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First Son, Last Chance

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Stiles stumbled slightly as he climbed into the car. Once he would have blamed his body, the too-long-limbed days of his teenagers years were full of flailing arms knocking over lamps and vases, his legs never landing quite where he expected them too. Now, at twenty-two, his gangly limbs had turned lithe and his movements had finally reached a level of grace that satisfied his personal trainer. Any incoordination he suffered was far more likely to be the result of intoxication. Alcohol was the usual culprit, but less-legal substances made an appearance every now and again if Stiles felt a party was getting slow, or a particularly pretty girl or hot guy asked him to join them.

Stumbling - whether into cars, out of beds, or away from his ever present but far-too-trusting security team - was not usually cause for alarm, but Stiles was stone cold sober. He hadn’t even had coffee since he crawled out of bed this morning to make himself look presentable for his re-enrollment interview. Stiles knew something was wrong the instant he felt his knees give way as he stepped into his standard, non-descript dark car. Unfortunately there was nothing he could do about it as he lost consciousness only moments later.

 

“And that’s all you have?” Chris Argent said. Scott gave him an earnest look, but Chris could tell that the kid knew he was grasping at straws.

“Yes sir,” Scott said. “Stiles was definitely in full possession of his faculties when he left the interview. I talked with him briefly and he was fully cognisant. Totally alert. He was fine, sir. I told him to sit tight while I did a surroundings check and conferred with the driver; he sat down, relaxed, not a twitch in sight. There was no reason for him to run, sir.”

“He tripped a bit when he entered an unfamiliar vehicle, Scott, that’s not a lot to go on,” Chris said, sighing.

“Sir, I genuinely believe that at some point between me leaving to check the exits and perimeters and my returning to find Stiles gone, someone approached and drugged Stiles. That gives us a clear window of opportunity, and limits the pool of suspects considerably. Not everyone was allowed in that building,” Scott said. “That camera catching footage of Stiles entering the car was pure chance, the kidnappers wouldn’t have allowed for it and so wouldn’t have bothered hiding Stiles’s drugged state.”

“Look, kid. I like you,” Chris said. He pinched his nose and closed his eyes, but it was no use. The headache that came after realising the son of their most important client had been kidnapped was not so easily dislodged. “I trust your judgement, I would never have assigned you to be part of Mr Stilinski’s security detail if I didn’t. I really don’t blame you for what happened, you followed the procedure correctly, and Stiles is a known flight risk-”

“This wasn’t Stiles running off!” Scott protested. “The interview went really well, Stiles was happy, he was relaxed.”

“Scott, calm down,” Chris said. “Even if this was the point of origin for Stiles’s kidnapping, it still doesn’t get us anywhere. The university is not a closed location, anyone is allowed to be there. Given the number of friends he has that attend there and his history, it’s still far more likely that Stiles had been tempted to make a break for it and was ambushed at a later point. From a kidnapper’s perspective, waiting for Stiles to be alone - or at least unguarded - makes their job much easier. I need you to put aside your guilt and focus on our current theories.”

“But we don’t have any current theories!” Scott said, throwing his hands in the air.

“Of course we do,” Chris said sharply. Scott straightened himself instinctively, apparently only aware he had been shouting at his boss. “There are always groups who aim to injure, kidnap or kill Mr Stilinski, which is precisely why he has a close protection team. Anti-American terrorists, anti-Were groups, individuals who believe President Stilinski should not be in power, there’s dozens of likely suspects, and nearly fifty plausible theories.”

“Yes sir,” Scott said respectfully. “I apologize for my outburst.”

“I believe Allison is working on tracking down Stiles’s cell phone history,” Chris said, gentling his voice. “And try to remember your fondness for your charge is of no use to you if it clouds your judgement.”

“Yes sir, thank you sir,” Scott said, standing up and leaving swiftly. Chris collapsed back into his chair.

“Christ, I need a cigarette,” Chris muttered, reaching for the latest report on Stiles’s kidnapping.

 

Scott hurried down the corridor, ducking into the first empty room he passed, feeling stupid for being so disappointed. He had known before he had even handed the tape over that it was a long shot; hell, he knew that about five minutes after noticing the anomaly. Scott just couldn’t help but hope that it could have led to something, anything, to bring them closer to finding Stiles. It didn’t matter how thoroughly they analyzed his actions that day, how impossibly unlikely the kidnapping had been, the fact was that Stiles was Scott’s charge and he had lost him. No, worse than that - Stiles wasn’t some little kid who had been distracted by sweets in the grocery store, he was the son of the President and had been abducted by someone skilled enough to get past a trained Argent security agent. At best, Stiles had been taken by people who would do no more than rough him up a bit before a ransom was paid; at worst he might be killed in some horrifying act of terrorism. Scott squeezed his eyes shut, leaning back against the door as his knees threatened to give out from underneath him.

All of Scott’s training told him he needed to compartmentalize, that he couldn’t do his job if he allowed himself to become emotionally involved with his charge and right now he needed to be able to consider the matter objectively. But this wasn’t just a charge, a job, a routine procedure. This was Stiles. Stiles, who turned sarcasm into an art form but floundered in the face of a genuine compliment. Stiles, who wheedled Scott into playing video games with him, and teased Scott affectionately about his crush on Allison. Stiles, who felt more like family than his own father did.

Instead of turning the image of Stiles into something indistinct, something that could be dispassionately considered, Scott honed in on Stiles’s laughter, his looks of concern when he thought his behaviour might have upset Scott. There were already countless agents and other trained professionals trying to find Stiles, he didn’t need another dispassionate employee using the latest tracking techniques and following protocols to narrow down his possible location. Right now, Stiles needed a friend desperate to find him and willing to do everything he could to bring Stiles home.

 

Stiles rose to consciousness slowly, everything still feeling dreamlike even as he opened his eyes and felt his head throb angrily in response. He screwed his eyes shut and groaned, ignoring the protests of the rest of his body. Instead, he let himself drift on the floaty feeling of semi-consciousness that engulfed him.

It was difficult to gauge the passage of time, but eventually Stiles felt himself wake up enough to know that something was desperately wrong. The ground beneath his body was firm, but smooth, some kind of packed earth. A thin layer of dust shifted beneath his fingers as Stiles groped around, trying to work out where he was. He flexed his fingers, wriggled his toes, and systematically stretched and tensed his sore limbs. It was a relief to find the pain was not serious, presumably just a result of rough handling and a long night of lying on hard ground. When he ventured to open his eyes again, Stiles found he adjusted more quickly to the low light. His head still throbbed furiously, leaving him unwilling to try turning it just yet. Instead Stiles focused on the ceiling, ignoring questions of where he was and what had happened. He simply tried to puzzle out what sort of room he might be in that had low light, packed earth flooring and… were those floorboards on the ceiling?

Eventually Stiles realized that a ceiling of exposed floorboards most likely put him in a cellar. By this point, though the aggressive ache in his head had not receded, it was no longer consuming all of Stiles’s attention. A dull ache in his stomach let him know he was also hungry, and an intense dryness in his mouth and throat made water desirable enough to risk turning his head to take in the rest of his surroundings. He blinked and groaned until his head stopped complaining enough to let Stiles consider the new sight.

To his left there was no furniture, no junk lying around, no sign that this cellar room had ever experienced occupation at all. There was nothing blocking his view of the wall; all he could see was a depressingly rough, unpainted surface, with no windows or doors or vents or anything that could lead to the outside world. The only positive Stiles could find about the wall was that it was only a few feet away, implying that the majority of the room, which would hopefully contain water and food and maybe even a phone, was to be found on the other side.

The right side of Stiles was so disappointing he almost vomited. He couldn’t believe he had gone through the now quite nauseating sensation of turning his head for this. The closeness of the walls made Stiles feel trapped. He jerked his head back to stare at the ceiling and took deep breaths until the pain in his head subsided to a bearable ache and he felt courageous enough to look in front of him. He had already reached his hands back and run into rough wall, so he knew that in front of him was the last place he could look, the final direction, the deciding factor in just how small this dank and depressing room was. He took a breath and looked.

“Oh thank god,” Stiles croaked. The wall in front of him was easily another six, maybe even eight feet past his shoes. Stiles was so delighted to find he was not trapped in a near coffin sized room that it took him a few minutes to finish celebrating before he noticed the door. Fueled by the euphoria of discovering a possible exit, Stiles shoved himself to standing and lurched towards the filthy, dark brown little square of heaven. He moved quickly, ignoring the sharp pain this sent through his skull; uncaring of the roiling protest his stomach was making. Stiles stumbled triumphantly towards the door and grasped the handle. It creaked in his hand as he twisted it, pulling and pushing and rattling and shoving and swearing, rage building in him as the door refused to open.

A sob rose in Stiles’s throat, bringing with it the contents of his stomach, pouring out and over the dirt floor in front of the door. He felt utterly betrayed by the door. By the time Stiles was able to calm himself down enough to recognize he was sitting and sobbing in a pile of his own sick, his tears had dried and the vomit had grown tacky. When a final glance around the tiny, bare room revealed no hidden treasures, Stiles picked himself up and walked back to the other side of the room, reassuring himself that much as the door seemed to have betrayed him now, it really was a godsend.

“A door means someone wants to be able to come in,” Stiles muttered to himself, lying down and curling in on himself. “A door means someone is coming back. Someone who might have water and food and clean clothes.”

Stiles repeated this mantra to himself until he fell into an uneasy sleep.

 

The son of the incumbent President being kidnapped was not an incident that could be kept quiet for long and within twenty-four hours, every news station was presenting their version of events. Various nefarious organisations that could be responsible for this attack on the nation were named, though no evidence for the accusations was offered. Derek frowned at his television, easily able to imagine the chaos at Argent Security in the wake of such a disaster. It gave him no pleasure to think of his former employers having to deal with this sort of high-profile incident. He held no resentment for Argent Security. The nature of the rumours circulating meant that there was no way Chris Argent could have turned a blind ear to them, and he had allowed Derek to leave with dignity, grace, and enough respectability that Derek had been able to turn his skills to work as the night security at museums and office blocks.

 

A glance at the clock told Derek he only had a few minutes to spare before he needed to get ready for work, but he turned up the volume on the anchor’s passionate speech about the President’s presumed suffering, and fished around for his mobile. It was strange to think how easily this story could have been his problem, could have taken over his life, and he felt an unexpected need to check in on Scott.

“Scott, it’s Derek,” Derek said shortly.

“Derek!” Scott said, sounding surprised and stressed, but with definite notes of pleasure coloring his voice. “I take it you’ve heard?”

“Hard not to,” Derek said. “I imagine it’s pandemonium over there?”

“Yeah,” Scott said. He let out a shuddering sigh. “Derek, I screwed up. I lost my primary. The frickin’ President of the United States’ son has gone missing on my watch. I knew I wasn’t ready for this assignment.”

“Scott, calm down,” Derek said. “Have you been fired?”

“What? No,” Scott said, sounding confused.

“If this was your fault, Chris Argent would have fired you,” Derek said reasonably. He glanced at the clock. If he talked to Scott any longer, he was going to be late, but keeping drunk strangers from trying to piss in the shark tank seemed significantly less important than finding out what was happening with the President’s son. With Stiles. “Tell me what happened.”

Since his resignation, Derek had found himself falling out of the world of the Argents that had taken over his life in the eight long years he had worked with them. The security business, particularly working close protection for high-risk clients, was a consuming one. The intense hours and the confidential nature of the work led most people to living a somewhat insular life. Derek’s off-hours were spent mostly sleeping or drinking with his colleagues. Beyond his monthly visits to reconnect with his family and pack, Derek rarely talked to people outside of work the whole time he was with them.

Perhaps it was inevitable that when he fell out of that world, his social connections would be slowly severed, but Derek knew that wasn’t quite true. Most of the people he worked with were little more than acquaintances, connections forged in high-pressure situations; he never let it lead to more intimate friendships. There were at most half-a-dozen people he could have stayed close to, had he been willing to put the effort in, but when Derek quit, he desperately wanted to cut all connections to that part of his life. What he hadn’t accounted for was Scott.

“Stiles had his interview for readmission,” Scott said. “We were assured it would take no more than half-an-hour, we know the Dean, we’ve worked with him before to ensure Stiles’s safety on campus. We checked out his secretary, the building, everything. The university was happy to have us drive right up to the building, and Stiles was really excited about the interview, totally calm, not a hint of trouble about him. We discussed it with Dean Finstock and Mr Argent, and everyone agreed it could be done with just me on close and Isaac driving. It should have been fine.”

It was slightly surreal to hear Scott outline the plan for Stiles’s safety, and not simply because it was reminiscent of the sort of close protection Derek had done in the past. He worked, briefly, as part of Stiles’s team of bodyguards; this used to be his territory and yet there was something unfamiliar about the types of concerns Scott and Chris Argent prepared for.

“No trouble?” Derek asked. “Have there been threats?”

“No, nothing like that,” Scott said. “Just the usual. But this interview wasn’t raising any flags, Stiles wanted to go and he hasn’t been restless lately, so it really wasn’t likely he was going to try and give us the slip.”

Derek frowned. Scott hadn’t become part of Stiles’s security detail until after Derek left, and they hadn’t discussed the work much in the meantime. He couldn’t believe that Stiles would have changed that much in the last four years. Whenever Scott mentioned Stiles, he was relaying a joke only Stiles’s strange sense of humour could have cooked up, or a piece of trivia Stiles found it desperately important everyone know. Not once had Scott said anything about Stiles trying to escape his security team. Nothing to suggest that such behaviour was considered a standard part of having Stiles as a primary.

“Stiles is a flight risk?” Derek asked, confused.

“What? Yeah,” Scott said. “A big one. I thought you used to work close with him?”

 

“I did,” Derek said. “For about a month, just after Stilinski was elected.”

“And he wasn’t a runner then?”

“No,” Derek said slowly. “I think he used to try and sneak off to visit girlfriends in high school, and he got a bit twitchy if he was inside for too long, but nothing out of the ordinary for an eighteen-year-old. Certainly no behaviour we had to account for when planning outings.”

If anything, Stiles had been almost overly comfortable with having security around him. Derek had chalked it up to the way he lost his mother, but Stiles was almost clingy with his protective detail. He disliked it when Derek chose to walk around the perimeter, or even sit at a different table at a coffee shop. The hardest part of Derek’s job had been trying not to get distracted by Stiles’s rambling, keeping a keen eye on the surroundings rather than following Stiles’s hands as he tried to explain gesturally how important it was that Derek listen to a particular band or how Marx’s theory on capitalism had been flawed. He found it hard to believe Stiles could have changed so much in four years.

“Huh,” Scott said. “I wonder if it’s because you’re not as standoffish as the other people in his teams.”

Derek hummed vaguely, not sure how to respond to this comment. No one had ever suggested Derek was less standoffish than other people. Of course, there were few people outside of his pack Derek respected or liked as much as Scott, so perhaps Scott’s view was slightly skewed.

“I know he’s never as bad with me as when Mahealani is on close, and that guy’s a way better bodyguard than I am,” Scott continued. “But look, I know Stiles, and he was not looking to run. There was no way he would have wandered off, which means he was taken outside of the Dean’s office. Derek, the whole investigation is being pursued with the wrong point of origin.”

“Argent’s thinking Stiles left of his own free will before he was taken?” Derek confirmed.

“Yeah,” Scott said, his voice losing the earlier urgency in the face of Derek’s calm acceptance.

A cold wave of fear crossed over Derek as he realized the implications. If Argent was presuming Stiles had been taken after wandering off, he was going to be drawing from the wrong pool of suspects. Being taken outside the Dean’s office implied a deliberately planned kidnapping by people who knew Stiles’s schedule, not simply someone with a vendetta taking advantage of an unexpected opportunity. Those crucial first twenty-four hours had already been wasted, and as time passed, the window for following any sort of trail was closing fast.

“I’m coming in,” Derek said.

 

When Stiles woke again, he was feeling much calmer. The situation he was in was far from ideal, but it was by no means hopeless. For a start, the smell of vomit was no longer permeating the room. He wasn’t sure if it had actually dissipated at all or if he had merely grown used to the scent, but he quite frankly didn’t care. Though still aching, Stiles’s head was also feeling better, his stomach calm and the groggy feeling of a bad hangover mostly gone, so Stiles presumed whatever they had drugged him with had cleared his system.

The room still felt too small, too closed in, the lack of windows and the unmoving quality of the door more obvious now. Stiles stood slowly and walked around the edges of the room, pressing his hands against the walls to reassure himself of the firmness, their immovability. Muscle memory of the deep breathing exercises taught to him when he was younger, just after his mother had died and he would have panic attacks every time his father left the room, came back to Stiles and by the third loop around the room he felt confident the walls weren’t about to close in on him. The more relaxed he grew, though, the more he felt the pressing call of nature and he discretely relieved himself in the corner near the door, feeling a perverse sense of satisfaction that his kidnappers would have to step through a puddle of piss and vomit when they came to collect him.

“How do you like that, you fuckers,” Stiles muttered to himself, managing a small pleased grin before he headed back to the other side of the room.

Growing up, Stiles had always been a resourceful child. At five, he had become preoccupied with knowing what was on the top of his house and not two weeks later, with the aid of an unguarded ladder, he had his answer. At nine, Stiles was locked out of his house for a few hours and subsequently dedicated two months to devising eighteen strategies for breaking into and out of his house, allowing him entrance and exit from any room, even if all or any of the others were barred to him by fire or locked doors. Two weeks later and he had twenty-three strategies and was able to unlock a variety of doors, given time and a decent paperclip.

After losing his mother, Stiles’s planning had taken a more realistic and morbid turn. He knew precisely what would happen if his father were injured or killed. Extensive drought, flooding, forest fires, tornados, meteorites, civil war and terrestrial invasion were all accounted for in emergency bags Stiles left in the house, car, and his homeroom at school. Though his father longed for Stiles to be able to experience a normal childhood, he was also more than happy to pay for the lessons Stiles demanded in order to defend himself in an attack, or how to survive an assassination or kidnapping attempt.

This tendency to obsessively map out possible crises as they occurred to him had largely left Stiles by the time he was in university, where he instead focused his energies on living in the moment, but the ability to separate out emotions and consider survival strategies was not lost to him.

“No phone,” Stiles said, settling down and emptying his pockets. He looked carefully around the ceiling. “No sign of video or audio devices. Walls and floor seem thick, but ceiling looks like it’s just the bottom of the first floor.”

Stiles took a deep breath and screamed as loudly as he could. It wasn’t terribly likely that he had been stashed below the floor of upstanding law-abiding citizens, but there was no point in wasting away down here when rescue was only a few feet above him because of some stupid likelihood. And even if it was his kidnappers living above him, better that they come down to ask him to shut up and give Stiles a chance to start forming his escape plan.

“No food or tools,” Stiles said, looking at his sad assortment of scraps of paper, small bits of tissue, an impressive-looking ball of lint, and one old condom he had forgotten was tucked in the small inner pocket of his pants. He frowned at the condom for a long time before conceding that he could think of no use for it in the near future and tucked his limited bounty carefully back into his pockets. “No liquids, either.”

Stiles sat for a long time, thinking deeply. It was unlikely that he had been missing for much more than twenty-four hours. Possibly less, Stiles reasoned, based on the fact that he had only peed once, and not that desperately. His belt, shoes and hoodie had all been taken from him, presumably so he could not attack his assailants or run away easily. A brief pat down of himself revealed nothing worse than bruises and scrapes, suggesting he was unlikely to be in physical danger in the imminent future. The most likely scenario was that he had been kidnapped to either get money from his father, or to force his hand in some political endeavour, neither of which required anything of him from his kidnappers. Despite his situation, Stiles wasn’t really in any imminent danger. The odds were that the demands would be given in to, or the Argents would track him down before a lack of compliance might encourage his keepers into hurting Stiles to prove they were serious.

All Stiles needed to do was wait until someone brought him food and water, and make plans once he got the measure of his keepers.

After what felt like several hours of staring aimlessly at the dull grey walls of the room, Stiles’s boredom was broken by another call of nature. He wandered back over to the corner near the door and pulled down his pants, squatting, and suddenly his peaceful detached attitude was broken. He was crouching in damp piss and vomit soaked dirt, taking a dump and god he had been naive.

A sob swelled in his throat as Stiles realized his mistake. He had been assuming that because he was alive, whoever it was that had taken him had wanted Stiles to stay that way. Surely if someone had wanted him dead a more logical solution would have been to put a bullet through his brain. But that wasn’t really the case. Locking him in a cellar room, tucked away in a long disused pantry, and leaving him to starve was actually a far more clever plan. Shootings were noisy and messy and far easier to trace and harder to cover up. If his assailants were somehow caught for kidnapping, it would prove nearly impossible to pin anything beyond abduction onto them. And if they weren’t caught, it would be simple enough to dump his uninjured body into the preserve near home and make it look like he had just slipped his bodyguards and snuck off to go meet someone in the woods and got lost. And shit, wasn’t that just the the icing on the cake. It was so fucking believable that President’s fuckup of a son would be stupid enough to get himself killed.

Shuddering and crying and gasping for air, Stiles finished his business and felt his stomach twist as he remembered how proud he had been to cover the floor in urine because he assumed someone was coming for him. How proud he had been showing up without warning at a Were-rights rallies before three people had to be rushed to hospital in the chaos that followed. How proud he had been the first time he had slipped his protection team. Stiles returned to the far corner and sat down, staring unseeing at the drab walls, berating himself and wishing desperately there was some way to tell his dad he was sorry.

 

Stiles had been missing for nearly thirty-six hours by the time Derek had caught up with the case. Thirty-six hours and no ransom, no demands, no contact at all from the kidnappers. President Stilinski had given a speech imploring the kidnappers not to hurt Stiles, assuring them their demands would be heard and every consideration would be given to their needs if they returned Stiles unharmed. It was playing on a near constant loop across the channels, interspersed with commentaries from reporters espousing Stiles’s innate goodness and innocence despite his sometimes reckless party lifestyle, and oozing with sympathy for the clearly stressed out President who was just a few days ago working on his campaign for the upcoming election.

Derek scowled at the television, about to snap at Scott to turn it off when something the newscaster was saying caught his attention.

“...some have argued that it was only a matter of time before such a tragedy occurred. It might seem easy to blame Argent Security for failing to perform their duties, but ex-members of the First Son’s security detail have anonymously and almost unanimously come forth to defend the agency. One such member has been quoted saying, “It’s unreasonable to expect a close protection team to keep their charge safe when the charge won’t work with them.” Another adds that, “Working with the young Mr Stilinski tears your focus. Keeping him safe means spending half the time looking out for external threats, and half the time trying to keep Mr Stilinski safe from himself.” All are quick to make it clear that they have nothing personally against Mr Stilinski, but that the young man’s charms do not make working in his security team any less impossible. We turn now to Olivia Pope for updates on…”

Derek muted the television and turned thoughtfully to Scott.

“You said earlier that Stiles is a known flight risk,” Derek said, turning over the snippets of information he had gleaned over the last few hours, realising they formed a somewhat startling whole. A new image of Stiles was forming in his mind. “But that’s not the entire story, is it? He’s not just sneaking off for a bit of privacy, it’s not just about proving his independence or wanting to keep who he’s sleeping with secret.”

“No,” Scott said, shaking his head. “I can’t believe you don’t know any of it. There’s pictures of Stiles in the papers nearly every other day.”

Derek frowned. It was hard to reconcile this with the Stiles he knew. Admittedly before he was eighteen there were contracts signed that Stiles was only to be photographed at official events, ribbon cuttings and campaign functions and the like. But Stiles had given no indication he wanted to be a more public figure, even after he turned eighteen. His behaviour was never outlandish, not when they were able to be seen, and if Stiles was seeing anyone he was doing it very discreetly. On the odd occasion an opportunistic photographer did manage to find them, Stiles tended to move closer to Derek, tucking himself behind Derek as best he could.

“Some of it’s just the usual gossip about where Stiles is eating and who he’s got an arm draped over, and there’s always footage after an opening or a charity function,” Scott added quickly. “And even when Stiles’s more wild stuff gets out, there’s usually a sort of positive spin put on it. Youthful spirits and letting off steam sort of stuff. The public loves Stiles.”

It was strangely disappointing to Derek that Stiles had become such a big figure in the media. It didn’t matter in the slightest to Derek if Stiles was enjoying the attention his father’s position brought him, even if the eighteen-year-old Derek had known was still quite nervous about it all. Now that Derek wasn’t responsible for the young man, his perspective on Stiles’s behaviour had shifted, it was true. When he thought about paparazzi following Stiles, it was Stiles’s much treasured privacy being invaded that Derek considered, rather than the possible threat they presented to his primary’s safety. Although why, Derek couldn’t fathom. Any consideration for Stiles should have been no more than a passing thought, he was nothing more to Derek than a friend’s charge, someone Derek had not seen nor spoken to in nearly four years. Certainly not someone who Derek held in enough esteem to feel let down when he heard that Stiles was seeking the sort of attention Derek eschewed at all costs.

“So his habits and whereabouts are widely known?” Derek asked, trying to dismiss his personal feelings on the matter and turn his attention wholly to how this information could help them find Stiles.

Scott shrugged. “He doesn’t really keep any sort of a routine or keep any regular habits. His readmissions interview was kept out of the media, though.”

“You were concerned about a potential attack?” Derek said.

“No, nothing like that.” Scott gave a frustrated sigh. “Stiles just didn’t want to tell anyone until the readministration process was over. He was safe! He doesn’t get any threats that need to be taken seriously. His dad makes him keep out of the politics enough that radical groups don’t tend to bother him and he doesn’t make personal enemies. People like him.”

Hearing the president referred to as someone’s dad felt very strange to Derek, turning the powerful man seeking a peaceful resolution with an unknown attacker into a father desperately concerned for his son. There was no time to dwell on it, though, so Derek simply filed the odd thought away. “What about ex-girlfriends?”

Scott shook his head. “Stiles doesn’t really date, there’s never really one girlfriend or boyfriend. He flirts a lot, and there’s a couple of people he’s slept with on and off, but he doesn’t really do relationships.”

Again, Derek didn’t allow himself to consider the slightly surprising mention of a possible boyfriend, beyond it’s implication on the issue at hand. “Stiles is openly bisexual?” Derek confirmed. Scott nodded. “And has he received any backlash for it? Any groups particularly upset by it.”

“There was a bit of fuss when a photo was released of Stiles kissing a guy, but PR got on it right away and the press was mostly positive,” Scott said. “He’s careful not to be too out there in public, and there is a somewhat steady stream of hate mail, but nothing concerning. To be honest, he caused more of a stir when he publicly supported a friend’s relationship with a Were.”

“A human friend?” Derek said. Human/Were relationships weren’t unheard of, but they rarely received any social or legal support. Generally such relationships were regarded as unnecessarily risky, and the Were partner was often looked down upon for not considering the safety of their loved one. Some people thought humans had to be a bit kinky to want a relationship with a Were, and a mixed relationship could lead to problems finding employment, getting loans, and if the Were was not part of a pack, they could even have their children taken away. President Stilinski was doing a lot to try and reform the legal side of things, but the social stigma was proving much harder to shift. Public support of inter-species relationships could cause as much trouble as being in one if it wasn’t handled correctly.

“Yeah,” Scott said. “And old friend from school he kept in contact with. They’re petitioning for a marriage licence and Stiles did a bit of work to get a lot of public support so it won’t be rejected.”

“And this has caused trouble?” Derek said.

“About what you would expect,” Scott said. “Hang on, I think Allison’s following up that side of things, I’ll call her in. She can catch you up on Stiles’s last cell-phone transmissions, too, not that it gets us anywhere.”

Derek tensed slightly, but said nothing as Scott left the room. It had taken Derek nearly six weeks of working side-by-side with Scott, day in and day out protecting the Vice President’s wife and their three children before Derek reached a point where he trusted Scott completely. He had a feeling that Scott reached that point within a few hours of introduction. It made Derek hesitant to reveal his very unauthorized and probably quite illegal presence in the investigation to a person he was only tangentially familiar with. Particularly as Scott’s very obvious crush on Allison would be clouding his judgement quite severely. But Derek genuinely trusted Scott, with both his life and his freedom and as such he was going to have to force himself to trust Allison too.

During the few minutes it took Scott to track down Allison, Derek tried to slot this new information into the broader and more complicated picture of Stiles’s life he was forming. Unless Scott’s penchant for optimism had steered him incredibly wrong, Stiles’s new life in the limelight was not cause for undue concern. Argent Security had a thorough and reliable process for detecting threats in all of their client’s incoming mail, both the old-fashioned kind and electronic. If anything threw up red flags, or even orange flags, it would have been part of the briefing report Scott had procured for him. There was no way this attack could have been predicted, particularly in light of the worrying lack of ransom demands. He shook his head to clear it as Scott came back, ushering an attractive young brunette in before him.

“Derek, this is Allison, I think you two have met before,” Scott said. Allison and Derek exchanged a curt nod, and Derek could tell from her expression her knowledge of him came solely from Scott, though she was familiar enough Derek presumed they had crossed paths a few times in the past.

“Mm,” Allison said noncommittally.

“Scott says you’ve been following the anti-human/Were relationship angle?” Derek prompted.

“What little angle there is,” Allison said with a sigh.

“Stiles is a huge public figure openly supporting a human/Were relationship, surely that’s caused some uproar somewhere?” Derek said.

“To be honest, I don’t know how seriously he was taken,” Allison said, giving Scott an apologetic look. “Everyone knows Stiles is a bit… different. A bit out there. He’s the life of the party, the President’s wild but likable son. He’s not a spokesperson for rights groups. He’s not changing minds. 40% of the people supporting this marriage application are already pro-human/Were relationships, 20% see Lydia and Jackson’s relationship as a once-in-a-lifetime, fairytale, beating all of the odds. The rest are just glad this puts Lydia out of the running to become Mrs Stilinski.”

“No one’s angry?” Derek asked, confused and once more seized by an odd sense of disappointment.

“I didn’t say that,” Allison said. “It’s upset people, and there’s been hatemail and retorts, but not full-scale fury, like you would expect if it was being taken seriously. It’s like people are willing to indulge Stiles’s desire to follow the fashion of young people to pick some crazy liberal cause to support, but that doesn’t mean they think he’s right.”

“Stiles isn’t doing it for fashion,” Scott said, more furiously than Derek had supposed he could be at Allison. “He really cares about Lydia and wants her to be happy.”

I know that,” Allison said, running a soothing hand down Scott’s arm. “But the media doesn’t, and if the media doesn’t, then the rest of America won’t either. It’s my professional opinion that anti-mixed relationship groups are unlikely to have been behind this attack and our energies are better spent focusing on something else.”

“What would you recommend?” Derek asked. Allison sagged and Derek was struck by the difference. She seemed to have dropped her professional persona, and now the dark shadows beneath her eyes and her creased brow stood out as they hadn’t before. Gone was the easily self-assurance, the core of steely determination Derek instinctively recognized as Argent, leaving behind nothing more than Allison, friend of Scott and Stiles. If Derek was going to save Stiles, he needed to stop thinking of her as Agent Argent: woman on a mission to find the First Son, motives unknown. She was Allison, Scott’s friend and one of the few links Derek had to Stiles.

“That’s just it,” Allison said. “All of the other avenues are being explored and there’s nothing, nothing. The only likely reason someone would take Stiles is for his connection to the President, and the longer a ransom demand doesn’t come through…”

Allison trailed off, and when Derek glanced at Scott’s stricken face, he could understand her reluctance to put it into words. But the facts were the facts, and if no word was heard from the kidnappers in the next few hours, the odds that Stiles would not be returned alive rose astronomically.

Chapter Text

President Stilinski couldn’t tear his eyes away from the screen, even as his stomach twisted at what he was seeing. Relief at the sight of his son alive warred with horror at having to witness masked assailants hitting him. They stuck again and again with fists and feet, creating the sickening sound of skin slapping bloodied skin. That was all that could be heard, until right at the end of the video, when Stiles slurred out two words, the noise almost lost under the crunch of a fist hitting his nose.

“And there were no demands? No explanation? No communication of any kind?” President Stilinski asked, restarting the video again, hating himself for not being able to do more.

“No sir,” Chris replied, lifting his hand slightly as he instinctively went to lay a hand of comfort on Stilinski’s shoulder, almost forgetting that this man was not just a father, but his president and most important client. He crossed his arms behind his back as he reminded himself he had no place to be giving sympathy anyway; it was under his security people’s watch that Stiles had been taken.

Stilinski nodded slowly before tearing himself away from the video to look at Chris. “Stiles said…” Stilinski frowned. “I know that name. It’s one of your men, one of the men from Stiles’s first personal detail, assigned right after the election.”

“Yes, sir,” Chris said, stomach sinking. Professional fuck-ups in the business he was in were always serious and were something that Chris learned to deal with a long time ago. But this? Staring into the shattered face of a man whose son he felt he was responsible for losing and allowing to be taped being violently assaulted, with nothing more to say than ‘yes, sir’ and ‘no, sir’ was not something Gerard had taught him to cope with.

Chris straightened. He could not allow himself to get lost in self-recrimination. Whatever mistakes had been made, whatever trust had been misplaced could not be changed now. All he could do was deal with the aftermath and hope he hadn’t doomed Stilinski’s son.

President Stilinski’s lips thinned briefly. “Bring him to me.”

 

From the very first time John Stilinski had picked up a gun, he had to accept that his career might one day put his family in danger. This fact may have been easier to deal with as John had been all of twenty-two at the time and his family no more than a portion of his wages put aside and a wedding ring left to him by his grandmother, but John took the theoretical responsibility very seriously. Holding his gun firmly, John had told himself that he was doing essential work in keeping the world a safe place for his hypothetical family to live in. Standing in the gun range, surrounded by twenty other recruits, John vowed to himself that his job must always bring more good to his family and their lives than harm.

His work had not been easy, and danger seemed to follow them all through his rise in the ranks of the local police department, his courtship with Claudia, compounding their struggles in raising Stiles. Later, they had moved north when he received a position in the police sector of the Federal Department of Were Affairs, bringing Claudia and Stiles in contact with Weres once considered rogue or feral. Yet through it all, John never felt he had failed to uphold his vow. When John transitioned into politics, Claudia had teased him that the move came as a surprise to no one but himself, but it wasn’t as simple as that. It was a fairly logical move, but he had resisted it for a long time, unable to determine if he could meet the conditions of his promise. It was easier to see how much safer he was making the world when his job had him arresting dangerous persons, finding missing persons and rescuing victims. Engaging in debates and trying to pass bills seemed a lot harder to weigh up against the danger being a public figure would bring.

The good he was doing in his work with the Weres made it feasible to explain to himself how it was making the world better, even as it brought Claudia and Stiles directly into part of his job as they had never been before. John knew, in the very core of his being, that what was happening within the FDWA, and by extension to Weres across the country, was almost unfathomably wrong and something had to be done to change it. It was harder to quantify, but John knew the changes would not only make life better for Weres, it would also make the world a better and safer place for Claudia and Stiles. The exposure and likely backlash he would receive in his new role as a politician did not, to John’s mind, outweigh the good he could do.

Losing Claudia as a direct result of his work had devastated John. For weeks he had considered giving up the whole endeavour, taking Stiles and burying themselves somewhere cut off from the rest of the world. Yet in the end John’s vow had come back to him, and he found he could look in his son’s teary, lost eyes and still know that he had not broken it. Claudia’s death was an absolute tragedy, but if anything it was a sign that the world was still not right.

Even after Stiles had been kidnapped, John still knew deep down it was because he had not yet done enough to better the world. Much as he had railed against himself and cursed his job when he first heard of Stiles’s disappearance, and again when he watched the tape, he knew he had not broken his promise. The good he was doing to create the world he wanted Stiles to live in still greatly outweighed the potential for harm. In this, he remained unshakeable, right up until the third time John watched the footage of Stiles being beaten and at last the slurring sounds Stiles were intelligible to him. Hearing those words out of Stiles’s mouth had, for the first time, caused John to question if what he was doing was even the right thing. For what could it mean that Stiles let slip the name of a supposedly up-standing Were like Derek Hale as he was being beaten to a pulp?

 

When Stiles was a junior in high school, there had been a brief period of time when a senior had decided to take offense to Stiles’s inability to pick a side to bat for. Or possibly the senior was just upset his ex-girlfriend had hooked up with a known fag, Stiles had never been totally sure on which. The senior thought the best way to deal with the situation was to take every opportunity to push Stiles around, shoving him into lockers, tripping him and keeping up a steady supply of crude and frequently confusing insults. Mostly, Stiles could handle this treatment, giving back as good as he got and trying not to let it get to him. Then one Tuesday afternoon he happened to find himself alone in the toilets and in this moment of vulnerability, the senior had struck. Stiles sustained no significant or lasting physical damage from this attack, but the memory of lying in the small room, trying desperately to protect his more vital organs from the onslaught of kicks and punches raining down on him kept Stiles up at night for months afterwards. The combination of complete powerlessness and more pain than he had ever felt in his life overwhelmed Stiles, leaving him shaken and lost. In the years that followed, Stiles did everything in his power to keep from ever ending up in that sort of a situation again.

At first, it had seemed a bit redundant to Stiles to be obedient while his kidnappers were beating him senseless. Figuring that he was already being punished, he ignored their instructions and struggled and screamed as the fists and feet landed on his body. Stiles genuinely thought he had experienced the absolute worst life had to offer, until the moment one of the masked people pulled out a six-inch blade and dragged it softly, almost lovingly down his cheek. It was almost dizzying to realize just how very, very wrong he was. Fear rendered him utterly motionless, not even able to flinch away as his shirt was lifted. Stiles thought he had blacked out from terror when the knife was pressed into his skin and drew a searing line across his belly, and fainting seemed almost like wishful thinking. He swallowed a moan when the noise that had escaped him caused the knife to be pushed in deeper.

“You ready to do it properly?” the other masked assailant asked. Stiles nodded weakly and, nearly five years after it first appeared, Stiles lived out his nightmare. He stood, restrained and silent as the two faceless people tore into him, utterly helpless, unable to move, unable to speak, unable to do anything but take it, the shallow cut under his shirt burning and stinging its reminder that he was at their mercy and completely powerless.

Stiles was limp and unresisting once they had finally finished, untying him and dragging him back to the small room he had come from. Once Stiles realized what was happening, he struggled weakly, murmuring protests, desperate not to be thrown back in there to die.

“Calm down,” one of the masks grunted, and Stiles had to resist the urge to laugh, feeling slightly hysterical at the absurdity of the situation.

Too weak to fight, Stiles was shoved easily through the door, two bottles thrown in after him before it was shut and locked once more. Panic gave Stiles enough energy to throw himself at the door, pounding on it and shouting, but no answer came and once the surge of adrenaline wore off, he slid back down to the ground, heedless of the filthy mess on the floor, and crawled over to investigate the bottles that had been thrown in after him.

One bottle held a clear liquid that, when he cracked it open, had no scent and Stiles was thirsty enough to drink, unable to care if it proved to be full of strange and exotic poisons. He drank the entirety in one go, even though somewhere in the back of his mind he knew that after this long without water it would more than likely end up being thrown up again once he finished, and maybe he should ration some of it to clean the cut on his belly. It was hard to care about such things when he was so thirsty and the panicked part of his brain was telling him to drink up, they might not give you more, they might take this lot away.

The second bottle held an opaque orangey-red liquid, with what looked like chunks of vegetable, meat and pasta floating around it it. He dipped his finger in it and sniffed, satisfied it smelled enough like tomato, salt and herbs to most likely be soup. Once more Stiles failed to summon the strength to worry about being drugged and took a mouthful. Despite his hunger, Stiles’s stomach turned and he frantically replaced the lid before turning to his waste pile and heaving, wanting to cry from the sight of his precious water being ejected by his body, and the pain the tore through him in protest of sore muscles being wrenched, and his sliced belly being pulled.

Stiles contemplated his situation briefly, before tears rose once more and he stumbled back into a cleaner corner of the room, and curled up. The endless stretches of pain groaning across his body provided a welcome distraction from his self-flagellating thoughts, and he let himself get lost in the pain, floating along wave after wave of it, until at last sleep claimed him.

 

“You can’t seriously tell me that no one, not one single person on this rather extensive list of people Stiles has slept with, is upset with Stiles?” Derek said incredulously, staring down at the names as though he could will one of them to be angry through the power of his glare.

“They’re not,” Scott said, shrugging and for a moment Derek was rather jealous that apparently Scott didn’t default to angry when he was stressed and exhausted and under pressure from every direction. Scott didn’t even seem to be angry with himself, and it wasn’t that Derek thought Scott was to blame for Stiles’s abduction, but he knew that Scott held a lot of guilt over it. It was impossible to see how he could remain so calm.

“And it’s not that many people,” Allison said, rolling her eyes, her hand shaking just enough to let Derek know the latest batch of caffeine had hit her. “He’s twenty-two, he’s single, he’s safe, and he’s not leaving behind a string of broken hearts, there’s no reason to be so judgemental.”

“I just find it hard to believe that he hasn’t even caused one broken heart,” Derek growled.

At thirteen, Derek’s mother sat him down and given him the birds and the bees talk. And then at fifteen she’d given him the amended version which included explanations about how werewolves and humans tended to see sex and relationships differently and humans were sometimes more casual about it, and more promiscuous. At seventeen Derek had wished his mother could have taken him aside and explained why even his very werewolfy sisters seemed to be wanting to have a lot more sex than he did, and didn’t mind the thought of sleeping with someone they had no intention of being in a long-term relationship as much as he did. So Derek knew that some people simply enjoyed casual sex and some people weren’t quite as interested in monogamy or keeping all aspects of sex private, particularly when they were younger, but that didn’t stop Derek from finding himself unexpectedly upset when confronted by a list of all of the people Stiles had slept with, written out in Scott’s messy handwriting.

“Stiles isn’t just picking up strangers and dragging them off to a bathroom,” Scott said, his cheeks pinking slightly, though whether in anger or embarrassment Derek couldn’t tell. “He only sleeps with people he knows, people he likes, people he knows aren’t looking for more from him.”

It wasn’t that Derek didn’t like sex, or want sex, but it was this more that he couldn’t separate from sex. He had slept with someone in the past, knowing deep down he wasn’t going to get this elusive more from them, and he didn’t even want it from them anyway. It was a complicated relationship, twisted up in his unwillingness to jeopardize his job, but after sleeping with them, Derek always felt slightly ill. Slightly hollow.

“And no one has ever wanted to sleep with Stiles to get something from him? Money or power or fame?” Derek asked.

“Well yeah,” Scott said. “But he didn’t sleep with any of them.”

Allison sighed. “Look, Derek, Stiles likes sex. Which is perfectly healthy. He enjoys it, so he has it, but he’s not reckless about it.”

Derek frowned. “You’re not even on Stiles’s team, how do you know so much about the guy’s sex life?”

“When the President’s son is doing anything that could lead to the creation of a baby, Argent Security has an unofficial system for keeping an eye on it,” Allison said. She gave Derek a soft look. “Derek, I have been through everything on this angle, I don’t think this is how we’re going to find him.”

Derek held Allison’s eye for a long assessing moment before dropping it and giving a reluctant nod. He shoved a hand through his hair, wracking his brain, trying to force new insight into a case that had managed to take over every space for thought in his mind. Even though Derek trusted Allison, agreed with her that following the jilted lover line of thought wasn’t getting them anywhere, Derek’s eyes kept being dragged back to the list. There weren’t that many people, in the grand scheme of things, Derek could admit. Certainly few enough that he believed Allison when she said she had finished double checking their psychological profiles less than two hours after he asked her to look into it, but it still baffled him.

At seventeen, Derek’s mother might not have sat him down to explain why his sisters had different sexual habits and desires than himself, but after Derek had found himself irrationally upset by Laura sleeping her way through one of the football teams at college, and not because he thought the linebacker was dreamy thank you very much, his father had sat him down for a chat. Firstly, his father had pointed out, sleeping with three different people on the one football team over four years was not Laura ‘sleeping her way through the football team’. Secondly, Jason-the-linebacker wanted to move to Iceland and with much love and tact, his father had brought up Derek’s hatred of cold weather. And then Derek’s father had taken a deep drink of his whisky, and placed a hand on Derek’s shoulder, giving him an affectionate but cautious look before explaining that some werewolves longed to be accepted by humans, and sometimes they thought that it was worth adopting some human attitudes and customs in place of more tradition Were ones. Derek had felt strangely hurt by this, hating the idea that in order for the humans to accept him, he had to pretend to be human, giving up parts of himself as he went.

“What if we’ve been looking at this the wrong way,” Derek said slowly, unwilling to look up in case this half-sparked idea fluttered out before it could catch fire. The room went silent and Derek had a feeling Allison and Scott had been talking, but he didn’t care. “What if it’s not humans upset with President Stilinski’s reforms that are the issue here?”

“You think it’s Weres behind this?” Allison asked, sounding unsure.

“Not all Weres are happy with Stilinski,” Derek said, lifting his head and giving Allison an almost manic look. “There’s at least one group I know of who don’t think Weres should be bowing to human laws, should be fitting in with human culture.”

“You think it’s supremacists?” Scott said. His voice shook slightly and Derek saw his eyes fill with fear.

“Not necessarily,” Derek said, as reassuringly as he could. “It could just be separatists, or even Weres who were happy with things the way they were.”

“But the laws are oppressing Weres, why wouldn’t they want that to change?” Scott said, frowning. Derek shrugged.

“Different reasons. The laws as they stand now leave a lot of things up to pack leaders, which is problematic for omegas, rogue alphas or even just Weres with a cruel alpha,” Derek said.

Scott’s eyes widened slightly. Though it was fairly well known Derek was a werewolf, he rarely referred to it directly and tried not to talk about pack affairs. It wasn’t that he didn’t trust humans, or thought pack business was not something humans should know about, Derek just hated talking about anything personal, particularly about his family and any mention of packs would inevitably devolve into Derek being asked dozens of invasive questions about what it was like to be a Were. “But not all Weres are in this position, so you have some Weres who enjoy the legal leeway they get, some who think humans can’t possibly understand enough about pack-life to be trusted with legislating what is permissible in this country, and some who are worried about losing their power.”

“We have some information on disgruntled Weres,” Allison said, furrowing her eyebrows. “But not a lot. And certainly nothing about which packs are against the current changes President Stilinski is trying to get through.”

“I can contact my pack, see what they know,” Derek said. “If you two can get a list of who’s been in the area lately-”

There was a knock on the door and Derek froze. They had been using an out of the way, disused office and there was no reason for anyone to be coming down to this part of the building. Derek contemplated trying to hide, but there was no room in the office and the door was opening.

“Derek.” Chris Argent stood in the doorway, looking somber.

“Sir?” Derek asked hesitantly.

“Dad, I can explain,” Allison jumped in, but Chris shook his head.

“The President wishes to see you in his office,” Chris said. “Agent McCall, Agent Argent, you are both being placed on a temporary probation, pending investigation. You will report to my office immediately, and be working on finding Mr Stilinski under the direct supervision of your team leaders. Dismissed.”

Scott and Allison gave Derek questioning looks, but he shook his head and jerked his head towards the door.

“Sir?” Derek said again, once Scott and Allison had left. “What’s happened?”

“That’s something you’re going to need to see for yourself.”

 

Rationing a bottle of soup, Stiles was discovering, was terribly difficult when you had no way of knowing how much time had passed. Or when he was going to be fed again. Or if he was going to be fed again. Having now been visited by his captors, Stiles was feeling more confident that he wasn’t just being left to die while they disappeared to the other side of the country to create firm alibis. The fact that they had also given him food and water was promising, though Stiles was concerned that it was somehow connected to the bizarre little movie they were creating. If Stiles was being kept not as a tool for ransom, but instead for some kind of sick and twisted film-making venture, then the food no longer signified Stiles’s value in remaining alive and intact for his eventual freedom, but instead seemed part of some possibly longer term plan involving keeping Stiles barely alive, locked in a small room in a cellar and only let out to be beaten on camera.

The food was also difficult to appreciate given that Stiles was reasonably certain that it had been drugged. Stiles seemed to be spending long stretches of time staring into nothing, only really aware that some kind of time had passed when he felt himself jerk back into alertness and he found he was really thirsty, or hungry, or really needed to pee. This losing of time worried Stiles, as he felt he was wasting time that needed to be spent plotting his escape, or at the very least planning for his survival during his time here.

He felt strangely disconnected from the world, staring at a wall and blinking, not sure if seconds had passed or hours. The only concrete signs that time really was passing was Stiles’s increasing thirst and the slightly painful piss he took in the corner, wincing at the foul smell, checking carefully for signs of blood. What he would do if there had been, Stiles had no idea. He just knew it was a bad sign and felt a distant sense of relief that he wouldn’t have to deal with kidney problems when it came out clean. The cut on his stomach was filthy and bleed sluggishly when his muscles tensed as he stood up and collapsed back down, but Stiles had no way of dealing with it. The sense of futility was almost worse than the pain, and his fear that it would become infected was a more abstract thought. Right here, and right now, barely conscious, Stiles was more worried that it would never stop bleeding and he would run out of blood and die. So he kept one arm pressed tightly against the length of the cut, and drifted, sipping his soup when his thirst grew unbearable, and waited.

By the time the soup was gone, Stiles felt so lost and helpless, he welcomed the return of his captors.

 

“Derek Hale.” Derek had never heard his name spoken so coldly. It felt surreal to be lead into a discreet room in the White House and be faced by the President looking at him with a blanker face than Stiles had ever managed, but eyes as readable as his son’s. Derek almost recoiled at the pain, fear and disappointment directed towards him.

“Yes, sir,” Derek said, though the President had not been asking for confirmation of his identity.

The President looked at Derek for a long time, and it was only years of training that allowed Derek to take this assessment without moving. Chris Argent had followed Derek into the room and was setting up a laptop, offering no suggestion as to what this meeting was about. That in itself was concerning, as Argent believed that keeping his agents as informed as permissible was the first step in keeping them as effective and safe as possible. Of course, Derek acknowledged with a stab of long-buried disappointment, he wasn’t one of Argent’s agents anymore. Once they had worked with the closeness and trust that allowed Argent to equip Derek to be sent out in the world of close protection. Derek’s lower position in Argent Security meant he worked more directly with his team leader, and his personal interactions with Chris Argent were few are far between, but throughout it all, he knew Argent was looking over them. Making sure they were working to meet the needs of their assignments, and keeping them as safe as was possible in the field.

Despite everything, Derek felt instinctively reassured by Argent’s presence. It seemed impossible that Derek would be unable to meet whatever quality the President was looking for in him with Argent standing so close by. There was no mission Derek would not throw himself into confidently and feel he could not rise to its challenges if it was one Argent had assigned to him. This situation was so far removed from his days working for Argent Security that such a reaction was absurd, but Derek allowed himself to be irrationally comforted by Argent’s presence nonetheless.

“You have worked to protect my son in the past,” President Stilinski said abruptly.

“Yes, sir,” Derek replied automatically, slightly startled by the breaking of the heavy silence. President Stilinski looked expectantly at Derek. “For thirty-six days approximately four years ago. I was part of his close protection team.”

“Thirty-six days,” President Stilinski said. “Little more than a month. Why so short a period of time?”

 

The question surprised Derek. It was not something he had ever considered. “I was not informed, sir, but I presumed the team I was part of was only performing the protective detail temporarily as part of Stil- Mr Stilinski’s transition to college, allowing longer term security to be more carefully selected and thoroughly prepared.”

Derek cursed himself for letting the diminutive slip, particularly as the President clearly noticed. There were clear boundaries for the relationship between a security team and their primary, but within those bounds there was room for more personal, friendly interactions. Referring to Stiles as such was not considered unusual or inappropriate when working with him, but outside those who were part of his team, using the nickname made the relationship appear overly friendly. And, Derek suspected, the President was clearly concerned by the use by an ex-agent whose last contact with his son was four years prior.

“And were you often part of short-term details?” the President asked.

“Yes, sir,” Derek said. “I was under the impression my team leader at the time preferred them.”

“But you didn’t,” President Stilinski said.

“Sir?”

“You asked to be transferred to a different team,” President Stilinski said.

“Yes, sir,” Derek said, steeling himself. His request to be transferred was technically not private information, but the reasoning behind it was unknown to even Chris Argent.

“And you resigned less than two years later.”

Derek clenched his jaw to ensure that nothing more than a respectful, “Yes, sir,” passed his lips.

President Stilinski sighed and his face dropped, the careful facade of detached interest cracking and his exhaustion seeped through, forcefully reminding Derek this was not just their president, but also a flesh and blood man. A father whose heart was surely bleeding, his beloved son missing for over forty-eight hours and still without a ransom demand, or sign that his son was even alive, let alone might be able to be brought home to him.

“Derek, why did you resign?” the President asked, giving Derek an almost hungry look.

“For personal reasons,” Derek said tightly. After another long look, the President finally nodded and turned to Argent.

“Chris?” the President said.

“It’s ready, sir,” Argent replied.

“Derek we have received contact from my son’s abductors,” President Stilinski said. Derek turned alertly towards the black screen of the laptop. At this point, any contact could dramatically turn around Stiles chances for being rescued and coming home alive. A surge of hope rose in Derek’s chest. “Play the tape.”

Argent pressed a button on the laptop and a grainy, poorly lit image appeared on the screen. Derek moved closer to the computer and realized to his horror that he was looking at a limp Stiles tied to a post. Stiles was clearly awake and alert, but made no move to fight his bonds. He shifted slightly and winced with pain, from what Derek suspected was an unseen wound across his abdomen, and his face screwed up in fear. Masked figures appeared on screen and Derek jerked away despite himself when the figures started to attack Stiles, hitting him with bare hands, kicking him with shod feet, following no system and working towards no goal beyond hurting Stiles. Despite the rough treatment Stiles continued to make no move to resist. Judging by his clenched teeth and frightened eyes, Derek believed Stiles was desperate to move away or scream, but felt he could not. It made watching the masked figures assaulting him all the more horrifying. There was a sickening sound right before the end of the video, making Stiles at last gasp out a noise and the screen went blank.

Derek turned to the President, torn between horror at what he had witnessed and sympathy for Stilinski having to witness his son undergoing such a horrific ordeal. In his years being trained by and then working for Argent Security, Derek had seen some awful things, things that were objectively worse than that video, but knowing that was Stiles, sweet, excitable, defenseless and lonely Stiles, on the receiving end of such brutality made it almost more than Derek could stomach. He had no idea what to say to Stilinski, but the President was studying him keenly, so Derek stayed silent.

“Did you hear what Stiles said?” the President asked.

“He didn’t speak, sir,” Derek said softly.

President Stilinski gestured at Argent, and the last few moments of the video played again. Derek frowned at the screen and moved closer. Argent replayed the same section, and Derek realized that Stiles was not gasping, but attempting to speak. After the third time hearing Stiles, Derek was finally able to make out what Stiles was saying.

“Sir?” Derek asked, bewildered, feeling his body going into shock. He had to be mistaken. It didn’t make any sense. Why would Stiles say his name?

“You heard what he said?” President Stilinski confirmed. Derek nodded hollowly.

“Yes sir,” Derek said. “He said my name.”

“Your name,” the President repeated. “He’s being beaten to a pulp and he says your name? Why the hell is my son calling for you?”

“I don’t know, sir,” Derek said, floored. Stiles should be calling for his dad, or at the very least Scott or another member of his security team. It didn’t make any sense why the kid would want him. He wouldn’t have been surprised if Stiles hadn’t even remembered his name, their contact so brief, so unremarkable. There was no reason for Stiles to want him, and yet he apparently did. Hearing Stiles gasp his name during a moment of desperation left Derek feel he owed it to the kid to repay this inexplicable faith in him.

“By your own admission you worked for a grand total of thirty-six days protecting my son four years ago,” the President said. “Have you been in contact with him since?”

“No, sir,” Derek said. The President ran a hand through his hair, pacing slightly before planting himself directly in front of Derek.

“Two years ago you were forced to resign from your position in response to rumors that you were conducting inappropriate relationships with your charges,” President Stilinski said. “During your time protecting my son did you begin such a relationship with him?”

“No, sir,” Derek said sharply, feeling ill. Stilinski shook his head and placed a hand on Derek’s shoulder, his eyes full of soft, tentative hope.

“Look, Derek, son,” the President said. “I need to get Stiles home safely and right now I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about rules or regulations. I wouldn’t blame you if you started a romantic or- or a sexual relationship with my son. I know how he is. I just need to why Stiles said your name.”

“I don’t know, sir,” Derek said, resisting the urge to growl at the President. “I can assure you that nothing of that nature occurred, and I am at a loss to explain why Stiles called for me.”

The President nodded, straightening his shoulders and hardening his face.

“If Stiles was not calling for you because you have, or had in the past, a close relationship, then his mentioning your name is highly suspicious,” President Stilinski said.

Derek froze. “Sir? You think I was involved with Stiles’s kidnapping? What would I have to gain from abducting your son?”

“I honestly don’t know, Derek,” the President said. He gave Derek yet another searching look before leaving the room.

“Sir?” Derek said, turning to Argent.

“Derek, this doesn’t look good,” Argent said, his voice carefully neutral, giving Derek the same look he had two years ago before recommending Derek resign before his reputation was ruined. It gave Derek the same sinking sensation, a combination of guilt for letting someone he respected down, and hurt that he was no longer trusted, only this was far, far worse. Argent and Stilinski apparently suspected he might have been involved in the kidnapping of one of his former primaries, a young man he had sworn to protect and been willing to give his life to keep safe.

“What’s going to happen to me?” Derek forced himself to ask.

“Officially, there’s nothing we can do beyond contacting the police and having you detained for twenty-four hours for questioning,” Argent said. “That said, McCall and Allison have allowed you to be involved in this investigation, and so a case could be made to have you charged with conspiracy against the government.”

Derek nodded tightly. “Which would implicate Scott and Allison.”

“And does nothing to help us now,” Argent said. “You are maintaining your innocence?”

“Of course, sir,” Derek said. “I would never-”

Argent held up a hand. “I’m willing to trust you, Hale, which means we can take an unofficial recourse. I’m placing you on an unofficial house arrest. You will be taken to one of our safe houses and be kept under close watch. There will be no phone or internet access, and your visitors will be carefully vetted. McCall and Allison will not be permitted to visit you. If you resist at any point, or try to escape that will be taken as an admission of your guilt and we will turn back to official channels, where you will be treated as a hostile suspect or possibly even a feral Were, and be arrested pending trial. Your connection the tape means you can’t be trusted to help with the investigation, but at least this way your movements will be monitored, so if you are innocent in all of this, that will be easier to prove. Do you agree to these conditions?”

“Yes, sir,” Derek said. Argent nodded.

Derek hesitated before asking the question, dreading the answer, but he had to know: “Do you really think I was involved in this?”

“I don’t know, Derek,” Argent said. “It makes no sense for you to kidnap the kid, but why the hell else would he say your name?”

Derek didn’t say anything, not knowing the answer, but it had almost become a moot point. Stiles had called for him and come hell or high water, Derek knew he had to respond to the call.

Chapter Text

“We’ll have to find someone who can pass messages,” Scott said, frowning at his computer screen. Allison glanced around the room, but no one was paying them any attention. The President’s son had been missing for nearly fifty-nine hours and even with the video they had been sent, no one was any closer to finding him.

“Scott, don’t you think it’s a bit suspicious?” Allison murmured. “Why would Stiles say Derek’s name?”

“He was being beaten, he was probably confused and disorientated,” Scott said. “If they hit him on the head, he might have forgotten that Derek doesn’t work for him anymore. You don’t really think Derek, Derek could be involved?”

Scott turned to face Allison, looking at her earnestly and Allison sighed.

“No, Derek would never do something like this,” Allison said. “But my dad is taking the link pretty seriously and if nothing comes up soon, I think President Stilinski will be throwing everything he has at Derek, and that everything includes access to military-grade weaponry. Can we we really afford to put Derek in such a risky position?”

“I don’t like it any more than you do, but Stiles is off somewhere being beaten by people who probably couldn’t care less about keeping Stiles alive for any longer than it takes to achieve their goal. Before he was taken and we were suspended, Derek was on the verge of something,” Scott said. He gestured to the blown up stills from the video they had been staring at fruitlessly for the better part of three hours. “Nothing we’re doing is getting us anywhere. If we’re ever going to see Stiles alive again, we need Derek.”

Allison nodded. “That’s what I thought you would say.”

 

“Hale, you have a visitor.”

Derek whipped his head around, staring at the guard posted at his door. He had been in the safe house for all of four hours and there was no one who should even know he was here, let alone come to visit him.

“Who?” Derek asked, but the guard shrugged.

Years of carefully thinking through every decision, analyzing every situation he encountered, considering every possible element that could go wrong meant that Derek was keenly aware that allowing in a visitor was a stupid risk in terms of ensuring that he wasn’t dragged further into compromising situations related to Stiles’s kidnapping, but that was easily pushed aside. Right now, all Derek couldn’t care less about his own safety. Stiles might not be his current primary, but ever since he had seen Stiles gasp out his name - no, if he was being honest, ever since he turned on his television to find himself bombarded with reports of Stiles’s kidnapping - Derek hadn’t been able to think of anything beyond getting him back to safety.

“Let them in,” Derek said decisively. The guard disappeared out the door briefly, returning with a young woman roughly dressed in expensive and fashionable clothing.

“Derek Hale,” the woman said, her voice sounding less than steady, but there was an underlying sense of surety about her, a confidence in her place in the world. She sounded vaguely familiar and Derek stared at her, trying to place where he could possibly know this young socialite. As Derek studied her, she reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear and tilted her head slightly to the side, subtly exposing her throat to Derek. It was a display of submission Derek rarely saw among humans and he immediately checked his behaviour, realizing he had been standing in a wide, slightly aggressive stance, staring unblinking and had not even offered a verbal greeting.

“Sorry, I’m not used to being around humans who are familiar with Were-” Derek started to say, when suddenly the identity of the woman clicked. He had seen her face again and again in the photos and videos of Stiles out with his friends. “You’re Lydia Martin.”

Lydia took the abrupt change in conversation in stride, nodding and letting her hair fall back over her neck. “I am.”

“You’re engaged to a Were,” Derek said. “Is that how you recognized me?”

“No,” Lydia said, shaking her head. “Stiles told me.”

For a brief second, Derek though she meant Stiles told her just before she came to visit him, and his heart leapt at the new lead before sinking as he realized she meant he had mentioned it in the past. “Stiles told you about me?” Derek said. It made more sense than his crazy assumption, but not by much. Why would Stiles mention the status of a bodyguard he had for a few weeks?

“He mentioned it a few times,” Lydia said, sounding deliberately nonchalant. “Jackson wanted to know how much Stiles knew about Weres. He’s turned, you know, Jackson is.”

“Oh,” Derek said, startled. Turnings were unusual and fraught with legal issues. The question of whether Jackson had asked for it or not rose in his throat, but he shoved it down. This was neither the time nor the place to ask rude and invasive questions about Lydia’s boyfriend. The guard had disappeared back out into the entrance of the house, her higher ups apparently having decided Lydia was not a person of concern, so Derek walked back to the stiff couch and sat down, gesturing for Lydia to do the same. After a few minutes, it became apparent Lydia was not going to offer up any explanation for her unexpected appearance.

“Why are you here?” Derek asked.

Lydia managed a weak smile. “Allison warned me you could be direct.”

“Allison sent you?” Derek said, startled. It made sense that Allison and Scott would want to contact him, but he couldn’t work out the connection between Allison and Lydia. Certainly their roundabout connection through Scott and Stiles wouldn’t lead to the sort of friendly intimacy that could lead to the softening of Lydia’s eyes at the mere mention of Allison’s name. Lydia nodded.

“She said-” Lydia’s voice faltered slightly. “She said you might know who has Stiles. She said you were on the verge of a breakthrough before you were arrested.”

Derek grimaced, briefly considering reaching out to comfort her, before closing his eyes. “I had a hunch about another possible group who might have wanted Stiles for leverage, that’s all.”

“Mr Hale, please, if you know anything, anything at all, you’re miles ahead of the investigators at Argent’s,” Lydia said, sounding pleading and bitter and desperate, twisting her shaky voice into something pitiable and fierce all at once. “Allison wouldn’t have sent me if they weren’t desperate for leads.”

Her assertion that Allison wouldn’t have involved a civilian in an operation, even in a role as low-risk as messenger, unless she was out of other ides, certainly rang true, but her certainty made Derek once more curious about the relationship between the two women. There was no time to ponder it, though.

“Some Weres are less than happy about President Stilinski’s reforms,” Derek said. To his surprise, Lydia nodded.

“We don’t know many born Weres,” Lydia said. “But I know there has been talk among packs that humans shouldn’t manage Were affairs. They want representation, a Secretary of Were Affairs who is an actual Were. Jackson’s been approached to campaign for the position.”

“A turned Were,” Derek said musingly. “They think he’s human enough for humans, and Were enough for Weres?”

Lydia nodded. “And if he’s married to a human…” She trailed off, shaking her head. “But kidnapping Stiles isn’t going to help get a Were into congress.”

“No,” Derek agreed. “But some Weres think humans should stay out of their affairs entirely.”

“They want to establish their own political system? Their own country?” Lydia said, eyebrows creasing in confusion.

“You’re thinking like a human,” Derek said. “Weres already have their own systems for self governance. For a long time, pack law was final and interpack conflict was solved by proof of dominance. There are certain groups that think we should go back to that. And there are certain groups who wouldn’t think twice about hurting a human to achieve it.”

“And these groups… you know who they are?” Lydia said.

“I’ve heard talk, nothing more,” Derek said.

“Who are they?” Lydia said. “What do you know about them.”

Derek leaned over to the coffee table and picked up a paperback. He tore a page out of the back and scribbled down a number, handing the paper to Lydia. “This is the phone number of Talia Hale, my pack alpha.”

“Hale?” Lydia said. Derek nodded.

“My mother,” he said. “She’ll be able to tell you more. Tell her Derek rang, that I’m fine, but she needs to talk to you about the Alpha pack.”

Lydia nodded, tucking the number in her bag, her hand trembling slightly.

 

Death, Stiles was beginning to realize, was something he was going to experience. He didn’t think it was going to be something that happened imminently, but it was not escapable.

“Inevitable,” Stiles slurred, sweeping his hand out in a gesture that presumably encompassed the inevitability of death, but it lost some of its gravitas in the arc of liquid that followed. Stiles stared at the bottle in his hand, not sure how it got there.

“What’s inevitable?” an amused voice said. Stiles looked up and was momentarily surprised by the figure decked out in black, face and hands covered. A pair of lips and a set of eyes peering out at him from a sea of black fabric. Black fabric, Stiles recalled, that had kindly brought him a bottle of something delicious. Black fabric that he had managed to forget in his contemplations of death.

“Death,” Stiles said. Then he giggled. He remembered why he was thinking about death. “You’re ironic. Or I am. Someone is. I got so distracted thinking about you causing my death I forgot all about you. I didn’t even notice you were there.”

The black fabric man’s lips lost their amused curve, deepening into a scowl. “Fuckin’ figures.”

“I thought you said he was a funny drunk,” another voice added. Stiles jerked back and the room span slightly as he tore his head around to look at the door where the new voice was coming from. It was another talking bit of fabric. Stiles frowned, looking back and forth between them. It certainly seemed likely that he was drunk, the sensation was quite familiar, but he was also quite sure that there were now two people in the room. Seeing double didn’t usually require him to move his head around so much. Also the doubles weren’t usually different heights with different voices. The second figure was slightly shorter, and the voice was higher. He was pretty sure they were a man and a woman.

“Being drunk can’t turn someone into two genders,” Stiles said, nodding wisely. The new figure laughed.

“What did you give him?” she asked. The original fabric person shrugged.

“Just mixed some vodka in with the soup,” he said. “It must be reacting to whatever it is he’s being kept drugged with.”

“It’s not going to kill him, is it?” New-figure asked, sounding worried. Stiles frowned. He was pretty sure he had just come to the conclusion he wasn’t going to die anytime soon. “He needs to be kept alive.”

“Hooray!” Stiles said, taking another long drink of his soup in celebration. Sometimes it was nice being proven you were right. And also nice to hear you weren’t going to be killed.

“It’s just because he hasn’t eaten much,” Fabric-man said.

“Does he need to be set free, too?” Stiles asked New-figure hopefully. She rolled her eyes.

“He isn’t as entertaining as you promised,” she whined. Stiles huffed, offended that she didn’t think he was hilarious. Breathing out hard like that made him feel woozy, which just made him more upset with her.

“At least I don’t make people breathe funny,” Stiles muttered. He let out an enormous yawn, the world turning black around the edges as he did so, and the two figures sighed.

“What a fucking waste of time,” Fabric-man said. He turned to leave the small room, and Stiles thought briefly about following them and making a daring escape, but his legs wouldn’t lift him and the world kept turning dark as his eyelids took their sweet time blinking and then he was vomiting and drifting off to sleep at the same time.

 

Under normal circumstances, being on house arrest would have suited Derek fine. Being forced to stay at home and not talk to anyone was not something he would ever thought to be a chore. But there had been no word from Allison, Scott or Lydia about how their investigation was going and there had been no updates on any of the news channels, at least, nothing Derek didn’t know already. Five hours ago the news had broken that the President had received footage of Stiles, but there were no demands for ransom. There had been a brief bit of excitement about half-an-hour ago when one of the news stations had leaked a still from the footage, presumably horrifying the nation to see their beloved public figure tied up and looking bruised and bloody, menacing figures lurking in the shadows beside him.

Derek had been deeply upset and concerned at the leak, but in a converse way it helped. Ever since Lydia had left, Derek had been wrestling with himself, desperate to get out and find Stiles, needing to go through the meditative practices his mother had taught him when he first started shifting. For the first time since he was a teenager, Derek had been genuinely concerned that he was going to be unable to stop a shift. And with the close watch being kept on him, there was a very real chance he was going to be declared feral.

Staring at the image of Stiles, disturbing though it was, had grounded him. Helped to remind him that Stiles needed him to remain calm and in control of himself if he was going to be able to be of any use to him. He found a station showing the image blown up on the screen, and paused the television, resuming one of the positions designed to encourage deep thought and concentration. In this way, he was able to reign himself in, turning his thoughts to the issue of who might have Stiles. He studied the figures in the picture, letting his mind drift, hoping this way he would be able to recognize them, or if not the figures themselves, then the method of disguise. Derek lost himself in this state of absent data processing for over two hours before he came back to awareness with a jolt. He didn’t recognize the figures or their outfits or the fabric used. He recognized the cellar. He had been there before.

 

“Dad, the Alpha Pack is a powerful, ambitious and angry group, with ample reason and resources to kidnap Stiles,” Allison said, careful to keep her voice firm and professional, even though what she had heard about the Alpha Pack was enough to turn her stomach. If there was even a chance Stiles had been taken by them, then they had wasted too much time already.

Chris frowned, looking slowly between Allison and Scott. “That’s not a Were group we have on file. I didn’t even know packs could be formed with more than one Alpha. Where did you get this information?”

Allison and Scott fidgeted, carefully not making eye contact. “They are gaining notoriety among Were packs. They recruit by encouraging a member of a smaller pack to kill their entire pack, giving them Alpha status. This is obviously causing some concern for other packs. We received the information from a concerned pack Alpha.”

“Why haven’t they contacted us about this before?” Chris demanded, wondering how long this group had been in operation without anyone at Argent Security having caught wind of it before.

Scott frowned at Chris, looking incredulous. “Sir, I don’t mean to be rude, but the Argents are the last people Weres would go to about this. You guys were still hunting Weres as late as the 1960s.”

“Only those deemed a danger to society,” Chris snapped. “And Argent Security is now as fully committed to protecting Weres as they would any other citizen.” He took a breath and calmed himself. This wasn’t a press conference, or a recruitment, or a disciplinary hearing. “Who is your contact?”

“They prefer to remain anonymous,” Allison said tightly. Scott shifting guiltily beside her.

“You two do realize you are already on probation,” Chris muttered. He gave Allison a serious look, willing her to understand the gravity of the situation.

“Yes, sir,” Allison said.

“I can’t act on the word of an agent under watch claiming to have received an anonymous tip about a rogue Were pack that I’ve never heard of before,” Chris said.

“I understand, sir,” Allison said. She glanced at Scott who nodded. “Our contact is Talia Hale.”

Chris slammed his fist onto his desk. “Talia Hale, Derek Hale’s mother? The man the President just ordered I arrested under suspicion of being involved in the kidnapping of his son? Jesus, Allison.”

“I know it looks bad,” Allison said. “But this might be our only chance to get Stiles back alive.”

“Or it might be trap designed to distract us, have us waste resources and possibly endanger the lives of some of our best agents,” Chris said quietly.

“You don’t really believe Derek is behind this, do you?” Allison asked. Chris sighed.

“I don’t know what to believe,” he said. “You two are dismissed and if I hear one word that you are planning to follow this lead on your own, you will be placed on an indefinite suspension."

With a sinking heart, Chris watched Allison and Scott leave the room. The President’s son was missing, his agency seemed to be chasing it’s own tail, and now he was being presented with a possible lead from an impossible source. The only evidence they had told Chris he couldn’t trust Derek, but with nothing else to go on, could they really afford to ignore this potential angle? Chris sighed and realized he needed to do what he always did when he was in over his head. He needed to talk to his wife.

 

As he woke up, there were long moments when Stiles struggled to tell what was reality, and what was lingering parts of a blurred nightmare. It was only when he became aware of the pain, rushing to be heard, every part of him throbbing out of time with his pounding head that Stiles slid into more lucid wakefulness. Even in this new state of consciousness, it still took a while for Stiles to realize there was a sharper, more insistent pain coming and going in waves at his hip. He dragged his eyes open and squinted into the blinding light above him. One of the black clad figures was standing beside him, muttering as they kicked him.

“‘m awake,” Stiles slurred, wincing at the raw pain in his throat. He took of deep breath in through his nose, hoping to clear his head slightly, and immediately regretted it when the acrid scent of vomit flooded his senses. The kicking stopped, but Stiles had no time to be grateful as he was immediately wrenched up; the figure in black crouching down to help keep him upright.

“Drink this.”

A bottle was shoved at Stiles mouth and he gulped at the water, too grateful to have his thirst quenched to worry overly about the tainted flavor. He could only make it through about a quarter of the bottle before he started to feel sick, his belly too full and the new drug making him queasy.

“All of it,” his captor demanded, putting it back to Stiles’s lips. “You’re being moved and trust me, you don’t want to be awake for the journey.”

Fear flooded Stiles, shocking his system. He hadn’t realize he could possibly feel more fear than he had been in the last few days, but suddenly it struck Stiles that what he had been experiencing might only be a prelude. As he gulped desperately at the liquid, scenarios of torture and mutilation raced through Stiles’s mind as he tried to work out why they were wanting to move him. Was this place under equipped for what his abductors had in mind? He shuddered at the thought of having to create another film, being ordered to stay still and silent as they strapped him into some kind of torture device and hurt him over and over until the take was perfect.

Stiles finished the drugged water and braced himself, trying desperately not to vomit, but his stomach just couldn’t hold that much liquid and it came pouring back out of him. He nearly cried, not knowing what his captors would do to him, but his mind started to fog. Feeling almost relieved, he welcomed the darkness that followed as the drug he had managed to ingest coursed through his body and unconsciousness claimed him once more.

 

For the first time in years, Derek found himself filled with purpose. He knew where Stiles was and he knew how to get there, how to save him. And more than that, Derek knew he was the only one who could save Stiles. From the moment Stiles gasped out Derek’s name, he knew his fate was sealed. There was no way anyone from Argent would trust Derek if he let them know where Stiles was and there was no way Derek could leave Stiles in the hands of his abductors. All that stood in his way were the Argent agents guarding him and the security cameras that he knew would be focused on the house, relaying the footage to Argent headquarters. This particular safe house was not one Derek was familiar with, but he had worked Argent safe houses before, both accompanying at-risk primaries, and his early work as a guard. Knowing Argent’s need for consistency, Dere was sure that the protocols had not changed significantly over the years and he felt confident he knew enough about the system to elude it. Although truthfully, now that Derek knew where Stiles was, it was impossible to fathom that anything could keep him from his charge. This was his chance to prove himself, make up for the doubt and disappointment he had sown when he resigned, and to match the faith Stiles had inexplicably placed in him.

From what Derek had managed to observe, the safe house was actually an apartment part of a complex most likely owned and operated by Argent Security. The majority of the apartments would be tenanted by a combination of unsuspecting civilians and Argent agents, providing the Argents with not only a further source of revenue, but also a place to keep clients safe, and a way to provide temporary or permanent housing for agents. Such complexes could be found all over the country, owned by various discreet companies. Derek knew that the safe houses were rarely designed for keeping Weres, and so he wouldn’t need to worry about navigating around any charms or wolfsbane sealed areas. Once out of the apartment, he would need to be careful not to catch the attention of any of the residents, as any tenanted agents would have been alerted to his presence when he had first been brought in. The simplest method for escape would be to trigger the fire alarm system, but his disappearance would be noticed almost immediately, and he needed time to get some distance between him and the agents.

A more subtle approach would not be difficult, Derek mused, putting himself in Argent’s shoes. Derek was a prisoner of sorts, but he was there voluntarily and there was no way for anyone to know that he had worked out where Stiles was, no reason to suspect he wanted to leave. Having not actually committed or confessed to any crimes against the state, it was unlikely that the guard on duty would be required to check in more than once throughout their shift. The feed of his movements was unlikely to be monitored, particularly as Argent attention would currently be focused on retrieving Stiles. It was risky, but if Derek simply waited until just after the next shift change, he could knock his guard out, disable the alarms on the fire escape and slip out that way. From there it would just be a matter of stealing one of the civilian’s cars and he would be on his way to Stiles.

Though Derek was thrumming with energy and itching to break into action, having a plan helped him slide into the calm and methodical mindset of being on duty, working to protect a charge. He resumed his meditations, letting his mind wander over what he could remember of the house Stiles was being kept in. The mission that had taken him there was early in his career, about six months after he had been assigned permanently to a team. It was a basic recon on a house, checking to see if it was suitable for a particular family of importance to take residence in. Ultimately it had been declared as too much of a security risk, too easy to break into, too hard to protect, a fact which would now work in Derek’s favor.

The layout of the house was indistinct in his mind; he knew the number of the rooms, but not how they joined, not which had what type of windows and doors. It didn’t matter though, as the issue had been the cellar. It provided easy access to the house and was difficult to secure. The cellar was also the part of the house Derek remembered most clearly. The place, he reflected ruefully, that everything had started to go wrong.

He shut down the train of thought firmly, ignoring the once familiar twist of guilt and disgust that accompanied it, focusing instead on hammering out the details of his plan. By the time he had a new guard, Derek felt quite confident about his chances.

“Hale,” a quiet voice said. Derek looked over to the door to find that he recognised the new guard.

“Lahey,” Derek responded, matching his casual tone. They had crossed paths a few times, but Derek had never worked with Isaac. The kid had been with Argent security for a few years, coming in for training at sixteen and it was never clear whether he had been sent in by a father who wanted to get rid of him, or if this was a chance to escape his father. Isaac hadn’t worked through the ranks, his quiet demeanour hiding a wild temper which Derek suspected meant Argent had never been game to trust him with close protection work, the bread and butter of Argent Security. To Derek’s surprise, Isaac crossed the room and sat down next to him on the couch, slouching comfortably.

“I’m guessing this place doesn’t get cable,” Isaac said, gesturing at the television. The news was playing on mute, speculations on what the released frame of footage could mean. Derek shrugged, untensing his muscles until he met Isaac’s level of relaxation.

“Couldn’t find the remote,” Derek said. “I’m not sure if I should be offended that you seem to find me so harmless.”

Isaac snorted. “Yeah, right. We both know this is just a formality. Do you want to go see if there’s anything good in the fridge and I’ll see if I can find a channel that isn’t playing some variation of, ‘we still haven’t found the president’s son and we have no idea who could have him’?”

“Sounds better than sitting around twiddling my thumbs,” Derek said easily, standing and wandering slowly towards the kitchen. As soon as Isaac stood up, Derek pounced on him, grabbing his gun and bringing it down across the back of Isaac’s skull, knocking him out cleanly. Part of Derek was disappointed that an agent who had been with Argent Security for so long could be taken out so quickly, but mostly he was relieved that Isaac hadn’t complicated his escape plan.

Once in the kitchen, it was the work of a moment to find and disable the alarm for the fire escape, and Derek found he made it to the residents’ car park with no difficulties. Years of training and work in the field coming together, helping him to move smoothly and efficiently without arousing attention. The house Stiles was being kept in was part of a quiet residential neighbourhood, predominantly middle class couples and families, lawyers, businessmen, doctors and so forth. Derek looked for a well kept, moderately expensive car with tinted windows, figuring the he would be less likely to be noticed if he fit in. As he hotwired an unlocked sedan, Derek couldn’t shake the feeling that this had all been too easy. It wasn’t until he hit the highway, travelling as fast as he dared towards Stiles, that Derek let himself relax, anticipation growing with every passing mile.

 

If he ever made it out of this alive, Stiles thought to himself, he was never going to take waking up in no pain for granted again. He would revel in the feeling of his head not threatening to cave in and feel delighted that his innards happy to sit put and were making no bids for freedom.

His stomach roiled, forcing up little more than water and bile, and Stiles let out a pitiful sob, wallowing in his misery for a few moments before forcing himself to pay some attention to his new surroundings. He gingerly placed his hands on the ground and tried to prop himself up. To his surprise, the ground beneath his hands was grassy. Not quite able to comprehend what he could feel, Stiles turned his head and dragged his eyes open to stare at it. Definitely grass. He glanced around and discovered he was outside, in a small clearing surrounded by forest. In a large cage.

“What the hell?” Stiles muttered, slumping back down and covering his face with his hands. The way his head was pounding and his stomach turning, Stiles was tempted taken the whole scenario as a really bad trip, and tried to sleep it off. Except he doubted he could have managed to hallucinate the entire last few days, particularly when he had no memory of starting a night out with friends. Or even planning to attend such an event. Ever since he had been asked to leave his university, Stiles had buried himself in his social life, friends, partying and sex abounded, but he hadn’t ever woken up with no memory whatsoever of the night before. And he hadn’t touched anything harder than alcohol in the month since his dad told him he might be allowed back at college if he cleaned up his act and stopped his stupid pranks.

The only thing that made sense was that his abductors had decided he needed some fresh air. Which made no sense at all. Stiles groaned and sat up properly, wanting to take a better look at the cage. He rolled over onto his hands and knees, crawling closer to the bars. They were some kind of metal alloy, Stiles guessed, dark grey tubes about an inch thick, spaced roughly three or four inches apart. He slid his arm through them, getting stuck just above the elbow. When his skin brushed against one of the bars, he was surprised to find they were cool to the touch. The cage itself was tall. When Stiles managed to drag himself upright and stretched his arms as far as they would reach, his fingers barely brushed the bars across the top. Standing made him feel woozy, so he slid back down, using the side of the cage to prop himself up, trying to work out if the cage was actually larger than the room he had just been in, or if the feeling of space was just an illusion created by the view of the clearing and the soft breeze wafting the ever present smell of vomit around. Stiles sighed. That was another thing he was never going to take for granted again. If he got out of this, Stiles was going to appreciate the fuck out of clothes and rooms that didn’t smell like vomit. He turned his head, resting his face against the bars and willed the faint smell of trees and plants to overpower his nose.

The breeze changed directions just enough that Stiles could suddenly smell a strange, faintly familiar smell.

 

The neighbourhood looked roughly the same as Derek had remembered it, and he pulled into a driveway three doors down from the house with Stiles, hoping whoever had him wasn’t keeping too close of an eye on the neighbours. The houses were all full of middle class couples and young families, none of whom thankfully had high powered security systems, though he did have to skirt some motion sensors and pick his way around strewn toys, and he was able to settle in a tree next to his target house and plan for his next move.

Derek had wondered at the gall to stow the President’s son away in a nondescript neighbourhood, but in reality the house’s very anonymity, tucked discreetly away amongst law-abiding citizens, created a surprisingly effective hiding place. The house simply had to be in the name of someone respectable, unconnected to any criminal activity, and it would take months before someone managed to trace it as a possible location. With Stiles less than twenty-feet away, though, Derek found he didn’t want to think about just how easily the operation to hold the First Son hostage had been undertaken. He just wanted to get to Stiles.

It would arouse the neighbours if the house had bodyguards posted outside of it. Even security camera’s might be recognized by a keen eye, so all Derek had to contend with was the motion sensors, a domestic variety in keeping with the neighbourhood. He quickly considered possible routes before deciding that staying above the sensors would be the safest. There was a tree a few feet away from the one in which he was currently perched, and Derek moved to furthest point on the branch that would support his weight. Crouching slightly before he jumped forward, Derek managed to land softly and steadily onto the new tree. From there, Derek crawled along a branch that jutted out onto the roof of the garage, dropping quietly down and continuing on until he was just above the back door. He lowered himself down and pressed his ear to the door, relieved to hear nothing but silence.

With nothing but the basic tools he had found in his stolen car, Derek knew working fast would be more important than trying to work silently and risk being spotted by a neighbour. With every scrape of metal and thump of wood, Derek felt his heart rate spike, but the house remained silent. Once inside, Derek tried desperately to conjure up a mental map of the house, but the layout was just as much of a mystery to him here as it had been back in the safe house. He couldn’t hear or smell anyone in the house itself, which surprised him, but it allowed him to quickly work systematically through the house until he had found the entrances to the cellar.

The multiple points of entry was a quirk of design that had made the house unsuitable for their client all those years ago, and judging by the signs of wear, was not being taken advantage of by the current residents. Marks, dirt and layers of scents marked one door as the regularly used entrance, as well as being the one through which he could hear the heartbeats of the inhabitants most clearly. The other two doors didn’t seem to have been used in recent times, and Derek stared at them, trying to work out which would be the better choice. In the end, he set to work picking the lock of the one he thought would lead almost directly to the area Stiles had been filmed in. Derek told himself firmly that the decision was made based on logic, and not because it was the door that gave him the clearest line to Stiles’s scent. He didn’t let himself think about how deeply entwined Stiles’s scent was was vomit, blood and human waste.

 

Stiles closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, trying to place the new smell. It was something he had experienced years ago, something that made him think of his father. He inhaled and thought hard, trying to cast his mind back over the times his dad had taken him out into the forest as a child, drifting through memories of camping and hunting and… Weres. His father’s work with the Weres. Suddenly the smell clicked in his mind and he opened his eyes, searching the ground around the cage to find, yes, right around the cage, well trodden and partially buried, was a thick line of mountain ash. Fear seized Stiles. Why had he been taken out into the middle of the woods, dumped in a giant cage surrounded by mountain ash?

“Goddamn, kid.” Stiles jerked his head around, spotting an undisguised and unfamiliar figure emerging from the nearby trees. “You must have a high fucking tolerance for this shit.”

The new comer, a rangy young man about Stiles’s age, sauntered over and had grabbed Stiles through the cage before Stiles could even think about trying to evade him, shoving a needle into his neck before letting him go.

“I tried to wean myself off, but you guys keep insisting on shoving it down my throat,” Stiles said, trying to sound breezy, but his words came out slurred and he sighed as he drifted once more into unconsciousness.

 

Derek crept into the cellar, feeling overwhelmed when he was suddenly assaulted by a flood of pungent scents. By the time he managed regain control of his senses, one of the heartbeats he had heard was much closer and he looked up sharply to find a gun trained on him.

“Wolfsbane bullets,” the owner of the gun proclaimed. “Don’t even think about moving a muscle.”

Derek weighed up the chances that whoever had Stiles really wanted him dead, given that they hadn’t shot him yet, against the odds that he could trust an unfamiliar opponent not to accidentally shoot him if he attempted to attack her. Before he could come to any conclusions, he felt the prick of a dart hitting his neck, and he turned around, catching a glimpse of a second person before his vision went black.

Chapter Text

Whatever he had been dosed with, Derek thought grimly as he clawed back to wakefulness, was designed to pack a punch. It took a few moments of woozy disorientation before Derek’s training kicked in. Keeping his eyes closed, he tuned his ears in, trying to work out if there was any hostiles nearby. A heartbeat was thumping away steadily, if slightly faintly, to his right, and there was a faint breeze working it’s way through some nearby trees. He took a deep breath and nearly leapt up when he was flooded with the scent of Stiles. Real, raw and close by. Derek cursed himself for believing that the faint version found at the door to the cellar was anything more than a lingering scent. In the four years since he had been around Stiles, Derek had forgotten how deeply attuned he was to the boy’s scent. Generally people appeared to Derek as a fairly subtle smell, distinct enough that he could pick them out in a crowd if he concentrated, but they didn’t overwhelm his senses like others did. Like Stiles did.

There was no time for Derek to berate himself for forgetting that had once been forced to make a conscious effort to tune out Stiles’s scent. Nor was there time to lose himself in the comforting knowledge that Stiles was safe, that whatever situation they now found themselves in, Stiles was back under Derek’s care, where he belonged. The possessiveness startled Derek. For the first time he realized the concerns his pack mates and the agents at Argent Security had. Were’s were notoriously protective of anyone they saw as pack or in any way belonging to them, and while Derek had argued that this would be a strength in a personal bodyguard, there had been those who doubted that Derek could willingly hand over his charges to another’s care when his assignments had been changed. It had not been a problem in the past, but Derek didn’t have that much contact with those who had previously been placed under his protection.

Lying here with Stiles’s scent overwhelming him, though, Derek felt an enormous sense of duty to take care of him. Derek doubted it was simply his Were instincts telling him Stiles was ‘his’. It probably because he had been thinking of little else other than rescuing Stiles for the past few days. He also now found himself in a vulnerable position with an even more vulnerable charge whose survival was largely dependent upon Derek being able to defend him. Derek defied any Were, or indeed any Argent agent, to feel differently in his position.

Feeling reasonably confident that Stiles and he were alone, Derek cautiously opened his eyes. He was startled to see thick bars and blue skies above him. Being put in a cage outside was a rather unusual way to treat hostages, but more disorientating was the bright sky. It had been barely midnight when Derek had broken into the house he believed he would find Stiles. The length of time he had been unconscious was worrying. It was unusual for any human sedative to knock him out for more than about twenty minutes, so it seemed that either their captors frequently dealt with trouble from Weres, or else they had been expecting him. There was nothing Derek could conclude from this without further intel, so Derek resumed his study of their surroundings.

It took a great deal of self-control for Derek to go through the motions of visually confirming there was no imminent danger or hostiles in the area before sitting up and surveilling their surroundings. He noted the nearby tracks from some form of off road vehicle, wincing at the line of mountain ash surrounding the cage. The state of the mountain ash was deeply disturbing, clearly having been laid a long time ago and then been topped up over time as the line was disturbed. It suggested that their captors clearly had a lot of experience with Weres, and might possibly even be hunters. The Were-strength sedative was most likely part of their standard arsenal and they presumably had more where that came from.

Biting back a rush of nausea, Derek stood and walked around the cage, carefully checking the bars. He was surprised to find the alloy contained traces of silver, implying whoever was keeping them was not as knowledgeable about Weres as Derek had presumed. The bars were still too strong for Derek to move and the cage too heavy to lift. It was possible the silver was pure coincidence. At regular intervals, bars appeared to be embedded in the group and Derek speculated the cage was also held in place with deep spikes tapering off the bars. At the far end of the cage, there was a door, firmly locked with a solid, complex lock. The hinges fused rather than merely bolted in place.

At last, Derek felt he had done all he could about their surrounds and turned to check on Stiles. He was lying awkwardly, limbs tucked and twisted in a way that suggested Stiles had been sitting before falling unconscious. Derek ran his hands carefully over Stiles, checking for breaks or strains before he felt confident rearranging Stiles into a more comfortable position, one that wouldn’t injure him further. The lack of responsiveness to Derek’s touch concerned Derek, as did the sallow cast to Stiles’s skin and the clear signs of dehydration. The wounds Stiles had sustained from the beating seemed mostly superficial. Stiles’s nose did not appear to be healing straight, but Derek was relieved to find nothing was dislocated, and there were no signs of internal bleeding. There was a nasty cut across Stiles’s stomach, fairly shallow, but filthy, only partially clotted with a deeper section appeared to be oozing pus. Stiles’s shirt had also stuck to it, and when Derek had lifted it, it had pulled some of the scabbing, blood welling slowly up.

With no access to first aid supplies or even water, there was nothing Derek could do to help Stiles. At least, nothing that Derek felt comfortable to do without Stiles’s permission. Stiles's heart continued to beat steadily, if more softly than Derek would have liked, and as far as Derek could tell Stiles was simply sleeping off the effects of his own sedation. Derek considered his options, before moving to sit with his back against the bars along the side of the cage, facing both the door and the tracks. He lifted Stiles, gently placing him between his legs, wrapping an arm around Stiles’s waist, and letting Stiles’s head rest tucked in the crook of Derek’s shoulder. Here, Derek reasoned, Stiles could be shielded by Derek’s body and Derek could easily pick him up if he needed to run. The psychological soothing that came from being able to feel Stiles breathing, feel that he was alive and safe in Derek’s arms, was clearly also beneficial to their survival. Staying sane and emotionally stable was just as important as keeping themselves physically safe and well.

 

As soon as he heard the news, Chris Argent stormed out of his office and into the computer lab he had confined Scott and Allison to. They looked up in surprise as he marched over to them. He was shaking with rage and disappointment and fear.

“One of agents was just found tied up in the safe house,” Chris growled. “Hale has been off the radar for over eight hours. Right now I need you to tell me everything Hale knows and if you had anything, anything to do with this remember than a young man’s life is at stake here. Right now you need to forget your careers, forget whatever misguided loyalty you have to the Were, and help me to clean up this mess. And if you are very lucky and Stiles makes it home alive President Stilinski might just be grateful enough that you won’t get arrested for crimes against the state.”

“Derek’s gone?” Scott asked numbly.

“You think we helped him escape?” Allison said, sounding hurt.

“Honestly Allison, nothing could surprise me at this point,” Chris said. “You let him onto the case, you found a way to pass him messages, and even now, you’re following the trail he left, messing with mysterious Were groups that no one has ever heard of against my direct orders.”

Chris gestured to the work Allison hadn’t had a chance to close on her computer and she flushed.

“Dad, I-” Allison started to say.

“I don’t doubt you had good intentions,” Chris said, cutting her off, his voice softer. “I know you two love Stiles and only want to bring him home, and you clearly thought working with Derek was the best way to do it. And maybe it will turn out that Derek had nothing to do with this, that he ran off for unrelated reasons, but right now our focus needs to be on Stiles. We need to get him home first and worry about the rest later.”

Scott and Allison nodded somberly. Feeling distinctly uncomfortable, they quickly outlined everything they had been working on with Derek. Put together, it sounded like they had passed on a lot of information to Derek that as an outsider he really shouldn’t have access too. The truth was, though, that very little of it was new information to Derek. Most of what they had needed to tell him related to Stiles’s public persona, and his appearances in the media. There was distressingly little information that could possibly lead to where Stiles could be right now.

“And there were no lines of enquiry Derek pushed you to pursue? Nothing he tried to get you to avoid?” Chris asked. Allison and Scott shook their heads.

“Derek was open to any idea,” Scott said. “He was desperate to get Stiles back.”

Chris nodded tightly. “I’m revoking your access to Argent systems. Go home, and keep in mind that if you try to use Argent resources your access codes will be flagged and you will face further disciplinary action. As it stands now, if your efforts haven’t endangered Stiles, and if he makes it home alive, I can make a case for you, but Derek is now considered our prime suspect. If you do anything that looks like you’re helping him, you are at risk of being arrested for aiding and abetting the kidnapping of the President’s son. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Scott said softly. Chris gave Allison a pleading look and she nodded.

“I need to go and try to clean up this mess,” Chris said.

As soon as Chris left the room, Scott turned to Allison.

“Do you think Derek’s been kidnapped, too?” Scott asked urgently. Allison frowned, brow creasing as she thought about it.

“No,” Allison said finally. “It’s more likely that Derek escaped himself. He must have gotten wind of something and gone after Stiles.”

“And the kidnappers caught him?” Scott said. “That means whatever he worked out, Derek was right. It means he worked out who has Stiles. Which means that if we can work out what he discovered, we might be able to find them.”

 

With Stiles safely in his arms, and the surroundings still and quiet, Derek found he could easily lose himself in the relaxed state of awareness that used to fill his days when he worked in close protection. It almost startled him when Stiles started to move, letting out a low, hoarse groan as he clawed his way back into consciousness. Derek tightened his arms around Stiles instinctively, before releasing him and rubbing large, soothing circles over Stiles’s back. He was gratified when Stiles made a softer, more pleased sound and tried to bury himself further into Derek’s body. Whatever Stiles had been given was clearly either strong or his treatment over the last few days had made Stiles more vulnerable to tranquilizers. It was several long minutes before he showed any signs of awareness, stiffening under Derek’s hands.

“Derek?” Stiles mumbled, looking up into Derek’s face, brow creased with confusion.

“Yes Stiles,” Derek said, trying to sound soothing. Stiles nodded.

“They told me to say your name, and now here you are,” Stiles said. He yawned and frowned. Derek wondered what on earth Stiles could possibly mean. He wasn’t sure if Stiles was simply still half asleep, or if he was having a bad reaction to whatever drugs they had been forcing down his throat.

“Here I am,” Derek said softly. Stiles shuddered and lurched violently out of Derek’s arms, retching and gagging as he tried to bring up an empty stomach. There wasn’t much Derek could do, so he simply slid forward and rested a hand on Stiles’s back. After a few moments, Stiles seemed to concede defeat and flopped down, twisting his body to keep it away from the small amount of liquid he had managed to bring up.

“Oh god my head,” Stiles moaned, rubbing his eyes.

“Is it just the drugs or have they been hitting you?” Derek asked, running rapidly through everything he knew about head injuries.

Stiles uncovered his eyes and squinted up at Derek. “Huh,” he said. “Either they’ve started slipping me the good stuff, or you really are here.”

Derek found himself rolling his eyes, before the seriousness of the situation hit him all over again. “I’m really here,” Derek snapped. “Now tell me if you have been hit on the head. You might be seriously injured.”

“Someone’s cranky,” Stiles muttered, sitting up and staring at Derek, almost drinking him in. He grinned. “No, they’ve just kept me on a steady diet of something that keeps my head pretty fuzzy. I can’t believe you’re here. I spend four years wondering if you’ll ever check in and then I get kidnapped and don’t expect to ever see anyone again and you appear. If I had known this is what it would take, I would have gotten kidnapped years ago.”

“Don’t say that,” Derek snapped. “This isn’t a joking matter.”

“Sorry, yeah, I know,” Stiles said, smiling ruefully. “I just honestly thought this might be it. It’s very ‘Daniel and the Lions’ here.” He gestured around the cage. “Only, more, ‘Stiles and the Were’.”

“Stiles, you need to take this more seriously,” Derek said, unable to help the small growl that had entered his voice.

“What do you want me to do?” Stiles said. “Start tunnelling out? Go on a hunger strike? Write a letter to my local representative?”

“This is exactly the kind of attitude that got you into this mess!” Derek said. Stiles recoiled.

“You think I got kidnapped because of my attitude?” Stiles demanded. “What, you think someone took offense at a flippant remark I made?”

“No,” Derek ground out. “Stiles, I know how you’ve been living your life over the past four years.”

“Yeah, and how’s that?” Stiles asked, his cheeks flushing.

“When you first disappeared, I spoke to Scott. He described you as a flight risk,” Derek said. “Apparently you have a reputation for escaping your body guards. Do you know how dangerous that is?”

“Oh please,” Stiles said. “You try being shadowed for every minute of your life. I just slip away for a few minutes to breathe so I don’t snap and try to kill anyone.”

“Stiles, they almost didn’t look for you when you first disappeared,” Derek said, aware that he was starting to sound desperate but unable to stop. “And when they did, they were following the wrong leads, trying to find a trail that didn’t exist. They still have no idea who took you or where they’ve been keeping you.”

Stiles stared at Derek, a shocked silence settling over them. Derek hadn’t meant to let that fact slip, had in fact planned on reassuring Stiles that it was only a matter of time before the agency caught up on their movements and came to rescue them. He regretted his outburst, but it was so hard to see Stiles act as though nothing had happened, to laugh and joke and tease him when all Derek could think about was how close he had been to never seeing Stiles again. How close he had been to never getting to roll his eyes at Stiles’s antics or groan at his stupid jokes.

It was absurd, because Derek hadn’t even seen Stiles in four years, had forgotten how easy it was to be around him, how entertaining and interesting and distracting Stiles could be. And suddenly Derek was overwhelmed with regret that when his team had finished their assignment with Stiles he had taken it as read that it meant their contact was over, despite the genuine friendship they had been striking up. He had contented himself with amusing anecdotes from Scott and prided himself on the fact that he didn’t get attached to his primaries. And if Derek hadn’t decided to check in on Scott, he might never have seen Stiles again, irrespective of whether someone else managed to track him down or not.

“I think we have some catching up to do,” Stiles said, sounding eerily calm.

Derek nodded, forcing himself to breathe evenly, willing his heart rate to return to normal.

“How long have I been missing?” Stiles asked.

“It had been approximately eighty-five hours when I came to find you,” Derek said. He looked up at the sky and frowned. “As of right now, I would estimate it’s been around ninety-five or ninety-six hours.”

“Ninety-six hours,” Stiles repeated. “Four days. Fuck.”

A strange silence settled between the two of them, Stiles frowning and blinking and rubbing his hands as he processed that information. Derek wondered if it had felt longer or shorter to Stiles. The comment earlier about ‘the good drugs’ was flippantly made, but judging by the shivers running through Stiles and the vomit splattered and soaked into his clothes, Derek suspected Stiles had been kept sedated for most of that time.

“My dad,” Stiles said suddenly. “Does he know I’m still… alive?”

“He received some footage of you two days ago,” Derek said as delicately as he could. To his surprise, Stiles relaxed at this news.

“Oh thank fuck,” Stiles said. Derek frowned and Stiles shrugged. “I don’t really remember much of it, but I know they filmed themselves beating me up. They took it really seriously, with where everyone was standing and how much I moved.” Stiles winced and his hand fluttered towards the cut across his belly. “I was getting pretty worried that they had taken me to make, like, I dunno, snuff films or something.”

It took a lot of willpower for Derek to stop himself from pulling Stiles back into the protective circle of his arms. He also had regained enough tact to stop himself from pointing out to Stiles that snuff films involved actually killing people in front of the camera and so could only ever make one with him. Stiles sighed and wrapped one hand around his stomach, the other running through his hair.

“I can’t believe my dad had to see me like that. It must have killed him. He’s always been really protective,” Stiles said. He gave a weak smile. “Mom had to talk him into even letting me watch action films when I was little. Told him he couldn’t shield me from the world.”

“My mom’s the pack alpha,” Derek offered, unable to simply sit and watch Stiles’s heart break over his father and not say anything. “So she’s always been hellbent on making sure I could protect myself. Our pack is very traditional and I think my dad struggled with that a lot. Didn’t see any reason why a ten year old should be out learning how to fight and hunt.”

“Your mom’s the alpha? Does that mean you’ll be the alpha when she dies?” Stiles asked, curiosity lighting his face. It was nice to see a spark of life returning to his eyes. The dull sheen left by the drugs and horror of the last few days made Stiles look wrong.

Derek shook his head. “I have an older sister, Laura. She’ll take over, unless my uncle contests it.”

“I thought the only way to become an alpha was to kill one,” Stile said, looking horrified. “Your uncle would kill his niece to become the alpha?”

“No,” Derek said, recoiling at the thought. “Alphas can pass on their power to blood relatives. There would just be a display of dominance, so the pack knows they can trust the new Alpha to take care of them. You really thought my sister would kill my mother when the time came?”

“No, I-“ Stiles said, making a helpless gesture. “I just assumed it would be passed on when your mom died or your sister was born all Alpha-y. Or something. Good to know there isn’t a system of Alpha euthanasia, though.”

“Your dad’s the forerunner for Were rights, how do you not know any of this stuff?” Derek asked, frowning. Stiles blushed.

“I don’t really pay attention to his politics,” Stiles muttered. “What happened after my dad got the footage?”

“I don’t really know,” Derek said. “I was put under house arrest not long after.”

“You were arrested?” Stiles asked. “What for?”

“I don’t work for Argent Security any more, so strictly speaking I shouldn’t have been working on your case,” Derek said, deciding to leave out the fact that Stiles saying his name on the tape meant his father thought Derek was one of the abductors. The kid had enough to worry about without feeling guilty about that. Stiles looked delighted by this news.

“You broke into Argent Security to try and find me?” Stiles said, beaming. “You didn’t trust the best and brightest in the country to be able to rescue me, and decided to take matters into your own hands? And then you busted out of-“ Stiles’s face fell. “That doesn’t make any sense. Breaking the law when you didn’t know what had happened to me, sure, but I know my dad. Whatever ransom they demanded, he would have worked out a way to get it to them. Why would you come after me now? What were they asking for that you thought my dad wouldn’t give them?”

Unsure how to break the news gently, Derek opted for placing a comforting hand on Stiles shoulder and telling him the truth straight. “There was no ransom demand.”

“What?” Stiles asked, baffled. “They sent a tape showing me being beaten up, are you seriously telling me there was no attached threatening message?”

Derek shook his head. “We have no idea what they want. We don’t even know who has you.”

“Then how did you find me?” Stiles asked, his breath quickening and his body starting to shake uncontrollably.

“Stiles I- I didn’t,” Derek confessed, feeling helpless. “Stiles, I need you to concentrate, on my voice, on my breathing.”

Panic attacks were nothing new to Derek, and he clung to the feeling of control it gave him to at least be able to help Stiles through this. He reached out and grabbed one of Stiles’s hands, pressing it to his own chest and taking several deliberate, deep and even breaths.

“I know that this is scary right now, but it’s going to be okay. I’m here with you now and I’m going to get you out of this,” Derek said, wishing he could believe the words himself. “Stiles, talk to me, you know how it worries me when you are quiet for too long.”

Stiles managed a shaky, only slightly breathy laugh, staring at Derek’s chest moving under his hand, his breaths matching Derek’s. “I thought you would have forgotten.” Stiles whispered.

“Forgotten that you can’t shut up for longer than the time it takes to eat a handful of curly fries?” Derek said, the memory of taking Stiles to all of the diners near his new apartment, watching him search with unusual determination to find a new supplier of his favourite snack filling his mind. “Even that was a feat some days.”

“I had to,” Stiles said, his voice growing steadier. “You were always so quiet. If I didn’t talk, we’d just sit around in tense, broody silence all day.”

“I was on duty as your body guard!” Derek protested, letting himself get drawn into the argument. “I wasn’t there to entertain you, I was there to keep an eye on the surrounds. It’s hard to be constantly vigilant if you’re also trying to think of anecdotes to amuse an eighteen-year-old.”

“Sometimes I would manage to suck you into a discussion, say something so outrageously wrong you couldn’t help yourself, you had to say something and when you realized what you had done you would look so cross and amused and resigned all at once. It was so different to your usual bland expression.” Stiles glanced up, tentatively holding Derek’s eye and smiling. “Those were always my favorite days.”

“Mine too,” Derek admitted roughly. “Even when your face grew smug and I realized what you had done, realized you had done it on purpose.”

Derek’s gaze dropped down to where he was still holding Stiles’s hand against his chest, even though Stiles’s breath had slowed, but Stiles wasn’t making a move to remove his hand either.

“Well, well, well, what do we have here?” a voice rang out across the clearing, startling Derek and Stiles. Instinctively, Derek moved in front of Stiles, not letting go of Stiles’s hand so he could keep him in place.

“Who are you?” Derek demanded as the man approached. Derek had to force himself not to step back in response to the smell of mountain ash and wolfsbane that clung to the man’s clothing, moving instead into a more aggressive posture.

“Matt Daehler, at your service,” Matt said, giving a theatrical bow. “I’m here today as your resident Were expert and bringer of food and water.”

“We won’t be taking anything that’s drugged,” Derek warned. Matt laughed.

“I hardly need to point out that you are in no position to be making demands,” Matt said easily. “If we want to drug you, we’ll drug you.”

“We’ll starve first,” Derek said. Matt had reached the mountain ash line, not breaking his stride as he crossed it, though he was careful not to drag his feet or knock the dust around.

“Well, no,” Matt mused. “Technically you would dehydrate first. You, Mr Hale, might last another three or four days easily without water, but Mr Stilinski here has at most two day days left in him, I would estimate. Starvation, on the other hand, could take weeks. That’s just semantics, though, if there’s anything we want you to take, I’m more than happy to use force. Hell, if you piss me off enough, I might even prefer it.”

Matt stepped up to the bars and carelessly tossed a few bottles of water through them, shoving a bag of what smelled like food in after. Derek inched closer to Stiles, broadening his stance further. Matt smirked.

“Feeling a bit protective of your boy, Hale?” Matt said. Derek scowled, only managing to hold back a growl when Stiles’s grip on his hand tightened and he felt the soft weight of Stiles resting his other hand between his shoulders.

“What do you care?” Derek asked.

“I couldn’t give a shit,” Matt said breezily. “But I know someone who’ll be pleased.”

“Yeah? Who?” Derek said, making himself sound unimpressed. Matt grinned.

“You’ll find out soon enough.” And with that, Matt turned and left, apparently utterly unconcerned about turning his back on an irate Were with combat training. Derek waited until he heard Matt enter a vehicle and drive away before he relaxed his stance, letting go of Stiles’s hand and turning to face him.

“You did well,” Derek said gruffly. Stiles raised an eyebrow.

“I don’t know if you noticed, but I didn’t do anything there,” Stiles said. “Utterly useless son of an important man here.”

“Doing nothing can be hard. Impossible, for some,” Derek said. “You had to let yourself feel weak and useless, in front of someone who was big noting himself. I have training and experience in this, and you let me take charge. A lot of guys find that hard, they think it’s emasculating, even though it takes more strength of character to do it.”

Stiles shrugged, but he seemed pleased by Derek’s comments. “Yeah, well, better I lose my metaphorical balls than my actual ones, I always say.”

Despite himself, Derek let out a small laugh and Stiles beamed.

“Come on big guy,” Stiles said. “Let’s see what goodies our new friend Matt has left us.”

After a thorough sniffing by Derek, the bottles were found to just contain water, and the bag had an assortment of cooked meats and raw vegetables, everything slightly squashed and broken from being forced through the bars.

“So how are we going to do this?” Stiles asked, looking longingly at the fresh bounty. “When do you think he’s going to come back?”

“Until we work out what he wants us for or establishes a routine, there’s no way of knowing,” Derek said, frowning. “I’m guessing you haven’t eaten much in the last few days.”

“Maybe a few cups of soup?” Stiles said. “I don’t know how much of that I kept down, though. God I’m hungry. You might have to hold me back, or else I’m just going to go to town on this stuff.”

Derek reached out and wrapped a hand around the juncture between Stiles’s neck and shoulder, giving him a friendly shake. “I think I could hold my own against you,” Derek said. Stiles turned around to give Derek a grateful smile. “For now, though, you should probably just a few sips of water, and we’ll see what you can hold down later.”

“I thought you would say that,” Stiles say, looking mournfully at the small pile of food. He glanced over at the water and stiffened slightly. “I have a pretty nasty cut on my stomach, is it worth wasting some water to clean it?”

“I might be able to do something about that,” Derek said awkwardly.

“Yeah?” Stiles asked. “Like a body-guard-trained-in-first-aid thing or a magical-werewolf-healing-powers thing?”

“A Were thing,” Derek admitted.

“Really?” Stiles asked, looking excited. “I know Weres can heal themselves, but I’ve never heard of it working on a human.”

“It’s just something Weres will do with human children in the pack,” Derek said. It felt strange discussing pack affairs with an outsider. Not wrong, just unfamiliar. “You might think it’s a little weird.”

Stiles shrugged. “As soon as I’m done worrying about dying from dehydration, starvation or because I’ve pissed off one of our captors, all of my efforts are going into remembering the signs of blood poisoning. If it saves me from dying a horrible death, you have my full permission to get your freak on.”

Derek nodded. “It’s a fairly simple concept. When a Were gets sick or injured, our entire bodies go into healing mode, and one side affect of that is our saliva, and presumably other bodily fluids, can be used to heal others. Not major injuries, but small enough cuts can be disinfected and then encouraged to knit together faster, more cleanly. If the cut is minor enough, it won’t even scar. It’s useful for human children born into the pack. Growing up around Weres involves a lot of rough play,” Derek added, with a small fond smile.

“So you’re going to lick it?” Stiles said, his face scrunching up with disgust.

“If that’s okay with you,” Derek said quickly.

“Dude, lick away, that’s fine,” Stiles said, blushing when he realized what he had just said. Derek shoved the imagery away before blood could rush in an inappropriate direction. “I just… have you seen it? It’s pretty unappetising.”

Derek shrugged. “It’s that or listen to you recite the symptoms of blood poisoning the whole time we’re here.”

“Dick,” Stiles said affectionately. “So do I like lie down?”

“Have some water first,” Derek said, reaching for one of the bottles and handing it over. “Just a few sips and then just sit tight. I’m going to dig us a toilet.”

“If I ever go on Survivor,” Stiles said. “I’m definitely taking you. The thought of a toilet wouldn’t have even occurred to me until I was desperate to pee.”

“We can do that through the bars,” Derek said absently, contemplating the edges of the cage. Initially, he had wanted to keep the corner furthest from both the door and the direction Matt had emerged for sleeping, but now he realized they would be better off in the middle of the cage, which would give them a few feet of distance from all of the bars. Enough that no one could just reach in and touch them, or inject them with something. Defecating would clearly be the next most vulnerable action they would be taking, so he headed for the far corner and started digging, losing himself in the action, letting Stiles’s chatter about their chances on Survivor wash over him, enjoying the sound but not taking in the words.

“The biggest problem,” Stiles was saying when Derek declared himself finished. He turned to look at Stiles, who was sitting near the food, leaning against the bars with his eyes closed. “Would be that the winning team always includes a hot girl who needs to take like nine showers in a bikini every day.”

He was clearly exhausted, keeping himself upright only by resting his entire weight against the bars, and his limbs kept making small jerks that Stiles wasn’t even reacting to.

“You and I can clearly win over those who can appreciate the male form, but when it comes to the straight guys and lesbians, I just don’t like our chances,” Stiles continued.

“Water stayed down alright?” Derek asked. Stiles opened his eyes.

“Yep,” Stiles said. “It was touch and go there for a while, but I think I can salvage my reputation as world expert water drinker.”

“A relief, I’m sure,” Derek said dryly. He knelt down next to Stiles and flung his hand out, transforming his nails into claws with practiced ease. “Lie down and lift your shirt.”

Stiles complied, but frowned at Derek’s newly transformed hand. “What are you doing?”

Derek ignored him as he moved to slice his other arm open, startled when Stiles sat up and grabbed at his claw.

“Stop that!” Stiles said.

“What’s wrong?” Derek looked around them, but the clearing remained empty, no sign of movement, no sound of engines or unfamiliar heartbeats, no new smells.

“What’s wrong? You were about to cut your arm open!” Stiles said.

“It’s the simplest way to trigger my healing powers,” Derek said, confused. “I told you I needed to be sick or injured, otherwise my saliva works just the same as yours.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, releasing Derek’s claw reluctantly. He lay back down and closed his eyes. “I didn’t think about- sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Derek said, bemused. He dragged his claw along his arm cleanly, making the cut as deep as he could to prolong the healing time, feeling a slight sting and then the comforting rush of his body working to mend itself. Stiles’s face was screwed up, clearly anxious about what was about to happen, and Derek rested his human hand on Stiles’s hip, rubbing soothingly as he quickly moved to lathe the cut in his saliva. It was, as Stiles has said, quite disgusting, covered in a layer of grime and other things Derek preferred not to think about. So he distracted himself by concentrating on the feel of Stiles’s fragile skin stretched over his hip, on the fluttering heart rate that sped as Derek nosed along his belly. The scent of Stiles was stronger close up, even masked as it was by the various bits of muck and grime covering him.

Stiles started to squirm, and Derek slowed his movements, worried that he was hurting Stiles, but a muffled gasp and a shift in Stiles’s scent told a very different story. The hardships and constant sedation of the last few days had taken their toll on Stiles, but a discreet glance south let Derek know Stiles’s body was nonetheless making a valiant effort at responding to Derek’s intimate ministrations, his hips twitching and a what looked like a slight swelling forming in his pants. Out of respect for Stiles, Derek slid his hand up to cup his ribs and made no reaction to Stiles’s discomfort, figuring it was easier to just ignore what must be a very embarrassing situation for Stiles. By the time Derek was satisfied he had done all he could for the wound, Stiles appeared to have regained control of himself and that, Derek thought, was the end of it.

Chapter Text

With no access to Argent Security files, no way they would ever be allowed to visit the safe house Derek had been kept at, and agents scouring Derek’s own apartment for clues, Scott and Allison were getting desperate.

“I don’t know what you think I can do,” Lydia said gently, accepting the drink Scott handed her.

“Something’s really wrong,” Allison said. “I’ve never seen an Argent investigation this bare before. No leads, no suspects, nothing. And then Derek disappearing too? Whoever has Stiles seems to be one step ahead at every stage and I think they’re setting Derek up to take the fall.”

“Why Derek, I wonder,” Lydia said. “Do you think they picked him out intentionally?”

Scott shook his head. “How would they have even known Derek would start working the case? He only came in to help me out, and even that was pretty out of the blue. He doesn’t like to have anything to do with Argent any more.”

“But they would have known you would be on the case?” Lydia said.

“I guess,” Scott said. “It’s pretty well known Stiles is my primary, and I definitely get seen in public with him the most.”

“That’s true,” Lydia said, cocking her head thoughtfully. “I rarely ever notice any of Stiles’s other body guards. Not since you were assigned to him.”

“It’s part of my contract. President Stilinski was pretty worried about Stiles after he got kicked out of college. I think he and Mr Argent thought it might help if Stiles was closer to one of his body guard, that if he liked them he might sneak off less. So Stiles and I spent a lot of time together,” Scott said. “For all the good it did.”

“Scott,” Allison said, placing her hand around Scott’s arm. “It wasn’t your fault.”

“So you were the person who would know most about Stiles’s habits,” Lydia said thoughtfully. “You had access to his schedule, knew who was aware of his whereabouts at any given point in time. No one would blink an eye if you changed a routine or arranged for additional, unscheduled transport.”

Lydia,” Allison said, horrified. Scott’s eyes widened as he looked at Lydia, dumbfounded. “You don’t think Scott-”

“No,” Lydia said. “But maybe Derek wasn’t the original target to take the fall for Stiles’s disappearance.”

“You think they wanted to blame it on me?” Scott asked, bemused.

Lydia shrugged. “You would be the more obvious choice. But having someone to take responsibility for the kidnapping would require that either Stiles be kept unconscious or sensorially deprived. Or else the kidnappers have no intention to return Stiles alive.”

“They’ve made no demands, and they can’t send a message if they want to remain anonymous,” Allison pointed out. “What would be the point of it all?”

“Fear,” Lydia said. “Doubt. Maybe they’re building up to something. We can’t work it out without more information. We don’t know anything, about their motives or their contacts or-”

Allison reached out to squeeze Lydia’s hand as her voice grew more hysterical. She broke off with a sob.

“Allison, what if there’s nothing we can do?” Lydia asked, her voice unsteady.

“Then we do something we can’t,” Allison said firmly.

“That doesn’t even mean anything,” Lydia protested. Allison wrapped her arm around Lydia’s shoulder.

“We keep trying and don’t give up,” Scott said earnestly. “That’s what we do.”

 

“Derek I’m hungry,” Stiles whined, tugging fruitlessly at the hand Derek had trapped en route to a slice of ham. “You said if I didn’t throw up I could eat more.”

“It’s only been ten minutes,” Derek said. He released Stiles hand, but instead wrapped his arm around Stiles’s waist and tugged him bodily away. In other circumstances, Stiles might have enjoyed the ease with which Derek touched him, another wall that had kept Derek distant all those years away crumbling away, but right then he was just too damned hungry.

“And you only let me have like a quarter of a carrot,” Stiles said. “Besides, you don’t have a watch, for all you know it could have been half an hour already.”

Derek tapped his temple. “Werewolves have an acute inner clock.” Stiles snorted.

“Well if I can’t eat, you shouldn’t either,” Stiles said. He glared at the turnip Derek was eating like an apple. It was hard to imagine he had spent so many years refusing to eat any vegetable that hadn’t been deep fried. The turnip looked delicious.

“Superior werewolf healing powers,” Derek said. “My system cleared itself of the drug hours ago. Besides, I haven’t spent the last few days being starved, no harm in me eating.”

“I meant for solidarity,” Stiles said.

Derek, the stupid jerk, simply grinned before taking an obnoxiously large bite. As Derek lowered his hand, Stiles lunged forward, snatching at the half-eaten turnip. Derek moved his hand away, and Stiles growled, clambering on top of Derek’s lap and reaching for the vegetable.

“Derek,” Stiles said, dragging the word out, trying to sound as irritating as possible.

“You can have some ham in five minutes if you sit quietly and behave until then,” Derek said primly, and Stiles was pleased to see a small smile curling at the corner of Derek’s mouth, his eyes softening with amusement.

“Fine,” Stiles huffed, slumping down on Derek’s lap and settling in comfortably, tucking his head onto Derek’s shoulder, nervous excitement running through him as he wondered how much Derek would let him get away with, how much he would realize Stiles wasn’t just playing around. Derek seemed to take it all in stride, wrapping an arm around Stiles’s hips to hold him in place, and crunching away on his turnip loudly.

It was an absurd position to find himself in, Stiles thought. They had been taken captive by some unknown malevolent group for unknown purposes, but right then and there, Stiles didn’t feel scared. It wasn’t just that Derek made Stiles feel safe, although having Derek’s bulk shielding him against the somewhat sinister Matt had been unutterably comforting, and Derek making plans and taking charge let Stiles feel he could drop his guard for the first time in days. It was more than that. Derek wasn’t just treating him as a charge, wasn’t just making sure he was a safe, protected and cared for as the circumstance allowed. He was playing and teasing and treating Stiles as more than just a helpless rich idiot who needed to have someone watching him to make sure he didn’t trip and choke on his own tongue. It made Stiles feel more than safe. It made him feel human.

“Thanks,” Stiles muttered into Derek’s shoulder, flushing with embarrassment. Derek’s arm tightened, a comforting pressure and Stiles swore he felt Derek press his lips to Stiles’s hair.

“It’s okay,” Derek said, his voice low and rough. “I’m just…”

Derek trailed off and Stiles felt his heart sink. He couldn’t bear to hear Derek say the words, “I’m just doing my job.” That’s all it was, and Stiles knew that, that’s what it had always been, no matter what else he had imagined or hoped or longed for. That’s what all of them had been doing. He needed to be kept safe so his dad could do important work, make real changes for the world, improve lives and bring hope. Stiles understood that, and he knew that his body guards believed in it too. Even Scott, who Stiles was growing to love as a brother, believed in his father’s cause and knew Stiles had to be kept safe because his dad loved him and couldn’t bear to lose him.

To Stiles’s surprise, Derek wrapped his other arm around him, pressing him closer until there was no space between them, and every heartbeat and breath taken could be felt, chests pressed so closely together. “I’m just glad I found you, no matter what happens next. I’m glad I could be here with you,” Derek finished and Stiles’s heart stuttered, his breath catching in his throat.

“Yeah,” Stiles managed. “I’m glad you’re here, too.”

Derek released Stiles gently, and not wanting to make him feel awkward, Stiles slid off Derek’s lap, moving until he was sitting next to him, arms wrapped around his knees, feeling vulnerable and exposed.

“Why do you do it?” Derek asked quietly.

Stiles frowned. “Do what?”

“Sneak off, put yourself in danger,” Derek said. “Disappear just so you can go and have sex with random girls and guys-”

“Do you have a problem with me being bisexual?” Stiles demanded, letting himself grow defensive, not wanting to think about the worry he knew he had caused.

“No,” Derek scoffed. “I have a problem with you sneaking off to sleep with people no one’s done a background check on.”

“Maybe I was sick of being the only person whose dad has the government vet their sleeping partners,” Stiles said, his feeling of warm contentment sliding rapidly away. “What the hell do you care, anyway? I never did that when I was your primary and you don’t even work for Argent’s any more. It’s none of your business.”

“Stiles, of course I care if you get hurt,” Derek said.

“I can take care of myself,” Stiles said. He felt sick, hurt by the accusations Derek was slinging at him, hurt and guilty all at once. “Nothing has ever happened to me until now, and guess what? This happened while I was following the rules and supposedly being kept safe.”

“You’re the President’s son,” Derek said, his voice growing cold and quiet. “It’s sheer dumb luck nothing’s ever happened to you while you were out shooting up with your friends.”

“Shooting up?” Stiles repeated, incredulous. “What the fuck are you talking about? I don’t ‘shoot up’. I’m not an idiot.” Derek scoffed. “I don’t know who you’ve been talking to, but I don’t. Whatever you might have read, I don’t just spend my days stoned and naked with strangers. I’m out there doing things to make the world a better place for Weres, which is more than you are doing, Mr High-And-Mighty.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard all about what you’re doing for Weres,” Derek said. “Turning Lydia and Jackson’s genuine legal and social struggle into a love story with you as the hero, and now your adoring public can coo over you and feel like they are activists without having to change a damn thing.”

“Did Scott tell you this?” Stiles asked, his stomach twisting at the thought. He knew that Scott has been assigned to Stiles purely because his dad and Argent thought it might temper his ways having a sensible guy his own age paid to hang around him all the time and it had sort of worked. Stiles genuinely liked Scott, enjoyed spending time with him and found they had a lot in common and very similar senses of humor. But until now, Stiles hadn’t thought Scott’s opinion of him mattered much. Considering how he got the job, Stiles figured there was no way Scott didn’t know what a screw up Stiles could be, no way Stiles could disappoint Scott and no reason for Stiles to care if he did. Or at least that’s what Stiles had thought, but the image of Scott disparaging Stiles’s attempt at continuing his dad’s work, of seeing Stiles as little more than an attention seeking joke was horrifying.

“No,” Derek said. “Despite your attempts to fuck him over and get him fired, Scott genuinely likes you.”

“I have never done anything to fuck Scott over,” Stiles said. “And I sure as hell wouldn’t try to get him fired.”

“That’s what you do every time you sneak off,” Derek said. “Even if nothing happens, losing sight of a primary, particularly one as highly protected as you, is grounds for termination. And not just termination, but a black mark on their record. Can you imagine anyone would want to hire someone who lost the president’s son?”

“That’s not fair,” Stiles said.

“Tell that to your former teams,” Derek said.

An awkward silence settled over them, Stiles feeling desperately wronged, but unable to articulate precisely how. Nothing Derek had said was untrue, anyone who had ever glanced in a magazine or flipped through a newspaper could tell you that being Stiles’s bodyguard was one of the worst jobs in the world. Yet none of his former bodyguards had ever complained about him, even after they moved on to other teams. There had never been any suggestion that it had adversely affected their job prospects. But how well did he follow their careers? Stiles thought angrily to himself. Derek had been his favourite bodyguard and he didn’t even know he no longer worked for Argent Security. And besides, who would hire a personal security team made up of people who went to the press with their complaints after the job was done? For all Stiles knew, they all hated him and resented that their big break had been ruined because Stiles found it slightly uncomfortable to have trained professionals ensuring his life was never in any real danger.

“Can I eat now?” Stiles asked dully, no longer feeling particularly hungry, but unable to sit in silence and berate himself any longer.

“Yeah,” Derek said, all the conviction and anger drained away, leaving only a quiet helplessness. He reached out to hand stiles a hunk of chicken, and Stiles wondered briefly if it was a peace offering, but of course it was just a coincidence. Why would Derek remember that Stiles’s loved chicken, and why would he want to comfort Stiles now anyway? Chicken was probably just easier to digest or had more protein or some other practical, keeping-Stiles-alive reason.

“Thanks,” Stiles murmured, trying to work out if there was a way to say ‘I’m a dick, but god am I glad you’re here’ and have everything go back to the way it had been before Stiles knew that Derek thought he was a fuckup who carelessly went around ruining people’s lives while demanding credit for being a philanthropic. He was still mulling it over when Derek said,

“I’m sorry.”

“What?” Stiles asked, nearly choking on a piece of chicken.

“You shouldn’t sneak off, it’s stupid and reckless and makes you kind of an asshole,” Derek said.

“I got that,” Stiles snapped.

“But,” Derek continued firmly, “it was unfair of me to say you should be doing their job, or that you’re responsible for their careers. They should be making you feel safe and protected, not stifled and frustrated. Running away from them isn’t the solution, but once it became clear you were a flight risk, it was their responsibility to fit that into their protection plan.”

“That’s why they brought Scott in,” Stiles said, folding in on himself as the guilty feelings rose again. “And we all saw how well that went. I walk all over the guy.”

“Scott really likes you,” Derek said. “He talks about you all the time, and he’s never once said anything about you taking advantage of him.”

“That’s because Scott is basically made of sunshine and puppies,” Stiles said, groaning. That was the kicker, wasn’t it? It was one thing to push Derek to try and find his limits, Derek could defend himself. Pushing Scott wasn’t about seeing how much he could get away with, it was about shoving him out of the way when Stiles found him inconvenient.

Just as Stiles was preparing to descend into another shame spiral, Derek chuckled.

“I couldn’t stand him when I first met him,” Derek said.

“I can imagine. Secretly-a-Disney-Character-Scott meeting Mr Sour Wolf himself, that would have gone down well,” Stiles said, keeping his teasing tone cautious. Derek reached over and lightly cuffed Stiles’s neck, which Stiles took as a good sign.

“Sour Wolf,” Derek repeated slowly, as though feeling the shape the words made in his mouth. “I forgot you used to call me that.

“You would get so cranky,” Stiles said, smiling. “You had this great scowly, broody, if-I-wasn’t-being-paid-to-protect-you-I’d-smack-you-for-that-comment look, which made me want to use the name all the time.”

“So if I’d smiled you would have given it up?” Derek said, flashing Stiles a grin. If calling you Sour Wolf could make you smile at me like that I never would have said anything else, Stiles thought, feeling his whole chest tighten and soften and flutter all at the same time.

“Nah,” Stiles said, trying desperately to sound flippant. “I would have found something else.”

“Something more obnoxious, I imagine,” Derek said, rolling his eyes with an actual, honest-to-god look of fondness and affection on his face. Stiles wondered what would happen if he just shifted a bit closer, wrapped his arms around Derek’s neck and pulled him in for a kiss.

“So what happened the first time you met Scott?” Stiles asked, trying to distract himself.

“I’d just been transferred into his team, and the team leader at the time believed strongly in team bonding,” Derek said. Stiles settled himself more comfortably, relieved that whatever had just been said, however much Derek was secretly disappointed in Stiles, things hadn’t been ruined. And maybe Derek was just trying to make things easier while they were being held captive, maybe it was just about moral and psychological strength, but hearing Derek talking to him, telling him a personal story, adding in all of the little details and imitations that made Stiles laugh, was soothing Stiles despite himself. And as Stiles shifted closer to Derek’s side, pressing into him as though trying to steal his warmth, Derek even went so far as to wrap an arm around him, drawing Stiles into his protective circle, making Stiles believe against all odds that maybe, just maybe, everything would turn out okay.

 

Scott stood back and stared at the impressive and complicated mind map they had created under Lydia’s supervision. His heart sank. Every scrap of information, every possible, unlikely and way-out-of-left-field suspect, everyone who had access to Stiles’s schedule, every scenario they could think of, all laid out and pointing nowhere.

“Right,” Lydia said briskly, walking up and pointing to the tail end of a series of connections. “I think we should start here.”

Scott squinted at where she was pointing and frowned. “With Isaac? You think Isaac had something to do with this? Have you met the guy? He’s harmless! I mean, he can get a bit aggressive in laser tag, but he let me win when it was my birthday.”

“No,” Lydia said, shaking her head. “He’s unlikely to have had anything to do with it, but he’s our best bet at finding out what Derek knew.”

“You think Derek told him?” Scott said. “If Isaac knew something, he would have told someone by now.”

“He might not know that he knows anything,” Lydia said, straightening herself, and adopting a lecturing pose. “The last known location we have on Derek is the safe house. We’re assuming three things: one, that Derek had nothing to do with the kidnapping; two, that Derek was interested in salvaging his reputation and disproving the current suspicions against him; and three, that Derek would have contacted you if he were able. This leaves us with two scenarios. Either Derek was taken from the safe house, or he left of his own accord and was taken by the abductors later. The former is highly unlikely, if the abductors wanted Derek for himself, they could have taken him far more easily in the days preceding. And if the abductors took Derek to set him up, they would have killed Isaac rather than risk him having witnessed something and giving the game away, not to mention it would have more effectively painted Derek as the villain.”

“Remind me not to ever cross you,” Scott said in awe.

Lydia flashed Scott a slightly manic grin, and he shuffled closer to Allison.

“This means that Derek most likely left of his own volition initially as he knew something and was taken later, suggesting what he knew was correct,” Lydia said. “The information or insight that led Derek to the kidnappers must have come to him some time after I left or he would have passed it on, so something happened while he was in the safe house, and we need to work out what. Isaac has admitted to talking to Derek for a brief period, and entering the space Derek was being kept, while the previous guard had stayed outside in the kitchen, which had been set up as an informal guard room.”

“If Derek said anything suspicious to Isaac, he would have passed it on,” Scott insisted.

“But Derek might have said something normal that wouldn’t have meant anything to Isaac,” Allison pointed out, nodding at Lydia and letting herself grow excited. “Derek could have been watching TV and noticed something off, or maybe ate something that triggered a memory, or maybe Isaac said something that made everything fall into place.”

“Exactly,” Lydia said.

 

“So what’s the plan?” Stiles asked, looking over the small pile of food. “Unless you have some werewolfy refrigeration powers I don’t know about, we have to eat the meat pretty quickly, right? We can put the vegetables aside for emergency rations, but no point risking salmonella.”

Stiles turned to Derek with a hopeful expression, the kind that made Derek want to cuff him around the head, or give in, or lean in and suck on that damn pouty lip and wipe it away. Which was not a thought Derek should be having about a man he had declared to be under his protection. Not when they were in a cage in the woods, and there was no where Stiles could go if Derek’s interest made him uncomfortable. The fact that there was no where Derek could go in light of a sudden and uncomfortably interest in Stiles’s mouth was just a burden Derek had to bear. To focus himself, Derek gave Stiles an assessing look, making note of the increased color, brightening of Stiles’s eyes and the general improvement Stiles had been making since they woke up. This returning to health seemed to Derek almost miraculous, compared to the wan figure he had woken up to. He wondered if the healing he had encouraged on Stiles’s stomach wound had anything to do with it, or if it was just the difference of the steady rehydration over the last few hours, the last of the drugs leaving his system and the psychological boost of no longer being locked alone in a windowless room.

“You think you could keep it down?” Derek asked dubiously, reaching out and placing his hand on Stiles’s forehead, ostensibly to check his temperature, but finding a lot of comfort in the physical contact, the tangible proof that Stiles really was in front of him, alive and well.

“Yes Mom,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes, but not moving to shake Derek’s hand away. Derek removed it himself, but only to grab Stiles’s neck and give him a shake. Stiles laughed and made a lunge for Derek, too weak to actually come close to knocking him over, but Derek let himself fall, dragging Stiles down after him. They wrestled for a few minutes, Derek keeping his strenght firmly in check, but not throwing the match.

“Victor gets first choice of meat,” Derek declared, smiling down at Stiles, straddling his thighs and holding Stiles down by his shoulders, careful to not actually put any of his weight down. It felt incredibly natural to do this with Stiles, and Derek realized he had been treating Stiles like he would a human packmate, wrestling like he did with the human cubs.

“Fine,” Stiles said, sounding slightly out of breath, his cheeks flushed. He was grinning, so Derek wasn’t worried he had hurt Stiles, but he didn’t think Stiles should have been so worn out by the brief bout of roughhousing. He sat up and pulled Stiles up after him, relieved that Stiles didn’t insist he could take care of himself. At this point, it was everything Derek had in him not to force Stiles’s to lie down, wrap himself around Stiles to keep him warm, and feed him strips of meat.

Derek grabbed the last hunk of corned beef, remembering how Stiles had winced slightly at taste of it, and shoved some chicken at Stiles. The shy smile he received in response was more than worth it. They had no time to enjoy their spoils, though, as the faint sound of a vehicle approaching caught Derek’s attention.

“Someone’s coming,” Derek said tersely. Stiles stiffened.

“Does that mean we have to go stand near the toilet?” Stiles said, but his voice was shaky. Derek grabbed his hand and squeezed it reassuringly.

“No. Our best bet is to stand in the middle of the…” Derek paused, not wanting to say ‘cage’ aloud. They both knew that’s what it was, but there was a difference between referring to it as such in his mind, and acknowledging the fact that they were quite literally trapped like animals.

“Casa de Stilinski and Hale,” Stiles offered, giving Derek a grateful smile.

“Right,” Derek said. “It’s not much, but it gives us a slight advantage if they come at us with anything handheld.”

Derek tactfully didn’t mention that there was nothing they could really do if their captors had longer range weapons, and that not even short range things could be avoided for long. The main advantage, to Derek’s mind, was that he could use his own body as a shield more effectively, move to stand between Stiles and the threat with far more ease if there were no bars behind him. But outlining this advantage aloud would only lead to Stiles either insisting Derek not put himself in danger, or Stiles acknowledging Derek’s reason that he had much better odds against anything they came up against due to his werewolf healing powers. No point making Stiles live with the guilt if they did manage to kill Derek and Stiles survived.

“Afternoon!” Matt called across the clearing, dragging behind him a large hand trolley carrying a roll of some kind of thick, dark material, a small cardboard box balanced on top. Derek let go of Stiles’s hand so he could maneuver them into a more defensive position, carefully weighing up the physical disadvantages against the psychological benefits before thinking screw it, we might be about to die, and reaching back for Stiles’s hand. “How did we enjoy… hmm, I suppose I left you brunch, didn’t I? I’m not used to having to cater for humans, so do tell me if the cooked meats were to your liking.”

Behind him, Derek could feel Stiles shift, moving to look past Derek at Matt. Derek shook his head sharply, squeezing Stiles hand in warning. It might make Stiles feel better to engage in some verbal sparring, and Derek had no doubt Stiles could take Matt down, but that was one of the most dangerous things he could do. If Stiles managed to outwit or humiliate Matt, if he appeared to win the power exchange, it could make Matt angry and unpredictable.

“No?” Matt said, sounding amused. Derek wondered if he realized what had just happened. It was possible; Stiles was well known in the media for being mouthy, dealing easily with heckling at public events, and verbally eviscerating paparazzi who managed to elude his security team. “Ah well, dinner’s going to be very disappointing then, I’m afraid,” Matt continued, gesturing to the box. “It’s all very similar. I would chase you down some seafood, but that’s always a riskier choice, isn’t it? And I never know whether to go with farmed or from the ocean. I presume neither of you is pregnant, so I suppose the issues with mercury are less severe, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a concern for me.”

Matt reached the cage and unloaded the box, pulling out more water bottles and tossing them through the cage, followed by a small bags presumably holding more food.

“You didn’t finish what I brought before?” Matt said, tutting disapprovingly. “Ah well, never mind. Some people find they don’t eat as well the first night in a new place, I’m sure your appetite will return in full soon enough. Now, Mr Hale, I don’t mean to get in the way of the excellent job you are doing guarding your boy there, but I do wish to speak to Mr Stilinski.”

“I can pass on the message,” Derek said coolly. Matt grinned.

“Please tell Mr Stilinski I need to speak to him face-to-face,” Matt said, pulling out a dart gun. “And I really don’t mind if you are conscious for it or not.”

Stiles placed a reassuring hand on Derek’s shoulder and Derek stepped aside.

“Yes?” Stiles asked, and Derek was relieved that Stiles’s voice was steady, his legs strong and he was no longer shaking.

“Ah Mr Stilinski, I’m glad you could make it.” Matt laughed and put the dart gun away. “I have here a curious artifact I’m going to be using to decorate your new residence, but I’m afraid you won’t understand the significance of it, and I do so want you to be able to appreciate it.”

“Oh?” Stiles said, sounding calm and almost disinterested.

“Indeed,” Matt said. “What do you know about your little guard dog, there? I presume they let you know the title is more accurate for him than most?”

“I know he’s a Were,” Stiles said, his tone betraying the offence he took at the implied slur. He shoot Derek an apologetic glance, but Derek just shrugged. He’d heard worse, and now was hardly the time to get upset about prejudices.

“Excellent, excellent, that saves us some time,” Matt said. He untied the fabric and started to unroll it, revealing a large sheet of thick black fabric embedded with flat, whitish stones, covering a large portion of the surface, ranging in size from small pebbles to large rocks the size of his hands. “This is a sheet I’ve thrown together to serve as your roof, make the place seem more homey. Do you recognize the decorations?”

Stiles frowned, but Derek spoke before he could think, not quite able to believe what he was seeing.

“Hecatolite,” Derek said.

“Moonstone?” Stiles said, surprised. Matt grinned and clapped his hands together.

“Well this does make things simpler,” Matt said. “I take it, then, you know what it does, Stiles?”

“They used to use it in prisons that held Weres,” Stiles said. “It’s illegal now.”

“Good,” Matt said. “And do we know why?”

“It was meant to repress the effect of the moon,” Stiles said. “Render Weres unable to transform. They thought it would make the Were prisoners easier to control, safer.”

“But…” Matt said, gesturing for Stiles to continue.

“Sometimes it worked. The Weres couldn’t even feel the moon. But when as soon as they were released, or escaped, or moved to a non-moonstone prison, the moon affected them worse than before, getting more intense in the first few months. Hundreds, if not thousands of people were killed. It’s why there’s so much fear surrounding rabid or feral wolves,” Stiles said. “That’s what people think of when they hear about them.”

“Because we need a reason to fear rabid monsters,” Matt said, rolling his eyes. “And when the hecatolite didn’t work?”

“It had the opposite effect,” Stiles said. “Sometimes Weres who experienced the moon through the moonstones were less able to control their shift, they were said to be more animalistic, acting more on instinct, attacking, raping and killing uncontrollably. That’s why they banned it. Not because suppression could make Weres ill, but because they couldn’t tell when it would work and when it wouldn’t.”

“At last having a Were-loving daddy pays off,” Matt said. He rubbed his hands together, brimming with excitement.

“I take it you know what this hecatolite will do?” Stiles said. Matt beamed.

“Why yes, Mr Stilinski, and thank you so much for asking,” Matt said. “I was intrigued by the stories, but not just because the hecatolite affected different Weres in these diametrically different ways. That’s actually a common issue with Were creatures, paricularly those who share a more beastly half. No, what intrigued me was that it wasn’t a difference between individual Weres, but between entire prisons. After extensive research, study and experimentation I was able to determine that it is the processing of the hecatolite that alters its properties. And it’s a catch 22, isn’t it? The magnifying hecatolite is interesting, sure, but the main appeal is in it’s fast action. You only need one full moon to see what it can do. Now the suppressing hecatolite, boy, now there’s some fun, absolutely fascinating, but much more time consuming. You need at least three full moons to get the full joys out of that one.”

Derek clenched his hands and breathed deeply, forcing himself not to throw Stiles behind him and launch himself at Matt, desperately trying to think about what Matt could have meant by ‘experimentation’. Instead, he stared at the stones, trying to work out which version Matt would have created, which version would be worse.

“Mr Hale, I see you’re quite intrigued by the stones,” Matt said. “Tell me, when is the next full moon?”

“Tomorrow night,” Derek said, unable to loosen his jaw without releasing a small growl. Stiles took a step; Derek was relieved it was away from the sheet, and not from him.

“What did you do to the stones?” Stiles asked desperately.

“Well that is the question, isn’t it?” Matt said. “Am I going for the quick action kill, or am I playing a long game?”

“You’re going for a bluff,” Derek said. He knew it wasn’t going to give them any advantages to show he saw through Matt’s posturing, but Stiles was rapidly losing color. “You’ve kidnapped the son of the President, so obviously you have some end goal beyond whatever enjoyment you get out of hurting people. You’ve sent a video to the President showing Stiles being injured, but you didn’t attach a ransom note. You want him to know you have Stiles and aren’t afraid of hurting him, but obviously whatever it is you’re after is big. Too big for a simple threat of violence to sway the man. So you have me, a creature you can mold into a weapon, and a way of making me harmless yet growing deadlier as time goes on. Presumably you have filmed some of you past experiments and you’ll send them along to make your case clear: the President must eventually give in to your demands, and the longer he takes, the more risky things get for Stiles.”

“Very well reasoned, Mr Hale,” Matt said. “Mr Stilinski, I would look into the bags and see if there’s a treat you can give him.”

Stiles rolled his eyes. “You do realize how insufferable we’re going to become now? Your whole plan hinges on keeping us both alive.”

“Insufferable,” Matt said, musingly. “Now that’s an ironic choice of word, considering what the future holds for you.”

“Give it up Matt,” Derek said. “You can’t risk Stiles, whatever you are after is big and demonstrating you are keeping him safe until they give in is the only way to ensure the President doesn’t spook and send in the cavalry.”

There was a noise coming from the woods Matt came from, and Derek looked across to see another figure was emerging from the edge of the treeline. He felt his stomach drop as an all-too-familiar scent hit his nose.

“Now, now, honey, you didn’t think this was all about Stiles did you?”

“Agent Argent?” Stiles said, bewildered.

“We’re going to be getting pretty intimate soon, sweetie. You can call me Kate.”

Chapter Text

“Kate,” Derek said blankly. Stiles knew exactly how he felt. He gave Derek’s hand a squeeze, trying not to be too concerned by the way Derek’s whole body had gone limp. Kate Argent had been a team leader on his and his father’s close protection teams in the past, and had consulted on their larger operations, campaign tours, holidays and the like for years. She was one of the best in the business and an Argent by blood as well as trade. This made no sense.

“I take it you aren’t here to rescue us,” Stiles said, mustering up a facade of calm. It was clear that whatever shock Stiles was dealing with, Derek was finding it harder still to process what the hell was going on here. Which was fair enough; as hard as it could be to deal with the fact that being the President’s son made Stiles a target, at least he knew why someone would abduct him. There was no reason for anyone to take Derek.

Agent Argent - Kate - smirked. “No, really not.” She grabbed one end of the sheet and helped Matt tug it up onto the cage.

“What do you want with us?” Stiles asked. He stared at the line of skin Kate exposed along her waist as she reached up to start covering the cage, wondering if Derek would try to attack. There was nothing he could do, but Derek had claws and werewolf speed, a lot of damage could surely be done before she could move out of the way, or Matt could access the darts. But a glance at Derek told Stiles that was not going to happen. Derek was still standing frozen. His eyes tracked Kate’s movements, but he was still watching with a blank, hopeless confusion.

“Well Stiles,” Kate said, her voice full of mirth. “What I want is for the moonstone to reveal Derek’s deep dark, big bad wolf side, and by the time the moon is full and his beast is in control, I want Derek to fuck you, tear you up, and maybe even kill you.”

The words were spoken so lightly it took a moment for Stiles to parse their meaning. He felt a weird pressure in his ears, his stomach turning as his vision whited out for a moment. There was no time for him to recover, though, as the sheet of hecatolite was now shielding Derek from the moon and the effect was instantaneous. Derek shuddered, dropping to his knees as he folded over, his fingernails lengthening into claws, a growl ripping out of him. For the first time, Stiles felt truly afraid of being locked in a cage with a Were. Kate’s mocking plan rang in his ears.

“Oh god,” Stiles managed to say, stepping blindly away from Derek. His whole attention was trained on Derek, kneeling in the center of the cage, writhing and emitting strange, inhuman groans and growls. He only glanced away when he realized the whole cage had grown darker. Kate and Matt had now covered three of the sides of the cage with the sheet. The moonstones distorted the light streaming through them, giving the cage a dim but eerie glow.

“According to Matt, Derek should be able to resist your cute little tush until the night of the full moon,” Kate said. “But hell, if you two crazy kids want to get started before then, who am I to complain?”

And with that, Kate and Matt let down the last of the sheet, sealing them off from the rest of the world.

“Derek?” Stiles said cautiously. “Buddy, are you okay?”

Derek looked up at Stiles, his eyes flashing gold. He let out a snarl.

 

Scott banged impatiently on Isaac’s door, Lydia frowning next to him. Allison stood calmly, apparently not bothered by the precious minutes they were wasting.

“What?” Isaac snapped as he opened the door. He glared groggily at his unexpected visitors. “Scott? Allison? What’s going on?”

“Isaac, good to see you’re okay,” Scott said, clapping a hand on Isaac’s shoulder. Isaac winced and his hand unconsciously drifted up to touch the lump on his head where Derek had hit him.

“No thanks to your pal Hale,” Isaac muttered. His eyes widened slightly and he looked between Scott and Allison in concern. “He didn’t send you after me, did he?”

“What? No,” Scott said. “Isaac, I wouldn’t - we’re friends aren’t we? And Derek wasn’t after you personally, you just happened to be there and-”

“Allison and Scott are highly trained Argent agents, if they were wanting to incapacitate or kill you, they wouldn’t have stopped to have a chat first,” Lydia said, rolling her eyes and walking into Isaac’s apartment.

“Who’s that?” Isaac demanded.

“Lydia, one of Stiles’s friends,” Allison said, reaching out to brush Isaac’s injury. “That must have hurt.”

“Comes with the territory,” Isaac said brusquely. “What are you guys doing here? I don’t know what’s happened to the Stilinski kid, and even if I did I wouldn’t tell you. I heard about your suspension.”

“News travels fast, apparently,” Allison said, pulling her hand back.

“I was told you guys were working with Hale,” Isaac said. “I can’t believe you’d put your lives on the line, trusting that asshole. You know why he was fired, right?”

“He wasn’t fired, he resigned,” Scott said, frowning. “And Derek wouldn’t hurt anyone, he’s just trying to bring Stiles back.”

Isaac gestured to his head. “Well he certainly had no fucking issue with hurting me. What the hell did I do? Oh, yeah, that’s right, I was guarding him so he wouldn’t go out and kill Stilinski, or whatever else he had planned for the kid.”

“Derek didn’t have anything to do with Stiles’s kidnapping,” Scott said hotly. Allison frowned.

“What do you think he wanted with Stiles?” Allison asked.

“Everyone knew he was sleeping with his primaries,” Isaac said. “And Argent let him quit rather than risk the scandal. Stiles used to be one of Derek’s, what do you think he wants with him?”

Scott recoiled and Allison grabbed Isaac’s shirt threateningly, wrenching him closer before her senses returned and she released him.

“You have it wrong,” Scott said coldly. “Derek had to quit because someone was spreading rumors about him, and it was risking his image. There was never any truth behind them.”

“Do you really think Scott and I would associate with someone like that?” Allison said, shaking her head and walking into the apartment.

Scott reached out and touched Isaac’s bandage. “I’m sorry Derek hurt you,” Scott said softly. “It’s just… We don’t know what’s happened to Stiles, and he could be in serious danger. We came here because we thought you could help us, Isaac. Please.”

Isaac sighed, and gestured for Scott to follow Allison. “I’ll do what I can.”

“Oh, you guys are coming, then?” Lydia said loftily, sitting primly on the Isaac’s couch. “I was beginning to suspect this was all an elaborate set up to force me to sit on the world’s ugliest couch.”

Isaac glared, but Lydia seemed utterly oblivious, looking intently at Allison instead.

“We were just reassuring Isaac that we didn’t have anything to do with Derek knocking him out,” Allison said. “And that we weren’t here to finish the job.”

Lydia rolled her eyes. “You might have had a point when you said talking to Isaac would be useless.”

“If Isaac is suspicious of Derek, then he would have been more aware of any suspicious or anomalous activity,” Scott pointed out. Lydia gave him an indulgent smile.

“True, except the reason Derek managed to take him down so smoothly was because he didn’t suspect anything,” Lydia said.

“What the hell are you guys going on about?” Isaac said, crossing his arms. “I already told Argent everything that happened. If there’s any leads to be followed, they’re being followed.”

“Indulge us,” Lydia said, smiling entreatingly at Isaac.

“Please?” Scott added, when it was clear that Lydia’s charms weren’t winning Isaac over. Isaac sighed.

“Fine, what do you want to know?” Isaac said. Immediately, Lydia, Scott and Allison were all business, making Isaac go through in great detail everything that happened the evening Derek disappeared.

“What the hell does it matter what kind of snacks we had?” Isaac demanded, as the number of lines of enquiry to be followed started to dry up and Allison, Scott and Lydia started in on the desperate questions. “He didn’t knock me out with a bag of cheetos.”

Finally, after nearly two hours, they ran out of questions, and Isaac looked about ready to collapse. Scott gave Isaac a tight hug and told him to rest when they left. Allison kissed his cheek in thanks and Lydia wisely didn’t comment on any of Isaac’s other furniture. Once they were gone, Isaac frowned, confused and concerned by their questions. It seemed Scott and Allison were convinced of Hale’s innocence, which Isaac’s throbbing head fiercely refuted. It was hard to imagine Allison and Scott would intentionally involve themselves in something shady, something that might risk a primary, but as Isaac knew, Hale was a tricky bastard. He could have convinced them of his good intentions, Isaac had heard Weres could be very persuasive. It certainly explained how easily Hale had fooled him.

Hale was up to something, that much Isaac knew. And for whatever reason, Isaac and Allison were apparently trying to help him. That left Isaac only one option.

He walked over to his phone and dialed the number for Chris Argent’s office.

 

“Derek?” Stiles said again, his voice shaky. Derek growled and lunged forward, moving too quickly for Stiles to move out of the way. He pinned Stiles to the ground and Stiles let out a stream of profanities intermingled with indistinct prayers, but when Derek buried his face in his shoulder, there were no teeth plunging into vulnerable skin, no torn skin or copious bleeding. Hesitantly, Stiles wriggled one of his trapped arms, moving it up to rest gently on Derek’s side. For a few long minutes, they lay there, Derek making choked growling noises and from what Stiles could figure out, was otherwise just breathing. Derek’s wracking shudders slowly subsided until with one final jerk they stopped entirely and Derek peeled himself from Stiles. To Stiles’s surprise, Derek was once more completely human, his body stiff with tension and his hand clenched, but gone were the lupine features and with them, Stiles’s terror. Or at least, the fear he had for his own life ending imminently in a gory and gruesome fashion.

“Derek, are you okay?” Stiles asked urgently. Derek lifted his gaze to meet Stiles’s concerned looks, his eyes briefly flashing gold.

“Am I okay?” Derek repeated, sounding devastated.

“Right, no, sorry,” Stiles said, kicking himself internally. There was a reason people didn’t usually rely on him for his tact and consideration. “Of course you’re not okay. This is awful. Agent Ar- Kate used to be your team leader and now she’s trying to get you to kill someone or… and that’s not cool. Just- what can I do?”

Stiles,” Derek said, sounding pained.

“Is that ‘Stiles’ as in ‘shutting up right now would be the best thing for me to do because you no longer have complete control over your wolfy side and inane chattering might lead to the aforementioned murdering’?” Stiles said. Derek groaned. “Right, shutting up now.”

Derek started to stand, breathing heavily, eyes squeezed shut. Stiles pulled himself up, staring frantically at Derek, unblinking, as though getting a half-second advanced warning of transformation would help the situation in any way, shape or form. It was almost impossible for Stiles to keep quiet, words desperately fighting to pour forth, questions about what was happening, demands for advice on how to help, mindless babble to keep the impending terror at bay. But Derek needed him to be quiet while he fought to keep control of his transformation, so Stiles dug his teeth into his bottom lip and let nothing more than a whimper escape. When Derek reached out and clutched at Stiles’s waist, Stiles didn’t hesitate, grabbing hold of Derek’s shoulders and they sank back to the ground, Derek gasping out a sob into Stiles’s chest.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Stiles said mindlessly, his thoughts clouding over in the face of his stoic, in command, always-has-a-plan Derek losing control like this. “Shh, don’t worry, we’ll be alright, we just have to, you know, not die and we’re good at that, we’ve been doing that for years. At least, I have, can werewolves come back from the dead?” Derek shuddered in his arms. “Right, zombie werewolves not a topic up for discussion.”

“Stiles,” Derek said again, and Stiles was relieved his voice was lacking the earlier hint of agony. Derek took a deep shuddering breath in and moved back, away from Stiles. His body was rigid, but he seemed otherwise calm. “I’m sorry.”

“What? You’re- fuck, no, I’m sorry,” Stiles said. “This isn’t your fault-”

“It is,” Derek interrupted, giving Stiles a morose look. “You heard Kate, this is all about me.”

“Derek, unless you asked Kate to lock you in a cage, reduce your ability to combat the effects of the moon, and toss me in for a snack, then this is definitely not your fault,” Stiles said. “And even then, it would only be like fifty percent your fault, because who the fuck would agree to doing that?”

Derek let out a shaky laugh, and Stiles was pleased to see his shoulders soften slightly.

“How you holding up?” Stiles asked quietly.

“I think I’m back in control. It was just a shock, being cut off from the moon and then the light that’s coming through is… wrong,” Derek said. He flexed his fingers, no claws emerging, before looking at Stiles. There was no trace of the slight mirth Stiles had managed to pull from him. “Stiles, I really am sorry-”

“No, look, really not your fault,” Stiles said firmly. Derek shook his head, guilt clear in his eyes, in the pull of his mouth, the hunch of his shoulders.

“Before Kate came, we thought this was about you,” Derek said quietly. “And I blamed you, I told you it was your fault, that you were reckless and irresponsible.”

“And then I yelled at you and we agreed that sometimes my life sucks, that dumping it on my bodyguards isn’t the way to deal with it, but that this wasn’t my fault. I know you’re determined to feel guilty about this, but don’t. You-” Stiles crossed his arms defensively and turned so he was no longer looking at Derek straight on. “Look, maybe you haven’t handled this situation perfectly or whatever, but you have no idea how relieved I was when I woke and found that you were here, which probably makes me a shitty person, but all that mattered was I felt safe again.” Stiles glanced up at Derek, holding his gaze when he saw Derek’s look of disbelief. “You’ve always made me feel safe. When I started college Dad decided I needed my own security team and he said I could put in any suggestions or requests that I wanted, anyone I wanted, and they would try to get them for me. I only had one request. I asked for you.”

Derek stared incredulously at Stiles, his eyes flashing gold as he fought for control over his body in the face of this shock.

“You asked for me?” Derek said, once he was back to fully human, his voice strained and his body stiff. “Why?”

“The day my mom died,” Stiles began, taking a deep breath, feeling the old ache that flared in his throat whenever he talked about his mother. “It was a mess. Total confusion.”

“I remember,” Derek said softly. Stiles gave him a shaky, but grateful smile.

“They didn’t even tell me until hours later. But as soon as it happened, I was whisked away by security. For my protection, I know, but at the time I had no idea what was happening,” Stiles said, swallowing around a lump in his throat, memories of that day flashing through his mind. The panic, the tension, the whispered conversations. The feeling of absolute bewilderment. “I knew there was something wrong, but no one would tell me what. I was fourteen and with Dad off on campaign tours all the time, I was used to being treated as practically an adult, but suddenly no one would talk to me, no one was asking me what I wanted to do. They just ushered me off to a safe location and locked me in a room with three security guards and the blinds drawn. I was so scared.I knew that something awful had happened I didn’t know what it could be. It was terrifying, and I started to panic. My first panic attack.”

The words came out bitterly, and Derek tugged Stiles’s hand free, wrapping his hand around it and squeezing.

“A reasonable response given the situation,” Derek said softly.

“So there I am, in this tiny room, lit by some shitty low-energy bulb, door locked, security guards standing around all tense and serious, and I just lose it,” Stiles continued. “I feel like I can’t breathe, and the room is getting smaller and smaller, and for all I know we’ve just been invaded by radioactive aliens. Then suddenly one of the guards walks over and god, I don’t even know what he did, probably talked me into breathing normally and reassuring me the world was still turning, but I stopped panicking. I felt safe. So when Dad asked me who I wanted to keep me safe, I knew that I wanted him. I wanted you.”

“I didn’t know you remembered that,” Derek said. “That day was… pandemonium.”

“Yeah, well, it didn’t hurt that you were crazy hot and I was only just working out this bisexuality business,” Stiles said, rolling his eyes, wanting to break the tension. Then he realized what he said. As attractive as Stiles found Derek, as much as he might have once focused most of his energies on making Derek smile and taking any excuse to touch him, as much as Stiles had wasted many hours dreaming and fantasizing about Derek sweeping him off his feet and riding off into the sunset together, Stiles knew that Derek was not someone who would ever go for him and that making any stupid, flirty jokes would just make him uncomfortable and ruin whatever relationship they had. So he muttered an embarrassed, “Sorry, that was inappropriate.”

Derek laughed, squeezing Stiles’s hand and pulling him closer. “Stiles, leaving aside the fact that I’m no longer your bodyguard, we’re locked in a cage by my ex...team leader, who wants me to kill you. I don’t think the fact that you had a brief crush on me when you were fourteen really matters.”

“No,” Stiles said, carefully not revealing the still-existent crush he didn’t even realize he had been harbouring for the past four years. “I guess not.”

A shudder rolled through Derek. “And what I’m about to explain is considerably worse.”

“What?” Stiles asked, feeling himself ratchet back into panic mode.

“The moon is rising,” Derek said, his eyes burning gold. “And I’m pretty sure the only way I was able to keep control earlier was proximity to you.”

“That’s what the-” Stiles gestured to his neck, still slightly damp from the heavy breathing, light drooling and general snuffling Derek had, in his wolf form, been performing earlier, “was all about?”

Derek nodded awkwardly, releasing Stiles’s hand as his fingers started shifting into claws. “The moon isn’t full yet, but it’s strong enough that the hecatolite is making it hard for me to control my shift. I don’t know if I can stay human all night. But despite what Kate might think, werewolves don’t see humans as prey. I think if I let myself shift and convince my wo- instincts you’re pack, protected, I shouldn’t attack you.”

“Right,” Stiles said. He was not totally relieved though. Kate’s words were still heavy in his ears. “And the… your wolf won’t see me as a mate? I mean, you won’t try to… mate with me?”

Another shudder ran through Derek, and he growled, turning and snapping at the side of the cage where Kate had stood. He turned back to Stiles, frowning around fangs before speaking, his words surprisingly unslurred by the elongated canines, “No. I should be able to control any urges like that, if they do arise. We’re not, nor have we ever been, romantically linked so it shouldn’t be an issue.”

Stiles nodded, relief flooding through him, followed by slight amusement at the irony. How often had he longed for there to be something more between him and Derek? Now he was hearing words that could easily hurt him, but for the moment were a reassurance.

“Right, good,” Stiles said. “So, like before?” He reached out to pull Derek into his arms once more, but Derek shook his head.

“It would be better if you were in the more vulnerable position,” Derek said. “And first I should… mark you. With my scent.”

“You’re not going to pee on me, are you?” Stiles said, wrinkling his nose. Derek rolled his eyes and cuffed him.

“No,” Derek said. He closed his eyes to finish his transformation, the shift slower, smoother, clearly deliberate. “I just have to rub against you, so you smell like me. It’s also… soothing.”

Stiles swallowed down an urge to tease Derek in light of this new information. Derek already appeared to be rather uncomfortable, and also apparently only had a tenuous grip over his murdering instincts. Instead, Stiles simply opened his arms and said, “Scent away then.”

Derek placed his hands on Stiles’s hips and slowly ran his now furry jaw along Stiles’s jaw, down his throat, and back up the other side. The sensation was a little strange, but Stiles couldn’t deny he understood why this might be comforting for Derek. It spoke of a protective sort of possiveness. It said that Stiles was Derek’s, that he was precious to Derek, something Derek wanted close. Whatever Derek was doing made Stiles feel utterly compliant, as though he could cheerfully sink into Derek’s arms and would never want to leave. Derek’s hands slid up Stiles’s sides, firmly enough to not be ticklish, again making Stiles feel owned, no- feel wanted.

“Derek,” Stiles said, surprised at how slowly the word came out, how slurred his speech was. He slid his arms around Derek’s waist and tucked his face into Derek’s chest happily. “I’m yours. All yours.”

“Sorry,” Derek said, stroking down Stiles’s back. “I didn’t realize how strongly it would affect you. The only humans I’ve ever seen scent-marked have been pack already. They’re used to it, or maybe having a group of wolves dilutes it. Or maybe it’s the hecatolite, enhancing the process. It’s done now, though, and the effect should wear off soon.”

“S’okay,” Stiles slurred out sadly, lifting his head and looking up at Derek, feeling his mind clear. “It’s just making me feel warm. I know you don’t want me that way.”

A pained look crossed Derek’s face, but Stiles had no time to respond, letting out an enormous yawn and feeling sleep start to overpower him. They sat down, Derek arranging Stiles in his lap. He whispered, “Sleep now.”

 

“Thanks for letting me know, Chris,” John said, stress and exhaustion making him short even with his trusted friend. “Come up to my office.”

John sighed and leaned back in his chair, unable to stop his mournful reflections. They were on the fifth day. Nearly five days Stiles had been missing. Five days of… John stopped himself. It would help no one, least of all Stiles, if he sat and pictured all of the horrible things that could be happening to his son. Instead, he reflected sadly that if Stiles was just an ordinary twenty-two year old, if this was an ordinary missing persons case, his trail would probably have been considered cold by now. Certainly the evidence was stacking up that Derek Hale was somehow involved, but even with the best people and the best resources the country had to offer, they could find nothing to lead them to where Derek and presumably Stiles had ended up. If this was an ordinary case, in a few days the case would be shelved, filed away with hundreds of other poor, lost souls.

A knock came at the door and John straightened up. This wasn’t an ordinary case and Stiles wasn’t an ordinary twenty-two year old. They had the whole nation looking for him, the best of the best, and it was not a case that would be allowed to so much as grow cool.

“President Stilinski,” Chris said, poking his head through the door.

“Come in,” John replied, gesturing to his guest chair.

“I’ll be blunt, John,” Chris said. “Lahey’s tip off does nothing to bring us any closer to finding Hale or Stiles. There are also no grounds to have McCall or Allison arrested, though of course as agents under my command I can have them detained for the duration of this case. Fortunately the Martins have a security contract with us, and I’ve recommended they increase security on the daughter, Miss Lydia Martin. Her background checks out, and as of yet there’s no concrete evidence to suggest she was involved in the abduction.”

John nodded. “Excellent work, as always, Chris.”

“Thank you,” Chris said. “I only wish I could bring better news.” John sighed.

“Lydia’s been one of Stiles’s closest friends for four years. Stiles has improved tenfold since bringing McCall in. He raves about the kid, if I didn’t know better, I’d think he had a crush on him. And Allison…” John looked Chris directly in the eye. “She’s your daughter, do you really think she could be mixed up in all of this?”

“Can I be straight with you?” Chris said, leaning forward.

“Of course,” John said.

“I honestly don’t think Allison or McCall mean any harm,” Chris said. “I’m not just saying that as a father, you only have to look at what they’re doing. They may have broken a few rules, but it’s all been in a genuine belief that they’re what they are doing is helping us find Stiles. As far as I can see, the issue is with the Were, Hale.”

John frowned, he had never once heard Chris refer to a person by their status first, their name second. “You really think Hale is behind it all? I know the evidence doesn’t look good, but there’s no motive there. Besides which, I thought you trusted the kid. He’s the first full blooded Were you ever took on, and you’ve only ever had good things to say about him.”

“I did trust him,” Chris said, a look of hurt crossing his face. “I trusted that kid like he was my own son. He was on my sister’s team, and we were coaching him to use his senses to become the best. It kills me to say it, but I think he just couldn’t overcome his nature.

“What the hell do you mean by that?” John said, trying desperately to keep his temper in check. The Argents had a long history with Weres, and when John had first used them he had worried there would be a clash of interests because of it. But Chris had soothed those fears. He was, so John believed, a man who was willing to put aside his long and deeply held mistrust and do his part to help end the persecution of Weres in society.

“Kate was always hesitant to let Hale work close,” Chris said, angrily wishing he had just listened to his sister, that maybe then Stiles would still be safe. “He quickly proved he had the physical ability required, and his focus was second to none. Hale was always a deeply serious man, very in control. Kate said he needed to be more in control than others to prove that he wasn’t going to let his lupine instincts take over. But Weres, and werewolves particularly, are very possessive creatures.”

“They’re not possessive,” John corrected. “They’re protective. Loyal. Pack is very important to them.”

Chris nodded. “Kate warned me that if he was allowed to work close, there was a serious risk he would start to see his primary as pack and struggle when he was no longer on their protection team,” Chris said. “I thought he would be fine, but maybe I was wrong.”

“That doesn’t make sense,” John said. “Why would he have waited four years to take Stiles? And why Stiles? He’s worked with other primaries and managed to resist kidnapping them. I don’t know if Hale is in any way involved in this or not, but when you’re pursuing your enquiries I need you to leave your prejudices behind. Dismissed.”

“Yes, sir,” Chris said stiffly, standing and walking quickly out the door. The last thing he wanted to do was discuss his suspicions that maybe Hale was targeting Stiles and not the others could be because Hale might have slept with his other primaries and so had made enough of a claim to soothe his Were instincts.

John watched Chris leave, a feeling of conflict rising. For too long, Weres had been blamed for crimes they did not commit, and punished too severely for those they did. The belief that they were never full in control and could slip at any moment was deeply ingrained in people’s minds. For the first time, John was worried that his need to absolve these past injustices was blinding him to a real crime committed by a Were who could not fight his instincts. Security, law enforcement and the emergency departments had never been places for Were employment. This was due to the fear that they would not be able to control themselves in high adrenaline situations, or might not know when to stop if asked to use force to defend themselves or others. John had never heard of anyone worrying about Weres becoming attached to charges, but then again, he had never heard of Weres who worked closely, not physically close and never alone, with humans. When was discrimination just prejudice, and when was it for the well-being of society?

 

Derek felt like he had only just drifted off when Stiles woke with a violent start. The reason for this rude awakening became immediately clear as Derek grew more aware of his surroundings. Apparently while he had been asleep, Derek’s wolfy instincts had decided that simply holding Stiles in his lap was clearly not going to provide enough protection for his sleeping packmate. Instead, Derek had rolled Stiles onto the ground and then lain on top of him, and the sudden movement and unexpectedly immobility had woken Stiles.

“Shhh,” Derek murmured sleepily, moving so Stiles was less crushed, and then nuzzling Stiles’s jaw, giving the skin he found a soothing lick. It wasn’t until Stiles didn’t relax as expected that Derek realized that he was acting on instinct. He flushed. Licking a fellow prisoner was presumably a faux pas in the human world. “Uh, sorry, instinct.”

“Um, that’s fine,” Stiles said. “I mean, weird, but hardly the worst thing that’s happened lately.”

“Right,” Derek said. He felt strangely disappointed that Stiles hadn’t liked the gesture, one that had pleased Derek no end. Of course, even if Stiles and he were involved, Stiles was still a human from a human family and presumably wouldn’t appreciate the wolfy gesture. Sometimes even the pack-born humans could get sick of the more animalistic habits of the born wolves. It was nothing personal.

“Well I’m starving,” Stiles said. Derek pulled them both to standing, keeping his arm wrapped around Stiles’s waist as they moved towards the food bags, unwilling to let Stiles go. The pull to be with Stiles wasn’t insurmountable, though. He was relieved that he hadn’t overestimated his ability to resist Stiles, even with the stronger power of the risen moon demanding that he take Stiles and claim his as his mate.

There was nothing Derek could do to contain the growl that ripped out of him when he discovered the new food comprised entirely of meat, most of it tained with wolfsbane. Stiles shivered in fear, and Derek pulled him closer, wrapping his arms around Stiles, pressing him into his chest and nuzzling at Stiles’s neck, letting out soothing whimpers until Stiles was calm and Derek had regained enough control to loosen his hold on Stiles and explain.

“The meat’s laced with wolfsbane,” Derek said. Stiles face twisted with confusion and Derek was able to content himself with rubbing his hands soothingly down Stiles’s sides.

“What the fuck?” Stiles said. “That makes no sense. She’s trying to kill you?”

Derek shook his head. “There’s not enough of it to kill me. Too much for you to digest, though.”

“So she’s trying to starve me and what? Make you vomit?” Stiles said. “What happens if you eat it?”

“I can process it, but it will leave me weak. Less able to heal myself. Less…” Derek trailed off as he realized what the purpose of it was. “Less able to control myself.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, staring at the small pile of meats. “Well, you just can’t eat it, then. There’s still a bit of stuff left from yesterday. How long do you think we can make that last? I still can’t eat much, and you’re all invincible and shit.”

Derek shook his head. “One of the drawbacks - I need to eat more than you, if I go without food, it weakens me, leaves me less able to heal myself, less able to control myself.”

“Derek, this is a really inconvenient time for you to finally be less than perfect,” Stiles said, and Derek smiled, resisting the urge to lick Stiles. The humor of Stiles’s comment didn’t break through his dread, but the fact that Stiles still found the energy to make it, the fact that he wanted to amuse him touched Derek deeply.

“I think I’ll leave eating until the morning,” Derek said. “I’m not hungry yet, and there’s no need to make things harder. Some of the meat smells okay, but I think if you stick to the leftovers for now, we can get through the night at least.”

Stiles nodded and Derek sat them down next to the food, keeping Stiles tucked in his lap. There was no way of knowing what was outside the cage, so Derek didn’t sit too close to the bars, Instead, he focused on keeping his back straight and not letting too much of his weight press against Stiles. It was a welcome distraction from the nearly overwhelming desires he had to lick Stiles, nibble on his shoulder, press their lips together, shift his groin towards Stiles’s instead of away, press up into the soft warmth of him.

Every piece of food Stiles ate was carefully sniffed by Derek, even though he knew it wasn’t tainted. It took a lot of self-control not to taste the food first; it was unlikely Stiles would appreciate the gesture behind Derek licking and taking bites out of food he was about to consume. Instead, Derek settled for letting a hand slide under Stiles’s shirt, resting on his belly and stroking soothingly over Stiles’s cut, pleased to find it was healing well. His hand ventured down lower, stopping when he hit the elastic band of boxer shorts and moved back up to trace hipbones, then further up to find ribs. Stiles was silent through the meal, his heart racing slightly, but there was no scent of fear and his breathing was slow and deep, so Derek didn’t think much of it. He just enjoyed the feel and smell of Stiles so close, losing himself in the illusion that he could keep Stiles safe.

Chapter Text

There was no way out of this. The thought struck Stiles as he drifted awake the next morning. They had been making ‘how the hell are we going to survive the next twenty minutes’ plans, not escape plans. They were completely reliant on their captors for food, a fact that had left Stiles shaking with hunger just one day ago, and now when there was a hint of plenty, the food had become tainted. Deadly for humans to consume. And possibly deadly for Stiles when Derek tried it. No one knew where they were, who had them, nothing. Derek was holding out against the distortion from the moonstones, but it wasn’t as though they would simply be freed once Derek proved himself. There was nothing stopping Kate and Matt from keeping them here and messing with Derek’s Were psyche for weeks, if not months. Years.

Fear rendered Stiles frozen, his limbs stiffening, chest tightening, heart racing as his body filled with adrenaline. He started to thrash in Derek’s arms; what had been a comforting weight now gave him the horrifying sensation of being completely trapped. As he fought, Stiles made wordless noises of terror, gasping and moaning, the sound of it waking Derek up. The night had apparently been rough for Derek. He growled at Stiles and moved so he was crouching over Stiles, pinning down his shoulders and letting his claws sink into Stiles’s skin deeply enough to draw small drops of blood.

“Stiles,” Derek said, the word barely discernible beneath the guttural bark that accompanied it. “Stop.”

“Derek,” Stiles gasped. “We’re going to die in this cage.”

That seemed to reach the human side of Derek and Stiles was relieved when the pressure lifted from his shoulders. The small cuts left behind caught Derek’s attention and he muttered a gruff apology before sitting back and pulling Stiles’s into his lap, pulling Stiles’s shirt down and licking over the scratches. The sensation was strangely soothing, and Stiles couldn’t find it in himself to be as grossed out as he thought he probably should.

“What are we going to do?” Stiles said, muttering the words into Derek’s hair. It was the thicker, coarser Were hair, but it didn’t bother Stiles. Derek stopped in his ministrations to look up at Stiles, his nostrils flaring for long enough that Stiles know he was grounding himself in Stiles’s scent, not simply checking for danger.

“We’ll be okay,” Derek said, sounding awkward. It humanized him, more than Stiles would have thought possible. It was all too easy to think of Derek in his Were form as simply a creature that looked vaguely like Derek, or like Derek had been possessed by the wolf spirit. He was different in this form, undeniably so, but he was still Derek. It was still the same person driving the body, not just something keeping it warm for Derek. The protective instincts that made Derek keep Stiles close to Derek, that lead to Stiles being tucked away in Derek’s arms and left his shoulder soggy but clean and closing over, were not simply those of a beast, they came from Derek, just expressed in a new way. It was a reassuring thought, to know that his Derek really was still in control. But given that there was nothing human Derek could do, nothing to get them out of this situation, it was nothing more than a cold comfort.

“How?” Stiles asked softly. “Kate’s going to come back and order Matt to hurt us until she’s satisfied whatever twisted urge she needs to scratch and then one day she’ll kill us. Or have Matt do it. That’s it. That’s the plan. We can’t do anything. We’re completely trapped and our trails will go cold and soon no one will even be looking for us.”

“Kate doesn’t want to hurt us,” Derek said. “She wants me to hurt you. Which I’m never going to do.”

Stiles shivered a little at this declaration. It was given roughly but seriously and was followed by a gentle closing of Derek’s teeth over Stiles’s shoulder which felt deeply significant, although Stiles was at a loss for what it could mean. Stiles took a deep breath and buried his face in Derek’s chest, letting his cheek rested on a collarbone, and his nose sought out the thicker scent that came from Derek’s throat. The calming effect was increased by Derek’s arms wrapping tightly around Stiles, but even so it took a long time before Stiles could believe Derek’s words, realize Derek spoke the truth about Kate’s plan and could trust in Derek’s vow.

“Yeah,” Stiles said thickly. “Okay.” He lifted his head and looked at Derek, frowning. “But why is she doing this? What’s the point? She isn’t even here to get off on it. What is the point?”

Derek twitched, so subtly that Stiles only noticed because they were pressed so closely together.

“What?” Stiles said. The pained look Derek gave him would have set Stiles’s heart racing again if it weren’t so human. If it didn’t make Derek look so broken. Impulsively, Stiles reached up a hand to smooth Derek’s forehead, the action echoing one his mother used to do when Stiles was younger and got caught up in worrying about the state of the world or the unfairness of the no-chocolate-milk-on-school-days rule. “Derek? What’s wrong?”

“She’s doing this because of me,” Derek said, shame filling his features.

“It’s not because of you,” Stiles said softly. “It’s not your fault. I’ve got to admit I was not expecting it, but Kate is just another Were bigot. It’s not your fault you’re the Were she has her eye on. It’s not your fault you’re a Were. Being a Were isn’t a bad thing. It’s- it’s part of who you are and it’s part of why I… care about you.”

The last three words were said in a jumbled rush, Stiles’s stomach twisting as he thought about how that was far more than he probably should have told Derek, yet far less than he really felt. The sickening feeling worsened when Derek shook his head and Stiles felt apologies and retractions and explanations pile up on his tongue, only to be stopped by a clawed hand delicately resting over his mouth.

“It’s not the Were thing. At least, that’s not all this is about,” Derek said. Stiles wondered how the rush of feelings he harboured for Derek didn’t disappear with the rise of the familiar frustration at Derek’s endlessly ability to give vague answers that only lead to more questions.

“Yeah?” Stiles prompted. Derek tried to turn from him, but Stiles cupped his hand around Derek’s jaw, stroking his thumb over Derek’s cheek in what he hoped was a comforting gesture, something to reassure Derek that Stiles wasn’t going to judge him. There was no way Stiles was strong enough to force Derek to look at him, even when Derek wasn’t in his Were form, everything heightened by the hecatolite. But Derek let Stiles hold his gaze, and Stiles wasn’t sure if he was ready to handle the trust Derek was placing in him. It felt humbling and flattering in equal measures, and, touched by the gesture, Stiles summoned up the courage to let his feelings for Derek color his words.

“She was my team leader,” Derek said slowly. “From when I was first hired. I was eighteen, untrained and normally I wouldn’t have been working with anyone as high up as Kate. But I was also the first full blooded born Were the Argents ever took on.”

“Kate wanted to keep a closer eye on you?” Stiles asked, feeling offended on Derek’s behalf. Derek closed his eyes and sighed, his whole body sagging.

“No,” Derek said. “Kate told me that it was Chris Argent who wasn’t sure about having a Were in his security forces, that she had taken charge of my training because she believed in me. Because I was clearly a smart young man, strong and courageous and sexy.”

“Sexy?” Stiles repeated, thrown. “She hit on you?”

Derek opened his eyes and Stiles wanted desperately to look away, or pull Derek in close and kiss him, over and over until that haunted, shame-ridden look disappeared.

“I thought she was the most incredible woman I’d ever met. And I knew she put me on her team because she wanted to sleep with me, she wasn’t shy about letting me know how much she wanted me. I was flattered,” Derek said bitterly.

“Hey, don’t give me that look,” Stiles said, unable to cope with the amount of guilt pouring out of Derek. “You were eighteen, she was a hot older woman who was calling you sexy. Of course you were flattered. Hell, it wasn’t that long ago that I was running into walls every time a cute guy or pretty girl smiled at me. Just last month I nearly broke a toe when someone winked at me.”

Derek’s lips twisted into what Stiles hoped was meant to be a smile, but the haunted look and waves of tension didn’t soften.

“So Kate wanted you and you were flattered, what happened?” Stiles asked, keeping his tone neutral and gentle. This part of the story Stiles had no trouble following, but the fact that it apparently lead to their current circumstances suggested that Stiles was missing something vital.

“She- I would have slept with her,” Derek said, forcing the words out, dropping his eyes and sounding as though he feared Stiles’s would condemn him for a workplace fling he hadn’t even had. Stiles wasn’t sure if it was the moonstones heightening everything, or the situation they found themselves in, or if Derek was just a really intense person. Maybe Derek felt the weight of every decision he made, let the wrong ones drag him down even if no one was hurt, even when he had done nothing wrong but things still went badly. With no one to ground him, to give him perspective, Stiles could so easily see Derek spending hours berating himself for every choice he had made, and a need to be there for him overcame Stiles. He wanted to be able to talk Derek down, soothe his conscious, or let him pour out his guilt when he did make a mistake. For now, all Stiles could do was slide his hand down to rest on the back of Derek’s neck, give it a comforting squeeze and murmur,

“Of course you would have, buddy. I would have too, in your situation. Hell, right up until she turned up here and revealed she was psychopathic I wouldn’t have said no to a night of meaningless passion if she offered.”

For a moment Stiles thought he had made a miscalculation, but then Derek’s eyes lifted to meet Stiles, and he raised a hand to mimic Stiles’s gesture, a clawed hand settling carefully on the back of Stiles’s neck.

“I didn’t sleep with her,” Derek said. “Not because I didn’t want to, but the job meant everything to me. I was working for Argent Security, doing what I had always dreamed of doing in the most prestigious organisation. The very first Were they had taken in and I wasn’t going to risk it for anything, not even a chance to be with a woman like Kate.”

“You turned her down,” Stiles said, unable to stop a little admiration slipping into his voice. “How did that go?”

“I think she was amused,” Derek said. “She took it as a challenge, turned it into a game, making innuendos and finding ways to put us in compromising positions. She would ignore me one week and be all over me the next. She wound me up, but that just made me want her more and I knew- thought that she really did care for me. When work kept me from my pack for too long, she would give me the physical affection I needed.”

“She kept you from you pack?” Stiles said, horrified. “Derek, that’s illegal.”

“For desk jobs and menial work, maybe, but not in security,” Derek said, shrugging. “Kate said the work we were doing was too important to let me go, and besides, I was the first Were in Argents. The test subject. The forerunner. They needed to see if Weres could work out. You can’t have a security detail made up of people who need to go home every month.”

“How long did she keep you from your pack?”

“The longest was six months. She- it would have been longer, but I broke down and begged Kate to let me call my mom. She said I could for a kiss,” Derek said.

“She made you kiss her before you could contact your alpha?” Stiles asked, feeling sick.

“We had-” Derek looked away. “By then we had done a lot more than kiss. Afterwards I realized it was just part of the game, that she was just pushing buttons, seeing what she could get me to do, but I really thought I might never get to hear from my pack again so I just pounced on her, shoved her up against a wall and kissed her like I was dying and only she could keep me alive. I hadn’t seen my pack, hadn’t even heard their voices for six months, my control was thin, she was lucky I hadn’t broken something pushing her around.”

“Did she report you?” Stiles said. “Is that… is that why you don’t work at Argents any more?”

Derek shook his head, turning back to Stiles, and all Stiles could do in the face of that plea for forgiveness was to squeeze Derek’s neck again and not look away.

“No,” Derek said shortly. “She loved it. Told me it was a huge turn on, even arranged for me to fly down to California to see my pack. I thought she wanted to play rough, so next time we were… intimate, I told her she could hurt me. Hurt me as much as she liked, I was a Were, I could take it, there wouldn’t even be bruises. That’s not what she wanted. She wanted me to hurt her and I wouldn’t, however hard she was on me, leaving me bleeding, ignoring me for weeks, it didn’t matter. I couldn’t do it. I won’t hurt humans.”

“Jesus,” Stiles breathed. “What happened?”

“She wouldn’t let up, and then one day she demanded I bite her, threatened to never let me see my pack again if I didn’t,” Derek said. “I didn’t know if she was serious, if she realized the significance biting has for Weres or if she just thought it was kinky, but that was it for me. I couldn’t take any more. I ran off to see my pack, talk to my mom, and ended up going to see Chris Argent to ask to be transferred to a different team.”

Stiles pulled Derek forward and pressed a kiss to his forehead, pushing aside his slight awe for Derek in the face of this vulnerability, a long dormant need to take care of people rising up in Stiles.

“You did the right thing,” Stiles murmured, sitting back, but not letting go of Derek. “Do you think all of this is because you left her? Because you wouldn’t bite her? It seems a little extreme, even for Kate.”

Derek shook his head grimly. “No. I’m starting to think this really is about Weres and she’s been planning to use me since before she even met me.”

 

Allison was surprised to see her father standing in her apartment, wearing his most official looking outfit. It took a moment before she could process what this might mean, a dozen theories flying through her mind before settling on what she thought was the most likely. Her heart sank.

“Dad?” she asked, reaching a hand out for Scott. “What’s wrong? Is it Stiles?”

Chris straightened and held out his hand, two sets of handcuffs resting on his palm.

“Mr Argent?” Scott said, confused. Lydia sighed.

“He’s here to arrest you,” Lydia said.

“You’re not under arrest,” Chris assured them. “However, as two agents under my employ I have the right to detain you for up to thirty days if I suspect you are involved with a conspiracy against the people we have sworn to protect.”

“You’re not serious,” Allison said, frowning.

“I warned you Allison,” Chris said, stepping forward and grabbing Scott’s wrist. Scott gave Allison a questioning look, but she just looked at him helplessly. She didn’t know what to do.

“You have to let him detain you,” Lydia said gently. “If you resist, he has grounds to take you to the police.”

“But we haven’t done anything wrong,” Scott protested.

“Listen to Miss Martin,” Chris said softly, bringing Scott’s wrists together and putting on the handcuffs. “I know you two want to find Stiles as much as anyone, but you’re going against direct orders. What you’re doing… At best, you’re hindering the real investigation. Worst case scenario, though? You are actively helping Stiles’s abductors avoid justice and keeping Stiles out of our reach.”

Chris reached out for Allison’s hands, but she snatched them away, stepping back slowly. “We’re helping Derek, who is the only person on the entire team that has made any progress finding Stiles.”

“Hale is our prime suspect for this investigation, Allison,” Chris said. “I know you think he’s your friend, but he can’t be trusted.”

“Why would Derek kidnap Stiles?” Allison asked, crossing her arms. “It makes no sense. He barely knew Stiles-”

“He used to be on Stiles’s close protection team,” Chris interrupted.

“For maybe a month, four years ago,” Allison protested.

“Long enough,” Chris said ominously. “Arms out, Ally. Don’t make this harder than it needs to be.”

“Long enough for what?” Allison said.

“Weres are notoriously possessive,” Chris said. “It’s perfectly natural, even useful, for agents to feel a sense of connection to their charges. To see them as their own responsibility, to want to care for and protect our clients. I was warned that putting a Were in such a position was dangerous, that Hale would take it too far, but I didn’t listen.”

“Who is everyone?” Allison demanded. “Where is this speciest bullshit coming from? I’ve never heard anyone talk about Weres being possessive.”

Chris looked pained. “I know, and that’s my fault. I wanted to raise you free from fear of Weres. I wanted you to be able to form your own opinions based on what you saw, not old family superstition. Some of it is bullshit, but not all of it and instead of raising you to be unbiased, I’ve raised you to be naive.”

“Presumably you were raised with Argent superstition, Mr Argent,” Lydia said softly. “What made you change your mind? What made you take a chance on Derek?”

There was an uncomfortable silence following this, Chris’s expression shifting through saddened into disappointed. Allison and Scott adopting twin looks of tentative hopefulness. Finally Chris shrugged and gently pulled on one of Allison’s arms.

“A moment of idealism? Human guilt? I took a chance on Hale, Miss Martin. I tried to be fair, I tried to treat him the same as any human employee, but the world doesn’t work like that. Weres are different, and it doesn’t matter how much we treat them like humans they’re never going to be humans.” Chris sighed. “I liked Derek. He seemed like a good kid and I want to believe that this is just his Were nature driving him to claim what is his, but whether he’s just a helpless slave to his instincts or if his inner beast turns him mean, that doesn’t change what’s happening. I screwed up trusting him, and I could not live with myself if I did not do everything in my power to bring that poor kid back to his father, and that includes detaining the two of you here and now before you can do any more damage.”

Lydia shook her head, but said, “You have to go with him, Allison. He’s convinced himself, or more likely someone else has convinced him, that Hale is responsible. You’re not going to change his mind in the next half hour and that’s about as long as I give it before his patience runs out and he brings in the police.”

“Fine,” Allison said, thrusting her hands at her father. “But please tell me you are going to beat up Isaac for us? I’m guessing he’s the one who ratted us out.”

“He was probably just doing what he thought best!” Scott added quickly. Chris ignored them.

“I’ve recommended that Ms Martin’s security detail be increased and her movements restricted,” Chris said, tugging at Allison’s cuffs. “And the only reason Ms Martin is not being arrested is because so far her involvement has been minimal and I trust that she will not be continuing this investigation any further.”

Lydia rolled her eyes.

“Of course not, Mr Argent,” she said sweetly.

Chris nodded. “Say goodbye and head downstairs, there’s a car waiting for you. I’m sure Allison will contact you as soon as she is able.”

Lydia wrapped Allison in a slightly awkward hug, kissing her cheek in response to a whispered warning to keep out of danger.

“Don’t let Stiles’s disappearance die down,” Scott begged her quietly. “Even in Argent declares the case to be closed and Hale to be the culprit, don’t let people stop talking about it.”

“I won’t,” Lydia assured him, squeezing his hand before walking away.

 

The fabric refused to be beaten, even as Derek let his rage fuel him and he took another swipe through the bars. They had tried every possible plan of attack, scratching around the stones, slicing at the seams, stabbing at weaker looking patches, and nothing worked. As the day progressed, the moon slowly lessened its power over Derek, but the adrenaline and frustration racing through his body made the difference almost unnoticeable. The more he tried to escape, the angrier he grew and it showed in the growling that undercut his speech, the speed in which his damaged claws healed. He felt it in his growing need to escape the cage and hunt, or turn and press Stiles to the ground and claim him. This latter thought would have terrified Derek, but Stiles’s presence, though almost irresistible at times, had a grounding effect on Derek, bringing him back to himself, more in control of his body.

“Whoa, easy there buddy,” Stiles said, stepping close to Derek and resting a hand on his back.

Derek leaned into the touch, tension easing in shuddering waves, and his want pulled back from an almost animalistic need to a more normal, human desire. This urge to pull Stiles in close and cut him off with kisses, to slide his hands down Stiles’s back and rest in the dip of his waist, to take him out for dinner and home for a movie and wake him up with hot, fresh food they could eat without fear of poison or overloading Stiles’s system, these were all urges that would worry him when he was safe. For now they were safe havens, giving him peace and comfort in the knowledge that he was in control of himself, that instinct wasn’t in charge and so Stiles was safe.

“I’m not sure intimidation is a tactic that’s going to work on a sheet of fabric, not even magic fabric,” Stiles continued. Derek frowned and turned to look at Stiles.

“Intimidation?” Derek repeated.

“You were growling at it, all intimidating posture and hackle-raising,” Stiles said, mimicking the actions and bearing his teeth to give a little growl. It made Derek think of the games he would play with his human packmates when they were younger. “It was impressive, but maybe save that for more animate enemies. Ones that can see and hear.”

Oh. Derek rolled his shoulders back and held out an arm, hovering it just over Stiles’s shoulder, giving him a questioning look. Stiles nodded and Derek pulled Stiles towards him until their chests met and every breath Derek took held Stiles’s soothing scent. He delighted in the way Stiles immediately slid his arms around Derek’s waist, completing their little circuit. It was a few minutes until Derek started to feel centered once more, and then a few minutes more while Derek guiltily indulged in the sensation of having Stiles fill his senses, before Derek released Stiles.

“Thanks,” Derek said, giving Stiles a grateful and almost sheepish smile. He had been so focused on destroying the sheet that he didn’t realize he had been slipping into a fully feral state, human thought having no impact whatsoever on his actions beyond keeping the sheet as an enemy in the forefront of his mind.

“No problem,” Stiles said, shrugging. “Maybe we should give the escape plan a rest for a bit. Did you want to give eating the meat a try?”

Derek grimaced. Eating wolfsbane tainted food hadn’t seemed as plausible a plan this morning as it had last night. His defences felt weakened from his struggle to stay in control through the night, and the way he had just lost control without even noticing made Derek afraid to put his body under further assault.

“I think I’m too worked up,” Derek said. “I might try meditating for a while, see if that helps.”

“I don’t suppose you know any yoga poses with bed in the title?” Stiles asked hopefully. “King Bed or Ultimate Hammock?”

Derek laughed, the sound shaky to his ears, but natural, borne as much out of amusement as it was of gratitude that Stiles not only recognized how his physical presence could help, but was willing to play it off as no big deal. It made him feel more like a friend, someone Stiles cared for, not someone Stiles was afraid of. Not someone who in a few hours might find the pull of the moon to be too much and force Stiles to the ground and take him. Rape him. Derek shook himself. They couldn’t afford to have Derek thinking like that. Dour moods had always made shifting harder for Derek, and the problem was only amplified by the moonstones and his growing hunger.

“Afraid not,” Derek said. “I’m not even flexible enough for a Half Lotus, not for extended periods of time anyway.”

“Well lucky for you, I’m an expert in the Sloth Pose, which is highly adaptable,” Stiles said. “So just get into your Zen Pose and I’ll slot in for a nap.”

Derek moved to the center of the cage, panicking for a moment when he found that the sheet in combination with his heightened emotional state rendered him unable to pick the direction Matt and Kate always came from. It took a few seconds for him to calm down enough to remember that the pile of food and the toilet they dug were both on the opposite side from where their captors would emerge from. Derek sat quickly, facing the more dangerous direction and opened his arms. Stiles slid into his lap, facing him and resting his head on Derek’s shoulder, arms curled loosely around Derek’s chest.

Despite his highly alert state, Derek found that if he let the sound of Stiles’s heartbeat become his primary target of focus, he was able to slide into a semi-aware state, letting his mind process the sounds and smells of danger on a subconscious level. He thought about the even beat of Stiles’s heart, how not long ago it would race when this close to Derek, and he was pleased that Stiles’s was now so comfortable with Derek’s presence. Indulgently, Derek told himself that this was because Derek no longer represented danger or threat, that Stiles saw him as safety and security.

The sudden removal of the front sheet of hecatolite startled both Derek and Stiles, flooding the cage with bright light. Derek was shocked at the easing in his chest this natural light brought, the return of an easy control over his shifting, and the expanded range of his senses.

“Well, well, well, don’t you two look cosy,” Matt crowed as Stiles scrambled off Derek’s lap.

“Matt,” Derek said calmly, standing up and moving in front of Stiles.

“Derek,” Matt said, mimicking Derek’s stoic tone with exaggerated formality, dropping his voice down an octave. “I’ve brought you more food.”

Matt glanced around the cage and frowned, waggling a disapproving finger at Derek. “Someone’s not been eating. How ever do you expect to grow big and strong if you don’t eat all that you are given?”

Derek shrugged. “I’m on the no wolfsbane diet.”

“Derek,” Matt said warningly. “You have to eat. If you don’t eat, your little pet Stiles doesn’t get fed.”

“We’re pretty set for food,” Derek said, gesturing casually at the pitiful pile of non tainted food. “Thanks all the same.”

Matt rolled his eyes and pulled out a gun, firing a round into the food, making Stiles jump and Derek shift. Apparently his control wasn’t as firm as he had thought.

“I have more food for Stiles here,” Matt said, holding up the bags. “Which he may have once you have eaten your rations.”

“And if I refuse?” Derek asked. Matt pulled out a second gun and shot Derek in the thigh. White hot pain filled his senses, though the wound healed itself too quickly for Derek to lose much blood. He gritted his teeth, keeping his eye on Matt as he reached back to grab at Stiles, needing to reassure himself Stiles hadn’t been injured, ridiculous as that urge was given that Derek could feel the bullet lodged in his leg. Stiles squeezed his hand.

“I’m okay,” Stiles said, sounding shaken and scared. “Are you?”

“Fine,” Derek managed to say. “Just a normal bullet. It’s still in my leg though, I need to get it out.”

“Here you go,” Matt said, throwing a bag at Derek. “No food for Stiles until that is all eaten, and I still have four rounds left in this gun. If you force me to reload, I’m switching to nastier bullets. Even been shot with mistletoe? Won’t kill you, not at the dosages I use, but I’m told it stings like a bitch.”

Derek scowled at Matt, limping over to grab the bag, unsurprised to smell wolfsbane on the meat. It didn’t smell like enough to kill him, but it seemed more potent than yesterday’s ration.

“Do you mind if I get this bullet out first?” Derek asked, not bothering to moderate his tone or stop the growl that escaped. He couldn’t concentrate on keeping Stiles out of the line of fire, the pain in his leg and not pissing Matt off all at once. Matt raised the gun again and Derek shoved his hand in the bag, forcing some of the tainted meat into his mouth, relieved when the gun was lowered once more.

The food was foul. Every instinct Derek had was screaming at him to spit it out, to get it as far from his body as possible. It was only a sense of absolute terror that Matt would shoot Stiles that allowed Derek to force down bite after bite, not game to stop between swallows, his burning leg a constant warning that he couldn’t stop. By the time Derek was done, he felt wrecked, his body shaking with a mild fever, and he had slowly shifted back into his full Were form as the poison weakened his control one more.

“I wouldn’t take the bullet out until the sheet is back down,” Matt advised mildly as Derek’s claws reached for his thigh. “The wolfsbane will slow your healing, but the hecatolite will enhance it. Might even stop you from bleeding out.”

“He’s not going to bleed out,” Stiles said, stepping out from behind Derek. “Your boss wants him alive, you’re not going to do anything that would kill him. And you’re not going to shoot me either. Kate wants me dead at Derek’s hand.”

Matt raised the gun and shot. Even though Derek knew that the aim was off, that Stiles wasn’t going to get hit, he couldn’t stop himself from pulling Stiles out of the way. Stiles hadn’t even flinched, and Derek wasn’t sure if he should be impressed with Stiles’s bravery, or worried that this experience had warped his sense of self-preservation. Matt rolled his eyes and tossed another bag into the cage, followed by two bottles of water. He disappeared around the back of the cage and the sheet fell back down. Immediately, Derek fell to the ground, growling and whining, torn between his desire to pull Stiles closer and his need to get the bullet out of his leg.

“You lovebirds have fun tonight,” Matt called, the words having little meaning for Derek. “A full moon, how very romantic.”

Derek compromised by grabbing Stiles’s hips and pulling him into his lap, pressing their bodies together and licking at Stiles’s throat until enough of his control had returned that he could attend to his leg. He sliced his thigh open, cutting roughly through the layers of skin and fat and muscle, digging around until he found the bullet, only faintly aware of Stiles’s noises of horror, unable to think much past the pain and the need to have the metal intruder out of him. It was only once the bullet was flung aside that Matt’s warning about wolfbane slowing the healing process sunk in. His leg was oozing blood everywhere, and he had never seen his skin and muscle take so long to knit up.

“Shit, Derek, you need to put pressure on that,” Stiles said, pulling his shirt off and wrapping it around Derek’s leg. “It’s still going to heal, right?”

Derek settling his hands on top of Stiles’s, and pressed down. This was good. This felt right. He could feel his leg healing, slowly and painfully, the tissue mending, the veins repairing themselves. There was a faint, bitter smell of wolfsbane, but no other scents of danger, no sound of nearby enemies. Just Stiles, close and safe and his.

“Derek?” Stiles said, sounding anxious. Derek looked up from his leg, staring at Stiles. “The wolfsbane isn’t going to stop you from being able to heal, is it?”

It took a long time for Stiles’s words to turn from sounds into something meaningful to Derek. “No,” Derek said, carefully shaping the words. “It’s healing. Not as quickly as normal, but still faster than a human.”

“Oh thank god,” Stiles said. He dropped his head to rest briefly on Derek’s shoulder, and Derek rubbed his cheek against the back of Stiles’s head.

“I think I’ve stopped bleeding,” Derek said, lifting his hands, pulling Stiles’s hand and shirt away. It was strange to see himself so damaged. Some Weres could stop the healing process, but Derek had never managed to control it, too unfocused for such a feat. The skin was puckered and raw, covered in blood, but, as he suspected, it was closed over, no longer bleeding. Stiles traced a finger around the wound.

“That’s incredible,” Stiles said. “Do we need to clean it?”

Derek frowned, confused. “I don’t think we can save my pants.”

To his surprise, Stiles laughed. “No, I meant so it doesn’t get infected.”

“Oh,” Derek said. He moved a hand to rest on the back of Stiles’s neck and took a few moments to focus, breathing slowly and tuning his hearing back down until all he was conscious of was Stiles’s heart, beating at a faster rate than earlier. It was a few minutes before he was aware enough to understand what Stiles had been asking, and he gritted his teeth against the wave of humiliation that rushed over him for forgetting that humans were killed by germs as easily as by cuts and blood loss. “I’m still healing, so it’s fine to be left alone.”

“Right,” Stiles said. “Derek?”

“Mmm?” Derek said.

“Are we going to be okay?”

It was the tone more than the words Derek responded to. He could hear Stiles’s uncertainty, his fear and anxiety, and so he wrapped his arms around Stiles and curled his body around him, making soothing noises and licking along the edge of his ear. Stiles shuddered and went pleasingly limp.

 

Stiles stayed tucked in Derek’s arms, not sure how aware of his actions Derek was. Every time Stiles moved, Derek’s grip tightened and he let out a small growl before licking a new patch of Stiles’s skin. He must have been somewhat conscious, as Stiles only had to mention the word hungry, and Derek was dragging him over to the untainted food, sniffing and occasionally having a small bite or a lick before handing Stiles his next mouthful. Stiles was fairly certain that if he tried to have a conversation, Derek would rouse himself enough to be able to engage with him, but Stiles was, for once, at a complete loss of what to talk about. He felt stupid bringing up anything lighthearted, knowing the effort it would take Derek to be able to join in on any inane discussions. Which only left more serious topics, and Stiles wanted to do anything but think about what the night ahead held. He desperately wanted something to distract them, right up until the moment it arrived.

“Evening boys!” Kate’s voice rang out across the clearing. Derek immediately rose to standing and yanked Stiles behind him, trying to keep Stiles pressed as closely to his back as possible, which meant that Stiles found himself with his face awkwardly squashed against Derek’s shoulder blades, able to feel the vibrations of the continuous, low growl Derek was releasing. The section of the sheet that Matt had lifted early in the day was slowly raised. From his position, Stiles couldn’t see when Kate appeared, but Derek had been turning slightly, presumably following the sound and scent of Kate. Once they stopped moving, Derek’s stance widened slightly, his weight dropping slightly and his arms raising, making him look larger.

“And how are we feeling this fine evening?” Kate said. “It’s still three hours until moonrise, but this was the latest I could come out to see you.”

Stiles moved further into Derek’s body, partly to calm Derek, but mostly to reassure himself. Kate sounded delighted, absolutely thrilled with what was to come. There was a manic edge to her, something she kept hidden, or perhaps it was only knowing what she was capable of that made the slightly off-balance quality noticeable.

“You see,” Kate continued. “The president’s brat has gone missing, under Argent watch, and as one of the Argents, obviously I have a lot of sitting around and looking worried to do. Not to mention that our current prime suspect is a former Argent agent, so we’re all under a lot of scrutiny at the moment. Disappearing for a night to watch a kid get the full rabid Were experience is just a bit too suspicious.”

Derek reached a hand back to grab at Stiles and Stiles took the hand in his own, hoping Derek was still too far gone to understand what Kate was saying.

“Of course, Matt tells me even letting small amounts of unfiltered light in the cage ruins the whole effect, so even if I could stay, I wouldn’t get to see anything,” Kate said. “I must say though, if this is what you’re like with only partial moon mojo, Derek babe, tonight’s going to be a wild night.” Kate raised her voice. “Stiles, fair warning? Derek’s a big boy, so I hope you’ve had friends play up there before.”

Chapter Text

The rise of the full moon had always brought with it a sense of wholeness for Derek. It was a time when shifting was easiest and he felt most in tune with the world. This full moon was different. As it rose, Derek felt overwhelmed, power rushing through his veins, bringing with it strength he could feel, but it seemed beyond his control. The wolfsbane tainting his blood twisted everything, turning forces that had always worked with him, renewing him and enriching him, into something that worked against him. It drove him to lose sight of his humanity, encouraging him to give in to his beast, listen only to instincts. It made him feel aggressive and destructive and more than any full moon before, it made Derek long for his pack.

Derek looked around his surroundings, taking in the strange light and the bars closing him off from the world beyond. This wasn’t home. It didn’t smell right, it didn’t look familiar and when he thought about it really hard, he had no memory of going home. Derek let out a small whine of disappointment, startling his cagemate, who made a funny sound, and Derek realized he hadn’t investigated the human properly, dismissing him because Derek wanted to be with his alpha and run with his sisters, not play the softer games one had to with humans. This human, he found, smelled familiar. Stiles. Derek knew the human, he was Stiles. He was good. He was someone Derek needed to protect.

Immediately, Derek rose to his full height and let out a warning noise, but there was no one nearby who represented danger. Derek wondered briefly if that was why they were here, if he had brought this human here to keep him safe. There was no time to follow that thought, because Stiles’s heart rate had picked up and he smelled frightened. Another glance around revealed no hidden dangers, no new scents on the wind and no new sounds, which meant that the human, that Stiles, had been scared by Derek. Silly human. Derek made a comforting whining sound and turned back to Stiles, giving his jaw a soothing lick. And oh, Stiles didn’t just smell familiar, he smelled like pack. Layers of Derek’s own scent surrounded Stiles, bringing Derek a little slice of home.

Gently, Derek closed his teeth over Stiles’s neck, disappointed when Stiles’s heart rate picked up further. Clearly Stiles was new to the pack, so Derek released him and licked the small marks, lapping up small droplets of blood. Derek grabbed Stiles’s hands and squeezed them briefly before letting go and bounding away. Stiles didn’t follow. Derek returned to him, nudged Stiles’s shoulder and leapt off, not realising until he was out of reach that he had knocked Stiles to the ground. Sighing, Derek crouched down next to Stiles, checking over him for injury as his mother had shown him. Humans could be strangely delicate creatures, and Derek was not in the mood for careful play tonight.

Stiles was not hurt. Derek ran his hands over him, pausing when he reached Stiles’s exposed belly. He leaned in to breathe Stiles’s scent again and oh, oh, Stiles wasn’t pack, he didn’t smell of anyone or anything but Derek. Stiles was his and he had brought Stiles here, where they were safe and hidden away from the rest of the world. Derek had tried to play with Stiles, but Stiles, clever Stiles ignored him, lying down and exposing his belly to Derek, reminding him of why they were here.

Letting out a pleased grunt, Derek licked down Stiles’s chest and mouthed gently at his belly, dragging his teeth along the exposed skin. Stiles was wriggling, pushing at Derek, so Derek grinned and crawled over him, settling his weight over Stiles’s hips and holding down his shoulders. Seeing Stiles pinned down underneath him, half-naked and ready to be taken was intoxicating. Derek groaned and leaned down to lap at Stiles’s neck, shifting his hips so he could rub against Stiles.

“Derek.” Stiles had been making noises for a while now, but it was only now that Derek understood what was going on, why they were here, only know that Derek felt Stiles beneath him, his scent surrounding him, that Derek could understand what Stiles was saying. “Derek, stop, oh god, please stop, Derek please don’t do this.”

 

“At least they keep you in relative comfort.”

Allison sat up and stared at her mother standing in the doorway. Victoria Argent frowned when she noticed Scott on the bed across the room.

“Mom?” Allison said. “What are you doing here?”

Victoria walked over and sat next to Allison, wrapping an arm around her.

“Sweetheart, your father arrested you, I had to come and see you,” Victoria said. “What else would a mother do?”

“I didn’t realize we could have visitors,” Allison said.

“Good evening, Mrs Argent,” Scott said. Victoria nodded coolly at him.

“McCall,” Victoria said. She turned back to Allison, concern etched on her features. “Allison, your father said you got arrested dealing with Weres?”

Allison rolled her eyes. “Dealing with Weres, Mom? You make it sound like I was off snorting wolfsbane.”

“This is no time to be joking, young lady,” Victoria said. “You were arrested helping the Were responsible for the kidnapping of the president’s son. What on earth were you thinking?”

“First of all, I haven’t been arrested, I’ve been detained,” Allison said, shrugging off her mother’s arm. “I haven’t broken any laws, and none of this goes on any record.”

“Because your father-” Victoria started to say.

“Dad didn’t get me out of anything,” Allison said, cutting her mother off sharply. “Scott and I brought a civilian onto a highly secure case, and we were warned to keep him out of it. We ignored the warning, and so we’ve been detained. It’s a slap on the wrist, and a way to make sure the records reflect proper protocol.”

“You have been detained because you helped a Were cover his tracks and kept going even after he proved his guilt by escaping Argent custody,” Victoria said.

“What does it matter that Derek is a Were?” Scott said. Allison and Victoria looked across to him. “You keep saying we helped a Were, how is that relevant?”

“It matters because Weres cannot be trusted in delicate and dangerous matters such as these,” Victoria said. “Even before he showed his hand, you should have kept your distance. They’re volatile creatures, Weres, and they need to be treated with caution. I still don’t know what possessed my husband to allow one into Argent Security, but after this debacle I can at least rest assured it will never happen again.”

“Derek was one of the best Argent employees-” Scott said hotly.

Was one of the best,” Victoria said. “And why was he forced to resign, again? Oh yes, because he couldn’t be trusted to keep his hands to himself. He thought because he was protecting people, he had a right to sleep with them. That’s what has lead to this awful business with the Stilinski boy.”

“Derek was forced to leave because someone spread rumors he was sleeping with his charges, and because he’s a Were, everyone believed it,” Scott said. “It was nothing more than old-fashioned speciesism that forced Derek out.”

“He’s got you wrapped around his little claw, doesn’t he?” Victoria sneered. “Let me guess, you two are friends, and he’s a Were, so you respect his right to drape all over you, releasing scents and pheromones that keep you loyal to him.”

“What are you talking about?” Allison said, frowning.

“I can’t believe how ignorant I’ve allowed you to become,” Victoria said sadly. “Once this nasty business is all over, I think you and I will need to sit down with your Aunt Kate and discuss things. Clearly nothing more can be said here, not with the Were-bitch in the room.”

“Mom!” Allison said, shocked. Victoria shook her head, pressing a kiss to Allison’s cheek before standing and leaving without a word.

“What the hell was that all about?” Allison said, staring at Scott in confusion. Scott’s eyes widened and he shrugged, at a loss for an explanation.

 

“Derek?” Stiles said hopefully as Derek stilled above him. “Derek, can you understand me?”

“Stiles,” Derek groaned. He kissed Stiles’s jaw, mouthing sloppily at the skin, pressing his groin into Stiles’s belly, his erection solid and thick and scaring the hell out of Stiles, Kate’s words echoing in his mind.

“Derek, no,” Stiles said firmly, pushing ineffectively against Derek’s shoulder. “You have to stop, please, stop.”

“Why?” Derek whined, sliding his hands down from Stiles’s shoulders to brush over his belly, the touch gentle, caressing Stiles’s cut and tracing over his ribs. It would have been nice, even comforting, but Derek made no move to lift off Stiles, his mouth moving down to suck at Stiles’s neck. “Mate.”

“No you didn’t, you can’t mate me, we’re not mates,” Stiles said, unable to keep his voice steady. Oh god, Derek didn’t know where they were, how they got here. Stiles didn’t realize how much he had been relying on Derek to take command, to keep Stiles sane and calm, until now, and fear flooded him. The plan for the night was for Derek to be okay, for Derek to be in control, for Derek to be able to overcome the effects of the wolfsbane and the hecatolite in the full moon. The plan wasn’t for Stiles to be left alone to deal with a feral Derek intent on mating him.

“Mine,” Derek insisted, sniffing Stiles’s neck pointedly. “My mate.”

“Derek, stop,” Stiles said, slapping Derek’s shoulder. “You have to get off me.”

Derek stared at Stiles’s hand in confusion, before slowly, reluctantly sliding off him. “Why?” Derek said again, this time giving Stiles a mournful, hurt look. He sat up and pulled Stiles onto his lap, cradling him and Stiles let himself relax when Derek made no more moves to rut against him.

“Derek, I need you to concentrate really hard,” Stiles said wrapping his arms around Derek’s neck, hoping the position could once more pull Derek’s awareness back, allow his human instincts to override his lupine ones. “Please, you have to remember. We have been trapped here by Kate, she wants you to hurt me-”

“No,” Derek said fiercely, squeezing Stiles’s body. “Won’t hurt Stiles.”

“Exactly,” Stiles said. It would have been better if Derek was capable of understanding what was going on, but oh god it was a relief to know that even strung out and confused, Derek still had an urge to protect Stiles.

“Mate?” Derek asked hopefully, sliding his hands down Stiles’s back and grabbing at his pants.

“No!” Stiles shouted, trying to twist out of the way of Derek’s hands. “You can’t. Please, Derek, you can’t mate me.”

Immediately Derek’s hands slid back up Stiles’s sides and Stiles stop struggling. Derek leaned in and pressed another messy, damp kiss to Stiles’s jaw, licking under his ear a few times before looking at Stiles once more.

“No,” Stiles said again. “Not tonight. You can’t.”

Derek let out a deep growl of frustration, pushing Stiles back against the ground, and lying over him, thrusting his hips, rubbing his erection against Stiles’s thigh. “Need to,” Derek said.

“No, no, Derek, please don’t, please,” Stiles said, shoving hard against Derek’s chest. He wasn’t strong enough to move Derek, to hurt him or stop him, and he felt his throat closing over, tears spilling over his cheeks. Derek stopped.

“Stiles?” Derek asked. He leaned down and nudged at Stiles’s tears, making a strange crooning noises until Stiles started breathing normally.

“Derek, I need you to understand me,” Stiles said, reaching up a hand to cup Derek’s jaw. “I can’t do this by myself. I can’t… I need you. I need you to explain what’s going on. Please.”

For a long time Derek just stared at Stiles, no glimmer of understanding in his eyes, no glance of reassurance, no firm I’ve-got-you-kid. Just burning gold eyes looking lost and hurt and confused.

“You have me,” Derek said at last, the words spoken slowly and carefully. “You don’t want me. I’m not good.”

“Derek,” Stiles said gently, lifting himself up to brush a kiss against Derek’s cheek. “That’s not it. You’re one of the best people I’ve ever known. And I want you, more than I should, but not like this. Not while you’re half out of your mind and we’re trapped and starving and you’ve been poisoned. Not when it’s the moonstones and the wolfsbane making you want whoever is closest. Not when I’m scared and tired and I can’t trust that you’ll stop if I ask. Not when you’ll definitely hurt me-”

Never hurt you,” Derek repeated, stroking a hand over Stiles’s cut belly, as if to remind Stiles that Derek healed him, that Derek’s job was to keep Stiles safe.

“I know you wouldn’t meant to,” Stiles said. “But you would.”

“Because I’m bad,” Derek said sadly.

“Get up,” Stiles said. Derek sat up again and held out his arms for Stiles, but Stiles sat down next to him instead, making Derek hunch over desolately. “It’s not because you’re bad.”

Derek looked at Stiles, confused.

“Lie down,” Stiles said, patting his thighs and Derek stretched out obediently, dropping his head into Stiles’s lap. Stiles ran his hands over Derek’s hair, patting him over and over until Derek relaxed. “You’re not bad.”

Derek shivered, pressing his cheek firmly into Stiles’s thigh and letting out a small whimper. Stiles slid a hand down to rub the back of Derek’s neck.

“You’re good. Oh god, are you good,” Stiles whispered. “You take care of me, Derek, you keep me safe, you make sure I have food and water. You don’t let Matt or Kate even see me when they come to visit. You took a bullet for me tonight. You’re so, so good, Derek.”

As he spoke, Derek started to shudder, letting out little moans and whimpers. He groaned when Stiles spoke his name, thrusting his hips when Stiles said he was good, whining when his thrusts were met with thing more than air. Stiles slid his hand down further, rubbing Derek’s back.

“You can, ah, jerk off if you need to,” Stiles said, his discomfort easily able to be ignored in light of the sobering thought that Derek didn’t want to jerk off, Derek wanted to pin Stiles down and shove himself inside of Stiles, not caring that it would be rough and painful and terrifying for Stiles.

Derek looked up at Stiles, brows furrowed in confusion.

“You can touch yourself,” Stiles said. “Um, undo your pants and-”

The confused look wasn’t clearing, so Stiles reached down and flicked open the button on Derek’s pants. Derek thrust his hips again, chasing Stiles’s hand.

“I’m not jerking you off,” Stiles said firmly, grabbing one of Derek’s hands and shoving it at his zipper. With a bit of coaxing, Derek finally understood what Stiles wanted him to do, and he turned to the task desperately, apparently realizing relief might soon be his. Stiles looked away sharply when Derek pulled out his erection, the size of the swollen appendage scaring Stiles. He had no idea if it was larger than average, or the biggest he had seen, but he knew without a doubt that if Derek tried to take him without any lubrication or stretching, it would tear him open.

“Stiles,” Derek groaned after a few minutes of panting and strange little growls. He went limp, his breathing slowing and the last of the tension in his back disappearing.

“All finished then?” Stiles said, equal parts uncomfortable and hopeful. In response, Derek nuzzled Stiles’s thigh, then started to nudge and nose his way up Stiles’s body, accepting Stiles’s push away from his groin with a good natured lick to Stiles’s hand. When Derek reached Stiles’s throat, he gave another lick and started to push Stiles’s down to the ground.

“No,” Stiles said, trying to slide away from Derek, but Derek simply followed him until they hit the bars along the back of the cage. Derek nipped at Stiles’s collar bone, and stroked his stomach.

“Stiles,” Derek said firmly, forcing Stiles to lie down. “Sleep.”

“Oh,” Stiles said, relief flooding him. “Okay.”

Derek made a pleased sound and curled them up together, just as they had been last night, Derek’s body covering Stiles’s, forming a protective layer. Within a few minutes, Derek was asleep, but Stiles was still full of adrenaline, hyper aware of Derek’s now soft dick resting on his hip. He had heard rumors that Weres had incredible refractory periods, that they could go again and again, all through the night, but as the night progressed, there was no stirring, no hardening or twitching. Whether it was the wolfsbane interfering or if the rumors were just that, Stiles didn’t know, but it was a long time before he was able to let sleep drag him under.

 

Something was wrong. Scott and Allison had known that Stiles’s case was not going to be solved if Derek remained the prime suspect, but the sudden, completely unexpected Were bigotry from Allison’s parents seemed so out of place. Allison was convinced there was something more to the suspicion falling on Derek, to the kidnapping at large.

“He’s an ex-employee who left under suspicious circumstances,” Allison said. “Why take the Were angle? Surely there’s a much stronger case to be made that Derek wanted revenge against the Argents for making him leave. Even an unhealthy obsession with charges would be a far clearer motive than, ‘because he’s a Were’.”

Scott nodded, agreeing fervently. They talked the case out through the night, but no matter how they twisted it, they couldn’t work out if the Werephobia was just a hangover from Argents Were hunting days, or if hatred for Weres was the real cause behind the kidnapping after all. Malicious intent made no sense, because the case being made against Derek hinged on him breaking free from the safe house, but they couldn’t see how Derek might have been coerced into doing that. And the speciesism had come on too suddenly, too strongly to be coincidence.

“We have to tell someone,” Scott said finally, as dawn started to break.

“Who?” Allison said. “We can’t go to anyone at Argent, Dad would shut it down and have them detained too quickly for anything to be achieved.”

“We’re going to have to go straight to President Stilinski,” Scott said. “He’s a good man, he’ll listen to us. And he used to be a cop, so he’ll know if it really does sound shady. Do you think you can talk your dad into bringing us a phone?”

Allison shook her head, but smiled. “No way, he doesn’t trust us to not try and get intel to Derek. But luckily for us, my mother doesn’t know I can pickpockets.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a mobile phone. “Do you know his number?”

“I’m Stiles’s prime bodyguard,” Scott said smugly, reaching for the phone. “I’ve got this.”

 

Derek woke slowly, his whole body feeling thick and heavy and wrong. The comforting smell of Stiles was still present, his heart beating evenly, his breath soft. Still asleep. Glancing over Stiles, Derek was relieved to see no sign of injury. He couldn’t remember much of last night, not after moonrise. Flashes of sensations, Stiles’s hands in his hair, Stiles body pinned under his. Derek looked down, horrified to see his penis hanging out, but Stiles’s pants were still on, no sign of tearing in the fabric. If Derek had… taken Stiles last night, he doubted he would have waited for Stiles to remove his trousers, and surely Stiles would have been in too much pain to want to pull them back on. There was the metallic tang of blood in the air, but Derek remembered digging the bullet out of himself all too well. It didn’t mean that Stiles was hurt.

Gathering up his courage, Derek moved down to sniff at the seat of Stiles’s pants, relieved to find no traces of blood or semen. Secure in the knowledge that Stiles was most likely okay, Derek took a moment to take stock of himself. He could feel the wolfsbane pumping through his body, and wondered if it was counteracting the hecatolite; he was surprised to find himself so lucid, his body fully human.

“I didn’t realize butt-sniffing was something werewolves did,” Stiles said, his voice rough, just sounding like he hadn’t slept well. Not like he had spent the night screaming. “I’ve heard the jokes, but I always told people to stop being such Werephobic idiots. I might owe some assholes an apology.”

“Stiles,” Derek said softly, reassured that Stiles appeared to be in good humor. Unless he was just trying to bury his trauma beneath laughter.

“Oh god, don’t tell me you’re still all ‘you Stiles, me Derek’,” Stiles said, sitting up, eyes widening with panic.

“All what?” Derek asked, confused and concerned.

“Look, I know you are not the chattiest person at the best of times, but right now I need you to say a full sentence. With long words. And no grunting,” Stiles said. Derek wanted to pull Stiles into his arms and kiss and lick and nip him until he realized Derek meant no harm, but that wasn’t what Stiles needed right now.

“Stiles, I don’t remember what happened last night, and I understand if you feel you can’t trust me right now. I can go and sit on the other side of the cage-”

“No, don’t!” Stiles said, lunging forward and grabbing at Derek. He wasn’t afraid of Derek. The relief was overwhelming and Derek nearly sagged underneath it. From the moment Matt brought out the sheet of hecatolite Derek had known what might happen. And Derek had known that even if he could keep enough presence of mind not to force himself on Stiles, or more realistically, even if Derek could find a way to make sure Stiles wasn’t hurt while he claimed him, it would still be a hugely traumatizing event. Stiles might become frightened of Derek, might not feel safe in the same room as him. Might only ever look on Derek with hatred and disgust. It was selfish for Derek to worry about this when Stiles would be the one truly suffering, but the thought of not having Stiles look at him the way he always had terrified Derek.

“It’s okay,” Derek said, wrapping his arms around Stiles, letting himself swim in the delight that having Stiles in his arms once more brought. Stiles, safe, whole, unharmed and still turning to Derek for comfort and security. “I won’t go anywhere. Are you hurt? Did I-”

“No,” Stiles said. “I’m fine. You wanted to, or at least your wolf wanted to, but you didn’t. I told you to stop and you obeyed.”

Stiles lifted his head and looked at Derek, his eyes filled with awe, and Derek flushed. What he had done wasn’t heroic, wasn’t deserving of admiration. They should never have found themselves in such a circumstance, and Stiles shouldn’t be proud of Derek for managing to not rape him, but Derek had been so terrified that he would not be able to control himself, and let himself take a moment to be grateful. The moment was cut short.

“Good morning lovers!” Kate called out and Derek yanked Stiles up, tucking him away. He tried to make himself look casually in control as the sheet rose. “Or should that be lover? Did you manage to keep Stiles alive to use again today?”

Kate sauntered out into view, her grin fading when she saw Derek standing fully clothed. She glanced around the cage and was apparently disappointed to not see Stiles lying insensate.

“Come now Derek, you didn’t have to get all dressed up again just for me,” Kate said, rolling her eyes. “And you certainly don’t need to keep Stiles tucked away. I’m a grown woman, and I don’t mind seeing the evidence of the fruits of my labour.”

“And what fruits are you expecting to see?” Derek drawled, taking pleasure in the words and the furious look they evoked in Kate. He knew it was reckless and stupid and went against everything he had told Stiles about not winding up their captors, but fuck it - this was Kate. She had let him believe she was crazy about him for years, manipulating him into giving himself to her, only to now reveal she actually hated him and was playing some twisted game he had spoiled for her. Derek couldn’t bring himself to pretend to be a placid, intimidated captive for a woman who tried to make him rape and maul someone Derek cared deeply about.

“Show me Stiles,” Kate demanded. “Don’t hide him away like you’re ashamed of what you did to him.”

Derek was torn. He wanted to step aside to show Kate that he was a better man than she would ever give him credit for, but he didn’t want to expose Stiles to danger just to prove a point.

“I’ll admit that I’m a bit damp,” Stiles said, moving into view and saving Derek the decision. He tilted his head to draw attention to his neck, which had a small hickey, a couple of tooth marks and, if Derek’s current desires were anything to go by, layers of saliva. “Derek’s very licky in Were form, but I don’t know if you can see that. Otherwise there’s not much to show, I’m afraid.”

Kate stared at Stiles, her eyes studying him intently. Stiles obligingly turned around to let her inspect his back, and Derek couldn’t stop himself from yanking Stiles closer. Showing up Kate might be high on the agenda, but Stiles standing with his back to the enemy was too much for Derek to handle, both as a professionally trained bodyguard and a Were wanting to protect their pack.

“What happened last night?” Kate demanded. Stiles shrugged.

“Bit of licking, some snuggling. I wanted to play scrabble, but the tiles are too small for Derek’s claws,” Stiles said. “So we called it an early night.”

Kate rolled her eyes and pulled out a phone. “Nevermind,” she said, smiling sweetly, her voice acidic. “Just because last night’s date was a bust doesn’t mean we can’t salvage the morning.”

 

“President Stilinski, sir,” Scott said, adjusting his posture as the president walked in.

“You called me on my private number,” Stilinski said, his firm and steady voice a strange contrast to his haggard appearance. “And summoned me to a detaining center at the crack of dawn. What do you have for me McCall?”

“Something’s wrong,” Scott said nervously.

“My son has been missing for six days. You’re goddamn right there’s something wrong,” Stilinski snapped.

“With the investigation,” Allison clarified. “The way Derek Hale is being treated as a suspect.”

“He escaped Argent custody after being held under suspicion for interfering with a federal investigation,” Stilinski said.

“I know, sir,” Allison said quickly. “We’re not trying to defend Derek’s actions to you. The problem is the investigation. It’s a mess. The whole thing has moved from a legitimate concern about a disgruntled ex-bodyguard to a cut and dried case of a Were gone feral. And even then it’s not following the correct lines of enquiry.”

“They haven’t even contacted Mrs Hale,” Scott added. Stilinski stared at him. “lf this was being treated as a human crime, his family would have been contacted by now to try and uncover a motive. And if this was a feral Were case-”

“There would be a team placed with Hale’s pack, because Derek would instinctively want to take Stiles there,” Stilinski concluded, looking horrified.

“Exactly,” Allison said grimly. “We rang Talia Hale last night, Derek’s alpha. She didn’t even know he was a suspect.”

 

“Don’t worry boys,” Kate said. “Matt’s on the way and he’s bringing something special to liven up this party.”

Stiles rolled his eyes, wanting to sag into Derek’s side. He was exhausted with the theatrics, and more than a little worried about what Matt might have up his sleeves. Judging by what he had already done to Derek, it wasn’t going to be anything good. Still, Stiles found it difficult to let himself grow too scared. He was just too tired, had been too scared for too long. And Derek had proven last night that he would never hurt Stiles, never do anything to scare him, no matter what was thrown at them.

“Why, Kate?” Derek asked softly. Stiles glanced at Derek, but there was no defeat in his posture, no lingering hurt or resentment in his voice. “What are you trying to prove?”

Kate sneered. “You’re an animal. If it was up to me, I would have every last Were wiped out. But I’m a reasonable person. Some people think your kind have a use, that you can serve a purpose, that there’s a place for you in this world. And I serve the people. So I have come to accept that if you’re kept in your place, away from humans, we can coexist. And then Weres like you come along, humans like our beloved president, who think Weres should be equal to humans. They think that Weres can be trusted. That Weres can be tamed. Sooner or later, people will realize that this utopian society they’re imagining is dangerous, and I just want it to be before anyone gets killed.”

“You’re going to show the world that Weres cannot control themselves by locking me in a cage and doing all you can to shake my control?” Derek asked.

“He stopped the second I said stop,” Stiles added, realizing the point Derek was trying to make. “He backed off as soon as I said no. He didn’t know where we were, or how we had gotten here. He didn’t know who I was beyond the fact that I smelled like him. All he knew about me was that I smelled like his mate. I was covered in his scent, I had allowed him to lick me and bite me and hold me. I had done everything to tell him that I wanted him to claim me and still he stopped the instant he realized I was upset and scared. How many humans have done worse with less provocation? He was so out of it that if I had wanted to have sex with him, then he could have had me arrested for sexual assault. Yet still he had enough control to stop when I told him no.”

Stiles reached a hand out to slide it into Derek’s, not wanting to break eye contact with Kate, but needing to have some point of contact with Derek. Immediately, Derek tangled their fingers, giving out enough pressure to let Stiles know he had been heard. That what he said meant something to Derek.

Kate shrugged, unmoved. “Was he human when he accepted your refusal? By your own admission, he didn’t know what was going on, and you mentioned earlier that his claws proved inconvenient. You say he was out of it? Unable to understand what was going on enough to consent to sex. And yet did we fill him with hallucinogens? Give him anything to incapacitate him? Derek nearly raped you after being exposed to some concentrated moonlight, and a herb that is medicinal in small quantities and deadly in large, but has no proven effect on a human’s sense of reality or inhibitions. The grip Weres have over their inner beast is tenuous indeed. What is more likely, given Derek’s surprising degree of sanity this morning, is that dosing Derek with wolfsbane saved your virtue and your life, limiting the power his beast form has over him.”

“That’s the problem with people like you,” Stiles said. “It doesn’t matter how much evidence is given to you, how much proof that your prejudices are nothing more than poorly founded superstitions and fear, you will cling to your hatred, twisting everything to fit your beliefs and deny any other way of understanding the world.”

“And what are you doing?” Kate said. “I’ve shown you the monster that lives inside every Were and still you cling to your naive belief that they can be trusted. He stopped when you said stop? He backed off when you said no? What do you think would have happened if Derek had been faced with a little girl who didn’t understand, who didn’t know to say stop, who didn’t know to say no?”

“Weres aren’t peodophiles,” Stiles snapped. “It’s not in their nature, if it happens it’s a perversion, the same as humans.”

“Stiles,” Derek said sharply. Stiles looked up to him, confused and hurt. “Matt’s here.”

“I suppose they have some useful quirks,” Kate said. “Derek’s hearing came in handy when we were trying to be discreet at work. Living down the mortification of being caught in a broom cupboard with a junior team member going down on you would take all the romance out of any future trysts.”

Matt called out a greeting and Kate turned to watch him jog over, carrying a small black bag. As much as Stiles had honestly believed he had reached his limit for fear not moments ago, seeing Matt cradle the bag carefully against his body sent Stiles’s body into panic mode. Not even Derek squeezing his hand and pushing Stiles carefully behind him could slow the rising terror.

“What did you bring?” Kate asked, her excitement turning Stiles’s stomach.

“It’s a new mixture,” Matt said. “Combining two tried and true serums. It will be more than strong enough if the wolfsbane left in the Were’s bloodstream counteracts any of the components.”

Stiles listened carefully as Matt was pulled out his latest attempt at ruining Derek and Stiles’s lives, the rustling and clicking noises sending Stiles’s imagination into overdrive. Finally there was the soft sound of a dart gun being fired and Derek shuddered in front of him, dropping to his knees.

For a moment, everything was still and silent, Matt and Kate’s anticipation almost tangible. Derek looked up at Stiles and his eyes widened, pupils blown. He shuffled forward and wrapped his hands around the backs of Stiles’s thighs, nosing at Stiles’s legs, moving up to his hips and across to his groin. Stiles shivered and went to shove Derek away from him, ready to yell at Derek to stop, when he realized Derek wasn’t trying to arouse him. He was just breathing, pulling Stiles in closely enough that he could bury his nose in the groove where Stils’s thigh turned into his groin, where there was a major artery and his scent was particularly strong.

Without warning, Derek started to move up Stiles’s body, mouthing up his belly, kissing up the steps of his ribcage, hands following up the back of his thighs, smoothing over his backside, stroking tenderly when he reached bare skin. As his shock wore off, Stiles slowly became aware that Derek wasn’t just huffing and sniffing at his skin, he was talking, low whispered words of tenderness.

“Stiles, beautiful, perfect Stiles. Oh god, Stiles, my Stiles, I’m here Stiles, it will be okay now,” Derek said, the words growing clearer as he worked his way up to Stiles’s shoulders. He stood slowly, keeping their bodies pressed close, unwilling to let so much as an inch separate them. “You’re so beautiful, I’m going to take such good care of you, if you stay with me. As long as you’re with me, everything will be fine. You will be the most loved creature ever to walk the earth. Never leave me, Stiles.”

Derek kissed down Stiles’s collar bone, his hands all but supporting Stiles’s weight; Stiles shuddered, realising his knees had given up. Derek’s kisses alternated between desperate, nipping claims and wet, soothing apologies.

“You’re pack, Stiles, my pack,” Derek continued and Stiles nearly cried. He straightened his legs, locking his knees back into place. Derek had been drugged again, he didn’t mean anything he said, not matter how much Stiles might wish otherwise.

“God I love you,” Derek said, reaching Stiles’s ears and feathering kisses down his jaw. Stiles kept his mouth firmly shut as Derek kissed around his lips. Derek’s hands glided up to cup Stiles’s neck, thumbs trying to encourage his jaw to open, demanding access to Stiles’s mouth. A gunshot went off and Derek sprung apart from Stiles.

 

Adrenaline flooded Derek’s system. Whatever Matt had dosed him with had left Derek feeling very calm and almost light headed, wanting nothing more than to curl up with Stiles and reassure him that everything was going to be fine. Unlike the hecatolite and the wolfsbane, Derek had mostly felt uninhibited, almost drunk, the drug stirring up his feelings for Stiles. He suspected the serum was a modified lust potion, possibly mixed with some kind of sedative or even a depressant. It’s strength lay in the taker’s desire to obey, and so when faced with a potential threat to Stiles, Derek was easily able to ignore the worst of it and adopt a defensive pose, a growl escaping when he saw Kate pointing a gun at him.

“Looks like we’re going to be doing this the old fashioned way,” Kate said. “You need to fuck him or I will shoot him.”

Derek felt sick, unable to do anything but say, “No.”

“Fine,” Kate said. She marched over to the door of the cage and pulled out a complicated looking key and proceeded to dismantle the locking mechanism. “Cover me?”

“I’ve got you,” Matt said, pulling out a gun and aiming it at Derek.

Derek twisted, maneuvering Stiles and himself until they faced Kate, carefully ensuring that he didn’t expose Stiles to Matt. Even with her gun, Derek knew he could take Kate down, but there was no way he could keep Stiles out of Matt’s line of sight at the same time.

“Come on lover boy,” Kate said, grinning at him and holding her gun out of the way. “Come and get me.”

Derek growled at Kate and took a step backwards.

“Do you really not want to fuck the kid that much?” Kate said. “You seemed plenty interested when he was eighteen and drooling all over you. Is that the problem? Do you like your women older and your men younger?”

The corners of the hecatolite sheet overlapped to ensure no natural light could make its way into the cage. If Derek could just get Stiles into the front corner, Matt would be forced to come right around if he wanted to shoot him. Which would give Derek enough time to try and get Kate’s gun.

“You met him when he was fourteen, didn’t you?” Kate said, walking closer. Derek took a smaller step back, wanting to disguise their direction as much as possible. “There’s certainly something about knowing you’re the first person someone’s ever taken an interest in.”

Kate shrugged, and Derek chanced a larger step. “Still, if you’re not interested, I don’t think Matt minds used goods.”

Derek shuddered at the comment, and used it as an excuse to look over to where Matt was standing. It wasn’t ideal, but it would have to do. Kate was too close, and Matt had pulled out a dart gun. Derek shoved Stiles backwards, towards the corner and he lunged at Kate, reaching for her gun. It would have worked, but Matt’s serum slowed him down, giving Kate time to duck under his arm and grab Stiles. She hooked an arm under his chin and held the gun to his head. Derek froze, feeling his body going into shock.

“Derek, sweetheart, you need to stay with me,” Kate said, her voice a parody of comfort. “I’m going to turn Stiles around and take his pants down. While I’m doing that, you’re going to coax little Derek to attention. Don’t worry about getting him excited, Matt assures me he loaded you up with enough Were viagra that this will be fine.”

Kate shifted Stiles in her arms until he was facing her. She held him tight with her gun hand, leaving her other hand free to work Stiles trousers open. Derek whimpered, stepping forward without thinking.

“Uh uh uh, Derek,” Kate scolded. “Not a step closer until I get a downstairs salute. You have three second to get moving, or I will have Matt shoot you again. You know he’s happy to do so.”

Derek complied, undoing his pants shakily, trying to work out how he could do this with without hurting Stiles. He slid his zip down and looked at Stiles, whose pants were shoved down just enough to expose his backside. At least he seemed relaxed, Derek thought. Stiles was letting Kate hold his weight, allowing him to keep his muscles loose.

“Feeling better?” Kate asked, laughing.

Derek tuned her out, concentrating on Stiles, trying not to think as he stroked himself to hardness. He was too focused on drifting out of awareness to think anything of it when Stiles’s whole body tensed. Derek jerked his eyes upwards at the sound of gunfire, so utterly convinced that Stiles was dead he couldn’t comprehend what it meant that Kate’s head was now just a bloody mess. Stiles and Kate fell to the ground in a heap as a dart hit Derek in the shoulder, followed by two more. Before he lost consciousness, he saw Stiles struggle his way free of Kate’s arm, raising the gun and firing three shots. Everything went black.

Chapter Text

Stiles lowered the gun slowly, placing it on the ground when it was clear that Matt was not going to get up again. The silence in the clearing was eerie; the sound of the gunshots still ringing in Stiles’s ears. For a few minutes Stiles stood perfectly still, waiting for something to happen.

“Derek?” Stiles said, his voice coming out louder than he had expected. He said it again, quieter, “Derek?” He waited for an answer, but none came. The silence from Derek shook him out of the almost dreamlike calm that had swept over him in the aftermath of shooting Kate and Matt. No reply meant that something was wrong. Meant that Derek was hurt, that Stiles hadn’t been fast enough. He turned to look for Derek, his whole body going cold when he saw Derek lying on the floor of the cage, not moving. Staggering towards Derek, Stiles nearly fell over. His pants had been pulled down further in his struggle with Kate’s body. He pulled them up and ran to Derek, dropping to his knees and resting his head against Derek’s chest.

“Oh thank god,” Stiles said, hearing Derek’s heart beat, strong and steady, possibly slower than normal, but what did that matter, he was alive. He slid a hand up to check Derek was breathing, and then rolled him into the recovery position, his body working mechanically, using muscle memory rather than following any instructions from Stiles. That done, Stiles sat back and stared around the cage. To his left was Kate’s body, twisted and mangled and Stiles tore his eyes away, feeling cold and sick. He wasn’t game to look out of the cage at Matt.

“Derek,” Stiles whispered, crawling around to lie in Derek’s arms. “What do I do now?”

It was a long time before Stiles’s head cleared enough for him to realize that they were free. Their captors were dead. The cage door was open. And Kate had a phone.

Without looking at what was left of Kate’s head, Stiles reached into Kate’s pocket to pull out a phone, trying not to think about how the phone was still warm but Kate wasn’t the right temperature and oh god he just killed a woman. Stiles doubled over and vomited. When he stood he was gasping for breath because he was crying and there wasn’t enough air in the world to do both at the same time. Stiles moved back into the comforting arms of Derek, shaking slightly as he dialed his father’s number.

“John Stilinski,” his father said, answering the phone with his usual promptness. “Scott, this had better not be you again-”

“Dad,” Stiles croaked.

“Stiles?” his father repeated. “Stiles, is that you? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, it’s me,” Stiles said. “I’m okay.”

“Oh thank god,” his father said. “Stiles, where are you?”

“I don’t know,” Stiles said and broke down sobbing.

“Hey, it’s okay Stiles, it’s okay,” his father said. “I’m coming to get you, I have people who can track this signal, I’m contacting them now. I told you there were perks to being the president.”

Stiles let out a shaky laugh. “Yeah, Dad, I remember.”

“Are you hurt?” his dad asked.

“A bit scraped up,” Stiles admitted. He closed his eyes, but all he could see was Kate’s shattered head, Matt falling to the ground. Derek lying too still. He opened his eyes. “Oh god, Dad, I just shot two people.”

“Stiles, you’re a hostage in a kidnapping situation. You know that the most important thing is that you keep yourself alive,” his father said calmly, his voice free from condemnation. Stiles shuddered, moving closer to Derek and wishing his father was here with him. “These two people, were they your abductors?”

“Yeah,” Stiles said.

“Then it’s okay,” his father said. “You did what you had to do. I’m proud of you, son. You’ve kept yourself alive this far, now let me bring you home.”

“Please, Dad, please take me home,” Stiles said, gasping around fresh sobs.

“I will, Stiles, I’m coming for you,” his father said. “They’ve pinpointed your location, you’re about an hour out of Washington, but another perk for being the president means that I can call the chopper and get to you in twenty minutes. Are you alone?”

“No,” Stiles said. “I’m here with Derek.”

“Hale?” his father said, sounding surprised. Derek had become the center of Stiles’s world over the last few days, so it was strange to think the rest of the world had no idea what Derek had done for him. Strange to think he had once survived with Derek being no more than a wistful memory. He couldn’t imagine living without Derek in his life again.

“Yeah,” Stiles said.

“Was he one of your captors?” his father asked quietly.

“No!” Stiles said, gripping Derek’s shirt as though to anchor him in place. “He was the one Kate wanted the whole time. Not me, Derek.”

“Kate?” his father said. “She was your captor? Can you describe her to me?”

Skull shattered, blood everywhere, what looked like brain- Stiles twisted away from Derek and vomited again.

“Stiles? It’s okay, you don’t have to do this now,” his father said quickly.

“I shot her,” Stiles said. “She had a gun to my head but it wasn’t hard. She wasn’t looking at me, she was looking at Derek. I just played possum. She didn’t expect me to try anything. All I had to do was shove the gun back and make her pull the trigger. It was so loud and her face just exploded-”

“Stiles,” his father said sharply, bringing Stiles’s attention back to his father’s voice. “We’ll work out who she is, it’s going to be okay.”

“But you know who she is,” Stiles said, frowning. “She used to be Derek’s team leader. She’s protected me in the past. I guess that how she pulled it off.”

“Kate Argent?” his father said, stunned.

“Yeah,” Stiles said. It was easier to think of her as Kate. Kate was a woman who hurt Derek and who wanted to hurt him. Agent Argent was a respectable and greatly admired security officer. It was okay that Kate was dead. People would be upset that he had killed Agent Argent.

“Stiles, they’ve just let me know that the chopper is ready to take me. I can’t bring the phone, I wouldn’t be able to hear you, but I can put you on to someone else? I can transfer you to Scott?” his father said.

“No,” Stiles said, feeling ill at the thought of talking to Scott, dependable, upright Scott, after he had just killed two people. “It’s okay, the phone’s nearly dead anyway.”

“Are you sure?” his father said.

“Yeah, Dad,” Stiles said.

“Okay. I love you and I’ll see you soon.”

“Love you too, Dad.” Stiles hung up, feeling something ease in him at his father’s words. His father knew he had just killed two people, but he still loved him anyway. Stiles tucked himself back into Derek’s arms, taking comfort while he still could, not knowing if Derek would still want him close when he woke and realized what Stiles had done.

 

Stiles woke sharply, disorientated by the sound of his father calling his name. “Dad?” Stiles said.

“Stiles?” his father said. Stiles sat up and looked out onto the clearing, seeing his father jogging towards him, closely followed by Mr Argent, his security team and some paramedics. He stroked a hand down Derek’s side.

“My dad’s here,” Stiles murmured. “It’s going to be okay.”

John tried to walk closer to the cage, but Argent held out a hand to stop him, sending the team in first. They fanned out, two disappearing behind the cage, one stopping to investigate Matt’s body and two entering the cage. A gun was trained on Derek and Stiles threw himself over Derek’s body, shielding him from fire.

“Mr Stilinski, stand down,” the security officer said.

“No!” Stiles shouted. “Don’t shoot him. He’s safe, he’s not feral, he didn’t hurt me!”

“Stiles, let them do their job,” his father called over. Stiles glared at the security officer, but allowed him to pat Derek down.

“The suspect is unarmed, sir,” the security officer reported.

“The area is secure,” the other added. Immediately, Argent entered the cage, rushing to Kate’s body, letting out a strangled sound of horror. Stiles had no time to try and process Argent’s grief as a paramedic was trying to pull Stiles from Derek.

“You can’t have him!” Stiles shouted, trying to throw the woman off without letting go of Derek. “He’s safe, they drugged him but he didn’t hurt me and I shot Kate and Matt, not Derek. He was just trying to protect me.”

“Stiles,” his father said, cutting off Stiles’s hysterical protests. He wrapped a hand around Stiles’s arm, but made no move to pull him away from Derek. “You need to let the paramedics check on Derek. He could be seriously injured.”

“They can’t have him,” Stiles insisted. “That’s what Kate wanted, for Derek to be put down.”

“They’re not going to put Derek down, Stiles,” his father said. “I wouldn’t let that happen. But Derek needs to be taken to the hospital to be checked over, and so do you. Please Stiles, you need to let him go.”

Stiles relaxed his grip on Derek and let his father tug him away, anxiously watching Derek being prodded and poked. He ignored his father’s command to sit still while they made sure he was okay, unable to stop himself from reaching for Derek every time they touched him. It wasn’t until he heard the pronouncement that Derek was stable, that his father was able to drag him to the ambulance, relief weakening his defences.

“I won’t go without Derek,” Stiles insisted, twisting away from his father. “I can’t, please Dad, don’t let them take me.”

“Stiles, it’s okay,” his father said. “You know I don’t believe in euthanizing feral Weres, and this case is too big, too public for anything to happen without a trial anyway.”

“Dad, please,” Stiles begged. He was torn. He believed his father absolutely, but if he had learned anything over the past week it was that his dad wasn’t all powerful. And Derek’s life was too precious to leave risk it like this. An unexpected jab in his arm took the decision away from him, his body weakening and his mind clouding as the sedative flowed through him. He managed to gasp, “Please,” before succumbing to the gentle darkness.

 

The ground beneath Derek was soft. The air was warm, a strong smell of disinfectant clouding sense of smell. It was disorientating, setting Derek’s other senses into high alert as he desperately tried to work out what fresh hell Kate had put them in. Derek strained his hearing, able to pick up people moving around several rooms away, but without his distinctive scent, there was no way for Derek to pick which, if any, of the heartbeat’s were Stiles’s. He was fairly confident that the room was empty, though, so Derek chanced opening his eyes, ending the facade that he was still unconscious if he was being watched. The lights were bright above him, no hecatolite. No cage bars. He was in a hospital.

Derek spent several frantic minutes trying to work out what Kate would be planning in a hospital before the image of her collapsing to the ground, dragging Stiles down with her came to him. The awful moment of thinking Stiles was dead before realising that the blood was hers, that her head was half missing.

Kate was dead.

He didn’t know what to think about this fact. She had tortured and tormented him. She had done everything in her power to try and stop his family from ever being able to live and work with humans. She was willing to do whatever it took to strip him of his rights, make being a Were worse than a prison sentence. She had hurt Stiles and seconds before her death, she had nearly made Derek rape him.

But Derek had believed she loved him, once. He had spent hours berating himself for being too cowardly to risk his career for the chance at love. He had hated himself for being unable to give Kate what she wanted. He had carried around the guilt of his betrayal, the underhanded way he had ended things. She was sick and twisted and he was glad to be free of her. But feeling pleased she was gone sat wrong with him. There was nothing about Kate that could bring him anything but feelings of guilt and misery. Even in her death she had managed to hurt someone precious to him.

Derek pressed the call button for a nurse.

“Mr Hale!” A young nurse walked in cautiously, smiling but not approaching the bed. “Good to see you up. Your system’s been clear for over an hour, the doctor was concerned when you didn’t wake up earlier. She probably would have had you forcefully woken soon.”

“Where’s Stiles?” Derek asked, his voice surprisingly clear and steady.

“Mr Stilinski? He’s quite alright, I assure you,” the nurse said. “Right now we need to concentrate on getting you out of bed. There’s a long list of people who want to talk to you, and the bed needs to be vacated.”

“When can I see Stiles?” Derek said. The nurse chuckled.

“What a one track mind you have,” the nurse said. “I’ll see what I can find out.”

Derek waited until the nurse left, glancing around the room cautiously before sitting and stretching his arms. Gone was the sluggish movements that nearly cost Stiles his life, his muscles moving obediently. The raw power that accompanied the distorted moonlight was absent too, but so too was the surging sensation, the feeling that at any moment his muscles might burst from excess energy. Instead, Derek was left fine control over powerful muscles, and a feeling that his body was his own once more.

“Mr Hale.” An older woman walked into the room, followed by two security officers. She didn’t introduce herself, simply ordering Derek to get off the bed and go through a series of stretches. At no point did she come within arms reach of Derek, and Derek wondered bitterly if it was because he was still a suspect or because he was a Were.

“Excellent,” the woman said at last and left without another word, the security officers following. Derek waited for a few minutes to see if anyone else was coming before turning to explore the room. The room was sparsely furnished, a sturdy hospital bed and a small cupboard made from some sort of mountain ash. The walls were lined with it too, the only break above the door, allowing the hospital complete control over the movement of any Were patients.

With nothing else to do, Derek folded himself into a meditation pose on the ground, and concentrated on trying to pick Stiles’s heartbeat from the crowd.

It was more than two hours before the door opened again, letting in a serious looking security officer, who barked at Derek to stand up and press himself against the back wall. Hesitantly, Derek stood, unwilling to give in to a hostile agent who had given no indication what was going on.

“Let me see him!” Stiles’s voice came from down the corridor and instantly Derek complied, straining his ears to find out if Stiles was okay. His heartbeat was wild, and he sounded as though he was thrashing around violently on a hospital bed, but he was definitely awake and full of life. A pair of enforced cuffs were snapped around his wrists, the metal biting into his skin, burning slightly. They had presumably been treated with wolfsbane, standard operating procedure when arresting a hostile Were, but Stiles was being wheeled into the room and Derek couldn’t bring himself to care.

“Derek!” Stiles shouted. Derek turned in time to see Stiles try to scramble out of the bed, pulling at his IV and twisting himself in the bedsheets.

“It’s okay,” Derek said softly, walking as slowly and non-threateningly as he could, not sure if the humans would recognize the way he left his throat exposed, but not sure what else he could do.

“They wouldn’t tell me what had happened to you,” Stiles said, reaching for Derek, though he seemed content to stay in the bed now that Derek was coming to him.

“They didn’t tell me about you either,” Derek said. He ducked his head against Stiles’s chest, breathing the scent of him in deeply, letting himself take comfort in the pressure of Stiles’s arms wrapping around him. “But I’m okay. Clean bill of health.”

“Good,” Stiles said, resting his cheek on Derek’s head. “They can’t take you away with that excuse anymore then.”

Derek let out a low chuckle. “And you?” He could tell Stiles was better, his scent healthier and his heart strong, his spirits undampened and his IV smelling of nothing more than water and minerals, nothing chemical.

“Shock, dehydration, a few scrapes and a wicked scar to come on my stomach,” Stiles said. “I’m stuck on soft food for a few days, but I’m okay.”

“How did you get them to bring you here?” Derek asked.

“I told them you had claimed me as pack, so I would heal better next to you, and when they wouldn’t buy that I threw an almighty tantrum, and Dad ordered that they send me to you,” Stiles said.

“That’s enough Hale.”

Derek rolled his eyes, but swallowed the urge to growl at the security officer, letting himself be pulled back and shoved into a chair. Stiles could no longer reach him, but Derek’s chair was pushed closer once Stiles started thrashing again, clawing at his IV.

“I’ve given a statement,” Stiles said, scowling. “I’ve told them you were as much an abductee as I was, I don’t know why they have you locked up.”

“Hospital policy,” the security officer said. “According to your testimony, Hale is a Were suspected of being recently feral. He needs to be declared fit by an expert.”

“So I’m no longer a suspect?” Derek asked. A grimace flickered across the officer’s face.

“Argent security is no longer privy to that information,” she said. “The case is now in the hands of the FBI.”

Derek smirked, and was about to make a comment on how much Argent must love that when he remembered that in the face of his sister’s death, Argent was unlikely to care much about anything so comparatively trivial. If anything it would be a relief to have that responsibility taken out of his hands. Instead Derek turned his attention back on Stiles, letting himself be drawn into a discussion on the properties of various hospital pudding cups.

 

“Hale.”

The coldness of a once friendly voice made Derek shiver. He looked up at Argent, whose stoic face could do nothing to hide the pain and grief burning in his eyes. His posture was not aggressive though, and nothing about it suggested he was here to seek revenge for his sister’s death. Mostly he just seemed confused. Lost.

“Mr Argent,” Derek replied evenly, keeping his voice low. Stiles had drifted off to sleep once more and given how poorly he was still sleeping at night, Derek hated to disturb any rest he caught. They had been in the hospital for nearly a week now, but the doctors were still reluctant to release Stiles, not until he was able to keep his food down and agreed to keep seeing a therapist.

Argent might not be here for a confrontation, but Derek still felt uncomfortable sitting down in his presence. His cuffs had been removed four days ago, after Derek had been declared sane by his pack’s own emissary, allowing them to move back to Stiles’s more luxurious private suite, which made Derek feel more confident to stand and follow Argent out into the deserted corridor. Neither of them offered a hand to shake, but Derek did tilt his head, exposing enough of his neck to show that he still respected Argent’s authority. After a brief hesitation, Argent mirrored the gesture. It was strangely comforting.

“How is he?” Argent asked.

“He’ll survive,” Derek said. “He’s one of the strongest people I know.”

Argent nodded, and then all at once, he just sagged. He looked years older, and that sense of invulnerability he had always exuded was just gone. Derek didn’t know how to respond.

“No one knew what was happening,” Argent said. “There was no reason for you to be interested in the case. No reason for you to run away. Not unless you were the one who took him. Right up until Stiles’s phone call, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that you were the one who took him.”

Derek clenched his jaw to stop from flinching, struck by how close Kate’s plan had come to being pulled off perfectly. If Kate had only decided to play this out with someone less resourceful than Stiles, Derek would have been forced to tear some poor innocent young man or woman, and the world would have been convinced that even upstanding Weres, trusted by the highest authorities of the United States, were no more than a savage beast when push came to shove.

“Once they managed to positively ID her, the FBI seized Kate’s computer, dug through all of her belongings, traced all of her doings over the past six months,” Argent continued. “She hadn’t bothered to bury much, secure in the knowledge that her position in Argent Security would protect her. There was an agent, a guy on Stiles’s team, something Boyd, who was mysteriously scheduled off for the week surrounding the abduction, his leave overriding the crisis protocols. A driver who lost her job over a year ago, medical grounds, epilepsy, and never stopped being paid. A fucking year ago. Payments to Daehler that span years, Argent funds going towards cutting edge research. What the hell is going on? I mean, Jesus, she’s my sister and they’re telling me that she arranged to have a twenty-two year old kid abducted, beaten and then locked in a cage with a Were she turned feral. They won’t even let me have her remains, not until the case is closed.”

“What do you want from me?” Derek asked. “Sympathy? You’re the head of Argent Security, it would have taken one check up on Kate’s work, one look into her finances-”

“I know,” Argent snapped. Then again, gentler, voice low and full of regret, “I know.”

Derek sighed. “This isn’t your fault.”

“I just want to know why she did it,” Argent said.

“She thought she was doing the right thing,” Derek said. Argent frowned. “She thought Weres were dangerous, that they couldn’t be trusted to control themselves. That society was setting itself up for some horrific massacre if Weres continued to be granted more rights and freedoms.”

Argent stared at Derek, hope rising in his eyes. Derek turned away sharply before Argent had a chance to reply, heading back into Stiles’s room. He felt calmer seeing Stiles stir, delighting in the way Stiles’s face light up when he opened his eyes and looked at Derek. It was too much to try and think about what Kate was doing and look at Stiles at the same time, so Derek let himself climb onto Stiles’s too small hospital bed and tangle their limbs together, continuing in whispers the argument about cars Stiles had fallen asleep in the middle of earlier that evening.

 

From the moment he had laid eyes on Stiles in that horrifying cage, John had not allowed there to be a breath Stiles made without him at least getting a phone call about, for those terrible hours he could not be by Stiles’s side. The aftermath of the kidnapping was an enormous mess, compounded by the fact that the second in command of Argent Security, one of the titular family themselves, was behind the abduction. Without the usual channels to rely on, John had felt the need to be personally involved in the investigation, terrified that Kate was not acting on her own behalf, but as the agent of a larger force. So John found he could only spend a few hours a day with Stiles, but he would have only needed to drop in for a few minutes to see the way Derek Hale doted on his son. It was rare to find them apart, usually only quests for food or breaks for medical attention taking Derek away. During John’s visits, Derek would move to sit on the other side of the room, but it took only a whimper or a whine from Stiles, and Derek would be back.

Eight days after Stiles had been admitted, his doctors were finally content to release him into John’s care, which left John wondering what to do about Derek.

“We’ll just be out here,” John told his son, walking with Derek out into the corridor, leaving Stiles alone with his primary care physician. And John alone with Derek.

“Derek,” John said. He gestured at a bench. “Take a seat.”

“Yes, sir,” Derek said politely, sitting down. John sat next to him.

“Derek, son, I’m going to be straight with you,” John said. “Watching you taking care of Stiles over the last week has filled me with hope and gratitude. A father can never get over having what happened to Stiles happen to their son, but it soothes my soul to know that you were there with Stiles, that you got him through the worst of it. No, no, don’t interrupt, let me say my piece.”

John held up a hand, preempting whatever protest Derek had opened his mouth to make. “Unfortunately Stiles is still going to need someone to be there with him, someone to get him through the aftermath, the trauma of what happened to him, the fear of it happening again, the knowledge that no one in this world is ever truly safe. And I want that person to be you.”
John held out his hand to Derek. “This is me formally offering you the position of lead in Stiles’s close protection unit.”

Derek stared at John’s hand for a few minutes before saying, “No. Thank you, sir, but I’m going to have to refuse.”

“Oh?” John asked, keeping his face deliberately neutral. “And may I ask why?”

“I don’t know if you ever heard the details of my resignation,” Derek said. “But the short version is, sir, that there were some rumors going around that I was inappropriately close with my charges, crossing professional boundaries and developing romantic relationships with them. I resigned not because there was any truth to them, but because my reputation was being ruined and I was risking Argent’s along with it. I want to tell you, sir, that I never cross those boundaries. I may be friendly with my charges, but the relationship is always strictly professional. Which is why I cannot accept your offer. Stiles’s safety and well-being will always be a priority for me, but I want something more than just a professional relationship with your son. Stiles is an incredible young man and I can’t let the opportunity to grow closer to him go by.”

“I see,” John said, keeping his face stern, enjoying watching Derek squirm, appreciating the way his earnest gaze never wavered. Once John thought he had kept Derek hanging for long enough, he clapped him on the shoulder. “Take care of him, son. And don’t forget I can have you deported and barred from the country.”

“Yes, sir,” Derek said, giving him a weak smile.

 

As Derek walked back into the room without Stiles’s father, the sight of him made Stiles’s stomach twist with disappointment at what he was about to do.

“Hey,” Derek said, brushing Stiles’s hair back before sitting down next to him, his hand finding Stiles’s so easily. The little leap his heart gave at the sight of it underlined to Stiles the importance of getting this over and done with.

“I’m sorry for being so… clingy,” Stiles said, shamefaced. “It’s just that I’m tired and scared and I know I can get away with it. It’s not fair to you, I know.”

“Stiles, it’s okay,” Derek said, squeezing Stiles’s hand. Stiles shook his head.

“No, I need to be a big boy about this now,” Stiles said. “You’ve been really good about this, and I really appreciate that, but the doctors say I’m fine to be released now, so I might as well make this a clean break. I don’t think I could stand having to sit at home with memories of when you were there.”

“What do you mean?” Derek asked. His brow furrowed with concern and Stiles kicked himself. It would be too easy to take advantage of Derek. Too easy to just shut up now and drag Derek back home with him and get another couple of weeks, maybe even months of Derek fussing around him, letting Stiles crawl into his lap at any time, maybe even convince him to share a bed, tie Derek to his side until the guilt and the sense of obligation wore off. But he couldn’t do it. Not to Derek.

“I know it didn’t mean anything,” Stiles said. “That it was just your instincts being messed with, that it was just that I was there and that you felt protective of me. I know it wasn’t about me, that it doesn’t mean you really want me in your pack, or to be your mate or whatever. I get that, I do. It’s just meant so much to me to have you stay with me and it felt like as long as I was in the hospital I could just pretend it did mean something, that you’re here because you want to be, not because you think you owe me something-”

“Stiles,” Derek said, but Stiles shook his head. He needed to get this out in one go or he might never manage to finish it.

“So this is me officially releasing you of your obligation,” Stiles said. “You are no longer bound to me by the twin powers of misplaced guilt and imagined debt.”

“Ask me what your father wanted to talk to me about,” Derek said.

“Dad wanted to talk to you?” Stiles asked, confused. Derek smiled at him, shaking his head.

“Ask me what he wanted to talk to me about.”

“Okay, what did Dad want to talk to you about?” Stiles said, rolling his eyes.

“He was offering me a job. To work as the lead in your close protection team,” Derek said. Stiles opened his mouth to talk, a lightness bubbling up inside him, but Derek held up a hand. “Ask me if I took it.”

Stiles grinned. “Did you take the job?”

“No,” Derek said, but before Stiles could so much as frown, Derek continued, “Ask me why.”

“Why didn’t you take the job?” Stiles asked, unable to stop a small amount of hurt leak into his voice.

“Because then I couldn’t do this,” Derek said. He stood up and leaned forward pressing their mouths together. It took Stiles a few seconds to realize what was happening, but when Derek started to move away, Stiles cupped a hand around the back of Derek’s head, pulling him back, and kissing him back hungrily.

Chapter Text

“Stiles,” Derek said softly, running a hand down the side of Stiles’s face. Stiles grunted and shifted in his sleep until his face was pressed into Derek’s chest. Derek dug a finger into Stiles’s ribs and said again, louder, “Stiles.”

“What?” Stiles groaned, wriggling away from Derek’s hand.

“What were you studying, before… what was your major?” Derek said.

Stiles opened his eyes and glared at Derek. “Seriously? You woke me up to ask me what my major was?”

“It’s two in the afternoon,” Derek said. Stiles yawned.

“And?” Stiles said.

“You’ve been asleep for nearly fifteen hours,” Derek said quietly. For a moment, Stiles just looked at Derek, his eyes full of concern or guilt or something Derek couldn’t work out.

“Oh,” Stiles said. He pressed a kiss to Derek’s chest. “It was History. History with a minor in political science, as befitted the son of the President.”

Derek snorted. “I can hardly see your father caring if you did engineering or theatre or something.”

“Yeah, well,” Stiles shrugged, “they didn’t suck and no one harassed me about it, so…”

“Do you want to go back? Finish it?” Derek asked.

“Last time I tried to go back I was kidnapped,” Stiles said, sounding slightly too brittle for the joke to work. Derek ran his hands down Stiles’s back and kissed his forehead. Stiles tilted his head up to bring their mouths together and Derek lost himself in the feeling of Stiles, soft and warm, still half asleep. When they broke apart, Stiles slid back down to bury his nose in Derek's neck, staying still and pliant under Derek's roaming hands, but not softening back into sleep.

"Did you do the college thing?" Stiles asked, long after Derek had shelved the conversation to be had another day.

Derek shook his head. "Argent Security took me in to train at 18. I didn't think about going back to school after I resigned, I just found more security work."

Stiles sat up and looked at Derek curiously. "Is that what you want to go back to? I know Dad offered you work guarding me, but did you just say no because you wanted to be with me or because you didn't want to do that again?"

The question threw Derek. At the time it had seemed pretty clear cut, he wanted to see where things with Stiles could go and the thought of just being his bodyguard again was too much to bear. But looking back on it, Derek couldn't imagine saying yes. In the months since they had been released from the hospital, Derek had been trying to get his life back together, dutifully attending his therapy and working closely with his sisters and his pack so he felt comfortable with his wolf side. President Stilinski had generously contributed to finding Stiles and Derek a place to live and recuperate and Derek had done his best to reassure himself that he and Stiles were safe now. But some days even getting out of bed seemed impossible and there was no way he would have been able to undertake private security work.

"I don't know," Derek said slowly. "I didn't want to let you out of my sight for a long time after everything happened, but I don't think I could have done the work again. Not then, anyway."

"Is that what you want to do now?" Stiles asked, his voice giving nothing away, although his heart rate picked up slightly. Derek felt suddenly nervous, and slid a hand up to rest against Stiles's neck to soothe himself.

"Yeah," Derek said, sounding almost surprised. "I think so. If... if it wouldn't be upsetting to you or if anyone will hire a Were suspected of going feral."

Stiles wrapped a hand around Derek's wrist, keeping his hand pressed to Stiles's neck. "I want to do something about that," Stiles said softly.

"You've already made sure I was cleared by the president, the head of the FBI and a team of Washington's finest doctors, therapists and Were workers, I'm not sure what else you think you can do," Derek said, shrugging.

"No, I mean I want to do something bigger, something more for Weres," Stiles said, frowning in frustration. "It's not enough that Dad's sayso means you aren't going to be unemployed for the rest of your life. Most Weres aren't getting told by the President to call him John every Tuesday night."

A peculiar warmth unfurled in Derek and he sat up, pulling Stiles in and kissing him almost desperately. Stiles swung a leg over Derek's thighs and settled himself down in Derek's lap before breaking the kiss, dropping his head down to close his teeth gently, almost apologetically over Derek's collar bone.

"Whoa, easy there boy," Stiles said and Derek rolled his eyes, contenting himself with resting his hands on Stiles's waist in lieu of kissing him further. Stiles small smile fell and he added, voice full of regret, "I don't know what I can do about it. What any one person could possibly do. I want to do something, but you're talking to a guy who couldn't do laundry last week, not some hero with a plan to save the world."

Derek cupped Stiles's jaw and looked at him seriously, pleased to see that Stiles didn't try to turn from his gaze. "Hey," he said gently. "The laundry doesn't matter. And you're not one person, not even two. You're you and me and your dad and Scott and Allison and Lydia, and god help us all, Jackson and my pack and maybe one day Isaac and Chris Argent. No one's expecting you to do it by yourself."

Stiles smiled wryly. "I take it Francine's given you that speech, too, then."

"Stiles," Derek said warningly. Stiles rolled his eyes.

"I know, therapy is useful and wonderful and all that is good in life," Stiles said, but then he dropped his forehead to rest against Derek's and added, softly, "And I'm never alone."

"Never," Derek said fiercely.

Stiles kissed him briefly before sitting back and linking his hands behind Derek's neck. "If you're going to be all sentimental, you know I'm going to have to tell you I love you and then you'll say you love me and then we'll go back to kissing and the fate of Were kind everywhere will have to be left to the son of another President with a soft spot for equality."

"Heaven forbid," Derek said dryly. "So what is this First Son soft on Weres thinking of doing?"

"You want to go back to security work, yeah?" Stiles said.

"Not more than I want to help you change things," Derek assured him, stroking gently down his throat.

"Maybe that's where we should start," Stiles said. He glanced away nervously.

"Yeah?" Derek prompted.

"Well, not to sound speciesist or anything, but I imagine there are other Weres who would like to go into security," Stiles said. Derek chuckled.

"I haven't done a survey, but I would say there's about the same proportion of Weres who want to do security work as it is for humans," Derek said.

"Right," Stiles said, sounding firmer. "Well, Argent's is still in tatters, having one of the titular Argents kidnap the First Son and then fail to realise it apparently left a lot of people feeling they couldn't trust the company anymore, go figure. It's left people desperate for other options. Maybe even desperate enough to hire from a company with pro-Were hiring policies."

Derek stared at Stiles. "You want us to start up a company."

"Sort of?" Stiles said. "I mean, I saw us in more figurehead and overseeing type roles, but yeah. Dad would back us, so I think we'd be able to get financing, and I thought maybe get Lydia to do all of the hard business structure type of stuff, she's sick of working on Jackson's campaign. I could do the PR stuff and you could be in charge of training, and we could hire Allison and Scott, they're not Weres, but it might be good to end up with a mixture and you know they don't have a problem with working with Weres."

"There's some Weres in my pack I think would be interested in this," Derek said slowly. "I know my sister Cora has talked about wanting to do the sort of stuff I did, but there are others who are desperate for the chance to work in cities or do office work or travel with their job."

Stiles smiled slowly, hesitantly. “We might actually be able to do this.”

“Yeah,” Derek said, disbelief colouring his voice. He slid his hands down to rest on Stiles’s waist.

“I mean, provided we don’t get hired by someone who wants us dead,” Stiles said. “Or thinks we would be great test subjects for some evil science. Or someone who thinks wolfsbane laced meat is a great thank you present.”

“Stiles,” Derek groaned, pinching Stiles’s hip. Stiles raised his hands defensively.

“Hey, you might think I’m not taking this seriously, but don’t come crying to me when someone gets the bright idea to make all of our windows from hecatolite,” Stiles said. Derek growled and lifted Stiles off his lap, throwing him onto his back and rolling on top of him. A huff of air escaped Stiles, somewhere between a laugh and a gasp. He shoved at Derek’s arms halfheartedly, but Derek just flattened himself down further, finding Stiles’s mouth again. The bed was soft and the room was warm and Stiles was strong and healthy beneath him.

“Hey,” Stiles said softly, reaching up and brushing his thumb over Derek’s bottom lip. “What are you smiling about?”

Derek shrugged. “Second chances,” he said. “Clean sheets, good food, the thought of you interrogating window cleaners. There’s a lot to smile about.”

“I’m glad,” Stiles said, nodding seriously. “You’re really hot when you smile.”

Derek rolled his eyes as Stiles flashed a grin at him.

“And I feel safer when you smile,” Stiles added quietly. He reached up to press a soft kiss against Derek’s mouth. “Nothing in the world can be too wrong if even you can’t find something to glare at.”

Pressing his forehead to Stiles’s, Derek closed his eyes and said, “You make me feel safe enough to smile and forget.”

“Huh,” Stiles said, tracing a finger down Derek’s jaw. “I’ve never thought that I could make you feel safe. It makes me feel very tough. Maybe next time there’s a spider in the shower I could watch you trap it, maybe even hand you the cardboard to slide under the glass.”

“Hmm,” Derek hummed, brushing a kiss over Stiles’s cheek, sliding down to nip at his jaw. “I just worry that when you scream it will startle the spider and you’ll insist we move.”

“Hey,” Stiles protested. “Spiders can’t hear. If you see one you’re meant to stay very still and scream for help.”

“That’s snakes,” Derek said, nuzzling Stiles’s neck.

“Why the hell are there snakes in our bathroom?” Stiles demanded. “This place is a deathtrap. We’re definitely moving.”

“Okay,” Derek said, moving away from Stiles.

“Wait,” Stiles said, pulling Derek back down. “Not yet. We can move after you’ve finished whatever you were doing to my neck. And it would be a waste to go before we eat the rest of the cheesecake in the fridge. Plus your sisters are in town next week and I’m not making them stay in a hotel. Not after what happened last time.”

“Mmm, and we only just worked out the best place to go for curly fries,” Derek murmured, sliding a hand down to slip under Stiles’s shirt. “I’d hate to think those hours were spent in vain.”

“You’re right,” Stiles said, starting to sound a little breathy. He grabbed at the back of Derek’s shirt. “I guess we’re stuck here.”

“As long as you’re happy to happy to stay and keep me safe from the snakes I’m fine with that,” Derek said. Stiles laughed and pulled him up for a kiss.

“I’ll be here,” Stiles promised. “Doing my part for my country as best I can.”

“For the country?” Derek asked, frowning.

“You are dating the First Son,” Stiles said. “It’s of national importance than you are kept safe and healthy enough to keep him supplied with curly fries, foot massages and a shoulder to sleep on during the more boring of his father’s speeches.”

“I hadn’t realised how significant I was,” Derek said.

“Essential,” Stiles said, giving Derek a slightly fragile smile. “Who knows where he would be without you.”

“Well he has me, and he always will, so there’s no point thinking about it,” Derek said firmly.

“No,” Stiles agreed, his smile firming. “No point thinking about it at all.”

Chapter Text

holesinthesky: Hey hey hey!

Please tell me you're online my love

I am on a train and I forgot my headphones and it is SILENT

Needless to say I am bored

me: Oh no!

I am online!

Do you want some rambling messages about fic planning/ideas?

holesinthesky: DO I EVER

 

me: Well, I was vaguely thinking about plotting out the next Skittles thing except then I kept thinking about First Son, Last Chance, but not useful things like what to write for the epilogue, instead I was thinking about what would happen the first full moon after they had been rescued.

holesinthesky: Ooh good question!

me: They kiss for the first time 1 week after escaping, so the first full moon is about 3 weeks later. The relationship is crazy new, they are both still shaky and traumatised after their ordeal, and Derek desperately wants to go home to his pack for the full moon.

holesinthesky: Definitely

me: They talk about it and Stiles says he wants to go with Derek, wants to see Derek in the full moon because he's worried if he puts it off it will become a thing and he'll get anxious about it. And if he can't be around Derek in a full moon, he's worried about the affect it will have on their relationship, particularly as full moons are so important to Weres, and also because while Derek was scary in the full moon, he still didn't hurt Stiles, still proved himself worthy.

But it's been three weeks since then, and they are both scared and the memories are slightly distorted, and Derek's worried because what if it's like it was then? Full moons are usually a great time, if you’re with your pack and can run and play, but what if it's messed him up?

holesinthesky: Yeah

Dude you totally have to write this

More projects yay!

me: And Stiles gets worried because Derek had wanted to sleep with him in the full moon, and what if he wants to now? They've kissed and spend most of the time touching and they've been advised to practise sleeping apart, but they haven't had sex. It's way too early in the relationship for Derek (although Stiles would ordinarily be fine with it), but mostly there's still the, you know, traumatic experience thing. Stiles isn't sure he's ready to have sex yet, but even if he was, he doesn't want their first time to be under the influence of the moon.

holesinthesky: Oh maaaaan I wanna read this

me: They have a sort of stumbly conversation around their fears, but it sort of devolves into Derek telling Stiles he doesn't have to this moon, he doesn't have to ever, it's okay, it won't ruin everything, and Stiles going on about how he isn't *scared* of Derek and that he wants to do this, he needs to do this. (I think there would also dancing around expressing of feelings, because they have gone through an intense thing, and they did grow to know each other in the past, but they can't say "love" yet, because they don't know, and it can't just be a reassurance thing, it has to come from somewhere else, and they both know this, but god, the way Derek looks at Stiles and says they can work around it, it's okay, it won't ruin anything, and then Stiles is so adamant that he trusts Derek so wholly, so fiercely).

holesinthesky: Waaaaah

And then when it does happen Derek just ends up nuzzling him for like four hours straight and then falling asleep

me: They're still seeing therapists every now and then, Derek going quite dutifully and cheerfully to sort of encourage Stiles to go, and Stiles hates that he has to go, hates being made to relive the trauma, even though he *knows* it is helping, it just hurts. But they go and they end up telling their fears about the full moon (they go to separate, individual sessions, not together). Derek's told about the research surrounding the hecatolite and the full moon, but it's pretty sparse and told a lot from hunters perspective because it's not something that's really considered from a Were perspective. Sheriff ends up advising him to talk to his pack emissary, which is a bit reassuring, but also not that much. Stiles makes a plan to feel comfortable and they come up with a plan for Sheriff, Scott and Allison to come with him to Derek's pack. Talia agrees, but Allison bows out, knowing that it's not really that tactful for her to be there, even though she had not agreed with her Aunt and isn’t a hunter. When Scott asks Derek if he's okay with Scott meeting his pack and coming on the full moon Derek's actually really happy and touched and excited, and he makes it clear Sheriff is welcome too (and boy, does that set off his little wolfy heart, having the father of Stiles there, like they really are pack and family).

Haha yes!! lots of nuzzling! Derek actually goes through a bit of angsting over how much he can comfort and show love to Stiles the way he wants, with nuzzles and licks and pinning him to the ground, and Stiles has never been opposed to it, but he's never said he likes it, and it's still too early in their relationship to deal with that, so he just sort of find the most human equivalents and satisfies himself with that.

holesinthesky: Awwwwwwww

I am having fits of cute up in here

Oh god please tell me they talk it out though and Stiles is like "nuzzle all you like dude!"

me: They don't have that conversation for a while, and to be honest, I'm thinking it will be Stiles who brings it up. Derek's less inhibited during the full moon and Stiles asks about it, and Derek sort of gets embarrassed and apologises and knows that's not how you act with humans, but Stiles is like, ‘no it's cool, I like it. I mean, I don't know if I like it for what it is, but I love that it's you doing it, the way it makes me feel when you get all possessive or just... exuberantly affectionate.’ I think he would also sort of cautiously and embarrassedly ask if he could try doing some of that stuff to Derek, like licking and nuzzling and biting and god, when he does try, Derek just goes into throes of ecstasy.

me: Anyway, they go to meet Derek's pack, and Talia is very welcoming and Stiles doesn't realise it, but she's super gentle with him (she's very physical and rough with pack and has a sharp tongue she isn't afraid of using, and usually everything she does just sort of asserts and underlines her authority as Alpha, but with Stiles she's just like, he is precious and delicate and must be carefully handled and shown respect and love). Laura and Cora are initially quite softly softly around him but then Stiles teases Derek in front of them or something and they sort of start treating him more like a brother they can tease and have fun with. Scott fits in surprisingly well and manages to be total sweetheart but still roughhouse with them and play some sport or something. Sheriff and Talia get along, very mutual respect for each other's authority and sort of bond over their sons.

holesinthesky: :')

Heeeeeeee

me: The full moon comes and it's such a contrast to that night. Derek's wolf and human are in total sync and he's just so *happy* and feels so *free* and strong and in control and he sort of plays with his pack for a bit, letting Talia pin him and wrestling and running with his sisters (I think the pack is biggish, but I haven't decided how it all works yet). When he returns to Stiles, he is mega cautious, physically demonstrating he is no threat with lowered posture and slow movements and he tentatively gives Stiles some roast chicken he took from the barbeque earlier in the evening. Stiles is overwhelmed with the difference; Derek talking calmly in full sentences and making no move to touch him, but also he's happy and relaxed and carefree. Stiles has him sit down and then he approaches, with Scott hanging around nearby with a tranq gun they had all discussed and agreed to, and he sort of pets Derek and Derek smiles at him and melts into the touch. They share the chicken and Stiles kisses Derek before sending him off to play with his pack again. Derek wants to ask Stiles to come play too, but he knows it's too soon.

Haha, that all came out quite fluffy

I knew there was a reason hurt/comfort with an emphasis on comfort was the best

holesinthesky: It really is

I love it

me: Thanks love

holesinthesky: OH MY GOD WRITE IT

me: Haha

I need to write the epilogue first!

I also now want to write a ficlet wherein the discussion of licking happens

That sounds fun and adorable

Title Extras!
I had a hard time titling this fic. While I was writing this, it lived in three google docs (one just for my eyes, one where I would put chapters for my betas and one where I would put the finished chapters). These were called: "Needs to be titled kidnapping fic" "DEREK TO THE RESCUE" and "Stiles is Kidnapped (President's Son)

I also found a list where I was trying to come up with titles:

Titles Ideas

Bring Him Home

Whatever It Takes

Proof of Life

Primary Target

At Any Cost

Reason to Run

Something like First Son, Last Chance, except not terrible

:D

Chapter Text

Anonymous asked: I just read your new fic on a03 and I love it!! I was just wondering about the non-con you mentioned in your end notes.. Is it just mentioned briefly or does it happen to a major character, like Stiles? (Answer has spoilers!)

 

 

Short minimal spoilers answer: no non-con occurs during the story, but it is mentioned in a threatening way.

 

 

Slightly more spoilers: No non-con actually occurs during this story, but one the villains of the piece tries to force one of the main characters to rape another of the main characters. This plan is mentioned a few times and there are close calls, but no non-con is depicted.

 

 

Full spoilers: Stiles was captured as part of a plot by Kate to set Derek up and prove that Weres cannot be trusted around humans. Part of her plan involves forcing Derek to rape Stiles but affecting his ability to control his Were instincts and locking him up with Stiles on the full moon, where he sees Stiles as a mate. Stiles tells him to stop and his does. Later, Kate holds a gun to Stiles head and tells Derek to rape him or she will shoot him. Trousers are removed, but they manage to escape in time.