It was a Thursday. That was all that Stiles knew at first, that it was Thursday; he was hungry; and he was... happy. Really happy. Happy in a way that had the forest singing to him, urging him to go and play and frolic and let his fox have some fun for once because if there was one thing that had changed since Scott got bitten, it’s how much Stiles trusted the forest to protect him in his fur. He just couldn’t risk shifting with Derek and the betas out and about at all hours.
Stiles rubbed his cheek against his pillow, more in touch with his canine side whilst he was still in the hazy state between sleep and wakefulness. It had been so long... His mom would laugh at him for being afraid of a few werewolves.
A knock came at Stiles’ door.
“Yuhhhh?” He grunted, granting his dad access to his room.
“Come on, kid. It’s already seven-thirty,” the Sheriff said as he entered, striding over to the bed and peeling the blankets away and off Stiles’ head. “Oh, uh, okay that’s not happened in a while,” he muttered. Stiles felt a pull against the top of his head and batted his dad’s hands away.
“Bit longer,” he groaned into his pillow, “Ten minutes.”
“Stiles, kiddo,” the Sheriff nudged his shoulder, shaking him to rouse him, “Your ears are out. You might wanna get that in check before school.”
Stiles sat up slowly and reached up, scrunching his forehead when he felt not his round, human ears, but his huge, pointed, furry fox ears. It wasn’t a new development. Stiles had had trouble controlling his fox when he was younger, mostly when he was sad or angry at the world and needed somewhere to retreat to – somewhere where he wouldn’t have to talk about his feeling and he was free to grieve; somewhere where emotions were simpler and he didn’t feel guilt or insecurity because he ran on instinct and those emotions were far too complicated.
Needless to say, he spent a lot of time curled up in his fox form after his mom died, sometimes hidden under her dressing gown, wallowing in the sadness that came with a lost family member.
But it didn’t happen so often anymore, hadn’t happened in about four years, actually, and it had been even longer since his dad saw him like this, all pointy-eared and sharp faced. He looked over to his mirror and sure enough, his face had changed sometime during the night, his nose thinning, eyes shimmering a more pronounced amber than usual and slanting upwards at the corners.
However, his ears were definitely the most obviously change. They morphed from his human ears into enormous, triangular satellite dishes protruding several inches out the top of his head. Excellent for improved hearing, not so great when you’re expected in school in a quarter of an hour. Speaking of...
“Damn!” Stiles said, bolting upright and jumping out of his bed to search for clean clothes amongst the sea of dirty laundry on his floor.
“Stiles, Stiles, Stiles,” the Sheriff said, catching his wrist as he reached for his cell phone on the dresser. “Are you feeling okay? It’s just last time this happened...” He trailed off, unwilling to say the actual words.
“Yeah, actually... I’m kinda... Good,” Stiles replied as he lifted one hand to scratch at an itch behind his ear. Phantom Fleas, his mother used to call them.
“Yeah, I’m happy, I just feel like I need to run, maybe go for a hike or something.”
“Okay, hold on mister,” his Dad sighed, stepping between Stiles and his bedroom door. “First, you’re still furry up top and no matter what you say, I don’t think you’ll be able to get it under control today. When was the last time you actually shifted? Your... Your mom used to get antsy if she didn’t shift for a while. I can’t believe I’m saying this but you should take the day off school. I’ll call in sick for you. Go for a run, prance about with the wildlife, be one with nature or whatever. Do your foxy thing today and go back tomorrow.”
“No, dad, I can’t I’ve got this Spanish test today with Miss Wilcox...” Stiles protested weakly, playing with the hem of the Henley he’d found scrunched near his drawers.
“I don’t think she’ll mind. Not if the alternative is you growing fur in her lesson,” the Sheriff huffed a laugh and scrubbed his fingers down his face. “I mean it. You need a day off and the weather’s good today. I’ll ring school.”
After he left the room, Stiles sat back down on his bed and stripped his shirt. What his dad had said was true. There was no way he wasn’t going to be able to stave off the transformation now, especially when it was the first nice day they’d had in what seemed like months. He wanted to roll in the grass and come back to the den smelling of spring flowers and earth. The fox in him yearned to be set free.
And what could he do but comply?
It had been way too long. Way, way too long since he properly ran, dashing madly through the trees of the preserve and letting instinct take over: following scent trails until they ran out or led down a burrow; snapping playfully at butterflies when they flew too close; chasing his own tail when it startled him (he then pretended it was totally on purpose, obviously).
He couldn’t remember the last time he had gone as far as the stream, even in his human form. It was really his mom’s special place and they only went as a treat or on an occasional day trip when the weather was particularly nice. That was why he had chosen it as his destination today. A part of him wanted to be closer to his mother today. Not in the sense that he would visit her headstone or look through her belongings just to refresh the scent in his memory but in the sense that he wanted to remember the happy times with her and be in a place they had shared, just the two of them.
When he arrived at the stream an hour or so later, he bathed his plush fur in the cool water and took a quick drink before dragging himself out and onto a flat rock on the bank. Stiles let himself collapse onto the sun warmed stone, his legs lolling above him when he rolled onto his back. The sun felt so good on his fur. It warmed him right to his core and settled something within him that had been cooped up for years too long.
Soon enough, the glorious heat of the sun and the soft sounds of the stream lulled him off to sleep, sprawled across a rock in the middle of the forest, but feeling safe. These were his woods. He would be protected here.
Which was all well and good in theory, but when he woke up not much later to the snarling of a huge beast prowling in the dark shadows, he couldn’t help but feel like he deserved it. He rolled over onto his front, crouching low on nimble paws and staring at the monster until his prey drive finally kicked in and he bolted off into the woods.
Low hanging branches whipped past his muzzle as he raced back towards his den, towards somewhere safe from the monster chasing him, towards home where his dad could protect him. The tiny human side of Stiles’ brain knew that it was futile, that he would never outrun the hulking thing that was already gaining on him after just a few hundred metres, but flight instinct won out and his heart hammered as he darted through the undergrowth.
Stiles barked in surprise when a huge, clawed paw swiped at his side, sending him flying off course. He barely had time to glance back at his right shoulder where four long slashes were bleeding slowly onto the forest floor before he was pinned flat on his back, dirt rubbing into the wound, with the creature looming above him.
Except it wasn’t so much a creature anymore but a livid-looking, angel-stubbled, extremely naked Derek Hale crouching over him and pinning him with one hand on his ribs and the other around his neck.
“Who are you?” Derek demanded, baring his teeth in a snarl that was just as vicious as his wolf-monster counterpart. “Why are you encroaching on Hale territory?” The Alpha punctuated the question by tightening his hold on Stiles’ throat, slowly choking him, until Stiles yipped breathlessly and batted at Derek’s huge hand with his paw. Only then did Derek let up enough that air could pass through his wind pipe. “Change back. Right. Now.”
Oh God, Stiles thought, If only I could. But Stiles was brought up being constantly taught to protect the secret. Conceal himself and don’t let the other part of him show around company, not even Scott. Hide the fox away until it was safe to run freely. That was the only reason he hadn’t told Derek his secret yet, it had been drilled into him too completely not to trust anyone at all, let alone a temperamental new Alpha werewolf with trust issues.
“I said, change back,” Derek growled, his eyes bleeding red in a trick that wouldn’t work against most werefoxes, but Stiles... Derek was Stiles’ Alpha so the eyes worked all too well on him. He felt as his limbs elongated and cracked back into position, muzzle shrinking back into a nose and his tail retracting back into his body (and yeah, that would always feel weird). Stiles heard the tiny gasp from Derek, felt him withdraw backwards slightly when his fur melted away to reveal pale skin and... not much else.
Christ, this was not how he imagined his first time naked with Derek.
Stiles snapped his eyes up to Derek’s face when a warm, calloused hand brushed against his waist, trailing down to his hip and resting there, heating the skin and making Stiles squirm at the tickling sensation. This was definitely not the reaction he had expected.
“Shift for me?” Derek said softly after a moment, barely above a whisper but seeming all too loud in the space between them.
Stiles obliged, looking back at Derek’s face when the transformation was complete only to see red eyes staring back from a pitch black, furred face. Knowing that Derek was under all that bulk helped him tame his immediate reaction to run and hide.
Derek leaned his head down carefully, nosing at Stiles’ cheek and taking quick, snuffling breaths through his nose as he moved further down to his soft-furred neck. Stiles automatically tucked his chin down against the assault, blocking out the intrusive sniffing with a small whimper at the back of his throat, which was answered immediately by a comforting rumble deep in the wolf’s chest and a series of long, slow licks to Stiles’ abdomen.
It took Stiles longer than he cares to admit to recognize the sound of his own purring.
He hadn’t been groomed in such a long time and it’d never been like this. Never so perfect, never by Derek. His eyelids slipped closed and he thought that maybe Derek missed this, too. Maybe he missed having his family around him just for the comfort of another furry body alongside his own and a feeling of not being alone anymore. Maybe they could be each others’ family now, broken and thrown together by necessity, barely functional but reassuring.
Stiles didn’t even realise that he had bared his throat until sharp teeth suddenly pressed down against his skin, nipping up to bite gently at his cheek, following the action with a tiny kitten lick that, after a beat, Stiles hesitantly returned.
The wolf stilled, tensing for long enough that Stiles whined and tried to wriggle away, stopping only when Derek pressed their cheeks together, rubbing slightly. Scent exchange.
Derek lay down next to him, pushing his nose under Stiles’ ear and breathing deeply, growling softly when Stiles made to move. Instead, the fox let himself burrow closer, pressing against dark fur until he was comfortable. Any thought of responsibilities and awkwardness fled in the face of a loooooong nap in the sun with his new (surprisingly fluffy) cuddle-buddy. He gave a quick lick at Derek’s chin and laid his head down, slipping off to sleep almost instantly.
These were his and Derek’s woods, and they were finally safe.