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Against A Sea Of Trouble

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Deaton says it's totally not a vision quest. Even if the way he describes it makes it sound exactly like one. Though why Derek actually agreed to it in the first place Stiles still doesn't know. There isn't a lot of trust there - it's Derek, so there isn't a lot of trust in general. Stiles is thinking frustrated desperation probably played a part in it, or maybe the need to not feel like he's a step behind Peter every time he makes ground. Call Stiles paranoid but he has a hunch that Peter's endgame isn't turning out well for anyone, no matter how much he's playing up the family reunion card right now. Still, it's not like eating dubiously poisonous substances in the back of a veterinary clinic is the stupidest decision Derek's made in the last year.

Hell, it's probably not even the stupidest decision Derek's made this week.

Stiles isn't exactly sure why he has to be here though. Since he's proven himself completely unable to do anything remotely threatening, like grow claws, bite people's faces off, or turn into a giant lizard monster. He's pretty sure that if Deaton did have anything nefarious planned, Stiles is going to be about as useful as a wet napkin. Sure it's kind of encouraging that someone thought of him, but still - bad decisions all round.

Derek's currently slumped against a pile of cushions in the corner of the room, head tipped forward, elbows balanced on his knees. He looks younger and much less threatening like this. His face is relaxed, eyes closed, mouth soft. The smooth space between his eyebrows is new and unfamiliar, and Stiles has the weirdest urge to poke it. Which he's absolutely not going to do.

"You forget don't you?"

"Jesus," Stiles says, on the end of a whole-body flinch. Deaton has appeared behind him like a freakin' ghost. "Could you not sneak around, please? I've had enough years shaved off my life by stealthy werewolves."

"Sorry." Deaton's smiling, but the hand he holds out is apologetic. He tips his head towards Derek. "I was saying, you sometimes forget how young he is."

Stiles follows the gesture - and yeah, he can totally see that. The way Derek's curled over, body loose and easy, and somehow not as huge and imposing as he always makes it. He'd probably be really annoyed about how much Stiles sort of wants to ruffle his hair right now.

Deaton comes closer, crouches to check Derek's pulse, and it's weird seeing someone touch Derek when he knows nothing about it. Part of Stiles almost wants to protest, which is stupid because Deaton has already rendered Derek unconscious. Also, he's pretty sure Deaton still isn't evil. Scott would have said something.

"You need to touch him," Deaton says, and then looks at Stiles like that isn't in any way a strange thing to blurt out.


"It's the reason I told him to bring you," Deaton says with a nod. "He's on his own in there. He needs someone out here - someone willing to hold on to him, quite literally."

Which is - no one had filled Stiles in on that part.

"You're joking -" Stiles considers Deaton's calm face. "Oh my God, you're not joking. I thought I was back-up, in case you tried to murder him or something."

Deaton raises an eyebrow at him.

"No offense," Stiles says quickly. "I thought it was Derek's idea at least. No wonder he was making that constipated face at me for the entire drive over. I know he looks like that a lot - usually when I won't stop talking, but I should have realised he was just pissed I was all up in his business again." Derek's business seems to become Stiles's business with alarming regularity.

Deaton's hand is still hovering just over Derek's.

"The things he's going to see in there may not be pleasant. Things from his past, things he fears that his future will hold. He needs something to remind him that it isn't real, that he can come back."

"So I call Erica, or Isaac," Stiles offers, with a shrug. "Because I'm pretty sure neither of them would mind snuggling up with him while he goes on his vision quest thingy. That's sort of their job, only no - not their job because that would be especially skeevy, but it's like their responsibility or something."

Deaton shakes his head. "It can't be one of his Betas."

"Of course it can't," Stiles says stiffly. "You're just making this up now aren't you?"

"It should be someone he's not responsible for, someone loyal," Deaton continues, like Stiles hadn't spoken. He's not really surprised, he gets that a lot. "It should be someone who isn't afraid, someone that will protect him if necessary, someone he'll listen to."

Stiles snorts messy laughter.

"Seriously? This is Derek we're talking about. Look, you're making me sound way more awesome than I actually am - which, thanks and everything - but really, I'm not exactly anyone's first choice for protector. I'm definitely not Derek's first choice, I'm probably not even his second choice. In fact, I'm pretty sure Derek would pick me last, for like, everything, and he's definitely not going to listen to anything I say."

"And yet you seem to have done a fine job of protecting people so far," Deaton says, fixing him with that disturbing look he's so freakishly good at. Stiles thinks he liked him better when he was just Scott's boss.

"Why can't you cuddle with him?" It's not a complaint, it's a genuine question.

Deaton smirks at the phrasing. Stiles is so glad he's finding this amusing.

"Because he doesn't trust me, we're not friends." The way he says it - as if it's a failing on his part. "And I have a very busy day ahead of me."

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure 'friend' isn't exactly the first word Derek would go for to describe me either." Stiles fidgets, can't help but fidget. It's weird having Derek in a room not doing anything, or looking at anyone, or genuinely making his feelings known in some sort of way. Instead he looks like he's sleeping, and that's something Stiles never thought he'd see.

"I think you'd be surprised," Deaton says smoothly.

Grudging friends. They are, at best, grudging friends. They are not vision-quest hugging friends.

"You know, he's really not going to be comfortable with this. I don't feel comfortable with this. I'm not sure I can even actually go over there and touch him while he's sleeping." Definitely not now he's phrased it like that.

"Stiles, this is important."

Stiles scowls at Deaton, because he knows exactly what he's doing, and the fact that it's working doesn't stop Stiles from being pissed about it.

"Of course it is. When is it not important? I should clearly drop everything and hug Derek."

"He'd do the same for you, you know that."

Which is just - not playing fair. Because, yeah, probably. Derek would growl and stomp around and threaten first. He'd probably do it grudgingly, and there would be complaining and manly furrowed eyebrows. But he can't actually refute the fact that Derek would do this for him, and he's going to do this for Derek. Deaton knows it too, Stiles can tell by the expression that's patiently waiting for him to get with the program.

Stiles hovers awkwardly next to Derek, wipes his palms on his jeans. Tries not to look like he might not come out of this alive.

"Ok, so how exactly am I supposed to do this?" He gestures helplessly with his arms, trying to encompass the whole of Derek in said gesture.

"Sit behind him, and put your arms around him," Deaton says gently.

Stiles pulls a face, an 'are you serious?' face. But Deaton just gives him more of that placid encouragement.

"Oh my God." Stiles fits himself in behind Derek, and he has to push him forward, just a little, to do it. Derek is wide enough to make it feel amazingly awkward when he tries to circle his arms. His ridiculous biceps get in the way. Stiles has to slide closer, jeans rasping against the outside of Derek's. His chin ends up tucked over Derek's right shoulder, one hand wrapped round the other wrist. Derek is putting off crazy levels of heat, and Stiles is close enough to see his pulse jumping in his throat. He's pretty sure he shouldn't be allowed this close to an Alpha's throat without their permission. "He's going to kill me when he wakes up. He's going to actually kill me, because if you haven't noticed Derek isn't really the social hugging type. I'm pretty sure he takes invasions of his personal space as a declaration of war or something. He's going to come out of his vision quest and immediately bite my face off."

Deaton's crouched low in front of Derek now, checking his eyes, for some bizarre unknown veterinarian/vision quest reason. If Stiles had realised today was going to involve hugging he would have studied up more.

"You're not a threat Stiles, you're more like an anchor to this world, the real world."

"I've heard that word before - people always bring up that word when someone is in danger of flipping out and mauling someone. Also, you realise this is Derek right? He reacts to friendly things which only want to help him by punching them in the face."

Deaton smiles at him.

"And yet you're still willing to help him, which says a lot about both of you, don't you think?"

Stiles grunts but doesn't comment on that. He adjusts his grip, because he's touching so much of Derek, and it's warm and uncomfortable and Derek doesn't really know about it - did Deaton even tell him there'd be hugging, before he rendered him unconscious? Stiles thinks not.

"Nothing in there can hurt him. But he may not be aware of that, or he may forget in a moment of stress. It's your responsibility to remind him of that." Deaton straightens, like he's done his part and now he's just going to just leave them both here.

"Responsibility, right. So, how long does this thing usually last?" Stiles asks cautiously.

"An hour, maybe two."

"You want me to hug Derek for two hours?" Incredulity, thy name is Stiles.

"You can move him if you want to, he won't wake up until he's ready."

"I'm not going to move him," Stiles says quickly. "I'm not exactly happy about the amount of touching we already have going on."

Deaton opens his mouth to provide more veterinarian wisdom, but the phone starts going in the office. So Stiles never does get to learn what it was. Deaton heads out to deal with his injured animal emergency (he's guessing,) and Stiles is left alone with Derek's huge, unconscious body.

"Oh my God."

It turns out he may have been lying about the not moving Derek thing. Because he weighs a ton, and the broad expanse of his back is very slowly compressing Stiles's chest. It isn't exactly making breathing difficult yet, but there's the possibility of it getting harder in the future. Also, his back is going to hurt like hell if he has to stay curled over like this.

"Dude, you're heavy as fuck," Stiles mutters. But he does eventually get them both tilted back against the wall, and Derek isn't quite crushing his chest any more.

"I hope you're having fun in there, learning lots of cool, wolfy secrets. Because I'm telling you, this is much less interesting from my end. Also, I kind of need to pee. Don't worry though, I can totally hold it." Stiles pats Derek on the shoulder, then realises exactly what he'd done, and pats him a little less enthusiastically. But he figures Derek's huge, so he probably didn't even feel it. Maybe it's like when you pat tigers, because they're so strong it feels like tickling, and they want to claw at you to make you stop. So you have to pat them really hard. Stiles figures werewolves are like that. He should ask Scott what people touching him feels like now, if there's a difference.

He pulls his phone out of his pocket and plays stupid games for something to do. He starts off with chin carefully balanced on his own arm. But twenty minutes later, when he's plummeting to his digital death, he realises he has it hooked over Derek's shoulder, temple resting against Derek's.

It's very briefly terrifying, and then not so much, because it's not like Derek's protesting, or moving, or even tensing. He's not doing anything but breathing slowly, like Stiles's lazy weight doesn't both him at all. And Stiles is supposed to be touching him, that's the whole point. So he's probably good? Until the position starts to do terrible things to his neck. Then he loops his arms over Derek's shoulders and tips his head back against the wall.

"I'm really hoping this is doing you some good. Though it's not like either of you told me anything about it. I don't know whether it's a Zen thing, or a werewolf past life thing, or even a dead werewolves give you advice, thing. Though hopefully not the last one, because that has the possibility of being depressing as fuck for you. You're probably not going to tell me either way."

Stiles sighs, then leans over and drags his backpack within reach.

He briefly contemplates whether eating a bag of chips will interfere with the serious business of vision quest-ness. This is probably the only time ever that Derek wouldn't protest about the over-enthusiastic crunching in his ear. Which he suspects will feel like victory. But Stiles knows what he's like, he'll probably just drop them all in Derek's lap, and then get cheese dust all over him, and there's absolutely no way that will end well. So instead he lets his stomach grumble, and slides his arms under Derek's, tightens one of them when he leans to one side to push his backpack out of the way.

Derek's head tips back to rest against his shoulder when Stiles leans back, and he suddenly has an up-close-and-personal view of Derek's neck, and the stubbled plane of his cheek.

Stiles had been carefully ignoring how good Derek smells, from two inches away, because he would never live down an awkward and amazingly self-destructive crush on Derek. Werewolves tend to find out these things, and then judge you, and mock you. He has no wish to subject himself to that at all. But Derek does smell really good, and this whole forced cuddling thing is just rubbing it in - and he needs to not phrase it like that, he really does.

"I would like to apologise in advance for being a teenager boy, and reacting to the fact that you are a warm, living, human-shaped thing pressed against me. In my defence I got roped into this mostly against my will. This is mostly non-consensual cuddling. Which is probably some sort of fetish - not my fetish, I feel like I should make that clear. I'm just saying that you're not helping, with your face, and your eyelashes, and your huge muscles, and the fact that you smell like masculinity, and all sorts of confusing, sexy, woodland things." Stiles finds himself leaning a little closer, nose almost touching where the edge of Derek's shirt is soft and worn. He pulls back on a breath. "Holy crap, this is why Scott's always shoving his face into things isn't it? So many things make sense now!"

Stiles leans back a little, out of temptation range, and thinks about dead fish, broken bones, and the smell of stagnant water. Though the back of Derek's neck is a smooth curve that makes that more difficult than usual. The hair that starts there is dark and soft.

"I really think you should see other applicants about being your vision-quest buddy. Seriously. I'm a teenager and you're very, very attractive and I feel like having me curled around your back for any long period of time is only going to lead to awkwardness....and erections."

Yeah, saying that out loud probably didn't help either.

Stiles clears his throat.

"And I apologise for smelling you, though you probably do that all the time, whether you want to or not - with me, I mean. Which must be, like, a constant, unwanted barrage of sexual frustration, sweaty panic and cheese-based snacks." Stiles frowns. "Wow, my life summed up in smells is really, really depressing."

Derek makes a noise, a slow, shaky inhale. Stiles only notices it because he's been almost completely silent so far. He stops trying to shift his legs into a better position, and waits to see if there's going to be anything else. Deaton said two hours, so Derek's not supposed to wake up yet.

It doesn't seem as if anything else is going to happen. Stiles straightens his leg out again, trying to stretch the numbness out of it.

"You're not even going to appreciate this are you. I swear I should just -"

Derek makes the noise again, a jerky gasp of air, and then he's twitching in Stiles grip and - shit, curling over. Stiles has to swear and grab hold of him, before he topples straight out of his arms. It's a lot harder to hold his weight like this, and it's not until Stiles fists his hands in Derek's shirt, and pulls him back, that he has him stable again. He makes sure of it, arms tightening round him, and Derek's heartbeat is faster now, Stiles can feel it through his shirt.

Yeah, Stiles's isn't exactly jogging either

"I thought Deaton said you weren't going to move. It turns out he's a filthy liar."

The hair on the back of Derek's neck is standing up, and his throat is almost cold, damp under Stiles's bare forearms and the curve of his cheek. There's a bitter, smoky smell to him now, and Stiles has the strange, fleeting thought that this is what werewolf fear smells like.

"Derek?" Stiles is moving his hands on Derek's chest, some sort of patting, rubbing motion that he wasn't even aware of. He makes himself stop. "You ok in there, Derek?"

He wonders if he should call Deaton, because clearly something's happening. Stiles feels like he should have asked more questions.

"Deaton said nothing can hurt you in there. It's just your own fucked up mind - and yeah, I know it's you, so it's probably pretty awful but - you can take it." He has no idea if that helps or not, but Derek settles, goes loose and heavy in his arms again. Stiles holds him for another ten minutes, just in case, fingers dug into muscle, watching Derek's face from the side. But it looks perfectly relaxed again, all eyelashes and stubble.

So Stiles is back to supporting an unconscious Alpha werewolf on a vision quest, while the town's veterinarian-slash-witch fixes some dog's broken leg in the other room. Stiles is just guessing it's a dog, hell, maybe it's a cat. He's kind of surprised the animals aren't all throwing a fit. What with the big ugly werewolf in the back room.

How did Stiles's life even get here, seriously?

It takes him a while to hear it, mostly because he's too busy wondering how exactly you fix a cat's broken leg. But there's a rumbling - there's a low growl, building in Derek's chest, and he's tensing under Stiles's arms again. It's not the slow, wary, tensing from before. This is the sort of tensing that comes before motion and violence, muscles bunching, and Stiles suddenly realises that there's no way he's going to be able to hold Derek if he decides to attack something.

"Deaton," Stiles yells.

Something metal clangs in the other room, and Deaton's striding through the doors, before Stiles gets a chance to yell his name again.

"Hey, something's wrong. I think he's going to -"

Derek jerks in his grip, hard enough that both Stiles's shoulders feel it, an ache twisting through muscles that weren't meant to do that. Derek's arms straighten out of their relaxed fold, stretching down, claws punching through the cushions settled there and straight into the floor.

Then Derek's leaning forward, hunkering down, and Stiles doesn't even come close to having the strength to stop it. One of his arms slips free, and the other is left looped messily round Derek's neck, and there's no way an angry werewolf can't be offended by that. The growl goes gritty-rough, teeth grating against teeth.

"Oh shit."

"Don't let him go." Deaton actually catches Stiles's flailing arm, and pushes it back round Derek's chest. Then he jerks back a little when Derek's teeth snap together.

Stiles is amazed that he doesn't flinch away at that sound, because he's seen those teeth snap through bone, and - oh my God - Stiles is pretty much just a collection of fragile bones, protected by nothing at all. But if nothing else he's going to be pissed at Deaton for not warning him.

"Ok, tell me again why I shouldn't get the hell away from him?" Stiles's voice is a raspy, frightened thing, and he's not even embarrassed about it. He's still trying to hold onto Derek, even though he's too wide and too solid to get a grip on now.

"No, don't do that." Deaton sounds completely calm, as if there's no reason to freak out, even with the growling and the shredding the cushions to pieces. "He won't hurt you. Talk to him."


"Talk to him." Deaton still sounds calm, which is throwing Stiles, because this is not a calm situation. He can feel the vibration of Derek's anger through his chest, it's loud enough to set every dog in the back barking.

"I don't think he's in the mood to listen to me," Stiles says, and Derek's still trying to claw his way through the floor.

"He won't attack you, but he might attack me, so I'd appreciate it if you'd try."

Oh, Jesus.

"Derek, hey, Derek, calm the fuck down, it's not real." Stiles finds himself tightening his arms, trying to lock them together round Derek's heaving chest. The material of his shirt is damp and he's nothing but solid muscle and fury under Stiles's fingers.

He tries to get a better grip, tries to find somewhere to hold onto.

"Nothing in there is real, it can't hurt you, and you can't maul it so just chill, come on, dude." He's talking into the skin of Derek's neck, feeling the warmth of his own breath, and that sharp, rich smell of sweat, and earth, and nothing afraid this time. Stiles shouldn't be so intimately acquainted with what angry werewolf smells like. He shouldn't be obsessed with what things smell like at all. "Come on, you know better than that."

But Derek's growling has hit a register Stiles can't compete with.

This clearly isn't working. His first instinct should be to get the hell away from him, before he starts tearing things into pieces. But Deaton said he wouldn't attack him right? He has magical immunity or whatever-the-hell.

"Screw it -"

Stiles twists around, shifts into the steel-tense mass of Derek's chest, legs sliding clumsily over Derek's lap, and then he's trying to shove all the snarling, growling parts of him together in a way that he can hold on to. Which mostly involves having Derek's mouth jammed somewhere against his right shoulder. So, yeah, now it's Stiles's turn to break out into a cold sweat, fingers clenching and unclenching, thinking desperately that smelling like frightened prey is the absolute worst thing he could do in this situation.

"If you bite me, I will make you feel bad about it for the rest of your life," he snaps.

Stiles is going to die, he's going to die because the veterinarian couldn't measure out his vision quest herbs properly. He's going to have his right arm torn clean off, and his bloody corpse left on the floor of a veterinary clinic.

Derek growls into his shoulder

"Quiet," Stiles says firmly, mostly in panicked self-defence.

It's not like magic, it doesn't work straight away, but there's a grumbling, reluctant edge to the growls now, and Stiles doesn't let go.

"Quiet," he says again. "Come on, I mean it, there's nothing to kill."

Derek's growl has dropped to a low rumble, shoulders shifting. Stiles pins them still with his forearms.

"Are we good?"

There's a slow exhale, rough and deep and then the growling stops. Which is good? That has to be good, right? Derek makes a noise, something soft, and then his face just rolls, until he can settle his nose and mouth into the bend of Stiles's neck.

Which is briefly terrifying...and then not so much, because Derek's body is relaxing, one muscle group at a time. There's something like a sigh, into the the skin of his throat, something like it, and it takes Stiles a second to work out what it is.

"Oh my God, are you sniffing me - dude, don't do that, it's creepy."

This time Derek doesn't listen to him, but after half a minute it's mostly just breathing, and Derek relaxes completely, all weight and slow heartbeat again.

"Holy shit," Stiles says, and it's all jittery relief. He turns his head cautiously, to look at Deaton - who looks surprised, why does he look surprised? That can't be good. But then it's gone, smoothed away behind his veterinarian calm.

Deaton clears his throat. "That doesn't usually - he should wake up soon."

Stiles's hands do a weird, panicked peel away from Derek's body, before he realises that Deaton didn't say it was happening right now.

"So I can stop touching him, right?"

Deaton nods.

"Right, so, I'm going to let go of him now, and we're going to pretend that none of this ever happened." Stiles cautiously untangles himself, and mostly falls on his ass, because there's really no way to do this gracefully. He pulls Derek's shirt straight afterwards. Though he still kind of looks like someone's been rumpling him. Is it obvious? What if it's obvious? He straightens Derek's shirt again, and then pokes at his hair, because Stiles is pretty sure he flattened it during the whole murderous flailing moment.

"We're not going to tell Derek about this, ok? Because, yeah that's just going to be awkward and no one wants that." His heart is still thumping three times too fast, and he probably smells like panic, and relief, and confusion, but that's nothing new, that's like an average day in his life now.

If Deaton had glasses he'd currently be looking at Stiles over the top of them.

"I won't say anything if you don't want me to, but he's going to smell that you were all over him," Deaton explains, in that helpful way of his.

Oh my God.

"Not cool," Stiles says through his teeth, not cool at all.