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He doesn't even know how it happened. Everything was such a blur. One minute he and Scott were arguing about how to take down the Alpha Pack and the next they were there: a flurry of dark fur, claws, and glowing red eyes. Erica's cries of pain and Isaac's challenging roar. His own stomach felt warm, wet, and pain shook him to his core. It'd taken him months to maintain control over the new, more powerful wolf inside. The one that had evolved into something greater than it was ever meant to be. The wolf that frightened him so he steeled himself and didn't let anyone in. Now it broke free of those binds with a hasty: need, want, protect what's mine. Originally that'd just meant his Betas, even the reluctant ones. 

The feeling isn't restricted to them anymore. 

Derek does remember throwing him aside, behind that stupid beat up Jeep. He remembers yelling "Run!" and he remembers being thrown against a nearby tree. The sharp crack of his spine echoed in his ears and then everything went red. 

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"Stiles! Get the hell out of here!" Scott's voice rings over the fray and he ducks the swipe of some female Alpha. She keeps swatting at him and then kicking, alternating with deadly claws on either end and she's too graceful and quick for him to keep it up for long. "What're you doing dude?! Leave!"

Big, honey-amber eyes don't budge from the insides of Stiles's backpack. He holds his phone above it to illuminate the contents as another hand rummages through. He ignores Scott, just snorts when he's told to leave. Again. Like being thrown against his car wasn't a big enough hint. Not that Derek was ever very subtle about anything. 

"Seriously, you guys would be a mess without me. I don't know how you've all survived for this long. If it wasn't for my sheer brilliance and stunning intellect I think you'd all keel over," he mumbles, tossing his cursed Chemistry book out to get to the bag beneath. 

"Duck!"

Boyd's voice, bigger and more booming than anyone's ever heard it, echoes and Stiles reacts without looking up. He's sat around at enough training sessions to know better. It's probably a body. Usually Isaac, sometimes Erica or Boyd himself, but Stiles learned the hard way the first time that when a werewolf is fighting and tells you do to something, you do it. Unless that thing is leave. Because as "weak" and "fragile" as he's been deemed he's not going anywhere while his best friend and now-pretty-okay-friends, and a certain brooding sourwolf, fight for their lives. They should know better. He's already texted Allison telling her that even though she's hung up her bow and arrow she and Papa Argent better get over here now. 

Sure enough there's a snarl and a hollow, metallic thunk! just above his head. Stiles groans and spares a glance from the small pouch in his hand to his beloved Jeep. There's a dent in the side now. 

"Guys!" he whines, bouncing a little from his crouched position. "Can we not take it out on the Jeep?" He pats the back end where he's hidden and sighs softly, "It's okay baby. We'll get that worked out. And hopefully this time no Kanimas will... get... Oh."

Stiles stops and his gaze shifts slowly to the side of his vehicle where something crawls away from the indented blue door. It's glowing red eyes are locked onto him like Predator's infrared vision and he freezes. His heartbeat fills his ears and he feels cold as blood rushes from his face. They're not outnumbered, even since Jackson left, but there's a difference between five Alphas and four Betas, one Alpha, and a human. Scott's got his hands full trying to get a bitch off Isaac. Erica and Boyd have teamed up against twins, and Derek's trying to handle the pack's leader. He's not doing very well.  At least he's managed the Alpha form, ugly as it is. 

Not that he could ever really think Derek is ugly. 

Not that any of that matters because there's an Alpha staring right at him, and before he can blink it's on top of him. 

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"I can't stop it."

He doesn't recognize his own voice. It's broken and weak. There's too much emotion in it and the worry from everyone else is bouncing around, amplifying his own concern. 

The Alpha tears off what remains of his tattered shirt and hastily wraps it around the teenager's torso, trying to make a tourniquet. But there's not enough fabric and there's just so much blood. In the moon's silver light it glistens black on his hands, still clawed and a hairy. It's coating his thighs now, staining his skin. 

It's so faint. The beat, the rhythm that's guided his life since the second he heard it, is so fickle and weak. Derek's chest constricts and a thick lump chokes him. His eyes shimmer red as he presses down on the worst of the wounds. The body beneath him caves and a pained noise squeezes from soft pink lips. He wants to flinch back, knowing he's hurting the one thing he cares about. 

The one thing he's sworn to himself he'd protect no matter what. The one person that's saved his life and would selflessly save it over and over again. Even if he hates him. Even if he is a sour wolf. 

"Isaac?"

The Beta doesn't move, doesn't make a sound, but flickers golden eyes from the bloody, paling body to Derek. 

Steeling his voice the Alpha instructs, "Call an ambulance."

Long fingers of a hand that's bigger and stronger than most would think snake across his hand and forearm. His skin is so pale, only colored because of the blood-- his own blood, smeared and stained across it. The contact has always shot sparks of excitement and hidden arousal through him. Derek longs for those moments when he's touched, accidentally or not, or gets to rough up the teenager in threats because it's an excuse to get close. Right now, though, there's no roughing up. There are no threats because he can't even breathe

"D-Derek--" he coughs and a tongue he's been mesmerized by millions of times weakly comes out to lick a busted lip, "there's no time."

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"Shit. Shitshitshitshit--Fuck," cursing doesn't really do much besides make him feel better. Stiles scrambles backwards, kicking his legs up in an attempt to get the Alpha to just fly over him. Doesn't quite work when it's some powerful werewolf with lightening fast reflexes like it does when it's a human lacrosse player. 

Stiles bites back a cry as he feels claws dragging against his sides. They burn his flesh as the Alpha rakes downwards, shredding his shirt. It breathes heavily above him, hot and putrid puffs or air assault his face. Twisting his mouth and nose in disgust he snorts and tries to wriggle away. This only results in the claws digging in further, drawing blood he can now feel trickling and tickling his sides. 

"Seriously? Ever heard of a breath mint? Dude you are rank," he spits. 

The Alpha rears back, bringing a paw up to slash across Stiles's face. He can see its anger and unamusement in red eyes; its desire to wipe that smug, sarcastic smirk from his expression.

Maybe he should really learn to keep his mouth shut. 

"Listen, I know you're jealous of this beauty-- really who wouldn't be? I'm a fucking fox, but seriously? I feel like there are better ways to work this out. I saw a coupon for nair, buy one get one, in the Sunday paper."

Or maybe not. 

Stiles prepares himself, drawing in a sharp breath, and doesn't close his eyes. The Alpha can smell the fear, hear his heart beating like a jackhammer in his chest. He doesn't want to give it the satisfaction of looking as afraid as he is. 

There's a deafening roar and suddenly the Alpha is gone. Pops out of sight like a jump cut in a movie. One second she's there and then poof!

A dark figure looms over him, snarling and panting. 

Stiles doesn't think he's ever been so glad to see Derek Hale in his life. 

Well. Except for that one time he was too excited about research to knock and just barged into Derek's loft. Turns out when he was home alone Derek liked to shower and then walk around to air dry. 

Oh that would be a nice memory to go out on, he thinks, smirking a little as he tries to sit up. Wolf Derek startles him by pinning him to the ground. The dark, gargantuan man-wolf roars at something and Stiles tilts his head back, seeing a bigger, burlier, badder Alpha staring at them. Breathing heavily. Drooling. Seriously is it something about the Alpha form that gives them congestion or what?

"Not that I don't appreciate the help, sourwolf, but I kind of was in the middle of something..." he mutters. He walks his fingers through the grass to get to that pouch. It's something Deaton hinted at in his cryptic, vague way of helping. The vet kind of creeps out Stiles, honestly, but he has good ideas now and again. It's a mixture of wolfsbane and mountain ash, combined with potassium pechlorate and a touch of sulphur to increase sensitivity. Each little bomb wouldn't do much just thrown through the air, but he may or may not have done some research online about magic and ran Deaton's suggestion of "believing" and could ignite a spark mentally. Not that he was the next fire-starter, but he'd practiced enough to get these to work. Non-lethal just in case he missed his target, but enough to send a blinding flash, numbing wolfsbane, and paralyzing mountain ash. Seemed like a good idea. 

Of course things might have gone much better if Scott had let him test them on him. 

The Alpha to the Alphas tore through the air at Derek and "his" Alpha (because he couldn't think of a better way to differentiate all the Alphas floating around that night, despite not being "pack" or whatever) managed to roll him under the Jeep in a last-ditch attempt to keep him safe. 

It gave Stiles the time to grab the pouch and work a few little bombs out of it, but not enough. 

Claws dug into his ankle and this time he did cry out, both in pain and surprise. Stiles's shirt rucked up and his stomach dragged across the dirt and rocks. He winced as the rough ground rubbed his raw wounds. His long fingers managed to cling onto one of the bombs.

This time the Alpha didn't waste any time, though in the back of his mind Stiles made a distinction between the slimmer one that attacked him before and this one. This one was stout and compact, but not ineffective. Those claws tore through his stomach and chest like butter. He cried out and felt tears sting in his eyes. Stiles threw the bomb and through the buzzing, swarming pain barely managed to ignite it. 

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"Shhhh," he whines, running a hand against his cheek. It's so soft. Softer than he's ever imagined, and he's done plenty of that.  "You're going to be fine. Isaac's going to call you an ambulance and--"

"We're in the middle of the woods Derek. They're not coming."

Every time he says his name it's like the red-hot knife in his heart twists. This isn't right. This isn't how it's supposed to go. He's not supposed to let them down. Erica and Boyd came back and he thought everything was going to be fine. He thought he could do this after Scott agreed to be in his pack. They fought a lot but with Scott came him, and he was the key to everything. He was the smartest, cleverest one. Foolishly loyal and so trustworthy he'd had no choice but to fall. 

No choice. 

Derek feels the lump in his throat tighten and he tries his best to swallow it. Blinking his eyes burn and he's distantly aware that Erica's ribs are cracked, her leg broken, and Boyd's head is bleeding. He smells Isaac's blood too, and knows Scott has broken something, maybe has a punctured lung. But they are all healing. They will all be fine. He won't be. 

"Yes they are. If you just--"

"Shhh. It's okay."

It was okay? How can he say that? How can he keep his voice so steady and calm when Derek is trembling like a dead leaf, barely hanging on to its branch in the autumn breeze. He's going to break off and tumble down any moment, fall apart completely. 

"It's okay Derek." The Alpha gulps and licks his lips, pressing down on the wound. But blood has soaked through his ratty shirt already and started seeping between his fingers. It isn't stopping. It's nowhere near stopping. He can see pink, sinewy muscle and there are hunks of flesh missing. 

"I can't," he confesses. Derek's voice pitches toward the end, breaking and he clears his throat to try and cover it at a cough. From the patient, amused smirk crossing his lips Derek knows he failed. 

When he tries to shift Derek pushes down harder, keeping him in place. He gives a soft grunt of disapproval but concedes and sighs heavily. Gorgeous eyes, sparkling with fire and determination even now, flutter closed. He watches the thick, dark lashes and the way they lie against his cheeks. They open and his honey-amber eyes, the color of molten precious metals, stare up at Derek with resolve he's never seen before. 

"Do it."

What? Derek feels his face falter and he shifts anxiously where he has the teenager's head cradled in his lap. 

"Derek. Do it." Those lips must be so dry. He must be so thirsty. He keeps licking them and swallowing, and Derek wishes he had a bottle of water or something. "Do it before it's too late."

"You know--"

"I know. Do it."

Derek nods and draws in a deep breath. He lowers the other's head into the grass carefully and scoots around. There's not even a shirt to lift up. The Alpha growls, leaning in close. Through the bitter, metallic smell of blood he can still smell the teenager. He can smell the spicy curly fries. He can pick apart that scent for days and never put his finger on what gets under his skin. At first it'd been annoying to long for that scent everywhere he went, to have it cling to his nostrils whenever the teenager wasn't even around. Now he craves it. He can still smell the lingering body wash from the shower after lacrosse practice, and he immediately knows he got to play because otherwise he smells mildly like stale sweat from warming the bench and running laps. One hand reaches up to rake through growing hair, actually having something to hold onto. He's wanted to do that for ages, ever since it started growing out. Derek cups the back of his head, trying to comfort him, as his fangs grow out over his lower lip. Red eyes flicker to his face, expecting not to make eye contact. But they do. He looks firmly and steadily at Derek and gives a curt nod. 

So Derek dives down, opening his mouth wide and clamping it down on his side. The human beneath his jaw winces and caves in with the pain, crying out softly. 

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Scott doesn't really understand what's going on. He and Isaac have killed someone. The lifeless Alpha wolf twitches one last time at their feet and for a second he fears the two halves will reconnect somehow. But they don't. He hears an arrow whizz through the air and gunshots make his ears ring for a second. Both he and Isaac spin around, eyes flashing and growls rumbling in their throats. But relief swarms over him when he sees Allison storming over, crossbow poised in one hand as she twirls a knife around in the other. He tries not to notice the way Isaac flinches, considering she's driven them into him before. 

Chris Argent's eyes are cold and hard as he unloads two bullets. One whistles by Boyd's head and goes through the throat of one of the Alpha twins with a tiny spray of blood. Erica drops so the second bullet goes over her and into the chest of the other twin. 

There's always been a tentative trust between the Hale pack and the Argents, ever since the Alpha pack arrived, and Derek never thought he'd be so relieved to see hunters in his life. Erica and Boyd turn to tear into their fallen assailants but Derek roars. They flinch back, but he can't explain. Not in this form, and he's too busy anyway. 

"They'll poison you too," Chris explains brusquely. 

Erica and Boyd flinch back away as the hunters tear into the twins they'd managed to pry of Stiles. They're relentless, unwavering, as they each pull out a sword and slice directly through the halves of the wolves. They shrink and the two handsome twins that have plagued Beacon Hills High School for weeks appear. They look surprised, scared, and frozen. Their lightly tanned skin is now pale, and Chris wastes no time. He drops his bag and brings out a squeeze container of lighter fluid. Allison drops matches onto their bodies as her father drenches them. 

The four Betas stand there, frozen for a minute, watching the scene in front of them. Despite the distaste they have for the Alpha pack there's a solemn sorrow tugging down their expressions. One of the things they fear most happened to werewolves in front of them; werewolves they kind of knew. Ethan hadn't been as cruel as Aiden; once Isaac remembered having a decent time with him while they divvied up responsibilities for a project. Not that it mattered. They were dead. They tried to kill them and now they were dead. 

All four heads jerked upwards when they heard a howl of pain. They hurried over to the other side of the Jeep to find a bloody and destroyed Alpha wolf. She'd been torn into pieces and lie scattered across the front yard of what used to be the Hale house. There was another body, farther away, and Chris hurried over to unload a few more bullets for good measure. He didn't let his gaze fall on the final Alpha wolf, turning back into a pale young man with a triskele tattoo between his shoulder blades. He panted heavily, kneeled next to a bloody and torn body with his arms held up, tensed in pain, despair, unsure of what to do.

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"It's not healing. Why isn't it healing? Why aren't you healing?"

This doesn't make any sense. He can't understand it. This isn't like when Peter bit Lydia or when Derek accidentally dug his claws too far into Jackson. This definitely isn't like when Derek bit the others or when Peter bit Scott. This isn't right. This isn't fair. 

The bleeding just keeps going, and Derek can't help noticing the new puncture wounds his fangs created. They should be the first to heal, but they're not. 

They're oozing. He can't tell if it's more blood or darker than that; the night's too black to tell. 

Derek's heart pumps furiously in his chest and it heaves. His eyes widen and he looks over the other's body frantically. His heartbeat is uneven. It's getting faster then slower then faster again and once Derek is pretty sure he thought it might stop. 

The body's wiggling, writhing, and he's crying out in such anguish. Black fills his veins and Derek whimpers. This isn't right. This isn't good. This isn't fair

Of all the people to bite he's wanted to bite this one. He's wanted to bite him so he'd never have to say explain his feelings. The other would smell the arousal. He'd come to understand the comfort, the warmth, the way he felt right when they were together. Maybe it'd be the same, and the best part would be Derek would never have to explain himself. They'd just know and they'd be together. 

But that dream was crumbling around him, piece by piece, second by second. 

Derek's hands cling to the other, holding and touching and pressing anywhere he can. He grips onto the other's waist, trying to take some of the pain away, but he can't because he caused it. He's dying and he caused it.

Then the struggle stops. 

His body flops back into the grass. 

The world goes cold and silent. So silent it's scary. 

The heartbeat that has filled his ears for almost a year. The heartbeat his ears strain for when he's upset or about to lose control. The heartbeat that has been the soundtrack to his life and the one he's wanted to wake up next to countless times. 

Gone. 

Over. 

It's deafening, the lack of steady drumming in his ears. Derek can't breathe. He can't move. He just stares down at the body. He doesn't hear Scott's threats, the way he struggles as Isaac and Boyd hold him back. He doesn't hear Allison sobbing quietly against her father's side. He doesn't notice the hot tears streaming down his cheeks. 

He does feel his heart breaking in his chest. He does feel this weight press down on him so heavily that he can't bare it. 

"No," he keens, voice cracking through his cries. "No."

Derek's hands shake as he cups the teenager's face, which looks so peaceful and relaxed. 

The Alpha's shoulders rattle and he shakes his head, staring down at the beautiful face that will never smile at him again. He'll never get to roll his eyes at something stupid he said and he'll never have to bite back another laugh at something smart and sarcastic. He'll never get to worry about whether or not he's okay or out of harm's way during training. He'll never get to watch him play lacrosse or pin him against a wall just to get a whiff of his deodorant or body spray again. 

Never. 

"You can't go," he sobs, collapsing on top of the bloody and broken body. Derek clings to him desperately, gathering him into his arms. Maybe, he hopes, maybe if they're just closer. Maybe if he just holds him and lets his warmth seep into the human's body. Maybe then he'll be okay. Maybe then he can hear that heartbeat again. 

"I need you here. I can't--" he sniffs and rakes his fingers through the other's silky brown hair, scratching the back of his skull. "Who's going to call me a creep when I show up in their room at two in the morning? Who am I gonna go to, to get research done even though I can Google it myself? Who am I going to let win at COD just so I can hear him laugh and rub it in my face?" Derek can't stop now. The words tumble out of his mouth before he can even think and he shakes, sobbing into the crook of the other's neck. It's still warm and it's not bloody there. All he can smell is Stiles. 

"Who am I going to love?"

Derek holds him tighter, voice barely a whisper now. "Who's going to love me?"

The Alpha's fingers dig into his hair, his shirt, and he can't let go. In the back of his mind he hears Chris say something, and his pups shuffling around. 

"I love you Stiles," he admits, sniffing against the other's shoulder. It's still so warm. 

"You can't leave me yet. Not until I get to make a fool out of myself by asking you to be mine. Not until I get you to love me and we grow old together. Not yet. I love you too much."

Fingers ghost up Derek's forearm and he sighs heavily. "Go away," he whimpers, twitching his arm to get Isaac or whoever it is to leave him alone. 

The fingers persist, clutching his muscles. Someone's warm breath skirts across his neck and he growls, wanting them to leave him alone. He needs to be near Stiles. He needs to hold the boy he loves so it doesn't have to be real. So he never has to let go of the foolish hope he'd held onto for so long: that Stiles could one day be his. That against all odds Stiles could find it in himself to love Derek half as much as the Alpha werewolf loved him, and they could be happy. 

"Stupid sourwolf."

The voice, raspy and faint, makes Derek's heart skip a beat. He sniffs and holds on tighter, burrowing his face against Stiles's neck. 

The hand against his arm creeps up, cupping his stubbly cheek. It pulls him back and Derek looks down at Stiles's limp head, his blood-stained skin. He knows its his imagination, but he thinks he sees color. He thinks he feels warmth, but it's just his own body. He thinks he hears a heartbeat, but it's his own going too fast. 

Except it's not. 

Stiles lifts his head, lazy and labored but he does it, and throws a smug smirk Derek's way. "You think I'd leave them alone with you? You'd all wither away, hopeless without me," he declares. His eyes flicker open and burn a hot, molten gold. 

Derek knows it's a dream. He knows that heartbeat's all in his head. He knows it is. Yet he can't help but hope. He tilts Stiles's head back and surges forward, crashing their mouths together. Stiles groans at the pressure and Derek apologetically lets up. Their lips are chapped and Stiles's are barely healed, but the kiss is perfect. Warmth washes through him in thick waves as he feels Stiles's hands tangle into his hair. The newest Beta clings onto his Alpha and kisses him with hungry desperation. Derek kisses back with the same passion and fury, licking into Stiles's mouth. They both hear Scott moan and bitch about how he's Stiles's best friend and he should get to hug him after almost died; they both also hear Erica slap him for interrupting their moment and Boyd made a snide comment about how it was "about time". 

The two pull apart to breathe and Stiles's lips are healed, as well as the lighter scratches along his sides. Derek's hands worship his face and body, never letting him fall away. Stiles is grateful for that because he's always dreamt about Derek looking at him like this, saying those things, and he doesn't think he could sit up on his own right now anyway. 

"Say it again," he teases, brushing his nose against Derek's. He's smiling like a loon and doesn't care because Derek is too. 

"I love you," Derek replies without hesitation, brushing his lips against Stiles's cheek and running them up to his forehead. 

He can hear it now. The beat is stronger than ever before and a little faster. Stiles smells different. It's a new scent, a new heartbeat to memorize. 

Stiles's smile grows and he nuzzles into Derek's rough, stubbly neck. He plants a kiss against his throat. "I love you too."