"This is another fine mess you've gotten us into," Stiles says, full of infuriating bravado.
Derek looks up at him, at the lean but fragile expanse of this kid standing over him while a pack of Alphas, not the first pack of Alphas they've faced but the second because fate isn't done screwing with him apparently, circle and growl. Derek's on the ground, trying to push to his feet but it's proving difficult with a shattered leg.
"You want to make with the healing any time soon?" Stiles hisses. He doesn't sound afraid exactly, more impatient and Derek grunts.
"They broke my leg in three places. I might need a few minutes."
"I don't think we have that long," Stiles says. He's holding his lacrosse stick aloft, waving it like it's any kind of weapon, which it really isn't.
"You couldn't have played baseball?" Derek grumbles, because anything would be better than the flimsy stick with netting on the end.
Stiles looks at what he's holding, like it isn't ridiculous. "I'm good with this thing."
"You're really going to bitch at me about my sport of choice while I'm the only thing standing between you and these guys making Derek-paste?"
Derek can feel it, the moment his body tries to knit faster, like it's being annoyed into doing it, like Stiles can aggravate him into overachieving bone reconstruction.
"A frail slip of a human is not a wise choice for guardian," one of the Alphas growls, crouched low to the ground, licking at his fangs.
"I'm stronger than I look," Stiles bites back, and while it's true, Derek's still alive a dozen times over because it's true, he's pretty sure five Alpha werewolves are more than a match for Stiles' blustering.
"Give me the stick," Derek says, because a crap weapon when he's injured is better than none at all.
"Believe me, you don't want it. Plus, you can't stand yet."
Derek tries again, but his knee is splintered and it's slow going, the joints always the slowest to heal.
"Your fight's with me. The kid goes," Derek grates.
"The kid's staying," Stiles says, kicking Derek in his good leg with a shabby sneaker.
"The kid stays," the female Alpha says, rubbing her hands together. "We're cultured. We like having an appetiser before the main course."
"You should try eating vegetarians. They'd taste better because they're grain-fed. Me? I'm going to give you mad indigestion because I'm mostly caffeine and starburst."
"Enough banter," the biggest Alpha hisses from the back of the group and Derek sees Stiles tense. He wants to pick him up and run, flight instinct taking over his fight just because Stiles is worth more than his pride. Derek tests his leg but it's still pretty useless and he's not going to get far.
The female lets out a high-pitched chortle, sounding more like a hyena than a wolf and then she's darting towards Stiles. The crazy, brave fool steps forward to meet her and Derek feels a stricken howl building in his chest, tries to get the leg under him in one last push so he can get between them and then something happens that no one was expecting.
Stiles swings the lacrosse stick and the female rears backwards, screaming.
The werewolves all freeze in confusion except for the female who's slunk backwards, cradling her face and whimpering. Derek hears Stiles let out a shaky breath before he seems to gather himself enough to say, "Yeah, that's what you get!"
"What the hell is that?" the Alpha the female has slunk behind demands, picking her up by the scruff and shaking her. She drops her hands from her face and Derek can see that the half Stiles connected with is blackened and bubbling.
"Silver," she moans, cringing when the Alpha holding her roars and tosses her aside.
"You have a silver-handled lacrosse stick?" Derek asks, incredulous.
"Thought it might come in handy," Stiles says, then waggles it as if to say, tada, totally right.
"How do you have silver-handled lacrosse stick?"
"Deaton," Stiles says. "I don't even want to think about how much it's worth, but I might when I retire from being in constant werewolf jeopardy."
"You think your single puny weapon will stop all of us?" the biggest Alpha growls.
"Absolutely not," Stiles says and Derek sighs, drops his forehead against his arms. "It doesn't have to," Stiles adds and Derek looks back up at him, now back to standing over Derek like a protective mama lion.
"Why is that?"
"Because when you play lacrosse, you play with a team," Stiles says and Derek jerks his head when he catches a familiar scent on the air. He sees Scott, Boyd and Isaac advancing across the field, all with their own sticks raised.
The Alphas all look at each other. The hurt female is the first to break ranks, obviously had enough for tonight. She scampers and the others are quick to follow, the biggest Alpha only hesitating to throw a dangerous glare over his shoulder, one that promises retribution.
Stiles stands at the ready for another minute, perhaps suspecting a fake-out, but then he's dropping down to get a shoulder under Derek's arm and help him to his feet. Derek lets him, groaning as the leg shifts back into place with a deep and ugly throb of pain before he chances putting any weight on it.
"You all have silver sticks?" Derek asks, grudgingly impressed.
"No way," Scott says, smirking. "Ours are purely regulation." He spins his own lacrosse stick in his hand.
"They could've called your bluff," Derek says, trying to be stern but he can't really hold onto it. His wolves came as a group, a pack and Derek's heartened to see it, constantly worried that they would never form a cohesive unit.
"Well, they didn't," Isaac says, offers to take Derek's weight from Stiles but Derek's tightening grip on him has Stiles waving Isaac off.
"Why can't I smell the silver?"
"It has a coating of something Deaton called Ergen over the top. Masks the scent but doesn't mess with the contact effects," Stiles supplies as he starts carefully walking Derek towards the bleachers on the far side of the field, the others an anxious cluster behind them.
"You're a maniac," Derek sighs, shaking his head ruefully.
"I've been called worse, by you in fact," Stiles says.
"Perimeter," Derek grunts at his hovering wolves and while they all give him smirky salutes, they do lope off leaving Derek alone with Stiles who awkwardly lowers him to the bench seat along the sideline of the field. Stiles hovers uncertainly and Derek tugs him down by his shirtsleeve. "I'm fine," he says, swinging his leg experimentally a few times. It doesn't exactly feel good yet but it's serviceable.
"That will never stop being awesome," Stiles muses, watching Derek hold his leg out, testing his mobility.
"You ever break a bone?"
"My wrist when I fell out of a tree when I was six and then my leg at summer camp when I was thirteen. Being the only kid stomping around on crutches for the rest of the time and not able to go swimming in the lake didn't exactly do anything for my popularity."
"You stayed at the camp?" Derek asks, not really surprised.
"My dad wanted me home but I... who was going to look after Scott without me there? You didn't know him when he would get winded just getting up in the morning."
"You worry too much about him, about us," Derek muses. Derek watches Stiles time and again put other people's needs above his own, sometimes to his own detriment. This night's action was just another in a long list.
"You're my... friends," Stiles says, faltering a little.
"It's okay, you can call us pack, because you are."
"I'm not a werewolf though," Stiles says, tenses a little when Derek puts a hand against his throat, rubs a thumb up his pulse point.
"Do you want...?"
"Not... I'm not saying a permanent no," Stiles gets out in a husky voice, swallowing compulsively. "But I wouldn't have been able to help you tonight if I wasn't a human." Stiles glances sideways at the lacrosse stick leaning against his knee. "The Alphas didn't know it, but none of you guys could so much as pick this up. Scott grabbed it by accident once in the locker room and cried like a baby."
"Okay, maybe there wasn't actual crying but there was definitely a non-manly chin wobble."
"I meant are you really sure?"
"Of course I'm not sure, hence the non-permanent no. Maybe in a few years I might turn up on your doorstep willing to run into your teeth but for now I think the human thing, I'm sticking."
"Well, you don't have to be a wolf to be pack. I thought you'd know that by now."
"I guess," Stiles says, staring at his feet and Derek lets his hand drop down to Stiles' shoulder, squeezing before letting go. He gets the strangest urge to cuddle the crap out of Stiles sometimes, must be the giant Bambi-like eyes.
"My family, there were humans. My little sister was human."
"You had a little sister?"
"Yeah, Izzie. You remind me of her."
"What, a little girl? Har har," Stiles says with a sour expression and Derek chuckles.
"No, she would stand up for someone else, even if the odds were stacked against her. I picked her up from school once because she'd pushed a boy over in the playground that was twice her size. Apparently he'd pulled another little girl's hair and Izzie wasn't going to stand for that."
"Cool," Stiles says and Derek nods slowly, before it occurs to him that he's talking about his past, about his family and it's not... it still hurts but telling Stiles about his sister doesn't taste like ash in his mouth. It almost feels good to share something like that, his memories the one thing the fire couldn't consume.
"I think I'm mobile," Derek says, standing slowly, bouncing up and down a little to test his leg's strength.
"Awesome," Stiles says, standing also just as the others arrive back. "Okay, I'm thinking ice cream and Die Hard movies, my place."
The others nod, Scott taking a moment to knuckle Stiles' face and Isaac also needing to pass a hand along both him and Derek before they move off. Stiles is the last to go, throws a look over his shoulder at Derek. "C'mon, then."
"Oh, no, I was going to-" Derek gestures over his own shoulder but Stiles' expression goes stern and he's grabbing Derek by the hand and tugging.
"Pack, remember?" he prompts.
Derek sighs, watching Isaac, Scott and Boyd all shoving at each other as they make their way towards Stiles' jeep and Derek's Camaro parked alongside, looks back at Stiles wearing an expression that's edged into careful hope.
"Can we skip Die Hard 2? That shit was terrible."
"Look who has an opinion!" Stiles says, grinning and risking a quick rub of Derek's head that Derek allows with an impatient huff.