Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Wolf. Written for fun, not profit.
Notes: Written for the 2016 Teen Wolf Big Bang. Canon divergent post season 4. Thank you, Stormbrite for the lovely art.
When she woke, it was to the sound of her own name, muffled and distant, as if spoken through a wall. Her bedroom was dark, no hint of dawn at the curtains. She hesitated a moment, listening for another call, wondering faintly if it had been her mother shouting her name. But, no, that wasn't quite right. That hadn't been her mother's voice.
Suddenly more alert, she sat up, grabbing her phone. No missed calls or unread text messages.
"Hello?" Her voice was harsh from sleep, and she felt immediately stupid for calling out. Stupid was not something she felt often. She glanced down again at the phone.
She pulled her legs up beneath her, realizing she wouldn't be going back to sleep anytime soon. How many times had she gone through this same ritual, sitting up in her bed until morning, listening? Listening. Because sometimes she heard things that weren't there.
A chill ran over her. Her heartbeat suddenly sounded loud in her own ears. But despite the niggling of fear making her blood rush, she didn't feel that familiar sensation, that need...to scream.
It should have been a relief. But, it wasn't, because she was certain now, that the sound she'd heard was actually a voice. A familiar voice.
She swallowed down the name, then tried again, ignoring the weakness of her own voice.
"Stiles," she whispered.
And received no reply.
Grand dramatic gesture.
Out of no where, those words circled through Stiles' head and for a second he even agreed with them. That this, this rushing off in the middle of the night after Malia, this was a grand dramatic gesture of his affection.
About two miles away from the Tate house he pulled off onto the gravelly edge of the road and put the Jeep in park. Then he sat back and let out a slow breath. Roscoe felt familiar, from the sink of the seats to the smoothness of the worn steering wheel cover, but what felt completely not-at-all normal was this situation: Stiles chasing Malia.
The realization stilled him, which was really a comment on his own state of mind, because right at the moment, he felt amped-up and jittery, an after effect of the out-of-no-where-blindside-me-why-don't-you argument he'd gotten into with Malia. It wasn't every day that his girlfriend woke him up in the middle of the night to tell him that he didn't love her. Which was, okay, maybe something he should have been the one to decide, right? And maybe after a proper night's sleep, a cup of coffee, and a dose of Adderall. But. Wham. Bam. Good-fuckin-bye, Stiles.
What the hell even?
Words Stiles was almost certain had left his lips sometime during their argument. If that was even what it could be classified as. There were raised voices, definitely, but mostly...well, Malia didn't sound all that upset over it. Okay, that was unfair. She sounded upset. Sad. Not angry. He'd been the angry one. And maybe the real reason he'd thrown on his clothes and hit the road had been to follow her and get a straight answer out of her. Maybe to win the non-argument. But it wasn't a grand dramatic gesture of his love.
He groaned, wishing Scott was in the passenger's seat so he could start babbling until some part of this night made some sort of sense. It just wasn't as much fun to talk to oneself after a break up.
Oh, God, was that a break up? Was Malia somewhere changing her Facebook status right now? Not that she actually had a Facebook profile, but that was not the point...
Stiles sat back up and it hit him. This was the first time he'd ever ran after Malia. It hadn't bothered him until now, but he could see the pattern. Malia was the pursuer in their relationship. She wanted him, the attraction had been mutual (and he was maintaining that, despite his limited knowledge of the subject, the sex was mind-blowing), but he'd never chased her before. When they'd fought, she'd been the one to come back. When they'd started dating, it was because she'd attached herself to him. If it hadn't been for Eichan House, if they'd met back up when Scott was teaching her the shifty ropes, would he have even asked her out? Okay, yes, he would have, but Stiles wondered if he would have tried to win a "yes" out of her if she'd said "no." He wasn't sure.
Which wasn't like him at all. He was Mr. Obsessive, so said his murder-board, so said his best friends, so said his undying pursuit of Lydia Martin.
Oh. Oh shit. Lydia.
He'd been dreaming about Lydia. Right before Malia had shaken him awake.
He hadn't put those two things together at the time. From the dozen or so times Scott had made fun of him for it, he knew he had a habit of talking in his sleep. Had he said something? Her name? God, it wasn't even a good dream. Not that Stiles could remember most of it, but he remembered the 'good' ones...This one...All he could recall was seeing Lydia far away, trying to get her attention and failing. Which, considering it now, the dream was probably a refresher on how it felt to practically be throwing a red carpet in front of her feet without her noticing.
But that was beside the point. The point was, Malia, as was her usual habit, had sneaked into his bed after a midnight run and heard him say Lydia's name. And then she'd made a decision for him.
"So, why am I still not chasing her?" he muttered, staring out the front windshield, the beam of his headlights stretching across the gravel in front of him. To prove himself wrong, he pushed himself out of the Jeep, slamming the door behind him, and walked along the side of the road, staring out at the darkened woods and considering the idea of shouting out for her. Was Malia already at the Tate house? Or was she somewhere in the woods? Would she hear him?
The night was chillier than he'd first realized, and he crossed his arms over his chest.
He stayed quiet, his Jeep's engine sounding faint behind him, and shivered. The road was empty, and he should have felt alone, but he had the eerie sensation of being watched.
"Malia," he called out. Or, it started that way, the word died half-way out, when he considered that maybe it wasn't Malia watching him from the darkness.
Stiles staggered back, almost tripping over his own feet before turning to face his Jeep. He came to a sudden stop when he saw movement on the hood. At first he thought it was a shadow, but when it hopped forward, its feathers caught the moonlight just right. It was a large black bird, glossy and fat, its hooked beak parted slightly, as if it were smiling at him.
"Well, that's not at all creepy," he noted. Creepy, yes, but it wasn't necessarily unnatural. Right?
He had a sudden urge to Google-fu the differences between crows and ravens and whether either were nocturnal. Out of instinct, he patted his pants pocket; his phone wasn't there. Of course not, because it was currently sitting in Scott's place in the passenger's seat. A fact confirmed when he heard the distant sound of a familiar ringtone, a familiar ringtone that he was almost certain he'd assigned to one Lydia Martin's incoming number. The sound died off as quickly as it had started, as if she'd changed her mind.
Because that wasn't ominous at all, a Banshee calling him in the middle of the night. He swallowed hard and forced a put-upon expression on his face.
"Okay, shoo already. I'm too tired to deal with this."
He waved a hand in its direction and took a quick step toward his car, hoping to startle the animal. Instead of flying, the crow hopped right, as if following his movements.
Stiles paused and it did the same. Another stop. Another hop.
He absolutely refused to be rattled by this. Or so he planned to say when he told Scott about the encounter. "I'm so not in the mood to play chicken with a crow, so scat! Get off of Roscoe!"
It wasn't working. He decided making a cowardly run toward his door was his next best option and took it. He made it past the bird, his fingers slipping against the door handle before the crow ever moved. Its wingspan shadowed him a split second before it dove toward him, its claws scratching at the sleeve of his tee.
Stiles shouted, falling away from the door, his knees hitting the gravel hard as he tried to shake off the bird, but it only flapped its wings at him and drove its beak into the nape of his neck, tearing the tender skin.
The sudden pain pushed him into movement and he shoved off the road, swatting off the bird and stumbling behind the Jeep, toward the ditch. He slid down the short incline, shoes sloshing through the mud as he ran toward the woods. He hooked an arm around a tree, pushing off of it in an attempt to circle back toward the Jeep, but the crow seemed to recognize the move and flew at him. He felt claws scratch at his scalp as it flew past, and he made a run for it.
"Help! Someone help!"
Limbs slapped at him as he moved, and he hoped he was going in the right direction. Malia's house was close. If he could get her attention, hell, if he could get her 'dad's' attention, maybe they'd help...His shoe caught the edge of a rock, and he tumbled down. The drop caught him off guard, and he wasn't able to catch himself before he fell, landing face-first into a pile of leaves. He wrapped an arm around the back of his head, half expecting the bird to attack him, but when he didn't feel the scratch of its claws, he held his breath and stayed still, hoping the crazed crow had moved on without noticing him.
His own steady pulse raced in his ears, but eventually he calmed himself enough to listen past it. No tell-tell sounds of wings above.
He slowly lifted his head and found himself momentarily blinded by a bright light. When he blinked, he realized the light was coming from above. Specifically from the sky. The clouds above the trees were trapped in shades of lavender and coral, a beautiful twilight, the stuff of Instagram, truly, but it was completely puzzling. Had the fall knocked him out?
Stiles pushed himself up onto his feet, and his eyes widened when he looked out at the woods around him. No. He'd had a concussion before. This was not the stuff of head-wounds. This was entirely...unreal.
"Toto, we are so not in Kansas anymore."
Water pulsed over her, drizzling suds down her back to splash at her feet. She'd silenced her alarm clock long before it had a chance to wake her, and she'd given up on trying to fall back asleep, deciding a shower might help wake her completely. It was having the opposite effect, the steady rhythm and the soft touch of the steam lulling her to sleep. She braced herself against the slick tile wall, palms and forehead against the cool surface.
It had kept her awake, that sense of being called, the persistent belief that it had been Stiles' voice doing the calling. She'd thought a phone call would help, but when she'd noticed the time, she'd quickly ended the attempt, remembering that he'd mentioned Malia coming over tonight. Lydia had made a face at the realization, both embarrassed that the werecoyote might notice the late night missed call and comforted by the fact that Stiles was probably safe if he was with her. Malia was tough. So was Stiles, but his ability to find danger was...well, as uncanny as her ability to find the dead.
She shivered at the thought, feeling more awake, and quickly planned out her day; she'd get out of the shower, get dressed, make a fruit salad (extra bowl for Mom), and casually call Stiles again to ask if he'd seen her (insert bizarre codex name here) and act confused as to why he had a phone call from her ("must have dialed when I was checking my email, and, no, Stiles, a butt dial does not equal a booty call"). If there was one thing she'd mastered, it was making others feel stupid for asking relevant questions; she wasn't proud of that quality, but it came in handy. And maybe after that conversation, she reasoned, she'd pick up Kira for a day of back-to-school mani/pedis. Who knew what damage swordsmanship had done to her nails? Maybe she'd squeeze in a few minutes of work on one of her college essays.
A normal, if somewhat boring, day.
Lydia couldn't shake the feeling that someone would ruin her plans. She bent down, reaching for the loofah she'd dropped, and her fingers found something softer beneath the sudsy water. It looked dark beneath the surface. She quickly dropped it, biting down a shocked shriek.
"No," she said, shivering, despite the hot water. She bend down, her knees threatening to throw her forward, and stared at the water sloshing at her ankles. Something was blocking the drain.
"No, this isn't happening again," she said, angry when her voice shook. But despite the words, she couldn't force herself to jump out of the shower and ignore whatever was waiting for her. She reached under the water again, finding something cloth stuck over the drain. When she pulled it up, a cloud of red leeched off of it, swirling through her fingertips and turning the bubbles around it a faint pink.
When it broke the surface, it wasn't what she was expecting to see. It was a t-shirt, thin and cotton, darkened slate gray with water and ripped along one short sleeve and at the neck. When she squeezed it, water and blood rose to the surface, spilling out over her pale hands. It wasn't the blood that frightened her though, it was the fact that she recognized the faded vintage-looking Star Wars logo plastered across the chest.
She'd seen Stiles wear this shirt before.
Her damp hair clung to her neck, sneaking droplets down the front of the shirt beneath her robe, but she couldn't be bothered with drying it. Not right now, not when her bathroom was currently filled with other people. She was left sitting on the end of her bed, staring at the wall in front of her, hoping maybe something would come to her. Some sort of answer. The others, their voices all sounded distance, partly because they were trying to keep the sound down and not wake Mrs. Martin and partly because they'd seen the far-away look in Lydia's eyes.
"Maybe it's someone else's."
"No, it's definitely his...shirt," Scott said, cutting Liam off. "I went by his house and he wasn't there. His dad was working tonight, but even if Parrish can stall him, he's going to be home within a few hours, and he's...He won't take this well. We need to figure out what this means before then."
"This could be some sort of sick joke," Kira offered, not sounding like she believed a word of it. "Did you ever get in touch with Malia? Maybe they're together somewhere."
Lydia turned her head slightly at the sound of the name and saw Scott shake his head at the suggestion.
"I finally touched base with her right before we arrived here. She's on her way over, but Stiles isn't with her. She..." Scott hesitated a moment before going on. "She said she was just with him last night, but that they'd got into a fight. She left sometime after two."
"Closer to three," Lydia said, softly. She winced, realizing she'd spoken aloud. "I think. I don't think she was there when I tried calling him."
They didn't question her. She'd already gone over the part where she'd backed out of her call. God. She couldn't stand the idea that she could have warned him. Could have warned someone.
Scott was in front of her. She hadn't even noticed him move or the way Kira and Liam were currently pretending to look at the shirt again. The Alpha bent down onto one knee, looking up at her downcast face.
It actually hurt to look into his dark, sincere eyes. Lydia couldn't put her finger on the exact moment when Scott McCall had become her close friend, when any of them had become her friends really, and there was a part of her that wasn't sure if she really was part of the pack...But Scott's expression almost pushed her to tears, because she knew, despite his brave face, what question he wanted to ask.
"Do I feel like screaming?" she asked for him.
He didn't so much as move. She quickly shook her head.
"No, but whatever's happened to him...Scott, he's in danger. We need to find him. We need to find Stiles right now."
"Why do I smell Stiles' blood?"
The question surprised Lydia. She hadn't heard Malia enter (which was really no surprise at all). The girl was standing in the bedroom doorway, looking every bit the coyote she was with her spread stance and cautious expression. She looked like she was hoping for a rational explanation. Lydia bit her lip, wanting to chide her other friends for not telling Malia what to expect over the phone. Because Malia took two seconds to follow the scent on her nose and track it to Kira, who was stepping out of the bathroom, holding the dripping wet t-shirt in a plastic shopping bag. Malia ripped it out of her hands, staring inside the bag as if she couldn't quite understand what she was seeing. A long second passed and no one gave an explanation. There wasn't one any of them could give, really. Then Malia pushed the bag back at Kira and disappeared back out the door. And out of the house, Lydia had no doubt.
"Malia!" Scott shouted after her.
Lydia winced, wondering if the sound had woken her mother. "Scott, we should go after her. She might catch his scent."
He nodded once. "Liam and I will catch up with her. Kira will stay with you, in case..."
"In case I do something banshee-like?" she said, forcing a small, bitter smile. "Scott. Someone has to tell his dad."
Scott looked as if he'd been slapped. "No...not yet. Give it another hour. Two. Just...we just need more time. Stiles can't have just disappeared. This isn't like the nogitsune."
"Exactly," Lydia said, "this isn't something inside Stiles. You saw the rips in the shirt. Something attacked him. Something that wasn't human."
Scott reached out, cupping her open hand in his. "We'll find him."
Lydia was sure he meant to keep the promise. She wasn't sure if he'd be able to, but she nodded, as if she believed it.
The thundering of horse hooves on the forest's soggy floor was indistinguishable from the pounding of his blood in his ears, which he was certain was not a good sign. His body was screaming at him, and if he didn't slow down, his legs would force him to a stop without his permission. Stiles swatted at a winged creature that flew across his path, somehow managing not to freak out at the fact that said-creature had shook one tiny fist at him while swearing (impressively). That was, so far, not even close to the weirdest thing about this situation, even if he was making a mental note of its occurrence so that he could eventually text message Mr. Off-the-Grid Sourwolf: 'pixies are real, asshole.' If, well, he had the chance, since it seemed likely he might be trampled to death before ever seeing his cell phone again.
He circled around a massive old oak, pressing his back against the bark and a hand against his mouth to quiet the sound of his ragged breathing. It wasn't doing much good; in fact, it was just making him a bit light-headed, so he gave up, focusing on listening for his pursuer instead.
Because this was his luck, a crazy crow wasn't enough to ruin his already spectacular day. Oh, no. What was life without a mad, scaled horse chasing you through a creepy magical forest?
After his Hitchcock moment with the bird, Stiles had been given all of two minutes to turn in circles, wondering how, in the name of all that was sane, he'd managed to go from total darkness to dusk. Then, of course, he'd heard this thing coming toward him and suddenly missed his feathered foe.
Stiles eyes widened. That heavy breathing wasn't coming from him, and it sounded like it was somewhere behind the tree, less than fifty feet away, as if waiting for him to move.
Shit. Shit. What was with him and magical creatures? Scott was absolutely not going to believe that he hadn't somehow instigated this whole series of un-fucking-believable events.
The crunching of leaves announced the horse slowly stepping forward, as if searching for him. Stiles closed his eyes, concentrating. Something tickled his back where the hem of his shirt had ridden up, and he pictured a row of ants crawling up the bark and onto him. He barely resisted the urge to jump away, brushing at his clothes. Then the tickling sensation moved downward and he felt a sudden hard pinch through his sweatpants.
He yelped, hopping away to rub at his ass, and turned to see the tree behind him, a strange knot in the trunk curving into the shape of a smiling mouth.
What. The actual. Hell.
"A tree just pinched my ass. A 'tree' just pinched my 'ass'," he said. He blinked in amazement before hearing the pitched neighing of the horse. It, apparently, had noticed its prey again.
Stiles tripped over his own feet, one knee bouncing off the ground before he was back up again and on the run.
Where was he? He mentally mapped out the area. Was he running toward the Tate house or back toward town? He hadn't been in this particular part of the preserve before but he was sure it eventually led to the -
His feet met thin air, still trying to move him forward, and his brain caught up to what his body had suddenly noticed. He was falling. A split second's glance showed him the creek six feet down. Before he could even think to protect himself, he hit the water hard, disappearing below the surface with a splash.
They'd found his Jeep on the first day, parked off the road two miles from Malia's house. The battery was dead, as was the cell phone sitting on the passenger's seat. His deputies, the pack, they tried to give the sheriff his privacy when, after the crime scene guys had swept it over, he slipped into the driver's side, balanced his arm over the steering wheel, and rested his head on it.
"How much more am I supposed to take," Scott had whispered softly, echoing the older man.
Lydia had known the words belonged to Sheriff Stilinski, but she was glad to see Kira reach out to hold their Alpha's hand as they all stood by, helpless to do more than watch Stiles' dad suffer.
Day one had also given them a spot where Stiles seemed to disappear, a short trail of blood droplets that ended suddenly in the woods. That was all. Lydia had been driving her car in circles in town, half of her wanting to find something, half of her afraid of finding something, while the rest of the pack fanned out in a search of the preserve.
"We didn't miss anything." The comment was made by Liam. He sounded frustrated. Lydia thought it was probably because they were back where they'd started.
Two days had now passed, and it was like Stiles had stepped off the face of the planet. No more premonitions, no ransoms, no body. Just gone. Stiles' goofy grin was plastered on the news. Scott's dad had come back to Beacon Hills to lend support. Nothing seemed to be helping.
Lydia wasn't sure what Scott was expecting to happen now, but she'd obeyed when he'd send out a group message for the pack to meet him back where Stiles' Jeep had been parked.
Lydia disagreed with Liam, but since she didn't know what they could have missed, she stayed quiet as the small group walked into the woods. It had rained yesterday, so she was certain they were following memory instead of a scent trail.
"Chris?" Lydia asked, out of the blue.
Scott shook his head. "He's headed back to Beacon Hills, and he said he'd put out feelers with the other hunters. But he didn't have an ideas. Derek called back again, too."
Scott cut off there. Lydia didn't really have to ask; she'd already spoken to Derek and knew he and Braeden hadn't been able to tell them anything about Stiles. They had mentioned a lead on The Desert Wolf; not good news, and not something any of them wanted to bring up in front of Malia. The werecoyote was already on edge, too distracted for the next battle that was likely headed their way. All of them were.
"I've been over every inch of these woods." Malia shook her head. "He's not here, Scott. He could be anywhere. Whoever took him could be out of the country."
Lydia studied Scott's back, tilting her head when she saw his shoulders slump at the words. "Then why does it feel like he's still here," she said, and it almost came out as a question.
Scott spun on her. "You too?"
Kira glanced between them, brow raised. "Mind filling in the rest of us?"
Scott shrugged. "It's hard to explain. It's not a scent or a sound. It's just...you know how you feel when you've fallen asleep with someone in the same room, and then you wake up and you know if they're still there or if they're gone? Even before you look around? It's like that. It still 'feels' like Stiles is here."
"Well, it still 'looks' like he's not," Malia snapped. "I'm going to the sheriff's station for an update."
Scott stared after her retreating form a moment but didn't ask her to stay.
"She's hurting," Kira said, quietly. "She blames herself."
She's not alone, Lydia thought. She crossed her arms over her chest, fighting off a chill, and wandered to the right, away from the spot where Scott had first lost Stiles' scent. She watched her feet, careful not to snag her boots on the bramble of vines and fallen twigs. After a few minutes, she realized the rest of the pack was following nearby, watching out for her, but she didn't stop. Scott was right; it felt like Stiles was here, walking beside her, tripping over nothing, as was his way. She smiled at the familiar image, then frowned, considering that was exactly how Stiles must have looked. Something had chased him from his Jeep, they were sure. Something hurt him, and he'd run. He must have been as 'graceful' as ever, and scared.
Lydia worried her bottom lip between her teeth. "Stiles, where are you?"
For a second, she'd almost thought she'd seen him, out of the corner of her eye, running clumsily through the trees ahead. It wasn't real; she knew there wasn't anyone there, but she moved a little faster, hoping her imagination would take over again. She needed to see him again, even if just as a ghost of a memory.
A hand clasped her arm, bringing her to a stop just as the toe of her boot slipped out from under her, threatening to leave her tumbling forward. Scott's tight grip pulled her back from the edge of a drop-off. She hadn't even noticed the sound of the creek, but there it was, just below.
"You almost fell in. You okay?" Scott asked.
She shook her head. "It's like you said. This place...it feels like he's here. Like we're just missing him."
The pink sky above gave the water a ruddy glow. Stiles stared up at it, the wavering light. It seemed distant. For a moment, he was caught up in studying it, the ripples and movement of the water against the glimmering of the dusky glow. Then he remembered falling in.
The water pushing at his ears, stinging at his open eyes, filling his mouth, seemed all the more insistent. His leg bounced against something, a rock, he thought. He pushed off it, desperately swimming up toward the surface. It wasn't far; he wasn't deep. He could see his outstretched fingertips leaving ripples as they breached. So why wasn't the rest of him following?
He felt something snag his shoe again, this time not letting him kick away, and glanced down at the dark water below. There was a hand holding to his shoe, long, slender fingers grasping on tightly, and the sight stilled him. Air bubbles spewed out from beneath his lips, but he was sure the question he'd tried to ask was lost.
She was beautiful, the woman holding him under. Her face was too pale, but her dark eyes and her curved lips were inviting. There was something distinctly alien about the sharp angles of her cheeks, the point of her chin, the swirling, long locks of black hair clouding the water beneath. And, okay, he'd been slightly distracted by the, ehem, buoyant bare breasts beneath her lovely face, but now he realized he couldn't see anything past her chest. Just black, swirling tendrils.
He shook his head, snapping out of it, because, oh, yeah, he remembered he was currently under water and last he checked he didn't have gills. He kicked at the woman's hand with his free foot, using the movement to toe off his shoe. The distraction worked and he slipped up out of her grasp, leaving a sneaker behind.
He broke the surface with a gasp, coughing up the murky water and instinctively swimming toward a slab of rock jutting out of the muddy bank. He pulled himself up out of the water, laying on his side until he caught his breath. Toward the middle of the creek, he saw a splash as something dove back into the water to hide, and he pulled his feet inward just a touch. He did not need a repeat of whatever that was. A mermaid encounter? Definitely not the Ariel variety, if so.
Stiles rolled over onto his back, comforted by the hard, bumpy surface of the limestone beneath him.
"I'm going to kill," he said, his voice raspy from coughing, "that damn crow."
The crow was waiting at her doorstep. Lydia could see the bird as soon as she reached her driveway, and she found herself sitting in her driver's seat, refusing to get out of the car. Kira glanced over at her, giving her a strange look.
"Is something wrong?" Kira asked, brow raised.
Lydia only stared ahead, watching the black bird preen and spread out its wings, then pull them back again, as if stretching while it waited. After a long moment of silence, Lydia opened her door and marched up the walk path. She stopped a few feet from her porch to glare at the bird.
The bird glared back, then flew up a few feet, perching on the high railing so that the two of them were at eye level.
Lydia heard the other girl get out of the car, following closely behind.
Lydia raised a hand, brushing off Kira's question as if she were too busy to answer. Her eyes narrowed at the bird. "I've been dreaming about you," she said, finally.
Of course, she'd dreamed of black birds for a while now, ever since the Darach's presence had sent hundreds of them crashing into her classroom at Beacon Hills High, but this was different. This bird was different. She couldn't put her finger on why, or how she knew, but Lydia was certain the crow could understand the words leaving her mouth.
"I dreamed about you the night Stiles went missing," she accused.
"Uh, Lydia, are you, umm, talking to the bird?" Kira asked.
Lydia tilted her head, as if listening for a response, but the crow stayed quiet. Its silence felt like a slap in the face. Her cheeks flushed with anger and her gaze hardened. Lydia Martin had years of experience ruffling feathers, and she poured every bit of contempt into her expression. The bird cocked its head and opened its beak. It looked like it was laughing at her.
Lydia sneered at the crow. "I know you understand me."
Lydia heard a light tapping, no doubt Kira typing out a message on her phone. She didn't care if the other girl thought she was nuts. Lydia knew this crow was mocking her.
"Who are you?" Lydia asked.
The crow hopped forward down the railing, tiny feet clicking against the wood as it moved. Then it hopped off, onto the stairs again. Lydia didn't notice until then, the tiny scrap of red cloth on the stairs...No, not red. Stained. A gray strip of cloth stained with blood. From Stiles' shirt.
The bird cocked its head again. "See."
Lydia couldn't tell if the word was spoken aloud or if it was rattling around her head like an absent thought. Either way, she knew Kira hadn't heard it. The message was meant for her alone. She stared at the crow, barely able to keep the tremble out of her voice when she spoke to it again.
"You took him, didn't you? You took Stiles."
Trying to sleep seemed to be remedying her of all ability to do just that. Lydia laid in bed, listening to Kira's deep, constant breaths well into the night. She was certain her friend had pulled the short straw and been stuck as the one to keep an eye on Lydia while the others were out searching...Lydia winced, realizing how late it was. No, they weren't still out looking. Maybe the rest of the pack was having better luck sleeping than she was, though. She'd called the Sheriff's department earlier and Deputy Parrish had assured her that the sheriff had fallen asleep at his desk hours earlier and that everyone was walking on tiptoes to assure the man got some rest, whether he wanted it or not. It was some small relief; when Stiles came back to them, he'd be upset if he was the reason his father was in bad health.
Lydia bit down a sigh and quietly rolled out of bed, watching the kitsune cautiously. After assuring herself that Kira was still dead to the world, Lydia slipped on a satin robe and walked out. The house was quiet, but she stopped at her mother's door, hearing the woman's faint voice. It sounded as if her mom was talking on the phone, probably to her dad. Probably about her odd-ball daughter and her odd-ball daughter's missing friend. Lydia was the only thing the the two of them attempted to talk rationally about anymore.
Lydia moved on, wrapping her arms around her as she stepped into the kitchen, unsure of where she was headed. The glass patio doors were a welcome sight, and she decided she needed a bit of fresh air. She stepped out, closing them quietly behind her, and sat down at the poolside table, staring at the heavy moon in the sky. Soon her friends would be too wrapped up in its powerful lunar pull to worry about much else. Without Stiles to lend a hand, she wasn't sure what they'd do.
"I know you're watching," she said, feeling a familiar tingle at the back of her neck. "You can come out and face me. We're alone."
The soft footsteps behind her made her tense.
She'd told them. She'd told the pack, but they hadn't understood. It wasn't their fault that, considering Stiles' past, they'd thought she meant the crow was another trickster. That was, after all, part of the lore. Another version of a nogitsune targeting Stiles, crow in place of fox. At least they'd taken her warning about the bird seriously instead of thinking she'd lost her mind, but the creature had flown away long before Scott and the others arrived to see it.
She'd known the moment she'd seen it that it was something more. Something that was after her, not Stiles, but she couldn't put a name to it, not until she's stayed up, flipping through the mythology books she'd accumulated since her sudden nosedive into the supernatural. They were the same books that had told her that the Banshee was sometimes seen washing the clothes of slain warriors, and, for hours, all she had been able to think about was the way Stiles' blood had turned the bathwater pink.
When she'd put that aside, when she'd collected herself, she'd channeled her focus again. She'd found its name, eventually, in myths too vague to be much help, but she was certain she now knew who had taken Stiles. And who was watching her.
"Hello, sister," a voice said.
It was painfully familiar. Lydia closed her eyes, not wanting to look, not wanting to see the form the crow was wearing, but she heard it circling in front of her, forcing the confrontation.
Finally she opened her eyes. Looked. Tears were streaming now her cheeks before she had a chance to speak.
Dark hair, piercing dark eyes, a gentle smile: Allison Argent was staring at her, waiting for her to speak.
"You need to stop looking like her," Lydia said. She wiped angrily at her eyes. "Look like anyone else."
"My old form is long forgotten. I need a human face," it said. Allison's voice made it sound almost kind. "Your heart gave me this one to use."
"I know what you are, and I don't care," Lydia said, bitterly. "I want you to give back Stiles and leave this place."
"One doesn't ask the Havoc of War to leave. One bears her presence until the end."
Lydia's fingers tightened on her chair's arms. "You're the Morrigan."
"I am part of a whole." It cocked its head, looking decidedly not like Allison, despite her features. The crow was still behind its eyes. "I am no longer I, but there is a name you can call me, since humans have such a difficult time understanding identity. I am Fea."
"Fea." Lydia nodded once. "Okay, Fea. What are you doing here, in Beacon Hills? Aren't you kind of on the wrong continent?"
"I followed the blood of the Tuatha De and found it strong." Allison's dimples deepened with a grin. "I found you strong, my sister. You're full of great potential."
Lydia winced. Then she'd been right. Whatever had happened to Stiles was her fault.
"Why did you take my friend?" she asked, trying to stay calm. "What have you done with him?"
Fea raised a brow. "Those are the wrong questions."
"They're the only questions," Lydia snapped. "Where is Stiles?"
Fea's grin disappeared. "Here. There. The fair ones will keep him busy while we visit."
Visit. Like Fea was some great aunt who'd popped in for an unwelcome stay. Lydia wanted to vomit.
"Is he safe?"
"He's mortal," Fea answered, and shrugged a shoulder. It seemed a bizarre movement for something Lydia had classified as a goddess...well, part of a goddess. Explaining this to Scott was going to be difficult. If. If she explained it. Maybe she could end this right now, get Stiles back before it was necessary to tell her entire pack that he'd been hurt because of her.
"Just...tell me what you want in exchange for Stiles. You do want something, right? You didn't just take him for fun."
Fea's stare was unblinking, and it unnerved Lydia. "You're not ready to give me what I want. You don't even understand what you are yet."
"Then tell me, damn it! Tell me! I'm a banshee, I...I find dead people. I scream to predict deaths. And I have no control over any of it. What more is there to know?" The words came out in a rush. She hesitated, though, remembering what Fea had said about why she came. "Tuatha De...I know that term. 'Tribe of the gods.' That's what it means. But, the book I was reading, it said it referred to people who were gifted."
"The mortals use the word 'fae,'" Fea said, sounding amused. "Your blood has always been your blood. Though you have not always been a banshee."
"You're saying I'm one of the fae? When I was bitten..."
"No, not the bite," Fea said. "When you were murdered. Your calling came to you when you were murdered. It's often the case with your kind."
"Murdered? I'm not dead."
Fea didn't answer. She turned away, as if to leave.
Lydia jumped to her feet. "No! You can't just say that and walk away. You haven't told me anything. You haven't told me what you want or why you took Stiles! Why? Of all the people you could of taken, why him?"
Fea glanced over her shoulder, looking bemused, as if Lydia should already have the answer. "I needed a face, so I took one from your heart."