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What Is It With Us And Water?

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Well isn’t this ironic?

Seriously, if he wasn’t in the process of drowning, Stiles would have probably laughed. But doing so now would be wildly counterproductive.

He had just left Deaton’s office to go and find Derek. It had been roughly sixteen hours since he had slid into the frigid waters of the weird mistletoe mojito of an ice-bath in an attempt to find where the Darach was keeping his and Allison’s dads, and Scott’s mom. He had barely had time to think as he had scrambled, still sopping wet, to the jeep and peeled out of the parking lot in the general direction of the old distillery Peter had told him about. Doing ninety on the winding forest highway, Stiles had thought about how he was going to ask Derek to help them.

They would need his help after all. Really, they were kind of screwed without it. That was what he remembered thinking as the jeep crossed onto the bridge. Well, that, and he wondered why the fog had suddenly become so thick all around him. He was halfway across when a figure appeared in the darkness, looking almost blindingly white in the glow of his headlights.

It took him by surprise. He swerved to avoid hitting them, whoever they were, and slammed on the brakes. But it was too late.

With a sickening crunch that only metal on concrete can make, Stiles’ head was slammed forward into the steering wheel, and then everything went fuzzy. He felt like he was falling. He could feel his stomach lurch up into his throat and stay there for what seemed like a really long time. Around him, anything that wasn’t attached to the cabin of the jeep became airborne, floating upward like water droplets in space. The dizzy nausea of weightlessness gripped his gut as the jeep tumbled towards the river.

This is so going to hurt. Stiles tried to brace, but it was no use. Another crash resounded through the cabin, and the windshield gave a loud, sudden crack. His head was jolted forward again, whipping his spine forward painfully. Something snapped tight held him in place, inches from where his face had made contact with the wheel not half a second ago. Then something tore. Fire flashed across the synapses of his nerves through his shoulder where the seatbelt bit into it. But there was no time to even scream at the pain.

Around him, water began to pour into the jeep through every seal, crack, and opening, even ones that he didn’t know existed. Stiles knew that he was as good as dead if he didn’t do something. Stubbornly, he jammed his fingers around the seatbelt buckle and tried to yank it free as the water began to fill the bottom of the overturned jeep. He could feel it pooling around his head rapidly as he struggled to breathe above it. The seatbelt was locked (and stuck) dutifully, holding him firmly into his seat, which was now, if he guessed right, upside down in the quickly sinking car. Underwater. Not good. He gulped one last breath of air as the water closed in over his vision.

After what seemed like ages, with the tips of his fingers raw from the effort, Stiles managed to click the button open and felt the tension across his shoulder and chest release. And gravity pulled him away from his seat, muted from the water, into the deepening pool that now engulfed the majority of the jeep’s cab. Outside, the headlights began to flicker. Stiles groggily registered the sharp sounds of glass cracking, and felt a rush by his head when the windshield finally gave way. He had his chance, and pulled himself out through the destroyed, hollow windowframe with his last meager amount of energy. His breath was drained, and his brain was panicking as it realized that there was nothing left in his lungs to filter into his blood. He gave one weak pull of his arms towards what looked like the surface before his reflexes opened his mouth and he inhaled a screaming, burning, gulp of water. It was like fire as it flowed into his throat, and Stiles could feel himself gag and choke, in a vain attempt to get it out. Then the panic really set in, somehow drawing on one last shred of energy to flail his arms, a desperate, last-ditch attempt to get to the surface. He had to get to the surface. He had to get to Derek. Call for him, scream his name, something, anything to get him to save them. It was the only way to save them. The only way. Derek.

The last thought Stiles had before his body shuddered and he no longer felt the necessity to breathe was a half-formed clarion call for Derek Hale, silenced by the inky darkness of the water, and by the boundaries of his own mind.

Then everything went black.

Suddenly, somewhere deep inside his gut, Derek felt a sharp, tugging pain, like someone had sunk a hook through him, and was attempting to haul him backward against his seat. The force of it was enough to send a quick stream of panic through his mind, freezing everything in his body where it was for a brief instant. His heart even stopped mid-beat. And with the feeling came a sound.

Someone screaming his name searchingly, desperately keening it through with raw-throated yell. It was the most gut-wrenching thing Derek had ever heard, until it stopped sharply, shunted by quiet nothingness. It startled him enough to slam on the brakes. And the worst part was, he recognized the voice.

Stiles.

The car screeched to a halt as Cora gave him a questioning, fearful look.

“Derek, what’s wrong?” Her voice was equal parts confusion and fear. Before Derek could answer, a vision flashed across his eyes, invading his mind with a confusing series of feelings.

Water. So much water. No scent lingered on anything. Except for one, muted and diluted in the deluge. Plaid cotton, varnished wood, and piney-citrus seared the inside of his nostrils. Stiles. But the scent was off, soaked in the briney, coppery smell of fresh water mixed with blood.

A cold, dark feeling settled in his chest, tightening his heart against his ribcage. Something had happened. Something bad.

Cora’s hand on his shoulder snapped him back to the present. His hands released the steering wheel briefly, stiff from the white-knuckle grip he had on it.

“What is it?” Cora asked again.

“I- I don’t know.” Derek felt himself tugged backwards into his seat again by the muted pain in his chest. “I think…” He searched for the words, something, anything to vocalize what he was seeing and feeling. All he managed was, “Stiles.”

Something flickered in Cora’s eyes, some knowing, ephemeral look that was gone in an instant. “What about him?” She knitted her eyebrows together in concentration, trying to figure out what was going on.

“He’s hurt. We have to go back.” Derek didn’t wait for a response before he slammed the shifter in gear and jammed the accelerator to the floor. The back tires spun and squealed as they caught, and whipped around back towards Beacon Hills, engine revving angrily as they sped down the road. Somehow, Derek didn’t think that wherever Stiles was, he didn’t have a lot of time. Silently, he pleaded with him to hold on as long as he could. He was coming.

Derek didn’t know why he had stopped on the bridge at first. Something had made him pull over, and get out to examine the place where the guard rail had been smashed and broken through, bits of concrete and metal scattered in chunks all over the paved concrete. Below, the water gave no sign that anything out of the ordinary had happened.

But Derek knew. He knew something was down there. In his gut. He could feel it. He had to be sure. Walking back over to the car, he stripped off his jacket and shirt, and kicked off his shoes. Cora propped open the passenger-side door, and was yelling something at him as he turned around and sprinted towards the rent in the side of the bridge. He didn’t catch it. At the edge, he pushed off, and locked his arms above his head, and let his wolf surge to the surface as he dove into the black river.

His vision flickered into wolf-mode as the darkness pulled back from the inky water. His wolf scanned the bottom of the river, looking for what he knew should be there. When he saw the crushed and battered blue jeep upside down in the riverbed, his heart tightened in his chest. He kicked towards it, grasping at the edge of the broken fender well to pull himself towards the cab. It was empty.

Stiles was around here somewhere. Had to be. Derek had felt it. He looked around frantically, searching for anything that might give him some idea of where the human could be.

He closed his eyes, and tried to filter out the sounds of the river moving steadily around him. If Stiles’ heart was beating somewhere, he hoped he would catch it. If there ever was a moment when he wished Stiles would make a sound, it was now.

It was that moment when a shoe floated down, passing right in front of his face. He looked up and saw a body, listlessly floating in the dark water, blotting out the water-refracted light of the moon. Derek made for it.

As Derek wrapped a clawed hand around Stiles’ arm, he found the familiar warmth of Stiles Stilinski had been replaced by a bitter, icy cold, even more frigid than the river itself. Derek swam to the surface, he prayed that he wasn’t too late. When he could stand, he hefted the human over his shoulder and made as quickly as he could for the nearest rocky bank, and gently laid Stiles to rest on it.

Frantically, he felt around for a pulse. Nothing. No breathing either. Stiles’ lips were blue.

Derek’s stomach was in knots. The pulling sensation was gone, snapped closed somewhere between him leaving the bridge and striding out of the water. In it’s place was a nothingness that seemed to hurt more than anything Derek had ever felt.

“C’mon, Stiles, wake up.”

He laid his claws across Stiles’ sternum and interlaced his fingers. He gave a hard push. Water and pink foam began to bubble out of the human’s nose and mouth. Again. Again. He pushed until he heard ribs crack beneath his hands, and then he shifted to Stiles’ mouth. Holding it open, he pressed his own lips to Stiles’ and emptied the contents of his lungs into them. Once, twice. He moved back to Stiles’ chest, and began compressing it again. Over and over again he repeated this, trying desperately to keep Stiles alive. Minutes passed. muttering at first, then pleading, Derek continued, begging him not to be dead in between each cycle of breaths and chest compressions. It was no use. Nothing was happening. Stiles’ body was as lifeless as it was when he had first pulled him from the water.

Then Derek’s pleas became sobs. He couldn’t hold them back, the pain of them twisting his heart in his chest and shuddering his body. Thick, hot tears pooled beneath his eyes as he pounded relentlessly on the human’s chest. Finally, after all hope had left him, Derek placed his lips over Stiles’, hoping that one last breath, one last something, might bring him back.

Nothing. Derek turned his ear over the human’s nose, begging air to be pushed out of it and pulled back in. His fingers searched frantically for a pulse on his neck. He clamped his eyes shut as the tears streamed through them, his heart trying to wrench free of his own body. Stiles couldn’t be gone. He couldn’t. Derek let his head fall against Stiles’ chest, willing his heart to start beating.

One by one, the Derek’s tears splashed against Stiles’ face. A droplet managed to slide over the curve of his open lips, falling into the back of his throat, where it slipped through the flesh into his blood, still coursing slowly through his veins from Derek’s efforts. Moving with the current, the small drop of liquid eventually reached Stiles’ heart. A spark of electricity arced across the muscle.

A single soft, solitary heartbeat reached Derek’s ear.

The last thing Stiles remembered was screaming Derek’s name in his mind, right before he drowned.

He drowned. He had died. His heart had stopped beating. Everything had gone dark, and it had absorbed everything, until not even the cold of the water seemed to touch him.

And in the darkness, he had heard a voice.

Stiles. It was higher than he expected, and all too familiar. With it had come a sudden wash of emotion. Worry and confusion crashed over him, coated in a thick, dripping fear. It all slipped through his pores into his mind, willing him to come back. To survive.

C’mon, Stiles, wake up. And for once in Stiles’ life, he had listened.

And somewhere in the darkness, he felt a pull. It was gentle at first, tugging him somewhere. It felt like up. Towards the surface. Of what, he couldn’t be sure. But he found that he felt warmer as he was pulled closer, like something, or someone was on the other side, waiting for him.

When he finally made it, everything rushed back to him. Suddenly he was back in his room, getting thrown up against his wall by his jacket, Derek’s warm breath angrily puffing against his face as his eyes flicked toward the werewolf’s lips. The scene dissolved as he felt the rush of blood to his face as Derek grabbed him by his shirt, threatening to rip his head off at Deaton’s after he had been shot. Next, the paralysis was wearing off after Matt had attacked them both in the Sheriff’s office, and Stiles felt odd exhilaration as Derek’s eyes flicked against his own. The cold of the water washed over him again as he pulled Derek up from the bottom of the pool by his shirt, willing him to be alive.

Through the layers of skin and bone, Derek heard the solitary, weak thump of Stiles’ heart. He pulled his head back for a second, wondering if he was hearing things. But the heartbeat was followed by another. And another. Quicker now. Derek dug his still-clawed fingers into Stiles’ neck, trying to feel the flicker of life beneath the skin. As the quickly intensifying pulse brushed his nerves, Derek felt his own heart flutter uncontrollably. As quickly as it had closed, the connection that had faded between his and Stiles’ minds slammed open again, and he was hit by a wave of images and all the emotions they evoked. The fear mingled with happiness, the strange, lingering looks, the oddly shifting citrus-and-cinnamon scent of Stiles all coalesced and washed over Derek, ebbing and flowing through his memory. He let out a sudden sharp intake of breath, eyes watering anew as it all hit him again.

Stiles woke up with a start and a gasp, visions fading from his mind. His head pressed against what felt like small chunks of rock. For a brief, panicked second, he thought he was dead, until he tried to breathe, and it hurt.

And it didn’t work. Not until he coughed and choked, water mixed with a pink foam spilling from his mouth. He tried to inhale, and it happened again. He felt warm hands on the sides of his jaw.

After an agonizingly long time, Stiles finally managed to take in a real, helpful breath. It was short, and sharp, and his throat screamed at him as oxygen flooded through it. With each one, it felt less like the world was collapsing around him. He opened his eyes, red and bloodshot from the exertion, and the night began to take shape in front of them. He was lying on the bank of the river, his body pressed into the small rocks that lined the shore. He rolled his head to the side as he took it in, his muscles aching and protesting at the sudden movement. He looked up, and a blurry figure was knelt over him. He didn’t have the energy to be startled by it. The shape was relatively humanoid, pale face with tufted hair around the jaw, black, sopping wet hair flattened against his head. Bright, ice-blue eyes regarded Stiles from beneath a lupine brow with a sort of fearful, sad, sudden happiness. They were wet and glassy with tears. As his own eyes adjusted, and the darkness resolved, Stiles recognized the werewolf crouched over him.

Derek. An inexplicable rush of joy swept over Stiles, and he wasn’t entirely sure if it was his own.

His eyes betrayed his confusion at the strange sensation sweeping over him for a second as he reached up and laid a hand on Derek’s wolfed-out jaw, ignoring the pain in his shoulder and his chest. He smiled at the touch.

Derek shook his head and allowed a small smile to slip across his face. There would be time for that talk later, after the battle that Derek knew was going to happen. For now, he was just glad Stiles was alive.

Derek bent down to lift the groggy human to his feet, and wrapped himself underneath a shoulder to help him limp back up the rise to the bridge.

“So, mates, huh?” Stiles really had a way of adding scope and depth to a situation.

He was sitting on the exam table, while Deaton was fussing at the stitches in his forehead. His shoulder had been wrapped with a thin ice pack, while his midsection was bandaged with constrictingly thick padded bandages. Derek was leaned up against the doorpost, arms crossed and staring at Stiles.

Each time Deaton passed the needle through his skin, Derek flinched, the pain just as real to him as it was to Stiles.

It was Deaton who answered. “Yes. At least, I think so. There are very few reasons for a wolf to bond with a human as strongly as Derek has with you.”

“But why? With me of all people?”

“Because of the connection you share. It is something that can only be formed when you save a life.”

“So what, when I saved Derek, he became what, bonded to me, or whatever?”

Deaton paused. “Not exactly. There has to be a need. From both the wolf and the potential mate. Something that each requires from the other. When was there a time when you saved him, but he also had to keep you alive?”

Derek felt the spine-tingling realization pop into Stiles’ mind before he put words to it.

The pool.

“With the kanima, at the pool. When I treaded water with him in my arms for two hours.” The memory flushed into Derek’s mind, which filled with the cold and sudden fear that Stiles had been feeling at the time. He looked up at Derek from where Deaton was finishing off the small string of stitches at his scalp line and gave him a slight smile. “What is it with us and water?”

Derek tried in vain to suppress a chuckle. Stiles’ smile widened, because of course the slight twinge of happiness Derek had just felt at the poor attempt at humor made its way back to his mind. “Thank you, by the way. For saving me.” Derek looked down, and Stiles felt the hot, bashful flush against the werewolf’s face as if they were his own.

“You’re welcome.” Derek mumbled, trying to hide his eyes. For a quiet moment, they sat there, tension settling in around them like morning fog.

“There. Good as new.” Deaton snipped off the excess from the small line of stitches at Stiles’ scalp, drawing another small flinch from Stiles and Derek both as he tugged on the thread accidentally. He raised his eyebrows. “I’ve never seen a bond this strong before.”

It was Derek’s turn to finally talk. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, not since your parents, both of whom were alphas, have I seen such transference between two mates.” Stiles gasped sharply as the wave of memories from Derek hit him. The gentle, yet strong eyes of his mom, the deep, powerful scent of his father, the quick, almost reflexive connection they shared. Derek hadn’t understood it at the time.

“So what does that mean?”

“It means,” Deaton sighed, “that when you two are together, and once the connection is mature, it’ll be almost like being one person. At least that was the way Talia described it. She had often said that it was almost like she and your father were able to think as one, feel what the other was feeling, know what he was going to do before he did it.” Deaton paused. Derek was honed-in on his words, the longing for his family evident in his eyes. Stiles urged him to continue, though.

“Stiles, if the connection you two share is anything like what I’ve seen, you’ll be able to hear what Derek hears, smell what he smells, and even, at times, control his wolf.” Stiles felt a wave of fear crash against his mind at that. But to Derek’s surprise, he didn’t flinch. He did flick a look at Derek, though. And his scent shifted slightly, adopting a woodsy, brambly tinge. And with it, Derek felt his fears ebb slightly, pushed back through the connection by Stiles’ mind.

Deaton continued, unaware of the silent messages passing between the pair as he turned to Derek.

“You’ll be able to feel Stiles’ presence before all others, recognize his scent, his heartbeat, the way he walks in a crowd of people. No matter where he is, you will always be able to find him. It should be almost like an extension of your natural werewolf abilities. Hearing, smell, touch, all of it will be greatly enhanced when it comes to Stiles.” A soft, almost relieved feeling that Stiles wasn’t paying attention to filtered into Derek’s mind. For some reason, the concept of the werewolf always being able to find him sparked a quiet, warm happiness that couldn’t be controlled. In spite of himself, Derek smiled.

Deaton saw the exchange, this time, a little half-smile played across his lips. “Now, one of the problems is that you’ll both be able to feel each other’s pain, even at great distances, but in some cases, you will be able to protect each other from it.”

“How?” It was Stiles who asked. Derek bit back what he was feeling. He had almost forgotten what it was like to have someone watching out for him.

Deaton answered. “By drawing the consciousness of the other inside your own mind to ward it off. It sounds abstract, but once you experience these things, doing any of this should almost be like second nature. Like instinct.” Stiles shot Derek a quick glance. Deaton paid it no mind. “If one of you is injured, you’ll both be able to will the other to hold on long enough for you to get there. The connection you share will allow you to transfer your energy, some of your own life force, your sparks, through it. And in death,” Deaton paused, his voice taking on a deep, serious edge, “when one of your sparks goes out, you’ll be able to give up your own to reignite it. But only if you are apart.”

“What happens if we are together?” Stiles asked the question that was forming in Derek’s mind.

Deaton smiled sadly. “One of the upsides of a mate-bond is that if you are together, neither of you can be killed, unless the connection between you is broken.” Derek’s mind flooded with the memory of the fire, and how his parents must have been separated when the flames took them.

“How does that happen?” Derek asked, killing the painful emotions before they reached Stiles. He shifted uneasily, trying to focus on Stiles’ feelings. His many bandages were riding up and causing a furious itch beneath them.

“Usually?” Deaton shrugged. “Unconsciousness. Magical boundaries. But not in all cases. This type of connection transcends most physical and supernatural laws. No one really understands it fully.” Derek shot Stiles a glance, inadvertently pushing the memory of how he had felt when Stiles had almost drowned, the quick, sudden panic, the frantic pained scream he had heard, right before everything went black.

Stiles turned toward him, weight of the feelings Derek had felt visible in his eyes. “So when I called for you…” Stiles remembered the pained, keening yell he had let loose from within his own mind as the water had filled his lungs.

Derek nodded and dropped his gaze. “Yeah, I heard it.” Stiles gingerly hopped off of the table, wincing, and walked over to where Derek was leaned against the wall. Hesitantly, gently, he rested his palms against Derek’s folded arms, and leaned his forehead against the werewolf’s where they stood, toe-to-toe. Deaton had dutifully retreated to the other side of the room, providing some slight privacy for the intimate moment. Derek closed his eyes, because all of a sudden, Stiles was in his space, with his smell, which somehow, despite the dirty water and the stitches, still smelled like citrus edged with something spicier, like Stiles. Lemon and cinnamon mingled with the smell of cotton, and the stinging odor of medical antiseptic. And the connection snapped open wide as Stiles’ skin brushed against his own. Pouring through it like waves came warm, comforting affection, and tingly anxiety. Something else came through too, an almost relieved, happy feeling that Derek couldn’t describe. But it was warm, and wrapped around him snugly. And somewhere in Derek’s mind, he smiled back into it. Stiles chuckled.

“Well at least now I have a reason to not let you out of my sight.” The words made Derek’s heart tighten against his ribcage as it slammed away. Stiles’ heartbeat was steady. Slower than normal, but a solid thrum in his chest nonetheless.

Derek felt like he could stay there forever. With Stiles that close, touching him, hemming him in, it just felt so right. And he was sure Stiles felt the same way; he knew it, actually. That had surprised him. When he had told Deaton what was going on, Stiles barely even flinched. And as it was all explained, not once did he detect a single trace of fear in Stiles’ mind. He had actually seemed intrigued by the notion, almost like he wanted it just as much as Derek needed it.

Jennifer Blake was waiting for them at the loft. Stiles felt it as Derek froze just inside the door, cold panic creeping into his blood.

“Hello, Derek.” He said nothing, but Stiles felt the sudden, hot rush of anger in his own veins at seeing her. The smell of death and mistletoe was overpowering. The darach glanced to the side, sizing Stiles up before she continued. “I see you brought the little shit with you.”

Derek’s anger gave it all away, and Stiles cringed as he felt it too. “Stay away from him.” Stiles could feel the wolf stir somewhere deep inside Derek’s chest.
“Oh, but Derek, his purpose is so much greater than to be some mouth-breathing werewolf’s mate.” That drew a snarl from the wolf. Stiles could feel his own crimson anger rising in his chest, bringing with it a rush of energy that Stiles didn’t realize he had. There wasn’t much that he could do in the supernatural throwdown that he knew was about to happen, but he could give Derek all he had. “And after I kill you, I will take him anyway.”

That was it, that was the trigger. Something clicked into place and Stiles was suddenly seeing with eyes that were not his own. He could feel it as the wolf lunged upward to consume them both. Their fangs lengthened and claws shirked from the tips of their fingers. They snarled, rolling their neck as the muscles thickened and snapped taut, and Jennifer braced herself, smelling both afraid and powerful at the same time.

They lunged, clearing the distance before them in a single bound, and came at her with everything. She dodged the flurry of claws and lashed out with a palm. Stiles saw the air coalesce and braced himself as the force hit them. And suddenly they were flying backwards, slammed into the steps with a crash of cracking masonry. Stiles blinked and found himself prone on the floor next to Derek, back in his own body.

He tried to move, and instead his body shuddered weakly. He coughed, and spattered the ground with blood. He had bit down on his tongue somehow. Stiles looked up, and everything slid into focus. Jennifer Blake was striding across the apartment, almost in slow motion, before she pulled a blade from somewhere, and knelt before Derek. The metal gleaned in the moonlight.

Stiles fumbled within his own mind for their connection. He felt it, but it was only barely there, just a fiber, a string, slowly fraying. Unconsciousness. Cold fear swept over him. He knew he had to somehow keep the connection open, or he would lose Derek forever. He focused on it, grasping a the single, tiny fiber that connected them, and tried to pour everything he had left into it.

Derek stirred. It wasn’t enough. It wasn’t going to be enough. Jennifer Blake raised the knife, a triumphant look written across her face. “I told you I would kill you. Fucking werewolves.”

Stiles tried to steel himself for what was about to happen. This was going to hurt.

As the knife fell downward, and Stiles tried to force as much of his own energy into Derek as he could possibly manage in the half-second it took for the blade to fall. And then he felt nothing but pain, sharp and deep in his chest, just below his already-broken ribs. It sank deeper as Jennifer twisted her knife into Derek, forcing Stiles to arch his back off the floor as he writhed in pain and Stiles felt the connection surge open, the pain driving Derek back to consciousness. Stiles tried to focus on it, to hone in, to feed him whatever he had left. But it was also flickering. Next to him, Stiles’ mate was dying. And he was losing his own strength more rapidly than he hoped.

In one, last ditch effort, Stiles reached out and grasped the connection, holding it taut with his mind. He pleaded into it for Derek to hold on, somehow, just keep holding on. But it was slipping through his fingers, Derek was still slipping away from him. So Stiles opened himself up as much as he could, feeding his last remaining strength into it. Then something passed out of him that was warm and bright, a flickering presence that Stiles had never really realized was there before. He hoped it would be enough.

It had to be enough.

Then the darkness took him.

Derek’s eyes flicked open suddenly, and the pain in his chest drew a snarl as the Darach twisted the knife upwards toward his heart. He reached out, clamping a firm claw around her unguarded neck, and dug deep. With a scream, and the tearing of flesh, Jennifer’s hands began to loosen on the knife. Derek’s heart beat on, slamming against his chest with the adrenaline coursing through his veins, oblivious to the intrusion. He squeezed harder, and the druid released her grip entirely. Her eyes went wide as the deep, alpha red bled back into Derek’s irises.

With a flash of movement, he threw Jennifer back against the floor and ripped the knife from his chest, still slick with his own blood. With a slightly sickening, twisting sensation, he felt the flesh begin to knot itself together, his healing kicking into high gear. He threw the knife across the floor. For the briefest of seconds, Derek wondered how he was healing so quickly, and then he saw Stiles lying motionless on the steps next to him, and realized that the connection between them had been severed.

Derek heard Jennifer Blake’s next move before she actually made it. She lunged awkwardly for the knife, scrambling across the floor to get to it. He was on her in an instant, pinning her head to the concrete. Without a word, he wrapped a clawed hand around her throat, threatening to rip it from her as she had ripped Stiles from him. She choked beneath the strength of his grip. He looked back at Stiles, and searched for a heartbeat.

There was nothing. Jennifer was struggling harder now, her eyes bulging as Derek choked her of the air she so desperately needed. Her hands were wrapped around his wrist, trying frantically to pull the claw from her skin, to loosen his grip. He wouldn’t budge.

She locked onto his eyes with the corner of her own.

“You killed him, you know.” She rasped through the chokehold. Derek squeezed harder, shaking his head. Because it couldn’t be true. Not again.

She nodded her head as she struggled for air. Derek wouldn’t believe it. He couldn’t. Stiles had to be alive, he had to be. He couldn’t be dead. “No…”

Jennifer Blake made one final attempt to break the hold, a wordless shriek escaping her mouth as Derek made a quick twisting motion with his hands, cracking bone beneath it. And with that, the darach’s face faded into the mottled, scarred ruin that she worked so hard to hide in life.

Derek flew to Stiles, careening up the stairs to his haphazardly-sprawled body. His last, reaching movement towards where Derek marked by his fallen, outstretched arms. Not again. Derek willed him to breathe. He pressed an ear to Stiles’ chest, searching, groping for a heartbeat. Not again, not again. His own was hammering so hard that he barely heard it flicker back to life as the near lifeless form of Stiles Stilinski managed to scrunch open his eyes.

“Stiles,” Derek breathed, feeling tears fill his eyes. In the gulf between them, he felt their bond snap open, and Derek pushed as much of his own energy into it as he could manage.

“D-Derek?” The question came out of Stiles’ mouth as a half-wrecked sob. Derek pulled back to look into his amber-brown eyes, and saw them flick between his red ones in surprise. “Your eyes…” he croaked. But Derek wasn’t listening. He was still fixing his ears on Stiles’ heart, to make sure it was still beating. It was, and slowly growing stronger. As gently as he could manage, he pulled Stiles into a sitting position, and wrapped him in his arms, gripping hard. Stiles’ body shuddered as the sobs began anew. Derek felt unexplained pain ebb across their bond, and he knew what had happened. It was hard to keep the emotion from his own voice as he clutched Stiles to his chest, rocking quietly.

Stiles had tried to give up his spark for him.

“Oh god, Stiles, I’m so sorry. I’ve got you, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry…” The words came as a whisper, over and over again into Stiles’ ear. Derek felt his own tears begin to fall, and he clamped his eyes shut at the sudden, painful heat he felt as they slid down his cheeks.

Slowly, Stiles’ arms wrapped around his back, gripping it like it was the only thing anchoring him to this world. Derek felt the soft brush of lips against his neck and the quiet, calming warmth that spread from where they touched.

They were okay. They were going to be okay. Because Stiles was alive in his arms, and Derek was never letting go. Never again.

It was early in the morning, the sun was just beginning to rise outside of Stiles’ bedroom window. It cast an oblong shadow of orange light across the floor. Derek squinted at it as his eyes adjusted. Next to him on the bed, Stiles was asleep, snoring soundly.

Derek had to literally hold Stiles down to make him rest. He was anxious and jittery from everything that had happened that night. He had nearly re-opened the stitches at his hairline, the bandage on his shoulder was soaked through with blood, and he cringed whenever his breath caught in his throat because of his still-broken ribs. And he refused to sit still, refused to let Derek take away his pain, and wondered out loud why they weren’t out looking for his and Allison’s dads and Scott’s mom with the rest of the pack.

Derek’s response had been firm. Twice. Stiles had come close to dying twice in one night. He was not letting the human out of his sight until at least the morning, and probably not even then. Besides, Isaac, Allison, and Scott were out there looking for them. Cora had even joined them after driving Derek to Deaton’s.

It wasn’t until Derek had gotten the text from Isaac that they had found the parents that Stiles had finally calmed down, relief pouring through their bond as his scent began to return to its normal placidity. When Scott had texted him next, and told him that Deucalion was gone too, fended off by him and the rest of the pack, with the help of Chris Argent, Derek could finally relax too. It was over. He could be at peace with his mate, for a little while at least. He turned to tell Stiles, and found him already asleep, curled around his pillow. Derek ran his hand lightly through the human’s hair, careful not to wake him.

He got out of bed, and stripped off his shirt and shoes, every muscle he owned aching from the events of that night. Werewolf healing only did so much. He went around to Stiles’ feet and stripped off his shoes and socks, still damp from the river, and pulled the sheets over him, pausing for a second to watch the breath slowly puff in and out of his mouth, regularity brought on by the depth of his slumber. In his chest, his heart thrummed steadily, and Derek counted the beats. He wouldn’t ever let the sound cease again. Not if he could help it.

Derek slipped between the sheets next to the snoring human, and wrapped his arms around him, nuzzling the back of his neck as he drew himself closer. Stiles’ scent poured into his nose, lemon and cinnamon spicing his nostrils, augmented by the muted, cottony sweetness of his mate’s calm, relaxed nerves. Beneath it all, he still smelled a whiff of river water, sweat, and heady aroma of exhaustion, but they were weaker now. Almost gone, actually. It made Derek happy.

He was just about to drift off to sleep when he felt Stiles stir against him, heartbeat canting a little higher in Derek’s ears. He turned absentmindedly, rolling over to face the werewolf as he slept. His hot breath puffed across Derek’s face, their noses brushing together as Stiles unconsciously pulled himself close against the warmth of his body.

He didn’t realize it at first, but Derek was holding his breath. Then Stiles groaned, and scrunched his eyes open, just barely. Derek breathed out.

Covering the slight distance between them, Stiles leaned in to press his lips against Derek’s. His breath was stale from sleep, but warm against Derek’s throat. The taste of it and the soft, tingling spark that it left on Derek’s tongue seemed to set his very soul on embers. It just felt right, like everything he had done in his life was designed to bring him to this moment. Stiles’ mind brushed against his own, groggy and sluggish until the sensation washed back through the connection over him.

And for the briefest of moments, everything in Derek’s mind went silent, like the world was sucking in a breath around him. Then several things happened at once.

Derek’s mouth yanked itself back against Stiles’ fiercely, and something passed between their lips.

Stiles’ eyes snapped open, and his mouth paused under the onslaught, parted slightly over his upper lip. A quiet, almost obscene little gasp escaped them, wrecking whatever restraint Derek had left.

Then two became one. Every bound placed on their connection was suddenly and summarily swept away by a barrage of thoughts, emotions, and memories. Derek felt them slam over him like tidal waves over rock. Every moment he and Stiles had shared flooded back. The pool and the fight with the kanima, endless moments of frustration and pain where Stiles comforted him, buffeted him, shouted him down, and loved him. He was drowning in them, engulfed by them, completely and utterly surrounded. In the back of his mind, the vague awareness that his lips were still locked around Stiles’ appeared as his desire, love, happiness, fear, excitement, pain, thought, space, time, disintegrated around him. All that mattered was Stiles. He was the single force keeping Derek anchored to the spot, the onslaught that felt like it was gripping his very soul. Everything else disappeared. It was just the two of them. Locked together, joined together. At that moment, Derek knew that everything changed. The bonding process had been completed.

He could feel Stiles’ blood coursing through his veins, could feel where his fingers reached up as they touched his neck, but could also feel his skin as if he were touching it with his own hands. The two worlds in which their minds had existed seemed to collide. They were separate and together at once. Derek felt his body arch into Stiles as his systems fired on all cylinders, exhilarated at the contact firing across his synapses. Somewhere, Stiles reached out, and began pulling at his last remaining barrier, the part of his soul that held his wolf. With one small flick, it came crashing down. He tried to pass waning fear to the human’s presence as best as he could, but somehow knew that it would go unheeded. He did not expect what would happen next.

Derek began to shift, but with more control than he had ever felt before. Claws snicked forward from his fingers slowly, painlessly, as his fangs lengthened. Stiles didn’t release the hold his lips had on Derek’s. He opened his eyes, and saw the bright, ice-blue of them spring into being behind Stiles’ half-lidded irises. He could feel the wolf being gently coaxed to the surface, as if guided by a trusted friend. His muscles twitched and thickened, but it wasn’t as painful as it had been before. Stiles was somehow controlling the transition itself, and Derek was just along for the ride, his wolf bearing Stiles’ consciousness as if it were his own.

Once it had completed, Stiles’ presence reigned itself in, and Derek didn’t feel any of the rage he normally worked carefully to control when his wolf took over. Instead of barely contained chaos, he felt in control. Alive. Less like he was taming a wild beast and more like he was befriending it. An overwhelming sensation of balance pervaded the connection, a tendril of thought wrapped into the negative space around the connection to hold it in place. He returned to himself, and opened his eyes. He looked and saw, for the first time, through his wolf’s eyes, and Stiles was still in front of him, frozen in the bond with him. Slowly, the moment began to fade, and quiet began to retake Derek’s mind as his heart began to slow. His senses returned to him from the touch of Stiles’ lips, and the the warmth of them spread down his throat to join his heart. Electricity, some might call it. Fire, others might as well. But that was not what Derek felt. It was embers glowing softly before flames licked to life. It was a slow burn. And Derek let it wash over him. Stiles lips retreated from his own, and Derek’s followed them, their ghost still etched into his nerves.

Stiles’ voice brought him back to reality. “Was that what I think it was?”

Derek smiled, stupidly, obscenely happier than he had been in a long time. “Yeah. Are you okay?” Stiles gave him an odd look.

“You’re the one who almost died tonight,” he reasoned. Derek raised an eyebrow.

“You almost died twice. In one night. And you’re the one who gave up your spark when Blake stabbed me and turned me back into an alpha.”

“I didn’t-,” the human flailed his hands a little in response before consciously bringing them back to rest on Derek’s body. “You heard Deaton. I would have died as a result. And you healed yourself. I don’t know about the rest of it”

“But we were together. You had held the connection open. Remember what he said about that?”

Stiles’ mind tried to wrap itself around the words as his eyes focused on something just past Derek’s head. In an instant, he was back. “He said it himself, though. There’s a lot that no one understands about this,” he flicked a hand back and forth between them, referring to their mate-bond.

“Regardless, you need to be more careful.” Derek was never not going to be overly-protective of Stiles, not with the luck he’s had in the past. “Think before you pour your own freaking life force into me.”

Stiles looked surprised. “You were dead,” he chided, “I had to do something, I barely even thought about it. it was instinct-”

And that was all it took before Derek brought their lips together again, unable to resist it any longer. Then Stiles’ hands were suddenly on his sides, not just idly touching him, which would have been enough, but grabbing him firmly, with strength that Derek knew was not entirely his own, and pulling the werewolf’s weight on top of him. One slid down to settle on his hip, and Derek couldn’t control the small, high almost-growl that slipped past his lips.

Stiles seemed to like it, based on the smile stretched across his mouth as they kissed, and the way he pushed harder into it, worrying at Derek’s bottom lip with his teeth.

And suddenly Derek forgot how to breathe. He tried to pull back, but Stiles dove deeper into his mouth, and Derek couldn’t help but lean into it, arms bracketing the human against the mattress before parting their lips again.

Stiles looked up at him, before pulling his mouth up to the long cord of muscle in Derek’s neck. “I can’t believe, that of all people, somehow you ended up being my mate,” Derek mused as Stiles sucked quickly-dissolving bruises into his skin.

Stiles pulled his head back down to the bed and gave Derek a seriously? look, his eyebrows halfway up his forehead.

Derek tried to backpedal and failed miserably. “I mean-, I just-… Oh, forget it. You are inside my freaking head, you know what I mean.” Stiles did, actually. He gave a small laugh as Derek hung his head. “Sorry, I’m really not good at this.”

“Relax, that is what the mate-bond is for.” Stiles smiled as he raked his fingers through Derek’s hair. With a slight moan, Derek leaned back in to suck at his bottom lip, drawing a thin little sound from the human’s throat. “I will still know what you mean in spite of what you say. But I’m not a mind-reader, unless that comes with my new werewolf-mate powers.” Derek growled and nipped at his skin in response, drawing a quick hiss of something between pleasure and pain from Stiles. “So keep talking.”

At this point, there was pretty much nothing that Derek wouldn’t do for Stiles, not when he’s lying there like that, hips pressed against Derek’s, asking in that tone, giving him that soft look through his big, amber-brown eyes. “I need you to not die again,” Derek said, the words slipping out before he knew what was happening. “Ever again, actually. Especially not for me. And if that means that I never leave your side-”

Derek didn’t have time to finish his sentence, as Stiles wrapped his legs around his hips and yanked him closer, his hands gripped around the back of Derek’s neck as their lips came together again furiously, motion slamming Stiles’ headboard against the wall, cracking the drywall.

Derek made a mental note to cover them with a poster later as he dove back into Stiles.

When all was said and done, Stiles was half on-top of Derek, both of them breathing heavily. Stiles was tracing the beads of sweat that had collected on the dip in the center of Derek’s chest, legs tangled in the sheets and clothes scattered around the bed haphazardly. Derek had his nose buried in Stiles’ mussed-up hair, drinking in his scent when Stiles’ phone rang.

It was Scott. Derek could hear him over the line as Stiles answered

“Can you guys at least clean up before your dad gets here? I can smell the sex from the driveway.”

“Oh shut up,” Stiles complained, tapping Derek lightly in warning. “Like I didn’t have to put up with the same exact thing with you and Allison and Isaac for the last, oh, I don’t know, forever.”

“Fine, I’ll stall your dad. Just tell Derek to get his clothes and get out.” Derek made a mental note to kill Scott later.

Stiles smiled and looked at Derek as he answered. “Yeah, about that…” Derek could feel the happy anxiety filtering across their bond. He rolled his eyes as he shrugged on his shirt.