Stiles blinks slowly, realizing his eyes have glazed over staring at the computer screen, and sighs as he clicks open another tab. Hunting can be incredibly awesome, if a little terrifying, especially now that the opportunities to meet his maker seem to be increasing exponentially, but a lot of times it can also be mind-numbingly boring.
Like now, when they’ve been in some small, no-name town’s library for three hours looking for a legitimate hunt.
“What about this one?” Scott wonders as he points to the computer screen, where it’s opened to a list of articles, all somewhat ridiculous in nature, that he’s been looking through to find cases. Derek and Stiles both lean in to consider the cited article, hunched over the screen in concentration.
Derek finishes reading first, rolling his eyes without saying a word, and leans back to resume combing through his own articles, all of which are on actual paper that he’s managed to cobble up from literally nowhere.
Alright, it was probably from a newsstand, but he just can’t get past the fact Derek would rather get paper cuts than read off of a screen.
“Doesn’t really seem like our kind of thing,” Stiles says kindly.
“Why not?” Scott asks, furrowing his brow.
“We’re not hunting aliens, buddy,” Stiles clicks his tongue, patting Scott on the back. “Sorry.”
Derek grunts as he hunches further into his tabloid, and Stiles swears he can see a smirk trying to peek through the man’s pitiless exterior.
The faint sound of clicking and rustling of papers is the only noise as the library returns to relative silence, each retreating to their own methods of search. It doesn’t last long though, as Stiles can’t put up with so much quiet without something to focus it on.
“Why don’t we just call Danny?” Stiles pitches, huffing as he clicks through the 16 tabs he has open in his browser. “Hey,” he reaches out with a foot to kick at Derek, who easily avoids it without even looking. “Are you even listening?”
“Yeah, this is dumb,” Scott agrees, turning to sit backwards in his chair and stare at Derek with pleading eyes. Stiles has past experience to know that’s not going to work, but does the same anyway when Scott sends a quick glance his way, turning his own pout to the still tabloid-engrossed Derek.
“Derek,” he whines, “Derek, Derek.”
“Dereeek,” Scott joins in.
Stiles purses his lips when the Derek still doesn’t answer, and gets up to grab his phone anyway. It’s not as if the other man would really disagree either way, as long as they got a case. He walks behind him out of curiosity though, only to find himself scoffing in disbelief.
“What?” Scott asks, almost tipping his chair over as he leans forward.
Derek growls, but Stiles has mostly grown out of feeling truly threatened by it.
“He’s reading about Martian werewolves,” Stiles reveals, laughing.
Derek grumbles and throws the newspaper down onto the table. “Call him, but leave the building. I don’t feel like getting kicked out again.”
“Aw, you’re going to break my streak?” Stiles pouts, but heads for the door all the same.
Danny’s number changes every week, supposedly to protect his identity. Unfortunately, last week Stiles had accidentally forgotten to check in with the man, and has to sit through ten minutes of coded message to figure out the new one.
“What do you want?” a frustrated voice answers once he gets through. “I’m not open for business right now.”
“Kinky,” Stiles retorts, “not even my kind of business?”
“Definitely not your kind of business, Stilinski.”
“Oh, that’s a shame, I was hoping to rid the world of evil, too,” Stiles sighs dramatically. “I guess I’ll have to wait until next week.”
“Whatever,” Danny huffs in amusement, and Stiles hears some clicking in the background. “Do you want might-be-a-ghost or could-be-a-rakshasa?”
“Definitely ghost, rakshasa are fucking creepy.”
“You’ve never even taken on a rakshasa,” Danny returns dryly.
“I read an article once, okay, sleeping on bugs is not cool.” Stiles grimaces in memory, the words had been unusually detailed. “Still no vampires?”
Danny snorts, “No, and I’m pretty sure Derek isn’t going to be too amused when he finds out about your weird little fantasy.”
“And I’m pretty sure that-“
“Derek already knows,” says the aforementioned man from behind him, startling Stiles so badly he drops his phone.
Luckily, Derek manages to use his freakish reflexes to snatch the phone before it shatters on the concrete, and lifts it to talk to Danny directly rather than returning it. If Stiles didn’t know better, he’d think that had been the plan all along.
“Nebraska? Yeah, we’re still in Kansas,” Derek says to Danny, nodding towards the library as a hint for Stiles to go get Scott, taking out his own phone to type something in, probably the address.
Stiles rolls his eyes and turns towards the door, slightly miffed that Derek is taking control, again.
“Yeah, it takes a lot of control,” he hears faintly as the door closes behind him and has half a mind to just eavesdrop there, except he knows Derek would get back at him later.
The middle of a school day means the library is nearly empty, and Stiles smiles uncomfortably when walking past the librarian, who glares at him like he’s the devil- incarnate. Scott is playing on Facebook when he stumbles back to him, eyes glazed over and replanting digital cabbages.
“You know no one really plays that anymore, right?” Stiles says as he starts gathering all their stuff up, shoving Derek’s tabloids in his laptop bag, “Except for, like, housewives and grannies.”
“If I play it, then that’s not true,” Scott disagrees, blinking slowly as he looks up.
Stiles exhales sharply out of his nose, trying not to laugh. “Okay, fine, I bow down to your logic, but you’ll have to finish milking cows in the Jeep.”
“Where are we going?” Scott asks as they walk towards the entryway, hugging his laptop to his chest and giving Stiles an odd look when he uses the man as a human shield against the librarian.
“Nebraska, there’s a ghost,” Stiles tilts his head in consideration. “Probably.”
“We can’t be sure, that’d be too easy,” Stiles jokes, pushing open the door to where their third member is waiting for them, still talking to Danny. “It could be a shtriga, or a lady in white, who really knows? Well, except that it won’t be happy when we find it.”
Derek nods to them in acknowledgment as they stuff their bags into the back of the Jeep and Stiles turns to lean on the hood, tapping his fingers and raising his eyebrows.
“E-mail the rest of the details for the case to Stiles; we’ll be there later tonight.” Derek says brusquely, “Yes.”
It’s obvious he’d been saying something else before they’d walked out of the door. Stiles narrows his eyes when Derek looks up at the sky as he listen to Danny. Scott gives him a confused look, and he responds with upturned hands. Why does Scott always expect him to be a mind reader?
Derek ends the conversation with a muttered farewell, and hands the phone back to Stiles. He then looks directly at him, eyes boring into him ominously, “Scott can take your car, we have to talk.”
“But Scott always grinds the gears,” Stiles mutters, already digging in his pockets for the keys.
Normally driving to cases is a dour affair, Scott riding with Stiles as they try not to lose Derek in traffic or when the man satisfies some primal need to release all the horses in his Camaro and risk outrageous speeding fines on an empty straightaway. (The first time it happened, Stiles had honestly thought that all the driving had finally forced him to start having hallucinations.)
Today, however, Derek seems to be mixing it up for the first time since Stiles had sprained his wrist and Scott drove. Seriously, Stiles hasn’t even been in the Camaro for longer than the ten minutes, not to mention hours.
He clutches the keys in his hand, and Scott starts to give him an odd look as he waits for Stiles to give him them.
“I promise not to break it,” Scott says slowly, frowning in offense, probably under the impression that the hesitation is about him.
“Why do we need to talk?” Stiles asks Derek, whose leaning against the side of the Camaro and looking effortlessly attractive as he stares back with a bored expression. He doesn’t do anything except to raise an eyebrow in response, walking to the driver side of the Camaro and slamming the door closed, turning it on.
“I think you should listen to him.” Scott encourages, gently prying the keys out of his hand.
“He didn’t even say anything,” Stiles scoffs, stuffing his hands in his pocket as he watches Scott get in the Jeep. He raises eyebrows through the windshield meaningfully, and Stiles huffs with his entire body in response. He rolls his eyes, stomps over to Derek’s car, and climbs into the passenger seat, resigned to his fate. Derek gives him a quick look, and shifts into first, screeching out on to the street. If it were anyone else Stiles would think they were showing off.
“What did Danny say?” Stiles asks, anxiously tapping his fingers on his thigh.
Derek lets out a low breath, “He thinks Jackson may have found something on the Sheriff’s case.”
Stiles takes a harsh breath and doesn’t say anything in response, instead turning to watch as the buildings bleed into farmland. He hopes that if he stays quiet that the other man will just drop it, and they can drive while listening to Derek’s bi-polar music in peace.
“Do you want to hear what he said?” Derek says a while later, apparently tired of waiting for him to react.
“No,” Stiles answers. “I already knew it was the worst when Scott called, there’s no need for me to listen to the details.” He doesn’t want revenge; he just wants to continue what his dad can’t anymore.
“Don’t you want to know what happened?” Derek urges.
“No! Why would I want to know the way my dad-” Stiles chokes and looks down at his lap.
Derek makes some sort of uncharacteristic soothing noise, and Stiles startles as a warm hand embraces the back of his neck.
“Danny said there was evidence of him hurting others and apparently almost got Lydia.”
Stiles turns to look out the window again, hoping to be distracted from the conversation by cows. However, Derek has other ideas, and squeezes the back of his neck, urging him to respond.
“What is it, I mean- who was it that you and Danny seem to think…?” Stiles inquires falteringly. The conversation is bringing a lot of pesky emotions to light that he’d much rather kept repressed.
At the question, the other man hesitates and glances over quickly before returning to the empty road. “Danny says it was a werewolf.”
Stiles swallows, something sticking in the back of his throat, “Like, a you, or like a werewolf, werewolf?”
“I don’t know,” Derek mutters and withdraws his hand, setting it on the shifter.
Stiles ignores the sudden chill on his neck, biting his lip. “How do they know it was the same one that got my dad?”
Derek doesn’t answer, but his knuckles tighten on the steering wheel to the point that the leather strains.
“You wanted to talk, so talk. This is not the time to go Penn and Teller on me.”
“He asked for you,” Derek mutters, so quietly that Stiles hopes he heard wrong.
“I’m sorry, did you say asked? Because as far as I know, I’m not exactly chummy with any werewolves.”
Derek gives him a quick skeptical glance, before turning back to the road.
“Evil ones,” Stiles amends and takes a deep breath. “Okay, this conversation is so horrible I’m forgetting huge things, let’s just get past the part- the part about what he did, and move forward onto how he knows who I am.”
“I don’t know,” Derek growls, strangely angry. “I didn’t know you when it happened. Do you remember anyone at all that would come after you so violently?”
“I was at college!” Stiles exclaims, indignant enough to disregard the actual question, bursting with emotion he’s kept down. “Don’t you think I blame myself every day because of that?”
Derek glances over, clearly uncomfortable. “I didn’t say any of that.”
Stiles bites his lip and determinedly stares out the window for a few minutes longer, trying to get himself together. He’s avoided talking about his dad for months; with Scott getting put in the hospital, meeting Derek, it had been easy, most likely a little too easy. He breathes heavily and concentrates on getting mesmerized by fields of corn and cattle.
“No one blames you,” Derek says about half an hour later, as they fall in line behind a chain of semis. “If you’d been there he doubtlessly would have killed him anyway, and Scott too.”
“I know,” Stiles croaks, his throat inexplicably sore, despite being quiet for the last several minutes. “That doesn’t mean I can stop thinking about it, especially now, since finding out that he might have been after me.”
Derek exhales softly, eyes pinned to the road. “I constantly smell the grief heavy on you. I just think that it might be good for you to have closure. Both of you.”
Stiles nods as Derek looks pointedly into the rear-view mirror at Scott.
“But he got put into a coma, it’s not as if he should feel -shouldn’t he be a werewolf?” Stiles exclaims, desperately latching on to the thought in an attempt to get in a discussion about Scott’s apparent sleeper agent status. It’s a much more comfortable topic rather than feelings about his father’s death, all of which should be buried deep down in his mind; next to his mother’s passing and the fact he’s never going to escape hunting.
Derek looks honestly flummoxed at the question, staring at the road in silence, and Stiles counts this as a win, even if it is a sad win.
“Derek,” he prods.
Stiles stares at him for a moment. “Was that an answer to me or to the question?”
“He should be,” Derek’s eyebrows twitch in confusion, “but he isn’t.”
“These aren’t really the answers I was looking for,” Stiles says slowly.
“I don’t know why you expect me to be an expert,” Derek scowls at the road, grip tightening on the wheel.
“Oh I don’t know, because you are one? This seems like some pretty basic stuff, man,” Stiles taunts.
“Okay,” Derek says, and Stiles leans in expecting an answer. “Tell me the entire history of the human race, Stiles, and I’ll think about it.”
Stiles scoffs, leaning back in disappointment, “That’s completely different.”
“I don’t see how it is,” Derek maintains, leaning back into his seat and turning away from Stiles.
Stiles huffs, and tries to think of another comeback that doesn’t involve ‘just because,’ but can’t. He stares out the window and he catches his reflection in the side mirror, getting an idea. He turns around completely in his seat, and attempts to wave at Scott through the narrow opening of the Camaro’s back window.
“What the hell, Stiles,” Derek growls in surprise, grabbing the back of his belt and wrenching him back down into his seat.
“I just wanted to know if Scott was still back there,” Stiles whines, slumping down his seat. “You’re boring and we’ve still got to drive for another hour.”
Derek glances at him but doesn’t say anything, and Stiles tries not to feel guilty. He turns forward, feeling awkward, and that’s when he senses the sudden lurch as the other man presses down on heavy on the throttle.
“What the hell?!” Stiles finds himself echoing Derek’s earlier words, clutching at the armrest as they weave through the freeway traffic. “Oh god, what are you doing, we’re going to die,” he chants, covering half his face with his free hand, unable to look away from the windshield, cars whooshing past them in a way that’s little too much like a video game for his taste right now.
Derek doesn’t say anything, but he has this intense look in his eyes that definitely means he’s enjoying risking all life and limb for a cheap thrill.
They speed past a giant truck that honks loud and long when Derek cuts it off, and Stiles’ heart is beating so fast that he barely hears his phone ring over the blood pumping in his ears.
“Hello?” he breathes into the phone.
“Is everything okay?” Scott asks in a rush. “You guys just took off, did you see something?”
“No, Derek’s just forgot to take his pills this morning,” Stiles hisses, cupping his hand over the receiver, and fully aware that Derek can hear him anyway. “You aren’t trying to keep up are you? I will wreck you if I get my Jeep back in pieces.”
“No, I’m behind a semi full of sheep,” Scott says darkly, and that has Stiles thinking about the werewolf thing again.
He groans and glances out the window, “We’re fine, I’ll text you the address Danny sent me.”
“Okay,” Scott says dejectedly, “I’ll talk to you in an hour or so, I guess.”
“Awesome, I’ll try not to die in a fiery crash,” Stiles returns pointedly, hanging up the phone quickly and feeling a little contrite about it. He looks up and realizes they’ve returned to the speed limit while he was talking, and that Derek is giving him the least subtle sidelong look in history.
“What?” Stiles asks, twisting the phone in his hands. “I didn’t want to have the conversation over the phone, okay?”
Derek’s eyes return to the road, though thankfully not recovering the previous speed. There is about ten minutes of uncomfortable silence, listening to some weird indie rock that Derek probably downloads to even out his douchebag cred, when Stiles realizes something, “Did you try to kill us because I said you were boring?”
Derek doesn’t say anything for a few moments, but the corner of his mouth seems to twitch. “Not everything is about you.”
“Okay, in that tone of voice, that is definitely a yes,” Stiles scoffs in disbelief. “That’s crazy. You’re already a wolf-man, you don’t need to be a speed-demon.” He looks over to Derek, whose brow has furrowed slightly. “Unless ‘wolf-man’ is derogatory in your society, and then I apologize for using it in such a callous manner, but my point stands.”
Derek rolls his eyes, finally looking directly at Stiles. “I have fast reflexes, you weren’t in any danger.”
“Of course not, no, because obviously being able to catch yourself when jumping off rooftops is directly correlated to stopping the car from rolling when you have to dodge a Prius going ninety down the interstate,” Stiles says in a rush, throwing up his hands for emphasis.
Derek gives him a flat look, continues looking, and doesn’t even turn to the road when he passes a slow moving van. Stiles licks his lower lip nervously, eyes glancing at the road every two seconds as Derek continues to stare at him. He swallows thickly, neck getting hot under his collar for some reason.
“Okay, okay,” he breaks, looking away and out the window where the fields have started to blend into buildings again. “You’ve got amazing situational awareness, just look at the road, for the love of god.”
Derek raises a triumphant brow, turning back to the road, and Stiles lets out a long relieved breath.
“Do you think Danny planned this?” Scott asks as they stare at the house in front of them, cars trailed down the street as far as the eye could see, most presumably in attendance to a party that just happens to be the address that Danny had reported to be haunted.
“Uh,” Stiles hums in consideration, “I’d like to say no, but-“
“Yes.” Derek growls.
A girl in a sequined top shoves Stiles over as she winks at Derek, trailing a hand up the man’s arm as she brushes past them to walk up the dilapidated front steps of an old decrepit Victorian that kind of looks like the one from Fight Club. Derek glares after her and looks down at his arm like he’s resisting brushing off whatever invisible germs she may have left behind.
“It looks less safe than your old house,” Stiles says to distract Derek, “And it cannot be safe to have that many people in it, not even considering the uh, you know because of the, yeah.” He doesn’t really want to think about how many college students have gotten attacked before Danny got wind of it.
“There are a lot of people,” Scott agrees as they follow a group into the house. “I wonder who’s holding it.”
Stiles grimaces, as that’s totally not the point he was making. The inside is full of bright lights and writhing bodies, and Stiles takes a moment to wonder why he’d always assumed these sort of things happened exclusively in abandoned warehouses. A few more glances around and mismatched furniture peak out from behind dancers, and the floor reveals itself to be covered in garbage and red solo cups.
“This must be why the spirit is so agitated,” Derek says, right into Stiles’ ear and still barely comprehensible over the music.
“A bunch of co-eds come and trash my house, I’d be pissed too,” Stiles agrees, and when he steps forward towards the kitchen he realizes exactly how close he is to Derek, the man practically glued to his shoulder. Derek doesn’t even move away at the motion, and he tries not to freeze up in shock when a hand lands on the small of his back.
“What are you doing?” Stiles hisses.
Derek makes a low, irritated noise, “There’s a group of –what the fuck is McCall doing?”
Stiles looks in confusion to his left, where he’d thought Scott had been, but finds the man instead talking to a pretty brunette that he’s apparently just spilled beer on, standing over by a stack of crates that have been converted into a table holding a keg. Stiles hadn’t even noticed him leave, goddamn Derek.
“Researching?” Stiles answers hopefully, but by the body language he can see from here, ghosts were probably the last thing on Scott’s mind. He watches as Scott moves to lean on the wall, but misjudges the distance and nearly falls over onto the girl. Somehow, miraculously, she just laughs, and Stiles can practically feel the moment Scott completely forgets why they are at the party.
Derek growls, starting towards them, but Stiles grabs his elbow to stop him. Scott deserved at least a passing consideration of the bro-code.
“Let him have like a night off, we’re just looking around, anyway,” Stiles says, trying to drag the unwilling Derek back towards the, frankly disgusting, kitchen.
Derek gives Scott an angry look, shaking off Stiles with a completely unneeded show of force, “Fine, but he better not complain when he gets her killed.”
“Aren’t you just a barrel of sunshine,” Stiles mutters as they walk further through the kitchen, dodging a couple making out against the entrance to the hallway. They make a loop around and through what might have been an office, but there’s no sign of personal effects anywhere, and Stiles hopes that Danny was wrong about the haunting because this is going to be absolutely horrible to research if otherwise.
The girl with the shiny top, from outside, emerges through the crowd as they re-enter the sitting room. She approaches them with a smile, well, approaches Derek, and Stiles has to hold back the urge to jump out of his skin when an arm suddenly finds its way across his shoulders.
“Hey,” she greets, eyelashes fluttering.
Stiles will never be happy with his ability to be completely invisible next to Derek. This is almost worse than that time he tried to get coffee and it took the barista almost ten minutes to even notice Stiles was there after Derek ordered his boring americano.
“I don’t believe I’ve seen you around campus,” she flips her hair, smile sultry. “And I think I’d remember you.”
Derek doesn’t answer, only pulls a reluctant Stiles into his chest. The girl definitely notices him then, and he’s on the end of a pissed off glare, trying to ignore the weird déjà vu that he feels at the entire situation.
“Yeah, we were uh,” Stiles looks around the room, eyes darting between people, and catches Scott sitting on a mustard colored couch with the brunette. “We don’t go out a lot, socially, I guess, but she invited us and it’s been pretty cool,” Stiles fabricates and gestures towards Scott, swallowing nervously when the woman blinks at him like he’s speaking Enochian. “Despite the stories.”
She responds to that, grinding her teeth, “What stories? If Brad has been spreading lies again, tell him that I will rip his balls off with a pair of sharpened forceps.”
“Nope, not Brad,” Stiles hurries to say, waving his hand awkwardly. Derek still won’t let up, Jesus Christ.
She purses her lips, seemingly getting over Derek’s apparent gayness quicker than Stiles had expected, and tilts her head like she’s expecting Stiles to continue.
“Oh uh, the ghost stories, heard some people got hurt,” Stiles continues, smiling crookedly.
“Oh that, just some idiots making stuff up,” she claims, but her eyes get shifty, looking towards a door Stiles hadn’t noticed.
“In the basement?” Derek asks, voice reverberating through Stiles’ back.
“Yeah, it’s just creepy, you know? People think they see things down there all the time, and it’s dark, so it’s easy to have-“ she stutters slightly, “accidents. They’re just accidents.”
Stiles smiles wide, trying to think of a way to make a switch in conversation now that they have their information, “that’s interesting, probably makes the parties more cool, right?”
“Yeah,” she agrees, but her expression is melancholy.
“We’re going down there,” Derek murmurs, words hot against the back of Stiles’ neck.
“Awesome,” Stiles croaks.
The woman gives them an upset frown, and turns on her heel to disappear somewhere up the spiral staircase to their left.
Stiles wriggles out of Derek’s arms, and punches him in the shoulder, ready to dodge Derek’s rebound if necessary, crossing his arms when it doesn’t come.
“What the fuck, man, that’s like the fifth time you’ve used me as a cockblock, for yourself,” Stiles gives Derek a serious look, eyes narrowed. “That’s so messed up that I don’t even have words. You could have interrogated her if you’d played along and I think getting laid might even loosen you up a little.”
Derek grinds his teeth, hard enough that Stiles thinks he’ll break a tooth, and looks past him towards the heart of the party. “So you finally noticed,” Derek says dryly.
“Yes, and it’s frankly a little insulting that I’m apparently so hideous that it distracts girls from your cheek bones,” Stiles declares, and he knows it’s a lie, but he’s not prepared to touch this issue with a ten foot pole right now and hopes the other man mistakes his heart beating faster as anger. He needs more time to come to terms that there are people in multiple states who think he’s dating Derek.
Derek gives him an incredulous look, which is probably just a subtle twitch of eyebrow to anyone else, and takes a breath without saying any words.
“Nothing to say then,” Stiles scoffs, “as expected.”
Derek turns towards the ominous door, scowl settling on his face, “Let’s just get down there before anyone else decides to ask questions.”
“Avoiding the subject, very classy, Hale,” Stiles says, and stops when Derek narrows his eyes, realizing he might have oversold it a little. “Whatever, I hope all the records are down there too. If I have to go to another library so soon, I might start writing a book about them.”
“Would it shut you up for a few days?” Derek growls, elbowing his way past a group of darkly dressed coed’s who manage to glare and check him out at the same time.
“You shouldn’t be so snappy,” Stiles mutters, following him dutifully down the stairs, which are way too creaky to be any kind of safe.
Derek doesn’t say anything, but lifts his head to smell the air when they hit the bottom, his eyes flashing electric blue.
“I know how to kill you, and I could totally do it,” Stiles continues. “It wouldn’t even be hard.”
“Everyone knows how to kill me,” Derek snaps, turning his head to give Stile an irritated look. “There are movies, dumbass. Now shut up, I smell something weird.”
“Is it blood and terror, because this feels like a blood and terror moment,” Stiles mutters, looking around. He can’t see much, the light from the stairs doing nearly nothing, and even when he takes out his phone to use as a flashlight, it only does so much, as he barely glimpses a dirty concrete floor and rusty metal shelving. “Maybe some rust and dead rats, too.”
“No, it’s something chemical that I’ve never smelled before,” Derek explains, face curling up. “It’s not rat poison or alcohol.”
“So nothing fun then,” Stiles mutters sarcastically.
The door suddenly slams shut a moment later, and Stiles lets out a strangled noise as he’s enveloped in darkness, even the phone blinking out and refusing to turn back on.
“Derek?” he says, throat constricted.
“I can’t see anything,” Derek growls.
“Welcome to the fucking club, man- oh god something is touching me,” Stiles closes his eyes, even knowing it won’t make any difference.
Real ghosts don’t disappear when you pretend not to believe in them.
“Werewolf,” something hisses in his ear, and he frantically shakes his head.
“What? No, no everything is normal here, we’re just a couple of stupid college kids doing something on a dare,” he says while trying not to hyperventilate.
It hisses again, and when Stiles hears Derek groan in pain he reaches out for the dull flash of blue light, what he hopes are Derek’s eyes and not the ghost, managing to miraculously grasp an elbow.
He gets pushed against the wall when Derek lashes out, but the hand around his throat quickly relaxes and they both stumble up the creaky stairs. Derek wrenches the door off its hinges, and they burst out, breathing hard.
“Oh thank god we’re not dead,” Stiles says disjointedly as he leans heavily on Derek’s shoulder. “I can’t believe we forgot a gun.”
When he manages to catch his breath and realizes that Derek hasn’t said anything, he looks over to see that the man has deep gouges along his sides and back, so deep that he swears he can see bone, his shirt ripped to pieces.
“Oh man, it really didn’t like you,” Stiles gulps, pulling the man towards the front door and hoping in vain that all these college students are too self-involved to notice.
Derek stumbles behind him, and it’s obvious that despite the werewolf powers, he’s going to have to recuperate for at least a few minutes while his insides heal.
Stiles walks past the couch where Scott is sitting, still involved in some inane conversation and completely unaware that he’s literally sitting atop a supernatural death trap. Stiles kicks his ankle as he goes past and Scott’s eyes go wide when he sees Derek.
He gestures with his head towards the exit, watching as Scott turns back to the girl to say something that he can’t hear over the music. He starts moving towards the door again and judging by Derek’s strengthening posture, the man’s probably coming out of shock.
The first step into the cool air hits him like a truck, and he breathes deep for a few moments, taking a moment to be happy that he’s managed to avoid being killed; that’s somewhere around score eleventy-seven for Stiles, zero for murderous creatures. He continues to drag Derek towards the Camaro, depositing him in the front seat and fishing out the keys, but a clawed hand stops him from actually closing the door.
“You’re not driving my car,” Derek growls.
“Dude, you’re totally half-dying right now, this definitely counts as impairment,” Stiles tries to pull his hand away, but Derek won’t have any of it. “Come on, please, you’re sick. I won’t even try to peel out of here.”
Derek breathes heavily at him for a few more moments, eyes flashing slightly, but he finally lets go in the end.
Scott runs out of the house, and nearly trips down the stairs as he goes, barreling towards the Camaro.
“What happened?” Scott asks in concern. “Derek’s already all bloody, and I was only talking for like ten minutes. How did you guys even do that?”
Stiles shrugs and sighs, and Scott responds with a furrowed brow, expecting an answer.
“Yes, we managed to find the ghost while you were chatting up the pretty girl and also it really doesn’t like werewolves,” Stiles says, raising his eyebrows as he recalls the experience. “It can also repress light, which is both terrible and awesome.”
“But you’re both okay?” Scott asks, glancing in the window to see Derek.
“Yeah, we’re fine, but we should probably leave. Sorry that you didn’t get laid,” he cuffs Scott on the shoulder companionably.
Scott grin returns, “I got her number, and she’s majoring in folk lore so she knows all about this stuff.”
Stiles feels his face turn down involuntarily, and he sighs, “Okay buddy, we’re going to have to have another talk about secrets, but at the hotel, because Derek is seriously pissed right now.”
“Oh, uh, okay,” Scott agrees, “I saw a hotel called the uh, it had a sign with a chicken on it?”
“Crowded Rooster?” Stiles asks excitedly, “Derek didn’t even laugh when I made a joke about cocks, man.”
“Yeah that one,” Scott grins, “I’ll meet you there.”
“I hate you both,” Derek says, clutching at the shredded remains of his shirt as he climbs out of the car, fully healed, but the pain seems to have converted itself to anger.
“Aw, I know that’s a lie,” Stiles reaches out to grab his cheek, intent on pinching it like a granny. “Don’t be such a grump.”
Derek dodges, giving him a narrow look, “Do not touch me right now, I’ll rip your face off.”
“Oh, whatever,” Stiles brushes it off, waving a hand and giving Derek back his keys, rolling his eyes when they’re snatched away. “Scott went to get rooms, it feels like a Luke and Han night, what do you think, Chewie?”
“I don’t care what your stupid fake names are, Stiles, this was my last good shirt,” Derek’s hands bunch up at his sides, white knuckled.
“Calm down, you can have one of mine,” Stiles says and puts a hand up in defeat. “Tomorrow we can go somewhere and buy a five-pack or something.”
Derek shakes his head, baring his teeth, “My life has gone to complete shit since I met you two. I could be-“
“Could be what?” Stiles interrupts, raising an eyebrow skeptically, a little irritated at the implication. “Could be squatting in a burnt out house and getting harassed by poltergeists? Because that’s what you were doing when we found you.”
Derek snarls, “Do not talk about my family that way. You’re the ones who need help with this, not me. Loup garou aren’t meant to be hunters.”
“And why not? You’re like perfect.” Stiles declares, throwing his hands up. He blinks at the words, backtracking. “For hunting,” he finishes hesitantly.
Derek doesn’t seem to notice the trip-up, taking a deep breath. Stiles watches as all traces of anger fade away, and frowns as he realizes that Derek seems to be carefully avoiding looking him in the face.
“I’m going for a drive,” Derek mutters, expression completely flat, turning on his heel and walking towards his car.
“You’ll come back, right,” Stiles calls after him, and sees Derek hesitate. “I mean, this isn’t a thing where you take off and we expect you to come back after you cool off, but then we actually never see you again?”
Derek doesn’t answer past rolling his eyes, which Stiles takes as a sign he’ll be back. The man’s duffle bag is still in the Jeep anyway, even if it is apparently devoid of shirts.
“This is not the way to end a conversation,” Stiles yells. “It’s just rude.”
Inside the hotel room, Scott is staring at his computer in concentration, Facebook open again, and presumably chatting with the girl he’d seen at the party earlier judging by the picture. Stiles rolls his eyes, flops down onto one of the two beds in the room, and stares at the ceiling.
“Where’s Derek?” Scott asks, not even looking over.
“He went to mourn his existence,” Stiles sighs. “Did you get a cot?”
Scott grimaces, “Not exactly.”
“How can you ‘not exactly’ get a cot?”
“Well,” Scott hums and pushes away from the table to approach one of the beds.
Stiles leans up in interest to watch as Scott pulls out what looks like a slightly fluffy blanket from under one of the beds.
“Personally, I don’t think of this is a cot.”
Stiles raises his eyebrows in agreement, “it’s like the Blob used it.”
They stare at the cot for a few more minutes before Scott holds, out a hand, “Rock-paper-scissors before Derek gets back?”
“Hell yeah, he’s not here,” Stiles nods, holding out his own hand, and losing paper to scissors, and then again scissors to rock. He scowls at his own hands. “What is wrong with me?”
“Awesome,” Scott grins in victory, flopping down on the other bed and pulling his laptop to sit on his chest.
“Dude, we really need to talk about how quickly you got attached to this girl,” Stiles says a moment later, pulling himself up on the bed.
Scott frowns at him, “But, she’s awesome.”
“But, you’ve known her ten minutes,” Stiles mocks, giving him a look, “And you’re already thinking that she won’t call you crazy when you tell her that you hunt monsters.”
“You don’t know that,” Scott frowns, jaw stiffening. “We talked about how the The Exorcist was dumb and –
“And that you would know from experience?” Stiles’ voice increases in pitch involuntarily. “This is not sane, she will report you to the authorities, and we’re wanted by them!”
“She’s majoring in folklore-“
“Folklore means she thinks it’s made up, man, she studies it because she likes the stories,” Stiles lays flat and runs his hands over his face. “You spilled beer on her, she probably only talked to you because she pitied you for being so inept.”
“That’s not true,” Scott defends. “She said I was interesting and to text her, and now we’re texting so you’re wrong, so shut up. It’s not easy for everyone like you, not everyone has Derek.”
“What does that even mean,” Stiles groans in confusion. “I don’t have Derek, no one has Derek.”
“Don’t lie, with the car today, and then practically cuddling in that house,” Scott’s voice gets angrier as he explains. “Why didn’t you say anything, I wouldn’t have cared.”
“There is nothing going on,” Stiles defends, “the car was- I don’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s exactly what I mean, you guys don’t tell me anything,” Scott pouts, and his face starts doing the sad puppy thing that makes Stiles want to crawl in a hole and die.
“Danny told him that the werewolf that killed my Dad was looking for me,” Stiles bursts out, screwing his eyes shut in mortification.
“What?” Scott croaks, and Stiles opens his eyes to see that the sad puppy face has graduated to puppy-whose-mom-just-got-run-over-by-a-car face.
“This is why I didn’t want to talk about it,” Stiles confesses. “Please don’t start crying, or I’ll start crying, and then Derek will come back and feel awkward and then he’ll leave again, and we’ll be out our practically immortal advantage.”
“Why,” Scott says, and his eyes are watery, so Stiles looks at the ceiling and starts to blink rapidly before the sob-fest can start on his end.
“Derek said Danny didn’t know, apparently, but it tried to attack Lydia when she and Jackson where hunting something, I didn’t really ask for details,” Stiles explains, swallowing, “I’m so sorry.” Scott’s still silent, but Stiles resists the urge to look over at him. “I wouldn’t have gone away if I’d known, I swear. I don’t even know why it’s after me,” Stiles clarifies in a hoarse voice.
“It’s not your fault,” Scott says quietly.
“It feels like it is,” Stiles pushes, “What if it tries to finish the job?”
Scott doesn’t say anything for a moment, and Stiles hears him breathe in slowly, “Derek won’t let that happen.”
“Derek almost got eviscerated by a ghost tonight,” Stiles scoffs halfheartedly. “The ghost had weird abilities, but he still isn’t as infallible as he acts.”
“Yeah well, I won’t let it happen either.” Scott says, a threatening edge to his voice.
“Great, I’m a princess,” Stiles mutters dryly, but he’s happy for the turn in conversation.
It’s silent for a few moments, and Stiles sneaks a look over to Scott, who’s frowning at him with narrowed eyes. Stiles sighs as he realizes what Scott’s going to say the minute he opens his mouth.
“If there’s nothing going on, then why was he all over you at the house?”
Stiles sighs harder a second time, and scratches at his brow, “Apparently Derek doesn’t like people hitting on him.”
Scott cocks an eyebrow.
Stiles spreads his hands in agreement, lifting them parallel to the ceiling. “I know, you’d think his personality would be the perfect cockblock, but he’s decided using me is quicker than actually talking to people.”
Scott continues to stare at him, “You’re an idiot.”
“I’m an idiot?” Stiles repeats in disbelief, which was certainly the last thing he thought he’d ever hear from Scott.
“Yes,” Scott reiterates and narrows his eyes. “Are you doing it on purpose?”
Stiles leans up, scoffing, “What does that even-“
Before he can finish there’s a fist pounding at the door, and the matter is dropped as Derek literally throws food at them the minute the door opens.
“Oh my god, burgers!” Stiles yells in excitement, pulling the burger out of the bag with a grin. “I can’t believe I forgot to eat, that’s really not like me.”
“Thanks,” Scott says through a mouth full of fries, “Where’s yours?”
“I ate it on the drive back,” Derek mutters, slumping down into a chain in their tiny kitchenette.
Stiles looks up at the sullen tone, raising an eyebrow, but the burger is so distracting that he forgets what he was going to ask. The room is filled with the sounds of eating, and the occasional clicking as Scott is still talking to that girl from the party. Derek sighs and rubs a hand over his face, leaning heavy onto the table, and Stiles realizes that he must be exhausted.
“We need to check out that house again,” Derek mutters, getting up, and Stiles raises his eyebrows as he actually starts walking towards the door.
“Okay, Wolfenstein, not so fast,” Stiles says, raising an eyebrow and jumping towards the door to block it with his body. “Let’s do that tomorrow. Apparently healing took some energy out of you, and might have also used up some of the few marbles you have left if you’re actually going to try and walk out this door.”
Derek stares, his eyes narrowing.
“We already picked beds,” Scott adds absentmindedly, obviously not paying attention. “You’re with Stiles.”
Derek turns around and blinks slowly as he starts walking, zombielike, towards the bed Stiles just vacated, taking his shirt and pants off clumsily as he goes. He flops down on the side closest and takes a few deep breaths, the tattoo on his back contracting in response.
“Whoa, don’t you want to –okay,” Stiles leans over Derek’s prone body, and resists the urge to start poking at him. The man doesn’t move a muscle at the attention and Stiles realizes he must have passed out. “Or not, apparently wolves don’t need to brush their teeth.”
“That’s never happened before,” Scott says, staring.
The next day begins too early, and uncomfortably, as Stiles wakes up practically boiling for no discernible reason. He groans and looks too the source, slowly realizing that he’s somehow managed to cross the foot of no-man’s land he usually kept from Derek, and burrowed himself into the man’s side. He makes an unmanly squawk and struggles to move away as quickly as possible, the covers sliding with him onto the floor as he misjudges the distance and rolls off. He frowns and looks up in bafflement, sleepily coming to the conclusion that it was Derek that had moved over towards his side of the bed.
“What the hell?” Stiles mutters as he pulls himself up. He rubs his face and looks down, nearly jumping backwards in surprise when he sees Derek’s eyes are electric blue and staring at him.
“How did I get here?” Derek growls and leans up to look around, eyes pausing on Scott before he turns back to glare Stiles, who glares back.
“You moved over, asshole.”
Derek grinds his teeth, “I meant in the room, I don’t remember coming back.”
“Oh,” Stiles murmurs in consideration. “Well, uh, you drove?” He narrows his eyes, thinking, “I knew there was something weird about you buying us food.”
“I buy you food all the time,” Derek disagrees and detangles himself from the bed, getting up slowly and running a hand through his unruly hair.
“Yeah, but we have to beg for it,” Stiles mutters, crossing his arms as Derek puts his clothes back on.
“What’s going on?” Scott mutters from the other bed, looking between them in sleepy confusion.
“Derek is totally hungover,” Stiles exclaims, pointing in accusation.
“I am not,” Derek snarls, but he’s clutching his head all the same. “I think that bitch did something to me.”
Stiles watches as Derek puts on the shredded shirt from last night, and is honestly a little amazed he hadn’t gotten arrested for public indecency last night. He quirks a brow at the implication that the ghost poisoned a werewolf, and starts digging through his duffle for the promised replacement.
“How do you know it’s a girl?” Scott asks after a few moments.
Derek ignores the question as he takes Stiles’ shirt, throwing his old shirt across the room and into a small trash can, pulling on Stiles’ and frowning when it stretches across his chest tightly. “Stiles, this shirt is too small.”
Stiles blinks, tilting his head and hoping it’s not too obvious that he’s checking out Derek’s abs, which are stark through the thin fabric, “Yep.”
Derek narrows his eyes, and storms out of the door without saying a thing and Stiles really hopes that was a coincidence, and not a reaction to getting checked out.
“Something weird is going on with him,” Scott groans, rolling out of bed.
“No shit,” Stiles mutters, shutting himself in the bathroom to take a shower.
By the time he gets out, Derek is back, sulking in the kitchenette while Scott eats an unhealthy breakfast of vending machine food.
“Didn’t bring any food back this time?” Stiles pouts, grabbing cinnamon roll package off the table and ignoring Scott’s plaintive whine as the man gets up and goes to shower himself.
“I just went to make sure my car was here,” Derek responds, giving him a narrow eyed look. “I didn’t go anywhere.”
Stiles slouches down in the Scott’s vacated chair as he rips off a part of the cinnamon roll, “So are you going to tell me who ‘she’ was?”
Derek gives him a flat look, and then turns back to the table. Stiles watches as the man rips into a package of pastry, some kind of fruit danish.
Stiles glares at the response, “Really? Are you serious right now?” He runs his tongue harshly on the back of his teeth. “Well, thanks for the trust. I hope you meant the ghost, because I’m going to pretend you meant the ghost.”
They eat a relative silence, Stiles trying to figure out a way to get the other man to reveal who he was talking about, and Derek apparently trying to touch the food without getting his hands sticky. Stiles loses what he was thinking about as he’s distracted by the myriad of subtly disgusted expressions that cross Derek’s face at the amount of gelatinous sugary goo that coats the Danish, and resists making a joke about the man getting his paws sticky.
“We should go back to the house, it will be easier to search now that it’s daylight,” Derek says as he grimaces, giving up on hygiene and tearing what’s left of his Danish in half.
“You said that last night too,” Scott says as he emerges from the bathroom. He throws Stiles the privacy tag, which evidently they’d forgotten to put it on the door last night.
“Aren’t you going to take a shower?” Stiles asks Derek, snide.
Scott looks between the two of them as he digs through his duffle for something, eyes uncertain.
“Do I smell?” Derek snarls back.
Stiles scoffs, waving off any intimidation he might feel. “I forgot, wolves don’t take showers, do they? Did you visit a river while you were out, Hale?”
Derek bares his teeth, and Stiles smirks back.
“We should probably leave,” Scott interrupts, edging towards the door. Derek and Stiles both swing their heads towards him, and he smiles nervously.
They leave a few minutes later, and as Stiles walks towards the Jeep, he grabs the keys out of Scott’s hand. “Just because I let you drive it yesterday doesn’t mean you get to keep it,” Stiles says, and Scott makes a face but doesn’t argue.
This time when they pull up to the house, it’s what they expected yesterday: abandoned, unfriendly looking, and silent.
“Stiles, get your stupid meter thing,” Derek orders as he gets out of his car. “I’d like a warning before something tries to kill me this time.”
“It is called an EMF Meter, you jackass,” Stiles yells after him, “and you’d know that if you bothered to listen to me.”
Derek just waves a lazy hand in response, walking up the porch stairs.
Stiles grabs the meter and a couple of guns from the back of his Jeep, giving one to Scott and shouldering a shotgun for himself.
“So what did it look like?” Scott asks as they hesitantly walk in the house, which is even more disgusting now that no one is in it. Stiles looks around with a grimace, happy that at least someone had bothered to shove all the garbage in a corner.
“Absolutely no idea, man, it shut the door on us and blacked out all the light,” Stiles peaks around the corners, gun at the ready, but doesn’t see anything. “I could barely even see Derek’s laser-eyes when we got attacked.”
“So we’re completely unprepared,” Scott realizes, hand tightening on his gun.
Stiles reluctantly shrugs in agreement, “At least we have guns this time?”
Derek comes around a corner, snatching the EMF meter from Stiles and turning it on. It starts making loud whirring noises immediately, the lights going straight to red and staying there with little fluctuation. He starts walking around the house, and it becomes clear that no matter where he stands it’s still going to making the noise.
“Notice anything about the door, Stiles?” Derek asks, giving him a raised eyebrow as he turns off the meter, which has proved itself unfortunately useless.
“Oh uh,” Stiles looks over in the direction he’d gestured towards, and groans. The door that Derek had ripped from its hinges yesterday is completely fixed, like it hadn’t even been touched, let alone torn apart by a werewolf last night.
“What?” Scott asks. “Is there something wrong?”
“Derek totally ripped this apart last night,” Stiles explains as he walks over, running his hand down the door jam.
“I think it’s watching us,” Derek says, making a slow circle around the room.
“Awesome,” Stiles mutters, and turns around to go up the spiral staircase, but catches something next to the fireplace. Something shiny.
It’s in an unusually deep crack between two pieces of rock, and as he pulls it out he recognizes it as a picture frame, small and cracked, but luckily the picture is still inside. It’s of a little girl, her hair braided in two, one over each shoulder, and she has wide brown eyes that seem to stare into him.
“What’s that?” Scott asks, leaning over his shoulder, and Derek comes to crouch down next to them in curiosity when he sees that Stiles has something.
“It’s a photo of a little girl,” Stiles responds, and hands it to Scott.
Scott looks at it for a few moments, mouth turning down. “She looks sad.”
Stiles turns to Derek, who hasn’t said anything. “Do you think it’s her?” He creases his brow when Derek doesn’t respond, and realizes that the man’s eyes are nowhere near the picture. “Derek?” Stiles asks once more, turning around to see what the man is looking at.
He nearly falls backwards in surprise when he sees the ghost, definitely the little girl, almost exactly like the picture except one of her braids is missing, torn away presumably by the same gunshot that had taken off half her skull. There’s a trail of blood from her half-empty skull down her neck, and the shine almost makes her look alive.
Stiles tries to say something, anything, but realizes he can’t even move, and the gun is completely useless at his side as he strains to reach for it even as his hands refuse to move. This can’t be a normal ghost, it’s too strong, too in control.
“Guys?” Scott asks hesitantly when he realizes no one is moving, and starts to look over his shoulder.
“Werewolves,” she shrieks suddenly, voice like a whistle, and descends upon them in fury. Her temper must be linked to her control because suddenly Stiles can move again, and he’s shooting as quickly as he can into the ghost’s face as it dives for Derek and Scott.
She shrieks as the salt hits her, image dispersing as he shoots again just to be sure.
He lunges forward and gets up as quick as he can, briefly grabbing Derek’s shoulder as he runs, and bursting out of the front door as quick as possible. This is apparently much slower than Derek, who is already next to the Jeep as Stiles hits the bottom step of the porch. He looks back and sees with relief that Scott is right behind him, picture clutched in his hand.
“I hate my job,” Stiles declares in a rush of adrenaline fueled humor, leaning on the hood of the Jeep. “I hate it so much, oh my god, I’m going to be dead before I’m thirty. I’m never going to have a midlife-crisis. Where’s my red sports car, guys, where?”
Derek gives him a look that’s clearly meant to shut him up, but Stiles ignores it, moving to sit on the bumper as he balances the shotgun on his knees and grabs the picture frame out of Scott’s hands. He opens up the back and pulls out the picture, flipping it over, and thank the gods, there’s a name.
“Miranda Delange -Daddy’s Little Girl, 2001” Stiles reads, quirking a brow. “Thank you, nameless parent, for saving me from another sleepless night researching dead little girls.”
Scott laughs, and leans back against the car, “Awesome, at least we get to burn shit tonight.”
“There is something wrong with you, Mr. McCall, something very wrong with you,” Stiles laughs, returning the picture to its frame.
“There’s something wrong with both of you,” Derek mutters.
Stiles grins widely in response, “Pretty sure you knew that the minute you hitched up, dude.”
Derek rolls his eyes, sighing deeply.
“So, she wasn’t killed by a werewolf,” Scott says.
Stiles looks over in confusion, raising an eyebrow. “No, obviously it was a pretty big gun,” he agrees slowly, and points fingers at his own head, miming pulling a trigger.
“Well, when you guys said she hated werewolves, I might have assumed that was what killed her?” Scott explains mildly.
Stiles nods and makes a considering noise, he has to give Scott the benefit of the doubt on that one, it certainly makes sense. He looks to see what Derek thinks, but the man just shrugs, apparently also stumped at the implication.
“Well, maybe she was a hunter’s daughter?” Stiles wonders, leaning back on the hood.
“She wouldn’t have lived here long enough to develop attachment to the house,” Derek disagrees, crossing his arms. “You two know that best.”
Stiles makes a contemplative noise, but doesn’t debate the assumption.
“Witches?” Scott offers after a few moments, “That might explain how she could do the, uh, thing with the light.”
“And control our movement,” Derek grumbles.
At the words, Scott makes a noise like he just realized what happened, and turns to the house with a horrified look.
“You thought I was waiting for dramatic effect to shoot it?” Stiles asks, laughing as he releases the last empty shell out of his gun, which was for dramatic effect.
“No?” Scott mutters, looking out the corner of his eye.
Stiles sets the picture frame and the shotgun on the hood, and takes out his phone. He searches the name, scrolling past Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, and clicks a rather gruesome article about a break-in gone wrong. It paints a picture of an isolated incident, and at the bottom is the location and time of her funeral, dated ten years ago.
“Wyuka Cemetery,” Stiles says, turning his phone around to show the others. “Don’t you just love modern technology?”
“Oh,” Scott says suddenly, and eagerly grabs his own phone out of his pocket, tapping in a text to someone.
“Who are you texting?” Derek asks, looking like he’s about to rip the phone from Scotts hand.
“Girl from the party last night,” Stiles sighs, rolling his eyes.
“Allison,” Scott insists, tone not unlike a certain Lord of the Rings character. “She’s really awesome, and smart, and she sent me this picture where she won an archery competition.”
Scott looks dangerously close to sighing wistfully, and Stiles raises an eyebrow as Derek momentarily gets murderous look on his face. It disappears quickly as the man sighs heavily, but still makes Stiles wonders if this is going to end in blood and tears.
All produced by Scott.
“You realize we’re going to leave, right?” Derek says, rolling his shoulders back. It has the dual role of making Derek look more authoritative and reminding Stiles that they really need to get the other man some more shirts before he shoots himself on accident from gawking.
Scott’s entire face falls at the question, and it’s easy to tell he’s about to give into the urge to pout. Stiles doesn’t really want to listen to Scott’s inevitable ‘why can’t I have a life’ speech, so he takes the guns and goes round the back to carefully place them in their slots inside the Jeep’s cache, and tries to block out whatever whining is going on at the front of his car. He starts organizing the bullets, groaning as he realizes that he’s either going to have to be the one to propose they let him have a chance or be the bad guy and tell Scott that long-distance relationships never work. He’s thinking about proposing a hunter dating service to Danny, E-Hunter.com for all your dating needs, when Derek’s growling manages to break through his thoughts. He slams the hatch and looks through the windows, where he sees Derek’s pinned Scott the trunk of the Camaro.
“Okay, guys,” Stiles rushes to say, awkwardly trying figure out how to pull them apart without Derek trying to rip his head off with razor sharp claws. He wonders if maybe he put the guns away too early.
“Derek’s being fucking crazy,” Scott wheezes, “I just said maybe I could stay here for a little while.”
Stiles raises an incredulous eyebrow, “you met this girl last night, dude, what the hell are you thinking? And I’m not even going to begin with the fact you’re willing to essentially abandon us for a girl without any thought.”
Derek’s makes a noise in agreement, letting Scott up a little, but he still keeps a hold on the other man’s shirt collar. Stiles has to try really hard to push the image of Scott as a wriggling disobedient puppy away, this is your brain when you hang out with a werewolf, flashes through his mind.
“I wouldn’t say abandon,” Scott disagrees quietly, “and it’s not like you guys really need me, anyway.”
Stiles laughs shortly, shaking his head in disbelief. “Okay, A: not true, if it weren’t for you we’d be ghost food right now, and B: this is not a conversation we should be having in an abandoned district of Lincoln, Nebraska.”
Scott looks like he’s about to fight it, but backs down when Derek slams him down against the Camaro once more. He finally lets go after that, releasing the shirt like it burns, giving Scott a disgusted look.
“I just really like her,” Scott says quietly, rubbing his chest.
Stiles makes a strangled noise, pointing to the car. Scott dejectedly slumps towards the passenger seat, slamming the door.
“He’s a moron,” Derek growls, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets.
“That’s old news,” Stiles commiserates, rubbing his forehead. “Want to meet at like, I have no idea, anywhere but next to a house with a creepy little girl who wants you to bleed to death?”
Derek glances at the house and then back at Stiles, shrugging.
“Man, do I have to make all the decisions? Okay, -“
“He’s texting her again,” Derek interrupts dryly, and Stiles looks back to catch Scott once again engrossed in his phone.
“This is reaching unhealthy levels,” Stiles complains flatly.
“Hotel, I need to clean up,” Derek decides, turning to get in the Camaro. Stiles sighs, waving lazily as he agrees and gets in the Jeep, shooting an irritated look at Scott’s quickly moving thumbs.
“You know, I started out angry at Derek, but congratulations because it’s all been transferred to you,” Stiles mutters, shifting harshly into first and making a u-turn behind Derek.
“Why were you angry at him?” Scott asks, actually deigning to look up from his phone.
“He still won’t tell us shit even after we’ve been hunting together for over a year,” Stiles groans, making a frustrated noise in the back of his throat. “This is no longer about that though, this is about you and your crazy after talking to a girl for literally no time to get to know her and then saying you want to stay here.”
“She really likes me and I really like her,” Scott insists, staring down at his phone.
“Whatever, you’re lucky Derek didn’t take off your head. You know he has deep-seated abandonment issues, like that cat in Bolt.”
“Mittens,” Scott sighs, clutching at his phone.
“Exactly, I’m not sure how you remembered her name, but the point is that she got really angry and sad, and neither of us need that,” Stiles makes a slicing gesture with his hand. “And in regards to the two of us, seriously, just saying that is a douchebag move, we’re like bros.”
“I’m still going to text her,” Scott says after a few uncomfortable minutes, “and Facebook.”
“Yes, internet stalk until your little heart bursts, I do not care,” Stiles rolls his eyes, flicking on the radio. “Good talk, I’m glad we’ve settled this.”
“Are we burning the body tonight?” Scott asks, subdued.
“Yes, yes we are. We can even make Derek do most of the digging if you want, to get back for the trying to kill you thing,” Stiles answers as they pull into the hotel parking lot.
Derek is standing next to the Camaro, arms crossed and eyes narrow as they pull up next to him.
“You keep looking into the sun like that, you’ll go blind, wolf-boy,” Stiles says as he jumps out of the Jeep.
“Did you get it all settled?” Derek asks, giving Scott a sidelong look as the other man gets out.
“Yes, King of Avoiding Feelings,” Stiles scoffs.
Derek rolls his eyes, and lowers his voice, “Did you talk about the werewolf thing, too?”
Stiles hums, grimacing, “That would be a very solid no.”
“Get your duffles and get back in the car, you owe me shirts,” Derek announces in a louder voice, exasperated.
Scott rolls his eyes and goes for the hotel door. “This is what I meant about not telling me anything.”
“Duffles,” Derek barks.
“Oh, Mister Hale, what would we do without your leadership,” Stiles swoons mockingly as he turns after Scott.
The store they end up in is possibly the most run down Wal-Mart in existence, the kind you see on the internet where people wear nothing except g-strings and crop-top. However, everything is fairly inexpensive and none of the retail workers will even get near them because of Derek’s glower and Scott’s sulking. It’s basically the perfect place for hunters to shop; it even has guns in the back.
They weave their way through bright colored sweats and ladies underwear until they’re in front of a tall rack of men’s clothing, seemingly situated as far from the door as it could be placed. Stiles grabs a package of black shirts and throws it at Derek, who catches it with a sigh and then grabs a set grey-scale wife-beaters.
“We really need to expand your color palette, it’s like riding around with a silent movie,” Stiles grumbles, fleeing from the maze-like environment of towering clothes racks.
Scott follows, bumping him on the shoulder and nearly pushing him into a stack of cereal boxes. Stiles looks back when Derek doesn’t offer any retort, to see that he hasn’t moved an inch since grabbing the shirts, and has a weird look on his face, eyes a little too big. He turns to look at them, makes eye contact with Stiles, and seems to shake it off.
“Considering how often they’re destroyed, I doubt it matters,” Derek says, as if he’d never paused.
“What the hell, man?” Scott asks after a moment of silence, quirking an eyebrow, and Stiles has to agree, that was weird.
“You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Stiles says mockingly, biting his tongue to keep from laughing. “Are there two jobs in this town, because I will gladly help solve the Mystery of the Underwear Spectre after taking care of the Tiny Phantom of Werewolf Intolerance.”
“Shut up,” Derek says, frowning. “I thought I saw something.”
“If you say so,” Stiles sing-songs, walking over towards the food, because if he’s here he may as well stock up on trail-mix and dried fruit.
Stiles has this theory, as a frequent visitor of such places, that every graveyard in the country would be a little less creepy if there was some sort of law to plant cherry blossom trees. He’d been to the congressional cemetery once, he doesn’t like to think about why, but he couldn’t help remember that it made the place feel a little less doomed than the freakish amount of tall, dark trees do in this place.
“So where is she?” Scott asks, looking over Stiles shoulder at the phone he holds in his hand.
“Uhh, we’ll start in the newer plots,” Stiles answers, clicking his phone off when he can’t find any information on the cemetery layout. “Look for some gravestones that don’t look a hundred years old, I guess.”
Scott makes a displeased noise, throwing a shovel over his shoulder and walking in the direction of an area with younger trees. Derek gives Stiles a flat look, getting back in the Camaro and actually driving over there, obviously expecting him to follow.
After the three of them look over an innumerable amount of plots, it’s Scott who finds it a half hour later, grinning with satisfaction as he points down at a sad little inlay with the girl’s name engraved.
“You’d think with the size of that house they’d have been able to afford a real headstone, maybe even one of those evil little stone angels,” Stiles says, squinting down at it.
Derek grunts in agreement as he starts taking off his jacket, setting it on a neighboring headstone and immediately digging his spade in the ground with little enthusiasm. Stiles blinks slowly when he realizes that Derek is still wearing his shirt, and finds himself staring as the fabric stretches over his shoulders with each every movement.
“Are you going to help?” Derek growls after a moment, frowning at Stiles’ empty hands.
“Oh, uh,” Stiles looks towards the Jeep. “Yeah, sorry. Let me get a shovel, one second.”
“Totally doing it on purpose,” Scott mutters, rolling his eyes as he starts digging next to Derek.
Stiles narrows his eyes, pursing his lips as he grabs a spade and starts in with gusto, trying to ignore Scott’s continued muttering. Derek apparently can’t do the same, and halfway down the grave, Stiles has to intercept when Derek looks like he’s about to take the opportunity of the perfect body dump and whack Scott over the head.
The coffin is small, and the sight of it instantly has Stiles mood turning sour. Derek sighs deeply, wrenching the lid open with a crowbar, and the sight of the sad, dreary little body has Stiles wishing they could do more than just free her soul. Scott makes a wretched noise a second later, and throws Derek the salt and lighter fluid, mouth pinched into a tight frown.
“I wish kids couldn’t be ghosts,” Stiles mutters, climbing out of the grave.
Derek nods beside him, throwing a lit match in, and it feels like more than the usual cleansing as they watch her body disintegrate. After the flames die down, they close the lid, push the dirt back over it, and try to place the grass flat without making it too obvious that they’ve just desecrated yet another grave.
“Well, isn’t this interesting,” Says a someone from the other side of Stiles’ Jeep, and Stiles backs into Derek in surprise when a woman emerges out of the shadows, slowly clapping. She’s got light hair, a leather jacket, and is smirking at them like she knows something. There are a couple of large pistols at her hips, and Stiles has no doubt that she could do serious damage with them.
“Kate,” Derek growls, shoving Stiles and Scott behind him, stepping forward. “I knew I’d been seeing you around.”
“Oh, puppy,” Kate mocks, frowning brazenly. “I hope you didn’t mind that little tranq I gave you yesterday, I just wanted to follow you home.”
“What the fuck,” Stiles can’t help but ask, but when Derek looks back with a serious expression, he mimes zipping his lips. Kate looks between the two of them with an interested expression, eyebrows quirking.
“I guess I’ll get straight to the point then. You’re not the only one that got away, Derek,” she says, sighing dramatically. “And I want to know who it is, and where they are, because after all, I only left you alive out of pity. Remember that I can remake that decision in a flash if need be.”
Stiles really doesn’t understand what’s going on now. It’s like she’s continuing a conversation he wasn’t part of, and he has about a million questions building up in his mind. He notices Scott out of the corner of his eye, and watches with narrowed eyes as Scott gestures towards his own hip. Stiles glances down, and realizes that Scott had apparently grabbed a gun out of the Jeep.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Derek snarls, eyes flashing blue.
“Oh, come on,” Kate raises an eyebrow, tilting her head placatingly. “You can’t be with the Sheriff’s son just for coincidence’s sake.”
Derek looks back to Stiles with a confused look, and then back to Kate, his eyebrows furrowing nearly imperceptibly. He shrugs slightly when the woman turns to him, her eyes narrowing.
“Unless,” Kate continues slowly, eyebrows rising in amusement, “That is just a coincidence.”
“What are you talking about,” Derek asks again, baring his teeth.
Kate grins widely, and any other time it would probably be beautiful, but right now Stiles just thinks it makes her look crazy.
“The Stilinskis,” Kate begins, “have a bit of a record with your family. It’s nothing compared to mine, of course, I hold that trophy, but about decade ago the Sheriff did have a bit of an- altercation.”
Stiles makes a startled noise, eyes widening as he looks over to make eye contact with a similarly surprised Scott.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Derek growls, glancing back at Stiles again.
“Of course not, no one wants to hear about the rogue members of their family, and you probably didn’t even miss your Aunt’s presence at those yearly get-togethers, did you?” Kate asks sweetly, trailing a hand down the edge of Stiles’ Jeep. “Especially not after the year I attended.”
Derek’s face twists and he glances at the ground, eyes looking into the middle distance as he apparently tries to remember what Kate could be talking about. When he looks up his expression is stony, “She hadn’t been part of the family in a while, not after disobeying the laws.”
“Well, all of you do eventually,” Kate says, rolling her eyes. She tilts her head again, looking between Scott and Stiles and then back to Derek. “Your kind isn’t exactly gentle, after all, so imagine my surprise when I find you with a couple of humans, hunters of all things. Have your kind moved on to stealing metaphorical hearts now?”
“Shut up,” Derek says, somehow angrier. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Stiles glance at Scott again, who’s shifted a little further behind Derek and is slowly reaching for the gun at his waist. He turns back to watch the conversation, hoping that she doesn’t provoke anything rash out of Derek.
“Oh, that’s cute,” Kate coos, ignorant of the movement as she pouts mockingly. She sighs, crossing her arms and tapping her chin like she’s thinking. “Well at least this trip hasn’t been a total waste, getting to mix a little business with pleasure here in Nebraska, you’re one lucky coincidence, puppy.
Derek doesn’t say anything in response, and even Stiles can’t think of anything with that would make sense. He nods towards Scott, who takes her momentary lack of guard to point the gun at her head.
“Leave or I’ll shoot,” Scott says firmly, cocking the hammer.
Kate raises an eyebrow, “you’re really going to threaten me in a graveyard? Could you be any more cliché?”
“Leave,” Scott repeats.
“Oh fine,” Kate scoffs, putting her hands up, “but you’ll help me find that wolf eventually, Derek, I don’t like leaving ends untied.” She turns around, fingers threading behind her head, and walks off into a stand of trees just behind the Jeep. Scott stands with the gun at ready until they hear a distant roar of the engine, and there’s a collective relieved sigh that goes through the three of them. Well, Scott and Stiles, Derek just looks angry and upset.
“What the hell was that?!” Stiles groans, rushing over to the Jeep to make sure she hadn’t scratched ‘Kate Rules’ on the side or something. There’s nothing wrong outwardly, but he still feels like he needs to go get it washed just because she touched it.
“She knew you pretty well, Derek,” Scott says slowly.
“No shit,” Stiles agrees, “and I hate how everyone in the hunter community knew my dad.”
“She was the one who burnt down my house,” Derek says stiffly, avoiding eye contact carefully as he throws his shovel in the back of Stiles’ Jeep.
Stiles whirls around and catches Scott doing the same, staring with a horrified look as Derek continues to clean up as if he hadn’t said anything.
“What?” Scott asks, voice cracking a little.
“I always hoped that was just a terrible accident,” Stiles says hesitantly, “someone actually did that on purpose?”
“The only reason I’m telling you is so you know what kind of person you’re dealing with, in case you meet her on your own,” Derek explains stiffly.
Stiles wonders if he should try to comfort him, maybe put a hand on his shoulder, or even hug him, but he doesn’t. He hadn’t known what happened to the house, Derek never told them and the papers had said it was an electrical accident, but he never expected it to be hunters. A hunter.
“I feel like I should have shot her now,” Scott mutters, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“Her family would come after you,” Derek says, looking up. Stiles makes eye contact, and instantly feels like he shouldn’t have, the pain in the other man’s eyes is almost palpable.
“How would they know?” Stiles asks uneasily, leaning on the back of the Jeep.
Derek breaks eye contact and looks across the cemetery, “You’re the only two hunters hanging out with something you should’ve killed.”
“Okay, but no one knows that,” Stiles looks up, staring at the dark sky. “I mean, looking at you, it’s really more cover model than folklore beast,” he insists, “and don’t call yourself a thing, that’s just mean, mostly to yourself.”
Scott scuffs his shoe against the pavement, gesturing towards the car with his chin before getting in. Derek watches him and his jaw tightens so much Stiles thinks his teeth are going to split. Finally, Stiles can’t hold back any more and gives in; reaching forward and briefly squeezing Derek’s exposed bicep in a way he hopes is comforting before pulling back. He and his dad were huggers, but he’s not sure Derek wouldn’t appreciate it in the same way.
Derek turns at him then, and he feels his breath catch as he tries to figure out what the man’s thinking, because his eyes are inexplicably intense in their staring. He swallows thickly and feels the bizarre urge to lean in closer, a thin strain of adrenaline running through him, but it fades as Derek does nothing but continue to stare, almost uncomfortably so.
“We should get back to the hotel. We’ll leave tomorrow and hope the bitch doesn’t follow us,” Stiles says hoarsely, looking down and stepping back towards the Jeep.
A moment later, Derek makes a noise in agreement, and Stiles watches his feet as they stalk towards the Camaro.
The next morning starts much like the preceding one, except Stiles decides to test fate and the night before, staying still inside the space that Derek’s managed to create for him between his chin and abdomen. He takes a deep breath, and despite how much Stiles teases the man, Derek doesn’t smell that bad, mostly just like dirt and rain, which might be some sort of ridiculously expensive body wash but it smells amazing all the same.
And now Stiles feels like a creep. Awesome.
He sighs and shifts as much as he can when his side starts to feel uncomfortable, and almost jumps out of his skin when a hand touches the back of his neck.
“Stop moving,” Derek mutters, voice low with sleep.
Stiles bites down the surprised wheeze that tries to escape and looks up at Derek’s face, and sees that his eyes are still closed, if a little pinched.
“You moved over again,” Stiles protests quickly, “so it’s totally not my fault I woke you up.”
Derek sighs deeply, the line of his chest solid against Stiles’ arm for a quick moment, eyes still closed. “You didn’t wake me up.”
“Are you sure,” Stiles asks a few minutes later, wheedling for reasons he doesn’t really know.
“I was enjoying the moment,” Derek mutters quietly, “Which you ruined, as usual.”
Stiles scoffs, turning completely onto his back and glaring at the ceiling, miffed. He looks over a few moments later to see that Derek’s opened his eyes to give him a flat look, mouth quirked just so.
“You’re totally joking,” Stiles realizes. “You’re such a dick.”
Derek makes a considering noise, shifting away slightly, and Stiles ignores the resultant chill as the man gets further away, removing an arm that Stiles hadn’t even realized was behind his head. He feels like he just ruined something, but has no idea what it could have been, and tries not to feel inexplicably let down when Derek closes his eyes against the light from the far window.
“So, we’ve got two crazy people after us now,” Stiles says a few moments later, trying to disperse some of the unexplainable tension.
Derek sighs, looking back to Stiles, his mouth turned down.
“I’m just saying it how it is, and if Scott becomes the Manchurian werewolf in the next few days, we can officially declare this the worst week ever. Maybe even call Guinness to get it notarized.”
“Werewolf?” yelps the other side of the room, and when Stiles looks over Derek he sees the most horrified look to ever grace Scott’s face.
“Well, shit,” Stiles groans, wrenching a pillow out from under Derek and covering his face. “I should just quit my life.”
“Or stop running your mouth so much,” Derek suggests sarcastically.
“Never,” Stiles defies through the pillow.
“What do you mean if I turn into a werewolf,” Scott asks, loud and quickly nearing ear-shattering.
Derek sighs in exasperation, “The creature that… attacked the Sheriff was a werewolf, and it also attacked you.”
“How do you know, though, it- I’m not a werewolf,” Scott denies firmly.
“Dude,” Stiles say, pulling the pillow off of his face. “Remember that woman, Kate? She basically announced last night that it was probably Derek’s uncle, the Derek in this room, who is a werewolf,” Derek gives him a narrow eyed look, “Or-or at least some kind of version of one, not necessarily the heart-stealing kind, so that means you got attacked by a werewolf and that you should be a werewolf.”
“But I haven’t turned into one,” Scott insists getting up and angrily pulling on his shirt. He gets slightly stuck for a moment, his head and arm somehow getting mixed up, but Stiles has enough tact to realize that this probably isn’t the time to mock the man’s clumsiness.
“You could be like a werewolf bomb, no one knows. It’s actually sort of interesting when I stop to think about it,” Stiles says, carefully looking away from anyone else in the room. “Not that I want to actually study you or anything, but it’s an option.”
“It’s not an option,” Scott yells, in a tone so shrill that Stiles winces.
“It’s not that bad,” Derek insists, rolling his eyes.
“It’s awful,” Scott disagrees, running a hand through his hair. “I don’t want to be a werewolf.”
Stiles makes a gesture with his hands downwards, trying to get Scott to be quieter. “And so far you aren’t one, calm down. We would have noticed if you’d been stealing off into the night to kill people.”
Scott takes a sharp breath, eyes going ridiculously wide.
“Stiles, I am going to gag you,” Derek mutters, rubbing at his eyes.
“You’re not a werewolf, no one is a werewolf, we’re fine,” Stiles says as he leans
“Except Derek,” Scott disagrees defiantly, crossing his arms and slumping down into a chair to stare at some grime on the wall.
“Derek is a loup garou,” Derek mutters crossly.
“There, see, everyone is fine and dandy,” Stiles declares, digging in his jean pockets and grabbing his phone. “I’m going to skip the usual dog and pony where we get bored at a wifi hotspot, and just call Danny directly, okay?”
Derek doesn’t answer, retreating behind the bathroom door, and Scott is muttering to himself looking at his hands, so Stiles decides to take that as an affirmative from both parties and withdraws to the concrete lined hallway just outside the room.
“Stilinski, do you know how early it is, you asshole?” Jackson groans into the phone, and Stiles actually takes a minute to look at the screen to make sure he hasn’t accidentally dialed the wrong number, but the screen definitely read’s Danny-Boy and not Jack-Ass.
“Uh, what are you doing answering Danny’s phone, dude?” He asks, hoping it’s not for the reasons his brain is trying to convince him.
“Whatdoyou, Danny- I though thought this was Lydia’s phone,” Jackson mumbles, barely intelligible.
“You’re all-uh, okay,” Stiles clears his throat, blinking up at the rafters. “May I please speak to Danny?”
“Whatever,” Jackson says, and there’s the tell-tale shuffling of cloth as Stiles tries very carefully not to think about anything untoward.
“Hello?” Danny says a moment later, more awake than Jackson and, judging by the music in the background, hopefully at a computer.
“Hey, buddy,” Stiles greets, laughing nervously. “I just wanted to call and say we’re alive, and you know, touch base a little and maybe see about getting another case?”
“You didn’t even try to find one on your own this time, did you?” Danny asks flatly, and Stiles can almost see the sarcastic eyebrow from here.
“Nope, didn’t even turn on a computer,” Stiles agrees, nodding to himself and looking down at his socked feet.
Danny hums on the other line, “Well, it’s lucky that you called because I have one you might need to actually do real work on.”
“Really? Like, dangerous work or research work?” Stiles asks, wanting to be clear, because research is only cool if the baddie is cool.
“It’s something at an abandoned mill, there’s been multiple sightings but conflicting reports on whether it’s a ghost or a creature,” Danny explains, “and it’s been active at least the last six months, where four people have either gone missing or gotten severely injured, one is still in the hospital.”
“Oh, so this would be a legit hunt,” Stiles makes a considering noise, “Okay, sure.”
“It’s just outside Boulder, Colorado. I’ll send you all the details I’ve managed to dig up so far in a few minutes,” Danny relays, and Stiles hears the creak of a chair just as Danny sighs. “And please refrain from calling any time earlier than noon pacific standard time, as certain people refuse to wake up at normal hours.”
Stiles hears Jackson in the background, and some high pitched cackling that he’d recognize anywhere as Lydia. “Alright, fine, seeing as Jackson needs all the beauty sleep he can get,” he accepts wryly.
“Too bad it does nothing for his personality,” Stiles hears Lydia yell in the background, probably trying to get close to the phone.
“Anyway, I’ll talk to you later,” Stiles finishes, listening to Danny’s muttered farewell before hanging up.
Back in the hotel room, Scott seems to have gotten over his breakdown and is jamming all of his clothes and gun cleaning supplies into his duffle, and Derek sitting on the edge of a messily made bed, staring at an empty wall. They both turn to Stiles when he walks in, and he raises his eyebrows at the sudden attention.
“So, Colorado,” Stiles starts, grabbing his clothes and folding them neatly, trying not to feel like a freak as Derek and Scott blink at him, “Danny says he has no idea what it is except that it’s not human.”
“Are you saying we’re going in blind?” Derek asks, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, one of the people who got attacked is apparently still alive and in the hospital, so,” Stiles hums, “not completely blind?”
“That’s really blind, man,” Scott complains, crossing his arms as he flops down on his bed.
“We can at least check it out, and it’s at an abandoned mill, which is some serious Scooby-Doo shit. It’s basically a cartoon; do you want to turn away the one case where you might actually uncover some guy in a rubber mask?” Stiles asks, getting excited despite the fact he knows the odds of such are basically zero.
“Okay, but I want to tour the Coors factory, because you said we would last time and we didn’t,” Scott says, leaning down, elbows on his knees.
“Deal,” Stiles agrees, ignoring Derek’s miserable look at the arrangement. He turns towards him though, “Do you have any contingents?”
“No, I just want to get out of here,” Derek answers and gets up, duffle on his shoulder.
“Bitchin, we’ll check out and hit the road,” Stiles grabs his own bag, checking over the room to make sure he hasn’t forgotten anything, and follows behind Scott as they leave.
They meet outside the car after Scott pays, and they’re lucky it’s the sort of run down place that doesn’t care about anything but getting paid, because Stiles is pretty sure the card actually says Han Solo in the name line. Derek has a map flat on the hood of the Jeep and is outlining the roads they should probably take, pointing out a few back-roads.
“So, if we take these, we should be able to make it quicker time by connecting to this northern highway,” Stiles confirms, trailing his finger up the red lines.
“If the map is correct,” Scott mutters, bored with the planning.
“Even if it isn’t, there’ll hopefully be Google,” Stiles shrugs, folding up the map. “Unless the midwest becomes a dick and our phones devolve into pretty bricks.”
“We should get there by nightfall, but we should wait to talk to the victim before we check it out,” Derek says.
“So basically we’re driving all day today,” Scott sighs, hanging his head. “And then talking to sad people tomorrow.”
“We’ll call you if we want to stop, okay?” Stiles says to Derek as Scott climbs into the Jeep, and they stand awkwardly for a moment, almost exactly like the night before. Stiles smiles briefly after a minute, and follows Scott to the Jeep, trying not to bang his head on the steering wheel. Scott is texting when he looks over, and doesn’t even ask, he knows it’s the girl, Allison, and she seems to be sticking.
“That’s just depressing,” Scott says an instant later, not even looking up as his thumbs move rapidly.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Stiles sighs, starting the Jeep and following Derek out onto the road.
“I know,” Scott agrees in an earnest tone. “That’s why it’s so depressing.”
“Shut up, you’re speaking in riddles,” Stiles says, hushing him and reaching over to shove Scott’s head towards the window. Scott laughs, hunching around his phone, and for the next hour it’s all normal enough that Stiles can forget about Kate and Scott’s probable impending werewolf awakening, noticing something about an ugly car or trying to piece together the code of someone’s personalized license plate like they’re regular people.
So when Scott wants to stop at a gas station on one of the back roads, Stiles doesn’t do anything but roll his eyes and tell him to text Derek.
It’s not the worst place they could have stopped, but the stack of dilapidated farm equipment in the back and the run-down gas pumps don’t exactly scream friendly. Derek gives Scott a bored look as he gets out of the Camaro, and turns to the front of the building with a vaguely repulsed look.
“Really?” he asks.
Scott makes an affronted noise, turning to Stiles and then back to Derek, “I didn’t know the next place would look like serial killer central, okay?”
“Don’t say that so loud,” Stiles hushes, taking an exaggerated look around.
“Just get your candy so we can leave,” Derek mutters, slamming the door shut. “There’s something weird about this place.”
“Well that’s certainly comforting.,” Stiles says, rolling his eyes. “I’ll make sure to watch out for crazy rednecks when I’m getting my slushie.”
“I’m serious,” Derek says as they shuffle in, nodding in greeting to the sleepy looking clerk.
The inside is slightly more welcoming, with bright lights and a giant wall of snacks that makes Stiles mouth water. He turns down an aisle towards the drinks, and almost runs into a man crouching and apparently waffling between a Snickers and a Milky Way.
“Sorry, man,” he apologizes, stepping around.
The man gives him a curious look, before a disconcerting smile crosses his face. “I assure you, it’s completely forgotten.”
“Uh, okay?” Stiles responds slowly, sidestepping away as the man slowly gets up. “I’m just gonna-yeah.” He turns his back, despite his instincts screaming otherwise, and as he walks towards the machine, swallows thickly as footsteps follow, and hopes in vain they’re Scott or Derek’s. He glances around as a bell sounds from the door, turning to catch Derek’s back as he leaves, and doesn’t see Scott anywhere. He quickly realizes this is the worst timing his friends could have chosen to leave as the man pulls him behind a wall and next to a janitor’s closet, hand over Stiles’ mouth.
“Do you know how long I’ve been tracking you, Mr. Stilinski?” The man asks, whispering right into his ear.
Stiles shakes his head rapidly and tries to pull away, but the man has him in a tight grip, hand tightening over his mouth. He takes a hysterical moment to hope it’s Derek’s uncle and not some random gas station rapist; if he doesn’t die today, he’s definitely going to start bringing a weapon everywhere.
“Years,” the man hisses. He tightens his grip and shifts an arm around Stiles’ neck. “And then I just trip over you in a backwater gas station?” The man laughs, “It’s like the odds have finally tilted in my favor, after so long.”
Stiles tries to tell him to fuck off, but it’s muffled and useless as he’s dragged out the back door. He takes a moment to wonder why the man is waiting to kill him, why out here is any more opportunistic than leaving him dead for the clerk to find inside.
“I bet you don’t even know who I am, do you, Stilinski?” He asks, shoving Stiles against the wall.
“Derek’s uncle?” Stiles guesses, his mouth released for some inexplicable reason, probably because the guy doesn’t know him. “If you aren’t, I won’t be that surprised, you guys don’t look anything alike.”
“What?” The man’s eyes flash red, hand tightening around Stiles’ throat. “My entire family is dead, don’t joke with me.”
“No,” Stiles disagrees with a croaks, becoming suddenly livid. “My entire family is dead, and it’s because of you, you bastard.” He kicks out and hits the man in the groin, elbowing him in the chin when he curls in on reflex. “Derek,” he says loudly, hoping the man will hear him from the other side of the building, “is perfectly fine, if a little grouchy. All the time.”
He tries to dive away when the man goes to grab him again, but isn’t quick enough and finds himself shoved against the wall again, shirt collar tight against his throat, sharp brick scratching against his cheek painfully.
“Okay, no more smarting off,” Stiles says weakly, coughing.
“Before I kill you, I want you to know who I am,” the man says, angry. “I want you to know your father killed Marsha Hale, wife of Peter Hale, without remorse. That the reason for your death today is because hunters need to learn their place in the food chain.” Peter slams him against the brick again, and Stiles feels a few cuts slit open against his cheek. “And that it’s below us.”
“Gotcha,” Stiles agrees, swallowing thickly. “Nice werewolf manifesto you have going there.” Stiles feels claws grow against his back and tries not to squirm, hoping maybe it will hurt less is he just lets it happen.
He’ll never know though, because there’s an ear splitting roar and Peter’s hand is ripped from his shirt as he’s tackled by Derek, all three of them hitting the ground hard.
“Ow,” Stiles whines, clutching his cheek as he watches Derek get thrown across a field by Peter.
“Stiles!” Scott yells, rushing to his side, trying to help him get up. “Come on, we have to go.”
“Where’s your fucking gun, man,” Stiles asks, patting Scott’s sides. “How are we going to-“ He’s interrupted when Peter tries to attack him in full wolf form, Derek coughing up blood in the background. He scuttles away, Scott dragging him along awkwardly as they try to avoid the wolf’s claws and teeth.
“Get to the Jeep,” Derek gasps, struggling to get up.
“We’re not just leaving, are you fucking crazy?!” Stiles yells, trying to pull against Scott’s oddly strong grip. Scott drags him out to the front of the gas station just as Derek dives for Peter again, the two of them shedding copious amounts of blood and fur.
“He can take care of himself,” Scott insists, trying to shove him in the passenger seat of the Jeep.
“You’re such a terrible friend,” Stiles says as rips his arm out of Scott’s grip, opening the back of the Jeep and diving in the gun cache, grabbing every high caliber weapon and shoving them in Scott’s arms. “Do you think a grenade would be too much?”
“Stiles?” he hears Scott say, but ignores it when he hears a howl from the back of the building, loading his shotgun faster.
“Stiles!” Scott says grabbing his arm in a clawed grip.
“Ow,” Stiles yelps, grabbing his arm. “What the hell, man?”
“I suddenly feel like I want to kill you and everything is really loud?” Scott says, anxious expression growing on his face. “Also Allison and the woman from last night are here.”
“What?” Stiles turns around so fast he thinks he has whiplash, and sees Kate standing there with a rifle over her shoulder and Allison at her side, holding a bow of all things. “This is a nightmare, isn’t it?”
“Hey boys,” Kate grins, “Did you get lucky or what?”
“No, no, decidedly, no,” Stiles babbles, shouldering his shotgun and grabbing a rifle out of Scott’s arms, loading it as he hurries towards the back of the building, hoping this is all just a horrible dream. When he turns the corner he sees that Peter has Derek pinned against the ground, whose shoulder looks painfully dislocated, and seems to be choking him rather than actually trying to kill him. They’re about fifteen yards away, and Stiles can just barely make out a one sided conversation from here.
“What is an esteemed member of the Hale family doing with a bunch of hunters?” Peter growls, lupine features dialing back to a mostly human face. Derek squirms but it’s obvious from even this angle that he couldn’t answer even if he wanted to.
“He’s our friend, asshole,” Stiles says, firing a shot that just grazes the side of Peter’s head, the bright streak of red blooming against the man’s cheek obvious from here. Peter roars, shaking his head and jumping towards Stiles, who dodges away just as Kate fires hers, hitting the wolf right in the stomach.
He roars again, clutching at his abdomen, and falling to the ground. Stiles grabs the shotgun he’d dropped to the ground, and runs for Derek, dropping to his knees at the man’s side.
“Derek, come on,” Stiles grabs his face, tilting the man’s head towards him. Derek’s eyes open, just barely, and Stiles lets out a relieved breath, trying to pull him up.
“Stiles?” Derek coughs, a weak hand grabbing at Stiles’ face. “What are you-“
“Did you really think we’d just leave you here?” Stiles asks, giving him a disappointed look. “Never leave a man behind, even if you are a werewolf and none of us were ever in the service.” He gently runs his hand over Derek’s shoulder, “Okay this is going to hurt pretty bad, but we have to get that shoulder back in place.”
“I told Scott to – to keep you away,” Derek croaks, trying to get up.
Stiles makes a considering noise, “Okay, Scott did want to leave, but I think he’s having bigger problems, I didn’t want to ask while your uncle was trying to kill you though, but it might come up, just a warning.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Derek answers, groaning in what is probably pain. Stiles grips the man’s shoulder and rotates it harshly, a sickening pop sounding and Derek bites his lip, groaning again, definitely in pain judging by the blood seeping down his lip.
“You’re allowed to scream dude, that shit hurt like a bitch,” Stiles mutters, standing up slowly with Derek’s uninjured arm pulled along his shoulder. “We’re just lucky he didn’t gut you.”
They turn in surprise when there’s another gun shot, Peter having apparently slashed the nasty looking gashes that are currently bleeding down Kate’s abdomen. Allison strings her bow and it hits him in the side, and he goes down again, motion stilted as he pulls it out and trying weakly to grab Kate’s throat as he clutches at his side in pain.
“What are those weapons made of,” Stiles mutters in disbelief, and hears Derek murmur something in agreement next to him.
“Guys there’s something really wrong with me,” Scott says, approaching them slowly, and when he looks up Stiles nearly swallows his tongue at the sight of bright gold eyes. “I keep wanting to kill Stiles.” He’s standing stiffly, fists balled up at his side, “I want him really, really dead.”
“Just breathe slowly,” Derek says, looking Scott over. “Being this close to the attacker must have activated the bite, and there’s going to be some transference of pack feelings, so you should probably calm down or go sit in the car.”
Stiles shoots him an odd look at the tone, because he’s obviously recovered enough to stop leaning on him so much if he’s being sarcastic with Scott, but the arm doesn’t move from where it’s clutched around Stiles’ shoulder.
“Do those pregnant woman breaths, hee hee ho,” Stiles encourages, carefully looking away from where the two women are standing over a nearly motionless Peter Hale.
Derek growls deep in his throat, apparently not so content to pretend there’s nothing going on over there, and starts stalking to the trio, pulling Stiles over there rather than letting him go. Stiles tries to make eye contact with Scott, maybe find a little commiseration, but the other man has his gaze firmly on the ground, and seems to actually be doing the Lamaze exercises.
“How did you find us,” Derek asks Kate, tone stony.
“I followed you, of course,” Kate answers while clutching at her side in pain, but the injury doesn’t seem to have affected her mood very much. “I even brought my little protégé for a lesson.”
“You’re a werewolf?” Allison asks, looking directly at Scott, who’s still staring at the ground.
“It kind of just happened, or awoke in him, as some might say,” Stiles answers for him, and he moves to pat the man on the shoulder, but Derek grabs his arm with a flat look before it makes contact.
“Oh,” Allison glances at Kate before turning back to them. “Are you all werewolves?”
“Stiles is human,” Derek answers in a way that somehow manages to tell her to shut up at the same time. “What did you do to him?”
“Just some paralyzers,” Kate answers and kicks Peter in the side. “Figured you’d want to roll for who gets to take his heart.”
“You’re not just going to kill me?”
“I figured I’d leave that for later, when your little boyfriend isn’t pointing a Ruger at me,” Kate grins, but it’s easy to tell the pain and blood loss has gotten to her. She looks weak, leaning on her rifle and Allison’s shoulder. “Maybe I’ll get my niece to do it.”
Allison grimaces, but oddly doesn’t try to help Kate, doesn’t even seem bothered by the fact the woman is bleeding out next to her.
“You’re dying,” Derek fills in the blank spaces, furrowing his brow. “You’ve been dying.”
“Finally caught on did you?” Kate asks, coughing.
Stiles grimaces when she spits blood onto the ground. As he looks away, he notices Peter’s fingers moving, slowly shifting to claws as they flex outwards.
“Well this is all very depressing, but I think he’s regaining the use of his limbs,” Stiles says quickly, backing up a step and pulling Derek and Scott with him. “And while I really want to say a lot of words about karma and burning people’s families, I don’t feel like becoming werewolf chow anytime soon.”
“Burning who?” Allison asks hesitantly as she notches her bow, somehow still connecting with the conversation as they all watch Peter Hale come back to life. No one answers her, but Kate gets this look on her face, something like pride, and Stiles wishes he had it in him to shoot her in the face.
Derek grinds his teeth, and for a second Stiles thinks the man is going to literally rip her a new one, when instead he kneels down next to Peter and grabs the man’s chin, turning it forward. Peter’s expression brings a whole new meaning to the word feral, and snarls something incomprehensible.
Stiles finds himself leaning back, smiling anxiously when Scott gives him an odd look.
“Stiles,” Derek says, and when Stiles looks down, he has this weird look on his face, like he’s about to say something he won’t like. “Do you want to do it?”
Stiles makes a noise in surprise, “Do what?” He looks at Kate when she makes a scoffing noise, “wait do you mean kill him? Myself?”
“Yes, obviously,” Derek answers through clenched teeth.
“I- uh,” Stiles looks down at Peter, and finally thinks about all that the man’s done, killing his dad, hurting Scott, trying to kill is friends. He bites his lip, and looks down at the gun in his hand, shifting it in his grip. “I don’t- don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Oh for Christ’s sake, I’ll do it,” Kate gripes, loading a round into her rifle.
“No,” Derek disagrees, grabbing the gun and easily wrenching it out of her grip. “I will.”
“While it’s been lovely listening to this,” growls the man below them, quick as a flash wrenching up and grabbing Stiles throat between his claws, instantly squeezing tight so that Stiles chokes, “I won’t be the only one dying-“ His words cut short and Stiles falls to the ground, coughing so hard his eyes water.
There’s an arrow sticking out of Peter’s temple, and when he looks over, Allison has her bow still in the air, looking sheepish and frowning nervously. “Sorry, I didn’t know what to do.”
“It’s fine,” Derek says, gently touching the sides of Stiles’ neck. They make eye contact, and Stiles feels his face flush at the look on Derek’s face.
“Thanks,” he croaks, looking towards Allison and trying not to feel like a coward. “I thought that was going to go on forever.”
Derek makes a frustrated noise, standing up and dragging Stiles with him none too gently. Scott scuttles up too, and when Stiles looks over, he sees that the man looks exhausted, but at least his eyes are back to brown and his hands are human.
“You’re a hunter?” Scott asks Allison, and Stiles is worried that Derek’s eyes are going to roll out of his head.
“Yes,” Allison grins, “And so are you.”
“Yeah,” Scott answers, smile growing ridiculously wide on his face.
“Awesome, guys, that’s great that you’re over the awkward secrets, but there’s a dead body at our feet right now and –“ Stiles starts coughing, throat seizing up.
“Burn it,” Derek growls, glaring at Kate. “That’s what you do best.”
Kate smirks, but before she can say something smart, she collapses, clutching at her side and grimacing, “I won’t be doing much of anything.” Allison grabs her arm and pulls her up, blood staining her shirt.
“We need to leave soon, before the clerk notices us,” Allison says, shifting her aunt’s weight.
“We can throw him in the dumpster,” Scott ponders, looking into the nearly full to their right.
Derek gives him a flat look, but at the lack of other options they delicately rip the arrow out of his head and pick up the body, throwing it in and covering it with as much garbage as possible.
“There’s something wrong with being used to dumping bodies,” Scott says with a grimace, wiping his hands in the dirt.
“I’m sorry that your uncle was crazy,” Stiles says to Derek as they walk around back to their cars, “And that you had the bad luck to hook up with the people he was after, and that you’ve been forced to work with a killer we can’t even turn in because Scott would cry about Allison hating him.” Stiles looks to Derek, who takes a deep breath, exhaling slowly without saying a word in response, and so he continues, “but at least she’s got some disease we didn’t ask about and is going to die slowly anyway.”
“I’m still here, kid,” Kate says from behind him, and Stiles tries not to jump. He watches as she passes him to pull herself into a small green SUV, and spares a curious moment to wonder about the blood stains.
Scott and Allison are whispering something next to the SUV and Stiles loses a bet with himself when they kiss goodbye, even of it is incredibly awkward looking. Derek surprises him by grabbing the back of his neck and leading him towards the Camaro, nodding towards Scott as the other man pulls away and starts towards them.
“So we’re just going to continue on to Boulder, like we didn’t have this huge life-changing battle in a field ten minutes ago?” Stiles asks, crossing his arms.
“It wasn’t exactly life changing,” Derek answers dryly, raising an eyebrow. “Everything is still the same.”
“Speak for yourself,” Scott disagrees, “I’m a freak now, what am I going to do?”
Derek’s eyes narrow and jaw stiffens, and Stiles sighs.
“You’ll just have to learn to control it,” Derek says flatly. “You’ve technically been ‘a freak’ for more than a year now.”
“That’s very comforting Derek, thank you,” Stiles says as he tries to pull away and get in the Jeep, so they can move on, but the hand on his neck does little more than shifts slightly. “Aw man, come on, we can have deep feelings later.”
“No,” Derek disagrees.
Stiles opens his mouth to confess he was being sarcastic, but it’s interrupted when the man leans over and kisses him, randomly. Right in the middle of an abandoned parking lot and in front of the world and Scott, who’s probably imitating a fish right now.
Derek pulls away swiftly, giving Stiles a narrow look like he’s expecting some sort of terrible backlash.
“That was- out of no where,” Stiles says hoarsely, swallowing.
“It really wasn’t,” Scott disagrees, taking a deep breath and stepping back towards the Jeep. “I’m going to sit in the car.”
“I’m tired of you willfully ignoring this,” Derek says, grinding his teeth. “You go back and forth between interested and then ignorant.”
“Well, you know me,” Stiles mutters, not really sure what to say, especially now that Derek’s shared more feelings in one day than he usually does in six months.
“And then you nearly get yourself killed and-“ Derek cuts off, shaking his head. “It’s frustrating when there’s just one side to it.”
“I do actually, I mean, I’m - This is slowly turning into one of those movies that Scott pretends he doesn’t make us watch, isn’t it?” Stiles asks, running a hand down his face.
Derek takes a deep breath, looking away.
“I do like when you do stuff, with the arm around my shoulder even if it’s just to warn of crazy suitors, and when we woke up this morning, that was nice,” Stiles says, staring down at the ground. “I just- people don’t seem to look at me that way, so I’m not used to – I mean it’s happened before obviously, I guess it just didn’t occur to me that you were being sincere?”
Derek sighs and Stiles looks up, making eye contact. Derek’s got that look on his face that Stiles is quickly realizing is something like affection. Derek moves forward, crowding him in against the Jeep, and gently touches the side of his neck, before moving hand to the center of Stiles’ chest, over his collar bone, and kissing him again.
Stiles closes his eyes, his own hand trailing up to the curl back of Derek’s neck, and it feels like literally no time has passed when there’s a frightening noise and he nearly bangs his head painfully against Derek’s.
Derek frowns and looks past Stiles, who turns around and sees Scott giving the steering wheel a horrified look.
“We should probably continue this out somewhere else,” Stiles sighs wistfully, frowning petulantly to Scott as Derek pulls away.
“Hotel room in Colorado,” Derek says, giving him a significant look and walking towards the Camaro.
“I like the way you think, Hale,” Stiles says after him. He trails his hand along the hood of the Jeep as he walks around, getting in and frowning deeply at Scott.
“Before you say anything, I was just trying to get the travel crossword out of the side pocket,” Scott says, putting his hands up. “I must have leaned on the horn by accident.”
“Sure you did,” Stiles agrees humoring he man as he nods.