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Coyote Courts the Moon

Chapter Text

The cave is shallow, more a low overhang than any kind of shelter. The thick leaf-litter intrudes, making intolerably loud crackling sounds where Derek collapses. His eyes are drooping and his breaths come in hissing, panted moans, like his throat is caught on a whimper. Reality seems to blink and stutter, blackness intruding, tunnel vision. It’s all he can do to flip himself onto his front, barely able to summon enough strength to push his face out of the mud.

There isn’t enough room for him to sit up, so struggling out of the leather jacket is pure agony. His movements are sluggish and uncoordinated and he can hear the staccato stammer of his heartbeat.  Too fast or not fast enough? It pounds like a war drum in his over-sensitized ears. His vision flashes red. Red like the blood welling up in the wound in his arm.

It’s a deep shot - through and through the tissue of his bicep.  The armor-piercing round cracked bone and still came out the other side. He tries to convince himself that it would be worse if the bullet were still lodged in there, festering a wolfsbane sore that will spread to his blood and his heart before it finally takes root and chokes off his life at the source. But even with only a few seconds of bullet cutting through flesh, the damage is done. The bone is infected and it will rot through while still in his body if Derek can’t find a way to excise the already-doomed tissue.

If only he could just move. His breathing has gone shallow and he’s cutting himself on the sharp incisors that he can't keep from growing.  His tongue lolls out like some pathetic dog.

He doesn’t have a knife and he can barely roll over, let alone make it the nearly three miles back into town. Even making it to the end of the road a quarter of a mile away seems impossible.

He does have teeth, though. He can gnaw at the bone like the wounded animal that he is. He’s seen that before, running through a snow covered forest, running away from his human family and their cruel lack of understanding. A fox, red like a splash of blood on the new snow, its foot caught in a trap and half chewed off already. The image was mesmerizing - nature in all its messy glory, and yet it was the designs of men that caused the pain - the rusted whine of the trap as the animal trembled, the fierce way it snarled and bit at Derek as he reached over to release it. He’d felt pity as he watched it limp off into the snowfall, not even looking over its shoulder at the being that had set it free. No gratitude, no regret, just fear - fleeing the awful thing that had imprisoned it.

He wonders if some god is looking down and feeling pity for him now, the wounded animal in a different kind of trap.

The hunters won’t come for him. Kate Argent had smiled that twisted beautiful smile, knelt down and caressed his face, whispering that it wasn’t him they were hunting. There was something else in the woods and they intended to use him to lure it out. She pet him and cooed at how he’d grown since she seduced him and killed everyone he’d ever loved. She was still just as gorgeous as they day they met. And just as deadly.

She’d tied him up, left him for whatever it was the hunters really wanted, whatever could draw them to a town that had been werewolf-free for years, since its resident pack had been exterminated. Was it just the deer with the spiral carved into its side? Or was that a symptom of something as mysterious and terrifying as the over-zealous, over-armed state of Kate’s group implied?

Derek had escaped the bonds they’d used to tie him, but he hadn’t escaped far. The hunters must be so confident that Derek is too wounded to do much more than die a bloody death that they haven’t even bothered to reset their trap. Maybe they don’t need him alive. Maybe the smell of his rotting corpse is as good a lure as anything.

Or maybe they think he’ll howl to call the thing out. But he won’t. He won’t lure whatever they’re hunting out of the woods. It could just as easily kill him as it could save him and even a deer-mutilating creature of the night doesn’t deserve whatever sick fate the Argents have planned for it.

He allows himself a whimpering whine, writhing and smearing the granite shelf of his shelter with blood. Blackness is courting his vision. He’s going to die, he realizes. He knows it and the Argents know it. The question is whether he will die with a whimper, the sniveling pathetic last member of a pack that was over years ago, or if he will die as the proud animal he is - fighting, tooth and claw, until his last breath.

He looks down at the wound. Already the purple tendrils of infection are spreading downwards with the bloodflow. He can’t feel his fingers any longer. Now or never. He flips himself onto his back with a groan then pulls off his shirt and then ties the whole thing around his bicep with his teeth. It’s not much of a tourniquet, but it’ll have to do. A wolf, especially an alpha, can lose a lot of blood and still survive, but the wolfbane has weakened his healing abilities, so Derek screams through tightening his makeshift tourniquet as much as he can.

He snarls to force his incisors out. They ache. His whole body aches with the pressure of not transforming. But he can’t go full alpha now - he’d lose himself to the beast if he tried. He grabs his bad arm with his good and pulls it over his face, biting down above the wound.

Blood pours into his mouth. It’s decaying already, a black necrotic river that bubbles out, and he coughs and hurls, trying not to swallow any of it and make himself sicker. Even if he succeeds in amputating the limb, he could still poison himself this way.

He should have stayed in New York, let Sven sign him up with some modeling agency or maybe even live as a rentboy while he tries to make it as a playright, like so many other young theater graduates, holed up in the few square feet the city can cough up for yet another starving artist, choking on dreams. He’d be clawing at the walls of a shoebox apartment, meeting up with the other city wolves to shed their hipster clothing once a month in the park, pay the dues that keep the NYPD off their backs, and long for weekends visiting the family upstate where he can truly run.

He’d hate himself, but at least then he wouldn’t be dying a horrible death alone in the woods less than a mile from where his family died their horrible death, an ignominious end to a life lived ignominiously.

He chews mindlessly, trying to ignore the fact that he now knows the taste of his own flesh, like this is a rabbit or like the one time he caught a deer and tried taking a bite of it while in human form. It’s not his arm. It’s not his bone flashing white or his black blood boiling with poison. It is, all it is, is his survival.

And then, as he just reaches bone, getting ready to snap it, he hears it: the sound of salvation.

“You’re the one who’s always bitching that nothing ever happens in this town,” a voice says. It’s high pitched, a little strained - a teenaged boy. The rapid heartbeat of the speaker belies any of the flippancy of his tone.

“I was trying to get a good night’s sleep before practice tomorrow,” the owner of a second, even faster heartbeat complains.

“Right, ‘cause sitting on the bench is such a grueling effort,” the first kid replies. Derek has to agree. The second kid has a wheeze in his voice and his heart has quickened from exertion, not fear. Asthmatic, probably severe.

They go on to talk about lacrosse. Derek recognizes the sport. He played first line himself in high school, one of his Aunt Penny’s many attempts to get him to at least try to fit in. Being good at sports made him popular, but being popular didn’t make him whole. In fact, it just emphasized how little he cared about the things kids his age were supposed to care about. In a cruel twist of irony, hating being popular only made him more so. Derek had been happy to escape into the anonymity of college in the big city - little theater productions and underground raves, girls and later, guys, so many guys, who would gladly lose a night with a beautiful mysterious man like Derek and never try to ask about the edge of loss and danger that drew them to him. The artists - they wanted to paint him, not know him, and that suited Derek just fine.

“Besides, me making first line is at least a hell of a lot more sensible than you dragging me off into the middle of the woods because joggers found a metric fuckton of human blood and saw some people wielding crossbrows. You know what that sounds like, right?”

“Like there’s a cult that hunts people?” Derek chokes on a laugh. The kid is strangely right about the Argents - their essence in a single sentence.

“Yeah, actually, that’s what I was going to say. Except, Stiles, we’re people. Why do we want to be running around in the dark with only one flashlight when there’s a cult that hunt people on the loose?”

“Huh. I didn’t think about that. Also, your fault you didn’t think to bring your own flashlight.”

These kids are idiots, Derek decides, but if there were joggers and now there are two teenaged idiots, then there are also police, which means that the Argents have probably been forced to retreat, which gives Derek a window of opportunity to get away from here. He forces himself to roll over. If he can just get his knees under him, maybe he can push himself up, get the boys to take him to a hospital.

Except they’ll try to sew him up. They won’t listen when he begs them to cut it off. They won’t take the arm and he’ll die in the hands of humans with only the Argents around to hide what he is, if they’re willing to stick their heads out even that much. He can’t put his kind in danger like that. He can’t let a human doctor cut him open and find his too-big heart and his strange skull structure and the way that aconite poisoning has ripped through his veins like nothing they’ve ever seen before. No, he has to keep to this course and hope that the police keep the Argents out of the woods long enough for Derek to gain the strength to make it out of here under his own power.

“Maybe they’re not hunting people,” one of the kids says. The voices are fading. They’re veering away from Derek’s hiding place. If he just stays quiet, they won’t find him. “Maybe they’re hunting something else and they hit a person and now they’re covering it up, like conspiracy-style?”

“Isn’t that still bad for us?” the reasonable, asthmatic one says. “I mean, we’d be witnesses.”

If anyone were hunting ordinary people, Derek muses, these boys would already be dead, what with all the noise they’re making. And then he remembers, whatever the Argents were hunting might be out here too. Even if they can’t save him, Derek needs to get to the kids, warn them so they can get out of here. At least the hunters and the cops can probably take care of themselves, but from the sounds of it, these two can’t even defend themselves from a lacrosse stick, let alone whatever supernatural force had Kate Argent in body armor.

Derek pushes at the ledge, succeeding in falling back far enough from the corner that he can stand up without hitting his head, if he could actually manage to stand up, that is.

“Come on,” he pants to the forest, to the crows and the squirrels and the deer that he’s sure don’t give a good god damn. “Come on!” he yells at himself. “You stupid, worthless, sack of shit,” he says, eyes flashing red, like he’s the alpha training the pack he’ll never have. “Stand up!”

And, amazingly, he does. He staggers to his feet, winded, leaning against his ledge, but standing.

“Wait, did you hear that?” one of the boys says. The voices have stopped their retreat.

“Scott, if you’re trying to freak me out, let me tell you that you are absolutely succeeding.”

“No, I’m serious. I thought I heard someone. Hello?”

Derek thinks about calling for help, but then he’s back in the old dilemma. Finding him will get the kids moving out of here, but the way he looks, they’ll insist on taking him to the hospital.

“Is there someone out there?”

“Scott! There’s nobody out there.”

“I heard someone talking. I think they sounded like they’re in pain. Hi,” the kid continues, “Um, I’m Scott and this is Stiles and we don’t want to hurt you. We’re, um, not going to hunt you with crossbows. I promise.”

“And if you’re thinking of hunting us with crossbrows, then, I wouldn’t,” Stiles adds. “My dad is the sheriff and I don’t think he’d take very kindly to--” that at least explains how these two clowns found out about all the blood and the hunters.

“Don’t tell them that!” Scott snaps. “What if they want to kidnap you?”

“Better kidnap than hunt me with crossbows,” Stiles replies and Derek realizes that he really, really can’t afford to be seen by the Sheriff's son in the state that he’s in. Derek remembers Sheriff Stilinski. He was a kind man with stern features who wrapped Derek in his jacket - he smelled of pine and Scotch and just a faint whiff of sorrow that lingered. He looked at Derek with such pain in his eyes, as though by sharing it for even a moment, he could take Derek’s pain away. It had hurt to lie to him.

Stilinski would remember Derek, would care enough about him that he’d definitely notice if his arm grew back. He cared enough about Derek that maybe he would dig deeper, find out about the Argents and probably get himself killed in the process. And Derek couldn’t allow that to happen to the one person who had been a comfort to him at his worst moment.

Derek whimperes involuntarily.

“Maybe it’s not a person,” Stiles says. “Maybe it’s an animal. A wounded animal that people were hunting with crossbows and we should really get out of here.”

“You’re scared of an animal but not by a cult that hunts people?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I don’t want rabies, man? Have you seen the giant shot they stick into your stomach?”

“Since when does it have rabies? Can’t it just be an animal?”

That’s when it occurs to him: the solution to all his problems. He can be an animal. Dogs don’t get fancy restorative surgery - they get their limbs chopped off. And they don’t get questioned by the police or monitored by the Argents. And even if all he succeeds in doing is to scare the kids, at least they’ll get out of here and far out of reach of whatever is roaming around in these woods.

Derek fumbles with his belt, falling down back into a pile of leaves as he struggles to pull his pants off and kick them back into the shallow depression that he’d been calling a “cave” and kicking a pile of leaves over them. He yanks the tourniquet off and adds it to the pile. It’s not very well hidden, but Derek can’t manage more than ten steps away from the incriminatingly human pile of clothes before he collapses against a tree trunk, breathing hard with cold sweat dripping down his brow and blood, so much blood.

He summons that cool, empty place in his mind, where anger anchors him to his human consciousness, but the wolf howls, a beast unleashed in a barren valley, echoing through the chambers of Derek’s empty heart. He feels the pawprints of his ancestors in the snow, the mark of the beast in his marrow. Running and running over frozen lakes and through abandoned, wilted hills, alone, so alone, with his human family waiting back by the hearth and Derek left with nothing but the beast inside of him.

He’s been screaming as he changed, the agony of his cracked bones and ripped flesh transforming more than he can bear.

“That’s definitely a person,” one of the boys says at the same time as the other insists, “It’s definitely an animal.”

They’re both right. Derek is whatever they fear and he’s afraid that he’s done what he promised he wouldn’t and called the Thing the Argents had an arsenal to hunt.

But then a pale, scrawny kid is rounding the corner around the rocky embankment, skidding and tripping over his own feet as he sees Derek. “Holy shit!” he exclaims, ducking as though Derek, a wounded wolf, is about to shoot him.

The other kid runs into his back, but his instincts are better. He crouches low, ready to sprint, but not moving. His breath wheezes with asthma, but he keeps his eyes fixed on Derek, alert but not threatening. He doesn’t bear his teeth or tense in a threat.

“It’s a wolf,” Scott says. Derek can smell him now: he smells like medicine and mint toothpaste and locker room sweat.

“There are no wolves in California,” Stiles replies. He smells like a know-it-all. “There haven’t been for like seventy years.”

“Well, then both our eyes must be lying, because that’s not just a wolf. It’s the biggest wolf I’ve ever seen.”

Derek’s wolf form isn’t half as big as him transformed into a full alpha, but he’s bigger than a normal wolf, probably weighing close to what he weighs as a human. He’s pretty for a wolf, looking more like a Siberian Husky, with his light colored eyes and neat lines of dark fur on white instead of muddy grey, but nobody is going to mistake him for a dog, the way his muzzle curls and by the size of him.

“Maybe it’s just a wolf dog, then,” Scott offers, stepping forward.

Derek’s instinct is to growl at him. It hurts less in this form, because he has to fight the wolfsbane less like this, but the pain is closer to the surface, more raw, and its grating on his animal nerves, begging him: fight or flight. He doesn’t think the boys can handle either.

“Don’t just go up to it!” Stiles protests. “Scott! What if it bites you?”

“It’s not going to bite me. Are you, boy?” Derek wants to snarl that he’s not a dog and he shouldn’t be treated to the Rover-speak, but there’s something comforting about Scott, even though he smells like a hospital. He’s obviously been around a lot of animals, because his approach is slow and steady. He doesn’t tense when Derek’s wolf twitches, flinching away from him.

“What’s the game plan, here, Scott?” Stiles whines. He smells afraid, but he hasn’t moved and has even ceded the flashlight to Scott. “Even if that’s just a really big, really terrified, wounded wolf dog, it’s still a wounded wild animal.”

“It’s hurt, Stiles. We have to get it back to the clinic.”

“What about Dr. Deaton? Maybe he can come here?” Stiles’s voice trembles, but Derek can see the concern in his eyes. These boys are idiots, but Derek is reassured by their compassion. They will help him.

Scott shakes his head. “Wolf dogs are illegal in California. We’re supposed to test their blood and call animal control if we find any. Dr. Deaton can’t know.”

“Well,” Stiles creeps closer, making a face when he catches a glimpse of Derek’s wound, “I don’t think that thing can survive without a vet. It’s been chewing it’s own leg off, man.” He makes a gagging motion.

“I’ve helped Deaton with the surgery before. I think I can do it without his help.”

Derek really doesn’t like the idea of some untrained vet’s assistant hacking at his arm, but it’s a better option than gnawing at it with his own teeth. He growls a little at the idea.

“Scott, seriously, that thing is going to bite your face off.”

Scott ignores him, reaching out his hand. Derek quells his instinct to bite. The last thing he needs to do right now is to make another werewolf when he can’t even help himself. Maybe, though, with his asthma and his kindheartedness, Scott would make a good pack member - someone who would be grateful for all the bite could do for him. Derek files that idea away for later, ducking his head under Scott’s extended hand to nose at him and letting Scott run a soothing hand down his flank.

The human side of him, the part that Aunt Penny and Uncle Dave have taught to be ashamed of casual touch, like their whole family of uptight New England WASPs, balks in horror at being petted by a human, but the wolf part of him that is lonely and hurting soaks up the easy comfort like the parched ground soaks up the first autumnal rain. He remembers, vaguely, Laura sneaking into his bedroom the night he fell from the tree in their front yard and broke five bones, her tiny hands stroking him as she whined, licking the tears from his face and nuzzling against him until, by morning, the pain was nothing but a dream.

But she burned. They all burned and now all he has is a teenaged boy who thinks he is a dog giving him a lopsided smile and telling him that everything is going to be okay.

Derek whimpers as he’s lifted up into Scott’s lap. Then eventually, after Derek has demonstrated his ability to not bite Scott, Stiles has joined him and both boys are carrying Derek out of the woods.

He thinks he sees a pair of glowing yellow eyes as he finally passes out, but then, it could have only been a dream.

Chapter Text

“Blood, blood, so much blood in Stiles’s jeep,” Stiles complains. “Guuuhhh. This is not how I pictured this evening going.” He beats at the steering wheel as though it alone is capable of removing him from this situation. He can smell it, getting all over his admittedly not very nice, not even close to leather upholstery. Still, he’s going to have to be dumping buckets full of water in the back just so he doesn’t look like some crazy serial killer.

“Well, it was your bad idea to go out into the woods at like one in the morning, because there was a bunch of blood out there,” Scott reminds him.

“Admittedly, I did not entirely think that plan through, but I think this stopped being my bad idea with the whole ‘let’s bring a rabid animal with its foot half chewed off into the vet’s office in secret’ thing, which is now your bad idea and your responsibility.”

“What was I supposed to do?!” Scott shouts, sounding pained. Stiles takes a surreptitious glance in the rear view mirror. Scott is covered in blood, but he has the ‘little lost puppy’ act down pat. It never fails to make Stiles want to help him, even though it is Stiles who gets Scott in the position to need help more often than not.

“Call animal control? If wolf dogs are illegal, then they’re illegal for a reason.”

“Says the kid who drove straight over to the Reservation two days after getting his driver’s license to buy an entire trunk full of illegal fireworks and then set his back yard on fire.”

Stiles screeches to a halt at the stoplight onto the main road. Deaton’s clinic isn’t far away. He spins around to see where Scott is huddled up with the wolf in his lap, face streaked with red and far too close to the bloodied, gaping maw of an animal that can rip through his skinny asthmatic neck in a heartbeat. But if Scott wants to risk his life, then who is Stiles to argue?

“Fine,” he throws his hands up in the air and keeps driving. “I’ll indulge your bleeding heart once again, but this isn’t a box of kittens you found behind the Safeway or a baby bird that fell out of tree. When we get caught and we will, because this is exactly one of those kinds of ideas, you are taking the one-hundred percent of the blame. Including why we were out at one in the morning.”

“Deal,” Scott’s grin is huge, like Christmas come early. “Now come help me get him inside.”

“Oh the blood and the ripped flesh and the uuuugh! Eww, what is that? Is that purple?” Stiles looks away in distaste as he’s forced to get up close and person with the dog’s half chewed leg. It’s still bleeding everywhere, purple dark lines appearing along the blood vessels even under the white fur on its leg. “What is that?”

“I don’t know,” Scott admits, forcing Stiles to take more of the dog’s weight as he fumbles with his keys.

“Well it doesn’t look good. Are you sure you can do this?”

Scott shrugs. “It’s not like he has any other options.”

The dog whimpers and Stiles almost drops him.

“Careful!” Scott shouts. As much as Stiles loves him - he is Stiles’s best friend, pretty much his only friend - Scott has the most unreasonably optimistic outlook on everything, ever. Has crippling asthma? Of course he’ll play first line at lacrosse. Father abandoned him and went back to Mexico to have a baby with the woman he left Scott’s mom for? His dad is just working things out. Bleeding wolf dog with its leg rotting off? Scott to the rescue to perform surgery that people have to go to vet school in order to do.

They manage to get the dog onto the big stainless steel table that Dr. Deaton has set up for surgery, only almost dropping it once. In Stiles’s defense, the dog is huge, like monster movie huge. It looks friendly enough, for a creature that could part Stiles’s head from his body with one chomp of its giant jaws, but Stiles scrambles away the first moment he’s able.

So far it hasn’t really growled, just whimpered whenever they jostle its bleeding foreleg. Stiles doesn’t blame it - the wound is swollen and painful-looking. Even if Scott is too hard-headed to see it, Stiles knows that the creature doesn’t have particularly high chances, especially with Scott performing the surgery.

The beast whimpers as Scott tears around the room, pulling out the necessary equiptment for the surgery.

“I’m sorry, buddy,” Stiles says, stroking the remarkably soft fur - the blood-free parts of it, anyway. The massive animal leans into his touch, huffing a hot, resigned breath in Stiles’s face. “That’s a good boy,” Stiles coos, amazed that both he and Scott still haven’t had their faces bitten off. “It’s all going to be okay,” he lies. “We’ll get you all patched up and good as new.”

The animal’s glassy eyes are baleful and so large and blue, almost mesmerizing. It’s smart - maybe that’s the wolf part of it - looking at Stiles with a shrewd, calculating glance, sizing him up. His voice falters. “Yeah, I don’t really believe that either,” he scritches behind its ears. “But we’ll do our best. Trust me.”

The animal looks away, whining at Scott, who is attaching a strap to keep it pinned down with an assertive push.

“Here, put this on him,” Scott says, tossing something at Stiles, who is never going to set one toe on the lacrosse field, because he fumbles it.

“It’s a muzzle,” Stiles says, dumbly. “I can’t put this on it. What if it bites me?”

“He’s not going to bite you,” Scott replies, already ripping open an IV kit. “Look, he’s perfectly calm.”

Stiles stares at Scott in disbelief. He stares at the wolf, who stares back.

“If he’s calm then why does he needs a muzzle?” Stiles yells at Scott’s retreating back.

“He needs a muzzle because he might not be so calm when I’m sawing his leg off and you’re right, I don’t want my face to get bitten off.”

The wolf is surprisingly cooperative with being strapped down. It doesn’t even try to sniff at the bindings the way Stiles would expect.

“Isn’t that what, like, morphine is for?” Stiles asks.

“Morphine is a painkiller, not for anesthesia.” Scott has retrieved a pile of dog leashes that he’s busy clipping together to make a long rope. “Normally, we’d stick a tube down his throat to sedate him, but even though I’ve helped put in the tubes, Dr. Deaton always sets the doses. I can’t do that, so we’re going to have to tie him down.”

“You’re going to chop his leg off while he’s awake?!?” Stiles squeaks. “That seems like cruel and unusual punishment.”

“No!” Scott protests, acting offended by the very idea, even as he pulls out a very intimidating power tool that definitely screams ‘bone hacking’ to Stiles. “But we can’t use the normal kind of sedation, so we’re going to have to use ketamine, which I know the rough doses of, but he could still wake up and if he wakes up at the wrong time, I don’t want my face bitten off before lacrosse team photos.”

Stiles thinks about it for a second. “Okay, that’s fair.”

Surprisingly, the wolf allows the muzzle, practically pushes its nose into the thing as soon as Stiles takes it out. He makes sure to fasten it tight before Scott jabs in the first ketamine shot, which doesn’t turn out to be enough.

“He must weigh more than he looks,” Scott says, looking pensive, after the wolf is finally passed out on triple the usual dose.

“He felt pretty heavy to me,” Stiles agrees, feeling the soft rise and fall of the wolf’s chest beneath his hands while he ties it down as tightly to the table as he can without restricting its breathing. Scott sets up an IV with a bag of fluids and sets another needle full of ketamine near the port for Stiles to use if the animal starts to wake up. Stiles has seen hundreds of those ports with hundreds of injections while sitting at his mother’s bedside or while watching Scott’s mom move about the hospital. It never occurred to Stiles before now that being a caregiver basically runs in Scott’s family, with his mom being a nurse and Scott being the animal equivalent of one.

After that, Stiles shaves off the thick fur around the wolf’s shoulder and they both wash their hands really well and put on gloves and these big plastic face shields that will keep fragments of bone from flying up into their eyes. It would be awesome if it weren’t so disgusting.

Scott meets Stiles’s eyes over the gently breathing body of their rescued wolf, the bone saw plugged in and humming ominously in Scott’s hands. That’s when they hear it: a deep, vibrating, inhuman howl that makes Stiles drop the set of clamps he was holding.

“What the hell was that?” he asks, looking down just to make sure that their very own wolf is still out cold and not the source of that blood curdling noise.

“I don’t know,” Scott says as they both stare at the lock between them and the deserted town outside the door. It’s locked and this isn’t a horror movie, so the door doesn’t rattle, the howl doesn’t get any closer. Everything is still, the moment pregnant with anticipation of some terror that will never come.

After a long moment of spine-tingling fear, Stiles breaks the silence with an awkward laugh. “Well, it is the witching hour.”

Scott rolls his eyes. “Yeah, pretty soon you’re going to be telling me that we’re operating on a werewolf. So much for getting sleep before the first day of school.”

“Sleep is overrated,” Stiles replies. “If you want, you can have some of my adderall.”

“Don’t become a drug dealer,” Scott replies. “You’re paranoid and twitchy enough as it is.”

“I’m not trying to deal, man. Just making an offer to a friend.”

Scott had tried Stiles’s meds once. It had actually helped him on his algebra exam last year, but not long after that one of the seniors was hospitalized going into a seizure during the midterm - taking adderall without a prescription. Scott thought it wasn’t worth it, even if he did sometimes look at the pill bottles longingly when they were up studying and Stiles was bouncing off the walls spouting random facts and Scott just couldn’t seem to concentrate. Even though Stiles had gotten the lecture about ADHD being a real medical condition and the drugs being a legitimate treatment only for diagnosed cases many a time, he couldn’t help but feel judged by Scott’s refusal - like it was okay for Stiles to use the pills to help him focus, but Scott was “normal” so he was above it all.

“Stiles!” Scott is snapping his fingers in front of Stiles’s face. He must have zoned out again.

“Yeah? I’m here. What?”

Scott rolls his eyes. “I’m about to cut. You need to look because there’s going to be a lot of blood and you need to either use the gauze or the suction thing to keep it out of my way so I can sew up the arteries and stuff.”

That description does not fill Stiles with confidence, but they’ve come too far to turn back now. “This is the stuff that nightmares are made of,” he reminds Scott. He can’t help but babble nervously. It’s always been how he copes with stress. “I mean, dead, severed animal limbs. Blood. Lifetimes worth of trauma here.”

“Wait,” Scott says, putting down the terrifying power tool and grabbing a scalpel. I think I should cut here and only use that thing for the bone. It’ll be a cleaner wound this way. It should be easier to sew.”

Stiles nods, grimacing. “You’re the expert.”

There is a lot of blood, but not as much as Stiles had been expecting. He envisioned some kind of blood spurting sprinkler action, like in a Tarantino film, but in reality it’s waves of blood welling in the wound like the tide coming into a sinkhole. Scott finds the sources and clamps them off before taking a ridiculously long time to try to tie them closed. Stiles remembers, somewhere in the back of his head, that wikipedia calls this ligature, but really he’s just standing there, siphoning off blood and moving clamps when Scott snaps at him, completely shocked that they are doing this to another living creature and somehow managing not to kill it.

Scott cuts through flesh and muscle in a way that is somehow more awesome and about a hundred times more disgusting than dissecting a fetal pig had been in freshman biology. Scott is careful and his hands barely shake. For a while it looks as though they might not even need the very intimidating bone-saw thing, but then things just aren’t pulling out as they should, like the muscles themselves have gone hard like bone and Scott thinks that if he cuts up the humerus, he’ll be able to remove it.

Scott is wincing, but his eyes stay open. The animal had already gnawed down to the bone, but lower on the leg. Scott says its better to remove the whole thing, so he’s cutting higher up. Stiles shudders, the very noise the machine is making is putting him on edge, but they have to keep pressing forward.

Stiles expected anything from grinding to the high pitched shearing noise that the table saw makes during woodshop, but he’s not expecting the bone to shatter, a kind of black ooze exploding out of it and all over both of them.

Scott lets out a girly scream that Stiles would make fun of him for, except he’s too busy vomiting into the nearby trashcan. “What the hell was that?” Stiles demands.

“I don’t know!” Scott shouts back. “I’ve never seen that before. But it doesn’t matter. Use that suction thing to get it all up. We can’t leave any bone fragments in there.” After they get all of the bone fragments removed, things go remarkably better. The tide of blood seems to stop and the flesh takes on a pink, healthy color, despite still being utterly disgusting. Even the way Scott folds the skin together and stitches it up with those neat little stitches that the girls all cooed over when Stiles thought it would be a smart move in Eighth grade to take that ‘Home Skills’ class.

The wolf started to wake up twice during the procedure, but had done well under far more ketamine that Scott seemed comfortable giving it. When it finally opens its eyes, everything but one strap and the muzzle removed, the look it gives Stiles is almost triumphant, fond. He strokes its soft fur and scratches under its neck. They’ve already wiped off all the blood, though some of the white fur on its belly is stained a bloody brown.

Scott tapes a bandage over the wound and then wraps the wolf’s whole torso with an ace bandage. “To reduce the swelling,” he explains, petting the poor groggy thing lazily and almost poking it in the eye in the process. The thing huffs in a kind of aborted growl which sounds to Stiles like how he imagines a wolf would roll its eyes. “I don’t think he can reach the dressing, but I’ll give you a cone, just in case. And there’s a list of surgery aftercare instructions around here somewhere.” Scott flails around like a dog chasing its own tail as he searches for the items.

Stiles stares at him, dumbfounded. “Um, Scott, who is the ‘you’ you are referring to in that sentence?”

Scott pauses his search, wincing. “You?”

“Me?”

“You.”

“I think you mean ‘you.’”

“No, I really don’t.”

“Um, see above conversation: ‘Stiles, I swear I will take all the blame for my very, very bad idea.’”

“Stiles,” Scott whines. “You have to! My mom would kill me. That was one of the conditions of letting me work with Dr. Deaton: no bringing home strays.”

Stiles sighs. A part of him always knew it was coming to this. He does still remember the great kitten debacle of ‘09 and the class bunny incident in fourth grade and the case of the hounds of the Baskin Robbins. Scott has been forever, epically, banned from having pets because he’d be taking in little lost puppy dogs left and right and Scott’s mom says they just can’t afford it, in spite of the many creative attempts Scott and Stiles have made to convince her otherwise. Even goldfish are treated like some kind of horrible gateway drug in the McCall household.

“We saved him,” Scott begs. “We can’t just abandon him now that I chopped up his insides and he didn’t, you know, die! And if you take him, you at least have a chance of keeping him long enough to get your dad to let you have him.”

“Jesus Christ, Scott, you’re like an addict. One hit of those sad blue puppy eyes and you’re hooked on the kennel crack.” Stiles can see in Scott’s eyes that the poor boy is already getting attached. Stiles feels for the dog and he wants it to get better, but Scott has already signed adoption papers and built it a dog house in his mind, Stiles can see. “It’s a wolf. It’s a wild animal. There’s no way my dad will let me keep it.” Stiles has always suspected that his dad might let him get a dog if the right stray happened into their lives, but he’s been wary of letting Scott know that, because he gets the sense that his dad is eyeing one of the police dogs that is getting a little older and might need retirement with a good family. Stiles doesn’t want to jinx it by having Scott show up with a whole needy menagerie.

“You don’t have to keep it if he won’t let you.” Scott holds out a leash hopefully. “The recovery time is four weeks. Keep it for a month and then we can release it into the wild or call a wolf sanctuary or something! Please, Stiles. I will owe you like forever! I’ll owe you a huge favor. And I’ll take the blame.”

Scott will be blamed for any animal-related shenanigans, no matter what, so that’s really an empty offer, but Scott looks like he’s just about to burst with all-out need, like he might actually explode of heartache if Stiles doesn’t say yes. There’s something about Scott’s smile: a puppish hopefulness that’s almost bullying in the way it dares you to not challenge it, to just buy whatever Scott is selling because it will be so damned good. Stiles has never, ever been able to say “no” to that stupid smile.

He holds out his hand for the leash and gets an armful of Scott instead. “Thank you, thank you so much Stiles. You won’t regret this.”

“I’m sure that’s not true.”

“Well, I’ll make it up to you.”

“Oh, you are definitely making it up to me,” Stiles agrees. Scott pumps a fist in the air, like he’d finally made first line or won some big award instead of convinced Stiles to do something they both knew that Stiles was always going to agree to anyway. “I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do with a wolf,” Stiles complains, figuring that he’s entitled to a little whining.

Scott shrugs. “Watch the Dog Whisperer?” he offers with a wince.

“I hate you.”

“No you don’t.”

No, Stiles thinks, I really don’t, and that, of course, is the problem.

Scott offers the wolf a treat and the wolf sniffs it before promptly throwing up all over Scott’s hiking boots.

Scott makes a face.

“It says ‘don’t bite the hand that feeds you’ not ‘don’t barf on the feet that feed you,’” Stiles notes with a snicker. Scott is too happy to find a scowl for him.

Chapter Text

Derek wakes up groggy. The sun streaming through the bedroom window seems determined to shoot straight into his eye and he finds himself growling before he can even register his unfamiliar surroundings and tamp down on it.

Last night he’d made it out of the vet clinic limping mostly under his own power. He wishes he’d been strong enough to just take off into the woods behind the building, but between the ketamine and the lingering wolfsbane in his system he’d actually been relying a little on the harness that Scott had strapped to him and had needed to boys to lift him in and out of the car.

Stiles’s father hadn’t been home and Stiles had used a spare radio he had apparently stolen from the police station to make sure that everything was alright before he used to harness to help Derek limp up the stairs and curl into a little nest he’d made out of an old musty blanket and the contents of Stiles’s dirty laundry basket.

It smells like day-old semen and that stupid Abercrombie and Fitch cologne that human women seem to find attractive, but smells like sushi and musk ox to Derek. Still, werewolves are quick to imprint on scents, especially in their wolf-form and Derek had already come to recognize this hyperactive, fumbling boy as ally and his stuttering touch as comfort. It’s the nascent stirrings of pack and Derek tamps down on it, because he has no pack, not since the house burned. He has a family whose blood smells familiar. He has a group of artistes who hang out in a hipster warehouse in Flatbush. He doesn’t need a pack and if he does ever form one, it wouldn’t be in Beacon Hills, a place that reeks of ashes and of death.

Derek stumbles to his feet, glad that nobody is around to watch him faceplant when he tries that long-backed downward-facing-dog stretch that is almost irresistible in this form. He looks around carefully, taking stock of his environment. His ears twitch, listening for movement in the house. The house is old for California and it creaks, but if Stiles’s father returned last night, he has already left by what the alarmclock by the bed registers as eleven fifteen in the morning. Derek hasn’t slept in that late as long as he can remember. Even staying up and drinking until dawn, he’s always up by ten the next day. And Derek must have been truly out of it to miss Stiles leaving for school, when the boy was about as quiet as a wrecking ball last night in the woods.

Derek’s whole body is sore, undoubtedly from the small amounts of wolfsbane that he consumed from his own blood and his arm throbs painfully. He wants to check on the wound, but there’s not much he can do in this form. He’s half way through the shift when he realizes that the bindings are too tight for his broad human shoulders and that he will tear through all of Scott’s hard work if he shifts like this.

Instead he begins the painful task of chewing through the bandage with his teeth. Luckily, time seems to pass differently as a wolf. What would be absolutely boring as a human takes on a kind of rapt fascination, feeling the satisfying tearing of cloth under his sharp teeth, the utter devotion of having a job and doing it well. Before Derek knows it, he is free of the cursed bandage and is kneeling on the floor, cradling his bloody shoulder.

The transformation has ripped through the stitches, but that’s a good thing, because Derek can see that it had nearly healed over before he transformed. Stiles and Scott are not as stupid as they appeared under first impressions and if they can perform surgery, admittedly surgery that probably would have killed an ordinary dog without Derek’s healing powers, they can figure out that it’s not natural for an animal to heal in a day.

The ache is deep and distracting, pulling at Derek with his heartbeat and turning him introspective. The wolf is close to the surface. The pain helps him focus, stay human. But the pain reminds him of the threat and the threat keeps the wolf near. His arm will grow back, he knows, but this is probably one of the worse injuries that can happen to a wolf while he still lives. It will be a painstaking process - cell by cell, building on each other like a coral reef - and Derek will be vulnerable the entire time.

He’s seen three legged dogs, so he’s not worried about his ability run in either his wolf or alpha forms. But even though he has been an alpha for seven years now, he hasn’t spent much time in his alpha form. He’s been tamed and, like a human, he’s accustomed to using his hands and claws first and his jaws and teeth less, as a last resort - not like an animal at all. He won’t be able to fight at the top of his game, let alone do half the things he needs to do as a human.

He contemplates his next move. He should just sneak out of the window, hop in his car and drive out of town, spend a few months running around in the Sierras until his arm heals or head down to Mexico and rent a cabana on the beach while he writes the great American novel, skipping town whenever his arm heals enough to be noticeable. But the Argents are up to something and whatever they are up to is not good.

Plus there is the spiral - the symbol for revenge - and even though Derek doesn’t know how or why or even what, there’s a greedy, hurting part of him that needs to be here when that bitch, Kate Argent, gets exactly what is coming to her.

Derek pads into the bathroom to look for some tissue to stem the sluggish bleeding of his ripped stitches when he notices this morning’s paper spread out on the bathroom floor, mocking him. He rolls his eyes and contemplates pissing on it just to live down to expectations, before picking up the front page and sitting down on the toilet.

There’s no mention of the blood in the woods or the massive manhunt that Stiles and Derek had heard about on the police radio. In a small town like Beacon Hills, the lack of news is unusual. The Beacon Hills Telegraph is no New York Times, but even the three journalists it probably employs are capable of purchasing a police scanner. That doesn’t bode well. In fact it smacks of deep hunter involvement, even though the small amount of research that Derek was able to do once he arrived shows that Chris Argent had only started renting his ostentatious suburban mini-mansion a month ago.

He gives a little growl. The wolf is angry just thinking of that family and what they’ve done to him. Not just the fire and not just the bullet that’s put him in his current predicament, but the audacity to return here to this scorched earth, infiltrate the newspaper and probably the police force and maybe even the school when they’ve taken everything already. They’ve stolen Derek’s childhood and his family and his first kiss and that’s not even enough for them - they have to take this town too.

He imagines his teeth meeting with Kate Argent’s throat between them. The Argents should be careful what they take. They wouldn’t like what Derek will do once he truly has nothing to lose.

Once Derek has finished perusing the paper, taking note of a few cheap sublets with prices low enough that they might be persuaded to take cash in exchange for no questions, he raids the medicine cabinet. There’s a prescription for something that smells like sulfur and mushrooms: Adderral, a medication for ADHD. Behind that there’s an old bottle of tylenol with codeine. Derek has no idea if it’ll work on him because he’s never taken any pain medication before, but his arm aches enough that he figures it’s worth a try. He downs half of what remains in the bottle.

He helps himself to the boy’s toothbrush and forces himself to use his electric razor, acknowledging that there’s no way he’ll be able to shave with his usual straight-razor without nicking himself, never mind that it’s in his kit in the trunk of the Camaro, which is parked at a truck stop four miles out of town. It feels strangely intimate, grooming himself with another man’s items. Derek wonders briefly if this is what it would have been like if he had given in and moved in with Armando after graduation. No, he dismisses the thought, there’s no way that Armando ever would have let Derek use his toothbrush, no matter how incendiary the sex had been.

Derek smiles a little to himself, deciding that between the sheriff heading up a manhunt and a sixteen-year-old absorbed by his first day of school, he can risk the very remote possibility that one might come home, so he turns the shower on. The hot water feels amazing on his hurting body, even though the water runs pink for a minute with the new blood from his wound.

Reaching for his dick isn’t the first thing that Derek has tried to do with his currently absent right hand, but it’s the first to provoke that pathetic whine. He wrinkles his nose, disgusted with himself and his weakness, but the hot water just feels so damned good and pleasure wraps around him like a comfortable quilt. The left hand is an old trick to make it feel like someone else’s hand on your dick and Derek tries to see that as a silver lining on the very bloody cloud of his current predicament.

He widens his stance, imagining the last time he and Armando fucked. Armando had been shacked up with some celebrity - well, a celebrity in the gay underground fashion community, only not so underground that he couldn’t afford a huge loft in SoHo with fashionably tortured old brick walls and unfinished ceilings and a dildo-shaped black leather couch that Derek had clawed nearly in half when he pinned Armando to it and fucked him until he screamed.

Derek had been angry, using his fury at smelling that old rich pile of bones all over his boyfriend to keep the wolf at bay, gnawing at Armando’s neck as he resisted the urge to bite.

“Fuck, baby,” Armando had keened, clawing at Derek’s back, drawing long wounds that healed in seconds. He opened his legs, hips completely flush against the stupid, squeaking leather couch that stank of the sweat of factory workers and tequila - the virtues of fucking a danseur. “I love it when you go all manly and possessive on me.”

Derek had growled. He hated being pigeon-holed as some brooding, butch, closeted case just because he liked running around the woods and got a little possessive sometimes. “Why do you do it?” It had slipped out. “Why do you make me so mad?” They had an open relationship, if they had a relationship at all. And it was Derek who liked it that way.

“Baby,” Armando had laughed. “You make yourself mad all on your own. You’re a wild thing. You’re independent and you like to disappear into the park or out on your camping trips and I love you enough that I don’t try to own you, but you don’t own me, either.”

Derek had only growled in response, slamming home into Armando’s tight heat, determined to fuck this damned reasonableness out of him.

“Like I told you before, say the word and no more lofts and no more shopping trips on Fifth Avenue and I’ll come live with you in the park or wherever corner you lurk in, but you gotta ask.”

The words had been there, right on Derek’s tongue, but then Armando had turned his head, revealing the telling bruise of another man drawing out his blood and Derek had choked on the syllable, “Mine,” and shoved Armando down, fucking him without pity.

Derek comes thinking of the exquisite scream of pleasure mixed with pain that had been the last he’d heard from Armando before releasing the lease on his rent controlled apartment and heading West. New York wasn’t for him.

Derek ignores the stupid body wash from the commercials that promise to make teen boys like the man every girlfriend wants her man to be and grabs the plain bar of soap, cleaning himself perfunctorily.

When he’s done, he sets himself to snooping, pulling on a pair of Stiles’s briefs just in case someone does come home and he can invent a lie that doesn’t involve being naked in an underaged boy's bedroom. He starts with the bookshelves, noting a strange mix of humorous fiction and classic sci fi. There are a few Shakespearean plays, though they are all the academic editions with the cheat sheet of word definitions on the opposite pages. Derek is surprised that he’s actually disappointed that they don’t have the theater in common. Something about the way that Stiles seems to love to talk had Derek convinced that he was in the presence of a fellow theater geek. Well, Derek’s theater geekery is mostly confined to lurking around in the wings, changing the lighting or playing with the fog effects, whereas Stiles was an obvious candidate for the stage itself, so maybe even then they wouldn’t have much to talk about. Derek smiles a little to himself picturing Stiles as the Fool in King Lear or maybe Sir Harry in Once Upon a Mattress, or maybe Algernon in the Importance of Being Ernest.

Derek opens the closet and takes a smell, but just gets more of the woods, that locker room athletic smell, the mall, the library, mint mojito gum (which he helps himself to), and veggie burgers. Derek wrinkles his nose, reassured by the fact that he can at least smell some chicken - not a vegetarian household.

Stiles has left his laptop, but Derek decides to leave that for later investigation. He’s more interested in what the Sheriff might have left laying around, which means leaving the room. When Derek goes to open the door, he finds that there’s a kind of makeshift chain-lock across it made of duct tape. There’s a note on it that reads: ‘I thought you were not going to snoop in my room, dad. Also, there’s a wolf in here, so please don’t enter. I’ll ground myself when I get home.’

Derek smiles at the clever preemption. Derek knows that he’s not a danger to the Sheriff, but it was good thinking on Stiles’s part to think to warn him.

Derek pulls the note off.

The house is comfortably sized, but nothing special. Derek starts downstairs, pulling out a freezer-burned piece of steak that he doesn’t think anyone will miss and defrosting it in the microwave. He has no intention of digging into the kibble that Stiles had left on a paper plate in the bathroom, but his injuries have taken their toll so he needs to eat to regain he strength. He resolves to stay at least another night before he escapes when Stiles tries to walk him. He could leave right now, but he doesn’t want to worry the boys with the mystery of how a wolf supposedly escaped from the second story of a locked house.

Derek retrieves the police radio from the plastic bag hidden under a fake houseplant where Stiles had returned it the night before. The ME’s report is apparently in and Derek is supposedly dead from that much blood loss, so the manhunt is definitively a search for a body. They’ll be running the DNA, which thankfully won’t pop up on any national databases, but if they have their own records digitized, it might come as a familial match for all the bodies they recovered from the fire and Derek will be declared dead, which, according to a few of the vampires in the New York underground art scene, is a real pain in the ass.

Derek eats the steak raw as soon as it's defrosted, munching on it like popcorn as he explores the downstairs of the house. There’s nothing to indicate that the sheriff is in league with the Argents or that he knows anything about the supernatural at all. He doesn’t even have any salt in his kitchen. Derek shakes his head, resolving to buy some and leave it in the pantry just in case.

The common areas of the house are filled with the kind of comfortable clutter that Derek associates with a familiar working-class homelife. It reminds him of his own parents home, not the sterile Martha Stewart inspired interior of his Aunt and Uncle’s upper middle class suburban delusions. Here, there are stacks of board games, old newspapers in a bin by the fire, a pizza box sitting awkwardly on top of the living room trashcan, a few scuffed bootprints on the floor, a remote sticking out from between the couch cushions, a half-finished crossword on top of the toilet.

What is conspicuously lacking had been immediately apparent last night, when the only smells that lingered were Stiles and Scott and another man, presumably the Sheriff. All the toilet seats were up, there was no handsoap in the kitchen, none of those fluffy foaming things in the bathroom, no fabric softener smell in the sheets, no hint of flowery perfume in the air, and twenty different kinds of hot pockets in the freezer. Derek was wary of the idea of a ‘feminine touch’ but her absence is as clear in the objects of the house as it was in the smell.

But she wasn’t just absent, she had passed on. The other thing that was conspicuously lacking was picture frames, even though some of the now off-white walls were stained with where they used to be. Derek doesn’t know Stiles well enough to speculate on what his mother would have been like. He’s not sure he’d care to know even if they were already friends. There’s something private about that kind of tragedy, something that will always feel raw and yet the scab can never heal over, not with the constant injections of painful sympathy from those who seem to need the tragedy-by-proxy. Of course, there’s no real point in speculating because Stiles knows Derek as a dog, not a human being with his own tally of losses.

Finding nothing downstairs, Derek moves up to the two other upstairs bedrooms. The Sheriff keeps his living space sparse, with a locked gun case in the closet and a very unimaginative stash of pornographic magazines under the bed. Derek wrinkles his nose at the smell of anti-cholesterol medication wafting out of the bathroom and the faint whiff of Jack Daniels that proves that the sheriff is no saint.

The last bedroom has been converted into a home office. Derek finds ample evidence that he is not even close to the only person to ever have picked the lock. Inside is a shrine to old-fashioned police work - paper files and reference books and even one of those old two hole punch devices that fits the old manila folders with the metal clips to keep the files in.

Derek looks for evidence on the most recent attack first, but it’s too soon. The sheriff probably hasn’t even been home yet. Instead he decides to pull out his own family’s file, surprised that the sheriff keeps a copy at home when the case has been shut for years.

There’s a picture of Derek in there, looking young and lost as he’s dragged away from the crime scene, his eyes shining with rage. It’s not the focus of the shot - which is clearly to capture the distance from the ground to the open, burned-out upstairs window. Whatever idiot was taking the photos obviously didn’t feel the need to preserve Derek’s dignity by taking a different photo without his tear-streaked face immortalized in it. Or maybe he didn’t see the screaming fourteen-year-old consumed by his grief, just casually taking photos and doing his job like the day that Derek’s world came crashing down around him was just any other day. It’s undignified and Derek’s fingers twitch to rip the photo out and tear it up right then and there. But the file folder’s crisp edges are worn and the papers inside are well-creased along the fold where they are attached to the folder. It’s clear that the Sheriff has mulled over this file more than its fair share - more than enough to notice if the photo goes missing.

Derek sighs, setting himself to the task of looking through the rest of the Sheriff’s files. Perhaps he will find something of interest here.

***

Derek is awoken by the sound of the front door creaking open. It must have been the codeine that knocked him out. Derek isn’t used to this kind of pain and he isn’t used to drugs that actually work on him and he certainly isn’t used to falling asleep in the middle of the goddamned day when he’s exposed and vulnerable in a strange place.

“Stupid!” he curses quietly to himself as he hastily stuffs the file he’d been looking at back in the cabinet, locks the door and darts across the hall and into Stiles’s room. Footsteps pound up the stairs as he replaces the duct tape on the door.

There’s nothing Derek can do about his ripped bandages. Even if he had the time, he can’t exactly re-wrap them while in wolf form and if he wraps them as a human, they’ll be too loose after the transformation. Derek pushes them under the bed and shifts just as Stiles and Scott tumble through the door.

They stink of old sweat on athletic equipment and some kind of anti-fungal spray that makes Derek sneeze.

“Hey, buddy,” Scott coaxes, dropping his backpack haphazardly and getting on his knees in front of Derek. Derek dutifully sniffs his outstretched hand like a dog would, even though Derek has no idea why any self-respecting dog would want a nose-full of that. On closer inspection, Derek smells that Scott has had to use his asthma inhaler, probably more than once. He whines, licking Scott’s hands even though they taste bitter and chemical from the vapor. Derek knows that a lot of boys long for the glory of the sports field, like the arenas of old, but he wants to tell Scott that it’s not worth it, that he should guard his health. The urge to take care of him is strong and Derek pushes it away. This isn’t his home and these boys aren’t his pack, even though they took care of Derek when he was at his most vulnerable.

“It’s okay,” Scott says, scratching at Derek’s neck. “I know it hurts, but you’ll be better in no time.” Derek isn’t proud of it, but he leans into Scott’s roaming hands. It’s been so long since anybody has even seen him in his wolf form, let alone touched him. He has the woods to himself upstate and the Central Park gatherings are spent in alpha form, mostly trying to corral the betas and the omegas who don’t have control yet.

“Hey, what happened to your bandage?” Scott frowns.

Derek tries for puppy eyes, but Scott ignores him, quickly finding the ripped-up bandages under the bed. “Awe, man, I thought maybe we wouldn’t have to use the cone.”

Derek can’t help it. He growls at the humiliation of being put in a cone, nipping at Scott’s fingers.

Stiles chuckles from where he’s collapsed on the bed. “Don’t think he likes that.”

Scott is busy examining Derek’s wounds now. He can feel them bleeding sluggishly from the impact of the transformation. Scott reaches for his backpack and dumps out a bunch of medical supplies. “They don’t look infected, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be bleeding like this. I’ll redo it, but tomorrow you’re going to have to put the cone on him when you go to school.”

“Fine,” Stiles huffs, petulantly. “You get to be the good parent and take care of him and I get to be the guy who inflicts muzzles and cones. You know that thing could probably fit my head in its mouth and shatter my skull like a watermelon. Maybe I should put the cone on when I’m sleeping too.”

Scott rolls his eyes. “I doubt the cone would stop this big guy from biting your head off if he wanted. But you really don’t have to worry. He’s obviously domesticated.” Derek bristles, even though Scott gives him a delicious scratch behind the ears to accompany the statement. “And he has a sweet temperament.” Derek doesn’t think anyone has ever described him as sweet. Brooding, icy, nihilistic, fatalistic, disciplined, morbid, troubled, tortured, reserved, repressed, seductive, calm, deadly, contemplative, brutish, sadistic, cool. Probably the closest anyone ever comes to ‘sweet’ is to call him pretty, but they always mean pretty the way a jaguar is pretty or a lionfish, something surprisingly beautiful for how dangerous it is.

“If he’s domesticated, where’s his owner? Where’s his collar? If he’s so sweet then why the hell was he wandering around in the woods with his leg half bitten off?” Stiles demands. They are all good questions, questions that Derek hopes Stiles doesn’t link up to the blood and the hunters.

“Dogs get lost sometimes. They run away. And he’s obviously a wolf hybrid, maybe even first generation. His owner probably didn’t put a collar on him because they don’t want to have to pay a fine.”

“So how are we supposed to return him?” Stiles asks. “I thought you wanted to release him back into the wild.”

Scott’s hands tighten possessively in Derek’s fur. “We get pamphlets at the clinic. There are wolf rescues that might take him. After he’s better, of course.”

Derek doesn’t know what happened to Scott to make him get so attached so easily. It’s nothing obvious, like Stiles’s deceased mother. But he doesn’t have a lot of smells of others on him. He does have a lot of other people’s sweat on him, from playing lacrosse today, but nothing older, nothing from those months before school was back in session. Stiles is all over him, but that’s it. He obviously doesn’t have many friends, isn’t good at sports, and even if he did have more going on, it’s clear that he spends a lot of time at the vet clinic, based on the fact that he had even the slightest clue what to do with Derek’s arm.

Derek knows what it's like to be alone. His own isolation was self-imposed and despite being surrounded by people, he didn’t have anyone whose smell was as deeply imprinted as Stiles’s is on Scott, but he understands how that solitude, self-imposed or otherwise, can warp the mind, make you doubt your own worth, make you get attached, obsessed, because it perverts even casual interests. Derek hates his wolf instincts, because a sudden swell of pity has him licking Scott’s face.

Scott laughs, his whole face lighting up. “Come on, Stiles, how can you think this guy is vicious?”

“Maybe he’s just getting a sample taste to see if he wants to eat you,” Stiles grumbles. “Hey, so coach let you play goalie today. That’s a start.” Derek is beginning to suspect that such wild shifts in topic are not atypical for Stiles, now that he knows what the pills giving off that medical stench are for.

“Yeah, well, too bad I sucked at it.”

“No you didn’t,” Stiles squeaks. Derek doesn’t even need to hear his heartbeat to spot the lie. “You did fine.”

Scott looks skeptical. “I blocked like one shot and I’m pretty sure I did it by accident.”

“It was your first day back,” Stiles offers. “You just need to get into the groove of things. At least coach let you off the bench. And it shows he knows your name.”

“Yeah, if my name is ‘hey, you.’ He just put me up there because he wanted to give his ringers a little confidence boost to start out the season.” Scott has finished taping a fresh bandage on top of Derek’s stitches and is now wrapping another ace bandage around the whole thing. It’s unnecessary, but Derek admits that the compression helps relieve some of the ache from his wound, either that or all the pills he took earlier.

“Well you got to play. It could’ve gone worse.” Stiles is currently playing with his lacrosse stick, unlacing and relacing it. Derek notes that he’s doing it too tight, but he’s not exactly in any position to correct him.

“Not really,” Scott moans, burying his face in Derek’s fur.

“You didn’t do anything too embarrassing. I mean, you did get the ball wedged in your facemask once, but there were no slip and falls. And, hey, you didn’t hit your head on the goal this time. Or get your stick stuck in it.”

“Yeah, I managed to not look like a walking Youtube video. Yay! Go me.”

“Hey, I’m trying to be encouraging here. Stop leveling up the difficulty.”

“Well, that’s not even the worse part.”

“Getting the ball stuck in your facemask isn’t the worst part? It’s pretty bad, dude.”

“What happened to encouraging?”

Stiles shrugs. Derek isn’t sure that he likes him in this moment, even though his smell has started to feel comforting. Scott, who gives the most amazing ear scritches, is just trying his best and it seems as though his best friend can’t get his head out of his ass long enough to not kick him when he’s down. Not that Derek himself could offer much comfort. His advice to the benchwarmers on the lacrosse team had been ‘train harder.’ But he had stayed after practice to help train with some of them, which is more that Mr. Critical who is going to put a cone on Derek’s head is doing.

“I’m sorry, man, but I give up. If you want to throw yourself a pity party, who am I to stand in the way? Maybe I should just bring the cake.”

“Well, the cake’s already been brought. Allison was there.”

“Allison? Who’s Allison?”

“You know, the new girl? Allison Argent.”

Derek growls at the name, the hair on the back of his neck rising involuntarily. Maybe it’s Scott that he doesn’t like: pining after Argents, suggesting things like cones.

“Hey, hey, it’s okay, boy. Did I pull this too tight? I’m sorry,” Scott says, fussing with the bandage a little. Derek eventually relaxes, letting himself half slide into Scott’s lap so Scott can scratch his belly.

“What about the new girl?” Stiles asks. “You met her for all of five seconds when she asked to borrow your pen during English class.”

“She’s cute,” Scott protests. “And there’s something about her.”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Well too late. She’s already hanging out with Lydia and them. Unless you miraculously become the star of the lacrosse team, then you don’t have a chance.”

“Not being the star of the lacrosse team hasn’t stopped you from panting after Lydia for years,” Scott points out.

“Well, that’s different. I liked her before I knew there was a lacrosse team to be the star of, before she knew there were sports stars to date and ridiculous intelligence to hide beneath perfect strawberry blonde hair and . . . you know, I’m playing the long game. I mean it might take until graduation. It might take another five, maybe ten years, but I’m patient. I’m crafty, like a fox. Did you know that foxes have six senses? They can totally sense magnetic north.” Fuck foxes, Derek thinks. It’s not like sensing the poles is all that hard.

“I thought cows could do that too,” Scott says. “I saw something where all the cows in the world all face the same direction when they eat. You can see it on satellite photos.”

“Well then I’m crafty like a cow, too. My point is that I have a long-term goal. You, on the other hand, are suffering from short-term infatuation based solely on the fact that the poor girl needed a pen and by virtue of being new, doesn’t know you’re a total nerd yet. You’ve already made me a nerd by proxy, but I’m your best friend so I consented to it. She has enough problems with being the new girl. She doesn’t need to get Scarlet-nerded by you on top of that.”

“How do you know she doesn’t want to be Scarlet-nerded?” Scott protests.

Stiles looks dubious.

So does Derek. This girl may be an Argent, but she’s also a teenaged girl and if Derek knows anything about teenaged girls, it's that they are slaves to the vicious, fickle winds of popularity. Derek remembers how they’d giggle and toss their hair and whisper about every word he exchanged with them, even if he really did just need to borrow a pen, just because he was the star of the lacrosse team and they wanted to be popular by proxy. Not a single one of them noticed that Derek’s damage ran deeper than what could be healed by kind words and a nubile pair of tits. And none of them seemed to care that Derek was an angry, abusive shit who treated them terribly, because he was sexy loner Derek Hale and they were considered lucky to catch his eye. It wasn’t enough for Derek to refuse them and it wasn’t enough to make him treat them better but it was enough to make him hate himself just that much more.

“I mean, she seems nice,” Scott stutters. Derek isn’t sure which is worse - the stupidity of teenaged girls and their low self-esteem or the stupidity of teenaged boys and their tendency towards baseless infatuation.

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Well, that settles it. She’s nice so she’s obviously going to be Mrs. Scott McCall. There’s more to love than that, man.”

“Yeah, I don’t need to hear more about your hard on for Lydia Martin. I’ve got a plan.”

Stiles perks up, flipping over and scooting awkwardly on the bed until he’s hanging over the edge, looking at Scott. Derek is curious as well. If Scott actually does manage to get closer to Allison Argent, then maybe Derek can get some inside information out of it.

“Well,” Stiles demands, “what’s the plan?”

“You said that she won’t want to get Scarlet-nerded by me and maybe you’re right. But she doesn’t know that I’m a nerd, which I’m not, by the way. But she doesn’t know that I’m not popular. So I just have to ask her out before she finds that out.”

That is the stupidest plan that Derek has ever heard.

“Dude, that is the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard,” Stiles agrees. “I don’t even know if that arises to the level of ‘plan.’”

“Well it’s not like the great overarching Lydia Martin ten-year-plan has worked for you. Maybe if you’d just gone up to her and asked her out the moment you knew she was the one, she’d be sitting here in your lap right now instead of hanging off Jackson like he’s her own personal coat rack.”

“I was like ten!”

“Well, I’m not ten and I like Allison, so tomorrow before English class I’m going to ask her to come over and study with us.”

Derek’s ears perk up at that. As much as he does like Scott, Derek doesn’t hold out high hopes for this ‘plan.’ Still, it’s a reason to stick around until tomorrow afternoon, just in case Scott succeeds.

Scott makes some comment about returning to the vet clinic after hours to pick up more bandages for Derek, which somehow deteriorates into a discussion of Call of Duty and then a game of Call of Duty. Derek sandwiches himself in between Scott and Stiles on the living room couch, huffing at them lazily when their over-enthusiastic controller motions jostle him. But he feels safe here. Derek doesn’t know what it says about him that he finds it easier to be some kid’s adopted dog than he found being adopted son to his blood relatives or lacrosse star or brooding playwright or devoted boyfriend.

But Derek is too tired and warm and content for self-flagellation, so he drifts off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Apparently, Scott’s plan is not the stupidest plan ever, because it actually works. Sort of.

Instead of asking at the beginning of English, Scott heard a knock on the door of the clinic while he was retrieving more bandages for wolfie (as Stiles is now calling it). By a stroke of luck (bad for the dog and good for Scott), Allison had hit a dog with her car and needed Scott to come to the rescue. Cue elaborate white knight fantasy. Or at least, that’s what Stiles heard when Scott tried to explain it to him. Now Allison and Scott are going to Greenberg’s party and Stiles is tagging along as moral support.

Not that Scott needs it. After a brief greeting, he has been tangled up in Allison the whole night, leaving Stiles stranded between two hedges next to the pool sipping a beer and torturing himself. Scott and Allison are walking hand in hand away from the area of patio that has become an unofficial dance floor and Lydia-watching has become unbearable, considering how she’s been wrapped around Jackson since nearly the moment Stiles got here. Stiles still isn’t even sure she knows his name and he is considering doing something really stupid to ensure that she does. Infamous does include famous, after all. Even something like cannonballing off the roof and into the pool would at least get her attention. Or maybe he should just walk up to her and ask her to dance. Of course, first they’d have to surgically remove Jackson from her face.

Or maybe he should forget about Lydia for a bit - play the long game. If he can get someone else, anyone else, to pay attention to him (romantically, that is), more people might start finding him interesting. And maybe he’d get enough people interested that he’d become in demand. It would be a Stiles fad. Increase in demand with limited supply means a higher price. And then Lydia would want him, because Lydia always wants the best, most expensive, most in demand of everything. Take that Coach Finstock, even if Stiles is full of fail on the lacrosse field, he can at least do economics!

Stiles looks around for a girl, living the life of ignorance now, not knowing that she’ll soon be enjoying the privilege of being Stiles Stilinski’s girlfriend. Beacon Hills isn’t a huge town, but there are still people here that he doesn’t know. He thought he even heard some kind of Scandinavian accent earlier. Maybe he can apply Scott’s technique of striking first before the nerdiness becomes apparent. And Stiles’s totally smooth, but slightly flaily dance moves might even have a chance with someone from Finland or wherever.

Stiles isn’t afraid of rejection. Considering the number of times Lydia has casually rejected him, he’s been desensitized. But he doesn’t want to waste his effort, so he observes. Most of the girls who haven’t already paired off clump together in groups and just because Stiles isn’t cool with rejection, doesn’t mean he’s ready to be laughed at by a whole group of girls.

He notices one girl right off the bat. She is a girl that Stiles knows - frizzy dirty blond hair and plump, if narrow lips. Even from across the pool, Stiles can tell that she’s put on too much makeup, or maybe just doesn’t know how to put it on well. Stiles doesn’t blame her - he always rushes through the makeup counters at Macy’s, feeling overwhelmed and a little claustrophobic by the sheer amount of things that exist for women to spend money on to make themselves beautiful. She’s wearing a short black skirt with leggings under it and a long-sleeved shirt with a black motorcycle jacket over it, no high heels. Stiles assumes that this must be Erica’s best attempt at looking sexy, which he supposes is hard when hiding bruises from having a seizure like the one she’d had yesterday during History.

Erica had been sitting next to Stiles when it happened and, to be honest, it had scared the shit out of him. He’d just stood there numbly while Isaac had pushed the surrounding desks out of the way and Danny had slid his jacket under her head while she seized. Some idiot had suggested putting a ruler in her mouth, but then Stiles spotted the warning on the necklace she wore telling them not to.

Erica is better than nothing, but she’s not entirely his type...if someone who has barely experienced a hint of anything can even develop a type. It’s not her looks, though Stiles will admit that physical beauty is part of what attracts him. The real problem with Erica is her passivity. She’s just standing here, looking awkward and ridiculous in clothes that another girl would rock, almost like a little girl trying on her mother’s clothing. Stiles likes feisty women and maybe men. He likes people who shine with defiance and charisma and maybe a little superiority, too, like they’re willing to demand that the world deliver on all its promise. Erica is a nice girl, but Stiles would take interesting over nice any day. That’s probably why he can’t ever bring himself to try anything with Scott, even though Scott is handsome in his own puppyish way and Stiles already loves him with all his heart.

Matt, who Stiles often includes on WoW quests, but rarely speaks to through non-electronic means, is beckoning Stiles inside the house with a group that Stiles recognizes from the comic shop. Another time, Stiles might allow himself to be sucked in by them, but now a boy is talking to Erica and she looks absolutely wrecked, resisting when he reaches for her wrist, grabbing at her. He’s tall and pale with sandy blond hair and broad shoulders. Stiles recognizes him from school, but can’t seem to remember his name.

Stiles ignores Matt and runs around the pool, almost knocking in one girl, who is too drunk to be standing that close to water. He has to pause to steady her. By the time he reaches them, the guy has Erica outside the back gate in the dog run, crowding her up against the wall while an anxious Rottweiler sniffs at their heels.

“I think you’re going to suck it,” the guy says, pushing at Erica’s shoulders. “I think you’re going to swallow my cock down or this video goes on youtube and the whole world can watch you piss yourself.”

Stiles really hopes that he made the right kind of fist, because before he has a chance to register anything his fist is flying at the guy’s giant nose. Stiles only realizes after he’s cradling his aching hand, that even if he managed to break that jerk’s ugly nose and make it even uglier, the guy has easily five inches and fifty pounds on Stiles and he’s the kind of guy who looks like he actually knows how to form a proper fist, through practice. He also has the crazy eyes like Gary Busey.

Erica is cowering in the back by the doghouse and Stiles spares a moment to wonder why she didn’t take the opportunity to just run away when Busey was distracted by Stiles. Of course, maybe Stiles should’ve run away when he had the opportunity, because the next thing he knows, he’s on the grass staring at a dog turd with his his arms wrapped around his aching stomach and Busey is not shaking his hand like Stiles’s gut hurt it in any way.

Stiles braces himself for the kind of shit-kicking that comes when one guy who’s stolen Gary Busey’s crazy-eyes is looming over a kid curled up in a ball on the ground. But the expected boot to the face never comes. In fact, Stiles hears a loud, threatening growl. When he unclenches, he expects to find that the damned Rottweiler is suddenly doing its job and protecting someone, but the dog is whining in its doghouse and a man dressed all in black is standing with one leather boot on top of Busey, whose face is flattening a dog turd.

The gate is still closed, so Stiles has no idea where the man even came from, but he’s not going to question his tall, dark, and, holy shit, handsome, guardian angel who has just saved Erica from some kind of sexual assault and Stiles’s beautiful face from the wrong end of a boot. The newcomer has dark hair, broad shoulders, a respectable package (in those scrumptiously tight black jeans), and the most beautiful, piercing hazel eyes Stiles has ever seen. He looks like a fucking model. Not just a model, an underwear model.

To Stiles’s surprise, Erica lets out a strangled whimper, jumping over Stiles, who is still curled in the fetal position on the ground, and past the mystery man, scrabbling at the gate before finally escaping back out into the party and maybe away for good.

“Erica!” Stiles shouts after her, but he’s on the ground and their rescuer is otherwise occupied. “Way to be ungrateful to our knight in shining armor. You might’ve gotten lucky if he wanted to kiss the princess.”

Underwear model raises an eyebrow at the reference, then tilts his head to the side, like he’s one of those douchebags who leaves their bluetooth headset in all the time and needs to concentrate to ignore the actual humans trying to unknowingly hold a conversation with them.

“She’s okay,” he says. “I’m sure she’s calling her mother to come pick her up right now.”

Underwear model can’t possibly know that, but Stiles is willing to take his word for it until he can get up and find Erica himself. Stiles spares a moment to wonder if he shouldn’t just get up and find her now, because Handsome clearly has this situation under control, grinding his boot into the back of Busey’s neck casually, like he comes flying out of nowhere and pins people to the ground all the time. It’s exactly the kind of dangerous that would make Stiles develop a critical situation in his pants, if he wasn’t still wheezing and half-crying from the punch to the stomach.

“You okay, kid?”

Stiles nods, grimacing. He’s experienced this before, though it was from tripping over his shoelace and slamming his stomach into a rail, not from an actual fistfight. A fistfight in which he totally fought for a girl’s honor. How awesome does that make him?

Busey is starting to squirm, squealing a little. The underwear model rolls his eyes, making even sarcasm look sexy. He leans down, asking very matter-of-factly, “Do you want me to knock you unconscious?”

Busey shakes his head.

“Well then I suggest you shut the hell up.”

Busey nods into the dogshit his cheek is pressed in.

Underwear model gives Stiles a wry, understated smile, then punches the guy’s cheek hard with his left hand. He also doesn’t have to cradle his hand afterwards. In fact, Stiles can’t believe he’s just noticing this, but one arm of his black leather jacket hangs empty at his side.

“You beat that guy up in, like, a few seconds literally one-handed?”

The guy shrugs his empty shoulder. Stiles realizes belatedly that his rescuer might not appreciate him yammering about his disability and that said rescuer has some insane fighting skills that could easily be applied to Stiles. The man looks at a loss for a second before explaining, “I only had one hand available.”

Stiles stares at him a moment before laughing riotously. It hurts his sore stomach, but Stiles doesn’t care. The adrenaline of the fight and the ridiculousness of the situation have combined into a heady cocktail of punch-drunk hysteria and Stiles just can. Not. Stop. Laughing.

“Is that one hand available to help me up?” Stiles wheezes when he’s finally finished, curled into the grass pathetically.

The strength it takes to basically yank Stiles from prone to standing in less than a second explains exactly how the beat-down went. “Wow,” Stiles says, stumbling a little and getting up close and personal with some rock-hard abs, beneath the soft clingy material of the man’s black shirt that only serves to emphasize the perfection of the body before him. He pats those abs awkwardly. “Thanks for that, for saving me.”

Sexy shrugs again. “You did a good thing, standing up for that girl. You didn’t deserve getting the shit beaten out of you for your troubles.”

“Hey, I could’ve made a comeback!” Stiles protests.

Another pointed raise of the eyebrow, but the man lets it go.

“I’m Stiles,” Stiles realizes too late that he’s reached out his right hand to shake, forcing the man to turn his wrist and awkwardly clasp Stiles’s hand with his left.

“Derek.”

All of a sudden Stiles finds himself getting a little flustered. Damn, one arm or no, Derek is smoking hot and now that he has a name, it's like the part of Stiles’s brain that spins like hamsters on a wheel whenever presented with a very attractive person has caught up to speed and realized that now that they’ve formally met, Stiles is free to formally make a fool out of himself.

After staring at each other for a while, Derek gestures to the unconscious soon-to-be felon. “I didn’t do any permanent damage. I don’t know when he’ll wake up, so maybe you should tie him up.”

“What?!? Since when is ropes and chains the normal response in this situation? I’m calling my dad. He’s the sheriff.” Stiles is already typing out a text message telling his dad the police are needed.

Derek tenses. “I have to go. Tie him up or get some of your friends to help you watch him.”

“Hey,” Stiles has his hands on the lapels of Derek’s black jacket before he realizes what he’s doing. “Don’t go. You’re a witness and a participant in this incredibly efficient TKO. How did you even do that, by the way? You never answered.”

Derek twitches, eyeing the high wall around the dog run like maybe he could just scale it and never have to talk to anyone ever again. “I had training.”

“Oh,” Stiles agrees, knowingly. After all, it’s not like there are all that many ways people commonly lose their arms these days and it must have been recent because Derek isn’t wearing a prosthetic and he doesn’t have his jacket cut and pinned to keep the loose arm from getting in the way. Plus, the terse manner and the casual, everyday reaction to violence practically screams military. “Iraq or Afghanistan?” Because if Sherlock Holmes can make super obvious deductions and impress everyone, so can Stiles.

Derek looks shocked for a moment, but then replies, “I can’t talk about it.”

“Oh, classified, special ops kinds of stuff. That’s cool. I get it. Are you like one of those people who has their hands registered as a lethal weapon? Because even then I think you responded proportionately to this guy and my dad will listen to me, so you don’t have to worry about anything. He’ll make it as painless as possible. Just help me keep the guy under control until dad gets here.”

“I’m sorry,” Derek says. “I can’t speak with the Sheriff.”

“Why?”

“I just can’t.”

“Are you a criminal?”

“No.”

“I guess if you are then you’re not going to tell me.”

“I’m not,” Derek replies. “I just . . . can you trust me on this? I saved you and I shouldn’t be punished for it.”

“Talking to my dad is not a punishment.”

“Tell him you beat up the guy.”

“Yeah, the guy and Erica aren’t going to confirm that. Also, my dad’s seen me. As much as he’d love a star athlete for a son, he knows I’m not even remotely athletic enough to incapacitate someone deliberately.” The time Scott had to be hospitalized for a concussion because Stiles turned around too quickly while holding his skis was proof that he was able to definitely incapacitate someone unintentionally.

“Then tell him that the good Samaritan ran away,” the guy says, jumping up and grabbing the wall with his one hand, before hoisting himself over and disappearing into the night.

“Jesus Christ,” Stiles says to the Rottweiler, “how in the hell does he do that?”

Afterwards, he uses the Rottweiler's collar to tie the guy’s hands behind his back and sits on top of him for good measure. With Scott as backup, he tries to innocently pretend that his call to his father isn’t breaking up the first good party of the school year. Later, he finds Erica crying quietly on the curb waiting for her mother. They sit together watching dad manhandle Busey into the squad car and Stiles even takes her hand. Erica smiles at him, looking so besotted that even Stiles can see it, but all he can think about is Derek and how all the mysterious fleeing from the police had just made Stiles want to know him more.

Chapter Text

Derek is tired. Healing is taking a lot of energy out of him and even though the fight from the previous night had been swift and decisive, he still felt the pull on his wounds in a way that makes him wonder if this is what humans feel like when they claim to be “sore.” Derek is only “sore” when he wants a massage and the person offering proves interesting.

Derek had spent the rest of the night following Stiles and the girl, Erica, to the police station to give their statements. Derek had been sloppy and after he jumped off his rooftop hiding place, she had seen a flash of the wolf. Fortunately, she had been too traumatized to say anything. Or maybe she didn’t think anyone would believe her. Her statement had been so brief and hushed that Derek had barely been able to hear through the walls of the station. He doesn’t doubt that the Sheriff might try to re-interview her. Derek knows that’s what he would do. Sheriff Stilinski seems like the kind who “takes an interest,” especially when his son is involved.

Stiles himself doesn’t seem particularly traumatized by the event, which intrigues Derek. He kept his word and didn’t tell the Sheriff anything about Derek, not that he knows anything to tell him other than Derek’s first name and his appearance. When pressed, Stiles only mumbled something about a tallish white guy with dark hair who could be an underwear model. He didn’t even say anything about the arm. Derek wonders if he should get closer to him in human form in order to ensure that he doesn’t.

The problem is that while Derek’s arm is regrowing, he actually stands out. If the Sheriff starts looking for a one-armed guy with black hair, Derek will have to leave town or stay permanently in his wolf form, which will make investigating difficult. Then again, Stiles has already seen him without an arm and Scott and Stiles have already seen the wolf without an arm, which means that he only has until it starts to really grow back before he’ll need to leave town. He should have just stuck to spying on Scott and Allison Argent and not gotten involved. But then he’d heard Stiles’s heartbeat skyrocket, heard him whimper in pain. He hadn’t been able to just sit there in the shadows when there was something he could do to help.

Even though Derek has effectively painted himself into a corner by revealing himself to Stiles, he can’t help the feeling of guilt that he should have done more. Erica is a sick girl - Derek can smell it on her. And she had been utterly terrified. In pack hierarchy, sometimes situations like that happened out of struggles for dominance, but Erica hadn’t been a challenge. What did that boy get off on, forcing someone who was already an omega, already submissive? Derek didn’t understand it when three members of his high school football team got kicked out of school for date rape and he doesn’t understand it now.

Last night, when Stiles limped up the stairs, Derek could smell the bruising on him. He’d actually whimpered when the boy had pulled off his shirt for a hot shower. Derek knows that it will heal, just as Derek eventually will heal, but there’s that alpha sense niggling at the back of his mind, screaming at him for not taking better care of his pack. It must be spending so much time as a wolf, with his instincts closer to the surface, that has made him so drawn to the two cubs who have protected him. The urge to turn them is rising, but Derek forces it down, because doing it without their consent would be just as bad as what almost happened to Erica. Of course, Derek couldn’t help himself from making the sense of pack worse last night when he’d jumped up onto the bed to sleep at Stiles’s feet, just in case the protection of the sheriff downstairs wasn’t enough.

Right now, Derek is feeling a little less generous towards his host.

Stiles is jerking off. Again. Derek’s ears twitch in annoyance. When Derek was sixteen, he was an orphan living with uptight relatives whom he hated and depressed as fuck, so he doesn’t really know what normal would’ve been for that age, but he’s pretty sure that if he spent as much time spanking it as Stiles does, his dick might’ve rotted off, super-healing abilities or not. No wonder this room has a low level stench of spunk at all times.

Derek isn’t the most tech savvy guy, but he’s young enough that he knows his way around a computer. Still, he couldn’t imagine the sheer depths of Stiles’s ability to search the internet for porn. Derek normally just types in ‘gay xxx, slutty twinks’ or something along those lines and clicks on the first few videos that catch his eye. Stiles, on the other hand, approaches the task like he’s mining for gold, all with one hand still on his dick.

He always has something bizarrely specific and ridiculously diverse in mind. In fact, it’s so perverse in its specificity that Derek has taken to hopping up on the bed and licking at Stiles’s face just so he can look over his shoulder at the quest of the day, weird bestial undertones be damned. So far he’s seen everything from Sailor Moon getting fucked over a rainbow by some kind of unicorn, to a Japanese girl with an octopus stuffed in her ass, to a beautiful blonde girl getting gang banged by five latino guys dressed like ninjas. There’s a part of Derek’s mind, the part that still sitting in a dorm room at NYU pretending to be high and talking about the differences between the queer and the feminist perspectives of modern pop culture images of race, that wants to analyze the psychosexual motivations behind Stiles’s weird choices in pornos.

The rest of him just wants to keep staring into this train wreck wondering how the hell someone as otherwise fucked up as Derek is somehow the normal one when it comes to his relatively simple love of slutty twinks getting owned when they deserve a good fucking. He wonders if it’s just kids getting more complicated when it comes to being raised in a giant internet free-for-all. Then again, he likes to think that Stiles is a unique creature who will one day find someone in whom he can confide all his oddities and have them cherished.

Of course he feels dirty watching Stiles grab himself, touched with that feverish, half-mad fervor that seems to overcome the young, for whom jerking off is still the best thing since sliced bread, not a paltry second to sex with a living, breathing partner. Derek is well aware that Stiles himself, with his pale skin and his ski jump nose and his thin, not-yet filled-out frame, would fit right in on the kind of pornos that Derek favors.

Even his freckles speak to the untamable cuteness of youth, to innocence ready to be claimed, territory to be marked and despoiled and not old enough to be a threat, not like Kate was. Derek licks the freckle behind Stiles’s left ear, imagining himself licking Stiles there in human form, earning a panted breath instead of an “Ew!” and a shove and admonishment.

“Now, excuse me,” Stills says after scratching behind Derek’s ears with the hand not on his dick. “I don’t mean to single out your kind, the limb deficient, I mean, not, you know, fury and very much not human. But I saw the hottest guy yesterday. I mean, he was missing 25% of his limbs, like you, but looking like that, the guy doesn’t even need 25%.” Stiles sighs dreamily then types in, ‘brunette amputees, military porn, big cocks, green eyes, stubble.’ Derek is shocked, and maybe a little appalled, at the number of results he actually gets.

If Derek were human, his jaw would be dropping because it's clear that the guy that Stiles is telling his dog about is Derek himself. Based on the four day wankfest Derek has already observed, he had no inkling that Stiles was even attracted to men, let alone could be attracted to Derek.

This whole “getting to know Stiles as a human” thing is going to be easier than Derek thought.

Stiles shoves Derek off the bed, ironically while moaning Derek’s name along with his ridiculously specific porn. Derek finds that, unlike the rest of Stiles’s quality time with his hand, he’s actually turned on. It’s a good thing that nobody looks twice at a dog deciding to lick himself.

Chapter Text

Stiles doesn’t know how he’s supposed to concentrate on chemistry, not with everything going on. In the past week, Stiles has intrepidly looked for a body in the woods, performed advanced veterinary surgery without passing out from the goriness of it all, managed to get away with keeping a three-legged wolf in his room, gotten into his first fistfight, been literally rescued by a tall dark and handsome stranger, and protected a girl’s virtue. It’s all awesome. So awesome that his life is like this and not the usual boring teenaged monotony.

Scott is, of course, no help. He is stuck in the land of hugs and puppies where all of his attention is occupied by fantasizing about Allison Argent and getting his mom to adopt Wolfie, who is still a wild animal, despite how soft and cuddly he was at the foot of Stiles’s bed or how he had licked Stiles’s bloody knuckles so sweetly after the fight. Wolfie is also terrifyingly smart - too smart. He stares at Stiles’s laptop screen like he can actually read what he’s messaging to Scott and Stiles swears that he nipped Stiles’s fingers deliberately after hearing Stiles threaten Scott to send him off to the wolf sanctuary after he ate an entire steak off the counter while Stiles was distracted.

Stiles looks over at the dazed look on his friend’s face and wonders if Scott had even heard a word of his harshly whispered update this morning before English, because Allison Argent had been sitting chatting with Lydia across the hallway, shooting poorly hidden glances at them. Scott, bless his clumsy heart that matches his clumsy body, hadn’t even noticed that Stiles had stayed behind on Friday night instead of fleeing from being caught breaking the law by his father (as usual).

“McCall,” Mr. Harris barks, because as much as Stiles hates the man, he respects that Mr. Harris is surprisingly with it when it comes to catching students zoning out. “What is a mole?”

“Um,” Scott says, blinking in that owlish, utterly confused way that always makes people underestimate his intelligence. Stiles winces, because he can totally see this trainwreck coming a mile away. “A blind furry animal that lives underground?”

The rest of the class laughs, except for Lydia, who is rolling her eyes.

After a verbal tongue-lashing from Harris, which kind of reminds Stiles of a less commanding version of Alan Rickman in Harry Potter, Scott hunches into his chair, looking hunted and embarrassed.

“Dude,” Stiles whispers, “didn’t you do the reading?” Scott isn’t a genius by any stretch of the imagination, but he has always been a hard worker, much harder working than Stiles, who bounces around through homework assignments and doesn’t really study, but manages a solid A- average anyway. Stiles had thought that was what Scott had been up to this weekend when Stiles was forced to sneak Wolfie out of the house on his own so the poor guy could have a walk and do his business. Or at least, Stiles assumed that Wolfie had done his business when he was rooting around in the bushes, because he hadn’t been using the newspaper that Stiles set out for him, other than to move it around so it was sitting in front of the toilet.

“I was out with Allison,” Scott hisses, getting that dopey grin on his face again.

“That’s great,” Stiles snaps, putting a lid on the jealousy. “Against all odds, you have a girlfriend, congratulations, but you need to study too!”

“Stiles, you sound like my mom,” Scott whines. “She actually likes me. Can you not jinx it?”

“Maybe your mom has a point!” Stiles crosses his arms over his chest in what he knows is an epic pout. Stiles doesn’t see why Scott gets to spend the weekend galavanting off with the new girl when exciting things are finally starting to happen to the Dynamic Duo. He doesn’t see why he’s still taking care of Scott’s mess (in the form of a cuddly, but injured and highly illegal wolf dog) and he doesn’t see why his best friend can’t care for a second that Stiles was in a fist fight! A fight that could have really hurt him if a handsome stranger hadn’t come to his rescue. Also, Erica is totally crushing on Stiles’s white knight routine and even though she’s not as cute as Allison Argent, she’s a girl who is actually interested in Stiles. Just because Scott has gotten a little before Stiles doesn’t make Stiles’s efforts not worth paying attention to!

Stiles is so not helping Scott play catch up with his homework this time. He’s not even going to give him the Stiles Notes version of Catcher in the Rye, no matter how entertaining he might find lampooning that idiot Holden Caulfield and the even bigger idiots who would ban his gigantic whine-fest when it would just end up tricking more people into reading that shit.

Stiles sulks through the rest of chemistry, the only bright spot is the fact that Erica looks put together enough to show up, though her eyes are still haunted. Harris doesn’t call on her even though he seems out for blood this morning, which makes Stiles think that Erica’s parents have mentioned something to the school. All the other students don’t seem to notice, but Stiles shoots her a supportive smile, wondering why Erica doesn’t have anyone who would notice that something is obviously going on with her.

As Stiles had walked out the door this morning, his dad had ordered him to talk to Erica about what happened, see if he could get her to open up a little more, because his “spidey senses” have told him that she’s keeping something back from the police. Stiles is happy to be included in his dad’s work, for once, even though it does seem a little douchey to get close to Erica just so his dad can get more information, probably more information on Derek, who Stiles promised not to reveal to his father.

He doesn’t like keeping details back either, now that his dad has started to look at him with something akin to admiration for how he defended Erica and then actually called the sheriff when it was against all his teenaged instincts to break up a party like that. He “surprising demonstration of maturity” was even enough to get Stiles a free pass on the drinking and the curfew-breaking. A small, very small, part of him twisted nervously at the idea of lying to his father when he had that proud look on his face.

But, on the other hand, Derek was seriously hot and all he’d done was help Stiles and Erica, so even if he was in trouble with the law, he didn’t deserve to be punished for doing a good deed. If he was a felon or something, he should be caught by the police’s own powers of deduction, not because he had the heart to stop Erica from being raped and Stiles from further battery. He doesn’t really feel guilty for hiding Derek’s identity, but he’s still lying to his dad, when they’ve already been through enough as a family.

After the bell rings, Stiles heads for his locker to pick up his calculator so that he can finish his math homework over lunch break. Scott isn’t the only slacker, after all. Of course, Stiles is used to procrastinating and shoving things in at the last minute, while Scott obviously doesn’t know what’s best for him.

Case in point, Scott isn’t sitting at their usual table, but is instead cuddled up next to Allison at what Stiles deems to be the “cool table,” even though he not-so-secretly thinks that Jackson could easily win the prize for biggest douche in the universe. Lydia, though, Lydia is beyond cool, with her strawberry blonde hair and her wicked intelligence and her refusal to take shit from anybody, that ass, Jackson, included. Stiles wants to sit next to her and maybe smell her neck a little, but there isn’t anymore room and the nervous, pleading glance that Scott shoots him says that Scott would like to invite him into the popular crowd, but now is not the time.

Stiles shoves his way through the cafeteria line, picks up his paper containers of chicken fingers and fries and takes them out to the lacrosse field to eat and do his math homework in betraying-best-friend-less peace. Technically, he’s not supposed to have food outside the cafeteria, but Stiles has been sleeping with a wolf in his bed; he’s a man who lives dangerously.

The wind has kicked up a little and Stiles pulls up his red hoodie, making his way over to the last patch of uninterrupted sun striking the bleachers. He’s surprised to find a figure already sitting there, hunched over with no lunch and no textbooks.

It’s Erica. And taking in the way her frizzy blonde hair is even messier than usual and the fact that she’s shivering even in a heavy sweatshirt and the one intense patch of sun, Stiles decides, fuck his math homework, he can try to do it during class so long as he’s not asked to put a problem up on the board.

“Hey, Erica,” he says, trying to make it seem nonchalant, like they talk everyday and this has nothing to do with her almost getting raped by some Busey-looking assface. Of course, when he thinks about it, Erica must always take her lunches outside, because he never sees her in the cafeteria. That makes a part of him ache, but he covers it with nervous babble, as usual. “So, I was just getting out here and away from Scott and the wonders of ‘new love’ and everything, but I’m glad to see you out here. Um, you know, doing your thing. I mean, I wasn’t following you or anything. That would be creepy and I’m not creepy, especially not after . . .” of course it’s only then that he realizes that Erica probably doesn’t want to talk about it, so he stands there gaping like a dying fish.

She looks up, smiling a little and pushing a bunch of her messy hair behind her ear and totally not noticing the dead fish thing, thank god. “It’s okay, Stiles. I know you’re not following me and even if you were, it wouldn’t be creepy.” Stiles is pretty sure it would be, but he doesn’t object. “It would be sweet.”

She leans towards him in a clumsy attempt at seduction, patting the space next to her. He stares, not knowing what to do with the victim of attempted rape hitting on him, the guy who tried to save her from it, the very next time they meet. Sure, he imagined that later, much later, after she’s gotten over the whole thing, she might show her gratitude in a much more pleasurable way. But even though he hasn’t studied psychology, he doesn’t even need his extensive experiences with shrinks and grief counselors to know that this is probably some kind of reaction to that trauma. As good as those plump supple lips would feel on his cock, he’s not willing to further traumatize a girl who has obviously been traumatized enough by life in general until he knows she’s ready.

Stiles is still standing there gaping like an idiot when Erica tugs on his jeans until he slams down into the seat next to her, wincing from the cold, hard metal of the bleachers bruising his tailbone. Of course whatever temporary psychosis had emboldened her seems to evaporate once they are staring into each other’s eyes. Erica looks away, cowed.

Stiles is a master a breaking awkward silences with even more awkward rambling, so he holds up his bounty of fried goodness and says, “Want to share? And trust me, coming from a growing teenaged boy, that is more than a mere favor. It’s the beginnings of a beautiful friendship.”

Erica smiles, but shakes her head, pulling a brown bag out of her backpack. “Thanks, Stiles, but I’m on a controlled diet. For the, you know.” She looks away again, shamed by even the mention of the weakness that made that guy think he could take advantage of her.

“More for me, then,” he replies, stuffing his face while he figures out what to say. He thinks he should ask her about anything she left out, like his dad wants him to. Or maybe he should make sure she’s not going to rat Derek out. He doesn’t really know what to do.

Then he sees her pull out some kale chips and carrot sticks and winces, blurting out through his half-chewed food. “That’s your controlled diet? I’d take seizures over that any day.” Of course it’s all very hypocritical, considering the kind of food he tries to force on his dad.

Luckily, Erica laughs, a genuine, surprisingly sweet laugh. She probably doesn’t even know that she can actually be pretty when she smiles.

Stiles holds out a fry. “Wanna walk on the wild side?”

She takes it, still giggling. After a beat she whispers. “Did you . . . did you notice, that night, that the man . . .” she trails off, eyes bugging. Stiles thinks its just nerves, before she grabs her bag and rushes off, sprinting back towards the school without a word to Stiles.

“Hey,” he calls, “you forgot your,” he eyes the brown bag, “rabbit food!”

When she doesn’t stop, Stiles turns around, looking for whatever spooked her. It turns out to be a figure, dressed in black, standing at the edge of the treeline. Once he sees that Stiles has spotted him, he ambles over, not at all like he’s concerned that Stiles might bolt after Erica. There’s something familiar and comforting in his movement that keeps Stiles locked in place, holding Erica’s abandoned lunch like an awkward talisman and his basket of fried food like a sacrificial offering.

“Well if it isn’t Mr. Tall, Dark and Creepy,” Stiles says, because the guy swings over walls like a badass and apparently stalks high schoolers during their lunch period. “What are you doing here?”

Derek grins, though the grin looks about as menacing as it does sexy - nowhere does actual happiness factor into it. Stiles wonders, once again, how the guy even exists with that confusing mix of gorgeous and terrifying battling inside him. He doesn’t answer Stiles’s question, but then Stiles is waylaid by the fact that where there was an empty sleeve yesterday, there is now a cheap-looking navy blue sling.

“Did you grow your arm back?” he asks. Because that would be seriously cool. “Like a starfish?”

Derek rolls his eyes. “No. I’m in a test group for a new kind of electronic prosthesis. It’s not activated yet.”

“Cool. Can I see?” Because, seriously, hot guy with a Darth Vader arm? Awesome.

“No.” Derek scowls. The only thing keeping Stiles from prying back the fabric of the sling to have a look for himself is the fact that he saw exactly what Derek is capable of doing with only one hand.

Stiles pouts. “First you scare Erica off and now you won’t let me see your awesome cyborg parts. You’re no fun.”

“Cry me a river,” Derek replies, looking not at all repentant. He’s standing close enough now that Stiles can smell that he’s wearing the same brand of aftershave that Stiles himself uses. Of course, underwear model levels of hotness or not, Derek probably doesn’t want Stiles to make him aware of that fact or the fact that Stiles was smelling him at all. Or that Stiles is getting absolutely lost in those piercing hazel eyes or that he’s kind of running out of room in his pants, with Derek just staring at him with that scrutinizing intensity that Stiles’s dick is convinced is the whole “undressing with his eyes” that Stiles has done to many a gentleman or lady but never been on the receiving end of.

“Um,” Stiles finally chokes out, “why are you here, dude? Because as grateful as I am for your valiant save the other night and as much as I appreciate the kind of play I’m going to get from the gossip of getting attention from mind-blowingly attractive strangers, anyone who is older than high school age should probably not be creeping it up around a school. You should find some other place to lurk.”

Derek nods sagely, as though he’s actually considering taking Stiles’s advice. “I’m just here because I realized that I might not have left some things clear the last time we met.” There’s an undertone of menace in his words, like a subvocal growl that sends shivers of both fear and lust up Stiles’s spine. Lust and fear, the great elements from which fetishes are made. Not that Stiles needs a fetish to want to rip that supple leather jacket off those broad shoulders and lick the abs that he felt of a brief, but life-changing moment the other night.

“Considering how you ran off, unclear is a generous term,” Stiles complains. He’s not above harassment if it will get him more answers. Stiles is the posterchild for curiosity killed the cat. He should be in a curiousity PSA, because as much of a sexy beast as Derek is, the sheriff’s son getting more involved with someone who’s clearly in trouble with the law is the epitome of a bad idea.

“I told you that I didn’t want to have to deal with the police and you seemed determined to call them, so I left,” Derek says, like it’s no big deal that he pulled a runner and leapt over a ten foot wall one-handed. Maybe in Derek’s crazy ex-military fugitive world, it is normal. Or maybe Derek is just the hottest crazy person Stiles will ever meet - they can’t all be unkempt bums muttering at park benches, after all.

“Yes, because leaving and fleeing a crime scene are functionally equivalent,” Stiles snarks. “Of course, the more interesting question is once you ‘left,’” he does the finger quotes for good measure, “why didn’t you stay gone? I mean, I haven’t ratted you out and neither has Erica. If you want to stay off the perp radar, you should try not lurking around a school or harassing the sheriff’s son.”

“Am I really harassing you?” Derek asks, obviously not expecting an answer. “But I see your point about the school. I just wanted to make sure that you didn’t tell anyone about me. Specifically, the arm.”

“Dude, I told you I wouldn’t.”

“I thought that you might go back on that promise when you realize that the question is coming from your father.”

Stiles sighs. “If anything, that makes me less likely to tell the truth,” he lies, because even though he hides a lot of mischief from his dad, he’d like to think that he wouldn’t interfer with an active investigation unless it were really necessary. “My dad is great with football and awkwardly supportive talks and he’s a damned good cop, but I’m still a teenager. Isn’t keeping things from your parents pretty much part of the job description?”

Derek looks away, but not before Stiles sees a flash of pain in his eyes, gone almost as soon as it came. He grunts, neither an assent or dissent, just acknowledgement. “I’m not a criminal.”

Stiles eyes him skeptically. Ex-military or not, with the leather jacket and the thick, angry eyebrows, and the brooding, not to mention the lurking, Derek sure looks like a criminal - acts like one, too. “Well, you could’ve fooled me.”

“I. Am. Not. A. Criminal,” Derek growls and it must be a trick of the light because his teeth suddenly look a little longer, his eyes a little brighter.

“If you’re not a criminal, then what are you?” Stiles demands.

Derek grinds his teeth, looking sour. “The opposite,” he replies, cryptically.

Derek says something while Stiles is trying to wrap his head around what exactly is the opposite of a criminal. His first impulse is to say Batman, but that’s probably not right. Derek doesn’t look like a psychologically tortured billionaire and he sure as shit doesn’t need a ton of fancy gadgets and a rubber suit to take down the bad guys.

Suddenly, Derek is derailing Stiles’s vision of him in the rubber bat suit, the gay one with the nipples. He’s gripping Stiles’s bicep with his good arm, staring into his eyes and shaking him a little to get his attention. It would be terrifying if it weren’t mortifying instead (mortifying for what it’s doing to encourage Stiles’s already out-of-control batsuit-induced boner).

Derek’s nostrils flare and then he looks down, smirking at the bulge he must see tenting Stiles’s pants. “What did Erica tell you?” he purrs. That smug little shit thinks he can use his sex appeal to get his way.

Unfortunately he’s right. Stiles will tell him everything, but only because he has nothing to hide, not because Derek acknowledging his hard on is only making it harder. “Nothing. You scared her away before she could open up. You’re not helping me help her get over her trauma or whatever.” And maybe once she was over the trauma, Stiles could think about buying what she was selling, namely an opportunity to get his v-card punched with a girl who was no Lydia Martin, but was nice and not entirely unattractive. Stiles could do worse. He could even get his face punched in by hot one-armed men in leather jackets who are probably straight and definitely way out of Stiles’s league. That would be a hell of alot worse. He gulps.

Derek still hasn’t released him and even looks a bit put out that he doesn’t have two hands to threaten Stiles with. “Why?” Stiles manages to squeak out. “Does she know something incriminating that I don’t?”

That earns Stiles a release from the vice of Derek’s strong grip. “No. She doesn’t know anything. I just want to make sure that she doesn’t tell the sheriff what you both know. I don’t want to be involved.”

“Why is this so important to you, anyway?” Stiles demands. “If you’re not a criminal, which I’m still not buying, then why are you so concerned about my dad? He’s a pussycat. He’ll want to ask you a few questions and then you’ll be on your merry way, no more lurking required.”

“Look, I can’t tell you, but can’t you just understand that privacy is important to me,” Derek replies. He looks down at the arm in the sling, with a sigh. “I’m not at my best right now.”

Of course Stiles never considered that Derek, who is obviously some kind of secret super-soldier suffering from PTSD, might not want to be involved with the law simply because he has massive issues. Wait, does that make him more like Captain America than Batman? No, he’s not even close enough to apple pie for that. The dimples are there, but the perpetual frown and the sexy stubble kind of ruins the effect.

“And look at it this way,” Derek adds, “if I am a criminal, you won’t like what I’ll do to protect myself. And if I’m not, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to make a new friend.” Friend sounds like a dirty word on Derek’s tongue, but the man leans closer, eyes softening as he whispers in Stiles’s ear, “I think we both know that you could use a friend like me.”

Stiles shudders, thinking that he might come right there, standing on the lacrosse field holding a carton of chicken strips and a brown bag full of veggies, from just a possible-criminal’s hot breath ghosting the shell of his ear.

Stiles opens his mouth to say something, anything, hopefully something clever and flirtatious, when Derek suddenly tilts his head to the side in a way that reminds Stiles a bit of Wolfie. “You should get back inside,” he says. “Don’t tell your father about my arm.” He grabs a handful of Stiles’s lunch and smirks. “Don’t tell him my name either.” Then he’s lopping off towards to woods.

“What, does he have a car parked in there?” Stiles wonders to himself, just as Scott comes bursting out the side door to the school. “Stiles! There you are! Coach Finstock just posted the order forms for our equipment. He says he’s ordering it today, so if we don’t put in a request, we’ll have to buy our own!”

Stiles runs in after him, suddenly feeling forgiving for all of the Allison-related bullshit earlier - not that Scott probably even noticed that Stiles was pissed at him. Scott is in love and Stiles is in lust and maybe it’s a good thing that they do their own separate things for a bit, become less co-dependent for a while. It kind of feels nice to have a dirty little secret in the form of a sexy stranger with a mysterious past. It’s good to have an adventure that doesn’t require a sidekick, an indiscretion that is all his own. That’s what growing up is all about, isn’t it?

“Hey,” Stiles asks, because there is something that he can use Scott’s help with. “What’s the opposite of a criminal?”

Scott pauses, the confused contemplative look making another appearance. “A victim?” he asks. “Your riddles need work, dude. That’s just depressing.”

Stiles is so flabbergasted that he zombie-walks to class, only awakening briefly when Erica passes him her math homework to copy off of.

Chapter Text

Derek slinks back in the window, feeling pathetic.

His arm is aching and he feels sluggish and raw. The ever-present pain of the death of his family is close to the surface today. Maybe it’s seeing the high school again, where she had entered their lives. Or maybe it’s just the persistent ache of his injury and the painstaking process of healing, but he paces, suddenly restless. This room smells like pack. It smells like home, like den, at once comforting and terrifying, because he can’t stay here and he can’t get attached. He especially can’t get attached to another human. His family upstate is bad enough, with their puritanical way of dealing with the bizarre, but Stiles and Scott know nothing of wolves and if his own blood can barely tolerate him, Derek shudders at the thought of his newfound friends finding out.

Except they’re not friends, not really. Derek may know everywhere Stiles has been in a day by smell alone and have heard every one of Scott’s hushed confessions about his amazing new relationship, over the phone and on Skype and sometimes with Scott’s hands scratching that perfect place under Derek’s chin. He may have watched Stiles jerk off, seen the comics he reads, the games he plays, the websites he browses, and the way he fidgets when he is alone, but Stiles only knows him as a hot stranger who lurks around where he shouldn’t or the poor dog who needed his leg chopped off.

Derek yanks off the sling and the fake arm he made out of copper wire, cereal boxes and tennis balls that he found in the garage. Those years doing odd jobs, including making theater props, paid off for once. With only one hand it had been impossible to construct an attachment to fit onto his stump of an arm, so he’s had to just shove the wire directly into his healing flesh. It’s not ideal, but it seemed to fool Stiles and the few people Derek met at Walmart, where Derek tried to inconspicuously buy ten pounds of steak and one of those coolers that can be plugged into the car.

The full moon is approaching and Derek is restless in a way he’s never been before - probably because he can’t use his go-to stress reliever of taking a long run in the woods - not with hunters already out in force. He can’t even work out, with his arm the way it is. He’s already starting to lose muscle mass, not just due to the forced inactivity, but also because he suspects that his body is breaking down some of his muscles in order to complete the healing process. He’s always ravenous now, though he knows that some of that hunger is just lust repackaged - lust for pack, for blood, for the jittery zeal of the moon.

Derek feels impotent and out of control, with the wolf nipping at his heels, reminding him inelegantly that this place smells like home and that it’s incomplete without the people who have begun to smell like pack, even though Derek has tried his hardest not to think of them that way. They protected him, provided for him, have taken pack walks with him, giving structure and meaning to his day, and have helped soothed to pain that is making him so frantic and vulnerable.

After the fire, Derek has worked so hard not to rely on anyone but himself, to not need anyone or care. But he aches, knowing that he is here and his pack is not and that there is still something out there in the woods waiting to strike without him there to protect them.

The small, rational part of Derek’s mind that isn’t buzzing with this frenetic energy, knows that this is nothing more than a side-effect of spending too much time in his wolf form. He remembers gossip and half-believed tales, like the one Uncle Peter used to employ to make Derek shift back as a child: if you stayed shifted long enough, you might end up stuck that way.

Adult Derek and the New York City wolves that he’d met don’t buy into the myth, because shifting is an ability that a werewolf can’t simply lose. But that’s semantics, because what the city wolves believe is even more terrifying. They are urban dwellers in a city full of every kind of supernatural creature and enough hunters to more or less keep it from become a smorgasbord for the predators among them. The city hunters stick to the Code and the urban wolves, more a congregation than a pack, let them enforce justice on those that break it. Maybe it’s just a way to rationalize this fragile peace or maybe it’s the truth, but all city wolves believe that it’s possible for a wolf to go feral, for its mind to break, its empathy to crack so there was nothing left but nature, red in tooth and claw. It could mimic humanity, put on a smiling face, hold a conversation, plan and dream the way a person would, but underneath, it would have given in completely to its instincts, all sense of tradition and even pragmatism lost in the face of its twisted nature. Those wolves, they deserve their fate at hunter’s hands.

Derek doesn’t know if that’s happening to him, but he feels out of control for the first time since puberty, like the hunters had better watch themselves once the moon rises, like the throbbing vein at Scott’s neck might be temptation itself, and the way Stiles looks at him might be an invitation to more than just flirtation. Derek has kept the beast muzzled for so long, with no family and no pack and no one to share his secret. He’s getting tired, he realizes, weighted down by burden of control. And for what? How easy would it be to just let go? Who would be around to care? He might end up with a wolfsbane bullet in his brain, but maybe that would be a mercy.

The smell of the room is both intoxicating and infuriating. His smell has seeped into every surface here, blended with Stiles’s own spicy and mildly stale scent. Derek can’t stay here: not with his pack outside and vulnerable. He should take a cold shower, maybe drive out of town and take a run deep in the mountains where the hunters aren’t on patrol. He should leave Beacon Hills and come back to investigate when he’s healed and has his mind straight. But he can’t leave his pack unprotected here with the creature in the woods.

Derek throws himself back on the bed, taking in the heady scent of himself and Stiles and remnants of the many times Stiles has done just this: forcing a hand down his pants and grabbing himself in a punishing rhythm. The pale skin, the elegant line of a long neck exposed for the taking, curious amber-colored eyes, and that smell like home and hearth and desperate, lust-filled dreams. Derek moans, drawing himself quickly to completion. He rubs his soiled hand on the sheets, marking them. Then he shoves the fake arm back in, feeling the blood flow and the flesh squelch as he grunts through jamming it in place. He can’t wait for Stiles to come home from school. He needs to see him now.

Stiles had made arrangements over some kind of video game to meet a pretty looking lady with a shield and pointed ears at the comic book shop in town. Derek later found out from Stiles’s babbling that the video game lady is named Matt, and Stiles thinks he’s creepy, but he has a cheap computer part that Stiles wants.

Derek bides his time ordering five hamburgers and a chocolate milkshake at In and Out and looking up this World of Warcraft thing at the library. He eventually gives in and stops at Best Buy to pick up a laptop. Derek had a computer for school, but he’d always used public computers and a different email for werewolf-related business. He’d sold his desktop when he left New York and shut down all of his online accounts, but he knows that he needs to balance not being seen too much in public with the need to be electronically untraceable. Also, he needs a laptop if he wants to play this online game with Stiles. He thinks that maybe if he gets into this, he can stay in contact with Scott and Stiles once his arm heals and he can’t pretend to be Wolfie anymore. A voice in his head whispers that he could always just stay friends with them in person as Derek, but he dismisses that outright. Derek always seems to screw those kinds of things up.

Finally Derek hears the final bells ring at the high school halfway across town and makes his way into the Octarine Comic Store. It’s not a very big space, because how many geeks can there be in a town the size of Beacon Hills? But it is stuffed full of books and posters and even little dolls shaped like characters, a few of which Derek vaguely recognizes. The owner is not the stereotypical white, pasty nerd with an awkward goatee and glasses, but rather a short but relatively toned man wearing a Batman t-shirt and a trucker’s hat with “Han Shot First” written on it. He gives Derek a suspicious glare, which is surprisingly heated for someone Derek assumes is in the service business.

Derek glares back, stopping just short of putting his wolf behind it.

“Whoa there, buddy,” a familiar voice says, patting Derek on his good shoulder. “Don’t mind Adrian. He’s just not used to new customers.” Matt doesn’t look anything like the dark-haired female elf-thing he was playing online, but Derek wasn’t expecting him to. He does briefly wonder if Matt is a transexual, however. Matt gives Derek the once over, and Stiles is right: it is a little creepy. “So, what brings you here? I know this shop like the back of my hand, so with me here you won’t even need to wait for Adrian to deign to be helpful.”

Derek glances over to the World of Warcraft guides he’s spotted in the corner.

“Oh,” Matt says, looking at Derek’s arm with a pity that makes Derek want to growl. “Do you need a patch or maybe adjustments to make . . . .” Derek doesn’t understand more than half the words coming out of Matt’s mouth, but he nods as politely as he can manage, not wanting to draw even more of Matt’s attention.

Of course Derek can’t even get that right, because Matt is suddenly frowning. “You don’t actually play, do you?”

Derek shakes his head.

“You picked a hell of a time to get into it,” Matt gestures to the sling. “Maybe you should wait until you’re better?”

“It needs to be now,” Derek grumbles. “There won’t be a better time.”

Matt nods. “What happened?”

Derek’s first instinct is to ignore the question. It’s not any of this guy’s business. Derek’s vulnerability is not carrion for the vultures to feed on. But Matt is looking suspicious, far too suspicious for something that should be idle curiosity. Derek curses his luck in asking help from someone so obviously paranoid.

“Afghanistan,” Derek says. He’d let Stiles draw his own conclusions rather than lie to him, but he finds that he doesn’t give two shits about lying to Matt.

Matt nods decisively. There isn’t any pity in his eyes. It’s a hardness that Derek finds comforting, even though he knows that it’s a look that shouldn’t be on the face of a seventeen-year-old kid. Derek recognizes the look from the mirror, though, and he knows that there’s nothing anyone can do to wipe it away.

“There are disabled players,” Matt explains, “even a blind guy, according to the blogs. I’m sure you can find a way, but you’re going to have a steeper learning curve than most.”

“I have good reflexes,” Derek deadpans.

Matt gives Derek a welcoming but somehow desperate smile, yanking a laptop out of his bag and pulling Derek over to a small table in the back corner of the shop. “Don’t worry, Adrian,” he shouts to where the mysterious proprietor has seemingly disappeared into the back. “I’m sure he’ll buy something. Now you have to pick your Avatar. I think Warlock or Hunter would probably work best with your arm, because they don’t require as much movement.”

Derek growls. Even in a fantasy game, he’s not going to be a warlock and definitely not a hunter.

“Okay, okay, I assure you that both are pretty macho, but you can probably handle a Warrior also.”

Derek is halfway through assembling what looks like a pretty badass character when he hears the familiar grinding choke of Stiles’s jeep. “Don’t tell him that I’m just learning,” he says, only realizing that Matt doesn’t know that Stiles is approaching when the other man gives him a confused look.

“You’re learning for someone else?” Matt asks, skeptical. “Because let me tell you, MMORPGs are not as easy as they look. You’re not going to be able to fake it until you make it and you might not even be on the same server as the person. Do you mind if I ask what lucky geek has a man like you so enthralled?”

Derek can’t meet his eyes. He’s never felt this foolish. Well, not since her. He would have hung the moon for her without a thought, changed anything and everything to feel worthy of her love. It wasn’t worth the price, he reminds himself. He’s not that cocky young boy anymore. He’s never had to beg and scrape and crawl for affection since. He’s been a kept boy, a muse, an adulterer. He’s had beautiful people and famous people and brilliant people in his bed and he couldn’t have cared less about any of them. He never let a single one of them touch him and he’d won every time. He thought he’d gotten over this. He thought he’d never feel this pathetic again.

It’s the pain, he tells himself. It’s making him vulnerable, warping his mind. He starts a low, wolfish pant to deal with the raw ache, but it won’t be enough. He needs to heal.

Stiles and Scott come tumbling in, arguing about something trivial, as always, and nearly knocking over a Wolverine-shaped cardboard display, which Stiles apologizes to like it’s a person. Derek rolls his eyes, but can’t seem to keep a fond smile off his face.

Him?” Matt chokes. “You’re not a pedophile, are you?”

“Does he look like a prepubescent boy to you?” Derek growls before he realizes that the response is equal to an admission. It is, incomprehensibly, Stiles that he wants. Maybe he doesn’t even want him as a lover, though the lingering odor of his own fluids discredit that supposition. The covetous desire he feels is undeniable, but the exact nature of the obsession is still murky.

Matt shrugs. “I still don’t get it.”

“I’ll buy you whatever comic you want.” He uses his wolf vision to glance at the comics in the glass display case near the front and their pricing. “Under a thousand dollars. Just, don’t tell him.”

“Fine. Do you mind if I ask you a question?” Matt says, looking wary.

Stiles is right: Matt’s a bit of a creeper, but he is helping Derek out. It would be suspicious to refuse such an innocuous request. “Go ahead.”

“Why are you trying so hard?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, look at yourself. Do you know how many men would kill to look the way you do?”

Derek is, of course, aware that he’s an attractive guy. He’s heard enough painters and models and ‘purveyors of the arts’ tell him he should be a model or an actor to know that, objectively, most people like the way he looks. He shrugs.

“Well, I don’t know if you missed this class at pretty-person school or what, but a guy who looks like you doesn’t have to try to so hard to get someone like Stiles.”

“Even with the,” Derek gestures to the space where his arm used to be. He’s not self-conscious about it, not really. It’s not something permanent and even though Derek’s the only one who knows it, the temporary nature of this state makes it easy to put out of mind. Still, Derek has more than once wondered what it might be like if he were stuck this way.

“Even with whatever problem you have with your arm. Hey, I’m 100% red-blooded heterosexual, but even I’m feeling a little bit of a reflective glow, like I don’t want to fuck you, bro, but I’d feel good having you on my arm.”

Derek shrugs. “When you really like someone, you don’t want to take a chance.” He thinks that’s what someone who’s in love would say, at least.

“Man with a plan,” Matt agrees. “I can admire that. I’m just saying that you’re an older, educated, very attractive man with means who has fought and risked life and limb for our nation and Stiles is a sixteen-year-old virgin with no friends and no accomplishments. You could have ten nipples and think the sky is falling and Stiles would still probably go for you. Pretending you know anything about the World of Warcraft is like a drop in the ocean of all the reasons why he should want you. Pretty much all you’d have to do to win his undying love is say that you were considering punching his v-card.”

Derek shrugs. Matt’s not telling him anything that he doesn’t already know.

It’s not long before Stiles notices them. “Matt,” he says stiffly, before turning to Derek. “Fancy meeting you here,” he mocks in an overdone Victorian accent.

Scott looks from Derek to Stiles and back, bewildered, as usual. “You know this guy?”

Stiles shrugs, utterly failing to look nonchalant. “I’ve seen him around.”

Scott’s brow furrows in a way that Derek can’t help but find adorable: he’s still a pup in so many ways. “Dude, when?”

“You know my entire world doesn’t revolve around you,” Stiles bitches. He’s playing it off as a joke, but Derek has gotten to know Stiles well enough to see that it actually bothers him and he hates that it does. Judging by his hangdog expression, Derek is pretty sure that Scott can see it too. “I do occasionally step out around town on my own, like when you’ve lost your tongue down Allison Argent’s throat, for example.”

“Stiles, I just got together with her! Do you understand how amazing that is? Me going out with a girl like that?! I know I haven’t been around as much, but I promise--”

“Talk about protesting too much,” Stiles snaps, obviously trying to save face in front of Derek and Matt. “It’s cool, man. I’m just saying that you don’t know everything that goes on in my life. Even when I just told you all about it.

Scott’s eyes widen in a hilariously unsubtle way. Derek kind of wants to bury his face in his palm. If Derek actually cared about Stiles telling Scott about what happened at the party, then Scott’s expression alone would have put the boys in a world of trouble.

“You mean he’s the one who--” Derek just smirks at Scott’s startled yelp when Stiles elbows him in the ribs.

“Let me guess,” Matt interjects, looking perversely gleeful. “The one Stiles has been hopelessly crushing on?”

Stiles gulps and flushes an alluring pink. Derek looks away, but he can still hear the racing crescendo of Stiles’s heartbeat and smell the blood circulating closer to the surface to heat his pale skin. Matt is smirking now, looking all too pleased by everyone’s awkward embarrassment. Derek hates Matt. Matt is the worst.

“Just for that, I’m not dealing with you today. I don’t care if you have a GeForce 750” Stiles recovers, glaring at Matt haughtily. “C’mon, Derek, we should talk.”

Derek looks down at where Stiles has grabbed the sleeve of his leather jacket, but lets Stiles pull him over into the corner of the store where they are surrounded by novel-sized books covered with Japanese cartoon characters. Scott looks like a gaping fish as he’s left alone with Matt, but Scott is friendly, so Derek doesn’t spare much pity for him.

“What the hell are you doing here?” Stiles whispers harshly. “Do you need to follow me around to get your stalker merit badge or something?”

“Did Erica say anything to you?” Derek asks, knowing that it’s a poor cover. He leans so close into Stiles that their breaths commingle.

“I didn’t have time to talk to her!” Stiles replies. “Her dad picked her up right after school. And after you scared her off, I don’t even know if she’ll want to open up. If you want to go unnoticed, you can’t just keep popping up like this!”

Derek raises an eyebrow. He can smell exactly what has just popped up. “Stop doing that!” Stiles flails.

Derek raises his eyebrows further. “Doing what?”

“Being all hot and broody. And creepy, might I add.”

“You like it,” Derek replies. This, flirting, is at least familiar.

“You can’t keep doing this! Scott already suspects that something’s up and no matter how evasive you think you’re being, I know there’s something going on that you’re not telling me about and . . . stranger danger!”

“Maybe I am dangerous,” Derek say, letting his voice go low and husky, walking the line of a growl. “Maybe you should stay away from me. Or, maybe, you should get a coffee with me sometime and we can discuss all the things that are going on that I’m not telling you about.”

Stiles just stares at Derek. Forget catching flies, flies could be training their mentally challenged offspring to divebomb his teeth and Stiles probably would still be standing there gaping.

“So you don’t want to get coffee?” Derek offers, trying not to cringe. It’s been a long time since he’s been rejected and even so, he can’t remember caring as much as he suddenly does now. Then again, he’s never been laying low, trying to recover from an amputation, hide from hunters, and figure out a mystery beast terrorizing the woods. There’s a lot at stake if Stiles gets suspicious enough to involve his father.

“Yes. No. I mean, I like coffee. But I shouldn’t have coffee. But if you want coffee or,” he seizes it like its the key to the universe, “tea? Yes, tea! I could get tea. Or not coffee if coffee is just a code word for any kind of date, really. We could see a movie or we could . . . we could get dinner or, the skating rink,” he points at something. Derek follows his finger, but it seems Stiles is pointing for the sake of pointing. “I have a friend who works at the skating rink. We can go after hours. Scott will go in with us. He has a girlfriend . . . as you just heard. Whatshername. It can be a double date. Do you double date? Or double coffee? Without the coffee, I mean.”

Derek takes a moment to process all this. He needs to get closer to the Argents and a double date in a secluded location does seem like a good way to do it, even though he had hoped to solidify Stiles’s allegiance first. “Yes to your ‘coffee’ and to a double date.”

“Yes!” Stiles shouts, pumping a fist in the air. Matt and Scott and even Adrian, who is puttering around in the Marvel Comics section, look up, all startled.

Derek winces, but forces himself to keep smiling. He did sign up for this, after all.

“Great. Perfect. It’s a date. We’re going on a date. Um, I’ll figure things out and get back to you. I need your number. Will you give me your number? So I can text you. About our date. That we’re going on.”

Derek rolls his eyes. It’s been a long time since he’s been subjected to this teenaged awkwardness. It’s just as painful now as it had been all those years ago. He grabs Stiles’s phone and enters the number of the prepaid phone he’d bought when he came into town. He was going to buy another one, but he doesn’t want to raise even more suspicion by telling Stiles that he doesn’t have a number yet. He’s pretty sure there isn’t any visible blood on this phone anymore.

Stiles stares at his returned phone like it’s the holy grail and a new sports car and Christmas all wrapped into one, like he’s barely containing another mind-numbingly embarrassing shout of glee.

Derek is suddenly, painfully aware that the kid he’s currently perving on is sixteen. Derek himself only just turned twenty-two, so it’s not an insurmountable gap. In five years, when Stiles is twenty-one and Derek is twenty-seven, nobody would give them any grief and in ten years when Stiles is twenty-six and Derek is thirty-two, the gap will have already shrunken into total irrelevance.

But Stiles is sixteen and a kid and Derek is twenty-two and an adult. Stiles is mature enough in body and mind that it’s not a pedophile thing and Derek isn’t old enough to feel like a letch. What he does feel is a little pathetic.

Derek has been on the other side of this situation, so he knows exactly how much Stiles feels in control of the situation, how little he’ll wonder what a twenty-two-year-old could possibly want want with someone who’s sixteen. He knows how just plain easy it is to use a kid who feels mature and sexy enough to land the big fish and feel entitled to that conquest.

As Derek looks into Stiles’s hopeful, ecstatic eyes and watches the way he shifts from side to side with giddy nervousness, he tells himself that he’s not like her. He’s not planning to burn Stiles’s family alive, for one. He doesn’t even intend any hurt to come to him at all. And he genuinely likes the kid, is attracted to him, even if he knows that not all of his motives are so pure. But Derek needs to get closer to the Argents. It’s for the greater good that he finds out about the thing in the woods. It might even save Stiles’s life one day. And it’s not as though Stiles doesn’t know that Derek is bad news. He’s called Derek a creeper and a stalker, but he’s still here, pretending that they can go ice skating like a cute high school couple. He’s a smart boy. He knows what he’s signing up for.

Derek tells himself all these things. He swears that he’s not just recreating what was done to him. But the bile that rises up deep in his belly, dark like the blood that spilled out off his mutilated arm, the self hatred that nips at his heels . . . he can lie to himself and justify things all he wants, but he knows, deep down, that she made him into the beast that she’d wanted to hunt, a predator that should probably be put down. He knows what he’s doing is wrong, but he’s just not strong enough to stop himself.

Chapter Text

The first thing Stiles thinks about when he sees the man covered in blood, with his slashed skin and his convulsions, is that Wolfie couldn’t have done it. He’s been locked in Stiles’s room and he only has three legs, though his energy is back up. It’s just that whatever happened to the bus driver looks like an animal attack and Wolfie is the only giant wild animal he knows, even if he isn’t so wild. Stiles doesn’t know what it says that his mind goes there first, not to delusions of batman villains or bears or even horror movie monsters.

Whatever instinct has him jumping to Wolfie’s defense is strong, however, because the next thing he knows, he’s sneaking out of class to intercept his dad at the crime scene.

His dad just gives a familiar exasperated sigh when he sees him. “Shouldn’t you be in Economics?”

“No, it’s English right now,” Stiles responds before he can stop himself.

That statement gets him dragged by the collar away from the bloody bus and the crime scene photographers and deputies searching for evidence. Stiles tries to look around his father to get a better look, which his dad makes stupidly difficult by deliberately occupying Stiles’s view with his stern, annoyed face.

“Since when have you forgotten what ‘active crime scene’ means?”

“It means that the investigation in question is still open and the police aren’t done collecting evidence?”

“It means that it’s closed and confidential. No nosy civilians. In particular, no Stiles.”

“But . . . I could be helpful! I know that guy. He’s um . . . he’s bus driver guy who always starts the bus too fast when I’m getting on. He drinks black coffee and his wife packs him a brown bag with bologna sandwiches. Also, claw marks. I can identify those claw marks! With the help of the internet of course, but I can!”

His dad’s eyebrows draw together in that disturbed, serious way that he almost never uses around Stiles. Then it’s the sheriff and not dad standing there, grilling an uncooperative witness. “What makes you think they’re claw marks?” he asks. “Any relatively sharp object could have done this. At least until the medical examiner says otherwise.”

Stiles gulps. He meant to defend Wolfie, not further incriminate him. “Um, no reason. They just look like claw marks to me.” At his dad’s skeptical look, Stiles continues to babble, wishing for the millionth time that he had a better brain-to-mouth filter. “I mean, what human would rip someone apart like that? And if the intention was to kill him, why stop? Especially when the victim might survive to identify the attacker or at least identify him as human? There’s no way he’d be putting up much of a fight all hacked up like that. A murderer, especially someone who doesn’t mind a bloodbath like that, would have every reason to finish him off, just in case. There aren’t any witnesses or other bodies (which the person doesn’t seem concerned about you finding), so it’s not likely that the attacker was interrupted. There is always the chance that this person is just flat out insane and ignoring all rationality, but if they are, they shouldn’t be too hard to find. So I say animal attack. Maybe a bear or a mountain lion or an emu. Did you know that emus have like raptor claws? This could be like Jurassic Park but with birds.”

“Interesting that your mind goes to emu before rabid dog, but okay, you’ve made your point, son. Now playtime’s over. Get back to English before I need to cite you for truancy.”

“But truancy is only leaving school without a parent’s permission!” Stiles hadn’t been truant during the many classes he missed to stay at his mom’s side towards the end.

“And you don’t have this parent’s permission,” his dad says, giving him a push towards the school. “I’ll be around getting statements for the rest of the day, so don’t try anything funny. There is one thing you can help me with, though.” Stiles does not like that contemplative tone. It never leads anywhere good. “What class does Erica Reyes have before lunch?”

“Chemistry,” Stiles lies. He needs to get to Erica before his dad does. He needs to make sure that she doesn’t turn Derek in.

Stiles’s dad looks suspicious for a second, but even though he’s a cop, Stiles has mastered the art of spazzing out just enough that the lie is difficult to separate from his own wild card, confused state of being.

“Stiles, are you sure you don’t remember anything about the man who helped you take down Erica’s assailant?”

Stiles shrugs, looking away from his father’s probing gaze. “I told you, dad. Tall, dark, and deadly. I could pick him out for you from a lineup, but there’s not anything really distinguishing about the guy.”

The sheriff sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. “So all that training I did with you when you thought you wanted to be a detective is all for nothing?” Normally Stiles was great at the facial recognition and clue identifying games. He was almost like that guy on Psych, but like, wrong maybe 60% of the time.

“I saw him for all of a second, from the ground where that asshole had kicked me. Besides, he helped you catch the bad guy. All you need to do is make an effort to contact him, for the sake of your paperwork anyway, right?”

“Stiles,” his dad looks pained. “If you’re keeping information back because you want to protect the man who protected you, then you need to know that the man who attacked Erica was hospitalized with a collapsed lung, severe whiplash, and three ribs that were literally shattered. I’m not saying that he deserved less after what he tried to do, but someone capable of inflicting that kind of damage in a few seconds who is also seemingly on the run from the police . . . that’s a loose end that you must know I can’t leave untied.”

“I get it, Dad!” Stiles protests, shoving down that little voice that says that his father has a good point. Derek is a dangerous guy, no doubt, but he was only trying to help. And, beyond that, he actually seems interested in Stiles. Nobody seems to appreciate how rare an opportunity like that is for a guy like Stiles. Underwear models aren’t exactly lining up around the block to date him. “Maybe Erica knows more, but we were both knocked around by the real perp in this situation. I’d rather see him get what’s coming to him than worry about the guy who might’ve saved my life.”

The suspicious police-officer gaze hasn’t faded, but Stiles can see that his father has given up on getting anything out of Stiles for the time being. “Fine. Go to class. I’ll find Erica.”

Stiles scoots out of his father’s sight as quickly as he can without looking conspicuous, though he probably looks conspicuous anyway - he always does. It’s a talent. He runs down the hallway, only managing to trip over himself and flail about five times. He also slams straight into Jackson fucking Whittemore, who almost dislocates Stiles’s shoulder in the process of shoving him back. “Watch where you’re going, Stillinski,” he growls, which is really less of an insult than Stiles was expecting.

“Sorry. Sorry,” Stiles babbles. “I didn’t-- yeah. All just an accident. Gotta go. See ya. Bye.”

For some reason, the throng of students is thickest at the intersection of A Hall and the Sciences Corridor. Of course, Erica’s uncontrolled mane of blonde hair is on the other side of the crowd, because Stiles never has any luck. Nobody makes room for Stiles as he pushes his way in among the crowd. He’s not the lowest rung of the High School social ladder, but that doesn’t make him substantial or noteworthy in any way. It doesn’t make his presence important enough for people to step aside when he’s in a hurry.

“Erica!” he shouts, and even though nobody else takes note, he can see her pause, turning and smiling at him like today is Christmas and her Birthday and everything she could ever ask for. Stiles feels a little bad about that, because he doesn’t feel the same. But if his mere presence can make someone happy, then he’s doing a good deed, right?

The crowd parts for Erica, maybe as a pariah or maybe just because they’re actually decent people who don’t want to trigger a seizure. Stiles wouldn’t bet on the decent people theory.

“Stiles,” she says, looking relieved. “You’re okay.”

Stiles frowns, because why wouldn’t he be? But he is soon distracted by looking for a place they can talk. He takes Erica’s sweaty, nervous palm and drags her down the corridor towards the copy room. About half the teachers who use it forget to lock the door afterwards, so there’s a good chance they’ll be able to talk there.

“Yes,” Stiles breathes when the door clicks open for them.

“So, what makes you need to see me in a private, intimate space?” Erica grins, stepping closer to Stiles in a way that she must think is seductive, but only succeeds in making Stiles feel claustrophobic and awkward. He presses back against the copier, accidentally copying a blank page and startling. A week ago he would have been ecstatic to get this kind of attention from a girl, any girl, but now it’s just second best to Derek’s perfect features and mysterious allure. In fact, Erica is now an impediment to what Stiles really wants and he finds himself almost annoyed by her.

“My dad’s here,” Stiles replies. “He’s investigating the animal attack, but he wants to talk to you again too. Listen, Erica, you can’t--”

“Animal attack?” Her honey-brown eyes go wide and fearful, all flirtation abandoned for the unsure girl he knows is beneath it all.

“Yeah, one of the bus drivers. It was a bloodbath. Like, serious carnage. But the guy is still alive. For now.”

Erica takes a step back, trembling. Stiles kind of hates himself for preferring her this way. He reaches out a hand to comfort her, even though comforting has never been his strength.

“It’s okay. Erica, it’s fine, really. It’s probably a mountain lion or a bear or something. We have to focus on what’s important and that’s what my dad is going to ask you. I know you got a good look at our rescuer and his missing arm and I need you not to tell my dad about it.”

“He was talking to you,” Erica says, looking petrified. “Did he threaten you?”

Stiles rolls his eyes. “Seriously? My dad’s the sheriff, how stupid would he be to threaten me? No, he’s just a private person, and between you and me, I think he’s suffering from a massive case of PTSD. Not surprising, considering that he lost his fucking arm.”

“So you didn’t see it?” Her eyes move quickly in their sockets, scanning him hopefully for something, Stiles doesn’t know what. “When he came down over the wall and hit the guy?”

Stiles shakes his head. “I was a little busy, what with having been kicked in the stomach and everything.”

She nods, sagely, pityingly. Hey, since when is she in the position to pity him? It’s her who needed to be rescued. It’s her who is pathetically hitting on a loser like Stiles. “What?” he snaps.

“His eyes glowed red,” Erica says. “And his teeth, they were sharp, like an animal’s. His face -- Stiles, it changed right in front of my eyes.”

“Erica, that’s crazy,” Stiles blurts out before he can stop himself. He knows he needs Erica on his side, but he can’t help it. It’s just not possible. “Maybe you were having a mini seizure or hallucinations. Stress can really--”

“I know what I saw, Stiles and trust me, I know seizure well enough to know that it wasn’t one. I understand that it sounds crazy, but that man is dangerous. He could be responsible for the bus driver. You have to believe me.”

“No,” Stiles replies. “I don’t.”

“I saw him talking to you. He’s just playing you so that you won’t tell your dad about him. Even if you don’t believe me, you know that if he had nothing to hide, he had every reason to stay with us and be declared a hero. He’s dangerous and he’s keeping an eye on us. Stiles, you need to be careful. He could hurt you, too.”

“He could have hurt both of us.” Stiles shudders, thinking about his dad’s warning about what Derek had done to the perp. “We were in no condition to stop him. He didn’t. He saved us, Erica. If he wants to be kept out of police business, then we should help him. I don’t know why your mind has made up this crazy idea about him, but . . . . No, I do know: it’s a coping mechanism. Maybe you feel like you deserved to be attacked, so you demonize your rescuer or maybe you’re jealous that I’m going out with him, but you owe the guy, Erica.”

“Fuck you, Stiles,” Erica snaps, suddenly seeming stern. In retrospect, maybe Stiles shouldn’t have accused her of jealousy. She has no reason to know that he’s going on a date with Derek and Stiles knows from years of panting after Lydia Martin, that nothing makes you feel smaller than having a crush thrown back in your face. “I don’t owe him anything and I don’t owe anything to you. But you don’t have to worry. If I tell your father the truth, I’ll only sound crazy.”

Stiles takes a moment to just breathe, pushing down the incipient panic at Erica’s words. Erica can’t be right about Derek undergoing some kind of magical transformation and the animal attack is just a coincidence. Who cares that Derek is obviously older and way out of Stiles’s league? He won’t let his insecurities talk him out of the best opportunity to get laid he’s ever had. Stiles has his redeeming qualities and just because none of his classmates see that, it doesn’t mean that someone older and wiser, like Derek, couldn’t enjoy Stiles’s unique brand of charm. He shouldn’t doubt his own worth to the point that he’d fuck up a perfectly good thing with Derek just because Derek’s interest seems implausible.

Things are good, he tells himself. He’s got a date with an insanely hot and enticingly mysterious stranger. He saved Erica, even if he fucked up the aftermath. He’s got a new pet wolf and he’s confident. Maybe this will be the year that things change for him. Maybe he’ll be popular or if not popular, he at least won’t be the geeky virgin who’s done fuck-all with his life.

The sinking feeling doesn’t quite go away, but it fades, letting Stiles shake the tension out of his limbs, preparing himself to face the rest of the school day and his father poking around.

***

Stiles is lucky to spot a tall, lanky figure sauntering out of the school, seemingly without a care. “Danny, Danny! Help me, Obie-Wan, you’re my only hope.”

For a computer nerd, Danny is not amused enough by the Star Wars reference. He hadn’t been amused by Stiles poking him during History either. “What do you want, now, Stilinski?”

Normally Danny is pretty tolerant of Stiles. They aren’t great friends, but Danny gets along with everyone and he and Stiles study together sometimes, because unlike Scott, Danny actually helps Stiles focus rather than using him as a justification for distraction. Today, however, Danny seems stretched thin. Stiles is fairly certain that he hasn’t been any more annoying than usual. Maybe it’s time to be a good friend and ask. “Are you okay?” Stiles gives himself a mental pat on the back. He doesn’t usually remember to think about other people’s feelings.

Danny sighs. “No, I’m not okay.”

Stiles wasn’t expecting that answer. Jackpot. Now he can help Danny with his problem and Danny will help Stiles with his. “Why? What’s wrong? Is it your boyfriend? Is it your family? School? Jackson being more of an ass than usual?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Danny says and resumes walking towards the parking lot.

Well, there’s a freebie. Stiles made an honest effort and now they can get back to the subject at hand: Stiles and Derek and all of the sexing Stiles will be doing once Danny explains how to seduce a guy. “Do you think an improbably hot gay guy could find me attractive?” It’s a variation on Stiles’s usual theme, but Danny looks as exasperated as always.

“I’m not your gay Obie-Wan or your gay Yoda or any type of token gay character in whatever story you’ve made for your life,” Danny snaps. “Just because I like guys doesn’t mean I know everything about being gay or that’s all I know about.”

“Duh. You know about computers too. And lacrosse. And Jackson, though I still don’t get what you see in that asshole, other than some pretty amazing bone structure.” Danny looks slightly mollified, but he’s still frowning. “Look, I get that you don’t like being the school’s token gay, especially the way that Coach goes on about it. And if you help me, you won’t be the only one. I don’t think of you as gay . . . I mean you are, but that’s not all I think about when it comes to you. It’s just the part of you that I need right now. You’re the only guy I know who has ever successfully gone out on a date with another guy and actually, you know, managed to get a boyfriend. And I need your help with that because I want that too.”

“Okay, so now you’re gay.”

“Bisexual.”

“Fine, you’re bisexual, that doesn’t obligate me to help you. I’m happy that you feel ready to come out, but I really don’t see how else this is relevant to me. Just do what you’d do with a girl. It’s not difficult.”

“You talk like I’d know any better what to do with girls,” Stiles grumbles.

Danny sighs, looking Stiles in the eye like he’s actually taking him seriously for once. Not long ago, Stiles would’ve loved to have Danny look at him like that. He would have preened. “Look, just be yourself, try not to let your nerves get to you, shower, and don’t wear,” he scrutinizes Stiles despairingly, “anything that you have on right now.”

“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing right now?” His plaid shirt is comfortable. And manly. Totally manly, like a lumberjack. Unless he’s supposed to be the girl in the relationship. Wait, of course he’s the girl in the relationship, if it’s a comparison between him and Derek. “Not all gays have great fashion sense, you know.”

Danny rolls his eyes. “I know. But everyone likes to see that their date put some effort into looking good.”

Danny does have a point there. Stiles looks down at himself. He’s got on an awesome Green Lantern t-shirt under his red plaid shirt, which in retrospect may be a little Christmassy. But he’s wearing the jeans that Scott had exasperatedly sworn make his ass look nice ‘if I swung that way, dude.’ “Then what should I wear?”

As Danny pauses to consider, they end up next to a familiar silver porsche, because of course of all the days for Danny to not have his car and need a ride from Jackson, today would be the day. “Something tighter,” Danny says, finally. “I’ve seen you in the locker room. You’re skinny, but you have muscles.”

“You noticed me in the locker room?” Stiles barely restrains himself from doing a victory dance. Danny noticed him! That means he has to be at least a little attractive, right?

“I noticed that you don’t look like you need to be wearing shapeless t-shirts three sizes too big for you.”

“And don’t forget plaid shirts only in style for lesbians,” comes a sing-song, angelic voice from behind them. Stiles whirls around to find Lydia Martin in all of her short-skirted, plump-lipped, scathing perfection. It’s the first thing she’s said to him this school year.

Lydia twirls her hair with calculated dispassion, looking bored with life, as she habitually does. Stiles knows that she isn’t a nice girl. He knows that she’s deliberately cruel and dismissive and she’s pushed many faces into the mud on her climb to the top, but god, it works. “Are we doing a makeover?”

“No,” Danny says at the same time Stiles makes a grab for Lydia’s hand, a gesture she cooly ignores. “Yes,” he begs, “please, yes, I will take whatever help a certain strawberry-blonde goddess can give me.”

Lydia considers the proposition for a moment, a nascent smirk eclipsing her previously sweet features, growing wider as she spots her boyfriend approaching. “What’s the occasion?”

Dear god. Stiles knows that he’s not lucky enough to land Lydia Martin on top of the impossible hotness that is Derek, especially when his competition is Jackson Fucking Whittemore, but he can’t put the fantasy to bed quite yet.

Sadly, Danny does it for him. “Stiles has a date with a supposedly very attractive guy.”

“A guy? Hmmm.” If Lydia is disappointed that Stiles is now playing for the other team, she doesn’t show it. Damnit. “Okay,” she says. “But only because I love shopping.”

“Lydia--” Jackson protests, but Lydia ignores him. “We’ll start at Macy’s, I think. I’d rather the boutiques downtown, but I don’t think it’s quite your style. Right Danny?”

Danny takes a step back, ignoring Jackson’s desperate look. “I think I’ll get a ride home with someone else. Thanks, Jackson.”

Lydia blows Danny a kiss, not looking at all put out by his escape. “Well, what are you waiting for?” she gestures to the porsche, “get in.”

 

***

“So I thought all this sniffing around was about Lydia,” Jackson says casually where they are both sitting on a bench outside the lady’s dressing room. Jackson is holding a bag of cologne and Lydia’s purse and Stiles is somehow out $250 with a pile of shirts and slacks and styling gel that is somehow going to fix his buzzcut. “But it’s Danny, too.” He glares. “You should stay away from both of them.”

“Feeling threatened?” Stiles asks, remembering what his dad always said about bullies: that they were just turning insecurity into aggression. Not that advice like that made the fist to the face any less painful.

“Hardly,” Jackson replies with a harsh laugh. “Would you even know what to do with a girl like Lydia? Do you think you have a chance for her to notice you other than as a Ken doll she can use to play makeover? Lydia wants only the best and she’s got it already.”

“If you’re not threatened, then why are you threatening me?”

Jackson smiles his ugly, condescending smile. “If I were threatening you, you’d know it. You just won’t get out from underfoot, Stilinski.”

“Why do you even care?” Stiles finally protests. He just doesn’t get it. Jackson has always been an entitled douchebag, but it’s only recently that he actually seems to enjoy targeting Stiles and Scott. “If you’re so far above me, then why do you care what I do?”

Jackson pauses, like it’s actually a question worthy of forethought instead of just the most assholish response that comes to mind. “Because you’re trash. You’re pathetic, panting after Lydia and bugging Danny and flailing around in class thinking we’re all laughing with you when everyone is laughing at you and you’re not even with-it enough to see. You get up in everyone’s face, trying to be cool, but your desperation stinks. I don’t want to be caught in the stench.”

It’s probably the cruelest thing that anyone has ever said to Stiles, though silver and bronze in the category of ‘insulting Stiles’ must also go to Jackson Fucking Whittemore. Last week, Stiles might have made a sarcastic comeback while tears blazed in his eyes. He might have stormed out. But the thing is, he suddenly knows that he’s worth more than Jackson Fucking Whittemore. He helped save Erica from a disgusting would-be rapist. He has a best friend who loves him enough that he would have tagged along on a makeover instead of running away. He has a father whose proud of him and loves him and makes sure that Stiles knows that every day. And he has a date with seriously, the hottest person he’s ever met.

“Whatever,” Stiles shrugs, leaning back and looking at his cell phone. Even if Lydia keeps trying things on, the mall will close in half an hour. He can sit here in tense, accusatory silence with Jackson for half an hour. At least Lydia Martin talked to him today and he avoided popping a boner when she barged into his dressing room to insist he try things on with a different pair of jeans. Stiles for the win. “You don’t like me and I don’t like you. Be as hostile towards me as you want, because I really don’t give a shit about you or anything you do.”

They sit together in silence, which is still better than looking at Jackson’s stupid face when they’re interacting. Lydia pops out of the dressing room for commentary occasionally. Jackson prefers stoney silence towards her as well, whereas she coaxes Stiles to explain why he likes certain outfits better than others, her smile like sunlight when he pinpoints things correctly. It is, he realizes, her subtle way of training him to understand at least the broad strokes of fashion.

“At least he’s looking!” Lydia shouts at Jackson exasperatedly when he points out that just because Stiles is pretending to be gay now doesn’t mean that he’s suddenly her gay fashion guru. She storms off into the shoe section, leaving Stiles and Jackson to follow.

Jackson’s expression is stormy, but it smoothes out once they are again alone and waiting for Lydia to browse. “Your father is the sheriff, right?”

Stiles is just about to come back with some sarcastic quip about stating the obvious when he realizes that what is coming out of Jackson’s mouth isn’t actually an insult. Maybe all it took to gain a small, miniscule grain of Jackson’s respect was to finally stop giving a damn about what the guy said to him. “Yeah,” Stiles replies. It takes another minute of silence before Stiles feels obligated to ask, “Why?”

Jackson turns to Stiles, his jaw tense and his eyes determined. He doesn’t look spiteful, though, the way he usually does and Stiles’s breath catches because he suddenly understands why girls go crazy over Jackson Fucking Whittemore. It’s not just bone structure, it’s everything. “I don’t want to be involved in the investigation,” Jackson begins. It’s a familiar tune in Stiles’s life nowadays: the shy Samaritan. “Seriously, you didn’t hear this from me, but I live across the street from Isaac Lahey and his father is beating the shit out of that kid.”

Stiles blinks, wondering if he saw Jackson do an actual good deed without expecting any payback for it. Jackson’s still a douche, Stiles reflects, but at least there’s a small amount of compassion hiding beneath that beautiful, bratty exterior. They return to silence until it’s time to help carry Lydia’s mountain of purchases back to the car.

Scott is going to flip when Stiles tells him about this. If he’s not too busy mooning over his newfound true, everlasting, fairytale romance.

Chapter Text

Derek has no idea why his palm is sweating. First of all, it’s cold out. Secondly, he’s never actually been turned down. And finally, he knows that Stiles is a sure thing. He’s watched Stiles change his new clothes in every available permutation while a disinterested redhead criticizes him, spray on enough cologne to make Derek sneeze, and monologue to Scott for at least an hour about how out of his league Derek is. It’s kind of flattering, but also a little pathetic. Derek tries to summon the guilt for taking advantage when Stiles is obviously so young, but the guilt doesn’t come. Pack, the wolf says. That makes everything justified.

It’s a pipe dream, but Derek fantasizes about Stiles offering his pale neck as Derek fucks into him, biting him and feeling the rush of power as he climaxes. He imagines lurring Scott away from the Argent girl and taking him as his first beta. They would grow their pack, make it strong. These boys are young, but they are good. They can fill in all the broken pieces in Derek and build something on the ashes of what once was. For the first time since the fire Derek’s been inadvertently drawn out of his solitude, wondering if he doesn’t deserve comfort after all.

When he asked his mother about giving someone the bite, she had told him it should be a seduction - not necessarily sexual. It was about want and about power, a power that should be a gift given to the worthy, only those who would willingly temper that power to keep their kind safe. But the alpha has responsibilities too: the human is rolling over, showing its belly to a predator, and that trust, that intimacy, must be earned.

Stiles eventually decides on a form fitting red t-shirt that reveals his trim waist and wiry forearms, with a black vest covering most of it (because the redhead thinks the stenciled spider-webs still look a little too much like Spiderman). His dark jeans are new and tighter than anything that Derek has seen him in and the converse sneakers are a little too annoyingly hipster. Derek has wanted, multiple times, to tell them that it all doesn’t matter. He’s already seen Stiles naked plenty, and for a wolf, smell is much more important than outward appearance. He’s not sure how he’s supposed to get close to Stiles with that cologne drowning out his normal, spicy musk.

Derek himself has barely any time to change. After Stiles and Scott leave to pick Allison up, he chews off his bandage, pulls on the clothes he hid at the bottom of Stiles’s closet and figures out how to attach the prosthetic arm he’d ordered off the internet. He puts a black leather glove on the hand, which takes an absurdly long time with only one arm. He really hopes all the Star Wars references Stiles will make are worth the effort. Then all he has time to do is borrow some of Stiles’s hairgel to make a lazy ducktail with his hair, spray on some cologne and bolt out the window, hoping that wearing the same scent as his father won’t be a turnoff for Stiles. He wanted to find some cute, geeky shirt to make him seem more like Stiles’s type, but he didn’t know enough about actually being a geek to be able to discuss the references, so he gave up. A tight grey shirt and his leather jacket will have to do.

Derek makes it to the ice rink just in time to draw too much attention to himself. One of the other kids drives a Porsche, but something about the Camero screams ‘I’m a grown-up, slumming it with the kiddies.’ He’s forced to remind himself how cool that had seemed when she did it. Stiles and his friends will be just as blind to how pathetic it actually makes him.

The first thing Derek notices is that Allison Argent smells just a little bit like her aunt. It’s not enough that he’d notice it if they met on the street, but that slight metallic tinge, silver, is enough to make him stumble, ruining his attempt at a cool entrance.

Stiles is grinning so wide that Derek doesn’t even think he notices the flop. Scott, for his part, looks mildly surprised that Derek even showed up, but then again, Scott always looks a little bewildered, like life just keeps hitting him over the head. Derek isn’t sure if it’s a deliberate attempt to be disarmingly adorable or if Scott actually is surprised every time something good happens.

Derek ignores Stiles’s fumbling attempt at a nonchalant baritone “hey, man” and instead greets him by slinging his good arm over Stiles’s shoulders and pulling him against his side possessively. He’s slept pressed up against Stiles in bed as Wolfie, but this is the first significant contact they’ve had as humans. Derek’s not going to lie: it feels amazing. Pack, his wolf murmurs. Mine, it says. If Derek had another arm, he might be tempted to wrap it around Scott also, but he’s content to feel the other boy at his side - flanked by the kids who cared for him the way only pack does.

Stiles, for his part, flails a little, elbowing Derek in the ribs, but he eventually relaxes into it, smirking at the guy who must be ‘that douchenozzle, Jackson,’ in a juvenile way that Derek wants to roll his eyes at. Derek extends his hand to the kid, making sure to tighten his grip until Jackson’s heart speeds up and his scent contains a subtle hint of fear.

The redhead, Lydia, is taking all this in and ends up deliberately rubbing her breasts up against Derek’s chest when she hugs him hello. Jackson’s eyes shoot daggers, but that was probably her intention all along.

Derek shudders a little when Allison reaches over to do the same. The silver smell is overwhelming this close up and when she pulls back he sees why. She’s wearing it: the antique silver pendant that itched against Derek’s chest when she pushed herself up against him. He’d gotten a rash, but she refused to take it off, even when she wore nothing else. He can still smell the smoke on it.

Derek shoves Allison away a little too forcefully and ends up having to apologize, claiming something about not liking his arm touched. She looks so painfully sympathetic, probably thinking about PTSD and indie movies that showcase unresolved trauma. Wait until you know I’m a wolf, he thinks. They’ll see her true sympathies then.

Scott is the last person to shake Derek’s hand and he does so warily. It’s a shock, because Scott is the one who saved Derek in the woods, who soothed him through surgery and who smells like pack and comfort even now. But Scott doesn’t know Derek-the-human beyond what Stiles has told him and a brief meeting in the comic shop. For all his naivety in other areas, Scott is not oblivious to the implications of what Derek is doing. Thus far, he’s the only one who has demanded to know what a twenty-two-year-old is doing on a date with Stiles, the only one who seems wary of Derek’s bulk, the only one who has pushed Stiles into almost crying in self-doubt. Scott is right: Derek is bad news. Scott is good, the wolf says. Scott is loyal. Scott is a protector. But Scott is also standing between the wolf and what it wants with Stiles.

Derek gives Scott a disarming smile, offering him first chance at the bag of M&Ms that Derek brought. Pack eats in pecking order. Scott would be Derek’s first Beta. Stiles looks a little put out, but warms when Derek pops an M&M directly into his open mouth. Allison is grinning at them and Derek can’t look at her. She has Kate’s smile.

“So why are we here again?” Jackson complains in the most annoying, childish voice Derek can imagine. He really is a douchenozzle.

Lydia elbows him hard in the ribs. “We’re here because Stiles has been kind enough to arrange for us to have the place to ourselves tonight.”

“Yeah, so he can pant after a guy who is--” Jackson begins. Stiles is starting to smell of fear, probably embarrassment. He looks like he wants to stop Jackson, but he’s not reacting fast enough.

“I think it’s sweet,” Allison interrupts. “I used to skate as a kid, when we lived in Denver, but I’ve never been in a rink this empty. It’s nice.” Scott is grinning at her like her basic social skills are some kind of miracle. He really is pleasantly surprised by everything.

When the others are getting their skates, Derek pulls Stiles into the hallway that leads back to the locker rooms, not liking his uncharacteristic silence. Stiles just looks more and more wary the farther they get from the others. “I’m sorry,” Stiles says. “I didn’t mean to invite them along. It’s just that Lydia is kind of an unstoppable force and she um, has been doing me a favor, and Jackson is like one of those little yappy dogs that she keeps in her purse. Don’t listen to anything he says. He just lives to make everyone else suffer.”

Derek is actually listening to Jackson right now while Stiles continues to babble about how much he hates the guy.

“I’m not gay,” Jackson says, “but even I know that guy is way, way out of Stillinski’s league.”

“Hey,” Scott snaps. “Stiles has an awesome personality.”

“Which is codeword for ugly,” Jackson replies. “He’s probably a gigolo or something.”

“That makes no sense,” Lydia complains. “Stiles wouldn’t have been so worried about what to wear if he’d hired the guy and I’m pretty sure he didn’t lose his arm in a pole dancing accident. Also, it’s not like Stiles is rich and famous, so he doesn’t have anything to gain.”

“Except access to the son of the Sheriff,” Jackson says. Jackson is a paranoid little asswipe, but Derek recognizes that the kid is just smart enough to cause him trouble. “That glorified rent-a-cop doesn’t have much power, but a creepy one armed criminal might just take whatever pathetic leg-up he can get.”

Scott had argued the same thing with Stiles not that long ago, but now his pulse is racing and his voice growling in warning. “He met Stiles while Stiles was coming to someone else’s defense. Yes, Derek is attractive, but this is a classic example of the good guy gets the girl, or guy in this case.”

“No,” Jackson snaps, his heartbeat also accelerating. “Money and power and looks get the girl. They always have and they always will. The good guy is just something Hollywood has made up to sucker you ugly, weak, poor people who need to believe in that myth in order to make yourselves feel better about your pathetic lives.”

If Scott were a wolf, he would have Jackson pinned to the floor for that. Scott is so clearly the more dominant of the two. Jackson, despite his bluster, would be a Tau in a real pack - young and in constant need of being put in his place. But instead of resolving it with the quick gnash of teeth, Scott snarls, “Or maybe you believe in money and power because you’ll never be good enough for anyone to love you for who you actually are.”

Derek smiles a little to himself. Not so different than the Beta biting the neck of an unruly yearling, then.

Stiles has stopped talking, staring at Derek’s mouth like Derek smiling is one of those breath-stealing, intoxicating moments that poets are always going on and on about. Derek has heard his fair share.

“Jackson is an asshole,” Derek says, which makes Stiles grin wider. “And I’m happy to be here with you.” He presses his lips quickly against Stiles’s. It’s not one of those poetic first kisses. It’s not ever really worthy of slam poetry. But Stiles brushes his fingers against his lips afterwards, an awed, disbelieving look on his face. “Nobody has ever gone to this much trouble for me before,” Derek admits, honestly.

Stiles scoffs. “Look at you. Are you seriously telling me that nobody has ever wanted to whisk you away to be their cabana boy in Cabo or dragged you out to a lakeside cabin to lick your abs?”

Derek chuckles. It had been Paris, once, to look at art and fuck in a room overlooking the Seine and Canada, to climb up a mountain of ice and ski down it. Dinners at fancy restaurants, drugs and dancing at trendy clubs, so many gallery openings and upscale orgies and affairs with married men. But those people had someone else to arrange vacations and money to spend on spoiling a hot piece of ass like Derek. Stiles has an allowance and a summer job and he’d managed to give Derek a special first date despite the lack of resources.

“I’ve never been to Cabo,” Derek says. Maybe, objectively, this date is not very impressive, but Stiles is somehow, inexplicably inside Derek’s guard in a way none of those other men could hope. It’s probably just spending so much time with Stiles as the wolf that has Derek’s stomach fluttering and his heart pounding with want, but he does want. “And I think I would rather be here with you.”

Stiles still doesn’t believe him, but Derek will have time to convince him. He leans in for a slower, more indulgent kiss.

“This isn’t some pedophilia thing, is it?” Stiles demands after they part, panting.

“Why does everyone keep asking me that?”

Stiles shrugs in response. Then he shivers and Derek wishes that he hadn’t been stupid enough to get caught by that bullet. If he hadn’t, he could have offered Stiles his jacket.

“I like you, okay. Don’t ruin it by being needy.” It comes out harsh. Derek’s bluntness has been the headliner of many a breakup speech. He’s been called heartless, mean, cold, even emotionally abusive a few times. But Derek just doesn’t have the patience to make other people feel good about themselves, even when he wants to. He’s about to apologize when Stiles grins, taking his hand.

“I can do that,” Stiles says. “I can be not needy. I will not need you one bit. I won’t need your cock inside of me or your mouth sucking me off or need you running your hands all over my--”

“Stiles,” Derek says in warning, because he’s already starting to grow hard in his pants, even though Stiles’s heartbeat betrays his neophyte bravado. Derek knows that Stiles is a virgin whose dirty talk comes only from his connoisseurship of bizarre porn, but that somehow just makes the dirty talk hotter.

“Maybe,” Stiles continues with a smirk, “I won’t even need you tied up all ready for me to fuck you. Maybe you’ll just stay there while I pound you, because I don’t need it, but we’d both want it.”

That isn’t going to happen - the wolf won’t let it, but the image makes Derek groan anyway. He slams Stiles back against the wall of the rink, palming his hip and pushing him into a dominant, bruising kiss. It’s awkward with the prosthetic arm laying useless at his side, but neither of them care. Stiles tries his best to gain the upper hand, even wrapping one leg around Derek’s and rubbing up against him. But Derek is stronger, older, and more experienced. He cups the back of Stiles’s neck and takes control, pulling back to leave Stiles chasing his lips.

“See,” Derek says, “needy.”

For a moment, Stiles looks panicked, like Derek has be playing him to prove a point.

“I guess you can afford to be a little needy,” Derek adds with a smirk, realizing that they’re actually flirting. Normally he doesn’t really bother with flirting. In the gay community, he hasn’t ever really needed to, so he hasn’t learned. It’s not that gay men don’t flirt, but more the fact that men are willing to overlook a lot of a person’s flaws for the promise of imminent sex. It’s a good thing, too, because Derek has a lot of flaws.

“I’m not the only one who's a little needy.” Stiles boldly palms Derek’s erection before sliding out of his grasp and over towards the skate rental.

When they make it over to the skates, everyone else is in the high school equivalent of a Mexican standoff, with Scott and Jackson both breathing hard and looking furiously at each other and Allison waiting to intervene. What they don’t know about cute little Allison; Derek smirks. She could probably take them both down at the same time. Derek can smell the testosterone in the air and he knows that while he and Stiles were otherwise occupied, the two boys have gotten on the verge of a fistfight.

“Well look at you,” Lydia remarks, expertly dissolving the tension but drawing attention to Stiles’s flushed face and Derek’s disheveled hair. Jackson gapes and Scott grins.

Now Derek feels incredibly self-conscious when they walk up to the skate rental window. He’s surprised to find that there’s a man there. He thought they were sneaking in after hours. Upon seeing his confusion, Stiles makes introductions. “Boyd is the one who is so nicely letting us use the rink. Oh, Boyd, do you think I could take a look back there for my lucky pair of skates?”

Boyd rolls his eyes, muttering, “Fifty bucks is not enough for this.”

After Stiles clumsily hauls himself over the rental counter to look at the skates, Derek pulls out his wallet and gives Boyd another hundred. Derek doesn’t need the money and the kid is obviously desperate if he’s willing to risk his job over a fifty.

Only now does Derek really look at the boy in front of him. Derek isn’t a small guy, but Boyd is massive. He has a good five inches on Derek, plus he’s broader, linebacker material, a perfect gamma, if he were a wolf. He doesn’t smell like Scott and Styles with their lacrosse jerseys, though, and he is here working at the ice rink late on a friday night instead of doing the normal teenage things. Derek would bet another hundred dollars that Jackson and Lydia didn’t even acknowledge him as their classmate the way Stiles did.

“Thanks,” Boyd says, looking suspiciously at the hundred. Derek is sure he’s a few seconds away from asking if he’s a pedophile, so he tries, “Do you like this job?”

Boyd laughs. “I like having money. Working every day after school is hard, though.”

Derek nods, trying to look sympathetic even though he himself had never had to worry about money. “It probably isn’t good for your social life.”

“If I had one.”

Derek doesn’t know how to respond to that, so he’s grateful to hear Stiles’s squeal of delight. “Found them!”

“You know there’s a door,” Boyd says when Stiles goes to climb back over the counter. But Stiles just shrugs, leaning into Derek as he helps ease him back onto the ground. Stiles pulls him into another kiss. Now that he’s sure of his welcome, Stiles is bold, not caring the slightest about the wolf-whistle he hears from Jackson. Even though the kiss is pretty competent, Derek can’t help but be distracted, watching Boyd watch these kids having what will be a memorable day in their teenaged lives and not being included in it.

“Come on,” Derek says, pulling Stiles over towards the others. He knows it’s wrong, but he wants to not see Boyd and be reminded of his pity for the kid. Derek wants to enjoy his night, so Boyd must be out of sight and out of mind. “So what makes those skates lucky?” he asks.

Stiles points to a pirate sticker on the bottom of the left skate. “I put that here a few years ago and I have not broken a single bone since.”

Derek laughs. “Is that a danger?”

“I’m not a great skater, but I don’t fall much anymore, not with the lucky skates.”

“I don’t think it’s the skates. I think you just got better.”

“Says you.”

They watch as Scott tries to show up Jackson and immediately falls on his ass, needing to be taught by Allison. Lydia sticks close to the wall, but Jackson is good, showing obvious ease, and deliberately skating circles around Scott. Derek wonders why Lydia brought her own skates if she’s not a great skater. Then again, everything about Lydia screams superficial spoiled rich girl.

Derek had briefly flirted with being on the hockey team in New York, so he's as good as Jackson, if not better, but there’s no point in dominating someone so obviously inferior. Derek prefers to stick around Stiles, listening to him laugh good-naturedly at Scott’s antics and make up increasingly ridiculous insulting names for Jackson.

There’s a touchy moment when Stiles grabs onto the prosthetic arm and the cheap thing almost comes off. Stiles looks absolutely devastated by the mistake and Derek desperately wants to tell him not to worry because it will grow back. Derek just wants the sympathetic looks to stop.

After Jackson and Scott still won’t stop baiting each other, Allison finally sighs and shuts them all up with a few spins. They’re a little wobbly, but she’s clearly had training. Eventually Lydia and Jackson leave the ice to go make out on the bleachers and Scott starts looking miserable and bruised enough that Stiles offers to help him limp to the restroom to tend his battle wounds. The wolf wants to follow his pack off the ice, but Allison is still doing a few spins by herself. Even though her smell is putting him on edge, Derek asks her to show him how to spin. He can’t think of anything else to ease the conversation.

Derek is no good at it, because werewolf agility and strength does fuck all when it comes to actual skills. It’s nice that Allison doesn’t tease him, even when it becomes clear that not having the torque of both his arms is the problem.

“I like your necklace,” Derek finally gets the courage to say. “I looks heavy. Is it an antique?”

Allison smiles and blushes a little, fingering it. “Thanks. It’s a family heirloom, actually. My Aunt Kate gave it to me as an early birthday present.”

Derek thought he was ready to hear that name, but apparently he’s not, because he catches an edge and takes a pretty spectacular sliding fall straight into the rink wall. He can hear the others laughing at him, right up until he realizes that the fall has knocked the prosthetic arm off. Derek has seen a lot of bodyparts, usually on forest animals that he’d personally dismembered, but it’s still a striking tableau, even to him. Allison is making concerned noises and trying to help him up and Derek can see Stiles tripping down the bleachers to get to him, but Derek waves him off, gathering his dignity and skating off to find a discreet place to put the stupid arm back on.

Allison follows him and no amount of stiff-shouldered grumpiness can shake her. She’s the last person he wants to see his healing stump, but she insists that she won’t judge him and it is pretty difficult to get the prosthetic in the sleeve without practice.

“So, we can just pretend that never happened,” Allison says, smiling.

Derek nods. “So. About your necklace--”

Allison laughs. “My Aunt was actually pretty cryptic about it,” she says. “Some kind of family mystery that she’s set for me, like a treasure hunt.”

“I think I recognize it,” Derek agrees. This is a little too easy. “It’s le bete de Gevaudan. It was said to have terrorized some villages in France almost two hundred years ago.”

“Wow, Stiles has good taste. Handsome and knows random tidbits of European history.” Derek ignores the compliment. “So what do you think that has to do with my family?”

Derek knows all about the Argent family history. He’d gotten records from all the wolves he could, trying to understand why Kate had done the things she’d done. Of course, there were no answers in records and stories. Kate was a hunter and hunters killed wolves. It was that simple. The beast had been a werewolf, an alpha who had lost her pack and her cubs. She’d gone feral. In modern times, the other wolves in the area would have put her down themselves. Argent had been the husband and father of some of her victims and killing the beast hadn’t been enough. Once he had a taste for righteous vengeance, he’d turned to hunting wolves full time, assembling a large group of villagers to aid in his quest. In wolf circles, the beast was a cautionary tale for why a pack needed to put down its own members that stepped out of line. It was through taking human lives that hunters were born and it was why secrecy had become the best weapon.

“Well if it’s an important part of your family history, then your family would probably be the victors.”

“You’re right. The man who killed the beast is the only person it could be. It’s not as though we could have ties to the beast.”

A chill runs down Derek’s spine and he wants to pull away from Allison as she helps him get his jacket off. At least she does him the courtesy of not starring while he struggles to put the prosthetic back on. He worries that a trained hunter could see the signs of healing, but even if she were looking, Allison clearly has no idea about any of her family’s sordid past.

“What do you think it was? A bear?” she asks.

Derek forces a laugh. “It looks more like a wolf to me and Argent does mean silver, doesn’t it?”

Allison giggles. “A werewolf?” He tenses as she helps him finish putting on the prosthetic, but she doesn’t seem to notice. “You and Stiles are made for each other. He’s obsessed with some horror movie coming out soon. That and you are pretty much the only things he talks about at lunch.”

Derek shrugs. “It was probably just a really big wolf or maybe even a pack of wolves that went rabid. It is interesting, though, that your family hasn’t gotten out of the killing business since le bete.”

“I don’t know that I want the family business,” Allison complains. “We have to move constantly, and there are so many guns in the house - you wouldn’t believe how many, even though the actual orders get shipped in bulk from the warehouse. And because we have so many guns, we have a crazy security system. Not to mention my father thinking it was appropriate to show me how to shoot when I was six and you don’t even want to know what he says about rabid animals.” Derek can imagine, though.

“Maybe they’d rather be on the front lines than behind the counter,” Derek says, thanking Allison for helping him put his jacket back on. It’s a risky move, but if he can get Allison to suspect her family, then he’ll have an insider to get to Kate.

“Nobody in my family has ever seemed interested in police work. Mostly, we use our guns for hunting. My dad and I normally take a hunting trip every year, though recently they’ve been more like wilderness survival training. I’m starting to get a little worried that the massive amount of guns is because my parents are preparing for some kind of post-apocalyptic future.”

“He’d be teaching you urban combat then. Maybe he’s getting you ready for bigger game,” Derek offers. “You know, like the recent animal attacks. Maybe you and your dad could hunt the mountain lion.”

Allison freezes, her heartrate skipping. “You don’t really mean that, right?”

Derek stops, staring into her wide brown eyes, so innocent. They’ll tell her soon, he rationalizes. Chris Argent won’t let his only heir live a life of blissful ignorance. If they tell her before Derek does, then she’ll never hear the other side.

“I think that your family is here to do just that. Hunt. Bigger. Game.”

Allison shivers, but she doesn’t back away. “What are you saying?” she pleads. “What do you know?”

“It’s not for me to tell you. But you have your own suspicions.”

Allison nods, looking at Derek for confirmation of her suspicions. “My Aunt Kate and some security people from the business are in town. Something happened to her car and she and my dad had different stories. I thought I was the only one sneaking out at night, but my dad does it too. His crossbow isn’t with our gear. He’s using it without me, even though we always used to do archery together. I mean, what does he need a crossbow for in the
middle of the night? He hasn’t brought back any game.”

Derek just raises his eyebrows at her.

“No, I don’t believe it. He wouldn’t be using it on people, would he? We can’t, I mean, we can’t be part of the mob, like Scott says. Is there even a Canadian mob?”

Derek has never thought of the mafia analogy, but it’s actually quite fitting. Gerard Argent could definitely be the Godfather. “Organized crime isn’t always the object of an underground family-based network,” he replies.

“Like what?”

“The underground railroad?” Derek flounders. He realizes too late that he should have said the Freemasons.

“I would have noticed if we were harboring slaves in the basement. And,” her breath is faltering, her heartbeat racing, “and I don’t think Harriet Tubman needed so many guns. Why would you need so many guns if not for organized crime?”

“There are other reasons to kill,” Derek says and Allison’s eyes widen. Now she probably thinks that her family is in the KKK or they are neonazis. That analogy could also be apt. The Klan also has a fascination with fire.

Before Allison can beg for more answers, Stiles comes skidding around the corner. “Derek? Are you okay? Allison, I’m starting to worry that you’re stealing my date here.” He laughs, but nervously, like he really thought an Argent could steal Derek away from pack. One already did, that horrible voice in his head reminds him.

“We were just talking,” Allison says, though it’s clear that her nerves haven’t recovered from the revelation. “Turns out Derek is an expert on my history project topic.”

“Well, if you want to see Lydia make Jackson look like a flaming turdsicle, you should come quick.”

“What?” Allison asks, recouping well from their earlier seriousness. “Why?”

Lydia is on the ice holding a hockey stick that looks completely at odds with her designer dress and tights, while Jackson complains at her from where he’s standing in the goal with only the hand pads on. It looks like a very unsafe activity for humans.

Stiles explains, “Jackson was being a real ass to Scott about lacrosse and how astoundingly terrible he is at skating. And Scott called him on his bullshit and I don’t even know what happened, but then Scott said that Jackson probably couldn’t even block a shot from Lydia. Then Lydia offered to actually do it! I mean, she probably just wanted them to shut up, but she looks like she thinks she can beat him. Scott already bet cleaning up lacrosse gear for a month with Jackson. I don’t know if that’s wise, though, because Jackson would make his stuff extra dirty just to be a douche and Jackson is really, really good at lacrosse. Sorry, bro, but the arrogance is kind of deserved. I’d bet on him.”

“Okay,” Allison says. “I’ll put twenty on Lydia.”

Stiles looks flabbergasted, but he shakes her offered hand, yelling to Scott, “Dude, your girlfriend is awesome!”

Of course, Lydia ends up making three out her five shots, skating around Jackson like a pro. Stiles’s jaw drops and Derek smells the familiar scent of his arousal. He pulls Stiles against his side possessively. He could have scored all five.

“Pay up,” Allison demands, grinning at Stiles, who hangs his head exaggeratedly.

While Stiles sulks over towards Scott asking to borrow a twenty, Allison whispers to Derek, “She got silver at junior regionals.” She says it like they’re now friends who share secrets. With an Argent; that’ll be the day. “She was pretending to be a bad skater so that he’d feel more manly,” she says louder and with judgement, though it’s not clear if she’s judging Lydia or Jackson.

“Well she’s got his mancard now,” Stiles hoots, giving Jackson a slow clap as he makes his way over to Lydia. Derek doesn’t really appreciate the schadenfreude and all the petty high school memories that he associates with it, so he tugs Stiles into his lap to kiss him silent. The wolf wants to bite. It wants to take what’s his, but Derek holds himself back. He doesn’t even know if he’ll be able to stay in Beacon Hills, with the hunters and the thing in the woods. Maybe he should just move Peter to a facility in the TriState Area and go back to being a lone urban wolf.

But, wolves are pack animals, his dad had always said. They don’t survive long alone. Derek presses closer to Stiles, breathing in the familiar scent as Stiles subconsciously marks him. Maybe Derek doesn’t have to be alone.

As they continue to kiss, Derek’s attention wanders to Allison and Scott’s conversation. “I suppose you believe in werewolves too,” Allison is saying. Even the word coming out of her mouth is completely distracting. Derek pushes Stiles away a little so they can join in.

Scott laughs. “I believe that werewolf movies are cool. Except that Michael J. Fox one. It wasn’t even scary.”

“Dude,” Stiles complains, “Teen Wolf is a classic and following a tradition of werewolves in the horror-comedy genre! It’s not quite liking the new Star Wars level of betrayal, but it’s getting there.”

“My dad likes to play An American Werewolf in London at our family picnics,” Allison says. “Everyone laughs a lot at that one, even the parts that aren’t funny.” Yeah, that film is probably as funny to hunters as it is to wolves. Derek’s dad used to play it at their family picnics too.

“What about you, Derek?” Scott asks. “Do you believe in werewolves?”

Derek takes a moment to ponder the irony of having that question directed at him. “There are more things in heaven and earth that are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“Nice, pulling out the Shakespeare,” Stiles remarks. “You know I’m a sure thing, don’t you?”

Derek smiles, giving Stiles a kiss and whispering, “Maybe I want to impress you anyway.”

“After watching the entire series of Ghosthunters and buying himself an EMF detector, it’s safe to say that Stiles will believe anything,” Scott says. “So what about you, Allison? You’re the one who brought it up.”

Allison bites her lip, all eyes on her (except Jackson and Lydia, who are having a makeup makeout session against the wall of the rink). “I think when I was younger, I did. We were living in New Mexico and when I was out on our roof looking at the stars one night, I thought I saw a coyote, but it was big and its eyes looked like they glowed. Then it looked like it stood up on two feet and walked away. My mom said I probably fell asleep and didn’t realize it, but when I asked my Aunt Kate, she told me this story, about Coyote, you know, from the legends. Maybe she was just messing with me, but--”

“What was the story?” Stiles asks, looking eager.

“It’s not really important,” Allison deflects, her boldness from earlier having evaporated in the presence of her peers.

“But storytime,” Stiles whines. It’s actually really annoying. “Pretty please.”

“You should just tell him,” Scott says. “He can’t focus on schoolwork for two seconds, but he will pester you like Chinese water torture if he thinks you’re keeping something from him that he wants to know.”

“Okay.” Allison is wary. “Promise not to laugh.”

“I won’t laugh,” Scott says, utterly sincere.

“I, for my part, will never make such a promise,” Stiles says, “but go ahead.”

Allison still looks a little hesitant, so Derek says, “I’ll make sure he doesn’t laugh, Allison.” The wolves have their own stories about Coyote, but he wants to know what little lies hunters tell their children.

“Okay,” Allison smiles sheepishly. “This is how it goes: they say that Coyote was once a man who fell in love with the moon. He was one of the First People, so he had great power. He loved the moon and would climb up to the highest mountain peak where the stars almost touch the Earth whenever her face was full in the sky.”

“Sounds like Stiles,” Scott jokes.

“What?” Derek asks, just as Stiles is kicking Scott, who suddenly looks horrified.

“Nothing, um, just that he’ll climb to the top of a mountain for someone who won’t give him the time of day,” Scott surreptitiously glances at Lydia. It makes Derek want to growl. He settles for tightening his arm around Stiles’s waist, fingers slipping under the fabric of his t-shirt.

“Oh, wow, okay,” Stiles squeals, squirming and making another part of Derek’s anatomy take interest. “I’m a little,” he giggles, “okay, a lot ticklish and also, dude, possessive much?”

Derek shrugs, ignoring Scott’s concerned look. “So, Allison, about the moon--”

“Um, where was I? Oh, so Coyote told the moon all his secrets and his hopes and his fears and he begged her to join him on the Earth or bring him up into the sky, but she never replied. One day he watched a coyote, like the normal kind, howling at the moon and realized that if he wanted the moon to hear him, he would have to become a coyote himself. So he stripped his clothes and put down his bow and arrow and walked into the desert, where he roamed the land like a beast. He ate the carcasses of dead things and killed the living. He grew so wild that he did not know he was a man even when his people begged him to return to them.”

“Wow, he seems like a pleasant guy,” Stiles jokes. It hurts a little, knowing that Stiles will believe in werewolves and ghosts, but still abhor their animal nature. He’s not talking about you, the wolf says. But Derek knows that for the lie it is. He’ll run in the forest, follow the moon, feast on the carcasses of dead things, and his love will be irrational and obsessive, like Coyote.

Allison decides to ignore Stiles’s commentary, continuing, “Soon he had so forgotten what he once was that he grew fur and claws and teeth like a coyote and began to understand their language. The said many things to the moon, whispered their secrets and their hopes and fears, but to them she was still silent. Coyote realized his mistake and tried to return to his people, but now he had become too wild. He would spoil their hunts and scare their children and refuse to wear clothes. He was too dangerous, so the People cast him out. You know, this story is actually frighteningly similar to the one about the rabid dog that my dad is so fond of.”

Derek knew that story too. She’d told it to him when she had him tied up to a live wire. Only she said that her brother didn’t understand: an animal didn’t have to be rabid to be dangerous.

“I don’t get it,” Scott says. “I mean, he loved the moon, why would they punish him for that?”

“You don’t have to have bad intentions to be dangerous,” Allison offers. “Coyote still helped the People in other stories, but he always lived apart. I think that’s what my Aunt was trying to tell me: that I should just stay out of it.”

“But that’s just a myth, right?” Stiles says. He’s shivering a little, even though Derek is keeping him warm. “I mean, we learned about Coyote in California History, but it never once made me believe in werewolves.”

“Yeah, you just do that because you’re a giant dork,” Scott teases.

Allison shrugs. “It wasn’t the story, so much as the way she said it. She said it like it was so important, like it might save my life one day. My Aunt Kate, she’s cool. She’s kind of like my sister, not my aunt. And she’s always joking, never that serious. Maybe I misread her, but I she’s never said anything like that before. You’ll see when you meet her, Scott.”

Derek scoots closer to Scott. He won’t go anywhere near that woman if Derek can help it. “I didn’t realize you were at the meet the parents phase of the relationship,” he says casually. “I mean, as much as I like Stiles, I’m not going to get him locked in his room by flaunting it to the sheriff.”

Allison blushes. “Well, I think we could take advantage of flying under the radar a little longer.” She gives Scott a lingering kiss.

“Maybe she wanted to make sure that you knew she believed you,” Stiles offers, clearly still haunted by the story, but Allison isn’t listening, already wrapped up in her own kind of irrational, obsessive love. Derek takes the opportunity to pin Stiles down against the bleacher bench and rub his scent all over him.

They don’t stop kissing until Boyd is standing there, clearing his throat at them. Stiles already has his hand half inside Derek’s jeans by then.

“Hi, Boyd,” Stiles says, his grin wide and his lips kiss-swollen. “How much for the skates? These babies are definitely lucky.”

Chapter Text

Stiles comes bouncing into the house, throws his newly acquired lucky skates on the couch, pumps his fists and lets the room at large know: “That was awesome!”

“What was awesome?” says a voice from the dining room. Stiles winces. Of course his dad would be home by now. It’s almost midnight.

Stiles could just slink up to his room, but then there’d be an interrogation waiting for him in the morning. He’s long ago learned to just rip the bandaid off.

“Hey, dad, I didn’t know you’d still be awake,” he says, grabbing some milk out of the fridge and drinking straight from the carton like his dad hates. It might be a good distraction. Of course, the sheriff doesn’t bite.

“I had to go out to a crime scene.”

“Ah. What crime?” His dad works hard, but he trusts his people to get good evidence if the incident is minor. It’s unusual for him to go out in the field himself after dinnertime.

“Not your business.”

“Come on, don’t be like that. You know I’ll just read about it in the paper tomorrow.”

His dad gives his same put-upon sigh, the one designed to make Stiles feel like a hyperactive little shit that his father indulges just to make the talking stop. “How about you tell me what was so awesome and had you out past curfew and I’ll tell you the public details of the crime?”

“Fine.” Better a half-truth than a lie. “I was ice skating.”

“Try again, son. The ice rink isn’t open this late.”

“I bribed Boyd into letting us in after hours.”

“Who’s Boyd?”

“Vernon Boyd. He’s a kid in my class. He works at the ice rink.”

“You know he could get in a lot of trouble for that, Stiles.” Stiles frowns. The ‘disappointed parent educating his idiot son’ tone never bodes well.

“It was his choice to accept my offer.”

“And why, may I ask, were you so eager to go ice skating after hours?”

“Um, well, you know the new girl, Allison?”

His dad looks skeptical because how would he know the new girl in Stiles’s class? “I’ve told you about her.” He must have. “Well, Scott had this huge crush on her and now they’re sort of a thing and she’s friends with Lydia, so...” He trails off, hoping his dad will just fill in the blanks for the rest. Stiles has had a crush on Lydia since he was six. He’d never thought the crush would fizzle into no more than an alibi.

“I thought I heard you moaning about how Lydia was dating that Whittemore kid.”

Stiles shrugs.

“So? How’d it go?” Bless his dad, he actually looks happy at the prospect of his son seeing some action.

“I think she thinks I’m gay.” Also not a lie, though Lydia has a very good reason to think that, considering Stiles had his tongue down another man’s throat for a large portion of the evening.

Dad chuckles. “Did you tell her that you’re not?”

He’s not gay, but he’s not straight either, and he really, really does not want to have that conversation right now, so he pushes on. “No. Not really.” He winces.

“Stiles, she can’t return your feelings if she doesn’t know what they are.” Stiles knows that his dad always has his back, but he hates that exasperated tone of voice nonetheless.

“At least she talks to me now!” Stiles pouts. He is aware of how ironic it is that now after he’s totally over her, Lydia will actually consent to treat him like a real human being. “Besides, I think I like getting to know her. I kind of put her up on a pedestal, you know? I mean, I knew she was smart and gorgeous and spending time with her hasn’t changed that, but now I’m not just every other guy who thinks she’s great. I’m someone that she actually wants around.”

His dad smiles, though now that Stiles looks, he notices the exhaustion nipping at his heels. “I’m glad, son. I did wonder, but I knew it was a lesson you would have to learn for yourself.

“So,” Stiles drums his hands on the table, providing his dad the perfect opportunity to deliver the punchline. He doesn’t take it, of course, so Stiles is forced to pry. “I told you mine; now you tell me yours.”

When Dad doesn’t immediately answer, Stiles tilts his head to try to get a look at the open file on the dining room table. It is, as usual, not even remotely subtle, and his dad closes the file before he can see anything important.

“Pour me a finger, will you?” His dad sighs and gestures to the bottle of Jack Daniels that mysteriously materialized a few days ago. Stiles routinely checks the liquor cabinet (after the charade with the combo lock became too farcical to maintain). This time, Stiles hadn’t even been able to steal some before his dad got a quarter of a handle down and now there’s only half remaining.

Stiles pours a little more than a finger. Okay, a lot more. He knows he’s a horrible person, but he needs to make sure that Erica hasn’t talked and exposed Derek (or Stiles’s totally hot love affair with the man). Greasing the wheels of his father’s cooperation and slightly corrupting a police investigation isn’t exactly a crime, is it? No, it is totally a crime, but so far as Stiles is concerned, it’s not a sin. Probably.

“How easy do you think it would be to fake an animal attack?”

Stiles shrugs. He hasn’t spent any time considering that particular problem, but he did go through a phase of wanting to be a Crime Scene Investigator, before he met Lem from the Crime Lab and decided that it was all much more boring and creepy than Dexter made it sound. No wonder Dexter needed to murder people in his spare time just to stave off the boredom.

“I don’t know. I mean, you could probably find some kind of weapon that would mimic claws and teeth, right? You’d have to be really strong or build something with mechanical pressure, though, if the wounds were really deep. Why, was there another animal attack? There was, wasn’t there? But you think it’s a person? I mean, is there a connection between the victims? There has to be, right? Obviously, two would be a coincidence, but you have that blood from the preserve, which makes three. What did you find? You can tell me.”

“Sorry, kiddo, all I can tell you is that it looks like another animal attack: a clerk at the video store over on Hill Street. We might have to put out a warning. I’m going to ask some animal experts in the morning.”

“But there’s a connection, Dad,” Stiles insists, because he’s no Dexter Morgan, but he knows his dad and he knows when his dad suspects something (usually he suspects Stiles and usually he’s right). He fills the tumbler with more whiskey. Normally, Stiles wouldn’t be purposefully getting his father drunk out of mere curiosity, but something about this feels urgent, an unsettled itch that has been brewing just beneath the surface ever since he and Scott found Wolfie. Things aren’t right and Stiles feels on the cusp of finally being able to understand why.

“Not a connection that will stand up in court,” Dad replies, massaging a burgeoning headache from his temple. “Especially if the coroner says animal attack.”

“Okay, but maybe it’s enough to save a future victim. Or to put a suspect under watch.”

Dad sighs. The liquor is getting to him. Stiles hates it. He has hated it, ever since his mom died. He knows his dad drinks more than he should. He’s not an alcoholic. He just-- He drinks more than he should. Stiles should be protecting him, discouraging him. Except Stiles just knows this is important. He pours his dad another.

“You promise this stays between us?” Dad finally slurs.

Stiles nods.

“I found a connection to the first victim.”

“Who?”

“Derek Hale. The other two were the arson investigator and the claims manager on the Hale fire. I always thought that fire might have been arson and now it looks like someone is tying up the loose ends by killing off the people who would’ve been in the position to cover it up. The question is why now? I mean, even if they are ruled animal attacks, this might be enough to reopen the case. Why draw attention to it?”

Stiles is stuck. His hands are shaking and he knows that he must have zoned out at some point. Derek Hale. Of course, Derek looked familiar. Stiles hadn’t seen him in years and a detail like a missing arm can really throw off a person’s perception, but now it all makes sense - why Derek was so desperate to run from the police, why he’s so clumsy with his missing arm (like it just happened and it’s still painful). Did Derek kill those people? No, he couldn’t have.

“Stiles?” Dad asks, shaking his arm. Stiles spills a little of the whiskey and rushes to clean it up. He’s happy to have the excuse to move and force out some of his nervous energy. Drunk or not, his dad is going to know that something has him flustered.

“Derek Hale was the first victim?” he asks tentatively.

“We ran the DNA on the blood and it came back a familial match for all the DNA we used to identify bodies in the Hale fire.”

Stiles nods. Oh god, all the bodies from the fire. That would be a tragedy of epic proportions, to be identified only by your murdered family’s remains. At least it would be a tragedy if Derek were actually dead.

“Stiles, are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“Sorry. It’s just that… it’s shitty, you know? It’s really fucking shitty. Derek’s family dies and he gets to live alone for a few years, knowing everyone he loves is dead and probably struggling to deal with it and then some cruel sonofabitch comes back and murders him. That’s just not right. Are you sure he’s dead? I mean, you never found a body.”

Dad sighs, patting Stiles on the shoulder. “I’m sure, son. Nobody could lose that much blood and still survive. It’s impossible.”

Obviously not. Obviously Derek faked his death somehow and he’s… getting back at the people who covered up his family’s death? That has to be it. But why is he hanging around Stiles then? If he’s going on a revenge-based murder spree, why go out on a date with a sixteen-year-old? Yeah, at first he just wanted to make sure Erica didn’t identify him to the police, but he should be trying to court her, then, not Stiles. Unless….

“Dad, who took the lead on the Hale fire case back when you thought it might be arson?”

“I did.”

No. That is not acceptable. Derek can’t be going out with Stiles just to try and kill his dad. No way.

“And you didn’t take a bribe or anything. You thought it was arson?”

“Take a bribe? Stiles, you know I would never do that.”

“It was during mom’s treatment. Maybe you needed the money. I mean--”

“I didn’t take a bribe. I wanted to keep investigating. I had a few leads, but if it wasn’t declared arson, we had no case.”

“Okay, that’s good. That’s fine. That’s perfect.” He just has to explain to Derek that his dad had nothing to do with it. Derek is obviously a skilled fighter and slightly revenge-minded, but he’ll understand. He stopped Erica from getting sexually assaulted. He never threatened Stiles even though Stiles could expose him to the cops. He’ll get it.

“Stiles--”

“I’m just, um, going to go, um, finish my homework. Schoolnight and everything. I’ll see you.”

Dad looks perplexed, but with all the whiskey in his system, he ends up nodding, letting Stiles slip upstairs.

Wolfie is waiting for him, looking anxious as Stiles runs his hands through his nonexistent hair, pacing. “Okay, okay, Derek’s probably a murderer. He’s probably using me to get to my dad. He’s, oh god. I made out with a killer!”

Wolfie whines softly.

“Shush, you. Dad might hear you!” Stiles bites his lip in concentration, trying to figure out a way in which Derek isn’t guilty and Stiles still gets to have him, but he can’t think of anything. “I have to confront him, right? I have to tell him off.”

Wolfie doesn’t answer, but Stiles pulls him under the covers anyway, waiting with bated breath for signs of stillness downstairs.

***

“Bad wolf!” Stiles shouts as he chases Wolfie around the property near the old burned-out Hale house. “I thought I’d take you as security, so that tall, dark, and creepy wouldn’t, you know, murder me. Or whatever might be haunting this creepy-as-fuck house might not pull an Amityville. I did the whole exercise, discipline and affection thing, like the stupid Dog Whisperer says, but that’s clearly all bullshit because you are about as disciplined as a group of five-year-olds with ADHD on a sugar high. Get back here!”

Wolfie barks excitedly, but finally allows himself to be herded back into the Jeep. He’d been so good sneaking past Stiles’s dad, too. Quiet as a mouse. He even watched patiently while Stiles pull his dad’s gun out of the safe Stiles isn’t supposed to know the combination to.

With Wolfie in the car, Stiles wipes his sweaty palms on his jeans and approaches the house. It looks about as scary as one would expect an abandoned burnt-out shell of a house in the woods to look at two in the morning. Stiles is circling it, just to check things out before he tries to slink up to the front door. He hasn't seen Derek's ridiculously hot car, so he's probably not even here. Stiles is halfway around when he stumbles in the roots of some nearby trees, dropping his flashlight with a squeak. It switches off in the fall and he feels his heartbeat ratcheting up to an uncontrolled gallop as he searches frantically for it.

This is officially his worst idea ever. Derek probably isn’t even here. Why would he be here when he could just check into a hotel under a fake name? Stiles should have waited. He should have texted Derek to meet somewhere populated for a date before he confronted him with the fact that Stiles knows.

“I’m a cop’s son. How could I be so stupid?” Stiles asks himself, getting more desperate for his flashlight. The gun is a solid, comforting weight in his front pocket. Stiles even knows how to use it, thanks to target practice with Deputy Tara.

The moon is just starting to wax from new and the trees are thick. Stiles can barely see anything in the darkness, just the vague impression of the house, gaping like a black hole before him. “Why in the hell did I put the wolf, the one that can see in the freaking dark, back in the car?” he asks himself. “What am I even doing here?”

A hand on his shoulder has Stiles straight up screaming, flailing to knock the hand away and reaching for the gun, which immediately falls out of his pocket and into the leaf litter. “Get away from me!” he shouts, too scared to be ashamed of the way his voice cracks. “My dad will catch you! If you’re a ghost, I have salt!”

The tall silhouette in front of him shakes with a chuckle. “You’ve been watching too much Supernatural,” comes the dry response.

Stiles relaxes a moment, recognizing Derek’s gruff tenor. Then, recognizing Derek’s gruff tenor, he starts panicking again. Derek probably killed those people. Stiles is here alone in the middle of the woods with a murderer. Oh god. Where the fuck is his gun?

“It’s okay, Stiles,” Derek says. “I’m not going to murder you.”

“What? No, of course not. You’re my buddy. I mean, we made out. You’re my face-sucking buddy and of course you would never hurt me. Right?” Derek’s silhouette doesn’t answer, but he does offer Stiles a hand up and help brushing the dead leaves and twigs from the knees of his jeans. “Wait. How did you know that’s what I was thinking?”

“I heard you talking to your dog all the way from inside,” Derek replies. “If I did want to kill you, you would be dead. Especially with this kind of incompetence.” He hands Stiles the gun that he didn’t even hear Derek slide the clip out of, one handed like the amazing freak of nature he is.

Stiles thinks about it for a second - how he’s been flailing around and how Derek has managed to find him out here without even a flashlight. “Yeah, you’re probably right. Help me find my flashlight, then I guess we need to talk.”

Derek hands over the flashlight that he’s apparently already retrieved, blinking in wide-eyed annoyance when Stiles turns it on directly in his face, green eyes almost seeming to flash red for a second. But Stiles is soon distracted by the fact that Derek is wearing only a pair of loose-fitting track shorts, exposing his nothing-short-of-amazingly-sculpted chest. Stiles is mesmerized by even the subtle shift of muscles he can see in the beam of his flashlight and positively enthralled by the symbol tattooed between his shoulder blades when he turns, expecting Stiles to follow.

But what Stiles really can’t get out of his mind is the angry red welts on the end of the stump of Derek’s arm. He must have been lying about the robotic prosthesis. Stiles has no idea how he’s even been fitting a normal prosthesis on there when it looks only a hop, skip and a jump away from an open wound. In fact, he tries not to look too closely. The last thing he needs to do is pass out before he can confront the man who he thought was his boyfriend about maybe wanting to murder his dad.

“So, um, is that how you lost all the blood they found?” Stiles asks about the arm.

“Yes,” Derek replies.

“It must have been painful.”

“You think?”

“Sorry, sorry. Of course it was. I’m an ass.”

Derek turns and raises an eyebrow as though to say, ‘well, duh.’ He leads Stiles up a rickety set of stairs. The banister leaves ashes on Stiles’s palm.

“Is this even structurally sound? Are you squatting.”

Derek shrugs. “I technically own the property.”

“Yeah, but are these stairs that you own going to collapse under us?”

“No,” Derek replies, though Stiles is 99% sure that he has no way to know that. He follows Derek to one of the upstairs bedrooms anyway. There’s a queen-sized blowup mattress and a sleeping bag there along with a camping lantern that Derek turns on, but nothing else that Stiles would expect, like a laptop or some books or a duffle bag with clothes.

Derek lies down on the mattress and after some nervous shuffling, Stiles lies down next to him, letting Derek tuck his good arm around him. He puts the emptied gun on the floor.

“Would it make you feel better to have the bullets back?” Derek asks.

Stiles declines. It’s pretty clear that even with a full clip at cuddling-range, Derek can probably disarm Stiles literally one-handed before he could get a shot off.

Stiles reminds himself that he should still be terrified, but his boner doesn’t really get the message. He hates that his teenaged libido can’t even quit when he’s lying in a half burned-down house looking at the stars through a hole in the ceiling, next to a man who isn’t smart enough to move his bed somewhere not under the hole in the ceiling, who also probably murdered some people. Stiles blames porn. Also, Derek smells good, and his skin is unnaturally warm and heavenly smooth underneath Stiles’s cheek. Derek leans down, almost nuzzling at Stiles. It reminds Stiles, oddly, of Wolfie.

“Do we have to talk about it?” Derek asks and Stiles is so, so tempted to agree.

“You faked your death and you killed two guys for lying about the arson. My dad just got back from the crime scene. It’s too much of a coincidence - two animal attacks and both people in a position to cover up the fire that killed your family?” Stiles realizes a little too late that if there were one time in his life for diplomatic tact, it would probably be now, sharing a blowup mattress with a murder. “I wouldn’t blame you if you killed them, Derek. I mean, I still think it’s wrong, but I could understand why you did it. I wouldn’t tell anybody.”

“I didn’t,” Derek protests. “I don’t know who killed those men, but I think it was the person who started the fire. Who else could it be?” He sounds despairing, as though he’s already lost the case and he's waiting in jail for them to throw out the key.

“You. You’re the only one with motive,” Stiles points out.

“Yeah, and what about means and opportunity?” Derek demands, suddenly agitated.

“What do you mean?”

“You said your dad just got back from a crime scene when you got home. I was with you all night! And if it looked like an animal attack, how do you think I did that with only one arm?”

“Dude, I’ve seen you do things that Scott and I couldn’t pull off with all four of our arms with just one. Besides, you could have had a partner. Maybe you hired a hitman.”

Derek turns over to look at Stiles, his eyes blazing. “I didn’t do it, Stiles. I swear I didn’t. You have to believe me. The person who started the fire, that person has motive. Whoever it was must have noticed that I was looking into the fire and is trying to cover it up. That’s why I came back to town.”

That much does sound rational. If Derek was digging then it’s possible that the arsonist worried that Derek was close to uncovering something that he or she had been unable to hide. But, then again, “if you’re innocent, then why did you fake your death? My dad says that nobody could have survived that kind of blood loss. That means some of the blood had to be old. You had to have planned it.”

“I didn’t, Stiles. If I wanted to fake my death, do you think I’d choose to leave myself permanently crippled?” Derek shouts. He gestures to the place where his arm ends in a red-raw stump. “And if that was my diabolical plan, don’t you think I would’ve left the arm for them to find? It fucking hurts, Stiles.” The pain in those eyes is real and Stiles can’t help but lean into Derek’s touch as he stroked Stiles's cheek with his good hand. “Please, believe me. I’m squatting in the remains of my family’s house. Everyone thinks I’m dead. Someone tried to kill me. Please, I need someone on my side.”

Stiles wants to believe him so badly. He wants to with every fiber of his straining soul. But he’s a cop’s son and some things just don’t add up. “Do you know who tried to kill you?”

Derek shakes his head. “They wore masks. The leader had some kind of sword. He was crazy. I think they were going to chop me up, but then this dog came. At first I thought it was their dog and it was going to eat me, but it protected me from the men. I ran. Stiles, I have no idea how I survived. It was a miracle. Maybe they found the dog’s blood mixed with mine? It was in the forest so they couldn’t have tested every drop of blood.”

Stiles thinks about Wolfie. Maybe Wolfie had been slashed at while trying to protect Derek. Maybe he hadn’t been gnawing off an infected wound like Scott said. At the time, Stiles had questioned whether wolves were smart enough to figure that out. “I think I might know that dog,” Stiles mutters. “In fact, I think he might be in my car right now.”

“See,” Derek pleads. “You’re taking care of the dog; you must know I’m not lying.”

“No, you’re just trying to get close to me so you can murder my dad like you murdered the other two investigators,” Stiles moans.

“What?!” Derek pushes Stiles away. “How can you even think that? Stiles, your dad, he grabbed me and kept me from running into the remains of the burning house. He saved my life and he always thought it was arson. He just couldn’t prove it. Even if I were going on some crazy revenge murder spree, your dad would never be a target.”

Stiles wants to believe him very, very badly, especially considering how Derek has shifted so now he’s half on top of Stiles, gazing down at him with a kind of desire in his eyes that Stiles has never once seen directed at him. That can’t be an act. No one can fake that near-animalistic want on Derek’s face.

Derek leans down and Stiles doesn’t have the courage to stop him. He’s not a good person, because as much as he wants to believe, there’s a good chance that Derek and a partner murdered two people. But Derek’s kisses are so soft, so hopeful that Stiles could just fall into them and never surface.

“But how did you not die?” he demands between kisses.

“Tourniquet,” Derek grunts, tugging at Stiles’s shirt until Stiles removes it.

“You would have had to have gone to the hospital,” Stiles protests as Derek kisses a line down his collarbone to a peaked, over-sensitive nipple, laving it until Stiles cries out.

“I pretended to be too out of it to talk. Then I ran away. Stiles, please,” he whines. Derek doesn’t have much leverage with only the one arm, but he’s so strong that he manages to roll his hips deliciously against Stiles anyway. They both know he’s already won. Stiles is going to have sex with him, murderer or no.

“They’d have your blood. You’d be reported missing,” Stiles replies. He still finds it very unlikely that Derek cut off his own arm, but somebody had to have helped him. His partner in the killings must be helping him.

“I made it across the county line,” Derek replies. He whines, looking pointedly at Stiles’s zipper and Stiles relents. He flips them, careful of Derek’s arm, then shucks off his own pants before pulling Derek’s down.

“Even if I believe that,” Stiles pants, insinuating himself between Derek’s thighs as he kisses him deeply. “Even if I believe that, why are you still here, Derek?”

“What?” Derek asks. His eyes are glazed and they flit around, looking at all parts of Stiles’s face for clues about what he means, like it makes all kinds of sense to stay in a town with people who want to murder him.

“Derek.” Stiles pulls back. He’s kneeling between Derek’s legs and Derek is gasping, looking absolutely wrecked. He’s beautiful - all hard, sleek lines, and his cock has Stiles’s mouth watering - but Stiles isn’t a fool. He knows the score. “Derek, even if I believe you, somebody cut off your arm with a sword. Why are you still here? Why aren’t you under police protection or in a hotel or, hey, maybe a hospital in another state? Why are you squatting in the one place they’d know to find you?”

“The truth?”

Stiles nods. “Not going to lie, there’s a good chance I’m still going to fuck you no matter what. I just want the truth, not some half-baked bullshit.”

Derek stares for a really long moment, like whatever decision he has to make, he’s actually going to think about it. Stiles is rock hard and he’s never wanted anyone this badly, not even Lydia Martin. There’s something primal, chemical. It’s not just opportunity and it’s not that Derek is the most beautiful man he’s ever seen. It’s stupid to believe in love at first sight. It’s probably stupid to believe in love, period, but Stiles’s parents loved each other with all their hearts. He saw it and if this thing that is so intense that he feels he might choke on it isn’t love, then he has no idea what would be.

“The truth,” Derek says slowly, like maybe those words are alien on his tongue, “the truth is that I can’t tell you everything.”

“But--”

“I’m sorry, Stiles. You can have sex with me or not. Take it or leave it. To be honest, it’s not exactly a precious opportunity for me.”

Stiles snaps back to the ugly reality. Of course, no matter how possessive Derek had acted earlier and no matter how desperately he moaned just moments ago, a man doesn’t look the way Derek does without getting plenty of offers. Derek’s older and he’s hotter than sin and Stiles is sixteen and geeky and awkward. Who knows what game Derek is playing, but it’s becoming clear that fucking Stiles probably isn’t worth even the work he’s put into it thus far.

“Hey, no,” Derek backpedals. “Trust me, I want to have sex with you.” He looks pointedly down at his erection, which is still going strong. “But I can’t tell you everything. It would put you in danger. I’m already putting you in enough danger as it is. Just, look me in the eyes.”

Stiles complies. It isn’t in any way a hardship. Even in the dim light from the lantern, Derek’s eyes are beautiful, changeable, fathomless. They meet Stiles’s gaze head-on with a seriousness and reverence that Stiles probably can’t hope to match, not when they’re both naked and on the cusp something wonderful.

“I promise,” Derek says, “I haven’t killed anyone. I don’t have a partner that is killing people. I don’t want anything from you or your dad. I’ll understand if you don’t want to have anything to do with me, but I haven’t ever wanted someone the way I want your right now. Please believe me.”

Stiles is in awe. Derek didn’t flinch, not even when he said he wanted Stiles in a way he’d never wanted anyone else. It still makes no sense, someone like Derek wanting someone like Stiles, but it’s not impossible. Sometimes the dorky, weird kid gets the girl, at least according to Judd Apatow. And Stiles does have his good qualities. Derek seems to find him funny and there’s no doubt that they have physical chemistry. There’s just one problem: the voice of Stiles’s dad in his head, cautioning him about predators, begging him to pull his head out of the clouds and use his common sense to really think about things before he does something irrevocable.

“Derek.” Stiles takes Derek’s hand in his. The night is cold on his naked skin now that they’re not longer moving against each other, but Derek’s hand is warm and firm. “Why are you still here?”

“This is my home,” Derek says. “They burned it to the ground and they got away with it. They killed my family and they tried to kill me. My uncle is in a nursing home here. He’s in a coma, but he survived, too. I don’t know if he’s a target. I don’t know if they believe I died or if they’re even still here, but I’m not leaving. I’m not letting them make me run so I can lose my territory and my dignity. They can’t have it.”

It’s a strange answer, but it’s not a lie. Or maybe it is. But Derek looks raw, like he just opened his chest and scooped his insides out to serve to Stiles on a platter. That kind of vulnerability has to be genuine and Stiles has never seen something so wondrous. Nobody has ever offered something like that to him. Even Scott tries to hide his pain from Stiles. Certainly Stiles’s dad only allows the pain of mom’s death to shine through when the dam breaks and he can’t hold it back. Stiles tries to take care of both of them, he really does, but they both like to pretend that they don’t need him. But Derek needs him. And Derek is so beautiful.

Stiles surges forward, kissing Derek hard, pushing him down into this stupid cheap air mattress in this husk of a house and thinking that this is it. This is how he’s going to lose his virginity and it’s wild and crazy and to a guy who almost definitely cut off his own arm to fake his death and Stiles doesn’t care about any of it, because Derek is here and Derek wants him and Derek is kissing him like he’s drowning. “You’re probably lying,” Stiles gasps. “But I’m going to try to believe you.”

“That’s more that I deserve,” Derek says back. Stiles runs his hands through Derek’s hair and Derek raises one leg up to wrap around Stiles’s waist and they rut together in delicious, terrible unison until they’re both gasping into each others mouths and giving, frankly, undignified grunts as they come all over each other.

“Mmmm,” Derek says, kissing Stiles and bring his hand between them to rub their combined spunk all over his belly.

“Dude, gross!” Stiles exclaims.

“Don’t care,” Derek hums. “I like smelling like both of us.”

Stiles nudges him in the ribs. “Psycho.”

“You just had sex with a guy you’re not sure has been on a murdering spree in a condemned house in the middle of the woods. I’m not the crazy person in this situation.”

Stiles laughs. He’s kind of in love with Derek’s morbid sense of humor. Or maybe he’s in love with mutual orgasms. He helps Derek pull a shirt on over his sticky, cum-stained belly and then plops back down on top of him, curling up and nuzzling at Derek’s pec until Derek wraps his arm back around him. “I’m sleepy. Tell me a bedtime story.”

“You’re not helping me to not feel like a pedophille.”

“Story,” Stiles pokes him again, yawning.

“Your dad’s not going to miss you?”

“I got him loaded and he works the swing shift tomorrow. It’ll be long past the time I need to be at school before he wakes up. I should probably let the dog in from the car, though.”

Stiles moves to get up, but Derek yanks him back down, pulling the sleeping bag over both of them. “The dog is fine in the car. He’d probably escape out of here or hurt himself. I’ll tell you a story, just go to sleep.”

Stiles feels bad about Wolfie, but Derek’s right, he’s probably safer in the car. He reaches out and turns off the lamp.

“Remember the story that Allison told us, about the Coyote and the moon?” Derek murmurs.

“Sort of,” Stiles replies. His eyelids are drooping. Orgasms are awesome.

“Well, that’s not the real story.”

“What’s the real story?” Stiles yawns. He’s already drifting off.

“Coyote was never a man. He was always a god. He was a trickster of legend and the People and the other gods would come to him for help if they needed. But Coyote didn’t care about anyone or anything. He always looked out for Coyote first and others only when it was convenient.”

“Sounds like a dick,” Stiles mumbles, imagining a coyote. No, he imagines Wolfie, who only seems to do what he wants, not matter how much dog whispering Stiles tries on him.

Derek chuckles. “He had a big one of those too.”

“Really?”

“Telling the legend like it is.”

“You have a big one,” Stiles says, cupping it with one hand. It’s probably still sensitive, but it feels good, heavy in his palm. Derek makes a kind of rumbling noise and pulls Stiles tighter against him.

“Coyote didn’t care about anyone but himself until he fell in love with the moon. She was so beautiful and so bright and sometimes, when she danced through the sky, it seemed she would almost touch the ridge of the highest mountain peak.”

Stiles’s eyes flutter closed. He imagines the moon, so close, and Wolfie looking up at it, wanting to touch.

“So Coyote climbed up onto that peak and when the moon passed overhead, he leapt up into the sky and let her draw him up to live with her among the heavens.”

Stiles could see it. Only now it was Derek, his skin lit by moonlight, the stars dancing in his beautiful eyes, flaring red with the energy of the cosmos.

“Coyote stayed there with the moon, but it was cold and Coyote missed the rivers and the pranks he used to play and he missed the People when they would come to him for help. The sky was empty and still and silent, so Coyote asked to return to Earth. But the moon would not let Coyote go. He could love her for all eternity or he could be destroyed, but he was not allowed to love her on his own terms. He became frightened by the void and by the darkness of the heavens, but she still could not just let him go without consequence.”

“Bitch,” Stiles mumbles, drooling a little on Derek’s chest.

“Finally Coyote struggled so much in his panic that he shook himself from the heavens and fell down to Earth. He crashed like a falling star into a crater that filled up with the the water of his tears and now coyotes howl at the moon to punish her for what she did to their father.”

“Allison’s was better,” Stiles mumbles, though he’s barely conscious. When his eyes slit open, he can see the stars above them, austere and judgmental like the coyote must have felt.

“What? Why?” Derek actually sounds offended. “It’s a good story.”

“Because the coyote doesn’t go splat, you moron,” Stiles replies, letting his eyes close completely. “Good story, now goodnight.”

“The hunters blame Coyote for loving the moon too much,” Derek says. He’s not making any sense. Maybe it’s a dream. “The coyotes blame the moon for not loving him enough.”