The call wakes Stiles up at quarter after one. He groans, batting uselessly at the high shriek of his phone, and only manages to knock it off his night table. Sighing, he blinks blearily at the far wall before groping at the floor, fingers sleep clumsy and numb. He almost falls out of bed for his troubles.
He flips open the phone and buries his face in his pillow. He’s almost certain he said hello. But at the same time, probably not. “’lo?”
“Stiles! I thought you weren’t going to answer; alphas attacked the pack and I need to get them to safety and I need your help, Stiles, hurry!” Scott says frantic. Stiles blinks the sleep from his mind, scrambling up and off the bed. Scott keeps talking, “They got Boyd pretty bad, and we’re just keeping out of sight but I don’t know for how long. I really need a getaway car right about now.”
“Okay, okay, I’m on my way, give me a location.” He grabs his jeans, yanking them on one handed. He slips on his red hoodie, memorizing the address Scott rattles off and then they disconnect. Stiles grabs his keys and bolts out of his room. He stalls on the stairs, turning around again, and looking at the nondescript bat Deaton helped him make, propped up beside his computer desk.
Better safe than sorry.
He grabs the bat and rushes down the stairs, locking the door behind him as he makes his way to his jeep. His phone gives him the directions he needs as he gets in, praying that this time Betty won’t fail him. She purrs to life and he breathes out in relief, throwing the jeep into reverse and peeling out of the drive way. It’s only because he’s used to noting it, but his father’s cruiser isn’t in its usual spot.
He drives as fast as he can, taking as many wild shortcuts as his phone can give him, and when he gets to the overpass, traffic quiet above him, his lights cut across Derek’s black Camaro. He parks and jumps out, bat in hand. The streetlights create a dim halo of light, muffling the darkness into muted greys. Stiles taps the bat against his knee, terror a constant burn in the back of his throat.
Scott peers out from behind the side of a dumpster. “Stiles?”
“Oh, thank god, I thought you might’ve died already,” Stiles says, running toward him. Scott stands to greet him, grinning wearily, and Stiles gets his first look at the rest of the pack. Isaac is holding Boyd up, pressing his jacket against the worst of the claw marks, and Erica is huddled against Jackson in confusion. Boyd is whimpering, low in his throat, batting useless as Isaac presses harder on the wounds. He isn’t healing, his chest gaping and raw, and Stiles clenches the bat.
Stiles kneels down beside Boyd, passing a hand over his forehead. He feels like fire, ember low and out of control. “What happened?”
“We were patrolling, Jackson and I, like Derek asked, when we were ambushed. Boyd, Erica, and Isaac heard my howl and came running, but one of the alpha’s caught Boyd across the chest. We were sure he was dead. We retreated, keeping them off just barely, and Derek showed up. He distracted the alphas into following him instead and now here we are,” Scott explains.
“And where’s Derek now?” Stiles asks. He climbs to his feet, fingers tight around the bat.
“I don’t know. He bolted that way with the alphas on his tail.” Scott gestures down to where the overpass disappears into darkness. His face contorts into unhappy worry. “He seemed okay when he was leading them off, but there were five of them, Stiles. I don’t know if he’s going to survive.”
“Okay,” Stiles says. “Okay, okay, we need a plan. Did Derek throw you his keys?” At Scott’s nod, Stiles continues, “Take the pack to a safe place, where they can heal. Call Deaton. He can treat Boyd and give you some extra protection with the mountain ash. Just get them out of here.”
Stiles makes his way back to the jeep, his throat dry. Scott trails after him, a curious whine catching in his throat. Stiles clambers into his jeep, sitting for a moment to gather his wits. Scott blinks at him, eyes feral gold.
“What about you? Aren’t you coming with us?”
“I’m not letting Derek die,” Stiles says. He jams the keys into the ignition, his throat so tight he can hardly swallow. He smiles for Scott. “This is becoming a habit.”
“Just be careful,” Scott says, brown bleeding into the gold. Stiles nods. “I’ll call you after I get them settled. Allison says her house is best.” Scott looks away before taking a breath. He locks eyes with Stiles, imploring. “Don’t do anything stupid.”
“You know me,” Stiles says, and guns the gas. The jeep lurches forward and Scott and the pack disappear in his rear view mirror. The bat sits innocuous beside him. He grips the steering wheel and breathes out. He can do this.
Driving far enough down the expansive overpass, he wrenches the wheel to the side; he cuts the gas and jumps out. Gathering up the bat, he flicks up his hood and starts walking, listening for any signs. A whimper, a small yip of pain, and Stiles starts running. He gets around the side of a beam and there they are, all five of them, wolfed out and snarling, eyes bleeding red in the darkness. They’re surrounding a large black wolf, blood pooled under its paws. Stiles moves fast, knowing he has a very limited window to catch them by surprise.
One of the wolves has limped back and away, claw marks over its blonde muzzle. Its pelt is covered in bites, scarlet and leaking, and it keeps pawing at its nose in annoyance. It hasn’t sensed him yet, preoccupied with the battle, and Stiles takes the opportunity. He steps up beside it, readies his stance, and swings.
The bat connects with an audible crack and the wolf yelps, squeals in agony as it jumps away from Stiles. Smoke curls up from its fur and it howls, pain and fear sending it skirting back into a pillar. Stiles keeps moving, catching a second wolf as it jerks back to look at its companion, taking out its foreleg with a crunch and dodging away from the flash of claws. The other wolves are taking notice, backing off as their two companions go down screaming, skin smoking from where the bat connected.
Stiles backpedals when the largest wolf, a grey with silver markings along the pelt, darts toward him. He calms the clamour of his mind. One thought. Belief. Believe it will happen and it will. You can’t touch me.
The bat sings through the air as it smacks the wolf across the muzzle, sending it sailing back and away, howling in blind agony. Smoke sizzles up from its fur as it fights to get its paws over its eyes. And then the wolf looks up, catches Stiles gaze with manic red, and the fur peels back. A woman hunches over in its space, her skin crackling from the bat’s impact. Her nose is broken, blood streaming down over her mouth. It makes her teeth red when she bares them at him, elongated and sharp, and Stiles thinks, You can’t touch me. He holds the bat up, fingers flexing over the wrappings, pale wood gleaming in the streetlights.
“Come on,” he taunts; thinks, You can’t touch me. “I’m sure you can smell me. Not an ounce of supernatural in me. I’m just a little human with a bat. Come on.”
A snarl warns him and the bat hisses through the air, catching the attacking wolf with an angry snap, sending it careening into the only untouched wolf. It claws at its face as it smokes. It curls in on itself as the fur peels back and a man lies panting on the ground, hands desperate on the skin of his cheek. Stiles turns back to the woman. She’s standing now. Her stance is aggressive but wary. Stiles breathes through his nose.
“You can’t touch me,” he says.
There’s a desperate whine behind him and Stiles steps back, slow, easy movements. The alphas are regaining their senses, shaking off the impact of the bat’s poison. Stiles keeps walking until he bumps into warm fur. Derek noses at his side, mouth hanging open as he pants.
“Derek,” Stiles says. The other werewolves have joined the woman, crowding around her as she stalks toward Stiles. The shift is immediate, her body elongating and snapping out as she changes. She’s massive, still smoking from her face, but she advances on Stiles with purpose. “Derek, what do we do?”
Derek grabs his hoodie with his teeth, tugging him backwards. Stiles lets him, keeping the bat in front. The other werewolves have shifted as well, sleek forms darting around to surround them. Stiles grits his teeth. The female wolf is closest, her roar so loud it drowns out the semi passing overhead. Stiles thinks, desperately, You can’t touch me.
She jumps at him and Derek snarls, but Stiles is faster. He ducks and swings up, catching her in the side, bat sinking into her soft underbelly. She gurgles as she falls, changing as she rolls, and the other wolves whine in sympathy, in confusion. The woman coughs, arms around her middle as it smokes. She glares at Stiles from the ground.
“You’re going to let a human fight your battles for you?” she grits out. Derek growls low at her, pressed tight against Stiles’ side. She laughs. “Little red and the big bad wolf. How quant. You can’t protect him the entire time.”
Stiles is unsure if that’s directed at him or Derek but it’s a threat nonetheless. “I think you’ll find I can. You’re being beaten by this human. How does it feel? Humiliated yet?”
She glares and hunches over, but the shift is slower this time, looks more painful. Stiles stands and readies the bat; readies his belief. But she doesn’t attack. She backs off, barking once at her companions. They bleed shadows as they move, snapping jaws at Stiles and Derek as they pass, but none of them charge in for the attack. The female wolf bares her teeth one last time and turns tail, limping as she retreats. Stiles shakes out a breath.
“Holy shit,” Stiles says. The air clouds around his words. He just beat back five alphas. Stiles feels very much like fainting is in his near future. “Oh my god.”
The warmth leaves his side, Derek limping a few steps away. There’s a low rumble as he shifts back, skin blossoming up as the fur retreats, his bones snapping as they reshape. It looks agonizing. His back is a myriad of claw and bite marks, and one arm has a heavy gash down the outside. Stiles drops to his knees beside him, hand hovering over the worst of it.
“What do I do?”
“Nothing,” Derek grits out. He curls in on himself, panting. “You do nothing. Why are you even here?”
“Because saving your ass is my new favourite hobby,” Stiles says. He finally presses a hand against Derek’s unmarked shoulder. “My jeep is close by, come on.”
“They’ll follow,” Derek says, but he lets Stiles help him up. “You declared yourself part of the pack. They’ll come after you now.”
“As if the whole ‘bat carved specifically to ward off werewolves’ wasn’t clue enough. Can you walk?” Stiles asks. Derek seems to sway for a moment before he nods, taking careful steps, following in Stiles’ wake. Stiles doesn’t let his guard down. The bat is warm in his hands, pulsing with magic. The adrenaline hums through him and he feels insanely like laughing. He bites down on his lip as they make their way to where Stiles has parked his jeep.
Derek suddenly stops walking. “Stiles.”
Stiles steps back, bat up. Derek growls, a warning and a threat at the same time. He’s close enough to Stiles that he can feel the puff of angered air against his ear. Stiles catches the bright glow of red eyes watching them and calls, “It’s against the law to loiter!”
The red eyes blink, slow, and then disappear. Stiles sags. His adrenaline can only last so long. Derek sighs out behind him and Stiles starts walking again, his heart hammering desperately against his chest. His jeep looks unharmed and thank god, because he can’t afford to put her in the shop again. Derek leans against the passenger side as Stiles wrestles open the door and helps him inside. His skin is fever hot and the wounds don’t look to be healing. Stiles pinches the bridge of his nose and goes around to the other side.
His phone beeps as he gets in and he locks the doors before checking the message. It’s Scott. “got the pack safe. please don’t be dead.”
He types back, “I am badass, dude, you have no idea. Talk to you soon.”
Propping the bat up beside him, he starts the car. Derek closes his eyes and lets his head fall back, still sucking in painful breaths, and Stiles drives like the speed limit doesn’t exist. The wounds are slowly healing, he can see the shallowest of them starting to stitch closed, but the bigger ones still leak blood. It says something about his mental state at the moment that he’s not scolding Derek for bleeding on his seats. Again.
“Your bat,” Derek says, suddenly. Stiles glances at him. “What is it? I’ve never seen someone deter a pack of werewolves with a bat.”
“Would you have preferred I made an axe?” Stiles grins, giddy adrenaline tunneling his vision. “Deaton helped me make it. It’s carved from mountain ash. I soaked it in a concentrated solution of monkshood for three days before carving it out. Every smack doses the werewolf with a healthy amount of monkshood. It won’t kill, but it will smoke. It’ll keep them away from me while I wait for backup.”
“That’s – that’s new.”
Stiles laughs. “Don’t hurt yourself with the compliments there. It’s ingenious is what it is. We put in an iron core rubbed down with salt as an extra precaution. It was a chore and a half but, seeing as it successfully sent a pack of alphas scurrying, I would call it a success.”
And it’s like all the air is sucked out of the vehicle, Stiles’ chest tight with panic, and he jerks the wheel to the side. His foot slams on the brake as he ducks his head, sucking in great gulps of air as he starts hyperventilating. It doesn’t help that he can still smell smoking fur and coppery blood; he breathes through his mouth to rid himself of the smell and it just makes him nauseous.
“Oh my god,” he wheezes, eyes squeezing shut. He can hear Derek beside him, breath sharp and pained, and it doesn’t make it easier.
“At least you didn’t die,” Derek says. Stiles sucks in a laugh, the tightness in his chest easing up enough for him to sit up straight. He stares out the windshield, every exhale rattling through his teeth like loose change, and when his vision clears of blotchy grey spots, he slumps forward.
“You suck at the cheering up aspect of this friendship. I beat back a pack of alphas. I need about a gallon of ice cream and romantic comedies. I don’t even care. I deserve it,” Stiles says.
Derek huffs. “I’d prefer the not dying bit first, myself, but I’m sure that can be arranged.”
“Don’t you joke at me; my fragile mind can’t handle that right now.” Stiles eases his foot off the brake, his jeep creaking as she moves back out onto the road. “You are the worst hobby ever.”
That startles a laugh out of Derek, which turns into a groan of pain. “I am no one’s hobby.”
“No, you aren’t a very good hobby; there would be some payout if you were. Like arts and crafts. Instead, you get blood on my seats.” The road is a ribbon of darkness, cut open by the slice of the jeep’s lights. Stiles tries not to search for red in the gloom. “I’m pretty sure I’m five seconds from fainting, just warning you, so if we careen out of control, at least know I tried.”
“Your car is already a metal death trap; my being in it is a miracle in itself. And I’m sure I’d survive if you drove us into a tree,” Derek says. “Where are we going?”
“Allison’s. Her dad has put up the pack for the night, and the alphas will think twice before going up against an angry Argent. Which Allison can be. And her dad. Mustn’t forget her dad,” Stiles says. Derek sighs but doesn’t complain, which actually freaks out Stiles more than the laughter. “You could at least growl at me for dragging you toward hunters. Otherwise it’s just no fun.”
Derek doesn’t answer and Stiles risks a look. His eyes are closed, forehead pressed against the window, and Stiles has another moment of panic. He grabs Derek’s uninjured shoulder, shaking him. “Hey, don’t fall asleep, I’m pretty sure if you fall asleep you won’t wake up, and I did not go through hell just so you can die in my car.”
Derek rumbles out, “Shut up, Stiles, or I’ll tear your throat out with my teeth.”
Stiles can’t help the laugh and the soft smile Derek directs at him is bonus incentive to press down a bit harder on the gas, grinning as they thunder toward Allison’s. They make it there with no fuss, Stiles’ cheerful disposition slowly replaced by the twitchy fear that makes his limps feel impaled by needles. He sits in the driver’s seat after he parks behind Derek’s Camaro, hands tight on the wheel, staring blankly out at the brightly lit front door proclaiming safety. Derek rumbles out in confusion and Stiles blinks, bringing himself back. He hops out of the jeep just as the front door opens. Allison comes rushing out, crossbow in hand.
She catches him in a hug, arms squeezing tight around his neck, and he spends precious seconds completely frozen. And then higher brain function kicks in and he wraps his arms around her waist, ducking his face into her hair. He’s shaking, high on the adrenaline kick, terrified with his mind whirring around ways this all could’ve gone so very wrong. Allison holds him until he releases her, and then she helps him get Derek out of his jeep.
“Quick question,” Allison says. Stiles looks at her, supporting most of Derek’s weight with a shoulder. “Why is he naked?”
Stiles blinks, before he slaps a hand over his eyes. “Oh, dude, you were naked in my jeep.”
“I know everyone thinks full blown werewolves run around in torn off shorts, but the reality is oh so very different,” Derek deadpans. “I took my clothes off before I changed. Besides, I was bleeding in your jeep, Stiles. Priorities.” Stiles can hear the laughter in his voice.
“There was naked werewolf ass on my seats. I don’t think I’ll ever recover from this,” Stiles says.
“And yet,” Derek shoots back and Stiles muffles his grin with an incredibly unsuccessful glare.
They start a slow shuffle toward the door as Allison runs ahead, yelling back a simple “I’ll get him a towel!” before disappearing into the house. Derek’s breathing is laboured, his eyes drooping with every stumbled step up the drive, and Stiles has to grab him around the waist before he drags them both down.
“You didn’t die in my jeep, you can make it to the front door,” Stiles says. “Walking is easy, see? One foot in front of the other. Come on, sourwolf, you held off alphas, you can make it to a door.”
“If I could, I would threaten you right now,” Derek says.
“If you did I would ignore you. You’re not as scary as your stalking tendencies make you out to be.” Stiles shifts his hold, fingers skating over one of Derek’s cuts. They both wince, Stiles readjusting his hold and Derek sucking in sharp breaths until the red in his eyes bleeds away. Allison runs back out with a towel.
“Well, this will be awkward for about five seconds, but don’t move. Dad has enough issues with a pack of werewolves taking cover in our house; I don’t think being naked will gain you any points.” Allison steps up beside Derek, slinging the towel around his waist and tucking it neat into the dip of his hip.
“But he’s just so pretty to look at,” Stiles says, dragging Derek forward. “Just look at all these cuts. An absolute masterpiece.”
“I may be weak but I can still bite you, Stiles,” Derek says. Stiles taps his hip.
“Kinky. Come on, almost there. Allison, do you have a place where we can clean him up?” Stiles asks. Allison nods and holds open the door as Stiles leads Derek in. Chris Argent is standing in the foyer, arms crossed and eyebrows furrowed. When he sees Derek, he doesn’t let up.
“Trouble in paradise?”
Derek bares his teeth at him and Chris rolls his eyes. Stiles holds up a hand. “As much as I want to watch you two tear each other apart with your words, Derek is leaking blood all over me and I’m uncomfortable with that. But save those barbed little phrases because I’m sure they’re lethal.”
Chris glares at him but Stiles is so beyond caring at the moment that he can’t even begin to address the panic locked inside his head. He just tugs Derek past Chris, following Allison down the hall and into the guest bedroom.
The pack is all cluttered up on the large bed, Boyd in the middle and the rest of them curled haphazardly around him. Erica has her face ducked into his neck while Jackson’s head rests on his stomach, eyes to the ceiling. Isaac is tucked against his side, chin on his shoulder and staring avidly at the rise and fall of his chest. Scott sits pressed up beside Isaac, thigh along his back. Boyd’s chest is wrapped, thick gauze peeking out of his shirt. He’s asleep.
Scott stands when they stumble in. Stiles waves him away as he drags Derek toward the bathroom. He knows the moment he stops, the moment he lets Scott drag him away to talk, he’ll lose it. He’ll just up and lose it all, screaming, crying; hell, he might even fall into the warm pile of bodies trapped around Boyd because he’s running on instinct here and even that is almost at the end of its rope. Stiles sits Derek down on the closed toilet seat, turning to rummage through the cupboard.
“Hey, Scott!” Stiles calls. Scott appears in the doorway, nervously fidgeting from foot to foot. “In the trunk of my jeep is a large silver case. Can you grab it and bring it in? Oh, and duck into Derek’s car and grab his clothes.” Stiles looks at Derek for confirmation and he nods. “Yeah, his clothes should be in there. Did Deaton stop by?”
“Yes,” Allison says as Scott disappears to go grab supplies. “But he had to leave in a hurry after he patched Boyd up. Something about his sister calling and him facing the biggest lecture of his life.”
“He was wearing a distressing amount of leather,” Erica says, voice muffled. “People that old shouldn’t wear leather.”
“Nobody should wear leather, but look at the entire wolf pack, all up for killing cows and making horrible fashion choices.” Stiles plucks the Tylenol from the inside of the cabinet, turning the bottle over and studying the label. “How well do drugs work on werewolves?”
Derek doesn’t say anything, leaning heavy against the porcelain side, smearing it with red. Stiles closes an eye and leans forward, pressing his fingers against the side of Derek’s neck. His pulse is still strong. And then Stiles is trying to jerk back, Derek’s fingers caught tight around his wrist as his eyes flash a distressed red. Stiles wets his lips as Derek stares at him, fever blushed and unfamiliar.
“Derek? It’s me. Let me go.” Stiles tugs on his wrist and Derek growls, teeth elongating and Stiles has had enough. “No, you know what, not dealing with this right now. It’s two in the morning. I just beat off a pack of alphas with a bat I was only fifty percent certain would actually work. I let you ride nude and bleeding in my jeep. And now I have to swallow down panic attack after panic attack because hey! Guess what! Those alphas now have my scent and probably want to tear me and my fa-family apart. The fact that you’re half out of your mind because of reasons is so not on my list of things I want to worry about right now that I’m physically angry with you. I’m not afraid of the big bad wolf.”
And he flicks Derek on the nose.
Snorting, Derek jerks back, blinking the red from his eyes. The fingers around his wrist release him like he’s a flickering ember and Derek hunches backwards, obviously embarrassed, and Stiles sighs. “I know you’re freaking out. I would be too. Actually, I am, I am so beyond freaking out that I think I’ve hit that level of calm that precludes the biggest panic attack of my life. I need to clean your wounds. Once that’s done, you can be all broody unhappy wolf that you want, but I need you to trust me on this. Okay?”
He holds up his hands, his fingers twitching uncertain around the acetaminophin bottle, and Derek breathes out through his mouth. “I didn’t –”
“Well, I did,” Stiles says. He gestures for Derek to turn around. “Turn. I need to start with your back. How do prescription drugs work on you? Do you take like twenty and it has the same effect?”
“We can’t use painkillers that are manufactured,” Derek explains, his words slurred around the edges. Stiles steadies him when he tries to turn, his hands slipping off the toilet seat. “We just heal.”
“You’re not healing all that well right now,” Stiles needlessly points out. Derek’s back is a mess of claw and bite marks. He can see a peek of white against his spine and swallows against the bile clinging to the back of his throat. Focus. “Does it have something to do with them being alphas?”
“They’re stronger. When an alpha wounds, the wound is meant to teach a lesson,” Derek says. He tips forward and Stiles carefully hauls him back, pressing a steadying hand against his neck. He rubs two fingers over Derek’s pulse, rabbit fast and frantic. Derek reaches up and touches his hand. “I don’t think you’ll be able to help me.”
“Bullshit. I’ve come this far, no point in quitting now. Besides, you? Hobby. Scott!” Stiles yells. There’s a bang down the way, someone obviously ignoring the rules of doors, and Scott skids into view. Stiles nods at the sink. “Open it up. And then go hang out with the pack. This might take a while.”
“Are you sure –”
Derek’s fingers tighten over Stiles’ and he nods. “Yes. Go.”
Propping the case up against the sink, Scott opens it and skitters back, fingers nervous on the door. Stiles smiles weakly at him. “He’ll be fine.”
“Okay,” Scott returns. He eases the door closed and Stiles closes his eyes.
“You’ll be okay if I let you go?” Stiles asks. Derek makes a low noise in his throat, one of confusion and pain, but he doesn’t say anything. Stiles strokes a line down his throat with his thumb. His next sentence isn’t a question. “You’ll be okay when I let go.”
He releases Derek and turns to the sink, trusting the wolf to keep himself up. Little bottles and gauze and random tools litter the inside of the case, ready for his use. He goes hunting through the packages, picking out the medicinal herbs that Deaton had explained worked best. Compiling them together in a collapsible bowl, he yanks out the gauze and fills another bowl with warm water. He finds the face cloths under the sink and stands up, rearranging all of his tools on the top of the toilet. Pushing up his sleeves, he blinks twice to refocus.
“Here we go.”
The first touch of the cloth against Derek’s back makes him whimper. The second swipe makes him out and out cringe, arching away from the rough scrape. Stiles steps forward, curling his fingers against Derek’s neck again in hopes that it will calm him. Derek breathes out sharp, little gasping breaths filled with pain, and Stiles’ hands shake. He doesn’t realize he’s whispering “I’m sorry” over and over until Derek shakes his head.
“It’s fine, it’s fine, keep going,” Derek grits out in response. Stiles closes his eyes before turning and dipping the cloth in the water again.
He tries to ignore the whimpers and cries that escape Derek unwarranted. He has to empty the bowl five times before he gets to every cut along Derek’s back, trying to gentle his touch as much as possible. He’s shaking so bad that by the time he’s done, his chest is tight with panic and he can barely lift the bowl with the mixture. He doesn’t want to do this. He has to do this.
“I’m sorry,” Stiles says again, scooping up the mixture and carefully applying it to the largest claw mark along Derek’s spine.
The howl rips through Stiles, sends him skittering back in fear as fur bursts from Derek’s skin, eager to cover and protect. The door bangs open in confusion and Stiles slams it shut without thought, trying to swallow past the terror building up in his throat. Derek’s shift completes and he falls off the toilet seat, staggering against the wall with a pathetic whine. There are voices calling his name but he just flicks the lock, thinking absently, Don’t come in here. He steps away from the door and toward Derek.
“Hey,” he says, his voice an octave higher. Derek looks up at him, eyes bleeding red, and Stiles tries to smile. “Hey, it’s me, remember? Don’t make me flick your nose again. I just got all those wounds clean!”
Derek blinks flashing red eyes at him and staggers forward, pressing his nose against Stiles’ stomach and curling his body against his side. Stiles’ hands fall to his scruff, smoothing down the black fur that sticks up in bloody tufts. His fur is rough and warm, but underneath it all he’s shaking as bad as Stiles. Stiles carefully falls to his knees, not letting go of Derek. Derek blinks at him again, mouth lolling open as he pants, and Stiles sees his tail wag, just a quick motion. His smile is more genuine this time.
“I don’t know how good this potion I just made up will work on a full out alpha,” Stiles says. He knows from his research that looking a wolf in the eye is a challenge, but Derek doesn’t seem to mind. He leans forward and noses at Stiles’ cheek, that rumble eager in his chest. Stiles passes careful fingers through his fur. “I need you to change back, okay? Or at least halfway. I can’t do my awesome voodoo with you covered in fur.”
Another rumble and Derek steps back, shaking off Stiles’ fingers. The change looks painful and ends with Derek sitting hunched in on himself, the fur rippling over his skin before disappearing completely. Stiles pointedly covers his eyes with his hands. Derek snorts out a laugh.
“It didn’t feel nice,” Derek explains. “Whatever poultice you put on me. I reacted poorly to the shock.”
Stiles doesn’t remove his hands and he hears Derek sigh before there’s a distinct sound of a towel being draped over a very human lap. Derek says, “You’re very strange.”
“And you are still very naked.” Stiles removes his hand and grins at Derek, tapping down the worry. “Can I go about healing you again? Or am I going to have to figure out how to get medicine on a fully transformed alpha?”
“I’ll keep it under wraps,” Derek says. His words are stronger now, like he’s healing, and Stiles stands. “You surprised me, is all.”
The door rattles and Stiles jumps, hand over his heart. Erica’s voice barks through, “Don’t you dare close us out again, Stilinski. I will kill you. Slowly. And you will not enjoy it.”
“Erica,” Derek calls. She snarls through the door, slamming her fist against it, but she retreats. Stiles toys with the edge of his sleeves. Derek catches and holds his gaze. “It won’t happen again.”
“I don’t know,” Stiles says, moving to scoop up the fallen bowl. “I like full out wolfed you. You’re very cuddly.”
Derek rolls his eyes as he turns his back on Stiles, silently asking him to continue, and Stiles closes an eye, willing himself forward. He hesitates over Derek’s shoulder, where an angry bite mark still leaks tendrils of blood, and goes for broke. Derek bows forward at the touch of his fingers but the fur doesn’t come out. Stiles moves quickly, fingers light but firm, and the only time he retreats is when Derek tells him to. The fur ripples, catches against the poultice he’s already smeared, but doesn’t take over. The half transformation is familiar, and soon even that is receding. Stiles itches to press his fingers against Derek’s pulse, to keep him grounded and force his attention from the pain. He clutches the bowl.
“I just need to get the last bit over your tattoo,” Stiles says. Derek nods, a short jerk of his head, and Stiles liberally applies the mixture over his skin. When he’s done, he goes about grabbing different liquids, mixing together a tincture to help numb the pain. And hopefully knock Derek out in the process so he can goddamn heal. Derek has turned around when Stiles finishes. His chest isn’t as bad off, most of the wounds healed, and the only bleeding gash on his leg is over his knee. Stiles gets that one covered before Derek can protest.
“Okay, drink this, drink it all, and then I’ll wrap you up like a mummy,” Stiles says. Derek takes the tincture and swallows it down, handing him back the empty cup with an eyebrow raise. Stiles tugs out the gauze and gestures, Derek lifting his arms out to the sides so Stiles can start wrapping. His movements feel mechanical, like he’s running on a very small part of himself that recognizes and applies the motions. He’s secretly screaming in his head.
At least he hopes it’s secretly.
When he’s done, making sure the wrappings are secure, Derek is fully leaned against him, face tucked up against his neck. He rumbles out, “What was in that drink?”
“It’s going to knock you out so you don’t go running off before your wounds heal,” Stiles says, trying to pull back. Derek’s hands flash out, catching his hoodie pocket and keeping him in place. “I know I commented on the cuddliness of your wolf side, but you don’t have to beat it in a ‘snuggle Stiles’ contest.”
The word is spoken softly, just a brief puff of air against the skin of his throat. Stiles freezes, hands hovering over Derek’s shoulders. Maybe he made the tincture a little too strong. Derek nuzzles against his pulse, the drag of his stubble making Stiles shiver, and repeats on a breath, “Stay.”
“We can’t cuddle in the bathroom,” Stiles says. He’s drugged Derek. Oh god. “Come on, let’s get you out to the pack and you can cuddle with them.”
“You’re pack,” Derek mutters and Stiles is so beyond a normal panic attack that his giggle sounds deranged.
“Cute. Come on, up.” It’s difficult getting a hold of Derek without either grabbing the bandages or incredibly warm skin, but he somehow manages it. Derek stays stubbornly pressed against his side, face never leaving his neck, and this is going to make movement ridiculous. He stumbles them toward the door, turning the lock, and eases the door open.
Everyone is cluttered outside, staring avidly as Stiles drags their alpha out into the open. Only Boyd, who is still fast asleep on the bed, makes no comment. Derek presses his face further into Stiles’ skin, whining low in his throat. Stiles swallows.
“We need to get him lying down. Preferably with the pack. Deaton says it will help him heal faster,” Stiles says. “Don’t let him up. Don’t let him move.”
Isaac steps forward, guiding Derek away from Stiles with far too much difficultly, and toward the bed. He falls facedown against the pillows, eyes shutting, and the pack immediately follows, mindful of the wrappings Stiles worked so hard to get on. The bed looks full. Too full. Stiles hears “Stay” in his head and has to turn away. He’s halfway out the door when Scott’s voice catches him. “Stiles?”
“I have to make a call,” Stiles says. He eases out the door and closes it behind him, fingers shaking against the knob. His throat is closing. But he can make it, he has to make it. He has to hear his father’s voice. He has to know that his decision hasn’t irreversibly ki – hurt his father. His hands grope clumsy around his pockets, almost dropping his phone as he walks toward the foyer. His chest is getting tighter. His vision is starting to tunnel. He lifts his thump to press the ‘2’ and he can’t force his hand to move.
The air suddenly becomes heavy, thick in a way that feels like syrup. Stiles heaves in great gulps of air but it’s not enough, he can’t get enough, and he sags against the foyer wall. He shoves his fingers against his mouth, instinct the only thing that keeps him from clawing at his chest, at his throat. He can’t breathe.
A voice says from eternity, “Your dad is safe. Deaton went to him and tells me nothing will happen on his watch.” Stiles can’t place it, thoughts distantly clouded. A touch, a motion; eyes. “Stiles?”
His fingers hurt. He can feel them curling against his mouth, angry hooked claws that catch against his bottom lip and it hurts. His breath rattles roughly against his teeth. There’s thunder in his head, a roar that promises lightning, and the little sparks of light clogging up his vision makes him scramble at the wall behind him. His feet are starting to go numb, a tingling sensation crawling up his legs like thorn bushes.
“Stiles! Stiles, look at me. This is a panic attack. I need you to focus on me, okay?”
The pain is radiating upwards, toward his heart, which is rabbit fast and agonizing. He can’t focus on anything, just the quick tunnel of his vision, and the fact that he can’t breathe. It’s a mantra, playing on loop inside his head. Can’t breathe, can’t breathe, oh god, dad please, can’t breathe, dad, dad, can’tbreathecan’tcan’tcan’t –
“Stiles.” The voice is so commanding, familiar in a way that should scream foreign, and he can just make out a face between flashes. “There you go. Come out of it. You’ve done so well. Stiles, listen to me, okay? Come out of it. You’re fine. You can breathe. You can breathe.”
The thundering localizes and he sags against the surface behind him until he can feel the floor under his collapsed legs. The face follows him down and there are more crowding around it, thick smears of colour on a canvas of white. “Stiles, I have a bag here, okay? We’re going to try this first. I need you to breathe into the bag, okay?”
Something gently touches his locked hand, carefully pulling it away from his mouth. Paper touches the corner of his lips and he grabs for it, clasps desperately at it as he breathes in and out. The bag has air. It’s not logical but he doesn’t care; the thought calms him, just a bit, gets him focused on forcing air in and out of his lungs. His jaw unclenches; his teeth start chattering in sharp, jerking motions that blister his tongue and shred the inside of his cheek.
“That’s it,” Chris says, fingers cradling his wrist. “You’ve got this. Breath in and out. You’re fine. You can breathe.”
“I n-need to c-call,” Stiles stutters, but the panic spirals up in a cloak of inevitability, choking him off. The bag only has so much air. Chris squeezes his wrist.
“I’ll call your dad for you, okay? We’ll get him on the phone and you can talk to him. I just need you to breathe first, okay? Stiles?”
“Okay,” Stiles says into the bag. Vertigo slaps him in the face and he moans, squeezing his eyes shut. It makes the darkness spin faster, but he’s too focused on breathing to allow his stomach any reign. His skin feels stretched thin over his bones; needles prick the delicate folds between his fingers and along the edges of his fingernails. His feet hurt, trapped in the confines of his shoes and unable to move. But he can breathe.
He keeps his eyes closed, losing himself in the calming sink of darkness, when he hears a soft whine. Blinking, he looks up at the myriad of faces behind Chris’ own. Scott is wringing his hands, eyes flashing between brown and gold, uncertainty written all over his face. Allison and Erica peer over Chris’ shoulder, and Isaac is glaring defiantly at Chris’ hand on his chest.
And then he sees Derek, hunched over beside Isaac, inching closer. The bandage over his arm is a bright pink and Stiles pulls the bag away. “I told you to not move.”
The words startle the pack. They try to squirm closer, around and over Chris, and he sighs. “Stop it. He isn’t out of it yet and having a bunch of overeager werewolves climbing on him won’t help.”
But Stiles is focused on the dilation of Derek’s eyes. “You’ll ruin all my hard work.”
“You were distressed,” Derek says stubbornly. “I couldn’t sleep when you were practically vibrating the house with your heartbeat.”
“Not my fault,” Stiles tries. His throat itches but the pins and needles feel of his hands and feet is retreating. “I warned you.”
Derek looks down at the floor and then meets Stiles gaze. “I didn’t realize.”
Stiles shakes his head, and once he does that, his entire body goes off, shivering in relief. He brings the bag up to his mouth again, taking deep, long breaths. Chris nods at him. “Allison, could you grab Stiles some water? We’ll get you lying down, Stiles. I take it this has happened before?”
Nodding, Stiles leans his head back against the wall. He takes the bag away. “Can you call my dad for me?”
Chris stands, slowly, but keeps his hand stretched out just in case. The concern makes him huff, but he’s grateful. Chris looks back at the group behind him. “Don’t all pounce on him at once. He’s had a rough night, just like the rest of you, but he doesn’t have the same healing factor. Give him space. Understood?”
The pack wriggles as a whole and Chris rolls his eyes, stepping around them on his way to the living room. Scott moves first, practically tackling Stiles as he hugs him around the middle, nose tucked against the dip in his hoodie. Stiles laughs, shakily, and adjusts his legs so Scott can rest comfortably against him. The others move slower and Allison returns with a glass of water.
“Can you stand?” Allison asks, handing him the water. He spills more than he drinks, but it feels good against the scratch of his throat.
“Not yet,” Stiles says. Chris returns with the phone, nudging Isaac out of the way with his foot. He hands it over to Stiles. “Hello?”
“Stiles? What’s wrong?”
Stiles closes his eyes, mouth a thin line as he holds back the sob of relief. His father sounds fine, if a bit frantic, but fine. “Hey, dad, yeah. I had a moment and needed to hear you.”
“Do you want me to come get you?”
“No, I think I’ll be all right. How late do you work?”
“Till seven. Chris tells me you’ll be spending the night there? I’ll grab you on the way home, how ‘bout?”
“Sounds good. Is Deaton there with you?”
“Oddly enough, yes. He offered to file some papers for me. There are – well, there are a lot of them. I’m not entirely certain why. But if it keeps me away from the paperwork, I’m not complaining.”
Stiles laughs and it sounds desperate. He swallows against the edge in his mouth. “Can you – can you do me a favour, when you’re off work? Can you make sure your safety is off on the way home? And if you see an animal, a big one, you unload the clip in it?”
His father pauses. Stiles can practically see him chewing around the words, but he doesn’t ask. “All right.” Stiles breathes out. “And Stiles? I’ll come get you immediately if you want me to.”
“I know, dad. Love you.”
“Love you, too.”
He disconnects the call but doesn’t open his eyes. The panic is waiting in the wings, a sharp fanged monster with long claws. Scott nudges against him, still close, and Stiles blinks. The pack is watching him. He hands the phone to Allison. “I think I’ll lie down now.”
Scott clings to him, even as he stumbles to his feet. Isaac and Erica are right there beside him, fingers catching against the drag of his hoodie, and it feels safe. Derek limps behind them, keeping up, and when they get back to the bedroom, Jackson sits up from where he was talking to a now awake Boyd.
“You okay, Stilinski?” Jackson asks, trying for indifference. Stiles can hear the worry, though. It settles something in his chest.
“Yeah. Just need to lie down.” He can’t shake Scott even if he tried, so he just falls right onto the bed, Scott and all. Scott grunts out a breath when Stiles lands on him, shuffling around until he’s sitting up, and Stiles stretches his arms under the pillow. The rest of the pack rearranges itself around him, Derek tucked against his side on his front, boxed in by Boyd, who’s leaning back against the headboard. Jackson hunches back down, head on Boyd’s stomach again. Erica nudges her way back in beside Boyd and Allison crawls up until she’s lying on top of Scott, face ducked against his chest. Isaac flops over both Scott and Allison to lie with his head on Stiles’ legs. It should be uncomfortable, the amount of warmth and bodies all piled onto the bed, but Stiles can feel the safety radiating from all of them. He clutches at the pillow.
“Your heartbeat is still fast,” Derek mutters. Stiles turns his head on the pillow, nose inches from Derek’s own. “Are you all right?”
“No,” Stiles says. “But I’ll get over it.”
Derek shifts, getting his arms under his pillow. He finds Stiles' hand and carefully threads their fingers together. Stiles huffs a laugh, rubbing his cheek against the pillow. Derek closes his eyes, but tightens his hold on Stiles as he breathes out.
The pack settles and Stiles watches Boyd fall away into sleep, hears Scott and Allison’s breathing even out; Jackson curls tighter against Boyd, eyes closed, and Erica falls asleep shortly after. Isaac shifts around until he’s wedged between Stiles and Scott, back warm against Stiles’ side. They breathe in as one, and out as one, Stiles the only one who’s off. He shifts his gaze to Derek, the soft settle of his face, and strokes a thumb over their clasped hands. Derek mutters, shifting closer, and Stiles touches their foreheads together.
They’ve made it through the night. Howls echo outside, catching against the trees like netting. Stiles closes his eyes. The pack is warm, safe; at least for one more day. And tomorrow, well, tomorrow they’ll fall into the spin and come out swinging.