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Ssshhh! (or the voice in my head will have to shout)

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"Help me," Laura says.

"I moved out for a reason, Laur," Derek says, digging under his new bed for his socks, trying to keep his phone balanced between his shoulder and ear. Man, does he hate cell phones. He really needs to find his socks. He only has three pairs to last him until he figures out how to use the washing machine in the basement. If cell phones didn't exist, he could look for them without Laura interrupting him. Life could be bliss. "And that was to avoid your drama every three seconds."

"I don't know why I bother to ask you for help. If I was risking my life to do something and asked you for help, you'd probably just let me go off on my own to face danger, heartlessly letting me go to my doom even though I'd reached out to you for help—"

"Laura," Derek says, pulling out one black sock and an empty chip packet, "if it's life and death, ask Cora. She's the unemployed one who isn't running late."

"Cora stole my favorite converse," Laura says. "Also she's busy moving into your bedroom."

"Already?" Derek's chest pangs, just a little. But the loss of his familiar four walls is worth it compared to the freedom of moving out. Ha. Freedom. Part of that was supposed to be the freedom of not being bugged by his siblings twenty-four seven. "Doesn't matter. Just be quick. And I reserve the right not to acquiesce to your request."

"Ugh, your vocabulary's gotten ridiculous since you finished your Deputy course at the Academy," Laura sighs.

Derek finds another sock, unsure whether it matches the first, but they're almost the same color. It'll have to do. He tuts down the phone to speed Laura up.

"Fine. It's  Mom."

Derek starts assembling the rest of his uniform, keeping an eye on the clock. He's not really late, but if he takes too long in the shower he will be, and he likes his new boss. Being known for tardiness isn't the impression Derek wants to give Sheriff Stilinski.

"What did Mom do now? Remind you again she doesn't have grandchildren yet?"

"Well, that too," Laura says. "And why couldn't you go out there and father some grandchildren, hm? Take the pressure off me?"

"Because I'm like, 85% gay since that incident with the swimming coach," Derek reminds her. Derek had kind of been into call-me-Kate, right until he found his uncle rather into her too, and he'd been mostly dubious whether heterosexual fornication was gonna be his thing in the future or not. So far, not so much.

"Ugh, yeah. And it kinda is about grandchildren, in a weird way. Do you remember Mom talking about her college friends much?"

"Yeah," Derek says, pulling out his carefully ironed beige shirt and pants, "Mom and her merry adventures."

"Apparently the witch of the group was your boss's wife."

Derek frowns. "The Sheriff only mentioned his son, not a—"

"Was," Laura repeats.

Derek falters in his search for his belt (no, he is not telling their mom that she's right about that whole laying out his uniform the night before thing, because he values the remaining scraps of his sanity) and he grips his phone more tightly. "What happened?"

"Some kind of dementia, Mom says. But that's not the part that's making me tear my hair out." Laura sighs audibly. "Do you remember mom's hilarious stories about her witch BFF? Claudia Something-unpronounceable?"

"Yeah? Vaguely."

"She passed away about a decade ago or something, but her college-age son is moving to town and he's coming to dinner in a few days," Laura says, sighing melodramatically.

"So? Dinner's good. I like dinner. It's especially nice when it's cooked for you," Derek concludes, a little woeful. His last two meals have been microwave meals. Freedom tastes like nuked hamburger helper and mushy vegetables.

"He's your new boss's son, apparently."

"Oh," Derek says, pretending to be interested.

"Yeah, but don't you know what that means? It means she's setting me up."

"Sheriff Stilinski is very capable at his job. Maybe his son is nice?"

Laura makes an irritated sound, like Derek's just suggested the stupidest thing ever. "It's like those regency novels you read and then pretend you just found lying around the house."

"I don't know what you mean," Derek lies.

"It's like this guy and I have been intended from birth!"

Derek tries to suppress the unsympathetic laugh he wants to make. "I'm sure it's not like that."

"Of course you're calm, you're not the one Mom's trotting out as fresh meat," Laura yells. Derek has to really work hard not to laugh, because his sister's rants are always beautifully ridiculous. "It basically is an arranged marriage, Derek. Me! Marriage! I still live at home. The only thing I am married to is my mattress. We have a long-term, caring relationship. No Sheriff's son is going to separate us now. Not with the years of work I've put into those springs."

 "Laura," Derek says, flatly. "Even if it's Mom meddling, what's the harm in meeting the guy? He might be nice."

"You're extremely unhelpful," Laura tells him. "Now go shower, Deputy Hale, I can smell you from here." She disconnects before he can retort. Derek stares at his phone in dislike for a long moment. Man, does he ever hate cell phones. He moved out to get away from the legion of females continually telling him what to do.

Maybe he should just be radical and turn his phone off once in a while.


Derek's been daydreaming about moving out for so long that it's not a surprise that reality can't match up to the dream. His sulking is underlined when his neighbor hits a note in his one-man rendition of You Can't Always Get What You Want that Derek's not even sure really exists. Because if it did, it would be illegal to mangle it like the guy next door is doing, and Derek could arrest him. If he was on duty, anyway.

Gritting his teeth, Derek heads into his bathroom, trying to remember why he moved out of his family's beautiful home besides avoiding Laura's morning melodramas. Oh, yeah. The fact that he can actually get into the bathroom without waiting for a bladder-testing length of time. And the fact that he can come home at the end of an shift and not have to fend off a hundred invasive questions. Like what is he making for dinner (um, hello, what about the nine other adult members of the household?) What is he planning to do during his heat (uh, the one not due for another four months? Probably go to the facility for his usual bi-annual sedation, thanks for the reminder.). Is he going to join the annual Beacon County mating run? (Not if you paid him a million dollars, no way is Derek running naked through the woods for two weeks.)

He showers quickly, even though it's a blessed relief to get hot water and Derek wants to linger now that no one's around to knock on the door just as he's starting to relax, but his neighbor's still singing and it's louder in the bathroom than in the hall. He ends up toweling off angrily, banging on the wall and stalking off towards his bedroom to get dressed.

He can still hear the neighbor singing. Derek's head is almost ringing by the end of it, which is going to make his mood during his shift the absolute best.

By which he means the absolute worst. Derek's pretty damn sure there's a new serial killer in town, but his new boss won't let them call the case that yet, something about once being an incidence and twice being a coincidence. Derek's vainly hoping they won't even find a third body, making it a pattern in the new boss's parlance.

He likes Sheriff Stilinski so far, even though he's only been Derek's boss for a couple of days. He's leagues better than his predecessor already.

The neighbor has changed to an actually-decent rendition of Foreigner's Long, Long Way From Home, but Derek's too frazzled to be able to pinpoint which apartment his noisy neighbor inhabits. He'll try listening later so he can pop a note through their front door.

Or maybe not. Even one noisy neighbor is still a thousand times better than living at home.

Derek nearly escapes out of the door of the apartment block without being interrupted. Nearly. He gets stopped by a voice booming across at him.

"Hale! Surprising to see you out and about!"

His new landlord told Derek his name was Cupcake Finstock the Third, but Derek's pretty sure he's the same Bobby Finstock as holds the department's record for highest number of drunk and disorderly incidents in Beacon Hills involving sporting equipment.  Finstock's attacking a lopsided door sign with a wrench and what looks to be a defensive lacrosse stick.

Finstock, at least, is a mite better than some of the ladies on the second floor who like to call him over and paw at his uniform.

"Oh, you know," Derek says, vaguely.

"Do I ever," Finstock says, leaning the crosse and wrench against the nearest wall. "Which means I don't know much about much, which I suspect is the case with you too, am I right, buddy?"


"Thatta boy," Finstock says, enthusiastically. "So how do you like it here at Finstock Heights? Got any problems with your new spiffy digs?"

Derek pulls a face, because who even says the word spiffy anymore? Cupcake Finstock the Third, apparently. "Yeah, actually," Derek says.

Finstock's face falls. "No one ever wants an answer to that question, Hale. It's polite to ignore it and say nothing. Ain't nothing a bit of duct tape can't fix for ya."

"It's nothing in the apartment," Derek reassures him, making a mental note to fix anything that breaks in his apartment himself. "It's just… my next-door neighbor. They're incredibly loud. If you see them, could you have a word with them to maybe keep the noise down?"

Finstock barks out a laugh. "Good one. Thought you had a real problem there. Thought I was gonna have to actually do some work. Phew. Keep working on those sharp joking skills, bucko." He fake punches Derek in the arm, hard enough to be annoying, not knowing how close he is from Derek morphing into a wolf and biting his head off.

Derek frowns. "What are you talking about? My neighbor was singing—"

"You don't have a neighbor, Hale," Finstock says, slowly. "That section below you on four is closed, and you're the first inhabitant of floor five. Aren't many idiots who would rent a room that high in this building when the elevator doesn't work." He claps Hale on the back companionably before backing up and picking up the crosse again. "By the way, what happened to your face?" Finstock calls, circling the stick at his own right cheek.

Derek frowns, uncomprehending. "My sister says my face is a punishment for a past sin."

Finstock snorts. "Sign me up to that felony."

Derek opens his mouth to say something, but realizes there is nothing to say, and as usual with his encounters with most of Beacon Hills' residents, there's only one sane recourse:

He flees.


Derek slides into the back of the briefing, eyes tracking over the boards up in the Sheriff's office. The photos at the top he's familiar with - the body found last week in Beacon Cemetery. Geoff Bond, 41, single man, worked administratively for Beacon Abattoir. Throat slashed. Dressed up, post-death according to analysis, in a white-hooded robe, an oak staff in his hand and a glass lamp.

Below, there is a candid photo of a man in his mid-thirties with a smiling face and to the right of that, a photo of his dead body. Throat slashed the same as before. This time dressed in a floral robe, a dead white dog at his feet and a stick posed in one hand, a cloth bundle knotted to the end of it. In another photo there is a close-up of the contents of the cloth bundle: neat bundles of dried sage.

Derek nudges his colleague and usual partner on the job, Jordan Parrish. "When did that happen?"

Parrish has that ever-present furrow of concern on his brow. The first body upset him, but it's to be expected - Parrish joined the force after two tours in Iraq. Parrish probably moved to Beacon Hills to avoid death and mayhem. "Yesterday, while you were out picking cushions for your swanky new digs."

Derek tries not to squint judgmentally. First Finstock saying spiffy and now Parrish saying swanky. What was with Beacon Hills' vocabulary today? "I noticed you managed to net a double-shift when I was moving furniture."

Parrish smiles, his shit-eating, small town smile that has all the older residents of Beacon Hills eating out of his palms, and all the teens at the school swooning when he does security briefs and career day talks. "Would I have done that deliberately to get out of helping a dear friend?"


"Oh, ye of little faith." Parrish nods at the boards. "You'll be absolutely pleased to know that this victim and the first one, so far, have no clear and obvious connections."

"I'm thrilled," Derek says, deadpan, before shuffling aside to let Sheriff Stilinski into his own office.

The new Sheriff is very good at his job — often abrupt with his words, bluntly getting to the point, but he's also resolutely fair. He obviously cares about the victims too, insisting on using their names, stamping on jokes in the morning briefing but allowing them out in the pit, just like a fair leader should. He divides the morning workload up and there's only a bare murmuring of complaint and that's from Deputy Haigh, who probably would find something to complain about in paradise.

"You all have your assignments," Sheriff Stilinski says, nodding firmly to emphasize the end of the morning briefing. "Keep me updated. And Hale — a word with you in private before you start, please."

Derek blinks, but Parrish just pats him on the shoulder. "See you outside, buddy," he says, leaving Derek behind. Haigh gives Derek a cock-sucker gesture with his thumb and cheek as he passes out the office and Derek just gives Haigh one of those smirks that drives Laura mad. Thankfully it seems to work on Haigh too, as he sneers and moves out of the office.

Wondering what's up, Derek pushes the door closed and turns to his new boss, hoping he hasn't messed up without realizing.

"Hale," the Sheriff says, frowning over at Derek, "was there an incident I need to be updated on so I can hit the ground running?"

Derek tilts his head. "Nothing we didn't cover in the briefing, sir."

"Sir. I like that." The Sheriff shakes his head and moves closer. "No, I meant with your —" The Sheriff points at Derek's face. Much to the same area Finstock had.

Derek frowns and turns on his heel; there's no mirror in the Sheriff's office, but the windows are made of heavily reflective glass. Derek squints at his reflection and frowns. There's a bruise on his cheek. A massive, purpling bruise.

One that hasn't healed.

One Derek doesn't remember getting.

Derek turns back to the Sheriff, aware that his new superior is starting to become a little suspicious of Derek's strange reaction, and he shrugs. "I forgot about it," he says, slowly. "Uh. Slipped in the shower."

The Sheriff doesn't look very convinced. Oh God, Derek thinks, I think I just made my boss think I'm a victim of domestic violence. His imagination then laughs at him, which is totally unfair. Derek resists the urge to scowl, because this is not the first impression he wanted to make.

"Sometimes I'm a little clumsy," Derek says, and then realizes this is his new boss, and he backpedals, ungracefully. "Not at work! Just at home. When my guard's down."

The Sheriff's expression slides into something closer to disbelief.

"It's totally self-inflicted," Derek hurries on. The Sheriff continues to look entirely unimpressed. "By accident! Not that I—" The Sheriff's smiling now, wide and almost weirdly fond, and Derek has to strongly resist the urge to facepalm, because fucking dammit, this is exactly how Laura messes with him. And definitely yet another reason why moving out from home was the best thing ever. "Anyway, I'd best, uh, get back to work."

The Sheriff nods sagely, an amused twinkle in his eye. "Stay safe out there, Deputy," the Sheriff says. His words are kind but his tone is rightfully mocking. Derek doesn't want to wince, but some of his tense worry at not being fully calm is too obvious, because Sheriff Stilinski pats him on the shoulder. Unlike Finstock's annoying touches, this gesture is infinitely calming. "Relax, my son's like that too. Clumsy as hell. I'm surprised every day I don't get a call from the local ER. Thank goodness my kid's best friend's mom works at the Memorial Hospital, that's all I can say."

"Oh," Derek says, politely. "Are we going to be meeting your son any time soon?"

The Sheriff winces, and too late Derek remembers some of the gossip from the girls in the mail room. There was a ton of it before Stilinski turned up and turned out to be a really decent guy, then it dried up somewhat, but Derek heard enough of it. The new Sheriff and his adult Omega son. "My boy, he's. Uh. He's on the edge," the Sheriff says, cautiously. Nearly on heat, then, Derek thinks, and tries not to match the Sheriff's wince, even though Derek would mean it empathetically. Derek's heats are bi-annual and are bad enough, but Omegas get double that. It's gotta suck, especially for an unattached Omega. "He's staying home for a few days. Y'know, new town, new streets — the last thing I want is for him to be out in a town he doesn't know, and—"

Derek imagines being out in an unfamiliar town, as an unbonded Omega, it's supposed to be twice as worse as being an unbonded Alpha. Lost, dazed, feverish, out of his skull on mating hormones—

Feeling a little dizzy, Derek says something vague, something polite and dull enough that escaping without a goodbye isn't super rude. Even if it is a rude exit, staying in the Sheriff's office with an erection burgeoning out of the middle of nowhere? Derek didn't think he had a kink for lost Omegas, but his brain does like to keep surprising him.

He stumbles out into the main room and heads straight for the bathroom, shutting himself in one of the cubicles.

By the time Derek manages to bolt the door closed and pull down his fly, he's already half-hard and leaking. Puberty was supposed to be over and done with already. His heat was last month. This is so unfair. And the sudden pressure between his legs feels almost like a hand firmly clenching down on his erection, stroking along it with a practiced grace, once, twice, thrice. Derek just about has time to brace himself, both hands against the wall, before his dick spasms and he comes untouched all over the toilet.

What the ever-loving hell? Derek's thighs are shaking, like he's just run a marathon under a new moon, and he's panting shallowly, completely appalled with himself. Laura always said he needed to get laid and soon, or he'd explode, but he figured his sibling was joking.

Guiltily, Derek cleans up with toilet paper, flushing the evidence before tucking himself away and stumbling out to the mirror. He looks at his own reflection for a few moments, the bruise much clearer in the reflective glass. If Derek didn't know any better, he'd have figured that he'd tripped into a door.

He sort of feels like he's been run over with a truck. A very large, somehow sexy truck.

The door opens and Derek ducks his head, splashing his cheeks with cold water.

"Hey, partner," Parrish calls through. Concern slants his eyebrows. "Are you okay?"

"Sure," Derek lies and pushes away from the sink. "Let's go."


Derek stays relatively quiet and lets Parrish take the lead on questioning the family of the first victim.  Parrish has people skills and, according to Derek's last Staff and Personal Development Record, non-threatening eyebrows. There's a reason old Sheriff Davis had paired Parrish and Derek up on assignment most of the time. They effortlessly fall into good and bad cop roles.

Which isn't super fair. Derek thinks he's a nice person. He just looks like he wants to tear people's heads off with his claws.

The Bond family has been questioned once but now it's been over a week since the body was found, Sheriff Stilinski is hopeful that Mrs. Bond might have remembered something new. There isn't much useful information from her, although she did compile a timeline of her husband's last known movements from the weeks before his death. Derek ends up looking down the list while Parrish gently coaxes out information from the grieving woman.

"The times in-between coming home and work were longer for the last two weeks," Derek tells Parrish when they get back into the squad car, showing the relevant page. "Do you think—?"

"The surname rang a bell, so I looked it up back in the office while you were in the bathroom," Parrish says, settling into the driving seat. "They had their car stolen a couple of weeks ago. The time accounts for the walk from here to his office above the Abattoir."

"Oh," Derek says, deflated. He thought he'd found something useful.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Parrish asks. "You were quiet in there. Plus—" Parrish turns to look at Derek and points at his face, where the bruise is.

"Oh," Derek says again, helpfully. He shuffles in his seat. "That's. Um. I probably hit it in the night on my new headboard or something."

"I thought your kind were supposed to heal."

"Me too," Derek admits. "I don't know, maybe I faceplanted into some aconite without noticing."

Parrish continues to stare at him, unimpressed. "And hit it with your forearm too?"

Derek squints. Parrish nods at his left arm and Derek lifts it up to the rearview mirror to see a large bruise. It might be Derek's imagination, but it looks like it's spreading slightly, like it's been freshly made. Parrish's stare creases into a frown the longer Derek hesitates over it.

"I guess I'll ask my mom or something," Derek relents, grouchily, hoping Parrish hasn't been working with him long enough to pick up on the tells that he's blatantly lying. Derek's been out of his family home for under a week, he's not going to instantly go running to his mother the first time something goes wrong. Cora calls that personality trait of his stubbornness, but Derek likes to think of it as logic.

Parrish beams and then the smile fades. "Hey, look. Carter's is on the list."

Derek purses his lips and squints to see Parrish is right - Carter's Comix is the fourth item from the bottom of Geoff Bond's diary. He's often wondered whether Cora took the full-time job there either to annoy their mom because she didn't want to go to college yet, or to annoy Derek because there is no lifetime in which spelling comics with an X is okay.

"Do you think Cora's boss will let us look at the tapes without a court order?" Parrish asks.

"Probably," Derek says. "You should ask though. He still hates me." Derek might have sort of threatened Eric Carter, graphically describing what he would do to him if any of the ingrates rubbing one out over the Wonder Woman display even looked at his sister improperly. Maybe he did that. No one can prove anything.

Okay, so Cora found out and now Derek's too scared to see her at work. Thank goodness there's another bookstore in town that sells comics too, because if Derek had threatened his sole source of Wolverine comics in the county, he'd be super mad at himself.

"I'll go in and ask while you look over those papers," Parrish says, reaching out to turn the key and gun the engine.

Derek means to look at the papers when Parrish pulls up outside Carter's, but after he's busied himself by turning his head so he can't see the offending shop name, he finds he's too busy tapping his fingers on the window to a familiar rhythm.

You give lo-o-o-ve a bad name, sings Derek's head. Oh, great. An earworm. You played your part and a something-something gaaaame, his head continues, and Derek shakes himself, because he knows the lyrics to that song… so why is his brain shoving new lyrics in?

Plus Derek's landlord had said he didn't have a neighbor, and Derek's pretty sure that while he knows the tune of You Can't Always Get What You Want… he doesn't really know the full lyrics to it past the chorus. Apparently his brain does. Bon Jovi's full discography, yeah, because Laura's a rabid fan. But Rolling Stones? Anything that his Uncle Peter likes, Rolling Stones at the top of the list, is something Derek kind of swerves away from. With extreme prejudice.

Shot through the heeeart! the voice in his head sings next, off-key and so loud that Derek doesn't care if he's insane by inwardly yelling at himself: shut up!

There's a feeling that shoots through Derek, like he's a cornfield and the feeling is the wind rustling through him. It takes him a moment to decipher the feeling.

Which is what Derek feels again, in a more traditional manner, when he hears clearly, in his head, even though he's also aware that there is nothing in the car to hear:

Woah. Um. Hello? Is there someone there?

Derek straightens up and looks around automatically, because he lives in a world of werewolves, banshees and other assorted supernaturals, but a disembodied voice is kind of a new one. "Hello?" he says out loud.

Huh, guess I was just imagining it, the voice sighs. You're officially going insane, Stiles. Well done. Good job.

No, that's definitely someone else speaking. But there's no one in the car, there's no electronic equipment humming, there's no one in near radius of the car. Derek squints and then, feeling a little silly, tries to replicate the same inward yelling sensation as before to say: Hello? Another moment of surprise ripples through him, in that same breeze-going-through-him sensation, although this surprise is tinged by a spiky curiosity. Surprised curiosity but no actual reply. Derek scrunches up his nose a little. What's a Stiles?

Okay, I've lost it. I've genuinely lost it. Holy shit, I'm actually talking to myself and getting a response. I wonder if Scott's boss has a padded room? Maybe you only do that to people on heat or mentally ill, not animals.

Who's Scott? Derek finds himself asking, in that same mental pushing way, like he's reaching out with his mind. And yeah, he's doing that to a voice. A disembodied voice. A disembodied voice in his freaking head.

Someone's lost their marbles and it's probably Derek.

Only the bestest junior vet in California and my best friend, the voice says. And I'm a Stiles, thank you very much. And oh god I'm still talking to myself. Is there an asylum in this town?

…which town?Derek stops scrunching his face up, because it's not exactly professional for a deputy to be sitting in a squad car making faces. Then again it's not exactly professional for a deputy to need a trip to Eichen House. And we don't call them asylums anymore, Derek says, unable to resist correcting the voice. If it's his own brain going mad, then at least he's going to go insane correctly. We call them secure facilities.

Well thank you, voice in my head, for fact checking my breakdown.

Derek, Derek offers. My name's Derek.

Derek? I finally have an imaginary friend and my brain names it Derek? What the frick?

Derek feels a ripple of amusement, but he's pretty sure he's personally still stuck in horrified mode. I think I'm the insane one, if it helps. And Stiles is a weirder name than Derek.

It's kind of you to try and convince me I'm not insane, the voice says, accompanied by a sigh that makes Derek's ears hurt a little. But I'm pretty sure an imaginary voice would say that. Man. Scott always told me Beacon Hills was crazy. I really should have believed him.

Derek tries to rack his brain for any Scott in his memory, but the only Scott he can vaguely recall is from the gorgeous nurse who works super-long shifts at the Memorial Hospital, Nurse Melissa. Derek had a crush on her, along with pretty much the whole town, for years. She has a grown-up son called Scott, Derek remembers, who went off to college but came back to do something… science-y.

Wow, Derek's brain is really killing it today.

Well, it's Beacon Hills. We're all kinda used to crazy here. Which will stand me in good stead at Eichen House.

Eichen House? What's that? Never heard of it.

Local secure facility.

Lemme type that into Google. Hold up. Hold up. I just— There's no way I could have known that. Whoa. WHOA. DUDE. HI. HELLO. I'M STILES.

Derek frowns. You said that before?

Yeah, Stiles says, but that was before I had any idea that you might be a real person. Dude. Dude, do you know how cool this is? We totally need to test this.

Derek rubs his temples. His new imaginary buddy is creative, Derek will give him that one.

Where are you?

You're my brain, you should know, Derek snaps back, unimpressed.

Then it won't hurt telling me. C'mon. I wanna test something.

Carter's Comix in town. Comix with an X.

Okay, that spelling should be illegal…. Found it. They've got a number. Okay, okay, breathe Stiles. Right, I'm gonna call them. And someone's going to come out with my phone number for you to call. Where exactly are you?

Sitting in the white car directly outside the shop. In the passenger seat, Derek tells himself, because what the hell. He's going insane, might as well enjoy the journey.

Wait there, don't move a muscle!

The voice disappears and Derek leans back in the seat, shaking his head. It's typical. He finally moves out of home and then promptly loses his mind. Next stop: Eichen House. He doubts an insane person would be allowed to live on their own and while Derek has his doubts about some of his colleagues (okay, mostly Haigh), he's also mostly positive that deputies probably shouldn't be legally insane. Ugh, it's depressing. Anyone else would just pretend not to be insane, but Derek's a man of honor. Unfortunately.

He sighs, steels himself, and reaches for the phone to call his mom. She's probably the best person to sort something like this out. He punches up his address book and is distracted by a loud rapping on the window.

Derek looks up to see a sulky Cora holding out a piece of paper. She looks pissed off but that's no real gauge of her emotional state; she has a resting bitch face that is only beaten by Uncle Peter. When he rolls down the window, she immediately throws the paper in his face. "I don't get paid to be your PA," Cora sniffs.

"What is this?" Derek asks, snagging the paper and turning it over to see a run of numbers in Cora's chicken-scratch handwriting. His stomach goes cold.

"Some dude named something stupid wanted me to give his phone number to the guy in the white car outside the shop," Cora says, rolling her eyes. "You're the only remotely white car, so it might be you. Thought I'd give it to you anyway, you can run it through your database, see which local kid is pranking you."

Derek stares at her dumbfounded for a moment, which just makes Cora huff.

"I'll see you later," Cora declares and turns on her heels, stomping back towards the comic shop.

"Wait," Derek calls, leaning out of the still-open window, "the guy's name wasn't, uh—"

"Spit it out, I'm on the clock," Cora yells back, nearly at the comic shop door.

"Stiles?" Derek asks, squinting.

Cora purses her mouth for a moment. "Yeah, that was it," she says, before stomping back inside the shop to where a perplexed looking Parrish stands by the counter, looking like he's just been hit by a tornado of his own. Cora has that effect on people.

Derek looks down at the paper, his heart thumping, but he needs to see this through. If the phone runs dead, or someone else picks up, then he'll know he's gone insane. He needs to know. He's responsible for the public of Beacon Hills and that means protecting them from harm. Even if the danger is him, it's Derek's job to keep everyone safe.

Derek steels himself and glares at his cell phone. He hates the damn thing, hates whenever he has to use it, finds any excuse he can not to use it, but this is too important. He dials the number, trying to pretend his fingers aren't shaking. It doesn't ring for long. Derek's half-convinced himself he wants it to ring a long time, ring out, but there's a click and the call connects.

"Hi, hi, hi, oh my god," the caller yells. The voice feels weirdly familiar, although Derek would swear he's never heard it before. The guy's voice is deep, frenetic, but oddly calming at the same time. "It's me, Stiles."

Derek swallows, the movement painful. "Hi," he says in reply, forcing the word out. "Derek."

"Holy shit, you're real!" Stiles yells down the phone.


They don't talk for long on the phone, because Stiles points out quickly that they have a cheaper option. Derek agrees readily, because freaking cell phones. They're the absolute worst. On the plus side, Derek hasn't had such a nice afternoon in recent memory. On the negative side, Parrish thinks he's not feeling well, because he keeps staring off into space. When Parrish suggests Derek take a sick day and Derek agrees (because a good deputy shouldn't be so distracted), Parrish takes that as proof  that Derek's not feeling well and hurries them both back to the station so Derek can fill out a quick sick report and go home.

Parrish even drops Derek back off at his apartment block and makes noises about bringing him soup, but Derek brushes him off quickly, stating that some sleep is probably all he needs and not to worry about him. He feels horribly, terribly guilty, because he's never taken a sick day in his entire life.

And he's never thought until today that he's the kind of person to take a sick day in order just to talk to someone.

Which, if Derek's being honest himself, is the only real reason he wants the day free.

He's never had so much fun talking to someone. Ever. Oh, his best friends are great, and he's supposed to be going out with them tomorrow, but he's glad it's not tonight. He's glad he doesn't have to find out whether he's the kind of guy to cancel on his friends.

He's got a sneaking suspicion he might choose to talk to Stiles instead.

Derek ends up snuggling into his new couch, idly tapping on his laptop in the name of research, but mostly just watching YouTube videos that Stiles recs. They've managed to swap idle details so far, but when Derek tried to think his surname at Stiles, it wouldn't go through. The connection keeps the details vague. Derek could just manually call Stiles, or text him, but something's stopping him.

Maybe it's just Derek's hatred of cell phones. Or, more likely, maybe it's just how well they seem to be getting on. Maybe they'll only get on in their heads. Maybe in real life, Stiles will take one look at him and run away, screaming about his murder eyebrows. (It's happened, to Laura and Cora's eternal amusement.)

I just tried to Google "hearing voices in head", Derek tells Stiles in the next lull of conversation. They've slowly been figuring out how to block each other out, how to be louder, how much information they can push through the link, but neither Derek nor Stiles seem to be in a hurry to close the connection.

Let me guess, Stiles says, and Derek can almost feel the snort. Not helpful?

It says you're a symptom of a mental illness.

It wouldn't be the first to say something like that.

This is my surprised voice, Derek deadpans, idly scratching at his stomach.

I do like your voice, Stiles says, and a ripple of feeling runs down Derek's spine, his mouth suddenly dry.  He'd liked Stiles' voice a lot too. Derek almost reaches out for the phone just to hear it again. Your brain voice is a lot like it too.

My brain voice?

Yeah. Like if I close my eyes, your words stop sounding like my own thoughts and it's like I'm hearing your actual voice. Maybe it's just wishful thinking.

Let me try, Derek says. Feeling weird, he closes his eyes. Say something, dumbass.

Talking about my ass so early in the friendship? I'm liking the potential of this.

Uh, Derek helpfully replies.

We're both dudes, don't be a prude now, Stiles says, and with his eyes closed, Stiles is right — it's almost like Derek can hear that deep, amused voice. Derek's toes curl at the memory of hearing Stiles' voice through the phone, close to his ear. Tell me you're not already thinking about what my ass looks like and I'll go back to more neutral conversation topics.

Derek squints, wondering if he can lie down the link.

Thought so, Stiles' brain voice supplies, and Derek feels a weird ripple of satisfaction along with the words. I bet you have a nice ass. I mean, you sound like a tight ass.

Hey! Derek protests, but sags, because he's been called that before. And not by just one person.

Are you gonna argue?

I'm not going to deign to give that a response, Derek says, sniffing.

Hahaha, so what is it - are you a prude or a virgin?

Nothing wrong with either!

A virgin, then, Stiles says. Pity.

Just because I'm not a sex-obsessed pest doesn't mean I'm a virgin.

I'm not sex-obsessed. I'm bored.

Don't you have a job?

I work from home, but things are kind of… in flux at the moment.


My office is in pieces. And I sort of managed to brain myself trying to reassemble my computer desk, so I'm not allowed to touch tools. I'm stuck inside, nothing to do, ergo the inevitable happened.

The inevitable?

I think I sprained my dick. Apparently you can masturbate too much.

Derek colors, a certain part of his anatomy getting interested in the conversation. He scowls down at his groin and tents the sweats he pulled on when he got home over the lump, trying his best to ignore it until it goes away.

I bet you're blushing right now.

No, Derek lies.

Not a lie, Derek lies again, wincing.

If you are a prude, it's okay.

I'm not a prude.

I don't believe you.

Derek is not a teenager anymore. He doesn't need to one-up anyone. He's an adult and doesn't need to rise to competition. I had the weirdest thing happen today, Derek says.

You mean apart from learning how to talk to someone in your head?

Yeah. Have you ever come untouched? Like. Bust a load. No hands required. Okay, so maybe becoming an adult is a process.

Not without something up my butt, no, Stiles says, instantly.

I was at work, talking to my boss and had to make a run to the bathroom.

Is your boss hot?

Not really my type. I guess he's okay.

 Did you have something up your butt? At work? Man. Man, I wish I was that brave.

Nothing up my butt. Although my sisters swear there's probably a stick up there somewhere.

Ah, there's your explanation. Prostate stimulation. Ah, shoot.

Yup, that's what happened, Derek says.

Oh! You do have a sense of humor! But that's not the problem - I think my dad's home.

You still live with your parents? Derek recalls the last minute of conversation and looks down at his still-making-itself-known erection, mentally willing it down in appalled disgust at himself, because if Stiles is a kid—

Dude, I'm twenty-four. But with my dad's job it didn't make sense to get my own place around here. The house is basically empty. Except apparently for now. I'll talk to you later, Derek. Have a nice night!

Good night! Derek manages to mentally shout back, but when he tries to add, Don't let the bed bugs bite! there's an empty echo in his head. It's like Stiles has gone completely. Derek lets his head fall down onto the armrest, staring blankly at the ceiling.

He's still not entirely sure he hasn't gone insane.


By the end of the following day, Derek's almost managed to convince himself that yesterday just didn't happen. Maybe he had a random moon fever or something. Even though unwell seems a thousand times more likely than connected to another person via brain telepathy, Derek does try. He reaches out a few times to Stiles, over breakfast and then during work, but there's nothing. No response. Zilch. Zero.

Maybe it was a hallucination? Maybe Derek is ill, somehow. His body's clearly being an ass about the healing thing, too, because there's a graze on his elbow that he doesn't remember making, but could so easily have happened against the wall or the desk, and it's not healing up. He probably should go talk to his mom, but it feels too much like admitting defeat.

Derek moved out from home. He's a grown up. He can sort out his own problems.

Besides, he has an appointment that night to take his mind off things.

It's supposed to be 4S: the Secret Supernatural Support Society, but Erica's been trying to rename them for the last three meetings to the Leather Jacket Gang. Derek, Kira, Erica and Lydia have been meeting for nearly six years now to whine and moan about Beacon Hills' ability to attract supernatural trouble like a magnet. There's been various members of the society over the years, but  Derek, Erica and Lydia have always remained at its core, with Kira a late but dedicated addition to the crew.

Derek almost wants to back out, but there's nothing more irritating than trying to avoid Erica when he's ditching a night out for no good reason, so he dresses in civvies in the Sheriff Station restroom, sliding on his jacket and ignoring the bruise still on his face.

When Derek gets to the bar, he notices that Lydia is in florals, no leather jacket in sight. She's still holding out on Erica's attempt at a rebranding.

"You will succumb to the jacket eventually," Erica croons. Derek can hear her halfway across the room, even without werewolf hearing. "Soon. I can see it."

"Maybe when hell freezes over," Lydia sniffs.

"How do you know it hasn't already?" Erica asks. She beckons Derek over and rolls her eyes when he heads for the bar to order some food.

"So," Erica says, leaning into Derek's side when he gets to their table, shamelessly digging into his nachos without asking for permission, "you met the new boss's son yet?"

Derek shakes his head and pushes his plate into the centre of the table, tired of pretending he didn't get it to share with the girls. "I think he's near heat."

"Derek's new boss has an Omega son," Erica says, nodding at Kira, who looks confused. "I used to go to summer camp with him. He's a total hottie. Szczesny Stilinski, be still my heart."

"Szczesny?" Lydia repeats, mouthing the name like it's an unfamiliar word, but repeating the pronunciation perfectly. Derek doesn't think he could do it justice if he tried.

"Yeah," Erica sighs. "Had zero clue he was gonna present as an Omega. Boy had Beta written all over him. If only I knew now what I knew then, I'd have been all over him. Instead, I wasted months mooning from a distance." She pulls a face, the edges of her mouth turned down with regret.

"I thought Boyd was your one and only," Derek says, mock-swooning.

"He is. You just don't often get a chance to see if your high school crush has grown up as fine as you thought they were gonna," Erica says. "I'm just interested, is all." She squints speculatively at Derek. "He might be your type."

"Right," Derek says, huffing, "just because he's an Omega and I'm an Alpha, I should want to be all over that."

"There's nothing wrong with a little tradition," Kira voices tentatively. She's an Omega too, especially rare for a kitsune of her lineage.

"That sounds vaguely suspicious," Lydia says, pursing her lips and tapping perfectly manicured nails on the tabletop. "What's their name?"

"I don't know what you—" Kira starts. Erica claps her hands together, excited by the potential drama, and they all look at Kira intently. She flushes. "I had to take Eames to the vet last week and Dr. Deaton has this gorgeous assistant, I swear, his eyes are molten chocolate and I wanted to lick his face so badly."

"What did you say to him?" Erica asks, leaning forward intently.

"Nothing," Kira says, her face falling. She looks so distraught over the incident that Derek is hit by the impulse to find this young vet and tie him up with a bow and put him on Kira's doorstep. It's probably the result of growing up in a strong matriarchal family; Derek's just programmed to instantly want to stop all the females in his life being sad. It's a full time job, probably.

"Well, I'm sure there's an excuse we can help you come up with to visit the animal clinic again," Lydia says, soothingly. "Do you remember his name?"

"Scott," Kira says.

"A surname?" Lydia asks, pulling her phone out, obviously ready to facebook stalk this handsome young vet.

Kira shakes her head, looking sad. "His name tag just said Scott."

Derek's stomach freezes, almost instantly. He feels tense and cold, almost disconnected from his body when he says, tentatively, "It's probably Scott McCall."

"That makes sense," Lydia says. "Not exactly a looker in high school, but there was potential. Presenting as an Alpha might have been the confidence boost he needed."

"Do you know him? How is he now?" Kira says, turning to Derek, looking hopeful, her eyes shining. "What's he like? Beyond perfect, I mean."

"I only know his mom," Derek says.

"Oooooh," Erica sing-songs. "Get in there, Deputy Hale. MILFs all the way." She elbows him. He glares at her reproachfully.

"I don't know her like that," Derek clarifies. "Melissa's nice. Really nice. Like I brake for animals nice."

"Melissa," Erica repeats, smirking at Derek.

"Shut up," Derek hisses, his cheeks heating a little. Ugh, embarrassing. "It's not like that. Besides—"

Derek realizes his mistake as soon as he's made it.

"Besides?" Lydia tilts her head to one side, her gaze astute and too-knowing. "Besides what?"

"Uh," Derek says, "noth—"

"If you say nothing, Derek Sandalio Hale, I will gut you where you sit," Erica says, just letting one claw loose.

Now Derek has Erica, Lydia and Kira all staring at him, and he regrets doing the same to Kira just a minute earlier. "Well," Derek says, pulling out his phone. He hates cell phones, but they do sometimes have their moments. You owe me for that thing with Jackson, Derek quickly texts Lydia under the table. "I've kinda been— hey, Lydia, you look like you could use some fresh air."

"What?" Lydia blurts.

Derek waggles her eyebrows at her.

Lydia's phone beeps.

"Oh look," Lydia says, woodenly. Derek resists the urge to facepalm. How she makes a living acting bit-parts in films, Derek will never know. "I don’t feel well and need Derek to take me outside for some air."

"Oh, dear," Derek says. He's a shit actor too, gauging from Erica and Kira's expression, but at least he's not trying to make a living from it.


"Your terrible transparency aside, I actually do feel a little unwell," Lydia says, rubbing her temples as they hit the outside air. She totters backwards on her heels.

"Just how much have you had to drink?" Derek asks, moving forwards and catching her by the elbows, supporting her.

"Not that much," Lydia says. At Derek's skeptical look she widens her eyes. "You're the one with the truth-telling super hearing skills. Listen to my heart. I've had half of one drink and there's barely a unit of spirits in it."

"Then do we need to get you to a doctor?" Derek asks. "Because—"

"No, no. Just some fresh air," Lydia says, pulling away from him and brushing her skirt down. "You can go back inside, I'll be fine."

"This is a pretty dodgy neighborhood—" Derek starts, automatically, but withers when he sees her glare.

"I've got my pepper spray," Lydia says, backing up a couple of paces, "I'll be absolutely— Hey!" Lydia turns to glance down the alley she's nearly backed into, but something's obviously ruffled her and Derek moves instinctively, putting himself between Lydia and danger, which earns him a slap on the arm as Lydia scurries around him to look closely at the thing that drew her attention.

It's a body. A very dead body, if the line of blood across the throat and the bulging eyes are of any indication. Derek automatically pulls out his phone and can't help the snark as he waits for the call to connect. "Aren't your kind supposed to scream when this sort of thing happens?"

The figure, a young man dressed in a blue peasant shirt and red pants, is hanging upside down, tied to an extended pipe wrapped with what looks like fake leaves. Lydia's protest is swallowed up by Derek as he finally gets through to the telecommunicator. "This is Deputy Hale, officer 4253, calling in a 419 just outside Club Met, the—"

But Derek's interrupted by Lydia shrieking and pointing, and that's when he realizes that the victim's left leg is moving.

Or more precisely, being moved.

"Suspect on scene, visual unconfirmed," Derek says and then has to bodily throw Lydia to one side as something whistles towards them. She shrieks and bats at him, but Derek gets a glimpse of the object — is that a pickax? — so he pushes Lydia to safety over her protests before turning and hurtling after the guy.

Derek's off-duty, but he's an off-duty werewolf, so he's pretty okay with going full speed after a potential suspect. And he's called it in. So even though the suspect — maybe six foot, probably male from the gait — is heading off into a set of dark alleys Derek doesn't know all too well, he gives pursuit, yelling occasional information into his phone so the dispatcher knows where he is.

It's as he follows the suspect down a narrow alley blooming with steam from local restaurants that Derek thinks he knows where the guy is going. Either towards the warehouse district or down into the sewers. If the guy goes down into the sewers, there are four directions — Derek will lose him if he doesn't up his speed now.

Derek puts on a burst of speed, but the steam impedes even his enhanced vision. He dodges another pickax that blurs its way towards him, but not the second one. His flesh burns with pain as the object slices into him with deadly force and precision. Deadly, except that Derek can heal, so he yanks out the weapon and holds onto it as a potential shield from further sharp projectiles.

Blood courses down Derek's side, his flesh already starting to slowly knot together, so he pushes forwards, fast enough that the suspect doesn't have time to lever up the manhole to get down into the sewers. The suspect shakes his head violently and puts on a burst of speed, obviously now heading towards the warehouse district as a last resort. Derek grins victoriously as he lets the dispatcher know. Even if backup doesn't get there in time, Derek knows this area like the back of his hand.

The suspect emerges from the last alley onto what Derek knows is a relatively small expanse of open ground, so Derek pushes himself, even though he can feel his muscles knotting and ripping as he runs. Pain washes through him, almost like a flash of lightning, worse than anything Derek's felt in a long time, but Derek manages to push through it with the luxury of knowing it's only temporary. He feels a burst of joy that he's going to get the suspect, especially when he sees a flash of beige in the distance. Back-up. This guy is toast.

Derek emerges from the alley just in time to see his back-up, Deputy Haigh, gun down the figure with a cold, clean shot to the head.

Dammit. Dammit.

"What the hell, Haigh?" Derek yells, doubling over, his hands over his side. Haigh narrows his eyes at Derek and then averts his face from the bloodied gash on Derek's hip. Although Prop 8 was repealed years ago, letting supernaturals openly serve in civil roles, some idiots still retained old-fashioned prejudices. Yup, because being born with fangs and a penchant for howling at the moon was a choice. They were the same idiots who probably thought Omegaism was a void concept because everyone was so very equal nowadays! Show Derek an Omega president of the United States, that's what he wants to see. But nope, just an endless parade of old Betas, with the occasional Alpha vice-president.

Yeah, okay, Derek gets a little political when he's injured. It's a thing. He blanks out Haigh's blathering about the suspect being dangerous to the public and doubles over instead, concentrating on healing. When he straightens up, Parrish and the Sheriff are already on scene, Sheriff Stilinski talking to Haigh while Parrish seems to be getting a statement from Lydia.

Haigh's probably blaming the perp for running into his bullet or something. Derek's not sure whether Haigh's just supernatural-prejudiced, or he's still mad at being turned down by the nymphs at Deputy Adler's stag night. Then again, Derek doesn't know if he's entirely willing to attribute anything close to actual thoughts to Haigh.

Derek cracks his back and walks a little closer to the suspect, frowning as a paramedic covers the suspect's face, because it looks like the guy had no mouth. Weird as hell. Even for Beacon Hills. Parrish catches his eye and beckons him over; Derek dutifully hands over the pickax he pulled out of himself. Lydia pulls a face at Derek's blood clinging to it.

"This is military," Parrish says. "Stands to reason. The system's flagged up instantly with an ident. Simon Brace. Codename: The Mute. He's known primarily as a mercenary."

Derek sags. "So we might not have stopped the murders tonight?"

"Unfortunately not," Parrish says, and then frowns, nudging Derek in his now-fully-healed (thankfully) side. "What's going on over there?"

Derek follows Parrish's finger to see the Sheriff on the phone, his face paling as the phone call continues. "It's unethical for me to—" Derek starts. Both Parrish and Lydia give him a don't even try that with me expression. He sighs. "Something about him being right there?" Derek shrugs. The Sheriff hangs up his phone and looks distinctly lost for a second, before schooling his features into something more ambivalent.

He can't, however, hide the tremor in his voice when he comes over to Parrish and Derek. "Deputy Parrish," Sheriff Stilinski says, a pulse in his forehead strained by obvious stress, "you're on lead with this crime scene. I have to—" He coughs, squares his shoulders and tilts his chin, mustering bravery from somewhere difficult. "My son's been injured, I don't know how, but this close to his heat—"

"Go," Parrish says, clapping Sheriff Stilinski on the shoulder and looking at him earnestly. "We've got this covered. You look after your family."

Sheriff Stilinski nods tersely. Derek watches him go, holding onto his healed side. It's still throbbing, which is weird, but it's nothing he can linger on when there's so much investigating to do. Derek turns back to the crime scene and gets to work.


When Derek wakes up the next morning, his side is still a little tender. He prods at it carefully with his fingers. It looks like maybe there's some bruising there, so maybe it's only fully healed externally.

The pickax had been wickedly sharp and the Mute had a rumored kill list longer than Derek's left leg. Derek's lucky that he has a supernatural boost to healing, because a human would probably need a lot more time to recover.

Well, Derek can't lie around and mope. He dresses in his uniform, humming something peppy and annoying under his breath, and he's partway through singing the chorus sweet like candy, boy, you're sweet like chocolate! and craving the chocolate-cherry brownies Laura makes the week before her heatwhen he realizes that he doesn’t recognize the song in the slightest.

Which means…

Stiles? Are you there?

Hey! There you are! Hi, hello, telepathy buddy. I thought you were ignoring me.

Uh… I thought I'd hallucinated you. Especially when you didn't respond.

Oh. We had builders working on the street, maybe I just couldn't hear you over the drilling. Haha, drilling.

Derek hadn't missed Stiles' innuendo. Nope. Never mind. I guess I'm just happy to know you're alive.

You could have just been radical and texted me.

Derek may not have been exactly forthcoming to Stiles about his extreme phone prejudice. Mostly I just use my phone for work or to be pestered by my sisters. I don't associate my phone with good times.

I bet you have a Windows phone.

How did you know?

Just a hunch. That and if you had an Android you'd never be bored again.

What if I had an iPhone?

Then I'd never talk to you again, duh.

Are we actually talking?

Hello, Mr. Pedantic.

That's Deputy Pedantic to you.

Deputy, huh? Ugh, no, no. Let me pretend you're ugly. I've been mentally picturing you as hot, but if I have to mentally picture you wearing a uniform, there's a very important reason why you need to be unattractive.

I'm really hairy. Excessively hairy.

I said unattractive. I have a thing for hairy guys. Hugh Jackman. Mmm.

You sound heat-drunk.

I'm on so much morphine right now.

Derek's stomach curls unhappily at the idea that Stiles is a drug addict.

Not a druggie! Derek can't hear Stiles per se, but the words feel like they came with a very strong exclamation mark. I'm in the hospital.

Oh my god, what happened?

Fuck if I know. I'm always walking into something. Never mind. Scott's mom gave me happy medicine.

How is Melissa?

You know her? Oh man, you just became a million miles cooler, FYI. She's good. Hot. Very hot. Not quite Hugh Jackman hot, but given a nice French Maid's uniform— Oops, I think I said that out loud. She's giving me the dirty eye from the doorway.

I could come visit?

No! That burst from Stiles comes with almost a physical punch. Derek reels silently. No, Stiles repeats, a little less frenetic. No, I'm fine. Wait until I'm better. I'd like to meet you. But maybe in a place where I get to wear pants to our meeting. Believe me, you'll appreciate that I'm dressed.


Um… don't try and reach out for me for the next few days, though. I'm… gonna be a little absent. I'd rather— it's not a few days where I need someone else in my head, okay?

What? Derek asks. What's going on?

Bye, talk to you then, Stiles thinks, very fast, and then he's gone again.

Derek's head is ringing, the same way it did last time that Stiles just disappeared on him. He rubs his forehead, feeling weirdly bereft, and ignoring the fact that a few days suddenly feels like the longest time period in the world.


"Tarot cards," Parrish says, over a plateful of pancakes bigger than Derek's head.

"Uh," Derek says, halfway to eating the only rasher of bacon left on his plate once Cora and Laura were done swapping breakfast foods. "What?"

Tuesday morning breakfasts were pretty damn sacred. Derek, Laura and Cora breakfasted together at Daisy's Diner every Tuesday morning. Parrish sometimes invited himself along if he had the same shift as Derek, but he usually fit in with the conversation, and tarot cards didn't really fit along with the discussion of the weather they'd managed while making their breakfast orders.

"It was Lydia's theory," Parrish says, his cheeks going pink. Derek doesn't say anything, mostly because his new philosophy is not mocking others when the closest thing he has to a new relationship in his life is a new friend who may or may not be a figment of his imagination.

Cora thankfully doesn't have Derek's reticence. "Lydia, huh?"

Parrish's neck goes a little pink too. "The way the Mute crossed the guy's leg. Apparently that's the Hanged Man tarot card. I did a little Googling this morning, and—"

Laura bursts out giggling, smothering the sound in a mouthful of omelet.

"Ignore her," Derek says. "When we were little, Uncle Peter made us think Googling was another word for masturbation."

"Tell me, Deputy Parrish," Cora asks, lowering her fork. "Have you ever Googled yourself?"

"Uh," Parrish says. "I plead the fifth?"

"Great answer," Derek compliments.

"So the other two victims resembled the Fool and the Hermit," Parrish says. "So either the Mute wants— wanted— to recreate the Major Arcana of a tarot deck, or—"

"—someone's paying him to do it," Derek says.

"How come Derek's allowed to talk shop at breakfast and I can't?" Cora asks Laura, sulkily making off with Derek's last remaining sausage.

"Because when you talk shop it's about how a nerd with no life has dog-eared page seventeen of issue who-cares and that's depreciated its value by a whole nickel," Laura says. "And when I talk shop it's about how wonderful my thesis is, and thus by extension how wonderful I am. You all know I'm perfect so there's no point hammering it in and making you all feel bad about how terrible you look in comparison to me."

"Just smile and nod," Derek advises Parrish. "It's the best survival technique I've figured out so far."

"Except Derek doesn't smile, because when he does, people act stupid," Cora informs Parrish.

"That or mirrors crack," Parrish says, laughing at Derek with just his eyes, the talented freak.

"I like you, we can keep you," Cora tells him. She looks over to Derek. "He might even be a decent replacement for you if you keel over and die."

"Huh?" Derek asks.

"You do look a little peaky," Laura adds.

"I feel fine," Derek insists, although now he thinks about it, maybe he's been feeling a little achy since Stiles said goodbye. Maybe it's just how miserable he feels at not being able to talk to Stiles manifesting on his face. He pulls out his phone under the table, contemplating sending Stiles a text. It might be better than nothing at all.

"Mom said this would happen when you moved out," Cora says, shaking her head knowingly. "You'd waste away and die, pining for someone to look after you properly."

"I'm not wasting away," Derek hisses. Dammit. What did he do in a past life to deserve Laura and Cora, huh? Terrible things, probably.

"I might," Laura says, pulling a face. "Mom wants to invite the guy she's arranged my marriage with to dinner in a couple of days."

Parrish frowns. "Arranged marriage?"

"She's being melodramatic," Derek says.

"She has a history of it," Cora says. "Y'know. A spider gets in the bath, size of a dime, nope, it's the size of a dinner plate. She smacks Derek with a paperweight, gives him a tiny bump on the head, nope, she's killed him to death. I borrow one pair of shoes from her closet, suddenly I've emptied the whole thing."

"They were my favorite Converse, Cora. It's like you gutted me," Laura pouts.

"All Mom's done is invite her dead best friend's husband and son to dinner and Laura thinks she's being set up," Derek explains, trying to stop the bickering.

"Claudia was a witch!" Laura instantly protests. "We don't know what shenanigans Mom and her got up to."

"Mom and she," Cora corrects.

"Why is everyone in our family so freaking pedantic?" Laura says, spearing a cooked cherry tomato and making it explode all over her plate while Derek quickly tries not to think about his instructor in the Academy who described the incident when a cadet dropped an anvil on his finger with much the same visual.

"So tarot cards," Derek says quickly, steering the conversation away from Laura's melodrama and back to his increasingly-gruesome day job. "Someone's killing people and arranging their bodies to look like tarot cards."

Parrish, bless him, comes to his rescue and doesn't cycle the conversation back to Laura's woes. "We got an anonymous tip at the station yesterday to check out the local Circle of the Nemeton coven," Parrish says. "Haigh thought it was a good idea, which is what put me off initially, to be honest."

Derek smirks. "It would have put me off too."

"Initially Haigh was down to go and see them, but apparently he used to date one of the witches, so conflict of interests," Parrish says. "I call bullshit myself."

"How so?" Laura asks, interested.

"First, they share a house downtown and Haigh pissed off the Malone family, they live down there too, so I'm pretty sure it's an excuse for him not to go that way," Derek explains. "Secondly, they're all…" He wrinkles his nose, trying to find the right word. "Um. He's kinda brutish looking, and they're…"

"Incredibly attractive," Cora says. "They come to the magic shop next to Carter's all the time. Nice girls." She narrows her eyes at Derek. "Not serial killers."

"We're not going to accuse them," Parrish says, rolling his eyes. "But if anyone's going to know tarot cards, it's them."

"Or you could just go to the shop next door where they're selling tarot cards for like, ten bucks, and not bug the witches," Cora says. "Do you know how hard it is to be a female supernatural in this town? It's pretty damn rough."

"It's protocol," Derek says. "If they were on the tip line and we didn't, I'd be reprimanded, probably lose my job. We have to talk to them."

"We'll be polite," Parrish adds, which seems to soothe Cora.

"Take care of yourself, though," Laura says, looking a little unhappy.

"I think I can take care of a few witches should things get choppy," Derek says.


The witch who answers the door is holding a knife.

"Oh, shit," she squeaks and drops it. "Oh, shit. Man. Man, I'm gonna have to soak that in moonlight for another thirty days. Frickity fucking athame." She looks up, meeting Derek's eyes warily. "Sorry, Deputies. Hi. I'm Hazel Moonbeam, how can I help you today?"

Derek opens his mouth, probably to ask if that's her real name, but Parrish elbows him sharply.

"Ms. Moonbeam," Parrish says. "We're involved in trying to stop a spate of killings across Beacon Hills, and we were wondering whether we could borrow some of your expertise?"

Hazel's mouth works silently for a moment or two. "Uh, I don't see why not — unless you're here to hit on us like the last deputy that dropped by, claiming to just be doing a random road safety questionnaire?"

"Haigh," Derek mouths to Parrish. Parrish winces.

"No hitting during this visit, I promise," Parrish says to Hazel.

"Are you here to arrest someone?"

"Only if you've done something illegal, ma'am," Derek says.

"I once kicked Justin Bieber in the ankle during an astral projection session," Hazel says, twisting her hands nervously. "Does that count?"

"Only as a public service, Ms. Moonbeam," Parrish says.

Hazel dimples him a smile. "Come in, Deputies. Make yourself at home."

There are no words to how Derek really hates witches. Oh, he's for human-supernatural equality on paper, but there's a sneaking suspicion he'd be okay with being a second-class citizen if he could take down some of the more annoying supernatural populations with him.

It's not like most of them are evil — only the occasional bad egg. And it's not the religious aspect, and it's not even purely targeting the witches with actual spark powers. The non-spark witches are just as annoying. It's the copious amounts of herbs and incense that accompany their rituals. They aren't exactly kind on a werewolf's nose.

Derek basically wants to scratch his nose off and they've only been in the house a few minutes. He sits down gingerly on a cushion he swears is probably stuffed with lavender, dammit, and tries his best to look serious when all he wants to do is sneeze for an hour.

Parrish leads the questions, which is great, because Derek's feeling a little dizzy, and it's probably the herbs. He wouldn't be surprised if there's some aconite floating around the house, either. Hazel's really helpful, too, explaining the history of tarot cards and what the Major Arcana means, but she does pause when Parrish wants to see the coven's pack of tarot cards for reference's sake.

"We thought you wouldn't mind," Derek says, trying to be helpful. "As you've got nothing to hide, and all."

Hazel's expression turns a little pissy and Parrish waggles his eyebrows in an attempt to communicate his displeasure with Derek's words, but she does stomp off for the cards, muttering about asshole werewolves and how she was now going to have to soak the card in moonlight for another week, damned werewolves and their dirty, energy-sucking claws.

"Sounds like she likes you," Parrish quips, moments before Hazel practically smacks Derek in the face with the cards.

Derek winces and quickly photographs the cards, trying his best not to touch them, and his guilt only increases when he notices the poses on the cards are almost  the same as the dead bodies, but there are some differences. The legs of the Hanged Man are crossed right over left. The Fool's pants are longer. Small things which indicate either the Coven have another pack of cards (very likely and something almost impossible to find out, even with a warrant) or someone else is behind the deaths. It still could be the Mute, even after all of this. They won't be able to tell until there's another body, which sucks.

Hazel shows them out of the house quickly, glaring a little at Derek, and Derek almost trips over the threshold in the speed she ushers them out.

Then again when he gets to the squad car. Dizziness washing over him, Derek braces himself with his palms against the nearest car window for a few seconds, heaving in a desperate handful of breaths. He doesn't feel good at all.

Someone turns Derek around and Derek swipes out instinctively with his claws to protect himself, but blunt fingertips hit Parrish's cheek. Not because he's retracted them in time, but because he can't extend them. Derek pulls his hand back, horrified. With the bruises on his face and arm, the graze on his elbow, the voice in his head… What's happening to him?

"I don't know," Parrish says.

Derek must have said that last thing out loud. He leans back against the car, the cool metal soothing through the thin cotton of his shirt. "Why's it so hot?" he asks, feeling like he's sweltering.

Parrish looks concerned and brings the back of his hand to Derek's forehead. "You're burning up. Hold still." Parrish ducks into the car, pulling out the first aid kit, rifling through the items.

"Human medication doesn't work on me," Derek says, squinting at Parrish as the air sparks into moving lights around him. Huh. He didn't know Parrish was a kitsune. Parrish's aura is spiky and moves with Derek's gaze as he looks away and back over to the coven. Oh. Maybe the witches are doing a spell on him? That makes so much sense. "I think I've been cursed."

"Maybe," Parrish says, but he doesn't sound convinced.

"You're lying," Derek tells him. "A big lying, lying liar."

"And you sound like a five year old," Parrish says, in a distracted manner as he keeps flicking through the contents of the first aid kit.

"I do not," Derek protests. "Oh. I do. Huh."

"Just hold still," Parrish says, "and breathe into this."

Derek's eyes manage to lock onto the white object in Parrish's hands: a hormone analyzer, looking for the flush of norepinephrine and serotonin that signifies the start of an Alpha or Omega going into heat. "I'm not an Omega," Derek tells Parrish. "I'm an Alpha." He's slurring his words a little, so it might be coming out mnomga, minalpha. "My heat was two months ago. My next one is due in four months." Mitoomongo, nixduformunfs.

Parrish pinches Derek's nose impatiently and pushes the analyzer into Derek's mouth, which, abuse! Not procedure! Help! Derek huffs in annoyance, managing to spit the analyzer out, covering Parrish in spittle, and Parrish just looks at him with a weirdly fond expression. "You're going to be so embarrassed next week," Parrish says, unruffled. "Yep. Sorry, big guy. You're going into heat."


Parrish is a pro. He bundles up Derek into the back of the car and drives straight for the nearest facility, booking Derek through the emergency reception with speed. It's only when the nurse, her mouth neatly covered by a mask to avoid inhaling too much of his own particular cocktail of Alpha hormones, starts leading him to a padded room that Derek starts panicking.

This isn't right. If he's going into heat he needs to be sedated. Derek's only spent one heat awake and it was hell. "No," Derek manages to say, "no, I need to, I need—"

"It's too late," Parrish calls, "I'm sorry, Hale. Just keep your head down, breathe through your mouth, you can do this."

Derek doesn't have the energy to twist in the nurse's firm grip and he lets her guide him into one of the heat rooms, despair sliding down his spine. The nurse calls instructions through a grill and Derek strips, feeling too on-edge to be numb about it, but his head feels like it's buzzing, like it's full of cotton and bees, so he can't think too much to process it. He's not too far in heat to be hard yet, but it's coming. Bad choice of words.

Derek puts the white shift on that the nurse pushes through in swap for his uniform and it clings to his back easily. He didn't realize how much he's been sweating. The witch probably smelt it on him, the heat hormones. That's why she hated him. Not that he was a cop, or a beta werewolf, or even asking the wrong questions. She just wanted the Alpha on the edge of heat away from her house full of women.

Now he knows he's on the edge of heat, his symptoms make more sense. What doesn't make sense is that he's on the edge of heat. Because he had his heat two months ago. One little injection, four days of sleep, and that's what Derek's used to. The centuries of suffering, of rutting and playmating and toys and finding a partner and sheer vulnerability and public humiliation — many Alphas and Omegas still choose to go through it naturally, but Derek's never seen the attraction.

Except this doesn't feel as bad as Derek's first time. He feels… somehow less terrifyingly alone. Even though he is alone. Derek lies down on the foam mattress in the middle of the room and curls up, pushing his face into the cool pillow, and when he finally reaches down to take care of his almost-painful erection, he could almost swear there are two hands on him.

That's what it feels like. Two sets of fingers curving around him, taking care of him. A ghost hand fluttering over his chest, tweaking his nipples, and although that normally does nothing for Derek, this time it sends a tremor of sheer want right through his core.

He finds his fingers dipping backwards, normally a rare occurrence, and he uses the lube dispenser in the wall to help him push his fingers up and in. He imagines pushing into an Omega's slick, tight heat. He wonders if an Omega would feel this good. Better, he's been told. They say Omegas get compensated for their bimonthly heats just by sheer pleasure. Derek's skeptical and wonders if that's just what Omegas have been told to shut them up, but the brief idea that it's true — that his cock sliding into an Omega's slick depth could cause more than what Derek's feeling right now?

Derek loses count of the number of times he brings himself to completion, spilling over his fist, and he thinks at one point he nearly, nearly feels his knot trembling below the surface, ready to push into his fingers, but he manages to hold onto enough control through the blaze of the heat to hold it back. He buries his forehead into the padded floor, resting on his knees, ass in the air, the air conditioning a teasing brush against his damp hole, and he fists his cock so slowly that he's almost crying. He can't help the noises coming out of his mouth and he thinks he's saying please, over and over, please, please, please, please, please.

He thinks he hears a voice say I've got you, darling, I've got you¸ but Derek's delirious by this point. He comes over himself for the hundredth time and falls asleep, curled in his own fist.

When he wakes up, it's over. Derek's back aches and his dick aches and his balls ache and his knees are pretty damn sore. His ass even hurts, a phantom ache that pulses right through him, and Derek hadn't thought he'd fingered himself that hard, but perception during heats is always skewed.

He gets to his feet, punching in the code to get the in-cell shower to open, puffing air into the analyzer so that the people running the heat facility know he's conscious enough not to accidentally drown himself. By the time that Derek's washed himself and redressed in a spare white shift in the drawer in the wall by the door, he's feeling pretty okay.

An hour later, he's sure of it, so he pushes the intercom green button, waiting to connect.

"Hello?" Derek says into the speaker. "I'd like to request an exit."

"Please hold the line, Mr. Hale," the man who responds says.

Derek frowns as he waits.

"Please provide a saliva sample in the bottle provided," the speaker says next.

Derek opens the drawer he dropped his uniform into to find a plastic bottle with a cotton swab inside. He dutifully swabs the inside of his cheek and drops it through.

"Please wait until your sample has been processed. Estimate: 20-60 minutes."

Derek sighs and tries his best to find the place in the white room which smells the least awful. It's over an hour before the door finally opens and a harried looking nurse escorts him into a side room to change back into his newly-laundered uniform, but instead of being let out, Derek's redirected to another office: a Dr. Fenris.

"Mr.- Deputy Hale," Dr. Fenris says, steepling his hands and looking across his large mahogany desk at Derek. Derek sits uncomfortably in the seat offered to him, wishing he had a cushion. Maybe a round cushion with a hole in. "I hope you don't mind that I asked for a copy of your medical records. I'm a little perturbed by your case."

"Your records do cover that I'm a werewolf?" Derek pushes his mouth into a line, feeling uncomfortable. "Because—"

"I'm a werewolf ABO specialist," Dr. Fenris cuts in. "You last had heat two months ago, is that correct?"

Derek nods, his throat closing up in sudden panic. Oh, sure there was no secondary channel  beneath his ass when Derek felt himself up, but maybe that's still to come. Has Derek somehow turned into an Omega? He's heard rumors that a Beta in town that blossomed into a late-blooming Alpha out of nowhere. "Correct," Derek manages.

"I once had a case of this back in the sixties," Fenris says, unfolding his hands, only to start shuffling through some of the papers on his desk. "Are you recently married?"

Derek squints. "No?"

"Had any sort of intimate relationship with anyone?"

Only with his right hand, Derek almost jokes. Then again, his last masturbatory experience outside of his heat, he hadn't even needed that much. "No."

"Any new encounters? With new people?" Fenris tilts his head.

"A man with no mouth threw a pickax at me," Derek says. Maybe it was a magic pickax? Maybe it was a magic pickax? his brain mocks back at him, loudly. In his own voice, sadly. Derek's head feels empty without Stiles in it.

Oh. Maybe he should tell the doctor about the voice in his head?

"Okay," Dr. Fenris says, after a long moment. "Well, you're free to go. But please, contact me if you think of anything."

"Sure," Derek says, and fairly flees from the building.


There's been a fourth and a fifth body. Derek's body has been stupid and irritating and caused him to miss the fact that the Mute clearly wasn't acting alone.

Worse, Parrish won't let him work on the case.

"No," Parrish says. "And Sheriff Stilinski is away for the day and he left me in charge, but I can call him if you want. He'll say the same thing. You had an abnormal medical incident while on the job, so until Sheriff Stilinski can do a back-to-work evaluation, you're on paperwork, Hale. End of story."


"Finish that sentence and I'll get you escorted out of the office right now," Parrish warns.

Derek mimes zipping his mouth shut.

Parrish sighs, but leans over and pretends to lock it shut and throw away the key.

Derek settles in at his desk, looking sadly at the pile of work Parrish has pre-emptively been readying for his return. He's been planning it. Derek doesn't know whether to be annoyed or kind of just impressed at Parrish's organizing skills.

He pokes at the paperwork, wondering how much he can manage in a couple of hours, thinks about going home, and then decides he should probably check his cell phone. He plugs it into his spare work charger, loads it up, and nearly cries when it starts beeping and won't stop.

There's over a hundred missed phone calls. And about a thousand text messages.

This is why I moved out, Derek thinks mournfully, pushing it out in case it reaches Stiles, but there's no response. I hate phones so much, he mentally sighs at the number slowly crawling higher on his phone screen next to the messages icon.

He decides to go for the text messages, because his family like to shout on his answering service, and Derek has a lot of sympathy for the kids at Hogwarts receiving Howlers.

"Parrish said you've gone undercover on assignment," Cora's first message reads. "There's no way you are that cool."

"Are you gonna miss Mom's dinner?? I can't believe you Derek. Mum is THROWING ME TO THE SLAUGHTER and you're MISSING IT?" Laura's texts start. Followed by approximately ninety pages of emoticons. Then: "SHERIFF STILINSKI SAYS YOU'RE NOT WELL. SO MUCH FOR UNDERCOVER. WHERE R U?" And then: "Jenna Marzia works at the Heat Facility, dumbass. There's shame in forgetting when your Heat is, buddy. Deep deep shame. And then getting your nice colleagues to cover for you? YOU SHOULD FEEL DEEP SHAME, DEREK." Then: "This means you LIED A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO to GET OUT OF EATING UNCLE PETER'S RAGOUT. I HATE YOU."

Derek squints down at another thirty pages of emoticons.

Well, at least it explains why Sheriff Stilinski isn't the office. He's having a day off to take his son to meet Laura for the first time and see if the two are magically "destined" or whatever crap their mom and her old college friend came up with.

Laura's texts continue. "But you did have heat two months ago. derek, what's going on? ARE YOU OKAY????? I'm worried now. CALL ME CALL ME CALL ME CALL ME"

There's another forty pages of CALL ME. Derek rolls his eyes but hits the green button, connecting him through to Laura's phone.

"I went into Heat early and it's been horribly humiliating, thanks for your concern," Derek says, when the line connects.

Laura's telltale huff of annoyance is audible down the bad connection. "Fine, fine. I overreacted. But I'm panicking! Your boss is on his way here. With his son. I need my big brother."

"Need away," Derek says. "I'm exhausted, Laur."

"So why are you at work?"

Derek winces and crosses his fingers. "I'm not? I went straight back to my apartment to rest."

"I can hear the sounds of the office," Laura sighs.

"Ambient TV noises," Derek lies, badly.

"Oh, c'mon! Okay, okay, you've had a traumatic couple of days. I get it. But this could be the rest of my life Derek. I need you. Uncle Peter keeps humming the wedding march."

Derek can't help the brief laugh.

"Derek," Laura hisses.

"Fine, fine," Derek says. "Let me go back to the apartment and change into civilian clothes, and I'll—"

"—pick Cora up and be right home?"

"Laura," Derek sighs.

"You're a good brother!" Laura chirps and hangs up. Derek hangs his head and then goes to find Parrish.

Parrish is more than delighted to have a reason to kick Derek out of the building. Derek gets a lift back to his apartment from one of the other deputies leaving early, and quickly showers and changes before heading out towards Carter's Comix.

Cora, predictably, isn't ready by the time he gets there. And she doesn't appreciate him looming in her workplace. Or glaring at the two blond boys hanging by the Sandman display and shooting Cora twin hopeful looks.

She throws him out of the shop and tells him she'll be ten minutes. Which in Cora-speak is more like half an hour.

Derek wastes about three minutes glaring at cars in the handicap spaces, sighing when they have the correct parking permits, and then he looks around at the other shops in the quad. Most of them are closed. The closest one is the magic shop, neighboring Cora's. Mystique! Derek hides his snort, because even as a civilian, he's supposed to put forth a good portrayal of character to support his work as a deputy.

He pushes through the door of the magic shop, instantly regretting it. Why did they use so many herbs? His nose tickles and he's about to turn on his heal and leave when he sees the display of tarot cards Cora mentioned the other day, the cheap ten dollar packs. Derek fishes in his pocket for his wallet, pulls a deck off the top of the pile, and he heads over to the main desk.

"Hi!" the guy on the till chirps. "Great purchase, dude. These things are super popular. Especially if you soak them in moonlight for a week and a day beforehand. They really jibe with the moon's energy, yeah?"

"So ten dollars?" Derek prompts, ready to get out of the shop, wondering what it must be like to not have a sensitive sense of smell and come into a place like this. It's probably really calming.

"Sure. Or you can get them for free if you fill out a membership form," the guy says, smiling and gesturing at a pile of green flyers by the till. "It's been our most popular promotion. You can tick the bottom square if you don't want any emails or calls when we get new products in."

Derek thinks, then takes a form— and fills in Cora's email address in the block, just for making him wait.

"Have a magical day!" the guy says, swapping Derek's completed form for the pack of cards and a flimsy membership card with Derek's name printed on in biro.

"Approximately how many times a day do you have to say that?" Derek asks, as he pockets the deck.

The guy's smile fades and he leans in, conspiratorially. "Approximately three thousand times too many. The owner of this place is weird, man."

Derek glances at the guy's green hair and his neon orange t-shirt declaring Officer! I swear to drunk I am not God! and refrains from commenting that the guy fits in.

Mostly because he's pretty sure the guy would start talking about how pots and kettles are both a similar color.

Even though it took Derek over ten minutes to fill out the membership form, Cora's still not ready. He busies himself by taking the plastic off the tarot deck and starting to flick through the cards, separating off the Minor Arcana so he can look at the artwork of the Major Arcana, see if there is any link he can figure out between the cards that have been recreated so far.

The Fool. The Hermit. The Hanged Man. The Tower. Justice. Derek squints at them, turns them upside down. Inspiration hasn't hit him yet.

And then something halts Derek's brain from even trying to make a connection: Stiles' voice, chiming through his head.I think we need to talk.

Derek automatically pockets the cards. Where have you been?he asks, feeling almost giddy at the sound of Stiles' voice in his head.

He's not expecting the response he gets.I think you know,Stiles says, and a wave of dizzy misery flits through Derek's body.


You called for me. I responded.

Derek freezes. The last time he called for Stiles—

He was in heat.

He thought he'd imagined that.

I thought I'd imagined that. Stiles, I'm so sorry. I'm so so sorry. I didn't mean to reach out to you— How much did you hear—? No, never mind. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I didn't know my heat was gonna happen that day, I had no clue, normally they sedate me—

Didn't you feel it? Derek almost whirls when he feels fingers against the nape of his neck. But the street's still empty, Cora still vaguely in sight tapping away at her till, but even she's inside the building. No one's around to touch him. Didn't you feel me?

You can touch me? Derek asks, surprise a burst of light in his head. That's— this is all so weird. But—

Derek thinks about the beginning of his heat. Of the two sets of fingers calming his erection, tugging him to completion.

We're connected more than just mentally, Derek realizes. And did I tip you into heat, or—?

I'm an Omega. It was my heat. I must have— I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. And by the time I realized you could feel everything I was doing to myself—

You were feeling everything I was doing to me, Derek finishes dully, thinking of the ache between his legs, like there was an Omega channel there. That was Stiles' ache. He'd felt Stiles' heat and… his ways to relieve the pressure… and Stiles had felt him.

What the hell?

But that's not just it. It's not just the pleasure. You lead a pretty dangerous life, don't you, Deputy?

What do you mean? Derek asks, his stomach sinking. Oh no. No. The—  Panic flits up, choking him, burning his throat. But I was stabbed by a freaking pickax, and you were in hospital—

I punched myself in the face with a desk.

That doesn't compare with a freaking pickax—

Relax, dude. I'm okay. And the morphine was excellent. Could have done without having my heat in the hospital, but there are worse places than their Omega labs to cry for two days.

Two days. That's why Derek's heat was two days long.

It wasn't his heat, it was Stiles'.

He's not too shocked by that, but mostly because of the guilt he feels over Stiles' injury.

Derek got hit by the pickax and he healed. But Stiles is obviously human. He looks around the sidewalk, eyeballing various things like they might hurt him. It's a new way to look at the world, that's for sure.

We need to break this connection. We need to find out what causes it. I get shot at, Stiles. I get people shooting at my head. And I'm okay with taking that risk personally, and hell, I can heal from it.


I'm a werewolf.

Oh. Okay. Okay, that explains the lump I thought I felt on my dick.  Only werewolves with an Alpha-orientation could knot during sex. Derek learned that the hard way, asking his human Alpha dad for advice on how to make it go down. For a second I thought I'd actually finally broke it. That's a relief.

What do we do? Do you know anyone? Oh, god, you're new to town, why would you know someone—

I might know someone.

A witch doctor?

A vet.

I'm a werewolf, not a dog—

No, he's just a vet in 9-5 hours. I've heard talk he's an Emissary. Maybe it's all talk, but it's worth a try.

There might be a doctor at the heat facility who can help.

Okay. I'm gonna make a few calls, but hold tight. I'm being dragged out to a thing in a bit.

A thing in a bit?

A soiree, or a shindig, or a gathering, or something. Dad said there'd be food, I don't know. But hold tight and try not to get shot in the head.

I'll try my best, Derek promises, sinking against his car, trying not to shake. It's too much to process, even though it makes sense. He thinks back to that time he came without being touched, and wonders if that was Stiles even then. A normal person might have just woken up at that time, might have decided to deal with their morning wood efficiently.

It explains the bruises and the graze easily. Stiles must be clumsy. Something in the connection must get them to share their injuries, but Derek's healing ability must only work on his own wounds. Not telepathically-created injuries.

Oh, god, Derek's whole life is a freaking joke. He rubs his forehead. Somewhere out there is a Derek Hale who's more of a failwolf than he is. Surely. Somewhere.

Probably not.

Derek sighs and checks back to see Cora— still busy working. Of course. Of course his little sister is continuing to work while he has a massive life-related breakdown on the sidewalk.

Huffing, Derek pulls out the tarot cards. Maybe pain and anguish and guilt will make his brain work faster?

Probably not.

He needs the crime scene photos, really. He looks back speculatively at Cora. The Sheriff's department is a short walk from here, he could be there and back for Cora in no time, surely?

Eh, probably not. But it's not going to stop Derek from trying.




Explain why you've left me alone to face this!

I GOT DISTRACTED. V. IMPORTANT, Derek replies, wincing. Well, at least he got access to the photos. Thank goodness for the building being mostly empty, except for Yvonne on the desk and a couple of deputies filing last minute paperwork.

The Sheriff's son is CUTE.  You didn't mention your boss was so hot too, Laura texts.

Derek really doesn't want to think of his sister thinking his boss is attractive. LAURA. Autocorrect fills in Laura automatically as Derek hits the L. He uses his sister's name as a curse word more than an actual noun.

Hey no, don't Laura me. Here's a pic of the kid. More your type than mine I think? Haha.

Derek automatically opens the picture and wishes he hadn't. He'd wanted a first glance at the Omega that might steal his sister's heart to be in person, not on a small phone screen. Still, he can't help the sting of annoyance that she's right: Szczesny Stilinski is absolutely his type.

Laura's caught him mid-gesture. Derek tries not to notice that his mouth has dried a little in reaction to the picture and the color of Szczesny's eyes, the same shade as the morning sunlight on the wall of his new apartment.

LAURA, Derek types, because shut up, I'm embarrassed that you're right, but I have a thing with the boy in my head and can't get involved with anyone else is a) too much to type right now and b) would result in approximately a thousand hours of teasing from his older sister.

Mom's bringing out the baby photos. I'm finding the naked ones of you to show him first.

 LAURA, Derek texts back automatically, flicking through the tarot cards, setting the Minor Arcana to one side.

Szczesny seems really interested in you.


Hahaha, I just showed that text to your boss. Someone's gonna be stuck on filing for weeks when they get back on active duty.

You're totally missing out, this is great.

Dinner or getting to load my boss with a lifetime of blackmail material on me?

You could stop me if you were here.

Derek hums under his breath noncommittally, reaching the Major Arcana in the tarot deck and pulling out the Hermit. It's identical to the crime scene photo, and also perfectly matches Hazel Moonbeam's tarot pack. I told you, I'm busy.

The Sheriff says if it's with work you're in trouble.

How can it be work, I'm off duty, Derek types, deflecting. The Fool is identical to Hazel's tarot cards too. Well, it'll be helpful to have his own pack.

Mom says if you're not home before dessert she's going to smack you on the back of your head.

Derek almost feels guilty at that one, because Stiles is apparently sharing his pain right now, but Derek's had two bruises and a leg gash from whatever's going on between him and his head companion, so if Derek erases the pickax wound as being a battle wound in the line of duty and totally brave, maybe a headsmack isn't too bad in the grander scheme of things?

Okay, Derek texts back, pulling out the Hanged Man. Nope, that card's identical to the dead body and the coven's pack of cards. And apparently Parrish thinks the coven are worth a closer look, because Derek can see the paperwork to apply for a warrant to search the coven's house. Huh. Apparently Hazel Moonbeam's real name is Agnes Ignatius McDonagh the Third. He can kinda see the allure for a new name. Goodness knows he does his best to erase his middle name from existence. Even his police file has a more stately S with a dot.

He wonders idly if Szczesny Stilinski has a nickname. Hopefully. Szczesny is kind of a mouthful. Although Derek wouldn't say no to a mouthful of him, now he's seen him.

Dammit, he's not concentrating properly. Maybe he should go home, see if there's any dinner left. Maybe see if Szczesny's eyes match up to the candid photo that Laura sent him. Hmmm. Derek has almost convinced himself into putting the cards away and heading to his home (dammit, his family home) when he realizes something.

The Hanged Man isn't the same as the coven's tarot card. It's nearly right, but the wrong leg is crossed over the other, and the shade of red on Hazel's card is deeper. Derek frowns and pulls out the Hanged Man from the free magic shop pack.

The shade of red is identical and the leg is folded the same way.

Derek pulls out the rest of the cards to check and he finds small differences, mostly in the shades, so it's not simplya matter of he and Lydia interrupting the Mute in action. By the time he's placed all five of the magic shop cards against the crime scene photos, he's almost positive: the killer isn't mimicking the coven's deck of cards. They're exactly mimicking the free magic shop pack.

It's a hunch more than anything else, because it's not like tarot cards are rare, but even a quick Google brings up a host of different images of tarot card decks, and all of them online are the same as Hazel Moonbeam's cards The Hanged Man's right leg is crossed behind the left knee. But the victim's left leg was crossed behind his right knee. The only Hanged Man card that matches that is the one in Derek's hand.

Whoever's killing people and arranging their bodies like Tarot cards could have bought the cards from Mystique! Or maybe they even got theirs free from the membership promotion.

His stomach jittering excitedly, Derek picks up his desk phone and pulls out the flimsy Mystique! membership card that he received earlier. The shop's number is printed along the bottom so he dials it. Given the amateur membership card, Derek needs to know there even is a membership list before he goes through the hellish process of acquiring a warrant to look at it.

He's so engrossed that he doesn't realize that someone's walked behind him until that someone pushes something cold and hard into the side of his neck.

Derek freezes partway through dialing the number. A lot of other deputies might not connect the sensation of the item to a definition of what it is, but then, a lot of the other deputies are human. They've never had a hunter come a little too close.

They've never experienced that moment of terror of having a gun pushed into their skin.

Derek has and that's what gives him the calm to react, with the aim of potentially putting the gun's owner off guard. No one expects someone who's been surprised to react quickly. Derek turns and manages to dislodge the gun, but it goes off before he has time to get a good glimpse at the shooter he aims instead for getting away from the shooter and figuring stuff off quickly. The shot takes out a chunk of Derek's desk and he makes a leap to go under Parrish's desk just in time to miss another shot going over his head.

Derek reacts instinctively, grabbing up to reach for Parrish's hole punch. He can hear the gunman stepping closer. Derek takes a breath and carefully hurls the hole punch up at the main light of the room, smashing the fluorescent tubing and plunging the room into semi-darkness. He automatically moves forwards as soon as the object leaves his fingers, and Derek winces as he almost feels the bullets zipping past him.

And he can't do what he normally might. Normally he'd throw himself on the gunman regardless, because he can't smell aconite, and bullets heal relatively quickly, even if they hurt a lot. But Stiles.

He can't do that to Stiles.

He wonders if Stiles is getting grazes on his palms from Derek crawling at speed across the carpet. Sorry if you are, Derek thinks. Desperate measures for desperate times.

"I'm sorry to do this, Derek," the shooter calls out and Derek's face curls into a question mark, because Haigh? "But you were supposed to keep thinking it was those damn witches. I've worked so hard for them to go down for this. I'm not going to let a freaking werewolf ruin things for me now."

What? Haigh wants to frame the coven for the death? What did they ever do to him?

"What did they ever do to you?" Derek calls out, quickly and quietly throwing himself backwards, anticipating Haigh's next move and being rewarded by the glint of a bullet ahead of where he was.

Haigh doesn't shoot again for a long while, edging slowly towards where Derek is, apparently hoping Derek will move first. It certainly would be characteristic; Derek's not exactly patient at the best of time. But Derek knows his enemy, knows he will anticipate Derek giving his own location away with little effort on Haigh's part necessary, so he waits.

It feels like hours pass as Derek creeps forward, painful inch at a time, although it's probably only minutes. If not seconds. Derek keeps his head down and moves cautiously, trying to move towards the exit. He's a little distressed at the fact that Yvonne was on the front desk and she hasn't come through. What has Haigh done to her? He curses the fact that he saw Haigh's dark head bowed over his paperwork when he came into the office. He should have been more careful.

He needs to be more careful. A shot pinions through a desk near to where Derek's crouching. He can hear Haigh's footprints as he moves. At least his enhanced hearing gives him a fighting chance at finding where Haigh is going.

Derek's almost at the door to the exit when the worst possible thing happens: his cell phone beeps.

Has Derek mentioned recently how much he hates phones?

Regardless, Derek doesn't have much time to fiercely hate the stupid things, because Haigh's bearing down on him, and Derek has very few options now. He moves to leap to one side, hoping beyond hope that Haigh's aim errs to his poorer shooting range records, and he just desperately sends out a burst of words to Stiles, sorry, sorry, I'm so sorry

and the main door opens. Derek slams hard into a desk, and readies himself to leap, hoping it's not Yvonne finally coming to see what the matter is, knowing the chance of remaining unscathed is shrinking from slim to impossible

but it's not Yvonne, coming through the door.

It's Sheriff Stilinski. Wearing civilian clothes but with his gun extended. Light floods into the room from the open door and Haigh stands still, stupidly, his gun pointing at his boss's face.

"Lower the gun, idiot," Derek gasps, pushing up to his feet. His back twinges, the pain fading, and he winces on Stiles' behalf.

It could have been a lot worse. He hopes that's some comfort to Stiles. Derek's brain is racing. He's going to have to quit his job after all. Not because he's clinically insane, but because while Derek took a vow to protect the community with his life, Stiles hasn't made the same promise.

"You okay, son?" Sheriff Stilinski asks, as behind him, Parrish moves in towards Haigh, kicking his weapon further away from him before starting to cuff him. Parrish looks entirely unimpressed as he starts to snap Haigh's rights at him.

Derek nods, for a given value of okay. "How did you know?" Derek asks Sheriff Stilinski, who looks frazzled but relieved. "That Haigh was the one behind everything?"

"I didn't," Sheriff Stilinski. "But my son declared you were in danger and wouldn't let me finish my dinner until I came to check up on you. Guess he's going to be obnoxious about being right."

"Damn straight," a deep male voice says, and Derek frowns, because it sounds somewhat familiar, but when the figure moves around Sheriff Stilinski's side, Derek doesn't recognize him much beyond the photo Laura sent. It might be the dim light of the now shot-up office, but Laura's photo didn't do Szczesny Stilinski any justice at all. He's gorgeous in person and Derek might be staring. "Woah, Laura said you had eyebrows of death."

"You were supposed to stay in the car," Sheriff Stilinski says.

Szczesny rolls his eyes. "Whatever. My bae was in danger, I had to see him."

"Your bae?" Sheriff Stilinski raises both eyebrows at his son, shaking his head. He looks over at Derek for some reason. "I'm really sorry for my son, Hale. He's a work-in-progress."

"Pleased to meet you," Derek says, offering his hand out to Szczesny. The young man looks at Derek's hand and looks a little amused more than anything. Derek frowns. There's nothing funny about his hand. There's a cut on the back of it, healing slowly because there are desk splinters dropping out of it from one of Derek's desperate leaps, but it's nothing funny.

You've already met me, dumbass, Stiles voice cuts through into his head, louder than it's been before. Derek frowns and slowly stares at Szczesny, whose smirk widens as realization slowly, slowly brings Derek's brain online. His gaze dips to Szczesny's hand, a similar cut on the back, and the way Szczesny's t-shirt clings oddly to his body, like his ribs are wrapped up. Maybe from a pickax wound.

Derek remembers Sheriff Stilinski talking about his clumsy son. About his son being on edge. He remembers Sheriff Stilinski running away from the scene to his son's hospital bedside after Haigh shot the mute.

Szczesny Stilinski. Stilinski. Stiles.

Szczesny is right to call him a dumbass.

It's you, Derek says mentally, and Szczesny nods.

"Stiles," Derek breathes out loud.

"And he finally gets it," Szczesny — Stiles — says, in his beautiful deep familiar voice. His eyes twinkle at Derek.

"Yeah," Derek says, still breathy and eyes wide in shock. It's a good shock, he thinks.

We had a very interesting dinner at your mom's house, Stiles says, directly to Derek's brain. I might have been a little open about the shared heat. Sorry. If it helps, I nearly gave dad a stroke with the information.

Derek winces and then turns that expression to Sheriff Stilinski. Apparently his boss now knows way too much about him.

And he also knows now that Derek's the reason why his son landed in hospital with a deep pickax wound.

Sheriff Stilinski claps a heavy hand on Derek's shoulder, his eyes deadly grave as he pins Derek with a stern expression. "I think you might understand now why I'm benching you until this whole magic bond thing is sorted out."

Derek nods fervently.


Derek really does hate his cell phone, so it takes him a few days to realize he never checked to see what text had come through to betray his position to Haigh, nearly resulting in him getting his head (and Stiles' head!) blown off.

It's difficult to be mad when the text turns out to be another candid photo of Stiles, licking his fingers during the meal he shared with his family. Even Laura's APPARENTLY HE ALREADY KNOWS YOU THINK HE'S HOT;), referencing that she knew about their shared heat, can't rile him up too much.

Okay, it riles him up a little. He'll get her back somehow.

Later. For now he's waiting in his apartment for Stiles to get back from his meeting with Dr. Deaton. Stiles said he might be late, because he and Scott were best friends who were cruelly separated for ten years after Claudia died, so he has a lot time to make up on, apparently. Derek doesn't really get it, because from what he's seen, the two of them either just pet the kittens at the clinic, or spend a lot of time playing Mario Kart and shrieking at each other at the top of their lungs.

The fact that Derek kind of thinks that's adorable is neither here nor there. Hurry up, Derek calls to Stiles, but there's no answer. It's not unusual. Stiles doesn't like magic much, blames it for his mom's illness on some level, and using their telepathic connection always feels too weird to Stiles. While Derek really hates his cell phone, it doesn't remind him of a tragic death, plus Stiles likes to call him on it. A lot.

Derek's slowly learning to grudgingly appreciate his phone.

Just a little bit.

Derek hears Stiles' heartbeat before he feels Stiles coming and he sits on his couch trying not to look too overly eager. He's not succeeding.

"So?" Derek asks, expectantly.

Stiles wrinkles his mouth and throws himself down on Derek's couch, already treating the place like home, even though this is probably only his fifth-or-so visit. It feels right to have him in Derek's apartment, on his couch, in his life. "Good afternoon to you too."

"Good afternoon Stiles," Derek says flatly. "What did Dr. Deaton say?"

"Something similar to what Dr. Fenris said," Stiles says. "Y'know. Once you explained about the telepathy."

"I didn't want to tell a doctor I was hearing voices," Derek protests. "It felt like a reasonable decision at the time."

Stiles smiles dryly. "Yeah, it's a little difficult to find the right words, I guess."

"So what did he say?"

"So it turns out that your mom and Claudia had BFF paperweights," Stiles says. "And Mom did a ritual with your mom to link our two families together. They thought it was more of a spiritual thing. And it should have been. Removing blood from the ritual keeps it a safe, telepathic soulbond-free mystical metaphor for loving connection."

"But they accidentally added blood?" Derek asks, frowning at Stiles.

Stiles shoots him a look with those pretty amber eyes. "We did."

Derek squints. "I met your mom like, once. I don't remember her taking my blood."

"They did the ritual even before I was born, Deputy Dumb-dumb," Stiles says. Derek squints, wondering why he's finding the insult endearing. It's ridiculous. Derek ought to be ashamed of himself. He's really not. "We added the blood."

"I don't remember" Derek starts, petulantly.

"I am naturally clumsy," Stiles says. "And our paperweight was just sat around on dad's desk. I can think of half a dozen times where I might have gotten my blood on it."

"I don't" Derek squints. "A glass paperweight? Round?"

"That's the one," Stiles says.

"I vaguely remember Laura hitting me in the head with something like that when we were kids. Mom was furious. Laura cried for weeks." Derek smirks at the memory. "Laura thought she'd killed me."

"He also said" Stiles starts and falters. Derek turns, bumping their knees companionably, and Stiles flushes a little, looking up at Derek and holding their gazes together with an almost defiant expression. "He said the connection only works if there are real feelings, for a start," Stiles says, gingerly not looking at Derek, a small flush covering his cheeks. "So it's not like we were forced into liking each other. It only works if there's a potential lo a potential connection."

"So the whole telepathy, shared pain stuff, is"

"The telepathy is the basic part. The pain sharing is supposed to just be… a wake-up call."

"Hell of a wake-up call," Derek says, automatically touching his fingers to the bulge on Stiles' chest which is his bandages. He touches Stiles gently through the fabric, and though they're both clothed, it's weirdly, nicely intimate. Stiles' breathing hitches pleasantly, his cheeks darkening to a beautiful shade of red.

"The telepathy only occurs if we could get along, uh, orally," Stiles says. "Brain compatibility. Conversation, y'know, that sort of thing."

"That sort of thing," Derek agrees pleasantly, leaning in and brushing his mouth against Stiles' cheek. Stiles shudders against him, his eyes turning almost feral as he looks Derek up and down, like he's sizing him up.

"And the shared heat," Stiles says, his voice deepening a step, going a little husky, his eyes fixated on Derek's mouth, "that's only if there's a physical compatibility."

"Hmm-mm," Derek agrees, his fingers finding their way down to Stiles' waist, settling either side.

"Deaton says smashing the focus objects would end the magic," Stiles says, his eyelids fluttering half-shut. "So I got your mom to open the vault she stashed it in."

"She puts things in the vault if they're dangerous to us," Derek says. "I wouldn't be surprised if she has a whole shelf just labeled anything heavy that my kids can turn into a projectile."

"You guys are crazily creative when it comes to violence," Stiles says, possibly referencing yesterday's dinner where Cora flicked the stripped chicken bones from the main course at Uncle Peter with a fork.

"Yeah," Derek says. "Laura's down at the Moonbeam coven today, actually. Showing the girls some self defense moves just in case some other idiot thinks it's a good idea to target them for shooting them down for a date."

"I can't believe Haigh went to all that trouble to get them arrested," Stiles says. "What a freaking idiot."

"To be fair, the stupid part was signing his real name on the Mystique! membership form."

"True, that." Stiles says, smiling a little fondly at the memory of Haigh's idiocy. An idiotic motivation, thankfully backed up by idiotic procedure. The stupid idiot also used his own bank account to hire the Mute. Stupid doesn't even begin to cover it, really.

"So…" Derek says. "Does Dr. Deaton know a way to break the bond?"

"Yeah," Stiles says, his fond smile fading a little. His eyes track Derek's face worriedly.

"We should do it," Derek says, firmly. "I… I think he must be right about the bond only working with true feelings. I can't imagine not feeling this way about you."

"Yeah?" Stiles' smile is slowly returning. His eyes track Derek's body like he's mentally undressing him. "How do you feel about me? Right now?" He punctuates the word feel by reaching out and casually flicking the tip of his thumb against a very interested part of Derek's anatomy.

"Gnuh," Derek supplies, helpfully. He squints at Stiles, wondering how Stiles expects him to speak with that sort of stimulation. His cheeks feel hot and he stares at Stiles, hopelessly lost. This has to be real. He can feel it in his gut. He can feel Stiles in his heart. Maybe it's the connection, but Derek feels so strongly that he wants to take the chance.

"Human words?" Stiles says, eyes light with amusement at how easily he can unsettle Derek's calm.

"I like you," Derek admits, going straight for what he feels, not dressing it up. "As soon as you finish talking to me, I miss you. Seconds later, I miss you. It's pathetic."

Stiles beams at him, smile so wide and genuine that Derek's own face creases into a smile. No mirrors crack and no one acts stupid at the sight of it. "And you definitely think you'll feel the same with the connection gone?"

Derek nods and then his smile falters, a tiny bit. "Don't you think so?"

"I did," Stiles says, leaning closer to Derek, even as Derek's stomach tightens miserably at the past tense did. "Until I knew for sure."

Derek frowns. "What do you?"

"All I had to do was break the paperweights," Stiles says, matter-of-factly. "The connection's already gone, Der. So what we're feeling…" He beams at Derek, so happy that Derek thinks his own face might crack from smiling, let alone any mirrors, so he tempers it down. Stops himself from smiling. Doubt helps.

"Are you sure?" Derek asks, giddy. He thinks hard at Stiles, I'd like to lick you head to toe, and Stiles waggles his eyebrows, so maybe the connection's still there?

Stiles holds up his hand, a small cut on his right palm. Derek looks down instinctively at his own right palm. Nothing. Clean. No matching injury on his hand. "Connection's gone," Stiles says, sing-song.

"Okay," Derek says slowly.

Stiles quirks a weird look at Derek. "You sound almost disappointed."

I am in one way, Derek thinks. But Stiles won't hear that. "I am," Derek says, wrinkling his nose. "I kinda miss you in my head. How will we talk to each other now?"

"Aw, that's the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me," Stiles says, leaning into Derek's arms and not moving away. Derek tries to hide his smile but he can feel the stretch of it as he fails. "It's called a cell phone, dumbass. Or dates."

"Did I ever mention I hate cell phones?" Derek asks. Stiles looks at him curiously. "Guess it'll just have to be dates," Derek finishes, aiming for casual and falling flat on his face.

"I think I can live with that," Stiles says, smiling.

"Yeah," Derek says, happier than he can ever remember being, even with all the recent joy in his life. Finishing his Academy training. Becoming a deputy. Finally moving out of home. Stiles beats all that by a mile. "Yeah, me too."