They have more time than usual to prepare for this showdown; they’re battling evil on a schedule tonight. Stiles’ roles in Plans A-F are minimal, but there’s always the chance that they’ll have to fall back on Plan G, so he spends the tense hours before everything is supposed to go down doing what he does best: research. There’s nothing new in his file folder of print-outs, nothing he hasn’t seen before in the dusty old books Derek keeps in his trunk of horrors, but inspiration finally hits when Derek starts stripping.
The second that first sliver of skin is revealed, Stiles gives up on trying to pretend he was ever going to find anything useful and treats himself to a nice long look, just in case it’s the last chance he gets. Derek pulls the grey tank over his head in one swift motion and Stiles is blessed with the glorious view of smooth, tanned skin and the sharp lines of Derek’s hipbones disappearing into the waistband of his jeans. Derek turns away and his always impressive shoulders flex as they reach for another shirt, drawing Stiles’ to the dark swirls of his triskele tattoo between his shoulder blades.
He’s always wanted a tattoo, something meaningful, like Derek’s. Now that mortal peril and wacky supernatural hijinks have become a regular occurrence, something like the pentagram tattoo the Winchester brotthers have is probably the best idea. He has another year and a half before he can legally get one, though, so a quick trip to a tattoo parlor won’t be what helps him survive tonight.
Derek finally chooses a shirt and covers up the triskele, but Stiles keeps staring at the spot between his shoulder blades, an idea edging into his mind. He can’t get a fancy protection tattoo before tonight’s imminent danger, but he does have a permanent marker and a book filled with symbols and sigils. If he can’t find that ace in the hole that can help secure a win for the pack, he can at least try to keep his puny human self safe.
It’s more difficult than he thought it would be. The light in the warehouse bathroom is dim and the mirror is streaked with grime. The ink from the sharpie keeps bleeding into the cracks in his skin and his hand keeps wobbling, making the squiggles turn out slightly different from the clearly defined symbols in the book. He knows they’re protection symbols, but he’s not technically fluent in anything other than English and sarcasm. One mistake and instead of drawing a symbol that means go away, he could be inviting their enemies to turn his insides into his outsides.
The door opens and Derek steps inside, a blast of sound from the loud argument Erica and Scott are having about tactics enters with him and bounces of the cracked tile walls. The door swings shut and their angry voices are muffled once again. Derek approaches him, his eyes on the dark lines written on Stiles’ skin.
“I know you were literally raised by wolves, but surely you’ve heard of the concept of privacy,” Stiles says, fighting the urge to cover his bare chest.
“What is this?” Derek asks. His hand hovers over one of the symbols on his bicep like he wants to touch it.
“Insurance,” Stiles says. He sets pen to skin again but his hand shakes and what was supposed to be a backwards S ends up looking more like a question mark. A noise of exasperation crawls its way out of his throat and he scribbles over the mark so it can’t be mistaken as a plea for dismemberment or something.
“You don’t need any insurance, you’re not a part of the plan.”
“Yeah, well. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but your plans have a scary high failure rate.” Stiles turns his arm side to side, looking for a blank patch of skin, but his mistakes have taken up a lot of room. He eyes the available real estate on his chest and poises the pen just over his left nipple.
“Give me that,” Derek says. He plucks the pen out of his hand and steps into his personal space, peering down at where the book is propped open by the faucet knobs. “Which one are you trying to copy?”
“I thought you said I didn’t need the insurance.”
Derek looks up and meets Stiles eyes. He doesn’t say anything for a moment, just lets the air between them heat, then his mouth quirks just the tiniest bit. “Couldn’t hurt.”
Stiles points at the one that’s supposed to mean shield and Derek nods once and steers Stiles by the shoulders until his butt hits the sink’s edge.
“Breathe shallow,” he says and with his left hand, he stretches the skin over Stiles’ heart and presses the tip of the pen to his skin.
Derek’s fingers are firm and warm and the edge of his thumb rests on Stiles’ nipple, making it pucker. His pen strokes are hesitant but the lines and curves match the symbol in the book perfectly. He finishes the symbol and brushes his thumb over it. It’s like every nerve in Stiles’ body is channeled to that one patch of skin and a shiver runs up his spine. Derek’s eyes meet his again and his hand drifts down over his chest and curls around his waist.
“Anything else?” Derek asks.
They’re so close and Derek’s lips are right there in front of him. He should be nervous and fumbling and his heart is beating faster than it should, but strange tension between them narrows his focus. The noise of the argument outside fades away and all he feels is the warmth of Derek’s hand on his skin.
Derek lifts the pen between them and waves it back and forth in front of Stiles’ eyes and the moment breaks. “Do you want me to write anything else?”
Stiles sucks in a breath and looks away. His heartbeat kicks up a notch as the realization that he had been about to kiss Derek sets in. “No. That’s it.”
Stiles tries to worm his way out from between Derek and the sink, but the hand on his waist tightens. Derek drops the pen into the sink and palms the side of Stiles’ neck, effectively keeping him in place. He leans in close and for one terrifying second, Stiles thinks Derek is going to act on the weird frisson between them and all of his guilty fantasies are about to come true.
Instead, Derek presses his forehead to Stiles’ cheek. “Stay safe tonight.”
“I always try,” Stiles says into his shoulder. “It’s not my fault the universe conspires against me to make sure my life is an ever growing pile of crap.”
Derek pulls back slowly, putting space between them inch by inch, and when his hands leave Stiles’ skin, it’s like they pull all the warmth in his body away with them. He turns and leaves without another word and Stiles spins and braces his hands on the edge of the sink and lets the outside world come back to him. Derek’s voice cuts through Scott and Erica’s argument and he hears them murmur something back at him. The cold porcelain of the sink travels up his arms until Stiles shivers and he reaches for his shirt. He catches sight of the symbol Derek drew in the mirror when he straightens and he traces the dark lines of ink with his finger.
In the end, these symbols probably won’t amount to anything more than clapping his hands and saying I do believe in fairies. I do, I do!, but he’s seen the power of his imagination at work before. Maybe, just maybe, if he imagines it hard enough, Plan A will work for once. He’ll get to wait out the battle here in the warehouse and all of the wolves will come home safe and relatively unharmed. He runs his fingers over the symbol one more time, then covers it with his T-shirt, hiding away the memory of the moment with Derek while he’s at it. It’s already a full time job worrying about Scott. He doesn’t have time or room in his heart to worry about Derek, too.