This is a bad idea for a lot of reasons.
The first is that it’s cold. Scratch that, it’s freezing, and Stiles, born and bred in California, is not prepared for it as he slips out his window in the least graceful fashion possible (re: he falls a couple of feet and is rather lucky his father is not home to hear him bitch and moan about it). Somehow summer had faded into fall, into another school year, without him really noticing it because he’s falling more and more out of touch with humanity every day. He remembers when a shudder wracks through his body and he can see his breath in the flimsy light of his seven plus year old flashlight.
The second is that it’s the full moon. Surprisingly, this might be the least troublesome aspect of the situation. Ever since Derek became Alpha the werewolf population of Beacon Hills and the war with the hunters had managed to stabilize full moons just weren’t what they used to be. Not instantly, of course; Derek spent a good few months in a row fucking everything up, but he was a Hale after all, and apparently these things came to them eventually. So far he’d kept Jackson from flipping the fuck out every other second over every other thing, managed to get a least a tiny bit of werewolf knowledge through Scott’s equally tiny Allison-obsessed brain, and negotiated a tentative truce with the Argents. Also, he’d managed to make his horrible house look less like a crime scene and more like, well, a house. Stiles had to admit, he was impressed. So full moons weren’t so terrifying anymore.
The third was what really should have kept Stiles in the house, and also why he really just had to jump out his window at midnight: there was a wolf crying in the woods.
So yeah, bad. For a lot of reasons.
Since the creation of this stupid and probably doomed pack Stiles has been the smart guy. This was a self-appointed title at first, but that’s exactly why Stiles is the smart guy—he called it before anyone else could, duh. But after a while it became his official pack position, which Stiles was okay with because it didn’t involve getting bitten by Derek’s creepy uncle or ending up dead in a ditch. Even said Alpha had to admit it. Not with words, of course, because in addition to being allergic to doors and the knocking of them (though Stiles would settle for a tap on the window at the very least) Derek hated words and the using of them. Sure, he’d talk—frankly, he blabbered at their pack meetings, Stiles thought—but when it came to feelings? Unacceptable. The only way Derek Hale was capable of expressing he felt something other than utter loathing was sneaking into a person’s house (or whatever personal space they were occupying at the time), not giving into the desire to commit homicide against said person, and occasionally even defending said person from another person’s attempted homicide. Speaking was never an option. Snapping and barking like a rabid dog, on the other hand…
Stiles is totally the smart guy. He’s the one that gives Scott pep talks about his shitty priorities and how, hey, maybe he should listen to Derek since the guy seems hell-bent on keeping this gang of dumbass teenagers from killing themselves, each other, and random innocent people, along with getting themselves killed in the process. He’s the one that can (sometimes) keep up with Lydia and the crazy smart stuff that comes out of her mouth at school and at the wolf powwows (she makes an awesome werewolf, but that’s not surprising to Stiles, considering Lydia Martin makes an awesome anything). One time, he even managed to talk Mr. Argent (who still scares him, honestly) out of slaughtering them all. To be fair, this was when Derek was new and Kate was his Argent poster child and the whole thing was bad and Stiles would love to be proud of it but really he does not want to go back to the nights when he wondered how many of his friends would be found as hunter pin cushions the next morning.
Nobody outside of the pack sees this, which Stiles is okay with, because if people knew he really could concentrate and get things done they’d have expectation and school is really bullshit and means nothing, in his humble opinion.
Sometimes, Stiles is brilliant.
Tonight--wandering out into the woods alone to chase after a howling wolf--is not one of those times.
The fact that they haven’t seen a rival wolf—or even a stray one—in more than a month is one of the things Stiles tells himself to calm his racing pulse and reaffirm that no, this was a great idea and he’s super pleased he followed through on it.
The fact that Derek says they’ve just been lucky and that the Hales tend to attract territory wars and hunters like a moth to a flame … is not.
He’s legitimately having a hard time breathing around this massive lump in this throat (which isn’t nearly as big as the size of his balls, because, y’know, he’s so brave and all) and he feels like he’s a hundred feet deep in the forest (which is just great, because he totally took the Jeep instead of going out on foot like a complete jackass) and is legit a popsicle person when he finds the source of the problem.
It’s Derek. Or, more specifically, it’s a massive black wolf that Stiles shouldn’t know a) is a person most of the time b) shouldn’t be a person because werewolves are fucking ridiculous and shouldn’t be real, c) is probably naked in human form and wow, Stiles should not be thinking about that, and d) is ankle (paw?) deep in a bear trap.
“Shit,” is about the only thing that Stiles can get out before dropping down on his knees beside Derek, reaching towards the trap to pry it open.
Derek repays his kindness by prying open his jaws to rip of Stiles’ hand.
“Dude!” Truth be told, Stiles hasn’t been afraid of Derek in a long time. He still isn’t which falls nicely in place with the rest of the logic this night is lacking. Mostly he’s just pissed off. “Not cool. Here I am risking life and limb to rescue your life and limb and you act like I’m a dog biscuit with legs. Totally uncool.”
Derek growls at him.
Stiles snorts. Typical. “I could leave you out here, you know. Maybe I will,” he says, and they both know it’s massive pile of crap that could never be true ever. Because, in addition to being the smart guy, Stiles is also ‘no man gets left behind’ guy. “Or not,” he adds and pulls out his phone wondering whether or not it’s possible for Derek to laugh at him in wolf form.
Exactly twenty three minutes later and Scott’s with him and has thankfully brought his really cool boss along for the ride. Stiles has passed the time yelling at both himself and Derek, and Derek has passed it by grumbling and possibly bleeding to death. Stiles uses the latter as the reason why Derek doesn’t kill him on the spot when he scratches the wolf’s ears on a whim.
This should be weird. This is weird, because up until a few months ago Derek Hale was just an urban legend passed around their small, stupid town and after that he was a murderer that also happened to have a killer set of abs and oh by the way he was innocent and also had a thing for full moons and stalking teenagers. And then suddenly everything was werewolves and this is actually Stiles’ life now: sitting in a forest petting a man-dog-thing that has more than once threatened to utterly destroy his person.
He always did have shitty luck.
The thing is, it doesn’t feel weird, and that’s the strangest part of all.
For all his flaws (and there are so, so many) Scott has fabulous timing, rolling up with the good doctor right as Stiles begins to ponder what it might mean that he’s okay hanging out with an attractive older man in the middle of the night with no one else around. With that, Stiles returns to position as smart guy before he becomes the Scott. “Fancy seeing you here.”
“What happened to him?” Scott asks.
“Well—and this is just a guess, I could be wrong—but I think he might have stepped in a bear trap.”
“Smartass,” the vet grumbles and Stiles might play around with them some more if he wasn’t worried about how quiet everything is.
“That’s my middle name. Why isn’t he changing back?” Stiles asks.
“I don’t think he can.”
“What about that whole ‘pain keeps you human’ speech?” Scott chimes in and Derek proves he’s still alive by snarling at his Beta and wow, so much for not being afraid of Derek anymore.
“McCall, not the time, not the place,” Stiles warns.
“Sorry. Why are they even traps out here?”
“Maybe the Argents put them down,” Scott’s boss offers, which is helpful and also possible, but causes Scott’s face to get all scrunched and his voice to get high and makes Stiles aggravated because he is really sick of this Allison bullshit.
“It was probably Kate. Look, these are super valid questions and all, but it would be really sweet if we could have them in a place with some light and heat and werewolves that aren’t three steps away from an amputation. Jesus, do you, like, not want your limbs or something? Because this is not the first time we’ve been in this situation. Do you have some freaky fetish or what?” They’re all staring at him (even Derek, who still has that ‘fucking Stiles’ look in his eye even when he’s a canine) and Stiles mumbles something about Adderall and realizes he’s insanely close to Derek when the vet basically has to push him out of the way to get to Derek.
Stiles is a realist. Beneath his tangents and seemingly random pop culture references, he’s very practical, which is probably why he’s become the pack’s brain when everyone else goes haywire. He knows that none of them is invincible, that’s a fact that’s been proven more than once, brutally and with more than a little blood. He knows from Scott the pain that comes with the change, the awful turn and ache as your body remakes itself, that empty space your mind goes to when it’s neither man nor animal. He understands that as best as he can while remaining human, he thinks. But Stiles is still shocked and more than a little afraid when he hears the snap of metal and a shrill yelp as the wolf is freed. He thinks of all the times, both pre and post-lycanthropy, he saw Derek as this great, untouchable being and now he’s screaming his furry head off in the middle of nowhere and it doesn’t make any sense.
So when Derek runs, Stiles follows him.
It’s very clear for once: the ache of cold in his chest, the taste of sweat in his tongue, and the sound of Scott calling his name as branches break underneath his feet. Maybe that’s the one good thing about being a werewolf, Stiles thinks, besides the super senses: the ability to fade away. Maybe it’s not as bad as Scott makes it seem.
“That’s what it is, isn’t it?” Stiles chokes out, because lacrosse apparently hasn’t prepared him for a werewolf marathon as well as he thought and now he’s doubled over clutching his stomach and trying to remember what breathing is. “You—ugh, ow, lungs.” He plops down in the dirt, because he is human and his legs are on fire, and takes a few moments to catch himself before starting again. “You want to disappear.”
He hears Derek stop, which is progress. That or he’s gearing to eat him, Stiles can never tell. Either way, he goes on, “You never wanted to stay here, did you? You just wanted to find out who killed Laura and you wanted to return the favor and get the hell out of dodge. But now you have a pack and you can’t run anywhere. An animal in a cage.”
Just like that Derek is right in his face and it should be terrifying because this creature can kill him in a thousand and one different ways and will probably pick and execute one of them in the next few seconds.
But Derek just stares at him and Stiles returns the look because yeah, the eyes are red and that’s freaky as hell, but somehow, despite that he’s, like, two feet larger than usual and has insane teeth made for tearing the flesh of stupid teenage boys that chase mythological creatures around the forest and is covered in fur, for fuck’s sake-- it’s still Derek.
Derek, who has saved his life as many times as he’s promised to end it yet has never tried. Derek, who’s been looking out for them both before and after he and Scott decided to grace his already shitty life with a Sheriff Stilinski approved criminal record. Derek, who seems like he was born alone and just really, really needs someone to take care of him for once.
Stiles swallows, because there’s Derek and feelings and he wishes it didn’t make sense. “Every week you lecture us on how important the pack is, how we need each other, how we should go to you if we need anything. And you never ask us to do the same thing for you, and I think that’s bullshit, because you need us just as much.”
Derek’s lips curl back and Stiles throws his hands in Derek’s face (snout? God, what has his life become) because he’s having none of that. “Yeah, yeah, I get it, you’re broody, forever alone werewolf guy with a dark and mysterious past and that’s all well and great except for the fact that you’re broody because you’re straight up miserable and maybe you can be less alone sometimes and it might help and I’m rambling.”
Then there’s silence, save for the sound of his still harsh breathing and the really gross resetting of Derek’s flesh and bone. He’ll be perfect by sunrise, Stiles bets, at least in theory. Without thinking—and God, Stiles, this is a fanfuckingtastic time to not do the brain thing—he reaches out and runs his fingers into the coarse fur of Derek’s neck, dragging them through and scratch at the skin underneath. “You’re not alone,” he murmurs. “It’s okay to need us as much as we need you.” And if they were both currently human this would be when he yanked Derek’s face to his because feelings and lips, but as much as Stiles admires Derek the Alpha (he is very aesthetically pleasing) he so does not want to go to that level.
Apparently he still has standards. Go figure.
So instead he calls Scott and declares the search party officially over and that he’s free to take the doctor and leave. Which Scott does, though he’s uncharacteristically concerned about the idea of leaving Stiles in a forest in the middle of the night with only a pissy werewolf to keep him company and okay, so Stiles is bitter because he knows the only reason Scott gives two fucks is because there isn’t an Allison in front of his face. But unlike Scott, he knows how to get his shit together, and puts aside his sidekick syndrome in favor of getting Derek home safely.
They walk—walk—back to Derek’s house in silence, which is something Stiles has come to expect from Derek no matter what form the older man is in. It’s oddly calming to hear nothing but the brush of grass and leaves under foot and paw as they pass through the forest. For once, Stiles doesn’t attempt to make conversation, to clog up the air with words in his typical nervous fashion. Because somewhere along the line Derek Hale, even wolfed out Derek Hale, became one of things that calmed him down, held him steady.
Life is fucked, Stiles thinks, but he still follows the werewolf into his slightly less fucked house.
It’s amazing how much work Derek has put into the thing given the small amount of time that’s passed since he returned to Beacon Hills. The burned out estate still looks like a hellhole, but at least now it’s a haunted house with water, electricity, and a roof. There must have been some work on the stairs, too, since there’s no way the old set wouldn’t have collapsed under a few hundred pounds of massive dog. The décor, though, is a whole other matter. Stiles is pretty sure that when Lydia sets foot in this place she’s going to have a meltdown, and then proceed to launch Extreme Makeover: House of Dead Family Members edition, with or without Derek’s permission. Stiles is pretty sure he’ll climb on board; he doesn’t have taste, but he has working limbs and this place (and this man) needs all the help it can get.
With a huff Derek collapses on his bed and Stiles has two options. One, he can go home and try and sleep this night—this weirdly not-weird long-ass night—off and wake up in the morning and forget all about it for the rest of time plus one.
Naturally, Stiles doesn’t take that option.
Derek doesn’t bite his face off when Stiles lays down next to him, doesn’t even snap when Stiles leans into the curve of the wolf’s neck and rests against the fur. Derek smells like smoke and damp earth and days old aftershave and it’s way more appealing than it should be. Derek in general is way more appealing than he should be and Stiles would be much more indignant about this if he could keep his damn eyes open.
“Does this count as bestiality?” He manages around a yawn.
Derek grumbles at him, which could mean yes or no but probably just means shut up and go to sleep before I change my mind and kill you.
They don’t talk about that night, ever. Derek is gone the next morning and Stiles shuffles out pretty soon after he wakes up (though not before spying a few boxes postmarked from New York beside Derek’s bed and making a mental note to find out what’s in them and praying it’s not a severed head or any other body parts). Derek never says why he was parading around in wolf form, and Stiles never asks. He also doesn’t expect Derek to thank him, and tells himself that’s just fine, he doesn’t care, nope. He’s just going to let the whole thing go, just like that.
Somehow “forgetting” about it turns into “wondering how dead he’d be if Derek caught him stealing one of his shirts.”
Because Stiles totally doesn’t miss the way he smells or anything.
That would be gross. (Because werewolves aren't?)
And creepy. (Because Derek isn't?)
And gay, which is fine, Stiles doesn’t judge, free to be you and me, but he’s just. Not.
The midnight hard-ons are clearly just a coincidence and anyone who thinks otherwise is a filthy pervert.
He’s gotten into the habit of leaving his window open at night, which is stupid for normal people and even worse for a kid that knows his town is populated by beasts that are sometimes kind of homicidal.
To his credit, by the next full moon things are even better than before. Jackson and Scott are doing better than anyone could have imagined or expected, which is probably the reason Derek doesn’t look half dead anymore. The Argents are also surprisingly helpful: along with not shooting any of them dead or burning any occupied buildings down, they’ve actually started sharing some information on packs and the running of them with Derek. It’s a weight off all their shoulders, though Derek is still understandable wary, constantly ready to spring whenever Chris gets too close to him. It makes something in Stiles’ stomach clench to think that maybe Derek will never completely relax. Not that Derek seems like he was ever the upbeat, outgoing type, but still, he could breathe without looking like he was in horrible pain.
A twig snaps outside his window and draws Stiles out of his thoughts and even farther away from the chemistry homework he should be doing.
Past history dictates he should be running as far away as fast as possible, and also call his father, the man with the guns who is currently not home.
Instead Stiles goes to the window and looks down, not at all surprised to see a red-eyed shadow waiting for him down on the ground.
“You can’t just ask me out like a normal person?” A ridiculous smile is turning up the corners of his lips. He’s got a feeling this is going to become a pattern and as he hops out his window—a bit more gracefully this time, with Derek’s eyes watching him—Stiles decides that’s all right. “Should I bring a picnic basket?”
Derek growls at him.
Stiles grins and follows the wolf into the moonlit forest.
He could definitely get used to this.