“What’s wrong with Derek?” Stiles asks when he answers the phone. Because let’s be real, it’s not like it’s even a question he hasn’t asked before. It’s not even a question he hasn’t asked today.
“I don’t know,” Scott insists. “He’s just, like—CIRCLING, and making these little whining noises.”
“Derek? Our Derek? Like, teeth and fangs and more leather than a biker gang in West Texas Derek?”
Stiles is pretty sure he can hear Scott rolling his eyes tinnily through the phone speaker. “Ugh, Stiles, no! Well, I mean, yeah, but not like DEREK Derek—WOLF Derek.”
“Wolf Derek? Like with a tail?”
“Yes with a tail. Oh my god, Stiles, that is so not important right now! I think he’s hurt. Are you even paying attention?”
“Dude, of course I’m paying attention,” Stiles says, crawls out of the Jeep, and slams the door shut behind him. “I’ve had like 90 Adderall today.” He starts walking toward the line of trees, vaguely in the direction where he saw Scott disappear earlier. “What I don’t get, though, is if you’re a vet’s assistant, why are you calling me?”
“I don’t know!” Scott emotes through the phone speaker. Stiles thinks he can hear the snapping of some twigs, maybe a high, keening whine.
“Is that him, with the owrrrrooooooooo and everything?” Stiles ducks under a low-hanging branch and heads right when he sees what might be a footprint, and what’s definitely a disturbance in the leaves.
“Yeah, dude. He sounds really distressed. I’m afraid a trap got him or something.”
Stiles must be close to wherever Scott and Derek are hiding; he can hear Derek’s little wolfie sobs and Scott’s frantic pacing, and it’s definitely not coming through his phone. “Afraid? Can’t you see?”
“No, he’s kind of like, hiding—under his jacket.”
“Maybe he’s cold?”
“He’s a wolf, Stiles!”
“Yeah, Scott. What with the fangs and the fur and glowing red eyes and everything. Dude’s definitely a weregnat.”
“Ugh. No,” Scott says into the phone, even though Stiles can make out the back of him across a clearing and behind some trees somehow, “wolves have higher body temperatures than humans. If you’re not freezing, Derek’s definitely not freezing.”
Stiles isn’t freezing. “Is he moving?” he tries again. Stiles can’t really see from where he’s walking, but it doesn’t look like Derek’s moving.
“I don’t know. I mean, kind of? He’s sort of pawing around or something.”
“Scott, you idiot,” Stiles says, a few minutes later, when he’s made it across the clearing and within speaking distance of Scott. “He’s not hurt.”
Scott looks at Stiles indignantly. “He smells hurt.”
“That’s just his pride, man.” Stiles crouches down next to Derek. “Suck-wolf over here is just caught in his jacket.”
“Are you sure?” Scott doesn’t look convinced. He’s sniffing the air and his eyes glow a little. “Because I smell—”
“Your wolfnose must be stopped up, man,” Stiles tells him. “Maybe you’re allergic to failure.” He reaches down, and untangles the jacket from Derek’s legs and paws. Derek looks at him, just for a moment, with his head hanging, just a little, before he runs away.
“Oh,” Scott says. “I guess Derek’s emotions messed with—”
Stiles lied before, about paying attention. He hardly even hears what Scott’s saying; he’s too busy staring toward the opposite end of the clearing, watching Derek. “Dude, is that—Does Derek have his tail tucked between his legs?” He picks Derek’s jacket up off the ground and slides it over his shoulders. “Does that mean he submitted to me? Am I the alpha now? Because I could get into that.”
“Stiles,” Scott says, pained, “please stop talking.”
Stiles howls. Scott, to his credit, doesn’t punch him.