Kyle Parrish leaned back in his clawfooted tub and rested his head against the rim. Cool water traced his movements, rippling, and causing the only noise in the room other than his breathing. He was at the end of his patience with the Sheriff’s kid and his werewolf friend. They weren’t fooling anyone in the town anymore. There was no need for the charade when it was putting more people at risk.
He took a breath and slipped beneath the surface, letting the water cradle him. The water soothed his stress and helped him think clearer. Today he had been one second away from blurting out that he knew everything. Bursting into the Sheriff’s office with Argent’s hunting license (not the one for large game), and demanding to be allowed in on the damage control. It was too much to rest on the shoulders of one world-weary sheriff, and a man who was grieving his wife, father, and sister.
Air dribbled slowly from his nose and mouth, and he shifted, getting more comfortable. Maybe if he wrote a Powerpoint presentation, and left it on the Sheriff’s desk. How to Handle Supernatural Occurrences at your Precinct. How Not to Explain the Appearance of Two Ninjas that Poisoned the Entire Office.
Don’t bring donuts the next day.
Kyle snorted, a flurry of bubbles vanishing to the surface. The donuts had been as bad as Stilinski’s cover story. He had told them that the office had been the prime target for a cult, and everything was under control. Kyle hadn’t believed it then, and he was a little embarrassed that his coworkers had swallowed it so easily. The novelty of being human, he supposed.
He must have fallen asleep, because there was no conceivable way he would have missed someone breaking into his house.
A hand grasped his upper arm and hauled him bodily out of the water. In his surprise, he snorted water up his nose, and broke the surface coughing, and gasping. He spat water and ripped his arm free. The motion brought him face to face with Derek Hale.
He panted, water stuck in his throat, and stared into Derek’s wide, surprised eyes. Derek dropped his arm like he had been scalded. “I thought you were-”
“Seriously?” Kyle managed. He pushed wet hair out of his eyes, slicking it back on his head. “You break into my house- What are you even- You know what, don’t answer that.”
He pushed himself up out of the bathtub, heedless that he was stark naked. He climbed out, forcing Hale back to avoid being splashed or plastered against very bare skin. Kyle snatched his towel from the rack and wrapped it around his waist. He didn’t miss the adorable flush cresting Hale’s cheeks.
“I thought you were drowned,” Hale ground out between gritted teeth.
Kyle gaped. “In my bath? You thought- Dude. I’m twenty four!”
The flush darkened. “Accidents happen!”
“Am I on your watch rotation?” Kyle asked. “Is that why you broke into my house at one in the morning?”
“I thought you were in danger!” Hale persisted. He paused, mouth open. “How do you know about the watch rotation?”
Kyle pressed a hand to his face. “You cannot honestly think I’m that stupid. Two Oni destroyed my office, murdered several of my colleagues, and you think you’re still flying under the radar? I’ve known you were werewolves since the second I set foot in this godforsaken town.”
The blush faded, and Hale stared with wide eyes now. Those magnificent eyebrows furrowed low over his nose. “What are you?”
Kyle felt the tips of his ears heat up. “Out. Get out. You are the worst werewolf I have ever met, and that includes Scott. Get out.”
“Wait, but- What are you?”
“I will shoot you,” Kyle warned. “My sawed off is loaded with wolfsbane shot.”
Hale backed out of the room and vanished out the guest room window before Kyle could say another word. Kyle leaned against his sink and groaned at his life.
Stiles Stilinski was staring at him.
Kyle tried to keep his head down and focus on his work, but the Sheriff’s kid would not take his eyes off him for a second. It was two days after Hale’s break and enter, and the first time Stiles had shown up at the station since then. He was sitting outside his dad’s office. Staring at Kyle. And rolling a Twizzler around between his teeth. Ugh.
Stiles straightened, suddenly, and jumped to his feet with his eyes on the door. Kyle followed his gaze and saw Hale and McCall walk through the door. Never did he feel the silver chain around his neck more than when he was surrounded by wolves.
Hale’s gaze cut to him, but other than that there was no indication of their ill-fated meeting two nights before. Heat suffused Kyle’s chest as he bent over his desk again. The words blurred on the page before his eyes, and he blinked fiercely. Around him, the room started spinning, and black crowded the edges of his vision. With a surprised noise, he fell out of his chair and everything went black.
Someone tapped his cheek insistently, dragging him back to consciousness. He swiped at the hand in irritation, and managed to pry his eyes open.
“Hey, son. You with me?” Sheriff Stilinski leaned over him, his head haloed by the ceiling lights. Kyle grimaced and tried to shift. Two large, warm hands held his head in place. “Easy, son. What happened?”
“I-” Kyle swallowed. “I don’t know. I was just sitting.”
“We saw you fall over, man. Epic.” Stiles leaned over his father’s shoulder. “Like a rock. Just. Splat.”
“Maybe you should go home, get some rest,” Stilinski suggested. Kyle tried to shake his head, and was again thwarted.
“Stop. You hit your head on the way down.”
Kyle stretched his neck and saw Derek Hale sitting at his head, both hands braced on the sides of Kyle’s skull. Oh.
Annoyed, Kyle shoved his way out of Hale’s grasp and sat up amidst a spinning room. He leaned against the legs of his desk and tried to keep his breathing steady. Stilinski eyed him warily. He pursed his lips. “Maybe you should go to the hospital.”
“No. Definitely not. I’m fine. I just need to rest.” Kyle shook his head and then regretted it. The floor took a sharp dive, and he almost went with it. Hale fisted a hand in the front of his shirt and kept him upright.
“Derek can take him home,” Stiles suggested.
“Not necessary,” Kyle said. The room wasn’t spinning… that badly anymore.
“I’m thinking it’s very necessary, son. Derek, would you mind? Stiles has to drive Scott home.” Stilinski glanced at Hale, who looked less than pleased with the turn of events.
Hale looked two seconds away from declining, but then exhaled sharply. “Fine.”
Stilinski’s hand waved in front of Kyle’s face. “Keys. Stiles and I will take your car home.”
“Please don’t let him drive,” Kyle said, with a groan, and handed over the keys to his Prius. Stilinski smirked, and with Hale’s help, managed to get Kyle on his feet.
Unfortunately, the floor still threatened to toss Kyle to his knees, and he found himself leaning heavily on Hale to move forward. Hale didn’t like it any more than he did, and practically dumped him in the passenger seat of a Rav4. Kyle let his head roll on the headrest as Hale slid into the driver’s seat.
“A Toyota?” Kyle asked. “You seemed more like a Camero person to me.”
Hale stiffened, and then shook his head and turned the engine over. “Things got… complicated.”
“Complicated is for relationships. Cars are not complicated.” Kyle turned in the seat to watch the scenery flash past. His stomach rolled ominously, and Toyota or not, Hale would not appreciate him vomiting all over the upholstery. “You’re not taking me into the Preserve to be disposed of, are you? For knowing the about the werewolf thing? I didn’t know Stilinski approved of that sort of thing.”
“He doesn’t,” Hale said. “Though my other colleagues would disagree with his methods.”
The awkward silence descended over them, and Kyle let his forehead rest against the cool glass of the window. He closed his eyes.
The next thing he knew, they were pulling into his driveway, and Hale turned off the car. Kyle’s stomach lurched, and he scrambled for the door handle. Wrenching the door open, he slid from the car, landed on his knees on hard pavement, and retched. He heaved black viscous liquid onto the pavement, and the sensation made him gag and retch again.
“Jesus.” He gasped, trying to get his air back, and dragged the back of his hand across his mouth. It came away black and sticky, and he swallowed hard against a violent twist of his stomach.
Hale was crouched next to him, one hand tight on Kyle’s shoulder. “You are not all right.”
“I’m beginning to believe you,” Kyle said. He swallowed hard and wiped his hands in his pants. His work trousers. Ugh. “I don’t feel so good. And-” He gestured at the black ooze. “-that does not happen. Ever.”
“Let’s get you inside and lying down. I’ll make a few calls.” Hale didn’t wait for him, just hauled him bodily to his feet and took most of his weight as they entered Kyle’s house. He dumped Kyle on his couch like the caveman he was, and was already on his cell phone as he walked towards the kitchen.
He lost more time, and seriously, this was getting ridiculous, but Hale’s hand on his forehead dragged him awake next, and it felt like a six ton werewolf was sitting on his chest. “Parrish, you have to tell me what you are.”
He couldn’t breathe. “Water,” he managed. He grabbed Hale’s shirt and twisted.
“You need water?” Good god, how had this kid survived all these years?
“Need- bath.” Kyle gasped and used Hale to push himself up, the pressure in his chest unbearable.
Hale was thankfully quicker on the uptake on this particular instance, and scooped Kyle into his arms, like a swooning damsel- which he kind of was. Darkness blinked on the edge of his vision once more, and he barely registered Hale throwing him into the basin of his tub. The spray of water to his face definitely helped, though.
Kyle kicked the drain shut, and water began pooling around him. He curled in on himself as cool water soaked into his clothes and kissed his skin. Some of the nausea faded, and he was able to force back the dark spots threatening to overwhelm him. Blinking water out of his eyes, he reluctantly caught Hale’s gaze.
Hale pursed his lips in thought before asking, “Are you some sort of mermaid?”
If it were possible to drown himself, Kyle would have tried.
He groaned and sank deeper into the tub, his clothes sticking to the sides painfully, and let the water continue to climb. “No. At this point I don’t want to tell you out of spite.”
“I do not think that would be advantageous to your health,” someone said from the doorway.
Kyle jerked his gaze to the door, where the town veterinarian stood, hands calmly clasped behind his back. “Can I help you? Also, breaking and entering. Again.”
“He’s here to help,” Hale said, in an effort to be reassuring, probably. Kyle was not pleased that his house had suddenly turned into a locks-optional stomping ground for the creatures that go bump in the night.
“I understand you’re unique, Mr Parrish,” the man in the doorway said.
Kyle tipped his head back against the edge of the tub and sighed. He felt infinitely better already, and the water hadn’t even climbed to his ribcage. “Actually, I’m pretty good for now. I can give you a call later, if I still feel like crap, but this helped. A lot. Cold showers do wonders.”
“I think this would be considered a soak,” Hale said.
Kyle covered his eyes with a hand. “Get out.”
“I don’t think you should be alone after what just happened,” Hale pointed out, reasonably. Kyle groaned.
“Get out of the bathroom, then. I promise I won’t drown myself.”
Surprisingly, Hale acquiesced. He and Dr Deaton left the door open a crack, and Kyle could hear them whispering on the other side, but the water was high enough now that he could sink completely beneath it and stubbornly ignore them both.
The cold water helped immensely. He was able to stand on his own power, peel off his soaked and ruined uniform, towel himself off, and wrap the towel around his waist before pulling the door open. Hale sat against the wall on the opposite side of the hallway, looking bored out of his mind.
“You don’t have to be here,” Kyle said.
“The Sheriff would skin me if I left you alone after puking your guts up on your perfectly manicured lawn,” Hale said. “And I’d rather stay on his good side, if it’s all the same to you.”
“Your bedside manner is atrocious,” Kyle said. The best he could hope was Hale stayed out of his way during his self-imposed watch. He made his way into his room, and heard Hale follow him.
“It’s been mentioned once or twice,” Hale said. He took up residence in the far corner of Kyle’s room. He looked entirely too comfortable in the motions. Hale’s eyes honed in on Kyle’s dog tags. “You served?”
“Yeah.” The tags felt heavy against his sternum, a long-familiar weight suddenly mentioned. “I guess I got used to them. I never take them off.”
Hale grunted, and said nothing further. He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. Kyle stared at him, wondering if he would suddenly come to his senses and realise how ridiculous this entire situation was, but nothing happened. Finally, Kyle accepted that he would have to try and rest while a creature of the night stared over him. He dropped his towel, ignored Hale’s surprised snort, and rolled under crisp, cool sheets.
Despite his misgivings, exhaustion claimed him almost instantly.
“Are you hungover?”
Yes. That was it. He felt hungover.
Kyle squinted out from under his covers and nailed Stiles with a discontent look. Behind him, Scott McCall hovered like an anxious, concerned puppy. Kyle groaned and pulled the sheets over his head. “I do not get paid enough to deal with this.”
“You were sick because you were hungover?” Stiles persisted.
He couldn’t have a hang over. He couldn’t get drunk.
“He wouldn’t have thrown up the black stuff, then, Stiles,” Scott said. “It was like the mistletoe. Or when Gerard got bit.”
“So when a supernatural poisoning happens, black ooze is upchucked. Good to know,” Stiles said. He yanked on Kyle’s sheet, and Kyle held onto it fiercely. “Dude, trying to help you.”
“I do not need help from a teenage werewolf and his sidekick,” Kyle said.
“Whoa, hey, first off- I am the brains of this operation,” Stiles said. “Obviously. Second, we know you’re something. Just tell us. Derek says when you’re in the water you reek of salt water. Are you like, a living sushi monster? Oh! Godzilla. Please be Godzilla.”
“Godzilla isn’t real. Get out.”
“We can’t help you if we don’t know what you are,” Stiles said. A hand clamped down on the back of Stiles’ neck, and yanked him backwards, away from Kyle.
“Out,” Hale said, shoving Stiles at Scott. They didn’t leave without a considerable protest, but Hale finally removed them from the room and shut the door, before turning to Kyle who was still buried under his sheets. “You’re a kelpie.”
“Congratulations. Do you want a prize?” Kyle asked, his voice muffled by the bedding. He was in too much pain to care about anything right now.
“Why don’t you want anyone to know?” Hale asked.
Kyle ripped the sheets away from his face and nailed Hale with his most withering, disbelieving glare he could muster. Thankfully, Hale understood what he had just said and flushed across the ears. “I meant why don’t you want us to know? We’re-”
“Wolves?” Kyle cut him off. “In this town, historically, supernatural creatures don’t survive long. Scott McCall being the notable exception. I thought it best if fewer people knew. And, quite honestly, it had never posed a problem before.”
That lowered Hale’s eyebrows. “But you served in a desert.”
“Yeah.” Kyle pushed himself up, keeping the sheets draped over his waist and thighs. “That sucked. A lot. But my father was a doctor. I was able to get extra rations of water because I had a non-debilitating skin condition that required extra hydration.”
He lowered his aching head into his hands and pressed at the points of greatest pain. He wasn’t ready to deal with the poking and prodding that Stiles and his sidekick would undoubtedly want to initiate. And he really wasn’t up to explaining to his boss that he could turn into a magical water horse that was impossible to drown.
“Look, I feel a lot better, okay. You guys don’t have to hover. I’m not going to keel over anymore,” he said. In front of him, Hale shifted from foot to foot, awkward. “Can you take the two troublemakers with you? And that vet, if he’s still here. I’m not an animal. I don’t need a vet.”
“He’s a druid,” Hale said. “He was my mother’s emissary.”
Kyle lifted his head and his eyes widened. “That… makes so much more sense now.”
“He can help,” Hale said, gruffly. “If you’re done feeling like shit.”
“Don’t get paid enough,” Kyle said again, and dropped his head back into his hands.
“Just think about it,” Hale said. Kyle had nothing to say to that, and listened as Hale left his room, shut the door behind him, and ushered the Dynamic Duo out of Kyle’s house. Deaton must have already left, then. He figured Stiles would spread the rumour that he was hung over at work, and while he would most likely get written up, at least his identity was protected.
Turns out it wasn’t an isolated incident.
A few weeks later he passed out in his kitchen, brained himself on a counter, and bled on the floor before regaining consciousness in time to haul himself into his tub. As he shivered under the cold water, he tried to think what had happened similar between the two events. Something he ate? Was he allergic to something that he wasn’t aware of? His mother had never mentioned any allergies. Maybe something he had touched?
The episode occurred on his off rotation, so nobody knew what had happened but him. And really, it wasn’t bad. The spells only lasted a few hours, and seemed to be eased by fresh, cold water. He hadn’t even thrown up that time.
They would probably pass.
But the third time it happened during a rather unfortunate choice of victims on the mugger’s side. Kyle sighed heavily as he slowly raised his hands to his head, the muzzle of a handgun pressed to the small of his back.
“You’re making a mistake, son, it doesn’t have to go like this,” Kyle said. He felt hot, tight across the chest, and the ground felt rubbery under his feet. Oh, not good.
“Don’t call me ‘son’. I’m twice your age, boy. Give me your wallet.”
“My wallet is in my front right pocket. I’m going to reach for it, okay?” Kyle slowly lowered one of his hands towards his pocket. He grasped his wallet and tossed it away from him, skittering on the ground in the dark parking lot. “Right? That’s all I have on me.”
It was stupid, he knew it was stupid, but he couldn’t help it. The instant he felt the pressure of the muzzle ease up, he spun and knocked the gun away. Surprised, the mugger shouldn’t have had time to recover. On a good day, Kyle would have floored him.
But the world took that exact moment to tilt sharply, throwing Kyle off balance. His swing went wide, and the mugger dragged the gun up. And this time he fired.
Terrible shot, Kyle thought, even as the bullet punched through his side and he went down hard on cold, unforgiving pavement. Sound roared in his ears, broken by two more shots that didn’t strike him, and the sound of a body hitting the ground beside him. Ice blue eyes locked onto his, and Kyle sank into darkness.
It definitely hurt to breathe, and when Kyle opened his eyes the overhead lights spun dizzyingly around his head. A soft, wet cloth ghosted over his arms, and hesitated when he shifted. He rolled his head to the side, and saw Hale sitting in a hard chair next to him, a washcloth in his hand.
He was lying on cold metal. The walls were brick- definitely not the hospital. Not his house-
“You brought me to the vet’s?” He groaned, in pain and exasperation.
“You were bleeding out. I didn’t know what to do,” Hale said. “You’re welcome. Next time I’ll leave you there.”
“Why were you even there?” Kyle asked. His stomach hurt. Like he had been throwing up. Violently.
“I’ve been following you,” Hale said, as if that were not unusual, or strange, or against the law.
“Ah, you’re awake.” Deaton entered the room and stood behind Hale, his hands behind his back. He looked exceptionally poised to have a deputy lying on one of the pet exam tables. “We weren’t sure if submerging you would exacerbate the bullet wound, so we have been keeping your skin wet with fresh water and a cloth. Do you need a bath drawn?”
“Why am I not in a hospital?” Kyle asked.
“We weren’t exactly sure how your kind healed, and decided to err on the side of no disturbing the nursing staff, as wonderful as Melissa McCall is. If you feel a hospital is necessary, we will be happy to call an ambulance. But I did stitch the wound, and Derek has been providing a thorough anesthetic,” Deaton said. “I had hoped that would be sufficient.”
“He’s leaving out the part where you almost drowned in your own vomit and destroyed the inside of my car,” Hale said. “But I’m sure the human nurses at the hospital would have been able to handle that.”
“You are such a little shit.” Kyle hissed, pain lancing through his abdomen.
“You’re the one who almost died because he’s being a stubborn asshole,” Hale said. He met and held Kyle’s glare, unflinching. “You’ve been unconscious for four days. The Sheriff knows something is going on with you. It’s time to stop hiding.”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” Kyle admitted. He drew tight, measured breaths around the pain in his abdomen.
“Derek has already informed me that you are a kelpie,” Deaton said. “You don’t have to-”
“No. Not that. I don’t know why I’m getting sick,” Kyle said. He twisted on the table to glance at Deaton. “There doesn’t seem to be a common factor in the episodes. No allergies. Nothing I’ve eaten… I don’t know what’s happening. Just that it’s never happened before. To me.”
“Would your parents be any help?” Deaton asked.
“My mother is gone, and my father is returned to the sea near Scotland. I won’t be able to reach him,” Kyle said. He smiled wryly. “No signal in the ocean.”
Deaton smiled tightly. “I’ll have to do some research. You should probably explain to your boss what has been going on here. I’m sure he’ll understand.”
“Yeah, if he doesn’t shoot me first.” Kyle sighed. “I was his one constant once he found out about all this supernatural crap. This is not going to go well.”
“Lead in with the bullet in your side,” Hale said, straight faced. Kyle laughed, and grimaced when the motion jogged his injury.
Deaton touched a hand to Hale’s shoulder before leaving the room, presumably to start on the research he had mentioned. Silence fell, and Hale brushed the soaked cloth over Kyle’s tight, fevered skin. He could practically hear the water hissing where it touched.
“Have you been here the whole time?” Kyle finally got up the nerve to ask.
“Well, you ruined my car, so I have to keep you in my sights until you get it fixed,” Hale said. He avoided meeting Kyle’s eyes, focused very intently on the path of the cloth down Kyle’s forearm. He tipped his head. “Lydia was here a few times. After school.”
“Lydia? The Walking Dead girl?” Kyle asked. The corner of Hale’s mouth quirked up.
“She likes you,” he said. Kyle rolled his eyes. Teenagers.
The cloth on his arm paused. Hale cleared his throat. “Look, we got off on the wrong foot. With the, arresting thing. And then the breaking and entering. I’m not going to apologise for saving your life, but- uh-”
He faltered, and that adorable blush dusted his cheeks. Kyle smiled softly. He held up his hand, awkward because of their positions, and said, “Hey. I’m Kyle. I’m a water horse.”
Hale stared at the hand briefly before taking it in a strong grip. “I’m Derek. I’m a born werewolf.”
The first thing Kyle did when Derek brought him home- and holy crap he wasn’t kidding about his car, they had to borrow one of the vet vans to drive home- was make him draw a deep, full bath. His water bill was going to be through the roof until they found out what was going on, but Kyle couldn’t be bothered to care at this stage. He was legitimately miserable, leaning against the counter shivering with fever while every cell in his body ached for the water pouring into the basin.
Derek made him wait until the tub was completely full, until he was practically weeping in pain to get into the water, and then quickly divested him and dumped him in. Water splashed everywhere- Derek hadn’t left enough room for the immersion displacement- but Kyle didn’t care. He’d clean it up later. He tucked his knees against his chest and crunched himself into the bottom of the basin, surrounded by calm, soothing water.
When he finally grabbed the edges of the bath and hauled himself out of the water with a great gasp, he felt much, much better. He rested his head against the edge and let himself float, breathing deep and full without as much pain.
“It’s really disconcerting when you do that,” Derek said from his perch on the toilet. He held a book in his hands, one Kyle recognised from his room’s bookshelf.
“Says the one who sprouts incredible sideburns at a moments notice and has an ill-bred tendency to bite.”
“That was-” Derek checked his watched. “-four hours. And you didn’t come up for air once.”
“It’s not so much that we breathe water, it’s that we physically cannot drown,” Kyle said. “So even in this form, I don’t need to breathe if I’m under the water.”
“You have other forms?” The book was in Derek’s lap, forgotten. He leaned slightly forward where he sat.
“I can actually turn into a giant black horse that breathes water.” Kyle fingered the tags around his neck that had somehow survived the last few days. He flicked them. “These are silver. Keeps me in human form.”
“And they don’t burn you?” Derek asked. Kyle shook his head. “Silver and supernatural don’t usually get along like that.”
“Well, it’s still a restraint of sorts. I just choose to use it. I kind of enjoy being human. Or at least passing as one. Humans form such intricate relationships with each other.” Kyle let his hands shift through the water, enjoying the feel of the flow around him.
“That’s not always a good thing,” Derek said, quietly. Kyle glanced at him, but his face gave away nothing.
Kyle had read about the fire. It was the biggest almost-homicide in Beacon Hills history, and it was in all of the training material for the department. He knew they closed the case when Kate Argent came waltzing back into town like nothing had ever happened. He knew she was dead.
Throat ripped out.
“Are you hungry?” Kyle asked. Derek glanced at him, surprised. “I was thinking I could make some soup. Aside from the hole in my side I feel much better. Do you want to stay for soup and sandwiches?”
“Um, sure,” Derek said.
“It’s the least I can do for someone who kept me hydrated for four days,” Kyle said. He stood and accepted the towel Derek handed him. “Ham and cheese okay?”
“That’s- You don’t have to-”
“I want to,” Kyle insisted. Derek stared at him in disbelief. “So just shut up and accept it, okay? I’m gonna throw on a pair of pants, and I’ll be right down.”
Derek took one last surprised look at Kyle before exiting, and Kyle heard him going down the stairs to the ground floor. Kyle grabbed a comfy pair of sweats and joined him in the kitchen, where Derek perched awkwardly on the edge of a chair. He didn’t move, or speak while Kyle quickly heated some soup and dragged out condiments for sandwiches.
“Am I under permanent watch now?” Kyle asked, setting a plate in front of Derek.
“Yeah.” Derek bit into the sandwich with ferocity.
At least he didn’t lie. Kyle carefully sipped the soup, letting it warm him and help ease the lingering aches away. “So even if I make you leave the house, you’ll be, what, sleeping in the van?”
“On your roof, actually,” Derek said. He jerked a thumb upwards. “Easier to hear changes in your breathing.”
“That is really creepy. You realise that is dangerously close to stalking, right?”
“I’m trying to protect you,” Derek said. He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his intensely muscled chest. Kyle could see the play of muscles rippling under thin fabric. He swallowed hard.
“I’m not human, and even I know sitting on someone’s roof is a one way ticket to a jail cell.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes to try and not think about Derek’s muscles. “Okay. Okay. If you’re going to be here anyway, just take the guest room. There’s even a bed in there if you get bored.”
“It’s fine,” Derek said, voice strained.
“You’re trying to help me, and if you’re not going to leave, I’m not going to let you skulk around on my roof, for God’s sake.” Kyle dropped his spoon into an empty bowl. He was sideways in his chair, trying to get comfortable around the growing ache of his wound.
“I won’t be in the way,” Derek said. “We’re just making sure nobody is after you.”
“So don’t be in my way in comfort. Not getting bitten by fleas, or flies, or whatever swarms up near the roof,” Kyle said. He rested a palm over the bandages taped to his side. Derek’s eyes narrowed.
“Are you hurting?”
“I got shot. I’m in a bit of pain, yes,” Kyle said. He didn’t expect Derek to reach across the table, fingers hesitating over Kyle’s forearm. Waiting for permission. Kyle nodded, curious now, and Derek let his fingers brush along Kyle’s skin. Kyle jerked when black veins inked up Derek’s arms. The pain in his side stopped growing, and his body was suffused with a soft warmth. “Oh. Oh that is good. Can all you puppies do that?”
“Only the nice ones,” Derek said. He graced Kyle with a slight smile. His fingers tightened slightly before he withdrew, and Kyle felt the absence keenly. Derek watched him carefully, and after a moment said, “I thought horses were pack creatures.”
Kyle smiled, still warm and loose from the pain drain thing. “Herd. Horses are herd creatures. Unfortunately we cannot bite humans to expand our herd. We’re stuck with what we have. And I have…” He gestured to the small, empty house around him, and was determined to ignore the pang in his chest.
“I’m sorry.” Derek shifted in his chair, eyes downcast.
“It’s not that bad,” Kyle said, trying to salvage the conversation. “I’m a deputy here. The entire town is like my herd. I can protect them, and they look to me. Maybe you should look into it? You have the right mindset. Strong, empathetic. Others before yourself. I’m sure Stilinski wouldn’t mind a wolf in his pack.”
“Maybe it’s time for you to rest,” Derek said, quietly.
“I slept four days and I’m still so tired.” Shaking his head, Kyle got to his feet. His body felt heavy, but he steadied when Derek placed a hand on his hip. He did make it to his room without an embarrassing header, though the fall onto his mattress was less than graceful. Breathing deep, he pressed his face to cool sheets. He felt, rather than saw, Derek start to leave the room. “Wait-”
With great effort he rolled onto his side and let his arm flop out, in Derek’s general direction. Derek lifted an eyebrow. Kyle swallowed hard.
“You’re a wolf. You shouldn’t be alone either,” he said. “It’ll be easier to watch if you’re here.”
For a moment, it looked like Derek would still walk out. Then, amazingly, miraculously he turned towards the bed and walked slowly to him. He slid his palm into Kyle’s, lacing their fingers together, as he carefully climbed over Kyle’s body to curl around him.
It took a considerable amount of will-power not to sob in relief at the sensation of a warm body pressed against the line of his back. He tightened his grip on Derek’s fingers, and dragged his arm close around him. Behind him, Derek snuffled a laugh and pressed his nose to the back of Kyle’s neck. The drag of stubble along his shoulder joint sent a wave of shivers straight down his spine. Derek felt it, and pressed closer.
“You like that?” His voice husked right in Kyle’s ear, and Kyle groaned as his insides practically melted.
“A bit,” Kyle said. He burrowed into Derek, tangling their legs together beneath the sheets. “It’s been a while.”
“You shouldn’t be alone.” Derek pressed the fingers of his free hand into the meat of Kyle’s thigh, dragging them towards his knee. “You deserve a pack.”
“Herd.” Kyle bit down hard on a bark of laugh when Derek’s fingers arced over a ticklish spot. “It’s called a herd.”
Derek spun him, cradling his shoulders firmly. He was strong. Kyle needed his hands on him immediately. Derek caught his gaze. “Is this okay?”
This close, Kyle could see the flecks of blue and brown in Derek’s incredible kaleidoscope irises. Dark lashes fluttered, and Derek’s brows drew together in concern. Kyle grinned and yanked on their linked hands. “Don’t make me beg.”
Derek hummed. “I think I would like to see that.”
“I bet you would.” Kyle couldn’t take it anymore. He surged against Derek, taking his lips in a kiss that was eagerly returned.
Derek rolled them, until he was over Kyle, hips pinning him to the mattress. Kyle licked into Derek’s mouth as Derek’s hand wandered south, slipping beneath the waist of his sweats. He gripped Kyle’s ass, and Kyle gasped against Derek’s lips, their hips rocking together.
“God, you’re ticklish!” Derek laughed into the warm skin of Kyle’s neck.
“Tell anyone and I will skin you,” Kyle said, hoarsely. Derek tweaked the skin at his hip, and Kyle all but lurched off the mattress. “No! Stop- Jesus-”
Derek wrestled his sweats down, until they tangled around his knees, while his fingers searched out weak points in Kyle’s muscles- which were, actually, quite a lot. Kyle gasped and wriggled, trying to evade Derek’s hands. Eventually Kyle ended up on his stomach, Derek pressed firm against his back and ass, their clothes tossed towards the end of the bed.
Derek’s touches turned from prodding to insistent, smoothing down the length of Kyle’s body with purpose. He pressed open-mouthed kisses into the hard muscle of Kyle’s shoulders. “Still okay?”
“Yeah.” Kyle panted, arching up into Derek’s firm, strong hands. Okay, communication was going to be a Thing with him. Kyle could get behind that. “Great. Don’t stop.”
“Do you have any-”
“Drawer. Nightstand drawer.” Kyle cut him off, stretching for the nightstand. His side twinged, and Derek leaned over him, pressing him fully into the mattress as he reached. They tugged the drawer open and Derek got his hands on a small bottle of lube.
Derek paused, still uncomfortably heavy on top of Kyle, and read the bottle. “Water proof?”
“I want to say ‘duh’, but I have a feeling you’re being deliberately obtuse. So I’m going to ignore you,” Kyle said, voice muffled from where he was pressed into the sheets. He was unmistakably hard, trapped between his stomach and the mattress, and it was all he could do not to rut into the sheets.
Derek grabbed his shoulder and tugged at him, until he was propped against Derek’s chest, on his side. Derek held him close, and rested his chin on Kyle’s shoulder. “How do you want to do it?”
Kyle huffed a thoughtful breath, and dropped his head against the pillow of Derek’s bicep. “Hadn’t thought about it, really. Do you do this with all your pack?”
He felt a slight nip as Derek dragged his teeth over Kyle’s shoulder. “My pack is underage.”
“Ah. Yes. Sorry, that was dumb.” Kyle pressed his face against Derek’s cheek in apology. “I don’t know. What’s your preference?”
“I like watching your reactions,” Derek said into the shell of his ear. A shudder rolled down Kyle’s spine.
“I can work with that. You want me on my back? I’m supposed to be resting anyway.”
Derek ran his fingers over the bandages taped in place, and nodded. “On your back. I want to blow you.”
And straight to Kyle’s dick. Yup. He was completely on board with this course of events. “Yeah. Yeah. Do that.”
With Derek’s help, he rolled onto his back and kicked the sheets down and away. Derek was set on taking his time, mouthing wet, hot kisses down Kyle’s sternum and stomach, making his ab muscles flutter. Heat gathered along the length of his spine, curling just beneath his skin and making him respond to Dererk’s touches with soft, insistent motions.
Derek finally ventured towards Kyle’s dick, exhaling hot and tantalising across its base. He licked a strip from base to tip, and Kyle’s hips lifted in an effort to follow the sensation. Derek pressed his hands to Kyle’s thighs, holding him in place. A moan of protest was thwarted in Kyle’s throat when Derek took the tip of his prick into his mouth.
“Fuck.” Kyle breathed harshly as Derek lowered his mouth, taking Kyle into his mouth. He was not going to last if Derek could take him all the way like that. The head of his cock nudged into Derek’s throat, and Derek closed his eyes, and deliberately swallowed.
Kyle’s back arched reflexively, and he let out an aborted gasp. Derek pulled off and sank down again, encasing him in warm, moist heat. His orgasm pooled in his gut, and he reached for Derek’s hair, basically slapping at him. “Hey- Hey-”
Derek’s lips popped free with an obscene noise, and he replaced his mouth with his fist, pushing Kyle over the edge. He came, heat pushing under his skin, and the world went fuzzy for a split second. Derek slid up his body, smearing sweat and come along his stomach, and grasped Kyle’s jaw in both hands, dragging him in for a spine-melting kiss.
“Good?” Derek exhaled against his lips.
“Perfect,” Kyle said, bracketing Derek with his knees. Derek’s dick nudged the inside of his thigh, hot and stiff.
Kyle reached between them and wrapped his hands around Derek’s length. He was- not huge, but big. He was big. Big enough that Kyle was a little glad they had decided to go the non-penetrative route. Derek’s fingers curled around his, providing guidance for the right pressure and tempo. He pressed his face into Kyle’s neck, panting open mouthed, and came shortly after, across Kyle’s thigh.
“Ugh. I’m pulling the wounded card,” Kyle said, gathering Derek up in his arms. Derek snorted into his hair. “You’re on cleanup duty.”
“You’re a water thing, can’t you wash us up?” Derek asked, his voice a low grumble. Kyle smacked his arm.
“I am not a thing. And it doesn’t work like that, sorry. Hurry up, you’re gross.”
Derek laughed, pushing himself up from the bed. Kyle liked the way his eyes crinkled, and his entire face gave way to pleasure when he grinned, full on. He looked more mature. When he returned with a wet cloth, he sat on the edge of the bed and carefully wiped around Kyle’s bandage. Kyle looped his fingers around Derek’s wrist to follow the motion.
“Are you okay?” Derek asked, hesitating.
“Better than okay. Just come on, drop it on the floor. Come here.” Kyle needed to be wrapped in Derek’s arms. He wasn’t family, he was barely a friend, but he knew the deep, bone-aching pain that came from being alone for too long.
Derek swiped the cloth over himself quickly before tossing the cloth over his shoulder and clambering back into bed with Kyle. He dragged Kyle into the circle of his arms and molded against his body. Kyle let his fingers play over the skin of Derek’s arms.
“Are you okay?” Kyle asked. He wriggled until he could see Derek’s face. Derek didn’t meet his eyes, just rested his cheek against Kyle’s shoulder and stared into the distance.
“Yeah.” Derek drew a breath. “Yeah. I’m getting there.”
He woke to cold water spraying his face, and his cheek stinging. Gasping, he jerked. A heavy weight sat across his hips, and he bucked, disoriented.
“Kyle! Kyle, calm down. It’s me. Hey.”
A hand grasped his jaw and twisted his head, and he blinked through water-clumped eyelashes to see Derek, sitting on him as water filled the tub around them. Kyle pressed a hand to his cheek. “Did you hit me?”
Derek grimaced sheepishly, one hand holding a cell phone to his ear as he carefully leaned so that it was out of the spray of water. The hand at Kyle’s jaw slipped to cup the back of his neck, thumb settling over his pulse point. Derek stared at a point on the far wall as he listened to whoever was on the other end of the phone. He growled slightly. “Tell me you have something.”
“Kelpies have an affinity for water-” Stiles’ voice started from the speaker. Kyle couldn’t suppress his annoyance.
Stiles paused. “Is he there with you?”
“No, Stiles. I called you because I have nothing better to do at two in the morning than pester you for information.” Derek’s grip shook slightly. “He wasn’t breathing. It’s getting worse. Please tell me you have something.”
Well that was new. Kyle sank further into the tub, taking comfort in the rising water levels. He barely registered Stiles requesting him, when the phone was shoved into his hand. Derek helped him sit up higher in the water. “Hello?”
“Do you have, like, a home river or something?” Stiles asked. “Your father was Scottish, right? And his home river- ocean- whatever is in Scotland. Do you have something like that here? Or in Scotland?”
“No, I don’t think so,” Kyle said. He caught Derek’s eyes, and he looked just as confused.
“Okay, so here’s my theory. Because you don’t have a home body of water, you become tied to whichever is closest in proximity. Which, in our case, is the river through the Preserve,” Stiles said. “If you were going to drag someone off to drown, it would be that river. So, something must be happening to that river. Scott and I are going to check it out.”
Kyle pushed himself upright. “Not without me, you’re not. It’s way past curfew, Stiles.”
“Yeah, but you could be dying, dude. This is a little important.” Stiles sounded impatient, and Kyle could hear Scott in the background.
“Stiles,” Kyle said, using his best authoritative voice. Derek raised his eyebrows, and Kyle ignored him. “You are going to wait until Derek and I get there. You are not going into the Preserve alone or with Scott, I don’t care if he’s a creature of the night. Otherwise, I’m calling your father.”
“Oh, you play dirty,” Stiles said. “I hate you. But also admire you. Fine. Fine. We’ll wait. Are you coming now?”
Derek snatched the phone back. “As soon as I think he’s good to get up. Don’t. Move.”
“God, you’re both worse than my father. Fine! Have fun making out, losers.” Stiles ended the conversation, and Derek tossed the phone out of the tub, where it landed on a pile of towels. He was practically floating now, the water level was so high.
“How are you feeling?” Derek asked. He gripped the sides of the tub to keep himself upright.
“I’m good. I’m fine. Let’s go.” Kyle tried to wiggle out from under Derek, who glared at him suspiciously. “I’m good, really. Stiles won’t wait that long. Come on.”
Derek’s face didn’t move from his expression of complete disapproval, but he didn’t stop Kyle as they dried off, dressed, and climbed into Kyle’s car.
The Preserve during the day was creepy enough. At night it was right out of a horror movie. One of the ones where you screamed at the characters that they were about to make a seriously stupid decision. Kyle stared at the treeline and sighed heavily. Never would he have guessed his life would come to this.
“You okay?” Derek asked, shutting the door to the Prius.
“Yeah. I just never thought my life would become a horror movie,” he said.
“You’re a water horse that drags people into rivers to drown and disembowel them,” Derek said. Kyle winced.
“Those are legends. I’ve never done that, obviously. Just like I’m sure the myths about your people are grossly over exaggerated.”
“Only some of them,” Derek said. He cocked his head. “Stiles is coming.”
A few seconds later, Stiles’ blue Jeep pulled up and he fell out of it, contorting wildly before somehow righting himself. Kyle leaned against the car as they approached, flashlights in hand. Scott offered him a small smile. “Don’t worry, we’ll get to the bottom of this.”
“I have no doubt,” Kyle said. He straightened and waved his Maglite. “Ready?”
Derek took point, leading them through the Preserve with quick, sure movements. He picked out the easiest path, though Kyle still heard Stiles stumbling behind him occasionally. Scott took up the rear, alert for anything that wasn’t an animal. It wasn’t a long hike before Kyle heard the sounds of flowing water, and his heart rate picked up.
They stood at the edge of a smooth part of the river, staring at the play of the flashlights over the water’s black surface. Kyle wanted to rip all his clothes off and leap in, but that would not be received well by his boss’ kid, and also-
“Does something smell weird to you?” Scott asked. His nose wrinkled.
Derek scented the air and sneezed. “Yeah. Smells like burnt plastic.”
The painful, rolling nausea was back, and Kyle swallowed hard against it. Derek kept him pinned under a concerned glare as he walked closer to the edge of the river. He crouched and ran his fingers through quietly drifting water. They came away slick with something, and stinging.
“There’s something in the water,” Kyle said. Stiles dropped to a crouch beside him, and splashed a hand into the water.
“Oh, gross! What is it?” Stiles glanced at Derek. “Do you think someone’s dumping something in the river?”
“The state took over my land.” Derek shifted anxiously. “I wouldn’t know if people have been trespassing on it.”
“Let’s see if we can find anything else. If it’s this bad, they had to have left evidence,” Stiles said. He stood and brushed his hand into his jeans.
Derek helped Kyle to his feet, and tucked a hand under his elbow to keep him upright. “Would that be it?”
“It makes sense,” Kyle said. He shrugged. “Poisoning the river could slowly be poisoning me. It wouldn’t be the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me.”
“Hey, look.” Stiles called back to them from a slight incline.
Derek and Kyle made their way towards him, and looked to where he pointed. Someone had dragged a length of tubing through the forest that dumped into the river. A slow stream of foul-smelling sludge flowed from the tube.
Scott pressed his arm over his nose, and Stiles whipped out his phone to start snapping pictures. He held the camera towards the trees, where the tube came from. “We should follow it. See where it goes.”
“I’m going to be sick,” Kyle warned. Derek shifted his hold, allowing for Kyle to bend over and retch. Stiles and Scott backed away until he was finished. He straightened shakily, and gripped Derek for support. Wiping a hand over the back of his mouth, he nodded. “Okay. Let’s go.”
“You should go home,” Scott said. Red eyes flashed in the dark. “We can take it from here.”
“Still after curfew,” Kyle reminded them. “I am law enforcement. Who else would be able to get you out of trouble if we get caught?”
“It’s kind of before curfew now, though, isn’t it?” Stiles asked. “Because it’s a new day, after midnight, and everything- Eh, okay. Shutting up. Let’s follow the yellow brick tube.”
The tube led them all the way out of the Preserve to an abandoned parking lot, almost overgrown with weeds. The pavement was cracked everywhere, but not completely undriveable, as there were several trucks idling in the darkness. As they watched, the trucks took turns at the tube. It looked like they were emptying the contents of the trucks into the tubing, which dumped it into the river.
“Illegal chemical dumping,” Stiles said. His phone was out, and he was taking pictures of all the plates and people manning the vehicles. Kyle was grudgingly impressed. “Gotcha.”
Stiles made a frustrated noise. “The trucks are unmarked, and I don’t think I can get the plates clear enough. Wait, what are you doing?”
“Calling the cops.” Kyle stopped just short of calling his boss’ child a dumbass, and pressed his own phone to his ear. Suzy from dispatch picked up. “Hey, Kyle Parrish. I’ve got an illegal chemical disposal going on at the Preserve just off of Richardson street. Can you send someone to take care of it? I’m kind of off duty.”
“Wait- Where’d they go?” Stiles hissed. Kyle glanced to the lot, and saw the workers who had been milling about where gone. The trucks were still there, however.
Scott and Derek stiffened, ears towards the forest. Kyle kept the phone to his ear. “Suzy, sooner would be better.”
“There’s a unit on their way,” she said. “Stay on the line-”
The phone was knocked out of his hand when a bullet grazed his forearm. He shouted in surprise, pain flaring even as he threw Stiles to the ground under him.
“Split up!” Derek shouted, over the ping of bullets hitting trees around them.
“No, don’t split up! Are you crazy- You never split up-” Stiles spluttered as Kyle shoved him at Scott, who hefted his friend up and took off, disappearing into the dark with Stiles still protesting.
Derek reached down to pull Kyle to his feet and took a slug to the shoulder, sending him to the ground. Kyle ducked, crawling on his stomach, and grabbed at Derek. Derek ripped the bullet out and clenched his fist around it. “There’s wolfsbane in it. They’re hunters.”
“Close, but not quite.” A figure stepped out from between the trees, a gun levelled at Kyle. “More like purveyors of fine supernatural goods. It’s very rare we get reports of kelpies this far inland.”
“Wait, you’re after me?” Kyle exhaled sharply.
“Unfortunately we don’t need a werewolf.” The man lifted his gun. Kyle threw himself over Derek’s prone body, doing his best to stay between the gun’s sights and Derek. “Out of the way, or I’ll just shoot him through you.”
“If you’re not here for him, let him go,” Kyle said through clenched teeth.
“Unfortunately he’s seen our operation. We can’t just let him walk. Now move.”
“Derek, grab my shoulders.” Kyle subvocalised his words, knowing Derek would be able to hear them. “And take off my tags.”
Derek sucked in a breath, and lurched forward. He removed Kyle’s tags in one, swift motion, and wrapped his other arm around Kyle’s shoulders. Kyle felt his transformation take root in his bones, pushing him up and out. He threw himself at the man with the gun as he grew, splitting out of his ragged Tshirt. The man pulled the trigger in surprise, and Kyle felt the bullet strike him, but it didn’t go through. Derek clung to his back as he fell forward on four legs, already running away from the group of men that had surrounded them.
Gunshots went off around him, cracking in his ears and splitting trees beside his head.
Instinct took over. He had a man on his back. He had to get to the river.
Derek sank his fingers into Kyle’s thick, full mane and pressed himself as low as he could to Kyle’s back and shoulders. The branches whipped at them as Kyle galloped deeper into the forest. His steps were firm and sure, even in the dark, and he knew he was close to the river. Very close. The man on his back dug his knees into Kyle’s flank, desperately holding on through the ride, and Kyle was in such a blind panic he plunged straight into the river, ignoring the godawful smell emanating from it.
It was like jumping into a vat of flames.
He screamed, burned from the inside out, and unimaginable pain licked at every inch of his skin. The man on his back was shouting, struggling to keep his head above the water as Kyle dragged them deeper. His breath halted in his lungs, frozen in pain, and he couldn’t breathe.
Something cold slid over his muzzle, yanked down behind his ears and behind his head. He felt the deep wrench in his bones that signalled his transformation, but he still couldn’t breathe. The water was death. He floundered desperately, fighting the arms around his waist. For the first time in his life, he sucked water into his lungs and felt the acute panic that came with his throat closing as he choked. The pain in his lungs forced his consciousness to give way, and he sank into darkness.
He remembered waking once, on the forest floor, ribs aching and Derek pressing down hard on his chest. His brain helpfully supplied CPR before he passed out again.
When he next woke, cool, crisp water surrounded him, and he felt the warm hum of a body pressed against him. Opening his eyes took more of an effort than was worth it, until he caught sight of Derek’s pale, drawn face flood with relief. Derek moved through the water, in it up to his shoulders, and carefully touched Kyle’s chest. “Are you with me?”
“What happened?” Kyle shifted, one leg trapped under Derek’s weight. He craned his neck and saw that he was in his home, his bathroom. It looked like a crime scene.
Blood streaked the counters and floor, and discarded clothes piled in the corner reeked of blood and chemicals. There was dirt on the floor, on the sides of the tub, and Derek had some leaves in his hair. Kyle reached to pick them out, but Derek stopped him by catching his wrist.
“You turned into a giant, black horse,” Derek said. “And tried to carry me off into the river to drown. But you ended up drowning instead.”
Kyle stared at him, uncomprehending. “Wha- But that’s impossible.”
“Deaton thinks the chemicals in the river weakened your body enough that it was able to take in water. You were also shot in the ribs.” Derek’s hand brushed over a new bandage stuck to Kyle’s side. “Which probably caused some damage to your lungs.”
Kyle lifted a hand clear of the water and pressed it to his aching head. “Jesus. Tell me we at least got the guys.”
“The Sheriff got them,” Derek confirmed. “And he’s also been made aware of your… talents.”
“Do I still have a job?” Kyle had to ask. Derek smirked, but it didn’t quite reach his eyes.
“He said you’re going to be on parking meters for the next month for lying, but you still have a job.” Derek didn’t move his hand, pressed into the warm flesh of Kyle’s side. His thumb stroked gently, and Kyle closed his eyes, relishing the touch. “Don’t do that again.”
Kyle cracked an eye. “Do what?”
Derek took a breath, steadying himself. “I am not worth dying for.”
“Hey, hey. No.” Kyle reached, his wound tugging painfully, and cupped the back of Derek’s neck. “Look at me, Derek. I decide who I want to die for. And I would do it again, without question, if it meant keeping you safe. You’re pack, Derek.”
Derek lifted an eyebrow and Kyle realised what he had just said. “Herd! I meant herd. Damn it.”
He shoved Derek’s head, and splashed him for good measure. Derek shook water out of his eyes and shoved Kyle under the surface, gentle of his wounds. When he realised Kyle had no intentions of resurfacing, Derek dipped beneath the surface and pressed a tentative kiss to Kyle’s lips.
Kyle smiled against his mouth, placing his hands on either side of Derek’s jaw to accept the kiss, his cheeks tickled by the bubbles of air dribbling from their lips. Derek pulled to the surface, sucked in another breath, and dipped to meet Kyle’s lips again. Kyle looped his arms around Derek’s neck and smiled. He had found his herd.