Reading Time: 147 Minutes
Title: Family Ties
Fandom: Teen Wolf, Charmed
Genre: Crossover, Drama, Family, Hurt/Comfort, Paranormal/Supernatural, Shifters
Relationship(s): Stiles Stilinski & Noah Stilinski, Stiles Stilinski & Cole Turner, Stiles Stilinski & Peter Hale, Stiles Stilinski & Hale Pack
Content Rating: PG-13
Warnings: Hate Crimes/Hate Speech, Major Character Death, Violence – Graphic, Violence – Domestic and/or Against Children, References to former canon rape(s), canon torture of werewolves/demons, canon level violence, character bashing, major and minor character canon and non-canon death(s)
Author Notes: Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Wolf or Charmed and make no money from this. Thank you to my awesome beta, KHowler. Also thanks to Kylia Toreel for help with bouncing ideas. And many thanks to the amazing Mizu Sage for the incredible art. Thank you to Keira, Jilly, and the mod team for their wonderful work in creating this Bang. Timeline: Teen Wolf – story begins at the end of Season 2; Charmed – post series (mostly ignores comics/epilogue other than children’s names) Many of the warnings are for canon attitudes and actions within Teen Wolf and Charmed.
Word Count: 63,190
Summary: When Gerard Argent had Stiles kidnapped after the championship lacrosse game, things went a bit differently. A flailing stumble after being hit by a geriatric rather than a direct fall triggered dramatic changes in Stiles, leading to the discovery of a heritage he never could have guessed at. And family connections he wasn’t sure he wanted.
Artist: Mizu Sage
Stiles sat next to his father in his dad’s sheriff’s cruiser. Stiles had been at the loft for most of the afternoon with the Pack. Not for any reason. They were just bonding, watching movies, playing around, eating. But Peter had given him a lift since his Jeep, Roscoe, was in the shop for a tune-up before school started the next week. His dad had picked him up, and they were going out for dinner at the diner where Stiles would, of course, order the food of the gods that was curly fries. And keep his dad from stealing any.
“So, how’s Cora been? Is she doing okay after everything? I know she was having a hard time for a bit there.”
Stiles shrugged. “She was doing better before she left to get her stuff and all. Accepting scenting from at least some of the Pack. She’s still a bit wary with Derek and Peter. From what I gather, she sort of blames Derek for abandoning her after the fire even though it was Laura’s decision. Derek was a beta and underage. Laura was the Alpha and an adult. Just barely, but she was legally. But Cora was close to Derek before all the sh – stuff went down and everyone died. And she feels he should have known she survived. Or stood up to Laura or ran away and found her. Something.”
Noah nodded. “Well, she was just ten when the fire happened. Her feelings have got to be tangled up, considering they start so young. Did she know they survived?”
Stiles tilted his head back and forth. “By the time she regained her senses after losing so many bonds at once, she was in a state. She wasn’t sure what she was feeling, they think she may have been feeling Peter, but he was unconscious and in a legit coma, not even catatonia back then. And Laura had just cut off all bonds except Derek. From what I’ve heard and been told.”
“So, yes and no?”
Stiles nodded. “She was so young and wasn’t sure if it was just an echo because of the severe trauma. And she was terrified to check the hospital or the morgue or the police station because she didn’t want to end up in foster care. So, she ran to the allied pack that she knew of, one of Cora’s Great-Great Aunts had married into it. But it was in South America. By the time she got there, or near enough to be picked up by the Pack as in the area, she was kinda broken.”
“And then she heard rumors, spread by who, no one knows, about a Hale Alpha in Beacon Hills and she comes running back, no real plan, sneaking over the border, not even telling her pack where she was headed, only to be kidnapped and tortured on and off by the Alpha Pack. And then she gets rescued and finds out what happened. How her big sister and brother abandoned her and her badly injured favorite uncle. How that uncle eventually healed enough to kill that sister and become the Alpha in her place. How her big brother then killed their uncle and took the Alpha spark. And then how her uncle came back to life as a beta.”
Stiles shrugged and flailed an arm. “I think she empathizes with Peter. A lot. But also is wary of him because she did love Laura. I think Derek is kind of the same way. The wolf part of them understands that Laura was a shitty – um, really bad Alpha to Peter. And he delivered a type of wolf justice on her when she wouldn’t avenge the dead Pack members. But the human part feels grief and loss and hates what he did. Pretty sure something similar is going on in Peter’s head about the whole thing, too. He feels guilty about killing Laura, who he loved, and was a member of his family. And he doesn’t have much left of that. But she deserved it, in werewolf and supernatural society terms. And he was the Left Hand. So, it’s really, really fu – messed up.”
Noah sighed. “I know you’re sixteen but still, watch the language. And yes, it is very messed up. But, how are you so sure about Peter’s feelings? I can’t imagine he is open about them. Or Derek. Or Cora, for that matter.”
Stiles blinked. “I – uh – huh. I don’t know. But I am positive I’m right.”
“Is that a,” Noah lifted one hand from the steering wheel and wiggled his fingers, “witchy power? Reading emotions? I can’t imagine it being a demonic one.” Noah turned the wiggling fingers into a claw shape before returning it to the steering wheel.
Stiles blew out a breath. “Yeah. From my research and the books, Peter leant me about born witches with active powers; it is a thing. It’s referred to as empathy. But it can be a mortal – muggle? Mundane? Gift, too. Just what I don’t need right now, another power to learn to control. It’s happening so fast. Does it feel like it’s too fast? I feel like it’s too fast. But is it really or is it just because of all the stuff that’s been happening?”
“I don’t know, son. You’ve had a lot of stuff dumped on your head these last few months. But you said that your visions,” Noah blinked and blew out a breath, “and that is still beyond odd, that they showed a prophecy or something? And you would be really powerful? And you had access to some powers in the womb? So, maybe if your powers hadn’t been bound when you found your mom and I and became our son, maybe it would be slower? But these are things, powers, that you should have had as you grew and got them gradually, but now they’re hitting all at once?”
Stiles sighed. “Best theory as any.”
“Did you say Cora had left?”
Stiles nodded. “She contacted the pack that took her in and explained everything, and two of them came to get her and take her back to pack up her stuff and get her paperwork and all. It is kind of a mess with her being thought dead here, but she has paperwork and transcripts and all down there. So, she wants to be with her family here but needs closure there, too. So, she left town a couple of days ago.”
Noah smiled and turned the last corner onto the diner’s Street. He began to look for a parking spot when the cruiser’s radio squawked. “Sheriff? Come in, Sheriff.”
Noah looked over at Stiles, and his lips twisted. He grabbed the radio. “Sheriff Stilinski here.”
“Sheriff, we got a call for a 10-54, and it was checked out and confirmed as a 10-55. Deputy Dills reported it as a definite 187. No doubt in his mind. Location at Oak Street and Malloy.”
Noah sighed. “On my way. Over and out.”
He turned to Stiles. “Go get dinner.”
Stiles shook his head. “A possible dead body confirmed as a coroner’s case? And Deputy Dills is sure it’s murder and not suicide or accident or animal attack? You aren’t going alone, Dad.”
“Stiles, son, it’s my job. And I won’t be alone. Deputy Dills will be there. And the coroner is en route. Which means the coroner’s assistant. And it wasn’t reported as any kind of 10-91. So, it isn’t a werewolf issue. Or a Pack issue.”
“It could be. You don’t know.”
“Fine. I don’t know it isn’t supernaturally related. I can never know for sure going in. Even with an animal attack. But I promise, if it is at all weird, I will let you know. But for now, you go get dinner. Call Peter or Derek for a lift. Let me know if you’re going to stay at the loft. I’ll probably be late.”
Stiles’ shoulders slumped. “Fine. But you watch your back. You never know with this town.”
Fifteen minutes later, Stiles was slouched on the sofa at the loft with a pout on his face. He was fiddling with his phone, checking the screen every thirty seconds or so. Peter sat down next to him and snatched it.
“It won’t ring faster the more you check it, darling. Your fidgets are often endearing, but this is more than enough.”
Stiles stuck out his tongue. “Keep away won’t work with me anymore. Phone!”
The phone shimmered out of Peter’s hands and into Stiles’. He smirked at the older man and stuck his tongue out again. “So there!”
“Very mature, sweetheart. Be careful someone doesn’t bite it off. Or take it as a different sort of invitation.” Peter’s eyes took on a smoldering look.
Stiles broke into giggles, and Peter frowned. “Now, that’s just rude.”
Stiles got his laughter under control and grinned. “Sorry for the hit to your ego, Zombiewolf. You’re hot, don’t get me wrong. But you’re also full of shit. You talk the talk and flirt the flirt, but you’d never follow through. And it’s got nothing to do with me being underage either.”
Peter frowned and scooted closer. “Darling, I’m very good at my follow through.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “Not happening. And you don’t want it to. If I tried to take you up on it, which I have no desire to do, you’d back off so fast even your werewolf neck would get whiplash.”
The door to the loft slid open, and Derek and Isaac walked in. Derek frowned when he looked at Peter and Stiles on the sofa and how close they were sitting. “Peter, back off. He said no.”
Stiles waved his hand and pulled one of his legs up, draping his arm around it. “It isn’t a problem, Derek. And his ego is fine. He just hates that I’m reading him right. But I’ve never taken his flirting seriously. He usually does it to make either me or you or others uncomfortable. Often all of the above.”
Peter stood up with a move that could legitimately be called a flounce though Stiles didn’t verbalize the thought. “I know when I’m not wanted.”
Stiles scoffed. “Oh, sit down, you big drama queen. It worked. I’m not going out of my mind worrying about my dad. But just know, I know when you’re bullshititng me.”
Peter sat back down on the sofa, against the opposite side from Stiles rather than right next to him, and smiled. “Why don’t you tell us what had you so worried in the first place.”
Derek and Isaac sat down on two of the armchairs nearest the sofa. Stiles sighed. “Dad and I were supposed to have dinner at the diner.”
Derek nodded. “You said as much before he picked you up earlier. It was the last chance for a calm dinner out before school starts next week since he’s on nights after today. Just like Jackson is on vacation with his parents, bonding before the new school year. And Erica and Boyd went to see that movie none of the rest of us were interested in before it leaves the theaters.”
Stiles nodded. “Right. Well, before he even parked the cruiser, he got a call out to a scene that needed him. It was a murder. The responding deputy was sure it was a murder and not an accident, suicide, or animal attack. And I’m just worried. I mean, yeah, sometimes murders are just mundane murders. Which sounds horrific. Like murder is just normal sometimes. But I mean mundane as opposed to supernatural. Should I say muggle? I mean, it always seemed really rude in Harry Potter. But it does differentiate well.”
Isaac kicked his leg lightly. “Relax and slow down, Stiles. Back on topic.”
Stiles nodded his head sharply. “Right. Okay, so word choice aside, I feel antsy. Like maybe it looks like a regular human murder, but it is hinky and supernatural. But I don’t know if it’s just my anxiety or an aspect of my powers. So, I’m on edge until I hear from my dad.”
Derek reached out a hand and laid it on Stiles’ shoulder, scenting him and grounding him. “Whether it is supernatural or not, worrying won’t change it. Why don’t we put on a movie or something, unwind and relax? Do you want to stay here tonight? Since the Sheriff likely won’t be home until late?”
Stiles nodded. “If you don’t mind, dude. That’d be great.”
Isaac shrugged. “Not a problem with me. You don’t snore like Jackson. Or McCall. And you won’t hit the bathroom like Erica and Lydia do. Or Jackson. Or Peter.”
Stiles laughed. “Thought you were being sexist for a second there.”
Isaac grinned. “Nah. Truth though.”
Peter huffed and sat back against the arm of the sofa.
Derek leaned back against his chair. “So, what movies are we thinking of fighting to watch?”
Stiles bit his lip. “I have suggestions. Plenty of them. But before we start the winnowing process, I need to tell you all something that my dad realized. And I am pretty sure he is right.”
Peter sat up. “What’s wrong?”
Stiles looked down at his knees. “I either just recently got a new power, or it’s been around for a while, and I’ve only just realized it. I’ve always been decent at reading people. Got it from my dad, you know, cop’s son and all. But he made me realize tonight that lately, I’ve been reading more than facial expressions, body language, and tonal notes. I’ve actually inadvertently been reading actual emotions. I can’t pinpoint how long ago it started. But it was gradual, no sudden uncontrollable influx like was described in the books. But I’m now an empath.”
Derek stiffened. “What does that mean?”
Stiles shrugged. “Well, I can sort of feel, not exactly that, it doesn’t change my own emotions to another’s, but I can tell, I just know what emotions people are feeling. If they’re lying or I don’t know? You guys can like, smell chemosignals and hear heartbeats skip on lies. I can just feel, in my magic, the emotional tone of a person. Like when Peter was hardcore flirting and making innuendoes earlier? I could tell there was no real attraction there, no sexual interest, just fondness, and almost paternal love. And worry.”
Peter’s lips twisted. “I’ll never be able to fool you.”
Stiles shrugged. “It sort of levels the playing field. You’ve always been able to know my emotions through my smell and heartbeat. And I have no idea how to stop. I won’t be in your face about it or bring things up if you don’t bring it up first. Unless it is a danger to yourselves or the Pack. But it is there. I’ll work on shielding in case it gets more intrusive or starts trying to project rather than just read emotions. Which, given my luck lately, is likely to happen at some point. It’s the logical progression of that type of power.”
Derek nodded, and his body language softened from its stiff demeanor. “Okay. I’m actually used to people knowing how I’m feeling to an extent. Werewolves. It’s how I grew up. Let us know if we can help in any way.”
Stiles nodded. “You got it, Alpha. Now, to movies.”
After some discussion, they settled on marathoning the Jason Bourne movies. Peter had seen the first one when it came out but had missed the other two, though the second was out before the fire.
Just as the first movie was reaching its conclusion, Erica and Boyd showed up, having been at the theater watching “Final Destination 5”. None of the rest of the Pack were fans of the franchise, though Stiles found the first one to have an interesting premise.
Some time later, just as they were about halfway through “The Bourne Supremacy,” Stiles’ phone lit up with a call. The ringtone was Lydia’s. It was very late, and Stiles immediately got worried.
They paused the movie as he answered the phone, none of them even pretending not to listen in. “Hey, Lydia. I’m at the loft. What’s the matter?”
“Stiles. I need – there’s a – I don’t know how I got here. Stiles. I’m in my pajamas. And – there’s so much blood. It’s so loud.”
Stiles gripped his phone hard. “Are you hurt?”
“No. No. I didn’t touch – Stiles, how did I get here?”
“Where are you, Lydia? Can you see any landmarks? Stores? Street signs? Odd looking trees?” Stiles shrugged when Isaac gave him a look of disgust.
“I – I’m outside. Near the little league field. I can see the elementary school. It’s in the dugout. I – Stiles. I don’t – I can’t – I was in bed. I was asleep. I think.”
Stiles nodded. “Is it a dead body, Lyds?”
“Yes. It’s really dead.”
“Okay, it’s your banshee powers manifesting. Do you recognize the body? Do you know them?”
“No. I mean, I recognize the face, they go to school with us, but they’re not in our grade. I don’t know their name. I don’t think I’ve ever talked to them.”
Stiles slid his feet into his sneakers and stood up. “Okay. Was I your first call, Lydia?”
“Uh huh. Jackson is out of town, and your dad’s the sheriff. Should I have called the police? The body isn’t going anywhere. It is really, really, really dead.”
Stiles shook his head as the rest of the Pack got their shoes on. “No. I should always be your call before the police unless you’re in danger. But when you find a body, especially if you’re alone, call Pack first. There’s no way to explain why you’re at the baseball field at this time of night. I’ll contact my dad and get him there, and he can put it in as an anonymous call.”
“Okay. It’s so loud, Stiles.”
“I know. We’re on the way, Lydia. The loft is only seven or eight minutes from the field. Just stay on the phone with me, okay?” The Pack hurried down the stairs and out to various cars.
“Okay. Can I not look anymore?”
Stiles buckled into the front passenger seat of the Camaro. “Of course, Lyds. Just go to the parking lot, but stay near the lamps.”
“No lamps are on.”
“Not even the ones along the street?”
“Not the one near the driveway. The others are on, but they are up the street.”
Stiles shared a quick look with Derek. “Okay, well, make your way to one of them. We are on our way. Did you scream? Before you found the body?”
“When I found it. I felt like I wanted to, but it wasn’t going to happen. Like my mouth wouldn’t open until I found the body. Then I screamed. But not like a horror movie victim.”
“Right. It was your powers. You were drawn to the death. Since you don’t know the victim, it means the death is supernaturally related.”
Lydia sighed. “Right. Okay. I don’t like this, Stiles.”
“We’ll figure it out, Lydia. I promise.”
“Oh, I can see Derek’s car. Can you see me?”
Stiles saw Lydia in the light of the street lamp fifty feet from the driveway to the baseball field parking lot. “Yeah. We see you.”
Derek pulled in next to Lydia, and Stiles opened the door. Lydia walked over to the car and collapsed into Stiles’ lap. Stiles pulled her legs inside the car and eased the door closed.
Derek slowly drove the short bit to the driveway and eased into the parking lot. Stiles was very glad it was paved. When he had been a kid, the lot was made of stones and would have picked up great tire impressions of the Camaro and Peter’s car as it pulled in behind them.
Erica hurried up and opened Stiles’ door. She leaned in and picked up the now sleeping banshee. Stiles smiled a wry smile. “Can you lay her in the backseat of Peter’s car and stay with her, Catwoman?”
Erica nodded. “Sure thing, Batman. I’ll keep her safe.”
As Erica made her way to the other car, Stiles got out and made his way to the dugout with the rest of the Pack. They stopped close but far enough to not leave footprints in the soft ground.
Stiles looked at the body, and it was definitely dead. Just from a visual inspection, he could see his throat had been cut, and there was a deep impact wound on the side of his head.
Stiles nodded. “Okay. I’m gonna call it in to my dad. You all get the cars out into the neighborhood and hang close enough to hear but not be seen by the deputies when they arrive. The last thing you need is to be found at a murder scene. Again.”
Stiles pulled out his phone and called his dad.
“Stiles, I’m still at work. I’ll catch a nap in the break room. Later.”
Stiles spoke in a low voice. “Not why I’m calling. I don’t know about the body you were called out to earlier, but the body I’m looking at now is supernaturally related. Lydia kind of sleepwalked to it and screamed for them. But she doesn’t know them. That means it’s a supernatural death. I’m gonna use the payphone to call it in and then ‘track you down’ at the scene like the worried son I am.”
Boyd waved at Stiles from the payphone and pointed to himself. Stiles tilted his head and nodded but held up a finger. Boyd walked over and raised an eyebrow. Stiles mimed for his phone, and Boyd nodded, taking it out and letting Stiles write a note to tell him what to say. “Sound high or drunk. Slur,” Stiles whispered.
Boyd nodded and hurried back to the payphone and called the emergency number.
“Stiles, I promise. I will get some rest a bit later.”
Stiles smiled. His dad knew this was an alibi builder call. “Boyd’s calling it in now.”
Stiles heard the door to his dad’s office bang open.
“No, son, you don’t need to come down here and – hold on, Stiles.”
Stiles heard muffled words but picked up the deputy saying, “found a body, lots of blood.”
“Listen, Stiles, I have to go out to a scene. I promise to get some rest when I can. And something healthy to eat for breakfast.”
“Dad!” Stiles protested loudly for form and for the deputy to be able to hear.
“I’m fine, Stiles. I will call you later. Now go to bed.”
Stiles heard the phone disconnect and made his way to where the cars were parked. He nodded at the Pack. “They’ll be here soon. Good job, Boyd. The dispatcher wouldn’t recognize your voice. They might have mine, even if I disguised it.”
Stiles sat in the back of Derek’s car while the werewolves spread out around the scene. Several deputy’s cars and the sheriff’s cruiser arrived, and Stiles watched the coordinated insanity from a distance.
After about ten minutes, Stiles made his way to the parking lot and the deputy who was setting up the crime scene tape across the entrance. He looked at Stiles and shook his head. “Your dad’s fine, Stiles. This isn’t your business.”
“Miles, he got called out to a murder earlier. When he wasn’t on call, and now he’s here when he should be resting. This isn’t a drunk and disorderly. There’s way too many of you here for something minor.”
The deputy called over his shoulder. “Hey, Paul, can you get the Sheriff over here.”
The man turned back to Stiles. “I know you’re worried, kid, but this is his job. We’ll keep him safe.”
Stiles bit his lip. “It’s just – after Matt.”
“I know, Stiles. I know. We’re all a little edgy. But no one else is here. The killer’s long gone.”
Stiles leaned forward. “It’s another murder? Isn’t it?”
“Shouldn’t have said that, but yeah. Almost definitely.”
Noah walked up to the tape and waved the deputy on. “Keep securing the scene. I’ll deal with this delinquent.”
The deputy moved off with the tape but was well within earshot.
“Stiles. What are you doing here? You should be home in bed.”
“I heard the location when we were on the phone.” It was the truth. It had been muffled, and if he didn’t already know it, he wouldn’t have been able to make it out, but as it was, it couldn’t be disputed that he could have heard it. “I was worried. You’re not on call and were already called in and then called to another scene? At one in the morning?”
“Stiles, son, you know perfectly well that I sometimes have to go into work even when I should have off. I’m the Sheriff. And I can take care of myself. Now, go home and get to bed. You can stop by and bring me lunch later.”
Noah leaned over the tape and pulled Stiles into a hug. Stiles whispered into his dad’s ear, “The Pack is around.”
As Stiles pulled back, he said in a normal tone, “Fine. But it’s gonna be a salad.”
“We’re eating healthy, Dad. You’re sticking around for a long time. You have enough stress in your job, eating fatty -“ Stiles stopped talking as his dad’s radio squawked.
The dispatcher’s voice came across. “Sheriff, we’ve got another 187. Fallow Hill Road and Benton Drive.”
Stiles’ eyes met his dad’s, and the man sighed. “Just go home, Stiles.”
Stiles opened his mouth as if to protest and then didn’t say anything as his dad gave him the look. The ‘I mean business, and I’m not budging’ look. It was rare, but when it was pulled out, Stiles knew he was done.
Stiles nodded and looked down. “Just be careful.” He looked at the deputy who had come back when he heard the dispatcher’s call. “Keep you all safe.”
The deputy inclined his head, and Stiles walked back down the street and around the corner to Derek’s car. He slid into the passenger’s seat, and Derek soon got back to the vehicle. Isaac climbed into the backseat, and Derek drove them all back to the loft.
After everyone was back, Stiles looked around at them. “We might as well get some sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day. And there may be lots of them after tomorrow.”
The Pack nodded, and Derek and Isaac got out the ‘portable’ mattresses. The only reason they were portable was because werewolves could carry heavy loads. Or if he felt like it, Stiles could levitate them. They were two king-size mattresses that they put on the floor next to one another, and on top of the fitted sheets, they covered them in lots of blankets and pillows for a sleep time puppy pile.
Once everyone was ready for bed, Stiles laid down in the middle of the left mattress. Behind him near the edge of the mattress was Peter, and while normally Derek would be directly on his other side, tonight it was Lydia. Derek was next to her on the center edge and then Erica facing her Alpha on the center edge of the right mattress. Isaac was cuddled up behind her and Boyd behind him.
Stiles knew by morning the configuration would change as people shifted positions in their sleep. It had freaked him out the first few times it had happened, and he woke up with Isaac’s head on his stomach and his head on Derek’s thigh while Peter’s lower legs were wrapped around his and Boyd’s head was on his shoulder. But now he was used to it, and it didn’t phase him. The Pack instinctually sought out contact with the Alpha and each other and their emissary. And Stiles was content with his place in the Hale Pack.
The next afternoon, the Pack gathered at the loft again. Peter had brought several books, and Stiles had copies of parts of the police reports from his dad. They weren’t actual copies, but the information his dad felt comfortable sharing from the investigation, which was victim identities and basic information, the coroner’s preliminary reports, photos of the bodies at the sites, and the lack of any forensics at the three scenes.
Stiles dove into the victims and victimology on his laptop. Peter and Lydia worked through the books. The rest of the Pack got the info and went to scope out the scenes, hoping for supernatural evidence or scent trails.
Stiles found the three victims’ social media accounts, and with Danny’s help, he began tracking their movements and friends. After an hour of finding nothing significant and hearing no exclamations of success from the other three, Stiles looked up. “I hate to suggest it, ‘cause I really, really don’t trust him, but do you think Deaton would have information? I mean, he’s a Druid and former emissary, right? I know he has books.”
Peter chuckled. “It wouldn’t do you any good. The good veterinarian is unavailable for the foreseeable future. Marin Morrell contacted me and told me what she suspects happened. See, Alan was her brother. And when you cast the karma spell, you bound it to blood. And, I guess the spell didn’t keep it to the blood spilled by Morrell one way or another but to the blood of her blood as well. And the karmic debt Deaton was carrying was evidently too much to handle. He went catatonic from the magical backlash.”
Blackhole of evil. Monster! Totally soulless.
Peter continued his revelations, “She thinks he must have been a Darach. Or as near as to not make a difference.”
Danny looked up. “Darach?”
Stiles sighed. “Darach is like a Druid who turned to the Dark Side. It means ‘dark oak’. Druid means ‘wise oak.’ Darachs are about murderous sacrifices and evil spells of control. If Deaton was one or dancing back and forth across the line of it, the karma spell would have nearly killed him because his motivations would have been entirely selfish, not the self-delusional justifications that Morrell used.”
Peter nodded. “Morrell thinks Deaton will never wake up from his trapped state. He’s not in a coma, he’s aware, he just can’t do anything until the spell has exacted it due. And from the spell Morrell performed on him to figure out the problem, his debt to the karmic balance is at least quintuple hers. And drenched in blackness. If she did the spell on herself, she would be covered in dark grey with patches of light grey and even white and likely a few streaks or sections in black. She couldn’t see anything but black on Deaton’s aura during her spell.”
Stiles shook his head. “Okay. So he got the balance that he was always prattling about. Hypocrite. What happened to his books?”
Peter shrugged. “Morrell took them, I presume. She would be his next of kin as his sister.”
“Too bad. These victims are annoying. They have little in common that I can tell, other than generalities. The first body was Paula Richter. She would have been a senior at Devenford Prep in a week. She was in choir and orchestra, and she played the violin. She just got back from seven weeks as a camp counselor at a Christian summer camp in Oregon. Her Facebook is full of pictures of campfire hymn sings and chapel nights.”
Stiles sighed and flipped a page. “The body that Lydia was called to last night was Sage Connor. He would have been a sophomore at our school this fall, so a year younger than us. He was into tabletop role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons. His Facebook is full of info about his ‘campaigns’.”
He flipped another page. “The third victim was Rebecca Filian. She would have been a junior with us this fall. I didn’t really know her. We had a class or two together last year, but she wasn’t here before that. Her family moved to Beacon Hills when her mother got a job at the hospital as a doctor in June of our freshman year. She just finished out her freshman year at her old school in Iowa by correspondence and email. She was kind of a loner, she had a problem with weight and really bad acne. She evidently got weight loss surgery in June and lost nearly 100 pounds over the summer. Her Facebook has lots of photos of her change.”
Lydia looked up from her book. “They were all killed the same way, right? Overkill?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah. They were bludgeoned, their throats were cut, and there was evidence of a garrote strangling them, too. The coroner won’t know for sure, which was the actual cause of death for days, if ever.”
Lydia pointed to the page she was reading. “I found it. It’s a threefold death. It was used by druids to call up great magic and was perverted by evil druids, Darachs, to be involuntary deaths. It could be leading to more. Lots more. Or they could be done.”
Danny tilted his head. “What do you mean?”
“I was thinking like my old self when you were describing the three of them and their lives.”
“You mean like the airhead, popular, mean girl mask you wore?” Stiles asked with a cocked eyebrow.
Lydia sighed. “Yes, fine, whatever, you saw through me. Anyway, I was thinking how lame Paula’s life was and how she probably never went to a real high school party or had a boyfriend, and if she did, she would have made him pray with her rather than having other fun on her knees.”
Stiles snorted. “That’s terrible, Lydia.”
Lydia nodded. “I’m a bitch. I own it. But my mind was on that track, and you described Sage. He was a total loser in school. An utter geek. And not a cute one. He was the stereotypical eighties teen movie nerdy loser. And Rebecca, well, she really wasn’t attractive. At all. What’s the likelihood that the three of them were virgins? I’d put it pretty high.”
Stiles cocked his head and bit his lip. “Yeah. Okay. But there’s plenty of virgins in this town. Yours truly, for one. Will I be a target?”
Lydia shook her head. “No. According to this, the Darach killed three virgins and took their power to fuel a spell to hold a glamour. It will hide their true looks. And identity. If they aren’t done and are seeking more power, there will be another twelve deaths. All in groups of three but with different commonalities. There may be a virgin or two in that dozen, but it’ll be a coincidence. The other groups are warriors, healers, philosophers, and guardians. There isn’t any particular order required.”
Peter sighed and closed the book he was holding. “That’s a very wide group of possibilities. I think we need a way to see the Darach as they truly are, under their glamour. We could see them every day and not know it.”
Stiles nodded. “Okay. I’ll work on that, research it, see if I can find or create a spell to do it. I think I saw something like that. It’ll take me some time, but hopefully, they’re done for now. Hopefully, they just wanted the glamour to hide.”
Lydia nodded. “We don’t want to face a Five-Fold-Knot.”
Danny’s eyes widened, and he shook his head slowly.
Peter shook his head. “Fifteen sacrifices? No, the power they would raise from that would be – no.”
Stiles set up a circle of candles, white and deep blue, in a circle on the basement floor of his house. Now that his dad knew about the supernatural, Stiles had decided to spread outside of his bedroom, which was kind of small for any rituals.
In his visions, he had seen the sisters using their house’s attic for these types of things. But Stiles’ house didn’t have an attic you could stand up in, just a crawl space mostly filled with insulation and wiring and plumbing. The basement was the best choice. It was three quarters below ground, and the main room was in the rear, it’s windows facing the yard, not the street.
Stiles had a brazier in the center of the circle and a firepot burning below it to keep it heated. He tossed bundles of aloe, angelica, garlic, iris, pansy, and rosemary into the brazier, and they began filling the circle with an incense-like smoke.
Stiles sat inside the circle facing north and closed his eyes, breathing deeply and relaxing his body. And doing his best to relax his mind. After five minutes, Stiles opened his eyes and began to chant:
I seek to find within the void
A soul who once the Source employed,
Born of man and demon both,
To a Charmed witch, he pledged his troth.
I send my spirit seeking to find
Protected from harm, no one may bind.
To him, I go, hidden from other sight
To discover whether he be wrong or right.
As the last word left his lips, Stiles felt himself float upwards and glancing back he saw his body, head tilted downwards sitting inside the circle. Stiles rose though the ceiling and upwards. When he reached the air above the house, his surroundings blurred, and when they cleared, he was in a room filled with books on shelves. It had high windows and long tables. It was a library with many aisles. But the books were all very old looking.
Stiles landed on the floor and felt solid, at least to his own senses. He walked along the first aisle and looked down the next. At the third intersection, he saw a man near the end. Stiles made his way down the row and sat at the table across from the man. It was Cole.
Cole glanced up after a minute and rolled his eyes. “Kids out late aren’t going to read anything of interest to me.”
Stiles smirked as he realized that Cole thought Stiles was in the real world and visiting the library as a patron. “Maybe, maybe not. But I’m not here to read. At least, I’m not here to read books.”
Cole’s head jerked up, his eyes wide. “My apologies. I was unaware you were within the Cosmic Void.”
Stiles inclined his head. “Understandable. I guess. When’s the last time you interacted with someone who could see you and hear you?”
Cole shrugged. “It’s been a while. You kind of lose track of time when trapped as I am.”
“I guess you would. I’d assume it was part of the punishment aspect of your sentence. Did you even get told about what they were going to do to you? Or did they just place you here to figure it out on your own?”
Cole tilted his head. “I had thought you were an Elder, but you’d know the answer to that if you were. They did inform me of the confines I was placed in.”
Stiles raised an eyebrow. “Do I look like an Elder? I thought I looked younger than I am, not older.”
Cole snorted. “Elders, as the group is called, are not necessarily old. They’re chosen much like whitelighters usually. They’re called Elders due to tribal and clan influence once upon a time. The village ‘elders’ would control things like laws. And the Elders do the same. Sort of. Sometimes.”
Stiles nodded. “Okay. Well, nope, your second guess was right. I’m not an Elder.”
Cole stared at Stiles. “Most demons would know about the basics about the Elders. They’re enemies, after all. And you know who I am, so you aren’t someone who was inadvertently trapped here. You came looking for me. Demons can be not evil. I was once. And I’ve met a few others, including a memorable one I helped find love. Briefly.”
Stiles raised his eyebrows. “Sounds intriguing. Maybe you’ll tell me that story one day.”
Cole narrowed his eyes. “Plan to be here awhile?”
Stiles shook his head. “Not too long, no.”
“You’re the wrong age to be Piper’s kid. And definitely too old to be Paige or Phoebe’s.”
Stiles flinched minutely.
“Unless you’re time traveling. But why come to find me in that case and not your mother and aunts?”
Stiles shook his head. “Bzzt. Well, half-bzzt, half low, kind of anemic ding ding ding. I mean, I’m not gonna hide who I am. It would defeat the purpose of me being here. But I was having fun making you guess. ‘Cause I’m unique, and you won’t be able to figure it out without lots of hints, and I ain’t got time for that.”
Cole sat back. “Okay. So, what do I call you? You know who I am, I presume.”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah. Cole Turner, once the half-demon Balthazar. For a short time possessed by the Source of All Evil. Later insane after absorbing too many disparate, uncleansed powers from the demonic wasteland. Vanquished multiple times by the Charmed Ones, one of whom, Phoebe, was your lover and later wife and Queen of the Source.”
Cole firmed his lips and frowned. “You know quite a bit.”
Stiles nodded. “I made it my business to know. Plus I got a bit of a supernatural assist with a good bit of it. You can call me Stiles. It’s a nickname.”
Cole nodded. “Alright, Stiles. Why are you here?”
“I’m here because you’re here. I don’t even know where here is, exactly. Other than a big freaking library. But you’re here, and the spell I cast was to find you. Therefore, here I am.”
“And why did you want or need to find me?”
Stiles sighed. “I guess I didn’t need to find you. I mean, I knew you were trapped here, and I didn’t like that idea. It’s cruel and inhumane. But I wasn’t sure what I should do about it. I mean, I could bring you back to life, embody you again. Or send you on to a true afterlife where you can be at peace, finally.”
“Yeah, I can do that. Either one. I figured out both of them. Before I came. Because if I couldn’t do them, whichever I decided was the right call, it would be pointless and even more kind of torturous for me to come talk to you. I mean, maybe not entirely pointless. But I feel like it would have hurt you more. Emotionally speaking. And I didn’t want that. I want you out of this place to stop your torture, not make it worse.”
Cole sat forward, his hands crossed on top of the table. “So, you want to free me from the Cosmic Void. Where I was cursed to remain for eternity to pay for my crimes. By the might of the Elders combined. And you think you can free me, one way or another?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah. I mean, neither is exactly easy, but I can do it. And hide you from the nosy Elders while I’m at it.”
“Who are you?”
Stiles opened and closed his mouth. “Whoops. Right. I’m Stiles and through a long, incredibly convoluted journey of powers acting to protect me in the very best way they could, I was originally conceived as the son of Cole Turner, the Source of All Evil, and his Queen, Phoebe Halliwell.”
Cole stood up. “No! That baby – my child, my son, he died. The Seer stole him from Phoebe’s womb, and when she was vanquished, so was he.”
Stiles shook his head. “Nope. The Seer stole me, but I was more aware in the womb than some people who have lived for decades. I knew I was in trouble, and my magic acted to save me, from the demons around me and the witches who rejected me. My essence, soul, fetal self, DNA, and mind, whatever, was sent back in time to a compatible couple. And combined with their DNA to be half their son, half what I was. And yet both and neither at the same time. And when I was safe, my powers locked themselves away to keep me hidden in the normal world. But I was exposed to the fringe supernatural world, werewolves and Hunters and Kanimas and druids. And my powers unlocked to save my life. Again.”
Cole reached out a hand. “You’re my son?”
Stiles nodded. “Genetically? Yes, kind of. Magically? Most definitely. My first power to really unlock that I know of was an energy ball I threw to save my life and the lives of two friends.”
“Why are you here? After all I’ve done? You should have been one of the strongest forces for good in the world. Instead, because of my actions, the dark wedding, the tonic, you have demonic powers.”
Stiles stood up and sat on the edge of the table. “I have witchy powers, too. It’s how I knew so much about you and where to find you. And that you weren’t dead. I have visions.”
Stiles’ mouth twisted. “Yeah, like her. I have all of their powers, actually. It’s awesome but it can be really annoying. And it freaked me out before I understood what was happening to me. I thought I was a vanilla human until I was throwing energy balls and having visions and freezing stuff and calling my cell phone to my hand from halfway across town.”
Stiles waved his hands. “And from what I saw and understood, which is a good bit, man. Like genetic memory or something? Like the Goa’uld on Stargate. Anyway, you didn’t have control of yourself then. That was all the essence of the Source. And the only thing he couldn’t overcome of your humanity was your love for her. So, it planned around it. So, don’t beat yourself up over it. I’ve had a pretty good life so far. My dad’s great. He’s the Sheriff of the county I live in. And I’ve got lots of friends, a Pack. And maybe another father? If you wanted.”
Cole swallowed. “That would be wonderful. Even if you only visited me once in a while. That would be -“
Stiles scoffed. “I told you. That would be torture. I also told you I had all of their powers. That includes empathy. And it works here. Better than in my actual, corporeal body, actually. And I can tell what you’re feeling, and I’m gonna free you. Get you a body and hide you from the assholes who think they’re gods. Fuck that. It’s gonna take a bit, few weeks, until the fall equinox. But I’ll be ready then. It would help if you could make your way to Northern California by September 18. Town called Beacon Hills.”
“I don’t know what to – how to thank you.”
“Stop. Just, this is the right thing. I’ll keep an eye on you to make sure you don’t go off the deep end again, but I don’t think you will without some sort of outside interference. Just be ready when I call.”
Cole nodded. “I will. Beacon Hills, California.”
Stiles nodded as his body began to float towards the ceiling. “See you in a few weeks, Pop.”
Stiles sat on a beanbag chair on the floor of the loft, supplies laid out in front of him on the coffee table. The entire Pack sat on the sofa, chairs, and floor facing him. He nodded.
“Okay, so I did research and found a spell that can enchant items to see evil, even through glamours. Derek and Peter were able to use their contacts, pun not intended, to get every one of the werewolves a set of specialized contact lenses. They are normally used when you know you will be on film or when that is a likely possibility. They eliminate the eye flare that will cover your face in a photo and some types of video. And even after I do the spell on them, they will still work for that purpose.”
Stiles tapped on the box of lenses. “I also got three pairs of non-prescription lenses for Lydia, Danny, and I to use. Now, I am not sure exactly how this spell will interpret ‘evil within.’ It could read the werewolf inside you as a type of possession or other presence and show a beta form when you look at a werewolf, whether they are transformed or not. Or it could be literal and show evil only, like an aura. So, the Alpha Pack would have shown up as abnormal, at least some of them, and so would Morrell and Deaton. But not Boyd or Isaac. I don’t know. We’ll find out in a minute, I just wanted to warn you.”
Derek nodded. “We understand, Stiles.”
“Okay, well, here goes. I’m going to cast the spell four times. Because I have to change the wording based on who will use the lenses. So, I’ll say witch for me, banshee for Lydia, human for Danny, and werewolves for you guys.”
Jackson rolled his eyes. “Just get on with it, Stilinski.”
Stiles picked up the box with the lenses he would be using and held it in his hand. He took a deep breath and focused before speaking the spell:
“Magic forces far and wide,
enchant these so those can’t hide.
Allow this witch to use therein,
so he can reveal the evil within.”
The box glowed, and when Stiles opened the case, they saw the glow sink into the lenses. “Okay, now the others.”
Stiles said the spell holding the appropriate boxes twice more, adjusting pronouns and descriptors as he went. The boxes glowed, and the light sank into all of the lenses, and Stiles passed them out.
Stiles picked up one of the lenses and shuddered. He lifted it to his eye, took a deep breath and put it in. He repeated the procedure for the other. It creeped him out, the thought of having it on his eyeballs. But it was necessary, so he sucked it up.
Stiles blinked a couple of times and looked around the room. The others were putting their lenses in to get used to them, and he was curious.
He started with Lydia. She looked normal until she looked at him. Then he saw her tan fade and her face and hair look utterly white. That was all.
He turned his gaze to Jackson. He, too, looked normal until Stiles saw his face straight on. Then Stiles could see his beta blue eyes and a shadow of scales around his cheeks. The scales were faded and almost like when you wrote on your arm with a permanent marker and it takes days and days for it to fade. The scales looked like they were almost faded but still permanent.
When he looked at the other betas, Stiles only saw their normal faces with beta gold eyes. No brow ridges, no fangs, nothing but the eyes were different.
Looking at Derek, Stiles saw his blazing red eyes, signifying his Alpha status. And a few drops of what looked like blood on his cheeks. Not like he cut himself shaving but like it had gotten flicked on him, from arterial spray or something. Like when he killed his uncle and took the Alpha spark.
Finally, Stiles turned to Peter. The man’s eyes blazed blue but there was a flicker of red every few minutes. His face had smears of blood red down his cheeks but most of it was faded like Jackson’s scales. There was one bloody streak that looked nearly fresh, leading down his face from his left eye, like he cried the blood. And his skin looked odd, the color was greyish, ashy, but also purpled in spots. Stiles realized it signified his death and resurrection. And the dark magic used to accomplish it.
Though Stiles knew from some of his research that Peter could have come back just as powerful as he died or more so, if he had killed Derek and Lydia during the resurrection ritual, rather than just use their powers and a bit of blood.
Stiles took a look at Danny and nodded. The boy looked just as he normally did.
Stiles wondered what he looked like. He wondered if the lenses would work in a mirror. He stood up and made his way to the bathroom as the rest of the Pack looked at one another with their enchanted lenses.
Stiles looked into the mirror and flinched. Half of his face was in shadow and almost unseen in the darkness. The other half was nearly glowing with brightness under his skin. It wasn’t so bright that it was blinding. But it was definitely there.
Stiles stared at the shadowed half of his face, remembering the brief glimpses his visions had shown him of the Source before Cole. He shook his head, trying to ignore the echoes of his two mothers and his aunts talking about how horrible he was, a monster, a killer, evil, soulless, a thing to be despised and glad to be rid of.
Stiles stiffened his spine and left the bathroom, making his way back to his Pack, glad they understood his background, and happy that none of them remonstrated him for the evil within him.
Stiles retook his seat. “Okay. So that answers the question. You’re just going to have to get used to seeing how we look within until we find and identify the Darach. Just remember no one else will see this. And we won’t be able to tell you if your eyes glow in public, so keep in control.”
Derek nodded. “You’ll be wearing them in school tomorrow, so keep your emotions and wolf in check.”
Stiles smiled grimly. “You’ll all be wearing them whenever you leave your houses. Not just at school. If you walk out your door, put them in first. Derek, Peter, Isaac, if you go down to the lobby of your buildings to get the mail or a food delivery, you put them in first. I don’t care if you’re just running outside to grab the newspaper off the lawn. You put the lenses in first. If someone comes and knocks on the door and you don’t know them or haven’t seen them since before this moment? You put the lenses in your eyes. I will be doing the same.”
Stiles flailed as he explained. “Yes, the Darach has killed three virgins and may kill more. They may be after us, either to take us out or to look for protection. Or both. But they may just be on their own mission and have nothing to do with us. We could pass them on the street. We could see them eating at a diner, standing at a corner waiting for a light, sitting next to us in class, or across the lunchroom. Or teaching a class or serving coffee or pumping gas or delivering our mail or newspaper. We have no idea if they are even male or female. Druids can be either, obviously. And so can Darachs. Witness Deaton and his sister. She wasn’t there, but she was on the slope to it.”
Derek sighed. “Fine. Wear them at all times until you’ve at least seen the faces of those you live with, then only when you leave the house or someone is there you haven’t checked. Stiles is right, we need to be careful. And if you find them, don’t give it away. Treat them normally. We don’t want them to know we are onto them until we are ready to deal with them. Got it?”
The Pack all mumbled affirmatives and then took the lenses out. They got ready for lunch and made plans for the next day at school.
The next morning, Stiles pulled up to school in his Jeep for the first day of his junior year of high school. He sighed as he automatically looked over at the bike rack, expecting Scott to be waiting for him. He didn’t really expect it. But it was a habit.
Stiles locked Roscoe and headed into the building glad that he and Scott didn’t have lockers near one another, although it had been a complaint of his the previous two years of high school. Scott’s locker was actually several hallways away, near the language classrooms. Stiles’ locker was around the corner from the library near the math wing.
Stiles looked at his schedule, which had been mailed out the week before. It wasn’t too bad of a setup, and he had at least one Pack member in every class, often several. And based on his more advanced classes and what he knew of Scott’s grades the year before, Stiles was fairly sure the only class they would potentially share was gym. And of course, their lunch period.
Stiles’ first two classes were fairly typical, and he did his best to concentrate. However, they didn’t really do much but go over the syllabus and their assigned summer homework. Other than the Pack, Stiles didn’t see anyone with oddness around them.
Third period was AP English, and he shared the class with Lydia and Boyd. Erica and Isaac were in a regular English class, and Jackson and Danny were in Honors English. Stiles suspected Cora would be in regular English when she transferred in October. After all, South America wouldn’t likely prepare students for advanced placement English.
The class had a new teacher, Ms. Blake, as old Mr. Ormond retired in June. It was more than past time. He was 79 years old. But it put Stiles on edge as the last time they had a new staff member, it bit them in the ass. Gerard Argent, anyone? Not to mention Marin Morrell.
Stiles settled in his seat across the aisle from Lydia, who had Boyd behind her. They nodded at one another and set their desks up. The classroom filled, and when the bell rang, the teacher entered and closed the door. Ms. Blake turned to face the class with a notebook in her hand, and Stiles had to fight back a flinch.
The woman didn’t even look human. Her skin was blackened with blood caked on it, and there were deep scars covering her face, jagged and raw looking, resembling claw wounds.
Stiles heard Lydia catch her breath, and when he glanced over, he saw Boyd with hands clenched and looking down. Boyd reached out and as if he was adjusting his notebook, and it was an accident, ran his finger over Lydia’s back. She relaxed slowly and looked over at Stiles, who smiled at her. Lydia nodded and turned away.
Ms. Blake took roll and then began to talk about the poetry unit they would start the year with when a bird flew into the window. The class looked over as another thud, and a cracking sound filled the air. Two more birds had hit the window, and the glass was cracking.
Students began to scream as they all saw a mass of birds headed towards the building. Stiles grabbed Lydia and pulled her down as several more birds hit the windows, and the glass gave way under their weight. Stiles laid on top of Lydia under the desks he had pushed together while Boyd covered Stiles.
Students were screaming and huddled on the floor under desks or trying to get to the door, only to be pelted with these suicidal birds. Stiles felt power rising in the air and realized this was a sacrifice spell. The deaths of all of the birds in that huge group would raise power for the Darach, seemingly Ms. Blake. For what reason, Stiles didn’t know. But he didn’t like it. The birds were innocent creatures and didn’t deserve this fate for some bitch’s evil plans.
Stiles used the commotion and noise to cover his actions as he turned his head and looked at the mass still outside, headed for their suicidal deaths. He murmured,
“Birds bespelled to their death
Be free and natural with this breath.”
Stiles took a deep breath in and blew it out in a long silent whistle. As Stiles’ breath hit the air, the birds outside suddenly began flying away in different directions. The flock of what looked like thousands of birds, cawing, hooting, chirping, and making noise again after the silence that the original spell created was better than before.
The birds inside the room – a couple dozen – had all dropped dead before he finished his spell, but Stiles felt that the death of maybe thirty birds was better by far than the four hundred plus that it would have been without his intervention.
As the birds stopped moving, the class began to calm down a bit, and those scrambling along the floor for the door reached it and opened it, running down the hallway. Stiles kept Lydia and Boyd under the desks though they stopped laying over each other and just sat.
A few minutes later, the principal and vice-principal came in and escorted the students and Ms. Blake to the library. Once there, they sorted out who needed the nurse’s office for cuts and bruises. One girl got sent to the hospital in an ambulance because in the scramble, someone had stepped on her arm, and it was broken. Several others, including Ms. Blake, faker that she was, were taken to the teacher’s lounge to have a lie down for shock. Everyone else was told to remain in the library until the bell rang for the next period.
Stiles, Lydia, and Boyd sat in an alcove away from everyone else, most of whom were still in a mild form of shock that didn’t need any kind of medical intervention. Stiles got out his phone and sent a text to the members of the Pack in the school.
Heads up if you have the new English teacher Ms. Blake. She is most definitely something else, and we had a whole bunch of birds fly into the window and sacrifice themselves during her class. Dark shit. We’re all fine.
It was slightly cryptic but perfectly understandable to those in the know. Lydia and Boyd looked at their phones as the message came in and nodded at him.
Lydia sighed. “You couldn’t have been more normal?”
Stiles shook his head. “In case a classmate or the teacher sees it and reads it. Makes sense to the recipient, but it is a bit odd to anyone else. And everyone knows I’m a weirdo, so it works coming from me, where it wouldn’t from either of you.”
Lydia nodded slowly. “Okay. Yeah. I can see that. Good thinking. And we’re on the same page, right? She’s the,” Lydia’s voice lowered to a barely audible whisper, “Darach?”
Stiles nodded. He spoke in a low tone right by Lydia’s ear, knowing Boyd would hear him, too. “Those birds didn’t just go crazy. Their deaths were rising some kind of death magic. What she wanted to do with it, I don’t know. But I stopped the rest of those birds from killing themselves. So the power she gained from the deaths and the chaos in the classroom will be way less.”
Lydia nodded and leaned into his shoulder. “Good.”
When the bell rang, Stiles grabbed his bag and told Lydia and Boyd, “See you next period at lunch.”
He walked to his fourth period class, which was just down the hall from the library and took a seat near the wall, furthest from the window. The class began to fill, and Issac slid into the seat on his right, and Erica took the desk in front of Stiles. Danny sat across from her in front of Isaac.
Erica sat sideways in her chair. “You guys really all okay?”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah. It was freaky, but we didn’t get hurt.”
Erica smiled. “Good. Have you seen McCall yet today?”
Stiles shook his head. “I don’t know his schedule this year, but based on his grades and the classes I’m taking, I don’t expect to except maybe gym.”
Isaac hummed under his breath. “He’s not looking so good.”
Danny nodded and rubbed his eyes. “Yeah. It’s like he’s falling apart.”
Stiles sighed. “I don’t know how to handle him. He refuses to admit he was wrong and hurt me. I’m glad I have more friends now.”
The Pack had decided over the summer, after a lecture from Stiles, that when in public, they needed to try to be more circumspect when speaking about supernatural things. No matter their joking about Hellmouths, this wasn’t actually Sunnydale, and there was no actual “Beacon Hills Syndrome” that would make people ignore weird happenings. That they knew of, at least.
So, not waving the werewolf flag in front of a bunch of nosy teenagers was the route they were taking. Everything on the down low. Some of them, like Stiles, Lydia, Danny, and Erica, were better at it than others.
Before anything else could be said, the teacher called the class to order, and it was back to concentrating as best as he could on the mundane.
When the bell rang, the Pack members headed as a group to the cafeteria where Stiles caught his first glimpse of Scott. He was sitting at a table with a few of the lacrosse players. Not Jackson or Danny, but also not Greenberg. He was with some of the second string who weren’t benchwarmers but weren’t good enough to be starters either.
When Stiles got a look at his face, he understood what Erica, Isaac, and Danny had meant. Every few seconds, Scott’s face would transform from a crooked-jawed teen who looked tired and upset, to a full-on beta face with no eyebrows, fangs, and lots of hair. Then a few seconds later, it was back to a human face. Considering the betas in the Pack only showed werewolf eye color under the effects of the spelled lenses, Stiles guessed this was showing Scott going omega.
The night before, Stiles’ dad had informed him of the sale of the Argent Arms store downtown. And driving by the Argent house before school, Stiles had seen a For Sale sign on the lawn. It seemed that Chris and Allison wouldn’t be returning to Beacon Hills. And Stiles was perfectly happy with that.
But Scott was without his anchor full time now. He didn’t even have access to Doctor Darach Deaton since he was comatose. And he obviously wasn’t dealing with any of it well.
And Stiles knew Scott. He was one of the most stubborn sons of a bitch on the planet. He wouldn’t come crawling to Derek to try to join the Pack, not after his forceful rejection and attempted betrayal.
Stiles munched on his lunch dejectedly. He didn’t know how to fix this. He was pretty sure there was only one way for Scott to not lose his mind completely. And it wasn’t something Stiles particularly wanted to do or research. Plus, the Darach was a bigger, more immediate threat.
The rest of the day passed somewhat slowly, as school days often tended to. Stiles didn’t end up having gym with Scott, so he didn’t have to think more about that problem while he was trying to get through his day and come up with an idea on how to get Ms. Blake into a trap.
It wasn’t lacrosse season, and cross country hadn’t started yet either, so none of the Pack had any after school activities. They met at Stiles’ locker and made their way to the parking lot.
When they got there, they stopped dead and tried to look inconspicuous and unthreatening. Stiles hissed under his breath, “Jackson, take Lydia and Danny to your car. Erica, Boyd, you’re with me. Isaac slowly walk over to Derek’s Camaro and interrupt them. Be calm and remind him you need a ride. We’ll all meet at the loft until Boyd has to go to work. Hopefully, it isn’t as bad as it looks.”
The Pack slowly dispersed, each keeping an eye on Derek at his car until Isaac walked up and interrupted the two as Stiles had told him. By the time Isaac reached them, Ms. Blake had her hand on Derek’s arm and was looking up at him from under her eyelashes. They could all hear her light laughter from where they were.
When Isaac approached and spoke, she nodded and smiled at Derek before glancing away. He gave a short, little smile in return and gave a little wave as she backed away.
Stiles gritted his teeth and kept his fingers mentally crossed as he drove the two betas across town to the loft. Erica kept up a distracting prattle when Stiles remained uncharacteristically silent for the drive.
Stiles, Erica, and Boyd were actually the second carload to make it there. Jackson’s Porsche was already parked, but the Camaro wasn’t in sight. They made their way up to the penthouse loft where Peter and the others, minus Derek and Isaac, were waiting.
Stiles sat in one of the chairs, and his leg started jumping as he tapped his fingers on his upper arms where they crossed. Peter walked over and put his hand on Stiles’ fidgeting leg.
Stiles sighed and consciously stilled his frantic movements. “Hopefully, nothing. Please, please, please let it be nothing. If it is something, everyone needs to be prepared to take Derek down. Until we can fix it.”
Peter interrupted when the Pack all nodded and tensed up. “Stiles! What happened?”
“We figured out who the Darach is. The new English teacher, Ms. Blake. And she tried to raise a lot of chaos power in the middle of class today by spelling a huge group of birds, like hundreds of them, maybe thousands, to kill themselves by breaking through the windows and attacking the students or throwing themselves at the walls in her classroom. I kept her from killing more than a few dozen. Freed the rest with a spell during the chaos.”
Peter nodded. “Good. But what does any of that have to do with Derek, darling?”
Stiles snorted at the endearment as the loft door slid open, and Derek and Isaac entered. The Pack tensed further, ready to attack if need be when Derek spoke.
“She came up to me in the parking lot when I was waiting for Isaac after school let out. She came from behind me, and I didn’t see her. I wasn’t looking around, the parking lot was starting to fill up with kids leaving. And she came up and asked me something. If I knew a good restaurant near the school. And before I turned around, I just suddenly wanted to ask her out. To tell her I could take her to a good restaurant. Or to my place and I’d cook for her, provide for her, protect her.”
Stiles nodded. “We saw.”
Derek shook his head. “That was in the few seconds before I turned and saw her. The lenses showed her face, and I nearly threw up. And the feelings dissipated. I felt disgust and anger, because I knew what she was and that she must have tried to use a spell on me to get my attention, my notice. I gulped, and I think she thought it was due to nerves. She smelled smug. So, I played it calm and acted shy, and like I couldn’t understand why someone so hot was talking to me.”
Stiles smiled, and the Pack relaxed. “Good thinking, Alpha. I suspect her spell with the birds was to raise power to locate and enthrall the Alpha of the local Pack for protection. If she had gathered as much power as she had intended, she likely could have enthralled the entire Pack to some extent, keep herself off our radar as a threat. So, her voice triggered the spell work, and the true sight spell broke it.”
Derek nodded. “I think so. So, thank you for the magic and care you gave this Pack. If not for them, we might all have been under her spells. But you protected us.”
Peter smirked. “Good thing. We didn’t need to have a Pack member involved with a killer. Again.”
Derek glowered and frowned, and Stiles flicked an energy ball at Peter. “Be nice, not nasty.”
“Now, that’s a disturbing image. Brain bleach, please.”
Peter blinked and nodded. “Agreed, I didn’t think that one through before it came out of my mouth.”
Lydia smirked. “You often don’t. Though Stiles is the king of it.”
Stiles pouted. “I don’t know if I should be insulted or flattered, though I think it should be the former.”
Lydia chuckled. “Regardless, you’ve been worrying about how to get Ms. Blake somewhere alone to vanquish her. We have an in now. Derek can call her to meet him for a date, and we can use it to our advantage.”
Derek nodded. “I can do that. Just figure out where to meet that isn’t suspicious.”
The next day, after a day spent ignoring supernatural shenanigans and focusing on schoolwork, the Pack headed to the loft. Isaac took his time getting to the car, which allowed Ms. Blake time to talk to Derek again.
Back at the loft, the Pack was waiting for Derek and Isaac to arrive. Isaac walked in, laughing. Derek scowled and closed the loft door with extra force.
Erica walked up to them and slung her arm around Isaac’s waist. “What’s so funny?”
Isaac slowly stopped laughing, but there was humor in his voice as he explained to the Pack. “Oh, man, you should have seen him. It was priceless. Stuttering voice and smoldering eyes. She lapped it all up, and we’re set for the ambush. But Derek was so – if not for the stumbling voice to sell the shyness, I never thought he could pull off the seductive guy thing that matches his looks.”
Stiles snorted. “Oh, Derek’s good at using his looks when he needs to. Whether it’s stripping off his shirt,”
Danny laughed and muttered, “Miguel.”
Stiles continued, “Or seductively talking to a police receptionist. Oh, yeah, he’s got the moves. He just doesn’t usually want to use them.”
Erica nodded. “Hmm. I know that smoldering look. Even in the morgue at the hospital and me in a hospital gown, he got me revved up. Kind of creepy in retrospect, but at the time, woah momma!”
Derek glowered at them as they laughed.
“Oh, don’t pout, Sourwolf. We all love you. It’s just you do the seductive thing so well, but so rarely. You’re usually so stoic. Let us appreciate all of your skills.”
Derek rolled his eyes and huffed. “She’s coming over for dinner. The building will be empty except for the Pack. She should arrive around 6, so we’ve got two hours to prepare.”
Stiles nodded. “I have a masking spell ready to hide the Pack’s sounds, smells, and auras. Except you, Der. And once she’s here, I’ll try to immobilize her with my power, but she may be immune to it, or at least resistant. It depends on her powers and how she has channeled any unwilling sacrifices she performed. If she fights it, I need the wolves to get her down or confined to the spot in the corner where the partial circle of mistletoe ash and rowan ash is laid down, so Lydia and Danny can complete it and trap her.”
Lydia and Danny both held up bags with the ash inside.
Stiles nodded. “Once she’s trapped, I can call forth a karma spell to return to her the pain she caused. Like Morrell, but I suspect she will react much more violently. It will almost certainly kill her and not slowly.”
The Pack all nodded though a few, like Danny and Isaac, looked a bit uncomfortable.
The Pack talked through and practiced various ideas that they came up with, with different people taking different positions until they found the best one. Just under two hours later, Stiles cast the spell to mask them from Ms. Blake’s senses, both normal and magical. They took their places around the loft based upon the best of their practice and waited.
Derek took a deep breath and opened the door when Ms. Blake knocked. He smiled shyly. “I’m so glad you came. I – I wasn’t sure you really would.”
She smiled at him. “I said I would. I like you, Derek. What’s so odd about that?”
Ms. Blake walked into the loft, and Derek slid the door closed behind her.
Stiles narrowed his eyes and spoke, “Well, I guess the fact that you’re a murdering Druid.”
He flicked his hands out and tried to freeze her. It didn’t quite work, and she began to turn towards the sound of his voice, though more slowly than she believed she was. “Plan B!”
The Pack heard the words of the emissary, and as planned and practiced, they attacked. Erica and Isaac came at her from the right, forcing her to stumble to the left to evade them. Boyd came in low from the left of her new position and nearly tackled her, causing her to roll further back to escape his hold. Peter and Jackson jumped from the upper level to force her to the corner of the loft. Erica and Isaac swiped again at her, forcing her to the windowless wall.
Ms. Blake raised her hands when she had nowhere else to retreat to. Before she could use any magic on the Pack, Stiles distracted her by flinging bits of rock and sand at her that he had prepared beforehand. While she was distracted, trying to clear her eyesight, Lydia and Danny swept in and completed the circle of mistletoe ash and rowan ash, starting from opposite sides and meeting in the middle.
The Pack surrounded her as she cleared her sight and flicked her hands, summoning fire. It hit the barrier formed by the circle and flared out.
She glanced down and saw the circle. “Why? I’ve done nothing to you beyond entering your territory and not reporting to you.”
Stiles snorted. “Save it, Darach. We can see your true form. All of us. We know you killed those three teens. We know you spelled those birds yesterday to raise death and chaos power. We suspect you were planning a five-fold knot. And we won’t stand for you, causing more death here. This is Hale Pack territory, and we protect it.”
She held her hands out in supplication. “I’m not here for you or your Pack. I just wanted protection while I waited for my true enemies to arrive. I know they’re coming. And I can gather enough power here from the Nemeton to finally have my revenge.”
Derek scowled. “Anyone who follows you and has evil intentions is as unwelcome as you are.”
Ms. Blake whimpered. “I heard about how you lost your family, Derek. To the Hunters? They killed them all.” She turned to face Peter. “And I’ve heard how you killed them all for it, took your revenge. That’s all I want.”
She removed the glamour from her face. “I was once an emissary for a werewolf pack. The Alpha was my lover, I loved her so much. But then he whispered poison words in her ear. And they found fruit. She killed the pack and tried to kill me. She would have if I didn’t find a well of power in the Nemeton, a virgin unwitting though willing sacrifice’s power. It kept me alive long enough to find slow healing. I just want my revenge on her, on him. Kali and Deucalion, member of and leader of the Alpha Pack. They will be coming for you and your Pack.”
Peter smirked. “You’re late.”
Lydia echoed his expression. “And you have out of date information.”
Stiles nodded. “The Alpha Pack attacked us months ago. Well, is it plural if it is less than two but more than one? You’re the English teacher. Well, it was over the summer, anyway. And we destroyed them. Take to your grave, because I am fairly sure this is going to kill you, the comfort that both Kali and Deucalion preceded you there. And it wasn’t pleasant.”
“You stole my revenge!?”
Stiles snorted. “We didn’t even know of you when we faced them. And Deucalion stole your revenge on Kali. He clawed her throat out for her power when they were losing badly. Then we killed him.”
“She was betrayed.”
Lydia nodded. “Yes. In her last moments, the man who convinced her to betray you betrayed her in the same way.”
“I have been planning for so long. I never thought anyone else would prevail over them.”
Erica looked at her with disdain. “You aren’t the only one with power.”
Derek interrupted. “Why were you so positive they would come here? They did, but you didn’t follow them since you said they would come, not that they were here already but hiding.”
She sat on the floor against the wall. “The rumors of a Hale Pack with an Argent as a member? Plus, the potential of a True Alpha rising in Beacon Hills? It wasn’t a lure Deucalion could have ignored. He had a real hate-on for the Hales. Especially Talia. And the Argents. Which I understood after the blinding. But the opportunity to subvert a True Alpha? Nothing would have kept him away.”
The Pack exchanged looks over her head. Derek shrugged and motioned to Stiles with his eyebrows.
Stiles sighed. “I hope you find peace in the world beyond, Ms. Blake , but you must pay for your evil done here.”
She nodded. “My name is Julia. Julia Baccari.”
Stiles inclined his head.
“Let cruelty, pain and evil ways,
Follow this Darach through all her days.
Reverse the torment she creates,
To turn on her a crueler fate.”
The instant Stiles ended the spell, Julia began to scream, and fire began to erupt from her body as the power of stolen deaths overcame her. She turned to less than ash in under half a minute.
“Rest in peace, Julia Baccari,” intoned Stiles.
“Rest in peace,” echoed the Pack.
On the fall equinox, Stiles sat in a clearing in the Preserve. Peter had agreed to stand watch and was within calling distance but out of sight and normal vocal level. It was the perfect time for the ritual Stiles had cobbled together. He was going to rescue his original father.
Stiles had three braziers burning with mixtures of herbs in a triangle formation, seven lit candles in black at the points of a seven-point Star, seven lit candles in white forming a second star between the black, and an altar of obsidian bound around its edges with white quartz.
Around the edges of the altar, Stiles painted symbols with ink he mixed himself made from blackberries, black walnuts, green tea, and his own blood. The symbols formed an outline of a body shape.
As the moon rose over the Preserve, Stiles made a cut in his palm with an athame he had purified and prepared. He allowed the blood to pool in his palm as he focused on his magic and began to chant his spell. With each line, he allowed seven drops of blood to fall near the center of the altar, where a heart would be if the body outline were real.
Powers of this witch do rise,
Course unseen across the skies.
Come to me who call you near,
Come to me and settle here.
Blood to blood, I summon thee,
Blood to blood, return to me.
Cursed by the Light,
Restored by my might.
Father by blood, by my Magic’s call
Once more into a body fall
Bound into mortality
Without a mortal’s fragility.
Stiles repeated the chant three times as the magic rose and swirled around him. Finally, with the final word of the third timed chant, Stiles slammed his blood soaked hand on the altar by the head and pushed outward with his magic.
Bright black and dark white light swirled around the altar, and slowly a body formed on its stone. First, a skeleton, then organs and muscles and blood, then the skin appeared. Stiles kept his hand in place until the body fleshed out, and hair began to grow.
He stepped back and watched as over the course of ten minutes, the form he had seen in pictures and visions of Cole Turner formed before his eyes. He waited, and as the last hair grew and the final nail formed on his finger, a white glow surrounded the body. It sank into it, and the body took its first breath.
Stiles fell to his knees in exhaustion as Cole opened his eyes and turned his head. Cole smiled and sat up slowly. He swung his legs over the side of the altar and stood up. Stiles watched him steady himself and slowly take a step.
Cole walked slowly to Stiles and knelt down beside him. He reached out and touched Stiles’ face and stroked it with his fingers. He put his hands on Stiles’ shoulder and leaned into him, his face buried in Stiles’ hair. A sob broke loose from the former half-demon. “My son. You’re real. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Stiles wrapped his arms around his sire. He held him tight as he had a breakdown at his return to physicality after so many years of being trapped. The misery of being able to see the world, but not touch or be seen except in rare circumstances. He ran his hands over Cole’s back in a soothing manner and simply relaxed as they bonded as family on the corporeal plane.
Three days after Stiles rescued Cole from the Cosmic Void, Stiles, Cole, and Noah were sitting in the living room of the Stilinski home after dinner. Cole was staying with them in the guest room until he got his life back together on paper and was able to access his money and get a place to live and furnish it.
Cole had spent a day recovering and learning to use a mortal body again, including remembering what it felt like to be hungry, sleepy, or to need the bathroom, all things that were unnecessary in the Cosmic Void.
For the past two days, Cole had borrowed a car and driven into San Francisco and was telling the story of his days there. He sat in a chair across from Noah, and Stiles was on the sofa between them.
“I needed a believable story to tell the authorities, first off. And thanks to Stiles and Peter Hale, I had one ready. I went to the police station and spoke to the missing persons department. Stiles had looked up what division Darryl Morris worked in currently, and I avoided it, as he would recognize me and tell the Charmed Ones I was back. Which we all agreed was a bad idea.”
Noah nodded as he took a sip of whiskey. “We don’t need their attention, not until things are more settled around here.”
Cole inclined his head. “I know. I loved Phoebe very much for a very long time, even after she vanquished me for the third time, and I was condemned to the Cosmic Void. But time provided emotional distance, and some conversations with a couple of entities able to see me basically showed me how toxic our relationship was – for both of us.”
Stiles reached out and laid his hand on Cole’s arm, feeling his pain.
Cole smiled gently and placed his hand over his son’s. “So, I talked to the Inspector and gave him my tale, which is what I will tell everyone, not in the know. I was on a business trip in Vermont, and I was deliberately run off a mountain road by a car that I had noticed following me from my hotel. The crash was horrible, the car rolled several times, I don’t remember much of it, thankfully, and I was thrown from the car before it came to a rest.”
Cole took a sip of his drink. “Which was a good thing as, though I was badly injured, I survived when the car exploded. I was trapped in burning debris and forest and badly burned, but the explosion caught the attention of people who lived nearby, and they called for help. I was unconscious by the time they arrived, and my ID was in my wallet, which I had put in the center console of the car instead of sitting on it while I was driving. So, it had burned up or exploded. Or got lost in the trees. But they never found it.”
Noah nodded. “Bit off but a small town, without lots of resources, things fall through the cracks.”
“Hmm. The only thing they had to ID me was the destroyed car, the damaged clothes I was wearing, and a wedding ring that had the initials CT & PH. But no date. I was very badly injured between the crash and the burns. I was treated but fell into a coma within a day. I was fully comatose for over three years, cared for by grants and donations to the local hospital.”
Stiles grinned. “That was Peter’s idea. It was actually how he was cared for since Laura abandoned him, and the hospital had no way to reach her or any idea where she was.”
“When I finally woke a bit, I was in an awake but catatonic state for several more years as I slowly healed. I was able to follow directions at a point, chew, swallow, use the bathroom with assistance. But I wasn’t really aware of what was happening. Six years after the crash, I began to have periods of lucidity, brief at first, then gradually longer. I had to relearn how to talk, how to walk and care for myself. I went through a lot of physical therapy and cosmetic surgeries for the burns. And I was finally able to tell people my name.”
Noah squinted. “Still a little iffy. Why didn’t they circulate your photo during that time?”
“I was badly burned and then scarred. And I was over an hour’s drive from my hotel, which I had checked out of, when I was forced off the road. When I was aware and remembered what happened, the local sheriff agreed that it was best to keep it on the down low because they never found any other car. They didn’t even know how the accident happened or that I didn’t swerve off the mountain because of an animal. But they agreed that they didn’t want to take the chance of the guy coming back while I was still weak and helpless. So, even after I was fully aware, they didn’t do anything about it more than locally.”
Noah nodded. “Okay. Still not perfect, but big city cops would believe incompetence from small-town cops.”
“So, with help from the town, I was able to heal and make my way back to California. But as I told the Inspector, I have no idea who tried to kill me. If it was road rage, unlikely as it would be, considering the car was following me, more or less for over an hour. Or if it was someone with a grudge, I was a lawyer. Or a hit, again lawyer, plus my ex-wife and her family were questionable. And I had had trouble before, and she tried to have me declared dead.”
Cole sighed. “She claimed I left her while she was pregnant. And the cops at that time bought it and figured me for a deadbeat dad. But when I came back, I had been in an accident, well, it was a mugging, and I was knifed and in surgery, then recovery. She had never even checked the hospitals near my business trip.”
Noah snorted. “You just threw her under the bus as a suspect.”
Stiles waved. “My idea.”
Noah frowned. “But, won’t they go talk to her about it?”
Cole shook his head. “Between the lack of evidence of another car even being involved in the crash, plus the statute of limitations? And the fact that she believes I’m dead, whether by her command or otherwise since I vanished. Letting her know I’m alive could put me in danger – which is totally true. So, the Inspector is helping me get my life back, as I wasn’t legally declared dead, just missing. It would have been harder if they had pushed for me to be declared dead, but the girls just let it go. The rumors spread that I had been declared dead, but the Inspector told me that they never followed through on it.”
Cole took a deep drink. “So, I should have access to my accounts within the week. And I told the Inspector that I wasn’t going to be staying in San Francisco as I didn’t want to take the chance of running into any old friends or ex-family. Just in case.”
“Hmm. And what if the Inspector tries to contact this mysterious sheriff or the hospital where you spent so many years?”
Stiles laughed. “Peter and I handled that, Daddio. The town we used is actually home to a large Pack. And the sheriff is married to the head nurse at the hospital. And she happens to be the Alpha’s younger sister. And the Alpha is the head administrator for the hospital. Their Pack built it back when the town was forming, and they basically own it. The vast majority of the town is supernatural or adjacent.”
Stiles cracked his fingers, pushing out his arms in front of him and then buffed his nails on his shirt. “And I sent them the documentation for the crash, the hospital stays, and the recovery. And I magicked some documents in the hotel system showing his stay there and the car rental showing a stolen car, which is what I have them assuming Cole did. But the insurance paid promptly so they never really followed up. Or so the paperwork says. There’s a paper trail for it all, even a plane ticket used to get there, and an unused one for the return flight. But buried in the systems, considering how long ago it was.”
Noah nodded. “Well, alright. Hopefully, the Inspector won’t get suspicious.”
Stiles shrugged. “It’ll hold up if he does. And I sent a charm with Cole to wear, which would ‘encourage’ the Inspector to not contact anyone Cole knew during his time in San Francisco.”
Noah drained the remains of his drink. “Well, here’s hoping. Cole, just keep me updated on how things are progressing. And who are we telling people you are? Non-Pack people, that is?”
Cole shrugged and looked at Stiles.
“He’s an old friend of yours from the army. After his accident and recovery, he reached out to you. We’re near but not too near where he was from, and you offered to help him out until he got back on his feet.”
“Right. Okay. Fine. I’ll be taciturn and not go into detail. It isn’t out of character for me to keep things close to the vest. I’m not you, after all, kiddo.”
Stiles gaped as Noah walked out of the room, calling goodnight over his shoulder.
Cole turned to Stiles. “Is he really okay with me being here? I mean, with my past and that I’m your …”
Stiles sighed. “Yeah. I mean, he’s struggling with the supernatural stuff. But he loves me, and I am his son, too. Even biologically speaking. And if you didn’t father me originally, I wouldn’t be here. Or I wouldn’t be me if I was. I’d be a kid who was just the son of Claudia and Noah Stilinski, which isn’t actually me even though we thought it was until this past summer.”
Cole put a hand on Stiles’ arm. “I get it. I’m gonna go up to bed, too. It’s been a long few days.”
Cole pulled Stiles into a hug, which was returned enthusiastically.
Two days later, Stiles took Cole to the loft at Derek’s invitation. He introduced him to the Pack and explained the basics of who he was. He had already informed them of his own odd history, and they were all happy for him and welcomed Cole and his breadth of knowledge and experience of a world none of them, even the born wolves really knew of.
During the meeting, the Pack told Cole about some of their adventures. Stiles had explained some of it, but the others had different perspectives and experiences and recalled different things.
After Lydia’s recounting of the demise of Julia Baccari, Cole sat forward in his seat. “You have a Nemeton in Beacon Hills? The name of the town is actually, factually descriptive and not just something that sounds cute?”
Stiles shrugged. “I’m not even sure what a Nemeton is. She mentioned it in passing, and I was focused on other things. Like the spell.”
Peter sighed. “A Nemeton is a place where multiple ley lines converge and cross and pool. And there is a Nemeton here in Beacon Hills. It was once a giant tree. At some point, it was cut down and is now only a stump. The stump is large enough to lay down on and not touch the edges, even with your head or feet, but it is just a stump. The Hales are supposed to protect it, but Talia removed the memory of it from myself and Derek.”
Derek’s eyebrows wiggled on his forehead. “She did?”
Peter nodded. “I’m not sure why. But the Nemeton is where you and I hid from the Hunters for three days when you were a kid.”
Derek tilted his head. “I remember hiding from them, but I don’t recall where I was.”
“I didn’t start to remember until I was Alpha, and then it was vague until I came back sane. Saner. But from what Baccari said when Paige was dying, and you granted her request for a mercy killing, you were at the Nemeton.”
Derek looked down. “I didn’t know that. It was just a tree stump.”
“As I said, I don’t know why Talia removed the memory of what the Nemeton was or where it was. Knowing what I know now, I have suspicions that Deaton has something to do with it. She trusted him far more than she should have. Obviously.”
Isaac shrugged and turned to Cole. “What’s so important about a Nemeton?”
Cole frowned. “It is, or it can be, a nexus point. It can contain beings of good, evil, or neutrality. Entrap them. Or house them. Or it can be tuned to become a kind of doorway. For Good or for Evil.”
Erica gasped. “You’re saying that Beacon Hills could literally become a Hellmouth?”
Cole nodded. “In a manner of speaking. Not quite like Buffy, but comparisons in some manner could be drawn. If it happened. If the Nemeton is unsecured, unprotected, even if it is not at full-power, if found it could be formed as the finder wished, if they had the power and knowledge.”
Stiles sighed. “So much for a few regular weeks. We need to find that stump and figure out how to claim it for the Pack to keep everyone safe.”
Derek nodded. “Stiles, Lydia, Peter, Danny, research how to claim and control or possibly channel the power of this Nemeton. Maybe healing. Cole, if you would be willing to help them?”
Cole nodded. “Of course. This is my home now, too. And my family.”
“The rest of us will run search patterns through the Preserve and try to find it.”
Two weeks later, Stiles and Cole working together traced the location of the Nemeton. Derek agreed that it needed to be checked out and bonded. The entire Pack, including the newly returned Cora, followed the spell light to the magical stump.
Stiles approached the clearing and regarded the gigantic former tree. “I know you said it was big, but I gotta say it. That’s no moon, it’s a space station.”
Erica rolled her eyes. “Lame, Batman, really lame.”
“Well, excuse me, your highness for not being appropriately prepared with a witty quip up to your standards when seeing a gigantic, magical tree stump.”
Erica waved her hand languidly. “You are forgiven. Do better in the future.”
Stiles flipped her off and approached the stump, circling it. “Yeah, this is it. The door thing that you remember is here, Peter.”
Stiles began to walk downwards to go under the roots of the stump, but Cole reached out a hand to stop him. “The energy feels – off. Not as a damaged Nemeton or not only that. I believe the energy had been harnessed, at least partially.”
Lydia spoke from the back of the group, “Could it be from the first fifth of the Five-Fold Knot the Darach completed? She said she was here for its power.”
Cole shook his head. “No, she never claimed the node. She was killed first. The Five-Fold Knot provides power, but for the purposes of claiming a Nemeton, it would need to be all or nothing.”
Cora scowled. “So, what is wrong with it then?”
Cole shrugged. “I’m not sure. I just want to be cautious.”
Stiles pursed his lips. “But it isn’t a Hellmouth, right?”
Cole shook his head. “No. It isn’t being used as a gateway. That I am sure of.”
Stiles nodded. “Okay, then. Red alert and phasers set to stun.”
Erica murmured, “Better, but still weak.”
Stiles tossed a bird over his shoulder and began to descend under the tree stump again, the Pack following, the best fighters in front.
When they got there, Cole groaned. “Someone is harnessing some of the power as a prison.”
The former half-demon pointed to a Mason jar suspended within smaller roots with a glowing firefly inside it.
“I’m not sure what it is, but it isn’t what it appears. And it isn’t from the ‘biblical’ supernatural world.”
After learning of his heritage and how separate the spheres of supernatural in the world were, Stiles had coined the terms “biblical supernatural” and “secular supernatural” to differentiate between them. And they caught on with the Pack, as the supernatural world Cole was from dealt with demons and hells and angel-like beings. While the Hales’ supernatural world was more myths and legends, things in pop culture, like werewolves and druids and supernatural hunters, like Van Helsing in the movies and games. But no sparkly vampires.
Stiles nodded. “Alright. Well, I can’t just leave a presumably sentient and sapient creature imprisoned for no reason. And there isn’t anything here to explain it, not even with a cryptic ‘mummy’s curse’ warning. It could be justly imprisoned, or it could be trapped by an enemy who is the bad guy. Or both. I just can’t let it be tortured like this.”
Peter shrugged. “I don’t remember seeing it down here, but it doesn’t quite look like it did when Derek and I hid here, either.”
Isaac exclaimed, “What is it, some kind of actual, natural ‘Room of Requirement’?”
Peter shrugged. “Possibly to an extent. It could be a natural part of the Nemeton’s powers, or it could be linked to the spell imprisoning the creature. To keep it from being freed inadvertently.”
Stiles huffed. “So, it could have been imprisoned within the last decade or so, either before the fire with Talia’s permission, or after when no one was on guard. Or it could have been here for decades or even centuries. And we have no way to know without freeing it and talking to it. I can feel some emotions off of it, but they are staticky, the prison spell is interfering, I think. Plus, what I am able to read makes sense to me, overwhelming anger and some strong curiosity and hope.”
Derek scowled. “Well, we need to claim the Nemeton so we can protect the area better. And I don’t think, from what you’ve said, Cole, that we can do that if it is in use, partial or not.”
Cole sighed. “Right. All true. Let’s just hope your powers work on it, Stiles.”
Stiles blew out a breath and focused on the jar. “Prison jar!”
The jar shimmered in between the branches, and after a few seconds, it disappeared and appeared intact in Stiles’ palm.
Stiles held the jar up to his face and spoke to the creature inside it, pushing his power into his eyes, knowing it will make them burn and turn black. Something Erica told him had happened when he was shocked the first time in the basement. And that Stiles was fairly sure it was the last thing Gerard Argent saw before he died. “I am fairly sure you can mostly, if not fully, understand me. I am going to free you, and we will talk. You will tell me your tale, how you came to be imprisoned in the Nemeton and what you are. I am very, very powerful, fairly ruthless, and you do not want to cross me.”
The firefly sank to the bottom of the jar and stilled.
Stiles gripped the lid of the jar and slowly twisted it open. He set it aside and waited. The firefly rose and exited the mouth of the jar and hovered in place in front of Stiles’ face.
Stiles barked a grim laugh. “I can feel you much better now. You’re feeling smug and sly. Don’t try it. Cross me, and you’ll wish you were back in the jar. Believe me. I’ve been called a monster and utterly soulless in the past. Do you want to test your weakened state against me and mine?”
The firefly backed up and hovered near the ground. Sticks felt it’s frustration and resignation. “You need a power boost to communicate effectively. Very well.”
Stiles formed an energy ball in his hand and approached the creature with it. The firefly flew inside the ball, and it grew smaller. After half a minute, the energy ball vanished, and the firefly flew back and perched on one of the roots. It shimmered and took on the form of a transparent fox with a dark starscape instead of fur.
Peter gasped. “A kitsune?”
The fox spoke, it’s mouth unmoving, but the sound was in their ears and not directly in their minds. “Yes. I am a nogitsune. A kitsune of the void and chaos. I was summoned to provide revenge by a fellow kitsune many decades ago. I kept my side of the bargain, but the kin betrayer disliked my methods and tricked me into this prison.”
Cole smirked. “What methods did she dislike?”
The voice turned mischievous. “Is it my fault that revenge is usually bloody? I don’t think she wanted anything different. But she turned tail and changed her mind when she saw it. I helped her as we were kin. Distant but fellow kitsune, spirits of nature. But her celestial nature was too ‘good’ for my ‘evil’.”
The fox laid down along the root. “I don’t deny that I am the embodiment of chaos. It is my nature. And if I thought I could or if I had the opportunity, I would use you or your Pack to take my revenge and feed off of chaos as I did. But I can feel your power most clearly now that I am recovering somewhat from being drained during my captivity. And even at my most powerful, I am no match for you. I have but one question.”
Stiles inclined his head. “Ask it.”
“Is there a woman named Noshiko or a family named Yukimura within your town?”
Stiles cocked his head in thought. “I don’t recognize it, and I’ve lived here my whole life. And I have insider access to the sheriff’s department, and I don’t think I’ve ever come across it there, either. Anyone else?”
They all shook their heads. Derek spoke, “I’ve only returned to town recently, but I grew up here to my mid-teens, and I don’t know the name either. And my uncle has said the same, and he is older than I am.”
Peter smirked. “And I have more contacts. Granted, there aren’t any who are kitsune. But my network is large, and I’ve heard of your kind. But not that name.”
The fox nodded. “Very well. What shall you do with me?”
Stiles sighed. “Regardless of your potential ideas, you have harmed none of mine. And I will not condemn you for sticking to a deal made in good faith and then being betrayed. I don’t trust you, and considering all I’ve read, I shouldn’t trust a fox. You are sly and sneaky. But if you make a vow on your powers to leave Beacon County and to harm none within it who have not directly harmed you first, for the rest of your existence, I will see you sent on your way.”
The fox tilted its head. “Harm none within Beacon County.”
Stiles narrowed his eyes in thought. “None who dwell within Beacon County or call it home regardless of their location at the time.”
The fox’s mouth seemed to smirk. “Nicely closed loophole. I will vow. And keep to the spirit of it, not just the letter, as I am sure I can find other loopholes to exploit than that one. But I have no desire to have you for an enemy. I am not so suicidal.”
Stiles nodded, and the nogitsune made a vow using his true name, “Kuro-sa no kagayaki”. And Stiles used magic to transport him beyond the borders of the county.
Phoebe walked into the manor’s sunroom and saw Wyatt playing a game on Piper’s laptop. Chris was sitting next to him and pointing out things he wanted Wyatt to do. It looked a bit violent to her, but it was at least educational, as the boys had to answer reading and math questions to advance to new sections or to beat certain enemies.
And the fact that Wyatt and Chris would almost certainly grow up to fight demons was a factor, too. So maybe some cartoon violence wasn’t so bad at their ages.
Chris turned his head and saw her standing in the doorway. “Hi, Aunt Phoebe!”
“Hey, kiddos. Having fun?”
They nodded, Wyatt looking over his shoulder briefly to smile at her.
After the screen popped up another question, Wyatt paused the game and bit his lip as he turned around. “Um, what time is it, Aunt Phoebe?”
Phoebe looked at her watch. “It’s three eighteen.”
Chris gasped. “Oops. We were supposed to turn off the game at three. But there’s no clock out here, and we can’t see the computer clock when the game is running on the full screen.”
Wyatt smiled sheepishly. “We have chores to do before dinner. See you later, Aunt Phoebe.”
Wyatt logged out of the game, and he and Chris ran into the hallway, and she heard them dash up the stairs. She shook her head. Her kids were all too young by far to have these issues, but she knew it would start sooner than she would like. But at least they were mundane issues. And the boys had run upstairs and not orbed. That was a step in the right direction of not letting magic make you lazy.
She walked over to the laptop and grabbed the lid to close it. When her fingers touched the screen, she fell into a vision.
Like several Phoebe had experienced in the last year, it was fractured and not as clear as she was used to. She was frustrated, but from the brief glimpse she got of the one constant in these specific visions – her innocent – she knew they were connected.
When the vision ended, Phoebe looked at the laptop screen. She frowned. Why would Piper’s laptop trigger a vision? The screen was showing the internet browser’s home page, which was set as Google. The kids had been playing a game that was way too young for the teen she kept seeing.
And what did the laptop – whatever it was about it that triggered the vision – have to do with the Book of Shadows’ cover? Or Phoebe’s daughter? Or the attic doorway in the manor?
Phoebe shook her head, closed the laptop, and went to the kitchen.
Piper looked up from the brownies she was icing. “Hey, Pheebs. What’s the matter? You look upset.”
Phoebe sat down at the kitchen table. “I had another vision of that teen again. The boys were playing on your laptop and went upstairs to do their chores. I went to close the lid, and when I touched it, I had the vision.”
“Same lack of control? Quick cuts?”
Phoebe nodded. “Yeah. Got a bit more info, but I don’t think it is enough to track him down. But whatever he is going through is getting more and more serious. And dangerous.”
Piper wrapped the brownie’s container in foil and sat down across from Phoebe. “Okay, well, talk it out. We can go over it more later when Paige gets here after magic school is done.”
Phoebe frowned. “It’s Saturday.”
Piper smiled. “It’s also Senior Projects Day.”
Phoebe’s eyes brightened in recognition. “Right. Forgot that was this weekend.”
Piper smiled. “Okay. So, she won’t be here for another hour or two. What did you see?”
Phoebe sighed. “I saw two kids, teens by their look hanging by chains from the ceiling of a room, their arms were above their heads, and they had duct tape over their mouths. Their feet were barely touching the floor. They were in street clothes. One was a blond girl and the other a black boy with a shaved head.”
“Okay, neither of them are the innocent from before.”
Phoebe held up her hand in a wait gesture. “That was just the first picture I got. It was a pretty quick flash, and I couldn’t see many details of the surroundings. I didn’t have a chance and was more concerned with them, but I think they were underground. The way the room was lit. Maybe.”
Piper groaned. “Like the underworld, underground?”
“No. Like a basement or something. The next thing I saw was a body tumbling down some steps like it had been thrown. And when I saw the face, it was the kid from before, with the buzz cut. Our innocent.”
“Or at least, as I will point out since Paige isn’t here to do it, the common denominator. That doesn’t make him our innocent.”
Phoebe shrugged. “He was dressed in some kind of sport’s jersey. It was red, but the way he was laying and then sitting, I couldn’t see the name of the team, the school or organization, or his family name. Next, there was a flash, and I saw him standing in front of the other teens, who were immobilized still, and a fist hit him across the face. Then another flash and I saw an energy ball. I couldn’t see who threw it, but I saw it hit some kind of machine. A motor or a generator, maybe. Then another flash and all I saw was a really close up shot of a pair of eyes. Pitch black eyes.”
Piper sat back and ran her hand over her face. “Pitch black eyes almost always signal a really high, upper level demon. Like the Source or Zankou.”
Phoebe sighed. “I know. And we have no more relevant information to try and find him. But things are getting more dangerous. For him, around him. I still can’t even pinpoint a timeframe for these visions. For all I know, what I just saw happened days or weeks or even months ago!”
“Well, we can get together with Paige, write down all the information we have on the kid, and try to scry for him. Or trigger another vision?”
Phoebe shrugged. “I can’t even tell you what the triggers that triggered the previous visions have in common.”
“Well, we’ll work on that, too. If we’re meant to save him, to help him, it’ll clear up, and we will figure it out. He’s survived until now.”
“Until whenever the vision ended, you mean.”
“Have faith, Phoebe. You are getting these visions for a reason. When we figure out what that reason is, it will hopefully let us find the kid.”
“I hope so,” Phoebe whispered.
The teenagers of the Pack, except for Stiles, were at the loft watching movies and relaxing. Stiles, who would have liked to be with them, was instead at his own house, with Derek, Peter, and his two fathers, Cole and Noah.
After what happened with the Nemeton and Kuro-sa, and being briefed on what could have happened if the Nogitsune had been more powerful or Stiles’ less powerful, not to mention what Kuro-sa had warned would happen if they didn’t do the cleansing ritual Noah had participated in, the Sheriff of Beacon County had told Stiles it was time for Noah to stop ignoring the supernatural crap and really learn about it. Before the fact, so he could act proactively rather than reactively to these situations.
So, since the only members of the Pack who had any real knowledge were the born wolves, and Cora wasn’t much of a talker, he had asked them to come and have a conversation. He also asked Cole to come and explain the differences between the “biblical supernatural” and the “secular supernatural.” Stiles loved the fact that even his totally human dad was using the terms. They really did make sense in context.
And Stiles was present because he needed to know what the others shared with his dad. He was the emissary of the Pack and had always had the near compulsion to be ‘in the know.’ He wondered if it was because of his bound powers and the trauma he had suffered at the hands of his first mother, her sisters, and the Seer. Or if it was just a facet of an only child who was nosy and the son of a cop. It didn’t matter, but that didn’t stop Stiles from dwelling on it whenever the thought cropped up.
Since his powers had unbound, Stiles’ ADHD had improved, for a given value of improvement. The problem was that while the actual physical cause in his brain chemistry seemed to be stabilizing, Stiles had years and years of learned behaviors and personality ticks that stemmed from it. And those habits were a lot harder to break. He was working on it. For some of the most annoying ones, at least.
The four men and Stiles sat at the dining room table so that his dad could take notes.
Cole began speaking when everyone was settled. “I have always known about the ‘secular supernatural’ world since my mother took me to the Underworld. Most upper-level demons have at least heard of it and some of the lower demons, as well. We – they just don’t deal with it much. It doesn’t interest them, and frankly, most find it boring. In centuries past, it was different, but since those like werewolf packs began to blend into normal human society and lose many of their more – bloodthirsty practices, there isn’t much to work with very often.”
Cole tilted his head in thought. “The world I was born into is very strict in some ways. Very hierarchical. If you discount some of the more wild or feral types of demons, those that are almost animal-like and rarely if ever leave the Underworld, then it was a caste system, more or less. But one with a King as the pinnacle. The Source of All Evil wasn’t just a term of phrase. The essence of that demon, it took over the demon it chose as its vessel. And all Evil flowed from it and back to it in a sort of circulatory pattern.”
Cole drew a diagram on a piece of paper. There was a large dark circle in the middle with lines, almost weblike leading out to smaller circles that had lines leading to smaller circles still. Then he added lines with arrows pointing in the other direction from each circle.
“Something like this, though this is incredibly simplified. It all empowers the essence. Some of the hosts to the Source’s essence, like myself, were mostly just containers with little to no influence on the essence which controlled their bodies. For myself, the only real influence I had was the strength of my love for Phoebe and our child. It bled through, and the essence couldn’t ignore it.”
He sighed. “Other hosts, many of the previous hosts for the Source’s essence, had more influence, and it was almost a symbiotic relationship with the essence providing power and knowledge and the host providing charisma or strategy or whatever their strength was.”
Cole pushed the paper away. “The problem is the Charmed Ones and the influence they had on the essence and the demonic hordes in general. Starting with my own destruction of the Triumvirate when I fell in love with Phoebe, and they threatened us. And continuing through the years since, with some notable high points for them such as vanquishing Zankou. Or when they tricked the Seer into using too much of Stiles’ power, and she took out most of the upper level demon lords and herself.”
Cole ran his hand through his hair. “The thing is when Stiles was conceived, the essence of the Source latched onto him as it’s Heir, it’s next bearer. And during the chaos of the Seer’s defeat, that loose essence split. Some small amount was banished into the demonic wastelands, some retreated into the depths of the Underworld until it could be repowered. And some of it bonded to the one it had chosen to carry it after myself. Stiles.”
Cole reached out a hand and laid it on Stiles’ arm. “This isn’t to say that it wouldn’t have fully bonded with the Seer if her vision and plans had worked the way she meant them to. But that isn’t what happened. And it is in you now. It is why your true seeing lenses showed that part of you as they did. But, I don’t know how or why or anything, but unlike any of the previous bearers of even a portion of that essence, you are not tainted by it.”
Cole shook Stiles’ arm, and Stiles looked him in the eye. “Is it the Halliwell influence? Your secondary parents? It isn’t that your powers were bound, that would have let it take over more easily. Or is it the prophecy that my child and Phoebe’s would be the most powerful source for Good the world had ever seen if we married in a White ceremony?”
Stiles licked his lips, confused. “I thought the Source tricked her into a Dark wedding.”
Cole nodded. “It did. And the Seer believed that would make you the most powerful source for Evil the world had ever seen, instead. But it isn’t the case. But you are the most powerful mortal being, mortal being defined in this case as ‘can be killed’ not ‘short-lived’, the most powerful mortal being I have ever heard of. I think the Seer may have been correct in some respects, the Dark wedding did negate some of the prophecy. Or changed it. But just as her plans didn’t work as she thought, neither did the prophecy wording change as she assumed.”
Stiles dropped his eyes and pulled away. “Whatever. I’m not possessed by the essence even though it is in me. We’ll just keep an eye on me. What do you know about threats that might find me?”
Cole opened his mouth but sighed. “Fine. I’ll drop it for now. But we will pick it up later. In private, Stiles.”
Stiles shrugged and rolled his eyes. “Uh huh. Anyway, threats? Anyone?”
Cole shrugged. “Any number of demonic or good creatures could stumble upon you or feel your powers. Upper-level demons, the Elders, whitelighters, darklighters but they likely wouldn’t care much, the Wild Hunt could be drawn here if certain events draw their attention, some warlocks, but they’d be wary and not much of a threat, witches up to and including the Halliwells, and the Cleaners if we aren’t careful.”
Peter nodded. “Healing and claiming the Nemeton should help keep out threats that would have been drawn to its chaos. But there are always things like red caps, fairies, feral wolves whether Alphas or omegas, challenges by other Packs, Darachs, witches – secular not biblical, the Fae, banshees who are insane from not training their powers, kitsune and other foreign – as in not American or European – beings.”
Stiles frowned. “Cole said something about banshees. She turned into one?”
Cole nodded. “The difference is Phoebe turned into a banshee through being sort of infected by one who targeted her. But Lydia was born a banshee. There are several crossovers like that between the biblical and secular supernatural worlds. If one is transformed and uses the new form for an Evil purpose, it drives one mad and locks them into it. They become essentially demonic. But if they are transformed but don’t go mad, they can breed, and then you get a family line like Lydia’s maternal one.”
Noah nodded. “Okay. So, we are going to go into detail on each of these threats you both raised, and figure out how likely they are. And make plans for each possibility. One by one.”
Stiles groaned and banged his head on the table.
A few days after the debrief and planning session from hell, Stiles was in his room actually being a normal teenager for once. He was goofing off and playing a computer video game. It was set in space and had nothing to do with magic of any kind.
Stiles was still pissed that he couldn’t watch Buffy or Supernatural anymore. He got too upset over the inaccuracies and especially the idiocy of how unsubtle Sam and Dean were.
So, he’d switched genres to science fiction. And high fantasy. ‘Cause even though that shit had magic and stuff, it was far enough removed from anything resembling his own life that he could accept the suspension of disbelief required. Tolkien for the win! And of course, superhero movies and comics were still okay. Their stuff had never made sense, whether it was science or magic. The Arc Reactor? Please!
He’d been at it for almost two hours, appreciating the odd free time on his own. He loved the Pack and having that connection to so many. But for most of his life, Stiles’ only real companion had been Scott. He’d had others who were sort of friends here and there for a while, but for various reasons, none of them held the course. So, Stiles was used to lots of time by himself.
He sighed as he heard the knock on his bedroom door. He paused the game, glad he was on single player, and spun his chair around. “Yeah?”
Cole’s voice came through the wood. “Can I come in?”
Stiles’ shoulders slumped. He blew out a silent breath and steeled himself for what he was sure was coming – a talk about emotions. Squishy, sappy stuff, damn it. “Come on in.”
Cole opened the door and stuck his head in. “I was hoping we could have that talk you’ve been avoiding.”
Stiles nodded and waved his hand at his bed. “Have a seat, Pops.”
Cole closed the door behind him and sat on the bed. “I wanted to start with that, actually. I’m not sure if it’s you being you and nicknaming me or trying to get around awkwardness by forcing it, but you don’t have to call me a father term. I’m fine if you feel more comfortable with Cole.”
“If that’s what you want.”
Cole shook his head. “It’s about what you want and need, Stiles. We both know that I’m biologically your father, more or less. But so is Noah. And I wasn’t around for you growing up. He’s your father.”
Stiles frowned. “You’re both my fathers. And it isn’t your fault that you didn’t know I existed. You thought I was dead. It’s actually a logical assumption. And it was what unborn me wanted, no one expecting I was still around and hadn’t been vanquished with the Seer. Though, if I had known you would resurrect from the demonic wasteland, I might have done things differently. But to unborn me, I had already lost you when I was threatened with death.”
“I just don’t want you to force yourself to feel things for me that don’t exist. Yet.”
Stiles huffed out a breath. “Look. I – this last year has been insane for me. Not even a year, actually. Not yet. But, I’ve always wanted more people in my life, more family.”
Stiles shrugged. “Mom was an only child, and Dad was, too. And her parents died when I was a toddler. Dad’s mom left, and he hasn’t heard from her since he was in his twenties and his dad, well, I’m not sure what exactly is the deal there, but Dad hates him. And I’m an only child. Or if you discount her new kids who are sort of my half-siblings but who I’ve never met and only knew of for a few months, I’m an only child.”
Stiles spun back and forth on his chair, fidgeting. “So, I had Scott and always said he was more like a brother than a friend, but that wasn’t really true. I wanted it to be that way, but the reality was different. As has recently become glaringly clear. And I haven’t had the best luck with parental figures. Mom got sick and went crazy and died, Melissa only put up with me for who knows why, Dad kind of fell apart for a while after Mom got sick and it got worse after she died. He worked a lot and drank too much when he was home. But after he – well, eventually he pulled himself together and he’s been there supporting me as much as he could when he’s the Sheriff. And then I remembered my full life and she hated me and was happy when I was stolen. And you, well. Yeah.”
Cole looked down. “I was trapped in the Cosmic Void and never bothered to look for you.”
Stiles made an aggravated groan. “You didn’t know I was alive! You had no reason to think I would survive what happened, what she and her sisters did to me. They hated me, I was soulless and a black hole of evil. I was a thing, a parasite inside of her. But you loved me. You said it yourself. Your love for me was so strong it infected the essence of the Source of All Evil! If you had known I existed, you would have come to find me, to watch over me however you could.”
Stiles scooted his chair closer to the bed. “No, you weren’t around when I was younger. And if you had been, both of our lives would be a lot different. You might not have gone mad. But we can’t change what happened, only work with what we’ve got. And I don’t know you much, except for what I learned from my visions and research and talking the past few weeks. But you’re my father. And I want that. That connection.”
Stiles reached out and laid a hand on his pops’ arm. “But Dad is ‘Dad’ and ‘Daddio’ and ‘Daddy’ and like that. And ‘Father’ as a name word is way too formal for me. But ‘Pops’? When it’s us, or people who know, that’s what you are. ‘Papa’ is too youngish unless I change the syllabic accent, and then it’s too French. And I don’t really want to use a foreign word, unless you’d prefer Polish. ‘Cause I think you aren’t comfortable with ‘Pops,’ it sounds too facetious coming out of my mouth, like I’m referencing your age or something, huh?”
Cole shrugged, and Stiles could feel he was uncomfortable. “I want you to use what works for you, Stiles.”
Stiles nodded. “Yeah. But you don’t like it. And that’s important to me. So, okay, I’m definitely not calling you ‘Pater.’ For one, it’s too close to Peter, and we’ve already got one of those. For another, it’s pretentious as fuck to use a dead language for names. But how do you feel about ‘Tata’? It means Dad. More formal would be Ojciec for father, and less formal would be Tatuś for Daddy. So, Tata?”
Cole smiled. “I think that is fine. What is son?”
Stiles blinked. “Oh, um, ‘syn’ or ‘dziecko’ for just ‘child’. Um, and ‘moje’ in front for ‘my’. So, you could say, ‘Mój syn ma na imię Stiles’. That’s ‘My son is named Stiles.’ But I don’t think you need to learn Polish.”
Cole shook his head. “No. But I know your dad calls you son, just son, sometimes.”
Stiles chuckled. “He calls anyone under thirty that. And sometimes older than thirty.”
Cole shook his head. “It sounds different when he says it to you, so I thought if you’re calling me dad in Polish, I could call you son, mój syn.”
Stiles let out a shaky gasp. “Yeah. Um, yeah, that is okay. Okay. That’s great. Fine. Great, Tata.”
Cole smiled and reached out to Stiles and pulled him into a hug. “I love you, Stiles, mój syn.”
“I love you, too, Tatuś, Tata.”
After a few minutes, they sat up, and Stikes moved to the bed, sitting against the headboard. Cole sat, facing him with his legs crossed.
Cole smiled. “Okay, so mushy is over. Sort of. You have a hard time with some things. I know you mentioned thinking you’re a monster or evil. And it’s because of what your moms said to you. Now, I don’t suggest you try to call Phoebe, though maybe you could start using her name or some descriptor for her? Not like we just did, but something other than the word ‘her’ with a lot of emphasis and sneer in your voice? Think about it.”
Stiles looked away, and Cole reached a foot out and tapped his leg. “Stiles, just think about it. But we can figure out how to deal with those mommy issues later. I want to ask about the ones you’ve carried around for longer. At least consciously. I want to talk about your Mom, Claudia.”
Stiles bit his lip and looked at his Tata from under his lashes.
Cole nodded. “I understand why you don’t talk to your dad about it. He still grieves deeply, and you don’t want to trigger him. But you can talk to me. And you can talk to her.”
Stiles frowned. “You mean her gravestone? I’ve done it. More often, when I was younger but I guess it helps.”
Cole shook his head. “I’m glad it helps, but I mean actually talk to her. Her spirit. There’s a spell and ritual in the Book of Shadows that can call the dead to speak to you. Claudia was sick for a long time before she died, her brain didn’t know what was real. But spirits are souls, their bodies’ sicknesses and deformities don’t follow them to the other side. If you summon her, I think you can work on those deep-seated issues, and it will help.”
Stiles looked down and frowned. “I don’t know. I just, maybe.”
Cole put his hand on Stiles’ ankle. “I think seeing the mom you remember from before she got sick and talking to her without her disease in the way will really help you to settle. Your powers are tied to your emotions. And dealing with your emotions will help to settle you into them better, especially the empathy.”
Stiles nodded once. “Okay, what’s the spell and ritual?”
Cole shrugged. “I don’t remember it exactly. I know it was a circle of white candles. And calling to spirits on the other side but the exact wording, I can’t remember it.”
Stiles rolled his eyes. “So, what, I need to recreate it?”
Cole shook his head. “No. That would be dangerous, opening that door that way. The Cosmic Void is one thing. This is something else. No, I was thinking that you could create a spell to call the Book of Shadows to you. Technically, it is your book, too. You are a Halliwell, a Warren witch. Just make sure you word it so that it only comes if it is unobserved. You don’t want them to follow it to you. And they could. And copy it once you have it, so you don’t need to do that again.”
Stiles was incredulous. “Borrow the Charmed Ones’ Book of Shadows and copy it?”
Cole nodded. “Well, call for it. Don’t go to the manor and try to sneak in.”
Stiles glared at him. “Duh.”
The next weekend, Stiles was ready. He had researched and scried and used his visions, though that was an iffy thing and often unhelpful, at least for his current purposes.
But Stiles had created a spell that he hoped would work to summon the Halliwell Book of Shadows to him. In secret. Without the Charmed Ones, their families, or the Elders knowing. For two hours, the length of time the copy spell he had created would take to work on such a magical artifact.
Stiles was in his basement and had chalked a rune circle onto the floor. He was glad the basement was mostly unfinished and had concrete floors. But even if it had carpet, he would have come up with an alternative, maybe buying a couple of full size chalkboards and laying them out as a floor surface. But it was a moot point.
In the center of the circle, he placed an empty leather book cover with the Hale triskele inscribed on it. The leather was dark red, and it was bound and sewed in white thread.
Stiles sat on the floor outside of the circle just before midnight, hoping this would be a good time for the spell to predict the attic would be empty. The spell he had created couldn’t actually know the attic and the Book would be unobserved for the full two hours.
It would sense if the Book was near a sentient, sapient life form and if someone was approaching the attic at the moment of the spell. If the occupants were all in their bedrooms, out of the house, or on the first floor, the spell would work.
If they were moving on the second floor near the stairs to the attic, on the attic stairs, or in the attic, the spell would not work immediately. It would wait until those conditions were unmet for at least ten minutes before it began to work.
The two hours was luck and Stiles’ masking spell that he had cast to keep the witches, Elders, and whitelighters – and those of the Dark – from sensing him or his powers.
As the clock ticked over to midnight, Stiles began to recite the spell:
I call upon the Ancient Powers,
to help me in my seeking hours.
Let the Book in my circle land,
Borrowed by a blood claim’s hand.
Secrets hid in the dark of night,
Returned home without a fight,
When to a new Book it’s contents to see
For a new Line created coming from me.
Stiles waited as the magic rose, dancing from rune to rune, which defined the more delicate needs of the spell. The clock continued to tick, and at last, nineteen minutes after he cast the spell, it worked, and the Book of Shadows appeared in a shimmer over the leather cover.
The Book glowed, and pulsed and a strand of light reached out and touched Stiles. He didn’t fight, and it bathed him in its glow for two minutes before retreating back to the circle’s center. The light reached downward to the leather cover, and it floated to hover beside the Book. The light began to glow within the cover, and Stiles saw a page come into being within his new Book.
He sat back and smiled as another page appeared within, and the folio slowly expanded over the next two hours. As the time approached, the original Book flashed several times and then shimmered out of the room, hopefully appearing unnoticed back on its stand in the attic of the Halliwell house. Stiles’ new Book floated down to rest in the center of the circle in its original position, and the lights died.
Stiles blew out a breath and stood, walking over the chalk lines and lifting his absolutely huge Book into his arms. Its pages were crisp and clean, unfaded, and un-foxed. He opened the cover, and it pulsed under his hand. The first spell was the one that had unbound his powers. He ran his hand over the page and smiled. “Welcome Stilinski Book of Shadows to the Hale Pack.”
Five days later, Stiles had read the Book from cover to cover and made notes on things. One disturbing, yet cool thing he had found was that his Book contained pages for the spells he had created and used since he had discovered his heritage.
Stiles suspected that the Halliwell’s Book now included those spells somewhere within in as well. The flashes that had encompassed their Book before it returned to them was indicative, to say the least.
One good thing was that the Book wasn’t at all in any kind of chronological order. There were spells that he knew from his research were nearly ancient near the end of the Book, and his own spells were scattered throughout randomly. They weren’t all clumped at the end, which could have been bad and would definitely be suspicious to the Charmed Ones if they saw them. He had to assume they knew their Book pretty well by now and would recognize new spells, especially if they were the last ones in the Book, when they hadn’t been before.
Stiles looked down at the floor of the basement, a circular area rug on the floor surrounded by seven fat, white candles. He lit them one at a time and looked back at his Book. His hands shook as he set it on the pedestal he had bought to hold it.
Stiles really wasn’t wanting to do this, but Tata had been right. He knew he needed to. His last few years with his mom, as she had deteriorated and tried to kill him or herself several times, had ranted that he wanted her dead and that he was evil and a monster and a murderer, had scarred him in a way even learning about his true origin story couldn’t even touch.
Therapy by magical ghost summoning. Whatever.
Stiles stood and faced the rug, standing behind the Book as he began the spell entitled within it “To Summon the Dead.”
Hear these words, hear my cry,
Spirit from the other side.
Come to me, I summon thee,
Cross now the great divide.
After a few seconds a group of white sparkles appeared, and as they disappeared, the ghostly figure of Claudia Stilinski was standing there, transparent and smiling.
“Oh, Mieczysław, my little Mischief, you have grown so well. I have missed you so much.”
Stiles looked at her, tears dripping unheeded down his face. “Mama?”
She gazed at him in sorrow, “You called for me, darling. Of course, I would come to you. Granted, for a mortal, non supernatural it would normally take more to summon me but well, bearing you within my body and being around you as your mother, even with your powers bound, it gave me a little magical hook, I suppose. Your dad has one too, though until recently, it was much smaller. He didn’t have a magical baby inside his body for over nine months. But his recent actions and interactions, with you, with the Nemeton, with the Pack, it has grown.”
Stiles gulped. “Will it hurt him? Change him? Will he have powers?”
Claudia shook her head. “No. Noah will not be harmed or even know of its existence unless circumstances drastically change.”
Stiles slumped in relief. “So, you know about magic now? You know what I am? What I did to you? That you were right about the evil inside of me?”
“Oh baby, Mischief, sweetie. You didn’t harm me using my womb and becoming my child. And you are my child. Even to your DNA. If you hadn’t come to me, I would never have known the joy of being a mother. I was barren, sweetheart. The doctors called you a miracle.”
Stiles blinked. “What?”
Claudia smiled with tears in her transparent eyes. “Your dad and I had a lot of trouble conceiving. We tried for a long time, and the doctor did tests on us, and my body wasn’t able to have children, my eggs weren’t – it’s complicated and medical terminology heavy and you don’t need the specifics. But I couldn’t have kids until your magic enabled it. And I would never regret you. And I am so sorry, baby.”
Stiles bit his lip and wiped his sleeve over his face.
Claudia bit her lip as she looked at him. “Baby, I hurt you so much when I was sick. But I didn’t mean any of it, not me. You are not evil. Your Tata is right about that. You are something different, something more. And you will understand in time. I wish I could have not been sick and stayed with you, Mieczyslaw. But life isn’t fair, and my brain killed me. You are my bright and shining Mischief. And I died long before my body let go. I hated myself for what I did to you as I deteriorated. But you have grown to be so wonderful of a man.”
“You can call me whenever you need, baby, but don’t dwell in the past too much. You have a wonderful life ahead of you with your dad and your Tata and your Pack. And more friends you will make along the way. Don’t let the words of that insane woman that I became poison you. Not anymore.”
Stiles sniffled and sobbed. “I miss you, Mama.”
“I know, baby. But the wheel turns, and life moves on. Embrace your future and be what you were destined to be.”
Stiles sank to his knees, crying and reaching out, wishing he could touch, and Claudia’s hand crossed the circle of the candles and became corporeal. She grasped Stiles’ hand in hers and stroked his face and hair with the back of her fingers.
Stiles felt at peace for the first time since he was a very small child as he broke down under his living mother’s touch.
Piper stood behind the bar going over the inventory for P3. She had a very good manager running the place and taking care of lots of the day to day stuff, so it wasn’t distracting Piper from her mothering or witch duties. But she was the owner of the club and liked to keep an eye on things at least once a week whenever possible.
She looked up when she heard someone coming down the stairs. The club wouldn’t be opening for five hours, and she wasn’t expecting any deliveries. When she got a good look at the one making the footsteps, she sighed. No way in hell was the kid legal.
She walked out from behind the bar and stood where he could see her. “I’m sorry, but the club is closed, and even if it wasn’t, you’re too young to be in here. It’s 21 and over.”
The teenage boy blinked as he looked at her. He looked around the club area. “Sorry, I don’t know if this is the right place. Are you one of the sisters? Or is there another place called P3 in or near San Francisco?”
Piper stepped sideways and held her hands loose at her sides. “As far as I know, this is the only P3 within hundreds of miles or more. And I do have several sisters. What are you looking for?”
The boy licked his lips, and his head twitched to the side for a moment, his eyes looking at the wall to the back alleyway. “I don’t know. I need help, and the guy said something about avoiding the sisters, and later, he talked about P3 and stories about stuff. I’m not sure what he was talking about. I couldn’t always hear everything.”
Piper relaxed minutely but didn’t approach him. “Who was telling stories?”
The boy shrugged. “I don’t know. He’s new. I haven’t seen him around before until the last month or so. Then suddenly he’s living there and spending time with them. It’s how I knew he was evil. A plot to hurt us, to make him be irredeemable like they are. They want to turn him.”
“The Hales. Peter bit me, and he killed his niece and Kate and lots of others and tried to kill Allison, and he tried to make me help him kill. That’s why he bit me, to make him stronger and make me evil. And then Derek killed him and stole my chance to be human again. He wanted the power. And Peter didn’t stay dead. He did something and came back to life. And they turned him away from me, they’re trying to make him do things, bad things, hurt people, murder them. He almost killed Gerard. Or maybe he did, but I think they did it and made him think he did. And they made Allison leave town and not come back. She’s my soulmate, and they took her away. Because she knew how evil they were. Derek killed her mom.”
Piper nodded slowly, unsure if this kid was legitimately involved with the supernatural and was talking about demons. Or if he was delusional, off his meds, and escaped his handlers. She didn’t want to hurt him, but he was not making much sense. Even for an explanation of a supernatural fiasco.
“Okay. So, Peter and Derek are evil. How did Peter hurt you?”
The teen boy blinked. “He bit me. I was in the woods, and he chased me and bit me. And it ruined my life. But I won’t be evil, I won’t kill people with them. And I need to keep them from making him do it, either.”
Piper licked her lips. “Alright. What kind of bite was it? Where?”
The boy put a hand on his side near his hip. “It was a werewolf bite. And now I’m one, too.”
Piper sighed internally. Other than what happened to her and her sisters on the blue moon, werewolves didn’t exist. Wendigos were the next closest comparison. And if this kid was a wendigo, it was bad news for lots of people.
The boy sniffed the air and frowned. “You don’t believe me. You think I’m lying. I’m not!”
The last words came out in a snarled growl as the boy’s eyes changed to a glowing gold, and his fingers grew claws. His face began to ripple, and hair sprouted along his cheekbones.
Piper held her hands up, ready to freeze if he attacked. “Okay, werewolves are real. We’ve never run into actual werewolves before. Learn something new every day.”
The boy closed his eyes and began breathing hard, a deep growl coming from his chest, and his hands clenched into fists, making blood drip from where he pierced himself with his claws.
After six or seven minutes, during which Piper backed up and sent texts to her sisters, the hairy face returned to normal, and the claws became fingernails, but his eyes kept glowing then not like he couldn’t stop them.
He looked at Piper, tears in his eyes, “You see, they made me a monster. Like them.”
Piper nodded. “But you aren’t like them. You controlled yourself. You didn’t try to hurt me. You haven’t hurt anyone.”
The teen nodded. “Yeah. But it’s so hard. The thing inside me wants to hurt and kill and bite and claw. I almost killed him, and he was trying to help me learn to control the thing inside me.”
The boy’s head cocked, and he spun around to face the storage room. Piper looked over and saw Phoebe and Paige coming in. “It’s okay. Those are my sisters. You came to get our help, well, we work best together.”
The boy’s shoulders relaxed. “Right. He wants to avoid the sisters. So, you can stop them.”
Phoebe gasped when the teen turned to face her. “I saw you in a vision. You were with another boy, buzz cut, gangly, on a sports team? You were in the woods, and there was a – creature with red eyes.”
The teen smiled. “That was the Alpha werewolf. The night he bit me. Stiles and I were in the woods looking for the other half of the body. He killed her and ripped her apart after he lured her back to town. He wanted her power, his own niece.”
Phoebe shared a look with Piper and Paige. “And Stiles? He’s got a buzz cut? And plays on a sports team with red jerseys?”
“Yeah. He’s my best friend, almost my brother. We play lacrosse. But they’re messing with his mind. They want him to hurt people, kill them, they’re trying to make him evil.”
“Okay,” said Piper. “Where are you and Stiles from?”
“Beacon Hills. It’s in Northern California about a bit more than an hour’s drive from here.”
“Beacon Hills?” Asked Paige. “And you and Stiles live there and the – bad guys, too?”
He nodded. “The Hales are pure evil. They deserved everything that happened to them. Kate understood and tried to stop them, but she didn’t get them all, and Peter killed her.”
Phoebe sighed. “Okay. And what’s your name, sweetie?”
“Oh, sorry, my mom would be pissed at me for my manners. I’m Scott, Scott McCall.”
Paige orbed Piper and Phoebe into the woods in Beacon Hills inside a clearing. They were near the road but out of sight. They planned to meet with Scott McCall a few blocks from where they were.
Phoebe turned to her sisters. “Okay, be ready. We don’t know much about this demon, but we’ve met ones with underlings before. And we certainly have met ones who try to turn good humans and witches to evil.”
Paige sighed and nodded. “Yeah. And we don’t know what kind of minions this guy has. But Phoebe’s been getting visions of Scott’s friend for months, so we have to save him.”
Piper rolled her eyes. “We know. And we know he has real life werewolves on his side. Not us on the super blue moon thing.”
Paige nodded firmly. “So, no letting an unknown bite any of us. Maybe if we take out the big bad, his minions will fall apart or run away?”
Phoebe snorted. “We’re not that lucky. Let’s go. Scott’s going to be waiting by now.”
The sisters walked out along a path to the nearby road and down an alley between some houses to an actual street. They followed the directions Scott had provided and soon saw the teen waiting at a corner.
He saw them and hurried down the block. “Hey! So, the new guy is in the big building in the next block. I think the Hales are squatting on the top floor. It used to be like apartments, and no one has lived there for a while.”
Paige smiled. “So, stakeout time? Or are we going in?”
Piper shook her head. “Watching and gathering information. If the Hales are up there, we have at least two powerful adversaries plus the unknown. So, we watch and wait, we don’t want to miss our chance or let them get the drop on us.”
Scott shifted his weight. “Okay. But you have to stop them and help him, right?”
Phoebe put her hand on Scott’s arm. “We will. It’s what we do, Scott. We save the innocent.”
Scott nodded. “Okay, okay, yeah. Good.”
The teen werewolf, and the three witches found a cafe with outdoor seating and a view of the building’s exit. They ordered drinks and waited. Less than an hour later, the door to the building opened, and Phoebe gasped. “Cole. Oh, God, not again.”
The three witches looked at one another. Piper sipped her espresso. “Okay. We know who the demon is. I don’t know how he got out of the Cosmic Void.”
Phoebe sighed. “But it definitely explains why he would know about us and P3 and want to avoid us.”
Paige snorted. “No, kidding.”
Scott looked between them, a bewildered look on his face. “So, this guy who’s trying to make Stiles evil is named Cole? And you know him?”
They nodded. Piper smiled weakly at him. “We’ve beaten him before.”
Paige snorted again, lightly. “Several times.”
Scott smiled. “Cool. So, you can follow him now, and what did you call it? Vanquish him?”
Phoebe nodded slowly. “We may need some supplies first before the final showdown, but yeah, we know how to take him out.”
The four conspirators didn’t notice the man eavesdropping on their conversation. Though to be fair to the witches, he was over a block away. Peter narrowed his eyes and leaned against the wall. The werewolf was thinking over what he had heard and put the pieces together into a fairly accurate whole.
Once the four got up from the table, Peter hurried into the Preserve and placed a phone call to Stiles.
“Hey, Zombiewolf? What’s up?”
“You need to get to me now, as soon as you can. My biggest mistake has been stalking you and heard just enough to be dangerous. He went to the Charmed Ones, and they’re here. They saw Cole, and they plan to vanquish him.”
Before the last word left his mouth, Stiles shimmered into view. Peter hung up the call and pointed. “Cole’s on his way to visit your dad at the station. The witches and the idiot are following on foot.”
Stiles began walking to the street, taking a shortcut that would bring him out ahead of Cole as long as he wasn’t running. “They won’t attack in public, right? They know better than that? They’ve been around the block enough times to keep it on the down low?”
Peter nodded. “From what I’ve heard, they do their best to keep it out of the public. But there are several alleys between the loft and the Sheriff’s station they could use to ambush him.”
Stiles nodded. “Call him. Give him a cryptic head’s up in case Scottie-boy is actually using his senses and listening in. Which he evidently has been on me. I need to do something about that. Muffliato or something. And protection spells to the house and loft and your place.”
Peter calls Cole and, after a brief exchange of greetings, simply says, “Don’t you just hate when exes come to town? It is so awkward. I never should have had anything to do with sisters.”
A curse was all that could be heard on the line and then the dial tone.
Stiles came out to the mouth of the first real alleyway of any length across the street from the elementary school playground and sports fields. Which were filled with little league soccer teams and their parents. Stiles saw Cole approaching and caught his eye. Stiles jerked his head, and Cole nodded, his hands in his pockets.
About half a block back, Stiles saw the three witches and his former best friend tailing his Tata. He wasn’t going to stand for it. When Cole reached the alley mouth, he darted down it, and Stiles spoke a quick glamour spell over him. He wasn’t invisible, but everything from his hair color down to his clothes and shoes looked different. Even his height looked like it had been reduced by a few inches.
The witches picked up their pace, and Stiles stepped out into the street before they reached the alley. “Hello, Scott, fancy meeting you here.”
The three sisters were forced to stop. Scott grinned. “It’s gonna be okay, Stiles. These are the sisters that guy didn’t want you near. And that’s because they can stop him and make you normal and not evil. It’s gonna be okay.”
The sisters exchanged looks as Phoebe recognized the boy from the visions, and the others recognized the name.
Stiles rolled his eyes. “There’s nothing wrong with me, Scott. You’re the one who’s slipping into being a feral omega. You rejected the territory’s Alpha, and Deaton has been in a coma for months now, and his spells aren’t able to keep you stable without his renewals.”
“No, Stiles. They’re going to make everything go back to the way it was before you made me go into the Preserve to look for the half of a body. He got to you back then and made you take me, make me go, he wanted me to be evil like him, but I’m fighting it. You can fight, too. They will help you. I forgive you for ruining my life.”
Stiles sighed and shook his head. “Your logic is faulty, Scott. Actually, it’s non-existent. Your human mind is hanging on by a thread, and it’s fraying with every hour. I didn’t force you into the Preserve that night, I didn’t plan on or want you to be bitten. I didn’t even know about this stuff until after you started to change. Then I did the research and found out lots of things.”
Scott moved forward and shoved Stiles. “Just get out of the way, and we’ll make you normal again. They’re gonna vanquish this Cole guy.”
“No, they aren’t. He’s gone for now. Safe from the murderers behind you. And your delusions.”
Phoebe stepped up next to Scott. “I don’t know what lies Cole has been telling you, sweetie, but we’re not the bad guys.”
Stiles scowled and sneered. “Cole hasn’t told me any lies. You came here, and you don’t know the first thing about what is happening other than the delusional ramblings of a confused, insane teenager.”
“I’m not insane, Stiles.”
“You are. And it was by your own choice. Mostly. A little assist from Deaton but mostly just your own stubborn asshole nature.”
Piper spoke up, “You’re right that Scott is our main source of information about the situation here, but we know Cole. We’ve known him for years.”
Stiles nodded. “I know. Doesn’t change the fact that you don’t know facts.”
Phoebe smiled sadly at Stiles. “I’ve seen you in visions for months, sweetie. Against the Hales, and their creatures. And Cole and energy balls.”
Stiles scoffed. “First, don’t call me sweetie. You don’t – just don’t. Second of all, if you had seen clear visions, you would have been here months ago. Maybe last winter or at least before summer. So, again, you don’t know your facts, and Scott is a very, very unreliable narrator. He always has been really. I can’t count the number of times he lied about things and threw me under the bus when he was the one at fault. And now his gaslighting has risen to a new level, blaming a man who was on another plane of existence until a few weeks ago for events that happened nearly a year ago.”
Stiles turned back to Scott. “You need help, Scott. It’s too late for you with the Pack, but I can reach out and find something to help you stabilize.”
Scott turned to the sisters. “No. You said you’d help Stiles, fix him, so he wasn’t evil. Vanquish that Cole guy and stop the Hales. Fix him!”
The last sentence came out in a rumbling growl, and Scott’s eyes glowed bright gold. He whirled around to face the alley as Peter stepped into the street. “Cole’s safe, Stiles.”
Scott lost control and howled, he transformed as he leapt at Peter. Peter took one look and sprinted hard down the alley. Before Scoot could follow, Stiles stuck out a foot and tripped him. He turned to face Stiles and the witches behind him. “Your fault! Yours! I’m a werewolf because of you.”
Scott leapt at Stiles, claws extended when suddenly everything stopped. Scott froze in midair, but Stiles and the sisters could move. Stiles glanced around and cursed as he saw the dozens of cell phones from the park across the street pointed at Scott’s beta form. He glanced up and saw a security camera from a deli pointed towards the action, as well.
The three witches followed his glances and frowned. Moments later, two men in glowing white suits appeared. It was the Cleaners.
One of them stepped forward. “This is unacceptable. There are four people live streaming this to their social media, plus the regular videos. And the news crew that was interviewing someone in the apartment above your head and began taping and transmitting live on the air when they heard Scott McCall ranting.”
Stiles stepped forward, and the Cleaner backed up several paces. “I will make you a deal. I know you’ve done it at least once before, likely several times. But I know you made a deal with them about their kids.” Stiles pointed at the sisters.
The second Cleaner slid back a step but spoke firmly. “We are listening.”
“You clean up the videos, news footage, memories, rewind time a bit.”
The first one shook his head. “Not good enough. We’ve been watching McCall. He’s a menace, and we’ve had to fix things seven times so far because of him.”
“I wasn’t done. You Clean up like you normally would, and I’ll make it so that Scott isn’t in your jurisdiction anymore.”
The first Cleaner sneered. “We’re not just in charge of Beacon County. If he’s on this planet, he’s our ‘jurisdiction.’”
Stiles shook his head. “Not if he isn’t a werewolf anymore. If I can separate him from his wolf, make him a normal, vanilla human, you have no place here. Any rantings about the supernatural will be marked down to mental illness.”
The second Cleaner nudged the first behind him. “If he is human, he doesn’t need knowledge of the supernatural at all. We can erase it from him and send him elsewhere so his memories won’t be triggered. Then he won’t be your problem either.”
Stiles held out a hand. “Deal.”
The first Cleaner eased forward and grasped his hand briefly, the second one even quicker. The first one looked at Stiles. “This deal is contingent upon your keeping your end of the bargain first.”
Stiles nodded solemnly. “I know.”
Piper stepped forward, but Stiles shook his head at her. “This isn’t your fight. And I can’t have you interfering. Sorry. But you can watch.”
Stiles flicked his hands at the sisters, his mother, and his aunts, and froze them in place before twisting his wrist and releasing their heads. He kept their vocal cords frozen. “You can watch and listen but not move or talk. I’ll release you when I’m done.”
The three witches were trying to yell, their lips were moving, but it was futile. Stiles turned away and faced his frozen former best friend. “This isn’t a reward for you, Scottie. I know you can’t hear me. But regardless. This isn’t a reward. It’s really more of a punishment.”
Stiles laid his hand on Scott’s frozen head and spoke:
Leave the unworthy
The one unrespected.
Wolf spirit be gone
Human soul remain
His powers depart
To their home plane.”
As Stiles repeated the chant three times, Scott’s visage melted back into his human form as he hung in the air. A smoke-like figure rose from his body, and the wolf it formed into nuzzled Stiles’ hand before vanishing into whisps. Stiles reached into his pocket and pulled out an old, though still usable inhaler and slipped it into Scott’s frozen hand.
He turned to the Charmed Ones with a wry smile. “Being bitten cured his really bad asthma. He could barely run a half lap without wheezing. Some days he couldn’t even walk up the stairs to class on the second floor.”
Stiles shrugged. “I always had an extra inhaler in my bag and my pocket and my Jeep. ‘Cause Scott was always losing them, forgetting them, or breaking them. Force of habit, I guess.”
Stiles turned to the Cleaners. “My end of the bargain is fulfilled. Keep to the terms.”
The second Cleaner nodded and bowed his head briefly. He and his partner waved their hands, and time began moving backward. The Charmed Ones unfroze, and we’re moved back several houses from the alleyway. Stiles walked on his own back to the alley mouth, and Cole appeared in his natural form next to Peter. Cole’s eyes widened, and he was able to move, but Peter was frozen in place like the humans by the soccer fields.
The first Cleaner waved a hand at Cole and murmured, “So you can help them all understand.”
The Cleaners vanished, Stiles saw the parents with their phones and cameras pointed at their kids and not at him, and time resumed. The Charmed Ones hurried to the alley, and Stiles turned and walked halfway down it. There were no cameras, and they were away from the windows of the news crew’s apartment.
Stiles stood in front of Cole as they approached. “No vanquishing. You saw for yourselves that Scott was unstable and wrong.”
Piper frowned at him. “What are you?”
Stiles shrugged. “I’m complicated, but I found out I’m part witch last spring.”
Phoebe nodded. “Okay. But I want to know why the hell you’re around, Cole! Why the hell did you come back?”
Paige muttered, “How the hell did you come back?”
Cole rolled his eyes. “I’m not here for you, Phoebe. So many years in the Cosmic Void and a few creatures I met there helped me move on from my obsession with you. I’m glad you’re happy. I wasn’t even going to let you know I was back. I’m not interested in you.”
Cole’s eyes darted sideways for a moment and met hers again. “I don’t want you, Phoebe.”
Paige snorted. “Right. So who are you here for? You’re corrupting kids, now? You were born evil, and you died evil. Several times.”
Piper interrupted. “He helped me and Leo get back together. And he sent Drake to you, Phoebe.”
Piper nodded. “I didn’t tell you that part. It wasn’t relevant as Cole was trapped. But he helped you a lot.”
“Cole came back before by stealing powers in the demonic wasteland. He was insane. How can stealing powers from the Cosmic Void be any better? He’s here to corrupt my innocent to evil. We already agreed on that. We’re here to save Stiles.”
Stiles huffed. “I love Cole. He’s amazing. Why would I want anything to do with someone who tried to kill me?”
Phoebe stepped towards Stiles. “We killed him because he was insane and evil, swee – Stiles.”
Paige chimed in. “He was born to be one of evil’s ins with humans. He’s not good, kid.”
Phoebe nodded. “He even just admitted he was obsessed with me.”
Stiles lost his temper and yelled, “I didn’t mean why would Cole want you! I meant, why would I want you?”
Stiles sneered at Paige. “I should have pushed harder when I shoved you out the window.”
Paige frowned. Piper tilted her head to the side and narrowed her eyes. Two seconds after Stiles stopped screaming, Phoebe gasped and raised her hand to him, the other covering her mouth, her eyes tearing.
Stiles grimaced and stepped back. “Go back home. We don’t need you. We don’t want you. I don’t need you or want you. I have a family that actually cares about me,” Stiles laid his hand on Cole’s arm, “and Pack that supports me and believes in me.” Stiles laid his other hand on Peter’s arm.
Stiles shook his head. “Go back to the kids you actually wanted to have and didn’t try to vanquish, strip the powers from, and call a black hole of evil and a thing, a parasite inside you.”
Stiles met Cole’s eyes, and Cole nodded. Stiles let go of his Tata’s arm and keeping hold of Peter, he pushed out with his powers. His eyes burned and turned black as he and Peter vanished in un-burning flames.
Cole crossed his arms. “Just go back to San Francisco and forget about Beacon Hills. And about Stiles. He’s happy, and he doesn’t need you. And you don’t want to tangle with him. He’s putting the blame for this one on Scott. But he won’t be so nice if you come here again.”
Piper frowned. “He has my power. And excellent control for one so young who just learned about being a partial witch half a year ago.”
Cole scoffed. “He has all of your powers. And the advanced versions, too. And his control is amazing. But you don’t want to take him on. I’ve suspected for a while, and the Cleaners confirmed it. Stiles isn’t Good. Stiles isn’t Evil. He is straight down the line Neutral. Like the Cleaners. Think about their reaction to him. You and your entire family line were made to fight Evil. And you excel at it. You weren’t made to fight what Stiles is. He’s the True Balance.”