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I'm Hunting on the Night (We're Playing for the Fights)

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*

It is a testament to Stiles' impressive skill that he doesn't flip out and go batshit when a hunter steps out of the woods without ever registering on Stiles' radar. Instead, he yelps and scrambles around uselessly for an escape from the bitch of a trap he's gotten his foreleg stuck in, fails miserably, and settles for spitting a curious mix of obscenties and pleads for help as the man stands there with a cocked eyebrow and a freaking shotgun in hand.

Distantly, Stiles figures it's probably a blessing the man can't decipher the series of sharp barks, whines and yelps that he's making. Otherwise, his body would be riddled with buckshot already from insulting the man's lineage to within an inch of its existance in the same breath that he compliments the undoubtedly compassionate soul the man must possess. Hopefully. Deep down. Deep, deep down.

The man's thumb strokes over the hammer. Stiles whimpers and huddles closer to the ground.

So, maybe not at all, then.

"Please, dude, c'mon, have some mercy. I won't ever trespass again. In fact, I'll never leave my bedroom ag - shit, Dad is going to have aneurysm when he finds out about this," Stiles whines, squeezing his eyes shut as the man steps closer. "Oh, God, I've killed my dad. He's going to be eating his vegetables when it comes on the news that I was shot in the face." He peeks at the man through narrowed slits. "And you are going to be scarred for life, because after I'm dead? Yeah, this fur is going to disappear and you're going to be saddled with a hundred and forty-seven pounds of pale skin and fragile bone. And a pissed off parental figure."

The man crouches by Stiles' head and Stiles almost whips around to bite him as a last defense. But, no, he's bleeding out all over the snow and he's too terrified with the barrel of a damn Remington in front of his nose to do much more than tremble and reel in pain.

"Easy," the guy murmurs. Stiles blinks, eyeing him as the hunter carefully puts his rifle in the snow about a foot away. "Easy. Stay."

"I'm not a dog, bastard," Stiles growls, only to freeze as the man's fingers twitch toward his gun again. "No, no, no, I didn't mean it. Nice hunter, good hunter, don't shoot the helpless wolfy, okay? See? I'll be nice." He stretches his neck and plaintively licks at the man's knee, only to sneeze and shake his head in disgust because, eugh, that's some rough material he's wearing. Kind of expected though, considering it's blizzard season. Fuck.

The man snorts. "Keep your teeth to yourself and I won't break your neck." Which, okay, an easy task and reassuring but, Jesus, psycho hunter much? Stiles huffs and pointedly licks at his injured leg, still very much clenched in the hunting trap and not getting any looser. The steel teeth are digging in pretty deep. It's going to be a while before Stiles can walk on it, probably not until his cycle his up.

Wonderful.

His first cycle and he gets caught in a bear trap. And a storm is beginning to pick up; freezing wind is blowing through his thick fur (proudly sporting an adult coat, thanks very much, he is grown) and stinging his nose. Jackson is never going to let him live this down.

The man is fiddling with the spring mechanism and it takes a lot of effort not to claw and bite him because it hurts. Like, really, really bad and Stiles' natural reaction is to get the hell away from that pain. With a pained groan, he flops over onto his side and tries to be as still as possible as the mouth of the trap is peeled away and his leg eased out.

He wants to take off as soon as he is free, but he can't. With the tantilizing scent of blood whipping all over the place in the wind it's pretty much a given that some big predator will come chasing after him and make a delicious wolf dinner out of his scrappy body.

Before he can make a decision on how he's going to surive the rest of the cycle, two strong arms swathed in that rough-to-the-tongue material scoop him up and start carrying him through the woods. Stiles doesn't make a fuss, too tired and in too much pain to manage it. And perhaps a little grateful. Hopefully the hunter isn't going to tote him off to skin his pelt and make wolf-stew.

"I'm really stringy," he mumbles dazedly, amber eyes drooping. "You don't wanna eat me."

The hunter doesn't make a sound at Stiles' delirious noises and keeps trudging through the snow, seemingly unaffected by the burgeoning blizzard whipping up around them. Stiles eyes the rifle slung over the man's shoulder before resolutely tucking his muzzle under the warm arm wrapped around his chest, trying to shut out the burning pain in his leg.

This cycle sucks.

 

*

The hunter takes him to a cramped little cabin very much in the process of being almost completely swallowed by snow. It takes some manuevering, but, somehow, the man slips them both inside and locks the door behind them before too much snow can manage to blow in.

Warmth is the first thing Stiles notices. Reluctantly, he untucks his face from under the man's (incredibely comfortable) arm and gives the interior a quick glance. It makes him a little nervous to be enclosed in such a space, but he is still human enough to rationalize to himself that this is safe. Maybe. Anyway, if the hunter wanted him dead, he'd be dead. Not being carefully placed on a musty rug in front of a fire as if he were precious cargo.

Which, to be honest, makes him preen a little. And by a little he means a lot. It's not every day someone treats Stiles with this kind of...well, care. Except for his dad, but even on good days that's questionable since, hello, parent, and parents tend to ground their kids from things. Mainly, the internet, and that's just ten kinds of unnecessary pain.

It doesn't matter that Stiles is an adult now, his dad's favorite phrase still remains: "You live under my roof, you follow my rules."

"Stay," the hunter says, and Stiles shows his teeth in disgust, much to the apparent amusement of the man as he makes a sound that could be described as a chuckle. Or an exhale. But his eyes seem like they are laughing, so Stiles counts it as a chuckle.

Stiles drops his chin on his paws and studies the man's back as he turns and walks down a short hall to a bathroom, the porcelian sink visible from the fireplace. He sheds his black snowsuit and dumps it in a basket, setting his gun by the door and kicking off his boots. Stiles' ears prick up in interest. Underneath, the man is wearing a tightly fitting grey Henley and a worn out pair of jeans, both form flattering and showing off just how strong a man he is. Of course, Stiles figured the guy had to be built since he carried a (nearly) grown wolf through a growing blizzard over uneven ground for God knows how long. But still. Thinking it and seeing it are two completely different things.

A shrill ringing breaks Stiles from his staring and he woofs at the cordless phone on the faded plaid couch. The man comes back through and answers on the fourth ring. Stiles listens in without shame.

"Yes."

"Derek, hey. Everything alright? It's getting pretty bad out there. "

The man (Derek, Stiles tells himself, glad to have a name to the face so he can stop refering to him as 'the man' or 'the hunter' inside his own head, because it was getting a little awkward) cradles the phone between his shoulder and ear as he moves carefully back to Stiles' side and crouches, a first aid kit in hand.

"I'm fine."

"Sure. Like I believe that. Anyway, I'm going for a supply run in a few days. Want me to bring you anything? "

"No."

Stiles snorts. Derek is a man of few words, it seems. Curiously, he bumps the box with his muzzle and gives Derek his most skeptical look. Not that he doesn't appreciate being patched up, but, seriously? The dude is a mountain man that probably feeds off the village folk's first borns. Or is ritually sacrificed baby lambs. Somehow, the visual of some wild hunter does not compute with the medically competent.

Derek flicks him in the nose.

What...What?

"Yeah, you too, Laura," Derek responds to something Stiles missed and hangs up, raising an eyebrow at Stiles look of disbelief, which still manages to be pretty epic despite being of the lupine variety.

"Did you just - I know you didn't just...Oh, my God. You dick. You totally just flicked my nose," Stiles barks indignantly. "I hate you."

Ignoring him, Derek leaves him once again to retrieve - holy balls, meat. That's raw meat. Derek is carrying raw meat back to him and Stiles can smell the blood in it. Were he human, he'd be groaning.

"I take it back, I don't hate you, dude. I love you. Hear me? I love you. That is for me, right? Please say yes. Gimme, gimme!" He whines, nearly wiggling on the floor. It hasn't really been that long since he last ate, but he's a growing boy - man. Werewolf. Wereman. He likes to eat (high metabolism) and he needs his protein.

Derek gives him an unimpressed look as he pops open the kit and crushes a few white pills, painkillers probably, and sprinkles them over the slice of meat. Stiles huffs and lets his ears droop in disappointment. "You know, you could've just handed them to me. Not like I'm going to get all uppity and refuse treatment when I'm in pain. Unless that's some, like, date-rape drug. No bad touch, you freak."

"Here," Derek says, offering the meat. Stiles huffs again and manages an offended look.

"I'm serious, man. I'll go Chris Hansen on your ass so quick, you don't even know. You could at least bother to buy me a drink, though. I mean, I'm not, like, high maintence or anything, but telling me I'm pretty and stroking my fur could get you pretty far." At Derek's sour look, Stiles rolls his eyes and makes it a point to lick the white grit from the meat before taking it in his teeth, growling around a mouthful, "I have low self-esteem, okay? Don't judge me."

The drugs don't take long at all to kick in and Stiles is sprawled on his side staring blankly at the crackling fire within minutes, floating along on cloud nine. Derek sits with his back propped against the couch and Stiles' wounded leg in his lap, cleaning and stitching the wounds with a clinical interest. Stiles pointedly keeps his gaze from straying toward the needle. The last thing he needs is to get sick all over Derek's rug, even if it does look old as hell and smells like it's spent years gathering dust.

"I thought wolves were supposed to be intelligent," Derek says, wrapping gauze around the gashes.

Stiles rolls his eyes to give the man a half-hearted glare. "Shut up, I'm new at this."

"You should be with a pack."

"Thanks, Captain Obvious. My 'pack' is more experienced at controlling these kinds of things than me. I can't be blamed for going a little wild and running off my first time. It's completely normal. You should've seen what Scott did on his first cycle. Boy did he get into some shit, he - "

"You're still a pup. Probably haven't even been on your first pack hunt yet," Derek continues, Stiles' talking nothing but canine sounds to his human ears.

Stiles gapes and growls, "Pup? I am not a pup! I'm just lanky, you ass."

"Bad dog."

Oh. Oh. That is just...that is so uncalled for.

"Okay, buddy. You want dog? I'll give you fucking dog." Stiles wriggles around, mindful of his leg, until he is wedged somewhat in the V of Derek's spread thighs, and promptly shoves his muzzle into his groin.

Derek leaps onto the couch in an ungainly sprawl so fast Stiles nearly smacks his muzzle on the floor.

"The fuck!" Derek snaps, glaring hard enough at Stiles it's a wonder it doesn't set his skull aflame by sheer force of will alone. Stiles lolls his tongue and thumps his tail amusedly with a silent cackle.

"Woof."

*

Derek's heady, deliciously tempting scent stays lodged firmly in Stiles' nose for the next hour and a half, but, logically, it has to be the drugs in his system, so he doesn't stress over it.

Much.

*

Derek leaves Stiles to his own devices for the most part. There is no TV or radio or anything to provide sufficient entertainment though, and Stiles begins to wonder if being a mountain man means you aren't allowed any of the finer things in life. Like TV. Maybe there is a rule book. Judging by the floor to ceiling bookcases that flank either side of the fireplace, the thought doesn't seem too implausible. Jesus, the guy seriously has no life.

Stiles is balanced on his hind legs, front paws propped on one of the middle shelves as he skims the authors and titles. Friedrich Nietzche. Walter Kaufmann. Ayn Rand. Kurt Vonnegut. Richard Siken. Aldous Hexley. And the names get even more tongue-tying and obscure as he keeps going. Almost to the point of dubbing the books a hopeless cure for his boredom, a couple of smaller books shoved horizontal on the others catches his eye before he can drop and find something else to focus his attention on.

They're National Geographic essays on wolves. Stiles peers closer and sees Call of the Wild and White Fang tucked amongst the informational texts. There is even a worn, obviously frequently used, Grimm's Fairy Tales with a bookmark sticking from the pages. Stiles is willing to be money it's marking Little Red Riding Hood. He snickers. So maybe Derek isn't a total lost cause. Still a freak, though.

"What are you doing?"

Stiles drops and turns around carefully on his wounded leg, perking his ears in Derek's direction as he leans against the door to shut it, his arms full of firewood. "Trying to decide if intelligent conversation with you would be worth the resulting spontaneous brain combustion."

"Don't touch those," Derek frowns and stacks the wood in a neat pile by the door. Stiles rolls his eyes and pads up next to him, sniffing the spliced damp logs.

"Trust me, I won't. I value my sanity. Did you just cut these? Idiot, what part of blizzard are you not understanding here?" He sneezes from the sharp scent of pine and sits back on his haunches, giving Derek his most disapproving look.

Naturally, it is ignored as Derek merely walks right by him to the kitchen, shedding his heavy coat and tossing it over the back of the couch as he does. Stiles watches it slip off on to the floor. Three days in each other's company has done little improvement upon their communicating skills, and occasionally that worries Stiles. Pretty soon he's going to have to do some crazy explaining when he's suddenly not a wolf anymore and sitting naked in the middle of Derek's living room like some kind of creepy-stalker type person that belongs there. Which he's not. A creeper, that is. (Nosing the bathroom door open and watching Derek shower does not count as creepy-stalker behavior. Neither is watching him sleep. It's just a healthy sense of curiousity.)

With a huff, Stiles carefully limps to the fallen coat and picks it up. Derek is watching him as he drags it across to the floor and tosses it with a swing of his head onto the kitchen chair.

"We've been over this, Mister I'm-Too-Good-To-Pick-Up-After-Myself. I was raised by wolves - partially. What's your excuse?" Stiles gripes and sits by the chair, lifting his injured leg to gently chew at the itching bandages.

"Ah - "

"Grrr. Hear that? That's me growling. If I'm itching, I'm going to scratch it because it's my own damn leg. Or, well, bite. I guess. Whatever," he says, pawing at the air to make a point. "You keep doing what you're doing, which better be making us some lunch because, frankly, lazing around being bored out of my mind happens to build up quite the appetite."

Derek frowns at him. Not the usual promise of bodily harm frown, either. This time it's more inquisitive and maybe a little wary. Sniffing the air carefully, Stiles can almost smell his hesitation. I'm acting too human, Stiles thinks. This is probably really weird for him.

Stiles huffs and carefully pads over to Derek, head-butting his (rock hard) thigh with a lazy tail wag. "What? Weirded out by the intelligent wolf currently taking up residence on your couch? I know, it's okay to freak out a little. I'm just that awesome. Completely understandable."

Derek's fingers brush through his fur absentmindedly and Stiles makes a pleased rumble.

"Something isn't right about you," Derek murmurs so quietly Stiles almost misses it, too distracted by the hand playing with his sensitive ears. "You don't act like a wolf is supposed to. Too tame."

"Yeah, well, good ol' Dad always told me I was special," he sighs, distracted. Of course 'special', according to Lydia, meant slow and lacking any kind of useful attributes. But Stiles had been too hung up on the realization that Lydia Martin, beautiful, amazing, sarcastic Lydia, she of the formidable prowess to kill the hopes and dreams of small children with an angelic smile, was talking to him and found that he really couldn't mind all that much the insult. Besides, Stiles is well aware that he makes a terrible wolf. He isn't much better as a human, either.

Stiles yawns and leans more into Derek's hand, wagging his tail a little more at the resulting chuckle. Soon after, Derek pulls away and Stiles whines in protest. "Why'd you stop?" he complains, only to perk his ears and tail when Derek reaches for the fridge. "Oh, food. Good idea. Less salt this time, okay? I hate flicking my tongue like a mentally challenged puppy when you salt it too much. Which is so bad for your health, dude. Like, seriously? You're going to get major clogged arteries."

*

Stiles is willing to admit that maybe watching the man sleep is pushing that line of being a creeper later in the evening when Derek retires to his bed and leaves Stiles, once again, alone. At least he isn't molesting him or anything. He's just watching. Derek sleeps in nothing but a pair of gym shorts with the blanket. Who does that? It's in the negatives outside and he's sleeping in shorts. Really?

He isn't complaining, oh, hell no. Not when he's allowed to ogle a set of abs that look like they were carved from marble. If Stiles had his thumbs back, he would climb that like a tree. Or at least fantasize really loudly about it, because even with thumbs, and his normal human body, Stiles would still have trouble forming a coherent sentence, let alone touching those solid muscles. Or licking. Licking is good...

And Derek is totally staring at him because Stiles has definitely been whining under his breath from those dirty thoughts. Bad Stiles, bad.

Instead of kicking Stiles out of the bedroom like he expects, Derek slides backward and pats the bed with a click of his tongue in invitation instead. Stiles gapes. Derek leans over and rubs his cheek with a tired, barely-there smile before clicking his tongue again and mumbling, "Get up here or go back to the couch."

Stiles scrambles onto the bed so fast his paws get tangled in the sheets and sends him crashing against Derek's broad chest. Stiles winces at the pained grunt from Derek and lays his ears flat in apology. He gets an eyeroll and a muttered 'idiot' for his troubles, and then Derek is grabbing and rearranging him until they are both comfortable, and Stiles lets him, goes completely pliant. This is going to fuel his fantasies for the next year, at least.

Stiles ends up as the little spoon, which doesn't bother him nearly as much as he thought it would. Not with Derek's heat a long line against his back and his arm wrapped around Stiles in a way that keeps him firmly held against that amazing body. Really, how can he complain? He huffs an elated breath that would be a bark if it weren't sleepy times, and thumps his tail. Or, he tries, but Derek has it pinned between his legs to keep him from doing just that.

"Go to sleep," Derek mutters, and burrows into Stiles' thick neck fur. It's all Stiles can do to not wriggle from the thrill that shoots through his spine.

"Ooh, Mister Darcy." He shifts, tries to get even closer. "You better still respect me in the morning."

*

The storm lasts for most of the week with winds reaching, and then surpassing, forty-five miles per hour. If the windows weren't blocked by snowdrifts, Stiles is pretty sure he wouldn't be able to see maybe six feet from the cabin. It's pretty bad, most likely the worst to be recorded in the surrounding region. The entire town will be in a near whiteout for the next week at least, trying to recover from the force of it.

It's one for the books, for sure.

In the lulls between howling winds and freezing temperatures, Stiles does venture outside. The first time Derek let him out, he's pretty sure it was so that he could return home and never come back, because Derek said, "Go" and then ignored him in favor of shoveling away snow to clear paths. He didn't chase him off, but being presented with his back was a pretty clear sign.

Only, Stiles didn't go. Not in that context, anyway. He took off flying around the property with hardly any limp and ran off the energy that had been burning through his blood since the first night of his cycle. He howled until his throat was sore because he knew his dad would hear him (his dad always heard his howl. Always.) and he hunted. Or, well, tried to hunt.

Later that evening when he returned to the cabin, he'd managed to scrounge up a half-frozen rabbit that had probably died from exposure. It took a good thirty minutes of whining, scratching and barking before Derek finally opened the door. Stiles still grins when he recalls the look of surprise Derek had when Stiles pushed his way back into the cabin and dropped his prize at Derek's feet. He might have been unimpressed by the dead rabbit dirtying up his floor, but he didn't reject it and that's...well, that's just awesome as far as Stiles is concerned.

Stiles knows he should leave. His cycle will be ending soon and there is no place for him here. Derek doesn't want some hyperactive guy hanging around his bachelor pad, mooching off his hospitality and raiding his fridge. The dude doesn't even realize Stiles is human, for God's sake.

But he can't help it. It's really giving fatal attraction a whole new spin, if he thinks about it. Tragic. What he wouldn't give to have a chance with Derek without the tail and fur and be able to simply talk to him. He might fail at being human, and he might suck at being a wolf, but, given half the chance, Stiles thinks he could be whatever it is Derek needs him to be.

Derek is sitting at the card table in the kitchen, fiddling with the dials on a radio he brought in that morning from the garage. Stiles pads in and shoves his nose into his side, demanding attention.

"Don't you have something to go chew on?" Derek asks, and pushes his head away. Stiles huffs and dives back in again, wriggling until he works himself under Derek's arm and partially into his lap.

"The last time I chewed on something, you threatened to hit me with a newspaper," Stiles retorts. Derek's hand shoves against his chest and he whines, resisting. "C'mon, man, stop messing with that thing and rub my belly! Or, you know what? Better idea, let's go back to bed. We'll sleep the day away together and - mmphrgh." Stiles blinks around the hand wrapped around his muzzle.

Derek gives him a stern look. "Hush."

It's in that moment Stiles feels himself maybe fall a little bit in love. Without really consenting to it, he feels his ears lay back and tail tuck in submission in reaction to such an act of dominance. Derek gets this pleased look on his face and Stiles wants to howl from the burst of excitement and pride it gives him, elated that he did something right, something Derek approved of.

"Now, go do something while I finish getting the weather report," Derek says and releases his hold. Stiles hesitates for only a fraction of a second before slowly, hesitantly, stretching his neck and licking the underside of Derek's chin, ready to flee at any sign of aggression.

But there isn't one, just an amused chuckle and reassuring brush of fingers through his fur. Stiles drops back to the floor and makes his way to the living room in a daze. The fire is a reassuring presence when he curls up in front of it, back to the flames so he can face the open kitchen and comfortably watch Derek fiddle with the radio.

Stiles begins memorizing his face without really thinking about it. He starts wondering what it's going to be like when he's human again and can touch that face with human hands. Maybe - maybe Derek will let him do that, maybe more, like kiss him. Or hold him. Though, honestly, Stiles will be happy if he's allowed to just be near Derek. Staying in this cramped cabin makes him feel like he's home even though it's pretty far from it. It's relaxing and calming, kind of how things were before Mom died.

He wants to tell Derek that. He wants to tell Derek everything - and as scary a thought as that is, it's also incredibly right, like, why wouldn't he want to tell Derek these things? It seems kind of crazy that he's waited this long, that he hasn't come running through the mountains to seek Derek out sooner and talk his ear off about what it's like growing up among people who turn every few months into giant balls of fur, the fighting over the best chew toys in the playpen when he was still litter mates with Scott and Jackson, and how he was terrified of his first cycle because there were stories of how you could lose yourself completely in the overwhelming haze of sensory input.

The fear of rejection stings, so he doesn't think about it. Derek will understand. He has to; Stiles needs him to. And if he doesn't - which he won't - then Stiles has nothing but time to convince him otherwise.

Derek's eyes flick in his direction and Stiles stops breathing. Those eyes are undiscovered levels of intense and Stiles wants so badly to roll on his back and expose his soft belly, give his throat, and beg for something - anything, so long as it's Derek giving it. He whines, quiet and pitiful. He doesn't even realize he's started to shake until Derek is suddenly by his side, running a soothing hand over his neck and back and murmuring quietly over the crackling pops of the firewood.

"Don't make me leave," Stiles says. "I don't want to. When this is over, don't make me go."

Derek's concerned frown only deepens at his distressed noises. Stiles crawls into his lap, against that inviting warmth, and hides. He's always been a huge advocate of ignoring problems until they disappear, so a part of him childishly hopes that somehow forgetting about this looming shadow of a disaster will make it vanish like smoke.

*

The days pass too quickly for Stiles' liking and he spends most of the hours glued to Derek's side, filling himself on the attention and care offered like a starving animal. He hardly sleeps. At night, he lies awake with his eyes pinned on Derek's face, catching every twitch and tick. He watches his broad chest rise and fall with each breath. He listens to the steady beat of Derek's heart and only rests when his own pounding heart slows, becomes steady, and matches it.

In those silent moments under the moon's embrace, he imagines he is human again, and the paw covering Derek's chest is a loose fist with seeking fingers. He imagines that when he moves close and nuzzles against Derek's warm neck, it's his human lips that whisper, "I want to keep you" into sleep-deafened ears. He imagines he can burrow into Derek's arms and never be forced to leave again, that he can stay as happy as he is now, as stupidly content, and care for Derek like the man has cared for him.

It's a nice thought.

But a fantasy all the same.

So it doesn't hurt any less when Stiles wakes up on the morning after his moon cycle, human once more, with a hand around his throat and a knife barely an inch from his nose. Derek's eyes are on fire.

*

Stiles cranes his head back into the mattress, trying to escape the crushing grip on his windpipe, and coughs, "Fuck."

"Who are you? How'd you get in here?"

"Can't...br-eathe. Please, D...Derek," Stiles squeezes his eyes shut and digs his fingers into the sheets. Submission is all he knows. "Don't...!"

Derek is off him and across the room in seconds, the large hunting knife gripped loose with the blade back against his forearm. Experienced. Lethal. Stiles tries not to let his gaze linger on the glint of deadly steel as he wheezes and grips his neck, sitting up in a forward hunch in an attempt to make himself smaller.

"You had better start talking before I cut off your fucking head," Derek snarls.

"S...Sorry. I'm - sorry," he coughs, pulling the sheets over his naked lap as his face burns with embarressment. He keeps his eyes down, head tilted to bare his throat. "I thought I could sneak out before this happened."

"Before what happened?"

Stiles sighs and lifts his head, slowly raising his eyes as they flash a telling gold in the early morning light. He hears Derek's hitch of breath and heartbeat stutter in shock.

"You're the wolf," he says.

Stiles nods, equal parts grateful and devastated for his quick understanding. "My name is Stiles."

"That's impossible."

Throwing caution to the wind, Stiles makes a move to stand. Derek's entire body snaps taught and he brings his knife up threateningly. No doubt had he his gun, Stiles would be shot through six times over already. Moving slowly, he gets off the bed and cinches the sheet tighter around his lean hips.

"Let me explain," He holds his free hand out, showing his palm. "I know it sounds crazy but - please? I'm not dangerous." He flinches at Derek's derisive snort. "If I wanted to hurt you I would've done it already. I'm not going to. I don't want to. Please, just - "

"Get out."

Stiles freezes. "What?"

"Get out. You don't want to hurt me? Fine. But I will kill you if you don't get out of here. Right now."

"Derek - "

"I said go!" Stiles only just manages to duck out of the way as the hunting knife embeds itself into the wall near his head. A distressed whine tears from his throat before he can stop it and all he wants to do is crawl to Derek and beg for forgiveness. He scrambles from the bedroom, stopping long enough to drop the sheet and pull on a pair of dirty jeans Derek had left flung on the back of the couch.

Derek is holding his rifle when Stiles turns back around at the sound of heavy steps. "Five minutes. After that, you're nothing but something to be hunted."

It hurts, but Stiles nods. He understands. As much as he doesn't want to, he gets it. "I don't know what to say." Derek's eyes are wild and Stiles hopes that he'll accept this all some day. That he'll let Stiles come back. "I'm glad it was you, though."

He turns and flees.

It's six months before he sees Derek again.

Stiles pretends nothing happened. It's easier after his dad pulls him into the house and somehow just knows, without having to ask why his son is standing, barefoot and shirtless, out in the snow letting himself freeze to death like some kind of miserable pup. He knows something happened, can smell Derek on him, and can see that look in Stiles' eyes.

Instead of asking, he squeezes Stiles shoulder and sends him upstairs to shower and rest. They don't talk about it, and Stiles blocks it all from his mind. After the first few weeks, he stops looking so miserable and even joins Scott in a few games of Lacrosse on the weekends. He takes a few classes at the community college and gets his life back on track. He gets a job working at the library on the days he doesn't have class and even manages to scrounge enough cash together to get an apartment in town.

During his cycles, the primal urge to take off for the small cabin in the mountains is nearly stifling, but Stiles fights it. He beats it back and he wins. Control comes easier now, to the point that he can shift at will and not just during his cycles (though fighting the shift during the moon cycle is still a hopeless battle). He prides himself on the fact that he's better at doing it than Jackson.

By the time he sees Derek again, Stiles is steady on his feet and comfortable in the cozy little life he's made for himself. If it feels empty, lacking a Derek-shaped piece, he ignores it completely. Until he's staring up into that fragment's eyes one night when he leaves his apartment for a run.

"Derek?" Stiles nearly trips backward into his apartment, saving himself at the last second by clutching the doorframe tight enough his knuckles turn white. "What are you doing here?"

Derek shifts, uncomfortable, and Stiles can see the uncertainty and fear whirling around in his eyes. But there's something else there, something Stiles has been craving from the moment Derek carried him through the woods. Something that fills that gaping void inside and seals it with reinforced steel plates.

Without thinking, Stiles flings himself at Derek and buries his face into his neck, shaking and whimpering like he's dying, and it freaking feels like it. Derek is one long line of tension against him, but then he seems to melt and lean into Stiles, bringing his arms up and holding Stiles against him.

"I don't know what I'm doing here," he says, and Stiles laughs.

"I know. I know - it's kind of a wolf thing. Which doesn't mean you're going to turn into one," he hasitly explains when Derek stiffens in his arms. "It's just...you're mine?" It comes out as a question because, though the whole Mate thing has been explained to Stiles over and over again, he knows it's different for humans. They might feel something when they come into contact with the person they are meant to spend the rest of their life with, but, for them, it can be ignored and forgotten. For wolves, for Stiles, it's not that simple.

Derek gently pulls back, holding Stiles at arms length. "You're a wolf."

He nods. "Yeah, but I'm a guy, too. A good guy. I don't bite - much. And I don't do the whole knotting thing, I swear." Derek grimaces and Stiles drags a hand down his face and leaves it covering his eyes, mortified. "I mean, fuck, not that you have to worry about that because I'm an Omega and naturally I'll roll over for you. Jesus, this is assuming we even get to that point, since we're not even dating or anything - "

"Stiles?"

Stiles peeks through his fingers and relaxes at Derek's small, confused smile. "Just...stop talking."

"Yeah. Yeah, okay. I can do that."