The thing about total lunar eclipses is that their occurrence is rare due to a combination of two distinct factors: the first is the frequency with which the earth, the sun, and the moon actually align to create the event; and the second is the likelihood of an individual being in a place where totality is seen in its, well, totality. For werewolves, the effects are known, but rarely do werewolves experience it—because of how rarely a total lunar eclipse happens, and the likelihood of any given werewolf being in the exact place at the exact time for the eclipse to affect them.
But Derek Hale isn’t particularly lucky.
Stiles calls him sometime after dinner, and it takes four rings for Derek to answer.
The relief Stiles hears through the phone has him nervous and licking his lips, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel as he drives back to his apartment from class. “Derek, hey,” he says, trying to keep his tone light. He doesn’t want to jump to conclusions. If Derek was hurt, or if Derek needed him, Stiles had to trust that Derek would call him. How he hadn’t heard from Derek all day meant that Derek must have been fine. Or too wrecked to call him for help. Stiles’ worry quickly overrides his attempts to quell it. “Are you okay?”
“…yeah,” comes the stilted answer.
“You don’t sound okay,” Stiles says. When he stops at a red light, he considers forgoing his apartment altogether in favor of heading back to Beacon Hills. He’s three hours away, but he’s familiar with the state trooper patrol routes and has a radar scanner. He could probably make it back in two hours if he took risks. “What’s going on?”
“Moon cycle,” Derek says. Stiles hears the rustling of sheets, but Derek sounds hurt.
Stiles huffs a laugh. “Lydia tells me that when she’s on her period.”
Derek chuckles, tired. “Definitely not a period.”
“What is it, then?”
“Eclipse,” the werewolf says. “It’s…exhausting.”
Not literally, emotionally. Derek doesn’t have to say it, because Stiles knows. He was there, sort of, the last time a lunar eclipse hit Derek, back when Jennifer was slaughtering teachers and capturing parents for human sacrifices. Stiles had wrecked his car, but managed to help stop the Nemeton’s root cellar from collapsing. Derek, however, had been human when Jennifer wailed on him, his pain sensors sharpened and body softened with human weakness, his healing stunted.
“Oh, shit. For real? But it’s not supposed to—” Then it hits him. It wasn’t supposed to reach totality where he was, at his university campus. But back in Beacon Hills, where Derek was alone in his loft…Jesus, he is the worst boyfriend in existence. How could he have overlooked something like this? “—nevermind,” he says. “I’m on my way.” He hits his turn signal and slides the Jeep into a U-turn before racing for the highway.
“You don’t need to come here,” Derek sighs.
“Too late, Derek,” Stiles says, speeding through the on-ramp. “I’m already on the highway.”
Derek groans, “Stiles, this is why I didn’t call you.”
“Why?” Stiles challenges. He looks over his shoulder briefly before merging onto the highway. The sun is already setting. There’s no way he can possibly make it to Derek before moonrise, but he might make it before the eclipse. “Because you knew you wouldn’t be able to hide it from me? Because you knew I’d come?”
“Yes.” He’s so exasperated when he says it, so vicious, Stiles second guesses himself for a heart-stopping moment.
“…why wouldn’t you want me there?” Stiles speeds down the road and weaves through the last lingering vehicles of rush hour traffic. His eyes dart between his mirrors and the road, checking over his shoulders before changing lanes, but his attention is completely focused on the rough voice rumbling in his ear.
“Because you have classes,” Derek says. “And because there’s nothing you can really do about it.”
“And because I don’t want you to see me like this.”
Stiles smirks before he can stop himself. “Pride as no place in love, Derek,” he says, fully aware of how cheesy the line sounds. “But seriously, you don’t think I get it? Are you worried I’ll judge you or something?”
“…no,” he says softly.
“Then what is it?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Stiles sighs. “Okay. Then tell me something else. Keep me company while I drive.”
“You shouldn’t talk on the road,” Derek scolds, though there’s no heat behind it, and he clearly doesn’t want to end the call.
“I’m fine,” Stiles answers reflexively. “So, something else. Um, tell me about your day.”
Stiles smiles, and bites his lip, smitten, as Derek describes his misadventures at the supermarket, how soccer moms made him uncomfortable with their flirtation, how the elderly always sought him out for assistance, how children sometimes stared. A general, impotent grousing, because Stiles knows Derek loves his quiet life now that the Nemeton has finally settled the fuck down. He hears about the stray cat Derek keeps trying to befriend, and how it always puffs its tail at the sight of him, about finally figuring out how to cook Stiles’ favorite dish without burning the sauce or setting off the smoke detector. He tells him about an author interview he heard on NPR, and how he’s looking forward to the book, and he mentions helping the Sheriff repair a few roof shingles.
It always amazes Stiles how open Derek could be without the perceived threats of violence or abandonment, how, in rare moments with Stiles, he lets his walls down completely and just…is. With little effort on Stiles’ part, Derek will talk and continue talking, about everything and nothing, about the little things, the things Derek doesn’t typically think anyone would be interested in hearing. But Stiles is interested. Stiles is always interested.
When Derek’s breath hitches and he whines in the middle of another cat story, Stiles glances to the clock—twenty minutes out—and the sky, where the moon’s edge slowly darkens. Time is running out. “Is it bad?”
“Frustrating,” Derek corrects.
“How bad, Derek?”
“…I need you.”
“I’m about twenty minutes out. I can be there in fifteen.”
And the rest of the drive is quiet—Stiles watches the roads for cops as he speeds through town, and just listens to Derek breathe. Every now and then, he assures Derek that he isn’t far, that he’ll be there soon, and he doesn’t stop until he’s riding the elevator to up to Derek’s loft.
“Why wouldn’t you want me here?” he dares to ask again. The question is half through the phone, and half in person as Stiles wrenches the loft door open and slams it behind him. He beelines to what serves as the bedroom and finds Derek looking miserable beneath the sheets. He kicks off his shoes and shimmies out of his jeans before crawling in beside his boyfriend. “Why shouldn’t I be here for this? For you?”
Outside, the full moon’s glow slowly turns rust red.
Derek scoots close to Stiles and clings to him with arms that tremble, but aren’t as charged with supernatural werewolf strength. His powers are fading, and he’s powerless to stop it. Stiles is, too. Derek buries his face against Stiles’ neck and breathes deep.
“I can’t smell you,” Derek grumbles. “I can’t protect you.”
“It’s okay,” Stiles says, rubbing Derek’s back. He presses a kiss to and nuzzles his temple. “We’re safe here. I don’t need you to protect me.”
“I can’t smell you,” and how urgently he insists is painful.
Stiles frowns, and holds Derek tighter. “I’m right here, though. You can feel me. See? Here.” He takes one of Derek’s hands from where it digs into the back of his shirt and brings it between them. There, he presses Derek’s palm against his chest. “Can you feel my heartbeat?”
“I can’t hear it.”
“But you feel it. It’s there,” Stiles insists. “You can’t smell me, but you can feel me. I’m here.”
Derek pouts and fists Stiles’ shirt.
“I can’t smell you or hear your heartbeat either, but I know you’re here. I can see you, and touch you, and feel you up against me. It’s okay. It’ll be okay.”
“I hate this,” Derek growls. “Everything is muted, duller. It’s wrong. You’re not something in my life I ever want muted. That’s why I didn’t want you to come.” He sighs. “But I’m glad you did.”
Stiles kisses him, and it’s enough.