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Like a Sickle Moon

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The current plan, because yes, Stiles always has one, to go running with Derek that day, is being overruled by the fact that Stiles is in the passenger foot well of a vintage Trans Am, complete with phoenix decal on the hood. He'd had two seconds, standing on the front step of his house, to realize the car was parked right there in his driveway, and the next two minutes were a blur that left him dizzy and stuffed into a small space, with metal handcuffs on his wrists, and a large, dusty Kleenex in his mouth and duct tape over half his face.

From where he sits, with his handcuffed hands on his cramped and bent knees, he can see the wolf and the wolf can see him. The one time they'd stopped for gas, the wolf had thrown a sheet over him and none of Stiles' rocking motions or chest-hollow noises had brought him any attention at all. Any attention from any passers-by, that is; the wolf had given Stiles a clout in the mouth as he'd gotten back in the driver's seat and had zoomed out of the gas station with a screech of tires.

His feet are free, but that doesn't earn him anything. Any movement from him that looks as though he's trying to get up, anything more than the merest twitch as his knees start to feel like they are breaking, brings him a slap against his bare legs, or another clout to the head. After trying it a time or two, or three, or five, his head is ringing and the side of his face feels swollen. He's given up, for now.

It's afternoon by the time the wolf stops somewhere, covers Stiles with the sheet, and turns off the engine. Stiles heart races; he can see shadows and light beyond the sheet, can hear voices, and the sound of a door slamming, but nothing beyond that. He thinks, from the angle of the sun slanting over his head most of the day, that they'd gone east, but he's not sure how far, or exactly how many hours.

Now that the Trans Am has truly stopped, his whole body is humming with the vibration of the cast iron engine, and he has to pee. He's that close to peeing down his leg, he has to go so badly. The smell of urine in the car would overcome and undo whatever sweet, sweet smell that Stiles permeates the air with through his skin and that is irresistible to wolves. Not that the wolf will care. Not when Stiles' scent has caused the wolf to track him down to his very home and cart him off to who knows where for who knows what.

Only Stiles knows what, and why. And how. Very probably how. And lets the smallest, the very smallest part of him hope that if Derek had shown up soon enough for their run, that he'd be able to figure out that something had happened to Stiles. Or maybe, while Derek is standing there, frowning at the absent Stiles, Mrs. Winterston might happen by, with her ugly cat in her arms and strike up a conversation with Derek, and give him all the clues and hints he needs to find Stiles. Or maybe Derek will sniff the wind with his whole body, like he does, and find Stiles that way. Or maybe none of those are even remotely possible; if Stiles is late for their run, Derek will most likely think that Stiles had blown him off. After all, Stiles has what he needed, so what use would he have for Derek? He never really wanted to run with Derek. That's what Derek will think.

Regardless, Stiles is on his own on this one, because the wolf had driven too far, too fast. No one is already tracking them; the wolf isn't being hunted, isn't feral. He seems perfectly sane to Stiles, in an unbelievably scary way, because he's not slavering and he's not wolfing out; he's been in perfect control the whole time.

The driver's door opens and the wolf gets in. "Soon, now, Stiles," he says, and Stiles flinches; he'd not known the wolf knew his name.

The wolf drives a short way and parks, turning off the engine and taking out the keys. Then he gets out, shuts the door, and walks around to the passenger side. Stiles can hear the click-click of those city boots on the blacktop of wherever they are, can hear the snick of the door being unlocked from the outside, the faint screech as the door is opened.

"We're here," says the wolf. "Come out, now."

Stiles can't move, it's physically impossible for him to unbend himself, so he knows that it's more of an invitation than an order. The wolf slides the sheet off Stiles, leaving him blinking in the light that's pouring through the tall trees.

"C'mon, then," says the wolf. "Here, I'll help you."

Stiles doesn't want to be helped, but there are hands upon him, strong hands, that lift him bodily out of the foot well, and lean him against the side of the car. The metal is warm on his bare thigh, and the sky is unendingly bright overhead. With his hand against his stomach, and his shoulders rolled forward, Stiles rocks through the lances of pain from his knees that can't unbend, can't hold his weight. The wolf moves forward and clasps Stiles around the waist, holding him close, sniffing him.

"Easy now," says the wolf. "I've got you." He takes the tape off Stiles' mouth and plucks the Kleenex out, tosses it on the ground. Looks at Stiles like he's just done him a favor.

"No," says Stiles gasping through dry, grit teeth. "You don't."

The wolf, holding him close enough so that Stiles can feel how hard his erection is, just smiles. And Stiles doesn't understand any of this. Derek had marked and claimed him, twice, and the idea that wolves mate for life was a sacred thing, to hear Derek tell it. To hear the Discovery Channel explain it. They'd done it, so just what was this wolf doing, taking another wolf's mate? Or it might be that, somehow, on Stiles, he can smell that Stiles has no idea what he's doing and the only reason he'd done it was to save his own skin, to save his Dad's skin. And because of that--well, that's why the whole thing didn't take.

"So you're mine now," says the wolf. "Or you will be, once--"

"I'm not yours," Stiles says, managing this much before the wolf slams him against the side of the car and grabs him by the scruff of the neck and just what is it with wolves and slamming humans against things? "I don't belong to anyone."

"Exactly." This cryptic remark is followed by the wolf walking away from the car, dragging Stiles with him, holding on by the collar of his t-shirt. The parking lot is blacktop, radiating with heat that rises up like hot water hissing on a stove. There are trees in a narrow line around the parking lot and they are backed by low, dust-colored hills that block out the wind and any sound.

It is a silent place, and it takes Stiles a second to realize that he could scream quite loudly, and it would echo very nicely. But then he realizes that they're at the back side of an old, single level, desert motel. There's brown grass growing up between the cracks in the blacktop, and that several windows are broken out. The paint is chipped. The sign over the top of the roofline is dented and rusted all around the edges. There is no one who will hear him.

He swallows, all out of spit, and can't fight as the wolf drags him to the door at the end of the row. It looks as bad as all the others, but the wolf has a key and unlocks the door. He pushes Stiles ahead of him, and Stiles stumbles across the ragged shag carpet. There is dust and mold, and everything is either peeling plastic or torn cloth. The place is old, and unused, though the bedding looks clean, and there are white towels on the rack. Either the wolf owns it and it's his hideout-den, or a pack of wolves uses it, or--Stiles can't think beyond that.

"I need to--can I?" He motioned with his cuffed hands towards the bathroom he sees along the back wall.

The wolf nods, and locks the motel door shut, leaving them momentarily in total blackness. Stiles moves, thinking that some of these places have little window, big enough to climb out of, so when he gets to the bathroom, he shuts the door and flicks on the light. Which buzzes and clicks and is on, finally, showing him the rippled glass that is actually half broken out and all it will take--

"Easy there, my dear Stiles." It's the wolf, and he's got his arms around Stiles' waist, holding him close, so close, that his erection presses against the back of Stiles' hip. There's a breath of warm air against Stiles neck and he imagines he can hear the click of fang. "You don't want to be leaving so soon. Not before we--"

"Mister," says Stiles, trying not to struggle. "I really gotta pee."

"Very well," says the wolf with a nod. He pulls the door halfway closed but it's easy to see he's not moving far off and anything that Stiles does that isn't directly related to peeing will be swiftly dealt with.

So Stiles undoes the zipper on his shorts and pulls himself out to pee, telling himself that he's not shaking hard enough so that his urine isn't going everywhere, no, he's more civilized than that, wasn't raised by wolves, after all. Then he flushes, and puts himself to rights, and eyes the faucet. He turns it on and rinses his hands, the handcuffs clinking the whole time, but at least the wolf will know right where he is, which might keep him at bay for a moment. While Stiles leans down to cup water in his hand so that he can drink from it, sucking the water up between his teeth, and sighing; he'd not realized how thirsty he was.

A second later, the wolf is behind him, pulling Stiles up with a hand cupped under Stiles' chin, forcing them close, Stiles' back pressed close to the wolf's front. The wolf's mouth is right behind his ear, and the wolf holds Stiles' head, and makes Stiles look in the mirror.

"You can't smell yourself, like I can, but now you can see. See what I see."

Stiles blinks at his reflection; his reflection blinks back. He doesn't want to look, but the wolf's hand is tight and tightens even that much more, imperceptibly, when Stiles tries to duck his head and turn away.

"Look."

His skin is papery white, his moles standing out like brown dots, irreverently spaced, a madness with no pattern he's ever been able to understand. His eyes are dark, staring at him, hooded and scared. And as the wolf's thumb brushes across his lower lip, Stiles sees that his mouth is rosy and dripping with water, it happens in slow motion, as the wolf sighs, and holds Stiles close, and Stile's face crumples, flushing red, and ugly, and he closes his eyes. He has been scared so often, over the past year, seeing it, how he looks, just makes it worse. No wonder Derek's so often rolling his eyes, and huffing with impatience about what Stiles doesn't know, can't figure out, can't withstand--

"There, my dear boy. You're with me now."

The wolf pulls him backwards, out of the bathroom and towards the bed. Turning Stiles to face him, letting go of Stiles to take his face in his hands, bringing their faces together, as though for a kiss. And a wolf's kiss, as Stiles has learned, is potent enough to rock him off his feet. He needs to get out of there, only he doesn't know how. Doesn't know if he can do it. Only knows that he has to. Before it gets out of hand and the wolf marks him and claims him, only the way Derek had done it--

As Stiles shifts to back up, his handcuffs clink between his wrists, and he snaps them up, right into the tender flesh beneath the wolf's jaw. The wolf's head pops back, snarling, mouth open, points of fangs showing, and that's all Stiles needs. He races towards the door, hands reaching out, rattling the knob, his hands slick and too wet to turn it. And still the wolf is on him, smashing him to the floor, as Stiles bangs his head against the metal edge of the air conditioner.

"You are sly," says the wolf. "But not smart. Nor very strong."

Stiles senses the wolf bending down, on his knees, as he lifts Stiles and slams him on the floor again. Dazed, he tries to focus as the wolf undoes his shorts and pulls them down a little way; Stiles can feel the ragged carpet underneath his hips. Then the wolf pauses to undo his own pants, struggling with his belt, growling with impatience, Stiles struggles, tries to roll away. Then the wolf snakes off the belt altogether, and with it fisted in one hand, growls directly at Stiles.

"I'll teach you not to run," he says, with a snap of his jaws and Stiles closes his eyes and ducks his head and prays, prays that the wolf is not wolfing out, not shifting. That there will be no biting. There isn't, but the wolf uses his fist, with the buckle wrapped around it, once across the jaw, and then slams it, bam, bam, twice into Stiles' ribs, leaving him gasping, trying to curl around himself, close against the wall, with the wolf's knees pressed into his side. Something whistles above his head, Stiles shrinks back, but can't avoid the snap of leather along his ribs, and then, with a whistle as the wolf pulls the belt all the way back, a bite around his hips as the leather bites bare skin.

There is a smell of blood in the air, salt and copper, and Stiles knows that he is sweating as he hisses, tucking himself close, burrowing into the wall, shrinking into as small a space as he can manage, as the wolf whips him with the belt. Across cloth, the leather thumps, a deep heavy sound, but on bare skin, it burns and cuts all the way to the bone. Stiles can hear himself crying, can taste the tears, knows the wolf can hear his heartbeat slamming inside of his chest, taste the fear skittering along the surface of Stiles' skin. When the wolf finally stills, and drops the belt, he is growling low in his throat, and Stiles doesn't need to open his eyes to see that the wolf's fangs are in plain view. Stiles knows he's as good as dead, or worse, as good as raped.

The wolf leans close, his hands on Stiles' neck, but whether to pull him close or slam him to the floor again, doesn't matter now. The wolf whispers against Stiles' neck, thumbs on Stiles' collarbone and Stiles strains to hear what he's saying. Like it will make any difference whatsoever. It won't. But his body stills, just the same, his brain tagging on to the words just distantly heard above the wolf's panting breaths. Mine, mine, mine.

There is movement outside the door, and a second later, the door smashes open, knocking the wolf from on top of him, leaving Stiles panting on the floor in the small space between the wall and the air conditioner. He opens his mouth and his eyes, all at once, head going back, gasping for air.

"Derek, thank go--"

It takes him only a second to see that it is not Derek who has opened the door. Instead, there are three wolves, most definitely wolves, dressed in city suits and city boots and they brush dust off of their jacket sleeves, and one of them even takes off a pair of sunglasses. Stiles scrambles back as one of them lifts up the wolf, trousers half undone and falling down, growling and slashing with his claws, from the floor.

And then one of the wolves, the one in the center, takes a step towards Stiles, and with a yelp, Stiles tries to move backwards but there is nowhere to go. He's half-propped up on his elbows, feeling exposed with his shorts unbuttoned and unzipped, his t-shirt rucked up to his middle; he's an easy target if any of the wolves decides he might make a tasty snack.

"Marked but unclaimed," the wolf, the alpha, says, as if that were some title he knew to belong to Stiles. "I thought I smelled you. You can get up, now."

Stiles tries, but his thighs are trembling and although adrenaline is surging through him, the tide of energy, sparking through every fiber, just leaves him shaking.

"Very well," the alpha says, and he gestures to the wolf holding the Trans Am wolf. For a second, Stiles imagines that the alpha is going to let the wolf loose to finish Stiles off. But instead he flicks his wrist and points to a spot just in front of Stiles. "Bring him here."

The Trans Am wolf is dragged bodily to the point where the toes of his shoes brush Stiles' knees. He's spitting and growling and writhing to get free, and Stiles hopes the wolf holding him has got a good, solid hold because if he doesn't, Stiles will be the Trans Am wolf's lunch in two seconds flat.

"Think on this, Grant," says the alpha to the Trans Am wolf, and Stiles can admit, that, of course, even wolves have names. "And look now, on the last human face you will ever see."

Grant, evidently ungrateful for any lesson, growls into the alpha's face, sending spittle and breath, and the alpha, ignoring this. Nods. In a second, Stiles hears the crack as the wolf snaps Grant's head clean around. Leaving Stiles open mouthed and pressing even harder into the wall. His spine is fusing with it, his sweat makes it slippery, right through his shirt, and he edges closer into the corner made by the air conditioner.

"Get him out of here. Cut him in two, the usual."

The two wolves snap it up to obey, and drag the dead, soon-to-be-bisected Grant, out of the motel room, slamming the door behind him. Leaving Stiles, panting on the floor, looking up into the third alpha he's ever met. Peter Hale had been messed up from the get-go, and Derek, untrained and untried. But this alpha? Is calm. He stares at Stiles without blinking, contemplates him for a second, and then reaches down to pull him to his feet. He leans Stiles against the wall, and lets him go, his fingers lingering on the handcuffs around Stiles' wrists.

"So," says the alpha, with a nod. "I'm Norman Stone, from L.A. And might you tell me which wolf's human cub are you?"

Stiles opens his mouth and then snaps it shut. He doesn't know this wolf or whether, like Derek, he can take a smart-ass remark at face value. To know it for what it is, and merely threaten to get him to stop, rather than kill him. Rip his throat out. Because he's alone in a motel room, miles from anywhere, with an alpha wolf who is utterly calm and completely in control. Stiles' heart is thudding, he know the alpha can hear it as easily as if Stiles were speaking it aloud, I'm terrified, you scare the shit out of me, please don't eat me, I'm harmless, really, really harmless.

The wolf smiles. Points of his fangs press against the inside of his mouth; he's showing them to Stiles in case there is any question, at all, whatsoever, of the potential for harm, here. Stiles shakes his head, no, he has no questions. Not enough air in his lungs to form even the shortest question.

"Well?" asks Norman Stone. "If you fail to answer me, I can rip your throat out, as you know. As you so obviously know."

Stiles nods, madly, gasping, trying to get a deep breath of air. He doesn't know how his answer will matter, whether Norman's knowing which wolf's human cub he is will put Derek in harm's way, or be something else. He doesn't know this wolf at all; doesn't know which answer will keep himself safe, either.

The wolf smiles, just a little smile, to let the points of his fangs show a little more, and he moves forward, till Stiles is standing against the wall. The wolf takes his hands and, placing them on Stiles' bare back, sweeps them forward, settling the elastic of Stiles' underwear in place, cupping the curves of Stiles' bottom before pulling up his shorts and doing up the zipper and button.

"If you're going to keep molesting me," Stiles says, snapping, surprising himself, but this wolf is touching what doesn't belong to him. "Then you might want to put the tape back on my mouth; I might not be a wolf, but I can still bite."

The wolf pats Stiles on the hip, and with a little laugh, backs up. He flicks his eyes, flirting, as he scans Stiles up and down. "That's better," he says. "I like a human with spirit, but all I really want from you, all I want to know, is which wolf's human cub are you? And remember," the wolf raises a single clawed finger. "You are alone with me. And two members of my pack are right outside this door. We haven't had lunch yet."

"You can't hurt him," says Stiles, feeling as though he's stuttering, and what the hell is he saying? "I won't let you."

"Who?" Norman cocks his head to one side. "Your wolf? I've no interest in hurting your wolf. But you need to take care of your problem, before this--" Norman jerks a thumb over his shoulder. "Before this shit happens again. So tell me, why did your wolf leave you marked but unclaimed?"

Stiles blinks. And his mouth opens and starts talking without his permission. "But I am claimed, marked and claimed, Derek and I, we--"

"Derek." Norman looks at him. "Is this a wolf I know?"

Clasping his clenched fists to his chest, Stiles shakes his head, teeth banging together, and he tries to calm himself, he does, but it's no use, he can't get the words out. And then Norman places a human hand on his chest. Stiles' head bangs into the wall, his mouth his open, and he knows his throat is exposed, and it's going to be over in a second, it really is. Because he can't answer, and he knows he can't, he just can't--

"Human boy," says Norman, pressing slightly. "Tell me your wolf's name. I'm not going to hurt you."

"How do I know that?" Stiles manages this much, with his teeth grit together so hard, he can barely move his mouth. He looks at the alpha with narrowed eyes; even on good days, wolves are not as predictable as they wanted to be seen as. And with blood and sweat and Stiles' pheromones reeking through the room? It's an unsteady bet as to how long this alpha will last before breaking down and taking Stiles for his own. Stiles knows this, knows it for a fact.

"We'll start with something simpler then. Where are you from? What is your town?"

The answer to that question involves telling Norman Stone where his Dad lives, and that Stiles cannot do. He lifts his chin and swallows, clamping his mouth shut. After only a second of looking the alpha in the eye, Stiles ducks his head, chin to his chest; there's no way he's giving this alpha Derek, let alone his Dad.

Stiles hears the alpha sigh.

"Okay," Norman says. "Let me explain something. I'm an alpha; Grant was one of my pack. You are marked but unclaimed, and Grant could smell that on you as easily as I can now. But Grant--no member of my pack takes a human without permission. I cannot permit that kind of anarchy, hence Grant is gone. Are you listening?"

Stiles nods. He opens his eyes, and looks at his sneakers, his new running sneakers, broken in and scuffed around the toes. Then he looks at Norman's city boots, shiny, pointed, and not moving. Not moving closer to Stiles or backing off. Norman has the upper hand, even in those fancy boots. He's got Stiles backed into a corner, with his hands in cuffs, and two obedient beta wolves right outside the door. But he's not coming any closer.

So Stiles nods. "Okay," he says, trying not to let his voice crack. He fails.

"Now," says the wolf, almost gently. Almost. "Tell me why it is that you are marked but unclaimed. And tell me who Derek is. A wolf, obviously."

Stiles swallows around a gulp of air. "There was this wolf," he says, with his brain rabbiting on that he sounds like he's about to tell one of those stories that starts, once upon a time. "He attacked me in the woods. He--he raped me. Derek said--Derek said that he'd left his scent behind and that other wolves would come unless I was marked and claimed. And so--" Stiles runs out of energy and words all at once. "We thought we did it, but then, we didn't because this other wolf came--"

"Grant," says the alpha, low.

"We thought we did it and I guess it turns out we didn't, and Derek's going to be so angry, because he gave it up, because wolves mate for life, and I said--"

Stiles feels a hand under his chin, lifting his face, stilling his mouth for a second as his body jerks with shock over the touch. The alpha wolf looks at him, his face still, the fangs gone. His eyes flash red for a second, but then this disappears, and the wolf seems calm. For now.

"Derek. What sort of wolf is he? And what do you mean, he gave it up?"

Stiles' mouth is so dry now, his mind exploding with images of Derek, dark and still and standing behind a post in his ruined house, waiting in the shadows, waiting for Stiles to chose. Wolves mate for life, and no, Derek can't ever be with anyone else, on account of he's saving Stiles from his own reckless path through he woods.

"He--" Stiles begins, his hands waving in the air until one of the cuffs snaps the alpha wolf in the jaw. Freezing, Stiles' mouth falls open, and he moves it, trying for words, any words, even though no words will do. Because you can't just pop an alpha in the jaw and expect to walk away with your limbs intact. "I'm sorry," he says, mouth trembling, and every bone in his body turning to water. "I'm so sorry, but I talk with my hands a lot and--"

The alpha clasps his hands around Stiles' clenched fists and holds them, just holds them, in place. "Who mounted who?"

The question stops Stiles, stops him from shaking. "What?" He can feel his face scrunching up in confusion. "What do you mean, who mounted who?"

"Who mounted whom," the wolf corrects himself. "You know what I'm asking. Was it reciprocal?"

"No--" Stiles starts to answer and then stops. He remembers it, he will always remember it, that Derek had taken him from behind, first perfunctorily, and then, the second time, with more patience and touches, and kissing. But Stiles had never--never actually taken Derek. Or, to put it in Norman's words, he'd never mounted Derek, and the thought of it flushes him, he'd never be able to do that, never manage it, and, moreover, Derek will never let him.

"No," Stiles says, as Norman is patiently, patiently for an alpha, waiting. "Why? Does it matter?"

"Yes," says Norman. "When a male and female pair mate, it's already reciprocal." Norman lets Stiles' hands go to gesture a flat line in the air. "De facto reciprocal. But with two males, it's reciprocal only if each of the pair mounts the other. One right after the other. Do you understand?"

Stiles nods. He gets it now. "I guess we left it half undone."

"I guess you did," says Norman. "So, now, who is Derek? What sort of wolf is he?"

"Alpha," says Stiles, tasting the word as he thinks about Derek, alone in the burned out remains of the Hale house. Alpha of barely any pack at all, in charge of nothing, barely even his own destiny. "He's the alpha of the Beacon Hills pack." He swallows, feels his heart spike, and hopes, with everything that he has, that he didn't just throw Derek under the werewolf bus.

"Oh, you mean Derek Hale." Norman shakes his head and steps away from Stiles. Leaving a wide gap between Stiles and the door. That could be easily traversed by Stiles, even with handcuffs. That is, if there weren't an alpha wolf, pacing the floor, rubbing his chin, only three feet away. "Why didn't you tell me? I know about the Hales; I know what happened to them. It makes more sense now that Derek didn't know the entire of the ritual; he's never been properly trained to be an alpha. I even know about the rogue wolf; the Argent hunter got him."

"And Derek," says Stiles with a jerk of his chin. He can't forget-- "Derek saved me from that rogue wolf," says Stiles, almost spitting. "That Chris Argent actually killed it was only a formality."

"Loyal," says Norman. "I like that in a human. And I'd keep you for myself, but you're far too young. So here's what we're going to do."

"You can't--" Stiles blurts this out, rushing to stop whatever it is that the alpha is planning that will involve him taking any wolf, any wolf, anywhere near Beacon Hills.

Norman holds up his palm, flat. "We're going to take you back. What happened in this room stays in this room. And if I hear anything that comes back to me and mine? You'll be the one wielding the machete that cuts Derek in two. Understood?"

"I have to tell him," Stiles says, insistent. Terrified. "And if Mrs. Winterston saw anything and reports it, and they trace that car--"

Norman shakes this off. "Mrs. Winterston will be lied to. Everyone you know will be lied to, except Derek, who will, no doubt smell four wolves on you and have an untrained, alpha-sized, werewolf fit." Norman shakes his head, sorrowfully, over the lack of class this represents.

"You leave him alone," Stiles snaps, breaking. "You shut up about him. He's done everything, everything he knows how to do, and I wouldn't be alive if it weren't for him." He points to his own chest with a bunched fist; the cuffs clink in protest. His wrists are rubbed raw and sore, and every bruise his body knows springs to life. "Don't you ever talk about him like that to me."

Norman comes up to Stiles, an eyebrow raised. In his eyes, his bemused expression, Stiles can see it, that Norman's on the verge of asking, or what? And Stiles will have nothing to back it up, and will have to take the words back, and the thought of that, of letting the side down, letting Derek down, rushes through him, and he flushes.

He doesn't have anything to back up the or what, no consequences of any kind. He's so vulnerable right now, his skin can almost already feel the claws shredding through it; he could have kept his damn mouth shut for once. But he doesn't say any of this; his jaw feels tight, and he shakes his head, just once. If Norman Stone from L.A. wants to take that as open rebellion from a puny human? Fine.

Then Norman laughs, almost under his breath, and shakes his head. "Oh, human, what a pair you'll make, you and this--" Norman pauses as if considering his next words. "You and this new alpha."

He steps back and looks Stiles up and down. "I don't even know your name, alpha's mate from Beacon Hills."

Stiles is on the verge of saying and I'll be fucked if I give it to you, but he doesn't. He's learned better, just now, what mouthing off to an alpha wolf from the big city will buy him. So he simply says, "Stiles. Stiles Stilinski."

"Very well, Stiles Stilinski. Here." Norman reaches for Stiles' wrists, which are shaking against his chest. "Let's get those off and we'll take you home."

Stiles holds out his arms to have the cuffs removed. He believes Norman. He makes himself believe Norman.

"Can I ask you a question?" Stiles asks, bold now that he's looking down at Norman's bowed head as he works the metal of the cuffs free.

"Yes," says Norman as he snaps one of the cuffs in two.

"What do I smell like, to you guys, that draws you--"

Norman breaks off the other cuff and pockets the metal pieces. He smiles, a small, quirky grin, and seems, by the flush of his cheeks, a tad embarrassed.

"That's a very personal question, Stiles. It's considered rude in polite society, so, I suggest you ask your wolf. Okay?"

Stiles nods, rubbing his wrists, and when Norman opens the door and gestures for Stiles to proceed him into the sunlight, Stiles doesn't even bother with protesting, not even if this means that the wolf is on his heels and breathing down his neck.

***

Riding in the plushy back seat of a brand new black Cadillac through the low hills as the sun is setting is a new one for Stiles. The seat is so comfortable, that he barely feels his bruises and scrapes. Any bump in the road is smoothed out by the amazing suspension; sounds are blocked out, the windows sealed shut. Leaving him locked in with one alpha, two betas, and a dead body in the trunk. For hours.

Stiles sits very still. For hours.

The gas tank is so huge, that they don't seem to be stopping for gas or anything. That is, until Stiles' stomach sits up and growls loudly enough that all three wolves look in his direction. Even the one driving.

"Sorry," Stiles says, circling his arms around his middle. "I didn't have breakfast today."

He doesn't expect anything to be done about it, but Norman, who is sharing the back seat with him, snaps his fingers at the beta driver.

"Can you find something?" he says. It comes out a question, but obviously, it's an order.

The two wolves in the front seat start turning their heads, in a familiar way that tells Stiles that they are tracking for fast food just the way he and Scott do. They pass an In-and-Out burger stand, and then a taco stand.

"What do you want, kid?" asks the driver, in that clipped way Stiles' recognizes from Derek. As though humans are enough bother, too much to deal with most of the time, and somewhat silly, so shorter sentences are best.

"Um, tacos?" Stiles' mouth waters.

They pull into the drive through and when the beta asks him what he wants again, Stiles asks for three tacos with everything and a very large coke. When he gets the waxed bag full of food and starts crunching, the Cadillac pulls out into traffic.

Norman watches him, almost like a scientist observing human behavior. Or maybe he's hungry. Stiles holds out a paper-wrapped taco, expecting the alpha to refuse. But he doesn't. Instead he takes the taco, unwraps it, and begins, somewhat companionably, to crunch his way through it. Stiles takes a long sip of his extra-large coke, which he will not be sharing, and mentally shakes his head. He will never understand werewolves. Never.

***

It is just past dark when the Cadillac pulls off to the edge of the road, just where the Beacon Hills city limits sign is.

"There you are, Stiles. Can you make it from here?"

Stiles gathers himself together, and gets out of the car. "Yes," he says. He's about to say thank you, but it seems too much, even if Norman Stone saved him. He'd threatened Stiles, too, and scared him, and threatened Derek, and so Stiles isn't going to say anything.

"Remember what I told you. Lie to everyone. Have partial amnesia. Whatever. I keep a clean city, and if you mess with me? If I hear of any investigation? We'll come after Derek. I'll come down and kill you myself. Right after I make you slit your own father's throat."

Norman Stone isn't playing around, Stiles knows this. His threats are real, and Stiles intends to do his best to lie. After all, he's good at lying, he's been lying to his Dad for ages. And now he has to keep doing it, and lying to Scott, and everyone. But not to Derek. He won't be able to manage that, not even for a second. Not once Derek smells the remnants of the day's events on him, smells four werewolves on Stiles' skin, and hears Stiles' racing heart as he tries to figure out a way to inform Derek of what must happen next.

But Stiles nods; the message has been heard and understood, loud and clear. The door closes and the Cadillac shoots off into the road, with non-existent traffic, and does a three point turn with nobody coming. Then it vrooms past Stiles, standing on the roadside, his bare legs catching the breeze left by the tires, the dust in the air settling on his clothes.

He sighs. Today was hard, but it wasn't the hardest part, not by half. Facing his Dad, facing Derek, that's going to be almost impossibly hard. Stiles isn't sure he's up for it. In fact, he knows he's not. But there's nothing else to be done. He wants to go home. And the only way to get there, to his nice safe bed and what's left of his less-than-normal life, is to go through. Just like hell. He just doesn't think he can hold his breath that long.

***

Stiles walks along the edge of the road, facing traffic, like any sensible kid might do, and looks up at the traffic lights ahead, and blinks. He's exhausted and dusty and thirsty and every part of him aches, and he blinks as he hears sirens racing towards him, sees the red lights swirling, and stumbles to his knees just as the tires spit gravel at him and the two paramedics descend, uniformed, hurrying, carrying medical equipment in their hands. And just as they convince Stiles to lie down on the stretcher, and load him into the back of the bright red van, he can hear the growl of another kind of engine. As the door closes, he can see Derek's black Camaro sliding to a stop; he opens his mouth but the paramedic van takes off, red lights swirling, the suspension on the wheels not quite good enough to provide a smooth ride. Stiles is jolted by that and by the thought that Derek's going to be mad that someone else rescued Stiles.

***

At the hospital, he's unloaded, via the stretcher, and the automatic doors to the emergency ward, with which's he's uncomfortably familiar, swing open with a whoosh. Out of the corner of his eyes, he can see Derek running across the parking lot, but it's too late. Stiles is ensconced in an examining room, and Derek is shut out.

***

Stiles is sitting on the edge of an examining table, hospital Johnny tied firmly into place, his head reeling, They finish up examining him all over, mostly, making notes and shaking their heads when he told them he really couldn't remember what happened. And he knows they called his Dad, because he can hear him in the corridor, black shoes slapping against the polished linoleum as he runs. Runs towards his son who is prepared with the biggest pack of lies he's ever told; Stiles' heart is breaking at the thought of it. His Dad deserves better than all this worry.

The door bangs open.

"Stiles." Dad is dressed for work, with a coffee stain on his right shirt pocket, as usual, the tail of the hand-held flapping from his hear, as usual. Tie askew, as usual, shirt undone for the top two buttons. His face is creased with worry, more than usual, and he envelopes Stiles in a hug so broad and deep, that Stiles loses himself in it for a minute, hugging back, not saying anything. Dad smells like coffee and fried food and dust from those latex gloves he sometimes wears at crime scenes. Like his own front porch from which his son went missing that morning.

When Dad pulls back, his eyes are damp. Stiles doesn't let him think about this as his Dad takes his face, gently, in two, warm Dad-hands, turning Stiles' face into the light. The nurse comes back in as he's doing this, but Dad doesn't need to see any notes to know that Stiles has been knocked around that day; his cheek is still swollen, and his mouth hurts, and when he blinks on his left eye, he winces. So he tries not to blink, but his eyes are watering, so he blinks. And winces. His Dad winces in sympathy.

Dad steps back to let the nurse fuss a little bit. But his hand stays on the table, near Stiles' hand; Dad's not going to go far, Stiles knows, until he's got the whole story. Not that Stiles has anything real to tell him. Not that his Dad knows that.

"What happened today, Stiles, where have you been? Why are you all--"

"He doesn't have a concussion," says the nurse. Her voice is gentle; her nametag says Nadine. "But he's got swelling on the left side of his face, and bruises along his back, his arms. From a fall, probably more than one, and there's marks from a wide strap, or a belt, I'd say. Looks like somebody beat him pretty badly."

"Stiles." His Dad says this, his whole body sagging as though what he's heard pains him. And it does, Stiles can see it in his face, the downcurve of his eyes, the tightness of his mouth. "Who did this to you?"

Stiles doesn't say anything.

"He says he can't remember. He's given a statement to one of your deputies, and says he can't remember a thing."

"Stiles?"

"I don't know, Dad. I remember being tied up in a car." He looks down at his wrists. They have been washed and wiped with salve; bright white bandages cover his skin there. "They say these are handcuff marks, but when Scott and I used to play with your old ones, they never did anything like this."

"Stiles, you have to remember something, anything--"

"Dad, I don't know. I'd tell you if I knew." He shrugs and winces again; the table is hard to sit on, and the edge is biting into the back of his thighs. "I just want to go home. Maybe I'll remember something in the morning." It's a promise he won't, of course, be able to keep, but for now, it'll give his Dad something to hope for.

"And Sheriff, in cases like this," says Nadine, low, as though she's speaking to someone she knows and trusts. "We like to do a rape kit. He wouldn't let us--"

"I wasn't raped, Dad." Stiles says this too loudly, too quickly.

His Dad considers him, his face completely neutral, like it gets when he's dealing with the really hard cases. The kind that could break your heart.

"I thought you said you couldn't remember what happened to you."

"But it doesn't feel like I've been raped."

"And how do you know what it feels like?"

Stiles shrugs, regretting it as his whole body springs into bruises and welts come to life.

"So either you remember, and you know you weren't raped, or you don't remember, and we do the rape kit, just to be sure."

Stiles is trapped, he has no answer for this. If he insists that he wasn't raped, then his story about not remembering collapses around him. And somehow the truth of how he might know what it feels to be raped like is floating out there now, ready to be grabbed out of thin air. His Dad's not stupid; he's probably dealt with cases like this, although not exactly like this, with werewolves from L.A in the mix. But with cases where people don't report the whole truth because they are afraid; it's his Dad's job to find out.

"Okay," says Stiles. The back of his neck feels hot, and he wants to lick his lips. Wants a coke. Some ice to chew on. He wants to go home.

"Okay, what?" His Dad asks this stern, being mean, even though Stiles is his son. But it's his job; Stiles isn't going to hold it against him. Not ever.

"Okay, we can do the--the thing." Stiles waves his hand in a small circle to indicate what he means. He's got no idea what a rape kit entails, but it can't possibly be any fun.

As the Nadine gets his Dad to sign something on a clipboard, there's a noise in the corridor, the slamming of doors, footfalls. Someone says something in a loud voice; another voice answers, agitated. The door to the examining room opens.

"I called your friend," says Dad.

"Scott?"

"Sir, you can't go in there, now, you're not family."

The door opens even wider, forcibly, and in steps Derek Hale. He's got a midnight shadow across his face, and wild hair, that looks like he's run his fingers through it. He looks dangerous, even more so by the soiled t-shirt, with sweat stains under the arms and a swath of grime across the chest. He's glaring, eyes narrowed as he sees Stiles sitting there. Stiles tries not to jerk back and fails.

"Sir, you're not family," says a voice from the corridor. Nadine, standing near, with the clipboard in her hand, looks at Sheriff Stilinski.

"That's okay, he can come." Dad waves at Derek, giving him the okay. "They found him about half an hour ago, like I told you on the phone."

Without saying anything, Derek crosses the narrow space to the examining table, right up to where Stiles is sitting. He takes Stiles' forearm in his hand, as though he doesn't care that Stiles' Dad and Nurse Nadine can see him do this. He holds on, for a full minute, while his nostrils flare, and there's a red spark in his eyes, and Stiles knows that Derek is so angry, he can barely contain the wolf inside of him. And he wants Stiles to tell him what's going on and why do you smell like four different werewolves that I don't even know? Right now, tell me now.

Derek's hand is hot where Stiles' skin feels cold, he feels cold all over. He's going to have to lie to Derek too, now, and though he's going to tell the truth later, Derek's not going to appreciate it, not one little bit. Stiles wonders how much more wall slamming he's going to be able to take.

"We want to give him something for the pain and to help the swelling go down. Normally we'd advise Tylenol, but in this instance, I think we can prescribe something a little stronger. And something to help him sleep, if that becomes a problem. I'll have the doctor prescribe the medication, if that's okay with you, Sheriff."

God bless Nadine. Her voice sounds normal and calm and seems to slide over the pounding of Stiles' heart. He ducks his head, trying to avoid Derek's gaze, but Derek's eyes track him.

"Hey, Derek, it's okay, we found him." Dad gives Derek a friendly pat on the shoulder, or at least what would be to anyone else a friendly pat. To Derek it must have felt like a rude slam, for his shoulders twitch and he jerks his head to look at the Sheriff. Stiles would have been peeing down his own leg at a look like that from Derek, but Dad just shrugs, and says, "Hey, it's been a long day for all of us. Everything's going to be okay."

"That's a lot of medicine," Derek says to Sheriff Stilinski, as though Stiles were his and he with every right to approve medications.

"I agree," says the Sheriff, not seemingly at all put out that Derek's shared his opinion so freely. "That's why I usually leave it up to Stiles." He points at Stiles with a shrug of his shoulders. "My son knows more about the effects of that kind of stuff than I do, usually."

"I'll just--" Stiles begins and then finds every eye in the room on him. "I'll just get everything and then--then take it if I need it. Okay, Dad?" To which he wants to add, Okay, Derek?

"I'll have the doctor call it in," says Nadine, now. "You can pick it up at the hospital pharmacy on your way home." Everything is fine, until she adds, gently. "We need to do the rape kit, now, though."

Derek's hand tightens on Stiles' forearm; he's not once let go. His skin is icy, now, where once it was warm, and Stiles can see his shoulders brace. He looks at Stiles, right in the eye. Which is what you want to do when your mate's Dad and the local nurse is standing right there, watching everything you do. Listening in to everything you say.

Stiles holds Derek's gaze for a full minute and then gives the barest shake of his head. It's all he can do, given the current circumstances. He watches as Derek's eyebrows bend down, as Derek's eyes narrow. He can see what Derek wants to ask: If not that, then what? And where have you been?

Stiles can't answer him, not now. Frankly, he doesn't want to answer any of the questions that Derek has at all, because that conversation will lead to the information that Norman Stone gave him. Whether Derek will believe him is one thing, and not at all likely; as to whether Derek will do as Norman has advised? Impossible.

"I'm okay, Derek," Stiles says now. He covers Derek's hand on his forearm with his other hand, both to comfort, and so that Derek can feel the blood, really feel it, pulsing under his skin and know he's telling the truth, as least as far as it goes. But he needs Derek to let go now, before his Dad and Nurse Nadine start getting worried, and Derek Hale will hitherto be banned from seeing Stiles ever again.

With a sound, low in his throat, Derek lets go.

"We'll wait outside for you, Stiles," his Dad says. He gives Derek another pat, this one more ginger than the previous. Then his Dad looks at Nadine. "Get him a male nurse for that rape kit, would you, Nadine?"

"Certainly, Sheriff."

As his Dad and Derek step out of the examining room, their shoulders broad and crowding the width of the doorway, Stiles looks and sees his Dad's mouth quiver. It's not all business with his Dad, not all of the time, and especially not now. Stiles knows that the rape kit will come up negative, but his Dad doesn't. And it's killing him.

***

Stiles waits alone for two minutes, before a man in blue scrubs steps in. He's tall and dark and friendly.

"I'm Aiden," he says. "I'm going to make this quick and painless. You won't even know I've been here. And you know what this is for, right?"

"Yes," says Stiles. "Evidence. Microscopic evidence left behind; whoever took me won't even think there's anything to look at, but even a strand of hair--" He stops, because actually everything he's just said is a bad thing. He wishes now that he'd thought to take a shower, or jump in a river or something before he'd waved down the patrol car. But he'd just been so tired and shook that he'd not thought of it. He's thinking of it now.

"Look, do we have to do this?"

Aiden nods. "I know it's a little nerve-wracking, but all I'm going to do is run a small come through your hair, both top and bottom." He gestures with his hand. "And then take a swab, and then I'm done. I just need you to stand up."

Stiles feels himself scowling, and thinks of everything he's been through that day. This procedure is really the least of his worries, and he knows the guy is just doing his job. And is nowhere near the scariest nurse he's ever met.

"You can close your eyes, if you want to. You don't even have to bend over; I'll do all the work.

Deciding that he's putting off the inevitable and that it will only get worse the longer he waits, Stiles stands up. He puts his hand on the edge of the table for balance and closes his eyes.

"Okay, go."

"Atta boy," says Aiden. When he lifts the edge of Stiles' Johnny, he pauses. "You going to get something for these bruises, kiddo? They look pretty painful."

"Yes," says Stiles, in the darkness behind his eyes. "My Dad's picking it up now."

He feels Aiden get to work, and while nothing hurts, nothing he's doing hurts, Stiles feels himself tense up, his whole body tightening for that moment when it will. Because of course it will, things always hurt when you go to the hospital. The this won't hurt a bit and it'll be just a prick and then it'll be over are lies he's heard far too often to believe anymore. Even when he does get candy or something sweet afterwards.

Aiden mutters the words head, comb, and swipe before he does each part of the exam, and nothing ends up hurting. When he lowers Stiles' Johnny, Stiles sighs and listens to Aiden packing everything away in plastic baggies before he opens his eyes.

He sees Aiden snap off a pair of latex gloves, and then rolls up the plastic bags between his hands. "All done. Painless, right?"

Stiles nods. He feels cold now, with the sweat drying on him all over.

Aiden gestures towards the shelf behind Stiles. "There's some scrubs you can get into, some paper footies till you get home to your own nice, soft socks. Do you need help?"

Stiles considers this. Aiden is about as relaxing as a nurse can get, tall and cheerful, but Stiles has had enough help for one day. Enough strange hands touching him, leaving behind skitters of physical emotion he can't even begin to sift through.

"I'm good, thanks. Can you tell my Dad, if you see him, that I'll be out in minute. And Derek--"

"Is that the growly guy?" asks Aiden. "He was not happy with Bethany Anne trying to keep him out of here. Friend of yours?"

"Yes," says Stiles. Of course Derek is his friend, whatever else he is, whatever else is between them, and Stiles can't even begin to define that--Derek just wants Stiles to be safe. He's made that much more than clear.

"Hey," says Aiden. He doesn't come closer, but he looks like he wants to. "You gonna be okay? You want me to call your Dad? He's the Sheriff, right?"

Too much of him is showing, and it's more than just bare skin. He needs to get a grip on himself before his Dad sees him, sees the low-grade panic just behind Stiles' eyes and decides that he's going to send out a search party now, damnit, and they better find the asshole that took his son or he's going to fire everyone and hire new deputies who know what the hell they are doing. And even if the search will lead anyone exactly nowhere, the fact that there is searching? Might get back to Norman Stone. And Stiles can't let that happen.

"I'm good," he says. "It's just a little much, you know? But I'm good, really good. I can put my own scrubs on."

Aiden nods, seeming not the least bit insulted by Stiles' refusal. "If you need anything, pull on that cord, okay? Someone will come running."

As Aiden leaves and quietly shuts the door behind him, Stiles realizes that, yes, that usually does happen, someone comes running to save the day, only it's never who Stiles' expects. It'd been Derek, last time, and Chris Argent, and this time, some strange, very polite alpha, and Stiles wishes, suddenly, that he could rescue himself, from these situations. Wishes he were brave enough to take care of it on his own, or fast enough not to get caught in the first place.

He takes off the Johnny and lays it across the table, then pulls down a pair of scrubs, and gets dressed. He feels numb all over, now, his brain full of staticy half thoughts that keep zipping back and forth. As he pulls the ties to the cotton pants, he rubs something along his back the wrong way, but he's going to just deal with it. If one more person looks at his skin and exclaims how bad it looks, he's going to punch them, he just is. There will be pills and maybe he'll take some of the good, painkilling ones. But he doesn't want to lose touch with everything else. If he does, he'll get sucked into the land of never-feel-anything, and it's a bad place. He could get stuck there.

The cotton top goes on a little easier; there are no ties, and the shirt is big enough not to rub against anything tender. His Dad might want to see for himself, when he gets Stiles home; it'll be important to have something to distract him. But Stiles doesn't know what. He has no idea how he's going to deal with any of this. Or how Derek will, when he finds out the truth. Which he will; he'll make Stiles tell him, with flashing eyes and with the tips of his fangs showing. He'll make Stiles tell him. Then he'll reject everything, and Stiles will be right back where he was before. He's still marked but unclaimed; wolves for miles will be interested in him. For miles.

***

Stiles steps out into the corridor, dressed in thin, blue cotton clothes from the hospital, his paper footies scuffing against the newly waxed, checkerboard pattern of the linoleum. Down one direction, his Dad is talking to one of his deputies. He's got a large paper bag, stapled shut, that no doubt contains the amazing assortment of pills and medications that some doctor and the pharmacy determined that Stiles needed. In the air conditioned hospital, his Dad's got his brown jacket on, the one that hides his gun and his radio, and into which Stiles used to dig for change, or odd bits of evidence, just for fun. That seems a long time ago, now.

In the other direction, is Derek. He's not too far off that Stiles can't see he's not had a chance to wash, and the slash of dirt across his front looks like someone marked him. It could be that Derek went running through the woods, looking for Stiles, and maybe he drove his Camaro down the highway a stretch. He'd not been able to find Stiles, though, and, by the frown and the darkness of his eyebrows, all scrunched down, Stiles can see that Derek is furious. Ready to kill something or someone, if he can just get his hands on them. Stiles, for example.

Derek takes a step towards him, lifting his chin as if he wants Stiles to wait there for him, and Stiles feels his pulse kicking up a notch, and the panic in his eyes making him blink fast, because he can feel the blood pounding through him. He turns and walks towards his Dad as fast as he can. Trying to ignore the glare that surely must be aimed at his back, he tries to hold his head high and not slip on the linoleum.

"I'm ready to go, Dad," he says, a shade too loudly. Derek will not be able to help but hear it, the tightness of his voice, the shakiness. "Ready to go."

"Okay, son," says his Dad. He waves to the deputy and hefts the bag in his hand. "Got you the good stuff, kiddo, you think you might want to take some of it?"

Stiles takes the bag and rushes his Dad, makes him hurry through the sliding doors. "I might," says Stiles.

"You should," says his Dad. They walk across the brightly lit parking lot and Stiles glances to the darkness of the woods beyond. Tries not to stare and fails. "If you do, maybe it'll relax you enough to remember."

"Maybe." Stiles gets in the passenger side of the patrol car, for once not tempted to play with the dials or to spin through the channels looking for a good crime to follow up on. "And you look like you should share a sleeping pill, you had the night shift last night, so I know you didn't sleep."

"Maybe," his Dad says, concentrating on his driving. And, by the tenseness of his hands on the wheel, concentrating also on not asking too many questions. He's learned, Stiles knows this, sadly, that asking questions will make his son clam up and talk about anything but what he needs to know.

"Make you a deal, Dad," says Stiles. "I'll take one if you will."

"Aren't you afraid your attacker will come back?"

"No," says Stiles. "Because I know that you've got a deputy swinging by every half hour tonight, if not more often than that. I know you got it covered, Dad."

"Yeah."

Stiles checks the rearview mirror on his side. There's a car back there, dark and sleek and growling. It doesn't take anything at all to figure that it's Derek's car. There'll be no way to keep him from coming in the house, once he's figured out the deputies swing-by schedule, and nothing to keep him from Stiles' bedroom. Taking a sleeping pill now would be a bad idea; Stiles resolves to make his Dad take one, and Stiles will just fake it.

***

Stiles waits in the corner of the room, the corner that seems most safe, on the far side from the window, between the dresser and the bed. The window is open, and as his Dad, dosed with an Ambien, sleeps on the couch in the living room below, Stiles props himself on the least bruised part of his bottom, with his thighs tucked close and his arms wrapped around his knees. The window is open and he waits.

The threat of rain makes the air sticky on his skin; he imagines he can see the edges of the grey, tossing clouds as they trim the trees. He hears a clonk against the outside wall and imagines it a branch, or, yet again, Mrs. Winterston's ugly cat, but when he sees the outline of a shadow loom in the open window, he knows it is not.

And as Derek canons into the room, crouching on the floor to balance himself, Stiles gasps sharply. He cannot help it, his body is starting to run away with him, galloping, till he must press against the wall, trying to lever himself to his feet. For he has a werewolf in his room, and as any fool knows, in order to flee from fang and sharp claws, you first need to be on your feet. On your toes, even, ready for that first sprint. That's what his body is telling him, is screaming at him, just now, as Derek stands up and rounds the corner of the bed.

Derek, in following Stiles all this way, is still rumpled from the road, the shine of sweat on his neck, circles of dirt and damp beneath his arms, smears of dust on his jeans. There's even a long circle on the side of his t-shirt of what might be a coffee stain, from Derek's last twenty four hours, while he, as his Dad put it, called into the sheriff's station every hour, and combed most of northern California, looking for Stiles.

His Dad had shaken his head at this excessive behavior, and Stiles, not wanting to explain any of the truth, had opted to explain none of it. Because, as you see, we're kinda, sorta mated, Dad, and we might be mated for life, only I'm not sure. Funny thing is, Derek's not sure either, like he's not about a lot of things, but that's not his fault, it really isn't, and even though it wasn't him coming through that motel room door? I knew he was looking for me, looking all the time, so you're not really telling me anything I don't already know. But thank you, because, yeah, Derek.

His eyes cast red, Derek spots Stiles right away, in the corner, still struggling to his feet. Derek's shoulders are tense, mouth curved into a frown as he comes at Stiles. As Derek's mouth opens, Stiles can see points of fangs, in rage, some contained fury, and breaking, Stiles reaches for his lacrosse stick. It's his practice one, dusty from disuse since the end of school. Stiles grabs it, testing the weight and as Derek pauses, Stiles holds it out, a spear with no point.

"Stop, just stop right there." Stiles' voice cracks and he waves the lacrosse stick, too lightly to do any damage, but a warning. "I rubbed it with wolfs bane, so you just--just--"

Derek stops, an automatic freeze that leaves the room so silent that Stiles can hear the wind whisking, hot, through the trees, faraway rumble of thunder, his own panting breaths. He's sweating along the back of his scalp; sweat trickles in front of his ear. Adrenaline jitters through him, under his skin like an electric current, urging him to move.

Except the path to the door or the window is blocked by Derek. Hulking there with his shoulders, legs braced, poised and ready to grab Stiles and stop him, should he try to run. Stiles can see it; he's not going anywhere. Derek has been following close behind him for hours, and his hands clench and unclench along his thighs, and Stiles can't be sure about this, but it might be a wolf thing. That Derek needs to touch him to make sure that he's okay. To tend to him, to repair him from whoever has used him ill, and because it's an alpha werewolf thing, there might not be anything Stiles can do to stop it.

"Wolfs bane?" asks Derek, low and Stiles' heart pangs; there's a sad little flicker in Derek's eyes, as he takes another step closer.

"No," says Stiles, giving in, his voice shaking. "Of course not, it's just that--" He lets go of the lacrosse stick to only hold it with one hand, holding it by his side, using his other hand to wave a circle, a description of the day, the whirlwind it so quickly became. As he does this Derek takes another step forward and yanks the lacrosse stick from Stiles' hand and throws it across the room.

It clatters against the bedroom door and falls to the floor, leaving Stiles with no defense. Leaving him with his bare arms and legs, with only his cotton t-shirt and shorts between him and Derek's fury. He can't imagine that Derek is mad at him, even though maybe some of it is based on what Derek might consider Stiles' stupidity to get grabbed from his own front step, but the rest of it? Fury that Stiles was grabbed at all, an anger has only one object in its sight: Stiles.

Stiles backs up, hands splayed out. He's panting now, ragged gasps for breath that don't seem to be getting any air into his lungs whatsoever. Derek walks up to him, pace by pace, an aborted game of Red Light, Green Light, that's all green, all go, till he is close enough that Stiles can feel the air stir and crackle between them.

"There is no wolfs bane, not any, I was just saying that to, oh god--"

Derek reaches up as if to touch Stiles' face and Stiles jerks back hard enough to smack his head into the wall. He pushes back as far as he can, jerking up his chin, stretching his neck, as far as he can, as far as he can, and still it's not enough, as he looks at Derek out of the corner of his eyes.

"Don't touch me, please don't touch me, I can't--" He's struggling to gasp out even this much. "I've been pawed at, are you listening to me, pawed at all day, wolves, and paramedics, and the nurse, and then my Dad, one more, just one more and I'm going to come apart--"

In an instant, Derek's hand freezes, his palm only inches from Stiles' face, fingers tipped forward, the barest of claws along the edge of each one.

"I smell--" Derek's voice sounds ragged. "I smell four wolves on you. And blood beneath your skin. What happened to you?"

Stiles half-closes his eyes, and turns his head away, he wants to get away. But Derek is there, blocking everything, even the movement of air with his body.

"And hand-shy of me, as well." There is a dark worn sound when Derek speaks, as if the words, the idea of them, tear at Derek from the inside. At the thought of a wound he simply cannot mend.

Stiles eyes feel hot and he, for his part, simply cannot bear to have Derek see him cry, but he is on the very verge of it, now that he's at home, in his own room, as safe as he ever can be. It's just that there are flickers of the wolf around Derek, in his face, his eyes, the pulse of a warning of him about to come undone, the echo of this ricochets through Stiles, and two hot tears race from his eyes, just the same.

"I was--I didn't let him--" Stiles hears his voice hitch and break and he swallows biting his lips between his teeth, clenching his fists at his sides, trying to hold on. "He didn't--"

"He didn't rape you," Derek says for him. "But who is he? One of the wolves I smell?"

Stiles nods, watching as Derek drops his hand to his side and actually backs away. Feet away, so that Stiles has enough room to slip past him. And by the slight nod that Derek gives him, his intention is clear: Stiles is free to go.

But Stiles doesn't move, even though to stay right where he is takes everything he has.

"Just tell me, Stiles."

"The Trans Am wolf, Grant, grabbed me this morning--I was just leaving to come to your house for our run, our first run--he took me someplace, but before he--well, this other wolf, an alpha and two betas--"

It's easier once he starts talking, but when he sees Derek's eyebrows shoot up, amazed, he stops. And Stiles is a little amazed himself, because to say it out loud, for the first time today, no one else would have believed him, is to hear how fantastical it sounds. That he, Stiles, had an encounter with four wolves today, none of whom he knew, and one of which was an alpha, and lived to tell the tale? Is amazing. He laughs a little, more of a scoff at his own temerity to scale such heights, and he only a mere human. But Derek scowls and Stiles realizes it's nervous laughter.

"The alpha, Norman, broke Grant's neck, and then he told me--"

"So the wolf who took you is dead."

Stiles nods, and, feeling the sweat grow on his palms, wipes them on his shorts. Derek is looking down at the floor, studying it, maybe looking for answers there, and it occurs to Stiles what might be wrong. For Derek is completely human now, fangs gone, shoulders down, the shadows of his eyelashes on his cheeks making him as vulnerable as any tender human.

And it is because of this, that Stiles can sense that Derek is not merely affronted by the fact that another wolf took Stiles, nor that another alpha saved him, no. More, he is wounded by it. As though there were some werewolf code of honor, prescribed actions in situation like this, and Derek feels himself to have failed. Stiles can see this in the droop of Derek's shoulders, the way his mouth works against his teeth. But it's only going to get worse when Stiles tells him the rest of it. But not to tell him will leave Stiles too exposed to future attacks. And his Dad. And Derek, if he's not ready for it. So Stiles has to.

"So this what the alpha said," Stiles hurries to tell everything now, now that he's started. "His name is Norman Stone, do you know him?"

Stiles pauses after the question and realizes that he wants Derek to be curious and to look up at Stiles. Or maybe it is easier than Derek isn't looking at Stiles as Stiles explains his very most difficult truth.

"No," says Derek, answering that much.

"No, of course not, I mean, is there a werewolf telephone book out there, or even a guide to all the territories listed in alpha-betical order?" Stiles tries on a laugh , but it falls like a smack in the still air and he wishes he'd though to put the whole house fan on before he'd hidden in the corner of his room, before he had to sweat himself to death while getting through this particular conversation.

"I wanted it to be you," says Stiles, swallowing against his own nervousness. "When the door to that motel room opened, I thought it was you--but--"

"But it wasn't."

Stiles might as well have punched Derek in the stomach or spat in his face; he'd said the very wrongest thing, in his scrabble to make it right. And wonders how, when only a moment before he'd been huddled in the corner, he now only wants to reach out to Derek, to touch him and let him know that it's okay, his Stiles is okay, and that everything is going to be okay.

Stiles' body is full of other responses, the jittery remains to run, the urge to crawl under his bed and hide until this is all over. But it is the last one, the one where his hand wants to reach out, his palm, his fingers, itch for skin, that he gives in to. For he wants something that doesn't hurt, that doesn't make him wince or shy away. Where, having made that contact, he can safely close his eyes and shut away the sparks of terror and keep him away from shadows in the dark.

"Derek." His mouth wobbles when he says this, and he flushes. Reaches out anyway, and shudders when the tips of his fingers brush Derek's forearm.

Now Derek is still, pausing, his whole body pausing, as if he'd just been on the verge of leaving. And has changed his mind, nostrils flaring, as if there were some invisible foe to vanquish, here in this very room.

"Why is there blood under your skin, if he didn't rape you. And don't tell me there isn't, I can smell it."

Stiles pulls his lips against his teeth; everything he says, that he needs to say, is destined to set Derek off again. But to keep anything from Derek that he needs to know would be the coward's way out.

"He--Grant--got mad when I--" Stiles stutters to a stop, watches Derek twitch with impatience.

"I smacked him, clonked him in the, well, handcuffs are metal, aren't they, and that's when he got mad." Stiles licks his lips. "Yeah." he breathes it out like a sigh. "He got pretty mad."

"He beat you," says Derek. He looks up and his eyes flick up and down Stiles' body, as if calculating where and how and how hard. Where the blood ran thickest, where the bruises were long and dark.

"Yeah," says Stiles again and there's a shakiness in his voice that he attempts to shrug off because what else can you do, what else was I supposed to do, he was coming at me like he really wanted me and I'm not used to being wanted like that, and he was fierce, and then he got mad, but it's not my fault, don't you see?

Not that he's sure why he feels bad on Derek's behalf, though Derek's whole body has tightened up upon hearing this. He steps forward now and with the arm that Stiles has touched, twists his wrist until his fingers are wrapped around the bandage on Stiles' wrist.

"Did he break the skin?"

"N--I mean, um, I don't know?" Because he doesn't know, in spite of having been given the once over by two different nurses and his Dad, as he's not had the heart to look at himself, to examine the damage left behind by a pheromone-deranged werewolf. He's not got the heart to look today, even though it's not like the last time, by any means. He's not got blood leaking out of him, he's not in shock, but it rattled him just the same. More than he thought possible.

And now Derek's looking at him, lips curling as though he's preparing himself to snack on Stiles' flesh, on this stupid weak human who can't seem to keep himself out of trouble. The tremors start up, coming up Stiles' spine, lancing through his gut, but Derek only moves close, slowly, touching the collar of Stiles' t-shirt, whispering the lips of his fingers along Stiles' skin.

"Let me see." Derek lifts his head and looks Stiles in the eyes; the red is gone, now, but there's a darkness lurking there, just below the surface. Stiles feels it, a small flicker, and senses that if he refuses, Derek might go, and it will be as if with the promise that he'll never darken Stiles' door again. Or his window. Or anywhere. Because, as you see, Derek is that type of wolf. As is Norman Stone, though Stiles wants to kick himself for even thinking of Norman, but Norman didn't trespass, even though Stiles was, and is, open season. And even though Derek has, according to some werewolf lore that Stiles knows he will never fully understand, Derek has rights, neither will he assert them if Stiles does not want it.

He's shaking, knows that Derek can feel it, and he's not sure how he's going to say any of this, not with Derek so close. But then Derek cups his fingers around the back of Stiles' neck, and where Stiles had been flushed, sweaty, where the tips of Derek's fingers are is cool, where his fingers move is cool. Anywhere near that touch, and the muscles, all bunched and tight, come undone, and Stiles' mouth opens, he can taste the dry, still air, smell the heat of his own sweat, of Derek's.

"Stiles." Derek says this, then closes his mouth over it. Waits. "Where did he hit you?"

"All over, but don't--don't get mad. Don't yell or snarl or whatever, there's been so much yelling and neck-snapping and angry, angry wolves, I just don't think I can--"

Derek reaches out, one hand on the hem of Stiles' t-shirt.

"I'm not going to hurt you," Derek says this, his mouth thin with anger and Stiles wants to believe him, believe him so bad--

"Promise? You promise? Because you might lose it when you see--he was so angry--"

Derek takes one hand and cups the side of Stiles' face, the side that had gotten hit over and over in the Trans Am. And the whole of Stiles face goes cool and soothed, almost down to the bone. He sighs with it, his mouth open, sighing, his shoulders dropping, relaxing. Leaning his face into Derek's palm, cupped and steady, as Stiles presses into it.

"Better?"

Stiles can only nod, his eyes half closing over the ease of it. Glad, ever so glad, that Derek doesn't take the moment to suggest that if Stiles would just take the pain medication his Dad brought home, some of those muscle relaxants, and an Ambien, then he wouldn't be as tightly strung as he is, about to break and shatter. But Derek's touch is far better than any pill, which always leave funny tastes in his mouth, and he doesn't like them.

"So take off your shirt and trust me."

There's that key word, trust, something that Derek has bantered about more than once. Stiles trusts Derek more than the pills, so he's going to do as Derek says. Shy about his own bareness in any case, he has to remind himself that there is nothing that Derek hasn't already seen of him. The paleness, the moles, the muscle that never seems to be enough when he looks at himself in the mirror. But there are bruises now and welts, and as Stiles starts to lift up the edges of his t-shirt, he can see the red flare in Derek's eyes and keeps going, anyway. Pulls off the t-shirt in one motion and holds it between two hands clasped in front of him.

"Please don't yell," he says, and it's almost a whisper. "Don't make that sound, you know the one you do--" Stiles motions around his own throat, where deep, chest deep growls come from. "Please don't."

Derek looks like he wants to, most definitely wants to, with his brows lowered, that downcurved frown, but his hands reach and he doesn't yell, or even growl. Instead he puts both hands on Stiles' shoulders and turns him slightly and looks. Looks at the marks along Stiles' ribs, that Stiles can see if he looks down, like he's doing now. To see what Derek is seeing. At the rouge-edged blue bruises from a werewolf's fist, and the long stripes up and down Stiles' back, the tip-points of bruised and bloody black where the edge of Grant's belt had bitten into him.

Derek takes one hand and runs it lightly down Stiles' ribs, making Stiles' skin jump and shiver, and then runs it up again. He turns Stiles till he's facing the wall. He doesn't tell Stiles to find an anchor, but that's because it's not that bad, probably not that bad, and then Derek touches a place on Stiles' back and growls. Stiles shivers again, up his spine, arching away to press into the wall. Not that Derek's going to bite him, but he sounds like, in spite of Stiles' pleas, that he's on the edge of snapping teeth. There's a guttural snarl that has the back of Stiles' neck cringing in anticipation.

Stiles drops the shirt and puts his palms against the wall as if to push off of it. But Derek is there, pressed too close for Stiles to move, more than that. His hands sweep across Stiles' shoulders, chasing a rush of coolness behind them, and something soft whispers across his skin.

"Stiles," says Derek, and Stiles realizes that it's Derek's mouth moving across his skin. A long line of moistness, a long stripe across his back that burns and then lingers away into coolness, leaving that part of his skin at ease, soothing the welt. There's another swath, a small pressure, the scratch of stubble and Stiles realizes that Derek is licking him. Putting his mouth, the pad of his tongue, on Stiles, licking his bruises and welts away, soothing him with his mouth.

Stiles' mouth falls open, silent. Scott had never told him of this. Hands yes, the laying on of hands for healing, but not mouths. And it's definitely Derek's mouth on him, soft and pressing, now flutteringly light, when it feels as though Derek's pressing open-mouthed kisses onto his skin. As Derek's mouth shifts and Stiles is almost flat against the wall, Derek licks along the middle of Stiles' back; his skin twitches with it and his whole body shivers as Derek's hands move around his waist to his front and start undoing the button, the zipper.

"Wait--" Stiles tries to turn around, but Derek puts his hands on Stiles' shoulders and holds him there. As though it were an imperative, this unwritten thing, that Derek can leave no bruise untended. Stiles makes gurgling noises in his throat, inarticulate sounds that are neither yes nor no; his whole body is vibrating as Derek tucks his fingers beneath the waistband of Stiles' underwear and pulls them and the shorts down together to bunch around his ankles, leaving Stiles bare, the heat of the still air in the room sticking to his skin.

With a sweep of his hand, fingers curving around Stiles' hip, Derek seems to pet Stiles, touching his bottom, careful and light.

"Stiles," he says, not growling.

"I know, I know," says Stiles, teeth chattering over the words. "But it's not so bad, right? Not so bad."

"You're black and blue," says Derek, with a low sound in his throat, an unreleased growl. His voice is pitched and rough, and Stiles thinks he is angry that Stiles was so roughly treated, and at this, Stiles feels his eyes grow hot and he blinks fiercely to keep the tears at bay.

"Okay?" asks Derek and Stiles feels him bend low, and feels the touch of Derek's lips against his skin, the soft whisper of wet as Derek licks across him, from his hip to the crease at the top of his bottom and back again. And across the curve of his bottom, underneath, where the skin is most tender, and where the belt hurt the most. And where the moist touch of Derek's mouth lingers, there is a trail of coolness left behind, the heat from the welts leaving him, the unclenching of muscles, and Stiles sighs. He'd not realized how tightly he'd been holding himself, in Norman's car, in the deputy's car, in the hospital. At home, waiting for Derek. Not until now, this moment, as Derek's tongue dips low in the crease below his bottom.

He looks down and sees Derek's red mouth on the pale angle of his hip, lashes dark on his cheeks, the flick of his tongue, the swipe of moisture this leaves behind. Stiles looks away, and tries not to squirm, as his mind begins to speculate where else Derek might put his tongue, if he'd a mind too. He rests his head against the wall, hiding, in the hollow shadow of his arms. His backside feels soothed, the aches and twinges and thumps for which he'd been unwilling to take any painkillers ease away, cooled by the touch of Derek's tongue. Derek's hands rest on Stile's hips, and when Stiles glances back, he can see that Derek is resting on his heels, hands on Stiles, looking up at him.

"Better?"

Stiles sighs and nods. Derek stands up and pulls up his underwear and cotton shorts, reaching around Stiles to do up Stiles' zipper and button, leaving a trail of his fingers on Stiles' waistband, a gesture, soothing and slow. Then Stiles feels cloth against his chest and opens his eyes fully to realize that it's Derek handing him his t-shirt. He puts it on; it slithers across his skin and he feels Derek watching him, shying away from this, just as he pauses before he turns around.

"Better," Derek says nodding, confirming it as he lets Stiles go.

Derek is a little white around the mouth, flesh tight next to his eyes. He doesn't look as bad as the last time he'd tended to Stiles, healed him by touch. But it's been enough of a drain, it's easy to see, by the way his shoulders slump and his head is bowed.

"Going to sit," says Derek, and he slides to the floor and leans his back against it. With bent knees, he lays his arms across them, hands dangling. Then he takes a deep breath, whooshes it out. He's no less pale, but at least it doesn't look like he's going to fall over. He wraps his arms around his knees and tips his head forward to lean against them, much in the way Stiles had earlier.

The echo of Derek's body to his own, pulls Stiles away from the wall, to back up and really look at Derek. There's sweat on the back of his neck, and dust from the road, and he looks so tired. Stiles is tired too, but he's just been made to feel much better; Derek should have something of the same, but it doesn't look like Derek is about to take orders, or even suggestions, to take a shower or eat something, so Stiles thinks of something different.

He props the door to his room open halfway, using his bare foot to shove the little, brown rubber wedge his Dad had bought at the hardware store beneath the bottom of the door. Then he pads into the hallway to the controls for the whole house fan. There he sets it for eight hours, and puts the fan on low. The white shutter flaps clomp open and the fan starts up with a low whub-whub sound that soon dims into a low hum. The breeze skirts through the hallway almost immediately, and as Stiles slips through the partially opened door to his room, he can feel that the temperature has dropped a few degrees. It's not that much cooler, really, but the movement of air across his skin makes him feel that way.

He goes over to Derek and gets down on the floor, crouching in front of Derek on his hands and knees. Looking. Watching.

"Fan?" asks Derek. He lifts his head a fraction, turning it so that his neck is exposed, so the air can move across it. His damp-dark hair sticks to his forehead.

"Yes," says Stiles. "It's a whole house fan. My Dad put it in himself, the year after Mom died. It gave him something to do, but it really is cool. I mean, literally cool. You can have all the windows open, and the air gets sucked up into the attic. And it makes this sound, this white noise, to fall asleep to. I'm in love with this fan. I'm going to marry this fan."

Derek nods, absently, too distracted, it seems, by the effects of Stiles' intended life-partner-to-be to say anything, but Stiles thinks he gets it.

"It feels good, doesn't it? Nice and cool, with the fresh air from outside, you can smell the trees, the heat of the pines when it really gets hot in the summertime, I love that smell. I never tell anyone, not even Scott, because people give you strange looks, being in love with the smell of hot pine trees, but you know. It makes me feel better, like I'm in the mountains, and nothing can hurt me. Or you."

Derek raises his head, green eyes flicking open just over the edge of his folded arms. He's looking at Stiles as he might look at a problem, something to solve, something he doesn't quite have the energy to do, just yet.

So Stiles hurries to explain, the raw feeling in his chest, pushing upwards, the unexplained ache that is stirring, coming back from a memory he thinks he's been keeping buried, even to himself.

"I keep thinking of us back there, you and me. Sleeping on that cold, linoleum floor, while the air conditioner made that noise it makes. It's not like the fan, the fan is less there, if you know what I mean, you almost forget it after a while. But it's like that, what I want. You and me, sleeping on that floor. Me watching over you, and you me. The danger gone, for a while, and nothing can get us." Stiles gulps over the lump in his throat, and ducks his head. "I keep trying to get back there, but stuff keeps happening, and I don't think I can."

There's a gesture that Derek makes when he figures things out, a jerk of his chin, a sideways flick of his eyes. He does this now, eyebrows quirking for a second as he looks at Stiles. He unfolds his arms from his knees, and jerks his chin at Stiles.

For a second, Stiles doesn't understand, and then he does. He rises up and pushes between Derek's bent knees, burring under Derek's chin again. He half loses his balance, and plants his hand on Derek's ribs to stabilize himself. With a low sound, Derek lowers his chin, rubbing the top of Stiles' head with it, returning Stiles' gesture with one of his own. And then pulls Stiles to him, a round, two-armed embrace that collapses Stiles even further, making him sprawl between Derek's bent thighs, his mouth tasting the cotton of Derek's t-shirt.

Stiles loops his arms around Derek's waist, resting there, his ear to Derek's chest, listening to the steady thrum of his heart, the steady, soothing rise and fall of Derek's breathing. His own breath shudders out of him; he keeps trying to calm down, but his body jerks when he tries, and he pushes with his bare feet, trying to get closer.

"It's okay, cub," says Derek, almost in his ear, in a low, low voice. "Rest now, rest. Close your eyes, take a deep breath for me. Slow, slow." It's like a lullaby, a soft deep thing, restful. Derek pets through Stiles' shorn hair, and Stiles blinks a few times and closes his eyes. "We'll figure it out, we will, cub, but rest now."

Stiles makes himself take a deep breath and keeps his eyes closed and shifts to slump all of his weight against Derek's chest. Yes, the floor is hard, the carpet scratchy on his bare legs, but he's safely ensconced between Derek's thighs, Derek's arms, strong and steady around him. The room is cool enough that if the floor were linoleum, he would be back in the cabin, pillows on the floor, stiff, plastic blankets against his skin. And safe. Safer than he's ever been.

***

Morning brings an awareness, sheets and pillow and the bright blue sky out of his window, the storm clouds and their abortive lack of rain not having moved in for the day. He's covered with a sheet, his head on the pillow, though he doesn't remember getting into bed, let alone undressing down to his underwear. Yet, there he is, blinking against the remains of sleep, rubbing the grit from his eyes, looking at the door, which is now propped fully open to let in the maximum amount of breeze.

He looks over and imagines that he might see an indent from another head, the rumples and wrinkles in the sheet that would signal that another person had lain there, for at least part of the night. But he is probably imagining it; there are no stray hairs, it doesn't smell like anyone but himself. His last memory is of lying on the floor with Derek, between his thighs, being sung to sleep with a special kind of low-voiced wolf lullaby. Not getting into bed at all. And yet. There's a sense memory there, of stretching out, of being a little surprised to have Derek there, lying next to him. Reaching out to touch Derek's dark hair, and mid-way, simply falling asleep.

There's a tap on his door, and his Dad is standing there. Dressed in tans and browns, gun belt on, ready for work.

"Did you sleep okay?" his Dad asks. "I know I did. Thanks for sharing the good drugs with me."

"I slept good," says Stiles, running his hands through his short hair. "Maybe too good. That Ambien sure is potent." Even though he'd not taken any, and my, it isn't even nine o'clock and the lies are starting already.

"I'd tell you to take it easy, but we need groceries. So, I left you a list and some money, could you go before it gets too hot?"

"Which means you want ice cream," says Stiles, not really up to fighting the good fight for his father's health. Besides, ice cream would taste really good right now, only who in the world has ice cream for breakfast?

"Yes," says his Dad, to which he adds, magnanimously, "and get some for yourself as well."

"Sure Dad," Stiles says. He sits up, pushing the sheet back, forgetting his bruises for a second. But it's too late, his Dad can see. Or can't see, as Stiles looks down at him and observes. The bruises and welts are half of what they were the day before, merely faint lines, redness, patches of blue and green, the yellow of faded marks.

"You look much better, son," says his Dad.

"Yeah," says Stiles. "I told you it wasn't that bad. So now, look, see?" He lifts his arms so his ribs show. "I'm a fast healer."

"Take it easy just the same, and…any chance you have any more memory about what happened yesterday?"

Stiles shakes his head, pulling his mouth against his teeth. Lie number two for the day is well under way. That it's for his Dad's protection doesn't make it any easier. Never has, never will. "I think I blocked the whole thing. You know, like you do."

"I see," says his Dad, in an I'm-already-at-work kind of way, already dealing with a witness who is no kind of witness at all, but still must be listened to. "Well, if you remember anything, you call me, okay? I'm sending my best deputy out to talk to neighbors, see if they saw anything."

"Okay, Dad," says Stiles. He watches his Dad go, hears him clonk down the stairs in his black polished work shoes, listens to him as he checks doors, looks for his keys, on his way out of the house.

Stiles sits on the edge of his bed until he hears the engine of the squad car pulling away down the street. Then he gets up and takes the bandages off his wrists and takes a shower, gingerly touching all the spots that hurt yesterday, but after Derek's touches, now, not so much. He brushes his teeth without looking at himself in the mirror, and then gets dressed in clean clothes.

It's going to be a hot day, he can feel it already, sweat prickling up on his skin as he half-shuts the upstairs windows and turns off the whole house fan; no sense pulling hot air through the house. When he goes downstairs, he pockets his Dad's money and the list of things they need, then puts on his sneakers, his old ones, the ones that are so broken in that he doesn't need to wear socks with them. They are the same pair he ran in the day the first wolf attacked him. In the woods, when Derek rescued him. He'd been wearing his other ones, the new, barely-broken-in ones, when Grant had taken him, and when he'd gotten to the hospital, they'd been retained as evidence. In a crime.

Which reminds him straight up that he forgot to tell Derek what Norman Stone had told him. If an alpha werewolf could be at all believed. Even if it's not true, Derek would be more than irritated that Stiles hadn't shared that particular piece of news with him. So Stiles gets up, feeling a sudden rush of nervous sweat break out all over him, and grabs his phone from the charger on the counter. He has Derek's number, of course, he does, but when he dials the phone, sweaty fingers leaving smudge marks on the protective cover, all he gets is Derek's voice mail. And there's no way, not on this earth or the hell to follow, that Stiles is going to leave a message like that, not on anyone's phone.

Instead he stows the phone in his pocket, and goes out to his overly hot Jeep and heads off to the grocery store. There's nothing more normal than a grocery store, air conditioned, overly bright, filled with regular people doing their everyday shopping. He'll try Derek again in a bit, or maybe just go by his house, which would be the best way to deliver news like this. Stiles isn't sure how he feels about it himself, but he's pretty sure Derek won't be happy.

***

The grocery store is not that crowded, it's too early for moms and their children, too late for the folks on the way to their jobs. So right now, in the wide, brightly lit, air conditioned aisles, it's just Stiles and the grandmas, and the one guy with his grubby clothes who might be a painter picking up his lunch and water for the day, or who might be a vagrant looking to five-finger some cookies and milk.

Stiles pushes his nearly empty cart. He's leaving the ice cream till last, and promises himself he won't forget it, just to show his Dad how much he disapproves of the treat. Besides, he likes ice cream too, and after yesterday, he figures both of them deserve to have something nice to eat. So he wanders through the aisles, getting crackers, and whole wheat bread, and little cans of tomato juice, which are meant for breakfast and not for cocktails, and thinks about how he's going to explain the codicil to the marking and claiming ceremony.

He likes to think he's more calm about that than he is, but while he's been done unto, he's never--has never--had sex like that, like what Norman's talking about. Oh, sure, he could look it up on the internet, but with the sheer amount of detail he's likely to encounter, and has, when he's chanced upon it in the past, skimmed over, it's more probable that he'll be freaked out than enlightened. At that, the simple physical details of it, is the least of it.

Not to mention that very idea of getting Derek to agree to going on his hands and knees, and making him hold still in a very non-alpha position for Stiles to mount him? Makes his blood stop right in his veins. Ice cold. Just like that and the air conditioner is suddenly too much. Stiles thinks he will hurry now, get the very basics and the ice cream and race home and get over to the Hale house to get the whole thing over with. Right away. As soon as possible.

"Going anywhere, Stiles?" asks a voice. "Or maybe you have time for a few questions of mine."

Stiles jerks on the handle to make the cart stop, and spins around, thinking he's just gotten spotted by Norman Stone, with a voice like that, but it's Chris Argent. Not that it makes it any better, or makes Stiles heart slow down, not even if Mr. Argent is dressed like a regular guy, in shorts and flip flops, on account of the heat, not even if he's not got his gun on him, because with Mr. Argent, you just never know. He could have a slender but sharp and pointy knife in the pocket of his madras button down, just for encounters in grocery stores.

"H-hey, Mr. Argent," says Stiles, but his voice squeaks and he realizes that he's backing up, pushing the cart back with his butt, just to get away.

Chris Argent clamps a hand on the back of Stiles neck, and pulls him into the tiny space between an in-aisle display and a row of stacked cans. Fingers dig into the muscles of Stiles' neck and Stiles winces, wanting to show Mr. Argent that yes, he's hurting Stiles, and no, Stiles is not trying to get away.

"What--what do you want? I didn't do anything."

"Ah, but you did." Chris Argent bares his teeth at Stiles in a way, though he would not want to hear it described, of a wolf. A wolf on two legs. "You guided an alpha and several betas to the boundaries of our fair city. You led them to us."

"How did you find out about that?" Stiles can't help it, the question pops out before he can stop it.

"I've got eyes and I've got ears all over this town, this state. There's barely a wolf moves that I don't hear about it, you understand? So before it becomes necessary for me to do bodily damage, I suggest you start talking."

Chris Argent gives him a shake, still holding on to his neck, and like he means business, and Stiles wouldn't presume to question Mr. Argent, a grownup, on just who's in charge of protecting the citizens of Beacon Hills. Because, yes, for regular crimes, Sheriff Stilinski can't be beat, but for wolves, werewolves, Chris Argent is your man. But Stiles can't tell, he can't even begin to explain what had happened the day before. And that's because, yes, Norman Stone told him not to, threatened him not to. And besides, in the part of his mind that's not cringing away, he doesn't want to explain why Derek wasn't there to protect him this time. Like he was the last time.

"C'mon, Stiles," says Mr. Argent, low, his face close to Stiles'. "Start talking, or we're going to create a little mess in aisle four, you and me."

Stiles doubts that Mr. Argent would actually do anything in public, but he'd have good opportunity to find Stiles at home, or just to drag him out back, near the shipping docks, right here and now, and give it to him good, until Stiles breaks and starts talking. And he's shaken enough to do just about that, even though he knows he shouldn't, that he can't--when he hears a voice over his shoulder. Another, higher voice, that he knows from his own street, having heard it shrieking along the sidewalk for many, many years.

"Stiles Stilinski! When will you ever learn to use your indoor voice!" Never mind the fact that the voice is at a volume that would do a football coach proud, and could have been heard to the other team's end zone. "It's rude to disrupt other people going about their business!"

Stiles turns, and Mr. Argent turns, to see Mrs. Winterston pushing her nearly full cart right at them, like a battering ram, pulling it to a stop only inches before she plows into the in-aisle display, and a tower of neatly stacked cans of peas, and them. Mr. Argent lets go of Stiles just as Mrs. Winterston opens her mouth again.

"Why, I have half a mind to call your father right now, if I'd just not gotten off the phone with him, for who am I to disturb a good man while he's working?" Mrs. Winterston's white-grey hair, done up in a bun far too elaborate for mere grocery shopping, bobs as she nods. Her yellow seersucker cotton dress looks right out of a fashion magazine of the 50's; Mrs. Winterston is ready for an afternoon at the country club, and yet here she is, complaining at the grocery store, and yelling, her orange lipstick moving in time with her words. "Good morning, Mr. Argent," she says now, eyeing Stiles as if only herself and Mr. Argent are a demonstration of how people with manners behave.

"Good morning," says Chris Argent. His hands fall to his sides as he gives Mrs. Winterston a quick nod and then scoots up the aisle away from her; he's got more important things to do today and Stiles imagines, as he rubs the back of his neck, that Mr. Argent probably feels that his message of warning and dire consequences has been duly delivered and received.

"Honestly, Stiles," says Mrs. Winterston, shaking her head and her hair at him. "That horrible man, with his shifty eyes, up to no good, I expect. And you, lingering like this, when your father sent you to the grocery store on an errand. Hadn't you better be about your business?"

Stiles opens his mouth, thinking to apologize and scoot, much in the way of Mr. Argent, but Mrs. Winterston is about to talk again, and he knows better than to interrupt her. Mrs. Winterston is famous for her many, many columns in the newspaper and articles in the community newsletter about the shiftless ways of young teens in Beacon Hills. Stiles has not been mentioned, exactly, at least not by name, but his Dad has warned him about upsetting Mrs. Winterston and so, Stiles shuts his mouth.

"I was just talking to your Dad, such a good man, and mentioned the fact that I happened to see, just yesterday, as you were stepping out to go do some running with…that young man, the Hale boy, and voila, a gold Trans Am right out of Smokey and the Bandit shows up and off you go. Why, it wasn't until later that I discovered you'd gone off in that car non-voluntarily, and I was quite ashamed that I'd not called it in sooner. But I've done my neighborly duty today, yes, I have, and given your Dad a complete description, down to the paint scrape on the rear bumper and at least half the license plate, if not more."

From which Grant the Dead Werewolf will be easily traceable. Stiles feels even colder now, and realize the whole incident, instead of being easily swept under the rug or purposefully forgotten until is went away, is about to be blown wide open by Mrs. Winterston and her big, orange-colored mouth.

"Don't just stare at me with your mouth open, young man," says Mrs. Winterston with a snap. She flexes her thin wrists giving the shopping cart a shake, as if to demonstrate how she could so easily give young Stiles a shake, if she could just reach him. "Get on with your chores, like a good son, and now if you'll let me by, I can finish with my morning and get back to my house before it rains."

It's not going to rain, Stiles could tell her that, but then she'd just say he was contradicting her, so he doesn't. Instead he grabs his own car, and maneuvers it around hers, which is hard, since hers is parked at an angle, jamming up the already narrowed aisle. But he manages it, and then leaves the cart at the end of the aisle and hurries out into the parking lot, staggering when the heat rising off the blacktop smacks him in the face. As he reaches into his pocket for his phone, he looks around, but doesn't see Chris Argent's red SUV, though he does spot Mrs. Winterston's bright blue Lincoln Towncar, parked in a scattered way, and taking up two spaces.

The phone slips in his hands, and the sun beats down on the screen, obscuring the images and icons. But he dials Derek's number anyway, and listens to it ring and ring. He doesn't leave a message because, again, there'd be no way to explain this without going over the message time limit and have it make any sense at all. Besides, Derek has no idea who Mrs. Winterston is and probably won't appreciate that in her interfering, nosy neighbor ways, she just saved him from a tough little interrogation in aisle four by Mr. Argent.

He gets into his Jeep, which is stifling hot, like a brick oven, but at least there's some shade so he can see his phone as he gets online and looks up Norman Stone's number. When he finds that there's around ten of them in the L.A. area, he scans through them; he could call them all but that would take too much time and he needs to update Norman before Norman finds out the hard way and takes Stiles, along with everyone he cares about, to task about it.

There's two Norman Stones that seem to be the right sort, one is a lawyer and the other owns a construction company. From what he knows about wolves, a moving target of knowledge at best, wolves like to keep a low profile. At least, with his experience being Derek and Scott and Uncle Peter, they don't walk around advertising it, so perhaps Norman Stone wouldn't be a lawyer; how would he deal with clients on the full moon?

Stiles shakes his head; this kind of reasoning is just the heat getting to him, what he understands about research is how to follow his intuition, those hunches that usually come at two o'clock in the morning and turn out to be exactly right. Only it's 9:12 in the morning, a summer morning so hot, his brain feels as though it's frying. Still, he keeps looking at the address and phone for Norman Stone Construction and feels like it's the one. He's got nothing else to go by, and only a short window to get to Norman Stone before Mrs. Winterston's description, through some mysterious means, gets through to Norman. If I hear of any investigation, I'll come down and kill you myself. Right after I make you slit your own father's throat.

Stiles dials the number, with sweaty thumbs, his hand slipping on the rubber phone guard. The phone rings; the signal is clear, and he's ready when someone picks up.

"Norman Stone Construction, can I help you?"

Stiles licks his lips. "My name is Stiles Stilinski and I need to speak to Norman Stone, right now."

"May I inquire about the nature of your business with Mr. Stone?"

There's no real good way to describe his meeting with Norman Stone, not and sound sane. The possibilities of being able get the message through run the gamut from the receptionist actually knowing about Norman Stone and his werewolf buddies to Stiles having rung up the wrong Norman Stone. Either way, he's got to keep it neutral, but he needs to talk to Norman. Now.

"My name is Stiles Stilinski, I ran into Mr. Stone yesterday. I mean, not literally, ran into him, but we met up, and he told me to call him if I had any trouble with a certain, contract, I guess, and I wanted to call him and say that yes I have, and so can I speak to him?"

"I'm sorry, Mr. Stone is currently unavailable right now, may I take your number and give him a message?"

This is the part that always weirds Stiles out. Most phones have caller ID, so why on earth would anyone want to take down a number, verbally, when they can see it plainly on the screen in front of them? Maybe it's an old fashioned courtesy, because, yes, Norman Stone seemed that kind of wolf.

"Yes, Stiles Stilinski, S-t-i-l-i-n-s-k-i, and I need him to call me back as soon as he can." He gives her the phone number, and when she hangs up, he's left looking at his phone, gasping in the heat, the still air hovering over the blacktop of the parking lot, and wondering how, yet again, he's gotten himself right in the middle of a werewolf mess that he has no real idea how to get out of.

Throwing the phone on the passenger seat, which is never a good idea because the phone always slips to the floor, especially when he's in a hurry, he revs the engine and pops it into first and shoots out of the parking lot, with Mrs. Winterston and her grocery bags full of high-end cat foot goggling at him and his squealing tires. Yes, she'll probably call his Dad and tell him all about it, but with Mrs. Winterston, even though the warnings are always dire, nothing ever comes of it, so his Dad will probably shake his head and deliver a mild, exasperated warning. Whatever. Stiles needs to get to Derek's house, which is where Derek might be on a hot day like this, doing whatever it is he does when not climbing in through Stiles' window. Or rescuing him from rogue werewolves. Or dragging him up into the mountains to hide out in a cabin at the edge of the woods.

He just reaches the turnoff to the road for Beacon Hills Preserve when the phone rings. The number isn't familiar, it's a first time caller, and Stiles has no idea. But he pulls over, leaving the engine running, half in the ditch, and answers the phone.

"Young Stiles, to what do I owe the honor of your panic-tainted voice?"

It's Norman Stone, the exact Norman he needed to talk to. The speed at which he was able to get through to Norman and have Norman call him back is nothing short of miraculous. In fact it's creepy, all the way around, almost as if Norman had the lines tapped and had just been waiting for Stiles' call.

"Your wolf," says Stiles, without preamble. "Grant drove a very eye-catching car, and my neighbor--" Stiles pauses; he's not fond of Mrs. Winterston, but he's not going to throw her under the werewolf bus either. "A neighbor who looks out of her window all the time spotted Grant's car and gave a description and a plate to the Sheriff's office." He's panting when he finishes.

"By Sheriff's office, I presume you mean your father, am I right, Stiles?"

"Yes, but it's not my fault! She looks out her window all the time and you'd have to be microscopic for her to miss anything, and believe me, Grant's Trans Am, his bright gold Trans Am is anything but microscopic, so I'm thinking that if you just, kind of, got rid of the car somehow? Then nothing can be traced to Grant, and--"

"Are you presuming that I have an illegal chop shop at my disposal and can just dismantle' the late Grant's most prized possession?"

Stiles' breath sticks in his throat. "No," he says, his voice low. "But I can't help this, nobody can, and who knows who else saw that car driving out of Beacon Hills yesterday, it's a pretty noticeable car--so you can't blame me! Or my Dad, you can't make me--"

"Are you chastising me, Stiles, for letting one of my own pack have the car of his heart's desire?" Norman's voice is icy. "Should I then come to Beacon Hills and teach you a little lesson about common courtesy towards alphas? Is that yet another thing your own alpha has failed to teach you? Perhaps I ought to teach him a lesson, as well. So he can pass it along, so to speak."

"No," says Stiles, more forcefully than he meant to. But for that second, he's not scared, not of Norman, at the other end of the line, and not even if he were right in the Jeep with Stiles. "You have no right to do that. Wolves have a code, I know they do, and it means keeping their promises, and you said that if I never told anyone that you--that you wouldn't hurt us, so you can't come here. And leave Derek out of this, none of this is his fault, none of it!" The fire leaves him as soon as he stops speaking, with sweat breaking out all over his scalp, his chest hollow for want of air.

"Indeed," says Norman Stone, after a pause, icy, though as polite as ever. "I will check into the situation and let you know what I find out."

With a digital click, Norman Stone hangs up, and Stiles sits there holding his phone for a few minutes, before he uses his thumb to hang up the phone at his end. The fumes from his tailpipe wind their way into the Jeep, reminding Stiles that he's sitting in the woods like an idiot, as if waiting for someone to come and rescue him. He's not stuck; the Jeep can get back on the road easily. But even as he puts the Jeep into first and pulls out of the dirt along the shoulder, he only puts the engine up to 30 mph, not his usual, high-spinning 45, along a beautiful wooded road like this. No. He's got to give Derek all kinds of bad information this morning, and he has no idea where to begin.

***

By the time he gets to Derek's house, the temperature has risen to such heights that heat ghosts dance on the road and Stiles' clothes are wet and sticking to him. There is absolutely no wind through the trees, and Stiles cannot even imagine trying to run in this kind of heat. Derek had spoken of it, over that pizza dinner, how to do that, to pace yourself and run a little slower, giving your body a chance to sweat it out. But they'd not even gotten as far as their first run together before it had all gone to hell. Again.

As he parks the Jeep next to Derek's black Camaro and turns off the engine, he clenches the keys in his hand and looks up. Derek is not on the porch where Stiles is used to seeing him. Instead he's coming from the far side of the house, near the woods, wearing gloves and hauling branches in the heat of the day, like the swamping waves of coal hot air means nothing to him. Except Stiles can see the sweat sticking in large circles to his chest, under his arm, so it is affecting him. There's a large V-shaped patch of sweat near the collar of his t-shirt, and his hair is plastered to his head with it.

When he sees Stiles, Derek throws down the branches and tears off the gloves to toss them on the porch. For the moment, he seems calm, as if to him this is just a visit from the guy he has fucked once or twice and nothing more. Stiles can't even begin to guess how long that attitude will last. Once he tells Derek what he needs to know.

Stiles gets out of the Jeep, holding on to his keys, as if for dear life, so hard that they are biting into his palm. He goes up to the porch, where Derek has just put his gloves and opens his mouth.

"What is it?" Derek looks at him, green eyes glinting, the sweat dripping down the side of his face; he lifts up a portion of the sleeve of his t-shirt to wipe it away. Then he leans against the edge of the porch and crosses his arms over his chest. "I can hear your heart jumping out of your skin from here, so you might as well tell me, save me some time."

As though time wasn't all that Derek had in this world, and that in abundance.

Moving into the narrow shade of the roof line, Stiles clenches and unclenches his fist around the keys. Wondering why he can't simply ask that they go inside, not that it'll be much cooler, but at least there, in the wreck that is Derek's house, they can have the semblance of a normal conversation. With walls and stairs and a floor beneath. Not like this, outside, in the shimmering heat, where the wild of the woods is only a hand's throw away.

"So, okay, this is what Norman told me." Stiles begins it like that, as badly as he can. "I don't know if it's true or not, but here goes."

He sees Derek frowning, dark brows lowering slightly at the mention of the alpha's name. But he doesn't say anything, and settles his shoulders, and tips his head back so he can watch Stiles and seems prepared to listen.

"He said that the marking and claiming was incomplete. If a male and female, uh, mate," Stiles says, sticking to the most basic of terms he can think of, "it's de facto reciprocal. That's Latin for--"

"I know what it means, Stiles."

"But when two males mate, it's not, reciprocal, which means--" Stiles pauses. He really doesn't want to explain it in such bald terms, the fact that he will have to mount Derek, but he will. If Derek doesn't get the idea in another minute and a half. When Derek just keeps looking at him, growing more stone-faced, Stiles licks his lips and continues. "So we have to do it the other way, this time, you and me--" Stiles uses his hands to draw two intertwining circles in the air. "We have to switch places to that I, um--"

Stiles stops, arms outflung. Derek is totally going to make him say it out loud, and it's because he doesn't know so Stiles is going to have to tell him. Out loud.

"The way we did it, you and me, you were the one on top. But to do it, properly, the full marking and claiming--"

Stiles gasps as he stops talking and watches as Derek gets it, as Derek's mouth falls open, his tongue pressing against his lower teeth, and when he looks at Stiles through his lashes, he looks young and lost. As if he can't imagine doing such a thing.

"It's not your fault," Stiles hurries to add. "Norman says that it's likely that because of what happened to your family, you were never trained--" He stops, about to say that it's something all alphas should know, because although Derek is an alpha, it's something he obviously did not know. And Derek feels badly enough without Stiles adding to it.

Derek's whole body straightens; he moves away from the side of the porch to walk around the stairs, brushing past Stiles as if he's not even there. Flustered and hot, Stiles can't even begin to imagine that Derek won't follow through with it, because surely he doesn't want to be responsible for anything happening to Sheriff Stilinski, and even if that doesn't matter, maybe he cares about Stiles enough, that is, a little bit, enough to--

"Why didn't you tell me this last night?" Derek's so angry with him that Stiles has to speak to Derek's back, to the shoulders that droop, and the dark head hung low.

"I forgot," says Stiles, feeling suddenly small in the wide open clearing that feels like an oven turned on high. He doesn't want Derek to think of last night, as Stiles remembers it, with a shame that aches through him. That he'd crawled into Derek's arms to be rocked to sleep like a small child. To be comforted by Derek's low voice, the burr in his chest, the warmth of his heart.

"You were in danger, when I left you," says Derek. He's looking at the house, lifting his head as if seeing it for the first time, taking in the edges of the burned roofline, the scorch marks in the window. "Don't do that again."

It's an order that Derek snaps out; he means the order to be followed and Stiles nods, and moves closer.

But then Derek moves away, moving up the stairs.

"So let's do this," Derek says over his shoulder.

"What? What if Norman is lying, what if he's just messing with us--?"

Without a pause, Derek says, "Alphas don't lie about that, about rituals and mating." Derek stops at the top of the stairs, seeming to glance over his shoulder as if checking to see if Stiles is following him, or if he is not, and Derek will make his way into the house and simply go about his day.

"But what if he is?" Stiles looks up at Derek, as he pauses at the top of the stairs, at the long line of his back, the sweat stains that are dark around his neck, under his arms. He can't imagine doing what Derek seems prepared to do, to go into the house, right this very minute, and have them start fucking like it was an ordinary event. Maybe it is for werewolves, for Derek, it is, at least the physical part. The ritual of it, the permanence of being mated, that's the forever part, and even Derek can't be taking it so calmly. This is the part that will make it permanent; Stiles can't imagine it being like this forever, living like this, talking to Derek's back, living in a burnt out hulk of a house.

"Derek?"

"Might as well get it over with."

Derek says this as if they'd not shared anything that was good and kind, in the quiet of the Hale house, or even the cool blankness of the cabin in the woods, which is a place that Stiles knows he won't ever be able to get back to.

He doesn't want to do this, not when it feels like this. But to not do it, well, the problem is the same. Stiles and his Dad will be at risk; Stiles knows he won't be able to bear it if another werewolf decides to take him away, to a place from which he might never return. And Derek? Derek will be alone forever.

Stiles head spins in the heat, the swamp of it whirring on his skin as he races up the stairs and follows Derek into the house. He doesn't want this, has never wanted this, yet this is the only thing he can have, if he wants to live, if he wants to stay safe. When Derek crosses the empty living room, his sneakers padding across the boards, Stiles comes up close behind him. And when Derek enters the shadowed corridor that leads to the back of the house, Stiles reaches out and touches the back of Derek's arm. He's shaking and his heart thuds in his throat.

"Derek--Derek wait--I don't know what to do, I don't know how--"

He can't imagine doing this, being so intimate with Derek. It was one thing to lie back and take it, Derek's hands were amazing, and the intensity of what they did together still lingers along Stiles' spine. He has only to think of those times with Derek and his heart starts to speed up, his skin tightens in a sort of echo of preparing for Derek's touch. But to do that to Derek? He can't, he just can't.

Derek flicks a glance over his shoulder, but it's too dark in the hallway to see his expression. He doesn't stop either, but keeps walking and Stiles sticks close, because to fall behind means that he will be lost in the semi-darkness, forever looking over his shoulder at the next wolf to come.

It's warm at the back of the house, with the sun beating down in the garden. But while there is really no breeze, the white netting moves a little, as if stirred by invisible breaths of air created in the circle of green trees in the ruined garden. Derek stops and seems to look at the little wooden farm table, the supplies in the shelves, the mattress on the floor, untidy and unmade, rumpled sheets, a single pillow.

Stiles wishes it were dark, full on dark, so they could light the Coleman lantern and do this like ordinary, civilized folks. But then he realizes the irony of that; werewolves are civilized, but they are not ordinary folks. They are wild and belong in the woods, and can fuck in the full of daylight if they feel like it, but Stiles isn't like that, he can't--

"Still not the Pocono's honeymoon you imagined, is it." Derek says this as he pulls off his sweaty t-shirt, which he tosses at the dark hump of a laundry bag that slumps against the wall near the mattress.

When he turns to look at Stiles, Stiles tries to restrain from jumping backwards. Derek is, as he always is, a wall of muscle and broad shoulders, imposing with the ease he has with his own bare skin. There's an arrow of sweat along his collarbone, and along the lines along his ribs, and although Stiles wonders if he tastes like salt, he can't even begin to imagine telling Derek what to do. Here, lie on the bed, let me lick you all over, and I'll do the things I think you will like, but I can only base that on what I like, except I can't see myself telling you to do anything, or being on top, making you mine, and can't we just not and say we did, because how will they know, anyway, whether we did or not?

"Can't we just--" Stiles begins, but Derek stops him.

"They'll know. If your scent doesn't change, and mine, they'll know."

Stiles knows this is the truth the second he hears it, and wants desperately to ask Derek the question that Norman was unable to answer: what do I smell like to you? But he can't because Derek is toeing off his sneakers and socks, and is padding barefooted towards Stiles. And while the whole of the house is empty and there are many exits that Stiles could take, he feels rooted to the spot.

Derek's belt hangs loose and low in the belt loops of his jeans, and the denim cloth at his waist gaps away from his skin and for one second, Stiles imagines putting his fingers in that space, letting the back of his hand feel the solid curve of Derek's skin, there, to his hip, and Stiles' mouth falls open, as, bestirred, he lets Derek come right up to him, so close their legs are touching, and Derek leans in, tipping his head down, just a fraction, to look Stiles right in the eyes.

"So," says Derek, slowly, in a low, easy way that Stiles has seldom heard. "If I draw a heart shape in the dust, will that make it easier to pretend this is the Poconos?"

It takes Stiles almost a full moment to get it, to realize that Derek is making a joke, and that he's doing it to put Stiles at his ease. Or at least he's trying, because the words have the exact opposite effect.

"You think this is funny?" Stiles demands, giving Derek a small shove, all thoughts of skin and lines of hip and muscle dashing away like Stiles wants to, this very minute. "It's not, I don't think it's funny, and you don't get to make fun of me. Not when--"

Derek puts his hands on Stiles shoulders, and Stiles is trapped against the two-by-fours that make up the skeleton of the wall behind him. His body pushes against a flap of thick plastic, he can hear cinders falling in soft, black whispers to the floor. And Derek's hands are--they are gentle. They tug Stiles close, but they aren't grabbing him, they're not mean or angry. They are soft, like the glint that Stiles can see in Derek's eyes.

"I can't believe you'd let me--" Stiles begins and then stops, his mouth gaping open, breath squawking in his throat. "Let me do that to you." He finishes this just as his chest bumps against Derek in the slanted shadows of the room.

"To save you? Save your Dad? Of course." Derek says this, his voice confident and low and Stiles imagines that he hears the rest of what Derek might say out loud, if he were the talkative type. To save you, I would do anything, even let you set your untried and shaking hands upon me, and let you do what no one else has ever done.

If Derek were the talkative type, which he's not. But Stiles is.

"Have you ever done this before, I mean, been done unto, before? Have you ever been with anyone before me? Of course you have, you knew what you were doing, when you and I, well, before, but you see, I don't. I don't know what I'm doing, no idea, not at all, and it's freaking me out here--"

Derek presses even closer now, as if pushing, carefully pushing, through Stiles' wall of words and resistance and panic. He sweeps his hands down Stiles' arms, and then up again, a gesture meant to soothe, but one that sends sparks arcing across the top of Stiles' skin.

"I'll help you," says Derek, not answering Stiles' rattle of question, but responding to him just the same. "We'll go slowly."

Which is totally unlike the first time that Derek had fucked him, so perfunctorily, and with some distaste, or so it had seemed at the time. He'd mounted Stiles because he'd had to, undoing the marking and claiming some wolf had seen fit to do, making Stiles Derek's, doing his best to save Stiles from future harm.

As he's doing now, and Stiles knows this, tries to clam his thudding heart with that idea, that Derek means to help him--

"I'm going to close my eyes," says Stiles, as Derek pets him again, then lifts the hem of his t-shirt. To belie this, Stiles looks down at the stains and the smear of grime from the day, the sweat stains from the heat, dark patches where his shirt is sticking to him. "Going to close my eyes till it's all over."

"Don't," says Derek. "You need to understand what we are doing, and to do that, you need to see it."

He pulls Stiles' t-shirt over his head and off and tosses it on top of his own, and then his hands go to the waistband of Stiles' shorts. Stiles feels the tug of button and zipper, and he reaches to put his hands on top of Derek's. To still them, to stop this.

"I won't be able to get it up," says Stiles, his voice shaking. He looks right at Derek to let him know he means this. He's not hiding, he's not shutting his eyes, but that's the truth of it. He doesn't have an erection and he's pretty sure he needs one if he's the one who's going to be doing the fucking. "I can't, I can't, I can't, I can't--"

"You will," says Derek, his eyes flicking red, as if for a moment, he might use his alpha will to give Stiles an erection. "You will and you can." But then his eyes are green again, his mouth soft against his teeth as if he'd never ever bared them, or threatened to use them against Stiles. Yet they are there, just the same, ready to be used, if Derek decided it was necessary. And that is because he was a werewolf and werewolves have teeth for a reason--

With a clonk, Stiles jerks back, hitting his head on the beam, wincing and scrambling, thinking that Derek will chastise him for being so nervous. He squints at Derek through narrow eyes and the sharp, sudden ache, and watches with astonishment as Derek lets go of Stiles, and steps back.

"Here, I'll just--" And Derek undoes the button and the fly on his jeans and shucks them, and his boxer-briefs, just like that. Standing naked to the skin, tan lines along his waist, a dark trail from his belly button to his groin, dark hair on his legs, between them. Just like that, standing there, like Adam in the Garden before The Fall. Unashamed and unabashed, looking at Stiles so simply and so still, that Stiles has to blink away the heat in his eyes. There's vulnerability and then there's this, and Stiles could laugh and run away and leave Derek standing naked in the ruin of his own living room. And Derek would let him.

So Stiles doesn't.

He takes off his sneakers, so he's barefooted at least, though he can't quite take off his cotton shorts, and expose his non-prepared state, not yet.

Derek nods, and then goes to fill the metal pail at the tap, crouching down, the muscles in his thighs bunching, bare feet on the wooden planks that get splashed with damp, the soft turn of the back of his neck as he tends to this task. When he stands up and takes down the hot water heater pan and places it on the floor, Stiles thinks he knows what Derek is doing. What he wants Stiles to do.

"Can I--" says Stiles, his throat closing up all over again. He coughs to clear it and then goes to the shelf where the washcloths are; there are only three, a bit threadbare, though clean and folded. He takes the top one and rolls it in his hands. He looks at Derek as Derek brings over the pail of what is surely ice cold water, and knows that he doesn't have to ask, but he wants to anyway. "Can I--you're probably really hot from working in the yard, it's like a hundred degrees out there, so, will you let me--"

"Stiles," says Derek, a small snap creeping into his voice. "Just do it. Go ahead. I won't bite."

This does make Stiles laugh now, in spite of himself. He scratches the back of his head, rubbing the spot where he'd clonked it on the wall, and looks at Derek out of the corner of his eyes. "Yeah," he says. "You say that now--"

Stiles is astonished to see the corner of Derek's mouth quirk up; he is almost smiling because of course this is quite funny. Because yes, Derek always has the best of intentions to keep his patience with Stiles, and Stiles knows he is a test and a trail, and pushes Derek, and everyone else, to their limits. And still, he is here with Derek, a clean, white washcloth in his hands. Derek is naked, and Stiles is not, and there is a bucket of ice cold water between them. Derek is at Stiles' mercy, and Stiles will be merciful. He knows this, and not simply because Derek could take his head off, but because--because there had been that time that Derek had washed Stiles, washed the blood from his skin, and had been so careful with Stiles. It's Stiles turn now, to be gentle with Derek. So he will be.

He gestures to the pan on the floor, that Derek should step in to it, which he does, with a graceful arc of his calf and a small wave of his hand, low at his thigh, that Stiles should begin, and continue, as he sees fit. Stiles dunks the washcloth in the bucket of cold water and wrings it out as best he can. When he touches the back of Derek's neck with it, Derek shivers, skin twitching beneath Stiles' hand. Stiles thinks that the time Derek bathed him that the water had been just as cold, but Stiles doesn't remember that. He only has images in his head of how steady Derek had been, how carefully he'd proceeded, as if Stiles had been actually delicate and in need of care.

Wiping the damp cloth in a long line across Derek's shoulders gives Stiles the sense imprint of the contours of muscles there and how wide it is from shoulder point to shoulder point. How Derek's back dips near his spine, the curve of shoulder blade, the darkness of the triskelion tattoo. Stiles wipes the length and breath of Derek's back, and Derek is utterly still, not even moving away when cold water drips from the cloth to the curve of his buttocks. He carefully washes the back of Derek's neck, his arms, under his arms, and along the slats of his muscled ribs.

There is a lot of skin to contend with and Stiles focuses on that, rather than what the skin contains, or even how up close and personal he is with parts of Derek's anatomy that had, before this, been covered up with Henley shirts, or t-shirts, or even one of Stiles' t-shirts, though Stiles has no idea where that particular garment had gotten to. He'd never seen Derek wear it since that day.

Stiles rinses out the washcloth, dunking it more than once before twisting the cloth to get all of the water out. When he turns back to Derek, Derek's eyebrows are slightly raised as if asking a question, which Stiles translates as What part of me will you wash next? It will get more intimate in any case, so Stiles continues with the back of Derek's legs, the slope of his buttocks, the soft skin beneath, across which the washcloth jigs with Stiles' nervousness, and down the column of each leg. Between each leg, even, as from the back, it seems a little more impersonal, this could be anyone, for all its trim, frozen stillness, it could be anyone.

But when Stiles rinses the washcloth one more time, and moves around to Derek's front, he is bestilled, because this isn't just anyone. It's Derek and he's a werewolf, and the sweat on his chest is personal; the grit on his thighs is from the labor of the muscle beneath, and Stiles is once again overwhelmed at the power that Derek wields in every fiber and how he could, with a twitch, send Stiles crashing to the wooden floorboards. Not that he would, not at this point, where Stiles is standing in front of him, washcloth in hand, the day hot and still around them, the low gloom of the interior of the Hale house cast even darker by the bright, hot day burning in from outside.

"Stiles--"

"I want to close my eyes, can I close my eyes?" He gestures at Derek with his fist, the one holding the washcloth, sending circles of droplets to alight on Derek's chest, on his belly. Derek twitches, and shakes his head no, dashing Stiles constant desire to ignore a problem till it goes away. At the very least, Derek isn't swaying on his feet, as Stiles was, nor bleeding, so that Stiles doesn't have to stand close to Derek and press the wolf's form to his. That might be easier, all things considering, but it might be presumptuous, as well, and he thinks that Derek might bite him if he tries it.

But he moves close, just the same, putting his hand on Derek's shoulder, to steady himself more than anything else, and begins washing down Derek's chest. He takes the time to circle Derek's neck and behind his ears with the washcloth, taking away the ring of grit and sweat, then rinses the washcloth again. After which, he steps closer, to wash Derek's other shoulder and the front of his arm, drawing the cloth down his front, over the taut abdomen, and down over one angled hip.

It's at this point, when Stiles feels Derek's breath on his cheek, the side of his face, that he realizes how hot he is, hot all over, his stomach muscles tightening up in what feels like anxiety, and he tells himself that yes, he's terrified he'll do something wrong, or touch Derek in a way that will set the wolf off. But as he dips his head to his task, his face coming close to the skin across Derek's breastbone, his stomach dips too, in a way that's more pleasure than fear, and in spite of Derek's injunctions, he closes his eyes and draws in a breath.

Derek's scent is warm with salt and damp with the water drying on his skin, and Stiles thinks he likes the way Derek smells, up close like this, and wonders again what he smells like to Derek. He can't stop to ask, knows that he has to finish this task and move on to the next, and swears that this will be the last time he's afraid of Derek. Of course that's a lie, because when Derek shifts on his feet, Stiles' eyes fly open and he jumps backwards, clutching the damp washcloth to his chest.

Derek's looking at him with green eyes, not as though he's irritated, as he usually is, but steadily, waiting for Stiles to come down from his fright and do what needs to be done. Stiles bends to the bucket again, dunking the cloth and wringing it between his hands. As he straightens up, he feels Derek's hand on his side, tugging at his waistband, not, it seems, to take off Stiles' shorts, but to draw him in, draw him close. Stiles lets himself be drawn, feeling the muscles of his stomach tighten up, his breath grow rapid.

Close again, Stiles draws the washcloth down Derek's other hip, and finally along the inside of one thigh, drawing the cloth behind the tuft of pubic hair and his balls, nestled beneath, and the inside of his thigh, pulling in the same direction as the long dark hairs. He repeats this motion on the other side, panting a little, afraid of getting it wrong, of tugging too hard on the wrong kind of hair, of shaming Derek with some type of indignity known only to wolves.

When he finally kneels at Derek's feet to wash his calves, front and back, Stiles is breathless, mouth open, panting a little. But he finishes his task and puts the washcloth in the pail to let it sink to the bottom and lets Derek haul him to his feet.

"You see?" Derek asks, with a twitch of his eyebrows. "I don't always bite." Then Derek tips his head down and kisses Stiles as he lets him go, kisses his mouth with light, light touches of his lips, a gesture of mock-biting as if to prove his point, sending Stiles to shivering. But, this time, when Derek puts his hands on Stiles' waist and undoes the fastenings of his shorts, Stiles doesn't protest, only lets his garments fall to the floor, underwear thumping at his ankles.

He doesn't look down as he steps out of his clothes, because, in comparison to Derek's tanned, lithe, impossible to dismiss being, Stiles knows he will be pale and narrow and obtrusively not imposing. Not that Derek seems to care about this, he brushes Stiles cheek with his own and kisses him again, and Stiles leans into the kiss, and breathes Derek's breath and tastes his salt and sighs. His cock is growing hard at this simple contact, at all that sleek skin that has so recently been beneath his hands; he might be able to handle more of this, if Derek stays gentle and moves slow, so Stiles can catch his breath every once in a while.

"Okay," says Stiles, half-gasping.

"Okay?" Derek's eyebrows go up, asking the question in return, as to whether Stiles is ready, and of course Stiles is. He has to be. He simply can't bear the thought of coming up to this point and backing away, only to have to build up to this very point all over again. He'll have a heart attack if he tries it, he just knows he will.

"Okay." Derek repeats this and curls his fingers behind Stiles' elbow and walks to the mattress, half-leading Stiles with him. When he knees on the mattress, crinkling the rumpled sheets beneath his knees, he draws Stiles down to his side, and Stiles finds himself half kneeling, half curled around Derek, and overbalanced, falls. Derek is over him now, on his hands and knees over Stiles.

"This'll get easier right?" Stiles says, looking up. "Tell me it'll get easier."

"Actually," says Derek, pulling his mouth tight as if trying not to smile. "Actually, it's supposed to get harder."

"Are you--" Stiles sputters off, realizing that Derek is actually making fun of him, mocking his fright, and then he realizes that Derek isn't. That what Derek is doing is distracting him, and Stiles flicks his gaze away, and huffs. Derek shakes his head with a half smile, leaning close to kiss Stiles, and Stiles circles his hands around Derek's neck and pulls him closer.

This will be okay if he can keep concentrating on where he is, what he is doing, this very moment, stroking Derek's arms, pulling Derek to him, kissing the skin beneath Derek's ear. With one more tug, Derek falls to the mattress next to him, his hair dark against the sheets, the cotton pillow, and Stiles realizes that the strength of that pull couldn't have been that effective, not if Derek wanted to resist him. But Derek's trying to make it easy, so easy for him, it's like a gift, and Stiles knows he has to take it for what it is, a gift. A gift from a werewolf who could just as easily pitch Stiles to one side and leave him to his own devices.

The skin next to Derek's eyes tightens as Stiles pauses, so Stiles pushes himself up on his elbow, and hovers over Derek. He even takes a moment to straddle one of Derek's thighs, feeling the warmth and the scratch of leg hair, and the wobble of his own thigh, because he's taking a risk, doesn't really have Derek's permission--

Then he looks down at Derek, who's waiting, solemn and still.

"Does this make me the alpha now?" he asks.

Derek actually laughs, low in his throat, his eyes slitting shut as he bears his throat with it. At the same time, one of his hands slides between Stiles' legs, right up to his groin, the back of his hand stroking Stile's half-hard cock, making it twitch and the blood flow, and all the muscles in Stiles' stomach tighten.

"For about five minutes, if that," says Derek, his teeth pressing against his mouth; he loosens his jaw, and looks, heavy-lidded, up at Stiles. "So go on."

Go on is what Stiles must do, Derek has taken him this far, has undressed them both, and made easy reasons for Stiles to touch Derek all over, to get used to the press of muscle beneath skin, to get used to Derek's breath in his body, pushing up through his belly, to the sharpness of Derek's hips, and all when Derek stood there, almost still, letting Stiles do this, to touch him. So he reaches down and shifts himself between his legs, testing the hardness of his cock, feeling the rush of blood, the silk of his own skin. He's getting harder, but not yet hard enough; the test of that is still to come.

But for now, he lets his hand fall, down between Derek's legs and sweeps his palm up along the inside of Derek's thigh. To where his balls nestle, warm and drawn up to his body, and yes, Derek is hard, full on hard, as Stiles strokes him, up and down, before actually looking.

Because, yes, Derek is not cut, not like Stiles is, and mostly every other male he knows. The sheath of skin is almost pale against the blood-red crown inside. He wonders if that's a Hale thing or a werewolf thing, and knows it really doesn't matter. He looks at his hand as he slowly pets Derek along his cock, palm stroking him, fingers splayed out as if they are afraid to make contact. Derek puts his hand down, and presses it on the back of Stiles' hand, making him curl his fingers around Derek's cock, and all the while, Derek is watchful, green eyes on him, that red mouth closed, a little tense, waiting.

"Sorry," says Stiles, gulping.

"Blood-shy, and hand-shy, and--" Derek shakes his head against the pillow. "You're just shy. I didn't know that."

He doesn't say it like it's a fault or anything that Stiles needs to be ashamed of, but rather it's an observation, something new he's just learned about Stiles, tucking it away for future thought. But for now, he lifts his face, tipping his chin up as if inviting a kiss, and so Stiles bends down, crumpling to his elbow, so he can kiss Derek and stroke his cock at the same time.

His arms circling around Stiles' waist, Derek pulls Stiles on top of him, letting his weight press Derek into the mattress. It feels somewhat like the time the Kanima had landed Stiles on top of Derek, but different, since they are skin to skin, and Derek's shifting beneath him, easing where Stiles is on top of him, and petting the low of Stiles' back.

"Come on, now, Stiles," says Derek, his voice almost a whisper in Stile's ear, one that makes him shiver all over, and feel warm inside, along his spine, between his legs. "Come on."

Derek's kissing him along the side of his neck, human teeth nipping where the flesh is thin and tender, warming the skin with his tongue and then biting down harder, and Stiles feels his whole body tighten up; his breath feels ragged, and he curls both of his hands around Derek's shoulders, trying to hold on.

"Don't hold on," says Derek, low. "Just let go, let go--"

Then Derek pulls his teeth away from Stiles' neck and kisses him on the mouth, and Stiles can taste him with his tongue and on the back of his throat, and feel the breath from Derek's nostrils hum across his face, feel the way Derek holds the back of his head, with fingers and wrists that are strong enough to break him, but are now gentle and soft and Derek's kissing him, and Stiles feels like he's rolling over and over in the slow, languid feel of it, the heat and breath and, beneath it all, the thumping of his heart.

Yes, he's hard now, he can feel it low in his stomach, where his muscles and his spine feel like they are bunching up, right before he comes, and of course, his body has jumped to the end, as it likes to do, when he's in the shower, or late at night in bed, and has barely had time to follow the jagged line of the story in his head, usually about Lydia, and once about Scott, and never, ever about Derek. That was always too dangerous a place to go, even in his own mind, so now Stiles reaches down between their bodies to press on his groin and trap the pleasure, even if it's just for a few minutes, so he can do what he needs to do. What he came here to do.

He opens his eyes and his eyes feel hot. Derek's looking at him, brow furrowing, as it does when Stiles is being his typical, and to Derek, inscrutable best.

"Almost went too fast there," says Stiles, licking his upper lip. He sees the sideways compliment reflected in Derek's eyes, and the small smirk, because of course Derek knows he's something else, that he overwhelms Stiles, even like this, beneath Stiles, waiting. Waiting for Stiles to do what he's going to do. Not submissively, never that, never Derek, but waiting.

"Okay," says Stiles. He swallows now, and reaches both hands, shifting a little out of Derek's arms, to take Derek's shoulders in his hands, and gives them both a tug. It's a tug that's meant more as a signal, because if Derek doesn't want to turn over, then he won't have to, not even for Stiles. But he does, almost like an afterthought, as if Stiles' hands upon him are a suggestion he'd been just about to act upon on his own. Stiles thinks that he could have done this with Derek facing him, but he only knows it this way, the way Derek did it to him, and as Derek arranges himself face down, tucking his arms under the single pillow, Stiles is unbelievably grateful.

He takes a small moment, to tuck a stray lock of dark hair fully behind Derek's ear, and then says okay, okay, to himself, and is about to stick his fingers in his own mouth, when Derek reaches back and does it instead. Takes Stiles fingers, splaying out Stiles' palm with the heel of his thumb, and quickly sucks Stiles' first three fingers into his mouth. Stiles can feel the pad of Derek's tongue, the sharp edges of his teeth, the heat of it, the motion of Derek's sucking, and Stiles' eyes roll back in his head and he almost comes then and there.

"Don't, don't, oh, my god, stop, stop, or it'll be over before it's begun."

He swears he can feel Derek smirking around his fingers, giving one more good suck before relinquishing them to the suddenly cool air. Stiles sucks on his own fingers, tasting the salt from Derek's mouth, giving himself a moment to slow the thudding of his heart before he takes them out.

They're damp as he looks at them, and Stiles has to hurry before the moisture on them dries and he has to start all over again, which he simply hasn't the stamina to do.

He crouches over Derek, stroking his back, feeling the smooth round contours of Derek's backside, before Stiles touches the soft skin below Derek's bottom. It is nothing, it is skin and more skin, Derek's done this to him, and Stiles is as brave as a werewolf, or almost, so he knows he can do it. He pushes his hand gently between Derek's buttocks and pushes a finger in where the crease grows warm and there's a pucker of flesh with the slightest amount of give.

Derek's body is even warmer from within, and tight, and Stiles shuts down a little as he moves his finger to loosen Derek up, and then another finger, added to that, feeling Derek shift around him, feeling the pulse of blood and the pressure of muscle, and that's when his brain starts to spark small black dots.

He takes a deep breath, which whistles in his throat and is more shaky than helpful. But he doesn't want Derek to lift his head or look back at him and ask him what's wrong, so he keeps breathing and moves his fingers, and finds himself shifting till he's crouched between Derek's thighs, looking down at the dark ink of the triskelion, the push of Derek's shoulder blades, the dark curl of hair on the nape of Derek's neck.

He doubts, sincerely doubts, that there has ever been another human being who has ever been where he is right now, looking down at Derek, laid out and vulnerable. At Derek's bared neck, at his fingers inside of Derek, pushing muscle aside, and Derek letting him do this. Letting him, urging him on, even, with the shift of his hips as Derek lifts up from the bed, to be on all fours, his sheathed cock tight against his belly.

Stiles pulls his fingers out and rises to his knees, his hands on Derek's hip, his still-damp fingers trailing against Derek's skin.

Go on, go on. Derek doesn't say it, but Stiles can hear it, just as he can see the fine sheen of sweat along Derek's spine. There's a slight tenseness in Derek's jaw, but Derek simply ducks his head between his shoulders and waits. This isn't easy for Derek either, it seems, but he's trusting Stiles, just as Stiles had trusted him.

Stiles whooshes out a breath, and reaches to place his cock against Derek's skin, moving it between Derek's buttocks, and pushing in, into the place where Stiles' fingers have loosened the muscle, inside of Derek, and then, when Derek makes a small sound, Stiles becomes utterly still. Only the crown of his cock is inside of Derek, and nothing is wet enough, the spit from Stiles' fingers is already drying, but the muscles along Derek's back are jumping as though he'd been struck, and Stiles must stop.

"Did--did I hurt you?" The question is absurd, nothing could hurt Derek.

"N-no." Derek's jaw clamps shut over this word, and it breaks Stiles' heart to think that Derek is scared, of him, of Stiles, that Stiles might hurt him. So Stiles leans forward, and keeping his cock partway inside, pets Derek's back with his free hand, breaths his breath on Derek's skin. Kisses the line of muscle and brushes his chin along Derek's ribs.

Derek relaxes a little, and Stiles pushes in a little, and then a little more, easing his way in, watching Derek's ribs rise and fall with each breath and pushes in when Derek breathes out, and in, shaking himself, petting Derek the whole while until with a last, little push, Stiles is entirely inside of Derek, in the tight heat of his body, and if Derek's shaking as much as Stiles is, Stiles will not mention it, not now, not ever.

With both hands, Stiles pets Derek's ribs, and kisses his back, and feels the sweat drip from his temples and drop onto Derek's hips and join with the sweat there to dapple the rumpled sheets. He can feel his pubic hair scrunching up against Derek's skin, feel the ache in his knees that Derek never mentioned, the strain in his thighs from holding this position.

"Derek--" says Stiles, his body screaming at him to move, but his heart is a clenched fist of worry.

"Go on," says Derek, in a way that makes Stiles think he's gritting his teeth. "Just make it quick."

Derek's using that tone that's meant to imply that he couldn't give a damn about any of it, but now, by this time, Stiles knows better. It's a duckblind, or rather a wolfblind, that Derek hides behind to disguise his own anxiety or trepidation or lack of confidence; for Derek to have gone this far, to go on his hands and knees for Stiles, takes sheer guts.

"Okay," says Stiles, half breathing it out, moving his hands to Derek's hips, and giving an experimental roll of his hips. This is his first time doing anything like this, even so, his body seems to understand, his muscles, his bones, even, want to push and push and then pull and push again, so Stiles does this, as gently as he can, barely breathing, watching the back of Derek's neck, watching the skin over his shoulders twitch.

As Stiles sinks into Derek's body, Stiles' body jumps to the end, as it always does, bringing with it nothing romantic or rose-dappled or even sweet. His hips curl, almost as though they were detached from the rest of his body, and curl again, and cramp sets in along the bottom of his feet, and his whole body scrunches up, and with one final curl, and zigs of lightning down his spine, his cock starts pumping, as he comes hard, jerking like it was his first time, and he with no control. No control but to come and pulse and collapse against Derek's back, feeling slick with sweat, his heart running like a thundering horse, his hands slipping off Derek's ribs as he pulls out, whimpering at his oversensitive skin.

There's a dapple of come, his come, on the curve of Derek's bottom and Stiles brushes it away with his thumb. His mouth opens, an experimental sound of joy and amazement fills his lungs, but Derek hasn't moved, and the expression goes unuttered.

"Derek?" Stiles asks this, tipping a little sideways, searching for Derek's expression, some irritated remark about Stiles' lack of stamina, anything. All he can see is Derek's head dipped down, away, and the fact that Derek's cock, full and aching hard, is pressed, leaking against Derek's stomach. Stiles reaches to take it in his hand, to do for Derek what Derek would do for him. Except Derek bats Stiles' hand away.

"Leave it," he says. And rolls to pull Stiles against him, down on the bed, spooning Stiles from behind, his arms wrapped around Stiles' stomach, his face against Stiles' neck. They are both hot, sweat-slick legs sticking together, and Stiles is aching for a glass of water. More, he's aching to know why Derek's erection is pressed up against him, hidden between them like it's something no one should know about. For an instant, he thinks that Derek wants to fuck him, but Derek only moves closer, pressing against Stile's back, shuddering, breathing into Stiles' skin.

"Why?" Stiles asks, as his heart slows down.

"Just leave it." Derek says this, his mouth moving against Stiles' neck. "We smell like each other now; no wolf will bother you."

Again the romance of the Poconos and those heart-shaped tubs flitter off like angry butterflies, snapping fragile wings at the lack of the soft cuddling, the drowsy ever after that Stiles had always envisioned. But it has always been this way with Derek, the first two times, so why should the third time be any different. He can feel Derek's heart thudding into his back, and as it slows, and they breathe in and out, a little in sync sometimes, a little off, Stiles licks his lips. He's really, really thirsty, but that can wait.

"Derek?"

"Yes."

"Can I ask you a question?'

"No."

Stiles waits for a few heartbeats, then asks the question anyway. "What do I smell like to you."

"That's personal."

"Yes," Stiles agrees that it probably is, to a wolf. "But we're in a very personal position, you and I, so maybe you can tell me. I promise I won't tell anyone." Not that he could tell anyone about any of this, ever, ever, ever. "Please?"

Derek takes a breath, and then lets it out in a huff of irritation. But something about him eases, and he curls his shoulders forward, pressing even closer, his chin on Stiles' shoulder, his afternoon shadow brushing against Stiles' skin.

"You--" There's a pause and then Derek continues. "You smell like the moon to me."

"The moon?" Stiles asks this, feeling his face crinkle up. "The moon doesn't smell like anything."

"To you, perhaps," says Derek, in assured tones. The ones he likes to use when pointing out how lame it is that other people aren't a werewolf, as he is. Not that he actually ever uses those words, but Stiles hears them just the same.

Stiles is about to prompt Derek to explain what, exactly, the moon smells like, when he feels Derek sigh against his skin.

"Like the moon. A sickle moon, waxing to fullness, and it smells sharp, like lightning does when it hits the air, sharp, like something good is coming, with none of the danger."

Derek's voice breaks off, Stiles can feel the puff of breath as Derek closes his mouth and thinks that maybe there's more, but that maybe, for wolves, it really is something personal to be saying out loud. Rather like trying to explain what your first orgasm inside of another person's body feels like; Stiles knows he'd be a million years trying to explain that feeling. So instead of prodding Derek for more, he tightens his arms on Derek's arms and turns his head to brush his face against Derek's and feels Derek kiss him beneath his ear.

"A sickle moon, huh?"

"Yes," says Derek.

The moon, full, new or waxing, is important to wolves. That Stiles smells like one to Derek is the finest compliment he's ever received. Stiles smiles to himself, feeling flattered, feeling his skin flush with it. He doesn't say thank you; Derek will probably only brush it away as though it were nothing. But to Stiles, it means everything.

***

When Stiles blinks awake, it's still hot, the sun is still blazing in the back garden, beyond the netting, but it's a little bit later. He can sense it, in his body's rested state, the single sheet thrown lightly over him, and the fact that Derek is fully dressed, and sitting at the table.

He sees that Stiles is awake and so gets up and brings a glass of water over to him. Stiles takes it and drinks it, leaning on one elbow, spilling water down his arm, getting the sheets wet. Derek takes the glass away before Stiles is half finished, pacing back to the table and then to the mattress to look down at Stiles. He seems antsy, and, more, it's obvious that he wants Stiles to go. And quickly.

Stiles gets up, pretending he's not completely naked to Derek's dressed state, and pulls on his clothes as fast as he can. He sits back down on the mattress to put on his sneakers, almost breaking the laces in his haste. And wonders if it will always be this way between him and Derek. That, following these, what can only be called, emergency fucks, Derek will frown and pace and act as though Stiles is the biggest pain in the ass. Not literally, of course, the though of it makes Stiles feels as though he should make some kind of joke, but as Derek reaches down to pull him to his feet, he doesn't have the heart.

He doesn't even have the guts, he realizes, to ask Derek if they will ever truly go running. As in, so you know, you and me, we can be friends outside of this. We can go running, like you said we could, and it won't change anything else. I'm not expecting the Poconos anymore, though I am wishing really hard for a nice cool breeze, and for you and me to not have to act like this isn't killing you. Because if it is, we can talk about it, or go running and not talk about it. Or, maybe if I beg, on my hands and knees, we can take your Camaro and go, just drive into the mountains, and find that place, and sleep on the linoleum floor, and I can find a way so that you would like me, just a little bit.

The expression on Derek's face as he gestures to the hallway that leads to the front of the house destroys all notions of Stiles saying anything at all. So Stiles goes, by himself, down the hall and out of the Hale house, going to his Jeep without a single word of goodbye.

Different parts of him ache as he climbs into the driver's seat, which is hot like a baking oven, the black seat sticking to the skin of the backs of his knees, which instantly start to sweat. As he digs the keys from his pocket and turns on the ignition, he looks at the Hale house. No one would know, to look at its mottled and burned edges, the raw gaping wounds of the windows, what miracle had just occurred. Stiles has had sex, has fucked someone for the very first time. And there's exactly nobody he can tell about it. Not Scott, and certainly not his Dad; Derek already knows, and the rest of the world will care exactly zilch, so Stiles is all alone on this. As he usually is.

He sighs and backs up, cupping the black steering wheel, gingerly, like he might a hot Pop Tart. There are still the groceries to get, and ice water to drink from the largest glass he can find. And a shower to take. Not that any shower will rub the memory of his hands on Derek, the sweat sliding between their bodies. Not that Stiles wants to. But the stickiness of it, the sense of wrongness, of Derek's head hung low, and his lack of willingness to let Stiles touch him. Maybe soap and hot water can help with that. Maybe. He doubts it.

***

When Stiles' Dad gets home, just around sunset, there's another bank of clouds rolling over the hills, jagged lightning and heat and thunder but no rain. Stiles has dinner ready, because he's a good son like that. It's a salad, of course, with grilled chicken and some home made dressing. Stiles' Dad eats without much comment, not even when Stiles produces the promised ice cream, two pints, one chocolate, for Stiles, and one strawberry, for Stiles' Dad, which they both devour in front of the TV, with barely a comment between them.

As Stiles does the dishes, his Dad tells him that he'll have his sneakers back tomorrow and then he'll be able to go running with Derek, and isn't that a good thing? It is, as Stiles readily agrees. The sneakers will give him an excuse to go over to Derek's house and at least ask if they can go running now. In the woods, the two of them; he'll be safe with Derek to look out for him. That he could ask Scott to go running with him as well isn't really an option; Scott has a summer job, and Stiles has too many things he can't talk about with Scott. So, Derek it will be. That is, if Stiles can sum up the courage to bring it up at all. Which, considering, after fucking an alpha werewolf, will certainly be the easiest things he's done all summer.

Stiles bids his Dad goodnight, and leaves him there, in the white glare of the TV in the living room, and takes his second shower of the day. Dripping in the hallway with a towel around his waist, Stiles turns on the whole house fan, full bore. The rumble and movement of air is instant and soothing and Stiles thinks he will sleep and then sleep some more. He gets into bed in a t-shirt and his underwear, with his hands clasped behind his head, and lets the air from the fan drift over him.

The window is open, of course it is, and there's a ten minute space of time, with his body as still as it can be, even though his heart is thumping, as though the whole world was on pause, when he finally hears the scrabble of claws on the windowsill, and sees the brief outline of Derek's body against the flicker of lightning. Hears the barest of sounds on the floor before the weight of Derek's body dips the mattress near Stiles' waist.

"Don't--" Stiles lifts his hands to shield himself. He can feel the rage rippling off of Derek, hear the low growl, imagines he sees, in the flicker of heat lightning, the flash of bared teeth. As Derek rips Stiles' t-shirt off, Stiles hears himself gasp, stifles a whimper as he feels the trace of Derek's claws, bared, against his skin. "Don't hurt me--I know you're mad about today, but I won't tell anyone, I swear, I swear--"

He's only flesh and blood, a mere human, no match for Derek's surge, his weight as he presses Stiles into the mattress. There's a moment, with Derek above him, his hands on Stiles' shoulders, the rumble of his growl, and Stiles can't even breathe--and in a second, Derek's going to flip him over and fuck him into next week, just to prove that he can, just to prove that he's the alpha, and it's at that point that Stiles gets it. How messed up this is, and how wounded Derek is by what happened between them today. It's not, probably, that Derek thinks that Norman Stone was lying. It's that he's done the marking and mating with a human boy, and allowed that same boy, who he doesn't love and never wanted to be with, to fuck him.

As Derek tenses his whole body to move Stiles where he wants him, Stiles hears himself cry out and chokes it off, so hard, his teeth click together, and he tenses himself for it. That might be what stops Derek, he doesn't know, but Derek goes lax, curling above Stiles, letting go to crumple on the bed next to him, his legs still half on Stiles, and as the lightning flickers, Stiles can see that Derek has head pressed into the mattress, with his arms curved around.

And that's what breaks Stiles' heart. He leans up on his elbow, shaking all over, petting Derek's back, throat filled with aching.

"Hey, hey, Derek, hey," he's saying. "Today, you and me. I know you never wanted me, wanted this, and I'm sorry, so sorry, and I suck at it, I know I do. But you saved me, you saved my Dad, and so, could you please, please, do whatever you need to do, just don't--don't tear and growl like that because you know, I'll do anything, let you do anything you want--"

All of a sudden, Derek spreads out, turning to Stiles, pulling him close, putting his hands on either side of Stiles' head. Stiles feels him move close, until Derek's mouth is on his.

"It was Kate," Derek says, his voice a whisper. "Kate was the last person I had sex with, the last person to use her mouth to--"

"Kate Argent?" Stiles asks this loudly enough that it hurts.

"Yes," says Derek, so low, so quietly; Stiles can hear the strain that saying the words aloud brings. "She--I let her seduce me, before she burned the house down."

Stiles' body jerks at the rawness of it, his brain does the math with rapid sharpness, and all he wants to do is throw up. "No," he says. "Tell me, Derek, tell me that she didn't--"

But it's obvious that she did. And part of Derek's hesitation in all of this becomes clear. Stiles is the same age that Derek was when he'd been with Kate. And Kate's mouth, her horrible, poisoned mouth, was the last one to pleasure Derek like that, to suck the come out of him until his head swam and his body relaxed into the mattress.

"Let me," says Stiles, pushing the sheet back, sitting up on his knees. "I'm not afraid anymore, you don't deserve that, let me, let me."

"Were you afraid?" asks Derek, the question cutting through the dark. As though he'd be angry to find out that the answer is yes.

Which it is. "Yes," says Stiles. "I mean, you're the first person I ever had sex with, and in spite of all my bravado, which I'm sure fools everyone, I'm a virgin, pure and simple. At least," he laughs a little bit, "at least I was. And you deserve better."

"No," says Derek, "I don't." Derek stops at that comment, short and cut off, as though there were more he wanted to say but wouldn't let himself. It could mean either that Derek deserves worse, or that there's nothing he wants more than he wants Stiles. Stiles doesn't dare ask.

"So," says Stiles. "Can I?"

Pushing back from Stiles to roll on his side, Derek's body creates a low outline on the bed. "What do you want, Stiles."

There's a pause as Derek shifts on the bed, as if he's merely moving his body, but with a tenseness that Stiles barely recognizes. He feels frustrated that he's got to explain it out loud, yet again--and then he gets it. It might be an alpha thing, a permission thing, but then, it could be something more. Simply that Derek likes the talk; unlike his forceful way with Stiles and the claws and the pushing, Derek himself likes to hear the words, likes to be asked. Or so Stiles thinks. Otherwise, why would he keep making Stiles spell it out?

"I want to--" Stiles begins, his voice all jittery with this first test of his theory. "I want to suck you, suck you dry, will you let me?"

Stiles rises up, on all fours, next to Derek and watches, in the flickers of heat lightning, as Derek turns away and arches his neck, baring it to Stiles. A rush of amazement fills him, a flood of pleasure sparking in his gut, and he does not smile. No, this is--

"So does that make me the alpha again?" he asks.

"For about a minute and half," says Derek, and Stiles can hear him lick his lips, as if his mouth were suddenly dry at the mere though of what Stiles is asking permission to do. And what felt vaguely as the rawest pornographic suggestion suddenly becomes a clear vulnerability that Kate Argent almost certainly traded in on and the thought of it makes Stiles' eyes hot and his stomach clench up, his arms tighten.

He lets out a breath, tries to let it go. He'll deal with it later, get Derek to talk to him about it later, or never, the way Derek is about talking. Instead he sinks back to sit on his heels, and reaches for Derek's belt buckle. With the cool metal under his fingers, he hesitates for only a second, and then undoes the loop, releases the belt and pulls it away. Then he does the button and the zipper, and can hear the ragged edge to Derek's breathing, and thinks I am the only one, I am the only one who gets to see this, to know him this way and how did I miss this before?

It might not be love, he's still not sure what it is, and thinks it's more like trust. Like they shared at the swimming pool when Stiles had held up Derek's body for hours and hours and hours. That's also something they never talk about, and maybe Stiles doesn't need that. As long as he has this, his hands pulling down Derek's zipper, and feeling the bed dip as Derek lifts his hips so that Stiles can pull Derek's jeans and boxer-briefs, halfway down his thighs.

Bending close, he puts his hands on Derek's bare hips. They seem sharp beneath his palms, hot to the touch, and he knows before reaching for Derek's cock that it's hard, hard against his belly and almost pulsing, and that Derek is shaking, as if trying to hold himself still so that Stiles won't find out how much he wants this. But Stiles knows, in the secret shift of energy that snags him in the dark, he knows that Derek wants this.

Stiles strokes the length of Derek's cock with his palm, as he had before, that afternoon, and feels the ghost of Derek's fingers, in his imagination, as they circle around his hand, and make his fingers press along Derek's length. That was a clue, as well, that Stiles had failed to realize, but he knows it now. He strokes up Derek's cock once, and then again, letting his palm linger and grow warm, as Derek's skin is warm. Then, without letting himself think, he bends and rolls his tongue around the crown, pulling back the tender sheath, licking the moisture he finds there, tasting the bitter salt. Tasting Derek.

He shudders, and when he feels Derek's hand on his shoulder, as if in preparation to push him off, Stiles twitches, and knocks Derek's hand away. He's the alpha now, even if only for a minute and a half, and is that really how long Derek thinks he will last with Stiles' mouth on him? If so, it's a compliment, backhanded and silent, and worthy of every word Derek has never said to him. Derek's meaning is all to be found in Derek's many silences, and this one, as Derek sighs, is the deepest one, pushing straight into Stiles' chest, wrapping itself around his heart.

He sucks Derek's cock into his mouth, pulling the sheath down with his hand, stroking up, licking a circle around, tensing his mouth, and then releasing, to hear Derek's jagged sigh, and does it again. Stroking up and down, riding the ridge of it with the pad of his tongue, tasting Derek, swallowing the pulse of fluid, and then stroking faster, sucking a little harder, but not too hard, thinking how he might like it, hoping that Derek will as well, and then, his palm around the base of Derek's cock, pubic hair scratching his wrist, he feels Derek's whole body tighten, his cock pulsing like the thudding of a hammer, sending Derek's come into his mouth as it hits the back of his throat. It's so strong, he almost can't manage, but he holds his breath and swallows, tasting the fluid that is bitter and salty; Derek did that for him, so he will do it for Derek, gladly.

When Derek's body stills and his cock grows soft, Stiles lets it go from his mouth, and gentles it to Derek's belly with careful hands, and tucks his head to wipe his mouth on his upper arm. He waits for a moment, hunkered on his heels above Derek in the darkness, waits until Derek's breathing slows, and the smell of sweat and sex fills the air, soaks into the sheets, and is carried away by movement of air from the whole house fan.

He doesn't want praise, or even acknowledgement really, but he can't help it. "So?" he asks. He puts his hand on Derek's bare thigh, can still feel the heat there, the movement of muscle over bone, as Derek reaches up to pull Stiles down to him. There's a moment of bare skin against Derek's bejeaned legs, as Derek, tries to, at the same time, pull up his clothes, but Stiles stops him, and shoves them down again.

"Was that okay?" he asks, into Derek's neck, curving against Derek's chest. He wishes he didn't sound so desperate or needy, but there it is. He's just given his first blow job, and if Derek wants another, which he most assuredly will, because what guy doesn't, he's going to have to give Stiles some feedback; Stiles is going to insist on it.

Derek strokes Stiles' back, leaving sweat springing up in the wake of his hand, and it really is hot, too hot for this, skin to skin, as the storm rages outside the window and leaves no rain. But as Derek bends close and Stiles feels him kiss his temple, he can hear the rumble in Derek's chest.

"Yes, cub," Derek says. "Yes."

Stiles smiles to himself, and maybe Derek can feel that against his skin, or maybe he can't, so Stiles circles his arms fully around Derek's waist and tucks his head in the curve of Derek's shoulder. It's the kind of cuddling that Derek certainly doesn't allow in the full of daylight, but here in the dark, in Stiles' room, it is permitted. After all, Stiles is the alpha for at least another twenty seconds or so, and this is the way he likes it.

***

When Stiles opens his eyes in the morning, he can feel that it is early, and that there's another person in the bed, just sitting up, leaving a swath of cool air along his arm, his bare legs. Stiles blinks and curls on his side and watches Derek stand up to pull on his jeans, and then as he sits down to put on his socks and sneakers. The length of Derek's bare back looms in front of Stiles, so he reaches out a hand and runs his palm along the hollow of Derek's spine, curving his fingers around Derek's ribs, a petting gesture, a good morning of sorts.

Derek's whole body stiffens and Stiles can see his hand come down, claws extended, as if Stiles had startled him, or, probably more likely, that Derek is not a morning cuddler, and Stiles' vision of long mornings spent in bed to be followed by waffles and ice cream for breakfast are about to be dashed by the fact that Derek's clawed hand is curling around his palm, ready to crush it. But just as Stiles draws in a breath, Derek goes still, his neck long as he dips his head. And instead, the fingers, mere fingers, circling around Stile's palm, are gentle and make warm patterns as Derek pulls Stiles' hand to his side, briefly, before letting it to reach for his t-shirt, somewhere on the floor.

And Stiles thinks that maybe Derek heard him the night before, Stiles' request about not ripping and tearing and growling, and the unspoken assertion as to how Stiles, really, will have sex with him pretty much time he wants it, so there is no need for force or violence.

"Are we ever going to go running?" Stiles asks.

Derek pulls on the t-shirt, and says, "It's going to rain today."

Stiles sits up with his arms wrapped around his knees, and his toes almost tucked under Derek's thighs. And since they're almost tucked, Stiles pushes them forward and tucks them all the way, under the warm denseness of Derek's leg. He waits a moment, expecting that Derek will most certainly shove his feet away, but Derek doesn't. With the same touch, he pets the top of Stiles' feet, leaving the heft of his palm there before taking his hand away, a sudden gesture that seems to mean that he's a little shy at being caught being so sweet.

"How do you know?" asks Stiles, ignoring the fact that Derek's not answered his question; Stiles will ask it again in a minute, in the hopes of getting an answer. He rubs his gritty eyes with the back of his hand, yawning. "It always seems like it will and then it never does."

"I can smell it," Derek says, as he stands up. His tone does not quite add the scathing observation that if Stiles were a werewolf, he'd be able to smell it too, but Stiles imagines that he's thinking it. Moving towards the window, he looks at Stiles, sitting on the bed. "It's good to go running in the rain; come over this afternoon, and you'll see."

Stiles raises his eyebrows, watching Derek exit through the window, barely rustling the branches of the trees outside. A second later, his Dad taps at the door, and opens it to peek around.

"You talking to yourself, Stiles?" he asks, mocking, because, of course, the answer is yes, for who else would Stiles be talking to.

Stiles doesn't look at the open window. "Myself, of course."

His Dad just laughs, and Stiles takes the opening to add, "And I'm thinking of going running today." He waits for his Dad's response, hoping that his Dad hasn't forgotten their conversation about how Stiles' running habits are so ordinary as to be boring because, yes, Stiles goes running and keeps himself fit, and what of it.

"Speaking of which," says Stiles' Dad. "Don't forget, your sneakers are out of lockdown, so if you want to come by sometime after lunch, I can have them for you."

"Thanks, Dad," Stiles says. The timing is perfect, because even though he and Derek are mated, whatever that really means, he doesn't actually need protection anymore from other wolves. Still, he thinks it will be fun to go with Derek, running through the woods, in the rain.

His Dad leaves to go get ready for work, and Stiles moves to the open window, to look at the sky, which is completely blue and dry and bright, stretches, and scratches his belly.

***

After Stiles takes a shower, gets dressed, and gets himself something to eat, he takes a stab at the laundry, leaving the sheets from his bed for last, as they smell like Derek as much as they smell like himself, and even though he's not a werewolf, he likes the smell. Around noon, he goes out to the Jeep, and sure enough there's a huddle of low grey clouds just beyond the tree line, though whether they will actually be enough to produce real rain, well, Stiles has his doubts.

Still, he drives to the station, and walks into his Dad's office, to catch him with a burger and a pile of curly fries.

"I thought I told you to come after lunch," says his Dad around an illicit mouthful. At least he's got an iced tea instead of soda, so Stiles is going to let it go. Besides, as he walks around behind his Dad to steal a particularly large and salty curly fry, he can see his sneakers on his Dad's desk, still in their plastic evidence bag; his name's on the tag, and there's a scrawl, not his Dad's, that says, Tested, ready for release. Which makes them seem like some type of wild animal that's been cleared to go running. Somewhat like Stiles.

As if to make it up to him for the curly fries, his Dad gestures with his elbow to a plastic bag from Sears, and Stiles opens it up to find a pair of lacrosse style running shorts. They are brand new, and just red enough to be the team's colors.

"I noticed you taking off in those cotton ones, they can't be comfortable. Whatever happened to your other ones?"

Stiles uses his Dad's scissors to cut the tags, and stows the receipt back in the plastic bag.

"I dunno," says Stiles, peeling off his cotton shorts, right there in his Dad's office, and pulling on the running ones. They feel silky and smooth and he knows he'll run a lot better in these. "I think the dryer ate them."

"The dryer also ate my other tie," his Dad says, taking another large bite out of his cheeseburger, as if truly convinced that Stiles will take it away from him. "So when I went to buy a new one, I saw these and thought of you."

"Thanks, Dad," says Stiles. He gives his Dad a huge hug and a smacking kiss on the cheek, and waves himself out the door, the keys to his Jeep jingling in his hand. And then drives as fast as he can to the Hale house, sending up clouds of dust in the dry air along the dirt road through the preserve.

When he arrives, he pulls up next to Derek's Camaro, sending a cloud of dust to land all over the black surface, and thinks he will have to ring the non-existent doorbell to get Derek to come out and play. But Derek's there, on the top step, just as Stiles' turns off the ignition of the Jeep, and he comes down the stairs, dressed in running shorts and a t-shirt, like Stiles is, but his sneakers are the same ones he always wears, the kind better suited to basketball or something. But Stiles doesn't say anything, just waves as he gets out of the Jeep and shuts the door.

"I don't think it's going to rain," he says, smirking at Derek. "Weatherman survey says, zero percent."

Derek smirks back at him, with no malice and no irritation, seeming happier than Stiles has since him probably ever. "Just wait," Derek says. "We're going to walk into the preserve along the main path, and by the time we reach the first hill? It'll be raining."

"Walk?" Stiles frowns, feeling dubious. "What about stretching?"

"Walking's the best way to warm up; stretching is for after."

"But my coach says--"

"You trust Finstock?" Derek's eyebrows go up, and now he is mocking Stiles.

"Well--okay. I trust you." Stiles nods; he does, he really does.

"So we walk."

And walk they do, along the path into the preserve, side by side, as the heat of the morning is overtaken by the cotton-wool of low clouds moving over the tops of the trees. By the time they are moving from the saplings along the edge to the older growth trees, the temperature is dropping, enough to make goose pimples rise up on Stiles' skin and make him think longingly about his red hoodie.

Beside him, Derek is probably impervious to the change in temperature, walking along at a brisk pace, making Stiles keep up with him. As Stiles looks at him, he catches Derek, his smiling mouth, his cheeks pink in the fresh air, his green eyes sparkling. The woods, and being in them, make Derek happy, that's obvious to see; Stiles wonders if his presence adds to this or is only an inconvenience. It's one thing to be a wolf's mate, something done to save Stiles, it's another to be considered a guy's friend. But he's not going to ask, though, he's shown himself to be needy already, and he's got his pride.

Derek quickens his step, making Stiles trot to keep up; the blood starts pumping under his skin, keeping him warm, and he can see, now, how running in cooler weather is easier. At the top of the hill, where the trees thin and the tops of the buildings in Beacon Hills can just barely be seen, it starts to rain. Just a little, light sprinkles that spark on the top of Stiles' head, dapple the skin on Derek's neck.

A moment later, as it begins to rain in earnest, Derek cocks an I-told-you-so eyebrow at Stiles. But instead of sprinting off along the path that leads down the other side of the hill into the thicker, more dense part of the preserve, Derek stops. He takes Stiles by the shoulders, and ignoring Stiles gasp of surprise, gently pushes him against a tree. The rain spins past them, where they are shielded by the green summer leaves.

The bark is scratchy against Stiles' back; he squirms to get more comfortable, looking up at Derek.

"I thought--" Derek begins, and then stops; Stiles thinks he might actually be blushing. "You might want something like you'd find in the Poconos. "You know." He dips his head to nip at Stiles' mouth, softening his kisses with a small, sweet, swipe of his tongue along Stiles' lips. "You know, kisses in the rain?"

Stupefied, Stiles lets Derek kiss him, lets Derek cradle his head in those hands, big and strong enough to kill, lets Derek press kisses along his neck, inhale breaths of Stiles' scent. He can feel Derek's erection against his hip, as Derek moves close, and Stiles puts his hand on Derek's belt. He'll take Derek in his mouth, here and now, right here, in the middle of the green and leafy forest, because he thinks Derek will like it. Derek loves being in the woods, and Stiles wants to make it even better.

But Derek reaches down to take his hands, and clasp them together between his own. "Later," he says, as he kisses Stiles again. "After we run, back at the house. It'll still be raining, it'll be--"

Stiles catches the look in his Derek's eyes, the soft, almost fond expression that Stiles has never seen there before. He knows what Derek is saying, in all those words that Derek doesn't use, that it will be cool, and as the rain comes down, they can tangle in the sheets, on Derek's mattress, low on the floor. And with the damp breeze coming from the ruined tumble of a garden, it will be as like the cabin in the woods as Derek can make it.

"You say the sweetest things," says Stiles, his voice mocking, trying for mocking, trying to make it a little joke, because seriously? Dealing with Derek's gentleness is almost as hard as dealing with his rage.

Derek's eyes flicker; Stiles might have hurt his feelings. So he fixes it by kissing Derek back, enjoying the sensation of Derek's mouth when there are no teeth rising up to dig into him, the softness, the response as Derek kisses him back.

"Better than the Poconos," says Stiles, low, feeling himself flush.

Derek's eyebrows fly up, as if he doesn't believe Stiles, and needs confirmation that Stiles is telling the truth and is not mocking him.

"Yes." Stiles puts his hand on Derek's waist, feeling the heat of his skin through the thin cotton. He nods, nods hard. "This is much, much better. Heart shaped tubs are definitely overrated. Especially compared to being pushed up against a very scratchy tree." He smiles, looking up through his eyelashes to let Derek know that he's completely kidding. And when Derek looks down at him, mouth curving up in a small smirk, he knows that Derek knows. And thinks that his day is turning out to be just perfect.

In the next second, Derek lets him go, releasing the pressure from Stiles' shoulders so fast that Stiles has to stumble to keep his balance. And then sprint like crazy to catch up with Derek, who's running, long limbed, and easy, his strides one to Stiles' one and a half. And the rain, pelting down, not steadily, but in waves of shower drops, and handfuls of mist, and then raindrops again, and more, from the green leaves. Soaking them to the skin, making the path muddy beneath their feet.

And, when at the bottom of a slight slope, Stiles slips in the mud and bangs into Derek, he thinks that Derek will shove him away, irritated, and keep running. Instead, Derek grabs him about the waist and steadies him, and laughs as he wipes the mud from Stiles' face. Tips his head back and honest to god laughs. And leaves Stiles open mouthed, as Derek lets go of him and sprints on ahead. Stiles scrambles to catch up, gasping and wet and, yes, it is the perfect day. The most lovely, perfect day ever.

~The End~