The jeep sputters and there's an unfortunate and completely unwanted grinding sound coming from somewhere under the hood.
"No, no, no, no," Stiles says frustratedly. He slows the speed down a little, the jeep making jerking movements, but it keeps going. He doesn't brake, doesn't stop completely. He's on a back road heading into town, and there are dark forests lining both sides.
A few months ago, he wouldn't have thought twice about stopping and popping the hood. Sure, maybe he doesn't exactly know all the parts, or what to do to fix them, but he would've attempted something (before calling the tow truck, anyway). Now that he knows what's out there in the creepy night, he's just going to grit his teeth against the horrid sounds coming from his baby and push on. He's not stupid, he knows it's the best plan while he's out here alone.
And then he sees it, something ahead in the road. Something alive.
"Shit!" he yells out, panicked voice filling the vehicle and ringing in his ears.
Now is a good time to slam on the breaks.
Naturally, being all alone in the backwoods in his crap vehicle -- no, not crap, just a little … under the weather, that's all -- that would be exactly when a dark shadow darts across the road. It's moving on all fours but in a slithery sort of way, and Stiles catches a flash of green scales in his headlights before it bounds across the road in one giant leap.
He tries to make the jeep just stop.
Especially when a second shadowy figure jumps onto the road, right in front of Stiles' vehicle, and he has to swerve to make sure he doesn't hit whatever it is.
The breaks must be kinda shot -- who the hell knows what else is wrong, considering the complete hell it's been through recently, Jesus, crushing some poor dude and that damn Erica tinkering with it -- and it ends up skidding off the side of the road.
Thankfully, the jeep stops before slamming into a large tree trunk, though it does give it a nice little love tap. The tree wins this round anyway, and there's a little bit of smoke sneaking out from under the front left corner of the hood.
Stiles' hands are gripping the steering wheel so tight there are little shocks of pain travelling down his fingers and into his palms, and his knuckles have gone completely white.
"What was that?" he says out loud. He startles in his seat when there's a single sharp rap on his door.
Stiles flails, trying to get away from the window, but it doesn't exactly work with the seatbelt still buckled. Thankfully, he sees that it's just Derek, all wolfed out with bright red eyes and horrible muttonchop facial hair.
Derek growls, "What the hell, Stiles!"
"What the hell do you mean, what the hell?" Stiles exclaims back, scrambling to undo his seatbelt. He hits the window with his palm too, and waves his arm around in a questioning matter. "What are you doing out here?"
"What do you think?" Derek says, voice all gravelly. "You let him get away!"
"Me?" Stiles asks in disbelief. He points a finger at Derek, and is suddenly very glad the window is up and there's a barrier between them, as fragile as it may be against wolf strength. "I didn't do anything but innocently drive along. You're the idiot that jumped into the middle of the road. All Big Bad wolf, too. What if it hadn't been me, you moron."
Okay. So calling a wolfed out Alpha an idiot and a moron in a three-second span probably isn't the best idea ever, but Derek has put up with more from Stiles, and Stiles had survived it. Mostly.
Derek just growls again and steps back. "Out," he demands.
"You know what, maybe I'll come out when you calm down," Stiles says, flapping his hand agitatedly. "I come out there now and you'll, I don't know, grab me and shove me to the ground or something. Maybe bang my head against my jeep again. So, I don't know, maybe back off a little? Jeez."
"What makes you think I won't anyway?" Derek asks. It must be rhetorical because he seems to listen -- or just doesn't care -- to what Stiles says and turns away from the car, walking across the road.
"Hey!" Stiles calls out. "Hey, where are you going? Are you just going to leave me here?"
Derek steps into the woods and then that's that. Of course. Of course he would leave Stiles all alone in the middle of the forest with crazy abominated creatures lurking about. Just great.
Stiles takes a deep breath, and then gets out of the car. He goes to the front, having to walk around the tree the jeep bumped into, and pops the hood. A bunch of steam flies out into his face, but it dissipates after a moment and there doesn’t seem to be a continuous stream of anything.
"Must be a good sign," Stiles mumbles to himself, leaning over to try to look at -- something, he doesn't know.
"Jesus Christ!" Stiles yelps, jumping up and hitting his head on the hood, and stumbles backwards. Derek is standing there with a smirk on his face, but at least he isn't all wolfed out anymore.
"Oh my god, you're going to make my ulcers act up," Stiles tells Derek, and leans against the tree.
Derek rolls his eyes. "You're a teenager. You don't have ulcers."
"Yes, I do," Stiles says. He pokes at the right side of his stomach. "Right here? That's one. I've named it Derek Hale in your honor. Thanks for that."
"Shut up, Stiles."
Stiles moves his finger to the other side of his stomach and pokes again. "This right here? Named Jackson. I didn't know what to call it for a while, but now I do. It developed while I treaded water in a pool for two hours keeping you afloat so it's a little waterlogged, and let me tell you, that's a bitch to deal with. Have you ever had a waterlogged ulcer? Trust me, it sucks."
Derek raises one eyebrow and gives Stiles that patented unimpressed look that seems to be especially for him. "Ulcers don't get waterlogged. They bleed."
"Oh, if anyone gives me a bleeding ulcer, it's definitely you." He moves his finger back to where it started. "Remember? This is where it is."
"Cut it out. This isn't a joke. The kanima just got away. Again."
"Who's joking?" Stiles says. He ignores how Derek says kanima instead of Jackson, as if making him seem less human was somehow helpful. Instead, Stiles very truthfully adds, "Seriously, dealing with all you supernatural beings is hard on a regular dude's system, okay?"
Derek pauses for a moment, and surprises the hell out of Stiles when he says, "So where's the one named Scott?"
Stiles doesn't hesitate. He presses his palm to the middle of his stomach and spreads his fingers out wide, fanning over his t-shirt and covering most his abdomen. "Right here," Stiles says seriously. "Right the heck here."
Even more surprising is when Derek's face breaks into a small smile, that stupidly handsome little one that pops up when he's not trying to be all smug Alpha. Stiles starts to grin too, but it freezes unnaturally when Derek steps closer to him. Stiles tries to back up, but damn, that tree is in the way and he ends up squished between it and Derek.
"Trouble in pack paradise?" Derek asks, and his face is suddenly just an inch away from Stiles. For once, he's not even grabbing Stiles, just pressing close. Stiles nearly goes cross-eyed trying to look at him, though his gaze flickers from Derek's eyes to his mouth, to his neck and back up, and what the hell is going on here?
Something pings in Stiles' brain, noting that Derek smells a little like sweat and a lot like fresh forest and cool breeze, and his mouth is actually quite nice when not full of razor sharp canine teeth.
"Um," Stiles says, and swallows hard. "Derek?"
Derek blinks and steps away, and he loses the playfulness in his features. Turning around, he reaches under the hood and starts pulling on some sort of tube.
"Hey!" Stiles says, back in motion with their weird little moment gone. He grabs at Derek's shoulder, but when Derek glares back at him, Stiles thinks again and leans with his hands on the jeep. "What are you doing? Do you know what you're doing? I swear to God, if you break it even more--"
"There," Derek says, and reaches to pull down the hood. Stiles just barely gets his hands out of the way. "Let's go."
"Let's go? Let's go where? It's probably not even going to start!"
Derek ignores him and walks around Stiles, getting into the passenger side. He shoots Stiles wide eyes, all 'come on, let's go' and Stiles gives them right back with a shake of his head, but in a 'what the crap, it's not going to work' sort of way.
Derek stares at him steadily for five long seconds, then reaches over and starts the jeep.
"Hey!" Stiles says, scrambling around to get into the driver's seat. "It started." He settles in, pulling the seatbelt across him again. He looks at Derek. "What are you still doing in here? I'm not your chauffer. Where's your car?"
"Not here. Drive, Stiles," Derek says in a way that is all too familiar and not worth arguing with any further. Stiles knows this, so he just sighs and points the jeep back at the road, and they continue on.
It's quiet for all of ten seconds before Stiles bursts out, "You can't kill him, Derek, you can't."
"The kanima is a killer."
"The kanima has a name, a person name, and that person's name is Jackson. He didn't know. We didn't know! And now that we all do, we can help him."
"He's beyond that."
"You don't know that. Just like you didn't know it was him. And now you have a chance to fix it."
When Stiles glances over, he sees Derek's expression is completely guarded. He's not giving anything away. And then he simply says, "It's not Lydia. I don't see why you even care."
"Because he's a person!" Stiles bursts out. "Okay, not my favourite person ever, we all know this, but there are people out there that care for him. His friends and his family." And Lydia, Stiles thinks, but he's trying really hard to get past that. And anything happening to Jackson would break her heart, and Stiles would never want that to happen, even if her heart will never belong to him.
Stiles sighs. "You can't just, like, take a mob hit out on him!"
"Stop waving your arms at me," Derek says, "and watch the road. And it's not a mob hit."
It's an excellent point so Stiles does focus on driving instead of trying to stare Derek down, and possibly accidently-but-not-so-much hitting him in the face, but it doesn't mean he's about to let the topic drop. He grips the wheel with one hand and scrubs the other one through his short hair. "Ah, yeah, yeah it is. You have henchmen. And a henchwoman. You have henchpeople!"
"We're not the mob. We're a pack, and we'll do what needs to be done."
"Come on, Derek," Stiles says, surprising himself with how desperate it sounds. "You can't do that to him. You just can't."
"I'll do what I think is best."
"Best to clean up your mess?" Stiles asks. Adding sarcastically, "Oh, yeah, that's the responsible way to do it."
Derek sounds growly when he replies, "Just because your pack--"
"Oh my god!" Stiles interrupts, throwing a hand up in the air, then letting it thump back down to the steering wheel. "We're not actually a pack. Scott isn't, like, my Alpha or anything."
"Oh, so he's the one with henchpeople."
"Yes -- no! Shut up, that's not what we are."
"Turn left," Derek points out, and Stiles does. "He is your leader."
"Um, no. We're a team, but there's no leader. Just because you're all sad and bitter about him turning you down--"
"I am not."
"Oh, yes, yes you are, and then you went and collected your island of misfit toys, and maybe that makes all of you a pack but, dude, keep your projection issues to yourself."
"I do not have any issues," Derek says grumpily, and Stiles doesn't need any wolf senses to know that's a lie. Derek asks, "Then what are the group of you?"
"Uh, friends. I know that might be difficult for you to understand, but believe me, it something that does actually happen." He glances over quickly, and sees Derek looking at him as if he's grown a second head or something. He can't believe that Derek doesn't get that -- no, wait, on second thought, yes he really can. "We’re all good friends who look out for each other and trust each other, and we don't have to have, like, some supernatural bond--"
"Turn right, stop at the end of the block."
"Ugh, you're interrupting my really excellent point on how you're totally dysfunctional," Stiles says, but he follows the directions.
"Thank god," Derek says, deadpanned.
"Oh my god, you're an ass," Stiles says, and rolls his eyes. He pulls over and puts the car into park. "Here, okay, we're here." He makes a grand gesture with his hand. "Don't forget to tip your cab driver."
"How about I don't push you out of the car and take it to go where I really need to be?"
"Tip accepted," Stiles says.
Derek doesn't get out of the car right away, like Stiles expected. He turns to him and says, "You sure do have a fancy argument to save the life of a supernatural creature. You know, for a guy who wanted Allison to use her crossbow to shoot me. Preferably in the head."
Oh, crap. Stiles chuckles weakly. "So, uh. You heard that, huh?"
"Yeah. Sure did."
Stiles waves a hand dismissively. "I didn't want her to actually hurt you, it was a tactical maneuver to display strength. And cause a distraction. You would've been fiiiiiine."
Derek tilts his head to the side and he's looking at Stiles' chest. His gaze flickers up. "You actually believe that."
"Uh, yeah, cause it's the truth." Stiles pauses. "You would've been fine, right?"
"Of course," Derek says, confidently. Stiles can hear the I'm the Alpha to it and barely refrains from snorting at him. Derek continues, "I wouldn't have actually let it happen. I didn't let it happen."
"No, you didn't," Stiles says, surprised with how relieved he actually is with that, despite all the other stuff that went down that night. Scott has a point; they all need to start working together. Strength in numbers and stuff -- it was just getting Derek and his ragtag pack to stop acting like jerks for more than three seconds.
Stiles goes still when Derek suddenly leans forward, just as close as when they were by the tree. Derek doesn't make a move more than that, but does watch as Stiles' tongue nervously licks his own lips. Stiles' heart is pounding in his chest, and it's not in fear -- Stile knows what that feels like, unfortunately -- but he can't pin exactly what it is. By the sly smile on Derek's face, he thinks that maybe Derek hears it and knows. It's freaking annoying that he doesn't say anything.
Then the smile is gone in a flash, but Derek is still right there. He's completely serious and, admittedly, a bit intimidating when he says, "Do not threaten me like that again."
Stiles retorts immediately, "Then don't try to harm our pack," before he even realises what he's saying.
Derek leans back and has that knowing smirk on his face again.
"That's not what I meant," Stiles says, but knows it's useless. Because, okay, Derek's got a point about him and Scott and Allison, and even Lydia now. But they're still more than that, more than what Derek thinks. Derek doesn't really get it.
"See you around, Stiles," Derek says, and with that, he's gone.
Stiles slumps in seat and exhales a breath. He says to himself, "Damn, that guy is confusing." Because, seriously, Stiles really doesn't know why his heart is beating like that and he's suddenly feeling all hot and sweaty, just because Derek leaned close to him. That's just … stupid. Yeah.
On a second thought, because he figures Derek heard anyway, he says louder, "Yeah, I mean you, socially stunted asshat!" Take that, Derek.
Derek doesn't yell anything back and maybe he's really done his disappearing act. Which would probably be a good thing or else Stiles is going to pay for that comment next time he sees Derek anyway.
Stiles puts the jeep into drive, wincing when there's a chugging noise, and wonders if Derek will be less confusing next time they see each other. He thinks probably not, but hopefully no one is trying to maim or murder anyone, but you never know with Beacon Hills these days.