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Take A Breath, Let It Out

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Derek can smell the discomfort radiating off of Stiles. What going against his instincts is doing to his sweat and his breath. But as long as Derek can’t smell hesitation, it's fine. He can deal with Stiles hating himself a little. He can't deal with having killed Stiles.

"Hurry," he says when Stiles' sweaty fingers slip and he almost drops the wrench again. "It's starting soon."

"Shut up, shut up," Stiles says under his breath, wiping his hand on his shirt before trying again.

Derek's eyes are drawn to the smudge it makes, grease with traces of red.

"Fucking fuck," Stiles says and yanks the wrench around, panting.

Derek groans and closes his eyes, knows they're red. He can feel a fresh flow of blood starting to run down his neck, itching down over his collarbone. He'd be trying to hold the transformation back, but it won't matter soon. The restraints that Deaton produced for them with a long, measuring look will hold and stop him. They have to, or Derek will break free. Stiles will be the first person he kills. The first of many.

Stiles gives a final tug to the last bolt, and Derek breathes, out and in, waiting for the fight to start. He can feel it gearing up inside him magnified by the potion the witch tricked him into swallowing, feel the wolf waiting to tear from its confined crouch inside him, straining toward the moon. Stiles stands still, rests his damp face against Derek's shoulder for a few moments, breathing, trembling a little. The adrenaline is overpowering in his scent.

"Go," Derek tells him.

"No," Stiles says immediately, pushing his chin into Derek's collarbone. "I did this for you. I'm staying right here. You can't make me go, and also someone needs to make sure it works."

"Go!" Derek repeats, snarling it over the sound of Stiles' loud jackrabbit heartbeat. He can't glare at Stiles from this position, and he has no time because it's coming, it's almost over him, and his whole body locks, spasms with the pain of it, and he can't quite get his jaws shut in time over the pained shout that escapes.

Stiles scrambles back, bumping his nose and forehead into Derek's chest before he flails his hand into Derek's thigh to push himself away, jamming his thumb into Derek's crotch on his way. "Sorry!" he says, snatching his hand back as he falls on his ass on the floor in front of Derek's feet.

If Derek could move, at all, he would laugh through the pain, because Stiles is scared, yes, but he's more embarrassed than afraid. As it is, Derek has no time to laugh. He gasps air and pushes it back out again, because it's not just the thick iron bands around his waist, his chest, his thighs, that prevent him from moving - it's the magic in them that stops him from turning into his alpha form.

The magic literally stops him. Muscles that need to expand are locked in their current shape. His fingernails can't lengthen, and the pressure that stops them from doing it is immense.

"Derek..." Stiles is saying something, the tone of his voice growing increasingly insistent, but Derek doesn't quite catch what he's saying, because the pressure is like being too deep under water, his lungs almost bursting with it, his vision red with dark, threatening edges.

"Derek!" Stiles slaps him across the face.

Despite himself, Derek is able to take a breath. "Don't fucking slap me," he says. "Do you know how much this hurts?" He tries to breathe more, even though there's no room. It's... difficult, but he can manage, if he keeps calm.

Stiles is staring at him, in his face, close. "Are you okay?" he asks. "Did it work? Well, obviously it's working, because you're not all that furry, and there is a distinct lack of snapping of iron and mauling of humans around here, but, it's holding, right? Right?"

Derek concentrates on making his breathing very slow, controlled and even.

"Hey! Are things going according to plan here, or am I breaking out the bone saw and amputating your head? Are. You. Okay?" Stiles pokes him in the chest.

"Shut up," Derek snaps with the small amount of air he has. It's hard enough to concentrate without a teenage boy yapping in his face.

Stiles leans closer, peering at him with his mouth open, breathing in his face. Derek closes his eyes as a last resort and keeps up his breathing. Slow, slow, slow, in, slow, slow, slow, out.

"Okay man. Okay. You're... breathing, I guess." Stiles pats him lightly on his chest.

Derek can feel him stepping back. He still has his eyes closed, but Stiles has a warmth to him, a particular air of Stiles-ness that is very distinct, and he can feel it when Stiles takes a few steps back. Derek feels surprisingly cold without him, but then it could be the magical pressure doing something with his circulation.

It grows again, starts crashing in on him and Derek doesn't know if it's worse, or if it's just that he's forgotten in the space of three minutes what it was like. He only knows that there are sounds escaping from his throat that have no business ever coming out of him. And then he's choking, his body trying to curl forward and the iron bands are too tight for him to do anything about it.

And then he can force a little bit of air into his lungs again, just a small amount, and the pressure isn't threatening to tear him apart anymore.

"Breathe!" Stiles is saying, his hand around the side of Derek's neck, shaking him, and Derek opens his eyes, would shout at him to stop it, because there are iron bolts holding his skull fixed in position and it hurts, but he's busy trying to take advantage of that small amount of air.

"Don't stop fucking breathing, dude," Stiles tells him. He's right there, his palm sweaty and warm against the side of Derek's neck, making a worried face. Derek is pretty sure Stiles is getting blood all over his hand.

"Don't call me dude," he says, or means to say, but his voice cracks and it comes out a whisper. He sucks in another slow breath.

"Right," Stiles says. "No dude. Because that's what's important here. How long is this even going to keep going?" He takes his hand back, and Derek watches as Stiles flexes his bloody fingers with a distracted cast to his face and then wipes his hand on his shirt again.

"Is it cyclical? Or... it's not going to get worse, is it?"

Derek blinks, trying to clear his eyes, and focuses on his breathing. It's not like he knows the answer, but he's not going to waste his breath on saying so. At least the magic isn't stopping him from healing, even though it doesn't seem to be quite as fast as normal; he can feel the itch all around his head where the bolts are keeping his skin from closing.

Stiles breathes out a frustrated sigh and paces out of Derek's line of vision.

Derek must make some kind of sound, because Stiles rushes back, presses close, his eyes wide, and the pressure that had just been threatening to take Derek over again recedes.

"Is this better? Is it me? It is!" Stiles slaps his palm over Derek's heart before pumping his fist in victory, making sure to stay pressed up against Derek.

Derek grunts. The scent of Stiles' triumph and relief through his fear is strong enough that he can feel it on his tongue.

"It's better, right?" Stiles says. "Like this? You can breathe, and it doesn't hurt as much?" He tucks his forehead under Derek's chin.

"I'm fine," Derek says, swallowing.

"Yeah, right, fine," Stiles says, "doing so great with this magic thing we did not research enough. At all." He exhales sharply against Derek's throat. "But hey, at least you're breathing. Super fine," he mumbles, and Derek can feel Stiles' short breaths get faster. He listens as he struggles to get his hyperventilation under control, trying not to let Stiles' shivering into his body affect his breathing. It's getting easier the longer Stiles stays right there, safe against Derek's body.

Stiles eventually calms down, but that doesn't mean he settles. He takes care to keep his body pressed against Derek's, but as usual, he can't keep still.

"Do you think I have to stay here all night?" he asks. "You're getting better."

Derek is getting better. He still hurts, but it's fine, it's bearable, and he can breathe almost normally. "The moon won't be this powerful for long. Things should be easier in a couple hours." At least he thinks so.

"But..." Stiles shifts against him, his hip digging into Derek's thigh. "But why me? Why am I suddenly, I don't know, calming the savage beast?"

"No idea," Derek says, and he's glad Stiles can't detect lies, because he has some suspicions. Some things he needs to think about. Like why Stiles' presence is so different than anyone else's to him, his scent so... comforting. Why he doesn't feel threatened at all having Stiles' face shoved against his throat when he can't move.

"Hey, am I magic?" Stiles asks. "I've done magic, it worked for me. Did it work because I'm magic?"

"I'm pretty sure you're not magic, Stiles," Derek says. "I haven't seen any magical beings who look like you."

"Oh. Right, yeah, of course." Stiles turns his head so his cheek leans on Derek's shoulder. He doesn't lean his body away, but Derek can feel him straightening, not putting as much weight on Derek as before.

"It's not..." Derek rolls his eyes. "Stop interpreting everything I say as an insult."

"Uh, since when are you not insulting me? Isn't insult, threat and violence your factory setting?"

"Just shut up." Derek sighs.

"There we go, much better," Stiles says, ignoring him. He sounds almost happy, as if Derek telling him to shut up is comforting. Maybe it is at that, to Stiles.

"Be glad it's just a few hours. It could have been something permanent instead of a one-time revenge."

"Oh, you mean be glad I don't have to stay in full-body contact with you every night?" Stiles laughs softly, leaning his forehead against the side of Derek's throat again. "I could do without the panic and driving bolts into your head with a rusty wrench, but uh, that doesn't exactly sound like a fate worse than death. Not that I was insinuating that you'd want anything like that, because, have you seen you, and... yeah." He sighs and falls silent.

Derek is silent too. He thinks about the way Stiles makes fun of himself, even when no one else is doing it. It's protection, of course, because Stiles doesn't feel he has much else to use. He's said as much before. What he has also said, no matter what he often smells like when Derek is around, is how utterly perfect Lydia Martin is.

"Just try and keep still for a couple hours, and then you can take the head thing off, okay?" he says, because he's not opening that can of worms.

Stiles sighs again, his breath tickling under Derek's chin. "You don't have to pee, do you?" he says. "Because I'm not staying for that."

Derek really wants to tell him to shut up again, but there's really no way to actually get Stiles to shut up without knocking him out.

"I think there's a bottle over there," Stiles says, twisting around to peer into the corner of the room.

Derek breathes in, and breathes out, closing his eyes. It's going to be a long few hours.

 

***

 

Dawn is almost there by the time they can finally leave. Derek would very much like to sleep.

"So... exciting adventures," Stiles says, stretching and yawning in the chilly pre-dawn air. "Insulted psychotic witches, vengeful magic, prevention of grievous bodily harm!"

Derek stares at him. "You know I would have killed you, don't you? If it hadn't worked?"

Stiles smiles a sunny smile. "But you didn't! Because I'm just great like that. Besides, you kind of looked like you were dying too, there, before we figured out I am your very own personal snuggle bunny healer." He looks disgustingly pleased with himself for someone who so regularly gets so close to dying.

"You need to change your clothes," Derek tells him. The Sheriff doesn't need to see his son come home with blood all over him.

"Or, is it maybe not personal? Do you think I can do this with Scott? If I snuggle with him, will it keep him from being hurt by magic too? We used to sleep in the same bed all the time when we were kids you know."

"It..." Derek has to stop himself from growling. He doesn't really like that image. "Don't go trying it," he says. "It won't work." He'd be surprised if it did. And angry. Disappointed. The feelings welling up inside him are too strong.

He starts walking. His car is parked a few blocks from here.

Stiles lags behind for a few moments, and then lopes up to his side. "You just don't want me to be magic," he says. "It might work! If I believe it!"

Derek stops and turns around. "Look, what happened isn't magic. It doesn't have anything to do with magic, so just get that out of your mind."

Stiles raises his eyebrows. "Uhh, one, a witch, which is magical by definition." He starts counting on his fingers. "Two, magical potion - by the way, let's avoid contact with any and all witches in the future, and especially the ones who are easily insulted, because there is no way either of us could have seen or smelled that potion, and how did she get it in your beer? Three, enchanted iron bonds, which I am pretty sure would not have worked if we hadn't believed in them. That's plenty of magic right there."

"But you stopping me from dying isn't. It's not something you do by believing. It's something you are." Derek stops himself and starts walking again.

"Something I am," Stiles repeats, walking next to him, close enough to touch. "Then what am I?"

Derek keeps silent. It's better than telling Stiles something he's not even entirely sure of.

"Hey!" Stiles says, grabbing at Derek's arm.

Derek catches his wrist in his hand and stops, jerking them both to a halt. Stiles stumbles, but doesn't fall, and he doesn't try to pull his wrist out of Derek's hold. Instead he looks Derek in the eyes.

"What am I, then?" he asks again, softer.

Derek looks at Stiles. He's a little apprehensive, but not afraid. He smells of Derek, of frustration, and all the things that all teenage boys smell of. There's more, though. Stiles smells open, looks open, in a way that has been growing stronger for weeks now. Every time Derek sees him, Stiles seems more... attracted. Attractive. It's not the way other people are attracted; it's like a low humming between them, soft and seductive, growing stronger the more they touch.

Derek lets Stiles go.

"You need to sleep. I'll drive you home." The car is right there, and Derek gets his keys out.

"You can't just..." Stiles makes a frustrated noise, waving his hand in the air. "What is that? It's something. Tell me what it is."

Derek gets into the driver's seat, reaches across and unlocks the passenger side door, pushes it open.

"Right, because apparently I forgot who I was talking to," Stiles continues. "Derek Hale: can only share so much information before complete shut down."

"Get in the car," Derek says.

Stiles bends down and peers into the car. "Seriously?" he says. "Robot Werewolf - The Return?"

Derek drums his fingers on the steering wheel. The sky is getting lighter. "Get in the car," he repeats.

Stiles narrows his eyes at him for a moment, his face hesitating between expressions. He settles on a slow grin. Then he gets in the car.