Chapter 1: Chapter One
Eleven had been a pretty bad year for Stiles. His mother's cancer came out of remission with a vengeance, in her blood by the time they pulled her in for tests. By his next birthday, she was gone. And, as though that hadn't been enough punishment for the Stilinski household, the shock of his mother's death triggered panic attacks on top of Stiles' already slightly manic concentration and behavioral issues.
By the time his tests were complete, Stiles was the youngest Guide-adept in Beacon Hills' history. The knowledge -- particularly the bit about potentially being ripped from his father for the benefit of some faceless stranger should his "talents" further develop -- did nothing to help with the panic attacks, though the drugs they put him on to regulate his empathic predisposition were admittedly twice as effective as Adderall had ever been. The Stilinski men never talked about it, but they both lived in fear of Stiles' sixteenth birthday, when his formal training was slated to begin.
Until then, the mandatory silvered chain about his neck would mark him as a bit of a freak, an untouchable link to a world most people only encountered a handful of times in their lives. If it hadn't been for Scott, Stiles wouldn't have had a single non-relative at his twelfth birthday party. By his thirteenth, Stiles decided that he had grown out of birthdays.
Derek Hale was done with Guides. Laura could bitch all she wanted, but Derek had been doing just fine without one for all these years and the last thing he wanted was someone else crawling around in his head, stealing all his secrets, manipulating his feelings, weakening all his defenses, and making a fool of him. Never again.
A few years in the out-patient Sentinel Rehabilitation Center in New York weren't going to change the fact that a Guide had nearly gotten his whole family killed. That his own stupidity had put his little sisters, his uncle, his mother in the hospital for second and third-degree burns and smoke inhalation and shock. If it hadn't been for his father's early empathic warning, the zones that had riveted his family in place while the house burned down around them would have rendered Derek and Laura orphans.
Perhaps other people could recover from Guide-drop, could bond again -- but Derek wasn't some middle-aged widower or divorcee. He'd been suckered into a false bond with a Guide who wanted him and everyone he loved dead, just for being what they were: Sentinels. There was no recovering from that kind of fuck up. There shouldn't be. There wasn't.
Derek wasn't Alpha material anyway. He'd gotten along just fine, hardly a single zone to speak of, with only his family Guides to work with. There wasn't a pamphlet or shrink on Earth who could convince him life would be better if he bought into the fairy tale of mystical bonds and perfect control and destined mates.
No, Derek Hale was done with Guides.
The Jeep was a present for his sixteenth birthday, but more than that, the Jeep was a promise. Father to son, Stilinski to Stilinski.
Stiles would always be able to come home.
Guide-adept training was due to scoop him up from high school in two short weeks, but Stiles could take the Jeep with him. Perhaps that was only the flimsiest of veneers of independence, but Stiles knew what his dad was trying to say.
They may have manfully hugged it out in the driveway for a few minutes after the big reveal, but Stiles wasn't about to admit to it without photographic proof.
He wasn't the only Guide-adept from his class, but Stiles was one of only two guys to have shown Guide potential. The other being Danny Mahealani, which was just grossly unfair of the universe. Still, there was at least one upshot of being towed off to Guide Camp (Stiles liked to think of it like Space Camp, only vastly suckier): being reunited with Lydia Martin. Sure, their epic non-starter of a one-sided romance for the ages was doomed to failure almost from the beginning, what with the very strong likelihood that at least one of them had a very possessive Sentinel bond-mate in their future, but Stiles was nothing if not a believer in substituting one’s own reality where fate fell down on the job.
Fate, it turned out, was more of a very loud, very active backseat driver. A mere three days before his departure to Guide-a-palooza and its requisite training montage, Stiles and his Jeep were broadsided by a shiny, black Camaro.
The zone that changed Derek’s life started forty yards before an intersection, just as he’d started to slow down for the stop. A red light brightly gleamed under its yellow hood, the smell of motor oil and the grime of the road seeping through the A/C vents and choking him where it settled on the back of his tongue. And underneath and woven through it all was the faintest rhythmic thudding of a heartbeat approaching.
His control defied him, hearing locking on to the persistent sound to the neglect of everything else. Not even the sudden spike in its tempo, the sharp acidic bite of terror and adrenaline overwhelming the stench of the road and gutters, could break his utter transfixion.
The Camaro rammed into the Jeep, thankfully at only 30 miles an hour or Stiles was sure Betty would have been forced into a roll. As it was, her back end skidded violently across the blacktop, the car forced parallel to the oncoming Camaro. Airbags deployed, tires squealed unhappily, and Stiles jostled violently back and forth in the restraint of his seat belt.
The world had gone real around all its edges, with the adrenaline pumping through Stiles’ veins. He sat there for several seconds, breathing hard and gripping the steering wheel in tight fists. His foot had fully depressed the brake, the whole line of his body straining with the effort of slamming the pedal down to the floor. The sound of the radio, merrily tinkling out the latest top-40 hits around the sound of honking and the overwhelming thuds of his own heartbeat in his ears, finally got him to move. He slapped ineffectually at the radio until it was muted, then managed to put the Jeep in park and turned the engine off with trembling hands. He unclasped the seat belt as another driver, a woman in her thirties with a cell phone up to one ear, knocked on his window to draw his attention.
“Are you all right?” she shouted through the thin glass.
“Y-yeah!” Stiles worked out, his voice cracking as he tried to exude a sense of calm.
He pawed the deflated air bag out of his way and tumbled out of the car, his shaky legs uninterested in supporting his weight at first. The woman caught his elbow as he steadied himself.
“The boy in the Jeep seems okay. A little shocky. What’s your name, hon?” the woman asked him, tilting the the phone away from her mouth.
“Stiles. Stiles Stilinski. My dad’s the sheriff.”
The woman’s eyes widened a bit, but she went back to the phone. “Did you get that? Stilinski. The sheriff’s boy.” Her eyes caught on the chain dangling over Stiles’ undershirt. “A Guide, too.”
Other motorists had pulled to a stop nearby, all on their phones, and in the distance, Stiles’ swore he could hear a siren heading their way. The woman moved toward the Camaro, still talking to the dispatch, and Stiles stumbled forward with her. No movement had come from the other car in the minutes after the wreck, after all.
The Camaro had rolled to a stop at the far curb after striking Stiles’ Jeep, the engine rumbling unhappily as it idled where it couldn’t get itself over the rise of concrete. Its front end was demolished and Stiles didn’t want to know how much of his Betty’s side was scraped raw and gutted. A little smoke trickled up from under the hood and the airbag within had clearly blown, but no motion from the driver.
Stiles got to the driver’s door first, somehow, and operating from within his tunnel vision, he pulled the door open to get at the man inside.
“Hey, you okay?”
The man didn’t move, his eyes wide and unblinking, his fingers twitching idly where they had been blown back from the airbag’s explosive opening. Stiles’ eye was drawn to the man’s left hand, where the knuckles had impacted with the window and been burst open from the force of the blow. Slowly -- so, so slowly -- Stiles watched the skin begin to knit itself back together. He took another look at the man’s face and yeah, his eyes were glowing a bright, unnatural blue.
Leaning back out of the car cautiously, overtaken by a sudden sense of foreboding and dread, Stiles flagged the woman on the phone down from where she was giving the address to dispatch over the phone.
“What is it, honey? Is he all right?”
“No,” Stiles said shakily. “No, he’s a Sentinel. I think he’s in a zone. They need to get a Guide down here.”
The woman’s eyes widened again and she took a few more steps away, whispering the news urgently into the phone. Stiles began to follow her when a hand like a vice gripped his wrist, jerking him back to the side of the Camaro.
Stiles looked into the cab to see two icy blue eyes fixed on him, a mouth full of sharp teeth moving awkwardly as it tried to form words.
“My Guide,” the man said. “Mine.”
Stiles was not entirely successful in swallowing his panicked meep of terror.
Chapter 2: Chapter Two
The zone continues, but Stiles acquires a few more witnesses to his humiliating predicament.
As always, un-betaed and mostly edited for the glaring stuff. Give me a shout if there's anything I missed!
Derek floated in a muddy haze. Everything was sounds and smells, though far off he sensed the jostling of his body, the fascination of the pleasing noises occasionally broken by more grating sounds. Ultimately, though, everything settled to calm and stillness, the sounds and smells slowly drawing closer on the breeze.
His eyes saw nothing but the contrast of light and shadows, his body a disconnected mass of nerve endings save for the powerful sensory draw of the tantalizing smell which he inhaled deeply and held jealously on the surface of his tongue.
His focus on the steady metronome of the delightful thrumming sound was broken open by the bell-like chime of something entirely new. It was a shaky thing, steadying but still intermittent.
It came closer.
If it was possible for Derek to still even further, he made the earnest attempt to cease any shifts or twitches, so intent on the progression of the noises and smells that tethered him.
The smell bloomed in bursts, before reaching an overwhelming pitch.
The bell sound rang out right beside him, a tentative counterpoint to the thrum of the beat that held him so transfixed.
Derek’s whole being hung suspended in the cacophony of pleasure which assailed his waking senses.
But then, there was a sense of impending loss. Some dormant instinct screamed out a warning, a protest, and Derek pushed himself outward in a blind attempt to arrest the moment, to prevent its end.
The beat picked up, but he felt a measure of relief, assured that with the exertion of vigilance, nothing bad could happen.
Derek was nothing if not stubborn.
Stiles Stilinski might prevaricate at length in many situations, in many ways, and about many, many things, but in that moment, Stiles would readily admit to anyone who would listen that he was freaking out a bit.
Blue Eyes was grinding the bones of his wrist together and pulling him slowly but steadily into the car. Stiles was only looking at maybe a foot of clearance between his ass and the Sentinel’s lap. Every tug, pull, twist, yank, or lunge away from the zoned man merely produced a terrifyingly fierce growl and a few inches of distance from the car door -- all of which was lost inch by inch in the subsequent seconds before the next escape attempt. Prying fingers open was a lost cause as well; Blue Eyes’ grip was like iron and unshifting despite the best of Stiles’ attempts.
Stiles was aware that he was alternating between pleading with and cussing out the Sentinel amidst all of these fruitless efforts, but he really couldn’t bring himself to care that he was whining like a five-year old to the half-turned form of the poster boy for Sentinel masculinity.
“...I mean, what kind of epic douchenozzle drives a Camaro into a fine automobile like Betty? The insurance will never believe it’s not my fault and my dad will end up paying out the nose for your stupid, overpriced, can’t-turn-a-corner-at-a-respectable-speed, paperweight of a car, and all because you, sir, decided today would be a fine day to run a red light in your asshole-mobile...”
No, Stiles sincerely wasn’t much concerned about the state of his internal filter. To be fair to himself, he had just been in an accident and he was probably in shock.
And a Sentinel -- the self-same asshole who’d probably totaled his brand new baby -- was zoned on him and was trying his best to break Stiles’ wrist one-handed.
Filter was most definitely off.
The woman on the phone was hovering close by, listening to instructions from dispatch and relaying events as she saw them.
“...no, he hasn’t let go. I think he’s trying to... ground? on the boy. Are you trained, honey?” she asked Stiles.
“No. I’m supposed to leave after the weekend.”
“He’s just sixteen, not gone up to the Center yet,” she told dispatch, followed by a pause as she listened for further direction. “Just a moment.”
The woman circled to the back of the Camaro and read out the license plate number to the operator. After another pause, she looked up at Stiles.
“His name’s Derek. Try calling him by name. See if that helps at all.”
Stiles looked down the line of his arm into the car, meeting the vacant glare of the Sentinel’s -- Derek’s -- blue eyes.
“Derek? Hey, Derek. I’m Stiles, the guy you crashed into. Can you hear me? I’d kind of like my arm back, dude. Not even kind of. Can you ease up on the Vulcan death grip there, big guy? At the very least, I’d like to be able to feel my hand again.”
There was a long pause, then Derek pulled abruptly and hard on Stiles’ arm. Stiles tried to brace against the roof, but ended up tripping over his own feet and falling in an ungainly tangle of limbs to the street, pulled flush with the metal of the lower edge of the door frame. A brief inventory of hurts promised some amazing bruising from knees to chin come the next day.
“Mine,” growled Derek around newly bared teeth. His face was nearly all the way to fully wolfed out, and Stiles had a hard time reconciling the updated eyebrows-to-sideburns ratio. “Guide. Mine.”
“Oh hell no,” Stiles grumbled from the pavement. “Not the chilliest chance in hell, you enormous pain in my ass. Not. ever. going to happen.”
Derek stopped growling at the sound of Stiles’ voice. Instead, he reached out blindly with his free hand until he found the top of Stiles’ head. He then proceeded to pet Stiles’ hair absently, with the coordination of a child stroking a cat.
“Perfect,” Stiles muttered to himself.
A handful of minutes later, the fire truck arrived, followed by an ambulance, a squad car, the Sentinel-Guide Emergency Response team from the county office, and finally, the Sheriff.
The sirens and lights for every vehicle but Stiles’ father’s had cut out a little over a block away, in deference to Derek’s zone. Sheriff Stilinski, on the other hand, arrived in plainclothes and was in full tilt Dad-mode, procedure taking a complete back seat to his need to get to his son.
Stiles, of course, was still very obviously attached to Derek Hale. The initial relief that Stiles was otherwise unharmed gave way to the much more pressing issue of how to detach the zoned Sentinel from the untrained Guide-adept.
The Sentinel and Guide team from County weren’t offering up much cheery news in that department. Derek wouldn’t let the pair of them within ten feet of Stiles without snarling and trying to pull Derek's very reluctant captive into the car by the one arm he had a grip on. The team couldn’t effectively mediate the zone and were instead exiled to the other side of the intersection -- downwind -- where they were trying to diagnose the problem with what information others could relay to them. In fact, the only person who had yet successfully gotten nearer to Stiles than four or five feet from the car was the woman who had initially called in the accident. A squad car had had to be dispatched to pick up her daughter from day care, as they still needed her at the scene to help out.
“We thought,” said the waifish blonde Guide, “that Stiles might be injured for Derek’s zone to have turned so feral, but the medic from the fire squad said he looked okay. No concussion or visible lacerations.”
The Sentinel, a tall woman with straightened hair pulled back into a severe bun, wrapped an arm around the waist of her Guide briefly, the smaller man smiling up at her serenely as she took over the conversation.
“It might be Stiles’ stress levels,” she said. “His file said that he’s had panic attacks before? It might be that Derek is wired from Stiles’ adrenaline burst or his current distress.”
When the Sheriff made an irritated grunting noise in the back of his throat, the Guide -- Perkins, said his badge -- reached forward and laid a hand on his crossed arms. The Sheriff let the pulse of syrupy contentedness soak in for a moment before taking a deliberate step backward, out of range. The Guide subsided back into the curl of his Sentinel’s arm.
“An unbonded Sentinel like Derek has a hard time distinguishing between proper behaviors at the best of times,” Perkins mused. “Add in his zone and heightened state of stress, and that could be a really potent instinctual motivator.”
The Sheriff gritted his teeth. Theory was lovely, but to his untrained eye, it looked less like an instance of instinctual protectiveness or pack confusion and more like something else entirely. He’d seen plenty of Sentinel shenanigans in his time on the force; teenage Sentinels were the absolute worst for the relative peace and sanctity of his Saturday nights. But Sentinels didn't randomly take on hostages to their sensory spikes. No, this looked a lot more like the early stages of spontaneous bonding to him, albeit with a very lethargic Sentinel participant.
The Sheriff had seen significantly fewer spontaneous bonds in his work, but they were hard to forget. Sentinels went feral until they could initiate a bond with the captured Guide, and while Guides were supposedly hard-coded to attract a compatible bond-mate, the Sheriff had been there when a Sentinel had to be overdosed on tranqs and forcibly subdued by his Alpha to get him off an overwhelmed and panicking Guide-trainee long enough to prevent the whole incident from escalating to criminal realms.
While both the Guide and Sentinel had walked away happier for having the Sheriff intercede as he had, the political backlash afterward had nearly cost him his job. The Sentinel-Guide Centers insisted on having jurisdiction in all such cases, and their interests were always to create as many bonded pairs as possible. The Center still forced all their students to interview with a short list of “approved” potential bond-mates in their final months of training, though the legalization forty years earlier of empathic suppressants meant that about forty-five percent of those interviews came to naught. (It was a poorly kept secret that even of the interviews that resulted in a pre-bond, only a third of graduates selected a bond-mate from their approved short list.)
Procedure said to let the Sentinel-Guide team handle it. But the Sheriff wasn’t there in an official capacity; his deputy was technically handling the scene and their office only had jurisdiction over the accident itself. It was a small town, though, and everyone knew the Hales. More to the point, the Sheriff could look their number up in his squad car and call them down to the scene of the accident, all in the genuine interest of their packmate’s health. And should their Alpha be able to pry his son loose of Derek’s grip as a result? Well, that was just a bit of icing on the cake of not having his son pre-bonded to a twenty-something Sentinel.
For the most part, nothing changed until the Hale family arrived. More specifically, nothing changed until Laura Hale arrived, took one look at Stiles, and burst out laughing.
Stiles was pretty sure he hated her. If Derek’s growl was anything to go by, he felt much the same way.
“I hear you, man. I hear you.”
Chapter 3: Chapter Three
Sentinels face off, the Sheriff takes charge, and Stiles' fate is sealed.
Friends, I've stayed up quite late to deliver this chapter to you, so I hope you like it! Unbeta-ed and such as per the norm, so if you see anything horrendous, please let me know! (If anyone's interested in copious reblogs and occasional fannish projects and previews, I can be found on tumblr as quietly-amused.) Enjoy!
Stiles recognized all five of the Hales piling out of the SUV that had swerved up to park behind his dad’s cruiser. Besides Laura, both Mr. and Dr. Hale had come along, as well as one of the older boys and the Hale girl who was two grades above Stiles in school. Stiles knew Laura and her parents from the rest of the sea of Hales because they were the ones who routinely lectured for the Sentinel/Guide awareness assemblies and the corresponding sections in Biology class. In that way, most everyone in Beacon Hills knew the Hale Alpha, her mated Guide, and the Alpha-apparent. But while the Hales were distinctive down to the last man, woman, and child, the particulars of who was who in a clan of so many cousins and extended relations was a little less clear.
Laura’s raucous laughter upon arriving at the scene had two immediate effects. First, it cut a fair amount of the tension in the air like a knife, and secondly, it drew the first real stirrings of consciousness in Derek Hale, resident Camaro-crashing animatronic statue of growly discontent.
It also, much to Stiles’ amusement, caused the unflappable and highly estimable Dr. Hale to round the hood of the SUV and smack her grown daughter upside the head. The developing case of giggles in the other two Hale progeny died a sudden death in the face of the Alpha’s disapproval, two teens shuffling their feet in repentant humility.
Laura Hale, while chagrined, was apparently not one to subside quietly. Stiles watched from across the street as the two women exchanged exasperated words until Mr. Hale intervened, dragging the little group across to speak to the Sheriff and the Sentinel and Guide team from County.
Stiles didn’t have very long to pay attention to those new developments, however, because in his immediate vicinity were some very real developments all his own.
If there was ever a pissing contest that Sheriff Stilinski was glad he wasn’t in the middle of, it was the one going down right in front of him. The Hale Alpha, Dr. Talia Hale, was currently squaring off in a minor territory dispute with County’s Sentinel over how to handle the extrication of Stiles and Derek from their current stalemate.
Rather, Dr. Hale was demanding the right to intervene and the Sentinel from the County office -- Morrell, as it read on her badge -- was adamant that she and Perkins, her docile Guide, would handle the situation “by the book.” Laura Hale was growling softly at her mother’s elbow, while Perkins smiled soothingly, almost mockingly, at the side of his Sentinel. Beyond this little tableau, Joseph Hale stood with the two other kids who’d shown up at the scene.
“You can’t Guide Derek down like that,” growled Dr. Hale. “You’ll only send him deeper into the frenzy. You have to let a family member, someone he trusts, pull him out. His Sentinel doesn’t submit anymore, not without damaging him. And I will not let you damage my son.”
“We are aware, Alpha Hale, of Derek’s peculiar situation, but a frenzy can’t be controlled from the Sentinel within it. You know this. You also know that this relapse -- “
“It’s not a relapse!” Laura snarled. “Derek hasn’t frenzied in six years!”
Morrell cast the younger Sentinel a withering look for her outburst.
“Laura,” chided her mother, though she continued in the same vein. “Derek has remarkable control and rarely zones so badly as this, which can surely be attributed to shock of the crash. You know that there are dozens of reasons he could be acting aggressively in this case, just like you know that if Derek had truly entered a frenzy, it would look a lot different than this.” She swept an arm out to encompass the relatively orderly scene, apart from Stiles sitting pathetically on the asphalt beside the idling Camaro. “A frenzy is violent; this is protective at worst.”
“Yes, there is the matter of why Derek has fixated on the Stilinski boy. It says in his files that Derek is unbonded?”
Dr. Hale bristled. “What of it?”
“It’s only curious why a Sentinel with a clean bill of health would remain unbonded in a case as precarious as Derek’s.”
“As you say, Derek has a clean bill of health. That makes him no different than any other Sentinel when it comes to deciding when to bond.”
Morrell grinned triumphantly.
“Exactly. And given Derek is no different than any other Sentinel, the Center has no need to grant him special privileges in this case.”
With a swift turn on her heel, Morrell stalked away towards the Camaro, followed by the perpetually grinning Perkins.
Dr. Hale lunged forward to give chase when the arm of her husband caught her round the middle.
“Calm down,” he murmured to her, without a hint of the cloying simper of Morrell’s Guide. “Derek’s fine for another few minutes. Let me make some calls.”
Dr. Hale strained a moment longer in Joseph’s grip before very visibly reining herself in. While her eyes, now a vibrant and eerie shade of red, remained fixed on her son’s car and the strangers approaching it, she gave a small, tight nod in response. Joseph leaned in and pressed a soft kiss at her temple, where the first signs of gray were bleaching Talia Hale’s raven hair what would doubtless one day be a very dignified and regal white. In that moment, the Sheriff missed his wife with a violent ache, but he pushed it aside. It was his son that needed him now.
Derek was resurfacing.
The smells, the sounds, were no longer entirely pleasing. The tense feeling of lurking danger was reaching a fever pitch inside of him.
Something was coming to take what was his.
There were many new bodies, many new scents, intermingled with sweat and chemicals and gun oil. When they came near, he could feel the wolf brother he ran with snarl and spit and brace for a fight. The threats were enough to deter the interlopers for the moment, but now there were more of them -- he was outnumbered -- and though he was sure they did not constitute a true pack, they moved and prowled like one at the edge of his awareness.
And, more importantly to his wolf, there was another of his kind out there. Another born predator, a true threat to the new thing he held close. And even though he smelled pack and home and Alpha on the wind -- things which should all have comforted his wolf brother -- the predator, the interloper, was drawing closer.
Derek pushed forward, up and towards the deafening roar of indeterminate noise and the brightness of light he had been ignoring. Shapes began to coalesce. Sounds became more distinct, more easily parsed into individual pieces. Smell stayed high, warning of the danger approaching, while he only felt the skin of his hands and the thing they held that was theirs.
Derek was unaware he was growling, snapping, snarling, until he felt the velvet touch of an intruding presence in his mind and his anger was cut with blind panic.
That silken brush grew more insistent, pushing and pressing against the edges of his wolf brother, making a cage. Trying to box him in, trying to dull his senses and trick him into letting go of what was his.
NO, he roared.
Derek subsided, and wolf brother leapt forward in his place.
It was obvious, even from this distance, that whatever Perkins was trying to do to Derek was backfiring rather spectacularly.
Derek was starting to fully shift at the same time as he was bodily hauling Stiles into the cab of the car with enough force that there could be some very real danger of a dislocated shoulder if Stiles couldn’t get his feet under him fast enough. The Sentinel was snarling, spitting, and roaring indecipherable things at the County’s finest. Foam was flying with each new outburst and his mouth had sprouted a full set of menacing, razor-sharp canines, just as his fingernails had sharpened into wicked looking claws. Claws which were piercing his son’s clothing, if the wincing Stiles was trying to suffer in silence was any indication.
The Sheriff’s hand went to his belt, where his sidearm was habitually holstered, only to paw at empty air. No uniform, no gun... no way in hell he was letting his kid get torn apart in a Sentinel turf war.
He’d made it no more than five or six feet when a firm hand caught his arm. Turning to look, he saw Joseph Hale, a phone held to his ear with his other hand, shaking his head at him. The Alpha Guide listened at the other end of the line for a few moments before passing the Sheriff his phone with a small smile, turning back to his wife as the Sheriff brought the phone to his own ear.
“I take it this is Sheriff Stilinski?”
“And who am I talking to?”
“Sheriff, my name is Alan Deaton, and I’d like to make you a proposition...”
Stiles was not a happy camper. Not the slightest bit.
Derek McSnarlyPants had taken a serious offense to whatever the Sentinel and Guide were doing, standing staring at them from ten feet away in the middle of the intersection. And Big Bad Sentinel was taking it out on Stiles, who had done nothing wrong. Nothing! If anything, he was the wronged party in all of this madness.
“Look, I don’t think he likes whatever you two genuises are up to, and for the sake of me, myself, and the attachment of all my limbs to my body, I’d appreciate it if you’d cut it the hell out,” he called to the creepy pair, twisting and turning on the balls of his feet for balance as Derek pulled and yanked and twisted at Stiles to draw him nearer.
The Sentinel, a coldly beautiful and deeply, deeply intimidating woman, merely smiled at him, brightly bleached teeth glinting with predatory glee in stark contrast to the rich chocolate tone of her skin. She looked more like a wolf than the Hale beta currently turning into one just behind him.
“It’s alright, Stiles. We’re just going to get Derek under control, and then we’ll come get you. You’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, lady,” Stiles shot back, “I don’t think you’re actually doing much in the getting-him-under-control arena. More like getting him real pissed off when he was just sort of grumpy before.”
In truth, Stiles thought Derek seemed... afraid. In pain. And the longer the stoney face off between the three continued, the more it bothered something deep in Stiles’ gut, something that felt a bit protective of Derek, a bit angry himself.
He and the soccer mom lady had had this thing under control, hadn’t they? Before everyone and their Uncle Charlie had decided to come butt in on it. Hell, Derek had been saying whole words not fifteen minutes ago. Not many, and not particularly profound words, but words all the same.
Now? Now Stiles just thought he was hearing screaming.
“You’re sure there isn’t another way?” the Sheriff asked, watching his son try and haggle with Morrell, feeling distinctly like he was making deals with the proverbial devil.
“I promise you, Mr. Stilinski, this is the best offer on the table. For everyone involved.”
The problem was that Deaton sounded so damn calm, so sure that everything would be alright if they all just went in the direction he was pointing.
“He’ll be safe, Sheriff. I can promise you that.”
He closed his eyes for one brief moment, squeezing them tightly until green and yellow lights danced across the blackness of his shuttered vision. Opening them again, he made the tough call.
“Okay. We accept. Now, what do I do?”
“Repeat exactly what I tell you...”
His dad -- his amazingly awesome, stupendously wonderful father -- strode out into the intersection, a phone dangling from his hand as he held his badge aloft.
“Sentinel Morrell! In reference to Section 48 of the special bylaws of Sentinel and Guide Bonding Procedure, as approved by the SGI of the United States and its governing body, I am taking jurisdiction of this scene back from you until the situation is resolved.”
Morrell -- the seriously creepy lady Sentinel, apparently -- whipped around to confront his father’s approaching figure, tailed as he was by Dr. and Mr. Hale, who were in turn flanked by Laura.
“On whose authority?”
“Sentinel Representative Deaton.”
Morrell looked like she had swallowed something particularly vile, clenching her jaw as she stared down Stiles’ dad. In another breath, she had assumed an air of casual indifference, as though she hadn’t just been slapped down by a distant superior. Stiles had to admire the poise, if not the ominous sense that Morrell was never down for long.
With arms crossed, she snapped her fingers once for the benefit of her Guide, who was merely arms-length from her. It produced the lone effect of having the eerily chipper Guide turn away from Stiles and Derek, which in turn lessened the ferocity of Derek’s impotent rage, though not by much.
“Very well. We’ll be on our way then. It seems you have everything in hand here, Sheriff. Congratulations on your son’s bond.”
She sneered the last in a tone that was closer to vaguely threatening than congratulatory, and then the two strode off without once looking back at the havoc they had wrought.
Stiles caught his father’s eye a few moments later and very manfully did not cry at the sight of his dad come to put it all to right.
“Stiles, we’ve got a plan and we’re going to get you out of this, son. You hear me?”
“Yeah, dad. Yeah, I hear you.”
If he sniffed around the edges of his response, nobody seemed to notice. Quite convenient, having a crazy, out-of-his-mind Sentinel attached to you when you didn’t want anyone to see you get a little weepy for the briefest blip of emotional weakness. However, it was in no other conceivable way alright, and Stiles was more than ready to not be stuck here anymore.
“Just, listen to everything Mr. Hale tells you. He’ll help you through it,” his dad said, sounding equal parts unsure and determined.
“Through what?” Stiles asked, dreading the answer.
Mr. Hale stepped forward, patting his dad once on the shoulder before he inched nearly as close as his soccer mom friend had managed before Derek’s growls picked up steam again. Crouching onto his heels, Mr. Hale put himself at eye level with Stiles, waving a hand behind him to indicate the others should back off a bit.
“Stiles, you’re going to have to trust me. Can you do that?”
This was a different feeling from Morrell’s Guide. This was fresh air and down blankets and carved wood. Stiles let it wash over him in light waves, taking a deep fortifying breath against the panic that had been rising ever since the first moment he’d approached the Camaro.
“Yeah,” he replied, fighting down a tremble in his voice.
Mr. Hale nodded softly, reassuring in his demeanor as held Stiles’ gaze.
“Okay, Stiles. The first thing I need you to do is to try and get into Derek’s lap.”
Chapter 4: Chapter Four
Stiles tackles the big questions in life and Derek finally wakes up. A bit.
So I split the two parts of this chapter up because it seemed like the end of this section was a good place to break, which has upped our chapter count to six. Sorry if there isn't a lot of action this time, but there was a bit of Guide housekeeping to take care of first.
As always, I do not have a beta, so if you see anything I missed or that physically pains you, please let me know so I can spare future readers your misery. :)
When Stiles had woken up that morning, his biggest concern had been figuring out how to pack his life into the steamer trunk and two suitcases he was allotted by the Center for the next few years of his life, until his training ended a few months after his eighteenth birthday. He’d been resenting the discouragement of bringing many of his own clothes, the Center preferring to issue uniforms and accessories made with Sentinel-friendly fabrics and dyes.
Stiles still couldn’t figure out how Lydia had managed to ship a full wardrobe up with her, a wardrobe which -- if rumor was to be believed -- rotated with the seasons. Stiles had barely found room for a pair of tube socks -- mismatched, but who pays attention to socks? -- after he’d finished packing his comics, laptop, and other must-have items. But since he also didn’t want to spend the next two years of his life parading around in what amounted to scrubs in varying shades of muted neutrals, he was going to have to find some room in his luggage for some jeans and a few t-shirts at the very least.
Stiles had, in fact, been dourly mulling over the situation while driving home from the store in his Jeep when Derek Hale had hit him, and in no version of any scenario Stiles had been contemplating had he anticipated that the remainder of his afternoon would involve sitting in a zoned Sentinel’s lap, trying to establish basic eye contact with an insanely grumpy, mostly-wolfed-out, former hometown hero.
Oh, Stiles remembered Derek now, though he’d been so scattered just after the accident that he would have been hard pressed to identify his own shoes.
Derek Hale, lacrosse captain extraordinaire. Derek Hale, best looking kid in a family of ridiculously attractive kids. Derek Hale, everyone’s unattainable crush. Derek Hale, victim of statutory rape and predatory Guide drop. Derek Hale, who had quietly disappeared from Beacon Hills shortly after the trial and only recently had it been circulating with the neighborhood ladies that he’d been seen around town again. Derek Hale, subject of a thousand wild rumors and tall tales, spoken of in murmurs only when his family was well out of hearing.
And, apparently, Derek Hale: driver of a stupid, stupid black Camaro who had decided Stiles’ arm was his private property. Charming.
“Stiles?” Mr. Hale’s voice cut through Stiles’ disjointed thoughts.
“Has he looked at you yet?”
It hadn’t taken long at all to move Derek so that Stiles could gingerly alight in his lap, seated as far out on Derek’s knees as he could be without various pieces of car digging into his back. That part of the process Derek seemed contented to assist with. But trying to catch Derek’s thousand-yard stare and get it to focus on Stiles instead was proving a much harder task.
“Not...really,” Stiles called back, as loudly as he dared; Derek had been growling lowly at every noise above a whisper for most of Stiles’ imprisonment, though thus far there had only been involuntary twitching around Derek’s eyes and mouth when Stiles and Mr. Hale had been forced to raise their voices to hear one another. “His pupils are moving a bit, but nobody’s home right now.”
Mr. Hale gave a grunt of acknowledgment, then lapsed into silence for a moment, as though deciding on which new tack to take.
“Still here, Mr. H.”
Derek’s father snorted in amusement at that, but shuffled a bit closer to be able to better see into the cab of the car.
“Stiles, I need you to listen to me.”
“Okay,” Stiles drawled slowly, looking at the man crouched a few feet away on the pavement. He didn’t much like the sound of where this was going.
“Derek has imprinted on you. And it doesn’t look like we’re going to be able to just pull him out and mitigate the initial bond that way. Derek’s going to be stuck until you complete the bond with him.”
Stiles sat, dumbfounded, as he tried to process what the Alpha Guide was saying.
“Stiles, do you understand what I’m telling you?” Mr. Hale asked gently, concern lacing his voice while his soothing presence hovered politely at the edges of Stiles’ juvenile shields.
“I -- yeah, I understand, but...”
“Stiles,” the Guide broke in softly, his voice filled with a somber reverence that seemed completely out of place surrounded as they were by fire trucks and emergency crews and tow trucks and a growing crowd of milling bystanders at the edges of the police perimeter. “Will you, Guide, take my son, a proud Sentinel and a worthy beta of the Hale pack, into your care? He will serve with you in the interests of the Hale pack, and offer protection and bounty to you and yours. What is your answer, Guide?”
Stiles knew the bonding rites in a vague sense, recognized the formal query of initial bonding for what it was, but he had expected this moment to be so much further off, if it ever came at all. That morning, Stiles had only had potential as a Guide, potential that he had fervently hoped would prove fruitless in the most secret parts of his mind. Now, a family Guide -- an Alpha Guide, no less -- was asking him to answer the opening ritual in a formal mate bond.
It wasn’t unheard of, that a prospective Guide mated before they completed training, but most prospective Guides needed the training to create the mental pathways that would accommodate a stable mating with a Sentinel. Those pathways created empathic ties between the Sentinel and Guide, ties that were requisite to a Sentinel achieving control over their senses and the furry part of them that might otherwise overwhelm an un-Guided Sentinel.
But Stiles hadn’t heard of an un-trained prospective Guide mating outside of romantic stories and history books. Certainly, no modern Sentinel would want an immature Guide, unproven in their abilities and untried in their powers. More to the point, no Guide would welcome a pack-mate mating with an unseasoned Guide, and definitely not for a Sentinel carrying the kind of baggage Stiles could only imagined existed for Derek.
“But, why me? You can’t possibly want me,” Stiles whispered hoarsely, feeling his chest constrict with the panic he had been fighting down for well over an hour by then. He wasn’t sure whether he was talking to Derek, or to Derek’s sire, the Alpha Guide.
“My son wants you, Stiles. And he hasn’t wanted anyone in a very, very long time. He hasn’t even wanted to want someone since he was a child himself.”
“I don’t know anything. I don’t know how to be a Guide. What if I can’t do it?” Stiles pressed.
“We’ll sort everything else out later, but if Derek could create an imprint, then you’re a Guide, not just an adept. And as a Guide, I ask again, will you take Derek into your care?” Mr. Hale urged him without bullying. Stiles could feel nothing but sympathy and assurance from the other Guide.
“I don’t really have a choice, do I?” Stiles blurted out, chagrined in the next moment for sounding so callous about Derek’s legitimate medical emergency.
Mr. Hale was quiet for a moment, and then replied with feeling. “Of course you have a choice, Stiles, though it’s to your credit that you feel that way. I promise you that Hale pack will take full responsibility for you, that we will do everything in our power to make sure you never feel trapped by something that chose you like this. And Derek will be a good Sentinel, even if I have to box him around the ears to make sure of it.”
Stiles barked out a laugh. “I think I’d pay to see that,” he admitted. He sobered in the next moment, leaning a bit to the side to peek out the car to where his father was standing, yards away, arms crossed and that sternly worried expression that Stiles hated etched deep into the lines of his face. “My dad knows?”
“Yes,” nodded the Alpha Guide. “We petitioned him before he took over the scene from Morrell. Of course, there will still need to be a formal petition to your father, even if you accept today. And that can wait until the Hale pack has had time to prove that we are worthy of your joining us.”
“Shouldn’t Alpha Hale be asking me?” Stiles worried. While Guides were allowed to preside over the mate bond rites, the usual case was that the Alpha Sentinel would take those duties upon themselves.
“She is,” Mr. Hale assured him. “I speak for my wife in this as in everything. As she does for me. I know how it sometimes sounds, what crops up in the news, but Sentinels and Guides are partners. That’s all I’m asking you to be to Derek. Can you be a partner for my son, Stiles?”
Stiles looked at his dad for a long moment, then glanced at Derek for another.
Part of him screamed to run, run now and don’t look back! The freedom he craved, the hope of turning aside a destiny as a Guide, and of finally being free of the silver chain hanging round his neck pushed hard, coiled like a lump of cold metal in the base of his throat and choked off his air as he contemplated all the ways it could go wrong, everything that could backfire on him. How miserable his life could end up being if he wasn’t good enough, if the Hales simply absorbed him and then shuffled him off out of the way, if Derek was as broken as people said, if Derek didn’t want him, if he didn’t end up wanting Derek...
Derek made a low, soft noise in the back of his throat, his hand -- declawed when Stiles hadn’t been paying attention -- squeezing the arm he had been holding softly, delicately. And then the blue faded out and hazel eyes focused for a moment, just one single moment, on Stiles’.
The connection ripped through him like a shock of electricity, stealing his breath and making his stomach clench roughly in a confusion of indescribable excitement and exhilarating terror.
“Yeah,” Stiles breathed, the sound ripped from him while he fell into the intelligent gaze of the Sentinel he was pressed against.
“Stiles,” growled Derek, pleased and predatory and awed. There was a whole world of promise in his name that he had never heard before.
Derek’s broad hands lifted with purpose for the first time in their strange, brief acquaintance, cupping around Stiles’ jawline and slowly, never breaking their unblinking eye contact, tilting Stiles’ head to the side by minute degrees. When the side of his neck was bared, Derek paused, watching Stiles attentively for a signal.
“Yeah,” Stiles murmured once more.
Derek leaned forward and, with razor sharp teeth, bit down tenderly and decisively into the curve where Stiles’ neck met his shoulder.
Stiles whited out.
Chapter 5: Chapter Five
Stiles gets accosted by animals large and small, communes with the forest floor, then has a heart-to-heart of a slightly-more-literal-than-necessary nature with Derek.
Guys. I just. There was a direction this chapter was meant to be going, and it decided to veer off around the middle and do whatever it wanted. Kind of like Otter. Otter does what she wants.
As always, I don't have a beta, so if I've missed something unbelievably stupid or have mixed my tenses or split my infinitives or made your eyes bleed, please let me know (after seeking medical attention, if needed). I hardly nibble anymore.
Stiles found himself in a forest, dark and dense, a heavy mist hovering only a few feet off the ground. All around him the woods were still, as though in anticipation of something monstrous lying in wait.
It took Stiles a few moments to realize that the rough, keening sound he could hear was coming from his own throat. Swift on the heels of that realization came the understanding that he was terrified, as though on the cusp of one of his more intense panic attacks. He clutched his own elbows with arms crossed, hunching over his stomach and trembling softly from both cold and fear, despite being well wrapped-up in a hoodie and jeans. His breath was coming in rasping pants, the squeezing in his chest an unceasing, burning pain.
“Hello?” he gasped out, a stage whisper at best with his fear riding him hard.
For several long, uneasy moments more, all remained unnaturally still, until a shuffle, a brief rustle of movement across the forest floor, sent him spinning about to find its source.
He peered into the obscured trees, his breath caught in his throat as his ears strained to catch noises above the pounding of his own heart. His hands hovered ineffectual in the air, arms half-bent as though prepared to defend himself, despite the creeping dread that whatever was out there with him was well above his proverbial pay grade.
Another movement shook the dead leaves strewn across the ground, this time from Stiles’ left. He once more spun to face the direction of the noise, but saw no one through the mist. The sound continued, more deliberate and drawing closer as padded footfalls and the hushed skittering of something being dragged became distinct.
Stiles was listening hard, chest pounding, eyes burning, and all senses straining toward the approaching...person? creature? thing?, when a heavy column of cool, slickly-scaled flesh dropped across his shoulders, wrapping tight. His hands slapped upwards to paw at the weight, but were caught and held fast by strong cords of living rope. When the broad, triangular head of a serpent lifted up to meet him eye-to-eye, a long forked tongue tasting the air in front of his face, Stiles regained all of the breath he had been lacking in one sudden gasp. And he employed every last bit of it to scream out, even as he felt the tremendous weight of the animal bear him to the ground.
Splayed out on his back and bound in the unforgiving snare of the snake’s muscular body, Stiles wheezed frantically around terrified noises while the constrictor’s massive mouth opened with a wicked grin, lines of hooked teeth -- angled back to assist with swallowing, a long-ago placard from a school field trip to the zoo in the city reminded him -- revealed in a threatening portent of his fast-approaching end.
Instead, a howl pierced the insulating quiet that not even Stiles’ scream had been able to overcome. The snake’s head swiveled toward the new sound, grip loosening slightly as it prepared to confront what was crashing through the underbrush toward them.
The wolf that emerged, the biggest Stiles had ever seen, was the very deepest pitch of black all over, although a few gray and white hairs dotted its chest and tail, glinting softly as the creature moved in the halflight. Its eyes glowed an intense, bright blue, the color even more startling against the dark of its inky coat. Its jowls were pulled back in a grotesque display of razor-sharp teeth, the effect crumpling the muzzle into harsh lines of bristling fur. Its hackles were up as well, the wolf’s coat appearing to have been shot through with electricity, menace in every ripple of flesh over tensed muscle.
Stiles was already hyperventilating when the snake carelessly unwrapped itself from about him. The imposing serpent charged the wolf, clashing with the other creature in a ferocious explosion of movement and sound, Stiles found himself powerless to do more than stare up into the canopy and let the panic pull him under as he fought for air.
The sounds of battle faded far away, no longer of immediate concern. His skin felt stretched drum-tight and raw, deeply uncomfortable and sensitive. His chest ached as he gasped for air that would not come.
He tried, around the mania, to remind himself it was automatic, that his lungs were able to expand and pull in air naturally. That his heart followed the cues of his lungs, would slow when he was breathing, and wouldn’t explode within his chest cavity as it felt very capable of doing in that moment.
The terror, the trauma, and the unfamiliarity of anything to anchor those thoughts on, however, made it all seem beyond impossible to control. His vision began to bleed out color, and then fade at the edges.
Tiny paws landed on his cheeks and an inquisitive, sleekly-furred face stared down into his own. A warm, lean body settled along the length of his chest; not unpleasant, but reassuringly solid. There was a brush of feathers across one outflung hand, and the cold snout of something furry pressed briefly into the other palm before backing away again. The otter remained, eyes bright and head tilted as it studied Stiles.
It took Stiles several long wondering moments of gazing back at the otter to realize he was breathing, his heart rate slowing to more reasonable speeds.
“Hello,” Stiles murmured softly.
The otter chirruped amusedly in return, one paw tapping against his cheek in what Stiles would swear was equal parts reassurance and condescension.
He rolled his head toward the place where he had last heard the battle between wolf and snake, wondering at the resettled quiet, though it was a more comfortable stillness than it had been before. He looked over just in time to see a long, saddle-marked tail writhe away into the undergrowth.
The wolf stood watching the place where the snake had retreated, tail erect and body stiff with furious intent. Stiles couldn’t see any obvious injury on the wolf, though he could see disturbed falls of fur, blood smeared about its muzzle and across its strong forelegs and paws.
The otter was sitting upright on his chest, small paws gripping the loose-hanging fabric of Stiles’ red hoodie. The curious face was turned to observe the wolf as well, head tilting side to side in inquisitive examination. After a few minutes of watching the larger creature glare ferociously into the forest, gradually lowering its tail and its hackles slowly settling as the threat of violence seemed to pass, the otter chattered quickly, drawing the wolf’s attention away from the woods at last.
“Hey there, buddy,” Stiles croaked out around unwilling vocal cords. “I’m hoping you didn’t just beat up Nagini there just so you could eat me yourself.”
The wolf turned fully, looking far less threatening as it approached, apart from all the blood and being an enormous wolf and all. Stiles chose to take his cue from the otter, who chirped again at the approaching wolf, occasionally tugging at Stiles’ hoodie and tapping the end of its tail across the flat plane of his stomach. The wolf huffed in response, strolling right up to Stiles and his new otter friend before extending its nose to gently touch the upturned face of the otter.
The otter let one paw release Stiles’ hoodie to reach up and dab against the bloodied face of the wolf, unafraid of teeth and the very real -- in Stiles’ opinion -- possibility of snapping jaws. Instead on tap one, two, three, the blood faded away and the wolf collapsed tiredly, its massive head dropping like a lead weight across Stiles’ collarbone, right at the otter’s feet.
“Oof,” Stiles complained, and while the wolf grumbled a bit, its tongue licked out to stroke what parts of Stiles’ neck and jaw it could reach from its prone position. “Yeah, okay dude. Just so long as you’re not eating me.”
The otter chittered imperiously from its perch on Stiles’ chest, one paw still gripping Stiles’ hoodie and, Stiles now saw, the too-long silvery chain of his Guide’s necklace. Seriously, hadn’t that only fallen to his sternum that morning?
“Car crash!” Stiles shouted from his place stretched out under the two animals. The hand not currently buried under miles of inky fur came up to Stiles’ face, palming across his eyes and nose in frustration and a different kind of distress entirely. The wolf huffed again and placed one enormous black paw squarely on Stiles’ breastbone as though worried it was about to lose its human pillow. The otter waved its paw up and down a few times, jangling the chain of the necklace beside the red banner of the hoodie.
“Oh man, Betty,” Stiles whined, staring up into the canopy. “What have they done to you?”
Neither the wolf nor the otter seemed concerned with the Jeep’s unfortunate impromptu body work. Stiles kicked his feet a little to express the tantrum of epic proportions he halfway wanted to throw, despite knowing it wouldn’t do a lick of good. The wolf growled mildly, eyes still closed and body soft with languor, until he stopped again.
“Whuh?” Stiles lifted his head up, neck straining as he looked around the small clearing. “Did you guys hear that?”
The wolf gave him the hairiest eyeball that ever did hairy, and the otter merely tilted its head at him in return.
“And now I’m asking animals if they can hear disembodied voices. This is reassuring.”
“Stiles!” the voice called again, a little closer this time.
“What?!” Stiles called back.
A series of footsteps, moving at a run, came from the forest off to his left, but Stiles couldn’t bring himself to so much as sit up. All the sense that something threatening was after him had gone, leaving only the honeyed warmth of exhausted contentment.
“Watch out for falling snakes, dude!” Stiles shouted helpfully. The wolf snorted from where its nose was pressed lightly against the pulse in Stiles’ neck, but he could hear and feel the brush of the wolf’s tail move lazily across the forest floor, back and forth, back and forth.
“You are such a puppy,” he said and the wolf responded by flexing its heavy paw where it sat on his chest, digging claws into fabric-covered flesh delicately before relaxing once more. “And what big claws you have!”
The otter laughed at him, he was absolutely positive.
A man burst through the underbrush at the edge of their clearing, panting slightly from exertion. He took in the tableau of Stiles and his animal friends first with what remained of his anxious concern, and then with the very smallest of small smirks.
“Here you are,” the man said, shoving broad hands into the pockets of jeans that were so snugly fit, Stiles had a hard time understanding how they could stretch enough for the pockets to even be functional.
“Here we are,” Stiles agreed. “And here you are...?”
“Derek,” the man offered. “Derek Hale.”
The wolf picked its head up finally, swiveling it around to look at Derek, though it made no other attempt to move.
“The Sentinel who hit my car. Yeah, it’s all coming back to me now.”
The otter chittered again, this time at Derek. The wolf glanced at the smaller animal before shifting forward to butt their heads together again. The otter kept up its squeaky rant, but rested its free paw on the wolf’s head, tapping proprietarily every once in awhile. The wolf closed its eyes in contentment every time the otter did so.
“Dude,” Stiles said, watching the two animals. Taking in the way the otter was gripping his hoodie and Guide chain in one paw, the wolf in the other. “Dude.”
“Are you hurt?” Derek asked, a bit gruffly, looking about as uncomfortable as Stiles felt.
“Not really. Sourwolf here -- you...?” Stiles stopped. Started again. “There was a snake, some kind of huge freaking boa constrictor, but it’s gone now.”
Derek growled at that, staring off into the woods, eerily in the same direction the wolf had guarded for so long. The wolf watched Derek for a moment before returning its attentions to the otter.
“What the hell was that, by the way? I mean, I’m assuming we’re in your head right now.”
“The Guide,” Derek bit out. “They were trying to lock me down, force control on me. They must have turned on you when you came in.”
“You mean the shrimpy dude from County? They left fifteen minutes ago!” Stiles barked out in surprise.
Derek looked back to him with an unreadable expression.
“Distance work is mandatory for Field Guides. He’s gone now, but whenever you came inside, he was still in the area. Close enough to still try to Guide, anyway.”
“Jesus,” Stiles muttered. “This is why I was telling them...I mean, I don’t know anything. This is the worst idea ever.”
Three heads swiveled with intent to look at him. Derek took a few quick steps toward him, dropping to his knees beside Stiles, one hand burying itself in the ruff of the wolf, the other coming down to grip Stiles’ shoulder hard.
“You’re mine. My Guide,” he growled, fierce and frantic.
“Um, ow.” Stiles replied and Derek immediately eased his hold, though he didn’t let go entirely. “Also, I turned sixteen just a couple of days ago. I have no training, nothing. I had to wait for big, dark and furry over there to save me from an empathic attack that still sent me into a panic attack. You’re Derek Hale. This is like, the worst possible thing for you, dude.”
“I won’t lie and say I wanted a Guide, let alone one as young as you...”
“Gee, thanks asshole. Way to let me down gently.”
“...but,” Derek interrupted, “But, I -- I think this could work. If you wanted to try.”
“Work how? I say again, no training. I’m worthless to you as a Guide, dude.”
“How did you get here?” Derek asked.
A line was forming between his rather intimidating eyebrows, a line that Stiles though might mean Derek was fending off an aneurism, so he reached up with the hand the wolf was no longer sitting on to stroke across Derek’s shoulder in return.
Derek flinched -- flinched hard -- for a moment, but then his expression turned just the near side of euphoric. Tranquil. At peace. Stiles was consumed by a wave of desire to be able to put that expression on Derek’s face all the time, to have the power to soothe that flinch away and give someone else the kind of relief he was seeing in Derek’s face.
“That,” Derek gasped, after a long moment. “That is what a Guide does, Stiles. The rest is just honing what you can do naturally.”
“You don’t want a Guide. You said so.”
“I don’t,” Derek frowned. “I didn’t. Not one like the man from earlier and not one like...”
Derek looked away and the wolf whined softly and turned to dig its head into Derek’s belly comfortingly.
The otter was slightly more proactive. The lithe little animal dropped the hoodie, though not the improbably expanding Guide chain, and clambered over the wolf up to Derek, winding around the man’s shoulders. When Derek reached up to help settle the animal’s weight, the sneaky thing took the opportunity to slither down Derek’s chest and force the other man to cradle its body in his powerful arms. From there, the otter reached forward with its two paws, Guide chain still looped about one paw, and settle them in the hollows of Derek’s cheek, pinching inward just enough that Derek’s stupidly pronounced cheekbones and jaw looked genuinely ridiculous, as did the bemused look on the other man’s face.
“Yeah, otter does what she wants,” Stiles said, staring up at Derek’s baffled expression around tiny otter paws.
“I’m getting that,” Derek slurred out, though the otter chastised loudly him for moving.
Derek edged one hand up carefully to stroke along the otter's back.
“Thank you,” he whispered to the little creature.
The otter jangled the paw with the Guide chain in response. When no one did anything, the jangling got a little more insistent, until finally Derek grasped at the paw, having to lower the otter to his lap to do so.
The moment his hand touched the Guide chain, Stiles gasped, bowing his back upward. He clawed at his chest, digging away at the hoodie and the collar of his tee where they covered his heart until he had the skin revealed and touched the center of the overwhelming sensation.
The Guide chain was not, as he assumed, encircling his neck, but instead protruding like a line from his left pectoral, seeming to reach down into him and touch every nerve ending Stiles possessed. Derek touching the chain was like electricity coursing through his skin. He was panting, he was distantly aware, overwhelmed by the experience of everything at once.
Joy. Sorrow. Tenderness. Rage. Desire. Revulsion. Hope. Despair. Love. Hate. All of it tied up into a big knot of incomprehensible feeling, strands running in and out and through one another, almost indistinguishable the deeper Stiles went.
Like a thunderclap, it receded and only concern remained, strong and bright.
“Holy crapjacks,” Stiles groaned. “What in the hell was that?”
Blinking up into three faces, Stiles tried to understand why he felt like he’d been hit with a sledgehammer.
“Did the furry demon just whammy me with...?”
“Me?” Derek asked, chagrined. “Yeah.”
“Jesus, dude.” He groaned again and made to sit up at long last, something Derek rushed to help him accomplish. The otter was scolding him in no uncertain terms, but the wolf looked unconcerned. “You’re a mess.”
Derek snorted. “Gee, thanks asshole,” he parroted back at Stiles.
They mutually glared for a moment before Stiles laughed and Derek smirked his teeny, tiny smirk again.
“Yeah, okay, I’ll take you,” Stiles grinned. “Since somebody needs to make sure your head is on straight.”
Derek raised a very expressive eyebrow at that, which Stiles magnanimously chose to ignore before pressing on, trying to ignore the way his hands were still shaking.
“But I’ve got ground rules.”
“I can’t wait to hear them,” Derek replied dryly, before the woods melted away and Stiles woke up to the bluest eyes he’d ever seen staring back into his own.
“Hello again,” Stiles said, trying to ignore that he was sitting in Derek’s lap, in public, in the very small cab of Derek’s asshole Camaro.
“Hello, Stiles,” Derek smirked.
Chapter 6: Chapter Six
A hospital visit, some fatherly advice, and awkward conversations.
I am in a not excellent mood, so I thought I'd share the penultimate chapter of this story. There is at least one sequel coming (already begun), so be sure to bookmark the series if you're interested in following Stiles and Derek's journeys once Stiles heads to Guide School.
As always, un-betaed, so tell me if you see anything strange. (I should mention I am not a doctor. Nor am I incredibly well-versed in medical knowledge. I Googled acute stress reactions this chapter and worked from there for my plot device. I have experienced panic attacks and tachycardia in the past, so I pulled some descriptions from my own life. All of which is to say, don't kill me if my medical jibber-jabber is bunk.)
You can find me on Tumblr as quietly-amused. I hardly ever bite anymore.
Things moved quickly once it became apparent that Derek had surfaced from his zone. The paramedics, firemen, cops, and other sundry emergency responders—including various assembled family members—surged on the vehicle, breaking the sacrosanct little bubble of privacy Stiles had become accustomed to in so little time.
His father and Joseph Hale were the first to cross the invisible line that surrounded the still running Camaro. Stiles was tumbling out of the car, Derek lending him a bracing hand to keep him from face planting directly into the pavement, when the two men reached them, all the various other lookers-on already striding across the road in their wake with gear in hand. The Sheriff immediately pulled Stiles into a bone-crushing hug while simultaneously moving them further from the doorway of the Camaro, where Joseph Hale was giving his son a once-over and talking with him in short, murmured sentences.
“Are you all right?” the Sheriff demanded when he pushed his son out to arm's length to get a proper look at him.
“Yeah, dad. Yeah, I’m fine. A little banged up, but nothing life-threatening if you exclude the staggering loss of dignity,” Stiles replied, reaching one hand up to run over his shorn head in a nervous gesture.
“Let’s get you checked out,” says the Sheriff after a moment’s deliberation.
“Aw, c’mon Dad, I’m great. I’m super. I’ve got all my important body parts still, except for my tonsils, which I still doubt actually needed removing in third grade, just so you know...”
Stiles’ protests went entirely unheeded as his dad dragged him over to the nearest ambulance and sat him down on the bumper in front of the open back doors, leaving him there for a moment to flag down the closest available paramedic. That gave Stiles a moment to watch the firemen, paramedics (some with the Sentinel Services badge sewn in prominent positions on their jacket sleeves), and the Hales crowd in on Derek and his ridiculous car.
Derek looked a bit lost, a bit overwhelmed, but healthier, competent, and strong in a non-explicitly-menacing way outside of his zone. He pulled himself out of the car at his father’s behest and uncurled to walk a few feet away so the fire crew could assess the damage to the car, the sidewalk it was intimately acquainted with, and any further potential threat to the community that might arise from turning the damn thing off or moving it. And Derek, fully uncoiled and standing shoulder to shoulder with his father and mother, was a thing to behold.
While joined in their minds across the spiritual plane Stiles had heard so much about but not yet experienced for himself, Derek’s relative attractiveness was of little concern, noted but suppressed to the back of Stiles’ attention by all the other stimuli to process. In a waking state and removed from immediate threat to life and limb, with the full force of his body’s whims and complaints in play, Derek’s appearance was having a much stronger effect. A terribly strong effect. The kind of effect that made Stiles look sharply another way when Derek’s gaze drifted in his direction.
Stiles’ mind was a bit of a gibbering mess, adrenaline still running through his veins without any outlet for the jittery energy it created in him. And fully awake, Stiles was running through the events in the spiritual plane that had seemed to make such simple, beautiful sense mere minutes before with a new, abashed perspective.
When the paramedic his father had corralled got to him, Stiles was a few moments away from hyperventilating in panicky mortification. And that, with the weight of his father’s status as Sheriff and terror as a father behind it, got Stiles a trip in the ambulance to the hospital. Apparently racing heartbeats, cold sweats, and an inability to fully articulate oneself in the aftermath of a truly profound degree of embarrassment looked a lot more like physical trauma than mental. Just before the ambulance doors closed in the professional rush of bodies preparing to transfer him to Beacon Hills Hospital, Stiles caught a glimpse of the Hales watching from a few feet away, wide eyed and worried. Stiles had just enough dignity left to give a small half-wave from his seat strapped into the half-reclined gurney, the corner of his mouth ticking upward slightly in either a grimace or a poor attempt at a reassuring smile because he saw Joseph Hale lay a hand on Derek’s arm when the Sentinel moved to push his way to the ambulance out of concern.
The ride in the ambulance felt more and more ridiculous in the seemingly interminable stretch of time it took to arrive at the hospital. Stiles’ father was seated to one side of him in one of the jump seats, watching the young woman taking Stiles’ pulse anxiously. He gripped the cloth of his pants in two white-knuckled fists when she placed an oxygen mask over Stiles’ face to try and get him to breathe more regularly. Stiles tried to send his dad the most comforting looks he could, since trying to speak more than a word or two at a time sent him into breathless coughing fits.
Stiles was reasonably sure he couldn’t feel anymore like a worthless idiot if he launched a concerted campaign to do just that.
Derek was met at the admittance desk at the hospital by a middle-aged woman in scrubs, her tousled head of wildly curling dark hair tamed back in an efficient bun. His mother had taken Cora and his cousin Jack home, but would return to join him, his father, and Laura soon. The close presence of his Alphas, his pack, and most importantly, his family, was about the only thing allowing him to keep his steely grip on his instinct to seek out his Guide over, under, and through anything or anyone in his way.
“Derek Hale?” the nurse asked him, stepping around the desk quickly, a cell phone with an open call still connected hanging in the grip of her left hand. Derek’s spasming sense of sight caught the name “Scott” through the glare of the overhead fluorescent lighting that reflected off the screen of the phone. He could hear a young man’s voice distantly inquiring for the attention of his mother from the tinny speakers and the air seemed to be getting heavy and noxious all at once.
Derek’s father laid a steadying hand on his shoulder and the world set itself back closer to rights as his soothing woodsmoke and cotton Guiding presence settled where Derek’s senses had started to fray.
“That’s my son,” Joseph said calmly to the nurse. “He’s just been in a traffic accident that caused an beginning stage bond with a young man who was brought in not that long ago. Name of Stiles Stilinski?”
The nurse, a “Melissa McCall” going by her name badge, puffed up with the kind of professional authority Derek had always respected in nursing staff but was having trouble tolerating right that moment.
“Stiles is being seen by a doctor right now, if you’d like to wait here, Mr. Hale. I’ll let them know you’ve arrived.”
“Thank you. Would it be possible to get a update on his condition? He seemed alright when he first separated from my son, but then they were rushing him here a few minutes later. We are understandably concerned that he may have suffered internal injuries?”
Nurse McCall relaxed somewhat in the face of Joseph’s unruffled inquiry. It was in the Alpha Guide’s rights to demand access to any Guide in his territory, but Joseph was very rarely inclined to muscle his way into places where a little bit of honey and calm would do just as well. It was one of the reasons the Alpha Guide of Beacon Hills was so well respected. That, and Joseph’s Guide powers were rumored to be uncommonly strong in both defensive and offensive techniques. Though Derek often had trouble reconciling the rumored empathic whirlwind of power inherent to Joseph Hale, Alpha Guide of Beacon Hills, with his mental image of his patient, unassuming dad, helping him grow tomatoes for his third grade science project or talking him through his first shift only a few years after that. The only time Derek could remember seeing the Alpha Guide first and his father second was the night Kate Argent had tried and ultimately failed to murder their family in their sleep.
“Stiles is prone to panic attacks, especially after empathically stressful situations. He experienced an acute stress reaction once the danger of the accident passed, and because he was having difficulty breathing normally and there was some tachycardia in play, there was some concern that he was slipping into shock and not simply a severe panic attack. Because shock can be life-threatening and his symptoms also coincided with Class One hypovolemia, they brought him in just to be sure everything was okay,” the nurse explained.
Derek was entirely uncertain about the relative goodness of this news, but he was leaning towards increased worry all the same.
“But you’re sure it was a panic attack now?” Laura inquired from Derek’s elbow, brushing against him in a show of support.
“He’s fine,” Nurse McCall smiled, more relief in the declaration than seemed proportional to Stiles being just another patient. “Scared his dad half to death, but that’s nothing new.”
Derek’s father smiled indulgently, “I can just imagine.”
“To be honest, he was fully recovered by the time they got to the hospital, but John Stilinski is not a man easily convinced by his son’s say-so,” she confided in a wry voice.
“Stiles a bit of a fibber?” Laura teased, though Derek choked back a growl at the unintentional slur against his Guide.
“More the kind of kid who prefers apologizing to asking permission,” said Nurse McCall. “I love Stiles like a second son, but most of my own kid’s bumps and bruises over the years usually come back to a harebrained idea of Stiles’.”
“They’re close, your son and Stiles?” Joseph inquired.
“Thick as thieves, ever since they were little. I don’t know what Scott’ll do now that Stiles is going off to the Academy. I don’t think I can take two years of the moping.”
“Maybe he’ll get a girlfriend,” Laura grinned.
“Oh god, don’t give him ideas,” Nurse McCall shuddered theatrically, waving the phone and its still active call in their direction. “I promise I’ll let you know as soon as they’re done checking Stiles over, but he’s okay for now. Just a bit of a scare is all.”
Derek let his father steer him into one of the chairs lining the wall opposite the check-in desk. The nurse disappeared into a room just beyond the desk and he could hear her murmuring reassurances to her son before hanging up and moving further into the ward. Derek let his mind wander while his ears sought out the sound of Stiles’ heartbeat amid all the noise of the hospital. But there were too many white noise generators running, too many heartbeats underneath those, for him to pick out just one, even a heartbeat as important as his Guide’s.
Stiles was ready to sink through the floor by the time his dad was convinced of his health and well-being. There had been nurses and a doctor, after the paramedics. There had been breathing apparatus and blood pressure tests and his temperature and pulse had been taken at least four times over the last hour of sitting in the examination room. All of which proved what Stiles already knew: he was fine. Dandy. Extra super okay, even.
Which meant that the ambulance ride, the hospital visit, the fuss and bother, had all been over nothing.
“It’s not nothing, Stiles,” his dad assured him, but that didn’t stop images of hospital and insurance bills from haunting Stiles’ imagination. Sure, his dad had pretty good insurance through the Sheriff's Office, but no doctor was free and, on top of a trip to the body shop for Betty, the guilt of weighing his dad down with new bills just as he headed off to Guide school was enough to override any reassurance the Sheriff attempted to give. “I’m just glad you’re okay. Jeeps can be put back together, only son-s can’t.”
“Humpty Dumpty, that’s me,” Stiles grumbled, kicking his legs back and forth where they hung off the edge of the tall examination table.
His father laid a hand on his knee, stilling the motion. “You did good today, Stiles. I know it wasn’t easy, but you were a real hero this afternoon, helping Derek out of that zone.”
“I’m not a hero, dad.”
“I think the Hales might have a different opinion about that, kiddo. That was a dangerous zone for a Sentinel and you did great at helping them out when they needed you.”
“It shouldn’t have been me. I’m not even trained.”
“But you will be, and from what I saw today, you’re going to do amazing stuff when you do finish your training.”
“What about Derek?”
“Ah,” Stiles’ dad said, rubbing the back of his neck and across his chin while he made his uncomfortable conversation face. Stiles knew it well. “It looks like you and he will be getting to know each other a little better.”
“We’re halfway to a bond, Dad. Derek’s a trained 5-senses Sentinel, just like every other Hale. He deserves a non-shit Guide.”
“Language,” the Sheriff chided without any heat. “And it’ll all work out. Derek is lucky to have you.”
Stiles smirked in disbelief. “Really, Dad? I know you’re contractually obligated to think I’m amazing, and heh — I really am, but as a Guide I’m a total baby. Derek needs someone with training. Someone to match what he’s already got going on. Not somebody he has to make it work with, just hoping they get better in time.”
“Why not let Derek make up his own mind?” came a mild voice from the doorway.
The Stilinski men turned as one to see Joseph Hale leaning in the doorway.
“Alpha Guide Hale, you didn’t need to come down,” started Stiles’ dad.
“Joseph, please. And as if anything could be more pressing right now than this, Sheriff. Our sons are each about to begin a new kind of life. It’s important that we be with them, yes?” Mr. Hale grinned a bit, “Also, Derek is about to come out of his skin out in the waiting room. I came back to see if you’ve been given the all clear yet?”
“They were just finishing up. Stiles could probably change back into his clothes and come out and wait for the last results with you while I do the paperwork,” offered the Sheriff.
“We would like that. That sound good to you, Stiles?”
Both men looked at Stiles expectantly, so he stuttered out an affirmative and was suddenly, blissfully alone for the first time in hours, given space to change clothes in peace.
Stiles caught his own eye in the small mirror hanging over the sink on the other side of the exam room and winced.
“My kingdom for a Jeep,” he muttered, pulling on his jeans.
Derek stood when he could make out his father’s returning footsteps shadowed by another, uncertain set. He fixed his eyes on the double doors of the ward’s entrance and fairly shook with anticipation as the dual footsteps drew nearer. He strained to hear the heartbeat he had been missing since the ambulance had left the scene of the accident a mere hour before, and when he finally filtered that steady rhythm out from all the rest of the clatter of the busy hospital, it was as though all his senses focused in on that one point in space. The bangs, clatters, and extra noise of the ward fell away, leaving just the waiting room and the rhythmic thump-thump of Stiles' heartbeat.
When the doors finally revealed his father and Stiles, Derek made it across the room in record time, stopping so abruptly in Stiles’ direct path that the other man had to rear back to avoid walking straight into him.
“Holy god, where did you come from?” gasped Stiles, his eyes wide as he stared into Derek’s. “They just made sure my heart was working and now you’re trying to stop it again. Oh my god.”
Laura, materializing just behind Derek, leaned around him playfully and extended her hand to shake. “Laura Hale. Good to meet you Stiles. And welcome to the family. Good luck with Mr. Cuddles here.”
Stiles shook Laura’s hand with the same caution and unwillingness one might exhibit when sticking their hand into a tiger’s cage. Derek thought his Guide was a fantastic judge of character.
“Uh, thanks. I think?”
Laura cackled and stepped away from Derek’s backward jabbing elbow, their father taking her place.
“Thank you, Stiles. And now — you’ve met Derek, but for the sake of formality — Guide Stiles Stilinski, this is my son, Sentinel Derek Hale.”
Stiles proffered his hand, showing nearly the same reluctance he had with Laura. “Hey. Nice to re-meet you. Again. For the third time.”
“Hello again, Stiles,” Derek said, trying for smooth and only achieving slightly-constipated if Stiles’ expression during the shake of their hands was any indication.
The Sheriff returned as their hands separated and a brief conference between the two fathers and Laura got underway while Derek studied his Guide in the flesh for the first time.
While they stood roughly the same height, Stiles was lanky and lean when contrasted with Derek’s broader frame. Stiles' features, still rounded with adolescence, were impish and open, every micro-expression holding a wealth of information on his mood. Guides were usually so much more closed off, a bit sterile and monotone. Stiles was like a ball of energy, coiled tight and barely contained in his skin. And yet, despite that, Derek could see the way his eyes roved around the room, the way his fingers picked up the beat of the tapping of keys at the nurse’s station, the way his head remained tilted just ever-so slightly toward their fathers’ conversation. It was like watching a well-trained Sentinel at work, not a prospective Guide.
“You know a Sentinel,” Derek said, control wavering as the urge to imprint Stiles rose to the surface, a territorial reaction to the knowledge that Stiles was not entirely unacknowledged as a Guide within his circle of friends and family. There was nothing odd about that, but Derek’s Sentinel side was having a hard time reining in the possessive need to stake his claim.
Stiles’ eyes returned to meet Derek’s gaze. “Yeah, my best friend came online a few years ago, when his dad left. We’ve been helping each other out ever since.”
Derek didn’t realize he was growling softly until the three other adults’ conversation paused and they turned as one to look at him. His father stepped forward to help him settle, but a wide-eyed Stiles got there first, a hand laid on his arm as naturally as though they’d known one another for years instead of mere hours. Joseph watched with approval, before turning back to the Sheriff.
“Calm down, dude. Scott’s like a brother. Hell, he practically is my brother. We share a family pack scent. I thought you would have noticed.”
Now that Stiles mentioned it, there was a lingering scent that Derek had been dismissing around the edges of Stiles’ own lemongrass and wet bark scent, similar to that of Nurse McCall’s.
“McCall’s son?” Derek asked. “Scott?”
Stiles’ expression went halfway between impressed and creeped out. “Yes?” he said slowly, drawing out the vowels as though uncertain of what Derek’s reaction would be.
“I’d like to meet him,” Derek replied, proud of the even keel of his tone. The sense of threat had passed, but if he hadn’t yet met all of Stiles’ pack, he needed to, and quickly. Especially the resident Sentinel.
Tradition dictated that the Guides made the final choice about their own Sentinels, but packs usually had a lot of influence on their selection. Derek hadn’t smelled any reservation from the Sheriff or Scott’s mother, but Scott was an unknown hurdle and one Derek needed to clear if the bonding was going to move forward.
“Okay,” Stiles replied, equally as slowly. His eyes were squinted now, an eyebrow arched. Derek met his gaze without flinching, though he wished Stiles would look at him with less confusion, less uncertainty.
Derek’s father broke their staring contest by clapping a hand on each of their shoulders.
“Time to get down to the Courthouse, boys. We’ve got some paperwork to do.”
Chapter 7: Chapter Seven
In which there are struggles to reconcile "want" and "need," and much paperwork is done off-camera.
I'm home from my month-long trip, I'm caught up on Teen Wolf, and I broke this chapter into two pieces because I can. Don't worry, they're both going up tonight. As always, thank you for all the lovely comments and please excuse the lack of a beta. If you see any unbearable mistakes in judgement, grammar, or spelling, please do let me know. :)
They took separate cars to the courthouse. They didn’t, strictly speaking, need to take separate cars — there was plenty of room in the Hale’s SUV for Stiles, his dad, and Melissa to stuff themselves into the back — but they did anyway.
The Sheriff also took the longest, most circuitous route to the center of town possible, using back roads, navigating through intersections with the most notoriously long lights, and letting himself get stuck behind Mrs. Baxter’s Pepto-pink eyesore of a land boat as she crept down the two mile track between the grocery store and her house at the truly glacial pace of ten miles an hour, right blinker engaged the whole time. When the cruiser finally pulled up in front of the McCall house, Scott’s right foot was bouncing in uncharacteristic agitation where he was camped out on the front steps. Stiles wasn’t doing much better.
As soon as Scott saw the car pull up to the curb, he sprang from the porch steps and barreled across the lawn to the door Stiles was beginning to open for him. Scott ducked into the car and immediately pulled Stiles into a bear hug the likes of which the two rarely shared and never talked about after. Given that Scott’s eyes were bright yellow, though, Stiles chose not to comment on the breach of their mutual bro agreement of stoicism and manly aloofness when it came to the more fragile parts of their emotional terrain.
Oh, who was Stiles kidding? He buried his face into Scott’s shoulder and wrapped his own arms around his best friend, his brother from another mother, the only family Sentinel he’d had since his mom had died.
Their respective parents up in the front seats of the cruiser let them have a few minutes of holding on tightly to one another before Stiles’ dad cleared his throat pointedly.
“Boys, we have to go.”
Scott pulled back to look into Stiles’ eyes. “Did he force you?” he growled, eyes still that strangely ruddy shade of Sentinel yellow that usually meant Stiles needed to find Scott a quiet place to get his senses back under control.
“No, dude. He was zoned the whole time. We spirit walked for a bit and that was insane, but he didn’t force anything.”
“You still don’t want to do it,” Scott said, knowing Stiles well enough to not need to ask him how he felt about this upheaval in his three year plan to flunk out of Guide training, come home, and go to college with Scott, Sentinel-free.
Stiles’ father stiffened in the front seat, his eyes fixed on his son’s face in the rearview mirror. Melissa dropped a hand on the Sheriff’s where it was gripping the steering wheel in a white-knuckled grip.
“Not really, no. But I have to, Scott. He needs me, at least for now.”
Stiles hadn’t fully realized it until the words passed his lips. He couldn’t walk away from Derek, but he’d known that. And he also knew that any Sentinel forming a bond with him on any level pretty much sank any hope he had of being like his father, a Guide-adept not powerful enough to fully achieve the status of Guide in the eyes of the law and the Institute. Enough talent to register on the scale, not enough juice to be worth investing the years of training and the bonding services into. He’d known all that, but he hadn’t really let it sink in until someone had asked him how he really felt about it.
What he hadn’t realized was how much it would hurt him to realize that if he was going to be stuck with someone, he wanted to be stuck with Derek. With Derek, at least, it seemed like he might be able to have a few liberties, might be able to retain a few pieces of himself since Derek didn’t seem to want the stereotypical sycophant the Institute so proudly advertised in their marketing materials. And Derek’s family seat in Beacon Hills meant Stiles wouldn’t be dragged away from home, bonded to a near-perfect stranger and legally obligated — in the best terms possible, of course — to follow them wherever they chose to settle.
Those practical concerns — alongside the very real attraction he felt to Derek, emotionally, spiritually, and, well, physically — made the prospect of losing Derek a heavy ball of lead in the base of Stiles’ stomach. He didn’t have control anymore over whether he would end up bonded to someone, but to be bonded to anyone but Derek drove a stake of fear straight through him. It was a desperate instinct that made him want to snarl and spit as much as he wanted to book it for the hinterlands.
And Stiles knew — no matter what anyone said — knew that he wouldn’t be able to keep Derek. No one in their right mind would let him keep Derek. Not now they knew he could bond again. It wasn’t a question of if, Stiles knew, but when he would lose the known and desirable quantity of Derek for the unknown and infinitely less-desirable quantity of whoever could bond with him quickest once he was cut off from Derek and the Hales.
Scott’s low growl brought Stiles out of his terrified spiral of thought.
“Dude, it’s okay. This is okay. It’s okay, for now.”
“Stiles, you don’t have to go through with this,” his father interjected.
“We do,” Stiles said, working hard to inject some certainty and confidence into his voice. “This is good, Dad. Derek’s a good guy — I think — and it can’t hurt to have the Hales on our side, for however long it lasts. Honestly, I’m good with it.”
“If you’re sure,” his father asked, meeting Stiles’ eyes in the rearview mirror, looking for the honest answer.
Stiles took a deep breath. Then another. He looked at Melissa, his dad, and Scott in the seat beside him.
“We won’t let anything bad happen. I promise,” Scott said, the inhuman yellow color of his eyes darkening back to the natural brown he’d inherited from his mother.
“Yeah,” Stiles smirked at Scott, who had never intentionally hurt a thing in his life. “I know. So, can we get this show on the road? I didn’t get lunch because someone thought it was a good idea to hit me with his car, and I am starving.”
It took his father’s intervention of placating calm and his mother flashing her Alpha Sentinel eyes at him in exasperation for Derek to sit in his chair just inside the main lobby of the Sentinel/Guide Registration wing of Beacon Hills’ City Hall. He’d been pacing almost since they had arrived thirty minutes before, since he’d realized the Sheriff’s cruiser wasn’t following directly behind his father’s SUV.
Where were they?
“Derek, if you don’t sit down and stop pacing, I will make you. You’re driving me up the wall.”
Derek growled under his breath at his mother’s exasperated tone, but found a seat against the wall with a clear view out the open doorway of the Sentinel/Guide Registration Hall.
He was awash in conflicting emotions. He knew his anxiety, his palpable need to be near this boy he hardly knew, was irrational at best and a dangerous liability from any angle. He’d been down this road before — twice — in his teens. The first, shaky attempt to bond had been disastrous; the second, nearly fatal.
With Paige, and then with Kate, it had been his sense of smell that had pulled him in. It was considered standard practice to seek Guides through scent, the custom thought to be a safer method of gauging compatibility and interest than that of the other senses, less likely to trigger a zone in the seeking Sentinel. Of course, all matches required testing and approval from the Institute, but dating was something the SGI had never been able to quash in the Sentinel/Guide community, despite their best attempts and direst warnings.
Derek had needed to relearn his control at the rehabilitation center, and he had summarily locked down scent to the lowest levels he could safely sustain. And if food was a bit bland as a result? Well, that just made maintaining a healthy diet — a must for Sentinels without a Guide, rife as the supermarket’s stock was with preservatives, pesticides, and chemical additives — that much easier when doughnuts tasted like chalk on the tongue. Maybe he missed enjoying his mom’s cooking at Saturday brunch, but his compliments to the chef were never lies so long as he remembered how much he’d loved her “kitchen sink” pancake recipe.
He’d learned to live without half his senses, learned how to live without a Guide. That hadn’t been the intention, of course. But, his case was unusual next to the widows, widowers, and divorcees at the rehabilitation center. Derek’s brand of broken hadn’t been separated for one-on-one therapy until long after he’d internalized the lessons on Guide-less coping mechanisms. They’d only agreed to his release from the program when he’d signed reams of documentation promising he’d work on his Guide channels and cooperative control with his family Guides back home in Beacon Hills.
Hell, he had a court-ordered Skype interview with his former rehab specialist in the coming weeks to check on his progress.
And all that experience — all that sure, steady knowledge and intense self-control — had dissolved like a puff of smoke at the sound of one Guide-adept’s heartbeat.
Derek hadn’t really noticed that he’d started to pace again until he caught his mother’s eye. One of her eyebrows climbed in a high arch over her unimpressed gaze, and Derek dropped himself heavily into the seat beside his father, gripping the plastic armrests hard to reestablish some measure of control. But even as he tried to pull his senses in, to calm his nerves and think about his options in this situation, there was a burning itch just under the surface of his skin. He wanted to seek, to catch, to scent and touch and taste and inspect every inch of the Guide he’d discovered.
Guide-adept, his reminded himself, trying to school his desires into something less...rapacious.
Everything else aside, Derek knew he should keep his expectations low. Stiles had said it himself, hadn’t he? He was untrained, untested. Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe Stiles would go to the Center and it would be discovered that he couldn’t handle the strain of a Sentinel like Derek. Maybe, a voice whispered in the back of Derek’s mind, this was a way to get the SGI off his back for a little while.
Stiles would still have to go to the Center, would still need to receive Guide training. Derek’s father had explained as much in the car ride over. Stiles and Derek would only be entering into a provisional Bond, an Institute approved connection, meant to be exclusive and protected, but not yet legally binding to the extent that they would become each other’s power of attorney or that their employment and civic opportunities would have to be weighed jointly. The option to complete a full Bond and have it ratified by the SGI was on the table in the future, but until then Derek wasn’t allowed to complete the Bond and lay full claim — only imprint and ground himself on Stiles — and Stiles wasn’t allowed to act as Derek’s representative should he be compromised by a zone. Usually, provisional Bonding was the first step to a full Bond, not meant to be a long term solution by any means. But it could be sustained…and it could be annulled. By either party.
Derek’s mind rebelled at his own train of thought. Stiles was his Guide, the Sentinel in him was confident of that. Letting Stiles go was not on the table.
All of what little he knew pointed to Stiles being, at the very least, a long way off from Kate Argent’s brand of “Guide.” Stiles had the Guiding instinct, for starters. And Derek liked Stiles’ otter, as much as he didn’t want to admit it to himself. The animal was playful, clever, and forthright. Even the possibility that Stiles’ sense of independence and intelligence could just as easily be Guide prerogative and cunning didn’t seem to upset Derek’s Sentinel wolf. And dangerous as those qualities seemed to the man, the Sentinel in Derek preened at the thought of having a powerful, self-confident Guide.
But, Derek reminded himself, his taste for self-reliant Guides in the past had only ever come back to the haunt him. Nevermind that his Sentinel half had been wary of Kate and indifferent to Paige. Derek had been resigned, if not content, to a life without a Guide of his own. He’d even been halfway to convinced that no such Guide existed, no matter what the tug of instinct and longing made him hope. Derek Hale had decided not to have a Guide. It was safer for everyone; everyone he was close to got hurt, and everyone he wanted for himself turned out to be a phantom of something he could never have. But he wanted...
Those worries — the terrors that never left him — were lost in the near-frantic need to see his Guide again. All while the war raged in his mind that no such person could exist, his senses and his unruly mind had hooked themselves onto Stiles and they clamored for more. He hungered, he thirsted for more of that taste on his tongue from where he had gently bitten into Stiles’ neck in that moment of first claiming. His fingers shivered with electricity from the memory of touching squared shoulders, lean legs; of stabilizing a solid, warm frame with his own hands wrapped around a trim waist. His ears rang with the white noise filling in the blank space where Stiles’ heartbeat, the shifts of his clothing, and the fitful tapping of his restless hands and feet should have been. Derek’s restless gaze strained to see around the etched-glass SGI shield on the door of the Sentinel/Guide Registration hall beyond to where the front entrance of City Hall was blockaded by metal detectors. His sense of smell was unfurled in the wake of the accident and searched through the haze of half-forgotten scents…
His father must have felt him tense in his seat, because he laid a hand on Derek’s where it clenched tightly around protesting plastic and metal.
“Derek,” he chided softly, and Derek relaxed his grip and moved to stand. His father caught his hand for a moment and Derek meet Joseph’s concerned gaze. “It’s all right. You’re all right. We’re here with you.”
Derek nearly brushed the reassurances aside, but stopped himself at the last moment. Instead, he squeezed his father’s hand, like he’d done as a little boy, and let out a deep breath.
“I know, Dad. Thank you.”
There was hardly any time for the introductions made once Stiles and his small pack arrived in the hallway outside of the smaller SGI civil courtroom where registrations were handled. Derek shook hands with Scott McCall, and got the very vivid sense that the other boy wanted to do nothing more than run Derek off if he could. Instead, Scott merely did his best to grind Derek’s knuckles together in an implied threat that meant very little next to the Sheriff of Derek’s home town standing just off to one side, arms crossed and expression skeptical.
Stiles himself had been herded over to reintroduce himself to Derek’s mom, who had decided to trade her Alpha Sentinel posturing in for something that reminded Derek eerily of her “mother-of-the-groom” routine from his younger brother’s Bonding Ceremony the year before. She and Laura loomed over Stiles, bracketing him in with matching enthusiastic smiles. When his father swooped in and collected Stiles per his function as Alpha Guide, Derek couldn’t help the punch of relief in his stomach. People weren’t known to run screaming from his father near so often as from his sister and mother.
They were hustled to different desks in the registration office, he to fill out his Sentinel documentation and Stiles to fill out the Guide documentation and go over the legal releases his own father would need to sign to allow the preliminary Bonding to take place under the unusual circumstances. Some of the paperwork had to be emailed over from the SGI Regional Office and quite a few phone calls, printed waivers, and explanations of obscure legalese later, Stiles and Derek were herded into the courtroom proper and ordered to sit with their witnesses on either side of the gallery. Derek, who had yet to be able to catch a moment alone with his Guide, was fast losing the thread of the proceedings in his need to be near Stiles again.
While Derek resisted the temptation to leap the gap between them — Melissa and Scott McCall, courtroom etiquette, bailiff, and everyone else be damned — the sitting Sentinel Judge was at the bench reviewing the paperwork with the help of his Guide aid while a clerk ran a telephone line up the aisle to the bench and set up a conference call with Sentinel Representative Deaton and an administrative representative from Stiles’ Guide Center. After nearly an hour of Derek’s parents — in their official capacity as Alpha Sentinel and Guide of the city — the Sheriff, the Judge, and the others on the phone discussing the ins-and-outs of the agreement, Derek and Stiles were finally called to present themselves in the well before the bench.
Over the hour and a half of navigating the legal process needed for their Bonding, Derek had been able to scent Stiles’ fatigue, his hunger, and his anxiety building and the Sentinel within him was nearly overwhelmed with the need to address the Guide’s distress. He ignored the Judge and the rest of the witnesses to catch Stiles’ wrist once he was in range. Startled whiskey-colored eyes met his and the rest of the world fell away as Derek’s senses buried themselves in the sensation of Stiles.
“Derek? You okay there buddy?” Stiles inquired a bit nervously.
“Are you? Okay?” Derek demanded. “Is this what you want?”
Stiles seemed to freeze and Derek’s heart, quite without his permission, sank like a stone.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight
In which our heroes take the plunge and then some gratuitous (above the belt) groping occurs, because reasons.
Ah, the end of this installment of the story. There is at least one sequel in the works, so that's my excuse. Yes.
As ever, please feel free to let me know about any egregious errors, as I do not have a beta. Also, drop me a line here or on Tumblr (quietly-amused.tumblr.com) and let me know what you think. Thank you all again for your kind words and I hope to see you again soon!
Stiles took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to remember the coping mechanisms he’d been taught in order to deal with his early-onset Guide empathy and senses, as well as the crushing anxiety of his mother’s illness and passing. He blocked out the press of emotions from the other people in the courtroom and focused in on Derek.
“I’m not going to lie,” he began. “I don’t want to be a Guide. I never wanted to be a Guide. I watched what being half a Guide did to my dad when Mom died and…”
Stiles ignored the twitch of his father’s form at the edge of his peripheral vision. They didn’t talk about his Mom dying, and they’d never talked about how it had affected them. Not since they came home from the hospital after Stiles had been diagnosed a Guide-adept and his father had needed to tell him that losing Claudia hadn’t been Stiles’ fault. That being a Guide to a Sentinel, looking out for their health and safety, didn’t extend to being able to predict the return of cancer, nor was a child responsible for being able to take on the pain Stiles had been able to sense from his mother in her final weeks. They’d said all they needed to say then, Stiles and his dad, and after that the whiskey had been stored on the shelf and not on the kitchen counter. Stiles sometimes thought that his dad had needed to hear those absolving words just as much as Stiles had. It still hurt — it always would — but letting go of the guilt had let the Stilinski men find comfort in each other and healing enough to carry on. The fact that Stiles had come online as a result of his mother’s illness and death, though, was a taint on his “gift” that he’d never been able to reconcile.
“...but I don’t regret today,” Stiles continued, his gaze drifting down to where he was coiling his fingers through and around the loose fabric of the button-down he wore over his tee. “I don’t regret helping you. It means that I’m a Guide, and I never wanted that, but I don’t regret what we did today.”
Stiles met Derek’s eyes again. There was something searching and almost hopeful there, but a wariness too which prompted Stiles to turn his wrist over in Derek’s grip, grasp his hand and squeeze.
“I’m terrified of this and I never wanted it. But...you may be the big, bad wolf — “
Derek snorted and Stiles grinned at him.
“ — but if I have to have a Sentinel, if I have to do this thing and go off to Guide camp and have a bunch of people telling me to be soothing and gentle and a deep well of projected safety and contentment, I’d only want to put up with all that bullshit with you. Because, for starters, you know it’s bullshit too. You said yourself that you didn’t want that kind of Guide. And I can never be that kind of Guide, but I think — yeah, I think I can be your kind of Guide. Just so long as you can tolerate being my kind of Sentinel.”
Derek watched him for a minute, then smirked a bit. “Yeah, I can do that.”
Stiles dropped Derek’s hand only to hold his own out for a handshake. Derek eyeballed the proffered hand before slowly extended his own. They shook on it and somehow that felt more real to Stiles than all the paperwork, the judge sitting a few feet away, and the small ceremony that followed, where Stiles claimed Derek and Derek claimed Stiles in the stilted language of the entirely unromantic legal contract they’d formed.
His father and Derek’s mother both signed as witnesses, while Derek’s father initialed on the dotted line as Alpha Guide to indicate that Stiles — an untrained Guide and therefore not yet able to enter into bonding without oversight — had not been coerced.
And then, when the scenting came, when Derek took Stiles’ head between his broad hands and tilted it to the right, setting his teeth above the marks he had left there just earlier in the afternoon, Stiles felt that electric current run through him again. It was more controlled than it had been in the mentalscape of their spiritual connection, but it rocked something loose in his chest and he trembled in Derek’s arms, moaning softly when Derek’s soft snuffling around the pulse points of his throat turned into the steady pressure of human teeth gently worrying the skin of his neck with a gentle suction.
There, in front of the judge and his family and Derek’s, Stiles drunkenly fumbled to take Derek’s own head between his hands, bringing their foreheads to where they could lean against one another at that intimate point of contact and breath each other’s air. Derek’s eyes were glowing a brilliant blue when his slid one hand down past the collar of Stiles’ shirt and pulled out Stiles’ Guide chain. Quietly, he unclasped it from Stiles’ neck and wrapped it two, three times around Stiles’ wrist before softly biting down on the skin there too.
“Mine,” Derek murmured.
“Yeah, big guy. Yeah. Just don’t forget who you belong to either,” Stiles muttered in return. “You’re the property of Stiles Stilinski until further notice. So no more filling your afternoons crashing your car into hapless Guides trying to get a date.”
And then, Derek laughed. He hunched in on himself and laughed until tears filled the corners of his closed eyes. He laughed, and that explosion of joy hung in the air long after the lights were turned off that evening and everyone went home.
The celebratory dinner for the Bonding was held at the Hale house the same night, because apparently Talia Hale could mobilize a small army of kitchen helpers when she wanted to. They’d split everyone up into different cars — blending the packs, Laura has smirked — and Stiles had ended up squeezed into the back of the Hales’ SUV next to Derek for the fifteen minute journey to the Hales’ home on the edge of the Preserve.
Stiles didn’t remember much of the dinner. He was rapidly introduced to more Hales than he’d ever been aware had existed and he’d picked at a delicious meal laid before him, though he couldn’t for the life of him remember what exactly it consisted of besides a side of new potatoes.
What he did remember was that when it came time to call it a night, when Scott and Melissa were standing on the front porch and his dad was saying thank-you-and-goodnight to Talia and Joseph, Derek had pulled him around the corner of the house — away from everyone’s prying eyes if not ears — and had pressed him into the side of the house before kissing him.
Derek kissed him like Stiles was the first drink of water he’d had in days, like the breathy sighs and soft movements of Stiles’ mouth were his sustenance, and he snuck a pair of hands under the back of Stiles’ shirts to rest in the curve of his lower back, stroking back and forth across Stiles’ skin. Rationally, Stiles knew that Derek was imprinting Stiles, was taking in as much as he could because the lunch they’d agreed to meet up for the next day would be a long time for a Sentinel to go without grounding on his new Guide.
But it felt like being needed, being wanted, and Stiles was lost. One of Derek’s hands found the back of Stiles’ head and scratched lightly through his hair to get a better angle for their mouths to meet. Pressed together, there in the dark, Derek taking him in and Stiles feeling the beginnings of that tremulous string in his chest vibrate with Derek’s presence, with his emotions and impressions, Stiles sank like a stone, lost to all the reasons why he’d wanted to take this slow, to keep Derek at arm’s length.
“Mine!” he gasped. “Sentinel!”
He barely heard Derek’s answering growl, “yes,” over the sound of his father coming around the house and squawking at him to stop dry-humping the neighbors and get in the car already, Jesus, but Stiles heard it all the same.
For as long as it lasted, they’d both found someone to trust with these volatile parts of who they were. There were worse beginnings. Stiles only hoped it would last.
When he'd caught his breath, straightened his shirts, and told Derek he’d see him later, he maybe hadn’t quite meant “jump into my window tonight and we’ll cuddle until we fall asleep,” but hey, it just made meeting up for that lunch the next day a bit easier. His Jeep was in the shop, after all.
END (for now)