It turns out that Stiles is a little bit magic. Like many other things in his life (ADHD, the full moon, and Scott, for example), magical powers prove to be mostly inconvenient. He spends a few days ignoring the headache and tingling sensation in his hands that starts up after the mountain ash incident, and then a few hours lying on the forest floor, burning up with some kind of magical fever, which is where Derek finds him. After that, everything’s a haze of bright light and Deaton’s smooth voice. When he wakes up alone, the first thing he asks for is his father.
Deaton gives him a thick leather-bound book, wishes him luck, and kicks him out, something like pity in his eyes. The headache stays, but Stiles learns that as long as he does something when the tingling begins, he can keep himself conscious and off the cold examination table at the veterinary clinic. At first he messes around with stupid tricks, sitting next to Scott on fallen logs behind the ruins of the Hale house, squeezing his eyes shut until lights burst behind his eyelids and opening them to see that the lights are still there. With a little concentration, he can move the loose loam of the forest around their feet, blow it this way and that, into loose whirlwinds and waves.
As the months pass by, though, he takes to going out alone for long walks, letting his hands brush against fence posts and car doors. Dents smooth out; rotten wood stands straighter. He visits his mother’s gravestone for the first time in years, cards his fingers through the dry grass that grows around it and watches the blades grow green and wild. It relieves the tension that builds up between his fingers and ribs, but not the sick knot of worry that sits heavily in his stomach.
There’s classes and lacrosse and full moons and after they get Jackson sorted out, there’s a rival pack encroaching on Derek’s land. Stiles’ dad is still unemployed and he spends a weekend staring at his hands, trying to manifest bread and milk while his dad sleeps the whiskey-deep sleep of the terrified and desperate. There are job advertisements spread out on the kitchen table where case files used to be.
Stiles is tired. It’s not a sensation he’s used to; manic and distracted are more his speed, with occasional tangential moments of panic thrown in, more often now that Scott’s facial hair gets way out of control once a month. He’s still the token human in the rag-tag pack that Derek’s forming; Allison and Scott are on the outs again. He learns how to use Deaton’s rack of herbs and dust, chains Scott up three months straight and listens to his best friend screaming out his teenage heartbreak from the other side of the door. Nothing has changed; fairy lights and his Miracle-Gro hands can’t stop Derek from taking a bullet or Isaac from flinching at every stare he gets when he finally returns to school. They can’t find his dad a job and they can’t bring anyone back from the dead and the thing is, the thing is, even as he grins and makes the obligatory Harry Potter joke, he knows: he is just as helpless as he has always been.