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The Lines on Which We Tread

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He pulled up to this house just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. His dad’s cruiser was in the drive, and the kitchen light was on. Yeah. He was in so much trouble. Cutting the engine, Stiles took a deep breath before getting out of the Jeep and facing the music.

It was eerily quiet as he opened the front door, but he knew it would be foolish to try and sneak passed his dad if he was waiting for him. As he stepped into the kitchen, he stopped and looked down when he heard something crunch underneath his shoe.

Glass.

Frowning, he looked a bit closer. It wasn’t thick like glass from a car window would be, and Stiles hadn’t noticed any broken windows on his way in, but he could smell faint traces of whiskey. So a bottle or a glass? Where did it come from?

And where was his dad?

Heart rate picking up, Stiles looked around. There was more glass on the floor and several other things were askew around the kitchen. A chair was knocked over, the salt- and peppershakers were on their sides, the dishes that had been in the sink or on the counters were everywhere, and Stiles found both the broken bottle of whiskey and one of the tumblers on the ground as well.

Most suspicious of all though, was that the kitchen window was open and something that looked way too much like blood for Stiles’ comfort was smeared on the sill.

Stiles pulled out his phone as he ran through the rest of the house, knowing instinctively that he wouldn’t find anything, but needing to make sure. He hit redial as he did so.

When Scott’s phone went straight to voicemail, Stiles resisted the urge to chuck his phone across the room. That would not be productive and he needed to remain calm.

Hands shaking—calm not really in Stiles’ vocabulary—he scrolled through his contacts and hit dial, praying that luck was on his side for once.

“What, Stiles?”

“Thank god; Derek, I need help.”

Maybe something in his voice gave away his desperation, because Derek lost a little bit—not all of it, but a little—of the growl he’d answered the phone with. “What happened?”

“I think something took my dad.”

He heard a car door slam through the phone and the rev of an engine. “I’m on my way, don’t touch anything.”

He’d be more offended by that if he weren’t so busy freaking out. When Derek hung up, Stiles put his phone back in his pocket and paced in the doorway to the kitchen. He was on his way to full panic attack mode; he could feel it. He needed to calm down or else he’d be useless.

He sat, hard, on the floor and put his head between his knees, trying to steady his breathing and make his head stop spinning. He was keeping it at bay, but he could still feel the panic on the edge of tacking over.

He didn’t even hear the Camero pull up or the front door open, so he jumped a little when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Breathe, Stiles.” Derek ordered quietly.

The alpha gave his shoulder a squeeze and it was shockingly out of character enough that Stiles was able to focus on that rather than the panic clawing at his chest long enough to get his breathing under control. He nodded when he was good, and Derek stood, surveying the kitchen.

“What happened?” He was already sniffing the air.

“I don’t know. I got home and found it like this.”

“How long ago?”

“Right before I called you.”

Derek frowned. “Why were you out all night? It’s a full moon—“

“Exactly. I was helping Scott. It was his first full moon without Allison. He… wasn’t handling it so well.”

Derek very clearly had an opinion about that, but he kept it to himself, probably out of deference to the situation. He stepped cautiously into the kitchen, instead, and began a closer inspection. When he got to the windowsill, he sneezed.

Stiles was way too worried to laugh; in fact, he figured that was an important find. “What is it?”

“I’m… not sure.” Derek’s frowned deepened. He took another whiff of the windowsill, sneezed again, and stepped back a bit. “I don’t know what this is, but it’s not… human.”

“Thus why I called you instead of the police.”

“You knew?”

“No.” Stiles sighed. “But when is anything in this town as simple as a home invasion?”

Derek shifted as if uncomfortable, but covered it up quickly by adjusting his jacket. He strode passed Stiles, headed to the door. Stiles was quick to follow.

“Where are you going?”

“Checking to see if it left a trail.”

They swung around to the other side of the house, where the open window was, and Derek began his investigation again. He prowled along the side of the house, scenting the air and being kind of overtly wolf-like, but Stiles didn’t care one iota so long as he found his dad.

After a few long minutes, Derek nodded and turned to Stiles. “I can follow him.”

“But…?” Stile always knew when a but was coming.

Derek’s frown deepened. “I’m not familiar with what took him.” He pulled out his phone and hit a number, calling someone on his speed dial, apparently. “What smells so strongly of magic that I sneeze every time I get near its scent?”

Stiles did not possess crazy werewolf hearing so he didn’t know what was being said on the other line or who it was. Stiles felt a little out of the loop. Derek always came to him with research questions.

Derek growled, annoyed. “Obviously. What kind and how do I kill it?”

He snapped his phone shut without a goodbye after getting whatever reply he was waiting for. He shoved the phone in his pocket and turned to Stiles. “Do you have any pure iron?”

“Faeries? Seriously?” Stiles muttered while thinking. Where did he stash it? “Yeah, I’ve got a fireplace poker under my bed, its—“

But Derek was already leaping up to his window. He went in, got the poker, and came back out in less than ten seconds. He pushed it into Stiles’ hands and ordered him to follow with a nod of his head. “Try to keep up.”

Derek took off, not going full werewolf speed because there would be no way Stiles could keep up with that, but he did go pretty fast. Stiles kept up though. Much like his favorite wizard detective, Stiles ran regularly because he never knew when he’d have to do it to save his freaking skin. Or someone else’s. So, Stiles matched Derek’s pace, following him and his super sniffer beyond the paved streets and into the untamed forest.

Stiles did not ask why Derek allowed him to come. Maybe he needed back up, maybe he didn’t feel it was worthwhile to argue, maybe he realized that this was Stiles’ father, and nothing was going to stop him from getting him back. Either way, Stiles didn’t care, because he was following Derek into the woods towards a faerie that had, for whatever fuck-off reason, kidnapped his dad.

Such shit would not stand.

When Derek slowed, Stiles followed. They were well into the woods, and Stiles was a little winded. Ok, a lot winded, but he pushed through it because his father was in trouble and he was running on adrenaline until he was safe.

“What’s the plan?” Stiles asked, barely loud enough for Derek to hear even with his wolfy powers.

Derek pointed to a large tree that appeared to have a sizable hole in its trunk. Big enough for a person to fit through easily. Stiles couldn’t see what was in the hole, but he got the gist. Their faerie was in there with his dad.

Derek grabbed the poker to get his attention again; when he had it, he looked at the poker then up at Stiles, questioning. It clearly read, “Do you know what to do with this?” without Derek having to actually speak.

Stiles nodded, face serious. Normally, he’d have a sarcastic comment, but not this time. The need for quiet was too important.

Giving a nod of his own, Derek silently wolfed out—not the full alpha form—and led the way in. It was very dark, too dark to be natural. The hole was also bigger than the tree. This whole thing reeked of magic and Stiles wondered how Derek managed to keep the sneezing at bay.

Finally, a few cautious yards in, light returned. Faint, soft, flickering light. Stiles could see a large room made small by the wall-to-wall, floor to ceiling shelves that held lots and lots of glass bottles and jars. Within the glass, Stiles saw the light source. Each bottle or jar held a small, wispy thing that emitted a faint light. Add the hundreds—thousands?—of them together and the room was well lit. Disturbingly, whatever was in the glass moved like it had mind and purpose. Not just aimless floating, though a few did that, but others were fast, darting in and around their confines in an agitated manner.

Stiles wanted to ask “What are those?”, but he held his tongue. Now was not the time to satisfy his curiosity.

When a soft giggling filled the air around the room, Stiles and Derek both flinched.

“You’re here for the protector, for the guardian, for the father.” It giggled. Again. “You cannot have him.”

There wasn’t a source yet for the tiny voice, so Stiles shifted. Standing back to back with Derek, they both surveyed the room.

“Ooh, and you brought me a present!” The giggling really had to stop for Stiles’ sanity. “The investigator, the clever tongue, the boy who runs—“

“You think I’m going to let you name me thrice? Not much of an investigator if I don’t how stupid that is.” Stiles interrupted her.

The giggling developed into full cackling, and Stiles wasn’t really sure he liked it any better. “Oh, but you are the clever one, aren’t you.” She finally manifested. A small glowing waif of a girl, but Stiles was so not deceived.

Derek snarled at her, but didn’t launch himself at her, which Stiles half expected him to. Derek seemed to realize that he couldn’t reach her and chose to stay at Stiles’ back rather than try to pursue her. Stiles was grateful. He felt a thousand times more confident with the alpha at his back.

“Where is my dad?” Stiles asked, deliberate, annunciating each word clearly.

“I do not wish to tell you.” She smiled, flying just out of reach.

“Where is my dad?” Stiles had done his research, but he was not sure how much could actually be relied upon. There were so many different types of sihde and each one had their own special quirks. Hopefully this little bit was true.

She hissed at him, no longer giggling. “I will not give him to you!” She sent a bolt of light at them and Stiles was really ok with never finding out what it was supposed to have done, so he sliced through the air with the iron poker, dispersing the spell. She stared at him, seemingly shocked, and then snarled.

“Where is my—“ Stiles had to stop to shout “Duck!” To Derek as she hurled another bolt of light, this one at the werewolf. Stiles dispersed it same as the last, swinging over Derek’s head. So interrupted, he wasn’t sure if his thrice repeated questioning would work.

She smirked at him, smug.

“Fine. You wanna play? Let’s play.” Stiles glared at her, but he also had a smirk of his own. “Derek, how’s your pitching arm?”

He sensed from the way Derek shifted his stance that the alpha had caught on to his plan pretty quick. “Let’s find out. Batter up.”

Lighting fast, they split up. Stiles could easily protect himself from any spells she tossed his way and Derek was crazy fast. He should be able to dodge easily enough. When they faced each other, Derek was already lobbing one of the glass jars at Stiles. Smirking, he swung the iron poker and shattered the glass jar, releasing the trapped wisp inside and it gave off a trill of joy.

The faerie was pissed. She hurled bolt after bolt, but Stiles either deflected or Derek dodged. When she lobbed a spell at Derek, Stiles reached behind him and picked up another glass bottle, tossing it and then smashing it with then poker. He had to do it with the poker, just throwing it on the ground wouldn’t be effective, and he needed the power of the iron to break through the faerie magic binding the glass together.

“You want me to stop!” He shouted. “Give me my father; alive, and intact! Or so help me, I will break every last bottle in this termite infested hole you call a hideout.”

He was aware that he already had about half a dozen small cuts oozing blood from flying shards, but he didn’t care. If it took breaking every bottle in here and tearing himself to shreds, he’d do it.

She hissed again. “Deceived! Did not warn, did not say...” She seemed to be more rambling to herself now than talking to either of them, but Stiles didn’t care. He was growing impatient. He took a mighty swing and smashed an entire ten-foot swath of glass in one go. This time the faerie keened. “Take! Take and go!”

Stiles’ dad appeared, unconscious at their feet. Derek hoisted him up into a fireman’s carry and led the way out, checking to make sure that Stiles followed.

When they were out of the lair, there was a weird change in pressure that actually made Stiles’ ears pop. When he turned around, the tree—the entire tree!—was gone. Poof. Like it was never there.

“Come on.” Derek growled. He clearly wanted away from the faerie and this part of the forest as fast as possible.

When they made it back to the Stilinski house, Derek deposited the sheriff on the couch and then whirled on Stiles.

“Thank you.” Stiles said before Derek could start whatever glare-tastic rant he was about to go on.

Derek frowned, but it wasn’t his normal angry frown. More like confused, which Stiles thought was a little ridiculous. Then it occurred to Stiles, that Derek probably hadn’t been thanked in a non-sarcastic way in a while.

“You should get those cleaned up.” He grunted. “Let me know if any of them are too deep.”

Stiles nodded. He washed the cuts in the sink and didn’t find many that were more than purely superficial. There was one in the webbing between his right thumb and forefinger that was painful and one above the corner of his left eyebrow that seemed like it needed more attention.

He grabbed a paper towel and held it to his head. Cuts on the head always bled more, making them look way more serious than they actually were, though this one hurt like a bitch. He went back into the living room to check on his dad, paper towel firmly in place to keep blood off the floor and furniture.

“Let me see.” Derek didn’t quite growl, but Stiles felt that his bedside manner could still use a little work.

“It’s fine, dude. Just a scratch.”

Derek grabbed him roughly by his shirts and hauled him up, giving Stiles his exasperated face. Stiles rolled his eyes, but removed the paper towel. Derek looked at it closely. “This could need stitches.”

“Fabulous. I hear chicks dig scars.”

“Do you want me to take care of it?”

“If by take care of it you mean put a butterfly bandage on it, then sure.” Stiles said. He didn’t want stitches. If he was lucky, the butterfly bandages would do just fine.

“It should be cleaned too.”

“Fine.” Stiles led Derek to the kitchen where the first aid kit was stashed. Derek dug through it until he found what he was looking for, then he put it back where Stiles drug it out of. “Why are you doing this?” Stiles flinched as his mouth ran away from him. Sure, draw attention to the uncharacteristic behavior, good job.

“You want me to leave?” Derek just asked calmly, not even looking at him as he opened the package of butterfly bandages.

“No.” Stiles admitted. “I was just… wondering.”

Derek didn’t say anything as he cleaned the cut and put the butterflies on. Finally, he looked at Stiles and said, “You got hurt because I brought you with me.”

“I wouldn’t have let you go without me.” Stiles countered.

Derek shook his head. “Doesn’t matter.”

“I’m not made of glass.”

Derek just gave him a look. “Have I ever treated you like you are?”

Recalling the number of times he’d been slammed into walls or steering wheels, or shoved and pulled around by the werewolf in front of him, Stiles had to admit, that no. Derek didn’t treat him like he was made of glass. He shook his head.

“You’re not glass, but you are… human.” For a second Stiles thought Derek was going to end that statement differently but changed his mind at the last second. It was a little confusing and piqued Stiles’ curiosity, but the alpha continued before he could speak. “You can’t heal like we can; it’s just a fact Stiles.”

“I know. But that hasn’t stopped me before and won’t stop me in the future.”

Derek grumbled. “I’m aware. Just… when it happens,” he gave Stiles a pointed look, “let one of us help.”

Stiles nodded figuring it for a Pack thing. Taking care of the wounded and weak, all that jazz. Though, he wasn’t sure if he was still part of Derek’s pack after Scott’s break from the Pack. Thoughts for another time, though.

“What do I tell him?” Stiles asked, changing the subject.

Derek finally moved away from Stiles’ space and looked over at the sleeping sheriff. “If he remembers… tell him what happened.”

“There’s a chance he won’t remember?” Stiles asked.

Shrugging, Derek made his way to the front door. “Hard to tell with the sihde.”

Just before he left, Stiles grabbed his shoulder lightly. “Really, Derek. Thank you.”

Derek just nodded stiffly and walked back to his car.

Stiles closed the door when he could no longer hear the Camaro’s engine and set to cleaning up the kitchen.

The sheriff woke about half an hour later. “Ugh, my head.”

“How’re you feeling?” Stiles asked already handing him advil and glass of water.

“Hungover.” He mumbled taking the advil and water with a nod of thanks.

“Remember anything?”

“It’s… a little hazy. Something… did I break something? I remember broken glass.” His father noticed the cut on his head. “Stiles! What happened?”

“I tripped. Hit my head at Scott’s. Don’t worry. Mrs. McCall patched me up.” Stiles made a mental note to ask Mrs. McCall to cover for him if his dad asked. “Came home once she said I didn’t have a concussion and found you asleep. The whiskey must’ve fallen at some point because it was broken on the floor. Don’t worry, I cleaned it up already.”

“Thanks.” His dad said numbly, clearly still a little out of it.

Stiles shrugged like it was no big deal. “You should head up to bed. You still have a few hours before you have work.”

When he nodded, Stiles helped his dad to his feet and made sure he made it to the bed intact before hitting the sack himself, exhausted.