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Lessons in Humanity

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Even with light from the full moon, running through woods at night was filled with hazards. Roots tripped, branches scratched, loose stones skidded under Stiles’ feet, nearly sending him flying. Stiles was scraped and bruised but still he tore headlong between the trees. Because out there were things far worse than brambles and poison ivy. Out there were things that howled and snarled. Things with glowing eyes.

Stiles hadn’t got a good look at them but he wasn’t sticking around to see better because glowy-eyed and snarly didn’t bode well. He heard sounds in the undergrowth and tried to speed up, despite his protesting legs and the burning in his lungs.

He saw light up ahead, the trees thinning out. Then he stumbled into a clearing around a large house. Stiles didn’t have time to think about what kind of weirdos would live out in the middle of the woods. He just ran up the porch steps and pounded on the front door with his fist.

“Hey!” he yelled. “Hey, let me in! Please. There’s something out here.”

He looked behind him and saw points of light, in pairs of yellow and blue, shining out of the shadows under the trees. He was not going to die on someone’s doorstep. He tried the handle. To his delight, the door opened. Stiles was inside in a heartbeat, slamming the door behind him and leaning back against the wood.

For a few minutes, all he did was breathe, heaving in huge gasps of desperately needed oxygen. He tried to get his racing heart under control. He was alive. He was safe. He’d just broken into someone’s house, but that beat being ripped apart and eaten.

He looked around at the place he found himself. It was a large hallway with doors into the rest of the ridiculously sized house, and stairs up to a railed landing above. There were a few bits of furnishing, neat and functional, lit from above by a chandelier fitted with energy-saving bulbs. It all spoke of a normal and probably very well off owner, except for what looked like claw marks scratched deep into the hardwood floor and into the polished wood of the staircase.

Maybe the owner had a big dog. Stiles felt a sudden dread that he was going to find the owner mauled and mutilated by those things outside.

“Hello?” Stiles called out. “Is anyone home? Sorry for barging in on you like this but there were things out in the woods. If you’ve got a phone, I can call my dad and then I’ll be out of here.”

His own phone was somewhere out in the woods. He’d dropped it trying to dial his dad and run away from monsters at the same time.

There was no answer from inside the house. Maybe no one was home. Well, Stiles had tried to be polite but there was no point standing by the door all night. There had to be a phone around here somewhere.

He tried one of the doors and found a dining room with a long table. At least a dozen people could fit round it for meals but right now it was empty and silent. The whole room was slightly eerie, but that might have been a result of Stiles’ anxiety rather than the place itself. He walked through the room and through another door at the other end, stepping into a large kitchen. It was big enough and well equipped enough to suit the room for big dinner parties. Stiles didn’t see a phone, but he saw something equally welcome: a sink. He was dripping with sweat after his sprint through the woods and his throat was parched.

He hunted through a couple of cupboards until he found glasses. He filled one with water and downed it in a single, huge gulp. He filled the glass again and sipped more carefully. He turned round to face the room and jumped, nearly dropping the glass and ending up with water down his front. Stiles put the glass down on the kitchen counter before he embarrassed himself further.

There was a man standing in the doorway, staring at Stiles. He was tall and dark-haired, dressed in a loose shirt and pants that did nothing to hide the lean bulk beneath. His face would have been gorgeous if it weren’t for the angry scowl on it.

“Sorry,” Stiles said. “I don’t know if you heard me when I came in but there were things out there I needed to get away from.”

The man stalked across the room towards him, still scowling.

“I don’t mean to intrude but if you’ve got a phone I can call my dad and he can come pick me up.”

The man hadn’t said a word. It was starting to freak Stiles out. The man just walked across the kitchen to Stiles, standing right in front of him and glaring into his eyes.

“Hey! Personal space,” Stiles protested.

He tried to edge away when Tall, Dark and Creepy slammed a hand out. The hand gripped the edge of the kitchen counter beside Stiles. Then the man put his hand on the counter on the other side of Stiles. Stiles was left effectively pinned between two strong arms. Stiles found his heart racing almost as much as when he’d been running through the forest. This might be hot if it weren’t so terrifying. The guy’s muscles meant serious business, like he could break Stiles in two without even trying.

“Look,” Stiles said, “I think maybe you’ve got the wrong idea here.”

He put his hands on the guy’s chest and tried to push him away but that only resulted in Stiles groping solid muscle.

The man didn’t seem to notice that Stiles was trying to get away. He leaned in closer, tilting his head and sniffing at Stiles’ neck.

“If that’s your way of saying I smell that’s because I’ve just been running through the woods. If you object so much, maybe you should back off.”

But the man didn’t seem to object. He buried his face into Stiles’ neck and nuzzled. Stiles squirmed and tried to pull away.

“Stop it! Get off me!”

The man didn’t seem likely to stop.

Stiles grabbed the water glass and slammed it into the side of the guy’s head.

The man gave a yelp of pain and stepped back just a little. It was enough for Stiles to duck under one of the trapping arms and make a bolt for the door.

Hands grabbed him from behind. Stiles kicked out. He tried to pull free. He twisted in the grip but just ended up losing balance. He hit the tiled floor and rolled onto his back to try and get up. But then the man was there, sitting across his legs, hands on his shoulders, pinning him down, holding him trapped.

Stiles got a good look at the guy’s face. There was blood on the side of his cheek from where the glass had cut him but, even as Stiles watched, the blood receded. The cut healed over into flawless skin. Holy crap! That was not normal even by the standards of this night.

“What are you?” Stiles asked.

The man leaned down over Stiles, nuzzling again at his neck.

“Oh god,” Stiles said, “I’m being held prisoner by someone with magic healing abilities and an obsession with my neck. You’d better not be a vampire.”

The man, if he was a man, made an angry growling noise in Stiles’ ear.

“So you don’t like vampires then?” Stiles asked.

There was another angry growl. It sounded animalistic in quality. Stiles thought about the howls he’d heard earlier and the full moon up above.

“Are you a werewolf?” Stiles asked.

Something warm and wet ran up Stiles’ cheek.

“Oh god, did you just lick me? That’s seriously not cool.”

The man licked Stiles’ cheek again like an excited puppy. There was definitely something canine about the behaviour.

Stiles tried to think how he was going to get out of this because the werewolf was strong. Stiles’ efforts to break free of him were all failing. Reasoning with him didn’t seem to be an option either. Stiles wondered if the guy had any human reasoning right now.

“Great,” Stiles muttered. “So this is how I die, used as a chew toy by a werewolf. Well, I didn’t see it coming.”

The guy sat up a little, staring down at Stiles, angry scowl deepening. He opened his mouth, apparently struggling as he shaped his lips around a single word: “Safe.”

“I’m safe?” Stiles asked. “I don’t feel safe. I’m being pinned on the ground by a crazy werewolf with no concept of boundaries.”

The werewolf frowned at him but this time it seemed more puzzled than angry. Then he stood up. The instant Stiles was free, he scooted backwards, putting some distance between them. When his back hit the wall, he put his hands against it and pushed himself up to standing, fighting against the trembling of his legs.

The werewolf just stood there in the middle of the kitchen. He was looking at Stiles and still scowling. The werewolf’s eyes tracked downwards and he made another growling noise.

Stiles followed the gaze. There was a long scratch on his arm. He hadn’t even noticed in all the fear but now he felt it as a mild stinging pain. He must have caught his arm on a branch or something when he’d been running earlier. He wondered if the blood was triggering the werewolf. He didn’t want to get killed over a scratch.

The werewolf stalked towards him again. Stiles considered making a break for it but he wasn’t sure he’d do any better out there. Then the werewolf was in front of him again. He took Stiles’ hand and lifted up the injured arm. He at the scratch and then, before Stiles could react, leaned down and ran his tongue along the length of the scratch.

“No!” Stiles said. “We don’t clean injuries by licking them.”

The werewolf gave him a puzzled look. Then he leaned down to lick again.

“No! Bad werewolf!”

The werewolf stopped. He looked at Stiles.

“We don’t lick cuts,” Stiles said. “We use water and antiseptic.”

Stiles guessed that might have been too big of a word. The werewolf seemed to grasp the concept of no but not much else. He really didn’t seem to like the cut though. Or he liked it too much as was treating Stiles’ blood as an appetiser. Stiles wasn’t sure.

He didn’t get why the werewolf was freaking out about a minor cut. It wasn’t even bleeding anymore. In a day or two it would be gone. The werewolf put his fingers over the cut. A moment later, the sting of the cut vanished, along with several aches and sore patches that he almost hadn’t noticed until they were gone.

The werewolf looked Stiles in the eyes again and there was something almost hopeful in his gaze.

“Nice work,” Stiles said, then added, “Good boy.”

The werewolf’s face burst into a smile. It lit up his face like the sun. Stiles wondered if he was a terrible person for finding this guy unbelievably hot when he clearly wasn’t firing on all cylinders.

The werewolf was still holding Stiles’ hand. It was weird and creepy but it was better than being pinned. The werewolf seemed calm now and so maybe he could grasp concepts slightly tougher than no.

“Is there a phone?” Stiles asked. “A phone.” He held up his hand to the side of his head in a mime that the werewolf clearly didn’t seem to get.

“Of course not,” Stiles muttered, “because that would be too easy. All I want to do is call my dad and go home because this has been a seriously weird night and I’d like to just crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head until the world starts making sense again.”

The werewolf started moving. He started towards the door, still holding Stiles’ hand. Stiles followed, not sure if this was an insanely bad idea or if the werewolf had understood the message. Stiles followed him through the dining room and back to the hallway. For a moment Stiles considering running for the door but the other things were still out there. He would probably be in at least as much danger from them as he was from this guy.

So Stiles let himself be led up the stairs. There was a corridor lined with doors but the werewolf led past them and to another flight of stairs, this one narrower and unlit. Stiles felt a growing apprehension as he was taken deeper into the house. The stairway ended in a door. The werewolf apparently understood handles because he opened it easily. Stiles walked through into a moonlit room. Huge windows were set in the sloped roof, letting the full moon shine through, bathing everything in silver.

The first thing Stiles noticed was the bed. It was a big four-poster made of what appeared to be wrought iron. Stiles couldn’t imagine how they’d managed to get such a monstrous thing in here. The second thing Stiles noticed were the chains. They were secured to the posts of the bed. Dread tore through Stiles at the thought of what they might imply.

The werewolf turned to face Stiles, his frown maybe showing signs of concern now.

“Home,” he said. “Bed.”

Apparently it had understood some of Stiles’ words, just not the one Stiles had wanted. There was no sign of a phone.

Stiles knew he should probably run but curiosity drew him across the room, the werewolf sticking by his side. There were deep scratches in the wall above the bed: claw marks. There were more scratches on the wooden floor and on the few bits of mismatched furniture. Even the bed clothes appeared to have inexpertly stitched repairs where someone had torn gashes in them. This was the werewolf’s room, the place he recognised as home. Stiles just wasn’t sure what happened now.

The werewolf seemed to realise Stiles’ reluctance. He let go of Stiles’ hand.

“Home,” he said. “Safe.”

The werewolf left the room and shut the door. Stiles went to one of the windows. Maybe he could make a rope out of the sheets and escape. But a pair of yellow eyes gleamed in the darkness.

So that the left the question, did he trust the werewolf when he said Stiles was safe?

If he got through the night, his dad would get worried that Stiles hadn’t come home and would probably send the whole the Beacon Hills Police Department out to look for him. Plus, it was possible that the werewolf would be more human tomorrow when the moon had set. So Stiles could stay here for the night and hope not to get eaten.

He grabbed a chest of drawers and with considerable effort, dragged it in front of the door. He wasn’t sure that would keep out an angry werewolf but it couldn’t hurt.

Then he went to the bed. He sat down on the edge and started the long wait until morning.