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I Intend to be Independently Blue

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Stiles is the worst thing that could have happened to Derek.

No. That's an exaggeration. Derek is willing to admit --- to himself and absolutely no one else, ever --- that he's prone to exaggeration on occasion.

Stiles couldn't be the worst. Derek's parents died in a fire set by his girlfriend. His sister was brutally murdered by his uncle. He was forced to kill his uncle and adopt a role he never actually wanted. In comparison, Stiles is a minor inconvenience. But the basic tenet behind the statement holds true; Stiles is a thorn in his side.

Derek's been struggling alone for a long time. Laura wasn't prepared for her role as Alpha, and there was little she knew enough about to teach him. She'd tried, he knows she had. Made him work through drills, lectured him constantly. She wasn't the best teacher. She didn't have a nurturing bone in her body, wasn't old enough to develop one. Had very persuasive teeth. Questions were met with gritting if he was lucky, gnashing if he wasn't. The bulk of his knowledge comes from instinct, half-remembered conversations and excruciating practice sessions where he mostly concluded the answer was 'don't piss off your sister'. There are some things he's never truly learned.

Like how to control his inner beast.

It's --- a problem. One he's had to live with. He hasn't been wolfing out at inopportune moments since his teens, but only because he has a system in place. And this is where Stiles comes into play. Because he's been messing with it, and doesn't even know.

*

Stiles shuffles into his room, slamming his bag onto the floor. He turns towards his bed, pauses, makes a moue of confusion because he does not remember buying a Derek-shaped lamp. Oh, wait, that's right. He didn't. Standing in his corner is actual Derek. Derek, who is scowling at him impressively. Stiles is impressed. Derek is about the only person he knows, barring maybe Jackson and Lydia, who can make such an unattractive expression look good. Stiles thinks he should probably be worried that a) he wasn't shocked enough to find Derek hiding in his room to even warrant a slight jump, and b) he's had time to go through several mental processes before they talk.

"Hi, Derek," he says, stretching the vowels out so that the short phrase takes long enough to say he's had time to sit in his chair and kick his feet up onto his desk.

Derek stares at him. When is Derek ever not staring at him? Usually when he's staring at Scott. Derek should have awards for his ability to hold eye-contact. Stiles, who isn't known for being a bastion of patience when it comes to these kinds of interactions anyway, feels his irritation building.

"What do you want?"

"Research?" Derek replies, voice clipped and sarcastic. He frames it as a question, but it's a statement.

"On? C'mon little wolfie, try to use your words."

Stiles is gratifyingly shocked with himself over his snarkiness, but, honestly, it's been the longest Friday in existence, he's exhausted to the marrow of his no doubt crunchy, crunchy bones, and he'd been hoping for a few hours of peace to himself after getting home from school, so he's not so much with the caring about showing Derek respect. Respect is earned, in his opinion, and with more than an occasional rescue from creatures hell bent on eating Stiles for breakfast. Especially when he often ends up being the real savior.

Predictably, Derek's eyes both double in size and glow red. "I never know if you're insanely brave, or insanely stupid," he says, all deceptively calm monotone.

"Insane," Stiles supplies, because, hey, it's not exactly a lie.

He's had his moments, in the past. Locking himself in his room for three and a half weeks and watching reruns of I Love Lucy after his mom died. Going deep into the darkened woods to look for half a dead body. And Derek does bring out his wackier side.

Derek is still staring at him, not moving, not saying a word. He looks like he's waiting for Stiles, which is a whole new level of worrying.

"What is it that you want my help researching?"

"I think there's a wendigo in the area."

"Okay. Yet another supernatural creature. Here. Is Beacon Hills, by any chance, located on the Hellmouth?"

Derek rolls his eyes. "No. But Beacon Hills is a relatively small town filled with loners no one would notice missing, and it's surrounded by woodland, so it's attractive to those seeking to inconspicuously chow down on some human flesh."

"Is that from your latest brochure? Are you hoping to recruit this wendigo into your pack?"

"Stiles, wendigos aren't a joking matter," Derek says, going all growly and fierce. "They aren't content with a single victim. They're gluttons. They grow larger the more they eat, so they're never satisfied. And they don't just eat ordinary humans, they eat werewolves and other shapeshifters too."

Stiles feels his fingers itching to type in some search terms, but since he's pretty sure this conversation is the most Derek's ever spoken to him, including their two hour stint in the Beacon Hills High pool, he wants to push this a little more.

"It already sounds like you know a lot about them. Why do you need me?"

"I don't know whether it's a wendigo that's travelled into Beacon Hills, or someone who's transformed into a wendigo because of cannibalistic tendencies. I don't know how to find it or stop it once it's been found. "

Stiles nods, more for something to do than from any necessity. "I'll do my best. How do you want the information? Do you even have an email address?"

Derek looks unimpressed. "This isn't a homework assignment. Your deadline is both literal and immediate. Get searching."

Derek moves from his position in the corner and flings himself onto Stiles' bed. He lounges, seemingly at home.

"Right," Stiles says, shoulders tensing. He glances at the taut lines of Derek's arms as he puts his hands behind his head, then steadfastly looks back at his laptop. "Feel free to claim my furniture as your own. I wasn't planning on having an afternoon siesta anyway."

"I should hope not," Derek counters, nothing vague about the threat in his tone.

Stiles doesn't know what he's done to deserve this.

Two hours, some fact-spilling and grunting later, Stiles has the saddened realization that Derek isn't likely to pay for the fifty sheets' worth of ink currently printing. He also has a stomach that won't quit announcing to the world that he hasn't eaten since breakfast --- too busy studying for Harris's latest Spanish Inquisition-style torture test to make it to the cafeteria. Derek doesn't comment when he gets up and heads down to the kitchen. Chances are, it's because he can hear what he's doing. And isn't that a nice and creepy thought? What if he'd gone out of the room for a bathroom related reason? Would Derek listen in then too? Ew. Stiles is so not okay with his over-active curiosity.

He makes a triple-decker BLT, thinks twice about it, turns it into two BLTs, trudges up the stairs and back into his room. He half-expects Derek to be out the window with his hours of work, but, no, Derek's still poised on his bed, reading Stiles' beloved copy of From the Earth to the Moon, given to him by his mom, a month before she passed away. Stiles is surprised he doesn't have the urge to tell Derek to get his paws off the book, but he figures his subconscious is aware of the danger in the action. He goes to pass Derek his plate.

"You made me something to eat?" Derek asks, clearly nonplussed.

"Yeah, well, I was brought up with manners, so." He proffers the plate again.

Derek's eyes are turning red as he looks up at Stiles. And, seriously? Seriously? Maybe he's too insensitive for his own good. Stiles knows Derek's history. He snatches his hand back and heads toward his laptop, hoping that he wasn't moving fast enough to make Derek think he'd be fun to chase. He puts the plate on his desk, cradles his own in his lap and starts to lift a perfect-looking triangle. There's a frustrated-sounding snuffle from the bed.

"I never said I didn't want it," Derek rumbles. "I was surprised, that's all."

Stiles chances another look at Derek and can see his eyes are light again. He's damn near pouting. Stiles takes pity and grasps the plate again, rolling to Derek and depositing it on his legs. Derek grabs half the sandwich, and contrary to Stiles' expectation of it disappearing in one bite, nibbles off the crust.

Derek seems to notice Stiles' fascination, because he swallows. "Haven't had anything resembling a sandwich in years," he explains. "No real point in going to the trouble of buying all the necessary ingredients. I've missed them, though."

And, okay, it's weirdly personal confession time. Stiles can run with that. They can have a moment. Sure, why not?

"The book you were reading is my favorite. Verne was a genius. I mean, what a visionary. Writing about space travel long before even rudimentary air travel was totally achievable."

"Have you read the sequel?" Derek asks, which --- what?

"Not yet. I kind of liked the ambiguity of the ending, you know? I don't wanna spoil that by having all the answers."

Derek ducks his head in what could be agreement, but is also certainly dismissal. Stiles wheels back to his laptop. His appetite wanes as he looks at the skeletal face depicted in an artist's rendition of a wendigo. The idea of that kind of creature out and about makes him curse his obvious uselessness in battle.

"There's nothing here that suggests that wendigos can be bargained with, or taught not to terrorize and mangle unsuspecting victims, so what are you planning on doing?"

"I'm planning on killing it, Stiles, what'd you think I was gonna do? Persuade it to be my pet?"

Stiles raises an eyebrow. "You've already got three, you don't really need another, do you?"

"If my pack were pets I could get them obedience trained," Derek grumbles, which continues his trend this afternoon of being frighteningly honest and not a little disturbing.

Stiles gathers up the print-outs and his two page summary. He shuffles them into a neat pile, uses a binder clip. The routine of it gives him focus, so that when he's handing the paper to Derek, he's not as inclined to mouth off at him. Derek's still chewing at his sandwich, almost finished, a crumb sitting at the corner of his lips. Stiles resolutely does not stare at that crumb, or imagine himself brushing it away with his thumb, or contemplate licking it off. Nuh-uh. Never. Because on a scale of one-to-ten regarding crushing on Derek being a good idea, Stiles is firmly placed at negative nine hundred and sixty five.

"If you need any more help, I could probably spare an hour or two this week," Stiles says.

Derek peers up at him warily. "You'd help me. Willingly."

"Already did, didn't I? I could've called Dad, cried wolf. I chose to be magnanimous."

"You didn't have a choice."

Stiles shrugs. "If that's what you tell yourself to help you sleep at night, okay. But, anyway, the offer's there."

Stiles doesn't exactly know why the offer's there, except that he really hates the idea of a wendigo gorging on his classmates. Also, Stiles really doesn't want Derek going after supposed wendigos on substandard information. He wants to be positive the alleged wendigo in question is completely irredeemable.

Derek's eyes flash red again and the claws on his right paw scratch up Stiles' eiderdown as he leans over to put the plate on the floor. "I'll let you know if I need any bait," he says, all mocking and haughty. He doesn't actually sound like he wants to tear Stiles limb from limb. When he looks at his claws, there's something similar to surprise in his expression.

Stiles gestures toward his window. "Well, as delightful as it has been acting as your personal Google, Derek, my dad's coming home soon, so here's your exit-point."

Derek takes the hint and leaves without another word, taking his paper with him. Stiles totally didn't expect any gratitude, but he mumbles angrily to himself at not getting any regardless.

*

If he had any sense, Derek would avoid Stiles at all costs. He's never really been one for sense. He fell for Kate, after all. Followed along with Peter's plans. Bit Isaac, Erica and Boyd.

He's not so inclined to self-flagellate over Boyd, because the kid's got a head on his shoulders, but the other two? Now that his ego's come crashing down to Earth, and his sense of responsibility is overshadowing his surges of power, he can accept that he may have made a mistake, there. He had thought that their vulnerability would make them easier to mold, would mean that they'd rely on him more, but the opposite's true. They're suffering from the same illusion of invincibility he did. He knows they only listen to him because of instinct.

He hasn't even told them what's going on, or asked for their assistance with the wendigo. He's told himself it's to keep them safe, but he knows it's a lie. He doesn't want them involved because the possibility of it spiralling out of control if he does so increases tenfold. He does need help, though. The places the creature might be hiding are numerous. Knowing where to go next is a game of guesswork. He's thought about asking Stiles. The offer was there.

Yeah, Stiles-avoidance would be the smart thing to do, but he'd never be this close to finding the wendigo without him. And he needs to get closer still. Three people have gone missing already. The greater power the wendigo amasses, the more likely it is it'll attack his pack, wanting to establish Beacon Hills as its territory. It might even be the type of wendigo that wants to convert some of its prey. Derek doesn't know for sure. After three days and no luck, Derek is in serious contemplation mode. He begins to mentally draw up a list of potential pros and cons.

Pro: They might find the wendigo quicker.
Con: Thereby rendering any need to contact Stiles again moot.
Pro: They could talk more about Jules Verne.
Con: Only serving to calm Derek, leading to the prospect of wholesale massacre.
Pro: Stiles might bring him something to eat again.
Con: The kindness of the gesture may very well tip him over the edge right then and there.
Pro: He'd be well-fed.
Con: Possibly with Stiles' twitching, bloodied corpse.

The cons always outweigh the pros. One thing that always helps him keep an edge over his inner wolf is the irritation he feels at how much Stiles hates him, so when Stiles' scent shifts to indicate he isn't wishing he could be anywhere other than near Derek, he knows he's truly in trouble. And that's what it was like at Stiles' house. There were entire minutes when they were companionable together.

He doesn't entirely know what it is about Stiles that screws with his reflexes, why his body's convinced it's time to turn into the wolf. He knows it's linked to his heartbeat. He has a horrible suspicion it's also tangled up with his emotions. He's not going to think about that one too much.

So, knowing how horrendous this idea is, and fully anticipating it blowing up in his face, Derek continues to scuttle over the Stilinski household roof, because life's too short for being sensible and smart.

*

Stiles awakens to red eyes glowing at him through the dark. He leaps about nine feet in the air and has to bite his fist from screaming aloud at an embarrassingly high pitch. He locked his window, he knows he did, so that means Derek came into his house via some other access route. Stiles immediately casts his gaze from his window toward his open door. Thankfully, he knows his dad is working the super late shift occasionally required by the town Sheriff and won't be coming home until four in the morning. His phone indicates it's quarter to two.

"The bathroom window was open," Derek says, as if hearing his thoughts.

Oh God, he can't do that, can he? There are so many thoughts Stiles would rather remain hidden deep in the dark recesses of his brain than broadcast to werekind. Just --- thousand and thousands of examples that he's a teenaged boy with a not-so-healthy imagination and ability to circumvent safe-search filters.

Stiles is up and out of his bed in ten seconds flat, stalking over to Derek and shoving him against the wall. Bad idea, or worst idea?

"That wasn't an invitation."

Derek raises his eyebrows. His eyes haven't stopped glowing, and as he pries Stiles' hands off his chest, his claws are extended. He's here for a late-night snack?

"Get dressed. We're going hunting."

"How about hell no?"

Derek grabs his shoulders and begins propelling him out the door. "Fine. Freeze. I'm sure the wendigo won't mind a Stilescicle."

Stiles holds his ground and is sad that he's aware he's only successful because Derek's allowing him to be. He pokes at Derek's very firm chest again. "I'm not gonna act as your bait, Derek. I value my life."

"Says the boy arguing with a werewolf," Derek retorts. He smirks, and his claws grow longer as he does so. "Tell you what --- I promise not to use you as bait as long as you get changed right now and bring your most up-to-date wendigo knowledge."

"What makes you think I have any?"

"Compulsive inability to leave anything alone is kind of your main defining trait."

Stiles huffs out a sigh and picks up his jeans from his floor. He raises an eyebrow at Derek and makes a twirling gesture with his finger, but Derek doesn't move. He glitters at Stiles, leaning against the door-jamb with his arms crossed.

"When I offered to help, I meant with prior consent, and not at ridiculous o'clock on a school night," Stiles points out, because maybe if he complains hard enough, Derek will decide Stiles is more trouble than he's worth and demand another print-out as opposed to his eternally miserable company.

"If you didn't expect me to take you up on your offer, you should've kept your mouth shut."

As he pulls on his hoodie, Stiles keeps up a steady stream of grumbling. "You know, I couldn't agree more. Can we both pretend I did?"

"No." Derek says; short, sharp, shiny with teeth. His eyes aren't glowing anymore, but his fangs are still longer than they should be. "I hope you realize that all this petulance just makes me want to annoy you even more."

"Do you really need me?" Stiles whines as Derek hands him his jacket. Derek wasn't joking about the potential for freezing. It's icy.

"Yes, I do. You think I'd be here, otherwise?"

Stiles hates himself for the way his heart thumps at Derek's 'yes'. Since when did he begin to crave Derek's approval? There is something drastically, desperately wrong inside his head.

"No one can say with you, Derek. You're a man of mystery."

"You're wasting time."

"Yeah, don't you think the wendigo will be wendigone by now?" It's a last resort, Stiles knows. Bad punnery has to count for something, though.

All it counts for is a shove out his door. "Get going, Stiles, or you'll be wendikibble."

Of course Derek would be able to match him when it comes to terrible puns. Stiles hates his life.