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A couple of hours after Scott begged to borrow the Jeep, he climbed through Stiles’s window with twigs in his hair and no shirt on. He wouldn’t tell Stiles what he’d wolfed out about, but he looked embarrassed. Then he told Stiles where the Jeep was.

“What the hell, dude,” Stiles yelled. “It’s almost dark! Just do the reverse version of whatever you did to get here and get my car back.

“Sorry,” Scott said, because apparently he needed to meet Allison’s dad, like, ten minutes ago.

“Yeah, well,” Stiles said. “You can just wolf your way to wherever you’re going, because I’m taking your bike.”

Which was how he ended up walking along the side of the road in the middle of the woods with a bloody nose and a scrape on his arm. After sun-down. Stiles wasn’t a guy who spooked easily, but the cricket-laden, misty indigo of dusk just didn’t seem quite as tranquil these days.

A dark muscle car passed him in a thump of bass, then braked. Stiles stopped walking as the car reversed, coming to a halt just ahead of him, and then he approached cautiously and bent to glance through the window just as the muffled music cut out.

“Oh, you’ve gotta be kidding,” he muttered.

The third thing Derek said, after what the hell are you doing and get in was, “You smell like blood.”

“Sorry,” Stiles said irritably.

“There’s a first aid kit in the glovebox.”

Derek’s glovebox was creepily tidy. The kit was all that was inside it apart from a sheaf of registration papers and a driver’s license. It was weird, the contrast between the way he kept his car and the places he apparently saw fit to inhabit.

“Hold on, you were out in New Mexico?” Stiles said, glancing at the license as he moved the kit to his lap. “How come you’re so pale?”

Derek let out a quiet, irritated breath. “I lived in Seattle for almost a year before coming back here.”

“How come?”

Derek didn’t answer.

“Okay then.” Stiles ripped open a packet of antibacterial. “So, what, you just up and went there? Wait, aren’t there other packs up in Washington? How does that work with territory and all that?”

Derek still didn’t look like he was going to answer, but just as Stiles closed the glovebox, he said, “It’s different in cities. It has to be. Omegas are allowed to move pretty freely, for the most part.”

“Okay, but seriously, why Seattle?”

Derek made grumpy eyebrows at the road. “Laura was there. She wanted me to get an apartment near her, so I did.”

Stiles peeled a big, square Band-Aid open and slapped it onto his arm. “Because she was an Alpha?”

“Because she was my sister.” Derek was starting to look pissed off, so Stiles stopped asking questions, even when it occurred to him, about a quarter of a mile past the turn-off into the overgrown driveway, to wonder why Derek had a first aid kit to begin with.

Derek parked next to the Hale ruin. Instead of going inside or leaving, though, he got out when Stiles did and then just stood by the driver’s side door, looking over the roof at Stiles like he was waiting for something.

“He said it was pretty close to the house, so I’ll just...” Stiles waved an arm vaguely at the trees. “Uh, yeah. Catch you later. Or not.”

Derek glowered at him. “Every time I think I know how stupid the two of you are, I end up surprised.”

“Scott’s not stupid,” Stiles said, irritated.

Derek just looked at him.

“He’s not. He doesn’t always think things through, but if you’re gonna start calling people stupid for that, then wow, have I got news for you.”

Derek looked irritated now, too, but whatever, Stiles was just the messenger. He turned and scanned the trees, then picked a direction that looked good and started walking.

A few steps later, Derek loomed up beside him in wordless lockstep. After a moment, Stiles chanced a sideways glance. Derek still looked irritated. If anything, he looked more irritated.

“Dude, you don’t have to walk with me if you don’t want to.”

“Right. I’m sure you’d be perfectly safe wandering around the perfectly safe forest where nothing dangerous ever happens. Without any kind of weapon.”

“Okay,” Stiles said.

“Or a flashlight.”

Okay,” Stiles said.

“In the wrong direction.”

Stiles stopped and looked around. He could just barely pick out the shape of the house through the dark and the trees, so he oriented himself and started walking what he hoped was a pretty steady SAR spiral. Derek walked beside him for a while, until Stiles stopped again, and then he looked at the sky and said, “Watching this tragedy unfold is really solving the mystery of why you only bothered to defend Scott.”

Stiles blew out a breath. “As amazing as it is to find out you have a sense of humor at all, the sarcasm isn’t helping.”

“A guy goes to a movie theater,” Derek said, still not looking at Stiles.

Stiles started moving. Derek did too.

After a moment, Derek continued, “He gets there early, sits down with his popcorn and watches a couple of previews. Then a woman comes in with a bear on a leash.”

This is not happening, Stiles thought, scrambling up and over a section of fallen tree trunk.

Derek waited patiently, and then, when Stiles was safely on the ground again, vaulted over the trunk one-handed. “Not some cuddly little black bear, either -- we’re talking five, six hundred pounds of grizzly. She leads it a couple of rows ahead of the guy and sits down. The bear doesn’t really fit too well, but the lady gets it settled on the floor, you know, with the seats folded up.”

Stiles kept silent, and Derek went on in the same bland, thoughtful tone, like he was explaining a complex plan or some obscure rule of werewolf etiquette.

“And the guy with the popcorn is shitting himself, but he’s trying to stay really still and quiet so he doesn’t freak the bear out. Finally he can’t take the weirdness and he says to the lady, why the fuck would you bring a bear to the movies? And the bear turns around and says, well, I liked the book.”

There followed another long moment where the only sounds were Stiles’s breath and the crunching of dry leaves underfoot. Stiles ducked under a branch.

“Your Jeep is about two hundred yards southwest,” Derek added. “I can smell the oranges.”

“The thing with the oranges was not my fault,” Stiles said automatically, then stopped and turned in place, frowning.

Derek put his hands in his pockets and watched.

Stiles sighed. “Okay, which way is southwest?”

Derek indicated with a tilt of his head, then started in the same direction. Stiles trotted to catch up.

The keys were still in the ignition, and as he opened the unlocked driver’s side door and slid into the seat, Stiles resolved for the third time never to let Scott borrow the Jeep again, ever.

He looked at Derek, who had an arm draped over the open door, watching him. They were almost level. “Um, I have my phone, so I can get out of here fine, but do you, like... want a ride back to your car?”

Derek stepped back, pushed the door closed, and walked into the trees.

Stiles sat there for a minute looking at where he’d disappeared, then rolled down the window and yelled, “Hey, thanks,” into the woods. Then he rolled it back up, locked the doors, and got out his phone, dismissing the missed message notifications as he pulled up GPS.

.

Scott picked up after one ring and yelled, “Oh my God, I thought you were dead. I was like two minutes away from calling your dad.”

“I was driving, I couldn’t check my texts.” Stiles shouldered his bedroom door open and dropped his muddy shoes on his desk, for lack of a better place. He switched the phone to his other ear. “What did you need to talk to Mr. Argent about?”

Scott sighed. “It’s kind of complicated. Talk before school?”

Stiles unzipped his hoodie one-handed and shrugged it off, switching hands to get both arms out. “Sure, I’ll pick you up early.”

“Thanks. Hey, can you bring my bike with you?”

“About that,” Stiles said.

.

The next morning, he slowed at a red light and looked over at Scott in the passenger’s seat. “Okay, so, what, he just expects us to believe that he has no idea where his own father could be.”

Scott looked troubled. “Gerard was totally going to kill Allison, Stiles. I don’t think Mr. Argent would protect him. Your light is green.”

There was a honk. Stiles flipped off the car behind him and stepped on the gas. “I just don’t like that guy. I mean, it’s his whole job to murder people.”

“Werewolf people.”

“Werewolf people, exactly. I mean, either I haven’t been paying enough attention on Career Day, or that’s a pretty freaky life choice.”

“Well, I was almost one of the werewolves getting murdered, so you don’t have to tell me,” Scott said. “I don’t like him either, but he’s kind of the best resource we have right now.”

They jounced over a speed bump into the school lot, and Stiles pulled into a space between a Jetta and Annie Vega’s purple Gremlin.

“Hey, Scott,” he said after he turned the ignition off. “Has Derek ever told you any jokes?”

Scott looked at him like he was crazy. “No.”

.

Stiles wanted to get Lydia one-on-one and apologize for yelling at her the other night, but Jackson was on her like stink on rice all morning, and they both looked ready to bite the head off of anyone who approached them.

“Ha-ha,” Stiles muttered, shuddering.

They were nowhere to be seen at lunch, either. Allison was a few tables away in a cluster of people Stiles mostly knew by face, leaving Scott and Stiles leaning across the table toward each other talking about Allison’s dad until Danny casually sat down next to Scott and started eating a salad. Stiles exchanged a glance with Scott, who looked about as confused as Stiles felt. They switched topics.

“See you at practice,” Danny said when he was finished eating, and nodded at each of them in turn as he got up.

“Yeah,” Stiles said. “Uh, yeah, I mean, I’ll be there, you’ll be there, we’ll see each other, it’ll be...” Danny was already gone. “Fun,” Stiles finished. God, it was like Danny could smell the virgin on him.

Then he looked back at Scott. “Anyway, let’s not forget this is the same family that burned eight people to death in a house fire, including little kids. Did we even get a reason for that, or was it just pure, crazy evil?”

“It wasn’t the whole family, it was Kate,” Scott said. “He’s not like that. Or if he used to be, maybe he’s changing. He didn’t kill Derek when he had the chance. Plus he let Erica and Boyd go, and he didn’t have to.”

On the night of the full moon, as soon as he was parked outside of his house, Stiles had texted Scott, thing sexy and thing surly getting spanish inquisitioned in argent basement. sos

Then he’d closed his eyes, laid his head on the steering wheel, and given in to the adrenaline crash shivers for a couple of minutes until his phone vibrated in his lap. Scott’s text said, mr argent says he let them out

Stiles had immediately sent back ???????????????

When a few minutes had passed with no reply, he’d blown most of the coagulated blood out of his nose onto a discarded Burger King napkin, then gotten out and headed inside.

“So he says,” Stiles pointed out. “But have you seen them at school today?”

Scott blinked, then frowned and looked around the lunch room.

“Exactly. I just don’t think you should trust him trust him after everything he tried to do.” Stiles picked up his fork and poked at a last, browning slice of Granny Smith.

Scott shrugged. “I don’t, but I’m willing to at least give him a chance.”

Stiles stabbed the apple slice through the heart so hard the plastic fork bent double. “Guess I’m just not quite on board with that yet.”

“Anyway, Derek wants to talk to me about something today, but he wouldn’t say what. Can you make it out to his place at four?”

“Wait, why am I coming along if it’s you he wants to talk to?”

“Because I want you there,” Scott said, looking confused, and Stiles slumped over onto the lunchroom table, defeated.

.

So then of course Scott texted just as Stiles was climbing the porch stairs of the Hale house: forgot no bike eta 45min

“Great,” Stiles muttered, then stood there for almost a full minute, wavering between knocking and just going back to his car. He swallowed a yelp as the door was yanked open in front of him.

“Where’s Scott?” Derek demanded.

Stiles held up his phone. Derek narrowed his eyes as he scanned the words, then wordlessly turned and disappeared into the house, leaving the door open behind him.

Stiles figured it was about as much invitation as he was likely to receive, so he went inside.

There was more, well, house than he’d have expected. The foyer was mostly intact, if deeply creepy, and there was some new-looking repair work on one of the walls. Stiles climbed a few steps and peered up into the wrecked second floor. Not a lot there, so he went back down, through the open doorway on the left, and found himself in a wide room with three-fourths of a ceiling and a jumble of ratty furniture piled into one corner, leaving most of the floor clear. Lemony halos of spring sun bloomed around the boarded-up windows, and the section of the room open to the sky was an eerie ripple of water damage patterns. Smoke damage too, maybe. Stiles watched dust motes passing through beams of light and tried not to think about whether he was breathing in people.

There was a table pulled out from one wall, bearing a hurricane lantern and a couple of stacks of books, as well as a scattering of tools and an outdoor power strip attached to a thick, orange cable. Stiles went closer and touched it, surprised.

“We’re not hooked up to the grid, but there’s a generator in the shed out back,” Derek said from behind him.

“Jesus Christ, dude,” Stiles said, when he was sure he wasn’t actually going to pass out. “Make some noise when you walk.”

Derek snorted. Stiles opened the cover of one of the books, then closed it again; when he looked over his shoulder, the room was empty.

Humming to himself in the creepy silence, he dragged a fancy couch out into the light and sat on it, then sneezed a couple of times in the puff of dust that rose up around his ass, wiping his nose on his sleeve as he pulled his econ homework out of his backpack. He wrote an outline and a thesis, doodled a picture of a guy sitting on top of the PBCOM Tower jerking off onto the working-class and homeless far below, and then left his notebook on the couch and went to explore the rest of the house.

Downstairs, there was a closed door, which he didn’t touch, because Bluebeard. Upstairs there was a gaping void, another closed door, and a room without any ceiling left, where Derek was doing push-ups shirtless in the sun, muscles bunching and tattoo sheened with sweat between his shoulder blades.

It kind of reminded Stiles of Danny, the way he looked when he stripped his shirt off in the locker room. Maybe he’d be up for a handjob sometime, if Stiles asked the right way -- or at least not the wrong way --

Derek was glaring at him.

“What?” Stiles said.

Still glaring, Derek rose to his feet and took a deep, deliberate sniff of the air, nostrils flaring.

“Oh my God, you can smell that?” Stiles said, appalled. “Wait, that’s amazing! What else can you -- hold on, okay, just a second --” He closed his eyes and imagined the part in Men in Black where Will Smith got himself swallowed by the alien and exploded it from the inside, holding it in his mind in as much revolting detail as he could. “Okay, how do I smell now?”

“Like a horny teenager,” Derek said, and whoa, he sounded pissed.

Stiles opened his eyes again. “Okay listen, I’m sorry. I know what this looks like --” because he’d been staring at Derek like pay-per-view -- “but it was unrelated. Mostly unrelated. I mean, it was just, I was thinking about --”

Derek left the room, passing Stiles by stony-faced. After a moment, a door closed downstairs. Stiles wandered back to his homework, feeling cranky and a little paranoid, trying to convince himself he hadn’t been watching the subtle flex of Derek’s back muscles as he stalked away.

Scott arrived looking sweaty and stressed-out. He and Stiles were having a hushed, fierce argument in the foyer about who should go knock and ask what they were here about when Peter Hale sauntered in and said, “Hello, puppies.”

Scott clammed up and looked at the floor, jaw tight; Stiles tried to seem unimpressed instead of freaked out, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t working, because Peter developed a smile that curled up at the ends, like the Grinch.

Lydia came in a moment later, Jackson trailing behind her, and everyone spent an awkward minute or so trying to stand the furthest distance from Peter. Then, simultaneously, Derek emerged from the door in the hallway, and Isaac came in through the front door, saying, “Is this about the Alpha pack?”

“What’s the Alpha pack?” Scott and Jackson said together, and then looked at each other uncomfortably.

“Yes,” Derek said, closing the hall door behind him, but didn’t explain until they were all seated on the deteriorating furniture, like a post-apocalyptic Rockwell. Then he told them about tracking Erica and Boyd from the Argents’ basement --“I told you he let them out,” Scott whispered -- to where their scents disappeared in a jumble of other wolves.

“It... Derek, I’m sorry, but they could have gone with them voluntarily,” Isaac said, looking like it made him anxious to say so.

Derek just nodded. “They could have, yes. I smelled blood, but that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Still, I want to be sure.” He looked unhappy. “I think I owe them that.”

“What exactly is an Alpha pack?” Lydia said, sitting rigid and avoiding Peter’s bright, interested gaze.

“A pack of Alphas,” Peter supplied, and Stiles glared at him.

Without turning her head or visibly acknowledging Peter's presence in any way, Lydia asked Derek, "Like a parliament?"

Derek shook his head. “More like... well, there’s no exact analogue in human society, but it’s...”

“A group of extremely skilled fighters in an unofficial position of generally acknowledged authority,” Peter said, studying his fingernails.

“Werewolf Justice League.” Stiles sighed. “Great.”

“They picked up Erica and Boyd beyond the territory border, but we have reason to believe they don’t intend to respect it,” Derek said. “Until we know more, everyone needs to be careful and stay alert.”

“What else is new,” Scott said.

Stiles caught up to Lydia on the porch and ignored Jackson’s glower long enough to say, “Hey, Lydia, listen, I wanted to apologize to you, about what I--”

“It’s fine,” she said, and displayed Lydia Martin Smile #11, which meant, I have way bigger things to be worrying about than whatever you’re trying to talk to me about right now. Which kind of sucked, but at least it wasn’t #9, I’d be stepping on a switch right now if it would drop you into a deep, dark hole. And hey, it had been quite awhile since the last time he’d gotten #4b -- Should I be trying harder to remember who you are? -- so they were making progress, if you thought about it.

.

Absolutely nothing happened the next day. It was awesome.

.

Unfortunately, the day after that, Stiles was doing forty along a long, lonely stretch of Los Arboles when a deer ran out fifty yards in front of the Jeep. He slammed on the brakes and swerved, but the deer panicked, swerved at the same time, and caromed itself off of the Jeep’s bumper at about ten miles per hour, skidding a few feet along the pavement in a haphazard tangle of legs and horns.

“Fuck,” Stiles gasped into the silence, staring at the deer’s huge, surprised eyes, and then shoved the door open and tumbled out of the driver’s side. When he took a step forward, the deer made a loud, alarmed sound and lurched up, then staggered drunkenly into the trees. Stiles stood staring after it for a minute, then got back into the Jeep and waited for his hands to stop shaking before he reached for the ignition.

The engine wouldn’t start.

“Please,” Stiles said pathetically, and tried again. Nothing. He slumped forward and put his face down on the steering wheel. Lips smushed against it, he mumbled, “If this is because of how much I masturbate, I’m sorry.”

When the engine failed to start a third time, he turned on the hazard lights, left his dad a slightly hysterical voice message, texted to let Scott know he probably wasn’t showing up to lacrosse practice, and finally called AAA. The Jeep was diagonal across the road, straddling the double yellow, but at least it was on a straightaway, so no one was going to come around a corner and slam into him.

Fifteen minutes later, while he was sitting sideways on the hood swinging his legs against the front tire as he waited for a tow, Derek’s Camaro came purring up behind the Jeep.

Stiles’s legs went still as Derek unfolded himself from the driver’s side in a tight black t-shirt and aviators. He draped an arm over the open door and called over the idling engine, "Scott said you needed a lift.”

Stiles shut his mouth with a click, then forced it open again. “The truck’s supposed to be here in about ten minutes.”

Derek sucked his lower lip into his mouth, then nodded. Instead of getting back in and flipping a bitch back down the road, he ducked into the Camaro and turned the ignition off. He approached the Jeep in an easy stroll of muscle and jingling keys, stopping a couple of feet away. “Mind if I take a look?”

“Uh, sure.”

After a couple of seconds, Derek lifted his eyebrows.

“Oh, right,” Stiles said, scrambling off of the hood.

Derek touched it with spread fingers, right where Stiles had been sitting. As Stiles reached in through the driver's side and popped it, Derek asked, “What is it, a CJ-7?”

Surprised, Stiles said, “Five. CJ-5.”

“Hmm.” Derek leaned in, holding the hood up with two fingers. “How much maintenance do you do?”

“Um,” Stiles said.

Derek put it back down. “Yeah, that’s about what it looks like.”

“One of the deputies was helping me out with it, but he transferred out to Marin County. I honestly don’t know that much about cars.”

“I can take a look once in awhile, if you want.” Derek's tone was flat and kind of annoyed, but Stiles was starting to think that was just how Derek sounded.

“In exchange for what?”

“In exchange for you and Scott not ending up in a fucked situation because it won’t start.”

Derek waited for the tow truck with him, and then offered Stiles a ride to the mechanic’s shop in the Camaro. He had music playing on low volume, lonely and a little sexy, with a slow throb and a distant vocal. It wasn’t what Stiles would have expected, somehow.

“Thanks,” Stiles said.

“I was nearby." Derek tapped his thumbs restlessly against the steering wheel for a couple minutes. “If they need to hang onto your car, I can take you wherever you need to be.”

At the shop, Stiles spent twenty minutes in a plastic chair reading Highlights for Kids until he registered a jumpsuit in front of him and looked up from Goofus and Gallant.

“Your spark plugs are shot,” the mechanic said, wiping his hands on a rag.

“Okay,” Stiles said. “Do you... should I order new ones, then?”

“I have some on hand that’ll do you up. You’re also gonna need a new fuel filter and an oil change.”

“What does all that cost?”

The mechanic rolled his eyes up to the ceiling for a moment. "Two twenty-five should do it."

“Really,” Derek said mildly, and Stiles jumped about three feet in the air, then looked up. Then up a little more. Derek was standing right behind his chair, hands in his pockets.

The mechanic sucked on his teeth. “I can knock twenty bucks off if you’re paying cash.”

Before Stiles could say, I don’t think I’ve ever personally held that much cash, Derek said, “I think we’d just like a tow.”

“Wow, that’s so weird,” Stiles said brightly, glaring at him. “I didn’t even feel my mouth move.”

Derek flicked a brief, uninterested glance down at him, then went back to his weird one-sided staring contest with the mechanic.

The mechanic’s eyebrows went up, but he glanced between them and shrugged. “It’s your vehicle.”

Derek smiled. It was, for lack of a better word, wolfish. He stared the mechanic back out of the waiting area, then looked down at Stiles. “I’m going across the street for a few minutes. Stay here.”

“Copy, Red Leader.” Stiles picked up a Cosmo.

He was learning 25 Moves He’s Too Shy To Ask For when Derek said from behind him, “You ready?”

“This shit is seriously mundane,” Stiles said. “I’m pretty sure I’ve seen kinkier ideas in the Hannah Montana forums -- hold on, how much did that cost?”

Derek shifted his handful of Pep Boys bags and gave Stiles an impatient look.

“Okay, yeah, I’m ready.” Stiles put the magazine down.

At least Derek let him pay for the tow.

.

Up at the Hale place, Derek got a tool set and a sleeveless grey undershirt out of fucking nowhere and spent ten silent minutes with the Jeep, getting excellent use out of both, before calling Stiles over.

“Okay,” Stiles said slowly, looking at something like an alien salt shaker. “And that’s a...”

“Fuel filter.”

“Great, good to know. Are you putting it in?”

Derek stared at him like he was trying to figure out whether Stiles was fucking with him. “No. Grab that bag for me.” He pointed. Stiles picked up the bag, and Derek reached in, drew out a shinier version of the alien salt shaker. He put them side by side, then handed Stiles the shiny one. “You’re putting this one in.”

“Okay,” Stiles said. Derek showed him where everything was and then stood over him while he reattached fittings and fuel lines to the new filter.

“I feel very manly right now,” Stiles said, holding his grimy hands out from his body. “I’m still not sure what we just did, but I’m sure it was very awesome.”

Derek dropped the old filter into the plastic bag. “Now we’re changing the oil.”

“That honestly sounds disgusting." Stiles gave up and wiped his hands on his shirt. “I’m excited.”

When they were finished, Derek had streaks of black grease on his shirt, and Stiles’s own had fared no better. Also, he knew what a flat tappet lifter was, sort of. He leaned a hip against the Jeep, watching Derek’s forearms flex as he screwed the lid onto a doomed milk jug, trying to figure out a tactful way to ask Derek whether he could borrow a shirt to wear home.

When Derek leaned past him into the engine, his arm brushed Stiles’s, hot and strong, and Stiles thought, oh. And then, whoops. He’s gonna be mad.

Instead, though, Derek just inhaled softly through his mouth and nose and looked sideways. His eyes were very clear in the sun, and there was nothing angry in them.

When he went into the house a few minutes later, Stiles breathed quietly for a few seconds, looking up at the tops of the trees, and followed.

Inside, Derek had his back to the door as he stripped off his grease-marked undershirt, muscles flexing. Stiles really, really wanted to know how they felt, so he just kept walking until he was close enough to touch, and then did, setting his palms on either side of Derek’s spine at the middle of his back. One of his thumbs left a dark smudge on Derek’s skin. As Derek’s ribs heaved with a sharp inhale, Stiles slid his hands further up, over the tattoo, skating over the cut of trapezius and curling his fingers over Derek’s shoulders.

Derek dropped the shirt onto the floorboards and turned around, catching Stiles’s wrists in his hands and frowning at him. Heart racing, Stiles stepped forward, forcing Derek back; then he did it again, eyes locked on Derek’s as he used Derek’s own grip to back him against the wall.

“This isn’t some fucked-up thank you for fixing my car,” Stiles said.

Derek just looked at him. Stiles could smell him, the hot, rich scent of his sweat, and it made him want to lean closer. He wondered how he smelled to Derek’s werewolf nose, if it was good, or just a riot of unpleasant odors from armpits to motor oil, and everything else he came into contact with.

“It doesn’t mean I like you, either,” Stiles said, and Derek just snorted, so good, they were on the same page there. He flexed his wrists in Derek’s grip, and Derek’s nostrils flared; then he was letting Stiles’s wrists go, sliding down the wall, escaping from -- except no, because when he hit his knees, he put his hands on Stiles’s hips and leaned in, pressing his open mouth to the sliver of Stiles’s belly that showed above his waistband.

“Oh my God,” Stiles said faintly, and braced his hands on the wall, trying not to fall over.

Derek put his tongue delicately against Stiles’s skin as he reached for Stiles’s fly. Stiles made a helpless sound as Derek pulled his dick out, and then Derek’s mouth was around it, hot and strong, keeping tight suction as it slid all the way down to the base and back up, and Stiles thought crazily, this is not real life, there is no way this just happened to me, even as Derek tugged his pants down further to cup his sack in the other hand, pressing one finger just behind.

Stiles held out for maybe three minutes, tops, thighs trembling, before choking out, “You have to stop, I’m gonna -- seriously, back off, I’m gonna come.”

Derek just made an impatient sound and grabbed Stiles’s hip with the hand that wasn’t wrapped around his balls, and when Stiles groaned and started to shake, he fucking swallowed it. All of it.

While Stiles was dealing with not passing out, Derek stood up again and undid his own pants. It was a good thirty seconds before Stiles figured out that he was jerking off between them, and he stared at Derek’s strong hand working on a thick, flushed cock for a good thirty more before his brain woke up and said, touch that, you fucking idiot, touch it before someone takes it away from you. He reached out, and Derek shifted his grip to the base of his cock, leaving most of the shaft and the handsome curve of the head for Stiles to wrap his fingers around.

Stiles tried it from one angle, then switched to another and took over jerking Derek off, trying to copy the way Derek had been doing it.

“You have a really nice dick,” he said, then wanted to kill himself, but Derek just thanked him absently, like they were having a totally normal conversation. He was starting to breathe faster now, abs tightening as he pumped into Stiles’s strokes. He grabbed for Stiles’s hip, like he needed to hold onto something, and his cock jerked and pulsed in Stiles’s hand, the way Stiles’s did right when he was going to come. Stiles felt an electric jolt of empathy.

Derek made a rough sound and put his hand over Stiles’s, using both of them to jerk himself off onto -- God, he was coming onto Stiles’s belly, onto the half-hard length of Stiles’s dick. There was no way that was an accident; he was holding Stiles right where he wanted him, watching raptly as his semen hit Stiles’s skin in hot streaks. When he was finished wringing out the last of it, he dropped down into a crouch and nosed at Stiles’s groin, holding Stiles’s hips in both hands as he stroked his thumbs through his own come on Stiles’s skin.

Stiles stared down with what the hell, what the goddamn hell on an endless background loop in his head, but sexy was nudging ahead of weird, because he was getting hard again. Derek obviously noticed; he smelled Stiles one more time and then gave Stiles’s dick a little lick with the point of his tongue before glancing up at him.

“Uh, hi,” Stiles said. He worried that he might have brain damage for the three seconds it took Derek to stand and pull them together again, grinding his dick against Stiles’s slick belly -- Jesus Christ, he was still hard. Stiles grabbed onto his biceps, and when Derek pressed their mouths together, he parted his lips without thinking, beyond any kind of shock at the feeling of Derek’s tongue in his mouth.

Derek sucked on Stiles’s lower lip and shoved his hands down the back of Stiles’s pants to squeeze Stiles’s ass, then pushed two fingers in between Stiles’s cheeks to press against his asshole and growled, “Do you fuck?”

All of Stiles’s muscles let go at once, as if he’d been hit in the back of the head by a hammer, but he caught himself before he collapsed. “Yeah.”

It turned out Derek had an honest-to-God bedroom, or at least most of one; there was a sapling growing in the northwest corner, extending sun-dappled leaves out through a slightly charred hole, but there was also a rug and a mattress with actual sheets on it. Beside the mattress stood a chair and a makeshift stack of shelves built out of milk crates; two were full of dark, rolled-up clothes, and a third and fourth were crammed with books.

Derek was kicking off his jeans, so Stiles did the same. He stripped off his shirt as well, because what the hell. “Do you have -- I have a condom, but to be frank with you, I don’t think spermicidal lubricant is gonna be enough.”

“Yeah, we’re set.” And Jesus, he not only had a bottle of lube but an entire box of his own condoms, opened and half-empty, who the hell did Derek Hale have sex with? Stiles was distracted from this question by Derek pushing him down onto the mattress and sucking his dick again, which was just as appallingly good as the first time. Stiles had absolutely no basis for comparison, but he was pretty sure this was professional-league dicksucking. He spread his thighs for Derek’s slippery fingers, which were a little thicker than his, but really not that different. Then Derek turned him over, and there was a soft, wet sound.

“Did you just spit on my asshole?” Stiles demanded, trying to crane around and look, but Derek was pushing him down with a hand between his shoulder blades, pressing inside.

Excuse me, waiter, there’s a dick in my ass, Stiles thought, and started to laugh, but then Derek slid deeper and his breath locked up in his chest, body arching and tensing at the sensation. He could smell Derek on the sheets when he dropped his head, heavy and rich; they needed washing.

Derek pulled back slowly, then pushed in again, and this was officially fucking now. Stiles was getting fucked. Whatever road signs existed for virginity, he’d blown past all of them doing about eighty. Derek kept reaching around for Stiles’s dick as he fucked him, but he didn’t let Stiles come for a long time, until the sensation of being fucked deepened, broadened to encompass Stiles’s entire dick and what felt like half of his insides, and he was making continuous noise. Then Derek stroked him a couple more times and let him come his fucking mind out, choking on helpless groans.

“Oh my God,” Stiles gasped into the dirty sheets. “Where the fuck did you learn that?”

Derek withdrew again, and Stiles held his breath, ready for another stroke, but -- Derek was pulling out all the way, his body heat disappearing from the backs of Stiles’s thighs.

“What?” Stiles said stupidly, and pushed up on his elbows. Derek was off of the mattress entirely, pulling the condom off of his dick. “What are you doing?”

Derek dropped the empty condom without even looking at Stiles. It hit the floor with a faint smack. “We’re done here.”

What?

“Your car should start fine.” Derek turned and left the room. By the time Stiles got his clothes mostly in order, he was walking through a silent house.

“Later, asshole,” he muttered as he closed the door, just in case Derek was still there.

.

At home, Stiles threw his hoodie into a corner and himself onto his bed, body a jangle of squiggled-line emotions: triumph, disbelief, smugness, indignance, repeat cycle. He kicked his shoes off onto the floor, then sat up to strip his shirt off and caught a whiff of himself. God, he smelled like Derek’s come. And fuck, he was horny again smelling it, thinking about how it had felt hitting his dick and stomach, how much Derek had seemed to like it, coming on Stiles and then looking at it, touching it with such satisfaction.

He spent about thirty conflicted seconds wondering whether he was really going to jerk off over this before he gave in.

Afterward, he had a missed text from Scott, who had his bike back, apparently, and was coming over.

“Fuck,” Stiles sighed, and then lunged upright. “Oh, fuck. Fuck.

In a frenzy of horror, he shoved all of his clothes into the washing machine and showered, soaping twice. He was still zipping a clean pair of corduroys up as Scott burst in, talking a mile a minute about something to do with his job.

Hey Scott, Stiles thought, so you remember how I told you I was bi... no, try again.

Hey Scott, so, don't freak out, but...

So hey, I got my cherry popped, you'll never guess who...

He jerked back to attention when Scott said Derek’s name.

“Derek? What about Derek?”

Scott gave him an exasperated look. “Mr. Argent says the pattern of their targets --”

“When were you talking to Mr. Argent? Did you have somebody with you? You should have had someone with you. Why didn’t you take me with you?”

“Oh my God,” Scott yelled, dropped his backpack, and collapsed heavily on Stiles’s bed. Stiles sent up a silent prayer that he hadn’t rubbed enough of Derek’s sex-sweat onto the bedspread while jerking it for Scott to sniff it out.

“Sorry,” he said. “I’m really sorry. Start over, please?”

Scott sat up. “Mr. Argent took me to get my bike because he wanted to tell me about some hunters moving northwest through Arizona and Nevada, taking out new and weakened packs.”

“Okay,” Stiles said, and then it clicked. “Oh, crap.”

“Exactly.” Scott reached down to the floor for his backpack. “He thinks they’re using European mistletoe somehow, so I asked Dr. Deaton if he knows anything about it. He had a book.”

“Great, where is it?”

As he rooted through the backpack, Scott said, “Well, it was just one chapter, and the book was really old -- like seriously falling apart. So I made copies of the parts we thought were probably useful.”

As Scott pulled out a stapled-together sheaf of papers, Stiles frowned. “Only probably?”

“Well...” Scott handed over the packet.

Stiles looked down at them for a long moment, then looked up. “Okay. How much Spanish do you know?”

Scott shrugged and offered, “Chinga tu madre.”

“Seriously? That’s it?”

“Buenos días.”

“Great,” Stiles sighed.

Scott put his hands on his hips and did a dopey little writhe. “Hey, Macarena.”

“Beautiful.”

While Scott was downstairs making himself an entire plate of waffles, Stiles’s dad called and asked him if he’d gotten home okay, then how much it had cost.

“You’re kidding,” he said when Stiles told him he’d done the work himself, which was at least a quarter true. “My son replaced his own spark plugs?”

“The Internet is amazing,” Stiles said.

.

Erica and Boyd were still missing from school on Monday, and so was Isaac. Maribel Ramirez told Stiles to do his own damn homework, and then said it would run him twenty bucks when he tried to sweet-talk her. He didn’t have twenty bucks, so at the end of the day he slipped out of class ten minutes early, checked out a Spanish-English dictionary from the school library, and went home to use Babelfish.

After about ten minutes of that, he yelled, “Fuck me up a tree,” put everything in his backpack, and locked all of the windows in the house, then the front door behind him.

When he arrived, Derek was shirtless in the late afternoon sun, dragging an enormous metal box around the side of the house like it was nothing. Stiles shaded his eyes and watched the gun show for a pleasant moment before ambling over.

“Need help?”

Derek just gave Stiles an amused look, eyebrows raised, and kept walking.

“I know, it just felt weird not to offer.” Stiles started walking alongside. “What is that?”

“Freezer chest.”

“What’s in it?”

“Nothing.”

They reached the tree line, and Derek dropped the box. It tipped over on its side, and the lid fell open. Stiles jumped back. “Holy shit. Are those -- who was in there?”

“Isaac.”

“You put Isaac in there?”

“No,” Derek snarled, and Stiles took a step backward.

“Well then how come...” he trailed off, already putting things together. “Oh.”

Derek stuck a foot under the box and righted it, then slammed the lid with more force than necessary.

Slowly, Stiles said, “Are you gonna... put him in there for the full moon?”

“No,” Derek snarled again, eyebrows thunderous. He started walking back toward the house.

“Sorry,” Stiles said, trailing behind him. “So what are you doing with it, then?”

They were almost to the front door when Derek’s shoulders finally loosened up. “I’m planning to destroy it with him. At the full moon.”

“Oh.” That was... actually kind of nice, in a creepy, sad way.

Derek went inside; Stiles grabbed his backpack from the Jeep and followed, in time to watch Derek snatch a shirt off the back of a chair and pull it over his head.

Stiles put his stuff down on the table. “Where is he, anyway?”

Derek’s head emerged, and he yanked the t-shirt down over his chest. “Tracking the alphas who took Erica and Boyd.”

“By himself?”

“With Peter.” Derek dragged both hands through his hair, sat down and plugged a soldering iron back into the power strip on the table.

“Is that really a good idea?” Stiles rounded the table and pulled out a chair for himself.

“Isaac does better in action. Make him sit around waiting in uncertainty, and he’ll start eating himself from the anxiety.”

“I mean sending him out with Peter.”

Derek shrugged.

Stiles got everything out of his backpack and pulled up Lingua on his phone while Derek soldered little pieces of metal together. He almost said something to Derek about safety goggles, but managed to realize how stupid it was before he spoke. For once.

After about twenty minutes, his hand was cramping and he was starting to click his teeth together in staccato rhythms of restlessness. This late in the day, his Adderall was wearing off, which only made things harder.

“What are you working on?”

Stiles looked up. Derek had laid down the soldering iron and was watching him.

“Um. It’s... I’m translating something from Spanish.”

“I didn’t know you were taking Spanish.”

“I’m not.” Stiles exhaled through puffed-up cheeks and put his pencil down, spread his cramping fingers. “It’s something Dr. Deaton gave me about European mistletoe. I think. I mean, I barely know any Spanish except for, like, colors and animals, so --”

Derek was reaching for the packet of papers. After a minute, he pulled Stiles’s notebook across the table too and spent a minute looking between one and the other. Then he picked up Stiles’s pencil and drew a heavy line across the page under everything Stiles had written, flipped to the first page of the packet, and started writing.

Stiles watched as a few lines of untidy print emerged, then said disbelievingly, “You’re bilingual.”

Derek glanced up briefly, then returned his eyes to the page. “Not really. I have trouble keeping a lot of the conjugations straight.”

“You’re sort-of bilingual and you know the term ‘conjugation.’”

Derek favored him with a longer glance and said blandly, “And I can add and subtract, if I take my shoes off.”

“Fine, sorry,” Stiles said. “I didn’t think you were stupid.”

“Yes, you did.” Derek didn’t sound offended.

After another minute, Stiles got out his Econ textbook, and they worked together in silence until the light through the tattered curtain was nearly violet. Derek never asked what he’d come over for, even when Stiles started packing up his stuff; he just walked Stiles to the door and then stood there silhouetted in the light of the hurricane lantern, big and inscrutable, until Stiles closed the door of the Jeep and turned the key in the ignition.

.

Stiles didn't sleep well. School seemed endless, and so did the drive home. He'd barely gotten his pants down and started whacking it when his thigh vibrated.

Scott had sent, come 2 vet clinic.

Stiles groaned and threw the phone onto his bed, then turned back to the computer, but the mood was kind of gone. Not that Scott was a boner-killer -- on the contrary, he was a little bit of a... boner-maker? Whatever. They'd been all weedy and crappy together in middle school, but then Scott started working out in the summer after 8th grade and came back from camp with his acne all smoothed out and actual pecs. Stiles didn't get too fucked up about it, but he noticed sometimes.

He switched to a different video and managed to finish, then got his pants back on and went to the clinic.

“I’m busy,” Derek said, when Stiles showed up on his porch an hour later.

“You want to make time for this, believe me."

Derek scowled and stopped blocking the doorway.

Stiles went in and put his backpack on the table. “Ever had mistletoe poisoning?”

“Not personally, but I’ve seen it.” Derek looked less pissed off, more cautiously interested.

“Yeah, well, apparently I’m here to mix you up an immunity shot.” Stiles told Derek about the hunters as he set everything out on the table. He looked it all over. “Okay, I guess I’m gonna need some measuring spoons. And you have to be really careful about inhaling the vapor until it’s done. It’s fine for me, it just fucks up werewolves. Also, if you know where to get a flower that looks like this, that’d be pretty great, because I have no idea where that crap grows.” He pulled up a picture on his phone and held it up.

“That’s bleeding-heart,” Derek said, and Stiles lowered the phone, surprised.

“Yeah.”

“How many and how quickly?”

Stiles picked up the recipe. “Three or four of the flowers, and about an hour, it looks like.”

“I can do that.” Derek stripped off his shirt and left Stiles gaping after him as he loped out the door.

When he loped back in half an hour later, Stiles was on stage three, which was essentially “sit and wait for a really long fucking time while things either develop correctly or go dangerously wrong, good luck.” Derek’s hair was messy and he had leaves clinging to his jeans, but he was carrying a stemful of pink flowers.

“Wow, that was fast. I don’t think I’ve ever seen those around here.”

“I got them out of someone’s backyard,” Derek said, surprising Stiles into a honking laugh as he pictured some nice old lady and her cat peering out through ruffled curtains at a wild, shirtless man crouched in their flower bed. Derek pulled up a water-warped wooden chair and dropped the flowers on the table as he sat down, leaning over to peer at the recipe. “This is from Deaton?”

“Yeah. Hey, don’t get too close to that stuff.” Stiles picked up the flowers. They really did look like little hearts. As he pulled four of them carefully off of the stem, lining them up on the uneven wood, he muttered, “I don’t get what that guy’s deal is. Is he Willow or Giles?”

“Looks like you’re Willow, so he’s Giles.”

Stiles looked up, startled. It was easy sometimes to forget that Derek had once had a regular family and a home, that he’d probably watched TV after school. That he hadn’t come out of the woods snarling at humanity, like an actual wolf. Stiles could hear him breathing; could smell him a little, too, warm sweat and loam, forest smells.

Finally, Stiles put the silver spoon down. “Now we just wait for it to be ready, and you drink... eat... drink it, and if nothing horrible happens to you, then hooray, I probably did it right.”

Derek cast a long, carefully neutral look at the saucepan, and then put his hands on Stiles’s hips and pulled him closer, nosing along Stiles’s belly, just above his waistband.

“Oh,” Stiles said, surprised. “I didn’t -- okay,” and let Derek pull him down into his lap. He held onto Derek’s bare shoulders as their mouths came together. Derek stuck his hands up the back of Stiles’s shirts, and then pulled the loose button-down off of Stiles's shoulders, dropping it on the floor. As Stiles yanked his own t-shirt over his head, he felt Derek palming the shallow curve of his bared waist, flattening a hand against his belly like he liked feeling the muscles stretch. It made Stiles feel sexy, the way Derek seemed to enjoy his body, and he arched his back while he dropped the shirt, showing off a little as Derek rubbed both thumbs across his nipples.

Derek’s hard-on was wedged between them in a way that gave Stiles sympathy pains, so he leaned back and got Derek’s jeans open. Derek made a soft sound as Stiles pulled him out, abs clenching. He reached into Stiles’s fly and got their dicks pressed together, which was fucking porn-hot, looking down at both of them. Stiles said so, and Derek honest-to-god laughed, a brief rumble in his chest that vibrated Stiles’s ribcage.

Derek slotted his fingers between Stiles’s and helped stroke for a minute or so, then let Stiles take over. As Stiles jerked them both off, Derek moved his hands up Stiles’s shoulders and cupped the back of Stiles’s head to pull him down, rubbing restlessly over his buzz cut as they kissed, in a way that made Stiles kind of crazy. He gave a long, stuttering sigh against Derek’s mouth as his orgasm hit; when he was too oversensitive to keep stroking, he let his cock go -- it slapped heavily against Derek’s belly -- and stroked Derek faster, until Derek was a panting, shifting mass beneath him, holding Stiles’s head in his big hands and growling as he came into Stiles’s hands.

Stiles looked down at Derek afterward, his satisfied eyes and six o’clock shadow, the long, dark sweep of his brows, and thought that he was kind of into him, which was a weird feeling. He was wary of Derek, didn’t want him as a boyfriend or even necessarily as a friend, but with Derek like this, he could maybe see how a person might get there.

Then he stiffened and said, “Oh, shit on me.” Come-clumsy, he nearly fell over trying to untangle himself from Derek and stand up, but when he leaned over the saucepan with his dick still hanging out, the stuff inside looked about like the instructions said it should, so he poured it into a glass and handed it to Derek.

Derek looked at the purple-brown sludge for a long, silent moment before downing it. Stiles put his dick away and pulled his shirts back on as they waited. Finally, Derek belched heavily and shrugged. “I feel fine.”

“Well, then, you should be good against mistletoe for about a week." Stiles picked up his backpack. There were still five little hearts left on the stem, so he put it into a cup of water and left it on the table when he went.

.

It was almost the end of first period when Stiles blurted, “Oh, fuck.”

Danny gave him a brief glance, eyebrow raised. Stiles shook his head.

Between classes, he cornered Scott against his locker. “Dude, picture day is tomorrow.”

“Yeah?” Scott looked confused.

Stiles widened his eyes, but Scott only looked even more confused, so Stiles brought both hands up and pointed at his own eyeballs, blinking rapidly.

“Are you okay? What are you --” Scott’s wrinkled brow smoothed out into a look of horror. “Oh, crap. My eyes!”

“You have to find a way to skip school or something. No way they’re letting you wear sunglasses for that.”

“I can’t miss that day, there’s a biology quiz and I’m already getting a C-. What am I gonna do?” He collapsed backward against his locker, starting to hyperventilate shallowly; it was weird how he still did that sometimes, like his body forgot he didn’t have asthma anymore. Habits died hard.

Stiles clapped a palm onto Scott’s upper arm and shook him gently. “Whoa, shh, it’s okay, buddy, we’ll figure something out. Take a deep breath and think about...” not Allison, whoops. “A still lake. Birds! Squirrel chasing?”

“Screw you, dude,” Scott managed between pants.

So he didn’t bring it up with Scott again, but he thought about it all during class. Then, when lunch rolled around, he threw his chemistry book into his locker before eeling upstream through the flow of students. When the crush spat him out in less crowded corridors, he ducked into the library.

Texting Scott how old is derek? got him not sure y? so he went ahead and pulled 2004-05 down from the shelf on a guess. The only Hale in it was Laura, in her junior year. She had lighter hair than her brother and a confident, direct gaze. Stiles could see a little of Derek in her cheekbones, the sharpness of her nose. There was no sign of the eye weirdness that happened whenever Scott got his picture taken.

He slid the yearbook back into place and tried 2005. Bingo, Derek as a freshman. His dark hair was long, almost to his shoulders, and he looked a little awkward, wide-set eyes serious over an uncertain smile. No weirdness there, either.

Stiles flipped through the rest of the book; there was Laura’s senior portrait, with a different haircut. The only other picture he found of Derek was in a group photo of the theater crew, taken outdoors, in front of a half-constructed set. Derek stood at the edge in a black sleeveless undershirt. He was obviously growing into his frame, but already a little too built to be called rangy, shoulders broad and tanned a deep olive-gold; he was slouching a little, but still taller than most of the other guys. A sheaf of his hair was falling over his face as he looked down and away from the camera, and his eyes were nearly closed, but a faint double bloom of beta gold overlaid the picture, centered on the slits between his dark lashes. If Stiles hadn’t known better, he would have thought it was a sun flare artifact.

He flipped to the freshman portrait and looked at it again, mystified. There were Derek’s eyes, a totally normal vibrant green. How...?

Back to the theater photo; Derek standing with his sturdy wrists and shiny hair, hiding his eyes from the camera. Stiles didn’t even have to ask himself whether he’d be into this guy if they were in the same class. Kind of a disturbing thought. He closed the book and put it back on the shelf.

Derek didn’t show up at all in 2006, 2007, or 2008.

.

Stiles stood on the porch for almost a minute, mentally drafting his opening line, before Derek opened the door, looking rumpled and sleepy-eyed, like he’d been napping. “You realize I can hear you breathing when you do this.”

Stiles grimaced. “Awkward.”

“What are you doing here?”

“Excuse you, the Haunted Mansion is county property. How come you're still doing a Boo Radley up here, I think, is the real question. What's the deal?”

“Nothing you need to know about.” Derek turned and went inside.

Stiles followed him down the hall. “Okay, so we’re just being dickfaces today. Good to know. Well, I promise to be out of your way soon, because I shouldn’t even really be here, but I needed to ask you a question, and you should probably get a cell phone, dude, I’m just saying, it would solve a lot of--”

Derek threw an irritated glance over his shoulder as he went through the bedroom into the bathroom. “I have one.”

Stiles frowned, leaning in the doorway. “I don’t have the number.”

“No, you don’t.” Derek filled a cup with water.

“Fine, I see how it is.” Stiles watched Derek’s throat work as he swallowed. “Well, anyway, here’s the problem. We’re getting our pictures done at school tomorrow, and we --”

“Scott’s eyes.” Derek set the cup down and swiped the back of his wrist across his mouth.

“Yeah, exactly. How did you --”

“Colored contacts.”

Stiles stared, open-mouthed, for several seconds. “Oh my God, that’s genius. Why didn’t we think of that?”

Derek gave him an amused look, head tilted, and abruptly Stiles was seeing the guy from the yearbook, the one with the shy, broad shoulders and the thick dark hair, and even though Derek was an asshole, Stiles was kissing him, putting his palms to the sides of Derek’s head and tilting it so he could get his tongue inside when Derek’s mouth opened for him.

The moment they hit the mattress, Stiles flung all of his clothes off. He pushed Derek down on his back and shoved the front of his tight t-shirt all the way up his chest, over his head. He left it twisted up behind Derek’s neck like a shrug, framing his chest and throat, and scraped his nails over Derek’s nipples, bit his collar bones and yanked his jeans down over his hips, feeling a jolt of arousal at the appearance of Derek’s dark pubic hair.

When the jeans were off, Derek reared up and grabbed Stiles’s arms, hauled him up the mattress until he could get Stiles under him.

“I really have to get home, I wasn’t bullshitting about that,” Stiles panted, arching beneath Derek’s weight and tipping his head back to let Derek bite at his throat.

“Uh huh.” Derek rolled them over again, spreading his legs; Stiles’s dick slipped back behind Derek’s balls, and suddenly it was between Derek’s thighs, nudging against the soft swell of his ass cheeks.

Derek went tense beneath Stiles, then whispered, "Yeah.”

Skin prickling with shock and arousal, Stiles collapsed onto his elbows and worked his hips, rubbing his cock there, in the hot groove of Derek’s body. Derek’s breath came out in ragged, intermittent gasps; he kept apparently forgetting to breathe and then exhaling explosively.

“Fuck me,” Derek groaned, and Stiles yanked himself out from between Derek’s thighs, trying not to come.

“Oh my God, oh my God,” he muttered, shuddering over Derek’s body as the imminence of orgasm backed off slowly. Derek was looking up at him with slit-eyed amusement, and Stiles made a face. "Fuck off, so I’m a little eager. I was a virgin a week ago.”

Derek’s hands tightened on Stiles’s waist, the strength in his grip sending Stiles’s breath out on a rush of renewed arousal, but Derek was lifting him upward, putting distance between their bodies. “What do you mean you -- do you mean when I --”

“What -- oh. Yeah. I don’t know, it didn’t seem that important, but if I should have -- okay, you’re starting to look freaked out, so I guess I should have told you, sorry, but can we go back to --” He tried to collapse against Derek again, but Derek was still holding his sides, keeping him away. In fact, Derek was pushing him off entirely, sitting up. When Stiles reached for Derek’s hard-on, Derek caught his wrist and put it back against Stiles’s chest.

“You didn’t say anything.”

“Now you know?” Stiles shrugged, wiggling his fingers and testing Derek’s grip. “It was really great, if that’s what you’re worried about, except for the part when you kicked me out afterward and now you look even less like you want to be doing this, great. Can we please just --”

“I’m sorry,” Derek said, looking like the words hurt him coming out. “About that. I didn’t realize--”

“Yeah, we’ve established that.” Stiles sighed and stopped trying to touch him.

“Did I hurt you?” Only a couple of weeks ago Stiles would have thought that Derek's eyebrows were drawn down in anger, that the set of his jaw signaled impatience, and it was just weird, the way a person could change without changing, right in front of you, just because you knew them a little better --

“No,” Stiles said. “I liked it. You were good.” He gave up on the sex, let Derek help him find his shirt and give him a glass of water, because the anxious, unhappy way Derek kept looking at him was making him feel bad.

At home, he texted Scott colored contacts and then put in headphones and ignored his cell phone for a couple of hours. When he finally picked it up, he had a voicemail from his dad, two texts from Scott, and one from an unknown number:

do we need to talk?

It took Stiles a few minutes to figure out why the message seemed so weird. It was because Derek had asked Stiles a lot of things, but Stiles couldn’t remember him ever making it an actual question before.

He sent back, nah.

.

Scott came to school in an ironed dress shirt with a plastic bag from the Halloween store and a brown paper sack from Dr. Deaton, which he handed off to Stiles at the lunch table.

“Next time, can we please make this look a little less like a drug deal?” Stiles hissed, stuffing the bag into his backpack. Then he frowned and brought the backpack up to his nose. “Why does it smell like Dr Pepper?”

“Oh, right, we found something about adding wintergreen oil as a preservative, so there’s some in the bag. Do you think you could do another batch of that stuff after school?”

Stiles sighed and zipped up. “Yeah, I guess.”

"I have to work, but I could come over and keep you company afterward,” Scott offered. “It’s probably weird to be over there with Derek by yourself.”

“It’s all right,” Stiles told him as Danny sat down. “He’s okay.”

"Who's okay?" Danny said.

"Uh. Jackson." Scott was such a bad liar.

"Jackson is not in any way okay," Danny said, looking unhappy. Fuck, were they going to have to tell Danny? At this rate, they might as well pool their cash and buy a skywriter.

.

Derek opened the door with a completely neutral expression.

“I swear to God I’m here for a reason,” Stiles said.

“I can smell that,” Derek said, and Stiles made a face at him as he went in. The wintergreen oil had leaked through the paper sack all over the pocket of his backpack.

The bleeding-hearts were still on the table where he had left them. Derek holed up in his room while Stiles set himself up, but came out halfway through the brewing and loomed silently over Stiles’s shoulder until Stiles started monologuing in self-defense against the weirdness.

“Sure, I’m basically made out of tissue paper next to you guys, and I’m probably going to die horribly,” he was saying as he added the oil of wintergreen, “but I’m still not sure I’d want you to turn me. It seems like a pain in the ass.”

“Good, because I’m not offering.”

“Well, why not?” Stiles demanded, setting the spoon down hard on the table. “I’d be an awesome werewolf.”

“And an awful beta. You don’t respect me.”

“That’s a requirement? I mean, if we look at it, my respect level is at least following a general upward trend. Probably.” He frowned. “Scott doesn’t respect you either.”

“I didn’t choose Scott.”

“No, but you sure wanted him as your beta. You’ve got to admit I’d at least make better decisions. I’d be a serious asset, if you think about it.”

“You’d deserve an alpha who knows what they’re doing,” Derek said harshly, and when Stiles looked up at him, he was looking away, mouth closed into a tight line.

Stiles pointed out, “If I do, then Scott does.”

“Yeah,” Derek said.

Stiles offered, “You’re trying.”

Derek let out a laugh that was more of a heavy, miserable exhale. “Yeah.”

Neither of them talked for a couple of minutes while Stiles decanted the gross, minty concoction into an empty Holiday Inn shampoo bottle.

He screwed the lid on carefully. “You realize I can help you out, right?”

“I don’t want you to.”

Stiles just laughed and waggled the bottle pointedly, then set it down. “Too bad, so sad, because here we are. I guess you’ll just have to live with the annoyance.”

“You don’t annoy me.”

Stiles rolled his eyes as he put the measuring spoons into the basin of water and wrapped up the leftover ingredients. “What you mean is that I annoy you but you like it.”

Derek snorted.

“You do.” Stiles rinsed his hands in the basin, then stood up and turned around, sliding his wet fingers around the back of Derek’s neck. “You like it when I push you.”

“I really don’t.” Derek looked murderous, stiff beneath Stiles’s touch.

“Okay, maybe not. But you should, because I know what I’m doing. Well, sometimes I don’t -- actually, make that a lot of the time. But the point is, I’m a pretty smart guy, and no offense, dude, but you could really use one of those.”

“Don’t,” Derek warned, leaning back as if he wanted to pull away from Stiles’s grip but was worried about hurting him.

Stiles let him go, but as Derek backed away, he said, “If you’re worried about the sex, you can stop.”

“Worried doesn’t even come close to how I feel. It wasn’t -- you’d never even --”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “Seriously, you’re taking this whole first time thing way more seriously than I ever did. I don’t know how familiar you are with the current state of human society, but the teen pregnancy rate alone suggests that not a lot of people are waiting for true love. My highest aspiration was basically someone hot, normal, and willing, so two out of three was a triumph.”

Derek didn’t react to the crack, but he stopped walking backward. “I shouldn’t have let you.”

“Well, if you have a time machine, you can go ahead and hop on into that shit, but otherwise, that horse is long gone, and good riddance.” Stiles put out both hands, palm up. “Awkward sex between two virgins,” he said, lowering one, and then raised it as he lowered the other. “Sex with a weird asshole who looks like gay porn and sucks dick like it too.” He flung both arms out. “Wow, what a tough call.”

Derek was standing very still, nostrils flaring.

“Yeah, you smell that,” Stiles said. “I’m getting hard talking about what you do to me.” He put the heel of his hand against his crotch, feeling out his own semi with a weird, cheerful feeling of satisfaction. “You can send me home with blue balls again if you want to, but don’t fool yourself that it’s because I don’t know what I’m asking for.”

The backs of Derek’s knees hit the decrepit fancy couch, and he sat down slowly, eyes locked on Stiles’s hand where he was giving his dick a squeeze through his pants.

"I bet you still want this,” Stiles said, and Derek’s eyes jerked up to his face, startled. Stiles grinned; it felt a little manic. “Yeah, don't think I didn’t hear you last time." He thumbed the button of his jeans open. "You’re such a fucking dong, Derek. I let you do me, you remember that? I wanted your dick in my ass. I liked how you did it to me.” He took a step forward, pulling his zipper down slowly; Derek’s lips parted with a nearly inaudible sound. “Then just when I'm thinking how hot you are and how I’m gonna get to fuck you back, you shut me down. That's so inconsiderate.”

Derek’s eyes went to Stiles’s face again as Stiles took another step forward, then back down as Stiles pulled the hem of his shirt up to his navel, pushed his other hand beneath the waistband of his boxers and pulled his cock over the top. He gave it a couple of strokes and then let it swing down and out into the open V of his fly.

“You know something else -- that first time, I still smelled like you when I got home. I could smell it when I got undressed and I spanked it right there even though I was pissed off that you threw me out. Yeah, you’re listening now, huh? I jerked off over smelling like your come.”

Stiles took the last step forward, thumbed a drop of pre-come off of his dick and reached out, drawing it wetly down the side of Derek's throat, into the shallow V-neck of his t-shirt where his clavicles showed. Derek inhaled sharply, and when Stiles braced a hand on his shoulder and leaned down, he could feel the muscles jumping and trembling.

Gently, Stiles said against his mouth, “You should let me fuck you.”

Derek groaned deep in his chest, wrapped both arms around Stiles as he stood up, and carried him into the bedroom. He dropped Stiles onto the mattress and stripped his clothes off in silence, then knelt between Stiles’s legs and kissed him, wrapping his hand around Stiles’s dick; he left it there, hot and loose, while he sucked at Stiles’s tongue and let Stiles suck his. He pulled Stiles’s jeans and boxers off and rolled a condom down Stiles’s cock, stroked him through the rubber with a handful of lube until he was slick and aching.

“Okay," Stiles said, suddenly uncertain in the face of Derek’s weird, quiet intensity. “Okay, should we, I don’t know how you want to --”

Wordlessly, Derek climbed onto the mattress and lay on his back, pulling Stiles between his thighs. He reached between them, down past his own balls; braced over him, Stiles watched his forearm flexing, thought, Derek Hale putting his fingers in his own ass, that’s pretty fucking hot, and hoped he didn’t come before he did a good job. Derek wrapped his hand around Stiles’s cock and pulled him in until the tip was right against his body, where Stiles could feel the indent of his ass, then let go.

“Well,” Stiles said. “Tell me if I do something wrong, I’m gonna...” he pushed, and it didn’t feel like it was going to work, but Derek’s thighs flexed and he was pulling Stiles forward. Stiles heard a soft, startled sound explode from his own throat as his cock sank inside. He wasn’t all the way in yet, but he was definitely in.

“Oh my God,” he said stupidly, and looked at Derek’s face. Derek was already watching him back, breathing quickly. He looked like maybe it hurt, but he was still pulling Stiles in with his legs, opening up for him, and abruptly, Stiles was inside all the way, as deep as he could go. He took a few deep breaths, shifting his weight. Derek moaned, low and ragged, thighs going loose around Stiles’s hips, and Stiles pulled back a little and pushed in again, and it felt like his whole body was narrowed down to the air in his lungs, the sensation of Derek’s ass sliding around his cock.

“Holy shit, I really wish you’d say something,” he panted.

Derek let out a tight chuff of laughter. “Like what.”

“Like tell me if I’m totally screwing this up.”

“You’re not." Stiles decided to trust that Derek was telling the truth, even though Derek’s expression was kind of wrecked. Stiles hadn’t seen himself when he was getting fucked, after all. Maybe everybody looked a little wrecked. They fell into a quiet rhythm, Stiles learning to work with the steady upthrust of Derek’s hips. Derek reached between them again, and Stiles glanced down -- he was jerking off, erection so hard the skin was shiny, stretched tight.

“Oh,” Stiles said, soft and startled, “You like it,” and Derek just looked at him, eyes wide and wild. He didn’t close them even when he came.

.

The next day, between fourth and fifth period, Scott told Stiles he was going over to the Argents’ after school and would meet him at practice. Stiles just nodded; he kept thinking about Derek’s mouth, the way it had fallen open when Stiles had come in him, like Derek had been feeling it too.

At home, he was halfway through his French homework when Castle Wolfenstein popped up a text.

need to talk

“Seriously, this again?” Stiles muttered. It was like someone had tried to train Derek to act like a person and only gotten through one lesson. He texted back im fine. for real.

A couple of minutes later, his phone buzzed again. We need to talk

Stiles sent back, later

Thirty seconds after that, Derek climbed through his bedroom window.

“You really can’t start doing that on the regular,” Stiles said over his shoulder.

Derek brushed a smudge off of his t-shirt. “Peter took Isaac and Jackson to negotiate with the Alphas. Lydia is out of town, but you’re here alone.”

“Yeah, my dad--” Stiles blinked and pushed back from his laptop, swiveling his deck chair around to face Derek. “Wait, why do you know that? Are you looking out for us?”

Derek looked angry and uncomfortable.

“You are,” Stiles realized, delighted. “That or you came here to have sex with me. Did you come here to have sex with me? Because I can so totally just throw all of that laundry in the corner--”

“Stiles, forget the -- I came to get you so we could talk.”

Stiles sat back down. “Oh, right. You said. Okay, but I hope you know I’ll be thinking about sex as hard as I can.” He put his fingers to his temples like Charles Xavier, then dropped his hands. “Hold on, are you parked out front? Because that’s gonna look totally sketchy.”

“The car’s on Ralston. I got here through the back.”

“The Wizard gave him a brain!" Stiles sexclaimed. "You get the Chris Hansen award for foresight in the stalking of underage -- oh, Jesus, I’m sorry, no, can we go back to the sex talk?”

Derek pulled Stiles out of the desk chair by both of his arms and kissed him, then said gently, “You need to shut up sometimes.”

“Probably, but it’ll never happen,” Stiles said. “Does this mean you changed your mind about the sex?”

“No,” Derek said, and then he made Stiles follow him out through the window. He leapt down easily from the roof and looked up with an impatient expression while Stiles arranged himself, then caught him with a soft grunt, setting him on his feet.

On the way out to the Hale property, Derek explained a little bit more about the plan.

Stiles frowned. “Yeah, but why Peter?”

“My mother was the Alpha, but he was her second. I’m a nobody -- I was a beta kid, and then I was an Omega -- and I’ve already been fucking things up, so I wouldn’t get anywhere with them.”

“Okay, I guess that makes sense. I’m just surprised Jackson agreed to help.”

Derek smirked. “Lydia had a hand in that.”

“You’re kidding,” Stiles said, impressed. “The way things are going, this is gonna be a puppet democracy, with the puny humans running the show.” Derek shot him a look, eyebrows lowered, and Stiles just laughed. “Come on. Allison’s got Scott by the pubes, even when they’re broken up. And you know you can’t help yourself when you look at my sexy, sexy body.”

Surprisingly, Derek looked defensive and a little pissed off.

“Oh my God, you totally do think I’m sexy.” Stiles laughed again, kept laughing as they pulled up to the house. “Oh my freaking God, this is awesome.”

Derek was almost smiling as he turned the engine off, but as soon as he pushed the door open, it dropped off of his face. He went still.

“What?” Stiles said.

Without looking at him, Derek said, “Stay in the car.”

“Is something wrong?”

“Stay in the car,” Derek said again, and handed him the keys before getting out.

Stiles looked at them, then got out too. Derek was stalking up to the porch, bristling all over and sniffing the air.

"What do you smell?” Stiles hissed.

Derek just growled, crouching next to something in front of the door.

"What is it?" Stiles said louder, trotting for the stairs.

Derek picked the thing up. It unrolled into a Beacon Hills High sweatshirt; something small and shiny fell out and clinked against the weathered boards.

“That’s Scott’s,” Stiles said dumbly at the top of the stairs, even though Derek obviously knew it already, was sniffing the sweatshirt and growling softly like he didn’t even know he was doing it. “That’s Scott’s sweatshirt. Is there... do you smell blood on it?"

Derek shook his head. "Anger. Fear."

Stiles mounted the last stair and crouched to pick up the object caught and glinting between the warped beams of the porch. It was a wolfsbane bullet.

“Derek,” Stiles said, and Derek’s teeth were already out.

.

Stiles called Scott’s phone twenty-six times on the way back to town, and Scott didn’t pick up on any of them. At the intersection of Eucalyptus and Los Arboles, he hung up on the twenty-seventh try. “Turn left.”

Derek looked a question at him.

“My dad has a gun safe. He told me the combination when I turned thirteen. Turn left.”

Stiles’s hands were perfectly steady as he checked the chamber of the gun, pushed bullets into the spare cartridge. He grabbed his lacrosse hoodie out of the laundry hamper, because it had big pockets, then zipped gun and cartridge into the outside pocket of his backpack and locked the front door behind him. He left the porch light on, because it was getting dark.

Scott didn’t pick up the twenty-eighth call, either. Stiles didn’t bother to leave a message.

They parked around the corner from the Argents’, and Derek looked at him as he unzipped his backpack. “You should stay here.”

Stiles slipped the gun into the pocket of his hoodie. “No.”

Derek nodded and got out.

Stiles rang the bell while Derek flattened himself against the wall of the house. When Allison opened the door, he rolled sideways and shouldered it open, claws already out.

“Dad,” Allison shrieked, scrambling back toward the stairs, and Chris Argent appeared in the doorway of the dining room. Derek went straight for him and bore him back through it; Stiles heard a crash of dishes, and pulled the gun from his pocket as he followed.

Derek had Mr. Argent pinned against the dining room table and was growling, “Where is he?” through his fangs. Stiles circled them carefully, weapon pointed at the floor.

“Let him go,” Allison said furiously from the doorway. She was holding a crossbow on Derek.

“Where the fuck is he, Allison?” Stiles was equally furious.

Allison didn't take her eyes off of Derek. “Who?”

Stiles tried to say, “Scott,” but was drowned out, because Derek was roaring the same thing.

Allison’s eyes went wide, and she looked at Stiles for the first time since Derek had come through the door. “What are you --”

“He’s not here,” Mr. Argent said. Tightly, because Derek was pressing heavily on his chest with the hand that wasn’t holding both of his wrists flat on the table, staring down and growling softly in his chest on every exhale. “We were supposed to talk, but he didn’t show up. I figured he was busy with you.”

“I don’t believe you,” Stiles said.

“If he’s missing,” Mr. Argent continued, still looking up at Derek, “I’m guessing the hunters have him.”

“I don’t believe you,” Stiles said again. “Why Scott? He’s just a dumb kid. He’s not even an Alpha.”

But Derek had already dropped the growling and started developing an expression of grim comprehension. “They’d take him to draw me out.” He took a deep breath and moved his hand up, pressing one clawed thumb against the side of Mr. Argent’s throat. “Tell me you had nothing to do with this.”

Steadily, meeting Derek’s eyes, Mr. Argent said, “I’m not involved.”

Derek stared into his face for a long, tense moment before letting him stand up.

“They’re renting a cabin about twenty-five miles out of town.” Mr. Argent cleared his throat. “That’s what I wanted Scott over for, to let him know about their movements. I’ll come with you.”

Stiles was speaking before he realized he meant to. “No.”

“There are three of them. You could use my help."

“No,” Stiles said again. Derek met his eyes briefly, then looked back at Mr. Argent.

“Just tell us where it is.”

When he and Derek were buckling themselves in, Allison knocked on the passenger’s side window. She was still holding the crossbow.

Stiles rolled the window down.

“Let me,” Allison said. She added quietly, “Please,” and Stiles opened the door.

.

It was already full dark when they reached the edge of town and started the long drive up into the mountains. Derek killed the headlights as soon as they hit the turn-off, and the car crept up the dirt road in eerie, moonlit quiet for about a hundred yards before stopping out of sight of the main highway. Stiles found himself offering Allison a hand as she scrambled out after him, and she looked right at him with a smile as she grabbed it, even though he was pretty sure she didn’t need any help.

“Wait,” Stiles told the others, and ducked back into the car to grab the bottle out of his backpack, just in case.

Allison looked at it. “What is that?”

"Uh," Stiles said. “What do you know about mistletoe and werewolves?”

Allison blinked, then got a pop quiz look on her face and took a deep breath. “Oral ingestion of certain preparations causes vomiting, diarrhea, and digestive cramps. Subcutaneous or intravenous infusion causes immediate, extreme pain at the site of introduction, followed quickly by muscular cramps, weakness, delirium, sweating, and the inability to shift forms, lasting for several hours.”

Derek looked supremely cranky at the recitation.

“Right,” Stiles said. “Well, this heads it off, or stops it if it’s in progress. Derek’s already been dosed, but it’ll be harder to get Scott out of there if he’s sick.”

“Did you make it?” Allison looked at Derek.

“Stiles did,” Derek said, and started walking.

Allison looked back at Stiles. “Wow, you’re Willow.”

“Yup.” Stiles put the bottle in his pocket.

There was a fire break all around the cabin, bare gravel with no available cover, so Derek made them both hang back in the trees as he approached in wolf face, feet crunching in the tiny rocks despite his caution. He made it onto the walkway and was almost to the door when Stiles heard a soft click, a thump; Derek grunted quietly and crumpled.

Stiles was already halfway to him when the door opened on the shape of a person. It was too big to be Scott, and it had an arm out, aiming something at Derek, so Stiles fired without even thinking. The shape went down, and Stiles fired again as it fell. He dropped to his knees beside Derek, gasping, “Don’t be dead--”

Derek reared up into a sitting position and let out a strangled growl, clawing at his calf. He tore through the leg of his jeans and yanked something out of his flesh, sniffed it and tossed it aside.

“What is it?” Allison said.

“Mistletoe,” Derek grunted.

“Oh, good.” Stiles was lightheaded with relief. “That's fine, because you’re already--”

Derek was shaking his head. “I’m not --” He tried to stand up; Stiles ducked under one of his arms, trying to help, but they both collapsed as Derek shuddered, legs going out from under him. He pushed Stiles off and slashed through the flesh of his own calf with his claws.

“Oh my God,” Stiles gasped. “What the fuck are you doing?”

“He’s trying to let the poison bleed out,” Allison said. “Right?”

Derek did it again, deeper, moonlight glinting off his fangs as he snarled in pain.

“What should we do?” Allison said, and Derek looked up at her, chest heaving, blood dripping darkly down his leg into the gravel.

“Find Scott. He’s here. I can smell him.”

“Oh, God,” Stiles breathed. “Okay. Here.” He took the bottle out of his pocket. “If he’s sick, make him drink this.”

Allison reached for the bottle, but jerked back and turned, firing her crossbow at the open doorway. There was a soft cry, and a gun skittered out into the gravel. Allison picked it up.

Derek growled and shook his head like he was dizzy, eyes glowing. “Allison, go.”

Allison took the bottle from Stiles and disappeared into the cabin. Stiles pushed up onto his knees, leaning over Derek, who was shuddering and breathing heavily. “You’re -- are you sick? Crap, I must have let it sit too long when we were -- damn it.”

Derek shook his head and started to say something, but then he cut off in a snarl, and his arm flashed out, sweeping Stiles down to sprawl in the gravel. Stiles tried to scramble away -- Jesus, was Derek already delirious? Stiles was going to die, where was the gun -- but instead of hitting him again, Derek was -- he was wrestling with something -- he was wrestling with a guy. Stiles drew his legs out of the way of the fight just as Derek grabbed at the other man’s throat and tore, dropping the body in a spray of arterial blood.

“Holy fuck,” Stiles said faintly, vision narrowing, and suddenly Derek was crouching beside him, using his bloody hands to tip Stiles’s head forward between his knees.

“Don’t pass out, I need you.”

“You so do.” Stiles was trying to regulate his breathing, because he could feel Derek shuddering, and it seemed to be getting worse.

“Is he sick?” Scott’s voice said behind him. Stiles made a soft sound of relief.

“Here,” Allison said, then, from lower down, “Scott didn’t need it,” and there was the smell of wintergreen. Stiles took a deep, steadying breath and lifted his head up; she was crouched next to them, helping Derek down the contents of the bottle, holding it for him as he swallowed.

“Stiles, are you okay?” Scott said above him, and Stiles looked up.

“Yeah, I’m fine. Are you?”

“Yeah. They didn’t --” Scott hesitated. “I mean, they --”

“They didn’t poison him, but he’s healing some pretty nasty cuts and bruises, is what he’s trying to say,” Allison said in a hard voice. She was helping Derek lie down, and huh, Derek was letting her.

“You fought ‘em pretty good, huh,” Stiles said.

Scott shook his head, teeth flashing. “Not so good. But I tried, anyway.”

“Two down,” Derek said roughly, shuddering in the gravel. “Where’s the third?”

“He went through the window when I came in,” Allison told him.

“Don’t let him get far.”

Allison laughed. It didn’t sound very nice. “Wasn’t planning on it. Are you going to be okay without us? How long does this stuff take to kick in?”

“I’ll stay with him.” Stiles held up his dad’s gun. “If you could help me move him out of the open, though, that’d be better.”

Scott took Derek’s torso, and Allison and Stiles both grabbed a leg. Stiles grimaced as fresh blood flowed over his hands, trying not to stumble over the body in the doorway.

The first room on the left was a kitchen, and they laid Derek out on the floor in the most defensible corner. He was wracked with full-body shudders now, every third breath emerging as a quiet, cut-off moan, and Stiles felt kind of sick.

“All right. Catch you on the flip side.” Allison looked grim and beautiful as she stood. She and Scott exchanged a long look. His claws came out, and they left together, moving as a unit without needing to say a word.

Stiles sighed and sat on the floor. “Wish we’d gotten you a blanket. Maybe a pillow. I don’t really want to leave you and look for one.”

“Good call,” Derek said, breathing shallowly through gritted teeth.

“Really hope I did that second dose right. It would suck to get caught here and go to prison for murder because I’m a shitty Willow.”

Derek huffed in amusement, then stiffened with a growl. His head knocked back against the floor with an alarming crack, and he let out a sound so close to a whimper that Stiles was briefly paralyzed with shock and alarm. He scooted closer and set the gun down long enough to cross his legs, pulling Derek’s head into his lap. Derek made a soft sound of discomfort.

“Sorry, I’m sorry.” Stiles picked up the gun again.

Derek’s eyes fluttered open in the dim; only the whites were visible. He moaned and thrashed his legs a little, then whimpered again as the injured one hit a cabinet.

“No, don’t,” Stiles said. “Don’t move, okay? Can you even understand me?”

Derek didn’t seem to. He was giving low, choked snarls, but without the deep timber Stiles was used to; purely human. His fangs and claws were gone, too, and Stiles thought, inability to shift forms.

“I guess this isn’t the worst thing we’ve been through,” he said out loud as Derek shivered and snarled at nothing. “I mean, there was the time I let you sink to the bottom of a pool. And the time you tried to make me saw a limb off of you.”

Derek’s t-shirt was soaked through with sweat, and he flinched when Stiles tried to touch his shoulder, like it hurt him, so Stiles moved his hand back to his own thigh. “And then there are all the times when you said you were going to kill me in alarmingly specific ways. And the times when I decided to kill you. Oh, and the time you threw me out like a sorority hookup after I let you fuck me up the ass.”

He paused, tapping his fingertips against his blood-smeared jeans.

“I guess what I’m saying is that we’ve got a complicated history. But I still hope that dose kicks in soon, because, and believe me, I find this as surprising as you do, it turns out that it’s not at all gratifying to have you in pain and at my mercy.”

Derek wasn’t moaning out loud anymore, but he still didn’t respond when Stiles said his name, so Stiles kept talking, low and absentminded, while he waited for Derek to come back, or for Allison and Scott to come back, or, hey, for the third hunter to come back and try to kill them.

He found himself petting Derek’s sweaty hair back from his face. “You just, you really need somebody telling you when your plans fucking suck, is the thing. And, God, the sex is really good. Not that I’d know, I guess, although you would not believe the volume and breadth of porn I’ve seen. Or maybe you would. I don’t know, do you even watch porn? You must know how to use the internet, right? I never know with you. God, you’re so weird.” Stiles sighed. After a moment, he said, "I liked the way you looked at me when I was inside you. You have really nice eyes."

Gently, he touched Derek's lashes with his thumb.

Derek said, "Thank you."

“You’re listening,” Stiles said stupidly, and then, “oh, you’re,” and then, “hi,” and Derek took a deep breath and opened his eyes, said hello back.

.

After about twenty minutes, Derek’s werewolf healing kicked in, and he sat up, testing his bloody leg with his fingertips as the gashes filled in.

“You know, I don’t know why I feel guilty,” Stiles told him. “Now that I'm thinking about it, it’s probably your fault I jacked up the first dose. Don’t start doing sexy stuff to me when I’m busy.”

“You’re not busy right now,” Derek said, and kissed him.

“Yes I am,” Stiles argued, pulling out of the kiss, trying to karate chop Derek’s hands off of his waist. “I’m busy not letting us get sniped.”

Derek just ducked back in and flicked Stiles's earlobe with his tongue. “I’ll hear if anyone comes close.”

"You don't want to maybe save this for later, when there aren't any dead people around?"

"No," Derek snarled into the side of Stiles's throat, just below his ear. "I want to do it right on top of them. They expected to take me down easy. They thought I'd be alone."

With quiet, glad conviction, Stiles said, “But you weren't." He tilted his head back to let Derek set blunt human teeth into the curve of his neck. “Easy, pal, don't break the skin, there. I think we've had enough crisis for one night. Also, just saying, you're kind of bloody. I’m bloody. I’m bloody with your blood.”

Already sniffing him deeply, Derek said, “You don’t mind,” which was true. So Stiles ended up laid out on the floor with his hands in Derek's hair, letting Derek practice the gentlest cannibalism in the world on him and wondering when he'd turned fucked-up enough to sort of understand this scenario, or if he'd just come that way, when Derek stiffened and said, “Shh.”

“What is it?” Stiles whispered back.

Derek cocked his head, then pulled away. “Scott and Allison.” He listened for another moment. “Moving slowly.”

It turned out they were dragging a dead body.

“Oh my God, dude,” Stiles said as they dumped it in the hallway next to the other one, but Scott shook his head.

“Allison took him out, not me. I wanted to just tie him up or whatever, but he kind of made us do it.”

“He definitely made us do it,” Allison corrected, and she didn’t sound sad about it, not even a little. Stiles wasn’t sure whether he was impressed or worried.

“What now?” Scott said. “The police department is totally gonna CSI this shit and like, find my DNA on the kitchen knives.”

Stiles groaned. “How long have you known me and you’re still an idiot about -- hold on, are you saying they used kitchen knives on you?” He suddenly felt zero remorse about the corpse with two of his dad’s bullets in it. Wait, shit. “Bullets,” he said. “Scott, you’re right. They’re gonna --”

Derek was already crouching next to the corpse, ripping it open with his claws.

“Oh, gross. That is just --” Stiles turned away with his arm over his face. A couple of wet-sounding minutes later, he felt Derek’s fingers slide into his front jeans pocket, then withdraw. As Derek crunched out into the gravel, Stiles put his fingers in and drew out a couple of bloody lumps of metal.

Scott and Allison were looking at him, eyebrows way up. Stiles shrugged helplessly and put the bullets back in his pocket.

Derek sniffed out the casings as well, picking them out of the gravel, and then carried the throatless body inside and down the hall. He came out a moment later and took the second the same way. When he came back for the third, Scott spoke for all of them. “Dude. What are you doing?”

“Putting them in bed,” Derek said over his shoulder. “Then burning the cabin.”

“That’s...” Stiles paused. “Actually, that might work out.”

Derek was about to break a kerosene lantern onto a stack of newspapers when Allison said, “Let me.” She held it for a long moment, expression inscrutable, before she dropped it.

.

Scott was dead asleep inside five minutes, slumped across the backseat into Allison’s lap. Stiles was halfway there as well, temple pressed against the cool glass of the passenger’s side window, feeling cocooned in the shush of the tires and the ache of his limbs.

“Mr. Hale,” Allison said from the backseat, rousing Stiles from a light doze. He thought sleepily that it was weird to hear someone address Derek like that, like Derek was an adult. Even though, technically, he was.

Derek grunted.

Allison took an audible breath. “I’m probably the last person in the world you want to talk to, but I have questions and I don’t really know who else to ask.”

Derek grunted again.

“My mom told me that you were born a wolf, that all of the Hales were. Is that true?”

There was a long silence before Derek spoke, rough with old pain, old fury. “There were two human children in the house when it burned. Did anyone tell you that?”

“No,” Allison whispered.

“Well, now you know.” After another moment, Derek continued, “I don't know if anyone told you this part, but I was Scott's age when someone from your family murdered everyone in mine, because to her, being more than human made us less than people.”

Allison was quiet.

“If you want to start asking yourself those tough questions about who qualifies for humanity, maybe you should start by imagining someone deliberately using a kid like him, making him feel special, knowing he was fucking stupid enough,” Derek’s voice cut out on the words, an ugly choke that made Stiles’s stomach clench, “to let her get close enough to hurt the people he loved.”

They drove on in silence for a minute or two. Part of Stiles wanted to look at Derek, but a greater part didn’t really want or need to see the expression on Derek’s face. He kept his eyes closed.

Finally, Allison said, “No, nobody told me that part.”

“Now you know.”

They pulled over down the road from the 7-11 with the actual working payphone, which was basically a unicorn in this day and age. Allison put her hood up, hiding her face from the CCTV, then accepted a handful of change from Stiles’s backpack and jogged the hundred yards or so to call in a fire.

.

Stiles was woken from half-sleep by a low, eager sound from Derek’s throat, and he sat up, licking his teeth, as they pulled up to the Hale property. Almost before the engine cut out, Derek was throwing himself from the car, leaping up the porch stairs.

The front door opened as he reached it, and he stopped short, looking down at Erica, outlined starkly against the house by the headlights of the Camaro. Her mouth moved, and then she leaned forward against Derek, forearms caught between them. Derek’s arms went around her.

Stiles turned off the headlights and got out of the car, walking up the stairs. He couldn’t quite hear the words, but Erica was murmuring urgently into Derek’s chest, and he was saying something back, quiet.

Erica took a noisy, wet breath and stood up straight again, then went still, staring past Stiles with glowing eyes. “What the fuck is she doing here?”

Stiles looked back; Allison was climbing out of the Camaro beside Scott.

“She helped us,” Scott called up to them -- wolf hearing.

“Killed a hunter,” Derek added quietly, pulling Erica’s gaze back to him. She stood for a long moment, breathing shallowly as she met his eyes, and then looked at Allison again before turning and going inside.

Scott was sniffing the air, looking surprised. “Jackson?”

“Long story, Derek’ll tell you,” Stiles said, waving a hand, and then clapped it to his forehead. “Oh, screw me hard. My dad’s probably home, I gotta --”

“My mom,” Scott agreed, looking equally worried.

“I’ll take you,” Derek said. “Stay here for a minute.” He disappeared into the house for a short time, during which Allison and Scott made blatant cow-eyes and Stiles shivered in the light dewfall. Derek came back out with his shoulders and spine about fifty percent more relaxed as he herded them toward the Camaro.

“Everyone’s there? They’re okay?” Stiles asked as he climbed back into the passenger’s seat, and Derek nodded as he put the key in the ignition. Stiles buckled in, and they pulled away from Hale house, where all of Derek’s wolves were safe for the night.

.

Stiles’s dad was not parked in the driveway, thank fuck.

As he opened the car door to let himself and Scott out, Derek reached over and brushed his fingers across Stiles's jeans pocket, where the bullets were, giving Stiles a weirdly intense look.

Then, with Allison in the passenger’s seat, Derek three-point-turned and accelerated away.

"If I just lie down right here and sleep, will your dad ticket me for loitering?" Scott yawned. Stiles took him upstairs to borrow clothes that weren’t obviously bloody and destroyed, before loading him into the Jeep, crossing his fingers that his dad would stay away for just twenty more minutes, please.

While they rattled through the deserted late-night streets, he tapped out nervous rhythms on the wheel, grimacing when he noticed the blood still under his fingernails. Finally, a couple of blocks from Scott’s, he cleared his throat. “So, this is somehow even more awkward to tell you than I imagined it being, but I'm kind of sleeping with Derek.”

Scott whipped his head around from the window and stared at Stiles with complicated eyebrows. After a pause, he said "Just checking, but you don't mean taking naps together, right?”

"No, but just out of curiosity, though, what exactly would you say if I did?"

"I don't know, suggest therapy or something. Offer to hug you more."

"You hug me enough," Stiles assured him. "Anyway, uh. It's not really anything, I just thought I should tell you."

"It's not?"

Stiles drummed his fingers on the wheel, then sighed. "God, I don't know."

Scott frowned through two stop signs. "He's really old. And really weird."

Stiles just looked at him.

Scott shrugged. “All right, whatever.” Then his eyebrows pinched together. “Do you... want to talk about it?”

“Fuck no,” Stiles grimaced, then amended, “Probably not.” He paused. “Maybe? But definitely not right now. And I promise not to tell you about his dick. Or even that he has a dick! Although you probably already knew that. Maybe you can even smell that kind of thing. I know Derek can smell it when I -- oh God, I’m sorry, just -- stop listening, cover your ears or something,” because Scott was looking more and more like he wanted to throw himself out of the Jeep at forty miles per hour. Which was now easily survivable for him, so, hey.

Stiles’s dad’s car was in the McCall driveway. He and Scott shared an uh-oh glance as he turned off the engine.

“I can hear them talking in the living room,” Scott confirmed. Then his eyes widened. “About werewolves. Crap.”

“Crap indeed, my friend,” Stiles agreed, and heaved a sigh. “Well, it had to happen sometime, I guess. We'll talk to them together? Maybe it’s a good thing, I don’t know.”

Moving in tired, soupy synchronicity, they unbuckled, opened their doors and climbed out. Before they closed them, Scott looked at him. “Hey. Stiles.”

“Yeah,” Stiles said.

“Thanks for coming to get me.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “If you thought for even a second that I wouldn’t, you’re fucking stupid.”

Scott's smile split his face, wide and sweet. They slammed the Jeep’s doors. Together, they walked up to the house.

As Scott reached for the door, Stiles put a hand in the middle of his chest. "Wait, you should pop your fangs out first."

Scott gave him a skeptical look.

"No, come on." He found himself grinning, a little delirious with exhaustion and relief -- Scott was whole, Derek's betas were probably okay, Derek was complicated and kind of macabre, Stiles had killed a guy for him. Situation normal, all fucked up. He chest-patted Scott encouragingly. "You're a werewolf, dude. Let's have some fun with this."

.