Noah sighed. “I’m completely out of my depth here,” he said to Other Stiles. “There’s no way I can protect everyone. I’m not even armed, not that a single man with a gun would be effective against twelve armed assailants. I’m open to suggestions as to how we handle this. I take it that you have a plan?”
Other Stiles nodded. “The hunters don’t care who they kill,” he advised them. “Last time, they opened fire on the station with automatic weapons. Correct me if I’m wrong, but no one here is immortal, right?” He looked pointedly at Harris and Tara. “Can I count on your help?”
Harris heaved a grudging sigh. “We’ve come this far; there’s no point in holding back at this stage. You seem to know what you’re doing.”
“We can probably swing it under ‘protection of principal,’” Tara offered, smiling.
“Let me know how that works out for you,” Harris returned. “Very well, Mr Stilinski. We will aid you.”
Other Stiles gave Scott an evaluating stare. “Can I trust you to keep your head? If you warn the hunters and they start trying to kill us, we will fight back with lethal force. I can confidently predict that most of the attackers will die.”
“You can’t kill Allison!”
“If she attacks us, we absolutely can.” Other Stiles stared him down. “If you let me deal with this how I want, she has a much higher chance of making it out alive.”
Scott clenched his teeth and scowled. All he needed was a leather jacket, and he’d look like a substandard cosplay of Derek. “Fine. I’ll co-operate. For Allison.”
Stiles mentally rolled his eyes. What a difference a bit of perspective change caused; instead of wanting to do everything he could to help Scott and Allison and their tragic, star-crossed love, he found the whole thing trite and annoying.
Other Stiles had already turned back to Harris and Tara. “How depleted are your reserves?”
Harris looked affronted. “We’re elite operatives, Stilinski. Between us, we could take out half the town before running dangerously low. I’m sure we can manage a bunch of human thugs. Did you want us to deploy sleeping spells?”
Other Stiles considered that. “Maybe we should go with some kinetic barriers, to start with. If we wait for their opening volley, we’ll have proof that the hunters are the aggressors. Then we can put them to sleep while we decide what needs to be done.”
“Interesting uses of the word, ‘we,’” Harris muttered under his breath. He and Tara exchanged nods, then both lifted their hands and closed their eyes. Stiles was fascinated to see the air directly in front of him go slightly opaque. Harris grimaced. “We can hold these for several hours, although I trust that won’t be necessary. Please inform us when you wish us to drop them.”
Noah reached out a wondering hand, trailing his fingers over whatever he could feel in front of him. Out of the corner of his eye, Stiles could see Jackson and Scott doing the same thing. Derek just stood there, scowling at the entrance like he expected the force of his anger to manifest and claw up the invading hunters.
“Would the children please stop poking holes in the magical barrier,” Harris gritted out from between clenched teeth. Noah, Jackson and Scott all dropped their hands guiltily.
“You sound just like Harris,” Jackson accused.
Scot gasped. “That’s who you are! I knew you were familiar!”
Derek turned to stare incredulously at Scott for a moment. “The only thing he changed about himself was how he looked, and you couldn’t tell he was your teacher?”
“Perhaps this is a discussion that we could postpone until after we’ve dealt with the armed force approaching,” Noah suggested. “Stiles, is it essential that we allow the station to be so severely damaged? The budget is already tight.”
Other Stiles shrugged. “I wouldn’t worry about it. The Argents have deep wallets, and there’s going to be plenty of proof that they attacked. You’ll be able to match bullets to guns, and guns to Argent ‘stock.’”
Stiles hadn’t considered that side of things before. As far as he knew, one of his dad’s first hurdles upon being reinstated as sheriff had been trying to juggle hiring new deputies along with getting the station fixed up. Had the Argents contributed any funds towards paying for the destruction they’d caused? Stiles didn’t remember hearing about anything like that.
His inner musings were broken by the sound of gunfire. Bullets, glass, and other shrapnel were sent flying towards them. Instead of bouncing off the shields, as Stiles had expected, the oncoming matter parted in front and flowed around to the back, where they continued their trajectory as if it had never been interrupted.
After what seemed like an age, the barrage came to a stop. The resulting silence seemed almost louder than the noise had been.
In the quiet, Stiles heard the footsteps of multiple people approaching.
Other Stiles took a deep breath. Looked like it was game time.
They stood in silence, waiting for the door to open. The only sounds were the oncoming footsteps, the tinkle of airborne debris falling to the ground, and breathing.
Jackson sneezed loudly, causing the footsteps outside to stop. Other Stiles turned to glare at him. Jackson raised his hands, but it looked more indignant than apologetic.
Other Stiles turned back to the entrance in time to see a steel muzzle edge around the door frame. When Other Stiles rolled his eyes, Stiles was right along there with him. Looked like there was at least one hunter who thought tv and movies were documentaries or something.
Other Stiles signalled to Harris, who nodded and snapped his fingers. The sound of bodies falling to the ground outside was accompanied by several gunshots. Moments later, the shields faded away.
“Allison!” Scott bolted for the door.
Derek heaved a sigh that spoke volumes.
Other Stiles gently patted one muscular bicep. “There, there.”
“That boy has a very one-track mind,” Noah observed, nonplussed.
“Word,” Jackson agreed. His nose wrinkled as Scott came back inside, with Allison carried tenderly in his arms. “Ugh. I never noticed that strange smell before. It’s gone right inside my nose.” He sneezed again.
Derek nodded. “That’s aconite. It’s one of the few relatively easily sourced poisons that will affect supernatural creatures, so hunters tend to use a lot of it. Not everyone who smells like that is a hunter—it’s a pretty flower, and some people just like the idea of having murder gardens with no intention of actually murdering anyone—but it pays to be aware that they might be.”
In the corner of his vision, Stiles saw a small shadow move along the skirting board. There was a glint of light shining off metal and a ‘SQUEAK’ on the edge of his hearing.
Other Stiles sighed. “I suppose we should get on with this. Derek, Jackson, would you mind bringing our guests inside and laying them out on the floor? I want to get a good look at them.”
Jackson’s sneer came across as more rote than heartfelt, and his grumbled, “Not your servant, Stilinski,” held no heat.
Derek rolled his eyes and just headed towards the door. “Let’s just get this done.” Jackson followed without further protest.
“We should probably clear an area to lay them on,” Noah suggested. “There’s a broom and a mop in the office behind the front desk.”
Tara, used to following her boss’s ‘suggestions,’ headed towards the front desk.
“They were the ones who made the mess,” Other Stiles disagreed. “Let them lie in it. No skin off my nose.” Harris nodded his approval. His willingness to co-operate was weirding Stiles out a bit, but Other Stiles didn’t seem to notice anything strange.
Scott’s complete focus was on Allison. “Bring her father and grandfather over here.”
“Get them yourself, if you care that much,” Jackson retorted. “I’m quite happy to avoid having to touch them, personally.”
Scott reluctantly left Allison long enough to bring Chris and Gerard in, laying them on either side of his lover like some comatose honour guard.
Just as Jackson dropped the last hunter unceremoniously to the floor, Stiles noticed that a figure in a hooded robe had joined them.
“Come to check up on me?” Other Stiles asked with false cheer. “I was under the impression that your lot were more ‘behind-the-scenes’ operators.”
WE SHOW UP MORE THAN YOU’D THINK, Death replied. Her voice wasn’t loud, but it echoed in Stiles’ bones. MOST MORTALS CHOOSE NOT TO SEE US. SOMETIMES, WE INSIST ON BEING SEEN.
Tara bowed deeply. “I greet you, on behalf of—”
Death didn’t wait for her to finish. YES, YES, LET’S NOT GET BOGGED DOWN IN FORMALITIES. I’M HERE FOR FIVE.
“Right,” Other Stiles replied. He picked up Allison’s crossbow with his right hand and Gerard’s gun with the left. Stiles steeled his metaphorical heart. He knew it needed to be done, and while he wasn’t precisely sorry about it, it wasn’t something to take pleasure in.
“Stiles,” Noah said warily, dragging his horrified gaze away from Death. “What are you going to do?”
“There’s still much to be done,” Other Stiles said, meeting his gaze unflinchingly. “I’ll need another couple of days at least, perhaps more. I’m not going to get that time if we force the hand of the cosmos. If we don’t want to be busted for time tampering, Death’s ledger has to balance. Five lives.”
“Son,” Noah started, before closing his eyes and sighing. “I won’t try to stop you, but I won’t be able to look the other way either.”
Harris snorted. “If you think that I plan to leave any evidence behind that implicates any of us, you’re wrong. I have no intention of wasting years of my life keeping watch over a prison.”
“You mean that you’ll let him kill as many people as he wants and just clean up after him?” Scott looked horrified. “That’s monstrous!” His gaze turned to Stiles. “And you! You can’t be Stiles; Stiles would never do this! I’m going to stop you!”
You could just have Harris put him to sleep, then forget and leave him in a coma? Stiles suggested. He felt his mouth twitch with Other Stiles’ amusement. His light-heartedness faded away as he returned to contemplating what they were about to do.
“I don’t want to do this, but it was either the hunters or the deputies,” Other Stiles said out loud, staring at Scott.
“How about none! No one has to die! They’re out cold, for god’s sake.”
“If Stiles doesn’t make a choice, then the choice will be made for him,” Tara explained to Scott. “Probably with his own life added, as a penalty. It’s how it works. If you negotiate an exchange with a cosmic being and then don’t follow through with your part…five lives. Possibly more. The deputies would be safe, but the rest of us wouldn’t be.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Scott said. “Why would cosmic beings even care?”
Tara shrugged. “Sometimes these things don’t make sense, especially if you don’t have a full understanding of the situation. Just because you don’t know why the rule is there doesn’t mean that you can just disregard it. Not without consequences, anyway.”
“I, for one, have no intention of dying for your misplaced empathy, McCall,” Harris said, looking down his nose at Scott. “If Mr Stilinski doesn’t feel up to making the choice, I’ll do it myself. And McCall…if you make a single threatening move in his direction, I’ll stop you myself.”
Other Stiles shook his head. “Thank you for the offer, but it was my decision to alter events; the responsibility to see it through is mine.” He hesitated. “Although… Would you be willing to line the attackers up in order of aura decay? I’d hate to accidentally choose someone who hadn’t corrupted their soul yet.”
Harris shrugged. “Provided your werewolf friends take care of the heavy lifting, why not?”
Scott snarled angrily. “Why are you suddenly so ready to help him? You’ve been a dick to him for years!”
“Mr Whittemore, the blond one with the scratched-up shoes should go on the end here,” Harris directed Jackson. “Mr Hale, that fellow with the chain necklace can be placed on his right.”
Scott hated being ignored. “I asked you a question!”
“Mr McCall, I have never been, nor will I ever be, answerable to you. Mr Hale, the bald gentleman, the shorter one, yes, that’s the one, he’s next. Mr Whittemore, if you could bring me that man on your left. No, your other left. That’s the one. Next is…let me see.”
“Remember Matt Daehler,” Other Stiles reminded them.
“He’s got some worrying marks for someone his age,” Tara remarked. “There’s a trauma there that warped him. If we could remove that from his psyche, it might allow him to be rehabilitated. Otherwise…” She shrugged helplessly. “It’s only a matter of time before the corruption is too deeply set to do anything about.”
“There was the stalking,” Other Stiles mused. “That was a separate matter from the vengeance murders. I don’t feel comfortable making permanent alterations to his mind without his consent, and he can’t be allowed to walk free and prey on others. Also, I only technically bargained for the lives of the deputies. Matt’s death is separate. It might be best to leave it the way it was.”
“Let’s get this morbid line-up done,” Harris interjected. “Who would you say is next?”
“Chris Argent,” Tara suggested, glancing over to where Chris and Allison were nervously guarded by Scott.
“Leave Allison’s dad alone!”
Harris ignored Scott, gesturing at one of the remaining hunters. “You think he’s more decayed than this fellow?”
Tara considered them both, gaze darting between them.
Scott turned desperately to Derek. “You have to help me stop this! There’s no proof that they’re criminals!”
Derek gave him a flat stare. “You want me to speak up to save the lives of a bunch of hunters? Killers, who run around with Gerard Argent, the man who likely masterminded the murder of most of my pack? You do recall admitting your plan to betray me to him?”
Scott had the grace to look slightly embarrassed. “I had to save my mom! Deaton explained that we could incapacitate him without killing him. I just wanted us all to be safe!”
“God, you’re thick,” Jackson said rudely. “A man with late-stage cancer is going to die all on his own without anyone’s help. All you had to do was tell Derek, so he knew to make sure Gerard never got hold of him. Problem solved; no killing required! Instead, you helped orchestrate an armed assault on the sheriff’s station in a move that, according to Stilinski—who had to time-travel to fix this fuck up—ended with him gaining a pet killer. Me. Good one, dickhead.”
Scott frowned. “That wasn’t my fault; I couldn’t have known that was going to happen!”
Jackson rolled his eyes. “Right. You couldn’t have known that co-operating with a killer would turn out badly for people. How awful for you.”
Noah was looking at Other Stiles with worry and concern. “Is there anything I can do to stop this? I know that you’re a time-traveller and technically older than me, but it feels wrong. You’re still my son.”
Other Stiles sighed. “Dad, I’m nearly a hundred years old; I’ve fought in a war. One time I was captured, woke up in a hunter lab, and ended up killing one of them with a scapula before I stole a gun and shot my way out.”
Noah blinked. “Don’t you mean scalpel?”
Other Stiles laughed. “No, I meant exactly what I said. I grabbed the first thing I could reach, and the pointy bit went in his eye. He fell over and broke his neck, giving me the time I needed to get free and find a gun. This,” his gesture encompassed everything in the room, from the insensible hunters to the werewolves and fae, “is part of that war. I’m sorry that it’s spilling over into your world. I wish I could spare you from this, but—”
“I don’t want to be spared,” Noah interrupted fiercely. “If this is your life, is this is my Stiles’ life, then I want to be part of it.”
Other Stiles’ smile was half-hearted. “Even if it means you sometimes have to take your sheriff hat off? Standard policing doesn’t work when dealing with supernatural, or supernatural adjacent.”
Noah shook his head. “It will take a bit of getting used to, but I can adapt.”
Stiles didn’t know if he wanted to laugh or cry. He’d been so worried that this would be it, the thing that made his dad give up on him. This acceptance was more than he’d thought possible.
Other Stiles’ smile widened and became more genuine. “Thank you.”
Harris stepped back. He surveyed his work with a gimlet eye before giving a decisive nod. “Finished.”
Other Stiles looked at the arrangement of comatose hunters in front of him. “I see you’ve left Allison and Gerard off the scale. Care to share why?”
“The girl’s decay is only in the initial stages,” Tara explained. “There’s still a chance for her. It’s slim, but it’s there.”
“Fair enough,” Other Stiles replied. “And Gerard?”
“That one is confusing,” Harris said with a frown. “I would have expected a hunter, especially one with as much innocent blood on his hands as you’ve said he has, to have an aura in a state of advanced corruption. His aura looks clean. Almost too clean.” He flicked his fingers in Gerard’s direction, and his frown deepened. “I’m not detecting a glamour.”
Tara cocked her head to one side. “Did you see the way your magic fell towards him when it dispersed? What if it’s a glamour, only instead of using a standard weave, whoever built it used a siphon?”
“What’s a siphon?” Noah asked.
“It’s a way to drain and store ambient magical energy,” Harris replied, brow furrowed in thought as he gazed consideringly at Gerard. “They’re fiddly; they’re prone to overload and explode if the caster isn’t careful. I don’t know that they could have created a siphon from a glamour, but if they managed to attach them together so that the siphon is powering the glamour…”
“Then detection magic wouldn’t reflect, like it would a standard weave, it would be absorbed by the siphon,” Tara finished.
“A siphon is significantly more advanced than what a human can achieve,” Harris replied. “I wouldn’t have thought… Let me see. If it’s a siphon connected to a glamour, they couldn’t possibly have left traps as well. What if…” He raised his eyebrow at Tara. “You’ve got a denser resting magical output. If I create a channel to consolidate the force, would you like to try overloading it?”
“Okay.” Tara concentrated, then gathered what looked like an imaginary snowball in her hands. She shaped and compacted it, then waited for Harris to nod in her direction before throwing it directly at Gerard’s prone form.
Almost instantly, the two fae recoiled with horror. Stiles was torn between wanting to see what had caused that reaction and being glad that he couldn’t.
“That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen,” Tara choked out. “I wish we could put the glamour back up.”
Harris had recovered and was glaring at Gerard. “I was right the first time; that wasn’t a human spell. That siphon was built by one of the people.”
Tara nodded and turned so that Gerard was outside her field of vision. “More than one, I think. But to what purpose?”
Other Stiles waved to get their attention. “Hey, why could a group of fae possibly want to enable and protect someone whose life work is to destabilise the balance? Although, there is no proof that the group of hunters Gerard belongs to is aware that their actions are upsetting the magical ecosystem. Could the fae involved be hoping to take advantage of the upheaval, raising a new House?”
Harris turned his scowl on Other Stiles. “What did you say?”
Other Stiles raised an eyebrow. “You heard me. Beacon Hills is hosting at least two representatives of this prospective House. One of them is currently working at the school.”
Tara looked furious. “You will tell me their names and occupations at once!”
Other Stiles shrugged. “Marin Morrell, French teacher and guidance counsellor at Beacon Hills High School; and Alan Deaton, veterinarian. They’re both posing as druids, and both have taken emissary roles in the recent past. To my knowledge they have no direct contact with hunters as an organisation, yet the packs that they’ve been connected to have either been wiped out by hunters or have collapsed from within. On one occasion, both.”
“Morrell!” Harris spat, at the same time as Tara said, “Deaton?”
“Yes,” Other Stiles replied. “To both of you. I don’t know if they’re the ones who set the siphon; I don’t even know if it was their group. The magic that they use to obscure their meetings from external observation prevented my group from scrying them when we were gathering knowledge.”
“Who else could it be?” Tara asked, still angry.
“There’s a possibility that the hunter clerics might be involved,” Other Stiles said. “Even if the spell work wasn’t done by hunter clerics directly, then perhaps there’s a fae group connected with them. We had a limited amount of time and resources, so we couldn’t dig as deeply into the clerics as we wanted to. They’re drawn from hunter ranks, though, and they’re human rather than fae. But that doesn’t rule out collaboration.”
Harris stared at him. “You think two separate clusters ofcould be interfering with the same group?”
“No,” Other Stiles admitted. “It’s probably the same cluster—Occam’s razor—but we can’t rule out another group at this stage. It’s not helpful to prejudice your information that way.”
“My son’s always been a better investigator than the majority of my trained deputies,” Noah said with an odd mixture of sadness and pride.
Stiles wanted to follow up on that, find out what his dad was thinking; Other Stiles brushed it aside, continuing his conversation with Harris. “And technically, they’re not banyi; they’re. They call themselves .”
“On behalf of us who don’t speak whatever crazy language you’re using, what the hell are you talking about?” Jackson asked. “And what are hunter clerics?”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes. “Hunter clerics are exactly what they sound like. The hunters’ homegrown magic users. Back when the group was formed, hunters liked to think they had a holy purpose. Still do, I guess.”
“Banyi are fae that are foresworn, traitors who have broken their oaths to their House,” Tara explained. “Banyel are considered traitors too, but they’ve broken no oaths because they’re not sworn to a House. Banyel are harder to detect; breaking an oath, especially one that’s been witnessed and sealed, reverberates through the aura. Since part of training and apprenticeship is the swearing of oaths, it’s almost impossible to gain any level of magical proficiency outside of a sponsoring House. An entire cluster of banyel—at mage level, no less—seems…unlikely.”
“This group has been around, slowly gathering knowledge and resources, for a long time,” Other Stiles said dismissively, not bothered that Tara had just politely called him a liar. “We think that the originators were Raya and Merron.”
Harris blinked. “Raya Darkfire and Merron Lightsword? They were known enemies! They hated each other so much they even refused to accept admission to the High Circle because it would require them to sometimes be in the same room!” He stopped, and wonder dawned in his eyes. “By the One, are you saying that it was all an act? But their histories are well documented; they attended opposing academies!”
Other Stiles wagged a finger. “And as faelings, both kindreds celebrated winter feasts in a valley just inside the border of.”
“Sedear’tgac has been off-limits for centuries now,” Tara said slowly. “Since long before Raya died. Neither the Karani nor the Aydini have been able to cross the ward lines as part of the Torl Covenant. It’s forbidden until a treaty can be agreed.”
“Hey!” Jackson interrupted. “Does any of this matter? I thought we were in a hurry?”
Stiles never thought he’d be grateful to Jackson, but none of this made sense to him, and quite frankly, he didn’t care. So far, the fae had come across as arrogant dickbags; he couldn’t care less about their drama.
“He’s right,” Other Stiles admitted. “This is a discussion for later.”
“If these Nosera are involved in some plot against the Houses, then our mandate has changed,” Tara said sternly. “That has to be our priority.”
Other Stiles glared at her. “I have no intention of allowing the Nosera to continue their destabilising activities. Both Cenora and Vosteri authorised me to act as I see fit.” He raised a hand as both Harris and Tara opened their mouths to speak. “Before you ask, Arza, Teylith, and Ritika, all died trying to hold the rahl-kest together. They crumbled when it did. After that, we all knew that it was the end, and everyone who was left put everything they had behind giving us this chance. Now let me work.”
Tara and Harris exchanged a long glance. Their eyebrows danced so expressively that Stile wondered idly if Derek was jealous.
“Fine,” Harris gritted out. “On the condition that as soon as this has been taken care of, you tell us everything you know.”
“Whatever,” Other Stiles replied. He looked at the hunters laid out in front of him. “So, Gerard goes to the head of the line. I can’t say that I’m surprised. Matt is near the other end…I wonder if it says more about him, or the hunters he’s been lined up with? You know, I felt a little bad that I wasn’t going to save him until I remembered that he was the one who killed the deputies in the first place.”
THE WINDOW FOR ACTION IS DIMINISHING.
Other Stiles sighed. “Fine. Time to pay the piper.” He approached Gerard Argent, shooting him through the left eye socket with Allison’s crossbow without hesitation. He then discarded that weapon and, using Gerard’s gun, killed the three hunters nearest Gerard’s end of the row and then Matt at the other end.
Stiles watched as his own hand pulled the trigger and thought about how he should feel. He wondered if it made him a terrible person, that he wasn’t sorry. Maybe if it had only been Younger Stiles in here with Other Stiles, he would have minded. Stiles could still vividly recall being kidnapped by these men, remembered Erica and Boyd being tortured in the Argent’s basement. Had attended four funerals for people he’d known most of his life. No, he had no pity for them, no remorse for their deaths.
Noah’s eyes were closed, and his pained expression spoke volumes.
Derek and Jackson stood together; Derek with his arms folded across his chest, face blank, and Jackson leaning in so that their shoulders were touching. Jackson was looking at Stiles as though he’d never seen him before.
FIVE SOULS, FOUR EXCHANGED. MY WORK HERE IS COMPLETE. The robed, hooded figure faded away.
“You’re a murderer,” Scott whispered.
Other Stiles shrugged. “I’m nearly a hundred years old. Everyone I love died; my father was shot by hunters, and the love of my life was butchered right in front of me. I’ve seen the world burn and then freeze due to nuclear bombardment. The fae realm died, and the earth was following. The death of these scum so that good people can live, can raise their families? Not something that bothers me in the slightest.”
“How is Stiles dealing with this?” Noah asked. “The one from this time, I mean. Does he know what’s happening? Is he okay?”
I’m fine, Stiles said quickly. You keep doing what you need to do.
“He’s aware of everything,” Other Stiles said. “You’ll have to talk to him about how he feels later. I won’t share his thoughts unless he gives me permission.”
“But you will kill using his hands,” Scott spat. “Mr Stilinski, why haven’t you arrested him? Stiles! If you’re in there, if you can hear me, you have to fight him! Don’t let him turn you into a monster!”
Stiles was in there, and he absolutely could hear. If he had been possessed against his will, then Scott words wouldn’t have been terribly helpful. If Scott was so sure that Other Stiles was an evil imposter, why wasn’t he doing something? Anything! But no, Scott was still hovering over Allison.
Other Stiles raised his eyebrows in Noah’s direction and lifted his chin. “You gonna arrest me, Dad?”
Noah shook his head. “This whole thing is outside my wheelhouse; I’m going to go with my gut rather than my training. I know you, son. You wouldn’t be doing this if it weren’t necessary.” He glanced over at the dead hunters. “Thank you for saving the lives of my deputies.”
“Martinez used to stop by and bring me dinner when you were working late,” Other Stiles replied. “Roberts gave me self-defence lessons after Mom died; she was the one who taught me how to throw a punch. I care about them too.”
Jackson whistled. “Was that back in fifth grade? I remember when you gave Markson a black eye for stealing McCall’s inhaler.”
Noah frowned. “I don’t remember the school calling me about that.”
Other Stiles smirked. “It didn’t happen on school grounds. Markson was in eighth grade, so he wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about admitting that a puny fifth-grader got the better of him.”
Jackson snorted. “Everyone knew about it, anyway.”
“The adults didn’t,” Other Stiles pointed out. “And it worked; no one messed with Scott’s inhaler after that.”
“You were like a ball of anger and rage,” Jackson agreed. “You mellowed out a lot over the years.”
Derek’s eyebrows displayed his disbelief. “The Stiles I’ve met is the mellow Stiles?”
Other Stiles’ smirk softened into a grin. “I don’t know if I’d go that far. Scott being bitten revved up my protective instincts again.” He looked at the hunters spread around on the floor and sighed. “Time to get on with things, I suppose.”
Other Stiles glanced up at Tara and Harris. “How long will it take you to organise a web for this? There’s something else I need to check on before I can get some rest.”
Tara raised her eyebrows at Harris. “Fifteen minutes to work out the details. Thirty, if you want the recordings to match. Depending on what we decide, anywhere from five minutes to fifteen to actually perform the ritual.” Harris pursed his lips but didn’t argue with her estimates.
Other Stiles nodded. “Go for it. Is there some kind of compulsion you can put on the hunters here tonight so that they won’t think to contact anyone for assistance? Just for the next few days. The last thing I need is more hunters flying in. After that, they shouldn’t be a problem anymore.”
Harris darted a cautious look at Tara. “I can put a temporary silencer on them. It’s not a foolproof method, but it should hold long enough for your purposes. Providing none of the Nosera screw with it, that is.”
Other Stiles considered that. “They’re still trying to keep a low profile; I doubt that they’ll take any precipitous action.” His gaze slid to Scott. “Unless someone lets something slip.”
Harris gave a short, mirthless laugh. “Understood. We’ll add something extra to help with that. Now, please excuse us; we need to prepare.” He and Tara retreated to the far side of the room and bent their heads together, whispering and gesturing.
Scott had already stopped paying attention. “Why isn’t Allison awake? Wake her up!”
“She’s going to sleep for another half an hour,” Noah said when it became clear that no one else was going to respond.
“She’s had such a tough time of it lately,” Scott said. “First, her aunt died, then her mom. I just want to help her deal with this tragedy. It’s not fair that this happened to her.”
Stiles didn’t want to listen to Scott’s lovesick ramblings anymore. If there was one thing the months since Scott had been bitten had taught him, it was that Argents would murder if given the slightest provocation, sometimes with no provocation at all. What he’d witnessed, what had been done to him, Boyd, and Erica, in the Argent basement, had transformed whatever sympathy he’d once felt for her. He’d tried to let go of his anger—primarily for Scott’s sake—but being back here, witnessing what would have been another Argent atrocity, but for Other Stiles, solidified his disgust.
Other Stiles apparently felt the same way; he turned away from Noah and Scott and stretched his arms above his head, cracking his neck.
Stiles could feel how exhausted he was, how weary. Hey, Other Stiles, when you rest, are you gonna let me take over again?
Other Stiles sighed. “It’s your body, dude. If you want it back, I’ll give it back.”
Stiles thought about that for a moment. Knowing that Other Stiles would give his body back if he asked diminished his desire for it to happen.
“Stiles is talking to you?” Derek asked from right next to him.
If Stiles’d had control of his body, he would have jumped through the ceiling. Other Stiles merely nodded.
“Testicle must be going nuts, not being able to give his two cents worth,” Jackson remarked. “You’re a lot quieter and calmer than he is.”
Other Stiles raised his eyebrows. “I’m over five times his age; I’ve had time to develop control over my reactions. Trust me, when you’ve got unlocked, untrained, magic? You learn control fast.” He smiled at Derek. “You were a big help, actually. You were the only one who wasn’t frightened of me. You told me that my magic was a part of me, that if I respected it, respected myself, then I would succeed. And you believed what you were saying.”
Derek nodded seriously. “It must have been hard.”
Other Stiles laughed. “Oh, it was often plenty hard.” Derek’s frown intensified, and Jackson looked uncertain. Other Stiles shook his head, mouth twitching. “But yeah, it was a challenge. Not helped by the continuous shit show that was life in Beacon Hills. It was just…one thing after another. We struggled through the next few years as best we could, but we never seemed to be doing more than treading water. Then, the supernatural world was exposed—in the worst possible way—and World War Three kicked off soon after. Literally.”
Jackson blinked. “You’re going to fix all of that in a few days? Damn, Stilinski. Who knew you were a badass?”
“I’ve got a lot of advantages,” Other Stiles demurred. “I’m doing a lot of precision work that will have far-reaching consequences, and I have the comfort of knowing that my actions really can’t make things worse than they already were.”
Derek tilted his head slightly. “Were you a member of my pack? Is that why you’re so intent on helping us?”
“So to speak,” Other Stiles said evasively. “If you’re considering offering Stiles a place in your pack, then you need to discuss it with him.”
Derek’s frown deepened. “Stiles is welcome in my pack anytime; he always has been.”
Stiles’ surprise was mirrored by Other Stiles. “He is? I was? Separate from Scott? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Of course,” Derek replied. “He… You’d be an asset to any pack. Scott informed me that he spoke for both of you, and you’ve let him take the lead before. I thought you were being diplomatic by not mentioning it.”
Other Stiles stared at him. “No one has ever accused me of diplomacy, Derek. I thought that you were only accepting me as the price for Scott’s involvement.”
Derek shook his head. “You had aligned yourself to Scott, so it’s protocol to make my offer to you through him. But, if you didn’t know, that means… Scott didn’t tell you?”
Suddenly furious, Other Stiles swivelled around to glare at Scott. “Hey! Did you forget to tell me that Derek wanted me in his pack?”
Scott rolled his eyes. “It wasn’t a serious offer, Stiles. Derek wanted me to become his beta so that he could control me and have more power. He said that you could join too, but that was only so I’d feel obligated to him. Why else would he want you? I told him that we weren’t interested.”
Other Stiles pinched the bridge of his nose. “This explains so much.”
Stiles was at a loss for words. He’d held Derek’s lack of interest in having him in his pack against him. It had struck him as unfair that Jackson, Isaac, Erica and Boyd would all be offered a place when Stiles, who had saved Derek’s werewolf ass on more than one occasion, had not. Scott’s words felt like a personal betrayal. Another one. No wonder Other Stiles hated his guts.
“Just when I think you couldn’t be more of a dickbag, McCall, you lower the bar again,” Jackson said scornfully, disgust dripping off every word.
Scott lifted his chin. “Like you can talk. You blackmailed Derek into giving you the bite and then disregarded all the evidence that something went wrong. You had to have known something wasn’t right.”
Jackson’s eyes flashed neon blue. “You’re just jealous that your precious Allison couldn’t wait to get all up on this.” He smirked as he gestured to his body, smug and cocky. “Not that I’m all that surprised. She said that you were…quick off the mark, and not terribly adventurous.”
Derek rolled his eyes and shook his head but didn’t say anything.
Scott snarled, teeth lengthening as he flashed his yellow eyes at Jackson. “Leave Allison out of this!”
“Gladly,” Jackson sneered back. “As soon as she stops smelling like aconite, I’ll gladly ignore her existence. You heard what type of people her family are. She keeps doing what they tell her to do; she’ll be beyond help in no time.”
“Allison isn’t like the rest of her family!” Scott insisted. “She’s having a hard time right now, but she’ll soon snap out of it. I just have to support her. She loves me; I know she does! If I just wait, she’ll come back to me.”
“You know the Argent family is nominally matriarchal,” Other Stiles remarked. “This assault on the sheriff’s station was actually her first operation as head of the family. These are technically her orders that the hunters are following.”
Scott ignored him.
Noah shook his head and sighed. “She’s old enough to know that an armed assault on a law enforcement building is a criminal offence,” he pointed out. “If she was the one giving orders, her culpability is even higher. It’s unlikely that she’ll be tried in a juvenile court.”
“She won’t be tried in any court!” Scott objected. “You can’t prosecute her for this; she didn’t do anything!”
“There’s no point in trying to reason with him,” Other Stiles said quietly. “I learned a long time ago that when Allison was in the picture, she was all that Scott could see.”
“Someone has to be held responsible for this,” Noah insisted.
“Let’s find out what my watchers have cooked up between them,” Other Stiles replied, indicating Tara and Harris, who were waiting to be acknowledged.
“We’re ready,” Tara announced. “In cases like these, simplicity often has the best results. The security will show the armed hunters approaching and opening fire, followed by their entry. They then encountered the sheriff and me. We were here to look at evidence relating to the recent deaths.”
“Gerard Argent suffered some sort of seizure,” Harris continued. “He emerged from it in a state of delirium—an autopsy will show that a tumour was pressing down on his brain—whereupon he opened fire upon several of his armed employees, killing them.”
“At which point his granddaughter discharged her loaded crossbow, hitting him in the eye and killing him instantly,” Tara concluded. “The father and daughter turned on each other and began shouting. In the confusion, the sheriff and I disarmed and captured the remainder of the assailants, using the zip-ties from the front desk.”
Noah nodded thoughtfully. “How do we explain the hunters losing consciousness?”
Tara shrugged. “We don’t. We’re going to need to wake them up before we perform the ritual, anyway, and once the ritual completely takes hold, they won’t remember it.”
“How long will it take for the ritual to fully take hold?” Derek asked. “Should we leave before then?”
“We can set it to finalise with a specific phrase,” Tara offered. “so long as you don’t want to hang around for long, that should be sufficient. If it takes longer than an hour, the web will dissolve and need to be rewoven again.”
Other Stiles shook his head. “A minute or two should be all we need. Harris, are you okay to come with me, since Tara will need to stay here?”
Harris heaved an exaggerated sigh. “I suppose one of us needs to make sure nothing happens to you before these ‘Nosera’ are sorted out. In fact, I think I’ll take the next couple of days off school. I think I might be coming down with something contagious.”
Other Stiles laughed. “Stiles is going to be dreadfully disappointed. The only time you’re ever off sick, and he won’t be there to enjoy it.”
Harris curled his lip slightly. “I’m truly devastated for him.”
“Naturally,” Other Stiles said. He looked at the hunters on the floor. “I guess we should grab the zip-ties. We should definitely contain these dickheads before they wake up, and we should probably cover the dead guys with a sheet or something.”
“I’ll go get a sheet,” Noah said, turning away.
“I’ll get the ties,” Derek volunteered. “Where in the front desk are they kept?”
“Third drawer down,” Other Stiles replied. “Get the pink ones. Bring some gloves, too. Get some for all of us; we probably shouldn’t handle the weapons with bare hands.” He grimaced at the gun and crossbow. “I’ll need to wipe these down. No need to make this harder than it already is.”
Derek shook his head, but the corner of his mouth was curled upwards. When he returned, along with the gloves and ties, he also carried a damp cloth which he handed wordlessly to Other Stiles. Once they were all gloved up, Noah and Jackson arranged the dead bodies so that they’d fit under the sheet that Noah had found, then gently settled it over them. Stiles was quite happy not to have Gerard’s face staring at him accusingly from the floor.
Other Stiles carefully ran the cloth over the crossbow and the gun that he’d used while Noah and Derek zip-tied the hunters. When they came to Allison, Scott objected so strenuously to her being included in this treatment that Derek and Jackson had to physically restrain him to stop him from interfering. Almost as an afterthought, Harris flicked his fingers, and Scott’s shouts were silenced.
“Thank you,” Other Stiles said, relieved. “Did you decide how you’re going to do this?”
“Since there are two of us, we’ll use a third-circle dual-completion to raise power, then apply a hypnotic suggestion web,” Tara explained. “With a third-circle ritual, we should generate enough magic to be able to hold the web for a week if we need to, at which time we can reassess.”
Other Stiles considered that. “It hadn’t occurred to me that you’d attempt a third-circle for this…I expected you to tie off the web and make it self-sustaining.”
Harris shook his head. “It’s not worth taking the chance, not when there are hostiles in the vicinity. This way, we’ll know immediately if the web is disturbed.”
“Good point,” Other Stiles agreed. He cleared his throat with a low-level embarrassment that Stiles couldn’t account for. “How long do you expect the ritual to take?”
“Five minutes,” Tara answered cheerfully. “Ten at the outside.”
Other Stiles blinked. “Five to ten minutes? Really?”
“We’ve worked together before,” Harris explained smoothly.
“Huh.” Other Stiles was blushing, going by how hot his face got. “Good. I mean, I’m glad.” He coughed. “Are you going to…do you want to use one of the offices?”
Harris gave a short bark of laughter. “Here will be quite satisfactory, Mr Stilinski.”
What was that all about? Stiles demanded. What the hell is happening? Why are you so embarrassed?
“Fine,” Other Stiles muttered. “It’s all fine.” He shuddered. “There’s no point in delaying this. Are we ready to get this show on the road?”
“Just say the word, and I’ll wake them up,” Harris offered, still sounding amused.
Other Stiles picked up one of the discarded guns, gesturing to his father to take another. Scott increased his struggles but was unable to overcome his two handlers.
“Alright then, ‘the word,’” Other Stiles announced.
Harris rolled his eyes, but obligingly flicked his fingers at the group on the floor, who started to stir. The four black-clad gunmen took stock of their bindings, noted the two figures holding familiar-looking guns, and opted to remain quiescent.
Chris Argent looked panicked until he caught sight of Allison. Then his face went blank.
Allison took the longest to wake. “Dad?” Chris visibly lost a lot of his tension. “Where… What’s happening?”
“Don’t say anything, Allison,” Chris directed sharply. He glanced around the room, his gaze lingering for several moments on where Derek and Jackson were still restraining Scott and then skipped over to Harris and Tara. The sheet-covered bodies garnered a thoughtful stare before finally, his gaze turned to the Stilinski’s. “There appears to have been a misunderstanding.”
“It seems pretty clear cut to me,” Noah replied, tone neutral. “Your…group…attacked the station; we defended it. It’s unfortunate that so many lives were lost, but luckily only the trespassers sustained any injuries.” He lifted the sheet that was covering the dead bodies so that they could see. “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Chris and Allison both looked horrified.
“My father is dead,” Chris said, voice flat. “Who killed him?”
“That’s a crossbow bolt!” Allison said shakily. “Where is my crossbow? Did that bolt—?”
“Don’t talk!” Chris commanded. He studied his father’s body dispassionately, then looked at the other dead people. “They didn’t defend themselves,” he observed. “This was an execution.” He looked at Derek again. “Was it you?”
“Murderer!” Allison snarled at Derek.
“I know you are; you said you are, so what am I?” Other Stiles sang, drawing their attention. “You can cover them up again, Dad.” Noah nodded and lowered the sheet again.
Allison looked baffled. “What? Stiles? What are you doing here?”
Other Stiles smiled at her. “My dad has worked here all my life, Allison. Of course we came here when we heard that there was going to be an attack.”
“What?” she repeated.
“You should be pleased,” Other Stiles said. “You came here with the intent to murder, and the record will show that’s absolutely what you did. Fun fact, since it was your grandfather who convinced your mother she had to die, you could even say that her death has been avenged! I hope you have fun explaining how Argent weapons wielded by Argent thugs caused all this damage.”
Allison stared at him. “That’s not what happened!”
“I think you’ll find that it did,” Other Stiles assured her.
“It won’t hold up in court,” Chris Argent said calmly. “It might be better for everyone involved if we just walked away.”
Noah folded his arms and raised his eyebrows. “You mean I should ignore your group of armed assailants opening fire on the station?”
Chris shrugged. “You have no proof. Any security footage will show you either murdering helpless men or otherwise complicit with their deaths. You’ll be in as much trouble as we are. Possibly more.”
Other Stiles smirked. “It’s cute that you think that we’re not going to use the assets at our disposal to put you and everyone with you away.”
Chris glanced over at Noah. “You’re a man of the law. Are you really going to break the oaths you swore, use magic to conceal your crimes? Is that the role model you want to present to your son?”
That really pissed Stiles off. How dare this murdering, torturing, asshole hunter try to manipulate his dad! Other Stiles didn’t say anything, just crossed his arms.
Noah’s only reaction was to raise his eyebrows. “You’re trying to argue moral equivalence with me? You think that your crime of attacking a staffed law enforcement building with automatic weapons is equal to the distasteful acts we had to perform to protect it? And that we therefore all deserve the same consequences?”
“My father is a lawyer,” Jackson sneered. “You think I don’t know how to spot crap like this? Give me a break.”
Noah nodded his agreement. “I’m also considered to be well-versed in the law, which shouldn’t be a shock to anyone here.”
“You can’t arrest us!” Allison exclaimed. “My family has a sacred duty! It’s our responsibility to keep humanity safe from the monsters!”
Noah’s eyebrows were still raised. “It sounds to me like your family are the monsters.”
Allison looked shocked that she wasn’t instantly believed but soon rallied. “They’re lying to you! You can’t trust anything they say; they’re not even human!”
Noah rolled his eyes. “It wasn’t the werewolves who opened fire on a staffed sheriff’s station, Miss Argent.”
“You don’t understand! He murdered my mother!”
“Even if an unproven accusation were enough justification for attacking someone with deadly force, what exactly did my deputies have to do with this? The only people attacking them were you lot.”
Allison’s mouth opened, but she couldn’t seem to think of anything to say in answer to that.
“I think you’ll find we understand far better than you do, Princess Argent,” Other Stiles said, voice flat. “This is what really happened. Your mother’s plan to murder your underage boyfriend—for nothing more than having the presumption to fuck you while being a werewolf—backfired. When he arrived to save the day, Derek was caught in the gas that Victoria was using to kill Scott. While disoriented and hallucinating, he accidentally bit her. If you want to point fingers at who killed your mom, you should look to your dad. Pretty sure he was the one literally holding the knife.”
Allison recoiled. “What?” She turned to Chris, staring at him with wide, imploring eyes. “He’s lying! Tell me he’s lying!”
Chris dropped his gaze. “It was what she wanted, Aly.”
“The bit about her trying to kill Scott…was that true too?” Allison turned to Scott, who was looking as guilty as Chris. “It is! Why didn’t you tell me!”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes. “I don’t know why you’re surprised. Your grandfather was a hypocritical, genocidal, torture-happy, mass-murdering, serial-killing bigot. Kate was all those things, as well as a paedophile who liked to sleep with underage boys and then murder their families. Your father has chosen, again and again, to relinquish his own agency. He follows the orders of his supervillain family members while mouthing platitudes about how it’s ‘not right.’”
Allison shook her head, tears filling her eyes. “No. That’s not how it is.”
Other Stiles ignored her. “One of those orders that he followed was to assist in the suicide of your mother. She, let’s not forget, was like a drunk driver who, upon waking to find herself paralysed from the crash that she herself caused, blamed the driver of the other car for not somehow avoiding the smash. You’re a born and bred psycho, and you’ve already started following in your favourite aunt’s shoes. The world would be a better place if your whole family were put down.”
Chris Argent took umbrage at that. “You’ve completely misrepresented everything we stand for. We do what’s necessary to keep the supernatural in check.”
Other Stiles smiled patronisingly. “Nice try, Argent. This whole town has seen the results of what your family sees as ‘necessary.’ Everything that’s happened since you Argents showed up here has hammered the point home. Fur and fangs don’t make a monster, Mr Argent. Your family’s days of murdering and torturing are over.” He looked over to where Tara and Harris were watching. “I think we’ve said everything that needs to be said. You can start the ritual now.”
Tara nodded and turned so that she and Harris were facing each other. They joined hands and closed their eyes.
“You’re making a mistake,” Chris Argent said urgently. “This can still be resolved peacefully.”
Other Stiles scoffed. “Says the man who turned up firing automatic weapons. Don’t make me laugh.”
Chris was insistent. “I’m serious. There are forces at play that you’re unaware of, and if they think you’re in their way, they’ll do whatever it takes to remove you.”
Other Stiles turned to Noah. “I think he’s trying to obliquely warn us about the hunter clerics.”
Noah played along. “How thoughtful of him. Do you think we should tell him his warnings are redundant?”
Chris Argent’s calm was shaken slightly. “How do you know about the clerics?”
“Why the hell do you think we’d tell you that?” Other Stiles asked. “I don’t know where you picked up the idea that I’m an idiot, Chris.” He glanced over at Scott. “Never mind, I think I worked it out.”
“Scott would never let you do this,” Allison whispered. “That’s why you’ve had to restrain him. Can’t you see that what you’re doing is wrong?”
Other Stiles laughed sarcastically. “Scott absolutely wouldn’t let me do this if he had any say in the matter. Unfortunately for you and your father, I don’t give a shit about Scott’s very biased opinion. His desire to stick his dick in you doesn’t win out over the lives of men and women that I’ve grown up around.”
“What are you talking about?” Allison was confused.
“Did you seriously think that you could open fire on a staffed building without warning and people wouldn’t get hurt?” Jackson asked incredulously. “What planet are you from, Argent?”
“This isn’t Allison’s fault,” Chris interjected, talking directly to Noah. “She’s a minor, and she was led astray by someone she trusted. She shouldn’t have to spend the rest of her life paying for a mistake.”
“That’s strange,” Noah mused. “A little birdie told me that Allison was giving the orders tonight.”
Chris finally started to look worried. “Who told you that? Have you bugged my house? That can’t be legal! We have rights!”
“Wow, look at you, all concerned about what’s legal all of a sudden,” Jackson sneered. “You know what’s not legal? Chasing people with guns and crossbows and shooting them! Or capturing them and torturing them for kicks! Fuck you!”
“Allison is new to this! She hasn’t tortured anyone!”
Other Stiles snorted. “Really? I suppose that time when Kate was showing her Derek, Allison thought he was tied up and getting shot because he likes that kind of thing? You and your excuses and justifications make me sick.” He sent an apologetic glance Derek’s way, but Derek wasn’t focused on the conversation. He was watching Tara and Harris stare at each other, his nose wrinkled like there was something dead and rotten sitting right in front of him.
Noah noticed Derek’s preoccupation too. “What’s that look for?”
Derek’s grimace deepened. “What kind of ritual is this?”
Other Stiles shuddered. “Trust me, you don’t want to know.”
Jackson sniffed cautiously. “It kind of smells like—”
Other Stiles interrupted him. “Please don’t finish that sentence.”
Even Scott had finally been distracted from Allison for a moment, going by the disgusted expression on his face.
Suddenly I’m glad you didn’t want to tell me, Stiles thought.
The air shimmered; there was a bell-like sound Stiles somehow heard at the back of his brain rather than through his ears.
Harris and Tara stepped away from each other. “The first part is done,” Tara said, sounding tired. “The second is ready for activation.”
Harris flicked his fingers in Scott’s direction. “You can let him go now.”
Derek and Jackson immediately released Scott and came over to stand with Stiles.
“Thank god,” Jackson muttered. “I was worried the stupid might be contagious.”
“I couldn’t prove conclusively that it isn’t, considering the company he’s been keeping lately.” Other Stiles cast a look over at the hunter group. All of them were looking dazed and unfocused.
“I’m tired,” Scott said, yawning. “I think I need to get some sleep.”
“That’s a good idea,” Noah encouraged him.
“Night, Allison. Night, Allison’s dad. Stiles, Mr Stilinski.”
Scott wandered away, still yawning.
“He’ll head home, probably complain of feeling ill, and then sleep for most of the next couple of days,” Tara said under her breath. “He won’t remember what happened here, and he’ll otherwise act normally. Hopefully, that will keep him out of mischief.”
“Thank you,” Other Stiles said gratefully. “Come on, those of us who’re leaving should go before the deputies wake.” He turned to Derek and Jackson. “You’re both welcome to come with us, but if you would prefer not to, I understand.”
Derek’s brows rose. “Do you want us to come?”
“Yes,” Other Stiles admitted. “I have no idea how Deucalion will react to the spell on him being broken. Having an alpha—especially a Hale alpha—with me will probably reassure him.”
“Then we’ll go.”
Other Stiles nodded. “I’ll see you at home later, Dad.”
“Good luck and be as safe as possible,” Noah replied, giving him a quick hug.
Other Stiles hugged him back and led the way out of the station.
Stiles expected Jackson to object to being essentially ordered about, but he didn’t seem particularly upset and followed Derek agreeably. Is he some sort of pod person or something? Stiles asked, feeling a little freaked out.
“He’s taking comfort from the presence of his alpha,” Other Stiles replied. “The werewolf instincts recognise that the bond needs proximity to grow, and since strong bonds are often vital to survival, the werewolf side is driving.”
“I’ve not had many dealings with werewolves,” Harris mused. “The people usually avoid beast-walkers. You’re a lot less…impulsive than I’d been led to believe.”
Derek was frowning more forbiddingly than usual. “Wait, did you say ‘Deucalion?’”
Other Stiles nodded. “Yes. He’s the same alpha that you remember.”
“I’ve heard stories about him,” Derek said cautiously. “The rumours don’t suggest that he’s going to enjoy strangers intruding.”
“Yesterday, the rumours would have been true,” Other Stiles replied. “But Gerard’s death will have broken the spell placed on him back when he was blinded. We’ll know soon enough.”
Derek blinked. “Gerard could cast spells?”
“We can have story time later,” Other Stiles said impatiently. “For now, let’s just check that he’s back to normal. Deucalion is smart and charismatic. He could be a useful ally.”
“Lead the way,” Harris said.
The four of them went in the Camaro, with Jackson and Stiles squeezed into the back. Other Stiles directed Derek to drive them into the derelict warehouse district.
“Why do we have so many empty buildings in Beacon Hills?” Jackson asked, unknowingly echoing Stiles’ thoughts.
“It’s one of the follow-on effects of the Hale fire,” Other Stiles replied. “The Hales had their fingers in a lot of pies in this town, and a lot of businesses went bust when they lost their silent partners. People lost their jobs and moved away; the housing market dried up, and then retail felt the pinch… We’ve been in a steady rate of decline for six years now.”
“Fucking Argents,” Jackson muttered.
“Word,” Other Stiles agreed. “Here we are; this is where they stayed when they first arrived.” When they were all out of the car, he found a side door and went inside, the rest following him.
Derek tensed. “I can hear fighting.”
Other Stiles quickened his pace. “Let’s hurry! There may not be much time!”
The fight that they walked in on was brutal. Ennis and Kali were battling Deucalion. Despite it being two on one, the older alpha seemed to be managing fine, although Stiles could see that he was too occupied defending to go on the offence.
Aiden and Ethan were standing well away, shoulders pressed together and watching anxiously.
Other Stiles took the situation in swiftly. “Kali and Ennis have turned on Deucalion,” he reported to the others. “They were never under any spells that I know of, so I can only conclude they disliked what Deucalion had to say.” He glanced at Derek. “I’m not fully aware of all the politics involved—I think only a born werewolf could ever fully grasp their complexity—but it would be to our benefit if Deucalion wins this fight. Kali and Ennis are likely to be more of a hindrance than a help.”
Derek took off his jacket. “I wish Peter was in a state to advise me.”
Not sure I’d be trusting Peter’s advice anyway, Stiles muttered to himself.
“Peter needs at least some time to recover,” Other Stiles said to Derek, ignoring Stiles.
Kali scored a hit to the side of Deucalion’s face with her claws, opening the skin to the bone.
“This better not backfire,” Derek grumbled. “Jackson, stay here and protect Stiles.” Jackson nodded, edging over so that he was marginally in front of Stiles.
Derek wolfed out with a roar and joined the fray. Over in the corner, the twins shrank back further.
“Is there anything you could do to help him?” Jackson asked Harris, rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet. Stiles didn’t know whether to be touched at the protection or annoyed at having his visibility impaired. “Some kickass spell or something?”
Harris shook his head. “My magic doesn’t lend itself well to battle unless I have plenty of time to prepare beforehand. The best I can do is a barrier.” He motioned with his hands, and the same shimmery shield that had been used earlier became visible around them. “This way, your alpha can concentrate on the fight rather than divide his attention.”
“My thanks,” Other Stiles said with a nod, adding to Jackson, “Fae battle magic tends to be centred around arming the environment, with a side-order of enchanted weapons. Most often, the success of a fae fight depends on where it’s held. The side that manages to get the fight to happen on a battlefield they’ve had time to prepare has a huge advantage. It’s not uncommon for the opposition to surrender as soon as they realise they’ve been outmanoeuvred.”
That dashed a lot of Stiles’ visions of being a fireball wielding badass. Going by the look on Jackson’s face, he was thinking along the same lines.
“Now leave me alone; I want to watch the action,” Harris commanded. “This night has proved to be quite remarkable.”
It really was quite something. Stiles thought he knew Derek’s fighting style. Within a few moments, Stiles realised that he’d only ever seen him fighting alone or with his newly bitten pack. Watching Derek fight at the side of another born werewolf was eye-opening.
To his knowledge, Deucalion and Derek had never fought together before. Still, they moved together as though it were a dance, one where all the steps had been learned so well that they were now instinct. With Derek at his back, Deucalion finally went on the attack. Even to someone not well-versed in werewolf fighting, it was apparent that the tide of the battle had turned.
Ennis’ left elbow broke with a sickening crack, and he fell back slightly. “Who the hell are you?”
Derek smiled with a mouthful of teeth. “Don’t you recognise me, Ennis? I recognise you.”
“You’re the Hale pup,” Ennis realised. “All grown up, wearing mommy’s power like ill-fitting shoes.”
“You’re the best the vaunted Hale line has to offer? Your pack is a joke,” Kali taunted. “We came here to get rid of those poor excuses for werewolves. We were going to make you kill them all, one by one, until you were the only one remaining, then kill you by inches. But it seems an opening has opened up; help us defeat Deucalion, and you can join us.”
“Can’t you see that the path that we were on could never have succeeded?” Deucalion asked. “The atrocities we’ve taken part in…they were wrong! This whole ‘alpha pack’ idea was a mistake! But it’s not too late to change!”
Kali howled, enraged, and threw herself at Deucalion. Without looking as though it took much effort, he performed a complicated manoeuvre that resulted in her flying through the air and crashing into a wall.
“You’re a traitor!” Kali snarled, picking herself up off the floor. “We killed our packs to follow you, and you have the temerity to tell us that it was a mistake?”
“Gerard Argent put him under a spell,” Derek said when it became clear that Deucalion wasn’t going to defend himself from her verbal taunts. “It broke when Gerard was killed. The alpha you followed wasn’t real. He was a construction made by hunters to stir up discord and strife amongst the packs. All you do by continuing to follow that path is let them win.”
“We don’t need your approval,” Ennis growled. “We’re better off without shackling ourselves to bleeding hearts and weaklings.” His arm hadn’t healed yet, so he wasn’t as intimidating as he probably intended to be.
Deucalion frowned at them. “I can’t allow you to continue with this destruction. If you won’t agree to stop, then I must stop you myself.”
Kali laughed scornfully. “You and this pup are no true match for us, Deucalion. Hale, stand aside, or we will kill you.”
“No,” Deucalion replied sadly. “This ends here. Alpha Hale, I call upon the alliance my pack once held with yours. I would count myself in your debt if you agreed to assist me in righting this wrong that I have done.”
“Your request is acknowledged and accepted,” Derek said formally.
Almost before Derek had finished speaking, Kali and Ennis launched themselves forward again. Deucalion and Derek met them, and the fight resumed. This time, there was an urgency to it that had been missing earlier.
“This fight is to the death,” Other Stiles murmured. “Only two of them are going to walk away.”
“We should help them!” Jackson insisted as Kali’s claws raked over Derek’s back, ripping through fabric and skin.
“We can’t,” Other Stiles replied. “We’d only get in their way.”
Stiles was getting seriously worried. How can you be so calm?
“Derek and Deucalion have got this,” Other Stiles murmured. “Kali and Ennis are fighting as individuals, and neither trusts the other to watch their back well enough to take the risks they’d need to take to win this. It’s only a matter of time before one or both make mistakes that the other won’t cover. Deucalion and Derek are fighting as a team. It’s really rather remarkable.”
By now, the action was taking place too fast for Stiles to follow, so he had to take Other Stiles’ word for it.
Jackson was emitting a subharmonic whine that resonated in Stiles’ bones.
“Stop that!” Other Stiles commanded. “Do you want to distract your alpha? Just let him get on with it.”
Harris gave him a sidelong glance. “You seem remarkably unmoved about the deaths you’re about to witness.”
Other Stiles shrugged. “Kali and Ennis are psychopaths; they didn’t need a spell to make them that way. Given the option, they’ll continue to commit atrocities. The law would never be able to contain them; death is the only outcome that will protect innocents.”
“And what does your passenger think about it?” Harris asked archly. “Is he as sanguine about it as you are?”
Stiles hurried to reassure Other Stiles that he was okay. I remember what they did to Cora, Erica, and Boyd. I won’t mourn them, and I don’t care who knows it. Feel free to tell him.
Other Stiles gave a tight smile. “Stiles can recognise a monster when he sees one. He has no compunction about killing them.”
The fight continued to escalate. Twice, the combatants pressed up against the shield that Harris had cast. Stiles was fascinated to see that it was as stable with bodies crashing into it as it had been against gunfire.
After what felt like forever—but was probably only a minute or two—Ennis fell to the floor; Deucalion’s claws had ripped through his throat with such ferocity that the white bone of his spine was exposed. Kali shrieked with rage and renewed her attack, but Deucalion and Derek quickly overpowered her. Derek was the one who struck the killing blow, ripping her throat out with a focused strike. He stood over her corpse, trembling with reaction.
Seeing that the fight was over, Harris dropped the shield. The moment it was down, Jackson leapt forward to stand at Derek’s side, visibly vibrating with pride. “You kicked skanky-bitch ass, alpha!” Stiles hadn’t seen him look that smug since he’d arrived in the school parking lot with his brand-new Porsche.
Derek reached out and grasped Jackson’s shoulder. “It was a joint effort.” He let out a shuddering breath and then grinned. It made him look surprisingly youthful. “Thanks, Jackson.”
“I guess that’s that,” Other Stiles remarked, walking over to join them. “Alpha Deucalion, it’s good to meet you.”
“I’m afraid you have me at a disadvantage,” Deucalion responded. He crouched down beside the remains of Kali and Ennis and gently closed their eyes. “We’ve not long arrived in town. I’m aware that you’re the teenager connected to the young Hale-bitten omega, but we’d yet to gather any further information on you.”
“I’m Stiles,” Other Stiles said. “My connection with Scott is…in flux, at present. I’m glad to see that the spell Gerard had on you finally broke.” He looked over to where Aiden and Ethan were still hovering. “What’s going on with those two?”
Deucalion rose to his feet and sent a piercing stare their way. “Aiden and Ethan are the newest members of this…abomination masquerading as a pack. When the fight began, Kali commanded them to aid her and Ennis. They declined. Said they owed me too much to turn against me.”
“They why weren’t they helping you?” Jackson asked belligerently. “Why did my alpha need to step in?”
Deucalion’s eyes flashed, and he frowned at Derek. “It’s highly unorthodox to allow a beta to directly question another alpha.”
Derek flushed slightly. “Jackson is very new.” His hand on Jackson’s shoulder flexed warningly. “My tenure as alpha is very recent, and I haven’t yet had the chance to work through protocol with any of my betas.”
“Hmm.” Deucalion’s disapproval was evident.
“Please pardon my candidness, Alpha Deucalion, but Beacon Hills has been in a constant state of turmoil since the Argents arrived back in town,” Other Stiles informed Deucalion sharply. “What with one thing or another, the Hale pack has been more concerned with survival than with etiquette.”
Deucalion’s stern expression relaxed. “Yes, of course. My apologies, Alpha Derek. I’m an intruder here, and how you manage your pack is none of my business.” He smiled, and it transformed his face. Stiles was startled to realise that Deucalion was a good-looking man. “Given my own trespassing, a little plain speaking is small potatoes.”
Derek nodded stiffly. “Given the circumstances, I think we can put that aside. Rudely though it was expressed, Jackson’s question was pertinent. Why didn’t your pack members help you?”
Deucalion inclined his head slightly. “When my blindness lifted, it felt as if a fog in my brain had been lifted as well. I was able to see all that had happened since I lost my sight as the nightmare it truly was. When I tried to explain to the rest of my pack, such as it is, Kali and Ennis turned on me. Aiden and Ethan… They were badly used by their old pack. I told them that I would be grateful for their assistance, but I wouldn’t demand it. I didn’t wish to distress them by asking for what they would not willingly give.”
“Kali and Ennis would never have let them walk away,” Other Stiles pointed out. “Without Derek’s help, you would’ve eventually been worn down and killed. Their inaction could have cost you your life, and then them theirs.”
“Their choices are their own.”
Derek sighed. He dropped his hand from Jackson’s shoulder. “Do they remain in alliance with you, or should I consider them a separate entity to negotiate with?”
“Their choices are their own,” Deucalion repeated. “While I’m glad they didn’t fight against me, I cannot consider myself allied with those who leave me to die.”
“I can accept that,” Derek agreed. “Jackson, Stiles, please join me for a moment.” Other Stiles and Jackson exchanged glances, then did as he asked.
Derek brought his alpha-red eyes to the fore and approached Aiden and Ethan, with Jackson falling into step at his right shoulder and Other Stiles at his left. “My name is Derek Hale, alpha of this territory,” Derek said. “You are intruders, here without invitation or acceptance. Because of these exceptional circumstances, you have twenty-four hours to present an application for asylum. Beyond that, if you remain in my territory, your lives become forfeit.”
“We don’t have anywhere to go,” Aiden blurted. “We didn’t know what to do, and it happened so quickly. We don’t know how to be alphas; we don’t know anything.”
Derek raised his eyebrows at Deucalion.
“I must bear some of the responsibility for that,” Deucalion admitted. He sighed. “I think it would be a mistake for us to continue together. I still have some contacts in Europe that would take you in, for my sake. Would you consider relocating? Starting afresh?”
The twins looked at each other for a long moment.
“Yes,” Ethan said eventually. “I think that would be a good idea. Maybe that’s what we need.”
Aiden nodded. “We’ll leave you to talk. When you want to find us, we’ll be staying at the motel on the state route, heading south out of town.” They walked away without looking back. Remembering Boyd’s death, Stiles really wasn’t sad to see them go.
Stiles abruptly recalled something else. When did the alphas get hold of Cora? Is she locked up somewhere?
“You know what else would be a good idea?” Other Stiles said to Deucalion without missing a beat. “If you told Derek everything you know about his sister, Cora.”
Derek recoiled. “Cora’s dead.”
Deucalion winced. “Ah. Yes. Cora. She still lives; it’s my understanding that she fled, following the fire, and has been sheltering in Brazil. My latest information on her is that she’s considering travelling here to find you.”
“She heard that a Hale alpha was back In Beacon Hills,” Other Stiles told Derek. “The alpha pack were going to intercept her. Capture her, hold her hostage to force you into compliance.”
Deucalion’s gaze sharpened. “You seem very well informed…Stiles, was it?”
“I have a few advantages,” Other Stiles admitted. “I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t use them.”
“It was Stiles who killed Gerard Argent, freeing you from the spell,” Derek revealed. “He also insisted we come here to see you immediately afterwards.”
“Then it appears I owe you a debt,” Deucalion said smoothly. “Along with the one I owe you, of course, Alpha Hale.” He looked inquiringly at Harris. “And who might you be? I believe I saw you constructing a rather marvellous magical shield earlier.”
“I’m here to keep an eye on Mr Stilinski,” Harris replied. “Stiles, that is. Once all his urgent business is tied up, I need to borrow him for something.”
“Curiouser and curiouser,” Deucalion murmured.
Other Stiles laughed. “Oh, you have no idea.”
Deucalion took the deflection gracefully. “I’m adrift,” he admitted. “With the fog gone, I’m achingly aware that my pack bonds were ripped away.”
Derek frowned. “The rumour was that you killed your own pack to increase your power.”
That was Stiles’ understanding, too. That in doing so, Deucalion had corrupted his alpha spark beyond recognition.”
Deucalion shook his head. “Yesterday, I would have agreed with you. Now, I can see those memories for what they are; something imposed on me, a lie. No, Alpha Hale, I didn’t kill my pack. They were killed soon after I was blinded and, being under the delusion that I had killed them myself, I made no attempt to identify their killer.”
Other Stiles winced and raised his hand slightly to draw everyone’s attention. “That would have been Gerard again. Probably not him personally, but hunters that were under his control and who were following his instructions.”
Deucalion gave a mirthless laugh. “Of course it was. Gerard Argent has done much to me and mine, it seems. I’m interested in discovering how it is you know so much about it.”
“Gerard’s depredations harmed more than just werewolves,” Other Stiles replied. “I was part of a group that researched him exhaustively.”
“You’re a teenager,” Deucalion pointed out, eyes narrowing.
“I’m a time-traveller, borrowing the body of my younger self,” Other Stiles corrected him. “With his permission, of course.”
Deucalion was incredulous. “You expect me to believe such a mendacious tale?”
Derek sighed. “You’ve already seen proof of it,” he reminded him. “Gerard’s death and your subsequent release from the spell are his doing. His insistence we come to find you straight away probably saved your life.”
“That’s true,” Deucalion allowed. “I suppose it’s no stranger than the other revelations of the night.” He gave Other Stiles a considering look. “What can you tell me about the spell that was cast on me?”
Other Stiles yawned. “Sorry, I’m just a little tired. Even with all the shenanigans lately, this body isn’t used to nights this long. And my mind has been awake for…three days now, I think.” He blinked a couple of times. “Right, Gerard’s spell. Are you aware of the hunter clerics?”
“I’ve heard rumours that hunters have their own magic users,” Deucalion replied. “I always thought it was more likely to be an off-shoot of the druids or something similar.”
Other Stiles shook his head. “No, the hunter clerics are a group of born and bred hunters from all over the world who are discovered to have magic. Children born to hunter families get tested at birth, again at five, then finally at puberty. If they’re discovered to have magical ability, they’re turned over to the clerics for training.”
“What kind of magic do they practice?” Harris asked, leaning forward in interest.
“I didn’t pay much attention, to be honest,” Other Stiles replied. “I know that it’s built around verbalisation and that they keep no written records. At least, none that the researchers assigned to them could find. Netao postulated that its beginnings were a bastardisation that combined aspects of druidic magic with fae rituals, but there wasn’t enough time to do any deep analysis. On the surface, it seemed a reasonable enough explanation.”
“Is anyone else as bored as I am?” Jackson asked, stifling a yawn of his own. “Can we get on with this? I was hoping to get home before my parents get up for the day.”
Other Stiles rolled his eyes. “Fine. There aren’t many clerics. Maybe one in twenty hunter births has enough magic to register on a scale, and only ten per cent of them develop enough magic to train. Since they’re in short supply, clerics are used sparingly. They mostly layer—and then maintain—what amount to ‘curiosity inhibitors’ over regions with high hunter activity. Anything else…my understanding of the system is that a hunter wanting specific cleric assistance puts in a requisition. Those are evaluated—for urgency etc.—and then placed on a waiting list.”
“Who does the evaluating?” Derek asked.
Other Stiles waved a hand dismissively. “There’s a support structure set up around them that takes care of the day-to-day. I think they’re located somewhere in Greece? I’m not sure about that, though.”
Jackson screwed up his nose. “It sounds like a prison. Do these clerics get any choice about their lives?”
“Not really,” Other Stiles replied. “Not as far as I can tell, anyway. Keep in mind that I’m not exactly on any hunter mailing lists or anything. This is second-hand info gathered by others who were also outsiders. Anyway, Gerard wanted something special for Deucalion, so he put in a request. When the clerics had created the spell, Gerard put his plan into motion, then released it.”
“That’s a needlessly cumbersome way to achieve a result,” Harris pointed out. “Do you know what exactly the spell was intended to do?”
“It heightened his anger, aggression, and paranoia,” Other Stiles said. “Kept those in a permanent state of turbulence. They did a memory implant to make him believe he killed his own pack, and they also made him blind. That was Gerard’s suggestion. He said it was about being able to monitor the spell long distance, ensure it was still working, but I think it was because he was a sadistic fuck, and he knew that it would make life difficult.”
Deucalion scowled. “The monster I became, the monster I’ve been for the last years; that was his intention? Why?”
Other Stiles shrugged. “He was a prejudiced, bigoted man. I personally think he also had an inferiority complex. He spent his life hating and killing anything even slightly supernatural; then, when he discovered that his cancer was inoperable and he was going to die, he immediately made plans to become an alpha werewolf.”
“That doesn’t answer my question.”
“Gerard and his daughter belonged to an extremist sect of hunters whose stated goal is the eradication of all supernatural beings,” Other Stiles replied wearily. “They made it their business to uncover peaceful packs and wipe them out. Meanwhile, the alpha pack were out there like a kind-of wrecking ball, destroying fledgeling packs and incited unrest in other, already turbulent packs. I imagine it was all part of their ‘bigger picture.’”
Deucalion clenched his jaw.
“Both our packs have been targeted by the Argents,” Derek said slowly. “Gerard is dead, and retaliating against other hunters is only going to increase their hatred of us.” He hesitated. “I haven’t received any alpha training,” he admitted. “My mother intended for my sister, Laura, to lead our pack, and had only begun her training when we were attacked.”
Stiles couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Was Derek—gruff, uncommunicative Derek, who had control issues at the best of times—asking for help? That didn’t fit with what Stiles knew about him.
Or did it? Stiles did a brief mental replay of his interactions with Derek since that fateful day he’d scolded Stiles and Scott for trespassing. Wow. With the benefit of hindsight, his grumpiness was fully justified. Derek was a grieving young man who nevertheless tried to help a couple of asshole kids who kept throwing his help back in his face.
Yes, Derek could have handled it better, but his sister had just died. Not just his sister, but his alpha. That must have had a profound psychological impact; then there were mental scars from the fire and the other stuff that Kate had done. Some of the things that Other Stiles had said to Allison…it was a wonder that Derek hadn’t gone completely off the deep end.
Deucalion straightened. “You would allow me to repay my debt to you by training you? You would accept instruction from me?”
Derek shrugged. “I remember my mother was impressed by you. I’m currently flying by the seat of my pants and not doing a great job. I’m an alpha who doesn’t know how to alpha leading newly bitten betas who don’t know the meaning of pack. I would welcome your instruction.”
Deucalion tilted his head to one side in thought. “It’s unconventional, certainly. You’re not concerned that my presence will taint your pack’s reputation? Few will be ready to believe that my actions these past few years were not entirely of my own doing.”
“The Hale pack will either get a reputation as bad-asses who shouldn’t be crossed, or bad-asses who managed to tame the fearsome Deucalion,” Other Stiles pointed out. “Either one is likely an improvement over whatever reputation they have now. We’re down to four born Hales remaining; one of them only just discovered his heritage, and another was recently dead.”
Deucalion blinked. “Recently dead?”
Derek sighed. “There was a thing with…to be honest, I have no idea what happened. But my Uncle Peter was resurrected earlier tonight.”