Warnings: Violence, language, rape, death, suicide, self harm. Portions of this story could be triggering.
Sasha/sashayingunderthesun and Nicole/nikkithedead/carlathezombie (Gee links would be convenient here, wouldn't they) are both betaing this fic for me. They are fantastic and put up with my pestering admirably on top of making this story way better than I could on my own. Anything that sucks is probably a place where I chose not to listen to them. :P
Chapter 1 – The Stone Woman
Derek was warm. He was also irritable and scratchy. Stiles scratched an itch on his nose with Derek's stubble and tried again to wriggle out of the web holding them together. It was thick, sticky, and wrapped tightly around the two of them as they hung upside-down from the cave roof. Stiles bent his neck in what should have been looking up to find the floor. He had a splitting headache already, and Derek kept snapping his teeth because it was all he had to threaten Stiles with anymore.
"Anything?" Stiles asked.
"In the last three seconds? No. My claws slide right off." Derek growled. He struggled again, trying to jerk free or get his claws to cut the web.
"Dude, we already know that doesn't work," Stiles pointed out.
"Shut up so I can get us out and back up to the surface."
"Sure thing, but if you keep moving like that, us to the surface won't be the only thing getting up." Stiles wished, not for the first time, that they'd been bound back-to-back. Or separately. Separately would have been wonderful.
Derek froze, and Stiles wasn't sure he planned to ever move again. At least the room spun a little slower when they hung still.
"So..." Stiles made a popping sound with his mouth.
"I think it's coming back." Derek's voice dropped to a whisper. "If it takes us down, run. I'll have a better chance fighting it if I don't have to defend us both."
"Dude, I'm not just leaving you—"
"I said run." Derek glared into Stiles' eyes. Directly into Stiles' eyes since they couldn't pull their faces far enough apart not to study each others' irises. Derek's were green apparently, with little flecks of gold and brown nearer the pupils.
Stiles nodded and wound up bumping his forehead against Derek's. He felt Derek's muscles tense as the werespider—honestly, werespiders, where did these things even keep coming from?—approached. Stiles heard it then, the scuttle and scrape of its legs against stone. He squeezed his eyes shut, taking deep breaths against Derek's cheek. When he opened his eyes, they focused first on the curve of Derek's ear and then on the giant man-spider behind him.
"Oh shit." Stiles flinched, but the only space he had to move was to bury his face against Derek's neck.
"Stiles." Derek's throat moved against Stiles lips as he spoke. When Stiles flinched back from that too, the only place to go was back to looking at the werespider. It had a human-like torso but hunched forward so the legs growing from its sides could reach the floor. It had eight eyes over a stretched face and long fangs reaching past its lips. Stiles tried to remind himself it was actually a she and a classmate of his too, but... it was a giant freaking spider. There was only so much he could do, even knowing she had never asked to be a monster. "Remember. Run." Derek whispered into Stiles' ear. His breath was hot and uneven.
"I'll bring help," Stiles whispered back. He kept his eyes on the werespider like staring hard enough could make it disappear. Instead, it moved forward, scuttle-shuffling across the cave floor.
"You should have stayed out of my way," it hissed in an off-center echo of a human voice.
"Have you met me?" Stiles rolled his eyes. "In the way is my only setting. If there is a way that belongs to someone else, I am bound to be in it. It's the best way to find me actually, by finding ways I shouldn't be in."
The spider hissed. Stiles tried to remind himself its name was Cassie Halbardier. They had English together. He couldn't find a way to superimpose Cassie's sly little smile over the monster's fanged snarl though. The werespider advanced, drawing up its arms or forelegs or whatever toward the rope of webbing holding Stiles and Derek to the ceiling.
"I was going to let you live," Cassie said as she began sawing through her own web. "You weren't part of it. You were innocent." Then her eyes flashed, except the bottom left one, which Stiles was pretty sure had gone blind after he threw bleach in it. "But you had to side with them. I thought you were nice, but you're just a monster too." Technically, the pack had only agreed to help the creeps who turned Cassie into the man-spider (lady-spider?) to get her under control and save her from what had been done to her. Stiles might have had better luck explaining that before he partially blinded her.
"Says the giant spider beast," Stiles pointed out just before the web broke and dropped him to the floor. He managed to land more on his shoulders than his head, but the pain still nearly stopped Stiles from rolling to a crouch. His head swam as he righted himself after being upside-down for so long.
"I didn't have a choice," Cassie shrieked. "They made me this... this thing." She clawed at her chest as if she could rip the spider away to reveal the teenage girl beneath.
"Well, you didn't have to start hurting people." Stiles thought better of it only after the words were out.
The spider advanced, screaming, but Derek tackled it. "Go!" He shouted at Stiles as he held the werespider at bay.
Stiles nodded to no one as he stumbled to his feet only to fall right back to the ground when his right foot decided to step to the left of the other foot instead of where he told it to. He spun going down but managed to get his mouth pointed down before he puked up his Cheerios. Until the cave stopped spinning, Stiles scrambled away on hands and knees. He finally found his feet again and started running until he smacked into the wall beside the opening he'd been aiming for.
"Come on!" He complained, throwing his hands in the air. He glanced back to find Derek driving the spider away from Stiles and the tunnel he couldn't quite get through. Since they'd gotten caught because of Stiles the last time, Derek would probably be fine. Stiles used the cave wall to steady himself as he stood and moved down the tunnel at a pace less likely to end with him on the ground or vomiting again.
Webs, both large and small, lined the cave walls. Spiders—regular spiders, not werespiders—crawled underfoot and overhead, and Stiles wished suddenly that they weren't drawn in such vast numbers to the nest of a werespider. They had arrived quickly too. Cassie had only been turned a week and a half ago, if Stiles believed the creeps who did the turning. He wasn't sure he did. They claimed it had been a mistake, that they hadn't understood the dangers, but Stiles got the feeling they just hadn't expected Cassie to escape. Scott thought he was being paranoid, so Stiles had kept his worries mostly to himself. Sort of. Well, he only complained about it when the creeps weren't actually around. A spider fell from the ceiling onto Stiles shoulder. He yelped, swatting at it until it fell off.
"Need to get a friggin exterminator in here," he muttered, trudging through the narrowing cave. If it got much narrower, Stiles was going to turn around and take his chances with Cassie because the spiders were getting a bit ridiculous, and the tunnel was getting almost too dark to see them. He noticed a large spider by the floor eating another, smaller spider. "Dude," he told it as he stepped past, "Cannibalism." But he doubted there were enough insects to go around with this many spiders, so it made sense in a freaky, let's-not-think-about-this-overmuch kind of way.
The spider webs just ahead glittered with reflections of a faint light. The tunnel narrowed again, and Stiles stopped. He would have to crawl to get through, or he could turn around and hope Cassie the werespider didn't eat him. Stiles glanced behind him, then turned back to the small opening. It was too small for Cassie with her extra limbs. She couldn't reach him through there, unless she had learned how to change back to her human form. Stiles bit his lip. Cassie had come this way, he was sure of it, but Stiles hadn't noticed any branching off of tunnels. This was the only way she could have gone.
A shuffle and a scrape came from behind him. It was distant, but there was no other way to go. Stiles took a deep breath and lowered himself to the floor. Spiders crawled up his arms and legs as he crawled himself. One reached his neck, and he jerked a hand up to slap at it, but there were spiders on the hand too. Stiles whined but kept moving forward.
Why couldn't she have been a werebunny? Stiles thought as a spider crawled up the side of his face. Or a werepenguin? A wereferret?
Stiles reached the end of the small passage to find a larger cavern and tumbled out to find a foot long drop between him and the floor. He rolled around where he fell, swatting spiders off him. He slapped a few off his face with a yelp and shook more out of his shirt. When he was mostly free of spiders—though Stiles wasn't sure the crawly feeling on his skin would ever fade—he stood and studied the cavern around him.
It had light, but the only exit was the tunnel Stiles had just crawled through. A pool of water at the caverns center gave off the glow Stiles had followed. The water was still. If it seemed to grow in his eyes, that was because Stiles moved toward it, not because shallow pools could slide across the ground or make the walls of a cavern shrink in until he had no place to go. Just before he stepped into the water, Stiles realized it was much deeper than he had thought. He knelt on the rock and dirt floor to peer through the still water. There was something under the surface—a statue. It had the shape of a woman in flowing robes, one hand upraised as if reaching for Stiles. Her face looked upward past her outstretched hand, eyes wide, lips parted. Her model had been gorgeous and her sculptor masterful. Stiles admired the curls of her hair and the way hard stone looked soft as flesh and delicate as wet linen. He reached a hand forward to the surface of the water. If he lay on his stomach, he might be able to reach her hand.
The water was cold. Ripples spread across the surface from where his finger touched, and the light of the cavern rippled and dimmed. Stiles inched his hand forward until the water passed his wrist, his elbow, and his shoulder. He stretched forward, turning his head sideways to keep his mouth and nose free of the water that now brushed his ear. His fingers brushed against something hard and smooth. Stiles shifted again, sliding the side of his face into the water so he could take hold of the stone fingers. They were warm.
A hand closed around his. Stiles screamed. He tried to jerk away, but the hand held him tight and pulled him down into the water. Stiles thrashed beneath the water, fighting the hold of the statue. From here, he could see the light had come not from the water, but from her. She brought him down to stare into his wide eyes. She blinked stone eyelids and smiled with stone lips. Stiles brought his free hand between them to push away from her face, but the statue pushed it away and brought him closer. She pressed warm, hard lips to his and held him tight as Stiles struggled to pull away.
Her lips grew soft, and her flesh began to give beneath Stiles' hand and feet as he pushed at her. He fought harder than before, feeling the strain on his throat and chest as his body ran out of air. Pain formed behind the strain, and Stiles had an instant to wonder how his drowning would compare to Matt Daehler's before he stopped thinking and focused only on finding a way to stop the pain. Stiles pulled his hand free of the statue's and clawed with his stubby nails at her face and arms. He kicked at her legs. He bit at her lips. His lungs burned with their emptiness, and his head felt ready to explode.
The statue opened her mouth to cover Stiles' lips with hers. She breathed, and air flowed into him. Stiles drank it in even as he struggled to get away from her. The water line passed over his skin from top to bottom, and the chill of air against wet skin followed. The statue—though she wasn't a statue at all now; she was a woman as gorgeous as he'd imagined she would be—let Stiles go, and he dropped into a shallow pool of water that reached only halfway up his forearms.
"What?" He looked around and found himself in a cavern, but not the cavern he'd crawled into past the spiders. He could see tunnels running into darkness, and another that he recognized as the exit to the system of caves he and Derek had followed Cassie through. "How?" He coughed, and banged a fist against his chest. It didn't help.
"Oh, are you okay? I am so sorry." The woman knelt beside him, her blue eyes wide with what looked remarkably like concern. Her dark skin made them seem impossibly bright. Or maybe they were impossibly bright. Stiles doubted very much that she was human. "I forgot for a moment that humans can't breathe underwater. I wasn't too late, was I?" She reached a hand forward, but Stiles flinched away.
He scrambled back until his back hit the wall. "Explain. Quickly," he demanded, using the wall to help support him as he stood. "Or I'll get my wolf friends to rip you apart so when you're a statue again, you stay in the bottom of your freaky puddle."
She clasped her hands together. "Oh, you speak with wolves? That's so lovely." She smiled. "I am Thera. I chose the lake as penance for..." She turned her eyes downward and brought a hand to cover her heart. "Oh it was terrible." She shook her head. "I didn't know. I swear I didn't know, but... I sang the tune of life where a human could hear. He..." She shuddered. "He used an enchanted flute to play it in graveyards and raise the dead. Oh, it was ghastly." She sobbed softly as tears began to fall down her cheeks.
"Come on," Stiles raised a hand, though he thought it might be more to ward her off than to reach toward her. "Don't cry. I'm the one who almost drowned, not you."
"Oh, but what if you had died?" She rushed forward to grip Stiles in a hug, smashing his face into her breasts. "You poor thing, you're soaked through." Thera pulled back to look him over. She patted her hands against his chest as if to wipe him off, and the water poured off Stiles to form a puddle at his feet.
"I'm fine. I think."
"You may be weak after reviving me." She clung to his arm. "We should get you home to rest."
"Whoa." Stiles pulled away from her, edging along the cave wall toward the exit. "What's this 'we'? I still don't know who or what you are, much less if I want you anywhere near my home."
"I told you I am Thera." She smiled. "I am fae, and I wish you no ill. May I ask your name?"
"No, you may not. I—fae like fairies?" He continued to move along the wall.
"Yes," she tittered, "Fae like fairies."
Stiles nodded to himself and turned to run out of the cave. He continued running until he slammed into something warm and fell back to the ground. "Oh, thank God," he breathed when he saw Derek glaring down at him. "Dude, I accidentally woke up a super hot fairy lady."
Derek scowled at him for a moment before nodding his head to where Thera stood to Stiles' side. "I noticed." He crossed his arms and stared at them both. Stiles sensed more than a little judging in the downward pull of Derek's eyebrows and the contemptuous tilt of his head.