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Truth or Dare

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It all starts with the witch.

           

 And that is a phrase that crops up a little too much in Stiles' life these days for comfort.

           

This witch though, has been a bitch (ha!) to catch. They're not sure where she'd come from originally, but she's been bouncing all over a tri-county area putting spells and hexes on people. Old school lesson-teaching stuff for the most part; greedy CEOs being compelled to give away all their money, warts on the vain, blindness on the bigoted, etc.

           

They're not going to kill her. Nothing she's done has been lethal, or even lasted more than a week. About the worst thing she'd done was to turn a particularly vicious bully into a mouse for a few days. Like, an actual, literal, tail, ears, M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E mouse! Which Stiles still not-so-secretly thinks is pretty cool, and reason enough to let her go on her merry way, but apparently it's the "principle" of the thing.

           

Or so Derek claims. Stiles is frankly pretty sure it has more to do with yet another supernatural pissing match than any sort of moral high ground of anti-transmogrification policies, but whatever.

           

They've got the witch trapped in a fork in the river, running water on two sides, the pack on the other.

           

"Leave and never come back," growls Derek--wolfed out, teeth and claws flashing.

           

"Oh pish posh," she says, sounding exactly like the sweet cookie-baking old lady she apparently is when she's not making people's lips disappear. (Gossips.)

           

"I'm not hurting anyone, Dearie." she tsks, and Stiles wants nothing as much as he wants to curl up under a blanket with hot cocoa and have her read him stories about knights and dragons. "Just the opposite, I'm helping them learn to be better people. By showing them their...shortcomings, I'm giving them--and those around them--better, healthier, happier lives!"

           

She smiles, and Stiles is reminded of Mrs. Claus from the Christmas specials and seasonal Coke ads. He can tell the others feel the same. He glances over; Boyd and Erica have their arms down, stances totally relaxed. Scott and Isaac are grinning and slightly dewy eyed, the saps. Stiles is almost starting to believe this might just be one occult encounter they settle peacefully, without tears and blood.

           

Derek snorts.

           

Mrs. Claus snaps to him, eyes hard and cold over the top of her bifocals. Stiles shivers. The warmth and comfort from the earlier moment are gone with a chill of ice running down his spine.

           

"You think I'm lying, mutt?" she spits out in a voice like frostbite. "What would you know about the truth?'

           

Before Stiles can even blink, Mrs. Claus throws and an arm, sending out a bolt of blue light that hits Derek squarely in the chest, knocking him down. Erica leaps for her, but the moment before her claws make contact, there is a "Pop!" and Mrs. Claus vanishes in a burst of glitter and the smell of warm gingerbread. Erica, surprised, hits the ground where Mrs. Claus used to be with an undignified yelp and a thud. She's up in an instant though, and the other wolves run to join her, trying to catch any scent or trace at all of where the witch has gone.

           

Stiles instead rushes to where Derek is still lying on his back in the dirt. The closer he gets, the less the air smells like gingerbread and more like the unfortunately all too familiar smell of burning flesh.

           

"Whoa, whoa, dude. Hold up." Stiles says as Derek struggles to pull himself into a sitting position. He's favoring his right side and Stiles can see fresh blood and the raw pink of burned skin under where his shirt and jacket have been scorched away. Stiles kneels down and gets an arm behind Derek's shoulders. Derek's even heavier than he looks. Which is saying a lot, Stiles thinks, seeing with how um, solid he's noticed Derek is. Noticed in a purely observational way, of course. Yeah, solid. Once they together get him sitting up, Stiles keeps his hand on Derek's back for support while Derek catches his breath.

           

"That was one hell of a...thing, she hit you with. Are you okay?" asks Stiles.

           

Derek shakes off Stiles' hand and stands.

           

"Yes," Derek snaps as he limps off, one hand pressed against his bloody side. "I'm always okay."

 

***

 

           

It takes them all a few days to notice anything's wrong. 

 

In their defense though, Stiles would like to point out that Derek is kind of a sarcastic bastard even on a good day.

 

           

"Not bad," Derek says with a scowl after kicking Scott's feet out from under him for the third time in a row. "That's the best you've done in months."

           

"I'm trying, okay?" Scott pushes himself back to his feet. Even with just his puny human senses, Stiles can feel the frustration rolling off of Scott from across the yard. He can only imagine what Boyd and Isaac must be feeling--they're practically twitching.

           

All in all though, it's not a bad day for "training" as Derek calls it. Stiles thinks it looks a lot more like Mortal Combat when the controller for Player 2's batteries are dead. Not that he'd say that out loud. Not often anyway. Stiles and Lydia are spread out with some books and Peter's laptop, trying to figure out how much is real (Chupacapra? Really?) and how much is just Peter trying to mess with anyone who hacks his files. That said, the sun is shining, it's just cool enough for a jacket, but not cold enough for a coat, and no one has tried to kill anyone Stiles cares about in at least 72 hours.

           

Derek knocks Scott down again.

           

"Goddammit Derek, what do you want from me!" shouts Scott as he gets to his feet again.

           

Atta boy, thinks Stiles.

           

Derek grits his teeth, "I don't want you to be able to defend yourself. I want you to spend more time with the Argents. But since I know you will, I want you to be in danger as much as possible because you're not a part of this pack Scott, whether you don't want to be or not."

           

Scott freezes mid-lunge, with a look like hamster that flew off its wheel into the side of its cage--part stunned, part angry, mostly confused, but still adorable.

           

"What?"

           

"You didn't heard me," snarls Derek.

           

"Huh?"

           

Next to Stiles, Lydia cocks her head. Stiles looks over. She's wearing her I-am-concentrating-very-hard-and-my-conclusions-will-likely-be-unpleasant-for-you face. Stiles gulps.

           

"Derek," she says slowly. "What color is the sky?"

           

Derek looks at the ground, lips pressed together. He grimaces, "Orange."

           

"Mm hm, and what's your full name?"

           

"Not Derek Edwin Hale."

           

"I see. And did that witch the other day put a spell on you?"

           

Derek's shoulders slump. "I don't think so."

           

Lydia narrows her eyes, "And when exactly were you planning on telling us all this?"

           

"Not never," Derek mutters.

           

"Wait, what's going on?" asks Scott.

           

Lydia sighs in a way that adequately expresses how very trying it is for her to be constantly surrounded by her intellectual inferiors.

           

Oh. "The witch hit him with some sort of lying spell," Stiles realizes. Which is weird, to say the least. Stiles has seen several references to truth spells, truth potions, truth pollen, you name it. But nothing about anything "anti-truth."

           

"So wait," Stiles asks, turning to Derek, "are you being a dick on purpose, or can you actually not tell the truth?"

           

"No." Derek says.

           

"Does- does that mean 'yes'?" asks Scott, faced scrunched in thought. Stiles feels his pain.

           

"No."

           

There's a pause.

           

"This is very confusing," remarks Boyd.

           

"Yes, shit." says Derek.

 

***

 

           

So Stiles does what he does best--he researches. Sure, the whole thing will be over in a couple days just like the rest of Mrs. Claus' spells, but knowledge is power and knowing is half the battle and other PSA slogans. So. Research.

           

He doesn't get very far.

           

Googling "lying spell" gets him the wikipedia entry for "Compulsive Lying" which is interesting (The technical term is pseudologia fantastica, who knew?) but when he surfaces from an article on "Calvary Warfare in the Ottoman Empire" to realize he's wiki-linked himself out of four hours, he decides that may be a dead end. Instead he goes over some of the books he's informally borrowed indefinitely from the local community college as well as some of Peter's notes. Say what you will about the undead son of a bitch, he can compile an index like a pro. But Stiles doesn't have much luck with either of those sources either.

           

The problem is too much information, but none of it quite right. There are plenty of different versions of truth spells mentioned, including a couple of spell recipes from Japan and one deeply disturbing list of popular uses thereof, but nothing exactly like the un-truth spell they're dealing with here, so Stiles decides more data is required.

           

Need more info on spell. Come over immediately. Stiles sends the text, but then as an afterthought, sends another. Please.

 

He's been trying for months to teach Derek the concepts of "manners" and "common courtesy". Might as well lead by example.

           

He opens up minesweeper, but only gets blown up twice before his phone buzzes.

           

Yes.

           

Stiles is shocked. It's the answer he wanted, but he'd expected to have to whine and plead and use up a good chunk of his texting plan first. Unless...

           

Does that mean "no"?

           

His phone buzzes again almost instantly.

           

No.

           

Right, okay. Not helpful. Stiles thinks for a moment then types for a few minutes before hitting send.

           

If I were to ask you if your first "yes" was a "no" would you say "no"?

           

??? no.

           

Okay, maybe something simpler. Is your favorite color pink?

           

Yes.

           

Just to make sure. Are you secretly a magical princess?

           

Yes.

           

Stiles laughs. He can just see the look on Derek's face when he typed that. Also, the spell apparently affects written communication as well as spoken. Neat.

           

You're right, he types. Definitely no reason to try to end this thing early.

           

Stiles doesn't get a response, but a few minutes--and minefield explosions--later, there's a knock on his window.

           

"I know you can tell when my dad's not home," Stiles says as he slides up the windowpane. "You can use the front door. This is all unnecessarily serial killer-ish, even for you."

           

Derek rolls his eyes then hops up and through the window in a single, fluidly arching move that Stiles only watches out envy. Derek stands and crosses his arms. After a moment, he taps his foot impatiently. Which, wow, apparently silent!Derek equals drama queen. But right, it's not like they're BFF's, Derek is in Stiles' bedroom for a reason. Not in Stiles' bedroom for like a bedroom reason type reason. Unfortunately, pipes up an internal voice Stiles tries to keep squashed. But for a reason like someone-has-magically-forced-Derek-to-act-against-his-will type reason. The thought sobers Stiles instantly.

           

"Right," he says, clearing his throat, "Um, I didn't have much luck researching the generalities of the spell, I think the first step is to call Deaton and see if he has any ideas..."

 

"Yes," Derek says firmly. "Yes, Deaton."

 

"Okay, great says Stiles, digging out his phone, "Gimme just a sec-"

 

"Yes!" Derek says again and suddenly Stiles' phone is on the other side of the room. Derek grits his teeth and smiles that fake smile, the one that means Derek thinks you are the dumbest dumb to ever dumb (Stiles' words), but to try to fucking understand anyway. Stiles hates that smile.

 

"Yes. Deaton," Derek says slowly. "Yes. Anyone. Pack. Knowing. Not unsafe."

 

"Okay," Stiles says, after a moment to translate. "No Deaton. No anyone outside the pack knowing, because it wouldn't be safe?" Derek nods. "Alright...I guess we then skip ahead to step eight.  We should test the parameters of the spell. If we have more information on the specifics, it might help us figure out what we're dealing with."

           

"So what don't you want me to do?" asks Derek.

           

Stiles grabs his "Weird Shit" notebook off his desk and sits down backwards on his desk chair facing Derek.

           

"I figure I'll ask you some questions--nothing too crazy," he adds quickly at Derek's frown. "Just like, 'Is the Pope Catholic? To the best of your knowledge, do bears in fact, shit in the woods?' Stuff like that. Maybe try to get you to communicate in ways that are not just the eyebrows of doom. No seriously, stop that. It's like I can physically feel you judging me."

           

Derek huffs and sits down in the chair against the opposite wall.

           

He waves a hand, "Stay on then."

           

"Alright," Stiles says with a clap. "Let's establish a baseline. Tell me something true."

           

Derek cocks his head to the side, after a moment he says, "My name isn't Derek Hale."

           

He scowls.

           

"No, no, no. That's good. Simple, to the point, and I know it's the opposite of true. Excellent baseline. Now we just go on from here, repeat after me..."

           

This is going to be easy.

 

***

 

           

Two very long, very frustrating hours later, they're nowhere nearer to figuring it out. Derek has nearly walked out twice, but Stiles was able to talk him back both times. I.e.: begged.

           

Through extensive trial and error, they've figured out the basic parameters of the spell. Derek isn't just lying; he has to tell the opposite of the truth. "Hot" becomes "cold". "Yes" becomes "no". "Katy Perry lyrics" become "not Katy Perry lyrics", etc. It doesn't seem to have any impact on body language or tone but direct communication, like speaking or writing, is out. Stiles had wanted to see what would happen with Morse code, but Derek didn't know it and had just told Stiles not to be not an idiot. Which fine, maybe that wouldn't have been the most practical fix, but it's no reason for name-calling.

           

"Ok," Stiles says, rubbing a hand over his eyes. They feel like sandpaper. If it was up to him, they would have stopped five minutes in, but each time he opens his mouth to suggest it, he remembers that as frustrating as this is for him, for Derek it has to be a thousand times worse, so he keeps going. "This time, try not to answer at all. Do you prefer Pepsi or Coke?"

           

Derek stays silent. He leans over, focusing on the floor. After a few seconds, Stiles can see his jaw muscles twitch, his lips press tight. A few seconds later, Derek closes his eyes and starts to pant--Short hard breathes through his nose that are getting faster and faster. Jesus. Then Derek jerks his head back and Stiles can see tremors running up his arms from his clenched fists. The tremors become more violent until Derek's entire body is shaking with them.

           

"Derek!"

           

Derek topples out of his chair. Stiles is too slow to catch Derek before he hits the floor, but he scrambles over as quickly as he can to crouch beside Derek, who's convulsiving now like he's having a seizure.

           

"Derek! Stop!" Stiles grabs Derek's wrist and it's like iron, tendons and muscles taut to the point of breaking. His hand is wet, and Stiles looks down to see Derek's claws are extended, digging into the skin of his own palm, Derek fighting for control.

           

"Derek, stop it! Just answer the question! Pepsi or Coke?"

           

"Kkkkkkkkkcoke," gasps Derek finally. With that, he collapses; his entire body relaxing at once into a pile at the foot of Stiles' bed. Stiles feels the tension draining out of Derek's hand in his. Stiles sets it down gently on the carpet by his knee.

           

They both stay there, Derek catching his breath, Stiles trying to keep his heart from leaping out of his chest and making a break for it down the stairs.

           

"Fuck," says Stiles.

           

Derek nods.

           

"Well. Now we know what happens when you don't answer."

           

Derek huffs out a laugh. It turns into a moan halfway through. Stiles absently pats his arm.

           

"I'll try not to ask you questions until it goes away."

           

Derek snorts derisively. Stiles whacks him.

           

"Dude. Don't do that. That's what got you in this mess in the first place." Stiles sighs, "Have a little faith in me?"

           

Because yes, Stiles knows that he is occasionally known for speaking without thinking, but after the last year or so, with all the craziness that they entailed, he and Derek have become well... Stiles doubts Derek thinks of him as a friend, but they're friend-ly at least. Like, Derek hasn't seriously threatened to kill him in months! Or vice versa, that has to count for something.

           

So yeah, they're friend-ly. And Stiles will pretty much do anything for his friend-lies, so if shutting his mouth for a few days is what he has to do, then it's what he has to do.

           

And if sometimes Stiles wishes Derek was more than just his friend-ly? Well, that's not something he's going to make Derek ever have to deal with. It's not that bad anyway, Stiles is used to living with disappointment--he thrives on it.

           

"I'll tell the rest of the pack to be careful for the next few days too."

           

Derek nods, but makes no move to get up.

           

"Do you...I downloaded 'Game of Thrones'," says Stiles cautiously.

           

Derek nods again and Stiles stands to get his laptop. He settles back down, leaning against the foot of his bed, laptop angled so Derek can see.

           

"No thanks," murmurs Derek as the opening credits roll.

           

"Anytime," says Stiles truthfully.

 

***

 

           

From then on, Stiles sends Derek a text every morning.

 

Tell me something true.

 

The replies he gets back aren't promising.

 

The sun rises in the west.

 

The world is not round.

 

I love asparagus.

 

The last one makes Stiles laugh. He has the mental image of Derek giving his scowly Alpha face to a plate of greens to cow them into submission.

 

As the days go on though, the situation seems less and less funny. Derek comes by Stiles' house every few days. Sometimes they try again to test the limits of the curse, to see if there are any loopholes or if it's weakening. It's not, and those days mostly end in Derek slamming something before leaving Stiles' room. It used to be via the windowpane, but now is usually the door, first to Stiles' room, then a few moments later, the back one in the kitchen, so that's some sort of progress at least.

 

There are other days though, when Derek is already there when Stiles gets home from practice, looking pinched and drawn as he flips through Stiles' graphic novels. Stiles isn't really sure what Derek does with all of his free time on the other days, or even before the spell happened, but he kind of really enjoys these days. On these days, they watch movies on Stiles' laptop or Stiles tries to do his homework while Derek pokes around his room, muttering things that should not make as much sense as they do.

 

Because that's the thing, after about the first day and a half, Stiles hasn't had any trouble understanding Derek. At all.

 

Maybe it's because Stiles is used to having things jumbled in his head. Ideas bouncing around in the wrong order until he forces them to make sense. Or maybe it's because, without the ability to sarcasm, Derek's a lot easier to comprehend. It's like reading something carefully printed in a mirror, everything Derek says is reversed, but so much easier to read that Stiles occasionally forgets.

 

On those days, it's almost easy to forget there's anything wrong. Not just that Derek's under a spell, but that any of it, werewolves, witches, hunters, exists. Because it turns out, when you cut out all the half-truths and wary silences, Derek is actually a pretty cool guy. He's funny as hell when he wants to be, a sort of dry, deadpan wit that leaves Stiles snorting with laughter. And he's certainly not afraid to express his opinions, as their great Morpheus vs. Daniel Shoutdown of '13 would prove.

 

And somewhere along the way, those sort of friend-ly feelings Stiles has for Derek? Well, they sort of start becoming more than friend-ly.

 

***

 

You are not not wrong. I care what you say. The Corinthian is cool. He's not disturbing.

 

The rain in Spain doesn't stay neatly on the plain.

 

I really do like cats. Shut down, Stiles. It isn't not a werewolf thing, it's not a me thing.

 

 

***

 

 

There are other days though.

 

The first one comes after the full moon. Derek has been cursed for over three weeks.

 

"I dunno man, I mean, he seemed totally fine," says Scott around a mouthful of cafeteria macaroni salad. "I mean, it's not like he really talks or anything anyway, y'know?"

 

No, Stiles does not know, because he is still working on a series of witty yet devastating arguments for his and Derek's ongoing ranking of the Batman movies debate that will clearly illustrate, outline, and illuminate, how very wrong Derek is to completely dismiss the Val Kilmer one. 

 

"Well, what did he say? Does the spell not work when he's wolfed out? Was there any sort of full moon wolfy juju counteracting the spell?"

 

"I don't know!" Scott yells, throwing up his hands. A bit of noodle flies off his fork and flies halfway across the room. "He didn't say anything. I mean like, at all. He just frowned and pointed and literally snapped at us when we didn't run fast enough or stay focused or anything."

 

When Stiles gets home that afternoon, there's a pissed off werewolf clicking through things on his laptop. Stiles has a mini-heart attack before he realizes Derek is just looking through the info Stiles downloaded off of Peter's computer.

 

"So," Stiles opens, deciding to try a slightly more tactful approach for once. "I saw Scott today. We chatted."

 

Derek grunts.

 

"Oh, not much, the weather, Mario Kart, the designated hitter rule, boy stuff." Stiles waits. Fuck it, screw tact. "He did mention that his alpha has reverted to the preverbal stage. I see that's true."

 

Derek spins around on the chair and glares at Stiles, then sighs, rubbing a hand over his face.

 

"I was meant to do this," he whispers, and it's so quiet that Stiles can almost believe he didn't hear anything.

 

"What?" Stiles asks, voice low.

 

"I was meant to do this." Derek repeats. "Laura wasn't the one...It was never her. She wasn't supposed to be the alpha. But for years, when our parents..."

 

Stiles freezes. This is the first time he's ever heard Derek talk about his family, and if he's translating right...

 

Derek laughs, and it's a soft, pained noise. "She wouldn't have handled this so much better. None of it."

 

Derek's shoulders slump, and Stiles isn't sure what to do with this, any of it. He's never seen Derek so...open. Vulnerable.

 

"Hey," he tries, sitting down slowly on the foot of his bed. From there, he's far enough away to give Derek plenty of room, but if he leans forward and reaches out an arm...  He carefully lays a hand on Derek's knee. All sorts of warnings about wild and wounded animals flash through his mind, but he ignores them.

 

"I think you're doing pretty okay. I mean, yeah okay witches suck, but the rest of it? Dude, they're teenagers; not listening to authority is basically wired into their systems. It's going to take more than just a little lycanthropy to get over that. As for the rest..."

 

Stiles gulps, but the rock in his throat doesn't move.

 

"After my mom...after my mom, there were a lot of times when I thought 'She would have done this so much better.' whether it was making PB&J or when my dad starting taking overtime after overtime in a row. And I felt like shit, because it felt so selfish to be focusing on that when she was gone--focusing on how differently, how much better she would have handled basically everything if it had been me..."

 

Stiles blinks and he has to look away from Derek. Everything is watery and shimmering at the edges. He takes a deep breath, "But eventually I realized that it didn't matter. It didn't matter what she would have done, it mattered what I did. And if that sometimes meant the jelly was a little sloppy, or the peanut butter didn't reach all the way to the crusts, then it was okay. Because maybe she'd have done it better, but I'd tried my best."

 

Neither of them speaks, then Derek puts his hand over Stiles and squeezes once gently before letting his hand go. Stiles looks at him, and for all that Stiles is learning to understand Derek better, he is still crap at reading his poker face. He can read enough to tell that there's something there, something behind those changeable eyes, but he can't tell what it is. After a moment he leans back, taking his hand off Derek's knee. He ignores how cold his hand feels now, by scrubbing it through his hair.

 

"Uh..." he says, when Derek seems to be making no move to break the heavy moment that's fallen over them both."Want a sandwich?"

 

Derek smiles, the corners of his mouth curling up just slightly in way that Stiles had never seen before this whole spell thing, but has been seeing a lot more recently.

 

"Nah," says Derek, still smiling.

 

"Okay, then," Stiles says, flopping back on his bed. "You know where the kitchen is. I want extra mayo on mine, don't skimp on the baloney."

 

He laughs when a pen bounces off his forehead.

 

 

 

***

 

 

I don't like Chinese food.

 

My car wasn't originally Laura's.

 

I'm so not tired of this.

 

 

***

 

Finally, enough is enough. It's been another two weeks and Stiles is starting to worry. Not just about Derek, but about the whole pack. It's not like they have any sort of compulsory "pack bonding" activities or mandatory training days or cuddlefests or any of the other weird shit Stiles came across when they all started to finally work together and he'd googled "How to strengthen your werewolf pack". Some things, once googled, can never be un-googled. He still shudders at the memories.

 

The thing is though; they don't need to organize anything because usually they all just sort of gravitate together. Y'know, like a pack. Whether it's movie night at Lydia's or just messing around in the woods, they're always hanging out. But since the curse, the only one of them Stiles sees outside of classes is Scott. With the occasional special bonus Isaac attachment. Even Derek has started to come by less and less, and when he is there? He doesn't talk as much. He'll still watch movies or argue with Stiles, but he makes his points with his hands, with his facial expressions. He's more like the Derek Stiles first met, not the one he's come to l-like. It's weird and it's scary and Stiles doesn't care for it.

 

The whole pack is getting more nervous as well. Stiles hasn't been able to figure out yet if it's just worry for Derek, or some deeper level alpha-bond thing, He's watching Erica drop her pen for the third time in a row during World History, when Stiles realizes that whatever this is, it has to stop. Now. And once again, it has fallen on Stiles to be the alpha wrangler.

 

Which is how he ends up in front of the Hale house at 2:16 pm when he's supposed to be presenting a paper on Jack London instead. Irony, thy name is Stilinski.

 

Derek doesn't come out when Stiles pulls up, or answer the door when Stiles tries to open it, but Stiles isn't totally surprised. The Camaro is parked in front of the house though, so Derek can't be too far.

 

"DERRRRRR-EK!" Stiles yells, banging on the door a few more times for good measure. Then he turns and shouts into the woods. "Dammit Derek, I don't know where you are but I know you can hear me! Come out, come out, wherever you are!"

 

Stiles settles in, and after a few minutes Derek shows up sweaty and shirtless (surprise, surprise) which is just so completely ridiculous and Derek that this little spark of fondness flares in Stiles. Because seriously, who goes jogging in jeans and motorcycle boots?

 

Other parts of Stiles take an interest too. Stiles gives himself exactly two seconds to look his fill--sweet Jesus--then fixes his eyes firmly above the neckline.

 

"You're scaring your puppies."

 

Derek rolls his eyes and walks into the house. Stiles follows him.

 

"No seriously, I'm afraid Boyd's going to start peeing on the carpet again, and you know how long it took to get him housebroken the first time!"

 

Derek ignores Stiles and heads into the kitchen, one of the few rooms that finally has both electricity and running water. Fancy. Derek goes to the fridge and pulls out the orange juice, yanks off the cap and starts drinking straight from the carton.

 

Seriously? On the one hand, gross. On the other hand... Derek's head is tilted back, eyes closed, the muscles in his neck moving as he swallows... And wow. Stiles has never noticed how fascinating the pattern of the floor tiles in here is. Look at that grout too. That is some good grout right there.

 

After the absolutely obscene noises coming from Derek's direction have stopped, Stiles risks a look up, Derek is grinning, the smug bastard. Stiles opens his mouth to... what? Tell Derek to cut it out? Maybe Derek will say something teasing back like, "Don't make me" and Stiles can just cross those few steps between them...  But that's just it. "Don't make me."

 

"Derek," says Stiles softly. "It's been nearly six weeks. There's something wrong. We need to tell Deaton."

 

Derek throws the empty carton across the room and growls.

 

"Hey, no! That is enough!" Stiles snaps. "No more using this thing as an excuse to go all caveman. If you've got a problem? You use your words!"

 

Derek's eyes flash. He stalks up to Stiles, leans right into his face--noses just inches apart--and growls.

 

Stiles is pissed. He is pissed at Derek. He is pissed at the witch. He is pissed at this whole damn situation. But he is pissed at Derek again. Because dammit, this is unfair. He should not be turned on by enraged Derek. Holy fuck is that a bad survival plan. But he should definitely not be turned on by enraged Derek when he is mad at the asshole and trying to get the stupid bastard to listen to reason.

 

 Stiles thinks about nuns. Old nuns. Old nuns in their underwear. Okay, now he can probably deal with the angry, ripped, gorgeous hunk of werewolf currently breathing his air.

 

"If-if you're trying to do the intimidation thing, that hasn't worked since I was a sophomore, man." Stiles tries for icy nonchalance. When Derek doesn't move back, Stiles risks a "bitch, please" face and a patronizing pat on Derek's shoulder.

 

Immediately, sirens in his brain start blaring "ABORT! ABORT! ABORT!" Angry, ripped gorgeous, firm, warm hunk of werewolf. Fuck. Fuckfuckfuck Old nuns in their underwear drowning kittens fuck.

 

Stiles tries to lift his hand from Derek's shoulder, but squeezes gently instead.

 

Derek's face goes blank and this is it Stiles realizes. This is when Derek figures it out. Maybe before he could have been able to laugh it off as teenage hormones, or make some lame joke about how he always thought he was more of a cat person, but this is more. Stiles can only guess what his face looks like, but he can feel his heartbeat jackrabbiting in his chest, and knows that that alone is enough to give him away, never mind what other crazy clues Derek can read.

 

Stiles has just a few seconds before Derek puts it all together and figures out Stiles' terrible, horrible, no good, very bad crush on him. He might as well use his last few moments before Derek thinks of him as some dumb love-struck kid forever to say something important. Stiles chooses his words carefully. If any good has come out of the last month and a half, at least it's taught him how to do that.

 

"Please, Derek. I can see how much this is hurting you. We all can. And whatever, whatever's going on in your head, we only want to help you. But we've tried everything I can think of. Deaton's the only option left."

 

Stiles looks down, "I want to help you, Derek. Please, just trust me on this."

 

Stiles waits. In front of him, Derek doesn't move except for the steady rise and fall of his chest. Then Derek raises a hand, and runs it down Stiles arm until it rests on top of Stiles' hand, pressing it more firmly against Derek's shoulder. Stiles jerks his head back up, and that's all he has time to register because Derek is kissing him.

 

Stiles lets out a shocked noise and gets a bite on his bottom lip for it, just the lightest press of teeth but it sends a jolt of pure pleasure down Stiles' spine and holy fuck, never in his wildest dreams did he actually think... and that's when he can't think anymore, because Derek licks Stile's teeth and the next few minutes are a blur.

 

Their hands are still trapped between them, but Stiles' hand has slipped from Derek's shoulder to his chest and oh yes, that was the right decision. At some point, Stiles gets his other arm around Derek's back, keeping all that warmth and muscle as close as possible. Derek's other hand comes up to cup his face. He tilts Stiles head back and nips gently down Stiles' neck, rubbing his stubble against the bites and Stiles is on fire from head to foot.

 

He can't help it as his hips rock up against Derek. With a gasp, Derek stops worrying the delicate skin behind Stiles' ear and rests his head on Stile's shoulder. Stiles moves again, more in control this time, rolling his body against Derek's.

 

"Mmmm, Stiles... No. No, I don't..."

 

It's like someone dumped a bucket of ice over Stiles. He pulls back. Derek doesn't...? It takes Stiles a moment to remember the spell, but even then, he can't because, he can't be sure. And even worse, what if he forgets? What if he does something to make Derek say "Yes" and Stiles forgets?

 

Derek's looking at him again and his eyes are cold. He gently lets Stiles go and steps back. And that may be what breaks Stiles heart the most, how fucking gently Derek lets him go.

 

"Derek..."

 

"I won't go to Deaton," Derek bites out. "Not tomorrow."

 

 

And with that, he's gone. Stiles slides down and bangs his head back against the cabinets.

 

It's a long time before he drives home.

 

 

 

***

 

           

"It's not a spell."

           

"Excuse me," says Stiles, "Of course it's a spell. Angry witch, ball of light, strange behavior..." He waves an arm at Derek, "Okay, stranger than usual behavior? Two plus two equals spell."

           

"Close," Deaton says. "But it's actually the big brother of a spell, it's a curse."

           

"A curse? But everything says that to cast a curse, witches need preparation, incantations, the whole shebang! She just pulled this out of her ass and threw it!"

           

Derek nods silently in agreement. They're in Deaton's office at the back of the animal clinic. Derek is skulking in the corner of the room as usual, with an expression on his face that is equal parts pissed and miserable. They haven't said anything about what happened the day before. Stiles had just gotten a text that read, Don't go to Deaton's before lacrosse. He wants to ask Derek why he didn't text Scott instead, or one of his betas, but he's not sure he wants to know.

           

"For most witches, yes," explains Deaton patiently. "But from what you've described, I believe you were dealing with something much older and far more powerful than you believed. You were incredibly lucky she didn't actually want to cause any of you harm."

           

Derek snorts and really? Stiles wants to punch him. They've talked--Stiles has talked--before about this. That is exactly the kind of shit that got him in this mess to begin with.

           

"So what's the same?" asks Derek. "Can't we just not re-do it?"

           

And Stiles has never seen Deaton looked confused before. Yay new experiences.

           

"He means, can't we just fix it the same way as a spell? Wait for it to wear off or find a counter-spell--counter curse?"

           

"I'm afraid it's not as easy as that," Deaton says softly, "Unlike spells, curses rarely have a counter and don't wear off; they're for life."

           

There's silence after that. Stiles is speechless. Yeah, he'd figured this thing, this curse, would probably be a little trickier to get rid of than they'd like, but this? There's no way to fix this. Derek's stuck like this for the rest of his life. Derek's stuck. Sure, Stiles' can understand him fine, and in time maybe, the rest of the pack will get used to it. But he can't be the alpha anymore. 

           

Oh God, it's true, he can't, Stiles realizes. He might be fine for day-to-day stuff, they're flexible, they'll adapt. But in a fight, an order of "Stop!" or "Stay!" when he means the opposite would be disastrous.

           

And then, it's not like Derek has a huge social life, but anyone he spoke to--waitresses, cashiers, very persistent Jehovah's Witnesses--people wouldn't understand. They'd think...

           

And that hurts Stiles to even consider, because whatever those people thought, they'd pity Derek. No. Just, no. Because nobody deserves that, to be looked at and pitied by strangers who don't know anything about you. But Derek? Especially not Derek, who has been through so much, and hurt so badly, but still keeps trying. Trying to help people, to protect them. Who under all the glowering and gruffness and leather is kind. And loyal. And brave.

           

And who Stiles may just be a little bit in love with. Oh crap, he really is in love with Derek Hale, isn't he?

           

"Difficult then," shrugs Derek, interrupting some very important personal revelations on Stiles' part. "Don't kill me."

           

"What!" shouts Stiles, mind immediately parsing the Derek-ese even while in the midst of its own, far less important, crisis. "Are you insane?"

           

"Actually it might work," says Deaton. "Traditionally, killing a victim by piercing their heart is enough to break a curse. Of course, it usually doesn't matter if they're cursed at that point. But with his healing factor," Deaton turns to face Derek. "You should be fine if he stabs you."

           

"Okay, One: No." Stiles says, to put this whole idiotic ridiculousness down before Derek starts to get any ideas. "Two? NO. And three, what do you mean 'if he stabs you'! No one is getting stabbed today! Especially not by me!"

           

"Curses have a nasty way of jumping to the nearest magical person or object when their host dies. That means I can't be there to help do it, or even handle the knife. Nor can any other werewolf in Derek's pack."

           

Deaton looks back and forth between Stiles and Derek with...it might just be sympathy, but it looks knowing to Stiles. Quietly, Deaton says, "I assumed you didn't want him to do this alone."

           

Fuck. No, wait... Fuck this. "It doesn't matter, because we're not doing this. It's not even..." Stiles throws up his hands and turns to Derek. "It doesn't matter if we break the curse if you're still dead, you idiot!"

           

Derek shrugs again, and how can he be acting so nonchalant about this? "As long as it's a wolfsbane blade I'll--"

           

"No." Interrupts Stiles.

           

"No." Counters Derek, which good God, the moron means "Yes".

           

"No." Says Stiles more firmly.

           

"No."

           

"No."

           

"No."

           

"No!"

           

"Stiles."

           

And dammit, Derek just sounds so broken. Stiles looks into Derek's eyes and he can read it all. Derek's figured it out, just like Stiles has. He knows what it will mean for him to be stuck under this curse forever. Stiles can see the sorrow there, and the edges of the fear he's been hiding so well. If Stiles didn't know Derek like he does, if they hadn't spent so much time together he'd have missed it, but it's there. Derek is scared, but he's more afraid of living under the curse forever than he is of risking his life. Over it all though, is determination. Derek is going to do this one way or the other. Of course he is, because to him, it's only his life at risk.

 

And Stiles will be damned before he lets Derek face it all on his own.

           

Stiles sighs, "Fine. But I want the record to show that I am deeply uncomfortable with this." He turns to Deaton, "What do we need to do?"

 

 

***

 

 

In the end, it's not all that complicated a process. Deaton gives Stiles a bag of mountain ash dust and both of them a "Good Luck" and they leave. Stiles gets into Derek's car without a word and they drive in silence. They stop at Stiles house for a knife. Deaton had specified only a blade untouched by any magical creature would do, and since Stiles can't be certain if any of the pack has used the ones in the kitchen, he steals the knife his dad uses to gut fish from his tackle box.

 

The blade is thin and razor sharp.

 

Then they drive to the Hale house. Stiles has to bite his lip. He's pretty sure he knows why they're going there.  There's a dozen safe houses that pack has set up all over town that they could do this in. But Stiles is pretty sure Derek wants to do this here, not because it's where he lives, but because if it doesn't work...yeah.

 

Stiles doesn't let himself think about that as he pours the mountain ash in a large circle on the living room floor around Derek. His hands are shaking when he puts down the bag, but through it all Derek sits there in the middle of the floor, quiet. Calm. The knife is still on the outside of the circle with Stiles. He's not sure if he's going to be able to pick it up.

 

"Are you sure," he whispers, the words breaking in his throat. "You're sure you don't want me to call the pack."

 

Derek shakes his head.

 

"What about, we don't have to do this today. Let me get online, there has to be something I haven't found."

 

Derek shakes his head again.

 

"Derek for God's sake, say something!"

 

Derek breathes harshly out his nose, and it's such a normal reaction, that exasperated huff, that Stiles can almost forget what he has to do.

 

"Don't come here, Stiles."

 

Stiles gingerly picks up the knife, then steps into the circle. He kneels in front of Derek, and it starts to feel real, kneeling in a circle of ash, knife in hand.

 

Derek places a hand over his and Stiles can't believe that it's been less than 24 hours since he did the same thing, just a few feet away. Derek's shirtless again even, but this could not be more different.

 

"Stiles," Derek says. "It's not going to be fine. You know I don't heal quickly. I won't live. Don't trust me."

 

Stiles almost laughs, "That's not nearly as comforting as you think."

 

Derek smiles and guides their joined hands up until the point of the knife presses just barely into the skin over his heart.

 

"Derek!" Stiles says, trying to not to think this is the last time he'll get a chance to say anything, but still trying to keep what's about to happen from occurring for as long as possible. For the first time in his life, his mind is blank. He can't think of anything to say.

 

He finally blurts out, "Tell me something true."

 

Derek looks at Stiles and tightens their hands around the handle of the knife.

 

"I think I hate you," Derek says, then presses the knife slowly, precisely into his chest.

 

 

***

 

 

The knife sinks in all the way to their hands, and Stiles screams as Derek falls back.

 

"No! No! Oh God," Stiles pulls the knife out and blood rushes out with it, pouring over his fingers as he tries to cover the wound. "Oh God, Derek, no, you can't! You can't! You too, you jerk! I hate you too! Goddammit, I hate you too! C'mon Derek!"

 

Derek isn't moving anymore and the blood runs sluggishly between Stiles fingers.

 

 "Oh God." whispers Stiles. The blood stops. He looks down, and Derek's still, so still, but his chest is glowing, and there's a blue mist rising up around Stiles hands.

 

The mist is the same color as the light the witch threw at Derek. The mist floats all the way up, out of Derek, and he's not glowing anymore. It rises around Stiles arms, and Stiles turns his head, trying to keep from breathing it in without letting go of Derek. It doesn't seem to care about him though. It pulls away from him, leaving goosebumps in its wake. It then drifts in a lazy circle around Stiles, bouncing gently off the barriers of mountain ash, before floating up to the ceiling. As Stiles watches, it filters through the still-blackened timbers and disappears out of sight.

 

There's silence in the house. Then under his hands, Stiles feels a heartbeat.

 

He lets out a sob; he hadn't noticed he'd been crying but there are tears running down his face. Stiles feels another heartbeat, then another. He pulls his hands away and the thin cut is already gone, knit back together without even a scar.

 

"Stiles?" he hears, and Derek is opening his eyes. And Stiles swears he will actually kill Derek if he tries to kill himself like this again. He may say so, because Derek smiles, and starts to sit up because God forbid he acknowledges he was just dead for a minute there.

 

"Stiles," he says again, more confidently. "The sky is blue."

 

He laughs. It may be the most beautiful thing Stiles has ever heard.

 

"The sky is blue. The world is round. My name is Derek Edwin Hale and I'm pretty sure I l--" Stiles kisses him. Okay, 'kisses' may be an understatement. Stiles jumps Derek, mouth-first. And okay, maybe he did just get his first official kiss yesterday, but Stiles is a fast learner goddammit, and he has been wanting this for way too long.

 

"Changed mind. Shuttup, shuttup," says Stiles knocking Derek back down. He stretches out on top of Derek and grabs Derek's face with both hands. Both bloody hands. Which Stiles will save time to be grossed out about later.  "I am covered in blood Derek." he says between kisses. "Your blood. This is not. Cool. Seriously. Not cool. You know how rules. Of health class films I am breaking right now?"

 

"I can fix that," grins Derek wickedly, then the next thing Stiles knows, he's somehow upside down over Derek's shoulder, watching Derek's ass flex in those sinfully tight jeans as Derek literally runs up the stairs. Stiles might usually complain about that sort of treatment, but hey, he can't fault the view.

 

A moment later, Stiles finds himself, clothes and all, pressed up against Derek in the tiny shower stall in the upstairs bathroom. Room number two with electricity and running water. Derek reaches behind Stiles to turn on the water, and Stiles can't breathe. The spray hits Derek's chest and runs down in little rivulets and oh how Stiles wants to touch him all over. And that's when it hits him that he can.

 

When Stiles glances a thumb over his nipple, Derek keens and captures Stiles' lips in another kiss.

 

"Love your hands," Derek pants. "Love when you touch me, anywhere." He kisses the shell of Stiles' ear and it's so tender, so at odds with his rough hands that even now are pulling away Stiles sopping layers and running possessively over his skin.

 

"Thought I was going to go crazy, but you kept touching me, and it was, it was just enough. Fuck."

 

Stiles' hands slide down to Derek's waistband and he starts to tug at the wet fabric. A moment later Derek hands circle his wrists, stilling them. Stiles tugs and whines when he can't move. At the noise, Derek's eyes flash red, sending a shiver down Stiles spine. Oh. OH.

 

"Too fast?" Asks Derek.

 

"Not too fast," says Stiles. He bucks in Derek's hold, moving them just enough to slide a leg between Derek's and that feels good, that feels so good, Derek's thigh pressed against Stiles cock. Even through too many layers of wet fabric and it's going to chafe like a bitch, but Stiles could come like this. Probably will in the next few seconds like the horny teenager he still very much is if he doesn't get a grip.

 

That's when Stiles realizes that the solid heat pressed against his hip is Derek's cock. And nope, that's it, that's all she wrote. Stiles gasps, water getting in his mouth and eyes as he comes harder than he ever has on his own, white light exploding behind his eyes as his knees give out. Thank God Derek is there to catch him. Well, later Stiles is going to thank God for Derek being there for a whole long list of reasons, but definitely on the list will be for keeping Stiles from cracking his head open on the soap shelf.

 

Stiles can't do much more than breathe for the next few minutes as Derek runs soapy hands over his skin, leaving electric shocks in the wake of his fingers, and gently strips Stiles down. The whole time he's murmuring in Stiles' ear, "God, so fucking beautiful. Don't even know it. Wanted. Wanted to tell you. Wanted to tell you everything. You were the only one, ever listened, ever made me feel normal, feel good. God I want to fuck you. Want you to fuck me..."

 

Stiles has never heard Derek talk this much before ever and every word goes straight to Stiles' dick and recovery time in the young is a hell of a thing apparently, because he's hard again, but he needs Derek naked first. Like yesterday.

 

"Yeah, yeah, okay," he says as he fights with the zipper on Derek's jeans, "Yes to all of that. All of you, just Jesus, were you sewn into these?"

 

Derek laughs again, and Stiles could seriously become addicted to that sound, and together they manage to get Derek's jeans off and then Stiles has both of their cocks pressed together in his fist and it is Heaven. He jerks them both off quickly, too frantic and overcome to do anything else. Derek squeezes a hand around his and picks up the pace and Stiles has to bite his lip, because he is determined to make Derek come first. Derek throws back his head, still mumbling obscene things, because apparently, now that he can speak the truth, he wants Stiles to know what he's thinking. All of it.

 

Stiles decides to try one of Derek's own tricks, and grazes his teeth against the thin skin of Derek's jugular. Derek comes with a shout, fist tightening around their cocks and Stiles follows him over almost instantly.

 

When they can both stand upright without leaning on the wall or each other, Stiles turns off the water and they manage to make it to Derek's bed before collapsing.

 

Over the course of the next few hours, they make a good start on some of the things Derek said and even a few that Stiles suggests.

 

 

***

 

Jackson's new haircut does not look ridiculous.

 

Fish breathe water.

 

I love you.