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This is Not Our Fate

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said the joker to the thief

It was a cell. If nothing else, Stiles knew that much by its three dreary greyish walls and one wall-sized set of bars with a section that would swing out to offer entry. Or exit. There was no window or bed, only a surprisingly clean toilet in one corner and a scowly werewolf in the other. Across from them was another cell with another pair of captives or prisoners or whatever they were. Stiles thought they might be another werewolf-human pair. That thought made his stomach twist. Stiles’ father had taught him it took three to make a pattern, but Stiles already doubted these two cells were a coincidence. Whoever had brought them here wanted something from them. From werewolves and humans caged together in pairs.

                Stiles leaned his head against the bars. They were smooth and cool, and they made him wonder why the dungeons here had air conditioning and plumbing. There should have been rust on the metal and moss on the walls accented by a dankness to the air and ghosts of those who had suffered here before. He rolled his face over the cool metal, feeling how it slid against his cheek. The next bar hit the side of his head, and Stiles rolled his face back the other way. They’d already given up on trying to bend or break these bars.

                In the other cell, the human looked at Stiles like he had a serious mental condition, the kind that called for a cell much softer than this one. Eventually his werewolf tapped his shoulder, and he turned away. The werewolf kept glancing at Stiles and Derek anyway. Beneath her obvious malice, Stiles saw something else. A hesitation in her step when she sized Derek up. The way her eyes slid to Stiles as she pushed her human toward the back of the cell to whisper to him. He just wished he knew what those moments meant.

                Stiles realized the possessives he’d given them and wondered if she’d already thought of Derek as his werewolf. A smile found its way to his lips as he imagined Derek in a dog collar trying to convince Stiles to fill his bowl with kibble. Then he imagined Derek ripping the dog collar to pieces and following it with Stiles’ throat. That wouldn’t be much fun. He glanced back at Derek.

                “Can you hear them?”

                Derek nodded. When Stiles continued to stare at him, Derek shrugged. “Nothing worth sharing.”

                Stiles frowned and studied what he could with his own senses. There were cells to either side of the one across from Stiles, but they were empty. He wondered if the same was true of the space around his cell, but the bars were too close together to fit his head through and peek around the corner. He stuck an arm out and reached over. At first he found solid wall, but then his hand reached first open air and then a metal bars like the one blocking in his cell.

                There was a growl.

Stiles waved his hand. “Hello, neighbor!” He grinned and noted the werewolf across the hall rolling her eyes.

No one answered except to swat his hand away. If the pattern held, there would be both a human and a werewolf in that cell. It was easy to guess which had growled, but harder to say who had pushed Stiles away. He tried again on the other side of his cell. There was only solid wall for as far as his arm reached. With his face pressed against the cement wall, he noticed a faint humming from beyond it. Stiles glanced back at Derek, wondering if he’d have mentioned something if it was important.

Stiles pulled Derek in the farthest back corner of their cell. “What about next door? Can you hear what they’re saying?”

                “If he was talking, maybe.” Derek cocked his head. “He says he can hear us.”

                “How nice of him.”

                “He says you talk too much.”

                Stiles rolled his eyes. “I haven’t even begun to talk.”

                “That’s what I’m afraid of,” someone said from the neighboring cell loud enough that Stiles heard.

                The werewolf across the way said something. Stiles saw her lips moving, but he couldn’t hear the words. Derek frowned.

                “What?” Stiles asked him.

                Derek shook his head.

                “Tell me.” Stiles nudged at Derek’s side, which earned him what could only be a ‘bitch please’ glare.

                “She warned him to be quiet. I don’t think whoever’s holding us likes their prisoners noisy.”

                “Then why’d they kidnap me?”

                Derek shrugged.

                Across the way, the werewolf and human moved to cuddle up against the wall. It almost looked like she was protecting him, but there was nothing to threaten them. Then the lights went out, and Stiles couldn’t see any farther than his nose.

                “Better stay close, newbies,” their neighbor said. “It’s about the get cold.”

                The air conditioning revved up, and the temperature plummeted. A wave of goosebumps spread over Stiles’ skin at the temperature change. Then the cold hit him like a sheet of ice. His teeth chattered, and his body shook.

                “That explains the cuddling werewolf,” Stiles barely said past the constant movement of his jaw.

                “Yeah,” Derek agreed.

                “Is it really as cold as it feels?” Stiles curled in around himself and whispered through the clicking of his teeth.

                “Worse, if you believe the locals.” Derek sighed. It was louder than their whispering. “Come on. Apparently it’s dangerous.”

                “What are they saying to you?”

                “Mostly that we should shut up.”

                The warmth of Derek’s arm pulled Stiles in. He almost pushed away and insisted he’d be fine, but then he remembered the way the werewolf wrapped herself around her human as best she could, like she had something to defend him against. They had known the cold was coming. Stiles pressed against Derek’s warmth and tried to ignore how awkward it was. Derek sighed the sigh of a tired and put-upon Victorian lady. Well, maybe he sighed more like a trucker who’d just found out he had to drive through the night, but Stiles preferred the first, if only for the image of Derek fanning himself to ease a case of the vapors.

                “What now?” he asked since the extreme sigh had come unprompted.

                Derek’s shoulder shifted over him as he lifted it in a shrug. “I’ve been forced to choose between cuddling you or condemning you to death by freezer. What do you think?”

                “I wouldn’t actua—”

                “You would.”

                “Oh.” Stiles pulled himself closer to Derek. He didn’t like the idea of dying here. He had a life to get back to. A life that, while it involved werewolves and frequent danger, definitely lacked the prison cells and artificial freeze of this place.

 

~.x.~

 

They woke up entangled and over-warm, wondering how they’d managed to fall asleep at all. The freeze had been turned off. Derek scowled, pulling himself away from Stiles, but Stiles just leaned against the wall and watched the pair across the way. The werewolf was standing near the back, eyes trained on Stiles and Derek. The human was looking almost at them but to the side. Their neighbor, Stiles realized, the human was watching their neighbor.

                A door crashed open out of sight, and Stiles listened as sets of measured footsteps approached. He couldn’t guess how many there were. More than two, fewer than a hundred. The footsteps stopped before anyone reached Stiles’ cell, so he moved forward the press his face against the bars and look out. They had sounded close, and sure enough, he found them looking in at his neighbor.

                “You look lonely,” A woman said. She wore leather and denim in faded shades of blue and brown. There was a cigarette between her lips, unlit. She spoke around it rather then removing the cigarette.

                His neighbor growled. Something about that made the woman smile, and Stiles knew then that he hated her. Across the way, the werewolf and human pair sat near the back of their cell. They did not huddle and cower, but Stiles thought they might as well have been. There were soldier types around the woman with spiffy brown uniforms and guns at the ready, but Stiles suspected she was the reason the werewolf and human pretended to lounge casually in the furthest possible part of their cell. She seemed the sort of woman who inspired fear more than respect. To be honest, she reminded Stiles a little of Allison’s mother, if Allison’s mother had blond hair and a killer body to match the fanatic hatred that burned behind her eyes.

                Derek’s hand settled on Stiles’ shoulder and pulled him back slowly. Stiles almost asked him what was wrong, but Derek widened his eyes in warning and settled a finger over his lips in a fairly universal signal for, ‘shut up and wait until the crazy lady is gone.’ Or something similar but less specific.

                “I think this could be an opportunity for us, Jorge. What about you?” Stiles had to imagine the evil smirk on the woman’s face.

                Their neighbor—Jorge—growled again. Stiles heard the slide of claws against cement and wondered what Jorge expected to accomplish. If these cells were weak enough for werewolves to break out, they’d be empty already. But Stiles remembered the other werewolf protecting her human and the warmth of Derek’s body settling around him.

                They chose humans the werewolves cared about. In Derek’s case they’d probably settled for someone he just didn’t want dead since Derek had no human friends. Actually, a list of Derek’s friends was more painfully short than Stiles’ even if you included his crazy uncle and the werewolves who had left or rejected him. Stiles let Derek pull him into the far corner of their cell and settled beside him on the floor in an eerie echo of the pair across the way.

                That was when he began to wonder if the woman was human.

                She began walking again and stopped facing into Stiles’ cell. “Raw meat,” she declared, looking them over. “And so young this time.” Her eyes lingered on the place where Stiles’ shoulder brushed Derek’s, and he thought there must be a reason they used cold, a reason only huddling together for warmth could protect them. He shivered under her gaze as he’d shivered under the freeze. The woman gave a satisfied nod and walked away, her footsteps echoing back to Stiles.

                “Ask them why she wants us invested in each other,” Stiles told Derek when the door had crashed shut again.

                “What?”

                “They’re taking us in human-werewolf pairs and forcing us closer using their ridiculous air conditioning.” Stiles frowned. He’d been speaking in a regular voice, so he knew the others could hear, but he doubted they’d shout so he could catch their answers.

                “Your boy is clever,” Jorge said. “You should keep him around.”

                Derek didn’t respond except by frowning and clenching his fists around the fabric of his pants. The denim was thick and too tight for him to get a good hold.

                “Is it better to give them what they’re looking for or to resist it?” Stiles hoped Jorge answered again. The werewolf across the way kept scowling at him and pulling her human away when he tried to approach the forward edge of their cell.

                “If you don’t like him enough, they’ll kill and replace you.” Jorge sounded bitter. He knew from experience, Stiles guessed, which meant he should cuddle up to Derek every night and hold his hands in the daytime and stare longingly into his angry werewolf eyes.

                “She says if you like me too much they’ll just make us die together,” Derek said, nodding toward the angry werewolf across the way.

                “There is no pleasing these people.” Stiles revised his plan. Stay close enough to Derek to stay alive. Pull far enough away to express doubt that Derek is enough to save him or worth being saved in turn. He saw the tightrope stretched ahead of him and settled in to cross it one step at a time. Something told him enemy ninjas would drop in on him midway through, so he hoped Derek’s balance was better than his.

 

~.x.~

 

There were eyes on them. Stiles felt the itch of their gazes between his shoulder blades, and he saw Derek raise his shoulders like hackles against them. There was sand under Stiles’ hands and knees where he’d fallen when a guard pushed him. It gave way as he pushed himself to stand. Whatever they wanted of him would be harder without solid ground. The sand reached all the way to the cement walls circling him and Derek. There were two doors with metals bars like the ones on their cell in the freezer. The doors faced opposite each other. Derek and Stiles had just been shoved through one. Stiles looked up at the mirrors topping the cement wall and felt the eyes boring through the glass, watching him even though he couldn’t watch in turn.

                This looked like something he’d seen in a movie once. It was the kind of movie where men fought to the death to amuse other men.

                The other door opened, and Stiles shivered. Derek crouched, ready to run or fight, but Stiles just stood there, not sure what to do beyond panic and hope Derek could handle it. A werewolf stumbled through alone and halted in the sand staring at Derek. He turned his yellow eyes to Stiles and frowned. There wasn’t enough anger in it.

                Instead, there was defeat.

                The door closed behind the lone wolf, and a voice came on over a speaker Stiles couldn’t find. It was somewhere above him. Maybe Derek and the other wolf would be able to see it. “You fight to the death,” the voice said as though it were explaining how to prepare tea. “And then we let you live a little longer.” It could have been anyone’s voice. Except the blond woman who frightened werewolves. It definitely wasn’t her voice.

                The werewolf growled, and Stiles realized something Derek must have from the start. “Jorge?” he asked, recognizing his voice.

                Jorge charged. Maybe there was a time when he nobly refused to fight, when he struggled to retain his humanity and dignity despite the gladiator matches. Stiles had come in late to his movie and would never know. Derek intercepted Jorge before he reached Stiles. He was already beaten, not by Stiles and Derek, but by the woman and her system, by the loss of his partner.

                “I don’t want to kill him,” Stiles whispered. He knew the werewolves would hear and hoped whoever watched from behind the mirrors wouldn’t.

                Derek sunk his fangs into Jorge’s throat and ripped through his jugular. Blood covered Derek’s face and the front of his clothes. “You don’t have to.” Derek growled. His eyes glowed yellow, but Stiles didn’t have a voice left to tell them that was wrong. They should have matched the blood. An alpha’s eyes were red, and before becoming an alpha, Derek’s eyes had been blue.

                The doors from behind Stiles opened, and soldier-types poured out. “Back inside,” one of them said, motioning with his gun where he wanted Derek and Stiles to walk like that wasn’t a serious safety hazard or anything. Stiles hoped his safety was on, and then he fervently hoped he’d forgotten the safety and would twitch his finger with the gun pointed at one of his allies.

                The blood had begun drying on Derek’s chin, and the sand arena smelt of shit now that Jorge had died and his bowels released. Stiles shuffled forward, but Derek caught his arm. He didn’t say anything, just held him there in mini-defiance, just to prove he could. Then the soldier who had spoken fired a round into Derek’s leg without first having to click off his safety. Derek went down, but Stiles pulled him up and let Derek’s weight rest on his shoulder as they moved through the door.

                They led them to a shower. “The rules here are also simple,” a different soldier told them with an ugly smirk on her lips. “Together or not at all, and I get the feeling you could use a shower.”

                Derek growled at her. He put his weight back on his leg even though they hadn’t pulled out the bullet yet, and the soldier-type backed away before laughing and putting a round into his belly. Stiles noted that she had to turn off the safety before firing. The soldiers pulled back.

                “Don’t we get a little privacy?” Stiles demanded when they formed a half circled around him.

                “Nope.”

                Derek tensed beside Stiles as though an audience actually made sharing a shower worse. Well, it did, but it was bad enough to start.

                “I’m going to try to get the bullets out,” Stiles told him. Derek nodded, so Stiles pushed him to sit. He knew Derek would heal and was thankful because he needed Derek to keep him alive here, and he didn’t have the tools he needed to remove a bullet safely.

                After a shuttering breath, Stiles rolled up Derek’s pant leg to uncover the bleeding hole there. He tried not to puke on it because that would be rude and probably lead to infection except that Derek was a werewolf and could heal an infection before it... infected him. Stiles’ hand was shaking when he shoved his fingers into the hole. Then Derek gritted his teeth, squeezed his eyes shut, and rolled his head back with something too high-pitched to be a proper growl but too low for a whine.

                Stiles stomach did flips as his fingers groped past blood and tissue for the bullet. Derek kept his leg still, but just barely. The metal was hot against his fingertip when Stiles found it. He couldn’t quite get a grip on it, but the soldiers refused to help. He shoved his fingers further in, pushing aside the muscle to make space. If Derek had been human, he would probably never heal from the damage Stiles was doing. But he was a werewolf, and Stiles got his fingers around it and pulled the bullet out. He chucked the bullet at the head of the guy who’d shot it and laughed when it bounced off his cheek.

                For a moment he and Derek sat panting. “Okay, now the other one,” Stiles said at last, moving to push up Derek’s shirt. Stiles found an entry wound near Derek’s hip and an exit wound out the other side. The wound had already begun to heal. Stiles searched out where the bullet had implanted itself at the base of the wall and wondered how he hadn’t heard that. But the gunshot had been loud on its own, and even knowing he could heal, it was sort of stressful watching your only ally be shot. Stiles supposed it was a little more stressful for Derek.

                “Who’s doing our laundry?” Stiles asked, eying the shower. They’d get cleaner if they undressed, and sleeping in dry clothes would decrease his chances of catching pneumonia in the freezer.

                “Your clothes are going in the trash. You’ll be given new ones.”

                Stiles remembered the werewolf and her human. They both wore similar brown pants and white t-shirts. He hadn’t thought anything of it before, but Stiles figured those were their prison uniforms. With a shrug, he pulled his shirt over his head. The pants and boxers would be harder, and sliding into the small shower beside Derek harder still.

                “Come on.” He pulled Derek up and began pushing him to undress. “You stink like you just killed someone with your teeth.”

                “I can never seem to get that smell off,” Derek agreed. He winced when he raised his arms to remove his shirt and stumbled when he stepped out of his pants onto his injured leg. Stiles caught him and tried not to think about them both being naked.

                Not all of the soldiers watched them with hardened indifference. A few of them eyed Derek appreciatively. It made Stiles want to claw their eyes out and shove them naked in a shower together. He pulled off his pants and boxers in one go and stumbled into the shower to turn on the water. It was cold. Stiles tried turning it up, but nothing happened.

                Of course it was cold. He stepped back out to help Derek shuffle in, still trying to keep weight off the leg that had been shot not five minutes before. There was a ledge in the shower with a sort of liquid soap. There was only the one bottle, so Stiles hoped it served as both body wash and shampoo and began washing himself as fast as he could. Derek leaned against the shower wall with his eyes closed breathing a little too steadily to be anything but forced. Dried and drying blood still clung to his skin where it’d hit him or leaked through his shirt.

                Stiles offered Derek the wash-stuff, and Derek began scrubbing himself off with a sigh. Stiles tried to stand out of the way in the corner, but then Derek put too much weight on his injured leg. He caught himself, but only after Stiles’ brain had sent out the signal to rush forward. He caught Derek at his middle, unable to stop fast enough with human reflexes even though Derek no longer needed help.

                If they ever got out of this, Stiles was determined that they would never ever discuss his hands sliding across Derek’s slick torso in the shower because that was going to be way too uncomfortable a conversation. In fact, they were going to pretend they got separate shower stalls and uncomfortably warm prison cells.

                The water heated up. Stiles hadn’t noticed any coincidences yet and proved himself right by stepping away from Derek. The water cooled. “Assholes,” Stiles muttered. Derek made a sound that might have been a laugh if laughter was the sort of thing that stabbed you in the gut and twisted the knife while complimenting the definition of the abs it was ruining.

                Derek finished washing under cold water while Stiles stared past him at their guards. He wondered how long it would be before he was desperate for a hot shower. Desperation for a warm place to sleep had taken all of one-point-four minutes. Stiles tried to consider the symbolism of Derek/werewolf as warmth and life but got distracted by how much he wanted to strangle the woman smirking at his shivering nakedness.

 

~.x.~

 

On his way out and then back in, Stiles had seen other cells in the freezer, all of them empty except for his neighbor Jorge—now killed by a bad case of throatlessness—and the cell across the way. The human and werewolf there watched Stiles and Derek forced back into their cell with renewed hatred.

                “Was Jorge your friend?” Stiles asked when the soldier-types had gone.

                The werewolf shook her head and answered loud enough for the sound to carry to Stiles’ human ears. “He was my pack-brother.”

                Stiles sat at the back of his cell after that and tried not to stare too much. She would need time to grieve. Derek muttered something about understanding revenge that he probably didn’t think Stiles could hear. The werewolf looked at them for a long time after that, but Stiles couldn’t read her expression. Derek ignored her in favor of staring at the bars of their cell with such rage that Stiles was surprised they didn’t melt away to let them go free.

                Later, under the weight of darkness, cold, and Derek’s body heat, Stiles whispered, “Can anyone hear us?” He’d pushed Derek to sleep in the furthest part of their cell.

                “No one I know of.”

                Stiles paused. The cell could be bugged. “There was a thing toward the end of the fight. It was... different.”

                “Some things could mean trouble. It’s better to hide them.” Good, he’d caught onto Stiles’ attempts at vagueness as well as what they meant.

                “You can do that?”

                Derek grunted, and Stiles had to admit it was a stupid question given what he’d seen today. It made sense that an alpha could hide, otherwise Peter Hale would have been found out the moment Derek rolled into town. That would have saved them all so much trouble. Stiles shivered, even with Derek’s heat around him.

                “Why doesn’t the cold affect werewolves?”

                After a long pause, Derek whispered, “It does. We just heal.” His breath tickled Stiles’ neck, and Stiles wondered how long it would be before he stopped wanting to itch at the places where Derek breathed on him.

 

~.x.~

 

There were two of them the next time Derek and Stiles had opponents. Stiles didn’t recognize them and figured they must be kept in a different set of cells. The human had a sunburn. Her skin was red and peeling. Stiles wondered if there was a sunburn cellblock. Nothing here was coincidence.

                The wolf and human both went after Stiles as soon as they reached the sand-floor arena. Derek stopped the wolf, but not as easily as he’d stopped Jorge. This one had some fight in her yet. Stiles didn’t have time to admire it though since her partner was trying to claw his eyes out with her fingernails. He caught her by the wrists and held her back. There was blood under her fingernails and long streaks across her skin that Stiles suspected came from scratching. There was a burnt smell to her that almost made Stiles thankful for his freezer.

                He pushed her back and kicked her but hesitated once she was on the ground. He didn’t want to kill her. But she wanted to kill him. As soon as he gave her an opening, she lunged for him, fighting literally tooth and nail to drag him down. Stiles was stronger, but she fought harder. Her eyes were wide and crazed, and her teeth gnashed with desperation. Stiles wondered if this was what he had to look forward to. Or would he become quiet and hollow like the human who lived across the way and rarely moved after Jorge’s death except by order of his wolf or a guard.

                His opponent landed a blow on Stiles’ groin and kicked at his face as soon as he was down. Stiles struggled between holding his head and his balls until he realized she was trying to cave his face in. As soon as he could move again, Stiles struggled up and leapt on the girl. She went down under his weight, and his hands found their way to her throat.

                Stiles had always thought his first kill would be a monster.

                He tightened his grip past the shaking of his hands and blinked away tears. This girl didn’t deserve to die. She had been forced into this. She was just desperate, but Stiles was desperate too. She passed out, and he pulled away.

                “She isn’t dead,” the voice from above said.

                Stiles nodded. Of course she wasn’t dead. He’d let go too soon. The wolves struggled nearby, but Stiles sat in the sand staring at the girl he’d beaten. She hadn’t even been strong.

                “The rules require you kill her.”

                “I don’t want to.” Stiles knew things never worked out for the valiant hero who refused to kill his opponent in gladiator movies. He bit his lip and wondered how it worked here.

                There was a bang and then a burning in his shoulder.

                “Kill her, or we kill you.”

                Yes, that explained her desperation nicely, but would they follow through with it? Stiles pressed a hand to the wound, trying to stem the flow of blood, as he stood and shuffled over to the girl because he couldn’t afford to find out. He pressed the brown sole of his prison-uniform boot against the girl’s throat and shifted his weigh downward until he crushed her neck.

                When she was dead, Stiles looked up to find Derek covered in blood, some of it his, some of it the other wolf’s. Then he turned his eyes to the ground and found the other wolf in pieces. Three of them, if he didn’t count the flap of skin that had been torn from her cheek with such force that it stuck to the wall.

                Stiles fell to his knees and puked and didn’t even feel ashamed. Derek helped him to his feet. This time when they reached the shower, he pulled the bullet out for Stiles using his claws to prevent some of the extensive damage Stiles had done with his fingers. No one offered him a bandage, so his blood ran down his body as he showered in cold water. When they left the shower to find freshly-laundered uniforms, they also found bandaging on top. Derek wrapped it around Stiles shoulder and then helped him clean away the rest of the blood without soaking the bandage. It felt like lying wrapped in his arms, and Stiles worried that he was already so far gone. He hoped Derek would resist longer.

                The partners across the way were gone when Stiles and Derek returned to their cell. The soldier-types locked them up, and Stiles collapsed at the far corner of the cell. Already that spot had become a habit. When Derek sat down next to him, Stiles knew they were doomed even though Derek didn’t look worried or try to say anything comforting.

                “That was stupid,” Derek said at last, facing the empty air ahead of them instead of Stiles.

                “This from the guy who got himself shot twice last time.”

                “I heal.”

                “I do too. Just... slower.” Stiles sighed. “Much slower, I know.”

                Derek nodded, stood, and paced. He was wasting energy, but Stiles didn’t even know that they needed to conserve it.

                “Have you ever sparred with a human before?” Stiles asked, still leaning into the corner.

                “Not since I was a teenager,” Derek said, but Stiles heard, ‘Not since I had a family and friends.’

                “Well, I get the feeling I’m going to want to know more about fighting than I do now.” No matter how terrible a person it made him, Stiles wanted to live more than he wanted not to be a killer.

                Derek knelt in front of Stiles. He looked into his eyes as if searching for some sort of determination, or maybe he’d fallen in far enough to believe they had a connection now, a ‘we killed people together,’ link that made them more than the only-when-convenient allies they’d been in Beacon Hills. Stiles hoped it was the first one. Then Derek rammed a fist against Stiles wound hard enough that he screamed.

                “Lesson one: they’ll aim for your weakness.”

                “Thanks, Derek, I really needed that.”

                Derek nodded even though Stiles doubted he’d missed the sarcasm. “You should rest. We’ll spar another time.”

                “Oh, now you think I should be treated like I’m injured.”

                “Don’t make me punch you again.”

                “Your threats ring hollow.” Stiles didn’t get to say more because the door crashed open. He wondered why it was always so loud.

                Soldiers marched in the pair across the way and deposited them in their cell. The wolf was limping, and the human had claw marks running down his face and neck. They’d had a fight too. The werewolf glared at Derek while the human leaned against the wall and sank to the floor.

 

~.x.~

 

Stiles hated how easy it became. Derek trained him to fight, and Stiles quickly realized the freezing cellblock was one of the nicer ones. Most of his opponents bore the scars of their cellblock. Wounds, burns, exhaustion, psychoses. There was a rattle in Stiles’ chest sometimes now, and if he sparred too long with Derek, he fell into fits of nasty coughing. He tried to kill the humans before his cough had a chance to act up. Most of them were weaker than he was.

                The lights went off in their cell, but Stiles continued fighting. Derek was trying to teach him to fight without sight, by sound and smell, but it wasn’t the same for a human. He reminded himself that Derek had never been human and tried anyway. Some of his blows landed. None of the blocks succeeded. Eventually he tripped on the toilet, but Derek caught him before he fell.

                They stayed frozen, panting and sweating. Stiles had wondered since they arrived how long it would take to reach this moment, and now that they were here, he didn’t know how long it had been. He tried to break away, but Derek pulled him closer. He hadn’t tried very hard anyway. The rattle in his lungs acted up, and he fell into a coughing fit against Derek’s chest that he honestly hoped would ruin the moment before one of them did something they’d regret.

                “The cold is getting to you,” Derek said.

                “There’s nothing else you can do.” Stiles wheezed a little, but he could speak again and got his breathing under control one thin strand of air at a time.

                Derek’s arms settled around Stiles’ waist. They should have felt more out of place. “We’ll take warm showers. That will help.”

                “I don’t—”

                “Yes you do.” The harshness of Derek’s voice surprised Stiles into silence. “That’s what all this is designed for, isn’t it?”

                So Derek had noticed after all. Stiles gave up and leaned in against Derek’s chest. It felt so right being close to him now even though Stiles knew better. They hadn’t tried to change his thoughts though. They’d known all they had to change were his feelings.

                “Besides,” Derek added, “All those people watching and we never bothered to give them a decent show.”

                Stiles laughed, but only if coughing into Derek’s throat and clawing his nails into the skin of Derek’s neck counted as laughter. Then he kissed Derek, but only if biting Derek’s lips and telling him how much he hated him counted as kissing.