Actions

Work Header

How To Be a Werewolf (And Other Extreme Sports)

Chapter Text

“You know we have to train him, right?”

Scott’s head snaps up from where he was looking at the dirty concrete floor of the subway station, confusion written all over his face. Not even five seconds ago, they were talking about Scott being part of Derek’s pack so they could all try to bring down the Kanima together. And now somehow, they’re talking about training? Training who? “What? What are you talking about?”

Derek just raises his eyebrows and looks pointedly over Scott’s shoulder. Scott whips his body around and looks at Stiles, who’s sitting against the old subway car. His legs are drawn up to his chest and his arms are wrapped around them, cheek resting on his knee, folded up like he doesn’t want to take up space. Stiles’ eyes are closed, body lax, and it looks like he could be sleeping. After knowing him for so long, though, Scott knows better. He’s trying to stave off a panic attack.

Scott turns back around, eyebrows high. “You mean Stiles? You want to train Stiles?

Derek just nods, like he doesn’t see how this is a Very Bad No Good Absolutely Horrible Idea.

“You do realize that’s Stiles, right?” Scott says. “Clumsy. Kind of obnoxious. Human.” He tacks the last one on pointedly, trying to make Derek understand without having to explain it. Scott really sucks at trying to explain things.

“And?”

Scott sputters a little bit. Dammit. He looks up at the ceiling, eyes skating over all the rusting, crisscrossing beams like they’ll magically give him something to say. “He’s… human? You can’t train him, Derek, not like you trained us. He’s my best friend, and I hate to say it, but he’s so clumsy. Stiles wouldn’t know coordinated if it hit him in the balls.”

He’s rewarded with an eye roll. “That will make training him harder, but not impossible. He needs it.”

“Stiles takes care of himself just fine,” Scott says, voice firm, but really he’s about ten seconds away from begging.

“He needs to be able to take care of himself better,” Derek says, and the growl is creeping into voice that lets Scott know this conversation is just about done. “If anything, he just needs to know how to fight. One these days, Scott, he’s going to be in trouble and neither of us will be able to help him. If he’s going to survive he needs to know how to protect himself.”

Derek is right. Scott knows he’s right, and kind of agrees in a way, but he still doesn’t like it. He’s defeated but tries to argue anyway. “His dad is a cop. I’m pretty sure he knows some basic self defense.”

“He needs more than basic. He needs to be able to fight his way out of a situation when thinking his way out of it isn’t an option. He needs to find his weaknesses and better them. Why are you so against him learning to protect himself, Scott?”

His mouth falls open, wanting to tell him, but he closes it again. Sure, Derek is completely right in wanting to give Stiles a little bit more help in the kung-fu department or whatever, but it makes Scott uneasy. If Stiles knows how to fight, knows how to wield a knife, can kill a guy with his bare hands… then there’s no going back for him. Stiles won’t ever be able to get away from this. He’ll be bound to this lifestyle in a way that Scott isn’t, but still in a way that will change him forever. It makes him kind of sad. Scott doesn’t say any of this, though, just nods his head glumly and looks away from Derek.

“Whatever aversion you have to this, you’ll get over it.” Derek stands up from where he was sitting on an old wood crate, looking at Scott seriously. “He needs this. You know that.”

Scott huffs. “Yeah. At least let me help.”

“Oh, you’re all gonna help,” is all he says before clapping Scott on the shoulder roughly and walking off. Scott turns around, sighing heavily, getting ready to get Stiles before Derek pokes his head out of the doors of the subway car. He cuts his eyes down toward Stiles and back up at Scott, face stern. “You’d better tell him.”

Stiles is already on his feet by the time Scott walks over. “Tell me what?”

Scott sighs again and shakes his head. “Let’s go home.”

 

--

 

They ride home in Stiles’ jeep because, surprise, Melissa still won’t let Scott drive her car anywhere. It doesn’t really bother Stiles, though, having to drive everyone everywhere. Only sometimes, like when a werewolf is half dying and bleeding on the seats. Usually though, it’s just him and Scott, and that’s just fine, because he likes Scott. The only werewolf who ever seems to be half dying all the time is the one he doesn’t like. The one that rhymes with Ferek Fale.

“So,” Stiles says, breaking the silence they’ve been sitting in for a good ten minutes. Stiles is not a fan of silence. “What are you supposed to tell me?”

Scott groans in response, dropping his head into his hands. “Dammit, I thought you were going to forget about that.”

“Oh dude, come on, really?” Stiles says, only a little offended. “You think I’d forget the ‘All Powerful and Terrible Derek Hale’ saying, very ominously I might add, that you needed to tell me something?”

All he gets in response is a punch when he takes his hands off the wheel to make air quotes around Derek’s name. He laughs, hands back on the wheel, and slowly lets his words sink into Scott’s brain. They’ve been friends for so long that Stiles knows all the right words to get Scott to spill in his own time. And, by “all the right words” it means “every single word that pops into Stiles’ head”. “What if he was trying to tell you that I have superpowers? Like, he can smell it on me? Oh wow, that’s gross. But seriously, what if I’m magic? Don’t hold out on me, dude. You get totally badass werewolf powers and if you keep me from being a total badass wizard I swear to God—”

Groaning, Scott finally gives in and glares at the side of his head. “Fine! Oh my god, fine. Just shut up.”

Stiles just smirks. Victory.

Scott fidgets, suddenly uncomfortable, looking briefly out the window of the jeep. “He said, um,” he hesitates, hands twisting together in his lap, looking at them instead of Stiles. “He said we— ”

“What?! He said you have to what?! You’re freaking me out, man, just spit it out.”

And then, Scott does the one thing that Stiles hates the most. He makes The Face. The face where Scott squints one eye, draws his eyebrows together in the middle, and gives this tiny little apologetic smile. He uses it whenever he has to give Stiles some news that is Really Crappy And You Won’t Like At All But I Find Vaguely Amusing. Nothing good ever comes from Scott giving him The Face.

Stiles hates The Face.

“Well… He said we have to train you.”

Did he hear that right? They have to train him? Stiles is quiet for about five seconds before he starts laughing. “Oh, that’s funny. That’s a joke, right? You’re just kidding and you’re about to tell me that Derek thinks I’m a wizard.”

Scott doesn’t say anything, only draws his shoulders up to his ears. The Face intensifies.

He’s serious.

“Wait—are you serious? Derek wants to train me? What?” Stiles is lucky that Scott managed to wait until they pulled into Stiles’ driveway before he dropped that bombshell. He probably would have crashed the car. He turns the car off and turns toward Scott, who is still giving him The Face, only with a little bit of Kicked Puppy thrown in. “Derek wants to train me?

Scott nods, sighing heavily, and slumps back against the pale leather of the seat. “Yeah. He says that you need to know how to protect yourself better.”

“Wha—” He sputters, at a loss, hands flailing in front of him. Protect himself? Against what? “Against what, exactly?” he asks. “Against Derek? Because that’s actually pretty useful, you know, I’d be totally okay with learning how to fight off Derek because I swear to God he hates me and one of these days he’s just going to give up the ghost and eat me. I can see it in his eyes. He wants to claw off my face and cook it in his little werewolf oven.

Scott laughs. “No, dude, not against Derek. And I’m pretty sure Derek doesn’t want to eat you. He just said that, if you’re gonna be helping us like this all the time,” and by this Stiles assumes he means saving their lives, then you’re gonna have to learn how to protect yourself in case something crazy happens and neither of us can get to you.”

Oh. That actually makes sense. “Could you not have said that in the first place? Now I’m going to be haunted by nightmares of Derek tearing off my face skin and cooking it in front of me for no reason.”

Scott just rolls his eyes, opening the car door to get out without giving him an answer. They both walk up to Stiles’ room, bags slung over their shoulder from where they had them stashed in Stiles’ backseat. Once they get to Stiles’ room, both of them throw their bags at the desk and flop down on Stiles’ bed, deciding that homework is a no-go.

It’s quiet for awhile, both of them just laying there, and  Stiles says, “Is this going to hurt?”

“Is what going to hurt?”

Oh, Scott. “The training. Is it going to hurt? Is it going to cause me physical and or mental anguish?”

Scott’s quiet for a second, face screwed up like he’s thinking really hard and Stiles desperately wants to tell him that he’s going to hurt himself, but then Scott looks over at him with a satisfied look.

“Probably.”

Great.

 

Chapter Text

Saturday is Stiles’ favorite day of the week. He doesn’t have to go to school, he can do whatever he wants all day (according to his dad’s Guidelines For Appropriate Teenager Behavior—pfft), and doesn’t even have to look at his homework. Mostly, though, he gets to sleep in. As long as he wants.

Which is why he’s more than a little annoyed when his phone goes off at 7 in the morning.

Groaning in sleepy irritation, he feels around for it blindly, getting even more irritated when he can’t find it. He sits up, huffing, twisting around to find it sitting in the middle of the bed. Nice. Stiles picks it up, ignores the fact that it’s grossly warm from where he was laying on it, and answers. “What?”

It’s Scott, and he sounds equally as grumpy. “Stiles. Are you awake?”

It’s too early for this. “No, we’re actually both still having the same dream and communicating via telepathic brain waves.”

Silence. Very long, very unamused silence.

Stiles sighs. “Yes, Scott, obviously I’m awake.”

He hears Scott say, “Yeah, he’s awake” in a quiet voice, and Stiles’ realizes he must be talking to someone else. “So,” Scott says, returning back to the phone. “Can you be at Derek’s in like, twenty minutes?”

“In twenty—” Stiles whips around, looking at the small alarm clock on the table next to his bed. “It’s 7:10! Are you serious?”

There’s a faint voice in the background, but it’s too quiet for Stiles to make out who it is or what they’re saying. Scott just sighs. “Can you be here, or not?”

“It’s 7:10.”

Scott’s voice is quizzical. “Yeah? I know?”

“On a Saturday. Scott, it’s 7:10 am on a Saturday.”

“Is there a point to you telling me what time it is? I have a clock on my phone.”

Stiles closes his eyes and pulls his phone away from his ear, choosing to hit himself in the forehead with it a few times. He’s never going to understand how Scott does anything by himself. He sighs, throwing the sheets off of him and swinging his legs off the bed. “Yes, I can be there.”

Apparently this is the right answer, because Scott’s grumpy voice brightens a little bit. “Really? Awesome.” He pauses for a second, listening to whoever’s in the background before asking, “Do you have your lacrosse pads with you?”

Odd. “Yes?”

There’s an undercurrent of apology in Scott’s voice when he says, “You should bring them.”

Click.

“Are you serio—” Stiles growls in frustration and throws the phone down on the bed. He gets dressed quickly, brushing his teeth before throwing his lacrosse pads into a backpack and bounding down the stairs. His dad’s probably still asleep—what kind of sick world does he live in now where the adult gets to sleep later than the teenager—so Stiles scribbles a note about going to Scott’s and leaves it stuck to the fridge.

Stiles throws his bag into the passenger seat after he climbs in and seriously considers not going. He sits there for a few minutes, hands gripping the wheel, suddenly far more nervous than annoyed. Stiles has never been any good at fighting or defending himself with his hands, just with his wit and glaring inability to filter anything. And now he’s about to get thrown into the middle of a shitstorm that requires his lacrosse pads? He doesn’t even use his lacrosse pads when he’s playing lacrosse, because he doesn’t actually play. If he can’t even play lacrosse, what makes Derek think he’s going to be able to fight?

“For the love of God,” Stiles mutters, closing his eyes. He drops his head down onto the steering wheel, aiming for some peace, but instead his car horn blares loud and clear in the early morning. A small scream escapes him as he jerks back from the steering wheel, hands gripping the black material hard. “Wow,” he says to himself, shaking his head and backing out of the driveway to head to Derek’s. “WOW.”

This is not going to go well. He just knows it.

 

---

 

As soon as he pulls up in Derek’s driveway (can he call it a driveway? The entire yard is just covered in leaves—whatever), all five of them are draped across the porch in various positions, waiting. Five little wolves, Stiles thinks, all in a row. Adorable.

If they weren’t, you know, supernatural killing machines.

Scott jumps off the porch and comes to meet Stiles at the Jeep. “Are you ready?”

Stiles doesn’t answer as he leans over to grab his bag before jumping out and slamming the door, giving Scott a look that says are you really asking me that? “Oh, sure, I’m ready for all the physical and mental agony all my little werewolf friends are about to unleash upon me. Yes. Totally. 100%.”

With an eyeroll that reaches Derek Hale levels on the scale of Werewolf Eyerolling, Scott just motions for Stiles to follow him and starts heading back toward the porch. “They’re not going to ‘unleash physical and mental agony’ on you, dude,” Scott says, but it doesn’t sound very convincing. Especially when Scott hops back up onto the porch with The Wolf Pack and all of them are watching him, not saying anything.

It’s more than a little creepy. He’s in the middle of the woods with a bunch of creatures of the night who have fangs and claws and freaky eyes. It’s not that cold out, really, but even though Derek’s old house in in the middle of a clearing, the sun isn’t even over the roof yet and he shivers. No one says anything.

“Is this part of the training?” He squeaks, and then winces at the sound of his voice. Derek just watches him from where he’s leaned against the burnt, blackened wall of the house, Erica and Boyd to his left, draped across furniture, and Scott and Isaac on the right, just standing there. He clears his throat, determined to do this as quickly as possible so he can get the hell out of here, and if he’s determined to impress, well. No one has to know about that. Stiles cocks an eyebrow and straightens up, looking right back at Derek. “Creepy Werewolf Glaring and How Not to Fall Prey To It, a guide by Derek Hale. Got it. Moving on now?”

It looks like Derek’s lips twitch upward, but Stiles is still standing pretty far away from the him. Derek walks forward and off the porch, coming toward Stiles with an “all business all the time” face Stiles mildly despises. Serious sour wolf syndrome. “Did you bring your lacrosse pads?” Derek asks, looking down at him.

Stiles lifts the bag up a little before dropping it back down. “Yes, Coach.”

Derek huffs quietly. “Good. Put them on.”

Shrugging, Stiles doesn’t argue, but looks up as he gets his shoulder pads out. “Can I ask why I even needed to bring these? If you think I’m gonna wear lacrosse pads all the time for protection, you are seriously high.”

Cue trademark Derek eyeroll. That seems to be one of his only reactions to anything Stiles says. “No, we’re going to play a game. And since you’re the only one who can’t heal as fast as we do,” he says, probably mentally adding because you’re a tiny little puny human and I’m going to eat off your face, “you need some sort of protection until you toughen up.”

Stiles makes a face at that, slipping the shoulder pads over his head. “Oh, how sweet of you. Thanks.”

“I just don’t want you getting seriously hurt.”

That makes him look up from where he was tying the strings on the chest piece, eyebrow cocked in disbelief. “Really? You don’t me to get hurt, but you’re demanding I participate in your little Werewolf Games? Good logic, Derek, really good. I can see how you’ve survived this long.”

Derek just shrugs and walks off, making his way back up to his spot on the porch. Stiles grumbles under his breath as he tightens the rest of his pads on over his clothes, fully aware Derek can probably hear all the very sweet things he’s saying. When he’s done, Stiles puts his hands on his hips and looks back up at the wolves, who are still just watching. Scott, Stiles can see, is barely repressing laughter. Jerk.

“So,” Stiles says after a minute. “What are we playing?”

“Rugby,” Boyd says, and Stiles doesn’t like the grin on his face at all.

“Rugby?” Stiles balks. Admittedly, Stiles doesn’t actually know that much about rugby or how to play it, but he’s seen enough horror stories about it to know that it includes a ball, lots of tackling, and possibly disfigured limbs. “Do any of you even know how to play rugby?”

None of them say anything, all of them except Derek leaping off the porch and landing quietly (How, Stiles thinks, amazed) in the leaves in front of him. He doesn’t back up but he does go rigid all over, afraid for his mortal life and his precious, precious limbs. “Surely you know how to use stairs.

And, just like that, the seriousness of the atmosphere is broken because Scott starts laughing. Stiles grins at him, happy that at least one people here is still on his side, and then soon Erica and Isaac are giggling too. Boyd doesn’t actually laugh, but he’s smirking, and that’s good enough for Stiles. Kill ‘em with hilarity, or whatever. The four wolves turn turn around and look at Derek, although Scott’s having a pretty hard time from what Stiles can tell because he’s still giggling a little bit.

Stiles takes this opportunity to gain control. “So, Derek, we’re playing rugby?”

Derek just nods.

“Really?” Stiles looks around at the four wolves in front of him dramatically, eyebrows raised. “Only five players? Uneven teams? That doesn’t seem fair.”

“That’s not my problem,” Derek says, lifting and dropping a shoulder, watching Stiles with narrowed eyes. Stiles thinks Derek might be catching on.

Stiles fists his hands and puts them on his hips, making an exaggerated grumpy face much like a parent would make to a fussy child “Is the Big Bag Alpha too scared to pway wugby?” He says in a baby voice, and feels the burn of satisfaction when even Boyd starts laughing.

Suddenly, though, Derek is off the porch and in Stiles’ face, one hand grabbing hard at his lacrosse pads and holding him an inch off the ground. “Wrong move,” he growls, face angry.

Don’t freak out, don’t freak out. Even though his heart is beating faster and his toes aren’t even touching the ground, Stiles just looks back at him defiantly. “Why? You said you’re training me, right? This is me participating. If I came across some douchey weredick, this is what I’d do.”

Derek makes a sound of disgust and drops Stiles back on the ground. “And get yourself killed in the process.”

Unexpectedly, Stiles feels the burn of embarrassment run hot through his face. He looks down at the ground, toeing through the leaves, not meeting Derek’s eyes. Stiles knows he’s already not doing a good job at this training thing. He wants to say something to break the silence, all of them not looking at each other, and it makes the noise of the woods seem a lot louder. It’s uncomfortable.

After a few minutes of letting Stiles stew in his own embarrassment, Derek huffs impatiently. “Erica and Isaac, you’re on my team. Boyd, you’re with Scott and Stiles.”

Stiles looks up, cheeks still flushed, and Derek only looks at him a second longer before looking away. They all follow Derek to the backyard, where there’s more room for them to run. Stiles notices that Derek was prepared for this: there’s already two soccer goals set up across from each other, about half the length of a soccer field. It’s way more spacious out here, the house and the tree line a lot further away from each other than the front of the house. It’s actually kind of nice, what with all the fallen leaves scattering the ground in varying shades of orange, red , yellow and brown. If Stiles had the patience (or the talent) for art, he might have painted it.

Scott’s suddenly in his face, stripped of his jacket and just in his shirt and jeans, rapping his knuckles against Stiles’ forehead. “Hey, wakey-wakey. Time to play ball.”

Grinning through the nerves, Stiles pushes Scott away from him and jogs out into the middle of the field, where Derek, Erica, and Isaac are already standing. He assumes that none of them actually really know the rules of rugby, just that you carry the ball to the goal and there’s lots of tackling. Stiles figures it’s kind of like football and soccer mixed together. Derek is standing across from him, looking vaguely threatening in just a black shirt and light gray basketball shorts—wait. WAIT. How did he not notice that? Derek, in basketball shorts? He tries not to laugh, biting down on both of his lips and closing his eyes, but when he peeks one open to see Derek still brooding across from him in basketball shorts, Stiles loses it.

Boyd and Scott, who are flanking him on either side, look at each other over Stiles’ head and then quizzically down at Stiles. Erica and Isaac are looking at him like he’s nuts, and Derek’s not look at him at all, nostrils flared and a look of barely controlled anger on his face. Stiles nearly drops to the ground with how hard he’s laughing, but instead he stands up straighter and wipes the tears from his eyes, looking at Derek and trying to force the laughter down. “I’m so sorry, but oh my god, you’re wearing basketball shorts. I—” He snorts, laughter dwindling down to giggles, until he’s standing there, cheeks flushed with the cold and a tiny bit of embarrassment.

“You done?” Derek says, arms folded across his chest.

Oh, god, he wants to laugh again. He doesn’t, though, just nods his head. “I laugh when I get scared. Or nervous. Or like when I’m about to get mauled by three very big werewolves in a sport none of the people here actually know how to play.”

Derek just snorts and shakes his head, and maybe, just maybe, Stiles thinks he sees his lips twitch again. It passes, though, and Derek crouches down, all of his werewolf minions doing the same. There’s a white volleyball sitting in between them, equidistant from either of their feet. It appears the scrimmage for first ball is between Derek and Stiles and he groans. “Oh, come on, that’s not even fair,” but he crouches down, anyway.

They don’t have a coach or a referee to blow a whistle for start, so Stiles takes it upon himself. He looks at Derek in silent question, and Derek gives him a short nod of the head to let him know he’s ready. Is he supposed to yell something? Blue moon forty two sour wolf hut hike?

Instead, he just yells, “Uh, go!”

Both he and Derek both dive for the ball and Derek must be holding back his freaky werewolf speed because Stiles gets the ball first, picking it up and running backward with it, looking for Scott and Boyd. Both of them are currently locked up with Erica and Isaac, so there goes his defense. But that also leaves Derek on his own, too, and Stiles thinks he might have a shot at this. Derek is still coming forward, eyes on Stiles and the ball, so Stiles takes off straight for him, making like he’s going to crash into him but spins out of the way right at the last second. He can hear Derek’s growl as he swipes out and misses, Stiles already out of reach and running toward the goal. The wind feels good on his face and he lets out a whooping holler as he nears it, arms up and getting ready to drop kick the ball into the goal.

Just before he gets there, a hand curls around the back of his shoulder pad and yanks. He’s thrown to the ground, back hitting the solid earth hard. The wind is knocked out of him and he drops the balls, gasping, face screwed up in pain. The other four at the other end of the field stop grappling with each other and come over, Scott immediately crouching down and patting Stiles’ face. “Hey, you okay?”

Stiles nods, opening his eyes to glare at Derek. “Really? I didn’t think abuse counted as training.”

Derek throws him a look. “I’m not abusing you, you idiot. I’m trying to toughen you up. If getting thrown on the ground puts you out for that long, you’re not going to last very long in a fight.”

That’s true, and Stiles kind of resents him for it. He just nods, though, and leans up on his elbows. Everyone backs out of the way except Derek who, in a gesture that completely catches Stiles off guard, extends his hand to help him up. He grabs it, Derek’s fingers wrapping around the back of his palm, warm and not as rough as Stiles would have thought. Not, of course, that he’s ever thought about that. Who thinks about stuff like that? Definitely not Stiles.

Derek pulls him up to his feet, warm hand letting go of his immediately and stepping back to scoop up the ball. He gives it to Stiles, eyebrow raised. “That’s just the beginning, you know.”

Yeah, he knows, and he knows it’s gonna hurt like hell, but all of the sudden he’s a lot more agreeable to it.

“Yeah,” Stiles says, and backs up, setting the ball down and crouching, challenging grin on his face. “Sure. Bring it on, JoJo.”

Chapter Text

They’ve been playing rugby for about three hours when Stiles, after getting tackled to the ground for what is probably the hundredth time, calls it quits.

“Okay, I’m done,” he says, laying on his back and panting. His skin is covered in sweat, a little bit of blood from his scraped elbows, and maybe some tears, but if anyone ever asks he’ll deny it. Not to mention that every bone in his body feels broken or fractured in some way. His lacrosse pads did help quite a bit in breaking his falls and taking the force of the tackles, but still. Padding is no match for even a teeny werewolf like Scott. “I’m throwing in the towel.”

The ground is amazingly cold and it feels good on his skin as he lays there and tries to cool down (see also: not die). He looks up at the sky, a soft and cloudless blue, and silently thanks every deity he can name that they did this before the sun was all the way up. Suddenly, Derek’s face is hovering above him, upside down and eyebrows raised. “Done? It’s only 10:30.”

Stiles squints up at him. “Only 10:30? Only 10:30? You do realize I’ve been here since like, 7, right?”

Derek shrugs, and Stiles feels like punching him right in the face. “We’ve still got a lot of time in the day left.”

Grumbling, Stiles pushes himself up onto his elbows and moves to stand up, but finds it’s a lot harder than he thought. He almost falls, legs weak and shaking from almost 3 hours of physical activity and no food. Stiles is surprised to find that the only reason he isn’t falling is because Derek’s got a hand on his arm. Weird. Derek is such a weird werewolf, Stiles thinks, as Derek spins him around toward the house and pushes him a little bit.

“Have you eaten yet?”

Stiles turns around to meet Derek’s questioning gaze. “Um, no? Do you not remember dragging me out of bed and demanding I be here in 20 minutes at 7 o’clock this morning? Do you also not remember replacing the rugby ball with my body for the past 3 hours?”

All of Derek’s puppies are piled on top of each other (adorably, Stiles might add, and out loud if wouldn’t get him dismembered and eaten before he could spell it) in the leaves, not breathing hard or even sweating. They all raise their heads in unison as Derek and Stiles approach and, in a strange way, it makes Stiles’ heart melt. Just a big ol’ pile of puppies. With big teeth and claws and superhuman strength. Adorable. Right.

“What are we doing now?” Erica asks, plopping her head back down on Isaac’s stomach, who huffs in irritation. Boyd and Scott are just kind of splayed out next to each other, feet touching and nothing else. They all nod in curious inquiry as they look up at Derek, who just sighs.

“Stiles needs to eat.”

Scott laughs. “No he doesn’t. Stiles eats more than anyone else I know.”

He shoots Scott a glare. “For your information, I have yet to eat today.”

“Is that why you suck at rugby?” Isaac asks, and when Stiles glares at him he just looks back innocently, like he actually wants to know.

“No, I suck at rugby because I’m 145 pounds of pale skin and fragile bones playing a full contact sport against 5 werewolves who surpass me in strength and speed. Also, it’s a sport. That’s why I suck at it.”

Erica and Isaac snicker while Scott just flat out laughs, popping up onto his feet. “Come on,” he says, smacking his shoulder into Stiles’ and laughing apologetically when he winces. “Let’s go find some food so we can get back here and play more rugby.”

Even just the idea of playing more rugby makes Stiles want to throw up. “No thanks,” he says, fingers unlacing the strings on his shoulder pads. “I’m done for the day. Seriously, I’ve taken enough werewolf abuse in 3 hours to last me 9 freaking life times.”

Apparently, Derek has different ideas because he shakes his head. “No more rugby, but you’re coming back here after you eat. You’re not done yet.”

That is the last thing Stiles wants to hear. He looks at Derek, shoulder pad tucked under his arm, growing more irritable by the second. “I thought you were trying to train me, not kill me.”

“I am training you. Giving up after only 3 hours is ridiculous.”

Stiles huffs in protest, mouth dropping open. “Have you ever heard of everything in moderation? You don’t just drink snake venom and become immune to snakes. You have to be bitten by a lot of snakes, over a period of time, to build up a tolerance to the snake venom—”

Derek’s eyebrows shoot up. “I don’t think that analogy works, Stiles.”

He huffs again, impatiently. “Look, I didn’t have to agree to this. If I hadn’t have said yes, you wouldn’t be training me at all. So if I’m gonna continue to come over here and get my ass kicked by a bunch of freaking superpeople, then we do it by my rules. I’m leaving, I’ll be back tomorrow, or something.”

“You don’t get to make the rules, Stiles,” Derek says, but Stiles’ is pretty sure that Derek knows he’s right.

Turning, Stiles shrugs the shoulder not holding the lacrosse pads. “Well then, if you want me back here today then you better come and get me.”  He nudges Scott and they both head for the Jeep, and if Derek replies to that , Stiles doesn’t hear it.

 

--

 

“Derek’s right, you know,” Scott says, looking at Stiles after shoving more fries in his mouth. He’s sitting in the passenger seat with his legs crossed, drink balanced precariously on the seat in the middle of his legs.

Stiles looks over, straw in his mouth, skeptical. “Do you know what you just said?”

With a huff, Scott crumples the empty wrapper into a little ball and throws it back into the paper bag sitting on the floor of the Jeep. “Yes. And yes, I think Derek is right.”

“About what?” Stiles groans, setting his drink back in the cupholder and letting his head fall back against the seat in exasperation. He closes his eyes and wills the irritation to go away.

“Training,” Scott says. “You can’t just give up after one day. Not even a day, three hours. You really need this, Stiles.”

He feels like yelling. He knows he needs to get stronger, he knows he needs it, but the fact that everyone thinks it’s a good idea to repeat it back to him at every opportunity is actually really annoying. “I know that I’m just a weak little human, “ Stiles spits, jaw clenched. “But that’s exactly why I’m not going back today. I’ll go back tomorrow, but not today. Weak little humans don’t just play 3 hours of a rough sport and then keep going. I know you wouldn’t get that, Scott, because you’re a big scary werewolf now, but if Derek is going to train me he needs to know the limits. He pushes me too hard, I’ll break, and then he won’t even have anyone to train.”

Scott is quiet, and Stiles thinks it’s probably for the better. He’s looking down at his hands, mouth pressed into a thin line like he wants to argue, but knows deep down that Stiles is right. Sighing, Stiles brushes the crumbs off his lap and starts the Jeep, pulling out the parking lot and heading to Scott’s to drop him off. He’ll probably end up going back to Derek’s, but at this point Stiles doesn’t care. He’s going home and taking a shower and passing out on his bed.

When he gets home, he doesn’t even bother grabbing his lacrosse pads from the back of his Jeep. Instead, he jumps out, shutting the door behind him as he drags himself up to the front door. He pushes it open and notices that the house is dark and quiet. “Dad?” he calls out, brows furrowing, the door closing behind him with a soft snitch. Stiles drops his keys on the kitchen counter, looking at the fridge for any notes his dad may have left, but there isn’t any, so he heads for the living room. That’s where he finds his dad.

He’s asleep on the couch, and Stiles has the sudden image of this exact scene a few years ago. His dad, on the couch on his back, legs crossed at the ankle and arms folded across his chest, his face pinched up in a look of distress even as he slept. The couch is where he slept all the time when Stiles’ mom was in the hospital, accompanied by a bottle of some alcohol or another sitting on the floor within reach. This time, though, there’s just a water bottle. In one respect, Stiles is relieved, but in the other he isn’t. Something is up with his dad and he just doesn’t know what.

Deciding not to wake him up in case he has the night shift at the police station, Stiles just quietly makes his way up the stairs to his room. It’s only noon but Stiles feels half dead with exhaustion. He opens the door to his room, intending to flop down on his bed and go back to sleep, but when he steps all the way in and turns around, he almost screams.

Derek’s standing near the window, looking vaguely uncomfortable and somehow still terrifyingly intimidating. Stiles swallows hard but doesn’t move. Derek just looks at him from where he’s standing , dressed in jeans and a dark, long sleeve shirt rolled up to the elbows. Fashion a la Derek.

“Um, Derek?” Stiles says, eyebrows raised. “Wanna tell me what you’re doing in my room?”

Derek huffs through his nose, and Stiles can’t help but notice how dog-like it is. If he wasn’t so irritated, he’d probably laugh. “We need to talk about training.”

“Oh, my god,” Stiles groans, exasperated. He rubs his hands over his face, digging his knuckles into his eyes before crossing his arms over his chest. “No. We’re not talking about it.”

Apparently Derek doesn’t like this, because his posture goes rigid and Stiles thinks he can hear just the undertone of a growl. “I’m the Alpha.”

In mock surprise, Stiles puts his hands on his hips. “You don’t say! Wow, that’s brand new information, thank you for enlightening me, Derek—”

“Stiles,” Derek growls, warning, and the irritation explodes into anger.

“No! We’re not talking about this!” Stiles grits out, on the verge of shouting. “I don’t think you understand the concept of humans needing to rest, Derek, especially little weak ones like me. Okay? You can’t just push me and push me and push me because if you do, I’m going to end up getting hurt and then you won’t have me to train.”

Derek actually looks down at the floor, his jaw tight, but his face remains passive. If Stiles didn’t know any better, he’d think that Derek actually looks ashamed. “Tomorrow, then,” Derek says, quiet. It’s kind of like a surrender and, he won’t lie, it makes him feel pretty good. He doesn’t say that, though, just nods tersely and turns around, waiting for Derek to leave. He hears the soft whisper of the window sliding up, then shut. Derek is gone.

Sighing heavily, Stiles drops onto his bed and covers his face with his hands. What the hell has he gotten himself into?

 

--

 

As it turns out, he’s gotten himself into deep shit.

Derek obeys Stiles’ request for time to rest, but only to the bare minimum. Every day for a solid week Derek finds some way to test him, popping out of corners in the street or in his room or at Scott’s. Sometimes it’s being forced to stay in the weight room at school and lift weights until he’s pretty sure his arms are going to fall off, while Derek just stands at the door and pointedly looks in another direction. Another time, Derek breaks into his room in the middle of the night and drags him, literally, by the ankles, out of his bed and out the window, throwing him over his shoulder as he jumps down from the roof and takes off running. All that Stiles can do is hit Derek in the back uselessly with his fists and knee him in the chest.

It’s all the little things that tire him out the most. They’re just training exercises, and more and more Stiles feels like he accidentally signed up for the military. Derek makes him do things that Stiles is pretty sure are life threatening, like climbing up on really tall things (trees, the second story of Derek’s burnt house, whatever he can find) without rope or support, jumping from high distances. In fact, Stiles is surprised that he hasn’t broken an ankle yet. When it rains, and it does quite a few times that week, Derek drags Stiles into the middle of the woods and leaves him there, his only instruction: “Find your way back out, and don’t die.”

As much as he hates to admit it, though, the training Derek’s been putting him through hasn’t been for naught. He can feel it, the strength, in his muscles when he pulls himself up onto a ledge or straining to get out of a chokehold. It’s easier for him to fight Derek off, though he knows that Derek isn’t really trying all that hard, his hits soft and his tackles even softer; where he holds his body just off of Stiles’ when they land on the ground, or his fingers loose around Stiles’ wrist when he deflects a punch. After that first day of rugby, it’s always just them, on their own, Derek too worried about Stiles getting distracted by Scott to really pay attention to what’s going on. And as he gets stronger, can run a little faster, jump a little higher, Stiles finds he doesn’t mind, really. Derek still scares him, but not by much. In fact, Stiles even gets him to smile sometimes. It’s not a laugh, and it’s not what Stiles really wants, but he’ll take it. He’s satisfied.

He’s just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And when it does, it drops hard.

Chapter Text

The next training exercise they do, it’s with the whole pack. Erica, Isaac, Boyd, and Scott all get to play this time, according to Derek, but Stiles is still in the dark about what this training session actually entails. He’s sure it’ll involve some form of bodily injury, much like the previous ones, so he throws his lacrosse pads in the backseat as he gets in. He starts the Jeep, reaching for his phone to call Scott, when a knock on the window makes him yelp and drop it on the floor. Stiles looks over to see his dad, eyebrows raised, waiting for him to roll down the window.

“Hey, dad,” Stiles says, turning on the charm after he rolls the window all the way down and leans an arm on it.

“Where are you going?” He doesn’t look angry or anything, so Stiles is vaguely worried.

“To hang out with Scott,” he says, and he’s not lying, not technically. He is going to hang out with Scott, just… at Derek’s. With Derek there. And also three other werewolves. “Why, wanna come?”

His dad rolls his eyes, but there’s a small smile pulling up the corner of his mouth. “Uh huh. Just be safe, the sun goes down in about an hour and I have the night shift again. Whatever you and Scott get up to…” he hesitates, considering, then seems to change his mind and finishes, “Just be careful.” Sheriff slaps the side of the Jeep and gives Stiles a smile as he walks back in the house.

Something in Stiles’ heart contracts anxiously. He and his dad are close, of course, but rarely does his dad hesitate in telling him something. Is there something his dad is hiding? Not that Stiles can really be mad about that, seeing as Stiles is hiding a lot from his dad (the kanima, the kanima having a master, Jackson being the kanima, the master using Jackson to kill people, the list goes on), but it feels… different, somehow. He swallows hard and waves to his dad, who’s standing in the doorway, before he backs out of the driveway and heads to Derek’s.

It’s still relatively bright out, though the approaching sunset is casting a low, orange-ish glow over Beacon Hills, and as he drives through the woods to Derek’s house, it makes the trees look like they’re on fire. It’s beautiful, he can see that, but he can’t focus on it. He’s worried, about his dad, he’s suddenly worried about Scott, he’s worried about himself, and in some strange way he’s worried about Derek. Beacon Hills isn’t the same as it used to be, sleepy and quiet. Now it’s just… scary. There’s things out in the dark that no one even knows about, and the weight of being one of the only people that knows threatens to crush him.

He forgets to pay attention to the road winding up to Derek’s house, and when something darts across in front of the Jeep, Stiles swerves and almost hits a tree, jerking the wheel back over and straightening out again. His heart is thundering in his ears, knuckles white from where he’s gripping the steering wheel, and he mutters “Christ” under his breath. As soon as he parks the Jeep in front of Derek’s house, Derek is tearing open the door of the Jeep.

“Stiles? Are you alright?”

Stiles jumps, taking the keys out of the ignition and looking at Derek wide wide eyes. “Yeah? I’m right here, aren’t I?”

Derek seems to relax, but only marginally. His hand is still gripping the top of the door on the Jeep, and Stiles is suddenly worried he’s going to dent the metal. “I heard your heart beating from all the way over here. What happened?”

He can hear my heart beating? Stiles licks his lips and looks down, internally wincing when his pulse stutters at that realization. “Oh, uh, nothing,” he mumbles, eyes on where his fingers are playing with his keys. “Something ran out in the road and I had to swerve. No big deal.”

It’s quiet for a moment, and then Derek says, “Are you alright?”                                                         

Stiles looks up, surprised. Is today a weird day for everyone else, or just him? Seriously, he doesn’t know how much more of this weirdness he can take. From anyone. But when he sees the look on Derek’s face, that trademark blank slate, he can see an undercurrent of something else. He doesn’t know what. “Yeah," Stiles says, eyes meeting Derek’s fleetingly before looking back down at his hands and nodding once. “Yeah. I’m okay.”

“Stiles!” A voice calls out from across the yard and both of them look up to see Scott, goofy grin spread across his face. As always.

Derek looks back at Stiles, hand still on the door, and looks like he wants to say something. Instead, he lets go and turns, walking away, nodding to Scott on the way back up to the porch. Scott bounds over, grinning, and waits for Stiles to get out and shut the door before throwing his arm around his neck.

It’s… normal, and for that, Stiles is glad. Sure, Scott is a werewolf now, and sure, Stiles has been training with werewolves for almost two weeks and is about to get schooled again, but this is normal. Scott’s arm around his neck, dragging him along and talking way too loud and over-eager in his ear is normal. A certain peacefulness finds him then, settles over him like a blanket, and he’s calm. A smile spreads across his face and he wraps an arm around Scott’s back, just like they used to, and listens to Scott yap on and on about how much fun this is going to be. For him, anyway.

“Speaking of,” Stiles says once they get to the porch, ducking under Scott’s arm and stepping away, looking at Derek. “What are we doing?”

No one says anything, but Erica and Isaac look at each other and start giggling. Stiles glares at them. They’re like the brattiest pair of trouble-making twins Stiles has ever met. He turns around to look at Scott, standing behind him, but Scott just grins madly and laughs when Stiles makes a sound of frustration. When Stiles turns back around, Derek is coming down off the porch and reaching into his back pocket, pulling out a folded up square of what looks like cloth. Isaac, Erica, and Boyd all jump down from the porch and crowd up behind Derek, who’s unfolding the cloth right in front of Stiles.

That looks like… “A blindfold?” Stiles squeaks, eyes wide as he watches Derek’s long fingers unfold the cloth from the square and then into the rectangle shape of a blindfold. “You’re going to blindfold me? And then do what?”

Derek’s eyes flick up to his fleetingly before looking back down again. That’s not an answer, and Stiles still isn’t satisfied. “Is this a surprise party for me? Did you guys decide I’m cool enough to be in the pack now and you’re throwing me a party? Is this a piñata or pin the tail on the werewolf?”

Isaac laughs, shaking his head fondly. At least one of them likes Stiles. Derek doesn’t answer him, again, but steps around him so that he’s behind Stiles. “Go,” Derek says, not to him but to the wolves. “Scatter. Like we practiced.”

Stiles watches in dismay as all four of Derek’s betas share grins before darting off into the woods, all in different directions, and god only knows how far. He watches them until they all disappear into the trees, so far that Stiles can’t even hear their laughter or the sound of their feet as they run in the leaves.

“Are we playing blindfolded hide and seek?” Stiles asks, and in the sudden stillness his voice sounds very loud. “Because if I’m wearing a blindfold, I think that defeats the purpose of the ‘seeking’ part.”

“This is part of your training, Stiles,” Derek says, so close behind him that Stiles jumps. He can hear the rustle of Derek’s clothes as he moves his arms and then he’s putting the blindfold around Stiles’ eyes. He’s gentle, making sure that it fits on Stiles’ head comfortably before tying the knot. Stiles wants to say something, fill the silence only disrupted by the both of them breathing, but the feel of Derek’s fingers ghosting across his skin as he ties the cloth sticks any words he wanted to say in his throat. He licks his lips, hating the way his heartbeat is picking up ever so slightly, and it gets even louder when Derek closes his fingers over the knot and holds it, leaning forward to talk quietly in Stiles’ ear. “Pay attention,” he whispers, and Stiles suppresses a shiver as Derek’s breath ghosts over his ear. “And really listen. We’ll be all around you, calling out, and you need to be able to tell what direction it’s coming from.”

All of a sudden, Stiles can’t breathe. Derek’s too close, his body too warm to be standing this close and his hand on the knot at the back of his head, his lips too soft and his voice too quiet this close to his ear. He nods, short and quick, wishing Derek would hurry up and move. His heart is beating too hard, and he knows that Derek can hear it, and even though he’s blindfolded he squeezes his eyes shut and wills it to stop. Then Derek’s fingers are gone from the back of his head and the warmth slips from his back as Derek moves away, voice still finding Stiles, though it’s quiet. “You have to listen, Stiles. Really listen.”

Then it’s just Stiles in the dead silence.

He stands there, still as stone, and before long the cold starts to seep into his skin even through his jacket. Shivering, he pulls his jacket a little tighter around him and frowns because he can’t hear anything but the wind moving through the tops of the trees and—there. His head snaps up, although he can’t see, in the direction he thinks he heard the sound come from. It’s a snap, like a twig breaking under a shoe, and a quiet cough. It comes from the left, and then suddenly someone runs past him so fast he feels the air move past his face, shoving a finger in Stiles’ chest so that he’s forced back a step. “That came from the left!” He yells, and from somewhere off in the distant he hears Derek’s voice telling him he’s right.

From there, it just gets easier to pick out which direction the sounds come from, whether it’s a twig snapping or the rhythmic crunching of leaves under feet that are trying a little too hard to stay quiet. Every once in awhile one of the wolves will run past, pushing him this way and that, and disappear laughing when Stiles swipes out but misses. The next time, he just barely misses Erica’s hair and she laughs, patting him on the head before darting off again, and this time Stiles misses her completely. He growls in frustration, cheeks flushing red with cold and effort. Not a split second later, a warm hand trails lightly across his back and is gone, with Derek’s voice in his ear fast on its heels.

“Don’t get so mad,” he says, and Stiles shivers this time, doesn’t bother to suppress it. “You can do it.”

Stiles lunges out to the left, and barely misses Derek’s shirt. The fabric skirts across his fingertips, and Derek grunts softly as he twists out of the way. “Fuck!” Stiles says, frustration growing, waiting for Derek to make a sound.

His voice is in his ear again, on the right this time. “Concentrate,” he says, and before he’s even done saying the word, Stiles reaches out quick, fisting a hand in the material of Derek’s shirt and yanking.

Derek slams into him, the surprise of being caught off guard slowing down his reflexes. Stiles steps back, trying to regain balance but he falls backward, bringing Derek down with him. The breath gets knocked out of Stiles as Derek’s chest collides with him after his back collides with the ground, and Derek is immediately up on his elbows. He pushes the blindfold up off of Stiles’ eyes, searching his face, but neither of them say anything. Stiles is overly aware of the fact that Derek’s hips are pressing into his thigh, one leg stuck in between his from where they fell together. He can also feel Derek’s stomach against his as Stiles pants and Derek breathes calmly.

It’s much darker than when Derek had first put the blindfold on him, and the sky is purple and red where the sun is slowly going behind the mountains. They’re just staring at each other, silent in the last patch of sunlight, and Stiles is starting to panic. Derek is still laying on top of him, though softly now, as if he’s holding his full weight on his elbows, and staring into Stiles’ face, looking for some sort of indicator that Stiles is okay. Stiles is also very, very aware of the fact that a party is starting in his pants, and he really doesn’t have time to attend.

“You,” Stiles wheezes, breaking the silence. “Are so freaking heavy.”

Something beautiful happens then, something that Stiles thought he’d never live to see.

Derek laughs.

It’s not loud, and it’s not the kind of gut-busting laugh that Stiles can normally drag out of people. It’s soft, like an exhaled breath in a quiet room, but both corners of his mouth are pulled up in a smile and Stiles counts that as a victory. Why he’s so proud of the fact that he made Derek laugh, he’s not sure, and that fact makes the smile slip from his own face. Derek looks at him a second longer before getting up onto his feet, hand out to help Stiles up. He kind of wants to refuse, his stomach suddenly flipping, but it takes it and stands up, immediately letting go and brushing the leaves off his pants.

The four betas all come out of the tree line, every single one of them looking incredibly pleased with themselves. Stiles knows it’s because he didn’t catch any of them a single time, and that Derek is silently pleased with them about it. He’s okay with that, though. They deserve it.

“You did good, Stiles,” Derek says, but he won’t look directly at him.

Stiles is okay with that, too. “Thanks. I’m obviously the best werewolf ever.”

“You could be,” he replies, but it’s quiet. So quiet, in fact, that Stiles isn't even sure if he heard it.

He gets in his Jeep with Scott, both of them relatively sleepy, and thinks about just how wrong he heard that.

--

It’s two days later when the other shoe drops.

Stiles is on his way to the police station to bring his dad dinner when his phone rings. “Hello?”

“Stiles?”

His brows furrow. “Scott? Are you okay?”

Scott sounds out of breath. “Me? Yeah, I’m fine. But we have a problem.”

Oh, Jesus. Stiles feels his stomach sink. His fingers curl around his phone harder. “What is it?”

“It’s Jackson. I followed him and he’s gonna kill again. Stiles, he’s going to kill her.”

“Who?” Stiles says, frantic, hoping like hell that Scott got out of there before anyone noticed, wherever he is. “Who, Scott?”

“I don’t know.” It finally hits him what sounds different about Scott’s voice: he sounds scared. “I don’t know, Stiles. I’m going to find Derek. Go talk to your dad. And just… stay there until I call you.” Scott begs, and Stiles doesn’t even think about disobeying. He doesn’t know what’s happening, but he’s pretty sure Scott doesn’t either. That scares him even more. “Just stay there. I’m going to find Derek.”

Scott hangs up and Stiles gets to the police station a lot faster than is legal.

Chapter Text

When Stiles was younger, when his mother was alive and he thought they were all invincible, when he thought they’d all be together forever, they did things like play police officer.

His father used to come home from work at the station, hands full of manila folders stuffed so thick with papers the edges were fit to burst. Stiles would hear the front door open and he’d jump off his mother’s lap, taking off toward the front door, usually so fast that there was no time to stop. He’d crash into his father’s legs and the Sheriff would laugh and a younger Stiles loved the sound, thought it made his dad sound invincible, and his mother, too. Stiles would immediately reach up to him, calling his name over and over. Daddy, daddy, you’re home, daddy, what did you bring, daddy? And the Sheriff would kiss his wife before picking up a five year old Stiles in one arm and carrying him into the kitchen where he plopped him right on top of the table.

“Are you ready, son?” His father would say, a serious look on his face, but even at five Stiles could see the grin in his eyes.

“Yes! Yes!” Stiles would say, gap-toothed grin spread across his face. His father would just laugh and open the folders, placing them here and there across the table, spreading out the papers until the wood wasn’t visible anymore. He’d lean over Stiles and ask him questions that Stiles couldn’t even make out the meaning of, much less answer. It didn’t matter though; Stiles would say things a typical five year old would say and his father would tell him that’s right, son, good job. And of course, at five, Stiles couldn’t read very complex things, so there was no harm in the Sheriff spreading out actual police reports for his son to touch, to read. To play cop, to mimic his father. This is how they spent time together, all the while his mother watched from the background, a smile on her face.

These are the times that Stiles’ remembers as he and his father paw through the documents and yearbooks spread across his desk, eleven years later.

Only this time, it’s different.

There’s a sense of urgency in the air that neither of them want to mention, for fear that it would break. Someone is killing people, and even though it’s people that Stiles doesn’t know, he’s connected in a way that makes him a potential target. He knows Jackson, and Jackson knows him, and he’s already been attacked by Kanima Jackson once, right? Who’s to say that next time, Stiles won’t be more than paralyzed? Next time could the last time, and even though Stiles has never breathed a word of any of this to his dad, it’s almost as if his dad knows it, too.

So they don’t talk about the tension in the air, or the fact that the both them have abandoned their dinners in favor of searching. As he and his father find new things to pin up on the cork board and connect with bits of yarn, Stiles can’t help but wonder if Derek ever did anything like this with his own father. He doesn’t have to wonder about Scott, because after 6th grade, Scott’s dad stopped being a big part of his life. Derek, though, Stiles doesn’t know about Derek. He wonders if his father ever let him do things with him, like clean floors or manage bank accounts or… whatever it was that Derek’s dad did. And then, all of a sudden, Stiles realizes that Derek and his father probably never did things like that together, because they did other things. They probably howled at the moon and ran through the woods in the middle of the night; they probably hunted rabbits and ate them with their bare claws while their mother tried to teach Laura how to do things like a lady. The sudden realization that Derek’s childhood was infinitely different than Stiles could ever imagine startles him, hand jerking as it slides over a piece of paper and knocking it to the floor.

His father looks up, concern knitting his eyebrows together. “Stiles? Are you alright?”

He nods and opens his mouth to say something, but then his phone vibrates in his pocket. What a convenient out. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine,” he says, making a face. “My phone rang, and it scared me.”

The Sheriff just rolls his eyes as Stiles digs around in his pocket for his phone, but Stiles knows it’s out of fondness. He looks at the caller ID. It’s Scott.

“Scott? What’s going on?” he asks, point blank, stepping away from the desk and toward the door, voice lowered.

“Are you and your dad okay?” Scott asks him, and even though his breathing is even he sounds a little panicked.

“Why? What happened? Are you okay? Is Derek okay?” He winces. Shit. He didn’t mean to say that out loud.

If Scott even heard that, he doesn’t say so. “Answer me!”

“Yes,” Stiles says, voice low and steady. Scott is more like a dog than he probably realizes; if you stay calm, Scott will stay calm. “We’re okay.”

The breath of relief Scott exhales is audible. “Okay. Good.”

“What happened?”

“Nothing really,” Scott answers, and there’s the sound of a car door shutting in the background. His voice goes muffled as he pulls away from the mouthpiece, and Stiles hears him ask someone “Can you drop me off at Stiles’?” to someone else. Stiles has a pretty good idea who it is, and he hates the way his heart does this weird little thing before settling again.

“Oh, are you uh, with Derek?” he asks, and pretends there isn’t anything but an apathetic curiosity in his voice. He’s not even sure why he cares; of course Scott is with Derek. Stiles can’t believe he even asked.

Someone in the background (probably Derek) says something, but it’s too low for Stiles to hear. Scott laughs and refuses to let Stiles in on the joke. “Yeah, I’m with Derek. Are you still with your dad at the station?”

“Yeah,” Stiles replies, twisting slightly to look at his dad, who’s hunched over an open manila folder and absentmindedly shoving carrot sticks into his mouth. It makes him smile a little.

“Okay, he has the night shift right? Good,” he says when Stiles confirms. There’s the sound of an engine starting and Stiles can just imagine Derek sitting in the driver’s seat of his black camaro, all… dark haired and light eyed and broody and… werewolf-y. Whatever. “Stiles?”

“What?” He didn’t realize he had spaced out.

“Did you hear what I said?”

Stiles coughs a little. “Yes.”

“Then what did I just say?”

“Okay, I lied.”

Scott huffs in mild annoyance, but Stiles knows he’ll be over it in about .2 seconds. He’s right. “Anyway, what I said was, meet me at your house. Like, right now. Jesus, Derek!”

Stiles should really hang up now, should just agree and hang up and tell his dad he’s leaving and he really shouldn’t ask the question he wants to ask and doesn’t know why, but he asks anyway. “Is Derek gonna be there?” As soon as it’s out he moves the phone away from his face and drops his head onto the doorframe, letting it thunk hard against the wood.

“Um, why?”

Shit. Shit! “Because, you know, I’d rather not be surprised if a surly, person of interest, wants-to-rip-off-my-face weregrump is gonna be hanging out in my room.”

Scott laughs. “Just meet me at your house, dude,” is all he says before he hangs up.

Stiles grumbles to himself as he cleans up his mess off the desk, taking care not to disrupt his dad. He throws everything in the trash and then leans down to scoop up his backpack, snapping his fingers in front of his dad’s face when saying “Dad?” four times doesn’t work.

The Sheriff sits up, eyes wide, like he forgot what he was doing or where he was. Then he looks at Stiles and his face clears. “Are you leaving?”

“Yeah,” Stiles says. “I’m just going home, though. Scott’s coming over but just for a little bit.”

The Sheriff nods, running a hand down the side of his face absently before leaning on it. “Just don’t get into any trouble, alright?”

There it is again, Stiles thinks. His dad, warning him about some trouble, or like he thinks that Stiles is gonna go home and throw some kind of wild party that’s going to get every kid in Beacon Hills arrested, or something. He doesn’t like it, he doesn’t like the way his dad looks right now, so tired, so much older than he really is. There’s something wrong. Stiles can feel it strung tight between them in the air like a wire, and it’s going to snap. Stiles doesn’t know when, but he knows it will.

He doesn’t say anything, though, and he doesn’t ask. He just nods to his dad and then reaches across the desk so that they can slap hands and bump fists, just like they always do. Stiles is relieved when the corner of his dad’s mouth pulls up in a smile. They say their goodbyes and then Stiles is hoisting his backpack higher up on his shoulder, walking out of the room and down the hallway to the front of the station. He’s not paying attention, and when he accidentally bumps into a guy wearing a suit, he mumbles an apology under his breath before ducking his head lower and walking a little faster. Stiles doesn’t bother to notice that the man walks right on down the hallway, knocking on his dad’s door.

--

“Plan officially sucks!”

It’s doesn’t do any good though; Scott’s already taking off for the entrance. Stiles sighs heavily and leans back against the side of his Jeep, eyes closed. It’s been such a long night already and it just keeps getting longer, it seems. He has a job to do, he knows that he’s the one who is supposed to surround the entire warehouse perimeter with the mountain ash that he and Scott had gotten from Deaton earlier, and he knows that something incredibly serious is going inside, but he’s already tired. It’s all happening so fast, he can barely keep up. Not even half an hour ago, he was standing on his driveway with  the keys to his jeep dangling from his fingers, trying to decipher the look on his father’s face when he stepped out of his car. Stiles grits his teeth.

“No time to talk, gotta run,” he’d said, almost running into the open door of his father’s car. His dad didn’t answer him and he’d looked up, seen the look on his face, and felt the world spin just a little slower. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” his father had said, but the tone in his voice told Stiles it was everything.

“Wait…” Stiles had looked his father over, the first time only looking for visual injuries or any sign that he was hurt. The second time, though, he realized the gun was missing from his hip. His heart had started to thud so hard against his ribs they felt like they were cracking. “Where’s your gun?”

“I left it at the station. Along with my badge.”

The words made perfect sense but Stiles still didn’t understand them. His stomach bottomed out and a feeling of dread had crept up his back, cold, like a hand of ice. They looked at each other as it dawned on him, silent, and Stiles could feel the way his chest squeezed tighter, tighter, until he could barely breathe. His father had gotten fired. And as his father had told him why, the only thing that ran through Stiles’ head was it’s your fault. It’s your fault.

It’s your fault.

Biting down hard on his bottom lip, Stiles throws his head back against the side of his Jeep, trying to jar himself out of reliving that conversation. He opens his eyes as the skin at the back of his head throbs, teeth gritted together, and looks out into the parking lot. There’s no one around, which means he’s totally and utterly on his own for this. He can hear the music pouring out from the entrance as he walks around to the back of the Jeep, throwing open the back door and grabbing the trash bag of mountain ash from where it’s resting on the floor. The steady thump, thump, thump of the bass beats all the negativity into Stiles’ bones like a hammer, and for the first time in his life he’s almost afraid of how angry he is. He can feel it, deep inside his skin like an itch he can’t scratch, creeping slowly through his blood like a virus. Stiles isn’t even really angry at anyone in particular, he’s just so angry. He’s angry that he got his dad fired, he’s angry that Peter turned Scott and started all this, he’s angry that Derek cared so much that Stiles needed training. He’s angry that the semi-normal life he was planning on having was turned upside down and yanked out from under his feet like a rug.

Despite the anger coursing hot through body, Stiles is determined not to let anyone down. It’s all he has left, now. He’s already disappointed his dad and gotten him fired. There is still this to redeem himself.

He grabs the top of the bag with one hand and holds the bottom with the other, tipping it experimentally to see how much is going to come out when he does. Stiles watches the black substance as it flows perfectly to the ground, pooling and glittering off the alley lights like a pile of black diamonds. Satisfied, Stiles looks up and begins to walk slowly, careful not to tip the bag too far and spill it all over the cracked concrete. Very soon it becomes a simple enough task, even though being bent toward the ground and walking at a weird angle starts up a twinge in his neck and lower back. He’s made it all the way to the back of the warehouse when he hears gunshots.

Stiles stops, clenching his hand around the top of the bag to stop the mountain ash from flowing out. He stands up straight, heart pounding in his ears as more gunshots ring off in the near silence of the night. Closing his eyes, Stiles struggles to get past the fear and to utilize his training, to shut everything out and determine what direction the gunshots are coming from. As he’s listening, another sounds rises up out of the gunfire, and it’s a sound he knows so well that it raises the hair on his arms when he hears it. A howl, short and savage, and then snarling.

Derek.

Everything in him wants to drop the bag and run toward the noise, to see if Derek’s okay, to see if Scott is okay, to make sure that nobody that isn’t a hunter is hurt. He thinks about it, he thinks about just dropping the bag and making a run for it, but just before he does he hears Derek’s voice in his head from some memory. If it sounds like one of us is in trouble, and I mean serious trouble, Stiles, stop laughing, you run. Not toward it, away from it. Don’t be the hero.

In truth, Derek is right: don’t be a hero. But what will Stiles ever be in his life if it isn’t a hero? Nothing about him is significant, it seems, except that he’s a boy, so young, running with wolves. He can’t fight like them, can’t see like them, can’t even run like them, and he can’t protect people like them. All that Stiles can do is laugh his way out of things or pretend like something doesn’t hurt when it really, really does. He’s a human boy and so painfully, achingly ordinary. If Stiles never plays the hero, what will his life ever measure up to?

He doesn’t spare it any more thought. Stiles drops the bag and doesn’t look back as it spills out; doesn’t notice the way that the lights catch in the color and how it really does look like gunpowder. Instead, he starts running toward where the noises of all the fighting is coming from. As he approaches the corner, he can here the crackling of electricity as it connects with someone’s body and the obvious snarls of a very pissed off werewolf. Stiles rounds the corner and slows down, feet skidding against the concrete as he runs past where Derek knocks the heads of two hunters together and yanks the taser points from his chest.

“Stiles!”

Derek’s voice sounds angry, but Stiles doesn’t have the time to explain what the hell he’s doing. A hunter is creeping up on Boyd from behind, where Boyd’s got another in a headlock and kicking another one away from him. Stiles doesn’t even think about it, he just jumps: he lands on the hunter’s back, right hand immediately darting out and knocking away the weapon. The guy yells and throws his head back, trying to reverse headbutt Stiles off of him, but Stiles ducks out of the way and wraps an arm around the guy’s neck. He squeezes, remembering not what Derek taught him, but what his dad did. Stiles remembers his dad teaching him a proper chokehold and ways to get out of it, should something ever happen to him, and the way that it made the both of them laugh. The memory makes him falter, for just a moment, but it’s all the hunter needs.

The guy is tall, at least 6 foot, and when he launches Stiles over his back when his grip loosens, Stiles hits the ground hard. He feels his back connect with the concrete and it knocks the wind out of him, but weeks of training with Derek has him immediately back up on his feet. Granted, he’s wheezing like Scott used to when he ran for two minutes, but he’s back on his feet and facing the hunter down. The guy’s blue eyes are sharp, and when the corner of his mouth pulls up in a grin and his hand reaches down to his belt, Stiles realizes he might be in trouble. He can still hear Boyd behind him, dropping another hunter, and he’s pretty sure Derek’s got his hands full trying to knock out another one. Stiles doesn’t have time to count how many there actually are because suddenly the hunter is lunging forward at him, knife slashing the air.

Stiles sees the knife come toward him almost in slow motion. He can see almost with perfect clarity the way the fluorescent lights of the alley lamps catch on the blade, glinting, flicking pinpricks of light into his eyes that burn like saltwater. He’s almost 90% sure that, even with all his training, he wasn’t prepared for this. Stiles doesn’t think he’s going to be able to move back in time but he tries anyway, flinching back as the guy comes closer and manages to get a slash across Stiles’ stomach, but all it does it slice open the fabric of his jacket. Someone grabs the hunter from behind and yanks, throwing him back away from Stiles.

Derek tosses the hunter against the wall, but Stiles stops watching and drops to his knees, palms flat on the pavement and breathing hard. He can hear Derek snarling and then there’s a loud, resonating crack of what Stiles assumes was the hunter’s head against the brick, but he doesn’t dwell on it too long. Instead, Stiles focuses on the way the cold concrete underneath his hands seems to creep up into his arms, cooling him down, spreading through his shoulders and down his back, keeping him grounded. He can hear Derek’s voice somewhere to his right, talking low and quick to Boyd, but Stiles can’t focus on what he’s saying. Stiles just keeps his eyes closed and concentrates on not completely losing it.

Then, all of a sudden, someone’s hand is fisting into the material at the back of his jacket, yanking him up to his feet, and none too gently. Stiles grunts, flailing his arms, trying to twist out of the grip, and then Derek’s twirling him around and snarling in his face.

“Are you out of your fucking mind?

The look in Derek’s eyes is so angry that honestly, Stiles is a little terrified. His heart picks up and starts to race, trying to ignore the way that Derek’s eyes seem to pulse around the edges like they’re gonna go alpha red any second.

“Some might argue for that case, but since I’ve never been to a licensed psychologist— ”

“Shut up!” Derek snarls, voice hard. “You could have gotten yourself hurt, you fucking idiot.”

The terror drains out of Stiles in a millisecond. White hot anger rushes up to take its place, and Stiles can feel the way his cheeks burn the intensity of it as he shoves out of Derek’s grip. “You know what? Fuck you, buddy. I’m pretty sure that you and Boyd were outnumbered, no matter how much superstrength you guys have.”

Derek’s jaw tightens and he looks down at his shirt, dirty but not covered in blood like usual, Stiles notes. When Derek looks back up, Stiles wishes that he could explain away the look on his face, but he can’t. It’s anger, and it’s terror, and it’s everything all wrapped up at once, and Stiles isn’t sure what that means coming from Derek but he really doesn’t like it. “You’re not like us, Stiles, you could have gotten hurt. Seriously hurt, and we would have had to take care of you, and your dad would have been out of his mind worried about you.”

Stiles licks his lips in annoyance and runs his tongue over his teeth, a bitter smile screwing up his face. The last part, he thinks, probably isn’t so true right now. “Thanks for the update, Derek. Because it’s not like I wasn’t perfectly aware of the fact that I’m just a powerless little human who is constantly getting in the way and causing so many problems for you and your little boy band Derek and the Wolf People. Well excuse the fuck out of me for just trying to help, because apparently that’s all I can do, besides fail at doing just that.” His body is trembling, hands clenched into fists at his sides, and he can’t tell if Derek looks like he wants to hit him or eat him. At this point, he couldn’t care less.

He doesn’t get an answer either way, though, as Derek just huffs out a breath and looks down at the ground. Good enough. Stiles just scoffs and shakes his head, turning away and walking back in the direction that he left the mountain ash.

“Stiles? What do you think you’re doing?”

If Derek can’t give straight answers, or can’t give answers at all, then neither will Stiles. Filled with anger at everyone and everything so deep it feels like lead inside his bones, Stiles keeps walking. He doesn’t look back.

--

It takes about twenty minutes for Derek to find him and demand that he breaks the line of mountain ash.

Stiles doesn’t complain, and he’s not angry. He can’t feel much of anything anymore, so he just drops down to his knees and breaks the line with a quick hand motion. Derek touches his shoulders as he runs past him and into the building where Scott is and yes, Stiles is worried, but it’s a detached sort of worry. Stiles’ mouth is drawn up in a thin line, and he keeps his eyes on the ground. Completing the circle of mountain ash had only brought him relief for a few minutes, as the relief quickly drained back into anger and the anger into weariness, and the weariness to apathy. Stiles knows that Scott is in danger but he also knows that Derek is there to help him. He’s having a very hard time feeling anything, for anyone.

Eventually, Derek drags Scott from the building; thick, white clouds of burning wolfsbane leaking from the cracks in the walls and flowing freely from the door. Stiles continues to look at the way the white of his hands contrasts so severely with that of the black on the steering wheel, and for a moment he thinks vaguely that he needs to get more sunlight. Then Derek is gently laying a wolfed-out but unconscious Scott into the back seat of his Jeep and jumping in the front, eyes glowing and fangs out.

“Take us to Deaton’s. Right now.”

Normally, Stiles would have some objection to this, or he’d make some smart ass remark about how Deaton should just join them and they could be a traveling werewolf clinic, but he doesn’t. Instead, he starts the car without even looking at Derek, eyes on the road. It’s quiet for a long time, save for Scott’s heavy and labored breathing in the backseat. At least he’s breathing, though, Stiles tells himself. He’ll be alright.

“Stiles? Are you okay?”

If Stiles was capable of feeling anything but exhaustion, he’d be surprised that Derek even asked. He shrugs a shoulder. “Sure,” is all he says, but even that one word seems like it soaks up too much energy.

Should he be honest with Derek, no, he’s not okay. He’s not angry anymore, or scared. He’s just tired. So, so tired. Stiles is tired of always being the one that gets yelled at when all he wants to do is help, he’s tired of trying to hide things from people and to make up lies on the spot that he’ll forget later on down the road and have to cover for. He’s tired of missing sleep and homework because he’s too busy in the woods learning how to be a werewolf without actually being one, and part of him hates how unfair it all is. Mostly, though, he’s tired of lying to his dad. All that he’s done lately is lie to his dad, about where he goes and what he does and who his friends are. All the lies that he’s telling are just piling up like bodies at their feet and it’s making the rift between them wider, holding it open like a vice and twisting it wider and wider with every lie that falls out of his mouth. His dad is all he’s got left, and all of this - all of the insanity and the dying and the fighting - is too much. After all, Stiles is just a human boy. He wasn’t ever made for any of this.

Stiles pulls into the parking lot of Deaton’s office but doesn’t shut off the car or look up. Derek gets out without a word, picking Scott up and throwing him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Before the door slams shut, Derek says, “Do you want me to let you know when he wakes up?”

No. Stiles doesn’t want to talk to any of them ever again. “He’ll call me when he wakes up,” is all he says, and doesn’t even wait until Derek’s to the door to leave.

--

When he pulls up in the driveway, the house is completely dark. There’s no lights on in any of the windows, and the way that the house feels barren and empty matches Stiles’ insides pretty well. He snorts without emotion and gets out, slamming the Jeep door without any real malice behind it and makes his way into the house on tired feet.

When he gets inside, he wanders through the dark kitchen, noting that the green LED display on the stove says that it’s 11:53. He sighs, knowing that his dad is probably already in bed and that there’s no way that they’re going to be talking tonight, if his dad even wanted to talk at all. Stiles makes his way into the living room and flicks on the lamp.

Where he had expected his dad to already be in bed, instead, he’s passed out on the couch. He’s still in his uniform, only his jacket is wadded up and at the opposite end of the room, and Stiles thinks he must have thrown it. His heart sinks lower and lower until it finally bottoms out when he looks down to where his dad’s hand is resting on the floor and sees that it’s still wrapped around an empty bottle of Jack Daniels. Even passed out drunk, his dad doesn’t look peaceful. His face is lined with worry and it hurts so bad that Stiles can’t look at it anymore. Padding over as quietly as possible, Stiles manages to slip the empty bottle from his dad’s hand and carry it to his bedroom.

Stiles throws it in the trashcan under his desk, determined not to look at it ever again. With a heavy heart and what feels like an even heavier soul, Stiles sits on the edge of his bed in the dark, pulling his phone from his pocket and twirling it around in his hands, wondering what he should do.

In the end, he takes the battery out of it and leans out his open window, tossing it as far into the darkness as he can.

 

Chapter Text

In reality, Stiles goes out and finds his phone battery about three hours after he throws it out the window.

It’s not because he’s worried about communication, because as of right now he doesn’t want to communicate with anyone, it’s just that he’s bored. And sure, he has a computer and he has a TV and he has video games, but the longer he stays in his room, the more stir crazy he gets. Plus, he’s pretty sure his dad is starting to get worried. Every time Stiles leaves his room to go to the bathroom and his dad just happens to be in the upstairs hallway, he throws Stiles this look like he wants to talk and hug it out or something. Stiles just gives him a weak grin and skirts around him to the bathroom because nope, there’s no way they’re talking about this, no sir.

The more he does it, though, he more he realizes that they are going to talk about it. At some point. And as the days go by, Stiles thinks of a million lies to tell that don’t involve him telling his dad about werewolves and that there’s a pack right here in Beacon Hills and oh yes he knows them. He also hangs out with them and yes, his best friend is one and guess what, dad, I can kill a guy with my bare hands now, and I think I have a crush on the alpha.

That’s another thing that’s come from Stiles being locked up all alone—he has epiphanies. Be it about the greater understanding of the universe, or why the stars move a certain way, or even why they call it “orange” when they could have called it something that actually rhymes with another word, he has epiphanies. And the one that strikes him the hardest is the one that makes the most sense but also doesn’t at the same time. He lays on his bed and looks up at the ceiling after realizing that, yes, he probably has a crush on Derek. Stiles tries to count the bumps in the ceiling to avoid thinking about it, but instead, he comes up with a list of reasons it makes sense and another of why it doesn’t.

Logically, Derek is good looking. He’s tall, but not that much taller than Stiles, since Stiles is pretty tall himself. In fact, they’re basically eye level. Which is nice, it makes it easier to stand up to Derek and defy him when Stiles is being stubborn. Which is all the time. Derek has pretty eyes, Stiles thinks, he can’t really decide what colour they are but it’s a nice colour, for sure. He’s also strong and he cares about his pack even if he won’t admit it, because while they were training Stiles could see the look in his eyes that he got when he watched them. It was love, layered over by fondness, layered over by irritation, layered over by years of trust issues. In a way, it terrifies Stiles that he could so easily pick apart the look on Derek’s face when Derek wasn’t looking at him, because the looks made sense. It was when Derek was looking at Stiles that they didn’t.

He sighs and closes his eyes. Stiles wishes that his life wasn’t so complicated, and yet, here he is. Laying on his bed after being alone for three days, not really leaving his room except to eat, use the bathroom, and shower. He’s suddenly thinking about werewolves and how much he has a giant, unrequited crush on one, and he’s miserable all over again. The space was supposed to be good for him, not—

His thoughts are interrupted by a soft thud coming from the side of the house. Stiles sits up, propped up on his hands, and looks over at his clock. It’s already 10:47, which explains why it’s completely dark in the room except for the moonlight spilling in and throwing a square of light across the floor. It’s not full, not yet, but there’s enough of it that Stiles can see the basic shapes of things in his room. There’s another thud, closer this time, and Stiles’ heart starts to pound. Someone could be trying to break in, or coming to kill him, oh my god he’s going to die or something

No such luck, though, because suddenly there’s a dark shape moving outside the window and as much as Stiles hates to admit it, he can tell who it is just by the way they move. It’s Derek, and he’s currently sliding the window up and stepping into the room, closing it behind him. The moon backlights Derek’s shape, so Stiles can’t see his face, but he doesn’t have a good feeling about what expression might be painted on it right now.

Scrambling backward, Stiles flicks on the bedside lamp. Weak light floods the room, but it’s enough to dispel the moonlight on the floor so he can see Derek’s face. He doesn’t look happy. Which, Stiles isn’t surprised about in the least. If Derek is creepily breaking into his room at 11 o’clock at night, he doubts it’s because he wants to tell Stiles he won the lottery.

Derek’s still standing there, arms folded across his chest and a stern look on his face, and Stiles swallows hard. He’s starting to get nervous, not just because a werewolf is in his room, but it’s the hot one he has a crush on, and he can feel the sweat starting to break out on his back and neck. He opens his mouth to demand what Derek is doing here, but instead he asks, “Do werewolves play the lottery?”

God dammit.

A look of surprise and amusement flickers over Derek’s face before he clears it again, fixing a glare on Stiles. They look at each other in silence, Derek leaning against the wall now instead of the window and Stiles leaning up against the headboard of his bed. Derek is glaring and Stiles is nervous, but he refuses to let it show. Derek can probably smell it on him, anyway, so he might as well let Derek think he can at least act brave. It’s quiet for another few minutes and now it’s just getting uncomfortable.

“Okay, what the hell are you doing? If breaking into my room wasn’t creepy enough, staring at me in silence for five minutes is definitely starting to warrant me calling Chris Hanson.”

Derek huffs. Typical Derek reaction. “Where have you been?”

Well—okay. That’s not what he was expecting, but then again, this is Derek. But, seriously, Where have you been? There’s got to be more important business than where Stiles has been the past three days. Furrowing his brows, Stiles makes a hand motion meant to encompass the space of his room. “Um, here. Literally. I haven’t been outside in three days. I’m starting to think I might have a very serious vitamin D deficiency.”

“I see you’re feeling well enough to be a smartass.”

The obvious reprimand underneath that statement makes Stiles’ cheeks stain pink with shame, which he quickly covers with irritation. “Okay, look, I don’t even know why you’re here. Don’t you have some werewolf business to attend to? I’m pretty sure a pathetic human is not at the top of Derek’s To Do List.” The (completely and utterly accidental) innuendo makes his cheeks burn hotter, but he refuses to stutter over it. “So, seriously, what are you doing here?”

Sighing, Derek unfolds his arms and moves over to the desk, where he leans against it and braces himself on his arms, hands gripping the edge. He looks at Stiles seriously, and Stiles feels like he’s in 4th grade again about to get yelled at by his dad for getting in trouble at school. Only this isn’t his dad and he’s actually attracted to Derek but also kind of pissed off. “You haven’t been coming around at all.”

Stiles nods. This is safe territory. He can hold his own on this. “Yes. That is correct. Good observation, I see your werewolf vision is not letting you down.”

From where he’s sitting, he can see Derek’s jaw clench. “I’m serious. What’s the matter with you? You’ve been ignoring everyone’s calls, no one’s seen you around town, and you haven’t been coming to pack meetings, even with Scott. Is there something I should know about?”

Oh, sure, Stiles thinks, you should know that I have a big crush on you and I’m only ignoring everyone because I have a severe inferiority complex and I hate lying to my dad and that’s all I ever do around you people and I don’t go to pack meetings because I’m not part of your pack. He doesn’t say any of that, though. Instead, he looks Derek in the eye and says haughtily, “You’re not my alpha. So, no, there’s nothing you need to know.”

This must have set something off in Derek because suddenly he’s across the room and is picking Stiles up by the front of his shirt and slamming him into the wall. This close, Stiles can see that Derek’s eyes are actually green, but a watery green, like someone left watercoulours out in the rain. He doesn’t have time to dwell on it, though, because Derek is growling, “Is that what you think? That I’m not your alpha?”

Oh, that’s rich. Stiles laughs, and that only seems to piss off Derek even more because Stiles can feel his fist curling tighter in his shirt. “Yeah. That’s what I think, and you wanna know why? Because I’m not pack. I’m not a werewolf, Derek. I’m never going to be one. I’m just Stiles. Not pack Stiles.”

And then suddenly, Derek’s fist is unfurling from his shirt and setting him down gently, but he doesn’t step away. They’re standing close, too close, and Stiles can feel Derek’s body heat from where it’s radiating off of him even through the gray shirt he’s wearing. Derek looks down at the floor for a moment before looking back up, and there it is—that look that Stiles doesn’t understand. It looks like sadness and it looks like hurt, but it looks like pity and understanding, too, and what Derek would have to feel hurt or understanding about escapes Stiles. The look is so uncharacteristically Derek that Stiles isn’t sure what to make of it.

“Is that really what you think, Stiles? That you’re not pack?”

He shifts uncomfortably, and wishes that his heart wasn’t beating so hard with Derek standing so close, looking at him like this. “Well, yeah.”

“You’re an idiot. You are pack, Stiles. You don’t have to be a werewolf to be pack.”

This is where it becomes too much. This is where Stiles realizes that pack means two different things between the two of them. For Derek, pack means his betas. Stiles is the human, the one with the smart mouth who can weasel his way out of just about anything, and it’s just a bonus that he’s the Sheriff’s kid and can get away with almost anything, too. He’s the human who accepts them and, hell, even embraces them for what they are and can keep a secret even if it kills him. To Derek, Stiles is just The Human. For Stiles, though, pack means something different. It means family, a family of his own because he doesn’t have a lot of family left, it means them, it means him and Derek working together as a team, it means love and it means all the things that it doesn’t mean for Derek. That’s what hurts, and it makes his chest ache so deeply he’s pretty sure that any moment now Derek is going to catch on.

And that’s why Stiles pushes them all away. Jaw clenched, Stiles puts his hands on Derek’s chest and pushes him back, away from him. They’re standing too close and Stiles can’t think, can’t breathe when Derek is so close and saying all the wrong things. When Derek looks at him, with concern that’s so not Derek it kind of maybe freaks him out a little, Stiles looks away. “I’m not pack because it doesn’t mean the same thing for you that it means for me.”

Derek’s mouth falls open, like he wants to respond to that, but he can’t find anything to say, so instead he asks, “What does that mean?”

On the heels of the hurt comes the bitterness, and Stiles just laughs. It’s a harsh sound, one that falls on the room and seems to break against all the surfaces into tiny shards. There was a time where Stiles considered telling Derek everything, but then Derek had stood there and told him that he was pack in a different way than Stiles wanted to hear it and the hope rushed out of him as if someone had cut his throat. He spent years, years, pining for Lydia, and that ended up in getting hurt, and this is that, all over again. The only thing to ever come from Stiles owning up to how he felt was more hurt, more than this, and awkwardness. He didn’t want pack meetings to be awkward. He wanted things to be how they were, even though he knew now that they weren’t ever going to be that way again.

It makes him tired, so tired, and he sits down heavily on the edge of his bed, staring at his hands where they dangle in between his knees. He can feel Derek’s eyes on him and he’s not sure why Derek is still here, or why Stiles feels so inclined to yell at him for things that aren’t his fault. Instead, Stiles just sighs. “Go home, Derek,” he says quietly.

“The pack needs you,” is what he says in reply, and Stiles flinches like Derek had hit him.

“No, they don’t.” Stiles closes his eyes. He just wants Derek to leave.

Derek’s voice seems to shift, going from sounding like he was almost begging to being angry and hurt. “I’m not going to beg you, Stiles.”

Stiles opens his eyes and looks at Derek, heated. He stands up, walking away from the bed and toward the door, pausing in front of Derek. “So don’t,” he says, and keeps walking past him toward the door and slamming his way out of the room.

When he comes back a few minutes later, Derek is gone.

--

By the time Derek gets to his car where its parked behind the kid’s Jeep in the driveway, he’s fuming.

He just—he doesn’t understand the kid’s logic at all. Derek grunts, opening his car door more forcefully than strictly necessary, and barely restrains himself from hitting the steering wheel. Stiles has been around since Scott got turned, and hell, he made a better werewolf than Scott did at first. Scott was so unprepared for the bite, and Stiles was the one that stayed up all night researching, and then there Stiles was again, every full moon, helping the kid out. He’s saved all their asses more than once, and helps out more than he really should be seeing as he’s still a high schooler. Derek just doesn’t get it, he doesn’t get why Stiles is so goddamn adverse to being pack, and it endlessly frustrates him.

If he’s being honest with himself, a lot of things about Stiles frustrate Derek. Almost to the point where he wants to beat the kid up and get him to tell him all the things that don’t make sense to Derek. Like, why Stiles cares so much. That’s a big one. Normally, someone who found out that werewolves are real would go screaming and running in the other direction, especially when the hunters showed up. But no, Stiles stayed, and he cares. Derek knows it’s because Scott is his best friend, but since Scott is pack… Stiles cares by extension. Or the way that Stiles looks at him sometimes, like he’s trying to figure out what he’s thinking and that scares Derek more than it should. Stiles is infuriating and annoying and obnoxious and doesn’t know when to shut his mouth or what to do with his long limbs, it seems, but there’s something about Stiles. That’s what it boils down to, he thinks, is that there’s something about Stiles. The rooms seem a lot more empty without Stiles in there, like his personality actually filled up the vavant corners of the room and made them seem lighter, more alive. Like it’s physical, and that Stiles’ absence is a lot more noticeable than it should be.

At a red light, Derek does hit the steering wheel. He growls, grinding his teeth together, because he’s confused and he’s worried and none of this makes any fucking sense. He doesn’t understand why Stiles was so angry at him the other night, when Derek picked him up off the ground because he’d almost gotten himself killed, and not that Derek would ever admit it, but he was terrified in that moment. The look in Stiles’ eyes when Derek had tried to convince him that he was pack had shot right through Derek’s bones like lightning it hurt so bad, it held so much pain in it, and he just doesn’t understand.

The real ass-kicker, though, Derek realizes with a bitter snort as he pulls up in his driveway, is that he was the one who ended up getting his feelings hurt tonight. He had gone to Stilinski’s house to try and get him to come back, because, face it, everyone missed him. Sure, there was still a lot of kanima business to be solved, but pack meetings were different without him. Derek had gone over there to try and figure out what his problem was, not to get his feelings hurt when Stiles told him to leave.

None of it makes sense, and Derek shakes his head as he gets out of the car and starts walking up to the house. Once he hits the porch he stops, head cocked. Scott’s scent is all over the air, but Scott hasn’t been here in days. Rarely do they have pack meetings here anymore, and even rarer does Derek stay here, but—something is off. Underneath the smell of Scott, there’s something else. He can smell someone else, too, someone he doesn’t recognize, and that’s what sends the alarm bells ringing in his head so loud he almost can’t focus around them. Scott’s in danger, again, serious danger.

As he bounds into the house and stands still and silent in the foyer, smelling and listening, there’s something in the air that he missed the first time. Underneath the scent of Scott and a hunter and the fear, there’s something else. It’s dread. Not the normal kind of dread, though, it’s a kind of dread that Scott exudes when Allison is in trouble. It’s the type of dread that one experiences in the absence of a loved one, the kind of dread that settles deep down in your bones and makes a home there because someone you love is in danger. And that’s strange, because he doesn’t love Sott—not like that, Scott is his beta—but he recognizes the dread all the same.

He’s still standing there when it clicks. He recognizes the dread in the air because he feels it, all the time, although he’d never wanted to think about it. That sense of dread fills up Derek’s bones every time that something happens and Stiles shows up, to save the day or to get them deeper into trouble. It’s there, and it’s stirring in his heart like the coals of a fire, waiting for the spark to make the flames jump and come to life. He realizes, then, with startling clarity why Stiles said that pack meant something different to them. And he wants to hit the kid because it’s not true, it doesn’t mean anything different for them—

Derek doesn’t get the chance to finish that thought. Someone sneaks up behind him, and by the time he realizes there’s someone else there, it’s too late, and he’s been hit in the back of the head. Derek falls to the floor heavily, and the last thing he thinks before the world is blanketed in black is, Who’s going to tell Stiles? 

Chapter Text

It’s funny that, sometimes, when someone tells you to do something, you feel compelled to do the opposite.

As Stiles is throwing his Jeep in reverse and screeching out of his driveway, he thinks about what Derek told him. Don’t be a hero . He thinks even more about what that means-- don’t be a hero? Who doesn’t want to be a hero? Little boys dream of being heroes since the day were they born. They want to be superheroes, they want to be a woman’s hero; they want to save the world. Stiles wants to save the world. He knows he can’t, not alone, but does it matter? The philosophy is the same. Being the hero is the only thing that little human Stiles can be when surrounded by werewolves. But, of course, in usual Derek fashion, he means something different. He doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want Stiles to be brave, courageous; he doesn’t mean that he doesn’t want Stiles to be heroic.

Don’t be my hero. Don’t risk your life for me. It’s not worth it.

Stiles shifts gears a little more forcefully than necessary, heart pounding and teeth gritting in anger. To say he’s terrified is an understatement-- the voicemail he’d received on his phone only ten minutes ago that sounded a lot like Derek and Scott screaming (coupled with human laughter that sounded so eerily empty and gleeful that it wasn’t human, too) had spurred him off the bed and into his Jeep to do exactly what Derek told him not to. Which, if he’s being honest, when does he ever listen to Derek, anyway? If he wasn’t so angry and scared and pumped full of adrenaline, he might have smiled.


Even though the voicemail was almost completely useless-- there was no actual speaking going on, except in the background, too far for Stiles to make anything out-- he doesn’t need anyone to tell him a location. He knows exactly where they are. Or, well, where they might be. Something in Derek, Stiles has realized, is drawn to the Hale house. Stiles knows that his family lived (and died) there, for a long time, and of course it would make sense if it were still intact, but it’s just the shell of it; it’s long since been burned away and ruined by years of rain and snow. It makes him wonder why he’s so drawn there, but now isn’t the time to think on it. He just has to get there and pray like hell whoever has them didn’t take them anywhere else. .

Stiles pulls into the driveway, headlights catching and skittering off the rear end of Derek’s car and he slams on the breaks, nearly hitting it. The beams of his headlights bounce off the camaro, scattering, and just in the tree line near the side of the house, Stiles can make out the side of a van. Whether or not they’re actually still here as opposed to being carted off to come secret location to be murdered has yet to be determined, but Stiles doesn’t dwell on it for long. He wrenches the door open and leaps out, leaving the keys hanging in the ignition and not bothering to shut the door behind him. As he approaches the house, he can hear muffled yelling from somewhere deep inside. His heart stutters when he realizes it sounds like Scott.

Danger has never been Stiles’ strong suit. He never intentionally placed himself in the face of danger just for the hell of it; whenever the danger was big and immediate, it found its way to him . Usually he found his way out of it with a racing heart and a stutter that’d give Bill Denbrough a run for his money, but lately, Stiles found that his life has become the complete opposite. He’s running into danger, now, head on, and his hands don’t even shake. He’s remembering everything that Derek ever taught him: how to be light on his feet as he runs, even through dead leaves; how to block out the thoughts in his head to listen for noises on all sides of him; how to break down a door with a twist of the knob and a hard shove with his shoulder.

The door, when it finally cracks out of its burnt frame with a split down the middle, falls to the floor with a heavy thud. Dust, dirt, and ash puff up like tendrils of smoke, breaking as Stiles runs through them and toward the sound of struggling. The sounds lead him farther into the house, and when Stiles finally finds what door the sounds are coming from, he skids to a halt with a hand on the door frame. His heart seems to stutter to a stop and completely drop out of his chest.

Scott and Derek are both tied to chairs, sitting back to back. Whoever did this to them was smart; they used heavy chains and handcuffs to keep their arms tied behind their backs and their ankles bound to the legs. Both of them have duct tape over their mouths, the metallic surface catching in what little light the moonlight was giving them and glinting back at Stiles, flashing as their heads slowly moved. Scott sees him first: his head is dropped down, chin to his chest, but Stiles inhales on a gasp and the sound rouses him. Slowly, like he’s trying to move through molasses, Scott’s head rolls to the side and then back, like it’s too heavy to hold up. His brown eyes are bloodshot to hell and Stiles feels like he’s been punched when he sees how... dead they look. Scott’s jaw is flexing, over and over, his nostrils flaring as he pants and struggles to breathe. His face is pale, and in the weak moonlight it looks waxy, like he’s an inch away from death. One glance at Derek, who’s breathing shallowly and rapidly but otherwise not moving, and Stiles is falling all over himself to get to them.

In the back of his mind, there’s a voice screaming that whoever did this could still be in the house, could be watching, could be waiting to kill Stiles before he even turns around. Derek trained him and ingrained into his brain that he should never, ever do anything with his back to a door-- be it sit, stand, anything , but at this point, Stiles doesn’t care. His hands finally start to shake as he frantically slaps Scott’s cheek, begging him to focus, watching Scott’s deep brown eyes as they roll back and forth in his head. Stiles drags his fingers into the hair at the back of Scott’s head and grips tightly, other hand shakily grabbing the end of the duct tape; his blunt nails pick up the corner and he holds it between two fingers.

“Ready?” he asks, but Scott’s eyes just pass over him like he isn’t there at all.

With a small noise in the back of his throat, something like an apology, Stiles yanks the duct tape off of Scott’s mouth in one fluid motion. Immediately, Scott’s mouth is dropping open and his tongue is lolling out, lazily, like he’s got no control over his body. It fills Stiles with a terror cold as ice, and for a moment he thinks that Scott really is going to die, and that he was too late, but then Scott is leaning forward and spitting something out of his mouth.

Stiles watches in horror as something falls from Scott’s tongue, slowly, dropping onto the leg of Scott’s jeans with a small, wet plop . He looks down at it and, despite all the saliva, Stiles knows what that is immediately-- he recognizes that tiny, purple flower anywhere.

Wolfsbane. Scott had wolfsbane shoved and taped into his mouth. No wonder he looked half dead.


Just as Stiles is about to try getting the chains off the chairs, the vomiting starts. Even in his near dead state, Scott miraculously has the good sense to spread his legs before leaning forward and throwing up black, inky liquid onto the dusty floor of Derek’s house. Stiles cringes, stomach churning, but he takes it as a good sign and immediately moves around to Derek.

Stiles drops down onto his knees in front of him, heart hammering and sweat dripping down his temples and down his neck, sticking the collar of his shirt to his skin. Derek’s face is even paler, familiar dark circles underneath his eyes that make them look sunken and hollow. Stiles wants to scream--he’s seen this look on Derek before, when he’d been shot with the wolfsbane bullet, and this is like that on steroids. The bruises painted onto Derek’s skin underneath his eyes is a purple so dark that Stiles is pretty sure not even Home Depot could give it a name. His body starts to shake, everywhere, his hands unsteady as he puts them on both of Derek’s cheeks and gently lifts his head up.

“Derek,” he whispers, voice fragile as glass and on the verge of splintering apart. “Derek, look at me. Derek?”

Derek’s eyes, eerily bright and colourless in the weak light of the moon, roll unsteadily before seeming to find Stiles’ face and looking at it. They’re not shining like they usually are, and there’s no hint of irritation or exasperation, or any of the normal Derek Hale Signature Looks. There’s only a vacant emptiness that fills up Stiles’ bones like lead.

Scott is still retching, though softer now, less frequently; they’re followed by coughs and groans that give Stiles a little hope that he’s healing. Licking his lips, he doesn’t give Derek any warning: he grabs the end of the tape and yanks. There’s a vaguely sickening ripping sound as it comes free of Derek’s skin and his facial hair, but Stiles doesn’t let the rolling in his stomach slow him down. He grips Derek’s jaw with one hand, fingers pushing into the joints of his cheeks hard, forcing his mouth to drop open. It feels a little awkward and somewhere, in the back of Stiles’ mind, he knows how weird this is, but Derek is worse off than Scott and he’s terrified, down to his core, that he’s gonna be too late if he hesitates too long. Derek’s shoulders are rising and falling, slowly, unsteadily, and Stiles feels like screaming. Maybe he is too late.

No . He pushes the thought of his head, firmly, and sticks two of his fingers into Derek’s mouth, dragging the wolfsbane out along his tongue and dropping it to the floor. Grimacing, he wipes his fingers on his jacket and then is holding Derek’s face up again, frantically trying to get him to respond.  

“Derek? Oh, god, Derek, look at me, please,” Stiles whispers, voice trembling, on the verge of shaking apart. “Please, please, look at me, say something, please--

Though still distant and a little unfocused, Derek’s eyes land on Stiles’ face. His mouth opens, teeth gritted together. “I’m...” his voice is hard, gritty, and hoarse, like he’d been screaming for hours. “gonna... be okay. Scott,” he whispers, eyes slipping shut, chest heaving like each word is being punched out of him. “Is he... okay?”

Anxiously, Stiles shifts and peers around Derek’s body to look at Scott, who’s still bent over and looking down between his legs. “Scott?” Stiles says, quietly, like he’s afraid that asking too loud will shatter whatever life Scott is hanging on to. “Are you okay?”

Slowly, his head bobs up and down. “Yeah,” he coughs, his voice strained but stronger sounding, more solid. “I’m okay. Gonna be, anyway.”

“Can you get out?”

Scott shifts a little, grunting in pain, shaking his head. “No. You’re gonna have to help me get the handcuffs off.”

Stiles nods, even though Scott can’t see it, and returns his attention to Derek. His face is still pale, almost completely colourless save for the purpling bruises under his eyes, but he’s breaking out in a sweat, now. Anxiously, Stiles’ eyes dart back and forth, looking for signs that Derek’s starting to recover, but the only thing he gets is the erratic breathing. Fear crawls up his spine and spreads like a spilled glass of ice water, soaking his limbs and making him feel heavy. Swiping a thumb across Derek’s cheek, he swallows the lump in his throat. “You better not fucking die on me, you asshole.”

In response to that, Derek starts to retch.

Yelping, Stiles just barely has time to move out of the way before Derek’s vomiting up the same black, inky liquid that Scott was just moments ago, and the sight is so familiar that by now Stiles thinks he should be used to it. He’s not, though, and the agony that rips across Derek’s face as he heaves and spews the black liquid onto the dirty floor makes Stiles’ heart seize. He doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to seeing that. He doesn’t think he wants to.

While Derek purges his body of the wolfsbane, Stiles kneels down on the floor near Scott’s ankles, grabbing the handcuffs and gently lifting Scott’s chair to slip the ring out from under the leg. Scott’s first leg is free, stretching out, Scott groaning in thanks, already slipping out of the other one and standing up. Within seconds, he’s managed to get himself out of the chains holds his arms behind his back, though the skin on his wrists is raw and bloody from where he’d twisted and yanked. He grimaces, not healing as fast as he’s used to, but he rolls his wrists repeatedly and looks at Stiles.

“Are you--”

Stiles doesn’t want to answer that, not yet. Instead he looks at Derek, shivering and shaking so hard the chains rattle at his back, and bites his lip anxiously. “We should get him out of here. We don’t know if they’ll come back.”

Scott nods, giving Stiles a funny look before shrugging it off. On either side of Derek, they both get to work freeing his legs and arms; some of Scott’s strength has returned and he manages to snap some of the links that bind Derek’s arms together. Derek, though breathing a little more normally now, is still limp like a rag doll, and Stiles is worried about the both of them having to carry him out. He looks at Scott and Scott looks back, nodding, like he knew what Stiles was thinking. Stiles moves to the right side of Derek, fingers gently grabbing at his wrist and crouching, throwing Derek’s arm across his shoulders. Scott does the same on the left side, and the only indication of coherency Derek gives them when they count to three and stand up is a grunt of pain.

Stiles can feel the sweat that’s pouring off of Derek like it’s rainwater, sticking to the back of his neck and dampening his clothes where Derek is pushed up against his side. They’re making their way to the door, slowly but surely, and Stiles’s heart begins to pound. Something is wrong, but he doesn’t know what. They make it into the hallway, the front door in sight, and it’s too easy.

He’s right. He’s so, painfully and horribly right. Before they can even get all the way out into the hallway, a man swings himself down off the side of the staircase and stands in front of them, grinning. His teeth look sharp as knives as the light reflects off them, so terribly white and oddly bright in the darkness of the house. Salt and peppered hair tells Stiles that he’s older, around his forties, maybe, but the way he holds his body tells Stiles that he’s not feeling it. Muscles ripple in his arms as he crosses them across a broad chest. He’s thin, lithe, and that means quick and light on his feet. Normally light eyes look colourless in the milky light of the moon, and it’s terrifying.

“So,” the man says, shark’s grin growing wider as his gaze sweeps over Stiles. “Interesting development, eh?”

“What, that you actually never left and was just waiting for someone to show up, making you the world’s biggest douche right now?” Stiles spits, voice tight from the strain of holding Derek and the strain of holding back. “Yeah. Interesting development, alright.”

That just makes him grin wider, and Stiles can feel his stomach churn. “Fiesty, this one. Where’d you find him, Hale?”


Derek just grunts, weak, but he manages to lift his head and glare at the hunter in front of them. “I didn’t,” Derek says, although his voice is ragged. “He found me.”

The hunter snorts in amusement. “Romantic,” he says, and Stiles reluctantly feels his face flush.

“So not a good time for this conversation,” Stiles says, teeth gritted. His grip on Derek’s arm tightens, shifting him up higher.

“What conversation?” Scott asks, clearly confused. It’s not a new thing for him, though, so Stiles lets him stew in it.

“Don’t worry about it. Just--” he huffs, eyes darting away from the hunter to Scott. “Are you strong enough to take him to the Jeep by yourself?”

“And leave you here? Are you fucking nuts?”

Stiles levels a look at him. “I’m not strong enough to carry Derek myself, and you’re not strong enough to fight, not yet. Derek needs to see Deaton, right now, in case he--” his voice gets stuck in his throat, and he coughs to clear it. “He needs to go to Deaton. He can help.”

Scott looks terrified. “That’s not... This isn’t a good idea, Stiles.”

“It doesn’t matter what kind of idea it is,” Stiles says, glancing out of the corner of his eye to see the hunter leaning casually against the black railing of the stairs and pretending to examine his nails. “It’s the only one we have.” Stiles starts to back up out from under Derek’s arm, Scott taking the brunt of the weight. “Go.”

Stiles locks eyes with the hunter, standing up straight, and that predatory grin spreads across his face again. There’s a moment where no one does anything; everyone’s just silent and staring and holding their breath, waiting for the first move. The hunter makes it first.

He’s pulling a knife out of the back of his jeans, tossing it and catching it by the handle and holding the blade out and up, watching Stiles with a grin. Then he’s moving, faster than Stiles expected, and Stiles is jumping backward, screaming, “ Go! Go, god dammit! ” at Scott as he lures the hunter away from them. Stiles waits until Scott’s hauling Derek out the front door before he changes tactics, going from offense to defense. Instead of evading the hunter, jumping onto tables or broken bits of furniture and leaping just out of reach, he jumps forward. He grabs the hunter by the thin material of his checkered shirt, using the grip to bring him forward and knock their heads together, hard . The hunter grunts, head rocking back, eyes blinking and blood leaking from his nose. Sharp pain flashes through Stiles’ head, his vision wavering for a moment, but he grits his teeth against it and shakes it off. He uses the time of confusion to jump from the table to an overturned crate, but the hunter recovers in time and lunges with the knife, catching him in the side.

With a small scream, Stiles drops from the air and lands on the floor knees first, hand flying to his side and pushing against the wound. Hot, sticky liquid stains his hand and he doesn’t bother looking at it smeared all over his fingers. He grits his teeth and gets up, panting, watching the hunter come closer to him with a gleam in his eye that Stiles can't really place and doesn't really want to. As soon as he gets close enough, Stiles kicks out both feet and they land square on the hunter’s chest, knocking him backward and the air from his lungs. The knife clatters out of his hand and onto the floor.

While the hunter clutches his chest with both hands, Stiles jumps back to his feet and, in one fleeting thought, he’s grateful for the training, no matter how hard his ass was kicked, over and over. Without it, without Derek’s help and Derek’s patience and his soft hands as he taught Stiles to throw and deflect a punch, his soft smile as Stiles finally pinned him to the floor, he wouldn’t be able to do this. Without all the working out he did, Stiles wouldn’t have been able to jump from the crate and onto the staircase, still heaving, still bleeding. He plants one sneakered foot on the railing, tensing, and then he’s lifting himself up and propelling himself off the rail, jumping down and onto the hunter’s back. Momentarily he gets a flashback, of doing this not so long ago, but this time, he wraps his legs around the guy’s middle and holds like Derek taught him so that he could use both hands. Stiles balances himself on the guy’s back and he’s bucking, wheezing like Scott used to, and Stiles wants to laugh. The hunter tries to fight him, backing him up into things, and that makes Stiles want to laugh harder. He thinks that there’s going to be another end to this.

There isn’t.

In one smooth motion, Stiles places one hand on the hunter’s head, fingers instinctively gripping the long hair, and his other hand on his jaw. Stiles never actually laughs, but a smile spreads across his face as the hunter chokes out “Please,” and then he’s twisting, savagely, the crack of breaking bones sounding through the house like a muted gunshot.

The hunter collapses to the floor, but Stiles has already jumped off his back and made it to the front door. Looking out into the front yard, he sees Derek’s car but not his, meaning that Scott took Derek to Deaton’s in his car.

That’s okay, he thinks, stepping off the porch and into a pile of leaves. They’re brittle and dry, and the weight of Stiles landing on them makes them crinkle and crack like the echoes of the hunter’s neck. It should make him flinch, but he doesn’t. He doesn’t even shiver as the night changes, a cold wind blowing up from the ground and across his skin. The woods are dark as he enters them, hands in his pockets and his ribs sore and sluggishly leaking blood, and he thinks he should be afraid, but he isn’t. He’s not anything. He’s not guilty, he’s not proud, he’s not .

Stiles pulls his hood up around his face as he walks, the cold wind whistling through the trees a twin of the one that howls in the emptiness of his chest.

--


He doesn’t hear from Derek for four days.

It’s strange, he thinks, how angry that makes him. Whereas Scott called, immediately after leaving Deaton’s to tell Stiles that he was going to be okay. Stranger still is the fact that Stiles killed a man with his bare hands, felt the way the bones in his neck snapped at the savage twist and the wrong angle, the life draining from him immediately, but he’s angry at Derek for not having the decency to call.

It makes him laugh, actually. He’s laying on his bed, looking up at the ceiling, bandage on his ribs pulling gently at his skin as he breathes. Somehow, somewhere, his life became a cosmic punchline. First it was like his life was a cheesy, 80’s supernatural teen comedy starring Michael J. Fox or some other hunk of burnin’ love, and then his life turned into a supernatural boot camp, and now it’s this: a cheesy, new wave high school love story. Boy likes other boy, other boy no like boy back, boy trains with him and falls in love, boy kills a guy, and other boy can’t even fucking call.

He snorts again. “When did my life get so weird?” he asks out loud, eyes closed.

“About the same time mine did,” a voice says from across the room, and Stiles jerks.

He sits up, arms flailing, finally finding the bed and clutching the sheets in both hands. His heart is beating a mile a minute, but then he sees Derek standing against the desk, the echo of some memory from not so long ago. He looks perfectly fine--no cuts, no scrapes, no bruises under his eyes. Just Derek, all tan skin and defined muscles and gorgeous eyes and, oh, he’s saying something.

“What?” Stiles says, and flushes at how obvious he is. Just like danger, subtlety was never Stiles’ strong suit, either.

The corner of Derek’s mouth quirks, but then he’s looking down at the floor. It’s weird, for Derek, but then again the past few days have been pretty weird so Stiles chalks it up to detoxing off the weirdness. It’s quiet for a few minutes, Stiles shifting on the bed, before Derek finally speaks. “Are you alright?”

That’s not really what Stiles was expecting, but the look on Derek’s face tells him that he should probably give him a good answer. He looks away, nodding, knowing that Derek can smell the blood staining the bandage and can see the bruises on his face. “Yeah. I’m alright.”

Silence settles over the room again, and Stiles starts to itch. There’s something in the air, stifling it, making it uncomfortable. He wants to fill it, but Derek does it first.

“You shouldn’t have done that,” he says, voice firm.

Stiles’ head snaps up. “What?”

“You shouldn’t have done that,” he repeats, jaw clenching. “You shouldn’t have come after us.”

Is this guy for real? Stiles can feel his mouth drop open in pure, genuine shock, and the anger burning right underneath. He’s not sure he understands. “You’re joking, right?” Stiles says, getting to his feet. He and Derek are almost the same height, eye level, and there’s no way Stiles is backing down from this. “Like, is it April 1st and no one told me? Because, good joke, Derek. You got me.”

“It’s not a joke,” he says, and now he’s angry. His nostrils flare and his jaw clenches tighter, teeth grinding. His eyes as he fixes a glare on Stiles are hard. “You could have died.”

That’s it. The anger rises up in him, hard and fast, completely obliterating any other emotion or self control he had left. His cheeks go red, his jaw tightening, and he can feel the shout as it makes his way up through his chest and he explodes. “Are you fucking kidding me right now? You could have died! That’s the whole reason I even showed up, you idiot! I got the weird voicemail on my phone, and I heard Scott, and I knew that by extension you were in trouble, too, so I did what I had to do--”

Derek’s eyes flash. “You didn’t have to do that. You didn’t have to risk your life for me, I’ve told you not to do that--”

Shut up!” Stiles shouts, so loud it’s nearly a scream, and Derek is so caught off guard that his mouth snaps shut. “Shut up! Are you even listening to yourself? God, you’re such a hypocrite. You’re allowed to risk your ass for me, but when the time comes that you need saving, I’m not even allowed to think about it. Well, it doesn’t fucking work that way, Derek. And of course I had to, you fucking idiot, who would have done it if it wasn’t me, I was right there. I got the voicemail and I left right away. Even if I’m not pack, it’s still my responsibility to save you when I can. Scott’s still my best friend, he’ll always be my best friend, and you’re the alpha. I did have to do that. There’s people that need you--” Stiles stops, makes a noise and clenches his jaw. “I’m not pack, but Scott is. So are you. And you know what? I did fine, goddammit. You’re the one who trained me, remember? You’re also the one who told me not to be a hero, but you don’t get it. There’s a difference between being a hero and a martyr, Derek, and I’m sorry that you don’t know what that difference is.”

The room falls into silence, punctuated by the quiet heave of Stiles’ heavy breathing. His face is still flushed, watching Derek, who’s staring at him in a stunned sort of way that looks like admiration and adoration and irritation all at once, and Stiles can’t really figure out what to make of that.

“You are pack, Stiles,” Derek says, though it’s almost too quiet to hear.

He hears it, though, for a second time, and his heart begins to thunder in his ears so loudly he thinks he’s going to go deaf from it. “What?”

Derek looks him in the eyes, jaw set. “You are pack. You are part of my pack, and you have been since the day you started helping us. You might not be a wolf, Stiles, but you don’t need to be. You’re wild enough at heart already.”

It’s the sincerity, the clarity, and the opportunity that Stiles hears the most. There’s no promises in it, no, but there is hope. He closes it eyes against it, body drawing up like he’s preparing for a fight. He pretends he didn’t hear it, that he didn’t see the look in Derek’s eyes that was vulnerable, for once in all the time Stiles has known him, and like that look didn’t terrify him and make him want to cry and make him want to kiss Derek stupid all at once. His hands start to shake where they’re balled into fists at his sides, and he opens his eyes, completely unsure of what emotion is displaying itself across his features right now. “I’m not--”

“Don’t,” Derek growls. “Just shut up.”

And then there’s a hand fisting in the front of his shirt, hauling him in, and Derek is kissing him.

Their mouths meet in the middle, crashing together violently like a car accident. Derek’s mouth is hot, practiced, but it’s gentle, moving against Stiles’ as Stiles melts into it, kissing back. Stiles’ hands find their way to Derek’s jacket, grabbing the collar and holding on, pulling Derek closer, more into the kiss, whimpering as the sparks shoot down his back. It’s messy, but Stiles doesn’t care; he’s been waiting for this, he’s been waiting, and even though it’s not verbal, it’s confirmation of what Stiles has wanted all along.

Derek’s hand comes up to cup Stiles’ jaw, holding him there, and with all the heart Stiles is putting into nipping at Derek’s bottom lip, it takes him a moment to realize that Derek is trying to talk to him: “You idiot,” he’s saying, “you damn idiot. Could’ve gotten yourself killed, could’ve died, and I wouldn’t have even known until the next day, God dammit, Stiles,” and his mouth is chasing Stiles’ again, kissing, biting, whispering the words like they’re a prayer that only Stiles needs to hear. “Don’t know what I would have done if you’d’ve died, you dumbass, you don’t know what you do to me--”

Stiles whimpers again as Derek’s hands make their way to his back, trailing down, dipping under his shirt and pulling it up as he goes, hands hot on Stiles’ skin. “I had to save you,” Stiles is saying, before he even realizes he’s saying it, Derek breaking the kiss just long enough to strip Stiles’ shirt over his head before their lips are crashing back together, Stiles babbling against them like the words won’t ever come out if he doesn’t say them now. “Couldn’t stand it if something happened to you, don’t you get it, I’m not--” he gasps, Derek’s mouth moving away from his own and down his neck, nipping and licking, letting his jacket drop off onto the floor. “I walked into that room and I saw you guys,” he breathes, eyes closed as Derek reaches  back and strips off his own shirt, dropping it on top of his jacket, holding Stiles by the belt loops in his jeans. “I thought you were dead,” he whispers, starting to shake. “I thought you were dead, and I was never gonna get the chance.”

“To do what?” Derek asks, lips moving where they’re pressed against the corner of his mouth, holding him gently by the hips and moving them back toward the bed.

Stiles can feel fire everywhere that Derek’s touching him, in the way that fire seems to follow him, sending lightning scorching through his veins, and this is all that he’s ever wanted to feel-- something like this, the way that the touch of the right person sends daggers of pleasure down his back, lodging into his stomach, and it’s Derek, Derek Hale, but that doesn’t matter. Stiles likes to think that it never really did. There were a hundred chances for him to do something to get Lydia to notice him, a thousand ways that he could have changed in order for her to see him like he had wanted her to, so desperately, and should this never have happened there’d be a hundred more. But the fact is he never changed, and someone, even if that someone is Derek Hale, saw that in him. It took a long time, and it took a lot of arguing and bad jokes and annoyed glances, but it was happening now. It was something that neither of them wanted to admit, but it was something that neither of them could avoid, either. There might be no such thing as fate, but there is inevitibility. Whether either of them will admit it or not, they're both slaves to it. In this moment, though, Stiles thinks that neither of them really mind.

“To do this,” Stiles says, and kisses Derek with all that he’s got as he pulls him onto the bed.

As they move together in the dark, naked and rutting, mouths together but just breathing the same air and inhaling the sounds the other makes, death cannot touch them. There is no age difference; there’s nothing for Derek to feel guilty for. When Stiles gets brave and reaches down, wrapping his long fingers around Derek’s length, there is no Kate Argent. When Derek returns the favor, growling, Stiles’ mother isn’t dead but she never existed at all. And when, finally, he catches Stiles’ mouth in a bruising kiss and, squeezing his hand lightly as he goes, it sends Stiles over the edge. This boy, so inexplicably wrapped up in Derek’s life, he makes the most beautiful sound as he comes and Derek can’t taste ashes in his mouth or smell the permanent scent of smoke all around him, anymore.

There’s no promises when Derek murmurs “I love you” into the back of Stiles’ neck, but there’s no ashes, either.

Just hope.