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Nothing Less

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At least I won’t die a virgin.

Stiles almost laughs at the thought, but then he’s choking on leaves and dirt as they shove him down. The alphas are the ones laughing now, and one of them is on top of Stiles, and this alpha is hard and Jesus this is happening. The panic is an electric current in his veins as hands tear at his clothes, ripping his hoodie away, clawing his skin, his lungs burning as he gasps for air.

The ground is freezing, his cheek pressing into the hard earth, and the heat of their breath — their huffs of amusement — scald his flesh as his jeans are yanked down. Then his boxers, exposing him in the bitter air, and he kicks and flails uselessly. It just makes them laugh harder, a female voice at his ear saying she can’t wait for her turn.

Stiles sucks in enough air to shout, or maybe scream, but then there’s thunder reverberating all around them. He knows that roar, and as the alphas skip a beat, suddenly still and silent, a little ray of hope blooms around the lead ball of terror lodged in his chest.

Derek can’t fight them all, but somehow Stiles knows he’ll try.

But it seems a fight isn’t what the alpha pack are looking for, because the hands and breath and terrible weight on his back melt away. The pack’s truly joyous laughter echoes in the trees and then there’s just the forest.

Stiles struggles to tug his jeans up, fingers curled into fists and not cooperating. Then Derek is at his side, still half wolf, growling. Stiles jerks away, but Derek is somehow gentle as he practically lifts Stiles to his feet and straightens his clothing with choppy movements. Stiles’s favourite MCR t-shirt that he’s had since eighth grade is completely shredded, but at least his pants are mostly intact.

Then he’s surrounded in warm leather, and he blinks, not sure when Derek took his jacket off. But he’s not complaining, because even though he’s still shivering, he can breathe. He can even walk as Derek guides him through the trees, a powerful arm wrapped around Stiles’s shoulders.

It should totally be weird, because it’s not like he and Derek are friends or anything. Sure, they’ve been hanging out over Christmas break, which is extra long this year because of some other religious holiday and yay, diversity. But Scott is visiting his dad and Stiles is bored and Derek needs research help. His pack are MIA except for Peter, who's off doing God knows what but says it’s important, and Jackson, who went to Aspen with his family — and Lydia. Which Stiles should be jealous about, but…isn’t.

And it’s not like Stiles and Allison are going to kick back and play video games or whatever now that she and Scott are trying to stay apart. Even though the free world knows their forbidden love thing isn’t going anywhere and they’ll be sucking face long before they can give each other longing glances at the Valentine’s Day dance.

He blinks, and they’re still moving swiftly through the forest. “Why?” Stiles can barely scrape the word out of his throat, and he stumbles on a tree root.

Derek tightens his hold and keeps Stiles upright. He doesn’t say anything for long enough that Stiles thinks maybe he should repeat the question. Then he answers.

“It’s a game.”

Stiles swallows enough spit so he can speak. “You know, I really prefer a rousing round of Jenga. Or Pictionary. No, no, Scattergories. I bet you’d be awesome at it.”

Derek has no comment on his Scattergories ability and just keeps going, eyes darting left and right every once in a while, arm still solid around Stiles. So yeah, they’ve been spending time together, because Stiles doesn’t have anything better to do, and besides, he likes research. It really is a shame he can’t get any extra credit for it.

Derek’s abandoned warehouse abode now has a table and chairs, and he and Stiles have been sitting there the past couple of weeks, looking through all these old books Allison snuck out of her basement. Sometimes they actually talk, although usually it’s Stiles talking and Derek grunting. But once in a while, Derek will utter a few sentences. In a row, even.

They’re at the Camaro now, and Stiles doesn’t resist as Derek settles him in the passenger seat. Derek even does up Stiles’s seatbelt, which Stiles thinks he should comment on, because it’s not like he got hit with kanima juice or something. He’s fine. But then Derek’s already sliding behind the wheel, and Stiles keeps losing little pockets of time.

“My Jeep.”

“We’ll get it tomorrow.”

Derek is back to human now, and staring at him with this expression Stiles can’t read. Then he leans over and Stiles’s stomach churns as he understands what Derek is sniffing for. His chest tightens like it’s in a vise and he can feel their hands on him again. Skin crawling, he turns his face to the window. “They didn’t…you got there in time.”

It sounds like Derek exhales, and Stiles thinks he even feels a flutter of breath. He sinks deeper into the seat, pulling Derek’s jacket around him tighter. As Derek turns the key, Stiles asks again, his breath fogging the glass. “Why?”

For long moments, there is only the purr of the engine, and Stiles isn’t sure he asked the question out loud. But then Derek answers.

“They think you’re mine.”

Stiles tumbles those nonsensical words over in his head, and when he blinks back to attention, they’re pulling onto his street. “Call Mulder.”

“What?”

“I’m losing time.”

Derek parks across from Stiles’s house and peers at him closely. Then he’s touching Stiles’s head, prodding and poking.

Stiles bats his hand away. “I don’t have a concussion. Didn’t you ever watch The X-Files after school? Remember, in the pilot he and Scully are in the car and they lose time and—” He breaks off. “It doesn’t matter. I’m fine. Thanks for the ride. And for…” Stiles can’t seem to summon the right words, and he takes a shaky breath. “Just…thanks.”

Derek is still looking at him, and he reaches out again. This time his knuckle grazes Stiles’s cheek. Then he pulls his hand back and grips the steering wheel. “Dirt.”

“Right.” Stiles swipes at his face. “Thanks. Bye.”

Stiles is crossing the street when he realizes Derek is following, and he should probably put up a fight and tell Derek that he’s a big boy, but the house is so dark and his dad is working nights to cover his deputy’s holiday. So Stiles doesn’t say anything as Derek comes inside.

He goes up to his room and already feels better being home. He can hear faint noises that sound like maybe Derek is checking the doors and windows. Stiles calls down. “I’m good. You can go.” After a few moments, a door closes.

Derek’s jacket is heavy and smells good, and Stiles realizes too late that he’s still wearing it. He hangs it carefully on the back of his bedroom door. He’ll give it to Derek tomorrow, assuming Derek still wants his help, which he probably doesn’t because research assistants who run around the woods getting gang raped by alpha packs are probably more trouble than they’re worth.

Stiles laughs for a moment, a hysterical sound that is harsh to his own ears. Then he gulps down a glass of water in the bathroom and throws what’s left of his clothes in the trash, wondering if he could put them into the garbage disposal in the kitchen sink without jamming it.

He turns the shower on as hot as he can stand it and stays under the spray for a long time, scrubbing his skin and wishing he had one of those loofah things. The mirror is completely steamed when he gets out, and he doesn’t wipe it off. His terrycloth bathrobe is warm and fluffy, one of the gifts from “Santa” that had been under the little Christmas tree in the living room. It makes Stiles think of his dad, and he has to take a shuddering breath.

He’s stiff and sore and feels old as he shuffles across the hall. His heart skips a beat as he walks into his room and sees Derek sitting on the floor in the corner. They watch each other, and finally Stiles says, “I’m fine.”

But Derek doesn’t move, and Stiles decides that’s okay. He turns the light off and gets into bed, and his mind goes weirdly blank. Concentrating on the whisper of Derek's breathing, he sleeps.

*

Derek is gone in the morning, but his jacket isn’t. Stiles stares at it for a long time from under the covers.

In the bathroom he takes a deep breath and looks in the mirror. His face is okay, but there are bruises and scrapes on his body, which is to be expected when set upon by a pack of werewolves. He’s had better mornings, but at least he slept and he’s fine.

Then he sees it.

The scratch is about four inches long, slashing down from his ribs across his side. His heart thumps painfully, nausea roiling in his gut. He ghosts his fingertips across it to confirm that the skin is broken. It’s not too deep — but it’s deep enough.

Snippets of lore somersault through his mind, and Stiles struggles to make his lungs expand. It’s rare to be turned from a scratch, but there are stories, and once in a blue moon — wow, what an appropriate cliché — someone goes full wolf when the blood is infected, and Jackson was definitely not the same after he got scratched and—

Stiles races out of the bathroom, gets dressed and goes downstairs for breakfast, because this? This is not happening.

There’s a note from his dad asking about the Jeep, and Stiles scrawls back that it’s in the shop and he’s picking it up. He’s not hungry for the first time in ever, but forces himself to get down a piece of toast and peanut butter. He debates whether to call Derek or just go on his own, which would mean walking out to the woods. He grips the counter, pulse racing at the idea.

There’s a tap at the kitchen window, which should be creepy, but isn’t. Stiles tells him he’ll meet him out front, speaking through the glass since Derek can hear for miles.

Derek’s wearing a grey sweater and looks weirdly…vulnerable without his leather jacket. When Stiles gives it back to him by the car, Derek just slips it on, and they get on the road. Stiles gives Derek a peanut butter sandwich he slapped together, and Derek eats it as they wind their way out of town.

“What were you doing out here?” Derek finally asks.

“Looking for a plant. I read something in one of the books. It’s like wolfsbane, but grows all year round. Even in the snow. Not that we have any snow, but there’s frost, so. I just thought I’d look.”

“It’s dangerous to go alone.”

Stiles tries to laugh. “Yeah, I got that memo. I’m putting the new coversheet on my TPS report.”

Derek’s brow furrows.

“Seriously, you haven’t seen Office Space? It’s a classic. You had a TV, right?”

“If I hadn’t been there…”

Stiles closes his eyes and tries to block the images from his mind with limited success. “I know.” He fiddles with the sleeve of his jacket and resists the urge to reach under his shirt and prod the scratch. He remembers being on the ground, twigs and leaves rough beneath him, and it must have been how he got scratched. Has to be. A thought occurs, and Stiles opens his eyes. “Why were you there?”

Derek seems strangely flustered for a moment before his mask drops back over his features. “I heard something.”

“Oh. Right, that supersonic hearing. But—”

“So you should probably lay low. Stay away from me until this is settled.”

Stiles’s stomach clenches. “How are you going to settle it on your own?”

“Scott and Jackson will be back next week. Isaac will help when I get Scott on board.”

“Erica and Boyd?” Stiles has been hoping they just skipped town, and he and Derek have avoided the subject.

Derek’s jaw clenches. “They’re dead or they’ve taken a new alpha.”

“How…how do you know?”

“I just know.” Derek pulls up to where Stiles’s Jeep waits at the end of the dirt road.

Stiles never liked them much, but he really hopes they’re not dead. “Okay.” He digs his keys out of his pocket and twirls the key ring on his finger. “Well, thanks for the ride. I guess I’ll see you whenever.”

“Stay away. Or else you’re a target.”

“Because they think I’m…they think I matter to you.”

Derek keeps his gaze on the windshield. “Right.”

“But I don’t. Obviously.”

Derek doesn’t blink. “Right.”

On the drive back, Derek stays in Stiles’s rear view mirror until Stiles is about to turn onto his street. Then the Camaro is gone, and Stiles goes home and plays Halo. When his dad appears in the doorway, Stiles realizes hours have somehow gone by and it’s already getting dark outside. His dad asks what’s wrong.

Stiles smiles, and it feels brittle on his face, like it did for months after the funeral. “Nothing.”

He’s fine.

*

The alphas are getting closer.

Stiles can’t get up, his legs folding beneath him as he tries again and again to find his feet and run. Their shrill laughter is deafening, teeth and claws ripping into him, and he can’t stop them. They’re tearing into him, tearing him open, inside out and—

Gulping in air, Stiles jerks and opens his eyes, his heart pounding. The relief washes over him and he unclenches, still curled on his side as he takes in the familiar shapes of his room in the faint streetlight. There’s a warm, unfamiliar hand on his shoulder, but Stiles knows without looking that he’s safe, and that it’s Derek. Which is bizarre, because how does he know that just from the smell of leather and pine and Derek’s particular…Derekness?

Okay, maybe they’ve spent more time together lately than Stiles really acknowledged, because when he rolls onto his back of course it’s Derek. Derek, who has one knee on the mattress as he leans over Stiles, and there’s something…intimate about the whole thing here in the dark before dawn that makes Stiles’s stomach flip-flop.

Stiles clears his throat. “I thought I wasn’t supposed to hang out with you? Because it’s been less than twenty-four hours and you’re kind of sucking at it.”

Derek straightens up and motions to the window. “You need better locks.”

“It broke in sixth grade when Scott and I tried to see how much force it could take. Not much, as it turns out. But it’s never really been an issue until, well, nowish.”

“I’ll check the rest of the house.”

Stiles sits up and opens his mouth to say that he already secured the perimeter, but Derek’s gone. Flopping back down, Stiles sighs. It took him forever to fall asleep with every creak and noise jolting him awake, and he feels like he didn’t rest at all. He closes his eyes, but snippets of the nightmare flicker in his mind, and he sits up again, rubbing his face.

Whenever he can’t sleep or needs to clear his head, his go-to remedy is to jerk off. But he can’t exactly do that with Derek downstairs. The thought makes his throat go dry, and he gulps from the glass of water on his nightstand.

Masturbation has always been an art form with Stiles. He used to take his time, devising whole storylines where he’d woo and win Lydia and she’d thank him in a…special way. But lately he’s been getting himself off as quickly as possible, furtive and rushed and always a little guilty afterwards, which is stupid.

A little voice pipes up that it’s because lately Stiles has been thinking of something darker and rougher, leather and red eyes, images he doesn’t let himself dwell on as he comes in record time. And God, he shouldn’t even be thinking about jerking off with Derek downstairs! He shouldn’t be thinking about it at all.

Which is ridiculous, because what does he have to be ashamed of? He’s a healthy teenaged boy, and he can think about whatever he wants while he gets off. He’s totally normal, and nothing’s going to change that. Nothing.

The memories return, hands and breath and the chill of the night air on his bare skin, and Stiles shudders. Now he wants to jerk off just to prove that he can, because he’ll be damned if he lets the alphas change anything. He’s fine.

Stiles realizes he’s worrying the scratch on his side and making it worse, rubbing it with his fingers as if he can erase it like an errant pencil mark. It would have healed if it had done anything, and he feels totally normal, and okay, he doesn’t, he feels like his skin is too tight, like his bones are going to burst through and he’s all angles and it’s all wrong and—

He whips his hand into his lap as Derek appears in the doorway, brows drawn together. “What?” Stiles snaps. He curls his fingers into fists.

“Your heart rate. You were scared.” Derek glances at the window. “I thought maybe…”

“I’m not scared! Jesus, it was a stupid dream. I’m fine. What the hell do you care anyway?”

Derek’s expression hardens. “I don’t.”

“I mean, since when are we friends?” The little voice whispers that they’ve been friends for a while now, and Stiles tells it to shut the hell up.

“We’re not.” Derek strides to the window, because it would apparently be too normal to leave via the front door like non-supernatural beings. He slams the window up and hops out. His voice floats back. “Fix the goddamn lock.”

Sleep won’t return, and Stiles watches the sun inch over the horizon. When his dad comes home and edges open the bedroom door, Stiles parts his lips and pretends, the blankets pulled up around his neck to hide any bruises.

He waits until his dad is asleep before going to shower. Glancing at himself in the mirror as he steps into the tub, he sees that the bruises are mottling into a lovely yellow and purple while the scratch remains an angry red. If anything, it’s worse, the skin around it inflamed.

Which means he must be fine, although Jackson’s scratch wouldn’t heal and he got worse, and then he became a giant fucking killer lizard and maybe the scratch had something to do with it after all, and maybe, maybe, maybe—

Stiles chokes down a scream, and he’s back in the woods, and he can’t get away and he twists the hot water tap higher and scours his skin, eyes closed until he can breathe again.

It’s still early when he texts Derek.

Do you have a gun?

The reply comes in thirteen seconds.

Yes

Stiles taps the screen.

I want to learn.

The Camaro pulls up before Stiles can even put on his shoes.