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Inhuman History

Chapter Text

The center point of the town, the place referred to as it’s heart, the heart of the town proper, was generally agreed to be the hardtack patch, withered green at the fringes, one block by one block square, that might be called a park if one were feeling generous, but stood bare and sun bleached, empty at every hour of the day save for between seven and nine a.m. when old Mr. Povel made his rounds.

He waved at those who passed, strolling with hands clasped behind his back in a measured circle, familiar as the pothole on Birch St., two blocks down, familiar as the faded plastic lilacs lining the eaves of the beauty salon across the street. If one were to stop, and few did, there would inevitably come a moment when pleasantries were exhausted. If this temporary companion declined the silent offer to sift through that morning’s haul of small town gossip, then those that stopped, the few that stopped, as Stiles had done today, were given a parting token.

“Full moon tonight. Best stay indoors.”

“What?” Stiles tilted his weight from foot to foot on the beat up ten speed. Mr. Povel was an upside down egg of indeterminate age perched on two thin legs and he was staring blithely at Stiles as if this was a perfectly understandable thing to say. Everybody assumed the man wasn’t all there, the burbling voice and sweet round cheeks that smiled and smiled and smiled. But something about him always unsettled Stiles, the man was a watcher. The man observed.

“Your daddy does like to get himself about on a full moon, don’t he?”

“Um, ok sure Mr. Povel. See ya.”

Stiles pedaled away faster than he meant to, muttering about crazy old men getting their crazy all over the public park. He stuffed it down during his shift and all the way back home, but once he got dinner made and on the table, once he’d wheeled his father in and set about carefully feeding him, bite by bite, Stiles couldn’t shake the words from his head.

It didn’t make him feel any better when he turned to his father not long after that, “Early bedtime?”

And the man nodded as eagerly as he could and smiled.

 

+++

 

His mind jolted alert before his body could catch up. The room was near total dark, a bright blade of moonlight emblazoned up his wall illuminated one corner of his room, but the rest was blackness.

Something felt wrong.

Stiles strained his eyes and tried to move his arms as slowly as he could. The bat under his bed knocked once, lightly against the nightstand as he pulled it out, and the sound stopped his heart. Was someone here? In the house? Stiles slid out of bed, adrenaline screaming through him for reasons he still couldn’t define. Bat raised, grip tight, he padded out into the hall. The ranch home was small, the halls only just wide enough to get a wheelchair through, gouges in the plaster, black streaks every few feet along the walls attesting to that, and it made Stiles heart ratchet up to realize he wouldn't be able to swing his bat properly without the clearance. He lifted it above his head, ready to bash someone caveman style if he had to.

Rounding into the living room, Stiles took in the slumped-in couch, the dull sheen from the television screen, the silence. He couldn’t shake the alarm in his head, insisting something wasn’t right, something was off and he scrutinized every shadow but none of them produced the body of an intruder. He was about to check out the kitchen when a small movement to his left caught his eye. A shot of fear stabbed his heart and he whirled around. But there was nothing there. Stiles remained frozen, waiting, strung out and ready.

There it was again.

The curtain, it billowed gently, then fluffed up on a current of air and after he was sure it wasn’t from a body hiding behind it he realized there was a draft.

The front door was open. Just a crack, hardly noticeable in the dark. Stiles reached for the knob with a badly shaking hand, wrenching the door open in one swift move and jabbing his bat forward into nothing.

There was nothing there.

He peeked a head out the door, unwilling to set foot over the threshold. But there was no one, the street cold and deserted and very very silent. Stiles shut the door, locked it, hugged the bat to his chest and tried to breath. He was being silly, wasn’t he? He was exhausted yesterday and must have forgot to close the door all the way. He checked the kitchen anyway then made his way back to his room. His father’s door was open, like always, and Stiles tiptoed over to check in on him.

There wasn’t much light in here either, except for the moonlight, illuminating little but his father’s eyes, where they stared back at him in the dark.

 

+++

 

“Damn it! Where the--fuck is it?!”

He was so not in the mood today. Last night he hadn’t been able to get back to sleep, convinced every little creak and groan in this shitty old house was someone ghosting through the halls.

Or his father slipping outside when the moon reached it’s peak.

Which was a really messed up thing to think, he was aware of that, but sometimes his mind ran away with him and last night he hadn’t been able to stop himself from letting Mr. Povel’s words kick around his head. It left him cranky and over sensitive and all he wanted to do was pull on his sweatpants and his threadbare Iron Man t shirt with the hole in the armpit and spend his one day off gorging on sugar and caffeine but he couldn’t do that if he couldn’t find his fucking shirt! He knew it had to be here somewhere, he remembered trying to slip out of the house with it on last week before his father had eyeball shamed him into putting on something less tattered.

Whatever, fine, he’d just have to wear a second class comfy shirt, but that meant pancakes and he was going to put goddamned chocolate chips in his.

“Morning pops!” Stiles breezed into the bedroom and tried not to let his sour mood show. His dad was usually pretty astute at picking up on it, but this morning he was staring out the window, not even turning to glance at Stiles as he pulled the wheelchair into place. “You play your cards right, this morning could include bacon.”

That got his attention. Stiles smirked at him as he pulled back the covers, helped his father into his chair and wheeled him into the bathroom.

After breakfast, Stiles considered kicking his father’s ass in a few rounds of Mario Kart, but he had too much negative energy zipping through his limbs so he wheeled his father out into the back yard for some air and set to work planting the tray of herbs he’d brought home from the garden center yesterday. It felt good to dig around, shove his fingers in the cool earth and feel it resist and then give. The pops of new bright green looked gorgeous against the tilled dirt, it calmed him. He wanted to lay down on the grass, face tucked close to his little garden so that he could take in all the fragile details of each leaf and each stem. But he could already feel his father’s stern gaze on the back of his neck and it was time he got him inside anyway.

“They’re just herbs Dad, for cooking. You want your food to taste good, don’t you? I didn’t even put any mint in this time.”

He couldn’t even touch mint, leggy under normal conditions, it detonated into runners and choked their whole yard then advanced on the neighbors in less than a day the last time he’d tried to plant it. Not like it was his fault, some things just responded and how the fuck was he supposed to know before it happened?

Dusting off his hands and knees, Stiles rose and headed back to the porch, leaving his gardening tools scattered, he could get them later. He wheeled his father back inside, setting him up in front of the tv with the remote while he put together some sandwiches then joined him in the living room.

Perched on the edge of the couch, Stiles traded bites with feeding his father while the two of them watched another episode of Crossfit Games. He couldn’t understand why his father loved this sort of show, it seemed a little masochistic considering. Crossfit, Ninja Warrior, Ultimate Fighter, the man watched anything where people were running around doing things he’d never be able to do again, but Stiles was past trying to subtly steer him to something less depressing. Only way out was through, he supposed, so nowadays he just considered it depositing material in the bank for ‘Stiles Time’. All the different sized men flexing and grunting, finding that their shirts were just too uncomfortable to wear for long. He’d become a connoisseur of overhead squats and triangle chokes, gotta love thigh strength.

Besides, he deserved to have something nice to look at once in awhile. God this town was a wasteland, anyone with a quarter ounce of sense ran screaming from it the moment the high school diploma hit their sweaty palm. If he had any choice left, he would do the same.

 

+++

 

Lott, NV lay in a featureless basin of land just east of the California border. There was no movie theatre, there was no library, there was no discernible reason why anyone would look around and decide to plunk a town here in the first place. The only things they had were the diner - astutely christened Lott Diner - Walmart and Gordon’s Lumber, all of them tucked up against the freeway and staring out dumbly at the people hurrying past to Reno and the featureless hills that had nothing clever to add to the conversation.

There was a downtown, in a technical sense, the park Mr. Povel patrolled, the shops along its border, but those had all apparently been opened simultaneously some point in the 1940s and didn’t seem to notice, or mind, when their customers and merchandise aged in time with their faded exteriors. Sometimes Stiles wondered, cutting past the park on his way to work, what would happen if all the shopkeepers keeled over dead at the same time. Would anyone in town even notice?

Lott Diner was where it was at, because people from outside came there, folks passing through. Sometimes Stiles would splurge after a particularly shitty day at work and order himself a coke and some curly fries, because at least this town had one last beautiful thing in it. Ginny never even took his order anymore, just slapped his basket and coke down with a ‘ Heya hon’ and left him in peace to listen in on the conversations from the other booths and pretend.

 

+++

 

Dinner, same as always, with Stiles feeding his father while he chattered on about something interesting he’d found online about Goldilocks planets. His father took it all in, grunting and nodding along, even smiling once or twice, rare as that was. It wasn’t perfect, nothing had been perfect since his mom’s death, but it was ok, and that was probably the best either of them were going to get anymore. He’d mostly forgotten about his restlessness last night. The door was disconcerting, but he’d just have to be more careful. There wasn’t anyone around to pick up after him anymore, the responsibilities were all his. With a jolt he remembered the gardening tools, left in the grass and probably soaking wet from the sprinklers. Damn it, he couldn’t afford more. He’d just have to clean up the yard after the dishes were done.

Stiles took the plates to the sink and just began to wash when he heard it. A strange, snuffling noise coming from outside. He stopped, turned off the water and squinted into the dark. But it was impossible to see anything with the kitchen lights on. He was just about to reach over and turn on the porch light when a dark figure slunk from the treeline into the backyard. It was large, but low to the ground and moving with deliberate, elastic steps, like it was hunting, stalking. If it was a man-- Stiles squeezed a prayer behind his ribs that it wasn’t a man because a human body should never be able to move like that. He stood frozen, the faucet dripping water one drop at a time, hands shaking and eyes wide. The thing made a circle, careful and halting like it was testing, sniffing, checking, then sat back on its haunches and whined.

Stiles let out a hard breath and leaned his hands against the counter, head bowed. Shit he’d just about had a heart attack over the neighbor's dog. That monster Rottie of theirs was nice enough but it was also dumb as a post and more than once had gotten lost in their yard, unable to figure out his way back home.

Stiles sighed and went to the door, opening it wide and trotting down the porch steps.

“Topher! Hey! Come ‘ere ya big dummy. You better not have shit all over the place or I’m g--”

Stiles stopped dead. He hadn’t turned on the back light, but now that he was close enough he could see that this was not Topher. The bones of his right arm began to ache, the skin there tingling as if lit up all over with delicate static shocks. He grasped it and held it to his chest as the beast looked him over. Even sitting as it was, it’s head still came up to his chest, the muzzle long and heavy. It’s fur was inky black, making it hard to see it’s proportions clearly in the dark. Just the two eyes, strange and bright, crystalline green, looking right at him, it’s wet nose a flicker as it sniffed the air.

There couldn’t be wolves here. There couldn’t be wolves like this one anywhere.

“Please don’t eat me.”

At least no one else would be able to testify that those had been his last words. He couldn’t move, couldn’t run, just stand and feel the adrenal fear razor up his spine and down along the soles of his feet, screaming to run while whatever tiny, malnourished prey gland was left to his body locked him down in place with the directive not to move until it was time to protect his belly and throat from rending teeth and claws.

But the wolf tilted his head one small degree and cocked an eyebrow, or looked very much to Stiles as if it was cocking an eyebrow. But that was a sign right there he was losing his mind because giant hell beasts that escaped their Russian folk tales did not get judgy when surveying their next potential meal.

Just as Stiles was coming up with his next pithy remark, the animal looked up, quick, past his shoulder at some sound Stiles’ hadn’t heard and in an act of blind stupidity he turned to see what had caught the wolf’s attention.

The door was still open.

His father just inside, unable to move more than a few fingers without assistance, unable to scream if the thing wanted to take him. Stiles didn’t even think about what he was doing, grabbed fistfuls of dense fur and shoved the wolf back by the neck as hard as he could.

“No! You stay the hell away from him! You wanna eat something you got me right here!” He shouted, and the wolf froze for a moment, shock, something a human might describe as a look of shock, drawing up the corners of it’s face. Stiles knew he would never make it if he ran to the house, but if he stayed here, or managed to get around the animal and make a break for the trees, it might keep enough space between this thing and his father that someone, somewhere, would have time to call for help once they heard him screaming.

He expected the thing to lunge at him next, bare teeth, snap, but it stared at him. Stared, leaned in, just slightly and stared harder, one ridiculous eyebrow lifting again as if it too thought Stiles was a complete and utter moron for what he’d just done. Stiles didn’t know if he could take this anymore, if this thing didn’t get on with ripping him to shreds he was going to have a nervous breakdown. But the wolf leaned down, eyes still held on Stiles and licked the scar tissue on his right arm.

It felt like the strange static hum from before cranked higher, his skin jumping, the buzz reaching up under his jaw and threading into his ear canals. It was at that moment that the beast headbutted him squarely in the chest and sent him sprawling hard on his back.

“Ow.” Stiles remained flat out, wheezing for air because that thing was strong . The giant head was at his side, snuffling his ribs and whining almost plaintively. Then it shoveled its snout under his side and pushed, looked up at Stiles, whined once more then pushed again. And again.

“Um...ok sure. I’ll just get up now.”  He stood slowly, completely confused about what to do with all this residual fear in light of this strange behavior. The wolf seemed pleased Stiles had listened. Pleased? Jeez he was assigning this fucking thing a personality. The broad head lowered again and this time when it butted him in the chest it was with much less force, careful, as if it hadn’t realized the first time. It pushed Stiles back a few feet, but he stayed standing. The wolf did it again, again, carefully, almost gently butting him back toward the house until the porch steps hit his ankles. With a delicacy Stiles didn’t know animals could posses, the big black wolf opened his jaw and nipped down on the hem of his shirt, tugging it to spin Stiles around, then letting it go so he could nudge him up the stairs.

“Can someone please explain what is happening right now?”

But the wolf only gave him one final shove, through the door then waited while Stiles turned around in a daze to look at it. Those glass green eyes shifted, deliberately to the door, then back at Stiles. And seriously?

“Alright, well…” He shut the door.

The wolf sat there still. Looked pointedly at the door once more then back to Stiles. So, mouth agape, Stiles turned the bolt lock and heard the creature huff once before it turned and slipped back into the night.

Chapter Text

“You ever heard of wolves out here?”

Stiles hadn’t mentioned anything last night. He wasn’t sure why, considering the natural first impulse was to bound into the living room and start rambling until he blacked out about the monstrous wolf in their yard that he was convinced had been throwing him actual shade . Instead he made something up about Topher chasing down a poor rabbit to explain the noise, then spent the rest of the night on the couch staring blankly at the television, wondering what had just happened and where the wolf might have gone.

He kept seeing those eyes, so startlingly intelligent. And a fragment of memory surged and retreated before he could make sense of it. Blue eyes in the dark, impossibly bright and watching him from above.

The next morning, though, had seen his resolve crumble and he just couldn’t help himself. His dad, strangely enough, did not give him the look Stiles was expecting, the one that let him gauge exactly how ridiculous he was being. Instead, his father went still, gradually looked up from his tablet like he wasn’t sure he wanted to meet Stiles’ eyes. A few taps to his screen and he’d opened a blank page, typing out his answer with excruciating care. They didn’t talk this way much anymore, not since Stiles had become so fluent in the subtle gestures his father had remaining. It was saved for more important things, which was why Stiles rushed to sit beside him, knocking his knee into the table hard and sloshing their orange juice. By the time he’d finished wiping it up his father’s message looked back at him from the screen.

why do you ask

“Oh, well, it’s just- it’s- last night, when Topher got into the yard there was a moment when he looked like a wolf I guess? And it sorta freaked me out a minute there but then I thought, that’s crazy, there’s no wolves out here, but then I realized I don’t actually know if there’s wolves here cause they could probably be anywhere, right? I mean, there’s no, like, forest nearby, but there’s plenty of uninhabited space so I maybe anything could be living out there? But probably not, cause that’s like….unlikely, right?”

are you sure it was topher

He didn’t believe him. Stiles knew it right then because, as shitty as Stiles was at lying to his father, the man was equally incapable of hiding his suspicion when he thought his son was trying to get away with something.

“Yup, totally sure. Good ol’ Topher, no doubt. Just, uh, just general academic curiosity, that’s all.”

if you see a wolf I want you to tell me right away

It was touching, that his dad would care, still thought of himself as Stiles’ protector even though the mechanics of that relationship had been reversed so thoroughly. It was too cynical to give his thoughts much space, that should an animal even half the size of the one he’d met last night become aggressive, there was nothing his father could do.

“Oh sure, will do. You will be the first to know of any lupine sightings.”

The rest of the afternoon was spent without incident, but Stiles hadn’t failed to notice that his question had gone unanswered.

 

+++

 

They’re whispering again.

It’s dark where he is, but that’s the only time he ever hears them whisper. The old guilt oozes in and he clutches his covers over his head as if that will keep it at bay this time. As if the cotton batting of his quilt can keep the sound of their voices out, and if he can’t hear them, then he can’t be to blame.

But that’s just it, Stiles can’t remember what he did. There’s been no slip ups in months, no ruined meals they’ll have to scrape in the trash, no messes he has no memory of making, no fires, no dead animals in the yard. If he could just remember, then he could find a way to apologize, to smooth things over so they wouldn’t have to whisper about him the the dark.

...make us a target……

….he can’t stop himself…..

…….they’re everywhere…..

……….everywhere……..

it’s Stiles

it’s Stiles

it’s Stiles

Stiles screams himself to consciousness, fighting the covers that have tangled him like a bolas. He has to get out, he’s trapped. The panic is rising, constricting him in a widening band around his chest and he knows if he can’t free himself soon he’ll have a full on attack. He twists hard and one leg slips free. With frantic, mulish kicks he wrestles himself from the sheets and covers and backs himself up against his headboard, sweat soaked shirt, shivering, heaving alkaline breaths. He never forgets where he is when he wakes like this, but sometimes he forgets when .

He rubs at the scar on his right forearm, seeking out the texture of puckering skin that he’s come to find soothing. Touching it helps him remember it was only a dream, tracing the jagged dashes with his eyes. He didn’t have a scar before, back then. He has one now. His breathing slows.

There’s a sound on the other side of the wall, a scraping that jolts his heart into gear again. He’s up and out of his bed, hurling himself out his door and into the adjoining bedroom. The bed is empty, moonlight glowing on the wrinkled sheets that have been pulled mostly to the floor. His dad sits slumped in the corner between the far wall and the bed, gun in his lap, hands splayed listlessly at his sides. How he even got over there Stiles will never know, let alone where he got another gun. He’s checked this house top to bottom, but every now and then something sets his dad off and the next thing he knows he’s scouting for another spot to hide a weapon. God help them if someone ever digs up their yard.

“Dad!” He has his hands up and clicks the lights on with his elbow. He knows his dad’s aware it’s him but he also knows that it agitates his father if he rushes at him in the dark. He never wants to see that look on his father’s face again. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry I just had a bad dream.” He kneels on the floor and reaches for the gun, frowning at it and wondering if the spot under the wisteria would be good or if that was where he hid the .9mm he’d found tucked into the cushions of his father’s recliner. He used to mark the spots, when they first moved here, but his dad put an end to that so now Stiles had only his memory to go on and it was getting harder to keep track. He puts the gun in the bedside drawer, he’ll have to deal with it later.

“Come on, I’ll make us some tea.” He knows there’s no way either one of them can sleep now. He pulls the wheelchair from it’s place by the wall and steers it over, locking the wheels and crouching down to haul his father forward, then bracing himself on hands and knees so the man can push against him with what little strength he has. Once his dad is swaying on unsteady feet, Stiles grabs him by the hips before standing himself and lowering the man into the chair. They’ve perfected this move over the years, back when Stiles was still too young and weak to move him around all by himself. He could probably lift his dad to his feet bodily if he had to now, but the man is too stubborn to give up this last bit of mobility and it doesn’t cost anything for Stiles to let him have this, no matter how silly he may look playing step stool.

Not like there was anyone around to see him anyway.

He put the kettle on and rummaged up tea bags and mugs. His father grunts and when Stiles turns to look at him he taps the side of his mug twice with eyes locked on Stiles. Normally he would ignore him.

“That bad, huh? Yeah, me too. Maybe we could both use one.” He opens up the cabinet and has to hoist himself up onto the counter to reach the spot on the very top shelf where he’s stashed the bottle. It’s not that he trying to be an asshole about it, but he’s learned the hard way that just because his father’s confined to a wheelchair and barely able to move doesn’t mean he can be trusted. He unscrews the cap and stares at their mugs for a moment before saying fuck it and pulling two small glasses down, too. He pours them both a generous shot, lifting one glass to his father’s lips, other hand gently cradling his head, and carefully tips the liquid down his throat. He tosses his own back just as the kettle whistles and secretly wishes he could have another as he prepares the tea. He knows his father is thinking the exact same thing, but he’s got to set a good example so he returns the bottle to it’s shelf and shoots his father a defiant look when he turns to see the man scowling at him.

They sit for a long time in silence. The dream tonight wasn’t very vivid, or even one of the more violent ones he sometimes has, but something about it drained him. His muscles feel achy and calcified, like he’s been holding a weight too long. His father has nightmares too, but tonight it’s Stiles’ fault they’re sitting here at 3am. Sometimes the Sheriff forgets he’s not Sheriff anymore, or that his body doesn’t follow commands like it used to, that he can’t run next door to protect his son from threats, real or imagined. Stiles watches his father curl his fingers around the mug, sipping at his straw once it’s cool enough and not looking at anything in particular. He gets cold so easily, frozen in that chair, Stiles wonders if he can even feel it anymore or if that’s all he can feel. It’s April and things are starting to thaw, and after the winter they just had Stiles just can’t afford to keep the heat on all night anymore. It’ll have to be blankets and tea for the both of them.

In the living room, Stiles gets his father into the recliner, tucks several blankets around his feet and shoulders and lap, curbing his impulse to wrap the man’s head up so that he looks like a giant papoose. There was a time when he would have done it, would have teased the old man and scraped and clawed for any scrap of levity they could afford and blamed it on his ADD in the morning. But the years have sorted out most of that childhood ailment, along with the full time job hauling sacks of dirt from one shelf to another and the unending tasks of caring for an invalid father.

They’ve settled on something mindless to watch, a show about beautiful young things and their problems. They keen about the disasters of their lives, pouting and lounging morosely on the exquisite cream colored furniture. Someone can’t believe someone else wants to skip out of their party. Someone needs to get away but they just can’t take the bickering over where they should go for the weekend. There’s a slim, awkward boy that’s obviously been cast as the funny sidekick friend, the one with all the one-liners and an eight pound bag of snark and suddenly Stiles feels like he’s going to cry.

He stretches out along the couch so his father can’t see his face and works on not making a sound as a few hot tears slice down his cheeks.

He’d been that kid four years ago. He used to be carefree and goofy and loudmouthed. He’d had friends with superficial problems that seemed apocalyptic at the time. He’d had a beautiful, unattainable woman to adore that had slowly been considering him for friend zone residency.

He’d had a best friend.

He doesn’t want to think about Scott now. He doesn’t want to think about the last happy times of his life before the fire. He doesn’t want to think about how tomorrow will be the same as every other day, filled with routine and work and exhaustion. Or of the strange brand of loneliness that fills his belly when sitting beside a mute father. Of how he used to be filled with life and chatter and energy just like that boy on the screen. But it’s all gone and the person that remains feels too old with too much dead air to pass through between now and the rest of his life.

 

+++

 

Silver dawn waits outside. After his father had dropped off to sleep in his chair, Stiles hadn’t been able to shake the press of heartache that had overcome him. He tried never to think of his old life if he could help it. Most days since then he’d been too overwhelmed, too exhausted to dwell on it for long. But sometimes it lunged at him from offside when he wasn’t paying attention.

He left the television on, shutting it off would have woken his father. Instead he crept out into the backyard, shivering at the touch of the cold, wet grass against the soles of his feet. From ten yards away, the treeline observed him, patient. He regarded it with something like remorse. He wasn’t sure why. In the daylight it was nothing but a thick set tract of scraggly trees that marked property lines, but at first light it was able to reclaim a little of its lost dignity.

There were Stillinski house rules he only vaguely knew the reasons for, but you can’t wring answers out of a mute, believe him, he’s tried. However, once a year, on his mother’s birthday, he was allowed one small reprieve. Actually, the first time he’d done it had been in secret, huddling in the wet earth between the trees and feeling the tingle through his fingertips and at the center of his palms as he made the change. He’d sat out there for almost two hours, staring at his work, and when he finally trudged home, feeling a little lighter, his father had been watching him through the kitchen window. And even though the man couldn’t possibly have seen, he knew. They’d moved a week later, but the following year to the day, as Stiles served his father breakfast, the man had looked pointedly out the back window, looked at Stiles and nodded once. He never knew what had changed his father’s mind, but he wasn’t about to argue. So every year in her memory he was allowed this one thing.

But today, he needed it so badly, needed something familiar and good and his. So he crouched in the dirt of an overgrown ditch among the trees and rooted through the soil until he found what he was looking for.

His fingers were chilled, his bare toes having issue keeping him on balance, but he ignored it and continued to pull at the little pocket of molten energy at his core, disused and ignored but humming along softly all the same. A fine thread drew from that hidden spot, meeting the delicate white nerves along his heart and merging into the pathways along his arms, racing past the traffic of plasma to spiral along the fascia, reinforcing the columns of bone, climbing up, percolating through the dermis and converging on six points. Center of palm, tips of fingers. They’re tiny, the seeds he’s found sleeping in the soil, something flowering though-- Queen Anne’s Lace maybe-- so that makes it easier. The transformation is the hardest, though it happens the quickest, like snapping a joint back into place. He takes a moment to stare at the new formed seed pods, always caught with a jolt of clean irony that his mother’s favorite flowers would grow from something shaped like a skull. A cluster of them, vacant eyes staring up at him. It always makes him cringe later, how much significance he feels in the moment when he reburies them, warms the soil and feeds the thread of energy into the nuclea. If only he could have done the same for his mother.

Now it’s just a matter of keeping that thread spiraling down to its budding tether. In one minute the fragile spears of green, luminous against the late night earth, draw up seeking. They thicken and grow, they find their height quickly then swell with impossible buds. One after another they split and pop open to reveal their bright strings of blossoms. Snapdragons, just like his mother always kept.

Stiles sits back on his haunches to watch them, already feeling the calm, the brief imagined safety that used to come to him in his mother’s garden when she was alive and surrounded by stalks of these twice as high.

When he does this on her birthday he’s allowed to sit among them longer, in the sunlight it’s easy to pretend. But he’s freezing his ass off and he really didn’t want to explain to his father why he was covered in dirt and turning blue if the man woke up.

Normally he was supposed to kill them, leave no trace, but half an hour of life just didn’t seem fair and so Stiles had been prepared to walk away, unable to do it.

And that’s when he saw it.

Not ten feet away, nailed mid-way up the trunk of a tree, was a scrap of red fabric, dirty and torn, but with the partial Iron Man logo clearly visible from here. Stiles stumbled over to the tree and tugged at the fabric, trying to wrench it from the bark, but a single nail was driven deep through it’s center and there was no way he could pull it free.  There was no question, this was a piece of his shirt, the iron on design cracked just the way he remembered it. Stiles tugged at it harder, fingers scraping against the bark, panicking now because who would do this? Had someone been in his home, in his room? Why would anyone tear a piece from his shirt and nail it to a tree behind his house? There were too many possibilities for any of them to feel true. He found a stick, tried to jam it under the nail head because he suddenly couldn’t stand the idea of leaving this rag that had belonged to him out here. But his fingers were too cold, the nail too deeply cleaved between the bark.

“Goddamnit!”

He probably shouldn’t have yelled.

The wolf was just…. there .

Standing on the rising slope of the ditch and watching him. Stiles felt his heart pull once, then release. He wasn’t afraid this time. Maybe it was that the wolf had had a chance to eat him and declined. Maybe it was the way it looked at him, so unlike any animal he’d ever known, like it was seeing him, not observing another strange animal. He wasn’t even sure if that made any sense, he just knew that the sorrow and the cold and the lack of sleep made him almost happy to find he wasn’t alone.

“Couldn’t sleep either, huh?” Stiles sank down, leaning his back against the tree and watched the wolf. It was a beautiful thing, really, huge and sleek, those strange green eyes magnetic. He sighed, rubbed a hand over his face, too weary to consider that this might be a monumentally stupid idea. He patted the ground beside him, curious as to what the wolf might do. It definitely seemed calm enough around people, maybe this was some weirdo naturalist’s rescue pet, nursed from a pup and unaware it should be picking its teeth with his bones, like textbook predators should.

It certainly looked like a predator, the way it took careful, slinking steps down the low pitch and picked it’s way around the rocks and the branches until it was only a few feet away, studying him. Stiles could hear it breathing now, it’s huge muzzle lowered, scenting the air.

Stiles wanted to touch it, to reach out a hand and see if the thing would sniff at him like a dog might, but he still wasn’t totally convinced he wouldn’t pull back a bloody stump if he tried, so he sat still and watched as the wolf took in the air around him then move to the ground where it sought out the unnatural cluster of flowers off to the side. It circled them once, sniffed above them gingerly, then shoved its nose straight into the blooms and sneezed. It was a grotesque sound, loud and wetly barking, and it shocked them both. One look at the animal’s wide eyes and Stiles burst out laughing, he’d never seen an animal so affronted by its own body.

“Oh my god dude, what kind of badass wolf beast has allergies ?! You’re-- hey!

The wolf turned abruptly and began to claw at the earth, tearing up every flower until it was nothing but bright bits of organic confetti, then digging a shallow divot and burying every one.

“You asshole ! I made those!” He scooped up a clump of dirt and flung it at the wolf, who only ducked neatly while staring at Stiles. Never let it be said that Stiles’ sense of self-preservation was overly developed.

“Next time I’ll make ragweed and then we’ll see who’s boss Mr. Sneezers.”

The wolf trotted over to him, stopping so close Stiles could feel the heat from his fur. His fingers itched to touch, to dig in and see how thick that coat was.

“If you’re going to stick around here I should probably give you a name right?” To his surprise the wolf leaned in and licked his fingers, sniffing around his chest before pulling back. “Unless you have one already? You’ve got to be some drug lord’s escaped pet, right? He’s probably named you Fang or Ripper.”

The wolf made a grumbly little huff, as if offended. Jesus, Stiles was a half mile down the road from crazy.

“Ok well why don’t I call you Daisy, huh? Since you’re such a delicate, sensitive puppy? That’s what I’m going t--” The wolf butted him in the side, toppling him over easy, then reared up, feet propped on the tree trunk, and yanked the piece of shirt off easily. By the time Stiles had righted himself, the wolf had placed the fabric in his lap and began to nudge his arm. Stiles closed his fist around it and smiled.

“Thanks big guy.”

The wolf snuffled over his face and neck, tickling Stiles with it’s wet nose and short fur before licking his cheeks and making him squeal and fall back against the tree which only cause the wolf to crowd in and lick him more with his big, wide tongue.

“Alright, alright! We’re buddies, I get it!”

And he finally caved in to his impulse, running a hand through the dense fur of it’s neck, so incredibly warm around his frigid fingers.

When he finally made it back inside, locking the door quietly behind him, the wolf was still visible just inside the treeline, watching.

 

+++

 

Work had been a shitshow from the moment Stiles walked in, what with his floor support calling out again and a nightmare customer dragging him all over as her own personal butler for almost an hour before blindly knocking him backwards in her haste to snatch the last pink zebra print garden trowel from the display that no one was fighting her for. He’d caught himself on a stack of pallets, watching in horror as a nail drove straight through the webbing of his thumb. The woman started screaming at him to get away from her when she saw the blood painting his hand, actually complained to his manager about the psychological strain she’d just endured as a result, demanding compensation of 25% off her purchases.

The manager gave her 20% to shut her up and sent Stiles home, which was bullshit because he shouldn’t lose money over that bitch, but there was nothing to be done.

At least he could find solace in the warm embrace of curly fries.

“What’s going on ladies?”

Ginny and the other waitresses were all huddled behind the cash register, whispering in a clutch and sneaking glances across the room.

“Come ‘ere hon,” Ginny wheeled Stiles around by the arm and planted him in the middle of their group. “You gotta get a load of this. Man, if I were twenty years younger I would take him out back and do things that’ta curl his toes backwards.”

“Yeah, in fright.” Tina Jeanne snickered at her own joke and Stiles still wasn’t sure who it was they were looking at, the diner was pretty packed.

“Girl you never seen me younger, I had tits that made ‘em sit up and beg.” Ginny hoisted her bra straps up and rearranged the cleavage under her uniform. Stiles had finally worked out that they were referring to the dark haired man in the far corner, but he was hunched over, leaning on his hand in a way that it was hard to get a proper look at the man’s face.

“You can’t ever tell my mother, but I might actually take off my chastity ring for a man like that.”

And Stiles laughed a little louder than he’d meant to, because no one in town talked to Sara’s mother if they could help it, and secondly, she’d already ‘taken off her ring’ for James Penny on multiple occasions. Which he’d never shame her for, considering James had a ring too, it was just that the two of them truly believed their trysts were carried out with the height of stealth, but get them together in a room and they were so freaking adorable, they literally could not hide anything from anyone.

Just at that moment, the man looked up. Right fucking at Stiles. And from somewhere stage left he heard himself say, “Benevolent god of sex, I offer myself up as your humble servant.”

And the man scowled, like he could hear Stiles, which for a second made him panic, but then he realized it was probably just the fact that some weird kid and his band of horny waitresses were blatantly ogling his fine, fine, fine self while he tried to have a quiet meal.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been this aroused by someone glaring at me.”

Well it wasn’t like he could just look away now that he’d been caught. The guy was some kind of scientific miracle of genetics created to embody every single thing that made Stiles realize he was into guys in the first place. He had the masculine bone structure, the thick dark hair that made him want to dig in and hold on for the ride, the stubble just shy of a beard he wanted to feel inside his thighs, and fuck, even from here he could tell the guy was ripped under that henly. What was it, two sizes too small? How did he walk around in that thing without those biceps splitting the seams every time he crossed his arms?

“Oh my word, he’s coming over here!” Sara turned frantically in place, looking for something to do. Ginny checked her cleavage one last time and winked at Stiles, who totally missed it because he was helpless to do more than twitch nervously under the laser focus of those eyes. The man stopped at the register, still scowling, and Stiles had an epiphany about the potential appeal of hate fucking.

“All set hon? Sure we can’t get you anything else?” Ginny flirted and Tina Jeanne snorted behind her hand.

He pulled a crumpled twenty from his pocket and laid it on the counter, cocking a curious eyebrow as he did so.

“Do you work here?” He asked Stiles in a voice that was much softer than he’d imagined. Stiles had been picturing something gruff and deep, something that went with vintage motorcycles and whiskey, but this would work. Yeah, this was much better.

“No, I’m...uh...a customer? I just - small town and all. Not that I wouldn’t work here, I mean who doesn’t love free milkshakes, am I right? But Big John - he’s the owner - he only hires women for the front. Not that I don’t have the legs for the uniform! Haha! Yeah…..I’m more of a mascot, I guess, so uhhh….hope you enjoyed your meal please come again!”

For a long beat the man just stared at him as if he couldn’t figure out what the hell had just come out of Stiles’ mouth. Sara ghosted her way across the room the minute he’d started rambling and was currently shaking her head at him.

“You’re hurt.” His eyes darkened and if there weren’t witnesses, no one would have believed Stiles if he told them this scorching hot man grabbed him by the wrist and was studying the makeshift bandage on his hand like the injury personally offended him.

Oh god, that strangled little moan may have come from him, from Stiles’ very own body. I mean, what did this guy expect? You can’t go around manhandling people’s wrists with your strong, calloused fingers, shooting sexy eyebrows left and right like you have a permit for it and not expect to get a reaction out of poor, starving, virginal boys. Health Ed and the internet hadn’t prepared him for this.

“It’s nothing, nothing…..” Stiles could hear his voice trembling and the guy still hadn’t let go of him, just assaulted him with those bright green eyes, like there was any kind of natural defense against it. “Just a hazard of livin’ la vida de Stiles. That’s me. I’m, uh, Stiles. It’s my…..name.” Tina Jeanne really was doing her best not to laugh at this point, so A for effort he supposed.

The man released his arm, no indication that this behavior was in any way strange. “You should have that looked at.” And he made to leave, walked a few steps to the door before looking over his shoulder, “I’m Derek.”

And he turned and walked away, with every set of eyes that could appreciate such a thing, appreciating the hell out of his departure.

Stiles groaned the moment he was sure he was safe, flopping down on the counter, head buried in his arms. “Ugh I want to have his babies.”

“You were real smooth there, it was like watching a train drive off a cliff.”

“Aw baby don’t worry,” Ginny patted his back. “Let me get you some ice cream, on the house.”

Stiles stood up and ran a hand over his mouth. “Delicious free treats can not fix what just happened. But mint chip….if you’re offering.”

“Can’t be all bad, he did give you his name.”

True. He now had a name to moan every time he jacked off from now until eternity, so there was that.

Derek. Not such a bad day after all.

Chapter Text

“Hey Stiles, you’re home early.”

Krissy continued wiping down the counter as she turned and smiled. She wasn’t a licensed hospice worker, but she was reliable, hardworking and had an open schedule so she did just fine caring for Stiles’ father.

“Work drama, how’s dad?”

“Restless, actually,” she lowered her voice, concern hardening the corners of her mouth. “You really should consider putting him in a home, the one I told you about? The Argent House? I know people there, they’ll take good care of him. You’d be free to get some of your life back.”

“I can’t do that Krissy, I’ve told you, besides, I looked into that Arget House months ago, the first time you mentioned it. I can’t even find anything on them, they’re definitely not linked to any medical groups around here.

Stiles tried to move past her but she sidled between him and the door.

“They’re a small, private firm, I told you. Highly trained.”

Stiles sighed, “And I told you I’m not putting him in a home. Where is he?”

But he cut around her before she could answer and didn’t notice the way she glared at him before slipping outside to make a call.

 

+++

 

The wolf came that night. It came every night for the next few days, loping around the tree line until Stiles ran down the join him. He liked to think the wolf had come to harbor some affection for him but he was pretty sure it mostly had to do with the extra chicken cutlets or bowls of beef stew he brought with him.

“I think I’ll call you Derek.” He announced, one hand scratching behind a furry ear while his new companion splintered a soup bone between his powerful teeth. The wolf looked up abruptly at that, and Stiles had another one of those moments when he was convinced the animal had understood him.

“You just remind me of someone is all. See that look you’re giving me right now? Other Derek shot me a look like that for a solid three minutes once. It’s like you’re his eyebrow spirit animal.”

The wolf wheeled his great head around, knocking Stiles on his back from where he sat in the dirt. It was a thing between them now, the wolf shoving him around any time he felt grumpy or playful.

“You’re such a dick, you know that?” But Derek the wolf only made a pleased yelp and started licking at the scar on Stiles arm. That was the other thing, wolf Derek had taken to licking him the moment they met in the evenings, paying particular attention to his scar.

“Don’t get me wrong, you’re a handsome  bastard, but if I’m being honest I’d much rather get a tongue bath from original Derek. Not that I have any chance of that happening. He’s probably long gone, back to where he belongs…..in a photo studio posing for the cover of Scruff N’ Muscle Monthly. Men like that do not exist in towns like this, it’s against the natural order.”

Derek the wolf cocked his head, then snuffled into Stiles’ neck, licking him until he smiled again.

 

+++

 

To say that Stiles was not expecting to answer his front door and find Derek standing there, even hotter than he remembered, was a profound understatement. To his credit, Stiles only flailed a little bit and managed to stay mostly standing.

“I’m looking for Mr. Stillinski.”

“Hello! Yes….hi there. It’s uh...Derek right? Small world, I just happen to be Mr. Stillinski.” He leaned against the door frame in what he hoped was a casual, yet sultry pose. It got him nothing but an impassive stare.

“I need to see John.”

“You…...what?”

 

+++

 

The whole thing was completely inconceivable.

The man Stiles had officially hired as the face of his morning shower time was standing in his living room engaging in the most insane round of ‘don’t blink’ with his father he had ever seen.

“So anyone feel like cluing Stiles in on what’s happening right now? Dad? Stranger named Derek who obviously knows my dad? Nope? Still just wanna….yeeah, ok.”

“He’s in danger.”  Derek finally looked over at Stiles.

“What? What are you talking- “

Derek turned back to his father. “Things have become unstable. I need to speak to you, in private.”

“No, hang on. I’m not leaving you alone with my father. Who the hell are you?”

“I’m here to protect you.”

And he - he had to be kidding, wasn’t he? But goddamn…..that fucking stare, this man honestly believed what he’d just said.

“Listen, despite the heated internal conflict I’m having with my fantasy life right now, I think I’m good on the bodyguard front. So thanks for- “

Fingers brushed his wrist. Stiles looked down to see his father nod at him, glance pointedly toward the door of his room. Stiles looked between them, sighed harshly.

“You have ten minutes. Exactly.” He tested out his own glare on Derek. “I have a bat.”

 

+++

 

Most of Mr. Povel was slumped against the drained fountain. The smear of blood paved an oily track down the walkway and across the street. Shredded chunks, alien spheres of vital jelly made a subtle shine from the clumps of grass and clawed up dust where they lay, terrible jewels that Stiles couldn’t stop noticing no matter how he tried.

He’d never seen a body before. Never even been to a wake and stood beside the waxen figure of someone carefully groomed and powdered for the living to tolerate. He’d snuck a few peeks at his father’s case files from time to time, Beacon Hills had a surprising amount of violence for a town so small. But those were pictures, thin and flat, and they made him hot and nauseous when he saw them, felt the danger of sneaking around in the flush of his cheeks, but this…..

So strange that he didn’t scream, or feel anything right away other than confusion. Pedaling up, beating the sunrise by minutes at least, he’d been too distracted thinking about Derek, how the man was gone when he came back into the room. He hadn’t heard him leave. So the figure up ahead wasn’t processed right away, a round pile and awkwardly placed limbs.

The little flat bill hat he always wore was gone, the few tufts of hair left to him jerking about in the wind as if fighting to get free from the torn apart horror beneath them. Stiles watched, transfixed and enclosed in the empty street, more curious than afraid. Something big had done this, ripped open his belly, stripped his right hand thoroughly of flesh, clawed the life from his throat.

Leave him

It was an instinct too strong to ignore.

Stiles called the police from the Lott Diner payphone, huddled and deepening his voice. He clocked into work, pulled on his vest then walked to the back and threw up off the end of the loading dock.

That night the wolf didn’t come, and Stiles told himself it didn’t mean anything.

 

+++

 

“You’re late again.”

Stiles punched in his ID code too fast, cursing at the light when it flashed red. It shouldn’t make him so mad to lose another minute of pay when he was already over an hour late for his shift, but it did. He and the Gordon’s Lumber time clock had never been on good terms.

“Yeah, sorry. Krissy didn’t show.” He panted over his shoulder at Mel while simultaneously yanking the orange vest over his longsleeve shirt and cramming his backpack into his locker. Thank God Mel was the shift manager today, at least she had kids so she understood the perilous string of dominoes that constantly threatened people barely scraping by. Krissy had never flaked out before, but when he couldn’t reach her on her cell, Stiles had to call a neighbor and wait for them to walk their dog and finish their coffee before they could help watch his father.

“You’re lucky Perry’s too stoned to realize his shift is over. Oh, but he’s done exactly none of the checklist today, so have fun with that.”

Stiles rolled his eyes but gave Mel a thankful smile all the same. The woman could not care less how well the employees did their jobs as long as they had a generally knowledge of the store layout and could point a customer in the right direction. Not that that applied to Stiles much. He spent his days in the garden section with the rest of the reject loners. The washed up jocks had lumber and tools, the washed up artists had paint, and career employees had the big ticket sections like flooring and fixtures. Nobody talked to anybody else. It was high school lunch tables all over again.

Perry was indeed completely stoned. Sprawled on the ground in the fern section, headphones on and staring at the canopy of fronds above his head. At least he wasn’t trying to arrange the succulents by personality like last week. That had taken forever to fix. Fuck it, Stiles wasn’t in the mood to help a guy out. Maybe he could even get him to ring a few customers up before he figured out what time it was. Stiles turned on his heel and pulled the checklist from behind the register, eyeing the watering schedule before unspooling the hose and working his way down the rows of plants. It was mindless work, dragging the heavy coils, hauling fresh pallets out front, stacking bags of mulch. It kept him busy enough that the day passed quickly without too many thoughts about what he’d seen yesterday.

It let him care for the plants.

He wasn’t supposed to, he knew that if his father knew which section of the warehouse he worked in he’d make him quit. But no one else in this town was going to hire a high school drop out for the same wage with the same flexibility to look after his father when he needed it.

In some obtuse way, he knew it had something to do with the fire, with the strange things that started happening in Beacon Hills before they’d left. He’d asked him, he’d tried to pry something out of his father, but that hadn’t been till years on, after the grieving and recovery and constant moves from town to town. He wasn’t surprised when the man only dropped the iron wall between them and stared off into space the moment he started asking questions. Sometimes his father got lost in his head, detached from the present into God knows where.

And sometimes Stiles thought he did it on purpose to avoid conversation.

“Here.” He kicked Perry’s foot as he thrust the clipboard at his chest. The teenager blinked up at him in confusion then frowned as he got to his feet at the prospect of having to do actual work. Stiles rolled his eyes. “It’s done, dude. You should be paying me kickbacks for the amount of times I’ve covered your ass.”

Perry grinned, “You’re good people Stiles. Oh! And I think I’m getting a cold or something, I might not be able to make it in tomorrow if it gets real bad.”

A customer up front rang the register bell.

“Perry, I’ve told you, I’m not your boss. Go pull that act with Mel, but work on your delivery first. I think you need to consider where your character is coming from as a person, ya know? Give it some gravitas, maybe a fake cough or two.”  The bell rang again. “Can you just ring up this last person before you change out your till? I gotta clean off.”

“Sure buddy. Hey, you hear about that old guy in the park? Like, my cousin said he got eaten by a bear or something. Wild, man. Fucking, like, global warming got everything all mixed up.”

The bell rang.

“Nature.” Perry flashed him the sign of the horns and meandered off toward the front of the store.

The very back section was for the largest plants, the ferns and fruit trees, but also the fuller hanging plants. It was crowded and dense, anyone moving around back here was completely obscured from the rest of the store. It was also where they hid the hoses and hand trucks, anything they might want to keep out of sight. Stiles recoiled the hose, he could hear Perry calling out to the customer to hang on a minute jeez I’m coming! He couldn’t help smiling, he liked Perry, even though the kid couldn’t do a single useful thing. It was nice to--

Shit!

Turning, Stiles nearly landed on his face on the concrete floor. His foot was caught in one of the potato vines, how had he even done that? He tried to shake it off, but it only seemed to get more tangled. He bent down and tried to pull his ankle free, but somehow his wrists were caught as well.

A sensation, a tingle like capsaicin smeared on the skin, burned him. His hair stood on end and his mind became painfully alert. He froze, he didn’t know why but every nerve in his body told him to freeze so hard he was unable to blink. The vines were moving, they were climbing his limbs, covering him, cocooning him in their wide striped leaves.But that wasn’t where the sensation was coming from, that wasn’t the reason his heart was hammering out of his chest.

Someone’s here.

Someone’s here.

The vines worked their fingers up his neck, circled his mouth, covered his hair. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t speak, but he could still see, he could still breathe. The ficus to his right began to bow and the fiddle ferns turned their leaves sideways until he was surrounded, walled in by green and a strange, incomprehensible pulse.

Footsteps. Up the aisle. Careful and steady. Then someone running to follow.

“Hey! There you are. Sorry, how can I help-”

“Are you the associate working this department?”

That voice. Something about it made his skin feel clammy and tight.

The vines constricted.

“Uh, yeah. How can I-”

Pfft.

Pfft-pfft.

Something heavy dropped to the ground.

“Bring the car.”

Stiles watched in horror as a pair of hands dragged one of the potted trees aside and then dragged Perry’s body across the concrete to drop it right next to Stiles’ vine covered sneaker. He couldn’t see the man doing it, just the black cotton pants he wore, the heavy soled black boots that stopped, turned slowly.

Stiles didn’t breath.

Perry’s eyes stared lifelessly up at the ceiling. There were two spreading circles of blood on his chest and one impossibly tiny hole above his left eyebrow. That wound wasn’t bleeding but something soft and dingy white was protruding wetly from its edges and Stiles thought he might be sick. The man, the lower half of him that Stiles could see, stood right next to him, waiting, and Stiles wasn’t sure how the man didn’t hear his heavy thudding heart, didn’t notice the strange clump of vegetation that must be shivering right beside his leg.

A soft ding went off, a text alert he was sure, and the man who had walked in here in broad daylight during business hour and murdered Perry, emerged from the copse of potted trees, moved one into place to hide the body, then walked down the aisle and out the automatic sliding glass doors.

 

+++

 

It hadn’t been easy, letting Mel take the hit like that, but he just had this feeling , so he hid in the bathroom, let her search him out and winced at his reflection when he heard her scream.

They shut everything down when the cops came. Stiles slipped out the back in the confusion, confident he could convince anyone who came looking for him that he hadn’t known they might want him to stick around for questions.

“.....and I didn’t say anything because - because - I actually don’t know why, it was just fucking surreal and now that wolf is gone and I know I should have said something but he’s - and who the fuck would want to kill Perry anyway?! I mean the guy is a shit employee and all but he’s harmless, right? Is this some Breaking Bad shit, you think? You think he’s, like, involved in some drug business? I mean, what the hell else is there to do out here? Dealers must be making a fortune. Oh my god there’s a drug cartel in this town. Oh my god I was right , what if my wolf is some sort of, like, trained pet? He’s an assassin….an assassin wolf and I’m a witness! So wait, ok, so Mr. Povel must have been their corner boy - man - corner man, no that’s boxing. But that’s why he was always out there! Dad I- “

His father’s hand gripped his, stronger than he’d felt in a long time. It soothed the panic, stemmed the building tide. Stiles took a few deep breaths.

“Yeah, you’re right, I’m just spooked bad. I mean who finds two bodies in a row?” Stiles gave his dad a watery smile. “Never underestimate Stillnski luck, am I right?”

 

+++

 

Late into the night, Stiles’ eyes opened wide, a momentary zipper of fear pulling him from sleep. It was the same feeling he got from his dreams, disorienting, but his arms and legs hadn’t got the message so he lay heavy against his bed, looking around the room. The stillness seemed false somehow, the banked tension of-

Someone rushed at him in the dark, a cruel hand clamped over his mouth.

A man. Two men, snaking arms around him and dragging him to his feet. Stiles screamed muffled curses and thrashed, fought as hard as he could while they pulled him out of the room and down the hall. He used their hold to lean back, kick his legs up wildly and slam a foot into the wall. It tumbled them all down together where Stiles managed to crawl out across the floor, scramble and make it to his feet just in time to collide into the unseen figure of another man, silver haired and dressed in black like the others, calm smile as he fisted Stiles’ hair and wrenched his head back, unfazed by Stiles clawing at his arm.

“No more mistakes this time.” He said to the two men who had finally righted themselves. “Go get the girl.”

Panic flooded Stiles and he struggled harder, feeling clumps of his hair snap. He punched at the man’s nose but it only got his hand batted easily away, his left arm twisted around behind his back in an excruciating angle. Stiles cried out in pain, tears burning his eyes. Heavy footsteps returned and this time Stiles could see they had Krissy between them. Oh god why was she here? Had they kidnapped her out of her bed too?

“Let her go!” He bit out, then screamed when his joints were forced a little harder.

“Is this the young man?”

“Yes sir, that’s Stiles.” And only now did Stiles register that Krissy wasn’t frightened, she wasn’t being held. In fact, she too was dressed all in black with her hair tied back under a black cap.

She was one of them. She was fucking one of them and it didn’t matter that this psycho was about to break his arm, he wanted to kill this bitch.

“Are you absolutely sure? The fallout from the civilian is going to be troublesome and I’d prefer not to have to deal with more incompetence from my people.”

“I give you my word, I’ve been with the family for three months now.”

“Excellent. And the father?”

“Basically a vegetable, we can take care of him right after we deal with the kid.”

Stiles saw red after that, he wasn’t even sure where it came from but he screamed. He screamed from down deep, the bottom of a pit he didn’t know he had in him, a rage that mushroomed up and caught alight until his whole body vibrated and his skin felt like it would slough off from the bone.

“Kill him!” The man yelled, struggling to hold on but Stiles broke loose, wheeled around and tackled him, pinned him with his hips and pounded over and over into his evil fucking face until the blood flowed. Hands were grabbing, pulling him back, dragging him on his knees away from the old man, who coughed and spat red globs into the carpet.

One of the men pulled a knife from his belt, moved in front of Stiles and drew it up under his chin.

A howl, louder and deeper than anything Stiles had ever heard, filled the air, filled the room and shook everything that wasn’t nailed down. It made everyone pause, even Stiles, who was about to meet his death and still found the sound terrifying in a way his assailants weren’t.

“Jesus Christ do it! We don’t have time!” The old man screamed, his face a mask of fury and blood. Teeth stained red, eyes round and rolling white.

The man brought the knife up again.

The click of a hammer sounded from the other side of the room, where Stiles’ father stood, weapon trained.
“Get your fucking hands off my son.”

Chapter Text

Two beats.

One...

Two…

Enough time to feel the tension expand, enough to look into each face and see the exact same thing, shock, the dream-to-wake confusion over the sight of John Stillinski standing tall and threatening death in a clear, strong voice.

“You son of a--” The old man’s snarl cut off by the sound of a choked scream, yelling, coming from the backyard. The old man hoisted himself to his feet. “Jones!”

Flash of knife, then everything exploded.

Gunshots, a body at his feet. Stiles threw himself to the ground, scrambling on hands and knees to get himself closer to his father. Not that the man needed help, he’d wedged himself behind a section of wall and nailed another of the assailants in the hip.

Stiles tucked himself against the wall just in time to see his front door kicked open. They had backup. Three, five, eight, a tide of stomping boots and there was no way they were going to live through this. Stiles looked over to his father, the grim line of his mouth. His dad nodded once.

He planned on going down fighting. Then fuck it, so would Stiles. He pulled himself tight, hands curling and teeth set.

But he didn’t get the chance.

Someone hauled him to his feet, a young man, not much older than him but strong, one hand fisted in his shirt, the other pulling a gun from his holster.

And then his head was gone.

Stiles was absolutely positive this guy had a fully operational head attached to his shoulders not five seconds ago, but now he stood facing a bloody stump, it’s hand still clutching the fabric of his shirt, body suspended for an awful, elastic moment on petrified nerves before it folded at the joints and fell to the ground. Stiles flailed back, frantically brushing the feel of the dead hand from his chest, so horrified he didn’t notice the screaming right away.

They were all screaming. In anger. In pain. Whirling around and around in a torrent of limbs, jangled flashlight beams, blood. A pale figure tore through them, cutting through bodies and hurling grown men clear across the room. Stiles couldn’t see his father in the chaos, tried to run to the hall but was stopped when the figure boxed him into the corner, shielded him from the rest of the assailants with his body as he faced them and roared. Stiles had never heard anything like it, not a human sound, but somehow he knew, he knew…..

The edges of his vision darkened and blurred, the panic making demands on his oxygen. Stiles slumped against the wall, sinking to the ground, and for a moment the figure turned and Stiles caught a glimpse of jagged teeth, gnarled brow, bristled fur. Then the sound cut out, the room smeared into an impression of movement, the figure hovering over him a few seconds more, then diving along the ground so fast it was useless to try following.

“Stiles!” He was in his father’s arms, getting shaken too hard. “Stiles you gotta breathe!”

“Yeah!” He croaked, dragging in another ragged breath and feeling his brain come back online. “Breathing, got it.” He stood, slowly, dizzy for a moment before he was getting pawed all over.

“Are you hurt? Stiles look at me, are you injured?!” A familiar voice said.

Derek was here. Derek was standing in front of him, running hands and frantic eyes all over his body, turning him easily to check his back.

Derek was….

“Why are you naked?”

+++

He wasn’t given the chance to freak out, which was - arguably - rude. Because if anyone, ever, deserved a block of unmolested time to freak right the fuck out, it was Stiles Stillinski at this very moment of his life.

The living room was completely destroyed. There were bullet holes and….and….fucking arrows in every wall. Bodies, and if he squinted in the dark, which he was not about to do, body parts strew over every surface. Three of them logjammed by the door, obviously killed as they tried desperately to escape. Derek picked his way through, kicking a few of them over to study with a calm sort of satisfaction, bare assed naked and covered in blood like some sort of bemused Gallic warrior.

But that wasn’t the most difficult part to fathom, not for Stiles, not by a longshot.

“Someone will have called the police by now, but they only keep one officer on the night shift, he’ll have to call the county over for backup. Which means we have about twenty minutes tops to clear out.”

His father was walking.

His father could talk. In fact, his father was doing a damned impressive job of moving about the room, digging through the carnage to cherry pick weapons, talking to Derek as if he wasn’t currently scaring and confusing the ever loving shit out of his one and only son. The wave was cresting, questions and adrenaline, pain and hope stacked and growing. John saw it in Stiles’ face when he caught his eye

“Son, this is going to go against every molecule of your nature, but I need you to hold your questions. We’re gonna talk, I’ll spill my goddamned guts all over your lap as soon as we’re safe, but right now I need you to get a bag and fill it with only the things you absolutely need and can carry on your back.” He turned his son around by the shoulders and shoved him in the direction of his room. “And get Derek some clothes!” He shouted after him.

Stiles stood in his room in a daze, looking around in the dark and considering, for the first time, that he had nothing to take. He had the clear impression they weren’t coming back, but there was nothing here of importance, he’d never made this place a home.

Grabbing a backpack from his closet, Stiles stuffed in clothes, underwear, socks, moved to the bathroom and grabbed toiletries at random, staring at the medicine cabinet for a moment before cramming every first aid item they had into the remaining space.

“Ummm...here.” Derek turned from the kitchen sink, where he’d been rinsing the worst of the blood from his body. He looked down at the pile of folded clothes Stiles held out, a pair of jeans that had always been a little too large on his hips, an old t-shirt and a flannel. “I don’t….I don’t have any shoes ….”

He also had completely forgotten to bring boxers, but apparently that was not a problem for Derek. While Stiles stood there awkwardly, waiting for any sort of acknowledgement, arms trembling slightly as he kept holding the clothing out in front of him like some sort of sacred offering, Derek leaned in and sniffed at the clothes, sniffed them, took the jeans and stared Stiles dead in the eyes as he pulled them over his naked lower half. Fairly glowered, eye to eye, as he cupped his own genitalia and tucked it into the snug sheath of denim. Which - Stiles may have been alone for the last few years without much in the way of social interaction, but he was pretty sure this was breaking some sort of unspoken civil contract.  He did his best not to look down.

The t-shirt barely fit over his muscled torso, he didn’t even try to put on the flannel Stiles had brought, which was probably just as well.

“All right boys,” John rounded into the kitchen, tossing a duffle bag at Derek who caught it easily. He had a matching one strapped across his body. “Let’s get a move on.”

+++

They were alone.

After walking half the night through backyards and side streets and schoolyards, they’d come to a motel. Derek prowled the whole parameter. John paid in cash. Stiles dumped his bag on the nearest bed, Derek picked it up and moved it to the one against the farther wall, glared at him and left.

“So…..”

They stared at one another until Stiles finally noticed the tremors his father was trying to hide, the shaky pull of his breath that broke on a miserable shell of a laugh.

“You know, I thought about this all the...all the time and I had this whole fatherly speech outlined and…..”

Stiles didn’t know what to say. Maybe it was shock, maybe it was lack of sleep, the questions were there, accusations too. But there were too many of them, so very much crashing around inside his head and none of them paused long enough for him to string into sentences. He was shaking, too, vibrating, his skin stretched tight as all that chaos roiled and inflated. All he could do was stand there, stare at his father. Stand and wait and hope the man knew how crazed he felt if he had moved past fidgeting.

“Why don’t you sit.” He gestured at the bed, but Stiles only managed a short shake of his head. “Ok...ok…..”

John paced, “Jesus there’s so much, I didn’t figure on how much would have to……..you need to understand that, right now, there are things you’re going to want to know that I can’t tell you, you understand? I can’t . It’s not mine to say and - and - we’ll get there. You’ll get there, you have to trust that, you have to trust me.”

Stiles scoffed at that, the sound cruder than he’d meant, but it was the only thing strong enough to break free.

“I know, I know you don’t,” his father gestured down at his legs. “I know this is bad. But I had reasons.” He sighed and sunk to the bed, hands running over his face and through his hair before looking up at Stiles.

“Your mother was dying. Cancer. We saw every doctor, they didn’t even recommend chemo, just told her to try and enjoy her last days. She didn’t want to tell you. God we fought about that, she was so stubborn, just like you.”

“We had these friends, the Hales. Talia and your mother had known each other since grade school. You used to have playdates with their daughter Cora sometimes. Derek is their eldest son.” He let Stiles absorb this bit of information. “When she told them about the cancer, they said…..they said they could help. One of the reasons we were close was that they knew…..about you. They recognised your abilities. You probably don’t remember this, you were about four or five, but we had Talia and her husband over for dinner one night. We gave you a pile of crayons and paper to keep you busy and you wanted to make Talia a picture, so you spent an hour just coloring your heart out and when you brought it to her, it was this cute little red fox in a forest. The trees were crooked as hell but you’d colored in the lines. We all passed it around and told you how great it was and you just pouted that we didn’t let you finish…… .and the next thing we know that little fox was jumping all over, running through the trees like it was - was a cartoon or something. Right there on the paper. Your mom and I tried to pass it off like we’d all just had too much wine but they knew. And that night they told us things, things about their family, how what you were - are- is rare, but not unheard of. They wanted to help you, and when Claudia got sick, they had a solution that we couldn’t turn down.”

“Derek’s parents told you they could cure terminal cancer. And you believed that?” Stiles said flatly.

“No Stiles, I’m telling you that they did cure her.”

“So, you’re saying they’re also magic? That, what, Derek’s come here and cured you, too?” He said bitterly.

Because he’d tried. He’d tried so many times to channel the flicker inside him, send it to his father to heal him and the thought that this stranger just appeared one day and succeeded where he’d failed, hurt.  

“No, the Hales aren’t magic exactly, not like you. But they are…..different. Derek has to be the one to tell you, I can’t. There are rules.”

“Then how. How are you standing, talking, how is this possible?”

His father took a deep breath.

“Because I was never paralyzed to begin with.”

+++

“You shouldn’t be outside.”

Stiles nearly jumped a foot out of his skin. “Good lord man, did you drop in from the roof?”

He’d needed to get some air, get out of that room and out from under the heavy, sorrowful gaze of his father. He’d found a bench in front of the management office, wasn’t sure how long he’s been out here but one minute he was privately hyperventilating with anger, the next Derek was standing beside him, still barefoot in Stiles’ too small shirt holding several bags.

“No.” He handed Stiles a white paper bag. “I’ve brought you food.”  

Stiles didn’t think he could eat a thing until the warm, grease perfumed steam hit his nose and suddenly he was ravenous. “You found me curly fries? At ass o’clock in the morning?”

“Don’t you like curly fries?” Derek just stood there, looking down at him with this strange mix of fascination and annoyance.

“Of course I like them!” He shouted, shaking several in the air between them before angrily stuffing them in his mouth, still intent on fuming. “Well,” he pushed out behind cheek-fulls of food. “Are you going to stand there like a creeper or you going to sit down?”

Derek rolled his eyes then walked away. “Good talk.” He muttered and opened the wrapper of a burger.

He’d finished the thing by the time Derek returned, one less bag in his hand and carrying two vending machine cokes. He sat next to Stiles on the bench, placed a can at his feet and began to eat in silence. Stiles snuck several sidelong glances, but Derek seemed content to stare off in the distance and the slowly rising sun.

“You’re going to be his new favorite if you’re bringing him burgers. I never let him have this stuff.” He looked into the bag at the second burger Derek had brought him, handed it over since he couldn’t eat it. Derek polished it off easy and didn’t say anything when Stiles stole a few of his fries. “I cooked all his meals. All of them. Weekends I would spend all day cooking so there was stuff in the freezer. I did everything for him, do you get that? Everything. And the shitty part……” He stares at the hot bright slit of the horizon and lets the incoming light burn the sting from his eyes. “The shitty part wasn’t that I had to care for him, you know? I didn’t even mind that so much, it was that he couldn’t fucking talk to me. But guess what? He could, and he didn’t. For years, Derek. I’ve been alone for years.”

He thinks Derek’s going to stay quiet, and he does, for a minute, until Stiles turns and finally catches on that the man has been staring at him the whole time. “Do you know why he did it?”

“How the hell should I know.” Stiles slumped back against the bench.

“I was told you were smart. Figure it out.” And Stiles looked over at him in surprise at the challenge.

“It’s not polite to insult the host of the pity party. Don’t you know that?” But Derek only raised an eyebrow. “Alright, fine. But your information is faulty, I’m borderline genius.”

And the left corner of Derek’s mouth pulled up, just slightly. And it eased something hard in Stiles’ core in an equally microbic amount.

“To protect me, I guess. Because I’m all whhooOOO!” He rolled his eyes heavenward and fluttered his hands in the air in a healthy dose of sarcastic melodrama.

“You’re a ghost?” Derek shot back just as sarcastically.

“No, dick, because I’m...you know….magical. And it’s not even the cool kind of magic, with like lightning storms or prognostication. It’s pretty much just plants and shit. So why would anyone go to all the trouble to kill someone who’s basically a wood sprite?”

“You’re not a wood sprite.”

“Good, cause if you haven’t noticed this place is fresh out of dappled meadows and I’d wind up in a body cast if I tried to frolic. My point is, whatever the hell I am, it’s not--”

“You’re a Spark.” Derek hesitated, looking sideways at Stiles. “And it means you have power over more than just plants. And shit.”

“A Spark? Oh my god Derek you’re right! I can feel it!” Stiles jumped to his feet, extending his arms in front of him, staring in awe at his hands. “How could I have never noticed before?”

He extended an arm to the horizon, hand clawed, pretending to strain and heave the sun higher with his magic as it rose slowly before them. “Look ‘it Derek! See how the heavens bend to my whims!” And he made sure to put on an impressive performance, arms raised to the newly risen sun, laughing in sarcastically maniacal triumph as someone three doors down yelled at him to shut the fuck up.

When he was finished acting like a smartass, he threw himself back onto the bench, not bothering to check Derek’s reaction.

“Dude, I’m telling you, this spark thing? It’s lame. Or broken. He went to all this insane trouble, fuck, those murdering asshats went to all this trouble, and I’m not even worth the effort.”

He grinned casual, no real bitterness and no fishing for validation. But this was the part where someone might offered platitudes, tell him no no no, he was worth more than he could possibly imagine, love was a great soaring eagle and all that jazz hands, and he was already shrugging it off, but Derek wasn’t saying anything. Not a word.

And for some reason that made him feel better.

“So my dad said you and your family got some kind of voodoo, too. He won’t tell me though. I saw your…..you know….rawwwr,” Stiles looked like a three year old making a monster face, big eyes squinting, puckish nose wrinkled. Derek rolled his eyes. “Back there. He said you weren’t magic, so not a warlock, I’m guessing. And mom was a lapsed Christian but I can’t see her hanging around with demons. Gremlin?” Derek shot him an incredulous scowl. “Goblin?”

“Do I look like a goblin to you?”

Now it was Stiles’ turn to roll his eyes. “No, you look like Mr. October on a fireman calendar, but this could be some kind of a glamour or something, what the hell do I know? If I could glamour on a new face I’d totally upgrade, too. I mean, maybe not as much as you’ve done, not so cliche.”

“Cliche?”

“Um, yeah dude, the cheekbones? The stubble? And what, you couldn’t decide on one eye color? I mean, 10 out of 10, excellent work, just maybe a little too hot.”

“You think I’m hot Stiles?” And the smile was sly but full and oh-- Stiles could see he had bunny teeth , and they were adorable…..they were…..they were growing.

Elongating smoothly, tapering over his stretched lips, and Stiles was so transfixed he didn’t notice right away how Derek’s eyes glowed blue.

“Oh man, are you a vampire?” He whined in distaste.

“Werewolf.” And nipped the air by Stiles’ finger when it moved in to touch.Stiles pouted.

“Well that’s a relief, but this is all you get with your wolfy membership card? Glow stick eyes and some fangs? You should lodge a complaint with the monster union, I would.”

Derek twitched then, rolled his head, shoulders, opened his jaws as the bones in his face shifted beneath the skin until they popped and set. Stiles watched, mouth gaping, and when Derek turned to him, he couldn’t help reaching out to run his fingers through the thick sideburns, up along the pointed line of each ear, down over the swoop of his heavily twisted brow.

“This is so cool, where do your eyebrows go? Are they pulled back into the follicle when the supraorbital ridge extends? Is this even bone?” His long fingers pressed dashes across the whole span. “Do your teeth protract over the other set?” He tried to pull at Derek’s lips but only got his hands slapped away. “I don’t see any gum pockets. Which means you must have amazing healing abilities if the tissue’s getting split each time.”

“You are a very strange person.” Derek lisped behind his fangs.

“My dad should have told you that at orientation. Hey, why aren’t you full Wolfman? I mean, shouldn’t you be hairier? And larger? Please don’t tell me the movies lied.”

Derek shifted back to his human features. He arched a brow at Stiles the moment he regained ownership of them.

“Some of us have other forms we can take. Shouldn’t you be a little more alarmed by all this?”

“By you? Nah, I once set my school clothes on fire with my mind when I was nine because I didn’t want to be the asshole in a sweater vest on picture day. That was fucking alarming. Never figured out how to do it again, but my mother stopped trying to dress me for school, so final points to Stiles.”

+++

John was asleep by the time Derek managed to corral Stiles back to the motel room. It was better that way, he was still too upset with his father, still unsure how they were supposed to move forward from here. Talking to Derek turned out to be an excellent distraction. He felt more centered, calmer. He knew Derek must think he had a screw loose for being so blase about the whole werewolf reveal, but honestly, looking at Derek, seeing him change and understanding that he, too, had lived his whole life as something other, made him feel a lot less alone.

“Go to sleep.” Derek pointed at the empty bed.

“Well when you say it like that I kinda want to stay up.” Stiles grinned even as he toed off his shoes. It was fun pushing Derek’s buttons, especially considering he got the distinct impression that nobody ever did that to him, and he wasn’t quite sure how to react beyond crossing his arms and trying on various scowls. But he actually was exhausted, so peeling off his hoodie and jeans, Stiles crawled under the scratchy sheets and sighed into the pillow. The sounds of Derek in the bathroom, taking a shower lulled him off to sleep, and it was a testament to how drained he was that he didn’t even consider the fact that Derek was wet and naked on the other side of the wall. He roused only once more, when the mattress dipped as Derek crawled under the covers behind him. A solid arm draped across his middle and that was definitely Derek’s heavily muscled torso slotting in tight against Stiles’ back.

“Are...spooning….?” He mumbled.

“Shut up Stiles.”


But Stiles was already out, and not long after, so was Derek.

Chapter Text

“And there aren’t any packs around here that might offer assistance?”

“Not that we have an alliance with, no. And assuming Gerard managed to reconnect with his people, it’s only a matter of time before they regroup. The only advantage we have is that they won’t be able to track you from the house, assuming the cops have already blocked it off as a crime scene.”

Stiles groaned himself conscious and rolled over in the bed. Sitting up, scratching absently at his jaw, eyes bulging when they finally focused on Derek standing there, talking to his father in nothing more than a borrowed pair of Stiles’ too small boxer briefs.

“Hey there...uhh...morni--” Miscalculating his attempt to act casual, Stiles went over the side of the bed, thrashing about in the covers that follow him down.

“Looks like he’s awake.” John sighed.

Derek pulled a large trash bag from the floor and dumped its contents on the other bed. Clothes and shoes and even some camping gear. He began to rip tags off a brand new shirt and pair of jeans before putting them on. There were security hard tags on them too, but it was just as simple for him to snap those off as well.

“Do a little shopping this morning?” Stiles wandered over to the bed after righting himself, picking up a package that read Flint Striker before tossing that back in favor of the fixed handle hunting knife, which his father promptly reached over and took from him, prescient enough to know his son was about to start brandishing it like a samurai. “Where did you get all this stuff?”

“I borrowed it.”

“Uh huh,” Stiles nodded. “And you didn’t think to ‘borrow’ a package of boxers? I mean, not that you can’t borrow mine.”

Derek ducked his head as he yanked on the jeans, hiding the hint of a blush. “I didn’t think of it, I don’t usually wear them.”

Yeah… ” Stiles nodded in appreciation, lost for a moment before cutting a guilty glance at his father. “I mean-- yes! That is…….well within your prerogative as a man….to, uhhhh….”

“Stiles.” His father barked.

“So who’s hungry?”

“We’ll eat later. Derek, what’s the plan?”

“We’ll need to lay low for now, it’ll be safer to move him at night. I can get us to the Farkas territory in about four days, we’ll be expected to stay long enough to hold an official audience with their alpha. From there I should be able to get a vehicle for the rest of the way. A week, as long as nothing goes wrong.” Both men gave Stiles and uncertain look. “But I need you to make it to Beacon Hills in a day , warn the pack that Gerard got away. There’s a chance he could be desperate enough to stage an attack on them directly, again.”

“Wait, we’re splitting up?” Stiles dove around Derek, looking incredulously back and forth between them. “Why would we do that? Why don’t we all just get there in a day? Together! Buddy road trip, dad can pick the music and you can stick your head out the window. OK! Wow, no dog jokes, I get it. But why do we need to take a week to get there? What, are we walking to California?”

“Yes.” Derek grunted.

“No. Ummm no--  hang on. Please explain how inching our way back to California on foot makes more sense than just getting on a bus, or hell hitching a ride!”

“No one would pick us up.”

“Well not when you make that face!”

“And Gerard will be expecting something like that.”

“He’s right son.” His father laid a hand on Stiles’ shoulder, which was immediately shrugged off. “They’re going to work on the assumption that our goal is to get you back to Hale territory as soon as possible, and that means staking out checkpoints along the major routes. They have eyes everywhere, and they’ll be trained to look for a father and son, you’ll have a much better chance if you travel off the grid, and I’ll have a much better chance by going it on my own. And if I’m found, then I won’t be able to tell them where you are.”

Stiles was furious, “You mean if you’re tortured.”

John gave him the slyest smile he could manage.

“They’ll have to catch me first, and your old man’s got a few tricks.”

“Obviously.” Stiles muttered.

“We’ll have to push hard tonight,” Derek continued. “The land here is too open. If we loop around below Reno I can get us into cover before dawn. I’ll feel much better once I get him in the forest.”

“Ok, hang on! Derek, ya mind stepping outside just for one second?”

“Yes. I mind.”

“I just need one second alone with my father- “

“No.”

He had to admit, Derek’s private weekly coaching from the Samuel L Jackson Death Glare Academy was really paying off, but Stiles was not someone that cowed easily. He didn’t have the face for outright intimidation, but he had a tendency to step in instead of backing down when threatened and a lot of times this was taken as a kind of unpredictability that most bullies found they’d rather not test.

“Alright boys.”

Stiles was just puffing out his chest when John cut in with a sigh, one that Stiles realized he’d missed hearing all these years. He’d missed feeling like a son, with a parent to watch over him, missed getting yelled at about the laundry or getting caught in some kind of epic fuck up with Scott by his side, watching in real time as the headache settled right between his father’s eyes. “Derek, let me have a minute alone with my son. We’re not going to have another opportunity for a while.”

It seems Derek couldn’t refuse his father so easily, and it was with a smug little upturn of his mouth that Stiles watched him turn sharply on his heel and shut himself on the other side of the motel door with a neat click.

“This is completely freaking crazy, you have to know that right?! You’re going to send me off into the dark, forsaken wilderness with a werewolf that we barely know!”

“Stiles, this isn’t a German fairy tale, those woods aren’t filled with spooks and monsters--”

“Like werewolves?”

“--and I do know Derek, Stiles.” He continued, ignoring the snark. “Better than you think. I knew him when he was younger and I know his family. We’ve….stayed in contact…..in a manner of speaking, and as it turns out, I know some of the newer members of his pack as well. You’re not going to understand this right now, but getting you back to Beacon Hills, back to the safety of the pack isn’t just a job for Derek, nor is it something he’s bound by some sort of wolf honor to do. Protecting you is the single imperative for his survival.”

“Imperative for his survival? Little dramatic don’t you think?”

“Not at all. He’s willing to die for you, like I would. There’s no one else on this earth I would trust with you but him. Stiles, I’ve spent years doing what I thought was right to keep you safe, I’ve had to make some very difficult choices, but this isn’t one of them. I know it’s a lot to ask, considering everything the way it is between us right now, but I need you to believe me.”

“But I don’t even know him.”

His father gave him an unreadable smile. “You know him better than you think.”

“Well, what the hell is that supposed to mean?”

Stiles turned to see Derek, standing fully in the window glaring at them. Just standing there two feet from the glass as if normal people did such a thing.

“God, he’s such a creeper.”

“He’s got werewolf hearing son.”

 

+++

 

They left John one minute after dark. Derek took the older man aside for a final private word before shouldering a backpack of supplies and handing a similar one to Stiles. It was lighter than he expected, wondered how they were going to make it four days in the wilderness without any real gear. Not that Stiles had ever been camping before, but he was sure you at least needed a tent.

When it was time to walk out the door, his father rocked uneasy in his shoes, wanting to rush forward and hug his son, reassure him, but Stiles would only give him a grimaced smile, a half wave, and John didn’t push or say more than goodbye.

The city lights followed them as Derek headed straight out into the scrub. About an hour or so in, Stiles could no longer see or hear any trace of civilization under the half light of the waning moon. Every now and again, Derek would pause, cock his head just exactly like a dog and listen, so they must have been close enough to something that he could still sense. Among the supplies Derek had ‘borrowed’ was an overlarge, flannel lined canvas coat that he’d given to Stiles which had soon become the single most important item in his possession. It was cold out here. Strange, flat cold, unnoticed for miles and miles before it hit him. Each step shorter than the last, naked sky and the foreign black sea of land swallowing the distance, disorienting him so he couldn’t trust the ground to meet his feet or his eyes to correctly perceive. All this time Derek stayed silent, the soft sheen of his leather jacket a floating beacon in the dark. He tried once to engage, to start some sort of conversation to distract from the weariness that was circling the edges, but Derek cut him abruptly short and Stiles learned definitively that werewolves couldn’t tell when you flipped the finger at the back of their head.

Once, they passed a distant glow on the horizon that appeared to spread and pulse like an infection, the closest they’d been to other people all night.

And once, Derek halted sharply in front of Stiles, one hand holding him back as he growled, low and threatening at something only the the werewolf could see. There was an odd crunching sound, then the brush shook as something big ran off without a challenge.

When the chipped hills and packed dirt gave way to copses of trees and the distant sound of running water, Stiles heaved a grateful sigh, barely able to stay on his feet and more than ready to just drop flat out on the nearest patch of grass. But Derek pushed them on, farther in, where the woods became quickly denser, following some sense of route that Stiles couldn’t make out for the life of him. There was no path, no clear winding throughway, just branches and spliced fallen logs to trip him up, wet hillocks to climb, leaves slapping him in the face.

“There.” Derek pointed up ahead to a large shadow set above them, maybe a quarter mile away.

Stiles only managed to grunt, barely awake, treading on auto. He was aware when the ground pitched up, then the sensation of getting hauled off his swollen feet as Derek tucked him against his body and carried him like a child up a steep slope. It felt so amazingly good to not have to walk anymore, and Derek was so warm, he let his head fall heavy on Derek’s shoulder, the scent of leather in his nose, and fell asleep like that, twenty feet off the ground.

 

+++

 

“Dear diary, today I woke up to the Hale boy spooning me. Not sure what it means so I’ll have to ask Jenny after gym class.”

A grumpy huff of air batted the back of his neck.

Stiles had come to a moment earlier, warm and snug, blearily wondering how a wall of rock made its way into his bedroom. But he was so comfortable, held tight in Derek’s arms, that he didn’t immediately pull away when he finally remembered where he was.

“It’s tactical.”

“Tactical snuggling.”

Derek grunted as he propped himself up on his elbow, and Stiles rolled over so he could look up at the man. It was strange, being so close to another person like this. No matter how much he told himself the smart thing would be to pull away, create a healthy distance, his body didn’t feel like listening. It had been so long since anyone had touched him, even in just a friendly gesture, that he could be forgiven for wanting to indulge in pressing up against the single hottest human being he’d ever laid eyes on. He was only a man after all and flesh was weak.

“It prevents anyone from taking you in the night without waking me. And animals will stay away if you have my scent on you.”

“So I’m correct in assuming this will be an ongoing theme of our journey together?”

Derek looked down as he sat up, a tinge of pink brightening his cheekbones. “You don’t-- you don’t have to,” He mumbled. “If it makes you uncomfortable.”

“Hey, no!” Stiles made to reach for him, pulled his hand back at the last minute. “It doesn’t. It’s…..nice….actually.” And when Derek turned around to look at him, Stiles offered his own pink cheeked attempt at a smile. “It’s been awhile since….. you know…....and anyway, you’re like a space heater! I’m pretty sure you kept me from freezing to death last night. So….”

God this was awkward. He knew how to tease, he knew how to jab out sarcasm at every conceivable moment but this thing where the two of them stumbled around admitting they’d prefer to sleep wrapped around one another was making him feel unsteady.

“Are you hungry?”

“Yes!” Stiles almost bodily leapt for the chance to change the subject. He scrambled up sitting, Derek pulled one of the packs closer and began rummaging through the pockets. There were energy bars for each of them, a small pile of cashews, a single apple and water from their canteens. “Please tell me there’s coffee in there.”

“Sorry.” Derek’s face pinched, as if he’d just realized a grave mistake. “I only grabbed the basics.”

“Dude, I was kidding! Relax big guy, for a life or death wilderness trek, you’re totally pulling it off. A plus, Bear Grylls approved.”

They ate in silence after that, Derek pulling out his mountain man knife to cut slices from the apple, alternately handing some to Stiles while eating the rest right from the blade. Stiles did the absolute best he could to ignore the sight of neat white teeth coming down around the sharp edge. He ignored it so hard.

“So where are we?” Stiles looked around, taking in their surroundings for the first time.

It wasn’t so much of a cave as a small, flat cut in the hillside tucked under an overhang of rocks. One side was sheltered by a short wall of boulders while the rest opened up to a view of the forest below. The hillside was much steeper, and considerably higher than he’d first realized. It was ideal, really, as a place to safely bunk for the night, and Stiles wondered if Derek had been here before. He’d certainly seemed to know where he was going last night.

“We’re just inside the eastern border of the Tahoe National Forest. We need to head northwest from here to make it to Plumas.”

“I see. And is there any way I can convince you to carry me some or most of the way?” He stretched out his legs and rolled his ankles. Derek had removed his shoes last night, which was chivalrous of him, but now it was unlikely he’d ever get them on again.

Before he knew what was happening, both of his leg were pulled around into Derek’s lap, who immediately peeled off his socks and dug his strong fingers into the arch of Stiles’ right foot.

“What are you-- uugnhh shit -- Derek my feet are gross! I’ve been-- oh my god right there --” Unrelenting hands moved over his instep, massaged each toe and down the blade of his foot to his heel. Furrowed up the tense muscle of his shin, wrapping around to knead his calf. Derek effectively ignored his protests until he had Stiles splayed out backwards on the ground by his ministrations, groaning in appreciation with one arm slung over his face.

“This is totally worth getting almost murdered twice by psychotic neo-militia assassin whatevers.”

Derek moved on to his other foot. “Hunters.”

Stiles peeked out from under his arm, intrigued. But he was loath to ruin the moment, so he held back.

 

+++

 

“Alright. Sooo...werewolves. Hit me.”

They’d been walking for barely an hour, but the difference between last night and this morning was marked. It was gorgeous out, for one, cool and bright. The soreness in his ankles and feet was totally gone, every step felt light and easy as they traveled, a refreshing sort of energy sparkling under his skin. He felt good , his mind clear and eager to stretch itself around the situation at large. It was odd, wasn’t it? To have this sense that a weight was lifting? It shouldn’t be like that, he was running for his life, there were people that wanted him dead for reasons he didn’t understand yet….but….

But he would understand. Maybe that was it. There was a problem to solve, and he had possession of a supple, open mind, one that hadn’t gotten much use over the last few years. Day after day, worn dull and bleary by mindless work, by tedium. He’d almost forgotten how exciting it could be to learn something truly new.

And Derek seemed much more amenable to talking today. “What do you want to know?”

“Ok - ok- this is so awesome--” He followed Derek’s lead in leaping over a fallen branch, tripped immediately and scrambled back to his feet as if nothing happened. “So have you always been a wolf? Were you born this way? What are the non-human traits? I know you’re strong, can you lift a car? Do you need to work out? You look like you work out. Or does that come with the package? If you tell me you can sit on your ass all day eating pizza and still keep those abs I will hate you. You mentioned packs, is there a hierarchical social structure? Do you live with your pack or is it more of a loose conglomerate of like minded lupine……..what? Why are you looking at me like that?”

“I just wasn’t expecting you to be so enthusiastic about this. Most humans have a hard time. If they see the teeth, they figure our only aim is to kill and maim.” Derek had stopped, staring, not at Stiles, but at a memory that lived between the trees off to the left.

“Well,” Stiles crept in slowly, as if afraid Derek might spook. “I’m not really a human, am I?”

Derek startles, as if just now realizing Stiles is there. He looks him over hard, and it’s difficult to guess what he’s seeing when he stares into Stiles eyes. “No, but you were raised human.” He starts walking again and Stiles follows, tripping up a few steps so they can move side by side. “My father always told me not to try to understand humans, or to try to make them understand us. He said they don’t understand pack, that they cannot see the world as we do or live in it the same way. My mother disagrees, but she’s the Alpha, so she must hold caution at a higher value than tolerance.”

“And what do you think?”

“I think,” Derek slowed thoughtfully. “I think if you’re going to be pack, then there’s something I should show you.”

And he turned to stand deliberately in front of Stiles, fixing him with a hard look before slowly removing his jacket, peeling his shirt over his head to reveal the delicious cut of every muscle, the dark hair of his chest trailing down over his abs a disappearing beneath the waistband of his jeans.

“Oh my god this is happening,” Stiles whispered, licking his lips unconsciously. When Derek moved to undo the fastenings, shoving the denim hard down his thighs, thick, uncut cock swinging heavy between his legs, it was all Stiles could do to remember that it might be considered bad manners to fall to his knees and bury his face in the man’s crotch uninvited. Christ he was fully naked now and there was literally no where Stiles could look on the man that wouldn’t make him hard. Nope, shit, there it went. Stiles was in stage four erection. He pulled the coat around him tighter, hoping Derek hadn’t seen, because a complete lack of body consciousness (and to be fair, if Stiles looked like that he’d roam the world naked) didn’t mean the guy wanted to deal with the skinny kid he’d been assigned to protect’s big gay crush.

Not that any of that mattered two seconds later when Derek dropped on all fours and turned into a giant black wolf.

No. Revise that. Turned into Stiles’ giant black wolf.

“Motherfucker!”

Was it a logical course of action to throw down his pack and launch himself headfirst into the wolf? Maybe not for someone with a sane amount of impulse control, but it did take Derek by surprise, so there was that. Stiles got both arms fully around the wolf’s neck as he’d rammed into him, knocking them both over and around. They ended up, after tussling about like they used to in Stiles’ backyard, with Derek finally getting Stiles on his back, his front paws and enormous head pinning him down.

“Ugh I get it! You win, now get off me you heavy bastard!” Derek licked his cheek and Stiles couldn’t help laughing. “I thought you’d left me.” He said with a bit more sincerity than he’d intended.

“Wait a minute! You ate Mr. Povel!”

And right where they lay, Derek changed back into his human form, glaring down at Stiles. “I didn’t eat him! Jesus I’m not a cannibal. He was spying on you for the hunters. I saw them, he was planning on contacting them when you went to work that morning, was going to walk them right up to you and stand there as they murdered you.”

“Wow. That’s…..I fucking made that man cookies! Please tell me there was some fantastic bounty on my head that he couldn’t resist. I could almost forgive him if he stood to collect.”

Derek growled, and Stiles felt it fill his chest and skate down to his toes. “Twenty thousand.”

“That’s it ?! Twenty grand?! I’m worth a hell of a lot more than that.” Stiles laughed.

“I think so.” Derek murmured, looking at him with those starburst green eyes. And suddenly Stiles was very, very aware of how naked Derek was and how perfectly solid he felt pressing him into the ground.

“Ummm, dude. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable or anything, so it might be a good idea if you got off me now. Or parts of me are going to-- “

“It doesn’t bother you that I’m a wolf?” He didn’t move an inch from where he lay over Stiles.

“What? No. What?” Stiles tried to push against the man a little, but it was like pushing rock and god that was such a fucking turn on. His voice started to shake. “I already met you as a wolf, we had a whole friendship montage. In fact, you’re kind of the same exact asshole even covered in fur. A big furry asshole. Now will you please get off me because there’s only so much naked wolf-man a poor gay virgin can take and I really don’t want to make things weird.”

Derek pushed up on all fours, still caging Stiles in, and sniffed delicately at the air around his body and grinned. “What would be weird, that you’re aroused? That’s totally natural, you don’t need to be ashamed of that.”

“Yeah, well, most people aren’t interested in getting acquainted with my boners, hence the virgin thing, and I didn’t want to make assumptions about your comfort level with my sexuality.”

Derek stared at him, calm as anything. Stiles’ brain kicked into a ferocious round of don’t look at his cock don’t look down don’t look at that cock don’t you fucking look.

“Wolves don’t adhere much to sexual labels.” He shrugged, stood up and began to redress. “We can propagate our species through the bite of an Alpha, so gender pair bonding doesn’t hold the same significance. And male born-wolves hold some advantages when it comes to mating. Come on, let’s get going.”

There was that sly grin again, as if he’d finally discovered the way to get under Stiles’ skin was to bait him with knowledge.

Stiles scrambled to his feet. “What does that mean? Wait…”

Derek started off into the trees.

“Derek can male wolves get pregnant? Derek? Wait, do you have the power to knock up another dude?! Derek………..?”

 

+++

 

They traveled all day, barely stopping to rest or eat, but Stiles hardly noticed. Every slow mile was ignored in favor of listening to Derek talk about his family, his pack. He told Stiles about the Hale family, how it was considered old and respected among the werewolf packs that lived scattered along the west coast. How they lived in an enormous house within the Preserve of Beacon Hills, the land protected by them for centuries, the power of the Alpha passed along from one Hale to the next through the blood of the eldest heir until it had reached his mother. How she was a good Alpha, how she’d protected them and grew their ranks with new wolves chosen from the community, young men and women that needed a home and wanted to help stop the never ending stream of supernatural threats constantly putting Beacon Hills at risk.

He talked about his sisters, his aunts and uncles and friends, the house and the land and the hoards of children with tangled braids and dirty knees that ruled the homestead with adorable tyranny.

And as they walked, they got closer. Little touches, little smiles. A hand at the small of Stiles back that lingered, a glance that caught Derek’s eye too long.

That evening, when Derek found them a suitable shelter, he told Stiles to gather wood for the fire, stripped down and changed into his wolf, bounding off into the tree to hunt their dinner.

Stiles managed to find a good supply of dry wood and arranged it into a neat pile before setting about making up the shelter, laying out a pile of green pine branches for a bed and covering it with leaves. As he sat back, legs stretched out before him, staring at the darkening canopy above, Stiles realized that he could feel the thread of his magic, feel its hum inside him without having to seek it out. It had never felt this close to the surface before. Still fragile seeming, tenuous, but there. Alive and unfurling with the patience of a vine. He lost himself in it, pulling deep inside to measure, running his mind over the pulse and glow.

A crack of a branch and Stiles opened his eyes to see Derek, in his wolf form, dragging the body of a deer by its limp neck. And with some impulse he couldn’t explain, Stiles looked to the pile of branches he’d gathered and pushed a filament of that glow towards it, his mind clean of doubt, and the whole circle ignited into flame.

Before he could react, Stiles was hauled to his feet and spun in a dizzying circle as Derek laughed and hugged him, blushed and then set him free.

“You did it.” He finally said, failing to get a handle on his smile.

That night there was no hesitation when Stiles lay out along the pine bed. Derek wrapped a strong arm around him and pulled him in close, and Stiles went easy, curled against his warm body, full bellied and safe. Half under, Stiles almost didn’t register the teeth at his nape, pressing softly into his skin, filling him with a syrupy contentment that bleed out every tension. That pulled him into darkness sweet and vast.

Chapter Text

The severed plank of road ahead, constricted in the lens of the jeep’s headlights, never seems to change. He can’t get closer even as the smell of smoke burns in his nostrils, even as the glow ahead climbs up the night sky. He can hear them screaming. Or he’s screaming. Nothing holds a source, everything is swallowed by the trees.

He doesn’t see the spike strip. He doesn’t feel the crash.

Men shout in the woods. The headlights have gone out but the horn wails and Stiles isn’t sure if he’s breathing or not.

Pain in his arm. Good, honest pain that gives him a tether. The sky and the branches above him dragged away. He’s somewhere dark, damp seeping into his back. But a soft heat covers him, cocoons his body and takes the pain. Stiles wants to say thank you, but his lips won’t move, so he looks up at the two glowing blue eyes above him and is unafraid.

Beautiful

Stiles wakes up retching. There is a terrible, cloying scent in his nose and his head feels like it’s splitting in half. He crawls along the ground, sweating and sticky, the dirt clinging to him in sickly clumps. His sweat looks grey where it covers his skin, he can see it on the backs of his hands and feel the tacky coolness coating his face and neck. Nothing comes out when he retches again, flopping to his back and holding his head in his hands.

“Derek…” he calls out weakly. The sun is newly risen and he can hear Derek crashing through the trees towards him. “I was there….” he whispers before slipping back under.

 

+++

 

“Knew you couldn’t wait to get me naked.”

“Shut up Stiles.”

Waking up half dressed in Derek’s lap had been, for eleven whole seconds, perfect.

“Gotta say this would be a lot less awkward if I weren’t the only one without a shirt.”

Derek only glared and made another pass with the wet rag. Stiles was stretched across his thighs loosely, limbs splayed out, head cradled in one of Derek’s strong arms while the man carefully sponged him down and fed him sips of water.

“I can’t leave you alone for one fucking second, can I?” he sounded so angry but his hands were gentle and when they brushed along his face, his thumb lingered at his cheek.

It was then that it hit him, the dream cuttingly fresh, and Stiles wailed and tried to turn away, hands covering his sobs. But Derek hauled him up, lowered him into his lap and pressed them together, running his hands along Stiles’ shivering back and letting the man weep into the safety of his neck.

“How could I forget? How could I just leave and never--” Stiles took a huge, hiccuping breath, shuddering as the tears ebbed. Derek only held him tighter. “And you….I didn’t even remember you.”

Derek’s whole body tensed briefly before he sighed.

“It’s called ‘twilight’. Your body is flushing it out. They gave it to you in the hospital. It helps with the pain, helps you forget.”

Stiles had calmed down enough that he was no longer crying, but he didn’t make a move from Derek’s embrace. “Who’s they?”

“Deaton, our emissary. But it was my mother’s decision, and your father agreed. For someone like you, they couldn’t erase all of it, your magic was too strong, but they could mute it some. And as long as you didn’t talk about it, didn’t start thinking too hard on what had happened, it would work. It’s why your father chose not to speak. I was hoping I could get you home before this happened, so your father could be here to explain.”

“This is so fucked up.” Stiles pulled back, straddling Derek’s lap and anchored to his shoulders. Tearstained face bright and flushed, searching for something in Derek he wasn’t sure he was going to find. “She - my mom - was so excited about me meeting your whole family that night, about the party. She looked so pretty, and she’d made a chocolate tart and even picked out my clothes which I complained about, I remember, cause I was sixteen but- but- you were going to be there and I was finally going to man up and talk to you. And I remember my dad was going to meet us from work, and then Scott called to whine about some girl he was in love with and he wouldn’t shut up and I remember being so irritated because he was making me late and I just wanted to get over there and maybe find out your favorite band or something while I was still pumped up for it. And then it was….I was speeding down the road because something felt wrong, I was panicked and there was smoke in the woods, fire, I could see it. And then a chain on the ground and I crashed and…….” he grabs Derek’s face, searching and intense, and Derek is being so fucking calm but his breath comes in short little pants. “Tell me it was you. The blue eyes in the dark, I’ve been fucking dreaming about them for years now and it felt like I was going crazy.”

Then Derek did something he was totally unprepared for. He  lifted Stiles’ arm, ran his fingers over the puckered, circular scar, and kissed it. Carefully, reverently. And pure white bolts of heat detonated in the pit of Stiles’ belly, filling him with fire, overwhelming him for one terrifying second.

“The hunters were coming for you, I got to you as fast as I could but they were right on top of us. I’m sorry I hurt you, Stiles. I didn’t have time to shift back and--”

He can’t finish, Stiles can see how ashamed he feels for having injured him all those years ago.

“It doesn’t matter. Hey,” he turns Derek’s face back when the man tries to look away. “I doesn’t matter. You saved me, right? If you beat yourself up about that I’ll think you don’t like me.” He gave a feeble laugh.

“I like you.” Derek looked back at him in surprise, so intense and urgent it made Stiles shift uncomfortably. He couldn’t take that to mean what he wanted, Derek had told him werewolves were all pack and family and...and he just couldn’t trust that someone like Derek, someone so beautiful and brave and sincere, would want someone like him in that way.

“I’m cold.” He shivered. Derek hurried to pull a clean shirt on him, wrap him in the warm canvas coat. He didn’t want to leave the safety of Derek’s lap, but he couldn’t stay. His nerves were raw, his mind drowning, every other word felt laced with tears and Derek was being so careful with him, if he stayed where he was he might try to kiss the man and Stiles knew that would be a mistake.

“We could stay here, if you like. Take another day if you’re not feeling well. You can just sleep, build your strength. I’ll take care of you. Whatever you want.” Derek hovered, unsure and frowning as Stiles gathered their things.

“I think we should keep moving. I’m fine, I feel fine now. I think most of that stuff is out of my system. So...uhh thanks.” He can’t help smiling at Derek, can’t help giving him the approval he somehow feels the man craves. He’s not sure when it happened, but somewhere in the few days he’d known him, Derek had gone from the scowling, snarling jackass that had kicked down the doors of his life to the grumpy puppy falling over himself to make Stiles comfortable, twisted Stiles’ insides in a knot anytime he smiled.

“How about this,” Stiles can feel how uncertain Derek is. “You go hunt me up something we can roast for breakfast and after that we’ll just take a long, leisurely stroll and you can fill in the gaps.”

“Ok. Just don’t….I won’t be far.”

He tries to glare Stiles into place before turning to leave, and that makes the younger man genuinely laugh.

 

+++

 

“My mom’s going to kill me.”

The terrain was open and bright, overlapping fields threaded with strings of pine, the odd boulder, the odd stream. Stiles kept expecting to see people, campers, hikers, but they were alone in the wilderness for mile upon mile upon mile. He should be concerned, he thought, but the old growth trees and the grasses and the wind in his face were starting to feel like home. Like he should have returned here ages ago. Which was a total mindfuck considering he’d never been here before or been camping a day in his life.

Before this, the only sunrise he’d ever seen had been on a television screen.

“That’s absolutely not something I’d expect a guy like you say. Right alongside ‘I bought it for it’s fuel efficiency and practicality.’ and ‘I’m super into Coldplay.’”

Derek looked at him sideways. “I own a Camero.”

“See? Of course you do. So what are you getting grounded for exactly?”

“Talking about that night, it’s not my place to tell you, it’s the Alpha’s. I don’t have all the information, I might….” He clenches his jaw once. “You might get the wrong idea. You might not want to be pack.”

“Listen big guy, I don’t know your pack, I don’t know your Alpha and I’m not joining anything without all the information. I’ve spent four years with only vague memories of what happened to my family that night, with a father that pretended to be mute and paralytic just to keep me too overwhelmed and too isolated to go hunting for the truth. I have some of that memory back and I have you here with me and if you don’t spill everything you know, I’ll tell your Alpha I took it as a sign of disrespect. So really, it’s in her best interest for you to talk to me.”

Even with his most devious grin, Derek could tell that Stiles was serious. He tried not to smile, or think of how well Stiles would fit in with the rest of his pack.

He told him first about Emissaries, about their role within the pack, it was the only logical place to start.

“But a Spark. A Spark has real magic. A Spark who becomes an Emissary can gain unimaginable power, power that can protect the pack, can strengthen the Alpha. Can….can bind them together with other packs.” He looks over at Stiles, but the younger man is only staring off thoughtfully into the distance ahead. “It’s called a clan , more than one pack binding together under the authority of one Alpha and its Spark. It hasn’t been done in over a century, maybe two, I’m not even sure if anyone knows. Maybe Deaton does. Even when it existed it was rare, and most of us figured the Sparks died off, no one’s had real magic in them in……”

“You see, Deaton can call on magic, but he can’t create it. And there are hard limits to what he can do. But no one’s even sure a Spark has limits. You can imagine what  something like that could be worth.”

“So you guys tried to go through my mother.”

He doesn’t even sound angry, which Derek thinks might feel worse.

“Stiles, I need you to understand, all my family did was kept an eye on you, they were waiting, to give you a choice when you were old enough to understand. But our mothers were friends, they cared about each other, and even if you hadn’t been a…..the second they found out about the cancer they would have offered the Bite to her anyway.”

“So that night was, what, some werewolf pack biting ritual slash barbeque?”

“No,” he smiles. “She was already turned, already a werewolf. That night was for you, for you to meet the pack, to find out about us. That was supposed to be the beginning of giving you your choice.”

They’re silent for a long while. The wind kicks up and Stiles thinks for a second he can feel his mother watching, a spirit circling them unseen.

Derek moved on to hunters.

“There are hunters that follow a code, that only kill those of our kind that kill humans. But there’s a faction that believes we are monsters, that we have no right to live. One of them targeted my sixteen year old cousin, seduced him and used him to get information. They knew about you, knew we’d all be under one roof. They used mountain ash to trap us inside and set fire to the house. But they didn’t expect your father, he came after they’d set the fire and broke the barrier. He saved us. We fought back, but there were casualties. Four Betas, two children…...my father, your mother.”

He can’t go any further. Stiles stops in his tracks.

“You lost your father.”

Derek stops, turns to see Stiles watching him with trembling lips.

“The fighting was over, there was a hunter wounded I was about to kill. My father stopped me, tried to convince me to show mercy. The hunter shot him with a wolfsbane bullet. They died side by side.”

Stiles’ heart cracks open at that. That night, that foggy half-remembered tragedy took his mother and his trust in his father, but it hadn’t only happened to him.

For the first time he can remember, Stiles doesn’t have words, and Derek’s seemed to lose his momentum, quietly waiting, features unreadable.

The light is hardening to gold by the time he finds his way out of his thoughts. “Am I still going to get a choice?”

Derek frowns, but Stiles can tell it’s at himself, can see his companion wrestle with the truth.

“I don’t know.”

 

+++

 

By the time they stop for lunch the following day, Stiles could create fire at will, could douse it just as easily, igniting the logs over and over like a child playing with a light switch. It’s a necessary distraction.

Waking up that morning, he’d felt incredible. Energy sizzled through his limbs, saturated him so thoroughly he could feel it in his teeth and in the muscles of his eyes. It wasn’t anything like his ADD though, when he’d been vibrating on a frequency that was out of his control, chaotic and distracted. This  was himself, only brighter, everything sharper seeming and newly good. Stretching, enjoying the delicious unwind of his sleep stilled body, he’d just reacted.

Derek was at his back, as usual, mouth warm at his nape and it just felt so natural to arch sleepily against him, push his neck firmly into those teeth and fit the curve of his ass into the cradle of Derek’s hips. It’s liquor good, his pelvis rocking back again and again, their bodies fused together so tightly he can sense Derek’s heartbeat and the expansion of his lungs along his spine.

He’s hard so suddenly it leaves him gasping, instantly awake, twisting his hips against the constriction of his jeans and realizing that Derek, too, was in the same state. So turned on it felt like he’s choking, the fat line of Derek’s heat pressing against him with more force now, the mouth sucking lazily at his neck.

“Mmnnh Stiles….”

And shit he can tell Derek’s not awake, not fully. He tried to pull away, embarrassment surging in, but Derek’s arms won’t let him move.

“Derek,” he hissed, squirming a bit, reaching around to shake the man awake but it only got him a palmful of stupidly muscled thigh and it wasn’t helping that he could feel that muscle harden as Derek flexed, grinding into him in one long, dirty rut.

“Smell so good.” Derek rumbled behind him, and Stiles could feel the words vibrate just as clearly as he could hear them, tripping along his nerves, making him buck backwards involuntarily.

“Shit Derek!” he moans, then feels the man stiffen behind him and knows with humiliating certainty he’s awake. “I’m sorry!” Stiles hisses, freezing himself because he doesn’t want to make things worse by moving. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t- I- “

“Stiles…” he whispers, and something about it sounds off, strained but not angry or disgusted like he’d been expecting. Derek’s hand trails down to rest on the crest of Stiles’ hip, the two of them breathing in time together, shallow and too fast. “Can I touch you?”

“Yes…” Stiles sobs, little sounding and embarrassingly desperate, but Derek doesn’t respond like it’s a victory, slides his hand over Stiles’ straining bulge, cups his palm over it, just pressing there, burying his face into the crook of Stiles’ neck and groaning as if the pleasure were his.

Derek doesn’t move his hand at first, and the sensation is oddly comforting, warm pressure surrounding his painful erection, secure feeling…..safe.

“I wanna make you feel good.” Derek hushes in his ear, pressing down just a little harder.

Stiles whimpers for it, he’s never been touched by someone else and he wasn’t really prepared for how electrifying it was, how his body could just take over, hump and writhe wantonly at such a simple touch. The heel of Derek’s hand is making slow, kneading circles with the same firm pressure, and Stiles squeezes his eyes shut and begs.

The world tilts, his arms flailing a moment before he manages to open his eyes to the sky above. Derek’s flipped them, rolled onto his back so that Stiles is splayed on top, back to Derek’s chest, open and vulnerable as one of Derek’s arms holds him in place while the other makes lightening work of tearing open the front of Stiles' pants. Like this, Stiles feels helpless, Derek’s jean clad cock wedged solidly in the crack of his ass, the weight of his body bearing down on it, fitting him in position so that Derek can easily stroke Stiles’ cock in the open air while grinding up into the neat furrow of his body. With his head thrown back against Derek’s shoulder, Stiles whines, gasps pleads without words, gripping handholds in Derek’s too tight jeans and leveraging himself up into that skillful-slow hand and down onto the insanely thick rod that’s so hard Stiles is sure his tailbone’s getting bruised.

What a fucking sight he must make, held open, belly up, rutting and moaning while the man below him pistons him with a dry, careful hand and grunts, growls, bites at his neck.

“Oh fuck yeah harder!” Stiles chokes, and Derek’s hand squeezes him rough, which is incredible but…….“No bite me - bite me harder Der-- FUCK!” Derek’s growling, teeth clamped down on the joint of Stiles’ neck while his own hips stutter, and Stiles is pretty sure he’s coming, and there’s a bird flying overhead and crushed pine in the air and the smell of their sweat, branches steady while the two of them syncopate the grind like they’ve always done this, like they always would.

And the pain, the bliss and the pain of Derek’s teeth leaches color from Stiles vision as he’s coming. Coming and sobbing and holding on so hard his joints pop.

 

+++

 

Stiles can feel Derek.

Out in the woods, hunting as a wolf maybe a half mile off, while Stiles watched the campfire flames ignite and burn out in time to his impulse. Ignite and burn out.

It’s like it was always there, the power singing now in his blood and slipping along the underside of his skin. Like a name he’d been wracking his brain to recall, only to remember out of the blue months later. He’s floating now on top of it, one sliver visible, the how to light fire compartment just within reach, while the whole deep reservoir beneath him waits and he’s too scared to measure it because he’s not sure if he can.

That morning they’d cleaned off with leaves. Stiles has become very acquainted with the rules of leaf based hygiene. And they’d smiled, laughed a little embarrassed at the process, but it was easy between them and Stiles wanted to keep it that way so he launched directly into food and food procurement activities and Derek barreled through the trees so fast Stiles wasn’t sure whether to be flattered that Derek was so eager to take care of him or insulted that the guy needed to get out of there that fast.

So he organized the bags and checked their water, banked fresh logs onto burnt out ones and tested himself, trying to distract himself from obsessing over what’s just happened. But Derek wouldn’t leave his mind, picked at him until he began to realize the tug and push weren’t thoughts, they were feelings , drawing against him, like weak magnets. A  pull that he could trace, get a sense of distance and occasionally, if he concentrates, a sense of well-being. Heartbeat, blood, lungs and skin. It’s absolutely crazy but he just can’t stop prodding at it.

He could feel Derek.

He didn’t know what that meant, but it felt important. And when Derek emerged from the trees, the bloodied carcass of a wild hare in his hand, Stiles hurried over to him, slightly panicked that he was about to scare the shit out of the man with the 8ft wall of words he was gearing up to throw at him.

“Was that for me? For my benefit, like a signing bonus or something? Not the rabbit, that’s- can you put that down for a sec? Thanks, the eyes are just…..yeah anyway. I feel like things are changing inside me, like I don’t know if it’s that I’m more aware of it or if it was getting rid of that twilight stuff or...or...other things, but I don’t really have, like, a compass at the moment and I like you. Like, a lot. And I just want…..I need something truthful more than I need something that makes me feel good? If that makes any sense? I liked all of that, if you didn’t notice, just glitter and applause everywhere, but I don’t think I can be okay with anything like that happening if it’s something you feel like you need to do for my sake. Like, if someone happened to tell you to make sure I was happy and that translated into no strings hand jobs. I’ve never had a hand job! And I didn’t mean to yell that at you just now, that was weird. I was just such a dork in high school and then the fire and I just never got around to all that stuff….and now I’m twenty and a virgin and you’re are so far out of my league with the paranormal abs and the- the-”

“Stiles.”

“Yeah?”

“Shut up.”

Derek stalked over to where Stiles was quietly freaking out, cupped his hands around Stiles’ face and ran a thumb over the bow of his lips.

“I didn’t do that to convince you to be pack, in fact I’m pretty sure I’m going to catch hell about it. I did it because I’ve been wanting to touch you for so long, because I’ve been watching you take in all that’s thrown at you and thrive. You’re here in the woods with me and I can smell you, your arousal but also your contentment, I can smell how much you need to be touched and cared for and it makes my wolf crazy. It makes me want to hold you down and fuck you and feed you and build you a house and it’s scaring me a little.”

“But,” Stiles trembles, about to burst out of his skin. “You didn’t kiss me.”

A dark look passes over Derek’s face, those stupid, wicked eyebrows descending over the flash of blue, his smile a slash that hints of teeth. “You’re right.” He leans in and Stiles can already feel his lips tingling. “Stiles…” he moans, a hair away.

A howl resounds through the air. Derek jerks his head, snarls once before his shoulders slump and he groans.

“We have to go.”

 

+++

 

“So you understand how packs work.”

“Yeah Der, I got it.”

“And how they operate in the rest of the world?”

“Relax, I’m a graduate in Lycanthrope Anthropology with a minor in Canine Political Dynamics working on my Masters. I promise Derek, I’m not going to desecrate your family name at this little meet ‘n greet.”

They’d been trudging along for forty minutes, Derek doing his best to cram werewolf facts into Stiles head complete with pop quiz and Stiles inwardly cursing about cockblocing asshole wolf scouts.

“The Farkas pack is the exception.”

Derek howls once, the sound echoing out from the ridge where they stand.

“Their family is old, possibly one of the oldest in this country. They follow their own ways. Stay close to me, keep your mouth shut unless directly addressed by the Alpha and do not, under any circumstances, make a deal with any of them.”

The sound of growling reached them, filling the valley. Derek grabbed Stiles’ hand and pulled him down the slope.

Motorcycles, at least a dozen, huge gleaming choppers and corroded vintage bikes, colorful Yamahas weaving tight between them. And running at the fringes, more wolves than Stiles had ever seen. Derek held onto Stiles’ wrist, pulling him slightly behind the shield of his body as the roaring pack of bikes came to a halt in front of them.

“Black Wolf!”

A man in a tiny leather vest and skintight pants waved from the front of the pack. He had chin length brown hair streaked through with gold. Sun gold skin naked beneath his open vest. He was possibly a little older than Derek, but equally stunning, lithe and graceful, swinging off his bike and sauntering up to them, neat cut muscles on display, smile brilliant and dimpled.

“Yoska.” Derek nodded tersely, his whole body tense. “We wish to be granted audience with your Alpha and ask for the favor of your hospitality.”

“Why so formal?” Yoska grinned, clasping both of Derek’s shoulders in his hands before pulling him into a back slapping hug. “You weren’t concerned with all that when you slunk through our lands last month in your furs.”

“My apologies, but I did not have time to request a territory crossing, for which I plan on asking your Alpha’s forgiveness.”

“Bah!” Yoska waved his hand between them, still smiling like the cat that got the cream. Beyond him the wolves paced, the men and women on bikes mostly ignoring them in favor of chatting with each other. “We knew it was you, and only person that cares about that is Marusya. She’s gonna slap this nice face of yours for not paying her a visit. Now who is this?”

Before either of them could respond, Yoska had scooped up Stiles’ hand in his own and brought it to his lips, kissing the row of knuckles as he bowed. “You bringing humans to our land in the old custom? Cassia likes them older, you know, and with more of the muscles. But this means I get the next right, and I would never refuse something so pretty.”

“He’s not a gift.” Derek snarled, and four of the wolves at the fringes closed in, teeth bared. Yoska only laughed and waved them off.

“You still mad about last summer? Your sister broke my heart, Black Wolf.” He clutched at his chest. “I would make an honest woman of her tomorrow if she would have me, but she refuses!”

And at the pained, desperate look on Yoska’s face, the tension finally bleeds from Derek and he snorts in amusement, shaking his head. Yoska drops the false hurt from his expression and grins, wrapping an arm around Derek’s shoulder and pulling him along.

“Come on, you an’ me can settle our debts and then I’m gonna get you so drunk.”

Stiles trailed after them, watching the many sets of eyes following them, all of them unreadable and very, very intimidating. He knew what this little welcome party was, well he could guess. These people were protection, willing to tear he and Derek to pieces at the first sign of trouble. Stiles swallowed thickly and shuffled in closer to Derek.

“Nice bike,” Derek straddles the black and chrome beast Yoska’d come in on, turning the key and revving it to life. Stiles jumps at the sound. “Wanna race?”

He has Stiles hauled up on the back of the bike in the very next second, fishtailing out the back wheel as he turns it hard in the dirt. Stiles doesn’t need to be told to hang on, arms already wrapped around Derek’s middle in terror as they bullet through the trees.

“Bastard!” He hears Yoska yelling, laughing, before the remaining curses die out beneath the sound of howling and revving of engines.

Chapter Text

“Oh my God I fucking hate you.”

Stiles couldn’t make his hands work. His fingers fused in a terror white grip around Derek’s waist even though they’d been stopped for nearly a minute. He’d never ridden a motorcycle before, and after fifteen minutes barreling through landscape not meant for high speed vehicles, he could definitively say he never wanted to again. His organs were still vibrating.

 A red brown wolf with whorls of black loped up to them, nipping playfully at Derek’s hand before someone threw a pair of pants that caught on its head. Unfolding, bones cracking, Yoska stood grinning, tugging them off his face and getting them on again with a fair bit of hopping around.

 The pack that had seen them here milled about at a distance, watchful but separate, and Stiles took a moment to get his bearings.

 He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting, a town perhaps? Houses with lawns and roads and shops. Farkastown USA population werewolf? Even though he now realized how ridiculously hard it would be to maintain the likes of a suburban town deep in a national forest without detection. This was more akin to a village. And as strange as it felt calling some place a village in the age of Google, that was the only word he could think of. The land was worked around but left alone as much as possible, the older trees uncleared, nothing paved, nothing leveled. There were cabins scattered about to their left, log ones and others of neat pine planks with porches and stone chimneys. He could see them tucked between tree clusters and perched on curving swells of land. Neatly traveled dirt trails moved between them and far off deep into the forest where he could only assume more would be found. To the right there were RVs and mobile homes and white veins of canvas tents weaving in the space between. Webs of string lights cast haphazardly over their heads, illuminating the shade, and Stiles wasn’t a werewolf, but even he could smell the diesel from generators, the wood smoke of fires, the food cooking everywhere he looked.

 Derek stayed tight by his side as Yoska waved for them to follow, slowly making his way through the heart of the village as if parading them off to the pack. Considering the joy he took in waving at the people they passed, exaggeratedly pointing at Stiles’ head and generally drawing as much attention to them as possible, perhaps he was. People watched them in interest for a moment but quickly went back to whatever it was they were doing. Pens of animals jostled for food, he could see handmade chicken coops and kitchen gardens set up behind almost every cabin.

 A lone zebra wandered past, followed close behind by a goat wearing a shawl.

 Stiles was still gaping at the odd companions progress through the trees when a shrieking gang of children rushed them, Yoska shoved them away but they still tagged along. Wolves circled at the fringes, sniffing but keeping back, more than one child taking the opportunity to leap at them, tugging their fur and demanding to be carried. Stiles didn’t think he’d ever get used to a sight like that.

 Eventually they came to a space where the trees opened up to field nearly half a mile in diameter, framed on two sides by distant hills. And Stiles stumbled on his feet at what lay ahead.

 The dirt path they’d been following expanded here into a wide avenue cut straight through the grasses. Along either side stretched twin, parallel rows of one story stone buildings, painted clean white and brilliant in the overhead sun, each stamped at measured intervals by identical windows and doors from one end to the other. They shared walls and black shingled roofs like row homes but these were considerably nicer. At the far end of the avenue loomed the largest home Stiles had ever seen in person. Three stories high, but deeply set and so wide it dominated it’s side of the field. This too was fashioned of whitewashed brick and looked vaguely colonial, but it could just be that the place gave off the feel of a old fort. It was functional, simple but easily recognizable as the heart of importance here. However loosely stitched the rest of the community might be, this part, at least, had been here for a very long time and it made Stiles think of how Derek had called his own pack small, though considering the number of blood relatives alone he’d mentioned, Stiles had just thought he was being modest.

 Walking up the path with the manor expanding out before him, Stiles began to seriously consider the possibility that the Farkas pack had lived on this land before California had even been made a state. It was not helping his nerves.

 Derek must have picked up on it, wrapped a hand around his arm and squeezed without looking at him. “That’s the Alpha’s house,” he whispered.

 “No shit, really?” Stiles deadpanned, and Yoska cocked his head and snorted.

 Just then the front door burst open and a frantic group of young men tumbled out, racing to meet them and catching Derek in a round of aggressive hugs, of slapped shoulders and shouts that Stiles could barely understand as he was shunted to the side. Derek looked decidedly uncomfortable with the deluge of affection, even though he greeted them all with smiles and the occasional laugh. They appeared about ready to carry Derek off with them when one of them turned abruptly.

 “He’s a human.”

 It was hard not to shrink when every set of eyes turned their full focus on Stiles. One of the men poked him in the shoulder, as if testing whether he were real. A second tried to covertly scent his neck while a third circled around and brazenly hoisted Stiles up into the air by his hips.

 “He’s so light!”

 “Let me try!”

 “Put him down.” Derek growled, claws elongating from his fingertips.

 “Yeah no bench pressing the squishy human!” Stiles yelped as he was heaved up and down, over and over. The man holding him said something in a language Stiles didn’t recognise and everyone hooted and looked pointedly at Derek.

 “Kem!”

 They all froze, and from his vantage point high over their heads, Stiles got a good look at a tall, slim, excessively pregnant woman making her way out of the house. She had warm cocoa skin and a halo of wildly kinked hair that faded from black to blonde at the tips. High apple cheeks and huge, wide-set eyes might make her look childlike if it weren’t for the shrewd perception that radiated from her and fixed itself now on Stiles. Stiles was lowered to the ground as all the men parted, Kem patting him on the back and looking not at all contrite.

 “All of you have better things to do, get out of here. You,” She turned to Yoska, “talk to Boldo about the shifts for tonight. And you two, get inside so we can clean you up, you smell unholy.”

 The men snickered, one of them elbowing Derek and Stiles felt the blush hit him hard. They were wolves, and Stiles hadn’t seen a  shower in days, of course they could smell….everything. She flashed her teeth and the group made a show of yelping and bumbling around, knocking into one another on purpose as they pretended to hop to her orders. At least this pack had a healthy supply of smartasses. It boded well for his own survival.

 “Hello Derek,” she kissed him on the cheek, awkward with her belly in the way. “Don’t mind them,” she turned to Stiles. “We haven’t had a human on our lands since before any of them were born. And more than a few of our people have never even met one. They’re just curious is all. I’m Lola, Alpha Farkas’ second. You are very welcome here Spark Stilinski.”

 “I- um...there’s titles? I don’t remember getting a title. Wait, Derek, do you have a title? And more importantly….is my title better than yours?”

 “Yes, I do....and don’t worry about it.” Derek grumbled.

 “Come on you two,” Lola chuckled. “Let’s get you decent.”

 

 +++

 

There was no way anyone was finding their way through this house without GPS, but Lola strode quick and sure down hallways and up stairs and around corners and more corners and now down stairs and through a library, which is where they almost lost Derek, and down another hallway to the end where a nondescript door opened into the single most amazing suite Stiles had ever been in.

 A huge hand carved wood sleigh bed dominated one side, covered in wildly colored quilts and pillows and hung all around with tapestries. A stonework fireplace was already crackling on the other side of the room, though it wasn’t even that cold. Several large, velvet sofas clustered around and above the mantle hung a huge flatscreen television. In the next room there was a small kitchenette with a table long enough to seat six and beyond that a bathroom Stiles would willingly move into for the rest of his life. There were layers of oriental rugs and pillows everywhere, potted plants spilling over from every corner, bowls of fruit on the tables and pitchers of lemon water sweating beside them.

 “Make yourselves comfortable,” Lola gestured around. “There’s some clean clothing you may wear in the drawers. Whatever else you find in here is yours to use but let me know if you need anything. Derek, you’ll be expected down to see her as soon as you’re able.”

 With that, Lola waddled out the door.

 They stared at one another, Derek scowling at him ever so slightly, as if there was something Stiles was refusing to do. And Stiles couldn’t explain why he suddenly felt so awkward in Derek’s presence. Ill-defined expectation banked heavy against him and he could tell Derek was struggling with words that wouldn’t come. What was it about walls and a roof and a bed with clean sheets that made things so different? He felt he should say something, anything. Any little thing. Just open your mouth, Stiles…

 “I….so we…”

 “You should take a shower.” Derek blurted, features unreadable.

 “Uh, yeah,” Stiles rubbed at his jaw. “You’re right. I should do that.”

 He stood there another beat more, just to be certain the moment was sufficiently uncomfortable, then made his way to the bathroom.

 It’s not as though his intention was to hide out, the water pressure was incredible and there was no end to the hot water so he just stood there breathing in steam, soaping, rinsing, repeating until every particle of dirt and sweat had been obliterated and his skin was a high pink. He brushed his teeth three times with the brand new toothbrush left for him and when he was finally done, he wrapped a towel around his waist and padded out into the cool air of the bedroom, where Derek watched him for a moment with a pained sort of look, then hurried past him into the bathroom, locking the door.  Stiles listened to the lonely crackle of logs in the fireplace and wondered if this was it, if it had all changed. It felt like the moment they were left alone, something had locked down, ever so slightly, in Derek. Maybe he was rethinking the things he’d said and done with Stiles, maybe he was around his own kind now and Stiles embarrassed him in some way. Everyone he’d seen so far had been so attractive, it was implausible but Stiles had barely given it a real thought until now. Yoska and Lola, Derek’s friends and every single person milling about feeding chickens or fixing a roof, even the elderly people he’d seen belonged in a print ad for luxury retirement homes. And Stiles was a skinny, clumsy human and Derek was…..

 Derek was standing in the doorway watching him, a towel of his own slung low over his hips, arms crossed, muscles bulging and flecked with droplets of water. Had Stiles really been standing here half naked, staring into space like a moron this whole time?

 “Ummm….she said there were clothes?” Stiles turned in a circle, narrowing in on the dresser and hurrying over to it. He pawed through what he found there, second hand tshirts and jeans, soft and faded. He handed a few things that looked like they might fit over to Derek, who recoiled, ever so slightly before taking them.

 “Wait,” he placed the clothes on the dresser, taking the ones Stiles had chosen for himself and putting them aside. “Just…..I need to…..”

 He placed a warm hand on Stiles’ bare shoulder and left it there. Stiles stared at him, confused by the gesture and waiting for something else to happen, a pat of encouragement, a few words of warning before they met the Alpha. But Derek just stood there, looking more constipated by the second, flexing his other hand into a fist over and over before lifting that too and placing it on the other shoulder.

 “Are we…...going to slow dance or something? If that’s the case then you should lead because- “

 “Shut up Stiles.” Derek grit. He ran both hands up the sides of Stiles’ neck, back down, thumbs along the bone. “I have to scent you. For the pack….”

 “Yeah, ok.” Stiles breathed and held as still as he could. Derek looked intently at the skin beneath his hands, sliding his palms down the tapered stretch of both arms and around to the back of his neck before he leaned in and sniffed, scowled and sniffed again. Seemingly unsatisfied, Derek’s hands ranged wider, pressed harder, cupping the shallow cut planes of Stiles’ chest, thumbs catching briefly on his nipples, pressing down his ribs and following the trail of hair below his navel. Stiles bit his lips and tried not to groan, this was a wolf thing, he reminded himself, a pack thing, probably totally standard and he shouldn’t sexualize it just because-

 It escalated quickly.

 Derek hoisted Stiles up on the dresser so fast he barely registered his feet were no longer holding him up. Derek attacked, licking wide, hungry stripes over both nipples, rubbing the stubble of his chin in the soft joint of Stiles’ neck and holding him in place so he could do the same with their bodies, grinding his chest into Stiles while he licked one spot on his neck over and over and Stiles just held onto the dresser top, his heels knocking uselessly into the drawers, gasping, arching. Derek bit down on the meat of his shoulder, indenting the skin then sucking hard until Stiles could feel the ache bloom hot in a red purple mark. Moving down, Derek left another on his chest, licking long dirty tracts up his belly and…..

 Stopping. Why was he stopping? Stiles opened and closed his mouth as Derek lifted off of him, tilting his head and looking over his shoulder.

 He knew that look by now.

 “We have to go.” Derek pushed back off the dresser, dragging his pants with him and dropping his towel to dress.

 “You have to be joking.” Stiles spit out, incredulous that Derek would be so cruel as to get him all worked up and then expect him to watch as he attempted to stuff the fat length of his cock into skintight jeans, a bead of fluid squeezed out at the effort and running down his hand. Stiles licked his lips, he wanted to taste that. He made a sound, humiliating, brat-pitched whine when Derek wiped his hand off on the leg of his jeans and zipped up. Those green eyes flashed up at him blue, for only a second.

 “They’re waiting.”

 “I can’t meet the Alpha right now ! Your stupid scenting gave me an erection!” He hopped off the dresser, his towel falling as he did.

 “It did.” Derek growled, muscles locking in as he reached for it before squeezing his eyes shut and pulling back. “We have to….think of something else.”

 Stiles muttered to himself as he jammed his limbs into the borrowed clothes, the pants a little too short, the shirt a little too big. At least it did something to hide the swell of his pants.

 They headed out of the room together, just crossing the threshold when Derek crowded Stiles up against the door frame.

 “When we’re finished,” He breathed hotly against Stiles’ neck. “I swear I’ll take care of you. You’re coming back here with me so I can taste you properly. I need to know what you look like on your belly taking my tongue.”

 “You’re not helping!” Stiles yelled at Derek’s back as the man walked away. He shifted uncomfortably in his jeans and limped after him.

 

+++

 

They found Alpha Farkas in the kitchen, a huge, rustic affair with a long island around which at least twenty women jostled and chopped and talked over one another in a happy din. Somehow, he knew her right away, not the old one with the long gold earrings or the well muscled one hacking apart pork loins like an enthusiastic Viking. She was the one watching everything, the one in the center all the other women orbited unconsciously. She didn’t look up when they entered, only smiled faintly to herself yet Stiles knew it was for them. Exactly none of the women paid them any attention and Derek just stood at his side, waiting without a sound, so Stiles did the same.

 “Sisters, please give me time with our guests.”

 Once everyone had filed out of the room in a stream of soft voices, the Alpha wiped off her hands on a dishtowel and moved around the counter to stand before Derek. She was only slightly shorter, fine boned but roped in wiry muscle and dark, sun tightened skin. Tilting her head up, Stiles saw the undiluted authority in her bearing, clear dark eyes, heavily lashed, kholed and almond shaped, wide mouth framed in delicate lines, hawkish nose. The front of her hair was pulled back in a small, messy bun, the rest of her mass of black curls spilling down past her waist.

 “Where’s my kiss?” She arched a maternal brow at Derek, who stooped slightly to peck her cheek.

 “Hello Cassia. Thank you for having us.”

 “Nonsense. I spoke to your mother, she’s relieved you’re safe. Now you,” She turned to Stiles. “You don’t have to kiss me but I still need to scent you for the pack.”

 “Uhhh…” Stiles looked over at Derek, a repeat of earlier flashing through his head. Derek was utterly unreadable except for a slight tinge of red at the tips of his ears.

 “Mm hmm.” She dealt Stiles a raised eyebrow of his own, then cupped him gently on the side of the neck. “Now, you boys are our honored guests here, but everyone works or nobody eats. Derek, be a good son and go call your mother. Then help the boys with setting up the bonfire.”

 Derek’s eyes darted over to Stiles before mumbling, “Yes Ma’am.” And slipped out of the room.

 “You like meatballs?” Cassia asked.

 “Yes?”

 “Good,” She plunked an enormous bowl of ground, spiced meat down on the counter. “We need about two hundred.”

 Stiles immediately washed his hands then set to scooping and rolling the meat between his palms, placing them on a platter. After about a dozen he looked up to see Cassia watching him calmly.

 “Feel like I’m being tested.”

 “Oh you are.” She had a very musical voice, with an accent he couldn’t pin down. “I can learn everything there is to know about a man by the way he rolls a meatball.”

 Stiles became very self conscious all of a sudden. “Really?”

 “No,” she laughed. “And yes. You offer help with no pride or expectation. You are nervous to be alone with me, but not tainted by fear. Lola tells me you are polite and Yoska tells me you have humor. And I was informed that you had no deep knowledge of the gifts you possess before Derek found you, but I can smell the magic in you now.”

 She dragged a bowl of potatoes over and began peeling them calmly.

 “This is a strange time we are in. You are not part of Talia’s pack, not officially, and there is nothing to stop me from luring you into my own, offering you power and riches she could not provide if you would be my Spark.”

 Stiles took a moment to scrutinize her, feeling all at once that Cassia was inviting him to do so. “But that’s not what this is.”

 “No. We never needed the ways of the other packs, what the Farkas value is not bloodline or legacy, but freedom. Did you know that we haven’t had a true descendant of the original Farkas Alpha in over a hundred and twenty years among us?”

 “I did not know that.”

 “Of course you didn’t, and stop making them so small! We have more in the fridge. Talia is a smart woman, and a good Alpha. There are those named among her allies that would do their best to keep you, whether it was your will or not. For Talia to send you here with no claim shows her trust, and trust is far more significant to my people. She knows. The first Farkas were Roma, pushed from land to land, never with a territory of their own. So our territory became the hearts of our family, the refugees, the wolves we gathered along the road. When we found this land, the humans living here knew to leave us alone, and when the new breed came, we sated them with money and deeds. Then hunters came, but they followed the Code in those days and we were no threat. But now there is a war, hunters that live by no code but the extinction of our people rise up against their brothers, and they are winning. I have a chance to strengthen my pack against them, but at the cost of some freedom. Tell me Spark Stilinski, if I make this clan with you, what will you expect from me?”

 Stiles stayed silent. He knew this was not a woman that stood for empty assurances. So he continued to work, letting the repetition of the task take him deeper into this thoughts, piecing together the little information he had bit by bit until the bowl was empty. He washed his hands and finally met Cassia’s regard.

 “Refuge. The Hale pack is a target, and if they are unable to defend their territory against the hunters, then I want assurances that they are welcome here.”

 “An interesting request. Is that all?”

 “No,”Stiles, feeling bolder, held her gaze. “I’d want you to build more defenses, stockpile supplies, come up with plans to cut off the roads and dig in for a long fight if it came to that. And then I’d want you to come up with an exit strategy. If we had to move the whole clan quickly, what would we need?”

 “Is there nothing you would ask for yourself?”

 “What do you mean, like- well maybe I could borrow a few of your books? I saw the library and you’ve gotta have stuff in there about werewolves and Sparks and maybe just something on general magic? I’m kind of stuck relying on Derek at the moment and he’s not big on elaboration so...why are you laughing?”

 Cassia’s eyes glittered as she reached over the island to pinch his cheek and slap it lightly. “You are such a cute boy, and you will make a good Spark. You may tell Talia when you see her that she has my vow. It pleases me that you have chosen a mate from the pack. Her Emissary never did. He is a strange one.”

 “A mate? I don’t- “

 “Boldo!”

 Cassia was looking over his shoulder, and Stiles turned to find a seven foot wall of barrel chested tree trunk standing directly behind him.

 “Whoa! Where did you even come from?!”

 His dramatically curled handlebar mustache danced when he smiled. “I am very sneaky.”

 “This lump of fat is my mate Boldo.” She preened, throwing her arms up for a kiss, “Don’t let him scare you, he’s a sweet little puppy.”

 “Is not fat, is muscle!” He turned to Stiles. “I once tore a grizzly bear in half with my bare hands.”

 “Boldo, that is not talk for guests! And it was only a little grizzly- “

 “He was a monster!” Boldo reared up, grinning and winking at Stiles. “And he’s gonna eat you up!”

 “No!” Shrieked Cassia, backing away. “We have work!”

 “Work later.” He lunged for her, just as Lola appeared in the doorway.

 “The boys are fighting.” She sighed.

 “You see? This is what happens when you leave them alone!”

 

+++

 

Someone had set out lawn chairs, which Lola dropped into heavily, gesturing at the one beside her for Stiles. The crowd cheered and shouted as the two shirtless figures in the center grappled in the dirt. Yoska dodged an upkick and was able to land a solid blow right before Derek worked a leg in and managed to kick Yoska off him then scramble to his feet. They were circling each other now, a few half speed punches between them as they felt each other out.

 “Should I be worried?”

 Yoska lunged but overshot, Derek easily ducking under his arm and coming up with a vicious uppercut to the stomach. He searched out Stiles in the crowd and grinned at him while the other man caught his breath. Someone passed Derek a bottle from which he took a long pull, handing it to a doubled over Yoska who took a swing of his own before handing it off. They slammed into each other again, trading more blows than Stiles could count. There was blood, but it was impossible to tell where it was coming from.

 “This is just how they settle things, blow off steam. It’s good for them. Last year Yoska was chasing after Derek’s sister, the older one. Nothing serious, but Derek caught them in their fun and was not happy. And now Yoska has been flirting with you and I hear Derek was not so happy about that either. It’s good he’s chosen, he needs a mate to make him smile.”

 “Why does everyone keep saying that? I don’t even know what that means! I’m not Derek’s….we haven’t….there’s been no mating !”

 Lola laughed, “Wolves are not men. He has chosen you as his, everyone can tell.”

 Stiles didn’t know how to feel about that. He went suddenly hot all over, a thread of his spark waking, climbing up to curl into his chest. He looked over at the fight, watching in awe as Derek lifted Yoska straight over his head, looked Stiles dead in the eyes and threw the man twenty feet out of the ring. The crowd erupted in cheers but Derek only panted, sweat running down his bare chest, watching Stiles.

 “There’s no way he’s a real person.”

 “And I think you have chosen him too, yes? Good.”

 

+++

 

His head was spinning. Mostly because his body was also, currently, spinning. A pretty young redhead careened with him in a circle, strong enough to hurl him through the dance without Stiles having to worry too much about where to go next. A band was playing, the drums finding a tunnel in his bones, the fiddle jittering live wire over the chaos. He’s not sure he could pinpoint when it happened, but the festivities sort of evolved around him until it was dusk and the field was overtaken.

 He barely saw Derek as he was handed off from one pack member to the next. A few glimpses in the crowd before the man was swallowed up in the dark. The bonfire lit slow, and to fill the time they handed him plates of food he could barely finish before something was shoved in his hands and he was given a task: passing out rolls, opening crates of homemade wolfsbane liquor with a crowbar, telling the children scary stories about the hunters that had come to his door. Lola kept the bottles from reaching his hands, the quantities of wolfsbane in them well within the deadly range for a human. But Stiles already felt drunk, his senses reeling in the warped light of the raging fire, the music swelling around him, the people laughing and singing, their bodies pulling him along an eddy of hands and faces and warm fur pelts brushing up against his thighs. Stiles stumbled from one tableau to another, dreamlike. Two rangy limbed boys were performing an improvised sort of acrobatic routine with impossible ease. He found Cassia at a long table, lording over an energetic looking game involving a significant quantity of both knives and booze.

 Somebody grabbed him and he was dancing again, the flames pulsing and the music building. Yoska jumped through the crowd beside him, ropes of tiny bells on his hips and ankles and wrists, drawing the crowd’s cheers as he shimmied rather expertly in a dance very clearly designed for the fairer sex. A woman elbowed her way in, pounding her feet in a challenge. From the sharp ticking isolations of her torso to the flat smug expression, it was clear this was her house. Yoska jeered and rolled his hips at top speed, the two of them circling one another in the fiercest belly dance battle Stiles had ever seen and it had him doubled over with laughter, struggling to breath.

 A new song kicked up and Stiles whirled around, the bonfire close and hot against his side, and there was Derek, watching him.

 Stiles couldn’t move. The fiddle poured into him, ignited his blood, his spark, and it felt like he was seeing Derek anew. He didn’t understand the word mate, he didn’t know wolves or packs, hunters, clans, vows. Stiles knew loneliness, he knew fire and the taste of his growing spark at the back of his throat. He knew the pull in his belly that was named for Derek, and that before it had been want, but this moment right here was choosing. Derek’s eyes looked black as they both stood frozen for such a tiny stretch of time, animal black, but animals didn’t need words.

 Derek moved with a predator’s resolve, stalking up to Stiles and brushing past him, wide, calloused hand tracing down Stiles arm to cuff his wrist.

 Stiles followed.

 Through the field, up to the main house. Dark empty halls, the windows alight, voices carried like ghosts. Derek’s hand burned against Stiles’ wrist until another young couple ran past them, laughing, knocking them apart in the narrow hall before turning a corner.

 Derek growled and rounded on Stiles, pinning him hard against a door as if those few seconds apart were too much to ask. His hands gripped the sides of Stiles’ face. He whimpered, such an oddly vulnerable sound from someone Stiles thought of as nearly invincible.

 “You don’t smell like me anymore.” Derek panted, licking his lips. “It feels like my chest is going to explode unless I hold you down and get my mouth on you, everywhere.”

 Stiles could actually feel his own eyes dilate. His voice came out shaky, unsure. “Would that - would that make you feel better? If you scented me? Is that all you need?”

 “What I need ,” Derek’s hands moved up to his hair, gripping the strands just right so Stiles was forced to endure the intensity of Derek’s gaze from an inch away. “Is to show you what it feels like to be licked open so slowly you start to cry. What I need is to feel your body stretching around my fingers while you try not to come, and I don’t want to make that easy for you Stiles. What I need is to feel you tight around me as I push into you and fill you with my seed, soak you in it so you’ll always smell like me. Do you want that Stiles? Tell me.”

 Stiles nodded vigorously, eyes wide, mouth pressed tight around a moan. There weren’t words in the English language to properly express how much Stiles needed that too.

 “First I need to kiss you.” Derek growled, putting more than a little wolf in his voice.

 Derek pressed his whole body in the task of kissing Stiles, who whimpered over and over, trying to keep up. God the man could kiss, lips firm and smooth, tongue delving into Stiles’ mouth- hot, slick, commanding, urging Stiles to press back. Never having done this before didn’t make Stiles shy in the slightest, clutching at Derek’s back and sucking at the man’s bottom lip, hitching one thigh around Derek’s hips and grinding until Derek’s eyes flashed blue and he hauled Stiles up against him, long legs twining around and hooking tight.

 Derek kicked in the door he’d been pining Stiles against, his mouth never letting up. Stiles felt them spin into a new space, only getting a quick glimpse of cluttered shelves chalked in moonlight from an overhead window.

 The claws came out the moment Derek dropped Stiles to his feet, shoved him up against a wall. But instead of going after Stiles’ clothing, he rips his own shirt from his body like he’d taken a clinic on how to murder Stiles with arousal.

 “Oh my God.” Stiles shoves a hand through his hair, tugging hard.

 “Take off your clothes.”

 In the wan moonlight Stiles nearly glows, luminescent skin tinted in a blush because this is the first time he’s ever been fully naked in front of anyone. With some effort, Derek forces his claws back into fingertips, spinning Stiles around by the hips and dropping to his knees.

 The first hard brush of his tongue against Stiles’ hole has him crying out, arching up and holding onto the shelf brackets for dear life. With a hunger filthy groan, Derek grips the round flesh of Stiles’ ass and spreads him, lifting him slightly for a better angle until Stiles can barely keep his toes on the ground. This doesn’t bother Derek in the least, rocking Stiles’ whole body back down on his mouth so he can suck and tease and swivel-twist into the soft virgin pink that contracts around him so fucking good.

 Stiles’ skin is on fire and shrinking down around his bones, his senses sharpened, tightened to the knot of aching want that’s growing in his core. Derek’s stubble scours his sensitive spots, until he’s pulling away and pushing back down, both to no avail, Derek is too strong and too determined, forcing Stiles back on his mouth just the way he wants.

 “Fuck Derek! Oh oh oh- uuhh ! Shit it’s too much!”

 “You need this Stiles.” He dove back in, voracious and sloppy, humming and growling until Stiles began to shake, straining for more. Derek side one finger in beside his tongue, relishing the little sob of gratitude. “You need someone to make you feel good. Keep this sweet little hole filled up, show you what it feels like to be cared for.”

 A bottle clicked behind him, and Stiles hissed in pleasure at the two fingers, slippery with lube, questing deep inside him.

 “You….where did you...OH!” The possibilities of a prostate were no longer theoretical. Stiles shook, his knees threatening to buckle, the shelf creaked in his grip.

 “The guys.” Derek murmured, sounding unsure for the first time. Or maybe it was embarrassed. “They’re….”

 “The best friends ever!” Stiles panted, grinding his hips back down on Derek’s fingers. He didn’t see Derek smile, but he definitely felt the third finger screw its way into place, felt the solid bite landed where his buttock met his thigh. “I can’t do this anymore, I’m gonna fall!” Stiles gasped. “Need you to fuck me- now- come on Derek!”

 Derek was on his feet and plastered along Stiles’ back in a heartbeat, rutting his beautiful cock in the slippery cleft of Stiles’ ass, mouth sucking, teeth scraping the line of his shoulder. “I want to see you sitting on my cock, is that ok Stiles? Want to watch you take it nice and slow.”

 Derek took them to the ground, sitting against a stack of boxes, arranging Stiles in his lap so he could get those long legs straddling his hips, hands gripping those slim thighs as Derek continued to rub the head of his dick slip-slick against Stiles’ flexing hole.

 “Hey, look at me,” he caught Stiles’ amber whiskey eyes and held them. “Try to relax, and tell me if you need to stop.”

 Stiles bit his lip and nodded, but he wasn’t sure why on earth he might want to stop. Especially when Derek lifted him bodily, hands cupping his ass, spreading it, and lowered him until the plump head pressed against his aching rim.

 “Reach down and hold it,” Derek panted, and Stiles complied, bracing himself with one hand on Derek's shoulder as he reached behind himself to get a good grip on the heavy cock that was about to be inside him. It was so hot . Stiles wondered what that burn was going to feel like on his insides and whimpered. “Want you to feel where I’m pushing into you.”

 The first flared inch popped past his waiting rim and Stiles yelped. As eager as he was, it burned . Derek froze immediately, holding Stiles up and waiting even as he shook from the effort of not just thrusting in further. But after the surprise of the sensation wore off, Stiles realized that the burn was fading, and what’s more, he liked it. He rocked experimentally in place.

“More.”

 Nodding, Derek began to lower him down incrementally, pulling back out just as shallow before claiming another deep inch.

 “That’s it, just bear down on me.” Stiles did as he was told and dropped down further, the incredible mass of Derek’s cock filling him so much, forcing a space within his body that made him want to cry with how fucking good it felt. His blood pulsed heavy in his own torturous erection and in the new stretch of his hole. “God yes Stiles, you’re gonna take all of me aren’t you?” Derek breathed right into Stiles’ mouth and Stiles wrapped both arms around his neck, moaning back against his lips, closing his eyes for only a moment so he could feel all the ways they were connected. One more little push and he was all the way in, Stiles’ seated flush in Derek’s lap, impaled and on fire.

 “Oh Christ Derek please,” Every nerve was alight and none of his muscles would cooperate. Fastening his hands around the narrow curve of Stiles’ hips, Derek held him down, in place, nosing at his neck and sucking now and then on a spot that called for his mark. “Damn it Derek get a move on!” Stiles tried to thrust himself down, but Derek held him in place so easily. It wasn’t fair.

 “No, I want you to feel it,” he growled, voice straining low. “Feel how deep I am inside you.” He made a wicked show of licking across the surface of his palm, wrapped his hand around Stiles’ length, pumping his fist at just the right speed to have Stiles moaning, cursing, coming undone over both sensations. “I’m gonna make you come like this first, stuffed full of me. Then I’m going to fuck you so goddamned hard you’ll come again.”

 Stiles didn’t have a brain cell capable of responding to that with anything other than desperate little mewls. It was on him now, the pressure building and Derek’s hand fast and sure, the arm looped around his waist flexing. Throwing his head back, he came full force, mouth open gasping, brown furrowed at the shattering pleasure until he collapsed in Derek’s arms. And it was all the man could take, holding back for so long, he let loose, snarling and driving them forward so he could get Stiles under him, sprawled out on the ground glassy-eyed and red lipped.

 He began to pound in full, measured thrusts, the glorious channel of Stiles’ body still gipping him tight. When Stiles finally came around fully, he could only throw his arms around Derek’s shoulders and hang on. Picking up the pace, Derek held him like someone might try to take him away, snapping his hips faster and faster with the marrow deep need to own and to keep. They were both nearly shouting, Stiles high and thin, the snaking bleed of his orgasm growing stronger, Derek snarling, grunting, straining until he seized up, sobbing out loud as he came, flooding Stiles’ insides with hot gushing waves of his come.

 Stiles gasped, inhaling deeply as his eyes snapped open, a light going off behind them. The room looked suddenly brighter, the sweat salt stinging his eyes and the smell of their sex flooding his nose. He could feel it, feel the pulsing of Derek’s cock in him, feel the fullness press at him as he was filled with so much come and it tipped him over the edge. Silently tensing, nails digging into the hard muscled shoulders, he came, a few thin ropes from his overused body.

 Collapsed on one another, Stiles liked the way Derek panted on top of him, arms still holding him tight and taking just enough weight off so he wasn’t crushed completely. His ass throbbed in time with his own pounding heart, and Derek’s cock pulsed within him at the same rate. The sensation was so oddly intimate. Pulse...pulse...pulse...

 “Two hearts that beat as oooone….” he sang softly, laughing at his own stupid joke before blacking out completely.

Chapter Text

His eyes snapped open one moment before Derek’s arm tightened around his middle, so it wasn’t the sensation of being strapped against the solid wall of Derek’s body that roused him. It was the fizzy brush of awareness.

A threat.

The impression flashed through Stiles so quickly he believed it to be his own. But the sub vocal growl raising the hair on the backs of his arms, the way Derek slowly maneuvered himself overtop of Stiles, instinctively protecting him, told him otherwise. Derek pulled him tightly underneath him while his other hand braced against the floor, claws elongating with a deadly soft sound against the wood. He couldn’t hear anything, but he knew Derek could.

Just as Stiles was about to say something, there’s a tapping against the door, which set Derek off into a full-throated snarl.

“We’ve waited long enough, we need to get in there!” A woman’s voice called, impatient.

It finally occurred to Stiles to take stock of his surroundings.

The room they’d burst into last night, shelves full of cans and brightly colored jars, appeared to be a pantry. The bed they’d made of two gargantuan canvas sacks of flour had been surprisingly comfortable, but a quick inspection showed both of them were dusted head to toe in white.

“Oh god,” Stiles groaned, they were going to have one hell of a walk of shame ahead of them. He scrambled for his clothes, heaped in a disgusting pile in the corner, covered in dust. Derek’s gaze remained fixed on the door, the claws stay out, but Stiles managed to shove his jeans at him and nudge him into putting them on. The confetti that used to be Derek’s shirt he kicked under a shelf and hoped no one noticed. Not that it mattered now anyway.

“Don’t you growl at me we’ve got wolves to feed!” The woman admonished from the other side, “Nobody told you to cuib pe acolo. Toată mâncarea noastră va mirosi ca niște colegi noi, idioți*.” She cursed at them in a language Stiles had never heard until another set of footsteps joined them outside. Now there were two voices chiding them in an unintelligible clip, but Stiles could translate get the hell out, just fine.

”Come on.” He tugged, but Derek wouldn’t move, and when Stiles tried to get around him to open the door himself, the man grabbed him by the waist, hauling him into his side. ”What in the hell are you doing right now? We can’t stay in a kitchen pantry, it doesn’t have a shower! Or cable!”

More yelling, more growling. Now there were children laughing, one of them asking what’s going on. At this rate the whole damn village was going to know they’re holed up in here because they were so goddamned hard for each other last night they couldn’t bother with a bed.

Or a room with locks apparently. The door swept open, Alpha Farkas stepping neatly inside before shutting it behind her. Her eyes glowed red, one placating hand held out to Derek, clearly having anticipated whatever trigger mood he’s in this morning. There’s little subtlety in the way he’s  wedged Stiles behind the shield of his body, but at least he’d managed to pull the claws in, his eyes fading back to a human shade in the presence of the Alpha.

”Go, take him. No one will touch him, Black Wolf. I won’t allow it.” She snapped her fingers above her head. ”All of you, gone.”

There’s no indication anything’s changed in the hallway, but after a moment, Derek’s shoulders uncoil in gradual increments. Cassia stepped aside and nodded gracefully at the two of them, the look of knowing amusement only barely restrained. Derek took Stiles’ hand, opening the door and scanning the hall as if expecting an attack. Finding it empty, he darted out with Stiles flailing behind, dragging him almost off his feet in his haste.

”Honestly, I think we’d make better progress if you tucked me under your arm like a football.” The flour billowed behind them in a white trail. Derek slowed to look over his shoulder, considering. ”No. I was kidding! No. Just use your super wolf powers or whatever to figure out where our room is, I have no idea where we even--”

”Here,” Derek growled, charging a familiar door and shouldering it open with almost as much aggression as he slammed it shut again, bolting the locks with the force of one intent on them staying that way. ”Stiles.” He rumbled again, turning on Stiles and stalking toward him while the young man grinned and backed away, voice breathlessly unsteady.

”Oooh, very apex predator thing you’re working right now. Of all the other wolves prowling around, you’re definitely the most—”

Instantly, the blood warming Stiles’ cheeks dropped down his center in a cold sluice, the whole room snapping in on him, legs collapsing as he’s was overcome by an onslaught of panic rising up inside him. There were too many people. They weren’t safe, someone might.....take.....

Derek crouched over him, calling his name, though everything came to Stiles as if underwater, the panic banking higher as he searched for the source but found it slipping past his fingers in a ribbon of silk. They wanted.....and he hadn’t....done....what? What hadn’t he done? The wall behind them groaned, a series of splintering noises like a ship coming apart. Derek was shaking him now, laying him out on his back, the pale green tint of his eyes growing darker as all light bled out of the room. What was wrong with him, Stiles wondered, terrified, why wasn’t he moving, why wasn’t......Stiles....

Why wasn’t Stiles moving. That was the thought that caught in his head, the lone thing he could latch onto when everything else seemed to be crashing into and over and through in a malestrom. Stiles wasn’t moving. But he was Stiles. He was.....looking at Derek but.....

”Hooooly shit,” Stiles managed to gasp after a desperate lungful of air, clutching onto Derek’s arm, an anchor while the room still spun. ”Ok, just- gimme a sec...this is so freaky.”

It was most like willing a limb to move after it had gone numb, the mechanics of it were starting to come to him, but the action proved difficult to induce. He could recognize the difference now, his emotions versus Derek’s, but they were still slopping together, Derek’s panic fueling his own, a confusing churn that gradually calmed the more he was able to process that difference inside him. He squeezed Derek’s forearm and managed something near a smile of reassurance, and to his amazement, Stiles felt the panic inside him fade a notch.

”Anyone ever told you you’re too tightly wound?” Stiles levered himself up to sitting. ”You gotta meditate or something, buddy, or you’re gonna have a heart attack before you’re thirty.”

”WHAT?!” Derek fell back on his ass next to Stiles, running a hand through his hair with no small amount of force. ”If I have a heart attack, I swear to God it’ll be because of you. What in the hell was thaa—”

They both noticed the change in the room right then, and sat there dumbstruck, staring at a door that was no longer a door. That only moments ago it had been a standard, decently heavy entrance fit neatly between it’s framed place in the wall. What stood there now bulged out in gnarled convolutions of wood, branches and roots piercing the walls, the floor, while a great canopy of leafy green splashed up along the ceiling, reaching fat fingers to every corner. On the table beside the window, a vase of flowers had broken from their prison, the jumbled root ball swollen and draping over the sides of the table amid the broken glass, flowers wildly fanned and twice their original size, buds drowsily popping open with petering enthusiasm. The window behind them was entirely overcome by vines, a single shoot of green wedging its way under the sill, a verdant three-point leaf bobbing in the air like a lone scout.

”How worried do I need to be right now?” Derek asked with the sort of careful neutrality that implied he was trying not to lose his cool.

”Um, more than ’It’s nothing’ but less than ’We’re gonna die’? I don’t know yet, I’m still trying to separate you from me in here,” he tapped his forehead, then froze at the look on Derek’s face. ”Oh, yeah, ok, maybe forgot to mention that before. So, um, not trying to freak you out or anything, but I can sort of feel what you’re feeling. Sometimes. Or, like, sense where you are. Kinda. It’s not, like, all the time or anything? Just a couple times so far, but I think --and it’s not like I was trying to-- but I think......something’s got you all keyed up and it just kinda barreled into me. This feeling that someone’s coming to take something away? Or that there’s a danger of...... something. I don’t know it’s all fuzzy, but my spark might have maybe reacted to it.” He made a guilty sweep of the room.  “A little.”

Dealing with pressurized silences was never one of Stiles’ strengths. Sprawling out on the floor with Derek looming over him became suddenly unbearable. He sprang to his feet a little too fast, listing slightly and covering it beautifully by overshooting and tripping over absolutely nothing, catching himself on the side of the bed and propping himself against it to avoid injury.

"You can feel me?” Derek managed to right himself much more gracefully, a slow unfolding that looked like it should include a wind machine and backup dancers. Stiles grimaced at the injustice.

"Yes?” Unconsciously shrinking in on himself by degrees. Oh God it was all over. He’d landed the most perfect specimen of manhood walking around on two legs and now the universe was going to correct its mistake. Even with Derek being a werewolf, from a werewolf family, didn’t mean he was prepared to deal with something this bizarre. Or invasive. Or creepy. ”I’m sorry.”

"What do you feel right now?” His expression was so deliberately blank, his posture absolutely still. Siles had no way to gauge how Derek was taking this, but it couldn’t be good. And now they were trapped in here with a fully rooted tree where the door had been, so unless the Farkas guest room had a spare chainsaw in its closet, they weren’t getting out any time soon.

"Nothing! I’ve got control of it, I swear! I’ve closed the circuit, killed the power, hit the off switch. Your thoughts are 100% secure from my spark. Or, like, 98ish....maybe 95% secure. You don’t have to—I’ll control it so--”

Derek was a wolf.

It was something Stiles could easily lose sight of when the guy was being awkwardly sweet, or grumpy or strutting around in a leather jacket and jeans like a regular human. But he wasn’t a regular human.

Flash of blue eyes as he ducked his head. Shoulders and back muscles bunching before he knifed across the distance. It happened too fast for Stiles to respond, hoisted off his feet, the words throttled with an unflattering sound when his back his the mattress.  And then Derek was everywhere, mouth and hands and the urgent press of him grinding down into the joint of his hip for a few sharp thrusts, just enough for Stiles’ own arousal to needle it’s way through the initial shock.

“Oh, baby, no,” Derek pressed the words into Stiles’ soft throat and the shallow dip of his temple. “No no no…”

He pulled away, tearing at the fastenings of Stiles’ pants so hard their survival was uncertain and dug a hand into his front pocket, the small, half empty bottle of lube a streak of white at the edge of his vision before Stiles was rolled onto his belly and held in place with a wide hand to the hip. A familiar click, then the cool trickle of slickness that’s caught with two fingers before it can slide down the curvature of his balls, scooped up, pushing into the slight resistance until Stiles’ body gave way with a gasp.

"What If I want you to lose that control, Stiles, what then?” That little catch on the vowels, thread snagged out of place, it told Stiles all he needed to know about Derek’s opinion on the matter better than the drag of his cheek against Stiles’ hair or the slow, wet screw of his fingers ever could 

"Tell me what you feel,” Derek growled right into his ear, pinning his prize down with the full weight of his body and working a third finger in with such desperate care Stiles could feel the tremor in his arm.

"Are you joking right now?” More breath than words. God Derek was so magnificently heavy atop him, and it made Stiles want to lay out flat and still and expecting as hypnotized prey . "I feel you knuckle deep in my ass .”

"You’re a perfect little brat,” The smug flare of joy Stiles felt at the laughter in Derek’s voice ignited into wailing victory. One leg hitched up rough as Derek shoved at his own pants then pushed an unforgivingly hard cock level deep where Stiles was still tender. "Now let go and tell me what you feel.”

"Full,” Stiles choked, his whole consciousness narrowed to the fine burning point where they were joined. He never wanted any other moment of his life to be something other than this, just Derek inside him, surrounding him always for however many heartbeats he had left.

A merciless shove sent them both a foot up the bed. He was sore, the burning sting from how professionally he’d been deflowered last night making him gasp and shake. But the pain barely registered as such, it lifted, it burnished the white-hot pleasure beautifully as Derek shoved thick and greedy against his prostate. The mix of those two sensations razed every nerve, clearing his head and filling it again. Overwhelming, everything about Derek was overwhelming and he couldn’t get away. He never, ever wanted to.

"Open up for me,” whispered behind the curve of his ear. Such a small, pleading sound, so disparate from the starved-blind thrust of Derek’s hips.

It took him a moment, like a latch he was afraid to release for fear of the flood it held back. He touched the smooth skin of the bond in his mind, gingerly pressed against it once then pulled back.

"Please, Stiles.”

He had no defenses against that, nothing at all.

Stiles let go and it was like falling into Derek inside of his own mind. A mossy, star-lined well of Derek that cracked open beneath his hands to swallow him down. Nothing like before, like the jarring riot of ration and panic, this was deep and old and good feeling. Not pleasure good, not like the responses of his body. Other. Sensations that were generational, wordless and clean of human complications. Claws sinking into a grip of earth, blood slick and warm on the teeth, the wind spilling her secrets as you ran and ran ran ran. Sleek bodies in the dark, racing under the trees. The inherent, natal laws of being a wolf. Find the mate. Run them down, pin them, claim.

A mate beneath you with the moon as your crown.

“M-mate,” Stiles shuddered out, still half lost in the forest of Derek’s wolf. It was so intoxicatingly sure of it’s instincts, Stiles had never felt anything like it in his life.

“That’s right.” Derek was thrusting in harder now, or maybe he’d been fucking Stiles  like an animal in rut this whole time and Stiles was only now coming around to realize it. “You’re my mate. I’ll protect you, hunt for you, give you my life.” He had one hand around Stiles’ throat now, a secure claim, while the other wormed down beneath them to grip the weeping length of Stiles’ cock. “Even if you refuse me-- “

“No,” Stiles choked out.

“You could,” Derek countered with a fiendish undulation of his hips, rooting in deep as if he could grind out any thoughts Stiles might have of considering it.

“Can’t-” Stiles sobbed, he’d push back into this gorgeous assault if any little space had been given him. But there was none, there was just Derek working to fill up every last cavity of Stiles’ consciousness with a piece of himself.  And Stiles welcomed it, sucked in humid air that tasted of their sweat and sex, let himself melt into the wolf and its desires, the surety of the way it cried mate in his head until the voice was his own brassy tenor and he was spinning, laughing, and screaming as he came. Ready for the teeth, pleading for them wordlessly and knowing the sweetness of giving flesh in his own mouth for a bright pop second as the pain hit him.

“Let me…” Derek shook above him, the smell of copper on his breath. And Stiles wouldn’t have been able to name it, but he knew there was more, some dangerous, needful end that Derek was too afraid to put into words. But Stiles knew.

“Do it, don’t let me go.”

No hesitation, charging with the wolf’s lightening frenzy, to rear up and pin Stiles down with one leg tucked up beside his body at the right angle to keep him wide open and receptive. The base of Derek’s cock began to inflate, stretch wider and wider with every dirty roll of his hips. Stiles couldn’t catch air as a simmering sweet agony drew him up close to an edge he wasn’t sure he could go over again. Above him, Derek’s howling, cracked open wails as his seed flooded through what’s his. He can feel that heartbeat again, where they’re joined, only now it’s in his belly and spine and it pulses pulses steady and emphatic until the fullness of Derek’s cock and the surge of his come hauls another watery orgasim from Stiles that he is sure feels exactly like drowning.

It’s done it’s done it’s done it’s done thudded like drums in the chambers of his veins and under his tongue.

Stiles listened.

 

+++

 

There was laughter here. And voices overlapping with frenetic life. The hallway filled with the sounds of astonishment, exasperation, daring children sneaking to catch a glimpse of what they were ordered to steer clear of. Some of the pack shouted through to them that branches had spread clear down the hall, that roots speared through the rooms below. No one had been hurt but now most of the children and even some of the adults were having a grand time climbing up the walls and swinging from the ceiling in Joseph’s bedroom downstairs. It was going to be a while before they could cut through.

Beneath their window, people gathered and cheered when Stiles waived down at them. They found his magic delightful, and that was likely the most difficult part for Stiles to comprehend. So many years hiding, isolated with his father in the silence. Don’t trust anyone, don’t tell anyone, never let anyone see. It felt like a waking dream, the ease and acceptance woven round him by these people too exotic to be real.

He ran his palm up the windowsill, poked fingers through the curlicue vines and thumbed the flat of a leaf. However he’d done it, it wasn’t something he knew how to repeat on command. The warm electric buzz of his spark hummed through him, waiting, but he had no idea how to access it in a way that would allow him to reverse something this large. It was fine for small things, parlor tricks basically, but this stuff.... he wasn’t even aware he’d been blooming a forest, so how the hell was he supposed to control it?

Stiles sighed as he shuffled barefoot across the room and burrowed his way back into the bedclothes. It was simpler in here, warm and dark and it smelled like Derek. There were several very valid arguments for never leaving this bed, he was giving all of them serious consideration at the moment. Once again he poked at the ring of raised skin on his neck, a matching set to the one on his arm. He was a little dissapointed to find it healed so quickly, no sharp wound to press, no slow scabs or fresh red skin to admire, he’s not sure why he wanted to observe it healing over time like an ordinary cut, but he had. It tingled, though, when he paid it attention, a warm staticy buzz that he liked very much.

Derek, for his part, was entirely shameless in how much he was enjoying this predicament. Stiles trapped in a metaphorical tower while Derek scaled the overgrown vines on the side of the building to fetch food and books, and this last time an armful of giant, weathered scrolls. He didn’t need to feel Derek to decrypt the poorly hidden delight skipping across his features as he’d come in through the window.

”You know you could just carry me down, too.” Stiles mumbled from somewhere inside his nest. ”Alpha Farkas might take some kind of offense if I don’t make a formal apology for trashing her guest room.”

“Alpha Farkas has made a new ally that is turning out to be more powerful than previously anticipated. Trust me, she doesn’t mind a little redecorating.”

“What are you even doing over there anyway?” Pouting a little that Derek hadn’t decided to join him in bed yet.

“Maps.”

“..........oooof?” Stiles prompted, poking his head out of the covers and gesturing for any sort of elaboration.

“The land.”

“Oh my god, Derek most maps are of ‘the land’! I’m trapped in here until someone brings me a rope ladder! Engage me in conversation or I’m going to call for Yoska and his buddies to come up here to play poker.”

That got his attention, Derek twisted around to look at him from where he had been hunched over the table. “That’s a bad idea.” The drop in his voice a portent of doom. Stiles loved an easy mark.

“Of course it’s a bad idea, I’m full of bad ideas. It’s your job to make sure I’m too distracted to follow through on any of them.”

Derek sighed deeply, but just for a moment there, Stiles had seen a ripple of something indecipherable skim his features, as if for that split second the barrier between man and animal had been stretched delicately thin.

“Come here,” He growled, tracking every inelegant move Stiles made to disengage himself from the mass of covers. The moment he’s in reach, Derek scooped him in against his chest, tucking Stiles tight against the shelter of him as he pressed them both against the table.

“This is where we are.” Derek breathed against his neck, taking Stiles’ hand in his own and placing one of his fingers onto a finely inked swirl that’s nearly lost in the barely ordered chaos of lines and curves that score the rolled out parchment. It’s not like any map Stiles had ever seen, someone could tell him it’s an abstract representation of the concept of patriotism and he’d have to agree. There were no markers, no key or scale, nothing that makes this look like a topography one could navigate to. “And this is where we need to be, Hale territory.” He moved Stiles’ finger to trace an indirect route to another batch of curving lines that span the upper corner of the map, tracing his lips on the bare ridge of Stiles’ shoulder as he does so. “There’s a waypoint here,” He indicated, “Farkas owned, but I’m sure we’ll be permitted to use the supplies. We’ll rest there. It was easier terrain to cross when I came alone as a wolf, it will be challenging for a human.”

“Mm hmm,” Normally he’d argue, rise to the challenge whether he was up for it or not, but it was hard to concentrate with Derek surrounding him like he was, radiating heat and safety and desire. His head lolled back on Derek’s shoulder the instant blunt teeth set into the muscle there. Derek’s arms squeezed him tighter, the bond between them turning muzzy with contentment and the distant promise of sex. “But, you know, here’s an idea, maybe we should stay here for another few days. Conserve our energy, rest up for the final push?”

Derek spun him by the hips, rooting out his scent in the flushed curve of his neck. “What makes you think I’d let you rest?”

It’s so goddamned easy for Stiles to slip from stable to desperate with Derek. It’s like his vision dims and pure sensation thrusts forward, enveloping him with another skin made entirely of this single-minded hunger. He leaned back when Derek began to peel open his jeans.

“Right here, I want you to fuck me on top of this table.”

“That map is over a hundred years old.” Derek hummed as he kicked Stiles’ jeans away.

“The bed. I want you to fuck me right over there on that bed.”

“Whatever you want,” Derek grinned and Stiles wondered if there’ll ever be a time in the future when it doesn’t stop his heart. He screamed, giddy, when Derek hauled him off his feet, then laughed when he’s catapulted onto the bed with Derek leaping after him.

He laughed harder still at the eruption of applause below their open window. He didn’t understand the specifics of the encouragement shouted up at them in that strange language, but whatever it was, he wholeheartedly agrees.