Stiles should really win a medal for all the shit that he puts up with.
This is what is running through his head as he crawls down the slope of the roof over the decking at Scott’s house.
There are a lot of things running through his head. The vines that are holding him in place, are they securely fastened? His foot nocked around a post won’t be enough to hold him up if the plants give way. And his face is feeling awfully itchy, and that’s probably all the blood running to it, but it’s dark anyway, nobody will be able to see he looks like a beetroot. Scott’s roof could really use some TLC. But then, that kind of stuff’s expensive even if you’re not a single-parent family. Which reminds him – did his dad pay the water bill on time?
But no, really, he should totally win a medal.
The door opens and suddenly the plants give way. A sick thrilling fills his chest as he slides along the roof. He expects to crash into the ground, headfirst, split his skull open and die a messy death, but it doesn’t happen. The plants do their thing and his ankle stings as he prevents his own demise. Instead of landing in a bloody heap on the ground and dying by imitating Batman, he ends up hanging half-off Scott’s roof. The blood is really rushing to his head now, but that’s nothing compared to Scott’s face. Scott yowls and flails and the wooden bat he’s holding nearly gives Stiles a concussion.
“Stiles, what the hell are you doing?” Scott is clearly shaken, but more exasperated than anything else.
“You weren’t answering your phone! Why do you have a bat?”
“I thought you were a predator!”
Stiles tries not to roll his eyes. Instead he disentangles himself and lands on his feet, instantly feeling less dizzy. He proceeds to inform Scott, in his usual excited manner, of the discovery he made while listening to the police scanner.
Scott is somewhat less impressed about the body in the woods, grumbling about getting enough sleep for lacrosse tryouts tomorrow, but he comes along nonetheless. Stiles holds the torch and Scott complains about his asthma, puffing as they climb the hill, and Stiles takes pity on him. Scott gets to hold the torch and they slow their pace a little. Scott’s asthma has been acting up lately and if there’s a time and place not to have an asthma attack, the Beacon Hills Preserve in the middle of the night is it.
Scott exposes a few flaws in Stiles’s brilliant plan, like he always does, but they keep on going. Stiles is pumped to look for this body and Scott’s there out of morbid curiosity – that, and a healthy measure of friend solidarity – but neither of them are really sure what they’re going to do if they actually find it.
Stiles plans on assisting the investigation. He’ll be allowed to help because he makes excellent contributions and is a natural born detective, and him finding this body will be the wake-up call that will make the cops see that they’re missing out on the raw, untapped talent that is Stiles Stilinski. He’ll crack the case and they’ll come to him with more cases, and he’ll solve them all because he can, and he’ll eventually end up running the whole department and being a genius special consultant to the FBI who earns fuck tons of money and gets to work with aliens while wearing cool sunglasses.
That’s Stiles’s long-term plan, anyway. His short-term plan is more fuzzy.
He’s just wrestling with that short-term plan when Scott lets out a particularly loud cough and a dog barks in response.
Dogs. That means police. Stiles tries to drag Scott behind a tree trunk but it’s too late, the flashlights are on them and Scott’s been seen. He ambles over to them shamefaced, and answers the questions with his eyes trained on the ground. It’s the easiest way to get out of trouble, to clearly appear repentant, and when the Sheriff asks if Stiles is there too, Scott shakes his head faithfully. “No, sir, it’s just me.”
The deputies scan the area with their flashlights, but Stiles stays firmly placed behind his tree and ignores his father’s calls. Noah has a hard time believing Scott came out here all by himself, but Scott is smart enough to leave out the part about looking for the body. He doesn’t know anything about any corpse, Scott says earnestly when Noah asks – and how could he, he isn’t the one with the police scanner – he couldn’t sleep and he went for a walk.
One of the deputies drives Scott home, and Stiles decides it’s time to get out of there. The Sheriff will be home soon to make sure Stiles is too, and he prays the deputy doesn’t see his powder-blue Jeep parked down the road. It’s kind of distinctive.
Stiles wanders back the way he came, though not as gracefully. He’s careful not to be seen by more cops, but momentarily loses his footing when a wolf howls somewhere not that far away. He isn’t sure what shoots goosebumps up his spine: the howl, or the unearthly way it echoes. One wolf? Two? Twenty? There’s no way to tell.
Either way it’s time to get out. He’s standing, staring at an oddly-shaped shadow when a herd of deer come bounding out of the darkness in something resembling a stampede. He’s not sure what happens, only that when it’s over he’s lying on the ground shielding his eyes from falling hooves and he can’t find his phone.
A light rain patters down as he feels out the dead leaves around him to find his phone. It’s too dark to see but finally, his right hand touches plastic, and he pulls the phone in to him.
It’s what his left hand touches that bothers him more.
He shines the light from the phone’s camera flash onto the ground and immediately jumps back with a yelp.
There’s a girl lying in the leaves, dark hair fanned out around her, skin deathly pale, eyes staring up at nothing, mouth open as if to speak but clearly unable to do anything of the sort. She’s naked, but that’s not what draws Stiles’s attention – it’s the blood encrusted on the leaves around the spot where the rest of her body should be, the scarlet painting the lower half of her torso, the surrealism of it all. From where he’s sitting Stiles can see three exposed vertebrae and the large intestine, and holy shit, he had hoped to never get that well acquainted with inner organs of any kind.
His recoil sends him flying, falling, rolling backwards down a hill. His back slams into a tree trunk, pain shoots down his spine, but it doesn’t even stop him, the trunk’s too narrow, and he keeps tumbling until he finally, blessedly, lands at the bottom.
He pleads with himself not to throw up – between the blood and the fall, it’s not easy, but there’s a rational part of his brain telling him he can’t vomit this close to a crime scene, and he scrambles to his feet, trying desperately to collect his bearings.
He manages to stumble a few feet, before a low rumbling noise forces him to turn around.
Hulking darkness is what he sees, a shape he can’t describe, with red pricks for eyes, and he doesn’t see much more before he’s on his stomach being dragged bodily along the ground. He struggles to no avail, and cries out when there’s a shooting pain in his side. His flailing hands manage to grasp a decently sized stick, and he picks it up and hefts it, trying to angle it to stab whatever the hell has grabbed him, when suddenly it’s gone, there’s no foul breath, no crushing mass, no moonlight glinting off curved canines.
Stiles picks himself up and trudges in the direction of his car. He really should win a medal.
It’s the first day of school and Stiles is having an utterly bizarre day.
He was sat innocently in class behind Scott, trying to focus on the page in front of him, when his hearing had suddenly telescoped. It was freaky to say the least. One minute he was staring at an English syllabus, Kafka and Shakespeare and boredom, and the next he was hearing Jackson tell a disinterested Lydia about the upcoming lacrosse practice – four classrooms away down the hall.
Initially he thought he was hallucinating, that he was crushing on Lydia so hard that his brain was actually haemorrhaging, but it wasn’t, he could hear the other kids in the class breathing, the teacher’s heartbeat, the new girl entering the class strangely calm, the hitch in Scott’s heartbeat when she turned around and asked to borrow a pen.
It’s all very fucked up.
He’s been running on red alert all day and it’s dizzying. When there’s an unexpectedly loud noise he jerks, body tensed, ready to bolt. He’s always preferred to ignore his problems but he’s never felt this flighty. A teacher tells him off for not paying attention, his gaze flicks over to the window, and a part of his brain screams at him to vault himself through the glass, run all the way home and curl up where it’s safe. Angry teachers aren’t dangerous, not in Beacon Hills, so he forces himself to stay seated, but it freaks him out.
At lunch Scott tosses him a carton of orange juice, but Scott is kind of uncoordinated even by Stiles's standards. The box flies wide but before either of them can blink, Stiles grabs it, a foot to the left of his head. Scott’s eyes widen but nobody else is paying attention.
Everything is unsettling. When a classroom door opens in the middle of a lesson Stiles is looking up, his mind doing a mental calculation of how fast he can leave the room without really being aware of why. It’s only Greenberg coming back from the bathroom but Stiles feels this ridiculous, overwhelming urge to go somewhere he can be alone, somewhere small, where he can watch the door at all times.
And now it’s lacrosse practice, the first day having passed remarkably quickly, and Stiles can smell every bead of sweat on every boy in the locker room.
At least, it feels that way. The boys’ locker room always smells funky, but today it’s overpowering. Sweat and sweaty uniforms, and a million different deodorants. They’re chemical, unnatural, and he sneezes four times from the irritation.
By the time he’s done sneezing Jackson is staring at him like he’s a complete spaz and it’s time to get out onto the field. Being on the pitch, so out in the open – exposed, he thinks – it’s uncomfortable in a way he can’t really describe, but he swallows his feelings.
Stiles doesn’t have high expectations for this season. Scott’s always dreamed of playing first line, Stiles has too, only he keeps that to himself. He doesn’t want to get his hopes up only to have them dashed – it’s happened every other year in high school, it’s going to happen this year too, and it’s okay. He’ll practice a ton, maybe make next year if he’s lucky.
He’s ordered to stand in the goal to bolster the other players’ feelings, which, great, just great. He trudges over to the net and prepares himself for the humiliation.
Jackson tosses him ball and by the look on his face it’s clear he expects it to be in the net. He’s even turned around, ready to waltz off to the back of the line before Stiles has even caught the thing. But catch the thing he does; his stick flicks out to catch the ball effortlessly.
Jackson’s mouth gapes in a perfect ‘o’, there are jeers from the line, and a whoop from Scott.
Standing in goal continues the same way. They all throw balls, trying to trick him, in this or that corner of the net, one that’s clearly supposed to hit him in the jaw, but the stick whips out and snags them all, passing them neatly on to the next player, and Coach’s face acquires a dubious look.
The team’s morale isn’t bolstered by shooting goals at Stiles, because Stiles is a notoriously terrible player, so Coach sets them to playing a little practice match. He and Scott are thankfully on the same team, and Stiles strongly suspects that it’s being done to reassure the players that he is, in fact, awful at lacrosse.
Only that doesn’t work either. The ball is passed to Daehler on the other team and lands a few feet in front of Stiles. He scoops it up before Daehler can get to it and starts running down the field as fast as his legs will carry him.
His path isn’t clear, but it’s the clearest path of any of his teammates so he barrels right on. Someone comes from the right to intercept him but he dodges around it with such easy grace he feels like he’s dancing. It’s wildly intoxicating, sprinting down the field, and a quick glance behind him reveals that nobody is even close to catching up with him.
Almost out of nowhere Jackson appears and he’s blocking Stiles’s entire view of the net. He’s planning a tackle, but Stiles can see where he’s going to move before he does it, his vision turns to monochrome in a bizarre greenish colour, but he doesn’t focus on it, he just continues running straight at Jackson. When Jackson dives towards him to throw him on the ground in a violent tackle, Stiles jumps.
Jackson lands in a pile on the ground, Stiles thinks he actually does a flip in mid-air, and his stick snakes out and the ball is in the net and there’s a hesitant cheer going up and Stiles wonders if this is all a dream.
It’s not a dream.
He and Scott pick their way through the forest. They’re trying to go back and find where the stampede happened, for answers.
Yesterday Stiles had a messy, bloody wound on his stomach, which he’d shown Scott this morning. Now, however, it’s all but gone, as if it were never even there in the first place. It’s weird, and he’s not entirely sure what he’s going to find out here, but Scott had agreed they should look.
They’re making small talk where Stiles could have sworn he saw the deer, when Scott tugs on his sleeve and points at a stranger, standing there staring at them.
Stiles jerks back, and Scott’s reaction feels a million times slower than his own. It must look that way, too, because the stranger is watching him carefully, observantly.
The stranger is dark-haired and hot is Stiles’s immediate thought, but he forces his brain to be slightly less pubescent and look for details. Leather jacket, heavy eyebrows, green eyes – it’s Derek Hale.
He looks more like a drug dealer than the last time Stiles saw him – which was, like, years ago – but the fire would explain that. Maybe it’s the perpetual bitch-face, maybe it’s the black clothes, maybe it’s the appearing out of nowhere, but something about him scares Stiles. A small part of him is actually frightened. He’s exposed enough as it is out here in the open forest, he should run, he should really just go, get away from the –
“This is private property.” Derek tells them stonefaced.
“Sorry,” Scott says quickly, “We were just, uh, looking for…”
Derek raises his eyebrows, daring Scott to finish the lie.
Stiles takes a deep breath and is immediately assaulted with a scent that causes the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up.
He can smell Scott, can smell Derek, and they’re different, like on a species level, but there’s another scent here too. The one from last night, that rank breath, it’s here, not far away, and fear thrums through Stiles. His muscles lock up and he freezes in place. For a few beats he can’t move, fists balled inside his pockets, and when he can he’s frantically whipping his head around, listening as if it will save his life.
Derek’s eyes narrow. “What’s with you?”
Stiles ignores him. He turns to Scott. “It’s the thing from last night. Whatever bit me. It’s here. Or it has been here. We need to go.”
Scott is clearly about to ask all sorts of questions, but Derek beats him to the punch. “Did you say bit? As in an animal? It bit you?”
Stiles ignores that too, and drags Scott away by the arm.
They Skype later that night. Stiles is worlds more at ease in his own room, but he still locks the window and lets the blinds down. He resists the temptation to move his desk so he can see the door at all times and explains to Scott how being in a small space with his back against a wall would make him feel so much safer.
Scott is befuddled and begins to type something out when the screen freezes. When it finally works again, Scott has written ‘it looks like there’s someone behind you’.
Stiles inspects the screen and sees that yes, it does in fact look like someone is standing in his room, and a finger of terror trickles down his spine. He reacts fast, throwing himself across the room towards the window – it’s closer than the door, and somehow the fact that it’s on the upstairs floor doesn’t matter. He’d never expected to move so fast but he’s at the window in record time.
He’s about to open the window when whoever’s in his room grabs him by the shoulders and shoves him against the wall.
A small, sarcastic part of him thinks well, you did want to be up against a wall.
He registers that it’s someone vaguely familiar who’s pressed him up against a flat surface – it’s Derek. The same Derek from earlier, with the weird scent that somehow smells more like the thing with the red eyes than any kid at school. Derek with the ridiculous muscle definition that is right now very close to Stiles’s own less impressive muscle definition.
“Relax!” Derek growls. It’s not very relaxing. “I just want to talk.”
That instinctive side of Stiles that he’s been wondering about all day wants him to stay quiet, duck his head, and then flee as fast as possible, but he’s not asking for suggestions. “You could use the front door. Or, like, not push me up against walls.”
Derek regards him suspiciously and after a short pause steps back. Stiles drops the two inches that Derek had hoisted him up, but it feels more like he’s jumping out of a plane.
“Improvement,” Stiles mutters as he brushes past Derek and slumps into his chair. Derek takes a seat on the edge of the bed and Stiles forces himself not to think about that at all.
“Earlier in the woods today, you said something bit you.” Derek’s eyes are trained on Stiles’s every move.
Stiles stiffens, tries his best to hide it, and clearly fails. There’s still a thrumming of fear in his chest, but it’s small and honestly, most sane people would be mildly worried if they suddenly found Derek Hale in their bedroom. His five o’clock shadow doesn’t make him look any less like the guy that sells ecstasy under a broken streetlight, Stiles thinks. How does he even know where Stiles lives? Did Derek follow him home? Because he totally sang ‘I Will Survive’ really loudly in the car with the windows sown.
“Mosquito,” Stiles manages to say. “Mosquito bite. I’m allergic, so…”
Derek just stares at him like he doesn’t believe a word of it.
Stiles refuses to crack. He doesn’t know what the hell is going on with him, has no idea why he’s been freaking out all day, but so far he’s put it down to trauma. Which is very valid. Being attacked by a mysterious shadow with glowing red eyes is bound to have some effects.
“You said it was ‘here’ like there was only one ‘it’,” Derek tries eventually. “There are a million mosquitoes. You’re lying to me, Stiles. You weren’t bitten by a mosquito.”
“How would you know? I was trying to find something I dropped in the woods.” He’s lying now, mouth on automatic. “I don’t like being bitten by mosquitoes. I came home and put some salve on it. So it’s not there anymore. You see these long sleeves I wear? Yeah, see, it’s ’cause I really don’t like getting bit by mos –”
“We both know it wasn’t a mosquito, Stiles,” Derek says in a no-nonsense tone. Frustration rolls off him, but he’s not angry, more irritated. And a little amused. “You were on my private property, you owe me an explanation.”
Against his better instincts, Stiles snorts derisively. “I don’t owe you jack shit.”
Derek considers, then leans forward, eyes narrowed. His hands are on Stiles’s chair and he’s boxed in, but he doesn’t really feel threatened. Something tells him that with Derek it’s all for show. Still, Stiles feels like he should stare at the floor and shrink his shoulders in, but he doesn’t, he meets Derek’s stare and sets his jaw. It’s partially real and partially façade, but it doesn’t matter. “You know,” Derek begins, voice rough, “You must have been feeling the urge to kill. To maim. It’s scary, isn’t it? Part of you wanting to actually hurt someone. If you don’t get it under control, you will hurt someone.”
Stiles jumps to his feet, anger overruling any last dregs of fear that might have been left. Derek does the same, stands up, and there’s barely any space between them. “I’ll tell you what’s scary. I got bitten by something – I don’t, I have no idea what – a monster with red eyes. And then, I go out into the woods, try make sense of all this bizarre stuff, okay, and something smells familiar. I can smell it, Derek, I can smell that thing all around your private property, but the scariest thing is that it smells kind of like you.”
Derek looks taken aback, a change from his usual stoic expression. “You think I bit you?”
“If I thought that, then you wouldn’t be in my room, you’d be in a small cell,” Stiles snarls, “I don’t know what weird shit you spend your time doing, but I don’t have any urge to kill. I don’t want to hurt anyone. No, whatever this is, you get the killer instincts, and I get the crushing paranoia, but I’m managing it just fine, thanks, so would you just get the hell out of my room?”
Derek’s eyebrows set in a line above his eyes. “Paranoia? Stiles, show me the bite.” Stiles doesn’t react, just glares. “Show me!”
“There’s nothing to see,” Stiles spits, “It’s gone. Healed. Like it was all just a hallucination.” He shrugs. “Maybe it was.”
“No,” Derek murmurs, “No, you were bitten, you smell different. You’re not human.”
“Not human?” Stiles splutters. “What the hell are you smoking, Derek?”
Derek gives him one last concerned look before he leaves, vanishing out the window as silently as he entered.
The second day at school passes much the same as the first, and so does the third, and the fourth. Stiles goes to class, jumps whenever someone’s phone rings down the corridor, picks the back corner where he can see the door, and almost gets a heart attack when Scott lopes up beside him at lunch, unheard.
“So I did all this research,” Scott says brightly, “Like, sicknesses you might have? I didn’t find any, so I don’t think there’s anything physically wrong with you. Maybe you were tired and you cut yourself on a rock or something when you fell?”
Stiles levels Scott a gaze. “Scott, you saw it. Did it look like I hit a rock?”
“No,” Scott admits.
“Derek said I was bitten, he could tell,” Stiles exhales loudly over his potatoes. “But it doesn’t make any sense.”
Scott hangs his head in his hands before perking up inexplicably. “Dude. Maybe you’re a werewolf.”
Stiles has already researched that route. “Werewolves feel heightened aggression, bloodlust. I don’t feel any of that. Like, at all. And new werewolves have a hard time controlling it.”
“Maybe you just have really good self-control,” Scott suggests. He frowns, thinking back to all the times Stiles’s mouth has run away from his brain, probably. “Or something.”
“I ate six Pop-Tarts this morning, just because I wanted to,” Stiles declares, “I don’t think excellent self-control is part of this equation.”
“Stiles,” Scott says gently, “Werewolf is the only lead we have.”
I’m not a werewolf, Stiles thinks to himself, I’m not a werewolf.
“Are you a werewolf?”
Derek looks up in mild surprise. He’s sneaked into Stiles’s room again, this time not unnoticed. Stiles caught him trying to lift the window and almost threw him off the ledge, Lion King style. Derek had assured him he was just there to help, and his heartbeat had been entirely steady and he didn’t smell of deceit, so Stiles relented. It isn’t like he’d been doing anything important. He’d been doing an economics report while listening to a twenty times looped version of Cotton-Eye Joe, for no reason other than that he could.
“How’d you know?”
Stiles snorts. “You look like one. You have werewolf eyebrows.” Derek develops an affronted expression, which Stiles guffaws at. “Bites in the woods and strong senses. Scott came up with werewolf.”
“Huh.” Derek had definitely heard Stiles’s country fest. Stiles could hear the kid across the road blasting his goddamn heavy metal off his tinny laptop, so Derek had definitely heard Stiles’s little country jag. “So. You still didn’t want to kill anyone today?”
Stiles shakes his head. “Not really. Harris I would like to push in front of a bus, but so would half the school. And Jackson is pissed at me, but whatever.”
Derek frowns. “Jackson? The lacrosse star, the blonde one?”
Stiles rolls his eyes before something dawns on him. “When did you see Jackson?”
“When I came to watch your practice,” Derek informs him. “Jackson’s angry because you’re better than him at lacrosse now, and last season you did nothing but bench-warming.”
Jackson wasn’t one to provoke. “Yeah. But I’m on the team now. It’s a miracle, but I’m playing first line. I’m not giving that up because Jackson doesn’t like it.”
“You’re good because you’re fast,” Derek replies bluntly. He’s taken his jacket off, and he reaches an arm back to stretch it. Stiles tries not to stare. “Really fast. And you can see attackers moving before they do it, can’t you? You know what they’re going to do before they do it.”
“It feels that way.”
Derek sighs, arm falling back into his lap. “You’re not a wolf, Stiles. We need to figure out exactly what you are.”
“Tomorrow. Then we’ll know.”
Stiles gapes. “Dude, I’m – I’m going to Lydia’s party tomorrow.”
Derek doesn’t just roll his eyes, he rolls his entire head. “Lydia, the one you stare at all pink and blushing?”
Stiles leans back. “Have you been following me?”
“Any idiot near the lacrosse field can see you staring at her,” Derek returns. “Just like any idiot can see that you don’t go from the slowest half-mile run on the team to outrunning guys like Jackson Whittemore.”
“He’s strong, not fast.” Stiles protests.
“He’s the captain. He’s supposed to be the best player, not embarrassed by the worst runner.”
Stiles shrugs. “I told them I’d improved. It’s not even a lie. I don’t care what Jackson thinks. I’m a good lacrosse player now, I might actually have a chance with Lydia – she knows my name now, anyway –”
Derek just stares at him. “You’re not serious.”
Stiles narrows his eyes. He’s not serious. He knows that he’s got no chance with Lydia unless Jackson royally screws up, which is unlikely to happen anytime soon. In Lydia’s eyes Jackson can do no wrong. “It doesn’t matter. I still don’t care what they think.”
“If you go to that party tomorrow, I will drag you out.” Derek threatens.
“My dad is the Sheriff,” Stiles scoffs, “He’s gonna have a thing or two to say about his only son being dragged away from his friends by some dude in a leather jacket with a constant bitch-face.”
Derek bitch-faces at him and leaves in a huff.
Stiles is filled with a smugness. Despite his storming off, Derek isn’t angry. If Derek was angry Stiles would probably be mincemeat by now, but whenever Derek’s emotions cloud a room, it isn’t annoyance or frustration. It’s mild irritation, and an odd sort of fondness.
Stiles isn’t really sure what to think.
Stiles decides very quickly that wild horses aren’t keeping him from the party, because he wants to go out and have fun and drink too much, so if Derek wants to try and yank him out by the hair he can go right on ahead.
It’s a lot more nonchalant than he really feels – he has this nagging feeling that Derek can and will bodily remove him from the venue – but he’s having a hard time caring. What’s the worst that could happen? It’s not like anyone’s going to get hurt. The worst case scenario is that his constant haunting wariness gets the better of him and he has to make a quick exit before he gets an anxiety attack.
He hasn’t had an anxiety attack in years. He’ll take his chances on this one. He’s been to parties before.
Stiles informs Scott of his and Derek’s conversation, and the subsequent threats, on the way to Lydia’s in Stiles’s Jeep. Scott solemnly promises to help if Derek does turn up and get in the way, but they both know that neither of them will be much use if it comes to that.
“He won’t get in,” Scott points out. “Lydia only lets in people she knows. And how could she know Derek? He looks like a serial killer. There’s no way he’s getting past the front door.”
“He climbed my wall, Scott,” Stiles reminds him, “He might not walk in through the front door, but if he wants to get in, he’ll, like, scale the garden fence or something. I don’t know. The guy’s…stealthy.”
Scott gives him the side-eye. “Is that all he is?”
Stiles plays dumb, but he has a feeling he knows what Scott’s on about. “What do you mean?”
“I mean,” Scott says, in a tone that suggests he’s thought this through more than once, “He’s been in your room, what, twice? That’s more than times than you’ve had a girl over.”
“I’m aware of that, Scott, thank you.”
“I know you’re into dudes too,” Scott continues, “And as far as guys go, Derek is attractive.” Stiles gives Scott a look. Scott holds up his palms in defence. “I’m straight, not blind.”
Stiles laughs as he pulls up to the parking near the long-ass driveway of Lydia’s house. “He is attractive. But he also pushes me up against walls, threatens me, and –”
“You’re totally into him.” Scott says in a bored voice.
Stiles doesn’t even have to feign outrage. “I am not!”
Scott snorts and gets out of the car, slamming the door shut. “If you say so.”
They ring Lydia’s doorbell, and as Scott had predicted, she’s there to see everyone in individually, to make sure there aren’t any gatecrashers. Stiles’s newfound lacrosse prowess is what’s gotten them invited to this party, and it’s also why Lydia hands him a glass of punch with a dazzling smile and a “Hi”, whereas Scott she just points in the direction of Allison and shoos him off. He wanders over to her and says a shy greeting.
Stiles makes his way over to the snacks, because he hasn’t eaten yet all day. There was no time this morning and he felt kind of queasy at lunch, but he turns his nose up at most of the snack selection.
There’s sliders and sandwiches, catering by the looks of them, and Stiles can’t imagine Lydia slaving away over an oven hours before a party to make barbecue beef mini burgers.
His new and improved sense of smell is very useful in picking food. He knows if the meat’s a day older than it technically should be, can tell if the cheese in the school canteen’s pasta is on its last legs. He tries to be discreet about picking his snack, but they all smell terrible. It’s ridiculous, because Stiles is usually a big fan of steak and cheese sandwiches, but every item he so much as sniffs hits him with a raw, rank smell, like blood or rotting meat. It makes him want to gargle mouthwash through his nose.
Eventually he ends up down the other end of the table and finally finds something edible. He’s on his third cucumber and cream cheese sandwich and has drunk all his drink, and decides to venture off to find more.
He doesn’t have to venture far. Not only does Lydia have an alcohol fountain, she also has a chocolate fountain. He chugs another glass of punch – he came here to have a good time, he’s going to have a good time – and joins a gaggle of girls he doesn’t know who are spearing pieces of fruit on sticks and coating them in chocolate.
He doesn’t feel like the chocolate, but he makes himself a fruit kebab, with strawberries and grapes and melon chunks and banana slices, and he enjoys it more than he’d thought he would. It’s sweet and tasty and he wants more, but he spies something else, even more tempting.
Danny is standing with some buddies by the pool, clearly taking sips out of a hipflask. Stiles is totally game for something stronger and Danny’s a cool guy, generous enough, so Stiles meanders over and smiles widely at Danny.
He doesn’t even have to ask – Danny knows exactly what he wants. He takes another hipflask out of his pocket, a full one, and hands it to Stiles. “Here you go.” Stiles grins in return. Danny had lost his fake ID when a club he was at got caught up in a drugs raid, and Stiles had happened to see it lying around in the police station (in the, locked, evidence lockup) and acquired it. Danny was duly grateful. “But that’s it, okay?” Danny continues. “I can’t get busted giving this to the Sheriff’s kid.”
“You won’t.” Stiles assures him with a smile. “And you’re awesome.”
Stiles samples the contents of the flask and is surprised to find white rum. And not the cheap foul stuff either, this actually tastes decent. Most people who bring liquor to high school parties bring the cheapest vodka they can get, but not Danny. Figures.
He takes a long drink, one that elicits impressed raised eyebrows from Danny’s friends, before deciding to share his prize with Scott.
Scott is standing on his own near the punch since Allison went to the bathroom, and he takes a swig of the rum. He struggles not to spit it out and for a minute Stiles thinks he’s got an asthma attack on his hands. But no, Scott is okay, he just needed some adjusting.
“How’s Allison?” Stiles asks conversationally.
“She’s great,” Scott says with a dumb, dreamy look in his eyes, “She’s so sweet, and pretty, and smart, and – and nice. How’s Lydia?”
Stiles shrugs. “Haven’t talked to her.”
“She knows your name now, bro,” Scott reminds him. “You have a chance.”
Stiles laughs, half out of humour, half spite. “Yeah. Sure.”
Scott turns to him in surprise. “What?”
Stiles sighs. “Even if I did. Even if she wasn’t with Jackson. How am I gonna tell her that I got bitten by something in the middle of the night and now I freak out every time I hear a loud noise? I might actually have a panic attack if I hear fireworks or a gun or something. I’m running on red alert, man, I have been all week. How am I supposed to tell that to a girl like her?”
Scott doesn’t have an answer for him. They both know that all that weirdness would be the end of any budding relationship between him and Lydia. It’s not a lost cause, but it’s definitely heading that way.
Scott is about to say something, something comforting, probably, until he spots Allison coming back from the bathroom. He pours up two glasses of punch, giddy with excitement, and hurries over to her. Stiles sees her give him a dimpled smile and take the drink. Scott flies under the radar but he’s still a good guy, even if he does still have a Justin Bieber haircut. Stiles isn’t one to talk about haircuts, though, not since that disastrous buzz cut he’s still trying to outgrow.
Stiles drinks and surveys the area. He feels safe here, in the corner, where he can see everything going on, and he’s mapping the area and the exits without really wanting to, but he ignores it and lets his brain do its weird thing. He decides to add rum to the punch and see how that tastes.
He’s just poured a healthy shot of rum into the drink, which tastes kind of citrus-y but also like vodka, and tries it. It’s good, it’s sweet and it warms his throat, and he tells himself he should probably slow down a little before it gets to his head too much. He doesn’t want to, like, profess his love for Lydia, or tell Danny how nicely he’s filled out and how Stiles may or may not have thought about that once or twice. That’s just embarrassing.
He drains the cup all the same, and is trying to find an appropriate place to put it down when he glances over at the back gate. Something smells off from over there, more off than the general gross scent of sweat and makeup and blood and chlorinated pool water he’s smelling at this party, and it takes him a few seconds to realize exactly what it is that smells like that.
Leather-jacketed and fuming, Derek stands by the gate, under the flowery arch. It’s a strange juxtaposition, between Derek’s dark hair and the stubble and the delicate blue flowers, but it only lasts for a minute until Derek is threading his way through the crowd, eyes fixed on Stiles.
Stiles considers running, leading Derek on something of a game of hide-and-seek to dodge him, but it won’t work for long and besides, they are tons of witnesses right here. Witnesses are exactly what Stiles needs. Derek can’t physically drag him out with all these people here. He can’t.
Derek doesn’t really tower over Stiles, since Stiles is still as gangly as hell, but it kind of feels that way when Derek’s glower is right in front of his face, with not a whole lot of room to spare. It feels like Stiles is very small, and not in a comfortable way. He shrinks away, backs into the wall.
“What did I say about the party?” Derek hisses.
It’s hard for Stiles to match his usual level of sarcasm. It’s impossible for him, he finds. He wants to stand up straight and say something sardonic and brush past Derek, but he can’t. He’s rooted to the spot, eyes on the floor, senses straining for – what? What is he looking for?
Derek is talking but Stiles isn’t hearing him, not properly, his ears are focused on ranging further away before it comes to him in a whisper, before he realizes what he’s trying to find. More of them. He’s trying to discern if Derek is alone or with a pack, and how to get around them.
Pack? Derek has a pack?
Stiles’s rational brain tells him that no, Derek doesn’t have a pack, and his nose adds its highly unwanted opinion that it doesn’t smell any more of them anywhere. Derek’s alone. Stiles should focus on this threat.
“Stiles?” Derek is saying. “Stiles, are you listening to me?”
And the terror is back, Stiles is frozen stock still. He can’t speak, can’t run, he can’t make a sound. If he stays still enough, Derek will just move on –
“Stiles!” There’s concern in Derek’s voice now and it shakes him loose, enough to meet Derek’s gaze. “Stiles, what’s going on? You’re hyperventilating. Why are you so scared?” Derek takes a quick, cursory look around, sniffs the air. He steps back and sighs. “Is it me?”
Derek takes another step back and Stiles’s shoulders relax of their own accord. Now he can see the exit, and an escape route, he’s okay. The fear drips away, leaving a background thrumming of a level Stiles isn’t used to.
“I don’t know why you’re scared of me,” Derek says slowly, “But we need to go. You need to go. I don’t know what’s going on with you but it isn’t normal wolf behaviour. We have to leave.”
Stiles watches him mutely. He’s looking at Derek’s eyes and trying to see what he finds there. His instincts are screaming that Derek is dangerous; his brain is telling him that Derek is the only way he’s going to find anything out. He doesn’t reply for a while, preferring to just watch.
“I’m sick,” Stiles says, voice raspy from a dry throat. “Like a flu, or something. I’m not eating properly and I’m all…jumpy. ’S all.”
“Not eating properly,” Derek repeats. “Like how? You’re eating too much?”
“No,” Stiles frowns, “I don’t want to eat at all.”
That clearly confuses Derek. “How much have you had to drink?”
Stiles hands him the hipflask, which Derek sniffs and weighs in his hand, then ticks off his punch drinks on his fingers and holds them up. “Punch.”
Derek raises his eyebrows. “How much do you feel?”
“None,” Stiles complains, “I’m still jittery. Still not hungry. Still paranoid. And I had to get sick when Lydia’s throwing a party, right?”
Derek’s eyebrows flatten at the mention of Lydia. “We’re leaving. You’re not sick, it’s a full moon. We need to go.”
“Shouldn’t you be all, like, furry then?”
Derek bitch-faces. “I have control. You clearly don’t. Let’s go.”
Stiles allows himself to be tugged by the hand out of the venue. He has the presence of mind to hide his keys on the Jeep’s front tyre and text Scott to just drive himself home in it, but not much more than that.
He swings himself into Derek’s car with an unusual amount of grace and Derek quirks an eyebrow as he reverses out of the drive. “So what have you eaten today then?”
“Cucumber sandwiches and a fruit kebab.”
“A fruit kebab.” Derek’s tone is flat and it’s clear he doesn’t approve.
“Yeah, you know, where you put bananas and melon and strawberries on a stick and you eat it?”
“I know what a fruit kebab is, Stiles. What I want to know is why you haven’t eaten anything else.”
Stiles shrugs. “It smelled bad. Didn’t want it.”
The rest of the drive is made in silence, or near enough that it makes no matter, and Stiles doesn’t feel much improved. His head is fuzzy, he’s on Maximum Paranoia Mode and he’s definitely drifting. There are times he doesn’t even know his own name, he just stares into space.
He’s jolted harshly out of his reverie when they pull up at his house, with the living-room lights on despite the Sheriff being at work (it prevents break-ins) but he just sits in the car until Derek opens the door and manually drags him out.
Derek half-carries him all the way to the couch and drops him there, leaving him to space out for a minute while he makes a phone call. When he comes back he sits down opposite Stiles and watches him intently.
“So. No murderous impulses?”
Stiles shakes his head. The talk is grounding him and it’s good. “No. I just want to run away. From everything. Just run, just go.”
“Are you angry? Annoyed?”
“No,” Stiles rubs the bridge of his nose. “No, I’m anxious. Whenever anything happens I start mapping out escape routes. It’s weird. A teacher yelled at me and I wanted to throw myself out the window. Like I literally was going to do it, had a route planned out and everything. I can hear things I shouldn’t be able to, everything smells off, but me and Scott, we looked at the symptoms for being a werewolf and I don’t have them.”
Derek frowns thoughtfully. “What’s the furthest thing away you can hear?”
Stiles closes his eyes and tries to focus. A few seconds later he has his answer. “I can hear the oil frying at the diner down the street. It’s almost a mile away. But there’s these weird high-pitched noises from further away. They only came up today. I don’t know what they are.”
“I think they’re animals. Or people.”
“They don’t make high-pitched noises like that. It’s like a TV with no signal or something.”
“We all release electrical signals. I think you might be picking up on them.”
“I am not a hammerhead shark!” Stiles exclaims, jumping to his feet. “I am not a were-shark! I’m not!”
“No,” Derek agrees, “But other animals pick up on those signals, not just sharks.”
Stiles is opening his mouth to retort when a motorbike swings onto his road. It’s a very small motorbike, and it putters to a stop right outside his house. Stiles is almost all the way to the door when Derek overtakes him and opens it.
On the other side of the door is a pimply guy in an ill-fitting red uniform and an ugly hat holding a large, steaming box. Derek trades it for some money and thanks the guy, and puts the pizza down on the kitchen table.
“Eat.” He says brusquely.
Stiles flips open the box and sees two options: one half is pepperoni and beef, the other four-cheese with peppers and onions. He picks the cheesy side and Derek takes the meat feast.
“See,” Derek explains, managing to do so gracefully even around a mouthful of pizza – how does he do that? Stiles can’t do that – “Werewolves eat a lot of meat, especially around the full moon. It’s like a craving. And we need a lot of protein. But you’re not eating any meat at all.”
“It smells bad.” Is all Stiles says. He’s busy pulling loopy pieces of stringy cheese from his pizza and eating them off his fingers.
When the pizza is eaten the moon has almost reached its apex, and Derek drags him out the door into the woods. It would be creepy if Stiles didn’t feel like crap and want to curl up somewhere, but somehow Derek knows what’s going on. He doesn’t shout, doesn’t threaten, he just tugs Stiles out into the woods.
They stop in a little clearing around a massive tree trunk and Stiles watches as Derek’s face changes.
He’s not frightened, not really. His inner whatever is telling him he should be but he isn’t. Derek wouldn’t hurt him. He knows that now. It’s not changed by the fact that Derek now has a heavy brow, glowing eyes, and a lot more facial hair than is attractive in Stiles’s opinion.
“Run with me.” Derek says.
He takes off into the woods and Stiles follows.
He’s not sure how he does it, but it feels right and normal and easy so he just does. It’s a faster pace than anyone on the lacrosse team would have been able to manage but it isn’t difficult for either of them, and for one Stiles doesn’t trip and fall in roots and stones. His body just knows what to do. It’s exhilarating.
Derek increases the pace with a smirk, which Stiles matches. He doesn’t stop there, though, Stiles overtakes Derek and shoots off past him. He throws everything he has into making his legs move because he wants to see how fast he can go.
How long he runs for he has no idea. Derek vanishes from sight and Stiles stops to catch his breath.
When Derek catches up he splashes some water from a small stream onto his face and indicates that Stiles should do the same. His head feels clear and he’s soaring, it feels like his soul is singing, like this is what he was meant to do.
When he reaches the stream he sees his own reflection in the moonlight. He’s changed, too, but he doesn’t look like Derek. His eyes are a bright, radioactive green, his facial structure hasn’t really changed – except his jaw. His jaw is sharper, and that’s because his teeth are bigger, but they aren’t fangs like Derek’s. He looks younger, his eyes are almost beguiling, large and softer than his eyes usually are, despite the electric colour. His body is different, leaning more towards willowy than gangly.
He’s a were-something. But what?
“I run fast,” Stiles thinks out loud, speech slurred a little by his slightly cumbersome teeth, “I have green eyes. And weird teeth and I don’t fall on everything.”
“Grace,” Derek points out, “You’re more graceful than me.”
A sentence Stiles never thought he would hear. “How?”
“You’re a different kind of animal. Wolves have sharp teeth to rip meat, muscle to take down others. You’re agile. The only animals faster than the predators are the prey.”
“I’m not a prey.” There’s an acerbic kind of offense in Stiles’s tone.
Derek takes a few steps closer. “You’re a herbivore. Otherwise you would’ve been loading up on burgers all day. You’re not a predator, Stiles, but that doesn’t mean you’re weak.”
“Not weak?” Stiles shouts. “There are predators and there are prey, Derek, one gets eaten and the other doesn’t!”
“It’s a circle,” Derek says, placating, “We’ll all be eaten by worms one day. The vole is faster than the fox because otherwise there would be no voles. But there are millions of voles, and Stiles, I’ve never seen anyone run like you do.” He takes hold of Stiles’s shoulders gently.
“Then what am I? A vole?”
“No,” Derek says quietly, almost a murmur, but Stiles can hear it just fine, “No, not a vole. Too far from human.”
“And the radioactive eyes?”
A smile makes its way onto Derek’s face. “Wolves have different coloured eyes to show our pack hierarchy. But you don’t have a hierarchy, you’re not a pack animal.”
“Not a pack animal,” Stiles repeats.
“Doesn’t mean you’re solitary,” Derek says, dropping his arms from Stiles’s shoulders. Stiles surprises himself by missing the warmth, but hey, this past week has been nothing if not surprising. “And if you were, you wouldn’t have gone to a party on a full moon. You’d be on your own.”
“Okay, so,” Stiles tries, “We have vegetarian, fast, agile, not a pack animal but a…a family one. I’m not a sheep.”
“Sheep are not fast,” Derek agrees. “And you’re not particularly drawn to water, so you’re not an otter or a beaver.”
A painful realisation dawns on Stiles. “Please tell me I’m not a rabbit.”
Derek stares. “That fits.”
“No!” Stiles wails. “How come you’re a werewolf and I’m a – a bunny? Twitchy nose, fluffy tail…”
Derek frowns, and leans behind Stiles to check something. Stiles doesn’t realise what until it’s too late. “You don’t have a tail.”
Stiles swats him away good-naturedly. “I don’t have a twitchy nose!”
The smirk that plasters Derek’s face is both cute and infuriating. “You do.”
“I do not!”
“Bunnies are cute, Stiles.”
“I’m not a bunny girl.” Stiles grumbles.
“No,” Derek agrees with a grin, “You’re a bunny boy.”