Stiles doesn't really know why he likes the analogy of puzzle pieces. But it fits this moment. So he'll go with it.
At first, the Alpha pack was a secret between Isaac, Peter, and Derek. Then the pack killed Peter. While that wasn't exactly the first choice anyone had for dealing with Peter (learning how someone managed to rise from the dead is kind of a topic worth pursuing ), not even Derek could find reason to shed many tears.
The best assumption they had was that the Alphas did it because Peter was a wild card. Everyone knows you can't trust a wild card.
If the Alphas had really been smart though, they would have gone after Stiles. Peter was a wild card. Stiles is the wild card. His friends may not know that yet. But he does.
Stiles technically figured out he was valuable after Gerard beat the shit out of him. It took a little while to get there, first he had to get used to the nightmares that left him shaking and screaming in bed. Then he had to fight the nightmares and random panic attacks back because fuck if he was going to let some demented hunter control his thoughts.
And once he got past that, and used Ms. Morell to bounce seemingly obscure concepts off of that were actually very specific, he determined that he mattered a lot more than people realized.
There was the fact that even though Derek didn't know which of them, Stiles or Scott, had pinned him as a fugitive all those months ago, he still showed up in Stiles' bedroom for help. The way Derek trusted Stiles.
He hated how Scott had acted in those early days but he also reassessed the fact that Scott still came back to him. Allison may have been Scott's anchor but Stiles was the one who could keep him in control.
Or the way Erica and Isaac listened to him through their snark. They'd followed his direction at the dance club, back to the scared teenagers they all should have been.
There was the way Jackson hadn't tried to kill him until Matt directly told him too, even though he'd had the chances.
Stiles didn't really know what it meant, or if it meant anything more than the fact that he was trustworthy. But when he realized it, he took strength from the knowledge. Useless, human, weak…those were words Stiles threw out of his mind.
Several weeks went by with nothing more from the Alphas. They were nowhere to be found. Derek had been searching for Erica and Boyd with no luck and eventually he focused more on training Isaac and Scott.
Jackson and Lydia kept to themselves. Stiles had gone to them once and explained everything, then let them know he'd be around if they needed anything else. Lydia's eyes said 'thank you' and Jackson gently squeezed his wrist as he left but they hadn't actually come around. He got that.
Allison didn't take too long to start wanting to move forward. She didn't know what to say to Derek and kind of stayed away for a while, but the desire to be with everyone was clear as day. Finally, Stiles told her to get in the jeep after school and they drove to the train depot where he pulled her down the stairs after him.
Everyone froze when they came into view. Or they might have been frozen before, Stiles wasn't really sure. That wasn't really the point.
"Stiles, have you gone completely insane?" Allison had hissed.
"You want to be here right?" he'd asked. "Not here with Scott or here to get away from your dad but here with the pack, right?"
Stiles had just turned to Derek. "Allison is pack." Then he looked at Allison and said "Submit."
Allison was clearly a quick study to the werewolf knowledge her parents had because she hadn't even blinked at the words. She just took a single step towards Derek, tilting her head to the side as she did so and exposing her throat. It wouldn't have the same effect since she was human but the symbolic nature was still there.
Derek had walked over to her, licked a stripe along her exposed throat and stepped back. He looked at Stiles when he said "Okay."
From then on, Allison and Stiles would hold target practice in one corner of the depot while the wolves trained for more brutal combat. He was particularly adept with a baseball bat, something he explained to the others was a result of his dad wanting him to be able to defend himself but not trusting him enough to hand over a gun. He also revealed that he was more than adept with a knife.
Allison of course excelled at archery but she proved to have an impressive knowledge of mystical elements. Stiles especially found intriguing the fact that iron was harmful to all supernatural creatures if it touched them, though faeries still had the strongest aversions to it. And if faeries were real, he was willing to wait a while to find that out.
Nine weeks after the alpha pack first showed up, Derek found their location and was able to determine that Boyd and Erica were still trapped there. Alive and not harmed as bad as they'd feared.
Stiles didn't argue when the three wolves told him to stay behind. Allison was asked to go along as a lookout from the outside, a safeguard. But despite Stiles' ability to show that he wasn't weak, the others still mentally placed him in a weaker category because of his very human and very non-hunter status.
There was a time that would have bothered him. Stiles could barely remember what that time looked like. He just made a point to stick Derek's phone in his pocket, saying it was on silent, and that this way he could Stiles if everything went to hell.
The look in Derek's eyes said if that happened, he wouldn't have time to call. And there was another look in his eyes, a look that said he wanted to say more but if he did it would feel like a soldier going off to war moment and neither he nor Stiles had indicated wanting to be that.
Stiles just stepped back and promised that he wouldn't do anything stupid. It wasn't his fault the others didn't know that Stiles' no longer viewed his crazy ideas as stupid.
He also didn't mention that he'd activated Derek's gps tracker and sent a call from the wolf's phone to his, while leaving the speakers on mute. Stiles would be able to hear everything.
Like the moment that the alpha pack of course got the jump on them because they didn't actually fall for the distraction, something Stiles knew would happen. He listened as the Alphas started locking up his friends, including Allison, though he'd already started driving by then.
All of which brings him back to his puzzle metaphor. He thinks it's the way sometimes a lot of pieces will almost fit an empty space but are still just a bit off. Everything happening with lately has been slightly off. Figuring out who he was, what his strengths are, bringing Allison into the pack, it all works but nothing felt settled. He didn't know what he wanted. He didn't know what would be enough.
Now Stiles listens to the growls of his friends and he gets it.
Underneath it all though is the one final piece he needed to accept, if not actually hash out and deal with right now. The fact that he can tell exactly which howl is Derek's. Can hear his pain. Something in Stiles boils at that.
It's what allows him to march up to the hideout, throw open the door to what looks like an old army bunker, and stand inside, glaring at the Alphas.
The Alphas look at him like he's not a threat at all. Daring, yes. But a genuine threat? No.
That's the problem. Stiles talks and laughs and jokes around so much that people don't see what lurks underneath the surface. There's still a kid who can't let go of the idea that if he'd just fought harder, his mom would still be alive. And in the last year, he's had far too many people try to beat him into submission. Try to defeat him.
But for all the jokes, Stiles isn't the good guy in the story. Scott's one of the good guys. Isaac too. The ones who still struggle to take things all the way to the killing point because they still believe the bad guy can be redeemed.
There's a reason Stiles he never hesitated between pulling up to the Hale house and throwing the Molotov cocktail at Peter. It's the same reason Allison didn't think twice about shooting the arrow so it would explode.
A part of them. A darker part that probably shouldn't be tapped into but exists all the same. A deadly part.
The idea makes him think of Giles and the way he took care of the human that Buffy couldn't.
Stiles considers that comparison for a moment as he stands, ignoring the Alphas as they glare at him. He could easily be assumed to be the Willow of the group, with his penchant for research. Or the Xander with the jokes. But he's not going to go evil like the first and he doesn't have the naivete of the other. He is the Giles. Unassuming, smart, there for advice. But push him to a breaking point and he doesn't break or snap or fall apart.
Push him far enough and it's like the wall keeping the killer at bay moves aside just for a moment. Just long enough to remind people that appearances can be misleading.
It moves now as one of the Alphas runs his claws down Derek's chest, watching as the blood flows then stops as Derek heals.
Stiles steps forward.
The Alpha does it again.
"Step away from him." Stiles' voice is deceptively quiet.
Another Alpha, female, moves away from Allison and stands in front of Stiles. She beckons the others to join her.
"Silly boy. You're human. We're going to take away Hale's pack, then kill him thus leaving this territory to us. I would tell you to show a little respect but you won't live long enough to have the chance," she says, sounding almost regretful about it.
One of the males turns back towards Derek.
Stiles' voice goes low. Dangerous. "I said, don't touch him."
The seemingly lead female looks at him quizzically. "Does the human have a crush? How quaint."
"The human had a crush when he was 15 and monsters only showed up in movies and getting drunk on a seesaw was the only reason to be out at 3am," answers Stiles. "He's mine."
"And the others?"
"My pack," says Stiles.
"But you like that one best?"
"Mine," says Stiles again and there's a growl to his words, warning the male Alpha from touching Derek again.
Stiles isn't watching her. His eyes are on Derek the entire time he's speaking. When they get out of this, and it's a when because Stiles is tired of living in a land of if only, this could mean an unpleasant conversation.
But Derek wearily lifts his head and stares back and Stiles and his eyes say 'yours'.
The male doesn't claw Derek again. Instead he leans over him and his fangs extend. "You can't claim him," he says. "Maybe I should, just to teach you how werewolf rules actually work. I'll taste you next."
Stiles pulls a small knife from his belt and throws. It lands in the alpha's forehead before he can even touch his fangs to Derek's neck.
The wolf jumps at Stiles, snarling. "Stupid boy, I'll kill you for thi…" and then he's screaming in agony as his skin doesn't heal and push the knife out. The alpha reaches up to pull the knife out and screams again as his head burns around the metal. He tries to grab at the knife but his hand can't seem to touch it.
"What did you do?" asks the second male Alpha, who hadn't spoken yet.
"Did you know wolfsbane, when mixed with rowan ash, can be bonded to iron?" asks Stiles conversationally. "Now I'm certain you're aware that wolfsbane is deadly and that rowan, or mountain ash creates a barrier to the supernatural. But it seems most of you aren't aware that iron isn't just for the fae. No, it'll hurt any of you."
Stiles can see the remaining three Alphas trying to surround him. He yanks his primary knife out, twists and stabs directly into the heart of the female alpha who he'd seen hitting Isaac when he first walked in.
She collapses to the floor in pain and the others hesitate a moment.
Stiles continues his explanation. It's kind of fun. Usually only the villain gets to exposit and only just before he's about to get defeated. So Stiles plans on relishing the experience. "So once I realized this nifty trick about iron, I thought about rubbing it in wolfsbane. But that still seemed problematic of course. For one, the wolfsbane would wear off within a couple stabs. And a werewolf could easily deal with the small amount of pain it would take to pull it out."
The bat that he's kept loosely in his left hand is suddenly transferred to his right hand. Stiles swings up and smashes it into the face of the lead female alpha, sending her soaring into the corner.
"With the rowan bond, not only do the wolfsbane effects remain firmly intact, you can't actually touch the blade to remove hit."
He pivots and slams the bat into the stomach of the final male alpha as he comes at Stiles. Then quick as a flash, because yes, all this practice and training has made Stiles light on his feet, he takes two steps forward and grabs hold of the male wolf that had been attacking Derek.
Stiles pulls a small object from his pocket while holding one arm around the Alpha's throat. He shoves it into the Alpha's mouth.
"I have no problem killing every one of you," he declares to the three Alphas who are growling at him in fury, though the one female is doing it from the floor. She keeps rubbing the knife against a chair leg, trying to get the object to help pull it out of her body. Stiles appreciates the ingenuity. "But I only want to kill this one. I've put a little invention of mine, a wolfsbane grenade, in his mouth."
Stiles reaches in and gives a little tug. "Oh dear and there goes the pin."
He deliberately catches the eyes of the other three. "You have about 30 seconds to decide whether the message gets spread that the Hale territory is off limits or if you want to die next."
Stiles leans close and whispers in the ear of the Alpha trapped in his arms. "You wanted to know what I taste like? I taste like death. Pity you won't be able to tell me if the rumors about death being sweet are true." His eyes are dark and cold.
He steps away as the grenade goes off, exploding the wolf's head open as the wolfsbane insures there would be utterly no chance of healing.
The remaining three Alphas run.
Stiles unties Allison first. He knows she'll free the four betas.
He turns to Derek, carefully unfastens the chains and moves back to let him stand.
Derek doesn't take his eyes off Stiles. "Mine?" he growls and there are about a million questions behind the word.
But Stiles can hear all of the questions and nowhere in them is 'what were you thinking' or 'this can't work' or 'I'm scared of your darkness now'. There are questions of trust and depth and forever. Those are the ones he already knows the answer to.
"Yours," he says quietly and reaches out his hand.
Derek takes it. It's enough.