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Every Step You Take

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When Stiles opens his eyes, it’s morning, and Erica Reyes is staring down at him.

“What the hell,” Stiles gasps, fumbling around to try and escape from Erica’s overwhelmingly mean stare. “Please don’t hit me with car parts, woman!”

“Morning,” she replies, smirking. It’s ass o’clock in the morning and she’s already wearing red lipstick. Stiles kind of admires her commitment to badass motion. “Finally decide to run with the big dogs?”

“What?” Stiles says, confused. He looks around. He’s in what is presumably Derek’s living space, a tiny interior room that he presumes was once an office in the warehouse. He’s not sure whether to call it a bedroom or a living room, since there’s a couch and a bed both crammed into it. He’s on the couch, which is scratchy and smells faintly like it came from a dump. “I thought you guys had awesome senses of smell,” he mutters, crinkling his nose at the offending couch before realizing that he smells like he just took a swan dive into garbage himself. Serial killer garbage, since he’s still wearing his bloody hoodie, which, understating matters a bit, is the worse for wear.

His shoes are caked with what is hopefully mostly mud, and his head is pounding, but his arm is neatly bandaged and the cleanest part of him, so there’s that, at least. And the ache has faded, to the point that Stiles is tempted to peek under the bandage to make sure no miracle healing happened overnight.

Erica motions towards his arm. “You take the bite?”

“No,” Stiles answers immediately. Erica looks skeptical. “Tis only a flesh wound.”

“You smell like Derek,” she says.

Stiles realizes belatedly that Derek is actually asleep in the rumpled mess of a bed. He can see a few tufts of hair sticking out from the comforter. Stiles would not have assumed that Derek was one to cocoon himself at night. Granted, if Stiles had given Derek’s sleeping habits any thought, he would have assumed that he slept standing up in various teenagers’ closets or something, given Derek’s true dedication to creeperdom.

“That is gross,” he tells her firmly. “Don’t smell me anymore.”

She shrugs and settles down on the edge of Derek’s bed. It’s only a few feet from the couch, which Stiles supposes is why they were able to sleep last night without feeling hellish levels of magical pain.

Stiles really misses his life back when the worst thing he had to worry about was embarrassing himself in front of Lydia and keeping himself under the radar at school. If he had a time machine, he would gladly go back and tell himself that, no matter how much of a douche past-Stiles would have thought he was.

“So why’d Derek kill that girl?” she asks, sounding strangely young, like she’s scared of what the answer is going to be. Stiles realizes suddenly that she knows Derek even less well than he does, and that she really has no idea about the life that she’s jumped headfirst into.

“Witch,” he says shortly. “Tried to turn Derek into her own personal junkyard dog.”

Erica’s eyes widen. “Witches are real?”

“Dude, I know, right?” Stiles says. “Next thing you know we’re going to have to worry about pale, sparkly teenagers killing off the deer populations.”

Erica actually snorts. “I would be totally pissed if I found out I could have been one of the undead instead. I would look bitchin’ with sparkle-skin.”

Stiles opens his mouth to make a possibly ill-advised comment about how glitter does go with Erica’s stripperwear when his phone buzzes loudly. He picks it up, and there are like fourteen missed calls, from both Scott and his dad. “That’s it. I’m screwed.”

Erica raises an eyebrow. Stiles wonders if the werewolves actually practice that move in front of the mirror, or if it comes naturally. Maybe he can get Scott to try it. “So it’s a phone call from daddy that has you worried, not the fact that you’re covered in blood and surrounded by werewolves.”

Stiles looks down. “I look like a refugee from Dahmer’s basement.” He tries to pull off the hoodie, but the blood had stiffened and dried overnight and it’s a struggle. Finally, he lets out a muffled, “Help me!” from inside his stinky cotton tomb, and after a moment that he hopes wasn’t Erica snapping a picture, she pulls off the hoodie and the equally groddy t-shirt that was underneath in one neat motion.

“Oh my god that smells vile,” Stiles says. He doesn’t even care that he’s half-naked and smeared with god-knows-what, he’s that thankful to be out of those horrible clothes.

“Not that bad,” Erica says thoughtfully, holding the gory hoodie between two fingers. “A little off, yeah, but blood.” Her voice takes on a husky, reverent tone. “There’s something about blood.”

“You two can go be alone if you want,” Stiles says, reluctantly reading the backlog of texts from Scott. He absolutely doesn’t want to know what messages his dad left. He really, really hopes he’s only grounded and isn’t a fugitive. It’s kind of like reading a monologue, where Scott slowly gets frustrated with Stiles’ disappearance, then pissed off, then worried, and finally ending with pleas to not be dead. Stiles is, above all else, an asshole, so he sends a text claiming to be from his ghost about his plans to haunt Scott for the rest of his unnatural life.

His dad should already be at the station, so he sends another text to him claiming that he got wrapped up in a X-Box session at Scott’s and crashed before realizing his phone had died. It’s the flimsiest imaginable story, but luckily Stiles’ social life is dead enough that his dad should buy it. Score one for loserdom.

One crisis averted, that just leaves him… sitting half-naked in a werewolf’s bedroom, with a she-wolf getting all bloodlusty over the dead witch’s blood on his clothes.

Because that’s Stiles’ life now.

Erica drops the sweatshirt on the floor suddenly, and Stiles realizes that Derek is stirring. It’s overwhelmingly weird to watch him wake up, sticking his head out of the covers and blinking wearily. His hair is tousled and as he sits up, Derek rubs at his eyes. Stiles is shocked by how unthreatening he looks. He wouldn’t say innocent, Derek could never pull that particular look off, but he doesn’t look as thoroughly predatory as he normally does.

It’s strangely endearing.

“Morning, sunshine,” Erica chirps, because she possibly has a death wish.

Derek growls in her direction, and she takes the hint and hops off his bed. “Is it taken care of?”

“Me and Isaac stashed her in a fresh grave,” Erica says proudly, like a kid showing off a clever trick. “No one’ll ever know she’s in there.”

Derek doesn’t actually give her a gold star, though Stiles kind of hoped that he would. “Did you salt it like I asked?”

Erica nods. “She’s not going anywhere.”

“Wait, that was a danger?” Stiles can’t help but ask. Seriously, though. Witches and werewolves are one thing, zombies quite another.

“Probably not,” Derek says. It’s not as reassuring as he probably intends.

“Probably not,” Stiles mutters. “Jeez, this whole expedition just keeps turning into a barrel of laughs.”

Erica turns to Derek. “Do you need me to do anything else?”

Derek shakes his head. “Go.”

And with that Erica leaves, like every issue she has with authority disappears in the face of Derek’s alphaness. “That’s kind of rude. And creepy,” Stiles offers.

“What is?” Derek seems genuinely puzzled.

“The whole, you know, Bossing people around thing. And them obeying. It’s creepy, especially from people who try to look like The Outsiders.” Stiles waves his hands around nervously. Now that Erica isn’t there being a big flashing red distraction, Stiles is forced to remember that he’s magically bound to Derek. And that they’re going to have to have a lot of one-on-one time.

And he’s also uncomfortably aware of how much he has to pee, which… he surreptitiously looks around for a bathroom. There’s no way that the whole bathroom experience is going to be anything but weird and uncomfortable, but it’s becoming increasingly unavoidable.

“Whatever,” Derek says, yawning. He stretches his arms, and Stiles can’t help but watch because dude, how many muscles does the man have. Stiles feels woefully inadequate and wishes that he had a shirt to put on.

Stiles glances in the direction that Erica disappeared in, but she apparently has left the building altogether, so he figures it’s safe enough to talk. “So, um. Do we check to see if the spell faded overnight? Maybe a good night’s rest is all that it takes to break it.”

It turns out that Derek isn’t too dignified to roll his eyes. Interesting. “Searing pain isn’t how I like to start my mornings.”

Stiles sighs. “You can’t blame me for hoping.”

Derek shrugs and climbs out of bed. He’s just wearing a pair of boxer-briefs.

“How come you didn’t have to sleep in gross bloody clothes?” Stiles kind of regrets the question immediately, since he realizes he’s asking why Derek didn’t rip the clothes off his unconscious body. Really, he should be happy that he retained his dignity for as long as he did.

“Hey, I did good to fix up your arm,” Derek points out. “I was kind of out of it myself.”

“Valid point,” Stiles acknowledges, thankful for the easy out. “So how are we going to play this? Who is going to be whose duckling?”

“I’m more concerned with who gets the first shower,” Derek says. “I vote me, since it’s my place.”

“There’s a shower here?” Stiles asks, looking around. “Are you sure it’s safe?”

Derek glowers.

“Kidding! Kidding!” Stiles says, holding his hands out to proclaim his innocence. “You’ve moved up in the world! This place actually has all of its original walls.”

One day he’s going to learn to control his mouth, and that day is going to be awesome. Except for how he’s never going to survive being magically bound to Derek Hale. He’s going to drive him right over the edge, and then he’s going to be werewolf-chow.

Derek responds like a fourth-grader and pushes Stiles down as he passes. Stiles bounces harmlessly on the couch cushions, true, but he’s actually a little grateful that Derek isn’t operating completely on his own age level. It evens things out a little if they’re both dumbasses.

He starts to feel a twinge in his gut when Derek gets a few strides away, so he quickly follows Derek. He realizes belatedly that he’s cast himself as the duckling, but there’s no helping it. Derek knows where the bathroom is, and Stiles both wants to wash last night’s chaos off him and also needs to pee a lot.

The bathroom is surprisingly decent, and Stiles saves himself some embarrassing moments by assuming that they’re working on locker room rules, and focuses on emptying his bladder and then taking off his super gross shoes instead of thinking about Derek Hale going about his morning shower rituals four feet away from Stiles. It’s all strangely intimate, and Stiles is starting to realize the worst part of this curse might not be Derek’s reaction to Stiles’ smartass remarks, but rather the fact that they’re going to get all kinds of up close and personal with each other.

Stiles isn’t exactly the solitary sort, not like Derek obviously is, but the thought of having absolutely no private time whatsoever is daunting. It dawns on him suddenly that that means no private Stiles-on-Stiles time either, and yeah. This is going to be super fun. He’s going to write online recommendations that everyone get magically attached to brooding stupidly attractive werewolves who can smell your moods.

The water cuts off, and Stiles shakes away the increasingly horrifying thoughts he’s having in favor of helpfully handing Derek a towel. Then he squirms out of his own gross pants and steps into the still-steamy shower. The hot water feels like heaven, and the water pressure is amazing, and Stiles lets out an appreciative moan and calls out, “Dude, I’m going to marry your shower.”

Derek doesn’t reply; Stiles doesn’t stick his head out of the curtain to find out what sort of glare he’s getting. He’s too happy just letting the water beat away at his sore muscles.

He didn’t realize how grimy he really was until he sees the rusty-colored water sluicing off his body, and he does his best to scrub himself down one-handed while keeping his bandaged arm as dry as possible. He has the feeling he doesn’t want to wash out the wolfsbane just yet.

He stumbles a bit trying to scrub his left foot, but manages to catch himself with the shower curtain before actually falling. By a minor miracle the curtain doesn’t give, and Stiles decides to give up on the wondrously private world of the shower before he destroys something.

“I am not giving you a hand,” Derek says from the other side of the curtain.

“I’m good, I’m good,” Stiles quickly says. “Not all of us have supernatural agility. Just give me a towel, okay?”

Stiles quickly dries off and emerged from the shower decently clad in one of Derek’s surprisingly plush towels. “Do you just spend all your rent money on housewares?”

“I’m laying low,” Derek replies. “There are hunters squatting in my house.”

“Your burnt-up shell of a house,” Stiles corrects. “I try not to judge, but dude, how much did you pay to not have that thing condemned?”

Derek gives him the stink-eye.

Stiles decides to concentrate on putting pants on. Then he follows Derek back to his room, where Derek opens an actual trunk and pulls out some clothes.

“Is this werewolf Hogwarts?” Stiles has never seen anyone actually use a trunk for their clothes before.

“Here.” Derek throws him a shirt. It’s a dark t-shirt that probably looks totally badass on Derek, but when Stiles pulls it on it’s just kind of baggy and boring. Then Derek shares some pop-tarts with Stiles, which proves that deep down he’s probably a decent person. Indecent people hoard their pop-tarts.

At least, that’s what Stiles tells Derek as he devours his breakfast.

Derek just tells him he’ll keep that in mind. Stiles hopes that he hasn’t planted seeds of pop-tart hoarding in Derek’s mind, because that would totally bite.

Then there’s the awkward business of cleaning Stiles’ Jeep up enough that it’s not a rolling murder conviction.

“You know,” Stiles says thoughtfully as he scrubs a dried blood smear off the steering wheel, “I’m beginning to worry that my Jeep might develop bloodlust.”

Derek rolls his eyes, so Stiles sees that as an opening to express his many concerns about how much violence had entered his Jeep’s life lately and how it was worrisome and perhaps he find some healthy outlet for the Jeep to work through its issues.

Derek isn’t amused, even though Stiles was being totally subtle. He is magically tied to the dude now, after all. He kind of wants him to be mentally stable, which has always been something that Derek doesn’t seem to have a solid grip on. See: his fairly epic trust issues.

Though Stiles is not touching those with a ten-foot pole. Derek will just bring up all the things Stiles did when they first met that possibly ruined Derek’s life, and while Stiles feels sort of bad about wrongly accusing the guy of murder and digging up his sister’s corpse and whatnot, he’s really not prepared to like… talk about it or anything.

So he just shuts the hell up (meaning he sticks to inconsequential chatter instead of pointed, Jeep-personifying chatter) and is somewhat relieved when they manage to leave Derek’s warehouse of werewolves without any more run-ins with Derek’s pack.

Stiles just sometimes feels like there are too many supernatural creatures in his life, and doesn’t really want to have to explain about the curse yet. Probably eventually it’ll come up, when people realize he and Derek never leave each other’s presence, but for right now, Stiles is still kind of hoping the spell will just magically dissipate. Like, it even makes sense. What kind of bullshit is magic if it even works after the caster is dead? Stiles is like ninety-nine percent sure that Disney movies didn’t work that way, and he finds it’s still disappointing that his life doesn’t operate on the rules set out for him in childhood.

Stiles insists on driving today, because he’s totally over the horrible injury of the night before. It’s a blatant lie – he’s barely holding onto normal, over here – but Derek doesn’t call him out on it.

Derek directs them back to the scene of last night’s murder, which… Stiles is kind of freaked out by how not freaked out he is. The woods are still abandoned, and Stiles can’t even see any sign of Isaac and Erica’s clean up, which frankly is more than he would have expected from them. He’s still maybe a little bitter about Erica’s treatment of his Jeep.

“So what’s the plan here?” Stiles asks. “I mean. Didn’t we kind of go above and beyond with the fact-finding last night?”

“We need to know as much as possible about the spell,” Derek says, actually volunteering information. It’s novel. “So that we can know what it was and how to break it.”

“Don’t you know any witches?” Stiles is pretty sure that Derek is exactly the type to attract witches. “Meet any at a Creature Feature Mixer?”

“Witches don’t like werewolves,” Derek says like it’s brand new information.

“Caught onto that one last night,” Stiles agrees. “Kind of looked like it was mutual dislike. But you seem the sort to indulge in some forbidden romance…”

Stiles is pretty glad that Derek hasn’t yet developed laser vision. Though if that’s an alpha power that’s going to eventually make an appearance, Stiles is screwed.

“Come on,” Derek says instead, and drags Stiles out of the Jeep by his shirt collar.

Stiles stumbles along after him, grateful that at least it’s daylight now. The hike to the scene of last night’s witch killing takes less time than Stiles would have thought. Then Derek pokes around the remains of the witch’s circle. Somehow there isn’t a single char mark from the fire, which Stiles assumes is because of magic, but it’s pretty fucking surreal. Instead, the only sign of the circle is the rough line sketched out in the dirt, though even that has scuff marks across it. Stiles thinks that someone stumbling onto this clearing wouldn’t even notice it, even though the image of the circle is seared in Stiles’ mind.

Derek takes out a pad of paper and starts sketching things. Normally Stiles would look around himself and do some investigating, but all that’s left is a few suspiciously placed rocks and a few drops of candlewax, and a scraped-up area where Isaac and Erica clearly did some landscaping to hide the bloody spots, and Stiles’ heart just isn’t into it.

Finding another witch seems way more important. Stiles is pretty sure that they saw all that there was to see last night, and this is just wasting time that could be spent fixing the problem.

He doesn’t realize that he’s started to wander off until the uncomfortable feeling in his gut turns into full-blown agony, and he stumbles backwards until it fades.

Derek helps him to his feet. “I figure, there’s no pain for about six feet, then bearable pain up to about ten.”

“It’s like a magical choker chain,” Stiles sighs. “This is the worst.”

Derek just looks at him with that sad fucking Batman my parents are dead look, and just, no.

“Dude, don’t even bring up your tragic backstory here,” Stiles replies. “I’m allowed to be upset about being tied to a pretty rude werewolf.”

“Because you’re a basket of kittens,” Derek says. Stiles is momentarily taken aback that Derek can even think of kittens while looking that grim.

“I am pretty fucking adorable,” Stiles says, because why not.

Derek just shoves him lightly on the shoulder and escorts him back to the car. Then Stiles is kind of lost, because he has no clue what to do with his time when there’s a Derek Hale in tow. At least Derek seems equally at a loss.

“Do you know anything about magic?” Stiles asks.

Derek shrugs. “Nothing that seems helpful right now.”

“Of course not,” Stiles says. He thinks a minute. “Are there any like… supernatural hang-outs? Super secret clubs where we could find a coven?”

“Why would I want to hang out in a club with people who can magically control me?” Derek asks.

“I don’t know, I don’t understand any of your life choices,” Stiles admits. “It seemed right up your self-destructive alley.”

Derek gives him an incredulous look. “You know who else hangs out in a self-destructive alley? A human who constantly sticks his nose into werewolf pack business.”

“I’m Scott’s self-elected Watcher,” Stiles says stiffly. “You’ve met him. He’d be lost without me. And probably dead. Lying in a ditch, for sure. Just like certain other werewolves that shall not be named.”

Derek doesn’t actually refute him, though he’s practically rolling his eyes.

So Stiles switches tactics. “What about Allison? Maybe she’s learned about witches during her hunter lessons.”

“Let me go through my channels first,” Derek says.

*

Derek’s channels suck.

First he makes a bunch of phone calls. Stiles is impressed by how little he speaks when on the phone, where his glower has no effect. Suspiciously little, really. Stiles wonders if Derek is even talking to real people.

It doesn’t seem to get him anywhere, though. So as Derek snips monosyllabically at people who may or may not exist, Stiles pulls out his phone and googles magic shops in the Beacon Hills area.

He gets more results than he would have assumed, though he quickly realizes that more of the results have to do with sex shops or birthday magicians than witchy hangouts.

Then he notices a book store called the Crescent Moon, and after going to the site, decides it’s probably their best bet.

Derek is glaring at his contacts list like it’s going to cough up the name and number of a witch, which, Stiles acknowledges, considering how many lady names he can see, might actually be plausible. But he pokes him on the shoulder and says, “Found a magic store, and it’s only half an hour away.”

“I don’t think that’s wise…” Derek begins.

“Dude, we’re not going to go in announcing you’re a werewolf and need help removing a dead witch’s spell,” Stiles sighs. “They sell books. We can buy some. Do the research montage thing.”

Derek doesn’t look happy about it, but half an hour later they pull up to the Crescent Moon. “You do the talking,” he says shortly as they climb out of the Jeep.

“Can do.” Stiles does a little finger-gun action in Derek’s direction, which he doesn’t even have the decency to return.

Stiles basically regrets suggesting coming to a witch shop as soon as they open the door. Even though he’s hardly going to tell anyone Derek is a werewolf, he sometimes forgets what Derek looks like. Which is pretty much like some sort of predator. For god’s sake, he’s wearing a leather jacket into a store populated by vegans. This is a disaster.

So he leads the way into the shelves, Derek following close behind, looking around in that shady way of his, and Stiles kind of wants to bang his head on the closest pile of gardening books. The counter and the small coffee bar next to it are populated by a mismatched group of people who range the spectrum from hippie to hipster, and they’re all watching Stiles and Derek like hawks.

“Wow do I feel conspicuous right now,” Stiles whispers.

Derek somehow manages to not say, “I told you so.”

Stiles explores the bookshelves for a few minutes, looking for some sort of spellbook. He doesn’t actually expect it to be leatherbound and five hundred years old, but he’s still taken aback when he finds the proper shelf and it’s filled with shiny new, independent-press trade paperbacks. He picks one up and flips through it. Nothing’s impossible to decipher like the Argent family bestiary, but this is in comic sans, which is a whole different sort of terror.

“A spellbook,” Stiles says slowly, staring at the book in his hands, “that is written in comic sans.”

“Does it have an index?” Derek pulls another book from the shelf and flips to the back.

“Judging from it, this one is all about love spells,” Stiles says, skimming the index for anything that might help. “A few of which are more disturbing than others.”

“Can I help you?”

He and Derek turn at the same time. One of the older women from the counter is standing there, smiling and clasping her hands in front of herself. Stiles is immediately suspicious, because no one working retail is that zen-looking.

So Stiles decides to just go for it and lie through his teeth. “Yes! This is super embarrassing, but my cousin here lost his girlfriend’s book, and we wanted to get some sort of replacement for it.”

“What book was it?” the shopkeeper asks. Her name tag identifies her as Sage, which Stiles has to assume is some sort of self-assumed identity. He’s well versed in terrible names, but at least his mother didn’t randomly point to a spice rack for his name.

“See, that’s the thing. We have no clue,” Stiles replies. “But we do know it was about casting spells, and we thought if we got some sort of replacement, it might soften the blow when she finds out hers is gone. So maybe just a basic book about how magic works? Magical theory, beginning spellcasting. Something along those lines.”

“So you want a beginner’s book to witchcraft,” Sage says, sounding matronly and helpful. Stiles is ninety percent sure that means the jig is up. “For his girlfriend.”

Derek doesn’t even bother to nod. Just stands there with a level-ten creepy look on his face, like he’s a second away from biting heads off.

Stiles presumes that means Sage is a witch. So he plows ahead. “Yeah.” He waves the love spell book around. “Something more helpful than this.”

Sage smiles. “Are you looking for something like Dungeons and Dragons? We have a small selection of roleplay game books two aisles over…”

Derek nudges him.

“That is very helpful,” Stiles lies. “Thank you.”

And they follow Sage to the fantasy aisle. She leaves them, and Derek hisses, “Out of here. Now.”

“Agreed.” Stiles has a weird crawly feeling on the back of his neck.

He peeks around the end of the aisle. There’s a crowd around the counter now, all arranging things with a single-mindedness that lets Stiles know that shit is about to go down.

He scampers across the store, Derek close behind him, and slides gratefully into his Jeep. He realizes he’s still holding the love spell book and drops it in the floorboard. He struggles to get the keys out of his pocket.

“Go!” Derek snaps. “Can’t you feel that?”

Stiles definitely feels something, though he was hoping it was just his own fear. Derek’s glinting red eyes tell him that it’s definitely magic, though. He finally gets the keys out and shoves them in the ignition, the engine thankfully turning over on the first try.

He’s about to slam into reverse and get the hell out of dodge when someone bangs on his window. He looks up and it’s one of the hipster girls from inside, eyes wide and glancing nervously back to the Crescent Moon, like she was the one the witches were about to curse. Again.

Derek urges him to go, but there’s something about the girl that makes Stiles roll down his window. She looks far too nervous to be doing this under the command of the other witches.

“You’re the ones,” she says. “The ones who took out Thea.”

“Nope, no clue what you’re talking about,” Stiles says, because he’s not dumb.

She shakes her head, and says, “She lost her mind. They all have. They’re listening to…. I can’t even get into it. But she did something, didn’t she? Before she died.”

“Still in the dark here,” Stiles says to maintain plausible deniability, though his heart isn’t fully into it. He glances back at Derek, who is staring out the passenger window in a vain attempt to hide that he is on the verge of wolfing out. Stiles notices that his claws are visible, and gestures for the girl to hurry to her point already.

“Here,” she says, shoving a book through the window. Stiles fumbles with it as she says, “There’s some dark shit happening with the coven, and Thea was at the center of it. Watch your backs.”

“How do you reverse spells?” Stiles asks quickly, because hey, a witch is right there.

“You? Don’t,” she says. “The caster has to reverse it, or else her coven.”

Which is pretty much the worst possible answer she could have given. “Right. What if---“

The girl’s eyes widen. “Go! Now! It’s about to---“

Stiles doesn’t wait around to hear what terrible magical thing is going to happen. He slams on the gas, and puts some arcade-gleaned knowledge to use as he spins the wheel and fishtails out of the parking lot like a bat out of hell.

The tingling he felt in the magic shop intensifies, but Stiles doesn’t let off the gas.

“Faster, faster,” chants Derek, and if Stiles wasn’t practically jumping out of his seat in terror, he would have snipped that Derek’s car would have been of more use in a high-speed fleeing situation.

The Crescent Moon disappears from the rear-view mirror as he sped down the road, and he spits out, “How far a radius does magic have, anyway?”

“It shouldn’t be this far,” Derek growls. Actually growls, because he’s shifted. Stiles momentarily thanks the powers that be that Derek hasn’t gone full alpha-mode on him, and keeps the engine gunned.

“Fuck,” Stiles mutters, and runs a red light. The strange feel of magic is starting to fade, now that the Crescent Moon is out of sight, and Stiles prays that he isn’t the victim of another nasty new curse.

Derek is panting, and gripping the dash in an alarming manner. “Hey, hey,” Stiles says. “Don’t ruin my interior. This thing is original.”

Derek growls at him, but it isn’t a howl or a roar and he lets go of the dash, so Stiles counts it as a win. Another minute down the road and Stiles can no longer feel the prickling sensation of magic, so he slows down enough that he won’t automatically lose his license if a cop spots him.

When they get back to Beacon Hills, Stiles automatically drives to his own house, because hanging around the pack makes him nervous. Derek doesn’t comment on his choice of location, just gathers up the magic books and, after confirming that the Sheriff wasn’t home, heads inside.

“They recognized us,” Derek snaps once they’re safely ensconced in Stiles’ room. “How did they recognize us?”

Stiles opens the bag of chips he grabbed on the way up and shoves a handful in his mouth. “In retrospect, we look shady as fuck.”

He wags his still-bandaged arm as evidence, and then gestures to Derek’s everything.

“I don’t exactly have ‘werewolf’ tattooed on my forehead,” Derek snips.

“You might as well, buddy,” Stiles says. “I mean, at least to witches, who I presume know about the other creatures that go bump in the night. You kind of have this aura going on. A kind of ‘I’ll happily eat your face off under the light of the full moon’ kind of deal. It’s menacing.”

Derek actually looks kind of disappointed to hear that he has the aura of a serial killer. Stiles always kind of assumed that was what he was going for. “And what the hell were they doing with all that magic?”

“Good question.” Stiles picks up the book the good witch had given them and waves it at Derek. “I’m guessing this holds a clue or two, though. Glinda back there risked life and limb to give it to us.”

“Or else she wanted us to think she was risking herself and instead was doing the coven’s bidding,” Derek points out.

“Has anyone ever told you that you have serious trust issues?” Stiles really prefers to not live in constant paranoia, but now that Derek has raised the issue he can’t help but wonder about it. “Did she… smell trustworthy? You lot can smell stuff like that, right? Like dogs?”

“It’s not that simple,” Derek says, because nothing ever is.

“Of course not.”

“You don’t understand,” Derek actually looks frustrated, and he runs his hands through his hair. “Everyone’s different. It’s like… like body language. When you know someone well, it’s obvious. When they’re a stranger, you don’t know if it’s just one of their quirks or not. Some things are universal, but there’s a lot of room for error.”

“Oh,” Stiles says. It kind of sounds like Derek is as lost as he is. Which is bad. Very bad. Stiles was kind of counting on Derek to have some sort of innate Alpha-knowledge that got them out of this mess. He probably should have realized that Derek was as in over his head as Stiles was around the time that Derek willingly agreed to go to a magic shop.

It’s a terrifying thought. Stiles intellectually knows that Derek is new at being alpha and that he’s on his own, but somehow Stiles assumed that there was some sort of secret handbook or something that Derek has been working from. But he doesn’t even know what Derek’s relationship with his sister was, for all that Stiles had to do with the shit that went down for Derek after her death. He’s assuming it wasn’t that great, given that they lived on opposite sides of the country. From what Scott’s told him Derek spent a lot of time talking at Peter Hale, but Peter never talked back.

If only Derek would stop making those terrifying faces at him all the time, it would be a lot easier to remember that he’s a young guy trying to keep his chin above water that’s way too deep for him.

Probably that’s why he makes the terrifying faces, really.

So Stiles awkwardly flips through the book. It’s not as flashy as the love potions book, in that instead of being a cheap trade paperback it’s spiral-bound and clearly printed in someone’s basement, kind of like the cookbooks his dad keeps buying from the school board.

At first glance he almost thinks it is a cookbook, but then he realizes that he’s looking at spells, all neatly set out in steps, with lists of required herbs, candles and moon phases neatly listed at the top of each page.

So he turns to the front of the book, half-hoping for a quick lesson in magical theory, but no such luck. There’s just a generic thank-you page and a list of contributors.

“What was her name again?” he asks.

“Whose?” Derek is sitting in his chair, broodily staring at the carpet. Stiles wants to offer him a book or video game or something, but he tries to keep his focus on the book.

“The witch from last night. The girl today mentioned it.” Stiles tries to remember. “Tina?”

“Thea,” Derek says after a moment.

Stiles waves the book in front of him. “Look at this. The fourth contributor.”

“Thea Rookwood,” Derek reads aloud. He looks up at Stiles excitedly. “What if it’s in here?”

“Only one way to find out!”

Stiles really should know by this point in his life that optimism is always misplaced. There was no handy index telling which witch contributed which spell, and the spells themselves are labeled in some sort of bastardized Latin that Google translate refuses to decipher.

Plus he and Derek both want to read the book, so they end up shoulder-to-shoulder on the floor, leaning back against Stiles’ bed. While Stiles has been slowly adjusting to having Derek around all the time, this is much more intimate. It puts Stiles directly in Derek’s personal bubble, which he’s definitely not as comfortable with as he should be, given all the times they’ve been thrown together. For instance, the hours in a freaking swimming pool together. He still keeps expecting Derek to slam him into a wall.

Apparently he expects it enough to have built up a reflexive reaction, he discovers the second time he flinches when Derek reaches to turn a page.

“Can you stop that?” Derek asks after the fourth page-turn. “I’m not going to hit you. Probably.”

“I can’t help it,” Stiles admits. “You’ve spent a lot of time physically intimidating me.”

“It’s the only way to get you to help me,” Derek says, which… is pretty fucking bleak.

“Asking nicely works pretty good,” Stiles offers.

Derek raises an eyebrow.

“Well, okay,” Stiles admits. “We’ve had our rocky moments. But I’ve saved your life, you’ve saved mine. We’re practically buddies. We haven’t made it into bro-territory yet, but we’re definitely within the realm of favor-asking.”

He punctuates this with a shoulder-nudge, though he immediately regrets it and waits for Derek to growl at him.

Instead Derek just looks down, picking at a loose thread on his jeans. It’s the most unguarded Stiles has ever seen him, and he bites his lip, trying to keep himself from saying something dumb. Derek saves him, though, by speaking up. “Sorry if I’ve… frightened you.”

What the fuck is Stiles supposed to say to that? “I didn’t say anything about being frightened! You are the least frightening monster I know, and I’m including Scott on that list.”

“I did say I can scent emotions, you know.” There’s the slightest hint of a smile on Derek’s face.

Stiles tries not to mentally run through the list of embarrassing things Derek probably knows about him if he’s been sniffing out his emotions. He fails pretty spectacularly. “Well you haven’t been using your superpowers properly then.”

Derek gives him the side-eye, but Stiles holds his manly ground and pretends like Derek definitely can’t tell anything about his emotions right now. Werewolves suck.

He wonders how one translates that sentiment into scent-able emotions.

Then Derek does something weird. He grabs Stiles’s arm and sniffs at the bandage there.

“Um,” Stiles says. Derek turns his arm, fingers curling in hard against Stiles’ skin, and Stiles tries his best to not squirm. Derek then leans in close, nose almost pressing against the bandage, and breathes in deep, his head tilted in such a way that his lips brush against the tender, sensitive skin on the inside of Stiles’ elbow.

Stiles wants to say something, some comment about taking the sniffing thing too far or something, but he’s stuck just trying his best not to squirm his arm away as Derek molests it.

He also really, really hopes that Derek is doing some sort of werewolf thing about the claw marks and that he’s ignoring the whole emotion-sniffing thing, because things could get awkward fast. The tingles from the touch of Derek’s skin against his, the feel of his breath and lips against him, seem to shoot straight to his dick, and Stiles is having a hard time keeping his breath even.

After another long moment, Derek loosens his grip on Stiles’ arm and pulls back. Stiles takes a few deep breaths before he figures he’s okay to talk without saying something too idiotic. “The hell?”

“Sometimes a werewolf can mark a human,” Derek says. He’s still staring at Stiles’ arm, and he starts to slowly unwind the bandage to reveal the claw marks he left the night before.

“Like what you did to Jackson?” Stiles can’t look away from his arm. The marks somehow look worse half-healed, like all the blood from the previous night – too much blood, he thinks now, seeing that the marks aren’t severe enough to have needed stitches or anything – but there’s a savagery about them, the way they rake across his pale skin.

“It forges a connection,” Derek says. He traces a claw mark with a completely human fingertip, but Stiles flinches anyway. His arm doesn’t hurt the way it should, given how fresh it is, but Derek’s touch against it feels horribly raw.

And Stiles gets it. “The wolfsbane.”

“The connection would have gone much deeper, since I’m the alpha,” Derek says. “And I’m not sure I would have wanted to break it, once it was in place.”

“Thanks,” Stiles says. Derek isn’t saying what kind of connection it would have forged, but Stiles has read pretty much everything the internet has to offer about werewolves. He thinks again about last night, about Derek’s hand possessively curled around his arm, and wonders exactly how that would have changed the bond Derek created.

Jackson got Derek’s nightmares when Derek clawed him, and that was when Derek was a beta. Stiles thinks that a possessive alpha marking someone probably had a lot more intense repercussions.

What those could have been, Stiles really doesn’t want to think about. Not when he’s shoulder-to-shoulder with Derek, his knee pressed lightly against Derek’s leg, and Derek’s hand still curved loosely around Stiles’ arm. The witch’s spell is bad, but they both want to break it.

Stiles doesn’t think he would have been able to break a hold that Derek had over him, and the thought sends a cold shiver up his spine.

“I wasn’t sure it would work,” Derek admits. “I’m pretty sure that it did, though. I don’t think you would be intimidated by me if you were marked as mine.”

“I really appreciate that it did.” Stiles stares at his arm like he’s never seen it before. “Really appreciate it.”

Derek lets go of his arm and turns another page in the spellbook. This one appears to have some effect on how the witch sees the world, and Stiles thinks it might have something to do with ghosts, which is wicked awesome but supremely unhelpful for their current predicament.

“I wonder if anyone can do magic,” he muses.

“The witches don’t seem to think so, judging by spellbook. It seems to require some special gift.” Derek doesn’t look up from the book. It’s almost like he’s trying to pull himself in, like he just revealed too much about himself and has to be stoic so that Stiles doesn’t accidentally start to think of him as a person.

It’s kind of a little late for that, so Stiles pokes him in the side. Derek jumps a little, and glares. Stiles makes a face at him, hoping to reassure him that Stiles isn’t repulsed by him or whatever Derek’s hang up with any level of opening up is.

Derek just shakes his head, though he hasn’t like, tried to move away or yell at Stiles or shove him against a wall, so that’s progress, really.

“No, really,” Stiles says. “We know nothing about the enemy here. Sun Tzu would be rolling his eyes at us so hard, dude. So we need to figure some shit out. Like magic, for instance. Is it a superpower, or can it be learned, or do witches bite each other to spread the magic…?”

“I’m going to guess they don’t bite each other,” Derek says wryly.

“You never know,” Stiles says. “I mean, it works for werewolves.”

“Witches are not werewolves.”

“You really are one of the great thinkers of our time.” Stiles can’t help it. He has zero brain to mouth filter. It’s probably going to be his cause of death. Maybe he should write a pre-emptive letter to the coroner so it can be explained to his dad.

Derek smacks up lightly upside the head. “You know what I mean. And I don’t know. There were a few witches that my family trusted, back… when. But I wasn’t really involved in anything. They were women, but I don’t know if that’s exclusive. Older, but we saw last night that witches can gain powers young.”

“Okay,” Stiles says. “I guess you don’t remember the witches’ names?”

“I would have mentioned it if I had,” Derek says sweetly.

Stiles throws his hands up. “Just checking, dude.”

Derek doesn’t answer, just cocks his head the same way Scott does when he’s just notices something outside the range of human senses.

“Your dad’s home.” Derek sounds calm. Stiles remembers him saying he’d been exonerated, but he knows perfectly well that if he was a person of interest, the last place he’d want to be found was in the bedroom of the sheriff’s son.

Which sounds way dirtier thought out like that than it feels sitting here. Fuck, the last thing Stiles needs is to think about is Derek and anything illicit involving bedrooms. He’s magically handcuffed to the guy. He absolutely cannot be thinking about the stupidly hot way his lips grazed against his skin earlier.

Stiles jumps up way faster than necessary, knocking the spellbook out of Derek’s hands and pacing, antsy, around the room a bit.

Derek calmly stands up and moves to his customary hiding spot just behind Stiles’ bedroom door.

“It is so creepy that you already have a hiding spot in my room,” Stiles says. He follows it up with, “I so need a girlfriend.”

Stiles is pretty sure his face has never been redder, but Derek just laughs and leans against the wall, looking as relaxed as Stiles has ever seen him. It sends a weird pang through Stiles’ heart, hearing Derek laugh, and Stiles freezes for a moment, just staring, mouth parted like an idiot.

Derek just stares at him, eyes flickering down to Stiles’ mouth, probably wondering what he did in life to end up stuck with a mouthbreather.

That leaves Stiles lurking nervously next to the door when his dad finally knocks and peeks his head in, which he’s sure his dad doesn’t miss.

“Have fun at Scott’s?” his dad asks, pushing open the door and leaning against the frame.

“Lots,” Stiles replies. He shifts a little, and his dad gives him a look that Stiles knows perfectly well means that he is not being nearly as stealthy as he thinks.

Though, really, Stiles can see a former murder suspect from here and his dad can’t, so he’s being pretty stealthy. All things considered.

“Gotta ask you to stay in tonight,” his dad finally says. “There’s a college girl gone missing nearby, and we’ve got the squad out combing the woods. I know normally you think it’s a hoot to come see what the fuss is about, but…” he trails off. “What the hell happened to your arm?”

“My arm?” Stiles says blankly. The offending limb just hangs there, displaying claw marks for the whole world -- and more direly, his father -- to see. “I was picking blackberries? And the thorns, man. They say every rose has got one, but blackberries have more than a few.”

“Blackberries,” his dad repeats.

“Yes,” Stiles says. “Blackberries.”

“Where did you find this… blackberry bush?”

Stiles is pretty sure that his dad practices his interrogation techniques on him. “Scott’s yard.”

“I see,” his dad says slowly.

“I can take you to it,” Stiles offers. “You could shoot it. Defend the family honor. No vegetation shall fell a Stilinski!” He shakes a fist at the nonexistent blackberry bush.

His dad gives him a fond look and then pulls him in for a hug.

“At least you’re entertaining,” he says, clapping Stiles’ back. He releases him, and holds him by the shoulders for a moment. “And you know you can talk about anything to me, right?”

“I know,” Stiles says, feeling like shit. “Love you.”

“Love you, too,” his dad replies. “Remember. Keep your ass in this house. You’ve been in enough trouble lately. I don’t want to have to drag you away from yet another crime scene.”

“Scout’s honor,” Stiles says, throwing up a Vulcan salute, which makes his dad laugh. He leaves with another pointed, “Stay in!” and “I left you some chicken in the kitchen. Marnie at the station ordered extra for you. I’m sorry I can’t stick around.”

“Go!” Stiles says. “Find missing girls! That’s pretty important. In the grand scheme, and all.”

Stiles pushes his door shut and leans against it, banging his head back a couple times. He remembers Derek, and looks over. He’s watching Stiles with a strange look; Stiles can’t tell if it’s sad or jealous or both.

“You have a good relationship with your dad.” Derek’s tone is flat.

“Mostly,” Stiles says. “We’re all that we’ve got and all. Though lately it’s been… I don’t like lying. But I have to. So I do.”

“You shouldn’t have to lie to your family.” Derek pushes away from the wall and crosses his arms like he means business.

“In a perfect world, yeah,” Stiles agrees. “But in the world we live in where there are werewolves and witches and monsters killing people left and right for me to stumble across, then yeah. Yeah, I have to lie to my father, who is the sheriff and whose entire job is to find killers.”

He lets the like you hang unspoken in the air between them. He knows there was no other way for last night’s incident to end, and that Derek had earned the right to kill his uncle, but that wasn’t the sort of thing you could explain to a man of the law. It wasn’t even the sort of thing Stiles was comfortable with discussing with the man who did the killings.

Derek backs down, and after a few minutes mutters, “I need to talk to my pack.”

“In person?” Stiles says, because dude, he does not want the pack in his bedroom, too. Derek is bad enough.

Derek digs his phone out of his pocket and waves it at Stiles. “This’ll do. Privacy?”

So that was how Stiles ended up sitting in the hall, leaning against his closed bedroom door, tapping his feet and picking at a tiny hole in the knee of his pants and considering drawing a few of the protective runes he’d stumbled across so far in the spellbook on his sneakers, because surely it couldn’t hurt.

Finally he just leans back up against the door and props his head against the doorframe. He can hear the low buzz of Derek’s voice on the other side of the door, just loud enough to make an impression but too distorted to make out the individual words. Stiles feels his eyes growing heavier, and lets them close without a fight.

He’ll just rest for a minute.

The next thing he knows, he’s falling backwards. He flails his arms and legs but still hits the ground with a thud, staring up at Derek’s amused face. “Wakey, wakey, princess.”

“You asshole,” Stiles manages, belatedly noticing the open door and putting two and two together.

Derek offers him a hand, and pulls him up as easily as if Stiles weighed nothing at all. Stiles is still dazed enough from his unintended nap that he claps Derek on the side of his arm and says, “Thanks, chum.”

Pretty much he’s a moron in every state of consciousness.

Derek doesn’t say much else as they look back through the spellbook, and then even start reading through the paperback of love spells hoping for some sort of sign. The spells themselves are extremely broad, and Stiles suspects that there’s a lot of customization to be done to each one. One’s for lilght, another for guidance, and it’s all frustratingly vague. Stiles starts doing some good old fashioned internet research when he realizes how unhelpful the spellbook is, which is about four minutes into round two with it. Unfortunately, he’s pretty sure that ninety percent of what he’s scrolling through is complete bullshit.

Derek, for his part, seems to be having trouble concentrating. Stiles feels that he’s really falling down on his job as the Velma of their group. Maybe he should just switch to Shaggy and go get a snack.

Stiles gets a few texts from Scott, normal everyday shit, and he doesn’t even think Scott’s realized yet that Stiles is caught up in a misadventure without him. Which, fine. He knows Scott resides in Allison-opolis right now, but he still would have thought that his best friend would have somehow realized that Stiles had been cursed by witches.

It’s stupid to be jealous. Stiles throws his phone down and tries googling for magical binding spells again. Mostly he finds some pretty disturbing Harry Potter stuff that he really doesn’t want to think about in connection to his own situation.

Most of all, the astonishing lack of progress gives Stiles time to actually think about his situation.

There have only a few awkward moments to arise from the whole connected at the hip thing so far, mostly involving bathroom breaks, but overall… it’s not bad. Not as bad as Stiles thought it would be when he woke up this morning. Derek’s quiet, and Stiles doesn’t really want to know his opinion of being bound to Stiles, so he just babbles on about everything else, from his thoughts on the best fast food chicken places in town to wondering aloud if Derek will need a flea collar if he completely shifts into alpha-mode, since Stiles has heard that the flea and tick population is really bad this year.

Derek, for his part, actually doesn’t threaten Stiles with bodily violence, and even makes a few jokes to alleviate the tension from not finding a fucking solution to the spell.

“Are your puppies okay without adult supervision?” Stiles asks, yawning. It’s been an exhausting day of failing to accomplish anything.

“I’m sure they can feed and water themselves.” Derek doesn’t crack a grin, but Stiles feels like he’s making progress if he’s actually rolling with banter now instead of shutting down and glaring. “Unlike you.”

“I’ve got a perfectly magical valid reason for having your constant supervision, thank you very much,” Stiles says. “And unlike your pack, I’m good at staying out of trouble. Isaac was a werewolf for what, five minutes before getting arrested?”

“Those were extenuating circumstances,” Derek says. Stiles thinks that he might actually like his wolves, which… is contrary to what Stiles had assumed, given the way he treats them.

“I’m aware,” Stiles says. “It’s just that you werewolf types are like, magnets for trouble.”

“And so are you,” Derek says.

Stiles initially thinks that they’re going back to Derek’s wondrous warehouse of werewolves – which Stiles starts to think of as the Were House, because it makes him laugh – for the night, because the thought of Derek sleeping in his house just does not compute, but then Derek starts to strip down.

“Whoa there cowboy,” Stiles says. “What are you doing?”

Derek pulls the comforter down on Stiles’ bed. “Getting ready for bed?”

“That’s my bed,” Stiles says dumbly.

Derek looks around. “Yeah. It’s the only one in here.”

“You can sleep on the floor.” Stiles doesn’t know why he’s making a big deal about this.

Derek rolls his eyes and pats the other pillow. “You can either sleep here, or you’re welcome to the floor.”

“It’s my bed,” Stiles says again, jerking the comforter down on the side of his bed that Derek has deigned to allow him to sleep in. They both traipse to the bathroom for tooth brushing, Stiles staring into the mirror glumly as he realizes that he’s going to be sharing his not-very-big bed with Derek, who is roughly the size of a mountain.

When they return to his room, he pulls off his jeans and crawls into bed. It’s already dipped down where Derek is settling in on the other side, and Stiles has never felt so awkward in his own bed in his life, and that includes every time his dad has barged in while Stiles still had morning wood.

Stiles clicks off the lamp and tries to curl up on the edge of the bed, as far from Derek as possible, and does everything he can to make his brain stop thinking about how much more awkward morning wood would be in this situation.

And then Stiles can only think about boners. He shifts uncomfortably, hyper-aware of his dick. He can feel Derek moving around behind him, trying to get comfortable, and Stiles tries to remember how he puts his hands when it’s Scott spending the night.

He finally gets settled in a way that he hopes doesn’t look as awkward as it feels, and decisively closes his eyes. He can hear the quiet intake of Derek’s breath, and remembers what it felt like when he was sniffing his arm earlier. The thought sends tingles to all the best places, and Stiles freezes.

He knows that he’s crossing some sort of line with his thoughts, and that he’s not really thinking about Derek Hale in the way that he’s supposed to be thinking about Derek Hale. Namely, with his dick. It’s wrong, and Derek is right there, and he can fucking smell lust, and oh jesus. Stiles is never going to be able to look him in the eye again.

So Stiles does the only thing possible, which is to breathe slow and even like he’s asleep and keep his eyes screwed shut and try to force himself to think about things like natural disasters and the fact that he’s an accessory to murder and basically anything except for the half-naked werewolf in his bed.

Pretend it’s Scott, pretend it’s Scott, he keeps thinking, hoping that it will magically make his traitorous dick behave.

Derek doesn’t really do anything, and when Stiles peeks over his shoulder, it’s just light enough in the room to make out that Derek is sprawled comfortably on his stomach, one arm over his head, comforter shoved down to his hips. His face is turned away from Stiles, and Stiles really, really hopes that he’s asleep and that this temporary lust-insanity of his can pass unnoticed.

“We are finding a solution tomorrow,” Stiles mutters darkly, punching his pillow and trying yet again to get comfortable. How the hell did he manage to sleep last night?

The bed shakes slightly, and Stiles glares over his shoulder and sees that Derek’s shoulders are shaking. He is laughing and that means he’s awake and has probably been sniffing all of Stiles’ lusty pheromones and seriously, they might as well just use Stiles as bait, because Stiles really has no will to live in this world anymore.

“I hate you,” he tells Derek’s back. “So, so much.”

Derek doesn’t reply, which Stiles is equally annoyed and grateful over.