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Catch Me If You Can

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Stiles flicks the highlighter cap with his tongue, eyes narrowing at the text held above him. The pack is fighting in the grass outside the house, giddy yelps and whining giggles catching against the wind. Stiles flips the page and drags his highlighter across more of the text, tapping against the cap with the tip of his tongue. He hears Erica go down hard, the air leaving her lungs in an exhale, and Scott attacks with his usual bumbling noise. Stiles frowns down at the next line. Wards?

“You’re not even pretending to be silent,” Derek says. Stiles scans through the text. “There’s no point in attacking an alpha if you’re going to try and wake up the forest in the meanwhile.”

Turning the page, Stiles reads the sideways text, an idea forming in his head. Scott says, “Well, if you weren’t so impossible to sneak up on, then maybe it would work!”

“Distract him with Erica and Isaac, use Boyd to take out his legs, and both you and Jackson pin him,” Stiles says. The pack goes silent but Stiles is already lost in his own thoughts, twisting and picking at the idea until it blooms under his attention. The ward would require just a simple belief, much like the mountain ash. If the markings were carved into wood – he sits up and drags his highlighter over the rest of the text, tapping out a rhythm on the side of the page. He looks up when he realizes the pack isn’t making its usual grunts and moans.

“You okay?” he asks around the highlighter cap. Derek makes a face at him. He returns it.

“Would that work?” Erica asks. Stiles blinks at her, spitting out the cap.

“Would what work? Why are all of you so still? You know I hate it when you do that.” Stiles stretches out his legs.

Isaac has a contemplative look on his face, which is always dangerous. “You gave us a possible strategy. It wouldn’t work now, because Derek would know, but could it have worked?”

“Oh.” Stiles looks around at the pack. “Well, yeah. There are five of you. Divide and conquer. If only one of you attacks, you’re going to get your ass handed to you. If you distract his attention away from the others and go in for the kill, it’s easier. Basic ideology here, guys.”

“Don’t give them ideas,” Derek says, but he’s smiling, just a small quirk of his lips. Stiles holds up his hands in surrender.

“My apologies, oh great and wise alpha. I thought the point of this exercise was to take you down, not the other way around.” Stiles digs out his notebook, jotting down the idea. He’ll have to come back tomorrow with his knife to get started after school. It’ll be interesting if he can set it up. “In the meanwhile, as informative as this meeting has been, I must run because dad is grocery shopping today and that means I’ll have to return everything before he dies of a heart attack. Enjoy trying to sneak up on Derek.”

He hops up and the pack watches him get into his jeep, before they all turn back to Derek. Stiles grins when Erica and Isaac feign to the side, Boyd gets up and under Derek’s defenses, and Jackson jumps on his back. It’s nice when they listen.

 

Throughout school the next day, he toys with the idea, makes plans, draws maps; he drags out his text three times to read up on the wards and the belief that he’ll have to instil within the marking. The idea keeps him from making an effort at school work so eventually he just gives up, drawing the symbol over and over until he can do it with his eyes closed. Now, for the test.

He holds his hand over the paper, pressing his fingers along the etched in symbol. He thinks, No supernatural being may find this. And then he carefully flicks the paper off onto the floor by Scott’s feet. He keeps the thought in the forefront of his mind and then jabs Scott in the side with his pencil.

“Scott, hey, can you pass me the page that I dropped?”

Scott blinks at him when he turns around before shuffling his feet backwards to catch the paper. But when he goes to reach for it, he stalls, eyes narrowing. He sits back up, huffing out in annoyance, “Very funny, Stiles. Next time, get your own imaginary paper.”

Stiles totally does an excited dance in his seat after that.  

When school lets out, he begs off hanging out with Scott to drive up to the Hale house. The woods are quiet, the air tepid and breathing with the dampness of spring. He gets out of his jeep, tucking his swiss army knife into his hoodie. He heads toward the edge of the forest; it’s time to put his plan into motion.

He moves through the forest with a purpose, the knife heavy in his pocket. He circles around three clusters of trees nearest the house before choosing the largest perimeter and gets to work, carving up the bark into clear, thick lines. When he finishes, he moves onto the next tree, engraining the symbol as deep as he can. Four trees later, he steps back and grins at his handiwork.

Magic is fickle and in all honesty, Stiles is shaky in his beliefs more times than he would care to admit. But each symbol stands out bold, stuck deep, and Stiles feels something shift in his chest. With the success of his paper test firm in his mind, he puts his hand over the edge of the symbol and thinks, No supernatural being may find me.

He releases the tree and goes searching for more. He makes sure the spacing is set up so that a jump between can put him into another ward. He carves up the trees until his fingers are blistered and his arm tired from the strain. By the time he reaches the road, the sun is catching low on the horizon. He makes his way back up to the house and his jeep, counting the wards as he goes. They line up perfectly, each one catered toward a simple getaway and ease of access. He stops halfway back, dragging his knife through heavy bark to make another circle of wards. When he finishes, he deems it all well and good and finishes the trek back to his jeep.

Exiting the forest, he finds Derek sitting on the burnt away porch, elbows on his knees. He perks up when Stiles walks toward him, clambering to his feet. Stiles stuffs the swiss army knife back into his pocket, grinning wide.

“Fancy seeing you here,” Stiles says. Derek raises an eyebrow at him.

“And you. You’ve been here all afternoon. What are you up to?” Derek asks. Stiles rocks back on his heels.

“Training tomorrow, right? I thought we would try and test the pack’s ability to scent and track a human. It’ll be good for them, don’t you think?” Stiles makes his way to his jeep, digging out his keys. Derek follows him.

“We’ve done that before. They always catch you after the thirty second head start. What would be different this time?” Derek’s curiosity catches in his voice. “Though they have missed hide and seek with you. Isaac is getting bored having to track down Jackson all the time.”

“Anyone would be bored having to follow his scent,” Stiles says. He turns to face Derek, stabbing a finger into his chest. “You’ll just have to wait and see. And when I say ‘test the pack’s abilities’ I mean the entire pack, you included. We’ll see how well you do when designs the tests.”

“I’m simply giddy with excitement,” Derek deadpans. Stiles laughs.

“As you should be. Because tomorrow? You’re gonna lose, sourwolf.” He gets into his jeep, rolling down the window so he can point at the treeline. “Don’t go sniffing around out there. The test is meant to be a surprise. I’ll know.”

“Go away, Stiles.”

“Goodnight, Derek.” He starts the engine and heads for home.

 

The morning starts with his usual ritual. Stiles checks the mountain ash lines, mutters the belief out over the blackened ash, and heads for the shower. Once he’s done, he changes into a grey shirt and jeans, dumping a small handful of ash into his pocket before rushing downstairs. His father is at the table, trying to hide the plate of bacon from Stiles’ scrutiny with his newspaper. Stiles sighs and plucks it away from him. “We’ve talked about this.”

“It’s turkey bacon!” his father protests.

“It is not. We’re out of turkey bacon. Don’t think I didn’t see you buying that fatty manufactured slop from the store on Tuesday. I know all your tricks.” Stiles moves into the kitchen, tucking the plate back into the oven to keep warm. His father follows him in, his lips pursed.

“My own son is trying to kill me,” he moans.

“Your own son is trying to feed you delicious things that will keep you alive. When do you work?” Stiles digs around in the fridge for the eggs, decided on scrambled egg whites. His father leans against the counter.

“Noon. I’ll be back around nine. What are your plans?”

“School and then hanging out with Scott,” Stiles says. He gets the pan out and turns up the heat, before getting the whole wheat bread out of where it’s squished in the back of the bread bin. “We’ve decided Thursday’s will be our play dates.”

“Uh huh.” His father plucks the bread from his hands. “Ever going to tell me what these play dates entail?”

“One day,” Stiles says, the honesty making him choke. “Just not today.”

His father is silent beside him, carefully stretching out the mashed bits of bread. He sighs. “You know you can trust me with anything, right?”

Stiles looks down at the eggs he’s beating. Without the yolk they just look strange. “Yeah. But I don’t know how to even start that conversation.”

“Start it with ‘the reason I’ve been lying to you for the last six months…’.” His father smiles and Stiles returns the grin, albeit weakly. “I know it’s difficult. I know it’s the reason you’ve been getting hurt. I know it’s why you locked up Jackson and the reason why you always rush out after your phone rings. I’m not stupid. I know it has something to do with Scott and Derek and the misfits from your school. Just, tell me when you can, okay? I want to help.”

Stiles bites his lip, staring down at the milky white of the eggs. He breathes sharp through his nose and grabs the Pam, spraying the pan. The eggs bubble when he dumps them in. “There’s a reason why I can’t.”

“And you have to understand that my patience for this reason is about at its limit. I don’t like you coming home beat up and broken. I don’t like you hiding in your room with all your books and papers that are clearly not homework. I don’t like that you have a restraining order against you or that I always find you at the scene of some bizarre crime, trying to sneak away.” His father slams down the slider for the toaster. Stiles stares resolutely at the pan. “I’m sorry, but it’s the truth.”

“I don’t want you to get hurt,” Stiles hears himself say.

“Can I ask one thing, at least?” When Stiles nods, his father takes a breath. “It’s not drugs, is it? Or a gang?”

“I would never do drugs,” Stiles says immediately, nose wrinkling up. “And it’s not a gang. It’s – well, it’s complicated. I’ll tell you as soon as I can, okay?”

“Promise me you won’t get hurt,” his father says. Stiles scrambles the eggs.

“I’ll try.”

Sighing, his father gets the plates out and Stiles divvies up the eggs. He bats his father’s hands away from the oven, ushering him out into the dining room. He makes sure his father is seated, eggs half way to his lips before he returns to the kitchen and grabs out four slices of bacon. He drops one piece on his father’s plate before settling in. He can feel his father’s worried gaze but he can’t right now. Not yet. Soon, though.

He finishes before his father, getting up and placing his dishes away. He checks the ash at the back door, makes his way out into the hallway and to his father’s shoes. The mountain ash under the sole of his shoe is still in place and Stiles mutters a quick, The alphas can’t hurt him before standing and going back upstairs.

School is a mess of jittered nerves and giddy excitement. He wants to test out the wards, wants to know if they’ll actually work. He pens out more wards onto paper, jumpstarts the magic with his thoughts, and tests them out on each of the pack. Erica snorts at him when he asks for the paper, Isaac stares at him like he’s crazy, Scott whines about imaginary paper and why won’t Stiles be nice to him here, and Boyd just narrows his eyes, sensing something off. Stiles spends the last hour of school practically vibrating in his seat.

When the bell rings, he’s out of his seat in an instant. He waits by Scott’s locker, bouncing up on his toes, and Scott eyes him. “Dude, you’re being weird.”

You’re weird. Come on, come on.” Stiles walks away and returns, glaring at Scott’s inability to understand his excitement. When they finally get outside, Derek’s black Camaro is already at the end of the parking lot, half the pack crammed inside. Stiles runs for his jeep, Scott hot on his heels, and cuts Jackson off when he peels out of the parking lot.

He gets to the Hale house just as the pack is falling out of Derek’s car, cutting the engine and hopping out. He can practically feel the forest humming with his belief and he shoves his hands in his pockets. Jackson pulls up behind him and gets out in a huff. “Stilinski, I will kill you if you do that again.”

“Only if you can catch me,” Stiles says. Jackson blinks at him and Stiles can’t help it, lets out a bright peal of laughter. “All right, kiddies, I designed the test course for you today.” Derek rolls his eyes but lets him have the floor, walking over to the run down steps of the porch. Stiles points to the treeline. “We’re going to work on your tracking skills today. I’ll be the prey. If you can catch me, good on you. But I can pretty much guarantee you won’t.”

Isaac frowns. “We’ve done this before. It’s easy to track you down. It’s not like you can run really fast.”

“Stiles spent yesterday booby trapping the forest,” Derek says. Stiles eyes him. “I don’t know what you did, exactly, but I can sense it. They’ll have a harder time.”

“I know, which is why it’s so fun,” Stiles says. “I have the distinct upper hand in that I know what I’m running into. You do not. So, be careful in how you move. Give me thirty seconds and then you can come after me, snapping at my heels the entire way. If you can’t catch me after ten minutes, everyone returns here and Derek joins the hunt. Which will happen because you won’t be able to find me.”

“You’re far more confident than usual,” Erica says. “I don’t like it. Are you cheating?”

Stiles shakes his head. “Just evening the odds. Ready for hide and seek?”

“You have thirty seconds,” Derek says. “Go!”

Stiles takes off for the treeline, eyes immediately catching on the symbols clustered around his first ward. He stalls just before the break, turns around so he can look at the pack, and steps backwards. Nothing changes on Stiles’ end, but the pack goes insane. Scott leaps forward, eyes wide. Erica immediately starts running, her hair flying behind her, Isaac and Boyd hot on her tail. Jackson stalls for a moment too long before he’s following after. Derek stands up.

With a whoop of joy, Stiles starts the game.

The wards are placed far enough apart that every time Stiles leaves one, his scent is immediately recognizable. He leaps over branches and through leaves, gets the pack turned around by hopping from ward to ward, learns how each one of them moves and how each one of them falters. Erica has come the closest, her hand brushing along the line of his hoodie as he had leapt into another ward. But what is most telling is how the pack can’t seem to see the cluster of trees at all. They just walk around them, completely blinded to the magic that binds. Stiles grins and keeps running.

He loses sight of Boyd and Isaac five minutes in. Erica and Scott break off and search around him, wolfed out and eager to close the deal. Jackson stands in the middle of the forest and yells for Stiles to give up. Stiles steps out of the barrier for two seconds before leaping back in, laughing as Jackson makes a lunge for him and comes up short.

“This isn’t fair, Stiles!” Scott shouts. Stiles snorts and takes off toward the long stretch of trees he carved up last night. Erica flashes after him and almost manages to tackle him between one ward and another. He falls on his face when he lands, rolling to the side and coughing up leaves. Erica glares at the air where he disappeared as he gets to his feet, wiping off the clutch of dead leaves against his hoodie.

“There’s a pattern,” Erica says. Stiles blinks in surprise. “He’s created a line to run with. I don’t know why, but there’s something messing with my perception. I know there should be a cluster of trees right about there, but I can’t see them. Nice voodoo work, Stilinski.”

“Why thank you,” Stiles says, grinning. Erica can’t hear him, but she takes a step closer to the ward. “Be careful now. I don’t know what’ll happen if you try to pass through it.”

Erica holds out a hand, but at the last second she veers to the right, away from the ward and toward the break between the two. She doesn’t seem to notice. Stiles waits until she passes between the two cluster of trees before turning tail and running the other way. He thwaps Scott on the head as he runs by, disappearing into the other ward before Scott can respond.

“This is so messed up,” Scott says.

“It’s actually really smart,” Boyd says and Stiles jumps. He’s on the other side of the ward, peering at it like he can just make out Stiles inside. Stiles wiggles his fingers at him. Boyd doesn’t respond. “I think it goes all the way down to the road. He has a clear getaway if anything should come for him.”

“So, if we figure out where exactly the trees don’t exist, we can catch him between one transition and the next,” Erica says. Stiles feels a swell of pride. They’re getting it.

Stiles mulls over which direction to go for and decides on the less obvious route, back where Erica still stands. He dodges to the side at the last second, catching his foot and tumbling into the ward as Erica lashes out for him. He hits the ground hard, the air punched out of him, but he’s still safe. He grins at the sky.

“I know you can’t hear me, and I don’t care, but it’s been ten minutes. I win!” Stiles kicks his legs against the leaves, laughing. Sure enough, a howl echoes through the woods and the pack glares at the forest floor.

“Unfair,” Erica says. “You cheated, Stiles. Don’t think I’ll forget this!”

“Hey, it’s not cheating. I’m using my head here,” Stiles says. They can’t hear him. “And besides! You would’ve tackled me within five seconds of my heading into the treeline. Don’t even pretend. This way you had to think!”

By the time he stands again, the pack is nowhere in sight. But that means that Derek is on the loose. Stiles’ certain that the wards will work against alphas. Just in case, he strengthens his belief and decides on a direction, the route toward the road. He jumps between the barriers, starting up the final chase.

With each jump, he becomes more paranoid. He should’ve seen Derek by now, but instead the silence in the woods is shattering. He stalls on a particular jump, looking around carefully before sprinting for the next ward, not even three feet away. He’s a step away when something rustles the leaves ahead of him, and Derek comes flying out from behind the warded tree. They go down in a tumble, Stiles howling with laughter and Derek huffing out leaves from his hair. “Got you.”

“Excellent. You’re the only one of the pack that managed it,” Stiles says, grinning bright. Derek is heavy against his chest, arms framing his face as he stares down at him. His legs tangle up with Stiles’, keeping him pinned in place. It’s a comforting weight. Stiles looks over at his warded trees, at the thick carved markings that promise safety. He hunkers down under Derek’s weight instead.

“How were you escaping notice?” Derek asks. He settles a bit more comfortably against Stiles, head cocked to the side. “We couldn’t scent you at all. You would just vanish.”

“Wards,” Stiles says. “They create a safe perimeter for humans to huddle inside. Werewolves can’t see, smell, or hear them. It’s the ultimate surprise attack.”

“You’re just full of ideas, aren’t you?” Derek rumbles. Stiles grins at the blue-grey sky behind Derek’s head.

“Your inability to call me the genius you know I am is getting old, sourwolf. Just admit my brilliance and we can get along that much better.”

Derek rolls his eyes at him. “How many of the trees did you ward?”

“A chunk. They create a clear path from the Hale house back into town, so we squishies always have a safe haven. The spell will continue to protect until the mark is destroyed.” Stiles grabs a handful of leaves and drops them on Derek’s head. The alpha snorts in surprise and Stiles laughs. “Admit it, hide and seek just became a lot more fun.”

“It was fun before when we could pounce on you after thirty seconds. You scared them when your scent just vanished after you hit the treeline.” Derek’s hand moves beside his head; Stiles ends up spitting out a clump of damp leaves as Derek pushes off of him, laughing.

A snap of a twig and Derek stills, eyes flashing violent red. Stiles scrambles to his feet, gaze flicking over to his ward of trees. Derek turns to the forest, a snarl rumbling low in his throat. He steps backwards toward Stiles.

“We can’t all have this much fun,” a woman’s voice says. Wind catches against the trees, carrying the scent downwind, and Stiles curses quietly under his breath. Derek is in front of him now, back hunched up. There’s a leaf in his hair and his claws are sharp and eager. The shadows shift in front of them and a woman steps out, hair up in a tangled bun, her eyes their own piercing red. Stiles recognizes her as the female alpha from before. “Well, well, look what the wolf dragged in.”

“Up for round two?” Stiles says. The woman bares her teeth at him and Derek jerks in surprise. Stiles ignores him. “Because there is no other reason for you to be here other than to roll around in pain again. I mean, really, you should’ve learned last time.”

“You should curb your human’s tongue, Derek,” the woman says. She crosses her arms, fingers curling into claws. “Wouldn’t want his wandering the woods to end in disaster.”

“You talk like I wouldn’t be able to take you,” Stiles says in retaliation. His voice is higher than he wants it to be, the fear bleeding through. “I have a limitless amount of tricks up my sleeve, werequeen. What do you have? Claws and a pretty pelt?”

She out and out snarls, fur rippling over her skin and under her clothes. Stiles edges to the side, close enough to disappear. He shoves his hands in his pockets, feigning indifference. “Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Not I, not I.”

The woman hunches over, her transformation barely held in check. Derek steps back until he’s beside Stiles, staring at him like he’s lost his mind. Stiles can feel the smile curling his lips, can taste the fury blazing the air like lightning held. He looks Derek right in the eyes and says, “Race you back.”

Derek blinks in surprise before a grin breaks his lips. He lets out a howl, one of challenge, one of acquiescence, and Stiles salutes, taking that last step into the ward. He can see the moment of confusion that colours the woman’s face, can see how she falters in her chase to try and catch his vanished scent. Derek disappears ahead, unwittingly dodging around the clusters of trees that are warded. Stiles takes off after him, jumping between the wards as quickly as possible. The woman runs practically beside him, startling every time Stiles reappears between the treeline, only to disappear within the same breath. He lets out a whoop of laughter as he moves, blind terror and glee colouring his tone, and the birds fly from the trees.

There’s little doubt in his mind that she’s chasing after him now instead of Derek, following the dash of his scent that he leaves every time he exits a ward. But she hasn’t figured out the pattern yet, and Stiles doesn’t give her a chance. He doubles back more than once, circles around in one area until she’s turned around and backwards, jumps back and forth between two wards until she’s red in the face from fury. The fear doesn’t leave; the sickly panic eats away at his lungs, but it’s exhilarating knowing he’s causing her such annoyance.

He might not be able to take her right now, but he sure as hell can keep her distracted enough until backup arrives. The woman skids to a stop and Stiles stops with her, stumbling just before the end of the ward.

She turns in a blind circle, her teeth sharp and catching against her red stained lips. “You’re so much more than a pretty little hood, aren’t you, Red? I’ll enjoy tearing you apart when I find you. Your magic tricks can’t shield you forever.”

Edging forward, he follows her aggravated pacing, watching the way her nostrils flare, the way she tries to scent him. She picks her way between the wards, unbeknownst to her, and then turns around until she’s back in the middle again. Her roar shakes the leaves from the trees, sends the small animals skittering away, and drops Stiles on his ass. Her rage sends her into a half transformation, the blood red of her eyes cutting through the dim fog of the forest. Stiles can’t hear a single noise above his own ragged breathing and the irritated snarls from the woman.

“I’ll make you afraid of the big bad wolf, Red. All humans should know to fear wolves.” And then she turns on her heel, striding off into the forest with another tree quaking bellow. Stiles stays where he is, hands shaking against the leaves of the forest, thinking very firmly, You cannot hurt him. You cannot hurt me. You cannot hurt the pack, over and over until it’s all he hears.

Noise slowly comes back to the forest: the confused chatter of the birds, the delicate brush of leaves against hooved feet, and the chitter of insects annoyed at being silenced. Stiles curls arms around his knees and breathes out, counting out the rhythm in his head until he can stand up. And then he races between the trees, heading straight for the Hale house, carrying his scent behind him like a beacon. Derek had told him once that he smelt like ozone, the clear, crackling bite of air after lightning strikes. He wonders if the fear snakes through the scent as easy as it fills his head.

It’s between one ward and another when he hears that horrible snap of a twig. He tumbles into the ward before whatever is out there can catch him and sees Derek sail through the air, landing on all fours on the ground. Stiles sits up and huffs out in relief, crawling forward until he’s out in the open. Derek tackles him before he can sit up, covering him with his body and keeping him pinned.

“I take it you won?” Stiles asks. Derek stares at him, his eyes bleeding back into hazel, before he ducks down with a laugh. The noise is half hysterical and Stiles stares at him in confusion. “Don’t eat me.”

“You are impossible,” Derek says. He presses down closer to Stiles, until their noses bump together. “You smell like sick fear and exhilaration. I thought you were caught when you didn’t show up right behind me.”

“Can’t run as fast as you dratted werewolves,” Stiles says. Derek ducks his head to the side, nose dragging over the rapid pulse in his throat. “We have to make all these concessions when being chased by a homicidal woman that dislikes the very idea of my existence. Besides, I couldn’t lead her right back to the pack. That would give up all my secrets.”

“Impossible,” Derek repeats. He pulls back and sits beside Stiles, knee pressed against his side. “How did you get rid of her?”

“We were playing a very heavy game of hide and seek. I won.” Her fury still burns bright in the back of his mind. He repeats his mantra, knowing the spells will hold: You cannot hurt him. You cannot hurt me. You cannot hurt the pack. Belief keeps him calm. Belief splinters him apart inside. He tries to smile. “You should’ve stayed with the pack. I was on my way back.”

“I heard her anger. I heard her triumph. I wasn’t sure if that was because she was signalling that she had caught you or because you were being your usual annoying self and she was trying to trick me back. Either way, I couldn’t leave you to try and defend against a pissed off alpha,” Derek says.

Stiles rolls onto his front, squirming so he can stay pressed against Derek’s leg. “I have to deal with a pissy alpha daily. She’s a peach compared to him.” Derek rubs leaves into his face and Stiles sputters, kicking his legs. “You know it’s true. And besides, like I told her, I have tricks. I’ve been around you guys long enough to put my research to good use. She thinks she can instill fear in me by stalking around proclaiming herself the big bad, but what she doesn’t realize is I already have a healthy fear of her. I’m scared shitless. Doesn’t mean I’ll just fall over every time she flashes those frankly alarming pair of fangs.”

“You worry me,” Derek says.

“Because of my natural awesomeness?”

“Because you’re afraid and yet you keep on going.”

Stiles grins at him, sharp and easy. “If you’re going through hell, keep walking.”

Derek returns the grin and brushes the leaves off of Stiles’ neck, fingers delicate over the skin of his cheek. Stiles shivers at the touch. “How did you convince the rest of the pack to let you come alone?”

“I didn’t,” Derek says. “I told them to wait thirty seconds before they came running. It was all Erica would allow. They’ll be here soon.”

“Ah, well then,” Stiles gets up, grinning down at Derek. “Can’t break my perfect hide and seek record just yet. Meet you back at the house.”

And then he steps into the ward, the sound of Derek’s laughter following him as he runs.