The pack always did guard duty on rotation. It was an arbitrary sort of thing. After the cluster of issues they faced one year ago; the Kanima and the resurrection of Peter Hale, the brief but terrifying Hunter war, things had quieted down rather nicely. Still, Derek insisted that it was an important exercise in pack bonding, and a way to remain constantly vigilant should trouble arise again.
Stiles didn't mind this much at all. After all, it was certainly more interesting than playing video games, scrounging through homework, or mindlessly surfing through the internet. What average high school student could say that they spent the night roaming the town with a pack of werewolves? Even if his particular partner for the evening happened to be Mr. Sourwolf himself.
As it was on the last week of every month, Stiles and Derek were paired together to cruise the west end of the town to check for disturbances. Usually this meant Derek driving from empty parking lot to parking lot, while Stiles worked on homework, listened to music, or jabbered incessantly about anything from Chemistry class to a wikipedia article he had stumbled across detailing the history of medieval remedies for the common cold (“You were supposed to hang a frog around your neck! Can you believe that? Do you think they meant alive or dead-?”)
Tonight, for better or for worse it was lacrosse.
“So, the big game against Laurel Bay is coming up this Saturday.”
Stiles and Derek had gotten a midnight snack (meal) at the late-night drive-thru, and were now parked in the big, empty mall parking lot adjacent to the park. Stiles sipped on a strawberry milkshake, while Derek snuffed and looted through a big paper bag for his double cheeseburger. The silence outside was eerily complete. As usual for Beacon Hills, the dark was offset by the usual misty glow of distant orange streetlights, and the warm rustling breeze of the night shaking off the lingering vestiges of winter. For any ordinary civilian, it probably would have been a pretty creepy night to be out alone. Then again, most civilians didn't get late-night cheeseburgers with an alpha werewolf.
“Somehow I managed to impress Coach, despite having to compete against four super-powered individuals.” He joked, hoping to eek a grin out of the Sourwolf. After jumping in for his impromptu performance last season, Boyd had lined up for tryouts in the fall and naturally did spectacular. Now nearly half of the starting lineup was comprised of extraordinarily talented individuals, and the pathway to championships was almost a sure thing.
“So... I'll be playing.”
“So... you should come.” Stiles said slowly with a slight raise of his eyebrows. He had hoped that Derek would have caught on on his own, or preferably shown excitement and/or enthusiasm to attend without prompting. Derek looked up at him with his usual glower, his mouth very full of cheeseburger. He swallowed thickly before speaking.
“Go to the lacrosse game.”
“Y'know, come and watch, show your support...? Erica already said she's going, so-”
“So, that would mean that the entire pack is going to be there.”
“Yup, that would be the case.”
“So nobody would be watching the town then.”
Stiles sighed in exasperation, trying to grasp the excuse that Derek had come up with.
“The town? Really? Derek, Beacon Hills has been clean of any sort of paranormal incident since the alpha pack left town! I think that it'll be okay if we took the night off.” Stiles chose his words carefully, trying not to sound put out. He had imagined, he had hoped really that the prospect of Stiles finally managing to get first string on the lacrosse team would have been enough to draw the alpha out of his stony seclusion and show some hints of humanity for a change. Over the course of the year, he had liked to think that they had moved from “strained alliance” to something that might have resembled a vague sort of friendship.
Derek set his food aside, staring steadily out the window.
“That's not... entirely true.”
“Two nights ago, Scott and Erica picked up the scent of an omega off the entrance to the freeway.”
Stiles sat up at once.
“What? Seriously? Then why are we eating-? We, we should be- I don't know! Doing something! Sniffing him out or, or-”
Derek was laughing.
“Boyd and Isaac are doing that right now.”
Stiles sat stunned for a moment, trying to process everything, but the wheels were churning rather quite slowly in his mind, taken off guard.
“Wait... then what- what the hell are we doing here?” Stiles motioned wildly to the two of them sitting in the car.
“What would you do if you came face-to-face with a rouge werewolf, Stiles?”
Derek faced him calmly, though Stiles faced him with a look of astonishment and disbelief.
“Are you kidding me? What the hell has this been then? Why even bother taking me out tonight if you never even took me seriously from the start? I'm- I mean I know I'm not a- but I always figured...” He threw up his hands in frustration.
Stiles was part of the pack. Everyone always said so. Derek himself had even admitted (in the bits and pieces that he could ever be caught talking about the old Hale pack) that any werewolf pack needed humans in order to stay strong and survive. When things were going to shit last year, Stiles had worked and sacrificed and suffered as much as any of them. He figured after all this time, he had finally earned the right to skip the babying treatment.
“Whatever. Okay, fine. I'm going home. Let's go.” He motioned to the wheel, but Derek didn't move. His face was that usual blank expression that he had perfected so damn well. “Stiles-”
“Fine! Fine I'll walk.” He got out, stalking off across the parking lot.
“Stiles!” Derek leaned his head out the window, calling out after him.
Stiles braced himself against the chilly night air, stalking off against the dark, damp black pavement.
He wasn't angry that Derek made the call that he shouldn't be out hunting rouge werewolves. No, that was perfectly understandable. Stiles hadn't deluded himself in this time of relative calm and quiet into thinking that he would be able to much more than act as a piece of live bait. What he was ticked about was the fact that Derek didn't feel the need to clue him in on it. To even go so far as to put on the charade of normalcy that was their monthly patrol together.
Where did Derek get off treating him less like a team player and more like the team pet? He turned into the road, and two blocks along he became aware that Derek's black Camaro was following along behind him at a crawling pace.
“You're going to follow me the entire two miles back, huh?” Stiles mumbled, knowing that Derek could hear him perfectly well from here.
A flash of the high beams signaled the affirmative.
“Well get used to that pace buddy. Though if you want to drive up here and hand off my milkshake that would be super.”
Derek honked the horn in an indignant manner, and a moment later a paper cup went flying out the driver's side window. Pink pastel goop streaked the black roadway, and Stiles even got a laugh at how the simple action of honking a horn and tossing a milkshake could reek of such signature attitude.
The walk back helped Stiles bleed off some steam and bitterness. He had never been one to hold a grudge, and with his attention span he was never particularly good at it anyway. Stiles didn't even bother texting Scott at this hour to demand an explanation. He knew he'd see him soon enough at the game tomorrow.
Stiles and Scott both got ready side-by-side in the locker room before the game Saturday night.
“So I was thinking Halo marathon next Friday. Considering it's the last weekend before the full moon, we can get through-”
“Can't.” Scott said with a smug, telltale smile.
“What? But... we always marathon before the full moon.” Stiles said with a fleeting smile. As a general rule, they always did something strictly “normal teenager” before Scott's body was ravaged by murderous, bloodthirsty primal rage.
“Yeah, well that was until Allison asked me to hang out.” Scott was doing a horrible job at trying to hide how excited he was. He rocked on the balls of his feet, biting his lip a little to keep the smile from spreading across his entire face. It was enough that Stiles found himself choking out a laugh, and wasn't certain whether or not he could work up the nerve to be irritated. After all, for nearly a year he had to listen to Scott pining and sighing over his lost love. What happened to Allison's mother had wounded her deeply, and for the longest time it seemed like things would never get better between the two of them again. Suffice to say, the distance hadn't depleted his love for her at all. Now with the treaty in place, the two were slowly beginning to warm back into each others lives.
“Alright dude, raincheck.” He laughed, clapping his hand on Scott's shoulder. It was impossible to be mad at someone for a reason that clearly made them so happy. He pulled on his shoulder pads, figuring it was time to change the subject.
“So when were you going to tell me about Beacon Hill's new visitor?”
“Yes, that.” Stiles glanced off to the side, seeing Isaac quickly look away to pretend that he hadn't been eavesdropping.
“Well, we weren't really sure what we smelled. I mean, nobody really takes Derek's scouting thing seriously.” Scott said with a scrunch of his nose and a small half-smirk. Stiles seethed with a little hiss of irritation. Was he the only sane person who thought that werewolf patrol was the coolest thing ever?
“But yeah, it smelled like another one of us. So we followed it to the freeway entrance, but by then it was too weak to follow. The thing had been gone for hours.” Scott shrugged. “It was barely in the town anyway, I figured it wasn't important.”
“Yeah, well it must have been pretty important, because Derek sent Boyd and Isaac out last night while Derek just like... babysat me or something.” Stiles shrugged, pulling on his gloves.
“What, really? Why would he do that?” Scotts eyes went out of focus for a minute, then he laughed.
“No, come on I'm serious.”
“Huh?” Stiles stared back at him blankly, watching Scott's face go from blithe to somber.
“What, so did you find anything?” Scott staring into space now.
“I just told you, we didn't do anything. I just-”
“- That could be tricky if it's a pack.”
Stiles blinked at Scott in disbelief, though it clicked when he caught Boyd on the other side of the locker room out of the corner of his eye. His lips were moving, though he was still getting changed, seemingly talking to nobody at all. Stiles glared over at Isaac, who similarly was staring off into space, listening in as well.
“- The last thing we'd want is another alpha, true.”
“Hello! Care to clue the human in on werewolf telephone?” Stiles hissed, yanking Scott to the side. Boyd chuckled to himself.
“Sorry, Stiles.” Isaac spoke up, looking quite sincerely abashed.
“Oh, yeah. Um, Boyd said that they-”
“Alright Ladies, pull up your skirts, it's time to move out!” Coach burst into the locker room, ushering everyone outside onto the field.
The mist from the previous evening now sat thick and heavy over the dewy grass. The sky was a silvery-grey overcast, the air damp and the ground spongy and soft. The team ran through their warmups, and over the course of the hour people began to file into the stands, and a big coach bus pulled into the parking lot with the rival team from Laurel Bay.
“The werewolf we detected was young.”
Boyd came up to Stiles as the team took turns running sprints in groups of four.
“We couldn't smell any fear. He moved fast, he moved carefully, indicating that he was well fed, in good health, and a strong possibility that he is in control of his abilities, to a degree. This would indicate that he might not be a lone vagrant, but possibly a scout for another pack inspecting new territory.” Boyd's report was concise and neat. “I'm sure there will be speculation to be had later. But that's what we know for sure.”
“Oh... okay. Thanks Boyd.” Stiles said, finally feeling some relief. He liked Boyd. Though he was quiet and a bit reserved, the guy was smart. When it came to researching paranormal threats or assessing a dangerous situation, Boyd thought with a clear and level head that trigger-happy wolves like Isaac and Scott tended to ignore. As an added plus, Boyd had always deferred to Stiles as being a more experienced member of the pack, despite a lack in supernatural ability.
And really, would that have been such a difficult thing for Derek to clue Stiles in on? It had taken Boyd barely twenty seconds to say, and it was all he needed to know. Stiles sighed, leaning on his lacrosse stick, and chalked it up to a mysterious Derek doing mysterious Derek things.
Though he had resolved to put the matter of last night out of his mind and move on, Stiles would be lying if he said he didn't watch the stands or surrounding areas for a particular individual as game time drew closer. Really he didn't know why he was put out. After all, his dad was there to cheer him on. Lydia, Allison and Erica all had their giant signs ready to go. Perhaps he was disappointed that once again Derek had passed up an opportunity to ease back into the world of the living. When he walked through town, people still stared and whispered as he passed. Not without reason, what with his entire family passing away in a brutal fire recently billed to be murder, and then the multiple convicted and dropped charges he had compiled over the last few years. Really, it was enough to make anyone want to shirk out of the ring of society, but as long as Derek insisted on acting like the town pariah, things weren't going to get any better.
The boys from Laurel Bay started running through paces of their own. Stiles stole a glance or two, noticing that they were all pretty big themselves. Granted, Jackson, Stiles, Boyd and Isaac could probably take them all down barely trying, but they were under strict order to keep their power in check. One year ago, the alpha pack nearly decimated the entire Argent clan. It was only by finally banding together with the Hale pack that they managed to get away with precious few lives lost. After that, a treaty of sorts was formed. The Argent did not hunt the Hale pack. In return, the wolves harm no human being, and change no other human into a werewolf for any reason. They were not abuse their powers in order to get ahead unfairly in society. This included devastating their rival lacrosse teams. After all, if another player was injured on the field due to them exercising super strength or speed, it would render the treaty null and void and the Argents would be at their throats.
Still, they managed to get around this clause in a few small ways.
“On your left!” Stiles hissed. Even from his position on left wing, Isaac heard him on the other side of the field and reacted immediately. He rolled to the right, narrowly avoiding a body check and made a beeline for the goal. The crowd roared, and they were now tied one and one. It was really the bare minimum of what they could do. Last game Scott had to tell Erica off for relaying to them all of the plans that the opposing coach was giving to his players before they were carried out. Though it was helpful to know what the offense was going to do, it looked a bit too suspicious for them to be able to call what was about to happen with every play. Jackson summarized Scott's reasoning quite nicely in saying that he didn't need a low advantage like that in order to dominate on the field.
The game ran in to the second quarter, and it seemed that things were paced quite evenly. Just before halftime, Scott managed to get past their defensive line and score a goal, and Jackson managed another not long after that. Stiles performed unremarkably, managing to stop a run here, and make a pass there. And really, he didn't mind so much. Just being out on the field, actually in the game and playing felt great to him. He didn't need to have a werewolf's sense of sound to hear his dad cheering for him when he stopped an assist to their goal and made a spectacular pass down the field.
Then, with less than two minutes to go on the clock at the end of the third quarter, the amazing happened. A long pass from Greenburg sailed straight towards him, and Stiles caught it and turned with an open window to the goal.
Yes! This was his chance to do it. Score one for the wisecracking underdog, this was his chance to score the final goal of the game and clinch the victory for Beacon Hills!
Though Scott would later swear up and down they had all tried to give him a heads-up warning, Stiles did not have the ears of a werewolf, nor the perception filter.
If he had, he might have noticed the bear-sized player coming down off his left side, hitting him like a wall of solid brick. The air was blasted from his lungs and he was vaguely aware of his body crumpling to the ground as a hazy black overtook him, and everything went dark.
When Stiles woke up he was in the hospital. The injury wasn't that bad. A concussion that had him out for a little while. What was bad, had been waking up to the searing, blazing, agonizing pain of what felt like a knife in his shoulder. As it happened, during the course of the game a rock had been unearthed by the tearing of cleats across the soft, malleable ground. When Stiles fell, it landed just where the protective padding ended and the shoulder began. He hit the ground hard enough that it stabbed deep into him, lacerating his muscle.
When he came around, Mrs. McCall was sterilizing and bandaging the wound, which had taken six stitches to close.
“I wasn't on duty. Actually I was watching the game.” She explained to him, handing off two little painkillers and a Dixie cup of water. “But your father had to work tonight, and I knew he'd feel better if a familiar face was here when you came to.”
Stiles just nodded, the medication hitting him immediately and leaving him too groggy to think of a witty comeback. He'd need a little while to get around the disappointment that he hadn't even made it through his first game, and was now faced with the fact that his throwing arm had been messed up for who knows how much of the season.
“He came by, and dropped those off for you.” Mrs. McCall gestured over to Stiles' iPod, his homework, and a big box of Screaming Caramel Toffee Clusters, the only candy he had found that managed to pack a full day's recommended sugar dose into a nickle-sized chocolate covered drop.
“Nice! He's not still here, is he?”
“No, he's off. With Allison.” She added with a discreet smirk. Stiles couldn't help but notice that when she grinned like that the resemblance between herself and Scott was uncanny.
“Erica and Isaac just left as well. They wished you well.” She pulled off her latex gloves and stood up. “You hit your head hard enough that we want to keep you here overnight, just to make certain everything is okay.”
“You're the boss.” Stiles shrugged, noticing that Mrs. McCall smirked in a satisfied way at that.
She left shortly after. Stiles sat back in bed, munching on his chewy candies deep in thought. Isaac and Erica, huh? He should have seen it coming. And Allison and Scott? That was good too. What would have been great would have been waking up to anyone at all waiting for him to wish him better, touched as he was that Mrs. McCall had been there. Stiles flipped aimlessly through his iPod, allowing himself a quiet moment of selfishness. After all, it wasn't like it was a particularly troubling injury. He had just passed out, and gotten a rock in his back that could have shredded and infected his arm and ended his lacrosse career forever...
Stiles sat up, when he heard the door open. A large wall of sunflowers entered. Sprouting from a tall, dark vase, a guy's body carrying it in. However, his face was briefly blocked by the large, brilliant flowers.
“Dad?” Stiles blurted, jumping to the first person he naturally expected to find coming to visit.
“Um, no sorry.” The vase was set down on the desk adjacent to the door. The person who turned to face him was... very much not his father.
Dressed in casual jeans and a slate blue button-down, was an extraordinarily handsome young man. Clean-shaven and well-kept, the shirt hugged across his chest just snugly enough to see that he must be quite athletic. His skin was the right shade of tan to give away that he spent plenty of time outdoors, and his hair was a feathery shade of gold, carelessly mussed and tousled. What was particularly striking however, was the eyes. A beautiful, strikingly clear shade of green.
“So, ah... how are you doing?” He asked, with an awkward gesture of his hand.
Stiles blinked, looking around the recovery room, wondering vaguely when this guy would realize he had clearly walked through the wrong door.
“Fine... fine. Sheets are a little itchy. Not the best thing when you're wearing a, um... paper gown.” Stiles coughed a bit, only realizing how bad that sentence sounded when it was already halfway out. “So... who are you?”
“Oh!” His eyes went wide. “Right, um. I guess we were never formally introduced. I mean, aside from me... nailing you into the ground.”
“That was you?” Stiles went still. He wasn't sure what was more astonishing, learning that he was getting a hospital visit by the guy who put him in there in the first place, or that Mr. Gorgeous actually looked properly flustered over the entire affair.
“Yeah... I-I'm really sorry, you-”
“No, hey it's okay!” Stiles said at once. “Lacrosse, it's a tough game.” He sat up a little straighter. “Gotta be a tough man to play a tough man's game. Which I am. So it's cool.” He nodded in a way he severely hoped would pass for nonchalance at this point.
For better or for worse, the guy laughed.
“I'm Owen Waters.”
“Stiles.” He repeated, with a very white smile. “I want to make this whole thing up to you.”
“Um, isn't that what the flowers are for?”
“For the injury, yeah.” Owen nodded to the vase. “But you're also missing one hell of a victory party with your lacrosse team. You guys won, by the way.” He offered. “I mean, no offense but my team didn't do too well after their star player got taken out for a full-body check that landed another kid in the hospital.” He intoned, and Stiles found himself laughing, all things considered.
“So, yeah. This Friday I'm going to be having a party at my place. I'd love it if you could come.” He offered, with utmost sincerity. Really, Stiles found it impossible not to be taken back. Not that chivalry was completely dead but... it wasn't like it was something ever experienced firsthand before. Stiles wasn't the one that people looked at, after all. Through Scott, Stiles had intravenously tasted the “beautiful people” culture of the popular crowd, it was always just that. Second hand. And if Owen Waters wasn't running his high school over at Laurel Bay, then he must have hit his head harder than he thought.
Uh... yeah. Yeah I could come, stop by. My Friday just cleared up, actually.”
“Great.” Owen smiled, backing out to the door. “I'll see you then, Stiles.”
He didn't realize until Owen Waters was already gone that he hadn't gotten any of his information, or even knew where he lived. Maybe he was planning on finding him on Facebook?
The hospital quieted down shortly after as visiting hours came to a close. The lights stayed on at the far end of either side of the hall, but the middles dimmed to a cool dark. At the window of his door, nurses wandered back and forth like apparitions. Stiles closed his eyes, trying to lull himself into a restful enough state to get some sleep.
At least until there was a scratching at the window.
Stiles opened one eye, trying to convince himself it was nothing. Even a year later he was still having nightmares about snake-people and Peter Hale's teeth sinking into his wrist. Nothing. It was nothing. Stiles closed his eyes.
A rustle and a creak.
Stiles sighed, shifting a little.
No, no there was nothing there. He was being stupid. He was going to look, just once, and that would prove how silly he was because there would just be an empty hospital room...
Stiles peeked an eye open.
And a man was standing in his corner.
Stiles stifled a yell, scrambling for a moment before he realized who it was.
“Dude, what the hell, Derek?” Stiles fumbled in bed, drawing the sheets up closer around him. “How did you-?”
A curt glance to the window silenced him.
“You were hurt.”
“It happens.” Stiles shrugged, feeling a bit grumpy. How was it that he was unconscious for every visitor save for a stranger and Mr. Sourwolf? He didn't occur to Stiles to wonder why Derek had passed on coming to see him during visiting hours like a normal person would.
Derek looked Stiles over with a curious expression. Stiles never really knew exactly how to place these looks. They were somewhere hanging between the realm of a glower and something... softer. Concern? Maybe. Perhaps if he was capable of expressing any emotion pertaining to weakness.
“And your shoulder?”
“A couple stitches.”
“Let me see.”
“Woah, hey dude no wait-” Stiles balked as Derek walked calmly around the bedside, sitting directly behind him.
“Derek I'm not wearing pants!”
Stiles' voice caught in his throat at the feeling of strong, solid hands squeezing his shoulders. Thumbs ran in gentle circles around his shoulder blades, as if to soothe him. Fingertips plucked at the strings holding the backless gown together, and Stiles made another feeble noise of protest.
“What are you...?”
“I just. Want. To see.”
Rather than being coarse or intimidating, there was something almost soothing about his voice that had Stiles shockingly off guard. His eyes went wide, blood filling his cheeks as he felt the knots pulled away, the gown slipping off of his shoulders onto his lap. His lower half was still properly covered by bedsheets, and it wasn't like anything indecent was showing, but he couldn't help but be very, very aware of his own nakedness in that moment.
“It's... it's fine. Stitches come out in a couple weeks and...”
“That's when lacrosse ends.”
“Lacrosse. You care about it.” Derek gingerly peeled away the medical tape keeping the gauze over his wound.
“Werewolves have another talent, I haven't mentioned before.”
“What, you really need another?”
“Actually, no.” Derek admitted. His thumb was still circling Stiles' shoulder. He could feel Derek's warm breath on his bare back. “Our advanced healing rate renders it almost completely void. It's really just for bad injuries and... what we have always imagined it to be for, the human members of a pack.”
“What is it?” Stiles turned to see what he was doing, but quickly lost his train of thought at the sudden feeling of Derek's broad, flat tongue moving up his shredded shoulder. Stiles almost doubled over, if not for the muscled arm that had wrapped itself around his stomach. The warm, penetrating, surreal feeling of his muscle tissue and skin knitting itself back together at five hundred times its normal rate was not something he was accustomed to in the slightest. Again, Derek's tongue ran over him. The stitches dissolved and fell away. Stiles gulped and tried to regain himself, but it was more than just the feeling of healing. Something hot was running through him, a sensation blazing in his veins and pooling in the pit of his stomach. He couldn't tell if it was embarrassment or the sudden, unbidden thrill of being so close to another person. One last time Derek's tongue ran over him, this time over shiny pink new skin over what looked like an injury several weeks old.
To his great embarrassment, Stiles was shivering slightly. He could feel Derek's stubble, softer than he expected resting on his shoulder. He sighed, as if drained somewhat by the action. His arms were still snug around Stiles' body, no doubt deafened by the sound of Stiles' heart pounding against his chest.
“... Thank you.”
“Just tell them you're a fast healer.”
Stiles chuckled despite himself, trying to think about how he was going to explain this one in the morning.
“Listen, Stiles. About last night...”
“It's okay.” Stiles shrugged himself out of Derek's arms, and he was obligingly released. “You're right. I wouldn't have been able to do anything about the omega but...”
“But I shouldn't have taken you out.”
“You should have told me what was going on.” Stiles corrected him. He fixed the paper gown awkwardly. “Seriously dude, what reason did you have for not telling me anyway?” He blinked up at Derek, only to find Derek... glaring at his sunflowers.
The moment lengthened.
“Um, hello? Nothing?” Derek didn't answer, his expression as inscrutable as ever. “You're just going to do the silence bit again, huh?”
“I have to go.” Derek strode over to the open window, alighting onto the sill with a weightless sort of grace.
“Wait, so you're just- Derek!” Stiles huffed as the alpha disappeared into the night with his usual effortless nonchalance. Stiles fell back against the starchy hospital pillow, glaring at the ceiling, his stomach strangely unsettled. He could still had the ghost feeling of Derek around him, pressed against his back. His shoulder tingled from the touch.