The morning following his furry interlude, Dean received a visit. He’d gotten little sleep again and had merely lied in bed for long stretches of time, wondering what he should do about Beacon Hills and its werewolf population.
Werewolves couldn’t help the monster in them. They could be the best, most kind-hearted person in the world the rest of the time, it didn’t change the fact that when moonlight struck all lights went out, leaving only a bloodthirsty monster who yearned to rip your heart off your chest. That was what they’d been taught—that was why Sam had had to kill Madison, an action that had haunted him for years.
But then again, werewolves weren’t supposed to be able to change at will, and the ones he’d seen last night had done it. And, to think of it, Gordon Walker had been convinced that vampires were nothing but bloodthirsty monsters, and look at how that had turned out. When someone knocked on the door Dean was brushing his teeth, still mulling all this over.
“Who the fuck is this?” he mumbled after spitting into the sink.
Deaton was the only person who knew where he stayed and would have a reason to seek him out, but when Dean opened the door—holding a gun in the hand that was concealed behind it—he was faced with a man he’d never seen before.
“Hello,” the man said. “Are you Dean Winchester?”
He was a middle-aged man, maybe a few years older than Dean himself, with piercing blue eyes and salt-and-pepper stubble.
“And who are you?” Dean asked, not relaxing his grip on his gun. He wasn’t Miss Manners by any means, but even to him it seemed like bad forms to ask questions without even introducing yourself.
“My name’s Chris Argent. I’m Allison’s father,” the man added with a pointed look that Dean couldn’t quite read. Did he think Dean had gotten fresh with his daughter, or what?
“Allison, yes. I remember. Wicked with a crossbow.” He hadn’t seen her actually use it, but he thought it was a safe bet. “To what do I owe the pleasure, Mr. Argent?”
“Can we talk inside?” Argent shot a look over Dean’s shoulder, then at the door that Dean was still holding between them like a shield. “Our conversation might alarm the neighbors.”
Dean snorted, but acknowledged that Argent was right and stepped back to let him come in. He made no attempt to hide that he had a gun in his hand, but he held his arm limp to his side so he wouldn’t look like he was threatening his visitor. Argent glanced dispassionately at the gun, but made no comment on it.
“Please, have a seat,” Dean gestured at the table with the hand that wasn’t holding a weapon.
Argent sat. Dean didn’t, preferring to remain standing. “Fine,” he said. “So, what’s up?”
“My daughter told me about what happened tonight.”
Dean was a little surprised, to be honest. He would have thought that being in cahoots with werewolves was something Allison kept from her werewolf-hunting dad, but then, maybe she hadn’t told daddy everything.
“You know who I am,” Argent said.
“I know you’re a werewolf hunter, but that’s the extent of what I know, I’m afraid.”
“I know of you too.” Argent’s tone would be best described as neutral, but Dean tensed anyway. “Formidable hunter, from what I’ve heard. I actually met your old man once—he wouldn’t have mentioned me, it was really only in passing. I’ve also heard a lot of wild rumors about you and your brother.”
“Look, Argent,” Dean said, raising his gun-holding hand. “If you want to warn me to keep away from your daughter, you don’t need to strain yourself. I have no interest in her. If I was to concern myself with anything in this town, it would be with the company she keeps—but I have other things on my mind, right now.”
“You’re talking about Scott,” Argent said, the beginning of a scowl forming on his face. “He’s a good kid,” he added with obvious reluctance.
“It doesn’t really matter how good he is, you know that.”
“I know he’s a werewolf, if this is what you’re getting at. I can’t say I’m happy about it, but Scott isn’t dangerous. If he was, believe me, I would shoot him for even just breathing the same air as Allison.”
From the steely way he said it, Dean had no trouble believing him. He still felt complied to argue. “I don’t see how he’s not dangerous. He’s a werewolf.”
“How much do you know about werewolves?”
Dean bristled. “I’m not a fucking rookie.”
“I know you’re not, but werewolves have been the Argent family business for a very long time. Some of us still have trouble believing it, but some werewolves, particularly werewolves who are part of a pack, can control themselves and are no more dangerous than a human who’s well-versed in martial arts. Potentially lethal, yes, but not an out-of-control beast. I’m betting you only ever had to deal with werewolves who had no control over their wolf side.”
“Alright, maybe you know what you’re talking about,” Dean conceded. “Like I said, I didn’t come to Beacon Hills on a werewolf hunt.”
“Fair enough. But my daughter tells me you seem to know a lot about Stiles Stilinski.”
“The Sheriff’s kid?”
Dean looked at Argent with new eyes: had he misread him? Was it possible that Argent hadn’t come out of concern for his daughter, but for that Stiles kid?
“Stiles is an obnoxious little punk. But he’s Allison’s friend, and she’s had precious little of those in her life.”
“I know nothing about that kid but what I read in the paper, and that Scott is trying to save him. I’m guessing that whatever’s wrong with him is of a supernatural nature. Care to tell me what it’s all about? Is he missing again? I thought he’d come back home on his own.”
“He’s not missing, as far as I know. He committed himself to Eichen House, but—”
Dean went cold. “What did you just say?”
“Eichen House. It’s a psychiatric hospital that—”
“I know what it is! My brother is there!” Dean slashed the air with his arm, and Argent shot his gun a wary look. Good—maybe that would give him some motivation to talk. “Tell me. What’s wrong with him?”
For a moment, Dean thought Argent wasn’t going to answer, but then he started telling Dean a story of magic trees and Japanese spirits, obscure rituals and possession. Dean listened to him in silence.
“Couldn’t you try an exorcism?” Dean asked once the man was done.
“Not with this kind of spirit, no.”
“You don’t look very convinced that this kid can be saved. Why did you come to me trying to warn me off him, then?”
Argent sighed, looking suddenly very tired. “I’ll do whatever needs to be done if it comes down to it. But my daughter… I told you, Stiles is her friend. She’s not ready to give up on him.”
Dean could sympathize with Allison Argent, and Scott McCall, and the rest of Stiles Stilinski’s friends and family. But all his thoughts were turned to his brother, and whether he was doing alright with an evil spirit potentially on the loose in Eichen House. He wouldn’t feel reassured until he was able to check on him.
Daylight came like a saving grace. The night had been excruciating long, even worse than the one before, and after the mildly entertaining interlude of Jordan wandering around the hallways looking for god knows what, nothing else had come to break the boredom or distract Stiles from the all-consuming need to sleep. He’d pinched himself so often that his arms would probably end up peppered with bruises, but he could hear the nogitsune’s calls even at moments when he was quite sure that he was awake. He was coming at the end of his rope, and fast.
After a few new attempts at conversation, Sam had become silent, only letting out a few muffled whimpers and gasps from time to time. Stiles wondered what he was seeing, but it seemed like an intrusion to ask. When there was enough sunlight flowing into the room that Stiles could make out his roommate’s face, he saw that Sam looked almost translucent with exhaustion.
“Rough night?” Stiles asked in a voice that was quite rough itself.
“You could say that,” Sam answered croakily. He sounded stronger than Stiles would have expected, though. The man must have been made of tough stuff.
After breakfast, their door didn’t get locked again and Stiles decided to aim for the basement one more time.
“What’s in the basement?” Sam asked.
He’d asked that question the day before, and Stiles had been evasive then, but this time he answered earnestly, “I don’t know.”
Sam hadn’t bothered sitting up for that conversation, but from his lying position he slanted a look in Stiles’ direction. “You don’t know. Why do you need to go there so badly, then?”
Stiles sighed, raking his fingers through his hair until it stood to attention.
“I don’t know how the possessions you’re used to work,” he said. “But for me, it kind of happened progressively. I had black-outs, did things I didn’t remember doing—like ordering a hit on one of my friends—and one night I sleep-walked out of my room: what I remember is waking up in a basement, my leg was caught in a bear trap, and he—” Not who are you, Stiles. Who are we? Stiles swallowed hard, feeling his heart flutter wildly in a way that evoked the beginning of a panic attack. “Anyway. I wasn’t in a basement, I was actually in the woods, nearly died of hypothermia there, but I—I think the basement I saw in my dream or hallucination or whatever was Eichen House’s basement, and, I don’t know, it has to mean something.”
“Okay,” Sam said, then wiped a weary hand over his face. “I think I’ll stay here, though.”
“Yeah, I figured. That’s fine. I’m just gonna do a little bit of snooping around, see if I can find the door leading to the basement, and if I can get in there. I’ll be back before group therapy starts.”
After being in Eichen House for a couple of days, Stiles was starting to have a rough map of the institution in his head, and already knew where he wanted to head. He came across a few people on his way there, and it could have been his imagination, but he felt the same sort of tension in the doctors, orderlies, and patients alike. People were on edge, wary of each other and of what was hiding in the shadows, and it made Stiles nervous too. It wasn’t enough that he had to worry about what lurked in the corners of his mind, he now had to watch over his shoulder too. He regretted more than ever his decision to come to Eichen House—it seemed so stupid now that he could’ve thought for one second that he could be safe here.
The hallways tended to all look identical to each other, white paint and wooden panels, interspersed by columns, but he still recognized it when he walked past Adam’s room. Without any conscious input from his brain, his footsteps slowed down until he stopped in front of the door. It was half-open, but Stiles couldn’t hear any sound coming from the inside of the room so he pushed the door and stepped in. The room was empty. The bed against the wall—the one Adam had stood on when he slit his throat—was devoid of beddings, leaving only a bare mattress, whereas the other bed had slightly rumpled sheets and blankets. Obviously, someone else was staying in the room.
Stiles stepped closer to the bed, and saw a few spots of faded brown where the blood had soaked through the sheets and they hadn’t been able to wash it off. He swallowed, feeling faintly sick, and took a step back. Why had he come here—some kind of masochistic instinct? Morbid curiosity, maybe? Stiles shook his head and was about to leave the room when he heard something crunch under the sole of his shoe. Puzzled, he moved his foot away and bent over to pick up whatever it was.
It was a dead bug. It lay in the middle of Stiles’ palm, not doing anything—on account of, you know, being dead—and yet for some reason Stiles couldn’t stop staring at it. The bug triggered something—a feeling, the beginning of a thought or memory—at the back of mind that made his insides twist uneasily.
“Hey, what’re you doing in here?”
A guy a few years older than him stood at the doorway, frowning at him.
“It’s my room.” The guy’s face hardened with hostility. He had a scar barring his cheek that made the expression very upsetting. “Did you come here to gawk?”
“What? No!” Well, he had, sort of. “I just, I got confused—I was looking for my room. I’ll be out of your hair. Sorry!”
The guy still looked a bit suspicious as Stiles left the room, but there were all sorts of confused people in Eichen House, so his story wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. He walked until he had turned around the corner, and then realized he still held the dead bug inside his closed fist. He opened his hand and threw it away, suddenly overcome by disgust, and wiped his hand over his sweatpants for good measure.
It took him another minute to get a full grip on himself—he clenched his fists to stop his hands from shaking, fingernails digging into his palms, and tried to take a few deep breaths. The panic he felt was annoying, because he didn’t understand what had caused it and therefore couldn’t talk himself out of it. Once he had calmed down a bit, he regretted not having taken the time to talk to Adam’s roommate and ask him about Adam’s behavior before he’d tried to off himself, but then it would probably have made the guy even more suspicious.
He started looking again for the basement with renewed motivation. At the end of a long corridor he finally found a door that, if his mind map could be trusted, would most certainly lead him there. When he tried the handle, though, he couldn’t get the door to open.
“Shit,” he said, giving the handle another pointless shake.
Of course it was locked, Stiles, you moron. They wouldn’t leave it open for any patient to stumble into. Stiles lifted a hand to rub at his burning eyes, trying to get his thoughts in order. He needed to get the keys. Where could he get them? Would Morrell be willing to help him with it—as a favor to a dying boy, maybe?
He was startled out of his thoughts by the weight of a heavy hand dropping on his shoulder, and barely contained a yelp.
“Did you get lost, boy?” It was Brunski, his breath hot against the side of Stiles’ face.
“Lost? No, I was just—touring. You know. Hey, what’s in there?”
“You’re a funny one, right? Some time in the quiet room will do you good.”
Stiles didn’t like the sound of this ‘quiet room’, not one bit, but he wasn’t exactly given a choice here. Brunski kept a hand on the back of his neck, while his other hand was locked around Stiles’ elbow, effectively keeping him under control. As they walked to wherever this quiet room was, Brunski waved for two other orderlies to come and help him. When Brunski unlocked a room and pushed Stiles in there, the other two orderlies each took hold of one of his arms. Stiles’ heart started to race.
The room was completely empty, and its walls and floors were covered in small, squared while tiles. It reminded Stiles of a swimming pool, except that the room didn’t smell like chlorine, but faintly like puke.
“What’re you gonna do?” Stiles asked. He should probably shut up and try not to make it worse for himself, but it wasn’t something he was very good at. “I didn’t do anything! You can’t lock me in here—it’s probably unconstitutional or something. You—”
“You’re a talker,” Brunski commented, looking lazily amused. “You need to calm down, boy. I can help you with that.”
He got a syringe out of the breast pocket of his scrubs, and Stiles’ anxiety turned into full-blown panic.
“Is that a sedative? Hang on, you can’t do that. I can’t go to sleep!”
Brunski tilted his head to give him a look. “Oh, really? That’s too bad. Hold him,” he said to the other orderlies.
The two men secured their grip on Stiles and that was when Stiles lost it: the men were both taller, stronger, and in a much better overall physical shape than him, but he still started struggling wildly, trying to make them let go of him, throwing his weight forward hard enough that he felt like his arms were almost yanked out of their sockets.
“You don’t understand! I can’t—ask Morrell, okay? She’ll tell you! I can’t go to sleep!”
Frantically he tried to kick them in the legs, but in retaliation one of them twisted his arm behind his back and shoved him down on his knees. Stiles gasped out in pain but kept fighting them with increasing desperation, even as his arms burned and his knees throbbed. He was breathing too fast and his lungs felt tight and aching, his head spinning from the lack of oxygen. From his vantage point, Brunski contemplated him with barely concealed glee.
“Stop fighting,” he said, in a way that made it clear that he was actually very much enjoying the show. “You’re only hurting yourself.”
He approached with his syringe, and it only made Stiles fight harder against the weight holding him down. His vision had become hazy and his cheeks felt wet—shit, was he crying?
“No! Don’t, please, don’t! Don’t do this!”
The tears blurred his sight and he could barely see anything. He felt a sharp pinprick of pain on his arm, telling him he’d just been dosed, but the men kept holding him until his vision started to darken and his limbs started to feel heavy and disconnected. When they let him go, he couldn’t hold himself up and sagged over the cold tiled floor.
“You don’t get it,” he mumbled. His tongue felt like a dead piece of meat in his mouth. His hand clawed ineffectively at the floor tiles. “You don’t know what you’ve done…”
“Sweet dreams,” he heard Brunski say, followed by the sound of the door closing down.
In the back of his mind, he could hear the nogitsune rap against school locker doors.
When Sam woke, it took him a moment to grasp the strangeness of the situation. He’d just woken up. Lucifer had allowed him a couple of minutes before, but he’d only ever brushed the edge of sleep before he was violently brought back to the waking world. This time, he couldn’t even say what had awakened him, and even though he still felt like shit and definitely needed a lot more sleep, he could tell the difference.
He looked around the room, his throat tight with hope, but his heart sunk when he saw Lucifer watching him from where he was sitting on Stiles’ bed.
“I thought you’d need the rest,” Lucifer said. “You’re welcome, by the way.”
“What—” Sam started to say, but a voice that wasn’t Lucifer interrupted him: “Sorry. Is it Stiles’ room?”
A girl was leaning against the doorframe, looking at Sam like she was anticipating an attack from him. She looked familiar, but it took Sam’s scrambled brain a few more seconds to remember who she was.
“Ah. Malia, right?” The girl who seemed to hate Stiles’ guts. “Stiles needed to do something—he’ll be back in a few.”
Him knowing her name didn’t seem to help her relax. If anything she tensed up even more, fingers clinging to the doorframe. “Stiles told you about me.”
She sounded like she was referring to more than just her name. Sam threw his legs off the bed and sat on the edge, trying to clear his thoughts. Something wasn’t quite right, but he couldn’t put his finger on it.
“He only told me your name,” he said. “Do you want me to pass a message, or—”
“No,” she said. She was scowling, looking annoyed for some reason Sam couldn’t fathom. “It’s just that—I overheard Brunski and some of the other orderlies, and they were talking about Stiles and the quiet room, so I came to check, and—” She shrugged. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here.”
“What’s the quiet room?”
“It’s where they put agitated patients to let them cool down.” Malia bared her teeth in a way that looked disturbingly predatory. “They’ve tried it a few times on me.”
“Okay,” Sam said, threading his fingers through his hair. “Okay. What time is it?”
“I don’t have a watch.”
Sam didn’t have a watch either because they’d taken it from him, and it must have been the same for Malia, so that had been a stupid question. Sam’s feeling of wrongness was growing by the second, and he tried to tell himself that there was no reason to worry, because even though Stiles might not enjoy being locked up, it didn’t put him in any danger. Unless—
“You said it’s called the ‘quiet room’,” he said to Malia. She looked impatient, like she wanted him to make some kind of decision already. “Do they sedate the patients?”
“Yeah,” she said in a voice that clearly meant she thought he was stupid for asking.
“Shit,” Sam said with fervor, already pushing himself off the bed.
Lucifer had been quiet for the whole conversation—not a word, not even a measly hallucination—and had just sat there on Stiles’ bed, looking at Sam like he was recording his reactions. Sudden realization hit Sam like a brick wall.
“That’s why you let me sleep,” Sam said, shock making him speak out loud. “So I wouldn’t notice he was gone that long.”
“What?” Malia said. “Who’re you talking to?”
“No one,” said Sam as he walked to the door. “It’s nothing. Take me to this quiet room. We need to get Stiles out of there.”
He pushed past the girl, who was watching him with deep distrust.
“Please,” he said, trying to convey all the earnestness he was capable of. He was off his game, and the fact that he behaved like a lunatic couldn’t inspire much trust, but eventually she sighed and took the lead.
“Thank you,” Sam said as he followed in her footsteps, doing his best to keep up with Malia’s energetic pace. “I know you don’t like him.”
The line of Malia’s shoulders went rigid. “He told you that? Well, it’s true, I don’t.” For a moment Sam thought this was all she had to say on the subject, but then she added, “He did save my life, though.”
She became quiet after that, and Sam needed all his energy to follow her so he didn’t try to get the conversation started again. Suddenly Malia grabbed his arm and dragged him behind a column, shoving a hand in front of his mouth so he wouldn’t cry out.
It wasn’t necessary, because Sam had seen the two orderlies walk past and he’d done enough sneaking around in his life to know how to muffle his reactions. He didn’t fight Malia’s grip and remained still as they huddled together to take as little space as possible. She felt too warm, like she had a fever, although she didn’t look sick, and she was much stronger than a girl her size had any right to be, even taking into account Sam’s weakened state.
“The room is down that hallway,” Malia whispered once the orderlies were out of hearing range. “Third door on the left.”
“Okay,” Sam whispered back. “I’m going to need something to pick the lock, though. A paperclip, or—”
Malia let out a put-upon sigh.
“Okay, I’ll open the door for you,” she said, as though giving in after a long argument.
Then, without a word of warning, she pushed away from Sam and left him to follow her. She slipped along the hallway, up to the door she’d pointed at, grabbed the handle, looked around, and, when Sam expected her to take out something to work on the lock, she merely gave the door a pull and the lock gave away with a snapping noise.
“I have good upper body strength,” she said in answer to the look Sam gave her.
Sam glanced into the room, and decided any question he had about Malia could wait when he caught sight of Stiles lying down on the floor, unconscious. He dropped down to his knees and rolled the boy over. There was blood on the front of Stiles’ shirt and on the tiled floor, but not enough of it to be too alarming. A quick look-over allowed Sam to see that it was coming from deep scratches on the inside of his arm. The scratches looked self-inflicted, because there was also blood on Stiles’ hands and under his fingernails.
“Stiles, wake up!” Sam grabbed a shoulder and started to shake. “Come on, wake up, Stiles. Wake up!”
“What’s on the wall?” Sam heard Malia ask, and he turned around to check what she meant.
He now knew what the blood had been for: someone, whether Stiles himself or the nogitsune, had used it to write a word on the tiled surface: ATARI. Sam didn’t know what it meant, and he had more pressing matters to mind when he heard Stiles moan and felt him stir under his hand.
“Stiles? That’s it, kid, you have to wake up.”
Maybe it was the pull of Sam’s voice, but Stiles suddenly gasped and shot his eyes open, thrashing around like he was trying to defend himself against an attack. He almost socked Sam in the mouth, but Sam caught both of his wrists and held them until recognition flickered in Stiles’ eyes.
“Hey, hey,” he said, keeping his voice low not to draw unwanted attention. “It’s me, it’s Sam. You’re safe, you’re okay.”
He kept the soothing nonsense going until Stiles stopped fighting him and said, “Sam? What happened?”
“I think you were drugged—they put you to sleep.”
“Oh. Fucking Brunski. I was trying to open the basement door, and—” He lifted a hand to his face, probably to rub his eyes, but stopped himself when he saw the blood. “What the fuck—” He looked at his other, equally bloody hand, swallowed audibly, and raised his head—a slow, deliberate movement, like he already knew what was on the wall. “Atari,” he read softly, rolling the r in a distinctively foreign manner.
“What does it mean?” Sam asked. He was still holding the boy’s wrists and could feel the way his pulse raced.
“It’s a Go term.” Stiles’ breathing was getting too loud and too fast. “It means—it means you’re about to die. How do I know that? I’ve never played Go in my life! If you put me in front of a goban I wouldn’t know—oh god. Oh god.”
Stiles pushed Sam away and dropped to his hands and knees, chest heaving like air was in low supply and he had to strain to get enough of it.
“I’m—shit—having—a panic attack.” Stiles squeezed his eyes shut. “Damn it. I can’t—”
Malia had stepped back into the doorway like she was afraid Stiles’ condition might be contagious, so obviously it was up to Sam to calm the kid. He had some practice talking down panicked people—he was better at it than his brother, not that it was a high bar—but his mind was still fuzzy from the little sleep he’d gotten, and he was way too fucking tired for this.
“Okay,” he said, turning to Stiles. The kid wasn’t being very noisy, fortunately, but the laborious, sucking breaths he was taking sounded painful. “Okay, Stiles, you listen to me. Listen to my voice, okay? Don’t think about anything else.”
“Like—about—fucking fox spirit—using my body—to, to—”
“I said don’t think!” Stiles lifted his head to give Sam a withering look. “I know, I know, easier said than done. Right now you just need to breathe.”
“Breathe with me. In—do it with me, come on.” Stiles took a long, trembling breath. “Now out. Good, you’re doing fine. In. Out.”
It took a while, but eventually Stiles’ breathing settled down. The boy slumped against the wall opposite to the one that was painted in blood, still looking pale and shaky.
“Well, that’s always fun,” he mumbled, then said to Sam, “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“Are you okay, now?” Malia asked brusquely, and Stiles blinked at her, like he was only registering her presence now. “Because either we leave you in here, or we all get out, but someone is bound to walk by and find us like this.”
“Yeah.” Stiles started to get up, then hissed and clasped his scratched forearm against his already stained t-shirt. “I’m okay—it just stings like hell. How did you get in, by the way? I’m guessing the door was locked.”
“I broke the door open,” Malia said.
“Oh.” Stiles shot Sam a worried look. “That’s, uh—thank god for shitty doors, right?”
He staggered out of the room and glanced left and right. The hallway was still silent and empty.
“Okay,” he said. “You two can go back to your rooms or whatever.”
“Where are you going?” Sam asked.
“The basement. I will get into that fucking basement even if it’s the last thing I do.”
He started walking, and Sam followed. “You can’t wander around looking like you tried to slit your wrists,” he said. “And what if the basement is locked?”
Stiles stopped dead. “It is. That’s why I couldn’t get in.” He turned to Malia, who had lagged behind. “Malia,” he said, “would you open that basement door for me?”
Malia crossed her arms. “Fine,” she said. “But you need to help me too.”
“Yeah, okay, but—”
“You said you knew someone who could help me change. You know, when you were watching me take a shower?”
Stiles colored. “What? That’s not how—“ A sigh. “Okay, I remember that particular episode—although I want it to be noted that you were showering in the boys’ room—but let’s talk about it later, okay?”
Stiles didn’t look in Sam’s direction as he talked, but Sam didn’t need it to know that he meant, when the hunter isn’t listening. Sam wanted to tell Stiles not to bother—Malia wasn’t especially subtle, and Sam had long come to the conclusion that she was one of Beacon Hills’ werewolves, but it was hard to care when he was so tired. Once they’d dealt with Stiles’ basement obsession he’d see what he had to do about it—hopefully after getting some more sleep.
“Basement it is, then,” he said.
From where he was standing, he could still see inside the quiet room the part of the wall where Stiles—or rather, the nogistune—had written. He tried to ignore the way the bloody lines twisted like snakes until they formed the words ‘chaos, strife and pain’.
The basement was dark, cold, damp, with pipes running along the walls and up to the ceiling, and junk piled up in the corners: bags, boxes, rusty equipment of an unidentified nature, even an old wheelchair. It was, frighteningly enough, exactly as Stiles remembered it. He swallowed hard, fighting the mounting panic that threatened to choke him. He didn’t have the time to go through this again.
“What’re we looking for?” Sam asked.
He looked twitchy, but Stiles had no energy left to worry. As long as the man was functional, it would have to do.
“What’s this?” Malia asked, pointing at the back wall.
The light raining on them from the little square openings on the ceiling was enough for Stiles to see the symbol carved on the cement surface: it looked like a mirror image of the number 5. Stiles took a few careful breaths, a hand pressed against his chest. He could feel it vibrate with the way his heart hammered against his ribs.
“Does it mean anything to you?” Sam asked. He was standing a little closer to Stiles than he’d thought, and Stiles had to contain his start.
“Yeah,” Stiles said. “It means ‘self.’”
“Is it something you know or something he knows?” Sam asked pointedly.
Malia was a little further, snooping curiously around the basement, but if her hearing was anything like Scott’s she’d probably heard Sam anyway. It was likely she didn’t care, though.
“It’s something I’ve been told,” Stiles said.
He couldn’t stop staring at the carved symbol: it was formed of multiple, deeply furrowed lines, like someone had taken painstaking care to draw it over and over again with some kind of tool. Its familiarity made Stiles feel nauseous.
Let me in. Stiles’ whole body tensed, his muscles going rock hard, but he managed to keep it together.
“I was being overdramatic earlier,” he said to Sam absently. “Atari means imminent capture; it means you’ll be captured in the next move. But you still have a move left to escape your fate. It’s not hopeless. Now we just need—”
“Hey, did you hear this?” Malia asked.
She was looking up, eyeing the pipes with suspicion. Stiles hadn’t heard anything, but he trusted Malia’s sharper senses.
“What did it sound like?” he asked her.
“It was a sort of—hissing, and—” She turned her head, seemingly following whatever she was hearing. “Like something’s slithering.” She wrinkled her nose. “Something smells wrong, too.”
It was the only warning they got before one of the pipes burst at the seams. Stiles jumped back with a yelp to avoid being knocked down by a segment of heavy pipe.
“What the fuck!”
Something shot out of the dangling pipe, fast as an arrow, and for a moment Stiles thought he was dreaming again, until he heard Malia’s animal growl of fear.
“What’s that thing doing here?” she bit out, her voice rough as though human words were coming to her with difficulty.
The thing looked like a snake at first glance—which was surprising enough by itself. It had a long and dark rope-like body, with a white spot on the head like a diadem, but it didn’t move like a snake: instead of wriggling it stood upward, like a bear walking on its hind legs. It didn’t look big enough to have broken the pipe, so Stiles shot a wary look at the entanglement of pipes over their heads, then took a step in direction of the snake-like thing.
“What—” he started to say, but Malia grabbed his arm and yanked him back.
“Ow,” Stiles complained—she’d taken hold of his injured arm and he felt a fresh burn of pain shoot through it.
“Are you a moron?” she yelled. “Do you want to die? Don’t touch it!”
The snake thing whipped a pointy head toward them, opened its mouth, and let out a hiss that made every single hair on Stiles’ body stand. Malia growled again, crouching like she was about to get on all four.
“A basilisk!” Sam exclaimed, snapping his fingers, like he’d been looking for the name and it had just come back to him.
“A basilisk? Like in Harry Potter?”
“It’s the king of snakes, can kill or paralyze with a look—don’t meet its eyes!”
“Okay, okay.” Stiles took another step back, feeling some Malia and Sam’s fear infect his mind in spite of himself. Malia still had a hold on his arm, her fingers digging into his flesh, but the pain felt grounding so he didn’t ask her to let go of him. “Paralyze, you said? Could it be the thing that attacked the girl and the orderly?”
The basilisk launched itself forward and they all shuffled back hurriedly to get out of its range. It was quite a feat, trying to keep tracks of the thing’s movements while avoiding its eyes, and it gave Stiles the unpleasant sensation that they were just delaying the inevitable. The basilisk didn’t look like it was trying all that hard to get to them, but more like it was toying with them. It hissed again, making Stiles’ ears ring and drawing a whimper from Malia.
“How do we get rid of it?” Stiles asked Sam, but when he looked in his direction his heart sunk at the man’s telltale glazed-over eyes. “Sam? Hey, Sam—come on, man, we don’t have time for this!”
Stiles kept trying to get to Sam while his mind was working as fast as it could. The basilisk was leaving a dark trail behind itself, like its passage was scorching the cement floor. Sam had said the basilisk’s look could kill, but could it be oozing poison too? That meant they wouldn’t be able to wrestle with it or anything, not that Stiles had been eager to try. They needed to get to the door—but the basilisk was between them and the doorway, and even though it wasn’t attacking them right now, it was probably too much to hope that it would just let them go. Even then, if they just went and locked it in the basement it would only need to get into the pipes again and then it would be free to keep preying on the hospital’s occupants. No one had died so far—not from the basilisk at least—but eventually someone would run out of luck, and—
“Can you see this?” Sam asked suddenly, sounding dazed.
“The evil snake thing that can kill us with a look, according to you?” Stiles said with all the flippancy he could muster at the moment. “Yes, we can all see it.”
“No, I mean—Dean. Dean, no.”
Stiles didn’t know who Dean was, but obviously Sam wasn’t very sane right now, although at least he was communicating again. LET ME IN! Not that Stiles was in the position to throw stones about anyone’s mental stability, of course.
“What’s wrong with him?” Malia snapped impatiently. She released Stiles’ arm; he felt very vulnerable all of a sudden. “We should leave him behind, and—”
Stiles hadn’t known Malia for long, but he could read her posture and the look on her face nonetheless. She was obviously still afraid, but at the falsely relaxed, but still intent way she held herself Stiles could see that in the fight-or-flight dilemma, she’d decided to opt for fight.
“Malia, uh, I don’t think you should attack that thing head on…”
Not that fleeing was much of an option either: trying to stay away from the snake, they’d gotten themselves backed against the wall where the symbol was written. Still, given what the basilisk was doing to the floor, Malia definitely shouldn’t try to touch it. Stiles looked around for something they could use as a weapon. There were only a few boxes, not quite in his reach. The wheelchair was a little further away, but to get to it he would have to step closer to the basilisk than he felt comfortable.
“No,” Sam said, stopping Stiles’ train of thoughts. He sounded a bit more alert than before, but it worried Stiles to see him press a hand against his temple, like he needed it to keep the thoughts from leaking out. “The lore says—it says that the basilisk’s poison can run up any weapon that touches them, and kill the person that holds it. Even if you don’t touch it with your bare hands…”
Well, that was inconvenient for sure. “Malia, you definitely shouldn’t attack it.”
“Thank you, I heard.”
“But if we can get hold of something we can throw at it…”
It was the moment the basilisk decided it had waited long enough: it sprung from the floor like a Jack-in-the-box, aiming for Stiles, who jumped on one side while Sam and Malia jumped on the other. The basilisk flew barely a few inches away from Stiles’ face, and went to crash against the wall. The shock dazed it for a few seconds, and Stiles took advantage of that time to scramble as far from it as possible. He stumbled onto a piece of the pipe the basilisk had damaged, and thought about picking it up before he remembered Sam’s warning about the poison.
“Try to find something to throw at it!” he yelled at the intention of his companions, while he frantically looked for exactly this.
He dismissed the boxes out of hand—he didn’t have the time to assess their weight, and if they were too light they wouldn’t harm the basilisk, maybe only piss it off, and if they were too heavy he wouldn’t be able to throw them with enough accuracy.
“Stiles, look out!”
Stiles ducked on instinct, and the basilisk shot over his head. The thing recovered quickly, springing again, and Stiles toppled a pile of boxes over to slow it down. The basilisk let out another of its blood-curdling hisses, and Stiles watched with horror the cardboard from the boxes blacken and melt, and the snake slither out of the decaying pile, coming for Stiles.
“What the hell!” Stiles yelled, throwing more boxes at it. “Why is it going after me?”
His shoulder blades hit the wall, and, just as Stiles contemplated his own death in the form of an erect snake spitting poison, the door to the basement flew open and someone came in, shouting, “Dobby!”
The basilisk froze, and turned its triangular little head—Stiles was only now noticing that it seemed to have a beak—toward the newcomer, who was saying, “Dobby, I found you!”
“Dobby,” Stiles repeated, dumbfounded. Now that it looked like he wasn’t going to die just that minute, the adrenaline ebb left him feeling unsteady and exhausted once again. His knees wobbled a little, and he pressed back against the wall to hold himself up. “Dobby, as in—oh my god, as in Harry Potter. But Dobby’s the house elf, right, not the—”
“Stiles,” Sam interrupted him, his voice tight. “I don’t think this is what you should focus on right now.”
“You.” The person talking—the one who’d just barged in and addressed the basilisk as though it was a fucking pet—was Jordan. Stiles was somehow very much unsurprised. “It’s you,” Jordan said accusingly to Stiles, who felt it was unfair of Jordan to steal his line.
“Me? Um, yeah, I’m me. I mean, most of the time.”
“Your voice in my head.”
Stiles was suddenly reminded that he was talking to a crazy person—Jordan’s hair was wild as a bird’s nest, and his eyes were wide open, intense. The basilisk hadn’t moved since Jordan had come in, like it was waiting for instructions.
“What do you mean,” Stiles said, his mouth very dry. From the corner of his eye he saw Malia move closer to Jordan, positioning herself at one of his blind spots.
“I keep hearing you, all the time, telling me—I just can’t keep your voice out of my head!” As he was talking, Jordan grabbed a fistful of his hair and tugged at it hard enough that it made Stiles wince. Jordan coughed, then asked, an edge of desperation in his voice, “Why can’t you just stop?”
“I’m not—” The tips of Stiles’ fingers felt like ice, and his chest ached deeply in an unfortunately familiar way. I’m doing it just as you told me. “I’m not doing anything—I’m not. It’s not me.”
“I’ll make you stop.” Jordan coughed again, the kind of cough that someone did when they had something stuck in their throat. “I’ve found Dobby now—I’ll make him make you stop.”
“Hey, kid,” Sam said. He advanced toward Jordan, hands put out with his palms open. He looked a little wild himself, still not all there, but that didn’t stop him from taking another step in direction of the crazy guy with the deadly snake. “Just stop for a moment, okay. Let’s talk.”
“I don’t want to talk! I’m tired of talking.”
“I know, I know—I get it, believe me. Just tell us what you mean, okay? What do you have against Stiles?”
“Stiles?” Jordan’s coughing started up again, getting worse until he spit something into the palm of his hand. It was hard to say from where he stood, but it looked to Stiles like a dead bug. “He’s not Stiles anymore,” Jordan croaked.
Stiles’ heart skipped a beat. “What do you—” he started, but then, in a darkened corner of the basement, half-hidden behind a pile of boxes, Stiles saw him.
“Stiles?” This was Sam, but Stiles couldn’t focus on anything but the nogitsune’s slow approach.
“Oh god,” he said. “You.” The nogitsune let a bandaged hand run along the wall as he came, shredding cobwebs on his way. “You got into his head. Adam’s, too.”
“Every Dracula needs a Renfield,” said the nogitsune in his mangled voice. He sounded like a creaky door in a dusty attic covered with spider webs.
“Why are you doing this?” Stiles asked plaintively, sounding pathetic even to himself.
He was sweating so much he might as well have had a bucket of water thrown to his face, and what little strength he had left seemed to drain with the sweat. He wanted to run, but there was nowhere he could go, nowhere he could be safe from the infection in his mind. The perspiration made the scratches on his forearm sting, and he had a sudden flash of digging his own nails into it until he drew blood.
“You know what I want,” the nogitsune rasped.
Malia chose that moment to jump on Jordan, and the basilisk reacted at once, leaping at her before Stiles had the time to finish yelling, “Malia, no!”
Malia growled in pain at the basilisk’s touch, tried clumsily to flip it off her, then to stand up, but she didn’t get far before she fell over her face. Then she didn’t move anymore.
“Malia!” His back still against the wall, Stiles realized he had slid down until he was sitting on the floor. He couldn’t get back up, couldn’t move, as surely as if he’d been restrained. “Sam? Sam! Help Malia!”
Jordan had picked himself up and was cooing at the basilisk, “Good boy, that’s a good boy. You did good, Dobby, oh yes, you did.” He never tried to touch it, though.
“Sam!” Stiles called again, searching with his eyes around the dark basement for the man. “Sam—”
“He cannot answer you,” the nogitsune, and that was when Stiles caught sight of Sam facing another of the walls, steadily hitting his head against the hard cement surface. Stiles could see some blood already running down his face.
“We can save them, you know,” the nogitsune said conversationally. He was so close now that Stiles could see the awful details of his blackened lips and rotten teeth. “We can heal the coyote girl from the basilisk’s poison. We can purge the hunter’s mind from the evil driving him insane. If you let me in.”
Stiles tried again to get up, to fight the gravity that was keeping him down. If he could get up, he would—Would do what, exactly? His arms felt like wet noodles, and his legs could as well have been two pieces of woods for all the good they did him. He was so, so tired he wanted to cry, but felt too dried up inside for it. He had no strength left at all, but even if he did, running wouldn’t help him escape the nogitsune, and Malia and Sam would still die.
“Let me in, Stiles.” It was only a whisper, but the nogitsune’s voice sounded louder than a honking horn to Stiles’ ears. “Let me in. Let me in.”
Stiles closed his eyes, wishing for oblivion. The last thing he consciously heard was Jordan screaming the name of his pet basilisk.
“How’s your brother?” was Deaton’s first question when Dean walked inside the animal clinic.
The veterinarian stood in the doorway that led through the examination room—glancing over the man’s shoulder, Dean could see Scott with Allison, Kira, and Lydia—he’d been told that it was the red head’s name—in the middle of debating about something. Argent was conspicuously absent, and Dean wondered if he was out there hunting for Stiles Stilinski. Nasty job, to have to take out a kid, but Argent looked like the kind of hunter who would do what needed to be done. Dean had been about to go to Eichen House to check on Sam—well, in truth, he’d gone there to forcefully remove him from that place—when a woman named Morrell had called, telling him to come and get his brother. The woman had sounded grim and Dean had feared the worst for a moment, until he’d understood that the grimness was intended for the kid.
“He’s sleeping it off,” Dean answered Deaton. “He’s pretty exhausted.”
Inside the examination room, Scott turned to the sound of Dean’s voice and gave him a small nod of acknowledgement. He looked tired, but determined.
“He’ll probably be out for a while,” Deaton said. “Did he talk to you about what happened? Have the hallucinations stopped?”
“He’s not seeing—him anymore, so it looks like it’s over.” Dean could barely believe it, but Sam had sounded pretty convinced, and he would know the difference better than Dean. “He was pretty out of it, but from what I gathered he thinks that the Stilinski kid healed him.”
“Hmm.” Deaton rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Stiles doesn’t have that kind of power. But the nogitsune does.”
Dean had had that thought already, but it didn’t make sense to him. “Why would an evil spirit suddenly decide to cure my brother? Why would that even matter to it?”
“It wouldn’t—but maybe it would matter to Stiles. There were other people in that basement with Stiles and your brother. I couldn’t get Jordan Hughes to make sense—he seemed to be mostly preoccupied by the dead basilisk we also found there.” Deaton must have caught on Dean’s alarm, because he added, “We’ve taken care of it; you don’t need to concern yourself about it.”
Dean wondered who was that we, but figured they were on Deaton’s turf and that it was none of his business. After all, a dead basilisk meant that there was nothing left for him to do.
“Okay,” he said. “Who else was there?”
“I talked to Malia Tate, and she said that she’d been poisoned, but she’s now perfectly fine. Now, Malia has… a particularly resilient constitution. But it still seems unlikely that she could have survived a direct touch to a basilisk without a little extra help. The nogitsune would have little incentive to help Malia or your brother, but maybe he was influenced by Stiles, or did it as a favor to him.”
“A little thank you gift for letting it take over his body,” Dean said with a derisive snort. “That’s nice. Well, can’t say I want to argue with the results.”
Over Deaton’s shoulder, he saw Scott come up to them. “We’re going to save Stiles,” Scott said, earnest conviction shining through. “We found information in the scroll we got from Katashi’s finger that helps, so I know we can do it. We just need to find him.”
Dean wanted to say good luck with that, and take his brother far away from Beacon Hills to let him recover somewhere quiet and safe. But he remembered Sam grabbing his wrist, half asleep but intent on passing his message: That kid saved me, Dean. He hadn’t seen how it was possible at the time, but discussing it with Deaton had him admit that it was probably true. Besides, werewolf or not, he was very sympathetic to the way Scott must be feeling right now.
“I’ll help you find him,” he said, decision made. Sam would’ve helped himself if he had been in the right shape for it. “I’ll help you save your friend.”
He’d thought that it was what Scott had been angling for but Scott’s face registered surprise at Dean’s words, then delight. “Thank you,” he said fervently.
“Don’t thank me yet—we haven’t found him.”
“We will. I know we will.”
“Well.” Dean wasn’t sure he remembered ever being that young. “If you’re sure, then. We just need to get to it.”
This wasn’t even close to the most hopeless crusade he’d been on, and Scott’s optimism was contagious. Dean figured that he’d just have to stay in Beacon Hills a little longer.
A/N:I know that this is quite an open ending, but I figured that from that point things would go pretty similarly to the end of TW's season 3 (except that, in my mind, Dean's involvement means that somehow Allison doesn't die!). Hope you enjoyed this self-indulgent crossover!