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Off The Beaten Path

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Derek’s dragging Stiles through the woods. Stiles is literally being dragged through the woods. In broad daylight – which ok, is probably better than the dead of night, but he’s not really looking for silver linings right now.

They’ve been walking for what feels like hours – Stiles has never been this deep into the Beacon Hills preserve, and he’d be worried that Derek was going to bury his body out here and no one would ever find him except…actually no, he is worried about that.

He’s also really tired, and his rate of tripping over sticks and rocks has quadrupled over the last twenty minutes or so – hence the dragging, because Derek had started huffing with impatience or irritation or some kind of unknowable Alpha werewolf rage, and then he’d grabbed Stiles’s wrist and just started pulling him along, like he was a recalcitrant child or something. Stiles takes serious umbrage to this, but Derek won’t let him go. And they walk. And walk.

Derek’s hand somehow slips further down, so they’re basically holding hands. Derek doesn’t seem to notice. Stiles really wants to say something, but when will he ever get to almost-hold-hands with Derek ever again? Even if it is under severe duress and unintentional and extremely pathetic and messed up on Stiles’s part? Stiles should really learn not to be attracted to people who are dicks to him, but with a sudden rare and powerful future foresight, Stiles knows that this is how his libido is going to treat him for the rest of his life. However short that might be.

They come to a sort of woody meadow suddenly, and well, it’s kinda pretty with the afternoon sun and the long yellow grass and there’s even fucking butterflies and shit. Derek just stops and glares at it. And then glares at him.

“Well?” he says, like he thinks Stiles has any clue what he means by that.

“Uh, yeah, nice…woods? Although they were perfectly fine back there, you know, near my jeep. Without all the walking for two hours.”

Derek actually growls, which is something he hasn’t really done for a while. Chalk it up to holding Alpha position means actually needing to use your words instead of just monosyllabism and glaring. “Break it.”

Stiles really hates it when Derek speaks with his teeth. It’s an unnecessary level of threatening. Can’t he tell Stiles is already totally threatened? “Break…what? Am I supposed to know what’s being broken here? Because I really, really don’t.”

Derek pushes him. Just shoves him forward, so hard that he’s propelled a few feet before falling face first into the long yellow grass. Which really isn’t so pretty when you’re spitting it out. “What the fuck, man?” he splutters, twisting to look back up at Derek, who hasn’t moved. His glare hasn’t moved, either. “Did you bring me here to beat me to death or something? I thought we were past that, what with all the life-saving, and the awesome advisory position I now hold in the werewolf community? Scott’s gonna be pissed if you do anything permanent to me. Or you know, semi-permanent.”

“Shut up. Why have you mountain ashed the whole fucking town, Stiles?”

“I…huh? I have no idea what you just said. And mountain ash is not a verb.” Stiles sits up as Derek’s words penetrate his confused – and bruised – head. “What? Dude, more explanation is needed here.”

Derek frowns, like he’s finally getting that Stiles has no clue what’s going on. “Beacon Hills has been completely encircled by mountain ash. I’ve walked the entire perimeter.”

Stiles gapes. “Holy shitballs. Wait, really? Does that mean…are you…are you trapped in Beacon Hills?”

Derek punches the air in front of him, and his fist connects with an invisible barrier and bounces off. Bounces off. “Yes,” Derek grits out. “And so is every other werewolf in town.”

“Oh. Oh, shit. The Alpha pack. Do they know?”

“Not yet, I don’t think. But they’ll work it out soon, and trust me, they won’t fucking like it.”

The words send a chill down Stiles, as he takes in how pissed Derek seems to be about…what? Being trapped? In a small town full of innocent people/fodder. And the Alphas are way, way more fucked up and unpredictable than Derek, which is really saying something. This is not going to end happily.

“Hey, wait, you thought it was me?” Stiles says, realising suddenly why he’s been dragged out here in the first place – and also realising where Derek’s misplaced anger was coming from. So misplaced. He scrambles to his feet, brushing the grass off his now-damp ass, and glares right back at Derek – he’s been practicing in the mirror, and he’s getting really good. “What the actual fuck, Derek? Why would I do that? I don’t even think I could do that!”

Derek crosses his arms over his muscular chest. Stiles wills himself to not be distracted by them. It. “Because you’re the only one apart from Deaton who has access to mountain ash.”

“Oh really? How can you possibly know that? There’s an entire town full of people out there. Some of them are probably really shitty people with terrible motives and magical know-how! And what about Deaton himself? He’s way better at magic than me, why don’t you go interrogate him?”

“He didn’t do it,” Derek grits out. “I asked him. He has no idea what’s going on.”

Stiles scoffs. “Yeah, I find it hard to believe that our resident omnipotent Dumbledore is all that clueless. But it wasn’t me, so you can take your asshole accusations and fuck off.” Stiles had thought that he’d garnered a little bit of trust over the last few months, after the whole Gerard fiasco and its aftermath, but apparently he’d been wrong about that. He’s wrong about a lot of things these days, it seems.

Derek seems to deflate, just the tiniest bit. He uncrosses his arms and runs a hand through his hair, which is an unusual gesture for him and turns the artful styling into something more resembling bedhead…which, Stiles is not even going there. Nope.

Derek pounds once more on the air in front of him, but it’s more a helpless gesture than anything. Stiles really doesn’t like helpless Derek, and his own righteous – so righteous – anger just up and vanishes.

“Er, so. It’s about here-ish, then?” Stiles crouches down and peers at the grass. There’s no mountain ash line, no recently dug up dirt. Just normal ground. He looks up at Derek, who has moved closer and is actually leaning on the air above his head. It’s pretty fricking weird, and Stiles has a really high weird tolerance level. Derek just stares down at him with a raised eyebrow. “I guess that’s a yes then,” Stiles mutters, and gives the ground another once-over. “It really goes around the whole of the town?”

“Yes. It follows the exact borders. You’re standing in New Lambton right now, not Beacon Hills. I know my territory.”

“Keep your fur on, I wasn’t questioning your Alphahood. It’s interesting that it’s so exact, though.” Stiles hums, thinking. He gets to his feet and walks a few paces, trying to find something. Anything. Derek stalks beside him like a caged beast. Or a really irritated man with emotional problems. Either one is accurate. “So you really can’t get out?”

Derek shoots him a withering look, but Stiles doesn’t care. He’s finding it hard to believe that this magical barrier can stop Derek in his tracks while little old Stiles can just waltz on by with no problems. He really should believe it, seeing as though he himself has used mountain ash in this very same way, just on a much smaller scale – if it even is mountain ash? – but the sun is shining and there’s birds chirping in the trees and a really nice breeze, and it all just seems ridiculous. Plus he‘s hungry and he wants to go home and eat a sandwich or three.

Stiles lays out a few twigs so he can actually have an idea of where this mystical magical Great Wall of Werewolf is, and then says, “Give me your hand.”

Derek stares at him, and then stares at the hand Stiles has extended across the demarcation line.

Derek’s apparently only fine with holding hands as long as it’s unwilling . Which, creepy. So creepy. Stiles wiggles his fingers, and geez, he puts up with so much. “Come on, wolfman, don’t be shy. It’s for science. Or well, for magical experimentation, which by the way is definitely not a euphemism.”

Derek gives a tragic sigh and then clenches Stiles’s hand, and ok, ow. Unwillingness or pain: the only way Derek Hale will engage in physical human contact. Which…is actually kinda sad, and Stiles is reminded of how genuinely tragic Derek‘s past is. The guy could really use a hug, Stiles bets. Not that he‘s about to offer, because he enjoys having his arms in their sockets. Derek‘s inhuman grip on his hand is bad enough.

“Hey, be gentle. I’m a delicate flower here man.” It doesn’t make Derek unclench. Nothing ever makes Derek unclench, it seems. “O…kay then.” Stiles takes a deep breath and looks at Derek. Ignores his mocking expression and takes in the whole of him, the space he fills. His warm skin against Stiles’s. The way his chest steadily expands and contracts. And then Stiles pulls their hands towards himself, towards the barrier.

Derek starts to resists, but Stiles says, “Just trust me?”

They stare each other down. Stiles uses this moment to compose a sonnet in his head about the color of Derek’s eyes. Blue? Blue-green? Hazel? It’s always going to be a mystery. It’s also why he notices the exact moment when Derek relents, when he, what? Puts his trust in Stiles? Well, so he should, the poophead. Poophead with insurmountable trust issues. That Stiles just totally surmounted. Yay him.

Stiles resumes pulling Derek closer, but he doesn’t break eye contact this time. As soon as their hands cross the line of twigs, Stiles feels…something. Like the air has thickened, solidified, and suddenly there’s drag as he pulls Derek’s arm over the line. Stiles tightens his grip on Derek’s hand as Derek loosens his, because he’s got this. He’s got Derek.

Stiles has to take a step back so all of Derek can move forward into the long grass. They still don’t break eye contact until they’re several feet away from the twig line and Stiles is stumbling again because walking backwards in long grass is hard. Only his grip on Derek’s hand stops him from falling on his ass again. “Who’s totally Batman? Me, right? Batman, with like magical powers and shit. I’m awesome.” He pulls his hand away from Derek’s – because let’s face it, the hand-holding was starting to get weird – and holds it up for a high-five.

Derek just squints at him. He actually does look surprised, so Stiles counts it as a win. Derek doesn’t high-five him though, not that Stiles was really expecting him to because that would be insane. Derek just walks back to the barrier, and punches it again. Yep, it still is a thing that exists. “It’s still there.” Derek sounds almost accusing, which, unfair. “And now I can’t get back into Beacon Hills.”

“Hey, you were going stir crazy wanting out a second ago!”

“I wanted to not be locked up like an animal. That doesn’t mean I was going to leave my territory.”

“Geez, contrary much? It’s not like I know what I’m doing here, ok. I was just working on instinct.”

“Reassuring.” Derek looks seriously pissed off.

Stiles huffs, pissed off himself. “I can take you back over.”

“Can you?”

“You know, I should be surprised at your lack of faith in me, but I’m really, really not. It’s just how it is, right? No matter what I do.” Stiles is suddenly really fucking tired of just, everything. The picturesque field and Derek’s stupid face and the fact that there’ll never be any kind of trust between them. And as for friendship? That’s as remote as the moon - and that analogy has the added benefit of irony, which Stiles can appreciate. He’s probably just projecting, anyway, because these days he’ll take friends where he can get them, especially since Scott seems to be dividing his usual Stiles-time between trying to make up with Allison and hanging out with Isaac. It’s cool, Scott’s allowed to have a life. It just seems unfair that Stiles doesn’t get to have one too.

He brushes past Derek and heads back to the twigs. “Hurry up. Let’s get this over with.”

Derek is frowny-facing him, but comes over and puts his hand against the barrier. Stiles reaches out impatiently and grabs his wrist. The resistance is back, but Stiles knows how to do this now and Derek steps through with ease.