Actions

Work Header

Werewolf Love Songs, Vol. 1

Work Text:

Peter really is here on pack business. No one can currently verify this, as the Stilinskis' home is empty, but Derek had very clearly told Peter to deliver the grimoire to Stiles. 

Admittedly, Derek hadn't told Peter to break into Stiles' home in order to do so, but Peter feels he is allowed some artistic license.

He's bored. 

The Alpha pack has been gone from Beacon Hills for months. As distasteful as Peter finds werewolf-hunter alliances to be--his lip curls at the thought--he has to admit that theirs had proven quite effective. The only downside being that, small supernatural dustups aside, Beacon Hills is now an extremely dull place to live.

Peter does not do well with boredom. He's had his share of sitting around, and he isn't interested in a quiet life. Peter is a very proactive sort of man: if excitement won't come his way, he'll create his own.

Regardless of how others feel.

He's decided to generate excitement right now by snooping around the Stilinksis' home--he's never really had the opportunity before; Derek likes to keep him under close watch. But without any immediate supernatural threats, everyone is breathing easier and forgetting that Peter is, well, Peter

He's already finished searching the Sheriff's bedroom, and finds it a little sad that there is still a dresser drawer filled with a woman's soft nightgowns--but he remembers breathy laughter and delicate hands and thinks that he would have kept a drawer, too, if the fire hadn't burned through everything. He leaves the Sheriff's room quickly after that, the faint smell of lilacs clinging to his skin.

He heads to Stiles' room next, and opens the door to a wall of smell: myrrh, dirty socks, wolfsbane, and sticky teenage hormones. He gags delicately, pinching his nose as he steps forward, but his progress is halted. He looks down and sees a thin black line of ash across the threshold.

"Clever boy," Peter murmurs, smiling to himself. 

He wasn't lying to Stiles--he really does admire him. Certainly, he's an annoying little shit, but Peter had been called similar when he was a teenager. Usually, right before his father had grabbed him by the scruff and tossed him around. Ah, memories.

He makes his way back downstairs to the living room, trailing his hand down the bannister as he goes. The bannister has been polished smooth by time and warm hands, and his eyes pick out notches and grooves in the wood that he imagines all have stories behind them. Probably involving flailing limbs, if Stiles is associated.

The day is nearly over, sliding toward evening--Stiles won't be home from practice for another hour yet because it always runs late on Tuesdays. Peter knows this because Derek knows this. Derek is remarkably well informed about Stiles. 

The living room is bathed in late afternoon light, streaming in through two large windows and casting deep shadows around the room. The light limnes the old couch, highlighting its worn fibers and its unfortunate striped pattern. The lumpy brown recliner next to the couch has the faintest smell of whiskey.

The wall across from the couch and chair is dominated by a large entertainment center. Here, the light reflects off the dusty TV screen and the spines of assorted books, movies, and CDs. Peter wanders over to examine them closer. 

It appears Stiles has taken to leaving out some of his more esoteric titles now that the Sheriff is in the know, and Peter chuckles to himself as he picks up a very battered copy of Howe to Traine Youre Weyrwolfe, from a time when E's were in abundance. 

There is a small space behind the book, and in that space are several CDs, tucked back in a way that means someone has forgotten about them. He has to remove a few more books and DVDs from the shelf to get to them.

When he finally pulls them out, he finds himself holding half a dozen Barry Manilow CDs, and his eyes light up in pleasure. "Ah, Mr. Manilow," Peter says, turning the first CD over. "The greatest romancer of all time."

He remembers these songs well. He remembers that Barry Manilow was playing on the radio during their first kiss. He remembers slow dancing in a bright kitchen, pancakes burning on the stove, laughter, and a scolding voice saying, "Peter, stop! You're impossible."

He clears his throat. It's quite the collection: Live in London, Classic Christmas, Ultimate Manilow, The Very Best of Barry Manilow, Essential Barry Manilow... Peter wonders, briefly, if anyone would notice him borrowing a CD or two.

He doubts these are Stiles' CDs. It's too much to hope that this generation has any taste in music, with their Lady GooGoo and their Kanye North. Peter has tried listening to the radio, and he wishes his ears were still in a coma. 

But Manilow, ah. His music can make people fall in love. It can--

Hm. Make people fall in love.

Peter has always considered himself a charitable sort--he even offered the bite to Stiles once, a gift freely given. How generous was that? And manipulating two people into falling in love, well. That doesn't sound boring at all

Unlike the group of ragtag teenage wolves he's forced to endure on a daily basis, he has age, wisdom, devilish good looks, and lots and lots of hindsight on his side. With Derek, he has the added benefit of familial intuition. And he knows what unrequited love looks like, he's taken it out for a spin a time or two in his life. He's also become excruciatingly familiar with teenage hormones over the past few months: on any given day, he finds himself drowning in enough confused pheromones to fell a moose.

There's something there, between Derek and Stiles. At the very least, something that Peter can poke at for fun. He has a vague notion that his nephew is being stupid and Stiles would make him less stupid. Probably. Or their combined stupidity would perhaps cancel each other out. 

Either way, he has a plan. Well, he always has plans. Plans upon plans, if he's being honest, which he never is. He can put those other plans on hold for a bit to enjoy himself.

Because this plan should be... entertaining.

----

The house is dark and quiet when Stiles gets home from school. He closes the front door with a soft click and the hairs on the back of his neck immediately stand up in response to the unmistakable feeling that he is not alone. 

He slips his hand into a cleverly disguised side pocket on his backpack, pulling out a small silver knife that he personally blessed this morning and a tiny vial that Lydia likes to call a Minitov Cocktail and Stiles likes to call surprisingly effective. 

He's creeping down the hall, past the entrance to the living room, when a clawed hand darts out and clamps around his arm, yanking him into the shadowy recesses.

Before he has time to bring the knife down on his attacker, his wrist is twisted painfully. The knife drops from his grip, as does the vial, plummeting to toward the floor and certain fiery explosion. Stiles has a minute of heart-stopping terror that he's just set his house on fire, but the same clawed hand snatches the vial out of the air before it hits the ground.

Peter tosses the vial from hand to hand, shaking his head. "Really, Stiles. You should be more careful."

Stiles huffs out through his nose in annoyance and rubs his aching wrist, not relaxing at all. "Really, Peter," he mimics. "You should be less creepy."

Peter arches one eyebrow. "I've got to keep you on your toes. What would Derek do to me if I let something happen to you?"

"Probably throw you a party. Why are you here bothering me, Repeat?"

Peter's playful expression goes slightly brittle. He hates that nickname, so Stiles doles it out sparingly for maximum impact.

"I have a present for you from Derek."

Stiles tries to hide his excitement. A present from Derek usually means something occult and awesome. Granted, there was that one time Derek gave him a cursed spoon and Stiles accidentally turned his bowl of cereal into an eldritch creature of the deep, but that was an exception. And they had sushi for weeks.

"Oh?" Stiles says casually. It's best not to show too much enthusiasm in front of Peter. He likes to use it against people.

Peter produces a small, leather-bound book from his coat pocket with a flourish. It doesn't look like much, but Stiles learned long ago not to estimate a book's usefulness based on pagecount. There are very few giant, mystical tomes floating around, and Stiles has spent a lot of effort acquiring the ones that do exist. 

Most supernatural writings he's come across are like the object Peter holds: handwritten books, methodically transcribed by the magic users they belonged to, full of first hand accounts of successes and failures, and the knowledge gleaned from their own lives.

"This one came from the coven raid a few weeks ago."

"What!" Stiles says. "Derek said you guys didn't find anything worthwhile."

"Did he now? Hm," says Peter, tapping the spine of the book thoughtfully against his lips. Stiles will have to disinfect the book later. "Well, I suppose he wanted to vet it, first."

"Just because he let one cursed object slip past him--"

"Oh, you know Derek. Always worried for the things he cares about."

"Doesn't explain me," Stiles says. "Just give me the damn book, already. Then you can leave."

Peter hands the book to Stiles, but pulls it back at the last second. "You know," Peter says, ignoring Stiles' noise of frustration as his fingers grasp empty air. "I'm worried about you, Stiles. It's senior year, all your friends are coupled up... What about you? Where's the romance in your life?"

Stiles grits his teeth, and tries not to give Peter the satisfaction of knowing that he's hit the bullseye. "I'm married to my work. I don't have time for romance when I'm saving your furry asses left, right, and center." He holds his hand out impatiently for the book.

Peter makes an amused sound. "All work and no play makes Stiles a frustrated boy."

"You are such a creep," Stiles says. "I don't even think you comprehend your levels of creepiness."

"Why?" Peter says, suddenly closer than Stiles would like. "Because you're alone in the house with me? Because I'm insinuating things in an uncomfortably sexual way? Do tell me, Stiles." The last part is said so near that Stiles can feel puffs of air on his cheek.

He snatches the book from Peter's hands and jumps away, bringing his own hand up in a karate chop. "Back off, Repeat. Don't make me Minitov your ass."

Peter's eyes flash, but he puts his hands up in surrender, retreating several steps. "No need for dramatics, Stiles. I'm merely the messenger. I'll see you at the next pack meeting, then?"

"Not if I'm lucky."

Peter smirks and tips an imaginary hat, slinking out the front door. It's only after he's been gone for a few minutes that Stiles realizes Peter swiped his vial. Dammit.

He grumbles to himself, tossing his backpack onto the couch. It lands with a soft thump that Stiles follows a moment later with a thump of his own, sinking into the lumpy cushions. He arranges himself more comfortably, propping his head on the armrest, and cracks open the book.

A note flutters out to land on his chest. 

Stiles, the note begins in Derek's sharp script. The coven leader had this book in her collection. It's safe to read now. It only had a small curse on it, but I took care of it. 

Stiles knows that means Derek has, at some point, bled all over this book. He sighs.

Don't blow anything up. This book has firebomb spells.

"Sweet," Stiles murmurs, eyes widening with the possibilities.

I ripped those out.

"You suck," Stiles tells the air. "Seriously, you suck. I decimate ten measly acres of woodland one time and suddenly I'm on a toddler leash."

But I'm sure I didn't catch everything. Be careful.

It's signed simply 'Derek,' with no closing.

"Dear Derek," Stiles says out loud, waving the paper lazily above his head as he holds the book open with his other hand and skims the haphazard table of contents. "I hope you got a papercut from every page. Have a horrible day. Loathingly yours, Stiles Stilinski, Esq."

"It's illegal to practice law without a license," comes a voice behind him.

Stiles inhales, briefly choking on his own saliva, and drops the book on his face. "Jesus Christ," he says, grabbing the book and twisting around to glare. "I'm putting a bell on you."

Derek looms over the back of the couch, looking down with his customary frown, his hands shoved in the pockets of his leather jacket. "I'd like to see you try," he says calmly.

"I'd like to see me try, too," Stiles says, levering himself into a sitting position. "We could probably sell tickets and make a mint."

Derek ignores him. "Peter gave you the book?"

"Afraid he was going to keep it for himself?"

"Yes," Derek says. 

Stiles pauses. "Fair enough. If you were worried, why'd you make him deliver it?"

Derek stares at him.

"It was a test, huh? You realize that Peter probably knew it was a test."

Derek shrugs, rolling his shoulders slightly, and makes his way around the couch. "He passed. If I try to second guess what Peter's thinking, I'll just give myself a headache. At the end of the day, you can't waste your time trying to figure out which cup Peter poisoned. He probably has an immunity to iocane powder."

There's a beat as this sinks in, and Stiles finds himself gaping. "Whoa, whoa, whoa. Did you just make a movie reference? To The Princess Bride?"

"Inconceivable," Derek says, deadpan, as he sits down on the couch.

"Oh, I see this Derekbot was programmed with a personality. How quaint," Stiles says, rolling his eyes.

Derek doesn't answer, just grabs the remote and turns on the TV and the cable. 

Someone left the channel on one of those music stations, and Stiles recognizes Barry Manilow singing, We had the right love at the wrong time. Guess I always knew inside, I wouldn't have you for a long time.

Derek has a very judging eyebrow. He's directing it at Stiles now.

"Don't look at me!" Stiles exclaims. "I wasn't listening to this!" 

"Sure," Derek says. He hasn't changed the channel yet, and now Barry is singing, I know that heart of yours will come to see, that you belong with me.

"Hey, I don't have to try to impress you," Stiles says. 

"No," Derek agrees, pulling up the channel guide on the screen. He doesn't appear to be in any hurry to leave. Stiles was looking forward to stretching out and reading his newly acquired book, but Derek is inconveniently in the way.  

"Okay, so you've confirmed the package delivery. You can go now."

Derek doesn't pay any attention to Stiles, which is business as usual. He's sitting far enough down the couch that if Stiles were to stretch his legs out, his feet would wind up in Derek's lap. 

He's tells Derek as much. "Seriously," Stiles says. "I'm going to put my feet in your lap if you don't move. I don't care if they come back as nubs. I'm doing it. It's my right to hog the couch because it's my couch."

Derek glances at Stiles, holding his gaze as he very deliberately turns up the volume on the TV, and then goes back to flicking through the channels.

"I warned you," Stiles says, unfolding his legs and lowering his feet slowly onto Derek's lap. He can out-chicken a werewolf, Derek is totally going to break first. He holds his breath, waiting for Derek to shove him away. Any second now.

Stiles' heels land on Derek's thighs, and Stiles braces himself, but Derek seems strangely unbothered. Granted, over the last year they have sort of bonded in a brothership-borne-of-the-trenches kind of way, but Stiles now thinks he should give new credence to his Derekbot theory because while he and Derek tolerate each other, they aren't exactly chummy.

"Comfortable?" Derek asks, his eyes still on the screen. 

"Yep," Stiles squeaks out. 

Derek doesn't say anything else, just settles on a repeat of a Law & Order episode. 

Stiles is trying to wrap his mind around Derek sitting on his couch and watching TV like this is something they do everyday. And then it hits him, why Derek is here bothering him. "Are you bored?" Stiles asks, breaking the silence.

Derek startles slightly. "What?"

"Bored," Stiles repeats. "Are you bored?"

"No. I am watching TV," Derek explains patiently.

"I can see that," Stiles replies. "What I'm wondering is why. And not in an existential way. In a very specific way."

Derek huffs, setting the remote down on the cushion. "Because the house doesn't have cable yet."

"Well, my Dad's going to be home any minute. So I wouldn't get too comfortable."

"Your father works late on Tuesdays."

Stiles blinks. "How do you--no, that's not a question I really want to ask, is it?"

Derek grunts and turns his gaze back to the television where detectives are questioning a suspect. Stiles recognizes the actor from other roles, and knows immediately that he's going to be the killer. Number one rule of Law & Order: if you recognize the guest star, they're probably involved in the crime.

"Wait!" Stiles says. "My dad doesn't work late the third Tuesday of the month!"

"It's the second," Derek says, not taking his eyes from the screen.

Dammit, Stiles thinks. "I'm picking the next show," he says, shifting around and digging his heel purposefully into Derek's thigh.

"Read your book," Derek replies.

Derek leaves at midnight after four straight hours of procedural cop shows, Stiles' feet in his lap the whole time. Stiles is only about twenty pages into the grimoire. He finds it a little hard to concentrate, sometimes, when Derek is in the room.

He rubs tiredly at his eyes, yawning as he tucks the book under his arm and plods upstairs to bed, hoping that his dreams don't feature a certain surly werewolf again. 

He tucks his even more ridiculous crush into the back of his heart and tries to forget about it.

----

Derek is working out in his living room a week later, doing pull-ups on the door frame as music blares and the floorboards shake under the heavy synth bass. 

The door frame is painted bright white, offset against the sand-colored walls. He installed the pull-up bar as soon as the frame was finished. It's a nice brushed nickel, and it goes well with the other hardware fixtures in the room. 

He faces into the room, eyes cataloging the improvements of the last few weeks. The living room is slowly transforming into something habitable: new hardwood floors were installed two days ago, he has an honest-to-God ceiling fan, and a coffee table. 

He's supposed to go furniture shopping for a sofa and chairs with Boyd and Isaac on Saturday. Erica couldn't care less about the decorating, except to express to Derek that if her room did not contain at least one item of an animal print there would be hell to pay, but the other two betas are surprisingly invested in the nesting process. 

Peter has pledged to furnish the kitchen entirely, which is fine with Derek because Peter does most of the cooking, anyway. Lydia picked out the most expensive curtains known to man last week for the living room and told Derek he needed to shop to match. Scott brought a lamp. 

More and more, the house is taking shape around him. Even Stiles commented on the improvements at the last pack meeting, slapping Derek on the back and saying, "You just need one of those embroidered 'Home Sweet Home' things for the walls. Or 'Howl Sweet Howl?'"

Derek will never admit to Stiles that it was his grumbling that finally prompted Derek to begin making improvements in the first place. That, and Isaac leaving paint swatches everywhere.

The music kicks over into something with a lot more electronic keyboard, but the beat is still good. Derek breathes through his nose, pulling his chin level with the bar. No one is around right now: Isaac is out training with Scott; Boyd and Erica are studying with Lydia; and Peter is lurking upstairs, holed up in his room doing God-knows-what. 

Derek's arms are starting to strain with the reps. He'll make himself do one more set and then he'll switch to yoga. Muscles are great, but flexibility is important, too.

He's just finishing his last rep when the track changes.

There's an almost abrupt silence and then a tinkling piano intro: We've only just begun to live, white lace and promises...

"What the hell?" Derek asks, dropping to the floor. He stalks over to the stereo and tries turning it off, but nothing seems to work. The song keeps playing: Sharing horizons that are new to us, watching the signs along the way.

Derek jabs his finger emphatically on the skip button, a growl rising in his chest.

Talkin' it over, just the two of us, workin' together day to day.

"Sweet workout tunes," Stiles says from the doorway.

Derek glares over his shoulder. Stiles is good at technology and magic, which Derek thinks is the trade off for being terrible at self-preservation and knowing when to quit. He points at the stereo. "Shut up and come fix this."

"Me?" Stiles asks, raising his expressive eyebrows. "Why? You're not a fan? Because you strike me as an emotional love ballad kind of guy."

Derek fixes his gaze on Stiles, letting his eyes bleed red.

"My mistake," Stiles says, hurrying over. "Death metal. Definitely more death metal."

Stiles can't seem to figure out how to get the music to stop either, and Derek slings a towel over his shoulder as he watches Stiles fiddle with buttons and mutter simple incantations under his breath. In the end, they wind up unplugging the entire thing.

"Weird," Stiles comments. "Maybe your stereo is possessed. Can stereos get possessed?"

"Why are you here?" Derek asks, trying to head off one of Stiles' tangents, as entertaining as they sometimes are. He grabs a bottle of water off the coffee table and chugs it down, his head thrown back. He can finish his yoga later. 

Stiles' eyes linger on Derek's throat. He smells like arousal, but he's seventeen; it's a constant thing. "Uh, right. So, that grimoire you gave me has some pretty cool spells, despite the vandalism you inflicted upon it."

"I'm not giving you the fire bomb spells," Derek says, patting the towel across his collarbone and stretching his neck side to side in order to relieve the tension. "So don't ask."

Stiles' heartbeat skips, his mouth hanging open. "I wasn't going to!" 

"Lie," Derek points out. 

"Not right now, at least," Stiles amends. "The time is gonna come when you need a fire bomb, mark my words. Don't ask me for help when you do."

"Stiles," Derek says. "What do you want?"

"The grimoire talks about a magical amulet that allows the wearer to read minds," Stiles starts right in. "I propose we form a committee to find it for the purpose of how awesome is that?"

Derek sighs. Sure, because there's no way that could go wrong. "You want to hunt for an unknown magical artifact? Is it even in Beacon Hills?"

"Yes!" Stiles says triumphantly. "I think so. I mean, that's what the grimoire says. Or I think it says. Some of the words are smudged. It might be Beacon Hills or Bacon Kills. The latter is also valid, which is why I don't let my dad touch the stuff."

"What does the book say, exactly?" Derek grinds out.

"It says the amulet's last owner hid the amulet 'where quiet Knights meet near slumbering numbers.' Pretty cool, huh?"

"Do you have any idea what that means?"

"No," Stiles admits. "But when has not being well-informed ever stopped us from taking action before?"

Derek's resists the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. Stiles gives him a headache on the best of days. Derek can tell he's excited--even if he weren't able to smell it on him, Stiles' eyes are bright and his hands trace energetic shapes as he speaks.

"What do you expect me to do?" Derek asks. Stiles follows him as he leaves the living room and pads barefoot down the hall to the kitchen. 

Peter has started construction in the kitchen, and the room is a mess. The cabinets have been ripped out, tiles and grout are stacked on the countertop, and the old breakfast table and chairs are pushed against one fire-gutted wall. They don't have any dishes yet, so he grabs a red plastic cup and turns on the faucet. The water gurgles muddy brown for a few seconds before clearing, and he fills the cup up, turning to lounge against the counter.

"Want some?" he asks.

Stiles jerks his eyes up. "What? Oh, water. Yeah, no, I'll pass on the E. coli, thanks."

Derek shrugs and says, "Suit yourself," before taking a long swallow.

"So, let me guess," he continues, wiping his mouth. "You want me to gather the pack and tell them about your hare-brained scheme. Then you want to charge out into the unknown and hunt down a magical amulet. A magical amulet that might no longer exist, hidden in an unknown location."

"Pretty much," Stiles agrees, rocking on his heels.

"I have one question," Derek asks, because Stiles is almost as sneaky as Peter, but Derek isn't stupid. "Why was the amulet hidden?"

Stiles opens his mouth and then closes it. Derek gets the opportunity to watch Stiles' mind process a response live and in real time, as he tries to figure out a way to tell a lie to a werewolf. 

"Funny you should ask," is how Stiles begins.

Derek allows himself a small smile. Truth it is.

"The whole mind reading thing is not risk-free. The amulet has a catch: it turns out that if you wear it too long, you'll kind of go... insane. A little bit."

"So no big deal," Derek says. "As long as you don't wear it too much. And you've always shown such restraint."

"Ha ha," Stiles says, glaring. "Dude, I'm totally restrainable!"

Derek's mind flashes, lightning fast, to Stiles in handcuffs, Stiles tied down, Stiles pinned to the--

"I mean," Stiles says quickly. "I mean, I could totally show restraint. I've restrained myself from clonking you over your obtuse werewolf head on a number of occasions. Not to mention, I am a valued and reliable member of the pack who has come through for you in your time of need more than once."

"Let me think about it," Derek says. "Okay, no."

"But--!"

"No, Stiles," Derek growls, putting power behind the words.

Stiles falters, looking less sure. "Yeah, but Derek, think of the advantages--"

"How about," Derek says slowly, drawing himself up, "this time, we leave the potential supernatural fuckup alone? How about we don't seek it out? What do you think of that?" Derek bares his teeth in a smile.

"Fine," Stiles says with narrowed eyes, balling his hands into fists at his side. "I won't ask for your help looking for the amulet." Then he storms out of the kitchen, and Derek hears the front door slam as he leaves.

Derek sips his water, enjoying the silence and Stiles' lingering scent. He listens to Stiles' heartbeat as it fades and the Jeep starts up. He's feeling pretty smug until he realizes that Stiles only promised that he wouldn't ask for help, not that he wouldn't look for the amulet.

"Dammit, Stiles," Derek curses, setting his cup down. His hands grip the counter so hard it cracks.

"Trouble in paradise?" Peter asks, gliding into the room and heading for the pantry. The pantry door is hanging off its hinges and Peter opens it gingerly, making a face when it gives a high, rusty shriek. He rifles through the pantry and pulls out a half-eaten bag of pretzel sticks.

"Shut up," Derek says. It's always a good response to Peter.

Peter chuckles. "Now, now, nephew, don't take your frustration out on others. I know you were raised better than that."

Derek decides that now is a good time to finish his yoga and do a little meditation, so he doesn't shred Peter's face. Derek has been trying to curb his more violent impulses since the two packs came together, especially now that he's responsible for so many lives. He can't react without thinking anymore, and he can't use force to get his way. He's made some difficult apologies in the last few months, and he has to keep making them.

The yoga helps. So does Dr. Deaton, on Wednesdays at 11:15 in the morning for one hour sessions.

Derek breathes in through his nose, willing himself calm, as Peter follows on his heels back to the living room. Derek ignores him and pulls his yoga mat to the center of the living room, dropping down into a sitting position and crossing his legs. 

He closes his eyes and takes another deep breath. Don't think about Peter, and how much you want to shove his face through a meat grinder, he tells himself. Don't think about Stiles out there getting into trouble. Don't think about the determined face Stiles makes, the one where he bites the corner of his lip. Don't think about Stiles--

"It certainly is quiet in here," Peter observes. "Shall I turn on some music?"

Derek's eyes snap open, already bright red. "No."

"Why in the world is the stereo unplugged?" Peter asks, like Derek hasn't spoken, examining the stereo with an air of amusement.

"It wouldn't turn off," Derek says. "It was playing Barry Manilow."

"Ah," Peter says. "And so naturally you suspect demonic influence."

Derek glares at him.

"I saw Stiles fiddling with this after the last pack meeting," Peter says. "Are you sure it wasn't something he did?"

"He couldn't fix it."

"How clever of him. If I'd done it, I'd pretend I couldn't fix it either."

Derek narrows his eyes. "Why would Stiles hide--"

"Come on, Derek," Peter says. "Would you admit to liking it?"

Derek remembers the music station on the TV at Stiles' house. "No," he says slowly.

"There you go," Peter replies, like he's proud of Derek for figuring it out. Peter is hard to predict; he's not the same uncle that Derek once knew, not in most of the ways that are important, but Derek can still read Peter sometimes, and right now Peter seems very pleased. Suspiciously so.

"Get out," Derek says. He thinks he'll need to keep an eye on Peter and try to figure out what he's up to. 

"Of course. Enjoy your yoga pretzel," Peter says, shaking the bag in his hand, "And I'll enjoy these pretzels."

Derek waits until he hears Peter's tread going up the stairs, and then moves into Downward Facing Dog.

He's aware of the humor.

----

Peter stretches himself out on his bed, his hands clasped against his stomach, and contemplates the ceiling above his head. Soot is smeared across it like the finger painting of a naughty child, and the paint is peeling, curled and blackened at the edges. Water stains, a useless attempt to douse the flames, spread from the top of the broken window toward the center of the room. Over the years, under the onslaught of wind and weather, the plaster has begun to crumble. 

Peter hums to himself. He prefers this to the nursing home.

He thinks about his next move. It only took him a few days to realize that Stiles' little mountain ash trick didn't extend to his bedroom window--how would certain Alphas manage their lurking otherwise? A few minutes with Stiles' computer and iPod left Peter feeling very pleased with his handiwork. And Stiles' recent search history was particularly illuminating.

He's planted the seeds and now he needs to give them time to grow. Stiles and Derek are both the suspicious sort--not cautious, which would have saved them endless trouble, but suspicious, which has worked delightfully against them on numerous occasions. 

Still, Peter decides he needs to wait before trying anything else. And Peter is very good at waiting. He's perfected it over the years.

His smile curls upwards, Grinch-like and devious. He does love playing such a long game.

----

Stiles is researching the amulet a few days later in the library downtown because to hell with Derek. He's got a huge stack of local history books, a crick in his neck, and a grouchy librarian giving him looks from the reference desk, but he knows he's onto something.

He spreads his notes out across the study carrel and taps his pen against his chin as he reads. He's trying to concentrate, but it's hard with the distracting silence. 

The silence isn't actually quiet. It's the kind of silence that magnifies all the other sounds: people typing on the computer stations, the crying of kids from the children's section, a group of teenagers in the lobby, their voices echoing off the tiles, and the conversation from the library desk as questions are answered and books are checked out or returned. Whoever said libraries were quiet must not have visited one recently.

The beeping from the checkout counter as books are scanned feels like a nail being drilled into his temple. Logically, he knows it's only because he's concentrating so hard on not focusing on the sound that it's all the more loud, but that doesn't really help.

Now seems like the perfect time to get out his iPod. That should drown out the silence nicely.

He scrolls through his playlists, skimming past 'a+ hipster cred' and 'booty shakin tunes,' intent on finding 'make research not boring,' but stops when he gets to 'Derek's mix.'

Stiles makes a noise of curiosity, thumbing to the playlist and selecting it. 

Immediately, Barry Manilow tells Stiles that he can't smile without him.

"What the hell?" Stiles says loudly, laughing in disbelief. The librarian shoots a glare in his direction and Stiles ducks his head to hide his snickering.

Still, the song is kind of catchy, so Stiles lets it play, smiling to himself as he leafs through a collection of old Beacon Hills maps. He taps his pen against the desk in time with the beat. His mom used to like these songs. He remembers her putting it on the stereo and kicking up her heels on the couch after a long day at work.

He coughs, rubbing at his eyes. Focus, Stiles, he tells himself. He needs to find a place in Beacon Hills with Knights and sleeping people, whatever the heck that means. 

He unfolds a map and spreads it out on the desk. There's the old downtown, the town square, the train tracks cutting through town and winding around the old cemetery--

Wait a second.

Slumbering numbers...

Stiles squints at the map, turning it to a different angle, smoothing out the deep folds. 

The cemetery sits at the edge of the town square, and it's been there since Beacon Hills was a gold-rush town in the 1800s. It's definitely old enough to have some secrets, and he can't think of any other place in Beacon Hills where a bunch of people could be considered sleeping. It's not like they have a historic mattress factory.  

Okay, the cemetery seems a logical starting point. But 'quiet Knights'? 

The song on his playlist switches, and Barry Manilow sings, Many a tear has to fall, but it's all in the game, all in the wonderful game...

Stiles listens idly, chewing the end of his pen and thinking. Maybe there's a headstone that's carved like a knight? Or something on one of the mausoleums. The old men who play chess on the tables near the park entrance might know more, and he makes a mental note to speak to them, even if they hate having their game interrupted.

Stiles sits up straight. Of course. 

---- 

He waits until after midnight before filling his backpack with a flashlight, a notebook, a small knife, a piece of silk cloth from which Stiles has painstakingly removed all magical residue, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He doesn't know how long he'll be out there, and it only took one time getting treed by swamp trolls all night for Stiles to pay attention to his blood sugar.

He doesn't take the Jeep because he knows his dad keeps an ear out for these things now. His dad used to be a light sleeper before he found out about Stiles' supernatural shenanigans; now he's an incandescent sleeper. 

Stiles sneaks out his window--which is not as easy as his werewolf pals make it look--and trudges the forty-five minutes into town. The streets are quiet and dark, and every so often he steps into pools of deeper shadow between broken street lights. He doesn't mind this time of night because he knows there are scary things out there already.  

He makes it through the padlocked iron gates after less than a minute of skillful lockpicking. 

Lockpicking was a skill Stiles possessed long before werewolves invaded his life. It went back to being the son of a Sheriff, being a little too curious, and hearing his mom say, "John, get him out of those!" and his dad reply, like any man, "Wait a minute, Mandy, and let's see if he can get himself out of his own mess."

(His mom had handcuffed his dad to a kitchen chair after that. Stiles remembers the way she laughed and said, "Think you can get yourself out of your mess?")

He's smiling as he squeaks open the gates just enough to slide through, making his way to the right where the enormous stone tables line the beginning of the path. 

There are a handful of regular stone tables and benches, built for people to picnic on or something. Stiles can't imagine people bringing their lunch to the graveyard, but he guesses people were just weirder a hundred years ago. Hey, honey, Stiles thinks, let's have lunch near Grandma's rotting corpse. Mmm!

Then again, he does have a sandwich in his backpack, so he guesses he without snack can cast the first--

He stops the thought as he spies moonlight glinting off the marble tops of the chess tables. They're clustered together underneath a copse of trees; there are three tables, small and built for two, the table tops inlaid with enormous chess boards in white and dark grey marble. The tables are kind of pretty, even though the years have weathered and pitted the stone and countless hands and chess pieces have worn the marble.

He sets his backpack down and unzips it, taking out the small flashlight. He walks a full circle around the closest table, running the beam over the table. Nothing jumps out at him as a hiding place for a magical amulet. He crouches down, running his fingers under the edges of the table and feeling for any anomalies. 

The sides of the first table are smooth, hewn from one large slab of rock. He frowns, abandoning the first table and moving to the second. The rock is a reddish brown that doesn't quite match the grey of the other two, and Stiles huffs a disappointed sigh when he sees a small brass placard bolted to the side that proclaims it donated by Frank and Harriet Higgenbold, 1979. It's not nearly old enough to hide the amulet.

Stiles takes a deep breath, approaching the last table. It's tucked close to one of the trees, and the nearest stone bench sits at an odd angle, balanced on a large, gnarled root. When Stiles sits down on it, the bench wobbles.

He shines the flashlight on the table and bends until his eyes are level with the tabletop, checking for any irregularities, but the chessboard is flat and even. Slowly, he runs his fingers around the edge and stops when he encounters a series of indentations. 

When he moves the light closer, he sees the inscription carved into the rock: Hic Mens In Perpetuum Dormit. 1859. 

Well, this is promising. He may not be good at translating archaic Latin, but by necessity he's had to get pretty good at regular Latin.

"That correspondence course is definitely paying off," he mutters to himself, adjusting his grip on the flashlight and running his fingers slowly over the smooth stone, tracing the inscription.

"Here the mind sleeps eternally," he muses. "Okay. But where exactly here?"

He examine the decorative scrollwork and chess figures carved into the stone, pressing gently against the surface as he searches for a hidden mechanism or bit of loose stone.

After several minutes with no results, he slouches back and huffs out a disappointed breath, keeping his flashlight trained on the table. He stares at the inscription framed between two carved figures on horseback, turning the words over in his mind, and puzzles aloud: "Quiet Knights and slumbering numbers. Okay, Stiles, think: Chess tables, cemetery, 1859, that's totally old enough. Cryptic inscriptions about sleeping--"

He straightens and the sudden motion sends the bench rocking. "No way. Are sorcerers really that literal?" 

He leans forward, inspecting the inscription a second time, his eyes zeroing in on the date carved right beside the Latin word for 'sleep.'

"Slumbering numbers," he snorts to himself, his fingers prodding the inscription. The circular space inside the number nine is slightly deeper than the surrounding area, and Stiles presses hard in the spot.

The stone sinks in with a quiet click, and Stiles watches as one of the carved Knights tilts forward, exposing a small hollow. The beam of Stiles' flashlight catches something glittering inside the hole.

"Yes! Sherlock Holmes, suck my dick!" Stiles does a quick victory flail, fists pumping the air. He totally found the amulet by himself, he is the most awesome detective of all time.

He ponders how he'd look in a fedora and a trench coat as he digs the amulet out of its hiding place, making a face when his fingers brush against cobwebs. Clearly, the chamber was not airtight. 

"Not thinking about it, not thinking about it," he chants, squeezing his eyes shut. His fingers close around the amulet and he tugs it out, holding it up to the light.

It looks pretty ordinary, just a big rough cut stone set in simple brass on a long chain. He was hoping for something a little more treasure-like with gold and silver filigree and maybe a fat ruby. This stone doesn't even have much color; it's a milky swirl with the faintest tinge of peach.

He studies the amulet, hoping for an indication of how to activate it or something, and flips it over, but there's no helpful inscription on the back. He'll just have to take it home and do some more research. The one thing he knows not to do is put the amulet on immediately, even though he's dying to try it out, because the book was very specific on what happened when an untrained wizard tried to use the amulet. 

Specific, and illustrated with gruesome woodcuts. It had probably taken someone a while to carve all that exploding goo.

He runs the chain through his fingers and wonders if the amulet will work on werewolves, not that he has anyone specific in mind. Nope. No broody, uncommunicative werewolf. No one at all.

He shrugs to himself and carefully wraps the amulet in a handkerchief before stowing it in the front pocket of his backpack. "Kind of anticlimactic, but hey. I found it! Go me. Once again, in your ruggedly handsome face, Derek Hale."

"Bravo," says a snide voice behind him, just as Stiles finishes zipping the backpack. "How very clever."

Stiles whirls around in the seat as something hard connects with his skull in a starburst of pain. 

----

He wakes up tied to a chair. 

He heaves a sigh. That's the fourth time this year.

He should have figured he wasn't the only one looking for the magical mind-reading amulet. He's still pretty proud of himself for deciphering the clues to the amulet's hidden location, but he's disappointed in himself for not noticing he was being followed.

And seriously, noticing people following him in graveyards should be one of his life skills by now.

"I can't thank you enough, little sorcerer," the warlock says, twirling the amulet around his finger. Stiles can tell he's a warlock because he's wearing a black velvet cape and a lot of eyeliner. Warlocks seem to go in for that sort of thing.

"I was going to let you go," the warlock continues, monologuing in true villainous fashion, "But then I sensed all that delicious power thrumming inside you. Now I'm going to flay your skin from your bones and drain you dry."

"You sweet talker," Stiles says. "I bet you have a filthy mouth in the bedroom."

The warlock steps forward and backhands Stiles, the amulet still in his hand. It leaves a gash on Stiles' cheekbone, and he spits, tasting blood in his mouth.

"And I'll flay you slowly," the warlock says. He drops the amulet into the pocket of his 17th-century inspired breeches, like he's the world's most evil historical cosplay, and tightens the golden cords of his cape. 

"I must fetch the necessary supplies before we begin. You will remain here and behave, little sorcerer, and I shall return." He gives Stiles a last sneer before he sweeps out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him and plunging Stiles into darkness.

Stiles wiggles in the chair until a small knife drops from a tiny pocket sewn into the inside sleeve of his hoodie. 

The warlock didn't even search him properly. What an amateur.

"And who says 'shall' anymore?" Stiles grumbles to himself, sawing at the ropes. "I mean, seriously? That dude has spent way too much time reading old books and sniffing the binding glue." 

The rope finally snaps, and Stiles makes a triumphant noise. He lets the rope slide to the ground and brings his hands around, flexing them slowly to get the feeling back in his fingers. He's gonna have rope burns on his wrists now, and he doesn't even have any deviant sexual encounters to show for it. He can think of one or two people he'd like to be involved in giving him rope burns, though.

Stiles tries to ignore how his thoughts suddenly turn to Derek. Derek's probably going to be really angry at himself when he finds Stiles' skinless body. Stiles feels a little guilty about that, but he trusts that even if he dies here tonight, his legacy will live on in Derek's grey hairs.

He stands up a bit too quickly, and a wave of dizziness hits him.

Concussion, then, he thinks. That's gonna suck later. He puts his hands in front of him and slowly shuffles forward, taking small steps as he tries to map the room.

Some indeterminable length of time later, Stiles comes to the conclusion that he's in a large, empty room in what is probably a warehouse. The sound echoes when he shouts, so the roof must be high and the space open. He's able to walk forward in a straight line for a hundred steps before he hits a wall, and then he turns and makes his way back to the chair, hoping that he hasn't gotten confused in the dark. 

He has never been so happy to have his shin collide with something.

He flops down onto the chair with a heavy sigh, weighing his options. He could try to overpower the warlock when he comes back, but he doesn't have that many spells memorized yet--and boy, is he wishing he'd paid a little more attention during Deaton's lessons--and he doesn't have the ingredients or tools to cast the stronger spells. 

He's also not keen on exploring the room if the warlock has booby-trapped it. Last time they explored a witches' hall after they took out an evil coven, Scott lost all his hair in an explosion and Boyd and Erica switched bodies for three days--which did not slow down their love life in the slightest, if Isaac were to be believed. Derek wound up with a hole punched through his stomach that Stiles freaked out hysterically about for at least five minutes.

If he makes it out of here alive, Stiles vows to have a talk with Deaton about some different spellcasting options and buckle down on his memorization. Maybe there are stronger spells that don't require props. 

If only Derek had let him keep the fire bomb spells, Stiles laments.

He perks up. If he does make it out of here, he's totally going to use that against Derek.

Stiles isn't even sure how long he's been in here or how long the warlock will take to return. He scratches at a spot on his thigh, idly wondering if anyone has noticed him missing yet. Probably not. It's possible he should have established a better backup plan.

There's really nothing more he can do, so Stiles settles in to wait. He fishes around in his pocket, hoping that the warlock didn't bother searching here either, and makes a pleased noise. 

At least he has his iPod. He hits play and dozes off.

He wakes up to the door flying inward with a crash; it bounces off the wall, vibrating in its hinges, and slowly teeters to the floor with a loud, final clang. 

The light from outside haloes a huge, hulking shadow with glowing red eyes.

Stiles is aware that for most people, this would be the scariest part of the evening. So far, the scariest part of Stiles' evening has been worrying when the charge on his iPod will run out.

"Stiles," Derek growls in a voice like broken things.

"Thank God!" Stiles says, scrambling up. For some reason, Barry Manilow is playing through his headphones as Derek stalks toward him, and Stiles' vision does a funny, tunneling thing, until Derek is the only thing he sees.

Spirit move me, everytime I'm near you, whirling like a cyclone in my mind...

Of course, that's when the warlock comes back and all hell breaks loose.

"Werewolf!" the warlock shouts, fumbling to draw a small pouch from inside his ridiculous velvet cape. 

Derek charges the warlock and knocks him over, but not before the warlock flings some sort of red powder at Derek that makes Derek stumble back, roaring and clawing at his face. 

"Derek!" Stiles says, racing to him.

"Stiles, get back!" Derek snarls. He thrusts a clawed hand out and sweeps Stiles behind him, making sure that he's still the one facing the warlock. Angry red welts appear on his skin, hissing with steam like they're from scalding water.

"Crap, crap," Stiles says, spinning Derek around and clutching at his shoulders. He's read about this: it's flamewort, and he doesn't have the salve to counteract it.

Derek growls at him and tries to push away, and Stiles clutches harder. "Stop it, we gotta flush it out, just let me--" 

Flamewort is bad, bad news and it will keep burning until it sears Derek's eyeballs right out of his head. Stiles needs mermaid tears and feverwort and wild honey, but he really only has one substance to work with.

"Stiles, don't you dare--"

Stiles sticks his fingers in his mouth, smearing them with saliva, as he thinks, My spit is healing, my spit is healing.

Distressingly, this is not the first time he's had to think this, and it's also not even the weirdest thing he's had to think this month.

C'mon, spark, don't fail me now

He pulls his slobbery fingers from his mouth and smears them across Derek's eyes, ignoring the indignant squawk Derek makes as he sweeps his thumbs gently over Derek's eyelids, pressing into the corners. He does it twice more, working quickly and rubbing the saliva in until Derek's eyes and cheeks are shiny with spit. 

The welts fade and Derek blinks his eyes open, now back to their familiar red. He stares at Stiles.

Stiles realizes that Derek's hands are clutching his hips tightly, and they're standing very close to each other. He can feel Derek's breath fan over his cheek.

"How sweet," the warlock says, climbing to his feet. Blood drips from a gash on his arm. "A wolf and his boy."

Derek spins around, a growl rumbling in his chest, and balances on the balls of his feet, readying himself to attack. His hands and forearms have transformed into his Alpha shape; his fingers are long and black and his claws huge and curved.

The warlock looks slightly less sure of himself.

"You're in for it now, pal," Stiles says, positively gleeful as he peers around Derek's shoulder, his hands fisted in the shirt fabric at Derek's lower back. "Warlock shish kebab. Couldn't happen to a nicer asshole. I'll make sure your eulogy is both touching and sarcastic. Well, in all honesty, probably more sarcastic."

"I fear you overestimate your pet werewolf's strength when matched against a practitioner of my calibre." The warlock wears a nasty grin, his hands darting into his robes, and Stiles knows nothing good can come from whatever he has hidden inside.

"Derek, sic 'em!" Stiles says, because he can be an asshole even in the middle of mortal danger.

But Derek is already moving, swift and vicious, and he tackles the warlock, sending them to the ground with a sickening crack. The amulet tumbles from the warlock's pocket with a clatter and skids across the floor toward Stiles. 

Derek and the warlock struggle with curses and snarls. Derek dodges the strange, glowing marbles the warlock throws at him--the marbles explode and leave pockmarks in the cement floor--and he slashes at the warlock with his claws, but the warlock's keeps his distance, launching his exploding projectile. 

Derek howls when one catches his shoulder, faltering as one knee hits the ground.

Stiles doesn't think, just grabs the amulet off the ground and concentrates and hears That little shit the amulet is mine I'll kill them I'll kill him I'll kill him if he hurts himself what was he thinking Yes the feral spell that's he better be okay I don't know what I'll Lunis Saevio? no no Lupis Saevio yes I need to smell him I need him goddamnit I'll make this werewolf tear him apart I'll eat his heart if he touches him I'll EAT HIS--

--and Stiles lets go, dropping to his knees and panting. The amulet clatters against the concrete, and Stiles screams, "Derek, watch out!" as a blue glow builds in the warlock's palms.

Derek's head jerks toward Stiles and he ducks immediately, the spell flying over his head.

"Catch!" Stiles shouts, tossing the amulet. "Put it on him!"

The amulet arcs through the air, and Derek does an impressive jump, leaping halfway toward the ceiling and snatching the amulet. He lands, light on his feet, and launches himself at the warlock, taking another exploding marble to his thigh that leaves a gaping, smoking wound. Stiles is pretty sure that pair of jeans is ruined.

The two of them go rolling across the floor, and Stiles tries to keep up with what's happening, but the room is still mostly dark and his head is spinning.

There's a wet crunch and a scream, and then he sees the red glow of Derek's eyes as Derek pushes himself up. 

The warlock writhes on the floor, shrieking. "No, no, stop! Stop thinking! Stop thinking!" He scratches at his ears, shredding them with his fingernails until blood drips down his jaw. 

The amulet hangs around the warlock's neck, glowing a milky white, like light through the fog. 

Stiles bolts to Derek's side, grabbing onto Derek's shoulder. Derek snarls at him, then comes back to himself, and the next thing Stiles knows, strong arms are wrapped around him and Derek's face is buried in his neck, his hot breath making Stiles' skin damp.

"Uh, Derek," Stiles says after a moment, his hands hovering in the air at Derek's side.

"I am going to rip your throat out," Derek says, his lips moving against Stiles' skin as he inhales deeply. 

That kind of threat definitely should not make Stiles relax, except it does. "Yeah, yeah, with your teeth. Back off, buddy. I'm okay, see?"

Derek pulls away, his nose rubbing accidentally against Stiles' jaw. "You nearly died."

"Yeah, from boredom," Stiles scoffs, patting Derek's chest to get him to take another step back. Werewolves have no concept of personal space. "C'mon, this guy's a total amateur, he didn't even read the instructions before he used the amulet. Look at him."

Together, they peer down. The warlock is still screaming; tears stream down his face and blood from his ravaged ears runs down his neck as he arches, howling and panting, "Too much, too many feelings, too much--"

"What do we do with him?" Derek asks, strangely quick, drawing Stiles' attention back.

"Leave the amulet on him for a while," Stiles says dispassionately. He's not really in a forgiving mood: he's got a sharp, throbbing pain behind his right eye and he's pretty sure his blood sugar is low because he never got to eat his sandwich. Not to mention there's a good-sized lump on his skull that Stiles can feel oozing blood down the back of his neck into his shirt collar.

Derek gives him a sharp look. "Stiles, you said that would--"

"Not forever," Stiles says, crossing his arms. "Just maybe another fifteen minutes. He hit me on the head!"

Derek's eyebrows furrow, his expression going slightly puzzled. "What is that sound?"

Stiles realizes he still has one earbud dangling from his ear, and he hurriedly pulls it out. He can hear Barry Manilow's tinny voice, Baby I want you now, now, and hold on fast, could this be the magic that lasts?

"Nothing," Stiles says, shoving the earbuds into his pocket and trying to act casual. He doesn't want to add insult to literal injury tonight, and Derek would definitely make fun of him for grooving to the oldies while awaiting rescue or impending doom. 

Derek narrows his eyes, but doesn't pursue the question. "We need to bring the amulet to Deaton for safekeeping."

"That's fine," Stiles says, as though Derek needed his approval. Stiles gives a little shudder. "Besides, having someone else's thoughts in your head is a little disturbing. I have even more of a headache from you and that warlock mind-screaming at each other."

"You could hear my thoughts?" Derek asks sharply.

"Uh, sort of?" Stiles says. "It was all jumbled up. I could hear him thinking about the spell he was going to cast. It's how I knew to warn you."

"Oh," Derek says, looking suddenly more relaxed. "Maybe next time you'll listen to me when I tell you not to go looking for strange magical artifacts." 

"That's highly doubtful," Stiles says, his grin cheeky.

"Stiles," Derek growls, letting the red bleed into his eyes.

Stiles holds his hands up. "Kidding!"

"Lie," Derek says. He looks way more pissed than the situation warrants.

"Okay, okay. I promise I won't go looking for any magical mind-reading amulets ever again," Stiles says, placing a hand over his heart.

----

"How comforting. And specific," Derek says. He tries for a normal, mocking tone, hoping that Stiles mistakes the hoarseness of his voice for lingering rage and not the terror still climbing Derek's throat.

Derek's heart is beating loud in his ears, the blood roaring through his veins. He can hear the answering beat of Stiles' heart, the pulse still fast and fearful. Derek clenches his hands at his sides, taking deep breaths through his nose; the sound is loud in the relative quiet of the room, if he doesn't count the weak noises the warlock makes. He doesn't.

On the next inhale, he catches the sharp scent of Stiles' pain and the metallic tinge of blood. He bites back a growl.

"You're hurt," he says, grabbing Stiles' upper arm. He needs to reassure himself with touch. "I'm taking you home."

Stiles huffs because he knows which home Derek means, and Derek can see that he's building himself up to argue. Derek's fingers flex against Stiles' arm in warning, and Stiles stops, his gaze catching on Derek's and holding.

"Mother hen," Stiles mutters, looking away, the scent of warm vinegar--embarrassment--rolling over him. "Fine, fine, if you have to play Florence Wolfingale to feel better about yourself, don't let me stop you."

"Really? Because it seems like nothing I do stops you, not even forbidding you from looking for the amulet."

"Can you yell at me someplace that has no writhing body? Or at least a couch? Please?" Stiles asks, like he's bored with the conversation. He sounds flippant, but Derek takes a moment to observe him: Stiles' pale face; the slight tremble in Stiles' hands; and the lingering, acrid scent of fear. 

Whatever else Stiles may say, he was scared tonight. Derek has learned that Stiles' scent never lies, but Stiles does--and sometimes to himself.

"Fine," Derek says shortly, tugging Stiles to the door. "I'll yell at you when we get home. Go wait in the car while I clean up."

"When you say clean up," Stiles says. "Do you mean clean up or--" he draws a finger across his throat, "--clean up?"

Derek gestures at the warlock, whose pitiful cries have dwindled down to constant, low whimpers. "I mean I'm going to beat his head against the floor until he's unconscious, take the amulet off him, and call Deaton."

"Right," Stiles says, sounding disappointed, the bloodthirsty little shit.

"Stiles. Car. Now," Derek says, pointing with a clawed finger. The warlock's babbling is beginning to grate on him.

Stiles holds his hands up, backing away. "Fine, fine. I'll be in the car. Thinking about what I did wrong. Practicing my apology. Missing you every minute." 

Stiles bats his eyelashes at Derek, grinning like a lunatic, and Derek wants to throttle him. "GO," he growls at Stiles, letting his eyes flash red, and the grin drops from Stiles' face as he scurries out the door.

Derek stalks toward the warlock, growling to himself. Goddamn Stiles and his glib treatment of his near-death experiences. He's going to send Derek to an early grave. Derek swipes a hand over his head in frustration, scratching his nails against his scalp. 

He spotted a grey hair at his left temple yesterday. He named it Little Stiles.

He nudges the warlock with his boot and sighs. Then he bends down, grabs the warlock's hair, and smashes his face against the ground.

After all, the bastard hurt Stiles. And Derek still has one or two agression issues to work on.

He stands up and goes to find some rope.

----

Derek only has to tell Stiles to shut up four times before Stiles finally gives up trying to engage him in conversation, slumping down in the passenger seat with his arms crossed over his chest and staring out the window. 

Derek's knuckles crack as he adjusts his grip on the steering wheel. He's too angry to talk to Stiles without being cruel, and he doesn't want this to escalate into a fight--though that's coming, after Derek gets Stiles home and checks his injuries himself.

They make it to Deaton's house after ten minutes of what should be a twenty minute drive. Stiles makes a few more aborted attempts at conversation that Derek squashes by upping the glow of his eyes and the growl in his voice.

"Stay here," he orders Stiles when he gets out of the car.

"No problem," Stiles says. "I'll just sit here patiently with my headwound."

Derek knows Stiles is playing up the injuries to needle him, but it still makes his chest constrict, the thought of how close they came, once again. If Derek weren't aware of Stiles at all times, it might have ended very differently tonight.

"If you don't want another one, then sit here and shut up."

"Fine! I already said I would!" Stiles throws his hands into the air, his expression mutinous. "Jesus, tone down the Alpha routine already."

Derek makes a frustrated noise and stalks away before he does something he'll regret like shake Stiles' shoulders or kiss his annoying mouth. Stiles makes him crazy.

"Derek?" Dr. Deaton says when he opens the door. He looks surprised to see Derek, but it's three o'clock in the morning, so Derek understands why. "What's going on?"

Derek jerks his thumb toward the Camaro idling at the curb; Stiles leans out the passenger window, grinning sheepishly and waving, and Dr. Deaton's expression smoothes out.

"Ah. I see. Come in, please. What can I do for you?"

Derek steps over the threshold, trying not to react when Dr. Deaton's wards skim over his skin. It's feels like an ice cube being dragged, lightning quick, over his whole body, cold and wet with the absence of any real water.

"Help me clean up a situation," Derek says.

"Now, Derek," Dr. Deaton says, his eyes twinkling. "You know I can't kill Stiles, no matter how much trouble he gets into."

Derek snorts, letting himself relax marginally. "There's a warlock in my trunk."

"That's the second time this year, Derek."

"He has a mind-reading amulet."

Dr. Deaton's eyebrows raise. "Now, that's a new one. Please go on."

Derek sighs, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "Stiles found a reference to some mind-reading amulet from that grimoire we got out of the last coven raid--the one with the fire bomb spells that I took out?"

"Yes," Deaton says solemnly. "And we all thank you for that."

"Stiles went looking for the amulet. He found it." 

Of course he did, Derek thinks, because the Universe loves giving Stiles chances to nearly kill himself and make Derek insane with worry. On dark nights, after Derek's brought himself off to thoughts of Stiles' lips or eyes or ass, he tells himself it's karma for falling in love with a 17-year-old. 

Or maybe for causing the deaths of his entire family. It's a toss up.

"Then a warlock found Stiles," Derek continues. "And then I found Stiles and the warlock."

"And then the warlock wound up in your trunk. I feel as though I'm getting the abridged version of the story."

"Stiles wasn't hurt," Derek says quickly. He doesn't want Deaton to think he can't take care of his own pack.

"Yes, that's what I was worried about," Dr. Deaton says. "And the amulet?"

"In the car with Stiles--Goddammit," Derek says, sprinting out the door. He races across the damp night grass, nearly wrenching the passenger door from its hinges. Stiles must have been leaning against it because he tumbles halfway out of the car.

"Holy hell!" Stiles says. "What the--what is wrong with you! I think I just peed!"

"Where's the amulet?" Derek says, his eyes zeroing in on Stiles' neck. It's bare, thank God.

"Uh, where you left it? Freak," Stiles mutters, gesturing at the glove box. "Why do--wait, no, what? Did you think I was gonna try it on or something? The dude clawed his own ears off, Derek! I like my ears, my head would look weird without them. C'mon, this haircut, no ears--I'd look like an otter! I can't believe you thought I'd be stupid enough--"

Derek leans his forearms against the Camaro's roof, taking in Stiles' scent and letting Stiles' rant flow over him. The trouble is, Stiles is exactly stupid enough to have tried on the amulet, and Derek worries about him all the time.

"Sorry," Derek says. "I didn't really think you'd--"

"Yes, you did," Stiles says, his eyes narrowing. "Which is pretty shitty, okay?"

"Sorry," Derek says again. And wait--how did this get turned around? Derek is supposed to be angry at Stiles: Stiles nearly got himself killed, so Derek gets to yell at him. That's how this works.

"Shut up," Derek growls, yanking open the glove box and pulling out the amulet. The second his fingers close around it, he hears: Stupid attractive werewolf with his condescending attitude and his roid rage and his eyebrows of death and his accusations, he's such an asshole--

Derek drops the amulet quickly into the pocket of his jacket, huffing under his breath. Good to know Stiles still thinks of him as a werewolf rage monster with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Really, that's great.

He stomps back across the front yard--he hears the Camaro's door slam aggressively--to meet Deaton standing at the door, waiting for him with a small, amused smile.

"He didn't use the amulet, did he?" Dr. Deaton asks as they move back inside.

"No," Derek says. He lifts the amulet out gingerly, touching only the chain. He doesn't need to know what Dr. Deaton is thinking. He doubts it's flattering.

Dr. Deaton hums as he takes the amulet, letting it dangle from his fingers as he inspects the pale stone. "Ah, the Mens Gemma. This has been lost for many years."

"Mens Gemma? Sounds like something Erica would want during a certain time of the month." Derek smirks, his hands shoved in the pockets of his jacket.

Dr. Deaton gives Derek a judging look.

Derek takes his hands out of his pockets, crossing his arms over his chest defensively. "What?"

"Perhaps you should leave the jokes to Mr. Stilinski."

Derek grunts, gesturing at the amulet Dr. Deaton holds. "Whatever. Keep the amulet, get rid of it, I don't care. You're the best one to deal with this."

"That's an awful lot of power you're giving me, Mr. Hale," Dr. Deaton says mildly.

"I trust you," Derek says. It's easier to say that now, and it's even easier once there's been mutual life-saving between two people. "And if you betray us, I'll send Stiles after you. Then I'll come after you."

"A terrifying prospect," Dr. Deaton says. 

"Stiles is the worst," Derek agrees. "See you Wednesday morning?"

"Same time as usual," Dr. Deaton nods. 

Derek turns to go before he remembers, "The body?"

"Just put it in the garage," Dr. Deaton says, waving his hand distractedly. He's gone back to studying the amulet. "I'll take care of it."

"Thanks," Derek says. "I'll take care of Stiles."

He's already out the door when he hears Dr. Deaton say, softly, "I know you will, Mr. Hale."

Derek pretends like he hasn't heard him, like he pretends the rest of the pack doesn't already know. Stiles is seventeen and Derek is damaged and nothing is going to happen. Stiles mostly hates him, anyway.

He climbs into the Camaro and doesn't speak to Stiles, which is a punishment for both of them. Stiles glares straight ahead in stony silence, his arms folded, like he's the wronged party here.

Predictably, Stiles begins fidgeting after a few minutes of silent driving broken only by the creak of the Derek's leather jacket and the almost imperceptible grinding of Derek's teeth.

"So," Stiles starts, drumming his fingers on the console, and Derek is pretty sure Stiles knows exactly how aggravating it is. "How did you know I was in trouble? Were your wolfy senses tingling?"

Derek in no way wants to have this conversation. "I can always tell when my pack is in danger," he hedges.

"Pack?" Stiles says, his eyebrows climbing in disbelief. He still doesn't understand that he has a place in the pack--a very important place in the pack--no matter how many times Derek explains it to him. 

Stiles' voice goes serious. "Can I ask you a question?"

Derek wants to say no; it never ends well when Stiles is curious, but Derek is still raw from how close he came to losing Stiles tonight, and he's more willing than usual to indulge him. "Yes?" he asks.

Stiles leans closer, his eyes never leaving Derek's. Even in the shadows, Derek can see how wide Stiles' pupils have gone, how he bites his lower lip shyly as he puts his hand on Derek's shoulder. "When your wolf senses tingle, what part of you actually tingles?"

"Stiles," Derek growls, and Stiles doubles over in laughter.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry! But your face! Dude, it was classic."

"If you didn't already have a head injury," Derek says, giving Stiles an unfriendly smile, "I'd be tempted to give you one."

"Harsh, man," Stiles says, sitting back in his seat. "Are we really going to your place? Can't you take me home?"

I am, Derek doesn't say. If Derek had his way, Stiles would always be there: his scent drenching the rooms, his voice echoing down the halls, his presence embedded right down into the foundation.

Instead he says, "Sure. Let's wake your father up in the middle of the night, and then you can explain to him what you were doing out."

"You know what? Let's stick with your plan," Stiles agrees quickly, turning straight forward in the seat and sitting up straight. Derek hides a smirk. "It's a tactical masterpiece. And seriously, the Hale house is my favorite house of all! Why wouldn't I want to spend the rest of the night there?"

"Good," Derek says, moving his eyes back to the road to keep from staring at Stiles' profile. He worries he's getting close to what Stiles calls his 'creeper zone.' Stiles likes to sing howlin' to the creeper zone to the tune of that eighties song whenever he catches Derek at it.

Derek has, thus far, still not found it funny.

When they reach the house, Derek barely has a chance to put the car in park before Stiles is stumbling out the door across the yard. He wobbles, newborn and unsure on his feet, and Derek knows it isn't just the darkness making Stiles clumsy.

He quickly moves to Stiles' side, wrapping an arm around Stiles' shoulder and steadying him. "Come on," he says more gently than he intends. That's the story of his life, really, he thinks to himself. The best intentions that never quite work out.

"I'm only letting you help me so you'll feel useful," Stiles says, his chin up.

"Now, sit down," Derek orders, pointing at the couch. The couch is new, bought with Isaac and Boyd's insistence. It's a deep chocolate-colored leather in a large L-shape with wide, plush seats, and copper rivets along the bottom. Derek privately thinks it looks like it belongs to a werewolf gigolo, but the pack likes it, and Lydia approved it, so he's stuck with it.

Stiles bristles, swaying slightly. "I don't need to sit down, I'm perfectly okay to stand!"

"You're listing to the left like a capsizing boat," Derek says flatly. "Sit down before I make you."

"Ugh," Stiles complains. "I just wanna go home and wash all this warlock stink off me and sleep a million years. Can't I do that instead?"

Derek's shaking his head before Stiles has finished. "No. You have a concussion."

"You can smell it on me?"

"You have a bleeding head wound and you're walking like a drunk moose. It's not a hard guess. You can't go to sleep for a few hours. You need someone to watch you."

"Why is it always me that gets the overbearing werewolf routine?" Stiles grumbles, but plops down onto the couch with a quiet groan. 

"I don't know, Stiles, maybe it's because you're constantly injuring yourself and putting your life in danger? Remember the leprechauns? And the harpies? And the four times you were kidnapped as a sacrifice in one month?"

"Oh sure," Stiles says, his warm eyes suddenly hot with anger. "Blame the human! He can't take care of himself, he has to be looked after, he's dragging down the whole pack."

"That's not what I--"

"I'm sorry, okay?" Stiles says, his cheeks flushed and his eyes bright. "Is that what you want to here? I know I'm a liability, but why do you think I was going after the amulet in the first place? If I had it, I could be a better asset to the pack!"

"But you are," Derek tries to say. "You're already an asset!"

"Don't patronize me," Stiles seethes. "If you'd listened to me from the beginning and helped me find the amulet then maybe--"

And now, now, Derek gets to be angry, because this is bullshit. He's not the bad guy here. Stiles is the one who ran off and did exactly what Derek told him not to do because that's what Stiles does, he throws his disobedience in Derek's face to remind him that he doesn't care what Derek thinks and he probably never will. It makes Derek miserable and furious.

"If I'd listened to you?" Derek snarls. "If you'd listened to ME, you wouldn't have a concussion!"

"Yeah, and a murderous, power-crazed warlock would still be roaming the streets! Everything worked out fine!"

"Stiles, if I had been ten minutes later--"

"But you weren't! God! Can you just--"

The lights abruptly go out, plunging them into darkness.

Stiles words cut off with a sharp sound, and Derek hears his breathing quicken. It only takes seconds for Derek's night-vision to kick in, his reactions heightened by the flood of adrenaline in his system. He watches Stiles takes an instinctive step toward Derek in the darkness, his eyes wide.

There's a thud from the hall, and Derek immediately moves in front of Stiles, shielding him with his body.

"Derek?" Stiles says, the fight gone from his voice, replaced with uncertainty and a touch of fear.

Another sound comes from the hall, and Derek's hackles go up; he's on the verge of shifting, ready to let the beast slide out in fangs, claws, and eyes.

Peter glides into the room. "Oh, hello, you two. It seems a bit late for a tête-à-tête in the living room, don't you think? The darkened living room. Looks like the power has gone out. But don't let me stop you."

Stiles relaxes a hair and Derek makes himself step away. He watches Peter cross the floor and head for the mantelpiece, but Peter halts halfway and sniffs the air. "I smell blood," he says lowly, his eyes glowing in the dark, as he swings his head around to stare at Stiles.

"Show of hands if you think Peter said that in a creepy way," Stiles says. In the dark, Derek can see Stiles raise his own hand.

Derek raises his hand, claws extended, knowing that Stiles can't see it, but Peter can.

Peter sends a mocking smirk in Derek's direction, and finishes his journey across the room, lifting the lighter from the mantel. With a click, a flame springs to life, and Peter uses it to light one of the emergency candles.

"There, that's better," Peter says, face illuminated by the flickering orange glow. Derek tracks Peter as he moves through the room, lighting candles one by one. The candles are Erica's and most of them are scented, so the room quickly fills with the cloying scent of vanilla, cinnamon, sandalwood, and buttered rum. 

When Peter's finished, he surveys the room and seems satisfied. He sets the lighter back on the mantel. "I'll go check the fuse box in the basement, shall I? You two stay here."

"He's being awfully helpful," Stiles says, eyeing Peter as he disappears from the room.

"Ignore him," Derek says. The candlelight softens the edges of the room and flickers invitingly over Stiles' face, making his eyes look deep and dark. "I'll deal with him if he tries anything."

"Fine, sure, because I can't handle it on my own. Look, are you done yelling at me yet? I'm kind of tired." Stiles' voice is weary.

"I'm not yelling at you!"

"The volume control on your voice is just broken?" 

"My control is--" Derek stops himself, lowering his voice, "--fine." 

He might be talking more loudly than usual, but Stiles has a concussion, so Derek figures he needs to speak clearly in order for Stiles to comprehend him and maybe get it through his thick skull--

"Your eyes are red again, too."

"Stiles--"

"Aaaaand now you're growling."

Derek takes a step closer and leans down, his voice calm and quiet. "Sit down, stay put, and shut up."

Stiles collapses immediately onto the couch cushion and gulps, his eyes wide. "Yes. Uh, anything else you want?" 

Derek sighs. "What I want is one or two days where I don't have to fight anything and none of my pack is danger," he says, turning away. He lets his shoulders slump for a second, but then straightens. He can't be seen as weak, not even by Stiles. Maybe especially not by Stiles. 

Regret flashes across Stiles' face. "Hey, man, I'm sorry about--" 

There's a click and a whirring sound from the entertainment center, and then the stereo turns on, blue and green electronics flashing, and Barry Manilow sings, caught in the middle of a song, My eyes adored you, like a million miles away from me, you couldn't see how I adored you, so close, so close and yet so far

"How the hell is this thing even on?" Stiles says, his mouth hanging open. "Didn't we unplug it last time? You know, dude, I'm starting to think it is possessed. It's sad that a demonic stereo wouldn't be the strangest thing to ever happen around here."

Derek shakes his head, eyeing the stereo warily. "It would still be strange. Even by our standards." 

"A little," Stiles says. "But you remember the sentient sunglasses? And the miniature dragon that breathed jelly beans?" 

"Good point," Derek agrees. "Boyd was mad you got rid of the dragon. He likes jelly beans.' 

"Boyd has the most dangerous sweet tooth of anyone I know." 

They stare at the entertainment center while Barry Manilow warbles, My eyes adored you, though I never laid a hand on you, my eyes adored you

"As possessions go," Stiles says, after a minute. "This one is pretty mild."

Derek glances at him. Stiles is biting his lower lip, looking quietly amused, and Derek flashes back to Peter saying that Stiles might actually like this music.  

"It's not... horrible," Derek offers, and Stiles gives him a funny look.

Just then, Peter returns with his hands dirty and cobwebs in his hair, raising an eyebrow at the stereo.  

"I don't know where this shitty music is coming from," Derek growls. 

"Barry Manilow is the greatest romancer of all time," Peter says, and if Derek didn't know better, he'd swear Peter sounds defensive. "His songs are true love songs. The power of human love is quite strong, as you well know."

Peter's wife had been human, Derek suddenly remembers. 

Peter busies himself brushing the specks of dirt from his shirt, saying, "Well, I'm not sure how that piece of electronic equipment is working because the power is out for good until our courageous Alpha can make a run to the hardware store. Of course, I'm not an electrician, but Derek has some familiarity with voltage. Don't you, Derek?"

"Peter," Derek says menacingly, flexing his fingers. 

"The joke was in poor taste," Peter says, holding his hands up and baring his neck subtly. "I'll just light a fire, shall I? It wouldn't do for Stiles to get chilled." He moves back toward the mantel.

"Evil people say 'shall', you know," Stiles mutters, giving Peter the stink-eye. "And I can totally take the cold." But he shivers and watches a little eagerly as Peter fusses with the fireplace until the logs leap to life with a crackle of flame.  

Peter sits back on his heels and stares at the fire for a long moment. Derek suddenly wonders what Peter sees when he looks in the flames. Does he see faces? Derek remembers his aunt. She had hair the color of glowing embers. 

"I'll leave you two to it," Peter says, getting to his feet. The smirk he offers them as he exits is a weaker version than the one to which Derek is accustomed. "Don't do anything I wouldn't. I do realize that leaves your options wide open."

"Goodnight, Peter," Derek says, and finds he means it.  

Peter pauses and gives Derek an unreadable look. 

"Do I really have to stay up all night?" Stiles whines, and when Derek shifts his attention back to Peter, his uncle has disappeared. 

"Yes," Derek says. Stiles probably doesn't, but Derek's feeling a little mean. "Think of it as your heroic reward." 

"You know, some of us are not as into masochism as others." 

"Would you prefer I was into sadism?" Derek asks, flashing his fangs. 

Stiles squeaks. 

---- 

Peter hides out of sight on the other side of the doorframe, listening to Derek and Stiles bicker as Barry Manilow plays softly in the background, the two of them circling round and round each other but never meeting. 

Derek finally growls, "That's it, I can't take this music anymore--"  

Peter hears a grunt and a crash as the music cuts off, and Stiles voice drifts out wryly: "I'm not sure the response was in proportion to the situation."

"It's been a trying night," Derek says in a tone so dry it could be Chardonnay. "But I'm sure I could get it working again if you want to listen." 

"No, no," Stiles says quickly. "We might have another ear-clawing situation on our hands. Jesus, do you have any flashlights or lanterns or something? These candles barely give off any light." 

Hmph, Peter thinks. Those two uncultured fools clearly wouldn't recognize a romantic atmosphere if it bit them with a mouth full of teeth. 

He considers tweaking his plan and simply locking them naked together in a closet. Although with the amount of obliviousness and denial Stiles and Derek display on a daily basis, he may have to duct tape their faces together for anything to happen. 

He sighs. He really is a saint. 

---- 

Stiles hopes that things will die down after that, but the killings start when they get back from winter break.  

School's been in session for two days when Stiles gets there and sees a row of police cars parked in front of the entrance with their lights flashing. Students huddle in small groups, whispering to each other, and two uniformed deputies are methodically making the rounds and taking down statements.

"Aw, crap," Stiles says, hustling inside to find out what's going on. 

If this is something supernatural, Derek's going to pissed. Stiles thinks back to last week, picturing the tired slope of Derek's shoulders and the lack of heat behind his, "Get out, Stiles."

Stiles just makes it past the front doors when his dad reaches out and snags him by the collar, jerking him to the side and out of the flow of other students entering the building.

"Stiles," the Sheriff says, hooking his thumbs in his gun belt.

"Dad--"

"Before you ask, yes," the Sheriff says, holding a hand up, "It looks supernatural, and no, not werewolves, best I can tell right now. We'll talk about it later. Call Scott and tell him to come over for dinner. For now, get to class. School hasn't been cancelled because we don't want to start a panic, and I'm keeping things quiet, but I'm going to have officers stationed here all day. Whatever you do, do not go to the pool." 

Stiles is nodding frantically along. "Got it, capice, negatory on the pool. The pool and I go back a ways, and our relationship has not exactly been cordial." 

The Sheriff gives him a tired look. "Just promise me you'll save your investigating until after school."

"Dad," Stiles says. "C'mon, you know the first twenty-four hours in an investigation are crucial! I'm your inside man. I can go where the deputies can't." 

"My deputies have badges. They can go anywhere," the Sheriff replies dryly.

"Okay," Stiles concedes. "Sure, they can go anywhere, but will they get surly high schoolers to talk to them? I don't think so. I'm a familiar face. I can ask the penetrating questions. People will open up to me." 

"You'll use your popularity to sway them?"

"Yes, I'll--oh, low blow, Dad," Stiles says, crossing his arms. "Low blow." 

"Keep your nose out of the investigation," the Sheriff says, tapping Stiles' chest twice. "We'll talk when I get home." 

"I'm making a salad!" Stiles calls after him as his dad disappears into the throng of students "With no dressing!" 

People stop and stare at him, and Stiles is grateful that Erica and Boyd choose that moment to saunter up next to him. Erica bumps his shoulder a little too hard, which she always does, and Boyd reaches out to steady him, which he always does. 

"Okay, wolfy ones," Stiles says, rubbing his hands together. "What have your super-ears detected?" 

Erica rolls her eyes. "You think we're just gonna give up the goods, Stilinski? What's the incentive?"

"My eternal devotion?" 

"Already have that," Erica replies, examining her bright red nails.  

"The pool was pink," Boyd says. 

"Boyd," Erica whines.  

"Pink?" Stiles asks. "How was it pink?" 

"Blood," Erica says, her tone just a touch too full of relish.

"The pool was pink with blood? Come on, the volume of water combined with the volume of blood it would take to--"

"Yeah," Boyd says simply.

"Oh," Stiles says. "Oh, gross. How many bodies?"

"The cops aren't sure yet," Boyd says. "They're still collecting all the pieces."

Stiles takes a minute to process that. "I hope the cafeteria decides against anything with sauce today," he finally says.

Erica snorts. "Don't worry, Stiles. We'll protect you."

She says it jokingly because Erica has decided that, like Derek, she is violently allergic to sincere emotions, but Stiles knows she means it. She has on several occasions saved his life by ripping the throat out of things with her teeth.

"Right, right," Stiles says, playing his part. "Can't let anything happen to your favorite chew toy."

"I'd never let anything happen to Scott," Erica says.

"Rude," Stiles replies, following them to their first class. "After all the wolfsbane bullets I've dug out of your asses. Boyd's, literally."

"Stiles," Boyd growls.

"Sorry, vow of silence, forgot."

Erica laughs, throwing her head back. Boyd grumbles, but Stiles can see a smile lurking at the edges of his mouth as he puts his arm around Erica's waist. Stiles can't help the bubble of affection he feels rising in his chest. It's been a rough year, with Alpha packs, goblins, witches, and other assorted supernatural antics, but things have calmed down in the last few months, and the pack has solidified. It feels good.

Scott motions him over excitedly in second period. "Hey!" he says. "Have you found anything out yet?"

"What?" Stiles asks. "Do I look like the kind of guy who would interfere in a murder investigation involving several bodies found torn apart in the pool by a killer of possibly supernatural origins?"

Scott grins. "When the light hits you just right, yeah, you do."

"Fair enough," Stiles says, flopping down in the seat next to him. "I only have a report from Erica and Boyd, I haven't heard from Isaac yet. I was thinking we could compare notes at lunch."

"Sounds good. What'd you get for number seven?"

"Goats," Stiles says.

"This is American Government, Stiles."

"Which is what made the answer all the more surprising."

Scott rolls his eyes. "I put divided government," he says.

"I put shitstorm of leadership."

"And goats."

"And goats," Stiles laughs. "I think yours is probably right, though. I'm gonna change my answer."

"Mr. Stilinski, Mr. McCall, can we settle down and let class begin? I know that things have been exciting for you all this morning, but we have work to do."

Stiles doesn't really understand how they're supposed to concentrate with the knowledge that people have been murdered--again--inside their school, but he understands the impulse to cloak yourself in normalcy so you forget that your life has gone crazy.

Boy, does he understand that.

----

He slides into his designated seat at the lunch table--between Scott and Boyd--and sets his tray down with a clang. 

He used to sit between Lydia and Erica--hello, prime real estate--but a couple months ago, just after the big showdown with the harpies, when Stiles finally managed to limp his way back to school, he arrived at their lunch table to find that everyone had rearranged themselves in his absence, and now Scott and Boyd bracketed him like sentinels. 

Stiles has only tried to change seats once. Once. He was not eager to repeat the indignity of Boyd hauling him back by his hoodie like a spitting kitten and plopping him down in the plastic chair.

And Boyd was a pudding cup stealer, the jerk.  

Wordlessly, Stiles hands Boyd an extra pudding cup and elbows Scott in the side so he'll stop making goofy faces at Allison. He leans forward across the table, and the rest of the pack leans in with him.

"So, what have we heard?" he asks. "I haven't gotten much beyond the fact that the murders are probably supernatural and no students were killed. I tried to ask some more questions, but Deputy Berkowitz and Deputy Assan weren't very forthcoming. In fact, Deputy Berkowitz stroked his nightstick in a rather threatening manner toward me."

Isaac starts choking on his soda, and Jackson thumps him absently on the back with what looks like more force than necessary because Jackson is still a dick.

Erica smirks and shares a look with Lydia, saying, "Don't let Derek hear you say that. He'll bite the guy's head off."

"Please," Stiles replies, waving his hand and narrowly avoiding knocking over his drink. "Derek would probably beat me with his own nightstick if he had the chance."

Isaac puts his head down on the table, his shoulders shaking. He must have really inhaled that soda the wrong way.

"Uh, I haven't heard anything else," Scott breaks in, sounding a little strangled. Allison is laughing against his shoulder, her face tucked away; Stiles will never understand all their weird, coupley in-jokes.

"Of course you haven't," Stiles says, "We had almost all the same classes before lunch. Okay, so, anyone else? Lydia, my strawberry-haired goddess of intrigue?"

"Stilinski," Jackson growls, his eyes flashing blue. He wraps an arm around Lydia's shoulders, trying to look macho, but Stiles can see how Jackson very carefully does not mess up Lydia's hair, even though his nails have gone distinctly claw-like.

"Hey!" Stiles says. "Ix-nay on the erewolf-way at ool-schay, you erk-jay!" 

Jackson raises an eyebrow.

Stiles clears his throat, ignoring the smirks from the group. "Okay, so that got away from me. My point stands. Anyway, Scott and I are gonna talk with my dad at dinner tonight and see what else we can find out. We need to know what kind of threat we're dealing with."

"Has anyone called Derek?" Allison asks.

"Stilinski does that," Jackson says. 

"I do what?"

"Call Derek," Lydia says with finality. "Tell him what's happening."

"What am I, Derek's personal assistant?"

Everyone laughs at that a little louder than Stiles thinks they should. "Fine," Stiles grumbles, pulling out his phone. "If you really think we need to bring in the Alpha guns on this."

He turns in the chair to affect the semblance of privacy for himself, and tries not to dwell on why these days he wants his phone calls with Derek to be private. Derek is slowly creeping higher and higher on his speed dial, much like Derek himself has slowly crept more and more into Stiles' thoughts.

"Heeeey, Derek," Stiles drawls when Derek picks up immediately after the first ring. "What's--"

"Why aren't you in class?" Derek already sounds cranky, and Stiles can tell this will be a fun conversation.

"What's the matter, wake up on the wrong side of the pelt this morning?"

"Stiles," Derek says, and Stiles is always amazed by how much meaning Derek can cram into a single word. If Stiles had to guess, he'd hazard that Derek has about a hundred versions of his name, which seems like more variations than he has for the rest of the pack combined.

"Derek," Stiles replies, trying to match Derek's teeth-grinding tone. "Listen, so, there's been an incident at the school and I was elected to call you--"

"What incident? Are you hurt? Dammit Stiles, did you blow something up again?"

"That was one time!" Stiles complains. "Once! And Isaac's eyebrows totally grew back--not that it even matters in wolf-form."

"Are you hurt?" Derek repeats slowly. "I can't tell if this is you babbling in shock or if this is regular babbling."

"So hilarious," Stiles says. "I'm fine, the pack's fine. I'm sure you can sense it with your werewolf tingles, anyway."

"Yeah," Derek says, voice sullen. "But--nevermind."

"Fret not, Alpha-mine," Stiles says, shaking off the weird compulsion to comfort Derek. "We're all fine. The torn apart bodies in the pool? Not so much. My dad's already here with his deputies, so he should be able to tell me more later."

"Is it our kind of problem?" Derek asks lowly, like this is a monitored phone call.

Stiles snorts. "If you mean, 'Is it a horrible monster that will probably at some point attack Stiles,' then yes."

"Stiles," Derek growls. "Don't joke."

"You may as well ask the sun not to shine. Listen, we're cool, I'll call you after I talk to my dad tonight, okay?"

"Okay," Derek says, after a pause. "But watch out for anything new or suspicious."

"Thanks," Stiles says, rolling his eyes. "I totally wouldn't have figured that out on my own, despite years as the Sheriff's son."

"I know," Derek says. "And the first step is admitting the problem."

"Did you wake up and have a bowl of Sassy-Os this morning?" Stiles says, trying to keep the smile from his voice, though it's impossible to keep it from his face. He glances over his shoulder and sees all the girls at the table staring at him with fond expressions, their chins cupped in their hands. 

"No," Derek replies in the same flat tone. "Rabbit Crunch."

Stiles can't stop his laugh, and Derek's smug contentment radiates across the line. 

"Now get back to class," Derek continues. "You're no use to me if you're in detention."

And just like that, Stiles good mood evaporates with the reminder that Derek only tolerates him, only uses him when he needs him. Stiles hates knowing that he doesn't have a real place in the pack, not like Lydia and Allison, who are pack by virtue of their stupid boyfriends and their general awesomeness.

"Sure, yeah," Stiles says. "I'll let you know if anything tries to eat my face."

Stiles can tell Derek has caught the shift in his voice because Derek's voice changes, too, gets softer like he's worried, which is total crap. "Hey," Derek says. "Is something else going on--?"

"Nope!" Stiles cuts him off, voice falsely bright, even though he knows Derek can detect lies over the phone. "Peachy keen, wolf-boss-man! I'm gonna go to class and learn stuff, don't worry about me. I'll make sure to stay useful."

He hangs up and turns back to the table, slipping his phone into his pocket. The rest of the pack is staring at him, and Scott and Boyd bump his shoulders affectionately, rocking him side to side like a pinball. 

Stiles wonders what misery smells like, and he thinks about how animals are supposed to be able to sense a human's distress. He knows that the werewolves could hear both sides of the conversation.

He offers them all a weak smile.

Boyd solemnly hands him the extra pudding cup.

Stiles pushes it away, exclaiming loudly, "Oh my God, I'm not dying, you guys. Derek is just a jerk, like usual. Can we eat now? Mmm mmm, macaroni and plastic. You guys are lucky you're werewolves and you heal quickly. The rest of us have to deal with the fear of food poisoning." 

Stiles picks up his fork and digs into his lunch with gusto; one of the fork's plastic tines pops off in the thick mixture, ricocheting across the table. Stiles regards his lunch with equal parts horror and awe and--did the mashed potatoes move?

"Hearty," Erica comments.

Stiles grudgingly accepts the pudding cup, and Boyd pats him on the shoulder.

----

The killings also happen to coincide with the arrival of a new student.

"Ugh, seriously?" asks Gabby, coming up to the lockers next to Stiles at the end of the day. "Does the new girl have to be beautiful and foreign?"

"Huh?" Stiles asks as he puts his textbook away and closes his locker door. He's been a little distracted today.

He looks down the hall past Gabby and sees a crowd comprised of the popular senior girls--sans Lydia Martin, who has transcended mere popularity to notoriety--circling around a tall, leggy girl with long, straight hair so pale it's almost silver.

"Simone," Gabby says, pronouncing it with an accent, as she hugs her textbooks to her chest and glowers. 

Gabby is about Stiles' height, and looks surprisingly similar: short dark hair, light brown eyes, and a smattering of freckles. She's also too smart and sarcastic for her own good, so her arrival at the beginning of senior year had not immediately transported her to the popular table. Instead, she got stuck with Stiles at the table with the Beacon Hills High Freaks.

Stiles is selfishly glad of that. Gabby is pretty cool to hang out with, when she's not insulting him in class, and even though she's really smart, she doesn't seem to question the strangeness of a lunch table full of people wearing leather who can smell what someone across the room is eating.

"She's new?" Stiles asks, slinging his backpack over his shoulder carefully. He's got a set of fragile, carved bone runes in there that he doesn't want to break.

Gabby rolls her eyes. "Duh. She started this week. Like you wouldn't have been falling all over yourself with the rest of the Cro-Magnons if you'd noticed her around before now."

"Excuse me," Stiles says. "I find that hurtful. I'm not just about a pretty face. I have standards."

"Plus, you don't date," Gabby says.

"Yeah, plus, I don't--hold on, what? I date!"

Gabby just looks at him, her eyebrows raised and her hips tilted in a way that seems specific to girls. He's tried imitating it in the mirror, but gave up after realizing it looked like he was channeling Elvis. 

"I have aspirations of dating," Stiles amends. "You don't know. Maybe I'll date Simone."

Gabby snorts. "Good luck with that, Stilinski," she says, waving her hand dismissively as turns and heads to class. "You'll need to brush up on your French, first. And your personal hygiene."

"Says you, Chanson!" Stiles calls after her.

He turns around, smiling, and finds himself face-to-face with the new girl. Several cheerleaders are crowded behind her, giving Stiles dirty looks. 

"Whoa, sorry!" Stiles says, reigning himself in and only just managing not to crash into her.

Simone smiles and tucks a strand of silky straight hair behind her ear. "C'est pas problème," she says. "I mean," she continues haltingly, her accent heavy. "It is no problem."

"Yeah, just... don't want to start an international incident," Stiles says, scratching the back of his neck. 

Simone smiles at him again. Her eyes are big and almond-shaped and such a startling blue they remind Stiles of Derek, pre-Alpha.

"My name is Simone," she says. Her voice is low and breathy.

"Uh, Stiles," Stiles says.

Simone's forehead furrows. "I do not know this word. Is this mean--does this mean 'good'? It is stiles?"

Stiles can't help laughing, and hopes that doesn't offend her. "No, that's my name. Stiles."

"Ah," Simone says, her expression clearing. "So sorry." 

Simone looks like she wants to say more, but one of the girls says, "Simone, we have to get to class," tugging impatiently on her arm.

"I must go," Simone says, her voice apologetic. "So nice to meet you, Stiles." She gives his name two syllables: Sti-yells.

He waves awkwardly and says, "Au revoir," and Simone turns and gives him a blinding smile before she disappears into the crowd with the other girls.

He's a little dazed as he watches her walk away. Then he shakes his head to clear his thoughts and heads for the parking lot.

----

He has the salad tongs out when his dad gets home, giving his dad a pointed look at he sets the large salad bowl the table.

"After the day I had, there better be something fried and on my plate in the next five minutes," the Sheriff says as he shrugs his jacket off. He unbuckles his holster and hangs it over the back of the dining room chair as he sits down.

The Sheriff actually looks serious, so Stiles nods. "There's some fried chicken in the refrigerator for emergency situations."

When Stiles returns to the dining room with a plate of chicken, the Sheriff is screwing the top on the whiskey bottle. Then he takes the tumbler and sits down at the table with a heavy sigh.

"So," Stiles says hesitantly, putting the plate in the middle of the table and nudging the salt shaker closer to his dad. "Pretty bad?"

"Yes," the Sheriff says. "None of them were your classmates, thank God, but the coroner needed a Xanax before the end of the goddamn day."

Stiles sits down. "Well, that can't be good."

"Never seen anything like it," the Sheriff says, shaking his head. "Even with all your supernatural werewolf crap, it still looked like animal attacks. But this--no animal would have done this. Whatever did this just ripped people apart."

"Were they eat--I mean, did you find all of the... parts?"

"Yeah," the Sheriff says. "Wait, no--when I left, Roy said he still hadn't found the larynges."

"What?" Stiles asks, leaning forward, his elbows on the table. "They were missing their voice boxes?" 

The Sheriff nods. "Eleven bodies, not a single larynx among the pieces."

Stiles lets that horrifying bit of information slither down his spine. Before he can reply, the doorbell rings and he jumps up. "I got it, it's probably Scott."

Sure enough, when Stiles opens the door, Scott is standing on the front step, looking sheepish.

"Sorry, I'm late," he says. "Got caught up studying with Allison."

"Uh huh," Stiles says. "You've got some bright pink 'studying' on your cheek, genius."

Scott laughs and wipes his face, stepping inside. "What'd your dad say?" he asks.

"His dad says let's eat before I lose my appetite," the Sheriff calls.

Stiles and Scott hurry to sit down, piling their plates with food. The Sheriff takes his time loading his plate with fried chicken. He gives Stiles a long-suffering look and then parcels out a serving of salad. Stiles beams at him.

"All right," the Sheriff says, settling in his chair after he's polished off a drumstick and a thigh. "Tell me what you boys got."

"What?" Stiles says innocently at the same time Scott says, "Uh," just as guiltily.

"Son, I wasn't born yesterday," the Sheriff says, putting his salad fork down. "If you think I'm under any illusion that you stayed out of the investigation today, you're wrong."

Scott laughs softly under his breath and Stiles shoots him a glare. "Not that I went looking for it," Stiles begins, turning back to his dad. "Sometimes information is just given to me, you understand."

"Should have named you Pinnochio Stilinksi," the Sheriff says, shaking his head with a fond smile. 

Stiles is glad they've come far enough that his dad can joke about the lies and the secrets of the last two years, especially now that his dad knows the real story of what was going on under his nose. Stiles likes to think he would have told his dad everything eventually, but the choice was taken from him when the Alpha pack decided to redecorate his front door with bloody sigils and then kidnap the Sheriff for fun. 

His dad had taken the whole thing surprisingly well. It helped that Mrs. McCall knew about everything and they could commiserate over their delinquent kids together. It also probably helped that the Sheriff got to shoot one of the alphas in the head. 

"I can't help it, Dad," Stiles says. "I told you I have the kind of face that people talk to."

Scott and the Sheriff share a look across the table. 

Scott's too busy inhaling his fourth drumstick to add much to the conversation, and he's eyeing the rapidly diminishing plate of fried chicken a little forlornly. Stiles has extra chicken in the fridge because he's learned that you pretty much need to designate at least one chicken per werewolf in order for everyone to go home happy.

"Okay, I didn't really find out anything extra. Boyd and Erica only said that, you know, the pool was full of bodies. Isaac heard two of the officers doing rock-paper-scissors to see who had to put on the wetsuit and help the coroner go in after the pieces."

"Boggins and Jefferson," the Sheriff says. "You probably would have volunteered." His lips twist in a way that makes Stiles' stomach clench.

"I don't think so," Stiles says, trying to keep his voice light. "I'll stick to bobbing for apples, not arms and legs."

"What else can you tell us?" Scott asks, swallowing his last mouthful of chicken.

The Sheriff sighs and scrubs a hand over his face. "Like I said to Stiles. Eleven bodies, none of them your classmates. Near as I can tell, they were mostly drifters. A face or two I recognized from the backseat of a patrol car. They were ripped apart like something was having fun with it, and Roy said each body was missing its larynx."

"That's kind of... weird," Scott says. "There aren't, like, any serial killers with a larynx signature, are there?"

"No," the Sheriff says, nodding at Scott approvingly. "We already checked that out. Plus the pattern of the wounds looked like... teeth."

"Dog teeth? Cat teeth? Something like that?" Stiles asks.

"Piranha teeth," the Sheriff says. "At least that's what the lab is saying."

"Huh," Stiles says, sitting back.

"Have you heard of anything like that?" Scott asks, looking worried.

"No," Stiles says, shaking his head. "Piranha teeth and a penchant for larynges? We've had wolves, witches, goblins, trolls, and harpies, but nothing like that."

"Harpies?" his dad asks incredulously, his eyes narrowing.

"Oh, crap," Stiles says. "Did I forget to tell you about that?"

----

"I can't believe he grounded you," Scott says half an hour later as they're researching in Stiles' room.

"I can't believe you ate three whole chickens," Stiles says. "Shut up."

Scott laughs and goes to grab another book from Stiles' shelf. "Whoa," he says. "Nice music."

"What?" Stiles looks up, squinting at the item Scott holds in his hands. It's a Barry Manilow CD. He knows he didn't bring it up here but he doesn't know where Scott would have found it.

"That's not mine," Stiles says.

"That's what they all say, dude," Scott replies sagely.

"Funny," Stiles says, finally recognizing it. "But it's not. That's--that's one of my mom's old CDs. She liked Barry Manilow. You know that song? Mandy?"

"Oh," Scott says softly, putting down the CD with care. "Yeah, like her name."

Only the Sheriff had ever called her Mandy. To everyone else, she was Amanda. Stiles thinks that's why she liked the song so much, because it reminded her of dad.

"Find anything yet?" Stiles asks. Scott has known him long enough not to question the change in topic.

"Not yet," Scott says, pulling a small grimoire from the shelf. "How do you have so many weird books? I don't even think Deaton has this many."

"Derek brings them to me," Stiles says. He fires up his laptop and inserts the USB drive containing a combination of everything Peter had saved from the Hale family bestiary plus what they stole from Gerard. "I'm the Giles here, remember? I need to be informed."

"Right," Scott says, giving Stiles a funny look. "Hey, that rhymes, you know? Stiles and Giles."

"Thanks, Shakespeare, I hadn't noticed."

Scott throws a dirty sock at his face.

After Scott leaves a few hours later, Stiles takes a deep breath and braces himself before calling Derek. Derek's probably been pacing and wearing clawmarks into the floor all night, so Stiles knows to skip the pleasantries.

"Eleven bodies, each missing its larynx. My dad thinks it's supernatural," Stiles says after Derek picks up with his customary grunt.

"Anything else?" Derek asks after a beat.

"Not much. Scott and I looked through some of the books you gave me, and I scrolled through the bestiary, but nothing jumped out."

"All right. We'll talk tomorrow. Take care of yourself, Stiles," Derek says. Stiles can imagine the look on his face; he sounds like he did the night in the warehouse with the warlock, like he actually gives a shit what happens to Stiles, like Stiles matters, and Stiles suddenly, fiercely, wants that to be true. He wants Derek to care about him as more than friends and more than pack.

Stiles can't stop his soft noise of surprise. "Thanks," he says.

Derek doesn't reply, and the line goes dead.

A second later, a text beeps through with a message from Derek ordering them all to a pack meeting tomorrow.

Stiles doesn't respond right away. He stares at his phone for a few minutes, feeling shell-shocked and numb, and he makes himself breath deliberately as realization crashes over him. 

Holy hell, he thinks. I'm in love with Derek.

Well. That explains as few things, like why he feels like he's stubbed his toe when he's around Derek, why there's a low, constant throbbing ache inside him. 

Him and his stupid, unattainable crushes. There's gotta be a twelve-step program he can check himself into: Hi, my name is Stiles, and it's been two weeks since my last crush. I felt the urge to have a crush on someone out of my league last week, but my sponsor and I talked it over until that feeling went away.

He lays in bed later that night, staring at his ceiling and remembering the gruff way Derek said, "Take care of yourself, Stiles," like it meant something. 

He lets himself picture Derek as he touches himself: Derek kissing him, his hands firm and sure as he presses Stiles into the mattress. Would his eyes be red? Yeah, they'd totally be red, maybe a hint of fang. Shit, that's hot. 

Stiles is panting now, hips pushing up into his fist. Derek is definitely a biter, he'd bite at Stiles' chest, maybe down his belly--would Derek suck him? Lick and nuzzle at him first, maybe scrape his stubble against Stiles' sensitive cock before he wrapped his lips around him and, oh God, he can just imagine--

He comes with a muffled noise, embarrassingly fast.

He reaches over the edge of the bed, feeling around blindly until his fingers close over fabric, the t-shirt he was wearing earlier. He uses it to wipe off his hands and clean up his stomach, then balls the shirt up and tosses it across the room toward the general vicinity of the hamper. 

He bets the afterglow would be better with an actual person, too. He hopes Derek is a cuddler; he'd pet Stiles' hair, kiss his temples, and tell him he loved him.

Stiles realizes it's wishful thinking on his part because Derek cares about him like he cares about the rest of the pack--probably less, because let's face it, he and Derek aren't exactly close, and there's no special wolfy bond tying them together. 

Derek's never going to see him that way, and he resigns himself to a rich fantasy life. His chest aches, and he rubs at his eyes, feeling more lonesome than he can ever remember.

He texts Derek back, exchanging a few lines that wind up making him feeling even worse.

He plugs the phone in on his nightstand, then turns over and punches his pillow a few times, getting it into shape. 

He presses his cheek into the pillow with a sigh. He can catch the faintest whiff of leather, if he buries his nose in the fabric. He should tell Derek to stop lounging on his bed when he visits.

He snuggles deeper. He knows he won't.

----

After Derek hangs up with Stiles, the need to protect him still buzzing under his skin, he sends out a mass text. 7pm. pack meeting tomorrow.

His phone beeps half an hour later with a reply text from Stiles, which is strange because Stiles usually responds quicker than that. okay what else should i pack??

Derek frowns at his screen. nothing

His phone buzzes a second later. i don't know why i even try. :p

me either. Derek sends, smiling to himself.

Stiles doesn't text him back, and Derek tells himself he isn't disappointed.

----

The next morning Derek works out, eats a ham sandwich, paints a dresser using a distressed technique he found online, and visits Deaton in the afternoon to update him on the details. Then he swings by the grocery store for some soda and chips because Peter ate the last of the pretzels.

He winds up buying a liter of soda for each pack member. If he doesn't, they all complain. He makes sure that Stiles' soda is caffeine free. He loads the grocery cart with at least ten different kinds of potato chips and a bag of pork rinds for Lydia, which he's stopped finding strange.

When he gets to the register and loads his purchases on the conveyor belt, the cashier remarks, "Party at your place, huh?" 

She's clearly trying to be friendly, twirling a lock of hair on her finger. He's the only one in the store and it's the middle of the day, so she must be bored.

"I'm just really hungry," he says.

"That's a lot to eat on your own," she replies as she rings up his purchases. She winks at him and licks her lips. "Sure you don't want any company? I get off at seven. You could get off sometime after that."

"You have nice skin," Derek says. "Very... smooth."

"Your total is 53.87," she says quickly, pressing a button under her register that makes the number on her aisle sign light up and flash. 

Derek leaves under the manager's disapproving watch, smiling to himself.

He unpacks the groceries quickly when he gets home, sticking the sodas into the new refrigerator. It's stainless steel, huge with double doors, a freezer tray underneath, and a dispenser.

Peter had insisted on getting the unit with a dispenser for water, ice, and crushed ice; when Derek asked him if they really needed to spend an extra three-hundred dollars for the model that offered crushed ice, Peter said, "We're not animals, Derek," and Erica said, "I want it," and that had been that.

He opens the bags of chips, dumping them into various bowls and munching along the way because he's the Alpha and he gets to do that. He draws the line at pouring drinks, only making one for himself. He has to admit, the crushed ice is pretty nice.

Even though he said seven o'clock, the pack is still straggling in at a quarter past the hour, and Derek makes sure to allot each of them a thirty-second glare. He uses a 1:2 disappointment to glare ratio; thirty minutes late, and they would have gotten the full minute.

Stiles, naturally, is the last to arrive, rushing into the room with a breathless, "Sorry, sorry!" his cheeks pink from the cold. His laptop is tucked under his arm, along with several thin, leather bound books.

"Did I miss anything?" Stiles asks, grinning as he plops down on the couch between Scott and Isaac. 

"Derek glaring," Isaac says, sounding bored.

Isaac is definitely getting the full minute.

"So, why have you gathered us all to this place, O wise and powerful Alpha?" Stiles asks, snagging a bowl of Doritos off the coffee table and holding it protectively against his chest when Scott looks interested.

"I don't know, Stiles," Derek says. "Because there were multiple murders at your school?"

"That's a pretty good reason," Erica says.

"Yes, thank you, Erica."

"We want to make sure we're all on the same page, right?" Scott asks.

"Right," Derek says, giving him a nod. "I want you all to stay vigilant--"

"Constant vigilance!" Stiles says, then cracks up at himself for some reason.

"Stiles said there were a lot of bodies? Do we think this is one creature or two?" Erica asks.

"Definitely one," Isaac speaks up. "When I was eavesdropping on those deputies, they said it looked like the same bite pattern on all the bodies."

"Yeah, the coroner confirmed it today," Stiles says. "My dad called me at lunch."

"So we're dealing with a single creature. A single, very violent creature. Stick together and don't do anything without telling me."

Stiles shoves a handful of chips into his mouth, talking through a spray of crumbs. "Are we officially in research mode now? Have I been tapped in?"

Derek nods. "Check the books I--that you have. And the combined bestiary, too. I'll talk to Deaton. Allison, you ask your father if this is familiar to him. I'll check out the school tonight."

"See what you can sniff out," Peter says.

Derek gives him a withering look. "Yes."

"I'll go with you!" Stiles says.

"No," Derek says, letting a growl roll into his voice. "You're on research."

"Ugh!" Stiles exclaims, sinking back into the couch with a petulant frown. "Fine. Papercut central, here I come."

"The bestiary is on a flash drive, Stiles."

"Electronic radiation," Stiles says. He's clearly pouting.

Derek ignores him, though it's not easy with the way Stiles chews his lips angrily, making the skin wet and red.

Derek shakes himself, and notices his Betas giving him knowing looks. "That's it for tonight," he barks.

The pack clears out quickly after that, probably because the food and drink are all gone and no one wanted to watch a movie. Peter disappeared as soon as talk drifted to school and lacrosse, and Derek wishes he could have done the same. Sometimes he kicks himself for turning a bunch of teenagers. 

But Stiles hangs back, lingering in the hallway just inside the front door. He snags his sweater from the coat rack and then stands there like he's waiting for Derek.

"What else do you want?" Derek asks.

"What, I can't just hang out and spend time with my favorite Alpha?"

"No," Derek says. He knows he isn't Stiles' favorite anything.

Stiles purses his lips. "Well, excuse me. Am I cutting into your nightly brooding time?"

"That's at eleven," Derek says, leaning his shoulder against the wall and crossing his arms.

Stiles' lips thin like he's fighting a smile. "One of these days you're gonna make a joke when someone else is around, and then I will be vindicated."

"I don't see that happening."

"Hey, so, I was wondering--are you sure you don't want my help at the school? I'm pretty good at helping you out around pools, I'm just saying."

Oh, Derek thinks, squashing down his disappointment. That's what this is about. For a second he thought Stiles really did want to hang out with him.

"Nice try," he says. "Go home, Stiles."

"Come on!" Stiles says. "I could--"

"Go. Home," Derek enunciates.

Stiles makes a frustrated noise. "I hate you so much," he says. 

"I can live with that," Derek replies, turning and walking away, his steps heavy

He can't, though. He really can't.

----

"Oh, Stiles? One moment," Peter says, cornering Stiles at the front of the hall before he can make it out the door. 

Stiles is already in a bad mood. He wants to help, dammit, and he doesn't like the idea of Derek going off by himself. Derek is being an asshole, as usual, acting like Stiles can't even do something as simple as poke around an empty school after dark. 

Please, Stiles has done that so many times he should have earned a badge.  

He pivots reluctantly on his heel, hitching his backpack higher on his shoulder, while subtly placing his other hand on the doorknob in case he needs to make a quick escape. 

"Derek asked me to give you this." Peter hands Stiles a plastic square... CD case?

"Uh," Stiles says, staring down at a copy of Essential Manilow. This is definitely one of his mom's CDs. The top left corner has a crack where he dropped it when he was seven or eight; his mom didn't even yell at him about it, just laughed and put it in the stereo to make sure it still worked. They danced together.

He clears his throat. "Where did Derek find this?"

"Find it?" Peter says, expression confused. "Derek borrowed it. He asked me to return it. I think he was a little embarrassed."

"Right," Stiles says, his brain going TILT TILT, and his worldview officially rocked. "Derek really likes this?"

"I wouldn't presume to know," Peter says. "Though I'm certainly fond of it."

"You know that almost makes me want to hate it on principle, right?"

"Yes, I'm aware you're a difficult child."

"Yup. Later, Repeat." Stiles tucks the CD into his backpack and heads for his Jeep. 

When he gets home that night, he sticks the CD into his laptop and listens to Barry Manilow sing about how he's ready to take a chance again, ready to put his love on the line. 

If Stiles were a more courageous guy, maybe he'd do that.  

But he's not. Instead, falls asleep thinking about Derek and how nice it would be if Derek took a chance on him.

----

There's another attack at the school on Wednesday. This time two students are killed, Lisa Perkins and Cindy Taylor. A freshman discovered their bodies in the second floor girls' bathroom, and Stiles imagines she'll have shy bladder for life.

Lisa and Cindy were part of the cheerleader crowd, so the gymnasium is filled with beautiful people crying. The cheerleader girls alternate between sobbing and touching up their mascara, and the jocks look uncomfortable about having feelings.

Most of the students left in the gym are those waiting for a ride. Everyone else who could drive was allowed to sign themselves out and leave after the principal herded them into the gymnasium and said a few words about grief counseling that mostly sounded like she was talking to herself.

Stiles is, naturally, not signing himself out just yet. 

He catches a glimpse of his dad in the crowd, talking to some very grim-faced school officials and parents, and Stiles slinks around the edges, trying not to be seen yet. He has a feeling his dad would tell him to go home, which is so not happening.

He sees a visibly distressed Simone speaking with Ms. Morrell; they're conversing softly in French as Simone wrings her hands, and Ms. Morrell touches her shoulder. Simone's eyes are red-rimmed and bright with unshed tears. Stiles can't understand what she's saying because she's speaking too quickly, but he hears the husky, sorrowful tenor of her voice.

He glances to the left when a gaggle of freshmen girls break out into loud wails, watching as a female police officer and the vice-principal hurry over.

When he looks back, Simone is standing in front of him.

"'Allo, Stiles," she says softly, her head ducked down.

"Oh, uh. Hey," Stiles says, fighting the urge to take a step back. Simone is standing really close.

"It is so 'orrible, no?" she says, her accent thickening. She shivers gently. When she lifts her eyes, they're haunted and wide. 

"Yeah," Stiles says. "Really terrible. Almost as bad as the murders last year."

Simone gasps, her slender hand flying to cover her mouth. "More murders?!"

Crap, Stiles thinks. He's really not good at comforting women. And while he thinks it's totally horrible, yes, he kind of wishes he could have seen the bodies. For research purposes.

"Stiles?" Simone asks, her pretty mouth tight with annoyance. "Are you listening?"

"Totally," Stiles says, spotting his dad again across the gymnasium. "Hanging on every word. But I have to go check on my, uh, my friends right now, so--"

Simone's lower lip trembles and tears gather in her eyes. Stiles flails helplessly at the sight of a woman crying; it's his salty, wet kryptonite.

Desperately, he snags the back of a passing lacrosse jersey. "Greenberg! Hey! This is Simone. You should talk to her, she's emotionally vulnerable right now."

"Me too," Greenberg says sadly, wiping his nose.

Simone makes a little gasping noise and reaches out to lay a hand on Greenberg's forearm. "Oh, you poor thing! Here, let us sit." They move toward the bleachers.

Stiles nods, smiles, and backs away slowly enough that the two barely notice. Then he spins on his heels and snakes his way through the crowd until he reaches his dad's side.

"Okay, spill," Stiles says when he corners his dad.

"Stiles," his dad says, scrubbing a hand over his face. "This one's pretty gruesome. Arterial wounds--the thing went straight for the jugular."

"So there's a lot of blood."

The Sheriff shakes his head. "No, that's the thing. Whoever--whatever--did this was smart. It knocked the girls out and hauled 'em into the stalls. Then it positioned their heads over the toilet bowls and--well."

"Slashed their throats," Stiles says, gulping. Maybe he doesn't want to see these bodies after all.

"Yes. And flushed the blood down the toilet to keep it from overflowing."

"Same body part missing?"

"Yes," the Sheriff confirms. "Both girls had their larynx torn out. Nothing else."

Stiles is quiet for a few seconds, processing. "So... school's cancelled?"

"Jesus Christ, Stiles," the Sheriff says, the corners of his mouth turning down in disgust. "You think you could pretend to be upset, at least for appearance's sake?"

"What? I'm upset!" Stiles protests. "But we need to figure out what's doing this, and I need to know if I'm going to have Calculus or extra time for research!"

The Sheriff shakes his head. "Yes, classes are cancelled for the rest of the week. And your new principal is seriously rethinking her transfer, I can tell you that. These kills seem different than the first. The slash to the throats was quick, like whatever did this was startled."

"You think it was an accident?"

"Maybe," the Sheriff says. "Or an opportunity. Have you and your friends come up with anything yet?"

"Not really," Stiles replies. "Derek told me he was going to come by tonight with some more information that he got from Dr. Deaton. Erica called Derek after we heard what happened."

"All right," the Sheriff says. "I've got to get back over there and talk to the witness. Her parents just showed up. You head home, you hear me? There's nothing else you're gonna get from staying here, and so help me, I will arrest you for obstruction of justice."

"Dad, harsh," Stiles says, affecting a wounded expression. "You know I can totally be subtle."

"Son, I love you, but you're not subtle. When you think you're being subtle, it's just everyone else being oblivious. And speaking of oblivious--" the Sheriff pauses, seeming to search for the words, "--why don't you ask Derek to stay for dinner?"

"We're having tuna noodle casserole. That doesn't really fit into his diet of red meat and manly suffering."

"I want to talk to him about the investigation. Just ask him and don't argue with me," the Sheriff says, exasperated, and pushes hard against Stiles' shoulder, stepping around him. He turns around and gives Stiles a stern look. "And don't forget dessert."

"Yeah, yeah," Stiles says, rubbing at his shoulder. "Murder investigations mean you get to eat refined sugar. I know the drill."

"Damn right you know the drill," the Sheriff says. 

"Don't think I don't know that sometimes you long for a homicide just so you can eat a donut," Stiles says, shaking his head. "You're a sick man."

"Stiles."

"Right, right, I'm going," Stiles says, and flees.

----

Stiles is in his room at his desk, chewing on the end of his pen, his brow furrowed, as he scrolls through the bestiary on his laptop and jots down possible candidates for the latest supernatural killer plaguing the good Beacon Hills metropolis.

His dad should be home in about half an hour, and the casserole is baking in the oven. He already texted Derek and asked him to come to dinner.

He stares at his notes where he's written Connections? The first killing was in the pool; the second was in an upstairs bathroom. The only connection between them he can think of is that they're both places where people sometimes pee. 

Water, he writes down. Then there's the throat chewing going on with the bodies. Shark demon??? he writes next, and underlines it twice. 

He chews rhythmically while he contemplates, his teeth clamping down in a four-beat tempo that gradually slows to a single clack as he becomes conscious that he's no longer alone. 

He lifts his head from where it's bent over his desk, his hand inching toward the desk drawer where he keeps a blessed athamé. 

He knows there is something behind him, something with dark, malevolent intent--

"Stiles," Derek says.

"Holy God, the biggest bell," Stiles says, spinning around in his chair to face Derek. He takes the pen from his mouth and points accusingly at him. Okay, so maybe his senses aren't as keen as his wolfy brethren, but he still totally knew someone was behind him. Derek's natural serial killer intensity probably messed with the frequency.

Derek's eyes flicker to Stiles' chapped lips, no doubt judging him since werewolves don't seem to need lip balm. They have beautiful everything, as he's often reminded.

"You're researching?" is all Derek says, settling himself on Stiles' bed. He scoots back until he's propped up against the headboard, his hands folded on his stomach. He's dressed nicer than usual in a black button-down shirt and dark jeans.

"No, I'm writing my autobiography. Quick, help me out--I'm running out of synonyms for awesome."

"Try delusional," Derek says.

Stiles mimes slapping his knee, pretending to double over in laughter, as Derek smirks at him. "It's not fair," Stiles says. "It's like that old cartoon with the singing frog--remember that? He only sang and danced when no one else was around. That's like you and being funny. No one believes me when I tell them you have a sense of humor. I'm like the boy who cried ha-ha."

Derek stares at him. Stiles wouldn't categorize it as expressionless, because let's face it, with eyebrows like that, Derek is never going to be expressionless, but the look on Derek's face is blank enough that the longer Derek is silent, the more nervous Stiles gets.

"Uh, Derek?" Stiles says when he estimates that the silent staring has reached even beyond Derek's normal level of creepiness.

Derek holds Stiles' gaze a few seconds longer, then says very deliberately, "Ribbit."

"You're such an asshole!" Stiles explodes in relieved laughter, chucking his pen at Derek's head. 

Derek catches it easily, of course, and his smile is simultaneously endearing and annoying, his canines just a hint sharper than usual, making his grin both amused and dangerous. It's stupidly hot, and Stiles hates everything.

"My dad should be home soon," Stiles says instead of May I lick your biceps?

Derek frowns. "Your father?"

"Uh, yeah? He's the one who wanted you to come over for dinner. He said he wanted to talk to you about the investigation of what happened today."

"You didn't--Right," Derek says, disappointment flashing briefly over his face. He probably didn't expect this to be a working dinner, the freeloader. 

"Isaac told me two girls were murdered." 

"Yeah. My dad said it was the same M.O. as far as the--" Stiles mimes ripping his vocal chords out and Derek winces.

"Thank you for the graphic reenactment."

"Anytime. Hey, are you going somewhere later?" Stiles asks, trying to sound casual. "You're dressed kinda fancy for Chez Stilinski, dude."

Derek looks down at himself, then back at Stiles. His expression gives nothing away. "Everything else was dirty."

"Uh huh," Stiles says. "Here, make yourself useful, see if this talks about a monster that rips people's throats out." 

He picks up a wizard's journal from his desk and lobs it at Derek; one second, Derek's hands are folded casually across his lap, and the next second, his hand is suspended in midair, the book easily in his grasp. 

"Most monsters do that."

"I'm sorry, I thought I asked you to be helpful?"

Derek smirks, tossing the book onto Stiles' nightstand. "No. I think I'll relax and let you do the work."

"Perks of being an Alpha, huh?" Stiles asks, making a face. "You just lounge around eating squirrel-shaped bon-bons while your underlings do all the hard labor."

"Something like that," Derek says. He's fiddling with Stiles' iPod now, scrolling through the playlists, when his eyebrows suddenly shoot up. He says, "Derek's mix?" and puts the earbuds in his ears before Stiles can stop him.

If Stiles thought Derek's eyebrows had climbed high, now they look like they're trying to achieve orbit. 

"What is this," Derek says, and Stiles notes the lack of question mark.

"Your mix?" Stiles asks, slightly confused. 

"My mix," Derek repeats. "On your iPod. My Barry Manilow mix."

"... yes?" Stiles offers. "It's not... bad?"

"I didn't--" Derek makes what Stiles likes to call his 'constipated werewolf face' and falls silent. 

Stiles figures Derek didn't think Stiles would notice the playlist on his iPod; Derek probably created the playlist on Stiles' laptop without realizing it would transfer to Stiles' iPod when he synced it. Derek's not the best with computers, so it's not a surprise: Stiles caught him trying to type full website addresses into the Google search bar just last week.

"It's not a big deal," Stiles says. 

Normally, he'd make fun of Derek to hell and back for his cheesy taste in music, but Stiles would be lying if he said he hadn't listened to that particular mix more than a few times. 

It's sort of like a bond between them.

A bond that Derek knows nothing about. 

It makes Stiles feel like a creepy loser, like how Derek must feel most days. Then he feels bad for thinking that because Derek is obviously a sensitive creepy loser, and Stiles loves him anyway. Everything about this sucks.

"Of course not," Derek says. "It's a joke, right?"

So, that's how Derek is gonna play it. "Yup."

----

"I know it's not a big deal," Derek repeats, wanting to reassure Stiles. Stiles' scent has gone soft and a little sad, and Derek doesn't know why, but he doesn't like it. It makes him restless.

"There's a smell," he says, remembering what he wanted to tell Stiles earlier. 

It's as good a subject change as any. He's still attempting to understand why Stiles would make a Barry Manilow playlist about him, but Stiles looks uncomfortable--and Derek feels uncomfortable--so he thinks it might be better to forget about it for now.

"I totally showered last night!" Stiles protests. The wet, grey tinge of sadness leaves his scent. "And this is a teenage boy's room. Deal with it. Embarrassing bodily fluids and all."

"A fishy smell," Derek grinds out.

"Dude, I don't want to know what you're even implying right now."

"Stiles!" Derek barks. "I'm not implying anything, I'm telling you there's a fishy smell. I checked the school, in the bathroom and at the pool. It smelled like rotting fish."

Stiles rolls his eyes. "Why didn't you say so right away? Weirdo. Okay, fish smells, I can work with that." He spins around to the laptop and types 'murder fish' into the bestiary's search box.

"Really?" Derek asks.

"Do not question my methods," Stiles says airily, then makes a gleeful noise when he sees the first result. "It's a siren!" he says.

"What?"

"It's like an evil mermaid," Stiles explains. "Very into luring sailors to their doom."

"I know what a siren is," Derek says patiently. "But they live on the coast. They don't come this far inland."

"Aren't you just full of knowledge. Except, look here, there's an entry by some lady named Marianne--"

Derek's throat closes up, his fists balling in Stiles' bedspread. "My mother," he manages to say.

"Oh." Stiles sits back, his expression subdued. "Do you want me to--?"

"What does it say?" 

Stiles hesitates, but eventually continues, "She updated the entry to say that there had been reports of sirens moving further inland. Not enough unsuspecting sailors to sustain them anymore, I guess. It says that they take the men and drown them. But the way your mom writes, she doesn't seem convinced."

"She was like you," Derek forces out. "Always researching. She never believed anything unless she saw it."

Stiles looks like he wants to reply, but Derek's not sure he wants to hear it. Thankfully, he picks up the sound of the Sheriff's car in the driveway. "Your father's home," he says.

"Great, awesome," Stiles says, closing his laptop. "I'm just gonna--do your lazy Alpha ways extend to setting the dinner table, too?"

"I could be persuaded," Derek replies. "What's for dinner?"

Stiles grimaces. "In a funny coincidence: tuna."

"Do you plan these things?" Derek sighs.

"I swear to God, I don't."

They head downstairs for dinner, and it's a surprisingly nice time. The casserole is good, and the Sheriff is friendly, asking questions about Derek's day.

He doesn't give Derek any more information than what Stiles and the pack have already relayed, but the Sheriff enjoys having 'open lines of communication' and 'interspecies cooperation.'

Stiles kicks his father under the table when he says that, saying, "I'm pretty sure that's, like, prejudice, Dad."  

"You've said worse," Derek replies, and then feels the Sheriff kick Stiles back.

As they're cleaning up, Derek thanks the Sheriff for the meal, and the Sheriff says, "Any time, son. Why don't you help Stiles back to his room? Make sure he doesn't fall asleep along the way."

The Sheriff gives Derek a significant look that he resolutely ignores.

Once they get back upstairs, he doesn't stick around long anyway because it's a school night, and the Sheriff is right: Stiles has clearly been staying up too late researching as it is; there are dark circles under his eyes that make him look like a member of the raccoon family. 

Stiles yawns, rubbing tiredly at his face. 

"Get some sleep," Derek says. "You look terrible."

"I can handle it," Stiles says, the corners of his mouth turned down in annoyance. "I'll sleep when I'm old."

"That's not--" Derek starts. "If you're tired, you might get sloppy."

They're dealing with a dangerous creature, and if Stiles is tired and not paying attention, he could get hurt.

"And things were going so well," Stiles says, his smile small and bitter. "Look, hit the road, Kujo. I promise I'll get some shut eye, but I'm looking up something first."

"Okay," Derek says, trying to be agreeable and wondering where he stepped wrong. The way Stiles turns his back on Derek and opens his laptop is a clear dismissal.

Derek slips out the window without another word.

----

Hm, Peter thinks from the shadows across the yard. 

A siren. 

How interesting. 

----

The next night, Stiles' phone rings at two o'clock in the morning, and Stiles jacknifes into an upright position so fast he hears something crack. 

He fumbles the phone to his ear, recognizing the ringtone. "Scott?" he says.

Scott sounds frantic. "Stiles! Stiles, it's here! It's at the park! Erica caught the scent Derek was talking about and we didn't want to lose it, but we didn't get a chance to tell Derek where we--"

There's a pause and Scott pants harshly, clearly running. He finally continues, between breaths, "It hurt Erica, but Boyd and I managed to injure it and Isaac--"

Scott's voice abruptly cuts off, and Stiles hears water splashing, then weird, sibilant hissing and Scott's furious growls.

"Scott? Scott!" Stiles says, gripping the phone. The line goes dead. "Goddamnit!"

He tries to call back three times, but it keeps going to voicemail. He punches in Derek's number next, and Derek picks up immediately.

"They're in trouble," Derek snarls, and Stiles can hear the anger and fear in his voice.

"The park, Scott said the park. I heard water splashing, I think they're at the pool, but it's January, it should be closed--'

"I'll go after them, stay there and--"

"Derek Hale, if you think for a single goddamn second that I am going to sit at home while you go--"

"Stiles, for once in your life would you shut--"

"I will drive myself there, you asshole, and I will--"

"Jesus Christ!" Derek roars. "I meant I'm coming to get you so stay there."

"Oh," Stiles says, mollified. "Then hurry up." He ends the call, cutting off Derek's enraged snarls, and winces. That maybe could have gone better.

He's waiting by the curb when Derek screeches up in the Camaro less than ten minutes later, which means he broke the sound barrier to get here. 

Derek snaps, "Get in, now," impatiently through the open window, glowering all the while like Stiles' very existence offends him.

"Fine, fine!" Stiles barely gets a chance to close the door before Derek is peeling away from the curb with smoking tires. 

"It's not like I was the one who called you or anything," Stiles gripes, his eyes catching on Derek's white-knuckled grip. He needs to talk to keep himself calm because he's worried about Scott and the others and his heart is rattling around under his ribcage like a pinball. 

"Not like I figured out where they were," he continues. "Not like I've been waiting for you to get here, twiddling my thumbs and wondering if my best friend is dead. Hello, Derek, nice to see you, too. Let's go monster-hunting and save the day or whatever, I'm putting on some music--" 

Barry Manilow pours from the speakers, and Derek's head snaps down to stare at the stereo in naked horror as though it has personally betrayed him. 

Stiles sits there, caught between hysteria and hilarity; it's like wanting to giggle at a funeral but knowing he'll be the one in the casket if he does. Talk about dying of laughter. 

He also feels about a billion percent awkward as he watches Derek's mouth open and close soundlessly, his eyes still fixed on the stereo as Barry Manilow tells them both that in time the Rockies may crumble, Gibraltar may tumble, they're only made of clay, but our love is here to stay.

Derek makes a choking noise, like he's ingested silver, and Stiles takes pity on him.

"That's... cool," Stiles finally says, swallowing hard. "You know my--my mom listened to him a lot." 

Derek seems to shake himself and glances at Stiles, back to being stony-faced. "I can change it." 

"No, no, that's--I mean. I'm cool with it if you are." Stiles affects an indifferent air.

"I... don't mind. If you don't mind."

"Fine." 

"...fine." 

They spend the next five minutes silently listening to The Greatest Love Songs of All Time as they speed down the highway to what may potentially be their doom.

Eventually, Derek clears his throat. Stiles can see that his fingers are tight on the steering wheel. He wonders if Derek had to werewolf-proof his car, maybe steel reinforce the steering wheel so he doesn't crush it beneath his manly grip when he growls at Stiles.

"Mine too," Derek says, his eyes straight ahead. The tic in his tragically bestubbled jaw gives him away. 

"Yours too what?"

"My mom, too," Derek says, the words stuttering out. "She liked this music, too."

Stiles is quiet for a minute. He thinks he gets it now, why Derek likes this music but pretends he doesn't.

"I think our moms would have gotten along," Stiles says.

Derek takes a deep breath. "Yeah," he says softly. He takes his eyes off the road, fixing Stiles with a weirdly earnest look. "I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't like you."

Stiles snorts. "You seem to be managing just fine."

Something flashes in Derek's eyes, but he blinks and turns his attention back to the road before Stiles can read it. He can see Derek smirking. "Yeah, well, I'm the Alpha."

Stiles groans. "Seriously? I thought we banned your lame catchphrase."

Derek glances at him, eyes sly. "I overruled it." He waits a beat. "I'm the Alpha."

"Ugh, you're awful, that's what you are," Stiles says, settling back in his seat and rolling his eyes. He can't help smiling, though, as Barry Manilow croons in the background. Derek drops one hand from the steering to rest in the space between them.

"How do we kill this thing?" Derek asks.

Stiles huffs a breath, digging into his backpack for his notes. "I don't know."

"What?!"

"I don't know exactly," Stiles saying, tilting his head to glare up at Derek. "All the lore indicates that the siren is 'vulnerable to its opposite.' Since the siren is an oversexed water monster, I'm thinking we need to find a fire-breathing cuddle demon--then, boom! Instant steam bath."

"Sounds foolproof," Derek says, taking a sharp turn that sends Stiles' shoulder jamming into the door.

"What do you want? I'm still figuring it out!" 

"We need to get the pack out of there first. We can deal with the siren later."

"Okay," Stiles says, nodding. The gates of the park are wide open, even though they're supposed to be locked at night, so Stiles knows they're in the right place.

It's confirmed a second later when Erica bursts through the treeline, her shirt slashed to pieces and her chest covered in blood, and she collides with the hood of Derek's car. 

Derek brings the car to a screeching stop, his hand shooting out to brace against Stiles' chest.

"Dude, you just soccer-Alpha'd me!" Stiles exclaims.

"I didn't want you to smash your face. The blood would ruin the leather." Then Derek's out of the car, wolfed-out and running toward Erica by the time Stiles has managed to get his door open. 

He sees Derek help Erica climb to her feet, keeping a steadying hand on her shoulder.

"The pool," Erica croaks out, swaying. There are deep, bleeding cuts on her throat. "They're at the pool. Isaac distracted it so I could get away."

Stiles wants to pump his fist in the air--he was so right!

"Stiles," Derek barks, "Stay with Erica." He bounds off on all fours, already roaring. 

"Drama wolf," Stiles mutters, climbing out of the car and reaching Erica's side just as she collapses against the Camaro's hood. 

She coughs weakly. "I'm fine. Go after him."

"That's aiding and abetting," Stiles says, torn. He doesn't want to leave her alone, but every fiber of his body is screaming to follow Derek.

"Stiles," Erica growls. "I'm fine. Get in there and help. But be careful. It's fast."

Stiles nods and squeezes her arm once before racing to the poolhouse, pulling the athamé from the pocket of his hoodie.

-----

Erica wasn't kidding--the siren is fast, and it slices Stiles' chest open in the first three minutes.

Stiles hits the ground, the knife dropping uselessly. His presses both hands against his sternum, crying out at the pain. Blood wells through his fingers, dripping down the back of his hand and off his wrist.

"Fuck! Ow, Christ!" The siren's claws have cut four deep grooves into his chest, right above his heart.

He hears Derek roar, and the siren gives a high-pitched shriek like bells ringing.

He blinks and tries to sit up, still dazed with pain, as the siren begins singing.

Her voice is clear and high, and it does funny things to his lower regions, sending his brain some pretty mixed signals between the searing wounds on his chest and the party in his pants.

Derek falters halfway toward the siren. He goes down hard on one knee, shaking his head. When he lifts his eyes, his gaze is clouded and unfocused, and his mouth hangs open. He takes slow, deliberate steps toward the siren, but his hands dangle limply at his sides.

The siren keeps singing, and Stiles can almost see the sound curl in the air like a silvery shimmer of dust. 

"Derek!" he shouts.

The noise seems to shake Derek out of whatever magical hold the siren has on him. He growls, deep and vengeful, and launches himself at the siren.

The siren opens her mouth but no sound comes out. For a second, Stiles thinks they've won. 

Then he sees the pack, including Derek, drop to the ground and clutch their ears, howling in agony. He realizes that the siren is making noise so high-pitched that human ears can't detect it. 

Stiles isn't affected as severely, though there's a tickle inside his ear like gnat buzzing. He searches the ground frantically for some kind of distraction, but he can't spot any handy tree branches or rocks.

Thinking fast, he reaches into his pocket with bloody hands and pulls out his phone while he struggles to sit up. His chest burns, but he wrenches his arm back and chucks his phone at the siren's head.

"Hey ugly! Catch!" he shouts. 

The phone makes a satisfying tonk as it bounces off the side of the siren's head. Stiles does a victory pump. Thank God for Scott and their hours spent lobbing lacrosse balls at each other.

The siren gives an outraged shriek and the spell is broken. The pack rushes her at once, Derek in the lead, but she manages to escape through the trees, even though Stiles can see that Derek gives chase for several hundred feet.

"Stiles!" Scott says, loping to his side. "Oh man, oh man, are you okay? Derek is gonna flip, you're bleeding everywhere--"

Stiles tries for levity. "Tis only a flesh wound."

Then Derek is at his side, his eyes like murder in the darkness. He rakes his eyes down Stiles' body, his nostrils flaring. Then he crouches down and gets one hand under Stiles' shoulders and the other under his knees. 

Stiles knows where this is going.

"No, no, no," he says. "You are not going to carry me like an injured maiden, Derek, I swear to God--aaand you did. I hope I get blood all over your shirt, you bastard--"

Derek makes an animal noise, snapping his teeth at Stiles with a hard clack. Stiles shuts up immediately.

"Deaton's," Derek says to Scott. His mouth is twisted into something almost snout-like, so the word comes out slurred. 

Scott nods like that's all the explanation he needs and orders the others back to the Hale house to regroup while Derek heads for the Camaro with Stiles draped heavily in his arms. 

He sets Stiles down on the seat with surprising gentleness, and then looks down at him. "You're okay," Derek says. Stiles can't place his tone, but he's not sure if Derek is reassuring Stiles or himself.

----

Stiles sits on a table at Deaton's clinic, fresh butterfly stitches applied to the cuts on his bare chest. Deaton had Stiles give him a rundown of the fight and describe the creature while he worked, and Derek lurked in the background the whole time, his entire being like one continuous growl.

Derek doesn't speak until Deaton leaves to pack up his equipment.

"That's it," Derek says. He stands across the room in the shadows. The worst part is that he isn't snarling. His voice is so quiet Stiles can barely hear him. "I don't want you anywhere near this. You're benched."

"You can't bench me! This isn't a lacrosse game!"

"You're right," Derek says, stepping closer. His eyes are glowing red, and there's an aura of barely contained rage shimmering around him. "This is real life, and you nearly died. Again."

"But I didn't--!" Stiles starts.

"That's not good enough," Derek snarls in the darkest voice Stiles has ever heard. 

Stiles hunches in on himself.

"We're going to work with Deaton and figure out how to kill it," Derek continues, eerily calm. "I don't want you involved."

"I'm already involved." He hops off the table and grabs his mangled shirt and hoodie. "Let's get back to the others and try to figure out what the siren's next move--"

"No," Derek says, his hand clamping on the back of Stiles' neck. "You're not involved. Not anymore. I'm taking you home."

Contrary to popular belief, Stiles does know when to pick his battles, and right now, Derek's expression says that this is not a battle, this is a nuclear war.

"Okay," Stiles says meekly.

----

Fuck Derek. Stiles is so still involved.

Stiles lays flat on his back in his bed, his legs dangling off the edge, and tosses a lacrosse ball at the ceiling as he reviews what he's come up with so far.

According to the bestiary and some of his other books, sirens are typically female and they lure men to their doom using their voices, which are supposed to be nearly indescribable, since each man hears a different song. 

Toss. Catch.

This siren hasn't really played by the book, though. Sirens are typically found near the ocean--of which Beacon Hills has very little, just some freshwater ponds and streams.

Toss. Catch.

They're also not known for actively hunting down people and killing them. And definitely not at high schools. Maybe the siren has gone rogue? Maybe it's not a siren at all.

Toss. Catch.

No, it's gotta be a siren. Scott said he heard singing. The larynx thing has gotta be something to do with its powers. His research seems to indicate that sirens feed off lust, but maybe that's only the means to an end. Maybe the whole seduction thing is just so they can get to some guy's voice box. Like a juice box, but crunchier. 

Toss. Catch.

He lets his eyes go unfocused while he thinks. How is he going to figure out which student is the siren? It's got to be a student, it's the only thing that makes sense. Both killing sites are at the school, like the creature is familiar with it. One of the killings happened in the middle of the day.

Toss. Catch.

But there are hundreds of kids at his school. What's he going to do, ask everyone, "Hey, do you happen to be a murderous fish-lady?' That won't work. He needs to be some kind of friggin' mind reader.

Toss.

He sits straight up, suddenly overcome by his own brilliance. Of course--!

The lacrosse ball obeys the laws of gravity, and Stiles catches it with his forehead.

"Son of a bitch!" He presses the heel of his palm against his eye. That's gonna leave a mark.

He grumbles, swinging his legs to the floor and standing up, his hand still pressed to his eye. His brilliant idea can wait until he gets an ice pack.

----

"I'm afraid I can't help you, Stiles," Dr. Deaton says forty minutes and one frozen bag of peas later. "Derek was very specific."

"Ugh, him," Stiles says, flailing. "How dare he anticipate my cunning moves!"

"Indeed," Dr. Deaton says, his eyes amused. 

"Any chance I can convince you that there's something you really need to see out front, giving me just enough time to slip behind the desk?"

"No," Dr. Deaton says pleasantly.

"You should watch more movies," Stiles says, folding his arms and leaning his hip against the counter. "It always works in those."

"Real life is not a movie, despite your theatrics."

"And despite the werewolves, magic powers, deadly enemies, and action sequences."

Dr. Deacon pauses. "Well," he says. "I'll grant that your life is more eventful than most."

"Between you and me, Doc, I'd rather be in a romantic comedy."

"I'm not entirely sure you aren't," Dr. Deaton says, smiling his enigmatic smile.

Stiles huffs. "Then how am I supposed to find the siren?"

"I confess, I'm not sure, Mr. Stilinski. I haven't ever run across one. They're one of the older monster breeds, dating back to the Greeks, though the modern name 'siren' has been translated through Old French."

"Yeah, I know," Stiles says. "I already--wait. French? Why the hell didn't I--Crap, crap, I gotta go." 

Dr. Deaton purses his lips like he's about to ask Stiles a question, but Stiles darts out the door, with a quick, "Thanks, see you later!" and lets it slam behind him. 

He runs to his Jeep and clambers in, his mind racing. Fact: the killings started after winter break. Fact two: they got a new student after winter break. A new French student. It can't be a coincidence.

----

Dr. Deaton sighs and lifts his eyes from his paperwork. "Yes, Mr. Hale?" he inquires.

Derek is sure the front door didn't make a sound when he slipped in, but he's learned that it's impossible to really surprise Deaton.

"Stiles was here," Derek says, getting straight to the point. He prowls along the counter, the space between his shoulderblades itching in such close proximity to the presence of mountain ash. "I can smell him."

"I suspect you can do more than that," Dr. Deaton replies mildly, setting his pen down.

Derek bares his teeth. "He wanted the amulet?"

"Yes. I declined to give it to him."

"Good," Derek grunts, his shoulders slumping. He followed Stiles here and realized on the way what Stiles must have been after. The last thing he needs is Stiles armed with a mind-reading amulet. He has enough complications to deal with.

"It's not a bad idea," Dr. Deaton says. "Using the amulet to discover who the siren is."

"The amulet is too dangerous. I saw what it can do. Stiles is supposed to stay out of this."

"Yes, I would ask you how that is going, but I don't think the answer is 'well.'"

"No," Derek admits. 

"Wouldn't it be a better idea to involve Stiles, so you can keep closer watch on him?"

Part of Derek agrees, like the idea of keeping your friends close and your hyperactive annoyances closer, but the bigger part of Derek recoils at putting Stiles near danger of any kind. 

He still has nightmares about seeing Stiles on the ground, covered in blood and he can't stop torturing himself with the what-ifs every time he closes his eyes. If anything happened to Stiles--he feels the hot coil of rage in his gut.

He wants to track down the siren and rip her apart one bite at a time; wants to watch her scream and beg for mercy that he'll never give. He'd make it slow and he'd make it hurt.

But his instinct to keep Stiles safe overrules everything. He can't let Stiles get hurt again.

He's the Alpha, and he can take care of this. 

Derek settles for saying, "Stiles will find trouble no matter where he is. At least this way he isn't in the thick of it."

"As you say," Dr. Deaton replies, seeming unconvinced. "Are you certain it's a siren you're dealing with?"

"Stiles thinks so."

Deaton opens the door for Derek, stepping out behind him. "I'll let you know if I find anything else in my research. Stiles really would be a better help at--"

"Thanks," Derek says shortly.

He can feel Deaton's eyes burning into his back as he heads across the parking lot.

----

"I'm certainly popular today," Dr. Deaton says into the empty night.

Into the almost empty night.

Peter steps smoothly from the shadows, sly smile already in place. "This is where all the cool kids hang out," he says, stepping up next to Dr. Deaton. "Or so I'm told. I thought I'd drop by."

"Hm," Deaton says, regarding him with a blank expression. "I suppose you're after the amulet, too?"

"Me?" Peter says, putting a hand to his chest. "Oh, no, doctor. I'm a student of human nature. I don't need to read minds to know what people are thinking."

"Really."

"For instance, right now, you're thinking about the easiest way to incapacitate me if I turn on you."

The corner of Deaton's mouth quirks up. "Keep studying, Mr. Hale. I'm thinking about what I want for dinner." He turns on his heel and disappears back into the clinic.

"Pasta is a good choice," Peter calls after him. Deaton has always been particularly vexing.

He stares after the Camaro's tail lights, disappearing like red eyes in the night, and rubs a hand over his mouth thoughtfully.

This siren problem is putting a crimp in his plans, so he supposes it's time he involves himself. Derek gets suspicious when Peter is helpful, and it's fun in its own way to watch him twitch for a few days, trying to understand Peter's angle.

----

"It's Simone," Stiles says, throwing himself into the seat next to Scott and practically vibrating with energy. 

"What?"

"The siren. It's Simone. It has to be. She showed up when the killings started, she's French--so she's already suspect--and what's one of the first things she joined when she got here? Choir. Boom."

"Are you sure?"

"When am I ever wrong?"

"You want the list alphabetically or chronologically?"

"Oh ho ho, the wolf is feeling funny. Okay, tell me, smart guy, who else fits the profile better?"

Scott drags a hand down his face. "Fine, I'll admit, it does sound like she could be the siren."

"What did we say about Stiles always being right?"

"For the sake of my wolvlihood, yeah, yeah."

"Exactly! So I wrote her a note that said I knew what she was and I asked her to meet me this afternoon, somewhere public. I think she'll do it because she's always seemed way too interested in me to be normal."

"Supernatural creatures do seem to find you attractive," Scott mutters, and Stiles doesn't really know what he's talking about, unless it's those harpies from last fall. "But wait, we have practice today! You can't miss that!"

"Mike can cover for me. Isn't that right, Mike?" Stiles asks. Mike's a recent addition to their lunch table. He's on the lacrosse team, and he's possibly prettier than Jackson. He's also half-elf, and totally besotted with Gabby, who is sitting next to him with her nose buried in her Chemistry book like nothing exists beyond covalent bonds.

"Huh?" Mike asks, glancing up. Elves are pretty, but not very bright.

Stiles sighs. "I said, you can cover for me with Coach, right? I've gotta ditch practice tonight."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess. How do you want me to--"

Stiles squints at Mike, using his finger to draw a circle encompassing his own face.

"Right," Mike drawls out, tapping the side of his nose. "I glamour him."

Gabby lifts her head from her book. "You what him?"

Mike looks hunted, so Stiles hurries to say, "He distracts him. With his face."

"Uh huh," Gabby says, losing interest. She turns her attention back to her book. Mike, seeing that scientific chemistry is taking precedence over romantic chemistry for the time being, grabs his tray and shuffles away. Gabby gathers her things a few minutes later and leaves.

"Now, we have to figure out how to get the note to Simone without attracting unwanted attention," Stiles whispers after everyone has left. 

He and Scott have their heads bent together at the lunch table. "I can't just hand her a note, she's practically got popularity barbed-wire around her. And trenches. Filled with gunfire. Soldiers, with those bayonet things--"

"Stiles, focus," Scott says, tapping the side of Stiles' head.

"Right. Okay, so you're still sort of popular, despite your choice in best friends, so maybe you could give it to her?"

"I don't have any classes with her. Won't it look weird if I give her some random note? Allison would kick my ass."

"I'll give her the note," a voice interrupts. Stiles looks over his shoulder at Gabby standing behind them. "I sit next to her in fourth period for choir. And you guys don't whisper very quietly." 

"Perfect!" Stiles says. He grabs his backpack and unzips it, rummaging around until he finds the note to hand it to Gabby.

"Give her that, tell her it's from me."

Gabby shrugs and tucks the note into her book. "Okay, freak. I still think you're setting yourself up for failure, but it's your self-esteem to crumble."

"Thanks," Stiles says sarcastically.

Once she's gone, Scott punches Stiles in the arm, pulling most of his werewolf strength from the blow. Most.

"Son of a bitch!" Stiles says, rubbing the bruise through his shirt. "What was that for?"

"Derek is not going to be happy about this," Scott says. "You should call him." 

"Derek," Stiles says, injecting the word with as much annoyance and frustration as possible, "Is being more of a dumbass than usual. So I've got some butterfly stitches on my chest, so what? Anyway, I can't call him, I lost my phone that night at the park."

"Stiles," Scott says, looking worried. "I don't think you really get why Derek is freaking out so much--"

"Nor do I care," Stiles says. "I'm going to trick Simone into revealing herself, and maybe then I'll tell Derek, once I can show him how useful I am. Followed by the most righteous I told you so the world has ever seen."

Scott looks heavenward. "I swear to God, you guys deserve each other."

Stiles' heart skips a beat. Scott's talking out of his ass, he has no idea how Stiles feels about Derek. "Whatever," he says. "You'll see, you'll all see!"

"Sure, Stiles," Scott says, patting him on the shoulder. "We'll see it go terribly wrong."

----

Gabby finds him at his locker after last bell. 

"Here," she says, passing him a note. "I don't know what you wrote in there, but she did not look happy. I don't think she checked the 'yes' box to be your girlfriend."

"Hilarious," Stiles says, unfolding the note quickly and scanning over the content. 

Meet me at McDonalds at 4pm, it reads in elegant, looping script.

Not exactly the place Stiles would have picked for a showdown between good and evil, but he can roll with it. At least she agreed to someplace public. He's being safe. Derek can't yell at him for this one. He folds the note back up and slips it into his pocket.

"Well?" Gabby asks. "What does it say? You're acting like more of a freak than usual, Stilinksi. Is everything okay?"

"Yeah," Stiles says. "Sort of. I have to go, uh, meet Simone this afternoon."

Gabby raises a disbelieving eyebrow. "Really? Stilinski, you dark horse."

"Funny," Stiles says.

"Do you--ugh, do you want me to go with you or something? Moral support? And I'm only making this offer once because this feels too much like caring."

"No!" Stiles says, too forcefully. "I mean, no. It's cool."

"Sti-les," Gabby singsongs. "You're totally hopeless. I will go and make sure you don't embarrass yourself."

It couldn't hurt to have another witness. And what could happen at a McDonalds?

"Sti-les," Gabby wheedles.

"All right, all right," Stiles finds himself agreeing.

----

"Hey, would you mind running me by my house, first?" Gabby asks, settling herself in Stiles' passenger seat. "I wanna drop my bag off so I don't have to lug it in there. I'm gonna keep my Chemistry stuff though and work on it while you get your Casanova on. Harris is giving us a test on Friday because he's an asshole."

"Sure, no worries," Stiles says distractedly, driving through town because Gabby mentioned that she lives outside the city limits. 

He goes through the mental checklist of items he's brought with him in case Simone gets any ideas when they get there. He has his trusty athamé, some protective runes, and some mountain ash. 

"I hate fast food," Gabby says. "It's so gross. You think the skinny French girl would ask to meet you somewhere less full of trans fats. Oh, turn left here."

Stiles turns, taking them off the main highway and down a bumpy limestone road leading into the woods. They pass a mailbox that says Chansons 1214, and Stiles realizes he's never been to Gabby's house before. In fact, they only hang out at school, even though Gabby has asked him and the rest of the pack once or twice what they're doing after school. He feels kind of bad that they always shoot her down, but it's not like she can come to pack meetings. 

"You live kinda far out here," Stiles remarks, grunting as the Jeep hits a pothole. Gabby clutches her backpack in her lap, bouncing in her seat.

"Yeah," she says. "It's quiet out here. The shocks in this car are crap, by the way."

"You can walk if you want to," Stiles retorts.

"And you can meet Simone on your own," Gabby shoots back. Stiles resists the urge to stick his tongue out at her.

There are no other houses on the road and Stiles starts to think that maybe they've missed a turn, but Gabby doesn't seem worried. She seems serenely calm, in fact.

"Hey, Gabby--?" Stiles starts questioningly.

"Stop here," Gabby says. Stiles can't see anything around them but trees.

"Uh, where's your house?"

"Stop here," Gabby repeats, her voice lilting. She adjusts her grip on her backpack. 

Her fingers are webbed.

Stiles stops the Jeep and turns it off, his mind racing in a thousand directions. The engine pings as it cools, and Stiles angles his body toward the door, his fingers reaching slowly for the door handle. 

Everything slots into place. 

"There's a pond in this part of the woods," he says slowly.

"A lovely pond," Gabby agrees. Her skin begins changing colors, a murky grey-blue shade that spreads from her ears over her face like a wave.

"Shit," Stiles says, wrenching the door open and falling out just as Gabby lunges across the seat. Her claws rake over the cushion, pulling up tufts of stuffing.

Stiles scrambles backwards in the dirt. "Holy God," he says, "It's you! You're the siren."

Gabby slithers out the door, landing gracefully on her feet. She has bright silvery scales on her cheeks, but her skin looks thick and leathery, like a sea turtle.

"Good job, Einstein," Gabby says. 

Stiles takes off running. 

Gabby makes a surprised noise behind him, like she thought he was going to put up a fight, but Stiles has fragile, pierceable human skin. He feels no shame in running, especially when he does not judge his odds to be good. Gabby's claws were five fucking inches long and looked like the spines of a lion fish.

He manages to run for six or seven minutes, and he's not sure how far he makes it; a mile, maybe less, and the main road is still far away.

He trips on a root--because of course he does--and goes down hard on his elbows, the impact shuddering through his arms.

"Fuck," Stiles says, nearly biting through his tongue. He tastes blood in his mouth, and he knows he's dead if doesn't get away. He digs his heels into the ground and pushes off, twisting his body and clambering to his feet. 

Stiles isn't fast enough. He hears a hiss and searing lines of pain burst into life across his back as Gabby slashes at him. He goes down hard and quickly flips over. He winces as he feels dirt and leaves grind into the wounds.

"Now, now," Gabby says, wagging her finger at him. "I thought I told you how much I hated fast food."

"My bad," Stiles says, reverting to sarcasm as his best defense. "You prefer the whole throat chewing thing. Which is a little strange, I've got to say. Not really a siren's M.O."

"Hello, we're adapting," Gabby says, enunciating the word sharply through her teeth. "It's what viruses do to survive, and it's a pretty great idea. Think of it--centuries of lore that tell you what to expect when you're expecting the supernatural. We do the opposite, and you don't have a clue."

"I figured it out in the end," Stiles says. "I figured out it was a siren."

"Yes, but not soon enough," Gabby says, her smile sickly and sympathetic. "And you didn't exactly figure out who I was, did you? When that girl showed up, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to throw suspicion away from myself. I've been trying to get close to you and your little pack for months."

"Why?" Stiles asks. He needs to keep her talking so he can think of a plan. He needs time. God, his back stings.

"Power, what else? I know what you're doing, Stiles. You think that reject brain of yours is going to come up with a way to save you. It won't. But I don't mind talking. I love the sound of my own voice." She laughs at her joke.

"You get your power from eating the larynges, don't you?"

"Gold star!" Gabby exclaims. Her laughter tinkles, high and crisp. 

"The stuff I read, it never mentioned--"

Gabby waves her hand dismissively. The sunlight shines through the thin membrane between her fingers. "It wouldn't. We used to be able to seduce men, suck their voices right out of them, and drown them. But not enough of them come to the water anymore. My sisters and I were starving. I found a quicker way to get what I needed. Chomp, chomp." 

She grins and gnashes her teeth. "And then, do you know what I discovered? Human voices are great, but there's better eating on the supernatural. Banshees are the best, if you can get one--their scream is so potent. And werewolves--I mean, their howls carry for miles. Do you know the kind of power in a voice like that? Yum!" Gabby sighs dreamily.

"You think you can get the pack?" Stiles says. "They'll hunt you down, they'll--"

"Such a small thinker," Gabby tuts. "Now, I'm going to kill you. Then, I'm going to find your Alpha, and I'm going to sing to him. He'll let his guard down around me, you know, because I smell like you and I look like you. I'll remind him of you."

Stiles wonders why the hell that would do her any favors as he scrambles backwards through the leaves, trying to get away. If he can get enough distance between them, he might be able to make another run for it and reach the road. 

His wiggling jostles his iPod, and this is seriously the worst moment to butt-dial an electronic. 

He hears tinny music, and he can just make out the opening to one of those stupid Barry Manilow songs that Derek likes. His thoughts immediately jump to Derek. This song was playing in the Camaro the last time they were together, when Stiles was surreptitiously admiring Derek's profile because Derek's jaw wasn't just chiseled, it was laser-cut.

Time, you found time enough to love, and I found time enough to hold you...

Derek, Stiles thinks, a little desperately.

Gabby halts her advance. Her eyes go a little glazed, and she shakes her head, digging her finger into her ear like she's trying to dislodge water. "What is that?" she asks wonderingly.

Stiles thinks fast, yanking his iPod out of his pocket and chucking it at Gabby's head. She snatches it from the air, bringing the earbuds up to her ears, an expression of awe on her face.

He wonders what the hell is going on, but he's not about to question his good luck. 

He scrambles up, racing down the road, his heart hammering in his ears. He rounds a bend, hears frantic honking, and looks up to see Scott behind the wheel of Stiles' Jeep, bouncing over the terrain.

"Stiles, get in!" Scott shouts.

Stiles doesn't hesitate. He waits until the Jeep slows down and leaps for the door, yanking it open and throwing himself inside face down across the seat. 

Scott spares a second for him to get inside before he throws the Jeep into gear, spinning the wheels and roaring out of the clearing. Stiles' legs are dangling outside, the door banging against his shins as he scrambles all the way inside and tries to get it closed.

"Holy God!" Stiles says, finally wrestling the door closed as he maneuvers himself into a more comfortable position in the seat. "It's Gabby! She's the siren!"

"Dude!" Scott says. "I know! I figured it out right after you left! I followed you out here and found your Jeep!"

"What?"

"I knew it couldn't be Simone because I heard her in the hall and she said she was leaving on a date with Greenberg--"

"Greenberg?" Stiles asks.

"Yeah, they've been together for like a week. She says he isn't like the other guys. Plus, Greenberg speaks French. Keep up, Stiles."

"Why am I hearing the Twilight Zone theme song in my head right now."

"I don't know," Scott says earnestly, "It could be a post-traumatic thing. Anyway, I realized it had to be Gabby because why else would she bring back a fake note? And Gabby is short for Gabrielle. And she's in choir, too."

"How did I miss this?" Stiles groans, thumping his head against the seat. "I feel so freaking oblivious! I'm supposed to notice these details! I'm the research guy. What else am I missing?"

Scott gives a laugh that he quickly turns into a cough. "We need to find Derek and tell him what's happening."

"Derek can suck a wolfsbane lollipop for all I care."

Scott shoots him a look, his hands gripped so tight around the the steering wheel that Stiles knows it will leave wolfy indentations. He mentally tacks 'new steering wheel' onto his list for the jeep's repairs, alongside 'new seat cushions.'

"We're working with Derek this time, Stiles."

"Derek doesn't think I can handle this on my own."

"Uh, dude," Scott says. "No offense, but you looked like you were pretty close to being siren chow. And you're bleeding all over your seats."

"Whose side are you on?" Stiles demands.

"The side that keeps my best friend alive," Scott answers simply.

Stiles deflates. "I hate it when you make sense. When did you start making sense? Don't I have veto powers?"

Scott grins at him. "I'm glad you're okay, man."

Stiles slugs Scott in the shoulder, grimacing at the pull to his back. "Thanks. All right, fine. Let's go see Derek."

----

Derek, as expected, is a giant tool about the whole thing.

"What were you thinking?" he growls, pacing in front of Stiles. He holds up his hand. "Wait, don't answer. You weren't. I specifically told you to stay out of this and you disobeyed me--"

"Sorry, O Werewolf King, but I don't remember signing anything that made me your loyal vassal. I wanted to check out my theory and--ding ding!--I was right!"

"Is being right more important than being alive?"

"Yes! I mean, no. Dammit, Derek, can't you just trust me?"

"No," Derek says.

It stops Stiles mid-rant, like Derek has punched him right in the solar plexus.

"No," Derek repeats, stalking up to Stiles until they're standing toe to toe. "I don't trust you to know when to quit. Now you're injured. Again." His hand lifts like he wants to comfort Stiles, but then he drops it back to his side.

"On the plus side," Stiles says, talking around his suddenly tight throat. "We know what the siren is after."

"There is no plus side when you're injured," Derek glowers. "I'm going after it. Scott, keep Stiles here. Sit on him, if you have to."

"Or chain him to a radiator," Scott replies. What an asshole. Just because one time--

Then Derek is standing in front of him, and something weird is going on with Derek's face. He looks like he's having feelings or painful gas, and Stiles would put his money on painful gas before Derek having feelings.

"Turn around," Derek says. "Let me see."

"I'm fine," Stiles says.

"Turn around," Derek repeats. Stiles expects it to sound snarly, but instead it sounds... desperate. 

He obeys without thinking, pivoting and bracing a hand against the wall. Derek's hands touch his skin tentatively, pushing Stiles' shirt up and out of the way to expose the scratches on his back.

Derek uses one hand to trace around the wounds; the other hand lays hot and heavy on Stiles' hip. Stiles feels the telltale tingle of werewolf healing magic at work, and the throbbing from the scratches lessens to a sensation more like a papercut.

"Thanks," he mumbles, the tips of his ears going red. Derek is standing embarrassingly close.

"Stay here, please," Derek says softly. He tugs Stiles' shirt back in place and smoothes his hand lightly down the middle of Stiles' spine, his hands resting on Stiles' hips. "Please. I'll kill it, and I'll come back. I promise."

Stiles closes his eyes and remains facing the wall. He feels like he can't breathe.

"Take care of yourself," he says, an echo of Derek's own words to him not long ago.

Derek makes a whining noise, then he's gone, and Stiles is cold.

Stiles slumps forward against the wall, exhaustion hitting him with his adrenaline crash.

"Stiles?" Scott says tentatively. "I'm gonna call the rest of the pack. They should know what's going on. Just--if you need anything."

Stiles waves him away, and takes a few minutes to breathe quietly to himself.

Peter oozes from the shadows. "Derek isn't going to be able to defeat the siren."

"What do you know?" Stiles says, his head snapping around, squinting a glare in Peter's direction.

"The question, dear boy, is what I don't know. Because what I know is that the siren will most likely kill Derek." 

"Then why aren't you out there saving him?!" Stiles shouts. 

"Because it can't be me. I'm not in love with him."

The air leaves Stiles' lungs with a whoosh. "What?"

"Don't play stupid, Stiles. It's beneath you. You love Derek, and though you have troubling taste in men, in this case it works in our dear Alpha's favor. The secret to defeating a siren is with a true love song."

"You're making this up."

Peter's eyes dart to the side and he licks his lips. Unlike most people, who have a tell for lying, Peter has a tell for when he's being truthful.

"Derek's mother figured it out. The sirens started moving inland several years ago. Marianne was researching them when--well. She never got a chance to record her findings, but she told me about them. Sirens are creatures of lust, using it to lure men to their doom. But what's stronger than lust?"

Stiles doesn't answer.

"Love," Peter says. "You little imbecile. A love song can combat a siren's song. Hearing a song of true love incapacitates them. Chanson d'amour versus chanson du désir." 

"Where the hell am I going to find a true love song--"

"You don't have to find one," Peter says, rolling his eyes. "You only have to feel love for the object of the song. Here, take this." He pushes something at Stiles. 

It's one of his Barry Manilow CDs, which Derek has clearly stolen yet again, like the big romantic ballad loving freak that he is. 

But this could work, Stiles thinks. Derek loves Barry Manilow and Stiles loves Derek. 

This could work.

----

Derek tracks the siren through the woods, deep into the Beacon Hills Preserve. There's a pond hidden away in the trees, and the tire swing is still there from when he was a child.

He finds her several hours later, with the greyness of early morning sun filtering through the branches.

"There you are," the siren says, waiting for him by the water's edge. 

She's nude and somehow beautiful, the way a scorpion is beautiful, or a pile of gleaming, sharp glass. None of her pretend humanity remains. "I was wondering how long it would take you. Your little human found me hours ago. I dealt with him."

Derek freezes. "Stiles is fine," he says.

"Go ahead," the siren says, her cracked, grey lips pulling back from her rows of serrated teeth. "Give him a call."

Keeping his eyes on her, Derek slowly draws his cell phone from his pocket and presses number one for Stiles.

A second later, Hungry Like the Wolf plays from the phone the siren holds up in her hand.

"He struggled quite a bit," the siren says, tossing the phone to Derek. He catches it against his chest, the impact more staggering than a bullet. The phone has Stiles' blood on it. Derek knows the smell.

"Where is he?" Derek growls, his fangs grown so long they cut into his lower lip.

"I know where most of him is," the siren says, grinning maniacally, and pats her stomach. "The parts that are in my belly, at least."

"No," Derek says, his hands clenching reflexively. The screen cracks on Stiles' phone. 

He'll make me buy him a new one, Derek thinks. He'll want an upgrade

Derek doesn't care. He'll buy Stiles a hundred phones.

"Denial is the first stage of grief," the siren agrees, her voice oozing false compassion. She spends a moment picking her teeth, like she's giving Derek time to adjust to the news.

"No," he repeats. He'd know if Stiles were--he'd know.

"He was a screamer, too. Lovely voice," the siren sighs. "His last word was Derek. Not his last sound, of course, that was more of an aaaaaargh." She clutches dramatically at her throat, her long, strangely-colored claws resting lightly against her sallow skin.

"You're lying," Derek says, struggling against the crushing weight of loss. His spine ripples with the need to change; he needs to rend and kill and tear this creature apart with his teeth.

"Am I?" the siren says. She taps her fingernail against her sunken cheeks, her elbow resting in the palm of her other hand, her hips tilted in a pose like the shadow of the girl she was pretending to be. 

"You can't tell if I'm lying, can you, werewolf? My heart doesn't beat--it sings." She looks delighted.

"It gurgles. Like sludge."

"You're such a flatterer," the siren says, narrowing her eyes."I took a picture. After I killed him. It's on the phone."

His eyes go reflexively to the phone in his hand, and he knows better, he knows all about distractions in battle, but it's Stiles, who has always been his weakness.

His second of inattention is all the siren needs. She's on him with a shriek, her claws swiping. Derek brings up his arm to fend her off, and her claws dig deep into his flesh, only stopped by striking bone.

Derek howls and shakes her off, ducking under the next swipe of claws. He tucks and rolls across the ground, coming up on the balls of his feet, his claws unsheathed. 

The siren is quick, her movements undulating like a dancer, and within a few minutes, he's bleeding from numerous, slow-healing wounds. Derek realizes that he's losing. Badly. 

"Give up yet?" the siren taunts. "Say yes and I'll let you mourn for him. One last beautiful howl. I would so love to hear it."

Derek snarls, wiping the back of his hand across his brow. It comes away wet with blood, which is no surprise. It's been dripping and stinging into his eyes since her claws caught him across the forehead.

Suddenly, Derek registers a low, rumbling sound. It's an engine, and it's getting louder, heading right for them, and he turns his head as the siren leaps for his throat.

Stiles' Jeep roars into the clearing, the windows down and Barry Manilow blasting: 

My eyes adored you, though I never laid a hand on you

My eyes adored you, like a million miles away from me 

You couldn't see how I adored you

So close, so close and yet so far

The siren stops, her claws extended mid-strike, millimeters away from Derek's throat.

"What... what is that beautiful sound?" she hisses. 

Derek watches tears gather in her slitted eyes as she sways in place to Manilow's dulcet tones. 

What the fuck.

Derek doesn't waste the distraction, darting forward and severing her throat with a powerful swipe of his claws. 

Her skin parts, and he's sprayed with pink goo that smells like strawberries, which is about how his life goes. The siren drops to the ground, very dead. Her head is only connected to her shoulders by a few tendons.

He's wiping the thick, pink goo from his eyes as Stiles turns the Jeep off and climbs out, Barry Manilow's voice cutting out in the middle of a line. 

Stiles stalks over to Derek and chucks a CD at his head. "Here," he says. "And fuck you very much for not trusting me. I saved the day yet again, go Stiles, and you smell like the inside of a girl's shower. I think we can determine a clear winner." 

Derek still manages to catch the CD, despite being slimed. He stares at Stiles incredulously, pink goo dripping in long strings from his chin.

"You are--you are the worst," Stiles says, his chest heaving. "You could have died, do you understand that? What would I--what would the pack do without you? I don't know why I even--aaagh! I wish I didn't know you!" Stiles says, throwing his hands in the air as if he's done with Derek completely.

He clomps back in his Jeep, his shoulders hunched at his ear, and climbs inside. Then he reverses, slams on the brakes, and leans out the window. 

Stiles looks like he's going to say something else, his mouth moving soundlessly, until he finally makes an inarticulate noise of rage, throwing the Jeep into gear and accelerating so fast that dirt churns out from under his tires.

I know how you feel! Derek wants to shout. Because you do this all the time, Stiles!

He doesn't say anything, though, just watches Stiles go, and tries not to make a sound while his heart cracks in radial patterns. 

He sighs, goo sliding down his neck. It feels cold. He feels cold. Cold and miserable and strawberry-scented. 

"Well, you've certainly screwed that up," Peter says, materializing beside him.

"Shut up," Derek growls, but there's no heat behind it. His hands clenches around the CD. "Where were you when I needed help?"

"Oh, you didn't need my help. You were doing well on your own."

"If Stiles hadn't gotten here--" Derek knows it wouldn't have ended in his favor.

"Yes," Peter interrupts. "My point exactly. Stiles. Would you like my advice?"

"No."

Peter makes a tsking sound. "Go after him. This is the time for a dramatic gesture. There are fifteen minutes left in the movie, Derek, and you need to win him back before the credits."

"Do you hear yourself?" Derek asks. "He hates me. He doesn't want me. What am I supposed to do? Get a boombox and serenade him?"

Peter purses his lips, clearly hiding a smile, the asshole. "Why yes, I think that sounds like a wonderful idea. Did Stiles ever tell you what his favorite song was? It's Mandy. He loves Barry Manilow. And since the siren can only be defeated by a true love song, the music must be beloved. Or the object of the song must be beloved."

"Stiles must really love Barry Manilow then," Derek says.

Peter looks briefly like he wants to strangle Derek before his expression smooths out. "Yes, exactly."

Which is how, forty-five minutes later, Derek finds himself standing underneath Stiles' window with an iPod and a portable speaker from RadioShack, making a complete fool out of himself.

"I remember all my life, raining down as cold as ice," he sings through gritted teeth, staring up at the dark glass. "A shadow of a man, a face through a window, crying in the night, the night goes into--"

The window opens. "What are you doing?" comes Stiles' strangled voice.

"--morning just another day," Derek soldiers on. "Happy people pass my way. Looking in their eyes--"

"What is this!"

"--I see a memory, I never realized, how happy you made me, oh Stiles--"

"Oh, God," Stiles says. He's leaning out his window with his hand covering his face. "Why, why is this happening to me?"

"Oh, Stiles," Derek sings, not to be deterred. He hears doors opening along the street and senses other pairs of eyes watching the spectacle. "You came and you gave without taking, but I sent you away, oh, Stiles--"

"I will literally do anything to make you stop."

"You kissed me and stopped me from shaking--"

"I did no such thing!"

"And I need you today, oh, Stiles." Derek takes a deep breath, ready to begin verse two, but Stiles is not giving him a very encouraging look, and Derek braces himself for rejection, his heart pounding like it wants to escape his chest.

"Derek," Stiles says quickly, fervently, "I swear to God, if you don't stop right now, I will never make out with you ever."

Derek fumbles to pause the music, his eyebrows going up.

Stiles rubs a hand over his face, his shoulders slumped. Then Derek sees his shoulders begin to shake, harder and harder, until Stiles lifts his head, his warm brown eyes meeting Derek's. He's grinning hugely. "Even though you are the most embarrassing, and believe me I am never going to forget this, I can recognize a big, wolfy gesture when I see one."

Derek shifts awkwardly from foot to foot. 

"While I'm both angry and charmed, I gotta ask--what on earth made you sing Barry Manilow? Seriously, Barry Manilow? I mean, I would have given you more points for Werewolves of London or something. This was just sad."

"What? But this is your favorite song!"

"Who told you Mandy was my favorite song?" 

"Peter! He said you--"

Derek stops and he and Stiles share a look of annoyance and loathing. Peter. Certain things begin to make a lot more sense.

Derek grumbles to hide his embarrassment. "But you listen to his music all the time." 

"Me?" Stiles asks, leaning further out his window and gesturing wildly with one hand. "Uh, excuse me, but you are the one who listens to him all the time."

"You killed the siren by playing Barry Manilow."

"That only worked because it was a true love song!" 

"That not how it works! It has to be true love for the song! True love for the song or the object of... the song." Derek finishes, suddenly understanding. His heartbeat picks up speed.

So does Stiles'. Stiles is staring at him, his cheeks bright red.

"Oh," Derek says. "Me, uh. Me too."

Stiles flops down, bracing his forearms on his window ledge. "Really?" he asks in a small voice, a voice that hurts Derek to hear.

Derek clears his throat, skips ahead on the iPod, and hits play. The music starts up and Stiles' eyes widen.

"You know, I can't smile without you--" 

"Stop, just stop!" Stiles says, but he's laughing now. "I'm putting a moratorium on Manilow. Executive decision."

"I'm sorry," Derek says. "I should have trusted you. I should have told you."

Stiles eyes soften further. "Yeah, you should've. Now come on, get your furry ass up here. The neighbors are already watching, so let's give 'em something to talk about."

Derek's eye twitches. "Are you quoting more 80s songs?"

"What? No, no. But if you get up here, I have a feeling that tonight's the night."

Derek drops the iPod and hears it start up again, Barry Manilow playing through the speakers, but he doesn't care. He scales the wall in three seconds flat and tackles Stiles through his window, pinning him to the floor. "If you want my body, and you think I'm sexy..." Derek trails off, grinning down.

Stiles looks dazed for a minute, but then his eyes narrow. "I hate it when you get the last word. Hate it. H-a-t-e, hate it." 

"I could start singing again," Derek offers, kissing Stiles' throat.

"Ugh," Stiles says. "Despite your surprisingly clear tenor, let's save that for special occasions, okay?"

"Okay," Derek agrees, nosing under Stiles' jaw.

"Hey!" Stiles says suddenly, sitting up and nearly cracking Derek's nose. "This was all Peter's plan!"

"What?" Derek asks. He's distracted by the strip of Stiles' belly showing between his t-shirt and jeans. He makes a solemn vow to have his tongue on that patch of skin within the next five minutes.

"The music!" Stiles says. "The way it kept popping up everywhere. Do you think Peter was trying to hook us up?"

"I really don't want to think about Peter right now, do you? It's killing the mood."

"I could put on some Manilow to get it back," Stiles teases. "Or we could take this to the bed. If you want."

Derek props himself up on one arm, his eyes roaming Stiles' face, taking in the flushed cheeks and the hint of uncertainty in Stiles' eyes.

"Yeah," Derek says, rolling to his feet and dragging Stiles up with him. 

Stiles stumbles into Derek, their chests pressing together as Derek wraps both arms around him and marches them backwards to the bed. Stiles goes down with a startled squawk when the backs of his knees hit the mattress, but he tugs Derek down with him, the length of their bodies pressed together.

"Wait," Derek says, pulling away.

"No, dude, come on," he says, pawing at Derek's chest. "Please don't have second thoughts. Be like me, have no thoughts. Think only with your dick."

Derek huffs a laugh, gently pushing Stiles away. "Stiles, stop. I need to tell you something. Before we do this--"

"Sweet Hallelujah, that means we are doing this!"

"Stiles," Derek growls. Stiles mimes zipping his lips, and Derek takes a deep breath. "Look, there are certain things about being a werewolf that are different from being a human."

Stiles gives him a flat look. "Really?"

Derek flushes, his mouth twisted. He knows his expression is defensive. "Shut up. Some really different things, okay? Things that happen in the--in the bedroom."

"Uh, am I going to like where this goes?"

"I don't know," Derek says, and hopes Stiles can't detect the quietly miserable note in his voice. "How much do you know about how wolves mate?"

"Like, actual wolves?"

Derek coughs, deeply uncomfortable. "Yes."

"Is this a test?" Stiles asks. "Have you been looking at my search history? Because I swear that was research for Scott. It's not like I turn the lights down low and watch Animal Planet, okay?"

Derek blinks. "What?"

"What?"

"Stiles," Derek sighs, rubbing his temple. "This is serious. I know you've heard about knotting--"

"That is a baseless accusation!" Stiles' face is bright red. "I have never in my life--"

"Stiles, I have seen your search history."

Stiles deflates, putting a hand over his face. "Leave me here to die," he says. "Alas, poor erection. I knew thee well."

"The thing is, it's true," Derek says, steeling himself. "Werewolves do have... knots. But it's not like what you've read."

Stiles peeks through his fingers. "What?"

"It's--" Derek makes a frustrated noise. "It's like the moon. When it's at its fullest, that's when the change is strongest for us. The knot is like that. It's bigger or smaller, depending on the time of the month."

He watches rapid calculations cross Stiles' face. 

"Hold on. Are you telling me you have a moon dick?" Stiles asks incredulously.

"No."

"You are! Oh my God, you have a wereknot!"

"Stiles, I don't have a--" Derek stops, pinching the bridge of his nose. 

"The full moon is two weeks away. How big is it right now? Can I see it? Are you gonna pop a knot when we do it tonight?"

"I regret everything that's lead me here," Derek says, flopping onto his back next to Stiles on the bed.

Stiles leans over Derek braced on one hand, his expression unsure. "You're kidding, right? You don't really regret being here? With me?"

"No," Derek says. He wraps his hand in the front of Stiles' hoodie and tugs until their foreheads are pressed together. Stiles lets out a soft sound and cards a hand through Derek's hair before kissing him lightly.

"I'm glad you're here," Stiles says against Derek's lips, his words barely audible. His eyes are closed, and Derek knows he's going to love Stiles for the rest of his life.

"Me too," Derek replies, stretching to kiss the corner of Stiles' eye. Derek feels Stiles smiling into their next kiss.

"So," Stiles says, soft like it's a secret. "Can we have sex yet?"

"Stiles," Derek groans.

Stiles sits up, still grinning, and straddles Derek's waist. "I'd give you a show," he says, "But I really think both of us need to be naked, like, yesterday."

He tugs his hoodie and his shirt off over his head, flinging them across the room. Derek brings his hands to Stiles' bare waist, letting his thumbs rub circles into Stiles' hipbones. "Yeah?" he questions.

"Oh yeah," Stiles says. He's blushing down his neck and across his chest, and Derek wants to bite him and lick at his moles. Then he realizes that nothing is stopping him, and he grips Stiles firmly and twists, pinning Stiles beneath him.

He licks a path from the dip between Stiles' collarbone down to his navel, nipping at the skin before sitting up and pulling his own shirt off.

"Nnngh," Stiles says. "That is--you do Pilates, right?"

"Yoga," Derek says, and Stiles laughs breathlessly, running his hands up Derek's side, almost like he can't believe he's allowed to touch.

Derek moves his hands to the button of Stiles' jeans. "Need some help?" he asks, raising an eyebrow.

"Um," Stiles says, his eyes wide.

Derek pauses. "Is this too fast?"

"No, no," Stiles says, shaking his head. His hands roam over Derek's chest, and his palms graze Derek's nipples, making them tighten. "Definitely not too fast. It's--it's my first time, though. I mean. Not that I haven't had plenty of offers, a fine specimen such as myself--"

"If you have, I don't want to hear about them," Derek says, trying to keep the jealous growl from his voice.

Stiles utterly delighted expression tells him he hasn't succeeded. "Dude, you know you're the only wolf for me. And," Stiles voice gets quieter, "You know I really haven't had any offers. I'm kinda worried that I'm dreaming right now, actually."

Derek brushes his fingers across Stiles' cheek. "Not dreaming," he says. "And if anyone's dreaming, it's me."

Stiles startles into laughter, turning his face to the side, his stomach vibrating beneath Derek's legs. "Oh God," Stiles wheezes. "I can't--who knew you were so poetic?" He looks back at Derek, his eyes shining brightly. "You can tell me. You have a journal, right? Where you keep all your secret thoughts? And write about my eyes. You've totally written about my eyes, haven't you?"

"No," Derek mutters darkly. He has a journal on his laptop which Stiles will never read because his password is not Stiles.

"Would you say they're more golden or whiskey-colored? Or maybe molten honey?"

"I'd say you're full of crap," Derek answers, "And that's why they're brown."

"So hurtful," Stiles says, still giggling. "You should kiss me and make it better."

"I'll do more than that," Derek says. He leaves the bed and rifles through the nightstand drawer under he finds a bottle of lube. 

When he turns back to the bed, Stiles is completely naked, lying on the covers and stroking his cock. Derek can't stop the deep growl that rises in chest, the way his heart cries out Mine with every beat of blood.

Stiles looks beautiful. Derek's eyes roam, taking him all in, from the heated blush staining his cheeks and chest to the trail of hair below his navel that arrows to his cock.

He shucks his own jeans and underwear, and Stiles makes the most adorable meeping noise Derek has ever heard. When Derek hits the bed, he's laughing as he covers Stiles' body with his own.

"You know," Stiles says, staring at the ceiling. "I was always worried that when I finally had sex it was going to involve laughter."

Derek presses his face against Stiles throat, still shaking with mirth.

"This is the laughing-with-me variety of laughter, though, right?" Stiles asks, and Derek can smell the tinge of nervousness on Stiles' skin. He licks at the pulse in Stiles' throat.

"I'm with you," Derek says, grinding his hips down, letting their cocks rub together.

Stiles squeaks. "Boy, are you ever. Jesus. Can we get to the part where you sex me up? I'd really like to know what your cock feels like inside me."

"Fingers first," Derek says. "I need to stretch you."

"Nnngh," Stiles groans, wiggling deliciously beneath him. "You need to stop talking, seriously, or I'm going to--holy hell, sweet mother of God, that's your finger, that is--oh my God, that's your finger."

Derek leans down and kisses him. Before long, his has two fingers inside Stiles, working them in and out with wet squelches. Stiles clutches at his shoulders, moaning and babbling, barely forming words beyond Fuck and Yes. Derek loves watching the way his fingers disappear into Stiles' body.

"More," Stiles says, with what sounds like considerable effort. "Come on, l can take it. I want to take it."

Derek pauses, lifting his head so he can search Stiles' expression. "Are you sure?"

"Oh my God!" Stiles exclaims. "I, Stiles Stilinski, being of sound mind and extremely turned on body, do hereby give you permission to get the hell on with it!"

"So fucking demanding," Derek says, pushing in a third finger. "Should have known."

"You really should have," Stiles agrees, breathing fast. It seems as though he's found his words again. Derek will have to fix that. "On a scale of one to sexual overlord, I'm like Genghis Cock up in--mmph!"

Derek kisses Stiles to shut him up, kisses him because he wants to, because if he doesn't, he's going to start laughing helplessly. He crooks his fingers and Stiles makes a very satisfying, high-pitched noise.

"Like that?" Derek murmurs.

"Oh holy hell," Stiles says, throwing his head back and baring his throat to Derek's hungry gaze. "I'm stretched, okay, I'm stretched enough! Do it already, I can engrave the invitation if you--ah!"

----

"Will it be gold leaf?" Derek chuckles, lining up and pushing just the tip of his cock in. Stiles lets out a punched out gasp, his head spinning and every sensation dialed up to eleven. He's not stretched enough, he thinks wildly, and he wants to tell Derek, but he can't really form words, only hurt noises in the back of his throat.

Derek holds himself still, the head of his cock inside Stiles, and Stiles hisses, "You sadist, you son of bitch would you--"

"God, you feel so good," Derek groans. His fingers flex lightly on Stiles' hips like he wants to dig in but he's restraining himself.

Stiles is panting obscenely, and they haven't even gotten to the aerobic part yet. The insides of his thighs burn with the stretch of accommodating Derek's body between his legs, and his hands fist in the sheets, trying to ground himself, as his internal muscles flutter around the tip of Derek's cock.  He shivers with want, with unnameable urges.

"Do you want more?"

Stiles wants to say, "Yes, fuck me!' but he's scared and Derek feels so big inside him, so he makes a soft noise and says, "A little... just a little bit, okay?"

Derek grunts and presses a fraction deeper; the muscles in his stomach jump and clench, and Stiles marvels a little that Derek is willing to show such restraint.

"More?" Derek growls, and Stiles nods shakily.

Derek keeps feeding his cock into Stiles' hole, and it feels like it goes on forever even though Stiles knows that's not actually possible. His hands are splayed wide, his palms pressing into the mattress. He doesn't know what to do with his hands and it's frightening and he wants Derek to take his away his options, make the decision for him.

"Derek, would you--my wrists--just--"

And Derek seems to get it, thank God, because Stiles may have a cock in his ass but he's still too shy, too overwhelmed to articulate what he needs.

"Yes," Derek hisses, wrapping both hands around Stiles' wrists and bringing his arms up over his head. He switches his grip, using one hand to pin Stiles' wrists; his other hand slides down Stiles' chest, pinching over a nipple and making Stiles give a shocked gasp, before the hand wraps around his cock.

Stiles moans and arches his back, which only presses Derek's cock deeper inside him. He feels caught and trapped and loved all at once.

"That's right, you're gonna come," Derek grunts, sweat glistening on his chest as he thrusts harder. "You're gonna come for me, you're mine--"

And Stiles does come, he comes his fucking brains out with a hoarse shout, his head slamming back and his vision whiting out.

Derek doesn't give him a chance to catch his breath; instead, he immediately flips Stiles over and positions him on his hands and knees, moving him easily because Stiles is weak and coltish right now. Then Derek's lining back up and pushing in; the angle is different and Derek strokes across his prostate with nearly every thrust, making Stiles whimper. His body almost can't take it, still dealing with the aftershocks of orgasm combined with these new shivery waves of pleasure.

Derek is growling above him, hips slapping hard against Stiles' ass now. This is how Stiles imagined Derek would take him, rough and intense, and Stiles whines, wishing he could get hard again.

Derek hammers into him, the force of his movements sending Stiles' knees sliding up the bed. Stiles' arms finally give out, and he smashes face-first into the pillows, his ass high in the air. Derek's grip tightens and adjusts and then he's ramming into Stiles, driving Stiles' face into the pillow. Stiles is drooling all over the cotton, breathing hard to get enough air

"God, Stiles," Derek groans above him. "You don't even know--ah, fuck."

Derek drapes himself across Stiles' back and wraps his arms around Stiles, one hand going low to press over Stiles' belly, the other high around his chest. Then Derek tugs, hard, and Stiles is lifted up and back until he's sitting on Derek's thighs, his back against Derek's chest as Derek fucks up into him.

Derek nuzzles at Stiles' throat and his stubble scrapes harshly over Stiles' sensitive, flushed skin. 

"Jesus, Derek--" Stiles starts, and then Derek bites down, no gentleness, and Stiles keens. He feels himself getting hard again. The hand on Stiles' belly drops off as Derek takes hold of Stiles' hip. Derek's arm braces against Stiles' chest and his other hand moves higher until his fingers wrap lightly around Stiles' throat.

"Okay?" he asks, hot against Stiles' ears.

Stiles whimpers, nodding frantically. Derek's grip tightens further and he moves his hips, his cock stabbing up into Stiles' body, the bump of his knot catching more each time he pulls out.

Stiles feel boneless, like a ragdoll, his head flopped back on Derek's shoulder. "Fuck," he mumbles. "Fuck, fuck, ah--"

"Stiles," Derek groans, like Stiles is killing him, as he sucks a hard mark into the junction of Stiles' neck and shoulder. Stiles writhes against him, and he can't believe he's here, now, with Derek's cock buried deep inside him. 

And holy shit, the knot isn't even at full size, but that's a lot for his virgin ass to take. He thinks, I can't--I can't--

Derek shushes him, his hips rolling, and the knot catches at the rim of Stiles' hole with every thrust. "Derek," he babbles, "I can feel it, your knot--ah, fuck, I wanna feel you come so bad--"

"God, your mouth," Derek says. "I'm going to fuck it later, let you fuck mine."

"Oh, G-God," Stiles stutters, hips working helplessly. His cock is completely hard again, bouncing up against his belly with every thrust, leaving a wet smear on his skin. "Please, Derek, please--"

"That's right," Derek growls. He strokes in and then stops, grinding against Stiles' ass. "Come on, beg for it."

"Please, Derek," Stiles says immediately. "Please, make me--"

"Gonna," Derek promises, his arm curled tight around Stiles' upper chest and then--thank God--the hand at Stiles' hip moves to his cock, wrapping around him and working him up and down as Derek fucks into him.

"Love you so much," Derek murmurs against the skin of his shoulder. "Love you, please--"

"Yeah, yes, me too," Stiles pants, his brain barely processing what he's agreeing to, though he knows it will involve Derek's creepy possessiveness and probably lots of weird werewolf sex, like Derek coming all over Stiles' face and rubbing it into his skin and hair, and yeah, Stiles kind of hopes that happens because--

"Ah!" he cries out, his thoughts derailed as Derek's hand tightens on his cock, just shy of painful.

"Come again for me," Derek orders, biting at Stiles' earlobe. "Come again, I want to feel it when you come on my cock again."

"Y-you're not the boss of me."

"No?" Derek asks with a hard thrust, pushing his knot in as far as it will go, and Stiles comes, shaking and crying out.

Stiles can feel it, hot spurts inside him, and Derek groans and pitches them both forward, splayed out over Stiles' back. 

Stiles is filthy, sweaty, and full of Derek's come. He had sex with a hot werewolf who loves him. He's never felt more awesome in his life. 

----

"Give me a second," Derek says. His throat feels raw, and his voice is hoarse like he's been screaming. "I can--I can pull out, we aren't really knotted--"

"Mm, 's okay," Stiles says, reaching behind him to press a hand against Derek's ass, keeping him in. He sounds blissed out. "Stay. Feels good."

"Jesus," Derek says harshly. He bites down hard on the back of Stiles' neck and then just holds himself there, his teeth embedded in Stiles' skin. He feels his own breath against his face, hot and moist as he pants.

"Sex is good," Stiles says. He turns his head and gives Derek a lazy smile. His eyelids are already drooping. "Good, but exhausting."

"We need to work on your stamina," Derek teases, tracing patterns on Stiles' skin as he finally pulls out, his come trickling from Stiles' wet, reddened hole. Derek feels gut-punched, seeing it--seeing how Stiles is his all the way inside.

Stiles gives a soft grunt, then wiggles around until they're facing, his nose scrunching up adorably at the mess. "Dude, I'm seventeen and you look like a porn star. Cut me some slack."

"Or I could... coach you," Derek says, his smile curving up high at the corner.

Stiles props himself up on his elbows, appearing suddenly more awake. "Really? Like, can we have dirty coach and student role playing sex?"

Derek rolls his eyes and tries to look extremely put upon. "If we must," he says.

"Hey!" Stiles replies, slapping at his arm. "Sarcasm is my thing. That's what I bring to this relationship."

"No, it's not," Derek says simply, wrapping Stiles in a warm hug and kissing his forehead.

Stiles swallows hard, and Derek feels him hesitantly return the embrace. "First, dirty coach/student sex... then tender missionary sex, okay?"

"All right," Derek laughs, nuzzling Stiles' jaw and then licking under his chin, leaving a large amount of slobber behind.

"This is a werewolf thing, isn't it," Stiles says flatly. "Bodily fluids all over the place. Awesome."

"Get used to it."

"If I must," Stiles snarks. "But you're cleaning up, dude."

Derek huffs a laugh, kissing Stiles softly on the mouth, and doesn't even mind that he can hear the iPod outside still playing through the speakers: 

It's a miracle, a true blue spectacle

A miracle come true

We're together baby, I was goin' crazy

'Till the miracle

Came through

Now, you're here, and my arms are around you

And baby, there'll be dancin' in the streets

For the miracle

A true blue spectacle

And the miracle is you

(x)

----

Peter watches from across the street and waits until he sees Derek clamber up the side of the house and through Stiles' window.

"I told you Barry Manilow was the greatest romancer of all time," he says smugly. Suspicious bumps and crashes filter through the open window, and he turns on his heel and makes a quick exit when the first moan reaches his ears.

He strolls into the woods, humming Copa Cabana.

"But just who shot who?" he sings quietly, laughing a little.

Now, back to his original plans.