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I.

“Scott, sweetheart, would you come here a second?” Stiles asks, trying to keep his annoyance out of his voice. He turns his head, expecting Scott to be right behind him still talking to Derek. What he actually finds is Derek awkwardly scanning the room while filling his red solo cup with more beer (which, what is even the point of drinking cheap keg beer if you can’t get drunk? Stiles makes a mental note to ask later), and Scott across the room, already wrapped around Allison. Stiles couldn’t really blame the guy. He and Allison were at separate colleges now, so the only time they got to see each other was on the weekends. Why Scott chose to spend any of that time at a frat party was beyond Stiles.

“Which one is Scott?” the girl in front of him asks, looking put out but still trying to be polite.

“Um,” he turns his back to the girl and makes desperate eyes at Derek. He hopes they say, Please, if any of those times I’ve saved your life in the past have meant anything to you, come save me right now and pretend to be Scott, who is pretending to be my boyfriend, though he thinks it might just come out, I’m mentally deranged and in need of a psych eval.

After a little eyebrow communication, some eye rolling, and a lot of unspoken sass, Derek plasters on a smile and says, “Hello, Stiles. Who is this stunning creature you’ve tricked into talking to you?”

“Amanda,” the girl answers, looking begrudgingly charmed. Stiles tries not to roll his eyes.

Stiles wraps an arm around the other man’s waist and pinches as retribution for that comment, answering, “I was just telling her you’re majoring in voice. She’s a minor.” Stiles would bet money Derek’s singing voice sounds like Scott’s first attempt at a growl. That thought makes him smother a grin in Derek’s shoulder. 

“Funny, I’ve never seen you around the practice rooms before,” she eyes him skeptically.

“That’s because I don’t actually go here. Just here tonight for Stiles.”

"But, Stiles said you both live in the same hall?”

Derek’s smile falters incrementally, and he turns to give crazy murder eyes to Stiles briefly before answering, “Yes, of course I go here, but I prefer to use the practice room at my parent’s house.”

Amanda opens her mouth to invariably ask another question – it’s why he’s been stuck taking to her for the past half an hour and resorted to asking Scott/Derek for help – but Derek cuts her off. “Listen, it was really lovely to meet you, Becky, but we really must be going.”

“It’s Amanda,” she calls to their backs, sounding defeated.

Stiles turns to wave slightly over the hand on his bicep forcing him through the crowd to the front door, not bothering to apologize for Derek’s “mistake.” Derek was actually really freaky with names, there was no way he had forgotten hers so quickly. Stiles had always figured it had something to do with his trust issues, so he never pressed. At least those trust issues were finally working for Stiles’ benefit in this case: Derek probably just subtly ensured the girl would be too embarrassed to talk to either of them again in the future. He almost feels bad, but then he remembers that she spent ten minutes telling Stiles about her cats’ eating habits and can’t quite bring himself to care.

Once they’re outside, Stiles bursts out laughing. “That was amazing, dude! A+, would pretend to date you again.”

“What the hell was that?” Derek asks. He’s trying to cover it, but Stiles can tell he’s vaguely amused.

“Scott and I came up with a code that if he ever got unwanted advances when Allison wasn’t around, I would pretend be his boyfriend. Sweetheart is our code word. This is actually the first time I’ve tried to use it to my advantage, and Scott failed me. Some best friend he is,” Stiles shakes his head fondly.

“Well,” Derek sighs, “we can’t go back in there now. Do you want to go grab some dinner?”

Stiles’ eyes light up. “I’m starving. Can we go to that place on Sixth, with the burgers?”

“Can you promise not to spill three milkshakes this time?”

“Okay, that was one time. Let it go.”

“The waitresses haven’t. Margret still give us funny looks when we go in, thanks to you,” Derek shoves his hands in his pockets and bumps Stiles’ right shoulder to get them moving away from the house.

"That’s not my fault, you’re just funny looking.”

Derek stares flatly at him until Stiles admits, “You’re right, that was terrible. Dinner’s on me?”

“Damn right it is,” Derek grumbles, but his lips twitch upward slightly.

II.

"Look,” Stiles sighs, rolling his eyes, “just do us both a favor and let me go now. You seem just creepy enough to have been following me for a while, so you most likely know my buddy, Scott, could kick your ass so hard you’d never recover. Literally. Probably. And if he actually has to come in here to get me, things will not be pretty for you. If you let me go now, and promise to leave these woods forever, I promise you can leave alive.”

Stiles really wants this to be over. Besides being a big mess if the police get involved (and they usually do considering who Stiles is related to), and the threat of imminent death looming over him and whatnot, being kidnapped is boring. By now, Stiles has been in some sort of cellar for just over twenty minutes, and the witch who kidnapped him hasn’t spoken once. He has been trying to get her to talk, though, because he’s hoping it will distract her from setting up some sort of pentagon ritual space on the floor beside the chair Stiles is currently snugly tied to (each leg and arm to its own corresponding part of the chair, so there is absolutely no wiggle room).

This is officially the most cliché experience of Stiles’ life. And he’s heard Scott profess his love to Allison.

At least they haven’t left the Preserve. It’s Summer Break, so most of the people he used to hang around are home from college. It’s nice, catching up with everyone from the old pseudo-Beacon Hills pack, most of whom he’s stayed in contact with, but hasn’t seen face to face in almost six months. That nice feeling lasted about three days. Now, everyone is bored out of their minds, so most picked up odd jobs and projects around town. Stiles decided to help Derek finally renovate the Hale house.

Stiles had actually been heading over there to help Derek rip up the floorboards to look for anything useful before they start the renovations – since that’s where Peter’s laptop was hidden for so long – when the witch had snagged him. She literally popped up out of the ground, grabbed his ankle, yanked him down into the cellar, and provided substantial nightmare fodder for years to come. Soon, either Derek would notice Stiles hadn’t shown up for their unofficial appointment (unlikely), or Scott would notice later tonight when Stiles’ dad inevitably calls the McCalls to check if Stiles will be spending the night or not (Stiles has never been more grateful for his father’s overprotective streak despite the year away at college). So Stiles would just have to stave off boredom until –

“Holy God, lady. What the hell?” Stiles yelps, pulling frantically on the ropes tying him to the chair. The witch just grins, stalking towards him with the biggest hunting knife Stiles has ever seen.

“Uh, Scott?” Stiles yells. “Scott, now would be a good time to find me, thank you!”

The witch cuts his right hand free, yanks it over a corner of the pentagon, and slices a gash from wrist to elbow on top of his forearm. She lets the blood (his blood, shit) drip for about a minute before tying him back to the chair.

“What do you want? Maybe we can give it to you, no blood necessary? I mean, less blood. Less of Stile’s blood outside of his body is always good.”

The witch smirks. She points to her throat, and then her lips, before turning around to grab a few candles off the makeshift shelf across the room.

“You don’t have a voice?” Stiles asks, and she nods. From her smirk earlier, he’d venture a guess that she wants his voice. Fuck that.

“Hey, werewolves,” he shouts at the wooden door he fell through, “One of you had better hear me. What good are your super senses if you can’t save me from mortal peril? I swear to God, if you let me die-”

Stiles is saved from having to come up with a sufficiently intimidating threat by the wooden trap door literally being yanked off its hinges.

“Are you alright?” Derek, surprisingly, not Scott, asks from around his fangs.

Stiles breathes out a sigh of relief. “Yes, I’m fine. Now, go. Tackle. Kill. She is not a nice lady.”

Before Derek can take two steps, the witch snaps her fingers and disappears. Derek and Stiles blink at the space she used to occupy.

“Did she just apparate?” Stiles asks.

Derek rolls his eyes. “Let’s get out of here.”

Derek walks over to cut Stiles out of the ropes, careful to kick the items strategically placed around the pentagram out of alignment and scuff up the markings on his way.

“What did she want, anyway?” Derek asks once they’re above ground again.

“I’m not entirely certain, but I think she wanted my voice.”

“Damn. Do you think we could call her back? You without a voice sounds amazing.”

Stiles laughs sarcastically while Derek smirks. The bastard.

III.

“When did we become friends?” Stiles asks breathlessly.

“We’re not,” Derek replies with no real heat. Stiles is about seventy percent sure he doesn’t mean that. “You’re not going to distract me. Punch me again.”

“But,” Stiles whines pitifully, “Arms. Noodle arms.” He shakes his arms limply at Derek for effect.

Derek looks immovably unimpressed. “This wasn’t even my idea. I’m doing you a favor. Now, punch me in the face.”

Stiles sighs, assumes the stance Derek had taught him earlier that week, and swings his right arm. Derek catches his arm easily by the wrist, twisting Stile’s arm until it’s behind his back.

“I hardly think I’ll have the freaky werewolf reflexes necessary for that maneuver if the time comes that I can actually try it out,” Stiles wheezes, bent over his knees, until Derek lets him up.

“Do you want to test it? I could punch you in the face,” Derek offers innocently. Stiles feels a phantom pain shoot through his hand where Derek once punched him with mere inches between them, and quickly nixes the idea, as he likes his brain on the inside of his skull thank you. Derek just smirks.

“Seriously, though. Give me five minutes to try to not die of exhaustion, and explain how we became friends.” Stiles flops down on his back on the grass. Between training and the manual labor required to rebuild Derek’s old house, Stiles is going to be pissed if he’s not ripped by the end of the summer.

Derek sits down to his right. Stiles looks up at his face, but Derek stares straight ahead. “Why the sudden interest?”

“It just hit me that you’re voluntarily helping me learn self-defense-“

Derek cuts him off, “Because I don’t want to keep having to save your ass.”

“-and you came to visit Scott and me, like, every other weekend at college,” Stiles continues over Derek’s interjection.

Derek shrugs awkwardly at that, so Stiles taps Derek’s thigh with the back of his hand and continues, “The weirdest part is that I liked it. I actually enjoy spending time with you.” Well, that got surprisingly heavy fast. He clears his throat. “All I’m saying is that sixteen-year-old me would have called shenanigans so hard by now.”

Derek’s lips twitch. “Twenty-two-year-old me would have gotten in the Camaro and driven to the other side of the country, pack or no.”

“Rude,” Stiles shakes his head playfully.

“Alright, let’s get back to it,” Derek stands, offering his hand to Stiles. See? Friendship, Stiles thinks a little hysterically as he takes the hand in front of him.

“Let me grab some water from my jeep. I’ll be quick, I swear,” Stiles holds up his hands in surrender to look more innocent. He thinks he might get away with stalling a little more if he does that.

Stiles, of course, recognizes that this is all his fault for promising a speedy return. He’s only half-way between the clearing they use to spar and his jeep when the ground opens again, and he’s pulled under.

“Oh, for the love of-“ Stiles sighs. “Really? Again?”

The mute witch, who is quickly becoming the bane of Stiles’ existence, flicks him quickly between the eyes, and he’s out.

When he wakes an indeterminate amount of time later, the witch is just finishing another pentagram drawing.

“Do those things actually hold power? I thought that was one of those Hollywood perpetuated stereotypes, like werewolves needing to turn at the full moon. Oh, speaking of, my old threat still stands. Scott, who is a werewolf, will find you and rip you apart.” He knows it’s more likely that Derek is going to find him first, what with Derek being the closest, and the last person to see him and all that. Plus, there’s that weird fact that Derek keeps coming to his rescue, now more often than Scott. Stiles refuses to think about that too much. Anyway, Stiles stands by his old threat because he’s pretty sure parenting manuals teach you to hold firm or children stop believing you’ll follow through on punishment. It totally applies to this situation.

The witch gives him a pitying look, so Stiles replies hotly, “Just because he didn’t come last time doesn’t mean he won’t this time. Don’t give me those eyes.”

The woman turns to one of the doors in the cellar – Stiles realizes there are eight doors total when he takes in a full survey of the room, but otherwise it looks like an exact replica of the other cellar she trapped him in – and a body tumbles backwards into the room.

Scott is passed out, hands and feet bound, but still appears to be breathing. It’s a small consolation, especially since the woman drags him into the dead center of the pentagram. If she’s operating under clichéd Hollywood rules, as Stiles suspects she totally is, that is the number one place you do not want to be. 

“Scott,” Stiles tries to push back the cold dread settling in the pit of his stomach, “buddy, now is not the time to lay down on the job. If you could wake up, and claw us out of here, I’d really appreciate it.”

“Muh,” Scott says muzzily, shifting slightly, just as the witch is putting the final items around the pentagram.

“Scott,” Stiles voice steadily beings to rise, “she’s about to pull out an obscenely large knife, and I would really rather not get cut and/or lose my voice today, so how about you get up and help me. Or Derek, if you’re listening, now would be a good time to make with the saving.”

As if on cue, Derek bursts through one of the doors on Stiles’ right. Thankfully, the door is also right behind the witch. Before she can turn around, Derek has her pinned to the floor and her spinal cord slashed.

Stiles allows himself to breathe heavily for a moment, equal parts put at ease over the fact that he wouldn’t be bothered by her again and grossed out that he could see another human’s vertebrae.

“Did you wait outside the door for me to call you?” Stiles asks, once his breathing is under control again.

Derek glares as he crosses the room to cut Stiles free.

“Seriously, that timing was too perfect to be a coincidence. And it took you a really long time to find us.”

“It took five minutes, and there were eight doors I could have chosen from, Stiles. Eight. You’re just lucky you’re obnoxiously talkative. Werewolves three counties away probably could have found you.” Derek makes quick work of Stiles’ wrists, then crosses his arms over his chest. Stiles huffs and bends over when it’s clear Derek is refusing to undo his ankles like the petty child he is.

“Look, all I’m saying is that your response time could stand to improve. Take the criticism like a man.”

“And you could stand to actually learn some self-defense instead of complaining about how much you don’t want to do it.”

“If you were any less boring-“ Stiles is cut off by Scott’s, “Uh, guys? A little help here?”

Stiles and Derek jump, like they both forgot Scott was there at all. Derek walks over to Scott as Stiles starts on his left ankle and says, “Commit to the lessons, or have someone else teach you if you can’t learn from me. I don’t like having to save you all the time.”

And there it is. After all this time, Derek still doesn’t like Stiles all that much. Maybe he actually was telling the truth earlier when he said he and Stiles weren’t friends, and Stiles was just projecting his own feelings onto the situation. Wouldn’t be the first time. It hurts more than he’d care to admit or examine, but at least he’s familiar with this pain. He packs it all in, takes a steadying breath to rid his voice of any signs of hurt, and says, “You’re right. Sorry, the lessons were a bad idea. I’ll ask Scott or Allison or someone to show me a few moves. It’ll be good to cross-reference different defense styles.”

Derek gives him a strange look before nodding once. He looks like he wants to say something, but never quite gets to it because Scott collapses like a newborn fawn beside him. Turns out, the ropes were infused with wolfsbane, and they rubbed Scott’s ankles wrong. Derek assures them both he’ll be fine soon, but he and Stiles have to help Scott through the tunnels. Stiles makes sure his arm doesn’t brush Derek’s when they reach around Scott’s back, Scott’s arms around the boys’ shoulders. It’s slow-going, but they eventually make it out.

“Stiles,” Derek starts when they reach his jeep, but Stiles stops him.

“Thanks for the help today. I should get him home.” Stiles is really not in the mood to be let down easy. He’s gotten it a lot over the years, but for some reason the thought of Derek giving him pitying, knowing looks hurts more than the rest of them combined. 

Stiles doesn’t wait for a response, and he refuses to look at Derek’s face in the rearview mirror.

IV.

“This cannot be a thing that happens. I will not allow it,” he grumbles from the trunk of a totally nondescript car. “Next summer, I’m staying at school.”

Stiles has just managed to kick out the tail light and wave his hand through when the car stops. Figures.

“Oh, that’s cute,” his kidnapper laughs. She’s maybe five feet tall, adorably plump, and probably pushing fifty. Stiles was forcibly kidnapped by this woman. In fact, when he had tried some of the defense maneuvers Derek taught him, she laughed and said encouragingly, “That was a good one! You keep trying. I’m sure you’ll do just fine against your next opponent.” No one must ever know about this.

Before he can try to make a run for it, she blows some sort of powder in his face, and he’s out.

Stiles awakes in a cellar – seriously, he is going to talk to his dad about starting a side project to fill in every cellar in Beacon Hills with concrete when he gets out of this – with his hands and feet bound to a chair, much like the voice-hungry witch. What, did local witches just get together and discuss the best ways to properly detain semi-innocent college students?

“Oh, good. You’re awake. Kidnappings are always so boring when only one person is awake,” the woman says delightedly from her perch on a stool across the room. It probably says something about Stiles that he’s apparently beginning to think like a nefarious kidnapper who is surprisingly strong and brutal and 6’4” if anyone ever asks.

“This is a bad idea, lady. Let me go.” Stiles states calmly. She doesn’t appear to be perpetrating his immediate demise currently, and she seems to be enjoying herself, so maybe Stiles can chat with her until Derek comes. No, not Derek. Scott. When did Stiles start thinking of Derek before Scott? Oh, this is bad.

“I’m afraid it would be rude for you to leave before the guest of honor arrives.”

“Please tell me whoever’s coming won’t have a big-ass knife, because I am so over those.”

The woman chuckles, and says, “Sweetheart, you’ll wish he had a knife.”

Okay. Yeah, there were about seven things not okay with that sentence.

“Are you there, Scott? It’s me, Stiles,” Stiles yells at the ceiling. He knows they’re in the preserve, so Derek makes the most logical sense to call for, but he needs to preserve some dignity with that man. Begging for his help after he’s made it clear he doesn’t want to have to deal with Stiles anymore is not something Stiles is gung-ho about pursuing any time soon.

“Scott?” the woman cocks her head to the side. 

“The big bad wolf who’s going to rescue me and rip you apart unless you let me go right now,” Stiles answers. He is so fed up with being kidnapped, tired of explaining who Scott is and what he’s capable of. The supernatural should really have a newsletter of people it’s not okay to kidnap because they have reliable friends in shady places. Honestly, you’d think people would have learned by now.

The woman chuckles. “You have no idea, do you?”

Before he can ask what the hell that means, he hears a door break open behind him.

“Delightful,” the woman says, jumping off her stool and reaching into her pocket. “You’re just in time.” She pulls out her hand and opens it palm up near her face, blowing some yellow dust across the room, immediately sending Stiles and the person behind him into a coughing fit.

The woman grins, claps her hands, and says, “This is so fun! I’ve never tried this with a werewolf. Now, rip off his fingers.”

Stiles doesn’t even have a second to panic before he sees Derek stride across the room and slash the woman’s throat. He’s pretty sure he hears Derek mutter, “Moron,” but that’s about the time the room starts to spin, so he can’t really say.

“Stiles?” Derek asks, and when did he get so close? “Hey, are you alright?”

“You’re blurry,” Stiles laughs, poking Derek’s cheek with a newly-freed fore-finger.

“Yeah, let’s get you to Deaton’s,” Derek says gently. “Can you walk?”

“Yes,” Stiles answers immediately. Just because the room vaguely resembles “Starry Night” does not mean he can’t take care of himself. He takes one step, however, and then he’s face to face with the ground. Stiles is a hundred and ten percent sure he would have broken his nose if Derek hadn’t been there with his freaky werewolf reflexes.

Derek pulls him up into a fireman’s carry fairly easily, but Stiles protests very quickly. “No, dizzy. Bad. Too much.” Derek huffs, but readjusts so that Stiles is cradled in his arms, against his chest. Completely undignified, but Stiles couldn’t care less at the moment. He wraps his arms around Derek’s shoulders, buries his face against Derek’s neck, and says quietly, “I didn’t think you’d come.”

Derek is silent for long enough that Stiles is starting to wonder if he’d actually said that out loud. Then, “I’m sorry you felt that way.”

“S’okay,” Stiles shrugs. “I’m used to it.”

“What does that mean?” Derek asks, but Stiles is drifting off. “Hey, Stiles? Come on, I need you to stay awake.”

Stiles groans, but immediately opens his eyes again.

“Why don’t you tell me about the apartment you and Scott found for this semester?” Derek asks, dropping him into the jeep’s passenger seat.

“It’s weird being in this side of the car,” Stiles says instead, blinking around awed.

Derek laughs lightly. It makes Stiles want to touch his lips, so he does. Derek closes his eyes slightly, and leans into the press for a moment before physically shaking himself, dislodging Stiles’ fingers in the process. Derek peels away seconds later.

If Stiles were any more coherent, he’d warn Derek to take care of his baby. Instead, he asks, “Would you ever let me drive the Camero?”

“No.”

“Okay.”

Derek glances over, surprised. “Huh. This stuff is really strong.”

“What is it? I feel like I’m inside music,” Stiles says, waving his hand in front of his face. He can see patterns ripple from it.

“I’m not sure. I have an idea, but I want Deaton to confirm it before we do anything. Sound good?” Derek sounds like he’s trying not to laugh, so that’s a good sign. If Stiles was actually dying, he hopes Derek would have enough sense of decorum to act appropriately somber.

“You’re a nice guy when you want to be, Derek Hale. And I like your laugh. You should do it more often.”

Derek doesn’t say anything because they’re pulling up to Deaton’s office, and Stiles is again being carried inside.

“You should carry me always,” Stiles sighs into Derek’s neck before he’s placed on a free metal table.

Deaton raises his eyebrows at Derek. “And what do we have here?”

“He’s been hit with some yellow powder. I don’t remember what it’s called, but I think it’s that stuff that makes you hyper obedient.”

Deaton nods. Then, turning to Stiles, he asks, “Will you give me your keys so I can go crash your jeep?”

Stiles grabs his keys from Derek’s proffered hand and says, “Try not to hurt yourself.”

Derek and Deaton both chuckle.

“You know, I used to give Laura some of that powder every few months when she was in high school. She never did tell me what she used it for. I always assumed I was better off not knowing,” Deaton says as he searches for a reflex hammer.

Derek smiles fondly. “She used to make bullies publicly embarrass themselves. I never knew you were her enabler.”

“Laura was a good kid,” Deaton tells him sincerely, looking back towards Stiles only when Derek nods jerkily.

“I think the witch who doused us was trying to get me under the influence too, so she used a higher concentration. Is that going to cause problems?” Derek asks, eyes returning to Stiles. Stiles grins, and reaches out to stroke his scruff.

“Well,” Deaton checks Stiles’ eyes and a few reflex points, “I’d say you’re right, but the concentration shouldn’t do anything worse than a normal dose. It clearly lowered his inhibitions a bit more than normal, and it might take longer to wear off, but I think you’re safe to take him home.”

“I’m always safe with Derek. He’s always saving me. I’m sorry you always have to save me,” Stiles says earnestly as Derek scoops him up once more.

“I don’t mind,” Derek replies quietly.

"You do, though. You said. From now on, you have a free pass to ignore my cries for help. I know you have better things to do.”

Derek gets him into the jeep, and leaves the parking lot before answering, “That’s not what I meant, you know. When I said I didn’t want to save you anymore.”

“It’s really okay. I get it. Totally used to being in love with people who don’t love me back. Just, don’t make a big deal out of it, okay? I’m going to take a nap now.”

The next morning, Stiles wakes up fully clothed, tucked into his own bed, and nursing the biggest headache of his life.

V.

“I don’t remember most of what I said last week, but it obviously freaked you out, so I’m sorry about that. Whatever I said,” Stiles blurts out in the cereal aisle of the local grocery store. It’s the first time he’s seen Derek in six days, and he’s been obsessively trying to remember what happened when he was high. He has flashes, but nothing concrete beyond the unshakable need to apologize to Derek.

Derek looks wide-eyed, clutching a box of Fruit Loops almost like a shield in front of him. It is devastatingly adorable. Damn him.

“That’s all I wanted to say,” Stiles’ fingers beat out an awkward rythym on the bar in front of him. “Sorry. Again. So, yep.” After it becomes clear Derek isn’t going to say anything back, Stiles turns his cart to go die of mortification in peace.

“Come by the loft tonight?” Derek finally calls when Stiles is half-way down the aisle.

Stiles tries not to cringe. Everything about this situation screams that he did something irreparably embarrassing, and now Derek is trying to pretend like nothing happened. For some reason, that just makes everything worse.

“Seven?” Derek asks, and Stiles’ heart sinks. He sounds so much like he’s trying, and Stiles can’t make himself deny the request.

“See you then,” Stiles agrees, and takes off. After he leaves the store, where he mercifully avoids any other run-ins with Derek, he floats through his day on auto-pilot. Finally, around five thirty, he can’t take it anymore and decides to drive over to Scott’s. He doesn’t know if he wants to talk about any of whatever this thing is with Derek, but he knows even just seeing his best friend will bolster him before having to face certain shame.

He’s about half-way between Scott’s house and Derek’s loft, actually, when the jeep runs out of gas.

“Worst. Day. Ever,” Stiles grumbles as he calls Scott. Scott, of course, doesn’t answer. Stiles leaves a message, but there’s really no hope of Scott finding it before next week, so Stiles sets off on the three-mile walk to the closest 7-Eleven.

It’s six thirty before he gets to the gas station. He takes out his phone to dial Derek as he walks inside to pay.

When Derek picks up, Stiles apologizes and explains the situation. After a moment, Derek asks, “Why didn’t you just call me?”

Stiles actually debated that very question for the better part of the walk over. “I didn’t want to put you out any more than I have already,” he finally states with a self-deprecating shrug. 

Derek sighs. “I’m coming to get you. Stay put. Which one are you at?”

Stiles feeds him the information and hangs up just before the guy in front of him, who was taking an obscenely long time, pulls out a gun.

Stiles quietly backs away to the other side of the store. He crouches down and pulls out his phone to call his dad, but Scott’s name flashes across the screen.

"Scott, I’m at the 7-Eleven on Twentieth. Call my dad. It’s being robbed.”

“Are you alright?” Scott’s voice is coated in concern.

Stiles breathes out shakily. It’s times like these that he wishes he had that freaky werewolf healing business. “For now,” he finally replies. “I hate to ask, but are you close?”

“Two minutes, buddy,” and Scott hangs up.

“Hey, did you call the fucking cops?” The robber is standing right above Stiles now, gun trained on his head.

“No, that was just a friend. No cops here,” Stiles drops the phone and raises his hands in surrender.

“Yeah, let’s see about that. Come on,” the robber yanks Stiles’ upper arm until he’s standing. Then, keeping his grip, the robber starts to push Stiles forward towards the door. He can feel the barrel of the gun pressed firmly against his spine.

“You should actually just let me go. You’ll get a much lighter prison sentence for just robbery, as opposed to taking hostages, or even a kidnapping charge.”

"I thought you said no cops?” the man hisses, jabbing him with the gun.

Stiles yelps. “No! No cops. My dad’s  the sheriff; I practically breathe knowledge of the law.”

"Just get me to my car and I’ll let you go.” Stiles wants to ask what the man things that's going to accomplish. This guy seems jumpy enough, new enough to all this, that he seems to actually believe Stiles is some sort of garuntee that, even if officers do show up, he'll get out scott-free. Logically, it makes no sense, but contrary to popular belief Stiles does know when to bite his tongue.

Stiles takes about three steps into the parking lot before he sees Derek. He’s so relieved that he unthinkingly waves him down, which must startle the robber. Stiles feels the man jerk at the sound, so the gun shifts to the right edge of Stiles' back. And then the gun goes off.

"Stiles!” Derek runs over, too fast. Stiles wants to reprimand him for being so careless out in the open, or reassure Derek that he’s fine, but he ends up blinking dumbly down at his stomach. When he reaches down to touch, his hand comes away red and a pain so intense radiates from the area that he has to sit down.

“Hey,” Derek says softly. “Come on, lay down.” He places pressure on Stiles’ stomach. He must cry out, because Derek is saying, “I know. It’s going to hurt.”

“What-“ Stiles croaks, looking over towards the robber.

“He’s unconscious,” Derek bites out, like he wishes the man had met a more severe fate. Stiles relaxes slightly. Much as he’d like the man to suffer, he really doesn’t want Derek to finally be convicted as a murderer.

Derek looks so panicked, and Stiles hates that he put that look there. “I think we need to reschedule,” Stiles huffs, trying to lighten the mood.

It startles a broken laugh out of Derek, who says, “Next time, I’m coming to pick you up.”

He holds Derek's gaze until he can't anymore.


Before Stiles opens his eyes, he registers three things: one, that he is in a hospital (he can unfortunately recognize hospital beds with startling accuracy; two, that he’s on some amazing pain killers; and three, that someone his holding his hand.

Stiles blinks awake, still pretty hazy. He traces his arm with his eyes to the hand gripping his, loose with sleep. Derek’s hand, to be exact. Stiles squeezes gently, and Derek sits bolt upright. Stiles starts to laugh, but breaks off into a groan.

“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” Derek frets, starting to stand.

“Fine,” Stiles moans. “Just, no more laughing for me. Ever, I think. So you no longer get to be funny.”

Derek’s lip quirks slightly. “No danger there.”

"Stop,” Stiles smiles.

They sit in comfortable silence for a while after that. Well, Stiles thought it was comfortable. When he glances over at Derek, however he looks like he’s about ready to vibrate out of his skin.

“Uh,” Stiles starts, but before he can finish Derek blurts out, “You told me you were in love with me.”

Stiles is lucky he’s way too high to care properly right now. As is, though, he’s still pretty embarrassed.

"When did I say that?” Stiles asks. It’s safe. Despite the months of ignoring his growing feelings towards Derek, he finally has to admit that verbalizing an outright denial would certainly register as a lie.

“When that witch hit you with the obedience powder.”

So that's why Derek had been avoiding him. Stiles nods his understanding and starts to pull his hand away, but Derek holds tight.

"I, you know” Derek motions jerkily between them with his free hand, “too.”

Stiles raises his eyebrows. He knows he’s pretty high, but he’s pretty sure there were some ideas missing in there. “What?”

Derek makes a frustrated noise, but it seems to be aimed more at himself than Stiles. Then, stiltedly, Derek begins to explain. “This is hard for me, because everyone I have ever loved, aside from Cora, has either betrayed me or died, so I was trying to avoid this. But when you- when we were outside the gas station, I realized that I couldn’t anymore. Avoid this. Because I want you- I need you to know that I love you.”

Stiles gets it. He used to tell his dad he loved him three times a day after his mom died because he felt guilty, like he hadn’t said it enough when she was alive. And then he was so terrified his dad was going to die before he could say it enough that he developed an almost compulsive need to remind his dad that he loved him. So he smiles slightly at Derek, squeezes his hand gently again, and admits softly, “I’m kind of stupidly in love with you. And one day I’ll admit that when I’m not higher than a kite.”

Derek laughs, leaning forward to press their foreheads together. Stiles angles up after a moment to press their lips together. It’s quick and chaste, but it settles something between them.There's no going back from this for either of them.

+1.

“Derek,” Stiles calls from the kitchen of his and Scott’s apartment three weeks later, “if you don’t get out here in the next five minutes, I’m going to eat your share of the pancakes.”

He hears footsteps behind him as he finishes piling the third plate high with the breakfast food, despite there only being two of them (they are healthy adult males with healthy adult appetites, okay?). “I know I blew your mind last night, but aren’t you usually up at the crack of dawn to run? It’s freaking me out that I’m up before you.”

“Yeah, dude. Not Derek,” Scott chuckles, reaching over Stiles to snag one of the plates.

Stiles laughs. “Sorry, man. Hey, when did you get in?” He thought Scott was supposed to be at Allison’s this weekend.

“I think it was sometime after all that mind-blowing sex, thankfully. Allison has a big Chem test tomorrow, so we decided to cut our weekend short a day.”

“That sucks. But at least you get a three-day weekend for Labor Day next week,” Stiles offers. From the stupid grin on Scott’s face, he thinks Scott’s already thought this through. In detail.

“Right,” Stiles turns to balance the two plates, syrup, and two mugs of coffee in his hands, “I’m off to apparently take my boyfriend breakfast in bed. He’s either incredibly lazy and I never realized, or I broke him.”

“I’m so happy for you, but you know I never need the details, right? Ever?” Scott says, eying the items precariously balanced in Stiles’ hands with mild trepidation.

“Noted,” Stiles calls over his shoulder.

Stiles miraculously manages to set everything down on his bedside table without spilling when Derek snuffles and turns over to face him.

“Morning, sleepy wolf,” Stiles smiles down at him fondly.

Derek’s eyes crinkle in a sleep-soft smile that makes his stomach flip.

“Hey,” Stiles says, slipping back into bed. Derek makes a questioning noise as he sits up, and Stiles says, “I love you.”

Derek gently cups Stiles’ jaw in his left hand, pulling him in for a kiss. Derek nips gently at Stiles’ lower lip, swiping an apology over the spot with his tongue, before pulling away.

“I love you, too.”