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Attach me to your world

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Attach me to your world

"Tug on a single thing in nature, and find it attached to the rest of the world" -- John Muir (somewhat mangled)

 

Chapter 1

 

"I don't wanna open a can of worms and, I don't want any Spagetti-Ooooooooos."

Stiles cranks up the volume and howls out the ending, grinning -- his howl rocks! He catches up with the last line of the chorus as he swings the Jeep into the driveway, "I'm making monsters for my frie-" but cuts off the last word, because huh, the house is dark.

He kills the volume and just sits there for a minute, still tapping out the rhythm on the steering wheel while a chill runs down the back of his neck. It's Wednesday. His Dad should be home by now.

Monday/Tuesday short change, Wednesday early shift, Thursday/Friday both late -- he runs through it in his head. That's the roster for this week, right? So, Wednesday -- Dad should be home.

Or, wait! Is it Thursday already? Fuck! He scrubs a hand over his mouth in irritation, because who forgets what day it is? Deaton's been driving him like the sadistic bastard he is, filling his head with drills and exercises until he doesn't know what day---

Right, that explains that. He checks his watch, and can't decide if he's glad to see that it really IS Wednesday, or even more freaked, because the house is still dark and his Dad is still not home.

The Jeep's lights reflect eerily off the dark windows of the house, and the way the engine ticks in the silence is just plain creepy.

"Okay, dude, calm the fuck down," he mutters out loud, because Deaton's always reminding him that words have power. Right now would be a good time for that to actually work. The calming down part, that is, because there's no need to freak out. Maybe his Dad's just working late.

Right, like something that mundane is ever the answer.

FuckFuckFuck! Supernatural shit he can deal with (well, mostly he's just gotten good at swinging a bat and running away really fast), but this? His Dad not being exactly where he's supposed to be? Not so much with the dealing.

The blank windows might as well be mocking him so he glares back, then squeezes his eyes shut tight, tight, tighter, until the house takes shape on the inside of his eyelids. And, yes, okay, maybe he is remembering that time when he was five and his mom made him shut his eyes and wish that the box holding his birthday present had a constructo set inside. But it worked then, right? So maybe it'll work now, and when he opens his eyes again the house will be all lit up and his Dad will be inside -- TV on, feet up on the coffee table, his toes poking out of those stupid old socks Stiles isn't allowed to throw away. There's nothing wrong with projecting things-of-the-good, is there?

He snaps his eyes open, and---

No dice, everything is still totally dark.

Okay. It's no big deal, he's got this. It's just a quiet house. His quiet house, there's nothing weird going on here. Except, duh! He ought to slap himself for even thinking that, because it's pretty much exactly what the hero always thinks right before a giant freaking Rancor tries to tear his head off!

He scrubs a hand over his head, then scrambles over and locks the passenger door -- confidence is one thing, precautions are another -- and fumbles his phone out of his pocket. When he dials, it feels weirdly as though he's watching someone else's shaking finger hit speed dial 1.

The phone rings at the other end but the tone sounds hollow, as though it's echoing around the walls of an empty room. Jesus! Maybe if he jams it tighter against his ear, he might be able to shut out the sound of his own shaky breathing and ignore the fact that his heart is banging so hard it might be about to rabbit right out of his chest and onto the dash any minute.

"C'mon, c'mon." He lets his forehead thunk down onto the steering wheel, holds on tight and tries to remember how to breathe.

The steering wheel is solid under his head, and against his palm, so this is real, he's right here. It's totally different to the nightmares. He moves his hand and watches it smooth down his thigh, feels the rough denim texture of his jeans and listens to the ring tone at his ear. He can do this. His Dad is fine; he's going to pick up any second. Deaton's been teaching him to focus, so he centers his attention on the ring, just that one thing, tries to imagine he can hear past it to whatever's happening on the other end of the line, form a picture...

The ringing stops with a sharp click and his eyes spring open, focus broken. It's disorienting to find that he's still sitting in the Jeep, so he squeezes his eyes shut again and listens intently, willing the right voice to answer.

"Hey, son. What's up?"

The breath whooshes out of his chest, relief making him giddy, so he sits up and lets his head fall back against the headrest because even with his eyes shut tight the Jeep seems to be spinning.

"Dad," he croaks out the single word past the lump in his throat. But that's the best he can do before his mind completely blanks out with the relief of just hearing his Dad's voice. He clears his throat, grips the steering wheel hard with his free hand, and tries again: "Nothing's up," he manages in what even he knows is a totally unconvincing voice. "Everything's cool. How about you?"

For a long two seconds there's nothing but his own pounding heart beat filling the silence, then he hears his father's voice change, can picture him leaning forward in his chair, concentrating, because who needs werewolf senses? His Dad is 100% human and he can still tell what's going on with Stiles over the freaking telephone. He doesn't even have to try.

"Stiles? What's wrong?"

God, he has to do better than this. He sits up straighter, sucks in a deep breath and reaches down deep to find something carefree to force into his voice.

"Hey, no, I'm good. Everything's fine. Cool as a cucumber, daddy-o!"

And, okay, maybe that is laying it on a bit thick. But he is cool. There's no reason to worry. His Dad is at work. He's 100% okay. Everything is FINE.

"Oh-kay," his Dad drawls. "So, you called just to say hi, then?"

"Oh. Yeah. Well, I thought you'd be home by now, but maybe I forgot your roster? Because you're there, right? Working? Must have mixed up the days, thought the late shift was Thursday, or something."

He's cringing as he finishes, because his Dad is SO going to know that's bullshit. He knows how much of a thing Stiles has about knowing where his Dad is, and has done since life taught him that parents aren't invincible. His Dad's roster is indelibly stamped on his brain. He never forgets.

"Stiles?"

"No, Dad. Seriously---" he cuts himself off, because this is stupid. He's stupid, and if he doesn't get himself under control right now, his Dad's going to charge over to check things out for himself, and that's the whole point of everything, right? To make sure his Dad doesn't worry more than he needs to, and lives to an old, old age?

"Everything's fine. I just--- I've been with Scott," he crosses his fingers through the lie because he's still not quite ready to tell anyone exactly how much time he's spending working with Deaton, "and I just got home and the house is dark. And I'm still in the Jeep so I didn't get in yet to check the schedule on the fridge. But you're okay, right? You're just working?"

"You didn't check your messages, did you?" his Dad says, and he sounds a lot calmer, a little resigned and maybe just a bit fond.

"Ahhh, no?"

That much at least is true. Scott's ongoing, sickly-cute picspam of the clinic's latest litter of puppies is freaking-un-bearable, so he doesn't even check when a message comes in any more.

"I'm okay, son. Andie's daughter broke her arm, so I'm working a double. County can't get a reliever here until tomorrow afternoon at the earliest so I'll need to pick up the early shift, too. Melissa said you can go over there if you want." And okay, he's pretty sure he said he was 'with' Scott, not 'at' Scott's so it won't matter that he didn't know that.

"Right. No. Must have missed the message. But it's totally cool, Dad. I'm heading inside now to make some dinner. Honestly, I'll be hitting the sack early, too. It's been a day." He lets his head thunk down against the steering wheel again because -- lame, totally lame.

But his Dad must be feeling generous because he just says: "Okay," and, "everything's quiet, here," and then "you'll call me if you need anything, right?"

And for a minute it doesn't matter that he's still sitting in his car, slumped over the steering wheel, phone pressed tight against his ear, because his Dad's voice is apparently some sort of Stiles-nip and his heart-rate finally slows to something resembling normal.

"Sure, Dad, but everything's fine. Say hi to Andie for me," he manages.

Hopefully no-one's counting how many times he's said 'fine' in the space of the last five minutes, and it has to count for something that he finally remembers Andie is the new Deputy he met when he took in lunch on Monday.

"Will do. You get your homework done and make sure you're asleep when I get home."

"Dad, c'mon! It's summer break. No homework!" he protests, just to make them both feel better, and okay, that works -- there's an audible chuckle as the call disconnects.

Right, well, that was maybe a little bit embarrassing. He sits up again and checks his phone at the same time as he undoes his seatbelt, and yep, there it is, 4.46 pm, message from Dad. Also, two missed calls from Melissa, and at least a dozen texts from Scott. Which, to be fair, is only half the volume he was getting a week ago, so maybe his 'dude, get a life' lecture had some effect, after all.

He rolls his eyes and is half way out of the car before he realizes there's someone standing in the shadow of the fence, about three steps away from the Jeep.

"Holy--- !" He manages to keep hold of the phone as his heart rate spikes, but his keys hit the ground with a clunk. The sound that claws up out of his throat chokes off into a strangled shriek as he recognizes the looming shape as Derek.

"Dude! Are you trying to kill me?" he gasps. "Did you literally spring up out of the cement?"

"Hi Stiles, nice to see you, too," Derek deadpans, and even in the semi-dark Stiles can see the sardonic lift of one eyebrow.

Rii-ght. Nice to see nothing's changed, Derek's still the shithead he's always been. And the fact that it's been three long weeks since there's been anything at all of Derek to be seen? Well, he's not bitter about that at all. Okay, maybe he is. Just a bit. And he has cause, because random phone check-ins here and there don't count for squat.

"You're right, that was totally out of line as a greeting." He deliberately settles his face into a fake smile, laces his voice with sarcasm. "Derek. Welcome home. It's nice to see you."

He doesn't wait for a response, just turns and picks up his keys, drags his backpack out of the passenger seat, then heads for the house, trying not to listen for the sound of Derek following.

And that would be Derek-freaking-Hale, who upped and left with hardly a word and is apparently now back; also, without a word. Derek, who's right behind him as he opens the door, who follows him inside and looms silently while he flicks on the lights to the front room, the front porch, and then to the side, hall and upstairs landing (yes, fine, maybe he is overcompensating just a bit).

Derek, who looks at him intently and asks in a soft voice filled with concern: "Is everything okay?" Because of course he can hear Stiles' heart race, and would have heard at least one side of the conversation in the car.

Stiles drops his bag to the floor, blinks slowly and forces the remaining tension out of his body on a long exhale.

"Yes," he says, trying for casual, because the last three weeks have sucked, and he's missed Derek something fierce, and he'll be damned if he'll admit that. "Yes, everything is okay. Everything is just dandy."

"Stiles." This time Derek does, actually, roll his eyes.

"Okay, okay," he concedes, because Derek is a persistent asshole and a half-truth is better than a straight up lie, right? "Bit of a rough day, didn't know where Dad was for a minute there, got scared out of my wits in my own driveway just now. You know--" he spreads his arms wide, "--business as usual, really."

"I wasn't trying to scare you," Derek glowers, crossing his arms defensively over his chest.

Right, because there's nothing at all weird about showing up out of the blue and spooking a person when they're totally unprepared.

"No, I know. It's just that the creeper thing comes so naturally to you, right?"

"Stiles---" Derek huffs out, and he sounds annoyed, like he's the only one who's had shit to deal with lately.

"No, you know what?" he interrupts, because he's had enough. He's tired, he has a headache, and this whole thing of people thinking they can force understanding into his head just by saying his name 47 different ways -- he's over it.

"You can't go just, just -- appearing like that!" He's pacing now because if he doesn't move he's going to explode. "Because it makes people nervous. It makes me nervous, to say nothing of what it's going to do to my Dad. See, there's this thing you need to know about law enforcement. Those guys don't let things go! Which means my Dad, who I was just speaking to, by the way --" he holds up his phone to illustrate because visual cues are good, "-- is going to be watching you like a hawk, especially now that he knows about the werewolfitude." He wiggles his fingers to reinforce the fang-ness that's inevitable. "And there's no way you want to ramp that up to actual surveillance. Trust me, plenty of personal experience to go by, here."

He winds up on the other side of the kitchen from Derek, which he's glad about, because he wasn't kidding about Derek making him nervous. Just like he always has. And not in the danger-fierce-werewolf-might-eat-you kind of way. No, that would be nervous in the incredibly-attracted-to-his-werewolf-ass kind of way.

Which is something he is never going to put into words despite his suspicion that the owner of said very fine werewolf ass knows exactly where he stands.

"So. Any-waaay. You left and now you're back. Go you," he finishes, two thumbs up.

Derek frowns -- maybe he's forgotten that this is how Stiles communicates -- and then his brow smoothes out and he says, "You're angry." As though he's proud of his sudden intuition.

Which, oh my god, YES! He's freaking angry. Fuck! Why is he angry?

"No, I'm not," he denies, feeling self-conscious. "I'm just tired."

It's true, but Derek is looking at him as though he's a foreign species, and come on -- what is it about 'tired' that's so hard to understand?

"I had to take care of Cora," Derek explains, as though it pains him to be so obvious.

"I know."

He does know. That that's why Derek left. And maybe he's just angry because five minutes ago he was mentally preparing for who-knows-what and he's still amped. It's like a sugar high, only without the pleasure of the syrup-soaked pancakes getting him there.

Or maybe it's something else.

"I told you what I was doing," Derek repeats, frowning. "I stood right here, in this kitchen, and told you."

That's probably true, but Stiles' memory of it happening is blurry, and the fact that Derek is obviously judging him for it is really irritating.

"I had a concussion," he snaps, without thinking. "You told me Cora wanted to go to the pack in Sonora. You didn't say she was waiting in the car and you were leaving right that second!"

"I thought it was implied," Derek shrugs.

"Implied? Derek -- I spent most of the next two days at the hospital with Dad and Melissa because, hey! It turns out that magically healing wounds don't stay healed when the supernatural power that healed them ceases to be! I didn't even know you'd gone until you phoned from Sacramento!"

"I didn't want---" Derek trails off and looks away. "I'm sorry," he says, eventually, looking genuinely confused to have caused Stiles to worry. Or maybe it's because he apologized. Either way, he's ridiculous.

"I know," Stiles says, deflating, because now that Derek's here he remembers that this is just the way he is. Trying to get it through Derek's thick head that other people care about him has always been a lost cause. "I get that you needed to be there for Cora. I just--- Never mind, it doesn't matter."

It does matter, though. It matters a whole hell of a lot. But just now he doesn't have the energy to argue about it. Unfortunately, Derek's one-track mind isn't so easily diverted.

"Look, what did you want me to do?" he persist. "What if it was your Dad at risk? Wouldn't you do everything you could to keep him away from danger?"

"My Dad is at risk, Derek. Right now! And so am I. But we started this, all of us. Whatever 'this' is. We can't just abandon everyone who lives in this town. We're not going anywhere."

"Neither am I." Derek folds his arms over his chest again, and he has the hide to look insulted. God, he can be such a shit sometimes!

"Oh, right. That's just great. Shift your sister to god-only-knows where and then come back to babysit the rest of us. Thank you for that incredible condescension, your royal wolfness!" Stiles yells.

He's not sure what kind of response he's expecting, but it's not for Derek to just blink slowly and not say a word. He just stands there with his stupid stubble and his stupider rumpled clothes and lets Stiles shout at him. To make things worse, his face has finally softened into understanding, as though there's actually something about this ridiculous situation that makes sense to him. The silence draws out until it's obvious that Derek's not going to say anything more, until Stiles is done.

Fuck! He presses the heels of his hands into his eyes and grabs hold of his hair, tugging it hard. He can't decide if he's more irritated at Derek or himself, because he's shouting at a man -- wolf, whatever -- who hasn't even been here for three weeks, about -- he doesn't even know what. That has to be some kind of record for mouthing off, even for him. He thinks about it for a minute, then looks at Derek again. Really looks at him.

Scott said once, that since he was turned he doesn't really get tired. As long as he eats enough to keep his new super-metabolism running, he can keep going long enough to make even Batman jealous. Which, by the way, is a complete and total lie. Scott might not fall asleep as fast or inconveniently as Stiles can, but he's no Batman. Anyway. Now that he's paying attention, he can see that Derek actually looks drained, bone-weary; with the sort of tiredness that comes from too much worry, and long hours of driving and exceedingly crappy coffee.

It's not Derek's fault that Stiles has missed him every stupid minute of every stupid day. That he's organized his entire life around the possibility that Derek might call. He doesn't blame Derek for wanting to protect his family first. For leaving the rest of them to fend for themselves when they (Stiles) had wanted nothing more than to hold everyone he cares about close.

Except for how he really, really has been blaming him.

He feels like a dick.

Derek opens his mouth to speak again but Stiles holds up a hand. "No," he says, and turns away. "Give me a minute."

One thing he does know is that this is the third day in a row that Deaton's had him channeling energy, and he can still feel the residual power running under his skin like a million tiny ants. Maybe that's why he's so anxious and jittery? Whatever, it doesn't really matter, because Derek is here, standing in his kitchen, and considering he has almost no memory of the last time that happened, he'd kind of like to enjoy it while it lasts.

He turns to the fridge and sticks his head inside, hoping that will at least cool down his flaming face. God, he's such an idiot. He rummages around aimlessly until his hand lands on the juice, so he grabs it and straightens up as though that was his plan all along.

He didn't factor in Derek Hale, though, and he really should know to do that by now.

"I'm sorry I had to leave," Derek says gently from right behind his left shoulder, and of course he knows exactly why Stiles is so tied up in knots.

He squawks and loses his grip on the juice, and is eternally grateful that the cap is on tight when it hits the ground and bounces.

"Dude! Come on!"

Derek just shrugs, and holy shit, is that a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth? Bastard totally did that on purpose.

"Oh, I see how this goes," Stiles says, holding back a relieved smile of his own. He picks up the carton and grabs two glasses. "You leave, hardly telling anyone where you're going, and then three weeks later, bam! You show up out of the blue like a freaking apparition. So now this is the bit where you toy with the weak, squishy human, right? Well, before you go too far down that path, you should know I haven't exactly been slacking off the last three weeks."

Derek moves with him to the counter then takes the carton from him and fills the glasses; pushes one over.

"I know," he says.

Which, huh. "You do?"

"You mentioned it when I phoned. Deaton told me the rest."

"He did?"

Derek just raises one eyebrow, and that's--- Okay, he deliberately hadn't said much to Derek about his training when they talked. Mostly because they weren't on the phone for long, but also because he really, really wants what he's learning to work and he has this weird superstition that talking about it will jinx it. But Derek and Deaton have been talking? About him?

"Did he tell you about Scott and Allison, too?" he blurts out, because since when do Derek and Deaton talk about him? Deaton's been drilling the three of them separately, and he, Scott and Allison have an agreement to at try and be cool about the whole darkness-around-your-soul-thing by not discussing it with each other.

"He did. He told me you've been working especially hard, that you haven't missed a single session."

"Yeah. He's--- Well, it's summer break and I kind of like learning what he's teaching me, so---"

He shrugs and looks away because otherwise he might say that, sometimes, he feels like working with Deaton is the only thing keeping him sane, and that would just sound overdramatic. Sure, things have been weird since the Nemeton but, really, it could be worse. They're all okay, they survived, his Dad knows everything now, so, hey, no more secrets.

But Deaton wasn't kidding about the darkness. He tries not to think about it when he doesn't have to because he's dealing okay and, like everyone knows, if you actually look at the monster in the mirror, chances are pretty good it will eat you whole.

Anyway, the stuff Deaton's teaching him is cool, and he's just starting to get the hang of it. It feels as though if he can make a leap of some kind, a whole new world might open up. Deaton says it doesn't work like that, that progress is best when it's incremental -- each new skill building on the last until his abilities are layered -- that there's no such thing as a shortcut with whatever it is he's doing. But it doesn't feel like that. These last few days something's been building, the successes coming more easily, the blockages fewer, it feels like there's something important inside him opening up, something that's almost within his grasp.

"What's wrong with your neck?" Derek suddenly asks, frowning.

He blinks, confused, then he realizes he's been pressing his fingers into the muscle at the base of his skull. His head has been aching pretty constantly lately and working with Deaton always makes it worse; it makes his neck and shoulders tight. Scott's mom says it's because he didn't really rest after his concussion.

"Nothing," he waves off the concern. "It's just this stupid headache. I've probably been pushing too hard."

He knows he has. Deaton's always telling him to slow down, consolidate, but going slow is a waste of time. He's never done 'slow' in his entire life.

Derek comes closer, still frowning. "You want me to--- ," he holds up a hand and wiggles his fingers, and Stiles realizes he means draw the pain out.

"No!" he says, too quickly, because he feels wired, and the last thing he needs is skin-to-skin contact with Derek see-into-your-every-thought-and-feeling Hale.

But Derek frowns, and cocks his head sideways as though he's reading him anyway, so he hurriedly adds: "I mean, it's fine. Besides, you probably shouldn't be doing that, right? Last time didn't exactly go to plan."

Derek had looked awful when they'd all regrouped after the Nemeton. Cora? She'd been fresh as a daisy, after Derek had given up his power to save her, but Derek had been totally wrecked. In the two days between when he disappeared and when he phoned, Stiles had actually worried that he'd crawled off somewhere, like a wounded animal, to die.

He takes a step back but Derek follows.

"Healing Cora went exactly to plan, I knew what would happen," he dismisses.

Okay, so that's new information. Not that they'd exactly had time to discuss anything back then.

"You did?"

"I did," Derek confirms. "Peter explained it. He warned me what might happen."

"Peter?" He can't hold back the bitter laugh, because, well that explains a whole hell of a lot. "Peter's the last person in the world you should trust, he's a bigger creeper than you."

Derek rolls his eyes again but he's frowning, too. "Peter is---" he trails off, then shrugs. "I don't know why you worry so much about Peter. He isn't a threat to you."

"Dude, are you serious? Peter's a threat to everyone! I mean, we're talking about the guy who bit Scott and Lydia without their consent, who essentially murdered your sister, and who offered to bite me. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that he was, for a while there, totally and completely dead!"

"What?"

"Dead, Derek! You remember that time you ripped out your uncle's throat?" Seriously, is he kidding?

"No, not that." Derek shakes his head. "When he was Alpha, Peter -- he offered you the bite?"

"Ah. Yes?"

Duh, how does Derek not know that? Doesn't anybody talk to anyone around here?

Derek scowls, then turns and paces away.

"Look, it's okay. It was months ago," Stiles says, because it was, and he's gotten almost as good as Lydia at avoiding Peter, now, so it's just a thing that happened.

"No, it's not okay!" Derek growls, and it's the most animated he's been since he appeared, specter-like, in the driveway.

Stiles steps into Derek's path, makes Derek look at him.

"Derek. You know it didn't happen. I told him no."

Derek stares at him intently, and fuck, he looks scared. Stiles reaches out carefully and presses his hand against Derek's chest. When he pushes his palm flat he feels a shudder ripple under Derek's skin. Under the soft cotton of his t-shirt, he feels impossibly warm.

"Dude, c'mon, I'm fine," he says, lifting his hand away in surprise, rubbing his fingers against his palm.

Derek just stares at him and Stiles takes a step back, because what's going on here?

"But what if he'd done it, and something had gone wrong?" Derek must be thinking about Jackson.

"Nothing went wrong, man, because there was no biting. I'm still me," he spreads his arms wide, displaying the obvious, "there's nothing more than pale fragile human-type Stilinski here."

For a minute Derek just stares back at him, but the air feels charged. To say nothing of the fact that his head is still pounding and he's starting to feel nauseous. He sucks in a tight breath and digs his fingers into the knotted muscle again, trying to relieve the tension.

Derek's eyes narrow as he watches, and then his mouth tightens.

"Your head is hurting," he says, and the tone is typical Derek I-can-fix-it determined.

Stiles backs away because somehow it feels like letting Derek touch him is a bad idea. But for every step back he takes, Derek takes one forward until he's backed up against the counter. He's only a breath away when they both stop.

"Stiles, it's no big deal. Let me help you," Derek says, keeping his voice low, and he looks so intense, so sincere, so blessedly here, that Stiles can't even remember why he's saying no. Besides, his head is aching like a bitch and any relief will be welcome.

"Okay," he nods, and then shuts his eyes when Derek closes the space between them because Derek still makes him nervous. For all of the same reasons he always has.

"Just breathe," Derek murmurs and wraps a hand around the back of his neck.

The pain releases suddenly, and it feels weird. He sucks in a breath, his heart skipping, but he doesn't resist when Derek eases his head forward until it's resting against the solid mass of his shoulder. Stiles can feel the pain flow from the spot at the front of his head where it's been pounding, down the back of his neck to where Derek's hand is pressing, and then it just -- disappears.

But the pain flowing away isn't all that happens, it feels as though his awareness is growing, rising towards Derek's power, as well. He's suddenly more conscious of his heart, the way it beats solidly in time with the throb in his head; but instead of diminishing as the pain disappears its rhythm deepens, the pulse seeming to pervade every inch of his body, every single cell vibrating to that same persistent beat. Even more amazing, behind it, like an echo, he can feel another pulse; deeper, slower. Steady. He reaches out for it, instinctively trying to slow his own body to match its steadying rhythm, and between one breath and the next, something shifts and the pain --- evaporates.

"Derek," he manages to gasp because he can feel the spark inside him that Deaton's been helping him coax into life reach out towards that other beat like a plant reaching for the sun, and suddenly he's standing on the edge of a precipice, feeling shaky and unstable.

Derek doesn't say anything but his hand tightens and he draws Stiles in closer until he's cradled against the solid bulk of his chest with Derek wrapped around him. It's like basking in a warm summer's day and drowning at the same time; he feels grounded, adrift, his senses being pulled open to an impossible degree...

"Derek!" he gasps, more frantic because he doesn't know what this is and he has no idea whether to step off the cliff or back away. Then, suddenly, distressingly, the warmth wrapped around him is gone.

"I'm sorry," Derek says, stumbling back a step, and the loss of contact is like being doused in a bucket of cold water.

Stiles' skin breaks out in a cold sweat and he grabs desperately at Derek's hand as it trails away, and then clutches it against his chest with both hands. The full body pulse is fading, his energy redistributing itself back into its normal places, except for that one spot where they're touching; there, he can feel his own heart, and Derek's, together, beating in time. But Derek's about to step away and that feels like the worst idea in the history of ideas. His chest suddenly won't expand enough for him to breathe.

"No, no!" He can't let Derek go, couldn't bear it if that thin thread between them were to snap. "C'mere. Just--- " He makes his decision, tugs hard, reels Derek back in, and thankfully Derek doesn't resist.

"---let me. Just for a minute, okay?" he mumbles into Derek's collar, overcome with relief when Derek complies and holds him again.

His hands automatically slide under Derek's shirt and up his back and he feels the muscles shift and bunch under his palms as the warmth returns, then deepens and spreads. Derek's tense, he realizes, but he can't care, because his own body is swimming in feelings of good and right and perfect and, good god, he feels fan-fucking-tastic.

"Stiles." Derek breathes into the side of his neck, and he pulls back an inch, looks up and watches Derek's eyes flicker from their normal hazel to bright blue and back, the emotions playing across his face so clearly that Stiles can see each one -- fear, confusion, want, need. When Derek's eyes drop to his mouth, Stiles reaches up and closes the distance between them -- because he can't not -- then they're kissing, and it's raw and needy and so perfect he can't believe it. He's panting when they pull apart, his heart beating a wild tattoo in his chest.

"Oh my god," he whispers between short, shallow breaths. He lets his head fall down onto Derek's shoulder. "What the hell is this?"

"I don't know," Derek murmurs. "It's never felt like this before." He's breathing hard, too, the fingers of one hand trailing patterns across Stiles' lower back.

"Like what?" Stiles shivers, goose-bumps popping up all the way down his arms.

"Like -- something from you, joining with my power."

"Yeah," Stiles says, reverently, because that's exactly what it feels like. Derek's power ripples over his skin everywhere they're touching, tiny sparks of energy that join together to pool deep in the pit of his stomach.

"Have you ever done anything like this before?" Derek murmurs, stroking the back of his neck now. "Is it something Deaton taught you?"

"No," he shakes his head, because he would definitely remember if this had happened before. "I've never been able to do anything like this, except... holy shit, maybe that's what happened with Cora," he lifts his head, suddenly remembering.

"Cora?" Derek asks, "What does this have to do with Cora?"

"I didn't say anything before because it didn't exactly come up. But Cora -- she, ah, she stopped breathing when you left her in the ambulance with me."

"What?"

"Yeah, for a minute or two. I did mouth-to-mouth." He winces a little at the baldness of the statement because he knows how protective Derek is of his sister.

"You--- She stopped breathing?"

"Yeah, dude. Totally. But she still had a pulse, and so I breathed for her and, I don't know, maybe I did. Maybe I pushed, just a bit."

Derek stares at him intently, then nods. "We definitely need to talk to Deaton."

"No shit, Sherlock."

He feels steadier now, so he pulls away even further, feels the warm pulse diminish, but it doesn't disappear the way it threatened to earlier. It just settles into a gentle, steady glow.

"Okay?" Derek checks, and Stiles wonders just how much, exactly, Derek's able to feel of what's going on with him.

"Yeah," he nods, and he's relieved, because it is okay. They're standing a step apart now, and he doesn't feel the same sense of panic he did before. "I'm working with Deaton again tomorrow, I could ask him about--- " he gestures between them, because what the hell is he supposed to call this? "You could come, too?" he adds, making it a question because, well, it's Derek, and he has no idea what's going on in his head.

"All right," Derek agrees.

Stiles grins at him, unaccountably relieved that he's apparently planning to hang around. Well for tomorrow at least. Maybe he should find out what Derek's plans actually are.

"So. Does that mean you're staying?" he asks, trying to be casual. "Will Cora be okay?"

Derek doesn't give much away, he never has, but he drops his eyes and shifts his weight, and suddenly Stiles just knows that he's more embarrassed than worried, and he's really only seen one person who can manage that.

He tries not to grin too much, but it's a losing battle. "Aww," he drawls. "Did Cora make you leave, big guy? Were you cramping her style?"

"Shut up!" Derek snaps, scowling, and Stiles can't help it, he laughs out loud because being amused is so much better than anything else.

"Oh, man, you are SO under Cora's thumb. It's the cutest thing I've ever seen." He pulls up a stool, tugs on Derek's arm and deposits him on it, then sits on the other one. "C'mon, stop glaring and spit it out. Tell me everything."

 

~*~*~*~

 

Derek leaves an hour later, even though it's fucking hard to let him go. He can still feel that deep connection that has obviously come from Derek, but what if whatever it is that happened when they connected un-happens when they're further apart?

Just the thought of it makes Stiles want to puke, because he'll take scared and overwhelmed and 'no idea what the fuck is going on', if it means he can have keep this freaking unreal sense of openness, of being joined to everything. The thought of any of it disappearing has his stomach tying itself in knots. On the other hand, if he's not going to be joined to Derek Hale at the freaking hip, then he's going to have to let him go sometime.

So, he stands in the kitchen and closes his eyes and mentally holds on tight while Derek walks out to the porch. And when that's okay he makes him phone on his cell before he goes as far as the end of the street -- "don't hang up, dude, just talk to me" -- until eventually he feels brave enough to let him hang up and go all the way home. It's possible he holds his breath until Derek calls again from the loft, waiting for the minute that he crosses some invisible line and everything disappears, but it's okay, there's no unbearable wrenching-away of his newfound awareness. He can still feel the same warm sense of openness and connection that he did when Derek was standing right next to him.

Still, Derek is gone, and he doesn't know what to do with the left over hyper-adrenaline. So he spends the next hour returning Scott's texts in completely random order and then scrambling the replies as well. Scott's confused dude wtf r u doing? cracks him up, and they keep the back and forth going while he heats up leftover lasagne for dinner. He's trying to find the words to explain how bizarre his day has been, when Scott sends dinner, talk later, and he lets it go. There's no point making a fuss about something that might not even last, anyway. Right?

By the time he's cleaned up downstairs and put on the load of washing he'd forgotten, the buzzing high has faded, leaving behind an all-encompassing exhaustion that makes him want to sleep for a month.

The small glow of connection is still there, though, and by the time he slides into bed, just a tiny part of him dares to hope that he might get to keep this, after all.