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"Bunnies are cute, Stiles."

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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.”

“How?”

“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.”

“I know.”

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.”

 

Chapter Text

Question of the week: what’s your underlying personality defect?

This isn’t the most important question of Stiles’s week. It’s not even the most important question of this hour. But it’s been nagging away at him for a while now, important more in the sense that it freaking bugs him than that it’s a life or death situation.

It might be a life or death situation. Maybe. There’s a chance.

The fact that Stiles doesn’t know if his character flaws are going to cause a life or death situation bothers him more than the prospect of said life or death situation. He’s dealt with such events before, it wouldn’t be the first time he’s almost died. There was that time he slipped in the shower and gave himself a concussion (age twelve), the time he accidentally took too much Adderall and ran a resting heart rate of 142 for a whole day (age fourteen), and that time he tried some homemade schnapps that Greenberg’s cousin Aksel brought back from Germany and very nearly perished of methanol poisoning (three and a half weeks ago). Stiles is no stranger to the threat of death. Not at all.

He shouldn’t joke. Derek had been very serious about this whole thing. You don’t just spontaneously one day turn into a were-rabbit. You have to be bitten, which Stiles recalls vividly, but as he had astutely informed Derek, what bit him was definitely not a were-rabbit. It had canines.

“You have canines, Stiles,” Derek had face-palmed. “Even when you shift.”

“That thing was not a rabbit!” Stiles exclaimed. “It had red eyes! I don’t have red eyes! And don’t you think we would have noticed a giant rabbit running around town?”

“Another giant rabbit, you mean,” Derek corrected him smugly. Derek is really hard to read and he often does that thing where he’s incredibly smug but doesn’t show it. He could benefit from showing emotions more, and not in the eyebrow way.

Apparently the rabbit thing is down to some Personal Issue, the kind that gets capital letters because it’s a Big Fucking Deal. Stiles had been righteously outraged at the suggestion that he was lacking in character, which had earned him a dry “No, no, Stiles, you’re definitely a character” and a smirk.

How blatantly rude. Especially from someone who seems so possessed by a permanent case of the resting bitch-face.

Stiles had enlisted Scott to help him discover this hamartia of his that may or may not be threatening his life, but neither of them had come up with much. Stiles is an all-around great guy. Aside from a slightly questionable code of ethics and a tendency towards wild gesticulations, there’s nothing really wrong with him. He doesn’t have any deep-rooted issues, no skeletons in the closet. His mom died when he was young, and it was horrible and he misses her, but he’s not exactly a twisted individual. His life has a glaring lack of rabbit-related trauma incidents.

So nobody’s really sure.

Information is scarce because Derek, despite being the last son of an actual werewolf bloodline (because those are things that exist in Stiles’s universe now), isn’t actually that well informed. There were tons of archives on this kind of stuff, his family kept them, but they were destroyed in the fire along with everything else and Derek doesn’t like to talk about it. It’s understandable, really, but these aren’t things Stiles can just google. If Derek doesn’t know what’s wrong with him, then…nobody does.

But it doesn’t really bother him. He doesn’t feel like a helpless bunny rabbit. Both with the full moon and without, he can outrun Derek, and that’s all that matters, really. Derek thinks that whatever bit him is a werewolf, too, albeit a stronger one, but he also says that speed like Stiles’s isn’t a gift bestowed upon any were-creature of the wolf persuasion. Even an alpha, even a feral one, Stiles is fast. He can outrun the balls Coach throws, even though he doesn’t, because it looks ever-so-slightly suspicious. He and Derek have some tests lined up for this next full moon, which takes place in a couple of weeks. It’s time to see what he can do before they start taking on the beast that bit Stiles.

The plan is not to attack the thing. That is absolutely not the plan. If it gets in their way – which Derek says is inevitable, it bit Stiles for a reason – they will deal with the problem. But right now, Stiles needs to figure out how to master his new lifestyle.

He hasn’t gone completely vegetarian. His human body has needs, too, he hasn’t developed the metabolism of a rabbit, and no, Scott, he will not eat grass. His body needs meat, needs protein, especially with all the strenuous exercise he’s been doing lately, but around the full moon, he just can’t cram it down. It’s too disgusting.

Most of the month he is perfectly content with chicken, and when the moon is new a bacon cheeseburger sounds delicious, but for a few days before the full moon he switches entirely over to the herbivore diet. His dad doesn’t notice, he thinks – their eating patterns are so irregular anyway – but it’s not easy. Vegetables aren’t filling, they don’t give him the energy he needs to go all night.

Running in the woods, that is. That’s the only thing he’s doing all night. Sadly enough.

Stiles is a lacrosse superstar. He’s made front line and he’s the darling of the team. The weight that’s accumulated on his body is a were-thing, Derek tells him. He’s more muscular, not hugely like Mr. Eyebrows himself, but his body has shapes, yo. He’s filled out in the chest, his forearms have muscles, his jaw is angular, it’s all going for him. Even his hair seems to be growing out. He looks less like a porcupine with every passing day.

All of these factors have combined to produce the result that Stiles is popular among the ladies.

They’re not falling at his feet like they do with Jackson, and he wouldn’t want that anyway. Well, maybe as a self-esteem boost, but not seriously. He’s been on the wrong end of the hero-worship stick enough that he doesn’t want it for himself. Lydia was an obsession, and she and Jackson broke up two weeks ago because he was (in a shocking turn of events) being a dick, and Stiles can pretty honestly say he doesn’t feel for her anymore. Lydia never noticed his existence until he was the lacrosse team’s bragging right, and he feels kind of liberated. It’s not just because he can literally smell attraction and he knows that two of the girls’s heart-rates increase when they speak to him, and that is one hell of a confidence boost. But he and Lydia have developed kind of a friend thing over the past few weeks, she hangs out with them now, on account of breaking up with Jackson and Allison being her best friend.

Allison, who hangs out with them because of Scott. Her and Scott are unbelievably, ridiculously cute together, it’s actually insane. They smile at the same time and it fills up Stiles’s yearly quota of dimples. Scott is totally smitten, and why wouldn’t he be? She’s smart and sweet and beautiful, and Scott is the definition of adorable. The guy is sunshine in human form. The two of them look like the happy ending of a Disney film.

Allison who brings out the best in Lydia, and has convinced her friend of the merits of showing the world how incredibly smart she is. Number one merit being that people think she’s a badass. Lydia analyses like you would not believe – Stiles is convinced she can do the Turing test in her head. They hang out sometimes and do homework, or rather, they hang out sometimes and Lydia berates Scott for slacking in math.

Lydia is no less terrifying when Stiles isn’t madly in love with her.

As far as the scary scale goes, Stiles likes to think he’s in a solid second place of their little group. Lydia is number one just by virtue of being Lydia – last week she wore five-inch heels during a tornado warning, God – but Stiles is definitely the scariest of him, Scott and Allison. Allison is too nice and Scott is about as frightening as a slightly overweight poodle.

And, you know, Stiles’s new…affliction is kind of scary.

He’s not shit-your-pants terrifying like Derek’s shifted form is, at least to an outsider, but he’s frightening in the sense that he’s weird. Derek develops fangs and claws and a Neanderthal brow, and he can throw cars if he wants. Stiles develops fangs, but they’re smaller, and he also gets these massive molars that cause his jaw to thicken and jut a little. He doesn’t have claws. But he does look more deathly pale than usual under the full moon, and it might be the glow-in-the-dark green thing his eyes have got going on. He saw his own reflection last full moon and it was honest to God scary as hell.

He’s only ever experienced one full moon. He’s new to this whole bunny business.

Derek talks about loss of control and accidentally hurting people, but that’s not really a problem for him. Maybe it’s a wolf thing, Stiles isn’t sure, but even when the moon is full he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Usually all he wants to do is run away. That’s what he’s good at. He’s not good at hurting people.

Derek is built like – Stiles shouldn’t think about this, he knows where it goes, it’s a dangerous path – he was personally created by Zeus to bring ruin to mankind. And not in the fire-and-brimstone, mass-destruction way, but the kind of built that causes traffic jams and fervent worship. Derek is strong, and he can fight – not that Stiles has actually seen him do it, but he’s sure he can. Stiles isn’t that strong. He can’t suddenly bench-press an elephant. He’s not actually any stronger than Jackson, except maybe on a full moon. He’s not threatening to anyone.

The only kicker about the whole deal, aside from the red-eyed monster running wild about the Preserve, is the whole rabbit thing. Stiles likes what he is, he’s cool, he’s fast, it suits him. But of all the animals – did it have to be a rabbit?

Rabbits are cute. But they’re not very cool. They’re not even useful. Werewolves howl at the moon, and while Stiles isn’t exactly mourning his lack of howl, he thinks it might be a good way to communicate if one is otherwise engaged. He tried googling a rabbit’s signature call, to see if there was a bunny equivalent.

There wasn’t. One of the reasons rabbits are so popular as pets is because they’re silent. The most noise anyone gets out of a rabbit is a grunt. He searched it up on YouTube. It’s an irritated sound about the same volume as the impact noise from catching a lightly tossed lacrosse ball. He doesn’t have that growl that Derek does, threatening with just the right layer of menace.

His form is supposed to represent him. A silent animal is not very representative of Stiles Stilinski.

That’s what Derek says, anyway. That the shape he takes reflects who he is. There are so many insults in being a were-rabbit, which Derek points out to him occasionally, but Stiles is not above stooping to the occasional dog joke.

Scott complains that Derek’s a creeper, which would be hard to argue, except that Derek is looking out for Stiles. Of that he’s quite certain. But he can’t exactly let Derek in through the front door, his dad would ask about a million questions and most of them would be interrogatory, so when they need to talk Derek sneaks in through his window.

Stiles is trying to educate Derek on the merits of a mobile phone. Derek isn’t altogether pleased by this.

He has a phone, Stiles has seen it, so why can’t he just use it? Why can’t he rattle off a simple “hey, we need to go over some stuff”, or at worst, like Scott, “DISASTER!! Houston we have a DISASTER!!!!!!!!!” when Allison doesn’t immediately text him back. Why does he have to show up at school, hovering by the lacrosse field with the leather and the killer gaze? Why does he just appear at Stiles’s window when the need strikes him? What does he even do all day?

They’re important questions, and Stiles wants answers, but he’s not likely to get them. His relationship with Derek oscillates between teasing and yelling. He trusts Derek, he does, but he’d trust the guy a lot more if he knows what the hell Derek’s deal is. Why is he here? He just up and disappeared from Beacon Hills after the fire, which, yeah, understandable, but why come back?

Stiles pushes himself away from the computer desk where he’d been doing some absent-minded research and gets to his feet. It’s time for his pre-bedtime snack, he thinks, making his way languidly downstairs. He fixes himself two banana and peanut butter sandwiches and pauses when he sees his dad rubbing his temples at the desk.

It’s not so much the temple-rubbing that worries Stiles, it’s the bottle of Scotch that was definitely unopened in the cupboard yesterday and is now a quarter empty.

Trying to seem as subtle as he can, he slides into the chair opposite the Sheriff. “Whatcha working on?”

Noah waves at him absently. “Can’t discuss cases with you, Stiles.”

Stiles twists his head around to better see a photo. It’s not instantly familiar and it takes a few seconds before the bile rises in his throat. It’s half a dead girl, the lower half, not the half he found. “The body.”

Noah fixes Stiles with a look but doesn’t even ask how he knows top-secret police information. He’s not that naïve anymore. “Yeah. We found it in the woods, but…only the one half.”

“How did she die?” It’s a gruesome question that Stiles isn’t sure he wants the answer to, but…he does need to know. There are questions that didn’t exist until Stiles was attacked by a red-eyed quadruped fur-monster in the forest.

“She was torn apart.” Noah sighs. “She died painfully.”

“So not with a weapon,” Stiles says slowly.

“No,” Noah shakes his head and reaches for the Scotch. Stiles watches with guilty eyes as the Sheriff pours himself a helping. “No, not cleanly. This was like a drawing and quartering, only…no ligature marks.”

Stiles is enough of a Sheriff’s son to know what ligature marks are. He also knows that even as the world’s most frightening rabbit, that is enough detail for his stomach. “That’s awful.”

Noah takes a sip and exhales heavily. “Yeah. As if that poor family hasn’t been through enough.”

Stiles frowns. “What do you mean?”

Noah downs the rest of his drink and regards Stiles heavily. “The fire six years ago, and now this? It’s like someone’s got it out for them.”

This is important news to Stiles. “Wait, what? Who’s the girl, dad?”

“Laura Hale,” Noah says, as if it’s obvious. “We ID’ed the body ages ago. This is Laura, Talia and James’s oldest child.”

That stuns Stiles into silence.

 

 

 

He tells Scott the next day at school, because of course he’s going to tell Scott. Scott is appropriately shocked. “Derek’s sister?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you sure you want to be hanging around with this guy?”

Stiles frowns. “What do you mean?”

“Hello!” Scott exclaims. “His sister died a horrible death and he doesn’t even tell you?

Scott has a point. One Stiles fully plans on bringing up with Derek when he next sees him. But he can’t exactly text “why didnt u tell me ur sister was murdered” to the guy and wait for answers. The alternative, though, is almost worse. “Maybe he doesn’t know.”

“The police would have told him.”

Stiles concedes his point. He just doesn’t want to believe that Derek is hiding things from him. He felt like they’d made progress in their bizarre Jedi Master/Padawan kind of way. “I’ll ask him later.”

Scott regards him sympathetically. It’s not really sympathy, because Scott’s going on a date with Allison while Stiles will be interrogating someone in possession of an excellent poker face and Scott knows as much about successfully being a were-bunny as he does quantum computing, but it’s friend support and it’s effective. “Are you gonna talk to Derek today?”

Stiles nods thoughtfully. “Yeah. I need to find out what this whole Laura thing is about. And we need to make sure we have all the stuff for the tests on the full moon. I’m not really losing control, so me and Derek are gonna try and see how fast I can run. Put numbers on my awesomeness.”

Scott rolls his eyes. “Don’t be surprised if they’re negative.”

“Was that you I heard making a math joke?” Lydia says, appearing behind them. Her shoes don’t usually allow her to be so sneaky, but today she’s gone with flats rather than heels. “Go McCall.”

Scott looks torn between puffing out his chest and giving her an irritated look. He does a weird in-between thing that makes him look kind of ill until he spots Allison and immediately goes for the chest-puffing. “Allison!” He waves, smiles dreamily, and jogs over to her.

Lydia turns to Stiles and smiles at him. “Aren’t they cute?”

“They are really cute.” Stiles replies truthfully.

Despite the height difference, Lydia hooks her arm through his and hauls him off down the corridor. He finds himself hurrying to keep up despite the fact that she has short legs even for someone who is five foot three.

“So,” Lydia begins conversationally, and Stiles is immediately worried, “Who’s your friend?”

Stiles feels trapped and also confused. “Uh…you are?”

Lydia rolls her eyes like she can’t believe he’s so dense. “No. Mr. Tall, Dark and Brooding. Who is he?”

Stiles frowns as he’s swept along past the lockers by Tidal Wave Lydia. “Tall, dark and…? You’re not talking about Scott?”

She throws him an acerbic look. “Scott isn’t what I’d describe as tall, dark and brooding. No, your other friend. The one who came to lacrosse practice last week and stood in the forest in a leather jacket thinking no-one could see him.”

There can only be one person who fits that description. “Oh. Him. He’s just, uh, he’s just a buddy.”

“A buddy who goes to high school lacrosse practices.”

“Yeah.” Stiles rolls with this. “We hang out afterwards.”

The gaze she gives him is unreadable. “Wasn’t he at my party?”

“Uhm, yeah, I guess he was.”

“And you left with him.”

Where does she get her intel? Does she have spy cameras? It’s a mystery. “Yeah, I wasn’t feeling so good, he gave me a ride home.”

She stops their brisk pace and spins him around to look him in the eyes. “He is hot, Stiles, I get it. But he’s too old for you.”

Stiles is too gobsmacked to respond so he just stands there, staring at her, with his jaw hanging open for a few seconds. “He’s…what?”

“Too old,” Lydia repeats, with a characteristic smile and a toss of her hair. “But, you know. I don’t judge. If you like him, own it. He’s totally into you.”

She sets off at a speed only an actual force of nature can accomplish for someone of her size and leaves him, gaping after her, trying to process the meaning of her words.

 

 

 

The Jeep rumbles up to the burnt-out shell of the Hale mansion with its signature roar. Stiles knows it can be heard coming miles away even if you’re not supernaturally inclined, so he absolutely expects to see Derek himself standing on the porch, preferably in that green V-neck that is the tiniest bit too small, waiting for him.

But he isn’t. And Derek’s car isn’t there either.

What is there, right beside the house, is a mound of fresh earth, soil that’s clearly been recently turned over. There’s a weird smell coming from it, a repulsive stench that almost makes him heave, but Stiles wanders over anyway to see what in the fresh hell Derek’s been doing.

Something’s definitely been buried, Stiles decides. He kneels down closer to the ground and takes a deep breath through his nose, trying not to gag. There’s something herby and heady, but under the dirt is that stink again, a stink that can only be blood and decay, and another smell too, one that reminds him of…Derek.

Stiles sighs. It’s not Derek buried under the neat pile of earth. It’s someone close to him, a blood relative, and there’s only one of those around. Poor Derek. He must have stumbled on it in the woods, found it and dragged it home and buried it here. Stiles hasn’t been to the Hale house in ages so he has no way of knowing how long it’s been here but he has a horrible feeling that this is the only ceremony Derek’s going to get.

There’s a little purple flower planted in the middle, the one giving off that other scent, and when Stiles plucks it from the ground he unravels a whole spiral of rope, twisting from the middle outwards. When the flower is clutched delicately between his fingers and all the rope has been tossed aside the scent is different, more human somehow, and Stiles wonders if Derek buried his sister in werewolf form. Derek’s scent doesn’t change when he shifts, but Stiles is all out of other ideas.

Stiles is mulling over the question of how one person can deserve a life quite so tragic as Derek Hale when the object of his musings rolls up to his house in a sleek black Camaro that looks as if it were waxed and polished less than twenty minutes ago. Knowing Derek, maybe it was.

Derek finds Stiles standing by his sister’s grave holding a pretty purple flower in a limp grip and walks up beside him. For a long time neither of them speak, they just stand there, staring down at the ground where Laura lies, ten feet beneath.

“I didn’t know she got out.” Derek says eventually. He doesn’t look at Stiles, just stares down at the earth while the sky slowly turns darker. “I thought she died in the fire with the others.”

“But you came back.” Stiles says softly.

“I heard rumours about a Hale alpha in Beacon Hills again.” Derek admits, heaving a sigh that seems to sag his entire body. “I thought it might be her, but when I got here, this was all I found.”

“The police have the rest.” Stiles tells him gently.

Derek looks at him sharply. “So you’ve seen the report.”

Stiles shrugs. “My dad’s the Sheriff.” A silence passes. “She was torn apart.”

“Feral,” Derek agrees. “The same one that bit you. She was an alpha.”

This is news to Stiles. “An alpha?”

“She inherited it when our mom died. But if you kill an alpha, you become the alpha. That’s why she was murdered.”

“Why the flower?”

Derek regards it with an age in his gaze before taking the flower from Stiles’s hand. “It’s wolfsbane. It meant she stayed…as a wolf. She had this…special ability. Like my mom. She was a full wolf. A real wolf. When she changed. This way, if people find her…nobody will take her away.”

Derek leans forward into a squat and places the flower back down on the ground, heaping some dirt over its sad little roots. He takes the fraying rope and carefully places it back in the circular pattern Stiles found it in, and kicks some dirt over the top. He turns to the other with a beseeching look.

“Please. I know your dad’s a cop, but please. If they find her they’ll take her away. I just…our family died here. I wanted her to be with them.” He gestures emptily towards the house.

Stiles doesn’t think he’s ever seen something so pathetic and it’s jarring. Derek, usually so strong and sure and definite, is looking at him with a plea in his eyes and desperation on his face. He’s not made of stone, Stiles decides quickly, and his heart can’t help but melt a little. “Okay.” Stiles nods quickly. “If this was the same thing that bit me then the cops won’t help anyway. And I’d rather not involve my dad.” Some of the tension leaves Derek’s shoulders. “Why the spiral?”

“It means revenge.” Derek’s gaze hardens in the setting sun, orange light turning his eyes a strange colour. “It means that I’m going to find who did this and end them.”

Stiles understands, kind of. He doesn’t know what it’s like for your family be brutally killed, but he knows how much it hurts to lose someone. It doesn’t stop him from trying to point out the obvious. “More death won’t bring her back.”

“No.” Derek agrees. He seems reasonable enough for someone who just declared a murder plot. “But this thing came here for her. It bit you, it’s forming a pack. It’ll come for me next.”

“It’s forming a pack? With me?”

Derek nods sagely. “It wasn’t trying to kill you. We’re stronger together, it’s gearing up for a fight. But your transition didn’t exactly go as planned, so it might bite more. I don’t know.”

Stiles takes one last look at the heaping of dirt. “Do you want to say anything? Any last words?”

Derek chokes up. “I – I’ll do that when I’m alone.”

Stiles turns back to the grave. He’s not offended. He knows how it goes, how you want to keep the dead all to yourself, remember them for you and not for anyone else. Derek has buried his sister, or the half of her that he could find, and he’s spent all this time alone. It’s understandable that he wants to keep it personal.

He looks up in alarm. “I’m sorry, it’s not to be rude, I just – I can’t–”

“Don’t worry,” Stiles cuts in over Derek, because his voice is cracking and it’s heartbreaking to listen to and Derek doesn’t need to explain himself. “I know. It’s okay.”

Derek still looks like he’s going to collapse, so Stiles takes hold of the guy and pulls him in for a hug. It’s all the comfort he can offer, the warmth of human closeness and maybe that of a good friend, it’s all he can give but Derek drinks it up like someone starved and holds Stiles like he’s the only thing keeping the werewolf upright. He closes his eyes and drops his head to Stiles’s shoulder, and his five o’clock shadow tickles, but Stiles will stand there for as long as Derek needs him to, and he does.

It’s a few minutes before they extricate themselves and it’s not awkward, it’s just the simple act of one person offering reassurance, and Derek begins to trudge inside. “Go home, Stiles.”

He can’t stop himself. “Don’t you have anywhere else you can live? Any other family to stay with?”

Derek doesn’t turn around. He holds onto the porch bannister like it’s actually supporting him. Stiles has a feeling he’s going to go inside and collapse in a corner somewhere. “I have an uncle in a coma. Other than that, no. No more family.”

Stiles tries again. “Derek, man…you can’t live here.”

Derek doesn’t even look at him. He exhales, staring at the spot on the door where there used to be a number hanging. “Go home, Stiles.”

Stiles goes home, but the whole way there, he thinks how his ulterior motives always seem to go crashing down when it comes to Derek.

 

 

 

 

It’s a few days before Stiles and Derek really have a functional relationship going. Derek doesn’t appear in his window and Stiles doesn’t text him. Derek needs space and that’s fine, it’s okay, but Stiles is frustrated. He wishes he could help somehow. He’s thought about trying to end the investigation so Derek doesn’t keep getting dragged down to the cop shop to answer questions about his dead sister, whose upper half is currently still missing, but there’s nothing he can do. He can’t get his dad busted for impeding his own investigation. Sooner or later the case will go cold and they’ll move on.

On the fourth day of his Derek Separation (he called it that out loud once and Scott rolled his eyes to China and back) Stiles is at lacrosse practice, his new norm being not on the bench. Practice goes well – Stiles grows more popular by the day, his teammates actually like him now, it’s a good thing he’s got going on.

At least, it feels that way, until he’s grabbing his books from his locker on the way home and suddenly Jackson is all up in his space, vaguely threatening, looking angry and frustrated.

“Okay, Stilinski, I know something’s up, so either you’re going to tell me, or I’m going to–”

“What?” Stiles interrupts, trying not to laugh in Jackson’s face. Being the fastest person he’s ever known and having freaky glow eyes has gone to his head, he knows, but he just can’t see Jackson as a threat anymore. “What are you going to do, Jackson?”

Jackson fumes. He raises an index finger, levels it at Stiles, his whole body shaking with rage. “Just. Stilinski. Where are you getting you juice?”

For a moment Stiles is nonplussed. “My juice? I mean, I do the shopping, but–”

“What is it?” Jackson hisses. “Is it, uh, HGH?”

“Steroids? Really?” Stiles scoffs and retrieves the last of his books. “I hear those things do stuff to your equipment, like, shrinky stuff. You should be careful, man. You wouldn’t want any less in that department.”

Having successfully delivered a dick-related insult to the world’s biggest dickhead and not gotten punched for it, Stiles stalks away, counting the whole ordeal as a win.

“Something’s going on with you, Stilinski!” Jackson calls after him. “Trust me, I’m gonna find out what it is!”

Stiles is far too petty to let someone else have the last word in an argument. “Go ahead, Jackson!” He tosses over his shoulder, not sparing the other boy as much as a glance. “Do your worst.”

He doesn’t need to be a creature of the night to hear Jackson’s fist slam into the locker.

But hey, he can actually refer to himself a creature of the night now. Cool points to him.

 

 

 

 

It’s not dark.

It’s not dark outside. Or it is. Yes, it is dark, Stiles thinks, but he can see. He can see.

He can see everything at night. Every blade of grass, every needle on the pine tree, can see the throbbing of someone’s heart just by looking at them. His heat vision is worse in the daytime and better at night than a werewolf’s. Rabbits burrow, they don’t see well, except in the dark, and Stiles’s lunar half is no different.

So it is dark, but it doesn’t matter. The air is cool as it whips past his face and Stiles has never felt so free.

It occurs to him that he doesn’t actually know where he’s going. He’s just running. Outside in the woods, being himself. He leaps over a fallen tree with yards to spare, jumps into a tree just because he can, lands with front-flip in midair and keeps going.

He’s running through the forest, but his feet don’t touch the ground. He can’t feel it. He can’t feel his clothes against his skin, can’t feel the leaves his feet crush, Stiles feels nothing but the gentle caress of the wind against his face, until that’s gone, too.

He stops abruptly, staring down. His shape is strange, blurry, like it’s not quite decided what it is. He’s trying to make sure his fingers are all straight when he realizes there’s a finger too many on his left hand.

Fingers. In dreams you have extra fingers.

So he’s dreaming, then.

 

He jolts bolt awake and doesn’t even register that he’s standing over by the window until he’s got the blinds up and the window open and is staring out into the darkness.

Standing plain as day in his own backyard is it again. ‘It’ is seven feet of coarse black fur, massive curved canines dripping slobber, piercing, awful red eyes, and the rank, revolting breath Stiles is already familiar with.

Every muscle in Stiles’s body is tensed to run, he’s fully ready to throw himself through the downstairs window and disappear somewhere far away, until he’s filled with an inescapable rage much heavier than his instincts.

This thing thinks it can show up and threaten Stiles? Threaten Stiles’s dad? Oh, no. Stiles is not taking that. Bites in the woods are one thing, going after family is another. Stiles is seething and it takes every ounce of his self-control not to vault himself out of the window and shake some sense into his personal nightmare monster, but he knows he can’t win, so he stays stock-still where he is and resolves to watch.

The wolf doesn’t talk. It growls, but that’s a pretty constant state of existence for the thing, so Stiles doesn’t think much of it. There are a few beats where the two of them eye each other over Stiles’s lawn, Stiles waiting for the thing to pounce on his dad and coiling himself to spring, the other waiting for – what?

At long last, the creature tilts its head back and lets out a hair-raising howl. It echoes off the wall and through the empty forest, and the beast watches Stiles warily afterwards. Stiles stares back, but the gaze is broken when another howl, one in reply, sounds somewhere off in the distant woods.

The Bogeyman, as Stiles has decided to refer to it in his head, considers Stiles for a few more moments before loping off in the direction of the other howl. Stiles sinks back to his bed in relief.

He has about ten seconds of relief before Noah comes bursting into his room. “Stiles! Did you hear that howl?”

The window is open and the blinds clatter softly against the paneling. “No, dad, what howl?”

 

 

 

 

“Calling me out how?” Stiles whines, probably for the fourth time that day, at Derek’s unsatisfactory explanation.

He and Scott went to the Hale house immediately after school to try and work through the mystery of Stiles’s garden-guest, but Derek is being oddly cagey about the whole thing.

“A ritual. It wants you in its pack, so you’re supposed to hunt with it. It hunted yesterday, but it probably got angry when you didn’t show…”

“Wait, it hunted?” Scott confirms. He frowns. “You mean – an animal attack?”

“Well, it’s an animal, and it attacked.” Derek returns dryly.

Scott ignores the barb. “You mean like the animal attack that killed a school bus driver last night.”

Derek sits up a little straighter. “It killed a bus driver?”

“Yes!” Scott says loudly, panicky, “My bus driver!”

Derek turns contemplative. “So it just turned up outside your window and howled?”

“Yeah!” Stiles nods. “It just shows up, howls, and ran off again when it heard another howl. What’s it mean?”

“It’s trying to find its pack. It went to you because it considers you pack.”

“Can rabbits howl?” Scott asks the all-important question.

“No,” Derek replies, getting to his feet off the dusty sofa, “And that’s why Stiles wasn’t there with the bus driver. Stiles isn’t a wolf, he can’t be called out by a howl. Normally a young werewolf, without much practice, the howl is a command that’s really hard to disobey.”

“Stiles is good at disobeying.” Scott says helpfully.

“Good to know, werewolf mind control doesn’t work on the Stiles,” Stiles is pleased, at least, that there will be no freaky Vulcan mind control, “But who was the other howl?”

“That was me.” Derek stares out into the woods, thinking. “I heard it so I returned the call, but it never got to me. It had my trail and then it just…left it.”

“Like it didn’t want to see you.” Stiles says slowly. At Derek’s offended expression, Stiles rolls his eyes. “Oh come on, dude, don’t be too upset if you’re not the president of the scary werewolf club. Maybe it’s just avoiding the ones that aren’t in its pack.”

Derek develops a look as if he’s just had a genius thought but is trying really hard to hide it. Stiles is getting good at reading him. It’s reassuring.

“What?” Stiles demands. “What do you know?”

“Nothing.” Derek glares at him. “Nothing.”

Stiles gets right up in Derek’s space. He’s dimly aware of Scott rolling his eyes and Stiles will totally quiz him on that later. “Derek. We’ve talked about this. Sharing is caring?”

Derek glares even harder, if that’s possible, but he shuffles his feet and answers. “The alpha. It’s indifferent to me. If I was a threat it would have gone after me already.”

“It’s waiting for you to come to it?” Scott tries. Stiles takes a step back from Derek’s pecs. He jams his hands firmly in his pockets.

“This feels like…” Derek hesitates. Stiles raises his eyebrows and Derek continues reluctantly. “Like something’s coming. Only not all the pieces are in place.”

“Why,” says Stiles slowly, “Why do I have this awful feeling that we are the pieces?”

 

 

 

 

It’s been only one day since Stiles’s fun little chess realization, where it occurred to him that they’re all pawns in a game that’s bigger than they are, when Derek comes climbing in through the window.

“What, you couldn’t handle a full 24 hours without me?”

Derek glowers, of course, but it’s not an entirely angry glower. When Derek glowers at Scott, even Stiles wants to shrink up and die, but he never seems to get that chilly stare himself. He considers himself special. “We’re running tonight.”

Stiles throws his hands behind him and his head back dramatically. “I’m tired! I ate too much! And I have an English report due in tomorrow!”

Derek looks unimpressed.

“Shakespeare!” Stiles wafts his hands some more to demonstrate his point and the gravity of the situation. “Twelfth Night! Does anyone even understand this?”

“Theme of misrule and reversal,” Derek says before he can stop himself. “Twelve days of Christmas and the new year.”

Stiles’s eyes shine with wonder. “My own personal literature nerd! Yes! Tell me more. I already have the theme stuff down.”

“If I help, will you go?” Derek taps a foot impatiently. Stiles nods eagerly and Derek takes a seat on the bed. “Viola is a characterization of the reversal thing. The fool is the most intelligent character and Malvolio the servant the most self-serving. The Duke is the representation of excess and too much of a good thing. Get quotes from the first verse for that. Olivia is a hypocrite. And everyone’s gay, which was not accepted back then, so more misrule.”

“Everyone’s gay?” Stiles grabs his book. “I missed that.”

“Antonio is pretty much in love with Sebastian,” Derek tells him, “And the Duke doesn’t care that Viola is a guy. Or pretending to be a guy. Whatever. Check his last verse. It’s pretty gay.”

Stiles snorts with laughter and hurries to make notes. “Okay, I think I got it. Thanks for the help.”

Derek shakes his head as they get to their feet. “I’ve been reduced to helping high-schoolers with homework.”

“C’mon,” Stiles says lightly, “It can’t be that long since you went to high school.”

Derek shoots him a dark look like he knows exactly what Stiles is doing and hops out the window.

Lydia’s comments have left Stiles determined to find out exactly how old Derek is and judge for himself if the age difference is too big, but trying to get personal information out of Derek is like trying to pull his own teeth. Something happened there, something other than the fire and the whole Laura tragedy. Stiles doesn’t know what it is, but what could possibly be worse than your entire family dying in a fire, finding out one survived, and then finding them dead anyway?

But Stiles follows Derek anyway and they set an easy pace through the forest. They’re running, and Stiles will be tired and sleep well tonight, but it feels so good here and now. It’s like scratching an itch Stiles didn’t realize he had, a need for being out in the open under the faint light of the moon that nothing else will satisfy. It feels right. He belongs.

They race through the Preservation and predictably enough Stiles wins – he always wins – even without going full bunny. He and Derek shift and they race again, Derek giving him pointers about evading pursuers while they go.

“You need to be less obvious.” “Go under that fallen log! It’s faster!” “Use the terrain to you advantage!” “Can you climb a tree?”

Stiles stops. “Can you climb a tree?”

Even through the heavy brow and the mutton chops Stiles recognizes that spectacular bitch-face. “Yes, I can climb a tree.”

“Good.” Stiles grins and kicks off from the ground, hard, landing on a branch thirty feet up in the still night air.

They do some comparing, some measuring, and determine that Stiles is stronger in the legs and weaker in the upper body than Derek, which of course also has a rabbit-related explanation. Rabbits have strong legs to run away. It does mean that Stiles can jump really fucking high and he does it sometimes to freak Derek out.

But it is a good defense mechanism. Stiles does a flying leap, sails over a few low-hanging branches and sprints across the ground in a new evasive exercise when he’s suddenly struck by a blinding pain.

He doesn’t cry out, when he’s shifted his instincts aren’t to alert others to danger but to stay quiet and hidden, but it takes him a moment to realize what’s happened. There’s a hard plastic shaft sticking out of his arm and into the tree, and it’s pinning him there, because at one end of the shaft is a pointy little head and at the other is ripple-y plastic feathers.

An arrow. Someone shot him with an arrow.

He opens his eyes to see a man, tall, grey-haired and beard well salted but clearly still young and strong enough, with blue eyes and a cold kind of pity in the lines of his face. He’s holding the crossbow, but there are others, people behind him, all clutching guns or batons or weapons of some kind, all looking equally unfriendly.

“You see what we have here?” The tall man says, never taking his eyes off Stiles. “A small one.”

Stiles hears a rustling in the bushes twenty feet away but clearly nobody else does. A man with pointed features and a bad haircut offers an opinion. “It don’t look right. Face is different. I dunno what kind of werewolf that is, but it’s not normal.”

There’s a murmur of assent from the group. Another one, a woman, says quietly to the man in front, “Where’s his claws?”

Stiles is suddenly very grateful that they’re too far away to see his electric green eyes. They might be growing on him but they’re definitely not the usual werewolf look and Stiles does not want any closer scrutiny. He’s not a science project.

But that’s not going to deter them for much longer. Greybeard is taking long steps towards him, crossbow lowered and loaded, ready to put another bolt somewhere else if need be.

This guy, whoever he is, is fast. But Stiles is pretty damn fast too.

He doesn’t need to do much, and with an actual weapon pointing at his face he’s hyperaware of his movements. He reaches up to snap off the bolt sticking his arm to the tree and yanks his arm off the rest of the bolt with a grimace of pain.

By the time he has done this he hears a twang and sees another crossbow bolt loosed at him. He catches it, grabs it right out of midair and breaks it in two, letting the pieces fall to the ground. The arrowhead still buried in the tree he rips out and flings in the direction of the pointy-faced man raising a rifle.

The arrowhead lodges itself neatly inside the barrel and the guy has the sense not to fire, and quick as a flash Stiles is sat in the treetop, obscured from view by big leaves and thick branches, peering down at the hunters as they move around on the ground.

They don’t seem aware of where he’s gone and continue to search, albeit on the ground, which is a little bit lower down than where Stiles is. One finds prints and Stiles guffaws mentally – those aren’t his footsteps. He treads light, he doesn’t leave prints, it’s a skill he’s been practicing – and frowns in amused curiosity as they fan out in a circle, evidently under the impression they’ve found something in that same bush that rustled not long ago.

Risking the gleam of his eyes, he lets himself use his better eyesight, and his heart sticks in his throat.

They’ve arranged themselves in a circle around that specific bush and are slowly, slowly edging inwards, rifles and crossbows out in front and torches on. In the dark it just looks like a bush, but Stiles can see heartbeats and circulation now and he can quite clearly see a person in those bushes.

It’s Derek.

His heartbeat is familiar and Stiles must have missed it over the terror of being pinned to the tree, but Derek is extremely surrounded right now and if he twitches to attack he’s dead, he’s so dead, and Stiles acts entirely on instinct when he dives out of the tree, lands beside Derek on the ground, and kicks the nearest gun-toting weirdo firmly in the stomach.

Stiles is good at kicking and the man wheels backwards and falls heavily, alive but very much winded, and Derek seizes the nearest available part of Stiles – which happens to be his forearm, which is strange but, y’know, heat of the moment and all, Stiles can roll with this – and throws both of them out of the circle, bounding along at top speed away from the assholes, never once releasing the arm until they’re miles from where they started, a little short on breath, but less panicky all around.

“Are you okay?” Derek inspects the other arm. There’s dried blood and the top skin is a little pink and delicate, but the actual hole through his arm has healed.

“Who the hell was that?” Stiles exclaims.

Derek throws a dirty look back from where they came. “Hunters.” He sees Stiles’s mystified expression and elaborates. “Werewolf hunters. They must have come back.”

“Were they actually going to kill me?”

Derek shrugs. “Depends. They have a code, they don’t kill innocents, but some are more relaxed about that than others. They were probably looking for the alpha.”

“Okay, well, I’m not the alpha, and neither are you, so…?”

“No,” Derek agrees, “But they had to be sure. And they didn’t like you. They’ll be back for you, they don’t know what you are and it bothers them.”

“Who are they?” Stiles runs a hand through his scalp erratically. “They have guns!

“Argents,” Derek says by way of explanation. He turns quiet and lapses into a brooding silence.

“Wait, as in – Allison Argent?”

Derek stares at him blankly.

“Scott’s girlfriend!”

“That Allison? She’s an Argent?”

“She wasn’t there,” Stiles reminds him. “I don’t think she’s a werewolf hunter. She’s too nice.”

“If she’s not a werewolf hunter now, she will be soon.”

Stiles frowns. “She can be different. We don’t know if it’s her.”

“They’re all the same, Stiles, they’re killers,” Derek says savagely. An expression Stiles can’t quite fathom crosses his face and he turns away.

“You just said some stick to the code,” Stiles prompts gently. “If they only kill murderers…”

“But they don’t,” Derek replies shortly. He looms above Stiles now, despite not being that much taller, and they’re so ridiculously close Stiles is rooted in place. “Don’t get attached to Allison Argent. It won’t save you.”

And with that, Derek is gone.

 

 

 

 

There are few reactions available to the best friend when one informs them that their girlfriend comes from a family of trigger-happy rifle-wielding werewolf hunters.

Scott picks the worst possible one when Stiles tells him and walks around with his jaw on the floor for a solid ten minutes. After that, he speaks only to say, “She likes archery.”

And that does it for Stiles. Of course Allison likes archery. She couldn’t just be into swimming, or embroidery, or internet gaming, or literally anything that doesn’t involve weapons. Of course Scott picks the one from a family of French werewolf hunters.

Scott clutches his arm suddenly. Stiles almost screams. He’s still wary after last night and as part rabbit, or whatever the hell he is, he’s flighty and his first instinct is to flee. It’s hard for him, to not immediately jump out of the nearest window whenever this happens, but it’s getting easier.

“Her dad will be at the lacrosse game tomorrow!”

Stiles thunks his head against the table. “To see you play, I’m guessing?”

Scott pulls a face. “Well, unless there’s a miracle, I’ll be bench-warming. In front of my girlfriend and her family. Great.”

Stiles pats his friend on the back. “Rating your daughter’s boyfriend by his sports success is an outdated institution, Scotty. The system is wrong.”

“But she’s not,” Scott sighs, staring at the door through which Allison will soon walk through, as if he can already see her, clacking in here in heels and a megawatt smile.

“No,” Stiles murmurs, picking absently at his potatoes, “No, I don’t think she’s wrong.”

Scott swivels his head to eye him hopefully. “You don’t?”

“Derek says to stay away from her, but she’s…she’s just too sweet, you know? She’s good for you.”

“She’s perfect,” Scott replies dreamily. Stiles snaps his fingers in front of him and raises his eyebrows. “What? She is.”

“Yeah, well, if you could stay on this planet, that’d be cool,” Stiles grumbles, right as Lydia flounces over to their table, every eye in the cafeteria on her, followed by Allison.

Scott pulls out a chair for her and Lydia seats herself opposite, beside Stiles. Stiles rolls his eyes as Scott says a bashful hello to his girlfriend and Allison smiles adorably.

“So, Stiles,” Lydia begins conversationally, and that’s how Stiles knows this is going to be painful. “How’s that boy of yours?”

Scott almost chokes on his juice and Allison looks up with wide eyes. “What boy?”

“There is no boy,” Stiles says dismissively, resisting the urge to shoot Lydia a dirty look, because that would look more suspicious. “Why would there be?”

“Stiles has a thing going on with this stranger in a leather jacket,” Lydia informs Allison. “He’s hot, but…older.”

“How much older?” Allison frowns.

Well. At least Stiles doesn’t need to worry about telling his new friends he’s bisexual. Lydia managed that just fine. But Allison seems to be taking it fine, and Stiles doesn’t really care who knows. He’s an opportunistic kind of guy and he can’t be bothered to deal with anyone who thinks that’s weird. He doesn’t care. It’s very simple.

Both Lydia and Scott turn to him expectantly. Stiles makes a betrayed expression at Scott, who begins to look sheepish. “I don’t know how much older he is.”

“So ask!” Lydia nudges him in the side. “He knows you’re in high school, right? He should understand.”

“He knows you’re in high school and he still–?” Allison doesn’t finish her sentence, but she doesn’t have to. He knows you’re in high school and he’s still interested? Well, that’s the thing, Stiles thinks dully, he’s not, and it’s theoretical, because it would never work, not with all the shit going on.

“We’re not dating or anything,” Stiles explains, “We just hung out a couple times. He helps with homework.” Stiles winces. It sounds fake as hell. “Honestly.”

Lydia remains skeptical but Allison looks like she chooses to believe him.

Scott, being the friend that he is, changes the subject abruptly. “Is your dad still coming to the lacrosse game tomorrow?”

“Yeah!” Allison smiles widely and Scott looks actually blinded for a second. “That’s okay, right?”

“Sure!” Scott smiles back but he looks somewhat like a deer in headlights at the prospect.

Or a rabbit in headlights, Stiles thinks grumpily.

 

 

 

 

“Not again,” Stiles groans, as he sees Derek’s familiar head poking through his window.

Derek clambers inside and dusts himself off. “What? Is it annoying, learning how not to die?”

Stiles smirks. “I was doing fine last night until I had to save your ass.”

Derek doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t even smile. He doesn’t sit down, doesn’t relax. He jerks his chin towards the window. “C’mon. We’re running.”

“What’s gotten into you?” Stiles asks.

Derek shakes his head and makes a face like nothing is wrong.

“Is it the hunters? Are you worried?”

“Why would I be worried?” Derek snaps. “I have you around to save my ass.”

“What the hell is your problem?” Stiles shouts, jumping up from the chair to look Derek in the eye, glad his dad is working a late one tonight. “Seriously, Derek, I don’t know what’s up with you, but we have to talk about this stuff!”

“Talk about what?” Derek snarls. “You need me and it looks like I need you. Isn’t that enough?”

Stiles recoils. His heart drops into his stomach and he sinks into his chair heavily. He feels like he weighs a million pounds. Derek watches him, face impassive, and Stiles struggles to meet his gaze. “Is that all this is? We need each other?”

Derek strides away, runs a hand through his hair. Stiles hasn’t seen him this agitated before and it’s worrying. “Stiles, that’s all I can do. I can’t have friends, or – or anything else.”

“Why not?” Stiles demands, feeling a pricking at the back of his eyes but refusing, refusing on principle to cry right now. “Who says you can’t?”

“The hunters take everything, Stiles!” Derek bellows, whirling around to stare at him with eyes half-crazed. “Everything good, they take it away, they break it, and I can’t watch them break you!”

“They won’t break me!” Stiles stands up again and holds Derek’s wrists like he’s a wild animal. He looks a little that way and smells like it too, his heart beating faster than usual. “They won’t.”

“How do you know?” Derek flails but Stiles holds on to the wrists. Derek is panicking now, Stiles knows the signs. “You don’t – don’t know them like I do! We’re surrounded on all sides! The alpha, the hunters, they all want us dead, and I can’t, I still can’t–”

“Derek,” Stiles says soothingly, leading him to sit on the bed, “Derek, stop. You’re freaking out. We’re going to be okay. It’s all going to be okay.”

It feels unbelievably weird to be the one reassuring someone else having a panic attack – usually Stiles is the one panicking – but he knows how to help, at least.

It takes Derek a few minutes before he can speak, but he doesn’t go into full panic attack, he manages to stop it before it gets that far, and when it’s over they sit side by side, thighs touching, in a contemplative silence.

“I have a history,” Derek says quietly. “With the hunters. It’s gonna put us both in danger.”

Stiles nods. “Okay.”

Derek turns to him with wide, beautiful eyes. Eyes that should totally not be that sad. “Okay? How is this okay? You don’t even know–”

“You don’t have to tell me. Not now. You can tell me when you’re ready.”

Derek blinks as if Stiles has given him a present. It’s horribly tragic, really, that allowing Derek his privacy is a novel idea to him. No wonder the guy’s so closed off. “But this will put us both in danger.”

“And we’ll get through it.”

“I can’t ask you to do that, Stiles. We’ll both be in danger – they have guns–”

“You don’t have to ask,” Stiles interrupts again before the thoughts can escalate. Stiles knows what it’s like to have thoughts you can’t control until your mind can’t cope anymore. “I’m here.”

Derek watches him with a strange mixture of disbelief and sadness. “This is my fight.”

Stiles lays an arm on Derek’s. They both watch it a little warily, but it doesn’t move. It’s warm and comforting and that’s all they need. “And I’ll fight for you.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Ur running AGAIN tonight?? Do u sleep?? At all???????

Scott’s texting ability is as nuanced as always. Stiles shoots off a quick reply.

Like a goddamned baby I hope

DUDE. Ur going 4 a WORKOUT with Derek. ;) ;)

Scott stfu ur not funny

Im hilarious.
And its true btw u r going for a workout w derek

Yea im going running to tame my inner animal it works ok

U and derek can be animals 2gether ;) ;) :*

Stiles doesn’t dignify that with a response and a few minutes pass.

If u kno what I mean

What is up w u??? is allison not replying??

we are WAY past the insecure stage ok stiles. Its ok if she doesnt reply right away cuz i know she loves me <3 <3

then whats w all the questions

im curious!! My best friend is a were rabbit!!!! and is crushing on his werewolf mentor!! This is a dilema

its not a dilemma and im not crushing

what is the problem?? He’s hot, ur in the woods, go be animalistic!!!!!

We do actually run u know. we dont bone in the woods all night

it can be arranged!!!

“Scott say anything interesting?” Derek raises an eyebrow from his reclining position on the bed.

Stiles, who was sat at his computer but swiveled around because Derek has very good vision and chat histories with Scott are things that should remain entirely private, looks up, trying to keep the guilt out of his face and scent. “No, he’s just making fun of me.” The eyebrow crawls further up Derek’s forehead and Stiles sighs. “Did you know there’s a Wallace and Gromit movie called the Curse of the Were-Rabbit? ’Cause I didn’t, but Scott found it and he’s watching it.” That’s not even a lie.

A smirk slides onto Derek’s face. “You seem pretty chill about the whole bunny thing.”

Stiles shoots him a look. “That’s because I’m faster and cooler than you.”

“You know it’d go away if you resolved your underlying issue,” Derek tells him. He’s discarded the leather jacket and is now in jeans and a V-neck. He looks kind of soft, almost vulnerable, except he’s still a badass, even if he did almost have a mental breakdown an hour ago. Actually, there’s no ‘even if’, Stiles decides. Derek has trauma and Derek is a badass. The two are not mutually exclusive.

“I don’t even know what my issue is,” Stiles replies, shoving his phone into his pocket and swiveling back around to grab his sandwich. Derek totally supports him in his endeavours to eat seven times a day in order to not be constantly hungry. Stiles’s dad thinks he’s going through a second puberty. “And besides, does it really matter? I’m fast, I’m strong, I don’t hurt anyone. I don’t see the problem.”

Derek shakes his head in amazement. “I’ve never seen anything like you before.”

“Well, yeah, most people turn into werewolves, but I’m weird. Shit happens.”

Derek shrugs. “Usually, if you get bitten, you turn or you die. That’s it.”

“Do a lot of people die?” Something clouds Derek’s face and Stiles immediately regrets his words. “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me. C’mon, let’s go run on some buildings.”

Derek follows him out the window and they make for town. Derek wants him to practice evasion in the cityscape as well as the forest, so they’re off for a field trip to the industrial estate.

“It’s not a field trip,” Derek growls when Stiles calls it that.

Stiles snickers and takes a running leap onto the roof of a two-storey building. Derek scales the wall instead, fast with years of practice and the knowledge of what his body does. Stiles is still uncoordinated, still coltish; he throws himself at the obstacle and hopes that it works out. Usually, it does, but sometimes it goes horribly wrong.

Stiles sprints off and Derek gives chase. They bound from roof to roof, sliding down fire escapes, cheeky flips in midair and laughter. There’s no point hiding from Derek, he’s way too hot on Stiles’s trail and too attuned to the scent anyway, so if Stiles wants to win he’s gotta be fast.

There’s a ledge coming up and he can see the building he’s going to jump to, it’s slightly lower than the one he’s currently on and the distance is fine, Stiles can make this easily. He makes the jump but just as his foot leaves the ground it catches on the ledge and there’s a sick lurching in his stomach as he jumps.

He flails in the air and lands on the opposite building messily, facedown and with a loud grunt of pain. But nothing’s broken, he’s fine, so he struggles to his feet to keep going.

His fall means he’s lost precious seconds, though, and Derek is right behind him again, and the adrenaline thrills in his chest and he can feel Derek’s breath on the back of his neck and he’s –

Oof. He’s down.

Derek grabbed him by the shoulder and heaved, and the guy weighs like three hundred pounds or something and he’s a freaking werewolf, so of course Stiles went down. Thankfully Derek yanked Stiles round so he fell not on his face (again), but on his back. He slams into the roof and it hurts, but some kind of instinct makes him protect his head from the impact, so his back aches but he’s fine, he’s not damaged, he’s –

He’s actually being pinned.

And who could be doing that but the perpetrator of his second crash-landing? Derek is on top of him, and boy that is doing a thing or two to his already addled brain, he can feel Derek’s warm body above his own holding him down and Jesus Christ the dirty train is leaving the station.

Derek isn’t lying on him. He’s on his hands and knees, legs apart over Stiles’s, holding Stiles’s arms still beside his head and staring down. They’re touching too much and not at all and Stiles feels like he’s on fire because they’re close, so damn close, and he can see the surprise and something else in Derek’s eyes and time is passing and why hasn’t he let go?

They’re both breathing hard and while Stiles is loath to move, because he’s really quite comfortable, he knows what happens. Derek will get up and brush himself down and avoid eye contact and mutter something and disappear and ugh, it’s frustrating.

So instead, Stiles brings up his knee and pushes Derek in the stomach at the same time he resists the arm hold. Clearly it catches the other by surprise, and Stiles keeps going until they’ve rolled, and Derek’s back is to the floor, one of Stiles’s forearms against his throat in a threat, and Stiles carefully moves his knee so he isn’t pressing down on Derek’s stomach. That might be barf-inducing and that’s just gross.

Derek snakes out an arm in a punch at Stiles’s face but Stiles catches it with his free hand. He twists the arm, not hard but just lightly enough to render it useless to its owner and prove his point.

Derek is still for a long time. He doesn’t move a muscle and Stiles is lamenting the fact that he’ll have to get off when Derek seizes hold of his collar and tumbles over him, pushing Stiles onto his back again and God, is this ever going to end? It’s just one big tease, and Derek’s thigh is very well placed this time and Stiles forces himself to think of camels and goats and not Derek’s leg and his very muscular arms either side of Stiles’s head and the way he’s crouched low to Stiles, barely an inch between them, literally right on top of him, why is he doing that, what’s–

“Hunters.” Derek hisses.

Oh. That’s why.

They stay still for a few more beats until Derek tugs Stiles to his feet, runs with him over to the edge of the roof, and mutters “Split up, circle round the old factory, meet me by the road-facing side” and disappears into the night.

Stiles does as he’s bid, keeping to the shadows and out of the moonlight, quiet as he can and lithe like an animal. His instincts begin to take over while he’s slinking around the corner of the old factory, and go into overdrive when a gunshot echoes deafeningly into the night.

There are more gunshots and woman yelling something, but one of the shots doesn’t echo. It doesn’t bounce off a wall or drop back to the ground, no, one of them hits a soft target, and fear floods through Stiles as he catches the rank scent of the alpha. It’s faint and faraway, and if he strains his hearing he can tell that The Bogeyman is running away from them rather than towards, so the immediate threat is definitely the lady with the gun.

Stiles stays concealed in shadow when he spots the culprit. She’s athletically built, a harsh kind of beautiful and she’s holding a really big gun, and right as Stiles watches another car rolls up beside her and out of it steps Stiles’s new bestie – Allison’s scary stone-faced dad, also equipped with a gun. He proceeds to tell the woman off for waving her weapon around, and Stiles can’t quite figure out the dynamic going on there, but it doesn’t take long before she says something of interest.

“I’d give him forty-eight hours. Tops.”

Stiles goes cold all over.

He finds Derek by the scent, which isn’t blood but more like sickness, and helps him to his feet. He’s been shot in the arm but swears he’s fine, and Stiles doesn’t pause to take a closer look, he’s too busy hauling Derek home and ignoring his protests.

Stiles makes his own way home and finds the cruiser sitting in the driveway. At some point while they were out, his dad got home. Hopefully he didn’t immediately go up to Stiles’s room to check on him, but that’s a vain hope if there ever was one. Noah has been a policeman (and Stiles’s dad) for way too long to leave stuff to chance.

Stiles sneaks into his room through the window and has just barely gotten changed when Noah knocks on the door.

“Stiles, do you have any idea what time it is?”

“Sorry,” Stiles says sheepishly, “I couldn’t sleep so I went for a walk.”

“I got home a half hour ago and you weren’t here! How long have you been out?”

“’Bout that long,” Stiles lies, “We must’ve just missed each other.”

Noah rubs a hand down his face and levels Stiles a look. “Next time you can’t sleep, watch some TV, okay? No more nighttime wandering. There’s a killer on the loose.”

Stiles’s eyes go wide and he jumps up from the chair. “What do you mean, a killer?”

“Two guys were murdered in the woods yesterday night, Stiles. Stay home at night from now on.”

Noah leaves and Stiles thumps facedown onto his bed. There’s a furry homicidal maniac and angry werewolf hunters after him, he’s training to become a Jedi Master with Derek, and he’s not supposed to leave the house after dark. He’s a creature of the night. How in hell is he going to make this work?

 

 

 

 

Allison solves the mystery of who the slightly terrifying gun lady is when Stiles overhears her tell Scott that her aunt got into town late last night. He wants to laugh or scream. Allison’s aunt. Cold Pity Guy’s sister. Glorious. Except that she looks less like cold pity and more like raging bitch. This isn’t even funny anymore. She shot someone. It could’ve been, like, a pizza guy. A pizza guy running on a rooftop, but, still. She did not have a clear shot when she hit Derek and she had no idea Stiles had even been there. Stiles has never spoken to her but he kind of wants to wring her neck out.

Scott is going for a date at Allison’s after the friendly lacrosse game later (an oxymoron if there ever was one. Whoever thinks Jackson is friendly to the opposing team has clearly not met Jackson) and he’s meeting her parents for the first time.

“And her dad has actual guns and a crossbow,” Scott complains. “How am I supposed to look him in the eye?”

“Can you try and find out if Allison is in on the family business?” Stiles asks hopefully.

Scott narrows his eyes. “Why?”

“’Cause otherwise I can’t be her friend. According to Derek. And I like Allison.”

“Dude!” Scott exclaims way too loudly. “Be your own rabbit! Derek’s not your mom!”

“No,” Stiles returns agreeably, “But if she’s part of a cult that want to shoot me with steel arrows then I might not want to be her friend.”

Scott admits that this is fair and promises to find out what he can. Jackson sidles by and shoots them a weird look. “Be your own rabbit? What the hell, Stilinski?”

“Online gaming community,” Stiles says quickly. It’s an excuse he thought up a while ago to explain any bunny-related outbursts. It was bound to happen sooner or later.

Jackson narrows his eyes. “I don’t know what’s worse, that you’re a fucking furry or that you’re a rabbit furry. God, Stilinski. You’re a freak.”

He stalks off and Stiles rounds on Scott. “Thank you, Scotty, for making the entire school think I’m a furry!”

Scott has the grace to look ashamed. He knows Stiles isn’t too mad if he’s calling him Scotty. After all, Stiles has never cared what anyone thinks. He would just prefer that the student body doesn’t think he dresses up in bunny ears to get his rocks off. “Sorry, man. I’ll get Lydia on it.”

They win the lacrosse game, predictably enough. Stiles has just barely gotten changed when he hears a strange noise from outside the changing room. It sounds like someone dragging their feet across the ground and their fist along the lockers and there’s a horrible high-pitched scraping sound that can only be – claws. There are only two people in this town who have claws. One is friendly, one considerably less so. Either way, Stiles needs to check it out.

He hurries to pull on shorts and is aware of the person outside shoving another someone up against the lockers. He can’t make out the voices over the squeal of Coach’s whistle as he calls the players around to talk. Stiles slips out quietly, faintly aware that he’s not wearing a shirt, heading off in the direction of the clawing noise.

Anticipation makes a lump bob in his throat, but thankfully it’s Derek’s scent he catches and not the alpha’s, so he speeds up a little. When he rounds the corner, Derek has Jackson up against the lockers and neither of them look great. Derek looks like he’s on death’s door and Jackson is clearly petrified. Stiles doesn’t even have time to enjoy it.

“Oh, look, it’s your friend Thumper,” Jackson manages to say.

Derek catches the Bambi reference, which is adorable, because Derek Hale and Disney are not two things Stiles would’ve pictured in a room together, so hey, the guy had a childhood, but it doesn’t sit well with him. He hoists Jackson off the ground and growls at him.

“Don’t! He doesn’t know what he’s talking about!” Stiles gently pries Derek’s fingers loose from Jackson’s shirt and shoos the dickhead away. Jackson flounces off, narrowed eyes and muttering vague threats and “put on a damn shirt, Stilinski”. Stiles puts a hand to Derek’s forehead, noting the dark circles under his eyes, the pale, clammy skin, the eyes changing colour. “Jesus, Derek, what’s wrong?”

“What did he mean?” Derek’s voice is wrecked, and not in a hot way, he sounds awful, like someone’s grated the inside of his throat. “He knows? About you?”

“No,” Stiles sighs, “He heard Scott talking and he thinks I have a sexual thing for rabbits. Don’t even ask.”

Derek just stares at him. “He thinks you’re a furry?”

Stiles is rolling his eyes when a thought strikes him. “Hey, if you’re a werewolf, are you then automatically a furry? ’Cause, like, if you have sex with another–”

“Stiles, I’ve been shot,” Derek growls, interrupting his musings.

“Yeah, why aren’t you healing?”

“’S a wolfsbane bullet,” Derek slurs.

“That’s what the bitch meant when she said forty-eight hours.”

Derek looks confused. “The bitch…? Listen, I need you to get me out of here. Like stat.”

Stiles nods and slings Derek’s arm over his shoulder to haul him along. “Let’s go.”

Stiles texts Scott while they head out to the car and Scott responds predictably.

Coach is mad!! That ur not here 4 debriefing!!!

tell him its an emergency. my brother is really sick

u dont have a brother even coach knows that

ok well then tell him I got rly sick. dereks fucked up he needs help

more fucked up than usual??

Stiles glances over at Derek as they commence the slow drag across the parking lot. yea, not funny rn scott

crap. Ok i will deal w coach. where are u gonna take derek?

It’s a good question. Idk yet. dad gets home early today so not my house. and dereks place is kinda far out

take him to the animal clinic its closed for the day. The key is in the letterbox

scotty u r a lifesaver

ya u can tell derek that pls

Stiles loads the werewolf into his car and speeds off. Derek peels up his sleeve and Stiles is thoroughly disgusted by the wound. It’s red and swollen and it’s glowing inside. Stiles has officially seen everything.

He cracks the windows because the smell of illness is overpowering. Derek focuses on maintaining steady breathing and Stiles tries not to stare at the arm. It’s kind of morbidly fascinating. “Why the hell didn’t you tell me last night? You said you were fine!”

“I thought I was,” Derek’s eyelids are drooping, “Thought I could get the bullet out. Didn’t work.”

“You went digging around in that? Oh my God.” Stiles thinks he might actually be sick.

“You had a lacrosse game?”

“Yeah, but I had to rein it in a little,” Stiles admits.

“Why?”

Keeping Derek in conversation is a good thing, Stiles decides. “Well, because Allison’s dad and aunt are going and I’d really rather not flaunt my stuff with them there.”

Derek sits up straighter. “Allison’s aunt?”

Stiles looks over concernedly. “Yeah, she was the one that shot you.”

“Kate shot me?” Disbelief hangs thick on his tone.

“Well, I don’t know if she’s called Kate, but–” Stiles stops dead. He recognizes the look on Derek’s face. It’s the look he gets whenever something comes up that he really, really doesn’t want to talk about. “Derek. It’s okay. We’ll fix you up.”

Derek looks at Stiles as if he just descended from heaven with a gleaming halo and Stiles kind of wants to cry.

And also hunt down this Kate and find out what the hell she has to do with Derek and his mountain of trust issues.

But that will have to wait. Stiles pulls up to the animal clinic, tyres screeching, and rushes out to grab the key and get the door open. Derek leans even more heavily on him and collapses on the metal table. He rips off his jacket and holds himself up with his good arm planted firmly on the table.

“I need,” he says, with labored breathing, “I need the bullet. The same bullet that hit me.”

“The same type?”

“The wolfsbane.” Derek swallows thickly. “S-same. Yeah.”

Stiles’s phone buzzes with an incoming text. going back to ally’s now. hows derek?

terrible. Need to find the same kind of bullet that he was hit with

but allys aunt is here. her whole family is here. how???

can u get the bullet?

chris wont let me out of his sight!!!!! Cold Pity Guy is named Chris. Good to know. and kate terrifies me!! Idk why!!!!!

cuz she shoots ppl. dw will be there soon

what?? you’re not invited!!1!

Stiles loves Scott dearly but he can be dense sometimes. Im not gonna walk in thru the front door.

well b careful. chris could eat u 4 breakfast

thanks

Stiles maneuvers Derek carefully into the foetal position so the guy can, like, conserve energy or something and locks the door behind him. If Derek wants to get out he will, but it’ll stop anyone else from walking in on him and asking themselves why there is a male model on the floor with fangs and flashing blue eyes. Anyone like Scott’s boss.

The Jeep roars to life and Stiles drives way too fast – but hey, his dad gets him out of the speeding fines, and Derek’s life is actually in danger – in the direction of Allison’s address. It’s more upmarket than Stiles’s own neighbourhood and the Jeep sticks out like a sore thumb, so he parks it a little way away from the house and runs the rest of the way.

He carefully avoids the front porches, because some of these places look like they might actually have security cameras, and also because he’s about to break into the home of a family of werewolf hunters using his supernatural werewolf-like abilities and if he gets caught he is so toast.

He pauses where he’s crouching in a bush in the neighbour’s yard and lets his hearing range out. There are heartbeats in the dining room and nowhere else. Stiles counts. Scott, Allison, Chris, Allison’s mom, Scary Aunt Kate. Nobody else. He’s good to go.

He migrates from the bush to the hedge and scopes out the windows on the place. The dining room opens onto the back lawn, so he’ll have to enter and exit by the front of the house. Hardly ideal, but he can’t risk being seen and recognized.

The hedge is a pain in the ass to slip through so in the end he just jumps over it. Night is falling and there’s not a soul around, and he keeps his steps light and all his cautious instincts on high alert, but the nerves don’t root him to the spot. He can do this. He has to do this. For Derek.

He steals across the lawn to the side of the house and scales the smooth planks with ease. There are ledges from all the windows for him to hold onto, and he can dangle by his fingertips for a few seconds if he wants. It’s not a pleasant experience, but he can climb horizontal wooden beams like this quite easily.

He finds the bathroom window thankfully open, but why wouldn’t it be? Who worries about a second-storey bathroom window at this time of day? It’s so small anyway.

Three weeks ago this would have been an easy fit. But Stiles has bulked up since then, not massively but he looks a few years older than his sixteen; he looks good now. He’s pleased, of course, it’s one of the side-effects of being a were-creature that are actually quite cool. Now, though, squeezing through the window isn’t so simple and fuck, is that someone coming up the stairs?

Stiles has his head and half his shoulders through the gap. He’s maneuvering his other shoulder, because if he can get his shoulders through he can fit, and then he can hide before whoever is clumping up the stairs decides to use the bathroom and finds him with his head stuck in the window.

The steps are getting awfully close now and it’s kill or cure time. Stiles can back out the window and cling to the outside until the someone goes back down, or he can heave himself through and hide inside. If whoever it is decides to close the window, or a neighbour spots him hanging onto the wall, the whole thing will have to be rehashed out and Derek doesn’t have the time.

He yanks his body through the window, preferring to trust his hiding abilities than the nosy eyes of Allison’s neighbours, falling onto the bathroom floor with a thud that he just about manages to stifle and throwing himself at the nearest hiding spot, which happens to be the bathtub, behind a small tile divider.

The guy – because it is a guy, Stiles is certain, and he’s not sure if Chris is preferable to Kate – lets himself into the bathroom and Stiles sags in relief as he recognizes Scott’s familiar sigh as he tries to get his hair to sit straight.

Stiles pokes his head out from around the divider and grins. “Hey, Scotty.”

Scott jumps half a foot in the air but thankfully doesn’t make any loud noises. “Stiles! How’d you get in here?”

Stiles clambers out of the bathtub. “I climbed the wall. How’s the date?”

Scott shudders. “Chris is, like, trying to kill me with his eyes.” Scott’s own eyes widen. “Dude! You’re bleeding!” He points at a gash on Stiles’s arm that must have come from Stiles’s impromptu window entrance. It heals while they watch, but Stiles wipes the blood off and checks to make sure he hasn’t left any on the windowsill. “Why aren’t you wearing a shirt?”

“It’s a long story. Listen, I would stay, but I think Derek is actually dying, so I’m just gonna go ahead and raid their stuff.”

“There’s a ton of guns and bullets in the basement,” Scott drops his voice, “They’re all locked in a cabinet and stuff.”

“Derek said it had to be the exact same one he was shot with.”

“And you said Kate shot him?”

“Yeah.”

“Then try her stuff?”

“Good plan, Scotty.”

“Stiles – if it’s not there – how are you going to get into the basement? You’d have to go right past us.”

“I’ll worry about that.” Stiles pats his friend on the shoulder and straightens Scott’s crooked collar. “Now go distract them for me.”

Scott leaves the bathroom and Stiles waits a few beats before tiptoeing out as well. He opens each door he comes across, except the locked one with the serious home security system. Allison’s room, Chris’s office, and here…another room. Smells female but there’s clearly only one person’s stuff here, and if it’s Allison’s parents’ room they’d be sharing, and there’s stuff everywhere like whoever stays here hasn’t finished unpacking.

Stiles is absolutely expecting an air raid siren to go off the moment he steps over the doorjamb but nothing happens, he hops over it into the room without incident.

He starts with the bags on the bed. They’re full of clothes, that’s all, and while Stiles might now be aware of Kate’s (hideous, in his opinion) taste in underwear, he’s not much wiser when it comes to bullets. He checks the wardrobe, which is also full of clothes and nothing else, the nightstand and the desk, and he’s getting ready to break the lock on the nightstand drawer when he spots the bags lying under the bed.

There are two bags under the bed, so he grabs the first one. He finds a lot of guns, big guns, small guns, rifles and shotguns and are these even legal? Stashed under the bed like this, he thinks maybe not. The other bag, though, the other bag is full of ammo, and Stiles is allowing himself to think he might be close to hitting a jackpot.

 There are a million different types of bullets in this bag, and Stiles quickly filters out the shotgun pellets – Derek wasn’t hit by a shotgun – and the ones that are obviously just normal bullets, when he stumbles across a small wooden box. It’s only got enough space for ten bullets, like they’re special, and one of them has been used.

The label says something in French that Stiles is a little too much under pressure to translate himself, so he pulls out his phone and gets Google to do it for him. He looks up ‘Nordic Blue Monkshood’ and sees ‘Aconite family’ on Wikipedia. It doesn’t take much more than that to know he’s on the right track.

He pulls another bullet from its box and wonders briefly what Kate will do when she finds another shot missing. These are clearly too valuable for her not to be keeping tabs on them. But why should she suspect him? She doesn’t even know he exists.

Stiles decides not to leave the same way he came in because he has no desire to wind up stuck with his ass hanging out a window (again) so he skips quickly into Allison’s room and finds it altogether easier to leave the building this time. There’s even a convenient little ledge to sit on. There’s no way Allison hasn’t sneaked out this way before.

It’s almost completely nighttime now but being as pale and shirtless as he is Stiles knows he’s going to glow in the dark, so it’s warily and very, very quickly that he crosses Allison’s front lawn and jogs out to his car. It’s pretty unbelievable that he’s made it this far but Stiles is determined not to jinx it. He doesn’t relax until he’s seated in his Jeep and driving down the road with nobody behind him.

A thought occurs to him quite suddenly as the car barrels along. Kate said that the bullet would give Derek forty-eight hours, but it’s been nowhere near that long. It hasn’t even been a full twenty-four yet. And it isn’t like Derek is weak or sickly, he’s the strongest person Stiles knows, but when Stiles saw him last he had these red lines creeping up his arm and Stiles knows what those are, what they mean, they mean his blood is being poisoned and when it reaches his heart or brain he’s a dead werewolf.

So it’s not like Derek’s just feeling a little under the weather. He actually is going to die quite soon if nothing is done.

Stiles knows how poisons work. If you up the dosage, it kills faster. Simple math. But why up the dosage so far beyond what a healthy werewolf can handle? The bullets are clearly important. Maybe they’re expensive. The wolfsbane is probably rare stuff, hard to get hold of, harder to make into ammunition. What could Kate have been shooting at that would take all that poison and still live for forty-eight hours, when Derek won’t even make half that?

The answer is a cold slap in the face. Kate thought she’d hit the alpha.

If only Kate had shot the alpha, that would’ve solved a lot of problems, but more concerning is the fact that she knows about it. If she knows about The Bogeyman running wild then the other Argents do too. So they’re hunting it – hell, maybe they moved back to town to hunt it. Does that mean they’re hunting Stiles by extension?

He’s not with the alpha, but they don’t know that. They saw him and they saw Derek, so they know that there are two others, but they have no idea how the lines have been drawn. But Stiles can’t really tell them without outing himself. And do they even know about Derek?

He shakes the unwelcome thoughts from his head, because he’s just going on loop now, and throws the animal clinic door open. The noise doesn’t matter, but his heart drops straight into his stomach when he sees Derek passed out on the floor in the exact same spot Stiles left him.

He’s still breathing, and Stiles hits him awake and hauls him to his feet. Derek has pulled off his shirt and lying on the table is–

“A saw?” Stiles squawks. “You got up, got out a saw, and went back to sleep?”

Derek glares. “Last resort.”

“To cut off your arm?” Stiles whips out the bullet. “No need, thank God. Now what’s next?”

Derek takes the bullet but begins to sway almost immediately. Stiles catches him before he can fall and topple the table. When he’s more lucid he cracks the bullet open, empties out the wolfsbane, sets it on fire – Derek has a lighter? Derek doesn’t smoke – scoops up the ash, and plunges it into the wound.

It’s a pretty disgusting sight but Stiles can’t force himself to look away, not even when Derek drops onto the floor and bucks and writhes and yells in pain.

After a few seconds the shouting stops and Derek gets to his feet, sweaty to the touch but somewhat more alive. Stiles doesn’t need to feel his pulse to know it’s weak, but the red lines on his arm have disappeared and he’s healing.

“Can we go home?” Derek pants.

 

 

 

 

Stiles doesn’t drive Derek to the Hale house. He rolls up to his own and they hang out in his room. Stiles’s dad is home so Derek enters through the window and Stiles wonders idly if he has ever used the front door of this house. They order takeout – because it’s that time of the month where Stiles is good for a burger – and stink up the room with frying oil. It’s been a long day.

Derek shifts. “If you don’t wanna give me a ride home, it’s cool, I can walk.”

Stiles stares. “Don’t be ridiculous, you’re not walking home.”

A frown appears. “I can walk home, Stiles.”

Stiles scoffs. “You’re staying here. You need rest and you’re not going to get it in that house.”

Derek’s face is rapidly cleared of all emotion. Even his tone is neutral. “Why not?”

“Do you even have a bed? Or running water?”

“There’s a couch.”

Stiles wants to groan. He knows which couch it is. It’s the one downstairs, the one that Derek dusted and clean up and pulled all the collapsed roofing boards off. He left all the others for some reason. Now Stiles knows why. “You need actual rest, not sleeping-in-a-leather-jacket rest.”

“I sleep under the jacket.”

That’s it. That’s the last straw for Stiles’s (admittedly limited, but still existent) mothering instincts. “Yeah, no. You’re staying here.”

The forced neutrality breaks and Derek turns sardonic. “Your dad’s gonna notice me on the couch.”

“Take the bed.”

Derek levels him a look. “Where will you sleep?”

Stiles points at the overstuffed armchair. Only God knows how many times he’s fallen asleep in that thing.

There’s a glint in Derek’s eye that isn’t altogether friendly. “You know, Stiles, I’m not some charity project.”

Stiles sits up straight. “No, you’re my friend, and you were literally just now cured of werewolf sepsis. You need help and I’m offering.” Derek continues to regard him warily. Stiles kind of wants to yell and ask him sharply if they’re friends at all, because this whole thing is really hard to judge, but he knows that won’t help.

“You don’t have to offer just because you feel sorry for me.”

Maybe a good night’s sleep will help with this acute case of paranoia. Stiles doubts it. “Yeah, I feel sorry for you. You were shot and it was horrible. But you’re not a pity project, Derek, you’re my friend and I care about you, so would you please just get into the bed?”

Derek can’t even vocalize his surprise and Stiles knows the feeling. He isn’t sure he meant to tell Derek he cared, but it’s out and there’s no taking it back, and it’s true. Derek strips off his jacket and heads to the bathroom to wash the blood off. Knowing Derek can hear him, Stiles says quietly, “There’s towels and a guest toothbrush in the cupboard under the sink.”

When Derek returns from the bathroom his hair is wet, his teeth are brushed and he’s only wearing boxers and a T-shirt. It’s such a ridiculously adorable sight that Stiles kind of wants to melt. He’s even barefoot. He suddenly throws Stiles a smirk.

“You broke into the Argent house shirtless?”

Stiles glances down at his bare torso, very aware he left his stuff at school in the hurry to get Derek the hell out. “I guess.”

Derek shakes his head with a smile. “You’re more of a werewolf than most actual werewolves.”

Stiles rolls his eyes and tugs on the nearest shirt. “Yeah, well, I saved your ass. That marks two for Stiles.”

Derek shakes his head again. “I don’t mind taking the chair.”

“If you don’t get into the bed I will literally throw you on it.”

And wow, that sounded different in Stiles’s head.

Derek develops a facial expression like the second meaning isn’t lost on him and Stiles shuffles from the room. It’s early yet but Stiles has a feeling Derek hasn’t slept well in ages so he doesn’t jab, he heads out into the bathroom to get ready for bed and hopefully not leave his guest to lie wide awake in fear of Stiles the Creeper.

Stiles very much doubts that Derek is scared of him. Nobody is scared of him, and it doesn’t bother him. He doesn’t need to be feared.

It might make life easier, though.

 

 

 

 

 

The attack on the video store comes as no more of a surprise than everything else that happens in this goddamn town lately.

By the time Noah had woken Stiles up for school, Derek had been completely gone, without so much as a seam of leather jacket flapping around a corner, no trace of his existence. Even weirder, Stiles had woken up in his own bed. And he’s quite sure he went to sleep in the armchair and Derek in the bed. So either he sleepwalked and managed to terrify Derek into fleeing, or Derek moved him to divert Noah’s suspicion. Stiles really hopes it’s the latter.

Stiles even texts Derek, because he’s working under the assumption that he’s the one who fucked up, and he feels awful about it. Way to invade the guy’s privacy.

Hey – did my dad wake u up? Do u feel better?

I heard him coming so I left.

This does not answer the question of whether Stiles is a complete douche, so he tries again. Did I sleepwalk???

When Derek’s text comes in Stiles can almost hear the mildly raised eyebrows. I moved you so your dad wouldn’t think youd had someone over

Stiles exhales in relief. And wahey. He has spotted a punctuation fail in one of Derek’s texts. Score for him. oooo ok I thought I creeped u out or smth

No it’s all good. Thanks for letting me stay.

My dad’s at work, if u wanna crash some more 2day go ahead

That doesn’t get a reply, not until after lacrosse practice when Stiles sits himself in his car. He’s about to drive off when a pair of hands seize his shoulders from behind, binding him to the seat with an iron grip. His heart feels like it’s going to jump out of his chest until the hands relax.

“If I was the alpha, you would be dead.” Derek informs him as he climbs into the passenger seat.

“Did you break into my car?” Stiles checks the locks concernedly. “Did you break my Jeep?”

“No,” Derek says exasperatedly, “The trunk wasn’t locked properly. But the alpha will wreck your car just for fun.”

The image of Derek hauling his ass into the back of the Jeep and then rolling over the seats to lie in wait for Stiles is just too damn funny. He seals his lips shut and puts the car in gear.

“We’re going to the video store.”

“It’s six-thirty! Me and Scott stayed behind after lacrosse to shoot some balls! And you want to go and rent a little werewolf movie? Can’t we just read the Wikipedia page?”

Stiles expects judgement. He expects snark or a raised eyebrow or a glare. He doesn’t get any of these things. Instead he gets a chuckle. It’s small and it’s barely more than harder than usual breathing, but there is an actual smile on Derek’s face. Holy shit. “No. There’s been an attack. The alpha again.”

Stiles revs the engine.

They don’t go in through the front. Derek prefers to view from the roof rather than skulk around in the shadows (even fully clothed, Stiles doesn’t blend in) so they park round the back and take the aerial angle.

“Lydia and Allison?” Stiles just barely manages to keep his voice down. He listens to the police trading speeches for a little longer. “Girls’ night in with a Nicholas Sparks marathon? What kind of coincidence–”

“It’s not a coincidence.” Derek crouches down to one knee to better see the two girls sitting in the back of an ambulance. Allison’s father is hovering just steps away, Lydia’s mother arguing with a cop. “It’s a threat.”

“Some poor guy in the video store died,” Stiles returns. “This isn’t about me. It killed someone I don’t even know.”

“It went after Lydia,” Derek points out, “It knows how important she is to you.”

“Her and Allison are both important to me, but they’re not the ones who are dead, Derek. This guy’s killing people.”

“Wait,” Derek shushes him, “Chris is talking to Allison. Listen.”

Over the police radios and the general chatter, Stiles makes out snatches of conversation. He turns to Derek with a frown. “One of ours, he said?”

“That’s right,” Derek nods, “A friend of Chris’s. Or so he told Allison.”

“A hunter. The alpha’s going after hunters. Those two guys that were killed – maybe they were, too.”

“What two guys?”

“My dad told me, the night before last, two guys died. Maybe they were hunters too.”

“An alpha tracking down Argent hunters.” Derek shakes his head. “Allison won’t be a civilian much longer. They’ll have to bring her in.”

Stiles focuses briefly on the conversation between Lydia and Mrs. Martin. “Can you believe Lydia’s mom is telling her off for not having a boyfriend?” At Derek’s quirked eyebrow he continues. “She literally just said that if Lydia had been with Jackson this wouldn’t have happened.”

Derek frowns. “Why wasn’t she with Jackson?”

“They broke up.”

“Oh.” Derek’s tone is carefully neutral again, even Stiles can hear that. “Now you have a chance with her.”

Stiles grimaces, trying to pick out his dad’s head from the sea of cops below them. “Nah. We’re just friends now.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah, I think she actually likes you.” Stiles thinks back to his and Lydia’s conversation about, as she had called it, ‘Mr. Tall, Dark and Brooding’. Lydia had liked Derek…just for Stiles rather than herself.

Derek frowns confusedly. He looks entirely puzzled by this prospect, as if he doesn’t get how a high schooler could be crushing on him. As if he doesn’t own a mirror. He probably doesn’t. “She’s never met me.”

“No,” Stiles allows, “But she saw you at her party, and hanging around the lacrosse field and stuff.”

“She remembers me?”

“Lydia’s goal in life is to win a Fields Medal before the age of twenty-six and be the youngest person ever to do it. She probably even knows your middle name.”

Derek looks entirely thrown. “She does?”

Stiles turns to him. “You have a middle name? Why do I not know this?”

“I don’t know your first name.”

“It’s Stiles.”

“Your actual first name.”

Stiles sighs and fishes his drivers’ license out of his wallet. He holds the thing out. Derek’s eyebrows shoot up and he bites back a smile. “Wow. I don’t, uh. Wow.” Stiles puts it away again. Derek is now the third person on Stiles’s list of known associates who actually know his name. Lydia and Allison don’t, and Scott can’t even say it. “James,” Derek supplies, slightly forcedly, “My middle name. It’s James.”

Stiles nods. James was Derek’s dad’s name. It’s kind of understandable that he’s quiet about it. He tries to lighten the mood and solve a mystery at the same time. “When’s your birthday?”

Derek just gives him an ‘I’m-so-done-with-your-shit’ look and turns serious. “We need to be careful.”

He’s right. The alpha is drawing battle lines and Stiles really, really wants to keep his friends out of it.

 

 

 

“Stiles, I have news, but you’re not gonna like it.” Scott watches him with that look he gets when he knows what he’s about to say won’t be well received. It’s like guilt for someone else, or something. It’s pretty weird but they can read each other so well now that it’s actually not that weird, but Stiles is in a terrible mood, and this doesn’t bode well.

“I doubt you could make it any worse,” Stiles returns glumly. His genius plan for keeping Ally and Lydia out of harm’s way isn’t developing very well.

“It’s Allison’s birthday today,” Scott begins. Stiles really hopes this is going somewhere, “Her aunt gave her this necklace. A pendant. With a wolf on it. And told her to look it up and stuff, for that history project.”

“Scott,” Stiles has to restrain his irritation. “What does Allison’s birthday have to do with keeping her out of a cult of werewolf hunters?”

“She, uh, she looked it up. And it turns out the myth about silver killing werewolves comes from her family name. Argent means silver. An Argent killed a giant werewolf way back in the day. She knows Chris is lying to her.”

“Shit,” Stiles runs a hand through his hair. They’re currently sitting in chemistry class so they have to keep their voices down. “Aw, shit, this is bad. I’m running out of time.”

“Yeah, and when I was on that date? Her dad asked me about Derek. Like, if I knew Derek Hale.”

“What did you say?”

“I said ‘Derek who?’ but I don’t think he believed me.”

“Who’s Derek Hale?” Lydia whispers from behind Stiles. Clearly they had not been talking that quietly.

“No-one,” Scott says quickly, because that doesn’t look suspicious at all.

“A friend,” Stiles amends, “He, uh…he helps with my English homework.”

“Ooh, it’s that friend?” Lydia’s smile turns broad and mildly frightening. For someone who was home from school yesterday on strong anti-shock meds, she seems pretty lucid. “The leather jacket one?”

There’s only so long one can lie to Lydia so Stiles doesn’t even try it. “Yeah.”

“Well, he’s not that much older.”

Stiles turns all the way around in his seat. “You know how old he is?”

“Mr. Stilinski,” Mr. Harris’s callous voice calls from the front. “Is there a reason I’m looking at the back of your head and not your vacant expression?”

“My expression is never vacant for your class.” Stiles retorts. He’s tired and he’s worried and it came out even more sarcastic than usual. Mr. Harris orders him to the principal’s office with a flick of his hand. Stiles gets to his feet, but not before hissing a desperate plea to Lydia for a number. She watches him go smugly.

“Being sent to the principal’s office on the night of a parent-teacher conference,” Mr. Harris develops that simpering sarcastic half-smile of his. “Very brave, Mr. Stilinski.”

“Yeah, well, I aim to impress.” Stiles can’t even stop himself from slamming the door on his way out. He’s just too done.

The principal tells him off and threatens to phone his dad. Stiles informs the principal that his dad is the Beacon County Sheriff, in case he had forgotten, and is currently very busy working a murder case. The principal drops it and tells him to just go home and come back tomorrow. He obviously has no idea what to do with Stiles besides get him out of Harris’s sight. It’s fourth period, the suspension won’t go on the record, and Stiles clearly needs to cool down.

“I have an English presentation due next period,” Stiles announces, “And math, and lacrosse practice, and Coach will not be happy if I’m kept out of lacrosse practice. I’ll avoid Mr. Harris and I’ll shut up, but suspending me on the day of a parent-teacher conference will just make my dad ask questions.”

“I’ll see that your teachers don’t mention your absence. Go home, Mr. Stilinski.” The principal sighs that familiar exasperated sigh that Stiles thinks is reserved especially for him.

Stiles shrugs and strides from the room. Across the parking lot, he texts Lydia. How old is Derek?????

Lydia doesn’t respond with letters or numbers like a normal person. How does she even know Derek? It’s a huge goddamn mystery that Stiles is willing to chalk up to her being the Einsteinian enigma that is Lydia Martin, but he really wants to know how old Derek is.

After a little more bugging, Lydia sends him an extremely complicated mathematical formula. It’s not even numbers, it’s not even letters, really, it’s vertical swirls and different types of square brackets and an actual Greek character. Stiles can pick out bits of it but most of it is quite literally Greek to him.

He resists the urge to play skimming stones with his phone across the parking lot and swings himself into his car. He rattles off a quick update to Scott before driving home at twice the speed limit, but hey, he’s almost indestructible and his dad’s the Sheriff.

The second thing he does once he gets home is type the formula out on the computer. The first thing he commits to is making himself onion soup with three grilled cheese sandwiches and bring it upstairs with him. Bonus of being a were-rabbit: he can cut onions without crying.

He really can’t bring himself to care about the parent-teacher conference. His grades are fine, and the behavioural issues don’t bother Noah too much unless they get out of hand. Today’s episode with Harris barely scratches surface of the dumb shit he’s gotten busted doing at school.

He’s on his last sandwich and still staring blankly at the screen when his phone lights up again. It’s from Derek. Scott says you got sent home.

Scott’s a lil snitch

What did you do??

was “““rude””” to Harris. Like he’s not rude to ME

Harris, as in Adrian Harris?

Yea, u kno him?

I’m on the way.

Derek and the non-answers is part of his life now, Stiles thinks, but sometimes he gets this feeling like there’s an awful lot of crap in Beacon Hills that he doesn’t know about.

Derek doesn’t use the front door this time either. Stiles is tempted to start referring to his window as the service entrance but that would probably not make Derek very happy. “Soup?”

“Yeah, onion. You want some?” Stiles doesn’t wait for a reply. He has a suspicion that Derek has been living off diner food and using the 24 hour gym in town for showers, so an opportunity to provide the guy with actual food that isn’t made of, like, petrochemicals or something is not an opportunity Stiles will be passing up.

Derek follows him downstairs and watches as Stiles reheats the soup and makes the grilled cheese to go on top. He sniffs a few times, probably trying to make sure he isn’t being poisoned, but he takes the soup and follows Stiles upstairs.  

“So what did you do today that’s interesting?” Stiles takes a languid slurp of soup.

Derek eats it with a spoon like a civilized person. “I broke into the police station.”

Stiles’s jaw might actually hit the floor. “You broke into the–”

“Sneaked. Sneaked in is probably more accurate. I didn’t actually break anything.” Derek flashes a sardonic smile. This might be the first time Stiles actually sees his teeth. “Soup’s really good, by the way, did you make this?”

“Yeah, mom’s recipe,” Stiles puts his bowl back down, “Please tell me you were careful. And had a good reason.”

“I looked over the case your dad is building on those murders. The two the night before I was shot, and the video store.”

“Did Harris come up?” Stiles leans forward with barely-contained glee. “Please, oh please, tell me they’re arresting him.”

“They know he knew the victims, but nothing else.”

“How did Harris know them? Harris knows anyone? Like, at all?”

“Well, I overheard them talking. Apparently your dad plans to do an informal interview with Adrian Harris when he sees him later.”

“You mean my parent-teacher conference.” Stiles guffaws with bitter laughter. “Yeah, like that’s gonna happen.”

Derek cocks his head to the side. “Why wouldn’t it?”

“I was rude to him today. He’s not going to talk about anything else. Ever again. He’s a boring guy.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “Are you usually rude to him?”

“No,” Stiles admits, “But I’m kinda stressed lately.”

“Why?”

Stiles picks up his grilled cheese and focuses on that rather than looking Derek in the eye. “Well, Allison’s crazy aunt is busy inducting her into the Hunter Club, so my plan to keep her out of this, which does not yet exist on this plane, is not unfolding as it should be. Her parents have been asking Scott if he knows you, so they know about you and that you’re back in town. The full moon is in eight days and there will be actual hunters with actual guns and an actual Bogeyman running around the woods with us, and instead of giving me a straight answer Lydia decides to send me a fuckin’ math formula that’s, like, AP level or some shit, so you see, worrying has been keeping me busy.”

Derek frowns at the computer screen. “It’s that?”

“Yeah.”

Still frowning, Derek gets up from the bed. He holds his soup in both hands and it’s kind of adorable. It’s even more so when he kneels down on the floor in front of the computer so he’s the same height as Stiles on the chair. Stiles peers into the bowl. He’s actually eaten all the soup. “This is an integral. This is just a fancy way of writing sum of. And this is a differential. Yeah, she’s just messing with you. She’s asking for the integration of a differential.”

Is Derek secretly taking AP classes? What gives? “I…don’t know what that is.”

“It’s just the original number.” Derek shrugs. “So you can take away this part, and this, and this” he points at a weird cursive letter R and a Z “just means it’s a whole number that’s not imaginary. And this is absolute value, so it’s not a negative. Take all that away and you have…” He squints at the computer screen, and Jesus, Stiles might actually be in love, and a few clicks later half the crap is gone from the screen, “this. Which you can put into a search engine and it will solve it for you.”

Stiles regards him dumbly. “You are a hero.” He glances down at the bowl. “You want more soup?”

Derek looks down, too, as if he’s only just realized he’s kneeling on a hard floor and he has no more soup. “Y-yeah, if it’s not too much trouble.”

Derek waits in the room this time while Stiles warms some more soup. He brings up another grilled cheese, and by the time it’s done he walks into the room to find Derek migrated to the computer chair. “Twenty-two.”

Stiles doesn’t drop the soup, but it’s close. He places the bowl carefully down on the desk and takes a seat on the edge of the bed. “What?”

“Twenty-two,” Derek repeats, “That’s your answer.” Twenty-two. Huh. Derek looks both exactly that age and five years older. It’s pretty hard to judge. When there is no immediate reply an eyebrow crawls slowly up on Derek’s face. “What does this mean?”

“Huh?” Stiles looks up from an inspection of the hem on his bedding. “It’s a number, Derek. It means twenty-two.”

Derek continues to regard him suspiciously. “Lydia sent this to you?”

“…Yeah.”

“Why?”

“To mess with me,” Stiles returns promptly, watching Derek with wide, innocent eyes. “Why? Does it mean something?”

The ruse dawns on him. “You asked Lydia how old I am?”

“I was lamenting that it’s so hard to tell is all,” Stiles lies casually. “Is she right?”

“You could’ve just asked.”

“You don’t like questions.” Derek begins to look forlorn and his gaze hardens somewhat, and Stiles realizes what he said. “No, that’s not what I meant – it’s not – ugh, it’s not a problem, Derek, I respect your privacy, I was just curious. I don’t – I’m sorry.”

The hardness leaves Derek’s eyes, thankfully. “It’s okay. It must be frustrating for you, so much history you don’t know.”

“I get this feeling sometimes, like there’s something huge going on. Something we don’t know about. Like – the alpha’s not after me. All these killings? They’re not related to us. That’s the hunters.”

“You think the alpha is using you to get to the hunters.”

“Or would be using me, if I wasn’t, y’know. Herbivorous and a pacifist and all.” Stiles is not a pacifist. He likes the idea of peace, he gets it, but some people just need a high-five in the face with a chair.

“Packs are stronger in threes,” Derek admits. Something occurs to him and his eyes go wide. “The alpha hasn’t bitten anyone else. Just you.”

“So it wants you, too.” Stiles shakes his head. “We need to figure out who this is.”

“Wait,” Derek frowns, his eyebrows merging into one, “Did you say Allison’s aunt is trying to get her in with the hunters?”

“Yeah, she gave Ally this necklace with a wolf on it, something to do with their family history. And Allison told Scott that her parents have been lying to her.”

“You can’t save her now, Stiles.”

Stiles flails his arms above his head in frustration. “I can try!”

“No, you can’t!” Derek shoots to his feet. His scent roils with fear and worry, and it’s overpowering. “You can’t reveal yourself to Kate! You cannot let her find out about you!”

“Listen, I don’t like her either, but Chris is okay, and once he knows I’m friendly and I’m not with the alpha–”

Derek seizes hold of his shoulders and there’s concern in his eyes too. “Stiles, you cannot trust Kate. Please listen to me. Please. She hurts people. She kills people.” The hands climb up to hold Stiles’s face, feather-light and firm at the same time, like Derek is holding fine china. “Trust me on this one.”

Stiles puts his own hand gently over Derek’s. “I have to try and keep Allison out of this. It’s the only plan I have.”

The hands fall away frustratedly. “What is so special about this Allison?”

“She is my friend, Derek!” Stiles balls his fists together. “The alpha turned up here and threatened my dad. There are sides being picked here, and I don’t want to end up on the opposite side to my best friend’s girlfriend!”

“She is going to find out about werewolves. It’s inevitable now. But you’re not a werewolf, Stiles, and they won’t ever trust you, they’ll turn on you and you’ll get hurt–”

Stiles being a freak of nature and this being of interest to the hunters is a point he hasn’t actually considered. “You keep talking about Kate like you know her, how could you–”

The facial expression Derek develops is more than enough confirmation. He looks so, so vulnerable, and like he’s waiting for Stiles to drop it, to ask the damn question that he knows will destroy him.

“Fuck. I’m sorry, Derek.”

“For what?”

“Asking.” Stiles waves a hand. “About her. All this. You know stuff I don’t and you can’t tell me. It’s okay.”

For a second there is actual moisture in Derek’s eyes, but then it’s gone again. “How can you be okay with this? All this crap? Just taking it on faith?”

“I trust you,” Stiles says simply. “I won’t go to the Argents. Just–” he pulls Derek in for a hug and he doesn’t let go for a long time. “If you want to talk, I’m here. If you need a place to stay, I’m here. If you want more freaking onion soup I’m here. Just please remember that.”

Stiles feels Derek nod unsurely. “I know.”

Chapter Text

When Stiles gently tells Scott that he can’t really stop what’s going on with Allison, Scott loses it. He curls his fists in his hair and yanks them away again. He yells in irritation. And finally, worst of all, he rounds on Stiles with tears on his eyes and shouts, voice breaking, “And you’re not even gonna try?”

Stiles thinks his heart might actually just have split in two. “Of course I will, Scott. But the only thing I can do is tell her before Kate does, and if I do, and she takes it badly, she’ll go running to Kate and out me and they can’t know about me, Scott.”

“You said yourself they don’t kill innocents!” Scott brings the heels of his hands up to bat at the water around his eyes and swings his arms around, roaring in frustration. “It’s Allison and you’re going to leave her to – to whoever gets there first!”

“She will be fine, Scott!” It’s hard to keep his distance and physically reassure Scott at the same time with the whirling arms. “She won’t be in danger, and she’ll learn to protect herself, and you’ll be there to help her–”

“Yeah, and what if dragging her into this – this war – what if doing that gets her killed, huh? What if the alpha decides to go after her?”

“The alpha’s too smart for that, he knows the hunters would turn him inside out if he hurt Chris’s daughter.”

Scott goes from furious to lifeless in seconds and he slumps onto the ground, staring vacantly ahead. Stiles is glad he brought Scott out to the lacrosse field away from prying eyes to deliver the news. “You promised you would protect her.”

“And I will! I will, Scott. But I can’t stop her from getting involved.”

Scott shakes his head. “How do you know the Argents are bad people?”

“Chris put an arrow in my arm and he’s supposed to be the nice one.”

“A misunderstanding,” Scott doesn’t meet his eyes, “You could’ve been the alpha. You look weird, you said so. Once he realized you were innocent he might’ve let you go. You don’t know that he’s evil. There are bad werewolves too.”

“Scotty, I don’t know what Chris is, but Kate is bad news. To spook Derek like that…you’ve gotta be pretty awful.”

“Why, what’d she do to Derek?”

Stiles sighs. “I don’t know. But she did something.”

Scott turns to him. “Derek won’t tell you? Stiles, how can you trust this guy?”

“He will tell me when he can.” Of that, Stiles is sure. “Derek is on our side.”

“On your side,” Scott sniffs, then ducks his head when Stiles stares in shock.

“What? Scott, we’re on the same team, right?” There’s no reply for a second until Stiles lends some of his feelings to his tone. “Scott!”

“You’re asking me to trust Derek over Chris Argent?” Scott’s eyes are accusing. “Chris doesn’t show up in peoples’ windows, doesn’t make them break into peoples’ houses, Chris is a decent guy–”

Stiles can’t believe it. He’s had enough. He’s pissed off from his Allison failure and he had not anticipated that Scott would be so anti-Derek. Or so anti-Stiles. Scott is quite clearly siding with the hunters here, and it hurts. Stiles’s heart just cracked all the way open, or so it feels. “Yeah, Scott, he’s a decent guy who shoots teenagers. Derek’s weird but he’s never shot me.”

“Derek is using you.” Scott looks him straight in the eye and there’s a strange kind of frustration there. “He’s older, and he knows you like him, and he’s using that to get what he wants. It’s a power imbalance, Stiles, and it’s wrong.

 His eyes are burning and it takes Stiles a minute to realize that it’s not from tears, his lunar self is showing, and he’s too upset to control it and too angry to care. He gets to his feet, leaving Scott sprawled in the dirt pathetically. The betrayal is coursing through him, he needs Scott and he knows it, but if Scott is choosing the Argents over him then what can Stiles do except walk away?

So that’s what he does. He walks away.

Scott is wrong about Derek. Derek isn’t using Stiles, he isn’t, he can’t be. Derek is damaged but his heart is in the right place, which is more than can be said for Scott right now. Stiles’s eyes don’t stop glowing and he’s in no fit state to continue school, not after yesterday’s Harris debacle, so he gets in his car and drives off. He can’t go home, so he heads in the direction of the Hale house and parks round the back.

There’s loud music, so Derek is probably working out, but Stiles is too emotional to appreciate the view right now. He doesn’t even knock, he slams the door open with too much force and accidentally breaks the lock. He heaves a sigh and rolls his eyes skyward. “Sorry about that. I’ll make sure it gets fixed.”

Derek is shirtless and confused. “Uh. Are you okay? Your eyes are…”

Stiles puts the door back as carefully as possible and balls his fists. “It’s Scott. He – he doesn’t trust you. He wants me to go with the Argents.”

Derek watches him concernedly. “Did you have a fight?”

Stiles wraps his arms around himself. “Yeah. He got upset because I told him how I can’t really stop what’s happening with Allison and then he said…we’re on different sides.” Stiles shakes his head in disbelief and falls against the wall dejectedly. “I can’t believe he just…left me like that.”

Derek pulls him in for a hug, which is unusual because Derek is not really a hugging guy normally, but it’s warm and it’s reassuring and Derek rubs soothing circles into his back. “He’ll come around,” Derek murmurs, “He’s probably just worried about Allison.”

“He said some things about you–” Stiles’s reply is cut off by the sound of footsteps outside. Derek pulls back, holds his shoulders and whispers, “Go upstairs, hide,” so fast that Stiles thinks he might be practicing Visitor Drills in his free time.

Stiles steals upstairs and hides in what might once have been a guest room. The walls are blackened, the roof has fallen in and the furniture is ash and dust, so it’s hard to tell, but it affords him a few hiding places and a window for quick exiting. He can see his Jeep from here and he is so glad that years of sneaking around his dad made him remember to park his highly distinguishable car behind the house he’s not supposed to be in.

There’s no knock on the door, just a creak of the hinges, and someone makes a remark about the broken lock. There are four of them, and Stiles recognizes the voices when they begin to speak – it’s Kate and three others. Hunters.

One of them makes a dog joke and Kate improves on it and there’s actual bile in Stiles’s throat. Derek and Scott make bunny jokes from time to time but it’s lighthearted, not derogatory, not disrespectful to the dead like this is, and Derek must know that they’re trying to draw him out.

There’s some kind of kerfuffle downstairs and Stiles is so happy to go and help, but it sounds like Derek’s got it covered and he would really rather not reveal himself right now, so he tiptoes across the hall into another bedroom to see if there’s anything useful to him there.

Score! A pile of Derek’s clothes. There are a few meager possessions around and this must be all of what Derek owns, a leather jacket lovingly folded, shoes neatly placed, clothes stacked like they’ve been ironed by a pro when, judging by the scent, none of them have seen an ironing board or a tumble-dryer in weeks.

It sounds like Derek’s having trouble taking out Kate, so Stiles grabs the leather jacket and pulls it on, zips it up, then rummages until he finds a long-sleeved shirt. It’s plain black, and he hurries to tie it, first around his mouth and nose and then his forehead. He must look hilarious but only his eyes are exposed and it should give him some kind of –

Wait. A better idea.

Stiles can see really well in the dark.

He modifies his positioning of Derek’s shirt so it covers his eyes, obscures his face completely. There’s no way she’ll be able to identify him now, and he lets the glow return and he can see perfectly fine.

He vaults himself over the banister and charges into the other room to help when he finds Derek, back to the floor and clearly defenseless. Kate is standing over him holding a huge-ass baton thrumming with electricity. She turns and spots him, clearly bemused but not altogether rattled. “And who’re you supposed to be? The butler? You’re a little skinny for a werewolf.”

He lands a hard kick in the stomach before Kate can so much as blink and attempts his best Christian Bale voice. “Bitch, I’m Batman.”

He scurries over to help Derek to his feet. Derek is up and ready to run when Kate lashes out and swings the baton at Stiles. It hits him on his exposed lower arm and she holds it there, his arm tight in her grip, electricity sizzling Stiles’s skin. He’s yowling and there’s a weird smell in the air before he comes to his senses and seizes the hand keeping him there. He breaks a few fingers and she cries out in pain and then Derek crashes through a window, pulling him along and they’re sprinting, running through the woods like – like wounded animals.

Stiles pulls off the shirt on his head and unzips the jacket. Derek takes them from him and puts them on silently. They’re taking a moment to catch their breath when Derek bursts out in breathless laughter.

“‘Bitch, I’m Batman’?” Derek shakes his head and laughs even more. “Really?”

“How are you even laughing right now?”

Derek barely hears him. “And you looked like a terrorist when you came downstairs, I swear to God–”

Stiles huffs. “Somebody had to save your ass.”

The laughter peters out and Derek wipes his eyes. “I don’t think I’ve laughed that long in ages.”

“Glad I’m a good source of entertainment,” Stiles snaps. He’d been feeling so much better and then Kate and her lackeys showed up, and now Derek won’t take him seriously. What a rollercoaster. “The bitch knows where you live, aren’t you afraid?”

Derek sobers. “But she’s always known where I live.”

“And she did this!” Stiles gestures an arm in the direction of the Hale house. “C’mon. You’re not staying there.”

Derek just looks vaguely amused as Stiles grabs his arm and begins to tug him along. “Then where am I staying?”

His question isn’t answered until they are standing directly in the ring of forest around Stiles’s backyard.

“Stiles,” Derek says quietly, “I can’t stay here.”

“You can and you will.” Stiles points in the direction of his bedroom window. “Get up there.”

Derek regards him pityingly, like he’s a delusional puppy, and wow, that is annoying.

“I said get up.” Stiles repeats through his teeth.

Derek shoots him one last sorry look before clambering up into Stiles’s room. Stiles follows suit, hissing when he bangs his arm on the windowsill.

Derek frowns. “What’s wrong?”

Stiles peels back his flannel from where he had pulled it down to cover the injury. It looks like a burn, the skin melted away, bloody and sore. It hurts when exposed to air and it stings even more when Stiles picks out the little red and black fibers his flannel has left in the wet flesh.

Derek lets out a strangled gasp. “What happened to you?”

“The baton,” Stiles looks away. He feels like he’s going to be sick, “She got me with the baton.”

Derek very carefully takes his arm to look at it. “For how long?

“A few seconds, maybe.”

“You’re not immune to it.” Derek’s face develops a horrified expression. “You – you have no resistance.”

“You have resistance to electricity?”

“Yeah.” Derek nods, swallows, regards the burn. “A hit like that – it hurts, and it shocks, but it doesn’t – it doesn’t do this.” He takes Stiles’s hand and holds it for a while, and it takes Stiles a few seconds to realize that they’re not actually just holding hands. There are these weird black lines running up Derek’s arm and – and Stiles doesn’t hurt anymore.

It still aches, but the throbbing in time with his heartbeat and the harsh, raw pain is gone. Derek looks like he’s going to collapse and Stiles snatches his hand out of the grip before Derek can take more.

Derek’s eyes fly open. “Don’t worry about it.”

“It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt as much.”

Derek raises an eyebrow but doesn’t push the issue. “I can’t believe she did this to you.”

“You can’t stay there.”

“Stiles, I can’t stay here. Your dad–”

“Doesn’t have to know.” Stiles turns away. “You’re not going back there.”

He brushes past Derek and stomps into the bathroom and wonders when he got so domineering. He’s got good intentions, but he’s bossy and he knows it.

He tells himself it’s the stress. For all he knows, it is.

 

 

 

 

Derek insisted on taking the chair this time. Stiles wonders if they’re going to shuttle back and forth as the days go by, but he’d been far too exhausted to argue the point.

He’s groggy when he wakes, and his immediate instinct is to glance over at the chair. Derek is, predictably, gone, and Stiles follows the smell of eggs frying downstairs.

He had expected to see his dad standing by the cooker and humming, but instead is his tall, dark houseguest. Derek turns when he enters the room and Stiles sees the barest hint of a smile.

“Hey. Your dad left for work and you fell asleep without eating yesterday, so, I, uh, I made breakfast.”

“I fell asleep without feeding you?” Stiles yawns and sits down at the table. “Sorry, man. Bad host. You didn’t have to go to all this trouble…”

“It’s no problem,” Derek says quickly, setting a stack of toast and a plate of fried eggs down as Stiles pours some juice. He pours for Derek, too, because he knows Derek will eat what is given to him and will not ask for more. “You don’t mind that I take some, right?”

Stiles gestures while he slurps some juice. “What’s mine is yours, Derek, eat all the food you want.”

Derek sits down and butters a piece of toast. “You have some bacon, but it’s less than a week until the full moon and I didn’t think you’d want it.”

Stiles is mollified. To cover this, he makes himself a fried egg sandwich and eats it dignifiedly, with a knife and fork. “No. You’re right. And thanks. But if you want bacon, go ahead.”

Derek shakes his head. “It’s cool.” He focuses hard on his food.

It’s odd how it feels so much like the awkward morning after a one night stand, despite nothing of the nature having taken place. Stiles decides to roll with it. “My dad is home at two today, so we can hang out after school and then you can use the service entrance.”

Derek bitch-faces before Stiles realizes what he’s said. “The service entrance, really?”

“Yeah,” Stiles grins around a mouthful of egg, “You know, the dumbwaiter, the butler’s door–”

Continued teasing is broken off my Derek giving him a light smack upside the head and an irritated glare. “Why do you call it that?”

“Have you ever actually used the front door?” Stiles dodges another slap and sticks out his tongue. “You like appearing in my room and scaring the crap out of me.”

Derek smirks. “True. But I have never claimed to be Batman to a hunter.” He sits back in his chair, arms folded, smiling wide. Stiles has never seen so many teeth but wow, arm muscles.

“She asked a dumb rhetorical question!” Stiles takes a self-righteous bite of his sandwich. “I can’t believe she hit me with that ‘aren’t you a little short for a Stormtrooper’ shit. Seriously. ‘Too skinny to be a werewolf’. What does that even mean?”

Derek’s smile only widens. “She said for a werewolf, you were on the small side. Which you are, because you’re not a werewolf.”

“I have put on weight lately!” Stiles announces, trying not to preen. “When I had to sneak into the freaking Argent mansion I got stuck in a damn window because bunny lycanthropy decided Stiles needed to fill out in the shoulders.”

Derek snickers and helps himself to more toast. Stiles considers this a good sign. “Werewolves are bigger because it’s an advantage to be obviously strong. To look intimidating. It’s not for you.”

Stiles grumbles and makes another sandwich. “Yeah, well. D’you think she thinks I’m human?”

Derek considers this for a moment. “She saw the wound on your arm?”

At the mention of it, the burn begins to itch. “Yeah. Yeah, she was holding on to me. Then I broke her fingers.”

“A human could break fingers. Your eyes were glowing through the terrorist getup, but I don’t know if a human could’ve seen it.”

Stiles rolls back his sleeve to inspect the injury. It’s healing and it’s not nearly as gross as yesterday but it still looks like someone took a blowtorch to his arm. It smells that way too. “I hope so,” he sighs, “But I really hope she didn’t recognize me.” A thought occurs to him suddenly and fear cracks in his belly. “My car!”

Derek shakes his head. “Don’t worry, I drove it back here after you fell asleep.”

“You found the key?”

Derek shifts, apparently embarrassed. “Yeah, it was in your pocket. Sorry to invade your privacy but the car is kind of distinctive.”

“No, no, thanks for that,” Stiles agrees, focusing once more on his food. A quick glance at his watch tells him all he needs to know. “Shit, sorry, I gotta go.” He hurries to his feet, wraps up a couple more egg sandwiches. “I do actually need to go to school today. Don’t worry about the mess, I can get it later. Will you swing by after lacrosse practice?”

“Sure,” Derek returns easily, watching him go with a strange expression. “I’ll see you later.”

“Bye!” Stiles says, closing the door behind him.

 

 

 

Lydia is waiting for him at school.

It’s a scary sight, really, to rush to school, driving one-handedly (it’s not impossible to drive a stick shift one-handedly but it’s not easy either) and eating egg sandwiches with the other, to be greeted with the sight of all terrifying five foot three of Lydia Martin.

He knows she’s waiting because otherwise she wouldn’t be caught dead hanging around in the student parking lot for no reason – hello, she has classes to ace – and he knows it’s for him because the moment she spots the Jeep she starts up a brisk pace across the lot to his car and accosts him once he’s closed to door.

“So I hear you and Scott are on the outs.”

She’s not being cruel, Stiles knows that. He turns in the direction of the school building and she follows suit. “Yeah. Just a, you know. A disagreement, I guess.”

“Scott doesn’t like Derek.” It’s not a question. Lydia might not know all the crap going on with werewolves and hunters but she’s not wrong.

“No. No, he doesn’t.”

“But you do?”

Stiles shrugs. “Derek’s helping me through some stuff, y’know. Scott doesn’t trust him, but I do.”

“You had someone over last night.” She smiles smugly. “Who was it?”

“Wha–? How did you know?”

“You’re eating a fried egg,” Lydia informs him astutely, “You never eat fried eggs in the morning. You don’t have time, probably.”

“So…”

“So, someone else stayed over and made you breakfast.”

“Or my dad did,” Stiles points out, shoving the last of his fourth sandwich into his mouth. “He likes eggs.”

“He likes bacon,” Lydia corrects him, “There’s no bacon in your sandwich. A guy like the Sheriff wouldn’t eat fried eggs without bacon. Is Derek a vegetarian?”

“No,” Stiles says, a little sourly, “No, I didn’t want meat this morning.”

Lydia snorts. She actually snorts with laughter. “Did you tell him that?”

Stiles is entirely bewildered. “Did I tell him? No. He knows that. I didn’t want meat this morning.”

She breaks out into full-on laughter that attracts the glance of a few other people in the corridor. “Did you want his meat last night?”

It finally dawns on Stiles what it is she’s getting at. “No! Lydia! No, it’s not like that.”

“Uh-huh,” she says tauntingly, “Sure it isn’t.”

“Lydia,” Stiles groans, “Derek and I aren’t – we’re not – he was just crashing.”

“Sure.” She gives him an exaggerated wink before letting out another peal of laughter and stalking away.

He’s rooting through his locker, trying in vain to locate his biology textbook, when he’s approached by someone distinctly unwelcome.

“Stilinski,” Jackson hisses, “We need to talk.”

“’Bout what?” Stiles doesn’t even look up. Jackson doesn’t scare him anymore.

“Something’s up with you. You’re even weirder than usual. And it’s not just the furry thing.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “I’m not a furry, Jackson. God.”

“Whatever.” Jackson seizes hold of his arm, right next to the burn, and Stiles grits his teeth to hold back a yowl of pain and pries Jackson’s fingers off. “You’re fast in lacrosse, and you’re good, and you’ve never been a good player, Stiles, you’re terrible.

Stiles shrugs. “I’ve been practicing.”

Jackson’s expression turns from constipated to spontaneous eruption in sight. “You’re angry with all the teachers – you’re stressed. You’ve even had a little divorce from McCall. And you’ve got Derek Hale showing up here on a really bad trip, threatening me and shit.”

Stiles sighs theatrically. “I knew it. I knew you’d discover my secret.” He closes his locker and turns to look Jackson in the eye emotionally. “It’s heroin. I’m on heroin.”

Jackson punches him on the arm. “Dial down the drama, Stilinski, it isn’t steroids and it isn’t junk, so what the hell are you on?”

“Heroin, Jackson, you should try it sometime.” Stiles pats the other boy on the back before sauntering off down the hall.

He knows full well that’s going to come back to bite him later, but he can’t bring himself to care.

 

 

 

 

Stiles staunchly ignores Scott throughout the day. He takes his seat in class and glares straight ahead when Scott sits down in front of him. Allison gives them odd looks but Scott waves her off, and Lydia watches them both reproachfully.

Stiles doesn’t quite get why he should be reprimanded. Scott’s the one who had to go off and pick a side – and pick a side that isn’t Stiles’s – when Stiles needs him. The betrayal stings and he refuses to be the one to apologize when he hasn’t done anything wrong.

It’s a long, lonely day, but Stiles has his anger to keep him company and they make it all the way to lacrosse practice without speaking. Stiles is pulling on his jersey when Scott looks over and says, “I heard Derek stayed the night at your place.”

He must’ve overheard Lydia telling Allison, or whatever. Stiles forces himself not to care. “Uh-huh.”

Scott’s expression twists. “So, what, I ask you to stay away from him and he spends the night? Does your dad even know? That this twenty-something-year-old guy is sleeping in your bedroom?”

Stiles cannot believe it. The nerve of it! He turns blustery with fury and tries to remain cold and distant, whirling around to give Scott the most disdainful look he can muster. “Derek was there because it’s not safe for him. And to look after me.”

Scott scoffs. “Sure, ’cause you’re not independent at all, you need a guy to make you breakfast.”

Stiles marches up in Scott’s space and peels back his sleeve. “He stayed over because I asked him to after your girlfriend’s insane aunt took an electric baton to my arm.” He waves the wound in Scott’s face.

Scott recoils as if he’s scared of being jabbed in the eye. With Stiles’s flailing history, that’s probably all for the best. “Batons don’t do that.”

“They do if they’re charged with twenty-five kilovolts, Scott,” Stiles hisses, “I was hanging out with Derek when the bitch turns up at his house. She could’ve killed him. She would’ve, if I wasn’t there.”

Scott gapes. “She really did that?”

“Yes!”

“I’m sorry, man.”

Because Stiles is petty, he doesn’t reply. He waits for Scott to keep talking. It might not just be the pettiness, though, because Stiles is hurt on Derek’s behalf as well as his own.

“I didn’t think – I didn’t think they’d be that bad.”

“No, and Derek isn’t as bad as you think either.”

Scott gives him a look. “He’s an adult. You’re not.”

“Oh, please.” Stiles scoffs. “How many girls do we know who are dating college guys?”

“College guys!” Scott hisses. “Not college werewolves!”

“Whatever, Scott,” Stiles returns coldly, “He isn’t using me. He hasn’t made a move because he doesn’t like me like that. Are you happy now?”

Scott is stunned into silence. “I mean, kind of. I guess I’m not really the one to talk when it comes to dating appropriate people.”

“No,” Stiles agrees, “Your in-laws are psychopaths.”

Scott casts a mournful look at his phone. “Do you think Allison’s like that?”

“No,” Stiles assures him, “She’s way too nice. She’d never do that.”

Stiles prays that he’s right.

Scott rolls his eyes when he spots Derek standing in the treeline by the lacrosse field. He doesn’t raise an eyebrow, because he’s not very good at that, but the incredulous expression is there all the same. “Really? He came to watch you play?”

“I asked him to come by afterwards.”

Scott smirks. “And he’s here now.”

Stiles refuses to meet Derek’s glance, instead focusing on flipping his lacrosse stick in interesting ways. He’s just about to see if he can throw it up into the air when Lydia tugs at his ear sharply. “Ow! What?”

She smiles knowingly. “There’s someone here for you.”

It’s now Stiles’s turn to roll his eyes. “Should I tell him to go away? It feels like he’s not really that invisible.”

“He is definitely not invisible.” Jackson upends his stick and leans on the top, giving Stiles a peculiar look. “Why’s he here, Stilinski?”

Stiles shrugs noncommittally, choosing to roll the shaft of his stick between his hands rather than answer.  

“Is he here to sell? He wants more customers? Turning up at a high school lacrosse game is a really easy way to get busted. And your dad’s a cop.”

“He’s not a drug dealer,” Stiles snaps. “We’ve had this conversation, Jackson. I’m not on steroids.”

“Sure,” Jackson scoffs, “And you’re not a furry either.”

“I’m not a furry!” Stiles exclaims.

“Stiles is a furry?” Lydia makes a mildly disgusted face. “Ew, Jackson. Derek’s not an animal.”

Stiles ignores the huge side-eye that Scott is currently giving him.

“Wait, what, Stilinski and the pusher are a thing?” Jackson grins at him. “I knew you said you liked guys, I didn’t know you were, like, serious about it. So tell me, do you bat or catch?”

Stiles leans right over in Jackson’s personal space, takes hold of the back of his collar. “Listen, buddy, if you don’t shut up soon, I will actually destroy you.”

Jackson doesn’t pale in fear, doesn’t develop a terrified look, doesn’t smell of worry at all. He smiles lazily and bites at air. “Kinky, Stilinski. Is that what you tell Derek?”

Stiles shoves at the bit of Jackson’s shirt he’s balled in his fist so Jackson stumbles. “Would you just stop? He can hear you!”

He doesn’t realize what he’s said until Scott nudges him in the ribs. Lydia looks confused and Jackson plays off his disarmed expression by giving Stiles that trademark ‘you’re-weird’ look that Stiles knows so well.

“Alright then, Kinky Stilinski.”

Lydia watches Jackson saunter off and appraises Stiles critically. “I’m not even gonna ask.” She sits down beside Allison.

Scott grimaces at him sympathetically before turning thoughtful. “Dude, if you’re a” he drops his voice dramatically “were-bunny, and you sleep with someone? Are you a furry, or are they? Or both?”

Stiles facepalms so hard the Coach comes over to ask him if he’s mentally sound.

“That’s a good question, Coach.” Scott drawls loudly. Jackson snickers a few yards away.

After practice, Scott leaves to study at Allison’s with promises to ask about the werewolf in the room without actually asking. Stiles is aware of Lydia watching like an exceptionally smug hawk as Derek gets into his car and they head back to his place.

Stiles is the one to break the awkward silence. “How much did you hear?”

Derek looks like he’s fighting back a grin. “All of it.”

Stiles thunks his head against the steering wheel. “You’re gonna have to stop hanging around there, man. You’re not as subtle as you think.”

Derek’s smile only widens. “Whatever you say, Kinky Stilinski.”

“If you’re not nice you can sit on the backseat.” Stiles threatens, fully aware of how much he sounds like someone’s mother.

“I’m nice!” Derek throws up his hands to demonstrate.

“Good.” Stiles mutters. “One of these days I am going to actually kill Jackson.” A thought occurs to him. “Hey, if I bite someone, will it turn them?”

Derek shrugs. “No idea. What’s happened to you is really rare. I wonder if you have an alpha- and beta-shift…”

“What’s that?”

Derek looks uncomfortable for a second, like he doesn’t want to talk about it, and Stiles is about to end the conversation and tell him it’s okay, but Derek speaks and he seems unpanicky enough, so Stiles lets it go. “Some of us can turn into full wolves. Like Laura. My mom could do it too. They said maybe I would do it one day, but then she died. Point is, the full wolf is the alpha-shift. That’s the original form, the first werewolves. The one that bit you is a feral full-shift. What you and I do in the woods is the beta-shift, it’s a halfway point. If you had an alpha-shift…”

“I am not growing a tail.”

Derek smiles. “Laura did. My mom did.”

“Yeah, a cool tail,” Stiles whines, “For a wolf. Not a fluffy tail, for a rabbit. Not giant furry ears, or – or anything else.”

“Don’t worry,” Derek pats his arm, staring fixedly ahead, “If you go full bunny, I promise not to sell you to a pet shop.”

“That’s it, you’re sitting in the back.”

The peals of laughter Derek lets out are so worth the insults.

 

 

 

 

 

The Sheriff insists on a sit-down dinner now that he has the time, and Derek lurks in Stiles’s room while Stiles sits downstairs and eats. The parent-teacher conference went about as expected; Noah asks if Stiles needs more Adderall, to which Stiles replies no; Noah asks if Stiles is excited about the upcoming lacrosse game, to which Stiles replies an unconvincing yes; Stiles asks about the murder case and is met with reminders of confidentiality. He doesn’t broach the subject of Harris and neither does his dad.

When Stiles is done washing up (because his dad cooked, and they alternate like that) he piles a plate high for Derek. Stiles couldn’t go near the steak, not this close to the full moon, but Derek eats red meat like candy this time of month. There are fried potatoes and greens, which Stiles knows Derek will show little interest in but which he heaps up anyway, because a steak vanishing from the fridge is more suspicious than a large midnight snack vanishing from the fridge and Noah is steak police as well as literal police.

Derek begins to say how Stiles doesn’t have to give him food when Stiles waves it off and hands him the plate.

“So I was thinking,” Stiles begins, when Derek’s done with the food, “At the next full moon, is The Bogeyman going to come looking for me?”

“Definitely,” Derek nods. “He’ll be curious. He won’t know why you didn’t respond to his howl, but he hasn’t given up on you yet. He hasn’t bitten anyone else.”

“Right. And when he sees I can’t be controlled, how is he going to react?”

“He’ll, uh…he’ll probably try to kill you.”

“What, just for existing?”

“You make him look bad,” Derek explains, “You’re too unpredictable. A liability.”

“He’s killing people, I’m not joining him. How can we stop him?”

“We need to find his human identity,” Derek pulls a face, “But I don’t know if you and me can kill him together. I don’t know if we’re strong enough.”

“Can’t we just get the Argents to do it?”

Derek smiles. “That’s a good plan, but they’re dragging us into it and so will he.”

“So can we set a trap for him?”

“You want to trap an alpha?” Derek shakes his head. “Too dangerous.”

“Well then, how?” Stiles waves his arms frustratedly. “What do we do?”

“He’s still trying to figure you out. We can use that, it will buy us time.”

“How much time? The full moon is in five days!”

“I don’t know.” Derek admits. “If you were a wolf he would’ve gone after your friends already, but you’re not. I – I don’t know what happens next.”

Stiles slumps in despair. There have been some scary run-ins, yes, but he’s never before actively feared for his life like this. It’s as if there’s an expiration date branded on his side, and the hopelessness is crushing. He’s going to die and there’s nothing he can do about it. Unless–

“Is there a way to force a wolf to shift?”

Derek perks up at this. “Shift back, you mean?”

“Yeah.”

“Electricity could do it. Or certain types of wolfsbane, maybe.”

“Then that’s our plan! If we turn him human again, we’ll see who it is!”

 

 

 

 

“No,” Scott protests weakly, “Why, dude? Why me? Please, no.”

“Dude, we need you,” Stiles says. Derek nods eagerly behind him.

He’d invited Scott over – rather, he had written a text with lots of exclamation points and demands – once he and Derek had finished laying out a plan. The plan, unfortunately, involved Scott, and he wasn’t interested.

“Can’t you just break into the Argent house yourself? You’ve done it before!”

“Not again,” Derek interjects, “It’s too risky.”

“You’re a werewolf with super-speed! And you’re a rabbit with super-speed! Why do you need me?”

“Because you can get into the Argents’ supply without them asking questions!”

“No I can’t!” Scott exclaims, “How do I do that? ‘Oh, hey Mr. Argent, I was just looking through your guns. By the way, do you happen to have any rare werewolf plants lying around?’”

“Wolfsbane.” Derek corrects.

“It doesn’t matter!” Scott pauses and takes a hit of his inhaler. “I’m not sneaky! Can’t you get yourself invited along or something?”

“Do you want me tagging along next time you and Allison go on a study date?” Stiles quirks an eyebrow.

Scott shakes his head. “New plan. Better idea. I’ll ask Allison to invite you and Lydia. Group studying. And you can look for it. You know what you’re looking for and you know how to climb buildings and all that Spiderman stuff.”

“That’s…actually a good plan, Scotty.” Stiles grins and points at Scott’s phone. “Can you make it happen?”

Scott sighs and texts Allison. Derek looks over at Stiles darkly. “I don’t like this. What if Kate recognizes you?”

“Me?” Stiles fakes a dramatic double-take. “She didn’t see my face, and I don’t have the Batman voice.”

Derek’s expression doesn’t lighten. “Yeah, well, don’t wear flannel. Or the same shoes. Try and look innocent.”

Stiles puts on the most sickeningly innocent smile he can muster and Derek purses his lips.

“Okay, Allison’s cool with it,” Scott interrupts the banter, “And Lydia’s coming. After school tomorrow.”

Stiles holds up two thumbs. “Thank you, Scotty.”

“What happens if you get busted?”

“Depends.” Derek clears his throat. “At this point, they know there’s the alpha, there’s me, and there’s a third party. Could be human, could be something else, but definitely isn’t a werewolf.”

“What will they be looking for?” Scott frowns. “What do they know?”

“The green eyes,” Derek replies, with a quick glance in Stiles’s direction. “And – small frame.”

“Stiles isn’t small. He isn’t ripped, but he’s tall, and he’s not exactly skinny,” Scott points out. “You put on weight since this whole deal, man.”

“Small for a werewolf,” Stiles explains. “They know they found something weird in the woods but hopefully they won’t recognize me.”

“Hopefully,” Scott repeats hollowly. “Stiles, if this is too dangerous, I can do it. If you’re gonna be in actual danger, then of course I’ll help.”

Stiles speaks before Derek can get the chance, because he knows what Derek will say. “No. It’s fine. It’s a good plan. We’re doing it.” Derek doesn’t look altogether pleased, but Scott is right, Stiles knows what they’re looking for and can vamoosh out of rooms at high speed. Scott can’t. “Do you know if Ally’s parents will be there? And Kate?”

Scott shrugs. “Her mom probably will be. Don’t know about the others. Won’t they be busy, planning for the full moon?”

Fear thrills down Stiles’s spine, and it must come through in his scent, because Derek runs a comforting hand across his shoulders. “Don’t worry about the full moon.” He makes eye contact, and wow, his eyes are beautiful, it’s like looking through a telescope at the sun, Stiles might actually go blind, “We’ll be careful. We can avoid them.”

Stiles nods with a gulp. “God, this better work.”

 

 

 

 

 

Stress is a killer.

Stiles knows this, so in order to work out his stress without streaking through the forest and drawing attention to the resident creature of the night, he tries something else.

He has vague memories of going to gymnastics when he was a kid. His parents thought it might help with the ADHD (it didn’t) and maybe clue him in to some coordination.

Stiles spent a few lessons there which all went much the same way. The first time, he got distracted by the block pit and jumped in; he didn’t really understand how the block pit worked and ended up sinking. He actually touched the bottom, and it was dark and dusty down there, until someone pulled him out by the armpits.

The second time he went he was expressly forbidden from going anywhere near the block pit, and instructed to focus on the lesson at hand. He spent eight minutes standing in line with the others to take turns on the horse-vault before he sneaked off to find the trampoline. The trampoline was great fun, and the air was filled with shouts of glee, until Stiles discovered that the trampoline was situated right next to the block pit (because that was the primary purpose of the two) and that leaning too far to one side while in the air resulted in falling into the block pit.

The point is, Stiles went to gymnastics as a kid and it didn’t go so well.

But he wasn’t a Super-Bunny back then, and he’s determined to try. He knows he’s agile but it’d be cool if he could just sink down into the splits in the middle of a fight, like some kind of weird Bruce Lee move. Maybe he can take a karate class or something, learn to kick in the face.

He’s in his garden, practicing gymnastics. It’s a little bit weird but it’s definitely far from the weirdest thing to have happened lately.

He starts off with a simple cartwheel. He’s mostly aware of how the hands go and he gives it a try. It feels like it works well enough, he’s spun fast and not fallen on his face and not broken any bones, so he must have done something right. He does a few cartwheels around the lawn before deciding to move on. Hand-stands are easy, so he attempts something else he saw on Google.

It’s called a back handspring and first it involves bending over backwards to get into the bridge position. This takes place with minimal groaning. He feels a little stretch in his stomach but it’s okay, he’s in the bridge position now, the next step is the feet. He lifts his feet and flips them over his head to come to a stand again and is frankly quite shocked at how well this is going.

There’s a rustling noise from the woods beyond the garden and he immediately snaps to attention, but it’s only Derek trudging out of the undergrowth.

“Gymnastics.” Derek raises an eyebrow and his tone turns inquisitive. “Gymnastics?”

“Can you do this?” Stiles demonstrates his back handspring.

Derek watches without much change in facial expression. “Uh, no, I don’t think so.”

Stiles grins and does a few more. The bend gets easier each time and after a while it feels good to stretch his muscles like this.

Derek shakes his head, clearly amused. “C’mon, spidermonkey. You’ve got a study date to go to.”

Derek follows him round the front to his car and stands next to the drivers’ side as Stiles starts up the Jeep.

“Be careful, okay?” Derek warns. “Anything goes wrong, get out of there.”

“That will look more suspicious.” Stiles points out.

“Doesn’t matter.” Derek leans over until their faces are very close. “If it gets bad, get out. Don’t stay there and try to talk your way out. They won’t listen. Just – just run. And call me. Call me if anything goes wrong.”

“Derek,” Stiles puts an arm on Derek’s shoulder. It’s supposed to be comforting, and he hopes it is, dimly aware of how he leaves it there longer than strictly necessary. “I’ll be okay.”

Derek makes an aborted gesture with his hand, like he would have done something unusual, but instead settles for putting his palm on the window seal like it’s a strange, foreign object. “Come home, okay?”

Stiles hugs him as best he can considering he’s sitting in his Jeep and Derek is standing outside. It’s awkward, and mashed up against the window frame, and there’s elbows in annoying places, but it’s a hug and Derek needs it. They both do. “I’ll be fine.” Stiles murmurs as he reluctantly pulls away.

Derek frowns, mulling over something. “Are you sure I can’t come? I could hang out on the roof–”

“No.” Stiles rubs his thumb over Derek’s shoulder where his hand is still lying. “It’s way too dangerous for you. I’ll be fine. I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

He leaves Derek standing on the porch, watching the Jeep go with a bitter tang to his scent and a faraway look in his eyes.

Leaving Derek behind is a sad affair. Stiles tries not to think about how Derek’s been left behind by everyone he’s ever loved through no fault of their own and how even when Stiles has turned the corner at the end of the road, the Jeep still reeks of Derek’s worry. But in one sense it is just a study date and Stiles can totally do this. It’s like when he fought the Argents in the woods, except less punches and more subtlety.

Stiles is not a subtle person.

At least, he didn’t used to be, he reminds himself. Before this whole freaky bunny business he would not have broken into the second-storey window of a family of werewolf hunters to steal a magic antidote and he would definitely not have taken the whole Derek-suspiciously-burying-his-sister thing very well. He’s learned to roll with it, that’s for sure, but the Argents literally hunt and kill were-things. They are basically professionals at rooting out him and people like him and Stiles does not feel very professional at being a were-rabbit.

Then again, he might be the only were-rabbit in the world, which automatically makes him the best.

He rolls up to Allison’s and is relieved to see Scott’s bike and Lydia’s little blue Toyota sitting there. He would rather be late than be the first and get inspected by Cold Pity Chris, but it’s not without nerves that he shoves the key in his back pocket and knocks politely on the door.

Chris opens the door, and Stiles has never felt so much pressure to look like a sixteen-year-old, which thanks to his rabbit affliction, he doesn’t really. He could totally pass for eighteen and he is definitely going to test that out.

“Hi, I’m a friend of Allison’s? Stiles?”

Chris doesn’t take his eyes off Stiles when he leans backwards and shouts up the stairs. “Allison! There’s a Stiles here for you!”

He isn’t invited inside until Ally comes downstairs and nudges her father out of the way so Stiles can get through. Chris watches him go with a glare and Stiles barely notices Allison reprimanding her father for being rude.

“Sorry, Stiles.” Chris attempts a smile, but it’s not very convincing. “It’s been a long day at work.”

Stiles spots Kate reclining on a sofa in the living room with a familiar cruel smile and thinks yeah, I bet it has.

“’S no problem,” Stiles smiles back, and the acting comes quite naturally. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Argent.”

Chris offers a hand, which Stiles shakes, and there seems to be some approval going on at Stiles’s handshake. “Is Stiles short for something?”

And boy, this is an opportunity to fuck over the guy who shot Stiles with a crossbow, and he is going to take it. “It’s a nickname, from my last name, Stilinski.”

Chris takes the bait, as he predictably enough would. Allison watches curiously. “Stiles Stilinski? Well, what’s your first name?”

“Mieczyslaw.” Stiles returns easily, flashing an embarrassed grin, even though he couldn’t be less embarrassed about his name. It’s his name, and there’s nothing more to it.

Chris’s eyebrows shoot up at the pronunciation of the Polish minefield. He tries his best, which is terrible. “Mieczyslaw Stilinski?”

“Okay, dad, we’re going to go study.” Allison beams at Stiles and leads him upstairs.

Scott is sprawled on the bed in front of a math textbook, and Lydia has neatly taken up residence in the desk chair with a heavy volume of something about Lorentzian equations.

“Hey, man.” Scott looks up briefly, twirling a pencil between his fingers.

“Hey, Stiles.” Lydia doesn’t so much as glance over. She’s far too busy understanding the universe.

“Sorry about my dad,” Allison says apologetically, gesturing for him to make himself comfortable in the armchair. “He and my aunt Kate don’t really get along.”

“That’s a shame,” Stiles replies. “What’s up?”

 “I don’t know, they won’t tell me.” Allison takes a seat on the bed.

Stiles pulls out his math homework and doesn’t press the issue. He reminds himself that this has to look convincing, never mind how much he might feel like his heart is going to fly out of his chest, so he waits at least twenty minutes before commencing on part two of the plan.

“Hey, can I use your bathroom?”

“Sure.” Allison points. “Straight down the hall, at the end.”

Stiles walks out of the room heavily, letting his going to the bathroom be heard, before lightening his footsteps and setting off in the opposite direction.

Chris is in the study, Kate in the living room and Victoria in the kitchen so Stiles has to be really fast if he wants to sneak past them into the garage. The door to the study is closed and Kate should be facing away from him, but he still needs to get past Allison’s mom and they’re an entire family of freaking werewolf hunters.

Whatever. He’s faster than werewolves. He whooshes past the living room and the kitchen doorframe, slipping into the garage with no more than a creak of the wooden door.

Nobody hears the creaking, or if they do they don’t notice, so Stiles makes his way over to the giant steel monstrosity bearing an ARGENT ARMS logo. The cupboards are all locked but they’re not airtight, so Stiles can quite easily sniff his way around them.

The top sections are guns, the middle ones ammo and the bottom-right is full of paperwork, but the bottom-left cupboard has some kind of fan inside. It takes a second before it dawns on Stiles. One of the sections is refrigerated, that’s what’s making the whirring noise, and why would you have a refrigerator in a shelving unit if not to store things that need to be kept cold?

Picking the lock quietly is another matter entirely. Stiles doesn’t have claws he can whip out and there’s no handy hairpin he can use, but he didn’t come entirely unequipped. He pulls out a metal paperclip, a thin screwdriver and an old library card, and gets to work jiggling the lock.

It takes several painfully long minutes and an ounce or two of supernatural strength but Stiles manages to get the thing open and carefully returns the tools to his pocket. 

Inside the mini-fridge is a plethora of different flowers, all of them with that same sharp scent, and all of them labelled in Latin. If Stiles were more appreciative of flowers he would say that they’re pretty, but after seeing Derek’s wolfsbane bullet wound he’s not convinced that these plants aren’t entirely the work of the devil, so instead he focuses on the words.

He and Derek had looked up all the different types of wolfsbane and what they do on a hunters’ archive Stiles found on the Dark Web. The information is questionable, though, so rather than rely on what the hunters say they’ve narrowed it down to two possible options. Stiles needs to take one of each plant back with him.

He finds the first one, a little pink bloom, and tries to pull a flower off without it looking like someone took a cutting. He doubts that he’s succeeded, but there’s nothing more he can do about it so he takes out the next, a buttery yellow, and snaps a flower off that one too.

He replaces them neatly but he can’t lock the cupboard door again. He might be able to open it, but he can’t lock it, for that he’d need the key. Stiles manages to jam the door shut so it looks like it’s locked and prays that it’s enough.

He sneaks out and flies up the stairs.

Stiles saunters back into Allison’s room, wiping a sheen of sweat off his brow. Scott looks up anxiously at him and Stiles nods almost imperceptibly in response. He sits himself down and presses the flowers between the pages of his chemistry textbook. He puts the book in his bag and goes back to math like nothing ever happened.

“Hey Stiles, are you staying for dinner?” Allison is watching him with a wide, dimpled smile. “You’re welcome to.”

Stiles fumbles a little but picks it up fast enough. “Sorry – my dad’s home early tonight, and when he’s not on the late shift we eat together.” It’s not entirely a lie. When Noah is home early they do eat together, but he’s definitely on the graveyard shift today, Stiles checked.

She nods understandingly. “Sure. Next time, then.”

Stiles returns the nod agreeably and goes back to his work. Half an hour later there’s a knock at the door and Stiles almost jumps out of his skin at the sight of Allison’s dad.

“Hey,” Chris smiles at them. It’s not much more than a grimace, but it’s definitely still threatening. “Lydia, Stiles, are you eating with us?”

Lydia nods and holds a thumbs-up above her apparently very engrossing textbook. Stiles tries his best to look apologetic. “Sorry, I can’t tonight. I’m eating with my dad.”

“Allison says your father’s the Sheriff.” Chris is clearly trying to make conversation and it’s only a little bit terrifying. “Is he on a case?”

“Yeah, there have been some murders lately, they were in the news.” Stiles doesn’t repeat anything that hasn’t been in the news to anyone other than Scott and lately Derek.

“Have they found anything?”

Stiles attempts to look even more apologetic. It’s not an expression he wears often. “Sorry. He doesn’t talk to me about this stuff. Confidentiality and all.”

Chris nods like he doesn’t believe a word of it and Stiles swears he can feel his own adrenaline spike. “Of course. Well, I hope they clear it up soon.” As he leaves the room his eyes flick to Stiles’s shirt in a strange, deliberate manner, focusing on the rolled-up sleeve of his hoodie and the arm extending from it. Stiles’s skin begins to crawl when he realizes that Chris was checking for a burn mark.

They fool around and study some more, and when six o’clock rolls around Stiles thanks Chris and Victoria for having him, and makes a graceful exit.

He has never been so relieved to haul ass into his Jeep and go the fuck home, and it feels like a weight has just been lifted off his shoulders. It feels that way for approximately four minutes, until Scott texts him during dinner.

Dude, just so u kno, the argentz know that u kno derek

What?? how?????

Allison and lydia told chris

Stiles phones Scott, fully aware that he shouldn’t be phoning while driving, but Scott picks up, clearly having snuck out for a bathroom break.

There’s no preamble. “How do they know?”

“It just came out in conversation, Stiles, I tried to derail it but it didn’t work.”

“How did it sound?”

“Well, Kate said something that was kind of homophobic about this TV show she was watching, and Allison got all frowny and said ‘you know Stiles, the guy that was just here, well he’s gay’ and I corrected her and told them you were bi, and then Kate asked what that meant and Lydia explained it and to, like, contextualize it or something, I don’t know, she said that you like girls and you used to like her but you’re currently seeing a guy, and when Kate got all uppity Lydia said ‘yeah, Derek Hale, they’re really cute together’.”

It comes out somewhat rushed and there’s a whole rollercoaster right there in Scott’s breathless sentence. “It’s not your fault, Scotty. It doesn’t mean they suspect me.”

“I’m sorry,” Scott sounds upset down the phone. “They all got these weird looks. Be careful, Stiles, especially on the full moon. You need to be really careful.”

“I will, Scotty, don’t worry.”

 

 

 

When the Jeep rolls up to its usual parking spot in the Casa del Stilinski, it takes about 0.5 seconds before the front door is opening and Derek peers out.

Stiles is pulled into a tight hug the moment his feet cross the welcome mat, and it’s odd to be the one being hugged rather than initiating, but hell if it isn’t nice as hell. Derek smells like relief and leather and oak leaves and he tugs Stiles inside.

“Are you okay?”

Stiles nods as soon as he’s released. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Small problem: the Argents know that I know you, but that’s it.”

Derek frowns, but he still hasn’t let go of Stiles’s arm. “How?”

“Lydia and Allison,” Stiles sighs, “They didn’t know it was a secret. They couldn’t. Only…”

“Only what?”

Stiles looks Derek firmly in the eye, unsure why but knowing he should anyway. “They were talking about me. Lydia thinks I’m seeing you, you know, in a more than friends way. And she told them. Told Kate. So they think you’re, uh, into dudes. I don’t know if you are or if it was a secret or anything but if it was I’m really sorry they outed you.”

Derek releases the arm and Stiles grows a little worried. “They told Kate?”

“Yeah.”

Derek makes a strangled noise. “What did she say?”

Stiles shakes his head. “Something homophobic. I don’t know. That’s how they got onto the topic in the first place. I’m really sorry they told the Argents, or – or gave them the wrong idea. Whichever it was.”

“Kate doesn’t like people who are…different. But don’t worry about me. It’s fine, I don’t care. Them thinking that you and me are a thing is not great. Not great for you, I mean, because it makes you a suspect.”

“He looked at my arm. Chris. To see if I had the burn. It’s gone, it healed, but he checked. If they think the second one is human, doesn’t that lift suspicion?”

“A little.” Derek shifts uncomfortably. “When’s your dad home tonight?”

“Late. Have you eaten?”

Derek shakes his head and Stiles wanders over the fridge. “God, I am so glad I managed to dodge dinner at that place. That would not have been fun. I assume you’re hungry.”

He ends up frying two pork chops and making fried potatoes and salad to go with it. When they sit down to eat, he tips both pieces of meat onto Derek’s plate and serves up lots of salad for himself. It’s unconscious at this point, and eats about a bucket of potatoes easily.

Derek watches the salad fest guiltily. “You know, I don’t need both of these, you don’t have to eat just salad.”

Stiles shakes his head and gestures at Derek’s plate. “I couldn’t eat meat if I tried. It’s for you, man.”

Derek eats a little more happily and Stiles considers it a sign of progress that Derek (after asking politely) gets up to find HP sauce in the fridge and takes a second helping of potatoes without being told to. They trade theories on the wolfsbane Stiles snatched and after washing up go upstairs to test it out.

To concentrate the dose, most wolfsbane bullets contain a boiled-down solution of the plant, but they don’t have enough for that, so to test it Stiles and Derek need to eat a bit of the flower. Getting it into the alpha’s system will be harder, but they’ll jump that hurdle when they get to it. For now, there’s the bickering.

“Stiles, we don’t know what it will do to you, you can’t be the one to test it.”

“Wolfsbane doesn’t hurt me! It hurts you!”

“You’ve taken enough risks for today, just give me the flower, I’ll test it, I don’t mind.”

Stiles stands his ground obstinately. When Derek moves to forcibly take the petal from his grip, he acts quickly, melting into his shifted form, tossing it into his mouth and chewing before Derek can get hold of it.

Derek gives him an infuriated look. Stiles grins back lazily, his ridiculous rabbit teeth having crushed the petal to dust. “You can test the other one.”

If the petal works, Stiles should be forced out of his shift and wind up back to his normal Stiles self. He feels strange, almost sick, and he whoops internally because it’s working! It’s working! He closes his eyes and the world spins and he collapses on the floor, his bedroom suddenly very large.

When he moves to get up, though, he finds he can’t, and the burning in his eyes won’t stop. He looks up at Derek and can’t even see his face, just a chin jutting out, and holy shit this is actually really low down, why can’t he get up?

He tries to say something but what comes out is a squeak. A squeak. Stiles has been reduced to squeaking. God, this whole creature of the night thing is embarrassing. He shuffles around, tries to catch a glimpse of himself in the mirror.

What the actual fuck? What? What evil prank is this? Who thought this was a good idea? What the hell has happened to Stiles? Why is the reflection staring back at him a – a rabbit?

“Oh, fuck.” Derek puts a hand over his mouth as he stares down at the floor. “Oh my god, Stiles, can you see yourself?”

He tries to shout and curse but all he can manage is another squeak. His reflection’s nose is twitching, his ears are standing straight up and his body is covered in white fur with small brown spots. Only it looks all wrong, because his eyes are still a nuclear green and he looks as perplexed as a rabbit ever could.

Derek reaches down and picks him up. It’s fucking bizarre, being picked up, and Derek strokes his ears on instinct or something. It feels amazing, his eyelids droop and he lies very still, before it occurs to him that he is being petted and what the hell, he is being petted, this is unnerving. He jumps out of the baby-grip Derek had on him and lands on the bed.

Derek grins mischievously. “You’ve never been so adorable.”

Stiles refuses to let out another embarrassing noise. Instead, he bites Derek’s finger when he tries to stroke between the ears. Derek struggles not to laugh as Stiles lollops over to the two wolfsbane flowers. The pink one made him this way, so surely the yellow should do the opposite. He snuffles while he chews, and the nose doesn’t stop its incessant twitching, and Derek shakes in silent laughter.

It takes a few seconds for the yellow flower to work but Stiles finds himself back in his own body, sprawled out buck naked on the floor next to a pile of his clothes. He tries not to bare everything to Derek as he jerkily tugs his clothes back on, but Derek isn’t making it easy by looking away or anything, no, he’s staring at the magic rabbit boy like Stiles is the second goddamn coming of Jesus, and Stiles doesn’t actually relax until all his clothes are back on his body and he has flexed his fingers and newly opposable thumbs in front of his face a few times.

“So,” Derek drawls, “I guess we know what they do.”

Stiles shudders. Being a rabbit in a small room isn’t a pleasant experience.

“You were really cute though.”

Stiles turns to give Derek his best death glare. “Shut up. Nobody hears about this. Nobody.”

Derek just grins even wider. “Your nose is still twitching.”

Stiles flicks his ear reproachfully. Derek laughs and dodges away. The sound of Derek’s laughter is definitely something he could get used to.

Chapter Text

“How do they do this? How?” Stiles smacks an impatient hand against the desk. “How do they know how to ensure maximum annoyance?”

Derek smirks from his reclining position on the bed. “You say that like it’s being done deliberately to torment you.”

“It is!” Stiles spins around in the computer chair to enjoy the sight of Adonis himself lying on his bed. Adonis who Stiles hasn’t quite forgiven for his rabbit stroking of late.

Derek snorts. “It’s a school dance. You really want to go?”

“Yes!” Stiles’s voice wavers a little. “Because, you know, school dances are fun.”

Derek quirks an eyebrow in response. “Yeah? You like going stag?”

Stiles shoots him an irritated look. “You’re right, I should just ask Jackson. I bet he’s a great dancer. Maybe he’ll come home with me afterwards, I’ll hang a sock on the door to let you know.” Derek makes a choked noise and Stiles turns back to his engineering project on the desk. “Or not.”

“It’s pretty bad luck that the dance is on the same night as the full moon.” Derek admits. “But if the Argents see you going to it, they’ll suspect you less, I think.”

Stiles’s phone buzzes. It’s a text from Scott, who has not yet been informed of the whole Full Bunny Mode affair yet. Stiles doesn’t think he can bring himself to even say the words aloud. It’s been a couple of hours since it took place and he’s still shaky.

I did that thing u asked me 2. W/ derek.

Stiles replies a quick thanks and turns to Derek gleefully. “So, we found a way for you to be at the dance without it looking super suspicious.”

Derek looks up guardedly. He looks like he’s being actively threatened and it’s pretty funny. “What have you done?”

“You’re chaperoning.” Stiles grins and picks up the screwdriver to resume his insertion of bolts. The drill is out of battery and the thing’s ancient anyway so he has been reduced to using a flathead screwdriver on bolts. It’s shameful.

Derek sits straight up and develops a look of fury. Stiles forces himself not to giggle. “I’m what?”

“Chaperoning.” Stiles puts a couple of the bolts in his mouth to hold them, and the words come out strangely around them. “Volunteering. Preventing fights and crying and reckless behaviour. Monitoring the punch bowl. Fun stuff, Derek.”

“Why the hell would you sign me up for that?” Derek yells, fingers itching like he wants to throw something.

“Because you can’t just stand around in the shadows looking creepy, people will ask questions.”

“Stiles!” Derek gets up and speeds round to stand next to Stiles at the computer desk. His outrage is palpable but it’s just too fucking funny. “What is wrong with you?”

“Well, I have ADHD, but on top of that I’m actually a mutated werewolf, would you believe it? Yeah, I know, crazy, right?”

Derek balls his hands into fists like Stiles is just too damn much, but Stiles knows he’s not really angry. He’s annoyed, sure, but it’s a fun prank and in terms of the long run it’s harmless. Or so Stiles thinks, until Derek seizes hold of his harm and uses it to throw him, actually physically whirl Stiles like a Frisbee, out of the window.

He lands on his feet on damp grass and spits out the bolts, turning to his bedroom window where Derek is glowering down at him. “Cheating! No throwing people out of windows!”

“Act like a dick, get beat like a dick.”

Stiles raises an eyebrow. “Whose dick are you beating?”

Derek turns a mortified shade of red and Stiles cackles. He picks up the bolts and scales the side of his house, pulling himself through the window hole. Derek retires back to the bed, glaring. Stiles sits back down and continues work on his weird contraption.

“You know, if you were finished building that thing we need, I probably would have killed you.” Derek sniffs. The threat is clearly a joke, Derek doesn’t mean it, Stiles can even detect a note of anxiety in the air, the kind of worry Derek gets when he’s not sure how something will be received.

Stiles snorts, not taking his eyes off the knut he’s currently screwing on. “I’d like to see you try.”

He doesn’t need to turn around to know Derek is bitch-facing at him. He’s humming lightly to himself when a hand grips the front and back of his chest and throws him facedown onto the bed.

Suddenly his arms are twisted behind his back, his face is pushed into the pillow, and he’s shoved downwards into the mattress and fucking hell, if this isn’t doing things for him.

He tries to will away the arousal and not think about his kinks (he knows what they are. He’s done a lot of experimenting). It might just have worked when Derek settles on top of him, sitting on his legs. It’s a little bit further away than Stiles would have liked but it’s still close enough and holy shit, he should not be going down this road.

“See? You’d be dead already.” Derek says above him. “Everything’s exposed. Your head, your throat, your back…” He trails off, as if he’s realized that Stiles has gone uncharacteristically quiet and exactly what position they are in. Derek lifts one hand from the restraint and touches the back of Stiles’s neck lightly. “Dead.”

Stiles flips himself over with a speed even Derek isn’t prepared for and struggles against the iron grip on his wrists. It doesn’t do much; in fact, all he manages to accomplish is being able to look Derek in the eye as he’s pinned. He’s not sure if this is more or less arousing.

Derek narrows his eyes. “You’re still dead.”

Stiles shrugs. “Congratulations. You killed a bunny.”

To his absolute surprise, Derek leans closer, until their faces are very close to touching. His eyes are so beautiful, green and gold and intoxicating, his voice a growl. “You’re not just a bunny.”

Stiles scoffs. “You’re right. I’m Stiles the mutant were-bunny.”

“What does that make me, then?”

 “The Big Bad Wolf.” Stiles grins cheekily.

“If you’re Stiles the were-bunny, shouldn’t you be afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” Derek moves impossibly closer and Stiles is actually getting dizzy from looking into those eyes. Derek’s gaze is flicking between eye contact and the lower part of Stiles’s face – holy shit, is Derek staring at his mouth? Because he totally has gross dry lips right now – and it’s entirely unreadable, but is Derek actually flirting with him right now? What?

“Why?” Stiles asks nonchalantly. “I hear he’s a big ol’ teddy bear inside, all mushy.”

“You shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Don’t you know what wolves do to rabbits?”

“Make rabbit stew?” Stiles smiles even wider and throws in a wink. “And you call me Kinky Stilinski. Stewing is definitely a new one for this rabbit.”

Derek groans and rolls his eyes. “I’m serious, Stiles. You need to be able to defend yourself from werewolves.”

“And you need to promise me that you’re never, ever eating rabbit stew again in your life. Ever.”

Derek smirks and rolls off him. It’s an unwelcome kind of chill, the loss of Derek’s warmth, but all good things must come to an end. “Is that how you plan on dealing with the alpha? Just flirt your way out?”

“Depends, is he cute?”

Derek begins to glower again. “No, Stiles. There are things about – about the whole wolf thing – that you don’t know. You can’t, you cannot, try to court the alpha.”

“I won’t!” Stiles waves a hand airily and sits up on the bed. “Ew, no. The thing’s an actual murderer.”

“Well, I’m glad you have standards.”

Stiles settles back into his computer chair. He picks up a screwdriver and points it at Derek accusingly. “Just because you don’t like Lydia, doesn’t mean I don’t have standards.”

Derek looks entirely thrown. “Who said I don’t like Lydia?”

Stiles just raises an eyebrow and goes back to work.

 

 

 

 

 

The following day brings with it the big lacrosse game of the season against a school from somewhere near San Francisco with a name Stiles can’t remember. His brain is currently full to capacity with wolfsbane flowers and spring mechanisms and glowing red eyes. It’s been a while since he’s actually seen the alpha. With all the Argents being evil, it’s easy to forget that the alpha is actually the Big Bad they’re supposed to be fighting.

Stiles wishes it were easier. He wishes he felt less like a surfboard floating on the ocean, watching two tidal waves approach to crush him.

If he were a surfboard between two tsunami waves, the way to deal with it would be to swim downwards, dive as deep as he can and watch the struggle on the surface from the calm seafloor. But surfboards float, and Stiles can’t just ride this out and hope the Argents and the alpha kill each other. The alpha standing outside his house was a clear warning, and so was the arrow through his arm and Kate turning up at Derek’s house. The alpha is killing people and the hunters would shoot Stiles in seconds – at least, Kate would, and that’s enough for him, thanks very much. All he can do is focus and try to get through the next few days alive and intact, hopefully with a measure of retribution for Derek’s poor sister.

The game goes well. The Argents watch from the stands, Chris and Kate and Allison, and Ally proudly points out Scott, her boyfriend, and Stiles, her good friend. Chris and Kate note how good Stiles is on the field and Kate comments quietly to Allison how hot Jackson is.

Stiles wants to actually gag and it looks as though Allison feels that way also. Kate is, like, how old? She even says dayum. Creepy. The Sheriff sits beside Lydia and Allison and Scott’s mom and they talk excitedly about how talented Scott and Stiles are. Noah seems to be pleased he can actually tell people he’s related to number 24 on the field, because it’s usually too embarrassing, and Scott does a solid job in the defense line.

Stiles is more focused on listening to Chris and Kate talk, so he plays well but not blindingly well, he’s not an idiot. He keeps the gymnastics on the back burner, scores a few good goals, but nothing that a really good lacrosse player couldn’t manage, nothing much showier than Jackson. Derek isn’t here, he doesn’t even need to scan the field for that, he can distinguish each individual person by smell and he’s pretty well attuned to Derek’s scent now. His room reeks of the both of them and it’s kind of weird, Derek must notice it too, but Stiles is not about to make his houseguest homeless just because he isn’t used to sharing a bedroom with someone.

He really hopes they can find a long-term solution for that. Stiles likes having Derek there, likes the familiar smirk, likes not being at home alone all the time or having to go to Scott’s just to not sit in an empty house. And he likes how Derek seems to be warming to him and not sleeping underneath his leather jacket on an old sofa in the blackened wreckage of his childhood home. Derek’s life is tragic and Stiles wants to fix it. He knows he can’t but it’s frustrating, it eats away at him. All he can do is offer Derek a safe haven and he does, he’s trying his best, but he wants to do more. So much more. But Derek can’t sleep at his house forever. At some point, Noah will catch them and there will be unpleasant questions.

Beacon Hills wins and the team does a little victory lap around the field. He and Scott are jogging side by side, his teammates grinning at him after he scored the last goal, when suddenly he’s being hoisted up into the air and he’s actually surfing on the hands of his team, and there’s a chant of Stilinski! Stilinski! and Noah looks like he can’t breathe.

Scott is down there. He’s holding up Stiles’s lower back, and he’s smiling too and joins in on the chant, and Stiles is glad, so glad, that even with him becoming everything he and Scott ever wanted to be on the lacrosse field, there’s no hard feelings, no jealousy, he and Scott can still just be friends. Yeah, they’ve had their ups and their downs, but who hasn’t? Stiles and Scott have fought over the dumbest stuff, but they have each other’s backs.

He manages to free himself from the groping of his everything (he doubts it’s deliberate, but someone definitely pawed his ass) and wanders back to the changing rooms with Scott. They’re in high spirits and they talk excitedly about the game. Lydia suggests a celebratory trip to the pizza place and everyone laughs and agrees happily.

Everyone except Stiles. All he can think of is his dad, who got off work early to see him play, and Derek, who’s probably in his bedroom right now, wondering where Stiles is. Guilt twists in his stomach; he can’t leave Derek alone in his room to wait for him, and he certainly can’t invite him out to the diner with the others, and he can’t go home to Derek and not eat with his dad, and then Derek will sit around upstairs listening to them eat and laugh and god, everything feels guilty and life is complicated.

He apologizes to his friends and gives the excuse that his dad got off work early and he wants to spend time with him. They nod understandingly – except Jackson, who offers a pathetic attempt at a smile, but whatever – and Stiles wanders over to the Sheriff.

“Hey, kiddo!” Noah beams at him, claps his shoulders. “Are you going with your friends?”

“I was thinking we could eat dinner together.” Stiles tries his best radiant smile. “I know you’ve been busy lately, we could maybe make something nice?”

Noah’s face falls. “I’m sorry, Stiles, but between you and me, we got another lead on the murder case today. I took enough time off to see your game but I do have to go back in.”

“Oh.” This should solve all of Stiles’s problems but it doesn’t, really.

Noah grins. “Go out with your friends! I think this case is wrapping itself up. We can celebrate then. Okay, son?”

Stiles nods, smiles unconvincingly. Noah watches him head over to his friends and share the news, and then waves him off as two of them pile into his car.

Lydia didn’t want to go with Jackson and she didn’t want to third wheel with Scott and Allison either, so she seats herself in the Jeep and waits primly for Stiles to arrive. He shuffles into his car and wonders exactly how he’s going to sneak out of Sergio’s Pizzeria.

“Call your boy!” Lydia pats him on the thigh as he drives off down the parking lot. “Invite him out with us!”

Shit. “Lydia, he’s not really the type, he doesn’t want to–”

It’s too late. She’s already fished his phone out of the bag and is calling Derek. As the phone rings, she winks at him. Stiles slams his hands down on the wheel in mild frustration. “Hello? Is this Derek?”

Stiles hears Derek’s confused reply. Is this Stiles’s phone?

“Yes! And I’m Lydia. Listen, Stiles did an amazing job at the game and we’re going out to Sergio’s Pizzeria on Main Street to celebrate. You have to come. I insist.”

Derek tries to dodge, to no avail. Stiles attempts to help but Lydia just holds up a finger.

“No, no, don’t worry, it will just be us and we should totally meet you! Of course you have to meet Stiles’s friends. We’ve heard so much about you, we’re curious.”

“Lydia,” Stiles hisses, “Not true.”

She laughs and ends the call. “He’s coming.”

“I hate you.” Stiles groans, resisting the urge to smack his head against the wheel. “And he’s not my boy.”

“He never will be, with that attitude.” She squares herself up. This girl is ridiculous. She’s going to rule the world one day. “So how far have you guys gone?”

“We haven’t!”

“I’m kidding. I’m kidding! Take the next left.”

 

 

 

 

 

True to Lydia’s word, Derek turns up. They’ve just gotten themselves settled in a booth – Scott and Allison on the inside, then Lydia and Jackson opposite Stiles, when a skulking leather-jacketed figure appears in the doorway and Lydia waves him over. He looks more than a little wary and slightly out-of-place.

“Sit, sit.” Lydia waves a hand at the empty spot next to Stiles in the booth. Stiles squishes up nearer to Scott to make room. “Hey, Derek! I’m Lydia, we spoke on the phone.”

Derek nods tensely. Scott does a weird little half-wave, Allison introduces herself politely, and Jackson looks, as always, like he’s repressing a mountain of anger. He’s probably remembering the time Derek shoved him up against a locker one-handedly for talking shit.

And of course, Jackson goes there. “So are you two, like, a thing?” He points two fingers at Derek and Stiles and raises an eyebrow. “’Cause I’m getting mixed signals here.”

Lydia elbows him sharply and Stiles decides to answer. “No, we’re just friends.”

Jackson seems intent on whatever form of torture he can get and addresses his next attack to Derek. “So are you into dudes too? Because I’m feeling a little outnumbered here, heh.”

Derek glares back, and Jackson seems to remember their last encounter altogether more vividly. He slinks back into his seat and shuts up.

“We usually just order, like, four pizzas,” Stiles murmurs quietly to Derek. “Does that work for you?”

Derek nods and hands him the menu. “I’ll have a water. What do you want?”

“Chocolate milkshake,” Stiles answers immediately. “Hey, Scott, which pizzas are we getting?”

Allison places the order, which involves one extra pepperoni and one vegetarian option (thank you, Scott, Stiles thinks). She smiles hesitantly and addresses Derek. “I think our parents know each other?”

Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. The table’s eyes swivel to Derek. “Doubt it.” He says, and there’s no indication of resent in there, not if you know Derek. He’s just guarded like he always is with strangers, but it doesn’t always look that way on the surface. “My family died six years ago in a fire.”

Allison’s eyes go wide. “Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.” Derek nods and waves it off. He clearly wants to move forward and Allison takes the hint. “It’s just I think my parents know you, they mentioned your name. My aunt Kate used to live here, maybe you met her?”

Stiles can hear how Derek’s heart picks up in speed and can smell the heady mixture of feelings coming off of him, but just by looking at him, you wouldn’t know. He doesn’t answer for a minute and his heartbeat jackrabbits and the anxiety rolls off him in waves. It’s an instinctive reaction when Stiles grabs his hand under the table, but from what he can hear, it works. Derek calms down and squeezes back.

“I think I met her once, when I was in high school.” Derek smiles, but it’s more of a grimace. “Maybe she knew my uncle.”

“Yeah, that was an awful fire. Tragic,” Jackson speculates callously, “I heard you weren’t the only one that got out, though. I know your parents were killed, but don’t you have an uncle in a hospice?”

“Yeah, he’s been comatose ever since.” Derek says flatly. “And my sister died recently, too. Maybe you read that in the newspapers.”

Lydia makes a face discreetly. “Well, this conversation went dark. Jackson, what is wrong with you? Oh, Stiles, it’s your shake.”

The waitress arrives with their drinks. It’s water for Derek and Allison, Scott’s got a Coke and Jackson root beer, and Lydia stirs her iced tea with an air of sophistication. The glass set in front of Stiles is a foot tall and full to the brim with what smells like liquidized ice cream. There are chunks of brownie on top, sitting delicately in a thick layer of whipped cream, and bits of chocolate cake scattered throughout the drink. It’s Stiles’s favourite. He’s told himself that he only gets it around the full moon, because it feels like compensation for the itches and urges that are already beginning to make their presence known.

Jackson’s jaw drops open. “You’re gonna eat that?”

“No,” Stiles picks off a piece of brownie and a lump of cream and devours it off his finger. “I’m going to drink it.”

Jackson shakes his head in disbelief and Derek watches with a strange expression as Stiles takes the straw and starts to slurp.

“So,” Scott says, with his trademark awkward smile, “Lydia, have you done that Spanish project yet?”

It’s kind of a dumb thing to say because they don’t share a Spanish class with Lydia – she finished Spanish last year and moved on to German – but it’s conversation, and it works. Allison engages in the conversation despite not having Spanish either (she did French at her previous school so they let her continue it), Stiles admits to having done none of it and Jackson just stares at him with narrowed eyes.

Stiles untangles his and Derek’s fingers after what feels like an eternity. He nudges Derek gently, just enough to get his attention, and when he speaks, it’s too low for anyone else to hear. “Are you okay?”

Derek nods quickly and flattens his mouth in an attempt at a smile before swiveling to return the beady look both of them are getting from Jackson. He raises his eyebrows silently and it seems to do the trick. Jackson scratches his neck nervously and looks away.

The pizza arrives soon after. Stiles gets into a heated debate with Jackson over whether pineapple should be permitted on pizza (he thinks it should, because it just tastes good, but Jackson says he’d rather eat anchovies than pineapple on pizza, and they agree that anchovies are disgusting), which Allison settles by pointing out that if you don’t like pineapple, it’s as easily avoided as anchovies and Jackson is being a crybaby. The extra pepperoni disappears like lightning (Stiles isn’t sure if Scott or Derek is more to blame), but it turns out that the vegetarian one is going down well, too. So much so that after two slices, Stiles finds himself looking at an empty pizza plate.

Derek notices this very quickly, too. He puts down his piece of the carnivore feast pizza and taps his knee against Stiles’s. “Do you want me to order another one?”

“No, no.” Stiles waves it away. “It’s fine.”

“I can pay for it.” Derek insists. He’s about to signal the waitress when Stiles grabs a piece of the Hawaiian. It’s easy enough to pick the ham off it.

“Don’t worry about it. Seriously, it’s fine.”

Derek looks unconvinced but lets it go. Jackson, of course, has to be nosy about it. Why one earth did Stiles think that sitting opposite this guy was a good idea? Why? He’s been the unfortunate recipient of most of Jackson’s attempts at conversation and it isn’t much fun. “You vegetarian, Stilinski?”

“Uh – I don’t really eat processed ham.” It’s a decent excuse, and honestly, Stiles has read the back of these ham tins. Most sane people would avoid that stuff if they knew what half those chemical names meant.

“So what kind of meat do you eat, then?”

Stiles cannot help but feel like that question was a little bit pointed, especially with the way Jackson’s eyes are flicking over Derek’s perpetual five o’clock shadow (Stiles has thought about it once or twice too, but he likes to think he’s less obvious with the staring) and the smug set to Jackson’s face as he slurps his drink. Scott clearly feels that way, too, Stiles can smell the irritation and anger off him, but Stiles refuses to take it too seriously. Taking Jackson seriously is to give him credibility, and threats have never gotten Stiles anywhere regardless.

“Well,” he says conversationally, and all the eyes sweep over to him, including Derek’s furious ones, “I’m trying to help my dad work on his blood pressure so we don’t eat much red meat at home. It’s okay, though, I like chicken. Coq au vin.” He adds, enjoying the effect. Scott splutters, Lydia develops a small smile, and Derek turns some weird utterance into a cough. Jackson goes kind of white like it’s a huge TMI, because yes, Stiles did just say the word ‘cock’ and that he liked to eat it. Not that he’s ever tried, but Stiles knows what he likes. “It’s French, you know? Chicken in red wine sauce.”

Jackson stays uncharacteristically quiet for the rest of the evening.

When Stiles lets him and Derek into the house (after informing Lydia that he was going to drop Derek off at home, because she looked way too suspicious when she saw Derek clambering into the Jeep’s passenger seat), the first thing he does is belt out heartfelt apologies.

“I’m so, so sorry, my dad was watching me go and then Lydia wouldn’t let me bail and then she grabbed my phone and Lydia is a force of nature, dude, like she’d actually kill me, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to–”

To his utter astonishment, Derek laughs. “It’s okay, Stiles. It was good pizza.”

“I’m really sorry about Jackson.”

Derek’s expression hardens but there’s still light in his eyes. “Someday, that kid is gonna get punched in the face, and he will deserve it.”

“He was out of line.” Stiles grimaces. “He’s always out of line. I don’t even know why he hangs out with us. He likes Allison, I guess.”

Derek quirks an eyebrow on the way up to Stiles’s room. “He was out of line with you, too.”

“Yeah, but I don’t care.”

“And I do?”

Stiles turns to look Derek in the eye and shakes his head a little. “I think it’s hard not to care when he talks about the fire like that.”

Derek doesn’t turn away, doesn’t flinch, doesn’t avoid his gaze. Instead, his eyebrows flatten briefly. “Like what?”

“Like it doesn’t matter.”

Derek is unreadable, mostly. Stiles can detect a little wariness but that’s about it. “It doesn’t.”

Stiles frowns. “Of course it does. It was a horrible accident and you shouldn’t have to listen to people talk about it like that. You’re still grieving, and Laura dying recently doesn’t help.”

Now Derek looks entirely taken aback. Most of his expression is done through his eyebrows, but as a general rule Stiles can read the guy like an open book. “What makes you think I’m still grieving?”

“You don’t stop grieving for something like that.” Stiles says softly, thinking of his mother. Her warm brown eyes, her easy laugh. Mischief. Stiles wonders sometimes if it would hurt more if his mother had died at the hands of someone else instead of natural causes. Would it be more painful if she’d been the victim of a stabbing? A shooting? A drunk driver? Probably not. He’d be angrier, but in the end, she’s still dead, and all he can do is miss her. Losing her was bad enough. Stiles can’t even imagine what it must have been like for Derek, what it must still be like for him.

Hell on earth.

Derek swallows a lump in his throat. “Don’t worry about it. Jackson picks on you, too.”

“If Jackson is ever dumb enough to mention my mother then it’s Sheriff Stilinski and not me he should be worried about.” Stiles huffs a short, dry chuckle. “Jackson’s adopted. He’s weird about parents.”

“He’s weird about you being into guys.” Derek gives him the side-eye. “You know that’s not okay, right? You don’t have to make chicken jokes. For that shit, you can just punch him.”

Stiles smiles and sits down on his bed with a yawn. “What, you didn’t like my chicken joke?”

“I’m just saying that you don’t have to tell the whole restaurant that you like to eat, uh, coq au vin, if you don’t want to. You can just haul him outside and kick his ass. Or I can.”

Stiles turns gleeful. “Do you like coq au vin?”

Derek does not answer the underlying question, which is of course whether or not he is into men (or if he is into Stiles, because Stiles knows he has no chance but he’s carrying this torch until he dies), but raises an eyebrow. “Have you ever eaten coq au vin?”

“Yes!”

“You have not.”

“Okay, true, I have not eaten coq au vin, but it worked for the purposes it needed to, okay.”

Derek shakes his head. “Why is he so obsessed? It’s like he loves making you uncomfortable. Like he has nothing better to do.”

“Well, since Lydia dumped him and Ally told him to back off, he probably doesn’t.”

“Doesn’t it bother you?” Stiles gets the feeling that Derek is x-raying him, he’s watching that intently.

“Why would it bother me? It isn’t like Jackson is someone who matters.”

Derek quirks an eyebrow again. “Sounds like you have a list.”

“Of course I have a list. Anyone who isn’t on the list, their opinion doesn’t matter. Life is too short to worry what randoms think of you.”

A small smile plays on Derek’s face. “You’re brave.”

Stiles shrugs. “Nah. To be brave you have to be scared first, and I’m not scared. I just don’t care. It’s real simple, but it bugs Jackson.”

Derek appears to stop and take a breath, like he’s preparing himself for something. “I think it’s admirable of you. To be so openly…yourself. You’re setting a great example and it’s good for your inner, uh, animal.”

“Were you just about to say bunny? You totally were.”

“No,” Derek lies unconvincingly, “But seriously. Wolves don’t think like that, we can’t. Only alphas can do that, just not care. Betas have to do as the alpha says, but you’re not part of pack dynamics like that.”

“Or it’s just my personality,” Stiles points out, “I’ve been not giving a shit since I was, like, twelve.”

“Your personality manifests in your form,” Derek brings up his knee and rests his chin on it. It’s ridiculously adorable and strangely intimate. They’re sitting on opposite sides of the room but Stiles feels like he’s seeing Derek in a way that no one ever does. “This is good, it will make you strong. The alpha can’t manipulate you, so he’ll have to fight.”

“Dude,” Stiles turns to Derek with huge eyes, “What if Jackson’s the alpha?”

Derek gives him the are-you-for-fucking-real look and Stiles recoils slightly. “Jackson is not the alpha. He wouldn’t be taunting you like that if he were, he would have actually killed you.”

“Good to know.”

Tonight is Stiles’s turn to sleep in the bed. At least Derek no longer stays in the chair with his shoes and jacket on, like he did the first time, until Stiles made him take most of his clothes off (not for selfish reasons) and brought up a ton of blankets and stuff to sleep with. Derek curls up on the armchair quite comfortably, but Stiles feels bad about his guest having the inferior sleeping-place.

He gets up and ambles over to close the window. That stops the cold breeze from drifting in, but leaving the window open at night is a habit he picked up from a certain leather-jacketed werewolf making a point of climbing in through the window rather than using the stairs like a normal fucking person. Derek watches him groggily. “Whas wrong?”

“Nothing,” Stiles mutters, “Are you okay? You’re not too cold?”

“No.” Derek replies, dutiful even when tired, but Stiles can see the set of his muscles, how his hackles are up around his ears and his arms wrapped around himself to preserve body heat.

“Stop lying and get in the bed. It’s too cold to sleep in the chair.”

“I’m not cold.”

Stiles doesn’t even dignify the denial. “I can literally feel your slightly lowered body temperature from three feet away and I hear your heartbeat. Just get in the bed.”

“If I sleep in the bed, you’ll be cold in the chair,” Derek protests. “It’s okay, Stiles. Werewolves run hotter.”

“So you get cold more easily. Get in the damn bed.”

“No,” Derek shakes his head obstinately, “You’re not freezing your ass off on my account. I can always put my clothes back on.”

Stiles pinches the bridge of his knows. “Sleeping in jeans and a jacket is not conducive to getting a good night’s sleep, and Lord knows you need it.”

“We both need it.”

“Fine. Compromise. We’ll both sleep in the bed. Are you happy now?”

Derek narrows his eyes. “No. If I’m cold we’ll both be cold, what’s the point in that?”

“You are unbelievable. Get in the bed before I throw myself outside and go to sleep on the lawn.”

Grudgingly, Derek climbs into the bed. He lies down primly on one side, maintaining a very clear and appropriate distance but obviously still grateful to roll the thick covers over himself.

Stiles lays down a blanket on top of the covers, because Derek can always just take it off, and gets into bed next to him. It’s weirdly pleasant and Stiles has to remind himself that there will be no cuddles because this is an entirely practically-minded bedsharing they’ve got going on, but he can feel the heat Derek is exuding and it’s comforting, lulling, even. 

He’s not even sure when he falls asleep and he wakes up slowly. He feels warm all over and strangely heavy, but it’s nice, like he’s being bathed in sunlight.

He forgot to close the blinds last night so he is quite literally being bathed in sunlight but that’s not what’s got him feeling this way. Having someone else in his bed is inexplicably calming. Derek being in the same room while he’s asleep makes him feel a zillion times more safe, but when Derek’s in the chair Stiles inevitably ends up feeling guilty and reflecting on how Derek’s sad life story got them here, and when Stiles is in the chair he doesn’t sleep very well. This, though, this is the shit. Derek is right next to him, arm thrown over his shoulders and it feels like nothing could ever go wrong. The perfect morning, all here for him.

He does need to pee really badly, though, so he sneaks out as ninja-like as he can, trying to avoid waking up his houseguest. When he returns, Derek is looking at Stiles’s empty pillow blearily, and there’s a note of hurt in the air, as though he couldn’t fathom where Stiles had gone. When Stiles enters the room the scent dissipates and Derek smiles at him, slow and wide, blinking sleep from his eyes.

“Good morning,” Derek says easily, wrapping a hand around the back of Stiles’s neck as he sinks down onto the bed. “Did you sleep well?”

“Yeah.” Stiles nods, fidgeting slightly.

Derek nods in return and brings him down for a sleepy kiss.

If the alarm bells weren’t going off before, they definitely are now. It’s not because Stiles doesn’t want to kiss Derek – everyone and their aunt Moira knows that Stiles wants to kiss Derek, or so it feels – but this isn’t right. He and Derek – they’re not like this.

It’s none of these things that give Stiles reason to pause. It’s the kiss itself. It’s just…bland. He can’t feel anything, not really. He’s kissing Derek, but he doesn’t know how Derek’s lips taste or how his stubble feels or what Derek’s tongue is doing. He genuinely has no clue.

Derek isn’t the first person Stiles has kissed. He’s been to a party or two, and there was that thing with Greenberg’s cousin Aksel a little while back, but this is new to him. He doesn’t know what kissing is like outside of a snatched, forced lip-smash during spin the bottle, or those goddamn seven minutes in heaven which was mostly just awkward breathing and Stiles trying to ignore Aksel’s German accent. Sure, some kisses were better than others, but this whole blissful domestic Sunday morning thing is completely foreign to him. Maybe that’s why he can’t feel anything, despite his imagination being more than happy to wonder how Derek’s stubble would scrape against his face every five minutes of the day.

“This isn’t real.” Stiles pushes Derek away gently, and the sour smell of hurt fills the air once again. “You and me – it’s not like this.”

“What?” Derek looks really wounded, and something twists inside of Stiles. “We’re – you don’t want this?”

“No, God, I want it, but not – Derek, this isn’t real, you’re not real, none of this is real.”

“How can you say that? After us, after last night?”

“There was no last night! You and I – nothing happened, and it never will, because that’s not how this goes.”

“Don’t you want to kiss me again?”

It’s tempting, because Stiles does want to kiss Derek again. He wants to see if the numbness would go away if he just kept at it a while longer. He wants to feel it all but not – not like this.

Stiles is interrupted by the floorboards creaking in the hallway. Stiles has just about opened the door, ignoring Derek’s protests, when a massive, hulking black shape crashes into the room.

It sweeps Stiles to the side with one heavy paw, sending him flying against the wall. By the time Stiles has gotten up off the floor the alpha is hovering beside Derek, teeth bared. Derek is frozen in fear, back to the wall with the covers drawn up to him, and Stiles can no more help than the bookcase can when the alpha smiles a slow, sick grin, looks Stiles straight in the eye, and rips out Derek’s throat.

Stiles sits bolt-upright in the bed, gasping for air and sweating. It only takes a second before Derek – real Derek, not dream-Derek – is awake beside him, frantically asking what’s wrong.

“Dream-Derek,” Stiles manages to wheeze, “Dream-Derek. The alpha. Here.”

“You had a bad dream,” Derek rubs soothing circles onto Stiles’s back, but he’s so clammy that Derek’s hand sticks to him at every turn, even through the T-shirt. “It’s okay, Stiles, it’s over.”

“Felt real,” Stiles whimpers, crashing back to lean against Derek without even realizing it. Derek holds him, traces patterns on his shoulder, makes soothing noises. “Looked real. Was exactly like real.”

“But it wasn’t,” Derek reminds him softly, “It’s not real. What happened?”

Stiles can’t bring himself to tell Derek that he woke up in a bed of their own peace and something that felt suspiciously like love. He can’t. It’s too goddamn embarrassing. “You died. He killed you.”

Derek goes strangely quiet for a few minutes, but he doesn’t stop making the circles, and it is slowly helping bring Stiles down. Very slowly. He buries his nose in Stiles’s hair while he thinks. “I’m not dead. I’m right here, with you. You can feel my heartbeat, Stiles, focus on it. Focus on the rhythm.”

Stiles zones in on the steady beat of Derek’s pulse and clings to it like a life-raft in a stormy sea. Derek rocks him back against his chest and continues to ooze calmness. Derek must know that Stiles can feel it, smell it, that it affects him too.

“Do you know how to tell if you’re awake or dreaming?”

Stiles shakes his head and tries to let the tears that escape do so silently.

“You count your fingers. You have extra fingers in dreams. So, Stiles, count with me. Look.” Derek holds up his hands in front of Stiles’s face, still cradling him from behind, and they count through slowly. When they get to ten, Stiles exhales in relief.

“I’m not dreaming?”

“Not now,” Derek promises, and Stiles believes him. He turns Stiles around to face him and wipes away the tears with the edge of Stiles’s duvet. “No. Ten fingers, you’re awake. Do you want to go back to sleep?”

It’s still dark outside and Stiles is feeling exhausted, so he nods numbly. When he lies back down he can’t entirely muffle the sobs, not from a werewolf, at any rate.

Derek rolls over to stare at the back of his head immediately. “What’s wrong?”

“Killed you,” Stiles sniffs, swiping at the telltale tears. “Just…ripped your throat out. So easily. And there was nothing I could do, I was right there, but nothing–”

Stiles is completely cut off by a large, warm arm snaking over to hold around his middle. Derek’s nose moves up against the back of his head and his knees bend at the same angle as Stiles’s. It takes Stiles a minute to realize he’s being spooned, but by then he’s already clamped his grip down on the hand across his stomach.

“I’m here,” Derek offers around a yawn. “Not dead. Right here. Okay?”

Stiles nods and somehow manages to doze himself back to sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

“We’re not talking about it.” Stiles hisses through his teeth at Scott in math class.

“Dude, we are one hundred percent talking about it,” Scott returns, “There is literally no way we are not talking about you being spooned by the hot guy you like.”

“Keep it down!” Stiles waves a frantic hand at Scott’s too-loud tone.

“What hot guy?” Danny whispers from behind them. Stiles almost has a heart attack.

“There’s no hot guy!” Stiles replies, to which Danny raises an eyebrow. “Okay, yes, there is, but not in the way you think.”

“Is it a hot guy that I know? I know most of them.”

“He doesn’t go to gay clubs.” Scott informs Danny.

Danny makes the ‘fair-enough’ face. “Then I probably don’t know him. But he’s a cuddler? That’s nice. Considerate, you know? If you’re gonna bottom then the least the guy can do is cuddle afterwards.”

“I did not!” Stiles takes more geometry notes furiously.

“You didn’t?” Danny looks genuinely interested. “Huh. He sounds like a cool guy.”

“He’s not–” Stiles makes a gesture that he isn’t even sure what is. “We’re not a thing. And we didn’t have sex.”

“But…you cuddled?”

“I had a nightmare, okay, it happens.”

“And he cuddled you?”

“…Yes, he did, I guess, but it was just–”

Danny snorts. “Keep him, Stilinski.”

Stiles shoots Scott an angry look. Scott just smiles back. “Listen to Danny! He’s right.”

“When will people stop?” Stiles reminds himself not to push down too hard on the pencil. He’s broken four due to the whole supernatural bunny thing already. “When will it end? The me and Derek thing? You know it’s not real, right?”

“Me and Allison didn’t spoon all night until after the first time we–”

“I dreamed he was dead!” Stiles waves a hand for dramatic effect, not wishing to hear any more of that sentence. “He was reassuring me.”

“Mr. Stilinski,” the math teacher interrupts, rudely so, in Stiles’s opinion. “Is there a reason you’re flapping your hand like a fan in my class?”

Stiles improvises. “Yeah, it’s pretty hot in here.”

The teacher gives him the unimpressed glare and he goes back to his work. Scott leans over almost immediately afterwards.

“But seriously, is everything ready? Did you finish the – the thing?”

Stiles sighs. “Yeah, I finished the thing. It’s held together with duct tape, but it works. I guess. I haven’t tested it, there’s only so many times you can use it.”

“Is there anything I can do? Tonight?” Scott glances around at the classroom to demonstrate his point. “I wanna help you, Stiles.”

“What you gotta do is cover my ass for Argents, Victoria is chaperoning.” Stiles rolls his eyes, “I mean it. They can’t notice me sneaking out at convenient times. If it comes up you have to cover for me, and to Allison as well.”

Scott winces. “You want me to lie to Allison?”

“No, I don’t. But I sure as hell don’t want to tell her the truth either.”

Scott concedes that Stiles has a point.

 

 

 

 

 

School flies by and Stiles finds himself inspecting his suit in front of the mirror.

He only owns one and that’s totally fine. He only needs one. He can stash his wooden contraption in the pocket without drawing attention and he might be going stag, but he still looks good.

Derek swings almost-silently in through the window and raises an eyebrow. “Who are you out to impress?”

“Impress?” Stiles doesn’t turn around. “It’s a dance.”

“There is gel in your hair.”

“Yeah, it grew faster since I turned into a giant rabbit.”

“You look less like a hedgehog.”

“I consider that a compliment.”

Derek rolls his eyes. He’s wearing his signature combination of jeans, a dark red V-neck that suits him very well, and the leather jacket. Conveniently, the shirt will not show up blood splatters, which Stiles can’t help but think Derek deliberately chose it for. “Are you doing okay? With the full moon?”

“I’m jittery,” Stiles admits. “Nervous. I want to jump out of my own skin and go running through the woods, but instead I am going to hover by the non-alcoholic punch bowl and watch Scott make heart eyes at Allison.”

“Oh. Who’s Lydia going with?”

“Someone from the basketball team.” A thought occurs to Stiles. “Do you have, like, a thing for Lydia?”

“What? How could you – how do you even think that?”

“You’re always asking about her,” Stiles shrugs as he shapes his non-hedgehoggy hair. “I mean, sometimes it’s like you hate her, but you always want to know about her.”

“She just gives off a weird vibe, is all.”

“She’s Lydia.

For the second time in as many minutes, Derek rolls his eyes. “Whatever. Your dad’s coming up the stairs. I’ll see you at the school.”

Stiles extricates himself from Noah’s talk and pulls up to the dance. He can see Victoria standing in one corner and Derek as far across the room as possible in the other, and yeah, Stiles probably wouldn’t have signed Derek up for this if they’d known at the time that he was going to be within such close proximity to the Argents, because Derek has a very clear aversion, but it’s too late now and it’s the only way Derek can get in. A twenty-two-year-old hovering at a high school dance looks creepy as hell, especially if the twenty-two-year-old in question has a perpetual five o’clock shadow and the tendency to glare at strangers.

Somehow, through the crowd, Jackson finds him, and takes it upon himself to stand in solidarity beside him. “Going stag, huh?”

Stiles shrugs by way of answer.

“Derek’s over by the punch, have you seen him?”

“Yeah, he’s chaperoning.”

Jackson smiles. “Ah, is that what this is? You can’t dance with him so he comes here to lend a hand? Does Papa Stilinski not approve of this relationship? Can’t think why.”

“Believe it or not, there is no relationship.” There’s a note of bitterness in Stiles’s voice.

Jackson snorts. “Have you seen the way he looks at you? It’s like how you used to look at Lydia.”

“Or like you used to look at Allison?” Jackson pales, and Stiles knows he’s on the right track. “Yeah, I saw that one. You were gettin’ real cosy with her behind Scott’s back, but she wouldn’t have it, because she’s not like that.”

“Oh, please,” Jackson turns away dismissively, but Stiles can hear the racing heart and smell his discomfort. “You and I both know that I’m a better boyfriend than McCall.”

“Allison clearly doesn’t,” Stiles taunts, but Jackson deserves it, “Maybe she didn’t realise that what you were actually doing was fishing for info. Her family history, huh, Jackson? Did you find anything interesting?”

Jackson falters, but it doesn’t stop him from spitting the words out. “There’s something weird going on with you, and with Derek. I told you I wouldn’t stop trying to figure out what’s wrong, and I won’t.”

Stiles puts a hand on Jackson’s shoulder in a friendly kind of way. He squeezes in a way that’s not very friendly, but to the outsider, it looks like Stiles and his best bro having a laugh. “Do yourself a favour, man, just drop it.”

“No.” Jackson tenses up under the hand, but he doesn’t relent. “I’ll tell the Argents what you are. They’re the hunters, Allison told me, they have a family history with killing – things. So they won’t like you.”

“There’s an actual bad guy out there, Jackson.” Stiles removes the hand. He’s just too done with this idiot. “Someone’s out there killing people, and it isn’t me, and it isn’t Derek. If you want to let that carry on, you want more people to die, then go tell Allison’s mom that something weird’s going on with me. Try explain it to her, if you can, I bet she’ll eat you alive. But you know me, Jackson, I’m going to stop whoever’s doing this, and I’m gonna do it with or without your help.”

“Jesus, Stilinski,” Jackson moves to shuffle away, hand reaching into his pocket for a hipflask. “You all need to chill. Nobody’s killing anyone.”

“Two seconds ago you told me that the Argents do.” Stiles raises an eyebrow. “You know the truth, you just don’t want to believe it. Stay out of it, Jackson. For your own damn good.”

Stiles grabs himself a glass of punch, knowing before he drinks it that it will be disgustingly sweet but throwing it down the hatch anyway. It’s to still his nerves more than anything else. Last time the full moon rolled around he started picking up on electric micro-signals and it’s really annoying, high-pitched pin-like noises all the time every time someone moves. He can’t sort through them yet, can’t make sense, all he can do is dull it out to the best of his ability and focus on the task and hand. He needs to mill around at this party a little, be seen by enough people before the moon is fully out and the alpha comes to him.

That’s the assumption they’re working off and Derek says it’s solid. The alpha has tried to consolidate Stiles’s position in the pack but it’s been unsuccessful. Last full moon the alpha was busy killing other people, but this time it will come for either them or the Argents, so Stiles has made the thing’s job easy by locating himself in the same place as the hunters.

At least, he thought it was a good plan. He doesn’t know where Chris and Kate are, and if they think the alpha’s coming for them, wouldn’t they bring the cavalry? Stiles might just be attracting a murderous psychopath to a high school dance.

That thought is almost overwhelming. It’s nearly as terrifying as the scream he hears a moment later.

It’s from somewhere a little way off, not in this room, and nobody else hears it; there’s no reaction, but Stiles knows that voice. He springs into action and searches the room for Derek, who’s clearly also heard it.

“You and me need to go check the perimeter, now, before the scent goes cold. Get Scott to go find her.”

Stiles grabs Scott by the shoulder, yanking him away from his slow-dancing with Allison, and very quickly explains the situation. Scott apologizes to Ally for the interruption and promises to come back soon, and jogs off in the direction of the lacrosse field. Stiles and Derek rendezvous outside.

“We’ll start by the front and fan around in a circle,” Derek murmurs. “Get the thing ready, and stay behind me. Don’t shift unless you have to.”

Stiles doesn’t stay entirely behind Derek, because that’s just dumb, but he does keep his finger on the release. They step carefully through the woods, trying to discern the bounding run of a savage beast before it’s actually right on top of them.

Something rustles in a nearby bush and Stiles jerks, but too late. There’s a loud bang as he’s slammed in the back of the head and Derek’s horrified expression is the last thing he sees before he hits the ground.

 

 

 

When he comes to the only thing left is the cloying scent of a mildly familiar perfume. Derek is gone, his phone is gone, he’s clearly been left here as some kind of accessory, entirely unconscious. There’s sticky, dried blood in his hair and he prods around in it some more. It hurts like a bitch even though it’s already started healing and he can feel a weird indentation where the bone must have actually broken. A chilling thought comes to him unbidden: if he were human, he would be dead. Being left in the woods with a broken skull would do that to a person.

So either Kate doesn’t know he’s nonhuman or she simply doesn’t care.

His phone isn’t anywhere to be found; maybe the hunters took it when they took Derek. Either way, Stiles has to get to his car and tell Scott what happened, and then go find out if Lydia is still alive. Her scream made him feel cold to the bone and his stomach churns at the thought of her having been mauled dead by the alpha while he lay asleep on the forest floor.

When he stumbles out of the woods Scott comes running over to him and babbles at high speed. “Lydia’s in hospital – she’s okay, they think, she’s going to live – but the alpha is coming after me and we need to go, now, I ran in the confusion but he’s following me, and –”

Stiles starts up the Jeep and Scott hauls ass into it. The tyres screech as Stiles pulls away far too fast and he speeds all the way to the hospital, telling Scott what happened in the meantime. Scott falls silent when Stiles tells him that Kate has clearly kidnapped Derek, but it doesn’t take him long to start talking again.

“Victoria rushed Ally out of there the moment Lydia got hurt. I guess they were expecting this.”

They practically fall into the hospital and the receptionist doesn’t even ask who they’re there for, she just waves them on in, and it’s quiet enough. Allison’s missing, presumably not allowed in by her parents or something, but Lydia’s weirdo date is there, and Jackson, watching with an angry look. He pulls Stiles aside with a rough yank and Stiles has to rein in the urge to bounce out of the first available window. The full moon is still getting to him and his head is pounding.

“You said you were going to stop this,” Jackson hisses, “That’s what you said, but Lydia got attacked by some animal or – or some werewolf – and I don’t see a dead body anywhere around here.”

“I’ve been distracted,” Stiles returns through gritted teeth. “Somebody tried to kill me.”

Jackson appears taken aback. “The same? The – the w-wolf?”

“No. Not him.” Stiles waves Jackson away, he really doesn’t have the energy to deal with him right now. “I need to figure this out.”

Jackson leaves him alone, blessedly, and Stiles washes the blood out of his hair in the bathroom, because it looks slightly suspicious. When he returns Scott nudges his leg.

“How are you going to find Derek?”

“They took my phone. Or he did. We need to track it, or something, but I can’t do that from here. And the alpha is coming after me, so if I don’t get out of here more people are going to get hurt. I need to go.”

Scott nods. “I’ll watch over here. You go.”

Stiles is halfway out the door when Chris and a couple of his hunter cronies stroll in. Chris is wearing a shark-like smile that Stiles is too stressed to quiver in fear at.

“Boys.” He looks from Scott to Stiles to Jackson. “How about we have a talk.”

It isn’t phrased like a question.

Stiles moves to shoulder past him but the hunter behind puts his hand into his jacket and rests it there. It’s an obvious threat, even if he wasn’t trying way too hard with the badass-face that makes him appear like he’s attempting not to look high.

“Take it from the Sheriff’s son, pal. Beacon Hills Memorial Hospital is a gun-free zone.”

Chris looks at him with a strange expression. He isn’t that much taller than Stiles and Stiles meets his gaze and holds it. “You seem awful brave for a sixteen-year-old.”

“Well, I’m almost seventeen, maybe that’s why.”

His wit doesn’t save him from getting shoved into a small room and asked prodding questions with a gun pointed in his direction. Scott and Jackson are subject to the same treatment but no questions are asked that Stiles can actually answer and he can’t fight back without exposing himself.

“Where’s the alpha?”

“Who’s the alpha?”

“Why Lydia?”

“Where is Derek Hale?”

They’re released after that delightful interrogation and Stiles gives Chris a dark look. His emotions are roiling and he’s got no control, but all he knows is that the alpha is freaking coming for them and this entire hospital is going to get massacred if he doesn’t leave very soon.

He hopes that Chris interprets his behaviour as One Of Those Days, but he doesn’t really care.

He speeds home and launches himself into his room to boot up his Find My Phone program at maximum speed when a thought occurs to him.

Kate had to take Derek somewhere.

Chris doesn’t know she took him, or else he wouldn’t have asked where Derek was.

Therefore, she went rogue, and took Derek on her own.

So he’s not in some top-secret hunter bunker somewhere, because she’s doing this solo. There are only so many places one can chain up a werewolf, but Kate hasn’t been in Beacon Hills for very long. Where would she start?

Stiles gets right back in his car and heads for Derek’s house.

He parks just beyond where the engine can be heard, because the thing’s loud as fuck, and listens. He doesn’t even realize that he’s shifted until his teeth scrape his lip, but he just sits there and tries to hear what’s going on.

In a subterranean level somewhere is Derek. He can smell him from here, hear his heartbeat, feel his fear and his panic so thickly it’s overwhelming, and his own heart beats in his throat. He cares about Derek, he knows it, and listening to the electricity running through him is nothing short of nightmarish.

He also hears voices. Kate’s voice, and Allison’s, which unseats Stiles until he realizes that she has no more idea what’s going on than Stiles does. Kate is trying to get to her, but Allison is not onboard with the torture just yet, which is reassuring to know.

Allison leaves, drives herself home and doesn’t see Stiles. He creeps a little closer to the window, doing his best not to be overheard by the three other hunters in the facility, fully and painfully aware that with Kate so close he can’t storm the place and pull Derek out. It will have to wait.

There’s a lot of monologuing, not all of which is interesting. There’s taunts, and dog jokes, and some seriously twisted jabs at the very recent death of Derek’s sister. There’s just one thing Stiles hears that makes him freeze completely.

“Oh come on, Derek, you remember all that hot, crazy sex we used to have…”

Stiles’s world comes crashing down around him.

Chapter Text

He’s not shaming Derek for getting with a hunter. Stiles isn’t that much of a dick. Besides, it would be a seriously hypocritical thing for Stiles to shame other people for dodgy decision-making. Stiles is the absolute king of bad choices.

He reminds himself that it’s not up to him to decide if Derek’s decisions are good or not, when self-righteousness floods over him. Kate showed up at Derek’s house and tried to kill him, and has just now abducted him for torture purposes. Engaging in a relationship with that level of crazy bitch is not the smartest of moves and Stiles is allowed to think that.

Except Kate only just moved back to Beacon Hills from Sacramento. And Derek hasn’t been home from New York since the fire. So their relationship or whatever the hell it was – Stiles doesn’t want to think about it, doesn’t like the jealousy that constricts around his throat – must have taken place before the fire.

The fire that happened six years ago, when Stiles was still falling out of trees and playing cops and robbers with Scott. Okay, so that’s a dumb example, because he still falls out of trees on a regular basis, but that’s not the point. The point is that when Stiles was ten Derek was sixteen, and Kate would’ve been a whole lot older than sixteen.

So Derek has a cougar thing going on, or did, or whatever, but somehow Stiles thinks there’s more to it than this. Sixteen-year-old werewolves don’t just hook up with older terrifying hunters – especially when they come from an entire family of werewolves who know how dangerous the hunters are, and especially when they are hot as the sun – honestly, who in their right mind wouldn’t be trying to get with him? – like Derek Hale.

To conclude that Derek was coerced is a bit of a jump, but the way Derek’s trembling points to it. From up in the tree Stiles is perched in he can smell the guilt, the shame, the fear, can hear Derek recoiling from Kate, twisting his body back against the metal to escape her. Derek is past the jaw-snapping and handcuff-rattling. They all know it’s an empty threat with him tied down the way he is. Now Derek has gone quiet and is shaking like a leaf in a gale.

Stiles just doesn’t get how Kate could possibly have forced Derek into something he didn’t want to do, not once but clearly many times, from the way she talked about it. Yeah, she’s a hunter, with electric batons and nasty guns, but from what Stiles can tell Derek’s mom ran, like, the mafia, only with more supernatural and less crime. She was the go-to authority for wisdom if you were a werewolf within a three-state radius of California. He’s seen the report; fourteen people died in the fire, or were presumed dead, like Laura. That’s fourteen angry werewolves, plus whatever backup Derek’s mother could scrounge up, which Stiles presumes is a lot, against Kate, who wouldn’t even have been able to turn to her family for help, because what she did to Derek is not exactly their forte.

Maybe he wasn’t coerced. Maybe Kate was a nice person, deep down, once upon a time.

Stiles thinks this unlikely.

“Aww, honey, are you still upset over that?” Kate coos. “You’re still sad? Still guilty?”

Stiles doesn’t quite get the guilt bit, or the smell of the same radiating out of the cell, but this sounds more and more like a very one-sided relationship until a thought occurs to him. In the eyes of the law, Kate and Derek back then would have been extremely illegal. In the eyes of the law, it is coercion, by definition.

Underage sex isn’t what bothers him, though. God knows Scott and Allison are illegally all over each other, and if Stiles had the choice, he would be illegally all over Derek. What worries him is why Derek is like this. Anyone else taunting him like this and Derek would be furious, snarling and slashing. Every time Kate’s name has been brought up in conversation, Derek shrinks away, like he can’t stomach thinking about her. What the hell do you do to a guy like Derek Hale to make him so scared?

“You never told anyone, did you?” There’s an awful kind of delight in Kate’s tone. “You kept it all to yourself, our little relationship, and then after the fire you never told anyone how it started, how you were all to blame.”

Derek makes a choked noise that twists in Stiles’s gut.

Kate moves closer, strokes a finger along Derek’s jawline, lowers her voice, so she sounds all sultry, but she’s horrible, she’s absolutely vile, and Stiles wants to scream. “You told me all about those hidden exits, because you fell in love with a hunter and you wanted to impress and look what happened. Sweetie, that is a lot of guilt to carry around.”

For a moment or two Stiles wants to throw up.

It lasts only briefly, being suddenly replaced by a burning anger that roars in his chest. His heart is pounding, blood rushing to his ears, fists gripping the branches so tight that two of them crack and break. Kate used Derek to kill his family when he was still legally a child. It’s a revolting truth, one Stiles can understand that Derek wants to keep buried, but it’s not disgust he’s feeling. He knows it’s got nothing to do with the full moon that he wants to physically rip Kate apart.

“You know,” Kate’s condescension is sickeningly sweet, “I think you need some time alone with your thoughts. It can’t be fun, up in your head. You never were all that stable, honey.”

The cell door has been shut for about six seconds by the time Stiles has left the tree and run the two hundred yards. He kneels down by the grille, pulse throbbing in his head, and tries to quietly yank it out.

No such luck. It was built to resist werewolf invasion, after all. But it’s old and rusty and Stiles finds that it takes only two well-placed kicks to send it crashing down inside.

The hunters start scrabbling around upstairs, having heard the noise, and Stiles bars the door. Derek’s eyes are wide as Stiles sets to work pulling the bolt out of the left handcuff.

“Stiles! What are you doing here?”

Stiles lets his actions speak for him. He’s not sure he could manage words that aren’t just one long raging yell.

The shame and guilt returns to poison the air some more – not that it ever went away. This room is a cesspool of ugly emotions and it’s a foul smell. A strange kind of fear hangs on Derek’s words and his voice cracks when he talks. “You heard her.”

Stiles nods shortly, still trying to pry the bolt loose.

“You’re angry.”

He allows himself to speak. “Angry doesn’t even begin to cover it.” He shoves the bolt loose, freeing Derek’s arm, and slashes the ropes around his feet before starting on the other side.

“Stiles, you have to listen, I can take it, okay, I can, it’s not so bad, but please don’t be angry, please don’t, you can do anything but please don’t be angry.” It comes out in one long garbled rush and Derek has to physically stop himself from talking.

“Don’t,” Stiles spits. The words you can do anything but please don’t be angry ring in his head. Has Derek said this before? To Kate? “Don’t defend this. I don’t even know how you could.”

Derek forces his gaze to meet Stiles’s own and it’s evident he’s been crying. He’s not openly weeping, but his cheeks are wet and his eyes red and the grief pulsing off him is powerful. “Please, Stiles. I can take it, I can, I can do this, but I can’t handle you being angry. I thought I could, but no, not that, anything but that.”

This man makes no sense. Kate burns down his house, uses him to do it, and Stiles isn’t allowed to be pissed about it? Angry Stiles isn’t even that scary. He’s a were-bunny, not Schwarzenegger. “No, you can’t. You can’t take this and I’m fucking furious, Derek.”

“I can!” Derek insists, railing against the manacle as the hunters begin to file downstairs, guns a-rattling. “I promise I can! But – please, Stiles, please – not if you’re angry with me too.”

Stiles stills, looks Derek in the eye. “Angry – with you? Why would I be–?” He can’t even finish his own sentence. Derek watches him, not comprehending. Stiles manages to punch the bolt out of the handcuff and Derek rubs his sore wrist. “God, Derek, I’m not angry with you.”

Derek watches him warily. “I smelled it. You’re furious, you even said so. Absolutely enraged. You smell like an out of control wolf on the full moon.”

“It’s Kate!” Stiles takes Derek’s hands and holds them. It’s bold and romantic and everything he shouldn’t be doing but Stiles doesn’t care. “What she did to you was horrific and I’m gonna break her legs when I see her.”

A little puff of hope fills the air, a sweet respite. “So…you’re not disgusted with me for…what I did?”

“You didn’t do anything. The blame is one hundred percent with her, Derek.”

“No!” Derek throws up his hands, wrenches them out of Stiles’s grip, and it hurts for a second. “I don’t – no, how can you possibly not hate me for this?”

Stiles acts fast, before sense can stop him. He leans forward and kisses Derek full on the lips.

He knows he’s going to regret it. Maybe he’s ruined their friendship. Maybe Derek won’t want to speak to him. Worse, maybe Derek will think Stiles was using him, too, and will hate him for it. But at least now Derek knows how Stiles feels. If he’s going to die tonight, and there’s a solid chance of that happening, he wants Derek to know the truth.

He braces himself for the rejection but it doesn’t come. Derek puts a gentle hand on his jaw, pulls him in, kisses back, and the whooping in Stiles’s belly is hands down the best thing he’s ever felt. It’s soft and sweet and perfect, a million things that should be said but don’t really need to be.

Derek leans away, but it’s reluctant and only marginal. “We should go.”

The hunters are at the door and throwing themselves at it in an attempt to gain access. “Yeah.”

They jump out of the cell and have barely even made it past the tree Stiles concealed himself in when his phone blares in Derek’s pocket. Derek hands it to him wordlessly and they hide out behind the tree.

“Scott, what’s wrong?”

“The alpha found me!” Scott is panicky and short of breath and Stiles hopes he has his inhaler handy before realizing that if his best friend is about to become a werewolf chew toy then asthma won’t make much difference. “I’m fine, I’m okay, he made me track your phone, Stiles, he knows where you are and he’s coming after you.”

“He spoke to you? Who is he?”

“I don’t know!” Scott wails, “Just some guy! I never saw his face!”

“Voice, clothes, anything?” Derek leans over. “Any descriptors?”

“A long leather jacket like in the cowboy movies. Smooth talking, really creepy, I don’t know, he didn’t tell me his name and I didn’t ask.”

Derek heaves a sigh. “It’s Peter.”

“I thought he was in a coma!” Scott squawks.

“So did I, but that’s definitely him.”

Stiles nudges Derek in the ribs and ends the call. “We have company.”

Derek glances up and Stiles doesn’t think he’s ever seen his expression turn that hard.

 

 

 

 

Out of the shadows – they’re not sneaky, Stiles and Derek heard them a while ago, but they’ve got long-range weapons and running from them is unlikely to work – steps a gaggle of hunters, Chris in the lead. There’s no cold pity now, just a remorseless gaze and a shark-like smile.

“And to think, Stiles, you told me you didn’t know where Derek was.” Chris’s eyes affix on Stiles, but the hunters are watching Derek.

“I guess I found him.”

A hunter behind Stiles shakes her head and clacks her chewing gum. “This is above your pay grade, kid. Go home.”

“How did you get here so fast?” Stiles narrows his eyes. “When exactly did Kate call for backup?”

Chris looks taken aback but he answers after a moment. “She didn’t.”

Stiles might just have blown it. Whoops.

“Then why are you here?” Derek takes Stiles’s hand and angles his body differently. He’s shielding and Stiles can’t really wiggle out of it.

“Aww, look how cute they are,” another hunter sneers, “The werewolf and the Sheriff’s son. That’s gonna last.”

“Your sister is out of control,” Stiles hisses, because Derek is uncharacteristically quiet. “She just abducted Derek and tried to kill him. And she’s tried before. I know you’re family but she’s completely rogue.”

Chris stares back, and there’s something mournful in his eyes. “I know. I overheard your father. The police are coming for her tonight.”

“Arson,” the first hunter smirks, tossing her short hair, “What a joke. As if Kate set that fire. I bet werewolf Romeo over here has been putting ideas in the Sheriff’s head for months.

“Murder,” Stiles corrects, and he gently extracts himself from Derek’s embrace. He doesn’t march up to the hunter, because that’s just dumb, but he wants his point made. “They’re coming for a murderer.”

Another hunter mutters. “It’s a lie. Defamation. Slander. Outright bullshit.”

 “Take it from the Sheriff’s son,” Stiles balls his hands into fists, “Arson happens to property. Murder happens to people. Kate is going down for both and we’re all dead if we don’t get out of here.”

“We’re here to stop Kate,” Chris admits, “She won’t hurt you if I order her to stand down.”

Stiles snorts with sarcastic laughter. “Sure she won’t. But it’s not actually Kate I’m worried about. There’s a feral alpha coming this way and he will be here pretty fucking soon.”

Something occurs to him.

The killings of petty criminals, all of which his dad managed to trace back to Kate. The location and the tracking. The alpha is Derek’s uncle Peter, who spent six years in a coma because of her. It’s a bit of an epiphany and Stiles should probably have seen this sooner but oh, well.

“The alpha isn’t coming for us,” Stiles whispers to Derek, “It’s here for Kate.”

“Wait,” Chris says, and he points the gun at Stiles. Stiles puts his hands in the air like he’s terrified, and he is quite frightened; he’d rather not test his healing abilities. “There’s a second beta. You seem to know a lot, so you can tell us who it is.”

Chris is interrupted by the screech of tyres as Jackson’s Porsche makes its usual ostentatious entrance. Out of it jump Scott, Jackson and Allison, the latter holding a crossbow.

Chris drops the weapon, because Allison is absorbing the scene of her father pointing a gun at her friend and it’s not going down well with her. He’s clearly itching to pull it on Jackson, the driver. “You – you brought her – here? Are you insane?”

Jackson looks annoyed, as per his usual. “Don’t look at me, McCall needed a ride.”

Chris turns on Scott and the anger is palpable. “You’d better have a really good reason for this.”

Scott, to his credit, doesn’t hesitate, even though his heart is doing a million miles per minute. “Stiles needed help. He didn’t call, but he didn’t have to.”

Chris raises the gun and it’s only a few feet from the space between Scott’s eyebrows. This is getting intense now, because Scott has no such thing as supernatural healing and Allison is yelling at her father to put the gun down and Chris isn’t wavering an inch. “Are you the second beta?”

Scott shakes his head in earnest, which Chris responds to by cocking the gun.

Allison sighs aggressively like she’s had enough. Her crossbow is loaded and she stands beside Scott and points it right back at her dad.

Chris recoils. “Allison, don’t be ridiculous, you wouldn’t shoot your own father.”

Allison’s voice breaks, but her aim is steady and Stiles has never been more proud of her. “If you’re ready to put a bullet in Scott’s head then there’s nothing left of my father in you.”

After a long pause, Chris drops the weapon. There is a collective exhale of relief.

Until, of course, he raises it at Stiles again. “You know who the second beta is.”

Derek is gripping Stiles’s arm, clearly tensed to spring if Chris should shoot, and Stiles doesn’t know if Derek can move faster than a bullet at point-blank range but he doubts it.

“You always know a lot,” Chris continues, “And you’re fearless. Earlier in the hospital, you pushed me aside like you weren’t even scared. I’m a grown man with a gun. And you busted Derek out of the basement cells. No, you’re definitely something. But what?”

“An innocent,” Derek replies, lacing his fingers through Stiles’s and squeezing. “He has no natural tendency to harm people, not at all.”

Some hunter in the back doesn’t believe a word of it. “A werewolf with no slashing urges? Now that’s something I’d like to see.”

“Unless he’s not a werewolf.” Chris watches Stiles thoughtfully. The gun jerks slightly to the right and Stiles pushes both himself and Derek out of the way of the shot as it echoes through the air, but with the full moon making itself known, he can’t stop his eyes from glowing their wild green. Chris was clearly aiming to miss but that was far too close for comfort. “That’s what I thought. You’re the strange thing we met in the woods.”

“The alpha is close,” Derek tells the group at large, “I can smell him. We don’t have time for this.”

“No,” Chris growls, and Derek poises to strike as the gun comes back up to Stiles’s head, “I’d rather know exactly what we’re dealing with.”

“I was bitten by the alpha and it didn’t go to plan.” Stiles lets the glow return to his eyes, shows Chris his short nails and non-canine teeth. “We’re making the rest up as we go along.”

Chris is about to open his mouth to say something when a crashing sound is heard behind them. It’s loud and it takes everyone by surprise, none more so than Stiles with his delicate ears, and he almost jumps out of his skin, and Derek takes his hand again.

The crashing sound was the noise of the alpha falling through the roof of the Hale house. He’s flung himself at the top of the building, taking a running leap so nobody could know how close he actually was, and sprung through the roof to land on the ground floor.

The hunter party runs in the direction of the house, the guns being cocked and bows loaded. Jackson and Scott have to restrain Allison from getting any closer, and Derek and Stiles shift.

Stiles turns to look at Scott. Scott, who has never seen this face of his. He knows he looks really fucking odd but being his entire self under the full moon is a kind of right that he can’t wrong. Scott nods back, weirded out but accepting. Jackson gawks and Allison’s eyes go wide in a kind of horror.

Stiles smirks as well he can with his teeth in the way, and he and Derek take off in the direction of the house.

Stiles sheds his jacket, because it’s way too hot in a suit, stopping only to fish his wooden contraption out of the inner pocket. It’s locked and loaded and ready to go, or so he hopes, and before he knows it he’s lost his shoes and socks, too, and this running freely feels so much better than anything every could.

The alpha is making short work of some of the slower hunters in the house and Stiles and Derek head inside. Saving assholes with questionable track records is not really their priority, but they’re here to stop the murders, and that means everyone. They can deal with Kate afterwards.

The alpha is raging in the living room, hefting aside furniture with swings of its massive paws. The hunters are doing their best to take the thing down, but bullets aren’t fazing it and there’s a limit to their wolfsbane supply. It’s loud and wild and bloody, as is to be expected when you take on a feral werewolf. Derek nods at Stiles and launches himself into the fray, and Chris yells out, “Aim around him!” and gives Stiles his best beseeching look.

Forgiveness can come later. Kate needs to pay for what she’s done.

She’s in the back of the room being shielded by a gaggle of her favourite gun-toting crazies and Stiles gets down on one knee to aim the better.

Chris turns and watches in shock and confusion. He’s wondering why Stiles has put himself in such a vulnerable position, leaving Derek to fight the alpha, and what the wooden thing Stiles is brandishing might be.

Sitting here on the floor is the hardest thing Stiles has ever done. Every one of his animal instincts is screaming at him to run, get the hell out, run far away and never, ever come back, and it’s like a magnet pull. Running away has always been Stiles’s best way of dealing with his problems, and this is definitely a problem, and it’s violently distracting.

Something else is telling him to throw himself into the fight and drag Derek out, pull him to safety and then sprint their asses to Cuba and Stiles wants to think it’s the human part but he’s got no clue at this point.

He listens to the rational part of his brain, the one telling him that he needs to focus if he wants to be able to aim right, and that if he can’t shoot properly Derek is going to get hurt.

The hunters clear a path for him so he’s got a straight shot and Derek grapples with the monster, but he’s holding back and the alpha is not. Derek obviously doesn’t want to hurt his uncle but Stiles doubts there is anything left of Peter Hale in that thing.

Derek manages to maneuver the thing around so Stiles has a better line up and he takes the shot.

The dart goes whistling at the alpha and misses as the beast whirls around to let it fly harmlessly by.

But now Stiles has caught the wolf’s attention. It rears up to stare at him, as if it’s only just recognizing him, only now realizing what Stiles is, and Stiles can sense a ripple of the meaning. It takes a great, lumbering step towards him and Stiles can feel it.

This is his alpha. This is his creator. His pack.

For a moment everything stands dead still. Stiles can feel the belonging, the pull of the pack, wants to run under the moonlight with his alpha, to fight for him and earn his protection. He wants to submit and help the alpha carry out his goals.

It’s a strange feeling, like Stiles has absolutely no control.

Derek slashes his claws down the alpha’s back and the beast throws him at the wall with one sweep of an arm. Derek crashes into the wall and slumps to the floor unmoving. The alpha advances on Stiles, when a thought comes to him unbidden, small but most definitely there.

I’m not a werewolf.

If he’s not a werewolf, then these pack feelings aren’t real, they’re the full moon or the alpha exerting his power in some way. But Derek lying in a heap and the smell of blood in the air, those are real, and Stiles’s feelings for Derek are definitely real.

He wants to run, throw the door open and go until he can’t run anymore, and he wants to stay, join the alpha’s pack and take down the hunters. The conflict is tearing him apart and it takes every ounce of everything Stiles has to stay still on the floor as the monster advances.

The alpha roars, to force him to submit, but Stiles has never really been the type to do as he’s told.

He pulls the trigger.

This time, the dart doesn’t miss. It hits squarely in the neck and the alpha grunts, clawing at himself, but it’s too late. He falls over and Stiles stays rooted to the spot.

Something feels off. Something feels entirely strange and it’s worrying him. There’s a kind of heat in his fingers but he doesn’t have time, he’s rushing over to Derek and feeling for a pulse. It’s there and he wakes Derek up as kindly as he can, holding him carefully.

What was a hulking mass is now just a man lying on the wooden floor. Stiles has never met Peter Hale but he looks very little like Derek. The hunters have guns pointed at his face and everyone looks up in surprise when Allison, Scott and Jackson come sprinting through the door. Stiles flexes his burning hand but there’s nothing there to see.

“That’s him?” Scott yelps. “It worked? The gun you made?”

Stiles looks down at his little wooden dart launcher where he’d dropped it beside Derek. “Yeah, it worked.”

Peter’s head whips over to Stiles to growl at him. His eyes are icy blue like Chris’s, but they’re not cold, they’re alive with bloodlust and vengeance. “Kate killed my entire family and you are my beta. You should be helping me.”

Stiles raises his chin in indignation. “I’m not like you.”

Before anyone can react, Peter is standing in the doorway, holding Allison by the throat. She screams, her bow clutters to the ground and the fear radiating off her is overwhelming. Chris yells something unintelligible and all the hunters drop their weapons. Scott starts as if he’s going to punch Peter but Jackson wisely drags him aside.

“Now, Stiles,” Peter says, voice low and silky, “You’re going to kill Kate for me.”

Derek groans and sits himself up. “Peter, you can’t. Stiles isn’t a wolf like us, he doesn’t have the killer instinct.”

“Then maybe this will give him the killer instinct.” Peter turns to Derek with wide eyes. “After everything they did to you – to me – and you want to spare them? Spare her?”

Derek shakes his head. “I want to spare Stiles.”

Peter’s lip curls. “I know you care about him, but be realistic, Derek. He can’t live the rest of his life as a – what was it? A squirrel? And you can’t live your life with Kate walking free. She’ll never leave you alone.”

“You keep dragging innocents into this, Peter. You’re no better than them.” Derek points at the Argents but doesn’t take his eyes off his uncle. “Let Allison go. She’s never done anything to you.”

“Oh, you’re on first-name terms?” Peter hisses. “No, she’s never done anything to me, just like those hunters never did anything to me except help burn our family, but the world isn’t fair, Derek. Do this for your mother. Do it for Laura.”

“How did Laura die?” Stiles interrupts, getting to his feet. Derek leans his weight on him, and Stiles puts an arm around his waist to hold him up.

“A horrible accident,” Peter shudders, “I don’t know when I turned feral, but it – it just happened…she was there, and then she wasn’t, and the next thing I knew I was an alpha.”

There’s a few seconds while Derek and Stiles listen to Peter’s heartbeat. “I heard an uptick.” Stiles says quietly.

 “I’m not lying!” Peter yells in outrage, “This young one doesn’t know how to control his senses, but it’s okay, I’ll teach him, we’ll teach him, won’t we, Derek? You and me, the Hale pack, and your friend Stiles, and nobody will stand in our way–”

“He has the best hearing I’ve ever seen,” Derek replies flatly, “If he says you’re lying, I believe him.”

Peter’s expression turns ugly and he grips Allison’s neck tighter. The heat pooling in Stiles’s extremities is spreading to his belly and it’s quite uncomfortable, painful even. He wonders vaguely if he was shot. “I am the only one you can trust, Derek! And you, Stiles! I – I created you!”

“You killed Laura,” Derek says simply. “You don’t know what trust is.”

Peter shakes his head. “I will rip out this Allison’s throat, Derek, if you don’t listen to me.”

“How would you turn something like me into a real werewolf?” Stiles says quickly. Derek turns to watch him worriedly. “Do you know how?”

Peter’s gaze flicks over to Stiles interestedly. “I think biting you again would be a good start.”

“Then do it,” Stiles says, and there’s no hesitation. Derek’s eyes go huge and he holds on tighter, but Stiles gently pries him loose, taking care to lean Derek up against the wall so he doesn’t collapse. He takes a few steps in Peter’s direction, hands up in front of himself pacifyingly. “Let Allison go and give me the bite.”

Peter’s eyes narrow. “I hope this isn’t some trick. As soon as I’ve bitten you, you’ll want to do what I tell you. You won’t accomplish anything this way.”

“If it lets Allison get away safely, it’s an accomplishment.” Stiles rolls up his shirt sleeve, holds out his wrist. “But nobody trusts you right now.”

After a few seconds of deliberation, Peter releases Allison. Scott and Jackson hurry her outside, but Stiles can hear them hiding behind a tree while Allison loads her bow. It’s nice that they think they can help but this is probably as subtle as they get.

Peter is about to make the last few steps towards him when Stiles just lets it explode.

The warmth, the boiling heat in his stomach, it started out as a tingle after he shot the alpha but is now a blazing inferno. It consumes Stiles, all at once, and he falls to the floor with a thud.

 He’s dimly aware of a blinding light, but he’s got no idea where it’s coming from. All he knows is that he has his head thrown back, and there’s a strange noise he can’t place and he feels kind of floaty.

“Stiles!” Derek makes a horrified noise and rushes to his side, shaking him, but Stiles can’t move. He’s not in the driving seat as far as his body is concerned. All he can do is wait for whatever is happening to take place.

The image of Derek is going blurry around the edges, replaced with a bright yellow light, and Stiles wonders if this is what death looks like.

It would explain the hotness, the hurting in his body. One of the hunters could easily have shot him, by accident or otherwise, with a poisoned bullet. Stiles’s resistance to wolfsbane is not something they know a lot about. As far as dying goes, having Derek’s face be the last thing he sees is kind of good. It’s kind of perfect.

Noah. Scott. He can’t leave them. Derek cradles him tighter, and in the strange light Stiles could swear that Derek’s eyes glow red, the last thing he sees before everything goes black. Derek’s arms holding him and Derek’s choked sobs and Derek’s body against his own and oh, fuck, nothing has ever hurt this much.

There’s a few things he regrets. He doesn’t want to leave Noah. Not so soon after his mother, and not ever. After Claudia died Noah once told him that as awful as losing one’s mother is, a parent should never have to bury their child, and even at ten years old Stiles understood that. He still understands that. This will destroy Noah, but Scott and Melissa will look after him. He’ll be okay. He will.

And Scott. His best friend. There aren’t any words for that one.

But he doesn’t regret kissing Derek. When all is said and done, and Stiles is on his way to an early grave, at least he got to kiss Derek just once. He wonders briefly if Derek would be less hurt when Stiles dies if Stiles had never admitted his feelings. If Derek would get over him more easily, and maybe he regrets that, regrets that he doesn’t know, that there are so many things about Derek he will never have the chance to know. But then, c’est la vie, and c’est la mort, as Lydia would probably say.

The pain Stiles had been containing, it’s gone, like a pressure he’s managed to expel, and he goes lax. It’s a strange kind of relief, like shifting for the first time on a full moon night, and he feels content. He’s far from happy over how things have gone down, but it is how it is. He can’t scream or cry or beg for more. He just has to take things as they come. He’s at peace.

 

 

 

 

No. This isn’t peace that he’s feeling, this is strength.

There’s a power thrilling in his limbs, not quite in the same way as earlier, but definitely there.

He didn’t realize he was hovering in mid-air until his feet touch the ground again and Peter is staring in disbelief. His arm is as smooth and unblemished as on the day he was born, the noise he’d been hearing was actually himself growling – because growling is a thing he can do now, apparently – and when the hunters stare at him he knows what’s happened.

Peter’s eyebrows furrow. “But I didn’t even touch you.”

“He did it himself.” Derek says, a note of pride in his voice. Stiles whirls around to face him, tear tracks down his face, throwing himself at Stiles for a relieved hug, but realizes he can’t smell feelings like he did before. He knows Derek is happy from his voice, his smile, the light in his eyes, but he can’t scent it so strongly anymore. It’s nice; for the first time in a long time, all the emotions he feels are his own, and only his own.

“That’s not possible.” Kate pipes up, shoving her wall of hunters aside and standing beside Chris. Stiles notices that they have all picked their guns back up.

“Your form reflects your personality. If there’s something incompatible with being a werewolf, it’s one in a million, but you can take a different shape.” Derek takes his hand like he’s never letting go again. “And if you resolve the issue, you take the wolf’s true form.”

“So what was his issue?” Kate rolls her eyes and shifts her weight.

“Running,” Stiles clears his throat. He’d been staring at Derek’s bare chest for too long and this is really not the time. “I dealt with all my problems by running away. When I stood and faced Peter…”

“You’d been holding it back,” Derek says, obviously in tune with what had been going on with Stiles despite his own being slightly out of it, “I could feel it. It started when you shot Peter.”

“I thought I was dying.” Stiles confesses.

“And you thought you’d take me with you?” Peter’s teeth lengthen, his eyes glow red and his claws extend. He roars at Stiles, long and loud, and Stiles can feel his own eyes burn in response, but he’s not feeling the pressure, the other’s will exerted over his own. He stands steady beside Derek, watching Peter try and fail to rally his pack.

Stiles tries to shrug. “Wouldn’t it be a waste of a death not to try?”

Peter’s expression twists. “I’ll show you death.”

Before anyone can so much as blink Peter has shoved half a dozen hunters to the ground and is holding Kate by the shoulders with her arms pinned.

“No!” Chris shouts, trying to aim at Peter but with no clear shot. Peter has for the second time grabbed himself a human shield, and the hunters are all loaded and awaiting an order. It’s a tense period.

But it’s a really short period. Peter doesn’t even hesitate. He looks Chris dead in the eye as he grabs Kate and shoves her head at the wall until there’s nothing left to break.

It’s gory and the smell is almost worse than the sight, but it’s only seconds until there’s the deafening sound of a gunshot and Peter’s body is lying on the floor beside Kate’s, effectively blocking the view of blood and brain matter. There’s a hole in Peter’s head, a little smoke coming out of it, and Chris is putting his gun away, looking as broken as Kate.

“Go,” Chris says, his voice broken, “We’ll tidy this up for the cops.”

Stiles, for once, does as he’s told.

 

 

 

 

 

“Are you serious?” Lydia shrills. “A werewolf?”

Stiles demonstrates his wolfy face for the third time that day.

They decided to relate the whole story to Lydia. She’s too smart for them to be able to keep it quiet for very long and it’s not really fair to her regardless. Everyone in the know expected her to wake up with fangs or not wake up at all, including the Argents.

But she did wake up, and after a short stint in the woods was revealed to be not a werewolf, despite having being full-on bitten by an alpha. It’s an unknown that they can’t really explain, but nobody can research like Lydia Martin. They’ll figure it out sooner or later.

He leaves Lydia with the others so he won’t be late for Derek. They meet up at Sergio’s pizzeria and Stiles has a chocolate milkshake.

“How did the viewing go?” Stiles asks around his straw.

“Good,” Derek replies as he drinks his (so boring) water. “It’s a nice place. I like it. I think I’m going to take it.”

Stiles could not care what the apartment looks like, as long as Derek is not residing in the wreckage of his old house or under a motorway bridge somewhere, he’s happy. The Hale mansion is now officially a crime scene, the site of the end of a string of strange deaths in Beacon Hills. The story is that an ex-coma patient tracked down the suspects of the Hale fire and brutally murdered them, taking care to make it appear like an animal attack, before killing the main perpetrator and shooting himself in the head afterwards. It’s one hell of a headline but Stiles is glad that the fire has now been officially marked down as not an accident. The town seems to be receiving Derek much better, and Derek himself looks less and less like a crack dealer as the days tick by.

They make some small talk for a while before Stiles brings something up that has been bothering him. “You know, just before I turned – the second time – your eyes went red.”

Derek raises an eyebrow. “Red? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, I saw it. And I did some Googling and I found out there’s this thing called a True Alpha…” Stiles pauses when he sees Derek’s face. “But you already knew that.”

“I knew there was a thing called a True Alpha,” Derek admits, “I just didn’t think it would ever be me.”

Stiles smiles and takes Derek’s hand. “I think it could be. One day. When the occasion presents itself.”

Derek smiles back and pulls Stiles in for a kiss.

“We need to talk about that,” Derek says very seriously when he lets go. He’s still holding Stiles’s hand and he seems happy enough, but Stiles can’t smell to be sure. It’s okay, though, because Derek would tell him if something were wrong. “About us.”

It’s kind of a dreaded sentence but Stiles isn’t worried. He cares about Derek and Derek cares about him. How complicated can it be? “What’s bugging you?”

“Us. Our relationship. I love it, whatever we are, I – I love you, Stiles.” It’s not really news. Derek has never said it before, but Stiles knows it. This doesn’t stop his heart from feeling like it just grew three sizes. “But I’m, uh…”

“I love you too, Derek, you can tell me.” Stiles gives his hand a reassuring squeeze, “I won’t be angry.” He’s in far too good a mood for that.

Derek nods, clears his throat, and looks Stiles in the eye. “The fully, uhm, the physical aspect of a relationship.”

“You mean sex.”

“Yes. Sex.” Derek blushes ever so slightly and it’s adorable, but he’s determined and he doesn’t break the eye contact. God, Stiles loves him.  “I want your dad’s blessing on us being together. And I want to wait until you’re older.”

Stiles isn’t angry but he is a little bit peeved. “My dad’s blessing or his permission? And how much older?”

“Stiles,” Derek protests, “You have to remember that I’m twenty-two. You’re sixteen. You’re – you’re a teenager.”

“It’s still my decision.”

“I know!” Derek hangs his head, scratches the back of his neck. “I don’t want to take that away from you. But I, I just – I was sixteen, and Kate was not that much older than I am now, and I can’t keep this a secret from your dad.”

Stiles melts immediately. He should’ve known. Of course Derek isn’t being a dick about it. “You know that you and Kate are nothing alike,” he says gently, “You’re not going to hurt me.”

“No,” Derek agrees, “I’m not like her and I want to keep it that way. And I wish someone had said no to her for me. So I’m going to give your dad that chance. I want to. Please.”

It’s not even a question. Derek’s consent is just as important as Stiles’s in this. “Of course.”

Derek deflates in relief. “And I was thinking seventeen.”

Stiles raises an eyebrow, but it’s still nowhere near as cool as when Derek does it. “Seventeen what?”

“To wait. Until you’re seventeen. Or eighteen. Possibly depending on your dad.”

“I turn seventeen in three months.” Stiles smirks. “I think you’re overestimating how much my dad will hate you.”

Derek snorts and just like that, the worry and concern is gone. “I think you’re underestimating how much I want to sleep with you.” He stops and his cheeks colour again. “I, uh, I didn’t mean to say it like that.”

Stiles laughs uproariously. “Communication is important in a relationship.”

Derek perks up. “That’s what we are? We’re a relationship?”

“Yes, boyfriend,” Stiles kisses him again, “But we’re never telling my dad how long you slept in my room, or he will actually shoot us both.”

 

 

 

 

“So how did it go?” Stiles slings his bag over his shoulder and walks Scott to his bike.

Scott shudders. “It was awful. I’m never doing it again.”

Stiles shakes his head. “You say that every night.”

Scott throws up his hands. “It wasn’t my idea to try Ally’s crazy hunter training! I just wanted to learn some Krav Maga, you know?”

Chris didn’t take to the idea of his daughter being close friends with a werewolf very well. He didn’t threaten to kill Stiles or anything, but the disapproval was very clear. Stiles thinks Chris is reassuring himself with the prospect that while Scott might be less deadly than most other people in this town, he’s probably the nicest, and he loves Allison more than anything – enough to try hunter training, anyway.

Allison has made quite clear that she is not shooting wolfsbane weapons at anything where Stiles or Derek might be concerned, and Stiles is totally onboard with this plan, now that he is a fully-fledged lupus maximus, or whatever.

He functions like a normal werewolf, at least according to Derek. He’s not as fast as he used to be, and his hearing is not as good, but he’s a whole lot stronger. He doesn’t have an annoying inner voice constantly telling him to blow this joint – he can finally listen to himself and what he thinks is right. It’s a new adjustment, but it’s a good one.

The Argents aren’t overly fond of the idea of having not one but two werewolves running about the town. Fortunately what Stiles did – how both he and Derek almost died trying to take Peter down – has redeemed them, not that they needed it, but Chris has been able to convince the hunters that not all werewolves are out for world domination. Some of them are unhappy, though, over Kate’s death, which is understandable, but they did get their retribution. Peter didn’t get a space in the Hale plot – Derek decided to have Laura’s body exhumed and interred with the family graves – and Peter has been cremated and his ashes buried beneath the house.

Chris seems to have gathered that Derek and Stiles are rather too busy with each other to think up long-winded, heinous plans for revenge, and he is of course right in that regard.

After a week or two of researching (she was not supposed to stress herself in the hospital but she gave no shits at all), Lydia has listed all the different supernatural creatures she could find which might be immune to the werewolf bite. She’s going through them all one by one, with help from Scott and Allison.

Jackson wanted the bite, everyone could tell, but Stiles patiently explained that Derek is still a beta and can’t give it. He left out the part about Derek being a True Alpha. When called on, Derek’s force of will or whatever will exert itself and he’ll change, but until then it’s just the two of them trundling along with their human (and Lydia) pack.

Scott lets out a cough and takes a hit of the inhaler. “How’re things with Derek?”

“Good,” Stiles nods, “They’re great. He’s great.”

Scott grins. “You guys talked to your dad?”

“Yeah.” Stiles shakes his head. “He isn’t Derek’s biggest fan. I think he’d rather I dated someone whose name was not all over his case files. But he really liked how Derek went to talk to him, and he says that I’m old enough for him to respect my decisions.”

“That’s really cool,” Scott sounds a little surprised, but it’s positively so. “Did you tell him you’re a werewolf?”

“God, no. I don’t wanna give him a heart attack.”

Scott bursts into laughter and slaps Stiles on the back. “Have a nice frolic in the woods.”

Stiles waggles his eyebrows. “Don’t worry, I will.”

“Frolic in the woods” has become their term for Stiles and Derek going running. There are changes Stiles has to adapt to, but he’s managing, and the aggression isn’t an issue either. Derek says he needs an anchor and Stiles has found one. Their runs usually end in making out against a tree somewhere and there’s some fun handsy stuff going on, but they haven’t gone any further than that. Derek said seventeen and they’re sticking to it, but Stiles complains of blue balls frequently and loudly when he knows it will make Derek shake his head and kiss him harder.

Kissing Derek is one of Stiles’s favourite pastimes.

He plans to spend his life doing it often.

He looks up at Derek, illuminated by the starlight and Stiles’s own night vision. Derek is content, smiling, happy like there’s nothing wrong in the world.

And Stiles? Stiles is happy too.