Chapter 1: Ring of Fire
“You have a car,” Stiles says for probably the thousandth time since he met Derek Hale. “A nice one. A far nicer one than mine. Why can’t you drive yourself to these midnight forest shenanigans?”
Derek glares over at him. “I need backup.”
“On a Friday night? I could have had plans, buddy. Hot plans.” Stiles didn’t, of course, thanks to Scott’s soul-encompassing love for Allison and the date nights that entailed, but that is not the point.
Derek doesn’t even acknowledge that Stiles could have had a date. Like it was outside the realm of possibility. Stiles throws his hands up in the air.
“And you didn’t choose one of your merry band of werewolves why?” Stiles continues, because seriously, the only one who has ever considered him backup is Scott, and that’s because he’s the brains in that particular investigative duo. He is in no way shape, form or fashion backup material for an Alpha werewolf.
“I need someone whose version of events won’t be swayed,” Derek says after a pause, which for him is positively bursting with information.
“Wait, are we hunting for something that can sway werewolves?” Stiles can pick up on things. Especially things that sound stupidly dangerous.
Derek doesn’t answer, which for Derek is all the answer necessary.
“Crap on a stick,” Stiles sighs. “Is there no end to the parade of monsters lurking around our supposedly quiet small town?”
Wandering the woods with Derek is slightly less terrifying than wandering the woods with Scott, though that mostly has to do with how Stiles is maybe a little afraid of Derek and figures most other things that go bump in the night must be, too. He has a scary vibe that’s hard to beat.
Plus Derek actually has a fucking clue where he’s going, so there’s considerably less aimless wandering and more direct stalking of prey. Stiles had been dreading how much chit-chat he would have to come up with if the path had been meandering.
Stiles isn’t exactly sure when deliberately stalking prey became a good thing, but that’s something that happens these days. So, goodie.
The only terrible part about stalking with Derek is that apparently talking is a big no-no, and Stiles gets hushed with a smack to the side of the head every time he so much as opens his mouth. As a result he has to bite his lip roughly every fifteen seconds to keep from blurting out another, “Are we there yet?” or “I think we passed this tree ten minutes ago.”
Then Derek stops so suddenly that Stiles actually runs into his back, and embarrassingly enough, just bounces right back off, since Derek’s back feels roughly like running into a brick wall wearing a leather jacket. Derek turns and grabs Stiles by the front of his hoodie before Stiles crashes to the ground, and glares.
Stiles is pretty sure it’s Derek’s “make a single noise and I’ll end you” glare, so he does his best not to squeak or shuffle his feet or topple over again when Derek releases his hoodie. Derek drags him to what is apparently a more stealthy section of underbrush, shoves Stiles down behind a tree, then crouches next to him, peering through the lower branches of a bush at… something.
Stiles leans his back against the tree and wonders if pulling out his phone is a no-no. He figures it probably is, and then suddenly realizes that he can hear something out in the forest.
It’s not an animal. It’s definitely a voice saying something. No, chanting something. Stiles stares at Derek, eyes wide. He’s seen enough SyFy movies that he’s got a handle on what he’s hearing here. He taps Derek on the shoulder, and mouths, “Witch?”
Derek nods grimly.
Stiles twists a little to try to peer around the tree. It’s not a full moon – he’d be crazy to be wandering the woods with a werewolf if it were – but pretty much every reference to witches he’s found in his search for ancient werewolf lore included the phrase ‘dance naked in the moonlight.” It’s a half-moon, so there’s totally some moonlight out there just begging to be danced in.
There’s someone out there in the woods, though it’s too dark and far away to tell whether they’re naked or not. All he can make out is a silhouette. The chanting is still going on in a low, steady drone that Stiles is pretty sure is the witchy equivalent to elevator music. There doesn’t seem to be much magic going on, but beside him, Derek is extremely still – Stiles can’t even hear his breath – and his crouch is looking more and more predatory by the second.
All Stiles wanted to do tonight was to write an English report and maybe watch some youtube videos of puppies, and yet here he is in the forest with a werewolf and a witch.
Derek motions for Stiles to stay where he's at, and then he disappears off in the direction of the witch.
Stiles tries to mentally run through everything he knows about witches, but most of it came from stuff like Sabrina the Teenage Witch or movies about naughty witches and he’s pretty sure that none of the pointy-hat stuff is accurate. At least, he can’t see any pointy hats from his vantage point of behind a tree. There was the stuff about naked dancing, and witches worshipping the devil, and…
Wait, what had Derek said in the Jeep? Something about being swayed.
Suddenly Stiles remembers why witches had been mentioned on websites about the history of lycanthropy, and he peers around the tree, practically hugging it as he leans around and tries to catch sight of Derek.
There’s fire where the witch is now, and he can see her well enough to tell that she’s both clothed and in the middle of some sort of ritual or spell or incantation or whatever the hell witches called their weird-ass midnight activities. He can’t, however, see Derek, which spoke well of Derek’s abilities as a creature of stealth, but is completely fucking annoying when Stiles is trying to save his life.
“Derek!” he hisses. “Derek!”
“Oh god,” Stiles mutters, and slides out from behind the tree. He’s moving closer to the witch and risking being seen with every movement, which feels monumentally stupid even to someone with no previous experience with witches, but he has to stop Derek from doing something dangerous.
“Derek!” he stage whispers, which is as loud as he’s willing to get. He’s close enough now to see that the witch is a hot girl, roughly college-age, and there is a motherfucking ring of fire around her. She’s on her knees, eyes closed, arms raised up towards the night sky, and Stiles hopes that luck is on his side for the first time ever as he darts from tree to tree.
Derek has to have heard him – Stiles is not stealthy – so he has to know something’s up. And he was raised in a family of werewolves. Probably Stiles doesn’t have any knowledge that would be new or helpful.
But then there’s the fact that Derek went closer to the witch even after seeing that it was a witch, which is stunningly ill-advised, and Stiles still doesn’t know why he was out here looking for someone in the first place. Really, this whole evening is shaping up to be the sort of disaster that Stiles would expect from an outing with Scott, not from a professional supernatural creature like Derek.
He’s about to chance going back to his original hiding-tree, which seems stunningly safe after getting this close to a witch doing spells in a circle of fire, when Derek is suddenly there, in his space, shoving him against a tree and pressing a finger against his lips.
Like Stiles really thought this was the time for a loud conversation.
He nods, but then Derek’s eyes glow red, and his head jerks up in an alarmingly animalistic way. Derek stares open-mouthed at the witch, her circle’s fire reflecting in his eyes, and then suddenly Stiles is being tugged out into the open.
“There’s the puppy dog,” the witch says. “And he brought a chew toy, too.”
Stiles really wants to tell the witch exactly how lame that line was, but she’s doing magic and Stiles isn’t quite that blasé about the supernatural yet. He waits on Derek to snarl or something.
But Derek just stands there, head cocked, watching the witch with his glowing wolf’s eyes. There’s something off about his stance. Something about the set of his shoulders, the placement of his feet… It’s all slightly wrong, somehow. And then Derek starts to move towards the witch.
His movements are jerky and slow, like he’s fighting against them, and the hand that’s gripping Stiles’ hoodie starts to twist and grow into claws. Stiles tries to pull away, hoping the material will rip and release him, but he has no such luck.
Derek is being controlled, and Stiles is caught along with him.
He really, really wishes he’d gone for the zippered hoodie as he tries to squirm out of his sweatshirt-prison, but he just gets tangled up and has to stumble along desperately after Derek, who walks straight up to the witch’s circle.
The flames are bright and hot, and Derek’s claws graze against his arm as he gets a better grip on Stiles’ sleeve.
“Good boy,” the witch says. Stiles thinks again of the phrase he read that sent him after Derek – animal to call. Derek is an alpha werewolf that Stiles has personally seen force other werewolves – predators – to cower, yet the witch is commanding him around like a puppet.
The thought of what she could make him do terrifies Stiles.
“What do you want?” Derek grinds out, and Stiles is impressed that he’s actually managing independent thought. The stuff he read seemed to imply that a witch calling an animal with her power exerted complete control.
“I have need of muscle,” the witch says lazily. She’s dressed like she’s about to go to a goth-themed frat party, and Stiles would laugh if he wasn’t seeing evidence of how scary-powerful she was. The flames leap higher; he wants to step back but Derek still has a vice grip on his arm.
“You’re not welcome to mine,” Derek replies. He’s standing shock-still, and Stiles thinks he’s fighting against the witch’s unseen control with everything he has. His grip on Stiles’ arm shifts slightly, and his claws sink into Stiles’ flesh.
It’s all Stiles can do to stay upright and not scream; it’s a sharper, brighter pain than anything he’s ever experienced. Derek isn’t moving. His claws are still embedded deep in Stiles’ arm, and Stiles blinks rapidly to try to clear the bright dots that are dancing in his vision.
“I think you’re mine.” The witch is smiling at Derek, completely ignoring Stiles, and then she starts to chant again in the strange language from earlier. Stiles tries to focus on that, to keep himself from embarrassing himself by passing out, and he thinks the language is Latin. It’s oddly formal.
Just like the way she’s moving around the interior of her flaming circle, he realizes. It reminds him of a Catholic church service he’d gone to years before, where everyone else in attendance knew the rituals of the service by heart and Stiles had stumblingly followed their lead. The precision of it seems important, like if they were somehow interrupted…
Derek’s jaw is tensed so hard that his pulse is practically visible, and Stiles has no clue what the witch is wanting to use him for, but everything about the fire and incantations and the fact that she wants muscle seems to scream that it’s for something really bad. So he has to figure out some way to break the ritual.
He can feel his blood running down his arm, dripping to the ground, and he tries to force himself to think. Derek starts growling, quietly at first, but as the spell seems to thicken the air around them, his teeth elongate and his eyes gleam even brighter, and the growls take on a far more menacing edge.
He still doesn’t let go of Stiles’ arm, and Stiles abruptly realizes that he’s being used as a lifesaver. Derek is trying desperately to keep his own humanity, to the point where he’s literally sinking his claws into a human as a means of holding on. Stiles just wishes there was another human around willing to sacrifice their arm to the cause.
The witch is grinning now, finishing up what Stiles assumes is the last few lines of the gobbledy-gook that she’s been spewing, and suddenly an idea flashes in his mind. Break the circle.
The circle is made of fire, so Stiles isn’t going to leap through it or anything, but he starts to kick the dirt at his feet onto it, hoping to somehow douse a small part of the flames and break the spell that the witch is spinning. With any luck, it will also break the connection the witch has to the hair-raising amount of sheer power that Stiles can feel all around them.
He kicks and kicks and finally manages to douse out a small section of the flames. The rest of the circle flickers and then fades into nothing.
Stiles looks up, triumphant, but the witch is smiling and silent.
She finished the spell.
Stiles looks at Derek, whose jaw is still clenched and who is holding himself frighteningly still. Stiles can’t even see the normal rise and fall of his chest, despite how close they’re standing, and he doesn’t even bother trying to pull his arm out of Derek’s grip.
The witch says, “Come to me,” like that’s some startlingly original command, and Stiles is about to call her out on it when he realizes that Derek isn’t moving.
The witch frowns. “Come!” she commands, like she’s talking to a disobedient puppy.
The pain in Stiles’ arm suddenly sharpens, then begins to slowly decrease. He looks down and realizes that Derek’s claws are no longer embedded in his flesh, but rather, he’s dragged them out leaving long, wicked gashes in his wake.
Derek himself is taking a few slow, menacing steps towards the witch.
The witch beams. “Kill the spare,” she says airily, gesturing towards Stiles.
“No way,” Stiles can’t help but say. “You don’t get to quote fucking Voldemort! You are not even approaching his league, sister. You aren’t even Death Eater fodder.”
And then Derek slashes his claws across her throat, and she dies with a faint gurgle.
“Holy shit,” Stiles gasps, taking a few steps backward. “That’s… I mean… She didn’t even have time for a comeback!”
Derek turns, his eyes still glowing that startling red shade even as his claws and fangs are slowly returning to human. “It didn’t work.”
“But she finished the spell,” Stiles says. All that power had to go somewhere, but she’d obviously failed at binding Derek’s will to her own.
Derek shrugs. “You must have broken the circle in time.” He looks down at the witch’s body. “I don’t think she was a very good witch.”
“But she pulled you to her,” Stiles says numbly, then looks down. The blood dripping down his arm has formed a muddy puddle beside his feet. “Oh my god, I’m bleeding on a crime scene. My dad is going to kill me. Or arrest me. Something.”
Derek’s eyes turn human in an instant. “What did she do to you?”
“She? Mister, this was your doing,” Stiles says, waving his arm around before realizing that was the exact wrong thing to do. “Oww,” he manages as he half-falls back down into the dirt, gripping his arm. “So that’s what hurting like the dickens feels like.”
Derek leaves the corpse and crouches by Stiles’ side. He pushes the bloody, tattered sleeve of Stiles’ hoodie up, ignoring Stiles’ extremely dignified whimper of pain, and then sniffs the deep, freely bleeding gouge marks on Stiles’ arm.
“Do you have any wolfsbane?” he asks. He sniffs the wound again, then rips off the hoodie’s sleeve and wraps it tightly around it, which Stiles hopes will staunch the bleeding somewhat.
“Right here in my pocket,” Stiles says. “No. Why the hell would I carry wolfsbane around? My best friend is a werewolf, and I don’t actively hate him.”
Derek lets out a frustrated breath through his nose. “I have some stashed away. We should treat this.”
Stiles isn’t entirely sure why his boo-boo is more important than the newly created corpse lying in the dirt a few feet away. “Um, isn’t there a murder scene to clean up first?”
Derek raises an eyebrow. “I have a pack.”
“You trust them to clean up a murder scene? One that has my blood all over it?” Stiles asks, but then he remembers what Isaac’s after school job was. “Oh wait. Dude, you really put some thought into it, biting a gravedigger. Go you, planning ahead for homicide. That’s not creepy at all.”
Derek gives one of his five-yard stares and then roughly helps Stiles to his feet. “Come on. Wolfsbane. Now.”
Stiles tries really hard to not notice that Derek has left smears of the witch’s blood on Stiles’ hoodie. They blend in with Stiles’ own blood, really. It’s not at all weird or unusual or creepy as hell to have dead witch blood on his outfit.
Stiles realizes that he’s totally freaking out. Derek is pulling him along back through the woods to his Jeep, and Stiles has a dead girl’s blood on his hoodie and Derek has a dead girl’s blood on his hands from where he killed her and how had Derek known that there was even going to be a witch out in the woods tonight and…
Stiles did not sign up for this shit. “If I get arrested for murder, I’m taking you down with me,” he mumbles darkly.
“Been there,” Derek replies, ducking under a low-hanging branch that Stiles just barely manages to dodge.
“Was that a joke? Oh my god, you’re joking,” Stiles says. “I’m pretty sure that means that the earth is going to start rotating backwards and we’re all going to go hurtling out into space. Or else Superman logic will kick in and we’ll go backwards in time and I can avoid this whole mess by never following you into the dark woods in the middle of the night, because I clearly should have known better than that --“
“Maybe you could be louder,” Derek suggests. “Just in case the witch had some accomplices that are going to investigate when they realize the spell went belly-up.”
That is… Crap, that’s a really stellar reason to shut up. Stiles tries to hold in all the thoughts that are tumbling through his head, all the ones about how much his arm freaking hurts and also hey, did you have to murder that girl back there, and why didn’t her spell work when Stiles is certain that she finished it before the circle broke.
Then the witch’s final words, Kill the spare, echo through Stiles’ head, and he has to choke back a hysterical giggle. He stumbles a bit, and Derek’s suddenly there beside him, supporting him with an arm around his shoulders, hissing, “Come on already,” and keeping up the pace.
Stiles feels more steady, probably because of how he’s pretty sure Derek is made of stone or something, his arms are ridiculously strong, and with Derek’s assistance they make it back to the Jeep far more quickly than it took them to get out to the witch’s circle in the first place.
Derek takes one look at Stiles, and then starts rifling through Stiles’ pockets.
“What are you—hey, bad touch!” Stiles hisses as Derek digs through his pants pockets. “It’s bad enough that you clawed the crap out of my arm, do you have to violate me too?”
Derek demonstrated his best bitch glare as he pulls out the keys and dangles them in front of Stiles’ face. “You are in no condition to drive.”
Stiles really isn’t. Still, though… “You’re going to get murder-blood all over my car.”
“I’ll clean it up.”
“And you kind of were just under the spell of a wicked witch. Does that count as under the influence?”
“Get in the fucking car, Stiles.” Derek opens the passenger’s side door and shoves Stiles inside. Stiles sprawls across the passenger seat, of course landing on his wounded arm, and the sharp stab of pain seems to shoot through his entire body. Derek opens the driver’s side door and peers in at Stiles. “Are you dying?”
“I hope not?” Stiles answers unsteadily. “Jesus, what did you do to my arm?”
“I’m not sure,” Derek replies. “I’m still… there is a lot about being an alpha that doesn’t come instinctively.”
Stiles had been a lot happier before he knew that particular nugget of truth. “So the wolfsbane…”
“Is something I’m hoping will negate the effects of whatever I did to you.” Derek eyes Stiles’ arm. The makeshift bandage is soaked through with blood, and Stiles is doing his very best to pretend like that isn’t extremely worrisome.
Derek starts the Jeep, and Stiles holds on for dear life as they’re suddenly careening down the road. “Okay, Mr. Drives A Fancy-Pants Sports Car, there’s only so much that my transmission can handle. Also, we’re covered in blood. That’s kind of the textbook example of a time when you obey the rules of the road because we cannot get pulled over right now.”
Derek eases off the gas the tiniest amount possible, and Stiles counts that as a win. He closes his eyes and tries to concentrate on anything other than his arm, murder, witchcraft or Derek’s driving. Shockingly, despite the fact that none of those topics were in Stiles’ top hundred things to think about four hours ago, suddenly they’re literally the only things he can think of right now.
He’s reduced to trying to remember what pages he was supposed to read for History when the Jeep jerks to a stop.
“Wait here,” Derek says, swinging open the door of the Jeep. “I’ll go get the wolfsbane.”
Stiles nods. He’s feeling strangely woozy as Derek steps out of the Jeep, and as Derek strides across the parking lot, the pain in his arm intensifies. He leans his head back against the seat and takes a few breaths, but it doesn’t do anything to help. If anything, it gets worse. He stares out through the windshield at Derek, who is standing still partway across the parking lot.
“Come on,” he impatiently says aloud, hoping that Derek is using his super-hearing.
Derek takes a few more steps, and then doubles over.
Stiles immediately scans the area for hunters, assuming Derek has been shot, which… is probably a worrying first assumption. He doesn’t see anyone, though Derek falls to his knees.
The pain is no longer centered in his arm, but is radiating through his whole body. He thinks that he might double over, too, if he wasn’t already curled up in the seat.
Then he realizes that Derek isn’t even trying to move, is just writhing slowly on the ground, and…
And he hadn’t been hurt at all back in the woods, and it doesn’t make sense that a cut on Stiles’ arm would intensify like this. Stiles stares at the claw marks on his arm. What if…
What if he's somehow feeling Derek’s pain? Some sort of residue from the spell?
What if the spell had worked?
Stiles leans forward and manages to open the door, falling out of the Jeep onto the pavement with a painful thud. He slowly manages to get to his feet, and, stumbling and wavering, makes his way slowly across the parking lot to Derek.
The closer he gets, the easier it becomes, and by the time he's within an arm’s reach of Derek, Derek himself has stopped writhing and is laying on his back, staring up at the half-moon like it holds the secrets of the universe. Which, maybe for werewolves it does.
“The spell worked, didn’t it?” Stiles asks.
“I think so,” Derek says. He doesn’t move.
“What… what did it do?” Stiles doesn’t really want to know the answer.
“I’m not tied to the witch,” Derek says slowly.
“Good thing, especially if death’s catching,” Stiles interjects.
Derek doesn’t even bother to glare. He sighs. “I think I’m tied to you.”
That… That isn’t good news at all. “Roll over.”
Derek doesn’t look impressed.
Stiles tries again. “Sit. Stay. Fetch.”
Derek doesn’t move. “Did you hit your head?”
“I just disproved your theory,” Stiles explains. “When the witch bossed you around like a puppy dog, you practically begged for treats. I just got a glare o’doom, ergo, no spells.”
Derek doesn’t look convinced. “Then do me a favor and go get the wolfsbane. It’s in the glove compartment of my car.”
“That seems like a really secure place to hide something that’s lethal to you,” Stiles can’t help but say, and then starts stumbling towards the creepy abandoned building that Derek is currently using as both garage and house. He’s fine for the first few steps, then a few more, and then there’s a twinging pain in his gut. Now that he’s paying attention, it’s easy to realize it’s completely separate from the pain in his arm.
He takes a few more steps. It gets worse, and by the time he’s twenty feet away from Derek, the pain is severe enough that he wants to just hunch over and never move again.
He turns and goes back to where Derek is still staring at the stars, though with a pained expression on his face.
“Okay,” Stiles says. “It appears that we have a problem.”
“So how do we undo it?” Stiles asks. “I mean, there has to be a safe word or something, right? Something to call off the spell?”
“I don’t know, let’s ask the witch,” Derek snaps.
“Oh shit,” Stiles says. “Do you think that only the witch herself could take it off? Because that’s pretty much the worst thing that could happen to us. Ever.”
“I don’t actually know any witches, and that one’s not going to be talking anytime soon,” Derek says. Stiles suddenly understands why he’s just laying on the concrete like a depressed log.
Stiles plops down beside him, and wraps his good arm around his knees. “I don’t want to be your magical conjoined twin.”
“Trust me, you’re not my first choice either,” Derek replies.
“You’re going to get annoyed and totally kill me,” Stiles says morosely.
“It’s probable,” Derek says, and Stiles can’t really tell if he’s joking or not. His face kind of stays the same no matter what mood he’s in.
“Have you ever thought about becoming a guard for Buckingham Palace?” Stiles asks.
Derek actually looks puzzled. “What does that have to do with anything?”
“Nothing,” Stiles acknowledges. “I’m just trying really hard to not think about the horrible magical thing that happened to us tonight. Also, I’m a little woozy. Blood loss.” He waves his arm, and a few droplets of blood splatter off onto the concrete.
That seems to shake Derek out of his post-curse depression. He stands up and helps pull Stiles to his feet, keeping a hand firmly on Stiles’ shoulder as he leads them into his quote-unquote home.
“Why do you even have wolfsbane?” Stiles asks, trying to get his mind of the fact that he’s stuck with Derek Hale at his side for the foreseeable future.
Stiles admires Derek’s dedication to brevity. Really, he does. Except for how it makes weaseling important information out of him an extremely trying affair. “Why does my arm need wolfsbane? You never gave Jackson wolfsbane after you clawed his neck up.”
“Did Jackson’s neck ever do that?” Derek asks, nodding towards Stiles’ arm, which is bloody and puffy and Stiles is pretty sure looks like it’s starting to get infected.
“Um,” Stiles says, “Why is it doing that?”
Derek shakes his head. “No fucking clue. I’m not really the sort of alpha that tries to draw people under my control—“
“Please tell me I’m not going to become your Renfield,” Stiles blurts out. “Also, you are exactly that kind of alpha. Or haven’t you met your ragtag team of outcast teens that you decided to bite into superpowerdom?”
Derek’s grip tightens on his shoulder, but thankfully there aren’t claws involved this time. Stiles has had enough with being a werewolf pincushion. “I’m helping them.”
“And it just so happens that they increase your power at the same time. Wait. Is that why you don’t even know what you did to me? Are you power-tripping right this second?” Stiles asks.
Derek pushes open the bay door and doesn’t answer. Stiles stumbles inside, and leans against Derek’s car, maybe smearing a little more blood than necessary on the paint while Derek unlocks it with the key fob and then unlocks the glovebox. He carefully lifts out a manila envelope, and hands it to Stiles.
“It’s in there,” he says.
Stiles fumbles the envelope open with his good hand and then pulls out a baggie of wolfsbane. “You know, you get arrested way too often to not know better than to stick a plant in a baggie like it’s weed.”
Derek doesn’t dignify that with a response.
“Do I just… smear it on?” Stiles asks, holding out his arm for Derek to unknot the makeshift bandage.
Derek pulls the knot apart and nods. “If I’m right, it should stop the bleeding.”
Stiles is pretty skeptical about this whole thing, but he’s also not fond of bleeding out, so he sprinkles the crumbled wolfsbane on the gashes in his arm. He’s pretty good at dealing with medical emergencies, but looking at the way his own flesh is puckered around the gory wounds is kind of making him queasy, so he looks up at the rafters as he rubs the wolfsbane into the wound.
It… it doesn’t hurt like he expects. It’s an odd tingling feeling, kind of like putting aloe on a sunburn. He almost gets a sense of what wolfsbane tastes like, and then… then it stops tingling.
His arm is still injured, but the bleeding’s finally stopped. Derek digs around in his car and comes up with a t-shirt, and Stiles uses it to dab at his arm without letting himself think of who or where the t-shirt came from. There were werewolf claws in this wound; anything else won’t really do any worse damage than that.
His arm seems better, like he’s not going to die of the wound anymore, and he breathes a sigh of thanks.
Derek seems just as relieved, and Stiles wonders briefly whether or not Derek has any friends of his own as Derek leads him further into the wreck he calls home.
Chapter 2: The Crescent Moon
Stiles and Derek try to figure out how to break the spell. They don't succeed.
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?”
“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.
Chapter 3: Cuddle Buddies
His phone is buzzing.
Stiles gropes out with his hand, grabbing for it on his side table, but only manages to knock the phone in the floor. He leans over to find it – his vision is still bleary from sleep, but he’s pretty sure it landed in the dark recesses under his bed – but something vice-like around his waist keeps him from reaching it.
Stiles takes a moment to analyze where he’s at. His room, yes. His bed, yes. And Derek pressed against his back, arm wrapped possessively around his waist and face nuzzled against the back of his neck, yes.
Derek is spooning him.
Derek. Derek Hale. Big spoon.
That’s empirical proof that curses have a side effect of insanity. Stiles is magically bound to a crazy werewolf. This is probably bad.
Only it’s also kind of nice, being cuddled. Stiles is a tactile dude, he knows that he likes contact with people, and this is definitely some A+ contact.
He really doesn’t know what to do. Derek’s asleep, and one of his hands is hot on Stiles’ hip where his t-shirt is rucked up, and his breath is steady against the back of his neck. Stiles doesn’t even know if Derek realizes that he’s cuddling Stiles, and if he doesn’t, does that make Stiles a non-consensual cuddler?
He pokes at Derek’s arm. “Hey.”
Derek holds him tighter and shifts closer, and what do you know, it turns out that Stiles wasn’t the one who should have worried about morning wood. “Mmm?”
“Um,” Stiles says. “Derek? You’re spooning me.”
“Mmm,” Derek mumbles again, shifting in a way that probably should be under the bad touch umbrella but that Stiles enjoys a stupid amount. It takes every bit of self control that Stiles possesses to not push himself back against Derek.
“Dude, I’m going to need a heads up if you’re going to hump my leg,” Stiles says instead, voice slightly strangled. Derek’s grip on his hip immediately loosens, and Stiles can actually feel the second when Derek realizes what he’s doing and to whom and pulls back.
Stiles regrets saying anything immediately; he can feel the ghost of Derek’s hand on his hip and he fights the urge to re-ignite the cuddling. Then his face burns red when he realizes that Derek probably knows how much he enjoyed the whole sleep-cuddle thing.
“Sorry,” Derek says, sounding embarrassed. Stiles isn’t quite in a place yet where he can look at Derek, especially without his face possibly catching on fire from how red he is, and so he distracts himself by digging under the bed for his lost phone.
All he manages to do is to fall out of bed in a tangle of covers and mortification. He tries to sit up and only manages to hit his head on the corner of his side table, but dammit, he found his phone. He holds it up triumphantly. “Found it!”
“Congrats,” Derek says. Stiles finally looks at him, and he looks… super awkward. All of his confidence seems gone, and he’s kind of perched on his side of the bed, twisting a pillow in his hands. Stiles absolutely does not check the status of his boner, because that would be a creepy and invasive thing to do, no matter what part of Stiles that boner accidentally touched this morning. Stiles is not a creep.
Okay, Stiles usually isn’t a creep.
“Dude,” Stiles says, “you aren’t freaking out, are you?”
“No,” Derek says unconvincingly.
“Because sleep-snuggling is something that happens,” Stiles reassures him. “One time I made out with Scott’s shoulder, and he wouldn’t let me back in his house for a week.”
“That’s disgusting,” Derek says, the tension slowly leaving his shoulders. Then, after a pause: “A whole week? How did he survive?”
“Right? I’m pretty sure he got lost on the way to school at least twice,” Stiles says happily, because he loves Scott and finds his dumbassery super endearing. It’s pretty much the basis of their friendship, from that time in elementary school when Stiles saved Scott from eating rubber cement and introduced him to covering his fingerprints with Elmer’s instead.
Stiles still sometimes think that if they had followed up on that desire to become master thieves, their lives would be a lot safer and filled with far less violent crime.
Derek doesn’t seem inclined to say anything else, so Stiles decides to just pretend like it didn’t happen. Except that he has to do one thing first. “Do you need a hug?”
“Do I… what?” Derek says, like no one’s ever offered him a hug before. That is patently untrue, Stiles assumes, because no one who went through school with cheekbones like that could have completely avoided offers for hugs.
“A hug,” Stiles says. “A manly embrace of bro-ness, if you prefer. Your subconscious mind obviously wants some affection, dude, is all I’m saying, and I’m willing to hug it out with you, since we’re obviously on that level now.”
“No,” Derek says. “Definitely not.”
“Your loss,” Stiles shrugs. “I happen to be an awesome hugger.”
Derek shakes his head, like he’s not sure when he lost control of the situation. Stiles, for one, is just grateful that his own awkwardness last night has clearly been forgotten in light of Derek’s own bedsharing fail this morning.
A tiny part of Stiles is completely pissed at himself for ruining it before he found out how far it could have gone, though. It’s not that he’s into Derek or wants this whole situation to be more uncomfortable than it already is, it’s just that Stiles is really fucking tired of being a virgin and also Derek, he can admit, is crazy hot.
But he absolutely is not going to have any more thoughts about him, because this situation is bad enough.
Stiles remembers that he’s still holding his phone, sitting on the floor in a tangle of blankets, and feels dumb as he finally looks at the text.
“Scott says that Allison’s freaking out,” Stiles tells Derek. “Because her family is apparently on some sort of literal witch hunt.”
“Which witches?” Derek asks, like Scott would have given names and addresses even if he knew which witches were being hunted.
Stiles shrugs and calls Scott.
“Where have you been?” Scott hisses. “This is terrible! Allison’s family is going to kill some innocent girl!”
Stiles does his best not to feel guilty, and he sees Derek shift uncomfortably. “Do we know it’s an innocent girl? I mean, what if it’s a bad witch?”
“Are there bad witches?” Scott asks. “Because Allison’s been reading the beastiary and she’s pretty convinced that it’s just a normal girl who happens to be able to levitate some pencils or something who is about to get whacked by professional hunters.”
“Have you been watching the Sopranos again?” Stiles asks, because really, who uses ‘whacked’ in a normal conversation like this?
“That’s not important,” Scott snaps. “A girl could get killed!”
“I think I liked it better when you just worried about Allison and lacrosse,” Stiles says. Scott makes a strangled noise. “Fine, fine. Tell Allison to find out where her parents are going and to see what she can find out about the witch they’re hunting. Then meet us at the usual spot.”
“Us?” Scott asks, but Stiles hangs up. He doesn’t really know how to explain the Derek situation yet.
Though it would have been super entertaining to hear Scott’s sputters if Stiles told him Derek was currently hanging out in his underwear on Stiles’ bed. He considers calling back for that express purpose, but then decides that it probably wouldn’t go over well with Derek himself, who can quite obviously hear everything happening during the phone call.
“I don’t trust this,” Derek says immediately.
“I would be very concerned if you did,” Stiles replies, “given your complete lack of trust in anything.”
“Why would the Argents hunt the witches now?”
“That… is a pretty good question,” Stiles says, “I mean, the only ones the witches have been fucking with is us, and the Argents don’t care about that. There’s something we’re missing here. Something that Allison might know.”
And so, an hour later, Stiles pulled his Jeep up beside Allison’s car at their usual spot in the woods.
Stiles feels the strange twinge in his stomach as he crosses around the jeep to where Derek’s waiting on him, the one that indicates he’s gone too far out of range, and he steps quicker to get closer to Derek. He tugs at the cuffs of the plaid flannel shirt he’s wearing over his t-shirt nervously, even though he knows Scott won’t notice the claw marks.
He and Derek had both agreed that part of the story didn’t need to be shared, even if they told Scott and Allison about the curse. And that was a big if, since Derek didn’t think it was important information to share.
Stiles, on the other hand, wants as many brains as possible working on the curse-breaking. The more time he spends with Derek the more disturbing feelings he has. Then there’s also the fact that he’s a healthy young man and there’s only so long that he can go without having some special alone time, and after last night and this morning there’s no way in hell that he’s bringing that up to Derek.
Especially since Stiles is pretty sure that the memory of Derek’s hand on his bare hip and the feel of Derek pressed up against his back is going to feature prominently in his next private Stiles appreciation hour.
When they arrive, Allison and Scott break apart guiltily. There are leaves in Allison’s hair, and Scott grins goofily until he realizes who’s with Stiles.
Allison breaks the totally not awkward at all silence. “Hi Stiles. And um. Derek?”
Derek crosses his arms and glowers.
“Why are you here?” Scott demands.
Derek doesn’t say anything, which, maybe that’s why he’s always getting arrested for murder and shit. There’s such a thing as too stoic. Stiles makes a mental note to bring it up once they’re alone.
Then he feels weird, because since when is he uncomfortable saying anything in front of Scott? He told Scott about his first wet dream, for christsakes. In detail. Harrowing detail, in fact, just to see Scott squirm.
So he jumps in. “What did your family say about the witch?”
“Not a lot,” Allison says, still giving Derek a wary look. “We have to warn her.”
Derek speaks up. “Why are they hunting witches now?”
“There was a girl who disappeared,” Allison says. “Last night. They think it was this overreaching coven.”
Stiles blinks a few times, and tries really hard not to laugh. Which is inappropriate. So very inappropriate.
“I see,” Derek says, because he’s much better at playing it cool than Stiles is.
“Do covens often overreach?” Stiles asks.
“From what I can tell, it’s not unheard of, but there have been some disturbing rumors about this one. The usual sort of stuff that you hear about in horror movies, really – missing animals, strange injuries, people suddenly gaining power that they shouldn’t have.” Allison doesn’t actually look all that concerned about those things. “But the weird part is that we’re actually hunting them, when usually hunters focus on more lethal prey.”
Stiles is pretty sure that these witches deserve getting hunted down. Well, mostly. Pump them for information first, and then hunt them. The terror he’d felt during the confrontations with both the individual witch and the coven was probably making him biased, though.
“We have to keep them from killing innocent girls,” Scott says.
“So it’s girls now,” Derek says. “Earlier it was just one.”
Scott waves his hand in a you know what I mean sort of way.
“They’re talking about taking down the entire coven,” Allison explains.
“But what if they are bad witches?” Stiles asks.
Allison raises her eyebrow. “The two of you kind of sound like you’re okay with the hunters killing witches.”
Stiles glances at Derek, who shrugs. When he looks back, Scott is glaring at him, like Stiles has ditched him or something. Stiles gives him his best “What?” look.
And then Scott just keeps shooting him these sad hurt looks like Stiles is betraying their friendship, and Stiles really can’t stand for Scott to look at him like that, so he bursts out with, “We met a witch and she cursed us and the coven is totally evil and we should let the Argents kill them, probably.”
“What,” Scott and Allison both say. Derek punches him in the arm.
Stiles rubs it and says, “It’s been a very eventful weekend.”
“What kind of curse?” Scott asks. “Do you have like… extra parts now? Or boils?”
“What kind of extra parts would I have?” Stiles asks. “What kind of curses are you thinking about?”
Scott shuffles his foot and mutters something about Harry Potter. Allison appears to be giving some of her life choices serious reconsideration, and Stiles is just going to assume it’s her current association with werewolves.
She sighs and says, “Tell me what happened.”
Stiles opens his mouth, but Derek speaks before Stiles gets a chance. “She was in my territory. When I went to confront her, she cursed us. Then I stopped her.”
Stiles definitely notices that Derek has omitted Stiles’ extremely vital role in stopping the curse-casting process, and also the fact that witches can fucking control werewolves. Derek really, really doesn’t trust Allison. Or, Stiles supposes, Derek doesn’t trust anything with the name Argent. Which Stiles can’t entirely blame him for, given the fact that Kate Argent murdered his entire family, but it does make things annoying.
“We’re stuck together,” Stiles clarifies, because Derek glossed over the specifics. “Magically. Move more than a few yards apart and there’s excruciating pain, yadda yadda yadda.” He waves his hand around for emphasis.
“That sucks,” Allison says.
“How do you poop?” Scott adds.
Allison rolls her eyes.”Really, sweetie? Really?”
“There have been some awkward moments,” Stiles explains, because really, he’d want to know if he was Scott.
Derek just looks heavenward, like he’s hoping for some sort of lightning bolt to remove him from this situation entirely.
“And why were you there in the first place?” Scott presents a pretty valid question. Stiles looks to Derek.
Derek sighs like he always does just before giving out a nugget of information he doesn’t want to share. “I needed a human there.”
“Because humans are super useful against witches?” Allison asks.
“Says the descendent of a line of perfectly human monster hunters,” Stiles throws in because, hey, he’s totally proven himself useful against all sorts of creepy crawlies. Stiles is the man.
“Because witches can sometimes compel werewolves,” Derek says reluctantly.
No one bothers to ask if Derek knows any other humans; his social group is remarkably tiny. It was either Stiles or Allison, and there was no way that Derek would ask an Argent to come along for backup.
Stiles doesn’t really like thinking about it like that, though. He likes to think that maybe he and Derek have bonded a bit over the last dozen or so times they’ve saved each other’s necks.
At least, that’s the way it rolls in every buddy cop movie he’s ever seen. Apparently the rules are different for creatures of the night.
“Is there a handbook or something you can lend me?” Scott’s got a lost-puppy look on his face, and Stiles knows it means he’s upset that no one tells him anything about his condition. “What if I just ran into a witch or something?”
“The witches usually leave us alone,” Derek says. “The hunters are right.” Somehow he doesn’t choke on the words, though he grimaces when he says them. “This coven is out of control.”
“What happened to the witch who cursed you? Can we just… kidnap her and make her reverse it?” Allison asks.
Derek doesn’t have to answer, just gives her a menacing look.
“Oh great. Well, there goes the idea of telling my parents about this,” Allison sighs. “I can’t tell them that the missing girl was an evil witch who got eaten by a werewolf.”
“I didn’t eat her.” Derek doesn’t sound exactly offended that Allison would accuse him of cannibalism. It’s more indignant, like he purposefully held back and wants credit for it.
“Want a gold star?” Allison asks sweetly.
“So how do we break the curse?” Scott asks. “I mean, if we can’t go around witches.”
“We’ve been reading this spellbook,” Stiles says, “but we haven’t found anything yet. From what I can tell, most curses seem to fade as the witch’s power fades.”
“But the witch is dead,” Allison says.
“Yes, but covens work by pooling their power into one massive well,” Derek explains, throwing out one of the few useful nuggets of info that they picked up from the spellbook.
“Magical time share,” Stiles adds.
“So you think we should take down a coven of dangerous witches,” Allison says, “so that you two can have private time again.”
“Pretty much,” Stiles says cheerfully.
“It’s only been, what, a day?” Scott asks. “Maybe it’ll go away on its own.”
“I thought you were all gung ho to save people,” Stiles says. “Save us!”
“It just doesn’t feel right,” Scott says. “What if the witches aren’t bad?”
“I didn’t say we had to commit mass murder,” Stiles offers. “Just, you know. Terror and intimidation. Strong-arm those witches!” He claps his hands encouragingly.
“Gross,” Allison tells him. “Surely there has to be a reasonable witch.”
“We went to a magic shop yesterday,” Stiles says. “And they attacked us just for showing our faces.”
“That’s pretty much the story of your life, though, right?” Scott asks Derek, because apparently Scott has even less of a survival instinct than Stiles thought.
It’s a good point, though. Derek scowls and says, “They are our enemy.”
“That’s supervillain talk,” Stiles points out. “Though I have to admit, firsthand experience does pretty much support your hypothesis.”
“I don’t like this,” Scott says.
“We need more information,” Derek replies. “Do you have any brilliant ideas about how to get it?”
“Actually…” Allison says. “Maybe. Though it depends… does your pack know about this yet?”
“Not entirely.” Derek is giving Allison a measuring look, like he’s never really seen her before.
“I think we should call them in. If this coven really is dangerous, we should work together, and since you two are stuck together, that means the rest of us are going to have to work together, too.”
“Allison—“ Scott begins, and Stiles is on his side. It’s not that he just doesn’t like Derek’s pack, it’s that he doesn’t like and definitely does not trust Derek’s pack. Erica’s a hot mess, Isaac’s a fucking psycho, and Boyd… well, Boyd doesn’t give in to bartering, and Stiles is pretty sure that sort of strong-mindedness can’t be a good quality in a new werewolf.
He trusts Derek, but Derek’s taste in potential beta werewolves leaves a lot to be desired. After all, he willingly bit Jackson, and seriously, who would want to mystically tie themselves to a douchebag of that caliber?
Though, okay, maybe a lot of Stiles’ feelings about Jackson revolve around the fact that Lydia has feelings about Jackson, and perhaps he’s a bit biased. But really, it’s Lydia, who is brilliant and stunning and…
And who Stiles hasn’t even thought of once in the past few days.
It’s mildly disturbing now that he thinks of it, since Lydia’s been a staple of his thoughts since the third grade. It’s like Derek overwhelmed Stiles so much that he couldn’t think of anyone else.
He physically shakes the thought off, and then realizes that Derek, Scott and Allison are all staring at him.
“What?” It’s not like they’ve never seen him do anything weird before, jeez.
“As I was saying,” Allison says, “If we all work together, we can figure this out.”
And to his surprise, Derek nods. “I agree.”
“But…” Scott begins, then sighs. “Agreed.”
Stiles just nods. “It’s hammer time, ladies and gentleman.”
Leaving with Derek feels more awkward than arriving with Derek, mainly because Stiles knows firsthand that Scott and Allison are going to gossip the whole way home and he wants in on it, dammit, not steering his Jeep towards Derek’s hovel wondering what his friends are saying about him.
Because, really. If it was any else in this situation Stiles would have ten thousand jokes lined up, and he just kind of doubts Scott’s ability to properly mine this golden humor opportunity.
Allison’s probably got it covered, though. That reassures Stiles a little.
When he glances over, Derek looks… nervous. Like he’s going to the dentist, not going to see his pack.
“Dude,” Stiles says. “They aren’t going to bite. Wait. Are they going to bite? I’m really not prepared for some strange werewolf circle-bite.”
“No one’s going to bite you,” Derek says, which isn’t really an answer. But Derek’s the head honcho and surely he can handle his underlings. Stiles will just have confidence that Derek has a fucking clue about how to control his wolves.
“So what’s with the upside-down smile you got going on there?”
For a second Stiles thinks Derek is just going to growl or make one of his many menacing faces at him, but then Derek leans his head against the headrest and says, “You don’t understand. Alphas can’t show weakness to their pack.”
“Um,” Stiles says, “I’m not one to celebrate violence and murder, but how the hell is saying that you killed a witch who cursed you showing weakness?”
“The fact that she cursed me?” Derek glances over at him, and Stiles concentrates very hard on the road. “It’s demeaning.”
“It’s not exactly a frolic in a field of butterflies for me,” Stiles says, “but demeaning is kind of a strong word for it.”
“An alpha must be strong,” Derek insists. “I have to command respect.”
“I always thought respect was one of those earned deals,” Stiles replies.
“I thought you didn’t know anything about werewolves,” Derek snips. Stiles throws his hands up and Derek continues, “Forming a pack is… complicated. There are a lot of ways it can go sour, and I’m trying to keep this together.”
“I’m just saying that those three? Don’t need you to be all grim and scowly in the corner,” Stiles says. “I mean, I know them. Sort of. And confiding in them and bringing them in on something this important to you is just going to instill a greater sense of confidence in you and their self-worth and also will give them a tangible goal, which is something that all my guidance counselors insisted was vital.”
“You think I should be their coach, not their alpha.” Derek sounds skeptical.
“I’m just saying that you catch more flies with honey, you know?” Stiles shrugs. “Boyd at the very least is a reasonable guy. And do you really want a pack that you can’t ease up around? Because that sounds exhausting.”
“They keep me strong,” Derek says. “If any of them go omega, I might not have the strength to take out these witches.”
“See, that’s the beauty of teamwork,” Stiles says, because seriously. “We’ve all got your back. And also, just so you know, you don’t have to force people into helping you.”
Derek raises an eyebrow. “You wanted to let me die when I got shot.”
“I barely knew you.” Stiles waves a hand around airly. “And now we’re cuddle buddies! See how it works?”
“We agreed never to speak of that,” Derek says.
“I never agreed to that,” Stiles says. “I would remember something like that.”
“It was unspoken.” Was Derek teasing him? Surely not.
“Nonverbal contracts aren’t binding,” Stiles replies cheerfully. He pulls into the parking lot of Derek’s terrible living accommodations. “But seriously. You can kick any of their asses without trying. Don’t worry about impressing them. Just get them to help.”
Stiles can now officially put ‘werewolf pep-talker’ on his resume. He’s probably got more werewolf pep talking experience than anyone on the planet. It would be a killer college application essay, really, though it’d only work for liberal arts schools.
Derek sighs and gets out of the Jeep. Stiles scrambles around the Jeep, but still feels the beginning tugs of pain as Derek gets too far ahead of him. He jogs to catch up with Derek, who marches into his lair like he doesn’t have the slightest concern about how this is going to go down.
At least he’s good at posturing. Stiles will totally give him that. He’s practically at Olympic levels of putting up a good front.
Of course, it leaves Stiles racing after him looking like a moron. When they get inside, Derek’s pack is hanging out around a set of stairs, posing in their matching leatherwear like they’re about to make the cover of Alt Press.
Erica gives Stiles the stink-eye, which he manfully ignores. Isaac is inspecting his claws, and when he notices Stiles, he raises them menacingly.
“Are you going to bust out into the Bad Romance dance?” Stiles asks, because that, he’d like to see. Boyd laughs.
Derek glares, like Stiles is supposed to be seen and not heard. Stiles however did not agree to that. He has to at the very least snark at the wolves, because he hopes that snark overpowers the stench of annoyance and fear.
Not that he’s scared of them or anything. He knows perfectly well that he’s standing behind the scariest mofo in the bunch, and that he’s squarely on Derek’s do-not-kill list. He hopes.
It belatedly occurs to him that one solution to the curse would be to remove Stiles from the equation, but Derek has had plenty of opportunities to do so, and the worst he’s done is a little bit of inappropriate snuggling.
Which is not something Stiles is going to think about in the midst of a pack of emotionally disturbed werewolves. At all.
He focuses all of his energy on watching Isaac try to save the menacing claw move without ripping off Gaga, which is far more entertaining than it should be. Even Erica is obviously suppressing laughter, though Derek’s face is stoic as it always is when he’s got his Alpha-pants on.
“That’s enough,” Derek says, glaring Isaac into submission. One look at the kid tells Stiles that Derek is choosing the most wrong possible method of control, but right now that’s not his problem. Later, though, he’s going to bring it up.
“We’re going after some witches,” Derek begins, and Erica’s head snaps up to attention. Boyd and Isaac don’t react, which means – interestingly—that Erica kept the previous morning’s conversation confidential.
“Like as in ding dong, the witch is dead?” Boyd asks.
“One of them is, at least,” Erica slides in with. Isaac’s eyes widen with understanding.
“I thought we went after killers,” Boyd says. “I’m not comfortable with us becoming killers.”
“There are worse things,” Isaac offers.
“No,” Derek speaks up, “there isn’t. We aren’t indiscriminate killers.”
“Really?” Isaac asks. “Because that girl we buried seemed to have been killed pretty indiscriminately.”
“Self defense,” Stiles offers up. “She wasn’t some innocent nature lover.”
“And that’s where the problem lies,” Derek says. “There was a curse. In the process of finding out how to end it, we stumbled into the sights of a coven.”
“What the fuck does that even mean?” Erica asks.
Stiles is just impressed that somehow Derek can be cagey even when his sole goal is to share information.
“Why is the most annoying kid in school here, anyway?” Boyd asks, which is pretty rich, considering that Stiles tried his best to save him from having to deal with all this supernatural bullshit. He makes a face at Boyd that he hopes represents this line of thought.
“That’s the curse,” Derek says, and it’s really adorable that he’s suddenly a comedian. Really. Stiles turns his disapproving face on him. “Some sort of proximity spell tying us together. The witch attacked like she had been expecting a werewolf, and when we went to find another witch to remove the spell, the coven attacked.”
“So there’s a war on between witches and werewolves?” Isaac sounds eager.
“Not a war,” Derek immediately says. “This feels personal.”
Stiles jerks to attention. The thought hadn’t crossed his mind; he’s become so accustomed to the Argents’ agenda against all werewolves and the more random-seeming murders of Perer Hale and the kanima that he hadn’t thought about why the witch had attacked.
Or why the coven had attacked. The witch’s body hadn’t been found – his dad was still off leading the search party, proving that one thing Isaac was in fact good at was disposing bodies – and they were just working off the assumption that she was dead from some sort of magical backlash, but Stiles didn’t think that intangible forces would explain the details to the coven.
How had they known it was a werewolf?
Stiles is pretty sure that he should have thought of these things before. He’s supposed to be the clever one. He’s one hundred percent the Hermione in the Scott-Allison-Stiles trifecta of awesome. It’s like he’s unable to think properly when Derek’s around. Probably because he’s focusing too much on survival. And maybe fear, but he’s pretty sure he’s getting over that.
Derek hasn’t slammed him into any walls yet, at least. Stiles must have gained a few brownie points somewhere.
He tunes back in to what Derek is saying to the pack, which seems to be a rundown on the dangers that witches pose for werewolves. Most of them involve ways that witches can remove free will from individual wolves and transform them into mindless killing machines, which… seems like a big fucking loophole for people to live with.
“Isn’t there any way you can like, keep witches from mindfucking you?” Stiles asks. He’s slouching against an abandoned train car and trying his best to not look as completely bored out of his skull as he really is. It’s a losing battle. “Because it occurs to me that you lot are a pretty big liability if they decide to, you know, turn you into killer muppets.”
Derek shakes his head. “I’ve heard that witches are susceptible to iron, but that’s not something that we can use to keep them out of our heads.”
“So if witches can turn us into their personal attack dogs,” Erica wonders, “why did you seek one out in the first place?”
“She was on my territory,” Derek says. And… oh great.
“Seriously?” Stiles says. “That’s it?”
Derek doesn’t even look abashed. He looks like it’s a perfectly reasonable reason to seek out someone who could destroy him. Stiles is assuming that this is the alpha bullshit rearing its ugly head.
Especially since the other wolves just nod, like it’s perfectly rational.
Stiles shakes his head at them all, but refrains from telling them what he actually thinks. He’s outnumbered, after all. “So why was she on your territory?”
“That’s what we have to find out,” Derek says. “Erica, I want you and Boyd to go sniffing around in the woods. Figure out where the witch came from, how long she’s been crossing over into our territory.”
“Are territory boundaries something that witches know about?” Stiles asks, because he’s known about this werewolf nonsense for months and this is the first that he’s heard about there being actual drawn lines in the sand.
Though, the first time he and Scott ran into Derek in the woods, he did say something about trespassing.
Maybe it meant more than he thought it did, at the time.
Derek nods. “This has been Hale land for generations. They know.”
“What if this is something left over from Peter?” Stiles asks, because really, Peter managed to fuck a lot of things up for someone who was meant to be in a coma. Maybe he cut some deals with witches, too.
“Doubtful,” Derek says, cutting off that line of thought. Stiles thinks he probably just doesn’t want for more bad things to fall on the head of a member of his family. He seems pretty sensitive to that. Understandably.
Boyd speaks up. “This isn’t going to turn into some sort of supernatural turf war, is it? Because I didn’t sign up for that shit.”
Derek glares. “You signed up for power, and with power comes responsibility. You should know that.”
“Maybe he isn’t a big Spiderman fan?” Stiles suggests, but just got glares from both Derek and Boyd.
“What do you want me to do?” Isaac asks, looking as cagey as ever. Stiles is pretty sure that he practices those weird slumping poses in the mirror for maximum creep-factor.
“Stay away from the investigation,” Derek says immediately. “You just got out of trouble. You don’t need to be seen creeping around another murder investigation.”
None of the pack bring up the fact that Derek’s been doing exactly that after, just like Isaac, being arrested for the murder of a family member. Stiles assumes this means that Derek has neglected to tell them anything about his history.
Though surely they heard about it. It’s not like Beacon Hills is a booming metropolis filled with daily murders. Well, at least, it didn’t used to be.
Stiles will at least give Derek credit for trying to keep people out of trouble, instead of contributing too much to the town’s murder count.
“So what, I just sit around and twiddle my thumbs?” Isaac demands.
“I was thinking more that you could wander around town,” Derek says. “Be seen.”
“Be bait?” Isaac says hungrily.
“That’s right,” Derek smiles. “See if you can lure any witches out.” He surveys his pack. “Keep me updated. Let me know the second you learn anything.”
“Aren’t we sending anyone to the witches?” Erica asks. “It seems like we need to be more proactive.”
“We are,” Derek says. “Just not a wolf.”
“You want me to what?” Jackson asks. He raises an eyebrow.
Stiles is really going to practice that move in the mirror, because who knows when he’s going to need to look like a total douchebag?
“Go to a bookstore,” Derek says calmly.
“That’s one of the places with lots and lots of books inside that you can buy,” Stiles says.”Not to be confused with a library.”
“I know what a bookstore is, dickbag,” Jackson snaps. “Why do you want me to go to one?”
“To talk to girls,” Stiles says. “You do know how to do that without pissing them off, right?”
“Unlike you, yes,” Jackson replies.
Derek sighs. “This is important.”
“Oh, so suddenly you need me.” Jackson tightens his jaw. “Well, I don’t need you. Go fuck yourselves.”
“I understand that you have a lot of anger about how things went down.” Derek begins.
“That’s understating it a bit,” Jackson snaps. “For starters, you pinned me down and fed me poison.”
“To be fair, it was your own poison,” Stiles offers. “And you aren’t exactly Mr. Innocent yourself. But can you just hear us out?”
“Why are you two even working together anyway?” Jackson asks. “Isn’t all this stuff a little out of your league?”
“Probably,” Stiles agrees. “Especially the witch thing. It turns out magic is way creepier than claws.”
“Witch thing,” Jackson repeats.
“We want you to get some info from some witches,” Derek clarifies.
“Why me?” Jackson looks almost complimented, now that he knows that he’s being asked to go on an actual mission.
“They can sense werewolves,” Derek says. “And… I’m curious. If you can sense magic, you’d be an asset.”
“Wait, so you’re saying that werewolves are too chickenshit to go after some chicks who dance in the moonlight,” Jackson says. “And that you need someone awesome, meaning me, to go in and save your asses.”
Derek looks like he just bit a lemon. Stiles figures it’s up to him to save this. “Exactly.”
Derek glares, but Stiles is pretty much immune to that at this point, since he’s been getting 24/7 glares for the past few days. He has a feeling this is going to be useful in the future. Maybe soon he’ll even stop flinching when Derek fakes him out.
Who the hell is he kidding? It’ll take a lot more than prolonged exposure to not flinch at that.
Jackson shrugs. “I’m in. Are the girls cute?”
“Some of them,” Stiles says. “Get your scaly ass over there.”
“So what are we doing now?” Stiles asks. “Like, what does the general do while the troops are all out trooping?”
“This isn’t going to work,” Derek’s driving for once, and they’re parked off an access road to the woods. Stiles thinks that if anyone drives up they’ll assume hanky-panky is going on, since there’s no valid reason for anyone to be hanging out in a car here. He really hopes his dad doesn’t drive by and investigate.
Derek’s got his hands loosely clasped on top of the steering wheel. He looks like someone who has given up, which is kind of the opposite of how Stiles feels right now.
“You mean gathering information and taking out the witches?” Stiles asks. “Because that pretty much has to work if we ever want to be independent again. Which I do. A lot.”
“It’s going to fall apart.” Derek keeps staring straight ahead. “I mean, we’re relying on a coven of witches not realizing what Jackson is for our main source of information. And that’s not even bringing in the Argents and how they’re going to kill everyone before we get an answer.”
“You mean your plan isn’t to kill everyone?” Stiles is super relieved, but startled. “The way you’re talking I thought…”
“I’m not a killer,” Derek says. “Not like that. I’m not Peter.”
“Sometimes you get a little…” Stiles trails off, and then says, “Like with Lydia.”
Something terribly sad crosses Derek’s eyes, and Stiles doesn’t understand it at all. “I didn’t hurt Lydia.”
“That’s not the point I was making,” Stiles says. “You sent wolves out to kill her. I understand why, just… my point is that sometimes you get hasty. And overreach a bit. In the name of justice. You’re like the goddamn Batman. The intent is good, the execution leaves a little to be desired.”
“The goddamn Batman,” Derek repeats, staring at Stiles like he’s an alien.
“Don’t even front,” Stiles tells him sternly. “I’ve been in your room, mister. I saw that longbox hiding under a pile of interchangeable leather jackets. You know exactly what I’m talking about.”
Then Derek does something completely unexpected. He bursts out into laughter. “Does that make you Robin?”
“I guess,” Stiles says, then adds, with feeling, “Dammit! I’m never going to get to be Batman. Scott won’t let me, and in this dynamic duo right here I’m obviously not Batman. I’m going to find my own sidekick one day, and then the world had best watch out.”
“Noted.” Derek’s still smiling. “But you believe me, right?”
It sounds like it’s the most important thing in the world, that Stiles believes him. He takes a deep breath, and actually looks at Derek for the first time all day. His shoulders are hunched, and somehow Stiles has grown accustomed to his sheer physical presence – he’s not actually that much taller than Stiles, he knows, but he fills up so much more space, both muscle-wise and just… his aura of power.
Stiles thinks that must be what being an Alpha is, though Derek had the same presence before he killed his uncle. And furthermore…
It’s not like with Peter Hale. Derek’s not insane, he’s not driven by a crazed need for revenge. Stiles isn’t really sure what drives him, now that he knows what happened to his sister.
His pack, maybe. Probably. It’s the only thing he’s worked at.
And Stiles realizes, just like that, that he does trust Derek. He’s trusting him with his life, and he’s trusting him with his future, considering the complete lack of one he’d have if he was permanently bound to someone else.
“I believe you,” he says.
Derek has a strange, quiet look on his face. Something passes through his eyes that Stiles can’t put a name to, something important, he thinks. And then he says quietly, “Thank you.”
Stiles licks his lips nervously, then says, “No problem, buckaroo,” because that’s just who he is. A moment ruiner.
Derek just shakes his head fondly and says, “Come on. I have a plan.”
Stiles believes in Derek, sure, but that doesn’t make the words any less alarming. “Yippie?”
Derek puts the car into gear, and Stiles is just along for the ride.
“Dude,” Stiles hisses.”This is the exact wrong place for us to be.”
Derek puts the Camaro in park, but leaves the engine idling. “I’m not going inside.”
“Just being here is bad enough. We’re going to get shot.” Stiles is maybe reconsidering his thoughts about Derek’s sanity. “I can just call Allison, you know.”
“I’m not here to talk to Allison,” Derek says, staring at the Argent house. They’re parked across the street, in full view of the house’s many windows. There is absolutely zero chance that the family of werewolf hunters have neglected to notice Derek’s flashy-ass car.
“So who are you here for?” Stiles asks, hoping he doesn’t already know. “Because her dad is the exact wrong person to speak to. Especially on account of how he wants you dead. Professionally. His profession is wanting you dead.”
“He’s also the best resource on what can harm witches that we have right now.” Derek is staring straight ahead, not looking Stiles in the eye at all. He totally knows that this is a terrible idea.
“Hey, Allison could figure something out,” Stiles says. “She could like. Ask her dad. He doesn’t want to kill her.”
Derek gives him a look that makes Stiles feel about four years old. “He’s good at what he does. He’ll have already figured out that the witches are targeting werewolves.”
“Isn’t that a little premature?” Stiles asks. “They’ve really only targeted you.”
Derek doesn’t even bother with the speech about how attacking the Alpha is attacking the whole pack, just rolls his eyes and settles more comfortably into his seat.
“Wait, are we just lurking?”Stiles doesn’t know how to lurk. He’s a big fan of knocking on doors or calling people. Normal, sane ways of communicating with people.
“Just wait, he’ll show,” Derek says, staring ahead.
“This is already the most boring thing I’ve ever done,” Stiles says after a few seconds. “How is this your hobby? Have you ever considered knitting or doing something productive while you lurk?” He pauses. Derek doesn’t react. He adds in a pained voice, “There aren’t even any shadows.”
Derek glares. Stiles sticks out his tongue.
“Just wait, okay?” Derek’s voice has a tiny bit of pleading, and Stiles sighs.
Stiles fiddles with every button he can find and is pretty close to snooping in the glovebox when Chris Argent taps on Derek’s window. Stiles flails his arms madly and yelps, “Jesus! Where did you even come from?”
“What the hell,” Chris says slowly, staring at Derek like he’s a madman, “are you doing here? In front of my home?”
Derek calmly looks up at him and says, “How do you fight a witch?”
“Well, I’d imagine you would use your claws, being as you’re a monster I’ve made it my life’s mission to kill,” Chris replies. “You killed my sister. If my father comes out here…”
“He won’t,” Derek says. “He’s not here. I can’t hear him in the house at all. I suspect he’s out laying a trap for the witches.”
Stiles thinks that werewolf super-hearing will never not be creepy as hell.
“Then in theory wouldn’t you just let him do it?” Chris says. “It’s no concern of yours.”
“They have information I need,” Derek says. “And I don’t approve of carte blanche murder.”
“You don’t know what they’re capable of,” Chris says.
“Trust us, we do,” Stiles throws in, even though he’s pretty sure this is another situation where Derek wants him to sit silently in the background. “And I don’t think you approve, either.”
“It’s a fair hunt,” Chris says without feeling.
“It’s bullshit and you know it,” Derek says. “I’ve seen what your father does. He’s more bloodthirsty than I am. I’m not asking for anything to jeopardize your hunt. I just need to know something that can contain a witch. You know why I can’t just approach one. And if I do, and they turn me into a monster, who do you think I’m going to get sent after? Whoever else is coming their way.”
Chris nods slowly. “Fine. Iron chain. Bury it in a circle underground, hide the circle, and trick the witch into getting inside of it. Their powers won’t work. Containing the witch there will be your problem, though.”
“Thank you!” Stiles adds, because it never hurts to be polite.
Chris just glares at him, like he’s trying to figure out what Stiles’ angle is, being there, but just shakes his head. “Stay away from this,” he warns.
Derek shakes his head and puts the car into gear. He pulls away from the curb, leaving Chris Argent standing there, staring after them.
“You do realize you just tipped them off that you’re interested in the witch thing,” Stiles points out. “And they’ll probably figure out that we’re the ones who did in the missing girl.”
“Good,” Derek says. “They aren’t seeing me as a threat.”
“Nonthreatening is a good thing,” Stiles says. “A very good thing. It means people aren’t actively trying to kill you. Just passively.”
“Ask Allison if she’s gotten any headway on the beastiary,” Derek instructs, ignoring Stiles’ concerns.
Stiles types out a quick text. His phone buzzes almost immediately with a response, and it’s not what Stiles expected.
“She says that they’ve gone to see someone about it,” Stiles says. “She doesn’t say who. Or why.”
“Maybe they found a lead.” Derek sounds hopeful. Stiles really, really hopes so too.
“So are you going to do the iron chain thing?” Stiles asks.
Derek gives him a look. “No, I’m just going to sit around twiddling my thumbs waiting on the curse to be lifted.”
Stiles throws his hands up. “Just asking. So where do you even get an iron chain?”
Fifteen minutes later, Stiles finds himself standing beside Derek, looking a display of chains in the hardware store.
“This is going to get back to my dad,” Stiles says. “There’s no way that he won’t hear about his son buying a chain with a former murder suspect.”
Derek glares at him. “It’s a completely ordinary purchase.”
“The only valid reasons I can think of for us to need a chain would be if one of us was super into 50 Shades of Grey,” Stiles says. He has experience with this, and knows exactly the kinds of looks a man gets when he hauls around giant lengths of chain. “This is definitely getting back to my dad.”
Derek raises an eyebrow, and holds a length of chain up between his hands, testing its durability. “I don’t know,” he muses, “I think I’d pick something a little more forgiving in that case. Wouldn’t want you to bruise.”
Stiles snorts. “Like I’d be the one chained up! You know perfectly well that you would be the one—“ he cuts off abruptly as he realizes that an elderly lady at the end of the aisle is watching them avidly.
Derek’s shoulders shake, and Stiles hates him so, so much.
“You are going to the special hell,” he hisses, keeping an eye on the old lady. She doesn’t look familiar, but that doesn’t mean that she isn’t going to call his dad the second she’s home to report about his son’s deviant sex life.
Which, granted, would be more funny to Stiles if he actually had any sex life to speak of.
Then he realizes that if his dad barges into his room, he’s probably going to find Derek Hale snoozing there, and glances back at the lady. He wonders if five bucks would buy her silence.
Derek seems to realize what Stiles is thinking and grabs Stiles by the shoulder and leads him away, obstinately to find an employee to cut them a length of chain. The manhandling, Stiles thinks, is just going to make things look worse, but there’s nothing he can do about it but hope word doesn’t get back to the Sheriff.
It isn’t until they’re back in the car, a sack of iron chain settled on Stiles’ lap, that he realizes that he’d totally been flirting with Derek in the store.
Derek’s pack doesn’t answer when he calls to check up on them – something that clearly bothers him, but he brushes it off casually enough that Stiles doesn’t pick at it – and Scott reassures Stiles that they’re working on the translation and that they haven’t told their source anything they shouldn’t have, so eventually they end up back at Stiles’ house.
Derek leaves his Camaro at his warehouse, and Stiles ignores the weird feeling he gets when Derek throws a bag with a change of clothes into the backseat of the Jeep. It’s not the kind of feeling that he looks at too closely.
They’re quiet on the way to Stiles’ house. Stiles for once doesn’t feel the need to fill the silence with chatter, and just concentrates on driving. He glances over at Derek a few times, but Derek is staring out the passenger window, expression unreadable.
Stiles dumps the bag containing the chain beside his desk, and Derek tries calling Isaac. No reply.
“Isn’t he like, required to answer your calls?” Stiles asks. “I thought having an Alpha was kind of like joining a creepy cult, and you’re their Manson.”
“He’s supposed to,” Derek says. He tries calling Boyd. No answer. The same for Erica.
“Should we go out looking for them?” Stiles asks. “I mean, Isaac was out being bait. What if he got caught?”
Stiles grabs his keys, but then he hears the front door slam shut. “Stiles?” his dad yells up the stairs. “You up there?”
Derek shakes his head no, and gestures towards the window.
“He saw the Jeep,” Stiles hisses back. Seriously, it’s like Derek’s forgotten that parents notice shit like that, especially when their profession is crime-solving and their son is the only family they have left.
“We have to go,” Derek mouths back, which means that Stiles’ dad is nearing, Stiles takes a few flaily steps towards the door, then back. He feels like a chicken with its head cut off, and Derek looks annoyed.
Stiles shakes his head again. He can’t hide from his dad like that. It would worry him even more than he already is. Stiles feels guilty enough as it is, and he doesn’t know how much longer this curse is going to last.
He can’t lie to his dad every day.
Derek glares and climbs out the window. Stiles tries to stay put by the door, but the pain lancing through his body is too intense, and he moves closer to the window, quickly kicking Derek’s bag under the bed as he goes. He hears his dad hesitate outside his door, and Stiles quickly pulls the window mostly shut as quietly as possible, hoping Derek will stay close, and plops down in his armchair, pulling his phone out and tapping ineffectually at the screen.
“Son?” his dad says, knocking on the door.
“Yeah?” Stiles asks in what he hopes is a completely normal tone. Not the tone of someone who just watched a werewolf jump out of his bedroom window in annoyance.
It’s only when his dad is physically inside his room that he remembers that he left the bag with the chain spilling out of the top of it sitting casually next to his desk in full view of anyone who happened to glance in that direction. Stiles wills himself not to look over there.
He really wishes his dad did anything but police work, since he’s pretty sure that other dads don’t have the expert-level detection skills that his father possesses. He would notice if Stiles kept looking over, and Stiles is just lucky that he hasn’t asked about Stiles’ weird behavior over the weekend yet.
It’s probably coming, though. His dad has one of those awkward looks on his face, like he’s about to ask a question that Stiles isn’t going to like.
“Is there anything you want to tell me?” his dad asks.
“Not that I can think of?” Stiles answers. “Why?”
“Mrs. Devereaux called to complain about my son’s perversions,” his dad replies, raising an eyebrow.
“My perversions,” Stiles repeats, wondering what deity he had to devote himself to in order to change his luck.
“She went on at length about your inappropriate behavior with a, quote, darkly handsome young man,” his dad said, looking like he was having entirely too much fun with this. “Something involving chains?”
Stiles forgets sometimes how similar he and his dad really are. He’d be milking the shit out of a call like that too if it was his kid. He was just going to have to brazen this out. “Oh, you mean I didn’t mention anything about that? I’ve totally decided to start chaining up handsome young men in my spare time. I took the inspiration from my dad, who prefers handcuffs…”
Outside the window he can clearly hear Derek making a choking sound. He really hopes his dad doesn’t notice it.
“Very funny,” his dad replies. “What mischief are you and Scott into? Please tell me I’m not going to end up writing a report about it.”
“Well,” Stiles says, trying desperately to think of an alibi. “We saw this video online…”
His dad holds up a hand. “That’s enough. I’m sure I don’t want to know, because then I won’t be legally obligated to investigate.”
“Wise choice, my man,” Stiles replies.
His dad smiles at him. “And don’t get hurt.”
Stiles draws a cross over his heart. It’s something he hasn’t done in a while, and it’s worth it to see the smile grow even wider on his father’s face. “I solemnly swear.”
His dad sits down on the edge of his bed and says, “I’m sorry I haven’t been around much lately.”
Stiles has been grateful for how busy his dad has been, a fact that sends a dull stab of guilt through him. “I’m a big kid. It’s okay.”
“Yeah, well,” his dad says, “don’t do whatever you and Scott have planned in the woods, okay?”
“Why?” Stiles asks. “Did you find that girl?”
“Not yet,” his dad says, “but another girl she was friends with has gone missing. I can’t say more“ -- he holds his finger up when Stiles starts to protest – “but it’s not looking good for either of them.”
“Jeez,” Stiles says. The guilt over the first girl is fading, and he’s pretty sure that he knows which of her supposed friends has gone missing. The spellbook is sitting on his desk, and he’s itching to look through it again.
Find out what the witch who gave it to them died for.
“So I’m hitting the sack. I’m gonna go back in early,” his dad says, which means he’ll be gone before the sun rises.
Stiles stands and gives him a hug, and his father pats his back. “Love you.”
“Love you, too.” He leaves the room.
Stiles has a few moments to himself to collect his thoughts before Derek finally taps on the window. Stiles slides it open and Derek gracefully climbs back inside. Stiles would have stumbled and landed on his ass, but he reassures himself that it’s probably just a werewolf thing. After all, Scott used to be almost as klutzy as Stiles and now he’s a sports ace.
“They killed her,” he tells Derek.
“I heard,” Derek replies. Stiles kind of wants him to refute it, say it was another girl, but there’s no way. The witch who helped them out – even though they haven’t figured out how yet – died for her efforts, and Stiles feels far guiltier about that than the witch that he watched Derek kill with his own eyes.
“We have to stop them,” Stiles says. He still doesn’t think the iron chain idea is going to work, but at least it’s trying something.
The coven isn’t just targeting outside threats. They’re taking out members of their own who defy them. That sort of power-hunger is terrifying.
“I heard from Isaac.” Derek is expressionless. “They’ve given up for the night. Didn’t see anything.”
“Jackson made it out safe,” Stiles says, checking his phone. “Says he’ll share what he found out tomorrow.”
“And Scott and Allison?” Derek asks.
“Nothing from them, but that probably just means they’re making out somewhere.” Stiles would probably be doing the same, if he had someone to make out with, so he can’t even sound too cranky about it.
Derek sighs and sinks down on Stiles’ bed, exactly where his dad was sitting a few minutes beforehand. “We need to figure out what she was trying to tell us.”
“We went through the whole book,” Stiles says. “Nothing about binding spells.”
Derek looks up suddenly. “What if she wasn’t trying to help us, but warn us?”
“Like…” Stiles stares at the book. “Like there’s something in there that tells us the coven’s weakness.”
“Something worth dying over,” Derek says, and it’s so close to Stiles’ earlier thoughts that it sends chills down his spine.
Derek gets the book and starts to slowly flip through the pages, Stiles pulls off his flannel shirt and kicks off his shoes before joining Derek on the bed, sitting close enough that they can both peer at the pages and try to figure out which confusing phrase is the one that holds the secret they need to know.
“Was there anything about werewolves?” Stiles asks, reaching out to turn another page. “Or shifters of any kind?”
“A few spells in the back, I think,” Derek says. “It just looked like basic recognition stuff and something about control…”
He trails off and flips quickly to the back of the book. The pages here are slightly more worn, and there are a few penciled circles and lines scattered through the spells, like the witch had been studying it.
And then, there it was. The spell for controlling werewolves.
Well. It wasn’t specifically for that. It was a spell for obedience that they’d flipped past several times, ruling it unhelpful in figuring out why they were bound together. But now that they were focused on finding a spell that had anything to do with werewolves, it seemed almost too obvious.
“Suppressing the human aspect allows the animal side to take over,” Derek reads aloud, “thus allowing the spellcaster to take control of the beast and its power.”
“That sounds cheerful,” Stiles says, thinking about how close Derek came to losing himself completely.
“It gets worse,” Derek says. He squints at a scribbled line penciled into the margin. “If I’m making the right assumptions… if the witches are powerful enough and work together, they can tap into the pack’s strength. Especially if they control more than one werewolf from the pack.”
“It sounds like…” Stiles peers at the book. “She didn’t realize you were the alpha. There’s no way a single witch would try to take on that sort of power, no matter how much she thought she was Bellatrix Lestrange.”
“What?” Derek says.
Stiles jabs at the book, flipping to the next page. It was written in generalities, but now that they realized what they were looking at, it was easy enough to figure out the far-reaching possibilities of what it implied. “Look. This is just talking about beta wolves. It says here that an entire coven has work together to control an alpha. The reason we got away was that the witch was working on outdated information and thought that you were just a beta.”
“Peter,” Derek says.”He must have had contact with them.”
“Um,” Stiles says. “I don’t really want to make assumptions, but when? He was Mr. Coma Guy. But there was another alpha…”
“My sister didn’t deal with witches,” Derek says in a tone that broke no arguments.
“I’m not making assumptions about your sister,” Stiles says, holding his hands up defensively. “But… She had to get all that wolfsbane you inherited from somewhere, right? Somewhere like a magic store?”
“Maybe she didn’t know…” Derek sounds skeptical. “But that just doesn’t sound like Laura.”
“Okay,” Stiles agrees. Derek actually knew his sister, and Stiles isn’t going to push it. “It probably doesn’t matter, anyway.”
Derek gives him a look, like he knows that Stiles is just backing off for Derek’s emotional stability, but he doesn’t say anything.
Then Derek grabs his hand, which is so sudden that Stiles lets out a truly embarrassing little squeak.
Derek pulls his hand up towards his face, and for a long second Stiles thinks that he’s going to kiss the back of his hand like a freaking Disney prince or something, and he freezes and just stares and braces himself against more involuntary squeaks.
Then Derek twists his arm and looks closely at the scratch marks on the inside of Stiles’ arm. Stiles stares at them blankly; they look better than this morning, but the vivid gashes are still violent-looking against Stiles’ pale arm.
“Does it hurt?” Derek asks.
“N-no,” Stiles says. He takes a calming breath; he’s used to Derek. There’s no reason that a little arm-touching should make Stiles all stuttery and nervous like a middle schooler at a dance.
“Mmm,” Derek says, leaning in and sniffing it. Which is familiar territory, sure, but it’s no less alarming. At least, the things that Stiles feels because of it are no less alarming.
He tries to distract himself by saying, “What, are you going to kiss it and make it better?”
The words come out shakier than he intends.
Derek looks up, eyes bright, and says, “No.”
Then he leans in and licks a long stripe up a pale, sensitive strip of uninjured skin, tongue skirting the edges of the scratch. Stiles lets out an audible gasp, torn between pulling his arm away or pushing Derek’s face in closer.
Then Derek breathes in his scent again, breath cool against the damp skin, and Stiles bites his lip, trying his hardest to hold in his reaction. Then Derek repeats the process between the next two scratches, and it feels good. It feels really, really good.
Stiles is dimly aware that he’s got half an erection, and that Derek is licking and sniffing his arm, and there’s a voice in the back of his head weakly reminding him that werewolves can smell arousal, but he doesn’t care. He so doesn’t care, so long as Derek never stops.
Derek continues to lick and sniff and breathe on Stiles’ arm, and Stiles almost bites through his lip, trying to hold in whimpers. His breath is coming fast, and when Derek looks up at him, mouth open, eyes gleaming almost wolf-wild, he looks more ruffled than Stiles has ever seen him.
On the last long swipe with Derek’s tongue, ending in the crook of Stiles’ elbow where the skin is the most sensitive, Derek leans in and catches the skin lightly with his teeth, and that’s it. Stiles lets out a groan, realizing he’s straining against his jeans and the closest to undone he’s ever been in the presence of another person. He should be self-conscious, he thinks, but he’s too turned on to care.
Derek’s eyes have fully gone over to wolf, and he pins Stiles to the bed. He’s still holding Stiles’ hand, and he pulls that up with him, grasping it loosely near Stiles’ head, wounds displayed as he nuzzles Stiles’ neck and then, meeting Stiles’ eyes with his gleaming ones, presses down for a sloppy kiss.
It’s wet and forceful and tastes of copper, which Stiles realizes after a moment is his own blood from where he’s bitten through his lip. Derek licks at that wound with the same intensity as he laved upon the Stiles’ arm. Stiles keeps letting out these embarrassing, stuttering moans, like he doesn’t know how to control his own voice, and Derek seems to take up more space than he should, surrounding Stiles and smothering him all at once.
Stiles thinks it might be a good way to go, being smothered by Derek.
Derek lets out a little growl, pushing his body against Stiles’, and Stiles responds in kind, pressing himself somewhat desperately against Derek’s hips. He’s thankful for the give in his jeans, thankful for the friction that Derek provides, as Derek breaks the kiss and continues nuzzling and licking his way down Stiles’ neck and then back to his lips, drawn like a lodestone.
Stiles is really, embarrassingly close to coming in his pants. Then Derek growls into the crook of his neck, the sound reverberating through Stiles’ body like a thunderclap, and grinds hard against him. Stiles comes with a groan, hips straining up against Derek’s, muffling the sound into his free fist.
Derek’s eyes are almost completely animal now, and he ruts up against Stiles once, twice, three times before coming with a groan that’s half-wild, like he’s barely holding onto his human side.
Their fingers are still interlaced, and Stiles is feeling uncomfortably sticky, but he doesn’t move, just stares at the ceiling, uncertain about Derek’s state.
Derek nuzzles his neck a few more times, then releases Stiles’ hand and rolls over, landing heavily on the bed beside Stiles. Stiles’ heart is thumping like he’s just ran a marathon, and he feels boneless. He wonders wildly if he just lost his virginity and isn’t sure. It sure feels like he did, for all that he’s still wearing his pants and is still untouched.
He glances over. Derek’s laying there, staring at the ceiling. Stiles can’t really believe that he made Derek Hale cream his pants. It seems surreal.
Derek is flexing his hands, and his teeth are elongated and his eyes still glowing, and Stiles isn’t quite brave enough to break the silence. He thinks Derek came close to losing his control over his wolf, and Stiles is pretty glad that all of his braincells took a vacation in his southern hemisphere because if he’d felt any fear, instead of just incredibly turned on, Derek might have gone completely over the edge. Stiles might apparently be into being pinned down by an Alpha werewolf, but he’s definitely not into being ripped apart by one.
A few minutes pass, Stiles enjoying the boneless, blissful afterglow, before he looks over at Derek again. Derek seems to have finally gotten himself under control, and is staring at Stiles with completely unreadable human eyes.
They’re both in sticky, messy jeans. Stiles can’t imagine having a meaningful conversation when he’s covered in his own jizz, but apparently, Derek can.
“I’m sorry,” Derek says.
“Well, that is the absolute last thing I wanted to hear,” Stiles says.
“I almost lost control. I did lose control,” Derek says. He moves his too-intense stare from Stiles’ eyes to his scratched arm.
“I’m pretty sure that you already know it was mutual,” Stiles says. On one hand, the amazing sense of smell werewolves have is super creepy and annoying, but on the other, Stiles suddenly sees a benefit to it.
“You know what I mean,” Derek says. “I could have bit you.”
That does send a chill down Stiles’ spine. He remembers the feel of Peter Hale’s hand around his arm, his mouth closing in on his wrist, and the words, you’re lying. “I… That didn’t happen.”
“It could have,” Derek insists.
“Look,” Stiles says. “I know what you’re getting at. Trust me, I fucking know. But can we just… not? Not right now?”
Derek is still staring at Stiles’ arm. “The connection.”
“Um,” Stiles says. “What the fuck are you talking about?”
“The witch. She was using a spell to bind me to her,” Derek explains. He points at Stiles’ arm. “But I was in the process of forging a connection with you. That’s why it backfired.”
“Wait, what?” Stiles asks. “I thought you broke that connection.”
Surely werewolf scratches don’t give you sexy feelings about someone. Jackson never tried to jump Derek. Well, not that Stiles knows about, but he’s pretty sure Derek couldn’t have stopped himself from bringing that up often and mocking Jackson to hell and back.
Though Stiles couldn’t really say how he knows that about Derek, come to think of it. He just… does.
“Afterwards,” Derek says, “and I already told you I didn’t really know what it would do, with me being an Alpha now. And at the time…”
Stiles is really too sex-stupid right now to be connecting major mystery dots. “So you’re saying that when the witch tried the control spell, she connected herself to you, but you were clawing the shit out of my arm, so you were connecting to me, and when we broke the witch’s connection, the spell kind of… mutated and connected us even more.”
“Yes,” Derek says. “Basically. I mean, I don’t really know much about magical backlashes…”
“But that sounds like the kind of mystical bullshit that could happen,” Stiles says, “since it’s always made zero sense that a witch’s dying spell would put you on the permanent buddy system instead of, say, the death and dismemberment she clearly thought you deserved.”
“So if we break the coven’s power, then, if the book is right, the spell should fade,” Derek says. He sounds relieved.
Stiles tries hard to sound like the kind of guy who makes out with people all the time. “Fingers crossed!”
“Let’s get cleaned up,” Derek says. “Will your dad wake up if we shower?”
For a long, strange second Stiles thinks Derek is suggesting a co-shower, but then remembers the curse and also how quickly Derek shut him down after the… bloodlust? Stiles wasn’t really sure what to call what came over Derek… faded. “He shouldn’t.”
This leads to one of the most extraordinarily awkward showering experiences of Stiles’ life. He tries not to check Derek out because of the awkward ending of the whole thing that happened a few minutes ago, but Stiles kind of can’t help it, because they totally made out. Even though he knows it’s weird now and not in a good way, Stiles’ body didn’t get that memo and tingles appreciatively with the memory of Derek’s body pressing down hard against his own.
Stiles considers himself in pretty good shape – he might not have washboard abs, but he’s lean and has enough muscle that the endless lacrosse practices aren’t a big deal, even for someone who doesn’t really have hope of actually seeing action on the field. Derek on the other hand is built like a freaking mack truck, and Stiles wonders how many hours of working out Derek has skipped since they were cursed, since a body like that has to require upkeep, even if it belongs to a werewolf.
He knows he’s being completely obvious, but… it’s not like Derek doesn’t know that Stiles thinks he’s hot. Stiles freaking rubbed himself off on Derek’s leg not an hour ago.
Stiles stares down at his arm while Derek is in the shower, and wonders for the first time if that would have happened if Derek hadn’t scratched him. They’re bound together, that much is clear, but how much of their bonding has been a result of supernatural forces, and how much of it has just been Derek and Stiles?
The thought rests in his mind uncomfortably.
When he undresses for his shower, far more clumsily than Derek managed, he can feel Derek’s gaze on him, but he doesn’t look at him. Stiles thinks that if he looks at Derek, all the things he’s feeling will come pouring out, and then he couldn’t meet his eyes ever again. The only thing saving him from a fate of death-by-embarrassment right now is the firm, secure knowledge that the hook up was mutual.
They cross the hall back to Stiles’ room in silence, Stiles walking as noisily as always and Derek moving with silent footsteps that his father, if he happened to be awake, wouldn’t notice.
Stiles climbs into his side of the bed, dressed fully tonight in pajama pants and a t-shirt. The bed seems even smaller than it had the previous night, when Stiles had been so hyper-aware of every inch that lay between him and Derek. Derek slides into bed wearing just his boxers, and Stiles resists the urge to spray Febreeze around to dissipate the scent of sex that even he can notice.
And if Stiles can smell it, it has to be stifling to Derek, but he says nothing.
Stiles shifts uncomfortably. He desperately wants to say something, but nothing really seems appropriate, so he mostly stares into the dark and pretends like he can’t feel Derek settling into the bed beside him with marked casualness.
Somehow this is way, way worse than last night’s awkward boners. Stiles misses the sexy feelings, in fact. It was better than the strange feeling in the pit of his stomach, like he’s fucking something up that should have been simple and easy and perfect.
Stiles turns over on his back. The room is light enough that he can make out Derek’s profile beside him, also staring at the ceiling.
“This is dumb,” Stiles says.
Derek turns to look at him. Stiles can just make out the shape of his cheekbone, and his hair is strangely flat from his shower. He looks… younger. Less intimidating. Stiles can do this.
“Look, let’s just...” Stiles doesn’t want to say ‘pretend it never happened,’ because… well, he’s not even sure why. He can barely even bring it up with Derek. “Hell, I don’t know. I would say pinky-swear to keep it in our pants, but we already managed that.” Derek snorts. “How about we pinky-swear to keep our tongues to ourselves? Just until the curse is lifted and…”
Stiles trails off. He doesn’t know where that last bit came from, or why it came out sounding so plaintive. He doesn’t have a crush on Derek. Absolutely not.
“I really shouldn’t have lost control like that,” Derek says. “Even just the transition to Alpha doesn’t explain it. ” He reaches out, like he’s going to retrace the scratches on Stiles’ arm, then stops himself. “I think… I think I didn’t entirely eradicate the effect of the scratch. The wolfsbane failed.”
The pit in Stiles’ stomach feels like it just opened up a direct route into Mordor. He opens his mouth a few times, trying to figure out how to phrase it, but then it comes out in a rush of words. “How much of… it… was the connection? Do you think?”
Derek is silent for a long time. When he finally speaks, his voice is quiet and sad. “I don’t know. I just… I don’t know.”
Stiles wordlessly holds out his pinkie, knowing Derek can see it clearly in the dark. After a second, Derek reaches out and hooks his pinkie with Stiles’ and shakes firmly.
Stiles felt a slight pang of regret as they unhook their fingers and quietly settle in for the night, even though he knows this is the only possible thing to be done.
Chapter 4: Iron
Thank you so, so much to everyone who is reading this! I love you all. And a special thank you to my beta Lielabell. ♥ Hope you enjoy! I plan to have the final chapter up sometime next week. (And it's a doozy!)
“Goddamn, you bitches are hard to find!”
Stiles flails and falls out of bed, getting hopelessly tangled in his comforter in the process. It takes him a long, annoying minute to figure out how to free his legs enough to sit up while also trying to suss out why there’s a girl yelling at him in his own freaking bedroom.
Then he blinks blearily at the figure by the window and of course it’s Erica, hands on her hips, silhouetted against the dim morning light.
He has another blind moment of panic about his dad coming to investigate before remembering dimly his father yelling “See you later!” through his closed bedroom door a few hours earlier, when it was still dark out.
“That’s no way to address your alpha,” Derek says while Stiles is still processing everything, because of course he’s someone who can come up with a dickish comeback immediately after being rudely woken.
Erica, he realizes suddenly, is disheveled and filthy, with leaves stuck in her wild hair and dirt smeared across one cheek.
No, not dirt. Blood.
“What the hell happened to you?” he asks.
She ignores him and glares at Derek. “I’ll address my alpha anyway I want, when he fucking abandons me to a bunch of crazy murderers.”
“I didn’t abandon you,” Derek says sharply. “What the fuck happened?”
“They got Boyd,” she says, raking her hands through her hair and dropping leaves and twigs on Stiles’ floor. “There was a trap for us, out in the woods. We walked right into it, me and Boyd. Followed their scent right to it. A goddamn circle of stones, and once we were inside, it flared up.” She shudders. “They took our phones, and then a couple of them started doing a spell. They focused on Boyd first.”
“Probably thought he was stronger,” Derek muses. He’s sitting up in bed, the sheet loosely covering his legs, and yet he still looks commanding.
Erica raises an eyebrow. “They’re witches. I don’t think they underestimate lady-power.”
Derek shrugs. He’s shirtless, and Stiles absolutely does not notice the way his muscles ripple. Definitely isn’t distracted from the murder and mayhem by the curve of Derek’s shoulders and the way the dim light highlights his abs…
Fuck. That’s worrying. Stiles focuses his attention on Erica.
“No, but it’s still hard for people with limited exposure to our kind to wrap their heads around the fact that we’re all so much stronger than we look,” Derek says. “It’s instinctive to view the larger animal as the more threatening one, especially if they don’t know much about pack females.”
Erica doesn’t look convinced. “They managed to turn Boyd.”
“Turn him?” Stiles asks.
“He’s theirs.” Erica looks a little lost now, like she doesn’t quite understand how it worked. “I can’t feel him at all anymore.”
Stiles blinks. He’s got the feeling that this is the kind of pack stuff that Derek doesn’t want any of the non-wolves – really, any of the non-Pack, since Scott doesn’t know either – to know.
Derek goes quiet for a moment, looking for all the world like he’s about to start meditating with his eyes closed and everything drawn inward, and then he jerks his head up, panic written clearly in his eyes. “They have Isaac, too.”
“Shit,” Erica says. She bites her lip, looking suddenly younger. “That’s… Shit.”
“How did you get away?” Derek’s voice is quiet but demanding. Stiles leans against the side of the bed, not wanting to distract anyone by actually moving.
“After they got Boyd, they took off with him. Just told him to come with them and he did, like it was the most natural thing in the world,” Erica sounds bitter, and Stiles remembers again how eerie Derek had appeared for those horrible seconds he’d been under the witch’s command. He realizes for the first time that Erica and Boyd are friends, that their pack is their entire family and social group all mish-mashed into one, and he can’t even imagine how awful it would be to watch someone that important to you be taken over. “And they left me with two of the younger witches. A guy and a girl. And I saw an opening, so I started squirming around like I had to pee, said I was too embarrassed to go with a guy there, and then managed to talk the girl into taking me into the woods before I pissed my pants.”
Stiles can’t help the snort that escapes, and is surprised when Erica actually grins back at him.
Derek glares at them both and motions for Erica to continue.
“So she ties me up with some rope that’s got wolfsbane or something entwined in it, fucking magic, and it burned like nothing I’ve ever felt before.” She pulls up the sleeves of her leather jacket to show angry-looking rope burn around her wrists. “But I knew I couldn’t let them take me over. I can’t… I couldn’t lose control of myself. I can’t feel helpless again. Not after everything I’ve done to…” Erica trails off.
“We know,” Derek says gently.
“So I hit her over the head,” Erica says, looking proud.
“Kind of a one-trick pony, aren’t you?” Stiles can’t help the dig. He really can’t.
“It works,” Erica replies, giving him an altogether too smarmy smile. “So I knock her out, and suddenly the guy’s throwing a fucking rock at me. It hits me in the cheek, and I can see he has more, so I drop like it actually hurt me, and took him out with his own damn rock when he came to drag me back to the circle.”
Derek nods in approval.
“And then,” Erica says, sounding annoyed again, “since the other witches took our phones with them, I got to traipse my tired ass all over Beacon Hills looking for my Alpha, who definitely wasn’t in his HQ like he’s supposed to be.”
“I told you about the curse,” Derek says defensively.
“That doesn’t explain why you were all snuggly-buggly with that jockstrap while your pack was….” Erica pauses, sniffing the air. “Oh my god, you ditched your pack for hanky panky.”
Stiles is pretty sure that if his face gets any hotter, someone could actually fry an egg on it.
“There were complications with the spell,” Derek says stiffly. His face is unreadable.
“Complications involving your dick distracting you from your pack,” Erica replies. She doesn’t sound mad, precisely. “You could have picked a better time.”
“That isn’t really…” Stiles begins, but doesn’t actually have anything constructive to complete the thought with. He flails his hands trying to somehow convey the fact that he and Derek aren’t together and last night isn’t something to talk about and really, all those times Stiles imagined waking up to two hotties after losing his virginity, it went down way differently.
“It’s not open to discussion,” Derek says finally, giving Erica one of those weird commanding Alpha looks that Stiles, by virtue of not being a mythical creature, thinks are just super creepy instead of, you know, something to actually obey.
Erica gives Stiles a measuring look, and he shifts uncomfortably. He realizes that his scratched-up arm is on display, and Erica’s eyes hone in on it. “I see,” she says. “Okay.”
“Did you learn anything about the coven?” Stiles asks, hoping to distract her. “Like maybe what they’re planning on doing with two pet werewolves? Or a street address to their secret lair?”
Erica shakes her head. “Nothing.”
Derek sighs. “We have to get them back.”
“Um,” Stiles says. “Isn’t that probably what they want? I mean. They’re systematically destroying your power base here and weaponizing it. That kind of screams ‘trap’ to me.”
And his dad claims that video games will never come in useful.
Derek and Erica both raise an eyebrow at him.
“Seriously, is the eyebrow thing something that comes with the bite? Because your twinsie thing there is freaking me out.” Stiles glares at them both. “And also, I am awesome at strategy. You seriously didn’t think that Scott was the mastermind, did you?”
“Regardless,” Derek says, glaring, “we have to get them back.” He turns his attention on Erica. “Can you lead us back to where they captured you?”
Erica nods. “I was there all freaking night, so yeah.”
“Let’s go scent them out,” Derek says.
That doesn’t sound like fun to Stiles. That sounds like he’s going to be stumbling after two werewolves in the woods. But he doesn’t actually have any better ideas. “You do realize the last time you were sniffing around the woods, you got caught,” he points out to Erica.
“Live and learn,” she says. Stiles sighs and stands up, managing to get away from the tangle of blankets with a smidgeon of grace.
Erica smirks at his pajama pants, which happen to be a Robin pair that Scott bought him, because Scott sometimes gets it in his head that he’s a hilarious motherfucker.
Stiles glances down and says defensively, “What? They were a present.”
“Mastermind, indeed,” Erica says.”More like perma-sidekick.”
“Says the groupie,” Stiles says, which is mean. Almost as mean as the slap-fight that Erica totally instigates.
Derek buries his head in his hands. “Can you two please act like you understand that we’re in danger here?”
“She started it,” Stiles says at the same time that Erica points at him and says, “I’m not a damn groupie.”
“Dress like it,” Stiles mutters.
“At least I don’t shop in the kiddie section,” she grumbles back.
Stiles wonders if Erica was this fun back when she was an outcast. She totally could have hung out with him and Scott.
“You might want to wash that blood off your face before we go anywhere,” Stiles tells her. “You look like you were raised by wolves.”
Her shoulders shake with suppressed laughter, and she grins widely. “Yeah, well, you look like you were—“
“Enough,” Derek says, giving her the evil eye.
Stiles can pretty much guess what verb Erica was going to offer, and he’s glad that he doesn’t have to go over the whole him-and-Derek-are-not-a-thing all over again.
“Fine, fine,” she says. “Bathroom down the hall?”
“On the left,” Stiles says. Once she’s gone, he changes into jeans and his usual layering of shirts, while Derek gets dressed, opting for black and grey. Stiles wonders if the red hoodie he shrugs on was a bad choice for sneaking around the woods in the daylight, but then again, it’s not like the witches aren’t expecting them.
They load a few supplies into the Jeep, including the iron chain and the spellbooks. Erica directs them to a spot in the woods just a little ways off from where the original witch’s circle was. Stiles drives as far off-road as possible, trusting that two werewolves could manage to get his jeep out of any unexpected ditches that are entirely possible this deep in the woods, but finally has to park next to a steep embankment.
“Up and over,” Erica says, and they follow her up the embankment. Stiles keeps sliding, sometimes out of range of the spell, which adds pain and misery to the soul-crushing embarrassment of being the only one in the group who can’t manage to scale twenty feet of dead leaves, loose dirt and rocks without falling on his ass.
Derek grabs his hand and hauls him to the top after watching him flail like a morn, and Stiles spends a few moments at the top brushing leaves and dirt off himself and pretending like he didn’t get stupid little butterflies in his stomach when Derek held his hand.
He trudges after Derek, and Erica pats him knowingly on the shoulder and mouths, “He likes you too.”
Stiles gives her his best, “What?!” face, and then checks to make sure Derek hasn’t noticed. He’s moving stealthily a few feet ahead of them, pausing at intervals to sniff the air.
Erica taps the side of her nose and nods.
Stiles throws his hands out all, are you fucking with me.
She shakes her head and cuts her eyes to Derek’s back. His shoulders are stiff, and he’s looking around the forest like he’s trying to find something to kill.
“Sexual tension,” Erica mouths. “Totally gonna explode.”
“Been there, done that,” Stiles mouths back, and seriously, he can’t even control his brain-to-mouth filter when he’s not even speaking aloud?
Erica snorts, and Derek whirls around. Stiles tries really hard to look innocent, which means that he looks even guiltier.
“I thought we were trying to find our missing pack?” he says in an altogether too-calm voice. Erica was totally right, Stiles realizes. Derek’s been acting slightly off all day, and he doesn’t think it has to do with anyone’s dick. Mostly. Probably.
“You’re missing your pack,” Stiles says.
Erica rolls her eyes. “Give the boy a gold star.”
“No,” Stiles says, waving his hand. “That’s why you’re all…” He mimes a growly face and pretends to claw the air. “You told Scott that you gained power from leading a pack, and half of your pack has been magically ripped away from you. That’s why you’re so unstable.”
Derek blinks. “I’m not unstable.”
Stiles gives him his best bitch, please facial expression. The one he culled from Clueless. “What about the whole—“ he waves his hand around, unwilling to say “dangerously wolf-y dry humping” in front of Erica.
Derek’s expression only shifts a little, but Stiles knows he’s right. “That…. It makes sense.”
“Wait,” Erica says. “Are you playing this Alpha business by ear? How long have you even been Alpha?”
Stiles gives her a questioning look. “You didn’t know he’s only been Alpha for like, five minutes?”
“It’s been longer…” Derek begins defensively.
“Dude, you started biting people pretty much the second Peter was in the ground.”
“I…” Erica contemplates this for a moment. “That actually makes a lot of sense.”
“I was born a werewolf,” Derek explains, giving them both the evil eye. “I don’t need as much of a learning curve as made werewolves.”
Erica nods, and Stiles does too, just to reassure Derek. Now that he’s realized why Derek’s been volatile, he doesn’t really want to push him as hard. Especially since he doesn’t know what a young Alpha on the edge might do.
“It was this way,” Erica says after a moment, pointing to the left. “See? I left a little bit of blood on that tree.”
Stiles can’t see anything, but Derek nods. He grabs Stiles’ sleeve and hisses, “Keep up. We’ll protect you.”
Stiles kind of thinks that they’re all equally screwed if the coven shows up, but Derek has his fierce, protective face on, and Stiles accepts that Derek and Erica are more capable of standing up to a foe than Stiles himself is. He just nods and follows along, trying to make as little noise as possible.
It’s obvious when they reach the spot. The rocks still form a rough circle and there are scuffle marks in the leaves coating the ground. Stiles has snuck enough looks at police reports, and, okay, watched enough CSI to know that a struggle occurred on the site.
Erica freezes just before they get to the circle and holds an arm out. “That’s new.”
“What is?” Stiles asks, looking around at what appears to be woods. They look like every other spot in the woods he’s ever been dragged to, which is a lot, given how disdainful werewolves as a whole seem of staying indoors. He wonders briefly if Scott would wear a “Werewolves are tree huggers” t-shirt, but then realizes that Derek and Erica are both staring up. “Oh. You mean the giant freaking voodoo doll hanging from the tree.”
“It’s not a voodoo doll,” Derek says. “It’s a message.”
“They could have emailed,” Stiles says, staring. The thing appears to be made of bone, he realizes. And it’s…
The skull isn’t human. Stiles doesn’t really want to know if it originally was a Fido or one of Derek’s non-human brethren, but the fangs and elongated head send a clear message, alright.
Erica’s mouth is open. “They haven’t… I mean, you’d know if they killed anyone, right? Isaac and Boyd are okay?”
“I really… I just don’t know. I think Isaac and Boyd are okay.” Derek stares at the bones for a long minute, then turns and starts walking back towards the Jeep. “We’re going to take them down. No more screwing around. We’re getting our pack back.”
“Hell yeah,” Erica says with a hungry expression. Stiles follows, a cold, hard feeling in his gut telling him that this is probably going to end badly.
“I didn’t even remember school was today,” Stiles says, staring at the high school from the driver’s seat of his Jeep. They’d just dropped Erica off at the warehouse, where she was prepping the last few details before they attempted to take on the coven. The reality of what they were about to undertake was really setting in, and they had all three been unusually quiet on the ride home. Erica had been instructed to pick up phones to replace the ones that the witches had stolen.
She’d looked scared shitless, but determined as they drove off.
Stiles drums his fingers on the steering wheel, trying to focus on the trivial so that he didn’t have to think about being in the middle of a giant supernatural brouhaha. “I really don’t need more unexcused absences on my record.”
“Shouldn’t you be more worried about not being killed horribly by magic?” Derek replies.
“Ideally, that would be the main goal of today, yes,” Stiles admits. “But there’s also something to be said for having long-term goals, like, for instance, not having the school call my dad about my truant ways.”
“Your dad loves you,” Derek says. There’s a note of something sad and quiet in his voice. Stiles has never heard him talk about his parents, but he recognizes grief when he hears it. He reaches out to—he’s not sure. Pat Derek on the shoulder? Touch his hand? – but hesitates, hand hovering uncertainly above the Jeep’s gearshift.
Derek stares at it, and Stiles makes a decision. He reaches out and squeezes Derek’s hand.
“We pinky-swore,” Derek mumbles, brow furrowed as he stares at their linked hands.
“No French hand-holding, then,” Stiles says, waggling his tongue for a second for emphasis before seeing Derek’s expression. He rubs his thumb soothingly against Derek’s. “We’ll save them.”
“I hope,” Derek says. He tightens his grip on Stiles’ hand, to the point where it almost hurts, and then, like he’s afraid Stiles is going to pull away, lifts their hands and places a quick kiss on Stiles’ thumb. “We have to break the coven’s hold on them. On everyone.”
“We will,” Stiles says. He can feel the ghost of Derek’s kiss on his finger. “Now, um. How do you normally sneak into school?”
“You don’t have to sneak in,” Derek says. “You go here.”
“You’re lucky you’re pretty, with a brain like that,” Stiles tells him. “I might go here, but you sure as hell don’t. What am I going to say, ‘Sure, Mr. Harris, this handsome twenty-something is absolutely one of the seniors. I’m sure you’ve seen him lurking about the bleachers.’”
“I don’t lurk.” Derek actually looks put out as he climbs out of the Jeep. “I observe.”
“Potato, Pa-tah-to,” Stiles says breezily. It’s much easier to pretend like his gut isn’t twisting nervously when he’s throwing out harmless quips.
“You’ve obviously never been hunting,” Derek explains as he leads Stiles on an evidently familiar-to-him circular route around the fringes of campus, weaving their way towards the main building of the school.
“You’ve obviously never watched To Catch A Predator,” Stiles teases back. “You’re awfully familiar with the locker room, is all I’m saying.”
“Jealous?” Derek’s grin is bright and does funny things to Stiles’ everything. He stumbles just a little bit, and brushes off Derek’s helpful hand on his elbow.
They actually do end up in the locker room, which keeps sending Stiles into helpless snickering fits when he sees Derek’s wry face. They spend a few minutes dicking around, Stiles snooping unapologetically in other people’s lockers while Derek looks on disapprovingly, when dude, he’s the one who doesn’t even go to this school.
“Stop that,” Derek says finally, when Stiles tries on a hilarious hat he finds in one of the lockers. “That thing smells.”
“Everything in here smells,” Stiles says. He tilts his head, showing off the hat. It has bobbles on it. “It’s a locker room.”
Derek pushes him up against the end of the locker bank and moves in close, crinkling his nose. “You really don’t want to know what it smells like.”
“Oh, jesus,” Stiles says, and jerks the hat off. Derek is close, one hand still on Stiles’ shoulder, and Stiles weakly waves the hat around. “Thanks for the warning.”
Derek leans in close and rubs his nose gently along the crook of Stiles’ neck. “Much better.”
“Mmm,” Stiles says, then tries to pretend like his knees haven’t suddenly gone watery. “That’s pretty flimsy pretext for sniffing.”
Derek pulls back, and Stiles stares at his lips. They aren’t all bitten and chapped like Stiles’ lips. Derek’s lips are appealing, and Stiles leans forward, curious to see if they’re as soft as Stiles remembers. Then he remembers the way that Derek’s stubble rubbed against his face, and yeah, Stiles is going to kiss him. He won’t use tongue. That’s totally within bounds.
Derek’s eyes are dark and he’s actually leaning in, like he can sense Stiles’ intent, and is not only willing to go along with Stiles but is willing to instigate the kiss. His breath is hot on Stiles’ face, and Stiles thinks his heart might actually leap out of his chest, it’s beating so hard. Their lips meet with the lightest of touches, barely brushing, and just as Stiles is pressing up into it, the familiar loud clang of the locker door echoes through the room. Derek doesn’t move, like he doesn’t even register that someone’s entered the room, but Stiles jerks his head back, banging it painfully against the lockers.
Jackson swaggers in with Danny in tow, and he freezes when he sees Stiles and Derek. He gives a questioning look, then smirks. “Interrupting something?”
“Oh hey, just the douchebag royalty we were looking for,” Stiles says a little too loudly as Derek releases his shoulder and leans menacingly against the lockers, like he’s interrupted from pinky-forsworn kisses every day. Danny is looking back and forth between Stiles and Derek with a slightly confused expression, and Stiles does his best to not meet his eye. He’s really regretting telling him that ‘Miguel’ was his cousin.
“It didn’t look like you were looking real hard for me,” Jackson says, because Jackson is clearly the biggest jackass ever. Stiles glares. “I mean, you only would have found me if I was in Hale’s pants.”
Danny punches him lightly in the arm. “Dude, chill. I think he might die of embarrassment.”
“There is nothing to die of embarrassment over,” Stiles grinds out. He kicks at Derek’s leg. “Tell them.”
Derek just says, “Jackson, we need to talk. You know what about.”
Jackson makes a face. “That mission you sent me on really sucked. You led me to believe there were hotties, and all I found were old hippies. One dude offered to give me a ride in his VW.”
“Did you take it?” Stiles asks.
Jackson glares and doesn’t bother to answer.
“Did any of them appear to be the leader?” Derek asks. Stiles isn’t sure where he learned his interrogation techniques. Stiles could totally do better himself. But Derek has the whole I-can-punch-through-concrete-so-I-don’t-even-care-that-you’re-a-creepy-lizard-monster stance down, and Stiles really prefers that the monsters he interrogates be properly chained and restrained first. So he’ll let Derek handle this one.
Jackson sighs. “They were all second-stringers. But when they went to the backroom to discuss something, I heard them talking about calling a Rookwood for permission.”
“Thea?” Stiles asks, because there’s no way that she would be of help, unless they had an Ouija board.
Jackson shakes his head. “Alma? I think they said Alma.”
“Are you sure?” Derek asks.
Jackson nods. “They mentioned her a few times. Sounded like they were her minions.”
Derek nods curtly and strides out of the locker room. Stiles trails along after, though when Danny offers out his hand for a low-five as he passes, Stiles totally goes for it. Then Danny mouths “Cousin?” at him with a knowing smirk and Stiles turns, walking backwards to keep pace with Derek, and mouths, “Like you wouldn’t.”
He bumps into Derek, who has stopped at the entrance of the locker room, and Stiles, pretending like he didn’t just almost fall on his ass, sweeps past him out the door.
They go out to the lacrosse field. Stiles sits down at the end of the second row of bleachers, but Derek stands next to them, hands shoved in his pockets.
“Sorry,” he says.
“Okay, so,” Stiles says, “if you apologize every time that something happens between us, it’s going to wreak havoc on my self-esteem. Just so you know.”
Derek sighs. “How’s your arm?”
“Better,” Stiles says. He holds out his arm. The scratches are healing, though Stiles can’t tell yet if he’s going to have a scar. It would look badass if he did. “And it’s not like you ravished me or something. I was the one trying to kiss you.”
Derek points at Stiles’ arm. “Your motives are suspect.”
“Because there’s no way that I would independently arrive at the conclusion that kissing you might be awesome,” Stiles replies bitterly, shoving his sleeve down.
“You never have before,” Derek says stiffly.
“Is your nose broken?” Stiles asks. “I think you’re hot. I know you know that.”
“But we only act on it after the spell?” Derek snaps. “It’s magic.”
“Maybe it’s because we actually got to know each other,” Stiles says. “And you stopped threatening me with violence.”
“Or maybe the unknown mystical quantity tying us together is screwing with us,” Derek grits out. “I can’t take that chance.”
“I’m not asking you to,” Stiles manages to reply, frustrated and angry because Derek keeps bringing up the exact thoughts Stiles is trying his hardest to ignore. “I’m just asking you to consider that it might not. This spell isn’t going to last forever. It’s not even going to last the rest of today, if this plan works. And I… I don’t want you to forget me.”
A soft expression takes over Derek’s face, but before he can reply, his phone buzzes. He checks it, and his face hardens again. “Get Scott and Allison. Erica’s found a witch.”
“We aren’t like… going to torture her for information, are we?” Scott asks worriedly from the backseat as they zoom towards the meeting spot.
“We’re going to do what it takes,” Derek says sternly. Stiles glances at him out of the corner of his eye. He’s like ninety percent sure that Derek is just testing Scott, to see what his response is. Derek is kind of a dick.
“No torture,” Allison says firmly. Scott nods.
“And no harming my pack,” Derek says. He gives Allison’s crossbow a significant look. She tightens her grip on it.
“I don’t know about no torture, we could make Scott try to howl at the witch,” Stiles offers, grinning broadly to try and disperse the tension that’s filling the car uncomfortably. “That would totally make her give up the coven’s secrets.”
Scott punches him in the shoulder. Allison sighs, and turns to Derek, like he’s the only available beacon of responsibility and maturity in the car. “Where did Erica find the witch at?”
“Hardware store,” Derek replies. “She hasn’t given any details, just that she nabbed the witch.”
“I’m so glad we’re trusting that…” Allison catches Derek’s glare and cuts herself off. “Erica with something that important.”
“She managed to rescue herself when she got captured,” Derek points out. “And she’s trustworthy.”
They arrive at the pull off in the woods where Erica’s at, and the first thing Stiles notices is a big honking dent in the back quarter panel of Derek’s Camaro.
“Trustworthy,” Scott says, grinning.
Derek is staring at the car like he’s never seen it before, and when he carefully climbs out of the Jeep, Stiles scrambles after him because he’s pretty sure that the spell kicking into effect would only amplify the decidedly murderous feelings Derek obviously has.
“Erica,” Derek says in an eerily calm voice. “What happened to my car?”
“The witch is in the trunk,” she replies, eyes darting nervously. She crinkles her nose when she spots Allison and Scott. “There was a struggle.”
“A struggle,” Derek repeats. He looks closer. “Did you throw a witch into my car?”
“Self-defense,” Erica replies quickly. “Total self-defense.”
Allison steps up closer to the trunk and presses her ear against it. “I don’t hear anything. Do you think she’s awake?”
Derek shakes his head. “No. But we have to get to the site.”
He motions for Allison to get out her crossbow, and they crowd around the trunk as Erica opens it.
A middle-aged dude wearing tie-dye is squished inside the Camaro’s compact trunk. His legs are tucked up against his body fetal-style, and his arms are tied behind his back with what appears to be a twisted-up plastic bag. There’s a dirty sock shoved into his mouth, which Stiles can see that Erica stole off the man’s own foot.
“This is the witch?” Scott says, sounding disappointed.
“Did you expect a sorority girl in a Halloween costume?” Erica asks, rolling her eyes.
“Ours was,” Stiles says, just to make Scott feel a little better. Or worse, maybe, considering that the witch Erica found looks more like he should be selling weed to hacky-sack players.
Allison reaches out and checks his pulse. “His heartbeat is steady,” she says. Stiles appreciates Allison for pretending like checking the pulse manually wasn’t redundant for three members of the group, who all probably knew that already from their creepy preternatural hearing.
“Scott, you carry the witch,” Derek says. “Erica, get the supplies. Allison, keep your bow on him. If any of us hear him waking, be prepared to put an arrow in him. Somewhere soft.”
Allison nods, though Stiles notices that she doesn’t notch her arrow into firing position. Scott hauls the man out of the trunk, and they traipse through the woods to the spot that Derek picked out.
They bury the iron chain in a circle, and deposit the witch inside after securing him to a chain that’s attached to a metal stake driven into the ground in one sharp movement by Derek. They loosely fan out around the circle, though Stiles has to stick close to Derek for obvious reasons. It wasn’t like he really brought a lot to the fight, though. Stiles knows perfectly well that he is no match for anyone here, including the dude chained up like a dog.
Then they wait. And wait.
“So, nice weather we’re having today,” Stiles says, shifting and wondering if it would be in bad form to just sit down and wait, because it wasn’t like he was doing much on guard duty anyway. “Heard it might rain, but nope, just a few clouds.”
Scott rolls his eyes at him from across the circle. “Really? The weather?”
“At least I’m trying to lighten the mood here,” Stiles grumbles. “I mean, this whole thing is a little more pre-meditated than I like.”
“No one’s getting murdered,” Derek says, exasperated. He continues watching the witch with a steady, cold look. Stiles thinks it might be his hunting face; there’s something just outside the range of normal human emotions in those eyes, like he’s already mentally ripped the man apart, and is now just waiting on an opportunity. It clashes terribly with Derek’s words.
“That’s right,” Allison says, threat evident in her voice. She taps her crossbow against her thigh.
“Can we talk about something else?” Stiles asks plaintively. He doesn’t want a shootout at O.K. Corral before the bad guys even show up.
“What about how you and Derek smell like each other?” Scott asks. There’s an undertone to it, something Stiles isn’t used to hearing in Scott’s voice. Stiles thinks it might be jealousy, which doesn’t even make sense.
“Um well we’ve been magically tied to each other all weekend,” Stiles says truthfully. “That’s probably it.”
Okay, not entirely truthfully. Stiles can’t really believe that he’s not even been able to keep an ill-advised hookup secret for a whole twenty-four hours. He hasn’t even been able to keep it down to one or two people. Pretty much everyone Stiles know has guessed it at this point. Stiles is never, ever going to play poker with these people. Ever. He’d end up naked and broke two hands in.
Scott raises a sassy eyebrow, which, what the hell. Apparently it really is a werewolf superpower. “You know that’s not what I mean.”
Stiles flails his arms around and says, “I have no idea what you mean. None. And shut the hell up, Erica.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Erica says, even though she knows perfectly well what she was doing with her face, the jerk.
Derek, who is also a jerk in Stiles’ book for not helping one single bit, just stands there looking for all the world like he can’t hear the conversation happening. He is literally looking off into the trees. Stiles glares at him, because, seriously, way to throw him under a bus, alpha.
“I think you two would be a cute couple,” Allison offers, because apparently Allison is also secretly evil. Stiles really should have suspected this. She was already genetically susceptible to evil, clearly, and science always wins.
“I’m rooting for the witches,” Stiles grumbles.
“Enough,” Derek says finally, and everyone drops it. Just like that. Stiles hates everyone, up to and including Derek, for being able to sound both commanding and sort of fragile the same time like that, because it makes Stiles’ heart clench in confusing ways.
The only person who doesn’t seem to realize that they need a distraction is the witch, who is still passed out on the ground like it’s the perfect time for a nap.
“How hard did you hit him, anyway?” Allison asks.
“I didn’t knock him into next week or anything,” Erica says.
“God, I hope not,” Stiles says.
“Derek’s car begs to differ,” Scott mutters, like he’s taking joy in the fact that Derek got some collateral damage out of the whole thing. Stiles gives him his best, “What’s up?” look, and Scott gives him a bitchy look that Stiles clearly remembers from the time that Stiles didn’t tell him about the girl Scott crushed on freshman year mentioning Scott in conversation.
Then Stiles abruptly realizes that Scott is annoyed because he had to sniff out the fact that Stiles lost his v-card, when, what the hell. It’s not like Scott sent out an owl when he lost his. Stiles exaggeratedly frowns at him, and Scott crinkles his nose back derisively, and so Stiles clearly has no choice but to blow a raspberry in Scott’s direction.
Then he realizes that everyone else is staring at them.
“You’re all jealous of our deep abiding friendship,” Stiles tells them. Scott cracks a grin, which Stiles takes as a good sign.
Erica sighs loudly and points at the witch. “Can someone kick him or something? Anyone got a bucket of water?”
Stiles looks around and sees a stick that looks long enough. He prods at the witch, who groans and rolls over. A few more good prods, and the witch opens his eyes, which are dark-circled and rheumy. He groans.
“What’s your name?” Derek asks. He’s got his arms crossed like he means business; Stiles kind of stands awkwardly off to his side and tries not to fidget too much.
“Not telling you that,” the witch wheezes out.
Erica strides forward and puts a boot on his crotch.
“Walt,” he immediately chokes out.
“Crude, but effective,” Derek tells Erica, like he’s a teacher critiquing her coursework.
She steps back outside of the circle.
“Walt,” Derek says. “I just need you to answer a few questions for us, okay?”
“Why? You gonna kill me, like you did that sweet little girl?” Walt pushes himself into a sitting position and spits derisively on the ground.
“Not the adjectives I would have chosen to describe her,” Stiles mutters.
“No one deserves to have their throat ripped out by a monster,” Walt snaps, body practically vibrating with anger.
“No one deserves to have their will ripped away,” Derek replies calmly, but Stiles can see the way his hands are shaking. He wants to reach out and somehow soothe Derek, remind him that the witch had signed her own death warrant the moment she attacked an alpha werewolf with magic, but he can’t undermine Derek like that in front of the prisoner. “Where are my wolves?”
“Not yours anymore,” Walt says, smiling to reveal a mouthful of too-bright white teeth. They look out of place with his grizzled, hippie exterior, and Stiles wonders for the first time how powerful the man actually is. All the werewolves he’s ever met have presented themselves as predators, with the exception of Peter when he was still pretending to be a vegetable, and Stiles thinks that they might be ill-equipped to deal with people who hide their power with fragile exteriors.
Erica growls, her eyes shining bright gold and fangs elongated. Walt doesn’t even flinch.
“Where are my wolves?” Derek repeats, punctuating each word with a menacing pause. He’s leaning forward slightly, the tips of his ears sharp. His eyes are still human, though, Stiles thinks, not for long.
“On their way,” Walt smiles. “You’re not going to be finding out any secrets from me, killer.”
Derek grins broadly, like he’s actually a charming person or something. It’s eerie, even to Stiles, who appreciates Derek as a person. ”It’s awfully nice of Alma to send me exactly what I want.”
Walt’s smile wilts. “Who’s Alma?”
“Your coven leader? Alma Rookwood?” Derek’s smile doesn’t fade, and Walt frantically looks around the circle. Erica is smirking, Allison is checking her crossbow with marked casualness, and Scott is staring intently at Derek with an unreadable expression.
“You don’t… You don’t know anything,” Walt says.
“Lying,” Erica sing-songs. “His heart rate is spiking through the roof.”
“I understand her being upset about her… daughter?” Derek looks at Walt a second. “Yes, her daughter’s death. It was unfortunate, but unavoidable.”
“Unfortunate?” Walt squeaks. It’s clear even to Stiles that his heart is still pounding, and Stiles wonders what kind of woman this Alma really is, if she has witches at her beck and call, and if she raised someone like Thea. “We saw what you did to her, monster. Murdered in her youth, and her body desecrated. Put in consecrated ground, sharing dirt with a stranger. It was monstrous.”
Erica crinkles her nose. “Oh my god, did you dig her up?”
“The wolf did it for us,” Walt says. He’s clearly trying to regain his composure, but Stiles thinks there’s still something off about him now.
He’s terrified. Not of Derek, not of the wrath of the wolves. But of his own coven leader.
Then Stiles realizes. “You know, Walt,” he says, “you’re totally screwed.”
Walt gives his bound hands a significant look and says, “These won’t hold me forever.”
“You probably should hope they do,” Stiles says. Derek shoots him a confused look, but Stiles continues on. “Given that, you know, your coven leader is going to think that you sold her out. Seeing how we suddenly know her name and everything, right after having a conversation with you.”
Stiles makes a jazzy Vanna White move, throwing the interrogation back to Derek.
“The really interesting thing here, Walt,” Derek says, “is that I don’t want information from you.”
Walt clears his throat and asks hoarsely, “Then what do you want me for?”
Derek crouches down, steepling his hands and resting his chin on them. He looks every inch the predator he is. “Bait.”
Chapter 5: Full Circle
Thank you so, so much to my lovely beta Lielabell, for encouraging me to write this monster in the first place, and not balking when I would send her massive files to edit. <333 And thank you to everyone who read this! It was definitely a labor of love, and I really, really am amazed and delighted that so many of you enjoyed it.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They’re left waiting until dusk.
When the sun starts to set, the forest suddenly has a creepy vibe that raises the hair on the back of Stiles’ neck.
“Do you guys feel that?” he asks, looking around. Walt is crumpled in the center of the circle of iron, right where he fell after Derek punched him once they were sure they got the last bit of useful information out of him, which wasn’t much. Everyone else is standing just within the circle, which is their only line of defense against the biggest unknown of the night: witchcraft.
Scott nods. “It feels like a storm is coming.”
“Magic,” Derek confirms.
Allison rubs the back of her neck. “It’s spooky.”
Erica snaps her head to the right, sniffing. “Five plus Isaac and Boyd.”
Allison notches an arrow in her crossbow. Stiles tries to look confident, despite the fact that he brought diddly-squat to a big old supernatural fight. Maybe he should pick up a rock or stick or something.
“Remember the plan,” Derek says, voice calm and quiet. He’s actually a good leader when the shit is about to go down, Stiles notices, and wonders if he could somehow translate his abilities to peacetime efforts. Then Stiles realizes that he’s making plans to help Derek better lead his pack, like they mean something to each other, and hates himself a little.
Derek whips his head around, staring at something off to the left of them. He holds out a warning finger, and Stiles watches as Scott and Erica change into their game faces, stances turning more predatory as they all wait for the attack.
He’s been given strict instructions to stick close to Derek so that the spell doesn’t kick in. Stiles has painfully vivid memories of just how incapacitating the spell is, and he knows that Derek stands no chance of winning against the coven and his turned wolves if he’s brought low by Stiles screwing up. It’s a major responsibility, even though it feels like just standing around.
The awful tension in the air keeps rising, and Stiles worries that the witches might actually manage to spell them. The iron chain lies unseen under half an inch of dirt and leaves, but Stiles isn’t completely convinced that it’ll be effective. He remembers how intense the magic felt when Thea tried to control Derek, and it’s hard to imagine that it can be contained by something as simple as iron.
There’s a low growling coming from the forest to the left of them, and Stiles would put money on there being another werewolf to the right. The hair on the back of his neck is now crawling, and Stiles keeps trying to brush off things that aren’t there, it feels so real. It’s getting harder to breathe, with the air so thick with a strange current, and Stiles tries his best to remain calm.
“Now?” rasps Scott through a mouthful of sharp, wicked teeth.
“Let them come to us,” Allison instructs. She looks around the circle. “Remember, keep close. We have the advantage.”
“Who’s taking who?” Erica asks, looking from side to side.
“I’ll take Boyd,” Derek says. “You and Scott, focus on Isaac.”
He doesn’t give a command to Allison. Stiles thinks it’s probably as close to diplomatic he can get for dealing with an Argent.
There are a few more long moments of the mystical energy coming to a boiling point, and the wolves all seem to be feeling it even worse than Stiles is. Derek finally stretches his arms and shifts, cracking his neck from side to side, and he looks straight into the woods and roars out a chilling, terrible howl.
The sound resonates through the trees, sending the few birds that have remained through the magical atmospheric disturbance flying, and it feels like it pulsates right into Stiles’ very skin and settles with a rattle deep in his bones. The scabbed-over scratches on his arm throb, and Stiles takes an unconscious half-step closer to Derek.
It inexplicably makes him feel safer, the same way he always felt as a kid when his dad arrived home from patrol.
There is a moment of perfect stillness after Derek’s howl finishes echoing through the woods, where the magic in the air seems to lessen and the goosebumps on Stiles’ arms fade completely away, and not a single creature stirs in the woods. All Stiles can hear is his own heart pounding in his chest, and the way that his friends are breathing heavily around him, tensed and ready for battle.
And then there’s an answering howl from the forest, though by the way that Derek’s shoulders tense, Stiles can tell that the message that’s being sent isn’t friendly. It’s a challenge, instead of the cry of submission that an Alpha should receive from one of his betas. It raises the hackles of the wolves around Stiles, though it doesn’t do anything to Stiles himself.
Derek roars, this time making no pretense at it being anything less than a battle cry, and Erica and Scott both drop to their knees, eyes glowing wild and claws scratching into the earth as they reposition themselves, awaiting Isaac and Boyd’s charge.
Quick as lightning, Boyd emerges from the foliage. He vaults over a fallen log and then, dropping to all fours, springs at Derek.
In theory, sticking close to Derek seemed simple enough. Stand behind him a few feet and let him work his werewolf kung fu until all the bad guys were taken out.
In practice… Stiles uses up his entire reservoir of badassery on just staying upright rather than dropping to the ground and scampering away like a terrified crab.
It feels like the entire clearing has exploded with action, even though Isaac is still lurking in the forest. There are snarls from all sides and when Boyd crashes into Derek, they go tumbling into the dirt. Stiles takes a few steps to the left and the right, doing his best to avoid contact with the sharp claw-tipped blows that go wild, all while keeping close enough that Derek retains his advantage.
Erica moves in once to claw a deep gouge on Boyd’s ankle as he attacks Derek, which slows him down momentarily. Allison fires off an arrow which embeds deep in Boyd’s abdomen, but he seems to not even feel it.
Stiles realizes suddenly that Boyd hasn’t spoken since he burst into the clearing. Granted, no one else has exactly been reciting soliliques, but mixed in with the grunts and snarls have been single-word commands and curses and “Over here!”s.
Boyd, though… He’s only grunted and growled and, once, when the arrow hit him, let out a startled yelp like an injured dog.
Stiles stares at him. His eyes are glowing a fierce yellow, and his wolfed-out face is ferocious, but there’s… there’s no human intelligence behind it.
Even his fighting seems to be pure instinct, with no clear battle plan. He’s obviously going to lose; the only reason he’s still alive is that Derek is fighting to incapacitate, not kill, and has instructed Scott and Erica to keep out of it as much as possible, keeping their eyes constantly scanning the forest for both Isaac and the witches.
“He’s feral,” Stiles says, unwilling to look away from Boyd now that he’s realized exactly how dangerous he is. “They took the spell too far. They took away his will, and with it, what kept him human.”
He knows Derek hears him even through the battle-lust because his shoulders suddenly stiffen and his entire stance changes. He charges at Boyd, taking the offense for the first time, and pins him, jerking one of Boyd’s arms behind him and managing to push his face into the dirt, putting a knee in the small of his back and leaning in. He sinks his teeth into the back of Boyd’s neck, deep enough that bright red blood trickles down his skin.
Boyd stills, and Stiles realizes that Derek’s switched tactics. He’s letting his wolf-side dominate, and Stiles thinks he’s possibly humiliating Boyd into submission. Stiles is pretty sure, from his internet research and comparison to Scott and Derek’s behavior, that werewolves have a slightly different set of conduct than actual wolves have.
Boyd is still straining up against Derek, but he’s not lashing around as much, and Stiles notices that while the gash Erica contributed is mostly healed, all the other cuts are still vivid and bleeding. Derek, on the other hand, is mottled with fading bruises, and the few cuts seem to be already scabbing up.
Derek is still Boyd’s Alpha, then. Despite the shift in control, the physiological response to an Alpha is still the same, and Boyd’s unwilling submission means that somewhere deep inside, he’s still there. Still part of the pack.
Something comes crashing out of the woods, and Stiles drops to the ground just as he realizes that it’s Isaac. An arrow catches Isaac in the throat, and Scott slams into him before he has a chance to jerk it out. Scott’s at a disadvantage, Stiles knows, since any injury he inflicts is going to heal quickly, rather than human-slow like Derek’s blows. Stiles fervently wishes that everyone hadn’t resoundly agreed that he wasn’t allowed any sort of projectile weapon earlier, for fear that he would hit one of them instead of a bad guy. It’s frustrating, not being able to do anything to help his friends.
He checks back on Derek and Boyd. Derek is talking quietly into Boyd’s ear, leaning in close. He’s speaking too softly for Stiles to hear, but their position is strangely intimate. Stiles thinks he should be jealous, but somehow, it doesn’t bother him. He wonders why, briefly, then realizes it’s because Boyd is part of Derek’s pack, and Derek should be close to them. They’re his family, and abruptly, Stiles realizes exactly why Derek’s so desperate to bring Boyd back to himself.
Derek loves his pack. That’s why he’s willing to go as far as he is to keep them safe. They’re the only family he has, and Stiles of all people should understand the need to form a family.
Stiles is pulled from his thoughts when to his right, Erica suddenly leaps into the fray, helping Scott with Isaac. Stiles has to admire the fact that she’s probably the most vicious fighter of the three. Scott’s got the most experience, and it shows in his level of control, but Isaac is working on pure instinct, his face monstrous. Stiles bites his lip, hoping that Scott makes it through okay.
Allison sidles up to Stiles, and says, “I can’t fire any more without risking Scott or Erica. It’s too fast.”
Abruptly, Stiles looks around. “Can you feel that?”
“What?” Allison asks.
“Exactly,” Stiles replies. “The magic.”
Allison’s jaw drops. “Oh, shit. The witches have stopped trying their spell.”
Stiles glances around. “I’m guessing it didn’t work?”
Allison looks doubtful. Erica slides past them, then vaults herself back towards Isaac. The struggle is taking longer than it should; Scott’s never had any trouble taking Isaac down before.
Derek seems to have finally given up on talking sense into Boyd, and knocks him out with a single, sharp blow. Boyd’s laying just a few feet from Walt, and Stiles stares at the unconscious witch for a minute as something clicks into place for him.
“They should have rescued Walt already,” Stiles hisses, grabbing Allison’s arm. “They wouldn’t have sent feral wolves right at someone they were going to rescue.”
“They’ve abandoned him,” Allison says, staring at him. “What—“
Derek pushes past them into the fight. With his strength added to Scott and Erica’s efforts, it only takes a few more seconds to take Isaac out, leaving him on his back in the dirt, head lolling to one side. Derek doesn’t bother trying to talk him back into his senses, Stiles notices. That must mean the coven’s control is too great.
There’s a low thrumming, and Stiles looks around. It sounds like a generator, but there’s nothing like that out this deep in the woods.
Then he realizes that it’s the buildup of the spell abruptly returning. “It’s happening.”
“Down,” Derek says, and they all drop to the ground. Derek is close enough to touch, and it takes all of Stiles’ willpower to not reach out and grab his hand.
He can see Scott crawling to get closer to Allison, just as the thrumming reaches its zenith.
The spell shatters through the air. It feels like the kind of thunder that rattles your bones and windowpanes alike, Stiles thinks, and protecting himself with his arms, ducking his head down and praying that none of the trees surrounding them fall.
Limbs crack and he can feel the wind whirling around, but nothing else happens. After a minute, Stiles lifts his head, and the circle is unscathed.
Derek slowly climbs to his feet, and yells into the forest, “You’re going to have to bring more than that!”
It’s terrible, insofar as action hero lines go, but Stiles feels a deep, bubbling well of affection for Derek nonetheless.
Stiles pushes himself up off the ground, and looks around. Outside the circle, there are a bunch of downed limbs, but nothing fell inside it.
He thinks the chain actually managed to work.
He has a scant moment to appreciate the triumph before he realizes why the wolves are all three tense and staring off to the right. There’s something shuffling in the brush, and then a lone figure appears, stepping between two low-hanging branches.
“Rookwood,” Derek says, nodding.
“Hale,” the woman who can only be Alma Rookwood replies. She’s middle-aged and lovely, with an aura of power crackling around her that even someone as completely human as Stiles can feel.
“I found something of yours,” Derek says, motioning towards Walt.
“And two other little somethings of mine, too,” Rookwood says, motioning towards Isaac and Boyd.
Derek’s smile is as sharp as his claws. “You’re pushing it too far, witch.”
“Oh, sweetie,” she smiles, “I haven’t begun to push. You killed my daughter. Desecrated her corpse. I’m going to rip away everything you love and leave you begging for death.”
“Didn’t really do your research on that one, did you?” Allison mutters, and Stiles chokes back a hysterical giggle.
“Release my wolves,” Derek replies with a snarl, “or I’ll rip you apart.”
“What fun would that be?” There’s something deeply unsettling about Rookwood’s eyes. Stiles is reminded of Kate Argent, bizarrely enough, and worries suddenly that Derek might see the similarities too.
“Lots,” Erica offers with a sharp-fanged smile.
Derek has his arms crossed across his chest. He looks dangerous, and Erica and Scott move to either side of him, both with their game faces still on. Stiles stands just behind them, close enough to keep the spell from triggering, and exchanges a look with Allison.
He knows she’s smart enough to tell exactly how unhinged this witch is, just for choosing to go after an entire pack of wolves, but she also understands how powerful the witches actually are. It’s a terrible, insidious type of power, and Stiles worries that they don’t stand a chance of breaking it.
“When are they coming?” he asks her quietly.
“Soon,” she replies. “We need to wrap this up.”
Stiles definitely doesn’t want to be caught out here when the hunters arrive. It’s the chanciest part of the plan – breaking the coven’s strength is going to be difficult, and right now it’s looking even harder than they anticipated, and knowing the hunters are on their way to take out the same coven…
It gives them a chance they wouldn’t have otherwise, knowing that backup – unlikely as it may be, especially since the hunters don’t know that they’ve been lined up as a second line of defense in case the werewolves fail – is on its way, and it means that if they time this right, they can take a chance that otherwise would be impossibly risky.
But that doesn’t mean that Stiles wants to actually still be here when the hunters show up.
“Your blood is mine,” Rookwood was saying, and Stiles has seen enough superhero cartoons to know when a truly epic villain rant is about to be thrown his way.
But there’s one thing he’s learned from his many years of geekery, and that is the fact that villains love to talk about their motivations. His experiences with Peter didn’t diffuse this notion, so he calls out, “Why did you try to take over the pack?”
Rookwood pauses. “Because they killed my daughter.”
“No,” Derek says, “I killed your daughter because she was trying to control me. Why was she doing that? It never made sense.”
“You were supposed to be a beta,” Rookwood says, narrowing her eyes at him.
Derek narrows his eyes at her. “It’s my territory. Mine. I wouldn’t send someone else out to investigate an unknown trespasser.”
“You’re not much like your sister at all, are you?” Rookwood says abruptly.
Derek stiffens, looking like he might burst through their only line of protection and lash out at the witch immediately. Stiles actually reaches out to touch Derek’s back reassuringly, trying to ground him and remind him why they were staying inside.
The Alpha couldn’t fall. Allison’s crossbow wouldn’t do much to stop him, were he turned against them, and Stiles for one didn’t want to face him down.
Derek meant too much to him. He couldn’t… he just couldn’t stand the thought of Derek having his control ripped away and turned into a monster.
Stiles can feel how rigid the muscles in Derek’s back are through his shirt, and he splays his fingers out, stopping just short of anything that could be construed as petting. Derek takes a few sharp, deep breaths, and then says in an unwavering voice, “I don’t see how you would know.”
“Sweet Laura was too trusting,” Rookwood says, stepping closer to where Stiles knows the chain is buried. She holds a hand out, like she’s feeling the range of the circle, and says, “Unlike you, it seems. She used to stop by our store. Lonely thing, she was. I was under the impression she didn’t have any family left.”
“You seem to have paid close attention to her,” Derek says. His voice is steady and even to someone who knows him as well as Stiles does, he seems calm. The tenseness in his back belies his outward calm, though, and Stiles risks stroking his back, trying to unwind him.
It seems to help. Derek loosens his stance a little, and Stiles pulls his hand back slowly, not wanting to draw the witch’s attention.
“Werewolves are easy to spot,” Rookwood says, “especially you born ones. None of you are quite human enough. And when Laura died… well. I saw an opening.”
“An opening.” Derek’s no longer calm; there’s a dangerous lilt to it. Beside Stiles, Allison tightens her grip on her crossbow.
Erica takes a half-step forward, clearly wanting to act on the threat in her alpha’s voice.
“The Hales have held this town for far too long, pup,” Rookwood says. “With Laura gone… well, I was under the impression that her brother was just a kid, staying as far away from here as possible. Bad memories, I suppose.”
Derek holds out a hand, stopping Scott from taking a step forward. Stiles thinks that there’s some sort of werewolf thing happening, with the way that Erica and Scott are reacting to digs at Derek, and he hopes that Derek isn’t losing control of himself.
“You had to know another Alpha would take her place,” Derek says.
“She never formed a pack,” Rookwood says. “I assumed… well. Your little pack did come as a surprise to me, though not a threat. Where did you find such terrible wolves at?”
Erica lets out a snarl, crouching like she’s about to spring at the witch. Stiles tenses, thinking that maybe he can grab onto her belt or something if she tries to attack. He’s painfully aware that the thin iron chain is all that’s protecting them from the coven’s formidable magic.
“Not as easy to control as you hoped, are we?” Derek says, surprising Stiles. He’d expected an angry snarl, and instead, Derek seems to have centered himself again.
Stiles wonders why. He looks around.
At first he doesn’t see it, but then he realizes that the other four witches have surrounded the circle. They’re still in the underbrush, mostly hidden behind branches and foliage, and they’re…
They’re just watching. Stiles can’t sense any more magical disturbances, and though, granted, he’s not an expert, so far the magic hasn’t exactly been the most subtle weapon on earth.
They’re watching, but they aren’t acting. Beside him, Allison notices that he’s not looking at Rookwood anymore, and he can tell when she spots the rest of the coven.
Her brow furrows. She looks at Stiles, and he shrugs.
Rookwood starts in on a rant about how the werewolves have been in control of these lands for too long, and her voice has the shrill, demented edge of someone who has lost base with all reality. Stiles stares back into the woods, and one of the witches moves closer to the edge of the clearing.
The expression on her face is pure horror.
Just like that, Stiles knows that the witches hadn’t realized that their leader had slipped into insanity.
“So that’s why you sent your daughter to take over a wolf,” he says loudly, hoping that they’d already heard enough of Rookwood’s rantings to understand how far gone she was. “You fired the first shot. We acted in self defense.”
“He wasn’t supposed to be an Alpha,” Rookwood cries, her voice cracked and ragged now. She raises her hands, and Stiles can feel power building between them. Too much power for one person, he thinks.
The coven’s magic. He looks back at the other witches, and they’re no longer trying to conceal themselves. They’ve stepped into the clearing, advancing on Rookwood slowly.
“And you killed that girl,” Stiles says, sensing the tipping point is near. The other witches stop, turning to look at him. “The nice witch who tried to warn us against you, when we went to the magic store. She disappeared right after that.” He turns to the rest of the coven. “We had nothing to do with that.”
“You told us they attacked without provocation,” one of the witches says to Rookwood.
“They did,” she shrieks. “They killed my girl!”
“Your girl tried to control a werewolf alone,” another witch says. “That’s forbidden for a reason.”
Rookwood spreads her hands out. The magic she’s building seems to have manifested itself; there’s a bright, glowing light there now, one that Stiles can’t look at without seeing spots dance across his vision.
“I regret that she died,” Derek says quietly, turning from Rookwood for the first time since she emerged from the forest. “But I was given no choice. And none of my pack have harmed any of yours, no matter what that says.” He throws a disgusted look at Rookwood.
The oldest of the four witches, a woman Stiles faintly recalls seeing at the magic store, looks him in the eye. “Do you speak the truth, boy? By the moon?”
“By the moon,” Derek says solemnly. Erica and Scott still have their attention trained on Rookwood, though Allison is wavering between all the witches, with her crossbow gripped tightly.
“And our brother?” another of the witches ask, motioning towards Walt.
“Just knocked out a little,” Stiles offers. “Nothing unfortunate happened to him at all.”
Allison’s phone buzzes, and she looks, vaguely panicked, around. “We don’t have much time.”
Stiles is pretty sure that the hunters aren’t going to work on a no harm-no foul system.
“We formally apologize for grievances we’ve caused your pack,” one of the witches begins, and then suddenly drops to her knees, clutching her head.
Rookwood laughs, loud and mad, as she releases the magic that’s built up in her hands. Stiles drops to the ground, Derek beside him and Allison crouched nearby, her crossbow aimed at Rookwood.
There’s a strange sense of tension, as though the invisible barrier of the circle is wavering, and then, suddenly, there’s chaos as the barrier falls.
It’s like the entire world is crashing down around them, and Stiles instinctively reaches out and grips Derek’s hand, holding on as tight as he can as the magic fills the air to the point that Stiles can’t even breathe.
And then, abruptly, it’s gone.
Stiles looks up cautiously, and Rookwood is clearly gearing up for a second wave. She’s chanting quietly to herself, stepping forward over what used to be the iron chain, but now all that remains is a charred circle.
The other witches are scrambling to their feet, looking dazed as they try to come up with a spell to counteract whatever Rookwood is about to do. It’s clearly deadly; the other witches look panicked.
And then Allison pulls herself to her feet. Stiles sits up slowly as Derek lets go of his hand. And as Derek climbs to his feet…
There’s a strange whistling sound, and then suddenly the shaft of an arrow is sticking out of Rookwood’s throat.
For a second Stiles remembers vividly what her daughter looked like as she died, blood gushing from her throat. The boneless way that Rookwood’s body slumps, blood bubbling out around the bolt, is eerily familiar.
There’s a quiet moment of shock.
The witches, clearly still recovering from the shock of the magic attack, collectively gather around Rookwood’s body and stare, dazed.
Derek steps closer, and motions for Erica and Scott to come with him. Stiles puts his hand on Allison’s arm, but she shakes it off, still staring at the bolt in Rookwood’s neck.
“Your leader is dead,” Derek says, voice cutting through the silence like a scythe. “Did that break your coven’s hold on my wolves?”
“Any spells that were done with the coven’s collective magic are broken,” one of the witches says, turning pale as she realizes the ramification this has on her group. “Your wolves are your own again.”
“Then I’ll do you the favor of warning you,” Derek says. “Hunters are coming, and they want you dead. Run.”
“But… Alma…” One of them says, staring at the body.
Stiles get the impression that witches as a whole experience a lot less death and terror than werewolves and their associates.
“Run,” Derek snarls, and the witches, with several regretful looks, gather up Walt and flee.
Allison finally lowers her crossbow, hand visibly shaking and gestures towards the still-unconscious werewolves. “Get them out of here. The hunters are almost here.”
Stiles doesn’t even remember to check whether the spell on him and Derek has been broken as he helps Derek, Scott and Erica haul Boyd and Isaac away from the circle.
It’s not until they end up in separate vehicles going back to town – Stiles in his jeep, Boyd filling up the backseat and Scott beside him, while Derek and Erica take Isaac in the Camaro – that Stiles realizes that he’s not in soul-crushing pain, and thus, breaking the coven’s power actually did break the spell.
It seems too simple, somehow. Too neat. He realizes that he never really expected it to work, and that he’d been somehow… hoping it wouldn’t.
It’s weird to not be with Derek, given how they spent the last three days in constant proximity. He keeps glancing over at the passenger seat and it’s bizarre that it’s Scott sitting there, instead of Derek, who should be glowering about nothing in particular. He misses Derek.
“So,” Scott says. “You and Derek.”
Stiles pretends like it doesn’t startle him as much as it does. “No longer magically enforced buddies!”
“I was talking more about the whole… situation between you two,” Scott says. “The way you are totally in love with him and all.”
Stiles can’t hide his startlement this time. “What? That’s… What? Scott, that is crazy talk.”
Scott gives him a look. “Uh-huh.”
“Nonsense,” Stiles repeats.
Scott leans over and sniffs Stiles’ neck, getting all up in there and snuffling against his skin, which, “Hey! Inappropriate! The hell, dude!”
“You’re carrying Derek’s scent,” Scott says triumphantly, pulling back.
“Again, I’ve been magically tied to the dude for days! It’s not like we could properly maintain personal space bubbles,” Stiles sputters out.
“That’s not what I meant,” Scott says. “You don’t smell like him because you’ve been living with him 24/7. You’re carrying his scent.”
Stiles has no fucking clue what the difference between those is, and tells Scott so.
“It’s like…” Scott waves a hand around carelessly. “How me and Allison carry each other’s scents, but me and you don’t. There has to be… heightened emotion and contact to transfer this kind of scent.”
“When the hell did you become a scent-expert?” Stiles asks, trying to ignore the fact that apparently to every single freaking werewolf, he and Derek smelled like they were dating. It gave him a strange, twisty feeling deep inside, like it should be something good but instead it was just… depressing.
“Derek’s lessons,” Scott admits.
“Normally, I would be delighted that you’re using someone’s own knowledge against them,” Stiles says, “but mostly I’m just annoyed.”
“Why are you trying to keep it secret, anyway?” Scott asks. “I think it’s cute that you’re dating Derek. It’s very… Xander and Cordelia.”
“We aren’t dating,” Stiles chokes out.
“Your neck says otherwise,” Scott points out, tapping his nose.
Stiles steers with his elbow for a moment so he can jerk up the sleeve to his shirt. The healing scratch marks on his arm are vivid even in the dark car. “What do you see?”
“He… marked you?” Scott sounds confused.
“This is why the spell connected us,” Stiles says. “He was grabbing my arm when the witch cursed us, and somehow it ended up on the two of us instead of the two of them. He marked me, and there was a magic spell holding us together, and all of a sudden there’s something going on between us? That doesn’t sound the slightest bit suspicious to you?”
Scott stares at the scratch marks with new understanding. “You don’t think it’s real.”
“No,” Stiles says. “It wasn’t. We both think that.”
“Oh,” Scott says. He sounds disappointed. “But… you two just have this…”
“Again, since when?” Stiles says bitterly. “It was just a cruel twist of magic, Scott. Nothing real.”
They drove the rest of the way to Derek’s in silence.
“So has anyone noticed that when we all get together, group murder ensues?” Stiles asks as he helps Scott pull Boyd out of the Jeep. He really feels that focusing on murder is preferable to anyone talking about his and Derek’s… whatever.
“We’re getting pretty good at it!” Scott says optimistically.
“Yeah, maybe we can put it on our resumes one day,” Stiles says.
“At least we didn’t have to bury this one,” Scott offers as Derek’s Camaro pulls up. “That part’s gross.”
“Hell yeah it is,” Erica agrees, climbing out of the passenger seat. “Why’d we ditch Allison with a fresh corpse, anyhow?”
“She’s using it to prove herself to her parents,” Scott says. “Maybe they’ll ease up on her then.”
Stiles stops, letting Boyd’s feet thump to the ground. Scott continues to drag him, not even noticing that Stiles isn’t helping anymore. “Did you come up with that on your own? That’s actually a decent bit of manipulation.”
Scott awkwardly balances Boyd on one arm in order to flip Stiles off. “It was Allison’s idea. She figures that since her family was hunting the coven anyway, saying that she decided to go out and try to help them would win some brownie points.” Scott smiles goofily. “Prom’s coming up.”
“Allison’s parents would ease up on her because she killed someone?” Erica says blankly. “And I thought my mom was a fucked-up parent.”
“Because she killed a monster,” Stiles clarifies. He catches Derek’s eye, and immediately looks elsewhere. Like the floor. Man, concrete is interesting. Way more interesting than Derek’s strangely sad look.
Scott gets Boyd arranged somewhat comfortably on an old couch, and Erica sets Isaac up nearby, and then that’s it. The adventure’s over. They all stand around awkwardly for a moment, and Stiles totally catches Erica and Scott clearly giving each other “Let’s leave them alone,” looks, so he grabs Scott’s hand and says, “It’s been real,” and fucking flees towards his Jeep.
Scott hisses, “Stiles, seriously dude,” but Stiles isn’t interested in making small talk or whatever. He has to leave here before he actually looks at Derek, or, god forbid, has to talk to him.
He can’t handle that. Not when he’s already feeling strange and adrift, like the spell breaking did more than just cut the leash between them.
Scott doesn’t push the topic on the drive home, just talks aimlessly about the homework they have in Econ, and how Scott covered for Stiles during his missed lacrosse practice even though he had to deal with Coach Finstock congratulating him on being such a thoughtful boyfriend to Stiles. Scott keeps checking his phone for news from Allison, and Stiles keeps his eyes firmly on the road, hands at ten and two, and basically does everything in his power to focus on anything but what just happened.
He drops Scott off, getting a promise to let him know if Allison’s okay, and Stiles drives home numbly.
It’s stupid, he knows. They’ve been working nonstop for days to break the curse, and now it’s broken. Stiles should be dancing around his room, fist-pumping and freaking howling at the moon in celebration.
Instead he just trudges upstairs and flops on his bed, staring at the ceiling. He glances over. There’s still an indention in the other pillow where Derek slept. He tries to ignore it, too, but it just sits there, dominating the room, until Stiles rolls over and punches it.
Then he leans in and presses his face against the pillow, breathing in deep. It smells like Derek, faint and musky.
Stiles lays there like that for a while, breathing in with his eyes closed, trying to push everything out of his head. He knows that when he wakes up in the morning, these last, terrible remnants of the spell will be gone, and he’ll laugh at himself for being a sentimental wreck over smelling Derek Hale on his pillow. He might even tell Scott, to make Scott feel better about his Allison problem. Apparently everyone can succumb to lovesick puppydom.
Stiles heaves a sigh and rolls out of bed, pulling all the bedding off his bed and hauling it to the washing machine before he can change his mind about it. He can’t roll around in Derek’s scent like a creepy loser. He just can’t. Tomorrow, everything will be better. These last dying whimpers of the spell will be just a memory, and Stiles can get on with his life.
His dad raises an eyebrow when he passes him on the way back to the room. “Suddenly into housekeeping?”
Stiles says, “There were Doritos crumbs in them. They kept stabbing me.”
“Of course,” his dad says.
Stiles thinks about going back up to his room, but all that lies that way are uncomfortable memories and his own feelings, so he flops down on the couch. “Find any leads on that girl?”
“The first one’s safe, at least. Her mother called in earlier tonight,” his dad says. “Says the girl came home after all.”
“That’s good!” Stiles practically yelps. He thinks again of Rookwood’s face when she talked about her daughter’s corpse, and feels a strange stab of guilt. The woman had been nuts, but she’d obviously loved her daughter. And apparently her determination to get revenge herself after discovering her daughter’s murder had made her cover it up. One less thing to worry about.
“Yeah,” his dad says, and then shakes his head. “It didn’t feel right, but there’s nothing really we can do now. Girl’s no longer a missing person.”
“Happy ending,” Stiles replies unenthusiastically. “In a way. Though that has to at least be a good mark for your station. Better than another unsolved murder, right?”
“Always looking to the bright side, that’s my boy,” his dad says, giving him a light punch on the arm.
Stiles grins at his dad. “Hey, us Stilinskis gotta stick together.” He pauses for effect. “No matter how much I sometimes think you secretly wanted a Boy Named Sue situation to happen between us. No other explanation for that name you saddled me with.”
“Son, this world is rough,” his dad says, straight-faced, “and if a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough.”
Stiles rolls his eyes, grinning, and snags the remote control out of his dad’s hand. “How’s that for gravel in my gut?”
His dad laughs. Stiles flips through the channels, ending up on one of the endless reruns of a reality show about terrible jobs, and they sit in comfortable silence, watching truckers risk an icy death in order to get supplies to isolated towns.
After a while, his dad clears his throat and says, “Stiles.”
It’s his serious face. Stiles hastily gulps down the mouthful of corn chips he’d just shoved in his mouth and says in an equally serious voice, “Dad.”
“I just…” His dad runs a hand through his short hair. “Are you happy?”
“Am I… what? Yes?” Stiles replies.
“It’s just, you’ve been a little… off… these past few days,” his dad continues. “And… Is it a girl? You know you can talk to me about anything. Did that Lydia girl hurt you?”
“Lydia? No,” Stiles says, before realizing that he’s totally admitting that he has problems with someone.
“Oh?” his dad asks, looking interested.
“Ugh,” Stiles says, hiding his face in his hands. “Why does everyone just look at me and automatically know everything?”
“Because your face is basically a giant billboard advertising your thoughts,” his dad says immediately. “Always has been. Your mom and me always knew the second you’d done something wrong, just by the look on your face.”
His expression saddens, the way it always does when Stiles’ mom comes up, and Stiles leans over and rests his head on his dad’s shoulder in a way he hasn’t in a while. It’s strangely comforting, pretending to be a kid again, and has the added bonus of him not having to see his dad’s expression when he talks. “It’s nothing, really. Just… how do you know when you really feel something for someone?”
“That’s not something you can really define,” his dad says slowly. “I mean, it’s not like there’s a switch that’s thrown in your head, and suddenly, you have real feelings. It’s something that builds.”
“What if it is sudden?” Stiles asks. “Like… what if you’ve known someone for a while, and you definitely had no romantic feelings for them. More fear than anything, really,” he adds thoughtfully. “And then… it’s suddenly different? Do you trust that?”
“That depends,” his dad says. “Do you trust them?”
Stiles nods. He trusts Derek with his life.
“And most importantly,” his dad continues, “do you trust yourself?”
“What do you mean?”
“That’s really the only way to be sure of your feelings,” his dad says. “It’s to put enough trust in what you’re feeling, and your interpretation of those feelings, to see if it’s something you want to act on.”
Stiles sighs. “I don’t know.”
“That’s because you’re a teenager,” his dad says wisely. “Though, just putting it out there… It doesn’t really matter how old you are. Knowing if what you feel is real… that’s a tough one for us all.”
“How did you know?” Stiles asks quietly. “With Mom?”
His dad is quiet for a long minute. Stiles wants to backtrack, make some joke and give him an out. The wound from his mother’s death is still too raw.
“I woke up one morning,” his dad says quietly, “and she was the first thing I thought about. It wasn’t anything special, we didn’t have a date that day or anything. I just woke up thinking about how much she would like it if I brought her a cinnamon roll before she had to get to her nine o’clock class. And that was it. I just… knew that she was the one.”
It isn’t the answer Stiles was expecting. “You just knew?”
“I just knew.” His dad nods. They sit quietly for a few minutes, then he says, “So you’re sure it’s not Lydia? I can see why she’d scare you.”
Stiles shakes his head. “No, he’s definitely not Lydia.”
“Well, if you figure it out,” his dad says after a beat, “be sure to bring him over for dinner.”
“I’ll let you know,” Stiles says. He tries to picture Derek at the dinner table with him and his dad, and strangely, it doesn’t feel that bizarre. Like it’s something that could actually happen.
They watch the rest of the episode in comfortable silence.
After his bedding finally finishes its go-around in the dryer, Stiles bids his dad goodnight and goes back to his room. He makes the bed, punching the pillows a few good times to eliminate any remaining soppy feelings he might have about face indentions, and goes about his nightly routine quickly, hoping that he’s exhausted enough to fall into a dreamless sleep.
Adrenaline must still be pumping through his veins, because once Stiles lays down, he just stares up at the ceiling. After a few minutes of trying to distract himself every time he thought about Derek, he grabs his phone and checks his messages.
Nothing from Derek. He considers sending a good nite! but halfway through pecking it out, decides it’s a terrible, needy idea and discards the text. He wonders if Isaac and Boyd are okay, but when he checks the time it’s almost two am, and he doesn’t want Derek to think he’s laying awake thinking about his pack. Even though that’s exactly what he’s doing.
Instead he checks in with Scott, who replies saying that Allison is okay and that they’ll talk about it tomorrow at school.
Stiles sighs and buries his head under his pillow. Maybe if he just hides for long enough, he’ll forget who Derek Hale is. That would solve most of his problems.
Because the more he thinks about it, now that he’s alone, there’s no way that the… relationship… that he’d thought at the time might be developing really had. Even if Stiles pretended like the magic had no effect on their respective feelings, Derek had been a wreck. First he’d had control over his body taken away from him – and for a shapeshifter, Stiles was pretty sure that control was the absolute most important thing to have over yourself – and then he’d killed a girl, when he was trying his hardest to be a different kind of Alpha from Peter.
And then, the whole making out thing. When Stiles pieces together the timeline in his head, that had happened right around the time that Boyd had been taken over by the witches. And if bringing wolves into the fold intensified an Alpha’s power, it had to mean that removing one destabilized it.
None of it had been real. Stiles has to admit that to himself. Derek was… Derek, and there was no way that out of everyone in the world, he’d chose Stiles.
It was just… impossible.
Stils stares into the darkness of the room, feeling adrift and alone. The warm, clenchy feeling that thinking of Derek had been giving him slowly transformed into something terrible and painful. It was like… like he’d never be the same again. He’d never just be Stiles again, because there was this gaping hole inside him, where he’d been used by the magic and circumstance.
Derek had been right. They hadn’t actually been developing feelings for each other, and as the spell’s effect faded to nothingness, Stiles was left empty and alone.
Eventually, sleep claims him, and his dreams are uncomfortable and dark.
Stiles wakes up groping at the other side of the bed, like he’s trying to find something that’s missing.
He blearily stares at the sheets as if an answer will come to him, and then realizes that his alarm clock is what woke up him. “Oh, crap!” he yelps when he sees what time it is.
He trips across the hall to the shower, hops in and out as quickly as humanly possible, and dries off and dresses in the first assortment of clothes that he jerks out of his closet.
It’s only when he slides into the Jeep that he’s clear-headed enough to remember the previous night’s misadventure. He tries to laugh at how melodramatic he’d been laying in bed, but mostly just decides to make Scott an apology heartbreak mixtape, because if Scott had felt anything like that when he had troubles with Allison, then Stiles is a douche for making fun of him.
He pulls up at school and takes a deep breath. He can do this.
He heads inside, but someone is suddenly beside him, grabbing his arm and tugging him away from the entrance of the school. He’s not even sure why he’s surprised that it’s Erica, given the aggressive way she waylaid him.
He stumbles along after her as she keeps a vice grip on his wrist until they reach a secluded nook to the side of the school that is normally used by smokers. Erica puts her hands on her hips and says, “Okay, what the hell did you do?”
“Nothing so far today?” Stiles answers uncertainly.
Erica whacks him lightly upside the head.
“Dammit, woman,” Stiles yelps. “What was that about?”
“My Alpha is moping,” she says, eyes flashing.
“Your Alpha exists in a constant state of mope,” Stiles tells her tersely. Derek is the last thing he wants to talk about right now. Derek’s well-being is absolutely not any of Stiles’ concern, and if the thought of him moping makes Stiles want to mope, well. That’s what friends are for. Sympathetic moping.
“You two are morons,” Erica says, waving her arms around crazily. Stiles is pretty fascinated; the contrast between Erica’s hot-girl makeover and her flailing body language is pretty fantastic.
“Derek is fine,” Stiles says reassuringly. “He’s been through a lot worse than a little bitty spell hangover.”
Erica gives him the ole crazy-eye. “Yes. Because that’s what it is.”
“It is,” Stiles says. “I mean, look at me! Totally bounced back from all the stupid magic-induced things that shouldn’t have happened.” He bounces a few times to prove exactly how bounced-back he is.
“And I thought talking to Derek was like having a conversation with a brick wall,” Erica sighs. “You deserve each other.” She shoves a piece of paper at him.
“What’s this?” Stiles asks. He turns it over.
“Doctor’s excuse for yesterday. Derek said you didn’t need an unexcused absence,” Erica says. “I had a whole stash of them from before. I just scribbled your name in.”
Stiles blinks. “That’s very…. thoughtful.”
“Yeah,” Erica says. “Almost like someone cares or something, right? But nope. Just a magic spell.”
She turns to walk away, and Stiles calls, “Are Isaac and Boyd okay?”
She half-turns and says, “They’re… recovering. But yeah. I think they’ll be okay.”
“Good,” Stiles says. He stares at the note in his hands. “Um. Thanks. And tell Derek…”
“I’m a wolf, not an owl,” Erica interrupts. “Tell him your own damn self.”
By the time Stiles actually gets inside the building, he feels like he’s been through the ringer. He gets a few blissful moments of normalcy getting his absence dealt with, and then heads to his locker with whole minutes to spare before his first class.
Then Scott and Allison surround him.
“Hey,” he says casually, like they didn’t kidnap a man and kill a lady the night before. He’s getting good at that. “What’s shaking? Wait, aren’t you two supposed to be all… not together at school?”
“It’ll be fine,” Allison says. “I earned myself some credit last night.”
“Your family was happy with your shiny new death count?”
“Very,” Allison says. “Turns out that Rookwood had tricked her coven into killing a hunter a few years ago. She’s been on the hit list ever since.”
“Do you have like, a serial killer wall?” Scott asks. “All the people the hunters want dead? Because if it earns us brownie points, we could start to assassinate bad guys.”
“You could be love vigilantes!” Stiles says enthusiastically. “That’s not weird or creepy or morally dubious at all!”
“Speaking of which…” Allison says slyly. “How did things work out with Derek?”
“Oh my god,” Stiles bursts out. “Does no one care about anything but Derek? What happened to the good ole days when Derek was a complete non-entity in our lives?”
He got two identical, smarmy grins in reply. Stiles hates everyone.
“Hate,” he says, pointing to each of them. “Hate, hate, hate.”
Allison pinches his cheek, and Stiles flips her off before marching off to class.
“Hey,” Jackson says as he passes him on the way to his seat. “Did—“
“Why is everyone such an asshole?” Stiles interrupts with, and grumpily sits down at his desk.
“Because I’m being the asshole here,” Jackson mutters. “I was just trying to see if my totally dangerous spying expedition did in fact save your asses.”
“Yeah, yeah, the info was useful,” Stiles says. “Good job.”
Then he stares crankily at the blackboard.
“What’s his problem?” he hears Jackson say, and that’s just where Stiles is in his life right now. He’s at the point where he’s considered a dickbag by Jackson Whittemore. He sighs and sinks lower in his chair.
He shares his next class with Scott, and when he slides down next to him, Scott looks at him seriously. “Listen…”
“If this has anything to do with Derek…” Stiles begins.
“I just wanted to high five you,” Scott admits. “You popped your cherry! Finally! I thought you said you were going to have a parade when that happened.”
Stiles scowls. “See, everyone keeps making assumptions.”
“You and Derek definitely did it,” Scott says. “The nose, it does not lie.”
“Your nose wasn’t there,” Stiles says, trying and failing to not sound epically grumpy. “I remain untouched. Pure as the driven snow. Technically.”
“I’m not saying I’m asking for details, because I want to be able to look Derek in the eye,” Scott says. “I mean, if he’s doing his dickish Alpha thing and I’m trying to defy him, I don’t want to be thinking about the dirty things he’s done to my best friend. But… you’re wrong.”
“I think I have a pretty good handle on who has and hasn’t touched my dick,” Stiles points out.
“And I think you’re deliberately focusing on technicalities because you don’t want to deal with the fact that you want Derek,” Scott replies smugly.
“I regret ever watching daytime TV with you,” Stiles sighs. “I’m just saying there’s no cause for a parade.”
Scott rolls his eyes. “I think you’re both being ridiculous. I mean, if it’d been the spell, you wouldn’t still be all gooey over him today.”
“I’m not,” Stiles says.
“You just lied,” Scott says. “A fact I didn’t even need my keen senses to tell.”
“You are so wrong. You are like a monument built to wrongness,” Stiles grumbles.
Scott leans out of his desk to pull Stiles in for a quick hug, and Stiles appreciates it, even though it’s awkward as hell with the arm of the desk between them. The hug actually makes him feel a little better.
Then he wonders if anyone’s given Derek the hug he so desperately needs, and ugh, Stiles can’t even stand listening to his own internal monologue anymore, if it’s always going to veer back to Derek and his pout and how someone needs to be near him to tease him out of grimness.
Then Coach Finstock realizes that they’re not paying the slightest bit of attention to their worksheets and sends Scott to an empty seat across the room. Stiles actually kind of enjoys sitting by himself and focusing his attention – as much as possible -- on his work. And on the way his pen clicks. And on re-tying his shoe when he notices that the laces are uneven.
It’s startlingly, wonderfully mundane, and Stiles begins to think that maybe he can do this. He can forget about Derek and everything will be fine. For fuck’s sake, he’s fought monsters! Forgetting a few twisty feelings in his gut should be no big deal.
So he goes through the rest of his classes pretending like everything’s okay. And if he pretends hard enough, it kind of is okay. After all, the spell hasn’t even been gone twenty-four hours. And he’s still got the marks on his arm, so that all could rationally explain why he’s feeling like he is.
He somehow convinces Scott and Allison to drop the whole Derek thing. Maybe he does it by sticking his fingers in his ears and saying, “La la la la,” when they bring him up, but whatever. It’s successful.
There aren’t any monsters to battle, and he’s pretty sure that Scott and Allison want rid of him so they can hook up after school while Allison is still in her family’s good graces and can weasel away from them for a few hours. So Stiles drives around aimlessly for a bit, and then ends up at home, doing the pile of schoolwork that got shoved to the side over the course of the last few days’ misadventures.
He spends the night in a restless sleep, and when he wakes up in the morning, he almost feels like Stiles again.
He can’t quite remember his dreams, though he has the uncomfortable feeling who they were about.
He dresses for the day, touching the marks on his arm lightly before pulling on a long-sleeved plaid shirt. They’re no longer even tender, and the scab is flaking at the edges, and Stiles thinks – maybe. Maybe when this goes away, things will be completely normal.
The first thing Stiles sees when he walks up to his locker is werewolves.
Isaac is lounging against the bank of lockers like he thinks he’s Sid Vicious, and Boyd is standing a few feet away, arms crossed and looking vaguely uncomfortable.
“Hey, boy-wolves,” Stiles says, debating whether he should sidle up between them like it’s normal and get his Econ book, or if he should just stand here like it’s a showdown. The warning bell rings and answers the question for him, and he squishes himself in between them to open his locker.
“Stiles,” Boyd says.
“Erica told us what you did,” Isaac says. “With Derek.”
“What? I didn’t do anything!” Stiles yelps. Seriously, was nothing sacred? “Lies and falsifications!”
“To save us?” Boyd asks, looking amused. “She seemed to think you played a key role.”
“What? Oh,” Stiles says, cheeks reddening. “I mostly stood there, to be honest. Allison’s the one who really saved you.”
“You kept our Alpha from being a witch puppet like we were,” Boyd says. “If you hadn’t…”
“It was bad enough being taken over for a day,” Isaac says. “If Derek had been… we’d have been screwed. No escape for us.”
Boyd offers his fist to bump, and Stiles manages without looking too awkward. “No problem.”
They leave him after that, both going their separate ways, and Stiles blinks a few times. He’s never actually been thanked by werewolves before. Especially since his role in their rescue really had been a minimal one. It was kind of nice, though.
“You seem better today,” Scott says when Stiles slides in beside him in their first shared class of the day.
“I have a new lease on life,” Stiles informs him. “I am no longer under any hocus pocus. I’m a free man, Scottie. A free bird, and I’m gonna fly.”
Scott gives him a skeptical look, which Stiles pretends for their friendship’s sake that he doesn’t see.
The rest of the morning goes smoothly, and mostly werewolf-free, which is nice. Stiles likes when things are nice. It’s all very… nice.
At lunch, he settles in at his usual table. Scott hasn’t arrived yet – Stiles is pretty sure that he’s found someplace out of the range of the cameras to meet up with Allison, and Stiles isn’t even hating on that. He has a shiny new understanding about Scott’s feelings and really, he’s proud of him for finding a way around the Argents’ collective crazy.
Lydia settles her tray across from him and sits primly in the seat, straightening her silverware.
“Hi,” Stiles offers, because it’s still weird to him that Lydia would consider sitting down at a table that included him. He glances around. “Having a nice day?”
“Other than the fact that everyone keeps me out of their adventures?” Lydia says sweetly. “Still?”
“To be fair, it wasn’t an exciting adventure,” Stiles replies. “One tiny battle!”
Lydia pins him with a glare that has him squirming in his seat. “That is so not the point, Poindexter.”
“I thought it might help a little,” Stiles mumbles.
“Not really, no,” Lydia says, and takes a bite of her lunch, tossing her hair. It’s a move that always makes Stiles’ heart go pitter-patter, but… today it does nothing.
He’s also been talking to her normally, with no unfortunate tongue-tangles.
Stiles stares at Lydia like he’s never seen her before. “Dammit.”
Lydia freezes, French fry halfway to her mouth. “What?”
“I’m not in love with you,” Stiles says. It’s a strange feeling; he’s been in love with Lydia since he stopped thinking girls were icky. Pretty much Lydia is why he stopped thinking girls were icky. And now…
She’s as gorgeous as ever, and Stiles still basically thinks she’s perfect. But his heart isn’t hammering like crazy and he’s got full control of his mouth and hands, which normally both flail like they’ve been possessed by a particularly awkward spirit whenever she’s around.
Stiles is pretty sure that he could hold a full conversation with Lydia now and only embarrass himself in the normal ways.
“Want me to bake you a cake?” Lydia asks, managing to look both disdainful and vaguely concerned at the same time.
Stiles sighs and thumps his head down on the cafeteria table. “No. It just means that I should probably re-evaluate some emotions, but I don’t wanna.”
“Very mature of you,” Lydia tells him.
“You just don’t know how troubling this is,” Stiles says, even though he doesn’t actually feel all that troubled. Mostly, he just feels disappointed, because having a crush on Lydia has been the one constant in his life and now…
Now that’s been replaced by something far scarier.
The dreams get worse.
By Friday, Stiles feels as though he’s really gotten a handle on this whole pretending-everything’s-fine deal. He’s no longer being a douchebag to people. He’s calmly going about his day and not checking his phone to see if Derek has miraculously broken the silence treaty. He’s basically a functional human being.
He manages the whole day at school without Scott or Allison or anyone saying the name Derek to him, though granted, that’s mostly accomplished by Stiles turning on his heel and suddenly remembering he needs something from his locker every time someone begins to say a word that starts with a D. Turns out there are a lot more D-words than Stiles would have figured made their way into everyday conversation.
He’s not entirely surprised, though, when Scott declares that they need to have a boy’s night and drags him to his Jeep after school.
“I’m not that bad off,” Stiles lies valiantly, and wrenches open the door to his Jeep before realizing that Erica is already lounging in the driver’s seat, tapping her fingernails on the wheel.
“You, out,” Stiles tells her firmly.
“Get in, loser,” she says, beaming at him, because ugh, of course Erica is that girl.
“You wish you were a Regina,” Stiles mutters, but just goes with it anyhow because Scott shoves him into the back, and unfortunately, Scott has werewolf strength and Stiles does not.
Erica and Scott argue over the radio on the entire drive, which means that Stiles can sit in the backseat and glare daggers at the backs of their stupid heads. And then he realizes where they’re at.
“Hey!” Stiles protests. “Why are we here?”
“Because,” Erica says, “Me and Scott had a discussion, and we decided that you two are too dumb to manage something like this on your own.”
“Manage what?” Stiles says, horrible suspicion dawning about their intentions. “This isn’t some sort of bizarre set-up, is it? Oh god. You’ve been watching sitcom reruns, haven’t you? Please don’t lock me in a closet with a werewolf.”
“You two just need to talk,” Erica says. “Seriously. This avoiding each other crap can’t work forever.”
“Sure it can,” Stiles says. “Pretty sure that’s how most people handle things. Avoiding it forever.”
“Lucky for you, I’m too good of a friend to let that happen,” Scott says, and when Stiles refuses to leave the Jeep, physically pulls him out.
“Since when?” Stiles says. “This is…this is kidnapping! I know the law, and this is definitely taking me without my consent…”
“Shut up and go inside,” Erica says, prodding him with the pointy toe of her shoe. “Scoot your boots.”
“This is not okay,” Stiles tells them sternly as he enters Derek’s warehouse.
Apparently Derek has his super-hearing turned off or something, because he looks startled when he comes out of the train and sees Stiles standing awkwardly in the doorway, struggling against Erica and Scott’s stupid, stupid werewolf strength.
“Hello?” Derek asks, looking at all three of them like they’re the most annoying intruders in the history of mankind.
“Hi, buddy!” Scott says brightly. “We thought that hey, we were in the neighborhood, maybe we should have a visit. Just some pack buddies. Visiting.”
“Are you making fun of me?” Stiles hisses to him as he watches Derek’s face carefully. Somehow he kind of forgot the presence that Derek has, because in his mind he kind of faded to this big jumble of feelings and now he’s standing there with this befuddled expression on his stupidly perfect face and Stiles hates everyone for putting him in this room. He was doing so good and now the stupid swoopy pit of feelings is back.
He stares hard at his shoes, because then he can’t see Derek’s face. The look of befuddlement had faded into something that Stiles couldn’t put a name to, but he was pretty sure that it wasn’t good. Disappointment, maybe.
Stiles doesn’t want Derek to be disappointed by his arrival. Stiles is pretty sure that’s the worst reaction imaginable.
So he stares at the dirty laces of his sneakers and wonders if he should maybe wash them at some point, or if they just give his shoes character, and Derek doesn’t say anything at all.
Erica pushes Stiles’ shoulder and he takes a step forward, but still keeps his eyes firmly on his shoes. And the dirt on the floor. And the pattern that he makes when he scuffs his shoe against the dirt on the floor. It’s all very fascinating.
“Oh my god,” Erica sighs. “What the hell is wrong with you two?”
“Nothing,” Derek says at the same time Stiles spits out an, “I’m fine!”
“Maybe if we give them some privacy?” Scott asks Erica in a loud whisper.
“Maybe,” she says skeptically. “You two. Talk it out. We’re not saying you have to kiss and make up, but you’re being dumb and just…” She waves a hand around. “Talk.”
With that, Scott and Erica step outside, leaving Stiles alone with Derek, the traitors.
Stiles tries his hardest to pretend like still staring at his shoes is a valid social move, but even he can’t convince himself of that. So he looks up, and Derek…
Derek is staring at his shoes, hands shoved deep into his pockets.
Stiles can’t help it. He snorts.
Derek jerks his head up. “What?”
“It’s just… It’s a really interesting floor, isn’t it?” Stiles offers, waving his hand around.
“No,” Derek replies. He stares at Stiles, like he hasn’t seen him in years.
Stiles scuffs his foot along the floor again, drawing a frowny face. “I… How have you been?”
“Fine,” Derek says. “You?”
“Oh, just peachy,” Stiles replies. “Doing my thang, you know how it goes.”
Derek looks as though he does not, in fact, know how it goes. Derek kind of looks like he’s about to bolt. Stiles isn’t sure why. The only weird thing happening is the fact that Stiles is here, and…
Does Derek hate him that much? He knows things got weird and awkward and Stiles left in a hurry after the witch died and all, but… Surely Derek’s not mad at him. Stiles takes a deep breath. “So um. The spell’s gone! That’s awesome. I mean, that’s what we wanted, and it’s awesome. That it’s gone.”
“It’s great,” Derek says flatly.
“And um,” Stiles says. “I think we’re cool? We’re cool, right?”
Derek doesn’t answer. He just stands there looking at Stiles like that’s an acceptable thing to do. Stiles realizes abruptly that he’s kind of freaking out. He takes a deep breath, but that just reminds him that his stomach feels like it’s got an army of butterflies doing some sort of particularly aggressive flying formations in there.
Stiles has to say something. Derek is just standing there looking like his world is crashing down around him. “I… That is to say, I don’t think that… the spell is happening anymore. And I…”
Stiles kind of wishes he could just punch himself in the face, because that would be smoother than what is coming out of his mouth.
“You?” Derek asks.
“I like being your friend,” Stiles says. He immediately wants the floor to swallow him whole, because did he just say that? Did he just tell Derek Hale, who he has been having increasingly hot dreams about over the past few nights, who gives him the kind of fluttery, breathless feelings that he thought up until this point were just shit that people made up, who, most importantly, he spent several days figuring out was one hell of an awesome dude and that Stiles really, really wants him in his life…
Did he just tell him they were friends?
He kind of wants to hit his head against a concrete column, especially when Derek gets this kicked puppy look and says, “Yeah. It’s nice.”
He awkwardly tries to remember what normal humans did with their hands and feet and mouths when they were standing there with their heart feeling like it’d just been smashed with a hammer with no one to blame but themselves. Stiles is a moron. He’s a moron and he can’t figure out how his mouth works and he thinks he could probably save this, if he just managed to say the right thing…
But nothing comes out.
Then he hears the door slide open and Erica saying loudly, “Jesus Christ, we’ve got to fix this.”
“Erica, we said we’d give them a whole ten minutes…” Scott hisses, chasing after her, and then suddenly Erica is standing right between them.
“It clearly wasn’t just the spell, you know,” she says firmly.
“It was.” Derek’s voice brooks no argument.
“Oh?” Erica asks, voice saccharine.
“Don’t,” Scott says, grabbing her arm, but she wrenches it away, and then suddenly she’s sashaying towards Stiles.
Stiles stands there, dumbfounded, as Erica wraps her arms loosely around his neck, looks back at Derek with pouty lips and says, “Then you won’t mind this.”
Then she’s kissing Stiles.
He flails his arms. Erica feels nice pressed up against him – really nice, if he’s completely honest – but there’s something wrong about it. Her lips are soft, and she’s really going at it, kissing him aggressively in a way that is actually kind of hot…
But it’s not Derek.
He realizes that he can in fact pull back, but as he’s pulling back, so is Erica. Rather, Erica is being pulled back by Derek, who looks as though he’s just been punched in the face. Repeatedly.
“That was mean,” Scott says from his vantage point of not in the middle of this mess. Stiles hates him just a little.
“What the hell, Erica?” Derek glowers at her.
“Don’t care, do you?” Erica sing-songs.
“I...” Derek looks around, like he’ll find the words he’s looking for if he just searches hard enough.
And Stiles realizes that punched-in-the-face expression was because he saw Stiles being kissed by someone else. Someone who wasn’t Derek.
Which means Derek likes him. He likes Stiles, and it has nothing to do with the spell at all.
“Oh my god, you’re such a goober,” Stiles crows. “A great big jealous goober!”
Whatever Derek was expecting, it obviously wasn’t this. “What?”
“You!” Stiles says, pointing. He can see Scott shaking his head frantically behind Derek, trying to get Stiles to take a different approach, but Stiles can’t stop himself. “You don’t want anyone else to kiss me! You like me! I can’t believe you didn’t--”
His words are suddenly lost in Derek’s mouth, as Derek grabs hold of his shirt front, shoves him against one of the concrete pillars, and kisses him like there’s no tomorrow.
Stiles settles his hands on Derek’s hips, feeling the roughness of his jeans under Stiles’ fingertips, and underneath that, the heat of Derek’s hard-muscled hips. He presses up into the kiss, grateful for the concrete pillar supporting him as his knees go weak. Derek’s kiss is even more aggressive than Erica’s, like he’s marking his territory with every press of his lips and sweep of his tongue.
It’s ridiculously hot, and it takes every ounce of Stiles’ willpower to not grind himself up against Derek as he tightens his grip on Derek’s hips.
It’s only when Derek mouths his way down Stiles’ neck that Stiles remembers that Erica and Scott are in the room. He opens his eyes to see Erica grinning at him and giving him a thumbs up while Scott is edging towards the door and looking extremely uncomfortable. Maybe Stiles isn’t doing as good a job as he thinks at not grinding his hips up against Derek’s.
Stiles opens his mouth to suggest…who the hell knows what, that they go hang out in another room for a bit, since he’s definitely not asking Derek to stop anytime soon, but what comes out is a breathy little moan as Derek sucks on the skin just below his ear.
Scott lets out a strangled noise of his own, which is when Derek apparently remembers they’re not alone.
“Can you give us a minute?” he asks after he pulls away from Stiles’ neck, his voice gone hoarse. Stiles clutches at his hips; he’s not letting go anytime soon. There are some things Scott definitely doesn’t need to see, Stiles thinks.
“Fine, fine,” Erica says, sauntering over to Scott, who is scrambling towards the door. “Holler if you need us!”
Stiles decides that it’s worth letting go of Derek for long enough to flip her off.
When the door clangs shut behind them, Stiles expects Derek to resume the making out, but instead Derek leans in and takes in a deep breath through his nose. He finally releases his grip on Stiles’ shirt, which is now crumpled from where Derek has twisted the fabric, and runs his hands down Stiles’ side as he presses his nose into the crook of Stiles’ neck.
“They’re right,” he says, sounding startled.
“Who’s right about what?” Stiles asks.
“My pack,” Derek clarifies. “They said you carry my scent.”
Stiles is never trusting another werewolf apology ever again. “Sorry?”
“No,” Derek says, voice gone low. “Never apologize about that.” He takes another deep breath, obviously taking in the scent. “It’s perfect.”
“Awesome,” Stiles says. He leans in to kiss Derek, because that’s something he can do now. This kiss is softer, more searching. Stiles thinks he could probably kiss Derek like this for the rest of his life and die happy.
And then Derek pulls back, looking at Stiles with eyes that are just a little too bright. “What I said before…”
“There were a lot of befores,” Stiles says, when it’s obvious Derek has trailed off and isn’t sure how to continue.
“I don’t want to take advantage of you,” Derek says quietly, reaching out and tracing the lines of the claw marks on Stiles’ arm through his shirt. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“You aren’t,” Stiles says. “Okay. This is hard, but I’m just going to come out and say it, and… yeah. I’m saying it. I really, really like you. And you’ve become really important to me. And it wasn’t just some fucking curse or werewolf bullshit that did it. It was you.”
Derek looks as though he can’t believe what Stiles is saying. Like… like it doesn’t make sense that Stiles could feel that way. He takes a deep breath, and says, “I tried really hard to believe that this whole thing was just… magic. Something out of my control, something that you couldn’t possibly feel too.” He reaches out and takes Stiles’ hand, stroking Stiles’ knuckles with his thumb as he talks. He has an intense, bright look on his face that sends tingles through Stiles’ entire body. “It wasn’t fair of me to blame what I was feeling on everything else, just because I was scared.”
Stiles pulls their joined hands up between them, and presses a kiss on them and grins. “I think we’re both morons.”
“Probably,” Derek agrees, grinning back at him. The sight is rare enough, even after all their time together, that Stiles just stands there goofily smiling back at him.
“So this is real,” Stiles says.
Derek nods. “Yes.”
“Good.” Stiles understands now why Scott always has such goofy grins on his face. He’s having to fight really hard to keep his face away from The Joker territory. “Because I’m not gonna lie, I’ve been super miserable these past few days, not being with you.”
“My pack defied me and dragged you to me,” Derek says dryly. “If that says anything about the kind of mood I’ve been in.”
“Mr. Cranky Pants, huh,” Stiles says. “You know, you can just take them off…”
Stiles then jumps like fourteen feet as Isaac yells, “Seriously, dudes, we all have super hearing here.”
Derek looks down, biting his lip like he’s holding in a big grin. Stiles bangs his head back against the pillar and sighs.
“Come on,” Derek says. “We should talk.”
There’s a low rumble on the word talk that clearly means a lot more than that, and Stiles practically trips over his own feet stumbling after him.
Derek leads them to his Camaro, and Stiles hops in without a second thought. He figures Scott can probably be trusted to take the Jeep home.
Erica and Scott are hanging out near the door. Stiles totally hates how smug their expressions are, but not enough to interrupt his Derek-time to yell at them.
He pretends he can’t hear them calling, “Toodles!” and “Be safe!” as he and Derek drive off.
They end up parked out by the woods.
The sun has just set, and Derek of course knows every private spot the woods have to offer. Stiles fidgets with the buttons on the dash because, seriously, after his Jeep, Derek’s car is like the freaking Batmobile, and Stiles has certain fantasies he kind of wants to enact.
“You… you weren’t just feeling the effects of the spell,” Derek says hesitantly after a few minutes of Stiles going to town on his stereo.
“Definitely not,” Stiles says, “mostly proven by the fact that I freaking pined for you once we were apart and the spell was broken.”
Derek rubs a hand on the back of his neck, like he’s bashful or something, which is so monumentally dumb that Stiles has to call him out on it. “Dude, don’t even pretend like you don’t know how much I want you. You’ve got a supernatural sniffer and I know you know how to use it.”
“I was… I was hoping that it was the connection. If not the spell, then…” Derek reaches out and touches Stiles’ arm.
“Hoping?” That has to be the wrong word. Stiles feels his stomach plummet like he’s in a free fall. He’s kind of put himself all out there and Derek was hoping it wasn’t true.
Derek looks at him. “I’ve never been good with relationships. You should know that. You know all about the Kate thing.”
“That was like a million years ago though,” Stiles says, even though he knows perfectly well that your heart holds onto things longer than it should.
“Yeah,” Derek says. “And since then I’ve mostly avoided… entanglements… with people who know what I am.”
It’s the bleakest thing he’s heard Derek say. Stiles tries to keep his face steady, but he knows Derek can tell what he’s feeling. “Derek. That’s just… You can’t be with someone who doesn’t know who you are. And I know who you are, and I’m fine with it. More than fine, really. I think you’re great. Super. Marrrvelous.” He rolls the r’s just to make Derek smile.
It’s a shy smile, like he’s not sure if he’s allowed to or not. Stiles brushes his hand on Derek’s cheek, amazed because that’s something he can do now, and Derek tilts his head along with it, like a puppy getting his scruff rubbed.
“I’m okay with who you are, too,” Derek says, still with that smile, and Stiles laughs.
“Glad to hear it.”
And then something occurs to him, and he doesn’t want to break this quiet happiness between them, but…
He pulls off the long-sleeved over shirt he’s wearing. The claw marks are still visible, for all that they’re mostly healed. “About this…”
Derek traces them gently with his thumb, and Stiles shivers. “I think I know why this did what it did.”
“What did it do?” Stiles doesn’t want to admit it, but there’s a tiny, dark part of him that’s insisting that all of this is too good to be true and that somehow, some way, it all goes back to these marks.
“When I clawed Jackson,” Derek says, and Stiles bites his lip to keep from trying to ask him to stick to relevant topics, “I was intimidating him. And that connection manifested badly, with Jackson getting the worst parts of me.”
“He seemed pretty freaked,” Stiles agrees.
“But when I reached out for you…” Derek cuts his eyes up at Stiles, and looks at him in a way no one’s ever looked at Stiles before. It’s like he’s the only person on earth with the power to save Derek, and it gives him a strange pang in his chest. “All I could think was that I had to hold on to you. That if I just didn’t let go… if I didn’t let go, then I could protect you, somehow. That you were the most important thing right then.”
Stiles lets out a shaky laugh. “There were more important things…”
“Not to me,” Derek says. “I wanted to save you, and thought that you could save me. And you did.”
“All I did was kick some dirt around,” Stiles mutters. He can’t look away from Derek, from the brightness of his eyes, and the pang in his chest feels like it’s expanding, taking him over.
“You saved me,” Derek says. “You keep saving me, and you’re just… you’re just human, but you throw yourself out there anyway, and I don’t know where I’d be without you.”
“I think you’re underselling yourself a bit here,” Stiles manages. He’s leaning forward, and Derek reaches out and rests his hand on the back of Stiles’ neck. “But what does this have to do with…” he waves his arm.
“Intent,” Derek says. “My intent wasn’t to bind us together, but somehow the spell the witch cast twisted it into that. My intention was to keep you safe, and that’s what this did.”
“By…” Stiles trails off. Derek is so close, with this look like he’s baring his soul.
“By letting you in,” Derek replies. “I think… you’ve seemed to understand me. I know I don’t… I’m not the best at communicating, but you’ve understood me anyway.”
“So it just… gave me insight into you,” Stiles says. It makes a weird kind of sense, the way that everything about Derek has been markedly less mysterious lately. “Except for how I was pretty sure I was the only one who was smitten.”
Derek leans in, pressing his forehead against Stiles, and says quietly, “Definitely not.”
“No?” Stiles shifts a little to get more comfortable, and he can feel Derek’s breath on his lips. “Example?”
“That first morning,” Derek says quietly. “When you were in my shower, moaning like you had no idea what you were doing to me.”
“I was pretty sure that you wanted to kill me,” Stiles says. The feeling in his chest has expanded and feels like it’s filling up his entire body, and it’s taking everything he has not to lean forward that final inch to kiss Derek.
“No,” Derek says. He grins like a total asshole, and yeah, Stiles is going to kiss him. “Just devour you.”
“That’s terrible,” Stiles manages to get out before pressing his mouth against Derek’s. The car isn’t designed for making out, especially with someone as bulky as Derek, but Stiles is one hundred percent willing to put in an effort anyway.
Because Derek feels amazing, his hand threading through Stiles’ hair, ruffling it up as much as possible, and his mouth, god, his mouth feels perfect. Stiles grabs onto the front of his leather jacket, the zipper biting into Stiles’ palm, and pulls, wanting to feel as much of Derek as possible.
When the kiss breaks off, Stiles manages to say, “Can we have a no bad wolf puns during makeouts rule?”
“That depends,” Derek says. He’s staring at Stiles’ mouth, and Stiles self-consciously flicks his tongue out to wet his lips. That doesn’t seem to help Derek any. “Do you think you could really manage it?”
“Better than you, buddy,” Stiles says. He’s still got a death grip on Derek’s jacket, he realizes, and lets it loose reluctantly. The Camaro’s bucket seats mean that even though Stiles is half-turned, the console is in the way, and Derek flicks his eyes to the backseat, pulling off his jacket.
Stiles eyes it dubiously – it’s ridiculously tiny – but somehow they fit. Somehow meaning that Stiles is wedged in underneath Derek, which… insofar as things go, it’s a really nice place to be. Stiles is pretty sure it’s the best place he’s ever been, actually. And then Derek pulls of his shirt, too, and Stiles is free to touch him and… yeah. This is awesome.
Derek seems determined to kiss Stiles until he can’t breathe, and Stiles pretty much only wants to return the favor. His dick is pulsing, hard and ready, and Stiles is so turned on that he can’t even think. He bucks up against Derek and can feel him straining uncomfortably hard against his own jeans.
“Here,” Stiles manages, and reaches down and fumbles at the button on Derek’s jeans. It’s a lot more complicated than he would have guessed, especially with most of his brain focused on the way that Derek is pressing wet, hot kisses against the most sensitive part of his neck. When he finally gets the button undone, he lets out a little cheer, and Derek grins down at him.
He isn’t entirely sure what he should do next, so he just plunges his hand into Derek’s open jeans, into his underwear. He wraps his hand tightly around Derek’s dick, and Derek groans, deep and low into Stiles’ ear. He shifts a little, tugging his jeans and underwear down enough that his dick springs free.
The angle is weird – different from when he gets himself off – but Derek chants low, murmuring encouragement to him as Stiles jerks him off. The backseat is tight, even with the front seats shoved forward, and Derek looms over him, bracing himself on one side while he pushes up against Stiles’ hand eagerly.
Derek stiffens, grunting as Stiles changes the pace up, and then comes with a groan, collapsing on top of Stiles.
Stiles manages to pull his arm out from under Derek’s body, and lets him enjoy the aftermath for a good five, six seconds before whining into his ear, “Oh god, you weigh a ton.”
“Mmm,” Derek says lazily. Stiles wipes his hand off on Derek’s back, just because.
“First off, my turn, you big orgasm hog,” Stiles says, “and secondly, you are squishing me like a bug.”
Derek sighs and Stiles is forced to reach up and pull his hair, which… just makes Derek look at him with wide, blown pupils and give him a predatory grin. It’s stupidly hot and the only thing keeping Stiles from rutting up against him like a bitch in heat is the fact that Derek is too fucking heavy to move.
But then Derek pulls himself up, somehow positioning himself in the cramped space, and tugs Stiles’ pants down over his hips. Then he lowers himself back down, bracing himself up with one hand.
“I just need—“ Derek manages, and then he’s mouthing wetly at Stiles’ neck. He’s pushing a hand down into Stiles’ pants, wrapping it loosely around Stiles’ dick. Then he squeezes, hand solid and tight around Stiles.
Stiles thinks wildly that he can’t say that he’s untouched anymore, and then Derek is jerking him off, slow and steady, occasionally dipping his hand down to cup Stiles’ balls, and Stiles can’t even begin to hold back the steady stream of Oh gods and desperate groans and Derek, Dereks.
He comes embarrassingly quickly, letting out a stuttering moan. Derek wipes the come off on the sleeve of Stiles’ abandoned overshirt, and then leans down to kiss Stiles again, bare skin pressing together where their pants are undone and Stiles’ shirt has rucked up.
And then there’s a rapping on the window.
Derek breaks the kiss abruptly, and Stiles stares in horror at his dad standing outside the car, looking just as shocked to see Stiles as Stiles is to see him.
“Oh, holy god,” Stiles says, burying his face against Derek’s chest, hoping that it’s too dark for his dad to see much of what’s going on. Slim hope, really, given that he’s holding a freaking flashlight.
“Sir,” Derek says. He looks like a deer in the headlights, which would be funny to Stiles at any other point in his life, but right now he’s too busy quietly dying of mortification. His pants are still down below his hips, and Derek’s half-naked, and yeah. He’s pretty sure that his dad has a good idea of what just went down here. Especially given that Derek is still on top of him.
He’s never going to be able to look his dad in the eye again. Ever. The Stilinskis have officially entered the Anti-Eye Contact Era.
“This is a no-parking zone.” His dad’s voice is slightly strangled. “Hello, son.”
“Dad,” Stiles acknowledges. His voice sounds considerably more strangled than his dad’s did. “Erm. Nice night, isn’t it?”
Derek makes a move to get off Stiles, but Stiles holds on tight to his arm as a reminder that no, that is not preferable when everyone’s dicks are still out on display.
“It’s night, yes,” his dad says. “I wouldn’t apply the word nice to it right now. Mr. Hale?”
Derek blinks a few times in the Sheriff’s direction. “Yes?”
“Would you call it a nice night?”
“Don’t answer,” hisses Stiles.
Derek takes a deep breath and says with considerably more pretense at calm than either Stilinski has managed thus far, “It was, yes.”
“Oh my god,” Stiles moans, attempting his best to hide under Derek so that his dad can’t see his face.
When he peeks out, his dad is staring tactfully in the other direction and announces, “Does this have anything to do with our conversation the other night?”
“A bit,” Stiles admits. Derek pulls himself up enough to get his jeans in order, and Stiles is considerably more awkward getting his own business back under wraps.
“And your conclusion?” His dad doesn’t sound angry, at least. More… worried. Worried that Stiles hasn’t figured out whether what he’s feeling is real or not.
“It’s real,” Stiles says quietly, staring at Derek. “Definitely real.”
Derek runs a hand through his hair, looking oddly bashful, and grins at Stiles. “Me, too,” he murmurs, and willingly climbs out of the car to face the Sheriff.
I just want to thank from the bottom of my heart everyone who has read (or reread!) this story. The response has absolutely blown me away, and I'm stunned that three years later, people are still enjoying this story. You are all wonderful. Thank you so so much.