i’m a sinner, i’m a tainted saint, i’m a savior
It is a dangerous thing to love.
Stiles suffers from no illusions against that.
He has seen the consequences, the tragedy of attachment to humans. God made mankind in his image, but they are weak, fragile creatures that destroy each other with greed and violence. The Four Horsemen may be the harbingers of the apocalypse, supposedly ineffable and infallible, but three have made mistakes, have wreaked irresponsible havoc for their human loves.
Conquest, for the daughter of Romulus who doesn’t even reach her thirties before her time is spent. The Roman Empire lasts for half a millennium.
Famine, for a slave who dies at the hands of a cruel lord. The kingdom starves.
And even War, for a soldier from the Greatest Generation doomed to perish in the trenches. His sorrow demolishes the enemy camp, and nothing is left of them when he is finished.
He is there for all of them, because they are still his siblings and because they ask it of him, so he personally guides the souls of their cherished ones when the time comes.
His siblings have loved. They have loved and lost, and so foolish of them to fall.
But he, he is Death.
And Death does not love.
“I can smell it already.” Conquest—Scott, as he has chosen for his most recent human alias—says, removing his white helmet so he can lift his chin and breathe in the nighttime air. The rumbling of their bikes cut off as they stop on the top of the hill, gazing down at the town below. “The scent of boredom.”
Stiles snorts, flipping up the visor of his black helmet. “I still don’t know why you came here with me, dude.”
“Don’t play,” Scott grins at him, dimples flashing, “You love me, I’m your best friend. Lydia and Jackson can hardly compare.”
“Lydia is in Africa right now, probably dehydrating some crops as we speak,” Stiles drawls, “and Jackson is in Iraq, doing God knows what with weapons trade. What about you?”
Scott frowns, lower lip jutting out in a pout. “Okay, so maybe I’m a little lonely. And bored. Did you have to call me out on it?”
“I live and breathe for that.”
“You must be bored too,” Scott counters, “To come to a town like this instead of accompanying Jackson or something. It’s almost beneath you, how little to there is to do in this town. Not much death here.”
Unnatural, black flames flicker to life in his sockets and Stiles rolls his head slowly from side to side, smiling grimly at the glittering lights of the town.
“There will be.”
It’s a strange town. Stranger than most.
He has guided many souls from this land once before, remembers the rampant slaughters by the hands of vampires, werewolves, berserkers, anuk-ite centuries ago.
The town had fallen off his radar after a while, the deaths having tapered off to barely a few per year. He’d grown bored, had stopped dropping by. There had been other calamities in the world that had needed his seeing to.
Stiles knows that this peace is because of the werewolf pack that had settled down. They maintain a balance in the town, have done so for hundreds of years.
But there are whispers in the wind, whispers that something is coming again, something big.
And so Stiles arrives. Ready to collect.
"Hey, cool ride."
Stiles glances up from frowning at his phone—Lydia had roasted him to shreds after he'd accidentally pitched it off a mountain when reaping the soul of a famous hiker; it had been a pain to retrieve—and cocks his head at the human.
Ah. No, his mistake. At the werewolf.
The boy stands before him with hair black as night and pale-green eyes. There's a basketball tucked under his arm and he's gazing admiringly at the black motorcycle Stiles is lounging on.
Stiles lowers his foot that had been resting against the fuel engine so he can straighten his back. Scott is still in the school, doing God knows what. The other Horseman had always been an unusually eager one, always so intrigued with human lives. Stiles, not so much. So he waits outside the building on his motorcycle, mostly ignoring the students’ curious whispers. Until the werewolf speaks to him.
The boy smiles widely at him, “I’m Derek.”
There is an innocence to him, so pure and clean and Stiles is taken aback by the strength of it.
The boy—Derek—frowns. “That’s a strange name.”
Stiles’s lips twitch and he tucks his phone into his jacket pocket, leaning forward to rest his arms on the bike's handlebars. “It's a nickname.”
The movement brings his face a little closer to where the werewolf stands, and Derek flushes.
Stiles pauses, tilting his head further in amusement. The boy finds him…attractive. It’s been so long since someone has shown interest—he hasn’t shown himself to the living for a while now—but regardless, Stiles has never taken advantage of his human body’s looks. He knows what he looks like, youthful and ageless, with dark brown hair and pale skin, with a wide smile that puzzles the dead when they first see him, brown eyes that lull them into a sense of comfort.
He is not like his siblings, who love mingling with humans, playing and toying with them before they complete their jobs.
But it has been so long, and so for this one...he'll bite.
“You can touch, if you’d like.” Stiles leans back, gesturing to his bike. “You can also touch the white one. Touch that one all you like. Scott would not mind at all.”
He would so totally mind. It’s hilarious.
The werewolf’s eyes go wide and he reaches out a hesitant hand, placing it on Stiles’s headlight, stroking it down slowly to the suspension and over the mudguard. When he catches Stiles looking at him, amused, he flushes deeper, the tips of his ears reddening. He removes his hand and clears his throat, mumbling a quick thanks before saying he has some practice to get to, and Stiles catches him glancing over his shoulder more than once back at him.
Stiles gazes after him, lips tugging upwards in a small grin.
How utterly fascinating.
“The hospital here is boring as shit.” Scott sighs, flopping backwards on the bed. “No interesting diseases or anything.”
“Then maybe you should try breaking some vials of disease-in-a-dish out of the CDC.” Stiles hums as he flicks through the notifications of deaths on his phone. No interesting ones in the vicinity thus far. “Go wild with them.”
“That’s…” Scott looks thoughtful. “Not actually a bad idea.”
Stiles pauses and looks up from his phone. “I was kidding.”
“Go to the school’s sports games or something.” Stiles rolls his eyes. “I’m sure little victories would be better than nothing.”
“That’s…also not a bad idea.”
“What will you do?” Scott asks, tossing his helmet in the air and catching it with one hand.
“I will do what I always do.” Stiles hovers his finger over a notification. An upcoming death.
The girl is only fifteen when she perishes, and Stiles is there to collect her soul, guiding her gently away from her corpse held tightly in the boy's arms.
She asks him, “Will Derek be okay?”
Stiles looks at the werewolf, huddled on the ground and shaking, crying over the girl’s body. The boy buries his head in her shoulder, grief so prominent in his features, and when he opens his eyes, Stiles sees a brilliant blue seep in to replace gold.
It’s the loss of innocence, the emergence of devastating guilt.
It’s something he’s never seen before.
And for the first time in centuries, Stiles pauses on his way out, gaze lingering on the werewolf’s face.
“I don’t know, sweetheart.” He places a hand on the girl’s back, turning her to leave. “We shall see.”
It haunts him, the look in those tragic eyes.
Derek lifts his head, his eyes ringed with red. He stares at Stiles, bewildered.
Stiles simply licks his cone, arching his eyebrows as he holds out the other one. Scott had told him that humans sometimes liked drowning their sorrows with food (“Why do you want to know, Stiles?”), and now…now he is testing the theory out of course. There’s nothing more to it. Nothing whatsoever.
“I…” The werewolf unfolds his arms and swipes a hand across his eyes before reaching out. “Sure. Thanks.”
Stiles takes a seat next to the boy on the park bench and they eat in silence, watching joggers pass by and children scream and shout.
“It will hurt a lot at first.”
Derek looks at him, pausing mid-lick. Stiles stiffens. The picture the werewolf makes is almost…adorable.
Stiles glances away, crossing his legs and propping his elbows up on the backrest of the park bench. He jiggles his foot out of habit.
“Loss,” he clarifies, “it will tear and claw at you and you will feel like you can’t breathe, but in the end, it will always get better.”
“You’ve lost someone before?” Derek finishes off his cone, lowering his gaze to the ground and scratching at his ear.
“No,” replies Stiles, “but I am so intimately familiar with it.”
He really is only in this theater to see what the fuss about movies is. But when he sees the boy sitting in the back, all alone, there is something in him that simply cannot help itself.
Scott had dragged him to the human festival (“but look at those games, Stiles”), and he finds himself gravitating towards the werewolf, who’s tossing rings onto some pegs.
Derek finds him sitting on the edge of the sidewalk near a coffee shop sipping the quite delicious liquid carefully, not spilling a single drop. Whoever invented coffee deserves to be in heaven, Stiles decides. He’ll check on that with Michael later.
Derek comes to a halt before him, rocking back and forth on his heels as he looks at Stiles expectantly.
Stiles casts his gaze up, and then stretches out a long arm.
Derek nods eagerly, accepting it from him with a small smile.
Lydia will have his head, Stiles thinks morbidly. She’s always hounding on the three brothers for daring to indulge in earthly delights. It’s probably the only thing that the brothers can bond over. Jackson is too violent, Scott too mild, and he…well, he’s Death.
Derek sits down next to him, feet leaning against the wheels of his bike, and talks. Talks about school, his games, his sisters who dumped ice water on him that day as a prank.
And Stiles listens.
The rogue omega is bewildered, leaping back towards her body in confusion, hands beating uselessly at it, passing right through the flesh.
“I don’t…I don’t understand!”
Stiles lets out a sigh, though he’s patient. They never do. He tells her calmly, “You went feral.”
He turns his gaze back upon the rest of the Hale pack that surrounds the omega's body.
Derek is there, standing next to his mother, and Stiles’s lips twitch in amusement at the werewolf’s shifted form. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wonders where Derek’s eyebrows go.
It's a strange sight.
But he’s shifted, eyes blue, better and more in control than Stiles had seen him last on a full moon.
A pleased grin spreads across Stiles’s face.
“Stiles, you great big idiot,” Jackson insults happily, pushing up his helmet with the tip of his rifle. He’s dressed in an American combat uniform, and the sounds of explosions and gunfire through the computer’s speakers ring out tinny. “There is so much dying here I can’t even keep track.”
“Stiles is taking a vacation.” Scott teases, lacing his hands behind his head as he wiggles a foot in Stiles’s direction.
“It’s not a vacation, you should see my notifications.” Stiles retorts, flipping Scott off, and he takes a seat behind the other Horseman so he can see the computer screen better.
“Tell that to the wolf boy who you keep feeding.”
“Wolf boy?” Jackson’s face appears closer, his annoying nose shoved up near the camera. Someone screams off in the distance. “Werewolf? Stiles has a werewolf?”
“Oh my God—“
“Ay, don’t take Father’s name in vain.”
“—I don’t have a werewolf.” Stiles groans, scrubbing his face with his hands out of annoyance.
A huge explosion rocks the ground that Jackson is standing on and he nearly falls forward, but a manic grin spreads across his face. He points at the camera, “I’m gonna go convince the Americans to drop more bombs, but when I get back, we are talking about your werewolf, left testicle.”
“I’m more powerful than you!” Stiles shouts childishly as Jackson wiggles his fingers in goodbye. Scott closes the laptop, snorting deliriously with amusement.
Stiles shakes a fist at Scott.
“I’ll kill you.”
He’s not quite sure how Derek finds him at the top of the hill, hidden under the shade of the oak tree. Most likely from his scent, though Stiles has made it purposefully weak and hard to track. The werewolf must be desperate.
He’s leaning back against the trunk, one leg outstretched and the other bent at the knee. Two sneakered feet stop right next to him.
Stiles slowly drags his eyes away from the amusing little book—humans could be so hilariously creative…and scarily accurate sometimes—about an angel and demon working together to stop the apocalypse, sliding in the bookmark before closing it. He sets it down next to him.
“How can I help you, Derek?”
The boy thrusts out his hand, a helmet grasped tightly in it. Where on earth he had gotten it from, Stiles has no idea. It’s new, smooth and shiny, free of any scratches or indents. “Take me for a ride.”
Stiles criss-crosses his legs, letting out an amused huff, “You’re sixteen.”
Derek’s jaw clenches stubbornly. His eyes are ringed with red. He’s been crying again. “So?”
“You won’t let me fall.”
Stiles tilts his head. Perceptive little tyke. “And how do you know that? I could be a terrible rider, for all you know.”
“You’re not. I know you.”
No, you don’t.
But Stiles stands anyway, releasing a soft sigh, and strides away toward his bike that’s resting at the base of the hill. He stops halfway, turning to see Derek still standing behind him, glaring at the ground with frustration evident in his eyes.
“Are you coming?”
The werewolf lights up.
He goes slower than he usually rides but just fast enough so that Derek lets out an exhilarated whoop behind him, arms unclasping from around Stiles’s waist and lifting into the air, his fingers buffeted by the wind. Stiles smiles behind his visor, leaning the bike straight so that there would be no danger of the boy slipping off.
The whoop turns into a sorrowful yell.
And soon all Stiles can hear is Derek’s voice tearing from his throat, screaming, anguish and pain and anger disappearing with the scenery racing by. His fingers dig into Stiles’s shoulders as he nearly stands up entirely on the footpegs, and Stiles knows that it is more for a temporary anchor than for stability.
When they come to a stop, Stiles’s foot slipping off the bike to rest against the ground, he feels Derek’s arms come around him again, the boy’s helmeted forehead resting against his back as he trembles, breaths coming out hard and fast.
Derek’s voice is quiet when he stumbles off the bike, murmuring, “Thank you, Stiles.”
He doesn’t—can’t—feel to the full extent that mortals on Earth do, can’t know the wretchedness of loss and heartbreak and the need to escape, but Stiles can understand. So he gently taps the side of Derek’s head, still covered by the helmet, looking away when he sees the drying trails of tears on the werewolf's face through the clear visor.
"Sure thing, big guy."
"I hope you know what you’re doing, Death.” Scott warns—and Stiles knows he is serious from the usage of his true moniker—and his irises flash a brilliant white, considerable power leaking through his visage to indicate the gravity of his statement.
"You tread on dangerous waters."
Stiles just sighs.
He tastes of sadness, Stiles thinks, when Derek first attacks Stiles’s lips, arms thrown around his shoulders, fingers brushing the hairs at the base of Stiles’s neck. Derek somehow manages to jostle his way onto his lap, knees bracketing Stiles’s hips as he tightens his grip, leaning into the kiss with fervor. The book falls out of Stiles’s grasp and he leans back against trunk of the tree, so forceful is the kiss.
Stiles had thought that nothing could surprise him anymore.
Clearly, he had been wrong.
Something spills out of the chasm where Stiles’s heart lies, something warm and foreign. There are no fireworks or electric buzzes, only an intoxicating warmth that sweeps into every nook and cranny of his body, up the back of his neck and down to pool in his stomach.
His lips are frantic, desperate, beseeching and so Stiles complies, returning the kiss with a softness that he himself had not known he possessed.
But when the werewolf tries to push Stiles’s leather jacket off with one hand, the other diving under his shirt to skim across the skin of his abdomen, that’s when Stiles captures his wrists, halting them in their paths, and leans away from Derek.
He brings up one of Derek’s hands to his lips, pressing a kiss to the werewolf’s palm.
“You’re not ready yet.”
“Yes, yes I am. I want you.”
“You’re not ready yet.” Stiles repeats firmly.
He squeezes Derek’s wrists.
“But when you are, I will be here waiting for you.”
“I hear you have a boy.” Lydia flicks a red strand of hair over her shoulder, peering up at Stiles.
Stiles leans back against the headboard of his bed, raking one hand through his hair and holding up his phone with the other so he can see her better. “Scott is a nosy bastard who is procrastinating on all his duties.”
“Jackson told me.”
“Jackson is an asshole, and it is his asshole that I will be shoving an unholy amount of—”
“I really don’t want to hear about things you will be shoving up our brother’s ass.”
“Hm. Sure. And after all your bitching,” Lydia shakes her head, “about us mingling with mortals. Stiles...what changed?"
He pauses. Says nothing.
“He is dear to your heart.”
Stiles’s eyes go wide and he lets out an incredulous laugh. Lydia just purses her lips and he curses the intelligence in her eyes, the all too knowing look bearing into his.
His laugh tapers off.
“Be careful, my dear.” Lydia leans close. “Be careful that he doesn’t ruin you.”
There is a woman. She reeks of death.
He knows this because he has guided some of her victims, the alphas of annihilated packs, who scream at him for vengeance, for her to burn as they had.
There is darkness in her heart and when she comes to town, Stiles tenses.
Because in this town is another pack.
And in this pack, there is someone who has Stiles’s heart.
“This is Stiles.”
The two dark-haired girls fold their arms in identical motions, and they appraise Stiles with curious looks, eyes traveling over his black jacket, his jeans, his biker’s boots.
“You’re the one who’s been making him eat?” One of them—Laura, Derek had said—asks him. “You’re the one who’s been spending time with him?”
Stiles’s gaze cruises to Derek, who’s chewing on his lip and avoiding his eyes. “Yes.”
The taller girl stares for a moment longer. “Thank you.”
The younger girl cocks her head and props her hands on her hips with finality.
“He’s too cool for you, Der.”
The second time Derek kisses him, there is no scent of heartbreak. This time it’s tentative, searching, and nervous.
Stiles leans into it, arms slipping around Derek’s waist as they kiss and kiss, under the whispering leaves of the old oak tree.
And when the werewolf leans back, smiling down at Stiles in a way that makes something in him thump unevenly, Stiles knows. He just knows.
Stiles pauses, staring down at his screen, at the notifications of upcoming deaths that keep popping up and up.
So, so many of them.
His eyes darken, and the heat of a thousand suns flares in him.
Fire has always been a favorite of Jackson’s. So many wars cannot be fought without fire, he says.
But Stiles...Stiles has no fondness for fire. It singes and burns and destroys. He has no desire for chaos, unlike his siblings. He has seen good in this world, and he has seen it snuffed out one too many times by flame.
Stiles has also seen mindless violence. He is numb to it. But this woman, smiling as she places gallons of gasoline in the warehouse, evokes a hatred in Stiles that he thought had fizzled out a long time ago.
He had taken out her allies with ease, ripping their souls from them in their sleep.
“An impressive set-up.”
The blonde woman whirls around, unsheathing her gun from the holster in her belt and firing it at him. It passes right through him.
He’s dressed in his cloak this time, and his skeletal aura looms over his human form dangerously. Never again can Jackson complain that he doesn’t make a good entrance. This, he thinks, is top notch threatening. Maybe he should bring his scythe next time. It’s a useless piece of prop, but he could probably terrorize shitty humans better with it.
"Who are you?" The woman’s voice is steady, poison lacing every word, but there is fear underneath. "What are you? I've never seen a monster like you before."
"Monster? I'm no monster."
Stiles tilts his head and smiles, all teeth, shark-like and dangerous, and obsidian flames erupt in his sockets.
"I am Death, little girl. Destroyer of empires."
He is the most dangerous, the most inescapable of the Horsemen. His siblings may have lost their humans, but he is Death. And God help those who dare to try and take what is his.
She takes a step back, and this time the fear is in the forefront of her eyes. “What…what do you want?”
Stiles beams. “Oh, excellent segue into my next topic of discussion. Well. It’s not really up for discussion.”
He pauses for dramatic effect because it’s been so long since he’s had a little fun toying with humans.
“It is ultimately my choice,” Stiles’s smile widens and he doesn’t care that he probably looks a little manic now, “if it is time for a soul to be reaped.”
She still looks confused.
“I do so try to be fair,” Stiles sighs, picking at his fingernails. “It’s worked out quite well thus far. But you’ll have to forgive me for being a little selfish this time.”
“What the hell are you talking ab—”
“The boy you are targeting,” he interrupts, dropping his hand so his fingers can drum against the sides of his thighs, “and his family. It is not their time.”
The woman inhales sharply, seeds of understanding surfacing in her eyes.
“But you,” Stiles takes a step forward and she stumbles back, lifting her gun and firing it at him again.
He waves the bullet away lazily and advances uncaringly.
“I think you are overdue for a reaping.”
"Hold on tight."
He feels a nod against his back.
"How fast can you go?"
Stiles turns his head, smiling fondly at the green-eyed boy behind him, and rests a gloved hand on one of the arms around his midsection. “As fast as you want me to go."
The arms tighten around him. "We won't crash and die?"
Stiles laughs, throwing his head back. He brushes a hand along the side of the helmet on Derek's head, kissing the tip of the boy’s nose before flipping Derek's visor down. Turning back around, he slips his own helmet on, and a wild grin splits across his face as he revs up the engine.
The setting sun streaks the landscape with brilliant rays of gold, glinting off Derek’s helmet. Stiles’s helmet and the motorcycle absorb the light, blacker than the deepest of pits, for they are not manmade but crafted by God himself.
He doesn’t tell Derek about himself yet. The werewolf doesn’t have to know how close his family had been to entering Stiles’s domain.
Maybe he will tell Derek one day.
But for now, this is enough.
"No. No, Derek, we will not crash or die."
It is a dangerous thing to love.
Stiles knows this.
And yet, he is the fourth to fall. Maybe he has made a mistake, maybe he will make more in the future, but he finds himself not caring in the least.
Because he looks at Derek, who has eyes like heaven and earth bleeding together in pools of moonlit waters, eyes like soft, spring growth after a harsh winter. Derek, soft-spoken and kind, who blushes when Stiles smiles at him, who touches Stiles like he’s something sacred. Derek, the son of an alpha werewolf, his heart strong and resilient.
Stiles looks at Derek.
And he loves.