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“Stiles,” a terrified voice hissed from somewhere behind him. “Stiles, come on. Let’s go back. We’re gonna get into so much trouble!”

Footsteps crashed through the underbrush loud enough to wake the whole damn forest, but thankfully the noise they were following was much, much louder.

“Stiles, please. This is dangerous. Your dad’s gonna be so mad!”

Stiles Stilinski waved a dismissive hand behind himself, the thirteen year old continuing to move through the trees, flashlight in hand and eyes struggling to focus in the darkness. He could tell they were getting close, the noises coming louder and louder from just out of sight.

The ground shifted beneath his feet, Stiles stumbling and grabbing at a tree with one hand, other clenched tightly around the flashlight. He heard a shout behind him and turned to see Scott McCall flat on his back, the earth still oscillating dangerously.

Neither of them moved until it subsided and Stiles turned to offer Scott a hand up. His friend took it, but he didn’t look happy about it. He was pale, eyes wide and sweat sticking his hair to his forehead. Every time the sound came again from up ahead, his eyes darted past Stiles before he shrank in on himself.

“Stiles, let’s just go. If your dad catches you—”

“Then he won’t be surprised to find me,” Stiles finished, rolling his eyes. “Scotty, this is huge. Nobody but the cops have seen it. And it’s right there! Come on!”

“Stiles,” Scott insisted when his friend turned away and continued through the trees.

Stiles heard Scott hiss a vicious curse that would’ve gotten his mouth washed out with soap by his mother. Thankfully, his mother wasn’t there, and the only witness to his foul language was Stiles.

Who was moving faster through the trees. There were lights peeking through the trunks up ahead and Stiles slowed, crouching behind a tree and covering his flashlight with one hand. He’d have turned it off, but then Scott might complain about the dark, so he just obscured it as much as possible while the other teen made his way over to him. He crouched beside Stiles, the two of them looking out towards the scene.

There were four police cruisers and one armoured police truck, along with another civilian vehicle near the rear. The armoured truck was rocking violently, loud howls and snarls of rage escaping it, even if the thing inside it didn’t.

“Oh man,” Scott whispered, fear in his voice. “Oh man, oh man. We should not be here.”

Stiles shushed him, watching as a team of police officers hastened to empty their vehicles of various items. Chains, jars of unknown liquids, powders. One person even yanked a part of a large gate out of the back of one of the cruisers, another two deputies moving forward to help manoeuver it into the house. It was evidently the last of a set, because it was extremely small and looked to be some kind of door to a larger piece.

The town Druid was hovering anxiously by the door, giving instructions as to where everything needed to go. They all moved quickly and silently, glancing nervously at the rocking truck every time anyone was near it. When it seemed everything was inside, the deputies went back to their various cruisers to grab their weapons, then took their places at the back door of the truck. They all held rifles, but Stiles could tell they weren’t the kinds with shells. Tranqs, then. Made sense.

They didn’t want to kill it. That would be stupid. Considering what had been happening of late, killing it might just have the whole town get sucked into the earth.

He watched as his father moved towards the back of the truck. He eyed his men, nodded once, then threw open the back door.

Something leapt out instantly, the officers firing off the tranqs. Two of them backpedalled while they tried to reload while the others jumped out of the way of the beast barrelling towards them. It didn’t get far, making it only a few steps before whatever sedative was coursing through it slowed its movements. The other two officers who’d held their ground fired again, hitting the thing in the chest.

It fell to its hands and knees, struggling to crawl forward, even as vicious snarls continued to escape it. The ground began to move beneath their feet again, but almost lazily, this time. Like it wasn’t fully able to crack and shift like it wanted to.

A few officers had drawn their weapons—handguns, with bullets this time—but after crawling for a few more feet, the thing collapsed and everyone immediately moved into action.

“Get it inside, hurry! It won’t last long,” he heard his dad say.

He and another deputy hastened to the beast’s side, grabbing his arms and hauling him up, dragging him towards the front of the house. The town Druid quickly disappeared into the house when the sheriff and his man started up the porch steps with the beast.

When the trees began to whisper loudly, the wind beginning to blow a little harder, Stiles heard his dad curse and shout for more sedative even as he disappeared into the house with the thing.

Scott and Stiles stayed crouched where they were, watching the officers move quickly between their vehicles and the house, presumably with more sedatives. Two minutes later, Stiles dropped the flashlight and clapped both hands over his ears when a truly earth-shattering roar sounded through the woods, the trees groaning around him and beginning to bend.

“Stiles,” Scott said nervously.

“It’s fine,” Stiles insisted, eyes still on the house and hands over his ears.

“Stiles, I don’t want to be here. Why do you always try and get me into trouble?”

“We’re not in trouble,” Stiles insisted, lowering his hands when it became clear the roaring had stopped. The trees had stilled, the ground remained unmoved.

“Stiles, come on. Let’s get out of here.” Scott was tugging at his hoodie anxiously.

The thing was inside the house now, anyway, so Stiles conceded defeat and stood, turning to lead the way back to the road after picking up the fallen flashlight. He had to hit it against his leg a few times to get it to work, but the beam finally returned and he and Scott picked their way back towards where they’d left their bikes.

The ground was uneven beneath their feet, roots poking out from the dirt and trees bent at weird angles in some places. They passed a few dead birds and what looked like a dead fox, but didn’t slow. Stiles didn’t point them out when Scott missed them, he didn’t need him having an asthma attack.

Once they reached the edge of the road, Stiles put the flashlight back in his backpack and grabbed his bike, running a few steps before climbing on and beginning to pedal. Scott was wheezing behind him, trying to catch up, so he slowed enough to ride side by side with his friend. They had to move quickly, though, otherwise his dad would find them still trying to make it home and he’d get an earful.

“Did you see it?” Stiles asked excitedly, brown eyes sparkling and excitement evident in his expression. “Did you see it, Scotty?”

“It was horrible,” Scott said, voice drawn. “I’m never gonna sleep again.”

“It was awesome!” Stiles insisted, grinning and facing forward once more. “That’s gonna be something to brag about for sure! I bet Lydia’d be interested in it!”

“That’s what you said about your science project, but girls don’t like worms,” Scott muttered.

“It wasn’t worms, it was maggots,” Stiles insisted, offended. “I did the whole decomposition cycle of a rotting carcass, it was cool! Not my fault people don’t appreciate good science,” he muttered, still sore he’d lost out to some stupid exploding volcano. Stiles could explode a stupid volcano, too!

“This’ll be different,” Stiles insisted. “You’ll see. She’ll be thrilled!”

“Doubt it,” Scott muttered.

Stiles ignored him, mind still reeling at what he’d seen. It had been humanoid in shape, the thing his dad had caught. It was just... weird-looking. There was lots of hair along its face, though the rest of its exposed skin looked fairly smooth—which was a lot of exposed skin, because it hadn’t been wearing a shirt, or shoes. Just ratty jeans that were barely staying on. It was almost human, really.

Its face, though. Man, its face was not human. It had been weird and contorted. A thick brow, flat nose, high cheekbones. The fur along the sides of its face, sharp teeth, and pointed ears. It was like nothing Stiles had ever seen before.

“What do you think it is?” Stiles asked, rounding a bend quickly and having to correct himself to avoid going too far into the street. It was late, and there were less cars around, but he was also wearing dark colours and his dad would not be happy if Stiles got hit by a car.

“I don’t know, and I don’t want to know,” Scott insisted, breathing hard. Stiles had to slow down again to stop him from having an asthma attack. “Why can’t we just kill it?”

“You heard Dr. Deaton,” Stiles insisted, turning to him and rolling his eyes. “That thing’s connected to the town. Even sedating it was making the earth shake, you wanna test what would happen if they tried to kill it? The whole town might burst into flames.”

Why is it connected to the town?” Scott asked, the two of them slowing as they neared his house. “They don’t even know for sure that it is. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that whenever something happens to it, something happens to the town.”

“Really, Scotty?” Stiles skid to a halt at the bottom of his driveway, turning to give him an exasperated look. “That thing magically gets captured and suddenly the whole town’s going crazy? Dr. Deaton says the Nemeton has never acted like this before. I might not know a lot about magic, but I trust that guy, even if I don’t like him.”

“I like Dr. Deaton,” Scott muttered, climbing off his bike and holding the handlebars to keep it upright. “Whatever that thing is, I just hope they can keep it far, far away from us.”

“I don’t know,” Stiles grinned, looking back the way they’d come. “I wouldn’t mind getting a closer look.”

“Stiles, it’s dangerous. Don’t make me tell your dad.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “I’m not stupid, Scott. I’m not gonna just walk in and check it out. But maybe one day we’ll get some answers.” He turned to grin at him. “How cool would it be to have a monster for a friend?”


 

Five Years Later.

Stiles was snoring and drooling onto his pillow, his alarm buzzing soft country music beside his head in an attempt to get him back to consciousness.

The attempt was failing, which was probably why Stiles never got to school on time. Not that he was waking up early for school today, since it was a public holiday. Though he did have to wake up early for the public holiday.

But he was tired. And lazy. And the music was much too quiet to be waking him up adequately.

Which probably explained why he jolted awake like someone had shot him at the sound of a door slamming loudly downstairs. Stiles turned bleary eyes towards his bedroom door, then seemed to realize music was playing. When he picked up his phone to check the time, he was instantly awake and stumbled out of bed, tripping on his blankets and landing hard.

“Ow,” he grunted, scrambling to his feet and rushing for the closet, even as footsteps were ascending the stairs.

He threw his pyjamas off himself haphazzardly, hoping they landed at least close to his bed and grabbed a pair of jeans and a shirt. He stuck the shirt between his teeth, using both hands to pull on his pants, and had them halfway up his thighs when his bedroom door opened.

He froze, staring over at his dad, pants still around his thighs and shirt between his teeth.

Sheriff Stilinski sighed and rubbed at his eyes with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, evidently trying for patience.

“Stiles—”

“I’m almost ready,” he insisted around the shirt in his mouth, getting his pants up all the way and doing them up, rushing to the dresser to find some socks while pulling his shirt on over his head. He had to pause and rearrange it when he pulled it on backwards.

“I should be thankful the town is so big, the chances of it being you are slim,” the sheriff said, leaning sideways against the jamb and watching his son dig through a drawer for some clean socks.

That proved to be futile so Stiles just grabbed two random, mismatched socks off the floor and hopped on one foot to put them on.

“That’s just hurtful,” he insisted, falling over into his dresser and wincing, setting both feet back on the ground and turning to hunt for shoes. “I am a gift.”

“Should’ve gotten a receipt,” his dad muttered.

Stiles turned to give him an annoyed look, but his dad just smiled and told him to hurry up or they’d be late. Stiles had to crawl around on the floor and check under his bed to find a pair of matching shoes. Socks could be mismatched, no one saw those. The last thing he needed was to go to the Blooding with two different fucking shoes.

Jackson would probably notice, asshole. Stiles wondered how much money his family had paid the mayor this year to get their names pulled from the draw.

Snatching a wayward shoe from under his bed and calling out in triumph at a matching set, Stiles hurried back to his feet and bolted out the door. He almost fell down the stairs in his haste to descend them, but managed not to hurt himself too badly on his way down.

When he made it into the kitchen, there was a bowl with a box of cereal and some milk out on the table. He hurried to his spot and sat, pulling his shoes on while his dad drank coffee at the counter, reading over the day’s headline.

“How’s Mr. Harris?” Stiles asked, pouring himself cereal and then some milk before digging a spoon into it and shovelling food into his mouth as quickly as he could. The cold milk hurt his teeth, but he ignored it, knowing he needed the food in his stomach before they headed out.

He wouldn’t last the day if he didn’t, not that he thought he would get chosen, but shittier things had happened.

“He’s shaken, but he’ll be all right.” The sheriff sighed, dropping the paper and focussing on Stiles, coffee still in hand. “It was a rough year, but we’re making progress. Since Tara, he doesn’t seem interested in attacking people anymore.”

“That’s good,” Stiles said, wincing when he clacked the spoon painfully against his teeth. Note to self: Remove spoon from mouth before trying to chew. “Noticed it hasn’t stopped the earthquakes, though.”

“Yeah, Mr. Harris’ year wasn’t as stable as Tara’s was last year.” The older man sighed, taking a large swallow from his mug before setting it down on the counter and checking the time. “We still haven’t figured out what differs between the people chosen. Some he likes, some he doesn’t. Luck of the draw, I guess.”

“Well, Mr. Harris was pretty upset when he was called,” Stiles argued. “Tara kind of just resigned herself to it.”

“Yeah.” The sheriff sighed again and motioned for Stiles to stop talking and eat faster. “I hope it’s a good one this year. I hope it’s an adult.”

“Whose idea was it to have sixteen and up included?” Stiles asked with a snort, some milk escaping his mouth. He hastily wiped it up with the bottom of his shirt, and his dad was kind enough to pretend not to notice.

“The town voted. That was the call.”

“Yeah, because that worked out so well.” Stiles rolled his eyes, picking up his bowl and drinking down the remainder of the milk. He smacked his lips once it was empty and stood, bringing the bowl to the sink and setting it down, turning on the water so he could rinse it a little bit. “How long did that freshie last again? Four days?”

“It was two weeks, don’t be a smartass,” the sheriff said, cuffing the side of his head. “Like you’d have done better.”

“I could do better,” Stiles insisted, offended. “Really, dad? I’m hurt.”

“Let’s not tempt fate on this one, okay?” His dad reached out and gripped the back of his neck, giving him one sharp shake. “I don’t want it to be you.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“It takes its toll, Stiles.”

“Dad.” He grabbed his dad by the shoulders, giving him his own shake in return. “It’s fine. There are hundreds of people in town, the chances of it being you or me is so slight. And even if it ends up being one of us, it’s only for a year.”

“A long year, from the sounds of it.”

“You better work on your pep talk before your big speech, dad.” Stiles slapped him in the arm and ducked out of his grip, moving towards the front door with the older man following behind him.

Stiles grabbed one of his many hoodies on his way out of the house, yanking it on and struggling with the zipper before realizing it was broken. He gave up and just let it flap open, moving to the cruiser and climbing in on the passenger-side. His father got in moments later, started the car, and headed out towards the middle of town.

They were one of the few to arrive in a vehicle, since his dad needed the cruiser to escort the chosen party to Alan Deaton’s office. Almost everyone else who was able to attend generally walked, since parking was limited in the area.

His dad parked up near the stage, Stiles climbing out and waving at him before heading towards people from his school. The sixteen to nineteen year olds tended to be lumped together by grade in one corner, with everyone else seated wherever there was space.

Usually, the whole town couldn’t show up, since they still needed to do their work—hospitals, police, grocery store clerks, that kind of thing—but nobody was exempt from the Blooding.

Or so they said, but Stiles was still adamant rich fucks like Jackson Whittemore and his family paid to have their names removed. Jackson always looked way too relaxed whenever this came up, which was incredibly suspicious, in Stiles’ opinion.

But, no proof, so he had to keep his ‘bullshit theories’ to himself, as his dad called them.

Stiles wandered between the bodies of people, some looking nervous, others looking bored. He caught a head of dark hair ahead and pushed through two other seniors to reach Scott, clapping him on the shoulder.

“Hey buddy,” he said, moving to stand in front of him.

As usual on days of the Blooding, he looked pale and terrified. It was kind of pathetic, really. Stiles didn’t get what the big deal was. Nobody ever died, and it was only for a year. Besides, it appeased the great powerful being in charge of their town, so usually the person chosen was respected the entire year.

Stiles wouldn’t mind a little respect. He certainly didn’t get enough of it, and felt like he deserved it. He was a good student, a good son, a good human being in general. A little respect would be pretty great.

“Did you hear about Mr. Harris?” Scott asked, voice low and tight. “My mom says he can’t be here today because they brought him in last night, a quivering mess. He was covered in blood, Stiles. Blood!”

“Okay, first off, keep your voice down, you’re scaring the newbs.” Stiles nodded towards a group of girls who were probably just barely sixteen staring at them both with wide eyes. Wrapping one arm around Scott’s shoulders, he turned him away from them and lowered his voice when he spoke. “Mr. Harris is just playing the sympathy card. Dad said he was fine, he’s just trying to milk his fame for all it’s worth. If he was really injured or covered in blood, the big wigs would’ve delayed the Blooding. You know this. Chill.”

“It can’t be me,” Scott insisted, voice tight. “Stiles, I still have nightmares about what we saw. I don’t want to be in the same room as that thing.”

He–” Stiles emphasized, “–is perfectly fine. Scotty, he hasn’t hurt anyone in years. He’s just... spirited.”

“Is that what you say to yourself to go to sleep at night?” a voice sneered from behind them. “That thing is just ‘spirited’?”

“Well, not all of us can just hang upside down from the rafters to pass out, so some of us need to get more creative,” Stiles said, turning to offer Jackson a shit-eating grin. “Love the haircut, very douche. You save enough money to get your name pulled from the draw this year?”

Jackson just gave him a haughty look, one arm wrapped around Lydia Martin’s shoulders and an air of superiority wafting off him.

“People in my circle would never get chosen,” Jackson insisted. “We’re actually contributing to society, they can’t risk us getting hurt.”

“Oh, you’re right.” Stiles snapped his fingers and pointed at him, other arm still around Scott’s shoulders. “We’re low on douchebag assholes right now. If we lost you, man, that’d be bad. Your species might go extinct!”

Jackson’s eyes hardened into shards of blue glass, but Lydia’s lips curled upwards in amusement, so Stiles considered it a win. Even if he was probably going to get pummelled on the Lacrosse field tomorrow.

Worth it.

Jackson wandered away with Lydia, glaring at Stiles. He was probably jealous of how fast Stiles could throw something back at him. Stiles was pretty amazing at comebacks, if he did say so himself. Maybe they weren’t always the best, but he’d never failed to have the last word!

“I need to sit down,” Scott muttered.

Stiles rolled his eyes but obliged, moving with Scott through the crowd towards the seats so they could sit. They chose the middle of the middle, because they’d had the best luck so far sitting in those seats. Sure it had only been five years of the Blooding, but still! Five years strong, he wasn’t going to knock what was working for him.

Stiles pulled out his phone and opened YouTube, having some videos queued up for such an occasion as this. He and Scott huddled together to watch them so they could pass the time, even though the speeches would start soon.

They were halfway through a hilarious parody video when there was a loud screech of feedback from the microphone and Stiles winced. He turned his phone off and put it away, trying to ignore the constant noise until someone finally got the damn thing under control.

The mayor was standing at the podium, a large glass bowl taking up a majority of the space, but the microphone connected to the wooden pillar was long enough that it didn’t stop the man from speaking into it.

He was waiting for confirmation that everyone was paying attention, those present seated and silent. When he was sure they were all listening, he started speaking. It was the same speech as the previous years, and Stiles wished he’d update the damn thing. It got boring hearing it over and over again and he was positive by the time ten years had gone by, he’d know it by heart.

He fidgeted in his seat, wanting to pull out his phone and play a game, but his dad would kill him if he saw him being rude. It would reflect poorly on him as the sheriff, so Stiles at least tried to behave.

It was hard. It wasn’t in his nature.

The man droned on and on, talking about the beast in the woods, its connection to the town, the necessity of the Blooding. He tried to play it all off as a huge prize, like it was a privilege to be chosen, and that everyone would respect and honour the intended party.

True, there were real perks, too. All property and individual taxes would be covered by the town for that year—for the whole family, since someone who was sixteen didn’t pay any taxes. There was also an allowance of days off from school and work without jeopardizing graduation or employment, respectively.

Free groceries and a clothing allowance.

Blah, blah blah, blah blah blah.

Stiles didn’t really care about all that. While it would be nice for his dad, given the poor guy was working himself to the bone supporting both of them, Stiles knew it would only cause more stress for him if either of them were chosen.

Mostly if Stiles was chosen. But he wasn’t worried. His luck wasn’t that bad. And even if it was, well, he’d survive. It was only for a year.

The mayor finished off his speech, reminding everyone that this was a privilege and the town thanked the chosen for their services.

Everyone clapped politely when he was done, Stiles’ dad moving up to the microphone. He looked huge compared to the mayor, but it was probably just his presence in general. He was a very respected man, and it showed in the way people quieted much faster than they had for the mayor.

His dad’s speech was a little different from the previous year, like he’d tried to change things up, but the overall message was the same. The draw was conducted by way of magic, courtesy of the town Druid Alan Deaton, and there was no cheating and takebacks. Anyone chosen was chosen for the year unless the beast rejected them, or a committee determined them unfit or unable to complete their duties.

They never went into detail on what the duties were, but rumours had spread so Stiles wished his dad didn’t bother to sugar-coat it. At least it meant his speech was short.

Once he was finished, Alan Deaton climbed onto the stage, an old, worn, wooden box in his hands. The lid was closed, but he opened it when he reached the group of parties waiting for him.

The committee consisted of various officials—the mayor, of course, along with the sheriff, the school principal, the DA—but it also had others who were voted in by the people every quarter. Stiles’ old babysitter was on the stage, along with one of their teachers, Mr. Yukimura.

Deaton passed before each party with the box, having them all pull a piece of paper from it. Stiles always found this part really cool, because the box was empty, and yet when people reached into it, a piece of paper came out.

Once all twelve parties on stage had a name, Deaton closed the box and set it aside. He pulled a pouch from around his neck, and walked down the line to have them deposit the name they’d picked into it.

Stiles remembered one year where someone had tried to cheat. They’d had a piece of paper in their other hand and had tried to put that one into the pouch instead. It had caught on fire, along with a part of the guy’s sleeve. It had been pretty entertaining to watch him flail and panic over the fact that he was on fire, especially since it was magic and the flames weren’t real.

A good example, though, not to cheat. Because Deaton had a sadistic side, as far as Stiles could tell.

The Druid reached the last person, and once all twelve names were in the pouch, he closed it and moved to the podium where the glass bowl was. He dropped the entire thing into it, pouch and all. It disappeared from sight for a second before a single piece of paper floated down to the bottom of the bowl.

“Magic is so fucking cool,” Stiles said breathlessly. He never tired of seeing it in action. It was a shame magic was such a dying thing, but people had to be born with it and, sadly, not many people were anymore.

Stiles had had himself tested fourteen times.

No dice.

Deaton reached into the bowl and pulled the piece of paper out. He never read out the name, he usually handed it to one of the twelve to read it. This year was no different. He glanced at the piece of paper, then turned and walked over to the sheriff, handing it to him.

His dad looked down, and Stiles frowned at the expression on his face. It was part horror, part resignation, as if he’d been expecting this.

“This can’t be good,” Scott said quietly from beside him.

The sheriff looked at Deaton, who patted his shoulder once, and then moved aside. Sighing, the older man walked towards the podium where the microphone was, bowl still taking up a majority of it. He let out a slow breath, eyes searching the crowd, and then they stopped on Stiles.

Uh oh.

“Stiles,” his voice said, carrying through the air. “You’re up.”

Stiles stared at his father, everyone else seeming to dissolve into the background.

“Well,” he said loudly, letting out a small, bitter laugh. “Shit.”


Stiles had wanted to be able to use magic since he was nine years old. He’d grown up knowing what magic was, like everyone else in the world, but it was only while he stood in a hospital room watching his mother struggle to take just one more breath that he really wished he could use magic.

The town Druid—the only Druid, really—had insisted over and over that magic didn’t work that way. Magic didn’t fix things like illness, it didn’t reverse death. Magic was just an extension of the person using it, and every person was different.

No one really knew how magic had come to be in the world—or maybe Stiles had never looked into it hard enough. It was just one of those things that had existed since the dawn of time. Some little tweak in people’s DNA that allowed them to do things other people couldn’t.

There used to be a lot of magic-users in the past. Or maybe there were still a lot, but the growing population made it seem as if there weren’t. Stiles had never met any other magic user aside from Alan Deaton, and for a long time, he’d admired him for it.

Until the day he turned nine and Deaton had told him magic didn’t work like that. Deaton could expand a bag’s interior or turn a building invisible, but he couldn’t take Stiles’ mother’s illness.

Stiles hated the limitations of magic. He’d vowed he would one day learn it and would do all the things people insisted couldn’t be done.

But magic didn’t work that way, either. A person had to be born with it, and Stiles was very much human. Plain, old human.

A hard pill to swallow, being normal.

But magic wasn’t all good. There was bad magic in the world, too. Dark magic.

When Stiles was ten, some people with bad magic came to town. Nobody knew who they were or what they were after, but many people had died. Good people. Important people.

Doctors and teachers and children.

One family hadn’t fared well at all. The Hale family. They lived out in the woods, kind people, very well liked, approachable. They kept to themselves for the most part, but they came out to town events like the Chili Cookoff and the annual barbecue hosted by the Mayor’s Office.

Stiles hadn’t know them, but he knew of them. Because that family had not survived the dark magic users’ attacks.

That family had been burned to the ground. There hadn’t been enough left to identify them all. There was no real guarantee they had all even been in the house.

His father had been pulling a lot of doubles during that period. They’d been working to find out who, if any, had survived the blaze of all the Hales. Four adults, eight kids. That was who lived in the large house in the woods.

By the time three months had passed, they were no closer to finding an answer as they had been when they started. It was determined all parties had been in the house and were killed.

A monument went up in the cemetery for them, the town’s way of putting them to rest.

For a while, things had been fine. Normal, even. The dark magic users had never been caught, but with stricter laws being enforced and protective barriers errected by Deaton, the town felt as safe as it could feel.

Then, Stiles turned twelve, and the town was not safe anymore. Something had happened, a shift in energy, and the beast came.

No one saw it for almost a year, but they all knew it was there. They could hear it out in the woods. Roaring, howling, making every hair stand on end. Animals were going missing, people were afraid to leave their houses at night.

One day, two stupid lovebirds had gone to make out near the old Hale house. One of them had come back, terrified and screaming for help.

The sheriff’s department had gone to the woods to find the beast and missing teen. It only took them an hour to locate them both. Miraculously, the teen was still alive. Bloodied and terrified, but alive and conscious. Barely even injured, really. The messiness of the blood had made it seem worse than it was.

They’d managed to save the teen, and had fired at the beast, aiming to kill.

That had quickly stopped. When the first bullet tore through the thing’s chest, the ground shook and it was like the very earth was rebelling. Trees came alive to attack the police, animals went crazy, the earth cracked open and threatened to swallow them whole.

They’d taken the teen and fled.

Deaton had appeared at the station not long after. He didn’t know what the thing was—not human, of that, he was sure—but he knew it was magic. He knew that, whatever it was, it was connected to their town.

To Beacon Hills.

To go after it would be like killing the town.

Some people didn’t listen. They chased it down, attacked it, tried to kill it. Many people were injured, some critically, but no one had ever been killed.

And every time someone harmed the beast, it killed the town little by little. Patches of forest would rot and die for no reason. Some areas would catch fire. Animals would behave erratically. Poisonous plants would sprout from the ground regardless of asphalt or concrete.

Deaton reiterated every time that it could not be killed, or the town would be killed.

By the time Stiles turned thirteen, people listened. But it hadn’t escaped their notice that the beast was changing. It was getting bolder, angrier, more dangerous. It started coming out of the woods, attacking people, covering itself with blood.

Something had to be done, and eventually, it was. It seemed to favour the old Hale house, so one day when it had ventured off elsewhere, a plan was devised to trap it in there. The night Stiles had snuck out with Scott was the night they’d finally succeeded after weeks of trying.

They finally caught the beast, dragged it inside, and got to work keeping it there. Shackles and a cage, like the animal it was.

For a while, everyone thought things had improved. A group of volunteers went up daily to feed it, care for it—as best they could—but Deaton noticed little things changing.

And then the Nemeton started rotting. It was the main source of magical power in town, something Deaton drew energy from. It was rotting from the inside out, and it was because of the beast.

It didn’t take long to realize there was something missing in the thing’s diet.

Blood. Human blood.

Nobody could explain why. It didn’t require it for nutritional value, and it didn’t even seem to like it. But every time it was given blood, the Nemeton got just that little bit better.

And that was how the town decided on the Blooding.

The beast didn’t like people. If more than three appeared at any given time, it would growl and howl and pull at the shackles.

But one person? One person it tolerated. It didn’t like it, but it tolerated it. And so, for fairness’ sake, it was decided that every year, all parties between the ages of sixteen and sixty-five would be entered into a draw. Whoever was chosen would serve as the blood donor for a year.

It had to be an in-person blood donor, because they had tried donated bags of blood and the beast had rejected them.

They had also tried sending multiple donors but the beast had rejected that, as well. To date, only having one person for multiple months seemed to satisfy the thing, and sometimes, not even then. One year they’d had to choose three different parties, because the animal was picky.

It also started rejecting the volunteers going in after the third year. It didn’t like them in its space, so it had become the chosen’s job to care for it as best they could.

Hence the steep compensation. It was not a coveted position.

To date, nobody knew what it was or why it was this way. Why it was rabid, feral, and tied to the land. Why it could control the Nemeton to the point where it was dying while the beast was locked away.

All anyone knew was that it was a humanoid, and it appeared to be male. Aside from that, it was like nothing anyone had ever seen.

And Stiles was about to see a lot of it.


Stiles’ right leg was jerking up and down rapidly, fingers twisting and untwisting the chord from his hood over and over. He was looking around in an attempt to calm his nerves, but no matter how many “Hang in there” kitten posters there were around the room, he did not feel calm.

He knew his dad was out arguing his case. Everyone did, at one point or another. Family, friends, the people themselves. It didn’t matter. The Blooding had been designed to be fair for all—regardless of what Stiles thought—and it had been voted early on that no substitutions would be allowed. It would cause too many problems, too many arguments.

People chosen for the Blooding once were not permitted to be chosen again. If there were changes or substitutions, there was room to argue someone had already been chosen and it risked crippling the system. Thus: no takebacksies.

Stiles didn’t mind. Better him than his dad, with his heart condition. Not to mention if he got it out of the way now, it meant he could live out the rest of his life not even having to show up to the Blooding. He could just sleep in.

And this would be a huge help to his dad financially. They would be able to save a lot of money, he could probably get some money put aside for college if he felt like going. His dad would be able to afford to take some time off, relax a little. They wouldn’t have to worry about their taxes this year.

This was a good thing. It was. Even if Stiles was kind of sort of completely terrified now that he was sitting here. It was a good thing.

The door opened and he jumped, turning to look at it and seeing Deaton walk in, small smile on his face. He was probably going for reassuring. He’d done this so many times he probably had it down to an artform.

“Stiles,” he said kindly, taking a seat across from him at the small table.

“Is your name in the pool?” Stiles blurted out before he could stop himself.

Evidently, Deaton had been asked this before, because he didn’t look surprised or offended. “Yes, it is. Everyone within the applicable age range is in the pool. Me, your father, the mayor, Jackson Whittemore.” He smiled almost teasingly, but Stiles just nodded, leg still jiggling and hands now clenched tightly together in his lap.

“Is my dad coming?” he asked, licking his lips and trying to keep his breathing steady.

“I tried to wait for him, but we have a lot to cover. He’s welcome to join us once he arrives.”

Stiles nodded, wondering how long it would take for his father to give up. He was pretty stubborn.

Deaton gave him a minute to calm down, then bent down to pull a sealed bag from his satchel on the floor. He handed it to Stiles, who had to consciously uncurl his fingers from around each other to reach out and grab it.

“This is everything you need, and need to know, for your task with him,” he said while Stiles fidgeted with the seal. “As you’re aware, it is an important role, and there are consequences to our not abiding by the terms he’s laid out.”

“You understand growl?” Stiles asked, only half-joking.

Deaton smiled. “He doesn’t need to speak to make his intentions known.”

“Right.” Stiles looked back down at the bag. “What if he doesn’t like me? I mean, my blood. What if it’s bad?”

“I’m always there for the first meeting,” Deaton explained patiently. “It’s fairly evident when someone will last and when they won’t. He’s very picky, but we’re trying to show him we’re doing our best.”

“Right,” Stiles repeated. He took a moment, then ripped open the seal, pulling things out of the bag. There were a lot of scalpels and gauze, along with sterilizers. Apparently the beast’s saliva had some healing properties, and so far no one had gotten any infections, but it was always better to be safe than sorry.

There were some photocopied hand-written notes, evidently from the original group of volunteers along with any other chosen from the Blooding. Those who bothered to care about who came after them, anyway.

He flipped through a few pages while Deaton spoke about the various things he read. It did not like getting haircuts, but they all attributed that more to mistrust of sharp things close to its face than the actual cut. They had to sedate it to get that done.

It slept in a pile of old, dirty blankets that got washed whenever it allowed them to be taken away—so not much. It used to wear pants out in the wild, but seemed to prefer remaining naked now that it was always in the house. It had a designated area for the facilities—a hole in the floor of the foundation that people had managed to link to the old house’s sewer system. That was good, at least.

Food-wise, it liked meat. That was about it. No one had tried anything else after the first year. It ate three times a day, different meats for each which was prepared daily at the butcher’s shop from game caught by hunters over the course of the week.

It didn’t seem to want or need entertainment. It was content to sleep and eat all day.

It didn’t like groups of people.

There were a lot of pages, Stiles was getting a little overwhelmed. He figured he’d have time to read it all later and closed the makeshift book. He frowned at the front page and ran his fingers over the word there.

“What’s this?”

“I think it’s his name,” Deaton said. “It’s the only thing he’s ever written. We thought it best not to try again when he almost took out someone’s eye with the pen.”

Stiles frowned down at the printed picture, squinting and angling his head a little.

“Benek?”

“I think it’s ‘Derek,’ actually.” Deaton sounded amused.

“Right. Derek.” So the beast had a name. No one talked about that. Maybe it made it seem too human.

Deaton reached out for one of the scalpels and Stiles watched him open the sealed edge. He held it out to Stiles, handle first, and it took a minute for him to actually take it.

“It’s important you know where to cut,” Deaton said kindly. As if Stiles wasn’t about to stab himself on an almost daily basis.

“How-how often does he need it?” Stiles hated how nervous he sounded. He wasn’t exactly a fan of slicing himself open.

“That’s up to him. Sometimes once a week, sometimes once a month. He gets restless around the full moon and tends to feed more at that time.”

Feed. Stiles wished he hadn’t used that word.

“What is he?” Stiles asked quietly, looking up from the blade.

Deaton smiled sadly. “If I knew that, I would know how to help him.”

“What do you mean?” Stiles asked, frowning.

“I don’t think this is who he is. I think Derek is lost, and he’s just trying to figure out how to come back.”

“And he does that by sucking blood and killing the town?” Stiles asked dryly.

“I don’t pretend to understand him. I just have a feeling.”

“Right.”

Stiles let Deaton help him with where he was supposed to cut, and how deep. It was weird, and awkward, especially since he wasn’t actually cutting into his hand right now, but it was better than being taught with the beast right in front of him.

They’d just finished up the important parts of their conversation when they heard the front door’s bell go off, both of them turning to look towards the entrance. “That is likely your father.” Deaton stood. “Shall we go introduce you?”

Stiles hated this stupid town.


The old burnt-out, shell of a house was a lot more intimidating than Stiles remembered. He and Scott used to come around a lot to graffiti and be rebellious shits, same as everyone else. Once the beast—Derek, Stiles reminded himself—had moved in, the area was less frequented.

Still, the house had never looked as dangerous as it did right now. He stood staring up at it, still holding the car door in one hand. When his dad exited on his side, Stiles forced himself to shut the door, shoving his hands in his pockets and eying the entrance warily. Deaton’s car had just come to a stop behind them, but Stiles didn’t turn to look at him.

It was crazy to think there was no security. No one was stupid enough to come by, and the—Derek seemed perfectly content in his prison.

Stiles jumped when a hand fell on his shoulder, turning to see the tight set of his father’s jaw. He still wasn’t happy he hadn’t won his case. Stiles was glad, his dad didn’t need the added stress.

Not that his son being chosen was helping on that front.

“Shall we?” Deaton asked, coming up beside the pair of them. “Sheriff, perhaps it would be best if you waited here. You know how he feels.”

“Yeah,” the man said, albeit unhappily.

Stiles patted his back lightly, then moved forward with Deaton. The Druid climbed the porch steps first, a cooler in one hand. Stiles had a sealed scalpel, a pad of rubbing alcohol and a package of gauze in his hoodie pocket.

The front door was unlocked. Actually, it wasn’t even really closed, hanging precariously off the top hinges. Deaton walked in like he lived there. Stiles took a second to look around.

The entire top floor was gone, engulfed in flames and burned to nothing. It made the entrance into the house extremely disorienting because of the wide open space above.

Some of the walls on the bottom floor had survived the fire, but they were black and peeling paint or wallpaper, it was hard to tell.

Deaton headed for a door that looked to be brand new. Well, not brand new, but since after the fire, at least. He pulled it open, and motioned Stiles ahead of him.

The only reason his feet moved forward was because Stiles knew no one had ever died when chosen for a Blooding. So he forced himself to put one foot in front of the other and descended the rickety steps into the cellar.

It was evident that they’d been re-done, because both the stairs and the door were sturdier than anything else in the house. The walls also looked to have survived the fire, mostly because it appeared the basement foundation was concrete. Hard to burn concrete.

He was only a few steps down the stairs when a low growl began to resonate. It almost made him freeze—almost. He managed to make it all the way down the stairs, looking around the area.

The basement was full of debris and some leaves and dirt that had likely been tracked in over the years. Nothing appeared to ever have been cleared up, but considering nobody liked being around Derek, it made sense. He would’ve assumed the volunteers might have done it but maybe even they weren’t that brave.

Most of the basement was empty, just another large space, except for the far side of the area. Where the growling was coming from.

Stiles turned to see where Deaton was, but he was stopped halfway down the stairs, smiling encouragingly.

“He doesn’t like when too many people appear at once. I’ll move forward once he’s looked his fill.”

That was comforting.

Stiles turned back to the far side of the cellar. It was mostly dark, barring the beams of light coming through a few small windows. One of them was almost directly above the growling.

Taking a slow breath, Stiles moved forward slowly. Cautiously. There was a large floor to ceiling gate that had been hammered and welded into place.

Beyond the gate, Stiles could see a mass of material, along with feathers, fluff and even some sponge. Half-buried beneath it, he saw a pair of brilliant blue eyes staring out at him. They were an unnaturally blue colour and he felt himself break out into a cold sweat.

He didn’t stop, through. He moved forward as slowly as he dared, until he was right in front of the gate. The blue eyes were locked on him before shifting to look behind him once he’d stopped moving.

“Hello, Derek,” Deaton said calmly. “This is Stiles.”

“Can he...” Stiles was still staring at the blue eyes, which snapped back to him when he spoke. “Can he understand us?”

“I’m not sure,” Deaton responded pleasantly. Stiles noticed the eyes didn’t shift again, remaining locked on him. Evidently he was more trusting of Deaton than Stiles. “I like to think he understands at least some things. It’s only polite to include him in conversation.”

“Right,” Stiles said quietly.

He and the beast stood staring at one another for a few seconds, Stiles noting the growling beginning to increase in volume the longer he kept eye contact.

He looked away, and the noise diminished, but only just.

Letting out a slow breath, Stiles reached into his hoodie pocket for the sealed scalpel. The moment he brought it out, Derek shifted in the cell and Stiles glanced at him once more. He was slowly emerging from the mess of material, chains clinking loudly.

Stiles noticed that there were bolts in the wall, with chains leading from them to the blankets. Presumably the chains were a secondary measure to the gate, and Stiles watched the beast rise. And rise.

And rise.

Shit, he was tall. Stiles wasn’t short or anything—a very comfortable 5'11", thank you—but Derek was over six feet for sure. It wasn’t comforting having someone that tall be this scary.

“He’s just curious,” Deaton said, making Stiles jump. He’d forgotten the man was there. “Go ahead, Stiles. Not too deep, like we talked about.”

This was the fucking worst!

Stiles tried to keep his breathing even, despite his heart pounding in his chest. Derek was approaching the gate, chains dragging and clanking while Stiles ripped apart the seal for the scalpel.

Pulling it out carefully, he shoved the wrapping back into his pocket and avoided looking up when he flipped the blade around. Derek was almost right on the other side, still growling low in his throat, like it was just rumbling upwards from his chest.

Stiles winced when he pressed the blade to the side of his palm, letting out another short exhale before pressing it into his skin. Blood welled up, but he made sure not to cut into the meat of his hand too deep. When the cut was about an inch long, he glanced up at Derek.

He was right there, eyes on the blood oozing down his wrist. Stiles noticed that the chains weren’t long enough to reach the gate, his shackled wrists hovering slightly behind him. Derek was pressing his weight forward, but his arms didn’t move. It looked like he about to do the Naruto run.

Not wanting to think on it took much, Stiles took a step forward and passed his hand between the bars, moving the bleeding side closer to Derek’s mouth.

“Not too close, he bites.”

Stiles snatched his hand away just as Derek had been about to lick at it. The snarl he got in response was not comforting.

“He what?” Stiles asked nervously, turning to Deaton.

The man looked a little amused. “Don’t worry, only if he doesn’t like you.”

“Well, he probably hates me, now!” Stiles insisted, turning back to Derek.

He looked extremely displeased.

“Think positive.”

Easy for you to say from the stairs, Stiles thought savagely. He clenched his jaw and figured if the monster bit him, he still had the scalpel in his free hand, he’d just stab it and back away.

Moving his hand through the bars again, Derek gave him a look, like he was trying to determine if Stiles was just teasing him like a dick. He was still growling, a low rumble in his chest, but he finally believed Stiles wouldn’t snatch his hand away again and leaned forward as much as he could.

It was weirder than Stiles had thought it would be. The smooth feel of a tongue against his skin was unsettling, and really fucking weird. Derek’s lips wrapped around the edge of his palm, closing to trap the wound, and Stiles had to look somewhere else when there was a distinct sucking sensation. He could feel one tooth pressing against his skin, but it didn’t break through so he just stared at the ceiling, concerned about the sturdiness of it given it looked rotted and charred.

After a few more seconds, the lips were gone, tongue swiping along the wound one more time before Derek shifted backwards. He went a few steps, allowing his arms to fall back to his sides, and eyed Stiles.

It took him a second to realize Derek wasn’t growling anymore.

The beast turned his back on him and returned to his mess of blankets, throwing a few of them around before falling sideways onto them and huffing softly, rolling around as if to get comfortable.

“Does that mean he doesn’t like me?” Stiles asked hopefully, Deaton moving closer cautiously with his cooler.

“Actually, he seems to like you a fair amount.”

Great. Just his luck.

Stiles pulled the foil wrapper back out of his pocket, sliding the scalpel back into it to be disposed of later. He pulled out the pad of rubbing alcohol, tearing it open so he could wipe at the wound, and was somewhat surprised to see it was already scabbing over. He hadn’t really known what to expect about the healing properties, but that was kind of neat.

He cleaned it up anyway and debated wrapping gauze around it for good measure before deciding not to waste it. His hand was already healing, there was no point.

“Derek,” Deaton said, the beast huffing into his blankets, back to them. “Come on, lunch time.”

Deaton opened the cooler he’d brought, and when Stiles peeked inside, he saw two huge hunks of meat. It looked like big game meat, probably deer or elk. Derek didn’t turn, but his head shifted, like he was sniffing the air.

Reaching into the cooler, Deaton pulled out one of the large pieces of meat and threw it into the cage. It landed near Derek’s makeshift bed, and based on the stains and flies, it was likely this was common.

Derek turned in time for the second piece to land a little to the left of the first. He reached out one hand to grab the closest one and then took a huge chunk out of it with his dangerously sharp teeth.

“That’s it,” Deaton said, Derek watching them both with bright blue eyes and blood dribbling down his chin. “Feed him three times a day, make sure he has water,” Deaton motioned a bowl a little ways from the mass of blankets, “and provide blood whenever he wants it. That’s it.”

Deaton shut the cooler and backed away slowly. Stiles turned to glance at Derek, who was staring right back while tearing into his lunch, and then looked away, heading cautiously back for the stairs.

Derek was silent save for teeth tearing meat behind them when they climbed the stairs to the first floor.

“Try to come around the same time every day. Routine is good for him, he won’t be caught off-guard. Come alone, or he won’t be happy and trust me, he’s more pleasant when he’s happy. If you have any blankets or pillows to donate to him, that helps. Gets him familiar with your scent. He seems to have a keen sense of smell, so it’s something we try and take advantage of.” Deaton led the way to the front door, exiting the house with Stiles behind him.

“Any more questions?” he asked, descending the rickety porch steps even as the sheriff hurried forward, looking relieved.

“I’m sure I do, but not right now.” Stiles had been hearing about his duties for hours and he had all the notes to read. He was done thinking about this, he’d worry come dinner time since he’d have to come back.

He made a mental note to stop by the butcher’s for the dinner meat.

“Well, you know where to find me,” Deaton said encouragingly, the three of them at the base of the stairs. The sheriff had moved to grip one of Stiles’ shoulders tightly. “Feel free to call any time.”

“Thanks,” Stiles said automatically. What he really wanted to say was a little ruder.

“If that’s all for today. Stiles.” He inclined his head, then did the same to his dad. “Sheriff.”

“Thank you,” his father said.

They watched him walk away, climb into his car, and drive off. His dad waited until he was out of sight before turning back to Stiles, hand tightening on his shoulder.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine, dad.” Stiles sighed. “It was nothing. Just a little scary at first, but I’m not the first person to be doing this. It’ll be okay.” He slapped his dad once on the back. “Come on, let’s go home so I can get the Jeep. I’ll head over to grab his meat later and pick up extra beef for some burgers.”

His dad shouldn’t technically have that, but it had been a long day, it was that or the bottle and Stiles didn’t want his dad to start drinking again because of him.

He pulled away from him and headed for the cruiser, climbing into the passenger seat while his dad looked up at the house. After a moment, he gave himself a shake and turned to get back into the cruiser, as well.

This was going to be the longest year ever.


Scott was waiting for him when his dad pulled up to the curb at home. He looked pale and worried, like he’d thought Stiles was a dead man walking, but he relaxed ever so slightly when he climbed out of the cruiser unharmed.

“I’ll be back for dinner,” the sheriff said before Stiles shut the door. “Try to stay out of trouble.”

“Yup.” Stiles shut the door and headed over to Scott, who moved across the driveway to meet him, wringing his hands together, eyes going up and down Stiles a few times as if to reassure himself he was truly okay.

Stiles slapped him once in the back and motioned the front door, the two of them climbing up to it and disappearing into the house.

“Are you okay? What happened? What did it do? Are you actually chosen or did it reject you?”

“Okay, first off, rude Scotty,” Stiles insisted, turning to give him a look while heading for the kitchen to grab a drink. “Derek liked me very much, I’ll have you know.”

“They named it?!” Scott asked, horrified.

Stiles sighed, opening the fridge and perusing its contents before grabbing a Coke. He tossed it to Scott, who almost dropped it, then grabbed another for himself, shutting the fridge and leaning against it while opening the top and taking a large swallow. The caffeine would likely help with his jittery nerves.

“Apparently it was already named,” Stiles informed him, putting more weight back against the fridge. “I have some books and stuff—which dad drove off with, now that I think about it.” He sighed, figuring he should drive over to the station and grab the notes. He had to go back in a few hours for dinner, he wanted to have a basic idea of what he was doing before heading up by himself.

“And the books say his name is Derek?”

“Apparently he wrote it out himself. So he’s intelligent, at least. He probably thinks we’re all idiots for doing whatever he wants, actually.”

They both paused when a small tremor passed, Stiles with the bottle almost to his lips. A few car alarms went off outside, but they stopped relatively quickly and the ground stilled. It was something everyone was used to, really. Derek had mood swings, it happened.

Better than the one time he’d freaked out over something and half the forest had caught on fire. Stiles really wondered about the type of magic Derek was. It was like nothing anyone had ever seen, and having a thing tied to the town was unheard of.

Even Deaton had done some investigating over the years, but no one anywhere else in the country had ever heard of something like this. People wanted to visit and run experiments but that had quickly been stopped considering Derek barely tolerated one person in his space, let alone a group of them.

“I hope he likes you better than Mr. Harris,” Scott said after a brief silence. “It’s hard to sleep with all the earthquakes, and I don’t want another massive storm like last November. That was not a fun experience while out on my motorcycle.”

Stiles just shrugged in response, capping his drink and turning to put it back in the fridge. He told Scott he needed to get his shit organized for his new job—aka, babysitting and bloodletting, apparently—and walked him out. After Scott left, Stiles climbed into the Jeep and headed to the station.

Tara was at the front desk when he arrived and she smiled at him kindly. He stopped to chat with her for a few minutes, considering she had also been chosen once, but she didn’t have much to tell him. Derek was always lying in his mess of blankets, he ate when she gave him food, for a long time there hadn’t been any rhyme or reason to when he wanted blood until closer to halfway through her year, and washing him was an absolute fucking nightmare.

Stiles wasn’t aware he had to wash him, but he supposed it made sense. Tara said everyone did it differently, but she used to just try and spray him down with a hose once every two weeks. Apparently Mr. Harris threw a bucket of water at him every now and then and called that good enough.

“How’s your hand?” Tara asked, motioning it. Stiles lifted it so she could see, and was surprised to find it was almost completely healed already. Earlier it had been scabbing over, but now it was just a thin scratch, and would likely be nothing more than a red line within the next hour, at the rate it was going.

“That’s insane,” he breathed, eyes on his injury.

“It’s pretty neat,” Tara agreed with a smile. “The first time I healed over, I was literally staring at it for hours. I also didn’t get sick the entire time I was chosen, and every injury I got healed much faster than normal.”

“Do they know why?” Stiles asked, looking up at her.

“Something in his saliva has healing properties.” She shrugged. “No one’s really looked into it much, mostly because we’re trying to keep him happy. We don’t need the town falling apart because we made him angry.”

“But this would be really beneficial for people,” Stiles insisted. “Sick people, really sick people! People like—” He cut himself off, scowling, and Tara’s expression softened.

She reached out to place one hand on his closed fist. “It might not work that way,” she said softly. “Remember Kevin? The young kid who was chosen a few years back? His injuries didn’t heal like the rest of us. And even Mr. Harris healed more slowly than I did. I think Derek can control it, to a degree. Like the town. I think even if they tried to find out what about his saliva heals people, it might not even work. Maybe he has to choose to heal someone, same way he chooses whether or not he wants the town to fall apart.”

“What is his problem?” Stiles muttered, but he tried to just think positive. So far, he was healing. That was good. He had to stay on Derek’s good side. “How come he liked you more than Mr. Harris? I mean, aside from the fact that you’re kind and Mr. Harris is a dick.”

She gave him a look for that, but he just smiled crookedly at her.

“I don’t know. I suppose because I was always polite to him. I spoke to him when I went, made it very clear when I was about to start trying to wash him down, didn’t react badly when he did something that frightened me. I think he’s a little lonely.”

“He literally spent the whole time I was there in his makeshift bed except when I offered him my hand,” Stiles insisted dryly.

“Wouldn’t you give up after a while if nobody showed you any kindness?” Tara asked with a small smile.

Stiles didn’t have an answer for that, so he just said, “Is my dad here? He took the notes.”

“In his office.”

Nodding a thanks, he walked past her and headed for his dad’s office, trying not to think about what she had just said. He supposed it made sense. Nobody cared about Derek, so he’d probably decided he would just live his life in that pile of blankets, getting food and blood whenever he wanted, and being sprayed down every now and then.

Stiles walked into his father’s office without knocking and paused, because the mayor was there with him and they were both staring right at him. Probably because he’d rudely thrown open the sheriff’s door.

“I’ll just...” He motioned behind himself and slowly closed the door, turning to glare at Tara. She just smiled at him, giving him a clear ‘that’s what you get’ look before facing forward again.

The door opened a second later, the mayor giving him a tight smile before heading out of the office, moving towards the front. Stiles looked back at his dad, who seemed exhausted, and slowly moved forward.

“Everything okay?”

“Just a disagreement,” the sheriff replied.

“About me?”

His dad gave him a long look and Stiles sighed. He was going to get himself fired if he didn’t let this go. Stiles was fine.

“Dad, it’s fine. Don’t make this into a big deal. It was bound to happen eventually. And look on the bright side: it’s over after this. They can’t choose me again. So just—leave it.”

Leaning back in his chair, his dad sighed and rubbed at his face, seeming to age in the few seconds since the mayor had left. He focussed back on Stiles and asked him what he wanted.

“You have all my notes. They were in the cruiser.”

“Right.”

He stood and the two of them headed out, Stiles flipping Tara off over his shoulder. He heard her laugh, and couldn’t help but smile. His own fault, really. He’d been a little rude at the end, and hadn’t asked if his dad was alone. Not to mention she kept insisting he should knock on the door, and had been telling him so for close for eight years. It was cute back when he’d been ten or eleven. Now at eighteen, less cute.

They walked over to the cruiser together, the sheriff unlocking it and opening the passenger-side door so that Stiles could reach in and grab the journals and notes Deaton had given him. He’d wedged them between the seat and the gear shift on his way to the Hale house, which was why he hadn’t thought about them upon arriving home.

When he straightened and his dad shut the door, they stood awkwardly for a few seconds before the sheriff sighed.

“I’m sorry.”

“Dad, it’s fine.” Stiles rolled his eyes. This was getting old. “It’s only for a year. And if he doesn’t like me, well, even less time.”

“I’m just worried for you,” he insisted quietly, then hesitated before adding, “because he doesn’t like me.”

“Who doesn’t like you?” Stiles asked, frowning. “Derek?”

His father’s lips tightened, as if not liking that Stiles was making him seem more human than he was by humouring the beast and calling him by the name he’d apparently given himself.

“Yes. Whenever I’ve been around, something bad has happened to him. He doesn’t like me very much, and we’ve been told he has a keen sense of smell. I’m just worried he’ll smell me on you and...”

“Dad, it’s fine,” Stiles repeated, patting his shoulder lightly. “He didn’t do anything. He was totally normal. Deaton didn’t even say anything. And look.” He held up his hand, which was almost completely healed by now, suggesting his timing had been off. “Almost all gone.”

“Deaton was there,” his dad insisted. “He might have been behaving himself because of that.”

“Well, we’ll find out when I go for dinner, won’t we?”

“You’re gonna wait for me for that,” his dad said, an edge in his tone. “I’ll drive you up there. I don’t want you going alone.”

“Sure, Pops.” He slapped his shoulder again. “I’m gonna head home. I’ll see you at dinner.”

The sheriff eyed him, then wished him a good day and headed back for the station, Stiles going to the Jeep. He climbed in and set the books down in the passenger seat, but also decided then and there that he’d head up to Derek before his dad came home.

He didn’t want to piss off his dad, but if it was true that Derek didn’t like him and Stiles brought him along, it might send the wrong message. Besides, Derek wasn’t malicious. Yes, he was violent, but no more than anyone else Stiles knew. Hell, Jackson was probably more violent than Derek was!

Jackson liked to remind Stiles he was better than him, and not only on the Lacrosse field. He got a beating probably once a month, but that was fine. Stiles liked it because it meant he was getting to the motherfucker, and he wasn’t a fucking weeny like Jackson seemed to think he was.

And it kept him away from Scott, so, small sacrifices.

When Stiles got home, he sat at the kitchen table reading through all the notes and comments others chosen had made, along with some from Deaton, recognizing his handwriting.

The first person chosen mostly rambled about how scary the thing was, but near the end they started to comment on some things. Apparently Derek liked getting new blankets to add to his little bed, but only if they were used. It made Stiles think about his dad’s sense of smell comment and he wondered if that helped Derek feel... closer? Maybe?

The next few entries were kind of pointless, mostly comments on how the earthquakes were sporadic and that sometimes Derek wanted blood and other times he turned his nose up at it.

Tara’s entry was the most helpful—along with any and all comments from Deaton, of course. She commented on things like Derek’s favourite meats, and how he didn’t mind so much getting bathed as long as he knew it was coming. He didn’t like sudden loud noises, and he seemed to warm up to people a bit more when they spoke to him.

He also didn’t like being surprised, and he preferred to be kept on a steady schedule with regard to mealtimes, so that he knew when to save food and when to scarf it down. One thing she’d mentioned in her notes as well as in person was that, at least with her, Derek’s blood requests were predictable after about five months. Usually in the evenings, and generally about twice a week, in the middle and near the end.

Of all the chosen, hers seemed the best experience, and Stiles had to guess it was because she’d treated him kindly. Well, as kindly as someone like Derek can be treated, anyway.

Stiles needed brownie points. He’d wrenched his hand back because of Deaton earlier, and he was sure that Derek was going to remember that when he saw him later. He needed to get a little more friendliness going between them.

He made note of the favourite meat—pork, apparently—and then headed upstairs to the spare closet. He dug through it for a blanket he and his dad never used, and then lay it out on the floor in his room.

He brought his laptop down on the floor and then spent the afternoon just lying on his stomach, occasionally rolling around to try and get more of his scent onto it. He hoped that wasn’t adding his dad’s scent, too, otherwise he would be wasting a perfectly good blanket.

At quarter to five, an hour and fifteen minutes before his dad was due home, Stiles headed out to the butcher’s shop. The man who greeted him was kind and sympathetic, like he felt bad for Stiles. He had some meat ready to go, but Stiles asked if there was any pork he could have instead. The guy gave him a weird look, but he added a chunk of pork to the meat he’d had ready for him. Stiles also asked for some beef so his dad could maker burgers, and he expensed it with the card he’d been given by Deaton earlier.

Once he had everything, Stiles thanked him and left, feeling uncomfortable about walking out after only having paid for the beef, but knowing that was how this worked.

He had to head back home to put some of the meat in the fridge, along with dinner, making note of how often he’d have to go to the butcher’s, and then headed out to the Hale house with a small cooler the butcher had given him.

It looked exactly the same as it had earlier that day, but not any less foreboding. Stiles had the blanket with him, along with Derek’s dinner, and stood for a long while staring up at the house. He wasn’t scared, not really, but he’d definitely felt better about this back before he’d jerked his hand away and his dad had mentioned Derek didn’t like him.

Letting out a slow breath, he climbed the porch steps, being sure to make a decent amount of noise so that Derek would know he was coming. He walked through the rickety front door, across to the basement door, and opened it carefully, being sure not to make any sudden banging noises, but still ensuring that he wasn’t being quiet.

He descended the stairs at a normal pace, and when he reached the bottom, he turned and squinted to see through the darkness. The sun had already been lowering in the sky, and with all the trees around the house, it was making the basement much darker than it should have. He wondered if anyone had ever thought to bring a light. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust to the dim lighting.

Derek was still in his pile of blankets, but he’d shifted so he could see who was coming, blue eyes staring out at him and a small growl beginning to reverberate in the other’s chest. Growling wasn’t a good thing, Stiles didn’t like the growling.

“Hi Derek.” He tried not to feel stupid, and figured if he just pretended he was like, a dog or something, that would help. People spoke to their animals all the time, this was no different. “I brought you dinner. And a present.”

He moved forward slowly, making sure he wasn’t going to startle him, and stopped right in front of the gate, setting the cooler down. There was an entrance a bit to his left, with a regular bolt on it, and he eyed it briefly before walking slowly towards it. Derek’s eyes followed him the whole time, growling increasing in volume when Stiles stopped in front of it.

“I can’t get you the blanket through the bars,” he insisted, reaching out and letting his free hand fall on the bolt. He made sure to take his time, so that if Derek did anything aggressive, he could stop. So far, he just growled, but nothing else. Even the ground was still beneath his feet.

Stiles slid the bolt out slowly, Derek still watching him, and he opened the door. A part of him recognized how dumb this was, given Derek might make a break for it, but he didn’t move, and also had shackles on, so Stiles got the door open as far as he dared and then tossed the blanket through the gap towards Derek.

It thumped against the ground a few feet from his makeshift bed and Derek just stared at it for a second. Stiles shut and locked the door again, but didn’t move while he waited. If Derek didn’t want it, he figured he’d just take it back home. Sure, it had touched the gross ground, but that was what washing machines were for.

After about a minute, Derek shifted in his blankets, the chains rattling and he got into a crouch, moving across the few feet of space to the blanket. He grabbed at it with clawed fingers, pulling it closer, and brought it up to his face. Stiles figured he was smelling it, which, okay, weird. Derek was staring right at him while he did it, as if worried this was a trick, but after a few seconds he seemed satisfied and moved back fully to his blankets, putting his new one on top and then settling in a crouch.

Stiles couldn’t help the grin that crossed his face at that.

“I brought your dinner, too.” He returned to the cooler, pulling it open and grabbing the meat inside. He unwrapped it, one portion deer and the other pork. He winced when he picked it up, realizing he should’ve brought some paper towels or wet wipes or something, but too late now. He threw the pork into the cage first, then the deer, both of them landing close to where Derek was crouched.

He stared down at them both for a minute, then glanced at Stiles before reaching out and dragging the pork closer, bringing it to his mouth and biting into it. Juices were dribbling down his chin, but he just kept eye contact with Stiles while he ate.

That was awkward. It felt like Derek was implying ‘you’re next.’

He stayed anyway, waiting for Derek to finish eating, since he didn’t want him to eat dinner by himself. Derek stopped halfway through the deer, and for a second, Stiles thought something might be wrong, but the beast just tucked the remains into the corner of the new blanket he’d received and then settled, pulling other blankets up over himself so he was buried beneath the mound, blue eyes the only thing Stiles could see shining through the darkness.

“Right. Okay. Um, guess I’ll go then. Have a good night.”

It was so much weirder than talking to a damn animal, but he just half-waved and backed away with the cooler, moving for the stairs. He climbed them and made sure to close the door firmly at the top. When he got back outside, it occurred to him that, at some point, Derek had stopped growling.

That made him feel good about himself and he drove home, wiping his hand along his jeans and making note that he’d need to stock up on a few things, not to mention he had to be sure he kept a scalpel on him whenever possible.

He stopped at the store on his way home, picking up some latex gloves and a few wet-wipes, which he left in the Jeep. When he got home, the cruiser was already there and he headed inside to greet his dad, moving right to the sink in the kitchen, the sheriff cooking the beef patties on the stove.

Stiles had hoped for the barbecue but oh well.

“Hey dad.”

“Hi,” he said, sounding defeated. “Did you want to eat before or after we head out?”

“I already went.”

The way his father’s shoulders sagged made it clear the defeat was about Stiles. He pulled the pan he was working on off the burner and turned the flame to low, giving Stiles a look over his shoulder.

“I told you to wait, Stiles. I thought I was pretty clear.”

“Well, Pops,” he said, wiping his hands on the dish towel and turning to him, “that depends on how you define ‘waiting’.”

The sheriff crossed his arms. “I define it as someone staying where they are or delaying doing something until a specific time or action occurs, what do you define it as?”

Stiles was silent for a moment before lifting one hand, holding a makeshift tray. “Someone holding a tray of food and bringing it to a table of hungry patrons.”

He got a real look for that and sighed explosively.

“Dad, he was fine,” Stiles said, for what felt like the millionth time. “I knew you’d worry, because you can’t be with me every time. I just wanted to show you he wasn’t going to do anything. I went, I gave him food, I left. Still in one piece.” He motioned himself from head to toe.

He felt bad for how defeated his father looked at that, but he just moved beside him and put their dinner back on the burner, squeezing his dad’s shoulder before leaving the kitchen to run upstairs and get some homework done before they ate.

It was hard to concentrate, because he kept thinking about Derek’s eyes following his every movement. He hadn’t looked malicious or anything, but it was unsettling, and it made Stiles feel a little bad that he had to stay down in the basement all the time in the fucking dark.

Thinking about it, he abandoned his homework and began hunting through his things for his old flashlight. If nothing else, Derek could use it for light.

Provided he could figure out how to use it at all...


The next few days were very disorienting for Stiles, mostly because he was struggling to organize himself around his new job.

When Stiles’ alarm went off loudly the morning after the Blooding, a stark contrast to his usual music playing, he almost had a heart attack and practically fell off the bed. Grumbling angrily, he hit the snooze button hard enough to almost break the damn thing and went back to sleep. It went off again five minutes later, just as loud and obnoxious.

He slammed on snooze a second time, and that was when he remembered why he’d set it early and loud to begin with, because he had to go and make sure Derek was fed. Not exactly how he wanted to start his morning, but he resigned himself to it and at least knew he now had a food allowance, which meant he left the house and stopped at the drive-thru of McDonalds for breakfast.

Derek looked like Stiles had woken him up, and was still growly and angry at his presence, but Stiles just said good morning, tossed him his food, and then left to go to school.

People were supposed to be supportive of him for his new role as the chosen, but Stiles was never that lucky, and he hadn’t expected things to change. Jackson cornered him in the locker room before Lacrosse with some cronies and kicked the shit out of him for being a smartass in front of Lydia and making him look back. Stiles went to Lacrosse practice anyway, despite the split lip and darkening eye.

He fed Derek on his way home, having left at lunch to do the same earlier, and then went about his life as normal.

He had to set reminders on his phone the following days, because more often than not, he forgot about Derek at lunch time, and it was very obvious when he showed up that Derek was not happy. One of the days, all the trees around the school had started to rot and sag, a horrid smell wafting across the area, and Stiles realized immediately that he’d forgotten to feed Derek.

It was hard! Remembering someone else was relying on him for food was hard! Stiles was only eighteen, he was too young to be a fucking dad, and that was what this felt like.

Fucking fatherhood.

The first week was fucking hell. It took a long time to get used to it, but by the second week, he felt like he had everything down to an artform. Wake up, feed himself, feed Derek, go to school, take off at lunch, feed himself, feed Derek, go back to school, come home, feed Derek, feed himself, do homework.

The only deviation was the weekends, which so far weren’t working out so great. He liked sleeping in, but Derek was getting used to his schedule during the week so that by the time nine rolled around, Stiles was quite literally falling off his bed from the ground shaking and his dad was calling him to get his ass out of bed and feed the monster before they had to repave the roads again.

At least Derek’s temper was keeping the construction workers busy.

It was the third week where shit went wrong, and Stiles fully blamed Scott for it. Because he’d begged Stiles to be his wingman after school so he could get help with Allison, and he and Stiles had gone to the library where she and Lydia were doing homework. Things ended up going well for Scott, and Stiles was never going to pass up an opportunity to hang out with Lydia.

They were joking and laughing, the four of them actually having a good time when Stiles glanced out the window a little past six and saw smoke billowing from the forest. He jerked to his feet instantly, shouting a curse, and then bolted from the library, ignoring the angry mutterings of the other patrons behind him.

Thankfully, he always had meat in a cooler in his car—he’d gotten into the habit of keeping it there on a daily basis—so he just sped all the way to the Hale house. One of his dad’s deputies caught up with him, sirens blaring, but not to stop him. He actually went ahead of him and was clearing a path, which was nice, but also bad because Stiles was going to hear about this.

This was why only adults—real adults, not fake ones like Stiles—should be the ones to take care of the damn guy. Stiles had his own life to focus on, and it was hard rearranging his entire existence to revolve around some weird entity connected to their town by magic.

Fucking magic. It was so much more trouble than it was fucking worth.

The cruiser peeled off when they approached the woods, and Stiles drove through the path, his Jeep groaning at the rough treatment. He just patted the dash encouragingly and made it all the way to the Hale house. He was sure Derek could hear him, and hoped he was reigning in his anger. He didn’t need the whole forest to burst into flames.

To be fair, he thought Derek’s penchant for setting the trees on fire was a little stupid. After all, he was trapped in the basement of a crumbling house. If the fire made it this far out, he would probably die down there.

Then again, he always started the fires well away from where he was, so he was probably smart enough to figure that out.

Stiles grabbed one latex glove, yanking it on and then pulled the cooler open. He grabbed three hunks of meat—technically he only needed two, but he was trying to suck up given his tardiness—and headed quickly into the house.

“All right, all right,” he called loudly while rushing towards the basement door. “I’m here, calm down.” He was sure the fire had stopped by now, but still. He felt the need to say it.

He moved quickly down the stairs, blinking in the darkness since it was twilight outside and thus virtually night inside the basement, but he could see Derek standing angrily at the front of the gate, lips pulled back in a snarl and blue eyes locked on him.

Stiles paused, staring at him. Derek had only ever wanted blood twice since this had all started, but both times he’d stood exactly where he was now, at the front of the cage, arms extended out behind him from the shackles.

“Shit, I don’t...” Stiles patted at his pockets, realizing he didn’t have a scalpel with him. “I didn’t bring anything.” He moved forward with the meat, beginning to unwrap it. “I’ll give you dinner first and run back to grab something, okay?”

He started to reach for the meat to hand it over, but Derek snarled loudly, baring his teeth, and Stiles stared at him.

“I don’t have anything,” Stiles insisted, annoyed. “I can’t cut.” He motioned cutting with his gloved hand, but Derek just kept staring at him angrily. Stiles threw his free hand in the air. “What are you expecting me to do?! I can feed you and go get it, or I can leave and feed you after, your call!”

When Derek just continued to growl, Stiles rolled his eyes and tossed the food into the cage a little further back from where Derek was standing, otherwise his chains would stop him from being able to reach for the food.

He turned to leave so he could head home and grab a scalpel when he practically fell over, the entire house shaking. The foundation groaned above him and dust and pieces of wood rained down on him.

“All right, all right!” he shouted, on his hands and knees and waiting for the shaking to stop. It did, but only enough that he could get back to his feet, the ground still undulating beneath him. He turned to glare at Derek, who was still watching him expectantly.

Stiles wondered if he could call someone to bring him a scalpel, but that would probably be a bad idea. First off, Stiles would be making him wait, and secondly, the only person who’d show up the fastest was his dad, and Derek didn’t like his dad.

Grumbling angrily under his breath, Stiles wrenched off the glove he’d been wearing, tossing it aside. The basement was full of garbage and debris anyway, one glove was hardly going to change things. He walked over to the cage, Derek still waiting, and tried to think of what to do.

He pulled everything out of his pockets, and wondered if he could cut himself with one of the keys on his keyring. Not exactly the most sanitary, but he was kind of low on options.

When Derek began to growl again, Stiles looked up to snap at him to be fucking patient when his eyes stopped on the beast’s extremely sharp teeth.

“Well shit,” he muttered to himself, shoving his things back into his pockets.

Deaton had said that Derek liked to bite. And his mouth was probably the most sanitary thing in the room, considering the healing properties.

Stiles sighed, staring at it, then pulled off his hoodie, holding it in his free hand. He rolled up his sleeve to above his elbow, steeled himself, then stuck his entire arm through a gap in the bars, holding the side of his hand out towards Derek’s face.

Derek was staring at it, then at Stiles, like he didn’t understand where the blood was and why Stiles was offering him an unbloody hand.

“Well? I don’t have all night.” Stiles flexed his fingers, then mimicked biting, clacking his teeth together loudly. Derek just kept staring at him. “Just do it,” Stiles insisted, turning his face away and waiting.

He could feel every exhale against his skin, Derek doing nothing for a long while. His heart was pounding in his chest, and he tried to keep his breathing even, because he knew, if nothing else, that all Derek could do was bite a chunk out of his hand. He could live without his pinky, he was sure.

Finally, Stiles clenched his eyes shut when he felt teeth pressing against the side of his palm. When they broke skin, they disappeared instantly, lips wrapping around the punctures as Derek sucked.

It never got any less weird to have a fucking humanoid thing sucking blood from his hand.

Stiles was kind of surprised, though. It hadn’t hurt nearly as much as he’d been anticipating, as if Derek had only just barely broken skin. It definitely hurt way less than stabbing a knife into the meat of his palm, and he wondered if he could get away with doing things this way going forward.

An insane thought, really, but it really sucked having to cut into his hand over and over again. If he could just get a little bite every time Derek wanted blood, that seemed way better, in his opinion.

It was clear the punctures hadn’t been big enough for Derek, because usually he was only sucking his blood for a few seconds. Stiles counted almost a minute before he pulled his mouth away.

He turned back to him, but Derek had already gone to gather his dinner, bringing the three hunks of meat to his little pile of blankets and falling onto it. He was almost sitting, but awkwardly, like someone who didn’t fully understand how his limbs were meant to work. He had his back to Stiles and was busy digging into what he’d been brought, pointedly avoiding looking at Stiles probably for the first time since he’d been chosen.

Pulling his arm back out of the cage, Stiles watched the beast’s back for a few moments, then turned and headed back towards the stairs, climbing them quietly and exiting the basement. He made it all the way back to his Jeep before he let out a slow breath, turning on the overhead light, and glanced down at his hand in the dim light of his car.

Nothing.

There was nothing there.

He turned it around, expecting to see some kind of mark or redness or something to show where Derek’s very sharp teeth had broken skin, but there was absolutely nothing. His skin was smooth and whole, and he couldn’t find even a hint of where the punctures would’ve been.

Stiles stared at his hand for a long moment, then clenched it into a fist before shutting off the overhead light and starting the car to head home.


Stiles slept badly that night. For some reason, the events that had transpired at the house had been bothering him since the moment Derek had turned his back on him to eat dinner. It wasn’t that Derek had turned his back to him, it was more that Stiles felt like he was unhappy. Like Derek was mad or ashamed that he’d bitten Stiles to get his blood instead of the usual cut into his hand.

He also thought a lot about how dark it had been when he’d shown up. He’d been thinking about bringing a flashlight since the Blooding, but he hadn’t found his old one, and hadn’t really given it much thought again since then. But now, he thought about how much it must suck, lying in a mess of blankets all the time, alone, in the dark. The most interaction he got was whenever someone came to give him food.

“I think he’s a little lonely,” Tara had said. Stiles hadn’t really believed it then, but he thought about it now. He tried to imagine being out of his mind somewhere, and having nobody visit unless it was to feed him. What if he’d never visited his mother in the hospital? She wouldn’t really have seen anyone, and during all the times Stiles wasn’t there, because of school or homework, he wondered if she’d been lonely, too.

When his alarm went off the next morning, Stiles turned it off the first time it rang, staring at it for a long while. He sat up in bed, brain sluggish, but thoughts turning over. He sighed while typing in his password and texted his dad, who was likely asleep in his room given he’d been on the graveyard shift. He just didn’t want him to worry, was all.

[User]
hey dad
[User]
not going to school today
[User]
don’t worry, i’ll have my phone

He then pulled up the school’s number and called the front desk. No one was there, which wasn’t a surprise given it wasn’t due to open for another hour, but it had a voicemail so he waited for the automated voice to finish and when the beep sounded, he spoke.

“Hi. This is Stiles Stilinski. I’m the, uh, chosen for this year. Can you please have someone bring my homework by later? Scott McCall should be able to do it. I’m not going to be coming to school today. Sorry. Thanks.”

He hung up, wincing at how awkward that had been. He stared at his phone for a few seconds, then set it on his nightstand and stood, moving to find some clothes and get dressed. Once he was done, he dug through his dirty laundry for a while, finding shirts he’d worn recently that were really better off being thrown out, given how ragged and worn they were.

He ended up finding four of them and he grabbed his phone, wallet and keys before heading down to the kitchen. He threw the dirty shirts into a plastic bag in the kitchen, grabbed the cooler to fill it with whatever meat they had left, then headed out to the Jeep.

Stiles made a pit stop at the store, thankful it was actually open, given the hour. He bought himself a book for something to do, along with two flashlights, some batteries, a pillow, and another blanket. When he got to the till, it was uncomfortable to hand over the expense card for the chosen, but given all of this was for his job, he tried not to dwell on it. It was still weird sometimes being able to walk out of places without worrying about money, but it meant he and his dad would save a lot of it.

He stopped at a small coffee shop before going back to the Jeep so he could grab himself a sandwich for later, along with three bottles of water, a juice, chocolate milk, and a breakfast burrito. The guy at the counter gave him a weird look, but Stiles just handed the expense card over once more, then brought everything back to the Jeep.

He was a little later than normal arriving at the Hale house, but only by about ten minutes. Derek hadn’t made his displeasure known yet, but given Stiles usually woke him up, he doubted Derek was awake until he’d actually pulled up to the house.

Hanging the bags off his arms as best he could, Stiles grabbed the cooler in one hand and then headed towards the porch, climbing the steps and disappearing through the rickety door. That really needed to get fixed before it fell and hurt someone.

Reaching the basement, he had to go down the stairs sideways because of everything he had, and when he reached the bottom, Derek was still buried under his blankets, as if refusing to make himself known. Stiles actually wondered if Derek was scared Stiles didn’t like him anymore.

It wasn’t that they were friends—really, who could be friends with someone like Derek?—but Stiles figured they had an understanding. He and Derek had been civil. Or, as civil as someone like Derek could be. It was weird to think that Derek was feeling guilty or like he’d crossed some kind of line.

Setting everything down, Stiles figured he could wait Derek out and went about pulling things out of the various bags. His food he set down on top of the cooler, and then he went about pulling the pillow and blanket out. The pillow was for him to sit on, but Derek wouldn’t take the new blanket without a scent on it, so he just put it overtop his pillow and then sat down, pulling various items out of the bags.

He fiddled with one of the flashlights, getting the batteries into it, and then clicked it on and off to make sure it worked. Then he went about doing the same thing with the second flashlight. Setting them aside once they were done, he pulled out the book and moved that to join his food on top of the cooler, then thought better of it since he’d have to open the cooler eventually and began rearranging everything on the blanket in front of him.

He looked up to see what Derek was doing, but he was still buried in his blankets. Stiles sighed and turned to grab his dirty shirts, mentally kissing them goodbye while getting to his feet.

He moved up to the edge of the cage and said, “Rise and shine, sleepyhead.”

Derek didn’t move. Stiles waited for a second, then sighed and reached into the bag, pulling out a shirt and tossing it as close to the bed as he could. For a few seconds, nothing happened. Then, slowly, a small gap appeared, Derek’s blue eyes peeking out. They looked first at Stiles, then at the shirt. He hesitated, then one arm reached out to grab at it and pull it back into the depths of his blanket fort before covering himself up again.

“Are you pouting?” Stiles asked with a small smile. “That’s adorable.” He reached into the bag and pulled out another shirt, tossing it once more. This one was a little further from the mass of blankets, but the same thing happened. Derek made a small hole for his arm, straining to reach out and grab it, and then closed up again.

“Good thing I’ve got four of there.” Stiles tossed another one, a little further out this time. Derek didn’t react right away. Stiles had to wait a good two minutes before the other growled and then pushed out of his pile of blankets, crawling forward a little bit to grab at the shirt before retreating. He didn’t cover his face up this time, though. He just scowled over at Stiles, shirt against his face, like he was smelling it.

It really made Stiles wonder what he liked so much about people’s scents. And he knew it wasn’t even his scent, but just scents in general, because of what he’d read in the notebooks. Besides, his shirts were all dirty, and while he’d been the one wearing them, he’d been surrounded by other people so he was sure that was prominent on the shirt.

Stiles smiled a little and pulled the last shirt out of the bag, holding it out between the bars, but not dropping it. “Are you gonna come get this one?”

Derek looked extremely put out, like he knew Stiles was trying to coax him out of his bed. It looked like he was contemplating ignoring him, but after a few seconds, he pulled himself free once more, chains clinking when he got to his feet, and he walked over to the gate. Stiles tossed it to him when he was close enough, since his chains wouldn’t let him reach out and take it. Derek caught it clumsily, bringing it to his nose to inhale, eyes still on Stiles.

Stiles turned away from him to open the cooler, pulling out two wrapped hunks of meat and setting them down on the lid. He pulled a glove from his pocket and snapped it on, then unwrapped the meat. Derek was still standing where he’d left him, halfway across the cage, and Stiles was moving forward to toss the meat to him when he paused.

How rude was that?

Stiles would be pretty upset and annoyed if his meals always got thrown at his feet like people had been doing for years, what harm would it do to actually hand it to him?

Changing course instantly, Stiles headed for the door and unlocked the bolt. Derek was watching him, but he wasn’t growling or being a giant whiney baby like he usually was, so Stiles just pulled it open and moved forward until he was just within arm’s reach. He held out the meat in one hand, Derek’s eyes on his face, then the meat, then his face again.

He lowered the shirt he’d been sniffing, dropping it onto his pile, and then reached out one shackled hand, claws biting into the meat and pulling it out of Stiles’ hand. He brought it to his mouth and bit into it, still watching Stiles like he was trying to figure out what was going on.

Stiles headed back out for the second piece of meat and then did the same thing with it. Derek snatched this one up faster.

Smiling, Stiles exited the cage and locked it once more, then went to sit on the blanket, pulling the glove off inside out and tossing it onto the cooler. He got comfortable on the pillow and then grabbed his breakfast burrito, unwrapping it before taking a bite and pulling his book over. Derek hadn’t moved from his spot in the cage, chewing slowly while watching Stiles.

“Gimme a minute, my mouth is full,” Stiles informed him, even as his mouth was full. He ate the breakfast burrito relatively quickly, then downed the carton of chocolate milk he’d bought before opening the book to page one.

“Can you believe I’ve never read Harry Potter?” Stiles asked Derek, eyebrows raised. “Everyone says I’m a freak of nature for it, but I figured the movies had to be close enough, right? But it’s harder to bring a TV and player down here for you, so I guess we can just do this for now.”

Stiles cleared his throat, turning to the first page of the book, and he began to read aloud. Derek was watching him at first, still standing in the middle of the cage, but after a while he went to bury himself back in his blankets.

At first, Stiles thought he’d stopped paying attention and was just going back to sleep, but when he paused to take a sip of water, Derek’s head shot up and stared at him intently, as if silently asking why he’d stopped. Stiles smiled to himself, recapping the bottle, and went back to reading. Derek’s head lowered once more.

Around noon, Stiles pulled another glove on and got some more meat out. He did the same thing he had for breakfast, opening the cage door and walking as close as he felt safe, holding it out to Derek. There was no hesitation this time, clawed hands coming out to snatch at the food, but not once did Derek touch him while doing so. He didn’t accidentally nick him, and he seemed to pay special attention to exactly how far Stiles was, never coming closer than he needed to in order to get his food.

Stiles wondered if Derek thought this was a test, or if he was just pleased someone wasn’t scared of him.

Not that Stiles wasn’t scared, per se. He was still a little worried, but Derek seemed perfectly fine. Like a wild animal trying very hard to be domesticated. He sat up for the afternoon, sitting on his blankets and watching Stiles while he read, eating his sandwich and drinking more water.

His dad texted him around one, asking where he was and what he was doing. Stiles took a picture of himself to prove he was fine and told him he was just out and about. He should’ve figured his dad would guess at where he was, because Stiles was in the middle of a sentence when Derek jerked slightly and began to growl low in his throat, baring his teeth.

Stiles looked up, startled at the sudden aggression. “I don’t really like Snape either, but that’s kind of an exaggerated reaction, don’t you think?”

Derek continued to growl, and Stiles realized he was looking at the stairs. A few minutes later, the front door upstairs creaked and Stiles jerked to his feet. The door to the basement opened, and someone called out to him.

“Stiles?”

Letting out a relieved sigh—Stiles hadn’t really known what to expect, given Derek’s reaction—he rubbed his face with one hand.

“Yeah, dad?”

“Get up here. Now.”

Stiles dropped the book on the floor and Derek’s eyes shot to him, growl intensifying. The house began to tremble. It was a small thing, barely noticeable except for the bits of dust falling from the ceiling, and Stiles pointed a finger at him.

“Hey, stop that,” he insisted. “See all this?” He motioned the items on the floor, where he’d been sitting all day. “I’m coming back for it, okay? Just chill, I’ll be right back.”

The closer he got to the stairs, the more the house began to shake, and Stiles turned back to him, pointing at his things again.

“Derek, I’m coming back.” He motioned himself, then the pillow and blanket. “I’ll be right back. I promise.”

He didn’t know if Derek understood him, or if he’d just figured Stiles wouldn’t leave without grabbing his stuff, but the house stilled and Derek just watched him until Stiles turned and headed up the stairs.

When he reached the landing, his dad was on him instantly, grabbing at his shoulders and pulling him away from the door.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he hissed, eyes wide and expression crossed between terrified and furious. “Stiles, what are you doing?!”

He grabbed at the back of Stiles’ neck, giving him one firm shake before pulling him into a hug, like he’d been worried sick about him. Stiles didn’t know why, he’d only just texted him a few minutes ago. Then again, maybe he’d realized that while he’d been sleeping, Stiles had spent the whole day with a monster.

And it had been fine. Fun, even. Derek seemed very invested in Harry Potter. Stiles was going to have to buy the whole series, now. Thankfully he could expense the whole thing, because it was a lot of books.

“Dad, it’s fine,” he insisted, pulling away when he was allowed to, though his dad didn’t release him. “I was just spending time with him.”

“You can’t spend time with something that doesn’t understand the concept of time!”

“He totally understands the concept of time,” Stiles insisted. “He knows when I’m going to show up. He can tell when I’m late.” He shrugged. “I just wanted to make sure he knew he wasn’t alone.”

“Stiles.” His dad put his hands on his shoulders. “He’s not your friend. He’s not even human. He doesn’t understand anything that’s happening right now.”

“I don’t think that’s true,” Stiles said. “I think he understands a lot. He was growling when you arrived, and the house started shaking when I went to leave, but I told him I’d be back.” He didn’t mention he’d had to pantomime it. “He calmed down and let me come up here. He knows I’m coming back downstairs, so the house stopped shaking.”

The sheriff stared at him but when he went to speak again, Stiles interrupted him.

“Dad. I know what I’m doing. Derek’s not going to hurt me. He will, however, get pissed off if I don’t go back down there when I told him I would.” He slapped his dad lightly in the arm. “Go home. Enjoy your day. I’ll see you at dinner, okay?”

He didn’t like it. It was very obvious to Stiles that his dad didn’t like it. But he released him anyway, as if knowing there was no arguing with him.

“I trust you,” he said, still scowling. “It’s him I don’t trust.”

“He’s shackled in a cage, you think he can hurt me?” Stiles insisted, ignoring that he’d opened the cage door twice already today, and had just yesterday shoved his whole arm through the bars.

“You’re going to school tomorrow.”

“Uh, no I’m not,” Stiles informed him.

“You damn well are. Stiles this is your education!”

“Tomorrow is Saturday.”

His dad stared at him, and for a moment it seemed like he didn’t know what to say. He eventually gave up pretending to have the ability to speak and turned on his heel, heading for the door. He told Stiles he would be home for dinner, the warning clear in his tone, and then disappeared back outside.

Letting out a sigh, Stiles rubbed the back of his head, then turned to go back downstairs. Derek was standing by the bars, looking out at him while he walked down the stairs. He grinned at him.

“See? I told you I’d come back.”

Derek watched him walk all the way back to the pillow and blanket, growling low in his chest. When Stiles sat down, Derek crouched where he was, and glared out towards one of the windows. Stiles picked the book back up, needing to find the page he was on once more, and began to read aloud.

It didn’t escape his notice that Derek was still growling, entire body tense, and eyes on the far window. Stiles paused in his reading after a few minutes, and it looked like Derek hadn’t even noticed.

Frowning, Stiles set the book aside and turned to look towards the window as well. It occurred to him that Derek had been aware his father was coming long before he’d actually shown up, and he wondered if maybe Derek’s sense of smell wasn’t the only thing that was heightened. Maybe his hearing was, too.

That was when he clued in to why Derek was still so tense.

Sighing, he pulled out his phone and dialled his dad, Derek still growling low in his throat, like a displeased animal.

“What happened?” his dad asked instantly.

“I know you’re still there,” Stiles said, letting out a sigh. “Are you just sitting outside in the cruiser?”

“I left,” his dad insisted.

“Really?” Stiles stood and moved closer to Derek. He didn’t even look at him, blue eyes still locked on the far window. Stiles put the phone on speaker and inched it a bit closer to Derek so that the growling would be heard over the line. “Derek says you’re still here.”

His dad was silent on the other end of the line for a long moment. When he spoke, Derek’s eyes snapped to the phone, lips pulled back from his teeth. Stiles hastily took it off speaker and put it back to his ear, but Derek was still glaring at him, as if Stiles were hiding his father somewhere on his person.

“I’m not leaving you here alone.”

“Dad, Derek was fine all day until you showed up. You said so yourself, he doesn’t like you. You hanging out outside is actually making him unhappy, and ruining the chill day I was having with him. Go home. I’ll be fine.”

His father grumbled on the other end and hung up. Stiles watched Derek when he turned back to the window. He was still growling, and Stiles was literally five seconds away from calling his dad back when the growling began to quiet and then finally stopped. Derek’s rigid stance relaxed a little and he turned to slink back to his pile of bedding, curling up on his side and pulling one of Stiles’ dirty shirts over to his face, pressing it closer to his nose.

“Happy now, you big baby?” Stiles teased, smiling a little. Derek really was like an animal, and it was kind of adorable, in a weird sort of way.

He put his phone away and went back to reading. He knew Derek had lost some parts of the story, but given he was also fairly certain the other didn’t understand anything he was saying, he didn’t dwell on it too much. He thought Derek just liked the sound of his voice. Or maybe he just liked that Stiles was there.

Stiles got through a few more chapters of the book before it started to get a little dark. He actually had one more thing he wanted to try before he couldn’t see at all, so he finished the chapter he was on, then shut the book. Derek lifted his head when the speaking ceased, and eyed the fact that the book at been put down.

Standing, Stiles went to find the hose Tara had told him about. It was in one of the back corners of the basement, and there was a bucket beside it, evidently having been the one Mr. Harris used to throw water at Derek with.

He unravelled the hose, turning it on and actually quite surprised water came out of it. He knew there had to still be running water in the place, but it was weird to actually see it. He filled up the bucket, just to make his life easier, and then picked it up along with the end of the hose, wandering back towards the cage.

Derek tensed instantly, trying to burrow further into his pile of blankets. That made Stiles a little sad, because it meant he hadn’t liked the thrown buckets of water. Stiles wouldn’t have liked that, either. Even Tara’s rinsing off had probably been a little unpleasant, though nicer than just being dumped over the head with freezing cold water.

“Gotta keep you clean somehow,” Stiles insisted, even as the rumbling in Derek’s chest started up again. He moved towards the gate, opening the door, and Derek shifted so one eye could peek out from his pile.

Stiles moved as close as he dared, setting the bucket down, and then using the hose to spray around Derek’s hole in the floor. For an animal, he was actually surprisingly clean in his use of the toilet, but he just made sure the area was washed down. He did the same around the rest of the cell, washing away old blood on the floor from the tossed meat and any other kind of dirt. This was where Derek spent all of his time, it would probably be nice if he did this more often.

Once he’d cleaned the area up as much as he could, he cleaned out Derek’s water bowl, which he’d been mostly just pouring a bottle of water into every now and then when it got low. He refilled it and moved it aside so it didn’t get jostled, then inched a bit closer to the blankets and hesitantly poked at a protruding mound. He didn’t know what part of Derek it was, but the mound shifted around and stayed buried.

“Come on, Derek. I’ve been your keeper almost a month and I haven’t cleaned you. You’re starting to stink.”

He saw one of his shirts sticking out and tugged on it. He’d pulled it free when a hand exploded out of the blankets and snatched at it, making him jump. Derek was glaring at him from an opening, teeth bared, and Stiles felt his heart beginning to pick up in pace, tripping in his chest. He started to let go of the shirt so he could back away, having come entirely too close, but just as quickly as it had happened, the snarl disappeared and Derek almost looked like he was pouting. He kept his grip on the shirt, but slowly unfolded himself from the blankets.

When he stood to his fullest height, he was only a few inches taller than Stiles. It was weird, because he remembered him being bigger the first day he’d come down here, but Stiles also remembered how fucking terrified he’d been.

“Come on.” He tugged on the shirt, moving backwards slowly. Derek grudgingly followed, but didn’t let go. When they were moving a bit too far for his shackles, he tightened his grip and Stiles stopped.

“Okay. This is good. Now, I know the water’s cold, so I was hoping we could do something different. And I’m also hoping you won’t bite me in a dangerous way.” He hesitantly reached for Derek’s hand gripping at the shirt, trying to get him to let go.

Derek looked down at his hand, back up at his face, then down again. He scowled, but released his grip and Stiles pulled the shirt away.

“You know, it’s really impressive that you can scowl without eyebrows,” he told Derek, bending down to dunk his shirt into the bucket of water. “Not that there’s anything wrong with your face, I mean, it’s cool and all, but it’s still weird you can scowl so obviously without eyebrows.”

He turned back to Derek, who was staring at the sopping wet shirt, looking almost confused.

“Okay. Here we go.” He pointed his free hand at Derek. “No biting. Biting is reserved for when you want blood, not bath time.”

Derek just stared at his shirt when Stiles raised it and moved closer. He hesitantly took one of Derek’s hands in his, and then brought the shirt down on his skin, beginning to rub at it. He knew he was basically erasing his scent from the shirt by using it as a cloth, but he hadn’t really prepared for bath time today. He just felt like the day was going well enough he might get away with it, and spending a whole day down here had shown how badly Derek smelled.

He scrubbed at Derek’s skin, shifting his arms around to help him out and trying to get under the shackles around his wrists. They had to chaffe, but his skin was smooth and unblemished, so maybe Derek healed relatively quickly, too.

Stiles turned back to the bucket every now and then to rinse the shirt out. When the water turned dark, he dumped it out into Derek’s toilet and then refilled it with the still running hose, working on getting him as clean as possible.

Once it was clear Stiles wasn’t planning to dump a bucket over his head, Derek seemed less opposed to being cleaned. He moved according to how Stiles shifted him, and turned around without complaint when Stiles manhandled him into doing it. The only bump in the road was when every inch of him was clean—his skin was devoid of all dirt, it was insane!—and Stiles was left staring at his crotch. He’d washed his butt, that was fine, but his crotch was another story. He wasn’t really interested in manhandling a dangerous almost-animal’s junk, no matter how pleasant he’d been this whole time. He felt like reaching there would have him growling again.

Stiles cleaned off the shirt once more, taking his time with it and procrastinating having to turn back to Derek. He didn’t really know how to go about this, but it literally had to be cleaned. If Derek didn’t have such sharp teeth and claws, while it would’ve been awkward, Stiles would’ve just done it. He was bisexual, a guy’s dick was a guy’s dick. Yeah, Derek wasn’t technically a human male, but he was humanoid enough that it would’ve been fine. The main problem was that he was in possession of many sharp things that could cause a lot of damage, and Stiles liked his skin undamaged.

Turning back to Derek with a sigh, he moved up to him, the other’s eyes tracking his every movement. Stiles stopped in front of him, and then held out the wet shirt. Derek looked down at it, then at Stiles, then back down. He took it, clenching it in one hand, and Stiles tried to think of how to do this.

“You need to...” He brought his hand down towards his own crotch, hovering away from his pants, and did a circular motion. “You know, like I was doing everywhere else.”

Derek looked down at what Stiles’ hand was doing, then back up at him, then at the shirt in his own hand. He held it back out to Stiles, who gently pushed it back towards Derek’s chest.

“Come on, work with me, here.” Stiles gripped Derek’s wrist loosely just above the shackle around it, and pushed his hand down to his crotch.

Derek was staring down at what they were doing, and he bared his teeth when the wet shirt touched his dick, but not in a malicious way. More in an unpleasant way, like it was too cold. Which was fair, considering the only water coming from the hose was cold.

“Okay,” Stiles said slowly, trying to get Derek to move his hand around. “You just... come on, work with me.” He tried to get him to wash his dick and balls off, but Derek wasn’t letting him move his hand. He jerked it free, Stiles taking a step back, worried he was about to get hurt, but Derek just held the shirt out to him again.

“Really?” Stiles was either misunderstanding and about to get his face bitten off, or Derek had started to really like him over the course of the day. Or maybe the past few weeks, considering Stiles felt like he’d been pretty nice, overall. “Fine.”

He hesitantly took the shirt back, licking his lips and looking down at Derek’s crotch. He glanced back up at him, pointed a finger in his face, and said, “You bite my face, I’ll punch you in the dick. You might not be human, but you look human enough that I’m sure that would hurt.”

Derek just tilted his head, staring at him. Stiles sighed and took a cautious step forward, reaching out hesitantly with the shirt. Derek didn’t move while Stiles carefully began cleaning around his crotch, feeling a little relieved that he wasn’t being growled at.

Yes, it was weird as fuck, but at least he was getting him cleaned up. He even bent down a little so he could ensure he got Derek’s inner thighs up higher towards the crease.

“All done.” Stiles straightened and turned to toss the shirt into the bucket of water, grinning at Derek when he faced him again. “I feel like you deserve a treat, but I don’t really know what qualifies as a treat for you. But you did well, and didn’t bite at me once, so that’s awesome!”

Derek kept staring at him, then he looked at the bucket, then back at Stiles. He looked like he was waiting for him to do something unpleasant, so Stiles just turned and picked the bucket up, along with the hose, and headed back out of the cage. He stopped long enough to lock it behind him, then wandered back over to where the tap was. Turning off the hose, he poured the water from the bucket out into the small drain closeby, and tried to wring the shirt out, deciding to leave it there for next time, drying on the edge of the bucket.

It was getting a lot darker by now, and Stiles wandered back over to where his things were, Derek having moved back to his blankets and staring down at his hands and arms as if he’d never seen them before. Stiles actually wondered how long it had been since Derek had been truly clean.

Tara had said she’d sprayed him down with the hose, but given how Derek didn’t seem to like the hose at all, it was entirely likely she’d done as much as she could without angering him, but hadn’t cleaned him off as much as she’d liked. Not to mention hosing someone down didn’t exactly clean them. Stiles thought he might’ve done even better if he’d had some soap and shampoo, but maybe some other time.

Though he did want to tackle Derek’s hair one day soon. It was mostly on his head and around his face and chops, like a huge beard—and his crotch, obviously—but it was long and tangled. Stiles wanted to cut it a little bit, but he figured he’d wait on that.

Everyone said he didn’t like scissors, and they were doing well on the trust thing right now, so he didn’t want to press his luck. Maybe some other time, like next month.

Stiles bent down to grab the two flashlights he’d been fiddling with at the beginning of all this. He went back to the gate, opening it and stepping into the cage. Derek looked up at him, hands still out in front of himself, but didn’t react otherwise. Stiles bent down in front of him and pressed one of the flashlights into his hands.

Derek stared down at it, then looked up at Stiles, who was holding an identical flashlight.

“Let there be light,” he said, and turned the flashlight on, aimed at the far wall.

Derek stared at the circle of light, then at Stiles’ flashlight, then at his own. He didn’t use his hands the same way Stiles did, but he at least was smart enough to use one knuckle to push the light on. He dropped the flashlight instantly when it shone right in his face and Stiles let out a laugh. He picked it back up and held it out to Derek again.

Taking it, Derek aimed the flashlight around the place, shining it into Stiles’ eyes eventually. Stiles clenched them shut and held out one hand to block the beam from hitting him in the face, then lowered it when Derek aimed it elsewhere.

“Figured you could have some light when the sun’s gone.” He reached out with one hand to turn Derek’s flashlight off, then his own.

Derek turned it back on again, shining the flashlight around like a kid who’d never seen anything like it before.

“So, now you have light,” Stiles said, setting the second flashlight down beside Derek’s mass of blankets. “Use one at a time, okay? I’ll bring batteries around and keep them out there so I can change them regularly.”

Derek was still shining the light around, seeming delighted. It made Stiles happy he’d thought to bring them.

He headed back out of the cage, but left the door open since he just pulled out his last glove, and then began pulling the rest of the wrapped meat out. He knew they were almost out at home, he’d have to stop by the butcher’s on his way back to make sure he had some for the morning.

He didn’t know if he’d spend the whole day there again, but he supposed if he didn’t have any other plans, he could do it. Or maybe he’d just come by for the day on Sundays. Stiles spent his entire Sundays on homework, so it would actually be beneficial. He would be here without internet and thus less distractions, and at least Derek wouldn’t be alone.

Stiles figured he’d think on it.

He went back into the cage with the meat, handing it to Derek like he had been all day. Derek used his knuckle to turn off the flashlight and buried it somewhere in his blankets, then reached out for the meat. His hands and face—and some of his chest—were instantly a mess again because of the juices, but Stiles just sighed and went back for the second piece.

Once Derek was happily eating it, Stiles figured he could get one night of a clean Derek and went back to the bucket and shirt. He turned the tap back on and wet the shirt once more, then headed back into the cage. Derek was still eating, so he waited for him to finish, then moved forward to wipe his face down, then his chest, then his hands.

“You really are just a huge baby,” Stiles muttered. “A dangerous baby, but still.”

He locked the gate on his way back to the tap, rinsing the shirt out with the hose and then wringing it out a second time to dry on the bucket. When he headed back for the blanket, he began packing his things away, something Derek obviously noticed.

Stiles heard the chains clinking, but he didn’t turn. He just got his trash and remaining water into one of the bags, then set it on top of the cooler. He figured he could leave the book and pillow for tomorrow—or Sunday, he hadn’t decided yet—and then picked up the blanket. He didn’t know if it smelled enough like him, but he turned and headed for the cage door again, unlocking it and walking in to hand the blanket over to Derek.

He took it in both hands, hugging it to his chest and burying his face in it, inhaling deeply. Stiles really wished he could speak, he wanted to know why Derek liked it so much. And Stiles knew it wasn’t just his scent, it was scents in general, so he was really curious about it.

“I gotta go, big guy.” He offered him a small smile, Derek’s nose still buried in the blanket but eyes opening and looking up at Stiles. “I’ll see you in the morning for breakfast, okay? I can’t stay all day like I did today, this was just special, but I’ll make sure I stick around more going forward, okay?”

He moved out of the cage and shut the door. He waved at Derek, then turned to pick everything up so he could go.

When he heard clanging, he turned and saw Derek at the front of the cage, arms out behind him from the shackles. He was staring at Stiles intently, and he frowned. Did Derek want blood again already? Tara had said twice a week, but usually with gaps in between.

Setting everything back down, he patted his pockets and realized he still didn’t have a scalpel. It didn’t matter, because he already knew Derek biting him hurt less than cutting into his skin, so he moved forward, rolling up his sleeve, and stuck his arm through the bars, hand sideways in front of Derek’s face.

Derek looked at him, then his hand, then him. He’d been doing that a lot all day, like he kept thinking everything was a test and he was worried about failing it. Stiles just stared back at him, waiting. Today had proven that Derek wasn’t as much of an animal as everyone thought he was. He was actually pretty nice, and Tara was right.

He was just lonely.

“Go on, then,” Stiles said, watching Derek. “It’s all good.”

Derek hesitated, then leaned forward, eyes on Stiles. He bit into the side of his hand, a little deeper than yesterday. Stiles tried not to flinch. He wasn’t sure he succeeded but Derek pulled his teeth free and began to suck.

It was weirdly intimate, the two of them staring at each other so intently, but Stiles tried not to think on it too much and just waited for Derek to finish. When he did, tongue sliding along his skin before he pulled away, Stiles retreated his hand and saw that it was completely healed already.

He closed it into a fist, then smiled up at Derek. “Thanks, buddy. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Turning, he picked his things back up, waved at Derek, and headed for the stairs. As he climbed them, he could hear Derek making a weird kind of noise in his throat. It wasn’t a growl, it was more of a whine, and Stiles paused, turning back to him.

Derek hadn’t moved from the front of the cage, watching him, and that made Stiles feel bad. Derek obviously didn’t want him to go, but Stiles kind of didn’t have a choice. He needed to leave, it wasn’t like he could just live in the dilapidated house with Derek in the basement.

“I’ll come back tomorrow, I promise,” he said.

It was a small victory that he made it upstairs and through the basement door without anything happening. Stiles assumed the shaking and fires and whatnot related more to when Derek was unhappy, and right now, he was just... disappointed? Maybe sad? But Derek likely understood Stiles had a home.

Stiles found it strange, thinking about things he assumed about Derek. But he was smart, that much was clear. He had to be, considering everything that had happened today. He understood Stiles wasn’t trying to hurt him, and was trying to be friendly, and he’d allowed the bath, and he’d been able to turn the flashlight on and off. Derek was smart, he just... wasn’t human. He was something else.

Stiles wished he knew what that was. He would love to be able to communicate with him in a way that was double-sided as opposed to just Stiles speaking and Derek staring at him.

Climbing into the Jeep, he made a mental note about the butcher’s, not wanting to forget, and had just started the car when he saw a beam of light shining through one of the windows. He couldn’t help but smile a little, knowing Derek had evidently turned on the flashlight—hopefully only one of them. He was glad he wasn’t alone in the dark.

Stiles shifted into reverse, looked behind himself before backing up, and then turned around so he could head home.

Today had been a good day.


It became very clear that Derek did not like it when Stiles was away for extended periods of time. He may have spoiled him that first day, spending all that time with him, because now he got all pouty and childish whenever Stiles didn’t do it every day.

That first weekend had worked out, because Scott was busy and anyone else Stiles usually hung out with was off doing other things, so on Saturday he’d headed over with some homework and food and spent the day with Derek. He didn’t talk as much, since he was doing homework, but he tended to think aloud and Derek was always watching him while he worked.

On Sunday, he’d done the same thing, finishing up his assignments and then reading some more Harry Potter since he’d finished up and figured both he and Derek deserved a reward for all his hard work.

Monday was the problem.

Stiles had shown up to give him his food—inside the cage, handed right to him, as he’d been doing for days—and he stuck around to eat his own breakfast, talking to Derek about his upcoming day and what classes he had.

When he finished his food, he picked up his backpack and called goodbye.

Derek had immediately done that whiny throat thing. Stiles had just said goodbye again, trying not to feel guilted into staying, and had left. Derek had howled—actually howled—when Stiles had been driving away. He was playing dirty!

When Stiles went back at lunch time, he was given the silent treatment.

Well, in a Derek way, considering he didn’t talk.

Derek was buried in his blankets and refused to come out. Stiles poked and prodded at him to get him to emerge, but he resolutely stayed buried and Stiles sighed before giving up. He still had to get back for class, so he just made a makeshift plate out of some of the brown paper around the meat and set Derek’s food down on top of it beside his bed, then left again.

When he came back for dinner, Derek was up and looking almost nervous, like he’d thought being mad had sent Stiles away. It was really sad, and Stiles hung out with him for a while, doing homework and talking about his day. When dinner time rolled around for Derek, he gave him his food, and stuck around as long as he could before his stomach started to complain and he had to go.

The cycle continued for a few days, Derek always oscillating between being grumpy and ‘not talking to him’ and looking nervous that Stiles was mad at him. It made it really hard for Stiles not to want to spend his whole days there.

He tried to, as much as possible, on the weekend. Sundays were fully devoted to homework with Derek, but Saturdays were tougher. Sometimes he had plans—with Scott, with Isaac, with Boyd. Sometimes his dad was home and wanted to spend time with him. Sometimes he had Lacrosse practice.

Stiles didn’t know how to help make him understand until he was sitting in class one day, watching the clock, when a thought occurred to him. Once school was out, he headed to the store to grab a calendar and a battery-operated digital clock, expensing both, and then headed over to Derek’s.

When he got to the basement, he put the clock outside the cage, but angled where Derek could see it. He set the calendar beside it, and circled all the Sundays. For the rest of that week, he tried to make sure he arrived around the same time every day for every meal, pointing at himself, then the clock, and the calendar. He would cross out each day before leaving for the night after dinner, making a point to emphasize the time and the days as they passed.

It didn’t take long for Derek to clue in, and his attitude changed a little. He stopped being so grumpy whenever Stiles couldn’t stay all day, because he seemed to understand based on the days on the calendar, and the time on the clock, that there were some days where Stiles could stick around longer, and some where he couldn’t but stayed as much as possible.

Stiles also noticed Derek wanted blood every day, sometimes multiple times a day. He didn’t really mind, he just wasn’t sure if he should be concerned about it. It was actually on the day he’d decided to talk to Deaton about it after school, about to leave from having given Derek lunch, that he realized why the increase had happened.

Derek was standing at the front of the cage again, arms out behind himself, and Stiles obediently moved forward and stuck his arm through the bars. He waited for Derek to do his thing, but he didn’t. He just stared at Stiles for a long while, then his hand, but he didn’t bite him.

Stiles frowned. “What’s wrong?”

Derek was silent, as always, but he nosed at Stiles’ hand, like he was trying to shift it, and when it moved how he wanted it, Derek pressed his cheek into Stiles’ palm and let out a soft breath, closing his eyes.

Stiles’ heart fucking shattered in his chest.

All this time, when Derek had been standing there, it hadn’t been because he’d wanted blood. He’d just been doing that because he wanted to touch him. He wanted to touch Stiles, and he wanted Stiles to touch him back. It explained why he was okay with Stiles bathing him more frequently of late.

Derek was touch-starved, and Stiles hadn’t even realized it!

“Oh, come on, you can’t do that to me,” Stiles insisted, his heart in absolute shreds in his chest. Derek’s eyes opened, and he let out a soft whine, starting to pull away. Stiles yanked his arm back out and dropped his bag, moving to the cage door and opening it. He walked over to Derek, where he’d backed up so his arms weren’t suspended out behind him, and he carefully took his face in both hands. Derek closed his eyes again and Stiles rubbed his thumbs against his coarse hair, finding it to be kind of similar to a dog’s overcoat.

Derek was rubbing his face into Stiles’ hands, reaching up with his own and touching at Stiles’ own face. It was a little daunting, having claws that close to his eyes, but he did his best to ignore it. Derek’s fingers were curled slightly, like he still wasn’t sure how hands worked—though considering, this might have been how someone like Derek’s hands worked—but his touch was gentle, like he knew Stiles was more fragile than him.

“I didn’t know, I’m sorry.” Stiles let his hands slide down slightly, but when they neared Derek’s neck, he stiffened and bared his teeth. “Oh, okay.” Stiles brought them back to his face. “Okay, neck’s a place you don’t like. Got it.”

He’d never seen him react like that while he was washing him, but figured maybe it was because there was a separation between his skin and Stiles’. He always washed him with the shirt, so maybe it was okay with the lack of actual contact.

They stood there for a little while, Derek’s hands eventually leaving Stiles’ face and exploring the rest of his skin. He touched Stiles’ hands, lifted his shirt to rub his knuckles against his stomach, and kept going back up to his face.

Stiles carefully moved his hands off Derek’s face eventually and let them slide along his shoulders and arms. Derek seemed okay with being touched in other places, just not his neck, so Stiles just took his time rubbing at his arms gently.

He jumped when his phone rang, which startled Derek and he snarled, gripping at Stiles’ face tight enough for it to hurt.

“Ow, ow,” he insisted with a wince, and Derek instantly let him go, taking a step back and looking wounded. “No, it’s okay. You’re just—it’s okay.”

Stiles reached out one hand to Derek, touching his shoulder lightly, and pulled his phone out with the other. Scott’s name flashed on his screen, and he answered it, putting it to his ear.

“Hey Scotty.”

“Oh thank God!” Scott blurted out. “I thought it ate you. Where are you? Are you still there? Class started ten minutes ago, the teacher asked me to make sure everything was okay.”

“Oh, shit.” Stiles had forgotten he was meant to head back. Derek’s reaction had kind of derailed all thoughts of being at school. “Sorry, I—you know, it doesn’t matter. I’m taking the rest of the day. It’s only three hours. Can you let the school know? And bring my homework by later?”

“Sure,” Scott said, sounding worried. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, no, everything’s fine, Scott. I just... it’s okay. Thanks buddy. I’ll call you later.”

“Okay.” Scott still sounded unsure, but he bid him farewell and then hung up. Stiles put his phone away, then smiled at Derek.

“Good news, big guy. I know it’s not one of the days when I stick around, but you get me for the rest of the day today.”

Stiles turned to head out of the cage so he could grab his pillow and his book. He moved back into the cage then, something he’d never done before, and shut the door behind him. He couldn’t lock it—or more, he didn’t want to from inside, because Derek seemed smart enough to figure that out if he saw it done once—but he at least shut it the whole way.

He set his pillow down near Derek’s mess of blankets, the other moving back towards it, looking confused. He fell down onto it, staring at Stiles, but he just smiled at him and waited for Derek to lie down. Once he finally did, burying himself in his blankets with his head sticking out, Stiles reached out one hand to bury it in his hair, scratching lightly at his scalp.

He was a little surprised to realize that the hair on Derek’s head was much softer than his chops. It was almost like human hair, which was a little startling, but he forced his confusion away and just began to read, keeping one hand on Derek at all times.

Stiles left hours later for dinner, but Derek looked happier than Stiles had ever seen him before.


Tuesdays and Thursdays were turning into a bit of a problem for Stiles, because Lacrosse practice was beginning to run later and later now that they were moving further into the season. More than once, he contemplated quitting the team, since he was only a benchwarmer anyway, but it was something he liked to do and it kept him active.

He didn’t appreciate the constant checks and knockdowns from Jackson and his cronies, though. The only one of his friends who wasn’t a total dick was Danny. He even helped Stiles up every now and then, asking if he was okay. Stiles had endured much worse at Jackson’s hands, so he didn’t let it bother him.

His indifference to it pissed Jackson off, though, because apparently he was easy to offend and had major insecurities. He seemed out to get Stiles on a personal level, as if his very presence was an insult.

After one of their Friday games—he’d had to run to feed Derek before the game and was planning on going over afterwards—Jackson and two douches cornered him in the showers and beat him up. Not an uncommon occurrence for him, but he hated having to explain that to his dad.

It made it convenient Jackson did it during games and practices, Stiles could claim it was a stray ball, or even a brawl that had started up. Still, his left eye hurt a lot and he had various cuts and scrapes along his face. He knew his arms would bruise, too, from having to protect himself from the blows.

High school was great.

Stiles eased his Jeep to a stop outside the Hale house, climbing out with the third Harry Potter book in hand. They’d made some progress on the reading front, but since Stiles spent most of his time with Derek doing homework, they hadn’t gotten as far as he’d been hoping.

He was only going to stay for a little while, considering it was well past eight by now, and relatively dark out.

Turning on the flashlight on his phone, Stiles headed up the porch steps and into the house, opening the basement door and descending the stairs. There was some light on below, Derek having gotten used to turning the flashlight on and off when it got dark.

When he reached the bottom and turned towards the cage, Derek was at the front of it, snarling and baring his teeth angrily, blue eyes shining through the darkness and locked on Stiles. He frowned, confused, approaching the cage.

“What’s up, big guy?” He set the book down by his usual pillow, which he always took out of the cage because he didn’t want it to join Derek’s pile or he’d have nothing to sit on.

Derek was still snarling, eyes raking over every inch of his face. His lips were pulled back and the chains clinked, like he was straining against his shackles. Stiles had never seen him like this before.

Derek often got restless around the full moon, but more antsy. Like he couldn’t sit still. It was something Stiles remembered Deaton telling him, but aside from being a little all over the place, he was mostly fine. Normal, even.

This wasn’t normal. He looked pissed. Stiles would’ve assumed it was because of the change in schedule, but he’d had two other games since he’d been chosen, and Derek had never reacted this way before.

“Hey,” Stiles said softly, moving closer to the bars. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

He hesitantly reached one hand through the bars, and Derek instantly put his cheek against it, rubbing roughly, eyes still on his face. Then his eyes shifted down, and he turned to lick along a small cut on Stiles’ wrist where one of the guys punching him had broken skin with one of his nails.

It healed over instantly, Stiles watching with his phone’s flashlight aimed a little below it so it didn’t shine right in Derek’s face. He stared for a moment, then looked back up at Derek.

“You’re upset,” he realized, all the air punched out of him at the epiphany. “You’re upset that I’m hurt.”

Derek was still snarling, straining against the limits of his bonds, trying to reach other parts of Stiles that were injured. Stiles pulled his hand back, Derek’s snarl turning into a fullblown growl.

Turning off the flashlight on his phone and putting it away, Stiles moved slowly to the cage door, feeling for the lock since the light coming from Derek’s flashlight over by his blankets wasn’t really doing much to illuminate the area. He found the bolt and unlocked the door, stepping into the cage and closing it behind him, keeping it unlocked, as usual. He moved closer to Derek, one hand out in front of himself since he could only just see and Derek was nothing but a huge mass of shadow with brilliant eyes.

When he was close enough, he felt Derek’s claws in the hem of his shirt, mindful not to hurt him, and he was tugged forward. Hands were on his face, and he tried not to wince when Derek began licking him, tongue sliding against the injuries he’d been sporting for the past hour. It was weird, having Derek lapping at his various injuries. Stiles kind of felt like he was being groomed, but it wasn’t like that.

Derek was running his tongue smoothly along his wounds, giving each one two or three licks before moving to the next one. Stiles’ heart was doing something weird in his chest. He wasn’t sure what it was, but it felt really nice having Derek care about him.

Two months ago, he hadn’t even wanted to be here, and now... Derek was like a loyal dog. A humanoid loyal dog with healing properties in his saliva, but still. He cared about Stiles, and he was upset that he’d been injured. It was really nice.

It took Derek a good ten minutes to be satisfied that Stiles was okay, running his nose gently along various areas he’d licked to heal them up. Once he was done, he slowly pulled his hands away and backed up a step. Stiles reached up to touch at the place where his cheek had been throbbing earlier, but even when he pressed down hard, it didn’t sting.

“Thanks,” he said, a small smile on his face. “You didn’t—just thanks.” He pulled his phone back out so he could turn the light on, then headed back out of the cage. He picked up the pillow and book and moved back inside, shutting the door. Derek was already splayed on his blankets and Stiles dropped the pillow beside him, sitting down.

It was starting to smell really bad, and he knew it wasn’t Derek. People had been saying that Derek didn’t like it when his pile of blankets was washed—likely because the scents disappeared—but he actually almost felt like this was probably a lost cause.

He thought about going out to buy some more blankets and pillows and giving them out to people to sleep with for a few days. It would let him replace the old pile without upsetting Derek on the lack of smells. Something to think about in the morning, he supposed, and he used the flashlight to read a few chapters of the book.

Because he was holding both his phone and the book, he couldn’t reach out to touch Derek, but this wasn’t the first time this had happened, and the other was smart. Whenever Stiles couldn’t touch him, Derek reached out one clawed, shackled hand and snuck it up under Stiles’ shirt, knuckles resting lightly against his stomach.

Stiles wasn’t sure why Derek liked his stomach, but he figured it was one of the easier things for him to reach that didn’t move like his arms did. It didn’t bother him, anyway, Derek was always really gentle with him. It made him wonder why nobody had ever bothered to try and be like this with him.

He knew Tara had tried, to the best of her ability, but she was probably scared. Not that Stiles hadn’t been, at first, but he was also a teenager and they were stupid and reckless. If anyone was going to try and make friendly with a beast, it would be someone young and stupid.

Like Stiles.

He left a little past ten, writing down the times he’d be around at the next day on the calendar and pointing at them, then the clock. He had plans with Isaac and Scott tomorrow during the day, and was going to a movie with Boyd in the evening, so he’d only be by long enough to feed him and give him a few pats on the head. Derek always sulked on days like that, but he didn’t get mad about it anymore, which was a relief.

When Stiles woke up the next morning, he did end up going to the store for some blankets and pillows. He asked both Scott and Isaac to sleep with them for a few days, but didn’t tell them why. They just looked at him like he was crazy, but didn’t reject his request. Stiles asked the same of Boyd, who shrugged and took the offered items, asking if Stiles wanted him to get Erica to do the same. He really appreciated that and gave him another set.

He also brought one down to the station when he had a minute, asking Tara to do it, as well. She smiled at him and seemed pleased he was thinking of Derek, even though she had no idea just how close they had really become.

Stiles hesitated before asking Deaton, mostly because he didn’t know him very well, but Derek trusted him to an extent, so he did end up going around to ask him about it. Deaton was very polite, and agreed to help out.

The only person he didn’t ask was his dad, for obvious reasons. He did explain what he was doing, though, since Stiles had been sleeping with a different blanket every night, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed. His dad grumbled about it a little bit, but mostly because it was obvious he wasn’t happy about it.

Stiles didn’t want his dad to know about how he was already kind of hanging out in the cage, so he had to ask both Deaton and Tara how to get the old blankets out and the new ones in, knowing it would go back to his father by word of mouth.

Deaton gave him a sedative and told him to hide it in Derek’s food.

Stiles had never been so happy in his life to have a good relationship with Derek, because he felt like doing that would be a mistake. Apparently he was really protective of his blankets, though, and even Tara had admitted to being snarled at lazily while Derek had been a little out of it.

She apparently had to sedate him when she wanted to cut his hair, which was also on the agenda.

Stiles allowed one week to pass with people using the blankets, then he collected them all into large garbage bags and drove out to the Hale house on Saturday morning with plans for the day.

He gave Derek his breakfast before he moved the bags from the Jeep to the basement, wanting to only have to clean up once today, and was pleased that Derek seemed to be less messy than he used to be, as if having learned from watching Stiles eat.

It took him a few trips back and forth between the car and the basement, but Derek didn’t seem concerned, watching Stiles walk up and down the stairs with his head tilted slightly.

When Stiles was finished and had everything, he sighed and looked over at Derek, really hoping he wasn’t about to have a terrible day. This was going to be extremely challenging, but given the progression of their mutual trust for one another, he was hoping it would work out.

“We’re gonna try something different today,” Stiles told him, Derek watching him, flicking his eyes down to the bags and then back up to his face. Stiles bent down and ripped open one of the plastic garbage bags, angling it so that Derek could see the blankets inside. He perked up instantly.

Well, to Stiles he’d perked up. All Derek had really done was straighten slightly from his hunched stance and his eyes had widened. That was as much perking up as Stiles could determine from someone without eyebrows.

“I’m taking those.” Stiles pointed into the cage at the pile of blankets. “You’ve had them long enough. I got you a whole bunch of new, scented blankets and pillows. So I’m going in there now to get them, and you will behave.” He pointed his finger at Derek when he said this.

Derek seemed to have understood a while back that a pointed finger was a warning to be good, so he was hoping he would behave.

Stiles moved to the cage door and unlocked it, stepping inside. Derek stared after him, and though he twitched a little when Stiles reached for his pile of blankets, he didn’t move. He just watched him, lips downturned and looking unhappy.

It took Stiles three trips to get everything out of the cage. He’d brought along more garbage bags to toss them out in, but before doing so, he actually went through them all and checked them for what was salvageable and what wasn’t. Derek seemed particularly attached to two of them. One was Stiles’ first blanket—still in good condition—and another one was an old, ratty, almost burned to pieces blanket. Derek was whining so much when Stiles put it in the discard pile that he felt bad and sighed before adding it to the decent blanket, wanting to wash it, at least.

He made sure to keep the bags separate between the trash and the washing, and then went to get the hose. He cleaned out Derek’s bowl of water, rubbing his hand against the inside of it to get it as clean as he could, and then moved it out of the cage. Derek stood out of the way when Stiles manhandled him towards the wall and went about cleaning out the entire inside of the cage, trying to help clear out the smell a little bit. His toilet, as always, was surprisingly clean for a hole in the ground, and Stiles had to resist the urge to get on his hands and knees to scrub at some spots where the blankets at been. He did the best he could clearing it all out, then dropped the hose and went to get the bucket and shirt.

He was halfway back across the basement when he was hit with a spray of water, sputtering and jerking back a step. He wiped at his face quickly with one hand, and looked up to see Derek standing inside the cage with the hose in one hand, looking delighted. He was holding the hose awkwardly, and had pressed one palm against the opening to make it spray, probably learning that from watching both him and Tara.

“Really?” Stiles sighed. “Never leaving the hose with you again.”

Derek sprayed him again, but he stopped when Stiles got too close to the cage, probably because he was passing by his new blankets and one of the bags was still open. Stiles walked into the cage and held out his hand for the hose. Derek dropped it into his hand, and Stiles set it down in the bucket to fill it with water. He walked back out and grabbed a plastic bag that held soap and shampoo, along with a comb and some scissors.

He was determined to tame that wild hair today if it killed him!

Which it might, when he thought about it, but he was fucking determined!

He also had two stools, one more of a step-stool and the other an actual stool. He set the smaller one down and patted it, Derek tilting his head. Stiles sat down on it, then stood and motioned it again. Derek crouched down on it after a few seconds, seeming confused.

“We’re gonna get you presentable today if it kills me.” He paused. “I hope it doesn’t, but just work with me, okay?”

He used the shirt and bucket, along with the soap, to get Derek cleaned up as much as he could. He’d tried for a scentless soap, but it was obvious it had enough of a smell because Derek was making weird faces and looked unhappy. Not angry or upset, just unhappy. Like if Stiles had been trying to wash a cat.

Stiles scrubbed hard at Derek’s skin with the soapy shirt, raising his arms to get at his sides and awkwardly cleaning his crotch and thighs. He had to motion three times for Derek to close his eyes, because he kept reopening them when Stiles would start to bring the shirt forward. Eventually, he kept them closed, and Stiles cautiously cleaned up his face, trying to avoid his eyes in case Derek opened them.

He wiped down his face moreso than the rest of him, considering he still had the hair to do, and realized belatedly he should’ve started with that. He was just worried about it because he’d never done that before and was hoping the cleaning would be enough of an indicator for Derek that what he was about to do with his hair was part of getting him clean.

“Okay. Now’s where the new stuff comes in.” Stiles moved the stool up behind Derek, who turned to look at him. He just gently pushed his chin back around so that he was facing forward.

It didn’t last long, and Derek turned around completely. Stiles just sighed, but figured he could work with this. He picked up the shampoo, poured some into his hand, then set the bottle back down. Reaching out cautiously with one hand, he began to massage the shampoo into his hair, other hand coming up to join it. The suds were forming quickly, and he kept having to use his arm to brush some back when it fell down Derek’s forehead. The last thing he wanted was to have Derek get shampoo in his eyes, he’d probably bite Stiles’ hand off.

After about a minute of him working the shampoo into his hair, Derek’s eyes closed and he bowed his head, a rumble sliding up his throat. Stiles paused, worried about the noise, but it became clear very quickly that it was a pleased rumble.

“Are you fucking purring?” Stiles asked with a grin, continuing to scratch at Derek’s scalp and rubbing strands between his hands. “That’s fucking adorable.”

He felt like he was enjoying the sound too much, because he took much longer than was necessary getting his hair washed. When he was done, he used the bucket to rinse off his hands, and then had to convince Derek to lie down with his shoulders on the stepstool. He didn’t want to spray him with the hose, and he figured if he got his head back enough, he could rinse out his hair that way. It took some doing, but Derek finally lay down and Stiles used one hand to form a barrier between his forehead and his hairline, like hairdressers did. He rinsed out his hair, and was pleased with how much better it looked.

He hadn’t thought to bring a towel, but he went to grab one of his new worn shirts from one of the bags and he went back to towel Derek’s hair. He then used the shampoo to wash at his chops and beard, though he knew that wasn’t what it was for. He just wanted him cleaner than he’d ever been before.

When he was done, Derek still had a bunch of suds on him, along with all the shampoo on his face. The only way to rectify that was to hose him down.

“Okay, you’re not gonna like it, but here’s the deal,” Stiles said, wiping his hands on his pants and then emptying his pockets. He threw everything he had out towards the open bag, letting out a relieved sigh when his phone landed on the soft blanket inside. His wallet made it, as well, but his keys missed. That didn’t matter as much, he’d just been worried about his phone.

“So, we’re both gonna suffer, okay?” Stiles asked, pulling off his hoodie and tossing it out of the cage so he was wearing a T-shirt, his jeans, and his shoes. “I get that it sucks, but I gotta hose you down, so I’m gonna hose me down first, and you’ll see that I’m not punishing you and we can both be miserable together. Okay?”

Derek just stared at him, still sitting on the stepstool. Stiles nodded once, picked up the hose, and let out a few deep breaths. It was cold enough outside without him drenching himself, but he just exhaled sharply once more, then brought the hose up over his head, clenching his eyes shut.

“Oh fuck, that’s cold,” he insisted loudly, but didn’t move the hose. He instead brought it down, soaking his chest, the back of his neck, and down to his pants. “Oh Jesus, that’s cold.” He finally pulled it away, shaking out his head and wiping at his face to get water out of his eyes. “Oh, that sucked. Okay.” He looked over at Derek, who was still watching him. “Your turn.”

He took a step forward, raising the hose, and Derek bared his teeth at him.

“Don’t be a baby, I did it! See?” Stiles ran the hose over his chest again, gritting his teeth. “See? It sucks, but it won’t hurt you.”

Derek still looked unhappy, but Stiles didn’t want to spray him, so he just moved forward, even though Derek kept moving back. Eventually he ran out of places to go, hitting the wall, and Stiles closed the distance and held the hose up over him, moving quickly so he could clean him off faster. Derek snarled, shaking his head, but he didn’t move or go to attack Stiles, so he just did his best to run the water along his skin from side to side as quickly as possible to get him cleaned up, and then moved it away.

“See? You did awesome.” Stiles grinned. “Hey shit, I have a treat for you!”

Turning, he grabbed the shirt and bucket, moving back out of the cage with the hose and bringing everything back to the corner where it usually went. He quickly rinsed the bucket out, then the shirt, and then turned off the tap.

He was cold, but Derek was probably freezing, considering he was naked. Stiles figured they would both suffer together for a little while and then he’d get Derek his blankets. He was still wet, so he didn’t want to give them over now, but in a few minutes.

Moving back to his various bags, he opened the cooler and pulled out a ziploc bag of bacon. He knew Derek liked pork, but no one had ever said anything about bacon, and bacon was amazing. He’d cooked a bit that morning, not wanting it to be completely raw, but still more on the raw side than the cooked side since Derek seemed to like raw meat.

Returning to the cage, he walked into it, Derek looking like an unhappy wet dog, and pulled a few pieces of bacon out of the bag. He held them out to Derek, waiting for him to take them. He still looked unhappy, but Stiles could see his nostrils flaring and eventually, he reached out to grab at the pieces in his hand.

He brought them to his nose to sniff, then shoved one into his mouth. He was chewing slowly at first, then paused, and the chewing sped up before he shoved the other piece into his mouth and advanced on Stiles.

“Hey, hey,” Stiles insisted, backpedalling and holding one hand up, bacon behind his back. “This is a reward. We have one more thing to do today, and if you behave, you get the rest.”

Derek clearly didn’t understand, he just looked annoyed Stiles wasn’t giving him all of it. At least he’d found a good bribe for him, that was convenient.

He returned to the cooler, putting it back, and then grabbed the last two items from the bag of shampoo and soap.

The comb, and the scissors.

Turning back to Derek, he held them both up and was a little startled at the angry growl that escaped Derek, eyes locked on the scissors. It was a lot more aggressive than any other growl that had escaped him before, up to and including the first time they’d met. Stiles didn’t really know how to react to that.

He couldn’t help but wonder if one of the volunteers or the first few chosen had done something to hurt him with scissors, whether by accident or on purpose.

“Hey,” Stiles said softly, one hand out in a calming gesture. “Hey, it’s okay.” He took a few cautious steps forward, but froze when the ground began to shift beneath his feet. It had been a while since Derek had been pissed enough to move the earth.

“Okay,” Stiles stopped moving, one hand still out, voice calm. “Okay, it’s okay.”

He stayed where he was for a good five minutes before the ground stilled once more and he sighed.

“Look, I just—I want to help you. You can’t even see through that curtain of hair.”

Derek kept growling, still low and aggressive, and Stiles sighed. He reached up with the comb, brushing out some of his own hair, and then brought the scissors up. Derek snarled, as if thinking Stiles was going to hurt himself, but he ignored him and just snipped off a bit of his hair.

“See?” Stiles held it out, showing him the hair he’d cut off. “It’s fine. It doesn’t hurt.”

Derek was still growling, eyes going back and forth between the scissors, Stiles’ head, and the hair in his hand.

“Derek,” he said softly, taking another slow step forward. “You trust me, right? I wouldn’t hurt you. I promise.”

He set the scissors down out of reach, figuring he could try for the comb first. Derek kept his eyes on it as Stiles moved to the gate. He got Derek to sit on the stepstool again, though the beast’s eyes remained on the scissors. Stiles took the stool behind him and very slowly and carefully began combing out his hair.

It was way too long, as were his chops, and his... beard? Was it a beard? Sure, his beard. He did his best to comb everything out without pulling too much. It took him almost half an hour, but he eventually got to a point where he could slide the comb through his hair without it catching, and he was pleased with how good Derek looked.

“Almost human,” he teased, poking at Derek’s nose. Derek snapped his head back, confused, and reached up to rub at it. Stiles just laughed, then let out a sigh. “Can I go get those?” he motioned the scissors.

Derek had stopped looking at them ten minutes into his grooming, but his eyes snapped back to them when Stiles motioned them and he growled.

“I’ll be careful, I promise.” Stiles stood and moved towards the exit. Derek stood, as well, growling increasing in volume, but the ground remained still beneath his feet. Stiles bent down to grab the scissors, and held them out in front of himself so that Derek could see them, moving slowly back into the cage.

Derek was backing up, still growling, and Stiles again reached up and cut off some of his hair, hoping he got a different spot or he was going to look like an idiot later.

“It’s fine, Derek.” He held his hair out, but Derek was still staring at the scissors.

Stiles looked down at them, then had a thought. He knew it was stupid, but if Derek was going to trust him, he figured he had to do something a little stupid.

Moving slowly, he flipped the scissors around so his fingers were closed around the sharp ends, and then held out the handle to Derek.

Derek looked at him, then the scissors, then back at him. Stiles took a slow step forward, still holding out the scissors. The growling was still there, but it was a little quieter, more displeasure than anger. Derek took a cautious step forward, then reached out with his clawed hands, snatching the scissors from Stiles’ grip with one of them. He scowled at Stiles, then looked down at the scissors, using one knuckle to open and close them.

It looked like he understood what they were and how they worked, he just didn’t like them. Stiles took another step forward, moving slowly, then reached out for some of Derek’s hair, pulling it straight.

“Go on, then,” he said, motioning it.

Derek looked suspicious, but eventually he reached up and awkwardly cut it. He seemed surprised when Stiles pulled the cut strands away without any pain.

They continued like this for a little while, Stiles trying to get some of the hair cut, since he didn’t know if he’d get the scissors back, but after about ten minutes, Derek pouted like a giant baby and held the scissors back out to Stiles.

He smiled and took them, coaxing Derek onto the step-stool while he took the slightly higher regular stool. He let Derek face him, and used the comb to carefully cut his hair. Derek made a face every time Stiles snipped for the first few minutes, but after a while, he seemed to realize it really was okay, and though he pouted, he stopped growling and making faces.

Cutting his hair, chops and beard took almost an hour, because Stiles had to be sure he moved slowly and carefully. He wasn’t in a hurry, so it wasn’t a big deal, but he kept wondering why Derek was so against scissors the whole time he was working on him.

Once he was done, he ran one hand smoothly through Derek’s now dry hair, and smiled.

“You look great,” he said, brushing more strands off his skin. “You can see better now, right?”

When Stiles stood, Derek did too, running his hands over his face and hair. He seemed confused, like he didn’t understand what Stiles had even done since he still had hair, but that was okay. He looked leagues better, and Stiles just took the two stools out of the cage and set everything down. He grabbed the bacon and handed Derek four slices, which he eagerly devoured, then went to get the hose so he could clean up the mess he’d made. He had Derek stand in a different corner so he could spray the wads of hair across the cage towards the toilet, making sure the entire area was clean before returning the hose.

Finally, with his day’s work done—and feeling exceptionally proud of himself—Stiles went to the garbage bags of blankets and started pulling them out. He walked into the cage with each one individually, handing them to Derek so he could decide how to lay them out himself. He brought in the few pillows, as well, and watched Derek rebuild his little bed, lumping certain blankets up in the corner, and spreading others out a little bit more.

Stiles gave him the last blanket he’d been using at the end, and he didn’t fail to notice that every blanket he’d used over the week was spread out in a way where Derek was surrounded by them. He smiled a little at that, then went to grab Derek’s lunch, since it was well past noon, by now. He also took the opportunity to return his water bowl.

He watched Derek eat, then cleaned him up with a wetwipe, because this was the cleanest he had ever been, and by God, Stiles was going to keep him that way!

Stiles ate his own lunch afterwards, sitting outside the cage on his pillow and chewing slowly, sandwich held loosely in one hand. After lunch, he joined Derek in the cage, who actually looked kind of happy, and dragged his nails along his scalp while he read Harry Potter aloud.

Derek fell asleep at some point during his reading, and Stiles felt a little proud of that, because it meant Derek trusted him. He trusted Stiles to be in his personal space while he slept, and that was amazing.

Smoothing out some of Derek’s hair, he let out a small sigh, watching his slumbering, distorted face, and smiled a little.

“I’m sorry about whatever happened to you,” he whispered. “But I promise, I’m never going to let anyone hurt you ever again.”

He didn’t know why he thought something bad had happened to him, it just seemed like the only logical explanation.

Deaton had said he thought Derek was lost and trying to find his way back. Stiles didn’t know what Derek was, but he was definitely someone worth protecting.

And Stiles was more than okay with being the one to do it.


It was actually fairly easy to maintain Derek’s hygiene now that Stiles had cleaned him up really well. He gave him a rubdown every two days to keep him decently clean, and decided to wash Derek’s hair on Sunday mornings.

Every time Derek did something he didn’t like without complaining—in his own way—Stiles gave him bacon. Derek learned very quickly that being good equalled bacon and man did he ever work hard to be good.

They fell back into a good routine, having added in the small changes, and Stiles eventually washed and returned the two blankets he’d taken home. Derek seemed upset about the lack of scents on them, but one of them was gross so Stiles wasn’t going to roll around on it, and the other seemed to have held onto more of the detergent scent than Stiles’.

Derek shoved them to the bottom of his pile and just snuggled on the top layers with a few of Stiles’ blankets and dirty shirts.

He was on month three of taking care of Derek, and Stiles found he didn’t resent him anymore. Sure, it was a pain sometimes having to rearrange plans around food time, but Derek was actually pretty good now about understanding Stiles would come by whenever he could, and he always knew Stiles would be there no matter what on Sundays.

Things were really good for a while, which was why it was a bit of a shock one Thursday afternoon when Stiles was halfway through second period, working on a quiz, and all hell broke loose.

Literally.

The whole class jumped when a loud crack of thunder boomed overhead, despite the sky being clear outside. That quickly changed, and within thirty seconds, dark clouds descended and rain began to pour, large droplets landing harshly against the windows and asphalt.

Stiles frowned, figuring it was a freak storm, but the longer he stared, the worse things got. Lightning began to spark across the sky in long arcs, and someone let out a startled shout when a blast exploded just outside the window.

The wind picked up, trees swaying dangerously in the strength of it, and for a long moment, nobody moved. The weather had never done this before. And when the rain suddenly turned to hail the size of baseballs, Stiles jerked to his feet.

“Stiles, wha—”

“It’s Derek!” he shouted, sprinting out of Mr. Yukimura’s class.

He didn’t know what was going on, but this was different than usual. When he was mad or annoyed, he usually caused earthquakes or fires. But this raging storm was something completely different, and that worried him.

Was he okay? Was something wrong? Maybe there was a flood in the basement and he was trapped?

Stiles grabbed a ‘wet floor’ sign when he rushed past one and then slammed out the front doors. He held the sign over his head, wincing every time he was hit with the hail. The wind threatened to knock him over, but he pushed against it and hurried for the Jeep.

It was a fucking wreck, with large cracks in the windshield and dents along the hood and roof. He ignored that and managed to get the door unlocked, diving into the safety of the metallic box. Slamming the door, he started the car, the engine whining at the abuse of the hail, and peeled out of the parking lot.

Well, he tried to peel out of the parking lot. The hail made it hard for his wheels to get much traction but he eventually made it out of there, driving over the growing pile of ice on the road. He had to shift around in his seat to see through various open spaces in the windshield, since the cracks were making it difficult for him to see anything. He was halfway down the street when his phone rang. He fumbled to get it out of his pocket, still trying to drive, and brought it to his ear.

“Yeah?”

“Stiles, what the hell is going on?” his dad asked. He was shouting into the phone, and Stiles could hear loud booms across the line, likely because his dad was also in his car.

“I don’t know, I’m heading over now.”

“This has never happened before! We’ve never had anything close to this before!”

“Call Deaton,” Stiles said. “Maybe he knows something. I’ll call you when I get there.”

He hung up on his dad and kept driving. Most of the cars on the road had stopped, people not trusting themselves to drive in these conditions, but Stiles just made his way around them as carefully as he could, going much slower than he liked. It was actually almost a relief when he hit the trees, because the road there, while also dotted with hail, had much less and his Jeep was able to just fly through it to the clearing where the Hale house was.

The clearing looked as bad as the parking lot at school, though, so Stiles parked as close to the door as he could and leapt out with the wet sign held over his head again. He slammed into the house, a lot of hail raining straight through the roof, but thankfully not making it past the floor and into the basement.

“Derek!” Stiles shouted, rushing for the basement door. He almost fell down the stairs in his haste to get to the bottom, tossing the sign aside and bolting for the cage. “Derek!”

He was still there, where he always was, in his pile of blankets. He was snarling viciously, teeth bared and one hand clenched tightly in the blankets beneath his cheek.

His eyes were closed.

Is he—holy shit, is he having a nightmare?! Stiles couldn’t believe it. That something this violent was happening outside because Derek was having a nightmare.

He banged on the bars, worried to go in there with Derek like this. “Derek, wake up!”

Nothing happened. He just kept snarling, his limbs twitching and his teeth still bared. The noise upstairs was intensifying and Stiles cursed, glancing at the cage door. He honestly had no idea how Derek was going to react, but he didn’t have a choice.

Rushing for the gate, he unlocked the bolt and threw the door open, hurrying inside and bending down beside Derek.

“Derek,” he called loudly, hand hovering over his bare shoulder. “Derek, wake up. Wake up!”

Still nothing.

“Derek, wake up!” Stiles grabbed his arm and gave him a shake.

He was on his back instantly, all the air rushing out of his lungs and something heavy pressing against the center of his chest. Black dots danced in his field of vision and when it cleared, Derek was on top of him, one hand pressed against the middle of his chest and the other around his throat.

Sharp teeth were inches from his face, drool sliding along Derek’s chin, and his eyes...

His eyes were red.

Stiles thought his breathing had stopped out of fear as opposed to because of the hand around his throat. He lay frozen beneath Derek, hands out on either side of himself, staring up at something more animal than he had ever seen it before.

His heart was pounding double time in his chest, and Stiles knew he had to do something. He had to say something. Or at least attempt to breathe.

But he couldn’t. His lungs were frozen in fear, and his heart was quite literally attempting to vacate his chest cavity with how hard it was thumping against his ribcage. Derek’s hand around his throat tightened and drool dripped down onto Stiles’ cheek.

“De...” Stiles tried to say his name, but even if he could breathe, his words weren’t working. He had never been so terrified in his entire life, and when Derek lowered his face further, Stiles clenched his eyes shut and turned his face away, tensing when he felt hot breath along his cheek.

He closed both hands into fists, but didn’t try to do anything to move them. He knew it was a lost cause, and just when he felt Derek’s nose press against the side of his face, he prepared himself for the inevitable when the hand around his throat was gone, and the one on his chest moved away.

There was a long, low whine from above him and Stiles took a few long seconds before he hesitantly opened his eyes and glanced up.

Derek’s eyes were blue again, and he looked wrecked. He was still hovering over Stiles, hands on either side of his head, but he looked like he knew he’d done something bad, and he was scared. The hail hadn’t stopped outside and, if anything, it seemed to be getting worse.

Stiles’ heart was still slamming in his chest and he saw Derek look down at his chest, whining again.

That was when Stiles realized how good Derek’s hearing was.

Derek could hear his heart pounding. Derek knew he’d scared him. And he looked like that because he hadn’t meant to scare him. Hadn’t meant to hurt him.

And the hail was worsening because he was scared. That was what the hail was.

Fear.

“It’s okay,” Stiles forced out, throat rough and hands shaking. “Derek, it’s okay.”

He uncurled his fists and reached up with trembling hands, sliding his fingers through Derek’s hair and pulling him down. Derek let him manhandle him however he wanted, and Stiles very slowly and carefully pulled him until he was lying on top of him, folding his shaking arms around him and hugging him tightly.

“It’s okay,” he repeated, struggling to get his trembling under control.

He was scared. Stiles was fucking scared. But Derek was scared, too. And it was obvious he was scared of losing Stiles over what had just happened. And Stiles was scared he might be right. But he didn’t want to be scared of Derek.

He’d had a nightmare. Stiles had startled him awake. He’d attacked him out of instinct. But he’d stopped. He’d gotten his face close to Stiles’, and maybe something about his scent had snapped him out of it. Derek hadn’t hurt him, not really, and he was so fucking scared right now that Stiles was fighting to push his own aside.

One hand rubbed slowly up and down Derek’s spine while he shushed him, the sound coming out on a trembling breath. Derek wasn’t touching him with his hands, but he was lying flush against him, face buried into the side of Stiles’ neck. He was breathing harshly against it, every exhale making Stiles tense with fear, but he tried valiantly to push it aside.

“It’s okay,” Stiles repeated. The more he said it, the more it was helping him. It was okay. Derek had had a nightmare.

Stiles knew that as a child, he’d woken up flailing his fists. He’d given his mother a black eye once by accident. He knew he’d punched his dad before, too. It was the fear. It was the instinct to protect yourself when your brain was still mostly asleep.

Derek hadn’t meant it, and the constant whines and the way he was being so careful now not to touch Stiles proved how sorry he was. He was probably so worried Stiles was going to leave him over this.

But he wouldn’t. Stiles was scared, but it was okay. He was allowed to be scared, but Derek would never hurt him. Everything was okay.

Slowly, Stiles began to calm down, his heart slowing and the fear beginning to subside. He noticed that, the calmer he got, the less noise he heard from outside, suggesting Derek was also calming down.

After close to ten minutes, it sounded like just rain outside instead of hail, and most of Stiles’ tremors had stopped. Derek still didn’t touch him though, he just kept his face buried in Stiles’ neck, evidently worried to move.

“That was some nightmare, big guy,” Stiles said, still rubbing gently at his back. “Are you okay?”

Derek didn’t move, and they both jumped when Stiles’ phone went off in his pocket.

“All right, come on.” Stiles patted Derek’s back. “Time to get off.”

Derek didn’t move. When Stiles went to push him off, Derek just whined really low in his throat, his hands twitching, like he wanted to grab at him, so Stiles sighed and struggled to get one hand into his pocket. The call ended before he managed it, but he’d pulled it out and brought it close to his face when it started up again.

He didn’t need to check who it was, answering the call and putting it to his ear.

“I’m fine, dad.”

“Why didn’t you answer? What happened? I’m almost there.”

That wasn’t good.

“No, no, it’s fine. He just had a nightmare. He was scared, it’s okay. I fixed it.” His free hand was still rubbing gently at Derek’s back, but now that he wasn’t completely panicked, he could feel the weight of him on top of him.

Derek wasn’t light, and Stiles was going to get crushed soon if he didn’t move.

“I’m coming whether you want me to or not.”

“Dad, I literally just calmed him down. Please, can you trust me?” Stiles didn’t mean for the hurt to come out in his tone, but it did. He was really tired of people thinking he didn’t know what he was doing. Since Stiles had come to his agreement with Derek, there hadn’t been any incidents at all. This was the only one, and it had nothing to do with Stiles. Derek had been scared, and hail had fallen from the sky. But otherwise, things were amazing.

That was fucking Stiles! He was making Derek happy, making him feel less alone. He was doing everything right, why didn’t his dad see that?

“Dad,” he insisted. “Please. Please just trust me.”

There was silence on the other end for a long while. “How long will you be there?”

“Uh...” Stiles didn’t know how to answer that, considering he had a large, feral, humanoid beast lying on top of him with no clear intentions of moving any time soon. “A while,” he finally said.

“You call me in an hour, understand? You call me, Stiles. If you don’t, I will be there so fast you won’t have time to say you’re sorry.”

“Yup. Cool. Got it. Okay.”

His dad didn’t sound happy, but he just grumbled to be careful and hung up.

Stiles let his hand drop to the side, phone held loosely, and let out a sigh. Derek’s hands had shifted during the call so they were pressed up on either side of Stiles, not quite holding him, but pressing against him.

“Are you gonna let me up any time soon? You’re kinda heavy.”

Derek didn’t move.

“I’ll take that as a no.”

They stayed on the floor for almost forty minutes, Derek refusing to get up and Stiles figuring he’d move when he was ready. He knew Derek was worried if he let him up that Stiles would leave, so he just stayed where he was and rubbed at his back.

It actually made him sad, because he didn’t want Derek to be that afraid of being left alone again. Even though Stiles had been scared—because he was a normal human being and who wouldn’t be scared?—he’d calmed down a lot and figured he would deal with a nightmare differently next time. This was a learning experience for both of them.

When they were on minute forty-one, Derek tensed and let out a small growl. Stiles frowned, but didn’t say anything, and realized what the growl was for a minute later. There were footsteps overhead, and he felt dread pooling in the pit of his stomach. If his dad came down and saw them like this, he was likely to shoot Derek.

Twisting his head as much as possible so he could immediately shout that he was fine, Stiles’ words caught in his throat when Deaton appeared at the base of the stairs, looking at them both in the cage with his eyebrows raised.

“He won’t get up,” Stiles blurted out. “He refuses, I’ve tried.”

“I see.” Deaton moved closer, very slowly.

Derek was still growling, holding Stiles more tightly so that his claws were pricking gently against his skin, but not breaking through.

“Your father was worried.”

“I know.” Stiles sighed, still rubbing Derek’s back. “Derek had a nightmare. I woke him up and he calmed down.”

Deaton came as close as he dared, Derek’s growling intensifying, and wisely stopped a good few feet back, crouching so he could see them both better. Stiles didn’t know what Derek looked like right now, his face turned towards Deaton, but the man was just smiling at them.

“Can you tell me what happened?”

“I just did?” Stiles frowned. “He had a nightmare.”

“What did he do to you to make him so scared to let you go?”

Stiles blinked, not having realized that it was obvious. He’d assumed Deaton just thought Derek was a giant baby who needed coddling upon waking from a bad dream, but apparently the way he was clinging to Stiles hadn’t gone unnoticed.

“He threw me down,” Stiles said quietly. “He was—it was an accident, he didn’t know. He was just scared. He let me go when he saw it was me.”

“And now he’s scared you’re going to leave.” Deaton sat down fully now, eying the two of them. “He doesn’t want you to leave him.”

“Yeah.” Stiles sighed, still rubbing Derek’s back. “He’s a big baby.”

“Hm.” Deaton was silent for a moment. “How are you doing it?”

Stiles frowned. “Doing what?”

Deaton just kept watching him, then said, “I’d like to take you somewhere.”

“Tell him that, I’ve had to pee for like, an hour,” Stiles insisted, motioning Derek.

“I think he’ll let you up as long as he knows you’ll come back.” Deaton looked pointedly at the clock and calendar. Stiles followed his gaze, then tapped at Derek’s shoulder. He just growled again.

“Derek, come on,” he whined. “I have to get up. Look.” He pointed at the time. “Look. When it’s eleven, I’ll come back, okay?” He had to shift around to get both hands in front of Derek’s face, holding up both pointer fingers. “Eleven. It’s in an hour. I’ll come back, I promise.”

Stiles felt like Derek understood the word ‘promise,’ because Stiles said it to him a lot. Usually when he was insisting he would come back or everything would be okay or that the scissors weren’t going to hurt him. ‘Promise’ was a word Derek seemed to associate with Stiles as a good thing.

It still took him another minute before he slowly shifted, chains rattling when he got to his hands and knees. He looked unhappy when he shifted backwards, crouched down in front of Stiles and looking wounded.

Stiles sat up with a wince, rubbing at his throat since it still kind of hurt, not to mention he probably had a lot of bruises from the hail. He looked over at Derek, then smiled and got to his knees, reaching out both hands to cup his face, rubbing his thumb gently against his skin. Derek nuzzled against one hand, still looking like a kicked puppy.

“It’s okay,” he promised. “I’ll be back. Just give me an hour. I’ll be right back.”

He stood then, his entire body stiff and in pain, and hobbled towards the cage door, shutting it behind himself and locking it. He bent down in front of the calendar, pointed at the clock, then wrote ‘11’ on the calendar under the date, just to reassure him.

Stiles got back to his feet, patted the bars lightly with a smile, then turned to Deaton. The man was already on his feet, striding towards the stairs. Stiles followed him up and outside, letting out a sigh when he saw how destroyed his Jeep was. It would cost a lot of money to fix that up, but at least he could expense it. Thankfully he was the chosen this year, he basically didn’t have to pay for anything.

Deaton’s car, on the other hand, looked pristine. Stiles didn’t know if it was magic or luck.

Stiles jogged towards the forest, calling that he’d only be a second, then relieved himself because having someone as heavy as Derek pressing on his bladder for almost an hour had not been fun. He went to his Jeep when he was done, Deaton watching him, and used some wetwipes to clean his hands, since he couldn’t exactly wash them right now.

Once he was done, he obediently went to the passenger side of Deaton’s car and climbed in, slamming the door. Deaton got in behind the wheel without a word, and started it.

They turned around and drove for a good ten minutes in silence, the soft hum of the radio barely loud enough over the rough terrain. There was still a lot of hail all over the road, but it would hopefully melt soon. It was cold out, but not cold enough for it to stick around indefinitely.

When the car slowed and came to a stop, Deaton turned to Stiles and smiled. “On foot, I’m afraid.”

Stiles climbed out with him, the two of them walking further into the trees. He noticed that this area of the forest seemed untouched by the earlier storm, everything still vibrant green and devoid of any signs of hail. He frowned, feeling a faint buzzing in the air. It made his skin feel electric and he rubbed at his arms awkwardly, wincing when he hit some bruises. It was going to take a while for those to heal, he was sure, but even when he glanced down at his arms, he could see that some of them were already turning a greenish yellow colour, suggesting Derek’s usual advanced healing was still in his system and trying to get rid of his injuries.

He loved that Derek could heal him, it made his life so much better. He was sure Derek was going to do something when he got back to try and speed up the process, he’d probably just been too worried to do it while they’d been lying on the floor.

When they broke through some trees and into a relatively small clearing, Stiles paused when he stared up at the giant, flourishing tree in front of him, mouth open in awe. It was absolutely stunning, several feet high though not as tall as some of the other trees. The bark was immensely wide, and looked healthy, branches spreading from its center covered with brilliant green leaves. It almost seemed to be humming, pulsing energy through the forest.

“What...” Stiles couldn’t take his eyes off it. He’d never seen anything like it before. “What is that?”

He could feel Deaton’s eyes on him, but he didn’t look away from the tree. It felt like it was calling him and he took a few steps forward, pressing one hand against the trunk. It was warm beneath his palm, and he felt calm and at ease this close to it. All of his pain seemed to bleed away and he closed his eyes, letting out a small breath.

“That’s the Nemeton,” Deaton said from behind him.

Stiles’ eyes opened and he turned to look at him, confused. He still felt like he was in a haze, wrapped in a warm blanket, but he focussed on the Druid and said, “The Nemeton was rotting and dying a month ago, this can’t be it.”

“And yet, it is,” Deaton said, moving forward. He pressed his hand against the tree as well, right beside Stiles’. “I come here almost daily to see how it’s doing, and I noticed last month that it was beginning to heal. Then, I noticed it was growing, flourishing, becoming stronger.” Deaton looked at him. “I also noticed Derek got a haircut. And a bath. And new blankets. I noticed he was scared to let you go. That he listens to you. Trusts you.”

Stiles said nothing at first, turning back to the tree. “You think Derek is healing.”

“No,” Deaton said softly. “I think you are healing him, and there is a big difference in that.”

Stiles looked back at him, Deaton’s gaze incredibly unsettling in its focus. Stiles pulled his hand off the tree, but he still felt warm and content, his pain gone and his mind at ease.

“You’ve changed him, Stiles. I don’t know how, but you have. You are healing Derek, and because of that, the Nemeton is thriving. You did this.”

Shrugging once, Stiles licked his lips and let out a small laugh. “I didn’t do anything. I’m just...” He shrugged again. “He’s Derek, you know? I care about him. I want him to be okay.”

“For the first time since we’ve known of his existence, I truly think he is,” Deaton said softly, letting his hand slide off the tree, as well. “Whatever you’re doing, it’s working.”

“I’m not doing anything,” Stiles repeated.

Deaton smiled. “You’re doing something. Maybe you don’t see it, but I do.” The Druid gave him a calculating look, and smiled a little. “For someone without an ounce of magic in him, you seem very good at controlling it. I look forward to seeing what else comes out of this friendship between the two of you.”

Stiles didn’t know how to answer that, so he just looked back up at the tree. They lingered only a few minutes longer, then Deaton drove him back towards the Hale house, Stiles calling his dad on the way to make sure he didn’t panic over the silence, since his hour was up.

Unfortunately, the sheriff was already at the house, but only because he’d called a tow truck to bring the Jeep in, having removed the cooler from the trunk. He handed it over, along with a take-out bag from the Chinese place in town. He didn’t look happy, but Stiles patted him once in the back, and turned to go back inside the house, his dad calling that he’d pick him up around five-thirty.

The expression on Derek’s face when Stiles came back down the stairs—early, too!—was fucking heartwrenching. He put his things down and went back into the cage, moving over to him by his makeshift bed and pulling him into another hug. Derek didn’t seem to know what to do with his arms, but he figured it out enough to pull Stiles closer to him, burying his face in his neck again.

“I’m right here, big guy,” he promised, holding him tightly. “I promise, I’m right here.”

Derek didn’t let him go for close to an hour.


There were more nightmares from Derek as time passed, but most of them happened at night, and Stiles knew what they sounded like, now. They always started with the loud storm, so usually at the first hint of thunder, Stiles was out of bed and racing for the Jeep. He didn’t enter the cage until Derek was fully awake and calm, he just stood at the bars and threw something heavy at him—usually Harry Potter. Derek would jerk awake and leap for the cage, arms back because of the shackles and eyes red. Stiles just stood in front of him for a few seconds, telling him everything was okay, he was safe, nothing was there to hurt him. Derek tended to calm down incredibly quickly as time passed. Sometimes Stiles only had to say one word and Derek would come back to himself, pulling away from the front of the cage with his eyes turning blue again.

He didn’t know what the nightmares were about, or why they were happening now, considering this was a relatively new occurrence. It had never hailed in the past, and the only storm they’d previously had hadn’t been that bad, lasting less than five minutes. But lately, the frequency was increasing, with the storms coming more and more often until it was almost on a nightly basis.

Stiles didn’t know what to do, because Derek was obviously having problems sleeping, and he didn’t know why.

“It’s you,” Deaton informed him one day, when he went in to find out how to fix things.

“It’s me what?” Stiles asked.

“His nightmares. It’s because of you.”

Stiles felt like maybe he shouldn’t have come by after all. “What do you mean they’re because of me? Why?”

“He has something to lose, now.”

He hadn’t been expecting that, and now Stiles didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know that he believed Deaton, but when he really thought about it, he supposed it made sense. Derek and Stiles had been getting close, really close. Derek was always really happy to see him, and he pouted on days where Stiles couldn’t be around much. Stiles had a life outside of Derek, he hung out with friends, he did his own thing, but Derek only had him. And before him, he’d had... well, no one, really. He’d been alone. The people caring for him hadn’t done it out of kindness, but out of duty. Even Deaton wasn’t that close with him, and Derek seemed to tolerate him at the beginning of all this.

Stiles was someone he cared about. He’d been upset when Stiles had arrived injured that one time after they’d become friendly. He’d whined and acted ashamed and hurt when he’d attacked Stiles by accident.

Really, why couldn’t Deaton be right? Maybe all of this was because of Stiles. Maybe Derek had lost people he cared about before, and he finally had someone new to care about, and it terrified him. But Stiles couldn’t fix something like that. He didn’t even know how to begin to fix something like that.

When Stiles had a nightmare, he woke his dad up with his screaming and took a minute to calm down. When Derek had a nightmare, the whole town turned into a fucking warzone. It wasn’t that he was angry at Derek for the nightmares, he just didn’t know what to do to help him.

He contemplated walkie-talkies, like maybe if Derek heard his voice he would calm down, but he usually needed something thrown at him to wake him up. Stiles thought about maybe wearing a different shirt every day and bringing that to him to sniff at during the night, but he already had blankets and shirts that smelled like Stiles, and it didn’t seem to be helping.

Short of driving out there and waking him up to calm him down, Stiles couldn’t do anything.

Though now that he thought about it, it did explain why Derek calmed down instantly when he realized Stiles was right there. If he was having nightmares about him being hurt, it stood to reason that he’d calm down right away upon seeing him.

Stiles sighed, rubbing the back of his neck while heading into the Hale house, cooler in one hand. He hadn’t been getting much sleep lately, either. He had to be on alert for Derek, and more often than not he was driving out to the Hale house in the middle of the night. Everyone was just lucky his Jeep had been bumped to the top of the list for repairs, or this would’ve been a disaster.

He descended the basement stairs, forcing a smile despite his exhaustion, and turned to the cage.

“Hey Derek. Sorry I’m late, I had a hard time waking up this mor—”

Stiles froze, dropping the cooler.

Derek was standing where he always was when waiting for Stiles, excited and fidgetty. He was at the front of the cage, as much as he could be without straining against his cuffed wrists, with eyes locked on Stiles and seeming fucking thrilled to see him.

Only Derek didn’t look like Derek.

Derek looked like-like a human version of Derek.

He had fucking eyebrows!

Stiles just stared at him, lips parting as if to say something, but he couldn’t think of what. Derek didn’t look like an animal anymore. His forehead wasn’t pronounced, his nose wasn’t flat, his chops were gone. He looked like a regular human, with shaggy hair, a badly kept beard, and soft green eyes, a stark difference to his usual deformed features and startlingly blue irises.

“Derek?” he asked cautiously.

The man in the cage tilted his head, the same way Derek did. He looked at Stiles, then at the cooler, then back at Stiles. Obviously, he didn’t know what the holdup was.

Stiles moved forward slowly, walking right up to the cage. Derek was still watching him, looking as excited as he always did when Stiles showed up. Like he was happy to see him again, and they’d been apart for too long.

Hesitantly, Stiles reached between the bars, holding out one hand. Derek instantly stepped into it, nuzzling his cheek against it. His beard felt rough, but not like an animal’s anymore, and it almost seemed like he had no idea he looked any different.

“Okay,” Stiles said softly, brain reeling. “So this is a thing. You can look human.”

What the fuck was he?!

Stiles pulled his hand back, Derek seeming confused, like he thought he’d upset him. Reaching into his pocket, Stiles pulled out his phone and opened the camera function, snapping a photo of Derek. He didn’t react, likely because of the lack of flash, but he looked back at the cooler, clearly wondering why there was a delay.

Deciding to feed him before making this call, Stiles went back to the cooler, shoving his phone in his pocket and brought it over where it usually sat. He pulled on a glove, unwrapped some meat, and then moved to the cage door. Opening it, he hesitated before stepping inside. Somehow, human-looking Derek was a little more intimidating than animal-Derek. He knew animal-Derek. Though it really seemed as if he had no idea he looked any different. Derek reached out with one shackled hand—devoid of claws and with fingers almost working properly—and took the offered meat. He went to crouch by his bed and began to eat happily, biting into the hunk of lamb with very human teeth.

Stiles just stared at him while he ate, Derek finishing up and then staring right back before glancing at the cooler. Stiles went back for another piece of meat, and a bag of bacon. He handed the meat over first, which Derek wolfed down quickly, eyes locked on the ziploc of bacon Stiles was holding.

“It’s really you, isn’t it?” Stiles asked, in awe. “It’s actually you.” He moved a few steps forward and Derek stood, coming to meet him halfway. He excitedly took the bacon Stiles offered him, eating it quickly, and then turned to lie down on his blankets, looking from Stiles to Harry Potter and back, eager to get on with their usual routine for a Sunday morning.

Stiles pulled out his phone instead, dialling a number and bringing it to his ear.

“Hello, Stiles. Is everything all right?”

“Can you come over?” Stiles asked, voice doing something weird. “I mean, to the Hale house?”

“I can be there in fifteen minutes. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine, I just... you’ll see when you get here.”

Derek cocked his head when Stiles hung up, then let out a soft whine, eyes returning to flashing between Stiles and the book.

This was so fucking weird.

He couldn’t do anything about it, though. He didn’t get what was going on, so Stiles obediently went out for his pillow and the book, and then wandered back into the cage. He sat down in his usual spot, and Derek shifted closer. Stiles had one hand free, but Derek stuck one of his up Stiles’ shirt and onto his stomach, like he usually did when Stiles wasn’t touching him.

He seemed... different. Content. It was weird.

Stiles just buried one hand in his hair and tried not to be weirded out, finding the last page they’d left off on and beginning to read. He knew when Deaton showed up, because Derek tensed and his head snapped towards the window. A low growl started rumbling up his throat, and Stiles closed the book, setting it aside.

He reached down to run one hand along Derek’s cheek in a comforting fashion, then stood. Derek wasn’t happy about that, getting to his feet as well and following Stiles as far as the shackles would allow, growling when he exited the cage and locked the door.

“I’m not going anywhere,” he promised. Derek was scowling unhappily, something very evident now that he had eyebrows. His teeth had sharpened slightly, and his eyes were beginning to bleed blue, but the rest of his features were still very human.

Seeing that was a bit of a relief, though, because it proved to Stiles that this truly was Derek.

“I’m right here,” Stiles promised, moving towards the stairs. “I’m not leaving.”

He stood at the bottom of the stairs, where Derek could still see him, and waited. Deaton opened the door a few moments later, pausing when he saw Stiles waiting on him, and then descending the stairs slowly.

“Is everything all right?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles said quietly, moving a step closer, but still staying within Derek’s line of sight. “I came over this morning, like I always do, and—well, take a look.” He motioned over to where Derek was, striding back to the cage.

Deaton followed, and when they were in front of it, Stiles thought he might be going crazy.

Derek looked the same as he always did. Pronounced forehead, flat nose, no eyebrows.

“Okay, no,” Stiles insisted, fumbling for his phone. “No, this isn’t—I swear, he didn’t—” Stiles opened his camera roll and frowned at the last picture he’d taken. There was massive glare, like a lens flare, coming from where Derek’s eyes were. It obscured a majority of the picture, and he turned to Deaton desperately.

“Deaton, I swear to God, I’m not crazy. He looked human! He had human features, with a normal nose, and a beard, and-and eyebrows! He-he looked human! I swear to God, I saw it.” He showed him the picture, pointing emphatically. “I took a picture! I don’t know why it didn’t work, but I swear he was human!”

“Stiles.” Deaton put both hands on his shoulders, which Derek growled at. “I believe you.”

“You-you do?” Stiles didn’t think he would believe him were their roles reversed.

“I do.” Deaton released him and took the phone, zooming in on the picture and frowning. “It’s difficult to make out his features, but you’re right. I can see an eyebrow here.” He pointed. “And his chops are gone.” He motioned the sides of Derek’s face.

“What the hell does that mean?” Stiles demanded, taking the phone back. “How can he look human when he isn’t?”

“Well, strictly speaking, I am also not human,” Deaton said, eying Derek with interest. “I suppose it’s not unusual for him to have a human side, as well. He probably didn’t have any reason to show it before now.”

Stiles turned back to Derek, who still looked like he always did.

“So... what?” Stiles hesitated. “Is he-is he like, normal again?”

“Far from it, I would imagine, but slowly getting there. Perhaps you are healing him much faster than I thought.”

When Deaton reached out to pat his shoulder, Derek growled again, making the Druid smile.

“He’s very protective, isn’t he? Doesn’t like other people touching you.”

“I think he might view touching differently than we do,” Stiles said with a sigh. “To him, it’s something you do with someone you trust explicitly. I don’t think he likes the idea of me trusting people other than him.”

“Ah,” Deaton said, removing his hand and taking a step back. Derek’s growling stopped, but he still looked unhappy. “I suppose I should take my leave, then. Do keep me apprised of any other changes. This is a most interesting development.”

“Right.”

Deaton inclined his head at him, called goodbye to Derek with a smile, and then turned to leave. Stiles watched him walk away and up the stairs until he couldn’t see him anymore. The door at the top opened and shut, and he heard footsteps overhead.

He looked back at Derek, who had his head tilted, eyes tracking the movement of the footsteps. Stiles didn’t hear Deaton drive away, but he could tell by the way Derek relaxed when he finally did. And even as he relaxed, Stiles stared in amazement when his face slowly shifted, turning back to what it had looked like moments before.

Human.

“Dude, what are you?” Stiles asked, moving back to the door and unlocking it so he could enter the cage.

He moved closer to Derek, who immediately went back to his blankets, seemingly excited to get back to head scratches and Stiles’ voice, even if he didn’t understand the words. Stiles sat slowly on his pillow, staring at him. Derek’s hand immediately returned to his stomach, but Stiles didn’t pick the book back up. He pulled his phone out again and snapped another picture. When he checked it, he saw the same glare from Derek’s eyes, like he couldn’t be photographed. Frowning, he reached out one hand to cover them.

Derek’s lips turned down unhappily, but he didn’t growl and he didn’t shift. Stiles took a picture, and when he checked it, this one came out properly. So if people took pictures of Derek with his eyes open, or facing the camera, it distorted the image. That was interesting.

He jumped when Derek’s hand began to scratch at his stomach, turning to him and seeing him pouting. It was fucking weird seeing an actual pout on his very human face.

Stiles let out a small, half-amused and half-terrified laugh. “Shit. Okay, okay. It’s gonna take some getting used to, but you’re still you. Got it.”

He picked the book back up and buried one hand in Derek’s hair, beginning to read where he’d left off.

He hadn’t really thought much on what he was doing for Derek, despite seeing the Nemeton thriving, but sitting here, beside a very human-looking used-to-be beast, Stiles actually thought that maybe Deaton wasn’t wrong and he really was bringing him back to himself.

It would be interesting to see what Derek was like when he didn’t act like a baby.

TBC... Because Ao3 hates me

 

Chapter Text

Stiles was fucking exhausted when he dragged himself through the halls after Lacrosse practice. Derek’s nightmares hadn’t been diminishing, and Stiles was struggling to keep up with class and Lacrosse on top of making sure Derek was okay on a nightly basis.

He knew he could technically skip class and still graduate, but Stiles actually liked school. Not the other students, or most of the teachers, but learning was interesting. He liked his classes, and he liked being able to hang out with his friends, since he’d been cutting down on that more and more lately because of Derek.

He didn’t know what to do, though. A part of him almost wanted to get an inflatable mattress and just go live in the Hale house so that he could at least get some sleep! A tempting thought, and he would consider it further if he didn’t know his father would put a stop to that immediately.

Sighing, Stiles exited the school and was almost at his Jeep when someone grabbed him by the backpack and wheeled him around. The bag was ripped from his shoulders, but hands were in his shirt before he could make a break for it. He let out a shout when he was slammed head-first onto the hood of a car, a large hand holding his head there while someone else grabbed at his closest arm to stop him from punching back. He did get one good elbow into the ribs of the person behind him before his other hand was grabbed, as well.

“You’re turning into a fucking problem, Stilinski,” Jackson’s voice said from somewhere to his left. “The earthquakes were better than this bullshit weather we’ve been having because of you. You not been feeding that thing up in the Hale house?”

“Leave it,” Stiles said darkly. He didn’t have the energy to deal with Jackson right now, and he was going to be late meeting Derek. Considering his nightmares, he really couldn’t afford to be late, Derek would probably panic.

“I think maybe he hasn’t been getting what he wants. You been holding out on him? Haven’t seen any cuts on your hands in a while.”

Stiles froze when he caught the glint of a knife in his peripheral. “Jackson, don’t do anything stupid.”

His face appeared right beside Stiles’, bending down at the end of the car so they were eye-level. His smile was all teeth.

“I’m not. I’m just going to make sure that you’re feeding it properly.”

“Leave it,” Stiles snarled again.

“Oh, you’re telling me what to do, now? Being chosen has really gone to your head.” Jackson looked at who was behind Stiles, probably fucking Aiden, and nodded once. Stiles was wrenched off the hood of the car and he kicked out his legs, trying to get himself free. Aiden and Will manhandled him roughly towards the back of Jackson’s Porsche, despite his struggles, and he was shoved harshly into the trunk. The only reason he didn’t immediately try to escape was because he didn’t believe they would worry about him losing fingers if he tried to get out. He was thankful he didn’t even attempt it, because he’d barely hit the bottom of the trunk when it was slammed overhead, bathing him in darkness.

His heart began to slam in his chest, breathing erratic, and he pounded on the inside of the trunk.

“Hey. Hey! Jackson! Let me out!”

Stiles wasn’t scared of small spaces, but the trunk was tiny, and Jackson was fucking crazy sometimes. He felt like the walls were closing in on him, suffocating him, and he banged harder, fingers scrambling along the inside of the trunk, trying to find the release. He knew all cars had a release inside the trunk, but he couldn’t see in the darkness, and his breathing was so erratic he thought he might be on the verge of passing out.

He was definitely having a panic attack, and that didn’t improve when the engine roared to life and the car began to move. He continued to bang on the trunk, but music blared a moment later and he knew nobody would hear him.

Coloured dots were dancing in front of his eyes, breathing coming faster, and he felt like he was suffocating. The walls were too close. Stiles reached out both hands, trying to hold them back, but it didn’t seem to help. It felt like they were closing in on him more and more, and just when he was positive he was about to be crushed by them, the engine stopped and the music cut out.

He breathed hard and fast, pounding on the trunk and screaming for them to let him out. He didn’t know where they were, what they were doing, but it couldn’t be anything good.

When the trunk opened, Stiles exploded out of it, falling flat on his face on the hard ground of the forest and gasping in lungfuls of air. He was still breathing much faster than normal, but being out of the trunk was doing wonders for him.

Before he could get himself back under control, hands grabbed at his arms and wrenched him to his feet, turning him and pulling him roughly towards stairs leading up to a front porch.

Familiar stairs. And a familiar porch.

Oh no. Oh no, no, no!

“No!” Stiles shouted, digging his heels in the dirt, but the ground was covered in leaves, and Will and Aiden were strong, pulling him along so his feet just slid along the earth. “No, he doesn’t like people! He doesn’t like it! Jackson!”

The other teen ignored him, walking up the porch steps first and pushing through the door. Stiles shouldered into Aiden hard enough to send him off-balance. He released Stiles, who turned to drive his free fist into Will’s stomach.

Once he’d doubled-over and Aiden was on his ass, Stiles bolted up the stairs and tackled Jackson around the middle, stopping him from going any further. Derek didn’t like people! He was going to freak out!

Actually, he was already freaking out, because even as he and Jackson struggled on the floor, the house creaked ominously and the entire forest groaned outside. Then, the floor began to move, undulating roughly beneath them, floorboards rattling and the roof threatening to cave in.

“Jackson, stop!” Stiles shouted, trying to roll them back towards the door. Jackson got on top of him and punched him in the mouth. Pain exploded through his face and he saw stars for a second from the force of the hit. Hands were grabbing at him and he was on his feet, but Aiden lost his footing from the moving ground and he and Stiles fell sideways into the basement door.

It broke on impact, Aiden grabbing at the doorframe to avoid falling down the stairs, but Stiles wasn’t so lucky. He tumbled down them in a heap, cracking his head on the hard concrete floor below.

His vision swam and he coughed roughly, feeling like his lungs had collapsed. He let out a pathetic wheeze, struggling to get back to his hands and knees, and turned to look over at Derek.

He was standing at the front of the cage, eyes blazing blue, and a horrible sound escaping him. It was worse than the time he’d attacked Stiles after his nightmare, and even as Stiles stared at him, his eyes were flickering between blue and red.

“Dere—” Stiles cut himself off with a shout, Jackson suddenly there and wrenching his head up by the hair.

“Come on, Stilinski. Let’s give him what he wants.”

He was trying to drag Stiles towards the cage by the hair, stumbling from the moving ground. Stiles punched at any part of him he could reach, half scared for Derek, half for himself. Derek wasn’t Derek right now. He was the red-eyed monster who didn’t recognize Stiles. If Jackson threw him in there right now, Stiles didn’t know what Derek would do. Maybe nothing, but maybe...

Well, Stiles didn’t want to find out.

“Dude, this is getting out of hand,” Aiden said from the stairs, holding the railing to stay upright. “We should go! This isn’t funny anymore!”

“Don’t be a baby, what’s that thing gonna do?” Jackson motioned Derek with a wave of his hand. “He’s chained up, he won’t—”

Stiles punched at the back of Jackson’s knee and he went down. He ripped himself free, strands of hair separating from his scalp, and scrambled back towards the opposite wall, barely managing it. The concrete beneath them was cracking horribly, and Stiles was pretty sure the booming sound above them was the roof caving in. Everything was shaking, and the floor above was threatening to crash down around them.

“Make him stop,” Jackson snarled at Stiles, crawling towards him. He had to crawl, because he would fall over if he tried to find his footing.

“How?!” Stiles demanded angrily. “I told you to leave it!”

Jackson grabbed him by the front of the shirt. “I said make him stop!”

He punched Stiles across the face hard enough for his already injured head to crack back against the wall.

Sound seemed to explode around him, his vision blacking out for a few seconds. There was an earth-shattering roar, a loud slam, and Stiles was dragged almost painfully across the floor by a tight grip on one arm. He was pushed back hard against another wall, a hand pressed flat against his chest, knocking the air out of his lungs.

It took a few seconds for his vision to clear, and when it did, he felt his lungs seize up for a completely different reason.

Derek was in front of him.

Derek was in front of him, one hand pressed against his chest, pushing him back against the wall, and his body angled outward, roaring loudly in Jackson’s direction.

Jackson was bleeding, large slashes across his chest, and he was scrambling backwards as fast as he could towards the stairs. Aiden and Will were nowhere to be seen, likely having run off the second Derek had broken free.

And he had broken free.

Stiles’ eyes shifted to the large gate, which was lying bent and misshapen on the floor. There were still shackles around Derek’s wrists, but the chains had been ripped right out of the wall, leaving a trail of debris from where they had been along the floor to where he was crouched in front of Stiles.

Jackson had reached the stairs, but when Derek roared again, he froze, as if scared to move. Scared to even breathe.

Stiles could relate. Breathing was pretty fucking terrifying right now, because he had very sharp claws pressed against his chest almost exactly where his heart was.

He’d been wrong. Stiles had been so, so wrong.

This was the most terrified he had ever been of Derek.

“Call my dad,” Stiles said, voice tight and low. “Jackson, call my dad.”

Derek growled angrily, but didn’t turn to him, keeping his attention on Jackson.

For a moment, it looked like he was frozen, like he would never move again. Then, as if zapped by electricity, he exploded up the stairs, letting out a shout when one of them broke under his weight. Stiles didn’t know what it looked like upstairs, but it seemed to take Jackson a while to exit the house. Derek’s head turned to follow the movement, still growling angrily. He stared towards the front of the house’s window for a long while before finally shifting his red eyes to Stiles.

It was hard to breathe, mostly because Stiles was struggling to inhale in general and not because of the hand on his chest. He and Derek had an understanding. They would never hurt each other. But that was something Stiles firmly believed when Derek was still shackled to the wall. When Stiles could scramble back away from him, get out of his reach.

When his eyes were still blue.

His chest was rising and falling rapidly, heart slamming so hard in his chest it was hurting. Derek shifted closer, still growling, and Stiles felt himself trembling. He closed his eyes, not wanting to look, when Derek’s face buried itself in his neck and inhaled deeply.

He waited, neither of them moving for a long moment, and then, the growling stopped, replaced by a long, low whine. Stiles kept his eyes clenched shut, feeling liquid slip free from his left one, rolling down his cheek.

Derek’s free hand moved to Stiles’ chin, turning his head to one side, and he couldn’t hold back all of a whimper, because it was very clear his throat was exposed like this. He waited for the teeth to sink into him, for Derek to show his true nature now that he was free, but it never happened. Instead, he felt Derek nose at the back of his head, and then whine again before he was licking at Stiles’ hair.

It occurred to Stiles that he might have cracked his head harder than he’d anticipated, maybe he was bleeding. Still, he didn’t open his eyes, he just stayed motionless while Derek licked at him for a few seconds, nosing along his temple and then licking at his cheek.

He flinched when the claws in his shirt tugged slightly, but they were only in the material, not his skin. Derek let out another whine, and his hand pulled away. Stiles felt the weight of him shift back, and he stayed completely still for at least thirty seconds before he risked opening his eyes, turning his head slowly to see what he was doing.

Derek’s eyes were still red, but he was crouched in front of Stiles a few feet away, looking wounded, like he didn’t understand what was going on.

Like he didn’t know why Stiles was afraid of him.

Stiles slowly reached up with one hand, touching the back of his head. His fingers came back red, but he felt no pain there. He had a massive headache, but there was no injury. He looked back over at Derek, who was staring at him, seeming unsure.

“Derek?” he asked softly.

He started to hold one hand out, hesitated, then followed through with the motion.

Derek was there instantly, rubbing his cheek into Stiles’ hand, like he always did. His eyes were still red, but even as they both sat there, they were slowly turning blue again. He was still himself.

He wasn’t going to hurt him.

Stiles let out a sharp exhale, letting his head fall back against the wall and closing his eyes with relief, his hand still pressed against Derek’s cheek.

It was okay. Derek was still okay.

Except he was now without a cage.

“Shit.” Stiles rubbed at his face with his free hand, since Derek was holding his other one against his face with both of his. “Jesus Christ.”

His heart couldn’t take much more of this. It was still pounding erratically in his chest, but Derek being in control was calming him down a little bit. He knew he should be thinking about what had just happened, but he was pumped so full of adrenaline that he could barely remember his own fucking name.

He’d just let out a harsh exhale when Derek stiffened and before Stiles even had time to lower the hand from his face, claws were in the front of his shirt and he was being wrenched to his feet roughly, the fabric tearing.

“Derek!”

Stiles didn’t have time to do anything. Derek had one arm in a vice grip and was dragging him urgently across the room. He almost tripped over the end of the cage, but Derek kept him standing with how hard he was holding onto him. He shoved Stiles face first into the corner where his blankets were, then pressed himself into Stiles’ back, the length of his body right up against his.

He turned his head to the side, trying to figure out what was going on, and saw Derek was pushing into him with his back, facing outward and slightly crouched, claws out and teeth bared in a vicious snarl.

Stiles didn’t understand at first, but then he heard footsteps overhead. Lots of them.

And someone shouting his name.

Holy shit.

Holy shit!

He was—holy fucking shit!

He was protecting him!

Derek was protecting Stiles!

He and Jackson had been fighting up above. Derek knew it was him, Stiles was willing to bet Derek would know him anywhere. They’d been fighting, and the ground had begun to shake. Because he was angry.

Then Stiles had fallen down the stairs, and Derek had looked livid, but not like he thought Stiles needed his help. He was trusting Stiles to figure his own shit out. And he had, for the most part. He’d gotten Jackson to let him go, but then Jackson had cornered him at the wall.

Jackson had punched him in front of Derek.

And then Derek had...

He’d broken out of the cage. He’d gotten Stiles into a corner, holding him there, facing down Jackson. Once he’d been gone, Derek had been fine. Almost normal. And now...

Now more people were coming. And Derek didn’t trust them, because Stiles was injured.

Derek was protecting him from who he perceived as a threat!

“Stiles!” His dad stumbled down the broken stairs, flashlight up and gun drawn.

Derek let out a vicious growl, and Stiles was worried his dad would get slashed to pieces like Jackson had.

“It’s fine!” Stiles shouted, even as Derek pressed into him harder, keeping him right up against the wall. “Dad, I’m—it’s fine. I’m okay.”

More officers were there, which was making the ground begin to shake again. All of them were aiming guns at Derek, and what Stiles could see of his dad looked horrified. He didn’t know if it was because of the state of the cage and shackles, or because Stiles was quite literally trapped between Derek and a wall.

“Jesus Christ,” the sheriff said softly. Stiles could see Parrish in his peripheral, looking extremely nervous, but determined. They were all holding their footing pretty steadily considering the way the ground was shaking beneath them.

“Dad, I need you to trust me,” Stiles said slowly, trying for calm, even as everyone in the place looked ready to attack each other. “I need you and your deputies to go back upstairs.”

“I don’t think so,” the sheriff said gruffly.

“Dad, please.” Stiles shut his eyes, trying to find his patience, even as he worried about Derek hurting his dad, and the deputies shooting Derek. “He’s trying to protect me.”

“Bullshit!”

“Dad, will you listen,” Stiles snapped, which effectively shut him up. “This, all of this, is because Jackson dragged me down here and started beating on me. Derek got mad, he collapsed the house, and he broke out to protect me. He was fine until you all showed up, and now he won’t let me leave until he thinks I’m safe.”

“I’m your father,” the sheriff snapped back. “How can you not be safe with me?!”

“He doesn’t know that,” Stiles insisted. “He doesn’t like you! What makes you think he’s going to trust you with me?”

The sheriff said nothing to this, and Derek let out another growl when someone else came slowly down the stairs. Stiles couldn’t see who it was, but based on the care with which the person approached, he was willing to bet his life that it was Deaton.

It was.

“Sheriff,” he said softly, moving a little closer. “Stiles and Derek have a very unique relationship. I think he’s right. Derek saw him injured, and he doesn’t want to witness that again. Everyone is a threat. We need to give them space.”

“If you think I am going to leave my son where he is right now, you are insane,” his dad hissed.

The ground was beginning to shake more the longer the officers stood there. One of them lost their footing and stumbled. It was a miracle their gun didn’t go off.

“Dad,” Stiles pleaded. “Dad, please. He’s not going to hurt me. He’s not. I just—I need some time. I need to calm him down.”

“Sheriff,” Parrish said quietly. “Sheriff, we’re at an impasse. He won’t let Stiles go unless we leave.”

“We’re not leaving,” his father snapped, which earned another growl and another rough shake.

“I am literally gonna be here all night,” Stiles insisted. He thought for a minute, then grit his teeth. He didn’t want to do this, but it was the only way to prove anything. “Fine. You don’t believe me. Fine.”

Stiles managed to free one hand, and he slapped hard at Derek’s side. He felt him jerk, but he didn’t turn to look at him, and all the officers tensed, as if waiting for a violent reaction.

“Hey. Hey, Derek.” Stiles smacked at him, being sure not to actually hurt him, but showing that he could literally annoy the shit out of him and nothing would happen. “Derek. Hey. Let me go. Let me go, Derek.” He kept smacking at his side, then began to elbow him lightly.

Derek let out an angry huff, but still didn’t turn.

“Stiles,” his dad said, a tone of warning.

“Dad, I am literally elbowing him and he isn’t even looking at me. Can you just trust me on this? I haven’t been wrong this entire time, do you think I have a death wish? Derek isn’t going to hurt me, please just trust me. Please.”

For a long while, no one said anything. He still couldn’t really see his dad, but he must’ve done something, because the other officers lowered their weapons, and he saw them slowly moving back towards the stairs, all of their eyes still locked on Derek.

“Five minutes,” the sheriff said darkly. “You have five minutes, Stiles, then I’m coming back down here.”

“Give me one and I’ll call you,” Stiles insisted. He watched them all make their way cautiously back towards the stairs, but before his dad disappeared, he said, “Toss me his keys.”

“What?”

“The keys. For his cuffs. He ripped them out of the wall, they’re no good anyway, and he’s bleeding. I need to clean his wounds.”

He knew his dad wasn’t happy about it, but he saw metal glint before the keys hit the floor near the fallen cage door. Then footsteps trudged up the stairs and above them, heading for the door. Derek didn’t move, even when it was clear they were all outside. He probably thought everyone was still too close for comfort.

Stiles wiggled behind Derek, slapping lightly at his side again. “Come on, big guy. Come on, it’s fine.”

It took a few more smacks before Derek took a cautious step forward, craning his neck towards the stairs, like he was checking for people hiding over there. Stiles moved forward slowly, taking one of Derek’s hands. The ground was beginning to slow in its movements, but the entire basement was a fucking mess. They couldn’t keep Derek here anymore, and that was kind of a problem.

He kept a hold of Derek’s hand, figuring contact would help him, then pulled out his phone. He dialled his dad, who answered halfway through the first ring.

“Sti—”

“Don’t say anything,” Stiles interrupted quickly. “You’re on speaker. I only called you to prove to you that everything is okay down here, so just listen and don’t say anything.” Keeping the call connected, he shoved his phone back into his pocket, then bent down to snatch up the keys.

“Come on,” he said to Derek, tugging lightly on his hand. He seemed hesitant to exit the cage again, even though the gate was gone. It was like he knew he wasn’t allowed, and worried about upsetting Stiles by breaking the rules, but Stiles just gave his hand another tug and Derek followed him slowly across the room. Stiles bent down to turn on the hose, and then faced Derek, finding the right key on the set his dad had thrown him. It wasn’t hard, it was the only small one, so he pulled up Derek’s hand and fit it into the small lock. The chains rattled to the ground when the cuff came free. Stiles unlocked the other one, and Derek just stared at him, like he didn’t understand.

Shoving the keys in his other pocket so as not to disrupt his phone, he bent down to grab the hose and shirt—which was on the floor from the bucket falling over. He was lucky the water was even still running, if he really thought about it.

He brought both up to Derek’s hands, using the hose to rinse off the blood around Derek’s wrists, lips downturned while he did so. He didn’t like how badly Derek had hurt himself trying to get to him. Stiles had been more worried about Derek.

Derek had been more worried about him.

“We’re a pair of idiots, you know that, right?” Stiles sighed, wetting the shirt and then dropping the hose. “This is gonna hurt, but bear with me, okay?” He looked up at Derek, who was still staring at him like he didn’t understand what was happening.

Stiles sighed again, then very carefully began to brush at Derek’s wrists, being mindful of the injuries. He frowned, continuing to wipe away at the blood, and then paused. He became less gentle, rubbing at his wrist and flipping his hand around so he could get the other side.

“What?” Stiles asked softly, confused.

His wrist was fine. Completely healed, like nothing had even happened.

He hastily picked up the hose, cleaning off the other wrist, but it was also smooth and unharmed, like he hadn’t had blood there a moment ago.

Stiles looked up into Derek’s face, and was startled to be staring into soft green eyes instead of unnaturally blue.

“Okay seriously, what are you?” Stiles sighed in exasperation, but he was glad Derek was okay. He turned off the tap, tossing the hose and shirt down, then turned back to him, reaching up with one hand for his face. Derek nuzzled into it, reaching out one of his own hands and gripping the front of Stiles’ ripped shirt.

Apparently he knew how fingers worked, now.

“Are you okay?” Stiles asked, rubbing his thumb along his cheekbone. “You really scared me. I can’t believe you ripped yourself off the wall.” Stiles stumbled back a step when Derek pressed forward, nuzzling his hand more insistently. “Easy, easy. I’m still kind of injured. I fell down the stairs, you know.” He half-smiled, but let Derek move in to bury his face in his neck, wrapping his arms around Stiles and pulling him closer.

Apparently Derek had mastered the art of hugs.

Stiles sighed and hugged him back, rubbing gently along his spine. He was glad they were both okay, more or less, but now he had no idea what they were going to do.

It was going to be a long night.


Stiles ended up bringing Derek back to his blanket fort, letting him get comfortable in them. He didn’t seem bothered by the carnage around him, but Stiles supposed for someone who hadn’t really had any sense of hygiene before Stiles had shown up, it made sense.

He sat down on his pillow beside Derek with one of the flashlights in hand, and pulled his phone out, taking it off speaker. He knew Derek could still hear people outside, head tilted and baring his teeth every now and then, but he seemed to believe they wouldn’t come back.

“Dad?” Stiles said into the phone, one hand buried in Derek’s hair. He shifted closer to Stiles, one arm wrapping around his middle and cheek resting on one of Stiles’ knees.

That was new.

“Dad?” he asked again, not having gotten a response.

He had half a second to wonder if he’d hung up, then the line crackled and he heard loud voices, Derek’s head shooting up. He growled, but Stiles just kept running his fingers through his hair. His dad had obviously muted his side so that they could discuss the next course of action without their voices carrying through the phone.

“Stiles? Is everything okay? What happened?”

“Nothing,” he said, exasperated. “I cleaned him up and got him back to his blankets.” He cast a glance at Derek, who was still growling at his phone. He could probably hear it perfectly, given his hearing, and if he didn’t understand what a phone was, he probably thought everyone was here and magically out of sight.

“It’s fine,” Stiles said, tugging gently on his hair. “I promise.”

Derek didn’t look happy, but Stiles had said the magic word, so he put his cheek back down on Stiles’ knee and tightened his grip, like he thought Stiles was going to make a break for it.

“So, what’s the plan?” Stiles asked, knowing there had to be a plan. They needed to do something, otherwise Derek might wander off. Stiles kind of doubted it, but not with enough certainty to leave Derek there by himself.

“We’ve got Hank out here with some blueprints.” Hank Carves was the owner of the construction company in town. Probably a good thing for him to be there. “We’re trying to determine the extent of the damage from outside, but he really needs to see the place.”

Stiles shot a look at Derek. “Yeah, not happening. Derek’s still on edge, and I’m pretty sure if anyone comes near me right now, he’ll get all snarly and grr-like.”

“Yeah,” his dad said, sounding unhappy. “We’re trying to figure out how to proceed.”

“I have a suggestion,” Deaton’s voice said from closeby. Derek’s hand twitched against Stiles’ skin but he didn’t move. “Though predictably, your father is not very fond of it.”

“You bet your ass I’m not fond of it!” the sheriff snapped.

“What’s the idea?”

His dad seemed to be trying to move the phone away so that he could insist they would find another way, but Stiles was done. He was tired, he was hungry, he was in a lot of pain and he just wanted to take a fucking nap.

“Dad!” he snapped, tone harsh enough even Derek’s head jerked up, confused. He let out a breath, trying to find some patience, and knew he’d startled a lot of people into silence outside. “Look. I get it. Dad, I get it, okay? You’re worried, and you’re scared, and you want to protect me. But Derek has proven time and again that he’s not interested in hurting me. Do you know how many times I’ve come into his cage? I’ve been doing it for months, dad. Months. Derek is having nightmares because of me. He broke out and tore the house down to protect me. I know it’s a lot to take in, and I know you’re just worried, but you need to consider the alternative. Derek would never hurt me. Jackson is proof that he doesn’t feel the same way about other people. We need him somewhere safe, so he doesn’t hurt himself, or other people. You’re going to have to sacrifice some of your comfort about me and just trust that I know what I’m doing. I’m not trying to be brave, or stupid, or suicidal. I’m being practical. Derek is loose, and the only thing he cares about right now is keeping me safe. So if that means I stay with him until his cage is fixed, then that’s what I’ll do, and you’re going to have to live with that.”

He was quiet for a long while, and Stiles knew what he was thinking. That he wouldn’t be able to live with Stiles being hurt. But Stiles was already hurt, and none of his injuries had come from Derek.

“Dad, I know what I’m doing. Please trust me.”

He was silent for a moment longer, then he cursed under his breath and Stiles could practically picture him, one hand rubbing at his mouth while he paced, leaves crunching underfoot.

“We have an armoured truck up here,” he finally said. “We were going to sedate him and lock him in. Deaton said that was a bad idea.”

“It is ill-advised,” Deaton agreed. “Clearly we’ve underestimated Derek’s strength, and if he were to fall unconscious and wake without Stiles, I hesitate to discover the rampage and damage that would befall us.”

Stiles listened while his dad explained Deaton’s idea, and it was clear in every word that he hated it.

Deaton thought that Stiles could get Derek into the armoured truck without having to resort to sedation. The only caveat was that Stiles would have to be in there with him. Parrish would drive the two of them out further into the woods to a more secluded area, and they would mostly stay inside the truck until reparations were finished, but Stiles would be able to open and close the doors so they could exit for the facilities and to get the food people would bring by for them.

Stiles didn’t say so aloud, but that made him nervous. Sleeping with Derek, who had nightmares and woke with a snarl and dangerous red eyes.

Then again, his eyes had been red earlier, too, and he hadn’t lost himself. Stiles had no idea what the red eyes meant, just that he attributed them to something not-quite-Derek.

But every time he thought the fear might be taking over, he just remembered how Derek had looked, pinning him back against the wall and snarling at Jackson. Turning to him and whining when he realized how injured Stiles was. Shoving him into a corner and ready to take on a dozen armed officers he deemed a threat to Stiles.

Derek would never hurt him. Not on purpose, and even then, he would feel horrible about it. Derek truly cared about him.

“I have a list,” Stiles informed them, and he could already see his dad’s defeated expression

Well, really, it was his fault. Like father, like son.

Stiles rattled off what he wanted for the truck, including LED lanterns, tons of blankets and pillows, the rest of Harry Potter and his homework.

Because by God, he was not going to fall behind, dammit!

His dad sent some deputies off to grab various things they would need, including some dinner for both Stiles and Derek since neither had eaten. They tried to move quickly, because it was late and Stiles was pretty sure his dad was worried Derek would take a chunk out of him if he didn’t get fed soon. Which was hilarious, because Derek was perfectly content using Stiles’ lap as a headrest, going so far as to drag Stiles closer until he was more on the mound of blankets than his usual pillow.

It was half-past nine by the time his phone rang again, Derek growling lazily, but not even opening his eyes. Stiles answered and was told everyone had moved out of range and to bring Derek up. He hung up the phone, looking down at him, fingers still running lightly through his hair.

“Ready for a field trip, buddy?”

Derek huffed, face buried in Stiles’ hip, but didn’t open his eyes. When Stiles made it clear he was moving and trying to stand, Derek’s grip on him tightened and he whined, almost pouting.

“Come on, you’re coming, too.” Stiles managed to wiggles his way free, getting to his feet and wincing. He’d been sitting for hours, and he ached all over.

Turning, he went to find Harry Potter, having to dig it out from under some debris and almost dropping the flashlight multiple times. Once he finally had it in hand, he turned to Derek, who was sitting up and pouting, obviously thinking Stiles was about to leave.

Tucking the book under his arm and holding his flashlight in the same hand, he moved back over to Derek and held out his free one to him. Derek stared at it, then up at Stiles’ face, then the hand again. He reached out awkwardly, taking it, and Stiles tugged until Derek got to his feet.

He led the way towards the stairs, Derek following, though it was clear he was unsure and confused.

“It’s okay, big guy,” Stiles insisted, smiling over his shoulder. “Just a change of scenery.”

He slowly started up the stairs, tripping one a broken one, but not falling because Derek had grabbed at him and pulled him upright. Stiles squeezed his hand in thanks and continued his ascent.

When they reached the first floor, it was clear Aiden and Will had had to force their way out because the ground floor was in fucking shambles. Barely any of the frame had survived the violent earthquake, exposing the entire inside of the house to the forest, and Stiles was actually worried about Derek’s bare feet while he slowly picked their way towards where the front door used to be.

All that was left was piles of broken beams and planks of wood.

“Okay, down we go,” Stiles said, keeping hold of Derek’s hand tightly and jumping from what was left of the porch to the grass given the stairs were gone.

Thankfully, Derek followed him, otherwise Stiles was sure he’d have been hanging off the ground by one arm.

When Stiles turned to head for the truck, that was when Derek seemed to realize where they were going and he slammed on the brakes, jerking Stiles back by the arm hard enough for his shoulder to burn.

He dropped the book, but managed to keep hold of the flashlight.

Derek’s face had gone back to his animalistic features, eyes blue and teeth bared, snarling at the truck.

It occurred to Stiles that the last time Derek had seen it was the first time Stiles had seen him. He’d been attacked, captured, pumped full of sedatives, and dragged into an unfamiliar house.

He likely didn’t have fond memories.

“Hey,” Stiles said softly, moving in front of him. Derek was still glaring at the truck, so Stiles reached out one hand to lightly touch his cheek, Derek’s gaze shifting to him. “Hey. I won’t let anything happen to you. You trust me, right? It’s gonna be okay.”

Derek just stared at him, then looked back at the truck, scowling angrily.

Stiles bent down for the book, using one finger to pick it up since he was still holding the flashlight and Derek didn’t seem to think Stiles wanted or needed his other hand back ever again.

Once he was standing again, he tugged lightly at Derek’s hand, but didn’t pull. He just waited, standing a few steps away from him, their arms extended. It looked like Derek was torn between trusting Stiles and being suspicious of the truck. Eventually, trusting Stiles won because he took a slow step forward, though his face remained distorted.

Stiles didn’t rush him, walking slowly one step at a time, letting Derek set the pace. When they finally reached the back of the truck, Stiles glanced into it, seeing a duffel near the front—probably clothes for Stiles—along with a cooler and a brown takeout bag on top. The floor was covered with a large foam mattress and a plethora of blankets and pillows. Two lanterns were on, one at either end on opposite sides. Stiles was starting to feel claustrophobic already.

“Okay,” he said, looking back at Derek. “This is our new home for a few days, okay? It’s not as roomy as your cage, but we’ll make it work.”

When Stiles tried to pull his hand free so he could climb in, Derek tightened his grip to an almost painful degree and he gave up, tossing the book and flashlight into the back and using that hand instead. He levered himself up, but Derek stayed firmly on the ground, still holding tight to Stiles’ hand.

He gave a gentle tug, being sure not to rush him.

“Come on. It’s actually kind of comfy in here.” Stiles sat on the makeshift bed, and was surprised at how soft it was. “You should be thrilled, we’re gonna have a sleepover. Come on.”

Stiles kept tugging lightly, being sure not to pull him too hard. It took Derek almost twenty minutes to finally climb into the back. He looked extremely unhappy about it, but he did it anyway, crouching beside where Stiles was and looking around suspiciously, like he was waiting for someone to shoot at him.

Stiles shifted towards the doors to shut them and Derek’s hand tightened so much he felt his bones grinding. He winced, but didn’t complain, turning to glance at Derek over his shoulder and squeezing back as hard as he could.

“I’m right here. I’m not going anywhere.”

He leaned out as far as he could, Derek actually helping by keeping him balanced, and he got one door shut. He said a silent farewell to sunlight and fresh air before closing the second.

It wasn’t dark at all because of the lanterns, and Stiles shifted around on their bed to smile at Derek, who looked extremely uncomfortable and worried.

“Hey.” Stiles reached up to press his hand against Derek’s face, the other nuzzling into it instinctively. “We’re okay. I’m right here.” He smiled, then glanced at the food. “And starving, my God. Are you hungry? I’m so hungry.”

He put the paper bag on one of the benches on either side of the inside of the truck and pulled open the cooler. Derek was pressed against his back immediately, obviously aware that it was his food and likely just as hungry as Stiles was.

But now there was a problem, because Derek was messy and they only had one bed and Stiles was not sleeping in meat juices.

Looking around, he determined that some of the covered areas weren’t the mattress and only blankets, so he made a small cleared area near the back doors and then emptied two plastic bags onto the benches, ripping them open so he could set them down. He doubted it would do much, but he tried.

Going back to the cooler, and surprised Derek hadn’t just gone for it, he pulled out the food inside—four pieces, likely his dad wanting to appease Derek—and held them out of reach when Derek pressed into him more insistently, evidently wanting his food.

“Wait, wait,” Stiles insisted, trying to make his way to the plastic bags.

Derek followed, practically on top of him.

“Okay, see this?” Stiles pointed at the bags. “This is where you eat, okay? We’re sharing the bedding, so here’s where the food happens.”

He started to unwrap one of the pieces of meat, eying the wetwipes on the bench and glad he’d remembered them, when a loud sqwuack sounded and Stiles almost shit himself, dropping the wrapped meat.

Derek tensed and growled angrily, grabbing at Stiles’ arm tightly and looking around the van, likely for a threat.

“Stiles, can you hear me?”

“Jesus Christ, dad, warn a guy,” Stiles insisted, massaging his heart with the hand not currently being held hostage. His was losing circulation in his arm with how tightly Derek was holding him and he carefully reached out to peel his fingers off. Derek didn’t seem keen on it, but he could tell they were alone, and that likely helped.

Stiles patted his chest comfortingly and crawled back across the van, rooting around in the blankets before pulling free what he’d been looking for.

He hadn’t used a walkie-talkie since he was eleven. It was weird having one in his hand now.

Depressing the button, he said, “Hey dad.”

“Can you hear me?”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “No, dad, I can’t hear you at all. That’s why I’m responding.”

“Smartass. Everything okay in there.”

“Aside from the heart attack you tried to give me?” Stiles asked, crawling back to where Derek was, scowling unhappily. “Yeah, we’re fine. I was about to feed him and eat, as well.”

“We’re gonna come back around. Parrish will drive the truck out about a mile east.”

“Sure thing.” Stiles unwrapped the meat and, because he didn’t have a glove, he held up the paper, letting Derek reach for it. He did so with much gusto, stuffing the whole thing in his mouth and chewing, juices dribbling from his mouth down his chin and chest.

Well, at least he was on the bags.

“You do remember I have a cell phone, right?” he teased with a small smile.

“You do remember those require charging, right?” his dad asked back.

Stiles scowled at the walkie-talkie. “Smartass.”

“Where do you think you got it from?”

Bless his dad, really.

Stiles set the walkie-talkie down and unwrapped another hunk of meat, handing it over to Derek to eat. They got through all of his food, Stiles cleaning him up with the wetwipes when Derek stiffened and turned to bare his teeth at the door.

People were back.

The truck rocked when Parrish climbed in and slammed the door, and then things got really fun.

And by fun, that was sarcasm because nothing about the car starting was fun. Derek roared at the sound of the engine, the cry echoing in the enclosed space. Stiles clapped his hands over his ears, shouting Derek’s name and insisting it was fine even as the other began slamming hard into the front of the truck, trying to get through to where Parrish was.

“Derek, stop! Stop!” He grabbed at one of Derek’s arms and tugged hard. That had angry red eyes on him instantly, fangs bared and an inhuman snarl sliding up his throat.

Stiles swallowed his fear and yanked hard enough that he should’ve made Derek lose his balance, but he didn’t even move.

“Derek,” Stiles insisted, squeezing into the space between Derek and the front of the truck and wrapping his arms around him. “Derek, it’s okay. It’s okay. I promise. I promise. Please calm down.”

Derek’s chest was heaving, angry pants and snarls escaping him while Stiles held him, but he wasn’t attacking the truck anymore, which was good. Stiles was trying to slow his breathing, calm himself down. If he could prove to Derek he was calm and everything was fine, then maybe he would be better.

It took a few minutes, Parrish having the good sense not to move the truck yet. When Stiles was calm enough from his fear of being mauled and Derek’s snarls had subsided, he managed to coax him onto the blankets and they sat down, Stiles grabbing the walkie-talkie.

He sat facing Derek, one hand on his cheek. Derek barely nuzzled it, all his muscles tense and clearly on edge, but his eyes were back to blue and he was just keeping his eyes focussed on Stiles.

“Parrish,” Stiles said into the walkie-talkie, “count to ten, then drive.”

He dropped it at his side, bringing his other hand to Derek’s face.

“Okay buddy. We’re about to move, but it’s okay. We’re okay. I’m right here.”

When the truck began to move, Derek snarled but Stiles tightened his grip, holding his face in both hands and moving closer while the truck bounced along the uneven terrain.

“Hey, hey. Look at me. Look at me, it’s okay. It’s okay, Derek.”

It was a very tense and uncomfortable drive, but eventually the truck stopped and the engine died, Parrish climbing out, and the door slamming. Stiles heard him walking around the truck to the back, and then another door slammed before a second car slowly pulled away. It made sense someone had followed to pick Parrish up.

Stiles didn’t release Derek, waiting for him to start relaxing. His range of hearing was much further, so it took a while, but eventually his muscles began to relax and his features softened, returning to human, his eyes now a soft green.

Smiling, Stiles patted one cheek lightly before letting him go and turning to right the fallen lanterns. Thankfully the bulbs hadn’t gone out or he’d have been stuck in the dark with a feral beast.

“Okay! So, this is our new home.” Stiles went to the back door and started to push it open when Derek grabbed his arm, scowling, like he thought Stiles was about to leave him. “I’m just taking a peek, but man is taking a leak gonna get awkward.”

Stiles shifted his arm so he had his hand closed around Derek’s arm, as well, proving he wasn’t leaving, and then pushed open one door a little bit.

It was pitch black out, so he didn’t get a good view, but he just sighed and closed it once more, then settled on the blankets with his dinner, positively famished now.

Now that they were away from people, Derek actually appeared happy about his new digs, though it seemed to be mostly about Stiles being in there with him. He splayed out on the blankets—and Stiles’ lap. It was hard to eat with a fully grown man trying to crush him, but he managed somehow, stuffing his face with a burger and two large fries—bless his dad.

When he was almost done, Derek seemed to be getting more and more curious, nostrils flaring, so Stiles offered him a fry, fully expecting him to hate it.

He did not, and proceeded to crawl all over Stiles to get to the remaining fries in the bag. Thankfully there weren’t many, so that was a fight Stiles let him win. Not that he ever would’ve won anyway.

Given the shitty ass evening they’d both had, and the late hour, Stiles radio’d his dad to let him know they were going to sleep. His dad still sounded unsure about this whole thing, and Stiles was about to get frustrated and insist he just trust him when the man spoke.

“You know it’s not about trust, right Stiles?” he asked quietly. “You keep asking me to trust you. Stiles, I do trust you. I trust you, and I believe you, but you’re my son. You’re all I have left. I don’t want you to get hurt. It doesn’t matter how much I trust you, it’s him I don’t trust.”

Stiles looked over at Derek, who was looking around in a concerning way, like he needed to use the facilities. He would need to get him outside really quickly, because he didn’t want to sleep with one corner of the blankets smelling like piss.

“I know, dad,” Stiles said softly. “But I promise you, he’s okay with me. He won’t hurt me. Just get the house into some semblance of order and we’ll have him back down there, okay?”

“Right. Good night, Stiles. Radio me if you need me, I don’t care what time it is.”

“Sure. Night dad.” He set the walkie-talkie aside and then crawled over to Derek, who looked very uncomfortable right then. “Come on, buddy. I need to take a leak too, anyway.”

Stiles took his hand and then opened one of the back doors, grabbing the closest lantern once it was open. He climbed out, Derek following quickly, though Stiles suspected it was more about the thrill of being out of the box than of being outside to use the bathroom. He led Derek over towards some trees, and it was extremely stressful letting his hand go, but it wasn’t like he could take a leak himself, while holding both the lantern and Derek’s hand.

“Stay,” he ordered before releasing Derek. “Understand? You stay.”

Derek just stared at him, and when Stiles let his hand go, he immediately moved forward into the trees and got on all fours. Stiles turned away from him, because that wasn’t something he wanted to see, and hastily undid his own pants so he could go about his business, trying not to think about how fucking awkward and weird this was.

When they got back to the truck, Stiles pulled out some more wet wipes to clean off both of their hands, and then used a bottle of water so he could brush his teeth. He was still standing outside the truck, so Derek stayed with him. It was obvious he didn’t want to be alone inside, like he worried Stiles would slam the doors on him and disappear.

Stiles didn’t mind, whatever made him comfortable.

Once he was done, they both climbed back in and he shut the doors, making sure they were secure. He changed into some pyjamas his dad had shoved into the duffel for him while Derek got comfortable on the blankets behind him. It took Stiles a few minutes to convince himself this was going to be okay, because he was still worried about Derek’s nightmares.

Eventually, he finally lay down beside Derek, who looked fucking delighted at that, because it looked like he assumed Stiles was doing to hang out on the benches and wait out the night. He dragged Stiles closer, right into his chest, and nuzzled against the top of his head, arms wrapped securely around him.

It was weird, being pulled in like that, but eventually Stiles managed to relax. Derek was warm, and it was kind of cold in the metal box, so it was comforting having a heater around. He pulled some of the blankets up around them as best he could and then shut his brain off to try and sleep.

It was going to be an interesting couple of days. Stiles hoped the house got fixed up quickly.


It took four days for the Hale house to be returned to some semblance of order. It was much faster than Stiles had anticipated, and he was surprised to find by then that he hadn’t minded spending all that time with Derek.

He hadn’t had a single nightmare while they’d been together, and Stiles always woke up with Derek nuzzling against him in some fashion, pulling him closer, and clearly pleased to have him right there.

Stiles often opened the back doors when it was day time, walking around the clearing with Derek because he didn’t get out much, and Stiles figured he’d like the scenery and fresh air. Derek never ran off on him, though it was clear he was curious about things. He often heard something in the forest, but nothing he considered a threat, because he just perked up like a dog and looked like he wanted to chase after it, but stuck close to Stiles anyway.

Someone always radio’d him before showing up, calling out his name loudly through the walkie-talkie to inform him they were coming. With food, water, supplies, whatever. Stiles always got Derek back inside the truck for those visits and then had to hold his attention as best he could while others approached because he would snarl and growl towards the back doors.

Stiles actually began bopping him on the nose lightly whenever he did this on the second day, and by the fourth, Derek just growled low in his throat, barely even audible. Just voicing his displeasure as opposed to being outwardly hostile.

It was progress, so Stiles would take it.

They got through all of Harry Potter and Stiles did some homework to stay on top of things, but usually during the day they wandered around outside. He and Parrish talked through the walkie-talkie sometimes, the man keeping him apprised of the situation and letting him know how things were going with his stressed-to-the-max father.

Apparently Jackson’s dad had tried to sue for his son’s injury, insisting they were owed damages since he was now going to have scars along his torso and he’d had to pay extensive hospital bills. The mayor and sheriff had asked him if he was sure he wanted to proceed with that, given Jackson had beat up Stiles, and had been trespassing which was what had caused Derek to break out in the first place, causing massive amounts of damage to, not only the Hale house, but the city as a whole with the earthquake that had followed Derek’s anger. Overall, Jackson had been in the wrong, and Derek had only been defending the one person in the world that meant anything to him.

Mr. Whittemore had dropped the lawsuit exceptionally fast after that conversation, and Jackson was suspended from school for two weeks. His dad also slapped a restraining order on him so that he couldn’t go anywhere near Stiles or Derek except in certain circumstances, such as during Lacrosse—though he wasn’t allowed to touch him—and in class—where he wasn’t allowed to even speak to him.

Stiles was incredibly pleased with this development, and felt like maybe this had all been a good thing. Yes, he’d been injured, but Derek had healed up most of his injuries and, fun fact! Derek was amazing.

One night when Stiles had been trying to sleep, one of the injuries Derek couldn’t heal since it wasn’t a wound he could lick closed had begun to hurt, and Derek had whined low in his throat and splayed his hand on top of the injured area when Stiles motioned it offhandedly while speaking to him about why he was hurting. Black lines had begun to snake up Derek’s arm and just like that, the pain was gone. Stiles had stared incredulously, wondering just how many other weird things Derek could do.

Stiles also found he was becoming more... well, human while they’d been out in the woods together. Just little things that he was doing. He’d started using the restroom the same way as Stiles—he didn’t know if that was a learned thing from watching him, or just something he’d once known and forgotten. He also seemed more interested in the food Stiles was eating, so he shared some with him every now and then.

He definitely knew how fingers worked, now, and he seemed to like hugs and cuddling. He stopped being defensive when the walkie-talkie squawked and once Stiles had woken up in the middle of the night because Derek had moved away from him, and he’d watched in the dim light of the lanterns while Derek picked up a bottle of water, uncapped it, and took a sip before closing it once more.

It was surreal. It was like Derek was becoming a real person as opposed to the animal Stiles had started this whole endeavour with. It made him wonder if Deaton wasn’t right, and Derek was a human like the Druid, but something had happened and he’d lost his way.

Slowly but surely, it looked like he was finding the way back.

When he got the message of the house being mostly in order, Parrish came out again to drive the truck back. Derek wasn’t happy, but he didn’t freak out like last time. He just hugged Stiles against himself tightly and scowled at the back door, as if daring someone to come in and try and take Stiles away from him. Of course, no one did.

When the truck stopped, Parrish climbed out and Stiles waited until his dad called the all clear through the walkie-talkie before opening the back doors.

The house was in shambles, but certain parts of it had been restored to the best of their ability given the short time-frame. The porch steps were back, and temporary walls had been erected just inside so that there was a closed off area between the ‘front door’ and the basement door.

Stiles took Derek’s hand in his and led him up the steps, being mindful to watch for anything on the ground that might hurt Derek’s bare feet if he stepped on it. They made it to the basement door and down the fixed stairs, the area seeming to have mostly just been fixed up by closing all the cracks in the foundation. The ground was uneven beneath their feet, but someone had cleaned up so that the area wasn’t as littered with debris as it usually was. It was evident that there had been a problem with the sewage, because Derek’s hole in the floor looked like it had been taken apart and redone, but for the most part, everything looked pretty similar, just a little bit distorted.

There was a new cage, as well, this one seeming a lot more heavy duty and bolted more firmly into the wall. Stiles noticed new shackles, but he wasn’t going to do that to Derek. He didn’t need the shackles, he was perfectly safe. Besides, Stiles didn’t think it would do any good, so there was no point in making Derek uncomfortable.

“All right, big guy.” Stiles turned to him. “Let’s get you cleaned up before you go back in there.”

He felt his heart clench a little at the sad look on Derek’s face while he stared at the cage, like he’d been hoping his good behaviour would be rewarded. Stiles wished he could talk his dad and the mayor into letting him out more often, but Derek still didn’t like people. It was only Stiles he liked.

And Deaton, kind of. He’d also gotten pretty used to Parrish of late.

“Come on.” Stiles pulled him across the basement to the hose, glad the bucket and shirt were still there—most of the things he’d brought were still there, like his pillow, along with the clock and calendar.

He didn’t have any soap right then, though, so he mostly just wiped Derek down with the damp shirt and tried to clean him up as much as possible. He figured he could come by tomorrow after school and give him a solid cleaning.

Once he was all set, Stiles brought him back to the cage, unlocking the bolt and stepping inside with him. Derek went to his pile of blankets, but bared his teeth, pulling at them and sniffing them before tossing them aside unhappily. It occurred to Stiles that they probably smelled like other people, since they’d touched them, and Derek was unhappy about that.

“I thought you liked it when other people’s scents were on your blankets,” he insisted, absently rubbing at Derek’s back, who was still crouched in front of his bed. Derek turned to look at him, clearly unhappy. “Okay, okay, I’ll go get the other ones.” He turned to exit the cage and Derek immediately grabbed him by the wrist, looking worried. “I’ll be back.” He motioned the stairs, then the blankets. “I’ll be right back, okay?”

Apparently, that wasn’t okay, because Derek wouldn’t let him leave and Stiles had to take him with him back up the stairs. Thankfully everyone was still far away, so Stiles moved to the truck and grabbed the walkie-talkie, shoving it into his pocket and then pulling out the blankets. He realized the foam mattress might be good for him, too, so Stiles struggled to roll the blankets into the mattress as best he could. He shoved everything into Derek’s arms since he wanted to get some other things, too. Stiles grabbed the two lanterns and the pack of batteries, then a few bottles of water before heading back inside with Derek trailing behind him.

When they made it back to the basement, Derek kicked the old blankets aside unhappily so he could dump his new set in the corner, but he did dig out the old and burned blanket from the pile, along with the first one Stiles had ever given him. He put those at the bottom of his newer pile and then sat down, looking happier.

Stiles shoved the old pile of blankets out of the cage, figuring maybe he could wash them and see if they were salvageable so he could bring them back. He put the lanterns in the cage, turning them both off, and set the batteries down beside them.

Derek had learned how to change batteries while they’d been in the truck. He also understood how to turn the lanterns on and off, and they worked better than the flashlights. Stiles went to fill up the bottles from the hose, Derek watching to make sure he wasn’t leaving before settling more comfortably. Stiles returned with three filled bottles and set them down beside the lanterns. He didn’t want to move the filled water bowl, just in case, but he didn’t think Derek would be using it anymore.

Derek kept glancing between Stiles and the cuffs, like he was waiting for them to get put on. When Stiles bent down to grab one, Derek’s mouth turned downward but he obediently held out one arm, looking dejected. That really hurt, and Stiles hadn’t been planning on putting them on him, anyway. He just picked them both up and wrapped them up as best he could so they were out of the way, tucking them back against the wall firmly.

That seemed to make Derek extremely happy and Stiles smiled at him.

“Stiles?” the walkie-talkie chirped in his pocket.

He pulled it out and depressed the button. “Hey dad.”

“We’re coming in to take the truck and leave some food for dinner. I expect you home in an hour.”

“Don’t worry, I need a shower like nobody’s business and I can’t wait to use a real toilet.” He smiled a little. “Bring some food by and please grab my stuff from the back? I have homework in there.”

“Will do. See you soon, kiddo.”

Stiles put the walkie-talkie back and waited. Derek tensed and growled low in his throat, obviously sensing people approaching, but otherwise he was fine. The truck started and pulled away, but Stiles heard footsteps upstairs, someone obviously walking to the basement door. A thought occurred to him and he leaned back a bit so he could shout.

“Hey Parrish? Is that you?”

There was silence for a second, and then, “Yeah?”

Stiles grinned and went to shut the gate, but he didn’t lock it, as always. “Can you come down with the food? I want him to see you.”

“I’d rather not,” Parrish said uncomfortably.

“Don’t be a weeny, get down here.”

There was another silence, then the door eased open. Derek straightened, teeth bared and face distorting back to what it usually looked like when others were around, but Stiles bopped his nose and pointed a finger at him. He didn’t shift back to human, but he put his teeth away, at least.

Parrish slowly descended the stairs, holding a small cooler in one hand, and a take-out bag in the other. His eyes were shifting back and forth between Stiles and Derek uncomfortably, but he approached the cage when Stiles motioned him forward.

Stiles pointed at Parrish while looking at Derek. “That’s Parrish. He’s good. We like him. No growling at Parrish, okay? He’s a friend.”

Derek was pouting, clearly unhappy, but Stiles motioned for Parrish to enter the cage. The deputy stared at him wide-eyed and shook his head rather emphatically. Stiles gave him an exasperated look.

“I need him to trust someone other than just me.”

“And why are you choosing me with that honour?” Parrish demanded.

“Just get in here!”

Parrish cursed colourfully, eying Derek, but he slowly eased towards the door. Derek’s growling increased in volume and he pulled at Stiles’ arm to get him closer, but Stiles just turned to point a finger at him in warning. Derek’s growling went back down in volume, but he didn’t release his wrist.

Parrish opened the door, eying Derek nervously, and took a few steps in, holding out the food. Stiles motioned Derek and Parrish gave him a pathetic look.

“Why are you trying to get me killed?” Parrish asked. “I thought we were friends. I helped you with your project last year.”

“We are friends. I just need him to understand you’re not a threat.”

Parrish was clearly ready to give up and leave, but he just let out an angry sigh and set the food down. He opened the cooler and pulled out a wrapped piece of meat, unwrapping it from the brown paper and then inching forward slowly with the meat held out, still sitting on the paper so it didn’t dirty his hand.

Derek eyed him suspiciously, blue eyes darting between Parrish’s face and the meat. He didn’t reach out for it. Parrish took another step, which brought him closer to Stiles, and Derek’s growl went up a notch and turned threatening.

“Okay,” Stiles said quickly, holding his free hand out towards Parrish to ward him off. “Okay, I think that’s as close as we’re gonna get.”

“You know it’s you he’s growling about, right?” Parrish asked, as if Stiles were an idiot and hadn’t clued in to that. “It’s not that I’m getting closer to him, it’s that I’m getting closer to you.”

“Yeah, he has trust issues, I’m working on it.” Stiles sighed and slowly reached out for the meat. Derek growled loudly when it exchanged hands, since Parrish was obviously too close to Stiles, but he took two steps back once they’d made the exchange and Derek relaxed about one percent.

“I’m gonna go now, and tell your dad you’re trying to kill me.”

“Derek wouldn’t kill you. Maim, maybe, but not kill.”

“Comforting.” Parrish gave him an unimpressed look, then exited the cage, hurrying back for the stairs. By the time he’d reached the top, Stiles turned back to Derek, and he looked human again, eyes on the meat Stiles was holding.

“You’re so picky with your friends, Derek,” he teased, holding it out for him to take.

Derek released him and took the offered meat, eating it while Stiles headed to the cooler and the takeout bag. He brought them both over and sat down on the blanket beside Derek so he could also eat when a thought occurred to him.

Instead of opening the cooler with the meat inside it to give Derek another piece, he opened the takeout bag and pulled out what was inside. His dad had been alternating between a few places to try and get Stiles some variety, but mostly he got sandwiches, wraps and burgers because they were easy to eat and didn’t require any cutlery.

Today was a chicken wrap with some vegetables and fries. He eyed it for a second, then looked at Derek, who had finished his first piece of meat and was using the corner of the blankets to wipe his hands down, like he knew Stiles wanted him to stay clean.

Hesitating, Stiles unwrapped the tinfoil from around the tortilla, then held it out to Derek. He stared at it for a few seconds, as if not understanding, then finally took it. He sniffed at it before taking a bite, chewing slowly. Stiles figured he wouldn’t like it and spit it out or hand the wrap back, but he positively devoured it after the first bite, almost eating the tinfoil with it, and Stiles grinned.

“You like people food, now. That’s good!” Stiles slapped his arm and then pulled the fries out, letting Derek dig into those, as well. He figured he’d keep bringing the meat, just in case, but for the next few days he was going to try and get him onto people food.

Not that meat wasn’t people food, but raw deer and elk wasn’t exactly something Stiles ate on a regular basis. Or ever.

“I’m gonna have to go for a little while,” Stiles said quietly while Derek looked into the bottom of the fry container, as if hoping for more to magically appear. “Back to our normal schedule. I hope your nightmares get better though, you’ve been really good the past few days.”

Unfortunately, Stiles acknowledged that this was because he was present. Now he’d be gone again, so he wasn’t sure how Derek would fare.

He waited as long as he could to make sure Derek was okay and settled, but his dad ended up calling him on the walkie-talkie to say he was on his way and Stiles sighed before saying he’d come up in a minute.

Turning back to Derek, he pressed his hand against his face, which Derek nuzzled into, and then stood, picking up the cooler. The moment he did, Derek looked heartbroken, and Stiles wished he didn’t have to leave. But he couldn’t stay down here with him, he had to get back to school, eat real food, take a shower.

Exiting the cage and locking it, Derek was on his feet instantly, whining while Stiles bent down to fix the angle of the clock, grabbing the sharpie that had been left beside the calendar—it was new, since Stiles usually used a pen but it had likely gone missing during the earthquake.

He wrote down the time for the usual morning visit, then stood and saw Derek right up against the bars, gripping them in his hands and looking devastated.

“I’ll be back,” Stiles promised, reaching in to caress his cheek once more, thumb rubbing lightly along his cheekbone. “I promise. It’s been fun, we should do it again sometime.”

Stiles pulled his hand away and turned to leave. It took everything he had in him to walk to the stairs and climb them, because Derek was whining so loudly behind him he wanted to just run back downstairs and stay with him always.

When he closed the basement door behind him, he heard Derek howling, and there was a deep rumble outside. Nothing threatening, but just clouds darkening to show he was upset. Stiles felt like Derek was playing dirty, but he just went to sit on the porch steps and waited for his dad.

He showed up a few minutes later and Stiles climbed into the cruiser, shutting the door and putting the cooler on the ground. His dad pulled him as close as he could over the partition and hugged him. Stiles hugged him back, feeling guilty all over again.

He felt guilty for worrying his dad. He felt guilty for leaving Derek. This entire thing sucked.

“You okay?” His dad pulled away, hands on his face and inspecting every inch of him.

“I’m good, dad. Hungry, but otherwise fine.” When he saw the confused look, he explained that Derek had been given his food. His dad didn’t seem to know how to react to that news, so he said nothing and they went home.

Stiles took a shower immediately, basking in the heat of the water and feeling much better once he was clean. He had dinner with his dad, who hadn’t eaten yet himself, and the two of them chatted about what had happened while Stiles had been in the truck.

Parrish had neglected to mention there was a town meeting and the Blooding had been put on hold for the foreseeable future, because apparently Stiles was all that Derek wanted right now. It actually made Stiles realize that Derek hadn’t taken any blood from him in a long time. Sure, when Stiles was injured he licked at the wounds and closed them, but he hadn’t actually asked for blood in a while.

It made Stiles wonder what that was all about, but he didn’t have time to dwell on it. Scott and Isaac came by and apparently they had a Chemistry test the following morning, so they tried to help him out with his studying.

That ended up being a mistake, and Stiles called Boyd, who was much better at helping him figure out what he needed to be focussing on. They stayed well past eleven, because they were good friends who knew Stiles wanted to do well, despite being able to fail and still graduating given he was the chosen. But that wasn’t Stiles. He wanted to pass on his own merits, so he studied as much as he could and when the others left, he finally went to bed.

He didn’t know how long he’d been asleep for, but a soft sound behind him woke him up. He frowned in his sleep, trying to keep his brain unconscious, but it clawed itself back to the surface and he opened his eyes to slits, feeling something climbing onto the bed behind him.

Frowning further, he turned to look at what the hell was going on and propelled upwards, hitting the wall hard while standing on the bed.

“Jesus shit!” he shouted, which startled Derek into falling right off the bed. His head popped up from the floor, watching Stiles with a confused expression, the light from the streetlamps outside illuminating his very human features. “Derek! What the fuck!”

His night didn’t get better, because his door slammed open, his dad in the doorway in a shirt and boxers, gun drawn and aimed into the room. His eyes found Derek and he readjusted his aim, just as the beast returned, face distorting and a threatening growl escaping him.

“No, no!” Stiles jumped over Derek and landed between him and his dad, holding one hand out towards each of them and looking back and forth. “No, it’s okay. It’s okay, we’re all friends here. It’s fine.”

“Stiles,” his dad said, voice strained. “What is he doing here?”

“I don’t know!” Stiles insisted, offended his dad thought this was his fault.

“How did he get here?”

“I don’t know!” Stiles repeated.

“Well, you have to know something about this!” his dad snapped, voice rising.

“Why are you yelling at me?!” Stiles demanded, stress through the roof. “He was locked in his cage when I left!” He turned back to Derek, who was glaring bright blue eyes at his dad. “I don’t even know how he found me when—” He cut himself off.

Derek had an amazing sense of smell. Better than any human’s. More similar to a dog’s really. How had he found Stiles? Simple, he’d just followed his scent all the way to his house. Stiles’ window hadn’t been locked, and he glanced at it, seeing it was half-open, like Derek had climbed through it, then tried to shut it before giving up.

Derek had broken out of his cage to come and find him.

“Oh man,” Stiles rubbed at his face. “This is bad. You know how locks and windows work. This is so bad.”

“Stiles,” his dad said again, still clearly tense.

He turned to him. “It’s fine, don’t worry.” He waved him away. “Just—go back to bed. I’ll figure this out.”

We will figure this out,” his father insisted, giving him a look. “What are you thinking?”

“Well, I can’t make him leave.” Stiles turned to eye Derek. “What if he just stayed for tonight? I can bring him back in the morning before I go to school.”

His dad let out an explosive sigh and when he turned back to him, he was rubbing at his eyes with one hand, the gun finally lowered, which had lessened the growling from Derek’s side.

“Stiles, please tell me you’re not serious.”

“Well, what else can I do? If I bring him back, he’ll just break out again.” Stiles flailed one arm towards Derek. “I can’t think of a better solution right now, so for now, can we just—he’s fine, look at him. He just came over to sleep with me.” Stiles squinted at his own words. “That sounded wrong. You know what I mean.”

His dad looked like he wanted to argue, but his eyes darted between Stiles and Derek, and he was probably thinking about the past four days they’d spent locked in a truck together. He finally sighed, clearly unhappy, and pointed his finger at Stiles.

“He does not leave your sight, understand? He stays, you keep him close. If he hurts anyone, he’s going to be in trouble.”

“He won’t,” Stiles promised.

His dad gave them both another unhappy look, then turned to walk back to his room. Stiles heard his door shut, and was fairly certain the dragging sound that followed was his dad shoving something heavy against the door. Well, at least he trusted Derek not to hurt Stiles.

Turning back to Derek, his eyes were still blue and he had fangs in his mouth, but the rest of his features had slowly returned to normal. After he was sure Stiles’ dad was gone, his eyes went soft and green once more.

Stiles let out an explosive sigh and then went to his bed, falling onto it and whining to himself.

“Why is this happening to me? I just want to sleep, is that too much to ask?”

He let out another small sigh, and felt Derek climbing onto the bed. That made him jerk up and push at his chest, forcing him off.

“No, no, no. This is my bed, so we follow my rules. You are not clean enough to—” Stiles cut himself off again, realizing how perfect this was.

He had a bathtub! He could give Derek a proper shower! With real running water, that was hot and would allow him to actually clean him.

“Shit, this is perfect! Come on.” Stiles grabbed his hand and dragged him through the house, Derek’s head tilted like he was sniffing at everything. He could probably tell the place smelled potently like Stiles and his dad.

Shoving him into the bathroom, Stiles shut the door, then stripped out of his shirt and sweats. He kept his boxer-briefs on, because he had limits, but he moved to the shower and turned it on. Once it was at a decent temperature, he pulled at Derek and helped him climb in. He looked unhappy already at having to be cleaned—he might not understand the concept of the shower itself, but he knew what the cascading water meant. He tensed when he went under the spray, and the adorably confused look on his face when it wasn’t cold made Stiles laugh. He climbed in with him and pulled the curtain shut.

Derek was having way too much fun in the shower, because he kept moving around and trying to push Stiles into the spray, as if wanting to make sure he realized how amazing it was, despite Stiles constantly trying to keep him still so he could clean him up.

What should’ve taken only a few minutes took almost an hour, but Stiles was happy that he got Derek fully cleaned. He even sat him down and used his dad’s electric razor to fully trim his beard—sorry dad. He wasn’t awake enough to tackle his hair, and it hadn’t grown that much anyway, so he let it go.

One thing he did do was force Derek to brush his teeth. It was hard, and awkward, and Stiles got a lot more spit and foam on his hands than he’d have liked, but he finally managed it with the spare toothbrush he’d found under the sink and he smiled at the displeased look on Derek’s face while he opened and closed his mouth, clearly trying to rid it of the taste.

Once he was as ready for bed as Stiles was going to get him, he went back to his room with him, clothes under one arm. Stiles changed his boxers and pulled his pyjamas back on, then very emphatically pantomimed to Derek that he wasn’t getting into his bed without wearing at least some sweats. Derek was unhappy about it, but he obliged, Stiles helping him pull them on. They were a little small for him, but Stiles figured he’d survive one night and he’d buy him a larger pair in the morning.

He made Derek sleep on the side against the wall, since he wanted to make sure he didn’t get up in the middle of the night and finally settled back in for sleep. Derek pulled him close like he’d been doing for the past few days and nuzzled against him, holding him tightly.

It was really weird, but kind of nice. Stiles liked that Derek cared about him so much.

Still, school in the morning was going to be a bitch.


Derek didn’t like Stiles’ alarm clock. That was made clear with the first morning because when it went off, he howled angrily, the ground shook, and he practically crushed Stiles beneath him while trying to protect him from whatever the danger was.

Thankfully Stiles turned it off quickly and got him calmed down. Derek wasn’t appreciative of being startled awake, this was something Stiles was already aware of, and this just reinforced it.

Having Derek around in the morning made everything twice as hard as usual. He called the school to tell them he would be late but that he would be there. Then he went about getting ready, making sure Derek was doing okay, and then went to bring him back to the Hale house. He made him keep the sweats on, because they got into his Jeep, but even that had been a challenge. He got Derek into the passenger seat, and shut the door, but by the time he made it around the car, Derek had climbed back out and followed him. Stiles had to physically put him into the seat, put on his seatbelt, lock the door, slam it, and then run around the Jeep to stop him from climbing out of it again.

He seemed fine with the ride compared to when he’d been in the truck, but Stiles figured it was because of the fact that he was beside him and could see where they were going. His face remained human and curious the whole drive, even when they passed other cars and people. He was completely chill.

Stiles went through the McDonalds drive-thru and got a large amount of food. Derek growled a little when they got to the teller window, but the girl didn’t even notice, probably just as exhausted as Stiles. She exchanged the food for his card, and then handed him the card machine. He paid with the chosen card so he could expense it, and then handed the machine back. He had to keep the food on his lap, because Derek was sniffing in his direction and pressing into his side. Stiles shoved a hand in his face and pushed him back.

When they reached the Hale house, Derek looked grumpy, but he obediently followed Stiles inside and into his cage. Stiles handed him all the different breakfast sandwiches he’d bought, and paid attention to the ones Derek liked and the ones he didn’t.

He seemed to favour the Egg McMuffin, and tended to like the McMuffins in general. He wasn’t fond of the Mexican McWrap, and he hated the McGriddles. Stiles was starting to think Derek had a thing for potatoes, though, because he devoured every single hashbrown in the bag, including the one that had been meant for Stiles!

When he was sure Derek was satisfied—which he better have been, because he ate four times as much as Stiles had!—Stiles stepped out and wrote the time on the calendar. He pointed emphatically and told Derek to stay, then left to head for school.

He was only about half an hour late, so he’d mostly missed homeroom and the first few minutes of first period. He and Scott chatted between classes so he could tell him about why he’d been late, and at lunch, Stiles bought some sandwiches and wraps from the local diner and brought those to Derek with various juices. Apparently Derek really liked orange juice, so that was a thing he’d have to remember.

After school, he went over with his homework and called Parrish to bring them some homecooked food. Parrish wasn’t happy, but he was an excellent cook, so Stiles bullied him into it, and knew if Parrish was really upset about it, he wouldn’t have shown up.

He did, but didn’t enter the cage, handing Stiles all the containers through the bars. He’d made some grilled fish and barbecued vegetables—including potatoes, because Derek loved potatoes—and Stiles actually got Derek to eat all of it, vegetables included.

When he left that evening, he told Derek to stay, and by the time he went to bed, he thought maybe he’d listened. It was obvious he hadn’t when two in the morning rolled around and Stiles was startled awake by something heavy falling onto the bed. He just grumbled and forced Derek over to the wall side before going back to sleep.

It turned into a bit of a cycle, with Stiles telling him to stay and Derek showing up later in the night. Stiles realized it was because of the timing. When he went to school, he came back to see Derek at least once every four hours, but when he went home for bed, he surpassed that four-hour window and Derek didn’t seem like he wanted to wait until morning for him.

After a week of this happening repeatedly, Stiles just asked his dad if he could bring Derek home after school, and it took him three days of Derek continuing to just show up for him to begrudgingly agree. He was clearly unhappy about it, but there wasn’t much they could do.

Stiles refused to put the cuffs back on him, but even when he’d started locking the gate and then padlocking it shut, Derek would just unlock the door and break the padlock and they’d be back at square one. It was just easier this way.

It meant it was harder for Stiles to hang out with his friends, but he kind of had it down to an artform. He just had to make sure any hangouts were less than four hours, and he was fine. As long as Derek saw him once every four hours, he seemed content.

His bigger problem was during Lacrosse games, because sometimes they weren’t in town, and Stiles had sat down with Deaton to talk about it for a long time before telling the coach he was resigning from the team. He didn’t play anyway, and with his new responsibilities, it was impossible for him to keep Derek happy and go to an away game. The coach acted like he didn’t care, but Stiles could tell he felt bad for him.

It sucked, but Stiles didn’t resent Derek for it. He was all Derek had, so it made sense. And at least he was taking showers—with Stiles in there, as well, wearing swim trunks—and eating real people food. Stiles had almost thrown a fucking party when Derek wore the sweats for an entire day without complaint and had used the fucking bathroom on his own. Flushed the toilet and everything.

Progress. It was fucking progress, and Stiles was thrilled.

But his insistence on being around Stiles at all times was turning into a bit of a problem, because while Stiles didn’t necessarily mind, there were places Derek couldn’t go and he was less and less tolerant of his cage lately. As was evident on month number five, when Stiles was sitting in class working on a practice exam and the intercom squealed. A very stressed voice came over the intercom, speaking so quickly the words ran together.

“Stiles Stilinski, if you are in the building, please look out a south-facing window immediately!”

Frowning, Stiles stood and had to leave the classroom to head across the hall. Everyone in the room was at the window, and when Stiles reached it, he cursed and turned to run out of the class. He bolted through the corridor, dodging people who’d spilled out into it to see what was going on, and exploded out the front doors. He raced across the green, and was actually annoyed at how happy Derek looked, loping towards him excitedly.

“Derek!” Stiles insisted, stopping a few feet from him and letting Derek slam into him. He’d expected him to stop, but he hadn’t, and just plowed right into him, knocking him off his feet. The air rushed out of his lungs, Derek on top of him and nuzzling against his cheek. “Derek, what are you doing here?!”

Stiles shoved at him to get him off, and he obeyed, crouching in front of him. He was still wearing the sweats, which was awesome, but he’d appeared at school! In the middle of the day!

That realization gave him pause, because Derek’s face was entirely human. The school backed onto the forest, so it was possible Derek hadn’t seen anyone else his entire way to the school, but there was an entire building of people behind him and Derek was still human. He was smiling brightly, green eyes sparkling, and he tackled Stiles again, nuzzling against him while he lay flat on his back.

Stiles let out an explosive sigh, rubbing at his face with one hand, the other patting Derek’s back. He wondered if Derek thought this was a game. Like hide and seek. He had to find Stiles, and when he found him, he’d won.

“You’re killing me here, buddy,” he insisted with another sigh.

“Stiles.”

Stiles froze, body tensing instantly, and he slowly lowered his hand to look down at Derek. “What?”

Derek lifted his head, grinning at him, and said again, “Stiles.”

Stiles stared at him. “Holy fucking shit. Holy shit, Derek!” Stiles shoved at him to get him off, and Derek shifted backwards, crouching in front of him. Stiles got to his knees and put both hands on his shoulder. “Say it again. What did you say?”

Derek pressed one hand flat against Stiles’ chest, smiled brightly, and said, “Stiles.”

“Holy shit, buddy!” Stiles pulled him into a hug, laughing and squeezing hard. “Holy shit! Yeah, dude. Yeah, I’m Stiles.” He pulled back, still grinning. “I’m Stiles. And you’re Derek. Can you say Derek? Can you say it?”

“Stiles.”

“That’s okay, I’ll take Stiles. I will take Stiles!” He laughed again and hugged him, which Derek seemed happy about, hugging him back.

Stiles’ phone rang then. Derek didn’t react to it, because he’d grown used to various weird sounds over the past few weeks. Stiles just reached into his pocket for it and sighed at the name flashing back at him.

“Dammit, Scott.” He muttered, then answered the call. “Hey dad.”

“Scott called and said Derek was at your school.” 

Like he’d said: dammit, Scott.

“He showed up, yeah, but dad! Dad! Holy shit! Listen!” Stiles put him on speaker and then smiled at Derek, poking his own chest. “Derek. Derek, who am I?”

“Stiles,” Derek said, seeming pleased that Stiles was so proud of him.

His father was silent for a moment. “Was that—is that Derek?!”

“Yes!” Stiles exclaimed into the phone, giving it a shake. “Yes, dad! Derek can say my name!”

“How does he even know it?”

“I mean, while we were together in the truck, you guys all said my name a lot and I responded to it. I guess he figured out it was my name. Dad, he talks! He is talking! This is huge!”

“Hm,” was all his dad said in response. “I’m going to call Deaton. Can you get him back to his cage?”

“Yeah, sure. I mean, I have to tell the school, but sure.”

“I think the school knows, Stiles. You’re on school property and everyone can see you.”

Stiles frowned and turned around.

Sure enough, the windows were packed with people, and Stiles saw a police cruiser in the parking lot, his dad leaning against the hood and offering him a small wave. Right. He’d been hugging and rolling around with Derek in plain sight of everyone. That wasn’t embarrassing. Not at all.

“Right. I’ll, uh... can you keep everyone inside? I have to get him to the Jeep.”

“Will do.”

His dad hung up and Stiles watched him disappear towards the school. Stiles waited two minutes before he stood and pulled Derek up with him. Keeping his hand in his, he led him towards the parking lot cautiously, hoping no one would suddenly show up late or be magically taking a smoke break or something.

Thankfully they ran into no one and he and Derek made it to the Jeep. Derek was better about not following Stiles now, so when he got him into his seat, he helped Derek pull his seatbelt on since he still struggled with that, then moved around the car to the driver’s side and started it.

They made it back to the Hale house relatively quickly, and Derek made a face when they found a car already parked there, Deaton waiting for them on the steps. Stiles climbed out first, then helped Derek out of the seat. Derek was gripping his arm tightly, and his eyes had gone blue, but he didn’t shift his features and he wasn’t growling.

Deaton was inspecting every inch of his face with interest, since this was the first time anyone other than Stiles had seen his human form. Even the people at the school had been too far to notice, but now Deaton was only a few feet away, taking in his appearance.

“Hello Derek,” he said kindly. “Stiles.”

“Stiles,” Derek repeated, almost warningly, tightening his grip on Stiles’ arm.

“Ow, ow!” Stiles slapped at Derek’s hand. He loosened his hold, but didn’t release him.

Deaton’s eyebrows flew up. “He speaks.”

“Apparently,” Stiles said, looking over at Derek, whose blue eyes were still locked on Deaton. “I don’t even know what to make of anything anymore. I’m just glad the next two weeks are holidays, because this is getting crazy for me.”

“Indeed.” Deaton eyed them both for a moment, then said, “I would like you to bring him to the Nemeton.”

“Really?” Stiles turned to Derek, then shrugged. “Okay. Can you lead the way?”

“Of course.”

Stiles got Derek back into the Jeep, Deaton not moving until the two of them were settled. Then he headed for his car and drove off towards the Nemeton. Stiles followed him all the way to the spot where they couldn’t go any further by car. Deaton didn’t exit his vehicle, but Stiles could find his way from here, it wasn’t far.

He got Derek out of the Jeep and then took his hand, leading him further into the forest. When they reached the clearing with the Nemeton, Stiles felt that same peace and calm wash over him as the last time he’d been there.

The tree seemed to have grown larger, and almost looked like it was glowing, pale yellow sunlight cascading in through the other taller trees. The entire area thrummed with magic, like Stiles was walking through a thicker air immersed in it.

Derek tilted his head and moved forward, but he didn’t let go of Stiles’ hand. He walked up to the tree and placed his free hand on it, staring up at it and looking confused. It was like he recognized it, like the pull of its power meant something to him, but he couldn’t figure out what.

Stiles just stood beside him, for a long while, watching him. After about five minutes, he turned back to the tree and placed his hand on it as well.

He jerked it away instantly when a flash of a house on fire and people screaming assaulted him and he stumbled back a step. Derek hadn’t moved, but he tightened his grip on Stiles and turned to him, as if wondering what was wrong.

“Did you see that?” Stiles asked.

Derek just kept staring, then looked back at the tree.

Stiles hesitated, then stepped forward again. He held up his hand, paused, then pressed it against the tree.

The screaming was back, and when he looked around, everything was on fire, smoke thick and suffocating. Stiles knew he was still in the forest. He could feel his hand on the three, Derek’s hand in his other one, his feet on the soft earth. But he was also in a burning house. He spun in a circle, trying to find the exit, but everything was so dark and smoke-filled. It felt like he couldn’t breathe and he stumbled towards a wall, coughing and struggling to make it out of there, to fresh air.

It felt like his skin was burning, and when he finally found a window, he looked out and through the smoke he could see two people shouting. One was a girl, tall and slender, tears streaming down her face and eyes burning red. She was holding back a boy, who was a little smaller than her, but not by much. He was snarling and struggling to get free, face distorted and clawing at the girl’s arms wrapped around him. Her wounds healed the instant they were made, both of them howling in agony as they watched the house burn.

She was holding him back from getting to the house. Because it was too far gone. Because nobody inside could be saved. Reaching it would only cause two more deaths, so they just stood there howling in agony, watching the house burn until the screams from within ceased and everything went silent barring the crackling of flames and the groan of burning wood.

Stiles jerked his hand away from the tree and turned to Derek, who was still staring up at it like it meant something to him.

He felt cold all over watching him, realizing what he’d just seen, where he’d been.

Who this was.

“Derek Hale,” he said quietly. Derek didn’t look at him, but his head tilted, like he was listening. “You’re Derek Hale. You—the fire. You weren’t in the house. You and one of your sisters, you got out. You were outside, and you watched it burn.”

Derek still didn’t say anything, but he let his hand slide off the tree and turned to look at Stiles. It didn’t seem as if he’d seen anything Stiles had, but considering Stiles had seen into his past when they’d both touched the tree, he wondered if maybe Derek had seen something about him.

Stiles looked back at the Nemeton. It looked the same as it had moments ago, but somehow more dangerous. Like it could spill all their secrets if it wanted to. He felt uncomfortable knowing who this was, he wanted to leave.

Taking a step back, he tugged lightly at Derek’s hand. Derek looked back at the tree for a moment, then allowed Stiles to pull him away, the two of them walking back through the forest.

Stiles’ head was a mess. This beast, this animal that people had been taking care of for years, it was a person. It was actually a real person.

Derek Hale. One of the survivors of the Hale fire. Who’d dropped off the face of the earth when the smoke had cleared and the house had been in shambles. He and one of his sisters had survived the fire and had... what?

What had they done? Where had they gone? What had happened to them? And why had Derek come back an animal? And where was his sister now? Was she out in the world somewhere, too? Held captive in a cage, fed blood to appease her, controlling the area she lived in?

Stiles didn’t think so, because the Nemeton seemed connected to Derek somehow. The town was connected to Derek, and it made sense why, now. Because Derek was a Hale, and the town had always belonged to the Hales. But why only Derek? What about his sister?

Unless his sister was dead. Maybe that was why he’d turned into this. He and his sister were obviously some kind of magic, considering. So maybe they’d been together, and then something had happened to her, and she’d died, and the grief had driven Derek insane. Maybe Derek had let whatever magic he was consume him and had become this thing. And now, because Stiles was reminding him how to be human, he was slowly coming back to himself.

He wasn’t the beast anymore, he was becoming Derek Hale.

Deaton was still in the car when they came through the trees, but it was clear he knew something had happened, because he opened his door and climbed out but didn’t come closer. He was eying Stiles with concern, which made him wonder what he must’ve looked like.

“Stiles?”

Stiles was still struggling to process what he’d seen, and he turned to look at Derek, who seemed completely unaffected. He was staring back at Stiles, almost confused, like he could tell how Stiles was feeling and didn’t understand it. Stiles had thought for a while that Derek could hear his heart and various other things to determine his emotions, and this just proved it. Derek always knew when Stiles was scared, or upset, or happy. When he was angry, and proud, and excited.

Derek could sense what he was feeling, and he knew Stiles was confused and upset.

“Stiles?” Deaton repeated.

“Stiles.” Derek agreed, reaching out one hand and caressing his cheek, green eyes staring intently into his.

It was too much. This whole thing was too fucking much.

Stiles turned away from Derek, heart doing something weird in his chest, and looked over at Deaton.

“He’s Derek Hale.”

Deaton looked like Stiles had just slapped him. “What?”

“He’s Derek Hale,” Stiles repeated, as if Deaton hadn’t heard him, though he knew it was shock and not misunderstanding. Stiles felt numb. “I saw—we touched the tree together. I was in the Hale house while it burned. I saw him outside with one of his sisters, watching it burn. They were screaming and crying. They weren’t in the house. They didn’t die.”

“Are you sure?” Deaton asked, but he looked completely floored, like this was the last thing in the world he thought he’d find out. “Are you absolutely sure?”

“Yeah.” Stiles turned back to Derek. He was still watching him with that same intensity and Stiles looked away again, feeling uncomfortable. “Yeah, I’m sure. I don’t—his sister. She might still be out there. Or she might be...” He winced, not wanting to voice what he’d been thinking.

“If he’s Derek Hale, then he’s also something else. Something we’ve never seen before.”

“Yeah,” Stiles agreed. “I’m gonna—I need to take him home. To my house. I can’t—I don’t want him going back to the Hale house.” He winced. “To his house. It’s not—that’s not right.”

Deaton just nodded once, but he watched them both intently, eyes going between Derek and Stiles. After a moment, he climbed back into the car and shut the door. Stiles only brought Derek back to the Jeep once he was sure Deaton was safely locked away, then buckled him into the passenger seat and slammed the door.

Stiles’ brain was on autopilot while he drove them home. Derek Hale had only been three years older than him, which meant when Stiles and Scott had been hiding out in the woods, watching him get dragged into the Hale house, Derek would’ve been sixteen, maybe seventeen at most. And now that Stiles was eighteen, it meant Derek was twenty-one. Derek had lost his mind at some point when he was around fifteen, and turned into this monster that controlled the town, caused earthquakes and storms, killed the Nemeton. But now he was healing, he was coming back to himself, and maybe one day soon Derek Hale was going to wake up.

It was a weird evening. Stiles’ brain hadn’t stopped working the whole time he was with Derek. He’d gotten him cleaned up in the shower, but less intensive than usual, and then he’d just sat on his bed thinking with Derek happily curled up beside him, head on his lap and Stiles’ fingers combing through his hair while he stared at the opposite wall.

He didn’t understand how something like this could’ve happened, because based on what he’d seen, it was clear whatever Derek was hadn’t been a curse or anything. The fire had happened, and he and his sister just... were these things. The girl’s eyes had been the same red that Derek’s turned sometimes, so he knew they were both something from the very beginning.

Then his family had died and Derek had turned into this. Stiles’ brain was just trying to figure out what the fuck was going on, and how this could even be possible.

His dad came home early, and Derek barely even grumbled about it, still curled against Stiles. The most he did was peek open one eye when the sheriff opened Stiles’ door so they could talk. Stiles still felt numb, but he explained everything he’d seen to his dad, and then they’d both stared down at Derek for a long while.

It was crazy to realize this was a real person. It wasn’t an animal, it was a person. A person of magic, like Deaton, except different. A magical being connected to the town.

His dad could tell Stiles was a little out of sorts over this news and he left him alone for the rest of the evening. He brought up dinner for both of them, leaving it by the door since Derek growled when he tried to approach, but otherwise he kept his distance.

Stiles went to get their food and they ate on the bed, Derek actually managing not to make a mess and using cutlery like a real boy. It was more depressing than impressive now that Stiles knew who he was, because he couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to Derek to turn him into this.

He knew his weirdness was making Derek sad, so he made sure to give him plenty of hugs and cuddles until they went to bed. Derek pulled him close like he always did, nuzzling against him, and Stiles couldn’t help but wonder how much longer he was going to have this.


Stiles didn’t go to school for the last two days before the two week break. He figured there was no point, since Derek would just follow him, and wanted to try and see if he could push Derek’s brain back into human mode.

It didn’t work, and after a few days, Stiles just gave up and he and Derek watched movies. They started with Harry Potter, since that was something Derek was familiar with, but it had been a challenge at first because Derek didn’t seem to understand what the TV was and thought the shouting and threats were real given it was magic and they lived in a world of magic. It took him re-watching the first movie seven times to finally understand that it wasn’t real, and they could get through the other movies as normal.

Stiles tried only once to invite Scott over while Derek was with him, but that had ended up with Stiles crushed against the end of the couch and Derek snarling at Scott, so they’d decided that wasn’t a good idea and Scott stayed away.

Derek still hated the sheriff, but he tolerated his presence as long as he didn’t get too close to Stiles. He seemed to have an understanding of the fact that this was the sheriff’s house, he just didn’t like it. He wouldn’t let anyone near Stiles, ever, and it was getting to the point where Stiles was glad Derek was touchy-feely because he’d have felt touch-starved himself if not for that.

Thankfully he had a phone so he could still talk to people, his dad included, but it was getting a little isolating and he really needed Derek to accept that other people weren’t a danger to him and weren’t going to steal Stiles away from him.

He didn’t know how to go about doing that, though, because Scott was too scared to come back, Deaton had too much sense to risk it, and his father was more than happy to keep his distance from the feral animal who was protective of his son.

If nothing else, at least his dad seemed pleased that Stiles had his own personal bodyguard.

While this was all fine and dandy for now, Stiles was only on break for two weeks, and he didn’t know what would happen when he had to go back to school.

He tried not to worry about it too much, but he did notice Derek giving him more of those intense looks, the same way he’d been staring at him while they’d been at the Nemeton. He didn’t know why, but he just figured Derek was making sure Stiles was doing okay.

It was on the Sunday ending the first week of his time off that the intense staring and the lack of anyone else touching Stiles finally made sense. Stiles had been sleeping, near the edge of the bed with Derek at the wall like always. He was on his stomach, drooling on his pillow with one arm half-over the side of the bed when the mattress shifted and he jerked awake.

Derek often had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, but he’d gotten good at being able to go and do his business on his own and come back. Sometimes, Stiles forgot he wasn’t entirely human yet. So when the mattress dipped weirdly, he didn’t think anything of it and closed his eyes again so he could go back to sleep.

Then he felt a weight on top of him, Derek having shifted under the covers and Stiles let out a groan of displeasure. Derek sometimes slept a lot during the day, which meant he was awake early in the night and tried to get Stiles to wake up with him so they could do something together.

Stiles was more interested in sleeping.

“Derek, I told you,” he said, voice sleep-filled. “It’s not morning until the sun is up and—”

Stiles froze.

Derek had just pressed the length of his body along his back, and there was a very distinctive bulge in the downstairs area. Derek let out a soft growl, face buried in Stiles’ neck and teeth digging hard into his skin, but not breaking through.

Stiles’ brain immediately went into panic mode, heart slamming double-time in his chest and breath frozen in his lungs. Derek was on top of him in a very suggestive way, and Stiles had no idea what to do about it because he was much, much stronger than him.

He probably should’ve paid more attention to the looks he’d been getting and to what Derek could’ve seen when they’d both been together at the Nemeton.

For a few long seconds, Stiles didn’t move, because he had no fucking idea what to do. He just lay frozen, with Derek on top of him, hips rocking suggestively and teeth against his throat.

And then, just as suddenly, Derek paused, and then slowly pulled away from him, crawling off him and moving to the corner of the bed so he had his back against the wall. A loud whine left him and Stiles stayed motionless for a few seconds before slowly sitting up, looking over at him.

Derek looked upset, and confused, curling in on himself. Stiles slid slowly to the opposite end of the bed, the two of them staring at each other, and it suddenly occurred to him what had just happened.

Stiles had been scared. He’d been scared and had shown signs of his fear, and Derek had realized that he was afraid because of him. And that had hurt him, to realize Stiles was afraid of him, because Stiles hadn’t been afraid of him in a long time.

And now he felt guilty for being afraid of Derek, but it wasn’t like he could help it! Derek had literally crawled on top of him with a fucking boner and was biting at his neck in a very territorial kind of way.

“Hey buddy,” Stiles said cautiously, though Derek continued to whine. “Are you okay over there?”

Derek just whined again, curling in more on himself. It was almost like he was trying to get rid of his problem, and Stiles felt awful about that. Derek hadn’t meant to do what he’d done, he was obviously just confused. He thought their relationship was something, well, more. And maybe it could be, you know, one day, but when Derek actually had an understanding of his surroundings.

Right now, he only trusted Stiles, and that was making him think things he might not necessarily believe. Stiles was familiar and safe, but that didn’t mean he was what Derek truly wanted.

“Hey,” Stiles said softly, and letting out a slow breath, he moved cautiously across the bed towards Derek. He just tried to curl in on himself a bit more and Stiles leaned back against the headboard, reaching out one hand and rubbing gently at Derek’s closest arm. “It’s okay. I’m not mad. I’m sorry I got scared, I was just surprised. We’re okay.”

Derek didn’t move for a long while, but Stiles just stayed next to him, rubbing at his arm, and continuing to insist it was okay. Eventually, Derek seemed to get his problem under control and he crawled into Stiles’ lap, hugging him tightly. Stiles reciprocated the hug, rubbing at Derek’s back comfortingly and continuing to insist it was okay.

When they finally went back to sleep, Derek pressed himself against the wall and refused to touch Stiles. That stung a little, but he understood. It was pointless anyway, since halfway through the night Stiles woke abruptly to Derek shifting in his sleep and yanking him closer. He was still sleeping and downstairs wasn’t at full attention, so Stiles didn’t panic about it and just went back to sleep.

Derek was awkward and restless the next day, so Stiles took him out to the forest and followed while Derek wandered through the trees. They eventually emerged at the Nemeton and Stiles sat at the edge of the clearing away from it while Derek stood with one palm pressed against it for hours, just staring up at it.

Stiles wondered what he saw when he touched it. What he was experiencing. He hoped he wasn’t reliving the fire, but Derek was always calm and peaceful, so Stiles doubted it. They stayed well into the evening and only left when Stiles’ stomach growled, Derek seeming to realize he was hungry and leading the way back through the dark woods, one of Stiles’ hands held tightly in his own.

They went out to the Nemeton a few more times during the week Stiles had off, and when school was going to start once more, he and his dad had a long chat about it from opposite ends of the room, given Derek didn’t want the sheriff anywhere near Stiles.

Eventually, the easiest solution was for Scott to facetime from class, and when Monday rolled around, Stiles sat in the kitchen with his phone and took notes while Scott charged his phone and facetimed the entire day. Derek hung out with him usually, dozing with his head in his arms on the table, or occasionally trying to figure out games. Stiles had downloaded a whole bunch of children’s games onto his ipad and had set Derek to play them as a way to keep him distracted. Usually Derek was fine as long as Stiles was closeby, but Stiles didn’t want him to get bored, and he figured children’s games would be good for his development.

To date, the only word he had ever said was ‘Stiles,’ which didn’t count as a word since it was just a name. Derek hadn’t ever even said his own name. And he’d been cautious and worried around Stiles for a few days following the awkward moment in the middle of the night, but it was kind of a relief that he was returning to normal once school had started up again.

Stiles had enough to worry about without that hanging over him.

It was moving into month six now, and it was Saturday so Stiles had brought Derek out to the Nemeton, since he seemed to like going there more often than not. Stiles brought homework and worked on that while Derek became one with nature, or whatever.

They went home and had dinner, as normal, and then went to sleep with Derek pulling Stiles closer and nuzzling into him. Stiles smiled and closed his eyes, feeling like everything was going to be okay.

Things were not okay when he woke up.


It was much later than normal when Stiles finally opened his eyes. His phone read that it was past noon, which was weird as Derek usually woke him up around nine or ten because he was hungry or he was bored.

Rolling over, Stiles frowned when he found the bed empty and immediately panicked. He propelled himself out of bed and threw open his bedroom door, phone in his hand and ready to dial his dad.

“Derek? Derek?!”

“Stiles.”

Stiles almost fell down the stairs, but caught himself at the last second. He hurried into the kitchen and felt like he could breathe again, leaning against the doorframe and massaging his chest with one hand.

“Jesus Christ, you scared me.” He turned to smile slightly at Derek, and frowned.

He was sitting at the table with his hands curled around a mug of what looked to be coffee. He was wearing the sweats, as he’d been doing for a while now, but he also had a shirt on today, and he looked... clean.

Like he’d showered.

Derek was staring at him, taking him in, eyes roving along every inch of his face, down his body, and then back up.

“You okay, buddy?” Stiles asked cautiously, moving forward. “You didn’t wake me up. And are you seriously drinking coffee?”

“You’re Stiles.”

Stiles stared at him, then blurted out, “Holy fucking shit, a sentence! Yeah, dude. Yeah, I’m Stiles!”

“You’re the sheriff’s son.”

Stiles almost lost his fucking mind, grinning broadly and putting both hands on the table, left one still curled around his phone. Derek’s eyes lowered to it, then back up to his smiling face.

“Yeah! Yeah, Derek! Holy shit! Oh my God, are those games you’ve been playing teaching you this shit? Oh crap, I shouldn’t swear while you’re learning to speak. But dude, this is great!”

He started to reach out to caress his cheek, as he’d been doing for months, but Derek jerked back from him and Stiles froze.

Derek was scowling and he lowered his gaze, grip tightening around the mug he held, and Stiles felt his stomach bottom out.

Holy shit.

Holy shit!

“I didn’t know your father’s number. I’d appreciate it if you could call him for me.”

Stiles just stared at him and realized what had just happened. He understood why Derek was dressed, why he was drinking coffee, why he was showered.

Why he knew how to speak.

Derek Hale had finally woken up.

The animal was gone.

Stiles felt like someone had just punched him in the chest, like a piece of him had just been ripped away. Derek’s frown deepened, like he could sense how Stiles was feeling, and Stiles instantly straightened, taking a few steps back and crossing his arms defensively.

“Yeah. Sure, yeah.” He turned and walked out of the kitchen, feeling like he couldn’t breathe.

He’d known when he figured out that Derek was actually Derek Hale that this day would come sooner or later. That Derek would come back, that he would be human once more, that he wouldn’t—that he would change. He’d known it was coming, but somehow he still couldn’t fully believe it.

As much as babysitting Derek had been frustrating at times, he’d cared about him a lot. And Derek had always been there for him, making sure he was safe, cuddling him, staying close to him, and caring about him.

Stiles felt sick when he realized that this Derek was different. Human Derek was back, and he didn’t want to be touched. He didn’t want Stiles near him. Didn’t even want to look at him.

Sitting on the bottom step leading to the second level, Stiles swiped his phone awake and put in his password, going to his contacts to call his dad.

“Hey Stiles,” the sheriff said on the other end, sounding distracted. “Everything okay?”

“I need you to come home,” Stiles said, his voice sounding hollow even to his own ears. “Bring Deaton.”

“What?”

Stiles hung up.

He sat on the steps waiting, and heard nothing from the kitchen, Derek obviously more than happy to stay away from him. It didn’t take long for his dad to show up, anyway. He’d gotten Deaton, from the sounds of it, given two doors had slammed and running footsteps sounded. When the door burst open, his dad’s eyes found him urgently and he seemed relieved to see him unharmed.

Stiles just motioned the kitchen behind him and the sheriff frowned, he and Deaton making their way slowly towards it while Stiles just pushed his feet into some sneakers and left the house.

It was freezing out, given he only had his pyjamas on, but it wasn’t a long walk to Scott’s house. When he got there, Melissa answered his knock and ushered him in with a reprimand for wandering around in the cold without a sweater or proper clothing on. She seemed to realize something was wrong right away and set Stiles up in the living room with some hot chocolate before going upstairs to wrestle Scott awake.

He was beside him in minutes, looking concerned and asking what was wrong. Stiles didn’t want to talk about it, and he snapped at Scott to leave it when the other asked him where Derek was. He hadn’t meant to snap, but it literally felt like someone had pulled his heart out of his chest.

He ignored his cell when it rang, but Scott’s house phone rang immediately afterwards and he heard Melissa confirming that he was there.

His dad didn’t ask to speak to him, so Stiles just sat on the couch with Scott, who didn’t seem to know what to say.

Stiles only hung around long enough to be sure Derek was gone with his dad, then went back to the house, Melissa insisting on driving him. The cruiser was still there when they passed, so Stiles told her to turn around. Instead, she just went to the end of the block and called his dad on her cell phone. When he confirmed Derek had left to head to the station with Deaton, Stiles allowed her to drive him back down the street and drop him off.

His dad was in the hallway when Stiles opened the door, looking worried. Stiles didn’t want to talk about it, so he forced a smile and patted his shoulder, telling him that he really had bigger things to deal with right then and that he was going to shower.

He heard the cruiser pull out once he was in the bathroom, but he didn’t move to the shower. He just locked the door and slid to the floor, pressing back against the wood behind him and bringing his knees to his chest.

It was weird, because he knew he should be happy. He knew this was a good thing. Derek Hale was back, he was better. He would be able to explain what had happened, how he’d become the monster, how he controlled the town the way he did. He would be able to become a contributing member of society once more.

But Stiles couldn’t be happy. As much as he’d felt isolated being with Derek all the time, Derek had been his friend. Someone he cared about, and who cared about him. Someone who liked being around him, nuzzled him, cuddled with him at night, truly cared for him. Protected him.

That Derek was gone now. He was completely different now. He hadn’t wanted Stiles anywhere near him, hadn’t even been able to look at him. Stiles didn’t know how to handle that. It was like he’d lost someone he could never have back.

He felt his chest tightening when he realized it was like his mother all over again. He’d loved Derek. He’d loved him, and he’d loved spending time with him, being with him. They’d had such a good relationship, built on mutual trust, that Stiles had worked tirelessly at building between them. Five years, this had gone on, and not once had anyone done what Stiles had done.

And he’d lost him, now. That Derek was gone, replaced with a colder, distant version. He was never coming back, and Stiles couldn’t breathe.

He couldn’t breathe, because he’d lost someone else that he was never getting back, and he didn’t know how to handle that. He didn’t know how to come back from that a second time.

Stiles buried his face in his knees, arms wrapped tightly around them, and struggled to breathe while his world crashed down around him.


News travelled quickly about Derek, and Stiles called in sick the next day at school. His dad hadn’t come home, but he’d called before Stiles went to bed to make sure he was okay. Stiles had lied and insisted he was fine, and was now hiding under his blankets and hoping the world would disappear beyond his field of vision.

He knew he couldn’t just mope around indefinitely, he just... needed a minute. He needed time to figure out how to move forward, considering the past almost six months of his life had been fully devoted to Derek and now he just... it was like he’d never existed.

Stiles heard his dad come home around two in the afternoon, but since he was meant to be at school and his dad likely hadn’t been told Stiles had stayed home, he just stayed hidden in his room while his dad messed around downstairs. He came upstairs to shower at some point, and left the house again a little after four.

When his phone buzzed, Stiles emerged from his cocoon to check who it was, seeing his dad’s name flashing on the display. He ignored it, since his dad would assume he was driving and just buried himself in his blankets again.

Stiles got up only three times in the day to pee, and that was it. He dozed off and on, and by the time he woke up again and was awake for good, the clock informed him it was just after three in the morning.

He got up and did some homework, then waited for his usual wake-up time before going to get ready for school. People pounced on him the second he got there, asking him questions and harassing him for information. He just shouldered his way through them, and when someone got right in his face demanding an answer, Boyd shoved them back and told everyone to leave him alone before grabbing at Stiles’ bag and helping haul him away from the crowd.

Having Boyd beside him while he walked to homeroom made it easier for him to breathe, somehow. Probably because Boyd had always been really good at knowing when Stiles just needed someone near him without actually speaking to him. It was a relief, really, having him around and he thanked him quietly when they entered homeroom and sat down.

Stiles managed to get through the day with minimal problems. One of his friends tended to stick close to him when they passed between classes, and it occurred to him that maybe Scott had said something when Stiles hadn’t shown up for school the day before.

He felt stupid for being upset, but he couldn’t help it. He was trying to figure out how to move forward without Derek in his life anymore. He just kept trying to convince himself that it was for the best, reminding himself of all the inconvenient things involved with having Derek there, but just as he thought of something negative, his brain would pull up so many positives and he didn’t know how to handle it.

By Wednesday, he was just angry, and snapping at everyone, including his friends, and when Thursday rolled around he was back to being depressed and wishing he’d just stayed home. It was more trouble than it was worth trying to sort out his feelings, and it got bad enough that he scheduled a meeting with the guidance councillor for Friday morning just so he could talk to someone and work out why he was so upset when Derek being back to human was a good thing.

He didn’t make it to the meeting on Friday morning, because when he exited the school, his dad was waiting for him by the Jeep, his cruiser parked a few spots down from it. Stiles didn’t want to see his dad right now, he’d actually been avoiding him because he didn’t want him to worry.

He didn’t want him to see the similarities between now, and back when his mother had passed away.

Forcing a smile he wasn’t sure he managed, he said, “Hey dad.”

“Do you really think you’ve been convincing these past few days?” the man asked in response to that. “I know you were in your room all day on Monday, I’m not an idiot, Stiles.”

Stiles stopped in front of him, crossing his arms defensively and shrugged. “I was sick, needed a day off.”

His dad gave him a look, but Stiles didn’t elaborate. They just stared at one another for a long while before his dad sighed and motioned the cruiser.

“Get in. I’m taking you to the station.”

Stiles’ stomach dropped.

“No.”

“No?” His dad cocked an eyebrow.

“I can’t—I don’t want to see him.”

The sheriff watched him very carefully, eyes inspecting every inch of his face before letting out a small breath and grabbing Stiles by the back of the neck, pulling him forward and crushing him in a strong hug. Stiles’ arms were still crossed, so he didn’t have the chance to hug him back. He just stood there with his arms trapped while his father hugged him tightly enough for his muscles to ache.

“He hasn’t spoken one word since we brought him in,” the sheriff said quietly.

Stiles jerked at those words, but didn’t pull away. “What?”

“He thought you were coming. He was waiting for you. You didn’t come, so he didn’t speak.”

Stiles didn’t understand. Derek hadn’t even wanted him near him in the house, hadn’t wanted him to touch him, and now he was sitting in the police station for four days without saying a word because Stiles wasn’t there?

“He told me to call you.”

“He did,” the sheriff agreed. “He wanted to speak to me about what happened. But he thought you would be there. You left the house before we did, so he went with Deaton without complaint, because he thought you were already where we were taking him. He hasn’t said anything to us aside from asking when you were coming.” His dad pulled away, patting his cheek lightly. “I knew you were upset. I didn’t want to drag you into this. But he wants you, he won’t speak to anyone else.”

“I can’t see him,” Stiles insisted. “It’s not—he’s different.”

“He’s still Derek,” his father insisted softly. “Stiles, he’s scared, and confused, and hurting. And so are you. He needs you as much as you need him. Just talk to him.”

If this were anyone else, Stiles would’ve believed that he was being guilted into going to see Derek because people needed answers. But he knew his dad was only doing this because he was worried about Stiles. He’d waited four days for answers he didn’t get, and he was willing to wait longer, if need be. But he didn’t want to see his son this upset and unhappy, so he’d finally come to ask him to do what people had probably been pushing him to ask for since Derek had shown up at the station.

“Come on, kiddo.” His dad wrapped one arm around his shoulders and led him to the cruiser. Stiles got in without complaint, the sheriff climbing in behind the wheel, and they pulled out of the lot.

Stiles stared out the window the whole drive with his cheek against one fist. His heart was already tripping in his chest, but he didn’t really get why. He was about to see Derek who wasn’t really Derek, and that hurt but he was also excited and it was all very confusing. Derek hadn’t wanted him near him, but now he refused to speak unless they gave him Stiles. It made no sense, and he didn’t understand, and he wondered if maybe something had happened and he’d regressed.

Maybe the animal was back, and the second he saw Stiles, Derek Hale would return and Stiles would just lose him all over again. He didn’t want that, it hurt. It hurt losing him once, it still hurt, he didn’t want this. He hated him. He hated that Derek had made him care, hated that they’d turned the Blooding into this weird friendship they had.

He should’ve just done like everyone else. He should’ve just thrown meat at him, hosed him down, carried out his one year sentence and then washed his hands of all of this.

When they pulled up to the sheriff’s department, Stiles almost had a panic attack. His dad seemed to recognize the signs because he gently pushed Stiles’ head between his knees and rubbed his back while Stiles struggled to inhale. He felt stupid, and messed up. His dad probably thought Stiles was a fucking loser for being this freaked out to see him when he hadn’t been nearly this nervous the first time he’d met him.

“It’s okay to be scared,” his dad said quietly, still rubbing his back. “It’s okay not to like the unknown, Stiles.”

And that was the thing, wasn’t it? That was what Stiles was so afraid of. What he’d been afraid of since the moment Derek Hale was sitting in front of him instead of his Derek.

This was unknown territory. Stiles didn’t know what he was to Derek anymore. If Derek regressed, became the animal again, would he even remember Stiles? Would he have to start all over again?

Stiles didn’t know that he could start all over again. This was stupid, he shouldn’t have come here.

“Stiles,” his dad said softly. “It’s okay.”

They sat in the cruiser for a long while, Stiles struggling to get himself back under control. He was just scared of losing someone else. It hurt, losing people. It hurt so fucking much, and he didn’t want to ever go through that again. Every time he heard about a police incident, he stopped breathing until his dad texted him to say he was okay and they would talk later. Every time Scott had an asthma attack that took him too long to calm down from, Stiles was positive he was about to have his world collapse around him. Whenever Isaac used to come to school, bruised and bloody, before his dad was arrested for child abuse, Stiles had worried about the world coming apart if one day Isaac didn’t show up.

This was Derek, but not Derek, and that was terrifying in its own way. Was his Derek dead? Had he been swallowed whole by Derek Hale? Or was he still in there somewhere? Just beneath the surface? Whining and clawing to get out?

Stiles sat up, rubbing at his face, and let out a slow breath. The sooner he went in there, the sooner he could come out, so he kicked open the cruiser door, startling his dad, and climbed out. The sheriff followed suit, gripping the back of Stiles’ neck tightly while they walked up the stairs and into the station.

All conversation ceased the moment they walked in and Stiles felt uncomfortable with how many people were looking at him. He glared at the floor while his dad snapped for everyone to get back to work. Noise started up again, but very subdued, and he was sure that every cop in the precinct wanted to be in the back room when Stiles stepped into the interrogation room they undoubtedly had Derek in.

His dad stopped outside a door, squeezing at his neck one last time in comfort before releasing him.

“He’s handcuffed,” he said softly. “He can’t touch you.”

“He ripped manacles out of the wall and destroyed a cage with his bare hands. I don’t think cuffs will stop him if he comes at me.”

“I’ll be right next door.”

Still not comforting, but he didn’t say that to his dad. He didn’t think Derek would hurt him, anyway. Or at least, he hoped Derek wouldn’t hurt him, but it was hard to tell with new-Derek.

His dad waited with him until Stiles exhaled slowly and nodded. The sheriff pushed the door open for him and Stiles stepped into the room, the door shutting behind him.

Derek was still wearing the same thing he had been when he’d been sitting in Stiles’ kitchen. He had sandals on, which looked too small for him and likely belonged to Stiles. He was wearing the sweats Stiles had bought him over a month ago, along with a shirt that was too tight and Stiles recognized as one of his own. His hands were cuffed together and resting on the table, and even though he knew Stiles was there, Derek didn’t turn to look at him.

Stiles glanced at the one-way mirror, then looked back at Derek, not moving from his spot by the door. They were both silent for a long while, Stiles shifting his weight uncomfortably and licking his lips, rubbing his hands along his pants. He didn’t know what to do, or say. He wasn’t sure how to react right now, and Derek sitting there looking tense and saying nothing wasn’t exactly helping.

After almost ten minutes of silence, Stiles finally said, “They said you wouldn’t speak without me here. I’m here.”

Derek said nothing for almost thirty seconds, and this was too hard. This was exactly what Stiles thought was going to happen, and he just wanted to fucking walk out and leave.

He wanted to leave before he couldn’t. Before he broke. Before this was the end of him.

Before Derek destroyed him.

Then, Derek finally turned to glance over at Stiles, lips downturned and scowl on his face before he looked away again.

“Don’t look at me like that.”

Stiles frowned. “Like what?”

“Like you have no idea who I am.”

That hurt to hear. That hurt, because Stiles didn’t know who he was. He had no idea who this Derek was. But apparently, this Derek still knew him. He still knew Stiles. To him, Stiles was just Stiles. He hadn’t changed at all. And he didn’t want to be seen as different.

Easing forward, Stiles took a few steps until he was near the table, across from Derek, fingers tapping along the metal surface. “You can’t say you’re not different.”

“I’m still Derek.”

“The Derek I knew looked excited when he saw me, not miserable,” Stiles countered, slowly taking a seat across from him. “The Derek I knew was happy, and playful, and liked being touched.”

Derek said nothing to that, continuing to scowl down at his hands. Stiles tried to wait him out, but he wasn’t the most patient person in the world, and he was already missing what they had.

“Why wouldn’t you talk to anyone?” Stiles finally asked. “Why were you waiting for me?”

“Because that’s what I’ve always done,” Derek said quietly.

Stiles frowned again. “What?”

“That’s all I’ve done the past few months,” Derek insisted, looking up at him. “I’ve waited for you. I would stare at that clock for hours, matching it to the time on the calendar, waiting for you to show up. Waiting for you to come back. And sometimes you took too long. Sometimes it was impossible, and I had to do something, because I couldn’t sit there and wait for you anymore.”

It was hard, having a real conversation with Derek. Hearing first hand how much he’d hated being in that cage, away from Stiles.

“But why now?” he asked. “Why were you waiting now? You didn’t—you don’t need me anymore.”

“You’re the only person I trust.”

That hadn’t been what he’d expected. “You can’t be serious. You’re in a police station.”

“Do you know what those people have done to me?” Derek asked, not unkindly. More factually. “Deaton ran tests on me when they first captured me.”

Stiles didn’t like the use of that word. ‘Capture.’ It implied something more... sinister. They’d caught Derek, from their perspective, but when he considered it, he could understand why, to Derek, it was a capture.

He’d been held against his will.

“He wasn’t cruel, and he was just trying to determine what I was, but when you’re sedated and chained up in a cage and someone’s there with things you perceive as a danger to your being, you’re not inclined to trust them.”

“But the cops—”

“Have shot me. Sedated me. Hurt me. I know I wasn’t exactly the picture of innocence, and I know I hurt a lot of people myself, but they tried to kill me on multiple occasions. They only stopped trying because of the effect it had on the town.” Derek eyed him then, inspecting every inch of his face as if he’d never seen it before. “You didn’t want anything. You were never cruel, even at the beginning. You were frustrated about being chosen, but you were still kind, in your own way. And then you stuck your arm in my cage and told me to bite you. You were there when I was vulnerable and could be easily manipulated with only the barest amount of kindness, but instead of using that, you were just... there. You came by even when you didn’t have to. You let me stay with you. You showed me that you cared.”

Derek clenched his fists and glared down at his hands. For a long moment, he said nothing, but Stiles waited him out, because he knew he wasn’t finished.

“No one has cared about me for a long time. Not until you.”

Stiles let out a small sigh, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms. He had never really thought of it that way, about how he could’ve manipulated Derek and gotten his very own bodyguard. Then again, by being nice, he’d gotten that anyway, but he supposed Derek’s point was more that Stiles hadn’t done it for the outcome he’d received. He’d just done it because it was the decent thing to do.

“The people out there don’t want to hurt you,” Stiles said softly. “You know that, right? They just didn’t know—they were doing their best.”

“You were doing your best, too.”

He was never going to win this argument. Derek was forever going to compare how other people treated him versus how Stiles did. He understood that, but it was going to make things really difficult if he wouldn’t even talk to the police about what he was and what had happened to him.

Stiles was still trying to think about how to start asking pertinent questions when Derek spoke again and his brain screeched to a startled halt.

“I wanted you to be mine.”

“What?” Stiles asked cautiously, not sure he understood what that meant.

“I wanted—” Derek cut himself off with a scowl at his hands again. It was obvious he wasn’t happy about having to discuss these things. Whether it was at all or with an audience, Stiles wasn’t sure, but he figured he could be patient for feelings. Feelings were hard for everyone, and probably moreso for someone who’d basically just relearned how to speak overnight.

“I was alone for a long time,” Derek forced out, like the words were cutting him when he spoke them. “And when I finally had you, I wanted—more.” He glanced at the mirror when he said this, as if knowing Stiles’ dad was behind the glass.

“More,” Stiles repeated. “Like—like a relationship?” It sounded ridiculous to think of having a relationship with what Derek used to be, but before he could really think on it, Derek said,

“Like mates.”

“Mates.” Stiles opened his mouth to add something, but no words came out. “Is that–is that what you have? A mate?”

“Not yet,” Derek said, giving him an intense look.

Stiles’ mouth opened again, but all he could do was exhale while he stared at Derek. So non-human Derek liked him. A lot. And that had transferred into human-Derek, who was now basically asking him to marry him in the context of whatever he was with relation to what Stiles was.

“Okay,” he finally said. “So you and your—less you side wanted me as your mate. So if that’s true, then why did you pull away from me?”

Derek’s previously lowered gaze snapped up to meet Stiles’, but Stiles just stared back at him calmly, waiting for an explanation. Because Derek was kind of sending mixed signals right now.

“Because it wasn’t fair.”

“Fair.” Stiles repeated slowly. “What wasn’t fair?”

“You didn’t know I was back. You didn’t—would you honestly have wanted to reach out and touch my face as you had been, knowing that we would be having this conversation?”

Thinking on it, Stiles realized that, no. No he would not. It would’ve been like doing that to Scott, which would’ve been awkward and weird. It’d been fine back when Derek was an animal, but he wasn’t anymore.

And it would’ve been weird.

“Okay, I see your point,” Stiles acquiesced, leaning forward so his arms were crossed on the table now. “So now what?”

Derek looked over his shoulder at the mirror again, then leaned back in his own seat. He brought his cuffed hands to his lap, and Stiles was surprised his dad hadn’t done more. He probably figured Derek wasn’t technically under arrest, they were just trying to get some answers.

“Now we talk,” Derek said. “I will answer every question you have for me. Anything you want to know, anything you ask of me. I will do whatever you tell me. But only you.” He glanced pointedly over Stiles’ shoulder. “Only you, Stiles.”

“Yeah, I don’t think my dad’s gonna let the two of us hang out alone in an interrogation room without someone behind that mirror.” Stiles thumbed over his shoulder. “You ripped shackles out of the wall and tore apart a cage bolted into the foundation. Pretty sure having me in here at all is giving my dad heart palpitations.”

“I don’t have a problem with them on that side of the mirror,” Derek clarified. “I just meant that I’m not planning on speaking to any of them.”

“Oh.” It was all Stiles could think of to say.

Derek was staring at him again, giving him that same intense look he’d given him at the Nemeton the first time they’d gone together. The same looks he’d been giving him before Stiles had woken up to him pressed along his back with his dick at his ass and his teeth in his neck.

It made all the air freeze in his lungs, and this was too much, this was way too much. He didn’t know how to handle this. He didn’t know how to deal with someone staring at him that hard.

Eventually, Derek looked away from him, though he was scowling again, like he was unhappy. It was easier to breathe when he wasn’t being stared at so intently, and Stiles let out a slow breath, brain kick-starting itself back up.

He knew this Derek wasn’t thinking about the whole ‘mate’ thing when he stared at him like that. This Derek wasn’t an animal, he was a human being. With control, and the mental capacity to think things through without just jumping on Stiles and grinding against him.

And it was obvious Derek was scared of losing him, and had been scared of that this whole time, just as Stiles had been lamenting the loss of who Derek had once been.

“You can’t be scared of me,” Derek said softly, voice twisted with held back emotions. “Not you.”

“I’m not afraid of you,” Stiles insisted. “I just—” He’d almost said “I just don’t know you,” but that wouldn’t be fair. He knew Derek, just not this side of him. And he’d been given a free pass to ask whatever he wanted. Derek was handing him information about himself to show he was still the same person.

He just talked back and knew how to shower on his own now, that was all.

And Jesus, that was embarrassing, he’d been showering Derek, and Derek remembered it, how fucking awkward.

Forcing the thoughts aside, Stiles reached out one hand towards Derek. For a few seconds, he just stared down at Stiles’ hand, and then slowly lifted his own from his lap and placed them on the table, a few inches shy of touching Stiles.

Reaching out for the link between the cuffs, Stiles pulled at it to force Derek’s hands closer so he wasn’t stretching himself, and then put one hand overtop Derek’s left one, squeezing it.

“I’m not afraid of you,” he repeated. “But we need to talk, so we’re gonna do that. And if there’s anything you don’t want to answer, that’s cool. I know this is a bit much for you, so we can take it one question at a time.”

“You won’t ask me anything I wouldn’t want to answer.”

“You don’t know that.”

“I know you.” Derek was giving him the intense look again, and Stiles forced himself to just hold it, hand still squeezing Derek’s. “Ask.”

“What are you?” It was the question that had been burning on his tongue ever since Derek had spoken to him the other morning. It was like a desperate need, knowing what, exactly, Derek truly was because no one had ever seen or heard of anything like him before.

“I’m a Werewolf,” Derek replied instantly.

Stiles frowned, not recognizing the term. “What is that? Like—is it magic, or...?”

“Yes and no.” Derek paused for a moment, like he was trying to figure out the best way to explain it. “I’m—I have certain abilities similar to a wolf’s. Heightened senses, increased strength, accelerated healing, that kind of thing. I can turn into a wolf—”

“You can—wait, what?” Stiles demanded, free hand banging onto the table. “You can turn into a wolf?!”

Derek’s lips quirked upwards. “If I really want to, yes, but I haven’t done that in years.”

“That’s fucking awesome,” Stiles informed him, then frowned. “So—okay, so the thing you were. Before, I mean. That was—was that like... the animal in you?”

Derek nodded, looking down at Stiles’ hand atop his. He reached out with his other one, moving it closer, and very gently rubbed his thumb along Stiles’ skin. “It—I lost people. A lot of people. All I had left was my sister Laura, and one night, the magic users who destroyed our home found us.” His eyebrows furrowed and Stiles squeezed his hand tighter. “She killed them, but they were strong, and she ended up succumbing to her injuries. She died protecting me. It was too much. After everything—the grief, it... I let the wolf take over. It was easier to cope when I wasn’t in control. It brought me home, but things had changed, and it was confused, and I couldn’t...”

Derek scowled again, like he was struggling to find words. Stiles brought his other hand over and closed both of them around his left one, Derek’s right hand still lightly rubbing at Stiles’.

Stiles knew all too well how hard it was to talk about loss. He didn’t like that they had to talk about Derek’s now, but it was obvious this had been the catalyst.

The straw that broke the camel’s back.

Or the wolf’s, in this case.

“I couldn’t pull it back,” Derek finally said, free hand shifting so he had one of his own overtop Stiles’ closest one, thumb still rubbing gently at his skin. “I was still in there, I could see and hear everything that was happening, but I couldn’t take control again. The grief was too strong, and in some ways, it was easier to just be the animal.”

“I’m sorry.”

“You have your fair share of grief,” Derek said softly, keeping his eyes on their hands.

But you lost everyone, Stiles wanted to say. He didn’t, because Derek didn’t need the reminder, but he seemed to know what Stiles was thinking, hand squeezing gently in thanks for his understanding.

Stiles waited to make sure Derek was okay before he spoke again.

“You’re connected to the town,” he said. A statement, not a question.

“Yes.”

“By the Nemeton.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“My kind was created in this town. I don’t know much about the history. To be honest, I wasn’t interested back then. Everything I know now, I learned from Laura, but even she didn’t know that much.” It was obvious how much he regretted that, now. “According to what I remember from my parents, and Laura, our family was the first of our kind. Our ancestors were Druids, magic-users, and one of them saved an Alpha wolf. Apparently the Alpha was some kind of—guardian? Spirit of the wild?” Derek looked like it was hurting his pride to say something so ridiculous, but Stiles was more interested in the story than his embarrassment. “Either way, it was some kind of magical being. In exchange for saving its life, it bestowed my ancestors with similar abilities to a wolf, and being of magic themselves as Druids, the two powers together turned them all into something... more.

“When the Alpha wolf died, the Druids buried it and planted the Nemeton as its grave marker. It is a symbol of our connection to the spirit who roamed the land here, and our family has been in Beacon Hills since before the town even existed. This land is connected to us through our link with the Alpha wolf, who is probably tied with the Nemeton, which is why I am also connected to it.

When the wolf took over, the magic in the land was unsettled, so the Nemeton was trying to keep everything balanced. But I was pushing and pulling at the magic in the land so much that it was starting to decay, because it was using all of its power to keep things balanced. And the more I pulled from the land, the stronger it had to push back against me before the town collapsed.”

“The earthquakes,” Stiles said quietly.

Derek nodded. “And the fires. And the storms. Everything I did was pulling from the magic in the area, and I was pulling too much of it because I couldn’t control it. The wolf doesn’t have an understanding of the way magic works, so it would pull, and the Nemeton would push, and as a result, I was slowly killing the town.”

“But that stopped,” Stiles said. “You stopped doing that.”

“I needed an anchor. I pulled at the magic because it was something physical to latch onto. But after a while, I found a new anchor.”

Stiles didn’t need him to spell it out for him. “Me.”

Derek inclined his head slightly. “You. It’s why I reacted so badly every time you got hurt. Because you were my anchor, and I could feel your pain, and it made me angry and it was straining against our connection. Because my anger at your being hurt was stronger than your ability to keep me calm. Not because you weren’t enough,” he hastened to say. “It was just because I couldn’t handle anyone hurting what I cared about.”

“But once I stopped being hurt...” Stiles prompted.

“Once you stopped being hurt, you kept me grounded. And the more I pulled from you instead of the land, the more the Nemeton healed. And with you, everything was just—balanced. Everything was back to how it was meant to be.”

Stiles nodded slowly, thinking things over.

So, Derek was a magical wolf created by a forest spirit thing and he was part animal, part human. More of less. Okay. Stiles could deal with that.

Derek cleared his throat then and Stiles looked up at him before turning in his chair. “Hey, can we get some, uh, like water? Or coffee or something? And food?” He looked back at Derek. “Have you eaten? I’m hungry.” He turned back to the mirror. “And food. This is gonna take a while.”

Silence for a minute, then the intercom clicked.

“Parrish will run out and grab you both something.”

“Thanks dad. But uh, water for now?”

“Tara is getting some.”

Stiles nodded, then turned back to Derek, but he didn’t ask any more questions while they waited. It only took Tara two minutes to open the door. She smiled kindly at Derek, setting a glass of water on the table close to where his hands were still mixed in with Stiles’. She put another glass by Stiles’ elbow, squeezed his shoulder once, then left the room.

Derek released Stiles’ hand to pick up the glass, but Stiles had to let him go entirely because his hands were cuffed together and he couldn’t actually drink without both hands. Stiles just took the opportunity to gulp his own water down. He wasn’t talking nearly as much as Derek, but it had been a long fucking day, and it was about to get longer.

“So,” Stiles said, setting his empty glass down and folding his hands together, “what’s the deal with your face?”

Derek stared at him, glass still up near his mouth. “What?”

“You know, your face.” Stiles motioned it with one hand. “The whole—lack of eyebrows and massive forehead thing.”

“I told you I can turn into a wolf,” Derek said, setting his glass down and resting his hands on the table. They were loose, like he was less stressed now that they were just talking like they were discussing the plot of a TV show they both watched. “If I want, I can partially shift.”

“How come you were shifted pretty much the whole time the wolf was in control?”

“It was a fine line between being a full wolf and a human most of the time.” Derek shrugged. “The best I could do to stop from teetering too far one way or the other was the partial shift. It was enough to keep my wolf happy, and still let me retain some of my humanity. When I started coming back to myself, using you as an anchor, more of my human side was slipping out so my features shifted back. But every time something happened, or I got defensive or felt threatened, the wolf would force its way forward again.”

“I literally thought I was losing my mind that one time,” Stiles insisted, pointing an accusatory finger at him. “That wasn’t cool.”

Derek gave him the smallest of smirks. It was adorable. “Sorry.”

“No you’re not,” Stiles insisted, scoffing. “Hey, how come I couldn’t take a picture of you? It kept screwing up my camera.”

“The animal side of me. Reflective eyes.”

“Huh.” That made sense, he supposed. To a degree. After all, Stiles could take pictures of cats and dogs without the glare, but maybe it was different when it was a half-animal, half-human hybrid. He eyed Derek for a moment, then said, “Can you do it now?”

Derek cocked an eyebrow. “Do you want me to?”

Stiles motioned for him to proceed and Derek’s features began to change, shifting back into what he’d originally looked like the first time Stiles had met him. His eyes were bright red and Stiles’ heart did something weird in his chest at the sight of them. Derek obviously heard it, because he shifted back to human instantly, looking concerned.

“Sorry.” Stiles waved one hand dismissively. “It’s just—your eyes are red, and that always kind of made me nervous given the first time I saw them you were trying to make me become one with the floor.”

Derek winced at that, but he didn’t comment, likely knowing Stiles didn’t hold it against him. He was running one finger along the condensation on his glass, eyes on what he was doing while he spoke.

“When Laura died, they were always supposed to be red.”

“They were blue for a long time,” Stiles told him. He honestly didn’t know if Derek was aware of that. “I had no idea they could even turn red until that one day.”

“Yeah,” Derek said softly, still not looking at him. Stiles knew it was because they were back in painful territory. Nobody liked talking about what they’d lost. “Red means Alpha. Leader of the pack. Laura and I were pack, along with our family. Whenever an Alpha dies, it goes to the next in line. That was Laura at the time. When she died, it went to the only remaining member of the line, which was me. But I was—broken. Damaged. I couldn’t handle it, and when I let the wolf take over, it didn’t want the responsibility and it kind of... the wolf managed to push back the gene, so that it was stuck where I was in my own head. So the Alpha side of me, and the human side of me were together, floating in the background, and the wolf was at the forefront.” He frowned. “I don’t think I’m explaining this very well.”

Stiles shrugged. “I get it. I mean, mostly. Your brain was compartmentalizing, and your Alpha instinct got compartmentalized along with your human side.”

“More or less,” Derek agreed. “The Alpha side only ever forced its way to the forefront when a member of my pack was in danger.”

Derek jerked slightly at that last sentence, like he hadn’t meant to say it. Stiles frowned.

“But I thought—you said your family was your pack.”

“Pack isn’t blood, it’s formed,” he said quietly.

Stiles was about to ask him what that meant, but the door opened and Parrish walked in. He offered Stiles a small smile and set a paper bag down on the table. When Stiles reached into it for the food, he paused when he saw Parrish pull his keys out and reach for Derek’s wrists, undoing his handcuffs.

He motioned the mirror with a nod of his head when he saw Stiles looking.

“He’s not under arrest, and if there’s one person we can trust him alone in a room with, it’s you. Your dad said it was fine.”

Stiles just grinned in response and pulled out two wraps while Parrish shut the door behind himself. They looked to be the same, so he handed one over to Derek, and then pulled some fries out, setting them down in front of himself. He pushed the bag closer to Derek so he could have the other one and he nodded in thanks while pulling the cling wrap away from his food, taking a bite.

They were both silent for a few seconds while they chewed, Stiles munching on his fries while Derek ate through the wrap in record speed, like he hadn’t eaten in days. For all Stiles knew, he’d been starving himself as some sort of protest over Stiles not being there.

He’d just shoved another fry into his mouth when it clicked and he slammed one hand on the table, making Derek tense, obviously startled.

“You meant me,” he said, realization dawning. “When you said the Alpha side came out whenever your pack was in danger, you meant me. Because I’m in your pack.”

“Yes,” Derek said slowly. “You’re my—pack.”

Stiles caught the slight hesitation before he said ‘pack,’ and it made him think of the other word Derek had used.

Mate.

He wasn’t his mate yet, as far as Derek had said, but it was probably something the animal had already been thinking about every time it had protected him. Stiles was pack, but he was something more, as well.

“So whenever I was in danger, your Alpha side pushed forward as hard as it could to keep me safe. Because it’s in charge of protecting the pack.”

“Yes.”

“Huh.” Stiles frowned, beginning to undo the plastic from around his wrap. “How did I even join your pack? Like, what made it so that we were connected like that? I didn’t really do anything.”

Derek stared at him like he was insane and slowly lowered what little was left of his wrap. “Stiles, you did everything,” he insisted emphatically. “You-you were the first person to treat me like I mattered. Like I wasn’t just a wild animal in a cage. You cared about me, you took care of me, you showed me that you thought I was important. You let me be myself, you were rarely scared of me, you just...” Derek trailed off, like he was trying to find the right words, then finally said, “You looked at an animal and you saw someone who needed to be saved. You joined my pack the second you stepped foot in the cage.”

Stiles nodded slowly, figuring that made sense. The beast had been alone for so long that finally having someone care had probably been like a man dying of thirst being given water. He’d had probably latched onto him instantly at the idea of someone caring about him.

He knew he shouldn’t ask. He knew it was kind of a bad call on his part, and his dad was right there behind the mirror, but he couldn’t help it.

“And when did you decide you wanted me as a mate?” he blurted out.

Derek’s chewing stopped instantly, a fry in his hand and the wrap long gone, now. It looked like he didn’t want to answer, though more because of the sheriff than because he didn’t want to tell Stiles. He popped the fry in his mouth, chewing it slowly while he seemed to think it over, then finally gave in.

“When I attacked you and you hugged me until I calmed down.”

Stiles blinked. “You mean—when you had that nightmare? And you woke up startled? That long ago?”

Derek nodded, looking down and picking at his fries. He would pick one up before dropping it again, like he was looking for a specific kind, and eventually seemed to find one because he picked another one up a few seconds later and popped it into his mouth.

“It was the first time I looked at you and thought you were someone I couldn’t bear to lose. It was more than just pack, it was something I didn’t really understand as a wolf. Even my human side in the back of my mind wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it, but as time passed, it kind of... clicked.” He popped another fry into his mouth, then pushed the paper bag aside, despite it still clearly having fries in it.

If Derek wasn’t going to eat them, Stiles would when he was done with his.

“So if I was your mate, what are—I mean, what exactly does that mean?”

Derek leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms, eying Stiles briefly, like he wasn’t sure he wanted to have this discussion with him right then, but he bulled on anyway. “It’s like any other relationship as a human, it’s just more...” He seemed to weigh his words before speaking again. “Intense. On my side. It’s a little bit like—Well, you saw. I’m more possessive than a normal human would be in a relationship. But it’s purely a wolf thing, and I wouldn’t be as extreme as I was when the wolf was in control. That was a little bit more territorial than I would be as a human. The wolf just didn’t really understand the boundaries of friendship and family, so anyone that came near you was considered a threat, which is why it was pushing to claim you. I kept holding that side of it back, for the most part.”

Claim. Derek had said claim, and—

“Holy shit!” Stiles blurted out, his mouth full of food. “Holy shit, that’s what you were trying to do! That night, when I woke up, and you were on top of me, it was—”

“Yeah,” Derek said quickly, cutting him off. His eyes darted to the mirror behind Stiles.

He’d almost forgotten that they were being watched, and shit his dad was in there! And something had happened with Derek, and Stiles hadn’t told him, and he was so going to hear about that later.

“Sorry about that, by the way,” Derek said, Stiles focussing his attention back on him. “It was just—instinct. It’s what we do to make it known to others that someone is off limits. I really wanted—I mean, the wolf in me really wanted to claim you, make you mine, and I don’t know.” Derek frowned. “Something about that day just seemed right, and it sort of just... happened.”

“No it didn’t!” Stiles insisted, pointing a finger at Derek, then whipping around to point at the mirror. “No it didn’t! Nothing happened! There was no happening of the anything!”

When he turned back to Derek, he was rolling his eyes. “Nothing happened,” he reaffirmed. “I just meant what I tried to do. What the wolf was trying to do.”

Oh man, his dad was so going to make him talk about that later, and he was not looking forward to it, why was this his life?

Stiles let out a loud exhale, cheeks puffing out, and motioned for them to move the discussion along. He shouldn’t have asked, this was his own fault, and now he was remembering what it had felt like being pinned under Derek and Jesus Christ his life was a mess.

“Yeah, let’s move on. Let’s maybe not talk about mates and claiming with an audience, that was my bad.”

Derek’s eyes flicked over his shoulder and a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. His look seemed to suggest his dad was saying something along the lines of, “Over my dead body!” Well, what his dad didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

“Okay, so,” Stiles clapped his hands together, “your eyes changed because the grief was forcing back the Alpha in you, but now that you’re you again, the red eyes are back.”

“Yes.”

“Check. Got it.” Stiles grabbed for the bag of fries Derek had set aside, but the other man snatched it back, raising his eyebrows. “What? You weren’t eating them.”

“I was saving them. I’ve been eating raw meat for five years, you’re not taking my fries.”

“We can buy you more fries,” Stiles argued, but he didn’t try and take them again. Derek moved the bag closer to himself, closing it up like he was worried Stiles would make a grab for them. “Speaking of raw meat, and not in the sexual sense.”

Stiles waggled his eyebrows when Derek gave him a look. It was funny, because Derek could probably hear his dad in the other room cursing and threatening to murder him, and Stiles just got to sit there and grin like a moron.

“The blood. Obviously you’re human and, far as I know, wolves don’t really survive on blood so... what was with that?”

“It was another way of balancing the magic I was pulling,” Derek said, moving the bag of fries to one side, but keeping it well away from Stiles. Stingy. “Like I said, I was taking from the area, but it was killing the land and the blood was another way to pull magic. It was something to keep me grounded, to stop me from slipping even further. All humans, regardless of whether or not they’re magical types, have the potential for magic in them. At first I was just—I just needed it to keep myself together. To stop from completely losing control and just destroying the whole town with how much pressure I was putting on the Nemeton. Pulling magic from people was helping me stay grounded.”

Stiles hadn’t known that about people. He’d always assumed you were born with magic or you weren’t. Deaton had always made it sound that way, anyway, but he supposed it made sense. Two non-magic parents can have a magic child, so it stood to reason that everyone had the potential for it, like Derek had said, but not everyone manifested it.

“So the people you rejected from the Blooding, they just—what? Lacked it?”

“No, they had it, but it was the bad kind.”

Stiles felt cold all over. “Like dark magic?”

“Yes,” Derek said, watching Stiles, like his reaction was of interest to him. “But don’t forget, those people aren’t magic. They just have the potential for it. I didn’t want those people. It wasn’t good for my psyche at the time.”

“No kidding.” Stiles wondered if dark magic was the same as someone being a bad person. Was it possible to be a good person but have the potential for dark magic? Realistically, it had to be possible to be one with the other. After all, not all magic users were good people, so it had to be possible that a good person could manifest dark magic and just never use it.

He knew the answer was obvious, but Stiles couldn’t help asking, “And I was okay?”

Derek’s features softened then, and for a second, it felt like he was looking at his Derek again. “You’re perfect.”

It felt different hearing that instead of just sensing it, like he had been for the past few months. Staring at Derek, with his expression open like it was, really made him feel like his Derek was in there. Like they were truly the same person, this one just understood the concept of pants and conversation.

For the first time since he’d entered the room, Stiles felt like maybe he hadn’t really lost Derek at all. Maybe he was just too focussed on who Derek had been compared to who he truly was. A confusing concept, when he tried to think on it too much, but he felt the tightness in his chest that he’d been carrying for days finally loosen ever so slightly and he smiled.

“Make sure my dad hears that, I’ve been telling him I’m a gift for years,” he teased.

Derek just let out a soft sound, almost like he was trying to suppress a laugh, but he was smiling, too.

It felt like an invisible barrier had dropped between them, and both of them could suddenly breathe more easily.

“You sure you’re gonna eat those?”

“Stay away from my fries,” Derek pulled the bag onto his lap, giving Stiles a look.

“Worth a shot.” Stiles leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms. “What about the blankets?”

“What about them?”

“Why were you always so, I don’t know, protective?”

Derek gave him another look, this one clearly asking if he was stupid. “I was locked in a cage with my wrists chained to the wall and a hole for a toilet. The blankets were literally my only possession. Every time someone came for them, I kept thinking that you were all trying to take one more thing away from me. I’d already lost everything else, I wasn’t willing to lose them, too.”

That hurt. Hit Stiles right in the feels. He winced unconsciously, but nodded in understanding. “Fair. But then why did you always want them to smell like people before you’d take them?”

“Having other scents on them made me feel less alone.”

That was the fucking saddest thing Stiles had ever heard and he wanted to reach across the table and hug him.

“When you became part of my pack, all I really needed to feel better was your scent. It’s why, when we got back after being in the truck together, I couldn’t handle what had been left behind. Your scent had faded. I needed it back.”

“Good thing I’m smelly,” Stiles teased, trying to ease the tension. “Though on the topic of your chains, if you could break out that whole time, why didn’t you?”

Derek shrugged one shoulder. “It wasn’t a bad deal. I was lonely, but I got fed and cared for, mostly. And while I was strong back then, I’ve got much more power as an Alpha. It would’ve been difficult, and painful, for me to break free. The day that I did, the Alpha was at the forefront, and I couldn’t feel anything because all I could think about was getting out to protect you.” He offered him a small smile then. “Just so we’re clear, I didn’t do it because I thought you couldn’t protect yourself. When you were attacked by that guy—Jackson?”

Stiles nodded his confirmation and Derek nodded back, continuing.

“When you were attacked by Jackson, I knew you could handle yourself. And you did, I was watching you. It’s why I didn’t do anything at first. Why I was just waiting for you to get yourself free and make him leave on your own. I knew you would be okay, even though you were injured. I didn’t like it, but you’re strong, and a fighter, and I wasn’t worried. I guess I thought my interference might annoy you, like you thought I didn’t believe in your ability to look after yourself. So I just let the two of you fight it out.”

Derek scowled down at his hands, clenching them into fists. “I’ve lost a lot of people. Seen a lot of people hurt. When he punched you in front of me, I knew you would retaliate, that you would attack him back, that you could fend for yourself. I knew you didn’t need me to protect you. But I couldn’t watch anymore. I couldn’t watch someone hurting a person I cared about, and when your head hit the wall and I smelled the blood—well, more blood, I just—I had to do something. So I broke out. And because you were injured, it was instinct to protect you, and everyone was a threat. I know now that one of the people I was perceiving as a danger was your father, but at the time, the Alpha took over. You were pack, and you were injured, and they had hurt me. I wasn’t going to let them hurt you.”

Stiles saw Derek’s eyes shift slightly, like he was looking over his shoulder at the mirror again. He wondered what the people behind the glass were saying, especially considering they now knew the person they had been trying to kill was, well, a person. A lost person.

“Thank you,” Stiles said, because it seemed appropriate. “I’m sorry I was elbowing you to get you to let me go.”

“I barely felt that,” Derek insisted, eyes back on him and the beginnings of a smile on his lips.

At least Stiles was bringing him back to safer waters.

“When the cage was all fixed up, how did you keep breaking out?” Stiles asked.

“I figured out how to unlock the door by watching you do it.”

That was what Stiles had assumed, but given Derek could talk now, he figured he’d just ask anyway. “And then you followed my scent to my house?”

Derek tilted his head slightly, as if in thought. “Yes and no. I can’t follow your scent once you’re in the car, but I can—sense you. Because of our pack bond. So I followed that feeling and eventually caught your scent and went from there.”

“Huh. Pretty smart for a dumb animal,” Stiles said with a smile.

Derek flashed his eyes at him for the comment, and while it still made his stomach clench a little at the sight of the red colour, it was getting easier. After all, Derek hadn’t hurt him one of the times his eyes had been red, it just wasn’t a colour he was used to seeing.

“Anything else?”

“Did you miss the part where I mentioned we would be here a while?” Stiles asked incredulously. “I have enough questions to last the whole night.”

“Ask away.”

Stiles grinned, moving through his mental notebook of questions, but the feeling of excitement faded when he realized what his next major question was. It wouldn’t be easy to ask. Well, more it wouldn’t be easy to word in a polite fashion, but he’d do his best.

“Okay.” He exhaled slowly. “So... if you were like, what, fifteen? Young? When all this animal take-over stuff started, and you’re in your twenties now, does that mean... like, are you...” Stiles really didn’t know how to ask this politely. “I mean, did you grow up, you know, properly? Mentally, I mean?”

He didn’t do a good job of being polite, but Derek didn’t seem to mind.

“I was fifteen when this all started,” he confirmed, “and while I’ll admit I’m probably not as mature as someone else my age would be at twenty-one, I think I grew up fine. I was still there, just not in the forefront. Some of the chosen were very good for me. Tara used to talk to me a lot. You read me books and did homework near me. Jared often complained about homework when he was around, as well. I was already a bit ahead for my age, so while there was a setback, I’ll admit, I think I’ve developed mentally just fine.” He frowned. “I might still have to take some classes, though. I didn’t technically graduate high school. I should look into that when I get out of here.”

“What about money?” Stiles asked hesitantly. “Are you—I mean, what are you going to do?”

“The Hale estate should still be untouched. Whatever life insurance policy my parents had would’ve gone to my sisters and I. Upon our disappearance and presumed demise, it should’ve defaulted to the estate. As there were no beneficiaries that people knew of, and Laura and I were around long enough to overhear that it didn’t go through probate yet, I’m assuming that by the time she passed away, it was probably in the works. It would’ve taken at minimum two years to clear through probate, given the size of the estate, and the state is required to hold the funds for a minimum of three years, which means the county was responsible for keeping it aside. Given the timing, I might be in just under the wire.”

Derek’s eyes shifted to the mirror then, and he nodded once. Stiles turned, as if he could see through it, but Derek spoke and he faced him once more.

“Your father just confirmed the Hale estate is still within the statute of limitations, so legally, that money is now mine.”

If the estate had to go through years of probate, Stiles couldn’t even imagine how much there was in the bank for Derek right now.

“That’s good,” Stiles said. “That you have money. But—I wasn’t really thinking of this originally, but when your—when everything happened, why did you and Laura hide? Why didn’t you come forward? People were looking for you for months in the ruins of your house. Why did you both run off and hide?”

Derek clenched his fists then, and Stiles knew he’d touched on a sensitive topic. He opened his mouth to insist he didn’t have to answer, but Derek bit out a response first.

“We weren’t the only ones to survive the fire.”

Stiles stared at him. “What?”

“Our uncle, Peter. He survived, too. But he went—” Derek let out a harsh exhale. “I know I’m not one to talk, given what I became, but Peter lost his mind. He started raging about how he deserved to be the Alpha, how it was rightfully his place in our lives, how we were still a pack and Laura owed it to him to give him the Alpha power.”

“Could she do that?” Stiles asked with a frown.

“We don’t really know. He claimed it was possible, but the only way we’ve ever heard of is death.” Derek scowled. “He was getting more aggressive. More—unstable. We had no choice, we had to run. Telling the town we were alive would’ve given him a reason to attack everyone who tried to protect us. But this town was our home, and we didn’t want him destroying everything. So we ran.”

Derek was silent for a long while after that. Stiles didn’t rush him, because he couldn’t imagine how hard this entire evening had been for him. They’d bounced back and forth between happy and sad times, but no amount of happy thoughts could cure the emotional turmoil this entire conversation had to be putting him through.

“He’s the one who brought them back,” Derek finally said. “The magic users who destroyed our home. He—I don’t know. They found each other somehow, and he promised to give them the same abilities we had if they killed off Laura and I.”

Stiles’ mouth went dry. “Is he dead?”

“Yes.”

“Good.” It was probably the most heartless thing Stiles had ever said, but the idea of Derek’s uncle being the reason Laura was dead was disgusting. The idea that his uncle had tried to kill him was fucking atrocious.

Derek looked up at him, almost startled, but his face softened again when he realized it was because Stiles cared. And of course Stiles cared! Derek was his friend! Well, kind of. They were something, anyway. He supposed whatever that was was open to interpretation.

When Derek picked up his water to take a drink, Stiles thought about how exhausted he must be. This whole evening had been emotionally taxing and Stiles had no idea how long they’d been in there, but hours, at least.

Long enough for him to want more food.

“So what are you going to do now?” he finally asked softly.

Derek set his water down, licking his lips and then crossing his arms, leaning back in his chair. “Stay here.”

“Beacon Hills?”

“It’s my home.”

“Right.” Stiles frowned. “What’s going to happen to the town if you die?” Derek cocked an eyebrow at that, but Stiles rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean. You’re connected to the town, what’ll happen when you inevitably meet your end? I’m assuming you can die, unless you’re some kind of immortal being.”

“I can die,” Derek confirmed. “And I guess—nothing.”

“Nothing?” Stiles’ eyebrows flew up. “When you got shot or attacked, the entire town went crazy!”

“That was me, though. Pulling at the magic. Remember?”

Right, Stiles had briefly forgotten. The Nemeton and Derek were connected, but only because Derek pulled from it.

“So if you died, the town would be okay?”

“I’d imagine.” Derek shrugged again. “Nothing happened when my mother died, and we were all grieving. We have more control when we’re—in control.” Derek frowned, obviously not liking the sentence, but it made sense.

“Well that’s good, at least,” Stiles raked one hand through his hair. “So, where are you gonna go now?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you can’t go back to the Hale house.” Stiles winced. “I mean, your old house. And it’s not like you’re under arrest so you shouldn’t really stay here.”

“I don’t have anywhere else.”

“You can stay with me,” Stiles offered. “And my dad.”

It looked like Derek was thinking about it when the door suddenly opened and Stiles jumped. Derek just tensed, the two of them turning to see the sheriff in the doorway.

“Stiles, a word?”

“You know he has super-hearing, right? He’ll hear us no matter what, might as well just spit it out.”

His dad didn’t look impressed with that, eyes shooting between the two men staring at him, but he eventually conceded defeat.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea for Derek to stay at our place.”

“Why not?” Stiles asked. “You let animal Derek stay at our place. This one actually knows how to use the shower on his own, he’s an upgrade.” Stiles thumbed at Derek.

He saw Derek close his eyes and let out a slow exhale in his peripheral and couldn’t help the small smirk at realizing he’d embarrassed him.

“Stiles—”

“You realize you can’t keep him here, right?” Stiles asked. “I mean, aside from the fact that you don’t have cause, you literally can’t keep him here. He’s stuck around probably out of courtesy to you, but he could’ve just bent his way out of his cell and walked out of here, and he didn’t.”

Stiles knew his dad wasn’t opposed to letting Derek go. He was opposed to Derek staying in his house. Alone.

With Stiles.

Because his dad was protective, but he was also a giant softie, and even as Stiles stared him down, he could tell he’d already won. The sheriff obviously felt guilty about everything Derek had gone through, and how he’d been treated, so he eventually sighed and rubbed at his eyes with one hand.

“Let’s stop at the store before we head home and get him some real clothes.”

“Sweet, shopping trip.” Stiles grinned and turned back to Derek, getting to his feet and slapping him lightly in the arm. “Can we stop and get my Jeep on the way back?”

“Yeah,” his dad said, sighing in defeat. “Just let me talk to Parrish and get things squared away for the night shift. I’ll meet you out front.”

Stiles moved past his dad, slapping him in the arm, too, and led the way to the front. Derek trailed behind him with his paper bag of cold fries, and Stiles felt extremely uncomfortable once more when he walked through the bullpen and everyone stopped to stare at them. They were mostly looking at Derek, but it was still weird.

Especially knowing he had done this. Stiles was the reason Derek Hale was back, and human. He was the reason they wouldn’t have any more Bloodings, or earthquakes, or freak storms. That was all him, and even he was having a hard time wrapping his head around it.

They waited in the entrance for his dad, since Tara told them not to go outside. Stiles figured it was because they didn’t want Derek getting too much exposure right now, but Derek insisted it was because the sheriff was still a little nervous to leave them alone together.

Once the sheriff arrived, they headed out in the cruiser, and Stiles saw it was nearing seven. He hoped his dad had eaten, otherwise he’d feel guilty for having had food while he’d been speaking to Derek.

They stopped at the store in town to get Derek some necessities—boxers, shirts, pants, toothbrush, razor, etc—and then the sheriff drove them to the school to pick up Stiles’ Jeep.

That turned out to be a bit of a problem because his dad didn’t want Derek riding alone with Stiles, and Derek didn’t feel comfortable with only the sheriff as a companion. Eventually, Derek conceded defeat and rode with the sheriff, which Stiles was happy about, because it showed he was trying.

He hoped his dad would try, too. He’d started with the handcuffs and the staying over, Stiles supposed, so Derek had to meet him in the middle.

When they got back to the house, Derek went to shower while Stiles and his dad sat in the living room. It was obvious his dad wanted to say a few things, but with Derek’s hearing, he was liable to overhear everything so he kept his mouth shut.

When Derek came back downstairs in jeans and a loose shirt, Stiles was a little surprised. He’d always found him fairly attractive, but he’d shaved properly and looked like he’d given himself a bit of a haircut. He looked... good.

Really good.

“Damn,” Stiles said with a small grin. “You clean up nice.”

“You should see me in a suit,” Derek said with a small upturn of his lips.

“Oh God,” the sheriff muttered, rubbing at his face with one hand. “I’m gonna get real tired of the flirting real quick.”

Stiles just laughed and motioned for Derek to come sit next to him on the couch. He obeyed, the two of them getting comfortable while the sheriff grumbled in his recliner, clearly unsure how to feel about this. Stiles just ignored him and asked Derek if he’d ever seen Star Wars.

Upon discovering he had, in fact, seen the movies, Stiles proceeded to put in the seventh one since Derek had only seen the original trilogy and the prequels. They watched the movie in relative silence and once it was over, the sheriff insisted it was time for bed because it was only Thursday and Stiles had school in the morning.

While Stiles was getting ready in the master bathroom, Derek in the hall one, he heard his dad shuffling around and opening and closing doors. When he emerged from the bathroom with his things, having taken them from his usual hall bathroom to his dad’s, he saw him standing in the corridor, waiting for him.

Derek was already there, looking unsure.

His dad motioned for Stiles to approach and he did, detouring for a second to drop off his toiletries in his own bathroom before moving to stand beside Derek in front of his dad. They were right beside the guest bedroom, which hadn’t been used in years.

The sheriff pointed into the room. “This is where Derek is going to be staying. He is going to be staying in this room, and sleeping in this room, and he is going to remain in this room. If I wake up at any point in the night, and I find him not in this room, I am going to destroy all evidence of his arrival here and make sure they never find the body.”

“Dad,” Stiles insisted. “You’re not supposed to advertise that! Now if I become an assassin, Derek’s gonna know you’re my janitor!”

The look he got could’ve curdled milk.

“I understand,” Derek said, probably to break a bit of the tension. “I won’t go into Stiles’ room.”

“Good,” the sheriff grunted, moving aside and pointing towards the end of the hall. “You know where to go.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “You’re kind of embarrassing.”

“Don’t worry, you’ve repaid me for that in full.”

“That’s cold, Pops.” Stiles slapped his back once while passing him, then paused at his bedroom door, turning to the two men. “Good night.”

“Night, kiddo.”

Derek watched him for a long moment before he said, “Good night, Stiles.”

Giving a small salute, Stiles entered his bedroom and shut the door.

This was going to be an interesting turn of events.


Stiles almost thought he’d dreamt it all when he woke up the next morning, so it was a bit of a shock to stumble downstairs sloppily dressed and still half-asleep and find Derek in the kitchen making breakfast. His dad was already at the table with a coffee and scowling at the headlines. He had an empty plate at his elbow and Stiles’ eyes narrowed.

“What did he make you?” he asked accusingly.

“Don’t worry,” Derek said, wandering over to the table with a pan in one hand and a spatula in the other. “Egg-white omelet with vegetables and low-fat cheese. No bacon.” He gave Stiles a knowing look. “I listened when you spoke, you know.”

Stiles sat down, dropping his bag heavily to the ground, and Derek pushed two eggs onto his plate. He went back to the stove to get the bacon he’d been cooking, putting that down as well. There was already toast on the table so Stiles grabbed a slice and nibbled on it, watching Derek move back to the stove and begin to clean up.

“Are you trying to suck up to my dad?” he asked suspiciously.

“I’d believe that if he’d actually given me bacon,” the sheriff said absently, still scowling at the newspaper.

Stiles grinned and dug into his food, despite not really having the time for it right now. He was late, as usual, but if he sped he’d probably make it on time for first period.

His dad waited for him to finish up and leave the house before making any move to head out himself. Stiles called goodbye to both of them and then disappeared, hurrying off to school. He was just thankful it was Friday.

Everyone noticed he was in a better mood, but the only one who really asked about it was Scott. He seemed to be the only one of his friends who didn’t really understand social cues, but Stiles just told him things were going well with Derek and left it at that. It was awkward enough for the poor guy knowing he’d been running around naked, acting like a wild animal for years.

When lunch came around, he did admit a little bit to the group as a whole, ignoring the fact that people who usually avoided him had moved closer to their table to listen in—Yes, Jackson, I see you there you fucker.

He told them the bare minimum though, just explaining that Derek was something called a Werewolf. When people asked what that was, the best he could offer was that he was some kind of shapeshifter. Stiles didn’t really know what it was himself, so he couldn’t explain it in detail to other people.

The rest of the day passed without incident, but when Stiles went to go home, he found Parrish hanging out by his Jeep, leaning against his cruiser. He straightened when he saw him and said he would be coming over for a while until he had to head to work.

This had his dad written all over it, but Stiles didn’t argue and just led the way home. Derek was watching TV in the living room when Stiles walked in and, to his credit, he didn’t look offended when Parrish followed Stiles into the house. He just greeted him with a small nod and went back to whatever he was watching.

He and Stiles made dinner together later, Parrish grabbing some to go just as the sheriff walked into the house. Stiles wanted to say something, but he didn’t know how right then, so he figured he could tolerate it for now and talk to his dad later.

The evening was uneventful and when Stiles went to bed, Derek headed to take a shower.

He was gone when Stiles woke up in the morning, and at first he was a little upset, but all of Derek’s things were still there, so he obviously hadn’t disappeared.

His dad hung around at the house all morning, and eventually Derek came back with some papers and two blankets. One of them was the old burned blanket from his bed in the basement of the Hale house, and the other was the first blanket Stiles had ever given him.

After putting the blankets in the wash, Derek walked over to the sheriff and asked if he could have Tara’s number, then called her from the kitchen before heading out again.

Stiles only found out later in the day when Derek was back that he’d bumped into Tara in town and she’d offered to help him get his family’s estate settled so he could have his own funds sooner rather than later. Derek had spent a majority of the day with her going through the paperwork for it before heading to the lawyer’s with her.

Hilariously, he had to prove he was Derek Hale, which was easy given his dentist was still around and the man rushed a visit to match his dental records. Apparently it was the fastest way to prove it, though Derek offered a DNA test. The lawyer seemed to feel like the dentals were good enough because Derek had come home with more documents to sign to access the funds in the next few days.

That was mostly what Derek did as time passed. He got his living situation organized, opening a bank account and depositing the estate funds into it. Well, re-opening his bank account, since he’d had one open when he was younger jointly with his parents. The bank re-opened it for him and all the assets were deposited.

Stiles didn’t know how much he had, but it was a lot. He immediately commissioned Hank to rebuild the Hale house after confirming with the sheriff that he could stick around at their place. He offered to go to a hotel, but Stiles’ dad seemed to be warming up to him and just told him he could stay, though officers kept showing up whenever he wasn’t home and Derek was.

That kind of annoyed Stiles, but he just let it slide, because Derek didn’t seem to care much. Once he’d gotten everything squared away with Hank, which had taken a number of days given they had to figure out the layout and other various decisions like flooring and paint, Derek bought a computer and a cellphone. He signed up for online classes to finish his secondary education and programmed Stiles’ number and the house phone into his cell.

As the days passed, people from Derek’s past started to stop by. Friends from high school, teachers, old family friends. Sometimes Stiles was there and tried to stick around because it was obvious Derek didn’t really like people—even as a human—but mostly he was out with his own friends or up in his room doing homework.

When almost a month had passed, Stiles was actually starting to get offended for Derek at the fact that no one left him alone with Stiles. Even though he hadn’t done anything, and even though he was perfectly fucking normal, his dad still worried about it and wouldn’t leave them alone together.

“He’s just worried,” Derek argued while they stood side by side in the kitchen. Derek seemed to really enjoy cooking, and he was good at it, so he tended to do most of it. Stiles usually just chopped things up for him, and he liked spending time with Derek.

“Worried about what?” Stiles demanded, cutting into a carrot almost viciously. “You’re not gonna do anything. He’s more nervous with you now than he was when you were an animal.”

“I don’t mind,” Derek said, even though Stiles was sure he did.

Haigh let out a grunt behind them, reading something that was obviously displeasing, but neither of them turned. Stiles just kept massacring the carrot he was chopping.

“I’ll talk to him,” Stiles insisted. “I’ll tell him to stop. It’s hard enough for you without the constant reminder that you were unwell. It’ll stop, I promise.”

Derek smiled slightly at that while he moved onions around in a pan. “Thank you.”

“I will,” Stiles insisted.

“I know, I believe you.” Derek looked over at him. “You’ve always kept your promises.”

For some reason, having Derek say that to him, and looking at him the way he was... Stiles felt hot all over and he let out a hiss when he accidentally sliced into his finger.

“Shit.” He dropped the knife and started to rush for the sink, blood flowing freely, but before he made it even one step, Derek grabbed his arm and pulled him back.

He took Stiles’ wrist and brought his hand to his mouth, wrapping his lips around the injured finger and sucking. Stiles knew he wasn’t doing it in a sexual way, he knew Derek was just trying to help because he could heal him.

But he fucking kept eye contact while doing so and Stiles felt all the blood in his body rush to his groin. Derek almost smiled around the finger, tongue circling the digit in his mouth and he was definitely doing that on fucking purpose!

When he pulled away, it was with a wet pop, tongue darting out to lick his lips. Stiles’ finger was almost completely healed, only the shallowest of cuts remaining. It had long since stopped bleeding.

Derek leaned closer, lowering his voice, and Stiles felt his breath against his ear when he spoke. “I didn’t know that would turn you on so much.”

“It didn’t,” Stiles insisted like a stubborn, petulant child.

Derek’s nose brushed lightly against his temple and he inhaled deeply, Stiles’ heart going a mile a minute. “Tell that to my nose.”

“What?”

“What’s going on over there?”

Stiles jumped and Derek immediately took a step back, the two of them turning to Haigh, who’d looked up from what he was doing at the kitchen table. He gave them both a warning look, and pointedly kept watching them for a good five minutes afterwards.

Stiles glanced at Derek out of the corner of his eye and saw that he was smiling.


It took some doing, but Stiles ended up getting his dad to concede defeat on the chaperone. His argument had been that he worried Derek would regress, but Stiles pointed out that he was the last person to worry about given animal Derek had liked him. A lot, given the attempted mounting/claiming thing that Stiles wasn’t going to let Derek live down anytime soon.

It was nice when he came home from school one day and found Derek in the living room by himself, doing homework on the couch. Stiles beamed at him when he realized no one was there and Derek smiled, shutting his laptop and setting it aside.

Dropping his bag on the floor by the end of the couch, Stiles fell onto the opposite end and stretched out his legs, which tangled with Derek’s somewhat given they were both leaning back against either armrest with their legs in front of them.

“Like I said,” Derek smiled, “you always keep your promises.”

“A man is only as good as his word,” Stiles agreed. Derek laughed, and it was an amazing sound.

It felt different, now. They’d been like this for a while. Comfortable. Easing back into something more natural. But they’d never been alone. They’d never had the chance to just talk about things.

Like the whole mates thing, which Stiles wanted to address, but also didn’t, because how fucking weird and embarrassing was that? Though he did want to try and talk about some things while they weren’t being babysat.

“So I have a question,” Stiles blurted out.

Derek looked amused. “Only one?”

“Maybe it’s just one really long question.”

“I’ve got time,” Derek said with a shrug, crossing his arms and leaning down a bit more so his legs were tangled even further with Stiles’. “Ask away.”

“So are you gay, or...?” It wasn’t how he’d meant to ask the question, but it came out that way anyway. Derek didn’t look offended so he didn’t worry about it.

“Wolves don’t discriminate. When you find someone you perceive as your mate, you have your mate, whether it’s male or female. It’s not the gender, it’s the person.”

“Huh.” Stiles frowned slightly, thinking it over. “So you’re more—you’d be classed as pansexual, then. Or demisexual.”

“I suppose.” Derek watched him carefully. “And what about you?”

“Me what?” Stiles asked.

“Are you gay?”

Stiles shook his head, but before Derek’s shoulders could sag too much and make his heart hurt, he said, “I’m bisexual. I like both equally, though I have been known to steer more towards women. But that has the potential to change.”

Derek almost smiled at that, but managed to pull it back so he didn’t look like a smug bastard. Though Stiles had noticed that Derek pulled his emotions back a lot, especially around other people. He probably didn’t want to get hurt and figured that if no one knew what he was feeling, no one could use it against him.

Stiles was about to ask him how his schoolwork was coming, given Derek was doing grade eleven right now, but the other spoke before he could get the words out.

“Why did you do it, anyway?”

Frowning, Stiles asked, “Do what?”

Derek gave him a look, his eyebrows rising. Stiles found it so weird that Derek’s eyebrows had their own language, considering for a majority of their original friendship, Derek hadn’t even had any.

He figured out what Derek was asking from the eyebrows alone and shrugged, playing with a hole in his jeans, watching the white threads pull loose. “Tara said she thought you might be lonely. I guess after that first time, when you bit me, and then sulked about it, I started thinking that maybe she was right. Maybe you just wanted someone to stick around and be kind, and because you bit me, you figured I probably wouldn’t be it. Guess the sentimental side of me wanted you to know you weren’t hated, and the stubborn side of me wanted to prove you wrong.”

“You trusted me so much that day,” Derek said, eyes raking over every inch of Stiles’ face. “I could have ripped your arm off, but you put your hand in front of my face and told me to do it anyway.”

“I was mostly hoping you wouldn’t hurt me.” Stiles ran one hand through his hair and sighed, leaning back a bit more comfortably. “It’s cool, by the way. The saliva thing.”

Derek laughed. “I didn’t even know I could do that until the first chosen was brought in,” he admitted. “Something I wish I’d known before.”

“But you can self-heal, right? Like, faster than most people?”

In response, Derek flicked open one hand, claws instead of nails at his fingertips. He sliced into the back of his other arm with one claw, and Stiles watched blood well up before it healed over again instantly.

“That’s so cool,” he insisted, awed.

Derek was still watching him, look borderline intense. “You were worried about me,” he said slowly, as if remembering that day. “When I broke out. The chains had hurt me, and you were worried.”

“Of course I was worried,” Stiles insisted with a frown. “You were nice to me, and you got hurt trying to protect me.”

“No one else was ever worried about me. I was nothing to them but an inconvenience. You have no idea what you did for me.”

Stiles nudged him lightly with one foot, offering him a smile. “It was the decent thing to do. And it brought you back so, you know. Win-win, really.” It suddenly occurred to him how hard it must’ve been for Derek to come back after all that time ignoring his grief and the smile slowly fell from his face. Derek frowned, as if sensing the shift, and Stiles said, very quietly, “I’m very sorry about your family, Derek. It wasn’t right, and I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

Derek had tensed, but he nodded once and said, “Thank you.”

Stiles hesitated for a moment, but when Derek cocked an eyebrow, he sighed. “I saw you.”

“What?”

“When we went to the Nemeton that first time together. You were touching the tree and holding my hand. When I touched the tree, I saw—I was inside the house. I saw you outside with your sister.”

Derek flinched slightly at that, but he recovered quickly and just frowned. “I had no idea. I didn’t see that.”

“I figured, given you didn’t react badly.” Stiles eyed him suspiciously. “What did you see?” He wondered if Derek had gotten a close-up of Stiles’ own head, but Derek said he mostly just saw things happening in town. The Nemeton was trying to help ground him, and was probably one of the contributing factors of his return.

Stiles and the Nemeton had brought him back to himself.

They chatted for a bit longer, Derek asking Stiles a few questions about his life since he only knew what Stiles had offered originally when they were in the basement of the Hale house. Derek was in the process of explaining the new layout for the second floor of his house when something occurred to Stiles.

Derek had come home with two blankets back when he’d been sorting out his finances. One of them was Stiles’, which he figured was sentimental value, but it suddenly occurred to him what the second blanket was.

It was old, and burned, and it had already been in the Hale house when they’d brought Derek in there at the very beginning. Knowing what he knew now, Stiles finally realized what that blanket was, and what it meant to Derek.

It was something he knew the police had found lying around when they’d thrown Derek into his new cell five years ago. But they’d found it lying around in the Hale house, and Derek was the last surviving Hale.

It was the last piece of his home that Derek had. It was why he’d been so adamant on always having it back when Stiles had cleaned up the blankets.

Derek stopped talking then, frowning, and he leaned forward, resting one hand lightly on Stiles’ knee.

“What’s wrong?”

“Wrong?” Stiles asked.

He said nothing for a moment, watching Stiles carefully. “You’re sad. I didn’t know my choice in colour scheme was anything to be sad about.” He tried for a smile, but it was obvious he was concerned.

“How did you know?” Stiles asked. As far as he knew, his heart rate hadn’t done anything weird, and there was no reason for Derek to know he was sad.

That was when Derek’s comment a few days back finally made sense. About his nose. Because apparently, he could sniff out emotions. Stiles had always thought that Derek could hear his heartrate pick up in speed, and while he’d admitted that he could hear that, it was actually something called chemosignals that allowed him to know exactly how Stiles was feeling.

He tried to explain it to him, but Stiles basically just understood it as ‘emotions have scents’ and Derek was really good at sniffing them out.

Thankfully he’d gotten distracted explaining that and it allowed Stiles to stop feeling depressed at the realization that all Derek had left of his family was a fucking blanket.

They were still sitting together on the couch with their legs tangled when his dad came home. He paused in the doorway to look in at them, but said nothing and just sighed, shaking his head while moving towards the kitchen. They ended up ordering takeout since Derek had been distracted and hadn’t made anything for dinner. Then they hung out and watched TV for a while. Derek retired to his room early, saying he had something due the next day for his class, so Stiles and his dad just watched some sitcom reruns together.

When they headed to bed, his dad motioned his eyes, then pointed at Stiles in a very clear ‘I’m watching you’ way, and it occurred to Stiles that maybe his dad wasn’t only worried about Derek regressing.

Apparently he also thought he and Derek were going to fuck like animals. Not an unpleasant thought, if he was honest. Derek was extremely attractive, and now that he knew him better, and hadn’t lost the Derek he’d known before, it was starting to get a little hard to keep his feelings to himself.

And while he was lying in bed that night, falling asleep and listening to the light rain fall outside, his eyes snapped open when he realized Derek could smell emotions.

Which meant every time Stiles got turned on...

“My life sucks,” he whined into his pillow.


Stiles had never lied to Derek.

Never, in all the time he’d known him, whether he understood him or not.

Their relationship was built on trust, so because Stiles had never lied to him before, he didn’t plan on starting now, which was why he actually answered honestly when Derek asked,

“Are you interested in me? Romantically?”

Stiles’ chewing stopped and he stared up at Derek over his plate of spaghetti. They were alone, his dad working late, and Derek had been giving him intense looks for a majority of the evening. Evidently, he was wondering about how to ask before giving up and just going for it.

Setting his fork down, Stiles let out a slow breath. “What does your nose say?”

“That you have a lot of likely embarrassing thoughts about me,” Derek informed him, smiling slightly.

Stiles hated Derek’s ability to sniff out emotions. “It’s rude to sniff out someone’s feelings.”

“You asked.” Derek raised his eyebrows, waiting. “Doesn’t answer my question. You can think I’m attractive without being interested.”

Sighing, Stiles leaned back in his chair, fork playing with his noodles. “Does it matter?”

“To me it does.”

Why was Derek so blunt? It was probably the animal in him. “Yes,” he admitted. “I am interested in you.”

“Romantically?”

Stiles glared at him and Derek smirked.

“Yes,” he said again. “Romantically.”

Derek stared at him for a few seconds, hummed in thought, then went back to eating his dinner. Stiles let him get away with it for about five seconds before picking up a piece of his garlic toast and throwing it at him. It hit Derek in the cheek, who looked up at him with his eyes.

“That’s it?” he demanded. “Just ‘hm’? Really?”

“Were you expecting something different?” Derek asked, smile teasing his lips.

“Jumping for joy would’ve been appreciated.”

“Sorry to disappoint you.” Derek looked way too pleased and Stiles just flipped him the bird before going back to eating.

They didn’t talk about it after they finished dinner and went to do schoolwork. Stiles had mock-exams coming up that he was studying for and Derek was still working his way through eleventh grade. Stiles didn’t say so to him, but he was actually really impressed that Derek was taking the time to do this. Realistically, he had enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his life—Tara hadn’t told him how much, but had confirmed Derek would be fine.

To know that Derek could just sit back and do nothing, but he was working hard to at least graduate high school was actually really humbling.

When it got late enough, they both headed up to bed. Derek usually showered before bed, so Stiles always got the bathroom first. He went through his evening routine with practised ease, then exited the washroom, heading for his bedroom and calling good night to Derek.

When he passed the guest room, light fingers touched his arm and he turned, Derek suddenly right there.

He was in his personal space, one hand flat against Stiles’ chest and pushing him backwards slowly, giving him ample time to move away.

He didn’t, letting Derek push him back until he was pressed against the wall across the hall from the guest bedroom. Derek’s fingers curled into the front of Stiles’ shirt, eyes on his lips. There was a light red tinge around the usual green of his irises.

“I won’t do it unless you tell me it’s okay,” he said softly. “I won’t—”

“Yes,” Stiles interrupted. “Yes, it’s okay. As long as it’s okay for you, it’s more than okay with me.”

Derek was still staring at his lips, more red bleeding into his eyes. Then, he reached up with his free hand, the other still clenched in the front of Stiles’ shirt, and slid his palm across his cheek, pulling his face closer. Stiles obeyed and leaned forward, pressing his lips to Derek’s.

They were much softer than he’d been expecting them to be, and Derek’s beard tickled his skin. He pushed forward, pressing himself against the other man more insistently.

Derek slid his tongue into Stiles’ mouth, pulling him closer, and Stiles circled his own around it. Derek tasted like meat sauce, and for some reason, that made everything even hotter. Because it reaffirmed that this was real. This was actually happening.

Stiles’ hands had moved against Derek’s chest, one sliding up under his arm and clenching in the material of his shirt in the middle of his back. His other hand was at the back of Derek’s neck, trying to pull him closer.

Derek pressed into him hard, trapping Stiles back against the wall. The hand on his cheek slid back into his hair, and the other shifted up under his shirt and around his back, warm palm pressed flat against the small of his back.

Stiles could feel himself getting hard, rocking forward into Derek. He was gratified to know Derek was just as hard as him, if not moreso.

Derek’s tongue was still in his mouth, fingers clenched tightly in his hair. Stiles felt like his skin was on fire everywhere he was touched, and rocked his hips more insistently against Derek’s.

After what felt like an eternity, Derek pulled away, breaking the kiss but not releasing him. They were still so close together that they were breathing the same air, Stiles’ chest tight and hands clenching around what they held.

Derek pressed forward again, but only to slide his lips up along Stiles’ cheekbone to his temple, breathing hard against his skin.

“You good?” Stiles asked with a small smile.

“Yes.”

“You sure?” He rocked his hips forward, feeling the press of Derek’s cock rubbing against his, making the other groan.

“No,” he breathed out. Derek’s lips were still at Stiles’ temple, and he wrapped his arm more firmly around Stiles, palm splayed against the skin of his back. “Just let me... just for a minute.”

Stiles wasn’t complaining, burying his face in Derek’s neck. He felt him shiver at the action, and Stiles remembered back when the neck was a bad place to touch. Now he had his face buried in it, lips against Derek’s pulse, feeling each rapid beat of his heart.

They stayed like that for a long time, Derek shifting occasionally to run the tip of his nose lightly along Stiles’ skin, or dropping light kisses along his cheekbone. He kept dragging his blunt nails along Stiles’ lower back, and then smoothing his palm out across its surface to return his hand to its original location.

Stiles calmed down much faster than Derek did, and it occurred to him that feeling something this intense must be really hard for him. In the past month, he could admit that he and Derek had grown extremely close. He knew a lot more about him, and he’d already cared about him even before he knew how to speak.

Having such strong emotions like Derek was having right now couldn’t be easy. He’d been locked down inside the animal’s head for so long that everything seemed to feel twice as intense. He tried so hard to reign himself in, but it was obvious how difficult that could be sometimes, and how much he struggled with it.

For someone who had lost his mind six or so years ago, it was probably taking a lot of self-control to keep himself in check and not spiral back downward.

It was probably why Derek oscillated between showing too much emotions and not showing any at all. He was still trying to find a balance after years of repressing emotions in general, and Stiles was positive that whatever this was that they were doing was probably wrecking hell on his control.

Derek let out one final breath against Stiles’ skin, then slowly released his hold on his hair. He kissed him again once, lightly, on the lips, and then pulled himself back a step, one hand sliding along Stiles’ back and side, and the other down from his hair across his cheek until he pulled them both away entirely and took another step back.

Before Stiles could open his mouth to ask why, Derek said, “Your dad is coming.”

“Oh.”

They stood staring at one another for a long while until even Stiles could hear the cruiser easing to a halt outside, gravel crunching beneath the tires. When Stiles heard a car door slam, he knew they had to walk away before his father entered the house and figured out what was going on. Things had been really good lately, and his dad trusted Derek a lot more than he used to. It was obvious he still wasn’t fond of this whole ‘mate’ thing, but probably because he, like Stiles, didn’t fully understand it.

“Good night, Stiles,” Derek said, a clear dismissal. He was asking him to walk away, because one of them had to, and maybe Derek didn’t have the strength to be the one to do it.

“Night Derek.”

Stiles turned and headed for his room, shutting his bedroom door just as the front door opened. He heard the bathroom door shut a moment later and when the shower cut on, Stiles was actually a little jealous Derek got to take care of his problem in the safety of the bathroom.

Changing hastily into his pyjamas and shutting off the light, Stiles climbed into bed and hissed when he reached into his pants and closed his hand around his dick.

If Derek’s sense of smell was as good as his hearing, then he would have absolutely no trouble knowing what Stiles was doing.

He couldn’t decide if that was a good or a bad thing.


Derek moved out of the Stilinski house close to Stiles’ graduation, because the Hale house had finally been rebuilt and had been inspected thoroughly for him prior to his departure. While Stiles was sad to see him go, he was also kind of happy to know that Derek had his own place. That he’d rebuilt atop the bones of his old house, and was trying hard to move on with his life.

Stiles had turned nineteen only a few weeks before Derek had moved out, and though it hadn’t been a big thing, Stiles still dragged Derek out to hang with his friends because, “It’s my birthday, Derek. The least you can do is indulge me.”

Derek still didn’t like people, but he’d obliged and followed along.

They hadn’t really spoken about what had happened that one night what felt like forever ago to Stiles. It had happened, and then it had just... been pushed aside. He acknowledged that he hadn’t brought it up, either, but it still felt weird to know he was attracted to Derek, and vice-versa, and that they’d had a majorly hot makeout session, and were now pretending nothing had happened.

It was probably for the best, really. Derek had admitted he was still trying to figure out his control to stop from slipping back into the animal, but it was difficult for him. He didn’t exactly have anyone around that he could question about the whole thing, so it made it doubly difficult for him because he was kind of flying by ear. Deaton tried to help where he could, but they were two vastly different forms of magic, so he could only do so much.

Stiles was leaving school one day when he got a text from Derek, asking him to come over. He hadn’t seen the new Hale house yet, so it was kind of overdue, and he was excited to be invited. He’d been trying to give Derek some space since he’d moved out, and while they texted every day, he felt like the separation was good for them.

It calmed down his libido, at any rate.

He drove to Derek’s new house on autopilot, brain knowing exactly where to go to get there quickly from all the months of having done so. When he was slowly making his way up the gravel path—which was new and so much kinder to his Jeep than the old dirt road—he balked at the sight of it.

Stiles didn’t remember what the Hale house looked like back in its prime before the fire, but this house was fucking stunning. It was two stories tall with a dark grey overlay of planks running horizontally across the entire house. The door and window trim were a lighter shade of grey and the landscaping made it look modern and inviting.

Parking the Jeep beside a fucking gorgeous black Camaro, he climbed out of the car and made his way slowly towards the porch steps, unable to believe this was standing in the same place the dilapidated house used to sit.

He’d barely reached the top when the door opened, Derek smiling out at him, and Stiles’ heart melted in his chest. He looked so good in that moment. Happy, healed, in control. It was such an amazing thing to witness and he moved forward without really thinking and hugged him.

Derek didn’t seem to mind, hugging him back tightly, the two of them standing in the doorway for a long while. Finally, Stiles pulled away and turned to look back down the porch steps at the landscape.

“This place is amazing.”

“Yeah, I’m really happy with how it turned out. I was having trouble with hot water for a few days, but it’s been fixed.” Derek moved aside when Stiles turned back to him and he stepped into the house.

Everything about the entrance was bright and inviting, and Stiles took his time walking through every single room on the bottom floor. Derek trailed behind him without saying a word, seeming content to just have him there.

The kitchen was phenomenal, and had clearly been designed for a large group of people to hang out and cook together. Stiles felt a brief stab of pain at the realization that Derek didn’t have anyone to cook with anymore. He’d clearly had the kitchen built similarly, if not identically, to his old house, which meant lots of people used to spend time together in there. But now, he was alone.

Well, not really. He had Stiles, for sure. And a lot of his old friends were beginning to hang out with him more often. Stiles texted him every now and then and heard back about how he was out with someone and would call him later. It was nice to know he was doing well.

When he was satisfied he’d inspected every inch of the bottom floor, Stiles climbed the stairs to the second level. There were a lot of rooms, some with beds and some still empty, but it was a nice layout, and didn’t feel crowded. Derek also had a waterfall shower in the master bathroom and Stiles definitely wanted to test that out.

One day, maybe. He hoped.

When they went back to the first floor together, Stiles eyed the one door he hadn’t opened when he’d been doing his rounds. It was the door that led to the basement, and he didn’t know how he felt about it.

When he glanced at Derek, he saw him watching him so he let out a soft sigh and reached out for the handle. He was surprised when he opened the door to find it brightly lit, repainted and clean, but still very similar to how it had always been.

The stairs were new and sturdier, so Stiles stepped down them slowly, running one hand along the wall, as if reacquainting himself with an old friend. When he reached the bottom, he stared across the large space, unsure of how to react.

It looked the same.

Well, not exactly the same. It had been thoroughly cleaned and redone. The cracked floor had been replaced and smoothed out, the walls had been painted, new brighter lights had been installed.

But the cage was still there.

There were still shackles bolted in the wall, and when he stepped closer, he saw there was an in-built cover in the floor where the toilet used to be.

Hell, the pile of blankets was still in the corner, though they were washed and smelled fresh. When he turned to look across the room, he saw the bucket where it always was, hose wound around it, and a dark shirt hanging off the side.

Derek moved up beside him, hands in his pockets, looking around slowly before focussing on Stiles.

He stared right back, not understanding.

“I like it,” Derek said simply, looking around once more. “Every time I come down here, it reminds me of you. How we met, how we got closer, how you brought me back. When Hank and I were talking about remodelling the basement, I kept having second thoughts about it. Eventually, Hank said he could just improve the overall structure and the look of it, but keep everything the same, and the moment he said that, I felt like I could breathe.”

Derek moved closer to the cage, one hand coming out to grip one of the bars while he stared into it.

“I guess this was just a memory I couldn’t bear to lose.”

Stiles moved up beside him, looking into the cell, as well. It was weird having Derek on this side of it. Talking and human. He went to the cage door and unlocked it, the bolt sliding easily. Pulling it open, Stiles stepped inside, looking around it. His pillow was buried in the mess of blankets, but everything looked and smelled clean. Even the mostly destroyed burnt blanket from Derek’s past looked clean.

He bent down to touch the material, rubbing it between his fingers, and wondered how much of an impact he must’ve had on Derek for him to want to keep this entire basement the same as it had been the entire time they’d known one another.

“I saw your dad today.”

Stiles turned, still crouched. Derek was watching him with a newfound intensity that had the hairs on his arms rise on end. It was the look of an animal.

Of a predator.

“Oh yeah?” he asked casually, getting back to his feet and exiting the cage, closing and bolting the door.

“I should clarify,” Derek said, turning more towards Stiles, but still gripping the bars with one hand. “I went to see your dad today.”

Stiles frowned. “Why? Did you need the cops?” The look he got for that made him feel stupid. “Right. For me. Why for me?”

“I wanted to talk to him. Openly. Honestly. I wanted to explain things. About you. And me. About what you are to me.” Derek looked uncomfortable, but somehow he was still staring at him intently at the same time. “I told him I wanted you. I told him I want to be with you.”

It felt like the world had tilted sideways and Stiles’ heart began beating double time in his chest. “What did he say?” He would talk his dad to death if he said no, dammit!

“He said he wanted to speak with you first before he gave me an answer.” Derek looked back into his old prison. “I told him I understood.”

“What happens if he says no?” Stiles wouldn’t let him, but in case he had to wait a few years and wear his father’s resolve down, he wanted to know how this would affect Derek. “Will you just... I mean, will you move on?”

Derek shook his head, scowling but not looking at Stiles. “It doesn’t work that way. Not for me.” He looked like he was trying to choose his words carefully, then eventually gave up and turned back to him, fingers turning white where they were clenching the bar. “You’re it, Stiles. It’s you, or no one.”

Stiles stared at him, not quite sure he had the capacity to digest that right now, but Derek continued quickly before he could say anything.

“I’m not trying to guilt you into this. I know this doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, but I want you to know that if you were to choose someone else, if we tried this and you didn’t want this, I would accept that. I would rather have you in my life in any capacity you would be willing to give me than not have you at all. You are exactly what I want, and I don’t care how long I have to wait for it. Five years, ten, twenty. I’ve waited for you before, and I’ll wait for you again. As long as it takes. Because you’re it for me, Stiles. I’ve never wanted anyone else, and I never will. But this isn’t just my choice, and I understand that. Just know that no matter what, I will always be here waiting for you.”

Stiles had never felt the weight of those words so much as he did in this moment.

Derek had spent so long waiting for someone to care about him. When he’d gotten it, he’d waited so long between visits for Stiles to come back. And when he’d come back to himself, he’d waited so long to admit how important Stiles truly was to him. What having him as a mate really meant.

Derek had spent his entire life just waiting.

Stiles didn’t want him to have to wait anymore.

“I want this,” he said quietly. “I might not fully understand it, but I want this. With you. I feel—we’re connected, you and I. I want to try this.”

Derek smiled then. Soft. Genuine. It made Stiles’ heart trip in his chest.

He released the bar he’d been holding and moved forward slowly a few steps. When he was right in front of Stiles, he took his face gently in both hands and bent down the few inches that separated them, kissing him lightly. Then he pressed his forehead against Stiles’ and closed his eyes, letting out a slow breath.

“Please talk to your father.”

“I will. And if he says no—”

“Then we will respect that decision until he changes his mind,” Derek cut in.

Stiles wanted to be annoyed, but Derek was being all reasonable and honourable and he hated that.

“You should go,” Derek said after a brief silence. “You have exams. I have homework.”

“Right.” Stiles kissed him lightly once more, then pulled away, the heat of Derek’s hands on his face lingering long after he’d let him go. “I’ll talk to my dad.”

“I’ll be waiting for you.”

Stiles smiled softly. “You always are.”


The sheriff was waiting for him when Stiles got home. He was in the kitchen with a pizza box in the middle of the table. Stiles sighed when he saw it, because his dad shouldn’t be eating junk, but he just sat down across from him without commenting on it because his dad had his serious face on.

Dropping his bag by his chair, he fell into it and lifted the lid. The pizza was still warm, so it hadn’t been here long, and Stiles pulled out a slice, taking a bite of it and leaning back in his chair while he chewed, staring at his dad.

They watched one another for a long while, and Stiles knew his dad would crack first. He usually did. Stiles lacked patience, but he’d definitely inherited the ability to win a staring contest from his mother because his dad always cracked first.

Today was no different.

“Derek came to see me today.”

“I heard,” Stiles said, taking another bite of his piece of pizza. “Said he explained a few things to you.”

“He did.”

Stiles waited, but when his dad didn’t continue, he set his pizza down on the box lid and shifted forward in his seat.

“Dad, about Derek—”

“No,” his dad said, and for a second, Stiles’ heart stopped before he realized he wasn’t finished. “Let me tell you something about Derek.” He pushed the pizza box aside slightly, folding his hands together and staring at Stiles with the full force of his sheriff expression. “For a very long time, that man was lost. Lost and vulnerable and confused. He didn’t know what was going on half the time, he attacked people without cause, and he was a danger to the town. Wait.”

Stiles had opened his mouth, but his father’s tone and the finger he pointed at him forced him to shut it once more.

“He was not someone I wanted anywhere near my son. When you were chosen for the Blooding, I was positive you would end the year in a casket. I didn’t trust that thing, not one bit, but I trusted you. When you told me he was fine, when you insisted he was safe, I didn’t want to listen to you. Not because I didn’t believe you, but because it’s difficult for a father to put their child at risk when I knew, I knew that animal was dangerous.” He stabbed his finger against the table to emphasize his point.

Stiles felt like this was going in a bad direction, but he kept his mouth shut. For now.

“You fought me on it every time. And you won each and every time, because whatever that thing was, it cared about you. For the first time, it was actually showing regard for someone other than itself, and that terrified me. What if it turned around to bite the hand that feeds? What if it decided one night that you looked good enough to eat? What if you did something wrong one day and that trust you’d both built up shattered? I hated every second of it. And then one day I came home, and I walked through the door, and you looked...”

He trailed off, rubbing one hand over his face, like he didn’t want to picture it. Like he hated having to remember it.

“You looked broken,” he said, voice tight. “You looked like someone had—it was like...”

“I know, dad,” Stiles whispered. Because he did.

It was like his mom. The idea of losing Derek had hurt almost as much as his mom. It would never have hurt as much, because nothing could ever hurt that much except maybe losing his dad, but it was close.

It was really close.

“And to walk into the kitchen and realize that he was back. That he was human. It changed everything. But I still—I couldn’t bear it, Stiles. That look on your face, how hurt you were. You had lost someone you cared about, and I didn’t want that again. I never wanted to see that again.”

Suddenly, Stiles realized what had been happening. What his dad had been doing all this time.

He’d insisted it was because he was scared the animal would come back. It wasn’t.

Stiles had assumed it was because of the whole ‘mates’ thing. It wasn’t.

“You didn’t want me getting close to him again because you were scared about what would happen if I lost him,” Stiles said, feeling punched. He’d had no idea. Hadn’t even crossed his mind until this very moment.

“I couldn’t let you be that hurt again,” his dad said quietly. “You’re my son, Stiles. It’s my job to protect you, and I didn’t want that for you again. But you pushed. You kept pushing and pushing, and I yielded each time. Because I saw how much he meant to you. How much you meant to him. I saw it, Stiles. I’d have to be blind not to.”

He let out a slow breath, rubbing at his face again, then put both hands down on the table.

“Derek Hale came to see me today. He explained what a mate was to a Werewolf. What it meant to him. What you meant to him. I didn’t understand it, and I probably never will, but what I do understand is that that man is completely head over heels for you. That being said, he also wants you to live your own life. He doesn’t want to make you do anything that will make you unhappy. He knows this wasn’t something you intended, or signed up for, when the two of you started forming this bond that you have. But most important, to me, is that he just wants you to be happy. He wants you to be happy, even if it’s not with him. And he has been so patient, Stiles. When he explained everything to me, about the struggles he’s had, fighting back his animal instincts, everything. He’s been so patient about this.”

Stiles stared at him, almost holding his breath. He knew he didn’t need his dad’s permission to be with Derek. He was nineteen, he was an adult, he could do as he pleased. But he loved his dad, and Derek respected his dad, and he just wanted everyone to get along, dammit!

“So...?” Stiles prompted when he was silent for too long.

His father let out a deep sigh, crossing his arms and staring him down. “So I, like Derek, just want you to be happy. Which means you need to do what’s best for you. If that’s Derek, then that’s that.”

Stiles felt a ridiculously huge smile trying to take over his face. He stood up to move around the table so he could hug his dad. He gave him an almost exasperated one-armed hug back, patting his back and then shoving him towards his chair once more.

“Come on, let’s eat. I’ve been waiting for you for hours.”

“The pizza was still hot when I got here, no you weren’t.”

“I reheated it.”

“You did not.”

“Are you insinuating I’m lying to you?”

“Damn straight, old man.”

“Respect your elders, punk.” The sheriff flicked Stiles’ started piece off the lid, the pizza slice landing on the table right in front of him. He grinned at his dad before picking it up, taking a bite of it and watching his dad grab his own slice.

“Have you seen his place?”

The sheriff shook his head, taking a bite of his piece of pizza.

“You should come out one day. It’s really nice.”

“Maybe one day. If he invites me.”

“He’ll invite you,” Stiles insisted. “If he has a barbecue out back, I’ll convince him to have a housewarming or something. More people, less intimidating.” He winked at his dad, who gave him a look.

“I’m not intimidated by him just because he’s magic, Stiles.”

“I meant for him. I mean,” Stiles let out a loud scoff, “come on, dad. My father is the sheriff of Beacon Hills. Derek’s got his hands full.” He took a bite of pizza.

“If he starts dating you, his hands will be too full. But tell him I don’t do refunds, he bought you, he keeps you. You can be someone else’s problem for a change.”

Stiles let out an indignant sound around his food, but his father just smiled endearingly at him and grabbed for another slice of pizza with extra meat on it.

Stiles pretended not to notice.


There were too many fucking pictures. Way too many pictures. He knew it was tradition, it was the thing to do when someone graduated, but he was getting impatient. His dad had already taken at least fifty, and now he was stuck sandwiched between Scott and Boyd while Melissa and Boyd’s grandmother took countless pictures of them.

He only felt slightly mollified when Isaac was dragged into them, too, since he’d been trying to sneak away. Erica photobombed every now and then, but eventually she was dragged away by her parents, and after a while, Boyd and his grandmother followed so that they could get more pictures with the couple together.

Eventually, it was just Stiles and Scott, and no matter what he said, Melissa kept insisting he stay put. Stiles feared for his safety, which was the only reason he obeyed, and he glared at his dad because he looked way too amused.

And Stiles understood. Really, he did. He got it. Graduation was important, and in a few short hours, they would probably all be completely drunk and celebrating the end of high school. Everything would be over for them. He got it, he truly did.

But tonight also happened to be his first ever date with Derek. Like, official date.

Derek was fucking taking him out on a date and Stiles just wanted to get there.

Originally they were going to go to the after-grad, but Derek said it would probably go all night and he wanted their first date to be something a little more official. Less alcohol and more talking.

Stiles still insisted it was because Derek couldn’t get drunk and he was just jealous of Stiles’ extremely human anatomy that allowed for things like tomfoolery and alcohol poisoning. Derek actually promised to help Stiles ease his hangover if he got one using that weird Werewolf mojo thing he could do.

It was awesome dating a Werewolf. You know, if he actually got to date him considering he was still stuck taking photos!

Eventually, it looked like his dad took pity on him because he dragged him away with one hand against the back of his neck, and called for Scott to make good choices. They walked towards the parking lot together, his dad squeezing his neck every now and then.

“You did it, son.” He patted his chest with his other hand lightly. “You actually did it.”

“Still think I should’ve beaten Lydia,” he insisted, though he wasn’t actually bitter about it. “They only bumped me down to salutatorian because of all the time off I took. Can you believe they said it wouldn’t be fair to people who’d spent the whole year in class? I spent almost the whole year in class and I solved our earthquake, fire and hail problem. I deserved valedictorian and a medal.”

They stopped beside the Jeep and Stiles pointed at his chest emphatically.

“A medal, dad.”

“I can buy you a medal if you really want one,” his dad teased.

“Cold, dad. Cold.” He opened the door to the Jeep and pulled his graduation cap and gown off, tossing both into the passenger seat. He smoothed out his shirt and gave himself a quick once over before looking up at his dad. “Do I look okay?”

“Derek doesn’t care.”

“Dad!”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, you look very handsome. Now go, before he thinks you aren’t coming.”

Stiles scoffed, waving the words away, because Derek would never think that. He’d been to the graduation ceremony, and had even stayed long enough to be in a few pictures. He’d only left because the restaurant had said they would give away their reservation after fifteen minutes of tardiness, and he didn’t want to lose it. So, he’d left Stiles.

At the non-existent mercy of Melissa and her camera.

Stiles turned to climb into the Jeep, slamming the door and starting it up. His dad knocked on the window, so he rolled it down, and a hand pressed against his cheek, giving his head one firm shake.

“I’m proud of you, kiddo.”

“Thanks dad.” He smiled. “Love you.”

“I love you too, Stiles.” The sheriff pulled his hand away and took two steps back. “Go. Have dinner. Go to the after-grad. Be responsible.”

“Have dinner, drink hard, have Derek take care of me, got it.” Stiles winked at his dad, then pulled out of his spot, backing up quickly enough to have the man almost snap his name. He just grinned, cranked the wheel, and waved before shooting out of the parking lot.

Most people were still taking pictures, it wasn’t like there was anyone around for him to hit. It wasn’t a big deal.

Stiles pulled at his collar while he drove, feeling nervous. He knew it was stupid to feel nervous, this was Derek and everything would be fine. But still, he wanted this to work, and he knew Derek wanted it to work, so it was probably going to be extremely stressful for both of them.

He made his way slowly through the core of the town, knowing there would be a lot of cops out tonight given it was grad night. He kept to the speed limit, almost impatient, but finally turned his signal on and eased into the back lot of the fanciest restaurant they had in their small town.

He spotted the Camaro when he pulled in, and parked in a free spot a few spaces down. Climbing out, he headed for the front door, running his fingers lightly along the back of the Camaro and knowing Derek would like that, having his scent—however brief—on something that belonged to him.

When he stepped into the restaurant, he felt nervous all over again, straightening out his button-up shirt and pulling at the collar once more. He let out a slow breath, then walked to the podium, knowing Derek had probably sensed his arrival the moment Stiles had turned into the lot.

Derek was freakishly attuned to Stiles’ presence.

“Hi,” Stiles said to the hostess with a smile. “Reservation under Derek? He should already be here.”

She checked her tables quickly on the small digital screen, then smiled at him and motioned for him to follow. He did, spotting Derek instantly. His smile was the biggest Stiles had ever seen and he got to his feet when he approached, buttoning up the bottom button of his suit jacket.

Derek had been right, all those months ago, when he’d joked about how Stiles should see him in a suit. He cleaned up real nice.

“Hey,” Stiles said, stopping beside him.

Derek brought one hand to his side, touching him lightly, then leaned forward to kiss his cheek. He pulled away still smiling. “Hi.”

“Your waitress will be with you in just a moment,” the hostess said with a smile, then turned to head back for the front.

Derek was still smiling, hand resting lightly on Stiles’ hip. He didn’t even seem to notice anyone else was in the restaurant, his gaze was so focussed on Stiles.

“You made it,” he said.

“I did,” Stiles agreed.

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

Stiles smiled and wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck, pulling him down for a kiss. They parted a few seconds later, Stiles closing his eyes and pressing his forehead to Derek’s.

“Never again,” he said with a soft smile. “I promise.”

Derek knew Stiles always kept his promises.

END.