The howl rises at dusk.
It is almost dark, later than they usually come, late enough that everyone’s eyes are shifted, though they haven’t yet lit the lamps in the house. It is also the end of the raiding season, almost cool enough that the attacks stop, so there is a beat of surprise around the table. At least, Cora pauses with her fork halfway to her mouth, Laura cocks her head to the side, and Derek knocks a glass of water over as his arm jerks. Only his mother rolls smoothly to her feet, eyes already pointing somewhere in the distance.
Laura recovers next, shoving her seat back and dashing outside before his mother even says anything.
“It’s from the west,” his mother tells him. “Derek, stay here with Cora. No wandering outside.”
Then she’s gone as well.
Derek feels a familiar blush come over his face. Because he’s nearly eighteen. He knows he’s supposed to be a fighter like all the other werewolves his age. But he’s not good at it. He knows that. He is big enough and strong enough and his mom taught him all the basics, same as Laura, but he just… fighting isn’t natural to him. He knows all the moves but can never put them together. He doesn’t like it. He’s not good at it.
And it’s not a secret. The entire pack knows about his disgrace. Not even just his pack. The entire allegiance of Hales and Itos and Sorensens know. He’s Derek Hale, the only Hale son, who can’t fight. Who doesn't seem to want to.
Training is due to start in just a few days and his mom hasn’t even mentioned it. No one has.
So when his mother tells him to “stay here with Cora,” what she means is “you stay inside and safe.”
And when she says “No wandering outside,” he knows she’s actually talking to Cora. Cora is the one who is only fourteen and already trying to get Talia to abuse her Alpha powers and let her start training early.
So, technically, his job of watching over Cora is important. He can’t let her get killed – or worse, snatched – just because she’s impulsive and thinks she’s invincible.
It’s still embarrassing, though. He wants to like fighting and killing and protecting their people from the humans that raid and kill his people, he just… he just doesn’t. He just-
“C’mon,” Cora says, almost the moment the door shuts behind their mother. She’s already moving towards the back. “Let’s go!”
“No,” Derek replies, rising and following her. “Cora, stop. Mom said-”
“Mom will never find out,” Cora replies. “We’re not going to fight – not that you can anyway – we’re just going to look.”
It’s a bad idea. He knows it’s a bad idea. But she’s already halfway out the back door and he can’t think of a way to stop her that doesn’t involve physical restraint and to do that would mean he’d have to catch her first and she’s-
She takes off into the woods and he follows. He has to keep her safe.
He tells himself that repeatedly as they venture further and further from the village. Because Cora might think she's brave enough to fight humans but being caught disobeying their mother was a different thing entirely. So she leads them on a wide loop towards the west, careful to duck behind trees as other werewolves rush towards the sighting. Or at least, she remains hidden until they are deep enough in the woods that there are no more werewolves to spot them. Unfortunately, that just means she starts moving even more quickly and he’s so focused on following her through the darkness that he completely misses it when there is suddenly a flurry of movement from above them.
The human is on them in a heartbeat.
There’s a burst of bright light that blinds Derek temporarily and Cora screams and-
It’s mostly luck. Cora shrieks as it grabs her, throwing her head back to howl for their mother, knocking it in the face as she does. Its grip on her doesn’t loosen but it gives Derek enough time to blink vision back into his eyes and, well, that’s when he sees them.
Everyone knows that humans have tattoos, though mostly they are just dark bands wrapped around their arms that you can only see once you’ve stripped them of their armor. There’s a few differences, a few unique designs that werewolves don’t bother identifying but…
But all werewolves know these ones.
The dark, swirling pattern wraps around the human’s wrist and hand and Derek focuses his vision, hoping that somehow he’s seeing things wrong and the corresponding pattern won’t be on the human’s neck.
It’s a Fury.
Something in Derek’s stomach turns to ice. Because all humans are dangerous. They use the cover of night to attack and kill without mercy or simply grab younger werewolves and drag them off and the first rule of fighting a human is to always be prepared for the multitude of weapons and herbs that they have on them at all times.
But of all the humans, a Fury is the most dangerous.
They’re recognizable by the tattoos on their hands and neck, but none have ever been killed. Or captured.
And they are known for killing werewolves rather than snatching them. And sometimes those that are taken are able to escape or the pack is able to track them down, but… you can’t track someone when they are dead. When they’ve been burned and-
He moves before he really lets himself think about how impossible this is. Cora is still yelling and the Fury is still trying to drag her backwards into the woods and the air is thickening as if there’s another trick he’s about to pull and Derek moves.
It lacks any true finesse of a fighter. He simply lunges and feels his claws sink into flesh.
There’s a tingling – almost a burn – and it occurs to him that the Fury is fighting back even as Derek’s claws are inside him, but luckily Cora takes advantage of the Fury’s momentary distraction to shove an elbow into his stomach (that’s a trick she has learned from Laura).
The Fury yelps and lets go and, for once, Derek doesn’t hesitate. He steps forward and grabs and then throws with all his strength because the thing is not hurting Cora and-
Dimly, he hears a crash and maybe a crack but the point is that it’s far away. It’s gone. Cora’s safe.
“Cora,” he says, panting a little. He knew the fight must have only been a few moments, but it seemed longer. “Are you okay?”
“Ye-yeah,” she says, looking over at him. She looks pale. Pale and scared. He doesn’t blame her. “Is it dead?”
“Yes,” Derek says. He’s probably not lying. His hand is covered in blood and the crack that he heard was probably the sound of its head hitting a tree. Or the ground. It’s probably dead.
“I- Derek you killed a human,” Cora says it with a touch of awe. Derek nods. He’s just glad she seems unaware that it was actually a Fury. Good. He doesn’t want her to be more freaked out that she already is. “It just- it just came out of nowhere and you- you saved me.”
“Let’s go home.” He says instead of answering her statement. “Mom’s going to kill us if she finds out we were out here.”
Cora nods wordlessly and they turn for home.
Derek glances to woods as they leave, idly taking note of where they are.
The Fury is dead. It has to be.
For all intents and purposes, the raid is a success for the werewolves. No one was killed or taken and they had managed to capture three of the humans, which will now be used for training purposes. People are practically giddy the next day. Everyone grins broadly as they pass each other in the streets and children are reenacting the bits of battle they’d heard about and-
And Derek finds an excuse just after midday, after helping fix a fence damaged in the attack, to sneak into the woods. Because he’s positive the Fury must be dead, he is, he just… he still has to check.
Luckily, he is known for being quiet and for wandering away without explanation sometimes. No one thinks to question where he is going.
He finds the spot where he and Cora had been attacked easily enough, the smell of fear and desperation still lingering in the air and the splash of blood against a tree an easy sign. He shifts, enhancing his senses further and then follows the trajectory that he thinks he threw the human.
His instinct leads him even further away from the village to the edge of a canyon. The drop is steep and the area itself isn’t big – a small spring of water, a patch of trees, and not much else, and, as a werewolf, he could jump down without breaking anything, but he’d have to climb up. There’s no way a human survived falling into this. No way.
Derek is about to leave, content with the smell of blood as proof that the Fury is dead when he hears it.
It’s faint and uneven and even with its help, it takes Derek a full minute of scanning the clearing before he finally spots the small heap that must be the human. It’s down on the far side of the canyon, almost completely hidden by a tall oak tree and- Derek jumps down before he thinks about it.
He knows what he has to do. Furies are dangerous. Furies are fire and smoke and a funeral he barely remembers. He lands almost silently and makes sure his hands are fully shifted into claws and then slowly moves forward.
The Fury’s heartbeat doesn’t change. It doesn’t know he’s here.
Derek moves less cautiously as he comes closer and it’s then that he sees the reason the Fury doesn’t mind his presence. It’s asleep. Well, unconscious is the better word. It’s partly on its side, sprawled under the tree that must have finally stopped its movement, half covered in twigs and branches that haven’t yet lost their leafs.
He waits a few more heartbeats, then he goes and finally gets a good look at it. Perhaps the first real look any werewolf has ever gotten of a Fury.
It’s young is the first thing Derek realizes. In his head, all humans are old and grizzled, muscled and scarred from years of attacking and killing werewolves. Their skin is thick and leathery from the sun and marked with tattoos that only make them look more nightmarish but this one…
This one looks younger than even Derek. It’s hair is strange – cropped fairly shot in the middle, but then practically shaved on the sides. It doesn’t even have facial hair yet, the only marks on its face a few dark dots that form a pattern up his jawline and it’s- his? – skin is more red than tan, his nose slightly upturned, eyelashes dark and thick where they rest against its cheek.
It doesn’t stir, even as Derek bends down so they are less than a foot apart. Derek shouldn’t be surprised. Its face is bruised and there’s a trail of blood that runs from his hairline down the left side of his face and neck. One sleeve of its armor and shirt is torn off at the elbow, leaving its forearm scraped and exposed. That’s not even taking into account its leg, which, even covered by its pants and hidden by branches, is obviously mangled.
It looks… it looks like a werewolf. An unshifted werewolf, but still…
It doesn’t look different. It could be Laura or Cora, a perfectly peaceful unshifted wolf.
Except for the tattoos.
They are even more visible in the daylight, dark black lines that stand out starkly against its pale skin. The ones that wrap around his hand and wrist look like nothing more than intricate patterns, thick and dark lines wrapping around themselves in way that’s almost beautiful. It must have taken hours to complete.
But the one on its neck is even more distinctive. Derek has never seen one before, has only ever heard them described broadly, as maybe some kind of animal, but this close, he can see it’s not just any animal, it’s a wolf.
The wolf’s mouth is open in a snarl, tongue sticking out grotesquely, its eyes angry and ears pressed almost flat against its head.
It looks evil. And it reminds Derek what he has to do.
He’s shifted back into his base form, he realizes, too curious and relaxed to bother maintaining his beta shift.
But he focuses now. Focuses and sets his claws against the Fury’s neck and the thing must almost be dead anyway, because it doesn’t even twitch at the feel of claws at its jugular and he should do it.
He should slash across its flesh and across the howling wolf that the Fury wears like a badge of honor and he should stop looking at its face and focusing on its racing heartbeat and the fact that its skin is cold beneath his hand and there is pain bubbling right under the surface. He’s never thought about taking pain from a human before, never considered the fact that if he can do it with other werewolves and animals, then he can help humans too because that’s ridiculous, humans are evil and-
He growls low in his throat. He has to do this. He has to keep the pack safe. He has to-
He pushes away roughly and the Fury falls even further to the side but doesn’t wake.
It’s so weak, he assures himself. It’s going to die whether or not Derek kills it. It’s weak and injured and alone and it probably won’t ever wake up.
It will die and Derek won’t have to kill it.
He clings to that thought as he turns and runs, climbing up the wall of the valley in three easy bounds.
He forces himself not to look back.
The next morning, he returns and the Fury is not dead.
He -it - is a few paces from where he was the day before and it isn’t moving now but it’s obvious it was trying to head for water. It’s equally obvious it had failed. The stains of blood smeared into the ground don’t reach to the spring and one hand is stretched towards the pool of blue but the Fury is passed out again, unmoving, and Derek would think it is finally dead except for the same faint heartbeat.
A fighter, Derek thinks to himself. Stubborn.
Not that it matters. Everything dies if it can’t get to water and the Fury had barely made it three feet. It’s not even halfway.
He leaves without bothering to jump down and take a closer look.
Two hours later, he’s back. He doesn’t know why.
He’d gone back to the village only to find that Cora had decided that Derek’s first kill was worth possibly getting in trouble for disobeying their mother. He had gone back to find himself something of a hero, people slapping him on the back and congratulating him on a job well done, and then his mother sat him down and told him that she hadn’t thought he had it in him, but now he can start training with the other teenagers as winter falls and-
And he would love to say that he comes back to finish the job, to get the kill that everyone thinks he already has, but that would be a lie.
Derek comes back to do the opposite.
Derek still jumps down without thinking about it and it’s only as he lands with a slight thump that he realizes something is different.
The Fury is awake.
He- It yelps as Derek straightens and Derek shifts instinctively, although it’s obvious that the Fury can’t take him. From the look of it, it hasn’t even managed to make it to the water yet.
Derek doesn’t move closer but the Fury drags itself away as if he had. It only manages to slide back a foot before curling forward to clutch its leg, gasping for breath. Derek takes a slow step forward. The Fury grits his teeth and drags himself backwards more quickly this time, only stopping when his back runs into a tree.
“Don’t,” the thing groans and Derek pauses only because it’s a shock. He knows humans can talk, knows that they keep them separated when captured for training for that very reason, but in battle they rely on whistling signals that sound like birds if you don’t know what to listen for and he’d always assumed that they just… didn’t. Or that if they did, he wouldn’t be able to understand. “G-get away from me.”
The Fury puts up one hand as Derek continues coming closer and it’s probably supposed to be threatening but all that happens is a few sparks come out of the center of his palm. It sags immediately after as if that had taken more effort than it looked like.
Derek doesn’t exactly feel worried. He keeps walking. Slowly but steadily, ignoring the angry glare that the Fury gives him even as it coughs, and groans, and then tries to raise his hand again only to drop it a moment later.
“Stay the fuck away,” it pulls itself back a little bit, dragging the back of its skull along the tree as if its neck isn’t strong enough to stay upright. “Fucking- just leave me alone and I won’t-”
Its heart is beating too fast now. Fast enough that Derek can barely distinguish between heartbeats. It – he? – is sweating and there is still a trail of blood coming from his leg and-
Derek would say something if it wasn’t so hard to talk while shifted. And for all that he is fairly certain the Fury is too weak to hurt him, he isn’t about to risk letting his guard down. So, he merely ignores all the half-formed curses and snarls that the Fury throws at him and keeps moving.
When he bends down, he’s almost not surprised to find that the Fury’s right hand has been curled around a knife this whole time. It comes flying at his face with more speed then he would have thought possible, but he catches it easily. He doesn’t mean to squeeze it’s wrist hard but he applies pressure until the knife falls to the ground between them. To be safe, he grabs it and shoves it in his pocket.
The Fury sags as if that was his last option and he knows it.
“It’s okay,” Derek tries around his fangs as he reaches for the Fury.
If the human in front of him is scared, he’s not showing it. His jaw is clenched and his glare never falters, even as his eyes flick to Derek’s claws for a heartbeat before returning to his face.
Then Derek reaches for his neck, purely because that’s the easiest chunk of skin to get to, and whatever peace the human had made with death evaporates.
“No,” he gasps, reaching up to push feebly against Derek’s wrist. “Please, don’- there’s nothin’ left.”
Derek feels a flash of guilt that he ignores the human’s pleas to stop but clearly the pain is getting to him because he’s not exactly making sense so Derek can’t be blamed. His skin is clammy under Derek’s hand and Derek shifts back into base-form the moment he starts drawing pain because-
Well, because it knocks him out of shifted-form the moment he starts taking it. There’s too much but he forces himself to focus and-
Most of it is coming from his leg.
“What’re’ou… doin’?” the human slurs, head dipping towards Derek as all his muscles relax.
“Helping,” Derek supplies and then leaves it at that.
Because, honestly, he’s not sure. This is… this is wrong. Derek is a werewolf, a werewolf whose mother is the Alpha of one of the three Packs that make up the alliance and he is out here, in the middle of the day, when he should be helping his Pack, taking care of a human.
Not even a regular human. A Fury. The dangerous, ruthless, killer type of human. The same kind of human that ignored the fighting to sneak through the village and get to his house and lite it up even though-
He shakes his head.
He can't look too deeply into it. It’s bad enough that in his head, he is already referring to the Fury as a “he” rather than an “it.” Humans are supposed to be “its.” They’re monsters. Less than animals. Less than-
The human’s eyes slide shut and Derek takes that as a sign that he’s taken enough pain for now.
He stretches the Fury out, shifting him until only his head is resting on the root of the tree, and then moves down to the leg.
He sees instantly why it isn’t healing. The break is high, almost at the knee and bone isn’t quite breaking the skin, but it’s close. It seems to be just one break, but the two parts aren’t close enough to knit back together. There’s only one way to get them close enough and Derek isn’t sure when he had decided to nurse the Fury back to health but-
He takes a deep breath, pulls in as much pain as he can, and snaps the bone back in place.
The Fury wakes up with a scream.
Derek lunges for his mouth, terrified that someone will hear the sounds of agony but as quickly as started, it’s over. The human is breathing harshly, groaning around clamped teeth, and tears are streaming out from under closed eyes, down the side of his face, but he’s not yelling.
“Sorry, sorry, sorry,” Derek mutters. “Had to do it. It will heal now.” The sound of his voice just makes the human flinch. He shuts up. The break was a bad one. Even now that the bone is back in place, it will still take a couple hours to heal completely.
Maybe more. It looks like the side of the Fury’s face still hasn’t healed over and it has been almost two full days since the attack. There must have been internal damage that took priority over his smaller injuries. Or his body had been too desperate to heal his leg.
Or he was too weak from dehydration.
Derek reaches for his canteen, scooting forward so that he can lift the human’s head and press the bottle to his mouth. Unsurprisingly, the Fury turns his head away at first but the moment the water actually touches his lips, he starts gulping quickly enough that Derek has to pull the bottle away to keep him from choking.
He breathes a sigh of relief when the human appears to be too far gone to really realize what’s happening. They repeat the process a few times, pausing only when the human has to cough and stopping when he passes out again.
Derek doesn’t really know what he’s doing, but he forms a rough kind of pillow out of leaves and re-fills the canteen at the spring. Then he places that next to the Fury.
Hopefully the human will be healed and gone by the next day. Hopefully he will go back to where he came from and he won’t remember any of this and Derek won’t have to worry about this anymore.
The human is evil and Derek just wants-
He wants things to go back to normal
He stands to leave and then realizes he still has the human’s knife in his pocket.
After a beat of hesitation, he puts it next to the canteen.
Stiles comes to slowly. Too slowly. He must spend about ten minutes willing himself to wake up completely, screaming internally that he needs to get moving and check the surrounding area and find Scott and get to water and it still takes him too long.
When he finally gets his eyes open, it’s dark out. He blinks up into the night for a bit, forcing his mind to remember the events that led him here. There was his attempt to grab what looked like a young werewolf, only to find she wasn’t alone (stupid, should have checked, should have been more careful), and then there was… There’s a gap. A gap in his memory and that should scare him, because everyone knows (and he knows better than most) that if the weres get bored of draining your magic, or if you struggle too much, or get mouthy, then they go ahead and take some memories too.
But in this case he’s pretty sure it’s just a head injury. Probably the same thing that ruined his leg.
He tells himself that firmly but his heart starts beating a little faster anyway.
(They already took too much from him. He barely remembers her and Scott filled him in on all the stories a thousand times but he doesn’t, he can’t-)
He groans as a headache suddenly bursts to life across his temples. Groans and then breathes because he has to-
He has to get out of here.
He can’t die. He has to find Scott and they have to get back to his Dad and Melissa and-
He can’t let them starve. Not another. Not his Dad. Not Melissa.
He has to move. He struggles to sit up, needing no reminder that his leg is broken because the stupid thing is still throbbing. His mouth is dry, although he has faint memories of drinking water. Of a werewolf helping him drink water.
He knows what that means. He has to get out of here.
The moon is almost full and it will have to provide enough light for him because he knows without checking that his magic is still tapped out. Which either means the werewolf from before sucked him dry again or he had never rejuvenated enough in the first place.
He suspects the latter. He had been drained five days before the raid, which meant that even during the fight, he was only operating at half-capacity. And then there was the blast of light to distract the small werewolf and the attempt to burn the other while being stabbed and the pitiful excuse for fire-
If the werewolf actually tried to drain him, well, it wasn’t like there was any magic left for him to get. He shouldn’t, but Stiles gets a sick sense of satisfaction at that.
Only briefly though. Because Stiles knows what happens to emissaries captured by other packs. They are allowed to recover and then drained. Fully. To death. After all their memories are stolen and sorted for clues.
There’s a canteen at his side, full, and Stiles only hesitates for a second before opening it and chugging as much as he can. Dying isn’t an option. He doesn’t know where he is but he can figure it out and his leg hurts but it doesn’t seem to be as bad as he remembers it and he-
As he puts the canteen back down, feeling slightly nauseous, it clinks against something.
The werewolf had given him his knife back.
For the first time since waking up, Stiles is truly surprised. Doubtless, all the wolfsbane has come off so it’s not poisonous anymore, but he’d carved the runes in it himself and he’s sure it can still do damage to werewolves. It should have been taken from him.
Maybe the werewolf didn’t know. Didn’t bother looking closely enough that engravings etched into the side or didn’t realize that they mean any wound it inflicts won’t heal instantly.
That’s his mistake. The second Stiles gets enough magic, he can project this knife into the wolf’s throat.
He’d been practicing his aim with Scott. When he managed to get enough magic that he could actually do it without Deucalion noticing he was lower than he should be.
Not that he would be sticking around that long. He shakes his head, he doesn’t know why he has the sense he’s trapped. His leg is mangled but it can’t be that bad and he can crawl and yet he still-
He goes still and squints into the darkness, part of the gap filling itself in.
He fell – was thrown? – into a gully of some type.
He’s trapped. He can’t get out. Not until his leg heals at least a little.
Something in his stomach sinks and his clutches his knife tighter and decides he can’t deal with this just yet.
It’s entirely too easy to fall into darkness once more.
The next morning, training starts and the only word Derek can think to describe it is bizarre.
It’s bizarre because he is something of a celebrity at the moment or at least Cora has made his fight with the human (thank the gods she didn’t realize it was a Fury) seem dramatic enough that people won’t stop talking about it. So when he arrives at the training with the five other young werewolves, there’s more than a few looks. And, for once, they aren’t pitying looks.
It should make him feel better, but it doesn’t. Because the entire opening speech is about how humans are ruthless monsters that have been attacking werewolf packs for generations and how they are callous enough that the bands tattooed around their arms signal the number of kills or captures they have and how it is the duty of all werewolves to destroy them on sight and-
And all Derek can think about is how young the Fury looked and how scared he was when he scrambled away from Derek and how desperate his voice was when he told him to stay away, when he told him there was nothing left (whatever that means).
He keeps his face neutral and tries to tell himself that it was a special case, that the Fury was injured and, really, werewolves kill in battle but they don’t track down injured humans and kill them in cold-blood. Any other werewolf would have made the same decision. And the Fury is probably gone by now but if not, maybe they could learn something by studying him or asking questions or-
“What is the number one strategy when fighting humans?” Satomi snaps. Derek blinks and straightens. The speech is clearly over and, according to the laws of the Alliance, all Alphas are to be treated with the same respect as your own.
“Aim to kill,” Erica pipes up.
Satomi shakes her head. “That’s not strategy,” she says. “That’s just a fact. I want to know how you are going to fight them.”
“Use our superior strength?” Isaac asks.
“Not bad. But not the number one rule.”
There a few heartbeats of silence. When Derek glances around at the other werewolves, he sees that most of them have given up. Erica is looking a little annoyed that her aim to kill plan wasn’t the right answer.
“Look up?” Derek finally asks, just to break the silence. Satomi is known for her patience. They could be there all day otherwise.
He’s sure it’s wrong but the Fury had definitely dropped from above them so-
“Exactly,” Satomi says. She is the oldest of the three Alphas, and not one for outward displays of happiness, but her mouth quirks up for a moment. “Now, we know that humans are not as strong as us, but they are aware of this themselves. Which means they have found ways to adapt, the biggest being their reliance on surprise and tricks, the most basic of which is utilizing their surroundings, particularly the trees…”
She continues and Derek keeps his eyes on her. Partly because it’s polite and Satomi will doubtless report to his mother how he is doing, partly to avoid the half-shocked, half-jealous looks of his fellow trainees.
Mostly, though, mostly so that he can make it seem like he is still listening even as he wonders if the Fury will still be there when he gets back to the gully.
Derek almost doesn’t go. Satomi’s idea of initial training is cardio so his afternoon had been spent running almost nonstop and then dinner is a forced recap of the running that is almost as exhausting as the running itself and-
He tells himself a thousand times that the Fury must be gone by now but as dusk falls, he packs up a second meal (he has a feeling he’s going to be hungry again later even though usually werewolves are just fine on one meal a day) and heads out.
“Just like your father,” his mother says as he nods his goodbye. Her smile has gone soft and sad. “He always needed his alone time too.”
Derek nods silently because he doesn’t exactly remember much about his father and then seriously considers staying because he is going to maybe help the same kind of thing that killed his father, but…
He’s only going to make sure the thing is gone.
Derek frowns as he looks down into the canyon. The Fury is awake now, sitting by the spring, armor in a pile next to him, chest stripped bare. Derek watches as he reaches a wad of clothing that must be his shirt into the pool of water and then shoves it with a hiss onto his stomach.
Where Derek stabbed him with his claws just a few nights ago. Still not healed.
He takes a step closer to the edge of the canyon. The movement draws the Fury’s attention. Derek isn’t close enough to hear his heartbeat, but his eyes land on Derek’s and his chest rises as he takes a deep breath.
Derek wishes he knew what he was doing but he jumps down anyway. To simply stare from above seems rude. And he is already in too deep. He can’t just let the Fury die on him now. Not when Derek already saved him.
The human doesn’t say anything as he walks closer. Just glares at him, and clutches the shirt to his side. Up close, he is lean but muscular, more than a few scars littering the expanse of his skin. And without his shirt, Derek can see that the tattoo on his neck and hands are actually connected. The head of the wolf flows into a body which sits on his shoulder, two of the paws across his collarbone, the back two on his upper bicep. All the curved lines that loop around his arm down to his hands are actually the tail.
The other arm is bare. No bars. Derek finds that reassuring. The Fury might have been attacking his village but he hadn’t killed anyone yet. Maybe this had been his very first mission.
That’s good. That makes it so Derek didn’t save a killer. He saved someone… well, not innocent. It had been grabbing Cora but at least he’s not a killer. Any other werewolf would have done the same.
Derek blinks and tells himself to stop staring.
The human’s heart isn’t beating as quickly as it had been before but it’s still not steady. Derek makes sure both of his hands are up. Last time, even though he was dehydrated and half-passed out, the Fury had managed to shoot a little fire from his hands. And try to stab him. Derek isn’t taking any chances.
“You here to kill me?” the human asks, gritting his teeth and sitting up a little straighter. It almost sounds like a taunt.
“No,” Derek replies. The Fury looks at him steadily for a moment. Satomi had told them that human hearing wasn’t as advanced as werewolves, that they didn’t think humans could even hear heartbeats, wouldn’t be able to tell if you lied to them, but it seems like the Fury is checking for something.
After a beat, he… well, he doesn’t relax exactly but some of the tension goes out of his body. He allows himself to sag back once more. At least, he does after he reaches for his knife again and rams it into the ground so it’s within easy reach.
“Okay,” he says and then looks back at his stomach, peeling back his shirt to poke at the half-closed wounds.
“You’re still …” he starts, eyes flickering down to the Fury’s chest again. The human looks up at him. Saying “injured” seems rude. Derek clears his throat and changes the word. “Here. You’re still here.”
The Fury glares at him. “How would I be gone already? You stabbed me. And broke my leg.”
“Yeah, but,” Derek tries. “That was three days ago.”
Even the deepest wound should have been healed by now. Unless there was wolfsbane along the blade but it’s not like Derek had rubbed his claws in wolfsbane. Only humans used those kinds of tactics.
The Fury’s eyes squint in judgment.
“Well, shouldn’t you be healed?” Derek asks. It comes out a little bit growly. He doesn’t need this humans’ judgment. He needs him to be gone and out of Derek’s mind.
“Can’t use my own magic on myself, dude,” the Fury says, frowning down at his gut again. “Unless… can your emissaries do that? Did they figure out a way?”
Derek blinks. He has no idea what this kid talking about. Emissaries? The kid looks back up at him, almost eager.
“No,” Derek says, feeling something twist in his gut as the human’s face falls. “No, I mean, we don’t have emi-”
“Right,” the Fury cuts in as Derek hesitates over the unfamiliar word. For no reason, his heart has started beating faster again. “Right, you guys don’t keep things like me around.”
His mouth twists but he doesn’t sound too upset or surprised. Derek frowns. If emissaries are Furies then it’s not like werewolves would want them nearby. They literally spend their whole life training to kill werewolves. And everyone knows that Furies are the most ruthless, that they can create a ring of Mountain Ash with a wave of their hand around a werewolf and hold it in place while other humans cross the line and-
That’s not even counting the fire.
“But, you’re keeping me around at least for a little bit, right?” the Fury asks. He doesn’t seem surprised by that either. Or grateful. God, if Derek’s mom found out about this- “I’m no good to anyone like this.”
For some reason, he waves a hand at his neck rather than his leg but maybe that’s a human thing.
At a loss for what else to do, Derek nods.
“Great!” the Fury says, grinning sarcastically. “Then I assume you’re going to feed me?”
“Uh,” Derek says. He thought the Fury would be gone by now. But he did bring a bag full of extra food so, “Yeah. Here.”
The Fury’s hand curls around his knife again as Derek approaches, holding the bag out in front of him. In a heartbeat, it is snatched away and Derek skips back a few steps. Then watches as the human opens the bag and stuffs a huge bite of bread in his mouth.
Well, that makes sense. It has been three days. At least.
“I’m Derek,” Derek offers after a minute. The Fury pauses in chewing to look at him. Derek doesn’t know why he feels that he just made a fool of himself but he does.
“And you want me to call you…?” The Fury says after swallowing. His voice is hard again, playful only on the surface. “Let me guess- ‘my lord and master’?”
“What- no,” Derek says, frowning. “I just told you. My name is Derek.”
The Fury looks at him as if he’s not quite right in the head. Doesn’t respond aside from twitching one shoulder up in what could be acceptance. Goes back to eating.
“And you are?” Derek finally prompts, timing his question for when the Fury has finished the loaf of bread and not yet found the strips of jerky at the bottom of the bag. He’ll have to bring more food next time. The human looks thin to the point of sickly.
His question earns him another mistrustful glare.
“Stiles,” The Fury finally says. “If we’re using names. I prefer ‘annoying shithead’ if you’re planning on derogatory terms."
Derek frowns at his tone. Half challenge, half casual acceptance.
“But, you’re the wolf with the food,” the human- Stiles – says, waving a piece of jerky in the air for a moment before biting it and continuing with his mouth full. “So what you say goes, boss.”
“Derek,” Derek corrects. He still feels like he is being mocked somehow. He needs to get this human out of here. “How long will this take?” He waves a hand in the Fury’s general direction, trying to encapsulate both the time necessary for his leg and his stomach to heal.
Stiles goes… well, not still but forcibly relaxed. He stares down at his own leg for a bit then glances back up.
“At least three weeks,” he admits, mouth twisting. “Maybe more.”
His heart skips. Derek doesn’t understand why he’s lying.
“That long?” he asks. God, humans take forever to heal. It explains why most often it is the smell of blood that gives them away later in the raiding season.
“Regenerating takes time,” Stiles replies. At least that isn’t a lie. Derek mentally shrugs. Alright, well, formal training is a full month so he’ll have plenty of excuses to be eating more. It will just be a matter of finding the time to sneak away. “You can’t rush perfection.”
Speaking of, it’s probably time for him to head home. He’s exhausted and he’s going to have to think of some creative excuses that won’t set off his mother’s lie detector to use these next few weeks.
“Alright,” he says. “I’ve got to get back.”
The Fury nods. “I’ll be here.” The sarcasm is back, cheerful and biting.
Briefly, Derek considers apologizing, because it is his fault that Stiles’ leg is broken, that he is stuck at the bottom of this gully for the foreseeable future.
But, no. Stiles had been attacking his sister. He doesn’t even deserve Derek's help, let alone his apology.
“Hey,” The Fury’s voice stops him as he turns to leave. It’s softer and serious and Stiles is carefully looking down at his stomach in a weak attempt at nonchalance. “Did- Any kills?”
Derek’s jaw clenches. Kills, Stiles calls them. Like they don’t matter. Like they are some score to be kept track of-
“No,” he snaps. “You didn’t manage to kill any of us.”
Stiles must sense his tone but still doesn’t look up.
Derek rolls his eyes and goes to leave again.
“And you guys?” Stiles asks. His eyes flick up and then back down again. “You didn’t… you bag any?”
His words are crude but he’s holding his breath. His heart is beating too fast again.
“No,” Derek says, feeling his anger fade. Stiles glances up at him again before his head drops into a short nod. “No, we captured three though. They’re all older, I think. Experienced.”
He hasn’t seen them yet, but from what he’s heard, they all have kills to their name. They’re not like Stiles. Not innocent.
“Captured?” Stiles asks. “What does-”
“We don’t kill them,” Derek offers. “At least, not… not right away.”
They will at the end. Whichever one is the strongest will go up against whoever is doing the best in training during the Winter Solstice and it’s a festival of sorts- anger and revenge and rebellion all rolled into one.
It had never been his favorite day, he’d actually managed to avoid the fight altogether for the past few years or so but now-
“Fair enough,” Stiles replies and then he stuffs the last of the food into his mouth.
Derek wants to ask then. Wants to ask what happens to the people who are taken far enough away that the bonds of pack fade and then disappear altogether.
But instead he turns and leaves.
He thinks Stiles just gave him the answer anyway.
End Chapter 1.