Stiles hates Scott so much. This is all Scott’s fault, Scott is the only reason that Stiles is going to get eaten by a bear. A very large and angry mama bear.
Wolves and bears don’t normally mix it up. Stiles will always bow to a bear’s superior strength and size, and the few times they’ve feasted on bear meat, well—that takes a team effort right there. At least three, where one of them is not Scott.
But Stiles is cornered, and mama bear has two cubs that Stiles was totally not going to go near, seriously, except Scott is a moron and then this happened: Stiles is so getting eaten by a bear.
Stiles snaps at her, his flank pressed into the cold stone behind him; she opens her mouth wide in a very scary roar and one massive paw comes up to destroy all of Stiles’ bones. He knocks his head on the rocks, ends up dizzy, swimming, slumped all the way down onto the hard ground. The crack of his bone, his shoulder, Stiles’ thinks, is as unmistakable as the sudden, driving pain.
Scott yelps from somewhere behind the bear, and Stiles loves the dude, even if he did get them into this mess, so he really hopes Scott isn’t thinking of doing something idiotic, like attacking – Scott is all paws and legs, clumsy in a way he shouldn’t be for a wolf two months past shaking off the last of his puppy fur. Scott stands even less of a chance than Stiles, who’s at least halfway nimble with his full-grown limbs.
Not that Stiles is in any shape to win this – or even move. He gets his paws under him and shakily tries to get up, using the rough rock face as leverage. It works. Kind of. For a second. He bares his teeth and growls, even as his leg gives out again. He smells blood, and there’s a possibility that more than half the pain is from a couple bear-claw shaped tears in his side. Even if he doesn’t get eaten, Stiles knows there’s a good chance he isn’t going to make it back home.
At first, Stiles thinks he’s imagining it – that low growl that doesn’t sound like Scott, the I’ll-rip-you-to-shreds howl that Scott couldn’t even pull off, no matter how hard he tried – and then he thinks he’s hallucinating, because a giant black wolf leaps out of nowhere and startles the bear enough that she backs away.
In the end, Stiles isn’t sure if the bear is annoyed or scared, but she rears up and turns, running for her cubs, disappearing into the forest.
Seeing the tail end of that monster all the tension leaks out of Stiles until he’s just one massive lump of hurt, eyes closed and panting. He should be worried about the strange wolf—he is worried, but that’s right below trying not to die of his debilitating wounds on his priority list.
But when he blinks open his eyes again, all he sees is Scott, muzzle close to his. He whines softly, nosing at him, and Stiles whimpers back, thumps his tail once in the dirt.
“I’ll go for help,” Scott says.
“Don’t,” Stiles says. Help won’t come for days; they’d wandered too far out of their territory, searching for signs of the mate-scent Scott had picked up.
“I’ll go,” Scott says. He nudges Stiles’ hurt side, licks it carefully, and Stiles tries not to wince. “I’ll come back.”
Stiles sighs. He scents the air, smells water nearby – maybe he can crawl toward it, maybe he’d last the few days it’d take for Scott to travel to their pack and back. Water and rest and no more bears. He’ll totally be fine. “Okay.”
Scott tries once, pushing close, getting his snout under Stiles shoulder, using the rock behind them to shove him to his feet, like maybe he could carry Stiles all the way, but the shifting causes more blood to well up, he can feel it slither under his belly, drip down into the small puddle he’d already made.
“Okay,” Scott says, “so that’s a bad idea.”
Stiles grits his teeth and doesn’t say anything.
“Right,” Scott says. He stares down at him warily.
“I’ll be fine,” Stiles lies. He doesn’t think he’ll be fine anymore, not after feeling that.
Scott cocks his head. He glances up at the sky, like he’s testing the angle of the sun, then says, “This might hurt,” and grabs the scruff of Stiles’ neck, bracing his paws and tugging with all his strength, sliding Stiles’ body until he’s mostly under an overhang, a outcropping of rocks that almost makes a cave.
Hurt is kind of an understatement. Stiles might have passed out. When he blinks awake again, there’s a long curve of tree bark, shallow bowl half-filled with water, and then Scott licks his face and whirls around to start running away.
He almost calls out for him to stay, because he doesn’t know what is worse, getting eaten by a bear or just waiting to die, defenseless against getting picked apart by his fellow predators. He has no doubt that Scott will come back, he just wonders dejectedly if he’ll still be here.
And then he kicks himself in the ass, figuratively, because he’s totally going to be okay – he’s got water and he’s out of the sun, and if Scott runs hard, he’ll be back in three days, tops. Right.
Life is awesome.
Stiles sleeps. He doesn’t think it’s for very long, and he wakes up with an itch on his ear he can’t reach and he can feel his heart beat in time with every painful throb of his body, every labored breath.
And there’s a shadow hanging over him that wasn’t there before.
“You’re trespassing,” a voice says, and Stiles shifts his gaze from up to over, sees the black wolf from earlier sitting on his haunches, staring at him.
“Oh, hey, you,” Stiles says. “Thanks for, you know, earlier. I’m Stiles.” Stiles would get up and greet him properly, but important parts of his body don’t feel like cooperating right now.
The wolf continues to stare at him. It’s more of a glare, really, now that Stiles is paying attention. He says, “You’re trespassing,” again.
Stiles says, “Sorry,” and, “I’ll get right on fixing that,” and then lays his head back down, because the wolf has eyes, there is no way Stiles is moving, Stiles is going to live right there for a while, the black wolf can lick his furry gray ass.
The wolf snorts.
Stiles ignores him, and then he hears him softly pad away.
The next time Stiles wakes up, there’s a dead rabbit by his snout. He lifts his head. It’s half-past the middle of the day, and he doesn’t see any movement in the brush around him.
He nudges the rabbit with his nose, carefully mouthing it while still keeping one eye on the woods.
As far as he can tell, there’s nobody there.
It gets cold when the sun falls. Stiles isn’t expecting it, because the day was so warm, and because he’s used to the den, cuddling with his dad and Scott and Scott’s mom and sometimes Danny.
A breeze kicks up, and he can’t curl into himself to conserve body heat, and he’s too exposed, where he is, to last very long if it gets much colder; he’s lost too much blood. He tries to move a little, see if he can get further into the overhang, and ends up knocking over his little bowl of water.
“Fantastic,” Stiles pants. Now he’s wet, and doesn’t have anything to drink. This is the best day ever.
He’s shivering hard by the time the stars are bright, he can see the crescent moon peeking out over the top of the trees, still low enough to be too early for bedtime. Which means he’s got a long stretch of night before sunrise, and it’s not going to get any warmer.
Somehow, he manages a fitful sleep; he wakes, only half-aware, with each owl hoot or broken twig, each ominous rustle of leaves.
And then suddenly he’s close to completely warm again, and there’s a rough tongue licking at his wet paws, and Stiles grumbles sleepily, “You’re making it worse,” before cracking an eye open, almost expecting Scott to be there, snuggling with him, but instead he sees the strange black wolf.
He’s pressed all along his side, never mind the injury – he’s surprisingly careful, weight evenly spread as he leans into him, and the hurt isn’t anywhere near how bad the cold had been, so Stiles doesn’t mind. He doesn’t mind at all, even though the wolf is at his face now, licking at his muzzle, before resting his head heavily on the back of Stiles’ neck.
“What are you—”
“Shut up,” the wolf says. Stiles can feel it in his chest.
Stiles turns his head so his cold nose is tucked into the wolf’s throat. “Okay,” he says.
He smells different than his pack. He smells dry and grassy, while Scott always smells like the den – like earth, like wet leaves and running water.
Stiles huffs out a large breath, relaxes, and doesn’t remember the rest of the night.
The sun is already high, and the other wolf is gone by the time Stiles is up the next day. There’s another rabbit, though, freshly killed. He goes to clutch it with his teeth, but he’s sluggish. The skin on his side pulls, like it’s closing up, but it feels hot, like he’s been sunning in a field for hours instead of lying in his shady nook. His mouth is dry, and his head feels like it weighs as much as a buck.
Something is rotting. He’s afraid that it’s himself.
There’s a shuffling-drag sound, and Stiles tilts his head just enough to see the black wolf painstakingly tugging at the tree bark bowl, water sloshing out the front and back as he slides it across the rough ground. When he stops, he says, “Drink,” and Stiles laps up what little is still caught in the notches of the wood.
“Who are you?” Stiles says.
The wolf stares at him until Stiles’ tongue catches the last of the puddle, and then he picks up the bark in his mouth, trotting back toward where there must be a stream.
He comes back with more, and says, “Derek,” while Stiles drinks again.
“Well,” Stiles says, “thanks for everything, Derek, but don’t you think we’re just, uh, prolonging the inevitable?”
He already smells like death. His leg is broken, he thinks, high up.
Derek growls at him, vicious, and for a second Stiles thinks he’s going to bite at his throat, put him out of his misery, but he just noses at his belly. White-hot pain lances through Stiles as Derek licks over his wounds, rough, like he’s trying to rip open the scabs again.
It’s long, too long, before Stiles can breathe properly again, and Derek is on his haunches, staring down at him, blood all over his snout.
“That was—” Really horrible. Stiles gasps, chest seizing up.
“Necessary,” Derek says.
Stiles says, “Let’s never do that again.”
“Awesome. That’s just—awesome.” Stiles closes his eyes and pants for a while, tongue lolling, and when his heart stops feeling like it’s going to explode out of his chest, he looks up to see Derek still staring at him, one fang exposed, eyes intense and just this side of mean.
Stiles isn’t the smallest wolf in his pack – that feat goes to Lydia, although being small has never made her less scary – but he sort of feels like a puppy next to Derek.
Derek is massive. Like, pretty much the biggest wolf Stiles has ever seen. He’d totally be right up Danny’s alley.
And maybe Stiles’, if he didn’t have such a massive scowl-on for life at large.
Stiles is the one dying here, he doesn’t get why Derek has to be so broody about it. Stiles was trespassing, Stiles got attacked by the bear – if it makes Derek so unhappy, he totally doesn’t have to look after him. Stiles doesn’t need his help. Scott will be there soon, probably with his dad. He doesn’t need old Sour Wolf glaring down at him every time he brings him water, or food, or cleans his hurts. And even that’s—
“You’re not courting me, are you?” Stiles says, slightly horrified, because oh god, he’s totally courting him, that’s thrilling and frightening at the same time, but then Derek’s ears flatten, so Stiles goes on, “No, no, of course not, that would be weird, you don’t know me, I don’t know you, courting would be so, so, uh, weird. This is totally the fever talking, and you are scary and angry all the time, and you probably just don’t want me dying on your land, getting my carcass all over the place—”
Derek presses his snout over the flat of Stiles’ skull. “Shut up,” he says.
Stiles jaw snaps shut and he whines low in his throat.
Derek pulls back and licks all over his face, reluctant, like he doesn’t want to and he wants to all at once, like he can’t help himself, and Stiles licks him back.
Derek stays with him at nightfall, when the wind sweeps up from the creek again. Stiles’ whole body seems too heavy, and he hardly feels it when Derek opens up his wounds again, when he worries at the skin with his sharp teeth.
Derek makes him drink, but Stiles can hardly keep his eyes open.
He dreams of his den. Of Lydia pulling on his tail, snuggling up in a puppy pile before she got too old and started sleeping just with Jackson, of her pushing his face in the dirt when he talked too much. He dreams of his dad, holding him down for a bath. He dreams of the bite Jackson gave him last summer, different than the milk-teeth gnawing, pain so sharp Scott’s mom had exiled Jackson for a whole day.
Someone says, “Shush, Stiles, shush,” and it could be his dad or it could be the bear, Stiles doesn’t know, but the pressure on his chest is unbearable, he kicks out with his hind legs, trying to dislodge the weight.
He hears a soft curse, and then there are teeth at his neck, careful but firm, and Stiles sinks back down onto his side with a whimper.
His head hurts, he aches all over, but this is better – better than the numbness of before, he thinks.
He says, “Derek?” and feels the mouth on his neck release him, gently lick over his ears.
“You’re okay, it’s fine,” Derek says.
“Okay,” Stiles says, and goes back to sleep.
“You say you’re not courting me, but this feels an awful lot like courting,” Stiles says through a mouthful of feathers and pheasant. He’s never been courted before, but he’s seen Jackson do it, and it involved a lot of dead animals and licking, as far as Stiles could tell.
Derek looks unimpressed.
Whatever. Stiles is hungry, and pheasant is awesome.
On the third sunrise, Stiles gets wobbly to his feet. It smells bad, where he’s been lying. He wants to move, and he maybe wants to pee in the woods, and he’s never been one for playing in water, but he figures a good soaking might be nice.
He leans against the rock face, testing out his foreleg. His side is a constant throb, but it doesn’t feel hot anymore, and if he’s careful he doesn’t think it’ll rip back open.
Derek barks in his face when he finds him, panting, three feet from the overhang, but it feels good to be in the sun, and he’s managing to keep himself nicely upright, even if he can hardly put any weight on his one paw.
“I’m good,” Stiles says.
“You’re an idiot,” Derek says.
“I’m good, seriously, look at me move.” He shuffles forward a few steps before stopping to catch his breath.
“Yes, I can see you’re absolutely fine,” Derek deadpans. He pushes at the side of Stiles’ head, trying to get him to turn around.
“The water, Derek, just let me—” Stiles breaks off, frustrated.
Derek watches him silently for a few seconds, eyes sharp. He darts his gaze from Stiles’ face to his side to his leg, Stiles hopes Derek can see he’s going to be stubborn about this. Derek can’t shove him anywhere without risking hurting him.
Finally, Derek moves to his good side.
Stiles leans on him, taking more weight off his bad leg, and they slowly start to walk down to the stream.
It takes a long time, longer than Stiles would like, but then Stiles wades in to his knees, Derek still at his side, and gulps down the fresh, cool water until his belly’s full.
He settles down on the shore, letting the sun dry his fur, and Derek sits behind him like a giant, disapproving mom.
After a while, Stiles murmurs, “Thanks.”
He can sense Derek shifting – he relaxes his stance, but doesn’t move from his hawk-like position. Stiles figures he’s watching out for him, and that’s totally okay.
Stiles is moving a little better by twilight. He feels better, cleaner, and he eats a rabbit and a half while Derek doesn’t eat anything at all until Stiles is done.
The howls in the distance almost startle him.
It’s like—Stiles didn’t exactly forget, but he hasn’t exactly been waiting for them, either, not with Derek a warm and weirdly comforting presence.
Derek says, “Stay,” and is up and moving before Stiles can complain.
Stiles knows who it is, though, he’d know that howl anywhere – Scott breaks through the trees and bounds up moments later with a loud, “Stiles!” and Stiles can hear the you’re alive! that he doesn’t say.
Stiles is on his feet by the time Lydia and his dad slip out of the tree line, getting sniffed all over by an enthusiastic Scott.
Derek stands stiff-tailed and alert, head and ears up.
Lydia pushes Scott out of the way and nuzzles Stiles’ snout, and Derek lets out a low growl. Lydia takes a step back; not like she’s scared, but like she’s curious.
“Huh,” she says.
Derek growls again.
Lydia looks like she’s laughing inside, but she just pokes Stiles’ in the cheek with her nose and dances backwards, smug. Stiles totally hates when she does that, especially now when he can’t retaliate.
And then she follows Stiles’ dad as he pads up to Derek, and Derek still doesn’t move; Stiles watches his body vibrate with each low growl, like he really hates Lydia, and Stiles would think that’s hilarious under regular circumstances, but right now he’s more worried about how this all looks to his dad. Stiles really hopes Scott told them all about the bear. Details were never Scott’s strong suit.
“Hale,” Stiles’ dad says, and holy shit, Stiles is on Hale land? He’d thought they’d all gotten killed by that crazy-ass Argent pack.
Derek and his dad stare at each other, gazes locked, and for a moment Stiles thinks there might be a fight, a show of dominance, but then Derek ducks his head and looks away, toward Stiles.
Stiles blinks at him.
Derek chuffs, head-cocked, and Stiles finds himself limping slowly over to him, leaning into his shoulder.
Stiles’ dad looks as surprised as Stiles feels.
Derek licks under his chin, over his cheek, and Stiles’ tail wags, slow then fast, and he bumps his muzzle into Derek’s, tongue lolling.
Derek pushes carefully into his side, rubbing scent all over Stiles, hip to snout. Stiles feels a little like he’s being too intimate in front of his dad, but his dad just looks amused - and maybe a little relieved, which, whatever, Stiles was totally going to mate at some point.
Stiles’ dad just says, “Thanks for taking care of my son,” though.
That night, bedded down five feet from his dad, from Scott and Lydia, Stiles tugs on Derek’s ear with careful teeth and says, “I thought you weren’t courting me. You said you weren’t courting me.”
“I never said I wasn’t,” Derek says. He shakes off Stiles’ mouth, then presses his face in between Stiles’ paws. “You said a lot, though.”
Stiles wags his tail. “I totally wore you down. I’m amazing.”
Derek nudges Stiles’ throat. “Right.”
“You love me,” Stiles says.
“I’m currently rethinking that.”
“You can’t, you already told my dad,” Stiles says smugly. Derek is totally stuck with him for forever, it’s the best.
Derek nips at his ear. “Sleep, Stiles,” he says, and Stiles settles down happily, snuggled into Derek’s side.